Apple Picking and Pie Making

A few weekends ago we had a free Saturday and it happened to be perfectly timed with our local orchard’s apple season. Philip and I drove out to Millington and spent the morning picking apples. The weather was perfect and it was nice to get out of the suburban life. Here is a great Iphone quality picture from our morning in the orchard courtesy of a timer and my phone being propped up in the grass πŸ™‚


When we got home I decided to make apple piece using the apples we picked (Arkansas Black apples from Jones’ Orchard). I’ve never actually made a pie from scratch before and figured it would be a fun treat to try. Honestly I rarely bake or cook for that matter so I was a little nervous about how they would turn out. But much to my surprise they were delicious! Here is the super easy recipe that I used (and if I can make it, anyone can make it!)



  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


  • 3 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Vanilla ice cream


For crust:
Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400Β°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.

For topping:
Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.

Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). Reduce oven temperature to 350Β°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. Cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with ice cream.


I made two regular sized pies with this recipe and they were delicious! The crust was probably my favorite part; it was perfectly flaky and buttery. I’ve made pie crust from scratch before (for chicken pot pie) and i’ve never been able to get the texture correct. This is a great crust for those who have trouble with them previously. The key is definitely having the chilled butter and frozen shortening.

A couple days later we had our friend’s Trisha and Philip over for a night of sitting by the fire pit and playing life sized Jenga. I made the apple pie again but this time I made individual sized pies and made them with gluten free flour since Trisha is gluten intolerant. They pies looked great but the crust was a little dry; I think I messed up one of my measurements when I halved the recipe… Oh well.

Here is one of the little pies:

photo 4

After making 7 pies within a week the baking bug definitely got to me. Earlier this week I attempted macaroons for the first time. I’ll share that recipe later πŸ™‚


The Studio!

Oh brother! Another renovation project… and hopefully the last major change to the Square House (beside the backyard).

Honestly after the master bathroom nightmare (see previous post) we really didn’t want to pick up tools again for a very very long time. So we contacted three different contractors to give us bids on the studio renovations. Well weeks went by and after a couple contractor visits we never heard back from anyone. Yep not a single guy called us back wanting the job. Not really sure why but that left us to do the whole job. Cue the smallest violin playing a sad sad song. I wasn’t very happy with that. πŸ™ But whatever I got over it, put on my big girl panties, and picked up the tool belt once again.

So a little reminder of what the place looked like when we moved in:







Fugly color! And that tile… well not bad when we moved in. Then we started living with it for a while and we noticed just how bad that tile job was. I’m talking tile completely out of square, terrible grout lines, and tiles that were sticking up. Seriously started driving us nuts every day… but I really wanted all the projects done in the main house first so we lived with the studio space for about a year without making major changes. We did some decorating and painting but not much. We were in such a rush to start the renovations that we didn’t really take any images of the place in the middle stage. Here are a few iphone pictures of the place:

Back of the room we had a client area set up. Here we had meetings and also showed our clients their images via a projector.




By the front door we had our desks, one on each side of the room. We used these bookcases to form a sort of entryway andΒ  semi hide our desks:



Looking at the front entry way, desks on each side.


A look at the desks that we made (we re-purposed them in the renovation)


So when we started thinking about the renovation we used Google Sketchup to design the space and process the changes. We went through about 7 different designs before deciding on the one below. We ended up not taking the wall all the way to the ceiling but other than that we pretty much stuck to the design. So glad Philip learned this program and that we were able to see the changes before we committed to major construction changes.

Untitled Untitled

And the final result! We started by putting the flooring in up to where we were framing out the double doorway and changing it to a single doorway. With the help of my dad we then framed out the single doorway and the half wall. We decided to go with a half wall in case we wanted to rearrange later. We were actually able to fabricate the wall in a way that is not connected to the floor or other walls. We can actually slide the wall around the floor when we need to but it is super heavy… like multiple hundreds of pounds heavy so it won’t knock over. We put a custom wood topper on the wall to match the flooring and then the custom light fixture that I made is out of the same Birch that the wall topper is made out of. We really wanted to incorporate a lot of natural wood grains, raw metals, and light colors into the space. We used a couple of different types of woods and we are really happy with how it turned out. I was a little nervous about using light and dark woods but I really like the contrast between the wood choices…

So here is a look at all the changes :


The client area is now right by the front door.


Looking into the room from the front door:




Front corners. I want to change up this seating area down the road but for now this is what it is πŸ™‚




One of my favorite pieces is the light fixture that I designed and made by hand. I really wanted to bring Edison bulbs into the space and a lot of them πŸ™‚ Total there are 19 bulbs on this fixture. I would have put more in but wiring this took several hours and I didn’t want to draw too much power from a single fixture. I do need to go back in an straighten the cords a little bit but that can wait.




More client area:




And our desks. So glad that they are hidden now. We sanded our old desk and then painted them white to add more light to the room. Then we put them back to back and made one big desk.



A look at the client area and desk area.



We swapped over from using a projector to a TV for our client viewings. I definitely prefer this method and like the look of it much better.


Another favorite element are our chairs for the desks. Philip found these guys on major sale and I insisted that he order then, comfortable or not πŸ™‚ We both have pillows that we put on the seats while we are working. I love the grain on these chairs!!


Both views of the barn door. We’ve wanted one for a really long time and we searched high and low on the internet to find the right track that didn’t cost a fortune. We stained the door to match the desk chairs. Again in love with the way the grain pops on the door. We’ve fallen in love with natural woods and intricate grains and I’m really glad that we got to incorporate so many different grains.



The print room. We do all our own printing for our clients and previously we had the printer in the main room. One of the main priorities was to get the printer out of the area that clients were in. We needed more wall space in the second room to be able to put the printer in here and so the double doorway became a single and we gained 3 more feet of wall space and a couple more square feet over all in the other room.



Here we print, cut, and assemble all our prints, mattes, and albums. The big cabinet is for lots of storage


So there you have it! Our studio renovation. So glad that is over with and now we can get back to work and be full time photographers and not part time renovators πŸ™‚


The Living Room: Redesigned!

So remember when the living room looked like this:

Then it looked like this:

Well now it looks like this:

And another view of before:

Stage 2 where we were using our older furniture and had the tv downstairs:

And how it looks like this!

For Christmas this year we bought each other new living room furniture. We have agreed that we have officially become old because we got super excited about new furniture. The lounge, couch, and loveseat were all part of our Christmas to one another. We knew when we moved in that we wanted to update our furniture and get pieces that reflected our personality better. We also wanted lighter pieces. the leather couches were super comfy but with our dark floors the couches were overbearing. We absolutely love the new pieces and the style! Even though our house was built in the 80s it still has a feeling of a Mid Century home. Since moving in we have done a tone of research in architecture and design and we really want our home to reflect the Mid Century Modern style. If you haven’t noticed we are minimalist and that fits right in with the Mid Century feel. We’ve also come to love the Scandinavian Modern approach to decorating and we are trying to implement it consistently throughout the house.



This little area is now my new favorite spot in the whole house! I’ve wanted this chair for as long as I can remember and the day we finally purchased it I was a very happy lady! It is a replica of the original Eames Lounge Chair and it can be found here.

I built the light art piece a couple weeks ago and I can’t be happier with it! We really wanted to make the living room a place that was slightly more formal. To use that meant taking the tv and gaming system out of the room and moving it upstairs. When we did that we ended up with a large wall that was completely bare. For the living room we really wanted it to be a room that was about conversations and community.Β  Some of our best time with friends have been when we sit around and talk about life and the arts. The Crane brothers (yes Niles and Frasier πŸ™‚ ) are two of our favorite tv characters and we love the diversity of their knowledge of the arts. Ok the Crane brothers are a little higher class ( and snootier) than we are but we do love the desire to be immersed in the arts… We also spend a lot of time just playing games with our friends and talking about nothing… yada yada yada… all those aspects were what we were thinking about when we were planning on how to use the bare wall. We over think things just a little πŸ™‚ We knew we wanted a functional art piece and this is what we ended up with.

I originally found an art piece that was similar to this in an architecture magazine and I customized it to our wall space. I’ll be posting later on the process of building the art piece.


I’m so glad that we took out the third large piece of furniture and now have an open entry into the living room from the front door. It opens the room up so much more and allows a better flow through the room. Also we took out the ceiling fan and I’m so glad we took it down! We had no clue how much it would open up the height of the room by just taking out a fan (plus it was a hideous fan that was made of leather and deer antlers… yep antlers. Ha not our style one bit!). Now we just have lamps to light the room and the sky light. We greatly enjoy havingΒ  more ambient light and not over powering overheads.

I also love our lampskin rug. Yes I’ve named it, Eleanor Rigby, and it is the softest rug I’ve ever stepped on. I’ve been known to move the coffee table at times and take naps on Eleanor with Amydog πŸ™‚



So with the new furniture and art piece we finally are starting to feel like we have a room that we are finished with and can full enjoy! We’ve already had several gatherings in the newly designed room and we both feel like we have achieved our goal of having a Scandinavian Modern/ Mid Century Modern room that lends itself to conversations. πŸ™‚

What do you think of our newly designed living room? What type of conversation would you have in a living room like this?


The Yard: Progress!

Whew! We’ve been working really hard on the exterior of the house this past month! We wanted to wait until the weather got a little cooler before we tackled the jungle area πŸ™‚ Thankfully we have been blessed with some great weather the past few weeks and we took full advantage of it!

The first thing we did was to clear out the jungle that was our side yard. As you can see from the above image (what we saw right before we closed) the side yard was completely out of control! We learned from our neighbor (who is a super sweet older lady) that the house was vacant for over a year and a half. That much time vacant made for a crazy area. There are five very large crape myrtles in the the side area and they hadn’t been trimmed in years! Also the entire area (what we learn was 900 sq ft) was covered in ivy and four large rose bushes. The ivy was so thick that when you reached down to pull it out it took several pulls before you could see the ground.
We pulled out all the ivy, trimmed the crapes, and transplanted the rose bushes to the front (where we made a new flower bed). When we pulled up all the ivy we found about 50 pavers and 100 stones that you use for edging a bed. Nice little surprise! Saved us about $300 in stones.

We then till the entire area and leveled it. And then we had 9 tons of gravel delivered. Yep as in 18,000 pounds of gravel. Together we shoveled all 9 tons into the bed and it only took about 4 hours πŸ™‚ Of all the things we have done on this house, this yard project has definitely been the hardest on our bodies. It took us 2 days to clear out the ivy and undergrowth. After those two days we were aching like never before. We had to take a week off from pulling it all out and the laying of gravel because of a wedding and it was a good thing we rested between the chores. πŸ™‚
We are putting a seating area in the cleared out section and right now we have the rescued pavers down but we still need to level them. We are in the process of moving all the railing from right next to the house to perimeter of the graveled area. Below shows the progress we had made up till this past weekend:


You can now see the studio! Another before:

And after:

Before (and you can see the old railing color. Man I forgot how dated the cream looked):

This shows the new bed out front. We used rose bushes that were in the side area as well as monkey grass that was lining the driveway. We lined the edge with stones that we found in the side area. We’ll see if the roses actually live πŸ™‚

And a look at the soon to be seating area. We went ahead and laid down the stones before putting the gravel in so we would know what area we would be using. The leveling won’t be fun but we are looking forward to having a fire pit here as well as some cool lighting in the trees.

So that is what we have been up to in the yard πŸ™‚


Interior before and afters

So we closed on this house exactly 95 days ago… It feels like much longer than that, especially when I look back over pictures from when we first purchased the house. We have done so much in the past three months and it feels so good to finally be getting close to the end of our initial to-do list. We have a couple small projects still to do but for now the main interior projects are just about done! So today I have a flood of before and after pictures for you.

Above you have the stair case at the front entry way.

Projects Completed:

– Staircase stripped, sanded, and repainted.

– New carpet on stairs and hardwood in the hallway

– Hall and staircase painted

I’ve already shown most of the kitchen but we recently did some more work to the breakfast nook.

Projects Completed:

– Walls painted

– Bi-fold doors added

– Vertical blinds removed and curtains added

– Light fixture changed

Projects left:

– Hem curtains

– put door knobs on doors.

– Eventually we want to take the sliding doors out and put a window in its place

Dining room

Projects Completed:

– Flooring replaced

– Walls painted

– Light fixture changed

Projects to do:

– Add crown molding to match living room

– Window treatments

– Eventually add in windows on the front walls (where the London painting is hanging)

Living Room

Projects Completed:

– Half wall knocked down

– Columns refinished

– Flooring replaced

– Walls and trim painted

– Closet door replaced

Projects to do:

– Change out light fixture

– Finish decorating

Side note, I love the light in our living room during the day. We have a huge sky light that fills the room with a gorgeous even light for most of the day and it is so peaceful! Also the wall color in the living room, dining room, hallway, bathroom, staircase, and landing are all the same color but each room looks completely different depending on what time of day it is.

Amydog and Troubadour McLaren approve of all the changes πŸ™‚

Downstairs bathroom

Projects Complete:

– Walls patched

– All doors replaced

– Walls painted

– Cabinets painted

– Mirror hung

– Shelves hung over toilet area

Downstairs guest room

Projects complete:
– Doors replaced

– Carpet replaced (praise Jesus!)

Projects to do:

– Paint walls and trim

– Add closet doors

– Replace windows (they have lost their seal)

Master Bedroom
Projects Completed:

– Walls painted

– Vertical blinds replaced

– Carpet replaced

Projects to do:

– Add crown molding

– Replace doors

– get new bed frame πŸ™‚



Projects Completed:

– Walls painted

– Vertical blinds replaced

– Carpet replaced (oh dear it was so nasty. Y’all it gave me nightmares)

– We have no clue what we are doing with this area. It is the only room we can’t agree on. I want to move the tv up here and have a sitting area but Philip wants to bring in a pool table… we will see what happens.

PS Troubadour has managed to fall off the side of the landing twice. How that cat keeps falling I don’t know. She gets up there multiple times a day and can’t seem to stay up 100% of the time… I hope she doesn’t kill herself!

Philip’s Office

Projects Completed:

– Lady Bugs killed and painted over πŸ™‚

– Trim painted

– Blinds replaced

– Guitars hung

Projects to do:

– Hang new doors

Probably my favorite corner of our house. For the first time since we’ve been married Philip has a room that is 100% dedicated to his music. As a professional musician he is always playing outside of the house but never played at home because he didn’t have a place to set up his gear. Now he plays all the time and I am thrilled!

So that is what we have been up to the past 3 months πŸ™‚