January 31, 2020

RECIPE: Spicy Carrot Bisque

This is pure comfort food for my soul. When my jaw was broken and my mouth was wired shut, a woman named Courtney (who is a cousin of my good friend Adam) brought me this soup. She didn't even know me, and we'd never even met before(!) but she thought of me. I was so touched.
Lots of people made meals for my family, which was super generous; but I was stuck with smoothies... until Courtney brought me this soup. It's a puréed soup, so I was thrilled to be able to eat it. This is the best comfort food for me.

It is absolutely DELICIOUS. I'm not even a huge fan of carrots, but this soup is one of my favorites! This is the original recipe, although I've made it with lighter ingredients and still liked it.

Honestly, just make the real thing and have a smaller portion. It's worth every calorie. I promise.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Spicy Carrot Bisque

3 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced or chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1-1/2 Tbsp flour
8 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. white pepper (this is what makes it so good!)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper


Sauté onions in butter until transparent. Add flour and stir well. Add chicken broth slowly, stirring as you add, to keep the flour from clumping. Add carrots and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer for one hour. Add cream and spices, and simmer 20 minutes. Using a stick blender, purée until smooth.

Makes about 10 cups.

January 30, 2020

Spring Break Travel Plan

Well, this post is a rarity. I am actually going to keep it super duper short today! I have been publishing my posts at 9:00 every evening, but it's already 10:30 and I haven't written anything yet. However, I want to keep my daily streak going.

Jerry was off today, and we spent the whole morning trying to figure out the final plans for our vacation this spring. Like I wrote in a previous post, I'd been planning a road trip through the southern and western states.

No matter what I came up with, it was going to cost a fortune. Flights down to Florida or Alabama, the cost of the car rental (with a huge premium for returning it to a different location), plus hotels would have put us over budget for sure.

I'd been planning to reach a goal of seeing the 48 contiguous states before turning 40, but I've decided to let that goal go. I'd like to eventually do it someday, but I don't want to make trips stressful just so that I can fit in the states I haven't been to. Also, it'd be nice to spend more time in each state as opposed to just driving through quickly to say I was there.

So, we had to start from scratch as far as our vacation plans for the kids' spring break. I just couldn't come up with anything! I've seen the entire eastern coast a hundred times and have no desire to stay anywhere east. I'd love to take the kids to Portland and Seattle, but I want more time to plan that trip, so we'll probably do that next year.

I went though lists of cities, trying to find something that appealed to me--someplace I'd never been, but a place that I think would be fun to take the family.

And then when I saw it, I knew it just had to be the destination: San Francisco!

I've been to California a few times, but I've never been further north than L.A. and I think San Francisco would be a fun place to visit. Jerry loved the idea, too, so we started looking for places to stay. And we decided on a hotel in Fisherman's Wharf.

When I go places that are new to me, I don't like to do the super touristy things... I am usually visiting a friend, and I just go to the places they enjoy. But since we don't know anyone in San Francisco, I'm wondering if any of you have suggestions?

I loved all of the ideas that you suggested for the states down south (I wrote them down and will be referring to them again when I plan more trips!) but as far as San Francisco goes, my slate is clean. So I'd love ideas!

Now, I'm going to go to bed. G'night :)

January 29, 2020

11 Facts About Me (writing prompt)

I'm going to do a writing prompt today, because I really don't have much to write about. I have a list of prompts to help me so that I can keep a streak of writing a post every single day this year. I'm pretty impressed with myself so far--I haven't missed a day yet!

Today's prompt is "11 Facts About Me"-- (the original, from the journal/book I got the prompts from, said "30 Facts About Me". With how much I write, can you even imagine how long that post would be?!

Here goes...

1. I was born just after the Super Bowl game in 1982. My mom was in labor all through the Super Bowl that Sunday, and I finally made my appearance just after 2:06 AM. As you can imagine, my dad was thrilled to miss the big game, haha. Coincidentally, the game was actually being played in Michigan that year, just outside of Detroit! So, it was a pretty big deal in the Detroit suburbs where I grew up. I despise football, so maybe being born that day was a curse ;)

2. I have huge calves that barely changed size when I lost all the weight. When I was losing the weight, I always imagined wearing cute boots over skinny jeans. I was pretty bummed when I lost inches everywhere else! I lost a little in my calves, but percentage wise, that was where I lost the least. You can see in the photo below (at my thinnest) my calves are nearly as big as my thighs!

3. I'm not one that dreams of winning the lottery. I honestly feel like winning a huge sum of money would ruin so many things... People coming out of the woodwork who claim to be friends or family; everyone expecting you to pay for everything; never trusting that anyone is genuine when wanting to be your friend after that, and always questioning their motives; and I can't really think of anything that I am desperate to buy.

If I was to win an ungodly amount of money, I'd want to spend it everyone else--a new boat for my dad, a nice car for my mom, pretty much anything my siblings would want, an amazing truck for Jerry, set up the kids to have whatever future they'd like... but there really isn't anything that I can think of that I would dream of having. Maybe property for an amazing cat sanctuary?

4. The only food I've ever tasted that I can say that I truly despise is yogurt. I love to try new foods--and I'll try anything, over and over--but I've never been able to get on board with yogurt. Still, I try it about once a year to see if maybe things have changed.

Now, FROZEN yogurt, on the other hand... well. (There actually is fro-yo under those toppings, really)

5. I feel like I should have been born in the 60's (spending my teen years in the mid-70's). I love so much about that era--especially the clothing! Any time I watch a show or movie that takes place during that time period, I feel like I was meant to have been growing up through it.

6. I have three siblings--Jeanie, 45; Brian, 43; and Nathan, 35. I loved growing up with siblings! A family of six isn't huge, but it was bigger than most of my friends' families. I kind of wish I'd had a couple more kids of my own so they would experience the same things I did growing up. Jeanie and Brian were older than me by quite a bit, but I thought they were SO cool. Nathan and I fought, being only two years apart, but in general, we were good to each other. As adults, I'm so grateful to have siblings that I love!

7. I lived in one house from the time I was born until I was 15; then, the summer before my sophomore year of high school, we moved about 20 minutes away into a new school district. I was super worried about changing schools--already, I didn't have many friends and I was made fun of because of my weight, so I imagined all sorts of horrible things about trying to make new friends (being a shy introvert).

It was the best thing that could have happened to me, though! I made a really close-knit group of friends who were SO nice and fun and welcoming. I've mentioned them several times--the self-proclaimed "Kindred Klan", because five of them had a band called Kindred. I'm still friends with them, and they made high school so much better for me.

8. Most people know this already, but it's been over nine years now since it happened... in 2010, I was at home with the kids while Jerry was working, and we were watching Wall-E. Noah fell asleep, so I picked him up and carried him to his bunk bed. I put him up on the top, and then I felt super nauseous.

I started heading toward the bathroom, and then I got tunnel vision. The next thing I knew, I was waking up facedown on the floor with a puddle of blood under my face. I had fainted and broken my jaw completely through in five places; two of the bone fragments had even punctured through my lower lip and under my chin. I wrote about the whole ordeal, which you can read here.

9. I've always wanted to be a foster parent. Jerry and I have talked about it several times, and he'd love it, also. We've just never got the ball rolling. I always think that because we don't have a huge house or because I have bipolar or something like that, we won't be able to. But I read all these horror stories about foster families abusing kids, and I just don't understand how they were ever able to get licensed. I desperately want to show a child in a bad situation what it feels like to be loved and cared about. I keep saying, "Someday, maybe...".

10. I was a very creative kid, and my parents were great about helping me play into whatever phase I was interested in at the moment. I went through a phase where I played "teacher", and my parents (well, likely my mom! My dad worked at his auto shop a lot) hung two large chalkboards on the wall and set up a couple of desks. She took me to the "teachers' store" (where teachers bought their supplies) and bought me some of the cool things that my teachers used (attendance book, a chalk holder that drew horizontal lines on the board, a sliding grading chart, the teachers' edition of a school book, etc.).

When I went through a "cashier" phase, I would set a broom across two chairs to make a clothing rack, and I'd pull clothes and shoes out of the closets to "sell" in my store. My mom bought me a real cash register--not a toy, but the real thing! It was so cool. She also gave me a credit card swiper (remember those ones that needed carbon paper?) and she'd bring home the carbon paper from work. I think it's because of this that I like to do the same for my kids. When they were little, I would try to get creative with helping them play out their imaginations.

In the photo below, you can see a board my dad made for me with random gadgets (door knocker, walkie talkie, wheel to spin, etc) to play with in the garage. I love how creative he got! He recently made one for Luke, too :)

11. Lucky number 11! I have an obsession with the number 11 for some reason. I'm not sure when it started, but it wasn't until 15 years or so ago. I really like multiples of 11 as well, particularly 33, 55, and 77.

When I would run races, I would always be curious if there was an 11 in my bib number, or at least a multiple. On Leap Day 2016, I actually got number 44--which I thought was lucky, because I was running the "Leap Year 4-Miler" (which obviously only occurs once every 4 years). I did it in 2012, and then 2016, but I'm so sad that they aren't doing it this year! I wanted it to be one that I did every Leap Day. Anyway, the whole point of this final fact about me is that I love the number 11. I'm a "numbers person" (a.k.a. nerd) in general.

So, there you have it--11 Facts About Me. I tried to make them things that I don't write about much (if ever). I've written a LOT of blog posts (2,346) in the last nine years, so there isn't much I haven't said ;) I always love learning random facts about people. Everybody has something interesting to say!

January 28, 2020

The Boys' Bedroom Makeover Reveals (with a trillion pictures)

I know this isn't exactly a "revealing" post, because I did touch on this a little before. But after writing a step by step post about when I gave my utility/laundry room a huge makeover, I really had the urge to go back and write about each room individually with whatever pictures I happened to take in the making.

I wish I'd taken more progress pictures, ESPECIALLY true "before" photos, but it's still fun to see the transformation.

So, this post will be all about my boys' bedroom makeovers. For the record, Eli is 14 and Noah is 15. I wanted their rooms to fit their ages--not too childish, but definitely not boring.

The makeovers for the bedrooms were totally a surprise. My parents flew the kids down to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a week to vacation with them, and I decided that I was going to spend the entire week completely redecorating their bedrooms.

Little did I know, it was going to take longer because of a special project I'd planned (that didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped).

My main goals:
  • Remove the textured (stomped) ceiling (most people think of textured ceilings as "popcorn" ceilings, but ours was called stomped. It's basically the same thing and just as annoying to remove).
  • Tape and mud the drywall seams between the top of the wall and the ceiling.
  • Paint the walls and ceiling.
  • Widen Eli's closet door (it was two feet wide, but his closet is six feet wide inside!)
  • Build shelves for the closets so that I could remove the standard wire shelves.
  • Get Noah a new bed frame.
  • Find some way to organize Eli's "stuff" (he collects everything and is so sentimental that he throws away nothing... it drives me crazy).
  • New bedding for both rooms, and just clean/organize in general.

All of this needed to be done within a week. No problem! ;)

I knew that Eli's closet was going to be the biggest pain and take the most time, considering we were going to widen the closet doorway. First, here are a few "before" pictures of Eli's bedroom (note the ceiling, crown moulding, and brown trim):

I wish I'd taken a photo of his closet before I removed the wire shelving, but here is what it looked like after I took removed the shelves and was ready to widen the doorway:

This is what it looked like after removing the shelving, moulding, and jamb:

I'd never done anything like widening a doorway before, so I had no idea what I was doing. After some research, though, I thought it would be pretty simple. The wall wasn't a load bearing wall (the convenient thing about remodeling "trailers"--manufactured homes, double wides, call them what you will) is that there aren't many load bearing walls. 

There was an electrical outlet to the right of the closet door, so I had to choose carefully where to widen the doorway. I decided to make the door four feet wide, increasing a little more on the left side than on the right, to avoid having to mess with the electrical outlet.

Using a level, a straight edge, a pencil, and a measuring tape, I drew out exactly where I wanted the new door to be. I was super nervous to start cutting through the drywall, but that part was easy. Another bonus (or not, as we later found out) is that the inner walls in a trailer are thinner than a typical stick-built home. I could easily cut through both layers of drywall with a jigsaw--super fast.

I ran into two problems with the doorway. The biggest issue ended up being the stupid electrical outlet. My brother, Brian, used to work with an electrician and knows electrical work really well. I sent him a picture, and he agreed that it was dumb on the manufacturer's part to do it the way it was (I just needed that validation before continuing). The electrical cord came up through the floor several inches to the left of where the outlet was.

This was a problem because that's where I'd opened up the wall. I didn't want to mess with the actual wiring to the outlet, so after removing the 2x4 on the floor, I cut a "well" for the cord to pass to the outlet without having rewire anything.

This is what it looked like after removing the drywall:

Because of removing the wall, there were bare spots of where the carpet would be. Thankfully, Jerry came to the rescue after work and decided to install some leftover luxury vinyl plank flooring we had. So, Eli's closet had the plank flooring instead of carpet, and I really liked the look!

The second problem we ran into was a door jamb. Nothing is standard in a trailer! The door jambs are thinner in both width and thickness. I needed it to be 1/2 inch by 4 inches, and I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars buying finished oak. None of the door jamb kits would work. It was very hard to find finished wood that was 1/2 inch thick.

Finally, I found some MDF with a gray coating on it that would work. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best I could do--and it was still better than the jamb that was there before. (Now that I have a table saw, I can totally make my own door jambs!). Using my brother's Paslode finishing nailer, I was able to set the door jamb pieces into place and nail them to the studs. Then I just had to put trim around it to cover the edges. I was impressed at how it was coming along!

It was the perfect size for the bifold doors, thankfully. I don't know why I never thought of it before, but bifold doors are fantastic for closets! They save so much space because they don't have to swing open. Jerry, who was off work for the week after the first two days of my working solo, was able to help--and I never would have gotten the rest done without him! 

Oh! When I was removing the shelving from Eli's closet, I found this drawn on the wall, and my heart almost couldn't take it. It was so cute! When it came time to paint, I just couldn't do it.

I also removed some trim from inside the closet that covered the gaps in the corners (the drywall hadn't been finished in the corners or at the ceiling, so that was another spot that needed tape and drywall compound--i.e. mud).

Once we got Eli's doorway done (which took about a day and a half!) we got to work on the ceilings. 

Here are some "before" photos of Noah's room:

This is the ceiling before:

First, I removed all the cheap, ugly crown moulding. Which, of course, revealed the gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling. Next, Jerry and I started scraping the texture off of the ceilings.

(Here is a post I wrote a post about how to remove a textured ceiling). 

This is super messy and a huge pain, but it's totally worth it in the end. After removing the texture, we had to fill in the little nicks with drywall compound as well as put a thin layer of drywall compound over the seams in the ceiling to make the drywall the same thickness throughout.

Then I got to work taping and mudding. Jerry is not good at this at all, so it was up to me to do both bedrooms and both closets. There is a learning curve to this, so the more rooms I did in the house, the better I got at it.

Basically, you apply drywall compound to the wall and ceiling along the edges (about 4-6 feet in length at a time); then you place a strip of drywall tape (folded along the crease down the length) and push it into the drywall compound. 

Then, using a drywall knife, you run the knife along the tape, which presses it to the wall/ceiling and removes excess compound. Once it's in place, you add another layer of compound along the whole length, and then use a drywall knife to scrape along the length of it to remove excess. If you are careful, it will make it very smooth and you won't see the tape underneath. 

It's a thin coat, so you have to let it dry overnight and then apply a second coat (not using the tape--just adding another layer of drywall compound). Once the second layer is dry, you sand it all smooth against the wall and the ceiling, so it looks seamless. I watched a lot of YouTube videos before doing this, but now I feel like an expert ;)

I wrote more about this and showed a few pictures on this post about my utility/laundry room makeover.

To finish the ceilings, we had to sand the heck out of them until they were smooth (this is the worst part of making over any room--sanding above your head is SO annoying and tedious). It still won't *look* great, but it'll be smooth. And that's where the paint comes in.

I used Sherwin Williams ceiling paint, and I hated it. I put on so many layers and I still didn't like how it looked. I went back to Sherwin Williams and explained, and they then told me that I would like the "special" contractors' ceiling paint. It's the stuff they sell to contractors! Why don't they sell it to everyone if it's better?

I didn't learn this until I did the laundry room after I'd already done almost the entire house with the crappy paint, so the boys' rooms have (several layers of) the paint that I really don't like. Anyway, ceilings look a million times better once the paint is on and it's all nice and smooth. (I later installed ceiling fans in each of their rooms)

After the ceilings were done, it would be all downhill. Eli's door jamb (to the entrance to his room) was a little crooked, so I took that apart and put it back together, straightening it out. I'd also gotten new door slabs for the kids' bedrooms and hung those, then painted them white. (I'd done the door slabs last year when I did the rest of the house, but I hadn't done the interior part of their rooms yet. Nevertheless, here are the doors before and after.)

I added the vent above the doors in the bedrooms because in manufactured homes, they cut the doors short (high off of the ground) for cool air return to the furnace (see the "before" photo of the door). I always hated that, so when I put the new door slabs in, I added vents above the doors for the cool air return and had the doors go all the way down to the floor.

I removed the trim along the floor and eventually the casing around the window and doorways. I figured I'd replace the cheap stuff that came with the house with something (a little) nicer. I didn't spend a fortune, but the trim was definitely better than before. 

Before replacing the trim, however, we painted both of the rooms. I picked out a nice blue (see above photo) from Sherwin Williams--not as light as the Aviary Blue we got for the kitchen, but not as dark as a navy, either. I thought it would look good with white trim, and I could use it for both boys' rooms. It didn't look too childish, but it was still a fun color.

I painted along the ceiling while Jerry used the roller on the walls, and the painting was done pretty quickly. By this time, however, we were down to less than two days until the kids came home, and we were nowhere close to being finished.

Meanwhile, in Hilton Head...

On the night before the kids were due home, Jerry and I stayed up long after midnight measuring and cutting floor trim and the casings for the doors and windows. I was SO grateful to have bought that miter saw on Facebook Marketplace. In most of the house, I'd cut the trim by hand!

Jerry would take a measurement, letting me know if I needed "inside" or "outside" corners on the ends of the pieces; then I'd go to the garage, measure it out, make the cuts, carry it into the house. We'd put it in place and then I'd likely have to go shave off a tiny piece here or there, so I'd walk back out to the garage and repeat. We had to do this over and over again.

As we finished each piece, we used the Paslode (I eventually bought one of these from Facebook Marketplace, too, and I LOVE IT) to nail it to the wall. Once all of the trim was nailed in, we had to fill in the holes with wood filler and wipe the boards clean. Then I used caulk to fill in any gaps. Finally, I used a white oil-based paint to paint all of the trim, including the window sills, doors, and door jams. 

I got up super early in the morning (just a couple of hours after going to bed) to try to get things finished before the boys got home. I touched up the paint where it needed it, and then I started working on shelves for their closets. I was glad I'd bought finished boards so I wouldn't have to cut down plywood.

Eli's shelves were easy... I just used two 3/4" x 12" x 8-ft boards for sides, and then I cut some shorter ones to go horizontally between them. I used my Kreg pocket hole jig to screw the shelves into the sides. Then it was like one very tall bookcase and I stood it up in the center of his closet.

To maximize space, I put a dowel on each side of the closet to hang clothes, and I later added a shelf above them. 

Noah's closet was very deep, but not very wide. I wasn't sure how to best maximize the space there. Before, there were a few wire shelves on the back wall, which was also used for hanging clothes.

I decided to build shelves from wall to wall on the left side all the way up to the ceiling. On the right side, I hung a dowel like Eli's for hanging clothes, and then I added a shelf above that. I would have liked to put shelves in the back of the closet, but there wasn't enough space. When all was said and done, I basically created a very mini walk-in closet. I switched out his door for a bifold as well. 

For the finishing touches, I quickly went out to Target to get some new sheets and pillows. I also got some white blinds from Lowe's and I hung those last (I had to wait for the paint on the window sills to dry). 

I hung new ceiling fans in both rooms (I eventually want to paint the blades white or orange so they match the color scheme, but for now, they are brown). 

I painted all the closet doors orange. (That's a mirror on the right, not another door!)

I looked at a couple of stores for a bed frame for Noah, but I couldn't find what I was looking for. I wanted something simple and that didn't cost $500+. I thought a daybed would be cool for him, if I could find one that wasn't too girly. He likes to sit on his bed to do homework and hang out with friends, so a daybed would have been great.

I wasn't able to find anything before he came home, so I just made his bed with new bedding and then planned to do something about the frame later. 

When the boys got home, so much of their stuff was in the kitchen and dining room! We didn't have time to put it all back in their bedrooms before they got home. But they were very surprised and loved the look of their "new" bedrooms. 

I ended up finding daybed plans online that looked perfect for Noah, so I went to Lowe's and bought the materials I needed. It was super easy make, and the end result was fantastic! It was exactly what I was hoping for. I made the mattress pretty high up so that he could have storage under there, too (his room is pretty small). Here is the post about his bed frame.

The only thing I didn't touch in his bedroom was his desk. He'd bought it at a garage sale and painted it with my mom, so I didn't want to hurt his feelings by painting over it to match (he later told me that it wouldn't bother him at all, so I might still do it someday). 

For Eli's fishing stuff, I temporarily moved it all to the garage because I wasn't sure what to do with it in his room. But later, I made a "fishing station" for all a tenth of his fishing gear. Here is a blog post that I wrote about how I made his fishing station. I love how it turned out!

Eli has a ton of Rubik's Cubes, so I made some little shelves to hold all of those. I wrote a tutorial for those here

Now, I'll just throw a bunch of photos of random stuff at you. Before and after!

And there you have it! Two bedroom makeovers done in (almost) a week. Some of the things were done afterward, but the big stuff (ceilings, walls, doors, trim) were done. The boys are thrilled with their new rooms, and I LOVE the maximized space in the closets. We were able to get rid of bookcases and shelves in their rooms because of the maximized closet space, and now their rooms are more spacious. 

Now, if only I could get them to keep their rooms clean... ;)

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