Monday, February 23, 2015

DIY shelving unit for the den

When I first began dreaming about changing up our basement living space I knew one thing for sure: there had to be books. Books, and room for more books!

I began online shopping for bookcases six months ago and became more and more discouraged with each search. Something was always off — the price, the dimensions, the color, the negative reviews... all of a sudden it was the end of January and I still hadn’t landed on “the one.”

That is, until an image of open shelving magically appeared on my Pinterest page that made the six months of searching worth it. I loved the look of shelves of different heights and widths, which would allow me to display decorative items that don’t fit on standard bookcases. I spent hours poring over the original post before landing on my own design:

My dad picked up the supplies and stained the wood yesterday. I could hardly sleep knowing today was THE DAY THE SHELVES WOULD GO UP! I spent the morning clearing out the leaning bookcase in our living room so I can switch things around. 

Andy had zero interest in the shelves until today, when he joined my dad in hours of measuring, drilling and sawing. He suddenly got the fever, though, and wouldn’t let me come in the room until they were done! I loved seeing the twinkle in his eye as he shooed me away. It felt like Christmas!

!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :)

Then my dad reminded me the boards need to be coated with polyurethane, and it really felt like Christmas... you know, when you’re handed the new toy you’ve been begging for and it takes hours to get through all of the thick plastic without losing a finger and then it requires triple A batteries but all you have are double A...

But they are mostly done, and I am over the moon. I’d like to give a round of applause to my guy, for spending the weekend shoveling snow, vacuuming the house, putting up my dream shelves and looking cute to boot, and to my parents, for being incredibly generous with their time and for accepting Peruvian chicken in exchange for their hard labor. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Innsbruck and Munich

HEY-O, I’m finally re-capping the rest of my trip from two months ago! Better late than never, right? We started in Vienna, made our way to Salzburg, on to Innsbruck, and finally, Munich! I wrote about our first two stops here.

A few highlights from Innsbruck:

We had a beautiful train ride to the city center of Innsbruck, where a taxi picked us up and drove us across the river to our bed and breakfast. Our room had a lovely view of the city below. Unfortunately, we only got glimpses of the Alps because of the overcast skies. (Those glimpses were spectacular, though!) We went from staying in the Presidential Suite of our hotel in Salzburg to cozying up in a one room, cabin-like space, but I actually loved it!

On our first night we walked toward the city center in pursuit of dinner, and landed on a tucked-away restaurant called “Piano Bar.” The three of us shared a bowl of goulash, a potato cake topped with spinach and a fried egg, and wiener schnitzel that was served with a side of shredded potatoes and cooked cranberries. The restaurant’s walls were covered in art and there were candles glowing and flowers on every table. The manager came by and chatted with us for a long time and made us feel like family. I would have stayed inside the restaurant for hours gazing at all of the art, but there were markets to explore outside!

After dinner we walked through a few Christmas markets and saw more Krampus. (Here’s a video of them in Innsbruck.) They were doing some crazy drum circle dance thing and everyone was crowded around and taking videos. I was hoping I’d find a video from that night on YouTube, but just trust me that it was INSANE. It was also freezing, and we had to stop in a café for hot chocolate. You know how if you travel to Italy you have free pass to eat your weight in gelato? That’s how we felt about hot drinks in Austria.

The next day we went into town to buy tickets for the funicular, which takes you up the Nordkette mountain range. This is a MUST DO in Innsbruck! We stopped at Seegrube, where we were handed free sleds! Somebody pinch me. We kept saying we’re in the Alps! We had lunch (a cheese-filled hot dog for me, thank you very much) and then continued up the mountain. We stopped at a zoo on our way back down before going back to the city center to shop around and eat dinner. We couldn’t not go back to Piano Bar after our incredible meal there the night before. My family is in strong agreement over the idea of going to the same restaurant more than once on vacation. It makes you feel less like a tourist.

The next morning we had a few hours to kill before hopping on the train to Munich. We went back up the funicular as far as we could go (our passes ran out while we were there!) and got into a snowball fight. My sister hit me smack in the face! That’s what happens when you travel with someone for eleven days... just kidding! :)

The photo above was taken outside of the Seegrube Restaurant. Notice how foggy it is and how you can’t see any view (despite the fact that we were up in the Alps). If you have 15 seconds, click here and go to 1:45 to see what we were missing. CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT? We are going back, for sure!

A few highlights from Munich:

We dropped our bags off at our hotel and headed toward the pedestrian shopping area between Stachus and Marienplatz. After mostly cloudy weather, we were delighted to have sunshine and gorgeous blue skies. In most of my Austria pictures you can’t even really see sky... you just see white!

The best part of our first day in Munich was our dinner. We were browsing one of the many Christmas markets and decided to make a meal of two huge pieces of buttery, piping hot garlic bread (okay, we essentially ate an entire loaf), some type of pork on a skewer and a massive cup of french fries smothered in “special sauce.” Then Katie and I topped off our carb-a-licious dinner with a mug of weihnachtspunsch (hot booze), which held us over for a little while until we spotted a Kürtőskalács stand. (Hungarian chimney cake — sweet dough wrapped around a heated rod and rolled in various toppings.)

The next morning we walked back to the same area and had breakfast at Café Rischart. I declared I was going to stop eating SO MUCH BREAD and then my breakfast arrived with five pieces of bread. I ate four of them. :-/ I had ordered the “American” breakfast because it came with bacon and eggs. It also came with a stick of gum. ??? After breakfast we explored the Christmas market in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) and viewed the famous Munich glockenspiel.

Our main purpose in visiting Munich was to visit an old friend of ours. Philipp came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student and stayed with a family in our neighborhood. We got to know him well and he’s stayed in touch over the years and has visited us every now and then. This was our first time meeting Philipp in his home country! He insisted we try traditional Bavarian fare for lunch at Hofbräuhaus, a three-story beer hall founded in 1589. I had sauerbraten, which sounded gross but was actually very tasty.

It was an absolutely amazing trip. The Christmas markets were magical!

Also, I ate goulash at least six times.

some more pics, if you’d like to see... most are on Facebook
my favorite meal of our trip - at Piano Bar
our first night at Piano Bar
sledders on the Alps

enjoying the view of the Alps at the highest viewpoint on Nordkette... :-/
the view from our room
Munich’s Rathaus, site of the glockenspiel
reunited with Philipp! 
heading to lunch at Hofbräuhaus

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

three dinners — one rotisserie chicken

I don’t go to Costco as often as some of my friends (*cough* Sarah Downs *cough*) but when I do I always buy a rotisserie chicken. It’s a no-brainer. You get three pounds of delicious meat for only $5, and those three pounds go a long way. I often will use it to make a huge batch of chicken salad, but last weekend I picked up a bird and decided I’d try to see how many different meals I could make with it. (Just remember to use your cooked chicken within four days of purchasing it. You can maybe go a day or two longer if the chicken isn’t gummy or funky-smelling, but be cautious!)

Here’s how I’m using one rotisserie chicken to get three meals, plus leftovers:

On Monday night I made Ree Drummond’s buffalo chicken salad using diced white meat tossed with a few tablespoons of Frank’s Wing Sauce, which we happened to have on hand. I used bagged butter lettuce and added some chopped cucumber for crunch. I also used her tip of mashing blue cheese crumbles into ranch dressing. This was the quickest, easiest dinner ever and we both LOVED the flavor. It filled me up, but Andy said he was still a little hungry after he finished his. Next time I might serve it with a baked potato or a big hunk of bread. Go big or go home, right? I’ll be considering this recipe the next time I make dinner for friends.

(Warning: if you have any leftovers you may find yourself standing in front of the fridge late at night eating cold buffalo chicken coated in blue cheese straight from the tupperware container. You also may die from flavor explosion.)


I made homemade broth for the first time this weekend by putting the rotisserie chicken carcass in my crock-pot with water, carrots, a quartered onion, garlic, salt, pepper and celery seed. (I didn’t follow a recipe.) I got two quarts worth of yummy, rich broth and divided it up into four pint-sized Talenti gelato jars. p.s. you guys. that gelato is worth EVERY PENNY. 

Last night I used a mix of dark and white meat and some of my chicken broth to make chicken noodle soup. If you have kids, leave the hot sauce out of the main pot and just add it to your individual bowl. Or don’t use it at all...but that would be lame.

Laura’s kickin’ creamy chicken noodle soup
serves 4
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (it’s easy to make if you don’t care to buy it)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 cups corn
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup cooked chicken
  • a bit of half and half or milk 
  • several glugs of hot sauce (Cholula all the way!)

1. Place the first eight ingredients (stop after seasoning) in a pot and simmer for an hour.
2. Add egg noodles and cook for 7 minutes.
3. Stir in chicken, half and half and hot sauce.
OR place the first eight ingredients in a crockpot for 3-5 hours on high or 6-8 on low. Add remaining ingredients at the end of cook time and put the lid back on. The noodles should take around 10 minutes on high heat, probably 20 on low.

Today I have two servings of soup leftover, plus a half cup of dark meat and almost two cups of white meat. I can’t believe I still have that much chicken! I’m torn between making Chipotle-style chicken burrito bowls, tzatziki chicken salad or chicken/bacon/cheese quesadillas with honey mustard. Decisions, decisions!

What are your favorite ways to use rotisserie chicken?