The Kitchen House: A Novel, Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House is not a light read. This book is however, very good and steps you back in time. The author does a great job of transporting you to a Virginia plantation in the last few years of the 1700’s and the first few of the 1800’s.

The Kitchen House is about the relationships between the white people in “the big house” and the slaves that do the work. In this story, the slave owners have a good relationship with their slaves and treat them nicely. After an outbreak of yellow fever, the next generation takes over and becomes the new owner of the plantation and the slaves. At this point, things turn tragically bad.

This novel takes you through the realities of slavery and the sadness of being under the control of your owner.

I enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down but like I said, it’s not a light read. Be prepared for some sadness if you choose to read this one.

The story is filled with horrific scandal but the author does a nice job of alluding to the scandals instead of laying out all of the gory details.

This story is told from the perspective of the slaves and the people in “the big house” so you get to see how both sides view different issues.

This was a great book and I felt like I learned what life was like for people during that time period.


How to Cook Salmon

This is my favorite way to cook salmon, it turns out a little crisp and very tasty every time.

 I always have a bag of Costco frozen salmon in the freezer and it tastes great despite being frozen.

Start off by heating about 1-2 tbls of olive oil in a pan for a few minutes so that it is very hot.

Season your fish with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place your fish in the pan. It will sizzle loudly! Let it cook in the oil for 3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook 3 more minutes.

Transfer your fish to a foil lined baking sheet and place your fish in the oven on broil. I have my oven rack pretty far from the broiler so it doesn't cook too fast. The purpose of broiling the fish after searing it is to finish cooking the fish through. This will take 6-7 minutes.

Take salmon out and eat! I like to use different sauces on my fish depending on the side dish of the night.

I like to make salmon like this about once a week! It is quick and tasty.


HDR Photography

I learned about HDR Photography (High Dynamic Range) this week and I'm having so much fun playing around with it! Here is what HDR photos look like-

Crazy huh!?

The purpose of HDR is to capture the grandness of a moment when you see something beautiful and want to photograph it but the photograph only kinda captures what you are seeing.

HDR stacks an under exposed photo, a properly exposed photo, and and over exposed photo to bring out all of the details that just one of those types of photos just wouldn' get all by itself.

Here's an example of three photos by themselves before being stacked.

HDR Photos can look kind of crazy or whimsical but I like that, it's fun!

I'm not an expert on how to do this but i'll tell you what I know. I have a Canon EOS 40D. Set the camera to Aperture priority, then under menu set the AEB mode (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) all the way out to 2. AEB takes the over exposed, properly exposed, and under exposed photos for you without you having to change the settings yourself. Then set the burst mode to take three photos quickly one after the other.

Take your three photos then the way that you stack them is by uploading them to Photomatix which you can download a free trial of here- http://www.hdrsoft.com/download.html The free trial leaves a watermark on your photo but it is still fun to play around with. Then you can play around with the photo in Photomatix until you like the way it looks!

Linking up here, here, here, and here !

Tufted Headboards!

I'm doing two link ups today- Oh How Pinteresting and What I'm Loving Wednesday because we all know Pinterest = Love:)

I am itching to make a tufted headboard! I love them and think I could do it!

 As you can see our bed currently has no headboard and could use some sprucing up!

I'm loving the yummy egg and avocado tacos I had for dinner last night!

I'm also loving that I got to wear my favorite pants to work yesterday-

That's right, they're pink. I dyed them myself:) These were originally white pants but I got something on them. Instead of having to get rid of them I dyed them and get to wear them again yay!

Happy Wednesday!



The Iron Lady

My husband and I went to see "The Iron Lady" over the weekend! The main thing that stuck out to me was that Meryl Streep did an amazing job at becoming Margaret Thatcher. Update, I just saw that Meryl was nominated for an Oscar- Best Actress for her role as Margaret Thatcher.

The Real Margaret- Source

Meryl- Source

The movie is about the first female British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. I thought it would be sort of chronological but, the movie bounces between Margaret as a very old lady to other times throughout her life.

I didn't walk away feeling like I learned a great deal about Margaret Thatcher (I really knew nothing about her before seeing this movie). It was more of a movie that appealed to my emotions instead of pulling me into a historical story.

In most of the movie, Thatcher is very old and has hallucinations of her dead husband. It is very sad to see a strong bright woman turn old and senile. Much like "The Notebook" you see the devotion of two old people that have spent so many years together that it is too sad for them to have to live without each other. While this movie is sort of sad it is also very sweet and endearing.

The movie was much different than I expected it to be. I thought I would come away with more of a history lesson and have a chronological understanding of her life and time as prime minister. Instead I think the movie focused more on who Margaret Thatcher was as a person by exposing the pains she felt from being a successful woman instead of primarily a wife and mother and the way that haunted her into her very old years.

I enjoyed the movie and I'm glad I saw it. I can't say that my husband really enjoyed it because it bordered on being a little too emotional/sweet/love story for him.

Like I said in the beginning Meryl Streep did an insanely good job at becoming Margaret Thatcher. You just have to see it to really appreciate it.

This is no light-hearted movie but, I think it is definitely worth seeing!


Patrick Dempsey's Lake House

I've noticed a few people have come to my blog because they've google searched for Patrick Dempsey's Lake House. The post I wrote about his lake house(click here to see it) just mentioned it in passing so I wanted to expand on it a little more!

I'm from Tyler, TX which is about 45 minutes north of Jacksonville, TX on hwy 69. My cousin has a cute cabin on Lake Jacksonville that has been in our family for a long time. I've brought lots of friends out for sleep overs and we've had lots of days with our family hanging out at the lake.

One night on our local news there was a report that Patrick Dempsey was seen in the Tyler Target and someone submitted a cell phone picture of him in the store!

That set everyone to researching what in the world he would be doing out in our part of the world!

After some research the locals figured out that his wife is from the Jacksonville area (we think) and they had a lake house on Lake Jacksonville!

I immediately started looking online for a house on the lake under his wife's name (I thought he wouldn't have his name out there for everybody to find, that would be too easy!).

Somehow I found some sort of tax document with their address online so my friends and I attempted to find him!

Here's what we found!

The front of the house! So secretive

From the lake side

His boat house

That sign warns of an electric wire/fence! I guess they don't want people coming too close:)

We're all taking photos. Like the canoe?

I am sad he wasn't sitting out at the boat house fishing when we canoed by... Maybe someday he will be! I have no idea if Patrick and his family still have this house but I like to think there is always a chance I could run into him on the lake or in town:)


Some Blog Updates

I've played around a lot this weekend with my blog and I love the changes! I've wanted to make some updates to my blog's looks for a few weeks but i've been scared I'd mess it up!

This past weekend was super pleasant, full of crafts and hanging out with my hubby. We even had a thunder storm!

Now it's time to enjoy my fav show, Downton Abby!

See you Monday morning for a fun post!


It's 18 Degrees

Woooww it's cold around here and I'm super grateful for warm boots and sweaters to keep me warm.

Something else that is keeping me warm today is the fact that it's Friday! I'll be making burgers and sweet potato fries for dinner tonight then on Saturday, Matt and I are going to see "The Iron Lady".

Last night for dinner, I bought two flounder fillets stuffed with crab from Trader Joe's. If you have a Trader Joes and love seafood you will surely love this! They are only $2.99 a piece and are deeelicious! 

I served it with wild rice and can't wait to eat this meal again.

The work around our house continues this weekend. It is hard to get motivated when it's sooo cold and all you want to do in lay on the couch under a blanket in front of the fire!

Happy Friday!


The Pillars of the Earth- By, Ken Follett

When I finished this book, I continued to think about the characters and story because they felt as though they had become part of my day everyday for several weeks. Every time I put the book down I couldn't help wondering what would happen next!

"The Pillars of the Earth", is almost 1,000 pages and is truly an epic story that covers an entire lifetime of the characters.

This thrilling historical fiction novel is set in Medieval England and centers around several characters who become intertwined as the story goes on.

In the beginning, a man is hung. As the story moves on there is a huge secret that gets uncovered bit by bit throughout the novel that continues to go back to the man that was hung at the beginning.

There is not one point in the book where drama and treachery aren't stirring. Just when the last issue for the characters is resolved, something new and outlandish happens that is more than you think they will be able to handle.

The major theme of this story is the building of a new cathedral and the powers of good and evil that are in a constant struggle to see the cathedral built or to destroy it.

I loved this book because the story was truly riveting. I looked forward to sitting down and reading it whenever I got the chance. I loved it too because of the historic tid bits intertwined in the story that gave me a sense of what life was like for people in the 1100's.

This is my favorite type of book and I truly enjoyed the whole thing. Ken Follett, the author, can really put together amazing novels, I don't know how he does it. I read another one of his books a couple of months ago called, "The Fall of Giants". The way he wrote that book is similar to the way he wrote "The Pillars of the Earth". Both novels follow the lives of multiple characters that become more intertwined as the story goes on. He also used the name Maud for a character in each book.

I'm so grateful to one of my friends from high school, Sarah, who recommended both "The Fall of Giants" and "The Pillars of the Earth" to me! They are both amazing books! 


We have really weird walls as in, the dry wall is actually really thick and crumbly. If you try to screw or nail something into the wall, the wall crumbles and you have a big hole.

I wanted to hang some pictures up in my craft room so I strung them up like a clothesline using command strips. Check it out:)


Clarisonic Mia Review

I've only been using my Clarisonic Mia for 3 weeks but, it has really been a game changer for my skincare. I had a good skincare regimen before getting my Clarisonic and for the most part was pretty happy with my skin. However, my pores were not as clean as I would have liked and it took a lot of maintenance to keep my pores clear.

With the Clarisonic Mia, my skin looks smooth, I hardly get any breakouts (I have very acne prone skin), and my pores are really clear. I look forward to using my Clarisonic because it feels really good and makes washing my face each night a little more fun!

I have sensitive, oily, and acne prone skin. I can't use harsh products on my sensitive skin or else it gets really dry, red, and peels. The amazing thing about the Clarisonic Mia is that it's really gentle but so effective. The brush vibrates instead of spinning. The bristles are really soft. When using the Mia you don't feel like you are scrubbing your face, or like you are harshly brushing your face. The vibrations of the brush are somehow able to get more dirt and whatnot out of your pores than just cleansing but still do it gently enough to not cause redness and peeling.

Ever since I was about 12, (I'm 24 now) I've had some sort of acne issue. Some days during my teens and twenties my skin would be covered with acne and just when I would be close to getting it under control it would break out again. The never ending cycle of almost clear skin, full blown acne, and just clogged unclear pores was maddening. As I got into my twenties the process got a little better but I still was not happy with my skin.

For about 9 months leading up to my wedding in 2010 I got to got to the esthetician for a monthly facial. She put together a great skincare regimen for me to follow each morning and night. While getting a monthly facial and following her skin care regimen my skin looked better than ever. All of the pores I couldn't quite keep clear were cleaned out by her each month so my skin never had a chance to get too bad.

After my wedding, I missed my monthly facials and my skin looked ok when I followed the plan laid out by the esthetician but still not amazing. I got an at-home microderm machine which you can read about here. That was a great addition to my skin care but still, my pores has the chance to clog up each month and need a major clean out.

The Clarisonic Mia gets my skin much cleaner on a daily basis and I am so pleased with how smooth and great it feels. Now that I've added it to my nighttime skin care regimen I think my skin looks awesome.

Now every morning I wash my forehead, nose, and chin with my MD Forte I cleanser, moisturize with PCA Re balance, and finish with PCA Sunscreen.

At night I remove my eye make-up with home-made eye make-up remover that I found on pinterest (check out the link here). Then I apply MD Forte I cleanser to my whole face, then I use my Clarisonic all over my face as the directions say and rinse off the cleanser. Then I moisturize with PCA Re balance. If I have a pimple I use benzoyl peroxide on the spot.

I am really happy with how my skin looks and feels right now. I think for right now I have found what works for me!


Is Counting Calories Worth It?

Calorie counting sounds awful and so restrictive which is why I refused to try it out for a long time. Recently I’ve decided to give it a shot for a few reasons.
1.       I eat different now that I got married! When I only looked out for my own eating, I didn’t even consider buying queso, I bought spinach, sardines, and other healthy foods that people thought were weird.  I used to live by saying I could eat as much of something that I wanted as long as it was healthy. I thought that if I was eating wholesome foods then my body would be nourished and I didn’t need to count calories if they were coming from good food. The thing is, I don’t eat just healthy food! I looove queso, burgers, ice cream, regular coke, and sweets and it is present in my kitchen now. Since my eating has changed from lots of healthy food to more normal person food, I had to start paying better attention (I also learned that even if I eat lots of healthy food, calories are calories and they still add up).  
2.       I don’t exercise like I used to! Now I have a job that allows me to sit on my booty allllll day. When I get home, I work around the house but I’m not intentionally getting in a lot of workouts. When I lived in an apartment with a workout room I used it often but now at our house I only have weights and the street outside to go walking or running. Now that it is winter it is too cold to go outside and I haven’t been going for walks or running like I did in the summer and fall.
3.       I don’t want weight to creep onto my body and then have to loose a bunch later in life. I hear the same story from a lot of women who are now in their 30’s 40’s or 50’s. They say they were skinny in their twenties but year by year the weight snuck on and never came off.
So, I downloaded the loseit! App on my iPhone so I can keep track of my calories each day. When I downloaded the app I put in my height, weight, and age and told it the weight I wanted to be. Then it calculated how many calories I am allotted for each day.

To keep track, every time I eat I enter what I had into my calorie counter. If I exercise I enter what I did.
The calorie counter tells you how many calories you are allowed to have for the rest of the day.

I have found that I am more careful about what I eat knowing how many calories are actually in it. Because my calories are limited I am always looking for food that I can eat a lot of without adding a lot of calories to my calorie counter. Some great choices are carrots, spinach, hummus, tuna, coffee, and unsweet tea (tea is 0 calories and I love tea).
I also allow myself two indulgences everyday but must budget for them in my calorie intake. Those include regular coke and ice cream. I get strong cravings for both everyday and feel deprived if I don’t get them. The ice cream is harder to budget for so I usually end up eating a small portion of ice cream but eat it slowly to enjoy it longer instead of eating a huge bowl.
The first week of calorie counting was hard. I felt a little deprived and struggled to feel like it was worth missing out on all of the food I could be eating!  After a week though, I felt good. I’m not hungry or deprived feeling. I look forward to my indulgences and savor them. Also, juuuust when you think, "Forget this! I'd rather stuff my face," you look in the mirror and think, "hmmm, I am looking pretty good, I guess this keeping my calorie count under control thing is working..."
In my own life, I have seen how weight can creep on. Since my freshman year of college I have put on about 15 pounds. I don’t look too different now but when I look back at pictures of myself in college I can see a difference.
I know I will thank myself later for taking care of my body and not giving up on keeping my eating under control. I would looove to eat a huge bowl of ice cream every night and chocolate candy throughout the whole day and never break a sweat working out. But, I know even a year from now I would be annoyed at myself for not taking better care of myself.
I plan on giving myself a break on Saturday/Sunday to not count every calorie but still mentally keep in mind how much I’m eating. Also vacations, my birthday, and Christmas will be days when I can go crazy and eat whatever and as much as I want.
I change my health and fitness strategies often with the seasons. The same thing doesn’t work for me year round but I think counting calories is here to stay for a long time.
Losing weight or maintaining weight is simple for me. Calories in have to only reach a certain level or my body can’ t use them all and it turns to fat. Calorie counting may not always be the most fun way to stay in shape but it is simple, cut, and dry.
Without the app on my phone I don’t think I would be as into calorie counting.
What about you? Would you ever consider counting calories and keeping track of everything you eat day to day? Is it worth it to you?


Downton Abbey: Season Two

I'm sooooooo thrilled that Downton Abbey is back! I watched the two hour premier Sunday night and look forward to the next episode.

Downton Abbey is a PBS series that airs on Sunday nights. The show started last year and I was absolutely sucked in. When the series was over I was really bummed because I loved the story, the beautiful clothes, and scenes in the show.

Now the show is set in 1916 I believe and WWI has just begun. The whole show is about an aristocratic family in England and now that the war has started, we are starting to see that the old ways of life are dwindling away as men go to war and women have to change their everyday roles to keep on living.

This show is so well done and I can't wait to see what happens next!


Living Room Drapes

The living room drapes are done!

Saturday morning, my husband and I cleared the living room out to give me plenty of space to lay out my fabric.

Next we hung the curtain rod. We got very lucky at Lowes the night before. A lot of curtain rods and rings were on clearance! We were prepared to paint a metal pipe and add our own finials to keep the price down since curtain rods can cost big $$, but luckily we were able to get a pretty rod for only $15!

We got the one in the middle of this photo
All day Saturday I measured, cut, serged, lined, sewed, and then hung the un-hemmed drapes over night with clips.

On Sunday I took the drapes back down and sewed on the rings.

Finally on Sunday night I hemmed and ironed the bottom of the curtains.

I loooove the fabric and had fun using my serger and sewing machine!

I have made 2 pillows for the couch so far and still have one to go.

The pillows and drapes have added the pop of color we needed in our living room!

I'm so happy we no longer have a plastic drop cloth as our front window treatment:)

Today i'm linking up here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here!