Thursday, December 16, 2010

The last frontier

Yesterday at 11:45, the doorbell rang. I was expecting a very important package that I thankfully didn't have to wait very long for (Amazon Prime trial...two-day shipping is just enough to build the anticipation, and not long enough for me to get impatient). So anyway, I ran down the stairs, flung open the door and snatched my box, which was in the neighborhood of two-by-two and about 30 pounds. Also, I was wearing a towel, and it was about 20 degrees.

After much awkward scuttling backwards so as not to drop my box (or my towel), I managed to get the door shut and scoot back upstairs. You probably want to know what was in this box, huh? THIS!!
I've decided to become a sewer. Wait a minute. Sew-er. Someone who sews. After scoffing at the very idea in high school (when I really should have been taking a sewing class and not being such a teenager) I've realized that sewing is the last DIY frontier for me.

I'm not claiming to be stellar at any of these things, but I can do basic electrical work, build decent-looking furniture, strip and stain wood, paint, grow stuff, cook, decorate, operate power tools without losing appendages, and change a flat tire. When I needed sewing done, I shipped fabric to my mom so she could make curtains, pestered my MIL until she had time to take in shirts or paid someone to do my alterations. (Much more expensive in Oregon than LA.) NOT ANYMORE!
Me and my nifty sewing machine are going to conquer the world! Luckily, I have a friend who seems like an expert to me, and she showed me how to thread the thing last night. I'm sure it'll take a while before I feel really confident with it, but making curtains and pillowcases and taking in the odd t-shirt isn't exactly rocket science.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Operation dresser: completed

After letting the dresser cure in the bathroom for a few days, this is how she came out:
The blue is more vibrant than than the picture would have you believe. I really like it, especially the part about how this...
is now this...Which is obviously much better. I got excited about the extra six square feet that getting rid of the didn't-fit-under-the-bed boxes freed up. That's a mark of someone who lives in close quarters.

Still in the market for hardware for the dresser. I like these Martha Stewart knobs a lot, but this was supposed to be a super-cheap project. At $3.50 each, they'll cost almost as much as the dresser did. Maybe they'll go on sale.
In any case, I'm loving this dresser. Even without knobs.

Monday, December 6, 2010


So the saying goes, "you can take the ____ out of the ____, but you can't take the ___ out of the ___." For me, the fill-ins would be girl and project. I can't help the fact that I love Home Depot (more on this at some other point. I sing along with Home Depot commercials and inform Todd that More Saving and More Doing is the Power of the Home Depot, while he cringes, imagining astronomical AmEx bills and unfinished projects littering our miniscule living space.)
Then there's this other detail: my under-the-bed boxes don't fit under our queen-size bed. Todd's do, but mine sit next to the bed, which is making me crazy due to how ugly they are. Also, it is a bloody pain to live out of a box. So I started my hunt for a small dresser to fit into the narrow space we have for it. It took a few weeks of craigslisting and a drive to Redmond, but I came up with this little guy.
Of course, that kelly green had to go, but I had peacock blue plans for it from the beginning. The wall to the left in the picture above sticks out only eight inches, so this dresser, at 14 inches, is just perfect for the space.

I originally planned to spray paint it (in the bathroom, which was an ill-conceived idea from every angle I can think of) but decided to paint-paint it instead. (Still in the bathroom so it can stay ventilated and cure properly.)

Anyway, I have to put the second coat on one drawer and the frame today, but then it'll be finished!

I'm hoping to replace the hardware with something snappy at some point, but right now, I'm just really excited to have a dresser (and to have painted something peacock blue -- I've been wanting to do that for a while).

Update to follow on this. Bonus: it will give me one more surface to decorate for Christmas. Which will bring my grand total of Christmas-y spots in the house to two. Not enough, but better than one.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Favorites: mugs

I do not believe in extensive, rambling mug collections, wherein the size of the collection is only rivaled by the randomness of its contents. (Usually they fall into three categories: the long-ago-attended event--"1994 Hoffman Estates Park District Fishing Derby," the organization that thinks mugs are a good way to build loyalty--"Bob's Discount Car World," and semi-cheesy sayings--"I Don't Do Mornings." That last category is frequently found in tourist-trap shops while you're on vacation. Don't let your guard down. They're not really that clever.)

But I believe that everyone should have a favorite mug. It should have a happy memory tied to it or an outside that just makes you smile. And since you'll likely be using your mug on days that are somewhat less than happy to begin with, making it extra large is good, too.
That is my favorite mug. It is gigantic: two cups of coffee only fill the bottom three fingers of the mug. It has one of my favorite flowers, the geranium, painted on the side, and it was acquired in one of those happy coincidences that involve TJ Maxx and something great on clearance for pocket change. The funky shape is not my favorite, but I happily accept it due to all its other wonderful attributes.

Anyone else have a favorite mug?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forcing bulbs

I really am a gardener at heart. This I realize after my last clump of posts has been about creating a garden in two square feet of windowsill, in pots the size of a shot glass. (Not quite, but still...)

We went back to Medford for Thanksgiving on these lovely but treacherous roads -- this is your idea of a clear road, ODOT? I spent one glorious half-afternoon playing in the garden. I do mean playing, since I spent part of my time hurling frostbitten vegetables at the fence. (One zealously thrown honeydew nearly ended up in the pool. I'm kind of sorry it didn't.) In between playing, we raked leaves, dug dahlia tubers and ripped out the dead plants. Catharsis.

I also dug up a few clumps of grape hyacinth bulbs, which infest our yard like a plague. Thought they'd make a nice addition to my growing garden.
I also saw the opportunity to get the geranium, the leaves of which had been turning red (due, I suspect, to the coffee grounds I dumped on it a while ago) into a new setup. Currently, that's a jar of water, but I'm going to get a new pot for it soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I propagated a begonia a while back, and finally potted it in this super-cool terrarium I bought few years ago under the belief that it was a lantern. (And then once I realized that it wasn't, I thought I could turn it into a lantern. I have since accepted it's a terrarium and decided to use it as such.) Now I'm rooting some geranium cuttings in it and letting the little begonia grow in the most humid environment I can make for it. Cool, huh?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (minus the parsley)

My little windowsill garden has been plodding along, and yesterday, I started finishing it. This already-started trio of herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme) came from Trader Joe's (LOVE!).

All three plants were growing in one pot, so I split them into separate pots so a) they'd fit better on my windowsills and b) I could use the pots I recently found. The herbs were fairly densely rooted, so I used an old butter knife to work the roots apart.

The smell was intoxicating while I was working on separating them, and I am quite pleased with the results.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I don't like thift stores. Sorry.

I'm not really a big fan of thrift stores. I don't particularly like digging through piles of other people's unwanted crap without the guarantee that I'll find what I'm looking for, plus they always seem kind of...unsanitary. And one that I went to smelled. This is probably very elitist of me to say.

(I'm also completely amazed by the plain old junk in these places. I know all about the concept of trash into treasure, but WHO buys these tacky little statuettes of cats playing with balls of yarn or garden gnome pitchers in the first place? And is there anyone out there who wants used Tupperware? Ew.)But I'm in need of a few items, and resale shops were/are my best bet. Items needed: a dresser for the apartment (those under-the-bed boxes ...I'm over it. Especially since mine don't fit under the bed.) and some trays for those little pots I got for the windowsill.
Being very picky, I struck out on the dresser. (I'm still stalking Craigslist daily.) But I did come up with some nearly perfect metal trays for those pots. So now, I just need some plants to complete my sweet little windowsill garden!
Items not needed: this silver-plated Paul Revere bowl. But for $4... It's amazing what a little silver polish will do. (That's the "before.") Right in time for Christmas decorations. Also, there was a lady who saw me eyeing it and chatted me up for 10 minutes about how she'd gotten one as a wedding present, it was perfect for everything, blah, blah, and I felt guilty about putting it back after that. So here we are.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Goodbye, blurry pictures

I'm super-excited about this cheap-o tripod I got from the dollar store. (Confession: I totally love dollar stores...there is so much great stuff to be found, and I usually come out with some little item I am jazzed about. My favorite wine glasses are from the dollar store.) I've had these before, but I keep losing them. They're really helpful for taking pictures without a flash (ick) and perfectly purse sized.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Snow day

Yesterday was the second snowy day we've had here, and I have to say, I'd forgotten how much I love snow. I remembered loving it, but didn't remember that I could happily spend the whole day looking out the window. Which I almost did. You can see in the picture that it wasn't really snowflakes wafting down to earth, since they'd clumped together to form "megaflakes."

The only appropriate food for a day like yesterday is soup. (Well, to be fair, scotch, hot chocolate, warm chocolate chip cookies and pancakes also make the cut, but who EVER turns those down?) So I had this sausage bean soup. (Leftovers from last week.) I've made a few changes since I started making this recipe last year, including:
  • Sometimes I add spinach (I think the recipe says fresh, but frozen works fine)
  • Switched to using shell pasta -- it's cuter
  • Add celery. I have this thing for cooked celery. Weird, I know.
  • More onion, more canned tomatoes, more carrots.
  • Crushed red pepper, since the sausage I use now isn't as spicy. This is a great spicy soup.
I love using it when we're having people over for dinner since it makes the house smell so good. Soup, fresh bread and salad make a perfect wintry fall dinner (or lunch).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flower pots + pound cake

Last week, I went with a friend to Pack It. (I've been sitting here for three minutes starting and deleting sentences, trying to describe this place.) It's kind of like a junkyard/salvage lot, with a pinch of garage sale, and a dash of antique store, if you're lucky and you know what to look for. On steroids. An acre or so of the most unlikely and utilitarian and just plain weird junk I've ever seen. Anyway, I found these pots among the heaps of pre-owned toilets, unwanted industrial air conditioners and old furniture.
Well, the terra cotta ones, except for the one in the saucer...I had that already. Vestige from my past (brief) life as a cubicle dweller. The whole collection was only a few bucks, and they're the perfect size for those southwest-facing windowsills.

My little begonia that's rooting in water is almost ready to be planted. Some geranium cuttings and other to-be-determined plants will fill out the rest. Just goes to show, you can take the gardener out of the garden, but you can't take the garden out of the gardener.

In other news, we've eaten three pound cakes in the last five days. Wow, that's really bad. The cakes were really good, though. (This is what remains of the last one.) I meant to freeze at least one, but I kind of ate it instead. These things happen. I make no apologies.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sort of successful roast beast

At some point earlier this week, I got it in my head that I should make roast beef. It was always among the highlights of Sunday brunches growing up, and I couldn't think of any reason why I shouldn't make it. In retrospect, these:
  • I have never been successful cooking big pieces of animal (chicken stands out in particular)
  • I don't have the greatest track record of baked meals turning out well
  • I'd never made a roast before
  • Picking cruddy cuts of meat is a hidden talent of mine
all should have been good deterrents. Anyway, I picked up something labeled "round rump roast" at the grocery store, which looked very much like the pictures of what I'd planned on making. As is the case for some women when jeans shopping, the "rump" ruined everything. Little did I know I'd picked up a super-tough piece of meat.

Anyway, things turned out ok. Todd liked it a lot more than I did, which isn't saying much, since I found the combination of spices I used borderline nauseating. (Dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, cracked black pepper.) It must have been the basil/oregano. Other than that, it was kind of like chewing on beef-flavored shoe leather. Todd ate it on sandwiches.

It ended up sort of like the picture. Not really that bad, but not really that good, either. Lesson: get the right cut of meat.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Indoor gardening

While it 100% sucks that I don't have a 30-by-40-foot garden anymore, it hasn't stopped me from propagating ...houseplants. That I technically have very little space for. It's just so fun, to make things grow, and also free. This particular one was a necessity, because my begonia (a gift from Todd) was starting to get one stem that was too long.

It hurt my heart to just snap it off and toss it, so I put it in a vase of water to see what'd happen. A few weeks later, roots!

Still not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I have a while to figure that out. It needs more time in the water to sprout plenty of healthy roots. I'll pot it in a few weeks. I don't think it's possible for a reasonable person to have too many potted plants.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

You or Someone Like You

My favorite excerpt, particularly beginning about halfway through: "I have just transplanted..."
I finished "You or Someone Like You" by Chandler Burr a week or two ago, and it has encouraged me to continue grabbing random books from the library shelves. Usually my trips to the library are strategic and carefully plotted: I keep a list of books I'd like to read on my phone and add to it regularly. I know what I'm looking for, I get it, and I move on.

But in an effort to find other gems (and because there are just SO many books out there) I started just snagging anything that looked interesting. This has resulted in more than a few duds, including at least one that I didn't bother finishing (I've only done this twice before in my 20-some years of reading. "Anna Karenina" and "Return of the Native," if you're wondering.) I've also gotten some pretty decent ones, like "Under a Million Shadows," "Stones into Schools," and "Too Much Happiness," which I'm still a bit on the fence about. Anyway...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tabular conclusion

Turns out that table had it in for us. "That table" being the one I refinished several weeks ago and brought inside last week. The polyurethane finish was still curing, which means it was stinking up our house (room) and keeping us from sleeping. We are feeling very thankful that our friend who teaches shop at one of the high schools is letting us keep it there over the weekend. Hopefully by Tuesday, it'll be dry. What a pain!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chocolate zucchini cake, take 2

So the cake overflowed, which is lovely. But it has redeemed itself...
Because that is a very good way to spend a few minutes in the afternoon. And it just might be my new favorite chocolate cake recipe. Next time, though, I'll use my springform pan and avoid the spillage.
And hopefully those jagged edges that looks like I bit around the outside of the cake. (I didn't. Though I did eat some of those pieces.) This would be a great cake to layer, because it's so tall. It'd look like three layers with the work of two. (Three-layer cakes are my nemesis: one layer heads east, another west, and pretty soon it's just a disaster.)

Coming up later: reaction from our landlords (who pay our utilities) when they find out I left the windows open and the heat running all day to air our apartment from a) burnt cake and b) the fumes from the table I refinished, which we suspect are trying to kill us while we sleep.

Musings on hose-able kitchens + choc zucchini cake

At the moment, I am mid-cake. By which I mean, the cake is partway done baking. I have just finished dealing with this disaster:
Maybe someday someone will invent a kitchen that can be sealed and hosed down after use. On the other hand, I ADORE my dishwasher. You put dirty dishes in, and magically, they come out clean. (For those not tuning in from the houseblog, the dishwasher in my house--not apartment--does the opposite. You put them in semi-clean, and they come out dirty. This is revolutionary.)

Anyway, will update on how this cake comes out in a bit. The recipe (doubled) produced what seemed to be in the neighborhood of a gallon of batter. (That blue bowl.) That seemed excessive to me, but as long as the pans don't overflow in the oven, I suppose it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


There's a 95% chance I will be baking today. Likely this chocolate zucchini cake, but maybe another apple crostata. I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath to find out which I pick. Well, to keep you entertained while I drain the hot water heater and fish my coziest SmartWools out from the back of the closet, here's this picture.
More later.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Adventures as a "hacker"

We have a lot of computers. Once of these computers is an antique laptop (craptop, which is what I named it) from a place I used to work. It functions ok, but I wanted to network it with my desktop. (The laptop has Photoshop, the desktop doesn't. The desktop has pictures, the laptop doesn't.)

So like any good, well-seasoned hacker, I googled what I wanted to do. And proceeded to use the directions provided by (it's what the pros use). The directions led me down an increasingly rocky path of requiring administrator passwords (note to company administrators: company name + current year is not a secure password) and other such things. Finally, I changed all the settings required (not understanding what, exactly, I was changing) and restarted. Perfect. I glanced gleefully at Todd to make sure he was suitably impressed.

I then entered the password that had always worked, and BEEEEP. That shrill, technologically primitive "screw you" sound. CRAP. More googling yielded no answers, and so, on a whim, I left it blank. Lo and behold, it worked. (It also erased pretty much everything on the hard drive, mysteriously.)

So, in a half an hour on a Saturday afternoon, with the help of Google, eHow, and my own luck, I created a network. Or, as I prefer, hacked. And Photoshopped this picture, among others.Yes, that red flower really is that color. Better, actually.

Last night's tweeted crostata

I couldn't describe the scent (well, I could, but it totally wouldn't cut it), but I can post a pic. Link to recipe on Twitter.
Note: Good for breakfast.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The story of the purloined pizza stone

Not the story of the blog. The story of the stone that inspired the blog. It was, as you may have gathered, obtained under less-than-honest circumstances. But college student I was, homemade pizza I desired, and a stone my parents did have. (Is that an awkward sentence, or is it just me?)

So the pizza stone headed back to California, shanghaied in my suitcase. I reasoned that it was rarely used by the folks, and I'd return it, eventually. That was seven years ago, and the pizza stone, still in my custody, has been used countless times for pizza, calzones and bread and has now inspired a blog. So, world, meet The Purloined Pizza Stone (the blog and the real thing).