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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Great Tile Debate

We spent 3 1/2 hours getting tile on Saturday, and not because we selected some obscure specialty tile that's difficult to acquire. It simply took that long to first compare the offerings of Lowe's and Home Depot, then make the call between the 1" hexagon tiles and a similar option, THEN find 40 square feet of tile from the same lot (to avoid color discrepancies). All told, we went to 3 different Lowe's and 1 Home Depot.

For the floor, we selected a soft white "octagon dot" mosaic tile that is very similar to the 1" hexagon tiles we originally wanted, but a better deal. In fact, the hexagon tile in ceramic cost twice as much as the octagon dot in porcelain. I'll gladly trade a subtle visual difference for a higher quality product at 1/2 the price.

Sample image of the octagon dot floor tile (notice the light gray wall grout):
Octagon Dot tile close up:
Small hex tile close up:
Different product, similar overall effect.

We also picked up the wall tile, a 3"x6" white subway tile. And herein lies the debate...
Steven and I are split on this, so feel free to weigh in. If it affects your decision, we'll be using a light oyster shell gray for the floor. And while you're at it, feel free to tell me that chair rail cap tile is so striking that it's worth the extra cost ($4.75 per tile vs. $1 for a plain cap tile)

I love it, but is it justifiable? (And notice the white wall grout!)
To be continued...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cocktail Friday: Toasted Almond

Last Friday's cocktail was the Toasted Almond, a mix of vodka, Tia Maria, Disaronno, and cream. I was extra excited about this CF because it was my first chance to break out my new martini glasses (from Santa Steven, who scored high quality Austrian glasses at Christmas Tree Shops, of all places) and my new cocktail shaker.
Right off the bat, Steven insisted that I must have mixed up the ratios...and shortly after giving him a big speech about how "I'm a scientist, I always follow the protocol, bla bla bla", I realized that there was twice as much alcohol in there as there should have been. Oops! Oh, well, an extra dash of cream straightened that right out. :)

Apparently my mixing style closely resembles that of this famous epicure:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meat CSA

I finally did it.

I’ve been wanting to participate in the Stillman Turkey Farm meat CSA (community supported agriculture) for a couple of years now, but never felt I could justify it. I recently decided to just DO IT, and signed up for the 6 month/half share program, which is 10 pounds of meat per month for 6 months. That 10 pounds can include beef, pork, chicken or lamb, and is roughly 5 lbs. of ground meats or stew cuts, and 5 lbs. of premium cuts. Most importantly, it is local, free-range, hormone-free and conscientiously-raised.
Since I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while, it was with great anticipation that we drove up to Jamaica Plain on Saturday to pick up our first share. It contained: ham steak, Italian sausage, pork chops, chicken breast, raw bacon, smoked pork butt, and as an extra “bonus“, a bag of pork neck bones (for soup, stock, etc.).

Hmmm, written out like that it sounds like a pretty good haul…but I have to say that my first impression was that it must be a cleanout month for the CSA, since this share was so pork-heavy. And of course, this little frugalista wants to make sure she’s getting a good value. At the end of the day, this meat is costing $7.50 per pound.

Of course, when I refer to value, I’m not just talking about the meat itself. I recognize that part of what we’re paying for is almost political in nature. With our financial support, we’re saying that local agriculture, humane husbandry, and traditional small-scale farming are a good thing and we want it to stick around. Even from my relatively elementary experiences while growing up on a hobby farm (we had nearly every barnyard animal you can think of, except for sheep), I know that what these farmers are doing is not easy. Furthermore, it’s rarely lucrative. So I really appreciate their willingness to live that life, preserve old New England farmland, raise heritage breeds humanely, and make it available to the rest of us. It’s not an occupation that many of us would have the guts to pursue.

Anyways, now comes the fun part…choosing/designing recipes around the meats that we received. I’m actually really excited for this part, and to see what’s in next month’s share…it’s like a grab bag of meat! I’ll keep the updates, recipes, cooking tribulations and triumphs coming…

In the meantime, if you are interested in these sorts of topics, I thought Fast Food Nation and Real Food were great reads…

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fun with Joint Compound

We've been hard at work taping seams, patching fastener divots, and reinforcing corners in the downstairs bath. Here are some recent pics...
(Steven obviously takes my documentation efforts very seriously.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday Morning Crepes

For some reason, I tend to forget about crepes unless I'm in a foreign country--probably because that's where I was introduced to the simple yet delectable treat that is the Nutella-filled crepe. But after Paris, I decided it's time to bring the goodness home. And so I made these crepes, filled with Nutella or stroop (a Dutch caramel-like syrup), for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast...
P.S.-After breakfast, we made more progress on the bathroom renovation. We've got one piece of cement board to go, then we'll patch the seams and embark on our first tiling job!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Key Trends

Has anyone else noticed how the vintage skeleton key motif is suddenly everywhere you look?

From home decor, such as these vintage keys from Pottery Barn ($19 for a set of 7)...
or this absurdly priced "key art" from Restoration Hardware ($199)...
Oval key pendant, $150
Diamond & Platinum key pendant, $6500

the vintage key is definitely in the spotlight.

I find this particularly interesting, as we have amassed a bin full of vintage keys that were tucked away in our basement. Of course, some of them may match the old locks on the bedroom doors (this is likely, considering the fact that our front door can still be locked by skeleton key), but that still leaves a whole bunch of unmatched keys.

I'd really like to come up with a creative way of using these as a decorative element in the house, but if the creative juices don't flow, I think simply hanging them on the wall a la Pottery Barn would still look pretty neat...

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Prospectus

I love making lists, and what better time to make a master list than the New Year? Here's my current vision for 2010:

*Finish downstairs bath.
*Give the front porch a makeover.
*New windows in the sunroom?
*Rewire the 2nd floor? (Awaiting estimates)
*Continue cosmetic remodel of 1st floor.
*Hopefully get 1 bedroom updated.

(Do I even need to say it?) You know the drill for this perennial favorite: eat better, exercise, slim down.

Take 2 more graduate classes.

2009 was the year of financial flux. Between the new job, new house, tax credit, money in, money out, heat & water bills...we're still not sure what a "normal" month is going to look like.
*Figure out our monthly budget.
*Save for travel.
*Save for home improvement.
*Open a Roth IRA.
*Bring lunch from home! (Huge financial and dietary failure of mine)
One big trip (current frontrunner: Alaska) with several little trips (VT, ME, NH) sprinkled in.

*Establish a daily routine.
*Explore our new community.
*Do a better job keeping in touch with old friends.
*Keep reading lots of library books.
*Act on my "six month rotation" mentality (I'll explain later.)

Happy New Year!