I'm a Farmer!

Well, I guess I'm not technically a farmer as in "I wake up before the sun to work, drive a tractor and have a zillion acres of property to keep up with." I'm more of a "Hey, there is a rhubarb plant in my backyard so I'ma maybe put that to use" type farmer.

Wait... I'm not really a farmer at all, am I? :(

But I sure felt like one when I harvested my first home-grown plant and used it for cooking over the weekend! I was really concerned, because I've never used anything from my own backyard to cook before, and I've only actually baked with rhubarb once in my life (last fall). But I was determined to whip up a homemade strawberry-rhubarb cobbler for our (very rainy) cookout on Sunday.

It started out like this:
And ended like this:

All things considered, not too shabby.

Once the Almighty Google steered me in the right direction, I headed out to the backyard and gently pulled about six stalks of rhubarb from the stem. I cut off the (poisonous!) leaves, and then chopped everything up. At the same time, I sliced a few perfectly-ripe strawberries (which I did not harvest from the backyard... that will come soon, hopefully).

Next, I mixed the berries 'n 'barb with sugar, corn starch and orange zest and let it sit for half an hour to get all the juices mingling and sweet on each other.

In the meantime, I whipped up the crust for the cobbler. Whisked together all the dry ingredients:

Then added some milk.

By that point, the sweet stuff had been mingling long enough, so I dumped it in a square glass baking dish, then plopped a few dollops of the dough on top and spread it around.

I also added a little Turbinado sugar on top, for extra crunch.

Then, in it went to the oven for half an hour, and that was it! So incredibly easy, and it received rave reviews all around. I felt so proud! The only thing missing was a side of vanilla-bean ice cream.

You can find the full recipe here. It really did turn out fantastic, and I'm looking forward to having a leftover slice tonight!

But there are two other foods that definitely did not last for leftovers:
S'mores brownies (Gang, these are dangerous - incredibly delicious and ridiculously easy to whip up. You've been warned!)

Rainbow fruit kabobs. I had to incorporate something healthy into the meal - and they were just too darn cute to pass up!

Aside from the above treats, we had burgers and brats on pretzel buns (Seriously good), crunchy Asian coleslaw and super-amazing guac and chips. Not that I'll be stepping on a scale anytime soon to confirm, but I'm fairly certain I gained five pounds over the weekend.

And it was worth it!

Did you go to any Memorial-Day cookouts over the weekend? What did you eat?


IKEA Hacking

Happy Memorial-Day Weekend, friends! I'm really going to enjoy the weekend, not only because we're hosting our very first overnight guests at our house, but also because it will signify the end of "OMG OUR HOUSE MUST BE PERFECT BEFORE REAL HUMAN BEINGS SEE IT" mode at here at casa de Eric and Rachel. Of course, I know it has a long way to go, and it's definitely not perfect yet, but a lot of our initial cosmetic work is winding down. Next week, we just may have a normal life after work!

One of the projects we wanted to get out of the way quickly was setting up our shelving unit in the French room. At our first IKEA trip of the year (sigh... the first of many, I'm sure...), we bought an eight-unit Expedit, as well as some chrome legs to attach to the bottom (The flat packs for this Expedit unit stayed in my car for nearly four weeks straight, until we moved in our house... it was fun). The piece itself is really simple, even with the addition of the legs. We wanted to spice it up and bring some color into the room, so we decided to add a decorative backing.

I went to one of my favorite stores in Milwaukee, Broadway Paper, to pick out some fun paper to use. I swear, I could spend hours in that place (and I nearly have!). They've got the most gorgeous wrapping paper sheets in the world, and I had a hard time deciding which to choose!

But, eventually, I went with this bright and cheery yellow paper, which also matched our color scheme:

Now, the backing is nothing fancy - it literally is a giant piece of cardboard (cut from the box the Expedit came in), covered with the above paper, staple gunned to the unit. But it looks really clean, polished and extremely cute when assembled.

First, we measured and cut the cardboard, then affixed double-sided duct tape to the board.

Then, we ran out of double-sided duct tape. Crap. But then I remembered I had a stash of wall-mounting tape (from way back in college - No nails allowed on dorm walls, gang!), so I brought that out to use. And, yes, I realize holding on to 6-year-old tape is a bit of a hoarding tendency. But, hey: It came in handy, didn't it!?!

I made sure to smooth the paper on very carefully so no gaps or bubbles would form. And... that was that. Backing complete. The hardest part was peeling the liner from the double-sided tape.

Eric then stapled the paper-covered board to the back of the Expedit, and we were in business! PIECE OF CAKE. 

Eric hooked up the record player and receiver and added some records to the cubbies (Expedits are the PERFECT size for holding records, BTW). Then I dug around in our boxes and found a few things to dress up the cubbies a bit more. They're a bit bare now - I'm really looking forward to thrifting and rummaging this summer to find quirky little trinkets to put in there - but for now, this will have to do!

[I'm a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, so I had to devote an entire cubby to my hero. There are more I still need to dig out!]

The Expedit update was the first thing we assembled in the French room. Since then, we've done a lot more! Stay tuned for updates on curtains and posters and knobs, oh my!

Have you ever IKEA Hacked before? How did you transform a cheap piece of furniture to make it your own?


What's the Gossip? DIY Bench Upholstery

If you follow design blogs or decorating magazines (or if you spend any time at all on Pinterest), you're probably well aware that there's a bit of a craze over anything chevron patterned these days - and I'm totally wrapped up in it, as well. I don't know what it is about the simple, zig-zag design that has me swooning over everything from rugs to window curtains, but I am completely smitten. I simply had to find a way to incorporate my new favorite pattern into my new favorite place (my house...). I thought I could sew a couple of throw pillows, make curtains or even wrap chevron-patterned fabric around a canvas and hang it on a wall. In the end, though, I opted for something simple, small, but outright adorable: New gossip bench upholstery.

Eric gave me this "gossip bench" for my birthday in April, and I absolutely love it. I'd been obsessing over these little vintage chair/tables for a while, and it had such great character. The only thing wrong was the crimson corduroy was just not doing anything for me (not to mention it collected Mr. Pancakes fur like a Swiffer on steroids). It had to be changed - and fast.

So, I scoured the Internet for the perfect yellow chevron fabric. I kept getting disappointed by too-thin zig-zags or too-orangey colors, but finally found some great home decor fabric and ordered a couple yards, along with some fabric for curtains I'm currently working on (stay tuned!). The fabric arrived within three days, and as soon as it came, I tore open the box and started on this quick, fun project.

First, I removed the seat from the gossip bench and measured its length and width. 

Then, I measured and cut some white lining fabric and wrapped it around the bench (at double thickness). I discovered the red came through the white on my chevron fabric somewhat, so adding a liner was necessary to keep it crisp and clean. I fastened the lining to the bench using my new favorite tool: the staple gun.

It was all very simple except working around those little cuts at the corners of the seat - I had to do a little strategic folding and cutting to make sure it wrapped properly.

After the lining was attached, it was time to introduce the star of the show: my chevron fabric! 
Isn't is adorable??

I measured and cut the exact size size of fabric as I did for the lining, then ironed it out so there wouldn't be any wrinkles. Then I began fastening the fabric to the seat with a staple gun.

A couple of points to make: While you're stapling your fabric, be sure to pull it tight to ensure there won't be any bunching once you've finished. And if you're working with a striped or checked pattern, as I was, keep checking to see that the stripes (or zig-zags) are straight, and not slowly creeping up on one side or the other.

Once everything was fastened, I affixed the seat back to the bench and, viola! A complete facelift and awesome transformation all done in about 45 minutes (would have been faster if I hadn't needed the lining!). 

Now all I need is to top it with a super-cute vintage telephone. I'm envisioning something like this:

Or, if I really want to go crazy with the vintage motif, even this:

Let me know if you see anything like the phones for sale somewhere - I'm officially on the hunt!

What simple but effective DIY projects have you done lately? It's amazing how a change in fabric can completely transform a piece of furniture!


Hot in Cleveland, Hot (Water Music) in MKE

If you're tuning in to see all the glorious strides we took on the house this weekend, I'm sorry. Work on the home was put off this weekend for a very special weekend: I was a bridesmaid in my friends Lauren and Craig's wedding in Cleveland!

I've been friends with Lauren since our freshman year of college, and I've known her husband since college, as well. They're two of the sweetest and most fun people I know - obviously, their wedding was a blast!

Their rehearsal dinner was held at Corner Alley, a really cool bar/bowling alley in Downtown Cleveland (that just so happened to have some crazy delicious buffalo chicken pizza). We had a VIP area reserved, including our own open bar and private bowling lanes. It was a blast! And Eric was especially happy, because he won the "high score" award of the night. The boy cannot turn down a chance to compete.

I was so happy to be a part of the wedding - living out of state, I don't get to see my college friends often. We always manage to fall right back into step whenever we're all together again, and there's never a shortage of shenanigans. The weather for the weekend turned out PERFECTLY. Everything fell into place!

[The "first look." I don't think any of us had a dry eye.]
I had such an amazing time! Happily, my friend Kelly is getting married next year, so we'll all get to do this all over again. Can't wait to see these girls again!
Because airline tickets are out-of-control expensive, Eric and I opted to drive to Cleveland for the weekend. I was really dreading the trip, but it actually went really well! The trip to Cleveland took only a little over seven hours, and traffic was really smooth. The trip back took longer, because we are absolutely insane and decided to stop at IKEA outside of Chicago on our way home. Who volunteers themselves to go to the most stressful place on Earth after six hours in a car... AFTER an epic wedding weekend? Ugh... At least we weren't in the mood for serious shopping. We picked up a couple of rugs, a kitchen island and some frames.We were in and out within an hour. It was a total success.

And if we hadn't packed enough into our weekend, we capped it all off with heading to Turner Hall just a couple hours after arriving back to Milwaukee. Hot Water Music, a band that I used to listen to waaaaaayyy back in the day, and also a band that was on Eric's must-see "bucket list" of live shows, happened to be in town. We were both pretty exhausted, but we just couldn't miss the chance to see this band - it was somewhat of a reunion tour, so we may never be able to see them again! They were fantastic - they played with energy, looked like they were having a blast, and the crowd was having a blast. I've learned my lesson and stepped out of the way once things got pushy at the front of the stage, but Eric stood strong. After the show, he was soaked in sweat, totally lost his voice and beaming with happiness. What a way to end a great weekend!

This week is going to be FILLED with house projects - we have our very first overnight guests coming on Sunday, so things need to be in tip-top shape for our visitors. Stay tuned for projects upon projects!


A New Home for P-Cakes

For weeks, Mr. Pancakes heard nothing but talk of "moving" and "the house." He had no idea what was going on, but was hoping out loud that that didn't mean FOX was moving "House" to the dreaded Friday-night time slot. He really loves snarky humor and medical dramadies.

While we were moving things out of the apartment in into the house, Mr. Pancakes was quarantined in an empty room most of the day so he wouldn't run out on us. Clearly, he was having a little moving anxiety.
[That mattress stays HERE!]
[RAWR! You're gonna have to get through me first!]
I can understand why Mr. Pancakes was so attached to the apartment - It's the only home he's known! It's also the place where all his toys are. Little did we know he'd been hiding them all under the couch for months. We found about 50 of them when we were moving it last weekend.... Along with enough cat fur to knit a pair of mittens. (Or... dare I say, Kitten Mittons?)
He used to make a game of taking out these fake pears and berries from a big, wooden bowl I had out on display. He'd fish them out, one by one, and then bat them around the floor. There were plenty more pears and berries found when cleaning under the radiator cover.

But after I picked out a couple of rubber bands (his favorite toys ever - he prefers the ones that wrap around asparagus) and some fake mousies for him to keep (while trashing the others), I assured Mr. Pancakes he would be very happy in our new home. There would be plenty of places to hide behind when waiting to sneak-attack humans, and there are two sets of stairs he can climb! He warmed up to those ideas, but was really sold on the fact that, at his new house, he would be able to relieve himself in the privacy of the basement. 

It's the little things.

When we introduced Mr. Pancakes to the house, he reacted just as we thought he would: purely terrified. He doesn't take kindly to new situations, and is incredibly skiddish. About four seconds after emerging from his carrier, he ran to the nearest place he could find to hide: under the bed in the guest bedroom.

He stayed under the bed for a few minutes, but slowly emerged and crept around the house, checking things out, jumping 10 feet every time he heard a creak in the floor. I think he was checking out to see if there was another cat in the house - every time he's gone to a different place, there's always another cat around the corner to torture him.

After a few hours, we could tell he was getting comfortable. His new favorite thing to do is lie right in the middle of the stairs to the bedroom - especially when a human is carrying large boxes, trying to get to the top. He is very curious of the outside world - he's only really known if from seven stories up! I can tell he's going to adore staring out the picture window in the living room, plotting his evil plan to eat all the birds outside.

Good God, it just dawned on me I spent an entire post writing about my cat's reactions to moving to our new house. Who am I?? 

Don't worry, I've got a fantastic, ridiculously-easy DIY project to share with you soon - one that takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, and will be completely, utterly cat free.

I think.


Color Me Exhausted

Before I start things off, as I was typing the title of this post, I just couldn't shake boy band extraordinare Color Me Badd from my head. Ugliest boy band ever? Most definitely. And, for real, since when did Kenny G lie his saxophone down long enough to join an R&B boy band? Oh, early '90s, you were hilarious.

Now that we've all got "I Wanna Sex You Up" in our heads, let's continue on.

Well, we're in. We're in our house and still remarkably sane! Although there were a couple snafus (ridiculous wind, U-Haul truck's battery DYING right as we were about to leave), the move went swimmingly on Sunday. Our brave helpers, Aaron and Kyle, were ready and rarin' to go by 9:30 - and just as we were finishing up our final trips to the U-Haul, we got some surprise visitors - Eric's Mom and brother came down to help, too! They also dropped off our patio set, which we are incredibly grateful for - it fits perfectly on our deck!

But before all that madness began, before the boxes were unloaded and bags unpacked, we had to give our house a little makeover - We spent all of Friday night and 10 hours straight on Saturday painting the living room, hallway, "French" room and guest bedroom on the main floor. It wasn't bad at the beginning, painting the living room while listening to the sweet sounds of Bob Uecker call the Brewers/Pirates game Friday night. But beyond the living room, that's where it began to weigh on us.

The previous owners had blasted what we're calling the "French room" with a very deep, rich red color. I'm kind of over the whole "red accent wall" trend, and I also wanted to have the living room and French room the same color, to make the space flow better. We skipped using primer on the living room wall, as the "Sandcastles in the Sand" color (as we deemed it) was light enough to paint over with gray with no issues. But to cover this bold red, primer was necessary.

Eric was on roller duty as I took take care of the trim. I want to say the trim details was the suckier job of the two, but neither of us was really having a good time. And if anyone has any tips on how to get full-coverage paint in teeny-tiny little corners with door frames, please enlighten me. I know no one will ever see the teensy gaps I wasn't able to get to, but it still bothers me.

After about seven hours, we had the living room, French room and hallway painted a lovely shade of "Porpoise," by Behr. I was concerned at first, as it looked slightly purplish when wet, but it dried beautifully, and it really makes the white trim pop. I couldn't be happier with the end result!
[P.S. I think I've decided the French doors need to be white, too. Add it to the project list!]
The guest bedroom also previously sported the "Sandcastles in the Sand" color, but with a slightly more peachy tone. The more I looked at the color, the more I hated it. Enter: Behr's "Cucumber Crush." I was incredibly close to choosing a Disney paint color called "Silly Old Bear." It was close to the very-light mint color I was looking for, but in the end, Cucumber Crush was pretty much the exact color I was looking for. I Eeyored out for a bit at Home Depot, as I really loved the idea of using a paint color named after Winnie the Pooh. I am five years old.

Oh bother.

Forgive me, as I don't have a good photo of the guest room, and this one doesn't represent the wall color well. Use your imagination.

So, after about 4.5 hours on Friday night, 10 hours on Saturday, two Brewers game broadcasts, and about six each of "Doug Loves Movies" and "Sklarbro Country" podcasts, we were done. We were tired, grouchy and sore, but we were done. I'm just glad we were able to paint everything before moving in any furniture - it would have been 10 times worse shuffling around bookshelves and couches!

If Eric and I can make it through a weekend of painting and moving, I'm convinced we can make it through anything. If he looks at me and still wants to live with me after two days not showering, eyes bloodshot, wearing the same clothes, I'd say we're pretty solid.

And, completely off topic, but just because I think it is so adorable and also my daily morning mantra, I just have to share my favorite wall hanging I've put up thusfar:

It hangs in our kitchen, and is the perfect, happiest little thing to see while making my morning oatmeal.

Do you have any painting horror stories? Any tips or tricks to share? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Home Sweet Home

Well... it's official: I AM A HOMEOWNER. Just typing those words makes me feel way too adult. Quick, someone tell a fart joke!

I have to say that the actual closing was so much easier than people had lead me to believe. I was expecting to be stuck in a hot room for two hours, comprehending about 5% of what was being said and signing my name on 200 different forms. In reality, the whole thing was over within 45 minutes, I understood about 65% of what was being said and I signed/initialed my name maybe 25 times.

Not bad at all.

And at the end, we got our keys, and that was that. BAM. Homeowners. Kind of surreal.

I'll spare you every tearful sentiment about how amazing it felt to be in my very own home, how content, happy and proud I was to be standing on my own property. Instead, take a look at me doing a roundoff off my deck. And pay no attention to the near-buttcrack slippage.

Did I mention it took us about 15 minutes to actually figure out how to get into the house? We had this big, built-up moment where Eric was going to take a photo of my hand turning the key for the very first time. Well, he got the camera set, I put the key in the lock... and nothing happened. I tried a few more times, then Eric "Nick Burnsed" me (please let me know if you got that reference without clicking the YouTube link) and took over. He couldn't get the door to unlocked, either! So we walked around to the side door.... no dice. Finally, after about five minutes spent working on the side door (also, there were expletives), it opened. Talk about a sitcom situation, am I right?

So, I'm sorry I don't have a symbolic photo of my hand, a key and our front door. We didn't even have a chance to take the ubiquitous "happy couple standing on the front porch" photo while we were there. Those will come. But for now, here's Eric enjoying our apple tree:

Seeing the home completely empty made it feel like it was ours for the first time... also, probably because it was ours for the first time.

But there were a few things that had to go. For instance, we've got these beautiful French doors off the living room, which were lined with clunky curtains when we arrived. I took them down immediately.

[Please don't pay attention to the fact that the camera's flash totally made my shirt see through. Hot. Real hot...]

But one thing that stayed in the house that did like (besides the dart board in the basement - cha ching!) was this awesome Bay View Historical Landmarks poster (also in the basement). 
While at the home inspection, we took a liking to the poster and enjoyed learning about all our new neighborhood's landmarks. We'd like to frame it, eventually.

We were able to fit a few boxes into our cars so we could start unpacking things. Obviously, the most important boxes made it to the house first.
[What? Like YOU don't have a box labeled "knives, cat stuff, magnets" somewhere at home...]
It was hard to leave the house last night - even though we only had a couple IKEA Expedits, some clothes, painting supplies and knives, cat stuff and magnets at the house, I wanted to sleep there!

The rest of the weekend will consist of nothing but painting our butts off (not literally... though I wish I could), and Sunday is the BIG move; everything leaves the apartment and gets moved into the house. We've bribed our brave helpers with dinner, high fives and smiles. My high fives are particularly awesome, so it will be worth it, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast looks less-than-stellar for moving. As long as my stuff doesn't get all soggy, I'll be fine. But I guess that just means I won't be able to step out for a breather in this, my most gorgeous backyard:

I've got big plans for that baby.

So, that's that folks. Thanks for coming along on the ride listening to me obsess over this place. Hold on to your hats, because this is only the beginning. Stay tuned to watch it all unfold into the cutest little house that ever was. Or watch me slowly lose my mind.

Either way, it'll be quite a ride.

P.S. Did you notice the subhead on my blog has changed? Did you notice there IS a subhead on my blog??



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