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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!