Caprese Grilled Cheese

I have been cruising Pinterest a lot lately and about a week ago I got a hankering for a grilled cheese. When I was little and woke up in the middle of the night my grandma would make me grilled cheese. I remember eating grilled cheese and Ovaltine at all hours of the morning, sometimes with a game of solitaire and other times just good conversation. Naturally the next step was to start pinning different grilled cheese sandwiched like crazy! When I landed on this one I knew I had a winner!

Source: Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Closet Cooking

This recipe comes form the author of the blog, Kevin Lynch. I love his "About Me." Sweet, simple, to the point and something I can definitely relate to. 

 Thanks for the recipe! It was AMAZING!!!


Northern Lights and Taxes

Most of Alaska is having a great week for Northern Lights and Thursday was the first I got to get out and see them. I took the pictures below from my drive way. I'm not all schmancy with the shutter speed or anything but I'll show you what I was able to get.

 To give you an idea of the size, the big tree that it's lined up against is next to a 2 story house.

The white spots are falling snow. 

You can kind of see how it changes length, width and intensity. 

All of these were shot in probably under a minute while I stood out in my drive way with my footy pajamas on. :) It's a little too cold to be out there much longer. 

And on to the taxes.

Tax season is upon us!!!! I am the kind of person that loves to get their taxes done ASAP. I know several of my friends already have theirs in and now they are just waiting for their returns.  I do the taxes for my family every year. I started doing that when my husband got audited for taxes he had done by a company that were wrong.  

I use Turbo Tax at home and that way I can make sure that every little piece of tax paperwork gets in the system. I have a drawer that I put all the tax paper work in as the year goes by. When tax season comes I pull it all out, organize it, put it into the computer, and then file it in the file cabinet. Done. Usually I am ahead of the W-2's and I just wait for them to finish up the year. 

Out biggest problem is not actually in filing taxes. It's spending the return. 

This year I am putting it out there in writing to force myself into spending it wisely. The first things we will spend it on are:

1. Medical bills. We have a few hundred in medical expenses from a procedure my husband had done that we thought would be covered by insurance but ended up not. We pay a little every month but it will be nice to have it gone.

2. Credit card debt. We had an issue last summer with the car rental company we had reserved our car with and ended up paying several hundred more than we had planned on. We were doing pretty good at paying it off until Joel lost his job. Then it had to go towards things like groceries and gas.

3. Getting ahead on the mortgage. We want to pay our mortgage every 2 weeks but Joel only gets paid 2x every month so we are going to set it up that way and try to be 1 or 2 payments ahead. That way if something unexpected happens we will have a little cushion.

4. Car insurance. This is sadly how we pay our car insurance. It is renewed every 6 months. One payment is due  at tax season and the other is due during when PFD's come out.

AFTER all that is paid for, IF there is any $ left, here are the things I WANT to get:

1. Furniture. We have bought almost everything in our house off of Craigslist. There is nothing wrong with that and, in fact, if we can find the right pieces on Craigslist we will get "new" stuff there too. What I am looking for is furniture that is versatile, works with my home and is a little smaller scale than what we have now. We will sell what we have and that will help towards the purchase price too.

2. Portable computer. I'm not sure if I want something like an Ipad, a Netbook, or a full out Laptop yet but it would be so nice to be able to take my Scentsy business with me on the go.

3. A greenhouse. Oh, how I yearn for one of these every year! My husband probably does too since I use the garage as one every spring :) I would like to have one set up with one of the little solar panels that Costco sells for air circulation, heaters, lights, and timers. It would be great if this was a self sustaining building where we are not spending a big electric bill just to run it.

4. Chickens. This would be a later purchase since it is still too cold outside for chickens. The amount of eggs we go through in this house is ridiculous! It would be nice to be a little more self sustaining this year. We have also considered making the greenhouse heated through the winter and keeping the chickens in there as well. for thought.

5. Fruiting plants. We know a great little greenhouse/ U-Pick farm out in the valley that actually has the trees they sell in the ground, producing fruit every year. It is the only place I feel comfortable dumping $100 into a tree. The two trees we have int he back yard now are from them. The have produced every year. We have never gotten any other trees to fruit at all! We also have an Arctic Kiwi set we got from them that is beautiful and fruited the first year we had it. The other plant we have from them is a Gooseberry bush and it gives off a TON of fruit. I don't see a reason not to have plants that give a little back in the end after all your hard work.

6. Auto stuff. Our windshields could be replaced, thanks to all the gravel on the roads during break up, and on those chilly negative temperature nights it would be WONDERFUL to have auto start.

And of course BEFORE #1 on both lists is to SAVE some of it!!!!!!!!! 

What about you? What are your plans for your tax return (if you get one) and what do you do to prepare your taxes? 


He Got Me A Chair!

We have been using these two garden stools in the closet office. While they got the job done they weren't doing any favors to anyone's back. 

When I came home one night, shining in the spot light of my new pendant light was this guy. 

Joel found him for free on Craigslist. 

The only thing wrong with him is that he is just a little too tall. 
 Too tall is not a problem!

I used a ruler to mark a line at 3 inches and Joel sawed off the extra. 

And now it fits perfectly! 

Free is such a beautiful thing. Thank you Craigslist!

And of course the remaining question is:

 To paint, or not to paint?


Dresser Inspiration


Even though I have a pretty good idea of what I wan to do with this dresser  but I though I'd see what everyone else had done and take a gander at what they did about the hardware. 

Over at 4 Men 1 Lady I found this:

It sure does look lovely in yellow doesn't it. Sigh..... I love how they paired it with such modern things too. 

Over at The Soulful House I found one in white.

This one had a little more flare at the bottom but it's essentially the same. I really like that they refinished the top. I plan on refinishing mine too. And they kept the hardware!!! Well, most of it. 

These two from Painted Cottages on Etsy celebrate the frilly stuff. 

I don't know if I like that many curves. I think they are a little too girly for me. 

Some things the I have to keep in mind are:

1. Plan A- These are all lovely but I need to keep in mind that MY dresser has to go with MY decor.
2. Versatility- I don't have a very big house and I like to move things around. Keeping it a color that will match the rest of my house will make it easier for it to shift things around without painting it. 
3. I have no $. I did buy primer and that was a little out of my budget. ( Maybe I should start asking for primer for my birthday.) No $ means that this color needs to be something I have in the garage or can mix from what I have in the garage. 

Hmmm......Think. Think. Think. 

I guess you'll just have to wait and see what I do :) 


Magnetic Make-up Board

For Christmas I decided to get a little crafty for myself, my Mom and Cheria, my sister-in-law. 

For me I made this bug honkin guy.

For my Mom and Cheria I didn't know how much wall space they wanted to take up So I made them ones that could hang on the wall or stand- their choice. 

This was not an original idea and I read how to make mine here:

I bought all my frames at Walmart.  I was running out of time and my local thrift stores have a pretty sad selection.  Joel bought the sheet metal at Lowes. The bigger piece is a good deal thinner but it does just as good of a job. 

We used metal sheers to cut off the extra. 

I used the paper from the frame to let Anberlynn trace so we knew where to cut. 

It doesn't matter if you leave a little marker on the edge or if it's not cut perfectly because the edges will be covered by the frame. 

For the fabric I used left over pieces from previous projects.

I sprayed the front with re-positional spray adhesive and flipped it onto the fabric. that way I could move the fabric around to get it straight and cut off the edges without drawing lines or worrying about the fabric moving around on me. 

I did the same for the larger piece except I used a mat and rotary cutter. 

For a clip holder I measured 3 dots on opposite ends of the board.

Then I lad my ribbon underneath, lining them up with the dots so they would be straight. I glued them in place with glue dots. 

Then when I flipped it over.... ta-da! 

Here is mine hanging in my bathroom. 

Next up I went through the 2 baskets that have been attempting to house all the girly stuff. 

After going through it all, throwing out anything old or worn out I realized that I don't even use 90% of it.  What I do use I hot glued to magnets (I tried glue dots first. That's not the way to go.) to the back of  my make-up. 

I clipped the girls bows to the ribbons and now everyday Anberlynn points out the one she wants to wear. 

Enjoy your presents Mom & Cheria! 

Looking at theirs makes me want a patterned background too. I think I might have to get me some more of that fabric on the right ;) 


Kicking Off Organizing with Calendars

January is a great time to buy calendars and organizing supplies because they are all on sale. 

I snagged this little weekly calendar to keep behind me at my closet office for $3 at Target. It will be mostly just for me to keep track of Scentsy stuff, play dates, and other things my husband isn't really involved in. It looks bigger in real life and I think I will like having it so close. I especially love that it actually has a little clip for the marker, big boxes for the days and magnets + cork just in case. 

For my magnetic dry erase board / cork board I cut out a few strips of vinyl to separate the days. I picked up the magnetic days at Target for $1.50. This calendar is more for just my husband. I write down when I work so he knows when he needs to be home, reminders about things I need him to do, and family activities that involve him. 

Having two separate calendars assures that if there is something on his calendar it is meant for Joel to see it. Not that he can't see my calendar or that I am keeping anything from him but this way there is nothing to distract him from the fact that he needs to be home by 5 for me to leave for work. 
If it's on here, her needs to read it. 

As you can see I haven't bought a paper calendar and we might just see how that goes. Maybe I will keep a longer term calendar on the computer. The idea of going paperless makes me smile. 


Our Favorite Hikes

Hiking is something that we really love to do as a family. With only a few precious months of snow free summer we really have to cram it in there! There are so many to choose from that we try to make a list every year so we branch out and try a new one every now and then.

Here are a few of our favorite hikes/outings that we try to fit in every year:

Up first is South Fork Falls. It's really close, relatively short, super easy and has nice trails for strollers. Since people live up this trail the roads are packed down during the winter too. I love the little bridge over the river. 

South Fork Falls
South Fork Falls
South Fork Falls
South Fork Falls

My very personal Favorite is Winner Creek. I love EVERYTHING about this hike! With hand trams, waterfalls, bridges and gold mining all under a beautiful rain forest like canopy there's not a whole lot not to like. The trail head is near Aleska Resort. It's well traveled in the winter and the summer. Even though it's a longer trail it's pretty flat but not stroller friendly. 

All of that is great but it's special to me because this was the first (or second-depending who you ask) date my husband took me on. 

Winner Creek 
Winner Creek 
Winner Creek 
Winner Creek

The Eagle River Nature Center is just the trail head for several different hikes. Most of the shorter ones are stroller friendly, accessible in the winter, and  very easy.  The dogs love coming with us on hikes, especially if they can get wet. You can see them here in their full blown hiking gear. They love putting their bags on- I think it gives them a sense of purpose. If you stop into the Nature Center there is always something going on and usually lots of activities for the kids. 

Eagle River Nature center
Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center

Eklutna Lake is a nice one for the views. It wraps all the way around the lake and there are a few side trails in there too. The lake is fed from a glacier and it makes the water a gorgeous hue. 

Eklutna Lake
Eklutna Lake

We like to go to Mirror Lake for picnics, BBQs, a little bit of swimming, and playing with the dogs. Indiana will fetch balls out of the water as far as you can throw and as long as your arm still works. They also have a large field, a horse shoe pit, and volley ball pits. 

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
If you are looking for a unique Alaska experience visiting a glacier could well be on the top of your list. Byron Glacier has easy access over a short hike. Even though you can actually walk on and in the glacier it is a nice warm hike and a summer day. The only pictures I have of this hike right now don't actually show the glacier because we tried to go too early in the spring and there was just too much snow so we chickened out and went to the near by Begich-Boggs Visitors Center. it's kind of like a mini museum. If you'd like you can take a boat to see the Portage glacier from here. 

Byron Glacier

Begich-Boggs Visitors Center
Hatcher's Pass is actually a pass through the mountains which hold lots of trails. Independence Mine is one of our favorites. It's kind of like a mining ghost town. Here my husband is on a different hike with some friends. The whole area is great for picking wild berries and catching glimpses of wild life. 

Hatcher's Pass
Hatcher's Pass
Hatcher's Pass
Hatcher's Pass

*sigh* It must be all this snow we are having that has me dreaming of long summer hikes. 

Anyone ever been to any of these places? 
Did you enjoy it?