Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Banana Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Swirl

You guys. We have a groundhog living under our shed. At first I thought it was cute.  Until he started stealing my veggies. Now I daydream about shooting him and throwing him over our fence. I know, I know. That's so cruel. But when you make a raised bed with your own hands and drag 5 VERY HEAVY bags of gardening soil across the Lowe's parking lot and spend an entire day out in the hot sun planting only to come outside and find your goodies have been stolen, well you turn into a crazy person. Don't worry, I won't shoot him. But I am planning to get a trap and take the sucker somewhere very very far away.

So when I came outside and found this in my garden with no teeth marks on it.....

I snatched it up so fast!

Oh and funny story. So much that I do for my blog I don't even think about being weird. Setting up my tripod and taking 3 hours to bake something- compared to a normal person who doesn't document the entire process. Same goes for decorating my front porch seasonally. The neighbors know when my front porch has been changed because Brittaney is out on the front lawn again in every photography position imaginable. :p So anyway, when my husband came home from work and saw my zucchini set up on the counter for a photoshoot I got to see first hand what it looked like to an outsider and it was HILARIOUS. He posted this picture on social media and I laughed for like 10 minutes straight.

So. Back to the zucchini. Do you guys remember that chicken nugget kid? In case you forgot, it was on Wife Swap. He had a crazy obsession with chicken nuggets and his temporary mom was not really cool with it.

Well let's replace chicken nuggets with cream cheese and this is me. Cream cheese. Mmmm. It's like my family. So when I found The Recipe Critic's zucchini bread recipe with cream cheese in the middle I knew I had to try it. And I'm not gonna lie to ya, it did not disappoint.

Gather those ingredients...

Flour those pans....

And mix it like you mean it.

Don't forget to fold in the zucchini!

Would you look at that piping hot loaf? My job here is done.

                                                        Prep Time: 15 minutes
                                                        Cook Time: 60 minutes                                                                                                       
                                                  Recipe  from The Recipe Critic
 *Note- Justin wasn't a fan of this recipe. It was a bit more dense than I thought it would be. I probably won't add it to my recipe book, but I am glad I gave it a shot. If you like a denser bread, this one's for you! I did like it, but am looking forward to trying some other zucchini recipes. I'll report back! ;) 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The One Where Brittaney Graduates

Disclaimer: This is basically just one big fat brag post about Justin. So if you aren't into that kind of thing, run while you can. :p

Lately I've been hearing a lot of talk about how girls want to wait to get married until they have "life figured out" or are done with college, etc. I got married when I was 20. Such a baby! But boy am I so glad I did. Justin was with me through some of the hardest days of my life. Some of the toughest days in my college career. I remember once sobbing after pulling an all nighter and being so worried I would fail a big test, I was at such a low point. I was sad and scared and so over school at that point. Justin literally grabbed me and let me cry it out, and then made me get dressed and took me out for mandatory ice cream and a walk around the park. It's stuff like that I just don't think I could have made it without.

Last Saturday I graduated with my B.S. in Healthcare Administration. I was so excited but you know who was even more excited than me?


When we flew into Florida on Wednesday he drove me straight to my all of my favorite places and we crammed in the most fun day date we have had in a long time. In four hours we managed to fit in: Zaxby's, The Mall at Millenia, Krispy Kreme, mani/pedi's and Target (you know, just for the heck of it).

So fast forward to graduation day and I had no idea how much fun he had planned for me until I woke up that Saturday morning. I grumbled that I needed to keep sleeping and he was practically dragging me out of bed so excited to get the day going. He had this little display set up and was beaming from ear to ear. That's when I knew, today was going to be a good one.

Don't laugh, I'm a sucker for Mickey D's hot cakes. :p

I was super nervous at this point so I got down what I could and went to get ready. Then I realized I lost one of my most important camera lenses, so Justin decided to drive to all these different stores trying to find one at the last minute. And then wouldn't you know it, he never ended up using it anyway. *Insert rolling eye emoji here*

Here are some of my favorite pictures he captured from the day:

I looked so hard to find Justin and his parents in a sea of thousands of proud family members!! It makes me smile that he captured that.
Found them! And off to walk that stage!
 I had my phone in my skirt pocket and got this text as soon as I got off the stage. Pure sweetness.

I gotta tell you. There are few moments in life as special as this. Weddings, babies, graduations. Hang on to them so tight. Because they are truly the moments in life you never ever want to forget.

After gradation I requested 4Rivers because we couldn't be in Florida without scarfing down some BBQ amirite????

And Justin had a little surprise waiting for me in the restaurant display case. The sweetest graduation cake I've ever seen!

YEP that's me ugly cryin it up. I wish someone would have snagged a video because this moment was so priceless. 

Look at those red eyes! Worth it!!

Honest to God, best day of my life. We were laying in bed that night and I told Justin he literally made this the best day of my life and he said, uuhhh, what about our wedding day? I said, nope, you topped it dude. (Not even kidding it was the BEST DAY). When I think about it I get all smiley. I really did find the man made for me. He loves me so well and I cannot imagine having to do one day in life without him. Dear god I love this guy more than anything. 

But here's the twist. And my favorite part of the whole day. I very nervously disclosed to him that I felt like I had spent the last five years getting a degree in something I wasn't truly passionate about and that I felt like I wasted so much time and money. I was near tears. I didn't find my true passion until about a year ago. I was so scared that he might be disappointed. All I want to do is design and stage and decorate and design some more. I live for all things interior design. There's so much I want to learn and much more of the architecture side I want to understand. And guess what? Justin's exact words were: you need to do it. I believe in you and if this is what you want, do it. You'll just have two degrees! And just as easy as that, I decided to go on to grad school. All with the support of my very best friend.

I'm a college grad! If you made it this far, you deserve your own award. Because you must really be a true friend of mine. XOXO

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Bathroom Before and After: A Modern Farmhouse Bathroom

HIIIII!!! It's been kind of quiet around here lately. We have been trying to get our home ready for our foster baby and finishing the guest bathroom was a huge part of that. We are heading out of town to Florida this week (I'm graduating college, say what??) and I wanted our petsitter to have a nice bathroom to use while she stayed with Hudson. When we renovated our house, the bathrooms were last on that list. They were never terrible, just outdated. I always get so mortified whenever guests have to use our master bathroom because the toilet is from from the 90's and you literally have to jiggle the handle just the right way to get the water to stop running. It makes me all red in the face just thinking about it. :p Also, I am the queen of throwing fits about counter clutter and neither bathroom had any storage space. So this was just necessary to keep my fit throwing at bay. But seriously.

I wanted to keep this post short and sweet so on to our guest bathroom renovation! Here are the before photos:

Look at those popcorn ceilings! 

See? Not too bad. Definitely livable. Just dated. Lots of cream fixtures. I envisioned brightening this space up and making the tiny whole in the wall seem somehow a bit bigger. Here are the afters:

 So refreshing right? We have a tiny bit of touch up caulking to do, but this bathroom is DONE. I think Justin was a little nervous about all the white initially, but bringing in lots of wood tones can really warm a room right up. I think it is such a bright and inviting space now.

 Funny story, as soon as we get back from our trip I'm moving in! I think Justin is secretly happy to see me go. I posted this on FB a couple of weeks ago but I don't think I really tricked anyone. They must know that I'd be a hot mess without Justin. He's stuck with me! :p

Justin did such a great job on all of the bigger construction pieces. The little shower shelf might be my favorite part of the whole bathroom. Seriously so adorable. His talent kills me.

This bathroom could have been done for cheaper. But I found this vanity that I just had to have, and then I found a light fixture I had to have, and the list goes on and on. Don't be like me. Save your money. This bathroom cost us almost as much as our kitchen renovation and I ain't real proud of that. Although I do love how it turned out, I fell off the budget train on this one.

Also, I'm cringing a little about the mirror. Do you know what keeps me up at night? Mirrors. I have tossed and turned for a month because of this dang mirror. It isn't exactly what I envisioned for the space but after buying and returning 4 mirrors for various reasons, I'm calling this good enough until I find the one. I like my mirrors like I like my men. Round and rustic. Ok my jokes need work. I'm running on a couple hours of sleep at this point. :p

Light Fixture: Shades of Light
Floor tile: Lowe's
Shower tile: Lowe's (THE WORST PART OF THE WHOLE PROJECT!!! I never want to see another subway tile again. Ever)
Mirror:It's a get me by mirror from Target until I find "the one"
Tub-Home Depot
Wood Planked Wall: We used 6 sheets of sanded quarter inch primed plywood cut into 6inch strips which came out to be around $100. (NOTE: We used plywood instead of regular shiplap because we wanted a cleaner look. Shiplap is much more rustic as we found out from the accent wall we did in our bedroom)
Kohler faucets for vanity and shower: Lowes
Letters & Hooks: Various Homegoods

So who wants to come visit and use our new bathroom?!? What's your favorite part?


Monday, July 11, 2016

Meal Planning for Dummies

First of all, I know you're no dummy. So don't be offended by that title. I will say this, when I first became a wife, I was kind of a dummy. I know I know, it's not nice to call names, but I promise you I didn't know much about the kitchen. Once, when Justin and I were dating, I wanted to surprise him with dinner. This was after he gave me a key to his house so obviously things were getting all kinds of serious. I decided to go over early and have a meal ready for him when he got home from work. It wasn't until I got there and stood in his kitchen that I realized I didn't know what the heck I was doing. So I got a pot out and called my best friend and asked her to walk me through how to make spaghetti, from the boiling the water step.

I wish I was kidding.

Fast forward almost five years and being a wife is my favorite thing. Seriously. The cooking, the looking after the house, the making sure things run smoothly around here, MY FAVORITE. I work really hard to make sure our home is clean and smelling good at all times because I want Justin to feel as relaxed as possible when he comes through the door from a stressful day at work. Being a wife is seriously the best thing I've ever been. I love this "job" and wouldn't want to be single ever again, not for one second!

So one of my favorite things to do to help our household run smoothly is to meal plan. I know meal planning is a hit or miss with people. Some do it, some don't. Here's why we do it and why it works.

1. Saves money. When I wasn't meal planning I would go to the grocery store and be immediately set up for failure. I would throw anything and everything into the cart and walk out spending way too much money and chances are, I probably forgot a thing or two while I was at it.

2. Healthier. When you don't have meals planned out and you get home after a long day at work or with the kids and it's dinner time you are more likely to grab a pizza, stop through a drive-thru, etc. So not only does meal planning save money, it ensures that you stick to your plan (who wants to waste fresh foods? NOT ME) and avoid those drive-thrus.

3. Less stress. Whether I'm being a stay at home mom to Hudson or just getting home from my internship, once 5:30 rolls around all of the stress of "what's for dinner" is gone because I just open my notebook and make whatever is on the calendar that day.

4. Easy. No more scurrying around for last minute recipes or hoping you have just one more frozen pizza to get you by. Meal planning is the best thing I could have done to keep my household running smoothly and efficiently. And I love to cook. So it's a win win. Seriously. Once 5pm rolls around, I get so excited to get out my knives and cutting boards and cook up something yummy for my family.

Are you convinced yet? Now let me walk you through how I meal plan each month.

I meal plan for two weeks at a time because I use peapod's delivery service. Basically it's an online grocery store. I pay about $100 a year for this service. And it's worth every penny. Here's what the screen looks like.

Usually on a Sunday night I'll get in bed with my laptop and notebook, put on my favorite Netflix show and get to planning. I find a lot of family favorites from my Pinterest board and some from a recipe book my mom gave me. I write out the days of the week in a two week span and just fill in our favorite meals. After I write in each meal I will look into the recipe and find out what ingredients I need to purchase and write those in my grocery list. Here is a two week example from last week's meal rotation:

Monday: Skinny Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Tuesday:Pizza Margherita Grilled Cheese
Wednesday: Chicken Salad in Pita Pockets
Thursday: Zucchini Lasagna Boats
Friday: Fajita Chicken Kabobs with Mexican Street Corn
Saturday:Peach Basil Mozzarella Flatbread
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Chicken Bacon Mac & Cheese
Tuesday: Fish Tacos
Wednesday: Smashburgers (Pioneer woman recipe)
Thursday: Salsbury Steak,  mashed potatoes & collard greens
Friday: Date night
Saturday: Bacon and avocado grilled cheese
Sunday: Leftovers

I budget about $300 a month for groceries. This trip was a little more expensive than planned because I used a ton of fresh ingredients. But the next two week trip was a lot less because I restocked our pantry so it all evened out. Whatever is left from the grocery budget that doesn't get used goes right into savings. For breakfast we usually do cereal or fruit. Sometimes I will bake something the night before but breakfast isn't a huge fuss for us. Justin get's lunch out since he is busy with work and meetings and I usually eat leftovers or a salad. So the only big meal planning I do is for our dinners.

Once I get my list together I pop over to the Peapod website and add all of the ingredients and foods I need for the two week period. Grocery shopping takes 15 minutes now and I will never go back to the old way of grocery shopping again. (until we move out of MA and have no online option to which I will then say, god help us all).

Meal planning is easy and call me crazy, but fun! It does take a little bit of time to get the meals planned out, but once you get the hang of rotating meals (and being flexible to change your days up a little if you see that your produce needs to be used for specific meal before it goes bad) you'll be a pro! Sometimes I will make a mistake by planning three nights of chicken meals in a row, and if that happens I'll just swap a day to even it all out.

So what do you think? Want to give meal planning a try?