Renovating a cabinet

We acquired this old chemistry bench from when we lived in Kansas. This cabinet was sitting abandoned. And we think it was under an open window or a hole in the roof, because there was quite a bit of pigeon droppings on it. Honestly someone probably would have looked at it and said “no way” and threw it in the trash. But, since my husband’s research advisor was also very talented in wood working he knew there was pretty oak underneath.

When I was decorating for Christmas, I typically put a few things in this cabinet. I have a collection of Santa’s that this same research advisor started for me in 2000. I think he thought I needed a hobby of collecting things! I had just finished our staircase and I wanted another project. I kept looking at this thinking it could look so much better painted. But, for one thing its huge and extremely heavy, and its also very old. I believe circa 1910 it says on the back. So I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the piece but wanted to do something to bring it up to date. I decided on painting just the inside of the top.

Choosing the the type of paint was easy. Fusion Mineral Paint is the easiest paint to use. It goes on smooth and there is no need for a top coat. I used it on my staircase project and it still looks great after 6 months. I didn’t want to paint the outside so we decided that a stark white would not look right with the warm oak. I chose Raw Silk. It is a little softer in color and goes well with the rest of the piece.

The first thing I did was remove the glass doors and wipe down all the surfaces with TSP. I wanted to make sure there was no grease or anything on the inside.

I put the first coat of Zin primer on the bottom of the cabinet. If you notice there is some bubbles in the middle of it. I think there may have been some acid or base possibly that was spilled inside this when it was used in a chemistry lab. There was some kind of black stuff on the bottom, but it wasn’t paint, not sure if it was some kind of laminate inside to protect it from scratches or chemicals. It was a little damaged, and it showed up pretty well once it was primed white. I didn’t want to leave it like that so I found some ordinary wood filler, and used a scraper and some 120 sandpaper to get the surface smooth.

This is a pretty awful picture, but I wanted to show you that I filled the holes with wood filler and sanded it. It took a couple days to get it smooth, but it worked.

I put two coats of the primer on the bottom and inside of the cabinet. There were a couple other places that needed filled and sanded. The back of the cabinet was plywood, and it had a small gap in the middle that I filled. For the most part it was pretty easy. I used an old $2 brush to put the primer on. I typically use foam brushes, but a cheap one worked fine.

I applied two coats of primer and let the primer dry for a day before I started putting the @Fusion Mineral Paint on.

I applied two coats of the @Fusion Mineral Paint.

Once the paint was dry I put the glass doors back in and found new hardware for the front. I am pretty pleased with how this turned out. I love using this paint and it has no odor and cleans up so well with soap and water.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Do you have one of those recipes you like to make on a cold dreary day? One of those meals that is pure comfort food? I think Chicken Pot Pie is one of those. Lets face it a pastry crust on top of anything is delicious! No matter what is underneath it! I have adapted this recipe from one of my favorite chef’s Ina Garten.

Ina Garten has some fabulous recipes and they are all worth trying, but I don’t always have time to cut up fresh vegetables, or make homemade chicken stock or homemade crust. I am sure those things would make it all taste so much better. But for my family, especially during the week, I prefer the packaged prepared pie crusts, and the frozen veggies!

The egg wash is what makes this crust golden brown on top. I think that’s a step a lot of us forget about or don’t think it’s even necessary. You are probably in the majority if you think it. But honestly, I would definitely do that step. It is so simple. One egg in a small bowl with about a tablespoon of water. Using a fork mix it well. Then get out a pastry brush and spread that egg all over the top of the crust. Believe me it will be magical the it comes out of the oven and is all golden delicious on top!

Doesn’t every great dish start with butter? Haha! Butter makes everything better right? I like to use the unsalted butter in a lot of recipes. It’s better to add your own amount of salt. I do prefer the landolakes butter but I don’t always have it on hand.

Unsalted butter gives you control of the flavor. “As it pertains to cooking, unsalted butter lets the real, natural flavor of your foods come through. Have you ever noticed that some recipes call for using unsalted butter and then to add salt? Without the added salt in the unsalted butter, the pure sweet cream taste comes through and you can add the exact amount of salt you want in the recipe.”

Simple spices. Sure you can go get some fresh parsley or fresh thyme. But honestly all those fresh spices don’t last in my fridge very long, and I don’t have the luxury of having a garden with fresh plants either. I use these simple spices. It’s not overly spiced and I think that’s what makes it comfort food.

You can use fresh carrots, and frozen peas. You can use the bag with the corn in it too. I am not a fan of corn in my chicken pot pie. The frozen bag of peas and carrots are just perfect. I use the whole bag for this pot pie.


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 12oz package of frozen peas and carrots
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup of half and half
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 TBSP dried parsley
  • 1 package of prepared pie crust (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1 TBSP seas salt for the top.


Preheat oven to 350º. In a medium sized sauce pan place chicken in water to cover the top, boil on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes until done. Shred chicken and set aside. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan on medium low heat. Add chopped onions and cook till translucent, about 2 minutes. Add flour, stir and cook for 2 more minutes until the flour is all incorporated in the onions and butter. Add chicken stock one cup at a time whisking it into the flour mixture. Pour in the half and half. Add all the spices and mix well. Stir in the frozen peas and carrots. Fold in the cooked chicken.

Pour it all into a 9 inch glass pie pan. Top with the prepared pie crust and crimp the edges. of the crust, or fold them over the edges. Make an egg wash with 1 egg and about a TBSP of water. Brush on top of the crust. Using a knife, make a couple slits in the top of the crust to let it vent. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place pie pan on a baking sheet to catch any leaks. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden on top. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

If you are like me, just one crust is enough on the top of the filling. But if you prefer two, prepare the pan with a crust on the bottom of the pie pan before filling it.

Easy Spinach Quiche

The easiest dinner’s sometimes are breakfast’s! Ha! Honestly I probably have breakfast for dinner at least a couple times a month. It’s cheap, healthy usually and easy! Today I decided to make this quiche. It definitely is not something my kids like though! I will have to make something different for them! I don’t typically do that, they eat what ever I make. But this is not one of their favorites, but I like it and it’s great leftover.

I think I tried to make quiche before and disguise it to my little one and call it Egg Pie! I guess I thought if it had the word pie in it she would go for it. Wrong. She asked me never to make it again for her! Maybe someday she will acquire the taste.. but I don’t think she will ever like the texture!

As with anything I make using a pie crust, I buy the Pepperidge Farm already made ones! They honestly are just great for pies and for busy moms it makes life so much easier!

I use fresh spinach for this recipe. I think it’s better if you can find it. I probably could have chopped it smaller, and I probably would have if I was serving it to a guest.

I use regular ordinary large eggs. I don’t buy the organic ones! I am sure they are much better than these. You could definitely use them if you like.

Bacon. Bacon. Bacon. I don’t know anything that is better than the salty flavor of bacon in a quiche. I am sure a Canadian bacon, that would taste good. I usually over cook bacon. I typically like it super crispy. For this recipe I don’t think it is necessary, just cook it until most of the fat is rendered.

Now for the cheese. I used what I had leftover in the fridge. I used Colby Jack cheese. You can put shredded Swiss cheese in there, or Monterey jack or Pepper Jack for a little kick.

I use half & half. I think most recipes you find call for heavy cream. I don’t always have that available. Half & Half works fine. I don’t think skim milk or 1% milk would work well in this recipe.

I like to put the pie pan on a baking sheet when I put it in the oven. Less risk of spills and it’s easier to get it out of the oven especially when it’s piping hot.


  • 1 ready made pie shell or pie crust
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of half & half
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 7 strips cooked bacon chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


Preheat oven to 375º. In a large bowl whisk the eggs. Add the chopped spinach, cooked bacon, cheese, salt and pepper. Pour in the half & half and mix well. Put in prepared pie shell and make sure it is evenly spread out in the pan. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until set. It is great served with your favorite salsa and a side salad.

Renovating a fireplace & mantle with paint

Last fall I took on a huge project with renovating our staircase. We live in a suburban Ohio home and it was old, dark and dated. We have lived in this home for 20 years, and for the last 7 of them have been on hold with any renovation project while my husband has been fighting to recover from leukemia. He’s since in remission and I have been working hard since last summer on projects around here to keep it fresh.

Our staircase went black and white. When we did that I knew I would paint the mantle black. I wanted to do a lime wash on the brick, and I still might do that, but for now, just the mantle went black. We have an entire wall of brick….all rather orange brick. Well, not exactly orange, but close to it. The mantle was a dark brown stain, and sometime after we moved in I painted it white. It was just a latex white paint and well, after a while, close to 20 years I guess, it was kind of looking yellow. So you can imagine, orange brick and yellowing mantle… it REALLY needed updated! Thank goodness I found Fusion Mineral Paint. This is the best thing I could have done. This paint is so easy to work with and most of the time you don’t need a primer. Since our mantle was already painted, I didn’t need one, I just went over it with Fusion Mineral paint and it was done.

This is the before…how our mantle looked in the fall as I was getting ready to paint it.

As you can see, the fireplace takes up the whole wall. It is pretty hard to style this mantle with how big it is. I had just finished painting the room white. Yes, I do have eyeball can lights! Someday those will get replaced too!

The first thing I did was remove everything around and on the mantle. Since the brick was never sealed, I decided I needed to do that first. After a while, some of the dust began to fall on the mantle. I didn’t want that to happen after it was painted black. I went to Lowes and found a sealer for it that was a matte finish. I didn’t want the brick to be glossy. This did the trick, it dried fast and the brick dust is gone!

The first thing I did was clean the brick with TSP. I used a brush to clean the brick. I filled an empty spray bottle with a diluted amount. Half TSP and half water. I sprayed it on the brick and wiped off any excess with a rag.

After the brick was cleaned.

The sealer went on really easy with paint brush.

Halfway done!

You can definitely see the difference here with the sealer. It’s still wet in this picture, but it looks so much better than the other side. I was am so happy I decided to do this. As you can see in the picture too I taped off the wall around the mantle with painter’s tape before I got started on the mantle.

Brick is completely sealed.

I put two coats of sealant on the brick. Next it was time to paint!

I used Fusion Mineral Paint, color Ash. The same color I used on our staircase. It made a huge difference. I put on two coats of the Ash.

I’m so happy with the black mantle. I honestly never thought this was something I would do when we bought this house 20 years ago! I think now, it makes a better statement. I hope I can lime wash the brick someday! I think it would totally stand out next to the black mantle. But for now, I am loving the way it looks! I hope you liked this renovation project. It’s amazing sometimes how just a simple paint change can make a difference!

Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins with Jiffy Mix

My oldest daughter could eat homemade banana bread every day after school if she could. But honestly who has time for that?! There are some days I am swamped with projects and am always looking for a quick alternative to banana bread. I love the Jiffy Mixes! They are easy, not expensive, and make just the right amount of muffins for our family of four. Let’s face it, if they are not gone in 2 days, then they probably were not worth making!

I like to add oatmeal to a recipe when I can. Sneaking in some whole grains are both hearty and healthy. Especially for swimmers! You could add protein powder as well like I did with my last post about blueberry muffins, but sometimes just adding the extra oatmeal is enough. With the Jiffy mix, it makes it so easy to use that as a base, and add some extra ingredients to elevate them a bit! This muffin is a winner with my family, I hope you enjoy it too.

I first start with one package of Jiffy Banana muffin mix. Then I add in one fresh ripe mashed banana, a handful of walnuts, a little vanilla and some cinnamon and 2 eggs. The results yields a healthier muffin that my kids love! I hope your’s do too! The best part, is the clean up is so easy!

Follow the directions on the back of the box of Jiffy banana muffin mix for some really great muffins, but if you have the extra time and ingredients on hand, add them for some pretty awesome muffins that your family will sure to love!


  • 1 package of Jiffy Banana Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 fresh ripe banana
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 handful of chopped walnuts (about 3/4 cup) (optional)


Preheat oven to 400º Line a muffin tin with liners, or prepare pan with cooking spray. Empty Jiffy mix in a medium sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Bake for 12-14 minutes until done. Remove and let cool. You can sprinkle them with a little confectioner’s sugar for added sweetness if you like, or just keep them plain! We like them plain! They are great for lunches, snacks with coffee or a great afternoon snack after school!

Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Glaze

I get up between 4:15-4:45 a couple mornings a week while my daughter is swimming in high school. She has morning practices three days a week, sometimes at 5:15AM, or depending on where the practice is 5:00AM. I could just let her get up and out the door on her own, but honestly, I am that a kind of mom that likes to say goodbye to her before she heads out. Before she could drive on her own, I was the one taking her to those morning practices, and usually sleeping in the car while she was in the water, then I would to take her to school. At 2PM I would pick her up from school, and take her back to the pool. Life has been a lot easier since she’s able to drive herself! If the pool was attached to the school it would have made life much easier….

On the days she has morning practice I would have to pack her a breakfast to eat on the way to practice, a breakfast to eat on the way to school, lunch, a snack to eat on the way back to practice, and a snack to eat on the way home to dinner. It’s a lot of food! We look forward to weekends around here very much!

With all the snacks and meals I make for her, it helps to be able to throw in something quick and healthy for her. I really like the Jiffy Muffin mixes. They are so handy to have in your pantry, and you can make a quick batch of muffins in about 20 minutes, start to finish!

The blueberry muffin mix is one of our favorites. It’s fine to make this as is by following the directions. But for my hungry swimmer, I usually add a little extra for flavor, and protein!

If I have fresh or frozen blueberries, I add those in, typically about 1/4 cup extra. I also add lemon zest, a little vanilla and a scoop of protein powder.

I am not kidding when I say my daughter eats a lot! Swimmers typically burn all those calories pretty darn quick just from a warm up. So the extra protein powder helps a lot especially during the early mornings. And if you can get a little help from Jiffy to make these muffins really quick, why not!


  • 1 package of Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (unflavored)


Prepare muffin tin with liners, or spray with non-stick spray. Heat oven to 400º.

Empty Jiffy muffin mix in a medium sized bowl. Add one egg, the milk, the vanilla, zest, and protein powder. Mix well. Batter should be a little lumpy. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 13-15 minutes. Makes about 9 muffins. Finish with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar

Mix well and drizzle over warm muffins. Let cool before eating. Enjoy!

Homemade Valentine for School

I know its only January 8th and I have a post about Valentine’s Day. Its never too early to prepare for a holiday! This one is pretty special in our family, my husband had a bone marrow transplant on Feb. 14th, 2013 to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He’s since recovered, but the day has always been special and now even more special because of a selfless act by a donor in Germany that saved his live with her life-giving stem cells.

Today I am thinking ahead to February! I kind of have to, this is our family’s busiest time of the year. Did I mention I have two kids that both swim competitively? For the next 7 weekends in a row we have swim meets…so yep I try to think ahead as much as possible so I am not slammed with last minute projects!

My youngest daughter still has a class valentine exchange. Last year she made a Valentine box to take to school. You remember the shoe box kind? I used to do that when I was in grade school, way back in the 70’s but for some reason all we had to use to cover the shoe box was tin foil, and we cut out the paper hearts for the top and colored them with crayons. Today they make special boxes available at Michaels that are used just for this. I still like the shoe boxes covered, but I think we can elevate that a little but from what I did in the 70’s! But in the mean time, I created this cute little Valentine for her school exchange.

I have never been a fan of the $2 dollar store variety school Valentine. I have tried to make them personal over the years, and for the first time made one that I can share with you. This one prints out 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. And if you have a Cricut machine, it will make it even easier, but not necessary.

You can add the pencil as an extra gift for you child’s friends if you like. I designed these so your child can write their classmate’s names on the other side. There is plenty of room for big handwriting too!

I used my cricut machine to cut the hearts out and the pencil holes. You can use an ordinary hole punch write on the valentine, or add one of the sparkly stickers to them and use a hole punch for a pencil slot.

They print easily on a 8.5 x 11 card stock.

I am sure to have more craft projects and fun recipe’s for Valentine’s Day in the next few weeks! But for now, these are done! Enjoy!

Homemade Honey Nut Granola

This morning my teenager came down to breakfast and had her usual Kodiak cake waffles. She loves the vanilla Kodiak cake waffles with peanut butter but she’s always looking for something extra at breakfast. This morning I offered her some greek yogurt with some dried cranberry granola. She of course stuck her nose up at it, not a fan of cranberries or the brand of yogurt I had in the fridge. But in typical fashion decided to eat it anyway because she was hungry! Did I mention she’s swimmer and eat’s a lot of food!

I decided today I would try to make some homemade granola. I have I have never made granola. I always thought it was just too easy to buy it already made in the grocery store. But, honestly, it was so easy to make. I adapted this recipe from All Recipes for our family. Not everyone likes cranberries, or needs all the extra’s added in all the time. Just an simple granola to top your greek yogurt with our your vanilla ice cream, or your bowl of Cheerios!

3/4 cup of chopped walnuts

You could compliment up your granola with extra flaxseed or even protein powder but if my teenager is turning her nose up at cranberry granola from the supermarket I figured I would play it safe and make a batch of regular old fashion granola and see how that goes first. I can always experiment later if this goes over well!

1/4 cup chopped pecans

This granola has two different kinds of nuts in it. I baked a lot over the holiday, and had some extra walnuts and pecans. I used 3/4 of a cup of walnuts and a quarter cup of pecans so it does have some extra protein without going too crazy with adding in extra’s.

1/2 TBSP of cinnamon

The base is whole oat oatmeal. I used True Goodness from Meijer.


  • 2 Cups of Whole Oat Oatmeal
  • 3/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 TBSP Cinnamon

Directions: Add the oatmeal, nuts and cinnamon to a medium sized bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together first. Next, in a separate bowl, add the canola oil, honey and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let dry before storing in an air tight container. You can double the recipe if you like.

Oatmeal Pancakes

I originally saw this recipe in a cooking light magazine. I have since adapted it to my hungry swimmers. Its a hearty pancake that heats up well leftover too! I sometimes use whole wheat flour when I have it instead of white flour for the extra protein. Typically my kids eat these a couple times a week during peak swim practices!

Add the flour
Add 3 TBSP of sugar ( you can substitute brown sugar or honey if you prefer)
I use 2 tsp of baking powder (you could use one tsp each of baking powder and baking soda) the powder makes them dense, using soda will make them a little fluffier)
Add two tsp of cinnamon! (extra flavor and good for your metabolism)!
Whisk all the dry ingredients together.
Add 2 eggs, the milk and vanilla and melted butter.

The dry ingredients are usually everything I have on hand in my pantry. So it makes it easy to make them pretty quick.

Dry Ingredients

1 Cup Oatmeal (I don’t use the quick cooking kind, but you can)

1 Cup flour (or whole wheat flour)

2 tsp baking powder

3 TBSP sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP melted butter

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

I use a dry griddle when I cook these pancakes because there is butter in the batter, I don’t think it needs any more oil or extra butter in the cooking.

Mix all the wet ingredients together, and add to the dry until well combined. I use a dry griddle when I make these pancakes. Because the melted butter is in the mix, I don’t use any more when I cook them. Serve with your favorite maple syrup, or confectioner’s sugar or fruit.

My kids like them with powdered sugar!
Hearty Oatmeal pancake with blueberries and bananas!

I hope you enjoy these pancakes as much as we do. Honestly, making homemade pancakes are really easy to do. I enjoy cooking for my daughters, especially breakfasts! We often have breakfast for dinner on busy weeknights too.

Southwest Quesadillas

I have a teenage daughter that is also an athlete. She’s a swimmer. If anyone knows how much swimmers eat, then you know you are always looking for quick healthy choices that will be satisfying. I don’t always have time to prepare a big comfort meal and there are days where we do baked potatoes and broccoli and a protein drink, believe me. But I have found over the years of being a mom to a club swimmer they are looking for something quick that will be filling. I came across this recipe when doing a google search and have adapted it slightly for our family.

If you are looking for a quick hearty lunch idea, or quick weeknight meal, try these! There are so many variations that you will be glad you did!


1 TBSP canola oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small onion diced

1 red bell pepper diced

1 can of black beans rinsed and drained

1 cup of frozen yellow corn

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

salt & pepper to taste

flour tortillas

shredded cheddar cheese


Salsa or Salsa Verde

Sour Cream

Chopped fresh Cilantro

Sliced jalapeno



Start with heating the oil in a  non stick pan. Cook onions and garlic till translucent about two minutes. Add chopped peppers, beans and corn. Add spices. Cook till heated through. Heat griddle. Place tortilla on the griddle, add filling and cheese and fold. Cook until brown and flip to the other side. Serve with salsa or your favorite topping and Enjoy! You can add cooked diced chicken for a variation, or mushrooms. “A quick and healthy option for a hearty lunch”!