Home Sweet Home

I’ve been a little lacking in keeping up with this blog since we found out we were moving back home last year. It’s been a whirlwind—hubby’s new job offer  came while we were in Disney last September, and three and a half weeks later we were packed and moved. Easy-peasy, right?

Not so much. We rented out our house when we moved to North Carolina, and when we moved back we were pretty sure we wanted to move back in. Unfortunately, our tenant was only one month into a year-long lease, so we needed a fairly short-term plan B.

The view out of my temporary office window this fall.

We found a cute apartment a few blocks from our house, figuring that would give Hubby a good test run of the new, longer commute before we committed (especially through the winter) and decided to give it a few months, but the longer we were here, the more we knew we wanted our house.

We gave our tenant notice in February so that he would have plenty of time to find something else before the end of his lease. It didn’t take that long—he bought something and was out of the house in early May. Yay!
Our temporary kitchen was actually quite nice.
Since the house is fairly small (with only one bathroom), we decided we wanted to do some renovations while it was empty. The house was built in the 80s, and not much had been updated since.
Kitchen, mid-demo.
Our to do list was lofty:
  1. Redo the kitchen (paint the cabinets, new ceramic tile floor and backsplash, new counter top, new pantry, and new appliances)
  2. Expand the Master Bedroom closet to a 5 foot by 12 foot walk-in.
  3. Take the bathroom down to studs and start all over. 😃
  4. Paint the whole house.
  5. Remove all flooring. Tile the kitchen, laundry room and bathroom. Carpet the rest.
  6. Remove the cabinets from the sunroom, paint the lovely wood paneling, and carpet the concrete floors.
  7. Replace all the heaters, baseboard and door molding, interior doors, ceiling fans, receptacles, etc.
  8. Replace the back door and screen door.
Our timeframe? We were moving in exactly 30 days after we got the keys back. No problem, right? 😉
Laundry room, fully demolished.

Everyone said we were crazy, but we pushed through. I worked on the house from 8 am – 2 pm every day. My newly-retired dad often joined me. I would go back to the apartment and work a few hours in the afternoon, then Hubby and I came back to the house from 6-midnight every night. Weekends, we were there all day.

After four days, a fifteen yard dumpster was full.

At the end of thirty days we were exhausted, but we got it done–with a few small exceptions (a little caulk, some paint touch-ups, etc.) And we were finally home! Yay!

Living room as furniture started coming in on day thirty.

I learned a lot—demo is fun, it can be depressing to be in a pretty much gutted house, that flooring made more of a drastic difference than anything else. And that there’s no place like home.

Pup lounging on the back patio.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post pictures of the transformations in the three rooms with the most drastic changes—the kitchen, bathroom, and sunroom. I’ll share what we learned, what we did right, and things we may have done a little differently. And, I’ll even admit to those things I would never do myself again, even if I am super-proud of how it turned out.

Our hibiscus is just a bit overgrown.

I also have a stockpile of recipes I’ll mix in—some from my shiny new kitchen, and a few I put together in the temporary apartment.

First cake in my new kitchen. 🙂

Until then, do you have any of your own renovation stories to share? Success stories? DIY don’ts? (I have some of each! 😂) Please share in the comments. 😃

 

Family Fun

The weather in NC was fabulous–but that wasn’t enough to make up for all the family events we missed out on when we were far away. Of course, that was one of the main reasons we jumped at the opportunity to move back to PA a few months ago.

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We’ll take family and friends over anything–even toes in the ocean in January.

The months since we are back have flown by–birthday parties, drinks, and dinners, weddings, holiday get togethers. All things we had to either plan months in advance or skip when we lived far away.

It has been beautiful in PA–60s and 70s two weekends in a row. It is showing us what summer will hold–playing outside with the kids, pool parties, baseball games, and more fun in the sun.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Do you live close to your family? Have a lot of family events? If not, how do you chose what events to travel for, and which to skip out on? 

Sweet Treats: Healthy Fruit and Ricotta Dessert

For years, Hubby and I have tried to eat a primarily from-scratch diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Over the last year or so, we have tried to cut back on sugar a bit too.

It’s not that we never have an all out sugary dessert–we do, though we have tried to cut back on portions. But, we have also looked for other, healthier options to satisfy my sweet tooth.img_1668

I have never been a ricotta cheese fan, but a few of my favorite traditional desserts (mmm, cannoli) are ricotta based, so when I heard about this one, I decided to give it a go.

This is super-simple, and can be made with any fresh or frozen fruit. I like to use whole milk ricotta, but part skim works, too. (With the full-fat ricotta and frozen cherries, this is approximately 170 calories, with 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g fat (5 g saturated), and  6 g protein.)

Cinnamon Ricotta Cherries

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Frozen Cherries
  • 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • Dash Cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Slightly defrost the cherries, either by placing in the microwave for 30 seconds or allowing to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cherries with a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Top with Ricotta.
  4. Drizzle with honey. If desired, sprinkle with more cinnamon.
  5. Enjoy!

 

With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)
With mixed berries (and ricotta on the bottom)

I use a 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop to serve the ricotta–2 scoops equal 1/4 cup. This is also great with fresh strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen blueberries, or (hubby’s favorite), fresh pineapple. A little treat without a ton of added sugar. 🙂

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Do you have a favorite quick sweet treat that is a little on the healthier side? A go-to shortcut dessert? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Signs of Spring

We are buried under a half-foot of snow in eastern Pennsylvania, but this week still showed some early signs of spring. Yes, I know that technically spring is still over a month away, but a girl can dream of warm, sunny days even in February, right? 😉

Wednesday was beautiful – 61℉ with mostly sunny skies. I went for what started as a short walk–and finally strolled back in the front door 6.4 miles later.

A beautiful day for a nice long walk.
A beautiful day for a nice long walk.

Unfortunately, as soon as the sun went down, temperatures plummeted, and by midnight it was snowing. I really can’t complain–this is really the first storm of the year. Until now it has been a very mild winter (almost North Carolina like).

A snowy morning. At least Pup was happy--she loves the snow.
A snowy morning. At least Pup was happy–she loves the snow.

Of course, I expect snow this time of year–it is February in the Northeast. But, I also know that there is one other awesome sign of spring that happens this time every year. Truck Day!

If you aren’t a baseball fan, you may be looking at the screen like I am insane right now. Heck, you may be doing that anyway. 😉

Truck Day is the day the MLB teams pack up all the equipment for spring training and head south, in most cases to Florida or Arizona.

I woke up on Monday morning to this:

I am a Phillies fan, but Hubby is a Red Sox fan, so this just made my week! Wednesday, the Phillies truck followed behind.

I love that Phanatic!

Next stop, Spring Training! Pitchers and catchers report on Monday. ❤

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Are you on the lookout for signs of spring? What are some of your favorites? 

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

It’s been a while since I posted here and things have really changed in the last few months. Shortly after my last post, Hubby was offered a great new job–an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.

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I love the fall colors–almost makes up for the cold that follows.

Of course, it did require us to relocate for the second time in three years. Read more

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Hubby and I have felt a little under the weather lately, thanks to a brutal allergy season.  Nothing serious–just the usually stuffy head, sore throat, watery-eyed fun that comes with walking out the front door in the morning. 😉

IMG_8826The other day, we just wanted comfort food for dinner, and what is more comforting when you aren’t feeling well than a piping-hot bowl of soup?

Yummy roasted vegetables--my favorite!
Yummy roasted vegetables–my favorite!

I started out thinking I would make a standard hearty chicken noodle soup, but until I got all the veggies and chicken in, there was no room for noodles!

After the wine
After the wine

This was super-easy to throw together–I just roasted a bunch of vegetables, browned the chicken, added the roasted veggies and a bit of wine, cooked a few minutes, and added the stock. Just before serving, I added a splash of cream and a bit of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. Easy-peasy!

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Before the cream–probably would have been great just like this!

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 lb Creamer Potatoes, cleaned and quartered
3 Cups Mushrooms, Cleaned and sliced
2 Leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 Onion, Diced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1.5 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables (12-16 oz)
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 box Chicken Stock (4 cups)
1/4 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Prepare Potatoes, Mushrooms, Leeks, and Onion and add to a baking sheet. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Mix with your hands and spread the vegetables on the baking tray evenly. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season the chicken with the Montreal Steak Seasoning (or other seasoning blend of your choice). Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining Olive Oil to a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the frozen vegetables and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the roasted vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add the wine and stir. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring.
  5. Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and cook 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the Parmesan and Half and Half. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Yum! Tasty and (mostly) healthy!
Yum! Tasty, hearty, and (mostly) healthy!

I used salted chicken stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand), and the Montreal Steak Seasoning has a lot of salt, so I went light on the salt on the veggies and didn’t add any more salt to the chicken or mixed vegetables. I did add extra pepper. Hubby thought it was perfect, though I did salt it a bit at the table.

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Do you ever get a soup craving in summer? Have a go-to dish when you are feeling blah? Please share! 🙂

 

A Quick Weekend Getaway

Sometimes, you just need to get away, even if it is January. Or, more likely, especially in January. 😉

More beach walking
Perfect day for a beach stroll.

It is no secret that I could spend all day, every day at the beach, so when Hubby suggested a January getaway to the beach, I jumped at it! After all, Carolina beaches in January aren’t too cold, right?

Well, kind of.

Surf competition in front of the hotel
Surf competition in front of the hotel

On our 3-day trip, we had one day of mid-60s and sunny, one of 50 and rain. And one bright and sunny, with a high of 34. Brrr.

And every minute was worth it. We had an ocean-front room, so even in the cold, we could watch (and listen to) the waves crashing on the shore. We brought a whole stash of board games and a computer for Netflix. All in all it was a beautiful, relaxing weekend.

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Perfect!

And the last day may have been cold, but the sunrise made it all worth it. ❤

Have you ever take an off-season vacation? Where did you head? Did you find it to be as peaceful and relaxing as I did? Please share! ❤Blog Signature

Fall with Friends and Family

One of the hardest parts of living in North Carolina is that most of my family and friends are five hundred or so miles away. The second hardest part is missing the lovely colors of fall in the northeast. Sure, the leaves change in North Carolina, too, but it always seemed more dramatic up north–brighter, more varied colors that just seem to stick around longer.

As much as I love life in the south, I have to admit I have been just a bit homesick.IMG_1627

When we relocated almost two years ago, we decided to rent our house in Pennsylvania out for a while the housing market recovered a bit. So far, we have been lucky. We have a great tenant who loves the house almost as much as we did. 🙂

Unfortunately, some storms did a bit of damage to the house, and we are now enjoying the fun of insurance claims and working with contractors–from five hundred miles away.

Do you see where I am going with this?
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The best way to cure homesickness is to decide to spend two months living with your parents in your thirties. 😉

Just kidding, of course! Actually, I have been in PA for about three weeks now, and I am loving all the time I am getting to spend with family and friends–though I could do without the insurance stuff. If my parents and I would have gotten along this well when I was a teenager, I may not have moved out. 😉

In the last week or so, the colors have just started to change on the trees, and I am in heaven. I absolutely love this time of year–though my allergies are not a fan! 😉

I may never have the opportunity for an extended trip like this again, so I am making the most of it. I feel refreshed and happy, and I love reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

IMG_2240That being said, it is really hard being away from Hubby (who is diligently working in away in North Carolina, happy to skip the fall experience–or at least the temperatures that go with it). But, in only a few weeks, I will be back in North Carolina, escaping before the frigid northeastern winter sets in.

Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? 😉

Do you have a favorite place to be at a certain time of year? Maybe the beach in the summer, the north in the fall, or the south in spring (some of my favorites)? Please share! ❤

Beauty of Spring

Just as spring was starting to fully bloom in North Carolina, Hubby, Pup, and I had to make an unexpected trip to Pennsylvania. Because we had an already-scheduled vacation in our hometown a couple of weeks later, I ended up spending three (very cold) weeks sleeping in my childhood bedroom.
Early April
Just starting to come back around in early April.
When we arrived at my parents’ house in early April, we were amazed at the difference between eastern Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Everything was still bare—no leaves on the trees, very few flowers. At the end of our trip, flowers were blooming and the trees had buds.  Our allergies were a mess! 😉 Essentially, Pennsylvania was where North Carolina was three weeks earlier. (Yup, we got to go through peak pollen season in two states. Fun stuff. No wonder we were both sick this week!)
North Carolina Welcome Center
North Carolina Welcome Center
I have to be honest, while I watched the changes happening on our trip, I didn’t think much about how much would change at home in North Carolina. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting it to look about the same as it did when we left. It probably had something to do with the fact that we usually only travel for a few days or a week, so in my head, we weren’t gone long enough for a drastic change. I should have known better, but I didn’t really think it through.
The view from the same spot a few weeks later.
The view from the same spot a few weeks later.
On Sunday, we came back to summer views and perfect spring temperatures. Tons of bright flowers, full leaves on the trees, and no more yellow cloud of pollen. It is beautiful, and just being outside lifts my mood immediately. Even better, the summery view from my desk makes me crave beaches and boardwalks—which is perfect when writing a coastal mystery! 😉
What does it look like outside where you are? Has spring taken over, or is it still working? Do you find the bright days of spring lift your mood as much as mine? Does it make you think of beach-bound road trips? 😉 

One-Pot Wonder – Roasted Garlic Chicken

The first time my dad invited Hubby and I over for 40 Clove of Garlic Chicken, we almost said no.  I love garlic, but 40 cloves is a lot, even for me!photo I am so glad we decided to try it, because it has become one of my favorite meals! I have quite a few friends who have said that this is their favorite thing I make. It was also my husband’s suggestion the first time I cooked for new friends after moving to NC (and they seemed to love it, too).  🙂 Read more