April 14, 2014

BATHROOM UPDATE



Above: scenes from the last week-and-a-half of bathroom renovation. I finally got that bedroom toilet I've always wanted, and I forgot to get safety goggles, so I just wore my largest sunglasses instead. Demolition has never looked so fabulous!

So, the bathroom. It was the one thing I hated about the house when we bought it; but I was also glad for the chance to update something (and to hands-on learn how to do all that entails). I hope I never meet the person who thought a bulky built-in sink vanity and chunky faux-terracotta tiles (on every. single. surface) would be a good idea in a small master bath. I was laughing manically through most of the demolition. Like most home renovation projects, though, it became larger as we went along. Initially we were only going to install a pedestal sink (more on that later), but as we removed the old one, we realized we'd also need to repair/install some backer board over the subfloor where the sink was going (and in the walls around it)... and if we were going to do all that, we might as well tile the floor so we wouldn't need to reinstall the sink down the road. We did, however, leave the tile in the shower; that was simply too much to tackle at the moment. Baby steps!

We did all the heavy installation and initial tiling while my parents were still here. And this past weekend, I grouted, and Micah installed baseboards and quarter-round. Next steps are patching up any visible holes/craters from the original demo, then caulking the baseboards, and priming everything so it's ready to paint.

April 4, 2014

TINY SPINACH RAVIOLI



Micah bought me a vintage ravioli plaque months ago at our favorite hoarder house / antique store. Each ravioli is about 1" square, it came with the cutest tiny rolling pin and Italian directions, and last week I finally got around to trying it out. I roasted some garlic and shallot, and folded it into a small tub of ricotta with an egg for the filling. I've found that you should always over-season ravioli filling – since there's only a bit in each bite, it needs to carry big flavor to stand up to it's pasta envelope.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the smaller size wasn't any more finicky to stuff or separate than regular-sized ravioli. There's always a bit of a learning curve to figure out how much filling can fit in each ravioli without causing it to burst, which can be frustrating at first (especially if you're like me and want to do everything perfectly IMMEDIATELY, and completely overreact to the length of your own learning process). Micah came up with a great idea to save my handful of burst raviolis and all the edging scraps, toss them with veggies and sauce, and turn it into a small baked pasta dish. A great example of his chill scrappiness balancing out my perfectionist intensity, and another life lesson from pasta-making.

April 2, 2014

KITCHEN UPDATE



Above: A few progress shots of one of our kitchen backsplashes. We still need to cover up some edges, install an under-cabinet light (my parents' idea - so simple yet helpful!), and grout.

It's insane how much my parents have done in the last few days. My mom and I completely tore out the bathroom vanity and floor (we're down to one toilet right now...), my dad and Micah have replaced the dining room light and removed the bathroom toilet, we all took a swing or two at ripping off the existing tile in the kitchen (you can see a bit of what it looked like when we bought it here), we've been clearing "volunteer saplings" and overzealous bushes and monkey grass from both yards, I've learned to tile, we've finished most of the backsplashes... and it's only been three days. Today I think we're starting the bathroom floor tile (here's what we chose), so we can put the toilet back in, and start installing our beautiful new pedestal sink.

In the kitchen, the plan is to eventually paint the lower cabinets charcoal or black, and the upper cabinets white (or, new idea from Kathleen: LIGHT GREY?!...). I would then love a more substantial faucet, and maybe new pulls?, but those are so low-priority right now. Right now it's all about trying to learn a fraction of the amazing skill set my parents collectively have, and getting through our ambitious project list before they go back to Oklahoma. The clean freak in me also can't wait to deep-clean our whole house after the dust literally and figuratively settles. But for now - back to tiling.

March 28, 2014

OUR FIRST VISITORS



Above: I get really excited when people visit. Like, curate-coffee-carts excited.

Tomorrow our house will welcome it's first official visitors! My parents are visiting from Oklahoma, and bringing (via Connecticut) my youngest brother with them. They'll be staying for a whole week, and helping Micah and me start some much-anticipated house projects. Maybe some tiling, maybe some sink installation, definitely some yard overhauling... we'll see. I'm so excited to show them our home, and to learn from their 30+ years of home renovation experience (seriously... you should see what they're doing to their own house right now, in preparation for putting it on the market). But really, even if we didn't get to a single project, and just sat around drinking coffee (and then wine and beer) on our patio, our time would be well-spent.

March 19, 2014

ELVIS ICE CREAM



This isn't really Elvis ice cream. This is just roasted banana ice cream with a peanut butter swirl. Real Elvis ice cream would have bacon crumbles on it, I think. (Or be topped with a strip of chocolate-dipped bacon!) But I can't help but think of the King whenever I combine the two flavors, which is often, because they're meant for each other.

It was near impossible to find a banana ice cream recipe that was custard-based (had eggs in it). Banana has recently become a substitute for fat in dessert recipes, which is fine, but I was disappointed to find few recipes that combined the natural lusciousness of banana with the fatty, full-cream-and-egg-yolk righteousness of traditional ice cream. So... I kind of Frankenstein-ed it. MacGyver-ed it. I pulled a vanilla bean ice cream recipe from my Williams-Sonoma book, and referenced the last time I made a banana ice cream for roasting/caramelizing instructions (excluding the cinnamon, because I don't think Elvis would've approved). If I was making this for anyone other than Micah and myself, I probably would've thinned the peanut butter out before swirling it in, but I couldn't be bothered. I couldn't even be bothered to wait to use the kitchen to churn it. I think Elvis would've approved.

March 17, 2014

ONE THING AT A TIME



Above: a moment of unfocused calm from our weekend in Wilmington, just over a year ago. 

Like a lot people (I think / I hope), I've become too easily distracted by my phone. Recently I've found myself checking it without any intention - just swiping it unlocked and checking Instagram or Twitter or my email before I even know what's happening. But the kicker is, that I'm usually also flipping through a magazine or cookbook while this happens – and sometimes with the TV on in the background as well! It's too much.  

So I've adopted a mantra of sorts, to snap me out of these diffused moments and focus me on the task or engagement at hand:

One thing at a time. 

So when I'm checking my phone while reading while watching TV, I can pause and figure out what one thing I actually want to be doing right now. What do I actually want to absorb? (It's usually that magazine or cookbook.) Or sometimes - what is the best use of my time right now? (It's usually not flipping through my phone - especially if there's a new episode of Parks and Rec on and I'm transitioning from work day to downtime.) 

So when I'm out having a hard-earned happy-hour drink with Micah, and yet again reach absent-mindedly for my phone, I can pause and remind myself why I'm there in the first place: to connect with my man, to ask him about his day, to dream about our future together. Not to see what everyone else is doing at that exact moment. I've started actually out-loud excusing myself whenever I need to use my phone around him (whether that's to text back a friend or take a photo), to remind myself of the boundaries I'd like to put in place.

So when I'm working on designing a logo or writing a Brand & Business Vision Guide, instead of keeping multiple tabs open so I can know the instant I get a personal email (or be distracted by articles to read and interior design photos to ogle over), I can pause and get rid of all the online white noise that's standing between me and a really stunning project. Now I keep my email and to-do list tabs open, and that's it. (Sometimes if I really need to buckle down, I'll close all the tabs for a designated period of time.) It's a constant battle with my monkey brain to keep from inadvertently inviting overstimulation, but designating chunks of time (if I work on this design until XXam, I can browse Apartment Therapy for XX minutes before switching gears to this other project) has helped. 

One thing at a time. 

On a smaller level, it keeps me focused and is hopefully resetting my phone-checking habits. It's a reminder that the greatest journeys start with that first one step(/thing). But on a larger level, it reminds me of the kind of person I want to be: a friend or partner who is fully engaged in our conversation, a working creative who is fully focused on her writing and design projects, a person who is fully respectful of how her own time and energy are best spent throughout the day. It's a form of self-care, too; I'm at my best when I feel centered and present, which never happens when I'm unfocused and diffused.

-

A while back, I wrote a post about how I regulate mindless phone-poking at night, which is a great companion to this one. I've sadly fallen out of this practice – I used to rely on Micah's alarm clock, but now I wake up before him, which has put my phone back on my nightstand. But after writing this post, I've decided to put my phone out of arm's reach in the bedroom, so I can still use the alarm function without being tempted to check it. 

One thing at a time.

March 10, 2014

RED WINE PASTA










Kind of like the aleppo linguine on Valentine's Day, this was my attempt at making a holiday meal more special with really simple ingredients. Micah had pre-made some amazing meatballs the day before, and I thought a boozy twist on spaghetti and meatballs would be a perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras. So I consulted my favorite book on pasta-making, and took a stab at red wine pasta.

This may be the first pasta dough I've made without semolina, and I could really tell the difference. The dough had a really velvety, soft texture, but stretched out under it's own weight really easily (too easily!), which prevented me from rolling it as thin as I would've liked. I decided against spaghetti for the same reason, so we ended up having fettuccine and meatballs. My favorite part of the process was watching the color develop. The wine deepened each time the dough rested, going from blueberry to mauve to terracotta to red dirt in a few hours. It was beautiful, and looked masculine and grown-up and sexy with the hearty meatballs and red sauce. I'll definitely make it again.