Monday, January 30, 2017

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup {Recipe}

Soup season is in full swing! The weather is chilly and it is the perfect time to break out your favorite soups and stews. This recipe is one of my favorites. The fennel adds a unique but wonderful flavor in this light soup and it a perfect way to use up any extra kale. It also does not take hours to make, like many soups do.

We enjoy this soup with a toasted baguette or French bread, drizzled with olive oil or butter.

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large gold potatoes
2 cans of cannellini beans
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
1/2 bunch of kale (about 5 large leaves), stemmed and chopped
6 c. water
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a pot and add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until they begin to get tender. Then add garlic. 
2. Add potatoes and water to the pot and bring to a boil. 
3. Using a blender, puree 1 can of the canellini beans. Add 1-2 ladles of the soup broth to the blender.
4. Add the other can of beans and the pureed beans to the pot.
5. Add fennel, salt, and pepper, and stir.
6. Add the kale. Cook the soup until the potatoes and kale are tender.
7. Serve with toasted bread.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Week in Review 2017: #3

Not a whole lot got done this week. My husband and I had a meeting with our builder on Tuesday to walk through the house and find any last minute touching-up that needed to be done. We learned that the floor was worse than we had originally thought (air pockets underneath when it was supposed to be completely glued down). Our closing date was scheduled for Friday and I knew that only by some miracle would that still happen. The following day, we learned that the builder was tearing up the entire floor and starting over and that our new closing date had been moved to next Friday. My husband has been going by the house every day and so far, they have torn up the floors and put down some sort of cement thing that is not self-leveler, and looks totally uneven. I really hope they put self-leveler down or I am afraid they will be re-doing the floors for a third time. We are so ready for this building process to be over.

We had a couple of nice days that the children took advantage of and went outside to play. I was also able to get a decent amount of school work done with Bridget, even though we took off on Tuesday and Friday. We spent all day Friday watching the inauguration of President Trump. The children watched bits and pieces of it, then went off to play, then would come back to see if anything cool had happened. 

I hope next week will be a more productive one for us. Hopefully, we will be moving into our new house on Friday, though I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New House Update #8 (Last Update!)

This will be my last update before we close on the house. We were supposed to close on the 17th, but there were so many things that needed to be redone to the house (tile in particular) that the closing is now on Friday.

Pictures are from a few different days. I finally took another picture of the exterior of the house. Unfortunately, the garage was still open. I had upgraded the garage door to something I liked. They need to add the accent decor pieces and then it will be finished. All of the shutters have been painted and I chose to leave the front door white, which is apparently very unusual for the neighborhood.

 Cardboard has been removed from over the hardwood floors. Pictures of the foyer, one facing the door and the other facing the opposite direction.

Stair rail has finally been stained. Unfortunately, it does not feel like they sanded it beforehand so they will be doing that and re-staining it. I really don't want to hold a child down to dig a tiny splinter out of their little hand.

View from the far corner of the dining room.

View from stair landing down toward the foyer and dining room.

The top of the stairs. I am very pleased with the color of the stain and the matching bronze light fixtures.

 From the hall and looking into the master bedroom. Double doors open into the master bathroom. Second picture is of the inside of the bathroom facing the closet door. Shower is on the left. They had busted up the tile shower to relay it at a better slope. This was not something we had noticed or requested so I'm guessing that it must not have passed inspection.

This is a picture of the shower before it was redone. It's all the same tile and the same doors and has since been cleaned up.

Soaker tub tile work. Very happy with it.

Back downstairs and in the kitchen. We finally have a stove!!! I went with a 5-burner electric glass-top range.


More of the kitchen. I wanted to have a little desk area. This will probably become our "dumping zone", though I hope to keep it tidy. When the children are older, I may put a computer here that they can use during non-school hours that can be completely out in the open. In other words, Mom is always watching.

The living room from two slightly different angles. We tested out the gas logs and the house didn't blow up. Win.

It has been awhile since I shared a picture of the homeschool room. It's pretty plain but will be one of the most used rooms in the house. I am sure I will have no problem filling it up with desks, bookshelves, posters, and timelines. If there is space, I am hoping to give Liam his own little preschool corner.

As I have already mentioned, we are supposed to be closing on Friday. However, the hardwood floors have a problem. They are supposed to be glued down, and in many places they are, but in many places they are not. In a spot in the living room where I plan to put the piano, the floor moves up and down when you walk on it. The weight of a piano would no doubt crack it. There are spots ALL OVER the house just like it! This is what happens when the builder does not want to pay for self-leveler. I feel really bad for the flooring guy. I don't know if they will need to rip up parts of the floor to fix this or if they'll be able to use a syringe for most of it. My husband purchased 25 cent "bouncy balls" from the grocery store to test the floor. Every time the ball hits a part of the floor that is not glued down, you hear a hollow sound. To give you an idea of how bad it is, this is just one corner of the homeschool room. Every place the ball hit that sounded hollow got a little red sticker. I will be surprised if we end up closing on Friday.

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to the property because we knew there was something wrong with the size of the lot. It seemed very narrow in the back but the builder was unwilling to help correct this. The builder had placed sticks with pink ribbon where the property lines were for all of the lots. Unfortunately, these were not accurate. Under each marker, one should find a metal stake that the surveyor put into place when the parcel of land was subdivided. Where one end of our property was supposed to end (according to the builder), there was no metal stake, but only a wooden marker. With the use of a simple 100 ft. tape measure, it was very easy to find where the metal stake should be according to the county's geographic information system website. Measuring 80 ft. from an adjoining lot, we were able to find our metal stake and also found an extra wood stake laying around in the bushes, which we used to mark the location of the metal stake (and our new property line). The metal stake was buried under about 2-3 inches of dirt, but my husband was able to find it very quickly. See the tiny metal stake next to the wood marker? All this aggravation over that tiny piece of metal.


This next picture shows how much more property we now have. Blue is our original backyard and the red is what is also supposed to be ours. Their guess to where the property line is was off by 16 ft.! Needless to say, the builder will now be coming by with more dirt and grass seed to level out the remaining portion of our back yard. If we're going to be paying tax on x-amount of land, you bet I'm going to claim it!

For good measure, I also told the builder that I want all of their workers' cigarette butts and other debris removed from our lawn before we sign on Friday. I had counted around 15 cigarette butts just walking around the front and right side of the house. Gross.

I am not yet at a point that I can look back on these house updates and laugh at all that has gone wrong, but hopefully anyone who has read it has learned of what to look for if they were to have a house built. And if not, maybe you at least found a little humor in the situation.

Friday, here we come!

Monday, January 16, 2017

New House Update #7

In mid-December, floors were installed. All of the downstairs is hardwood, except for the bathroom. We chose a dark hardwood floor, as I wanted to pull from the mocha glaze on the doors of the kitchen cabinets to tie it all together. We chose this tan carpet for the stairs and entire upstairs of the home (minus bathrooms and laundry room). At this point, all hardwood floors are covered and protected by cardboard and the carpet has plastic over it.

Light fixtures were also installed. Most lights are a standard light with a bronze finish, and all bedrooms and the living room have ceiling fans. Doorknobs also have a bronze finish to match the light fixtures. The foyer and stairs lights were the hardest to choose, but these are what I decided on. Left is the largest light fixture over the foyer and on the right is the light fixture over the stairs. 

We were happy to finally see our tile installed! The shower is looking more like a shower now.

The tile around the soaker tub was almost finished.

The tile backsplash has also been installed in the kitchen. I think it turned out beautifully. If you can't tell by now, I really love earth tones. I suppose I'm plain that way, but I like what I like. I may paint the dining room a fun color, but don't hold me to it.

As you can see, some of the appliances have arrived. Microwave and dishwashers are installed but we are still waiting on the stove.

Bedrooms and homeschool room still exist, but they are mostly finished so I have not had a need to take pictures of them to record progress made. Closing is still set for mid-January.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New House Update #6

These pictures show the status of the house at the beginning of December. It wasn't long after this that we temporary moved in with my parents, so I have not had much time to post.

Our driveway and sidewalk were poured! Most of the shutters were also painted a dark gray, though it is not the easiest to see in the picture. 

Inside the house, we had two very exciting things to see. First, the granite counter tops were installed! The color is difficult to see because of a protective layer of plastic over them. Below is where my sink and two dishwashers will be.

The second exciting thing to see was that our walls had been painted! Here we are in the living room looking toward the kitchen. The cabinets tend to blend in with the color of the wall, but there will soon be a tile back-splash to break it up a little.

The fireplace mantle has also been painted.

Another view of the kitchen from the direction of the dining room.

The children love the railing. It makes me nervous and I hope its newness will soon wear off and they'll learn to stay away from it (unless walking up or down the stairs).

More paint. Standing in the foyer facing both the dining room and the kitchen.

My parents came along and the children did a great job at showing them the house. Liam led them around and pointed at everything. This is at the very top of the stairs overlooking over the foyer.

Master bedroom with Liam about the walk into the master bathroom.

Counter tops in the bathrooms have also been installed.

Looking outside from the living room, we could see that the backyard had been leveled out and debris hauled off. Right now it is all just dirt. We are not having sod put in the backyard (they require it in the front yard to make everything look "pretty") but they put out grass seed and straw. I imagine because it is winter, we will need to put down our own grass seed in the spring if we want a nice and grassy backyard.

One last picture inside. The children were literally all over the place. They were little bursts of laughter and excitement wherever they went.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Week in Review 2017: #2

I can't believe our second week of 2017 is done! After last weeks snow storm, this week turned out to be very nice. The beginning of the week was still very cold as we waited for the snow to melt. On Thursday, however, the temperature got up to 70 degrees! It was a wonderful treat, as my children and I have felt a bit of cabin fever lately. 

We started back up with science again this week. I was able to make a trip to the library by myself while my parents watched the boys and Bridget was in dance class. I borrowed books about earthquakes and volcanoes and then for our lab, we went outside to learn about the affects of earthquakes on homes. I shook the pan with the houses on it three different times, and Bridget recorded what she saw after each one. Here she is making her notes after the first small tremor. The third earthquake made the house crumble, but I forgot to take a picture after that. Bridget used to think that the thought of an earthquake rocking a house would be fun. I grew up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and have felt my share of earthquakes, but Bridget has only ever lived on the East Coast and so has never experienced even a slight tremor. After seeing the destruction of the toy houses and then seeing pictures in our book of the destruction and death that results from a strong earthquake, she takes it more seriously.

After our science lesson, the children and I remained outside until their tummies were ready for a snack. George has really made an effort to be a helpful big brother and happily pushed Liam on the swing.

Liam had a big week. We've been working on potty training. Liam does very well going on the potty each night before bed, but he still wears a diaper at all times. One morning, I changed his diaper and did not put a clean one on him. I put his little potty in the living room for easy access and he did his business numerous times throughout the day with no accidents, except with poop. We'll have to work on that part of potty training later. Bridget and George both tinkled on the potty long before they finally started pooping on it. It looks like Liam will be the same way. I am embarrassed to say that I have not done another day of potty training. My only excuse is that I'm too lazy to follow him around all day (while also taking care of other responsibilities).

My husband is beginning to get busy at work again (he is a CPA) and we will soon not be seeing very much of him, except on Sundays. It's a very busy season for all of us. 

Linking Up With:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Week in Review 2017: #1

It has been a while since I have posted about our week, but now is as good of a time as any to start back up (that is, until things get crazy busy again). We were still on Christmas break this week, though Bridget and I have been working on things here and there to try and catch up. We close on our house in 10 days and will be moving (again) shortly after. We've been keeping busy at my parents house. George always seems to find something new to play with everyday. 

For the past couple of weeks, my mom has taken over teaching Bridget how to play the piano. She has a 30 minute lesson every day and has really improved. I admit that I had all but given up on teaching her the piano, as this move has worn me out. On Fridays, Bridget has been having a "recital" to show us (mainly Daddy) what she learned to play that week. 

 All week, I have been making preparations for snow. We were expected to get 6-8 inches, and so I stocked up on food and did all of the laundry. When it finally snowed, we got just a couple of inches. The children still had a lot of fun, even though we were all very cold and unprepared (most of our winter attire is in storage). Before the snow, we had freezing rain, which made things rather slippery. We made the most of it, as this is as good as it usually gets in the South. Liam could have stayed out there all afternoon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Year in Books | 2016

Greetings, 2017!

It is always nice to start fresh. 2016 was a big year for me. In September, I got serious about reading again. Being a parent does not make it easy to read for pleasure. All of my reading was done for and with my children. I knew I needed to change that so I made time for myself again.

To do this, I started a Goodreads account to track my reading, rate books, and make a "to-read" list. Then, to ensure that I would be able to get books for myself during our many library trips, I began reserving my books for pick-up online. We'd go to the children's library first, and as we went to checkout our books, the library scanned my card and grabbed my reserved books from the shelf. I do not always appreciate modern technology, but in this instance I do.

My favorite genre is historical fiction. Edward Rutherford's books got me hooked years ago. This time, I decided to start reading something different: biblical fiction. I started with The Centurion's Wife, and because I loved it so much, I went ahead and read the rest of the series. Once I find an author or a series that I like, I usually read every book of theirs before I move on. (My goal for 2017 is to not do this, and to take my time reading books from many different authors). This led into another genre: romance. I always avoided this genre because I assumed it was all garbage. I was surprised to discover that there was such a thing as Christian romance novels. I appreciate authors that can keep their books clean.

My 2016 Reading List:

1. The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
2. The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
3. The Damascus Way by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
4. The Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith
5. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
6. Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
7. The Prophetess by Jill Eileen Smith
8. The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
9. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
10. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
11. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith
12. Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith
13. The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Serafina and the Black Cloak and The Nightingale were both books I read for a local book club (one of them I started before it had been assigned). I enjoyed them both, even though one was very dark and creepy and one was of a difficult subject matter. All of the other books were of my own choosing. If I didn't enjoy a book, I stopped reading it, and therefore did not include it in my list.

My favorite book of 2016 was The Painter's Daughter. It was the last book I read and as soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to read it again. It was very obvious to me at the very beginning how the book would end, but I very much enjoyed reading the in-between. Julie Klassen does a fabulous job with her writing and research of the regency era.

Reviews for each book will be published sometime in the near future. Keeping my thoughts about a book in a journal help me to remember them and save them, but because I don't want to keep up with a hard-copy reading journal anymore, I will share them here.

What's coming up in 2017?

The new year only recently begun, and I have already finished a book, started another, and have also been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, as it was the selection in my local book club for this month. These types of books take me a bit longer to get through, as I like to fully study them, as opposed to the books I read for fun.

Feel free to keep up with me on Goodreads or check back at the end of the month!

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