Wednesday, September 5

What Katie Cooks

What Katie Cooks
Here's another small round up of some meals I've cooked recently. I typically like to make meals that are fast and easy, so these are some ideas to spark new food ventures in your life!

Okay, so the photo above-- what is it??

Hoisin Tofu with Veggies
*tofu sautéed in hoisin sauce
*onions, peppers, and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil
*steamed white rice
*veggie dumplings (store bought)

Keeping the veggies separate from the hoisin tofu kept this meal from tasting too hoinsin-y (the technical term). I just love veggie dumplings, so we pick them up from our local grocer pretty regularly. Tossing these in a pan with liquid aminos is so good! I like to serve them with ginger dressing on the side.

What Katie Cooks

What is it?

Tomato Gouda Avocado Toast
*7 sprouted grains bread
*gouda cheese
*2 egg whites

This meal was super simple and showed off just how beautiful and delicious my garden tomatoes have been. The gouda is smoky and gives the effect of bacon very nicely. I'm pretty sure I should make this for lunch today...

What Katie Cooks

What is it?

Tofu Scramble with Cabbage Hash
*medium firm tofu with turmeric, salt, and pepper
*napa cabbage
*orange bell pepper
*fresh cilantro
*wheat toast

This one isn't that photogenic, but it tasted so good! Johnny's been having some food allergies lately (we think eggs may be contributing) and I really wanted to try tofu as an egg substitute. It worked SO WELL and the turmeric even makes the tofu look like eggs. I used this method with meatless sausage and pico in a breakfast burrito this same week and it was amazing!

Like I've said before, I'm no food blogger and I'm certainly no food photographer, this is just a fun way to share some meal ideas that we've had in the past few weeks! Happy cooking!!

Friday, August 31

Happy Birthday, Hope!

Hope is 16
For those of you who have been reading this ol' blog for a while, get ready to feel like we're living in an alternate universe. I'm a week late here, but Hope is officially 16. What??? It's true. We celebrated her 16th birthday last week and my mind is trying to figure out how time has gone so quickly. I guess it's true that the older you get the faster time goes. Or maybe we just keep ourselves so busy that life blows by? I don't know, but my "forever 7 in my mind" little girl is ready to start driving. Legally. On her own. 😳

hope bday 1
We had an all-day celebration last Wednesday. We started the day with donuts and photos, the bookstore, and Mexican food. When Poesy got out of school, we headed an hourish south to Branson to jam in all the family fun we could handle.

Hope bday Hope bday Hope bday Hope bday
We hit the sledding hill, went shopping, found a mirror maze, rode a rollercoaster, drove go-karts, and ate our weight in spaghetti. I'm serious when I say we crammed in as many things as humanly possible.

Hope bday Hope bday Hope bday

We spent 7:46, the time Hope was officially born, at the top of the ferris wheel. There are magical moments in life for sure, and this was definitely one of them. Happy birthday, Hope. We love you!

Tuesday, August 14

We Bought A House!

We Bought A House!

These are exciting days here in the Shelton household. This lovely place we've called home for the last 2 1/2 years (we've been renting) is officially ours! It's been a huge goal for us to buy a house for the last year or so, we just had to get ourselves in a position to do so. I get a lot of questions about our buying situation and why this is so big for us, so I thought I'd share more on our past ownership and how we got back here. I'll warn you though, if you're not interested in the backstory, feel free to skip the whole middle section. 😉

Johnny and I bought a home together a year after we were first married. It was definitely a "starter home" that we spent way more years owning than we had originally planned. At this time in our home-owning lives, Johnny worked as worship leader at our church and helped run our youth center (it was pretty cool), and I was a preschool teacher turned stay at home mom turned blogger/Skunkboy Creatures handstitching extraordinaire. We weren't flush with cash, but we were mostly getting by and making our life together work, all while still chasing some sort of dream... well, more me than Johnny, but that's a deeper conversation.

Old Blog Photos renegade

As my Skunkboy Creatures dream was gaining traction and keeping me extremely busy, our church ended up going through a split and there wasn't enough money left to support Johnny's position. We were pretty tight on the monies as it was, so losing his job and stability was devastating for us. All around the same time this was happening, I was about to have Poesy. We made the decision to move out of our house and put renters in pretty soon after Poesy was born. Long story short (ish), the renters destroyed our house and we couldn't afford to get the house back up to a livable standard before the bank was going to take it. This is how we experienced our first (and hopefully ONLY) foreclosure. I was so embarrassed at the time and felt like such a failure. I had a partner and two children, but couldn't even afford to keep their safe space for living. It honestly took me several years to work through this. But again, that's a deeper conversation to be had.

After all of this sank in, we realized that there was nothing left for us in the town we had lived in for so many years. We actually knew this many years earlier, but after losing any anchor tying us there, it was time for us to find a community more appropriately suited for our young family. We decided that Springfield would be a good fit for us. We had lots of friends here, since the norm at Lake of the Ozarks is to move away once you are college-age, and we knew the town pretty well since we would visit often. I found an adorable rental in a good neighborhood, and we made the plunge. I say "plunge" because Johnny was born and raised at the lake and I had lived there since I was in elementary school. A change of scenery was good. Very good. Life wasn't perfect, obviously, but we loved that house for 3 years until we found ourselves moving into this beautiful, historic home where we still reside today.

Goals 2018

Now, if you're here for the part of the story where we got back on our feet and fixed our credit enough to buy a house, here it is! I feel especially proud of us for striving hard enough to get our things in order to buy the house we really wanted before the owners (who also happen to be our friends) were ready to get out from under it.

The first thing we did was SET OUR GOAL. We knew our timeline and what we had to make work, so mapping out how to get there was essential. (We are also NOT planners, so this was big for us. 😅) If you've gone through a foreclosure, there is a specific amount of years that have to pass before anyone is willing to approve a home loan. This was a key part of our specific timeline.

The next big thing was SAVE MONEY. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but we skipped a lot of trips/house upgrades/etc. just to keep that money in the bank. This one can be quite a balancing act when you're working extra hard. Feeling like you're doing the overtime but depriving yourself so much that you question why can be tricky. If you're in this boat right now, first remind yourself of your dream and goals, and maybe buy yourself that extra latte if your tired brain needs it.

Something I didn't know about until I started talking with our lender was CREDIT REPAIR. As you can imagine, Johnny and I didn't have good credit AT ALL when we started this journey. We were scared of credit cards because we didn't want to overspend, and we had a foreclosure on our records. I got hooked up with a reputable credit law firm and they made a world of difference. The cost is a bit different for everyone, but we ended up spending less than $1,000 for the two of us combined and we have seen insane results. They even got our foreclosures removed on a couple of the reporting agencies! I highly recommend this if you're in a position to do so. (The link is to my specific credit law firm, so if you decide to look into them, be sure to ask for Jacquelyn!)

Going back to some of my past fears, my advice is to go ahead and GET A CREDIT CARD. My credit repair contact was the first to push me in this direction, but if the goal here is to build credit, you've got to show that you can spend responsibly and pay on time. This how you build the credit. I mean, we all kind of know that, but as a person who overspent on credit cards in the past, this was a big step for me. My opinion was always that I didn't need credit cards when I could just pay for things on the spot. If you want to build credit it's essential.

Another thing that really helped me was to GET OBSESSIVE. Download Credit Karma or an app like it and watch your credit climb. It's a great way to stay motivated and feel proud of all your efforts. Honestly, I looked forward to paying my bills every month because I would get to see that number rise. It sounds dorky but it was very satisfying.

Last but not least, if you're on a pretty tight deadline, it's okay to HAVE A BACKUP PLAN. Even if you go through all the work, it isn't guaranteed that everything will work out as planned. You'd better believe that I spent the last several months scoping out different homes in our area, just incase we encountered an unforeseen hiccup. Thankfully we didn't, but it isn't admitting defeat if you have an auxiliary plan in place. You've gotta take care of yourself and your specific situation/circumstances. 😊

(illustration by Rebecca Lynn Illustration)

Johnny and I closed on our house on July 26th and we're excited to A) own a home after all these years and B) start planning the bigger projects you get to do when a home is yours!

If you're still waiting to get here, I am rooting for you! Sometimes the road can be a long one, but with hard work it's possible! Whatever your current situation, don't wait to make your space feel like your own. We had especially great landlords that let us do a lot more than most would, but there are lots of ways to make a house feel like home... even if you're currently in limbo. 💛

Wednesday, July 18

Introducing A Little More Structure In Our Day-To-Day

Daily Checklist
I was looking around my house after a weekend of traveling for work, and I felt this sense of defeat wash over me. The table was covered in clutter. There were shoes in literally every room. The entryway looked like someone's messy closet. It's a bad feeling to live in such a lovely home and not want to be there because you don't feel like nagging at your kids for the billionth time. Sure it's summer so they're home more and using our spaces more, but this house was just spotless 2 weeks ago.

So. I let myself acknowledge exhaustion and I wallowed for what felt like an appropriate amount of time, and then I did what I always do: assess how I can address the problem and RALLY. So here we are. We are a family with daily checklists, and I'm pretty excited about it.

Daily Checklist
This was my first time ever trying out Adobe InDesign, so one day I may look back on these and cringe, but for my first attempt I feel pretty good about these checklists. I jotted down the things that I'm constantly reminding the girls to do (I'm not exaggerating by using the word "constantly") and then added a few things they could pitch in on. I put them in frames so they could be used daily with a dry-erase marker, that way I don't have to print out a batch every week!

I know some people may balk at the "bonus" boxes on their checklists, but we don't do weekly allowances and I thought it may be good motivation for them to earn some money and pitch in on things they usually groan about.

Daily Checklist Daily Checklist
Hope has actually been doing a stellar job of keeping up with her own personal space, so her list was more about helping her maintain all the hard work she put into getting it there. Seriously, it was a month-long process to unearth her bedroom from all the junk she had let pile up and I've been really proud of her for keeping up with it.

When you peep her list you'll see 2 boxes for "clear table spot". That's because she often eats 3 meals a day at home and I want her table space clean at least by lunch and then after dinner. If you couldn't tell, keeping our dining table cleaned off is a huge struggle in our house.

Bedroom Makeover Bedroom Makeover Bedroom Makeover
These photos of Poesy's bedroom aren't current, but I think she can get back to this... AND do it on her own. I really want my girls to take ownership in their spaces and treat them with pride. We'll see how it goes. So far, Poesy has taken out the trash, recycling, and is waiting for a load of laundry to fold while I'm typing this. If nothing else, at least I know money talks with this girl. 😂

Monday, July 9

June Garden

June Garden
It's been one month and my garden had grown SO MUCH. I think June will be the garden sweet-spot for us. Almost all of the plants have started producing but the lettuce and peas haven't entirely dried out yet. Next month there will be lots more peppers and tomatoes, though, so I definitely have more to look forward to! Here's a peek at where we started. Now, let's see how much the garden has grown!

June Garden June Garden June Garden June Garden
Peas! Cucumbers! Squash! All of these things are producing now and I'm so excited! The beans I planted this year were all duds, but the peas popped up nicely. In addition to these things, I have tons of kale, one HUGE zucchini, and our arugula is still going strong. Oh yeah, and I have a baby pumpkin! Remember those pink pumpkin seeds I mentioned in the May post? One of my plants has a baby!

June Garden June Garden June Garden June Garden
In my second box, I have tomatoes that are ripening, tons of hot banana and cubanelle peppers, some poblano and anaheim peppers, and small bell and jalapeño peppers. There's an asparagus plant that I haven't paid much attention to and the sweet potatoes and onions are doing great!

While I was out at the boxes today, I noticed that I have squash bugs. These pests are flat bugs (they look a lot like stink bugs) that inject a toxin into a plant and suck the sap out. They are super annoying and can really mess with squash/zucchini plants and pumpkins. I'll let you know how getting rid of them goes.

June Garden June Garden
Otherwise, June was great to us! I look forward to seeing all that July holds. Now-- off to make some salsa!

Tuesday, July 3

What Katie Cooks

Katie Cooks
My favorite way to cook at home is to grab anything I have on hand and use my imagination to turn it into a delicious, cohesive meal. I mean, a wonderful meal doesn't have to be overly complicated and stressful. I've decided to start sharing some of our dinners here on the blog in a little series I've come up with called "What Katie Cooks". My goal is to help spark ideas for meals in your own home. You'll probably notice that we eat a vegetarian or pescatarian diet at home depending on the meal, but you can always sub whatever proteins you prefer.

Okay, so let's talk about the dish above. It's SO SIMPLE. But what is it?

*Sautéed kale in olive oil
*Fresh green beans cooked in a skillet with liquid aminos
*Crispy chickpeas with salt, pepper, a bit of yellow curry powder, and nutritional yeast
*Chilled rice noodles
*Cilantro, avocado yogurt dressing

I'm not all about heavy foods or overly hot meals in the summer, so the chilled noodles and cold dipping sauce make this dinner work for me. The sweetness and tanginess of the yogurt dressing compliments the saltiness of the chickpeas and green beans so nicely.

Katie Cooks
Oh, man- these stuffed peppers were something else. Plus, this is mostly a one skillet meal, so it's fast and easy!

What's in it?

*Cooked organic quinoa
*Black beans
*Frozen pineapple
*Fresh cilantro

Put all of that in a skillet and throw in some garlic and cumin to taste. Once you like it, pull your roasted peppers out and stuff them full! We upped the meal by grabbing some amazing pico de gallo and fried guacamole from a Peruvian/Mexican fusion restaurant that's just right up the street from us. Oh, and hot sauce is always a bonus!

Katie Cooks
I'm a huge sucker for two things: roasted cauliflower and cilantro on/in everything. As I post recipes over the next few months, you'll probably see quite a bit of both.

What is it?

*Roasted cauliflower with a generous amount of pepper
*Sautéed red and green peppers and onions
*Black beans seasoned with garlic, pepper, and cumin
*Smashed avocado (hiding underneath- I find it helps the corn tortillas from breaking as quickly)
*Fresh cilantro
*Warm corn tortillas

The nice part about tacos is you can feed a family with varied tastes just by doing a taco bar and letting them choose. Sometimes we throw in veggie taco meat or turn this into a giant salad with salsa as the dressing. So many possibilities!

I hope something in this post inspires your dinner ideas! These are just iPhone photos I have taken over the last several weeks so I can keep a log for when I'm feeling stumped about dinner. I'm guessing that as I stick with this, I'll probably have to break out the big camera and embrace my inner wannabe food blogger. 😉

Tuesday, June 26

Vintage Swing Project

Vintage Swing Project
If you guys know one thing about me, it's that I love taking things that are worn or broken or ill-fitting and giving them a second life. My obsession with the plant clearance isle is proof of that. 😂 I recently had the bitter-sweet privilege of shopping my dear friend Rachel's yard/moving sale. I nabbed a bunch of great fabric and some vintage home decor (not that much because let's be honest... I'm bursting at the seams a little), but my excitement came from this old, beat-up rattan hanging chair. She told me she got it off the side of the road in a sea-salty town, and the wood really showed it. The seems were coming apart and the chair was brittle. Here's what I did to bring her back to life:

Vintage Swing Project
The two main things I used to revitalize the chair were this SunShield Wood Conditioner and leather cord. The SunShield was to condition the wood and hopefully allow some moisture to soak back in, and I used the leather cord to tie the unraveled spots on the chair back together.

Vintage Swing Project
This is the state of the wood as I was applying the conditioner. You can see the color difference in the photo, but what you can't see is how this dried out chair just sopped it up. It was pretty impressive.

Oh, and I did hang the chair before I started applying the conditioner because bending over for hours to condition the chair just seemed like a project I would never finish. These swing ties are hanging three of our swings now and holding up nicely.

Vintage Swing Project
After I used a cloth to rub all of the conditioner into the wood (don't be fooled by tidy DIY posts, this took two days), I used the leather to tie the joints back together. Honestly, it ended up creating a pretty cool look with the rattan and the leather. I'm into it.

I did, however, give myself many, many blisters the day before our band played 3 shows in two days. "And here we have ol' blister-fingers on the piano. Clap for her." 😳

Vintage Swing Project Vintage Swing Project Vintage Swing Project
My goal for this patio when we finally get it finished is a cozy boho vibe. We have ivy hanging down from the trees overhead, so this cushion cover I found on Amazon was pretty perfect.

Vintage Swing Project
One day when our fence is up (hopefully by the end of the summer) and we can put more furniture out, it will be so fun to have friends over to chat and relax in this setting. It's so dreamy at night already... I'm a little bit obsessed.

*Notes: there are affiliate links in this post. 
My shirt is from Free People, skirt and shoes are vintage, and glasses are Quay