Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In 2015....

The last day of the year and it starts with snow.  I can appreciate that.  I don't appreciate us all being up at 5:30, but Wilder and I did lay back down from 7:30-9.  I'm also sick AGAIN, and I don't appreciate that either.  I just got better and now I'm sick again.  At least it's now instead of ON SATURDAY WHEN WE GO TO THE WINE TASTING I WON AT LOST OAK WINERY.  Oh yes.  Very excited about that.  Keep a lookout for that recap on Monday.  

You  know what I love?  Or who, I guess.  Lauren Conrad.  Yep.  LC herself a la Laguna Beach/The Hills.  I want to be Lauren Conrad when I grow up.  I want to fill my closet rack full of her clothes.  I want to be her best friend.  I digress.  I'm constantly stalking her site and I saw her New Year's Resolutions.  Jumping on it!

Bad Habit I'm Going To Break //  Hmm...avoiding laundry?  I'm very bad about that.  Trashing my vehicle.  Bad about that too.  Not budgeting.  Gotta learn how to do that.  Not shutting my brain down so I can get a good night's rest.  Being lazy.  My list is abundant.

A Destination I'd Like To Visit //  Tj and I discussed going to Maine this coming fall.  I've wanted to go to Maine since I was a little girl and I don't even know why.  I've never really been anywhere but that's my continental dream.  Driving to Kentucky last summer was a trip I will never forget and I got to see so much.

I'm Going To Work Harder At //  Being a good mother and partner.  Just all around better person.  This year has taught me a lot and shown me a lot.  I've seen where I've failed in certain areas and I know I can do and be better.

A Project I'd Like To Finish // Our kitchen!!!  We're about halfway through with it.  In the middle of the month, I'd hope we will have the ceiling done and the floor installed and my sink will arrive around that time, as well.   An apron front one!  -cue hearts for eyes-

A Class I'd Like To Take  //  I love to learn.  I would take any class.  I saw a pin online where you can take one of a multitude of varying classes which would be the easiest for me.  Otherwise I would have to drive to the Metroplex.

I'd Like To Spend More Time Doing // authentic writing.  Laughing.  Cooking new things.  Being present in conversations.  Encouraging my creativity instead of stifling it.

A Food I Want To Eat More Of // anything I haven't tried.  I want to try lobster but I want it fresh out of the ocean.  Preferably in Maine.  I just know in this area we're pretty landlocked and I don't know any lobster being fished out of the local lake.  I would like to try to be vegetarian one day a week which sounds easy, but it's not if you're not conscious of what you're eating.

I Want To Wear More // flattering pieces, preferably smaller pieces as I, like many of women, are fixing to vow themselves to get healthy.  In roughly 12 hours. 

What are your answers??  Happy New Year's, you beautiful bunch of readers. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

I Don't Like Reviews

I've been a bad blogger since Merle died.  I'll do better in the new year.  Jamie and I were discussing this past year and while it's had its ups, it's definitely had it's downs.  It almost seems like more downs than ups. actually.  And I hate that.  I'm not a negative person, generally.  Reviews almost always bring back bad feelings or reminders of things we don't want to rethink about.  Let me tell you about it.

-In March, Clint and I decided to divorce and I moved home, leaving all my new friends and experiences behind.  Leaving behind half my dogs and both my cats.

-In May, Arnold went missing.  The dog I had from a puppy when Wilder was a baby.  They grew up together.  Wilder was the only person Arnold cared about and then he was gone.  The first dog I lost this year.

-In September (I think), my father called to tell me first that he had throat and lung cancer that he decided not to seek treatment for.  Still not over the grief of my parents' divorce, I had to learn to process that too.

-My mother was struggling to find herself as well.  She stopped cooking which she loved to do and we were all just sad and struggling to find our places with her.

-In October, Merle was hit and killed.  He died in my arms.  Just as I had rebranded my blog around him.

But then I wanted to think about the good things.

-I met a man that has been nothing short of amazing to Wilder and me.  He's home every day, something I've never been used to, and he's jumped in right with me on renovating his home.  Plus, he got me an apron front sink for Christmas!

-Wilder is almost potty trained!  And he turned three!

-My mother is happy and cooking again.

-We got two new puppies, CiCi and Dixon.  Or Cinderella and Prince Charming as I call them.

-We went from barely seeing my sister the first two years of Wilder's life to spending every Sunday with them.

I felt like this year kind of knocked me around.  Some of it I asked for, and some of it completely blindsided me.  I've never been scared of the dawning of a new year.   I love a fresh slate.  A new year full of new memories, new milestones, new adventures.  And I can't wait to see you in it.  Thanks for plugging along with me.  I'm glad I have you, too.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Recently // Currently

Hi.  Remember me?  Your friendly neighborhood ginger?  Things have been a rollercoaster since my last post.  Some family drama happened the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and that post about how I loved having Thanksgiving at my mom's didn't happen this year.  Instead, a last minute switcheroo led to us hosting Thanksgiving at our house, even with our kitchen in mid-demo.  My mom came to help me and we pulled it off without a hitch.  I still got to make breakfast, watch the parade, dog show and football and eat to my heart's content.

Shortly after that, I got the stomach flu that hung around for almost a week.  And then last week, we got some form of the actual flu in our house and everyone but Tj was down and out.  I had to take Wilder to the actual doctor for medicine which I've never had to do.

We did find time to have Becky from The Java Mama take the boys' pictures and she got some great shots, even if we weren't feeling too hot.  We got all our Christmas shopping done too.  Well, almost.

I'm hoping to start on kitchen cabinets this week and then trying to measure the ceiling so I can buy the panels I want.  Wilder's 3rd birthday is also in 12 days, and Clint will have him during that time but I'll get to drive down and spend the day with him. 

I also thought I would jump in with my friend Nicole I met at the TxWB dinner and do her "Finish This" link up. 

~My Ideal Winter eating good food as inches of snow falls down, snuggled under a blanket watching The Family Stone. 
~My Favorite Song Lyric... Changes a lot. Right now it would have to be...All of these line across my face tell you the story of who I am. So many stories from where I've been and how I got to where I am. By Brandi Carlile. 
~I Smile Because...Wilder says "whatever" now and it's usually at the weirdest moments. 

I'll try to get back into the swing of things soon.  If not, you'll certainly see more of me in January.  My mum should be here in the morning to help with my cabinets. Eek!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Dinner with strictly Women Only

Last Saturday, I put my brave -my name means brave, hello- panties on and drove to Dallas with my friend (who blogs!) Amy so we could have dinner with a community of Texas Women Bloggers.  I was super pumped about the menu and just the whole idea in general.  It took place in the Urban Acres warehouse which was beautifully set up for the occasion.

Amy and I arrived 30 minutes early, which was great because it had just started misting and my hair loves to freak out at the tiniest bit of moisture.  We got cute name tags (which is dutifully hanging from my rear view mirror) and we got to check out the setup before things got hopping.  Jennifer and Taylor were so on top of things.

I got to see some of my great girl friends from the last meetup that I cohosted, Amber, Adrian and Stephanie.  The one thing I was concerned about what when Taylor said we couldn't sit directly with anyone we know.  I'm not that great at small talk.  I feel like I get louder, and I knew I was turning red.  I did manage to sneak Adrian in the seat next to me and I had Amy caddy corner to me.  I got to meet some great girls due to Taylor's rule and I couldn't be more thankful.  I met a girl named Brittaney, who graciously gave me her kale salad after I scarfed down my own, which was followed by some amazing brisket from Market Street.  Each course (soup, salad, entree, dessert) was followed with delicious wine pairings from Lost Oak Winery and then I had pumpkin spice ice cream from Lick Honest Ice Creams.  They had vegan ice creams, too, but when Jennifer said pumpkin, I didn't hear anything after that.  I think Adrian got coconut, which I know Tj would love because he's coconutty.. brb laughing at my clever joke.

At the beginning of the night, they made us fill out an info card because three women in attendance would win a 10 person wine tasting to Lost Oak Winery.  And guess what?  I WON!!!  Now I have to find 10 people I want to get tipsy with to go with me, which I scheduled for January, if you wanna meet me in Burleson!

Taylor mentioned more plans for Texas Women Bloggers in the future and it's such a great community, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Zuppa That Toscana

What?  Two recipe posts in a row??  Since when do I do that?  Oh yeah, when I remember to take pictures as I go.  I've varied this recipe both times I've made it, but the results are pretty much the same.  When I can't go to Olive Garden, I make this soup.  Plus, it's Tj's favorite.  Ok, second favorite.  His dad makes this soup which I want to call "12 Day Soup", because you have to chop each vegetable into these tiny little squares and it seems like the chopping takes 12 days.

Here's what you need:
  • a package of Italian Sausage - I used Johnsonville mild Italian, with 5 links. 
  • 4-6 Russet potatoes
  • one large yellow onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 1/2 bag of kale - I used mixed kale, spinach and chard
Remove the sausage from the casings.  I just take a paring knife, slice down the skin and peel it off and throw it into a hot skillet, crumbling as you go.

While it's browning, chop up your bacon, onion and garlic.  Once your meat is brown, remove it from the pan and throw in the bacon, onion and garlic into the skillet.  Sautee until everything is tender.

In a big pot, pour in your chicken stock and then I also added another cup of water.  Bring it to a boil.  While the stock is coming to a boil, I used my mandolin on the middle setting and sliced the washed potatoes.

  When you've reached the boiling stage, throw EVERYTHING you've cooked into the pot.  At this point, I tasted my broth and added some crushed red pepper, some Italian seasoning and a bay leaf, but you may not think it needs anything.  Cook until your potatoes get tender.  Mine were sliced pretty thin so it only took 15 minutes.  I then add in the cream and stir.  Now, here's the thing.  The first time I made the soup, I rinsed my sausage after it was browned to rinse off all the grease.  I really hate seeing the oil floating at the top of the pot.  I forgot this step this time around.  I let the pot sit still for a minute and then took a regular piece of white bread and swam it around the top of the soup to absorb some of the grease.  Turn the heat off, and gently stir in the kale.  Put in a bowl and eat like crazy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

So Stew Me

You'll have to forgive the lack of pictures in this post, but I didn't decide to do a recipe post until I got asked for it on Instagram (yeah you Kristina :D).  I knew the weather was fixing to get cold so I grabbed some stew meat at the store. I knew I wanted leftovers and would be feeding at least three of us, so I chose the two pound package.

I pulled out my trusty, beautiful orange crock pot and got to work.  I usually don't brown my meat before but I decided to this time.  I used salt and pepper and garlic powder on the meat, then I put olive oil in a hot skillet, tossed my meat in a package of brown gravy mix and just cooked the meat until it was brown on the outside.  In the mean time, I chopped two onions in pretty big pieces, six potatoes into smaller pieces and threw it all in the crock pot with a small bag of baby carrots.  Then, I put the meat on top, a little more salt and pepper and three bay leaves because it's my favorite herb ever.  I poured a can of chicken stock, a can of water and a packet of Au Jus mix, stirred it all about..wait... that's the Hokey-Pokey...  Normally, I shy away from chicken stock in beef dishes because I feel like it will be too chicken-y but you can't really tell a difference.

I cooked mine on high for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  It didn't get really thick like some stews, though, I did add a cornstarch/milk/Worchestershire sauce slurry to mine to give it a little more body.  I served it along side some individual French loaves that I buttered and put under the broiler.  We had plenty of leftovers, Wilder went crazy for the carrots and we full and happy.

You can obviously add the seasonings you like, but I play down my spices when I know I'm feeding children.

  • 2lbs stew meat
  • 6 Russet potatoes
  • 1 bag baby carrots 
  • 1 packet of brown gravy mix
  • 1 packet Au Jus mix
  • bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chicken stock
  • Worchestershire sauce
You can also cook it on low for 8-10 hours, I always just test the vegetables as I go.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


If you know me at all, you know I live for the holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As soon as November hits, I get all...antsy.  The cooler weather, soups and stews, blankets and holiday movies.  I thrive on it.  Things just seem to get better this time of year, although our house did burn down in mid-November when I was 13, but that doesn't really mar my opinion. 

I am so THANKFUL (ha, get it?) that I actually get Wilder for Thanksgiving.  It's the first holiday this year that I get him and I'm excited.  My routine for Thanksgiving has always been the same.  Usually, because we were driving far, I would show up in my pajamas, discuss the parade with my family while drinking coffee and eating my mom's sausage balls.  That was an awkward sentence... Anywho.  Then, I would start helping my mom by chopping any veggies I can get my hands on since I love to chop for some reason.  I would rush back and forth between the kitchen and the dog show on TV because we always root for our breeds we have in the show.  Plus, my mom thinks John Hurley is so funny as the host.  I always get to taste test the gravy which is my most favorite part of dinner.  Then I have to argue about wanting to watch the football game and I get outvoted and usually just have to flip back to it on commercials. 

I also have the privilege of getting to attend an amazing dinner in less than two weeks! in Dallas.  I consider myself a foodie and I can't wait to be a part of it.  Although, driving in Dallas makes me a bit anxious.  I think I found the perfect dress with Jamie's help, too, but you'll have to wait to see it.  I'm really hoping since November kicked off so well, that it stays on an upswing.  We're figuring out our lives again, our routine is thriving and we're getting happier every day. 

Also, I'll be taking over The Blog Baton tomorrow thanks to Mason from Mason Like The Jar!  You can follow along on Instagram @theblogbaton to get a glimpse into my life.  Eek!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bob Ross Called...

Do you know who Bob Ross is?  Just type in Bob Ross on Pinterest and you'll have your answer.  Bob Ross really has no place in this post except that it's about paint.  But as a bonus fun fact, my mom also loved Donna Dewberry.  She does cool things with acrylic paints.

Saturday was Tj's birthday and after dinner and a movie, we did what any kid-free couple does on a Saturday night at 8:00, we went to Lowes.  We went to look at ceiling tiles and price drywall for the kitchen, but with my parents being house painters, I'm always drawn to the wall of paint chips.  I love paint colors so much, I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to it.  I was looking for paint for the lower kitchen cabinets and here's what I found.

I realize they're all in the same color family, but I have a hard time settling on just one.  I've even considered chalk paint, but I am a little intimidated by the whole process.

In the next few days, I'm going to start taking down cabinet doors for cleaning and sanding.  Hopefully, I'll have one part of the kitchen completely done.  Everyone keeps saying we're going to have a rough winter and I'm counting on some snow days to get things really done.

I bought this sign at Hobby Lobby months ago and it's just been perched on top of our hutch in the dining room.  This sign is my kitchen inspiration.  Any thoughts on my colors?  Or chalk paint?

Monday, October 27, 2014

My (Hopefully) Dream Kitchen

So, I showed you the current progress on our kitchen.  I'm now going to show you some elements that I really hope will be in here after we're done with it.  I have expensive taste on a tight budget, so I'm not expecting every picture I show you to be in here.  But, I'm going to try my best to get everything I want, no matter how long it takes.  (Hopefully not very long, because I'm wildly impatient.)

I was watching an episode of I Hate My Kitchen and they showed this amazing beautiful turquoise sink.  Let me show you.
Can we all just collectively sigh over this?  The actual color is Palermo Blue and it's by Kohler.  On the episode, the sink was......$1,800!  For the sink!!!  I searched online and it's currently not available, but the price on it was $1,300.  I'll just have to dream about this sink.

After my friend, Rachel, moved into her new house, I helped her turn her dining room chandelier into a mason jar chandelier.  We replaced the globes on the chandelier with turquoise mason jars and it was awesome.  I searched Pinterest for DIY mason jar chandeliers and I found this guy.  With STEPS!  I've already looked into making it.  There's some funky things going on with our current ceiling that are driving me crazy and this would help a lot.  I found comparable ones on Etsy for at least $250 and with the project list and costs on the link, it would cost around $100 to DIY.

I love color, and with all the wood, I think I need a good counterbalance.  I found this picture on Pinterest and with my mom's help, we're going to do separate colors on our uppers and lowers, like this.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Getting To Know Me...

Today, I'm joining a link-up with the Texas Women Bloggers.  It's a really amazing network I'm lucky to be a part of and they want us to tell a little more about ourselves to help spread the word of our blog.  I love questions or finish-the-sentence so I'm ready to do this.

1. What is your name, blog title, and URL link?
   - I'm  Casey, I blog at A Girl & Merle and you can find me at

2. How did you come up with your blog’s title?
   - I didn't want to do this question.  My title involved my dog, Merle, who recently passed away.
3. How long have you been blogging?
   -I've been blogging over a year now.  I used to blog at Real Suburbia but I recently switched to AG&M.
4. When we visit your blog, what can we expect to discover?
   - My musings on life, being a boy mom and our current house renovation.
5. Share the link to your favorite or most popular blog post(s).
  -I've only had this blog this month, but so far my most popular is Hello October.
6. What are three goals you have for your blog next year?
   - I would love to network more.  Do a giveaway with some of my favorite gals.  Manage Twitter better?
7. Tell us about your family. Are you married or in a relationship? Do you have kids? If so, how many and how old are they? Do you have pets? You know, the usual stuff.
   -  I'm in a relationship with the guy I had a crush on in high school.  I have one boy, Wilder who's almost three.  He has two other sons that I spend a lot of time with, too.  No pets as you can see in question two but hopefully that will change soon.
8. What part of Texas do you call home?
   -A tiny little one stop light town in North Texas, an hour north of Fort Worth.
9. How do you make a living?
   -I'm lucky enough to be a stay at home mom.  I keep that guy living.
10. Have you attended blog conferences or social events in the past? If this is your first time, what are you most nervous about?
   -I've been to a few meetups and hosted one myself with my friends Stephanie and Adrian in Waco this February.  It was such an fun experience.  I would love to do it more.  I'm nervous about making a good impression and making new friends.  I always think I pale in comparison to most.
11. What are you looking forward to the most at the TWB dinner event?
   -Food and meeting the women who run the blogs I follow.
12. Finally, share your social media links so we can connect online!
   - You can find me here?
      - Instagram: @agirlandmerle
      - Pinterest: @caseylee610
      - Twitter:  still @realsuburbia

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Hate My Kitchen, but I'm Starting To Love It

Sorry, I've been MIA.  I'm trying to get out of the no dog funk and it's hard.  Really hard.

I'm going to show you our kitchen in its current progress.  And you can't judge me.  Because we're doing it all ourselves.  Slowly but surely.  Our house is almost 100 years old.  I've painted the living room.  A nice greystone, my painter mother would say, and then the wall of paneling in here, I painted a navy blue.  The fireplace bricks were an odd color so I painted those white.  I left all the built ins and trim how they were since almost all the trim throughout the house matches.  I painted the dining room a shade darker, our bedroom is grey with maroon accents.

And then there was the kitchen.
Let me explain what's happening here.  I ripped up the linoleum, and all this adhesive was stuck to the floor.  So that's what you see there.  There was hideous paneling on the wall.  We ripped them off and found planks running behind it.  We also uncovered a transom above the door.  There was sheet rock flush with the cabinets so when we beat through it, we found they just framed all around the cabinets and hid all that space on top of the cabinets.  There was also a drop ceiling I ripped down in the very beginning.   The drop ceiling was hiding florescent lights you can kind of see up there.  Oh, and a sea foam green ceiling.  I painted the backsplash with chalkboard paint because it was what I was able to do at the time, but now I hate it.  And I hate the golden oak cabinets.

I have the floor bought, we're just waiting on all the demo before we install it.  We've sanded that far wall.  Here let me show you.  What you should know is that the walls were also covered in cheesecloth and wallpaper which is what they did a long time ago.  AND it was all stuck up with nails.  Tiny little nails, hammered all over the walls.

Here you can tell the difference after sanding.  You can follow my progress on Instagram @agirlandmerle.  I've had followers raving over the planks which totally helps me feel better about leaving them exposed.  I'll be doing some more shopping on Friday and tomorrow, I'll show you what I want it to look like in the end.  Which hopefully will be in the near future.

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