The Great Room

Well, it’s not perfect yet, but here’s an update on one of our favorite features of our home … the great room!

BeforeHere’s a nice before photo of when we just moved in. Oh how far we’ve come.

And here’s the same view after a little bit of cleaning. Oh, and new furniture.

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Here’s the dining room portion of the great room.

Dining RoomAnd the kitchen!

Kitchen(I just realized Tucker was being a creeper in the corner over there.) (The dining room is behind me to the right in this shot.)

And finally the office corner!

The OfficeDon’t mind the big pile of Goodwill donations next to the bookshelf.

So, of course there’s still a to do list. Here it is!

  • Hang our large clock above the bookshelf behind the desk.
  • Find some sort of piece of furniture that can adequately hide the mess of cords hanging off the front of the desk. Ugh. Some thoughts. This (two side by side in yellow with rice paper or wrapping paper or fabric or something attached to the backside of the glass) or maybe this. One piece of furniture would be ideal. I know for sure I would prefer something with doors or drawers. I would have some room to display things on top of it, and room to hide ugly office stuff behind said doors or drawers.
  • As you can see on the floor, I’m working on a little project for the wall between the picture window and the basement door. (The one the cherry poster is propped on in the first photo.)
  • I also really want a wicker chair to put in the corner behind the desk. The papasan chair is filling that space nicely for now, but I’ll keep my eyes open when I hit up the thrift stores this summer.
  • I want to find some bins to go on the square bookshelf behind the desk, so we can hide ugly office stuff in it.
  • I need to find some sort of art to go between the tv and the sliding doors.
  • Oh, and that stuff needs to find a new home via Goodwill.
  • Switch out the yellow stripey curtain for a gray set that matches the rest of curtains in the room. (My dear friend Amanda picked a pair up last time she was at Ikea, and I should be seeing her Sunday! So that should be happening soon.)
  • I’m not in love with the light fixture above the couch.
  • Find some solution to hiding the cords hanging down from the TV to the outlet. The bookshelf there helps, and I plan to put some sort of curtain/fabric backdrop between the shelf and the cords, but as some of the cords come out of the back of the shelf, I am going to have to get a bit creative.
  • Find stools to go at the breakfast bar that don’t break the budget. We’re leaning toward the stools they used in this blog. Not sure if we’d paint them or leave them in their grey metallic state.
  • Hang tiebacks for the curtains on the patio doors and the picture window. The curtains now tend to get a) sucked out the door or to the screen or b) blown into the doggie bowls. We’re adding them to the picture window for symmetry.
  • Find a new rug to go under the coffee table that matches the color scheme. Possibly DIY this from a remnant of carpet I own?

So that’s it, as it is now!

Want to see my inspiration for this room? Check out my Great Room Inspiration on Pinterest!

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Buffalo Chicken French Bread Pizzas

This is something I kept seeing on Pinterest and finally decided it was time to try it out.

I sort of used this recipe, but I knew I wanted something a more vegetabley than this recipe, so I kind of added my own twists. I also used boneless skinless chicken thighs rather than breasts. We just like the dark meat better, as it stays moister. It’s also cheaper, which I’m not complaining about. 🙂

My first step was to lightly saute some green peppers and red onion in a bit of vegetable oil.

Green Peppers firstI then added my cubed chicken and continued to saute until the chicken was pretty much done. Once the chicken was sauteed I added buffalo sauce to coat the chicken. I didn’t want it to be soupy, but I knew we wanted it to be good and buffalo flavored, so I added a bit at a time until it was pretty well coated.

DSCN1564In the meantime, I sliced up some french bread, lightly sprayed it with olive oil and lightly toasted  it in the oven. When the bread was toasted, I piled the chicken/pepper mixture on the side that had been down in the oven (the one that was more toasted), sprinkled some mozzarella on top, and put it back in the oven for a few minutes to get the other side of the bread more toasty and the cheese melty.

DSCN1565Once the cheese was melted, I plated the pizzas, drizzled them with ranch and sprinkled sliced green onions on top.

DSCN1566They were delicious! Next time I make them I will probably put more green pepper in them, as they do tend to cook down quite a  bit.

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Fogo de Chao Parmesan Pork

I love Fogo de Chao’s parmesan pork. The other day I was surfing Pinterest and found a coypcat recipe. Last night we gave the recipe a shot!

We used this recipe.

The flavor of the pork was fantastic. The marinade seems a bit odd, but is so delicious. Some of the pieces turned out a bit dry, specifically the ones on the ends of our skewers and the smaller pieces. It suggests cutting the cubes as evenly as you can, but it’s a bit tough to do that since a pork loin isn’t traditionally square. All in all, definitely a recipe we will be using again. I think maybe next time we will try either cooking the loin whole and injecting some of the marinade or cutting it into medallions rather than small cubes to try to find  a balance between maximum flavor and maximum moisture.

A couple of changes, specifically to the parmesan part. I bought a block and grated it myself. The parmesan was pretty strong, and I didn’t use the full 5.3 oz block. I used about half of it, and it was plenty. I also didn’t leave it on the grill a full minute on both sides after adding the parmesan. I did on side for a minute and then just left it on the grill for a few seconds to get the cheese melty on the other, although the pork is still hot when you put it on, so that’s maybe not even necessary.

Fogo de Chao copycat parmesan porkAddendum: As you can probably tell in the picture, my skewers got a little crispy. That’s because I forgot to soak them (and I just now realized this. A week later.). However, only the ends got crisped, so it didn’t really hurt anything. But next time, I’ll soak them first. 🙂

 

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The Built Ins

When we were house hunting, almost every house we saw had a room we weren’t sure what we would do with. We didn’t really  need a “living room” and a “family room.” We also knew we wanted a basement if we could find it, and many times a basement doubles as a living room, and Tucker just doesn’t need his own sitting room, so what could we do with that third TV/hang out space? Two rooms on the same level of the house that served the TV/hanging out purpose was actually #1 on my Do Not Want list. As I think back, I think we only saw one house that met that criteria, and that house missed the mark on many things we did want. So I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to a) get creative or b) have a room we just weren’t going to use.

One thing I was definitely looking for was more storage. We did (finally) get rid of a lot when we moved. But we own a lot of books and things we might not read any time soon, but we definitely want to keep. So we (with some help from Pinterest) came up with the solution to build our very own custom built in bookshelves. Big, relatively-permanent project? Let’s do this! (Thankfully we have lots of family with expertise and tools, both of which we borrowed a lot. This project would have gone much less smoothly and, most importantly, been a lot less fun, without our wonderful families there with us!)

I got the inspiration from this tutorial, though I did not by any means follow it. Nor am I making this a tutorial because Paul and I are not experts on building built in bookshelves.

In that tutorial the people started with unfinished upper kitchen cabinets. I wanted to start with unfinished base cabinets because a) I wanted as much storage as possible, b) we had plenty of room for them and c) that eliminated the step of framing out the bottom. But mostly a.

We ended up getting ours at Home Depot. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menard’s all carry pretty much the same thing. In the end, Home Depot’s were the cheapest to start with and they were on sale. In the end we paid just under $300 for all 3.

The experts at work

The dogs ... hard at work ...

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The counter for the cabinets was a bit of a challenge. No matter how we figured it, we’d have to piece something together. We weren’t going to be able to find a piece of wood large enough to cover the whole thing. In the end we got three poplar planks (we also used poplar for the facing) and Paul used the Kreg system (more on that later) to attach them all to each other and then he sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded … until it looked like one piece of wood!

The Counter

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room ... and the front room ... and the garage ...

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room … and the front room … and the garage …

We also decided on MDF for our shelving. The plan all along was to paint the whole thing white. MDF is already smooth and ready to paint, it’s going to be straight and level, it was strong enough for what we needed and the price was good. We used a Kreg system to attach the shelves to the uprights using pocket holes on the bottom and wood glue, which we puttied in and painted over – no screws showing! The Kreg ran us about $100, but it was worth every single cent, even if we never use it again. It was easy to use and made the project look professional.

More experts hard at work

More experts hard at work

Building the ShelvesHere it is with the poplar facing:

Plus FacingThen we painted every last inch of all of it! Once it all had a few good coats, we put it all together!

DSCN1560The next step was to touch up the paint, fill in some gaps with wood fill, and caulk all along the walls. We also installed crown molding around the top and baseboard around the bottom to match the baseboard in the existing room.

And voila!

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

We have hardware that needs to be installed on the drawers and doors, and we also have sconces that will illuminate the front of the shelves. The sconces involve getting an electrician out, so we’re letting funds recoup a bit before tackling that step of the process. Not to mention the fact that the arrangement of things on the shelves will be a work in progress for, well, ever.

Want to see my thoughts as they progressed through the project? Check out my Pinterest board here.

Everything turned out great in the end, but we ended up with a few, um, situations. Like ourfacing for the top being about 1/4 an inch short, and crown molding being installed at the wrong angle. In the end, we love them. They serve the purposes we need and they make that room a great introduction to our home.

 

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Home Sweet Home

As many of you know, Paul and I recently purchased our first home and moved!

Here is just a quick photo tour of the house, pre-move in. Our House

Sorry that picture is so tiny. I yoinked it from the realtor’s website and, well, right now it’s snowy and cold and I don’t want to go take a new one! The house is essentially one big circle. The tour will be given clockwise. So, imagine you came in the front door and then went to your left.

DSCN1504This is the front room of the house (See the front door in the upper left corner?) This room got a biiiig makeover. More on that later.

DSCN1505The hallway (on the right) leads to the three bedrooms and one of the bathrooms.

This bathroom is down the hallway to the right, affectionately called the “blue bathroom.”

Blue Bathroom

Across from the blue bathroom is the blue room/craft room /Spider Man room.

The blue roomDon’t anyone dare for a second think this is a Cubs room! Just don’t do it! This is my new craft room. I ditched the red curtain, but the Spidey lightswitch plate is still there. Maybe it will grow on me?

At the end of the hallway is the pink room.

Guest Room

What? You don’t looooove the mauve carpet? New carpet or refinishing the hardwoods (we hope are) underneath is a project for the “someday” list. This is our new guest room.

Down the hall to the right you will find the master.

Master from hallwayThe forest green wall would be a lovely bluish grey now, except, when I was taping off to paint I realized that there is evil wallpaper underneath the paint. Damn. So, being who we are, we have to “do it right,” if you will. So the wallpaper needs to come down before the paint can go up. That will happen sometime soon, but for now we are focusing on unpacking and a few other projects.

Master from bathroomThis view is of the master bathroom from the master bedroom.

DSCN1515This is the view of the master bathroom from the bedroom. As you can see, it has two doors, which is what makes the house a big ole’ circle. (The walls are less lime than they look here.)

DSCN1516View from the hallway looking through the master bath to the master bedroom. Someday that floor tile will probably go away and become lovely white penny tile with grey grout (same for the blue bath). Another thing for the “someday” list. And the tile baseboard (yes, that’s painted tile) will become unpainted (if we’re lucky) or painted a different color (if we’re reasonable.)

If you look at the photo two above this (bathroom picture minus toilet) you will see that hallway leads into the kitchen/great room. On the right in that hallway you will find the laundry closet. (I don’t know if it qualifies as a “room” persay.)

Laundry ClosetThis room has taken great strides since we moved in. More on that later.

When you leave the short hallway from the master bath to the great room, the kitchen is in the corner of the room directly to your right.

KitchenSquare footage wise, I think this is a bit smaller than our old kitchen, but the storage is much greater. Also, brand new no-one-has-grossed-up fridge! Yes! Gas stove and mounted microwave/hood are also on the “someday” list.

And now for what is probably our favorite part of this home. The greatroom!

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This view is actually from the doorway that goes between the the front room and great room. The breakfast bar/kitchen are to the left. This room. is. huge. So what did we do the first weekend we owned the house? We bought a sectional couch. An L-shaped sectional that is approximately 8′ in one direction and 10 in the other. Want to come over? We will have a place for you to sit (couch tentatively expected to be delivered between April 9 and 11)! You can see some of the deck and the .33 acre yard through the patio doors on the left.

Also, another of the great features (I’m definitely not biased) of this home is out that door. The Monon Trail is an Indianapolis park that extends about 10.4 miles from downtown all the way up to Carmel (northern suburb) but it joins with a couple of other paths as well. What used to be a rail corridor is now a trail used by approximately 4,000 people each day (according to Wikipedia.) And we have a gate in our back fence that opens onto a small stair that leads right to it. We can hope on our bikes and take a 15-minute bike trip to our favorite Broad Ripple restaurants. We can walk up to the ice cream shop just a few blocks north. We can people watch (oh yes, the Monon attracts all types.)

If you want an idea of how important the Monon is to this city, take this example. Today we (like many other regions) are supposed to get 6 to 10 inches of snow (to quote my dear friend Amanda, go home March, you’re drunk.). A salt truck drove by this afternoon. On the Monon. Later in the day when it was raining ice pellets? Runners, joggers, bicyclists and one odd man in a trench coat went by. And we are so excited to have it at our back door. Now we just need summer (or, at the very least, spring) to show up so we can enjoy it in all it’s glory …

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Anyway, Monon gush over. Back to the great room. Our office space is in the upper right corner of this photo. The garage door is also immediately to the right. That door in the middle of the photo leads to stairs which lead to the basement. Most of this room and a small, finished basement were added on in 2001.

I forgot to take a picture of the basement. It’s pretty much a finished room with a storage closet and a small sump pump/radon system closet. It also has theater-style lighting. Ooo. Ahh.

Since I have taken these photos we have moved all of our stuff in and jumped into some projects. I’ll try to be a bit better about keeping up the blog. 🙂 Cause I know you’re all dying to know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seafood Stew, Game of Thrones Style

Paul and I are both reading the (amazing) series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Mr. Martin frequently talks about the food the characters eat in details. One that seems to occur frequently is a rich stew served in hollowed out trenchers of yesterday’s bread. (Are you hungry yet? I am.) They also talk a lot about the fish stew. Being a lover of all seafood (at least everything I have tried.) I thought that the newly cool temperatures and an unexpected Friday at home were the perfect excuse to make a big pot of seafood stew.

I did a little research on the recipe, looking at my usual go-tos, like my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, a soup specific cookbook I got Paul as a gift eons ago, http://www.allrecipes.com and the FoodNetwork website.

In the end I chose the recipe that I knew all along I’d probably end up using. (Although a curried salmon soup recipe from the soup cookbook gave it a run for it’s money. That one is definitely on my list.)

I went with the Thick Seafood Stew from Inn at the Crossroads, a website dedicated to creating the recipes for some of the foods mentioned in the books. They even have a cookbook out! We don’t have it, but someday we will, I don’t doubt.

I was going to use my breadmaker but Paul and I decided it was a special meal and we should just go all out and actually make bread from scratch with our own four hands, so that’s what we did. The night before we made some bread bowls:

I made a 1.5 batch because, well, it just worked out that the amount of ingredients I had made it silly not to just make a bigger back. The first step is actually making your own fish broth. All this involves is boiling a piece of fish for about 10 minutes. While that is boiling, you fry up some bacon, then fry your onion and potatoes in the pan with the bacon. (The recipe doesn’t actually tell you what to do with the onion. This seems like the most logical step.)

After the potatoes have cooked for about five minutes, you add the fish broth and the rest of your fish to the pot. I used cod and swai, which is a type of catfish.

Let that “burble” (their word) for about 10 minutes, then you add cream, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, crab meat and whole mussels. I used imitation crab meat and frozen whole mussels, both of which worked quite well.  I have cooked fresh mussels before and they are delicious, but it didn’t seem like it was worth the trip across town to get live mussels for a stew that would be simmering for much longer than is needed to cook live mussels. You simmer the whole pot for about an hour and then it is ready to enjoy! While it simmered we baked our bread bowls. We used the Classic French Bread recipe from Peter Reinhart’s artisan breads every day, which is a fantastic book for someone who has no experience baking bread.

We served it in our bread bowls and garnished it with lots and lots of fresh cracked black pepper!

Both recipes we used are delicious and I definitely recommend them!

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My Library Card Catalog Placeholder

Ok, so I told you we didn’t leave Midland empty handed, and that is definitely true! While we didn’t find a library card catalog, some of you may have cleverly spotted something similar in one of yesterdays photos…

Printers cabinet – I also love printer’s cabinets but definitely don’t have enough tiny stuff to fill up one of those. This one was reasonable priced because it was missing a few drawers. I’m not an antiques connoisseur by any means, but there weren’t many things that I balked at the cost of (except that monkey lamp). They may have been expensive, but I could see the value.

Do you see it?

How about now?

I decided this cute little drawer could hold off my desire for a library card catalog, so home it came! For a mere $24.07.

I am not really sure what “special trips” means or what tiny things special trips involve…also, I was having a really hard time getting my camera to take an image where the text was sharp. Bah.

Now, I could have just filled it up as it was, but I thought it might be nice to have some dividers for tiny things and some bright colors, too. So I worked on it for a while, and here is my new storage:

With a pop of color

It isn’t quite filled up yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a few more things to put in there as I work in my craft room.

As of now there are some stamps, some weaving supplies, some tiny clothespins…and lots of happy color!

Owl bookends approve

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