Friday, April 30, 2010

Eat there: Lavoro's Italian

Jake and I had to make the long trek tonight out to the "big Target" and had been wanting to price some appliances (talk about a fun Friday night!) and so as we loaded up and headed out, we were deciding on what low price dining options we could explore. I had been wanting pizza (my mind is programmed that Friday night is pizza night) but didn't want to pay much. Jake wanted a beer (per usual) and cheap needed to factor in there too. 

As we headed out East, we got an idea - Lavoro's! My friend and co-worker's family owns Lavoro's and I've been a few times - once or twice for work stuff and a few times with Jake. Lavoro's is a family owned Italian restaurant that is quite unassuming - from the outside you're not quite sure what you're getting into (I think the building must have been a Taco Bell in a prior life). But once you get your food, you'll realize how good it really is. 

The food isn't fancy but is down right good. And the price you cannot beat. It is a pizza/pasta/sub Italian place and there are a lot of good choices. They make their stuff in house, bread and pasta included, and my friend Amy makes all the desserts.

Friday and Saturday nights are $1 draft beers. We got a pizza to share and some of Amy's chocolate raviolis and were stuffed. The pizza was fantastic (and you know how I feel about pizza). We got pepperoni with feta and pepperoncinis. 

 It is a bit far out for usual visits, otherwise I'd go far too often. If you want to try Lavoro's, it is on Sycamore View at Summer. We might go soon because they have a family special - 4 entrees, 4 salads, and bread for $40.

Oh and by the way.

I know most of my friends know this by now but one reason we've been so busy this week is because we've been celebrating Jake. He has worked so hard and has been wanting this so long... and so guess what?

 So we'll be on a budget for a while longer but it will be worth it. This has been Jake's goal for so long and it is finally happening. And the best part is now because of his Master's program he is going into his first year with several really good friends as a support system. So here's to 4 more years of school and then some!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's cookin?

Work has been crazy as we approach the end of the school year. Life has been crazy too, but in a good way. Lots of fun social outings with friends, celebrating their successes. 

Since I haven't been doing many house projects (I've got two almost finished that I need to blog about though!) or cooking anything exciting, I wanted to share what I want  to be cooking. 

What I've been reading about around the blogosphere:

 Pioneer Woman wrote about this Pasta with Tomato-Blue Cheese Sauce.

The local newspaper's food blog posted this recipe from Frank Grisanti - a sweet sausage ragu

...Since both of those dishes seem very heavy in the pasta, here's one I've been wanting to make:

 A homemade Mongolian Beef recipe that emulates P.F. Changs from the blog Puttin' on the G.R.I.T.S.

And over at Annie's Eats (my personal fav cooking blog), there's the Roasted Garlic Hummus:

Darby at Fly Through Our Window posted about this easy 5-Minute Mousse the other day and I've been wanting to try it...

And for another tomato-based pasta sauce recipe, Stephanie Cooks posted what seems to be a pretty simple tomato sauce recipe that is slow roasted - might be a good, easy recipe to try. You bake the tomatoes in the oven.

 We're going out for a fabulous dinner with my parents to celebrate tonight so I won't be able to cook any of these but you'd better believe this weekend I'm going to attempt one of them!! Are you hungry yet?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Butler's Pantry?

For our kitchen renovation (which I drew out so professionally here), I have had my eye out for a large built-in cabinet to put on the far wall that is currently blank space but will become a part of the kitchen. One of our options is to emulate a built-in butler's pantry like you see in the older houses around town. Another option is to buy an antique one and install it. I haven't decided which option we'll go with - it will come down to money. Until then, I've been scouting out options and I found this butler's pantry today:

 I love it - it is from an old farmhouse in Mississippi. What I don't love? The price tag... can you read it in the picture? Yeah. But it is perfect. I'm going to think about it for a bit and then maybe go back and visit with it some more. We'll see.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Make this: Faux Hibachi

Continuing on our budget meal kick, Jake and I ventured into hibachi territory this week. We love the fried rice and teriyaki chicken but at most places you pay for the show (and pay later for the portion sizes and amount of butter). 

My parents are starting my cookbook collection one holiday at the time, stocking my shelves with our family favorites. Our go-to Chinese cookbook is Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery. Our family's fried rice recipe is out of there - my dad recently made it for my brother one night. 

 We used the fried rice recipe and marinated some boneless skinless chicken breasts in a teriyaki marinade for the meal. Easy, cheap recipe below:

 Faux Hibachi:

Fried Rice
You need...
2 cups white rice (pre-cooked and cooled in refrigerator)
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces prosciutto or thin sliced ham (you could omit)
1/4 cup frozen peas
peanut oil
1 tsp salt

1) dice ham/prosciutto
2) blanch peas for 2 min (5 if fresh), drain
3) heat wok/skillet until hot, add oil (2 tbsp) and wait until almost smoking
4) add cooked chilled rice and stir fry for 1 minute
5) add peas, ham/prosciutto, and salt, continue to stir fry for 5 min over high heat (must constantly stir)
6) add beaten egg, stir fry for 2 min or until eggs have set

serve with your teriyaki chicken pieces that you've cooked on the stove.

We ate out on our back patio and while I was out I got this picture of our yellow iris that is blooming in the back. Another flower that has survived a spring with me! And since I can't resist a Beamer picture, here's one of Beams looking longingly at our food while we eat:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eat there: Hi Tone revisited

I feel as if I've led my readers astray. A little bit ago (at the end of March), I blogged about a pizza night special that Jake and I went to with our buds, Hez and Ed.

I had learned that Hi-Tone had a 1/2 off pizza special. We went, the pizza was amazing (top three in my opinion) and we were determined to 1) spread the word and 2) return. 

Well imagine my disappointment when we got their pizza last week (take out), only to learn that the special was only good for March. While the pizza is DELICIOUS, we don't typically budget for Tuesday dinners out so we were a bit surprised by our bill. 

The bottom line here is that we'll be eating more Hi-Tone pizza, just probably not on a Tuesday night anymore. 

**The guy DID tell Jake that they were thinking about bringing the special back so if you're excited about good pizza like me, you should tell them you want the Tuesday special back!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


During Spring Break, I unearthed our front bed. It had been overgrown and you couldn't see anything but weeds. By the end of that Monday, it was relatively under control. We'd found hostas, irises, lilys, and chrysanthemums that I didn't know existed. 

With the lack of sunlight our flowers had been experiencing, I was very worried about their future. A few weeks ago I went to my car in the morning to be greeted with this:

It is amazing how a little flower can fight through the weeds - determined to live, to thrive. After just a few days of sun and a little watering, we had a full scale iris explosion on our hands:

 I've been out in the yard like a proud mom taking pictures constantly because these are my first real flowers I've nurtured and grown. I feel like if such a delicate thing, these flowers, can survive under such dismal conditions for so long and still thrive once liberated from their weeds, I too can survive, grow stronger from my adversities. 


Saturday, April 17, 2010

A review: Kenmore Progressive Vacuum

When Jake and I bought this house, our family vacuum was a Eureka Mighty Mite Pet Vac. For our duplex, with its wood floors and minimal carpet, this was a fine vacuum. Certainly worth the minimal money we paid for it. Yet when we moved here and had more square footage and even more carpeted footage, it became apparent that we needed a new vacuum. We really didn't want to buy one - it isn't a very fun thing to spend your money on. We spent about 4 months borrowing my parents' Electrolux Oxygen (which is AMAZING) and learned quickly two things:
1) good vacuums make a difference and 
2) you're better off forking the money over the first time, do it right, and get what you want or else you'll be buying vacuum after vacuum. 

We did a little research (we are a Consumer Reports family) and looked around online before going to Sears and buying our Kenmore Progressive Canister Vacuum

After being spoiled by my parents' vacuum, we knew we wanted:

1) a canister
2) with a motor powered carpet attachment
3) 360 turning wheels
4) upholstery attachment
5) bagged 

We've had this for a few months now and absolutely love it. I was very worried when buying a vacuum because it's a lot of money for us and I don't trust other people's opinions. Since I've loved ours so much, I just wanted to spread the news!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Make this: what we've been cooking lately

It is no secret we're trying to save money around here. With big house projects looming on the horizon, one income, dogs that decide they need a spontaneous vet visit, and a shopping habit to abate, I'm all about saving money where I can.

Jake and I love cooking and do it frequently. Yet, in evaluating our finances for the last few months, we realized our grocery bill was rather high. I think we got in the habit of trying these fancy recipes with lots of ingredients- hence the large bills. If you read the same foodie blogs I do, you might feel that the only way to have a great dinner is to become a gourmet chef. 

 Well over the last week, we made three different recipes that involve few ingredients, not much time, and yet tasted great. Some people are very intimidated by cooking but it really isn't that hard, especially if you start with simple recipes like this that involve shortcuts and such. 

What we made:

 1) (Not pictured) A mexican salad - hearts of romaine bagged lettuce, canned fiesta corn, black beans, chopped tomato, and spicy ranch dressing with chicken on top

total cost: about $10 (but the ranch dressing can be used multiple times) for 4 servings

2) Faux Chinese (picture on left) - chicken soaked in peanut oil with schezwan spices, stir fried in peanut oil with soy sauce, along with stir fried green beans (in the same peanut oil/soy sauce stir fry), and white rice

total cost: $6 (for green beans and chicken - had everything else) for 2 servings

3) chicken with a spinach salad  (picture on right) - chicken marinated in herb/garlic sauce, cooked on the stove in more of the marinade, spinach salad tossed in vinegarette dressing with feta cheese

total cost: $7 (for the chicken, marinade, and spinach - had dressing and feta) for 3 servings

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tour of the House: Exterior

I just finished blogging about the exterior of my house (and what I want to do with it) on the House page of my blog (top tabs). I wanted to share the ideas with you all - head on over to the House page for the full deets.

Here's our exterior as it stands now:

 Here's my inspiration, a picture from the Urban Nest blog:

 And here's my idea board to make a similar situation happen to our misplaced ranch:

 Go check out the full story on my "House" tab.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Buy this: Land's End Canvas

I was born and raised a Land's End girl. I remember thumbing through the catalog and picking out outfits as soon as I was old enough to pick out my own clothes. My mom always made me call and order my own clothes from the 1-800 number (while at the time that was intimidating, it helped me because I don't mind talking to new people at all). 

As I got older, I didn't really like Land's End clothes because they were too boxy for me. I converted to JCrew, Banana, and Ann Taylor LOFT. Well the blogland is buzzing because Land's End recently introduced a new line - Land's End Canvas. I decided to check out their website today and I wanted to share what I'd buy if I had any money:

I really need some new jeans. The last ones I bought were from Old Navy and have been great but were supposed to be a cheap pair to carry me over until I got better ones. I've got two pairs (both ON) that I love but neither are going to last much longer. I like these from Canvas:

I also have really been liking the straight leg jeans lately but I'm afraid I'm too "hippy" for those. I guess I could always try them on. I started reading the blog "According to Nina" and she loves her white Canvas straight leg jeans:

I'd like to say congratulations, LE Canvas - you've captured my demographic quite well. The prices are pretty comparable to what I'd spend at the LOFT and a little less than Banana and JCREW. Plus, lately JCrew hasn't exactly excited me. And Jake will be pleased since Sears carries LE and he can mosey on over to the TV section and play with electronics while I shop.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I've been inspired.

My friend Elle posted here about a contest at our Memphis Zoo for photographs from the past year for the 2011 Zoo calendar. Ellen is such a good photographer and posted some of her fun zoo pictures so I wanted to share mine (which I'm entering into the contest even though I doubt I will win!). 

Beamer's Big Easter Adventure

After a wonderful Easter dinner Saturday evening with my family, followed by the Easter Vigil service at our church, Sunday morning brought an Easter basket (thanks, Easter bunny!), another Easter service, and then a trip to Jake's parents house for their Easter dinner. We decided to bring Beamer along since he used to live there and since he is quite the celebrity. On the way out, I noticed some of my flowers were blooming in the bed I just cleared out... I think these are paperwhites?

Well, Beamer loves a good car ride. So we packed him up and took off (and since I love my car very much, you know this is a sign that I love Beamer because I let him in my car).

Once we got to Jake's house, we shared some good times with his fam. They're wonderful!! Here's a pic of me with Jake's mom and sisters - aren't they gorgeous?

The Jasper girls:
So while we were all brunching, chating, and picture taking, Beamer was having a big adventure. See, when Beamer used to live at Jake's house, he had a favorite activity. There is a giant industrial sized playground slide in their backyard that Jake's mom got from a church playground that was getting re-done. So this metal slide is huge. Beamer used to love to climb up this slide, sit at the top, and patrol the neighborhood. From the street, all you'd see was a basset hound peaking from behind the roof of a house and it was the oddest sight. When Jake's mom tells the story, we all just die laughing because it is so funny. So of course, today when we took him over there we looked back and there he was, happy as can be:

 I'm glad I was able to document this finally and share it. Beamer hopes you all had a happy Easter.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

House Tour: The Den (Updated)

After the great pillow debate of '10, we decided to rearrange the den to match the new, cute pillows we had in hand. That and we found a bench in the garage that we wanted to put to use. We painted the den back in the fall and had arranged it one way then but I just wasn't satisfied. 

Here's what we started with:

Since then, we got the new pillows, we moved the couch, we put the bench in, and put up some new things on the walls. Here's what it looks like now:

So now, with the new pillows (choice #1, thanks guys!) and new bench, we've got our "new and improved" den. I'm excited about the improvement but also looking forward to the changes that will come with our kitchen renovation. I think putting in the cork floor will open it up so much!


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