Thursday, July 10, 2014

A New View

Do you want to know how you can gain approximately 1600 more square feet in your backyard?  Cut down a bunch of trees!

When we purchased our house we sort of liked all the trees and the natural feel of the yard.  However, we quickly realized how overgrown much of the yard was, specifically the 'woods' along the lot line in the far backyard.  We also realized how much maintenance these trees required; fall leaf removal, trimming by professionals every few years, removal of sticks and branches after storms, spraying for disease, injections for health...there are some days an empty lot sounds amazing!  Many of our pine trees had needle cast and were dying (not to mention the fact that for the longest time I thought I was finding needles from the Christmas tree in the house...nope, they were needles from outside that the dog tracked inside!).  After 'operation garlic mustard removal' two more pine trees completely kicked the bucket; most likely from our liberal application of weed killer. It was time to take care of all of these problems.

First, the electric company came to trim up the trees that were above the power lines, leaving us with half trees!  Next, our tree guys came and took care of business.  All in all, we had three solitary pines cut down and four more pines, a black walnut (the one that allowed easy access for raccoons to use our shed as a toilet), and various other small trees and shrubs (aka 'the woods) cut down.  It's amazing how much more space we have in the backyard now!

It will be some time before this project is complete.  Our plan is to put up a fence so that we can't see the busy street or our neighbors sheds and so that Gilbert can't mistake the neighbor wiener dogs as rabbits. Once that is done we will have to grow a lot of grass and do a bit of landscaping.  The removal of all the trees in the back hopefully makes way for more sunshine.  Maybe we can grow grass in areas where there is currently just mud and moss.  And maybe I can manage a better vegetable garden!  In a few years the extra space will be nice for a swing set too.

Backyard, before
On either side of that scrawny pine tree are two more pine tree halves.
You can sort of see one on the right.
WE Energies had already come and chopped them when this picture was taken.

Backyard, after
It's too bad the power lines are more visible now.
No more black walnut tree behind the shed for raccoons to climb up!
A different view to show how much space was gained.
The area from the shed to a few feet past the perennial garden was cleared.
They did leave a few plants that you can see here on the left.  We'll have to replant those since
they are kind of just hanging out in the middle of the yard now.
Tree by shed, before

Shed, after
You might notice that we now have a spot for our wood burner. LOL!
Mike just happened to be burning some branches that fell during
the last storm a few days prior.

Front of house, before
Front of house, after
This picture was taken at a different time of day when the front yard is full of shade
 so it doesn't look like much has changed.

Side of house, before
Side of house, after
A different angle.
 I'm just glad Gilbert won't be dragging pine needles into the house anymore.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Recipe - Mexican Meatloaf

If you know me well, you know that one of my favorite types of foods is Mexican food.  Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales, chimichangas, tostadas, salsa, guacamole...I like it all!  My recipe box contains MANY Mexican inspired dishes.  Most are not authentic; I leave that up to the professionals.  But I like the flavors and make Mexican versions of many things.  Mexican lasagna, Mexican stuffed peppers, Mexican quiche, a Mexican type pot pie, and the highlighted recipe of this post, Mexican meatloaf.

Growing up, I was never much of a fan of meatloaf.  As an adult I like regular old meatloaf more, but I really like this Mexican version.  The gooey cheese and sour cream inside sold me right off the bat!  If you're looking for a new take on meatloaf, try this recipe!


2 pounds lean ground beef
1 can (8 ounce size) tomato sauce
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 package taco seasoning mix
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 large egg
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, sliced


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine ground beef, tomato sauce, dry bread crumbs, taco seasoning mix, green bell pepper, onion and egg; mix thoroughly and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine cheddar cheese and sour cream. Place half the meat mixture in loaf pan. Make a deep well the length of loaf; place the cheese mixture in the well, then place the remaining meat mixture on top. Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

Pour off the drippings. Top the meatloaf with sliced cheddar cheese, overlapping. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes.