Progress on the Porch

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Let there be screen!

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We finally finished painting and rescreening our back porch. Screening was the easiest and fastest part of the whole process. It took us three coats of paint to cover the wood sufficiently. We color-matched our existing trim to Benjamin Moore’s Nature’s Essentials and got exterior Behr Paint and Prime in One. It took us so long because of the weather. We wanted to paint with enough days to be sure it wouldn’t be soaking wet after 24 hours, so the forecast combined with traveling and work extended this project a few weeks longer than we’d planned.

Here’s a before shot to give you a comparison:

porch2And after:

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The new screen is nice and clean, which really increases the visibility in the photo. We didn’t bother to paint the door in its entirety. For one reason, we would have had to remove the hardware to do so, and the door is badly bowed at the top. We’re going to replace it soon, and didn’t want to waste paint on a door destined for the recycle bin.porchdoor

We still have to paint and nail in the exterior flashing, which covers up the areas where the screen is stapled into the wood, so today is mainly interior shots. Hopefully soon to come: a round of Behr’s DeckOver on the porch floor. porch3

When we first began hanging the screen, we did it the way the previous owners had, in two pieces per section. When we did the first section and stood back to make sure it looked okay, I suggested we do the rows in their entirely. Light bulb! That’s what we did the rest of the way, and it made it a lot faster.porch4 Our method was to start at the top, staple across, and then work our way down. We used an electric staple gun without any complaints. It worked well for us. The flashing will cover the overlap and staples, and will be painted to match the wood.

Here’s a shot of the space between the bushes and the porch (below). When we moved in, the appraiser told us that the bushes had grown too close to the porch. There was a buildup of dirt against the wood, which is an invitation for termites. So we had to cut back the bushes (6 inches) and then dig out all the extra dirt. Not fun. This was also the hardest area in which to attach the screen, because I had to shuffle in between the porch and the bushes, and once the screen was on, there wasn’t anything to hold on to.

porch5 We’ll be back with exterior shots once the flashing is on. Now to go stalk outdoor furniture sales. Who’s ready for a cookout?

The Sun Room Gets an Update

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If at any point I ever say to you, “Oh yeah, that’ll just take a few hours, no problem!” and I’m referring to painting an exterior porch where you also need to tear off old screening and prime the wood before painting, you have my permission to promptly tell me I’m full of it.

B didn’t do that, and now that’s the very mess we’re in.

But that’s a story for another day. Today, you’re getting what I happen to have (finally) taken pictures of, which is the sun room. Until recently the sun room (one of the rooms we bought the house for, we loved it so much), was pretty empty.

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We did eventually move our outdoor furniture inside so that there was a place to sit, but it wasn’t much.kitchen-after3 kitchen-after2 kitchen-after1Soon after we moved in, we spotted a couch with a chaise at World Market and loved it. That said, we didn’t want to chock over $700 for it. So we waited. And saved. And horded gift cards like we do. Finally, we were able to pair some coupons, savings, and a great sale to get both the couch and a jute rug for only $30 out of pocket. Huzzah! Patience is king.

So here’s what the room looks like now. Some of the color is off in the photos, but the first photo is the most accurate. (The couch is a charcoal color.)

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It’s a smidge crowded between the couch and the bookshelf, but we’re not quite sure where that bookshelf is going to “live” permanently, so right now it’s staying there. The problem is relocating my growing collection of cookbooks…to where? B has suggested getting some white glass-front Ikea bookshelves for that spot, which would brighten it up and be functional. (There is enough room to remove a book from the back shelves; it looks closer than it is.)sunroom1 sunroom3

The outdoor furniture will eventually go back outside. We plan to add a coffee table (maybe round) and a big chair (maybe white) to finish the space off. Right now the plan is for Scout’s crate to stay in the back corner where it is in the photos. It works well there, convenience wise, and having it on tile is a bonus. Other items this rooms still needs: Two matching light fixtures, working blinds (half are broken. Actually, half the blinds in the entire house are broken. We counted), and maybe window treatments.sunroom4This impromptu gallery wall is a collection of items that we’ve given each other and received from friends. We have a few more to add to complete it.

Other than getting some furniture in place, we’ve been working on the porch and yard.

yard1We Craig’sListed the playset (free if you’ll come get it) without expecting much reaction. Boy, were we wrong! I had to remove the listing after an hour or two because my inbox was flooded. Fifty emails later, a family of two is going to give her a good home, leaving us with the other half of our yard freed up…and some dirt in need of grass.

Our Bradford Pear trees put on a beautiful show for about a week before shedding all their petals into the yard.

yard petalsAnd the trees we adopted on National Arbor Day started to sprout some leaves!

yard2The front yard gave us some surprise gifts too.

front yard tulipAnd yet, there is plenty more for us to do in the yard. To say we have very little grass in front and back would be an understatement. What green we have is entirely weed. We have no grass. And a much stricter neighborhood covenant about keeping your yard pretty. So, we’ll be working hard on that this season.

Maybe now that we’re a bit more settled in we can get back to posting more. Here’s a look at some of the projects we have planned (and will, pinky promise, post about):

  1. Un-screening, painting (in progress), and rescreening the back porch
  2. Painting the living room
  3. Renovating the powder room (wainscotting and a cool hand-painted pattern on the walls!)
  4. Painting the laundry room something fun
  5. Refinishing the floor in the screened-in porch (probably with Behr’s DeckOver again)
  6. Ripping up the unstable back patio stones, releveling the ground, laying a weed barrier, and relaying the patio stones
  7. Lights! New lights! (Please, for the love of God, let us get some new lights.)
  8. Hardwoods! (Now I’m just dreaming.)
  9. A pool! (Dream big!)

Until next time!

Painting the F.R.O.G.

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Man, do we ever owe you guys an update. I promise life has kept us busy, but I’m snagging a free moment to give you an update on the studio space over the garage (otherwise known as a FROG: furnished room over garage).

Here’s the before:

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I wish that I had been able to photograph the blue wall color more accurately. When I tell you it was bold, I really mean it. This lighting makes it appear much softer than it was.office3 office2 office1These photos were taken right after we moved in and were in the midst of unpacking things. The two shelves on the wall (above) were left by the previous owner, so we just threw some stuff up on them to keep it off the floor.

In progress shots:

studio-during1 studio-during2 studio-during6accent-wall6accent-wall11And here is where the room is now, after two coats of primer and two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray color-matched to Behr’s paint and prime in one in the eggshell finish.

studioafter1 studioafter2

This room is predominantly used for my printing studio, which is what the table on the right is (which B built for me, back in the day). The brown end table you see is the station where I package orders, so thus all the stacks of stuff.studioafter3This little table belonged to B’s grandparents and now sits in a dormer window. I use the beautiful light the dormer has to photograph the cards I print. The orchid is a new addition, a gift from a friend for the new job I’m starting next week. I’m hoping this spot will work for it—and that I don’t kill it. The doors to the storage areas under the dormers need to be painted white, or maybe Edgecomb Gray to match the wall…studioafter4This was our big project: the accent wall. We used a stencil from Royal Design Studio, and though I love how it turned out, it was a lot of work! I think our slanted walls and window made it a big challenge. That being said, it’s the first wall you see when you come up the stairs and look at this room, so it has great impact for not a lot of financial investment (imagine the cost of a pretty wallpaper to cover this entire wall!).

And if you’re curious, that’s the press that I make my cards on. It’s from 1884 and entirely hand-run! She may be small, but she’s a workhorse, still chugging along after 129 years.studioafter5 studioafter6 studioafter7This is the view from the hall, so you can see the impact of the gallery wall. We owe you a post on the accent wall, so stay tuned!

Painting the Master Ceiling

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The master ceiling is blue/green no more! I say “blue/green” because I call it green and B calls it blue. You be the judge. Either way, it’s white now.

Before:

before4After:

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B found some primer in the garage and went to work one night. He rolled two coats of primer before painting a coat of Behr’s white ceiling paint.

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Other updates: a new bed, which was an early Christmas gift from B’s parents combined with a 25% off sale and a great coupon. It’s taller than our old bed, not because of the bed but because of the mattresses. Mattress shopping was a big learning curve. We ended up having to swap out the box spring we bought for a low-profile box spring so that I could get into the bed without having to climb. Every person we talked to said the same thing: “Well, they make mattresses taller than they used to.” Noted.master6

Because of various factors, our end tables don’t match right now. And I didn’t really stage these photos (not that I stage any photos), as evidenced by the fact that I now see how crooked my lamp shade is and that B has some random white poles next to his end table. Honestly, if I can take photos without tripping over the cat and the dog and any time of day before midnight, it’s a win.

The pillows were made by B’s mom, and used to be in our old kitchen’s sitting area. Because that furniture is now on the screened-in porch, we found these pillows a new home. We didn’t want them to get covered in pollen and dirt outside, and the fabric isn’t outdoor fabric. (It’s Braemore Gorgeous Pearl.) They actually ended up matching our quilt perfectly, so we lucked out. They’re the same fabric that she used to make the curtains too (below), so we have inadvertently ended up looking rather put together. master5

As you can see, the walls still have the texture on them. A reader commented a few days ago with a lot of great info for us regarding these walls. She suggested that they might be Venetian plaster, an expensive finish. This prompted me to do some research. Though I don’t think we have Venetian plaster, which looks like this…

venetian-plaster-walls-with-lots-of-texture(Image via Mackenzie Collier Interiors)

…I do think we have a sand texture.

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Apparently some paints can come with sand texture added to them. Our walls don’t appear to have a very heavy coat of it. I have only done some cursory research regarding removing the texture, but even with that little reading, I’m not sure we’re going to bother trying to remove it.master3The color isn’t bad and coordinated with our things, so though we wouldn’t have chosen the texture to begin with, I think it’s here to stay. In the meantime, we need to try to figure out how to patch the spots on the wall that are damaged from things like the old curtain rods and nail holes…

Painting the Kitchen Area

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I’ve often read (mainly on blogs) that a house doesn’t really feel like your home until you put your stamp on it. For us, that mainly manifests in one way: painting. Before we moved in, we knew a few things about painting this home:

1. The orange in the powder room had to go. – Done!

before-after-powder2. The brown in the sitting area had to go. This would mean, more than likely, repainting the entire kitchen and adjoining hallway into the dining room so that the flow from room to room was seamless.

kitchen53. The teal rooms had to be repainted.

office4before7But after that, we were less sure. The guest bedroom blue doesn’t bother us; the living room isn’t what color we want it to be, but it also isn’t offensive or a rush job. The dining room is staying the gray that it is. After looking at paint samples in the three to-be-painted rooms (kitchen, teal bathroom, teal rec room), we settled on a paint for the kitchen, but not the other rooms. Thus, the decision to paint the kitchen came about.

Here’s where we started.

kitchen4 kitchen2 kitchen6We have an entirely new kitchen on our hands now.

kitchen-after2It took two gallons of Behr Premium Ultra Paint and Prime in One in “Wild Honey” and the better part of two days to paint all of this. What’s interesting is how the color shifts from the sitting area to the kitchen during the course of the day. Sometimes it appears creamier and yellower than other times, when it’s pale and soft. kitchen-after1It’s pretty amazing how much bigger this room feels now.

kitchen-after3Though B isn’t big on the chair rail, we decided to keep it for ease. It needs to be repainted pretty badly, but one thing at time. kitchen-after4 kitchen-after5See what I mean about the color changing with the light? I prefer when it takes on this tone instead of the more yellow tone, but that’s a personal thing. I’m yellow prejudice. I admit it. B helps break me out of my gray-pale blue shell. kitchen-after6And now, on to the rec room, which I’m really excited about! Here’s a (big) hint:

stencil(Source)

Follow the Trail

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In life, the trail of events sometimes leads you to find something unexpected. Take our ant battles (which are ongoing still). The ants find their way into our master bathroom, so we find a way to drive them out.

They find their way back in.

ants1We drive them back out. But one night, the night pictured above, I moved Zoey’s litter box (which they don’t care about) into the hall bathroom (which we have barely entered since moving in) so that I could set up her food and water in there while we took care of the latest ant invasion.

One little moment led to another.

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I paused to examine how crazy close the blue of the wall is to the blue stripe in our shower curtain. (At the time, the paint swatch wasn’t on the wall.)hall4

I paused to look at the floor tiles a little closer, to think about where to put Zoey’s food and water in the room.hall3

I spotted a few ants, and yelled to B that this bathroom had them too, scouting out more food. Then I began to move the shower curtain out of the way, so that I could try to find where the ants were coming from.hall2

And that’s when I saw what our inspector didn’t. The rotting baseboard and wall where the teenager who ruled this bathroom before us must not have pulled the shower curtain all the way to the wall, must have let shower after shower of water rain out into the bathroom and then left the water on the tiles, thinking they were waterproof. I looked at our wall, and then yelled for B.hall1This story serves to reinforce two rules of law. First, that just when you think you have picked out what your first major project will be in your new home, inevitably your house will give you another instead. And second, that your inspector will miss something. I don’t care how much you paid for their report, how well recommended they came—they will miss something. And what you hope they do is miss something small.

Rotting baseboards in your bathroom are not small.

What we don’ know is how far the damage goes. As soon as we saw it, and the accompanying ants, we made the assumption that they must be enjoying the moist, dark space in our wall, so B took to caulking the thing as best he could. That’s why the picture looks like the hole is filled with petroleum jelly. It’s clear caulk, still drying after almost four days. Our plan is to redo this room first now. We had previously planned to pretty-up our powder room, but this is the priority now.

We’ll rip up the tiles and check the integrity of the subfloor, repair any water damage to the subfloors and the wall around the tub. Then we’ll pick out new tiles and redo them, replacing the toilet with a fresh, energy-efficient model while we’re at it. The tiles need to be redone anyway—the grout was done poorly and is rough, and the toilet is old and as un-energy-efficient as it could be.

Would we have found this without the help of the ants? Yes, eventually. Whenever we got around to painting this room, we would have pulled the curtain aside and been gobsmacked by what we found. Or the first time we had guests sleep over and use this bathroom, they would have come running downstairs to inform us of the state of things. But we’ve now found it before all of that, which means we can fix it sooner.

All because we followed a trail of ants.

A Tour of the Backyard

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It’s about time you heard about more than ants and unpacking, isn’t it? Here’s a look at Scout’s new backyard.

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You can enter the screened-in porch from two places, the sitting area off the kitchen or the dining room, as shown above.porch2

These photos were taken in the morning, so you can see that the yard gets very pretty light in the morning. It’s a great place to sit with a cup of tea (though it’s a little chilly for that lately!). porch1

Though the overhead fan is nice, it needs to be replaced. When you turn it on, it swings wildly out of control. The first time we turned it on, B was standing directly below it when the light globe fell off! Thankfully it’s made of plastic…which means it probably fell off and broke at one point and was replaced with plastic. I like the light that’s on the wall, but it needs to be repainted. The speaker doesn’t currently work because the wire has been cut and doesn’t go anywhere. There’s lots of that around the house, actually.back13

On the other side of the porch door is a small patio. Eventually the patio will need to be removed and replaced to fix some sloping and water pooling. Also, the inspector suggested removing all the bushes along the house. Though they’re pretty and well maintained, they are too close to the foundation. We’re brainstorming ways we can save them, so we’ll see if we can come up with anything. back12 back11

This is the right side of the yard, with the house behind you. back10

A look at the full house.back9Up close on the playhouse the previous owners left. We figure this thing will serve as a good play area for our friends who have children. It’s a pretty nice setup, and cost a good bit, we imagine. Because of the way it’s built, removing it would be a lot of trouble.

back3back2To the right of the playhouse is a trellis with a vine on it. The previous owners had a swing hung from this, and we were surprised that they took it with them. We assumed it would stay with the house. Eventually we plan to replace the swing. We liked this area quite a bit. back4 back5 back6

Open yard to the left of the playhouse.back7 back8

A kid-size picnic table, in case we ever feel like eating under the playhouse.back1And that’s the backyard! Our plans for this space:

  1. As I said, we need to replace the patio and do something about the bushes next to the house.
  2. The grass is sparse and in need of some love.
  3. The fence is getting up in age and will need some regular maintenance.
  4. One of the bushes in the very back, behind the playhouse, is dead and needs to be dug up and removed.

That’s about it, for now. B and I both would love a pool one day, but that would be way down the road and may or may not happen. We’ll just have to see!

The Battle of ANTietam

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The ants won the war. But not the cute little black ants that invaded our kitchen and bathroom. The fire ants won.

This morning, I held the door to the screened-in porch open for Scout to go out while I stood inside on the porch, out of the rain. A second or two went by, and then, suddenly, my feet were on fire.

I looked down to see that I was standing in the middle of a war zone. The Battle of Antietam was happening on our porch at that very moment.

I don’t know where the fire ants came from. Previously, the only ants we’d encountered were the small, black, sweet kind that just wanted our food. As many times as B and I cleaned them up, they never once bit either of us. These ants were noticeably different and aggressive. I watched as they tore—literally—the small ants to pieces, leaving wriggling carcasses behind.

I got Scout inside, and, baffled as to what I should do, went to work, letting the battle rage while we were away.

antsWhen I got home, this is what I found.

antsThis looks like nothing but a dirty porch. But it’s not. All of those little black dots are ant carcasses. antsThey are piled up on one another, rows and rows of them. (Ignore the random boards. The previous owner cut a hole in the screen for her dog to go in and out. We plan to patch it back up. The boards are a precaution in case Zoey slips out.)antsMost of the bodies are on the other side of the porch door, in the crack between the door and the paver. How many ant bodies does it take to fill up the cracks of this paver and mound above it? ants antsThis is where I guess that they spilled onto the porch from outside. A small depreciation in the concrete that slips under the porch railing. antsThe battle lines flowed from the porch door around the perimeter of the porch.

ants

(Again, not dirt. Ants.)ants

Past the door to the kitchen…antsAnd around the wall to behind the loveseat.

That’s when I realized. The fire ants are dead too. All along the perimeter are dead black ants and larger fire ants. B had just sprayed the perimeter of the house a few days prior, to keep the ants out of the house.

So maybe, when it was all said and done, B won the war after all.

(Note: Just because we don’t see any live ants doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to still treat the yard. I spoke with an acquaintance who has a PhD in horticulture, and he said, “There’s no way you can do this organically.” My reputation precedes me, apparently. “Get a fertilizer sprayer, and spread the fire ant food around the entire yard right before it rains. Don’t go from mound to mound. Do the entire yard at once.” So, that’s the plan.)

World War A, and Other Updates

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Homeownership is nothing if not a reality check. No matter how glorious the house, it takes work to keep it in shape and functioning properly. Thus is the case with our new not-yet-named place. Just when you move in and have stars in you eyes…Wham! The house says, “Ugh, yeah, could you fix me, please?”

Our new place broke us in early. Two days after moving in, we’d managed to unpack enough of the sitting room off the kitchen that we could arrange Scout’s crate, water bowl, and food bowl in there on the tile. B went downstairs in the morning to let Scout out and feed her, because nothing comes between Scout and a prompt breakfast. Suddenly, I hear my name being yelled in that you-need-to-do-something-pronto kind of way. I race downstairs to find that every ant in a 5-mile radius has invaded our kitchen. Scout’s bag of dog food is full to the brim with little black ants. (I should note here, because this is our life and we only do things above and beyond the crazy line: This bag of dog food was just purchased the previous day. On sale. For $70. Double note for those who don’t know: Scout has food allergies, thus the expensive food. Now full of ants.)

B and I proceed to wage war in our pajamas on our second day of homeownership in our kitchen. We finally track the ants back to a tiny hole in the caulking of one of the windows in the sitting room. B grabs a caulk tube and frantically plugs the hole while I try to get Scout’s dog food bag into the garage without being taken down by the trail of ants in the process.

When it’s all over, we pause, and I ask B, “Has Scout eaten?”

“Of course she’s eaten.” (Because, again, nothing comes between Scout and breakfast.)
“Did she eat any ants?”
“I don’t know. I fed her with the lights off.”

We look down at the dog. She looks back at us and wags her tail. No harm, no foul, we pray. (Scout was fine, for the record. It’s the closest to hunting down her food and devouring it alive she’s ever come. Her wild ancestors would be ashamed.)

The next day, we wake to find that the ants have climbed to the second floor and are now devouring Zoey’s food, which is in our master bathroom. We proceed to stomp as many ants as we can while seeking out their new hole, but come up empty. They’re on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, us, everywhere. All we can determine is that it has something to do with the bath tub, which has this odd ring of plastic something—it looks like a plastic bumper—around the circumference of the tub.

Old pic:

before2We had already checked with the home inspector, who said it was just cosmetic, so we ripped it off in an effort to follow the ants’ trail. (We’d planned to take it off anyway down the road.) Underneath the plastic whatever was some half-dried caulk/glue of some sort, which immediately got all over our hands. It stuck to the wall of tile and the tub and everything in between.

antsBut we found the tiny hole in the grout that the ants were coming in at, so B took a tube of clear bathroom caulk and went around the perimeter of the bathroom until we were sure we’d plugged up ever hole near the tub. ants Fast forward to Monday of this week. We woke to find that the ants had come back into our bathroom and attacked Zoey’s food bowl again, this time through a tiny crack in the baseboard inside the linen closet in the bathroom. Again, we frantically killed as many as we could while moving Zoey’s food bowl to the tub and washing it out. B caulked every single perimeter in the entire bathroom, and we waited.

B bought bug spray and treated the yard, which we discovered is covered with ant beds. He sprayed the perimeter of the house. I tried not to think about all the chemicals being used around the house (the type we bought does say it’s safe for pets and children once it’s dry, but still). Then B bought ant food that is supposed to kill the nests.

Finally, this morning, we woke up to find that the test bowl of food we’d left out in our bathroom was ant-free. Too early to declare victory? Possibly so. Let’s play it safe and say that we’ve won this battle, but the war is still TBD.

In the meantime, between all this ant killing, we did manage to get some stuff done around the house.

We’ve got some bookshelves and art on the walls in the future guest room:guest roomThe wall color here is the previous owners’ choice, but we kind of like it and may keep it. It’s called Quiet Rain by Glidden. (Which has a very strong smell, for the record. We painted some holes we’d patched and had to air the room out overnight with the window open.)guest roomWe cleared out a major amount of boxes from the sitting room:

sitting room sitting room(Scout was licking the slow cooker just before I took this picture. What are we going to do with her?)sitting roomAll the empty boxes that filled this space (60 of them!) were sold, along with the bubble wrap, on CraigsList. Why let them go to waste?

And the biggest thing was done almost all by B: painting the powder room. Before, a kind of University of Texas orange:

before18 And after, the same gray that’s in the dining room:

powder roomWe picked this gray for one reason: The previous owner left a full gallon of it unopened in the garage. That’s $40 worth of paint that we couldn’t turn down, and this orange room was calling our names.powder room

The color is Behr’s Dolphin Fin.powder roomIt feels about 20 times larger now. Eventually we want to do something like this in this room:

inspiration powder room(Source)

We plan to do wainscotting around the room and then paint a gray-and-white pattern on the top half using a wall stencil. The hardwood floors are going to stay because they’re perfectly good, but we’re undecided on the pedestal sink, which looks good from afar but up close is kind of wonky.

I’m actually pretty excited for this project, whenever we get to it. The beadboard that we did at the last place really transformed it on a budget, so I think this will look great once we’re done.

Hopefully without any interference from our ant friends.

Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

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One of the first meals we made after moving was Budget Bytes’ Teriyaki Meatball Bowls. B loves teriyaki, so when I stumbled into this recipe, I knew he would like it. The recipe turned out to be well worth it. Not only did we enjoy it for dinner, but the meatballs would make great tailgating food served with toothpicks. The sauce is versatile enough to be used with chicken too—wings, grilled chicken breasts, stir-fry. It’s definitely one that will be kept in our files.

teriyaki meatballs

The recipe is straight-forward and easy, and we really didn’t change much. I removed the onions due to B’s allergy, but you can keep them in. I added a dash of crushed red pepper and a squirt of Sriracha Asian chili sauce to spice up the sauce. (I thought the sauce was a touch too sweet, so next time I’ll reduce the sugar a bit. B enjoyed it though, so gauge this based on your preference when you make it.)

teriyaki meatballsWe steamed some broccoli and served it with the meatballs over Jasmine rice. If I’d had more sesame seeds, I would have sprinkled with some at the end. This made enough for us to have dinner and lunches, which is always a bonus. The only ingredient we didn’t have on hand was the ground pork, which ran us $8 at Whole Foods. Though that’s more than the cost of ground beef, we’ll get at least four meals out of this, so it didn’t deter us.

The only other thing I did was to cook the meatballs in my roasting pan, which has a rack on top to let the fat drip down. This meant that the meatballs didn’t sit in the fat while they cooked, making them get a nice, crispy crust on the outside. I’d suggest this if you make them.

Head over to Budget Bytes for the recipe!

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