New House Tour: Kitchen, Dining & Living Rooms

Oh yeah, hey...we bought a new house this summer. Three months ago. The same month Ezra was born. It was great fun! We had only just bought our previous house two years ago (same month Harper was born, hahaha), and honestly, I never got around to making it "home." There was a new baby, then a failed pregnancy, then a long and miserable (but successful) pregnancy...you get it. Things were complicated and busy.

So this summer, we started looking at houses kind of on a whim. We called ourselves "looking at houses now so we know what we want later." My husband and I are both licensed real estate agents, so it's pretty easy for us to go shopping. It was really just something to do together those last couple months of pregnancy when I was feeling miserable and wanted someone to drive my fat ass around to look at things.

Then we found this neighborhood...the neighborhood of our dreams. The neighborhood we thought we couldn't afford (and so consequently had never perused). Only, we found our house. Small for the area, and on one of the busier streets in the neighborhood (though still not very busy), it presented a lower price point than we had anticipated. When we stepped into the door, Scott said, "SOLD." This is a BIG. DEAL. Scott doesn't LOVE anything. He "doesn't dislike" things. But he never loves them. He loved this house.

A few minutes later, while sitting on the swing set in the back yard of the prospective new house, Scott said to me, "Are you going to swing all afternoon and act like you own the place? Or are you going to go home and write an offer?"

I chose the latter.

So here we are in our new house. There's so much I want to do with this place. Although we're all moved in and settled, and it DOES feel like home in a way the previous house never did, I haven't done much to make it ours just yet. It will take some time with our current budgetary and time restrictions, but oh...I've got big plans. And of course, I want to document them here.

Let's start with the kitchen.

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This kitchen was almost a deal breaker for me. I really wanted a big kitchen. A gigantic kitchen even. I like to hoard kitchen gadgets and spread stuff all over the counter. I like to fill the cabinets with oodles of stuff so I don't have to go grocery shopping often. And I like to be able to hang out with the family while cooking. This kitchen obviously doesn't provide any of those things.

HOWEVER.

I have learned to love this little kitchen. It's bright and sunny, and it leaves little room for messes. Efficiency and organization have been key to surviving this kitchen - a downsize from our old house for sure. The cabinets are newer, and everything is clean and up-to-date. Scott wants to change the countertop someday, but I am just fine with it as-is. My biggest gripe is the lack of cabinet space, but I am getting better at dealing every day.

I left the big bin of recycling sitting out for this photo to show that trash/recycling storage is another issue I need to creatively solve. I want one of those multi-compartment trash bins, but that will have to wait a little while. This works for now. Here are a couple more shots:

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Scott added the blinds (no more flashing my boobs to the neighbors after late-night pumping sessions) and replaced the faucet with this nice goose-neck.

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Anyone have suggestions on how to get rid of little fingerprints from the fridge?

I don't really have big plans for the kitchen. I know I'd like to paint the walls at some point, but I'm pretty okay with the rest of it. There's not really much room for change in there other curtains, rugs, etc.

Next is the dining room.

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It's also on the small side. It will really only comfortably fit a four-top table, but that's fine for our little family. The previous owners added the built-in shelving to make up for the lack of cabinet space in the kitchen, but so far, it has mostly served as a central hoarding spot (as you can see here). Doesn't every house have that ONE SPOT that always accumulates random crap? Very annoying.

I like our dining set okay, but the space might be better served by a shorter set and possibly a more streamlined silhouette. The only other change I see in here is paint color and some small decorations for the built-in. Oh, and wall decor. We need to work on that. Currently I have all our framed stuff on the previous owners' nails...randomly hung all over the house as storage more than anything. There's no rhyme or reason to it.

And the living room...

_DSC0123Let me start by saying part of the reason I blog is to hold myself accountable to creative goals and to get better at my artsy endeavors. One of these is PHOTOGRAPHY. As you can tell from the photos above, I kind of suck at it. I am using these photos (and hopefully the "after" photos that will result) to practice my skills. I shot all these using a tripod and my DSLR in manual mode, but I can obviously use all the help I can get. Tips are greatly appreciated. I think maybe the living room would benefit from being photographed at a different time of day or a cloudy day so the windows aren't all blown out.

So I really love the shape and size of our living room. I do think our furniture is a bit big for the space, but nice sofas are damn expensive, y'all. I'm also way over the Ikea thing, but you know...the moneys...they don't grow on trees. So it is what it is for the time being.

I've got REALLY big dreams for this room. A cool gray shade for the walls...a penny-tile makeover for the mantel...charcoal gray (?) sofas...coordinating but mis-matched chairs... We'll see. I change my mind often as documented by my Pinterest boards. I'm definitely thinking about a gray/navy theme with splashes of yellow, coral or turquoise. OH, and a rug! A nice, big area rug. With some kind of geometric print. But NOT that Ikea one that everyone else has. No, not that one.

Well, that's it for now. I'll get the bedrooms, bathrooms, sewing room, basement and exterior photographed soon. I think my actual changes to the house will start with Harper's room. Until then, send all your suggestions my way in the comments!

 

Be Your Own Sous Chef

This is the follow-up post to my guest contribution on TheProjectGirl.com. Be sure to check out my original post on her site, Capsule Menu Planning! I've been working very hard lately to streamline my housework and do things as efficiently as possible. One of the ways I've done this is to prepare my ingredients for the week's recipes in advance. I can't take credit for this idea - in fact, it was my husband (the engineer, of course) who made the suggestion.

I love making kind of intensive dishes - things that involve lots of ingredients, steps, stirring, etc. etc. However, those types of dishes aren't exactly the easiest to compile when there are cloth diapers to be washed, a little mouth to be fed and 18 loads of laundry to be folded. (And I only have one little mouth to feed - I don't know how those of you with more handle it all!)

This little predicament is what prompted me to start being my own sous chef. A sous chef is an assistant to the executive chef in a restaurant. Typically, she is the one who prepares the ingredients for the dishes and shadows the head chef to prepare for later becoming the head honcho.

How does that translate to my personal kitchen? By being my own sous chef, I take some time (an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon, usually) to get all my ingredients chopped, washed, measured, etc. and put into plastic or glass containers in the fridge. That way, when my husband gets home from the gym on Wednesday night and is READY TO EAT RIGHT NOW, I can just throw a bunch of already sliced peppers and onions into a frying pan...and Voila! Fajitas! (Or whatever. )

Or, if I'm occupied with a little human attached to my chest, it's easy for Scott to pull out the meal plan binder (learn more at TheProjectGirl.com), grab the already-prepared ingredients and work on things while I'm taking care of the babe.

Here's how it works:

  1. Prepare your meal plan and get all the groceries you need for the week. For more information on this step and some awesome, free, editable and printable menu planning forms, check out my guest post on TheProjectGirl.com.
  2. When you have an hour or two to work on preparing your ingredients (while the kids are playing outside, the baby's napping, etc.), grab the binder and go through each recipe for the week to see what you need. (This is why it's helpful to have all the recipes for the week at the front of the binder as I mentioned in my original post.)
  3. Slice/dice/wash/measure all the items that you'll need for the week. There are certain easy tasks that I don't do in advance like grabbing a handful of cilantro to throw into a dish. I don't like to cut up things that tend to wilt or go bad quickly. More obvious and easy things to knock out are things like cutting up bell peppers or onions or washing mushrooms.
  4. Put the prepared ingredients into sealable plastic or glass bowls, and toss them in the fridge.
  5. If you have kids who take their lunches to daycare or school, you can go ahead and prepare their meals, too. Put apple slices into containers, grapes into baggies, etc.

Don't worry if you don't have a bunch of expensive containers. You can also use upcycled Indian takeout containers (like I used above for the peppers) if that's all you have.

If you ARE in the market for some snazzy new containers, opt for ones that are BPA-free and have measurements on the side. This makes getting the right proportions super easy while you're cooking!

Ahhhhhh. Isn't it nice to have everything ready-to-go? It's like pre-made meals...only, you made them. And they'll taste good. And be good for your family.

Another great thing about preparing your ingredients in advance is that you only have to clean up the mess once. Just one big pile of stuff to go into the compost, just one time scrubbing the cutting board and just one time wiping down the counter. It makes cleanup much easier on the nights when you're actually cooking the meals.

Now, I am a total over-achiever and like to make my family's sandwich bread from scratch. Crazy, right? (It's actually quite easy, especially if you have a stand mixer.) I like to get my dough rising while I'm preparing all my ingredients so I can sit back and enjoy the amazing smell of the bread baking when I'm done. I do two loaves at a time so I can put one in the freezer and not worry about bread baking for a couple weeks.

If you are one of the lucky people who has a deep freeze (I am not one of them), you can take this idea to a whole other level. You can actually prepare many meals in advance and freeze them. Then, when you've had a long day of shlepping the kids around and taking care of the house, you can easily pull something out and have a gourmet dinner in the time it takes to warm the dish. Even if it's something like lasagna that needs an hour in the oven, you just pop it in and go do something else while it's cooking.

(The paragraph above was a hint to anyone...Scott...ahem...who might be wondering what to get me for my birthday this year.)

Finally, if you have any veggies left over at the end of the week, toss them all into a wok with some brown rice and soy sauce for a tasty (and easy! and healthy!) stir-fry. ISN'T BEING YOUR OWN SOUS CHEF GREAT?!

There you have it! Oh...one final note...

I cannot stress enough how much it helps to have a cute, one-socked assistant. It is totally optional but highly recommended. :)

What do you do to make your family's meal preparation easy? I would love to hear your ideas!