Saturday, December 10, 2011

Real Content Coming Soon

I have real content to share with folks, honest to Pete!

While I figure out the best way to cover my new topics (structural engineering & houses, angry birds Christmas decor, cookie baking day) please enjoy these explosions

It's Old Spice, so I kinda wonder if it's that good looking guy who used to be on a horse.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Epic Cooking Adventure

Today, I cooked.

My husband made mini-chip silver dollar pancakes for breakfast, which was awesome.

Then I embarked on an epic cooking day, including:

  • Twice baked cheddar potatoes
  • Twice baked taco potatoes
  • Pecan baked sweet potatoes
  • Sesame ginger cole slaw
  • Freezer mango berry slaw
  • Fried Rice (*)
  • Tofu Stir Fry (*)
  • Tofu Steak Sandwiches (*)
  • Rice & beans & cheddar
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Pesto pizza bread
(*)These are only partially cooked, but will need to be constructed in additionwhen i go to cook the stuff for actual dinners.

Our kitchen looks positively clean here, before the epic cooking day.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will have a recipe to share with folks.  Today, I am just hoping that my freezer will hold everything, since basically everything I cooked (except the cinnamon rolls) is either there or headed there.  Woo!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Terrifying Stuff I'm Doing

Hey guys!

Today, I cut up some super antique family heirloom linens.  I was freaking out about it the whole time, but now that I'me done and i've had some wine, I am feeling much better about the whole process.

Let me tell you what actually happened.
big ol' pile of family treasures

These are some linens my husband's grandmother gave me.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure why she is giving her things away, but I suspect it has something to do with paring down a bit and wanting to see people taking and using and knowing where stuff came from that she has.  I kinda get that, but it makes me sad, mostly because Jeff's grandmother is the most grandmotherly person on earth.  She is basically perfect.

But in any case, when we were visiting in the late spring, she unpacked a chest of linens and asked everyone to please take whatever we wanted.  I gotta tell you, I find it really difficult to, like, take things from people.  Even when they ask me to.  Jeff told me that she probably wants people to use them, which I understood.

Another shot

So I tried to look for things that were pretty colors and most importantly, things that were already damaged.  The pretty lady at the bottom of this pic was apparently part of a tablecloth that grandma's mother and her sisters embroidered and some things I think gramma herself worked on.  Eventually, it got used enough that someone cut them into handkerchiefs.  (The bottom left one you can barely see was also a tablecloth->hankie transformation.)

The magenta flowers at the top were a table runner.  You can see in the bottom right corner, someone had already cut or torn the runner.  So basically, I took some things that were

  1. beautiful
  2. had interesting family history
  3. were already damaged so I could not really mess them up

For reference, I also asked Gramma if I could take them to cut them up and turn them into a quilt or something else.  She was totally on board.  I pointed out that I took the ones that were kinda marred, but I honestly don't think she would have cared if I took more nice things and cut them up.  (Thank God for awesome Gramma-in-laws.)

Isn't she pretty?  
So then I found some fabric I liked that went with the embroidered bits, but felt kinda modern and cheerful.  This yellow and fuchsia quilting stuff was from joanns, as was the teal-ey blue you'll see later.  The first thing I did is put all of it, old and new, in the washer and dryer together.  If it's gonna be in the same quilt, it prolly needs to be washable together.  I was TOTALLY FREAKING OUT.  Especially because I went with the fuchsia.  But it came out perfect, so I folded it up and put it on my desk to look at it and work up the courage for stage II.

Here's the thing: Nothing was a regular size.  So I measured everything to figure out what my size options were.  Eventually, I figured out that with some strips and scraps, I could turn all 5 bits of embroidery into 12.5" squares.

Starting to add some borders

Some could just be cut to 12X12, some needed lining, yeah.

I decided that I wanted a 5X5 foot grid would work well and i measured my fabric to make sure I could actually do that.  To be honest, I am not much into tiny fussy patchwork.  I think it's beautiful, really, but I do not have the patience or the time to do that, and I kinda like my crazy quilting.

I made a kinda map for myself to use as I was putting things together.
my scribblings that turned into a quilt top.  with colored pencils to make sure I don't mess something up.

The end result is a little different because I made some changes as I went, but it was super helpful along the way to keep me from making super crazy mistakes.  I am a really lazy quilter, people.  So doing a quick head check helps me make sure I am not totally messing up my stuff.

Here's what I ended up with.  These colors look a little brighter than in real life, but not much.  I wanted happy, quirky, and featuring the slightly damaged embroidered bits.  (Soon my new camera will arrive and I will be able to learn to take better pics!(

Some things I learned:

  • Don't try to use something else as a seam ripper.  Also, just don't try to seam rip the hem on a hankie that is embroidered and is also probably 75 years old.  It's just not gonna work.
  • The old fabric?  It's a little brittle.  There are also some places where it's starting to wear, but I did not want to cut it out.  I am probably going to do something that I assume is like darning over top of the one big spot.  I have some stitches on my sewing machine that look like they would be darnalicious.  I haven't actually quilted it yet, so I can still do that.  
  • Stop trying to make everything perfect.  This is not the christening gown that 3 generations of boys have worn and that I think was made from someone's wedding gown.  This are pieces that were probably going to be thrown into a drawer.  Plus I got explicit permission because I am paranoid.
  • Cutting anything this old is basically going to completely freak you out.  Measure twice, cut once, walk away for five minutes.  Take deep breaths.  It's OK.
me with quilt top

So I think I'm done babbling about this.  I waver between still a little freaked out that I cut it, and totally happy with how crazy and bright and happy it came out.  Sure, I did not keep the integrity of the original work.  But it had already suffered the indignity of being turned into a hankie.  I did get a good chunk of work done on something that we can cuddle on the couch with our son and tell him about how his great great gramma and great gramma made parts of it, and so did mommy.  *snif*

Tomorrow, I am considering taking it to a quilt store (if I can find one open) and see if I can get some help with the thimbles I'll need to hand quilt it.  (I wanna hand quilt it.)  I am a little nervous that the quilting ladies will look askance at my totally not matching up, not well measured, and totally sewed crazy quilt top, so that will take some courage on my part.  I may bail and go to Joann's and order the thimbles online.

I'm pretty happy with it.  And I did it all today (except for the washing)!  Very exciting!  

Now to work up some courage for tomorrow and the store. Wish me luck, ya'll!  

Floor Planner

So hey, I have been playing with, which I learned about on YHL.  (Thanks to those guys!) 

It's only slightly maddening, which is really pretty high praise for a design tool you use in a web browser. Man, do you guys remember actual desktop clients?  How crazy was that?

Anyway, I have what I think is a decent approximation of our house's first floor plan.   On the right, is the living room, which you enter from a porch (not shown).  Below center is the dining room.  Above the dining room is the old kitchen.  I turned it into a powder room and a laundry/mud room, but that's wishful thinking.  Plus they do not have the furnishings necessary to make "unfinished room full of junk" on  

All of that is the original house.  On the far left is the kitchen.  Woo Kitchen!  The colors are not quite right, but the floor is brown tile and the countertops are a greyish white granite.  

top down view of our first floor
Minor criticism of floorplanner: I could not find anyway to put in stained glass windows.  I get that they can't really make them have the same design, so yeah, prolly not.  I also can't figure out how to make the bookcases in the living room short.  (In the 3D version, they are over top of the windows, which is not the case in real life.)

the 2d version
I also can't figure out how to make the breakfast bar show up right.  I tried to make it higher, but it looked like it was floating in midair in the 3d view, so I just took it out.

sideways view

All in all, I thought it was pretty neat.  I might even buck up for the pro version.  


Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Doors

Not the band.  My doors.

So, I had a custom door built.  I tried to find one that I liked, and I tried to make one of those jenn-weld aluminum ones that look like wood customized, but ultimately, all that was going to be like $5k.  A bit spend for a front door, doncha think?

So, custom.  My father in law found someone, or some company locally who could do what I wanted.  We ordered a fancy handle set from the hardware store we can walk to from our house (yay awesome neighborhood!) and my contractor-father-in-law stained it a pretty english chestnut color.  (says the min wax)  It's douglas fir, and it's fab.
pretty, right?  i loves it.
But I am continuing to obsess about it . Why is that, you ask?  The freakin' storm door.
Not loving it.
Seriously, all you can see from the street is the white monstrosity.  I have it half glass/half screen so you can see how neither of them is really any better than the other.  Dislike!

bigger pretty
bigger monstrosity

You can't see my lovely, painstakingly selected and finished custom door!  What a waste!!!

So I'm unhappy.  Unhappy because no matter what, I've wasted money.  Wasted money on the screen door because I want to take it off completely, or wasted money buying a gorgeous wood door that no one can see except me when i'm bringing in groceries.

(For the record, btw I am also so so so over those lights and I want to ditch those and replace them with something pretty, as well.)  

I am kinda torn about what to do here.  The cheapest and easiest solution is to just take the monstrosity off and call it a day.  (If you don't remember because I post so infrequently, I don't know how much it will matter, since our door is protected by a relatively deep porch that's windowed in on two sides.)

We got rid of those awful yew, btw.

I am kinda torn about what to do here.  The cheapest and easiest solution is to just take the monstrosity off and call it a day.  (If you don't remember because I post so infrequently, I don't know how much it will matter, since our door is protected by a relatively deep porch that's windowed in on two sides.)
My dad told me that I could put a light in between the door and the screen door.  Illuminated door would be much more visible, and I could keep the screen door. 

I started obsessing about doors on Pinterest and found a HEAP of examples of "pretty door with no storm or screen in front", so that's apparently a thing.

I also started wandering around my neighborhood and looking at everyone else's door situation. I will refrain from posting pictures of my neighbors houses because that seems like a neighborhood faux pas, but it's about split evenly between "has an aluminum or plastic modern looking door" "has their original or similarly lovely door and no storm door" or "has original door and original wooden storm door". So I started thinking, hey. I could have gotten a salvage front door. That would have been less painful that going to all the effort with the custom door. I looked around, and it would have cost about the same amount. But wait! Perhaps, there exists salvage or antique storm doors! 

We have a wooden storm door at the lake house, which I love to pieces. It's wooden, stained on the outside and painted inside. I wish I had a better picture, but it has a panel in the front that's glass with some stiles that you put in for the winder, and then swap it out with a similar screen one for the summer. I want THAT!!! 

So I googled and found some things. Nothing that would be the right size, and nothing where we live, but apparently all hope is not lost for the idea of an antique/salvage storm/screen door combo platter. This one is even douglas fir! Too bad it's too small. I am also assuming that it has a screen. It says removable panel, but who knows. I will continue to obsess about this for at least another six weeks, on account of how that's what I do. What do you think? No storm door? Hold out for an antique? Suck it up to not hurt contractor-father-in-law's feelings?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Eating and Drinking

Oh Pinterest, how I love you.

Through Pinterest, I ran into this recipe for something called 'crack sauce' that my friend from college pinned.  Today, I made it to dip green beans in, and although I do not feel though I am addicted to it, it was certainly plenty tasty.  I am hoping it will be better tomorrow after it sits a while and the garlic melds in.  Also, if I had it to do over again, I would add more smoked paprika.  Smoked paprika is basically a special gift from the heavens.  I am going to try to invent some sort of grilled cheese sandwich with the crack sauce and some pepper jack and maybe some roasted red peppers.  yum!

While wandering around the grocery store, I ran into this stuff. (Also, this picture is really pretty!  Thanks random flickr person who marked your picture as OK to use!)

The San Pellegrino orange is super awesome fantastic, and I was making fake chicken with this orange glaze, and I thought "hey, this looks interesting.  i'm totally getting this to have with my crack sauce bean/orange glazed chixen dinner".  (We also had baked potatoes.)

Do Not Want.  It was totally weird tasting.  Did not taste like oranges at all.  I'm not sure what kind of orange-like citrus fruit a chinotto is, but it is not for me.  I asked Jeff to get me some water, since I was not going to drink it.  He took a sip, promptly gagged and requested I give him some bleach to gargle with. Apparently my (Italian) friend loves it and does not understand why non-Italian people think it's weird.  Your mileage may vary, whether or not you are Italian.

I don't know why I can't rotate this.
Speaking of Italian, I took this picture at the grocery store of a pasta salad kit 'Caesar' flavor.

Why is it "Suddenly" a salad?  Is it going to run up behind me when I'm not expecting it?  Did I think I was getting a spaghetti dinner and got pasta salad again?  Also, wasn't Caesar assassinated?  I am not really interested in Caesar suddenly surprising me with some kind of death salad. I'm a little afraid.  Anyone know what's in these things?  Worth buying?  Pasta and a bottle of salad dressing seems like a better deal.  Just saying.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Can I use vacation pics as art?

We have not been on a real vacation in a while.
Last May, we went to New Orleans on a vacation without Thomas for the first time.  It was terrifying but also awesome.  Today, I am supposed to be laying on the couch, relaxing and doing as little as possible.

August is a hard month where I work, so a little R&R is totally in order.  I am pathologically incapable of sitting in my PJs doing nothing, however.  On top of that, I have been freaking out about how I can not find any of our pictures from Paris, so I went on a scouring mission of all the random websites one could put photographs on until I assembled something I consider a reasonable collection of pictures of our travels.  Aieeeeeeeee happiness!  Jeff believes he has all of them somewhere on a hard drive, but we have like four hard drives, and I can never find anything on them, so scour away.

To be honest, we are not going anywhere far for a while, since we spent basically all our savings on the kitchen reno.  I am not complaining, the kitchen is completely fabulous.  But I can at least check out my pics and feel nostalgic about our past.

The Caribbean

They are totally not in the order that we went to these places, and they took place over the course of the last ten years.  Still, they make me happy.  I am putting one or two here, and the rest at the end of the post so you don't have to scroll through ten vacation pictures, which I realize are not always exciting for the person not on the vacation.

I am working on figuring out what art to put in the new ikea frames i bought for over the new TV stand (pics coming later, I promise).  

It's a city!  Pittsburgh!  You can tell, right?

I am doing samples of this water color technique to see if that's worth doing for the frames, but if not, perhaps I will pick two of my travel pics and frame them.

Cancun, Mexico


Scotland, Glenfiddich





Bath, England

Scottish Highlands

I hope you all have some awesome, relaxing plans for the long weekend.  Happy Friday!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shower Ideas: Help!

You guys, my sister in law is having a baby and she is letting me plan and throw her shower!!!! ZOMG I am going to be an aunt!!!!  I am super excited about this.  We have a place and a list of people, so we're on our way.

Here is my problem:
I am trying to match the feel of the shower to her bedding, which she loves, and which is adorable.
bedding from Target
Dots!  I love it!
The baker we are getting our cupcakes at has this awesome thing where the put these little sugar dots on top of their cupcakes, so I am hoping we can custom order something with the right colors of dots.
Vanilla Pastry Studio
And I think I found some invitations on etsy I could buy that would be really awesome and in theme.

Sugar Doodle Designs
But I need favors, you guys!  Something Mod and dot-having and something that's not totally lame and that you'd like to take home from a shower.  Help!  I'm not awesome at the favors stuff.

I would also love to hear ideas for DIY centerpieces we could do with lots of awesome dots.  I was wondering if a cookie bouquet of different sized circle sugar cookies with brown/blue/green colored icing would be nifty or a little overmuch on the sweets.   I think it could work.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things I love this week

So, I took a bunch of pictures to stuff to post here and babble about, but i used the real camera instead of my cell phone and man, getting pics off an actual camera is harder than getting them off the iphone.

Instead of that, I am going to link to some things I am reading about in blog land that I think are awesome in some way or other.

  • I always love Mrs. Lilien's blog, but I am basically head over heels with this whole set of bike awesomeness.  
  • Whatever your thoughts are on organic food (I'm pro!), this little girl's project and video are basically adorable.
  • Maillardville Manor  Manor is becoming my new fave blog, and this cupcake stand project is really helping.  ZOMG.  
  • Do you guys know about Picnick?  I saw this somewhere I can't remember now, but it appears to be web based photoshop kinda.  Imma check it out because Photoshop is kinda pricey.
  • The weather has been a little cooler, and I am totally ready to bake cookies.  This cool kickstarter project has a way to make cutout cookies with no waste.  Srsly?  
  • Jeff keeps taunting me by telling me that we are going to leave the old kitchen without any drywall, just studs.  He stopped doing that when I told him about The Lettered Cottage's wonder wall, an oldie but goodie.  
Sunset on the lake
It's almost Labor Day weekend, which I think means some time at the lake for us, so because I feel bad posting anything without a picture, here's some lake pictures with the fam from the last year.

Hold my calls, mommy
Happy Tuesday everyone!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why We Bought This House

I would like to tell you that we bought this house because it was the best deal for the money in the school district we wanted to be in.  (Those things are all true.  From our porch, we can see the local elementary school, which is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence or something.)

I would also like to tell you that we bought this house because the location is perfect: tree lined streets, two blocks to restaurants, parks, schools, another five blocks to Uptown and the farmer's market, three blocks to the trolley.  (Those things are also all true.  Last night we walked to the Italian place for dinner and then to the park.  Last week, Jeff and I took the trolley downtown to go to the Steelers preseason game so we could both drink and get home.  Glorious.)

I think I might be lying, though, if I told you those things.  I think the real reason I bought this house is the windows.

Beautiful castle window.
Ignore the fake plastic brick.  It's on The List.
The houses in our neighborhood were all built in the early to mid 1920s.  We're in a suburb, one of the first streetcar suburbs, as I understand it.  It's fairly urban, though, which is why we can walk to so many things.  Urban-type living comes with houses that are fairly close together.  Now, I'm from Mount Washington, where the houses are under 2' apart, so it doesn't bother me in the slightest.  There's like a double driveway width between the houses here!  You'd fit an entire freakin' house there on the Mount.

All of the windows on the first floor (and one on the 2nd floor in the stairwell) that face the houses to either side of ours are stained glass, original to the home as far as I can tell.   When the sun shines through them, they are pretty much fantastic.  Even when the sun doesn't shine through them, you're not staring at your neighbor's porch.

View from our dining room
This did not go unnoticed by me when we were looking for places.  Another house for sale on this same street, in this same near-perfect for us location had replaced the pretty stained glass with plain windows.  Not interested.  (Also, the garage on that one was kinda falling down.  It had a bigger, new kitchen even, but no dice.)

In fact, when we built the kitchen, I designed it to have something like clerestory windows so we'd get the light in, but not stare at the guy next door's dog all the time.
Kitchen Windows
We briefly lost this house to a higher offer, so we kept looking.  We found another place we were preparing an offer on, a bit too far away, a great deal bigger, and it had all of it's original windows.  Not stained glass.  That house went contingent while we were getting our offer together, and then the original buyers on our place couldn't get a mortgage, so we were back in line with our secure mortgage, our plans to add on, and our love of pretty windows.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The List

Last weekend, which seems like a month ago, but was really only like 6 days.  Oh, yeah, anyway, last weekend a friend asked me what was left to do in the house.  Man, that's a long list.

Here it is


  • Build a powder room and mud room in the old kitchen.
  • Replace exterior door into the mudroom.
  • Railing for mud room door.
  • Tear out fake plastic brick wall in living room.
  • Tear out and center the fireplace in living room.  and build a new one.
  • Construct built-ins and add matching (custom milled, to match the original) trim around the stained glass windows.
  • Re-Concrete driveway.
  • Refinish or replace hardwood floors.  
    • We're leaving the boring carpet in place until the rest of the work is done.  We're smart.
  • Replace windows in the mudroom, master bedroom, and bath.
  • Gut and remodel the 2nd story bath.  Probably down to studs.  Probably also involves some plumbing.  
  • Take over the closet in Thomas's room and make it into a double closet in the master.
  • Build a new closet in the weird shaped cubby in Thomas's room.  
    • I think Jeff thinks we can skip this, but I think that's a bad plan.  If we don't build it when we take over the other one, we never will.  
  • Refinish basement!  Including:
    • Man Room
    • Laundry Room
    • 3/4 bath
    • Storage and craft room
  • Attic: what do we do here?  I don't know!  something about the HVAC and set it up to be a useful space.
Those yew are GONE, by the way.

  • Bigger art over the TV.
  • Other Best book case to match the one we have, flanking the fireplace.
  • Get a better, flatter fireplace screen. 
  • Finish painting trim white.
  • Dismantle desk in the Estroden
  • Replace Estroden desk w/ the $50 IKEA add on desk for my Expedit
  • Move the futon from the attic into the Estroden to make it a guest room.
  • Paint exterior door in kitchen
  • Backsplash someday!
  • Strip paint from interior doors
  • Paint and swap furniture around in master bedroom
    • I want to move the bed 90 degrees.  It's in front a window no matter where we put it, but I think on the other window will be more centered on the bed and look better.
  • Paint the hallway.  Man, that's an awful fleshy beige color. 
  • Move the liquor cabinet into the man room and get a real buffet.
  • Paint and decorate Thomas's room.  All small scale stuff, but it's just a bunch of wacky colors right now.  
Basically every room needs something.  I wonder where I should start.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Other Babbling: Rugs

Hey in other vaguely incoherent babbling, what do you guys think of putting an area rug over your wall to wall carpet?  I have boring, beige, awful wall to wall we want to get rid of eventually, but we are keeping it in place until we are done with all the deconstructing and reconstructing, in hopes that we can salvage the hardwood underneath by refinishing.

I am only asking because I am madly in love with the mood board the Rambling Renovators people made.

rambling renovators blog
I LOVE this carpet!  It's so pretty!  It would bring so much character to my fairly boring dining room!  But over wall to wall?  I don't know.


You guys, sometimes I like to search the internet for curtains I will almost definitely never buy because I am basically a complete masochist.  I am like completely incapable of spending $100 on curtains.  I can basically never bring myself to do it.

I tried to make an exception and went to Home Depot last year to buy roman shades for my living room, but we ended up getting some roman shades on clearance for $10 each.  Thirty bucks total for my whole living room!

seriously, i got them for $30 total.  go go gadget clearance!
I typed all this babbly stuff about iphones and cameras but them my husband told me how to get my picture somewhere useful.  Publishing to mobile me!  Which is apparently going away, so I do still need a picasa solution.
(I tried to take some phone pics and upload them to picasa to use on my blog, but none of my google friends are around to tell me what magic iphone app works for that.  If you know, clue me in!  Also if you have one of those online "how to take good pics for your blog" courses to recommend, let me know.  I think I need a refresher course.  I even have a nice enough camera.  *sigh*)
A Detailed View

In any case, they are red, which I love for winter, but for summer/fall I'd like to do something in a green blue palette.  Also since then we got some free furniture that is more steel blue/beige/green, so red is not really on the menu.  I can't find anything for $30, though, so I'm totally spoiled and haven't been able to take down my roman shades.

Target and JC Penney are favorite places to fantasy shop in the realm of "might actually buy", but Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are where I look when I want to pretend like I have a zillion dollars to spend.  I should actually check out if Garnet Hill has window stuff, because MAN Garnet Hill is full of pretty.
These from JC Penney are really pretty nice.  And on Clearance!  Even on clearance, they are $59 a piece.  That's like $175!  Man, I am so spoiled from my $10 roman shades.

I normally prefer JCP to Target for curtain shopping online + added self loathing.  JCP seems to have easier categories to work with, but Target recently changed their website, so it's better.

These are pretty cute, and in my size they're only $44.  That's not too bad!  Still over a hundred bucks, but I am starting to believe my magic $30 roman shades were a freak of shopping.  (I mean, guys, they had a damask roman shade with a sheer roman shade all together!  lovely!  i should have bought them in every color.)

Restoration Hardware
Restoration Hardware has some fabulous sheers, especially.  But at $99 a sheer, maybe out of my $30 range.  Still lovely, and I like the idea of sheers in the living room, as long as they are pretty.  I wonder if there's a DIY way of dressing up some plain white sheers.  Maybe ribbon trim along the sides?  Hrm.

Also, it turns out that Garnet Hill does have a small selection of curtains.  Which are fabulous, of course, because it's Garnet Hill.
Garnet Hill
Lovely, and I love the colors, too.  But!  $158 a piece, so no thanks.

Someday when we are no longer under construction and have disposable income for expensive curtains...... I still won't pay $158 a piece on account of how I am super cheap.  Oh well, I will have to head back to JCP to find something more reasonable.

Why are curtains so much money, anyway?  Am I missing some magical cheap place to shop for curtains?