Turkey Burgers

This recipe is VERY popular in our family.  In attempt to be healthy, we switched to ground turkey instead of beef almost a year ago.  These burgers are very juicy.  If you prefer them a little dryer, reduce the amount of Dale's sauce.  We love turkey burger night!

~ 1 pound ground turkey (we use super lean)
~ 2 tbsp low-sodium Dale's Steak Seasoning sauce (usually by the marinade's, BBQ sauces, etc)
~ 1 tbsp Weber Gourmet Burger Seasoning
~ 2 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs (we use this to stiffen up the meat mixture.  You can also use parmesan cheese)
~ 1 egg

1. Spray grate with cooking spray and heat your grill to around 400 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
3. Divide meat into 4 equal blobs and then form into patties.
    *We highly recommend investing in one of these thingies.  

We found ours at Wal-Mart but I've seen them in Bed, Bath, and Beyond or hanging from one those random things in the middle of the aisle at Publix.  They really do make the perfect burger.  Just spray them with cooking spray really well between each pattie forming.

4. Reduce heat to low and place burgers on grill.  After about 5 minutes, flip.  Check again 3-4 minutes later and remove from heat when cooked to desired done-ness.

The patties that this recipe makes contain around 185 calories, not including the bun or condiments.  If you're looking to keep your calorie count low, you could use Arnold brand Sandwich Thins.

I think your topiary is tops...

Hey guys! This is JP. Since we want to start posting more of our DIY projects, Jamie added me as a contributor on the blog and I'm going to start putting in my 2 cents.

Soooo....spiral topiaries are cool. no question. However, they are also RIDICULOUSLY expensive. I really wanted to get one because I thought it would be the perfect landscaping addition to our pergola outdoor room. I found one that I thought was awesome at a local farmer's market called "Andy's." But it was $120. yes...one hundred and twenty American dollars. ridiculous. I actually asked the guy that worked there if it was the real price....it was.
THEN we checked Lowe's and they had a pretty cool one for $60.

Not bad. Not GREAT...but better than $120. I got a couple of Lowe's gift cards for Christmas and actually went back to get that topiary. However, I noticed that they had the exact same type of tree NOT as a topiary for $30. So...I bought the $30 one and thought to myself "if someone else can do it, I can do it." Which is usually our DIY philosophy and has generally worked out pretty well.
I found a couple of tutorials online (all though the majority of them were for cutting FAKE topiaries) and was successfully able to create my own topiary. Here's what I did:

 I took the uncut tree (I forgot to snap a "true" before) and wrapped masking tape in a spiral (like Christmas lights) around the tree starting at the top and working toward the bottom. Then I took those scissors you see laying on the ground and began to snip away everything except for what the tape was touching (and a few inches on either side). The correct tool to use is a pair of shears, but I was impatient and didn't have any shears. The scissors worked OK, but I threw them away at the end.

Here is how it turned out:

All in all, I am VERY happy with how it turned out. Especially considering it cost me 25% of the one I originally wanted. However, there are a few things I would do differently in hind sight. I would look more carefully for a tree that had one singular trunk running up the middle. The one I grabbed was split between several small trunks. This makes it look not as finished. Additionally, I would maybe wait and get a good pair of shears.
 If you compare mine to the one from Lowe's, it looks like mine has more uneven edges. I think this is just because they are fresh cuts and the leaves on the tree haven't "filled in" the gaps that my cuts left. I think as the tree begins to grow and I groom the cuts it will look much more finished. Hope you enjoyed the how-to!

Confessions of a Couch Potato

January 24, 2010 we welcomed little Karlie into our lives.  Now it's one year later and I feel that I can't honestly call those stubborn extra pounds "baby weight" anymore.  I'm all out of excuses.  It's time for me to be a woman, get a grip, grab the bull by the horns, climb that mountain, (insert cheesy cliche about conquering a goal here), etc.  I've passed alot of my skinny clothes on to Kalie, and honestly I get flat out jealous that I can't wear them.  I've still got a secret stash of a few articles of clothing that I dream to fit into again someday.  Also, I'd like to lose my baby weight er, extra poundage before Baby #2 comes along.

It's time to get serious.
Here's the plan:

I want to be a runner.  I hate running.  So I figure I need to love running in order to be a runner.  Right?  Well I got some advice from a couple of people who actually find joy in running and here's what I'm taking from it.
    ~ "Stretching-  I cannot stress this enough. For the longest time I didn't think stretching/sit-ups/leg-ups were that important, but once I started doing them it made a world of difference in making me feel better when I was running. A strong core helps you not get cramps, and if there is anything that is de-motivational it is cramps.haha"
    ~ "Music- find something super upbeat to listen to. I get new music pretty frequently just to change things up and then I try to just listen to the music instead of thinking about how my legs are feeling.lol Also, it's easier to say "ok, I am going to run for the length of two songs" than it is to say "ok, I am going to run a mile"."
    ~ "Drink Lots of Water-  Drinking a lot of water the night before you run is very good and helps you feel better while running."
**Thank you Abby!

    ~ "Start small--set some goals. Then find some rewards. I was doing Dave Ramsey at the time, so they had to be affordable for me (a treat of iced coffee at Starbucks, a new pair of running shorts at Target, some new nail polish, etc.). If I ran three days a week for an entire month, I got a reward. If I could run for 30 min straight, I got a treat, etc. You have to make it fun for yourself!! And you don't want to set some insane goals that will be impossible to achieve right away--it ends up being demoralizing and much easier to sit on the couch :)" 
**Thank you Danielle!  And who doesn't love advice from a fellow Dave Ramsey disciple?!

So that's what I'm doing plus some strength training.  I make sure to stretch for 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each run/workout, I updated the ol' Ipod with a new workout playlist (upbeat songs only), pulled my water bottle back out of the cabinet, and wrote up a reward calendar.  I'm trying Danielle's way.  If I run/workout for at least 30 minutes, 3 days a week, I get a small reward at the end of the week.  If I do that for a month, I get a big reward!  I'm 3 weeks into it and so far, so good!  My distance and endurance has already increased!  Plus at my next doctor's appointment, next to "How often do you exercise?", I can check "frequently" instead of "psh, yeah right."

Also, WebMD has a Food and Fitness tracker available.  Every day, after I eat anything, I go online, plug in what I ate, and it counts calories for me.  It also counts calories burned.  And it counts e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. (For example - sitting on the toilet for 2 minutes = 3 calories burned, hairstyling for 30 minutes = 102 calories, and for all you mommies out there...childcare (sitting/kneeling) for 8 hours = 1,636 calories burned!)

Well, if you have any tips, any tips at all, whether related to running, eating healthy, strength training, healthy recipes, etc., do NOT hesitate to send them my way.  I need whatever help I can get!

"All children, except one, grow up..."

Shoulda listened to Peter Pan...

Our growin' girl's stats:

Birth - 6 lbs, 4 oz.
           21 inches

1 week - 6 lbs, 1 oz

2 weeks - 6 lbs, 9 oz

1 month - 8 lbs, 4 oz
                    22 1/4 inches

2 months - 10 lbs, 15 oz
                   24 1/2 inches

4 months - 14 lbs
                        26 inches

6 months - 16 lbs, 4 oz
                     28 1/4 inches

9 months - 17 lbs, 14 oz
                   28 1/2 inches

1 year - 21 lbs, 12 oz (50th percentile)
                31 1/2 inches (100th percentile)

JP the Pergolar

What is a pergola you ask?
This is a pergola...

And this is the man who built us one...

JP's had this plan in the makings for a while, so he's super excited to finally have it finished.  

Here are instructions straight from the carpenter himself: 
(If you click on the pictures, they will expand)

1) Dig holes - Our generous neighbor (who has a plethora of handy tools) let us borrow his post-hole digger, so this step went quick.  We dug 4 holes, one at each corner of the patio to the right of our yard.

2)Pour concrete footings -
A) Pour in dry concrete and mix in water according to the bag's instructions. (Although we needed WAY less water than the bag said, and watery concrete can dry weak...so be careful).

B) Insert J shaped anchor bolts (threaded side up) and put down metal brackets once the concrete starts to firm up. The brackets we bought are meant for 4x4 posts, but since they are open on two sides we can use them with our 4x6 posts. Using the 4x6's also gives us the chunky modern look that we were going for without breaking the bank on hardware or lumber (Jamie's awesome idea!). (Note: All hardware that will be touching the lumber should be galvanized or specifically coated to be used with treated lumber or the chemicals used to treat the wood could eat through the hardware.)

3) Raise posts into the brackets (use a post level to ensure they are plumb <----- JP's fancy word for straight up and down). Once each post is in place, have a buddy hold it in place and watch the post level while you drill three landscaping screws into each side of the bracket.

4) The next step is to cut the ends of the 2x12's and 2x6's into the design you have chosen. We wanted a more modern, clean line look so we used sharp angles and straight cuts. A more traditional pergola has scrolling edges. 

5) Next, raise the 2x12's into place. Measure how far from the top of the post you want the 2x12's to sit (keep in mind that it should NOT be more than 5.5 inches from the top because you don't want the post to stick above the 2x6 stringers). We measured down from the top of each post and clamped the 2x12 in place. However, since the ground is not perfectly level, use a level and make fine adjustments by moving the clamps. 

6) Once the 2x12's are in place drill pilot holes using a spade bit that is just slightly smaller than the size of the galvanized lag bolt that you are going to use to secure the 2x12 to the post. Also, only drill the pilot holes 3/4 of the length of the lag bolt. Make sure to stagger the pilot holes so that you don't split the wood. Once the pilots are drilled, slip the washer onto the lag bolt and secure the 2x12 to the post using a socket attachment on your drill (or by hand). You can then remove the C-clamps. Repeat step 6 on the other post.

7) Next, secure one 2x6 to each side of each post by drilling directly into the post at a 90 degree angle using the landscaping screws. This will help to give some stability to the over all structure, since the other stringers will just be "toe-nailed" in.

8) Before you attach the rest of the stringers, measure out and mark where they will rest on the 2x12's. They should be evenly spaced. Once the lines are marked, raise them into place and have a buddy hold them while you use a landscaping screw to toenail the 2x6 into place from each side (4 screws total per board). If you want a little more stability, you can use decking brackets to secure the stringers in place, but I wanted to save money on hardware.

The bones of the pergola are now in place. 

A few extra tips:
~To obtain a finished look, stain the pergola with a deck stain and water sealer (we're waiting for warmer and drier weather to do this step). 

~Since we installed ours on top of paving stones, I used a circular saw with a masonry blade to notch out the paving stones so that they would cover the post brackets and look seamless. 

~We also decorated beneath our pergola to create an outdoor room...an extension of our home. 
    *Entertaining - We used 10x10 galvanized L-brackets to attach a bar top between two of the posts.  We also found some great Pier1 bar-height director's chairs on craigslist for 75% off the Pier1 price! 

    *Seating - We also used the frame of a futon for seating. We used a outdoor rated material to create seat cushions and throw pillows. We didn't have to buy outdoor cushion padding (which can be SUPER expensive) because we found another GREAT deal on craigslist and bought 12 outdoor cushions for $20 which we just recovered with the fabric we bought. 

    *Lighting - The chandelier was one of Jamie's Christmas presents to me (isn't she thoughtful)! She bought a bunch of lanterns from World Market and hung them at different lengths from the center of the pergola to look like a chandelier. She also got me the awesome string lights for Christmas. The lights give off a really great ambiance for relaxing out there in the evening. 

    *The Lord also gave us a GREAT deal on an outdoor rug which really ties everything together beneath the fire-pit.

All in all, we really love our outdoor room, and we can't wait for it to warm up and quit raining so we can spend more time out there! I hope you enjoyed the how-to!

Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

I found this recipe shortly after I tried this soup at Olive Garden.  In my opinion, it's MUCH tastier because this recipe makes a creamier soup.  If you like the soup at Olive Garden, you will LOVE this recipe.

** Courtesy of CopyKat.

Yield: 8 servings.
~1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced (You can use a rotisserie chicken.  I've used the barbecue flavored chicken from the Publix deli)
~4 tablespoons butter
~4 tablespoons flour
~1 quart half and half
~1 14 ounce can chicken broth
~1/2 cup celery, finely diced
~2 garlic cloves, minced
~1 cup carrots, finely shredded
~1 cup onion, finely diced
~1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
~1 tablespoon extra virgin oil
~1/2 teaspoon thyme
~1/2 teaspoon parsley
~Freshly grated parmesan cheese – optional
~1 pound potato gnocchi - You can usually find this is in the pasta aisle at your grocery store.

1. Sauté the onion, celery, and garlic in the butter and olive oil, over medium heat when the onion becomes translucent, add the flour, and make a roux, let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.
2. Cook gnocchi according to package directions.
3. Into the roux add in the carrots and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings, simmer until soup is heated through.

**Another 5 star recipe!

Karlie - 12 Months

Apparently I blinked because all of the sudden my tiny 6 pound baby is now 1 year old!  Everyone tried to warn me, "Watch out.  You'll blink and she'll be sitting up, eating by herself, crawling, talking, graduating highschool."  What has two thumbs and now refuses to blink?  THIS girl!

Well, I say it but I don't mean it.  There's a book called If I Could Keep You Little and when I first started reading it, I wanted to cry, throw it on the floor, and step on it (did I mention I was in Target?).  But by the end of the book I was thinking "Fine. Fine!  You're right.  You're completely right."  One line from the book is "If I could keep you little, I'd keep you close to me.  But then I'd miss you growing into who you're meant to be!"  And that is what JP and I look forward to most.  Seeing what God has in store for our daughter.

Karlie is growing and developing every day.  Last night on the way home from church, we were going over words with her.  With some of her words, she has quite the little southern drawl.  Her list so far is:
~ ball (baaaawl)
~ dog (gog)
~ dada
~ mama
~ cat
~ book (buh)
~ bye (biii)
~ Papa (JP's dad)
~ Pa (Paaaw - my dad)
~ car (I actually think this one should be Kar because I think she's trying to say her own name.)
~ blue

We love hearing her little voice.  She's also started to sing.  We'll say, "Karlie, can you sing a song?"  Then she'll quiet her voice and raise the pitch a little and go "La la la, la la la, la la la."

She loves to dance.  If she's sitting, she just holds her arms out and twists her upper body.  If she's standing, she wiggles her booty and bends her knees over and over again and just bounces.  To any type of music...someone singing, a ringing cell phone, Anthony beatboxing, a commercial.  We don't usually allow her to play with our cell phones, but occasionally we'll hand her JP's phone and I'll call it just to see her dance.

Karlie also loves to give hugs.  Mostly to our dogs or her toys (her stuffed animals and balls mostly) but every now and then Mommy and Daddy luck out and get a Karlie-hug.

As for walking, she hasn't conquered this yet.  She's just started showing SOME interest.  A couple weeks ago if we tried to stand her up, her legs would just turn to jello.  Now she'll walk holding onto our fingers or she'll take lots of steps with her walker.  Any day though...I'm sure all I have to do is blink.

I've let blog updating slip alot but it's just because we've been busy doing things I want to post on here.  We've backsplashed our kitchen, built an outdoor room, and we're currently working on updating our bedroom (which so far includes painting our nightstands, getting rid of our bed and my dresser, and assembling a new bed from World Market).  I also have birthday party pictures to post.