Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Last Shade!

So.  This may look like a totally normal, nondescript shade to you but to me it looks VICTORY! Months of work, sweat and tears went into putting up this shade.  This is the last one we had to get up in our house.  We opted for Hunter Douglas honeycomb shades, which are really really good - one of my favorite pastimes has become putting my hand behind the shade when it's really hot and going "wow, that's a really big temperature difference!" (A knows what I"m capable of)

We'd installed most of them a few months ago but this particular room was still missing paint, and we decided, hey, let's not put up that shade until we paint (given that I am prone to getting paint everywhere).  So we waited to paint.  Turns out, we didn't have enough paint to finish the room.  Lovely.  Now we were waiting for the store up the street to have a sale on paint (is it possible to go into the negatives with steps?  It sure felt like we did....)  One day I'm digging around in my garage and find an extra can of paint.  Score!  So we paint the room (including the sill).  Except now we can't find the brackets (face>>palm).  So we stall for a week or so while we try to remember where we (read: me) put those buggers...not in the garage... not in the spare bedroom closet...not next to the shade.... turns out, I decided they'd be safest tucked in the corner of the office closet, next to the bookcase (don't ask).  So we gather up our supplies (drill, screwdriver, tape measure and brackets):

(I feel obligated to point out that all the streaking on the window is inside the window - it's condensation.  Dave Barry nailed it when he said homes are constantly trying to degrade into a big pile of junk.)

 Unfortunately, installing a shade doesn't yield much as far as photo ops.  But here's a picture of a bracket hanging by one of the wall anchors (we used ridiculously strong ones that were designed to hold 30 pounds each - woe to the person who comes after us in this house and tries to remove these blinds).

 The end result?  A beautiful, beautiful shade that protects against the sun and heat and offers privacy while still allowing light to filter in.  We had to adjust the bottom endcaps a little, but it was all worth it.  Now we can finally start decorating our spare bedroom!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oh hello!

Oh um... I am still here. :o Shamefully I've been neglecting this blog for a bit (it was just laziness).  A and I have been really focusing on trying to decorate our home... it's okay (nothing that would make your eyes bleed) but it's not as good as we know it could be.  We've been digging through photos and browsing things online. (It's a lot more tiring than it sounds!) I've discovered love HGTV.  I obsess over their site constantly.  I am glad I don't have it on my TV - or I would possibly spend all day watching it (that and Food Network).

So!  We want to refinish our dining room table, which we like the shape of but is in terrible condition after having things spilled on it (including but not limited to: blue paint, white paint and reed diffuser liquid that promptly ate the varnish and left a big white spot).  We've been reading up on how to do this, and will probably make a go of it before the nice weather ends.  Not this weekend though, because this weekend we are going to PAX.

PAX PAX PAX.  I love PAX.  I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but I'm a huge nerd.  I met my husband on a videogame and I'd say approximately 60% of my youth was spent on my PlayStation2 (okay fine, probably more like 80%!).  I'm so excited to be around other gaming nerds that it is not unusual for us to spend the whole day there (I don't get out much).  Pictures will be posted.  Oh yes.  They are coming.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tomato Plants and Bathroom Paint

So those tomato plants I thought were weeds are actually starting to produce tomatoes!  Last year we ended up with so many tomatoes that some ended up dropping off (which is how we ended up with these plants).  I'm toying with the idea of homemade ketchup, just to have a way to use all these tomatoes.  Blackberries are also starting to crop up, which is fun because those are amazing sprinkled with some sugar and used as a topping on ice cream.  Yum!

We (mostly) finished painting the bathroom yesterday, here's a before photo to remind you:

and here's the end result:

It's a minty pale green (though it comes out as blue in these photos); my next plan for this room is to either pull that cupboard down and strip then repaint it, or possibly remove the backsplash from the counter (along with that weird tail above the toilet).  This is our color scheme, we've all decided on the cream color for a new vanity and purple for the accent color (probably towels, maybe a shower curtain).  I love color, it can totally change the mood of a room.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli

Last night I tried my hand at making ravioli for the first time... it is hard.  Rolling the dough definitely becomes the worst part after the first thirty minutes, it's just so... elastic.  And refuses to roll out.  Stretch, dang you!  My arms are still sore from all the rolling.

Recipe at Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli

Here's our ingredients, lined up for a mugshot.

This is my first time making homemade noodles, so I'll admit I was a little apprehensive!  It's pretty straightforward, though.  Measure your flour and salt, mix your egg (and any other wet ingredients), then combine and turn out onto a floured pastry cloth.  Then knead.  And knead.  And knead.  And knead.  

And knead some more.

Until you get something along the lines of this, a smooth ball of dough.  The instructions say to wrap it up and let it rest, so I moved on to making the filling, because I'm an impatient kind of person like that.

Mushrooms, onions and garlic all sauteing together nicely.  This made the house smell delicious, by the way.

After the mushroom mixture cooked, I added in the spinach, cream cheese and parmesan.  I didn't have any shredded mozzarella so we just did cream cheese, mushroom, spinach and parmesan cheese ravioli...shhh don't tell my husband.  Oh wait, he reads this.  Oh well.  Sorry honey!

When I took this picture I had just rolled out my dough ball and was thinking "huh, this is actually pretty fun".  Silly me, I didn't realize that I would have to roll this dough out several times and each time it would become more and more resistant to my rolling attempts, much like a certain stubborn dog.  I cut out circles using a drinking glass, then rolled those out again.  There's a lot of rolling involved in this recipe.

After rolling out the circles, I plopped a tablespoon of filling in the center.  Doesn't that look pretty?

I love these photos, because they scream quintessential ravioli pictures to me.  The puffy pillows, the decorative can't see the person behind the camera going crazy trying to roll out the dough (which is becoming increasingly aggressive each time I use it).

Ravioli pile!  After I got tired and stopped I boiled  what I had for a few minutes and to my immense surprise, none of them split open.  Victory!

I served ours with marinara sauce, not the chive butter sauce - I have to stick with the classics. (Yes, there is spaghetti in there as well.  We had some leftover spaghetti I had to find a use for!) I was surprised at how full I felt after eating 3-4 of these - they're actually really filling.  Overall it was really really good.    Bonus points: vegetarian!  The recipe was right, I totally didn't miss the meat.  Would I make it again?  Probably not, unless I have a ton of energy that day.  Or get a pasta roller.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Painting and Office Rearranging

So yesterday was a productive day!  We finished painting our spare bedroom (remember that project from like 2 months ago?); I happened upon an extra can of paint in our garage and actually did a little dance upon finding it.  Yes!  Free paint!  (Well, kinda.)  Anyway the spare bedroom is now el completo, which is nice because now we can focus on getting the shade up and trying our hand at crown molding.  Oh yeah.  I'm totally there.

Since I was running around covered in paint I also decided to paint the bathroom (it's been sitting primed for a month or so; for me the hard part about painting is just getting set up.  Once I get started I'm fine, but actually dragging out the plastic tarp and taping things down just seems like so much effort..) The green is softer than I remember it, but I like it a lot.  Reminds me of mint.  A and I have decided we want to pull out that vanity (what is that little dangly part over the toilet, anyway?!) and put in a cream one with a matching mirror (still can't agree on whether we want rectangle or oval) with light purple accents (towels, soap dispenser).  Of course, the first step is just getting all the walls to match (trickier than it sounds).

We also rearranged our office, which always felt a little off (but since neither of us are decorators we didn't know how to fix it).  Turns out, it was the layout that was offending us - the computer was tucked against the wall and the drafting board was on the opposite wall, so if you wanted to work at the drafting board then look something up at the computer you had to do a complete 180 to look at the computer, then do another 180 to get back to your work.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Eggrolls and Posting Frequency

So it's been a couple of days since posting... I've talked with A a lot and I've all but decided to make this a blog that posts twice a week instead of daily.  This may come as a surprise (read: not at all) but I'm very boring.  And I am made more boring when I have to set aside time each day to write about my boring life.  I would rather spend that time on projects (gardening, home improvement, trying to untangle the mess of cords behind our entertainment center... seriously I don't think that one will ever actually happen).  We're also reaching the point where we're beginning to talk marketese about this book - I'm not sure what that means for this blog (it will definitely continue to exist, just perhaps not in its current form).  More updates as we get them!

So I tried my hand at making Sweet and Sour Chicken, which I've tried before we moderate success (though it did get very very soggy the next day).  And as an impromptu "what the hey" I also threw in homemade eggrolls, because heck, I'm tired of paying $8 for 10 frozen ones.  I ended up settling on this recipe with a few modifications (mainly that they were incredibly meaty and they needed more vegetables).

The chicken is very straightforward (also I forgot to take a lot of photos); probably my least favorite part about this recipe is how "clumpy" the sweet and sour sauce gets when it cools.  It's kinda like a very loose gelatin.  I added garlic and black pepper to the batter (because I'm a garlic kind of girl - seriously, there's no threat of vampires around here), then deep fried those bad boys to a beautiful golden brown.  On a random note, I'd forgotten how much deep frying makes you feel like you're walking around in a cloud of grease afterwards.

The eggrolls were a lot of fun once I got started - it was as easy as browning the meat (though I don't think I'd use a full pound of sausage next time - 1/2 lb would be plenty!) and sauteeing the vegetables to loosen them up.

As it turns out, it's a lot of fun to make eggrolls.  You just plorp some filling (I saw a recipe for apple dumpling eggrolls... doesn't that sound divine?) about 2 inches from the bottom and roll.  Roll roll roll.  Moisten the top of the eggroll wrapper and roll some more.

Here we have 8 pretty eggrolls ready for frying.  I ultimately got 20 out of this batch, which means I spent about $7 for about twice the eggrolls.  That's a pretty okay thing, I think.

Here we are frying... I just put some oil in the bottom of my skillet.  I hate wasting stuff.  Anyway, these didn't take long to cook at all.  And they smell divine.

Annnd here's the finished product (with an extra photo of my dinner plate.  It was as delicious as it looked!)  The back three ended up kinda well done, but the top ones turned out nice.  These reheat really well, in fact I kinda like them more the next day (after the flavors have had time to meld and such...)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Microwave Baking and Home Improvement

I've really been missing my oven lately, so much so that this is beginning to look like a good idea... my only issue is getting my hands on a bundt pan that won't emit sparks in my microwave.  (Maybe it's a good thing I can't do this - could you imagine the damage I could do with cakes that can be made in 15 minutes?  I can feel my waist expanding from here...) I haven't done any projects lately so I don't have much to report I'm afraid!  You ever have one of those days where it's just hard to focus on anything, let alone summon any energy or enthusiasm?  That was my Tuesday.  I managed to make myself clean somewhat, but then spent half of the day asleep, and the other half in a stupor (I hate Tuesdays).  I think what I'd like to do is start working on the spare bedroom, maybe make it less of a closet (have you seen my spare bedroom?  There's random junk all over like a garage sale threw up in it).  Finish painting it.  Put some furniture in it (no, the ladder in there does not count).

I've been watching old cartoons, specifically Daria, and I'd honestly forgotten how excellent this series is.  Especially DeMartino, who I think any CSR will recognize as themselves (at least occasionally).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Ocean and World's Best Lasagna

So we took our vacation to the ocean and it was lovely.  We drove for about 3 hours to reach a small tourist-y town with approximately 300 hotels and one grocery store (these are accurate numbers); the entire town was small enough for us to walk around in one day.  Our motel was a little local place and to my immense surprise (having stayed there when I was a kid) our room did not include an oven.  Which meant we had to microwave our beautiful lasagna and watch it turn to mush (sadface... I'll be so happy when we finally get a new oven).  It was still delicious, just... ugly.  Really ugly.  We killed the day relaxing (I promised myself no timelines!), walking around the beach, walking to the grocery store up the street (that still had working payphones), and wandering in and out of the dozens of tourist trap shops (toy stores, souvenirs, candy and ice cream)... when we were finally tired of walking (from about 12 to 7), we came back and went for a swim (I love swimming), had our lasagna, wandered back out and had giant ice cream cones (I opted for mint chocolate chip and cookie dough and A selected birthday cake and rocky road... I really want to try making rocky road at home sometime, it can't be that hard, right?).  All four flavors were delicious (possibly made tastier by the atmosphere... I mean seriously, how can you not enjoy ice cream surrounded by homemade fudge and saltwater taffy?)  After that we wandered back to the room and promptly fell asleep (it was a big day for us).  The next day, we took a walk on the beach (did I mention the beach was within walking distance of our room?  So awesome!) in the morning when it was stormy and grey, and pretty much devoid of other life forms except for the occasional seagull.  The drive back was nice, though at the halfway point we hit the heatwave and I really really really (really!!) wanted to go back to the ocean (with its 60 degree weather...ahhh).

So the lasagna mentioned above was a recipe pulled from (you guessed it); World's Best Lasagna.  I concur with this title - this really is the best lasagna I've ever had (and that's including the fact that I had to microwave it because our room only came with a hotplate, not a full stove!) What I really like is the bite after each, uh, bite, something just a little spicy (I think it's the pepper!  Granted, I put a little more than the recipe called for in mine...) that brings your tastebuds to attention.  I love this recipe.  I am definitely filing this one in my own cookbook.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Feist and Vacations and Moving

What a fantastic video.  The color, choreography and artistry is just to die for.  I'm a total sucker for good choreography.  Especially since I've now played Just Dance 3 and now have nothing but total respect for people who can move both their arms and legs in unison.  Jerks.  (Basic human coordination and I have never really been on speaking terms.)  PS. Total YES to sparkling blue jumpsuit!

The weather forecast this weekend is calling for sun and temperatures in the 90s (the highest we've had this year), which is fantastic because we're taking a mini vacation to the ocean on Saturday.  I'm super excited.  I started packing on Wednesday.  There is a part of my brain that reverts back to being 8 years old about some things (Disneyland, vacations, those over-sized rainbow lollipops).  I can't control it.

Yesterday I helped my sister moved into her new home, which is pretty adorable.  What isn't adorable is moving approximately 2048271456 boxes from her old home to the U-Haul, then out of the U-Haul and into the new house.  Especially when some of the boxes weigh as much as the person carrying them (I love you.  Please don't move again!!)  The new house is really cute with craftsman features like trimmed windows and arched doorways.  All the windows are double hung or have cranks, and there's new carpet (I want new carpet!!)  It also has a scary 1930s basement (you know, with the really narrow and steep staircase, unfinished walls, old piping and the beams all over and the furnace squatting in the corner).  The house feels very spacious and has a cute little side yard with a detached garage and gravel lot.  This reaffirmed my belief that I will die in the house I currently live in, because I am never moving ever ever ever again..

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Zoo and Vinyl Decals

So our 2 year anniversary was yesterday (I love you, honey!) and A took us to the zoo where he first proposed.  We spent the day taking photos and wandering around lost, stopping only to eat a healthy lunch of bananas, peanut butter and Cheetos (I covered the major food groups - fruits, things you can spread on fruit and foods that are dangerously neon orange).  They've done a great job remodeling since we've last been there (though it also appears they're now remodeling other things); I'd forgotten how much fun it was to just go somewhere new and wander around.

I love photography; for Christmas A gave me a really nice little Canon to replace my Sony CyberShot that finally crapped out (and even then it was just the lens wouldn't retract, the camera itself seemed to be in fine shape beyond that).  I think it's probably because I love color, and the world is so full of it.  Especially at a zoo.

After we got home we ate giant slices of chocolate cake and gave each other our gifts, one of which was a vinyl sticker wall decal thingy in a super elegant script font.  Let me tell you something: if you want a home where nothing sticks to the walls then look for a house that has orange peel texture.  I don't know who took the industrialized size can of this stuff to our house but every wall has this thick, rough texture on it that makes it hard to paint, hard to clean and hard to apply things to (like stickers, for example).  We followed the directions exactly (peel off the backing, apply sticker to clean wall, scrape with credit card) and didn't get anywhere; it took us slowly peeling off the sticker bit by bit and applying it by slapping it on the wall, by hand, and then going over it with the credit card.  The end result is gorgeous, but was so much work I'm a little afraid to order those again (I wanted to put "Bon Appetit" in the kitchen but now I'm have second thoughts).

I hate you, orange peel texture.