Loaded Nachos

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I was really feeling that 70°F weather yesterday! And now…back to rain. I can’t wait for more consistently sunny weather. I have so many projects I want to do outside, particularly, finally finishing the back deck. However, that requires paint, so I need to wait for a stretch of at least a few dry days.

On the other hand, the munchkin is officially sitting up…which means crawling is probably not far behind…which means baby proofing. I have plans to DIY some pretty cute baby gates at the 2 sets of stairs in the house as well as the stairs on the deck so that project may need to come first. The list of projects really never gets any smaller. Each time I finish 1 thing, I add 2 more to the list.

So, let’s talk about something less stressful…like these loaded nachos! We have always made sheet pan nachos in this family, but never like this. They usually consisted of some ground chicken, taco seasoning, shredded cheese and salsa and sour cream for dipping. Pretty basic. I decided to make nachos on Superbowl Sunday and this was the result. And let me tell you, we will NOT be going back to the basic version, EVER. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these rivaled ANY restaurant nachos I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot…hello…massive plate of nachos at Margaritaville in Vegas.

Loaded Nachos
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning
12 ozs tortilla chips
1 15oz can refried black beans
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp sour cream plus 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook until beef has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.
3. While ground beef is cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat until warm throughout, about 5 minutes.
4. Place tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the cheeses. Next layer ground beef, black beans, corn and remaining cheese.
5. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, about 5-6 minutes.
6. While nachos cook, mix sour cream and water in a small bowl. You want to just thin out the sour cream so it is easy to drizzle.
7. Remove nachos from oven, top with tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!

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Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam

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I had intentions of posting this much earlier in the week for your Easter dinner ideas. Now, here it is, Friday afternoon, and I’m just getting around to it. SMH. I’m just going to stop planning blog posts by the calendar. I can’t ever seem to stick to it.

Anyway, if you are still deciding what to make for Easter dinner, then yay! I’m not too late. To be honest, these lamb chops are SO simple, you could make them any night or for any occasion. I feel like lamb chops are one of those things that are super intimidating to most people but you really shouldn’t be afraid of them. When I first started to make lamb chops, my biggest mistake was over-cooking them. Lamb should usually be served at medium-rare and mostly pink in the center.

Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam
1 cup fig jam
4 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 racks of lamb, fully trimmed and bones frenched
4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground peppercorn mélange (mix of pink, white, black and green peppercorns)

1. To make the spicy fig jam sauce, mix the jam, 2 Tbsp water, and Sriracha together in a small saucepan. Warm the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the butter to the sauce and stir until incorporated. Set aside while cooking the chops.
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F. Brush 1 Tbsp of the oil over the lamb racks. Season with the salt. Spread the peppercorns on a cutting board, press the top and sides of each rack into the peppercorns to coat. Set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a very large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add one lamb rack, top side down, and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Repeat with the second rack. Interlace the lamb racks, bones facing up, and return to skillet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a rack and not touching bone registers 130°F, about 20 minutes, for medium-rare.
4. Let the racks stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Cut between the bones into individual chops. Transfer 4 chops to each dinner plate and add a large spoonful of sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy everyone! And have a fantastic Easter weekend filled with fun, food, friends & family!

Landon’s Birth Story

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I started this blog almost 3 years ago, and what began as a home décor/remodeling blog has quickly turned into a lifestyle, but mostly baby related, blog. To those who started following me in the very beginning, I’m sorry if this has taken a different turn than expected, but if you’re reading this then hopefully you’ve decided to stay on this crazy, twisty-turny road with me. Fast forward to now, and nearly every post is somehow related to this little munchkin who has taken over every part of our lives, in the best way possible!

As a blogger, who then found herself pregnant, I had to decide if I was going to go down the “mommy blogger” road. I haven’t officially written any mom advice posts but may decide to in the future. We will see. One thing that certainly ran through my head was the thought of writing a birth story. I didn’t know exactly what writing a birth story meant so I researched a bit, reading a few birth stories from some of the mommy bloggers I had come to enjoy following. I’m still not sure that this is a blog-worthy topic but the more I think back to the days surrounding Landon’s birth, the more I realize, I have a terrible memory! Some of the details are already starting to fade but I want to remember those things forever. And so, my loyal followers, you’ll have to bear with me on this one. I’m going to be a bit selfish and share this story so that I can always look back on it and remember every little detail.

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Tuesday, October 18th
Landon’s due date was Wednesday, October 26, 2016. By most measures, I had an easy pregnancy. The biggest hurdle was being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, however, “hurdle” is probably not the right word since my numbers were the tiniest bit over the line of normal and the diabetes caused no problems other than Landon’s blood sugar dropping too low the night he was born and needing to be given some donor milk to get his sugars back up. What the diagnosis did lead to was extra testing and caution at the very end of my pregnancy to be sure 1) the baby didn’t get too big to deliver naturally and 2) that my placenta didn’t wear out as the due date approached, which could cause problems for the baby as well. At my 38 week check-up the week prior, the doctor mentioned a scheduled induction at 39 weeks. She wanted to put the idea in my head in case he started measuring too big and didn’t want it to be a shock if she brought it up at this appointment. As in, “SURPRISE, want to have your baby today?”. My uterus had been measuring right on track for the entire pregnancy so we weren’t really too concerned with Landon being too big. At this point I had finished working and was officially on maternity leave. I was feeling good and very rested so I was ready to wait the baby out and do as much as possible to avoid a C-section. After that appointment, I began having 2 ultrasounds each week to check baby’s movements, breathing and heart rate. While it was a bit of a pain to make the trek to the hospital twice a week…ahem…my own fault for choosing that hospital and for scheduling the appointments first thing in the morning during rush hour :)…I secretly loved being able to check up on the little babe so often.

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Thursday, October 20th
That evening, I was getting out of the shower and (sorry if this is a bit graphic) felt a gush of fluid. I stood there for a second collecting my thoughts. I was mostly dried off so I knew it wasn’t just water from the shower. Jeff was at work and wouldn’t be home for a couple hours so I got dressed, lied down on the bed and began to google. What did we do before google, by the way? That is all I ever do now! Especially with pregnancy and a new baby. Pain in your abdomen? Google. Baby won’t sleep? Google. Baby’s poop is a funny color? You get the picture.
I read that if you think your water broke, to lie down for about half an hour and see if it continues to flow or leak after resting. Your body will continue to produce amniotic fluid which will create a steady leak of fluid. (Sorry, this is even graphic for me and I went through it!)
Now, maybe this was just my anxiety, but I also started paying attention to the contractions because I was feeling tightness in my uterus. The fluid did not continue to leak but the contractions became slightly more intense and closer together so in my mind I thought, this has to be it! (Looking back, if that had been what labor pain feels like, there would be no need for drugs of any kind! Rookie mistake.) By the time Jeff got home, I was on the phone with Labor & Delivery, asking what I should do and if I was in labor. They said the only way for me to know was to go in and get checked out by a doctor.
So, here we go, 9pm at night, hospital bags in the car, thinking our little babe was going to arrive very soon!!
5 hours later…contractions had subsided and I am discharged from the hospital. That really shouldn’t be allowed, small gushes of fluid that don’t mean anything. I mean, what a head game for a woman who has never been through this and doesn’t know what to expect!!

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Tuesday, October 25th
At my 40 week check-up, 1 day before the due date. Baby is still measuring on track and the ultrasounds are all showing great breathing and heartbeat. Everything at the check-up looked great, baby was in head down position and sitting very low however I still had not dilated at all. It’s worth mentioning that a few years ago I had some pre-cancerous cells removed from my cervix, they call it a Leep procedure. Women who have had this procedure done tend to have trouble dilating on their own because of the scar tissue left behind. This had been one of my concerns all along, that I wouldn’t dilate and they would need to induce labor to get things moving. My fear with inducing, as well as any sort of medical interference is that it forces the process and leads to a higher chance of C-section.

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Thursday, October 27th
I had been having contractions for most of the day but they were maintaining their strength level, i.e. they were not getting more painful as time went on and didn’t get closer together than about 5 minutes. Then I got a terrible headache. No big deal. I get migraines and deal with the pain. Except, a severe headache at the end of your pregnancy can signal some not so good things. Same situation as the previous week, Jeff was working late so I lied in bed trying to assess the situation. I called Labor & Delivery again and they said because of the headache, they really thought I should come in to be checked out because if the baby was in distress, they would want to induce labor. Here we go again. Jeff got home, we gathered up our stuff and headed to the hospital. This trip didn’t feel as exciting as the first. I was in a lot of pain (mostly from the headache) and was more worried about what might be going on with the baby.
Fast forward about 4 hours…not in labor, test results came back fine and the baby was not in any danger. As a precaution, the doctor I saw wanted me to do a 24 urine collection (yep, that’s right, 24 hours worth of urine…in a large jug…gross…pregnancy is so magical, huh?) to make sure I didn’t have pre-eclampsia and to see my regular doctor the following morning.
Back home we go…

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Friday, October 28th
Over it…I’m pretty sure that’s how I would have described myself at that point. I was exhausted from being up most of the night and embarrassed from going to the hospital, twice, thinking I was in labor. I went in for a check-up with my regular doctor after the visit to Labor & Deliver the night before. I had been walking the hills around our house every single day for the past week in an effort to get my cervix to dilate so I was in pain because of how low the baby was sitting from all the walking. Nothing. No change in my cervix. I’m pretty sure the doctor could see it in my eyes, I sat on the exam table and was on the verge of tears. My doctor tried to comfort me by explaining why she thought I would be going into labor very soon. She decided to do a membrane sweep. I know, I know…the name sounds disgusting. If you don’t know what this is and want to know, google it, because I am not going to explain it. #sorrynotsorry and you’ll understand why when you find out what it is. Basically, something super painful that is supposed to jump start dilation and kick you into labor without the help of drugs. My only hesitation with this is that my doctor was going to be out of town over the weekend and I so badly did not want to go into labor when she was out of town. But, I mean, what am I gonna do if he decides to come while she’s out of town, hold it in for the weekend? Right.
My mom decided to drive down that day and spend the weekend because she too was convinced that I would go into labor very soon. We spent the weekend walking, walking, walking. Up and down hills, shopping, anywhere and everywhere. We finished up some organizing in the nursery. The whole weekend came and went. No baby. By Sunday, my mom headed home and the minute she left I collapsed on the couch and just decided to give up the labor inducing practices. Like I said…over it. I decided in that moment that when we went in for my 41 week check-up on Tuesday I would ask to be induced.

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Tuesday, November 1st
Back at the doctor for my 41 week check-up. I was rested and relaxed. When I figuratively threw my hands up on Sunday evening, a weight was lifted. I slept a bit better, I wasn’t worried about every little pain and feeling. I had come to terms with being induced and was ready. Everything at the appointment checked out just fine, and again…not dilated. Put me on the schedule doc! She wanted to do a membrane sweep again. Really? Ok, fine.
Jeff and I went home, he had the day off and we were prepared to just relax together, our last day as a childless couple. I was scheduled to be induced the following day, Wednesday, November 2nd at noon. We went to breakfast after my appointment, then to the grocery store to get something for dinner and finally home for a lazy day on the couch.
Literally, such a lazy day. I don’t think I moved off the couch much until around 5:00pm when I got up to make dinner. I don’t remember what we were having that night but we never ate dinner 🙂 As I walked to the kitchen, I felt a pain. Way more intense than the other contractions, actually painful, not just tightness around my abdomen. I brushed it off and kept walking. By 5:30pm I was doubled over the kitchen counter in pain. This had to be it!! Right?!?! I was second guessing everything, so afraid of going back to the hospital just to be sent home again. I thought back to all the things my friends had said or I had read about going into labor…
“the contractions will give you pause”
“you won’t be able to walk or talk during the contractions”
“sitting down will not make the contractions go away”
Check. Check. Check.
I guess the membrane sweep did the trick.
I started timing the length of each contraction and amount of time between each one. By 6:30pm I was at the “time to go to the hospital” level. Contractions lasting at least a minute and less than 5 minutes apart for at least an hour. At this point, Jeff is freaking out, head in his hands, “call the hospital, call the hospital, tell them we’re coming”, me being the stubborn thing that I am, was refusing. “Nope! I want to be absolutely sure. I’m not getting sent home a-g-…..”. What was I thinking?!?! I couldn’t even finish my sentence as I cringed in pain. Ok. Time to call.
As Jeff called Labor & Delivery, I remember thinking to myself, “WTF was I thinking the last 2 times?!?! That pain was NOTHING compared to this!! How could I have thought I was in labor before?”
All the rooms in L&D were full. The on-call doctor gave us instructions to continue timing the contractions and to wait for him to call us back in a few minutes, he wanted to make sure there was a room for us when we got there. Thinking back, that’s weird, right? I mean, what if there wasn’t a room? Was he just gonna call me and say sorry, can you wait until tomorrow? 🙂 30 minutes went by and the doctor hadn’t called back. Jeff is usually very laid back, goes with the flow and let’s me do what I want. This was not one of those times…when the doctor hadn’t called back and I was nearly crying from the pain, he put his foot down, got me in the car and off we went.
This was it! Baby was coming!
We got to the hospital around 9:00pm. The on-call doctor had called when we were on the way. There were no Labor & Delivery rooms available at the moment but there should be one within a few hours, until then I would just be in Triage. That’s fine, right? No big deal. Still a bed. Yes, still a bed, but no epidural.
I had planned all along to have an epidural but they can not give it to you until you are in your Labor & Delivery room. Until then, I could only have Fentanyl. This took the edge off for the first hour but as the contractions increased in intensity the Fentanyl proved ineffective. We got into our L&D room around 11pm and by midnight I had the epidural, one of the things I was MOST scared of for some reason but actually turned out to be quick and pretty painless. However, now that I’m sitting here writing this I’m thinking maybe it was painless because I had already had some pain meds? Hmm.

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Wednesday, November 2nd
I’ll be honest with you all. I did not have a birth plan. I read a bit about them when I first got pregnant but, for me, it just didn’t make sense. This was my first baby. I had NO IDEA what I was doing. Other than the fact that I knew I wanted to deliver in a hospital and I FOR SURE wanted an epidural, everything else was a bit up in the air. I kept hearing that things very rarely go as planned and that birth plans tend to change once you are in labor due to unforeseen circumstances. I guess I didn’t want to be disappointed when things didn’t go how I planned (because I’m a control freak and I tend to get that way) and I wanted to be open to the advice of the experts. I absolutely LOVE my doctor and trust her opinion 1000% so I knew that whatever her advice is would be best for me. So, I kind of just researched a bit of everything so that I would have some idea about whatever might pop up and resolved to try my best to go with the flow.
By 1am, the chaos of the nurses, doctor doing a cervical check (still at 2cm btw) and the anesthesiologist in and out of our room had died down. Time to finally get some rest?
Nope. Turns out, the epidural wasn’t super effective for me either. The pain was at bay until about 3am, then the intensity of the contractions outweighed the pain meds. The anesthesiologist came back and gave me a bolster of medicine which took the edge off but by 7am that pain was pretty unbearable once again.
7am must be a shift change because my doctor arrived, new nurses and a new anesthesiologist came to introduce themselves. We chatted with my doctor a bit about what had gone on the night before, how I was feeling and what to expect. She performed another cervical check. 3cm. Ugh!!! That’s it?!?! We decide to move forward with a shot of Pitocin, the labor inducing drug, to move things along. Jeff asks if it is safe to go get breakfast 🙂 the doctor says yes, it will still be a few hours.
Between 8am-8:30am…
Jeff leaves to get breakfast
Our mom’s both arrive at the hospital
I get another cervical check…8cm!! What?!?!
Jeff gets back and is shocked by what took place while he got to stuff his face 🙂
I think I was allowed to have some chicken broth. Womp womp.
They continue to check me every hour, but by noon I’m still at 8cm. This is where the Leep procedure becomes important. The scar tissue on my cervix was keeping me from fully dilating so my doctor had to massage the scar tissue in order to break it up and hopefully release allowing my cervix to fully dilate. This did the trick! By 1pm it was time to push!!!
Everything from this point on was a bit foggy. Not because of the drugs, which by the way were still not working, but because of the exhaustion. I had been in active labor for 20 hours at this point and had been awake for 30 hours with just little cat naps here and there when the pain was tolerable.
I pushed for 5 1/2 hours, every 2-3 minutes, each time I felt a contraction coming, I mustered up all the strength I had to push. Landon was facing up (when he ideally should be facing down) and he was stuck above my pelvic bone. For 5 hours, at any given time, there were at least 5 doctors and nurses in my room, all standing around the bed waiting for a contraction and then intensely watching the fetal monitor to make sure the baby wasn’t distressed from the intensity and the pushing. My doctor and head nurse took turns trying to turn the baby once or twice an hour with no luck. The pain was so intense that I tried every position possible to alleviate it but the best option seemed to be sitting up in bed with a bar in front of me to grab onto during each contraction. I remember being, what felt like at least, in and out of consciousness. I would feel a contraction coming, I would move a bit and Jeff and a nurse would push me up towards the bar. I would push my way through the contraction and as soon as it was over I would drop back on the bed and close my eyes, hoping to sleep for 2 minutes until the next one came. In those 2-3 minutes, it got to the point that everyone in the room was just so quiet while they watched the monitors that I needed some noise, something to focus on or distract me. I asked Jeff to turn on some music. He asked what kind of music I wanted. I’m pretty sure I said, “I don’t care. Anything.” What do you think my comic of a husband played?…
Push It by Salt & Pepa
Everyone in the room started laughing. Including me. It was a welcome distraction. I can always count on Jeff for comic relief just when I need it 🙂 After that I think he turned on Brandie Carlile.
At this point it was almost 5pm. I was fading fast. I was running out of energy and I didn’t know how much longer I could push. My doctor had somewhere she had to be that night so she couldn’t stay much longer, but the on call doctor had also been in the room most of the afternoon as well as another doctor that she had called to be there for support as well, both were amazing! My doctor tried to turn the baby one last time before she left, she didn’t think it had worked.
I found out later, from my mom who had been sitting just outside my room, that my doctor and her colleague were outside the room discussing a C-section right before she left. Around 6pm, the on call doctor was beginning to mention C-section to us, they were mere minutes from wheeling me into an operating room and I was minutes from saying out loud “I can’t do this anymore”. In fact, I think I may have said that at one point. During the very next contraction, the nurse felt the baby drop down, and he was face down. He had flipped! Somehow 🙂
All of a sudden I got a huge burst of energy, I have no idea how. Adrenaline I guess. Pushing for that last hour seemed like nothing, I didn’t feel any pain.
At 6:30pm, on November 2nd, 2016, the doctor laid the most perfect baby boy on my chest. Landon was so wide-eyed from the very beginning. Moments after they laid him on my chest, he opened his eyes and looked up at Jeff and I. (I’m crying now by the way)
In the moments that followed, I forgot all about the pain, I forgot all about how exhausted I was. Jeff and I were both crying, just amazed at what had just happened. We spent 9 months waiting for this little guy to arrive and now he was here and I was overwhelmed with the most intense feelings of happiness and love I had ever felt. In that moment I knew that our lives would never be the same, that becoming parents had changed us forever in the best way possible. Every bit of pain and exhaustion was worth it. All the fears about what kind of mom I would be were gone, replaced with eagerness to just hold and cuddle this little baby, to love him and to teach him about the world.

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*All photos by Janine Soltman Photography

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo

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Ok mamas…I now have a baby who is suddenly sleeping 10-11 hours at night only waking up once, maybe twice AND taking 1 1/2 to 2 hour naps!!!! I have made a couple changes recently, most notably to his feedings. But I’m wondering, is this normal that there is a shift around 5 months and babies just start napping well? Or is it possible that the feeding changes I made actually made the difference? Just want to know before I go tooting my own horn about sleep training in a blog post 🙂 Haha! That sounds way more “I’m-so-amazing” than I wanted it to.

Anyway…this dinner! I’ve made it twice now, and the second time was just as good as I remembered. It was really simple too, only 1 pot and about 30 minutes (minus putting the chicken in a marinade a couple hours prior), great weeknight meal!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Italian herb mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the orzo:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
14 oz can crushed tomato
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Italian herb mix
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup basil leaves

1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade for 1 hour – overnight.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add chicken and cook through, about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
3. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet, increase heat to medium high. Add onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, cook additional 1 minute.
4. Add orzo, tomatoes, broth, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix, bring to a simmer, lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pasta should be just cooked and still quite saucy. Take it off stove immediately.
5. Stir through parmesan and basil, adjust salt to taste. Spoon into bowls, top with chicken, garnish with more parmesan and basil.

*Original recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

DIY Floating Shelves

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I am so excited to FINALLY share this project with you all! I have been working on it for what feels like forever. Wait…you mean…having a baby will drastically change the amount of time in the day you have to accomplish things?!?! Case in point, I’ve been trying to write this blog post for 3 days now 🙂

When I started placing the furniture in the nursery, I knew I wanted this corner to be the “play” corner or the area for all the toys. Landon already owns quite a few books so a book shelf seemed like the way to go but I also wanted room for some sort of toy box (a post on that to come in the future) so shelves up on the wall were necessary for space. Enter the DIY Floating Shelves from Shanty 2 Chic. If you haven’t checked out their site before and you enjoy DIY building, check them out. If you’ve ever searched for DIY building projects on Pinterest, chances are you’ve come across some of their work. Their projects are always really well explained and the plans are very detailed.

I did make some adjustments to the original plans because the plans called shelves that were 3.5′ in either direction and I only had room for 2′. So, my plans are for 2′ long corner shelves and the materials listed are enough for 3 shelves. If you follow the plans on Shanty 2 Chic, their plans are for 3.5′ shelves and the materials listed are for 1 shelf so make sure you double or triple the amount of wood depending on how many shelves you want.

So, here we go…step by step 🙂

Supplies
NOTE: Before purchasing the wood, see the note in step 6 regarding the 2×4 and 1×6 boards

3 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′
2 – 1/4″ x 24″ x 48″ plywood
2 – 1″ x 10″ x 8′
2 – 1″ x 6″ x 8′
kreg jig for pocket holes
drill
2 1/2″ pocket screws
nail gun
1 1/4″ brad nails
3″ screws (torx or dry wall, whatever you prefer, these will be to screws the support boards to the wall and into a stud)
stud finder
wood glue
paint
hardware (for decorative purposes, I’ll show you what I used when I get to that part below)

Step 1: You will need to determine the height placement of each shelf. You want to think about what you are going to put on the shelves and how much space you need in between each one. I wanted my shelves to take up the majority of the corner and knew I was going to be putting some taller items and books on them so here are the measurements I used…
Floor to ceiling, the room is 96″ tall. Each shelf is approximately 4.5″ tall. Based on that, I measured out equal spacing from ceiling to the top shelf, between each shelf, and from bottom shelf to the floor, which was 20.5″.
Ceiling
20.5″
Shelf #1: 4.5″
20.5″
Shelf #2: 4.5″
20.5″
Shelf #3: 4.5″
20.5″
Floor

You will also want to locate the studs in your wall and mark those as well as you will drill each wall cleat directly into a stud.

Step 2: Build your wall cleats.
Using the 2″ x 4″ x 8′, make the following cuts
3 pieces @ 2′ (long wall cleat)
3 pieces @ 1′ 10 1/2″ (short wall cleat)
12 pieces @ 7 5/8″ (cleat braces)

When constructing each wall cleat, you will use one long wall cleat, one short wall cleat and 4 cleat braces, 2 1/2″ pocket screws and wood glue.
Using a kreg jig, drill for 2 1/2″ pocket screws into one end of each cleat brace then attach the cleat braces to the cleats as shown. I didn’t measure the placement of the cleat braces, just lined up the wall cleats (long wall cleat against the corner, short wall cleat against the long wall cleat) and then marked where the cleat braces should go so that they just met each other at the corner edge. The other two cleat braces went at the opposite ends of the wall cleats.

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Step 3: Attach wall cleats to the wall
Use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the 3″ screws. Line up a wall cleat where you want it and drill a pilot hold into the wall cleat directly over the stud, check for level. Using the 3″ screws, attach the wall cleat to the wall in at least 2 different points.

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Step 4: Attach bottom panels to braces
You are basically going to wrap the braces in wood to build out your shelf. Using the 1/4″ plywood, make the following cuts (I made the cuts at home but if you don’t have a saw, you can ask some in the lumber department to make the cuts for you)
3 pieces @ 23 1/4″ x 9 1/4″ (long bottom panel)
3 pieces @ 14″ x 9 1/4″ (short bottom panel)
Use a wood glue, a nail gun and 1/4″ brad nails to attach 1 long bottom panel and 1 short bottom panel to each set of braces.

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Step 5: Attach top panel to braces
Using the 1″ x 10″ x 8′ make the following cuts
3 pieces @ 23 1/4″ (long top panel)
3 pieces @ 14″ (short top panel)
Attach 1 long top panel and 1 short top panel to each set of braces using wood glue, 1 1/4″ finish nails and a nail gun.

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Step 6: Attach the side trim
Using the 1″ x 6″ x 8′ make the following cuts
6 pieces @ 4 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ (side front trim)
NOTE: Because 2×4 are used for the wall cleats, it requires the front and side trim to be only 4 1/2″ wide which is not a width you can buy and will have to rip the board down to 4 1/2″. Again, you can have them do it for you in the lumber department. If you have a table saw at home then you can do it yourself. The other option would be to use 2″ x 3″ for the walls cleats instead of 2″ x 4″. By using 2″ x 3″, you will not need to alter the width of the 1″ x 6″ boards.
Attach side front trim pieces using the same method, wood glue, a nail gun and 1 1/4″ finish nails.

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Step 7: Attach front trim pieces
Using the remaining 1″ x 6″ x 8′ boards, make the following cuts
3 pieces @ 14 3/4″ x 4 1/2″
3 pieces @ 14″ x 4 1/2″
Attach using the same method, wood glue, a nail gun and 1 1/4″ finish nails

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Step 8: Finish with paint and decorate!
I used wood filler to fill in nail holes and the seams. Once dried, I went over the wood filler with 180 grit sand paper to smooth it out.

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I used Heirloom Traditions chalk paint in A La Mode to finish the shelves, topped with clear wax, and sanded the edges for a roughed up look.

Finally, I added some hardware to the corners to give the shelves a bit of an industrial look to compliment some of the other pieces in the nursery.

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I used metal corner braces similar to these from Lowes, and furniture tacks to attach them, spray painted all the pieces with black matte finish spray paint and roughed them up with some sand paper before attaching.

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That’s that! Then I decorated 🙂

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Can I just say, infant sleep training is not for the faint of heart. I’m probably taking longer with each stage because once he masters one part, I just want to sleep at night so I am hesitant to move on to the next stage. We’ve only been working on it for a week and the first stage is getting baby comfortable with sleeping with his arms outside the swaddle. I may be starting a bit too early, we will see. Most blogs and experts recommend sleep training not begin until after 4 months old. I decided to start a little early because Landon kept waking up in the middle of the night fighting to get his arms out of the swaddle. Last week I started swaddling 1 arm outside and it took 2 days for him to be used to it and back to his regular sleeping pattern. Thursday, I started keeping both arms outside the swaddle. You would think going from zero to 1 would be much harder than 1 to 2, not the case. We are on day 3 and he seems to be getting more comfortable with it but even so, his naps are still short and he woke up 4 times last night. Let’s see how this goes…

Anyway, time for a tried and true classic! I have been searching for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I could find, and, after weeks and weeks of excruciating (sorry, not sorry) recipe testing, I think I finally nailed it. These cookies have tons of chocolate chips and are perfectly soft and chewy! Since perfecting this recipe, I think I’ve made about 6 dozen…oops.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 bag chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
2. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mixture may look lumpy.
4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the bowl of dry ingredients and until mixed. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet. Mine were about 2 tablespoons each.
6. Bake for 8 minutes until edges are golden brown (baking time will depend on oven). Let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Inspired by…black & white

We are going on hour 12 of baby sleep! He woke up at 5:45 to eat, but other than that, has been out since 9pm last night 🙂 I’ve been doing a little trial and error as far as sleep routines go and we may have found a good balance yesterday. I’ll keep it going for a few days and report back if continues to be this successful.

I’ve been having trouble finding inspiration and getting projects done these days, mostly due to lack of time to just sit around surfing Pinterest or having an extended period of time to accomplish anything. I started my first building project since Landon was born about a week ago and, so far, I’ve only completed step 1. Insert face palm emoji here. I think I need to learn to let go a bit, especially the expectation of always having a clean house. I wake up when baby wakes up. Take a shower and get ready for the day during nap #1. Pick up the house, do dishes and laundry and check emails, Insta and Facebook during #2. Run errands during nap #3. By this time it’s usually 2 or 3pm and it leaves 1 or 2 more naps, one of which is usually spent getting dinner ready. This 12 hour sleeping situation could really help me out if I just stay awake after that 5 or 6am feeding, so, Landon…let’s keep this up…okay?

I am excited to share my first building project in a long time with you guys! I am building floating corner shelves in the nursery. They are actually pretty easy and are such a great way to fill space in a functional way in those awkward corners that you never know what to do with. Anyway, until then, I thought I’d hold you over with some inspiration. I’m loving the combination and contrast of black and white right now. I still LOVE all white neutrals but I really like to add black (especially wrought iron) or wood accents.

Enjoy!

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Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta

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Any stay at home mom’s have trouble keeping track of what day it is? Everyday, literally, everyday, I have to double check what day of the week it is! I guess it doesn’t help that the little man and I don’t have a set agenda, like classes or school, to keep me on track. And, my husband started a new job so his regular schedule has changed as well.

None of this really bothers me, just makes me feel a bit crazy 🙂 I might start looking into Mommy & Me type classes. Is that a thing for babies this age? 3 months…it seems a little young to be in classes? I guess I need to do some research, any mamas with advice, comment away please!

So, I’m not a huge spaghetti fan. At least, not traditional spaghetti, basic noodles with some ground beef and a jar of red sauce. But this…this is not traditional spaghetti…this is INCREDIBLE spaghetti. Slow cooked beef brisket, a rich homemade red sauce made from the juices of the slow simmering beef and noodles soaked in sauce before serving. This is the ultimate comfort food, with hands on time of only 20 minutes, put it on the stove on a Sunday for an amazing Sunday supper and have plenty of leftovers for later in the week. And, by the way, this recipe is from a food blog that I have become OBSESSED with over the last few weeks, Recipe Tin Eats. I have made a few of her recipes and they have all been so delicious.

Slow Cooked Shredded Beef Ragu Pasta
For the Ragu:
2.5 lb beef brisket cut into 4 equal pieces
1 Tbsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
28 oz crushed canned tomatoes
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 cups water
3 dried bay leaves
Extra salt and pepper to taste
To serve:
1 lb dried spaghetti
Fresh grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

1. Pat beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over high heat in heavy based pot (I used my Calphalon Stock Pot). Add beef and sear each piece on all sides until browned (around 3 minutes total), then remove onto a plate.
3. Turn stove down to medium low and add remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil.
4. Add garlic and onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and sauté slowly for 5 minutes.
5. Add remaining Ragu ingredients (except extra salt and pepper) and return the beef to the pot (add the juices too). Turn the stove up and bring it to a simmer, then turn it down to low. Cover the pot and let it cook for 1 hour 45 minutes. Then remove the lid and let it cook for a further 30 minutes until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with forks and the liquid has reduced to be a thick sauce.
6. Do a taste test and adjust the seasoning to your taste with salt and pepper. You can also add a bit of sugar (1/2 tsp at a time) if it is a bit sour for your taste.
7. Turn the stove off and remove the beef from the sauce into a large bowl. Shred it coarsely with 2 forks. Then return it to the sauce.
8. Cook pasta to package directions but cook for 2 minutes less than package directions and save 1 cup pasta water. While pasta is cooking, place 5 cups of Ragu in a very large fry pan (I used a Wok) and heat over high heat.
9. When the pasta is ready, transfer is directly from the pot into the fry pan using tongs. Add 1  cup pasta water to fry pan.
10. Gently toss the pasta for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce water evaporates and leaves you with a thick Ragu sauce that coats the pasta. Add pasta to the remaining Ragu, toss to combine and serve. Top each serving with parmesan and parsley and stuff your face!

 

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Inspired by…Grain Mill turned Farmhouse

My mom is really going to LOVE this post 🙂 Pretty sure her dream is to turn an old barn into a home. Or at least into an event venue that she can run a business out of. Well mama, here is your inspiration! This is a 161 year old grain mill that was bought and remodeled by a couple of antique dealers, obviously they knew what they were doing.

The first image is the before…and the transformation is just magic. Now let’s go find a barn to buy mom!

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Original article from Country Living

Nursery Crib

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Someone contacted me asking about some of the furniture details in Landon’s nursery and I realized that I never shared the finished crib! No time like the present…

I remember sharing a while back that I was having trouble finding a crib that I liked. I wanted white distressed wood. Everything I was finding in white was smooth finish and everything in a distressed finish was off-white or almost yellow. Of course, I have no problem painting a piece of furniture 🙂 but if I was going to put work in to it, I didn’t want to spend a lot. I searched some thrift stores but there’s not a lot of cribs out there. Enter Wayfair.com.

I went on Wayfair.com just to see what they had. I had purchased my office chair from Joss & Main, which is a sister company of Wayfair.com, and loved it so I thought I’d check it out. Turns out, there are a lot of options under $250! The crib I chose is by Viv & Rae, called the Rocco Kokopelli Convertible Crib.

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What I loved about this crib was the “shutter-like” look on the endcaps. I knew the raised edges would give great texture when I distressed it. Unfortunately, this crib is sold out 😦 However, if you go on Wayfair.com and search cribs, there is an option on the left side of the screen to select “cribs under $200” and there are lots of options to choose from.

My favorites, to get a similar look to what I did would be…
Camden 4-in-1 Convertible Crib by Child Craft
Harbor Lights 4-in-1 Convertible Crib by Graco
Watterson 4-in-1 Convertible Crib by Child Craft
And, the first 2 options come in multiple finishes, in case you don’t want to refinish or paint.

To refinish the crib I used Heirloom Traditions chalk paint in A La Mode. Heirlooms Tradition, as most chalk paint, is non-toxic and safe to use on furniture that a baby may put it’s mouth on. You just want to make sure to let the paint cure for a few weeks before baby would have it’s mouth near the furniture. The thing you don’t want to use in this case, is the soft wax. I didn’t use the soft wax this time and it didn’t really affect the distressing. The biggest benefit of the wax is that it seals the paint, protecting it from chipping and stains.

*Quick tip: assemble your crib before you paint it!

There are so many nooks and crannies and areas that will not be visible and therefore don’t need paint, you will save so much time if the crib is assembled first.

Once painted, I used 100 grit sandpaper to sand the edges. I used a coarser sand paper because I really wanted the dark brown to show through. I didn’t sand any flat surface, just ran the sand paper along each edge.

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That’s all folks! Pretty simple transformation. And for those wondering, the crib bedding is the Vintage Ticking Stripe and Vintage Washed Percale Collection from Restoration Hardware.

Vintage Scoreboard was made by me and you can find the instructions here.

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