Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Family Photo Shoot

Oh hey there. Yeah, it's been a while, hasn't it? I'm not even going to make excuses...but just in case you were wondering...I've been busier than ever with these boys of mine. Seriously, you'd think a girl would get some extra free time since Bryce is in pre-school a couple days a week, but no. There's much to be done. Plus--don't even get me started on my laptop, because you will see some Jersey come outta me. Thankfully it's currently working so I'm doing a quick post here.


We got our family pictures taken. We can cross that one off the list. 


This was no easy feat. Three boys with three different personalities...Bryce saw a pear on the ground (my neighbor has a pear tree and these pics were taken in their backyard), so he started chomping away at the beginning of our session. Perfect.


Finn had just woken up from a nap, so he was super happy. Kidding, of course.


But ya know--we got some nice shots 


(despite Ryder's duck face)


My heart is just so full when I look at these pictures of our boys.




We are so blessed


And yes, even with Ryder's obnoxious face...


I wouldn't change them for the world


Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful boys You've blessed us with. What an awesome responsibility and honor it is to raise them!

Pictures taken by the lovely Rebekah Viola Photography

In between posts, you can find me on Instagram here or Facebook here. Follow along!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Deck Makeover


A couple months ago, Mitch came home from a Home Depot run. I think he originally went there to pick up some insulation for our attic (we've been steadily adding more R-value to our once heat-escaping attic, hoping that this winter's heating bill doesn't kill us like it did last year). When he came in, he had a folder of info that he promptly plopped down on the kitchen table. After a while I took a look at the bundle of information. It was all about painting a deck with a product called Behr DeckOver. Mitch was itchin' to do something to our deck and thought painting it with a heavy duty, durable deck paint was a great choice, and might last longer than a typical staining job (which he's done several times to our tired-looking 9 year old boards). 


Then a great idea popped into my head, and after thinking about it for a half second, I said to Mitch, "Ya know...I'm just going email Behr and see if they'll give us the paint if I do a follow-up blog post about our deck makeover." Surprisingly, it worked. That was the first time I ever did that--contact a company and ask them to partner with me in a project. I've done it before with giveaways for you guys, but never for one of our own projects. So I was very impressed with Behr's customer service and the overall experience.


I don't have a total "before" picture for you, but as you can see, our deck needed some help. The color we chose was Cape Cod Gray and the 5 gallon pail was more than enough for our 16x12' deck.



Before starting with the paint, Mitch pressure washed the deck to remove any/all dirt and build-up.


Bryce also helped. He actually is a great worker and loves to help. He loved washing the deck!


We started with the railings, which did take a while--we ended up stretching out the job over the span of several weeks. But once we got to the floor, things picked up quickly since we were able to use the roller.



We put on two coats on the railings and three coats on the floor. And of course I staged the whole thing. There's a greenhouse down the street, owned by a Mennonite family. Briar Rose Greenhouse (they don't have a website, but here's a FB page about them) let me use their mums, pumpkins, planters, etc. so I could take some pretty pictures. (Check them out if you're local--they have a great selection of plants all year round and they're a friendly family-owned and operated business.


They had a vast array of pumpkins and gourds, as well as tri-colored mums, and fun accessories like a "spider" holder that I used to stack up pumpkins on. How I love the colors of fall!


They also have some beautiful hanging planters. 


I've had my eye on globe string lights for a while so we finally took the plunge and ordered them from Target. I love the ambiance they bring...it makes our deck more of an outdoor room to me. Love it so much. So much so that the other evening we had friends over and I made us all sit out on the deck wrapped up in blankets. Ha. 


(Side note: I love how festive our orange door looks this time of year.) 


So overall, I like how the paint really transformed our deck--it spruced up something that looked dated and worn and made it into a brighter, fresher space.

  


It's a great place to curl up in a blanket and drink a cup o' joe, while looking at the surrounding cornfields.



          


It feels great to have this project completed. It was one of those that was hanging over our heads for a while, so it's awesome checking one more project off the to-do list. And I think it looks great!


Have you guys ever painted a deck? It's a lot of work, but once it's done, it looks like a million bucks. The only downside of doing this project this time of year is that it's getting cold FAST! What's up with these 30 degree nights?! But the good thing is that come spring, our deck will be ready to go. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Liquid Gold


Good morning, friends! I have a quick and easy DIY for ya today. Yesterday, as I was literally in the middle of three other projects, I looked over at a box from my neighbor that was sitting on our kitchen table. She (my neighbor) brought the box over and said if I wanted anything in it, take it or else it's going to the curb. Of course I couldn't let that happen. The box was filled with random stuff like cups, plates, and a sad little light sticking out of the top. The light reminded me of college, since every kid pretty much has one of these guys. No frills. Just something to get the job done as you're studying into the wee hours of the night.


Then I thought, "That guy needs a makeover. Like really bad." The first thing I did was to cut the black plastic thingy around the neck of it. Not really sure what the purpose of that thing was, but I think it instantly made the light more cool. Brought an industrial vibe to it.


Then I simply took the light outside and gave it a couple coats of gold spray paint.


 I was thinking gold all along (since I just sprayed some hardware gold), but I jumped on Schoolhouse Electric's website for some inspiration and found this light. Pretty dang close to my little guy, right?


One major difference is price though. The Schoolhouse one is $189. Granted, I'm sure it's made a million times better than mine, but I'm pretty happy with how mine turned out.


Plus it was free. I mean, really...you can't beat that.


Psst...here's a sneak peek at that hardware I was telling you about...I'm excited to show you this new (to us) piece of furniture I redid for the boys' room. So that's next--a fall tour of their room.


Have a great hump day! We're going to a parade tonight...that's one way we Lancaster Countians usher in fall--our small towns have fairs which start with a parade on Wednesday evenings. Bring on the floats and candy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Molasses Cookies (made with coconut oil)

Just in case you guys haven't noticed, I've kinda been in a baking mood lately. I think cooler temps does that to me (you, too?) 'Cause after all--who wants to turn their oven on in the summer months of 90 degree days? Cooler temperatures, heartier flavors, and spices just are another reasons to love fall. So let's continue on with our fall theme today with another recipe. This time it features a little ingredient with BIG flavor that doesn't get a whole lot of attention anymore: molasses. 


First of all, before we get our aprons dirty--do you guys actually know what molasses is? (I only know what it is because Mitch works for a molasses company...ha!) Let this former teacher indulge herself for just a sec, k? So molasses...it's that thick stuff that's slow comin' out of the bottle (hence the "you're slower than molasses in January" phrase we hear). Molasses is basically the by-product of the sugar refining process. It's the last bit of "stuff" left after the sugar crystals (table sugar) are extracted out of sugar cane. Therefore, molasses actually contains all the minerals and nutrients of the sugar cane. And until after WWI, molasses was the primary sweetner used here in America. Then after the war, the price of refined sugar drastically dropped, thus ushering in the age of white cane sugar and molasses got pushed to the back of the cupboard. Literally. 


But let me encourage you to pull the black sticky stuff out again, dust off the lid, and crack open that jar. Bring that dark sweetner back into the limelight once again by making a batch of these here cookies. They are full of flavor. And they're just perfect for this time of year. Side note: there are different types of molasses...I used the milder and sweeter baking molasses for these cookies. Blackstrap molasses would be too bitter for this recipe (go here to read more about the different kinds of molasses).


And of course they're made with coconut oil, which you should know by now, is something I love. I'll be honest with you--I'm usually an all-butter girl when it comes to baking cookies, but since the spices in these cookies are the primary taste factor, using refined coconut oil is perfect. I've actually made these cookies with butter, coconut oil, AND Crisco (three different batches), and the coconut oil version is the best one in my opinion. It results in deliciously chewy cookies.


So you're going to melt the oil before using it. Coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees, making it mostly a solid in these fall-like temps, so just stick it in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it's melted.


Look at all these delicious spices! Wish you could smell them right now. There's cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and some salt in there. (Again, you could also use nutmeg, but I'm not a fan.)


After the batter is all mixed, you'll need to wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for a few hours, so the dough is actually workable. If you were to bake it as-is, the dough would be way too soft and would spread out like a pancake while baking. The coconut oil actually has to turn back into a solid...that's the purpose of the refrigeration--to make the dough firmer/easier to work with.


Then just scoop it out and roll the balls in cinnamon sugar




The outside is a little crispy--crispy enough that it kinda snaps to a certain extent when you break it apart. And the inside is nice and chewy.


The only thing I would do differently next time is I would make a double batch. Since I used my large cookie scoop, this recipe only made 17 cookies, which, let's be honest, is never enough. ;)


Molasses Cookies (made with coconut oil)
adapted from here

Ingredients:
1 large egg
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (light brown sugar may be substitued)
1/2 cup coconut oil, in liquid state 
1/3 cup molasses (I use Golden Barrel Supreme Baking Molasses)
2 TABLESPOONS vanilla extract (yes tablespoons, not teaspoons)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I omitted the nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon-Sugar Coating
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
Directions:
For cookies
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the egg, brown sugar, coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-mixed, smooth, and glossy about 4 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and beat on medium-high speed until combined and smooth, about 1 minute. 

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Scoop out dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap dough up in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking.

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease cookie sheets or use parchment paper lined on cookie sheet (I used Pampered Chef stoneware); set aside. 

For cinnamon sugar coating 
Add granulated sugar and cinnamon to a small bowl and stir to combine. Roll each ball of dough through the coating, liberally coating all sides. 

Place coated mounds on baking sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if undercooked and soft center. Do not bake longer than 9 minutes for soft cookies because they firm up as they cool; bake for 9-10 minutes if you like firmer cookies. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

In between posts, follow MLST (Kat Hertzler) on Instagram here or Facebook here.
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