Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Follow-Up to 30

Last  year my hubby turned 30 and I celebrated big, throwing him a party and giving him 30 gifts. So as his 31st birthday has approached this year, I’ve struggled with how to follow up on all the hype of last year. Really, there’s no way, so I settled on a “normal” birthday of dinner out, cake, and a “normal” number of presents. I think my favorite present to him was the one Oliver gave him- a package of deli sliced chicken meat. They both LOVE it but I don’t buy it much because I prefer turkey. So Oliver bought him a package for them to share. Adorable.

2014-08-14 (11) michael's 31st birthday

2014-08-14 (32) michael's 31st birthday

Michael requested a lemon cake. Yuck. Delicious. A few years ago I was given the book The Cake Mix Doctor Returns by Anne Byrn but haven’t gotten to use it as much as I want because Weight Watchers. So I turned to it to search for a good lemon cake recipe. If you don’t know about the Cake Mix Doctor, she doctors up box mixes to make even better cakes. I decided to use the recipe for her Lemon Lover’s Cake (Though, slightly altered because the grocery store was out of lemons. Of course.) (Also, this was definitely not my best decorating effort. It was SO. HOT. in the kitchen and the icing wasn’t cooperating and it just didn’t go well. Please excuse the decorating disaster this one time).

2014-08-14 (14) michael's 31st birthday

Lemon Lover’s Cake (from Anne Byrn’s The Cake Mix Doctor Returns, page 53)

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 box (18.25 oz, though, that doesn’t exist anymore, so….) plain yellow or vanilla cake mix (I used yellow but I think next time I would just use white. The yellow taste came through kind of strong)
  • 1 package (3.4 oz) lemon instant pudding mix
  • 1 container (6 oz) lemon yogurt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juce
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray and flour the pans (I used 9 inch squares, but the recipe calls for round).
  2. Mix all the ingredients together on low for 30 seconds, then 1 and a half minutes longer on medium, scraping the sides of the bowl periodically. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans.
  3. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. (I baked mine 22 minutes since they were square and they were almost overbaked)
  4. Let cool completely before icing.

In the book, Byrn includes a recipe for lemon cream cheese frosting, but I’ve never had much luck making my own frostings so I bought a can of cream cheese icing and a can of lemon, added a bit of lemon juice and mixed it all together in the mixer. It turned out great!

I think the 31st birthday went well!

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Monthly Cleaning Fun!

monthly cleaning

A year ago I wrote a post entitled “Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out”. It was about starting a deep cleaning/full house clean out system of focusing on one room each month. I said I was going to follow-up each month, and I didn’t. BUT, I did make it the entire year which felt AMAZING. And now since it’s August, the year starts over! I envision this year being a lot easier since things are already pretty cleaned out and I have a list and know what works and what doesn’t.

This is the plan I followed for last year, and will follow again this year. I chose certain rooms/areas based on how busy a certain month would be and the weather. Obviously, we have a small house and many of you have more rooms, or different rooms, but to give you an idea, here’s the plan I follow:

  • August: Office/Craft room
  • September: Living Room
  • October: Guest Room
  • November: Entry, Guest Bath (November is a busy month for us with our anniversary and Thanksgiving, so I chose small rooms!)
  • December: Laundry Room (Again, busy month!)
  • January: Master Bedroom
  • February: Master Bathroom
  • March: Garage, Cars (The weather is nice for these!)
  • April: Patio, Landscape, House Exterior (Nice weather and plants/landscaping stuff for sale!)
  • May: Kitchen
  • June: Emergency Preparedness

This system worked SO WELL. At this point I am unemployed and have no kids, so I know my life isn’t as crazy as most and I know that as things change it may become more difficult to accomplish. But I think it’s such a great goal and makes you feel really good at the end of each month, and year!

So, for August the room is the Office/Craft Room (also where Oliver hangs out all day). I’ve made a PDF of the Office Checklist I use, but again, we all have different furniture, etc. so it may not all apply to you, but it’s a start to get you thinking about what your needs are! (Feel free to ask about any of the items that you’re unclear on!) Last year we rented a carpet steamer and did all the carpeted areas at once for the year. Again, the goal is to deep clean AND clean out/organize. I’m trying to set a goal for myself to get rid of at least 10 things per room, we’ll see how that goes!….

Let me know if you get on board with this system and how it works for you! I’ll update in September with the checklist for the living room.

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Reading List- July 2014

I’ve read a lot this month! Mainly because at the end my husband had his wisdom teeth out (that has been quite the ordeal and is still ongoing…), so I’ve had a lot of alone time for reading. I also didn’t read any non-fiction this month, odd for me. But I’m currently making up for that so you’ll see those in the August post.

[3] The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (2014, Fiction): I think this is supposed to be a really great book. But I just found it pretty boring. It is written in alternating chapters of present day and in the past, and I just don’t go for that style much (but this was one of three books I read this month written like that!). The story is good once you get to the end and all the pieces come together, but I was very bored while reading.

[4] All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (2014, Fiction): This story follows a “normal” mom and wife through the stages of drug addiction. It highlights how easily it can happen, the effects, the struggle to get out. It’s a fascinating book and I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction!

[2] The One & Only by Emily Giffin (2014, Fiction): I’m still processing how I felt about this book. On one hand it was a light, easy read about football in Texas and love. But on the other hand it was creepy and weird and left me feeling very unsettled.

[4] Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (Father Tim Series #1) (2007, Fiction): This is a continuation of the beloved Mitford Series by Karon. It has been over a year since I read that series and I so wish I had read this book soon after that. I’ve forgotten so many of the details, events, and characters. But, nonetheless, this was still a sweet book of Father Tim returning to his hometown and remembering his childhood and reconnecting with the many people who he grew up with.

[2] In the Company of Others by Jan Karon (Father Tim Series #2) (2010, Fiction): For some reason I had really high hopes for this book. It follows Father Tim and Cynthia on a trip to Ireland where mishaps continually happen and enjoy the company of others. I was bored and skimmed through a lot of it. And I must have missed some important detail or something because I was LOST through most of it. Had no idea what was going on and  I was so relieved when the book was over. BUT, I thought this was the last of Mitford and I was sad, but then I was researching, and due to popular demand, Karon is writing more Mitford books! The next one comes out on September 2. Super excited!

[5] Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich (2014, Fiction): I LOVE the Stephanie Plum series. I’ve been reading them for years and they never disappoint. Evanovich writes with just the right balance of humor, mystery, and romance. This one I found very funny, some great dialogue. And it was kind of intense! More than just the regular happenings in Trenton.

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