Monday, March 29, 2010

Ocean State

We're in Rhode Island! Daphne's old and on more medications that the average AARP member! I'm taking riding lessons again! We're spending WAY too much money on restaurants! That's my update in a nutshell.

We did accomplish a lot of to-do list items in our Seattle house before we moved. Interestingly, making storm windows was the one thing that I didn't even start! After completing our work bench, I signed us up for woodworking classes with the goal of being able to make storm windows and instead got started on a night stand that involved way too many joinery methods. Jose chose a more practical, beginner-friendly project and has a nice storage cabinet to show for his efforts. My night stand remains unfinished and is now waiting in the basement for me to get around to loving it again. We did update the kitchen appliances in our Seattle house, redid the bathroom, and now have it rented out to a 4 guys who seem to be responsible (pay rent on time) and take good care of the house (it hasn't burned down yet).

Because we're renting a place here in Newport, we plan to enjoy many non-house related activities this year and luckily for us, this is the perfect place for fun. Not so luckily, the house we're renting seems to be falling apart at the seams, so we might have more trips to the hardware store this year than we would have liked. At least we won't be financially responsible for them- a condition that makes things decidedly less stressful :)

Things I hope to accomplish during our stint here:

  • Enjoy lots of good food- cook most of it myself, the rest from great restaurants
  • Spend a least an hour a week on a horse (Already tried polo- fun!)
  • Learn to sail
  • Learn how to do a good Rhode Island accent
  • Get to know New England
  • Read about local history. Book on Anne Huchinson is sitting on the shelf, waiting to be opened....
  • Take at least one more MPH course

There. Now it is written. Now it must be done.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Too many dips, among other things.

That's all there is to it. I just had way too many dips.

My sister's birthday was this past weekend and I volunteered my house for the party on Saturday night. Somewhere along the line, I managed to morph my role in the party into "I'm planning, throwing and paying for the party." (note to self- maybe stop doing this...)

Anyway- it was scheduled for 7:30, so I was hoping people wouldn't come too hungry. Don't get me wrong, I love my sister, but I wasn't terribly interested in serving dinner to 25 of her friends. I did however, want to have some "hearty hour devours" for those who might need a little something to absorb their wine.

I went to Costco (my happy place) to secure provisions. I found a big old ham and bought it. I will do this again. Ham is delicious, and it's easy to eat off of throughout the evening, regardless of sobriety levels. Plus, I'm back on the west coast where you can typically assume that most guests aren't concerned about keeping Kosher. It was a spiral cut and fully cooked number, so all I had to do was heat it up and glaze. Easy enough.

I figured that the table needed a bit more than just a giant ham and some plates, so I also planned on a bread basket and assorted cheeses, a fruit tray with some yummie cinnamon fruit dip, and a veggie tray. And of course the veggies needed a dip. Humm... Ranch dip is good, but kind of tired and not everyone likes ranch style dips, so I'll get some hummus too. But some people like hummus with pita, so I'll grab this bag pita chips too. They were right next to the tortilla chips, and what's a party without tortilla chips? Plus, what if more people than I've planned for for show, up? Tortilla chips are a good filler.... They were thrown into the cart. But crap- now I need salsa. Oh look- pico de gallo is being sampled... yum! Into the cart. Hum... getting a little tex-mex theme here... hey look at this guacamole, (on display next to the pico). Fresh, pre-made guac at a reasonable price? Sign ME up. I should also get some mixed nuts or something for the coffee table... I can use that silver tray thingy with three sections... so I'll need three separate things....trail mix, raw almonds and oooo... chocolate covered almonds.

The theme of the party was 1971-derful (she was born in 1971, so this seemed like a great idea and year-appropriate dress was strongly encouraged) so a had to make a quick trip to the thrift shop for some duds that would help me pull off Yoko Ono. (note to self for next time- a redheaded chick with blue eyes, a black wig and fake tanner on her pale skin will never really be able to accomplish this look- I ended up looking more like Patti from the Millionaire Matchmaker... which I now fully intend to be for Halloween 2010...). While at said thrift shop, an absolutely fetching avocado-colored fondue set caught my eye. What's a 1971 party without fondue?!? It went into cart, along with my Yoko gear. This required an extra trip to the grocery store for appropriate cheeses and wines for the fondue, and stuff to dip into the cheesy goodness.

When I got home from the thrift shop, I had a voicemail from my dad: "Hey- I'm wondering what we should bring- I just got a bunch of chicken wings and was thinking I'd BBQ them and bring them tomorrow- okay, see you then!"

So- have you kept up?

Fruit dip
Ranch Dip*
Pico de Gallo
Cheese Fondue w/
-cubed french bread,
-steamed broccoli
-steamed cauliflower
basket of Sliced Baguette
Assorted cheeses
Pita chips
Tortilla chips
Fruit tray
Veggie tray
Copious amounts of dad's chicken wings
Birthday cake


A giant ham

Yes, this proved to be a bit of a HOT MESS and WAY too much food.

The lessons I've learned for future parties:
1) Know your audience- The guests were all my sister's friends, and they stayed for a while, had a few drinks and a polite amount of food, mingled a bit and left. They were not like the guests that we've typically had for our own parties; who arrive, mingle, have a few drinks, eat some food. Have a few more drinks, eat more, sing some karaoke with their new acquaintances and have some more drinks, then devour the food table with reckless abandon with their new best friends.

2) Stick to the plan!!
When I started, in my head, there would be a ham, some bread, mustard, fruit and veggies. The last minute fondue idea was better in my head than it was in practice. The unexpected bushel of chicken wings was no less than a tipping point for gluttony.

3) Shop with a list (that you've developed from your plan- and stick to the list!)

4) Don't try to cater to guests theoretical needs/wants. No one will have less fun at a party due to lack of sufficient dip options. That seems obvious in hindsight...

5) Have a leftover party. I could easily feed another party with the contents of my refrigerator today. If I don't, I'm going to hurting for Tupperware containers for the next week or so, while mine are all in use. If anyone wants to get married today and have their reception at my house (menu above), please let me know. If you want to have a 1971 theme, or a Yoko Ono (or Patti Stranger) look alike as the officiant, I can accommodate.

* toss 1 c of cottage cheese, 1t salt, a clove of minced garlic and some fresh chopped parsley into your blender or food processor. Hit power button until smooth. Make it a day ahead and refrigerate so the garlic can work its magic. Cheap, easy, happy.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Breakfast Burritos? Why not just... burritos for breakfast?

Seems simple enough. As a dietitian, I wholeheartedly endorse burritos* for breakfast. And no need to add an egg to them to make them somehow more acceptable as a breakfast item. Why are we doing this anyway, America?? It's an overkill at best.

That's all I've got today.

*normal, homemade sized burritos of course. Not these monstrosities that the restaurants are peddling these days. You know, just a tortilla, some beans or a little meat, a little cheese and some salsa.

Friday, April 03, 2009

a preview of our weekend

We did zero house related projects last weekend and because of two nights out, we also did zero bike riding. Something about a pounding head on a Saturday morning does not motivate one to hit the trails. So THIS week things will be a bit different.

I'm sure a lot of good things happened in 1986, but I don't count our home's kitchen renovation among them. It's not terrible; the kitchen really is quite homey, but it's definitely due for some TLC. The problem is kitchen remodels are kind of behemoth projects and we don't have a budget for one. Judging from the appliances, which are all a lovely GE bisque color with faux wood trim, I'm guessing a somewhat significant overhaul of the kitchen happened in the mid 80's. At this time, it looks like the counter tops, cabinets and appliances were all brand new. At some point (maybe then, maybe a little later?) pergo-type floors were also installed. The rest of the house has lovely old hard wood floors, so I'm not sure what the deal is with the kitchen. Here's a photo of the one spot where you can see a cross section (from a heat register):


What do you think the odds are there there's a cool layer of 1926 linoleum somewhere under there?!? Anyway- at some point, I'd like to do something better with the floor- be it a return to something that could have appeared in the house when it was built, or something newer, but equally fitting in a modern, functional kitchen. Hopefully a little bit of both?

We're keeping out eye out for lightly used appliances. All of ours work (for the most part- the knobs fall off the range if you look at them funny, the microwave is "finicky" and they all drink up massive amounts of electricity) so we're not in a hurry, but definitely looking forward to someday having more efficient appliances that will serve the house for another few decades. It seems like this is a good time to buy newish used appliances- perhaps folks are trying to sell to sell houses and sell their appliances separately to recapture some of their costs?

Anyway- on the list of things to do:

Refinish the cabinets- cut out the wood panels from a couple and replace with glass.
Install new cabinet hardware.
Remove aging wallpaper and replace with paint.
Get new(er) appliances
Replace or resurface the counter top
Remove laminate floor, restore what's underneath or replace it with something less cheesy looking.

I think we can accomplish this on a modest budget, as funds allow. Because we're not trying to totally remodel the kitchen, we can do these things one at a time, and have a functioning kitchen throughout most of it.
I've already started refinishing the cabinets and so far, so good! I'm making some headway, a couple of doors per day. I also ordered some new knobs and drawer pulls to install, as there currently aren' any. I've learned that lack of draw pulls and knobs is not only a bit annoying, but also has resulted in gross dark areas on each door and drawer where people's hands have touched the surfaces to open/close over the past 20+ years. If there's anything grosser in a kitchen than other people's body dirt, I'm not sure what it is. Let's just say that degreasing has been a major part of this refinishing process...

The new hardware: and

They're darker and less yellow-ish in person.

And here's a before and after picture of some cabinet doors. Sadly, it doesn't really look any different in the after picture...Photobucket

Friday, March 27, 2009

Only 4.5 months to go...

I'm so excited! I just booked tickets for a trip to Europe this summer and now all I have to do is wait... for almost 5 months...

A few things will be happening across the pond this summer: my sister Lisa will be working in Austria; a colleague is getting married in Poland; and a family friend will be summering in San Tropez. We'll call him "Jet Setter."

Thanks to the gazillions of dollars we've recently spend at Home Depot etc, on our Alaska Airlines Visa, we were able to get tickets on their partner, British Air through our Alaska mileage plan(though we still had to pay a ton in fees etc). We fly into Munich, then about 10 days later, make our way home out of Amsterdam- with a handy little three day stop over in London where we have plans to meet up with Jet Setter AND Lisa. Copious amounts of French champagne will likely be consumed at that point, in honor of the France, who we will not be able to visit on this go-round.

In other news, I'm loving the longer days we're having. Being able to see makes an after work bike ride so much more enjoyable! I had a 100 mile week last week... not so well this week. Unless I crack out 60 miles on Sunday...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grease Monkey

Two days ago I got a flat tire on my bike, and upon inspection, I realized two things: 1) I'd managed to get a pretty big puncture in the tire itself, not just the tube, and 2)My bike was really dirty! Bikes get grimy fast when ridden during March in the northwest! So I gave her* a little spa-day yesterday and she's now sporting a new kevlar tire, a sparkly chain and a gunk-free cassette. However, I feel like grime is a lot like energy- it can't be made or destroyed, only transferred. All the grime seems to remain on my hands (and on the bottom of the bathtub in which I dumped the dirty water bucket...)

Does anyone have any good tips or tricks for getting rid of greasy gunk with normal household items/cleaners? I'm looking to avoid a trip to a drug store for a heavy duty hand degreaser. Lemon juice? Baking soda? Anything?? Any advice would be appreciated as right now, despite the fact that I've washed my hands about a gazillion times, it still looks like I dug myself out of a grave this morning.

On a more fun note, we took a ride out to Redmond yesterday evening by hopping on the Burke Gilman trail and connecting to the Sammamish River trail. It was somewhat nostalgic; we rode past 60 Acres, which I am happy to report "still smells like soccer practice" and also past lots of mobile homes and campers that take up residence on the banks of the Sammamish Slough. It was refreshing that this area hasn't been "repurposed" as some sort of high end water-front property (probably aided by the fact that much of this are has an unmistakable odor of slough). I never realized how handy this trail was- it isn't too crowded and nearly pancake flat. I highly recommend it.

By the time we got home it was dark and I was freezing cold. So concluded my night with hot shower and watching a movie by the fire in my Snuggie**. If that's not hedonism, I don't know what is.

*My bike needs a name. All suggestions will be considered.
** Yeah, I have one. And it came with a free book light. Jealous??

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

String' on The Office?!

I heard a promo for an upcoming episode of NPR's "Fresh Air" today in which they teased me with the news that Stringer Bell (okay, his real name is Idris Elba) will be on the show soon, discussing his new role on The Office as Michael Scott's boss.

I'm intrigued can't wait for the interview or to see him in a comedy... though I'm guessing he'll be sporting a dead-pan no-nonsense attitude.

On a related note, if you haven't watched The Wire, do it now. Go to Blockbuster and start with season one. Do it. I don't care if you loved Oz and want to talk about how great Lost or Dexter is. Just watch the Wire. You're welcome!