Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Decorating... Done!

Well... everyone has been clamoring for photos, so ask and you shall receive!! We are finally ready to show you our new home. I am completely, 100% in LOVE with this house. We decided that (so far) it is our favorite place to have lived, considering actual house and location.

We had a heck of a time getting painters nailed down, but I had to have colors on the walls, so we didn't give up. We finally found a great and affordable painter, and then we wasted no time getting everything hung up, organized, and ready to go. It's finally a home, and I just love how it turned out. This house is much smaller than our last house, so we had some decor that we didn't use. However, I actually like the smaller house better... super cozy. I used restraint and didn't hang everything I own because it would have looked like a circus.

I hope you enjoy the results! Today you'll get a tour of the entry, dining room, kitchen, and living room. Check back soon for bedrooms, study, and outside!

Hello friends, my name is Blazer and I am in charge of this house. I'd say I love you all, but that would be a lie since I only like mama and daddy. But I will let you see Blazer's house just for today. I'm very nice.

This is the entryway! When you walk in the front door, you see these pictures of the church where Brent & I got married and the lovely doors behind which are the washer and dryer.
This is a view looking back toward the entryway and into the dining room.
Here's our dining room! I'm loving this room. We didn't have a real dining room in the last house, and this is perfection. It's right at the front of the house. I'm seeing some dinner parties in our future.
Another dining room view
View of the kitchen open to the living room. We used the same paint colors from the last house, but a shade lighter on everything. We thought the lighter colors went better with this style of house. I looooove how the paint turned out. Oh, I heart paint.
This kitchen is way smaller than our last, but somehow it feels huge. Everything fits with space to spare. There are these amazing corner cabinets that pull out and have lazy susans inside for all of your appliances. I forgot to take a picture of inside the cabinets, but take my word for it.. they are incredible.
Here's a view from the stove into the living room. We have this cute little breakfast nook that needed furniture. Enter TARGET. I am in love with this white table and polka dot chairs... all from Target. It's my new fave place to sit and work on my laptop. I'm typing here now.
Another view of the breakfast nook where you can see our cutie new bar stools!!! Our old bar stools were too short so we're storing them in the garage. We bought these space saving, yet adorable bar stools at... you guessed it... TARGET! I mean they are so nice and sturdy. You've done it again, Target. I salute you.
And here's the living room. Notice my restraint in not hanging stuff on every wall. We're trying to go for more of a cottage look and determined that simple is best. Oh yeah, and a zebra rug. That doesn't count.
Another living room view
And yet another living room view. Hey, y'all wanted pictures...

Well here you can see the adorable white tufted side chair we ordered from... Target. Y'all I can't help myself.
Blazer hopes you liked this little tour and that you will stop by soon to see the bedrooms and study. Good thing my husband likes to move us around like every two years because I REALLY like decorating and organizing. More than any normal person probably should.

Thanks for stopping by! Let me know what you think!


Friday, June 24, 2011

A Taste of Texas

I am loving so many things about Durham, I could fill up this whole blog! (And I probably will.) I have a long list of restaurants to visit, and a few of them are Mexican. However, I'm not getting my hopes up. I was spoiled with the best Mexican food in the country back in Houston. I'm not ashamed to admit that we ate Lupe Tortilla fajitas every Friday night for two years, and I never once got tired of them. I know that the farther you venture from Texas and Mexico, the slimmer your chances are of finding good Tex-Mex. So I've brought along my favorite Mexican recipes to cook when I'm craving some bubbly cheese. I did have one minor panic attack when a grocery store here didn't sell tortillas AT ALL. I'm used to fresh tortillas made in the grocery store in Texas, so no tortillas at all was not going to fly. Thankfully, another grocery store had a whole display of tortillas. None made in-store, mind you... but they were adequate.

I always thought it was pretty near impossible to make homemade enchiladas and that one would have to spend the entire day in the kitchen stirring various pots to make it happen. This is not true. I found a Rachael Ray enchilada recipe and have adapted it for my taste, adding a little more spice. I make this recipe all the time, and it is surprisingly quick considering there are no shortcuts at all. It includes cooking and shredding your own chicken and making enchilada sauce from scratch. Don't be scared - it's simple, and it all comes together in 30 - 45 minutes. When we finally make some friends here and have them over for dinner, I may just give them a Taste of Texas!

Chicken Enchiladas
Adapted from Rachael Ray

1 package yellow corn tortillas (9 or 10 will fill a pan)

3 cups chicken broth
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 dried bay leaf
1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin

2 cups canned tomato sauce
several drops of hot pepper sauce (like Cholula or Tabasco)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (this is amazing... gives it a really great taste)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1-2 chopped canned chipotles (you can take these out if you don't want added spice, but I love the taste they add)
1-2 spoonfuls adobo sauce (again, optional)
2 cups shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese

1. Combine chicken stock, onion, oregano, and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring to a boil. It will smell so fragrant! It is totally easy and worth it to flavor the cooking liquid this way!

2. Once broth comes to a boil, add chicken breasts whole. Reduce to a simmer and poach chicken until cooked through - about 10-15 minutes. I sometimes pull out the chicken and cut into it to see if it's cooked.

3. While the chicken cooks, wrap tortillas in foil and place in a 200 degree oven to warm up. They will be more pliable and easier to roll if they are warm.
4. Put the enchilada sauce together. Stir together tomato sauce, chipotles, adobo, hot sauce, cinnamon, and chili powder in a sauce pan and warm over medium/low heat.
5. When the chicken is cooked, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and let cool on a cutting board. DO NOT throw away the cooking liquid or anything in the pan!! When chicken has cooled enough to handle, shred it with a fork and a knife.

6. In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken with onions and oregano leaves from the cooking liquid (discard oregano stems and only use leaves).
7. Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and 1/2 cup of cooking liquid to the chicken. Stir to combine.
8. Remove tortillas from oven. Hold each tortilla in your palm, and spoon a small amount of chicken filling in the center. Roll the tortilla over the filling, and place the enchilada seam side down in a shallow Pyrex baking pan.
9. Keep filling enchiladas until you fill your pan. Press the enchiladas tight up against each other as you fill the pan so they don't come apart.
10. Use a ladle to cover your enchiladas with your delicious homemade sauce. Sprinkle shredded pepper jack (or cheddar) over the top.
11. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes and then broil on high until cheese is brown and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes and serve with rice and/or beans!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Target Treasures

My two favorite things to do on days off are: (1) Wander the aisles of Hobby Lobby and (2) Wander the aisles of Target. Today I chose Target. I figure I've been working hard and I deserved it. I went into Target to get a rubber mat to go beneath a rug to hold it in place. I fully intended to be in and out in five minutes.

But then I got to thinking... I have nowhere to be right now, and I could just check out the clothes & shoes since I have some spending money from Brent. So I gave myself permission to wander, look, and try on to my heart's content. It was PURE HEAVEN. I'm not entirely sure how much time I spent in Target today, and I'm not sure I want to know... but it was decidedly more than five minutes.

I may or may not have left with 4 pairs of shoes, two dresses, a skirt, and three tops for UNDER $175 total. I'm not kidding people. Get to Target!! I found a treasure trove of cute stuff, and I wanted to share my finds with you. If you share my love for Target, read on and then seriously go there ASAP. Nothing on this post is over $30!!!!

Find #1: Mossimo Pilar Wedges
Exhibit A: Via Cardorna wedges from Anthropologie for $140. Super cute, right?

Exhibit B: Mossimo Pilar Wedges from Target for $30. Call me crazy, but I like the Target ones BETTER! I love the brown color and the zip up the back. They are adorable on. I will henceforth be wearing these with EVERYTHING.

Find #2: Xhilaration Tashi Sandals: So comfy and cute. They really do look expensive and will go with everything for summer.
Find #3: Merona Mena Pumps: I love the brown croc. I have been buying heels from Nine West forever, and they fall apart so quickly! I have some brown ones that have been repaired twice now, so forget it... I like these!! They will be great for work with pants.

Find #4: Mossimo Versie Pumps: I LOVE these. They have a high heel but not too crazy, and the shiny patent leather is super pretty. They are comfy! These are also replacing a black Nine West pair on its very last legs. RIP Nine West. I might be done with you.
Find #5: Mossimo Racerback Tanks: I bought two of these: One in plain white and one in purple stripe. They are looser fitting and not skin-tight. Also I like that they are longer tanks.
Find #6: Xhilaration Kimono Top: This picture does not do it justice, but this is actually a really pretty top. With a tank top underneath and paired with the blue skirt below or white pants as shown here, I think I would wear this to work.

Find #7: Mossimo Chambray Skirt: This is a perfectly fitting, stretchy, denim-looking nice skirt. It's got adorable pockets, sits low on the hips, and is just the right length. Pair this with those Pilar wedges from up top...

Find #8: Mossimo Pleated Zip Back Dress: This is one of my favorite finds. This dress is AWESOME. It is soft and stretchy, yet looks nice and tailored. The front is cute and simple and would look great with fun earrings or a big necklace. The pleating is so flattering - it's better on than on the hanger. It also comes in black, teal, and orange, but I thought I could keep it simple for work with grey and add color with shoes and jewelery.
... and this is the best part... the back!! It has this over-sized black zipper that I am in love with.
Find #9: Xhilaration Braided Strap Dress: This dress was on clearance for $17!! It fits nicely and has a cute shape. It also has perfectly placed pockets and would look fabulous with a cardigan for dinner or a party.
There were so many other cute things I saw, but I had to stop somewhere, and I'll let you discover them on your own. Wandering around Target and buying cute, inexpensive clothes and shoes will cure whatever ails you... Guaranteed.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Turning a Page

Well since we've last spoken, I've been doing nothing at all.

...that is, if "nothing at all" includes:

- Wrapping up a school year
- Packing everything we own
- Hosting my parents for a "packing fest" weekend
- Closing on our Humble house
- Supervising everything we own being loaded into a 26' Penske truck
- Driving 23 hours over two days
- Staring at the back of a Penske truck for 23 hours while being followed by the in-laws
- Smuggling Blazer into a Marriott in Alabama only to sleep like 2 hours because he barked so much and stressed us out
- Supervising everything we own being unloaded into our new house
- Experiencing complete paralysis at the chaos and sheer amount of work to do
- Unpacking for two days straight stopping only to eat
- Showing the in-laws around town for a few days
- Shipping Brent off to NYC for a workshop
- Setting up our new house

You know... mostly nothing.

I've waited way too long to update you, so I'll give you the short version of the last few weeks in pictures :-)

Last day of school with some of my besties, Erin & Pears

My classroom, all packed up. Everything you see here was given away. Given to a good cause (other ELA teachers at my school) but still bittersweet. Brent pointed out that I've touched everything we own at least twice in the last week! Weird.

Empty cabinets!

By the time we were done, the boxes reached almost to the ceiling.

Mama, where we going?!
After 23 hours of driving... (no pictures were taken to protect the innocent)... you have the benefit of time travel directly to North Carolina!

Again, the boxes reached just about to the ceiling. Awesome. Overwhelming.

Um.... this is the dining room. Lovely, don't you think? Want to come over for dinner?
This is theoretically the living room.

And this is YOUR bedroom! The guest bedroom! Don't all volunteer at once to come visit.

Well I'll leave you in suspense for a little while longer, but rest assured, the mess has been tamed. All boxes have been unpacked and 90% of the house is set up. We are just waiting on the painter, and then I'll be able to put stuff up on the walls.

Since we unpacked so quickly, we were able to take my in-laws Vicky & Terry out on the town and show them the campus and the highlights of Durham.

Inside Duke Chapel:

Brent & I outside the chapel
Vicky & I outside Cameron Stadium... home of the famous Duke Blue Devil basketball team
Cooking the inaugural meal in the new house... spaghetti & meatballs
Our dreamy porch... I mean I am seriously in LOVE with this porch. It's big, shady, and breezy. And please... tell me those red Adirondack chairs are not to die for. Plus the side table to hold your wine.... duh.
And don't forget the super adorable hanging flower baskets! We picked out the flowers and everything. Move to North Carolina.......... Check!

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