Camping State of Mind

If you had asked me four years ago if I considered myself the “camping type,” I would have answered you with a resounding “no.” (Remember?)

And while I’m not exactly Bear Gryllis over here, I think I can now say with a fair amount of confidence that I’m a decent camper.

I mean, sure, I’ve only camped in cabins and have zero desire to go it in a tent, but the cabins are about as rustic as it gets: wood boxes with no running water or heat outfitted only with basic wooden bunks where you can curl up in a sleeping bag.

In fact, the only thing I would say I out-and-out dislike about camping is the bathroom situation. (They have a public restroom and shower house at our camp site, but they are a 5-minute walk away and it’s not exactly the Ritz.) But, to be perfectly honest, it’s the showers I truly get icked out by, and I can usually go without if we only stay two nights. Over share? Deal with it.

In general, though, I enjoy most things about camping. I like the food and the relaxation.

20120917-094915.jpg

I love hiking an sitting around the campfire. I love the peacefulness of the woods and mountains.

20120917-095016.jpg

On the last day, I woke up before everyone else, procured a cup of coffee from the camp shop (ok, I told you we weren’t roughing it completely), and sat by the previous night’s fire embers to soak up the last of the morning’s quiet before breakfast got started.

20120917-094836.jpg

So, ok, I’m not a camper, per se. But I’m still pretty happy for a city girl stuck in the woods.

Advertisements

A man who cooks.

I’m pretty sure even my husband would have no problem admitting that, between the two of us, I’ve always been more of the chef.

“Chef” used loosely here. I mean, I can cook. But nine times out of ten I’m just throwing things in a pan, incorporating one of my tried-and-true cooking methods, and then just holding my breath and hoping for the best.

One meatloaf mishap aside, I think we could say with a fair amount of certainty that this system has been pretty successful. And in general, I like cooking. It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day sometimes.

Then I got that pesky new job in the city. (Still accepting postcards, by the way!)

And while so far I love everything about the job, the commute does limit the time I spend at home in the evening. So we were faced with a choice: Either we don’t eat until after nine every night, or Joey learns to cook.

I should clarify that he can cook. The boy makes a mean omelette, and he once whipped up a gorgeous dinner of pork chops, sautéed asparagus, and mashed potatoes. He just doesn’t do it often, and it takes him a while. (The pork chops? I kid you not, took him about seven hours from start to finish.)(They were, however, the best pork chops I’ve ever had.)

I think the main thing holding Joey back was just an unfamiliarity with the kitchen and cooking. He knew the basics, but as soon as he encountered anything new, he got nervous and just had no idea what to do with it.

In the weeks leading up to my new job starting, I tried to incorporate Joey into cooking more. Even if he was just hovering over my shoulder watching how I do things (“This is how you roast broccoli…this is how you make sure the chicken is cooked through…”), the main goal was for him to have a general idea of how to cook just about anything.

Wednesday was his first night in the kitchen since I started the job.

He made baked chicken Parmesan and roasted broccoli.

20120831-080648.jpg

Success! it really was delicious, and he will probably be eating the leftovers tonight.

Then Thursday, he took a play from my book and threw a bunch of veggies and some sliced chicken sausage in a pan to sautée. Then he even created his own creamy cheese sauce to put over some whole wheat pasta. I didn’t even teach him that one!

20120831-080655.jpg

He even threw together a little spinach salad for a starter.

20120831-080701.jpg

So our little experiment has been successful so far. But more important than the actual food, it has made me so grateful to be married to someone who has no problem stepping up when his family needs something. At the risk of getting mush all over this blog, it makes me love him even more every night.

And, you know, not just because he’s handing me a warm plate of delicious food.

Drop me a line.

So I promise I wasn’t lying to you when I said I wouldn’t be doing a lot of posting this week. I really am busy.

BUT.

Yesterday, I posted a photo of my new work desk.

It’s fairly barren, which is to be expected, but I want to dress it up a bit down the line.The only thing that was currently on my desk was a card (featuring narwhals) that I got from my dear friend Susan a while back.

One of my regular blog commenters and Instagram followers, Courtney, had the BRILLIANT idea that I should petition my readers to send me postcards to decorate the back wall of my desk.

Um…I love that idea. Like, really.

So basically, what I’m asking is: Would you guys do that? Post cards are cheap, right? And you would totally be famous. (Kind of.)(In my world.) AND, if you have a blog, just include the URL in the postcard message and I’ll even feature you here. On my OWN blog. Kind of meta, right? We’ll call it Blog-On-Blog Love. Because who doesn’t love a scandal?

Anyway. If you are interested in sending me a super awesome postcard (remember, this is going to be displayed in my super cool new office…make me look good), please leave a comment with your email address and I’ll be in touch with where you should send it.

This is going to be fun! (Promise!)

What I did today.

Fair warning: I feel a bit exhausted as I write this. There’s a good chance it will make not that much sense. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

So! It’s my first day of my time between jobs. Which, obviously, means I have a lot I plan to get accomplished.

Fortunately for you folks, I’ve decided to spare you the long list of things I plan to do and instead just tell you when I’ve accomplished something. AREN’T I GENEROUS AND BENEVOLENT?

Yeesh. All-caps are apparently a symptom of exhaustion.

Let’s get in to why I’m exhausted, shallll we?

So I had my list of things I planned to accomplish. Here’s a run-down of my day thus far:

1. Woke up with the hubs around 8. Days off don’t start themselves.

2. Hit up a nearby trail to knock out a 5-mile run. (Ahhh, half-marathon training. Missed ya.) It was also a good opportunity to break in my new shoes AND get some use out of my new favorite app, Nike+ Running.

3. IKEA RUN! Okay, so we can all agree that IKEA can be a beast. It’s pretty much impossible to walk in without wanting to just give the IKEA gods all of your money. Fortunately, I was armed with a list. And I can honestly say I only bought the things on the list. And one was for a gift. SO GET OFF MY BACK.

Woo. Lost it for a second there. Let’s blame it on the IKEA hangover. Anyway.

I also learned things at IKEA. For one, the store part doesn’t open until 10. (I got there around 9:45.) Fortunately, I also learned that the cafe opens at 9:30. Hooray! AND I learned that coffee is free in the cafe before 10 a.m.! Hooray, again!

 

4. Then it was a quick stop at the craft store for thread. (What’s that? Did I just hint at a sewing project? GUESS YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE.)

5. Finally, I FINALLY made it to Goodwill to donate the pile of crap that has been sitting on my dining room floor for quite literally months. We have so much room for activities now!

6. Then I got home and finished the bathroom decor! No really! It’s done! Check it out:

Cute, right? It officially feels like a real bathroom in there. As opposed to a dorm bathroom, I guess. The point is, it looks nice in there, and it’s officially done-done. Only took me a year and five months. And it’s still only the second room in our 1-bedroom apartment I would consider done-done. (The other is the kitchen. Mostly because there’s only so much I can do in there.)

So now I’m sitting at the computer. I had plans to start on the afore-hinted-at sewing projects, but I can’t find the pedal to my sewing machine anywhere. It’s maddening. (But it has to be somewhere, right? RIGHT?)

On the bright side, I’m actually super tired, so I’m learning to appreciate having nothing I can do right now. (Plus, I already cleaned the bathroom and kitchen so I literally can’t do anything else right now.)(I’m a freak, okay?) And I’m going to a boot camp class tonight, so I should probably conserve energy anyway.

What do you usually get done on your days off? Anyone else a crazy overachiever like me? Also, any guesses where that sewing machine pedal is?

How to: Redo a Bathroom for Under $20

A while back, I wrote a few posts for a freelancing blogging gig I’m doing. While I liked the topics I wrote about, the client ended up going in a different direction (don’t worry, still with me!) so the posts are once again mine to publish.

Basically, here is a post I wrote a while ago, but that is new to you. Savvy?

If you’ve discussed the topic of renting an apartment with me any time within the last year or so, odds are you’ve heard me express my…displeasure with our bathroom situation.

If you don’t fit into that category of people, here’s the short list of its downfalls:

1. Old plumbing: Until recently when we FINALLY got our landlord to replace it, the sink drain didn’t, well, drain. And no amount of Drain-O would do a difference.

2. Old wiring: The ONLY outlet in the whole room doesn’t work for modern appliances. Including, but no limited to: straighteners, curling irons, blow dryers, electric toothbrushes, and virtually any other appliance you would ever consider using in a bathroom. We’ve been told this can’t be fixed without rewiring everything, and that rewiring everything is just never going to happen. ENJOY!

3. Dismal paint: I will never understand why most of our apartment is painted the not-great-but-bearable Navajo White, while the bathroom is swathed in a vomit-y pale yellow. Which, you know, goes great with the pink and grey tile.

4. The tile: Not only is the wall tile pink and grey, but the floor tile is ANCIENT beige in serious need of a re-grout.

5. The tub: It’s just old and gross in in need of a re-caulking at the VERY least.

6. The built-ins: While I love a good built-in, our tiny cabinet is not constructed in a way to best use the space. And the built-in laundry hamper below the cabinet is too small for any actual clothes. We use it to store toilet paper and paper towels, but if they were just deep cabinets like the rest of the built-in, it would be a much better use of space.

7. The vanity: Old and made of particle board.

8. The medicine cabinet: Whoever built this apartment had a bizarre affinity for sliding doors, the medicine cabinet included. You KNOW how I feel about this. I’ve told you twice.

9. The ceiling: Before we moved in, the upstairs unit apparently had a leak in their shower that will occasionally spring up again, dripping through our bathroom ceiling and leaving us with charming brown water spots everywhere. It’s super glam, as you can probably imagine.

I think that’s it…I mean, I named everything in the bathroom, so, yeah. Oh, the towel bars are ugly and weirdly placed as well. Ok, NOW we’ve named everything.

The point is, the bathroom? I don’t like him.

After living in our apartment for over a year (and staring another eight months down at the moment), I’ve gone back and forth over how much time (and money) I should really invest in making it a more enjoyable space. I mean, it’s the bathroom. Sure, we spend time in there, but not nearly as much as we do in, say, the living room. Or the bedroom.

As with any rental, you’re also constantly reminded of the fact that in a year or so, you’re going to ship out, leaving behind any hard work you’ve invested. Thus, the bathroom has received very little attention.

A few months ago, though, I decided to challenge myself to see how much I could make over that room for under $40. I had big plans. I considered painting. I considered replacing the medicine cabinet. I considered adding shelves over the toilet.

The only thing I knew I wanted to do for sure was finally hang the shower curtain we had received on our wedding registry. (You know…a year ago.) It was actually one of my most favorite things we registered for (up there with the mixer and the punctuation book ends), but since our bathroom came with a glass door, there hadn’t been any rush to getting it hung.

So I bought a $10 curtain rod. And then…well…remember all those lofty goals I had for other updates? Well, once I hung up the shower curtain, the weirdest thing happened.

The room just sort of…came together. Like, instantly. Now, I’m not saying it suddenly looked like this or anything. But all of a sudden all of the randomly selected colors in the room came together. The grey in the curtain matched the grey tiles, and the taupe in the curtain perfectly matched the yellow-y walls.

After that, I straightened the cabinet (and added a few grey canvas bins I bought for $5), hung some fresh towels, and called it good. And, I’m not kidding you guys, it was like a whole different room. Here are the before shots (the pictures are awful, this room gets the worst light):

And here’s the after:

The pictures don’t even do it justice. I seriously spent the first couple of weeks just sneaking peeks at that pretty curtain, amazed at what it had done. The best part? Since I already had the curtain and the hooks, the whole “makeover” cost me about $20.

Anyway, for now, I’m leaving it be. I might hang a few black-and-white pictures (a la this) on the wall opposite the sink at some point (I do have a bunch of cheap-y frames I was going to donate to Goodwill), but other than that, I can’t bring myself to invest any more in this room I will eventually leave behind.

What do you think? Have you ever accidentally happened upon a super simple AND super effective solution for a problem that had plagued you for months? I can’t tell you how hard I kicked myself for not just hanging the dang curtain when we first moved in.

What we did in Iowa.

Hooooo-boy. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I’m in a much better mood now than I was when I wrote that post yesterday. THAT was a doozy. (And in case you’re wondering, no, United Airlines still has not replied to my complaints. The ball’s in your court, United. Make it right.)

Anyway. Let’s talk about something fun, shall we?

IOWA!

The rest of our trip was actually very nice. Don’t believe me? Check it, Instagrid style.

1. Home, sweet home. Joey calls this Hotel Blanchard. And boy do they treat you right.

2. Pictures of the corn I took along my morning run. Yes, parts of Iowa do look exactly like what you think they look like.

3. Downtown Des Moines, where we had lunch with my parents at my favorite DSM restaurant, Centro. See? I TOLD you it’s a city.

4. Trip to visit my dad’s office.

5. My adorbs parents at the movies later that night.

6. Dairy Queen Blizzard. We have to get our fix while we can. (Now in the cute-as-pie mini size!)

7. Turning my husband into a corn-fed country boy one ear at a time. Not that he’s complaining.

8. Lunch at the Des Moines Art Center restaurant with my sister and her husband.

9. BBQ with friends and family Saturday night. Here’s me and my lovely momma.

10. The IOWA STATE FAIR!

11. First stop: days-old piglets.

12. Second stop: my favorite, the baby goat born that morning. If I ever own enough land, I’m totally getting a goat.

13. Prize winning crops, including a wall of corn.

14. The men and their turkey legs. 1,136 calories each. And worth every single one.

15. Butter cow! ‘Nuff said.

16. THE LONG-AWAITED CUP O’ COOKIES. I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is the best part of the fair. AND MY LIFE. (Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration.)

17. Deep fried Twinkie, anyone?

18. And we ended the night with a little Matt and Susan and a couple of Fat Tires at The Royal Mile. The perfect ending, if you ask me.

All in all, a pretty great trip. We saw a bunch of friends and family (even though hardly any of my friends live in Des Moines anymore!), ate great food, and got loads of sleep. Thanks to my parents for hosting and everyone else who helped make it such a great trip!

How to: Paint a Metal File Cabinet

I wrote this post a couple of months ago for something else, but it ended up getting bumped, so now I’m sharing it here! Yay, another how-to!

So we all know my struggle with our “office space” and how having just one more room in our apartment would make our lives infinitely better, right? Well, for the time being, we’re stuck with what we’ve got. So I’ve had to get creative with how we use our space and what our storage options are.

Our cheap-o desk from Target had a single file drawer, but I found we were less inclined to use it (and therefore less organized) because it was so jam-packed. It was obvious that we needed a better option, but even the most basic white metal file cabinet was going to run us $159-300. Not going to happen.

As always, I turned to Craigslist to see if I could find a cheaper version. Unfortunately, most of the cabinets for sale were either ugly (dingy, awful colors) or rusted or both. Not wanting to give up completely, I did a quick search to see if it was possible to makeover a metal cabinet and found quite a few tutorials.

My mind was made up. Here’s how I gave a $15 filing cabinet new life for under $40.

1. Here’s what I started with. Let’s call him Fillip. Pretty awful, right? Especially that rusted-out bottom corner.

Fillip was living a pretty sad life in someone’s damp basement. He was originally listed for $30 on Craigslist, but I told the seller I could pick him up the same day for $15, and he became mine.

2. Next, Fillip got a serious rub-down with some sandpaper. I started with a heavier grit to remove the rust (and a TON of dirt…it was gross), then followed up with a finer grit to smooth things out. (Shout-out to my awesome father-in-law for letting me borrow his backyard and drop cloth!)

3. After wiping away the powdery substance that I sanded, it was time to prime. I used Rustoleum Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Primer in white because the package said it would cling well to metal and help stop rust, which, obviously young Fillip needed. I only needed one can of primer to cover the cabinet and drawer fronts, and I still had some leftover. (Note: Be sure to remove or cover any hardware, such as handles, locks, and plates, with tape. In the case of Fillip, his plates still had their original protective covers, so that saved some time.)

4. After letting the primer cure for the full 24 hours, it was time to paint! Here’s what I used. He’s starting to look so handsome, right?

I let the paint cure for 48 hours so the cabinet could off-gas and my apartment wouldn’t reek of spray paint fumes. Then it was time to take him home!

Doesn’t he look pretty in his new corner? Even better, we can now use the old file drawer to store stationery and craft materials that previously had no home.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

File cabinet: $15
Rustoleum Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X 12 oz. White Primer: $4
Rust-Oleum 12 Oz. Gloss White 2X Painter’s Touch Spray Paint: $5 x 2 cans = $10
Sandpaper: $5
Total: $34

I mean, he’s not perfect. Those drawers don’t slide completely straight for some reason, and I still need to fully organize the inside. But it’s still a major improvement. (And I saved $100-250 compared to what I would have paid buying him new.) Not bad, eh?

Anyone else have any project they’re working on?

 

Thanks for reading one of my blog’s most popular posts! Don’t miss my other DIYs and how-tos here. Welcome to Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One!