Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

Painting Trim – Low Cost House Update

Painting trim. Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? It didn’t to me. Home improvement projects are one of those areas I have no skills in and my husband and I have to learn as we go. In fact, all things decor and home styling I know nothing about. It’s one of those areas I like to use much more talented friends’ and family members’ brains for.

Painting Trim - a low cost house update that makes a HUGE difference in your home's look.


So, as much as I disliked the idea of painting all the woodwork in our home, after consulting with much more talented people we decided to go for it. Besides, our house has limited natural light and the original wood trim made it feel darker than it was.

Painting Trim - a low cost house update that makes a HUGE difference in your home's look.

One thing that made the decision a little easier is the fact that it’s just paint so it would be a budget friendly update. So many house updates seem to cost multiple thousands of dollars and since we just finished replacing all our windows, painting trim was a little easier on the savings account.

We are newbies when it comes to this process, but I wanted to share what we did and the products we used for painting trim to help you jump start your research.

Process for Painting Trim

Sand the woodwork.

I used a coarse sandpaper and went over all the baseboards, door frames, and windowsills.

Wipe down the baseboards.

I used a damp rag and wiped off all the wood.


My husband happens to love taping, so he taped all the walls. I can’t stand taping and would rather just paint carefully and wipe off the wall if needed. The problem with tape is that you’ll have more touch up work to do – removing tape almost always leaves some places messed up.

We also have carpet in our home so we bought a paint shield/trim guide to put under the baseboard. You can also use it in place of tape around the walls.


Two coats of Kilz primer. We followed the instructions on the can and let dry at least an hour between coats.


You’ll have to decide if you are going to use an oil based or latex paint. This article goes over some of the differences. We have friends who used oil based and love it and it’s actually more durable. We went with latex simply because the drying time is way less and the fumes aren’t as strong and know that we’ll periodically have to touch up the woodwork. So if you use latex, know that you will have to touch up periodically and also buy the highest grade you can.

Going from brown wood to white trim required good paint even after we primed. After returning one kind-of paint (cheaper) and consulting with an employee at Lowe’s, we purchased Valspar Signature.  Two coats were needed in most areas. The paint required a longer drying time of 6 hours. I used the paint shield/trim guide and put the metal edge under the baseboard as best I could to make sure to coat the wood well and keep the paint off of the carpet.

Touch Up.

This is the tedious part because you are so ready to be done. At least we were. And actually, we still have touch up work to do. But after all the painting is done and tape removed (if used) it’s time to go around and touch up the places paint peeled off or got on the wall.

Painting trim. With three young children and our regular jobs it was definitely a lot of work and took longer than we wanted. However, now that it’s done, I’m so glad we did it. I even wish we did it years ago. The walls colors pop (and even look completely different in some rooms) and our home is so much brighter.

Painting Trim - a low cost house update that makes a HUGE difference in your home's look.

You might have noticed from these pictures we also updated our doors. I’ll cover that in another post and share how my husband did that project.

Do you enjoy painting? Do you have any tips to share as we move on to our next house project (most likely the bathrooms)?

Painting Trim - A low cost house update

Menu Plan

Okay, so guess what? Life hasn’t slowed down and I still haven’t gotten in a good habit of blogging. I think I’m just going to have to make myself start. We have had more fun visiting others in my family and are still going to make another trip to see the rest of them.

Our menu lately has been kept super simple and not that exciting, but sometimes easy is just what you have to do. Leftovers have been a lifesaver. Cooking once and eating 2 or 3 times? I’m all over that. Life has been crazy enough that I’ve had to choose not to stress over making boring meals and not eating as healthily as we normally do.

This week’s suppers are consisting of:

Our menu plan this week is easy and full of leftovers - just what I need!

A new deep dish pizza cooked in the cast iron skillet we tried last week! Pretty yummy but New York and brick oven pizza is still more my thing.

Lunches are bean and cheese tortillas with apples and cucumbers.

Breakfasts are:

  • Fruit
  • Plain Yogurt and Granola
  • Eggs

See, I told you! No gourmet cooking happening around here. Sometimes it’s okay to take a break and do less and the weather kind-of, sort-of feeling fall like makes me happy because it means soups and we all know that soup leftovers are the best! Mexican, split pea, and potato sausage have all made an appearance in the last few weeks.

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday

Summer Recap

We have entered back to school week in our part of the country. My kids are still under school age and we aren’t doing any formal teaching this year. I decided to get in on the action of heading back anyway by jumping onto the blog after what ended up being a summer break.

This girl loved every minute she spent on her first trip to a beach of any kind since she was a baby! Her brother, not so much. 

It’s seems that once you get out of a routine, it’s really hard to get started again. I see this play out in my life in things like exercise, Bible studies, and blogging of course. Time gets filled up with other things and it takes work to carve it back out again.

When it comes to blogging I figure summer are busy for every and people spend less time reading blogs and browsing Pinterest anyway. Vacations, family, and kids’ activities take up a lot of time. Now the world is heading home and attempting to start up a new routine.

This lake. It’s gorgeous, peaceful (unless there’s a storm, I imagine), and brings up so many happy memories. So much fun to go back!

Our big trip for the summer was to visit my sister and her family in Minnesota. It was amazing and coming back home was brutal. The temperature difference between Minnesota and Oklahoma is pretty drastic and made me wish for a summer home some place much cooler. We spent time at the beach on Lake Superior, hiking to a waterfall in Wisconsin, catching up with both of my parents’ extended families , and of course hanging out at my sister’s house with her adorable kids!


And being in a town with a Chick Fil A meant we could dress up for some free food!

This fall we’ll take a trip to Texas and a weekend trip to Arkansas to spend time with the rest of my family but we are waiting for the weather to cool off a tad. :-) Yes, I am a wimp.


Coolest park ever! This one only section. 

In the meantime, we are working on getting in a routine of working my my oldest on her reading. She’s made good progress the past couple months and I’m excited for the world of books to be opened up to her. Hopefully, I can find a blogging routine of some sort to get back into that as well. This is a start, right? A blogging schedule would probably help, but you know – baby steps! Maybe that will happen one of these days.

I hope that your summer has gone well and that the transition back to school goes smoothly!

First Game for Toddlers

The best first game for toddlers! My kids both love this game - no small pieces or game boards to destroy so it's the perfect game for small kids!

Toddlers and games don’t really go together well in our house. My 4 year old daughter loves to play from her stash of games but if 2 year old brother is awake, everything is guaranteed to be destroyed.

Games pieces, puzzles, cards, boards are all colorful novelty items that are calling out their attentions. Games have become for mornings before he’s awake, naptimes, and after he’s gone to bed in our house to save lots of fights and tears.

There is one game that our two year is learning to play. It’s actually the best first game for toddlers. Our oldest got it when she turned two and picked up on it quickly and now our second is learning (or attempting anyway). It’s even on my list of gift ideas for a 2 year old.

The best first game for toddlers! My kids both love this game - no small pieces or game boards to destroy so it's the perfect game for small kids!

It’s super simple but that’s what our 2 year old needs. Carefully moving pieces around a board just isn’t going to happen. Plus, it involves throwing a big plush cube (and throwing is is favorite thing to do). There’s no winners – you just take turns tossing the cube and picking up a color card that corresponds with the color on the top of the cube and you all do what it says.

The best first game for toddlers! My kids both love this game - no small pieces or game boards to destroy so it's the perfect game for small kids!

Not terribly exciting for the adults but it’s fun to see the kids excited. Our 4 1/2 year old still enjoys playing it with her brother even though it’s way too easy for her. Right now on Amazon it’s almost $20 – look for it used or wait for the price to drop because that seems a little too pricey for me. But then again, you know I like to save money.The best first game for toddlers! My kids both love this game - no small pieces or game boards to destroy so it's the perfect game for small kids!

If you are crafty, you could even sew a cube and draw instructions onto different colored papers.

But for those of us with no skills whatsoever, this game works great! Once they are ready to move on to slightly more advanced games, my 4 year old has several other easy ones to recommend that we’ll have to share soon!

The best first game for toddlers! My kids both love this game - no small pieces or game boards to destroy so it's the perfect game for small kids!

Linking up to these fun parties!

Easy Summer Menu Plan

It’s Monday again! Having a menu plan and taking some time to prep on the weekend always helps the work week go more smoothly. This week’s shopping trip was easy – restock on a few fruits, lettuce, and eggs and we are good to go.

Our easy (and mostly oven free) menu plan for our family of 4 including two kiddos!

Last week’s personal pizzas (that we made big enough for two meals) on the grill. This is mine with tomatoes, olives, zucchini, and green and yellow onions with olive oil for sauce.

I’m dubbing this the summer of salads. They are great for keeping the oven off, prepping in advance, and being healthy and easy. We are doing two different supper salads this week and just because I haven’t been inspired by anything else Shaun and I are sticking with our lunch salads.

I guess we aren’t lacking in the vegetable department. I keep a bag of cooked beans in the freezer that are perfect for adding to my salad at lunch time. Supper salads tend to be more substantial and the lunch ones just veggies thrown together.

Our easy (and mostly oven free) menu plan for our family of 4 including two kiddos!


One of my very favorite salads that we also had last week. Greek salad with tzatziki sauce. Yum!


  • Grilled Bone-In Chicken, Watermelon, Broccoli, and Bread
  • Ranch Style Bean Salad (Salad with a Tex Mex flare) x 2
  • Salad with grilled chicken (leftover from Sunday’s supper) x 3
  • Grilled Bratwursts, Broccoli, Watermelon, and Bread

Our easy (and mostly oven free) menu plan for our family of 4 including two kiddos!

It doesn’t get much easier than this. Especially if you cook up extra chicken and have watermelon left for later in the week.


  • Olive Oil Pasta
  • Ranch Style Bean Salad (Salad with a Tex Mex flare) (so we’ll have this a total of 3 times)
  • Salads x 5 for Shaun and me
  • Leftover pasta, bread, veggies etc x 5 for the kids


  • Eggs x 3 (Shaun and me)
  • Blueberry Pancakes for my daughter on the egg days
  • Oatmeal x 7 for my 2 year old – his favorite breakfast food
  • Smoothies x 2
  • Biscuits x 2

Except for the biscuits, this week’s menu is oven free.

If you are looking for some fun side dishes to use for grilling, check out this great list:

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

What are you eating this week?

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday


Healthy Side Dishes for Grilling


Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

There is just something delicious about supper from the grill. Our grill has been fired up multiple times a week lately and we are nearing 4th of July weekend where I think the majority of the country will be throwing some meat on the grill or packing a picnic.

The meat is the easy part – add some marinade or rub and you are good to go. Figuring out side dishes for grilling is where the problem comes in. Especially if you want healthy sides!

Don’t worry, I’ve rounded up a great list of 26 healthy side dishes for grilling! These would make the perfect addition to your next grilled supper – in fact, there are enough real food options to keep you going all summer.


Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Garbanzo Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Red White and Blue Fruit Salad

Patriotic Taco Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Broccoli Salad


Simple Potato Salad with Thyme and Olive Oil

Potato Salad

Texas Caviar


Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Homemade Guacamole

7 Layer Taco Dip

Healthier Cheese Dip (No Velveeta)

Homemade Salsa

Strawberry Peach Salsa

Easy, Delicious Hummus

Veggies, Beans, and Potatoes

Citrus Grilled Asparagus Final copy

Citrus Grilled Asparagus

Homemade French Fries Better Than Fast Food

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Maple Baked Beans

Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes

Easy Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Potatoes with Rosemary and Smoked Paprika

Asparagus and Peppers

Oven Roasted Corn

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

What are your favorite real food side dishes for grilling?

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Linking up to these fun parties!

Easy Menu Plan

Easy menu plan for our family of 4. Leftovers are amazing and one of my favorite salads is on the menu!

The entire radio station staff had to work 12 hours Saturday at an annual kids event they do. Thankfully, they gave everyone the day  off Monday so Shaun doesn’t have to work today! My day at work will be quieter because I will be kid free and Shaun has plans to tackle some yard work and maybe take the kids on a trip to the park.

One of my favorite salads is making an appearance on the menu this week. The Greek salad is fairly easy and so tasty – in fact, we are having it 3 nights in a row! It’s one of those dishes I don’t get tired off – creamy tzatziki sauce, tangy feta, olives, and chicken all combined into a delicious lettuce salad.

I think that except for the lemon bars I made per my husband’s dessert request for father’s day, everything is oven free this week. We’ll see if I can find ways to cut on on stove usage too.


  • Father’s Day: Steak, broccoli, chip & salsa, and lemon bars
  • Greek Salad x 3
  • Pizza x 2
  • Leftovers/Snacky Supper


  • Leftovers
  • Schlotsky’s using our free sandwich coupons
  • Salads x 5 for Shaun and me
  • Spaghetti x 5 for the kids


  • Smoothies x 3
  • Eggs x 3
  • Blueberry Pancakes from the freezer x 3 (for my 4 year old- she’s still not eating eggs)
  • Oatmeal x 7 for the 2 year old. Oatmeal and fruit are the only things he wants for breakfast
  • Yogurt with frozen blueberries and mango pieces

What’s your favorite salad?

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday


Cooking for Preschoolers

Great cooking ideas for preschoolers! These semi-independent ideas will keep your kids busy and you'll have a kid friendly dinner or treat out of it too.

Photo Credit & license

Semi-independent cooking for preschoolers is a great way them to learn new skills and it also has them doing something useful. Kids feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment when they help you.

Kids in the kitchen also serve another purpose. It’s the perfect thing to occupy and keep them busy on those days it’s way too hot (or freezing) to go outside and they’ve already gone through reading, art projects, and building. These cooking ideas/projects for preschoolers are all things that should keep them occupied for a while so don’t rush; let them take their time .

Some of the items on this list of things your preschoolers can make or prepare in the kitchen will require a little more supervision and some are more time intensive but your kids will love them all.

There’s one thing you are going to have to do to make this successful, and it’s not always easy. For whatever your child is working on – leave your expectations at the door! Their foods doesn’t have to (and most likely won’t) look perfect. If they are being safe, sanitary, and having fun – let them be! You want to them to enjoy and want to help in the kitchen. Eventually they’ll be able to cook entire meals but if you make them dread stepping into the kitchen it might not happen.

  • Bread Sticks – Garlic and Cinnamon
  • Homemade Personal Pizzas
    Make up a batch of dough and sauce and have your kids help grate the cheese, cut up vegetables, cook meat and then give them a wad of dough and have them go at creating their own pizza.
  • Homemade Pretzels (It’s okay if they don’t end up in the perfect pretzel shape)
  • Bread (or roll) Dough in Creative Shapes.
    Have the kids assist with putting the ingredients for your favorite yeast bread in the mixer and after its first raise let them have at shaping it into artistic shapes – it could be blobs, hearts, people, rabbits, turtles etc. They’ll love it plus it will take them a while. It’s almost like playdough you can eat.
  • Mini Cinnamon Rolls
    Give your kids a small sections of dough to work with at a time. They will roll out a small rectangle of dough, spread with butter and then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. If the rectangle is small enough, they should be able to roll it up themselves. They can then use kitchen scissors or a knife to cut into rolls.
  • Roll Out Sugar Cookies
    I really don’t enjoy decorating these cookies but my 4 year old LOVES to frost and decorate for hours. The most time consuming part (especially if the kids are helping) is rolling and cutting out the dough. To make things a little simpler, you roll out and bake the cookies and then they can do the decorating. (Or just save them a small amount of dough to roll out and you do the rest) When it comes to decorating, we just set out a couple little dishes are icing and put topping options into small bowls of some sort and she has at it.
  • Fruit Salad
    Great practice for those cutting skills. If you pick soft enough fruit they might be able to manage washing and cutting everything and you’d have an easy side dish all ready for supper. (Or turn it into dessert and have your child whip some heavy cream to go on top)
  • Mini Fruit Pizzas
  • Fruit Art
    Wash grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, slice up some bananas and whatever else you want. Mini marshmallows would also be a fun addition. With toothpicks they could make some cool grape sculptures and maybe even they could connect them together like people or animals or give them a plate and they can arrange the fruit into fun scenes.
  • No Bake Peanut Butter Bees
    This recipe uses graham cracker crumbs or use this healthier recipe with honey, peanut butter and powdered milk.
  • Veggie Pizza
    Prebake your pizza crust and after cooled let the kids spread it with softened cream cheese and top with assorted veggies that they helped wash and chop. Season with salt, pepper, herbs etc.
  • Salad Bar
    My kids always fight over tearing, washing, and spinning the lettuce. They can also help prepare and put all the other ingredients into bowls: Veggies, seeds & nuts, cheese, beans, meat, hard boiled eggs, etc.
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Homemade Muffins
    My daughter enjoys helping make the muffins and loves putting the batter into the muffins tins. We like to do the mini muffins. Sure, the pan needs wiped down before it goes in the oven but it’s good practice.
  • Cupcake Decorating
    Like with the cookies have dishes or frosting, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, fruit etc to use to decorate.
  • Cookie Dough Balls for the Freezer
    Make a double or triple batch of cookie dough with their help and then they can roll the dough into balls and line on a rimmed baking sheet to go into the freezer. After frozen, they can transfer to a zipped  food storage bag.
  • Angel Food Cake Trifle
    Make an angel food cake and after cool the kids can tear it into bite sized pieces, make whipped cream, slice strawberries and layer it all together in a serving bowl.
  • Parfaits
    Use yogurt, pudding, or whipped cream and layer in glasses or bowls with fruit, granola, chocolate etc.
  • Sandwiches
    Let the kids make mini sandwiches on little pieces of bread (or use cookie cutters on big pieces) and they can assemble little sandwiches for a fun picnic lunch or tea party.
  • Tacos
    Another great and easy meal with lots of prep the kids can be involved in. They can also help make homemade salsa.

Pick a couple projects a week and by the end of the summer your preschooler will be a little expert in the kitchen and you will have filled up many otherwise long, hot afternoons with fun, educational, and useful preschool kitchen projects!

Great cooking ideas for preschoolers! These semi-independent ideas will keep your kids busy and you'll have a kid friendly dinner or treat out of it too.


Photo Credit & license

Menu Plan

Every time I turn on the oven or stove I wonder what I’m doing, Saturday especially. By the time our company was over for butter chicken, naan, broccoli, and cookies I was ready to swearing off cooking inside until the fall. The rest of the menu isn’t too bad as long as I decide to do the pizza on the grill. (We love how it tastes, but it does add another small step.)

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!

Our taco salad from last week in a homemade shell!

Our lunch standard is salads for Shaun and myself and then plan one or two things for the kids to eat over the week days. It keeps things simple and the planning is easy.

My 4 year old is a good eater but after eating things for months, she gets a little burnt out on them. pancakes have been on her not favorite list for months now, but she’s been getting a little tired of eggs and requested pancakes again. I made a single batch up, so we’ll see if she actually eats them this week. Shaun and I will stick with eggs and smoothies and I made up a batch of yogurt we can use for breakfast or snacks.

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!


If you like Indian food, these are must try dishes! If you’ve never had Indian food before, these are great dishes to try. It’s one of our go to company dishes and it always loved.

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!


  • Homemade Pizza x 2 (maybe on the grills)
  • Ginger-Sesame Salad x 2
  • Butter Chicken and Naan
  • Grill
  • Nachos


  • Leftover Pizza
  • Leftover Butter Chicken
  • Homemade Mac and Cheese x 5 for the kids
  • Salads x 5 for Shaun and me


  • Eggs x 3 or 4
  • Smoothies x 2 or 3
  • Blueberry pancakes for my daughter per her request
  • Oatmeal for my 2 year old (he won’t touch eggs and wouldn’t even try the pancakes – at least his request is easy)
  • Yogurt

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday

Easy Menu Plan

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these! Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on menu planning but life has been busy and we’ve been keeping things pretty simple around here. I just finished my grocery shopping and planning and decided to go ahead and share it with you guys.

Summer is here. I’m seriously thinking about doing a summer of oven free and minimal stove usage meals. Yummy salads every night and smoothies for lunches? It would work for me (and save a lot of time) but I don’t know what the family would think about that. At least this week’s menu does a pretty good job of not heating up the house.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash! This easy breakfast in a skillet is super flavorful and with approved chorizo is even Whole30 and Paleo approved! Need to try this right away.

Monday-Friday my husband and I have salads for lunch and the kids eat something different – we do things like sandwiches, a big pot of mac and cheese for the week, leftovers from the weekend, snacky lunch of fruits, veggies, and whatever else we come up with. Then they just have some of the salad veggies along with their lunch.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done a “real” shopping trip. If I was thinking I would have snapped a picture of my fridge before and after. But let me tell you, when the only produce you have left is a couple handfuls of grapes and you are out of dish soap you know it’s time to get it done. It’s nice to be stocked up on produce once again!



  • Salads x 5
  • Leftovers, sandwiches, etc. x 5 (for the kids)
  • Taco Salad with salsa
  • Schlotzsky’s (when our Schlotzky’s opened a few months ago we were one of the first people there and got a card for a free sandwich a week for a year – so this is our lunch every other Saturday)


  • Nachos (load it up with veggies to increase the “health factor” but I love some easy meals on the weekends especially when there is lots going on)
  • Taco Salad (made enough for two meals)
  • Grill
  • Mexican Sausage Rice x 2 (new recipe)
  • Butter Chicken x 2

What are your favorite oven free (even stove free if you have them) recipes?

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday.