Leslyn's Lovely Life: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken with Grapes and Thyme

So my husband is more of a compulsive shopper than I am. IF you know me at all, it is surprising that anybody could be more compulsive than I am. Anyways, he came home with a recipe book where all of the recipes were under 400 calories. I thought that there was no way that any of the recipes COULD taste good. Then I tried this.

Oh. My. Gosh. This was quite possibly one of THE yummiest things I have ever eaten. And it's only 290 calories!!! We will DEFINITELY be making this again.

2 t olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 t salt
2 cups seedless red grapes
1 T chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 t dried)
4 large shallots, peeled, quartered

1. Heat oven to 425. In ovenproof skillet, heat 1 t of the oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Add chicken to skillet; cook 4 minutes on each side (only turn once!!). Remove skillet from heat.

2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix rest of oil, the grapes, thyme and shallots. Spoon grape mixture around chicken in skillet. Bake uncovered for 22-25 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear.

3. To serve, spoon grape mixture and shallots evenly over chicken.



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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Project 52.4

The theme this week was "Self-Portrait"... And to keep it real, I kind of felt like a Junior High girl taking pictures of herself in her bathroom mirror. But I didn't take this picture in my bathroom. As a matter of fact, I purchased 2 white foam boards for only $2 each to use as my backgrounds for pictures. Fancy, I know (sarcasm).

I can't wait to tell you all about this weekend- I got a lot of projects done! Hope your weekend was wonderful as well!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Sewing projects thus far...

Hello my sweet friends!

As I shared last week, I learned to sew. I never thought that I would ever say those words- I used to think that sewing was only for old ladies. Boy, was I wrong!

My first little project was a pouch for crocheting and knitting needles. Here is the big reveal!

I am kind of proud of them! :) I think I'm going to make one more for my make-up brushes, then I will be set!

Next up, I turned some throw pillows from this...

Into this.

As I mentioned, our guest room is getting a serious makeover! This is just the beginning.

Yes, I realize that everything I have made so far is kind of "plain jane". However, I'm trying to ensure that I don't have this panic-y feeling every time I push my foot on the pedal (yes, that still happens. Every time) before I take on something super challening (like something I would actually wear).

I've decided that I am going to make the duvet cover, which is super scary and exciting at the same time. My only problem is that I need to find 15 yards of white fabric for less than $100. Who knows- my guest room might look completely different by the end of February! I'm hoping so! :)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Yes. I am brave enough to claim it. These are in fact the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I have never craved a cookie more than I do this one. And everyone who has had these cookies ends up eating at least 3-4 (my brother holds the record: 20. I will never know how he didn't throw up afterwards). That's how good these are. If a 21 year old can eat 20 of these cookies and not get tired of them, I think that they must be pretty darn good.

1 bag of chocolate chip cookie MIX (today, the store only had oatmeal chocolate chip mix, which turned out really good), plus whatever ingredients you need according to the bag (in this case, I needed 1 stick of butter and 1 egg)
1 small bag of chopped pecans (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies.

1. Pour all ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix together (if you don't have a KitchenAid, INVEST in one! It will change your life!)

2. Roll them into balls, and place on a baking sheet.

3. Bake according to instructions on bag. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy! :)

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Keeping up with the goals

Well, it's been almost a month since I posted my goals for the year . I figured I should keep it real and share my progress on each of them.

I have used my camera a LOT more than I did before (I no longer set my camera on "automatic". A HUGE step!). I learned to sew (and I'm still in the process of learning!). I read a book ("Something Borrowed" by Emily Giffin) in just 2 weeks, and I started a new one ("Same kind of different as me"). I have definitely made our house look less rent house-ish.

So hey, 4 out of 10 are really going super well! That's not too bad for the first month! I've had a couple of ideas for a song, but I haven't officially decided on anything. I have worked out some, but I know I should do it more (hey, I'm working on it). I still need to find an awesome yoga DVD so I can get into that more (any suggestions are welcome!). I honestly haven't had as much time to plan meals this year (gotta love traveling, working, redecorating), but I'm going to really focus on that in February! I haven't started reconstructing the dress, simply because I want to be more confident in my sewing skills.

So there you have it! The next update will be in February!

xoxo Les
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Weekend Recap

Wow, when I say that this was a busy weekend, that would be a huge understatement!

Friday night, DJ and I began the whole deep cleaning process of our house. I finished a fun corner art piece to go behind my newly rearranged couch. I really love it, and it adds some interest to what was a bland corner.

Saturday, I finished the deep cleaning process, and my father-in-law brought this beauty over to our house.

Yes, he built this (along with the help of DJ's younger brother). How AWESOME is that?! I showed them a pin that I found on pinterest of this awesome kitchen island that I wanted to build, and they found all of the dimensions here. How incredible are they?! It just makes the room look infinitely better.

Then, I learned how to sew! One of the mentors from my bible study came over to my house and taught me how to sew! I made two pouches- one for my knitting needles, and one for my crocheting needles. Of course, there were a few little errors here and there, but I completed my project! I don't have pictures of the pouches yet... stay tuned! :)

We had Jacks Man over on Saturday night, cooked a big meal (with the help of my wonderful new kitchen island), watched tractor videos on youtube, made roads in our house out of masking tape, and he played in a bubble bath for almost an hour.

Sunday, we were at DJ's house, and then DJ's sister and nephew came over and hung out until about 9:30. This weekend was definitely BUSY, but oh so fun.

Hope yours was wonderful!
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Laundry Room Edition

Over the past 3 weeks, our house has changed in a dramatic way. EVERYTHING in our house finally has a perfect little spot where it belongs. We have painted, de-cluttered, re-organized and repurposed things in EVERY room in our house. I would say that the laundry room was one of the bigger transformations. Let me forewarn you: the before pictures are embarrassing. And I vow to never let any room in my house look like this. Ever. Again.


The youth minister and his wife were gracious enough to give us a washer, dryer AND fridge! They have been such a blessing to us since before we were married! As you can see (sitting on top of the dryer), there are 3 shelves that were sitting in my parents' garage. I knew I could give them a purpose!

This side is TERRIBLE. This room was a dump. Everything was cluttered, and what should have been my folding area was covered by a bunch of junk. What's even worse is that most people walk through this room to get into our house, and it looked like that for so long. Also, that black coat-hanger thing looked TERRIBLE up close (thanks to my spray painting skills... or lack thereof).

Atrocious. And humiliating. That sums it up.


Nothing is on top of the washer or dryer!

I can actually fold clothes in my laundry room now! Woohoo! We threw a lot of the "countertop clutter" away, and the rest of it went in a perfect little spot in the cabinets.

DJ painted the black coat hanger, we are storing gloves and other miscellaneous items in the baskets. Also, I did a crayon art project that is now on display!

Much better. Wouldn't you agree?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Music Library: Before

As many of you know, I began teaching at a small public school in Monticello this past August. I remember walking into my office and classroom for the first time feeling incredibly optimistic.... And then, I saw my music library. This is what it looked like.

Music was EVERYWHERE.... I would search for music and not find it, order music, and then discover that I already had 50 copies. Money was being wasted. It wasn't good.

I found music with mold and dust all over it. The music probably hadn't been used in over 30 years. Yuck.

As you can see some tiles are missing and strange things are falling from the ceiling....

And some things are growing on the ceiling. Ew.

The floors look like they haven't been cleaned since the 80s.

There is a Fred's shopping cart filled with old records, cds, trophies, and cassettes. I will never know how it got in there.

As you can see, I've inherited a mess, and I've got my work cut out for me. My goal is to finish it all by spring break. I'll be posting updates throughout the organizing process.

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Easy Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Thanks to 5 Dinners in 1 Hours, I found this awesome recipe that I got try last night. It was super yummy, and super easy!

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Mix the following ingredients in a bowl

2 C. cooked shredded chicken
2 t minced garlic
½ C. frozen chopped onion
4 oz can diced green chilies
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
20 oz green enchilada sauce
10 oz mild red enchilada sauce
2 C. Mexican cheese blend
1 C. low fat sour cream
10 oz UNDERCOOKED penne pasta (the recipe calls for dried pasta. However, it also tells you to let it sit in a ziploc bag for 3 days... I didn't take that into consideration. So if you want to make it tonight, go ahead and boil the pasta for about 5-7 minutes).

3. Pour into a lighty greased 9x13 baking dish, and bake for 40 minutes.

How did I know this was dish was a keeper? My husband wanted to save it for leftovers. :)


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Living Room Edition

As many of you know, I am very limited with what I can do to make my house attractive. When we moved everything into our home (5 days before our wedding), I was not thinking clearly (hello, what bride does?!), and I thought that EVERYTHING needed to be symmetrical and against the wall. Well, I'm sorry, but I got bored with symmetry. So we decided to completely transform this ancient white bookshelf from IKEA into something more fun (you'll see pictures below), and we put it in the corner of our living room. Before we knew it, our Christmas tree was up and our living room looked like heaven. I went into a state of mourning when I had to take the tree down less than 2 weeks ago (terrible, I know). I finally decided to make a serious change yesterday. My first step? Buy an awesome chair.

Then I had to drive through town with it hanging out of my trunk... Thank goodness for fishing line (courtesy of the furniture place... Please, like I have fishing line). I think this picture is proof that I totally need to get a Sequoia or something. ;)

Once I put the chair in the house, I decided I probably needed to take some before pictures.... It just looks so... Vanilla.

Unacceptable. So with the help of my precious husband, we rearranged EVERYTHING (except the TV, which has to stay in the same spot).

I had to take a picture of this bookshelf with the flash on... You really need to see how much the color pops! :)

I must admit, I'm proud of my new living room. It feels so much better. Now I'm just trying to decide whether or not to put anything behind the caddy corner couch? DJ has ruled out plants (which was the only thing I could think of), so if you have any ideas, please share!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Apple Spice Cake

It's been a while! I actually had the amazing opportunity to watch one of my best friends and former college roommate compete in the Miss America pageant! Unfortunately, I didn't have internet access while I was there, so I have a lot of blogging to catch up on!

Last semester, I had the privilege of being a part of an amazing bible study. It's called Apples of Gold, where 6 young married women were mentored by women who had been married for a while. It was so much fun- we cooked, we studied God's word, ate, laughed, cried, and so on.

One of the desserts we learned to make was Apple Spice Cake. Now, if you know my husband, he is an apple lover. He is very predictable when we are ordering desserts anywhere, because if there is anything that contains apples, he will order it. So I decided to make a little something for him. It's super easy! All you need are 3 things:

Spice Cake Mix
1 can apple pie filling
Cream Cheese frosting.

1. Bake the spice cake according to directions on the box.

2. After the cakes are baked, let them cool for a while (so the frosting won't melt off).

3. Put one of the cakes on a platter or cake stand. Cut a little "swimming pool" (as I like to call it) into the top of the cake. This will create the perfect little spot for the apple pie filling.

4. Make sure that the apples in the pie filling are cut small, and pour most of the filling into the swimming pool (the rest is for garnish).

5. Put the next layer of cake on top of the swimming pool of apples.

You just know this is going to be yummy....

6. Frost the cake with cream cheese icing, garnish with rest of apple pie filling and cinnamon, if you would like.

Holy cow. Just look at it. It's divine. One of my new favorite desserts. And it's so simple!

Enjoy! :)

P.S. That last picture is my week 2 entry for P52... I didn't officially get to submit it because I didn't have internet access.... But it's my picture that represents "Made With Love".
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The First of Many Projects

As some of you may know, DJ and I found this precious little rent house in May (5 minutes before I found out I was hired at Drew Central).

Well, it is a RENT house, which means no pets (insert the saddest face in the world right here), no remodeling (my lip is quivering), no painting (I'm sobbing uncontrollably), no nothing. Now, don't get me wrong, I couldn't be more thrilled that God blessed us with this house- we didn't want an apartment. However, it's very hard to decorate this house as it is. For example, most of our walls are light pink, and most of our carpet is this blue-ish green-ish color with lovely brown stains on them. We don't have light fixtures in our living room or either bedrooms. Needless to say, we're very limited with what we can do.

I finally got tired of not being "house proud". I suddenly felt this urge to decorate my home as much as possible, so it wouldn't feel like a rent house anymore. Here is my first project.

This is the "Before".

There's really not much we can do with those cabinets.... They only hold a few vases and light bulbs (they're not deep cabinets at all). We basically had this non-functional space that we had no desire to look at (I mean seriously, there is nothing pretty about this).

Our first step was to go to Target to buy some tension rods and curtains. Unfortunately, they didn't have any curtains that were long enough to go from the ceiling to the floor. So we just settled for these for now.

Yes, it already looks so much better. But seriously, the color of these curtains resembles oatmeal (there's really nothing else that will look decent with that carpet... I mean, let's keep it real). I had to add something to the curtains. Enter one of the most wonderful purchases I have made since our wedding.

My friends, let me introduce you to our panels. From the container store. And a set of 4 only cost $9.99!!!! I was beyond thrilled when they were shipped to our house. I ordered two sets of them, originally thinking that they would live in our bedroom. But I had a better idea... I decided to sew them to our curtains. Just to make them less oatmeal-y.

So this is my first before and after project. I'm just a little excited about how this turned out. All together, it cost us about $40. That definitely beats buying drywall to cover the nastiness that we had to endure for the first 5 months of our marriage.
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