Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Playing House

Yay for taking some vacation! One that I apparently desperately need. For weeks now, every time I would say anything, my coworker would respond with 'man, you really need to take a vacation'

I am taking the week off for Thanksgiving. I am cooking the turkey and stuff. I can't say it's a terribly exciting vacation but it's relaxing. I've sat around the house. Watched a season of Mad Men. Painted my coffee table. Played with my compost pile. Cleaned assorted surfaces. Although I still can't seem to get the grout in my kitchen/lining room floor clean. I lead an exciting life, I know.

After numerous rounds of scrubbing it with a toothbrush, scrubbing brush, all purpose cleaner, bleach and a mop. It's still not quite clean but at least it's better. A stiff toothbrush wes the best way I've gotten at cleaning the grout. The scrubbing brush just didn't get into the grout as well as the toothbrush did. I will probably pick up a bunch of them the next time I am at the grocery store. Although maybe an electric toothbrush would cut back the amount of elbow grease needed.

Anyway... this post is supposed to be about the coffee table.

There was a time when I didn't really care for this coffee table. It is a handmedown from my parents. Who had probably picked it up at the curb at some point. When I got my first apartment after college, they gave it to me. It was beat up. It's particle board with a wood veneer and the squares on the legs that you can't really see in the picture are plastic with some sort of coating on it. There are spots where the veneer is worn away, and paint drips and spots where it was warped from moisture. I decided I wanted to get new furniture but I'd hold on to this one until I got the new one. Well, it's been almost 10 years and... well... as you can see I still have it.

But I still don't love it. I put it in the basement, still with the intention of getting new living room furniture. I have accepted that I'll probably keep it for a while longer.

So I decided to at least make it less ugly. I sanded it down and painted the whole thing bright red. It's still back in my basement and at least the warped damaged parts of it are not so noticeable.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The leaves have been falling and suddenly my compost pile is full.

Although actually it was a lot fuller a couple days ago when I loaded it up so hopefully the leaves will break down more before I have to add more.

And yes that picture was taken through my kitchen window.  It's cold out and it's before 7AM!

On a related note, everyone who has seen my compost pile thought it was weird that I had paper in there.  Why is that weird?  Newspaper is a lot like leaves. 

Though really I need some nitrogen in there.  Any suggestions for where to get some that's free?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Honeycomb Candy

I decided to take a day off from work.  Didn't have a plan for what I wanted to do with my day off or anything but I figured I'd take it.

I dug up my yard.  After changing my mind about 8 times on how I wanted to lay out the garden, I decided not to build raised beds yet.  I dug up and loosened the soil where I think I want the beds to go.  I'll try the garden as is, see how it does next year, adjust the lay out if needed, and if I like the layout and the soil quality isn't as good as I would like it to be, then maybe I'll build raised beds.

Naturally, since I was home, I had to make something.  This was one thing I made.  Also made a bunch of other stuff that I so didn't need to make. Maybe I'll get around to posting those as well.

I'd been meaning to try making this for a while now.  It's pretty sweet so break it up into small pieces.  But the soy sauce cuts the sugar a bit so I like to believe it's not sickeningly sweet.  There are probably some that would disagree with that but oh well.

Honeycomb Candy
based off of this recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • water - about 1/4 cup, just enough to dissolve sugar
  •  3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda, sifted


In a pot, combine the sugar, honey, corn syrup and water. Boil until amber colored and the sugar looks like caramel, shaking occasionally but not stirring. Add soy sauce and swirl.  Add the baking soda, and stir with a silicone spatula. It will foam up a lot. Pour the mixture onto a silpat and let cool. Break into pieces.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cheesecake Ice Cream

The bowl for my ice cream maker is in my freezer.  I put it there when I moved in.  As long as it's there, taking up precious freezer space, I figure it needs to be put to good use.  The first batch was cinnamon ice cream.  This was the 2nd.

This is actually what you should do, not what I did.  I threw everything in a bowl and mixed.  Then I got a whisk to break up the lumps as best I could but definitely still had some.  Oh well.  I guess I'll have to try again sometime.

Cheesecake Ice Cream
adapted from this recipe

8 oz cream cheese
8 oz plain yogurt
4 oz light cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch sea salt

Cream together cream cheese and sugar.  Gradually add the yogurt while stirring to get a smooth mixture.  Continue with the cream.  Stir in orange zest, vanilla bean paste and salt.  Chill in the fridge overnight.  Churn in ice cream maker.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


So it's mid September. Obviously I am not going to be planting a garden this year. But I can get things ready for next year.

Here is the first piece of my garden, the compost pile. I brought home some pallets from work. $2 for L brackets, and an hour to assemble and load it up. By load it up, I mean, move what looked like a trash heap in the middle of my yard so that it's contained by the pallets. My neighbors love me. At least my lawn isn't yellow any more, just green with weeds.

The compost pile is in the corner. The rest of the garden will be the dirt area around it.

I am deciding how I want to lay out the garden. The grid is 1 ft per box. The box on the top left is the compost pile. The other boxes are raised beds. That's as much effort as I am capable of putting into drawing this.

What do you think? Is 2 ft a wide enough aisle? I am thinking it will just be boards around the border. Not sure how I am getting 20' boards and bringing them home but we'll get to that. Or I'll get multiple shorter boards and figure out how to join them. Can I just screw together the corners or do I need something more to support it and keep it from falling apart once it's filled with dirt? I figure I'll till everything with my garden weasel before I build the beds. Hopefully that will give me a few years before I need to figure out how to till inside the raised beds.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Knead Bread

OK so everyone else blogged this years ago but hey, I'm slow. I might be slow enough for this to be retro cool rather than just dated. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So the reason I am actually baking the bread dough that was in my fridge is this. My coworker had egg salad for lunch yesterday. Suddenly I needed egg salad. Then I needed a carrier for the egg salad. I tried to dip some baby carrots in it and that worked kinda a little while the bread was rising but not terribly well.

If I were a more interesting person, this would be where I would insert a funny story. But hey, I don't claim to be exciting so it's your own fault for reading this.

My recipe is based off the Jim Lahey's recipe, published in the NYTimes. I added a little honey and upped the salt a hair because I can. At least right now, I am just keeping a batch of this dough in the fridge and baking it whenever I want bread.

The first time I made it, I made a big loaf in the dutch oven, like the recipe says. That always comes out with an amazing crust, perfect for slathering with butter or dip in garlic oil. This time I made some rolls in a muffin pan, uncovered. These are a bit softer but still with more of a crust than a lot of rolls that I've had at restaurants. At some point I thought the muffin pan size would be a good sandwich size but they are a bit small for that.

A batch made one big loaf. I used about half a batch to make a dozen mini rolls.

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cup water

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Let it sit out on the counter for about 12 hours.
Refrigerate until you are ready to use.
The day you are going to bake, take dough out of the fridge and fold together into a ball or whatever shape you desire. Small dough balls in a muffin pan are also nice.
Place ball on floured towel, cover with another floured towel and allow to rise 2 1/2 hours.
During the last 30 mins of rising, preheat oven to 450.
Bake until you have a golden brown crust.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

Hey look! Another post!

Here's another recipe that I've made a bunch of times but when I searched here to find it, it wasn't here. So I guess I'm writing a blog post about how I didn't write a blog post. Exciting stuff, I know.

It's been a crazy week. Well, it'll be last week, by the time this post goes up. I like to schedule a few of them and space them out. You know, to have a post every few days rather than 3 in a day and then nothing for a few weeks.

Anyway... it's been a crazy week. I took the week off with the plan to relax, unpack some stuff, maybe buy a few things for the house, finish the built in shelving that I already posted. And that's how my vacation started.

But then Tuesday evening, I hear this tapping sound. I looked around and found out that water was coming down from my air conditioning vent into my living room. Not a lot, probably a quart of water total but enough to make me unhappy. So I contacted 3 roofers.

I spoke to the first one about 8:30 on Wednesday; he said he'd be there about 10-10:30 to check it out; I'm still waiting for him to show up.

The second guy came and looked at it and said it doesn't really look like it's a roof leak because the roof is in good shape, which I agreed with being that the roof is only 8 years old; he started looking at the siding and saw a gap where if the wind blows the right way might be able to get water in it and get to the duct.

The third guy came in, took a look at where the vent is, relative to the window, went outside to look at the roof, stepped 20 ft back and looked at it for a minute and said all he could do is replace the entire roof. Never actually looked at the roof or anything. Asshole.

So that's made my vacation fun.

And the fun continued. Friday I went down to my basement to fix something. My finished, carpeted basement. I sat down on the floor and when I got up I noticed my shorts were damp. Odd. I didn't think I'd pissed myself and if I was having bladder issues, that was news to me.

So I start checking the floor and I found a maybe 5 sq ft wet spot on the carpet. This is the line of thought that was going on in my head. 'shit. shit shit shit. shit fuck shit. shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.' Very eloquent, I know.

So I raced to the garage and got my shop vac and started trying to suck up the water. I got probably a gallon up like that. You could barely feel the dampness in the carpet. I cranked up my box fan and dehumidifier, went back upstairs and sat down and let out a big sigh.

But then I started thinking about it a bit more and I started worrying about the carpet pad and subfloor. Ultimately, I ended up pulling up the carpet and carpet pad on about 1/3 of my basement. When it's on concrete, carpet pad is just glued down, which makes it not the easiest to get up. In case you were wondering.

Fortunately it wasn't raining so I took several of the carpet pads and let them dry outside and I got to work on drying out everything that was still inside. I used pretty much everything I have that can move air, one way or another. Box fan, space heater, blow dryer, dehumidifier and shop vac. All running on high. Can't wait to see that electric bill. At least I didn't trip anything out.

And yes, I sat there with the holding the blow dryer, blowing under the baseboard heater to try and get the concrete dried out. And in case you were wondering, you can burn carpet with a blow dryer if you hold it really close to the carpet. You know, if that was one of those things that you've always been wondering about.

I set up the space heater behind the box fan so the box fan was blowing hot dry air with a lot more fan speed than the space heater. When things got fairly dry, I just used the box fan and dehumidifier.

Every 3 hours, I'd go down, empty the dehumidifier (I moved it over to where the floor was wet and of course my hose isn't long enough to reach from there to the drain), move the fan, carpet pads and carpet around some to make sure everything gets really dry. 3 days of that. And yes, I set an alarm during the night to get up and do it every 3 hours. It's like I got a newborn infant dropped on me. At least I don't have to breast feed it or something.

At some point I started spraying everything with vinegar to help prevent mold growth. I used close to a half a gallon of vinegar. I'd spray, turn the fans off for 30 mins or so and then turn them back on. I'm sure the neighbors could smell it. But at least it's not as stinky as ammonia or bleach. And I don't see or smell any signs of mold.

Well between each of those 3 hour increments, I had some time to do other things, at least when things were pretty much dry. This was when I deemed the shelves done. Even though the finish isn't very smooth and I probably didn't give the polyurethane enough cure time. I also made some cookie dough. Sigh.

Anyway. Here's the cookie recipe. I'm done whining. At least for this post. You can stop scrolling now.

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 oz dark chocolate

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant.
Finely chop the nuts.
Cream butter and sugar together.
Beat in egg and vanilla.
Mix together nuts, flour, baking powder, salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined.
Form into a log and chill for at least 2 hours.
Slice cookies and bake at 350. How long to bake will depend on how big you make the cookies. I did 16 cookies and baked about 15 minutes.
While the cookies are baking, melt the chocolate in the microwave.
Dip part of the cookies in the chocolate and drizzle top with the remainder after they've cooled for a couple minutes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Built In Shelving

So I've decided to call these shelves done. Not because I'm extremely thrilled with how they came out but because I've got too much other crap to deal with.

When I saw this space when I was looking at the house, I knew immediately what I was going to do with it. It just screamed built in shelving.

So now, who knows how many weeks, 4 trips to Home Depot and 2 trips to Walmart (because I just couldn't handle going to Home Depot a 5th time that week) here are my shelves.

If you read a blog that says 'slap a couple coats of primer, paint, polyurethane and done' or something like that be wary. Very very wary. I had started a post where I carried on about how much more work this was than that. Aren't you glad I forgot that I wrote decided to spare you of that?

My shelves have 4 coats of primer, wood filler, spackle, 3 coats of paint and 2 coats of polyurethane. Now to figure out how long it takes, each coat actually has to be done in 2 phases. You do one side, let it dry, flip it over and do the other side. So pretty much a day per coat. Well with the primer it went a bit faster but with the paint and polyurethane it was a day per coat. Not to mention the spackle and wood filler need time to dry as well. You do the math.

And that's just the painting. Maybe it's just me, but levelling the shelves is a royal pain due to the angle on the left side. And if you're off by 1/4", suddenly your board length is off by almost 1/2", which really sucks.

Before you start a project like this, you should check what's behind your walls. I assumed they were all wood studs. Well, that wall on the left is not the case. Apparently there is a metal stud in there. Wood drill bits will not get through a metal stud. Guess how I figured that one out. Needless to say, there are a few extra holes in the wall.... fortunately the boards and trim hide them well enough that I don't care any more. Of course at this point, as long as they don't fall down, I'm probably ready to call them good enough, at least for a while.

Another trip to Walmart got me the Bankers boxes and now it looks like this

And yes, there is a reason why every picture is cut off on the left side. I didn't say everything was unpacked.....

Now, back to trying to dry out my carpet in the basement. Sigh.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I just realized I never posted this recipe. Apparently I haven't posted a bunch of my basic recipes. Because I keep coming here to find my recipes and can't find them. And I'm too lazy to go through my recipe 'file' to find them. Sigh. Well, fortunately I remember this one enough to do it/make it up.

This recipe comes out pretty cinnamony. If you are a normal person, you may want to cut back the amount of cinnamon, like in half. When I tested it after it had steeped I thought it was way too cinnamony and that I should've checked the recipe rather than going off memory from probably 2 years ago. Whoops. But after it's frozen, the flavor isn't as strong so I think this is a pretty good amount.

It also has a pretty high fat content so it coats your mouth like a premium ice cream should but if you have a different ice cream base that you like better, you can of course use that but this is the one I chose today.

I like it drizzled with honey but it's also good straight up.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
4 cups light cream (or 3 cups cream and 1 cup milk, or 2 cups half and half and 2 cups milk or whatever other combination you like)
5 egg yolks

Put the cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, sugar, salt and cream in a pot and heat over medium until it comes to a simmer. Turn down to low and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Slowly the egg yolks with the cream mixture and then return to the pot. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain mixture into a bowl and chill overnight. Churn in your ice cream maker. Freeze.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Decapitated Giant Lego Men

So I was intending for my next post to be lots of pics of my house after everything is unpacked and stuff. Or of the built in shelving that I am putting in, all shiny and happy and pretty. As the title suggests, that's not what this post is. 4 trips to Home Depot and the shelves still aren't done.... but I think I have everything now.... I hope... Of course I said that after each Home Depot trip so I guess we'll see. And I need these shelves so I can unpack boxes and put stuff in places. At one point it made sense to build the shelving rather than buy some random shelf.

So I decided to do something else. Why finish that project when I can start something else instead?

Now before you even consider thinking that I am creative and came up with a cute thing, I definitely stole this from someone else. Right down to the spray paint. And if I hadn't closed the window, I would give credit where credit is due but I don't remember and I don't feel like trying to find it.

So here are my decapitated giant lego men.
One will be a candy dish at work. Not entirely decided what the other two will be.

PS That is not some random crap stuck on my counter on the left side of the picture. It's the granite. I swear. I even checked when I saw it in the picture.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Linen Closet

Project #1 in my new house: Painting the linen closet. When I moved in, it was completely usable but not pretty.

Before: Bare drywall and particle board
While I guess I could've just put my stuff in and then I'd be closer to unpacked but I decided I needed to paint it first. So that's what I did. And that probably explains why there are still boxes everywhere.

I had to trim the boards down a bit. The fit of the shelves was really tight before the paint. As in use a hammer to get it out tight. I was rather confused for a bit. Apparently the closet is not quite square. Who builds a closet that isn't square? By square I mean 90 degree angles, not L=W. Because lots of closets aren't squares. Usually they are rectangles. Why am I still typing?

So I trimmed off about 3/8" off the boards. By I trimmed, I mean I had J trim with the table saw at work. The boards are square (90 degree angles) so they don't fit 100% perfect but oh well.

After: 3 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint later.

Yes, that is a fan that was blowing on the closet to help it dry. No, it didn't bother me enough to move it and retake the picture.

Lesson of the day: Buy decent paint. Bought a quart of Kilz Casual Colors Semi-Gloss Interior/Exterior paint at walmart for $5. Used it as is since I was going for a crisp white. The paint has no coverage. I may end up repainting it again with better paint eventually but I give up for now.

And when you do that many coats of paint, they take forever to dry. Especially in the summer and the humidity is through the roof. As in 48 hours+ with a fan blowing on it and it is still a bit tacky.

Also, it's a pain in the butt to paint the inside of a linen closet. The closet goes up another couple feet or so above the door frame. And I wasn't going to just paint the back and sides even though no one will ever see the inside of the wall above the door. The door is too narrow for a step ladder so I stood on a bar stool inside the closet. Every time I moved, I'd get paint in my hair or on my arm, etc.

Oh well. At least it's painted and I can put stuff in it now. On to the next project.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm baaaaack

*chirp chirp*






Anyone out there?

That was an echo, by the way. In case you're wondering.

So I figure the only people who might read this are people who accidentally subscribed to it in a reader and never got around to deleting it. So you probably didn't notice that I haven't blogged anyway because you have 10000 other things in your reader and this isn't exactly anyone's top blog.

Well, I'll explain my absence anyway. Because I know you care deeply. hah. I amuse myself.

I'm lazy.

Did you really think there was going to be more of an explanation than that? Well then clearly you haven't actually been reading my blog.

I have a few excuses to go with it. I got a new job. Moved out of my old house. Sold my old house. Lived in a hotel. Couldn't afford the hotel. Lived in a short term rental house. Might be getting kicked out of short term rental. Buying a new house. But really, I haven't posted anything because I'm lazy.

But, I'm back. At least for the moment.

So I have a few thoughts with regards to my new house. I figure I'll throw them out there and see if anyone has any suggestions. I'll post more pics of the house... eventually.... after I actually own it.

1. Anyone used a reel mower? How hard are they to push? How well do they mow? My property is 0.1 acres and I'm figuring I'm going to turn most of it into a garden so I don't need much. And a reel mower is small and light and won't take up much space in the garage.

2. Building raised beds. How tall do they need to be to do you any good? I'm thinking I'm going to make them with either 1x12 or 2x12 boards, depending on my mood and the price so maybe 10" tall. Is that high enough? I am thinking I'm going to paint them to keep them from rotting. The other option I'm considering is concrete blocks. The raised bed kits are insanely expensive. It needs to be as cheap as possible. With all my savings getting eaten by the down payment, the budget's gonna be pretty tight.

3. Right now the landcaping on the house is very nice. I'm thinking of ways to ruin it. I am thinking I want to gradually replace the front yard with perennial edibles. I think raised beds would look weird in the front yard. And then build raised beds in the back for annuals (a lot of the stuff I grew last year and more)
  1. I think I want to build a strawberry bed in the front yard. Maybe as a patch in the middle of the main part of the lawn?
  2. I would like to put something else with the strawberries, so it's less farm like. Any suggestions? I am thinking a tree or bush. I want an interesting fruit, the ones I've thought of so far are blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, figs, persimmon, lychee but a lot of these will be tough to grow in zone 6. It probably should also not look ridiculous as a front yard plant in the middle of a strawberry bed. Although according to some random documents I read on my town, you cannot plant fruiting trees, nut trees or flowering bushes. I'm deciding how to interpret that.
  3. I'm also thinking about interplanting some herbs with the strawberries: thyme, rosemary, mint. Maybe start them indoors through the winter and plant them in the ground in the spring.
  4. I also want to grow asparagus. Maybe a row of asparagus next to a row of strawberries running from the curb to the fence on the left side of the house?

4. I really want some form of citrus tree. Again, in zone 6 my options are limited. Maybe a potted Meyer Lemon tree?

5. I guess I'm accepting that I'm not going to be growing anything this year but I can have everything ready for next year. Build raised beds, get a good compost going, turn the soil, kill the grass....

6. I want a compost heap. I figure in a back corner of the backyard. I am too cheap to buy one of the fancy ones. I've seen lots of homemade ones made from pallets that I may try my hand at.

7. I'll be repainting a number of rooms. I think I want to paint the upstairs rooms gray. Of course the last time I tried that it came out closer to light blueish purple than gray. So I'm taking recommendations on color.

8. Is it a bad idea to buy a 5 gallon bucket of primer? I figure I'll need 2 gallons to prime the 2nd floor (currently offwhite and pink, I think), at least 1 gallon for rooms (1 of the rooms has kids coloring marks on the wall) on the 1st floor and another gallon for the basement (currently bright yellow). And anyone have a reason why I should choose one brand over another? While we're at it, I'm taking recommendations for the other room colors as well. Of course I might decide halfway through that I just don't care enough and leave the room their current color or if I manage to prime them before I give up, white.

Here's a couple pictures from the original listing, because I know you are anxious to see the house. Hopefully I'm not jinxing the purchase by posting these and calling it mine now. Cross your fingers that nothing will screw up my closing date!

How sexy is that kitchen? You know you are jealous. Think of all the yumminess that's gonna come from this kitchen.