Today I Remember

26 May

Around My Home, we fly the American flag on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and several other times a year. It’s one way we can publicly display gratitude for our troops.

Today I remember the men and women who have fought bravely to defend this country that I love.

Today I remember that I am able to experience many enjoyable moments during this three-day weekend: grilling in the backyard, getting in some much-needed rest, and spending time with my family, because of the selfless sacrifice of others.

Today I remember my uncle, who served in the Air Force, my brother who was in the National Guard and now serves in law enforcement, and my grandfather who was a Detroit firefighter for more than 20 years. (Although I know that the fire department is not part of the military, I always thought of my grandfather as a public defender and patriot.)

Today I remember and say thank you to the men and women of our military who selflessly protect the freedom that I cherish.

And today I say thank you to the families that love them.

May God bless America and those that love her,

Absolutely Fool-Proof Grilled Chicken!

28 Mar

Yummy toppingsSpring in Austin means it’s time to break out the grill!

Although I’ve been known to grill outdoors in 30 degree weather, I tend to do it more often when the temperatures begin to warm up in late March.

I’ve tried this recipe a few times now, just to make sure it’s consistent, and the chicken turns out moist, perfect, and delicious every time!

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2013 In Review: Around My Home

10 Jan

I love numbers. I dream in Excel, and I have a spreadsheet for nearly everything!

So I was tickled to discover that the stats wizards at WordPress.com prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog.

If you love to look at numbers like I do, you may find this brief snapshot of interest.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

(Amazing) Gluten-Free Almond-Pear Bread

8 Oct

Pear bread fresh from ovenOn a recent trip to Costco, I purchased a large box of beautiful pears after my two-year old begged me to buy them.  They ripened quickly at home and guess who decided he doesn’t like pears!

Note to self: Do not make purchasing decisions based on the whim of a two-year old.

After giving away several beautiful pears to the neighborhood kiddos, I still had more than I could eat by myself.

I absolutely hate letting food go to waste, so I decided to try making pear bread.

I’d never had it, and had never made it, but figured it just had to be good, so why not?

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Backyard Oranges – Finally!

3 Oct

Oranges in bowl close up

We harvested our first crop of oranges this year from our Satsuma Mandarin Orange tree.  I purchased the orange tree when I returned from a long-term consulting project in Rome, Italy.

I wanted to plant the tree as a reminder of my work there, since I frequented a large grove of orange trees just a short walk from my office.

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After three years of watching and waiting, we finally got oranges!  We shared some with family, neighbors, and friends, and enjoyed the rest.

Oranges in bowl in kitchen

Some of the oranges were sweet and juicy, a few were dry and tasteless, but all of them were so much fun to pick off of the tree!

DIY Chalkboard for Back-to-School or Anytime!

29 Aug

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This project offers near-instant gratification. It’s super quick and easy and involves very little hands-on project time.

First, choose a surface you’d like to transform into a chalkboard.  You can use wood, canvas, cardboard, ceramic, or even glass. Glass is not much of an option Around My Home, with a two-year old running around that we’ve affectionately named “Grabby Hands”.

I had planned on using a black, pre-primed artist’s canvas to create my first chalkboard. I still think that would turn out great.

For this project, however, I discovered that the frame I had purchased contained a perfect piece of particleboard backing, so that’s what I used instead.

This brand of chalkboard paint comes in a 4 oz. container. I purchased it at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon. I’ve also seen chalkboard paint in quart-size containers at home improvement stores. I just didn’t want to buy that much for such a small project.

chalkboard paint pic

Chalkboard paint is water-based, so I used one of my nicer paintbrushes to apply the paint, knowing that I’d enjoy soap and water cleanup.

I followed the directions on the paint label exactly:

1. Apply two even coats of paint to a clean, dry surface: one coat vertically and one coat horizontally, waiting an hour in-between coats.

I noticed brush strokes when the paint was wet, but they disappeared once the paint had dried.

To keep my work surface from moving around, and to create perfectly clean edges, I used Frog Tape to attach it to a piece of cardboard. I then removed the tape immediately after painting my second coat.

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2. Following the second coat, let the paint cure for 24 hours. 

With our hot, humid summer, I opted to let it cure for closer to 36 hours.

3. Once the paint finished curing, I “primed” the chalkboard by rubbing a piece of chalk lengthwise over the entire surface, and then wiping it off with a soft cloth.

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Now my super-fun chalkboard is ready to use and looks terrific!

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Project Cost Breakdown:

–Frame: $.01 (yes, 1 cent!)

–Chalkboard paint: $1.79 after 40% coupon (can be used for future projects)

–Paintbrush: already had

–Particle board: included in cost of frame above

–Chalk: $1.47

Total cost for this project: $3.27 (plus tax)

I liked my first chalkboard so much that I quickly made a second one:

I liked my first chalkboard so much that I made a second one. I purchased the decorative cutting board at a local thrift store. It had one of those blue and white ceramic plates embedded in it. I had planned on painting over the ceramic, but I couldn't bring myself to paint directly over someone else's artwork. So, I grabbed a manila folder from my office, and used that to produce a thin chalkboard. Then I applied it to the top of the ceramic plate with spray adhesive that allows for non-permanent adhesion. This particular chalkboard is up and out of the way and just for decoration, so I'm not as worried about its durability.

The mini cutting board pictured above was a local thrift store find. It has one of those blue and white ceramic plates embedded in it, which I forgot to photograph in my hastened excitement.

I had originally planned on painting over the ceramic, but once I had my brush in hand,  I just couldn’t bring myself to slather thick black paint over someone else’s artwork.

So, I grabbed a manila folder, cut it to size, and used that to produce my chalkboard instead. Once cured and primed, I applied it to the top of the ceramic plate with re-positionable spray adhesive. Since this chalkboard is out of the way and solely for decoration, I’m not concerned about its durability.

I’ve found myself looking at everyday items Around My Home, wondering if they’d make good chalkboards: picture frames, flower pots, and even old salsa jars (the lids or the glass or both!)

It’s such a fun and rewarding project that I plan to make some personalized gifts for birthdays, housewarming, and Christmas.

What do you have around your home that’s waiting to be re-purposed with a little chalkboard paint?

Summertime Black Bean Soup!

2 Aug
Delicious black bean soup topped with chopped grape tomatoes, plain yogurt, and fresh chives from my garden.

Delicious black bean soup topped with chopped grape tomatoes, plain yogurt, and fresh chives from my garden. Served alongside gluten-free brown rice crackers by Food Should Taste Good, purchased at Costco.

Quick and delicious, this gluten-free black bean soup makes a refreshing summertime meal.

A sweet friend brought a batch of this soup to me after my jaw surgery and I’ve been making it ever since. She shared the recipe with me from AllRecipes.com After making it a few times, I modified the recipe slightly by cutting back on the cumin and using chicken broth instead of veggie broth.

Summertime Black Bean Soup Recipe

Simply combine the following ingredients in a blender until fairly smooth (I used speed 4 on my Vitamix for approximately one minute):

–2 (15 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

–1 1/2 cups chicken broth

–1 cup chunky salsa

–1/2 tsp ground cumin

–Top with plain yogurt to substitute for sour cream, chives, tomatoes, black olives, or whatever you’d like!

Makes ~ five 8 oz. soup portions

To view the original recipe from Maryanne, you can visit the link here.

Enjoy this light and refreshing meal!