Friday, September 24, 2010

Closet Expansion

We bought our home almost 4 years ago.  It was an abandoned foreclosure home in need of everything! Brent and I often wonder are we the only ones that love a home that smells, is run down, and in need of a complete face lift? We love the challenge and creative process.  We spent a year gutting our home, adding a master bedroom suite over the existing garage, and finishing the basement.  New everything.  But, when it came to the master bedroom closet we were nearing the end of the reno and were reading to move in. So, we scraped the design to finish the attic space above the garage and made our closet smaller.  Fast forward a few years and here we are diving head first into a closet remodel.  We had a garage full of materials and free labor.  I went to work designing and Brent went to work creating.

Here is the closet before opening up the wall.

We break through the drywall to the unfinished attic space above the garage. The existing closet didn't have a window and was very closed in and dark.

Ahh.. light.  We are adding recessed areas that will have hanging and shelving storage.  It will also have an access door behind the hanging clothes to get to the seasonal storage in the recessed areas of the closet.

I had plans of adding a window seat under the existing window but that would have taken away from the hanging storage so we decided to nix that plan. 
I am excited to have all this extra storage and lots of light in our closet!

Stayed tuned.............................

 The closet expansion  is complete.  With the addition of lots of hanging space, built in shelves and lots of light this was a great renovation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's for Dinner?

What's for dinner tonight?  One of our families favorite southern meal.

Fried Pork chops, cinnamon apples, hash brown casserole, black eyed peas, mac and cheese and cornbread.

Hash Brown  Au Gratin Casserole 

This is so delicious!  
1 32 oz package of southern style hash browns.  ( I used Simply Potatoes) 
1 16oz sour cream
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 10 oz can of cream of mushroom soup
salt pepper to taste 
2 cups Ritz Crackers crushed
1/4 cup butter

Mix first 6 ingredients together. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Sprinkle Ritz crackers on top and drizzle melted butter on top.  Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until brown. 

Pork Chops

pork chops ( center cut with the bone in ) 

seasoning ( salt pepper garlic powder and seasoning salt)
Canola oil
Heat 2-3 inches of oil in pan on med high heat.  Season pork chops.  Cook pork chops on both sides til cooked through and brown on outside.  When complete put on plate and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Cornbread -- I use Jiffy and add a bit of sugar .

The side dishes are easy.

I use Stouffer's Mac and cheese and Fried apples.  I just season the apples with cinnamon and sugar. They all microwave quickly.  I do put the mac and cheese in the oven to brown ... ohh soo good.

Some other favorite side dishes-- Sweet potato casserole , collard greens, fried cabbage, and butter beans and rice.

Enjoy !!!  

Monday, September 13, 2010

A new kitchen for an old home.

Ok, so it's time I come clean.

 I love renovation, demolition, and remodeling. 

It must be in my blood. Our real estate agent loves to show us homes. The outdated, ugly, and sad homes are the ones we "ohh and ahh " over. 

When everyone else runs away... we run straight to the settlement table.  We bought a foreclosure on 3+ acres almost 4 years ago . 

In the past 4 years , this has become our home.  Who would of thought giving up 2000 sq feet ( yes.... you read it right... 2000 sq feet less than our previous home ) would simplify our lives? 

Who would of thought that 3+ acres would give our family room to enjoy time together.  Horseshoe games, bone fires, and a big front porch that has been home to many hours together.  Go figure! But, its true. This home has shown me that smaller really is better.  Its cozy , warm , and lends to great family time. 

 But, a small cramped outdated kitchen does not make for a happy mother of 5.   The heart of the home is really the kitchen. We cook, eat, do homework, and share our lives around the island.  I spend  a lot of time there. So, that was top of the list.

 But, my goal, was to do this on a very low budget.  After all, we had to add a master suite to this home. 7 people +3 bedrooms = a need for a master suite.

 So, the challenge was ........ drum roll........ a kitchen for under 5k!!  The exciting part is........ I did it for 2100.00!!! I surprised myself.   Never say never. 

Did I say I loved demo? Well, this was a big job.  There was a full bath between the family room and kitchen. My goal was to take it out, open it up, and relocate the bathroom. 

A sea of cabinets.  We bought unfinished off the shelf oak cabinets that could be finished (thanks to my free labor) I drew out a new layout, bought the cabinets, and set out to paint .

The finished product. I love being in my kitchen.  Brent did an amazing job adding a great detail above the stock cabinets to make them look built in. We found a ceramic tile that looked like travertine ( without the maintenance ) for the back splash .

I drew up some plans for the island.  I wanted open shelving ( hidden) where I could store pottery, serving dishes, and just have some extra storage.

I am so happy with the finished product.  It just goes to show you you don't need a big budget to get the kitchen of your dreams.  Just some elbow grease, thrifty shopping, and some imagination.

What an amazing experience.  The renovation bug hit and I was ready for the next one!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's for breakfast?


Spinach Tomato Goat Cheese Frittata


  • 1 lb spinach leaves cleaned and chopped
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or half and half
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large tomato sliced thinly
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 6oz shredded  mozzarella provolone cheese
  • optional ( bacon bits)
  • fresh basil leaves thinly sliced ( or 1 Tbsp dried basil)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and whisk.  Spray a pie pan with non stick spray.  
Pour mixture into baking pan. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Bake 375 degree for 35 minutes or until set and golden brown . Cool 20 minutes before slicing. This is great to heat up throughout the week or freeze individually.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life's Hard.... and other lessons I learned this year.

     This year has been difficult... and that is an understatement. Many of you have walked through this year with us.  Many of you know the story.  A year ago Brent was laid off without warning, severance, or even a last paycheck. This came after his employer pursued him for a year and convinced him to close our business and come to work for him   It was a complete shock.  But, we decided that we would stand firm and move forward.  Our children cried "Why?" and all we could do was hug them.  All I could say was  " Why , NOT us ? We aren't exempt!" Little did we know what was ahead of us.

     I will never forget the call.  I still cry when I think too long about the details of the conversation.  " Robyn, Brent has fallen."  I knew he was on a ladder that day doing repair work. What I didn't know was that he was 39+ feet up on a ladder.  The ladder broke at the top and he fell over 39 feet .  He feel on a large azalea bush that was surrounded by air conditioning units and a concrete pool deck.  So close that he was an inch from the concrete on two sides. By the grace of God, the homeowner was home and saw him fall from her 3rd floor bedroom window.  The details and facts about the next three weeks are a bit of a blur.  He survived with "only" three broken vertebrae and a shattered pelvis. He was lucky was to be alive.  Did I mention our health insurance had lapsed 5 days prior?  We had the best surgeons and team of doctors to help put him back together.  He spent a total of three weeks in the hospital , had extensive surgery to repair his pelvis, and was given a wheelchair because he could put NO weight on his legs while his pelvis healed. Did I mention we have steps, no shower on the first floor, and were not equipped to get him IN the house with a wheelchair?

     There were so many challenges. Financial ruin, feeding a large family, how to pay for the surgery, how to get our house handicap accessible, how to make a living , how long will he be in a wheelchair, out of work, how will we survive, ect.   But, there were so many blessings that came from this situation.  While we are still in the middle of much of the aftermath of these life altering events, we are surviving.  Many have asked " how"?  My answer is always the same ... " Faith... we chose faith"   What else could we do? Give up? Lay on the floor and cry? Get angry ? Give up? Trust me,  all of those options entered my mind a few times.  I even attempted a few of them ... and mastered some of them.

     The funny part of trauma is that it is hard to recognize when you are in the rubble of it.  In the beginning, you learn to live or sometimes only breathe through the shattered reality of your world . It is complete survival. You long for those days where your biggest decisions are about the normal things in life.  The ability to sit quietly without tears streaming down your face, the choice of what your day will be like, or just a simple moment to breath without worry.  Even when the outside effects of the trauma subside, the internal wounds are still very real.  They go unnoticed.  Those around you assume your life is back to " normal" .  But, there is no more normal.  Re-entry into life is hard. Many just don't understand and want our "normal" back as much as we do.  I am not sure we will ever reach normal again.  We talk about it often and it seems to be our long term goal. But, I think creating a new normal is really the gift.  The gift of accepting what happened and moving on .  

     Through this we have learned so much.  That is the part I want to share.  I know many have not gone through what we have this past year. Many felt the need to apologize for sharing their own battles as they "don't compare" to what we were walking through.   But, I imagine the pain , exhaustion, grief, and disappointment of their reality probably felt the same as ours.  After all,  its all relative.

     Lesson's I learned this year   
  • People are good , kind and want to help those in need .  Friends , family and strangers showed up in the hospital to love on us.  While Brent was in a morphine haze , I remember them all.  The prayers, the hugs, the support, the cards, the laughs.... all were essential to getting through those first few days. One of the best  were a bouquet of  flowers with a ladder in the center and a little robin bird on top. Thank God for friends that make you laugh.  
  • My Mom showed up in a matter of hours and took over.  What an amazing woman.  She stepped in and keep our kids and home running. As mom this was such a blessing.  My kids were cared for and I could concentrate on caring for Brent.
  • When I was asked " What do you need?" All I could think of was that we didn't have wood to heat the house and it was November.  Five truck loads showed up the next week along with friends to chop and stack it !  
  • There were friends that thought of things we didn't even know we needed. A dear friend came to my rescue and took me out for a meal. I had not eaten in 4 days. While I couldn't eat much ,  I was able to share, cry , and laugh.  Meals delivery by friends and strangers were ongoing for weeks.  
  • The hospital staff went to work for us , getting the necessary tools to get him home.  He needed wheelchairs, toilet seats, slide boards, a body brace, fragmin shots to prevent blood clots , and a ramp to get him in the house.  My mom called one morning to share that a relative of a friend of ours was at the house building us a ramp.  A gift..... !  They wouldn't release Brent to come home after weeks in the hospital until this ramp was built. 
  • A sweet friend brought me a gas card and a Starbucks gift card so I would not be subject to " hospital " coffee. Oh what a gift to leave the hospital for 10 minutes for a cup of coffee and fresh air.
  • Our small group from church decided to come to the hospital because we couldnt be there . God is so good. He knows just what we need.
  •  Friends and strangers went to work to make our home ready for Brent to come home. Our friends brought over a bed to set up in our living room because Brent couldn't get up steps to our bedroom .  A stranger who heard about our situation through school and delivered a sleeper sofa so I could sleep near Brent to take care of him through the night. 
  • When the garage door broke and we couldnt access  the ramp, a friend of a friend showed up to fix it late one night-- no charge. All because a friend called one morning and asked "what do you need?"
  • The care I received when friends, who knew I was running on empty, brought me large diet cokes, magazines and soft pillows.  
  • My sweet friend who committed to making sure my gray hair didn't show through when she cut and colored it for me. 
  • The special delivery of homemade spaghetti and meatballs that arrived via fed ex, on ice,  from friends in Maryland.
  • My children that arrived daily to hug me, encourage me, and remind me what we were fighting for.
  • The  teachers that cared for the kids , made sure they were surviving, and gave them a place to share their struggles. 
  • Family that showered us with love, prayers, and their encouragement.
  • The cards with words of encouragement that arrived with stamps when I had to go mail bills. 

    There are many other blessings . Many that I know I have neglected to mention but hold tightly in my memories. I could never properly thank everyone. But, today, just 10 months after his fall and a year since his layoff,  I chose to celebrate what we have .  Today, is a new day.