Friday, May 22, 2015

Review of "The Best" Banana Muffins

Do you ever go searching for a recipe online and get totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of recipes? I feel like I could spend hours finding what I'm looking for and it's hard knowing if a recipe is going to come out the way I want it to. I usually go for recipes with good ratings and read the reviews but even then it can feel like a shot in the dark. 

To demonstrate how different recipes can be, I decided to make three batches of banana muffins (mostly due to the fact that 14 ripe bananas were left at our house - Thanks Jenny!). Each recipe came up on the first page of googling "banana bread" and had a 5 star rating. They all had the base of bananas, eggs and flour but each one varied the rest of the ingredients pretty significantly. I made almost no modifications to the recipes. I decided to rate the muffins on appearance, texture and taste.

Recipe #1 from Basic recipe. I added mini chocolate chips to this one
  • Appearance: (5 stars) Classic banana bread muffin. These browned perfectly and came out with the classic split tops
  • Texture: (5 stars) Moist with the outside similar to the inside
  • Taste: (5 stars) These are quite rich so one muffin feels like a full meal. You can taste the banana and there is a lot of flavor.

Recipe #2 from Less butter than #1 and more flour but also includes yogurt.
  • Appearance: (4 stars) These turned out much lighter than I was expecting and a little on the hard side
  • Texture: (3 stars) Hard on the outside and a little dry on the inside which was surprising with the addition of the yogurt.
  • Taste: (4 stars) Much blander than #1 but still had a good banana flavor. They were even better with a little butter on top.
Recipe #3 from This is the low-fat version of the banana muffin. It doesn't have any butter or oil in it and replaces it with applesauce
  • Appearance: (3 stars) These look like they have oats in them but they don't. I think the lumpy look came from the applesauce (I used chunky)
  • Texture: (3 stars) Very moist... almost too moist
  • Taste: (4 stars) These taste really good but the texture and flavor don't fully pull off the banana muffin. Great alternative if you are looking for a low fat muffin but definitely not traditional

Overall, Recipe #1 was the clear winner. The thing that surprised me the most about this little experiment was the drastic difference in appearance of the three muffins with them all starting with a similar base. All of them tasted good and would be a decent muffin on it's own but once you start comparing, it's crazy how different they can be.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Trimming the Peninsula

We often get to the point in a project where the function is 100% there but the finishing details are missing. Then we just get used to how it looks and don't finish... until we have to.

This was the case for our peninsula in our kitchen. Everything worked but we never finished the trim. There was no way we were listing our house with this unfinished so I spent a couple of days finishing things off. I cut down some scrap wood into blocks that I could wrap the bottom and top of the posts with.

This gave me a base that I could work off of. Then I added trim to the top and bottom of the blocks.

Cutting down and mitering the corners of all this trim took forever but it was definitely worth the time. Even with just the trim up things were looking better.

You can see at this stage that I didn't worry too much about gaps or making the corners perfect. This will all be taken care of with caulk and paint.

Next up was the baseboard around the peninsula. This was so much faster to install since it required a  lot fewer cuts. I wrapped the baseboard around the side once again not worrying too much about gaps or corners.

Things went from rough looking to almost finished with a round of caulk. I love how this step really makes any little flaws disappear.

A few coats of paint latter and it looked like the trim had always been there. It makes a huge difference and it's one of those things that we ask ourselves why we didn't do it ages ago.

With everything back in place, you wouldn't notice that we did anything but it totally would have stuck out like a sore thumb if we had left it as it was.

One more thing crossed off the never ending finish list!

Do you have little things on your to do list that once you do them, you can't believe it took you so long to get to it?

Monday, May 4, 2015

"A Pool!?"

We have a new obsession in the house that I feel it is necessary to document. With the added mobility, skill and talkativeness that Will has, it has become an almost daily event that is pretty darn adorable. I'll let Will, the pictures and the videos do the talking since I would not be able to do it better.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Never-ending Shower Stall Story

Less than a year ago, we thought we had finally conquered the grout issue in our master shower. Well, less than 6 months later, things were back to a pretty gross state. Really the grout itself wasn't in very bad shape but the new caulk was looking moldy. 

Since things were looking less than stellar and all of other fixes weren't working, we decided to have the whole shower re-grouted a sprayed before we listed the house. We found someone local that would do the shower for $550 which I initially thought was a bit steep but then I thought it was a steal when one guy ended up spending 11+ hours in one day completely overhauling the grout situation.

Since it's a pretty small bathroom and I didn't want to get in the way, I only got these couple of shots when he took a break. This is 3 or 4 hours in and he had just gotten all the caulk removed. Apparently, this was the biggest issue. There was so many layers of caulk that it was easy for bacteria and gross stuff to get trapped.

The second issue was the cracks in the grout in the bench and floor. The tiles on the bench popped off so he had to reattach them and surprisingly, while there was some extra moisture under the tiles, everything looked in really good shape (we were fully expecting mold/structural issues).

Over the rest of the day, he removed all of the grout, cleaned everything up and re-grouted the stall. He grouted all the corners so there would be no caulk in this shower to mold up and cause issues.

Everything looked so good after he finished grouting the we nixed the idea of spraying the shower. The majority of the grout dried in a day or so but due to the extra moisture behind the tiles, some grout lines were being really stubborn about drying.

We ended up running a dehumidifier in the shower for about a week at which point things were looking pretty awesome.

The last thing I did was I went over every seam with grout sealer. This should help protect the shower from water going through the grout lines and keep things looking this good for much longer!

So that finishes up the overhaul on this bathroom. We are in this state where it's much more pleasant to use this room but we kinda don't want to use it and mess it up. If you want to see everything else we did in this room, follow the links below!

Installing the tile wall
Repurposing the mirror into two smaller mirrors
Repainting the vanity
Installing the floor
Installing new lights

Friday, April 24, 2015

Master Bathroom Lights

We're still on the master bath today. For some reason, someone really liked these huge (ugly) fluorescent lights since they were in multiple spots in the house. The one in the Master bath was the only survivor... until a couple of weeks ago. 

These lights are generally held up with a few screws so I popped it off in the hopes that the light box would be in a good spot to put a new light over the sink. Instead, I found no light box at all. They just drilled a hole through the drywall and stuck the wires through... bad contractor.

The good news was that the hole was directly above the sink so Nate drilled out a new, larger, hole so that we could install a retrofit light box (link to similar one we used) and properly install new lights. Since we were replacing a huge light with a much smaller one, we decided to add another light above the second mirror. This required drilling a second hole, another light box and running a new wire from the old light to the new one.

Since most lights, especially vanity lights, are meant to be installed on a vertical wall, it took some hunting to find lights that would work being installed on the ceiling. I liked the modern look of the ones in this remodel but all version similar that I found were over $100 a piece. I finally found similar ones at Lowe's by Style Selections that were close enough for our purposes. At $35/piece they were perfect for a bathroom getting a quick facelift.

Nate installed the new lights and the lighting is sooo much better. We did have a slight issue with a Lowe's sales person refusing to sell him soft white bulbs because it would ruin Will's eyesight (he literally had them all hidden) but after talking to a manager we got our soft white light. It's so nice not having a ton of harsh light in this small room.

This is my best attempt to get a full shot of the newly designed wall. It's a hard room to shoot so use your imagination :)

If you want to see everything else we did in this room, follow the links below!

Installing the tile wall
Repurposing the mirror into two smaller mirrors
Repainting the vanity
Installing the floor
Re-grouting the shower stall

Friday, April 17, 2015

Master Bath Floor

I've mentioned before how I really don't love our master bathroom. Well, with the sale of our house coming up, we decided to finally do something about it. I've already shown you how we took down the builder grade mirror and replaced it with a tile wall. We repurposed the mirror into two smaller mirrors and repainted the vanity. The next thing that needed an overhaul was the floor. 

Before we owned the house, there was a leak in the shower. It was fixed but left a lot of water damage on the wood floor surrounding the shower. This made it look horrible and feel wonky.

We went back and forth a lot on what we wanted to do with the floor and finally landed on vinyl tile. I know what you're thinking, but vinyl tile has come a really long way in the past few years... all the way to wood.... at least a wood look a like.

This stuff is gorgeous and it is even textured so that installed it looks like hand scraped wood. It's amazing and since it's vinyl, you don't have to worry about the water in the bathroom damaging the floor. Win-Win.

Oh, and you probably noticed that our old wood floor turned grey. Remember the wonkiness? Well we didn't want that to transfer to the new floor so we mixed up a bag of self-leveler and poured it out on the floor. It worked wonders and we checked with the Lowe's guy... you can install the tile right over the self leveler.

We used similar peel and stick tiles in our last house with grout. This time, I didn't want any seam lines so everything was installed flush with the other tiles.

This stuff is so easy to install. You measure the length of the space and then use a utility knife to scour the front side of the tile at the right length. You can then just snap the tile and it breaks to the right length. Peel off the back paper, stick it down and apply some nice firm pressure. That's it!

I alway put the cut edges towards the wall since we used quarter round to finish the trim. That way, if you don't get a perfect cut, it really doesn't matter. Also, if you scour the back of the tile and snap it, you can damage the front of the tile... like peel off a huge chunk of the vinyl.

For this bathroom I used less than one box of tile. We used Style Selections 6″ wide antique woodland oak luxury plank from Lowe's which we got for $1.19/sq ft. With the self leveler, we spent about $70 on the floor.

It took me about 2.5 hours to lay the entire floor after the self leveler was dry. You can see how the edges aren't perfect before the quarter round trim went in but then you can't even tell after. We caulked and painted the trim, added a new threshold, reinstalled the toilet and that was it!

We love the look of the new floor and it makes the bathroom feel new and clean.

What do you think? Are you team pro vinyl or con?

If you want to see everything else we did in this room, follow the links below!

Installing the tile wall
Repurposing the mirror into two smaller mirrors
Repainting the vanity
Installing new lights
Re-grouting the shower stall

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Two Years Old

Our little guy turned two about two weeks ago. Just like last year, my schedule was super crazy and so this year I didn't get a big party planned. We had cake and presents spread out over a few days and some playdates with friends instead. 

We can't get over how much Will has changed even in the past year. He's just like a little man now and sometimes we have to remind ourselves he's only two (when he's throwing a fit) and other times we are astounded by how much he's able to do and notice.

Right now I'm:
  • Loving to read Hungry Hungry Caterpillar and Giraffes Can't Dance
  • Dancing to the Hokie Pokie, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, I'm a Little Teapot and If You're Happy and You Know It
  • "Singing" Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Old McDonald 
  • Watching Curious George and Thomas (and can say both names)
  • Obsessed with yogurt (and can say it)
  • Always asking to "wash??" (wash his hands)
  • Saying my name (with a bit of a southern accent so it sounds closer to wheel)
  • Loving the pool and will go get a swim diaper and take off my clothes when I want to go swimming
  • Always asking "outside, bubbles??" to go blow bubbles
  • Saying "bless you" if you sneeze 
  • Asking if everyone is ok if I fall down (OK Mamma? OK Dada? OK Will.)
  • Insistent that we go "that way?" in the car, always pointing in the direction of the park (how he always knows the right way I have no idea)
  • Climbing everything ... loving the rings and pull up bar at Crossfit... doing somersaults 
  • 28 lbs (51%), 35" tall (75%) and almost has the same size head as Mommy

After 24 posts with little Will updates, we're going to start spreading them out a bit. I haven't decided if they will be every six months or every year but it's going to be less frequent. I'll probably decide when he's hit enough new milestones for me to want to document.