Monday, April 27, 2015

Michiganders - Our New Home (Exterior)

Howdy, friends! How's your second winter spring coming along? Has anyone else gotten snow this past week? Ugh, makes me just want to scream and throw things, including an adult version of a toddler tantrum!
 
If you read my previous post, you saw that we are now living in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. We moved for Matt's job, and instead of going through the annoyance of renting again, we purchased a home. It's a ways out from our work, though not out in the sticks by any means. The house sits on two acres, it's pretty quiet, and we really like it!
 
I'm sharing exterior photos with you today, and hopefully I'll share interior ones soon! Sorry for the gray skies and leafless trees, but I guess it's winter in Michigan until August.....
 
 
 
 
Front yard:

 
View to the west of the front porch:
 
 
Peering into the backyard from the west side of the house.
 
Backyard:
 
More backyard - woods beyond the fence!
 
The smaller of the back patios - double doors leading out from my office/sewing room:
 
 
This beast (on the bigger of the two back patios), which is no longer there.
It was disclosed when we purchased the house that the condition of the hot tub was unknown, and it was coming with the house "as is." We had a tech out, and would have gotten it up and running had the price tag been a couple hundred dollars. But to the tune of $1,200, I advertised it for free on Craigslist and Facebook and someone came and got it that night. It's their problem now. :)
 
Back of the house, from the southeast edge of the back yard.
 
Southeast of the house:
 
East of the house - two stories - perfect for bikes, mowers, etc.
(Camper is not ours, though ours will be parked in that spot very soon!)
 
Deck coming off the kitchen

 
Now.....I present to you the part of the yard that I'm MOST excited about - A Garden!!!
I purchased "Vegetable Gardening for Dummies" and am reading it at a fever pace. I can't wait to get some veggies in here and hopefully have a bit of a harvest to share with you in a few months! 
 
There you have it! The exterior and yard of our new (to us) house. Like I mentioned, we really like the location and the quiet country feel without being a million miles from civilization.
 
We are pretty much settled, so I'll try and get you a tour of the inside soon - then you can come along with me as I do several little projects and make it really "ours."
 
Stay tuned, and stay warm! (Ugh.)

 

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Grand Rapids, OH Visit

So for those of you who aren't aware, we are no longer in Rapid City, South Dakota. It's a story that one day I hope to post on the blog, but for now, it's just relevant for you to know that we have relocated to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.
 
There are three "Grand Rapids's" in the United States, and we've now lived in 2 of them. :)
 
When we moved to South Dakota, we were unable to sell our house in Ohio (stale market), and ended up renting it out. The first tenant we had moved out and another family moved in, all while we were still out west.
 
This past weekend, we decided to drive down to Grand Rapids, OH to see the house, meet the tenants, and spend some time with friends there in Ohio. It was a long and tiring day (7 hour drive round trip), but so much fun!!
 
We got up and hit the road around Saturday morning. As soon as we got south of Toledo, the memories started coming back!

 

 
Our first stop was to our house in Ohio. The outside of the house looks great, but the inside needs some love - shampooed carpets, fresh coat of paint on the walls, etc. We chatted with the new tenants for a while, did a walk-through of the house, and spent about an hour there. I knew Jameson wouldn't remember the house, but I was hoping Hendrix would remember some of it. He acted like he did not, which made me a little sad.
 
Both boys will have some memories of South Dakota, but mostly of Michigan as they grow older, since Michigan is where we will settle, and they were so young in South Dakota.
 
After we finished at the house, we just drove around Grand Rapids for a little while. (Doesn't take long in a village of 800 people!) We stopped downtown to go for a little walk. It was an absolutely gorgeous day - mid 70's and sunshine.

The Maumee River.

I LOVE downtown Grand Rapids. Can't get enough of it. It's so quaint and quiet. We used to go for walks downtown and along the river several nights a week during warm months.

Grand Rapids park.

The "sidewalk" that goes to the river towpath.

Selfie. Because.

The canal.
 
Selfie. Don't judge.

Mr. Wrinkle-Nose.

Where we used to have picnics.

Used book store downtown. This tiger was for sale last time we were here. It had a $7,000 price tag. I guess they gave up on the hope of selling it, because now there's a stool there to climb up on it. :)

Oh what a difference three years makes. My guys are growing into such handsome young men. I love this picture way too much.
 
After our nostalgic walk through town, we drove out to our friend, Angie's house. She watched the boys for a while when they were really young.
 
Hendrix and her son, Wes, are about 6 months apart in age (Wes is older), and they were just such good buddies when we lived in Ohio. Angie hadn't told Wes we were coming, so he was really surprised when Hendrix hopped out of the car! They kind of just looked at each other for a while, then took off and played the afternoon away. It made my heart happy to see them together again after almost two and a half years!


 
After Angie's house, we stopped by a friend's house that we used to go to church with and I used to hang out with a lot and saw her, her husband, and her 3 kids. Turns out, my kids aren't the only ones who have grown a lot since the last time we were here! :)
 
We didn't stay long at Jeanna's house, because she was getting ready to host a cookout that evening, and we didn't want to keep her from finishing up. We headed back north and got home around 7:30 pm. We watched a little bit of TV, then all 4 of us hit the pillow and I don't think we lasted more than 3 minutes before we were unconscious!
 
It was a great day. It's a long drive, so it's not one I plan on making every other week or anything, but I definitely look forward to spending more time down there, with friends, and keeping an eye on our house. Plus, my piano is still there, along with a couple of our bikes that we will need to pick up at some point this summer.
 
Until next time, Grand Rapids!
 
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

GF Confetti Cookies


Sometimes, you just want an easy cookie.

Boom!


I was a little skeptical when the recipe called for only a stick of butter and 1 egg - no liquid. 
And it did mix up a little weird - kind of like when you cream butter and sugar. Starts out dry, but comes together at the end. Same type of thing here.



Jameson was so excited to help me make the dough balls.
(This was a big deal for a kid that's not even supposed to play with play-doh.)



They turned out great, and tasted awesome!
Would not have known they were gluten free if I didn't know they were gluten free. :)



Soft and chewy.



Fun-fetti-ish.



I didn't eat all three of these.
Yes I did.



I highly recommend them!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Poteggos


Does anyone else get just really bored with the same old things in rotation for dinner?

I like to break the monotony once in a while, and took some inspiration from Pinterest this past week and came up with a new creation. The kids and I called them "Baked Poteggos." How fun is that?

They're ridiculously easy, and very affordable! At less than $0.20 for an egg and potato each, this meal is crazy cheap, let's not underestimate it.

First, you bake your potatoes (whole), wrapped in foil at 350 for about an hour, or until a fork goes into them easily.

Then, carefully cut them in half - I used a pot holder to allow me to hold them while they were hot. Use a spoon to scoop out the inside of the potato halves. I saved that scooped potato and Matt made some mashed potatoes out of it for lunch the next day.
Crack an egg in each potato half and pop them back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your likeness.




Voila - dinner!

Except I thought they looked kind of boring. So I dressed mine up like a taco. Avocado, cheese, salsa, and a bit of sour cream.

Party in my mouth!




If I eat a fried egg, I like my yolk runny so I can dip my toast in it. I would have preferred these yolk a bit runnier, but I guess I baked them too long! Oh well, they were still so good!



Ladies and gentlemen - Baked Poteggos.





What's your best "throw-it-together" food creation?

What's your go-to cheap dinner?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reptile Gardens: Opening Weekend 2015


In conversation with a friend on Saturday, he mentioned that Reptile Gardens had opened up this past weekend. A quick look at their Facebook page confirmed that, so off we went on Sunday morning!
The crowd was small, since it's not yet tourist season, but the weather couldn't have been more PERFECT on Sunday. It was sunny and 80 degrees.




Jameson by the picture of "his" snake.




Monty. The Burmese python. Monty the Python. Get it? Ha.


Prairie Rattlesnake. All over the place out here. I liked this one the best: behind glass (though you can't see it in the picture!).




It was a fun little trip. If you're ever in the Black Hills, Reptile Gardens is definitely a must on your attraction list, whether you have little ones or not!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Clean" Alfredo Sauce

After letting my eating habits go to crap over the last few months, I'm challenging myself to eat "cleaner" for two solid weeks to see if I notice any changes in body composition, but more importantly, the overall way I feel (more energy, less bloat, better mental focus, etc).


My hope is that I DO notice a difference and continue on the path of cleaner eating, allowing myself treats in moderation, and in the process of doing so, I can be in the shape I hope to be for this summer, which hopefully holds a lot of adventure for my family and I.


The reason I put "Clean" in parentheses is because I feel like everyone's definiton of clean is different, and that's perfectly fine. This sauce has cream cheese and cow's milk in it, which I don't really think it considered clean by a lot of people, but it's still much healthier than the junk from a jar.


Another thing to note is that the original recipe calls for all-purpose flour which is not really an option in a celiac household. But no worries. I just substituted the flour with cornstarch.


My husband's favorite meal is chicken alfredo. I love it too, but that sauce from a jar - FULL of preservatives and chemicals, of course. I found this recipe from The Skinny Fork on Pinterest and decided to give it a go.


Wow. The taste of this sauce is flippin' delicious. I'm not even joking. When I make it in the future - because you know I'm going to - I will cook the cauliflower longer, as it had a bit of a grainy texture to it from the cauliflower. But errmahgerrsh. This stuff is bomb.


I took very few pictures because - as usual - I got excited and got ahead of myself.  The picture quality is also less than awesome off of my iphone. I really plan to start using my nice camera this year. Seriously this time. Ha.


Here's the recipe, directly from The Skinny Fork:
2 C. Cauliflower, Cooked
1 1/4 C. Fat Free Milk
3 oz.. Fat Free Cream Cheese
1 Tbsp. Flour
1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Light Butter
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 C. 2% Milk Italian Cheese Blend, Shredded





So the first step is to cook your cauliflower. When it's all said and done, you want two cups of cooked cauliflower. The recipe did not state how finely to chop the cauliflower, but I just cut off the florets similar to broccoli size. I was going to boil them, but we have an electric stove that takes 8 months to boil water (I can't WAIT to have a gas stove again!), so I stuck the cauli in a glass bowl with a little bit of water and microwaved it for a total of ten minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes to try and evenly cook the cauli.


While you're cooking the cauliflower, you melt your butter in a saucepan and sautee your minced garlic in it until the garlic becomes translucent and tender. This is about the time your kitchen stops smelling like cooked cauliflower and starts smelling like butter and garlic. Yum.





When the cauliflower is cooked, you put it in your food processor with the cream cheese, milk, and salt and blend it up. Then, pour that mixture into the pan with the butter and garlic. Stir the mixture over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Once it's thickened, pour in the Italian cheese, stir, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.
You'll have something looking like this:





I spend at least a couple hours each Sunday prepping healthy food for the week, so I already had some grilled chicken cubed up in the fridge. While I was working on my clean alfredo, I boiled up some gluten free pasta, warmed up the chicken, and then put it all together.











You want some, don'tcha?



If you're skeptical about the taste of alfredo sauce made with a base of cooked cauliflower, I can't say that I blame you. But I encourage you to give this a try if you're looking to clean up your diet a bit.

If you have leftovers and warm this sauce up, you might need to add some liquid (I added skim milk). And I also learned that Great Value GF pasta - while delicious the first time - does NOT warm up well. But...know I know. :)

Let me know what you think if you try this!