The Post I’ve Needed to Write for a While…

If you follow this blog at all, I have clearly been pretty M.I.A. this year. I had a pretty rough first half of 2016 – I tried to continue blogging from time to time, but my creative energy had been pretty zapped by a pretty terrible job situation. For being a generally confident, happy person, I can say that I have never been pulled so low as I was from December of last year through June of this year. I won’t go into details, but by the end of it, I felt stripped pretty bare.

But then I quit. Without a new job lined up, I prayed a LOT, asking God for guidance and if He COULD just MAYBE have me a new job by August 1, that would be wonderful. I had an incredible amount of peace during this time, and amazingly, on August 1, I got the call at 8:03 a.m. with my new job offer. Since then, the rest of the year has gone MUCH smoother. I’m finally feeling more my old self again, confidently working in a fabulous team environment, spending time outside of work with friends, getting back into a workout routine…the second half of the year has been SO much better.

Yet, as you’ve seen, there haven’t really been any posts. I’ve been cooking, decorating, sewing…but I just haven’t had it in me to write as much. Maybe this blogging phase of my life is over. Maybe I’ll revive it down the road. But the experiences of the year have made me care more for my friends, my family, my activities…and a little less about documenting every moment. The only place I post much these days is over in IG (@megstermeter), but I have definitely downsized my overall social media presence. I encourage each of you to really consider what is most important to you, and what is keeping you from loving those important pieces of life. Is there a job you need to quit? A relationship you need to repair? What can you do in 2017 to have your best life? I’m considering these questions for myself as the year ends.

As a “goodbye for now,” I can’t resist sharing some of my favorite pictures (in random order) of the last eight blogging years, as I welcome in this new 2017. I mean, TWENTY-SEVENTEEN, am I right? I remember December 31, 1999, in my friend Laura’s basement, singing “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65…yikes. I am optimistic about 2017 – I hope that both for you and for me, 2017 shares more laugher than tears, more joys than sorrows, and more gratitude than complaining.

 

VACATION

Well, it has been a NUTTY summer…one which will live in infamy, and I will tell you all about in due time. But TODAY, this wonderful day, my hubby and my in-laws and I are on the way to Panama City Beach.

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This photo is actually from our Jamaica trip, but I think you can get the idea.

Y’all know we love to travel, but this will actually be my first time traveling just the four of us. I’m so thrilled! We have a condo booked for four nights, and all I want to do is get a tan, shop, eat fish tacos, and read the Stephen King novel I just picked up at the library. Keep an eye on my instagram for updates, and see you back here sometimes next week! WOOT WOOT.

Tandoori Roasted Cauliflower

While I was home visiting my family, my mom and I made one of her food-delivery-dinners… You know, those boxes that come with everything you need to make an amazing meal. I happened to love this meal, but it was SO EASY that I felt like I could recreate it at home. And so I did, and now I’m sharing with you. You’re welcome.

Tandoori Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt Sauce and Orange Salad

Ingredients

Cauliflower:

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower (serves 2-4)
  • tandoori masala seasoning mix
  • olive oil

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Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 container plain greek yogurt
  • tandoori masala seasoning mix
  • cilantro

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Orange Salad:

  • 1-2 large oranges (serves 2-4), pealed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • cilantro
  • olive oil

oranges

Side:

  • Warm naan or couscous makes a good combo with this meal.

Directions

This is SO EASY. Get ready.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix together your orange pieces, shallot (to taste), a few pinches of cilantro, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. I also add a little salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Mix together yogurt, 1 tablespoon tandoori seasoning, and another few pinches of cilantro. Set aside.
  4. Remove stem and leaves of cauliflower, and cut each head into 8ths. Drizzle olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons tandoori, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Lay pieces on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet (I recommend spraying it), and bake for about 20 minutes, until roasted.
  5. Serve cauliflower with yogurt sauce, and with orange salad on the side.

Grandma Betty

This weekend, my family and I are preparing to celebrate my grandma’s life. After over ten years of struggling with Alzheimer’s, she is finally at peace.

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At my cousin’s wedding a few years back.

My cousin asked me to give her one word to describe grandma. My word: playful. My grandpa never loved playing games, and neither did my mom, so that usually meant it was me and grandma playing Rummy 500 (or sometimes 1000…or 1500…), The Game of Life, Tiddlywinks, or even working on a puzzle together. This is how I will always remember her, happy and teasing.

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After my last Original Cast performance, senior year of college.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. I remember when it was just starting, and she knew she was forgetting things. It was heart breaking. Later though, it became a blessing that she didn’t know it anymore. She was happy, even if she didn’t know who you were. She said “I love you, too” no matter what. And she played solitaire and did word search puzzles religiously to “stay sharp,” she would say. I admire her incredible life and 69-year marriage to my grandfather. We may not have been a huge family, but she raised to amazing girls (my mom included), had five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. I still love this super-90’s family photo we took – I’m the youngest, down in front, along with my four cousins. (Sorry for the fuzzies…it was a screenshot.)

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Family photo circa 1997ish maybe?

Words just can’t express how much we will all miss her. The truth is though, I’ve missed her for a really long time. At least now I know she’s with Jesus, who she loved and taught us to love. So grateful to have had 30 whole years with you, grandma. Be at peace!

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On their wedding day in 1946.

Kitchen Features {that you may or may not love}

If you were able to design your DREAM kitchen, what special features would it include? An island? Pots and pans hanging from the ceiling? Everyone has their preferences, and when we remodeled our kitchen, there were a few characteristics I knew I HAD to have. You may have some of these and not love them as much as I do… so I’m going to show you how I use them in hopes that you may love your kitchen a little more…

1. The Glass Cabinet

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Don’t be afraid of the glass cabinet door! Now I admit, I would not want all of my cabinets to have glass. But having just one can be such a perfect centerpiece to your kitchen. The trick to keeping it beautiful and clean? Fill the top half with items you don’t use often, but have an interesting look to them, whether it’s their color, shape, or something else. Then the bottom half, stick to clean, simple dishes. Mine have all sorts of Fiestaware in them – plain colors, but staggered in different heights. I use these plates every day, but it’s pretty hard to make a pile of plates look messy!

2. The Corner Lazy Susan

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So many people use these for their canned goods or other pantry items. Don’t do it! Those little items can get completely buried in there. Without even turning it, I have all of my saute pans and saucepans on the bottom, ready to use every day right next to my oven. On the top, I have my batter bowl (which I seriously use for EVERYTHING), a can of cooking spray, and a few baking pans. Then in the back, I have some of the pots I use less often – steamer pot, double boiler, etc – and my stack of mixing bowls, etc.

3. The Non-Pantry

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When we were figuring out our new kitchen layout, there was just no room for a full-blown pantry. But let’s be honest…if you have a big pantry, you tend to fill it with random items you rarely use! We just have two shelves dedicated to pantry items, and it helps me be more intentional about the groceries I buy each week. I know it’s not super pretty, but hey, like I said in #1, I don’t keep all my cabinets totally organized!

4. That Tiny Cabinet Above Your Microwave

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This one is always obnoxious, but the best I’ve found is to put items like extra cookbooks up here, since I don’t use them too often. I also put my cutting boards up here vertically so I can easily see them all and grab which one I need.

I hope this helps you love some of your great kitchen features! What other features do you love / hate?

Basic Granola

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I looooove granola, but I feel like the ones we buy in the store are so full of sugar, and are SO expensive. So I decided to attempt my own, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the results! It’s not nearly as sweet, and has a great nutty flavor overall. I don’t know about you, but when something is so sweet, it’s easy to overeat it. So here you go, my homemade granola!

Ingredients
4 cups of oats
1 1/2 cup pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
handful of almond slivers / nuts of your choosing
1/2 cup of oil (I used olive but coconut would be REALLY good)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
extra add ins once it’s cooled: shredded coconut (add halfway through baking for toasted coconut), dried fruit, chocolate chips, and just about anything else you can think of.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, cinnamon, and salt. Add in oil, syrup, and vanilla and mix until everything is coated. Pour mixture out onto your prepared pan.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir. Bake for another 8-10. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before breaking it into pieces. Once it’s cool, add in anything else you’d like, such as dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.

Enjoy!! I love this with a good greek yogurt. Happy summering!

Mudroom {Before & After}

It’s been a while since I’ve given a house update, but don’t worry – we’ve been working! And let’s be honest – it’s the hubby who does the brunt of the work around here. Our latest project (which was supposed to be a “weekend project” but was more like a “month project”) is just about complete. We have this little mudroom that the previous owners added off the kitchen. It’s our main way in and out of the house, and also houses our laundry. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, then I’ll share more details of everything we did…

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The mudroom when we purchased the house (L) …and now (R).

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The mudroom after a little bit of reorganization (L) …and now (R).

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My hand hubby even replaced the screen door and security door, staining them by hand. Nice, huh?

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While I don’t have a great before photo of the old sink, here’s the pretty new utility sink and cabinet the hubster installed.

So in total, here are all the updates we did:

  • Leveled the floor (because it wasn’t before)
  • Tiled the floor to match the kitchen
  • Tore out the old sink, mirror, and shelving unit
  • Patched some major holes in the walls
  • Painted the walls and trim
  • Stained and installed screen door and interior door (and also painted our side porch grey)
  • Installed a new shelf, sink, and cabinet
  • Installed blinds on the window

Phew! Not a weekend project. But I love it now, and plan to add a few more finishing touches as far as decor, like a table under the window and some other little touches. What do you think? Fun, right?

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