AT January Cure Week 1

Despite the fact that I’m not living in an apartment anymore, I’ve joined Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. It just seemed like a good way to kick start the year, it will also replace the current Weekend Reports for the month since I’ll just do a weekly wrap-up instead of a daily post.

There is nothing like the start of a new year to kick yourself into gear and make changes that last. And no, I’m not talking about resolutions, which have a sneaky way of fading along with the holiday glow. I’m talking about taking just one month and investing some effort (21 do-able assignments in total throughout January) toward a cleaner, more organized and more peaceful home. If you are ready to get your place back in shape (and reap the rewards for the whole rest of 2016) the very best way is one manageable step at a time, during our once-a-year-only January Cure. By the end of the month, you’ll be have a cleaner, fresher, more organized home, guaranteed!

Sounds pretty good, right?  At least until you start to take naps… which is exactly what I did on Day 1.  Luckily, Friday assignments are pretty much weekend assignments so I had 3 whole days to tackle Assignment #1: Flowers and Floors.  Except I actually spent those 3 days taking more naps and binge-watching Doctor Who so I’m starting now.  Yeah, don’t follow my example for sticking to a schedule.  Ever.

I dropped Matt off at the bar to watch the Packer game.  I realize most Minnesotans would probably refer to it as the Vikings games, but we’re from Wisconsin so tough cookies.  I tend to be slightly more productive when Matt’s out of the house, which is a little weird since it’s not like he gets in my way on anything when he’s here.  I picked up so flowers on my way home* and have already cleaned up the floor in the mudroom (which was living up to its name) and swept and mopped the kitchen and pantry.  My favorite wood cleaner is Method’s Almond Scented Wood Floor Cleaner. I also have a Rubbermaid Reveal mop, which has the ease of a Swiffer, but you can refill with your own cleaner and the pads are washable/reusable (I’m also pretty sure I didn’t pay anywhere near $50 for mine.. wtf Target?).

Unfortunately dropping Matt off at the bar interrupted my Doctor Who Binge in the middle of a two-parter** so I’ll possibly go back to slacking for this evening.  There’s a pint of Izzy’s Midnight Snack in the freezer too so apparently you shouldn’t follow my example for New Years Resolutions either….

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*From the most expensive damn grocery stole in the area, so I semi-cheated an picked up some carnations and a bunch of greenery since I am not paying $15 for daisies.

**With Zygons no less! And, yes, I know I’m way behind on this season.  I haven’t seen Star Wars yet either, so THERE.

Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2015, it’s been a fun ride!

We bought a house, started a blog, and went to Europe…. and that was just the summer!

We’ve made some awesome progress on the too–updating light fixtures, updating the kitchen and bathroom.  Matt worked on some more behind-the-scenes projects like putting up a knee wall in the attic, ripping out yard after yard of useless cables from our basement, and hauling a bunch of random crap out of attic.* We also hired out some important work like replacing our boiler and basement windows.

So what’s in store for 2016?  I’m hoping to tackle the dining room, living room/family room, and bedroom.  Matt’s goals are slightly more practical; he wants to get our garage functioning and we already have a mason lined up to fill in the cellar entrance in the spring. Hopefully we’ll also be able to make a dent on the landscaping a bit this year once everything thaws…. in like 5 months.

To kick off the new year with a bang I signed up for Apartment Therapy’s January Cure… although I already sort of failed today since I still haven’t changed out of my PJs… oops.**

So bring it on 2016!  I’m ready for you… me and my PJs…

 

*Included: a slightly decaying roll of carpet, a piece of bamboo, and an emergency window ladder.

**I did totally take a shower though so it’s not like I didn’t do anything.

Operation Cookie 2015

I really enjoy baking, but with just the 2 of us I don’t do a lot of it.  Until Christmas, then I damn near kill myself churning out cookies for friends, family, co-workers, and once a cookie exchange.*

After a near melt-down last year I decided to scale back this year and did 3 different kinds of cookies: sugar, gingerbread, and rugelach.  For the sugar cookies I made a double batch and frosted 1/2 with peppermint cream so it was really like 4 kinds of cookies since I cheat like that.

Let’s start with the sugar cookies.  I like soft, buttery cookies that hold their shape well because, cutouts.  How often do you get to make cutout cookies during the year?

Cut-out Sugar Cookies

I’ve made them with double the vanilla and no almond extract too–yum!

I also used this Peppermint Frosting on 1/2 of them (and dipped them in crushed peppermint puffs–not quite a buttermint, but softer than a candy cane).  I think I ended up doubling the mint extract in the frosting too (just add it to personal preference).

Matt has informed me that the gingerbread recipe I found a couple years ago is the best damn gingerbread cookie ever, and I can’t get this guy to get excited about anything. “Oh my god, isn’t this paint color PERFECT?” “It’s fine.”  “Holy shit, this rug is positively divine!” “It’s fine.”**  Heck, I couldn’t even get a reaction out of him when I insisted on flipping the fridge door hinge to massively improve functionality in our kitchen.  Actually, not true, his reaction was a vehement “You better not change your mind because I never want to do that again.”  But my gingerbread cookies? “The best.” Assuming you like soft, spicy gingerbread. They also hold their shape really nicely too!

The Most Wonderful Gingerbread Cookies

The only change I make is to swap the lemon zest for orange zest.  Ah-maz-ing.

And finally the rugelach.  Never heard of rugelach?  I never had either before stumbling across this recipe.  It’s a very Jewish cookie so not being Jewish I apparently had been missing out for years.  Now I make it for Christmas.  I’m all-inclusive like that. The apple-cranberry-walnut is fabulous, but you can stuff them with whatever you want.  Chocolate pistachio?  Apricot?  There’s a Jewish deli*** not too far from us and they have every flavor under the sun.

Apple-Cranberry-Walnut Rugelach

I double the dough, but not the filling since it make tons of filling.  They’re a little putzy to roll up since the dough is quite sticky so it helps to roll them out on parchment then you use the parchment to help roll them into spirals.

Sorry, I don’t actually have any pictures… but it’s Christmas Eve and I’ve had a lot of other shit to do. Have a Merry Christmas everyone!  We’re taking the weekend off to cram in 4 family Christmases in 3 days, but when we get back BATHROOM REVEAL!

 

*Never again.  Unless there are 5 people, tops, involved.

**People have tried to explain to me that not everyone gets super-hyped over a perfect paint color, spends days trying to pick out the perfect drawer pull, or even makes you STOP THE CAR NOW to investigate a promising piece of furniture on the side of road.  I don’t entirely buy it and given that you’re reading a design blog I don’t think you do either.

***If you’re ever in St Paul get thee to Cecil’s Deli. Then head to Minneapolis to go to Emily’s Lebanese Deli.  Oh and get breakfast at Patisserie 46 in South Minneapolis.  And if you’re feeling fancy go back to St Paul for dinner at Heartland.  Then head to Izzy’s to get some ice cream for dessert.  And if you can take it do a Juicy Lucy taste testing between the Nook (or Shamrocks), The Blue Door, Matt’s, and the 5-8 Club.  Yeah, this is why we put up with the snow.

Conquering the Closet

Oh the bathroom closet… It didn’t quite fit with the Brown Bathroom of Despair, it was more the Green Closet of Gloom.  Seriously people, painting the inside of a closet dark green (with painted brown shelves) when it is not lit is a terrible idea.  It’s like a black hole.  But green. The existing shelves… I don’t even know what’s happening there.

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Yeah…. this is a perfect example of a poor use of space.  It had to go.

The first step was demoing the shelves.  Should be pretty easy, right?  Wrong.  Some jerkwad had put layer after layer of paint over the screw heads so a screwdriver was completely useless. Using a combination of a hammer and brute strength I managed to get the shelves out.  The walls were already in pretty bad shape so I few more holes to patch wasn’t a big deal.

Originally I thought I’d need to skim-coat the entire inside of the closet.  Thankfully it didn’t come to that.  I used a putty knife to scrape off all the the peeling paint, then spackled over all the uneven bits.  After priming it looked pretty respectable, especially since it was the inside of a closet, so I just painted it all and called it a day.

When my mom and step-dad were in town the other weekend Matt and my step-dad went to work on the shelves (mom and I baked cookies).  I had gotten a sheet of 1/4″ MDF cut down to size earlier (I figured out the height I wanted the shelves, then measured the length since the closet is underneath our attic stairs so most of one wall is angled). I chose 18″ as the depth since it’s nice and deep, but not so deep that you end up losing things in the back.  Since my miter saw can only go up to a 12″ cross cut, I had to get everything cut to size beforehand. The hardware store people were very helpful, just in a “oh, isn’t that cute, she’s building shelves, is your husband going to help you with that?” sort of way that makes me grind my teeth a bit.*

I outlined what I wanted, and left the men to the technical stuff.  I mean, I had Christmas cookies to bake, I can’t do everything. The shelves are attached on 2 sides with cleats (we used 1×2 pine since we had that already, there were already 1×4’s where I put the top shelf so we left those there).  After some discussion we skipped using a cleat on the angled stair wall since we weren’t sure how stable the plaster was and we didn’t want the screws to end up going through the stairs.  We ended up adding legs to that end of the shelves for added stability.

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We also anchored the shelves to the cleats with L brackets so they couldn’t accidentally be knocked loose somehow.  If your walls are nice and square and even you could probably screw directly into the cleats.  Our walls are from a time when “square” didn’t really exist so things are slightly wonky. You can also tell we used inexpensive pine for the cleats, but only from this angle so everything does actually quite nice when you’re not sitting on the floor.

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The shelves, legs, and cleats got painted  after everything was dry-fit (but before it was all anchored in place).  I didn’t bother painting the edges of the shelves since only 1 would be visible and I figure it would be easy to paint an edge once the shelves were all installed.  I was actually right about that too. The shelves took a coat of primer and a coat of paint (BM Advance) and look SO much better now.

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The top shelf isn’t quite level but would not be worth the effort to fix it given that these are closet shelves and won’t be seen too much.  We would have had to rip out the existing board, patch the hell of the wall, put up new cleats, and repaint everything around them.  Sometimes it’s just not worth being an anal-retentive perfectionist.  Sometime I even recognize those times.

The  door was taken off shortly after we moved it and has been replaced with a tension rod and curtain.  The cat box is in the closet so it needed to be easily accessible for our furballs and I didn’t love the idea of keeping the door open constantly. Curtain it is.

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Can you feel that? We are SO close to being done! I’m crossing my fingers for a Christmas miracle especially since my mother-in-law and brother-in-law are coming to visit the week after Christmas so it would be really nice to have it all done.**

 

*I will say I take a rather perverse sort of pleasure in waltzing into a hardware store in a skirt and heels and then surprising the more chauvinistic employees by actually knowing what I’m talking about. This however was not one of those days and as I was clearly dressed as one who is Getting Shit Done.

**She’s like the least judgmental person ever so I’m not worried about that, but it would be nice to have a bathroom that’s not a construction site for guests, ya’know?

The Book Whore’s Guide to Bookshelf Styling

We’ve all seen the perfectly styled bookshelves right?  Magazines, Pinterest, Blogs… they’re often heavier on the decorative objects than reading material, which is all well and good, but what if you’re an obsessive book hoarder like moi?

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This is what’s been sitting in our living room for months.  I got as far as grouping the books together and then just petered out.  With guests coming this weekend I figured I should get cracking again.

I started by grouping the books in a way that made since to me (by loose category, by author, and by personal preference). I once caved and experimented with organizing by color but it was very much not for me (but hey, if that’s your jam you do you).

 

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Don’t get stuck with perfect rows of books.  I stacked mine in multiple directions, partly because otherwise I’d run out of room, and partly because it adds some visual interest and leaves some space for accessorizing.

 

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Once you’ve got your books organized fill in with things you love.  If you’re not a tchotchke collector you can leave it at the books, or add in some family photos or art.  You don’t have to go overboard since you’ve already probably overloaded with books.  Top some vertical stacks, use heavier objects as bookends, layer smaller items in front of the books.

Don’t worry about making it magazine perfect, make it livable.  First and foremost you want to be able to find your books.  The secondary purpose (for the book whore anyway) is displaying your collectibles.

These shelves still have a ways to go–I want to redo the back and make them built-ins  with more substance–but it’s a solid start at least.

Weekend Report

We skipped town this weekend to go to the wedding of one of my college friends.  We drove south along the Mississippi and got to take in some lovely fall color. Matt also discovered that he had met the sister of the bride before since one of his college friends married her sister in law.  Life is weird.

  • Weddings attended: 1
  • Overindulgence: Lots*
  • Sore feet: 2*
  • Miles driven: 297
  • Borders crossed: 4***
  • Pockets of road construction: 3
  • Dead mums: 1
  • Angry cats pretending to be starving: 2
  • Concerts attended: 1
  • Things accomplished on the house: 0

fallColor

*Open bar, cake, archaeology-themed candy bar, giant pile of oreos arranged into another tiered cake… it’s a miracle I didn’t explode.

**Both mine. I have some phenomenally cute T-strap vintagey shoes, but they’re not good shoes for standing/walking/dancing in.

***If you head south along the Mississippi you cross into WI, then back into MN, then back into WI again.

Slice of Life: Astronomy Division

So tonight there’s supposed to be a Harvest Moon/Super Moon/Lunar Eclipse, but I apparently fail at life and Matt called me on the way home from his board meeting to remind me.

Matt: So the eclipse is just starting

Me: I can’t see the moon!

Matt: Well of course you can’t, it’s being eclipsed*

Me: I even looked up what direction the moon should be in and can’t see anything! I’m so bad at astronomy that I can’t even find the moon!**

Matt: Um, ok then.  I’ll just head home then.

Once he did get home he dragged me across the street to where you could actually see the moon and, despite the light pollution of living in St Paul (and it being a lot smaller than I expected for a Super Moon), it was pretty cool. And it really did turn reddish near the end… and that’s when we went inside because we’re totally not astronomers.  Obviously.

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*He thinks he’s funny, and sometimes he is…this was not one of those times

**This is pretty true. Don’t even try to point out constellations to me.  I’ve spent several summer evenings sitting in a hot tub with friends and making up my own dam constellations like Jump Roping Kangaroo and Two Headed Sloth.  This is was in high school so there wasn’t even any alcohol involved, although we did skip Senior Ball in favor of the hot tub, a tea party, and a Monty Python Flying Circus marathon so it’s entirely possible our families and fellow students thought we were doing drugs.

Slice of Life: Friction (or lack thereof) Division

Me: I HATE OUR STAIRS!

Matt: You love our stairs.

Me: I hate our stairs; they tried to kill me this morning!  And that goofy mini landing that I said I was indifferent to last night? I changed my mind.  I like it, it tried to save me.  Also, I hate being thirty.

Lesson learned for the day: socks and wood treads do not mix.  Especially first thing in the morning.  Thankfully (?) I was slightly twisted as I went flying (falling with style?) so I didn’t bounce down on my tailbone, but rather my left butt cheek.  I’m now sitting on an ice pack and Matt just pointed out we have a 3 hour car ride ahead of us this afternoon.  Joy…

We also currently have a plumber in our basement replacing our main water shutoff so hopefully we can finally get our tub faucet replaced since it’s leaky as all hell.  We got it into our heads to try and do it the night before we left for Europe (are we brilliant or what?) but didn’t get anywhere since there’s not a shutoff right at the tub and we couldn’t get the basement one to budge (and were concerned about breaking it since it was pretty old). Fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong since this week has been pretty beastly already.

 

Update: I was all disappointed because before we left I check myself out in the mirror and nothing!  Not even the vaguest hint of a bruise.  Sooo disappointed!  If I was going to be in this much pain I wanted something to show for it!  Then we went to Wausau, we weddinged it up with my family (there is now, unfortunately, photo and perhaps also video evidence of me doing the Macarena.  Beware the open bar….).  I couldn’t sit comfortably all night.  Then we got back to our hotel room and I discovered I now had a giant-ass bruise.  A giant-ass ass bruise if you will. It’s like the size of my hand and almost entirely dark purple.  It’s the most impressive and horrible looking bruise I have ever gotten and I can’t even show it to anyone without being indecent! I just dissolved into giggles at this point.  My sister and brother-in-law were in the hallway at this point because they had managed to lock their 2 year old in their room* and were probably wondering what in god’s name we were up to.

 

*Believe it not this is becoming a trend at weddings we attend.  You have adjoining rooms and some well meaning parent bars the main door so the child can’t wander out when they can’t see.  Child then closes the adjoining door (or babysitting grandparents go to sleep) and you can no longer get in through the main room door since the extra latch is in place.  Good times.