Sunday, January 27, 2013

The 20 Day Cure [UPDATED x 3]

Apartment Therapy, one of my favorite blogs, does this thing called the January Cure, where willing participants tackle their homes all January long to make them more productive, stylish, clean, and cozy. Each day they are given a different task, the idea being that by February 1st, their homes are more functional and they will have beaten a bit of the winter blues in the process.

My January was whirlwind. Any time not spent working was spent entertaining, doing things I convinced myself were fun, but that were really work, or trying to stay warm in freezing weather. I blogged rarely, cooked rarely, but spent a lot of time snuggling with Winston. And working, did I mention working?

I'd like to do something in the spirit of the January cure, but it's now January 27th. I'd call it the February Cure, but I know myself, and if I don't start today, I won't do it.

For Apartment Therapy's January cure, each day had an assigned task. Again, I know myself, and there are days when cleaning the kitchen sounds awesome (usually when I have work deadlines I should be attending to), and other days when I'd rather eat dirt.  Here is the plan of action. I need to tackle all of them, but not in any real order.

1: Compile a list of all the home projects (small projects, less than a day's work) you'd like to tackle over the next 20 days.
2: Tidy the insides of cabinets, closets and drawers.
3: Tackle papers/filing. (I should have done this before my sister moved in. Now it's nearly impossible.)
4: Spray Paint cabinet knobs red for kitchen. [Explanation: the knobs I want will cost more than 150$, which feels a little extravagant presently. If I can reuse what I have, it'll be better than spending 30$ on cheap plastic versions.]
5: Inventory freezer - come up with list of meals I can easily make and a shopping list for all the stores I visit reguarly.
6: Care for houseplants. Give them a bench, clip dead stuff, discard those that aren't salvageable, and get them out of the way so Winston isn't poisoned.
7: Figure out socks - do all laundry during one day, and discard socks that don't have mates. Or use them as rags. Just get them out of the rotation.
8: Deal with trunk in attic - what is in there? Do we need it? Where should be store it? Once the trunk is empty, put it in Winston's room to be filled w bunny supplies.
9: For the love of all that is holy, finish the trim so you can finally say you're done with the living and dining rooms. (cut and stained. doing polyurethane tomorrow and then nailing monday)
10: Fill the moulding gaps with wood filler.
11: Vacuum and dust attic. Do something about the million electronic cords. (waited too long on this, and Winston escaped to the upstairs and chewed through most of them.) Add proper lighting.
12: Attend to the lighting in the living room. All we have is overhead and it's horrifying. And energy inefficient. And horrifying.
13: Set up a bedside table scenario in our room, including a lamp.
14: Give the stove and oven a good scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar.
15: Bake really lovely whole wheat bread.
16: Make a hard cheese (ideally three - two kinds of cheddar and a parmesan) that need to be aged in cold weather. If not now, when?
17: Have Alex make one kind of cold weather beer.
18: Touch up living room. This means finally scrape the paint the previous owners got on the moulding, scrape the paint I got on the window glass, dust hell wall so it looks less hellish, put foam on the bottom of the couch, which is DESTROYING my floor every time someone plops down in it.
19: Tidy the yard. We still have hornet spray sitting in our window sill. The madness must end.
20: Cook a new meal. Pair it with new wine. Enjoy. (of course I did the fun one first)
21: Make mantle
22: Stain mantle
23: Hang mantle
24: Reorganize plants in dining room
25: Plan 2013-2014 garden
26: Start cold weather seeds (broccoli, kale, cabbage)
27: Create a better grow light scenario
28: Deep clean vacuum
29: Clean sink drains

I will mark through them as I go.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Katie's Kitchen Nightmare (ok. not really.)

No, we haven't finished the trim for the dinning room yet. It's 10 freaking degrees outside. It's 50 degrees inside because our December heating bill was quite a shock. (We had lots of guests and kept the heat above 60 degrees more than usual.)

It's hard to remember what life was like 2 short weekends ago, before the permanent icicles took up residence in the rose bushes, but we actually had a bit of a heat wave. It was 60 degrees. Alex and I ate lunch out on the patio at a new restaurant. And, for the first time in a while, I made some house progress. I knew it'd be warm enough to leave windows open, so I started in on the kitchen project.

Yes, it's breaking my rule about finishing one room before starting another, but my desperation was reaching critical levels. I needed to see dramatic action. And I did!

First step was to clear off everything from the kitchen counters. That's a bigger job than it sounds like, since I don't have enough cabinet room to store dry goods, so they are all out in jars on the counter. At first, the pile of stuff in the dining room looked nice and home-y, like I cook a lot more than I actually do.

But once the appliances entered the picture, things got cluttered and ugly. I have to keep all appliances out on the counter too, since every single shelf in my cabinets is the same height, and there is less than 9 inches between shelves. It's madness. Sheer madness, I tell you!

So then it was down to business. I couldn't be bothered to remove the doors, since it seemed like a lot of work and I wanted the hinges to be white anyway. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The thick, glossy kitchen paint shows every brush stroke, so you have to get every line perfectly straight. On the side with the hinges, that becomes virtually impossible. Furthermore, paint just peels off hinges anyway, so a few weeks later, they are looking quite mangy. I'll have to strip the hardware later or, the more likely option, get over it.

I didn't get to all the cabinets, but I did sand and paint three coats on all the top cabinets, which are the most work anyway. No knobs yet, but I'm going for red.

The room already seems brighter and happier.

I also took the door off the dish cabinet so guests know where to get everything. Serve yourself, that's what I say. 

Next warm day I hope to do a bit more, but frankly, this semester is bananas at work. It took me two good weeks AFTER I took these pictures to post them. Drips still aren't scraped off the range. I'm a mess. 

Winston Cruger-Wilson, Esquire

Our bunny is doing quite well, which is a relief. The week after we got him, he had to be sent to the bunny emergency room and pumped full of expensive bunny meds. Turns out, rabbits are fragile, and when they move around, a shift in their routine results in emotional and gastro-intestinal distress, which can be fatal.

But now Winston's feeling right at home. He's eating all the exciting bunny foods he was rejecting, like Timothy Hay and fruit tree twigs (yummm..?..) and fiberous okra pods. He has free range on the second floor of the house, and comes into bed to snuggle and give kisses.

We still don't have a clicker, so he hasn't learned any tricks. He does do a cool celebration dance when he's about to get pellets, his favorite food.

 His best trick is probably refusing to stand still so I can take a good shot with my camera.

That, and stepping on the laptop and pausing whatever show I'm watching when he feels he isn't being given enough snuggles.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A very productive day

Tomorrow I head back to work for the start of the semester (not that work wasn't being done, but it certainly hasn't been done on campus for a while.) I have a lot of prep work still to do before classes begin on tuesday, so naturally today was the day I chose to do a bunch of chores I'd been putting off all break.

We FINALLY cleaned the chicken coop. It wasn't a particularly long time ago that we cleaned it, 2 weeks, but since it's been so cold, the girls stay in doors most of the time. Many, many poops. We gave them fresh straw, and tried to tidy the run a bit, but there is still a ton of snow and ice. We bolstered the cold frame against snow, and checked on the little seedlings inside overwintering. All looks well.

Then we tackled the basement of shame. We organized everything, swept, did laundry. It's the pride basement now. Woohoo.

I took down all the christmas ornaments. Naked Christmas trees are pretty depressing.

After cleaning the kitchen a bit, I made a lovely pot pie for dinner, and all seems right with the world. Oh, and I did finish one syllabus.

Now I'm going to relax with Winston. Maybe i'll catch up on a little trashy TV. One thing's for sure: I feel sad the break is over, but ready to work up a storm tomorrow.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Christmas Loot For the House

 I know it's a bit after Christmas, but I wanted to do a post about the thoughtful gifts friends and family had given that really add a lot to our home. These are just some of the lovely things we received that help make things cozy around here.

Alex's family gave us a gorgeous red Le Creuset (!!!) kettle. My mother gave us a beautiful glass kettle for my birthday last year, but I didn't know that you needed a special wire thing to use it on an electric stove. It exploded :-(

The new kettle's gotten a lot of use lately. For a year, we've been boiling water in a saucepan (our only one) and spilling it everywhere as we try to make tea. This is an upgrade.

 Mom gave us a wonderful vegetarian cookbook, with tons of exciting recipes you can cook with winter produce. Many of them come from Russian or Georgia, where winter happens all year round. The recipes are novel. I can't wait to try some.

I read food writing like other people read novels, so I'm already most of the way through.
My aunt sent another gorgeous cookbook, written by an exciting Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi (of the London restaurant.) I've already bookmarked tons of possibilities. Again, this book is great because it's a kind of cooking I'm unfamiliar with, so it will help change up our routine. We made the spicy pepper encrusted tofu yesterday (or close to it - I'm compulsive about NOT following recipes.) Delicious. I've felt in a food rut lately, so this is an excuse to try new things.
 Homemade presents are often my favorite. My younger sister took antique plates from my Nana's basement and created a tiered tea cake tray. How cute is it? I already used it for scones (the mix came from my mother) last weekend.

The other piece in the picture came from my Aunt. I assume it's meant to be used as a hot plate, but it's too pretty to get gunky food over! I might just display it, and hide it when the hot stuff comes out.
Last, but certainly not least, my older sister gave me some kitchen implements that were made in America! My whisk rusted a while back, and my laddle was inherited from my father's 1970s bachelor pad. After 30+ years of service, it too died earlier this year. Now I'm outfitted for all kinds of cooking. The laddle is huge, which is funny when I'm serving gravy, but great when I'm canning tomato sauce or the like.

Let's hear it for thoughtful family and friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December Update: BUNNY!!

It's been a month since I've posted, but many fun things have happened. All three hens are now laying eggs, and most days we get 3! We're making quiche, pancakes, and egg salad often. We also bartered with our neighbor - eggs for fresh herbs from their hydroponic system. Pretty excellent.

It's snowed often in the last two weeks. So much so that our backyard looks like this:

You can barely see the coop! The girls don't seem to mind the cold, but they aren't interested in searching through snow to find scratch. They're also going through A TON of food each day.

Perhaps the most exciting development is that we've added a new member to our family: Winston the Holland Lop bunny! He was hanging out at our local pet store one day when we went to pick up chicken food and we (really, I) fell in love. Apparently he's been adopted twice and then given up twice, once because a family was moving, and once because he was keeping his companion up at night (she lived in a college dorm, I think, so he was in her bedroom.)

We just picked him up today, and he seems wonderful. So gentle, interested, and mega cute. He's getting used to his new home right now, and we hope to give him full run of his "bunny room" soon, and let him wander around the house with us when we're home.

Here is the finished house with litter box, hay rack, water bottle, a few toys, and some hide-y houses. We put the tea kettle box as a step so he could make it to the second level of his condo, but he didn't have such things in his other homes and he doesn't seem to know what to do with it. We'll see if we can make it work, or if we'll need to build a ramp.

Here's a close up shot of him getting a refreshing drink of water. How cute is this guy?

It looked a little more tidy and roomie before we added all his bunny accoutrements.

Very exciting stuff!

We've done nothing on the house it what seems like forever. It's too cold to stain the last bits of trim we need to install. I wanted to paint the kitchen, but when it's 20 degrees, I don't exactly want to keep the windows open and at that temperature, the paint wouldn't dry anyway. Grrrrrr.