trying to start the new year off right

I made all sorts of yummy, healthy snacks for New Year's Eve tonight so I thought I'd share the recipes here:

1. Kale chips (here, courtesy of allrecipes.com)
2. Cannellini bean & spinach dip (here, courtesy of Giada)
3. Roasted chickpeas (here, courtesy of allrecipes.com and I added garlic to chickpeas before roasting)
4. Cocoa roasted almonds (here, courtesy of hungryhungryhippie.com)























Every recipe is insanely easy and I had almost all of the ingredients on hand already. Enjoy, and happy last night of 2010!

2010: a retrospective

Lately the cold weather and dark days have been getting me down in a big way. Since I can't pick up and move to Hawaii for the next 3 months, I've been exploring the options out there to make myself feel better but I can't decide on what to do yet (leaning towards this). In the meantime, I thought I'd think about 2010 and reflect on some of the positive things about the year.

I can't say that there were any big milestones...no graduations, marriages or moves. But it was a good year! I made a concerted effort to get out of my comfort zone (and out of my frugal zone) and traveled a bunch. I also started feeling more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have in my life.I know a big reason for that is age...the older I get the less I care what other people will think of me, and I am so thankful for that. It is liberating! I've always said that I can't wait to be an old lady so I can do what I want and not worry if everyone around me thinks its crazy, but lately I've been thinking, "why wait until I'm old to start?!" :) I got the vintage caftan I've always wanted and I've been having so much fun strolling around the house with a cocktail pretending I'm Endora from Bewitched.


















And finally, I learned to love 3 things that I always hated:

1. Hot tea, which I love to drink at night after dinner to curb the urge to snack. I even picked up a tea kettle at Marshall's to make it really official that I'm a tea drinker now.















2. Hot sauce, which makes my kale, cannellini bean & brown rice hippie bowls so much more exciting to my taste buds.



















3. Whiskey. I don't know what happened, but I love the taste now and how it warms me up on a cold night. Plus it makes me feel like a bad ass, haha. And I can make hot toddy's now! Next time you're sick whip one up...you won't be sorry.



















So I'd say all those things made for a pretty good year indeed :) I doubt I'll blog again until after the holidays, so I'd like to wish everyone a very happy new year!!

sounds in the night

Last night I thought there was a stranger in the house. First I heard someone in our bedroom, then I heard someone in the hallway. I was too scared (and too cold) to get out of bed to check, so I went back to sleep. This morning I checked all the rooms and found no signs that a killer had been in the house, so I figured I was losing my mind...great way to start the day, I know. Then I saw a note Seth left me about the roads being icy so I looked outside and realized what the noises had been.


















Pretty much every limb on the west side of this tree is on the ground, and our view from the bathroom is now very different (those limbs hung really low and completely blocked the view into any other yard).























Seth and his chainshaw have a lot of work ahead of them, but all in all I feel really fortunate. Our roof appears to be intact, the giant tree in the middle of the yard didn't fall and crush our house and the electricity and heat are still on. But most of all, I'm just thankful that the sounds I heard last night were branches braking and not the sound of me losing my mind :)



no more crazy cords EVER!

I've been feeling like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest lately, except instead of wire hangers, its this grossness lurking under our desk that's been driving me insane:


















It was even worse than that believe it or not, but I forgot to take a before shot until about 20 minutes into tackling it. I'm proud to say that this is what it looks like under our desk now!


















YEA! And it didn't take much money or time to make it look like this. The longest part of the process was brainstorming on how to fix the situation...about an hour here at the house and then another 45 minutes in Walmart, looking at all the options. Of course there wasn't a pre-made solution for billions of cords, modems and power strips made just for a vintage metal desk that I don't want to ruin, so I had to get creative. I finally came up with a solution involving metal bathroom baskets with suction cups on the back ($5 each), magnetic hooks, and 6 3M picture hanging strips.

One basket holds the cable modem on the left side of the desk and the other holds the Vonage box on the right side of the desk.













The right side of the desk has drawers and therefore the most space, so I used 6 3M picture hanging strips to hold up my very heavy power strip under the other basket. I used metal hooks wherever I need to keep a cord in place and out of view. The great thing is that everything is removable...suction cups, magnets, and magic 3M strips...so the desk isn't ruined and I can move everything around if I need to later.























It looks crazy from the back, but you can't see any of that once the desk is pushed up to the wall.























Hurray!! I'm sitting at this desk now and its so nice to be able to stretch my legs out and not run into a pile of cords. Its nice not to have to look at them anymore either :)

connected

Lately I've been feeling really weird about Facebook. I always talk about how things were better before we had technology like digital music, cell phones with the internet, GPS, and the Kindle (don't even get me started on how wrong this is to me). But Facebook somehow slipped in and now I'm one of the billions of people that goes on there every day for who knows what. I see and post pictures, and that's nice. I have mini-conversations about random things with random friends, some of whom I haven't talked to face-to-face, over the phone, or even emailed in over a decade. And the weirdest part to me is that, even though I don't act on it most of the time, it now occurs to me to announce what I'm thinking or feeling to the 218 people that are my FB friends. I think that's STRANGE, people.

I want to revert back to how things were before, when people would actually be surprised by how their classmates have changed at high school reunions and when I didn't know that a friend from middle school's baby finally slept through the night. But if I quit Facebook, I'm cut out of a loop that I already feel pretty out of. I text maybe 12 times a year (almost always at loud concerts where I couldn't call if I wanted to), and it takes me about 10 minutes to write 1 sentence. I've never bought a song on iTunes. I thing all internet should be blocked from cell phones (and maybe we could just get rid of cell phones all together while we're at it? Just a thought...). I'm scared for the next generation because they won't know how to read a map, they won't hold actual books in their hands and dog ear pages, they won't bring a CD or record home and read the liner notes cover to cover while sitting on their bedroom floor listening to every song for the first time, and they won't know what its like to wonder about something and just say "huh...I don't know" and be content not knowing for the time being (Google).

So as you can imagine my outlook on these things already sets me apart and sadly, it alienates me sometimes. I feel really strongly about all this though, and I'm not about to buy a G4 phone just so I'll feel more included. And this is where Facebook comes back in...I'm really starting to despise it, but if I quit then I'll be cutting off the one techy thing (apart from email) that I can participate in with my friends. Its a catch 22, really. Is anyone else feeling the same way? Can we all make a pact right now to quit the whole thing once and for all?

ps. Seth feels just as strongly about this stuff as I do (maybe even more so - he's not on Facebook at all), and I love him for that. At least I don't feel like a lame old fogey talking about "the good ole days" when I'm around him :)

3rd time's a charm























Sad news first: my favorite vintage store in all of Knoxville is closing at the end of the year. Happy news: I got an insanely good deal on the couch of my dreams because of it. This will be couch #3 for our living room, and I'm confident it will be our last for a long time.






















The old rug didn't look right with the new couch, and I've never been crazy about it in the first place, so I took the opportunity to find a suitable replacement. I wanted a cream colored shag from the get go but all of the ones I found online were insanely expensive (like $700+ for an 8x10). Then someone mentioned Home Depot to me and I found one there for a great deal. An added bonus is the size...this rug is quite a bit bigger than the old one so it fits the proportions of the room better.

I also picked up the matching chair because it was 36 DOLLARS. Insane! I think it looks great in that corner...makes for a nice, cozy record listening nook.


















I moved the chair and rug that used to be in that corner into the guest room, and they work much better in there. There used to be a shelf there that was the same size as the desk, and its nice not to have matching rectangle boxes under each window. Its also nice to have a place to sit and I'm already imagining my mom reading there in the mornings when she comes to visit. Oh, and I'm glad to have a rug in the room now too...helps to warm it up.


















For the first time I really feel like the house is starting to come together in a new way. I know I've made a lot of big changes in the last few years, but now its starting to feel more cohesive or something. When I look back on the different stages of the house on my blog (the progression of the living room and the many couches/rugs is particularly funny to me), its cool to see it come together over time. And it just shows that you can't throw together a house at one time or even in one year (at least I can't). I don't know how interior designers do it, even with their budgets. I think time is so important to develop your style and keep your eye open for just the right thing...and be open to changing what you originally had in mind if it doesn't work out the way you thought it would.

Now I'm getting even more excited about the b&w cork tiles in the kitchen...I think they'll look extra good from my new and improved living room :)

cork tiles

Even though it'll be awhile before I can actually start laying tile (need to save up the $$ first), I think I'm getting really close to narrowing down my choices!

All of these are cork samples (the real tiles will be 12"x12"). At first I loved the ones on the far left because they'd bring warmth - the off white tile is a similar tone to the floor that's there now, and the other tile is a really dark brown instead of black so it'll also add warmth. But then more samples came in and now I'm leaning towards the 2 options in the middle.


















I know its hard to tell in the photo, but the one on the left is an off white and a true black. The one on the right is a true white and a dark brown that reads as black. I paired them like I did so each option had some warmth (either from the off white or the brown instead of black). I can see the benefit in each - the white will look crisp and clean, but the off white will look warmer and won't show dirt as easily.


















Thoughts? Like I said, I not in the position to buy tiles tomorrow or anything, but I want to be confident in my choice by the time I am able to put the money down.

turkey day

I can't believe Thanksgiving is 1 week from today! And while I'm at it, if anyone can give me a scientific reason as to why time goes by faster and faster as you get older, I'd really appreciate it. It drives me crazy that I can't figure out why this is, but it is definitely something everyone I know can attest to. A solution for slowing it down would be great too. Thanks :)

Back to Thanksgiving...I thought I'd share a really easy way to not eat meat but still get your turkey fix: Quorn Turk'y Roast.

All you have to do is rub some olive oil and herbs on it (I use rosemary & sage...just standard poultry seasonings plus salt & pepper), then throw it in one of those roasting bags and stick it in the oven. It turns out great!

In case I don't post again before then, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

a glimpse into my brain

I get obsessed with specific foods randomly and with a vengeance. Example: I was just reading something that had the word tchotchkes in it and I immediately thought about Schlotzsky's and now I am full-on obsessed with how I can get one of those delicious sandwiches in my mouth ASAP. I looked online and the closest Schlotzsky's is 84 miles away in Somerset, KY (all the Knoxville locations closed down I guess). AGH. I hope I don't end up in KY one of these days. I once drove all the way to Dallas and back (3 hrs each way) just because I wanted Waffle House in the worst way and Austin didn't have one.














drool......

In case you haven't noticed...

...I am full-on obsessed with my kitchen floor. The floor that's there isn't horrible...in fact I designed my cabinet makeover around the floor because I knew replacing it wasn't going to be an option for awhile. The floor is also in pretty good condition, and it certainly isn't an eyesore when you walk into the room. But...

I would like a floor that actually looks clean after I've cleaned it. And I'd like a floor that really looks great with the rest of the kitchen and house. But I think the #1 thing driving my obsession is just a craving for a big change in the house. A big reveal. I'm sure you've noticed my drastic slow down in blog posts. Once the big reveal stuff in the house slowed, the posts did too. Those are the things I like to write about the most, and I'm pretty sure those are the things readers like best as well. But I haven't done anything like that in so long...I think the last fun big reveal project (unless you call dry wall repair fun) was finishing up the den.

I don't know when I'll make a final decision...in fact I saw this today and now I'm wondering if black and white checkerboard is the way to go again (which I could still do with cork, by the way). But I really am enjoying thinking about all the options. Hopefully soon I'll be able to get actual boxes of tiles to lay down and see for myself because I'm convinced that's the only way I'll know for sure. In the meantime, here are some images that are inspiring me today:

via (and this is cork, btw)







ps. Thanks so much for the input on my last cork post!! I am still very excited about that idea and have been playing around with cork samples at home all week.

Kitchen floor, part 4

Guess what - I think I might have figured out what to do with the kitchen floor! As soon as I saw this floor I immediately thought about how cork could work in my kitchen too. Check out this very rough mock-up:

I've thought about cork before but I hadn't thought of this color combo for a checkerboard look. These are the things I like about this look:

1. It is a modern take on a retro b&w checkerboard floor without screaming 50's DINER!
2. It is warm (remember how bad grey looked in the room) but doesn't compete with the yellow cabinets or the orange accents.
3. It works well with the wood floors in the two adjoining rooms (dining room and living room).
4. Cork is a 100% renewable resource! Yea!!

This is by no means a final decision...I have hours of Photoshop mock-ups and obsessing ahead of me. But I gotta say I feel more excited about this than all the other ideas combined. I'd love some input. If you've never commented on my blog before, now's your chance! And if you think its terrible I want to hear that too. I'm on my 9th hour in this cubicle so my judgement could be off right now.

hole in the wall

A few months ago, we had a major plumbing problem in our bathroom and the plumber had to cut a huge hole in the wall behind the sink to fix it.

I've fixed small holes before with a little patch and some spackle, but this one was way too big for that. The idea of major drywall repair really intimidated me, but I figured I'd do a little online research as usual and see how hard it really would be. I found this how-to video from Bob Vila and decided I could do it. But before I went to Home Depot to get the supplies, I realized that my wall didn't just have a simple hole -- it also had a big pipe sticking out in the middle of it.

I got back on the computer and searched and searched, but I couldn't find any clear instructions on how to deal with a pipe like this. I started to give up on the idea of fixing it myself and started calling around for quotes from professionals. The absolute lowest quote I got was "we start at $150 and go from there" -- which means they could end up charging a lot more than $150. The idea of dropping a big load of cash when we already have a broken dishwasher that needs to be replaced made me start thinking that maybe I could do this job myself after all :)

So I went to Home Depot and told a man that works there my situation. He told me that all I needed to do was somehow carve out a hole in each piece of drywall to put around the pipe. It still seemed tricky but I decided to go for it anyway. I got all my supplies and headed home, and these are the steps I took over the next few weeks to patch that hole:

1. Cut into the dry wall to make the irregular hole into a rectangle. I used a utility knife so I wouldn't have to buy a drywall saw just for this project, so that made it a little harder than it had to be. But I saved $9!
2. I cut 2 pieces of drywall to go above and below the pipe, then I sawed into the drywall so each piece would fit around the pipe. This was HARD and my hands hurt for days afterwards, but it worked.
3. Screw both pieces into the stud with drywall screws.
4. Fill everything with joint compound, then cover with mesh drywall tape.
5. Continue to spread joint compound over the entire area 3-5 times, spreading the compound out a little further each time and sanding between each layer.
6. Prime and paint the area, and voila! The hole is gone!
All in all, this was one of the easier house projects I've done, and I'm so happy that I didn't pay a contractor $150+ to fix this for me. That reminds me -- I spent a total of $22 to fix this myself!! That's a savings of at least $128, but it probably would have been even more.

This project reminded me once again that you can do so much more than you think you can. I have no training in this kind of work, but I have access to a computer and time and that's really all you need. Sure there are some things that I would call a pro for, like electrical work or bigger plumbing issues, but I'd say 80% of house projects are things that most of us can do for ourselves, and the money we can save doing it is just incredible. And not only that, but the feeling of figuring out how to do something that you thought you couldn't do is priceless.

Anyway, that's my latest project! It actually inspired to start on another project in the bathroom, but more on that later...

cute stuff

My friend Stacy put together the most adorable room* for her new baby Clara Lou. Its sweet and creative and doesn't scream BABY the minute you walk in (which is great since it doubles as a guest room). It is so cute, in fact, that it was featured on ohdeedoh (a design site that focuses on kids rooms and is part of apartmenttherapy.com)...check it out! Congrats, Stacy!
*photo by Michael Lantz

More than a feeling

Today I am remembering when Seth showed up at my apartment 7 years ago today for our first date. With the help of my friend Karen, I had called him two nights before and asked if he wanted to come over Saturday night. He showed up with a 12-pack of PBR under his arm and I was wearing a black tank top with a silver tiger on the front. I had a Boston record playing and was beyond nervous. Two of my friends were also at my apartment, and Seth gave everyone a hug when he arrived but me. Turns out he was a little nervous too :)

It feels like a million years since that night, but it also feels like no time has passed. I always thought Seth was the coolest guy in the room from the time I first met him (and still do), and I'm so glad that he saw past the shy girl and wanted to get to know me too. I love you baby! Happy 7th first date anniversary!!

Hmm....pasta.

I know my blog has been all over the place lately, but I gotta share this recipe for arrabbiata sauce from Casual Kitchen:

http://casualkitchen.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-to-make-arrabbiata-sauce.html

It is perfectly spicy and insanely easy, and if you use whole wheat pasta (I always use w.w. spaghetti with this sauce), it is completely healthy. You don't even use salt! Just like when you cook onions in olive oil on low heat for 30 minutes or so, something magical happens to this mixture of canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes after about 25 minutes of simmering. It is even better the next day, and since Seth and I love a lot of sauce I always double the recipe...it makes the right amount for 1 16 oz. box of pasta, plus a little extra to dip the garlic bread in :) Enjoy!

Austin

For our summer vacation this year, Seth and I decided to drive all the way to Austin, TX to see friends and hang out at all our favorite places. We hadn't been back to Austin since we moved back to TN in 2006, so this visit was long overdue.


Its a long drive from Knoxville to Austin...about 17 hours according to Google Maps...so we did all sorts of things to stay entertained on the drive. We kept track of how many butterflies flew into the car (7), how many deer we saw on the side of the road (5), and how many signs for adult bookstores we saw (14, and those were mostly in TN and Arkansas). Oh, and we tried to see a license plate from every state in the US and got all the way up to 42!



We thought it was hilarious to take pictures of Seth pretending to take a nap while driving...


...and saw a beautiful sunset.



Once it got dark I started playing with the different settings on the camera and got some cool shots.



We broke up the drive into 2 days on the way down, and it was nice to be leisurely about getting there. On our first full day, we did a little nostalgia tour:


The old house on Depew I lived in from 1999-2000.

Waterloo Records, Seth's old stomping ground and one of the best independent record stores in the country.


Dirty's Kum-Bak burgers, where I used to get my double cheeseburger for lunch almost every day in 2000. So good. Unfortunately I didn't go in this time since I'm not eating meat right now...just couldn't bare get a bean burger at this place.

My old gym from 1999, and I'm still not sure why I chose to get a year membership at this place. Notice the veiny arm sticking out of the side of the building. It is a hardcore body builder's gym with no machines, only free weights and mirrors. I stuck out like a sore thumb the 3 times I went :)

Our old apartment. We weren't there long but have some good memories there.

We finished the day with Conan's pizza...just as good as I remember.

The nostalgia/must-see Austin stuff continued for the rest of the week...

Beautiful Barton Springs, which stays 68 degrees all year round.

It was way too cold for me, but Seth got in and swam for a bit. I think I'm getting wimpy in my old age.

The Austin Zoo with my good friend Mimi! We saw the cutest pig sleeping in the mud.

We also saw Some Kind of Wonderful at the Alamo Drafthouse, sang karaoke at Ego's (Seth did a great rendition of Stayin' Alive), ate at one of our favorite Tex-Mex places, Guero's, and had lots of good friend time with all our Texas buddies. I wish I had taken more pictures...I hate that I didn't get a single one of our friends Heather and Patrick. Boo. You guys will just have to come to TN to visit so we can get some then, okay?! :)

Oh, and did I mention it was hot??


After 6 nights it was time to head home. We had planned to break it up into 2 days again but ended up driving all the way back to Tennessee in one trip...it was a fun-filled 16 hours and 45 minutes in the car! Actually it wasn't that bad, and we'd done it once before in 2005 so we knew it was possible. Plus we were anxious to get on home to our gal Ruby.

All in all a great trip! Thanks to all our Austin pals for being up for anything and hanging out with us so much (and for giving us a great guest room to sleep in, A & J!!). We miss you all already and our guest room is ready for you anytime :)