Simple Shelving Saves your Sanity

I may have established the fact that I am rather OCD in certain areas.  The older we get, the more crap we accumulate, the more we clean, the more your family comes in behind you and messes it up.  I am learning that in order to get everything put back in its place without having to daily go full-on Mommie Dearest, I had to provide items with their very own place.  And so my life as the female Bob Villa began.

Today we’re going to talk about this:


Yes, the dreaded moment you realize everyone and their brother has at least three water glasses going at once…or didn’t take care of their dirty dishes (I can’t help you with the latter, because I’m still working on that here).  I was starting to go a little insane, so I decided to make a place for these and other small items.  There isn’t much wall space in my kitchen at all, so I went pretty small, but I knew I needed shelves.  I can’t tell you how much this has helped!  The dishwasher isn’t full of glasses everyday and I haven’t heard an, “Hey!  That’s my cup!” argument in ages.

Finished Pr
ID badges, cups and chore lists have a home!

These took less than an hour to build and paint and are the most practical shelves I’ve put into the house.  They are easy and I will walk you through all the steps you need.  I am going to speak to the beginners among us, so skip over the detailed parts if you’re advanced.  These will be 5.5 X 7.5 shelves, but you can adjust size slightly, if needed.  *Please see note below for questions.

For this project you will need the following:

  • Drill
  • Level
  • Stud finder (if you have one)
  • Tape measure and speed square, if available
  • 8 to 12, 1 1/2-2 inch screws
  • .5-1 inch screws, or nail gun & air compressor with 1-1 1/2 inch nails
  • Wall anchors (pictured below)
  • PENCIL!!! (don’t put it down)
  • 2 six foot 1×2’s for supports
  • Board for shelves at least 6 inches wide by 32 inches long
  • Miter saw or nice people at Home Depot
  • Wood glue

tool set 2







Simple tools for this job.


flip tip



The flip drive pictured above is a great tool to have if you don’t want to switch tools or bits during the job, but a drill bit and a screw bit will work as well.

Step 1

Select the area on a wall where you would like the shelves.  Take your stud finder and locate the studs in the wall.  Use your level as a ruler and draw a level line where you would like your center shelf to go.  Make sure that at least one screw along the line will go directly into a stud.  You may have to pick a new spot if you can’t find a stud right where you want it.  Just make sure the area can accommodate a 7.5 inch shelf.


Stud finder
Stud finder in action

NO STUD FINDER?  If you don’t have a stud finder, simply take your level and draw a line with your pencil, using your level as a ruler.

Take a thin nail and a hammer and tap holes through the wall along your line until you meet resistance, indicating a stud.  Mark the wall with your pencil (you put it down, didn’t you?), a few inches above the stud, lightly enough to be easily erased.  Don’t worry about the small holes in the wall as your shelf should cover them.


 Step 2

This is where you will need your miter saw, or a nice person at the hardware store to cut your wood.

Miter Saw

Place your 1×2 on the saw and cut the 2 inch length at a 45 degree angle.  Measure 5 1/2 inches from the tip of your 45 and cut the other side at a 45 in the opposite direction.  Cut another 1×2 the same way, same length.



You can check your work holding the pieces back to back like this:


Cut two more pieces of 1×2 the same way, but make them 7 1/2 inches long from tip to tip as shown above.  When you have all four pieces cut, you should be looking at a perfect picture frame.


Not perfect yet.




Step 3

Run a small line of wood glue down the middle of the your 45’s and join the pieces together into that picture frame.  If you have a nail gun, pin your frame together, using a speed square (if you have one) to make sure your angles are correct, 90 degrees.

Speed Square


If you don’t have a nail gun or pinner, you can take your drill and drill holes, using the smaller screws to put your frame together.  Be sure to countersink your screws if you want to hide them with paint later, as shown in the photos below.

countersunk             end 45s

If you do not have a miter saw, or don’t want to make 45 degree cuts, you can join the ends of your wood like the image on the right.Butted

Just be sure to adjust your measurements on your 1×2 frame to 2, 7.5 inch pieces and 2, 4 inch pieces.

Step 4

When your frame is put together and square, place it over the board you want to use for your shelf.  Most people measure, but OCD woman likes to trace for an exact fit.  If you want the frame to sit under the shelf (see left below), trace the outside of the frame onto your board.  If you want to hide your shelf inside the frame (see center below), trace the inside of your frame, using the straight ends of the board to help, if possible.  Like so:

Cut your board and make sure it fits within your frame, or squarely on top, depending on your method.  I wanted to hide my board (I was using scrap wood) so I used wood glue on the board edges and pinned it inside the frame.  You can also use thin screws and your drill.

Inside the frame and pinned, after painting and installation

Step 5

Your shelves are now built and you can paint them at this time, if you are using spray paint, otherwise, time to install.

Decide whether you want the frame on the top or bottom of the shelf.  I did the Mom and Dad shelves with the frames down for more room and the kids’ shelves with the frames up to prevent spills.

Hold the 7.5 inch side of your shelf on the level line you drew earlier, making sure that the line on your wall and the line of the shelf match perfectly.  Take your drill and drill holes for the 2 inch screws that will hold the shelves, being sure to drill through the wall side of your frame, into your stud and wall and countersink your holes.

I was lucky enough to have two studs close together, but I had to angle my screws (below)

CS.jpgThey aren’t pretty, but c’est la vie.  Anyway, if you don’t have another stud, you’ll need to use anchors.

These are available everywhere and give added stability to a screw going into straight drywall.  You’ll need to drill the hole larger (package will indicate hole size needed) and then you will screw in the same way you will to your stud.  DO NOT use an anchor in a stud, as it is not necessary.

asst anchors.jpg
Assorted anchors



Now you can screw your shelf into the wall, being careful to keep it level, double checking with your level.  Once your screws are in tight, but not too tight, spackle to hide them and any other area which needs it; let dry and paint.  Voila!
Finished Pr


*NOTE: Building these is vastly easier than describing how to do it, so if you have any questions, please ask them in the comments.  Also, my computer seems to have lost its mind today, so if this looks like it was put together by my ten-year-old, I’m sorry.







Fried Chicken with Thai Sauce

If you know me well enough, you know that I loathe fried chicken.  I know that’s sacrilege coming from a Southern girl, but I can’t help it: the greasy chunks of breading, the fear of finding pink at the center of a big bite of drumstick or the chance it is over cooked and I could lose a tooth, all make my stomach turn.

Sadly (or so I once felt), the males in my house adore fried chicken, especially the kids, so I decided to play one day.  The end result is the recipe below and it changed my status from fried chicken hater, to big fan.  Seriously, it’s a wee bit healthier than straight-fried (in that the bulk of the oil is drained on towels and in the oven.  Ok, just go with me on this) and it is cause for great celebration in this house when I announce that’s on the menu.  The crust is perfect, but the sauce is the kicker.  I received a very strange look from J last night when I cleaned my plate and told him I could bathe in this sauce.


Fried Chicken with Thai Sauce

Thai Fried
Look at me.  I’m beautiful. 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 can coconut milk

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 – 1 tsp ginger

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

4 lbs chicken breast, cut into 2 inch strips, or drumsticks, or a mixture

Peanut oil for frying.  Other oils work as well.

Place half of the flour (I will often throw a little Tony’s into this first bowl) into a bowl and the coconut milk into another separate bowl.  In a third bowl, mix the salt, garlic, ginger, cayenne and the remaining flour, combining well.*  Dip the chicken in the plain flour first, then the milk and last the seasoned flour mixture, coating well.

In a large stovetop or electric skillet, fry the chicken in batches until browned with a nice golden crust; move to paper towel to drain.  I learned to only do 5 or 6 pieces at a time to better maintain a frying temperature between 350 and 375 degrees.

Transfer to a greased baking dish, or, to maintain the best crust and for easier clean up, cut wax paper to fit the bottom of a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes depending on the thickness of meat.


1 cup water

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 TBSP + 1/2 tsp corn starch

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp peanut butter

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/4 – 1/2 tsp ginger

3 TBSP finely chopped, fresh cilantro (dried does fine in a pinch)

Combine all but cilantro into a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and pour over chicken.

* I will often double the recipe for the seasoned flour, reserving half for when the coconut milk renders the mix too chunky.  The finer flour adheres much better for a nicer crust that stays on the chicken through the entire cooking process. 

Another look at the breast chunks, since the drumsticks disappeared before I could photograph them.





Salisbury Steak with a Creamy Mushroom Gravy

When we decided I would stay home with the kids, I soon realized that simple domestic chores were not enough to keep my busy brain occupied.  Not that those chores didn’t demand my full-time attention, but ADHD is a relentless companion.  Without constantly learning and doing, depression can creep in, especially when you are a post-menopausal adult woman (yes, it happened early)…SQUIRREL!!!

Um, okay, so thanks to the magic of the internet I’ve been able to learn a lot.  Plus, when your husband is gone for two weeks at a time and you’re watching your pennies, it pays to learn to install a new toilet, faucet, sink, etc. yourself.  When I ran out of renovations at the old house, I turned my full attention to trying new things in the kitchen.  The day my youngest asked for the “gravy hamburgers” they served at school, I set my sights on learning to make Salisbury Steak.

I’ll be honest, I’m nursing some nausea due to the antibiotics I’m on for a sinus infection, so the thought of Salisbury Steak makes my stomach turn, but only for a second.  It’s one of those foods that takes me back to the school cafeterias of my youth, staring at a nasty looking, gelatinous gravy, smothering a flattened, unidentifiable meat puck.  Inside my heart would leap, pretending to hate on the outside, but rejoicing on the inside.  I admit it was a guilty pleasure and I went decades without, but I will no longer deny that I love it.  I hope your family does too, so without further ado…


First, let’s talk seasoning.  You will see “Tony’s” in many of my recipes.  Tony Chachere’s (pronounced ‘”sash-er-ees in the Cajun way to thwart true French pronunciation on certain words) is a Creole seasoning available in grocery stores throughout the country now, or online.  It’s a blend of many different herbs, salt and pepper, but is also available in a salt-free version.  We use it on everything because it is amazing; no real heat to it, but it starts a party in your mouth immediately.  You will never be able to eat pizza without it again.  You’ve been warned.

Little, green can of magic.

I’ve also grown rather fond of roasted garlic salt when I don’t have time to roast my own garlic, or I’m simply feeling lazy and this one is quite good.


 Salisbury Steak with Creamy Mushroom Gravy*


2 pounds ground beef

1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP crumbled Ritz, or similar crackers

1 tsp salt, or less, if you’re not a fan

1 tsp black pepper

2 eggs, beaten

4 TBSP minced onion

1 tsp poultry seasoning, divided in half

6 TBSP butter

8-16 ounces of canned mushrooms, with the liquid (depending on your feelings for mushrooms, you can replace with 1/4 cup milk or water, if need be.)

6 TBSP all-purpose flour

6 Beef Bullion cubes (yes, that’s a lot.  Sodium intake for today is taken care of, but I suppose you could hold back a few)

6 cups of milk

1 tsp Tony’s (If you don’t have any, do not fret.  The flavor will not suffer) 

Garlic salt to taste


In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, eggs, cracker crumbs, onion, salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp of the poultry seasoning.  It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to throw in a dash of the Tony’s and roasted garlic salt, if available, at this point.  Mix with your hands until ingredients are combined without overworking the meat.  Shape the patties, usually 6-8, keeping them around half an inch, but no more than 1 inch thick.

Place the patties in a large skillet and cook them over medium-high heat, being careful not to burn them, usually 4-6 minutes per side, turning until they are browned and cooked through to your taste.  Do not press the patties flat while cooking, as this robs them of their flavor and can make ground beef taste dry.  Drain the grease and place the patties on a plate, making sure to keep them warm.

In the same skillet, melt your butter and then add the mushrooms with liquid.  Stir and cook for about 3 minutes and then sprinkle the flour in, mixing until no lumps appear.  Add the bullion cubes, remaining 1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning, Tony’s, a dash of the garlic salt and slowly, the milk (you can add a bit less if you like a thicker gravy).  Cook and stir over medium heat until the gravy is smooth and starts to thicken.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then return the patties to the gravy, cooking on low heat, uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.

*You can cut the gravy in half if you want the meat to stand alone, but living in Louisiana makes us gravy folk.  I do however recommend the egg noodles since they are lighter.  We like our gravy rather thick and it hugs the noodles quite nicely!



A Tour of the Back 40…I mean, 1.9

To those who have messaged me today, wondering where today’s post is, forgive the delay.  My husband is home.  ‘Nuff said, I know, but he is applying for jobs through the trucking school he’s about to complete.  Somehow I have become the family tech guru when I don’t even know what I’m doing most of the time here in the blogosphere.  Sitting and writing have been tough as I have been pulled in that direction all morning.  Men are kind of cute when they are helpless.

I have to say with great pride that, rather than asking me to go back to work (which I would totally do), Jamie’s always ready to do what it takes to provide for this family.  That may sound old-fashioned and is something I would have scoffed at ten years ago, but it is a gift in my forties.  It’s hard not to love the old curmudgeon.

Anyway, this morning it occurred to me, as I prepared to post the beloved Salisbury Steak recipe after much pleading from my youngest, that I hadn’t really given you the tour of the homestead.  I suppose I should show you around, so I maybe I can earn some street cred.

A little history on my evolution:

We purchased our first house in the Spring of 2005; a new construction with 35 acres on the Front Range in Colorado.  Our nearest neighbor was over 1/4 mile away and the solitude was nice, but when the urge to garden hit me, I was powerless to satisfy it.  The dry, high climate allowed for little to grow besides prickly pear and the rattlesnakes almost killed my husband (not from biting, but from scaring the crap out of him).  The wind was so bad sometimes that we couldn’t go outside for days and stir crazy was never far away.  Then there were the rabbits.  Zillions of them would invade all day, every day.  When I planted something and a seedling finally sprouted, those little monsters would immediately eat it.  Because of their appetites and the diseases they transmit, we tried fencing; electric and livestock, repellents, our dogs, and more, all to no avail.  I finally gave up, but luckily, the view helped to ease our pain.

Front Range
View of the Front Range from my parents’ house, about 4 miles south of our old place.

Jamie was working 6 hours away, near Grand Junction, Colorado and we had just gotten the boys.  He would be home for a week, then gone for two and it quickly became clear that the boys needed a dad home every night, so we sold our house and moved close to his rig.

We purchased a home on 6 acres near Delta, brought the horses and settled in quickly.  We loved it from the beginning, even though we had neighbors (not too close) for the first time in years, it still felt private.  We were on a plateau, surrounded by mountains, with the Grand Mesa in our sight.  It felt like we were living on vacation: fishing, camping, hiking, swimming, skiing, etc. all within 5-20 minutes from our home.

The best part was the boys reaping the benefits of having Jamie home every night.  That really solidified us as a family and they blossomed in that environment.  A huge surprise was how wonderfully my garden there did.  We planted a lot of different veggies, ate our fill, but I off-loaded cucumbers and tomatoes by the grocery sack full daily at work.  It was, in a word, awesome.


A view from the top of the Mesa in Spring.  Our house was almost straight ahead, at the end of those foothills.  Sigh. 

Sadly, oil and gas tanked and money was getting tighter.  I’d spent 8 years working for the family business, but was very part time because of the kids and there were no jobs available in a 100 square mile radius of us.

We ended up moving to Louisiana to follow the work and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Nothing against Louisiana, but there were so many memories packed into such a short time; the adoption, friends and the vast beauty and peace of it all.  We had to find homes for our two rescue horses and rescue miniature donkey, store our belongings and then live in our camper for a while until we got our feet back under us.

This is my beloved Poncho Villa, the only one who would let the kids ride and who would often go house to house around our pasture, calling to neighbors until they brought him treats.  I admit to sobbing like a baby when he left. 

We lived in a couple of rentals until we were able to buy a place with about three acres, very much in the country, in the small town where my father grew up.  It was a tiny house; 2 bedrooms (I had to shimmy around the bed because our room was so freaking small), 1 bathroom and was right around 1000 square feet.  Tight for someone who was getting into domestic hobbies and amassing  wide range of tools for said hobbies.

It was here that I started to learn canning, gardening, plumbing and more.  I tried my hand at a massive raised bed garden, having only moderate success.  We had lots of pecan and citrus trees, so I learned to process and bake with our bounty.

catahoula garden
My beautiful garden where I learned all the evils of growing things in Louisiana, fighting every possible pest imaginable. 

We had plans drawn up for an addition, but could never find a builder to agree to come out and do the work.  It was too remote for some, and things were too busy for others.  We sold the house to a neighbor’s son and bought a place closer to town, in a neighborhood with large lots, but actual neighbors.  It was strange, yet we’ve learned to love it because we actually have great neighbors.  Whew.  And I won’t lie, being two miles from the grocery store was new to me, a fantastic convenience, but sometimes a curse.  Best of all, I’ve only had to deal with one snake here, as opposed to the countless snakes at the other house.  Win!!

Our current place and, yes, I’m still painting the garage.

We knew we needed a pool because both Jamie and I are not fans of humidity and the boys needed a way to burn summer energy.  The place we bought was at a great price with a little land and a pool, but it was a bit of a fixer upper.  At 1.9 acres, it was not wide open space, but land is strangely hard to come by down here, so it would do just fine.

Luckily, I am ADHD and was able to get right to work updating and fixing, accomplishing a ton in the last year and a half.  I’ll bore you with the details later because I know this post is approaching long novel territory, so a quick tour of the new digs will wrap things up for today.  I hope it’s a great one for you all!

The yard


The garden and greenhouse. Yes, I gave up on weeding after the stink bugs, slugs and all manner of plague drove me away, but I’m starting again.
rain barrel
Our rain collection for the greenhouse
The chicken coop my husband ingeniously built onto our existing shed.  Almost done.
Nesting closed
The nesting boxes
The door is hinged so egg collection is a breeze!





Organizing is my game

Solving the Utensil Dilemma

We all know that half of the battle in the kitchen, or anywhere in life really, is staying organized.  I’ve been a bit OCD about this for the last few years, which you are bound to pick up on if you stick with me on this journey.  With as much kitchen gadgetry as I have, it’s vital to have a place for everything.  My poor husband and boys have had to deal with many a kitchen (and whole-house) rearranging, but I am a slave to efficiency in my old age (tee-hee), so they just have to deal.

Since I have made it my personal mission to learn how to make many things myself the last few years, I usually have at least one recipe going from scratch at any given time.  This, as you may guess, uses up a lot of utensils, measuring cups and spoons and since I hate washing dishes, I need a lot of back ups.  Also, this house is due for a major kitchen overhaul, starting with drawers that are, I kid you not, less than three inches deep.  Not even deep enough to hold a ladle.  Thankfully, on one of my pilgrimages to IKEA (it’s about 4 hours away and is my happy place), I was struck with inspiration.

I decided to get all of my most oft used tools and organized them in an easy to reach fashion. so first, I purchased a curtain hanging system, and though its sounds odd, it’s perfect for utensils.


The kit comes with the anchors, wire and clips and is incredibly easy to install with just a tape measure and a drill.  I hung it above and to the rear of my stove where I can easily grab what I need and this makes things much more simple when my boys unload the dishwasher.  No more, “MOM!  Where does this go?” and if that does happen, my reply can be, “Did you forget how to read, my gifted child?”  Yes, I’m afraid my sarcasm spills over into my parenting.  It was inevitable.

Here’s the link to the product:

I feel like I have to add that I normally don’t have cardboard blocking the area between my kitchen and living room, but the back light from the sun through the windows was too bright not to block out for a picture.


Measuring Cups and Spoons Set Free From Messy Drawer Bondage!

My second idea is even easier, born out of desperation because I really needed somewhere for my measuring cups and spoons, kitchen scissors and other miscellaneous tools.  With the utensil holder working nicely, I started looking for other places to hang the essentials.

Under my low-hung cabinets where things like coffee pots and Kitchenaid mixers don’t fit was a perfect place to start.  I simply took a 1″ X 2″ piece of strapping and cut it to the length I needed to fit under my cabinets, spraying it with red Rustoleum 2X paint.  Yeah, I’m on a red kick lately.

The 1×2 is on your right and the 2×4 on the left for size comparison.

When the paint was dry, I measured and put a mark every 2 inches, then drilled a small hole, twisting in one of these little hooks found at most hardware, grocery and even dollar stores:

Any size you need will work.

I then added labels (Did I mention that I am a wee bit OCD?) so that I could keep them in order and the non-OCD trio with which I live could empty the dishwasher without going insane.

Measuring close up

The end result is awesomely efficient!  My kids can put things in their place (the husband hasn’t quite figured it out yet) and I know exactly where to grab what I need without digging in a messy drawer.  This also helps the boys when I’m teaching them to cook things and is a good excuse to play with the panoramic camera on my phone.


So there you have it for today.  Easy steps that make a huge difference.


40 Minute Burger Buns

It was sloppy joe night at our house and I realized that I didn’t have any hamburger buns.  Calling on the power of Google, I found the following recipe and they were delicious!  You can easily change the size and number of buns you make and I chose to do 8 larger buns for my crew.  They were almost too big, but still awesome.  I didn’t have sesame seeds, so I did the egg wash and used roasted garlic salt.  Thanks, Girl vs. Dough!  Hamburger Buns

These are the 8  that I made.  Don’t judge my ability to eyeball equal portions. 

40-Minute Super Soft Hamburger Buns
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons milk (for egg wash)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk yeast into warm water until dissolved. Add sugar and oil; let stand 5 minutes. Add egg, flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour to dough as needed until a smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms.
  4. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces*; shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place buns at least 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets (6 buns per sheet). Cover buns with tea towels or lightly greased plastic wrap; let rest 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover buns and brush tops with egg wash; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until buns are golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. *NOTE: This recipe makes 12 small slider-size buns. For larger buns, simply divide dough into fewer pieces and increase the baking time.

40-minute super soft hamburger buns

Lighten up, Francis

I think I need a laugh and I hope this brings you one…

I’m raising two boys and they have totally made me rethink my stance on in-home urinals.  Next house, we’re getting one.  My guys are in charge of cleaning their own bathroom, including the toilet, which is terrifying at times.

Lately, we are having a major backslide in our bathroom etiquette and nothing seems to be correcting it, so last night I designed the following poster.  It currently hangs over the back of their toilet and I’ll let you know if it works.  And, yes, I accidentally erased a comma.

toilet scare