Thoughts On Adoption

I don’t intend for this blog to be overly political or flooded with contemporary issues, but I’ve had a few conversations lately that have inspired this post, and I really have nowhere else to share them.

Those who know me know that I am adopted. I have a younger sister who is also adopted (Katie*). I have an even younger sister who is my parents’ biological child (Kelsey). While adoption has always been an element of our family, it has never really mattered much until recently. Continue reading

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Kitchen Remodeling in 2013

We’re not really the type to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I do have a goal in mind for 2013. With the possibility of moving always on the horizon, I have tried to tackle home remodeling projects in small pieces- updating paint, furniture, etc. at different times- rather than overhauling an entire room at once. That way I could never be caught off guard in the middle of a project and face the daunting task of selling a work-in-progress.

This year I have decided to make an exception, and we are now in the early stages of planning a kitchen remodeling project. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in our home. I personally spend a majority of my time there cooking, cleaning, and working at the table. This poses a problem as the space is not too large and the organization leaves much to be desired.

When we first approached the idea of redesign, I wanted to tackle the project ourselves. NC is skilled with design programs and construction and I like to think I have an eye for good design. However, the more we considered the project the more I wonder if it makes sense to work with a design company to create the look and feel we want.

We live a little way outside St. Louis (if you consider 50 miles little) so working with a kitchen design company would involve time and effort for us to visit the suppliers and for the installers to travel all the way to our home. Cabinets, counter tops, and new flooring are all on the agenda, along with back-splash tile and a fresh coat of paint. This project is not something that will come cheap by any means.

Then there is the question of finding the right design company for our vision and budget. There are many companies in St. Louis to choose from, and many have great examples of their work. We’re considering going to a kitchen design seminar to get a feel for the process without the pressure of working with a consultant on our first trip. Personally, I hate to feel pressured to make a decision when it comes to big purchases, and it will be nice to have the buffer of others to allow us to examine the showroom for ourselves.

kitchen design

How awesome would this kitchen be?

After we do a little more research we can decide what kind of counter tops and cabinets we want to use for the space. NC has always had a thing for granite, but hopefully he will be open to more colorful options!

I’m Back!

I’m back!

It’s been more than a few months since the last time I blogged, and a lot of things have changed since then. I graduated from Lindenwood, moved into my house full-time (finally!), and we added to our little family in the form of a new puppy. I also joined a gym.

It’s my goal to get back to blogging before the end of the year. Now that things are settled at home and work, I’m starting to feel like I have a little free time to do it. I’ll probably expand my topics a bit and reformat some of my old material.

Keep on the look out for more exciting things to come in 2013!

MilaCampbell

Chicken Foil Steamer

This meal was a delicious little experiment modified from this recipe to suit my own tastes. I subtracted the stuffing, and added a few extra gems. Its a great light dinner that will leave you feeling healthy and satisfied.

Ingredients: (Per steam pack)

  1. 1 C. chopped broccoli

  2. 1/4 C. diced red onion

  3. 6 oz. chicken breast- sliced thin

  4. cheese (I used Pepper Jack)

  5. 2 slices pre-cooked bacon, crumbled

  6. 1 T. Creamy Italian dressing

Materials:

  1. large sheet of foil

  2. cooking spray

  3. cookie sheet

  4. oven (set to 400)

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Let’s Get Started:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 400.

  • Lay a large sheet of foil on the cookie sheet, and coat generously with cooking oil.

  • Place the chicken breast in the center of the foil. You want the chicken to be this so it will cook completely. I actually had to slice mine in half.

  • Combine the broccoli and onions and cover the chicken.

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  • Layer the cheese and bacon on top of the veggies. I didn’t use a lot of cheese, but you can always add what you think is necessary.

  • Drizzle the dressing over the top.

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  • Loosly wrap the foil around the chicken and fold to seal. Make sure you’re leaving room for heat to circulate within. Don’t suffocate your chicken!

  • Slide into the oven for 20-25 minutes. You need to know whether your oven typically cooks quickly or slowly. You can’t check for progress once it’s baking.

  • When you remove the packet, puncture it to allow the steam to escape.

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  • Once you’ve seen the steam escape, feel free to unwrap and admire your creation.

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MMM…

I served my chicken with mashed potatos and gravy. Next time I’m going to try chopping up the chicken dish and adding it to a side salad for an even healthier option.

Happy Cooking!

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Jason Wu For Target

Jason Wu via Target.com

It’s almost here.

Friday marks the launch of yet another designer collection for retail-giant Target. The Jason Wu for Target line consists of 50 pieces of women’s clothing and accessories, ranging in price from $19.99 to $59.99.

The lookbook, which is available for preview , appears to consist primarily of pieces with a modern yet feminine flair.

Eager shoppers can only hope that the Wu collection is more available than the Missoni collection which launched in September and was sold out in a single day. Target had not anticipated the consumer response, and were unable to handle the generated web traffic.

Hopefully, the Missoni debacle served to teach an important lesson in availability. However, with early pieces already selling for hundreds of dollars on ebay, that seems unlikely.

Personally, I will be online early to make my purchases.

Long sleeve sheer top in white with black ribbon*: $34.99: Pleated full circle skirt in black (also available in navy floral): $29.99

Will you be checking out the Jason Wu collection?

What other designers would you like to see in Target stores?

An Unwelcome Addition

I confessed not long ago to being a Harry Potter fan. Well, it’s time for another confession.

{I watched the Sex and the City 2 movie.}

While the premise was ridiculous and the entire movie was a two hour excuse for SJP to wear outlandish clothes, there was one scene that stuck out to me.

In celebration of their wedding anniversary, Mr. Big presents Carrie with a brand new TV to be located in their bedroom. She’s appalled and he’s confused. What could possibly be the problem with having a TV in the bedroom?

Carrie and Mr. Big

I wrote off the movie as a waste of time and didn’t dwell on it again until recently. Over Christmas NC purchased a new TV for the living room. While I don’t harbor the appreciation for the finer, technical aspects, I was keenly aware that this meant that we suddenly had an extra TV lying around.

It’s had been a few weeks and the extra TV stayed put in the closet. About two weeks ago NC pulled it out and set it up in the bedroom.

Suddenly all of my disdain for Carrie’s reaction was erased and replaced with my own fears about what this possibly meant about my relationship. Were we, in our 20’s, suddenly taking on the lives of an old married couple?

Could it be that my efforts to keep our relationship fresh were wasted?

The first night when I came home from work I found NC in bed with a bag of Chex-Mix watching a movie. It was as if all my nightmares were staring me in the face.

I’m not implying that every relationship needs daily cuddling or falling asleep together to be sustained. But there has to be a balance. There has to be understanding that ultimately your partner is there with you, and you can record whatever program is so important to you.

NC and I had to set boundaries. He watches TV in bed when I am at work, and I watch TV when he’s gone. If we start watching TV in the living room and move to the bedroom that’s also acceptable.

The most important point is that we don’t turn the TV on every night.

After a few weeks I’m starting to mind its presence less. I’m still not a fan of bringing media into the bedroom but I’ve become more open to compromise.

Unlike Carrie and Mr. Big, it seems the TV in our room is a permanent fixture. Well, at least for now.

A Cry For Help

Ok, all of my wine-loving friends, I need your help! I have a few projects bouncing around in my head and I would love to try them out and have some tutorials for you.

BUT, they require wine bottles and corks. I’m not a wine drinker, so you can see where this might be a problem.

If you would like to donate in any way, shape, or form I would greatly appreciate it!

I also want to make some awesome wine bottle candle holders!

The Final Count Down…

Completely home made pb&j 

It’s hard to believe that PBandJterm is already finished. It seems like only yesterday we were setting up blogs and sending out our first tweets. I guess time flies, right?

Week three was packed full of information and guest speakers. It was a time to test the waters of our own niches, and for the most part we found that the waters were fine.

{SEO}

First up was Derek Mabie, the president of Evolve. Through his experience heading a company specializing in SEO, Derek was able to offer valuable advice to the class. Use keyword trackers, and cater to your audience he suggested. It does you no good to have the most fantastic content on the planet if no one can find it.

 

By utilizing keyword searches, bloggers and content developers can include specific triggers in headings and titles which will make their information more accessible to Google and other search engines that index sites.

 

While I had heard of SEO before, I had never found it to be relevant to my personal brand. After all, I’m the only Kirstie Hamel in the world (or at least the only one on the internet) and it takes over FIVE PAGES of Google search to find something completely unrelated to me. However, I learned that my name is not my most marketable asset. I need to optimize my posts to ensure that my blog is found by users searching for the topics I cover.

 

{Brands You Should Know}

If you’re not already a fan of Maddie and Jess from  City In A Jar, what are you waiting for?! These ladies have mastered the arena of blogging for a niche market and have been nominated by the River Front Times for a blogging award less than a year after launching.

 

Their presentation was inspiring. They decided to start a blog, got motivated, and made it happen. Jess was a PBandJterm student last year, which reinforces the fact that the lessons learned really do have real world applications.

 

Hopefully, I’ll be able to follow their blog and connect more with them in the coming months. These ladies make a dynamic team.

 

{Niche Blogging}

 

For this week’s assignment, I worked on three posts related to my homemaking niche. The Joint Checking Dilemma, Butterbeer Magic, and Teaching and Old Dog New Tricks all incorporated aspects of my life in a relatable way.

 

While I loved working on these posts, I learned that my passion for writing falls more under story telling than how-to or analytical pieces. I may be more suited to a column style. While that seems a little disheartening, I was also reminded of my love for editing. While reading through my classmates’ blogs, I discovered that I was unconsciously cataloging the changes that I would have suggested to them.

 

Perhaps my role in the future will feature behind-the-scenes work with the occasional special guest appearance. Who really knows?

 

{The End Has Arrived}

 

I enjoyed this class perhaps more than any other at Lindenwood. The community developed between the students was incredible, and I have no doubt that we will continue to grow beyond the classroom. I’m thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons, and I look forward to showing off the results in the future.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

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As any dog owner knows, there are many benefits and joys to having a four-legged friend. They love unconditionally and are comforting companions.

Mud is a lab-mix rescue that NC adopted several years ago. He has become my best friend, and I’ve since taken on responsibility for his care. When NC is away at work, Mud never leaves my side. He hangs out in the kitchen while I’m cooking and sleeps in bed with me at night.

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A few weeks ago NC decided it was time (finally) to buy a new bed. We had been using a 20 year old full size mattress, and it was far beyond worn out. So, we journeyed out and bought a queen sized foam mattress and comforter set. I chose a silky comforter, and warned NC before we left the store that Mud would no longer be allowed on the bed.  

{The Process}

As soon as the bed was set up and the new comforter in place, I shooed Mud out of the room and closed the door. My theory was that if I eliminated his access, I could prevent the problem.

My mistake was in assuming that NC and I would remember to close the door every time we left the bedroom. Unfortunately, we’re both busy people and creatures of habit. When you live with doors open for years, it’s harder than you would think to start closing them.

For the first two weeks we mostly kept up with it. There were a few cases in which we forgot, but for the most part we kept Mud in whichever room we were in.

Gradually, I started leaving the door open more often. Whenever Mud left the room I checked on him. If I caught him on the bed I scolded him with a firm “No,” and sent him back out to the living room.

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NC gives Mud everything. They’ve been together for years, and he treats him more like a friend than a pet. Every time I kicked Mud out of the bedroom or tried to discipline him I was met with protest.

“He’s just a lonely dog. He misses his room.”

“Poor little guy, he’s so abused!”

I couldn’t imagine a dog with an easier life. He has his own room complete with his own bed for crying out loud! (It’s the guest room, but we never have sleepover guests.)

Should he decide not to sleep on the bed in his room, he has free reign over the couch and two doggie beds. Must be rough.

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Despite his protests, I kept up with my training and Mud no longer jumped on the bed. I could chalk that up as success. Old dogs can learn new rules after all.

As J-Term approached, I was confident that my training would stick, even though I would be away at school for four days of the week. I would miss Mud and NC, but I wasn’t worried.

{The Result}

The first Friday in January I sped home after class. When I walked through the door, neither NC nor Mud were there to greet me. Unusual. Even if NC is busy in the office, Mud always meets me at the door with tail wagging and love.

Confused, I went searching for them.

I found them in bed watching TV.

As soon as he saw me, NC looked at Mud. “Run! She’s gonna be angry!”

Mud scampered out of the room.

I left for 4 days and all of my training went straight down the drain. It turns out as soon as I left the house NC had allowed Mud back on the bed.

So much for preserving the quality of my new comforter.

I learned a valuable lesson here. If NC and I ever have kids, I’ll never be allowed to leave the house if I expect them to retain any sort of discipline, and I’ll never again choose to buy an expensive comforter.

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