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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bathroom Renovation

After a few crazy months and a persnickety electrical inspector, we have rebounded, passed 3 inspections with flying colors, and are attacking the downstairs bathroom with renewed vigor. Here's what we've been up to...
(Insulated the Ceiling)
(Packed eight 4'x8' sheets of moisture resistant drywall into the Element--I love this car!)
(Closed up the wall b/w kitchen and BR; Put up new strapping on BR ceiling)
(Got the hang of cutting drywall)
(Drywalled the BR ceiling and 2 BR walls)
We aim to finish off the last 2 walls before we return to work on Monday...but also have a little R&R before then, too! Then it will be tile selection time...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Cookies

Just wanted to post some pics from my Christmas cookie marathon:
1. Parisian Minicakes A Czech recipe and family favorite, these pink sandwich cookies are filled with a sweet ground nut & dark rum spread.
2. Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies This cookie is what happens when Peppermint Bark and Thin Mints have a baby. And yes, that's as good as it sounds. Just like Emily at CupcakesandCashmere, my cookies did not come out looking like Martha Stewart's...but hey, I'm sure I'll have a chance to perfect the white chocolate coating, because these cookies have been deemed a new Christmas staple.
3. Linzer Cookies Another family tradition, these pretty little cookies are filled with red currant jelly and melt in your mouth. If forced to choose a favorite, I'd have to pick these.
4. Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies Steven's mom makes these knockout cookies every year, and they're so good we thought we'd make a batch, too. Another mouth melter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cat Owner PSA: Great Litterbox

Okay, I realize cat litter is possibly the lamest blog topic ever, but a great product is a great product. And since I have benefited many times from others' product recommendations, I thought I'd share this one for any cat owners who love their feline friends, but HATE cleaning the litter box.

I never thought I'd eagerly await my cat's next visit to the litter box, but that's exactly what happened the night this non-motorized self-cleaning litter box arrived on our front porch. With an average of 4.5 stars from 966 reviewers on Amazon.com, and a "why didn't I think of that?" design, I was really hopeful that this product would deliver on the hype.

Am I excited about a litter box? Yes. (Sad but true) It's made our most hated chore a breeze, so it gets 5 stars in my book.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Homemade Eggnog

At one point during my Christmas cookie baking marathon on December 23, I caught myself twirling around the kitchen in a most ungraceful fashion while squawking along with Christmas carols on the radio. (Thank God I was home alone.) As it was only 10:30 a.m. and I generally don't exhibit any sprightly behavior until after noon, it required an explanation.

I quickly realized--it must be the eggnog.

You see, I had partaken of a couple glasses of the eggnog I had made the night before, well, because I thought there wasn't that much left and it would be a shame to waste it. It ended up being 3 servings. Did I mention it's made with rum, bourbon, and cognac?

It's all good, though. My mother assured me that it's completely fine to drink boozy eggnog at breakfast time "because it has eggs in it".

Makes sense to me! ;)
(If you're interested in making your own eggnog, I thought this recipe was a good one. However, I'd leave out the egg whites, as the whipped cream made it plenty frothy on its own. Also, be ready for the "kick"--this is not your grocery store's eggnog!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Cheer!

You may be surprised to hear this (maybe not) but I can be a bit of a humbug when it comes to Christmas. In recent years, all of the chaos and hullabaloo of the season, combined with the gift-giving stress and Iron Chef-like intensity of food preparation has nearly overwhelmed the sweetness of the season for me.

Not this year.

I'm feeling so festive this year, it's silly. Obviously, the impetus for my change of heart is having a house of our own, being able to decorate it and be merry in a million little ways all season long, in addition to the starburst of Christmas with our families.

Superhuman consumption of eggnog? Check.
Our *first* Christmas tree up? Since December 5th.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back In The Saddle

Whew, what a whirlwind the last couple months have been! This past autumn was the busiest in recent memory...between Steven's surgery, 2 graduate level classes, home ownership must-do's, holiday preparations, a mini-trip to Paris...oh, and a full time job where the motto is "Burnin' and Turnin'"...I'm BEAT.

Thank God it's all winding down now. Exams and term papers are done (for better or worse), Steven's back to his trademark "Death March" pace when walking to the train, and we're 1 week away from a 12 day holiday! Really, really, REALLY looking forward to that.

Anyways, now that the schedule is clearing up, and the free Dell Netbook has arrived, there will be plenty of time for blog updates! And without further adieu...


Our Girls' Weekend in Paris was fantastic! It's kind of hard to sum up the whole experience without writing a virtual dissertation, so here are some lasting impressions:

The Scale. While I've seen similar architecture in other European cities, none of it was on the same scale as in Paris. Everything just felt so...expansive. From the facade of the Louvre, to the Place de la Concorde (a wide open 86,400 square meters), to the questionably-named Petit Palais...the physical breadth of the buildings & city was stunning and beautiful. And following right behind that impression was the realization that taking pics with my basic point & shoot digital camera was pointless, as it would never do the city justice.

The People. I'd be lying if I said that we didn't go to Paris fully expecting the French to be rude and snooty. We'd all heard the rumors, from many different sources (some even reliable!)...so you can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were when we found the French to be downright charming! From the couple who took us under their wing when we were booted off our train & completely clueless (yes, we experienced the fabled Parisian labor strike...within our first hour in Paris!) to the chatty vendors at the food market giving us free goodies, our experience with the locals was nothing but positive.

The Desserts. Oh, the desserts! (::drooling::) I can confidently say that the French OWN the dessert category. The sweets we sampled over the course of 4 days...and believe me, there was a lot of sampling...are collectively the best I have ever had. The chocolate was delicious of course...but it was the fruit tarts and the macarons that knocked my socks off. There was also a mysterious chocolate cake at Le Bistrot Paul Bert that had us all scratching our heads--how could it be so rich, yet so light? Did it even have flour in it? Eggs? Was it some kind of baked mousse concoction? I still have no idea. But it was phenomenal.
Stay tuned for foodie pics!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cocktail Friday

Last night's libation...
St-Germain Cocktail
2 parts champagne
2 parts club soda
Serve over ice, with a twist

I first tasted St-Germain during girls' night out at Audubon Circle in Boston and it definitely made an impression. This French liqueur is made from elderflower blossoms, which impart a sweet, floral, almost citrus flavor to your drink. It's not a common product, so imagine my joy when Steven found it at our local packie! Last night's home-mixed version was really good, and I think this may be my favorite cocktail. Ever. It's sweet, yet light, and definitely refreshing. It's a perfect summer cocktail, but I declare it fair game all year round. ;)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Garden Updates

I'd be lying if I said that I don't spend a lot of time fantasizing about our garden plans for next year. Hopefully we do the fantasies justice, but for now, I've got visions of gorgeous ripe heirloom veggies, fresh cut flowers, and well-shaped flowering bushes dancing around in my head. Here's a little bit of what I'm thinking...

Veggie Garden. The weather was just too nice last weekend for me not to put in some time in the yard, so I spent a couple hours turning over our giant weed patch. Word is, it was once a prolific veggie garden...and our goal is to revive it next summer. I managed to completely weed and turn over about 1/3 of the area, something like a 4'x8' patch. My hamstrings were none too happy about the task, but I was very pleased to see beautiful, dark, rich soil--full of earthworms--when I turned over that first fork full of earth. In fact, it was so rich that I suspect it needs to be lightened up a bit...the fresh dirt was pretty densely packed again after only being stepped on a couple of times.

And speaking of footprints...

On Sunday, I went out to do some more manual labor in the (future) veggie garden, and what do I see, but dainty little hoof prints tracked right through the middle of the section I had turned over the day before. Seriously? Out of the entire 1/2 acre yard, the little darlings prance right through the one tiny area that reflects my intentions for next year, the night after I work on it? Obviously, these are mafia deer, and this is my warning. Which brings me to the...

Raspberries. After finding irrefutable evidence that there are evil deer lurking about, I went to check on the raspberry plants I planted during our September staycation. Sure enough, all of the leaves on the top 1/2 of the plants were gone. Anyone know any good deer repellents? This is NOT something I thought I'd have to worry about in such a suburban/urban environment!

The Greenhouse. I went spelunking in the greenhouse for the first time a couple weeks ago, as it was finally cold enough for me to expect zero interference from angry wasps. I thought it was so cool! Upon opening the door, you go down 3 steps to the recessed lane between the actual dirt beds, which are at ground level. This makes it possible to work the beds standing up, and I found some perfectly-proportioned tools lying around in there. I also discovered that it has 3 pop up windows, presumably for air quality control (?). The only glaring negative about it is that the corrugated plastic sheets that make up the walls are in pretty shabby condition. Sure, they're translucent, but just barely. Anyways, I love it and I think it would be an awesome way to grow a nearly year round supply of greens...arugula, romaine, boston lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. Wouldn't that be sweet?
The Mystery Plant that I blogged about here has been loosely ID'd, based on a similar plant seen at a garden center. We now believe it to be a Rose Mallow, a type of Hibiscus. While our bush did develop a bunch of flower buds, it had a late start this year, and the cold weather came before they bloomed. Can't wait to see what they look like next year!

The Master Plan. I've convinced Steven that we (well, HE, being the landscape architect and all) should make a full on, professional grade master plan of our yard next year. As it stands right now, we're not sure what is growing where, but we've been told that the yard is full of blooms in the spring. The idea is that we'll enter plants into the master plan as we discover them. That way, we can work in the yard without fear of accidentally digging something up, and we can identify spots to plant more plants (I'm dying to put in some snowball white hydrangeas!). So far, I know we have peonies, roses, lupine, yarrow, phlox (both garden and creeping), poppies, rhododendrons, azaleas, the rose mallow, lilies, siberian iris, day lilies, foxglove, columbine, and these mums, which bloomed recently:
Winter Plans. Among all of the other things we found in the house when we moved in was an Amaryllis. I'm determined to get this puppy to bloom this winter, so I'm following the forcing procedure I found on this website. I'm also going to attempt to propagate the impatiens my grandmother gave me this summer, so that I'll have several of them to plant next summer. This is allegedly very easy to do--just take cuttings, place them in water until they sprout roots, and then pot them. Yeah, we'll see.

Lastly, I'm in desperate want of a compost tumbler, but I have cold feet when it comes to choosing one. I'm thinking this one, simply because of the positive reviews. I'll need to decide soon, though...I want to compost all the fallen leaves in the yard.

Okay, that's it...feel free to share any gardening tips or product recs!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Weekend

It was a good one. We decorated, I tried out some autumn-appropriate recipes I'd been eying for a while, Steven carved an awesome pumpkin, and the weather was beautiful. (Thank you bizarre New England climate!) We didn't get a ton of trick-or-treaters, but we had some, and they were pretty cute...especially the 5 year old Darth Vader. :)

Steven's jack o' lantern:
Isn't it great? He just DID it...no tracing, no copying...he just envisioned and executed. It was so impressive! And we had so many compliments on it throughout the night. Okay, I know I'm gushing, but I'm just in awe...my pumpkin carving abilities have not advanced past the basic 2-triangle-eyes, open mouth-with-a-single-tooth stage!

I also loved the other decorative items we had on the front porch. I'd like to have even more next year so it really pops (and Steven demands corn stalks, LOL), but I think we did a good job of using a melange of gourds/squashes, and I thought the mums we planted in the flower pots were super pretty:
I don't know what these flesh-colored gourds are called, but I absolutely love their exaggerated segmentation. The big bluish one in the background is a Blue Hubbard squash, which is supposed to be good eatin'. If this one is in good shape after decoration duty, I think I might make a soup or casserole out of it.
Speaking of cooking, I did quite a bit of it this weekend, which was really nice...I had been itching to do some "recreational cooking", as I call it, for a while now. I settled on 3 very autumnal recipes from various Martha Stewart Living magazines:

Pork Loin with Apple-Cornbread Stuffing: Awesome recipe! I thought the stuffing was delicious and I'll definitely be making this again. I do have to say that I found the butterflying, stuffing, and tying of the pork rather challenging. (It fell apart when I served it.) However, the recipe is worth the hassle, and I'm sure it will get a lot easier with a little practice.
Apple, Leek and Butternut Squash Gratin: Meh. Won't be making it again. I love these ingredients, but nothing special happened when they were combined like this. Roasting them with some salt and olive oil probably would have tasted just as good or better.
Apple Onion Tarts with Rosemary-Manchego Crust: WINNER! It's such a good combination of ingredients and flavors...sweet caramelized onions & apples, some zing from cider vinegar, woodsy rosemary, and nutty salty manchego. We had these for dinner tonight, and they were fantastic!
I also wanted to post a picture of these adorable cupcakes my MIL brought up for Halloween...aren't they cute? Steven's mom is in a league of her own when it comes to holiday decorating, and these festive cupcakes are just a tiny little taste.
A very yummy taste. :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cocktail Friday :)

I've decided to implement a new domestic tradition...Cocktail Friday! I figure it's a great way to usher in the weekend, try new things, and learn the art of mixing drinks.

So for the inaugural drink (drumroll, please)...

The Manhattan

Equal parts whiskey and sweet vermouth (for the sweet version), this cocktail is a classic--a favorite of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, as well as the ladies of Sex and the City (in addition to the Cosmopolitan, of course). But more importantly, it was the signature cocktail of my beloved grandfather, who would have celebrated his 99th birthday today. Every big holiday would find him mixing a pitcher of his Manhattans--measuring by eye, of course, and then by heart when his vision grew poor. One part alchemist, all parts gracious host, he'd supply us all with his specialty drink throughout cocktail hour. It's just one more thing I'm going to miss as our first holiday season without him approaches....but tonight, I'm raising my glass to a classic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ham, Swiss, & Leek Roll

This Saturday, my grandmother showed me how she makes her DELICIOUS ham, swiss, & leek roll. It's such great recipe because it's elegant, yet simple. And did I mention that it's delicious?

1/4 pound thinly sliced ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced swiss cheese
3 leeks (washed and thinly sliced; whiter portion only)
black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 sheet puff pastry (approximately 12"x12")

Roll out the puff pastry sheet, to thin and even it out a bit. Layer ham across the middle third of the puff pastry, then the swiss cheese over the ham, and finally the sliced leeks. Sprinkle with a generous amount of ground black pepper.
Fold the puff pastry over the filling...
Then tuck in the ends, and brush the top with the egg wash.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes and viola!
The leeks become soft and sweet, which is perfectly complemented by the salt of the ham and the healthy dose of black pepper. I can't wait to try and make this myself, and I can definitely see it becoming a go-to recipe for me. Now if someone would just have a dinner party sometime soon...

Friday, October 23, 2009

If All Dogs Go To Heaven...

then this guy has a special spot up there.
I'm very sad to report that Buster had to be put to sleep on Tuesday, after a long and happy life. He was a sweetheart loved by all, a complete "people dog", and a great friend. His 14 years with our family consisted of everything from the rough and tumble farm dog life (courageously screening every woodpile in his territory for villainous mice) to the much-deserved life of leisure in his golden years...indoor living, full-time human companionship, and delicious treats from the kitchen. While Steven and I are sad to have never had him live with us, we know that the country life with my mom, grandmother, and brother was the best way for him to finish out his dog years.

Buster was there for many milestones, such as our engagement, where "going on a hike with Buster" was Steven's ruse to get me out to Long Pond, where he surprised me with champagne, roses, and a *diamond*...
And of course he was the adorable ring bearer at our 2007 wedding...
He was that once-in-a-lifetime dog, totally worth my crooked nose, and he'll be missed by all who loved him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh. Hey, Winter. We weren't expecting you so soon...

I was totally caught off guard this past week when winter decided to show up to the party a little early. (So rude.) I mean, with Halloween still a couple weeks away, I was NOT expecting snow! And since this is the first year ever that Steven & I will be paying for heat, I can't say I'm excited about it. We were hoping for a little more time to prepare--insulating, weatherproofing, sealing, etc.

Alas, we turned the heat on last night.

The good news is that it works. Really well. So well that I was roasting in a tank top and skivvies, had to turn the thermostat down to 50 degrees, and open a window. At 2 am. The bad news is that the heat is on. On October 18th.

That fact has bumped the bathroom renovation out of the top spot on the priority list, and replaced it with our winterizing campaign. Which brings to mind a Czech proverb often shared by my grandmother:

When winter comes, she will ask what you did in summer.

She generally uses it in a financial sense, but it obviously works in any context that requires thinking ahead and preparing for leaner/colder/harsher days. It's a favorite of mine, and has grown into a basic tenet for me, a key to living well, and it's Exhibit A of those little jewels of wisdom that are a true gift of grandparents. But I digress...

Here's the lowdown on our campaign to winterize and heat our home as economically as possible this year:

The Starting Line. According to Santoro Oil, the previous owner used ~1050 gallons of home heating oil last winter (from October 2008 to April 2009), which cost approximately $2600. The house was vacant (but still heated) from January to April. I'm not sure what the thermostat setting was during that time, but I suspect it's irrelevant, since the calibration seems to be way off. (It was set to 63 degrees last night and we were nearly steamed to death. Karma for all the Maine lobsters we've sent to the same fate???) Either way, we're considering 1050 gallons the number to beat.

The Status Quo. Oil-burning furnace, steam radiators. The furnace is also our hot water heater (tankless). All standard sized, double-hung windows in the house are newer vinyl replacement windows. Any nonstandard sized windows in the house, including several very large ones, are ancient and very drafty. Both exterior doors are original, and the accompanying aluminum storm doors are only slightly younger. As far as we know, the house itself is insulated by rigid foam insulation that was layered under the vinyl siding. We have no reason to believe that there is insulation within the exterior walls themselves.

The Game Plan.
  • Windows: Install the 2 Pella Thermastar replacement windows we purchased, asap. Caulk liberally. Use window insulation kits on the 5 large, ancient windows in the kitchen and sunroom. Replace these in the next 5 years.
  • Doors: Last weekend, Steven installed simple weatherstripping foam around the doors to combat some very serious drafts. It made a huge difference. He also switched out the screens in the storm doors, and put the glass panels in. I doubt these storm doors are doing much for us in the energy-efficiency department, but we've got 'em, so we'll use 'em. Next year, we'll get 2 new storm doors, and possibly a new exterior door for the side entrance. We love the original front door, so that's staying put. However, we'll definitely be using a door snake to help keep drafts at bay.
  • Furnace: We'll be getting this baby buffed and puffed this week as part of our service plan with our new oil company. My understanding is that it gets a tune up, a cleaning, and new filters. This should help it run more efficiently, and last longer.
  • Pipes: Insulate the 2 unwrapped heating pipes in the basement with fiberglass insulation. Insulate any visible hot water pipes, or water lines at risk of freezing, with black foam pipe wrapping. I already wrapped the pipes in the downstairs bathroom, as they run along a quasi-exterior wall, with minimal insulation. Turn off and drain the water line to the outdoor spigots.
  • Radiators: Clean with soap and water, to remove any dust/debris that may interfere with optimal radiation. Remove radiator covers, whose aesthetic purpose does not justify the obstruction to heat flow. Still not sure if we can simply close the radiator valves in rooms we don't use, will have to speak to a plumber about this.
  • Basement: Seal up any drafts with spray foam, then stuff squares of fiberglass insulation along the sill. Tack up a couple sheets of rigid foam insulation on the wall inside the bulkhead structure (currently only a 1/2" sheet of plywood between downstairs bathroom wall and the inside of the bulkhead shelter.) Install weatherstripping around the bulkhead door.
  • Sunroom: I spent last Sunday in the crawlspace under the sunroom, laying down a plastic vapor barrier and insulating the sunroom floor with R19 insulation. It's about 70% done, with just the most difficult section left to do. I'll have to climb over/behind the old cement stairs to insulate the farthest, darkest, smallest area of the crawlspace. I'm not really looking forward to that, but it doesn't really make sense to awesomely insulate 70% of a crawlspace, and leave the rest completely unprotected.
  • Gutters: Clean them out. I never want to experience ice damming again. Certainly not when I am the homeowner and have to deal with the damage.
  • Downstairs bathroom. As I mentioned, I wrapped the pipes last weekend. My FIL also came up and helped out with weatherproofing this room--namely, sealing up the old vent hole in the exterior wall (using spray foam and plywood), and caulking/adjusting the new vents Steven had constructed for the ceiling fan and newly-rerouted stove vent. Additionally, Steven's buddy Chad came up today and installed as much wall insulation as possible, considering the electrical inspection has not yet been resolved.
  • Get a programmable thermostat. Steven just ordered this one, after a characteristic amount of research. (read: LOTS) :)
  • Oil Company. We decided to stay with Santoro Oil, a local company that has serviced this house for the last 9 years. The world of home heating oil is a new one to us, so we found it a bit daunting to pick a company and payment program--it's a bit like gambling. However, we decided to go with the Price Cap program, where a maximum price is set for a gallon of oil. If the market price drops below that cap, you pay the lower price. If it rises above the cap price, you still pay the cap amount. We also signed up for the basic service program, so we'll have around-the-clock assistance if anything goes wrong.
  • Attic. We're not sure what the attic insulation status is right now, but I've read that insulating your attic is the #1 way to drastically cut your energy costs. That's simply too important to ignore, but we're not quite sure how to approach the project. Do we insulate the floor or the roof? Most things I've read say floor...but I'm not sure that makes sense when you have a walk-up 3rd floor that you may or may not want to utilize as living space someday. Also, we shy away from doing the floor because we love the old floorboards and are afraid they'll get ruined in the process. Either way, it's a great time to do this kind of home improvement...it's tax credit eligible!
Whew! Quite a list, huh?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Checking In

Haven't had any time or energy for updates recently, so here is a "getting up to speed" post...

Steven's ACL Surgery. Well, it's done, and I'm pleased to report that the procedure went as planned and the surgeon was very positive at Steven's first post-op appointment on Friday. (To be more specific--after shaking the just-operated-on knee all over the place, he declared "Oooh, yeah. That's a sturdy knee joint.") The first week after surgery was a doozy, highlighted by a modern torture device (aka: the CPM machine), nasty pain med side effects, and general misery. Eleven days post-op, things are looking much better. Steven is done with the CPM machine, putting considerable weight on his healing leg, and flexing to 95 degrees. According to the surgeon, it takes until about 3 months post-op to start feeling "like yourself", but things are definitely moving in the right direction...

PARIS! I'm heading to Paris in exactly 1 month for a girls' getaway weekend!
It all happened rather suddenly, and started with the following email from one of my girls:

"I have a couple extra vacation days this year..."

Things just snowballed from there, and three days later we had booked a great flight & hotel package through Orbitz. This is a first time destination for all 3 of us, and we're just super excited to see the sights, walk the city, and savor the flavors. In fact, the unofficial theme of our trip is DIY Foodie Tour. Very excited!

Home Improvement. As you might imagine, home improvement efforts came to a screeching halt after Steven's surgery. The downstairs bathroom is still priority #1, with winter preparation and insulating coming in as a close #2. We made some progress with that this weekend, which I'll post about in more detail soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Okay, we're officially living the high life--we have a dishwasher! :)

Steven deserves a standing ovation on this one, as he spearheaded the effort. He found a used dishwasher for $60 on Craigslist (it was one of those "it works fine, we just wanted to switch to stainless appliances" castoffs.) Then he installed it all himself! Because we were just adding the dishwasher to an existing kitchen, this meant that he had to:

-Upgrade the outlet to a GFCI.
-Replace the dishwasher's electrical plug, since it had been cut off when it was removed from its previous home.
-Tap in to the existing plumbing under the kitchen sink, for both the water source and the drain.
-Construct some kind of structure around it, and something resembling a counter above it.

Here's a BEFORE shot:
And here's the AFTER:
Steven salvaged some cabinet materials leftover from his demo work to construct the little cabinet to the left of the dishwasher, and picked up a piece of butcher block from IKEA for the top. All in all, I think it's an undeniable upgrade to our "For Now" kitchen, and a prime example of Yankee ingenuity!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Things I'm Loving Right Now...

This Book. I checked this book out of the library a couple weeks ago, and it quickly became a go-to resource for me. It covers a huge breadth of information, yet it's concise and well-organized. I've already used it to read up on the basics of lawn care, growing raspberries, caring for roses, and pruning rhododendrons. To make it even better, this Reader's Digest publication employs organic gardening methods only. Definitely a must-have book for my future home library.This Treat. My loyalty to Dunkin Donuts was completely squashed when my girl Brenda brought Honey Dew Donuts to our yard sale a couple weeks ago. OMG, Honey Dew, where have you been all my life? Their coffee is just as good as DD's, but the Dew Drops (accurately described as "fantastic little orbs of deliciousness" on their website) blow DD's Munchkins out of the water. Hopefully this is just a fleeting infatuation...my waistline does not need this to be a long term affair!
This Product. There's been a lot of hype lately about using vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda as affordable, eco-friendly household cleaners. While I love the idea of it, I just can't get myself to jump on that wagon--I need fresh-smelling SUDS, people! Enter Dr. Bronner's biodegradable soaps. Steven and I have already been using "Bronner's" for bathing while camping, or using the outdoor shower at the Maine house, for years. But after reading the suggestion in Real Simple magazine, I decided to try a mixture of Bronner's and baking soda to clean the used dishwasher we just bought. It worked great, smelled great, and won me over. Give it a shot! (We love the lavender scented one!)


Crunch Time

Time to put the full court press on the bathroom renovation! Steven's ACL reconstruction surgery is exactly 2 weeks from today, and our tenant is moving in the weekend before--as in, 11 days from now--so we really need to get that 2nd bathroom up and running asap.

Since I haven't mentioned the tenant thing before, here's the story: Upon hearing that we might actually succeed in buying this house, a friend of Steven's from work just threw it out there and asked if we would be interested in renting him a room. He's a fellow RhodeIslander and he wasn't interested in leasing another apartment in the city, so a casual tenant-at-will situation south of Boston works well for him. For us, it's a smart move...we have plenty of space, and can put the income towards whatever...funding renovations, paying extra on the mortgage, whatever. Plus, I hear he loves to cook. :)

So, back to the bathroom. This is the look we're going for, almost to a T (In fact, we're using this same exact sink, toilet, and mirror, from Kohler's Bancroft series.):
(Image from House Beautiful)
We LOVE this clean, classic look--the chrome, subway tile, octagonal floor tiles--and while it's definitely trendy right now, it's also timeless and appropriate for our early 1900's house. Love it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Family Movie Night

Steven couldn't resist any longer--he hooked up our new fantabulous TV (a housewarming gift from my BIL, Brian, who is definitely spoiling us) on Friday night. While watching The Express the next night, I realized that Steven and I were not the only ones enthralled by the new toy:
No joke, she was actually watching the movie...and yes, that is a normal position for her when she's relaxing. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Staycation, all I ever wanted...

Yup, Steven and I are both off this week! There's so much we want to get done that it's hard to pick something and get going...we've got high hopes, though.

  1. Install the used dishwasher we picked up yesterday. (done)
  2. Have the town plumbing inspector come by and *approve* the rough-in in the downstairs bathroom. (FAILED!)
  3. Have the plumber fix the toilet hookup, which was installed in the wrong orientation.
  4. Finish cleaning the bedroom walls (done), TSP the moldings, patch the holes (done), and skimcoat the whole room.
  5. Maybe even prime the bedroom, and purchase the paint for it. (We want a warm, buttery yellow.)
  6. Get a medicine cabinet for the bathroom, and frame in a box for that, as well as the ceiling fan.
  7. Select and order tile for the bathroom.
  8. Trim the bushes in front of the house.
  9. Plant raspberries. (done)
Look Into:
  1. Replacement windows.
  2. Changing electrical outlets.
  3. Refinishing the floors.
  1. Get front brake pads replaced on the Element. (done)
  2. Get car inspected. (done)
  3. Maybe another yard sale on Saturday? (heck no)
Doesn't seem too bad, does it?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yard Sale

Yesterday's yard sale was a huge success! We had a great turnout, purged a ton of stuff from the house & garage, and made enough money to make a sizable deposit into our Travel 2010 savings account. It's funny--when Steven & I were trying to organize things in the garage on Friday night, we actually felt like we didn't have that much stuff to sell. But on Saturday morning, when we started spreading all of the items down the driveway, we suddenly realized why we had been feeling so overwhelmed...we had been living with what seems like 4 households worth of STUFF. No wonder we felt like we were buried alive at times! ;)

Besides the obvious benefits of clearing out the house & making some dough-dough, the yard sale also ended up being sort of a 'meet & greet' with the community. It was such a pleasant surprise and everyone was so welcoming. It was downright heartwarming. We just felt so...supported. People seemed genuinely happy to see a young couple moving in, who have an appreciation for a nice old house, and intentions to shine 'er up a bit. We met a bunch of people who knew the previous owners, too...and I think one of them is going to be my new BFF. She's a super cute, little old Italian grannie...and she had me laughing out loud. We made loose plans to go out for lunch sometime and I'm really looking forward to it. From what we've seen so far, this town has a special breed of Golden Girl, and it just makes me want to say "now that's a spicy meatball!" :)

There was one hiccup in an otherwise wonderful day--we were blindsided by some disgruntled relatives of the previous owner, who are apparently bitter about being left out of her will and chose to lash out at us. Their behavior was extra shocking considering that I had been contacted by, and communicating quite amicably with, one of them regarding the items they would like from the house. It's fair to say that after their appalling behavior yesterday, the sense of good will I had towards them has been replaced by a decidedly less charitable attitude. Ummm....yeah....don't try to appeal to my sense of family and sentimentality and then come by and disrespect my family and my home. (We're talking about some pretty audacious stuff here.) NOT. GONNA. FLY. As my mom said, it's a good thing because this "defined it". We were a little skeptical about their story of woe, but gave them the benefit of the doubt. Now I can very comfortably send them a "this is what's up" email, and never deal with them again.

I'd be lying if I said that I'm not relishing the idea of composing and sending said email. >;]