Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eggplant Parmesan Modification

Eggplant parmesan is a beloved dish in our house. However we traditionally made it by slicing the eggplant very thin and frying each breaded piece which makes it not the healthiest dish!

Over time, Jim has become creative and ultimately came up with perfection. Less oil and red sauce is what he was going for since eggplant parmesan brings on acid reflux in me.
He removes the skin first, then slices the eggplant lengthwise in thick slices.  Then he dips the pieces in egg, then breadcrumbs for frying. 

After frying, each piece is laid out on a baking sheet and sprinkled with tomato sauce, cheese and fresh tomato. Then baked at 350F until cheese is beautifully browned. Then reduced balsamic is drizzled on top to taste.

What a difference! We find this to be much more delicious because you can really taste the eggplant. It is healthier and one piece is quite filling. My tummy is happier eating this versus the indulgent way we used to make it. A perfect meal with a side salad. Bonus, the leftovers heat up wonderfully in the microwave.

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Little Snow

I took these photos back in December after a little snow. One benefit to not cutting back plants in the Fall is that it makes for whimsical yard decor.

Happy Winter! I am really looking forward to Spring, flowers, etc. but until then will try to enjoy the few benefits of winter.

It had been a very easy winter up until this past week. Now winter is in full gear here! 

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Coop Rotisserie

The Coop Rotisserie is a new eatery in downtown Amesbury, MA (where Main Street and Friend Street intersect).  This is the first time Jim and I have known owners opening a restaurant so it is a treat to check it out!
I know what you are thinking, Val is reviewing a chicken joint? 
Well it turns out there are many vegetarians in this area and this restaurant worked out a delicious menu to cater to those of us veggie types.

This is the cook Elvis and I. Being Latino, he has incorporated his spicy ethnicity into the menu.
We ate vegetarian of course but from what I have seen on Yelp and Facebook, patrons are loving the rotisserie chicken too.

This is the vegetarian version of the empanada. It is full of veggie goodness. The vibrant sauce it a roasted carrot chipotle. Yum! Also made with either chicken or beef picadillo.
A scrumptious black bean veggie burrito. Perfect for satisfying Latino craving. Also made with chicken or braised beef.
We tried this traditional vegetarian sandwich of portabello and roasted red pepper. It is loaded with greens and tomatoes along with tasty seasoning of pesto de albahacca. So much deliciousness.
Those are not french fries on the side, but yucca fries. They are perfect! Served with the roasted carrot chipotle, I was in love. 

Elvis was saying that these are ordered much more often than the french fries. Considering this, he is now thinking of adding other yucca items to the menu. Great idea! This is not something we see on menus often.

The restaurant is small and quaint.
Elvis makes it a point to come out from behind the open kitchen to talk with the patrons. That is the best way to learn about how to tweak a menu that the customers will love and keep coming back for! 

They have been very busy since they opened their doors a few months back and I know these guys will experience continued success.

Next time we will try the quesadillas, tacos, rellanas and salads and leave very satisfied again! 

If you live locally, I hope you will check out The Coop Rotisserie open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11:30am until 9:30pm.

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some Kitchen Details

One thing I have done in our kitchen is paint the ugly old wood panel walls. Now if these were floor to ceiling, we would have removed them.
Luckily they were installed in a wainscotting (aka beadboard) fashion with a strip of molding on top.

First I sanded it all. Then filled in any holes.
Then applied 2 coats of Kilz and 2 coats of paint. We are so happy with the results! 

If we chose to remove it, it could have created so much more work. There is probably old wallpaper behind it and who knows how messy the wall itself would be!

I should have taken a before photo of the old radiator there. It was a blah matte brown but now it is shiny silver making it an attractive original fixture.

All the outlets and switches will have these plates I came across when shopping. 
So far only 1 was done when we had the power off to install 2 of these $10 light fixtures to replace the hideous ones that were there.
The ones we were looking at were around $60 each so when we saw these, we snagged them. Yes they are really glass and metal! Total score. The glass is corrugated for a touch of elegance, yet still making for a casual kitchen fixture.

I really like the cabinet handles for some reason and want to keep the after the cabinets are refinished. So I searched for the right paint to rejuvenate them.
The original is on the left. It is hard to tell from the photo but the handles are very dirty from decades of use.

The middle one is Rustoleum's "Dark Bronze" with a hammered finish. It comes out like a dark pewter rather than bronze. It is a bit too shiny for my taste too.

So then I tried Rustoleum's "Oil Rubbed Bronze" that has a smooth finish on the last one. That is the paint we need! I tried 1 light coat on 2 of the hinges as well to make sure that will work. That was successful too. 

We are slow to start the cabinet doors. After playing with a couple of stains we have decided to go a completely different route and paint them an antiqued white. With that color, we will really be able to install any counter, backsplash and flooring. 

Thank you for stopping by! Enjoy your week ahead. ~Val

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Nut Butter Snack

Someone gave Jim this 3 ingredient nut butter recipe so I gave it a try.
It is a hit!

All you need is:

1 cup of nut butter (I used almond butter), peanut would be amazing!
1/2 cup honey
3 cups of oats (the recipe called for quick oats but I only have regular and that worked just fine)

Soften the nut butter and honey if needed in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Then combine all ingredients. I found this could only be done the down and dirty way, with bare hands! 

Line a 9 inch x 9 inch pan with parchment paper and firmly press the mixture into it. If you don't have parchment, line with aluminum foil and spray lightly.
Then chill until firm. Then it is easy to cut into delicious pieces! Yummy! 

With the honey, they are very sweet, perfect for satisfying a craving.

Thank you for stopping by! Let me know if you try this healthy (but high calorie) snack. ~Val

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Kitchen

We are starting to discuss our kitchen remodel. This is our dated little kitchen.
It is actually not little but that back corner is the only counter space in the entire kitchen! 

When we are ready we will have a designer come in to finalize our ideas. We need more counters which I also want to work as eat at space. 

Most likely there will either be a large eat at island in the center of the room or an L shaped eat at counter that would start near the fridge and run along side the stove.

The current configuration of the stove, dishwasher and fridge works well but we will have the bottom counters there rebuilt as well since they are yucky.

The upper counters are beautiful and solid wood. Not like the materials used today! The dark stain feels really dated and does not show off the wood's beauty.

So the cabinets below the sink are our experimental ones since we aren't keeping them. This little door was stripped bare. I can't believe how much lighter it is! 

Next we will try staining it. I want the cabinets to be light and bright while showing off their grain!
So the cabinets will be step one and we will address the rest at a later date. This may take us forever because it is slightly too cold in our basement for the stripper and stain so we are not sure what we will accomplish over the winter.

Cabinet space is plentiful. This cabinet below is floor to ceiling and holds all our cookware and more.
I forgot to take a before photo of it before removing the doors that match the rest of the cabinets. I have given it a fresh coat of paint inside. 

The right side was apparently a coat closet at one time. Jim had the brilliant idea of hanging our pots from the bar! I just need to put a free standing shelf unit in there to utilize the middle part of the space.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our before kitchen. The remodeling will include just about everything. 
  • refinishing the cabinets 
  • having new cabinets built 
  • installing granite or the like counter tops 
  • new appliances 
  • tiling the floor
  • and the little stuff like the back splash, ceiling fan, etc.
The half bath is right next to that cabinet above which we plan on updating at the same time, but that is an easy fix in comparison!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year in Review

2016 is coming to an end. What a year it has been! 
Jim and I moved in to our first house together. She has been a bit of a fixer upper but nothing we weren't aware of at purchase. Yes, we got a great deal! Since this photo was taken she has gotten a new roof, new chimney, updated electrical, repaired foundation inside and out and a new fence. Not to mention the little things we have done without contractor help! Wow, that's a lot!

We have had fun exploring our new city's different restaurants.
 Its fantastic architecture of buildings re-built in 1882 after a devastating fire.
Downtown artwork depicting its history.

Its parks and reservations.

I got my first pixie cut when I decided to go natural and never color my hair again. This has made my life just a little bit easier!
The biggest thing that happened this year was Jim and I got married!  Ok, so I'm clearly a very private person! 

We both said we would never get married but from time to time this would come up in conversation that maybe we should go for it. So one night over wine we decided to do it. The next morning we went to City Hall to get the ball rolling. 3 weeks later it was a done deal!
We wanted to run off and do this in private but knew we would feel guilty about not telling the moms and dads. Since Jim's parents are in MA during the summer it seemed like perfect timing.
This was the size of our wedding above. I am next to Jim's parents and he is next to mine. It is obvious when you look at the moms because we each look like our mom. 

Combined, these sets of parents have over a century of experience in making a marriage work and last.

We were married in the backyard where I grew up. Wow my hair is getting grey!
The minister of my mom's church officiated the ceremony. She was really sweet. I was concerned since Jim and I aren't churchy (is that a word?), but that was not a problem. I have great respect for the churches that accept and appreciate everyone. I bought a classic Calvin Klein dress that I will get plenty of future wear out of. 

I wanted this whole thing to be as quick and stress free as it could be and it was!

No dull moments this year! I would say it is my best year yet. It is not easy saying that when I know it has been a difficult year for many across the globe. 

I hope you have enjoyed my year in review and that I didn't shock you too much with the husband and wife thing. 💕 2017 will likely be another year about the house. We wish to conquer the kitchen and half bath remodel this coming year so we will see!

Thank you to all my lovely readers. Wishing you an awesome, fulfilling 2017! ~Val

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my wonderful readers a very Merry Christmas.
Our snowy tree at night

Our snowy tree during the day

Looking in at our snowy tree at night from outside
It has been a hectic holiday season with work so I feel very lucky to have Jim who brought home this Christmas tree as well as the skirt! We talked about a getting a snow covered tree over no snow and it is perfect.

Enjoy the weekend! ~Val

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A White Picket Fence

Some people think the America dream is dead. Not for us! We got our white picket fence.
We went with a classic New England style with black hardware that complements the house beautifully. The asphalt walkway will be replaced with something attractive in the spring by our talented concrete guy.

Here is a before from the street. You may remember this rose garden we planted in the summer. We created this garden area knowing the fence would be installed right behind it.
So there aren't many roses left so it is hard to get the idea of how pretty it will be. Our land is so not level so the fence goes up and down where the land goes up and down!
So now the massive shrubs are in the backyard. I am really looking forward to spring when the roses come back and rhododendrons bloom! 

Don't mind our mess here. It was leaf pick up time and the concrete guys still had stuff at our house. It is cleaned up now but right after clean up it snowed and weather has gone downhill since so I haven't taken any better photos.

A before from the back. You can see the old nasty concrete around the foundation too that is all brand new now. The asphalt here is part of the same walkway by the gate so that will be changed out with something pretty too.
The fence fell apart last winter and Jim used his talents to hold it together with some wood and a screw gun! As you can imagine, I was really wanting to replace it.
Our backyard really feels bigger now. The pictures don't quite show the openness but it is there now. Vinyl does not rot so I am happy about that!
The concrete guys' stuff again there!  

We are going to dig up the rhododendrons. 

You may notice a little black trim now on the shed that is not in the before photo. I am working on making it cuter. Hopefully in the spring it will look as I envision.
We may keep the 2 huge burning bushes there though. The rhododendrons surround them now. I would like to save the rhododendrons by transplanting but they are quite tall and ancient so we are not sure how that will go.
We have all winter to think about what we want to do now.
Well that is our last major project for 2016! Now for a hopefully quiet winter. 

Thank you for stopping by! Enjoy your week. ~Val

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wine Cork Craft

I have been wanting to create something with the plethora of wine corks Jim and I have collected over the last couple of years. 
Yes we have a thing for Michael David wines. 

First I spray painted an artist's canvas with the same paint I used on our radiator since I wanted to hang it on this wall.
 Then I traced a wine bottle.
Then used the tracing as a template for cork placement.
I started by hot gluing 2 by 2 of the neck.
Then attaching those and working downwards. I followed the same principal for the wine glass which initially came out looking more like a martini glass!
I did add a couple of more corks to round it out more so it would be like a red wine goblet.

Then I laid out the pieces on the canvas and decided where I wanted to the wine stream to go
Then glued everything to the canvas using heavy duty E-6000.

So simple! I love how it came out. Now we just need to hang it. Things have been nutty in the household lately between sicknesses, contractors and working but we will get it hung! 

I hope you have enjoyed this craft. I have tons more corks as we continue to collect them. So I will have to start thinking of the next project!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val