Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chester Attacks Volleyball (and a Kitchen Update)

Die volleyball die!
We found this volleyball down by our community pool. It was in the bushes and half-inflated so we figured no one wanted it, which is why when Chester took a liking to it, we let him carry it home. I tell you, there is very little that is as entertaining as watching a puggle triumphantly carry a volleyball home in his mouth. It's three times the size of his head, never mind his mouth.

Excuse the blur. I can't get Chester to stop moving long enough to take a decent picture. Oh, and the boxes of soda. We're painting our kitchen cabinets and I had to take everything out.

Speaking of kitchen cabinets, look!

Doors and drawers
Spray painted ugly beat-up brass hinges oil rubbed bronze
And another picture of Chester for good measure
Today I get to drill holes for the new hardware and rehang the doors! Yay!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chester Sleeps

This is pretty much what Chester looks like when I am sitting on the sofa. All the time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Listy McListerton

We live in a two bedroom condo. You would think that the home improvement list for such a small place would be short. NO. Here, a la Young House Love, is our "Listy McListerton" of all the things we want to do to the place as time, inspiration and budget allow. Some of these things we've already done, but this was the original list. I'll try to update it monthly. Without further adieu:

Listy McListerton

Screw for closet door
Hem bedroom curtains and rehang
Build bar storage
Replace sockets, socket covers, light switches and switchplates
Paint living room ceiling
Paint kitchen cabinets
Replace kitchen cabinet hardware
Move and replace ceiling light in the dining room
Replace damaged mini blinds
Replace trim throughout
Paint bedroom
Take track out of entryway closet
Replace laundry room door
Replace carpets throughout (deal with Pergo flooring under carpet)
Declutter walk-in closet
Replace flooring in bathroom
Replace bathroom vanity
Replace bathroom light
Replace bathroom mirror
Paint bathroom
Paint medicine cabinet
Replace tub & tile
Hang new shelves in bathroom
Replace door hardware on bathroom, office and bedroom door (make bedroom lock as well)
New storm door/screen door
Take out cabinet & countertop on fridge side of kitchen and replace with rolling island
Install small amount of countertop on remaining cabinet on that side
Put in tile in small area right in front of front door
Install programmable thermostat
Patch sideboard door where veneer is damaged
Put handles on nightstands
Paint Doug’s dresser
Hang curtains in office (need curtain rod)
Put in double sink and new faucet in kitchen
Find a place for sweaters on top of dresser
Replace vinyl in the laundry room
Fix the chips on the front door
Patch the hole in the dining room wall
Replace the kitchen flooring
Replace floor lamp in living room
Replace lamps in bedroom

Think it's enough to keep us busy?

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Kitchen

I love where we live. It's a two-bedroom condo in a nice neighborhood. We have friendly neighbors and even though we're not really close to much, we're not really very far from anything either. We can get to Woodbridge in about the same amount of time it takes us to get to Arlington. We can get to both Silver Spring, MD and Delaplane, VA in a little less than an hour, traffic permitting.

That said, the complex where we live was built in the mid 1980s and it's starting to show its age a bit. Because the units are basically starter homes, virtually no one has done any upgrades. They all have the same chunky, ugly vanities in the bathrooms, the same oak cabinets in the kitchens and the same scary mirrored doors on all the closets. I know because I peek in windows at night while we're walking Chester. Is that creepy? Am I the only one who does that? Okay, it's creepy. I don't care.

I also make sure to scope out real estate listings as they come available. There are several units on the market right now, all of which have the awful cabinets.

One of the listings available in our complex
Another listing, slightly updated, but is this better? Really?
And our kitchen
Our kitchen from another angle
Over the past two years, Doug and I have gone a long way toward prettying up the place, mainly through furniture, paint and curtains. You can see most of the living areas in this post.

Several weeks ago, I decided it was time to get started on remodeling the bathroom. The first step was to replace the vanity. I had been putting it off, well, because I had never done any plumbing before. Luckily, that went fairly well. I'll have some pictures later today or early next week. We still have tile to do, but since that's another intimidating project that neither of us has ever done before, we're hesitant.

However, painting, now that's something we can do! Especially since we have John and Sherry to help. Who are John and Sherry? The new Bob Vila, that's who. They are a couple of twenty-somethings who started a blog called Young House Love about DIY efforts in their first house and have continued one house later. It was they who gave me courage to try the vanity replacement in the first place. It was also they who convinced me that we could paint the kitchen cabinets and make them look a lot better than what we have now, even if we can't afford to replace them. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They're also very funny. You should be reading their blog if you're not already.

Anyway, back to the project. Here's what we're going for, sort of.

The cabinets will be white, the floors (eventually) dark, the appliances (eventually) stainless steel, the countertops (eventually) butcher block and though these walls are white, ours will be the same grey as the living room. We'll also likely have to replace the sink and faucet when we do the countertops. We will not be taking down upper cabinets though. We like the open shelving in front of the window, but having all open shelving is too much for us.

So, into the breach! I'll post photos as I go so you can see the progress.

Are you tackling any really big projects around the house?

P.S. For more as I pin, check out the kitchen inspiration board I have going for the project.

The Office...Again

We had a friend over for dinner last week. I made pasties, salad and lemon cake. Not fancy, but definitely delicious.

It was a good friend so I didn't really need to get everything perfect for the occasion, but that day was Clean ALL the Things so the house looked pretty good.

Puggle photobomb
The new vanity! That works! And doesn't leak!
I was pretty proud of myself for getting everything all cleaned up enough to have people over and take pictures less than a week after making the house a certified disaster area via the baking of thousands of dog treats and being away at the show during both days last weekend.

And then I went into the office to get something and I remembered. Oh yeah, I just shoved everything in there and was pretending that it didn't exist.

Seriously though? When you have to climb over a box full of 50 pounds of flour, the dining room table leaf, the stuff from the bathroom vanity that you have to sort through and put back plus half a dozen half-finished craft projects that you can't see in this photo because it's too embarrassing just to get to the box containing the printer paper? I took this picture from the doorway because that's about as far as I could get. Yeah, something must be done. I'd been putting off an office overhaul since April and it had only gotten worse. Last Friday was the day.

I pulled everything out of the office (all the stuff on the floor anyway) and organized it, throwing out three trash bags worth of stuff, consolidating other stuff and then putting it all back. Here's where I ended up.

Another puggle photobomb
So, yeah, we have kind of a problem. See all that stuff on the right piled in front of and top of the bookcases? Business stuff. See all that stuff there on the left on the floor? Business stuff. See that shelf with all the gaming books on it? Sagging.

Business stuff mostly
Now I'm not sure what to do. We clearly need more storage in there. We clearly need to replace that bookshelf. But it's going to have to do for now because at least I can see the floor! My problem is that I am totally ready to do something about the rest of that stuff. Initially I was thinking a 5x5 Expedit bookcase, or perhaps two, but I'm not sure that would actually solve the problem. Plus there's the issue that we are now storing two coolers that I am using for dog treat shows.

Chester regards the pile of stuff suspiciously
Chester regards me suspiciously: "You really think you can organize this? HAH!"
It's basically a storage room, but we do need to be able to use the floor for projects like painting the kitchen cabinets (shhh...that's coming).

Does anyone have any ideas? Are you tackling any organizational projects yourself?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bath time!

You can tell he's not happy by the sad ears. Poor puggle. Poor sad ears.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reese's Peanut Butter Banana Bread

The plan: banana bread.

The reality: Reese's peanut butter cup banana bread.

What? You got a problem with that?

Check out the recipe at Cookies and Cups.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I'm Gonna Mail Myself To You

I'm a-gonna wrap myself in paper,
I'm gonna daub myself with glue,
Stick some stamps on top of my head;
I'm gonna mail myself to you.

I'm a gonna tie me up in a red string,
I'm gonna tie blue ribbons too,
I'm a-gonna climb up in my mail box;
I'm gonna mail myself to you.

When you see me in your mail box,
Cut the string and let me out;
Wash the glue off my fingers,
Stick some bubble gum in my mouth.

Take me out of my wrapping paper,
Wash the stamps off my head;
Pour me full of ice cream sodies,
Put me in my nice warm bed.

by Woodie Guthrie

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Peach Oatmeal Muffins

This morning I was walking the dog and reflecting on breakfast. We were out of granola. Bread baking is on the list for today. But I was super hungry. A little Nature Valley Granola bar was not going to cut it. I even cut a chat with one of my favorite dog-walking buddies short because I couldn’t wait to get back inside.

Peach oatmeal muffins | Pies and Puggles

That’s when it hit me. I have peaches! And they need to be eaten today or not at all! I’ll make peach oatmeal muffins! Never mind that I have several hundred bags of dog treats to bake today!

Why did it have to have oatmeal? Because this one time at Linnaea’s when I was still in high school—it must have been finals week or something because don’t remember any guilt over showing up at my favorite coffee place to have a leisurely mid-morning muffin—I had this peach pecan oatmeal muffin. I only saw them there that once even though I’ve been there conservatively a thousand times. So it had to have oatmeal. Besides, did I mention? HUNGRY.

When I got back inside I quickly googled up a recipe and came up with…zilch. Nada. I mean, there are lots of recipes out there, but the pictures yielded what looked like clearly anemic muffins or they contained whole wheat pastry flour, which I don’t generally keep on hand or canned peaches (blech). So I turned to my old stand-by, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which also yielded…zilch. But I was still soooo hungry. And now I wanted muffins. It was time to improvise.

Now, I do a lot of improvising in the kitchen. I made a pound cake two weeks ago with honey yogurt when it called for sour cream. I throw in bok choy in place of green beans. But this improvisation would involve substituting some oatmeal for all-purpose flour in my very favorite muffin recipe of all time: the Big Beautiful Muffin recipe, which might not have gone very well. Luckily it went fine. Um, peachy, in fact.

Big Beautiful Oatmeal Peach Muffins

adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal (not the quick cooking kind)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups honey lowfat yogurt
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup diced fresh summer peaches, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
¾ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (optional)

1.      Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. This is not the time for fancy cupcake papers. If you must, add them after baking for a cute flower-like effect. Any muffin recipe with yogurt will badly stick to the paper, rendering them unappetizing at best and inedible at worst.

2.       Add the chopped pecans to a skillet and heat to medium. Watch carefully because they go from toasted to burned in just seconds. Let cool.

3.       Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the yogurt and eggs together in a medium bowl. Gently fold the yogurt-egg mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in the melted butter.

4.       Fold in the peaches and pecans (if using).

5.       Use a large ice cream scoop or measuring cup to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

6.       Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. These muffins are best eaten same-day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Current Preoccupations

I just looked and realized that I have not posted since June 19th. It's not like I haven't been super busy though. For instance:

We took apart our bathroom vanity and are in the process of replacing it with a new one. The process hasn't been without mishap and incident. In fact, I would argue that the process has been mostly mishap and incident. First we couldn't get the hot water faucet's valve to close. In fact, we still can't. In that bucket above is the old faucet attached to the valve so that we were able to turn the water back on. Then, we couldn't get the S trap off. After soaking it with WD40 though, we fixed that and it came right off. However, that exposed problem #3.

The vanity we bought fits the wall space allotted to it very nicely. However, the back is such that there is no room inside the cabinet for the S trap. So I attacked the new vanity with a saw (pictures to come).

Also, this:

My first Dog River Biscuit Company public outing is next weekend (the 11th and 12th) at Great County Farms' Dog Days of Summer Festival. So not only are we putting the bath back together, I am baking. And baking, And baking. And baking. All told, I believe that I will need about 200 bags of treats for the weekend, which means roughly 65 batches of treats. And by "batch" I don't mean "cookie tray". I mean put the ingredients in the mixer, mix them up and put them on 3 or 4 cookie trays depending on the flavor. 

That's, um, a lot of biscuits. I only hope that I judge how many treats I will need correctly. Otherwise, I will either run out or have so many extra that the whole thing turns out to be a huge waste of product. 

No pressure or anything. Wish me luck!
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