Settling In

Hello, Chicago!

It’s good to be home. We haven’t even been here a week and Chicago finally got an exciting amount of snow. I’ll go ahead and take credit for that one.

We’re settling in quite nicely, even though we’ve had a few kinks with our new maintenance man.

Here’s a few sneak peaks of the place.

Wall-E and Eve hold hands on my dresser

Having the tree slice wedding guestbook on my dresser makes me smile. I’ve read the comments over and over, but they still warm my heart.

Cornelius checks out the new nightstand. He approves.

This new nightstand fits perfectly. Cornelius the woolly mammoth likes it, too.

Desk is all set up

It feels great having the desk set up. The new green rug is like having a little bit of spring inside the apartment at all times.

Wallflowers from IKEA

Finally, our new place has plaster walls that are awful for nails in the wall. I was so happy to find these wall clings at IKEA. It’s like waking up to a garden every morning!

IKEA didn’t pay me to write this post, but I mean, it’d be kinda cool if they did because I love their products.




Have you ever noticed that when your nose is really cold from being outside, and you scrunch it up *like this* it takes longer for it to “un-scrunch”?

The girl scrunches her nose, un-scrunches, and her eyes go wide. “It does! It really does! That’s so weird.” She continues to scrunch her nose for the next several minutes.

Suddenly she stops scrunching her nose and drops this heavy weight on my chest, “Erica, did you hear about what happened in Connecticut?”

I collected myself enough to reply, “I did.” 

“It made me sad.”

“Well, it made me remember how much I really care about you guys here.”

“You do?”

“Of course I do. You’ll be in my heart forever.”

“And mine, too.”

Parks and Recreation and New Autumn Decorations

It’s almost Thanksgiving! It’s safe to say that 2012 has flown by faster than other year for me. The first half of the year was spent planning our wedding and the rest of it has felt like smooth sailing. And, hey, we’ve been married over five months now! That’s like a record if we were Hollywood celebrities.

I spent a week in Ohio with my friend Sandy while her husband was out of town. I helped watch their baby Ben while Sandy had to work. I think that was my first real, extended experience with a baby. There might be pictures soon to prove to you all that I held a baby in my arms and didn’t drop the child or explode into flames!

When I wasn’t in Ohio, I was slowly working on this rag wreath for the autumn season. I had intended to finish it much sooner, but I kept getting distracted by (finally) reading Harry Potter. Oh, and applying to several other jobs. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost sight of why I have all this free time. I am ready, ready, ready for my next job.

Autumn Rag Wreath

Interested in making your own rag wreath? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 yards total of fabric; I used 4 different patterns in 1/2 yard of each
  • Ribbon to make the bow and hang the wreath
  • Scissors
  • 1 metal wreath frame — I found mine at Michael’s and used a coupon, but I’ve seen rag wreaths that simply use an old wire hanger. Of course, you won’t need nearly as much fabric for those.
  • Some autumn embellishments — These were 80% off at Michaels because I bought them November 2nd. I think this entire project was about $10. Not bad!
  • Hot glue

To make the wreath, cut your fabric into 1″ by 6″ strips. You could make them different lengths and widths, but be careful not to cut them too short or it’s a real pain to try to tie the knot. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Then randomly tie your strips onto the metal frame. I double knotted my fabric because I didn’t want my hard work to come undone. This part takes lots of patience and far more time than you might imagine. That’s where Parks and Recreation (or your other favorite streaming TV show or movie) can come in handy, trust me. Leslie Knope, I wish you could be our president.

autumn rag wreath fabric

Once you’re done tying all those strips, give yourself a pat on the back. No, really. You deserve it.

Add your autumn embellishments! Depending on what you’re adding, you may need hot glue. I used it just to keep small parts of the decoration in place.

Autumn rag wreath embellishments

Finally, tie a loop of ribbon onto the top of your wreath. I busted out my old floral design skills to make a bow on the top, but it’s up to you how you want to decorate your wreath.

Autumn rag wreath bow

If you’re like me, you’ll finish it just in time for Thanksgiving. But at least this one will be ready for the season next year.

I suppose now it’s time to get started on a Christmas wreath. . . .I recognize that I might have a wreath-making addiction.

Dinner with the Silers

Menu 11/13 - 11/16


Chris and I found these chalkboard wall-clings at (of all places) Paper Source. Chalkboard anything is pretty hip these days. Just ask Pinterest. We liked these because we could have the chalkboard without the work of painting anything and we can’t paint our apartment walls anyway. I can be hip without the commitment. Win!


Our meal plan for the week:

Salsa chicken

This meal was incredibly easy. We probably put in too many chicken thighs, but they were on sale so it was all right. This has fed us for four (4!) meals, which is much more than we anticipated. The good news is that we aren’t sick of it, so that means we will probably make it again. I have a love affair with sour cream and Ortega taco sauce, but this meal really is fine without both of those additions.

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

The new Mr. & Mrs. Siler really like chicken. And we also really like buffalo chicken. So while this is yet another slow cooker recipe to make in one week, we knew we had to make it. Last week while I was visiting a friend in Ohio we made this meal but it turned out a bit soupy. Here’s hoping that won’t happen with this attempt.

Chunks of chicken aren’t my favorite in meals like this, so I actually boiled the chicken breasts and then shredded the meat. I think it’ll make for a nicer consistency.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Not everybody loves The Pioneer Woman’s recipes, but I have enjoyed all the meals from her blog that I’ve made. This one is no different. It satisfies my love for sour cream and pasta all in one meal. It’s safe to say that I would not survive the Paleo diet. Seriously, you guys. No grain or dairy? I just can’t fathom a world without those two food groups.

* * *

You’ll notice that there aren’t any photos. And that’s because I’m not a great photographer and it’s because we like food so much that we eat it before we photograph it. Plus, I’m too busy following recipes to stop and take photos every two minutes. Kudos to people like The Pioneer Woman who can pull it off and still make delicious meals. My food would be brown and crispy if I tried to focus on too many things at once.

What are you cooking this week?

This is (was) Halloween

Well, we survived “Superstorm” Sandy just fine, except our Internet and phone line have been down since Monday. So my Halloween post has been delayed a few days. Oh well.

I wanted to share with you what Halloween looked like in our apartment.
Boo! Wreath
This was my first attempt at making a wreath, and of course I have Pinterest to thank for the inspiration behind this wreath. It took a lot longer than expected, but it was a nice activity to keep me busy in between periods of job hunting.

silly Halloween card
My mother-in-law, Cindy, found a Halloween card-making kit at a shop in Kansas. She didn’t have time to make the cards, so she gave the kit to me. This particular card was sent to my nephew. I loved this design because it was a huge googley eye! What fun.
Spooky wreath
The first wreath was so fun, I had to make another. This time I didn’t even use Pinterest or any other instructional guide, I just made it up!
First, I wrapped a styrofoam wreath with black yarn. I liked the vibrant yarn that I also found at Michaels, and really wanted to use it, too. It just felt appropriate for a Halloween wreath. I took leftover fabric and paint from my rag wreath to make the banner that reads “Spooky”.
Better call the ghostbusters
We had this ghost from last year. I’m pretty sure we found it in the Target Dollar Spot. I had a good little giggle when I placed this guy next to Chris’s Lego town. From some angles inside the apartment, it really did look like the ghost was terrorizing the neighborhood!
Leafy jack-o-lantern
I used my college textbook, Michael Dirr’s Handbook of Woody Landscape Plants to copy some of my favorite autumn leaves onto paper. Once I had my template, I used that to make my leafy jack-o-lantern. From left to right the leaves belong to the following trees: American sweetgum, white ash, white oak (top), black tupelo (bottom), and red maple.
our decorated apartment

Chris and I hope your Halloween was delightfully spooky!

Surviving Sandy

1. Lots of blankets for cuddling.

2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

3. Earl Grey tea

4. Peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas on toast

Surviving Sandy

We’ve hunkered down into our apartment, enjoying the power while it lasts. The wind whips onto our window screens to remind us how powerful this storm is. The TV is playing weather reports over and over. Obama wants us to be safe.

We’ve loaded up on bread, peanut butter, fruit, canned foods, and we filled our camping water jug with five gallons of water. The freezer is stocked with ice and other goodies.

In August 2011 we experienced an earthquake followed by hurricane Irene. Last October there was snow at the end of the month and it was the only snow we really saw all winter. Over the summer we had the derecho.

I guess there’s just never a dull moment here on the East Coast.

Our New Favorite Pastime

The weather here was too gloomy and overcast for Chris to do his outdoor filming today, so he finished what he could this morning and then we decided to head out to run a few errands.

We ended up in Old Town Alexandria at a great little yarn shop.

Selection of yarn at Fiber Space in Alexandria

The store clerks were very nice and did a great job of coming up to me and asking if I needed any help.

“Oh, no,” I would begin to explain, “My husband is the one who knits in our family. You’ll have to ask him.”

And then I would watch their heads slowly explode with excitement as they processed what I had said. I think that’ll become my new favorite pastime. Explaining that my husband knits and watching people’s reactions.

I’ve already gained a fabulous pair of wool leg warmers (perfect for winter in the apartment when Chris is usually warm and I am consistently chilly). His new project is a snood and matching pair of mittens.

Soon he’ll try to teach me how to knit, but for now I’ll enjoy the shocked look on someone’s face when I get to explain that my husband knit the scarf or mittens that I’ll be wearing this season.

Suddenly Siler

I’m not afraid to admit that I really did love my maiden name.


It had some power behind it! “Don’t worry, I can handle it. I’m quite Manley after all.” That was my favorite thing to say out loud or to myself while grasping several heavy grocery bags, 20-gallon potted plants at the greenhouse, or building new IKEA furniture for the apartment.

Plus, hardly anyone mispronounced it. It was a simple name, and a good one.

When Chris and I became engaged I knew I could either keep my maiden name or take Chris’s last name. I decided to keep my maiden name as my middle name. I just couldn’t let go of Manley. Overall though, I wanted to take my husband’s last name to really feel like one new family. I wanted to become a Siler.

I like the name Siler, don’t get me wrong. But I’m already dealing with the struggles of this new last name.

“Right this way, Mrs. Sill-er”

Actually it’s Sigh-ler.

On the phone I have to say, “Siler, S as in Sam, i-l-e-r.” Otherwise it ends up being Filer. I don’t know how that keeps happening.

There’s also the new stigmatism behind the name Siler since it sounds oh-so-similar to Sylar, the villan in the TV series “Heroes”. I promise we aren’t murderers.

So on June 2, 2012 I got married. And on June 6, 2012 I updated all of my records and I was suddenly a Siler.

Chris and I are working on defining what it means to be Chris and Erica Siler.

It means figuring out how to decorate with both Star Trek and Iron Man as well as DIY wreath ideas from Pinterest and nature-inspired decorations. It means finding a balance between science-fiction TV shows and the occasional “Grey’s Anatomy” episode. We’re trying to figure out how to cook for two and stick to a budget.

We’re becoming the best version of Mr. and Mrs. Siler that we can be.