{Bucket List} Roast a Turkey a la Alton Brown

Baking and cooking is one of my greatest joys. Being able to serve my family and friends fills my heart up with happiness. Experimenting in the kitchen is another one of my favorite hobbies. My husband, Nicolas and I have a saying in our house, if said experiment fails to epic proportions: We can always order pizza. Luckily, we’ve only had to do this once. I actually blocked out what it was that failed so that part is irrelevant.

I volunteered to do The Turkey for Thanksgiving last year. I was ready. I practiced roasting whole chickens, which I was able to do successfully. I knew that this could be step one to a successful turkey roast. However, life doesn’t always go as planned (go figure!) and I ended up in the ER on Thanksgiving and was unable to fulfill the Julia Child in me and roast a darn turkey.

Come Easter time…. I still had a frozen turkey taking up precious real estate in the freezer. Not only did I want to get rid of it but I also wanted to tackle a great feat and bucket list item. Enter frozen Butterball.

I decided to turn to my most trusted cook – Alton Brown. I have friends who have made his turkey in the past with success. However, the list of ingredients is daunting to say the least. It also includes brining… sayyy whaaaa?!

Five days before Easter, I commissioned Nicolas to get a 5 gallon bucket from Lowe’s for me so that I could brine the turkey. Three days before the feast, we removed the turkey from the freezer and placed it in the fridge to thaw.


Scrumptious, eh? (Kidding).

Next, you make the brine. This consists of an uber amount of salt, water, ice, some more water, peppercorns, vegetable stock, light brown sugar, candied ginger, and allspice berries. I didn’t have the latter two so I nixed them…


Once the brine is brought to a boil, ya let it cool off for a bit to release some of the heat and anger (not really). Once it comes to room temperature, place it in the fridge until you are ready to brine the young bird.

I started the brining process about 24 hours beforehand. Once the turkey is thawed, place it in your big ol’ bucket (breast side down) along with it’s new besties – ice, water, and brine mixture. Let that sit for 8 or more hours in a cool place in the house. Turn it about half way through. Once the time is up and you are ready to get ‘er done… rinse the bird inside and out under cold water. This is me when I was pulling it out. Pretty nasty…. just kinda freaks me out… every whole raw bird does… don’t ask… (probably why it’s on my bucket list to begin with – face your fears!)


ImageOnce you wash it, scrub it, flip it and reverse it (anyone?)… dry it off with some paper towels. Get the roasting pan on the ready and fire up the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, and you may discard the brine at this point.

While the oven is working it, chop up some onions and apples then place it in a bowl with a cinnamon stick (didn’t have one) and a cup of water. Microwave on high for five minutos.

ImageOnce those are steeped, place the apples and onions (and cinnamon stick if you got it) inside the cavity of the turkey. Then add some sage and rosemary. Tuck the wings under and coat liberally with oil – I used olive oil. Alton calls for canola. Tomayto, tomotto.

Pop that bird in the ol’ oven for about 30 minutes. Watch it bake. Bask in the warmness. Set a timer. You won’t regret it.


Once you hear the ding dong of your timer, place a thermometer into the thickest part of the bird and roast for an hour more or until the thickest part of the breast registers 161 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine didn’t take that long… it was actually done in about 40 minutes or so. Here she is in all her roasting glory, freshly baked (get your head out of the gutter).

ImageWhat a beaut! Julia would be proud, I think. At this point, let it sit for a good 15 minutes to let the juices settle. Enlist a friend to help you carve. Using your fingers at some point is inevitable. I’m not above it. Here are some glorious after pictures. I was a proud mama, to say the least. It was tasty, not gonna lie. And having family enjoy it with me?! Even better. Eat, drink, and be merry.


#obligatoryselfie #bucketlistscratchoff



Just keep swimmin, just keep swimmin….

Back in February, I started a DIY project. I wanted to have matching night stands and a dresser for our master bedroom. After reading lots of YHL and Bower Power (among other blogs…. you should see my Google Reader… it’s ridiculous) I decided “Hey, I can knock this out in a weekend.”

Oh, so very very VERY wrong. I found a pine dresser with matching nightstands for all of $100 on Craigslist. Here they are, in all there non-glory-pine-wood state.

BEFORE picture.

With my aunt and uncles van in tow, I picked it up after work. I gathered all my supplies which included a water based deglosser gel — red flag #1. Getting in over my head? No way… Do you know how many times I’ve read “how to stain your pine dresser” instructions?! I printed them out, read blog entries over and over and over again… Thinking all the while, I can do this.

Which I did but it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Yes, I was the one on the back porch in the cold with a headlamp at 11 pm. Yes, I was the one scraping that deglosser trying to get the old finish and stain off. Yes, I was the one who looked like a dump truck drove by me leaving me in the cold.

Once the deglosser was done (which DID NOT work as well as I had planned. And I did follow the directions to a T… which is big for me since my hubby always gives me a hard time for missing ingredients on a recipe… another day). The lady at Lowe’s said explicitly… “You have to let it sit for the FULL 20 minutes in order for it to work.” Yes ma’am. I can do that. Which I did… for a total of at LEAST 3 times. When we are talking 8 drawers, dresser, AND 2 nightstands… that’s a lot of painting and a LOT of waiting.

Then came the sanding. Oh, boy. I should have bought my own from the get go but I borrowed one. I went through at least 4 packages of sanding paper of all different grits. I worked my way up from 100 or 120 (can’t remember) to 220.  My trusty literature said that anything lower than 100 was not good for the pine since it was a soft wood.

After piles of sand dust later, I began the staining/painting. I drew pintspiration from here and here. I wanted to make our room lighter but still keep a warm, wood tone. So I decided to paint the outer shells white and stain the drawer fronts.

Here’s my mood board. I have since changed our duvet to plain white since I have a duvet issue. (There are just so many cool ones out there! I just need to play with pillows, not duvets. That gets pricey). I need to revamp the mood board since the media cabinet and canvas/elephants are now in the living room.

Mood board from back in the day….

Blarg. They didn’t dry right. Then it was Spring Break… note: it is now MARCH. Nicolas and I went out of town for a getaway. My LOVELY-BEST-GREATEST-SPECTACULAR-WONDER-WOMAN of a mom RESTAINED all the drawer fronts WITH the polyurethane. God bless her soul. I did not ask her to do it but since we are both helpers by nature she did it and man, they looked killer. When we got back from vacation I not only had a CLEAN house but COMPLETED drawers… staining, sanding, painted and all. She actually repainted the shells with a white gel trim painter that is stuff from the old Greek gods it’s so brilliant. It’s what we painted our dark brown mantle with (that’s a different post).

They’ve  been done for months. I still have yet to finish the drawer pulls. *sigh* Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin,….

Etsy Shop….

I caved. For so long, I have been creating invites and other design things for family and friends. Welp, I opened up an Etsy store (EEK!). So far so good. It really is quite spectacular getting an email saying “Jane Doe purchased your item!”

It’s not much, but it definitely helps confidence. I was not a graphic design major but I was a multimedia minor (whatever that means). For me, it meant learning how to do cool stuff with Creative Suite AND learning B+W photography – which just so happens to be one of my bucket list items for “Things to do in my lifetime.” That said, here’s the link to the shop. It’s not much yet but it’s SOMETHING.

Also, here are some samples of things that I have done for family and friends. 🙂 Enjoy!


17 days + counting

On March 16 our baby cat, Masuka, went missing. I say baby (even though he’s over a year old) because he’s got a wittttle frame. The little booger found us in Decemeber of 2010, just 2 days before Christmas Eve. He was dumped at our apartment complex at the time. We searched endlessly for its owner to no avail. He was annoying, peed on EVERYTHING, made us mad, etc but we grew to love him unconditionally. He is the sweetest cat. He’s also Nicolas’ buddy during the work day. Since hubster works from home, Suki always needs love and affection. He is our “lap cat” and bursts with personality.

Here he is as baby kitty. He was hardly 4 weeks old! He went with us to both parents’ houses for Christmas. Boy, was that a trip!

The Friday of March 16 we got home around 3 am. He didn’t come in the house so we figured he’d be on the back porch first thing in the morning.

Saturday morning, he wasn’t there. I panicked. We spent the entire day putting up flyers, walking the neighborhood, talking to peeps, posting Craigslist ads, checking animal shelters, etc. He still hasn’t come home. As you can tell, I haven’t given up hope since everything is in the present tense. I know he’s gotta be out there somewhere! We haven’t found him on the side of the road *knock on wood.*  However, while searching the internet on different ways to find a lost kitty I came across Petharbor.com.

Pet Harbor has a HUGE database of shelters for virutally any city that puts their inventory online. You can search all kinds of databases. I check them daily, still – call me crazy but I’m a mama bear searching for its cub. Our cats are like our children. We are “those” people. If we had wallets with picture inserts they’d be FULL of our kitties.

But this post isn’t for sympathy or tears (trust me – plenty of those have been shed in the past few weeks). It’s to recommend Pet Harbor’s post card service. They did not pay me or ask me to write about it. I just want other owners who may be searching endlessly on Google or who can’t find their companions to rest assured that these people are LEGIT. My first tipoff that they are legit is their website. SO MANY shelters run their search database through them. That made me think “This probably isn’t a scam.” I’ve gotten LOTS of scam emails the past few weeks recommending certain things for lost animals. Yeah, just delete those. Also, an actual person emailed me a proof within hours of submitting the request. One change needed to be made and that same day, they were shipped.

Originally, when I was looking through Pet Harbor, there was a little ad at the bottom that said “send postcards to neighbors” or something like that. (Don’t be drawn away by the website itself!) I thought “Hmmm… not a bad idea. But how do I get addresses?” There are several services online where you can search within a certain perameter of your house for addresses. Can we say PRICEY!? For 500 address it was like $600+. R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S. This doesn’t even include postage or printing cards. Even for me, the crazy cat lady, this was too much. So I found a list of “carrier routes” provided by USPS. This listed ranges of addresses. I decided to take the bull by the horns and manually create an Excel spreadsheet of addresses. Didn’t take long for me to look back at Pet Harbor – this was going to be tedious and time consuming. Not only would $500 postcards for ME to get printed would cost around $600, but the amount of time it was going to take me to type out all the addresses, get postage (yet another expense), print cards, distribute cards – too much work. I work full time and I am in graduate school. To get all this done would take at least a week. Pet Harbor to the rescue! They print and address 500 postcards for around $400 bucks. Not too bad considering I was about to spend more than that. Call us crazy, but it was worth it. At one point, Nicolas said to me “I’d feel guilty if we didn’t do EVERYTHING we could to get the word out.” Luckily, our emergency fund (thanks Dave Ramsey!) was able to cover the expense. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible. We don’t have that kind of money just lying on our living room floor for use.

I know this probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and some may read this and think “These peeps are loco” but for us, it was worth it for our peace of mind. We still call him to come home. We still talk to neighbors. I’ve gotten several calls from people who received the postcards AND seen flyers – so be sure to do both. I am pretty sure that our neighborhood is on the look out. I am so thankful that there are nice people out there who care about animals. They are family. Now the other two babies have a curfew (mama bear comin’ out again).

So, if your animal is missing, Pet Harbor is the shiz. MUCH cheaper and MUCH less time consuming than doing it yourself. Here’s what our card looked like.


Each day gets easier and harder at the same time. Don’t lose hope though! (At least keep telling yourself that). I imagine he’s with some cute 5 year old who’s lovin’ on him. He really is the sweetest cat. Very vocal and so much fun! Like the hubster said, he brought so much joy to our lives. Maybe God put him in our life for a reason. Whatever it may be or wherever he may be, I hope he’s warm and loved.


Gearing up for Spring and Easter! {DIY Easter Garland}

Last week, I entered the Pinterest Challenge. It was my first. It felt so good to actually DO a pin! Now I get to look at it everyday. Looks super cute on our new, painted white mantle. Can’t wait for Easter Celebration at the Ragland House!

Once I saw this, I knew I had to do this. 🙂 Super easy and it only cost $0.99! WOOT!



Project: Stenciled Entryway {DIY Stencil}

Hello world. I am never sure what to say when I start a new blog post on a new website. You may be here because you follow my Tumblr. However, I decided that I need a little more than microblogging for homeownership and marriage adventures!!!

That’s what I call this space. My adventure space/place. I am constantly reading home design blogs (such as YHL, Bower Power, Apartment Therapy, Centsational Girl, etc….) Up until recently, I hadn’t really gone on an adventurous “design” endeavor. Until we needed a new chest of drawers and night stands. Man… those were a BEAST. I will post something about it once I get some good pictures.

This post, however, is about the green stencil wall. Some of you may have seen the new House Beautiful “green” issue. I just received my first in the mail after I got a Groupon for HB. Five bucks for a year?! Yes, please!

Anyways, last week I had off for Spring Break. What a perfect time to spruce up our entryway! I was constantly searching for SOMETHING or SOME KIND of inspiration or pintsperation. So I decided to go for it. I wanted our entry to make a statement but be warm and inviting. I had pictures on the wall but they were just getting lost in the sea of wall-ness going on. Not sure how to explain it but it really needed some UMPH. After reading my new HB issue, I was inspired to go green. But I didn’t want to be a kelly or kermit. Also, I didn’t want an understated light green. That wouldn’t serve much purpose. Once I had my head/heart set on green I figured it’s just paint – if I don’t like it it’s not that big of deal. Once I decided on green and after reading this tutorial several times over from Jones Design Company – I went in for the kill. She has a GREAT tutorial for doing this stencil. So I am not going to even try and one up her tutorial. However, I do have a couple tips if you do decide to do this.

1) Don’t worry about making it perfect – especially in the pencil tracing stage. It will all look better once you start painting. Just keep going. Or swimming, if you’re a Nemo fan like I am.

2) Take a step back from time to time (especially when you start painting the stencil)- I started to get super nitpicky about things being “just right.” But it was so much better when I stepped back. Everything is so more imperfect when your nose is to the wall and you’re tracing. Trust the process. In the end, it’s worth it!

So here are my pics. Before, during, and after. I am hoping to use Goodwill frames that I spray painted in the hopes of a gallery wall. I’m just excited to start playing with it.

Finding the right color green was probably one of the most challenging. I finally went with Olympic Antique Moss. The white paint is actually a green tinted paint. I can’t remember the name because I had to change it a million times when I was at Lowe’s. The computer wouldn’t let the paint guy do a sample of some of the lighter colors. But really, any white or lighter color would work. It took about 12 hours (rough estimate) to complete.

I forgot to do a before picture. (Silly me). You get the idea though. Enjoy!

Tracing... tracing...

Howdy! 12 am-ish

I think I'm in love.

Having a week to do things that I have been wanting to do is SO NICE. I seriously love working for Texas State – you get the holiday benefits of being a student. Hello Spring Break!

Anyways, not only have I been finishing up the drawers (I promise a post soon) and stenciling/painting our entry way, I also had a chance to do an Easter garland that I found on Pinterest! Thanks to Katie, Sherry, Cassie and Erin I had some motivation to actually do it for the Pinterest Challenge. Here’s my pintsperation. I got the string from Michaels for a whopping $0.99. Yep, that’s all this cost! Enjoy!