Springtime Beauty

I went for a walk today and ended up morphing into a photographer. I was just in awe of the amazing spring colors and growth. Let me know what you think.
Meet my pup Gwig.
Some sort of beautiful flowering fruit tree

China Berry Tree growth

My happy pup enjoying her walk and Spring.

Resting in the flowers.
Mulberry Tree growth

The vibrant daisy-like flowers in my front yard


Grilled Spinach and Artichoke Sandwich

For my birthday I received a new Sandwich Press/Waffle Maker. It is pretty wonderful. It has inserts that detach from the machine, allowing it to be extra fabulous and useful for more than one thing!

Of course, I could not wait to use this new addition to my kitchen and I knew exactly what I was going to make, a Grilled Spinach and Artichoke Sandwich! I found the idea for this sandwich somewhere online, probably Pinterest, and have been wanting to make it ever since. The following recipe is what I decided to do with ingredients I had on hand. I have added notes throughout the recipe, on how the sandwich could be improved, it is mostly about the cheese! :)

 Grilled Spinach and Artichoke Sandwich

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5-10 minutes (it takes closer to 10 without a sandwich press)
Serves: 3 people

  • 2-3oz of marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 small handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon, plain low-fat yogurt
  • 6 slices of bread (some sort of flavored bread. I used Potato Rosemary Bread)
  • Cheese (I used fresh mozzarella and cheddar. I think Havarti, Gouda, or Aged Cheddar would have made this sandwich even better!)

This is about the size the artichoke and spinach should be.

  1. Chop the artichoke hearts into small pieces
  2. Chop the spinach leaves into small pieces
  3. Combine artichoke pieces and spinach in a small bowl
  4. Add the 1 tablespoon of yogurt and mix
  5. Take one slice of the bread and place 1/2 of the cheese on it
  6. Spread 1/3 of the artichoke and spinach mixture over the whole piece of bread
  7. Place the other 1/2 of the cheese on top of the artichoke and spinach mixture
  8. Place in the sandwich press and cook for about 3-5 minutes

  9. If you do not have a sandwich press, spray a medium size pan with cooking spray, add the sandwich, and cook the one side for 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Re-spray the pan lightly and flip the sandwich over and cook the other side for another 3-5 minutes.


Gopher Proof Garden Beds

In December my husband and I moved into a lovely rental house. One of the conditions of the move was that we would have an awesome back yard, with a large garden area. I quickly discovered, after we signed the lease of course, that the backyard is infested with gophers. This is awful, as the one to two gophers I have dealt with in the past have taken out many of my plants. Now there are many other issues with the yard, one of them being that the landlord will only let us put a garden in one specific area of the yard, which as of now only gets 3-4 hours of sun...not good enough for the tomatoes and squash I love so much, but I am hoping as the sun shifts, the sunlight will hit the garden area more. But, back to the issue at hand. One issue at time right? I think I have come up with a way to keep the pesky gophers from destroying my plants, without actually causing them any harm or even deterring them from the yard. Essentially, you simply place chicken wire at the bottom of your garden beds. This allows the roots to grow down, but prevents the gophers from getting at the vast majority of the vegetable root system. Sure they will be able to nibble the ends of the roots, but they cannot destroy the plants, if they cannot reach the rest of the roots.

I have dubbed this invention, Gopher Proof Garden Beds. I am quite certain I am not the first to think the following concept up, but I think it is a great idea, and hopefully it works as well as believe it will.

The gopher proof garden bed!

Gopher Proof Garden Beds Tutorial

Purchase Materials:
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel
  • Chicken wire
  • Wire Cutters
  • Wood 
  • Screws/nails

The space before we got our hands on it. You can kind of see
the sticks we have in the ground, marking the corners for each bed.

Measure and Mark Your Garden Bed Space(s)
After we weeded.
I decided I wanted two small square raised beds and two long thin beds that would not be raised (these two will be for my squash and tomatoes. Both of these grow so large, I did not want them to cast a shadow over or cover my other plants, so I decided to place them in the ground away from everything else.) My husband, Doug, and I went out into our yard, working within the confines of the dim garden area our landlord allowed, and picked out the areas for each of the four beds. We then measured each area and stuck a stick in the ground to mark the corners of each bed.

Weed the Bed Space(s)
This is a tedious process, but it should reduce the amount of weeds you end up with inside the beds later.

One of the 5X5 holes.

Dig the Hole(s)
I decided to make my two square beds, 5ftX5ft and 12 inches deep. This means, that I needed to dig 5ftX5ft hole that was 6-8 inches deep. (The wood will rest on the ground at the 6-8 inch mark and the remaining 4-6 inches will be above ground.)

I also had two garden beds that were not going to be raised. I did not want to dig a 12 inch hole, so I stuck with my 6-8 inch decision and ended up with two 2.5ftX6ft beds that were both about 6-8 inches deep.

I recommend using a wheel barrow for the dirt for each hole. This is something we did not have, and we essentially dug 8 holes after we finished because after we shoveled the dirt out of the hole, eventually we had to shovel it all back into the hole.

The chicken wire in the 5X5 bed.

Measure and Cut Your Chicken Wire
One of the beds that will not be a raised bed.
The chicken wire I purchased was 3ft wide and 50ft long. I cut two 5ft long pieces. I laid one of these 3ftX5ft pieces in one of the 5ftX5ft holes and then laid the second 3ftX5ft piece next to it. It is okay if they overlap, that is just added protection against the gophers.

I did the same for the second 5ftX5ft bed.

For the 2.5X6ft beds, I cut two 6ft pieces, giving me two 3ftX6ft pieces of chicken wire. I then laid one piece in each hole. It is important that the chicken wire come up the sides of these beds a bit. This will help keep the gophers from entering the bed from the side.

The finished 5X5 bed, without the dirt. :)

Make the Wooden sides of the Raised Bed
I purchased my wood at Home Depot and had them cut it for me. I took four pieces of wood (10inX5ft) and screwed them together (using two screwed for each corner) to create a raised bed.

I repeated the process for the second raised bed.

My new garden. The bed to the right still needs more dirt.
We also cannot dig level beds, but all in all, I think the
gophers will have to be some crafty buggers to get my

Fill Your Holes/ Garden Beds with Dirt
This was the fun part, as you really get to see your garden beds come to life - well as much life as there is before you see all the plants emerge!

I am using primarily the dirt from the yard, but I also added a, organic garden dirt and some dirt specifically for raised beds, to help with drainage.

Let me know your thoughts. I plan to post pictures of the garden once it starts growing. Currently the plants are growing in little pots, in an area of the yard that actually gets 6 or more hours of sun. My fingers are crossed that the new beds will get full sun in the summer!

Black Bean and Veggie Enchiladas

This is a recipe that I came up with about 9 or so years ago and have been perfecting ever since. I had just moved into my own apartment at the prime age of 18 and I was learning how to cook for myself. I was trying to learn to eat like a healthy vegetarian, and in my 18 year old mind, that meant eating veggies and some sort of protein, in this case corn and black beans. The large amount of cheese and the use of white tortillas did not even phase me...it was a start, but I had no idea what I was doing.

Well the recipe has progressed quite a bit. It is a favorite among my friends and family, although my dad still prefers to add chicken. In all fairness, he will not eat a meal that does not have meat protein in it. Still, everyone who tries them, loves them, and they reheat VERY well, so they make great lunches the next day. I have still not managed to make these enchiladas completely healthy, as cheese tends to detract from healthy eating, but they are much healthier than when I invented them 9 years ago.

Black Bean and Veggie Enchiladas

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 people (2 enchiladas each)

  • Seasonal veggies (it changes each time I make them)
    • This time I used:
      • A heaping handful of chopped broccoli 
      • A heaping handful of chopped carrots
      • A heaping handful of chopped fresh green beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 6-8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 tortillas (I used a corn and wheat blend)
  • 1 can/bottle of enchilada sauce

  1. Wash and cut the fresh veggies into 1 inch sized pieces
  2. Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees
  3. Steam the fresh veggies for 5 minutes, or until they just begin to tender
  4. Strain the can of corn and can of black beans in a strainer
  5. Add the steamed fresh veggies
  6. Mix them together in the strainer
  7. Take one tortilla and add some shredded cheese, and a heaping amount of the veggie black bean mixture
Roll up step one: Fold in top and bottom

8.   Roll it up (see pictures to the left for an example) and place in a 9 X 11 baking dish seam side down
9.   Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have all 8 enchiladas completed (I often do not have room in one baking dish for all 8 enchiladas and use a second, smaller one, for 2-3 of them. So do not be alarmed if they do not all fit. Just use a second dish.) :)
Roll up step two: Fold both side in

Pre-baking enchiladas

10.   Cover the completed enchiladas with the enchilada sauce
11.   Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the enchiladas
12.   Cover the baking dish(s) with tin foil
13.   Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is beginning to boil
Finished Product! Enjoy!

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bites

I was supposed to feel the earth between my fingers and the feeling of creating new life as I put in my garden this afternoon, but was unable to do so. This left me a little bummed out and for some reason craving some sort of melted chocolate and peanut butter concoction. I decided to give into my craving and the following VERY yummy, easy and healthy recipe is what I came up with. I am quite happy with the result. Let me know what you think!

The yummy end product! I really like melted chocolate apparently...

The Ingredients. Sorry for the poor picture quality.
Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bites:

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 5-8 minutes
Total Time: 10-13 minutes

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Stir together the peanut butter, honey and oats in a medium bowl
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips
  4. Roll the mixture into one inch balls and place them 1 inch apart on a wax paper covered baking sheet
  5. Bake for 5-8 minutes
  6. Enjoy!

The bites prior to baking. I spaced them about 2 inches apart,
but 1 inch is sufficient. They do not spread at all.

These bites taste the best when they are warm and the chocolate is melty. This may just be because I was craving some melted chocolate and peanut butter though. They definitely hit the spot!

Very Easy Spanish Rice Recipe

Once upon a time, I used to spend a couple of hours making Spanish rice every time I had a craving for it. Of course it was amazing and I very much enjoyed eating it, but I seldom have that kind of time for dinner any more. The good news is, my mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and she let me in on a little secret, Spanish rice can be made simply, from scratch, and without much effort on the cooks part.

Seriously. The following recipe rocked my world!

The Rice Cooker Recipe:

Prep Time: Less than 2 minutes 
Cook Time: About 45 minutes to an hour
Serves: 4-6 people

Yep! Only two ingredients!
  • 1 16oz jar of salsa (I use chunky because I like my Spanish rice to have chunks of yummy veggies in it)
  • 1 1/2 cups of rice (I use brown rice, but white rice works too)
  • Water
  1. Get out the rice cooker
  2. Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice to the cooker
  3. Add the whole 16 ounce jar of salsa to the cooker
  4. Fill the rice cooker with water to the 3 line
  5. Turn it on and let it cook until it lets you know it is done
  6. Enjoy!
The Stove Top Recipe:

Prep Time: Less than 2 minutes 
Cook Time: About 45 minutes to an hour
Serves: 4-6 people

  • 1 16oz jar of salsa (I use chunky because I like my Spanish rice to have chunks of yummy veggies in it)
  • 1 1/2 cups of rice (I use brown rice, but white rice works too)
  • 2 cups water (you may need more)
  1. Get out a large sauce pan
  2. Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice to the sauce pan
  3. Add the whole 16 ounce jar of salsa to the sauce pan
  4. Add the 2 cups of water to the sauce pan
  5. Cook for 30 minutes
  6. Test the rice. If it is almost done and there is still a little water, great. If it is not almost done and there is a little water, add a bit more water and give it another 15-20 minutes before checking it again.
  7. Enjoy!

Kitchen Table Redo Tutorial


After working my way through a very lengthy, but cathartic, furniture project, I feel compelled to share my process, as well as my successes and failings.

Below is the tutorial I have put together, which details the process I took to complete this project! If you are interested in reading my blog posts while I worked on this project, check out the links at the bottom of the tutorial! :)

Prep Time:   One trip to Home Depot
Work Time:   24 Hours
Total Project Time: 72 hours (includes dry time)


Purchase Materials:
  • Zinsser Cover Stain Oil Based Primer - $9
  • Minwax water-based Polycrylic - $18
  • Paint of your choice - $9
  • Two medium grit sanding blocks - $7
  • Three paint brushes - $15
  • Dust/paint fume masks - $3
Total:   $61

Lightly Sand Surface:

I took a medium grit sanding block and very lightly, and I mean very, very lightly, sanded down every inch of the table and chairs you plan to paint. This is done to give the primer something to grip when it is applied.

The table and chairs after the primer step was complete.

Apply Oil Based Primer:

Take a paint brush and paint the primer everywhere on the table and chairs you sanded and plan to paint. I chose to cover the whole table because I felt that my table would not be complete if the underside was not the same color as everything else. BUT, that is just me.

This step is done instead of sanding. If you plan to stain your furniture, do not apply primer. Primer is used when you do not want to sand down the furniture and instead want to paint it fun colors!

I applied two coats to the table and one coat to each of the chairs. I am not sure a second coat is necessary, but I wanted to make sure the paint would stick and other blogs on furniture projects often do two coats. Give the primer 24 hours to fully dry before you begin painting.

TIP: When you paint, always start with the underside of the furniture  In other words, turn the piece of furniture upside down and paint that side first. If you can paint looking down, as opposed to up and at an angle, you are going to save yourself from a ton of neck and back pain.

After the two coats of paint.

Apply Paint of Choice:

Paint one layer over the entire table and chairs and allow it to dry before you begin another coat. I suggest painting at least two coats. I probably should have painted three coats, but because this process took so much longer than I had anticipated I settled for two, and there are a few spots where the paint is thinner and you can see it if the light hits it just right.

I also found it a bit tricky to paint the chair legs and poles on the chair backs. I developed my own method for painting them, which is to paint side to side and not up and down. I am sure there are some professionals who are sighing or yelling at their computer screens at that, but it worked well for me. I actually saw a ton of brush strokes on the poles when I painted them up and down.

To see pictures of what I mean by "side to side" and "up and down" and for some more painting tips Click Here.

A completed chair!

Apply Polycrylic:

Apply a thin, smooth coat of polycrylic. Allow at least two hours to dry between coats. The milky color is normal, it will dry clear.

I put one coat on all the chairs, two coat on the seat of the chair, two coats on the bottom of the table, and four coats on the top of the table. The directions say to apply two coats, but I wanted to be done with it. So far so good.

This was by far the most daunting and difficult part of the project. I did not enjoy working with the Minwax Polycrylic, but it came out looking really nice when it was finished, so it is a toss up.

My biggest issue with the polycrylic is the tendency for it to bubble when you apply it. It is difficult to smooth it out and if you are unable to to, the bubbles show up on the final product.

For some tips for working with Minwax Polycrylic gathered from a variety of sources Click Here.

Allow at Least 24 Hours to Set:

I let it set for 23 hours, despite internet warnings and the directions on the can. Everything seemed fine, until I picked up a glass that had been sitting on the table for a couple hours. It left a milky, raised ring. I was so upset with myself. BUT, after the ring dried, it not only disappeared, it was no longer raised either. You cannot even tell I almost ruined my table.

After re-reading some polycrylic tips, I am guessing I did not let the polycrylic dry fully before applying another coat. I waited 2-3 hours between each coat, but the temperature and room play a huge role in the drying process. Apparently the colder temperature of my garage was a hindrance to the drying process.

Also, FYI if you have animals, there hair is almost certainly going to become a permanent element of your project.

I guess following directions is always a good idea.

The finished table!
Blog Posts Related to This Tutorial:
Kitchen Table Redo: Part One
Kitchen Table Redo: Part Two
Kitchen Table Redo: Part Two and a Half
Kitchen Table Redo: Part Two and Three Quarters - Painting tips
Kitchen Table Redo: Part Three - Tips for working with Minwax Polycrylic
Kitchen Table Redo: Part Three and a Half - FINISHED