Cooking With Whine: Half-Stuffed Zucchini

I am already overwhelmed with the amount of zucchini we have harvested. I am up to my eyeballs in it.

I did petition God to make this season more rainy. It’s all because of the watering. It can take me a good 30 minutes to an hour every morning, depending on how good we want and need to be with our plants on a given day.

Thankfully watering has been off my plate, and with all this rain, the garden bed is blowing up!


Lot’s of zucchini on hand. 

God knows I don’t find much joy in cooking. That’s the truth.

I should be better prepared, but most days I am not and end up dreading dinner time.

So I kept adding zucchini to my lentils over the last week. Then I gave some away. And then I refrigerated it. This way it’s lost in the fridge and I don’t have to cook it.

It’s not you zucchini, it’s me.

I don’t lack ideas, I lack motivation.

I have a medley of recipes for zucchini:

zucchini bread

roasted zucchini

zucchini brownies

zucchini cakes or fritters

zucchini stuffed with all sorts of meaty things

zucchini lasagna (my favorite)

I’m feeling like Bubba right about now.

Anyway, like I was sayin’, you can just grate it or slice it or cube it or whatever…. and freeze it until ready to use. lol!

All I’m saying is that the vegetable is so versatile and delicious. Especially when freshly picked from our own front yard garden.

Now I remember why I wanted it so badly!

So, I sucked it up and cooked most of it. 

I do love recipes that make and stash. The kind you can make in advance or make reserves for another day.

So this is where I took it (This recipe was adapted from Nancy Fuller):

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Put a pot of water and salt to boil. 

In the meantime brown the ground meat (I used turkey breast). No oil needed but some cooking spray won’t hurt. Or a tablespoon of olive oil if you’re worried about sticking. 


While all this other stuff is going on, remove the pulp with a basic teaspoon and turn them into little boats (mine are shown below).  Chop the pulp and set both aside for later.


Once the water has come to the boiling point, add the zucchini and allow to boil for ONLY one minute. Once removed, run cold water over it. We don’t want boats that are limp. I don’t think this is crucial for fresh zucchini but I wanted to boil my zucchini before I added it to the baking dish. All those bugs in the garden – eeew. I know, I’m weird. 

Add about 1/2 cup salsa to the bottom of the pan. Then place the blanched zucchini on top.


Meanwhile my meat has been browning. I added all the dry seasonings once the pink was gone and added the rest of the chopped veggies to my pan.


I like my onion to get some color before I add my wet ingredients.

Once I am satisfied, I add the wet ingredients and mix.


Cover pan and allow these to mingle for about 10-15 minutes. Taste for salt.

If satisfied with the flavor get ready to top your zucchini.

Depending on the size of your zucchini, you may need to top them with a 1/3 cup or more of the meat mixture. Once all are topped. 

Place a bit shredded cheddar on top of each. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. I like firmer veggies. If you would rather your zucchini be more cooked, give them another 5-10 minutes. 

And done friends!

Served this with a little side of brown rice and since I have these on hand, lots of mater & cuke salad. Garden tomatoes are the best!

Zucchini Boats
Kid approved! At least for today. 

Half-Stuffed Zucchinis

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4-6 zucchinis halves (cut lengthwise)
  • 12oz Jar mild salsa (reserve 1/2 cup for baking dish)
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey breast or ground meat of choice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp bell pepper, minced
  • 4-6 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat Mexican blend shredded cheese, for topping
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions or cilantro, for topping


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Preheat oven to 400¬įF.
  2. Using a small spoon, hollow out the center of the zucchini halves.
  3. Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini into small pieces and set aside to add to the filling, you may need to squeeze excess water with a paper towel or allow to drain in a colander for a few minutes.
  4. Drop zucchini halves in boiling water and cook 1 minute. Remove from water and run cold water over them for another minute.
  5. Place 1/2 cup of salsa in the bottom of a large 9″x13″ baking dish.
  6. Place cooled zucchini on top of salsa.
  7. Brown turkey in a large skillet, breaking up while it cooks. When no longer pink add the dry spices and mix well.
  8. Add the onion, bell pepper and reserved zucchini. Allow the veggies to cook for about 4 minutes.
  9. Add tomato sauce and water. Stir and cover, simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes. Taste for salt.
  10. Top using a spoon. Fill the hollowed zucchini boats dividing the taco meat equally, about 1/3 cup in each, pressing firmly.
  11. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the shredded cheese.
  12. Top with scallions.
  13. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through.

Buen Provecho! recipe courtesy of

Any zucchini recipes you plan to stir up this summer? Would love to know. I think I may need them ūüėČ

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Road Trips, Gratitude & Meet Doraville!

My family has always been the road trippin’ kind.

As a matter of ¬†fact, I have never been in a plane with my mami or papi. Strange probably… ¬†

When I was in high school my older sister, Carla, would announce she was in the mood to drive and we would take to the road. Somewhere with water, preferably clear water and white sand. Often a 12 hour trip would be required. One or two nights, and we would take our tanned selves back home.  

So much driving and sitting. But it was a sweet time. She spent a lot of hours patiently listening to my teenage struggles and dreams. I love her. 

Even now, our family is the get out-of-town and catch our breath kind.

Driving to destinations is still a tradition, maybe because it is what we can afford, but mostly it is what we enjoy.

These are great times for us as a family. When you’re squeezed in a car, with all the excess luggage and the kids. We talk, laugh and remind each other quiet times are needed.¬†

Years ago, we were driving back from one of our out-of-town trips, one of those 6-8 hour long trips.

Why is the return trip so hard? (Back to reality maybe)

The kind of trip where we end up wishing we didn’t have to go another hour past the perimeter (and praying their is no traffic or else it be another 30 minutes) to where we actually lived.

I guess those apartment signs you see from the highway that read: “If you lived here, you’d¬†be home by now,” really went to work on me.

Driving is not such a bad thing, Atlanta people are used to it. But the traffic can really work up a nerve. 

Still, we have to drive a lot for different activities, and Ryan for work.

Between the road trips and the regular drives, we get to visit some well to do towns. Can’t lie, I get a little jelly not because I want to live there, but because I want some of those same things for our little city. Sigh…¬†

So, my jealous eye and heart led to an exercise in gratitude, and a fun gathering of some thoughts for reasons why Doraville has been such a great city to reside in. 

So here I go!

  1. You might enjoy living here if you have a desire to live in-town, or as some would say in the perimeter (ITP), but are not sure you can stand the more populated parts of town. We stand¬†roughly at a manageable sized 11,000 people, and at a total of 3.5 square miles. But because we get so much cut thru traffic of shoppers and diners you won’t necessarily run into a neighbor at the farmers market kind of small. ¬† ¬†
  2. You might enjoy living here if you want to get just about anywhere you need to within and outside the Atlanta city limits on foot, bike, or bus. I admittedly have not gotten to enjoy this aspect as much as I’d like with three kids, and a lot of stuff to lug around. One day. ¬†
  3. You might enjoy living here if you don’t mind that mornings on Buford Highway are relatively¬†quiet. Afternoons and evenings are a beehive of activity.¬†
  4. You might enjoy living here if you are looking for these neighborhood attributes: bikeable, walkable and tree-lined safe streets. You’ll always run into friendly dog walkers, residents that simply want to take in the rays, our cities John King- Chief of Police on a run or our beloved Mayor Donna Pittman. If you are lucky all of the mentioned.¬†
  5. You might enjoy living here if you are worried about too much noise, I am always impressed at how quiet our streets are. Even though we are so close to  spaghetti junction, Dekalb Peachtree Airport and we live on a relatively busy cut thru street (a taste of country in the city right?) .
  6. You might want to live here if you are looking for affordable. We are one of the few affordable home communities with great in-town access. 
  7. You might enjoy living here if you are looking for plenty of parks and public recreation. Most of which are in the middle of getting a facelift. And it doesn’t hurt that we have easy access to other great Dekalb county parks. ¬†
  8. You might want to live here if you drool at the sight of Mid Century Modern homes. These homes will need some TLC, but need I say more? Actually I will say something else about our MCM homes. For the most part the people who live here and are recent move ins respect these old homes and are not tearing down houses to make new big outta place flashy pads. 
  9. You might want to live here because you like making friends with strangers. When you’re picking out pastries at the local bakery the person next to you tells you stories about how they grew up eating taro¬†in their baked goods, you become more appreciative that these goodies are near to you.¬†
  10. You might enjoy living here if you are not looking for walking distance to mega shopping malls. But if this is high on your must-haves list, they are a short drive away. Perimeter mall, Northlake mall, Lenox mall, The Forum, etc.   
  11. You might enjoy living here because whatever your idea of family is, we have it all. Singles. Married with no kids. Single parents, pet parents, and married with the average sized family. 
  12. You might enjoy living here because residing in a oversized home is not key to your family’s function. Most of these houses are not large.¬†
  13. You might enjoy living here if you are feeling like horchata, coffee, boba tea, a margarita, beer, or wine on a Friday night. Whatever type of drink you’re in to. You’re bound to find a place that serves it. ¬†¬†
  14. You might enjoy living here if you want easy access to the fourth meal: Tacos, Gyros, Seafood, Indian, so many scrumptious options. And just about everyone is a family owned eatery. Love ♥
  15. You might enjoy living here if you like access to a laundromats. I know most of the people who are reading this have no need for them but they are great to have around for when your washer decides to flood the house. Speaking from experience, it can happen. 
  16. You might enjoy living here if you want multiple International grocers you can walk or drive to, like carnicerias, asian grocers, indo-pak grocers, halal grocers and farmers markets.
  17. You might enjoy living here if you desire easy access to multiple highways. As in you don’t have to take multiple highways to get to most of these. And the big ones are right at our doorstep. I-85, I-285, 400. Hwy 78. Not just major highways but four lane cut thru highways like Peachtree Industrial. Lawrenceville Highway and Buford Hwy.¬†
  18. You might enjoy living here if you don’t mind taking a drive in any cardinal direction and you will find other wonderful neighborhoods to take advantage of. The closest are Chamblee, Brookhaven, Downtown Norcross and Tucker to name a few.
  19. You might enjoy living here because diversity is key in Doraville. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked at the grocery store to sniff a fruit and decide which is best to purchase – for some random stranger¬†– ha! If you don’t mind signing and having to point through a conversation with your neighbor, you’ve come to the right place!

We are not veteran residents of the area, four years is much too fresh to consider ourselves expert Doravillians. But, we are truly grateful that we ended up here.

We quickly fell in love with the area for so many more reasons we thought we ever could or would.

It’s not a hustle and bustle kind of city, people here enjoy some fun and rest. It’s just the right measure.

It’s like that friend you can take anywhere because they are not too introverted or loud and extroverted. ¬†

Hope you can take a step back and look at your place with a more grateful heart. There is no perfect.

What have you enjoyed about Doraville and it’s vicinity?

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Thinking About my Mami

Caught a sweet break this Mother’s Day weekend at Saint Simons Island.

I spent a lot of my time taking pictures of our kids playing with my new camera. And breathing in sweet and salty air. I know it’s not sweet, but it was sweet to my soul.

I also spent a lot of time reflecting. I couldn’t help thinking of my mom this past week. Not just because it was¬†Mother’s Day, but it was her birthday too.¬†

I was thinking on some things I need to get better at home. I probably spend way too much of my energy on this. I wonder if all moms deal with the same struggle.

Constantly re-arranging schedules and chore charts. Making, and making again,¬†to-do lists. Sigh…

One thing I need to work on more is my lack of cooking. I am coming clean friends, we are eating out too much.

I have this dreamy idea of cooking. As if it should be easy and always enjoyable in every way. For all that are involved. Rarely does that happen. I should now better.

I was remembering when we first married, Ryan was the cook (I am not saying the following to discredit the accolade I just gave him). He was recently out of college and hamburger helper beef stroganoff  was not gonna cut it for me until death do us part!

Maybe I was set up for failure from the beginning. Having grown up with a hispanic mom that was deeply and still is, deeply dedicated to her home. She would cringe when I would beg her for food from the frozen food aisle or for some lunchables. 

Sometimes she would reluctantly give in.

I never saw a more hard-working momma.

She managed the home like a well tuned machine. Keeping a home clean is no easy task, and without fail most days she had a nicely cooked meal made from scratch. 

She just had a way of prioritizing her home to a level I could only wish to reach one day.

Here are a few things my mami has made for us that we love: 

Even now, the thing I look forward to the most, besides her company, is her cooking. When I told her I was coming to visit her in Honduras last Thanksgiving, one of the first things she said to me was that she couldn’t wait to cook for me.

She loved us well, and that was her special way of showing it.

So I try. I can’t say I will ever be as dedicated.

May has come and is almost gone. I hope you have sweet memories of your mom.

They may not be.

I just hope that you long to one day be and show your own, whether the two-legged or four-legged variety ūüėČ what true mother hood should look and feel like.


Closing 4 Blog-2

Dampers, Lounging and Walls. Oh my!

Something you don’t think about when purchasing an old home: the living spaces don’t focus on making the television the center of the living space. Lovely!

Altering space is not for the faint-of-heart.

I mean renovating and building. Formulate it as you may, something is always bound to go wrong.

Ryan dealt with plenty of woes for the 3 months he took on this house renovating project.

It’s never over. ¬†

While we love and know we can live in this exact floor plan forever, there are times when we look at our renovated space, and realize we could have done things better to fit our needs.

Can you relate?


One thing ¬†I’ve recently figured out, is I think I am not a fireplace person. I shrink a little when I say that.

When we go camping (which I love to do), I am not a fan of smoke up my nose and eyes. And the smell of smoke all over our belongings drives me nutty. 

How about cleaning a fireplace?… Don’t make me go there. Actually, I looked it up one day. Just ugh…

Word of warning: It is not a beautifully choreographed scene from Mary Poppins ūüė¶

Good ol’ Bert

After almost 4 years in this house, we hadn’t used the fireplace until this last Christmas break.

One burn was enough for me.

I took my husbands handy shop vac¬†went to town to clean it spic and span. I’d already cleaned the entire house, to an immaculate, eat off the floor state – listen to me, so self righteous!

Well… the vacuum did not have the filter in it. Pretty important when you’re using a shop vac to vacuum ashes.¬†

Turned it on, feeling so proud of myself.

I had a tornado cloud of ashes hovering all around me. It was without a doubt, my Lucy moment. Back to square one. 

Granted it was not the fireplaces fault. Just Ryan’s for not buying a replacement filter. Sigh…

I still love the look and feel a fireplace brings. I was the one that insisted on testing it out.

I guess having something so traditional has always been fascinating to me. And I love the centerpiece it can be for a space, visually and socially. 

But let me be completely honest, I am longing for a gas log fireplace. With fake logs and no smoke. 

Don’t be offended lovers of fire wood! I once judged those people too. 3 houses with 3 fireplaces later. I’m over it!¬†

We would  keep the wood burning for camping trips and our lovely fire pit for out-of-doors. 

We had a quote not too long ago to repair the broken bricks and add a damper to the chimney, basically do an overall update to it. Just the inside part of this repair was almost $2,000.  The outside needs lots of attention too.

We’re going to wait it out until we know for certain we want to keep the fireplace.¬†

Sadly, our fireplace is falling apart and it has been daunting knowing what to do next.

We keep wondering if we should repair it, or knock it out completely?

There are a few issues present:

  • Can’t hang anything heavy over the fireplace. It’s hanging on by a thread, because it has aged, the brick sags.¬†
  • There is no damper or flue. This means a wide open chimney for the heat to escape in the winter and during the summer valuable cool air goes out. Pests meander in easily as well.
  • Rain water is getting in, even thought we have looked for ways to fix it,¬†we have started to notice mold in the past year.
  • It is simply wasted space right now.

The Living Room:

I found two lovely photographs of the living room I just had to share with you.

The photograph on the bottom left is from an advertisement for our neighborhood in House and Home magazine (not sure of the date). Below right is a lovely decorated pre-purchase photograph of our living room. Didn’t the last home owners do a lovely job?!¬†I saved the photos from their real estate listing, 2013.¬†

Definitely gets my creative juices flowing. I do wish the previous owners would have left their furnishings behind, ha! I’m thinking I need to reach them to help me re-decorate.¬†

I think Ryan wishes I didn’t have these photographs in my possession. Too many ideas flowing, ha!

Something you don’t think about when purchasing an old home: the living spaces don’t focus on making the television the center of the living space. Lovely!¬†

Really, I’m okay with that. It’s just something you don’t think about with old homes.¬†

I imagine the nook in the fireplace (shown below left), was the spot for it! 

But not for our McMassive plasma T.V.

Photograph shown below right is NOT our t.v. Ha!

Living Room Renovation:

We ended up “modernizing” the fireplace to create a wall for the T.V.¬†

Yup. For the T.V.

I can’t lie to you guys. For the T.V.

We realized hanging a television from the brick would not work, for safety concerns and wiring. 

Above you can see where we pushed back the wall to the left of the fireplace and framed it. It was all brick against brick. We also closed off a window that was floor to ceiling. 

The result of this was it made the wall flush all the way across with the entry wall, and gave us a wall that has usable sheet rock wall space. 


You see how hard I try to ignore the existence of the TV in our home, shown above. The T.V. is obviously WAY off-center. It’s an easy fix. We just rearrange the seats a touch and it’s livable.

Haven’t heard anyone say, “but, we don’t want to watch t.v. because the tv is off-center mom.” Or “video games with the t.v. the way it’s positioned? Wah…”.

No friends ūüėȬ†

A big part of me wishes there was not a television in the house at all. Sacrilegious, I know.

It’s rarely ever on during the week. The kids get it as a treat on the weekends for a few hours. Ryan and I on occasion stay up and watch something together. But most of the time I’d rather sleep or read. And don’t we already spend enough time on the computer and smartphones as it is?…

Just saying, my way of life would not be spoiled if we did not have a T.V. anywhere in the house. 

But I have yet to win this argument. I don’t suppose I ever will.

The Office:

While we are in the living space I’ll go ahead and show you the “office.”


The original space was intended for the dining room. Since we knocked down the wall in the kitchen, we were able to add the 6 person table to the kitchen space. 

Since we can not use one of the three bedrooms, we utilized this as our fully functional office space. 

Thanks for visiting!

Have you gotten a healthy dose of enjoyment from your fireplace? Any Advise you can thrown our way?

Closing 4 Blog-2

Hey Beloved Big Sister in Texas!

Do you ever feel so very excited about something that someone is going through, you could almost burst?!?!

I’ll try to hold it all in. No one wants anyone else’s bursts on their shoes. But I am so excited!!!

Last week was¬†a super special week for my big sister Aurora and her long found love, my cu√Īado, Rafael.

They bought a house!!!

My heart is bursting for them ‚ô• look at how precious this place is:

Lovely kitchen and living space above. She has stained concrete floors ♥ 

I’m gonna knit you some socks sis! Brrr…¬†

Bedroom and bathroom above. 

I am chompin at the bit to get to Texas and re-organize her life.  

And, she has less space than we do, so this means war!!! lol!

She is an outstanding big sister. 

Love you woman, I hope this new journey God is walking you both through will be an amazingly joyous one. 

My Sisters Enchiladas ūüėȬ†

So to celebrate her, and my cu√Īado,¬†I am going to cook (kind of) like my big sister.¬†

It’s also a good excuse to learn how to post recipes on WordPress ūüėč

You learn something new everyday folks! So if I mess it up, be sure to lmk.

Something like 3 or 4 months ago I asked Aurora¬†for her very popular and very delicious “Aurora’s Chicken Enchiladas” recipe.

She’s been making them since before I got married. I feel sheepish to admit that I have still yet to make them.¬†

She was kind enough to share her recipe, but as soon as I read the recipe, I thought…¬†what is this girl on?!¬†

Internal convo:

Boil a whole chicken?! 

Ugh… I can’t even handle perfectly packed chicken breasts.¬†

But this is why they always turn out so perfect, she uses a whole chicken.

That pot is too big for my little stove…

Psh… Can’t have all that going on in my tiny kitchen

She is better than me! 

And a resigned

Ugh I hate her…

Not really, but I might have thought it.

We all have staple recipes that we can make from memory. This is hers: Aurora’s Chicken Enchiladas, are hers.

Since I would never — ever– want to steal anyones recipe, wink. I modified the recipe to suit my lazy needs.¬†

And anyway, If I make it like her, she’ll think I want to copy her.¬†

See how she’s always trying to copy me…. Geesh…

Take those luscious skinless boneless chicken breast and stick them in a crock pot with a can of drained whole corn kernels and a jar of your favorite salsa, I prefer chipotle.

I love that smoky chipotle flavor.

Cook on high 3.5 – 4 hours.


Once cooked, shred the chicken in the sauce. The meat should fall apart easily. Taste for salt. Because I used jarred salsa I only added 1/2 tsp salt to the mixture.

cooked and ready to roll!

Place a cup of heavy whipping cream in a pan, do not overfill pan. And DO NOT¬†allow cream to boil. Once warmed. You’ll use this to quickly drench your corn tortillas on both sides.


Although local to Georgia, my brother-in-law works for Olé Mexican Foods in Texas.

Shout out for the awesome tortillas!!! 

Take your drenched tortilla and place flat on a dish and stuff it with a loosely measured 1/4 cup of Monterrey Jack cheese, a 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture and roll to make a lovely enchilada from it. Tortillas can be finicky and could potentially start breaking apart and make you want to curse! Just breathe and stuff them less.  

it’s messy

Place the rolled enchilada seem side down in a baking dish. Makes about 16 enchiladas, which is what a dish¬†9″ x 11″ will hold. You can make just 8 in 2 different dishes — if you want to save them for another day. Or if you are picky about not double layering them. I double layer.¬†

get them in there like a sweetly swaddled baby

With your leftover cheese and whipping cream, make a cheese sauce to top your enchiladas with. Just add the remaining cheese to the cream and simmer gently until all is mixed and melted well. 

Top enchiladas with remaining meat mixture and then cheese sauce. 

This is such a great recipe for sharing. Or not.

People in Texas¬†always do it big! ūüėȬ†

And don’t forget it’s almost Cinco de Mayo!

It lands on a Friday night too. A good excuse to make some Mexican food and margaritas and have some folks over. 

tasty stuff coming your way

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


2-3 pounds (3 count) boneless chicken breast

1-16 ounce¬†jar of already prepared¬†chipotle¬†salsa – Trader Joe’s has tasty lower sodium options.¬†

1-16 ounce can of whole kernel corn

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (reserve 1/2 cup)

16 corn tortillas

1-1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (reserve 1/2 cup)

Salt to taste

Cheese Sauce from reserved ingredients:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup Monterrey cheese


Preheat oven 375¬ļ F.¬†Clean and prepare chicken breast as desired. Pat them dry. Place in a 4 qt crock pot with a can of drained whole corn kernels and a jar of your favorite salsa.¬†I prefer chipotle.

Cook for 3.5 – 4 hrs on high. Once ready, shred chicken directly in the pot. Salt to taste.

Place a cup of heavy whipping cream in a pan, DO NOT¬†allow cream to boil. Once warmed. You’ll use this to quickly drench your corn tortilla on both sides.¬†This softens them and makes them more pliable.

Take your drenched tortilla and place flat on a plate. Stuff it with a loosely measured 1/4 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, a 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture and roll to make a lovely enchilada from it. Tortillas can be finicky and could potentially start breaking apart. Stuff them less. If you are successful they should fold over nicely.

Place them seem side down in a 9″ x 11″ baking dish.¬†

Cheese sauce: with the left over cheese and whipping cream make a delicious cheese sauce to top your enchiladas with. Just add the remaining cheese to the cream and simmer gently in the pan until all is mixed and melted well. 

Top the enchiladas with remaining meat mixture and cheese sauce.

Bake foil covered for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5-10 more minutes. I like my enchiladas with a slight crunch on top. 

Buen Provecho! recipe courtesy of


Closing 4 Blog

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Spring ūüĆļ

And we are kinda ready to start on the garden. Ryan and I were talking about starting it this weekend. We waited till after Easter last year. We feel like it was too late.

What are your thoughts?

Garden in need of love. All three beds are pretty pathetic right now

I’m glad Allie is soaking it in

lookin’ rare


almost there: medium

I think this died:

I kept reminding myself I needed to move the hibiscus in doors. A few friends have told me it will survive. Those winter days of rare warm weather threw me off kilter. This was one of the only places where the hummingbirds would stop and feast. 

We’ve probably killed hundreds of these bugs. They started invading the house through our master and we’d had enough!

first time dealing with these critters

Last year the fig tree gave us golf size fruit. It was wonderful. I hope we can do a better job of keeping the ants away. They ate a good bit of them before we could. 

fig tree is back

This hydrangea is a clipping from Ryan’s great Aunt Sarah’s house. She has the BEST garden in Chamblee. She was an urban homesteader before it ever became popular.

hydrangea is back

T making sure the apple tree is still there. I look at the trees and wonder if they’ll ever produce? I am so impatient.¬†

apple trees second year


Allie is way too distracted looking for the buzzing sound. She loves to chase down the bumble bees. No matter how many times I tell her she’s a bad puppy her hunters instinct is full force.¬†

Bumble bees are some of my most favorite things about the yard. They are so touchy. Territorial really. They buzz and chase each other out of their space. 

I wish I could train them to stop putting holes in the siding.

Okay, maybe I’ve changed my mind. I am ready for spring.¬†

And the mailbox planter is all kinds of confused.

What are your garden ideas this year?

I’m dying for okra. ¬†We had plenty of tomatoes last year but tomato without okra is almost offensive to me. I love making tomato and okra gumbo. Makes tons and keeps great in the freezer!

Closing 4 Blog-2

Home Educating: Chances Are…

A few years ago, an acquaintance¬†told me they felt like my kids shouldn’t be homeschooled. Especially not our middle daughter.

Some days I can’t figure the girl out. One moment she is¬†a personable, perfectly content, easy-to-please extrovert, and the next moment she’s an introvert who’s frightened by the smallest things. (Though things have gotten a lot better, since almost three¬†years ago when this conversation took place.)¬†

This particular person was as proud to share her two cents with me, as if she were handing me a million bucks. She continued, telling me she felt like my child was being stripped of her true self because she was staying home.

My answer was a puzzled, “You think?…” I felt taken aback. I am used to people being mystified by our desire to homeschool. Normally I am not offended by feedback; People tell me often they couldn’t handle their kids’ being home all the time. I don’t interpret this as I don’t love them.¬†I get it… some parents simply don’t have the ability or desire to stay home to teach their kids. ¬†

But that conversation with un-named ūüėČ was different. Definitely not a fun exchange¬†albeit a short one.

I try to be open-minded, really. Plus, this acquaintance was not trying to be malicious. She believed what she said.¬†But… she was young, with no kids of her own. She had never cried over sore nipples and spilled formula¬†at 2 a.m. Also, she doesn’t know my kids.¬† I do.


Granted, I don’t know what’s best for my kids 24/7.¬†(Just 14/7 while they’re awake and at least 1/7 while I am praying for them, hopefully 9/7 they are asleep and God doesn’t rest, so there you go!).

In all seriousness though, I don’t really know what I am doing, as a parent.¬†

I never wanted kids. I wanted to bartend by the beach, joke with the customers, and sunbathe every day (being hispanic doesn’t mean that I am sufficiently tanned. Ever.) I wanted to wash away my sorrows behind the bar, my safest place. To get free food from the restaurants where I worked. To hit the bar next door and sing karaoke. 

A more toned down version of the movie Cocktail. Drama, fun and more drama. Have I ever told you I love¬†my¬†Tom Cruise, sigh….¬†

I know, big goals, right? *Eyes rolling*

God had different (and better) ideas. Now I’m a Christian, wife and mother, all by his grace. Hopefully my thoughts here will help you understand why we chose to homeschool  our kids, and why it’s not as impossible as some people think.


Schooling together'16
Working together on science. Jo (3rd grade) is happy to read and help her bro (1st grade) thru the q’s and answers

So why do we homeschool?

There is no one definite answer. But here are a few thoughts:

  • We wanted a mature influence to be the primary one in our children’s lives. Enrolling them in school would place them in the primary influence of other children and unknown adults. ¬†We wanted to be the primary influence on our kids.
  • We wanted to raise responsible adults, not allowing “happy children” be the main concern. That does not mean that our children’s happiness in not important. It means that their happiness is not our ultimate goal.
  • We wanted flexibility, to be able to travel and schedule family learning experiences.
  • We wanted something affordable; private school was not a choice.¬†
  • We wanted to protect our kids from too much too soon.
  • We wanted to be there when they asked all the big questions to give them the answers that were fit for¬†their sensitive, growing brains and hearts.¬†
  • We wanted to educate our kids to be life-long, passionate learners.¬†We test, but that is not the core of what we do.
  • We¬†wanted to school in the back yard, under the massive fort, and under the dining table (because they want to read to the dog). No one can tell you can’t.¬†
  • We wanted to re-learn all those things we don’t remember, because when we parents were in school we were too busy trying to force facts into our heads or too distracted by noisy classmates.¬†
  • We wanted to be our kids’ first resource for all things. Okay, almost all things.
  • We wanted to be able to give our kids freedom in learning. They could spend a month learning about sharks or Ben Franklin. Freedom.¬†
  • We wanted our kids to be each others’ best friends. Actually, we did not know this would be the case, but it happened to work out this way. They defend each other tooth and nail. (though they have a spat or two per week for good measure).¬†
flexibility might look like leaving the country or simply visiting a loved one out of town when flights are cheaper

As you can see, there are many great reasons to homeschool. However, I would not be a good friend if I didn’t share some of the challenges we have experienced…

Things that will not happen when you homeschool:

  • Chances are, you will not be able to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. Don’t be shocked‚Ķ they will see or hear something that their little ears or eyes should not be exposed to. You’ll be there to help them, but you should be prepared.
  • Chances are, you will not have a genius in the family. Nope, sorry, no Doogie¬†Houser. Say goodbye to your plans for early retirement.
  • Chances are, they will be the most socialized kids on the block. What?! I know… Actually, because homeschooled kids are exposed to a variety of people on a constant basis, they are often more sociable than other kids. Kids personalities vary, and ultimately your children’s social skills will depend on your family dynamics and how hard you work at socializing. We have as many or more extracurricular activities than the family next door. ¬†
  • Chances are, after a while in the homeschooling world,¬†you will find there are too many opportunities for socialization. You’ll re-evaluate your schedule and life for the most important things. Don’t become a slave to socialization and miss out on the main goals.¬†
  • Chances are, you will not wake up at dawn and enjoy the quiet of the morning; someone else is always excited about what the day will bring and they will get up¬†right when you’re trying to enjoy your quiet time and coffee. One little bit will manage to squeeze their little tails on to your lap. (You tried, give yourself an E for effort.)¬†
  • Chances are, you will try homeschooling and quickly you will find out you are a mean ol witch. The first year really sucks. Maybe even the second. Sorry.¬†I remember a dear friend saying she thought she was smart, patient, loving and all kinds of good things, until she had kids. In my mind, I added:¬†and started homeschooling. Be ready.¬†
  • Chances are, you will not finish school on time. You have a whole year, right?¬†You will get discouraged. Other kids will be off for the summer but remember you took off to do other things with your kid/s while the rest of school was in session.¬†You were¬†productive. You took them to visit a sick relatives or¬†went to the aquarium on a quiet Tuesday morning.¬†You helped them to learn, in real-life situations.
  • Chances are, you can’t get away with saying,¬†“I don’t even know how they are teaching my kids this, how will I be able to teach it to them?” ¬†I hear moms make this complaint often.¬†
  • Chances are, on occasion you are going to fantasize about sending your kids off to school. You are the janitor, teacher, librarian, counselor, nurse and principal.¬†That’s a lot of responsibility.¬†
  • Chances are, if you read my background story (above), and remind yourself that I didn’t even want to have kids, you’ll feel better about yourself. Thank God He interfered.¬†

Be encouraged. You can do it!

Today I understand better why we are on this homeschooling journey. We are committed, and our experience is unique to us. It doesn’t have to look like other homeschool families’ journeys. It’s okay to co-op, to do cyber academy, tutor, do everything at home, or do part-time homeschool.

I believe the core of homeschooling is in the heart. Teach your children by mirroring honesty, integrity, respect, accountability and gratitude. And try to be an example of a person who¬†loves and understands God’s word. I promise they’ll be better off in life if you do.

If you base your homeschooling on those core principles, everything else will flow from there.

Ask yourself: do your kids feel loved and understood? Do you see them joyful in learning, sharing new things they’ve learned? Do they feel like they have your total support (within safe and logical parameters)?

Going back to my conversation with un-named, it helps me to remember that I know my kids better than she does.¬† If you don‚Äôt know your children yet, you will.¬† And by God’s good graces you will learn and relearn a plethora of other wonderful things when you homeschool.

A few weeks ago, my personable, content, easy to please, extroverted, timid daughter gave me this:


PSALM 145 has been running thru my head a lot lately.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
9 The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.

Here is great version by Shane and Shane 

Closing 4 Blog-2

Decluttering Your Life: March ūüŹ°

I gave away, donated, and a few of these items needed tossing in the trash.

  • 6 kids games, this includes un-opened fast food game and board games we don’t ever use. Or had missing parts.

  • 25 of Jo’s clothes that no longer fit.¬†

  • 36 stained, extras, old and don’t fit anymore of my clothes.

  • 2 pair of sneakers

  • 3 purses, 1 gym bag, 1 toiletry bag.

  • 5 random coloring pages (i.e. grocery store¬†coloring sheets, kids menus)

  • 2 pillow cases + 7 sheets (fitted and flat)

  • 1 little metal dish that sits around and collects dust

  • 28 birthday and Christmas gift bags. 10 Christmas bows. I guess after every birthday I hoarded these. They were mostly crushed in the bin or severely wrinkled.

You can do it!!

Closing 4 Blog-2 

Moving Walls Pt. 4: Master Closet

Finally. We are done moving walls!

Read our updated About page : I share more about how the stars aligned and we got to be in this awesome neighborhood.

Our last house boasted large closets in almost every one of the four bedrooms. Two of those were walk in. I would say that our master closet was 8′ x 10′. Don’t let me get started on the 5 other large closets that were throughout the house. Closets the likes of which Northwoodians have¬†and will probably never see (except on other turf).

If for any reason you feel compelled to envy. Don’t. Be compelled to feel sorry for us.

Imagine trying to move out of there after 6 years with growing babies, pets and life. And in to what we expected to be less than half the space. Because… you have to know every single closet was filled to the brim.

Can’t lie though, it was mighty good therapy. Like making the house extra tidy, but to a level I never want to experience again!

I am so grateful for our minivan. In it I made innumerable trips to donation sites with kids in tow. At the time Ryan was traveling 5 nights a week, when he was around the last thing on his mind was helping me purge. 

Thankfully, our marriage survived it.

For a while after we moved in to Northwoods, Ryan would ask, didn’t we¬†have this or that thing?Yes, maybe.¬†I would answer. Ahem, and go about my business.

Truth is, I am sure I threw a few things out in a most demented manner, I just wanted it all gone. 

I am so glad I did. We did not comprehend then what downsizing really meant. We’d lived in 1,500 square feet before but that was with 1 kid.

PLEASE hear me out. This is no condemnation on bigger spaces. I long for Professor Digory Kirke’s house, Downton Abbey and Pemberley. I imagine myself walking miles down endless halls with the echo of my heals and long flowy gown as my companion. No logical explanation needed. The kids hiding in closets the size of caves, and maybe loosing them for a few days. Wishful thinking.¬†

But… we came to pretty quickly. ¬†

Reflections aside:

When we first purchased our little ol’ ranch house¬†there was not a defined master bedroom. One of the rooms is slightly larger than the rest but it is definitely not a noticeably larger room.

At one point we considered making the master a larger bedroom but then we decided not to. That would mean going into the yard we love so much. Or adding another level which would cost us another house. 

Fortunately, all the rooms had wide and spacious enough closets. But we got greedy!

Since we were not going to get a new master bedroom, we took it upon ourselves to define the master bedroom by making the closet larger than the rest.

The byproduct of the larger master closet was reclaimed negative space. This allowed us to get rid of sliding doors in all the bedroom, and create open space that became more functional.

Another way to explain it would be that the closet doors went from 60″ wide bypass doors needing constant clear floor space in front of them, to 24″ wide pocket doors gaining useable wall space for furniture and beds.

Here is what we did:

We took one of the kid’s bedroom closet and we made them share it!

Genius, eh?!

The closet above¬†was roughly 68″ wide x 22″ deep (all 3 the closets measured about the same), so¬†we split it into two separate spaces.

This way¬†each kids room would preserve a closet. The closets now measure 34″ wide x 22″ deep. Brain splitting math, I know…¬†ūüėČ

So, the kids still have a closet each but it’s more the size of a large wardrobe, like this:

Well… we took the closet in the bedroom next door. The boys room.

You can see the lines on the floor of the original closets that backed up to each other. We took, what was the boys room closet and we tied it in with the one in our room, like this:


Below¬†you can see the mirrored glass doors. Don’t you love it? (being facetious) I know they are typical of the houses of this time frame, but aren’t they a pain in the rear end sometimes?!

And really ¬†I am not obsessed with looking at myself in the mirror, especially first thing in the morning ūüėĪ

Master Closet After:

We do not have a dresser in our master. We are still trying to get used to and figure out how to best organize the closet
My take away from this picture: I need to grow up and get real ladies purses. Ha!
Far left in the hanging space holds longer clothing, i.e. dresses and dress coats. No space for gowns, bummer!

Our master closet is definitely the largest closet in the house now. Yay!

Are you hater of wire shelving? Does it make you cringe?

Fact is, this type of shelving is cost-effective and flexible. It is strong enough to hold shoes and clothes. Also the removal and re-configuring of it is easier than wooden custom shelving.

It is not the nicest to look at but I am glad to know we can change it easily without burning a hole in our pockets. I can’t imagine investing in custom built-in closet style stuff because it seems like our needs have changed with every kid and at every stage. One day maybe.¬†

Ryan designed it all and re-configured it all. He did a pretty decent job. 

I am curious though ūü§Ē

I would love to hear what you’ve done with your little space to maximize it

♥ Best wishes updating your little ol’ treasure! ♥

Helen and Ryan

Read our updated About page: I share more about how the stars aligned and we got to be in this awesome neighborhood

Moving Walls Pt. 3: Bathroom and Laundry

I get the funniest look when I tell someone we only live with¬†one bathroom. Probably funnier then the looks I get when I tell someone¬†we live in 1,140 sq. feet. It might be because it’s easier to picture only having one bathroom. ¬†And¬†what they picture¬†may look like complete and total madness! hahaha…

And while the one¬†bathroom deal is a bit crazy, you would be surprised to find out that it’s not such an odd existence. A lot of families have to do it. I am from a family of 6 and we only had one bathroom most of my young life. My parents would temporarily host families and we enjoyed¬†many gatherings growing up ~ we always had an excuse to cook out and have folks over ~ one bathroom was never an issue.

Actually, I got to live in a house with more than one bathroom when I was in high school, and as¬†a married couple this is our third house. We have lived in two different 2-1/2 bath homes and we always utilized just one of the bathrooms. I figured out early on that the least amount of bathrooms we used the less amount of cleaning there was to do. It’s a clear win-win for me!

So one bathroom is not such a hard pill to swallow. But, when we purchased our lil’¬†old¬†ranch, we knew the bathroom would have to go!

Here is a little video of the before bathroom:

As you can see, the original pink tile from 1953 was still holding it ALL together. But the house had seen its fair share of owners, we know of at least four by name, one was an investor. It needed a fresh update!

One of the families that previously owned the house spray painted over the pink and as you can see, that did not end up so hot! Shown below:

I’m glad my hubs has the skills. I totally see me taking a can of primer to this. It was a good try by the previous owners. It needed something!

Our main goal was to make the one family bathroom as comfortable as possible for five, but make it fit with in the original floor plan. 

It was pretty neat to find out that after so many years there were no issues under the tile, like dreaded mold. The tile was¬†placed directly on an old school substrate of concrete and wire mesh¬†that was at least¬†1″ thick. ¬†No water gonna mess with that!

Being in the shower door business there is a constant string of people who find themselves remodeling because of the lack of protection behind the tile and/ or in a jam because of bad tile workmanship. I am nagging asking my hubby to help me put together a little post on what to expect from your tile man or lady ūüėČ to get the most out of your bathroom renovation. He was our tile guy/plumber/framer/trim guy/architect by the way. ¬†¬†¬†

So the best option was to move more walls. I shared last week about the kitchen and wall re-configuring here. But basically the space that was once the bathroom stayed. We moved walls out into the hallway and over into the old main entry. That space we took over is shown here:

Below is a photo of the old bathroom at entry. The linen closet was right outside of the room on the left. And a photo of the gutted bathroom is on the right.

Old main door getting closed off  below left. New laundry and bath walls being modified below right. 

Ryan is not a professional plumber, but he has vast experience with bathroom remodels. With that and the fact that we were practically still using the same bathroom space, he was able to confidently do all the plumbing for the shower, sink, toilet, and laundry himself. Shown below:

Then we have the issue of the laundry being in the kitchen. I wash regularly to avoid pile-ups. But try as I may, pile-ups happen. So we needed to create a space where our clothes could be placed and easily hidden from guests, and sometimes even hidden from me! The dread of washing, meh…


I am assuming this made more sense because of plumbing?  

Below: Once the walls were drywalled and plastered. You can see the large opening to the right is now the laundry, and the door to the left of that is the new bathroom door.

Here is the new laundry and bathroom after:

~word of warning: the house is not sprawling, so it was quite difficult to get decent shots. For example: I had to open the window and shoot from outside the house to get a better look at the shower glass front~

A laundry room was not going to happen with the already tight space, so we opted for a laundry closet. It is a multi purpose space for us. In the past we have utilized it to store some¬†camping gear, toys and now school books and board games. It’s that space I always rotate endlessly. I found this really useful article on the¬†Lowe’s¬†website to get your¬†creative juices flowing.

The vanity space is big enough for more than one person to use at a time. And you wont be shocked when I tell you that the¬†cabinet,¬†faucets¬†and¬†sink¬†are all from Ikea. I know, I know… I swear we look for things at other stores and it seems like Ikea is one of the few places that caters to lil’ homes like ours.

The walk in shower is roughly 41-1/2″ x 44-1/2″ of floorspace, plus the seat and step over ledge. The¬†rain shower head¬†(this is not the exact one, ours was a few hundy cheaper but the same idea) and¬†handheld fixtures, both are from¬†These are awesome for giving our Allie dog baths (spoiled puppy), and they are kid height as well so they utilize them a lot. Here’s a fun little tidbit about these, water can run from both heads at the same time! The handheld makes cleaning the shower¬†¬†way easier too.

There is a seat in the shower. It is wonderful for shaving and while I never sit down on it ~ I am just weirded¬†out about that kind of stuff¬†~ I guess it’s the next closest thing to relaxing in the tub. For the kids it’s a great place to make a race track on.¬†

There is a niche with glass shelves to the left of the shower that was supposed to be for extra towels, etc. I use it for placing decorative knickknacks, since we have a linen closet in the bathroom (below in the right hand picture).

 And here is a floor plan:


I can’t forget to¬†mention that the shower door,¬†glass shelves and mirrors came from our business, Chattahoochee Shower Doors. *I am not getting paid to advertise for them or anyone else mentioned above. When and if I do I will be sure to let you know ;-)*

While the bathroom is not completely private for several people to use at one time, we have managed just fine. The truth is, we have applied simple manners and trained the family unit that before anyone enters the bathroom we warn the others that the facilities could be temporarily unavailable. I admit, I am probably the worst at this. I am usually the one getting knocks on the door, haha! Still there are no fights.

Our kids are learning a lot from it too. They realize that everything¬†is shared, the toothpaste can’t be left smeared in the sink. That they can’t take too long out of respect that others have to use the bathroom too.

Our daughter is the best. She waits until everyone has had their turn and then she feels free to go in and take her time. No one will nag her and she won’t¬†nag others to hurry. She knows she’ll get a chance to brush her hair 100 times and stare at her pretty face as long as she wants when her turn comes. And she does… haha!

Bottom line is¬†no one is entitled to their own bathroom. At least in this house ūüėČ

♥ Best wishes updating your little ol’ treasure! ♥

Helen and Ryan