Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dinner of the Week: Strawberry Almond Salad

I'm not usually a salad person.  When I make dinner, I want to crave it.  I want the aroma of its baked or grilled goodness to permeate the entire house.  And I don't think anyone in mankind has ever said, "Oh my goodness, that salad smells amazing!"  Regardless, we've been trying to eat a lot healthier lately, so I whipped up this salad right before our hockey game last night.  It took just five minutes to make; was fresh, summery, and delicious; and filled us up fast.  It'd be great as either a main course or a side salad for a healthy, summer meal.

Strawberry Almond Salad

Ingredients:
- Fresh spinach leaves
- Fresh strawberries
- Sliced almonds
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Cracked black pepper
- Low-fat lemon poppy seed salad dressing

Wash and spin dry several handfuls of fresh spinach leaves.  Place a good chunk of them onto however many plates you desire.


Then, wash and pat dry a small colander's worth of fresh, ripe strawberries.


Dice up the strawberries into quarters.


Liberally sprinkle a healthy portion of strawberries and sliced almonds onto each salad plate.


Grate a brick of Parmesan cheese using a small cheese grater or a microplane zester directly on top of each salad.  Top the salad with cracked black pepper and a light spritzing of your favorite salad dressing.  I chose a lemon poppy seed salad dressing, and it was perfect.


Enjoy!




I adore this salad.  It's fresh, sweet, and tangy.  Thanks to the black pepper, the salad has just a tinge of heat to it.  The almonds also add a bit of crunch.  And, since Parmesan cheese has a much lower cholesterol content compared to other cheeses, I felt guilt-free eating it, too!


Hope you'll like it, too!

You may find me linking up at these fantastic parties:

Monday: Boogieboard CottageBurlap and DenimC-R-A-F-TCraft-O-ManiacDIY Home Sweet Home,  Everything Under the MoonGet Outta My Head PleaseThe Girl CreativeMad in CraftsMaking the World CuterOur Delightful HomePolish the StarsSerendipity and SpiceSew Can DoSkip to My LouThrifty Decor ChickToo Much Time on My HandsTuesday: A Bowl Full of LemonsCherished BlissCoastal CharmConfessions of a Stay at Home MommyFunky Polka Dot Giraffe,  I Gotta Try ThatI'm Topsy TurvyJillify ItThe Kurtz CornerMommy By Day Crafter by NightNap Time CreationsNatural NestersNot Just a HousewifeSugar Bee Crafts,  Sweet Little GalsTales of a Trophy WifeTip JunkieToday's Creative BlogWednesday: Free Pretty Things for YouGinger Snap CraftsHome Happy HomeIt's Just Called SpicyJAQS StudioLet Birds FlyThe NY Melrose FamilyRae Gun RamblingsThe Sasse LifeSew Much AdoSew WoodsySomeday CraftsSouthern LovelyThursday: A Creative PrincessA Glimpse InsideCrafty, Scrappy, HappyHouse of HepworthsJust Winging ItMade in a DayThe Shabby Creek CottageSomewhat SimpleThrifty DecoratingYesterday on TuesdayFriday: 2805The Answer is ChocolateBacon Time with the Hungry HypoCreation CornerFingerprints on the FridgeThe Grant LifeHappy-Go-LuckyJust Us FourMom 4 RealMy Simple Home LifeNot So Functional HousewifeNot Your Ordinary RecipesOne Artsy MamaPerfectly ImperfectThe Rooster and the HenSimply DesigningTatertots and JelloWhipperberryYoung and CraftySaturday: Be Different... Act NormalCandace CreationsFunky Junk InteriorsIt's OverflowingIt's So Very CheriNutmeg PlaceSunday: The Crafty CowgirlEmbellishing Life with Homemade GoodnessFlamingo ToesG*RatedNifty Thrifty Things


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer BBQ Bash Features and Giveaway Winner!

I had such a great time being a co-host for this year's Summer BBQ Bash!  Thanks to all of you who linked up your projects! Also, huge props to ChiWei at One Dog Woof, Kimberly at A Night Owl, Aimee from It's Overflowing, and Trish from Uncommon for making this such a great team effort!


We had more than 1,200 entries into our giveaway!  Holy guacamole.  The fabulous giveaway winner of a summer gift basket, a Target gift card, and a Lowe's gift card is... drumroll, please...

Nadine Larsen!

Nadine, thank you for entering into our giveaway!  Kimberly from A Night Owl will be contacting you shortly with your prizes.

Now, for me, the greatest part about this Summer BBQ Bash was the opportunity to peruse through each and every one of your amazing projects.  Here are my top five favorites!

These Martha Stewart-inspired towel favors from Dukes and Duchesses are too adorable.  Randi sewed these favors for her son's upcoming birthday party.  The fish's mouth is a pocket so that additional goodies can be stored inside!


Homemade popsicles are the best!  Love Lyuba's cherry limeaid pops from Will Cook for Smiles.  They are perfect for summer!


I'm in love with Jessica's American Flag Pallet Art from Mom 4 Real!  How perfect is it for Independence Day?  I adore its rustic, Americana feel and I want one for my house!


Jenny and her husband from the NY Melrose Family built a sandbox for their daughter entirely from scratch!  How cool is that?  I love the fact that they added Trex decking on the top rim of the sandbox to finish it and make it safe for both kids and adults alike.


Last but not least, Angie from the Echoes of Laughter shared several of her camping trip-inspired BBQ tin foil recipes, and this one was my favorite!  Potato Boat Dinner with ham, bacon and cheese.  Makes me want to go camping again.  I love tin foil recipes, and this one is definitely a must try for me!


If you've been featured, please grab my "I've been featured" button in my right sidebar!


Paint Speckled Pawprints

Thanks again, everyone, for sharing such great projects!  

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Walkway Reveal

The former owner of our house had built a simple walkway from the driveway to the front door using a series of cement pavers.  The walkway was nice, but we quickly learned that it was a pain to mow the lawn and weed whack around these pavers.  I wanted to fix it up somehow to make it a more functional, more beautiful, and easier to maintain walkway!


For this project, we bought 30 bags of landscaping rock, 20-some solar lights, and 16 red geraniums from Lowe's.


The digging begins!  Using a combination of a hand shovel, flat shovel, and regular shovel, we dug up the grass surrounding each cement paver.  We used a scrap wood 2x4 from our garage as a guide to ensure that we were digging the same amount of both sides.  


As I explained in my last post, we used to have a patio in the front yard, which we transferred to the back yard. What resulted was a bald spot in our front yard. To ensure that the sod that we were currently digging up didn't go to waste, we transplanted the grass from the walkway to the bare patch where the patio used to be located.


Digging up the grass was the hardest and most time-consuming part of this project.  Whenever we had a large section of the walkway removed, however, we took a break from digging and started on the next step, which involved these bags of red lava rock from Lowe's.


We stuck the solar lights into the ground and planted the geraniums in a pattern along the walkway.  The red lava rocks were used to fill in the gaps between the flowers, solar lights, cement pavers, and the lawn.  Not only do they look pretty neat, but they'll be reusable every year and will help with drainage!



As we continued down the walkway, we made sure to fill in the bare patio area of our yard with the fresh sod.  There had been a slight hill between the patio and the lawn, so we also dug up about five or six wheelbarrow's worth of dirt to even out the surface.


It took us two days to dig up the grass for the walkway, but that was because we worked at our own pace, and were often distracted by Corgis who wanted to play fetch.


Ready for the reveal?



Here's the before:


And here's the after!






The sod turned out great!  We've been watering it every day to take care of it.  You can barely tell that a patio used to be here!



A few details:




I love our front yard now.  It seems much more inviting and polished.  This project was a simple one, but it sure does make a statement.  It was well worth the effort!




It's also Mac-approved!


Hope you like it, too!

You may find me linking up at these fantastic parties:

Monday: Boogieboard CottageBurlap and DenimC-R-A-F-TCraft-O-ManiacDIY Home Sweet Home,  Everything Under the MoonGet Outta My Head PleaseThe Girl CreativeMad in CraftsMaking the World CuterOur Delightful HomePolish the StarsSerendipity and SpiceSew Can DoSkip to My LouThrifty Decor ChickToo Much Time on My HandsTuesday: A Bowl Full of LemonsCherished BlissCoastal CharmConfessions of a Stay at Home MommyFunky Polka Dot Giraffe,  I Gotta Try ThatI'm Topsy TurvyJillify ItThe Kurtz CornerMommy By Day Crafter by NightNap Time CreationsNatural NestersNot Just a HousewifeSugar Bee Crafts,  Sweet Little GalsTales of a Trophy WifeTip JunkieToday's Creative BlogWednesday: Free Pretty Things for YouGinger Snap CraftsHome Happy HomeIt's Just Called SpicyJAQS StudioLet Birds FlyThe NY Melrose FamilyRae Gun RamblingsThe Sasse LifeSew Much AdoSew WoodsySomeday CraftsSouthern LovelyThursday: A Creative PrincessA Glimpse InsideCrafty, Scrappy, HappyHouse of HepworthsJust Winging ItMade in a DayThe Shabby Creek CottageSomewhat SimpleThrifty DecoratingYesterday on TuesdayFriday: 2805The Answer is ChocolateBacon Time with the Hungry HypoCreation CornerFingerprints on the FridgeThe Grant LifeHappy-Go-LuckyJust Us FourMom 4 RealMy Simple Home LifeNot So Functional HousewifeNot Your Ordinary RecipesOne Artsy MamaPerfectly ImperfectThe Rooster and the HenSimply DesigningTatertots and JelloWhipperberryYoung and CraftySaturday: Be Different... Act NormalCandace CreationsFunky Junk InteriorsIt's OverflowingIt's So Very CheriNutmeg PlaceSunday: The Crafty CowgirlEmbellishing Life with Homemade GoodnessFlamingo ToesG*RatedNifty Thrifty Things

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Patio Reveal

We are fortunate to have a very large deck and backyard.  What the yard needed, though, was a patio.  Upon touring the house for the first time, we immediately noted that the flower bed to the base of the deck stairs was the perfect spot for one.

In an early March post, I mentioned that we had a gorgeous weekend in the upper 70s.  We took advantage of the fantastic weather by beginning work on our patio!  The flower bed was home to hundreds of iris bulbs.  The first task was to dig up these irises and transplant them to the front yard.


This was an all-day effort.  We must have transplanted at least 500 bulbs!

Yardwork is tiresome for pups.
The full-grown irises looked beautiful in our front yard this spring!


With the flowers gone, we began to estimate how large of a patio we wanted to build.  Fortunately, the previous owners had built a smaller patio in the front yard.  The patio looked nice, but we thought it would get more use if it was in the backyard.  Therefore, we collected all of the brick pavers and housed them in the garage for the time being.



Then, we laid out some pavers to get a feel for our new patio's dimensions.  Evan calculated the rest of the math to figure out exactly how many more pavers we would need to build a bigger patio in the backyard.



The hardest part came next.  Evan spent pretty much every weekend digging up the flower bed and all of the grass.  To make the patio level, he had to unearth a total of six inches of dirt from the entire area.  I owe him big time.


Sod is heavy, so Evan dug them up in smaller chunks.  We transplanted the sod into the bare area where the front yard patio used to be located.



This is what the patio looked like once all of the dirt and grass was removed!



Evan then went to town smashing the ground with a hand tamper.  This was several days' work in and of itself.  The ground didn't need to be perfectly level by this point, but it had to be pretty darn close.


Level and ready to go!


The patio area had a lot of weeds, so we spritzed it with weed killer.  


Once that was dry, we rolled out and tacked down several rows of landscape fabric to further discourage weed growth.


The next step was to cover the entire area with sand, and lots of it.  It's recommended that you use approximately 2" worth of sand under a patio.  Therefore, we used a combination of play sand and Quikrete's "Patio Paver Base Sand."



We dumped out all of the sand as evenly as we could.  This was a fun part.  I may or may not have built a sandcastle at one point.


Once all of the sand was in place, Evan took a 2x4 and began dragging it along the top of the sand to try to make the patio as smooth and level as possible.  



He repeated this process several times to ensure a smooth surface in every direction.


Finally, we were ready to place down pavers!


To save some money, we repurposed all of the pavers from the front yard and bought the rest.  We couldn't find the same sized brick paver from either Lowe's or Home Depot, so we bought a smaller one and created a simple design out of it.  The resulting pattern had a lot more character to it!


Almost done!



Victorious!


We still had a couple tricky edges left to go.  From Lowe's, we purchased two DeWalt masonry saw blades for our 10" miter saw.  Unlike a regular, wood-cutting saw blade, these had a course, abrasive texture to them.  They looked something like this:

Source
Evan attached the saw blades to our miter saw, took measurements and marked them onto the pavers using a piece of chalk, and cut each paver down to size.  The saw blades worked great; it created a ton of dust and took a lot longer to cut through each piece, but the cuts themselves were perfect.



We finished additional cracks along both sides of the patio with a row of red lava rocks from Lowe's.  The lava rocks will also help with drainage.


Despite the level surface that we created with the sand, several of the pavers were still a little wobbly.  Using a broom, we brushed extra sand into the cracks between each paver. This helped secure them all and ensured a tight fit.  


A closeup:


Despite all of our measurements, we miscalculated and ran out of pavers for the very bottom of the patio!  No need to worry.  We remedied this by planting a row of geraniums, laying down additional lava rocks, and adding numerous solar lights and a tiki lamp as an accent.


We also bought several herbs and a large palm tree of sorts.  In the garage, we had a leftover clay pot large enough for the tree:


But, since I wanted it to match the grill and the rest of the patio furniture, I spray painted it with Rustoleum's "Rubbed Oil Bronze." 


Ready for the reveal?


Here's the before:


And here's the after!



















Nothing's better than coming home after a long day of work to sit right here.  This patio was well worth the effort, and is Evan's pride and joy.  It's also my favorite addition that we've made to our house thus far!  Hope you like it, too!

You may find me linking up at these fantastic parties:

Monday: Boogieboard CottageBurlap and DenimC-R-A-F-TCraft-O-ManiacDIY Home Sweet Home,  Everything Under the MoonGet Outta My Head PleaseThe Girl CreativeThe Graphics FairyMad in CraftsMaking the World CuterOur Delightful HomePolish the StarsSerendipity and SpiceSew Can DoSew Happy GeekSkip to My LouThrifty Decor ChickToo Much Time on My HandsTuesday: A Bowl Full of LemonsCherished BlissCoastal CharmConfessions of a Stay at Home MommyFunky Polka Dot Giraffe,  I Gotta Try ThatI'm Topsy TurvyJillify ItThe Kurtz CornerMommy By Day Crafter by NightNap Time CreationsNatural NestersNot Just a HousewifeSugar Bee Crafts,  Sweet Little GalsTales of a Trophy WifeTip JunkieToday's Creative BlogWednesday: Free Pretty Things for YouGinger Snap CraftsHome Happy HomeIt's Just Called SpicyJAQS StudioLet Birds FlyThe NY Melrose FamilyRae Gun RamblingsThe Sasse LifeSew Much AdoSew WoodsySomeday CraftsSouthern LovelyThursday: A Creative PrincessA Glimpse InsideCrafty, Scrappy, HappyHouse of HepworthsJust Winging ItMade in a DayThe Shabby Creek CottageSomewhat SimpleThrifty DecoratingYesterday on TuesdayFriday: 2805The Answer is ChocolateBacon Time with the Hungry HypoCreation CornerFingerprints on the FridgeThe Grant LifeHappy-Go-LuckyJust Us FourMom 4 RealMy Simple Home LifeNot So Functional HousewifeNot Your Ordinary RecipesOne Artsy MamaPerfectly ImperfectThe Rooster and the HenSimply DesigningTatertots and JelloWhipperberryYoung and CraftySaturday: Be Different... Act NormalCandace CreationsFunky Junk InteriorsIt's OverflowingIt's So Very CheriNutmeg PlaceSunday: The Crafty CowgirlEmbellishing Life with Homemade GoodnessFlamingo ToesG*RatedNifty Thrifty Things

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