Monday, December 27, 2010

20th Project - December

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, we were going to be away on the 20th of December, and I wasn't sure how to approach this project... I ultimately decided just to take my photos upon our return from Israel (more on that later!), as opposed to "faking" a 20th post while abroad. To that end, after an odd night's sleep (thanks, jet lag), I awoke to a beautiful sunrise on our little snow-covered beach, and was pretty satisfied with my aforementioned decision. Evening was pretty, too. Here's our beach in the morning and at last light, on December 27 (Happy Birthday, Tia!), 2010:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Furniture Obsessing...

I remember at one of my bridal showers, I began weeping over a coffee maker or cheese board because I realized, very suddenly, that though we'd been very fortunate to have inherited furniture and other household items (for free!) from family and friends when we moved, we were finally going to have things that were ours, that we'd selected together, imagining them in our home. It was this moment of epiphany... like, WE exist... like, this unit of couple-dome we had thought ourselves to be in our relationship was, in a quick unwrapping of gifts, actualized.

Now that we've bought our first home, I'm finding that I'm allowing myself to take that realization to the next level, and have recently been quite literally, obsessing over furniture items that instead of simply satisfying our needs and filling up the space in our rooms, also represent us, and will give our home character - our character.

My parents have a rocking chair in the living room. I love it. I want one. Something like this:

(this one's courtesy of Pottery Barn, but is no longer available)
I can just picture myself drinking my coffee on a Sunday morning, and watching the water. Yum.

I also want to add another seating option in the living room... something like this, I think, from Ikea:

(but in dark brown... even though the white is so great... LANIE!)
I mentioned in another post earlier this week that I've been thinking about adding a console table on the small wall opposite our dining room. I guess I'm envisioning something along these lines:

(but maybe not so boring... (this one's from Target))
And speaking of dining tables... I'm really over ours. We need something more substantial... This week, I'm liking the idea of something like this one I found on Craigslist (if it's still available when we get back from Israel, I might pounce):

I like how substantive it is... wide, and more square, and chunky looking. Then again, two weeks ago, all I wanted was a long oval. So who knows, by the time we get back, I could have a totally different idea in my head...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No Home Updates... So I Browse for Inspiration

The daunting kitchen makeover has taken a lot out of us in recent weeks. This past weekend, having completed the cabinets and pantry, we just agreed to do... nothing! The weather cooperated with this plan, inspiring hours spent under blankets staying warm and watching movies and sports (Go Pats!). And this coming Friday evening, we leave for Israel (!) for a much anticipated, much needed visit with my mom's family. Hooray! We will come back revived and refreshed to take on this house project once again! In the meantime, I have been browsing around for some design inspiration...

I'm really into birds lately (Mom, get out of my head!), and found some neat ideas that could lead to something:

Check out these bird silhouettes (thanks, Design*Sponge):

(for the full DIY, including some traceable images (not just birds!), click here)

And we really need to commit to organizing a little better (we are constantly struggling with the fact that our dining room table becomes our catch-all)... I like this (from Urban Outfitters), maybe on the wall above a side/console table:

We've also talked about how we'll develop our dining area. We've been hunting for a nice, big side board or buffet... one that could hold serving pieces and wine glasses, and maybe display wine bottles. And maybe over it, on the wall, we could have some neat artwork. I found this on Etsy:

Maybe we'll find some cool pieces on our trip... For now, I'll just keep browsing and imagining. And when we return, revived and ready to tackle our Home Sweet Schwab, I'll have some better updates to share.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays! Love, Us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Banana Bread

I just had to show it off before going to bed. This banana bread has become my specialty, and now that my first baking of it in the new oven is complete, the house smells warm and delicious. Check out this baby:

And it's low fat, too!

  • 2-3 mashed bananas
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2-2/3 C. sugar (less if your bananas are really over-ripe, as they get sweeter as they brown)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C. plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 2 1/4 C. unbleached, all-purpose white flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 C. chocolate chips (I don't know who'd opt out of chocolate chips)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; spray a loaf pan (about 9 X 4) with nonstick spray
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the banana, egg whites, sugar, vanilla, oil, and yogurt. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until well mixed, and then, beating at a low speed, add the dry ingredients to the banana batter. Stop beating when the batter is fully integrated and smooth. Mix in the chocolate chips, if you're smart enough to use them.
  3. Spread the batter into the loaf pan, and bake 50-60 minutes.

A Beautiful Kitchen

As I alluded to in my previous post, Lanie at two pounds of brown sugar (and some of the plastic bag it came in) this past Saturday. As a result, she spent several hours between the afternoon and late night at the pet ER, and Dave and I spent that same time frame distracting ourselves with busy work at home.

First, we put the doors on the cabinets:
(It's like a new kitchen!)
and knobs on the drawers:
(I know... after all that deliberating, I went with standard brushed silver knobs. I thought they'd look good with the appliances)
You'll notice in that first shot that we also added a new base cabinet in the space beside the oven. Originally we were planning on getting a rolling cart with a butcher block on top to slide under there, but ultimately we thought this was a good option for a couple of reasons. One: we lost three-ish cabinets in the demolition; Two: it provides great supplemental support for the counter top. So while it clearly has a different face than the other cabinets, when it's painted to match, we think it'll look great and help us out space-wise. Thoughts?

(don't worry, I have extra knobs)
AND THEN... we lined and filled the pantry:

(it will soon be better organized, but it's so great to just have everything put away!)
So all that's really left is painting the walls. We have a few minor touch-ups on the cabinets, and of course the new cabinet will get a fresh coat, but after that, we're done... until the next big project... FLOORS.

For now, though, we're so satisfied with our beautiful and functioning kitchen - that we did ourselves! Tonight we ate a delicious dinner of wild rice with yellow curry, chicken, peas and carrots, and my family's yum-tastic spinach croquettes (which turned out great, Mom), and I have a banana bread in the oven as I type this. It feels good.

P.S., I have to give a shout-out to my dear friend Erin who's finally revived her side-business and blog, Hugs & Cookies. These cookies are outstanding and beautiful and come highly recommended, trust me. And I'm excited to have her updates again, so please don't hesitate to order them (they travel well.)!

Snowy Beach

Sorry for the delayed posting again... a combination of drying cabinet doors, a dog who consumed two pounds of brown sugar Saturday, and our Internet inexplicably dying for the past 36 hours has kept me from the keyboard. But here I am! Back! And with lots of exciting news to share. First... it is winter in Chicago. Yes, this has been something I could easily deny was upon us for quite some time now, thanks to the unseasonably mild fall we had, but here's proof:

The pretty scenery made me almost forget the frigid windy bitterness that would greet me when I went out with Lanie... and until then, and as long as I'm indoors, even in winter this place has a great view! I love it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hanukkah/Chanukah/Chakakhan, a Pot Rack, and a Cabinet Update

It's the second night of the first Hanukkah/Chanukah/Chakakhan in our first home!

(our beautiful chanukiah! with beautiful candles! thank you to Aunt Juice and T-Huesos!)

Because the cabinet painting process is going on in the computer room, I have to wait each time I want to post until there's a good way to move the cabinet doors around so I can get to the computer without messing them up. I've spent the past two days and then some prepping the backs of the doors (yes, I said the past TWO days (and then some) prepping...)... but more on that later.

First, check out our new pot rack:
(I want to find some sort of organizing tool to line the covers up on the shelf nice and neatly)
Sort of wish we'd painted the wall first, but we *had* to see it up! Hmm...

Anyway, so, like I said, I've been prepping the backs of the doors for more than two days now. Tomorrow I can do the first coat, so by Sunday we should have freshly painted doors on our cabinets -- finally! The reason it's taken more than two days of prep work is that as you can see in the photo that follows, when I flipped them over, I realized that some of the paint from the front side had pooled over the edges -- but not in a nice clean painted-on way -- in a goopy, bubbly, messy and bumpy way. Good times. Night One of prep involved getting this off and smoothing edges. Last night I spent at least an hour sweeping up all that crap (granted, Top Chef: All Stars was on at the same time, so I had to work in commercials, but STILL!). Tonight I finally was able to sand the backs of the doors, so we're ready to go. I apologize for the delay (I've gotten at least two emails, a phone call, and a G-chat message about seeing the cabinets with the doors ON), but we're almost there.

See what I mean:

So... that's all for now. Happy Hanukkah/Chanukah/Chakakhan (that's mostly for Adi and Dad), go eat something fried!

Love, Us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Cabinet Painting

I have to apologize for the posting delay. The cabinet doors were drying in the computer room, and I couldn't risk moving them to pull the desk chair out until I knew for sure they were dry. They are now. I also need to apologize that as a result of the aforementioned hurdle to my updating, this will be a long post.

So without further ado, I present the near-conclusion to our cabinet-painting weekend...

Day 2 began with a trip to visit our nephews, a much-needed boost of energy to inspire our painting afternoon and evening ahead. When we returned home, I set to putting a second coat on the cabinet doors:

Meanwhile, Dave was in the kitchen, tarping the room:


...and then putting a first coat on the upper cabinets:

The second coat takes significantly more attention than the first, so while I was still jamming out to The Beatles and painting in the bedroom, Dave also managed to sand and apply the first coat to the lower cabinets:

(we both did the drawer faces... see close-ups below:)

This is how Lanie supported the process:
(she's lucky she's so cute and has no opposable thumbs!)
Day 3 (today), had us back in the kitchen early, applying the second coat to the upper and lower cabinets. We were done before the Bears kicked off. Take a look:

(the selection of this for the cabinet close-up is for my mother)
So we're almost done! All that's left is to put the doors back on, and paint their inner faces (I don't want to flip them over onto their freshly-painted fronts to do this). I now *actually* need to pick out the new knobs for the drawers, too. But already this is looking like a completely new, fresh, modern, updated, current room. We're both really happy with the color, and are looking forward to painting the walls (soon!) to complete the picture.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Husband is Mr. Wizard

(credit to my dad on that titling for Dave)

So... this year was a Schwab Thanksgiving and we stayed in Chicago. I was contributing a sweet potato casserole (I needed to bake something in our new oven!) and a cranberry sauce, even though I couldn't find the much-hailed recipe I made a few years ago. Thursday morning I was running an 8K Turkey Trot, so I decided to make my sauce Wednesday night, allowing myself enough time to run, get ready, bake the casserole, and relax before dinner on Thursday. This is where my story takes a turn...

I started by putting water, orange juice and sugar in a saucepan to boil on our beautiful new stove top. Unused, as I was, to the efficiency of a new appliance, I turned away to begin prepping my other ingredients... a task that takes no time at all. Suddenly, there was a searing sound to my right, and I looked over to find my mixture not only boiling, but boiling over, and basically caramelizing onto the stove top. NOOOOOO! Obviously the appropriate response was to scream and sit on the floor crying hysterically. Without knowing it, I did exactly what I was supposed to do to attempt to clean it. This being a ceramic glass stove top, you should not use regular cleaners, or abrasive sponges. I didn't realize that, but I acted correctly anyway. I let it cool, and then put the cleaning solution it came with on the charred surface, and used both a dry paper towel, and the sponge it came with, to try to wipe it away, applying pressure to lift the burned parts. No luck. It. Was. Ruined. (So I repeated my initial reaction and cried on the floor, but also called Dave, out at a bar with friends, and cried hysterically to him about how I'd destroyed our brand new stove top on it's third use, and I'd never again cook for Thanksgiving).

Dave came home and took a look. He assured me that we'd figure it out. No one was hurt, it was under warranty, and if we couldn't fix it ourselves, we'd call the company and it would be resolved. I still felt like crap. I woke up Thursday morning and had an anxiety attack going into the kitchen. I left for my race, and little did I know... while I was running, Dave was researching and coming up with a plan. By the time I got home, he had several potential solutions for solving the problem. We left for Thanksgiving dinner (I did bake my casserole, and even finished my cranberry sauce), and when we got home, Dave got to work with Plan #1. SUCCESS!

I can now report that should you char your ceramic glass stove top with anything disgusting like burnt, boiling sugar and orange juice, all you need to do to fix it is follow these simple steps:

1. do not sob hysterically on the kitchen floor - there is a solution!
2. let the surface cool completely
3. generously pour olive oil over the entire affected area
4. and finally, using a razor blade, carefully, and very slowly, scrape the burned bits off. This will take a while, but it's like magic, so do it!

I swear, it looks like it just came out of the box. You'd never know that anything bad had ever happened, nor would you know that Dave could have his own science home-remedy show on Nickelodeon. But now you know! He's Mr. Wizard!

Cabinet Painting

Alright, people! We are painting cabinets over here! We decided that this would be our long-weekend project, so yesterday we got started right away! I'm pleased to report that we're successfully one coat in on all the doors, and preparing to get the second coat on today, as well as hitting up the cabinets themselves in the kitchen with a first coat. So far, this project is neither as tedious or annoying as I expected, though I can't speak for Dave, and, like I said, we've only done the doors so far.

We started by taking down all the doors off the cabinets, and laying them flat on a tarp in the second bedroom:

Then we had to sand them down. Joe at Thybony Paint instructed me (thanks, Joe!) that we didn't need to sand them down completely -- just scuff them to break up the varnish to allow the wood to absorb the paint. This was a task:

Once they were sanded we could get to work. So we turned on KCRW (thanks, Internet!) and got to it. Dave rolled, and I followed with a brush to do the details and finish edges. We are using an oil-based paint, and I was assured by both Joe and the Internet that we didn't need to prime. Our color is Simply White, and it will have a eggshell, semi-gloss finish.

Here's the first coat:

More later...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Little Things

I guess sometimes it really is the little things that make a difference. After months of ordering in, eating out, and scavenging through months-ago-packed boxes for spices, we've put a few things out on the counter each day for the past few days. And I must say, it's making me happier by the day.

(it looks like someone actually *uses* this kitchen!)
A shiny new dish drying rack, a couple of cutting boards, a sponge holder... they may be little things, but they're making a big difference (okay, maybe just to me... but still!).

20th Project - November

Took me an extra day to get this up... but it was because ED and I went to see Harry Potter last evening, so I didn't get home until later, and I chose to veg on the couch instead of get on the computer.

So for our third month's installment, here's what our beach looked like the morning of the 20th:

(i love the textures in the sky and water... reflective almost... it's best first thing in the morning) near last-light:

(fuzzy = magical... trust me.)

...and at the very end of the day:

("last light" comes much earlier now... must try to remember that...)
I need some input as to how to approach next month's 20th Project. We're actually going to be in Israel on December 20. Do I photograph before I leave? Do I wait until we return? Do I skip a month because it won't be the 20th? Help!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food... at Home (Finally!)

It's Sunday evening, and I have to report that for the first time in long enough that I can't really remember, we didn't have to have this discussion around 5:00:

Dave: "I'm taking Lanie out. What's for dinner?"

Me: "Ugh. I don't know. What do you want?"

Dave: "I don't know. Can you just figure it out?"

Me: "Um... okay... but what do you want?"

(repeat a few more times... then conclude with ordering something because no one wants to get in the car to pick anything up.)

No... tonight was finally different. But it started this morning.

This morning, we had my parents, brother, and Dave's parents here for brunch. No cooking or baking took place in the kitchen, but we hosted a meal! Take a look:
(table covered in goods!)
(family enjoying aforementioned goods)
(Dave making more coffee in what is obviously a functioning kitchen!)
(useful and beautiful window/pass-through taken for a test-run)
(Lanie: adorable, sneaky little beggar dog.)
(Lucy: adorable, quiet, little well-behaved dog.)

(lots of parents!)
(a sink full of dishes to be washed has never looked so great!)
So that was brunch.

On to dinner...

I'll admit that the first time you use your brand new stove or oven, it should probably be for something fun and exciting... not boiling eggs. But after so many weeks (nay, months) of forced out-eating, and a few consecutive weeks/weekends with guests (which means more and delicious out-eating), we needed a light meal to settle things back down. So, to quote a favorite, we had a salad, only bigger, and with a lot of stuff in it. Including hard-boiled eggs so that I could use the stove top! (I'll also admit that I'm no longer ashamed that something like this got me all giddy and excited):
(super steam-action)
So now it's broken in... this week will give the oven an opportunity to show off, as well, in honor of Thanksgiving and my joy of being able to cook again. Tomorrow I'll post the last of the weekend posts (20th Project), and get on with finishing up this kitchen! Hooray.

To our families: We love you. Thank you for helping us break in our new kitchen! We can't wait to host you all again many more times and as often as possible. You're the best.