Because you asked.

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^ Let’s fiesta… ^

After this post, several people were curious about the correct order to wash dishes, which my mom listed as one of my obsessions.  Well.  I’m here to tell you all about that and I’m sure you’ll be sorry you asked.

For the majority of my life I have not had a dishwasher.  I don’t really remember that we had one for the bulk of my time at home with my parents, Tiffany and I did not have one in our college apartments, I didn’t have one in China (of course I also didn’t really cook in China – preferring to order in fried rice approximately six days a week…no wonder I hauled a few extra pounds home on my person.), and my first house that I bought didn’t have one.  Really, it wasn’t until I moved in with Kevin that I began living the life of luxury and that was at age 26 (27?).  So, in all those years without the option to choose a light-normal-pots&pans cycle, I came up with a system for washing dishes.

First you have to organize the dishes.  Stack the plates according to size, keep all the silverware together, line up the glasses, etc.  Then you put hot water and dish soap in the sink and add the silverware, then the plates, then the bowls, then the glasses.  Wash the glasses first, rinse and line up to dry.  Then wash the bowls and the plates.  Rinse and stack in an organized criss-cross fashion to allow for proper air circulation while drying.  Then do the silverware, which has been soaking in the hot, soapy water and is therefore mostly free of the built up food gunk that clings to silverware.  Rinse and leave to dry.  Finally you can move on to pots, pans, bigger stuff, adding more hot water and/or soap if needed.  Rinse and strategically place around the other drying items so as to best prevent an avalanche of dishes.  And that’s that.

But that was then.  Now that I’m all spoiled and #classy, it’s pure chaos at dishwashing time.  I mean, it gets downright wild as I carelessly prepare the dishes for bath time – top rack, top rack, bottom rack, top rack, silverware tray, bottom rack, bottom rack.  Look out!

Do you have a system that you passionately follow for any household chores?  How do you wash dishes? 

Project 12 // August 2015.

 *Project 12 – A photo on (or around) the first day of each month.*
{Idea credit & linking up with  The Lady Okie}

August:

IMG_1327^ Backyard selfie.  Attempt #45. ^ 

Read: 
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell – 4 stars
Bringing Up Bebe:  One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman – 4 stars
Simple Pleasures by Alfred Portale – 3 stars

Travel Adventures:
It was a month for staying home.  We didn’t leave the metro area in August!

Noteworthy Days & Events:
August 7 – Kevin gave notice at his job!  He’ll be embarking on a new work adventure beginning September 8.
August 15 – Baby shower tea with some of my favorite Junior League ladies.  We felt very spoiled and loved, and had the added benefit of celebrating another mama who is expecting a girl in October.
August 29 – Inaugural football game for the team that Kevin helps coach!  This is his thirteenth season to serve in an assistant coach role for high school football teams (12 of those 13 years have had him working with the school and coach that he played for through high school!) and I love how excited he gets each year for the new season.

Ate: (new recipes & restaurants)
—I made bread using this recipe one Sunday afternoon.  I halved the recipe and added a bit of cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter before rolling it up to put in the bread pan.  It turned out really well and was very quick – only around an hour of total rise time versus the usual 2+ that bread recipes require.
—We tried this Brussels sprouts recipe one night.  It was quite tasty!
—We hosted Kevin’s mom for dinner one night when his dad was out of town and made this shrimp stir fry.  The Pioneer Woman really can do no wrong.  Our version included eggplant fresh from my cousin’s garden and some red cherry tomatoes from our own garden.  We liked the shrimp stir fry so much that we had it at least once more in August!
—It was a last minute decision to make this oven baked pork chop and rice dish – and it proved to be an excellent one.  This will definitely make regular appearances at our casa during the cooler months.
—We did a ground beef and rice dinner that was very loosely based on this recipe.  We didn’t use tomato sauce or sour cream, and I did toss in some frozen corn along with the frozen peas.  We also kept it as a skillet meal rather than putting it in a casserole dish to heat in the oven.  It was a really easy dinner and I thought it was even better as leftovers at lunch the next day.
—Kevin made this cod recipe while I was at yoga one evening and we agreed that the flavor was awesome.  Really, I liked the dish in its entirety but Kevin was not impressed with the breading “crust” which he thought was far too mushy.  We’re thinking we’d do the lemon/butter/paprika combo again and just sprinkle some panko bread crumbs on top of the cod rather than using flour.
—Tiffany posted this recipe for a chicken/pasta/green chile dinner and I knew we had to try it.  Oh my goodness, it was so good.  We’ll definitely do this one again!

Tell me something about your August!

Obsessin’.

I asked a few of my nearest and dearest to list a few of my obsessions.  Here’s what they came up with:

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Kevin says…
– Books –
– Pesto –
– The girls – {our cats}
– Cheese –
– Jeans –
– Hot Cheetos –
– Cherry tomatoes –
– Boots –

Amy Tiff 2

Tiff says…
– Reading –
– Your cats –
– Tights –
– Boots –
– Kevin –

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Joy says…
– Order –
– Jeans –
– Your cats –
– Kevin –
– Leggings –

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Shawna says…
– Cleanliness –
– Food –
– Reading –
– Organization –

Amy Mom Lisa

Lisa says…
– Clothing –
– Kevin –
– Books –
– Keeping order –

Mom says…
– Books –
– Washing dishes in the correct order –
– Matching (clothes, flowers, décor) –
– Food –
– Lack of clutter –

Lots of overlap!  In a nutshell, I’m obsessed with books, organization/order, my cats, Kevin, and clothes, particularly the ones that go on the bottom half of the body.

I’d say they know me well.

What are a few of your obsessions?  Would others agree?

My maternity uniform.

I have basically been living in some variation of this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Oh wait – they’re all the same.  That proves it.  Skirts with stretchy waistbands, Target t-shirts and tank tops, sandals (I really should paint my toenails while I still can, but…nah, I’ll wait ’til they’re out of reach and enlist Kevin’s help – he’ll love that), and cardigans (because my office tends to run cold…or maybe that’s just me).

When I’m feeling especially fancy, I’ll class it up with a non-100% cotton skirt.

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I also have several dresses that are accommodating and flattering – especially with a belt above the belly or a button up shirt tied high – with room to fit more, so hopefully they’ll keep me clothed well into the third trimester.

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Overall, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe has actually been sufficient thus far.  I have bought one pair of maternity shorts (Target!  Naturally.), which I love.  I have two pair of jeans that are still buttoning, so those are put through their paces when I need a fix of denim.  Oh and leggings are good good good to me these days.  I fin-ally jumped on the Zella Live-In leggings bandwagon that everyone has been raving about for years (the Nordstrom anniversary sale was just too enticing and I couldn’t resist), and they are a-ma-zing.  I ordered a long pair and a pair of capri leggings for when I want to show a little leg calf.

Sandals, flats, and sneakers are pretty much all I am interested in when it comes to footwear, but that’s always been the case for me, so nothing new.  I have a few pair of wedges that are fine when I do need a bit of a heel.  I’ll be at my most pregnant just as boot season begins, so we’ll see how swollen my feet are at that point.

Recently my most beloved accessory is my FitBit – I’ve been making it a point to get my 10,000 steps a day for the past few weeks.  Maybe it’s all in my head but I feel so much better since I started making that effort.  I’m going to keep it up for as long as I can.

What are/were/will be your maternity wardrobe staples? 

Someone’s in the kitchen.

When neighbors give you peaches, you halve them, pop a little square of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar on each, and bake them at 350 for 5-10 minutes, to your taste.  Heap some vanilla ice cream on top and you’ve got yourself a tasty summer treat.

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When a co-worker gives you cherries, you whip up some cherry crisp.  I used this recipe.  Heavy on the crisp because that’s the best part.  IMO.  I failed to snap a picture, but you know what they say, if you’ve seen one crisp, you’ve seen them all.  And I’m not known across the land for being an excellent photographer of the food anyway, so are you missing out?  No.  Just go make the crisp.

As a side note, I don’t own a cherry pitter so I used the tried and true chopstick method and it worked great.  It was messy, but effective.

When you get a craving for cinnamon bread, you scour the internet for bread recipes that don’t require half of day of rise time.  I found this one (for plain bread), halved it because I only needed (and really that need was debatable) one loaf, and I added a ‘roll out smother in brown sugar and cinnamon and melted butter then roll up into a loaf’ step before putting the dough in the bread pan for the final rise.  It turned out beautifully; I began mixing ingredients at 2:48 and was slicing the baked loaf at 5:05 so it was done in the flashiests of flashes.  I may have eaten the entire loaf (minus around four slices which I generously shared with Kevin and co-workers) in a matter of two days.

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^ Business on the outside, responsible party of cinnamon/brown sugar/butter on the inside. ^

I always hold my breath when I bake bread (figuratively, of course, because I want to live to eat the final product) and work with yeast.  It just scares me.  Water too hot?  The yeast dies.  Water too cold?  The yeast dies.  It seems so sensitive.  I’m not sure why I feel this way – I don’t think I’ve ever killed the yeast.  But the fear is real.  I did, at one point, own a bread machine, which was used around three times before it was stashed in a cabinet and forgotten about.  Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to make my bread by hand.  I think the machines just complicate things – especially if you stick to simple recipes, which I always do.

When you want to throw together a high protein snack, you roast some chickpeas.  First I coated them in red pepper flakes, chili powder, a touch of salt, and a smidgeon of brown sugar to cut the spicy.  They were good but I don’t think I roasted them long enough and/or at a high enough temperature.  They were less of a crunchy snack and more of a side dish.  But they would make a great side dish or add in to a casserole or something so I’ll keep my half-fail method in mind.

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What have you been up to in the kitchen recently?

Project 12 // July 2015.

 *Project 12 – A photo on (or around) the first day of each month.*
{Idea credit & linking up with  The Lady Okie}

July:

July 2015^ At the family reunion on July 4! ^  

Read: 
The Princess Bride by William Goldman – 4 stars
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 5 stars

Travel Adventures:
July 4 – Day trip to Magdalena for the family reunion!

Noteworthy Days & Events:
July 3 – Tile replacement complete and we were able to move back home after been displaced for five days.  Home sweet home, say the humans and the cats.
July 9 – Gas meter…adventure at rental house has been resolved!  New tenant is able to move in anytime.
July 10 – Fun “fishing trip” (annual retreat for Kevin’s work which once centered around fishing but hasn’t in…a really long time) getaway at Tamaya.
July 11 – Bought the first big baby purchase!  A crib.  We had to laugh at ourselves because that is SUCH a first-time parents purchase.  It seems so necessary from where we sit, but she won’t actually be sleeping in the crib for a few months (as there will be a bassinet in our room initially).  But!  A crib will be necessary at some point and it converts to a toddler bed and double bed, so she can use it for many moons.
July 12 – Heard author Hampton Sides speak at Bookworks.
July 16 – Replaced half the windows in the house!
July 17 – Mini-bar replaced with shelves/cabinets!  So much prettier and more functional.

Ate: (new recipes & restaurants)
Rach and Jayda each made this Pioneer Woman recipe (Buttery Lemon Parsley Noodles), inspiring me to do the same, and it was as easy and as delicious as it looks.  We had it as a side with salmon and used basil rather than parsley.
We ordered pizza from Pizza 9 (which neither of us had tried before) and had it delivered.  It was tasty.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house.  Win after win after win.
The Pioneer Woman makes these crash hot potatoes look so easy, and when I made them, they were very delicious…but looked like a crash hot fail.  Not pretty.  But tasty is more important so we’ll just go with it and I’ll probably make them again as long as presentation doesn’t matter to whomever I’m feeding!

Tell me something about your July!

Talkin ’bout my reno-va-tion.

When we bought our house in 2013, it had been sitting vacant for around two years.  It came with wild paint colors on the walls, poorly stretched carpet throughout, outdated light oak cabinets in the kitchen (and laundry room and bathrooms), a moldy vanity in the downstairs bathroom, an outdated master bathroom and guest bathroom upstairs, vinyl windows, and Saltillo tile that was past the point of ever looking pretty.  Our renovation budget at the time allowed us to take care of a lot of those projects before we moved into the house.  The utmost in luxury and convenience when it comes to reno work – no furniture to shift and move!  Here are some before and after photos from way back then.

The upstairs bathrooms (master and guest) are still on the list, but we earmarked some money this year for Saltillo tile replacement and to replace half of the windows.  And to destroy a random, tiny “wet bar” – which is really just a sink – in the living room.

We started with the tile which was sure to be the project to cause the most inconvenience because we needed to move out of the house while it was being completed.  Fortunately, my in-laws (who live a few blocks away) were kind enough to let us – and the cats – stay at their house.  We stayed there from Monday to Friday when the work was being completed, and it really did work out in the best possible way.  Craig and Sue were out of town so we didn’t need to worry about being in their way and the house is close to ours, so we were able to go every day to water the crops (the garden) and check on the progress of the work and even get clothes and other items as we needed them.  Sue and Craig have a cat, so Kiki and Rue needed to be sequestered upstairs.  They may disagree, but I don’t think they suffered too much.  First world cat problems – trapped in a little room when you’re used to having the run of the house.

Here are some before photos of the horrible tile:

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^ Top:  The entryway.  The realtor who had the house listed when we bought it had used extra heavy duty duct tape to secure a rug to the floor (or maybe the previous owners had used the duct tape and the realtor was trying to hide it from potential buyers).  It was such a…fun surprise to find when we bought the house and tore up the rug.  Needless to say, we found a rug to cover the duct tape ourselves.  ^
^ Bottom Left:  This little stretch leads guests to our home from the entryway to the living room – with a trip hazard to boot.  Because the tile is the same in the entry way and the living room, it was really hard to see that there was a small step down into the living room.  So many people have not noticed the step and stumbled down it.  ^
^ Bottom Right:  The downstairs bathroom.  Not much to see here.  Just more bad tile and tile base work. ^

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^ Top Left and Top Right:  These photos of the living room/breakfast nook area show the tile – in all its glory – really well.  Cracked, discolored, strange grout, unevenly installed, gaps between the wall and the “baseboard” tile….  It was not attractive. ^
^ Bottom Left and Bottom Right:  More of the same in the kitchen. When Kevin was cleaning out the garage a few weeks ago, he discovered some acid tile wash and grout cleaner, which really explained a lot.  I don’t think the tile was well installed to begin with, there was nothing to keep it from cracking when the foundation shifted (as it does in new houses), and someone took some heavy duty “cleaner” that was not meant for Saltillo tile to it at some point.  Also, the grout was painted white, once upon a time.  Why?  Who knows. ^

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^Left:  Living room.  In slightly better light so you can see all the strange variation in color, and even the cracks and permanent discolorment. (Discolorment?  Maybe not a word.  But it works here.)  The floors always looked dirty, even immediately after they had been mopped. ^
^ Right: The laundry room.  Kevin especially didn’t like this white tile. ^

We worked with a local company for the tile replacement.  The foreman did an excellent job and they finished on schedule.  We were very impressed with him and the quality of work that the crew did.

They came in and moved all of our furniture, then immediately started jackhammering up the tile.  Saltillo is incredibly messy – it crumbles and gets dust everywhere.  Here are a few of the during pictures:

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^ See?  Messy stuff. ^

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And finally, the after photos.  We are so, so happy with the final result.  I’m even happier than I thought I would be with how it looks.  It’s easier to walk on barefoot, the tiles are consistent and clean, the baseboard looks sharp, and the decorative tiles in the entry way are a lovely touch.  We really think that it fits the style of the house (Southwest), which will be good for resale purposes if we go that route someday.

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^ Rue likes the new tile.  Amy likes the decorative tile near the step – catches the eye well. ^

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We also replaced eight windows in the house this month.  Unfortunately it did not rain on the 4th of July, so we have to pay Renewal by Anderson for these new windows, but I guess that’s the risk you take when you decide to gamble with weather and home improvement.  Our old windows were vinyl and poorly insulated.  I know we’ll notice a big difference with the new windows!

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^ Window limbo as the job was in progress. ^

Last but not least, we hired the guy who re-did our kitchen cabinets before we moved into the house to replace a wet bar (which was really just a random sink and ugly cabinet) with some shelves and cabinet space.  It ties in really well with the kitchen, looks great with the new tile, and will be so much more functional than what filled the space previously.

Here is before:

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And after:

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We need to fill the shelves and finish the baseboard, but overall we are done done done with home improvement projects for the year.  It feels awesome.

Do you have any home improvement projects in the works?  Do you DIY this kind of stuff, or leave it to the experts?