bamboo floors and decor decisions

Al finished up our new floors on Saturday. There are a couple projects left like caulking and gluing down the trim around the fireplace as well as cutting the doors in the hallway so they’ll close but for now he’s taking a much needed break! Nothing like finishing 6 hours of physical work only to run 16 miles in training the next day.

Let’s ooh and aah over his work, shall we? You can take a look back at this post to see how the floors used to be.

Here they are now.

So much nicer! I now don’t feel the need to walk on my tippy toes when I’m down here in the lower level of the house. The old linoleum used to gross me out for some reason.

I found this runner for $50 at Capel’s on Broad Street. I check there often for sales and finally lucked out. It’s a baby blue which wasn’t one of the colors I planned on buying but at that price for such a good quality I decided I’d, as Tim says, ‘Make it work!’. I figure I have a lot of pastel colors in the house so it’ll match somehow.

The flooring is a floating bamboo from Lumber Liquidators. It’s got a great texture and variety in color.

With the floors done, I had a big urge this morning to play with the space.

A couple of decor items have changed since I last took progress photos of the room. The main big item is the new couch! It’s the ‘Cameron‘ from Crate and Barrel. We went ahead and splurged since the last couch we bought for cheap barely lasted 2 years. We wanted one that would last for a long, long time. The other change is the rainbow reversible rug that my MIL bought us when she visited in July. I love me some bright color and just had to have it.

But after taking the initial photo above, I thought the back of the rug which is a toned down version of the bright side might look better so I flipped it over.

I was right or so I think! It still shows all the colorful thread but it didn’t seem to compete with the green walls as much.

On to the next item of business.

We originally bought the ottoman to match the old couch. It contrasted the light tan fabric of the piece but now it competes with the dark grey of the new couch so I did another switch.

Our little entry bench that holds our shoes and doggy bags is actually a coffee table. Another improvement! Not as bulky and a different texture than the couch.

By this time in the process I was sweating and laughing at myself… I had another idea. The pale yellow carpet from the upstairs living room might look even better down in the den! I rolled up the two carpets and made the switch. Oh and I changed the lampshade to white thinking I’d probably have to change the pillow colors as well if I were to keep the yellow carpet. Sheesh.

For now, I’ve got the yellow carpet and the ottoman in the space. We’ll have to find a new bench to hold our shoes before I officially make the switch.

As for the carpet situation, we need to cover more of our new floors so the dogs don’t slip and slide. I was thinking of buying a couple of sisal rugs (like this one) and laying them side by side to form one giant rug. I’ve seen it done a couple times on decor blogs lately.

Knowing that, all that rug moving was probably useless but it was fun to see! Keeping my camera in the same spot while changing out the items really helped me visualize the differences. I could easily flip back and forth between ideas.

At least I decided on one thing. That I want to use the coffee table instead of the ottoman! Phew.

Feel free to send Al lots of compliments on the floors. I’ll forward them to him so he gets embarrassed. Right Al? 🙂

Do you ever have that itch to start rearranging? I’ve moved our entire (very heavy!) bedroom set by myself before because I just knew a different way would work and surprisingly it did.

morning glory muffins

Thank goodness I made these muffins on Monday or else you wouldn’t have a post to read today! We’re still making progress on our projects. I’ll have the ‘after’ photos for you next Monday!

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On Sunday I realized I had 2 very ripe bananas hanging on our cooking wall and 7 frozen in the freezer. It was about time to start using them.

Banana bread is one of my favorite snacks but I wanted to change it up and find a different recipe. I searched my cookbooks and came up empty so I went to my trusty Cookinglight.com and searched ‘bananas’. I found a recipe called Morning Glory Muffins with over 50 positive reviews. By substituting some of the ingredients I didn’t have to go to the grocery store first therefore it was a winner.

I went a little overboard with the substitutions but hey, I can’t not. Experimenting is fun! If you’re wondering about the Peach Yoplait, Al hates that flavor so I wanted to use it up and of course I didn’t have regular yogurt on hand.

To explain it all, I put my changes in parenthesis after the original ingredients in the recipe below.

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Morning Glory Muffins
(source)

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces) (White Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (Cane Sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon wheat bran (Chia seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt $ (Peach Yogurt)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
  • 1 large egg $
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (Pecans)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple $ (Dried Cherries)
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (about 2 tablespoons whole (Raw Buckwheat Groat)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.
  3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in dates, walnuts, and pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

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So I guess I created a variation of the original recipe. My ‘substitutes’ aren’t all similar to the original ingredients! It’s almost like I knew what I was doing.

Fresh out of the oven with a little butter or earth balance. These muffins were amazing. I thought all the dried fruit and crazy yogurt would make the muffins way too sweet so I cut back a little on the dried fruit when I made them. I think this helped because the sweetness was definitely there but it didn’t overpower the pecans or oats. The oats, raw buckwheats, and pecans gave the muffins an awesome chew which contrasted with the gooey fruit.

It’s ridiculous how good these muffins are! No wonder so many people on Cooking Light felt the need to give there two cents.

I’ve taken two with me to work each day this week. I could have probably eaten one for my morning snack and one for the afternoon but once I start one I can’t leave the other all by itself. 🙂

Do you have a yummy muffin recipe?

slowing down to pick myself up

I’m turning inward today! I hope that’s okay.

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When I’m stuck in a rut I easily become overwhelmed – with my to-do list, my relationships, my life. I’m currently at this point.

I truly believe I should be able to fix this problem and have attempted all my life to do so. I’ve written posts about this subject here, here, and here. I’m always able to stay on top of things for a couple weeks but then I get to busy, stressed and everything goes out the window.

I’m so very tired of this vicious cycle.

I watched a documentary on Friday night called Happy. It’s about people and what makes them truly happy.

That night I was up at 3:30 thinking about it. I panicked during this bout of insomnia, feeling overwhelmed about failing to be happy.

After a few hours, my mind started to settle and clear. I began to try and figure out what I could do to fix my problem.

I’ve had a couple nights like this in the past few weeks. They remind me of one night of insomnia last year when I realized I wanted to quit my old job (and career) that I went to school for so long for. Now I’m at a completely new job and loving it so I’m thinking I’m at the cusp of another step in the right direction.

Thank goodness.

When I’m overwhelmed I usually find something to escape my feelings. My go-to options are TV, the Internet, food, and my dogs. I think spending time with my dogs does help me feel better and more present but the other stuff really doesn’t. I feel lazy and stressed once I finally decide to get my butt off of the couch. I’m also usually doing a combination of TV, Internet, and food so I’m even more removed from ‘real’ life! Not good.

I know that it’s definitely healthy to escape the hustle and bustle of real life sometimes but lately for me it’s getting in the way of living that life.

My epiphany on Saturday night/morning was something that I already know but have a hard time doing.

To really try to become happier, I’ve got to take it slow. I’m going to focus on fixing one poor habit at a time. Anything else I do that might not be considered healthy doesn’t matter for now. I just have one thing to do. That’s it. That should keep me from getting worked up.

I’m thinking I’ll start with no TV. Without TV I’d have soooo much more time to do things that I really love like gardening, reading, art, even chores! If I’m successful… wait… when I’m successful, I’ll be able to replace one bad habit with tons of other good options. Perfect.

I’m sure there are other people out there like me but man does it feel like I’m the only person sometimes with these silly struggles.

I hope to update you on my progress next week. This should hold me accountable!

Who’s overwhelmed? Who’s with me? Who has some words of wisdom for all of us? 

pecan and wild rice-stuffed squash

This dish might have the longest cooking time out of all the recipes I’ve posted on this blog. I only post my absolute favorites so that just shows you how marvelous it is! Relative to a lot of recipes out there, it’s still super quick. There’s just a good amount of time in the oven so you have to find other things to do  like laundry, clean… or watch TV and read blogs like I did. 🙂

The recipe comes from the same cookbook that I used for the Turmeric Brown Rice Con Pollo.

Since I don’t think the recipe is online, I went ahead and typed it up for you.

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Pecan and Wild Rice-Stuffed Squash

2 small acorn squash (I used one giant one instead)
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil 2 baking sheets. Cut each squashes in half from the stem to the tip. Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets. Bake from 20 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Let cool. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split. If there is any excess water, drain the rice in a strainer. Finely chop the sage and parsley. In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, and sage over medium heat until just softened. Stir in the parsley, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.

When the squash halves are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing. In a large bowl, mash the flesh coarsely and reserve. Select 16 intact pecan halves for garnish, then use a food processor to grind the remaining pecans to powder (I just finely chop them). Add the ground pecans, the sauteed mixture, and the wild rice to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff the mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved pecan halves. Place in a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold all of the squash halves. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.

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Fresh sage! I don’t have any herbs in my garden but I do have a couple in pots on the patio. I most often sub dried for fresh when a recipe calls for it (use half of the fresh amount) but this time I had something on hand!

While prepping my ingredients I got a little sidetracked -> I saw this idea on YoungHouseLove a while back. If you have a party where crudités are involved, you could use these celery flowers to decorate the plate!

Along with the blog reading and TV watching, when the squash is initially roasted I was able to get my rice cooked and saute mixture ready.

Every time my dad uses the toaster oven he removes whatever he has cooked with his bare hands. It doesn’t matter if he yells or makes pain noises every time, he does this without fail. I do the same thing and have also added not waiting until hot squash cools before hollowing it out. This acorn squash didn’t disappoint. It had me yelling up a storm.

My dad went to Cornell so that must make me a genius too. Please don’t try to be smarties like us and have patience!

I love the presentation of this dish! You could totally wow some friends with your celery flowers and squash bowls. 🙂

There’s so much flavor in this recipe. The spicy and nutty flavors are a great contrast to the sweet meat of the acorn squash. There’s lots of crunch and chewiness in there too. Mmm mmm good.

As soon as the temps in your State start to drop, you have to make this! It’s got great fall ingredients, a comfort food feel, and it’s healthy to boot!

Are you about to go pumpkin/squash recipe crazy? I sure am.

floors and walls

It’s been a couple weeks since I talked about the house. Al and I needed a little break from weekends filled with Lowe’s trips and physical labor. Now that we’re a bit refreshed, we’ve both started on new projects.

Way back in February I wrote a post about a DIY privacy window. I had to paint the crazy red trim as well as the window. Finally, this past weekend, I had the urge to paint the rest of the red trim as well as the walls.

Since that last window project, we’ve put in all new energy-efficient windows throughout the whole house so I won’t have to paint the entire window this time around. <- I’m so glad!

This weekend, all I did was prep the room for painting.

Do you know how difficult it is to take border wallpaper down?! In the beginning I didn’t score the paper enough so the pieces coming off were tiny. I wanted to cry.

I finally got a better system down and yelled out things like, ‘Yeah baby!’ or ‘Aww yeeeah!’ when I got a big piece to come off. Note that I had no audience to hear my cheers. It’s the little things in life.

After about 5 total hours of removing wall paper, I spackled all the holes and wiped down the walls.

Do you see the difference in the wall color that was behind the paper and the wall below it? That’s after I wiped down the walls! Nasty.

I don’t have any more progress for my project but I do have the paint already!

If you’re a cheapo like me, you regularly check the sale sections in whatever store you happen to be in… just in case. At Lowe’s for me these sections include rugs, gardening, and painting. In the painting department sometimes they have a shelf full of mistakes and returned gallons so I almost always check to see if they have any colors that I’d like.

On Friday I lucked out big time with a neutral light gray. A paint & primer combo for 5 bucks!

I’m hoping to work on painting everything this week so we can actually open our dressers drawers again. All the furniture is squished in the middle of the room. 🙂

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Unlike my small progress, Al has done a ton of  backbreaking work! He is in the middle of installing bamboo floors in the lower level of the house which includes the office/dog room, a hallway, and the big den.

The rest of the house has woods floors while this lower level has linoleum wood grain tiles so we wanted to update the area to make it more cohesive.

We chose bamboo because it’s very durable and ‘greener’ than regular woods floors. Compared to wood it grows much faster because bamboo is a grass not a wood. It also reaches maturity in 5 years and when harvested the root source is left in tack so the bamboo can grow back. (source)

It’s also about the same price as regular wood floors so it was an easy choice for me!

At the moment, Al has finished the office and the hallway. Next weekend he hopes to complete the den.

Then it’s on to wood putty and more painting. If we ever finish painting this house, it’ll be a miracle!

Check back next week for what I hope is a recap and ‘after’ photos of both projects!

Have you ever laid your own floors? It’s tough! I’m so proud of Al for sticking with it.

an end to the summer season

The end of the summer means a lot of different things to me but right now I’m thinking about my garden. My summer crop is growing crazy still because I planted everything late but I’m already supposed to have my winter crop in! I don’t think it matters much as long as I get it in soon, like next weekend soon.

I learned a ton from my first summer season. Even will all the mistakes learning experiences, I had a pretty great crop. I’m hoping that means my winter garden will be just as good if not better!

If you haven’t read any of the garden posts yet, here a recap. -> I started off with most of my plants in the greenhouse where they struggled from the lack of light. I then moved the dying plants to a spot on the side of my house. I knew they still wouldn’t get the 8 hours or more of sun that they needed but I was hopeful!  And finally when I realized they weren’t dying (!), I spiffed up the outdoor garden with supports, mulch, and a drip system.

With all that progress, I got a lot in return.

I have 5 tomatoes plants which have given me well over 100 little tomatoes and counting. At one point I got over 50 in one week! I’ve used this recipe three times now. I’ve even experimented! I love a sweet sauce so I skipped the garlic, added two green peppers from the garden, and two tablespoons of sugar. It’s so good!

A couple days ago I found a behemoth. Look at this giant zucchini! You would have thought I won the lottery by the way I was dancing around with my ‘trophy’.

I’d only seen one other rotted zucchini before this one so I didn’t think I’d be getting anything edible. I was collecting tomatoes for sauce when I spotted it.

I’ve heard that they can get too tough and ‘seedy’ when they get too big but I sliced up half of it and made zucchini crisps. Cheesy and delicious.

With all this great crop, I still have some issues that I need to figure out. My peppers have a bug problem. I’ve been able to rescue some but the plants look pretty sad. I haven’t done anything to prevent bugs so I need to do a little research for my winter crop.

You can see in the photo below that some of the leaves are eaten away. Meh, I don’t like bugs!

I also still have that lack of sunlight problem. Look at what this tomato plant did! It grew up and over the fence all the way to the ground on the other side looking for sun. Poor thing.

I know the winter vegetables don’t need as much sunlight so hopefully it won’t be a problem this time around.

As you can see from the photos above and below even though they’re still producing, the tomato and bean plants are ready to go. I was hesitant a month ago to rip them up because they were still going strong but now that they’re a bit weathered so I know it’s time for new, winter vegetables.

This coming weekend I’m hoping to add in some broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.

Tending to my garden is so fun to me. I’m learning a lot which I love and I get food in return! Such a great hobby. I’m excited to try new recipes with the crop too! I’m thinking soup and more soup. 🙂

What are you growing in your winter garden?

a series of unfortunate (running) events

Where to start.

My weekly long(est) run started out on Saturday morning at 6:30 am. I was up early because I was good and went to bed at a decent time. I opened up the weekly Marathon Training Team email and realized that we were supposed to run that same day at that exact time instead of Sunday like normal.

Crap.

Now, Al and I will have to run on Sunday by ourselves without the distraction of friends and the downtown Richmond architecture.

Hurricane Isaac (or Tropical Storm by that time?) was supposed to dump a ton of rain all weekend so I made sure I had my hat on to keep the water out of my face. I was excited about a potential downpour. Somehow it always feels childlike and silly to be running in the rain, so to me it’s fun. 🙂

We started off running and instantly realized that the humidity was awful, like I’m breathing through a straw awful. I could’t wait for that rain to come… but it never did.

I was holding my water bottle in one hand and didn’t want to occupy my other with my hat so I kept it on my head. Wearing a hat when it’s not raining makes me feel overheated. I was sweating to death but kept on.

In hopes of not getting bored, we went on a new-to-us route. Between miles 2 and 3 the humidity made me feel like I could barely lift my feet. With lead in my legs, a new sidewalk, and a cloudy morning, I tripped and fell to the ground. I laid there for a second from the shock. While getting up and brushing grass and dirt from my multiple wounds I said to Al, “I have to keep running!” and I did. I’m pretty proud of that because the other two times I’ve fallen during this training, I just stopped and walked home.

It’s embarrassing and a little traumatizing when you fall, I wouldn’t recommend it.

This fall was the worst which makes my fight to keep going even better. My right hand and my poor Garmin were pretty scraped. So was my left thigh and knee.

I have to mention that I was wearing my watch backwards on the inside of my wrist because when it rains I feel like it gets less wet. Who knows if that’s true but if I had known it wasn’t going to rain at all, my Garmin would have been worn like normal and not scuffed. Bah, Humbug!

At around mile 4 some guy driving on the other side of the road honked at us, yelled something, and then flicked us off. How pleasant. At that point I was very glad that Al decided to run at my pace with me even though it’s very slow to him. He was silent most of the time because he wasn’t feeling the run at all but it was nice to have a buddy!

After a hour and 45 minutes we were done.

I felt amazing… and then I noticed all the scrapes. I had planned on walking the dogs with Al but tended to my wounds instead.

I really didn’t mind the cuts but what I did mind was the tiny scrape on my Garmin. That thing is expensive and pretty! Oh well, that’s what it is, just a ‘thing’ right?

Oh and I don’t have my one sleeve rolled up in the photo above because I think I’m a badass, I have it rolled up because I had/have a nice strip of Poison Ivy on my upper arm. I had to use 5 bandaids to cover it up to prevent chaffing or the urge to itch my arm off during the run. Good times.

Let’s just say with the new injuries, the Poison Ivy rash, and the multiple bruises and scrapes from work this week, I look like a hot mess but I couldn’t be more proud. I love my job helping animals, am proud of taking care of my own dogs properly (I got the Poison Ivy while walking them), and even that series of unfortunate events, we still got in a good run.

Have you ever fallen during a run? Please tell me you have.