Cooking dinner with Blue Apron.

Sponsored post by Blue Apron.  All thoughts are my own.

One of the most important, if not most important, things we do as a family each day is sit down together for dinner.  I love that time around the table to recount the days events, share a meal and spend quality time as a family.  However, making dinner has become one of my least favorite things to do.  It didn’t always used to be that way.   Trying to find a meal that 5 different palettes enjoy is next to impossible.  Inevitably there is always at least one person who complains about the dinner I’ve just labored over and begs for cereal.  Maddening! Then I go in to the whole, “DO YOU KNOW THERE ARE STARVING PEOPLE…” lecture which never goes over well.

When Blue Apron reached out to see if we’d like to try their meal service I was totally on board.  Anything to help me try and fall in love with cooking again as well as see if could find something my little men would enjoy would be a welcomed challenge.

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 2 dinners for 4 people were delivered in a box right to my doorstep.  Just the ingredients was a change to my old stand-by dinners I’ve gotten used to making to suite palette’s under 10 years old.  There were no boxed meals with artificial powders…everything was farm-fresh.

Night 1 I made Cantonese-Style Beef & Vegie Stir Fry.  The recipe was printed on a color page with pictured instructions.  It was like Cooking for Dummies and super helpful.

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Okay, so a carrot is a carrot, right?  No lie, I swear this carrot must have been grown in Heaven’s garden.  That sounds ludicrous, I know.  These ingredients were fancy, high quality ingredients that I wasn’t expecting.  I could have eaten everything raw they were so good.

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It took about 45 minutes start to table which was a little longer than I normally like to spend on a meal but I was very careful to follow the instructions.  Last thing I wanted was to show off a slop of a meal for the camera.

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Wouldn’t ya know they all ate it (except my youngest who I still have to force vegetables upon).

Night 2, I was swamped with work and the crew was hungry.  I had a deadline so I told the Mr. where the ingredients were, gave him the recipe card and let him loose to make Chicken Mole with Sweet Potatoes.

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People, the Mr. doesn’t ask for much at all.  The one thing he would love every night is to know what the plan is for dinner…even if he has to cook it himself.

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When he called everyone in for dinner I was shocked. Like fall off my seat shocked.

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HE MADE THIS ALL BY HIMSELF!  Tell me this doesn’t look like a restaurant made it!
A+ on presentation.

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Obviously he made no attempt at hiding any pride in his “cookery-ship” (word he invented).

The verdict: The Mr. and I loved it…the little men…we’re working on it.

So here’s how it works:
Blue Apron is a meal delivery service where you are the chef.  You can pick from a 2-person or family plan which serves 4.  The price for this plan is $8.74 per meal, or $69.92 per eight serving delivery. Free shipping.  No commitment, cancel anytime. Each meal is between 500-700 calories per person.

Would we do it again?
  Price. How do I say this without sounding like a poor cheapskate? Our allotted food budget is a lot less than $8.74 per person, per meal.  I totally think the price of the meal is on point but for our young family it’s a bit high to eat like that every night.  Having said that, I was so busy with work on night 2 that if we didn’t have the meal for the Mr. to prepare I would have sent him to get take-out which would have been the same price as the Blue Apron price and our take-out would have been less healthy.

Taste.  My little men weren’t as dazzled by the meals as the Mr. and I were.  Probably because they were a lot of vegetables (which most kids think are poison).  But listen, your kids get used to eating what you prepare most.  These Blue Apron recipes are the ideal way I’d like to feed my family all the time.

Convenience.  This is the biggest seller for me.  For as many excuses for price and complaining kids I have, you just can’t put a price tag on convenience in this day and age.  We’re just so busy that anything that helps us put a healthy meal with fresh ingredients on the table without having to plan or shop is priceless in my book.

We always ending up eating out at least once a week when schedules are just too hectic.  I would much prefer to have a healthy meal in the fridge on stand-by to prepare than running out for something which would take the same amount of time and be less healthy.  Having one meal delivered a week would be completely doable.

So here’s an exciting offer I get to extend.  If you’d like to try Blue Apron the first 50 readers will get two meals off their first Blue Apron order free!  Click here.

To explore some of Blue Apron’s dishes go here to their recipe page.

So tell me, with dinner time becoming some-what of a novelty these days how do you make dinner work at your house?

Acquisitions, Projects and Updates.

I’m on day 5 with a dinosaur of a temporary computer. 4 months ago we brought a brand new HP all-in-one touch screen computer from Best Buy and the drivers decided to fail last week.  They are telling me it will take 2-6 weeks to repair.  You want to see a mad woman you take away Pinterest for 2-6 weeks and see what kind of hell she raises.  In the meantime, I’ll be waiting 1.3 minutes for each email message to load.

On a more positive note, spring has sprung and my spirit couldn’t be happier. Utah had the mildest winter EVER and it was still too cold for me. I’ve come out of my winter cave and am tackling every project I can think of all the same time.

I’m currently working our dining area. I called 5 different places to get quotes on having the vintage tulip table base I acquired powder coated. It ranged from $45 – $150. I was going to go with the cheapest bid but I ended up going with the $65. bid simply because the guy I talked to was the most pleasant, most helpful and most persistent on the phone. Customer service will go a long way with me even I have to pay a little more.

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I wish you could see up close just how amazing the base turned out.  I’m so glad I didn’t go with my cheaper first thought to just spray paint it.  I can work wonders with a can of spray paint but the powder coating process is in a totally different class.

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  I told myself I would stop working on this until we sold our current dining table (here).  In the meantime, if you’re in Utah and need some powder coating call the guys at Full Blown Coating (not being paid to say that either).

You may also remember my post dedicated to my hunt for some vintage library / banker / jury wood chairs to go around the new tulip table.  Our neighborhood school had 4 sitting in the front foyer and I was love sick over them.  I decided to  surprise my boys the next day at school and have lunch with them but I strategically came about 15 minutes early to see if I could casually “pop-in” and say “what up Principal”.  After lunch I found her and I don’t know why but I was so nervous and bobbled all over my words as I un-eloquently spit out that I would love to have those chairs if the school wanted to ever get rid of them.   Well, it just so happened that she didn’t share my same love for them and had wanted to replace them for a long time.  I made a donation to the school, loaded up car and got the heck outta there before she could change her mind.

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 Then a sweet reader commented that she found one for sale on Craigslist but it was 4 hours away from where I live. Luckily my mom was coming up for a visit from Vegas and would be passing by there.  Bam.  Another chair to add to the collection.  (Thank you Kelly!) I paid the most for that one at $50.

Alas, I had one more stroke of miraculous luck.  A school was auctioning off 3 more chairs.  I took them all for $16.

IMG_6144They are the three at the end.  The arms and legs are turned and more ornate but they still have the overall vintage, rich wood feel I was going for.  They are SO comfortable too for being a wood chair.

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It’s hard to envision how they’ll look with the very modern tulip table but if it looks awful don’t be surprised when you see me selling them all…(ain’t ever gonna happen).  I went from seriously coveting these chairs to being the owner of 8 in just a couple weeks.  Ask, Believe, Receive.

The next little project I’ve been working on is coming to terms on how I acquired so many vintage school maps (13 to be exact).
I mean, what sane person does this?

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My mom keeps telling me I need to open up a store which is exactly what I plan on doing.

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In in the process of getting all these beauties photographed and listed in an Etsy store.  Stay tuned.

As far as my little men go…they too seem to have inherited my hoarding gene.
Their current obsession has taken over one of the shelves in the living room.

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This kid is Kendama crazy (repeat pic from previous post).  These things are HUGE in Utah…has the craze hit your city?  My kids verse each other in the morning, at recess, after school, right out of the tub in their birthday suits.  There’s no shame in their game.  Here’s a cool video my little men love…

DIY Hanging Wood Frames.

I would consider myself a moody decorator.  I change out throw pillows, move furniture around, put different art up not just seasonally but sometimes weekly all according to my mood.  And why shouldn’t I? People dress according to their mood, eat according to their mood, style their hair a certain way according to their mood.  I get that going out and buying a new a new pair of jeans is a little different than buying a new sofa just because your in the mood but still…

Remember a couple weeks ago I talked about my hallway gallery wall dilemma? I came up with a new solution that cost me under $6.00 per piece.

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I love hanging family pictures on the wall. They bring personality and uniqueness to a home. Instead of using traditional frames with glass again that will end up getting broken with three rowdy boys, I opted for something a little different…

I first needed some updated photos of my family.  I’m a wanna-be professional photographer.  The majority of pictures I take are with my phone.  I do have a DSLR Cannon Camera as well as tons of books and how to use it but I still shoot the majority of the time on automatic.  I find that when I’m trying to grab my camera to capture a “moment” I”m not worried about fooling around with lighting, settings, etc.

Last week I staged a very informal, organic photo shoot with my family.  No fancy outfits, no prep, just them, a white wall and my camera on automatic.  In fact, whatever they were wearing is what they got snapped in.

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My seceret weapon to making my pictures look somewhat decent is free online photo editing programs like PicMonkey or my favorite free phone photo app Aviary.

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Julia did a something very similar if you’re a fan of Photoshop.

I could have had them printed at a professional photography lab but remember, I’m a moody decorator.  Instead I went a really inexpensive route and had them printed at Staples on the Engineered Printing Paper (which I did here once before).  For $1.99 each they printed them 24 x 48.   That way if I get tired of them in a short time (or my 4 rowdy men find a way to ruin them) I won’t feel guilty having not spent a whole lot of money.

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The prints come on thin paper that is typically meant for things like blue prints.  To give them more stiffness and substantiality I used spray adhesive to attach them to a piece of poster board cut the same size.
Hanging wood poster frames are nothing new but I recently fell in love with them for visual uniqueness and affordability they give to a piece of art.
I was really inspired by these here, here and here.
Next, I picked up some window trim at my local hardware store for around $1.00/ft. There are a lot of other inexpensive options out there. After I put my projects together I kicked myself realizing the trim was almost the same dimensions as a large paint stir stick which is free…duh. (See my paint stir stick house numbers project). Next time.  I cut my trim down then used a Walnut shade to stain them with a rag.

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To attach the trim to my picture I flipped the trim over (wrong side up), then the picture (also wrong side up) and aligned the picture on top of the trim securing with a hand held staple gun.

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I attached trim to the top and bottom of my picture, only the front side of the picture.  Next I attached two eye hooks to the top of my trim pieces and tied everyday twine to them which holds the piece up.

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I never pictured three little men in my life pre-children but boy, I’m smitten.

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You can’t beat $6.00 for a custom photo shoot, print and framing.
There’s so much to love about this project but one of the things I like best is the price doesn’t guilt me in to feeling like I can’t be a moody decorator when I’m ready to change it out in the not too distant future.

I used the same inexpensive framing idea to hang this piece by  Light and Ink above my mantel.

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I followed the same process to put together this piece however, I used trim pieces on both the front and back, top and bottom of print to give it just a little more polished of a look.

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I sandwiched the print between two trim pieces then attached a wood screw to secure the trim and print together.
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Had I framed this print it would have cost me a pretty penny because it is an unusual size and it would have had to be custom.
For under $10.00 I was to just use trim, a 6 screws, a couple of eye hook screws and some twine.
Tune-in to see what mood strikes me to change my mantel to next.

Late addition: The sweet Lisa from Light & Ink is offering our readers a limited time 15% discount to her store.  Enter “justforyou” at checkout. Thanks Lisa!