ten things that make me happy rightthisverysecond

1\\ It's Friday! And there is coffee! And in just a few short hours my babies will all be home with me! Sure, Letty will want to retreat up to her room, but she will be here! Safe and sound in my tiny bubble world! Life is good!

2\\ Coffee when it's light, and wine when it's.... well, almost dark. Matt and I have been playing around with different cocktails trying to find a healthier (I know, it's still alcohol, but bear with me) option and have finally narrowed it down. Let's just say it's going to be a great drink for the summer days and nights out on the deck!

3\\ Speaking of healthier, Matt and I have been making a conscious effort to eat better as of late (I may have mentioned that a time or two) and hey! The scale is dropping so that's always a happy thing in my book!

4\\ Sometimes in life you just need to giggle at something like the responses to this tweet. Normally I take my 1990's Olympic figure skating quite seriously, but still.... Definitely got a few snickers out of it! Thanks to Grace for sharing that one last week...

5\\ Imagining our backyard construction zone all gone and the new oasis we shall create out there! For some reason I'm obsessed with finding new chair cushions and towels for the deck and they all. have. to. match! Like these turquoise towels and these chair cushions!

6\\ Looking at stills from Beauty and the Beast (like this one, and this, and this!). I just loved that movie so very much and I'm sure you're all tired of hearing about it, but until I can have it in my clutches I'm going to have the soundtrack on repeat and these images to carry me through.

7\\ I get to start shopping for the kid's Easter baskets here shortly and while I have a few ideas, (magnatiles, for one) I really have no idea what to get them. Amazon here I come! I love buying stuff for the kids but rarely do because: budget.

8\\ It'll be summer vacation for Letty in 74 days and for David in 49 days. Let the summer of yes begin! I have big plans for this summer, naturally. Countdown is on.

9\\ Scrolling through Tory's Instagram feed... Sometimes I feel like I'm a hippie trapped inside the body of a neurotic, dirt-hating, stay-at-home with my fluffed pillows type person... I love seeing all the places these van dwellers go and I think wow, what a life! I want that life! But then I'm like oh heat and a nice comfy bed, God bless you! And I'm a stage five clinger with my family so.... I'll live vicariously through accounts such as hers. But I'll still never skip a good sunset. My inner tree hugging hippie wouldn't allow it.

10\\ Last week we figured out how to use the whole Amazon Prime video feature (I know, I know) and I'm sooo excited to hopefully have a movie night with Letty this weekend so she can watch Fantastic Beasts! The immortal world of Harry Potter! Keep them coming please!

What about you guys? What's making you happy on this Friday?


pepper ring cheeseburgers

As you may have heard around these parts lately, Matt and I are trying to eat better all across the board. One such area is simply trying to eat less carbs. Hence the bunless burgers. These were as delicious as they look and I didn't even miss the bun! And it has been forever and a day since I've shared one of my chef's creations!
We had these with roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli, but they would be great with any manner of sides, just like burgers with their buns!

Makes: 6 Pepper Ring Burgers

2 Peppers - Cut into 3 rings (Remove seeds and membrane). Chop the tops of the peppers (excluding stem)
1 lb Lean Ground Beef or Ground Turkey (these are beef)
1/4 of a small onion diced small
1 large garlic clove - finely chopped
1/8 tsp. season salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tablespoon - Worcestershire Sauce 

Favorite grilling seasoning

Mix together the ground beef or turkey with the onion, garlic, chopped pepper tops, season salt, pepper, Worcestershire Sauce until incorporated.  

Separate out meat into 6 portions.  Take pepper ring and press meat into the middle of the pepper ring and flatten to form a hamburger.

Grill 8-10 minutes on medium high each side (or until desired temp.)

Add your favorite grill seasoning and cheese to the top.  We went with cheddar and McCormick's Bacon Molasses seasoning - PERFECT for burgers.

Like I said, delicious and I didn't think twice about the fact that my meal was (mostly) healthy. Maybe turkey burgers are in my future? Gasp! Oh! I totally added ranch too. I'd add ranch to just about anything though....
What do you guys think? Have any go-to recipes that are light on the carbs and easy on this vegetable hating girl?


community helper day

I still feel odd bringing out my big camera at functions like these, which is silly but true... What did we ever do before iPhones, right?
Anyways David's school hosted their first ever Community Helper Day, complete with snacks, a bubble machine, two firetrucks and an ambulance. You had me at fire truck. Any excuse to look at a fire truck, I'll even drive hours upon hours to see one (and a very special firefighter too I may add). We were also joined by my brother-in-law and my niece.

I really expected there to be a lot of crowds but it was quite the opposite in fact. It's starting to get nice, going places and seeing familiar faces and running in to the typical "crowd" of people. Seeing our kids run off and play and having that community here that we just hadn't gotten to experience until school started... maybe that's a nice perk of school then yeah? Since I'm always the first to complain about my kids leaving me...

And David's best little lady friend came! They are like an old married couple his teacher told us, always sitting together and playing together, chatting it up. They run up to each other each day and hug so tightly as if they hadn't just seen the other two days before. We really like her parents and well, she's half Italian so... match made in heaven yes? I'm joking, obviously, but all the adults find it just the cutest thing and it's all in innocent good fun.
I think the kids liked the playground the best if I'm being honest. But I hope the school does it again next year! Firetrucks!


our weekend

Are we tired of the weekend recaps on a Tuesday? Maybe it sort of makes the weekend seem longer or some such thing? Weekends are too short and too fast around these parts (and everywhere else I imagine).

Friday our plans were slightly different and we had dinner with my family instead of our Fitzs. My dad did a lot of grilling and my mom made twice baked potatoes but instead of potatoes it was cauliflower. So I guess it was technical twice baked cauliflower? And. I. Even. Tried. It. If you're new around here I am notorious for hating my vegetables. But I'm working on it. After dinner we put the boys to bed and did some googling like in the olden days and figured out how to purchase and watch a movie through Amazon Prime. Great Success! Rogue One it was!
Saturday morning there was an event at David's school (more on that later, as one does), followed by a lot of backyard activity. As I said on Friday we have quite the to-do list and we got a few big things off that list. The sand pit is gone (thank heavens!), the play set is moved, all the ornamental grasses have been chopped down, the grill is down on the patio now and all the outdoor furniture is back up and ready for use! The kids came in filthy and muddy but thrilled.

Saturday night we had Matt's brother and his family over for tacos, Matt's favorite. We gave our nephew his gifts since we couldn't make it to his birthday party the week before. We also introduced them to Moana, with Dom showing off his typical dance moves...
Sunday was a much cooler day temperature wise so we just hung around inside, the kids destroying the basement and watching movies and me prepping for the upcoming week. Sunday's give me the blues, I'll tell you. Packing lunches, gathering up the kid's outfits for the next day, making sure their homework is done and that it's not oh I don't know, wear purple to school day on Monday or something. It makes me forlorn. But! Done and done so that we could run down to my brother's new house for a (almost all) sibling dinner! Mexican! Again! This time there were beeritas!!
As per the usual, linking up with Biana on this lovely Tuesday.



Our Sunday post lunch routine... homework time!
Dominic, age 2 years: Obviously he doesn't have homework these days but that doesn't stop him from wishing he did so he could be doing what his big siblings are doing. A little coloring book and crayons and he's none the wiser. For now. And he didn't even notice the camera. His new phrase of the week is doing something (whatever that may be, going down the slide, for example) and looking at Matt and I and saying, did you see dat!? Every time. Love hearing his vocab improve!

David, age 4 years: His homework comes home from his teacher with a "if he feels like it" sentiment but Matt and I don't let that on to David. In our eyes it is a must do. He wraps the page up super quick and stashes it back in his folder so he can then join Letty on her homework endeavors. Kindergarten for David can't come soon enough, intellectually speaking. He had his assessment this past week and we were told he has a sparkling personality and an impressive vocabulary. So, heart eyes for you, kid.

Letty, age 6 years: Three little books, fifteen minutes a day, three days over the weekend. So while she's "reading" I know it's actually more like she "memorized the pages" but hey, it's something! Dom has surprised us all with really loving these fifteen minute increments. He picks one of her books, she reads to him, pointing at each word along the way, and then he chooses another book. Meanwhile Matt and I get out of having to sit there right with her. Judge all you want but hearing I see a cake, I see a snake, I see Jake read three hundred times wears on a person.

Past weekly shots found here.


the great backyard pool caper. the plan.

I'm dreaming of all things spring and summer lately! Please and thank you! The biggest thing we are looking forward to this summer is that we will be putting in a pool! An above-ground pool, but a pool nonetheless. Permits have been gathered, the pool is in our possession, and we have a plan! See also, the longest list of to do items possibly to date.

As it stood on a warm October evening last fall this is what our backyard looks like from the point of view of the fence.
What needs to happen? Well I'll tell you!

We already moved the fire pit from the right side of the yard to the concrete slab where our old pool used to sit, behind those grasses there on the left, and we love it there! It just makes so much more sense. And no mowing around it either!

- Move the playset. As it stands now the slide would go riiight into the side of the pool so we will be moving it to the left closer to where I was taking the above photo and sort of on an angle.

- Remove mulch from around the river birch (which is to my left and off camera from where I'm taking this picture). Seed that area. 

- Remove the sandpit (there was a cat in our backyard over the winter, so... yuck!) and then seed that area as well.

- Plant things on either side of the yard still inside fenced in area, straight out from where pool will go to give us privacy. I'm thinking maybe river birches as of now because they are fast growers and will hide a lot of surface area.

- Excavate the backyard until it is level and bring in sand and whatever other technical things Matt will have to do to prep it for the pool.

- Install pool. Yeah I'm going to be on kid duty for that one.

- Turn the back railing of our deck into a sliding gate. Picture, barn door.

- Build steps and a small deck around the pool.

- Remove those five bushes there under the deck and scatter around the pool along with the grasses by the concrete slab area.

- Move the hydrangeas from the corner garden that will no longer exist to the right side of the pool.

- Mulch around the pool.

- Stain the deck. See also stain the playset.

- Install hooks for towels.

- Install outdoor speakers.

- Install ground lighting around outside of pool.

- Get all new chair cushions and beach towels.

- Get a nice tan and enjoy the pool all the summer long! 

And we cannot wait to get started! Anyone else have any big summer house plans?


diy inexpensive shiplap

In the fall we took to redoing our dining room, a redo that involved a little shiplap. I know this post has been waiting just months and months to see the light of day, so my apologies. You can see our full dining room redo here

Shiplap is Joanna's like, favorite thing. What's that quote from Chip? If you and French doors had a baby it'd be shiplap? Some such thing. Shiplap for those who don't watch the show, is a rough-sawn pine paneling used a lot in barns and older homes. She's always really excited when they pull off the drywall and find it there, similar to how one would feel if you removed carpet and found hard wood flooring. Just like that. Well it's sort of all the rage with those who love Fixer Upper or the farmhouse style. 
When redoing our dining room I initially considered just a chair rail. My mother (mothers always know best, don't they?) suggested we do our own diy shiplap instead. Not with pine of course because: budget.

So. What you need per Handy Matty's expertise:

- ¼” plywood (Lauan – the wood under a vinyl floor). Enough for the square feet of your project.  A 4 x 8’ sheet has 32 sq ft
- Table Saw or circular saw and a steady hand
- Finishing nailer or hammer and finish nails
- Primer and paint
- Level
- Pencil or chalk line

This is probably one of the easiest projects we have ever done.  Using the table saw or circular saw cut the pieces of ¼” plywood down to your desired width.  Next find the studs on the wall(s) that you are going to be installing the shiplap on and mark with a pencil.  You can mark top and bottom and snap a chalk line if you are doing entire walls.  Next start in one corner of the room and install a full length piece (8’ long or to the nearest stud length at the other end) and nail it to the wall where the studs are located.  Above that one we started a 4’ length (or nearest stud length) to stagger the joints.  And just start working up the wall that way.   Allow a little spacing in between the rows - approx 1/4" - you could use a scrap piece of the wood and but it between your top and bottom row when nailing it to the wall.  If you are going to a chair rail height like we did, I finished it off with a 1 x 2" molding, or you can use whatever chair rail/molding you like.  

The cost of course depends on your project size, but this is also very inexpensive as the wood per piece at our local blue or orange store is approximately $12.

At the end we painted it all – using a small paint brush to get into the cracks.    
You can fill in the nail holes or leave them as they are, I've seen it done both ways.

So what do you think? What else should we shiplap?? I had a crazy idea of Matt shiplapping our gallery wall in our living room but...Wink wink.

Past projects of the Handy Matty here!