About a month ago, my friend invited me over to her house to prep a ton of freezer meals.
And by “a ton,” I mean 20.
She had signed up to be a Wildtree distributor and so we got together to try two of their kits, which together made 20 meals.
The night before we got together, I went grocery shopping for the meat I needed for all 20 of these recipes. The recipes ranged from things like fajitas (two kinds), flank steak, pork chops (which I subbed out… not a fan of pork), tons of chicken recipes, fish, etc.
I felt like a freak with my meat cart, rollin’ around Kroger. My bill came to $156 and some change which boiled down to about $7.80/meal for meat. Not too shabby, considering the meals serve 4-6, which meant I could probably get two servings out of each meal making the cost really only about $3.90/meal (for meat only).
There were some miscellaneous costs in there (that I subtracted out of the total above) – freezer bags (two boxes), honey, a can of tomatoes and some vegetables. My friend provided some of the vegetables and I brought the rest. There weren’t a ton, though. Mostly it was peppers and onions for fajitas, and zucchinis.
So how do you prep the meals?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
I didn’t snap any pics of this process because I was handling raw meat for pretty much 3 hours straight, but the idea is you have these pieces of paper you cut up and each paper specifies what the recipe calls for. Then you just assemble the ingredients as specified by the paper in a freezer bag.
Wildtree provides the recipes and all seasonings and oils used. They have special blends of seasonings just for their recipes, as well as specially flavored oils (like a grapeseed oil that’s garlic flavored… yum!!!!).
The meal above is the flank steak. So I put that steak in a freezer bag with the oil and seasonings. The veggies went into a separate freezer bag. Then both of those bags, together, went into a third freezer bag. And inside that bag I put the paper with the recipe on it so I could remember what the heck was in the bag as well as know how to prepare it when we were ready to eat it.
It was one of the first recipes we tried and I have to say, I was really impressed.
The recipes have you put a lot of seasonings on the meat – or what seemed like a lot to me – but after having eaten about half of what I prepared, I know why… because you freeze it and you want the flavor to be maintained. None of the recipes we’ve had have been overpowering in flavor.
One thing I’m taking away from this experience is that next time I will probably further divide up some meals that I know we won’t eat the full serving of. Like recipes that calls for 2 lbs of chicken breasts or something. We aren’t going to eat 2 lbs of chicken breasts in one meal.
Another thing I’m taking away? Freezer meals are really great. I definitely plan on either doing this again with Wildtree, or just putting together freezer meals on my own. For just three hours of prep time I ended up with 20 meals, so the time spent was completely worth it for the convenience of having a ready to grab meal straight out of the freezer. It’s definitely cut down on the number of times we say “let’s just eat out!” since all I really need to throw together is a side dish. Not to mention, it’s cut down on weekly grocery spending because there is at least 1 or 2 dinners I don’t have to buy a main dish for since I’ve already got it in my freezer.
Have you ever tried freezer meals, or Wildtree? Please share if you have – especially if you have a favorite freezer meal recipe.
I’m one of those people who is a morning person at heart.
I’ve never risen to meet the sun – on purpose – but I’ve seen the sunrise after pulling an all-nighter. I turned 30 several weeks ago and one of my heart’s desires is to turn myself into a morning person.
There’s just something about the morning, isn’t there? Quiet and full of promise. Very different from a sunset, which seems to me to be about rest and release. Finally, the day is over and we can settle down. But the morning? It’s new.
Here’s my perfect morning, in pictures -
Wake up early.
Grab some coffee.
Write in the quiet.
Wake my baby.
The perfect morning, for me.
Click here to see the early March update – House Progress: Early March
Early March saw the installation of so many finishes in the house that each time we visited it made us more and more excited (and, for me, a little more impatient for our big moving day!) to see what would change next. Late March did not disappoint and, by the time the month was over, it was hard to believe we would be waiting just three weeks to be able to move in.
I have to apologize for the quality of this photo, but I snapped it through my windshield on the 16th of March. I didn’t want to get out of the car because they were working on the house, but I had to get a photo because I knew it was my only chance to get a pic of the siding midway finished. And I was right because when I visited the next day, the siding was totally finished.
If you remember from my exterior moodboard post, we didn’t do a brick wrap upgrade (which is something I go back and forth on regretting) so that meant the sides and back of our home are all siding.
You’ll also notice that day they frame up the front porch. The porch was the main reason we chose this particular exterior for our floor plan so finally seeing it – if only framed out – was so exciting!
Here’s a view of the house by the end of the week when things were a little more cleaned up, and you can see they finished trimming out where the gutters are.
Really, the exterior work was the major change for this week. But, our hardwood flooring did arrive and so did the porch lights. So I snapped some photos of the boxes, but that’s really I’ve got to share for this week.
The last week of March saw all of the main construction work on the outside of the home totally finished, which meant all that was left was exterior painting (front door, garage doors and all the trim). When I visited on the first part of the week, I saw the rough in for the three porch lights had been run.
And when I went back at the end of the week, the porch was basically finished except for painting. Plus the last of the concrete had been poured – steps and the walkway out front, and a 16×14 pad leading from the walkout in the basement.
By the way, if you’re wondering why there are no shots from the backyard to give a different view of the house, it’s because for the bulk of this construction, our backyard was basically a mud pit. I did attempt once to get some shots, but it resulted in this so I gave up -
Back on the 22nd of March (a Saturday) was when we bought our fridge and family room couch and chairs. Before we pulled the trigger on a fridge, we stopped by the house to measure our fridge space. We were surprised to find a crew working on installing the hardwood floors so we knew we had to go back the next day to see what they’d done. So, on the 23rd we popped back in and they actually had the flooring entirely finished but it was covered with cardboard to protect it so we only got a few shots. But you can only imagine our excitement at this little preview -
You’ll also notice all the quarter round molding (I finally remembered the name of it!) was installed so everything was just looking so finished in terms of the walls and flooring at this point.
Also looking so finished? The kitchen -
Our appliances showed up!! They had actually been sitting in boxes in the garage for weeks, but I guess with the floor down they were finally able to be brought in. You might also have noticed our kitchen sink faucet was installed.
In the bottom photo, the cabinet to the right of the stove was damaged somehow, at some point. Actually, it was only the hinge of the cabinet. That has since been fixed, but I wanted to point it out only to say that little things like that are expected to happen during the construction process. There were chunks missing from walls at some points, scratches on the cultured marble top in the hall bathroom (it has since been buffed out), a broken window… things happen when your house is still a construction site.
Also looking more finished was the powder room. It was waiting on its faucet and toilet and both of those were installed after the flooring was laid down.
All of the closet organizers were installed this week, too. The coat closet is directly across from the powder room, and adjacent to the garage door. The pantry is right off the kitchen, next to the powder room.
I have to say I have never had an actual pantry before and I am so excited about it. I’m not sure it will even be half way filled at any given time, but just knowing we’ve got that storage is so great. Our old house had three closets, that’s it. Two were in the bedroom and the third was in the basement. There was technically a fourth closet, in Ezra’s old room, but it was cut in half by being over the stairs so it wasn’t really functional as a closet. In this new house we have two closets on the main level for stuff and I am so excited about it!
Upstairs, the washer pan was installed in the laundry room. This was not a standard option, so we paid to add this on and I’m so glad we did. We have a front loading washing machine, which means sometimes I have to undo this plug to drain the stinky water out of the washer and now I can let it drain directly into this pan rather than having to soak it up in a towel or something. Plus, should the washer ever overflow, it won’t overflow into the laundry room.
The shower enclosure was installed – Ezra and Aslan both approve. There were two options for the enclosure – privacy glass, or clear. Initially, we wanted clear glass. We thought we had removed the window that’s above the garden tub when we were initially making our selections when we signed our contract. However, what we actually removed was the window in the downstairs powder room (which I still kick myself for removing). We found this out at the Design Center when we had to make the choice about the shower enclosure and so that’s why we went with privacy glass because we figured better safe than sorry with a huge window right across from the shower (and we do plan on covering that window, FYI!).
The closet organizers were also installed in all of the upstairs closets. This is the linen closet in the master bathroom. There is another linen closet upstairs, right outside the hall bathroom.
Here’s a view of the master closet. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this room is so hard to photograph. But this gives you an idea of the closet organizers that were installed.
There are three other bedrooms upstairs, and all of them have walk in closets of varying sizes. This is probably the best closet of all the three bedrooms because it has a window in it!
And that’s how March ended! Still left on the list was -
Not much at all! We ended the month so anticipating the next few weeks. We got official confirmation on a tighter closing window, and eventually April 23rd emerged as our official close date. Our homeowner orientation (the final walk through with the builder) was scheduled for April 16th and we were cleared to go ahead and schedule an independence inspection, which we setup for April 9th. Our loan was approved and the appraisal got put on the books. Everything started taking shape at the end of March and as I write this, on April 14th, we’re just a week and a few days away from closing. Unbelievable!
Today is Monday and by next Wednesday, we will have closed on our house. Unbelievable, right? It seems like we just started this journey. But before I can show you what it looks like today, I have to show you what happened in March.
March was the month we were waiting for (well, apart from this month..since it’s the month we MOVE IN!). All the finishes went in, the porch went up – it really started looking like a house.
More than that, it just does something mentally for you when you start to feel like you’re stuck in house limbo. We’ve only been in our apartment since December, but just knowing we had this house waiting for us has prevented me from really settling down. It’s been kind of stressful, in a weird way – like being on pause almost – and I am so ready to move again and say goodbye to apartment life for good.
But enough typing, let’s get to the photos -
When we left off in February, the house was totally drywalled and, actually, had a partial amount of the brick on it. I’m not sure why I didn’t include a photo of it in my February update, but as of February 25th the exterior looked like this
Now, let’s see what changed in early march!
You can see that by March 1st, all the brick was finished (and covered… which I know looks funny but it was because rain was in the forecast). There was still a giant, gaping hole where the porch would eventually be. Also, no trim along the roof edge yet, and no shutters.
The tile guy made it out and installed all the tile finishes on both levels. On the main level, that meant the tile surround for our fireplace (the hardwood meets the base of the fireplace, so we have no hearth). And upstairs it meant tile in both bathrooms.
All the doors and baseboard trim arrived, too, and you might have also noticed the drywall is painted.
The vinyl floor in the upstairs bathrooms and laundry room went down. I don’t have a photo of the laundry room because every speck of it was covered with cardboard to protect it, but I was able to spy a little bit of the flooring peaking out in the master bath. Both the hall and master bath have the same flooring. Check out the moodboard I shared about this so you can see how different the stock photo of the floor looks compared to reality -
Way less brown, right?
By the end of the week, we were so excited to see our cabinetry had been installed. The cabinetry, granite and hardwood flooring were the three things we were most excited to see in person, so when we walked through the door and saw our kitchen taking shape it was such a cool moment.
The cabinetry showed up in all three bathrooms, as well, plus the cultured marble countertops. We did white on white cultured marble for all the bathrooms, and it’s so striking against the dark cabinetry. This is also another view of the vinyl flooring. I do wish we would have chosen a flooring with larger tile squares on it, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.
The other exciting update that was at the house the second week of March was our stair railings. We were excitedly anticipating the installation of them because they are stained to match the hardwood, so it was like a preview of what the floor will look like.
See what I mean about them being simple? I just love the look of it!
All the doors were hung by the end of the week, too, including the garage doors. No electricity was run to the garage doors at that point, though. Not pictured are the stairs leading from the garage up into the house. We were so glad to have some stairs, finally!
Lastly, by the end of the week the fireplace had a mantel. This was another area we had the option to change at the Design Center. You could have an arched mantel instead of something more squared off. Since we were doing straight railings, we decided to stay with the mantel you see above. We like the look of it paired with all the other lines and angles in the house.
This week was pretty amazing! We visited a couple times and could not believe the progress.
The porch and driveway concrete were poured this week. If you remember the struggle we had with the driveway at our old house, you can only imagine how pumped we were to see this long, flat driveway. I think you can fit 6 cars on our driveway. It’s like driveway heaven.
The carriage lights on either side of the garage were installed, too and we knew that meant that inside we probably had light fixtures.
We were right!
Electric was also run to the garage and the garage door opener units were installed (but weren’t yet functional). We also had light in the garage. Woo hoo!
The biggest surprise this week was that the granite was installed. We were not expecting to have such a fast turnaround with our granite; it had only been a week since we’d chosen our slab. With Drees, you make an initial granite selection and when it’s time for the granite to be installed, you visit their granite supplier’s show room to pick your slab. You have the option to change your granite selection entirely – even to a non-granite surface, like marble or quartz. We stayed within the same level (Level 1) but changed our selection from Giallo Ornamental to Ashen White, but I still wasn’t 100% sure we had made the right choice. Well, all my fears were laid to rest when I saw it in person.
And since the granite was installed, our sink was too. It’s a double basin stainless steel sink. I honestly am not a big fan of stainless steel sinks because I feel like they show wear really quickly, but I also didn’t want a farmhouse style sink or a ceramic one. So… we just went with stainless steel. Ultimately, I think it was the best choice since we have stainless and brushed nickel touches here and there throughout the main floor plus a stainless steel fridge.
The baseboards were installed this week – kind of to our surprise. We thought we wouldn’t see those until after flooring was laid down. All of the doors were also painted. All of the interior trim of the house is “Designer White,” which is just a bright white.
The upper left is a view standing in the downstairs powder room looking into the coat closet. The upper right is a view at the top of the stairs looking down to the landing on the main floor. The boom left is a view from the front door looking into the family room. And the bottom right is the fireplace with a bunch of painted trim on the floor, of which the name is currently escaping me but it’s what goes below the baseboard, to fill in the gap between that and the floor.
Upstairs the plumbing was finished off in the bathrooms and the laundry room – faucets and fixtures were installed. I was really, super excited about the utility sink in the laundry room. The laundry room in our old house was in the basement in the unfinished part and the utility sink must have been original to the house and had definitely seen better days. It’s a huge upgrade for us to have an actual laundry room that’s finished, but it’s an even bigger upgrade to have a brand new, non-rusting, awesome looking utility sink (which, by the way, did not come standard to the house. We paid to have that added in).
The upper left and right show the faucet and fixtures in the master bathroom. I still can’t believe that a rainfall shower head is the standard fixture, but that’s what we got (in both bathrooms upstairs). I cannot wait to take a shower in there! At that point, the only thing missing for the plumbing in the master bathroom was the glass shower enclosure.
The toilet in the master bathroom is in a separate little enclosed area to the left of the shower. To the right of the shower is a linen closet. And, obviously, directly across from the shower are the his and her vanities, separated by the garden tub (which also had a faucet installed that week).
The bottom left shows the hall bathroom’s plumbing fixture installations which were the faucet and shower head for the tub/shower, and the toilet, plus the faucets for the double vanities.
The bottom right is the laundry room – and I think this is the first photo I’ve shared of it. You can see the washer hookups on the wall, the dryer vent and the utility sink (!!). Ezra is standing on the spot where a washer pan goes (which hadn’t been installed at that point).
And that just about wraps up the updates for early March. See what I mean about how fast things shaped up in March? And that was just the first two weeks. Wait until you see what happened at the end of the month!
Update – Click here to see the late March update, House Progress: Late March
As I said in my last update, we only had the option of a whole house paint color and we chose Antique White because it was the lightest option and seemed to have bits of grey in it (in person, whether or not there is grey in it is still up for debate…). I also talked about how we were able to afford hardwood flooring throughout the entire first floor due to not using a cabinet allowance we had padded into the purchase price. Our floors are “mocha” by Bruce Hardwood Flooring and they are gorgeous in person.
There were a few interior door options for upgrades but, as our theme has been for the most part throughout this entire process, we chose not to upgrade those right now and we went with the standard option, which is a 6 panel door. The panels are, luckily, flat. I don’t know if you have seen or had the 6-panel interior doors that have a wood grain texture to them but they are the bane of my clean freak heart. Dust settles into those suckers like nobody’s business - especially on doors in humid spaces, like bathrooms. That’s the style door we had in our house and I HATED cleaned them, the bathroom door particularly. So, if that had been what was the base option we definitely would have upgraded but luckily all the panels are flat, which means it won’t be hard at all to wipe down the doors.
The trim and baseboards are pretty standard. I’m sure you’ve seen this style a hundred times, in homes all across, well, everywhere. It’s a pretty traditional, timeless look though and that’s why we kept it. We did have the option to add in chair rails or higher baseboards (3″ up to 6″) but, again, decided against that upgrade in favor of focusing on more structural and functional options.
There were three options to choose from for stair railings. Two of them, I know you’ve seen before. You see them in a lot of homes, especially homes built in the 90s – oak railings that are kind of embellished on the spindles and anchor rail. This google search on oak stair railings tells you what I mean.
We were shocked that the third option was a simple, straight railing. We were instantly in love with it – nothing embellished, nothing too crazy…just a basic spindle and rail. It was exactly what we were looking for. The image in my moodboard is just an example, but in person they look pretty close to my inspiration picture. They are stained to match the flooring, which gives a seamless look and I love it!
As I said, we didn’t upgrade any light fixtures. This is the fixture that is in our dinging room. A similar one, with the bulbs point up is what’s in the entry and stairwell.
I am so bad at choosing light fixtures that that’s a big reason I was happy to stick with our base options. I’m really good at visualizing most everything in a room and pulling it all together, except for light fixtures that are mounted. I have some kind of mental block when it comes to lighting so, chances are, the fixtures we’ve got are going to be around for awhile until I get the courage to try out some other options. Luckily, they aren’t terrible looking. And they all have a brushed nickel finish which is nice.
I should note that I will have to make some light fixture choices sooner rather than later when it comes to our living room, game room and bedrooms. None of those rooms have ceiling fixtures; they’re capped off and ready for fixtures but we chose to not have Drees install anything since we felt we could get our own fixtures for less money (and we were right). We are putting ceiling fan lights in the living room and game room and, for now, the bedrooms won’t have any ceiling fixtures (only floor or table lamps).
I left a few things off this board, so I’ll share them really quickly -
This is the tile around our fireplace – Marazzi “Arctic Bay.” This picture is pretty spot on in terms of color and texture. The grout is a beigey color and looks really nice.
We did carpeting throughout the entire upstairs (with the exception of the laundry room and bathrooms, obviously) and this color is pretty close. It’s a very light cream shade and I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose it, considering I have a toddler and two pets. Luckily, I’m a whiz at removing stains so I’m sure I’ll be expanding that talent over the years.
We opted to upgrade the carpet padding to help extend the life of our carpeting. The extra bonus is that it’s pretty plush when you walk on it.
Now, onto the bathroom selections -
We didn’t do any tile in our house because I was kind of sick of caring for it in our old house. I hate how grout discolors from feet standing on it. I also hate how cold tile feels on your feet – especially in the mornings. So with those things in mind, we went with the standard option of vinyl flooring in both bathrooms, thinking that should we change our mind it would be fairly easy to rip out or cover up versus tile.
The same flooring is in both the upstairs hall bath and master bath. I wish I would have swapped out the master bath flooring for what we ended up putting in the laundry room, but that’s neither here nor there. And actually the flooring looks totally different in both rooms because of the other things that are going on.
I will say that the picture isn’t really accurate at all as to how the flooring looks in real life. It has more blue to it and is not nearly as dark.
This is the same cabinetry that’s in the kitchen. We loved the dark so much that we decided to extend it throughout the entire house. In the model of our floor plan, the master bathroom and hall bath both had different cabinetry (the downstairs powder room had a pedestal sink, but we did not put that in our powder room because we wanted the storage option that a cabinet brings) and I can see the value of doing that – to give it a bit more of a custom look and to differentiate the spaces. But, I just love how much dark cabinetry elevates a space and I didn’t like the other stain options nearly as much so we went dark everywhere with the cabinets. I definitely don’t regret that choice.
All of the finishes in the bathrooms are chrome, so we went with chrome versions of the knobs and pulls that are in the kitchen. Again, it wasn’t worth paying the extra money for Drees’ hardware upgrade options. We basically wanted the holes to be drilled and install hardware that was nice looking, in order to have the option to replace that with something more our style at a later date. Plus, I don’t understand the mentality of rolling things like cost of hardware into your mortgage when you can get those things for less money (and have a much more wider variety of options by looking at multiple different stores) elsewhere at a later date.
The shower in the upstairs hall bathroom is tiled. There was a variety of color options to choose from, plus you had the option (of course) of upgrading your tile – either to different shapes or a more complex design. We opted to keep it simple with these square tiles. We originally had this brown going into the master bathroom but I was afraid the room would be SO brown. We made the right choice by putting this in the hall bath instead because there is less tile there so the room isn’t overpowered by brown.
Since the powder room is on the main level, it has hardwood flooring just like the rest of that level. Not much else to say about that, haha.
As I mentioned, all of the fixtures in the bathrooms are chrome. These are the base fixtures and faucets and they look great in person. I do think, though, that the light fixtures we ended up getting do look a little different than what popped up when I google image searched what was on our selection sheets. I think they are two bulbs versus three.
This was the tile originally in the hall bathroom and, again, I am so glad we swapped it over to the master bathroom. This tile surrounds the tub and is in the shower. It looks so great against the vinyl flooring and makes the room really bright and airy. I am not much of a bath person (something about soaking in your own dirty water…) but even I am looking forward to hanging out in the tub surrounded by this beautiful tile.
I think that just about covers all of our selections. There are a few other things we chose that I don’t have stock photos of – the laundry room vinyl flooring, our brushed nickel doorknobs, the french doors that close off the study, shelving that goes into every closet and the pantry (it’s just basic coated wire shelving) and I’m sure a few other things I’m forgetting.
I plan on sharing a break down, after we close on our house, of how our upgrades shook out – minus pricing because that changes, but I will give a basic idea – and why we chose what we did (versus why we didn’t upgrade certain things that may have seemed obvious to upgrade).
And now that I’ve shared all of our selections, I can get to the fun part of showing how it’s all come together. I have a March update in the works and a final walk through update showing the totally completed house – minus landscaping and grass. Stay tuned!