chal-lenge: noun a calling to account or into question

Follow along as I challenge the tricks, tips, clever craft and decorating ideas and "simple" recipes that we clip, bookmark, and "pin" for trial at a later date.

Are they really worth the effort? Time (and I) will tell!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Chair

Several interesting pieces of old furniture turned up while clearing out the attic of the garage at my husband’s family home. As luck would have it, they were just calling my name asking to be brought back to life. Among the pieces was a little rocking chair. Although it was covered with cobwebs and dirt, it was obvious that someone had started to strip the many layers of paint from the chair before putting it aside. There isn’t anyone left to verify, but I can only assume that the project was started by my father-in-law. I wasn't a part of the family very long before he passed away, but I remember him as being a very industrious person. He was always looking for a new project to tackle and wasn’t afraid to jump right in. Furniture refinishing was one of his many projects. He did complete several pieces but this one appears to have been too much for him.

As anyone who has ever tried to strip paint and varnish from an old piece of furniture knows, those spindles will either make or break you. When I looked at the chair, I could tell that many hours had already been spent taking off the old layers and the spindles were indeed the breaking point. I counted five layers of paint in the twists and turns of the spindles. The little chair was just gasping out its last breaths and I knew I had to help it.

I haven’t worked on furniture for quite some time and I knew that what was left to do would be very difficult. A friend recommended an environmentally friendly stripping formula. “The paint will just peel right of”, he said. Can’t believe I fell for that one. Countless hours were wasted while I waited for the product to dissolve the paint. Sorry environmentalists, sometimes you just have to bring out the big guns and that’s just what I did.

I won’t bore you with all the moaning and groaning involved in the project. Stripping furniture is a smelly, dirty and back breaking job. I have to admit that there were many times during the process that I would set the chair aside and debate about whether or not to finish it. After all, there was no guarantee that I would be successful and I didn’t even have any place to put the finished piece. But then I would look at it sitting in a corner of the garage looking so forlorn that I would renew my effort to bring it back to save it's life.

What a job! I agonized over it for almost a year battling between wanting to give up and knowing I could do it if I just tried a little harder. Well, it’s finally finished. With a new fiber board seat stained to look like leather nailed in place and a spot cleared in the family room for it to sit, I can breathe a sigh of relief. It really is a sweet little chair that not only represents my determination, but is a nice little reminder of a time gone by. Oh, you’re welcome little chair.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Random Recipes

After cleaning out my freezer last week, I decided to tackle the ever-growing pile of recipes I have collected before restocking. I have a drawer full of recipes torn from magazines and printed from my favorite on-line cooking sites.

I chose a few, jotted down the ingredients and proceeded to torture my husband with new meals all week. My choices were fairly simple to put together although I am a little slow in the chopping department. I’m happy to report that there were no knife- related injuries all week.

Peanut noodles with chicken and spring vegetables was my first try. The sauce was made from peanut butter, ginger, garlic and chile-garlic sauce to spice things up a little. The noodles were wheat spaghetti and I used broccoli and carrots for my vegetables. I love ginger so I give this recipe a thumbs up but Tom was not a fan.

On to balsamic chicken with pears. Balsamic vinegar has a strong presence so I was a little nervous about how this one would go over. It ended up being absolutely delicious with a nice balance between the sweet pears and vinegar. I threw in some dried cranberries for extra flavor and color.

Apricot glazed flounder was my fish choice for the week. This one also called for ginger which wasn’t a success earlier in the week. I used it anyway but reduced the amount. Success! We love fish and this little sauce was a nice compliment.

Pork, apple and cheddar meatballs with wheat noodles was the final choice. I have never cooked with ground pork before but I will now! This was a very tasty and moist combination. The apples and onions were grated to add extra moisture and eliminate anyone biting into “chunks”. Ouch! Wet slippery produce is tricky to grate.

To cap off the week, I selected this apple sharlotka recipe. It really is mostly apples with a little batter thrown in. My result did not look as pretty as the picture but it was delicious. It’s the kind of dessert you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.

I feel good about my efforts this past week. I need to stay motivated and keep working through my pile because I still have a long way to go!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cleaning Out

What better way to start the New Year than to make an attempt to get better organized? I have several things on my agenda for the week-end. First up, what’s all this stuff in my freezer? Is there any real food anywhere? All this random stuff is left over from the holidays. I’ll have to go through it all and discard the unidentified, freezer burned bits and pieces. Of course once I clean out the freezer, I’ll have to go grocery shopping. Before I can do that, I’ll have to do some menu planning. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find something for dinner.

There is still a pile of unwanted clothes and coats that will need to be bagged up and delivered the to local clothes collection bin. I received a call out from the consignment shop and they are looking for VHS tapes. What better time to clean out our old collection? We don’t own a VHS player any longer so these things are just sitting around. More stuff out of the house!

In line with my New Year’s goals, I’m meeting with the Executive Director of the Phelps Art Center this afternoon to discuss volunteer opportunities. Looks like my year is off to a good start.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I love the beginning of a new year. There’s nothing like a fresh new calendar, journal, planner, etc. to energize me. I set goals for myself every year even though they seem to be a continuation of last year’s goals. I’m like a little inch worm working my way toward the ultimate prize. Although unlike the inchworm, I do take the time to stop and see how beautiful the marigolds can be as I make my way ever upward. Maybe that’s why it takes me so long to get there!

My goals this year are like millions of others: health and fitness, spiritual well-being, and expanding my knowledge of the world around me. All easily translated into the cliche body, mind and soul. But if you think about it, what else is there?

Body: Healthy menus including those dreaded fruits and vegetables! Besides adding to the healthy, I pledge to eliminate the bad. Eliminating the bad will prove to be the most difficult. I say this as I sip the last of the Festive Ale and eat the last bag of kettle cooked potato chips. I will exercise more consistently this year including weight training and yoga. I think my dvd’s have been sufficiently reviewed from the couch. I have a new Personal Fitness and Nutrition Log that I will faithfully complete each day.

Mind: My professional career is ever evolving and if I want to stay competitive(and employed) I will need to speak with knowledge and authority. My goal is to stay in tune with the changes in government policies and procedures and make myself an invaluable member of the team. Selfishly, I hope to hang on to my job for a few more years!

Soul: I will find a not-for-profit organization that can make good use of my skills and abilities. I will volunteer time each week to help them reach their goals while enriching my own life.

I don’t believe my goals are self-serving because they all benefit others as well as myself. I’m excited to get started and see how far I can get. Maybe you can be an inchworm too and keep working toward your ulitmate goal whatever it might be. Don’t be discouraged, it all takes time. Best of luck with your New Year’s goals!