To celebrate our house-a-versary, we're going to make something tasty and have a quiet dinner at home (the house is 65 this year, after all) and hug the walls.
Friday, February 26, 2010
To celebrate our house-a-versary, we're going to make something tasty and have a quiet dinner at home (the house is 65 this year, after all) and hug the walls.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
A few years back, when I was a carefree backpacker, traversing Europe with a rotating pack of ladyfriends, we stopped for two days in Brussels. Mostly because flights from there were much cheaper than Amsterdam, where we had just been. A few hours on the train between the two cities gave us just enough time to consult our dog-eared guidebooks and take a quick nap, slumped over our hulking backpacks.
No one expected Brussels to be overly exciting, so we were desperate to determine the sites. This leads me to my one thing:
A picnic on the grounds of the Atomium
Yuck, I need a new scanner.
Now, I’m sure that if I was an endeavoring individual (read in the mood to type a few letters into Google), I could figure out why someone built a giant atom on the outskirts of Brussels. The whys of the matter notwithstanding, the Atomium is awesome. Toward the end of the subway line, it’s a giant atom-shaped building plopped into a lovely residential park. My friends and I ducked into a store for some Hoegaarden (it’s possible we first ordered it because we found the name hilarious, only to have our whole souls rocked by the lemony awesomeness of this beer), bread and fresh feta cheese. We spent the afternoon lounging in the grass, people watching and learning to love Brussels.
If you have time for two things: Hit up one of the antique/flea markets in the many squares of the city. I scored some lovely vintage postcards at one right near a chocolate museum that offered free tours….in French. I missed the finer points of this tour because my French vocabulary isn’t vast, but there were samples at the end and chocolate transposes any language.
American gypsies at a chocolate factoy.
Been to Brussels? Did you pony up the 7 euro to go up in the Atomium? Because I didn't.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
These are your people.
He knows the quickest way to my heart involves oft forgot grammar rules and quirks. It was the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up for a gal who publicly rants whenever possible about the ridiculousness of the serial comma. Heck, compared to the sticklers in the article, I'm a gra-metuer (grammar amateur!). Ba dum ching.
Happy hump day, funnyfaces.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Oh, lordy. Indulge me, please, in a quick haiku ode to queso:
Seems very easy
Perfectly smooth and melty
It is elusive
We have tried to make queso three times in my house.
Attempt one started with shredded Colby Jack, a can of Rotel and no double burner. It ended with a trip to El Mariachi and us admitting failure.
Attempt two started with Monterrey Jack, fresh cut ingredients and (again) no double burner. It might have ended in tears. And a trip to El Mariachi.
Attempt three started with me making my own cheese on a Friday night, meticulously reading and researching queso recipes that didn't involve Velveeta and (finally) a double boiler. It ended with what appeared to be a bowl of cat vomit. Homemade cheese does not melt well. And women who make homemade cheese might resort to putting taco seasoning in sour cream and calling it a dip in a sad attempt to satiate their hunger for a dip for dinner. Anything is possible.
We don't usually fail this many times at cooking. I mean, queso is melted cheese and veggies, right? I can make bagels from scratch, I whip up lovely chicken salad and have been known to build some of the most fantastic nachos west of the Mississippi. Yet, melting cheese and making a dip worth eating eludes me. Pathetic.
Therefore, I am declaring war on queso. Shredded MJ cheese, half and half, a double boiler, and I will best you yet, you demon cheese.
Can you make queso? Any tips? Also, want to come to a potluck?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
People, I want backyard chickens so bad! I mean, it’s hilarious and tasty and totally in tune with the planet, man. Three things I love. Plus, I already have names picked out (shut up). Fresh eggs and clucking ladychickens wandering around our yard sounds delightful. Legally, you can have up to 30 backyard chickens in the city of Des Moines. I’m only talking about two measly chickens, here!
This plan is not without naysayers, though, hubs among them (though I’m pretty sure he can be persuaded by fresh and tasty omelets). Chickens are messy and loud and prone to being violently attacked by roaming predators (including one husky white feline who will remain anonymous). Still, I’m convinced the positives outweigh the negatives.
Do you know any chicken people? Do their neighbors hate them? Do they curse the day they brought a chicken home? Or are they super awesome and always smiling because their breakfasts are extra delicious?
Friday, February 19, 2010
True, they are very pretty. My eyes love these stairs, my uncoordinated legs and feet, however, are quivering in fear.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Here's what I've come up with: One Thing Thursdays.
You see, I love to travel and because I'm not a glamorous globe-trotting diva with endless amounts of time and dollars, a lot of my trips are pretty short. Making the most out of my time in a city is pretty important when I'm only there for 18 hours. I'm not super interested in most touristy things and (as you can guess), the tops of my travel to-do lists often include exotic foods. One Thing Thursdays will give you a heads up on something you wouldn't want to miss, whether you find yourself driving through rural Colorado or with an hour to spare in Belfast. I'd also love to hear your One Things about each location. Let's commune, y'all.
Let's roll this ball!
One Thing Thursdays: Tybee Island, Georgia
Photo by me, Getting Artsy with Driftwood and New Rings
Inspired by the Lettered Cottage post on a lovely reno on Tybee, I figured this would be as good as place as any to start. Hubs and I honeymooned in nearby Savannah last fall and took one afternoon to take the short drive to Tybee and soak up some beachiness.
My One Thing: $1 koozies at the Crab Shack
Please don't be turned off by the Rachel Ray endorsement. I believe the Bigger, Better, Best stamp of approval overrides it anyway.
The Crab Shack is really a dump. Close your eyes, imagine a crab shack. Imagine that it sits on stilts over a bay, is a ramshackle blend of several buildings, is overrun with stray cats and somehow has potholes in a gravel parking lot. Plop exactly what you imagined in a southern beach town and voila! Miraculously, all these things work for the Crab Shack. It can't hurt that the food is amazing (hubs and I took down several pounds of fresh, buttery seafood on the Captain Crab's Sampler platter) and koozies are just $1 with the purchase of a beer. Seeing as how the Shack is open-air, a beer without a koozie just wouldn't be right. Not to mention, they serve Yuengling, an East Coast beer that is near and dear to my heart. We all need more koozies, right?
Photo by hubs, After the Captain Crab's Sampler
If you have time for two things: Walk on the beach, duh. Chase some seagulls, see some dolphins, sit on a swing.
Photo by me, Hubs on a Swing
Been to Tybee? Whatdcha do? Something better than a $1 koozie?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I’m going to start by sprucing up our fireplace with some bunting, like this, but decidedly more Irish:
I couldn't resist. This project is already started. My flags are a little taller and more narrow and I currently only have two, but these pupies fly off the needles, so I'll be set in no time!
And I want to get many kinds of crafty on the table. Maybe even spray paint something. Ooo girl, get crazy!
Do you get crafty and homemakery for random holidays?
I'm not mad at Iowa. After all, it's not Iowa's fault it's so northern and flat and prone to taking a serious El Nino beating. So, Iowa, as a state, your weather-related crimes are expunged.
I don't want to get too catty about Mother Nature or that damn Nino, either, though. They've both smacked us all with their wrath before, so my strategy is just to keep my head down and plow along. No fight-picking here, no ma'am.
I suppose I could get all ticked at the poor TV weatherpeople, but I feel bad enough for them. And I just can't be mad at anyone who shares a profession with Al Roker.
So, stripped of scapegoats, I've been going the optimistic route. That was all fine and dandy the first 65 days we had 12+ inches of snow on the ground, but I'm plum tuckered out.
I am a Winter Grump. And I will be until we get a 70 degree, sunny Saturday. Let the record show, I tried really hard this year.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It's OK, I see that hole, too. Not only do I see it, but (gasp!) it was planned!
Oo la la, oui? This fancy patterned number is heading to STL to delight (and hopefully not confuse) my Nana for her birthday. Who wouldn't be thrilled with this yummy chocolate keyhole scarf? If such a lady exists, I hope we never cross paths.
With my confidence bolstered, I'm hoping to whip up a few more patterned scarves this week. I really can't stop.
Monday, February 15, 2010
And that was just the beginning.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I was driving around yesterday, when I realized it was a choral show on my trusty NPR. Not that I'm not a seriously cultured woman, but choral performances just doesn't get my veins pumpin'. So, I flip to a country station.
And I hear Willie Nelson, crooning that I was always on his mind. I get excited because normally country stations don't play old songs. My mind gets all settled in to enjoy the rest of the ballad. (You see, I love Willie Nelson. I struggle daily to balance a deeply rooted inner redneck with a supposedly classy and erudite woman. Underneath a facade of hot glue, foie gras and New York Times articles, I'm hiding "extra" Arby's sauce packets, an Alan Jackson CD, and a deep and abiding love for getting sunburnt and rowdy at lakes.)
But, wait! A booming announcer's voice interrupts the melody.
"Experience it live: Willie Nelson and Family, coming to the Seven Flags Events Center on March 28th."
GAH! Pulse quickens. That's semi-nearish to my house. And. Oh. Holy. Cow. It's on my birthday. Sold.
Now, I need Wheel of Fortune to film in Des Moines that day, too and I just might be the hap-hap-happiest girl in town.
Friday, February 12, 2010
In case you haven't figured it out yet, 80% of people I know will likely be sporting these scarves in the next year (if they know what's good for them).
Up next, one for my Nana's birthday! This one involves an actual pattern, requiring concentration and counting, which I have yet to fully comprehend. Details or wild, maniacal ranting to follow.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
We resorted to some old standbys - nachos, hummus, pasta - but, we had some serious high notes.
Like these easy, buttermilkless biscuits (hell yes we added cheese!) sprinkled with some herbs and melted butter to accompany a pasta dinner and then repurposed to become from-scratch biscuits and gravy for a weekday breakfast (are we good Midwestern folk or what?).
I also used our last remaining egg to make some bagels. A mix of everything and Swiss cheese toppings means these can pull triple duty as breakfast, part of a lunch or a snack. And I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you hubs claims these are the best bagels I've made yet. I'd also be remiss if I didn't tell you I couldn't agree more.
I'm planning one more carb-loaded treat this weekend, Pioneer Woman's buttered rosemary rolls, making the dough from scratch. (Where would I be in the kitchen without Pioneer Woman? Rolling on the ground, covered in flour, weeping? It's possible.) Hubs will also be making a big batch of refried beans because we just now discovered how good they can be when they aren't from a can.
I'm sure Valentine's Day at our house will be just dripping with romance - two bloated, bean-stuffed newlyweds and a 19-pound cat. Fine by us, we sit this holiday out as a matter of principle each year anyway. Because we like being snobby snobs that don't get caught up in commercial lovefests.
What are you cooking up this weekend?
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
We trudged back and forth through the snow, marking where the boundaries to the new patio would be, measured and came up with a few alternatives. Since we’re also planning on replacing the aging deck with something newer and more our style, we measured that too and headed out to Menards.
In their decking section, they have a super handy kiosk that lets you plan out your deck and then gives you a supply list and estimate for materials. It also makes really annoying thud noises anytime you press a button, but I guess that’s the price we pay for convenience.
So, we put in our deck plans and got a very pretty 3-D drawing and a very pretty price.
Naïve and energized by this, we moved forward and put our 23x25 paver patio stats in the magic machine. It spit out a kind of ugly drawing and a price that deflated our spirits. Not to mention, the materials list called for over 35 THOUSAND pounds of rock to plopped in our yard. Um, we’re all for DIY, but let’s be honest, laying 2,665 paver bricks was not how we planned on spending our summer. Apparently 23x25 is an absurd size for a paver patio. Bigger, better, best failed me again as a philosophy.
Our initial planning adventure does end on a happy note; hubs came home and pulled out graph paper and colored pencils and together, we crafted a pint-sized paver patio that will still suit our needs and won’t have us auctioning off our first-born or spending the rest of 2010 leveling and laying bricks. The revised plans call for a 25x12 patio with some curves, some benches and lots of perennial native plants and grasses.
With the Des Moines Home and Garden show coming up this weekend (yeah, we’re spending Valentine’s Day there!), we’re sure to find lots of good ideas to make the most of our new plans.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
As I'm starting to run more, I've found that I need some serious music slamming through my eardrums to get going. Lately, that means playing the three Lady Gaga songs I own at top volume on repeat for a mile or three.
Turns out, I Pavloved myself.
Today, innocently working at my cube, Bad Romance came on Pandora. Instantly, I wanted to run. As in, running sounded fun at that moment and, in fact, for the rest of the afternoon. The need to run continued until I hauled my sorry booty out into the cold and over to the gym where I hopped on a treadmill and busted through a run that had me at my top speed.
Yay science! Yay wigs! Yay sweat and lip-syncing!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Yuck. No me gusta. I must say, though, the 50s wood was a formidable component. I sanded all Thursday night and painted not one, not two, not even three coats one all those doors and trim - my friends, I painted four gol-dang coats of paint on those thirsty things before they looked presentable. It was tough, but I persevered.
Now, look how lovely! The same toffee brown we used in the side entry way is also warming up the hall walls. The trim and doors took on a bright white (Pittsburgh Paints' White Chocolate from Menard's, a steal at about $19 a gallon). The hid.e.ous light fixture was replaced with a pretty faux oil-rubbed bronze dome that lets out dappled light and makes the hall feel almost like you might be in a courtyard (can you tell it's my favorite part of the mini-makeover?). The lame travel art was replaced with what will become a giant gallery wall. Right now, we started with some cheap white frames from Target and photos from trips to Italy and Savannah, as well as one of hubs' grandpa smoking a pipe because it's just a cool picture. I'm hoping to add more family photos, while he prefers landscapes. It's an eternal struggle every time we frame something.
Not too shabby right?
Friday, February 5, 2010
The Superbowl is dip's finest hour. It's the day every man, woman and child grabs a chip, a cracker or a carrot stick and enjoys a creamy scoop of our kitchens' finest. Be it a simple sour cream, a healthy hummus or a green guac - dips make our Superbowl experience delightful.
We're heading to a friend's to watch the game and place a few friendly wagers on little details like the exact length of the national anthem as well as the bigger stuff like which team ends the night covered in confetti and champagne and smooches. Hubs is making an epic 7-layer dip. His plan is to fill the 9x13 Pyrex with deliciousness and knowing myself and the crowd, I'm guessing that dip won't make it past halftime.
What's your favorite eating holiday?
Below, the scarf I finished en route to Tejas by way of MO. It's now traveling to Maryland, to my mom, making this the second most well-traveled scarf I have ever had in my possession. Congrats, purple scarf!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Meanwhile, here is the side entry (it leads from our driveway to the basement and kitchen) in all its glory. Before, this was a pretty boring spot with off-white walls and a ceiling to match (no before pictures, sorry, I'm new here). I took a brighter white to the ceiling and a rich toffee to the walls. I also touched up the existing white trim to be a cleaner white.
Our old light fixture was a basic dome light that didn't play up the height of the ceiling, so we took that down and replaced it with a nice (and cheap!) pendant that brings in the red of our kitchen.
Aren't you rather amazed that our window covering matches so well? Not a coincidence, my friend. This fabric is also used in the Roman shades in our kitchen and came with the house. Thank you, previous owners! Points scored for working with what the house gave me.
Also, ignore that creepy red glow, in real life the effect is a lot more cozy-warm-so-glad-I'm-finally-inside (see below).
Hope you like the colors, you'll be seeing them again in short order!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Yikes, right? Don't worry, these koozies won't be making their way into any unsuspecting swaplet's mailboxes anytime soon. I'll be keeping them safe in my koozie drawer (yes, really. An entire drawer.) where no one will judge them.
But, I'm pretty sure there is a future here, I just need thinner yarn and more knitting prowess. Everyone loves koozies, right?
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
- After work, we pile in the car and drive toward Kansas City. My youngest sister, E, goes to school near KC so her apartment was our first stop. Sadly, the roads were really slushy and small college towns in rural MO apparently don't plow as diligently as regular cities. So, we spend the night holed up, watching Dolly Parton's Straight Talk, counting the nuggets of advice she gave (for the record, it's 18, none of which I remember today).
- Breakfast: Hoping to stuff ourselves to the point that we wouldn't need lunch at a ridiculously expensive airport restaurant, we head to a cute diner for a hearty pile of carbs. We order biscuits the size of our fists and drown ourselves in gravy and coffee. Then, we drive to KC to catch a flight for Austin, to visit middle sister L.
- Lunch: We managed to skip, in preparation for what was to follow.
- Afternoon flight: I finish a soft aubergine scarf for my mom, which was perfect because silly me thought it would be 70 degrees in Texas. It was cloudy and in the 40s mostly, but in hindsight, it might have been that cold, yucky weather that allowed hubs, L and me to survive the barrage of food we encountered. I wear the scarf the rest of the weekend.
- Happy hour: After we land, my sis takes us to our hotel and we enjoy a delightful complimentary happy hour in the lobby. And Goldfish. Yum.
- Dinner: We head down to 6th Street for margaritas and Mexican food at Iron Cactus. Here, our party of four (we added L's roommate to the group), managed two appetizers and three entrees pain-free. I discover I can eat Serrano peppers and not even realize it (like running, I'm learning to be a spice-eater).
- Drinks: We meander down the street, stopping at a few places before settling on Union Park and its frozen mojitos. Delicious! And, the frozen-blendedness got rid of my least favorite part of mojitos - the big, soggy mint leaves.
- Back to the hotel: L works at the hotel we stayed at and her coworker kindly sent a bottle of champagne and some snacks up to our room! Hubs and I might have sipped some bubs while watching the roast of Jeff Foxworthy on Comedy Central. Gangsta, right?
- Breakfast: L brings us kolaches from Shipley's. Kolaches are breakfast sausages, cheese and jalapenos wrapped in a savory doughnut. I eat one and a half.
- Brunch: La Taverna has amazing food and $1 mimosas. We eat a hearty brunch and I think I see a girl I went to high school with.
- Shopping break. I discover a tiny bottle of perfume and fall in love because it smells like fancy suntan lotion.
- Snack: As you well know, hubs and I adore cheese. Especially in a melty state, on a nacho chip. We went to Doc's on Congress for queso. The bar had garage doors and a patio; if it wasn't freezing, it would have been a great place to sit in the sun!
- Lunch: Right on the lake, Hula Hut has a weird mix of Mexican and Polynesian food. Hubs and I order Mexican martinis, which are really just margaritas with a splash of olive juice. I make the nearly disastrous mistake of ordering shrimp rolls - shrimp, cheese and bacon fried in a wonton wrapper. We power through.
- Yarn-buying break. Since I finished my mom's scarf, I needed more yarn to start a new one for our return trip. Knitting during flying trumps reading.
- Drinks. At a posh outdoor shopping center, we spot this: and head to Joe DiMaggio's to take advantage of their happy hour and high-end cocktails. Our stomachs are ready for the grand finale.
- Dinner. At North. Oh, goodness. A five-course Italian meal that blew me away. And the light fixtures at this restaurant were super cute.
- Breakfast at the hotel. Just fruit and yogurt for me, thanks. I'm lucky my jeans fit this morning.
- Flying back to KC. I realize I've reached the point where we fly so frequently (to visit people, for the honeymoon, etc) that I don't get nervous during take off. Hooray!
- Lunch: We land and decide the eating doesn't need to end; we are still on vacation. We consult the Garmin, which points us toward Smokebox BBQ near the airport. With a nice waitress and dark red BBQ sauce, we were able to end our trip on a high note.
- We get home and declare that we'll both be hitting the gym ASAP.
How was your weekend? Did you do any major artery clogging like we did?
Monday, February 1, 2010
Taxually, that boggles my mind. The mister and I could not even fill out our new W4s without a quick call to the tax man.
Why is this a Sign I Might be Crazy?
I’m really looking forward to spending Saturday morning with the tax guy. I’m ridiculously excited to see how my withholding changes and (most importantly) what our return will look like. I’m no math genius, but I sure do like big numbers on checks made out to me.