Pasta Primavera

Today I made Pasta Primavera.

Here’s the story: yesterday, I made seared chicken breast fillets for supper. Fail! Though technically edible, the chicken was too salty. (Note to self: chicken breast fillets don’t need as much salt as a whole chicken. Wait, that was obvious?) My pan was too hot and I didn’t slice my fillets evenly, so by the time the chicken was done in the middle, it was fairly tough. (I hate tough chicken. This is why I’ve mainly given up on boneless, skinless chicken breasts.) I started out with three large chicken breast halves. Slicing in half for searing gave me six servings. Six servings of tough, salty chicken breasts for two adults and a toddler. I had hoped to use the leftovers to get a head start on another meal–maybe a chicken pot pie or a casserole–but who wants leftover tough chicken? Regardless, I stored the extra meat in the fridge, determined to come up with a palatable use for it in the near future.

This morning at the local farmers market I bought a lovely loaf of honey wheat bread and an equally-lovely bunch of orange and purple carrots (I think they may have been dragon carrots). Immediately I began forming plans head for our afternoon meal with Caleb and Liz. For an appetizer, bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives. Somehow this led me to the idea of combining the failed chicken, raw grated carrots, and a few other things I had on hand (like one of the six boxes of pasta that Zach bought last night for $1 each) into a pasta primavera. Some of the comments at dinner were “Is this bacon?” and “Is food this good legal?” and Zach, who is not a veggie-lover, had seconds, so I think it was a success!

Pasta Primavera


  • Water
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 lb short twirly pasta, such as rotini
  • ½ stick room temperature butter (unsalted)
  • 3 grilled or seared chicken breast fillets, diced small
  • Leaves from ½ bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small-medium carrots, grated fine
  • 1-2 oz parmesan cheese, grated fine (Parmesano-Reggiano is best, but any parmesan that you grate yourself should be good)
  • 3 spring onions or green onions, thinly sliced
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Olive oil, to taste


If you are starting with raw chicken, make sure it’s seasoned with salt and then cook it somehow. Grilling or searing will give it a nice browned flavor. Dice it into ¼” cubes.

If you are using leftover chicken, dice it into ¼” cubes and then simmer in a little bit of water on the stove. If your chicken was oversalted, plain water will help draw out some of the extra salt. If your chicken was bland, add some salt to your water to help season the meat. Once it is heated through, remove from heat and pour off the excess liquid, reserving for use later in this recipe or as broth for another meal.


Fill a large pot with about twice as much water as you think you need to cook your pasta. The large volume of water will help the pasta to cook evenly. Season generously with kosher or sea salt, so water is noticeably salty and reminds you of the sea. Bring to a rolling boil.

Add the pasta to the water and return to a boil. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the pasta is almost done. If you have had it boiling vigorously, this will take less time than the package says, but should result in evenly-cooked pasta. The pasta will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat and drain it, so if you wait until it seems done, you will end up with overcooked pasta. Drain, reserving some of the liquid.

Place pasta in a large serving bowl and toss with butter to coat.


Add chicken, parsley, carrots, onions, and parmesan to pasta and toss to combine. Squeeze a couple tablespoons of lemon juice over everything, stir again, and taste. If you need more salt, you can add a little of the liquid reserved from the pasta (or from warming the chicken, if you took that approach and if your reserved liquid tastes salty), more parmesan, or some fine sea salt. If the flavors don’t pop, add more lemon juice. Finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Peace Like a River Book Review: #vtReadingChallenge

In the category of “a book your pastor recommends” for the #vtReadingChallenge, I read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It felt like cheating to read a novel for this category–shouldn’t it be a book on marriage, or theology, or prayer, or even another Bible commentary?–but Pastor Andrew asked whether I wanted fiction or non, and when you give me that choice I’m going to choose fiction every time. Well, almost every time. I do choose to read non-fiction occasionally, just because I know it’s good for me.

The only copy of Peace Like a River that was available at the library was in large print. This factor produced a slight divergence from my normal reading experience. At first I was afraid I would not like the book simply because the huge letters distracted me too much. I got used to it pretty quickly, though. In fact, at some point I realized that by forcing me to read more slowly (I normally read fairly quickly, though I’m not a “speed reader”), the large print actually helped me savor the book more. And this really was a book worth savoring.

My favorite aspect of the book was the mixture of heavy life-and-death themes with the silliness that you would expect from an eleven-year-old narrator and his nine-year-old sister. For instance, a lengthy ballad that the sister composes conveys her deep wrestling with the family’s struggles as well as a ridiculousness that is almost inevitable when romantic nine-year-olds write poetry. This approach allowed the author to deal with extremely weighty topics without making the book feel either flippant or lugubrious.

Peace Like a River is a beautiful piece of writing with a compelling storyline, stellar character development, and a lot of fun along the way. If you’re going through a difficult time and need some help seeing the bright side of life, or if you just want to read a good, well-written story, this book is for you.


Lugubrious. It’s a funny-sounding word. Not something you hear very often, either. In fact, unless you are into classic literature, you may never have heard it at all. I learned the word lugubrious from my dad. Or perhaps I should say I learned the wordform from him–I don’t think I learned what the word actually meant until after I had graduated college.

Dad loves oatmeal. When I was little he made my brothers and me eat oatmeal with him for breakfast every day until we couldn’t stand the sight of the stuff. Eating oatmeal was torture. To Dad, though, eating “thick, lugubrious oatmeal” was the best way to start the day. Dad isn’t a linguist or a wordsmith but he likes the sounds of words, especially the fancy-sounding ones. Lugubrious, he would say, as if to imply luxuriant, delectable, rich. Lugubrious, I would think; sticky, lumpy, slimy.

I’ve come across the word lugubrious from time to time in the past couple of years while listening to audiobooks of classic novels. Although I can’t remember where all the references came from, I’ve heard descriptions of lugubrious London fog, lugubrious clergymen, and “a somewhat lugubrious sextette upon the upper lawn for tea.” Even now I picture the fog as being thick and sticky, the clergyman with a pale lumpy face, and the group gathered on the lawn for tea… well, it’s hard to figure out what makes them oatmeal-like.

One synonym for lugubrious is funereal. Although it’s probably not much more common than lugubrious, it’s a little easier to tell what it means: funeral-like. Mournful. Sad. Melancholy. If you want to keep your audience from guessing blindly at the meaning of the word, funereal is a far better word choice than lugubrious. But if you need a little light in the midst of the melancholy, put the fun in funereal and say lugubrious instead. I’ll just be over here eating my daily bowl of oatmeal.

#vtReadingChallenge: A Commentary on a Book of the Bible

When I was growing up, my parents had a set of Matthew Henry’s commentaries on the Bible. Maybe they still do. Every once in a while, if a family member was confused by a passage from our devotions, my dad would get a volume down and read Matthew Henry’s explanation. I don’t remember much about those commentaries except a general impression that they were dull and difficult to understand. When I saw that one of the books for the #vtReadingChallenge was a commentary on a book of the Bible, I was less than thrilled.

Thankfully, there’s a group on Goodreads for the reading challenge, so I went there to find some suggestions. It turns out there are other styles of commentaries that don’t take the exhaustive (exhausting?) verse-by-verse approach of Matthew Henry. (Sure, my impressions of Matthew Henry are from a child’s perspective–it’s probably not anywhere close to as bad as I make it out to be–but still!) Thanks to the Goodreads group, I found an online source that ranks the quality of various Bible commentaries and lists their style (devotional, pastoral, technical, etc.). A devotional or pastoral style commentary seemed to be the most logical choice for my purposes.

I also had to figure out which book of the Bible I wanted to study. I didn’t want something extremely long (the first volume of the NIV Application Commentary on Psalms, for example, is over a thousand pages) or about a book I knew really well (Ruth, for example). Daniel was a good mix of not-too-long and something I need help understanding, while also having some really familiar stories in it. Even after making that choice, though, the list of possible commentaries was overwhelming. I turned to Tim Challies for help, and decided to take his top pick for Daniel, a volume written by Iain Duguid from the Reformed Expository Commentary.  Thankfully, it was less than 250 pages long.

Last but not least, I had to actually get a copy of the book. I didn’t want to buy it for reasons like minimalism and saving for home renovations (maybe I’ll write about those some day), so I decided to check the local libraries. Of course the public libraries didn’t have it, but I put in a request. I didn’t think I would actually be able to borrow it. I was so surprised when I received an email stating that the book I had requested had been loaned from a Christian college a couple of hours away.

I approached reading Daniel as a sort of school assignment. I wasn’t excited about it, but figured it would be good for me and, anyway, it was something I had committed to. But, like any good student, I procrastinated. Then when I did try to read it, I kept falling asleep. (So much like my college days! But at least now I have the excuse of a baby who keeps me nice and tired.) I finally forced myself to read, even if it was only a few pages a day, and after a little while, I realized that it really was interesting. In fact, I started to enjoy it, and even look forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I had procrastinated for too long, and because of the baby’s teething and sleep regression, reading time more often than not turned into mommy’s nap time. At the end of three weeks I had only gotten two thirds of the way through the book and had to return it unfinished to the library.

Reading Iain Duguid’s commentary on Daniel was a good experience for me. Although I was already very familiar with the beginning chapters of Daniel, the commentary helped to highlight ideas I hadn’t picked out before. In addition, switching to the commentary at the end of each Bible passage helped to keep my mind engaged, so I didn’t mentally check out. (Try as I might, this happens to me a lot–whether it’s because I know the passage really well, I just can’t seem to understand the dreams or prophecies, or the obscure Old Testament laws just seem, well, boring.)

One of the major points that struck me while reading Daniel was the emphasis on God’s control over human government. Several times throughout the book, we read that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17, ESV). This truth is evidenced time after time through the personal experiences of individuals such as Daniel, his friends, and King Nebuchadnezzar; the dreams and visions recounted in the book; and the world events that took place at that time. The reminder of God’s control over human political systems was a great encouragement to me in light of the upcoming presidential election. Although I don’t see any likely positive outcome from this election, the story of Daniel has helped me to trust God instead of being anxious.

Part of the reason I chose Daniel is that I don’t have a very good understanding of Biblical Apocalyptic literature (i.e., Daniel and Revelation), especially with regard to the interpretation of visions. In fact, I’m rather intimidated by it all. I really appreciated Duguid’s emphasis on the overarching themes, such as God’s sovereignty, rather than trying to figure out exactly how history and/or current events map onto the symbolism of the visions. And in the cases where that mapping is clear, I appreciated his exposition of the historical events. I also appreciated the respect and humility with which he treats viewpoints that differ from his own. Both his interpretations and his attitude are uplifting.

I’m glad I was challenged to read a commentary. It was very spiritually enriching and brought a lot of life to my devotions. I would love to do it again sometime, and when I do, I will definitely look for another commentary by Iain Duguid. I was quite sad when I had to return my book unfinished to the library, but I’m happy to say I’ve requested it through inter-library loan again and hope to be able to pick it up soon.

Ham and Sweet Potato Stew

Since having a baby 4-1/2 months ago, I’ve been doing a lot less meal planning and recipe following and a lot more improvising. (I’ve also eaten a lot fast food, but we won’t talk about that). Most of my improvisations aren’t noteworthy, but every once in a while something amazing happens, like ham and sweet potato stew.

As I was thinking about what to make for dinner a couple of nights ago, I remembered I had leftover ham in the fridge. There was also a nice large sweet potato begging to be used. Ham and sweet potatoes sounded like they might taste okay together, and then the sweet potato would get eaten instead of sprouting or rotting. (Oh, sweet potatoes, why do I always neglect to cook you?) And so, ham and sweet potato stew was born.

By the time the stew was ready, the baby needed to be put to bed. I told Zach to go ahead and eat without me. After a few minutes, he called from the other dining, “This is really good!” When Zach says soup or stew is “really good” and not just “okay” or “fine,” it must be exceptional. When I tried the stew later, I couldn’t help but agree. But don’t take my word for it! Try it for yourself and see what you think.

super delicious!

Note to self: take a picture of the food in the lovely pot on the stove even if you don’t expect to blog about it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Ham and Sweet Potato Stew

(Note: most of the quantities are approximations)

  • 1-2 T cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 small-medium cooking onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2-3 cups cooked diced ham
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups whole wheat rotini (or pasta of your choice—you could substitute quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, or gluten-free noodles to make this gluten free)
  • water
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 c. chopped spinach

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally for a couple minutes until onions are soft and glassy looking. Stir in garlic.

Add in sweet potato, ham, broth, and as much water as you need so that the ham and sweet potatoes are mostly submerged. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes chunks start to get a little bit soft (how long you wait depends on the cooking time of the noodles you use in the next step).

Add in noodles, oregano, basil, ginger, and enough water to submerge most of the contents of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for the duration specified on the noodles and then check noodles for doneness.

Once the noodles are fully cooked, remove from heat. Stir in spinach and serve immediately.

Banana Bread and Pumpkin Butter

My friend Liz has a lot of dietary restrictions, and our families eat together several times a week. I’ve figured out how to adapt recipes to fit her diet, but it seems like I’m always trying something a little bit different. My most recent banana bread trial was based on the recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook, but has no eggs, no milk, and less sugar. It does contain butter so it’s not totally dairy free, but you could probably use coconut oil instead. I haven’t done that though, so experiment at your own risk.

I thought this batch of banana bread would be a flop. I didn’t have any flax milk (which I usually substitute for buttermilk) or applesauce (my egg replacement), and my bananas were frozen with the peel on. To top it all off, I decided to try cutting down the sugar a little bit. I’ve heard of replacing milk with apple juice, but since I also didn’t have any apple juice, I used Tropicana Farmstand Pomegranate Blueberry juice (the only juice I had besides orange). Instead of replacing the eggs, I just left them out altogether. “But what about the frozen bananas?” you asked. The microwave, of course! I defrosted them for 30 seconds at a time until they were just thawed enough for me to peel (brr!). The stand mixer did the rest. Amazingly enough, they mashed up so well that there weren’t even any chunks in the batter.

The bread turned out great! It’s a little dense, but still fluffy; it’s moist in a good way and has just a hint of sweetness. I cooked up some yummy not-too-sweet pumpkin butter yesterday, too, and it made the perfect pairing. Try it and let me know what you think!

Banana bread and pumpkin butter

It’s not quite as photogenic as it tastes.

Banana bread

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 butter, softened
3 over-ripe bananas
1/2 c fruit juice
vanilla to taste
2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Throw sugar and wet ingredients (including bananas) into a bowl and mix on medium speed until it looks well mixed and there aren’t any chunks.
Add dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
Pour into a 9 X 5 loaf pan and bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours (until the center isn’t gooey anymore).
Let cool a few minutes.
Remove from pan and enjoy piping hot, or wait a couple hours if you like your bread cool and not fally-aparty.

Pumpkin butter

Inspired by this recipe.

1 medium pumpkin (bigger than a pie pumpkin, but small-ish for carving)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Ground ginger
Ground cloves
Ground nutmeg
Dash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
Cut pumpkin in half (or smaller pieces), clean out the inside, and place cut side down in a large baking dish.
Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan 1/4” to 1/2” deep.
Bake for 1-2 hours, until you can easily pierce the skin with a fork.
Remove from oven and let cool enough that you can handle the pumpkin.
Scrape the flesh off the skin into a blender or food processor. Discard the skin.
Puree the pumpkin flesh.
Pour the pumpkin puree into a slow cooker. If it looks really thick, you may want to add a bit of water.
Mix in sugar, spices, and vanilla. (You can be generous with the cinnamon, but don’t overdo it on the other spices).
Cook on low, stirring every couple of hours, until the mixture is dark brown and has a buttery consistency (6+ hours).

It’s Just a Shower Curtain! How Hard Can it Be?! (Part 2)

When I left you at the end of my last post, I was standing in line at Menards with my shower curtain rod in hand, eagerly anticipating the prospect of taking a real shower the next morning.

When we got home from Menards, I went right to work assembling the rod. Well, I tried, anyway. I pulled all the pieces out of the box, checked to make sure everything was there, and then started reading the instructions. The curtain rod was designed to go with a free-standing clawfoot tub. Usually for that kind of setup, the plumbing for the shower would be exposed, so the first step in the installation process was to fasten the main hoop piece to the vertical pipe that ran water to the shower head. Our tub obviously isn’t free-standing and doesn’t have an exposed vertical pipe, so I skipped that step.

Picture of the shower curtain rod box

The front of the shower curtain rod is designed to attach to the plumbing, but it also has two supports that screw into the wall.

Picture of the bathtub

My non-free-standing tub with no exposed vertical pipe.

The next step was to install the framework to hold up the curtain rod. There were two horizontal support pieces that were supposed to screw into the wall by the shower head and then run to the front of the hoop. I needed to measure how far we wanted the hoop from the wall, and then cut the supports to that measurement.

That’s when I realized we needed a hacksaw. After looking around in our house and garage, Zach and I determined that the previous owners did not leave us a hack saw. So, back to Menards for a hacksaw.

At Menards, a helpful employee pointed out the hacksaws, and I even thought to buy an extra blade in case the first blade broke. (Hacksaw blades tend to do that).

Back at home, I did a temporary assembly of the main hoop part of the rod in order to determine the placement. I was disappointed to realize that the shower curtain rod was significantly smaller than our tub. However, I decided that as long as the hoop was centered over the tub it would still work out okay. I got Zach’s input on placement, measured the desired distance from the wall, and went to work cutting the supports to the right length. The first hacksaw blade broke, but the replacement–a better quality blade made specifically for cutting metal–finished the job. I had finally made some actual progress!

Cutting the supports resulted in two nearly-identical pieces of extra pipe. I put two and two together and decided to use them to make the hoop the same size as the tub. The only problem was that these pieces were the same diameter as the hoop pieces, so they wouldn’t fit either inside or outside of them. Undaunted, I took a hammer to the ends of the spare pieces in an attempt to pound them into a shape that would fit inside the other pieces. After several frustratingly unsuccessful attempts I decided to give it up. An undersized hoop would have to do.

After cutting the supports to the right length, the next step was, of course, to screw them to the wall. For this, I needed to determine the exact placement of the curtain rod. Since the hoop would have to run by the window anyway, Zach and I thought it should be high enough to hold a curtain that would completely cover the window. No extra curtain rod necessary. This meant that the rod couldn’t be more than five inches below the ceiling.

I measured and marked the placement for the first support, figured out where to drill pilot holes, and then started drilling with my special ceramic tile drill bit. Close to an hour later, tired and discouraged, I went to find Zach so he could finish drilling the first hole. Zach was able to finish the hole pretty quickly, so we were finally ready to put in the first screw. Unfortunately, although we had gotten all the way through the tile, we hadn’t drilled far enough into the plaster behind it. The screw broke off in the hole, and we had to start drilling all over again.

We were now up past our normal bedtime, but we were determined to get the shower curtain up. Thankfully, the drilling went faster with Zach at the helm. After getting through the tile we used a longer, normal drill bit on the plaster behind, and so we got the first support up without much more trouble. Around midnight our sleepiness won out over our desire for a normal shower, and we headed to bed.

On Monday morning, we took took our improvised showers again. This worked wonders on our motivation to complete our little project.

The next step in the process was to drill holes for the second support. We measured and marked the location for the support, and got to work. The drill bit was getting dull, so I started the holes with a larger bit and switched to the correct bit before the holes got too big. This approach worked well, and kept the process from taking forever. In retrospect, this was a great decision, because the correct-sized bit broke before we finished the last hole. Thankfully we were almost done drilling, so we decided to try going the rest of the way through with the broken bit. Amazingly enough, it worked!

We were finally ready to attach the second support to the wall. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts at measuring, we had placed the pilot holes too far apart. Our options were quite limited because the first support was already placed and our special bit was broken–not to mention that we were sick of drilling through tile!–so we decided to use just one screw to fasten the support to the wall. Once the screw got about halfway in, though, it wouldn’t go any more. We didn’t want to round the bit or the screw, and we also didn’t want to risk breaking another screw, so we called it good. Since the first screw didn’t go all the way in, though, I tried adding the second screw to make things a little more stable. Contrary to my expectations, this worked out pretty well–at least, the second screw went in as far as the first screw had, and the support seemed much more firmly in place.

Now it was time to start assembling the actual hoop and attaching it to the supports. Once we put the front part of the hoop together, we realized that the supports weren’t level with each other. This meant that the hoop wouldn’t be quite level. It wasn’t a big difference, though, and the supports were a little bit moveable, so we hoped we could level it out when we put up the support on the back of the hoop.

But then the support at the back was another problem. Although it was never stated on the box, or even explicit in the instructions, this support would only work if the curtain rod was at least a foot below the ceiling. We had placed it a mere 5 inches from the ceiling.

You would have think I would have been tipped off by the length of the support pole in the picture.

You would think I would have been tipped off by the length of the support pole in the picture.

As I thought about how to make it work, I came up with two possible solutions:

  1. Make two more cuts with the hacksaw (something I was not excited about doing) and drill a hole through the metal tube (which I wasn’t even sure would work), or
  2. Come up with a completely different method of supporting the back of the hoop, which would require another trip to Menards.

We opted for the second choice, but with all the time it had taken to get the supports up and take care of our other responsibilities (such as going to work) it was too late that day to make a Menards run.

They say “great minds think alike.” I’m not actually sure that’s true, and I’m not going to claim great-mindedness, but at this point Zach and I both came to the same realization. We could assemble the entire hoop and then jerry-rig it up until we found a more permanent solution. Being the resourceful crafter that I am, I dug out my crochet thread and got to work. First, I pounded a nail into the top of my tall storage unit at the back of the shower. From there I ran thread to the back part of the hoop. Then I tied the side of the hoop to a bracket that had previously held up the lacy curtain over the window. Voilà! My frugal depression-era grandpa would be proud to claim me as his descendant.

The shower curtain rod attached to the old curtain bracket.

The shower curtain rod attached to the old curtain rod bracket.

We already had a pretty shower curtain which we had used in our apartment shower. We hung this on our new curtain rod, and overlapped it with a plain white shower curtain that we had picked up on our way home from work. The new curtain covered the back of the shower and, conveniently enough, reached all the way around to cover the window. Tuesday morning we finally took our first real showers in our new house. What sweet victory that was!

The window is completely covered. That worked out well!

The window is completely covered. That worked out well!

It may be crooked, but it works! It even lets some light in through the window, too.

It may be crooked, but it works! It even lets some light in through the window, too.

On our way home from work Tuesday, we stopped at Menards to decide on a game plan and pick up the necessary supplies to finish our installation job. We wandered the store for about half an hour, confusing at least one helpful employee in our quest to resolve our problem, and came away with nylon-coated guy wire, wire cutters, rope clamps, screw anchors, and screw eyes.

The final steps of installation went basically without incident. We put screw eyes in the ceiling above the back corners of the hoop, looped the wire through them and around the curtain rod, and fastened it all in place with the rope clamps.

Our shower curtain solution. It's even a pretty blue color!

Our shower curtain solution. It’s even a pretty blue color!

The curtains overlap so no water escapes where they meet. The white in the foreground is a decorative curtain, the purple in the back is a liner that goes with the decorative curtain, and the white on the right side of the picture is another liner that goes around the back of the tub and covers the window.

The curtains overlap so no water escapes where they meet. The white on the left is a decorative curtain, the purple is a liner that goes with the decorative curtain, and the white on the right is the curtain (liner) that goes around the back of the tub and covers the window.

The final result.

The final result.

Our new curtain rod isn’t perfect. It’s a little uneven and can be a bit wobbly. It works well, though, and it even solved our problem of covering the shower window. All in all, I think it was a success. If nothing else, I got a good story out of it.

It’s Just a Shower Curtain! How Hard Can It Be?! (Part 1)

G. K. Chesterton once said “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” My first home improvement project is the perfect example of this truth.

In my first post, I mentioned that the master bath in our house doesn’t have a shower curtain rod. Of course, putting up a shower curtain rod should be pretty simple–just get a tension rod and stick it up between the faucet wall and the back wall of the shower. Voilà! You may now hang up your shower curtain. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t work if the back wall on your shower is only a knee wall.

Note the knee wall at the back of the tub

Note the knee wall at the back of the tub

Okay, plan B: build a glass block wall on top of the knee wall, so you then have a back wall on your shower. The thinking went something like this: glass block is translucent, so there will still be lots of light in the shower. Glass block is supposed to be pretty easy to install, so we can do it ourselves. Glass block is fairly inexpensive, so we don’t have to spend a lot of money. Glass block is dated and may not actually be up to code for bathrooms… oh.

On to plan C: install an L-shaped rod in the shower. This seemed like an easier option than plan B, but apparently custom shower curtain rods can be pretty expensive. I found some L-shaped rods online, though, and since our tub is a standard size, I figured we could find one that would fit without having to have one custom made. The curtain rods I was looking at were between $100 and $130, which seemed kind of expensive, but probably cheaper (and definitely less hassle) than building a glass block wall. I talked with Zach, and we decided to go with this, and if at some point we decided to remodel the bathroom, we could revisit the idea of building a full wall at the back of the shower.

All of these ideas were generated before we moved in to the house. Since the guest bath has a shower (and since we were really anxious to get out of our apartment), we figured we could move in and resolve the issue with the master shower as we had time. However, the day we moved in (which was a Saturday, naturally), I noticed a lot of water damage around the base of the shower in the guest bath. There was obviously a problem, and I didn’t want to make it any worse by using that shower.

Baseboard heater water damage

There’s definitely some leakage going on there!

Wooden baseboard water damage

There’s water damage on the other side, too!

Sunday morning Zach and I got up to go to church, but without a curtain in the master bath and with the leak in the guest bath, we didn’t have a good way to shower. Zach opted for a sponge bath, while I decided to try a modified version of showering in the master bath, which involved kneeling down and using the handheld showerhead with the hope of not getting water everywhere. While I was taking my kneeling shower, I realized that the pretty little lacy curtain over the window was really in the way. This curtain was made out of regular cotton fabric, so I was already planning on replacing it with leftovers from Liz’s shower curtain project, but I realized that I also needed to replace the curtain rod with something that wouldn’t stick out so far from the wall.

Isn't this a pretty curtain taking up all that space in my shower? Too bad it isn't actually a shower curtain.

Isn’t this a pretty curtain taking up all that space in my shower? Too bad it isn’t actually a shower curtain.

Anyway, I managed to get clean without any major disasters–just some small splatters of water on the floor–and soon Zach and I were on our way to church.

After church we went to lunch with Caleb and Liz and Kristina, and then Liz wanted pick something up at Menards. Since we were at Menards, I figured we might as well see if they had a shower curtain rod that would work for us. We weren’t very optimistic, but decided it was worth it to look, at least. If we did find something, we wouldn’t have to wait for it to ship, like we would if we bought something online.

Lo and behold, we found a shower curtain rod! It was hoop-shaped, not L-shaped, but it would work. And better yet, it was under $30.

Hoop-shaped shower curtain rod

My amazing Menards find

We made sure we got drill bits, too, and even got special bits for drilling through the ceramic tile in the shower. I couldn’t stop smiling in the checkout lane because I was so excited about the possibility of installing the rod that day and taking a real shower the next morning.

Dun dun dun!

Come back next week for Part 2 of “It’s Just a Shower Curtain! How Hard Can It Be?!”

Welcome Home

After one and a half years of married life and apartment living, Zach and I decided to purchase a home. There were several reasons for this, including wanting to be more settled, but the most pressing reason was to get away from the secondhand smoke in our apartment… but that’s another story for another time.

We really liked the area our apartment was in, so we decided to look in that area. We looked at a lot of houses before we found one we wanted to call home. We did finally find one, though. We were looking for room to grow, and we ended up with four bedrooms and nearly 2,400 square feet. Looks like we won’t be outgrowing it anytime soon!

So you’re probably wondering what this house is like. Well, it’s a one-and-a-half story farmhouse with a couple of beautiful additions–a dining room and a sunroom–on the back of it. There are two bedrooms on the first floor, and two on the second. Both bathrooms are on the main floor as well. The location is great; we’re out in the country, but just a few minutes from a small town, and we’re even closer to work than we were before (although the location doesn’t make it feel close to work; Zach says it just feels like “we got a head start” on our drive). Along with being in the country comes acreage–we have over one and a half acres of half-wild yard, with wild grape vines, flowering bushes, wild grape vines, lilies, apple trees, and wild grape vines. We also have wild grape vines.

One of the things that I really like about the house is that it has (basically) everything we were looking for and has been kept up pretty well, but there is a lot that can be done to update it. My friend Liz has been working on fixing up her house, and watching her go through that process has made me excited to do the same with my own house. This beautiful giant offers lots of opportunities for that. Let’s take a tour and you can see all of the beauty and potential for yourself.

Step through the door (pardon the cleaning products) and you’ll find yourself in this beautiful dining room.

Dining room: view from the sunroom doorway

View from the sunroom doorway. You’re currently standing right about where the cleaning products are.

There is plenty of room here for my table and chairs, china cabinet, and, well, pretty much anything you could want to put in the dining room. There’s even a recess in the wall for a breakfast nook or china cabinet.

Dining room: recessed area

I think my china cabinet is going to go in this little recessed area.

The floors are Bruce Hardwood Laminate, and the wainscoting and accent wall are old barn wood.

Hardwood floors close-up

The beautiful dining room floor

Barnwood wainscoting

Barnwood wainscoting in the dining room


I really like the barnwood on the walls, but there’s only one window in the dining room and no overhead lights, so the room can get pretty dark. Liz thought so, too, so she suggested whitewashing the wood to brighten up the room. This would hopefully keep the barnwood effect, while tempering the darkness of the room. I really like this idea, so you might be seeing some pictures of whitewashed wood in the near future.

Now, close your eyes and imagine yourself outside. Only, this is a magical world where you can control the temperature, there aren’t any bugs or spiders, and you won’t ever get rained on. Do you have that picture in your mind? Okay then, go ahead and open your eyes.

Let’s turn to our right, pass through the dining room and enter that magical world. Is this like what you imagined?


The magical land of sunroom, as seen from the dining room

As you can probably tell, this is a fairly recent addition to the house. There are vaulted ceilings, six skylights, ten windows, and two ceiling fans. There’s a wall air conditioning unit–which is a great feature, since the house doesn’t have central air–and the room has insulation and heat so we can live in it all year long.

Here you can see more of the windows and skylights, as well as the placement of the a/c unit.

Here you can see more of the windows and skylights, as well as the placement of the a/c unit.

The French doors open to a large deck that spans the width of the room. You will see this on our upcoming exterior tour.

It’s time to move on to the kitchen, but you can feel free to linger as long as you like here in our sanctuary. It’s hard to leave, I know.

Ready? Okay then, let’s do an about-face and pass through the dining room again. This brings us to the kitchen.


The kitchen, as seen from the dining room

This is one of the places where there’s a lot of room for improvement. I do like it, though. The room is spacious, there’s plenty of storage and counter space, and there’s even a place along the wall for the drop-leaf table from Zach’s parents. You’re probably wondering, then, what we would want to improve. I’m glad you asked!

You’ll notice, if you stick around for a meal, that the only dishwasher in the kitchen is human (read: me). I’d like to change that, if possible, and I’m thinking those wooden shelves next to the fridge are just asking to be swapped out for that wonderful time-saving device.

Also, you might have noticed the cabinets are a lovely shade of plum. I like plums, and I like purple, but that’s not what I would do for cabinets. The cabinets aren’t in really great shape, so we may replace them at some point, but that won’t be for a while. I’m content with painting them and making do for now. The fruit-themed wallpaper border is going to have to go, though.

Cabinets and border

A closer view of the plum cabinets and fruit-themed wallpaper border

The window treatment above the kitchen sink also is on the black list. I have to admire the attempt to match the theme of the kitchen, though, even if the colors aren’t right.

Kitchen window treatment

Don’t you love the red and blue with the plum cabinets?

Finally, there’s the wallpaper in the kitchen. This actually isn’t as bad (in my opinion) as the border and the cabinets, but it’s kind of outdated, and I’m hoping to go with something simpler and cleaner.

Kitchen wallpaper

Fruit-themed wallpaper on the accent wall in the kitchen

There are more details I could point out, but I think it’s time for us to move along to the rest of the house. Come on through the kitchen and turn to your right–that will bring you to this hallway.

Downstairs hall

View to the hallway from the kitchen

On your right is the guest bath, and straight in front of you is the master bedroom.

Let’s take a quick second to poke our heads in the guest bath (it’s not big enough for both of us to walk in there together).

Guest bath

View to guest bath from the hallway

Basic stuff, plus more interesting wallpaper and little medicine cabinet.

Medicine cabinet

Medicine cabinet

Bathroom wallpaper

Detail of the wallpaper

Alright, moving on to the master suit. This isn’t the biggest bedroom in the house, and the room itself isn’t very impressive, but it’s bigger than the room we were sleeping in before, and it’s got some great features.

Master bedroom

Master bedroom from the door

What exactly are those features? Well, I’m glad you asked. First, it has a bathroom en suite, which I think is pretty rare for a 1920s farmhouse.

Master bath

Master bathroom from the doorway

The vanity and sink both seem pretty new and are in good shape. The vanity has lots of room for storing all of your various bathroom necessities.

Behind the door you will find a tub and a tall storage unit, which I think will be good for towels and such.

The tub in the master bath

The tub in the master bath

2014-07-16 09.36.01

Storage for towels

You might have noticed there’s no shower curtain or shower enclosure. That’s getting fixed, like, yesterday. (Okay, technically it was finished today, but you’ll have to wait until another day to hear that story.) The window in the bath looks into… oh wait, you don’t know about that yet. I guess it’s about time I told you. Let’s step back into the bedroom.

Bedroom view

View of the bedroom from the hall doorway

When you turn to your right, you’ll notice there’s another door past the bathroom. A set of doors, really. Closet doors. Welcome to magic land junior.

Walk-in closet

The magic closet-land

This magic land doesn’t have any skylights, and it only has two windows (what a pity, my closet only has two windows), but it’s got more storage space than I ever thought I would need. There are clothes racks, and clothes racks, and clothes racks some more, and when you get done with those, there’s a whole wall of shelves just waiting to hold my bed linens.

Closet clothes racks

Clothes racks, and clothes racks,…

Closet shelves

…and clothes racks some more. Plus, look at those shelves!

Did I say there were only two windows in the closet? Well, technically there are three, but the third one doesn’t really count because it looks into–you guessed it–the bathroom. The closet was added on probably around the same time as the sunroom, and since the bathroom used to be on the outside, it had a window in the shower. I think having that window from the shower to the closet is kind of quirky, but it allows for some natural light in the shower, and anyway, I’m kind of quirky, so it’s fitting.

Well, it’s time to say goodbye to magic land junior. Sorry, I’m not going to let you linger in my closet; that would be a little odd. On our way out we can take a quick peek at the wallpaper border in the bedroom.

Bedroom border


Whew! How are you holding up? I told you it was a big house, but you didn’t believe me, did you?

Let’s step back into the hallway and turn right. In front of you, you will see the front door; to your left  is a coat closet; and to your right are the stairs to the upstairs.

Hallway to front entrance

Coat closet (left), front door, and stairway

Walk to the end of the hall, and on your right you will find this cozy living room. It’s actually a pretty large room, but after the sunroom it feels quite cozy.

Living room

The cozy living room

As you can see, the walls are completely covered in wallpaper (the same wallpaper as in the hall, actually).

Living room wallpaper

The lovely hall and living room wallpaper

I really like the fireplace, and I think that it makes the room feel especially cozy.

Brick fireplace

What a great way to cozy-up a room!

As you look out the front windows, you’ll notice that we have a lot of greenery in our yard.

Bushes out the front windows

The view from the living room is quite green!

I haven’t decided what I want to do as far as decorating this room yet, but it’s most likely not going to involve wallpaper. I would love it if it involved some nice art, though.

By now I’m guessing your feet are getting tired from all this walking, so before we move on, I’d like to invite you to lie down on the carpet. This is a great chance to notice the ceiling with textured plaster concentric circles that go all the way to the walls. This is definitely staying this way!

Textured plaster ceiling

Don’t you love the circle pattern?

Okay, that’s the living room. Let’s do another about-face,

Front door (right), stairs and hall (left), front bedroom (front)

Front door (right), stairs and hall (left), front bedroom (front)

and make our way to the final room on the main floor.

You’ll notice the linoleum floors. One of the pictures on the online listing had a dog in it, so we’re thinking the previous owners figured linoleum would be good for a pet room. I have to agree with that logic, but it’s kind of strange for a bedroom, nonetheless.

Linoleum floor

The pet-friendly floor

To your right is a window that looks out to the front porch.

Front bedroom window

No greenery in front of this window!

And on the wall to your left is a nice large closet.

Large bedroom closet

There’s a lot of storage room here!

Up above, you’ll see an old light fixture. There are several similar fixtures throughout the house, and I really like how they add to the farmhouse feel. I may also just like that they remind me of my childhood.

White square light fixture

Isn’t that pretty?

Well that does it for the main floor! We just have the stairway and the second floor left, and trust me, the second floor is much smaller than the first.

Let’s head back into the hall/living room area and up the stairs.

View up the stairs

Walking up the stairs

Turn left at the top of the stairs and go through the first doorway. That takes you to the sewing room.

Sewing room

The perfect room for a girl who loves to sew!

This isn’t a huge room, but you’ll notice the beautiful built-in sewing/cutting table, and the little closet. These aspects make it great for sewing.

There’s also some nice laminate on the floor, although the closet floor looks a little sketchy.

Laminate floor

Sewing room floor

Closet floor

Closet floor

Come back out in the hallway and let’s get the lay of the land a little bit. If you turn to your right (so the stairs are to your left and the sewing room is to your right), you’ll see the doorway to the last room on our tour.

The light at the end of the tunnel!

The light at the end of the tunnel!

Before we go in, though, I want you to notice a couple of hallway details–specifically the plum paint and the switchplate.

More plum paint, plus a pineapple switchplate!

More plum paint, plus a pineapple switchplate!

Okay, moving on. Welcome to the crazy floor room!

Check out the great windows!

Check out the great windows!

Do you see why I call it the crazy floor room? Let’s take a closer look.

Here you can see my feet for scale. The tiles are about 4" X 4".

Here you can see my feet for scale. I think the tiles are between 4″ and 6″ square.

The color of the tile changes as you approach the edges of the room

The color of the tile changes as you approach the edges of the room

The room has kind of a small closet, but what it lacks in closet space it more than makes up for in shelf space.

Upstairs closet

Closet (and hangers–anyone need hangers?)

There's an entire wall of shelving!

There’s an entire wall of shelving!

Also, you should take a closer look at the window frames. They are really nice!

Beautiful wood window frame

Beautiful wood window frame

Well, you’ve seen the whole house now… except for the basement. I don’t recommend going down there if you’re tall, you don’t like creepy things, you don’t like getting dirty, or… you get the idea.

Thanks for coming on my tour! I hope you come back again to look around the outside and see how we fix up the place.