Monday, February 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

It's the last day of February!  Everyone stand up, do a little dance and celebrate.  I'm so glad it's not a leap year, this has been a long February, with far too much cold, snow and ice.  Now, don't worry, I'm a smart person.  I have no delusions that winter is suddenly at an end, with no more snow in sight.  But March is one month closer to warmer weather, and I really can do some indoor gardening.

I spent most of the weekend traveling.  We left Liam with his grandpa, and took Lilia to Buffalo for a hockey game.  It was a good time, despite having a some really stupid fans of the opposing team behind us.  I survived getting kicked in the back, and had beer spilled on my hair.  It also soaked my purse and winter hat.  I wasn't too happy about that, but luckily my purse has a waterproof layer.

Being back in Buffalo was great.  We didn't have time to do a lot of things, but we managed to stop and eat at Tim Hortons, and then do a bit of shopping.  Not that we went to anyplace I couldn't go around here, but you was just nicer.  The cashier's were talkative, the coffee better, the beer guy at the arena just felt like home.  About the only negative thing I can recall thinking was Herkimer does better snow removal than Buffalo.

I frown at myself a little, as I realize how much I took Buffalo for granted when I lived there.  There is a ton of Asian markets that I didn't frequent enough.  Now I look for items here and am like "What do you mean, daikon and quail eggs aren't carried here?"  If I want to eat out, my choice is fast food, Italian, Chinese or drive 45 minutes for sushi.  Buffalo has such a variety, but it wasn't something I ever really realized until I left.  It's sort of crazy, you know?

I don't know if we'll ever make it back to Buffalo to live.  I'm thankful we live close enough to visit, but I do miss it.  I love my home here, but I think I would gladly sell it to move back (as long as I could buy another house in Buffalo!  Just say no to crazy landlords.)

I wonder if I'll ever stop missing Buffalo?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday's Confession (a little late, I know...)

Ok, I've already admitted my bad housekeeping skills.  Have I ever told you how lazy I am?

Lately, I don't wear anything but pajama pants around the house.  Now, you might say "Hey, I do that too!" but the real question is "How often are you home?".  I'm home almost 24/7.  So it seems like a bad thing.  Right now?  Totally into my Joe Boxer hot pink penguin, sized one size too big pants.  Oh yeah, so comfortable.
Our Buffalo chute looked like this!!

One of the things I miss about our apartment in Buffalo is the laundry chute.  Let me tell you how awesome a laundry chute is.  Dirty laundry.  Insert into chute.  No dirty laundry on your floor.  No hamper to carry down into the basement.  It's all there waiting for you.  It's so convenient!  Perfect for me, the sloth.

I also have this mental image of me carrying down laundry, tripping and breaking something...usually my neck.  Not a happy image!  When we first moved into the house and stripped the wall paper from the bedroom, there was a square of plaster randomly in a wall.  I became convinced it was a chute once, and there is actually a board on the ceiling of the basement above that spot.  It took a lot of willpower to not start breaking down that plaster.  Maybe I can add it to the list of renovations...until then, I can only dream about that little bit of lazy luxury we had in that apartment in Buffalo.  And continue to carry my laundry incredibly carefully down the basement steps, praying each time that I don't fall and kill myself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lemon cakes...they make life magical!

I am re-reading George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones (for the 7th? time...something like that).  I started 60 days prior to the premier of the HBO series, which I am very excited about.  I haven't been this excited for a TV show in a long time.  If you've never read the series, I urge you to give it a try, even if you don't care for the Fantasy genre.  It's good.  Really good.  It's a character rich, character driven store, with only hints of the fantasy flavor.  I'd describe it more a book of political intrigue and power struggle, set in a world with a little magic and mythical yore. I almost want to describe it as the most "human" fiction book I know of- no character is safe, and just because you are the "good guy", you aren't invincible.  (On the same note, I would say almost none of the "bad guys" are bad without cause, or truly evil.)

As part of my celebration and excitement, I made Lemon Cakes yesterday.  Lemon cakes being one of the favorite foods of one of my favorite characters, Sansa Stark.  Lemon cake seems to be the dessert choice of highborn Ladies, served with tea and at tourney feast alike, and I just had an immense need to make and consume one.

The recipe was easy:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated, plus juice, plus 2 tablespoons more lemon juice for the glaze
1 cup granulated sugar  (I actually used 1/2 cup of Splenda baking)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

The recipe was originally intended for muffins, but I broke out the bundt cake pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture.

Pour into pan, spreading evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in tin, then cool completely on a rack.

Set rack over wax or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir confectioners’ sugar with remaining lemon juice until smooth. Pour over cake, spreading to edges with a small knife. Let set 30 minutes.

The Septa just shook her head in disapproval.
I cooked mine for 20, and it was done.  I let it cool a few minutes, and then flipped it on a piece of parchment paper.  This was actually a disaster.  Most times, my cakes always stick to the pan.  Instead of sticking, however, it literally flew out of the pan, the parchment sliding, and some of my poor lemon cake ended up on the floor.  It was so tragic.  Lemon cake should be pretty, just as life should be magical and filled with songs.

I brushed myself off, literally as I was hit with some of the cake.  And then salvaged what didn't hit the ground.  After a bit, I poured on the lemon glaze, and voila...ugly Lemon cake.  Not something to win a handsome knight with, but delicious nonetheless.  The cake was just hinted with just enough lemon.  The glaze was very lemon-y, and despite it's disfigurement, the cake was consumed in one day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No picky eaters, please!

I feel like February is for planning.  What else is there to do in February, at least here in the NorthEast.  It's still too early to start seeds indoors, not exactly a prime time to do renovations, inside or out...walks and outdoor activities are still for the brave.  (I am so not brave.)  I'm even hesitant to paint, because opening the windows would chill us.  So I sit and I plan.  It makes me feel like a dreamer type, always talking about my plans, and never getting to them. So as you can imagine, I'm getting so fidgety!

I have a hard time dealing with picky eaters.  John isn't too picky, at least not anymore.  Lilia is only somewhat picky- I can usually get her to try new foods.  Liam is very picky- he will not touch a vegetable.  He literally picks it up like it is diseased, and throws it on the floor.  He's been like that since we introduced solids.  It can be very frustrating, particularly since I grew up in a household that basically forbade being a picky eater.  However, the whole "clean your plate or else" rule seems very unhealthy to me, and I am one to pick and choose my battles with my kids.  He's only 2, and it doesn't seem like a battle I want to fight right now.  Give it a few years, and I'll feel comfortable with "eat x bites" and then you can be done.  That works pretty well with Lilia, since like most 4 year olds, she likes to just nibble the foods she doesn't want, and devour the foods she loves.

Which is why I feel it important to keep presenting a variety of vegetables and new foods.  I can't use the way I grew up to force my kids to eat, but I think presenting a variety helps to keep their minds open as they grow.  My hope and desire is that as they grow, they'll remain open, and even at some point start to enjoy a healthy variety of food while having a healthy view of food.

I bought a bento book from Amazon.  I've always been interested in bento, and have a good supply of boxes and accessories, but few recipes, or reason to make it.  I thought we'd be making lunch this year for Lilia, then her school decided that they needed to provide lunch and restrict the ability of parents to send in lunch.  It's actually quite annoying since Lilia doesn't eat lunch there, but sending her in with a small snack would be nice.  And John is able to come home for lunch.

So my bento making hit a roadblock.  But I've been thinking about how I would like to try some new foods, particularly various vegetables.  We tend to stick with the basics- potatoes, corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts.  I figured bento is a good way to try various recipes featuring new vegetables.  Of course, if I can even find them here...I can imagine that my monthly trip to Wegmans in Syracuse price tag just increased a little.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indoor garden

It was so nice yesterday, and while I knew it was going to get cold again, waking to a blowing blizzard put me in a bad mood this morning.  I think my exact first thought was "Ah hell, more snow."  Not enough had melted in the first place, and more was just a slap in the face.
Perfect for my mantle!

I've been spending days and weeks dreaming of my vegetable garden.  I'm getting antsy...wondering if I should start some cabbage indoors yet, or wait another month or two.  Since I'm also slowly working on my living room, I've been thinking about indoor plants.  I lack any, mainly because of lack of space.  It's hard to put plants in obvious places, like a table or end table, or even a big planter on the ground.  It seems like a recipe for disaster with my kids, or my cat.

Very unique, but I think my cat
might think it's a water bowl...
Once we have added some shelves, my place is great for indoor plants (and probably in need...).  Both my kitchen and bathroom are very bright, as is my bedroom.  My living room is not as bright, but does have a good sized window that gives some bright light during the afternoon.  It's probably brighter in the summer. Plus there's our huge front porch, though that's only really good in the summer.

This one is too cute.
So I'm on the lookout for some cheap planters, or even ones I can make myself.  I found some pretty cool soda pop ones, and even ones that used old books, which was is pretty cool.  Some hanging plants will be nice as well.  There are a ton of cute things out there, though it seems many of the ones I like you can't find for sale.  That's probably a good thing.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's Confession

I'm a stay at home mom and wife.  And yet...I am a terrible housekeeper.  Alright, that's not true exactly.  I can keep my house sort of clean.  Laundry, Vacuuming, know...the basics.  However, I have a terrible time with organization, keeping toys off my floor, beds made, counters uncluttered...

I grew up in a messy household.  Very messy, and I really won't go into details, but let me assure you, it was bad.  If CPS ever saw it, I probably would've grown up in a foster home (actually, CPS WAS called once, and they gave my mom a chance to "clean" up.  She did, and they left it at that.  Good thing they never returned though.)  So I never had a real good role model.

Once on my own, I think I did a pretty good job.  Sure, I got lazy at times, and let's not talk about paper clutter and book clutter.  But my place was always neat.  Now with the kids, I feel like pulling out my hair, and just throwing away everything I own, just to keep it clean.  Now to be fair, right now I still have no place to put things, and Liam is still in this "let's dump all the toys I find on the floor, rip up papers and books, and remove our clothes, piece by piece and leave it in the middle of the floor of each room."  I really do need my shelves up in my living room.  And to make remodel my kitchen.  And organize my bedroom.  I really do need a filing cabinet...

I just seem to lack this ability to understand how people have kids and keep their houses spotless, or even just clean and uncluttered.  I feel like I never have time to clean, and I'm home 24/7.  For awhile, I was in the swing of things, having my own little routine that started with making beds, and ended at the end of the night with a quick pick up of toys, clothes and anything left on the floor.  I haven't gotten back into that routine, and now with both kids rooms being disaster areas...I'll just shake my head.

So there you have it.  I could win the award for worst housewife in the Central NY area.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zinc, Ginger and Garlic

Whenever I start thinking I'm coming down with a cold, I try to fight back as soon as possible, usually with fluids, zinc (hello Zicam!) and fresh Ginger tea.

I love this tea pot.
I start with some freshly grated ginger, usually about a 1 inch piece.  Sprinkle on some paprika, or in my case today, some Cayenne Pepper, a little bit of honey (I used brown sugar today, as I lacked honey)  and some lemon juice.  I use my IngenuiTea tea pot, but you can easily use a tea ball, or even a mesh herb bag.  Pour some boiling water and let steep.  I usually aim for 10 minutes, though the longer it steeps, the stronger it gets.  Be warned, it has kick.  I made mine extra strong today, and it burned like hell going down.  But for the next four hours, I felt decent again.  My throat wasn't sore, my head wasn't stuffy, and my sinuses didn't feel like they were being pounded on by a microscopic sledgehammer.  So even if it doesn't help me fight this cold off, at least it made me feel wonderful.

Of course, I feel extra desperate to avoid coming down with a cold, so I took the extra step of eating a clove of raw garlic.  Can I be honest here?  That was nasty.  Very.  Very.  Nasty.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weather Hate

The thermometer in my house
Today, it rained.  And I found myself welcoming the change, while chanting to myself "Melt Snow Melt". Of course, it couldn't all melt in one day.  But this is why I hate winter.

It was 45 today.

It is now, less than 5 hours later, 27, with an expected low of 5 degrees.  WTF.  I hate, more than any other aspect of winter, temperature differences of 40 degrees.  Blah!

We're also in store of some major winds.  Hopefully it won't keep my up too late.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pasta Night!

They say when you're a mom, you don't get sick days.  Well, luckily today was Sunday and for the most part, I did get a sick day.  I'm pretty blessed to have an awesome husband who took care of the kids for most of the day.  And like I said, pretty lucky that it was Sunday.  (Please be better by tomorrow.)

Growing up, I never had any sort of ritual meal deal, which seems the opposite of John.  His family had pizza night, take out night, and spaghetti on Sunday, which as far as I understand, consisted of his mom making a fresh batch of sauce each week.  Now we have pizza night each week with John's dad, which I think the kids enjoy, mostly because they love their Grandpa, and they love Pizza., I could do without the same pizza week after week after week, but I admit to enjoying watching the kids play with their Grandpa.

I made Spaghetti sauce today, for the first time in a long time.  I had gotten good about making sauce and keeping it stocked in the freezer.  When we moved, I got lazy, and started buying the jarred stuff again.  While I'm not a "omg the jar stuff is so bad tasting" type of person (personally, I love Classico), I'll do admit to home made being superior.  I actually had a moment of "oh wow, I forgot how good my sauce is" moment.  I also had a "hmm, I need some home made pasta" moment, but that's a whole other post.

I think I'm going to try from now on to keep making my own sauce, and maybe even making Sundays our "pasta night."  Now if I could also start making a "sushi night", "chocolate cake night" and "surf and turf night".

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday's Confession

I am not one of those people that can keep their furniture in one spot year after year.  I don't know what it is, but I find it dull and mundane, and I just can't do it.  I've gotten better...sort of.  Instead of moving my furniture around 3-4 times a year like I used to, I only move it once, maybe twice a year.

I'm actually sitting here, right now, in a misplaced chaise lounger.  I moved all my furniture so I could strip wall paper, and scrub the walls.  Worked out well- 90% of the walls on one side of the room are done.  The only part not done are the tops that I can't reach and totally lazed out about.  I'll save them for another day.

So the furniture is all moved and it starts.  That twitch...that...random thought...what would the TV look like over there.  So it begins.  I start moving stuff around.  Usually not even know if it will fit, look good or work.  Like today.  See...our place is so much smaller than the last place we had.  The place we bought quite large furniture for.  Fixtures in the house are place in odd random places.  A heat vent in a corner that would be PERFECT for the chaise lounger.  A protruding wall where the linen closet is on the other side of the wall.  The bottom step of the stairs is larger than the rest of the steps, to give it that open grandiose look...but prevents anything too big from being against that wall.

John finds it funny when I do stuff like this, or so he tells me (I always do it when he's at work, always thinking "Just wait until you get home, buddy!!").  Moving furniture = moving EVERYTHING.  My TV stand is completely empty, the TV, the stereo, the consoles, the cable box...all unplugged, no wires attached, no speakers attached...all sitting in a pile on my sofa awaiting a wipe down and to be organized and put back together (which I usually can't do myself, unsure of what settings and arrangement he likes...)  It gives him a job to do when he gets home, which I guess is sort of mean of me.

So here I am...trying to piece together my living room again, just trying to find that perfect look.  I guess in my head, I hope to find that one look that I could live with for a longer period of time.  A part of me always feels silly for this little impulse thing I do.  A part of me adores it though, welcoming the change. If I get it right, of course.

Have I mentioned that my walls look fantastic by the way?  Despite not being painted, just being some strange beige-pink color, uneven and's so much better than that wall paper.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crunchy Granola...why do I feel like I just stereotyped myself?

Ok, let's avoid the jokes here, we all know I'm a bit crunchy granola.  I've been cooking a ton the last few days.  I think it's the winter weather, and a desire to stay active, while seeking out warm, delicious comfort foods.  But there was also my plan to make stuff that we normally buy, based on this post.  I sort of cheated, in that I don't actually buy granola bars that often.  But I was looking into snacks to make the kids, and replace some of the stuff I buy them.

So far I've tried two different recipes.  The first one I did, from sparkpeople, wasn't a complete success.  I switched up the honey to Agave nectar, since I'm was trying to lower the glycemic index a little, but in the end, the granola was far too sweet, sticky, and fell apart really easily.  More like Granola, no bar.  It wasn't bad, in fact, Lilia really liked it, declaring it "The best cookie ever!"

The second one was the allrecipes playground Granola bars recipe.  I have to say, this one was a bit tastier.  Again, I switched up honey for Agave.  I reduced the flour, and added flaxseed meal, and added dried fruit instead of just raisins.  It wasn't too sweet, it was perfect.  When I make them again, I think I will reduce the cooking time though- they are just a tad hard around the edges, with a slight burnt taste.  But they are very chewy, which I like. The only complaint I have is that it's more a cookie consistency than a granola bar.  Ah well, who doesn't like cookies, right?  Both kids seem to like them, as do John and I.  In fact, I think we like them a little too much, as I have to fight the urge to constantly eat them.

I think next month I will do graham crackers.   And I have to say, it's hard to limit myself to one thing each month.  I was ready to jump in and make a million different things!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dear Spring...get here soon.

Still dealing with a dying computer, but now most of my important data is backed up, so I can use my mac without fear.   But if I disappear for a little while, you know why.

I'm reading some books at the moment, in preparation for Spring and Gardening.  I actually picked the first one up in the Fall.  The Vegetable Gardener's Bible is pretty decent.  It covers a bunch of gardening basics, using the "W-O-R-D" system- Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds, Deep soil.  It also has a pretty wide reference section for plants, which is what I've been primarily looking at.  It's all pretty simple, aimed at the Beginner Gardener.  I don't have any qualms about the book, although it's not like I'm doing a ton of gardening at the moment.  A foot or so of snow and frozen earth sort of prevent me from getting to that point.  Hurry and get here Spring! I do think that I probably will not be using the "W-O-R-D" system, at least not yet.  Instead, I found another method I'm much more interested in.

Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens is really nice.  I immediately took to the book, for many reasons.  One of my big worries for this Spring is that I didn't prepare my Garden beds in advance.  The other was the fact that at this point in time, I can't afford a tiller, and while I know I can borrow one from a friend, it's not something I want to do.  The techniques in this book helped eliminate that need, at least for now.  The author, Barbara Pleasant, uses bags of soil, IN the bags, to help establish garden beds.  I love it!  Just put down the bags of soil, cut them open, create drainage holes and watch your garden grow.  By the following year, you've got an established bed, ready for more use.

The book is really simple too- with step by step instructions that make it really hard to go wrong.  There is enough variety in plans, from Beginner to Advance to make it interesting, yet all the plans seem sensible and flexible enough for personal variety.  And all of the plans have a 3 year expansion plan, which I love.  Starting off (somewhat) small, and seeing what I find to be manageable is such a brilliant idea.  I'm usually pretty impulsive on these things, so having a set basic plan, with room for some ambition (and maybe some over-zealousness...) is a good thing.

The final book I got was Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More.  I've only paged a bit through it, but it looks pretty good- it lists shade preference, soil preference, cultivating tips and even basic uses.  I'm totally dumb when it comes to Herbs, so this will hopefully help me not kill them when I use them.  Which I have a bad habit of doing.  You know you can only use parsley once, and it never grows back?  That's my assumption based on experience.  It could be I just don't know how to cut it right.  That's actually probably the case...

So, until Spring gets here, I get to read and plan.  I'm looking into some indoor greenhouse options so I can start some seedlings soon.  It seems like such a long time before I can get started because the frost date here is so late. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The attempt to salvage a lousy day.

We drove to Syracuse today so to get this fixed.  It's not fixed, nor will it be until we can back up my pictures, documents and music.

Before we left Syracuse, we stopped at Tim Hortons.  But these were horrible tasting and it was so disappointing.

We had to drive home in this...only worse...think huge flakes.

This evening has been accompanied by these two things.

So in an attempt to salvage the night, I'm making this.

And we shall enjoy a few of these.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I think I'm going to start making Friday's my confession day, like the good Catholic girl I am.  (Please refrain from snickering.)

Today was the first day since we moved in that I thought to myself "WTF were you thinking, buying such a small house and something that needs so much work".  Yesterday I removed two panels of wall paper from the living room, and let's just say, underneath was BAD.  Worse than the bedroom, the entire wall is pasted with dried wall paper glue, and spackle.  Today, I tried scrubbing said areas, and it was just awful.  The glue needed several hard scrubs to remove, and of course, some of the spackle came off, making an even bigger mess.  Maybe the winter has made me even lazier than I normally am, but I wanted to sledgehammer the entire wall.  Luckily I didn't, and the little section I DID do, felt smooth and ready for some primer, but man...maybe it was the mood, but I hated the house, just for a few moments.

In all honesty, I do love my house, and I do love making it my home.  I went into it, knowing it needed a lot of work.  It is doing what I hoped- forcing me to rethink my organization and way of living.  Getting rid of stuff I don't need, stopping me from buying silly things like knick knacks and collectibles I don't need.  I did delude myself a little, thinking we could get a good chunk of it done right away.  I just have to keep doing what I'm doing.  Being patient, doing it a little at a time, and always always remember...a sledgehammer is going to make more work for myself.

Unless I hire someone...Just kidding, of course.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Xin Nian Kuai Le!  Happy Chinese New Year.  It's the year of the Rabbit.

Every year, I think Chinese New Year comes up on me far faster than I anticipate.  I know because sometime early January I tell myself that I'll do something with the kids, like make a big Chinese dinner, or even had a small party!  And then about a day or two before the actual date, I'll realize that it's Chinese New Year and I'll have no time to plan.

This year was no different.  I didn't dress the kids in traditional Chinese clothes.  In fact, I think Lilia out grew hers, and we need a new one.  Liam might fit his...somehow I doubt it.  I didn't make a big Chinese dinner, or throw a party.  What I did do was put on the Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-Lan episode of Ni Hao Kai-Lan, and make coconut cream buns.  And since I had more dough, I also made hot dog buns, which may sound silly, but we used to eat them at Bao in Buffalo.  I miss that place, I was so sad when they shut down.

Not a bad way to celebrate.  I mean, we're not Chinese, but it's something fun to do with kids.  Maybe next year I'll remember.  Someone remind me, Okay?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Somethings are just too pho-king good...

Today, I made Pho.  (pronounced Fuh.)  We used to eat Pho a lot in Buffalo, at 99 Fast Food mostly.  Not a great part of town, but the Pho there...Delicious stuff.  There's a little place in Utica we found, though we've only been there once, and another, called PhoShizzle, opened, then closed rather quickly.  I've been wanting some.  Badly.  Enough to make me find that link I booked marked so long ago, and read through it several times, and even enough to go to the store and find all the ingredients, including bones.

I'm an American girl, I admit it.  Buying bones made me a little weirded out.  Not that I could tell you why- maybe because they were, you know...bones, and not meat.  Of course, when I went shopping for them, I couldn't find them, and in the end, John found them and bought them.  But the point is...buying bones is just not something I ever did before, and it was just really odd.  For like 5 minutes.  And then I made Pho and I will be buying bones again.  And trust me, it was not as bad as having to cut the feet off my own semi frozen fresh turkey, complete with more than a handful of feathers and gizzards still intact. That's a story for another day I suppose.

Cooking all day baby
It was a sort of nice way to combat the cold and snow that hit today.  our area was hardly hit at all, thankfully, but it was cold!  I figured today of all days would be a good day to make something so warm and delicious.

The recipe was easy.  I followed it pretty precisely, only lacking a cardamon pod.  I parboiled the bones, and charred the ginger and onions, and a bag of spices (which I really liked using.)  Within minutes of the bones, meat, and spices boiling, my entire house smelled like a Pho restaurant.  It goes without saying that I was very excited, and very hungry all day.

In the end, the Pho broth was REALY good.  A little greasy, but according to that blog, I can reduce the amount of marrow I use, and it won't be as greasy.  My mistake was grabbing the wrong type of noodle, and canned bean sprouts.  Before you ask "What??!!", let me tell you...I couldn't find fresh bean sprouts, and forgot how soggy the canned ones were. And sadly, the only rice noodle product at the store was the uber thin "rice stick" (mifun) style and I really needed the thicker style. 
My bowl of pho!

However, in the end, it was really good.  Pho-king good.  And I still have a ton of broth left, happily sitting in my freezer, for another cold day to be combated with a bowl of steaming hot Pho.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who needs HGTv? (Me!)

Updating the house is a slow process, with two kids under 5, a working husband and winter.  Particularly, it's hard to do the living room, since that's the main area we all hang out in.  However, that's going to change, mainly because it's starting to all get under my skin.  Usually I just do something than show, but I figured...hey it's kind of fun to share my planning process.

Needs: New door, No wall paper.
 You can see the first changes needed here.  It's a small living room, with only two windows.  It's not very bright at all.  I'd like to add a new door, with a bigger glass section, one that allows more light into the room.  The wall between the window and door needs some sort of art work.  Our giant framed map of Middle Earth is still in need of a home on our walls.

Of course, you can also see the biggest change to make is getting rid of that wall paper, and painting the room.  Since our sofa is a dark chocolate brown, I'm going to go with a very light brown, maybe a nutmeg, with a darker trim.  Probably not very original, but most definitely very me, and nice.

Maybe some lighting, and definitely some new curtains.
This isn't the best picture, but you would just see more of that ugly wall paper, and some very old curtains and drapes.  New ones will be put in, along with some Roman shades.  To make more room, we plan on getting rid of that particular TV stand, which is old and broken, and getting something smaller, and maybe taller

I can't wait to do everything, and have this be my before picture.
You can see the ugly paneling wall in the next picture.  I don't know why I hate it so much, but I do.  It's got to go.  I'm afraid that it's going to be brick behind it though, so my plan is to spackle the ridges, and paint over paneling.  It's going to be a dark brown, because instead of keep those walls bare, we're going to add shelves, most likely in a contrasting color, for books, DVD's and games..

I'm also going to paint the fireplace, (Twilight Taupe) and add a lovely hearth rug for in front of the fireplace.  The DVD rack thing will be moved, as well as the light.  I think above the mantle also needs some art work, as well as some plants on the mantle, and by the fireplace.  Small orange trees, anyone?
Do your eyes burn looking at that wall paper?

It's hard to see in the next picture, but the very corner of the room, where the couch is against the wall, sticks out immensely.  It's actually a linen closet on the other side of the house.  I'm so tempted to knock that down...  More of the same plan here.  Remove wall paper, paint, add some wall art.  I'd also like to add some wall sconces.

Because I live here, and it makes my eyes burn.
A part of me wouldn't mind taking out the wall near the stairs, on both sides, opening the room to the Dining room.  I love our banister, but it's only on one side.  I've have to find a matching one, though I'm sure it's not too hard.  If not, some smaller corner shelves would be really nice, along with some wall vases.

So I guess in the end, the one thing that doesn't need changing is the carpet.  it has nice carpet, although it's hard to tell at times, as my living room is usually covered in kids toys...

I think the first step is going to be to slowly remove all the wall paper, scrubbing section by section until it's read for the first coat of paint.  Then we'll paint, add the bookshelves, and change the curtains.  After that, it'll be a "one piece at a time" change, maybe starting with the TV stand, and ending with the door.

Talking about this has made me totally psyched, and I'm so tempted to just tear off one panel of wall paper, just because it would feel so good.