Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Shack

My husband Mike has many amazing qualities.  Outdoors man, sports man, and cook aren't among them.  Sorry babe.  Nor is he a builder.  Or, so I thought.  Not to say he doesn't do many impressive things, but his mad skills and commitment building our "shack" blew me away.  

It started with some plans from Readymade Magazine by Edgar Blazona for around $30.  The original plans call for a simple 10X10 modular dwelling with plexi glass windows, no A/C, and no insulation for about $1200 buying all your materials at Home Depot.  Pretty simple, right?

We met with our friend Rommel, an architect, to make a few updates including insulation, a window unit, french doors, and glass on the original 10X10 and a 3X10 shed on the back end.  This was a project we envisioned as a couple of weekends with a lot of hard work like a good 'ole barn raising enlisting the help of some great friends.  

 {Mike and the bros Brian and Darren}

{Choosing their position for the frame}

{power lifting}

{and then, beer lifting and build discussion by Brian, Mike, & Charles}

{working late into the night - Mike, Charles, and Brian}

You might notice, I am missing from the construction.  Never one to shy away from hard work, I promised Mike to be his partner in the build.  But, at the very beginning, he noticed that I was complaining of being really tired and not being of much help to him and his dad, Larry.  That's right, this little one was cooking....

{Iris Taylor Nicholson 10.15.06  6lb,4oz, 18" long}

So, every weekend and night available, Mike went to work with the help of some nice friends mostly Charles, his bro Brian, and dad Larry.  Did I mention I have the sweetest most helpful Father-in-law ever?!! 

 {Mike & Brian working while I try to be helpful bringing drinks & cheerleading from the sidelines and taking LOTS of naps, at like, any time of the day}

{Beautiful french doors by Kakki Keenan, our wonderful friend who spent half a day building the doorway.The almost finished product ready for polyurethane}

Here is the final product, 8 MONTHS LATER!!!!!:

 We later had drains and a rock entry done which is not pictured but, made all the difference for the final touches.  Note to self ** DO NOT forget drains since the rain overflow from the new structure might, meaning, probably, will cause flooding issues.  WE found out this with our first heavy rainfall with our garage apartment.  Thankfully, our tenant was understanding.  Below is the back of "The Shack", "The Shed" :)

There is an actual work area with fluorescent light above which Mike was pretty proud of.

He also built the doors himself, sans plans.  They do the job and have worked great for the past 6 years.  In fact, their is not a crack to be seen - A+ construction guys!

And, here is the inside.  We bought the furniture - acrylic table (not shown),2 metal and leather chairs and one wood and gray fabric chair from Aviary, floor lamp from Tar-jay, under bookshelf lighting from Home Depot and flooring carpet tiles from Flor.  We chose a light blue for the interior and green for the outside to match the green grass and blue skies from inside and followed the same theory on the walls (light green paint) and ceiling (light blue paint).  The bookshelves are by Mike :)

All these years later, we still love "The Shack."  The end product was about 1/7 the original simplified plans cost but, well worth the investment.  Originally intended as an outdoor office, since neither of us work from home, it has served more as a kid space... 

{Me, very pregnant with Iris and enjoying the shack.  
Thank you Wendy for this maternity shirt.  I LIVED in it, like 3 times a week lived in it}

{Iris's cousin Brooke (3) teaching Iris (7 mo) to take a step in The Shack}

{Me and my girl}

...and Mancave throughout the infant and toddler years when bedtimes were early and we still liked to have an occasional friend over (notice the beer fridge - a MUST have for any man cave)!

{Mike, Dave, June, and Kevin Triplett hangin' Shack style}

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Mental Spring Break

With SXSW and Spring Break in full swing this week, I haven't had a chance to slow down one bit.  We've had one emergency room visit for Iris (hurt neck), a lot of late work nights and zero adult let loose and get crazy fun.  

SXSW makes me nostalgic for my early twenties, carefree and kid free when I took off an entire week just to watch movies and attend panels.  A budding young filmmaker and actress, full of gusto and passion.  And, Spring Break makes me think of vacation and bliss.  

So, in my one corner of mental space this week, I started thinking about where I would go if the destination were limitless.  What would I want to experience?

My mind immediately goes here:
(note - NOT to the guy in the photo - what is that skinny moginny g-string look anyway???)

 {Cirque Terre, Italy}

Gorgeous!  I experienced a similar once in a lifetime 11 (gasp) years ago on a trip to Spain, a Christmas present from Mike.  But, what else is out there and how would it FEEL to wake up to this?

{Safari Lodge - Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa}

Doesn't it make it better if we don't know where this is?  
Isolation can be so tantalizing sometimes.

{Bora Bora}

{Poseidon Resort, Fiji}
{Loisaba Lodge, Kenya}

{Igloo Village of Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland}

And how would it feel to DO this:

Any one who knows me knows how long my love of horses goes back...

Can't you just feel the quiet of the deep, down dark sea?  
The ultimate meditation space.
Walk through this tree tunnel in Belgium...

Explore the Blue Ice Cave in Skaftafell, Iceland...
and just BREATHE.

What would it FEEL like to take part in this?
 {Lantern Festival, Thailand}

And, then, sometimes you take a breathe, walk outside of your house and take in the nature and beauty around you.  Today, we discovered a little piece of heaven in our own backyard with our nieces Ellie, Anna, and Grace:


 {Hartman Prehistoric Garden}

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eat To Live

We've always been healthy eaters or so we thought - lots of fruits and veggies for the kids, organic meat, and few processed foods.  Right before Christmas I happened to turn to PBS during their drive to see this guy...

Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  And, everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in his audience was 60+ but, then, I listened a little further and everything he discussed was about how to prevent getting cancer and heart disease and it all made sense.  So, one short book later, and two cookbooks by some smart women, Tess Challis and Lindsay Nixon later...

The Nicholson's of the Larry Nicholson steak and starch and lots of Pokey Joe's BBQ and of the Bill Taylor's medium well done steaks, meatloaf and more family have become...VEGANS!!!  

Okay - I can't quite say that.  We've switched to almond milk and about 1/2 the egg intake baking everything sans eggs.  We still have some weekend eggs here and there and I don't think we'll ever reduce the yogurt intake of one almighty 3 year old Sam.  Some of you know, his habit is about 1/8 of our grocery bill.  And, we are mostly meat free.  But, we are overall MUCH healthier eating a happy helping of legumes and salads (with super greens kale, spinach, and arugula) almost daily.  We've switched cold cereals to rolled oats oatmeal and have incorporated more garlic, onion, mushrooms, berries, nuts and seeds into our meals that I thought possible.  

The result:  We are overall feeling better and I've noticed a big boost in energy.  I even lost a few pounds, which wasn't my intention but, the end result hopefully is a longer, healthier life with less sick time and doctor visits.

The new lifestyle has encouraged a lot of cooking in the kitchen.  I've always been a throw it together with what we have girl, rarely following an actual recipe.  So, I've actually really learned to cook over the last few months.  Some recipes have been winners, some doozies according to Mike, Iris, and Sam, that is. 

I thought I'd share a few of our household favorites every once in awhile:

Recipe #1
This is a super healthy and tasty Kale Salad.  We did it with roasted butternut squash and it was a huge hit!

 {Northern Spy's Kale Salad}

Serves 2

1/2 cup cubed kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash 

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper 
1 bunch kale (preferably lacinato or dinosaur kale), ribs removed and finely sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
1/4 cup almonds, cut roughly in half
1/4 cup crumbled or finely chopped Cabot clothbound cheddar (or any good, aged cheddar -- if you can't find aged cheddar, use parmesan)
Fresh lemon juice 
Pecorino or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Toss squash cubes in just enough olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet (lined with parchment for easier cleanup), leaving space between the cubes. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the same oven until they start to smell nutty, tossing once, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar and squash. Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide salad between two plates or shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve. 

Recipe #2:

{Yummy roasted beet & chickpea salad from Love and Lemons}

bright arugula, smoky-garlicky chickpeas, and juicy beets topped with a generous dollop of tangy jalapeño yogurt, a garnish of cilantro, and an unexpected indian-ness from the sprinkled brown mustard seeds.
serves 2 as a large meal, 3-4 as a side

beet & chickpea salad:
1 pound beets (about 4 or 5 medium sized beets)
a few handfuls of arugula
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper
jalapeño yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I like icelandic skyr yogurt, but greek is fine too)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lime juice, more to taste
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
additional salt and pepper to taste
garnish with:
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap beets in foil, roast for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender. When beets are roasted, let cool to room temperature while you make everything else. When beets are cooled, slice and set aside.
Mince 2 cloves of garlic, set half aside for the yogurt sauce.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, coriander and cumin and let the spices cook for 30 seconds until aromatic but not burnt. Add chickpeas and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix all yogurt sauce ingredients together. Add water one tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. (salt, pepper, sweetness, spice). If your jalapeño was too spicy, add a dash of white wine vinegar.  Plate salad: arugula, followed by beets and spiced chickpeas. Add a dollop of yogurt sauce and garnish with cilantro and brown mustard seeds.  Serve with naan bread and extra yogurt sauce on the side.

It's so rainy this weekend, we've stayed indoors, making tents, watching The Incredibles, and doing a little cooking in the kitchen.  Thanks to my supportive husband Mike for buying me these cookbooks for Christmas (yes, he will seek out a good present high and low) and my old tenant & friend Courtenay for being a great source of information.  Check out her blog here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Super Valentine's Day

It was Valentine's Day and off to Target or Tar-jay as we say (well, who are we kidding - like all parents of small children we are there once a week) to buy our Valentine's Day cards.  

When we got home though, I thought, what does it all mean anyway?  We buy something for 16 children in 2 classes once a year for Valentine's - seems so designed to force consumerism.  

Knowing the super hero fever going around our preschool, at least amongst the boys 3-5, we decided to make something at home for FREE!  I had leftover felt from Sam's Birthday party and the dum dums cost all of $1 or so.  So, like all smart moms, I went to Pinterest to find the shortcut.  Here is how you do it :) 


My only tip is to use some slightly heavier card stock if you have it.  Ours were printed on typing paper which was free and readily available. 

Girls loved it too - we made Super Woman for the girls and the teachers.  I think the teachers got a kick out of that because they ARE Super Women!

And, this was a fun project to do with kids.  They helped cut, glue, and were so excited to share with their friends.