Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An axe to grind

Warning: Rock Band is a dangerous, dangerous game. Not just because you can get blisters from pushing those buttons for hours. And not just because you can strain your voice if you sing Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" too enthusiastically. Rock Band is most dangerous when it reminds your loved ones of how much they miss rockin' out with their buddies back in college.

Back In The Day, Tim owned a number of instruments, his favorite being the bass guitar. He was briefly kinda-sorta in a band. He only played in public once (at a PETA Greenpeace fundraiser back during his brief stint as a vegetarian treehugger). But public performance has never been a major source of joy for Tim. He just likes making music. Rock Band reminded him how much he missed that.

So Tim is now the proud owner of a new bass guitar. Ta da! Pretty, isn't she?

I don't think we can only blame Rock Band, though. Over the past few weeks we have been watching the first season of Flight of the Conchords on DVD. Pretty inspiring stuff. If listening to "Business Time" doesn't make you want to pick up a guitar, I don't know what will.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

C? Really?

As is the case with so many people, the new year has inspired me to think about changes and improvements: Things I can do to improve my environment, my relationships, and even myself. Being the person that I am, I started to do research. In my quest towards improvement, I came across the following pamphlet.

Here is The Big Question, kids: What is this pamphlet attempting to sell? Is it ...
A: A local theater company's upcoming season
B: The latest is anti-depressant medication
C: Countertops

Yes, that's right. The answer is C. Baffling, isn't it? Take another gander at that picture and tell me what about it makes you long to spend thousands of dollars renovating your kitchen. Honestly. I find myself deeply concerned about the mental state of the marketing department at DuPont, because they have got to be seriously messed up if they think this is a successful way to market their quartz countertops.

Anyway, The point is that, yup, I'm thinking about the kitchen. I have finally decided on a color scheme. I'm going for red. Red with creamy white. My inspiration - other than my pots - is a set of coasters I found at Target last week.

My other inspiration is this little piece of art from Patricia Zapatra. It's called "Hiding". I bought it for myself as a reward for all of that painting I did a couple of weeks ago. To see more work by this artist, go to her website:

Inspiration isn't everything, though. At some point you have to do something. I decided that new countertops are just a little too expensive for us right now, but there are other things I can do. I finally got sick of looking at the old navy blue, pock-marked backsplash, so I covered it in primer. It took 4 coats, but the room looks brighter already. Also, Tim and I ordered our new over-the-range microwave to replace the one that died last summer. Thanks to the advice from a timely issue of Consumer Reports, we ordered a highly-rated model by LG. Gotta love LG. They make the best stuff. Did you know that they even make quartz countertops now? It's true! And based on my research, their marketing department seems far happier than those poor souls at DuPont.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Whoa Baby!

Lately, Wednesdays have been pretty crappy for me. And Thursdays even more so. And why? Because my *&%!$#%+* cable company does not carry Bravo. Hence, I cannot watch Project Runway.

But this week I don't care. Even Time Warner Cable cannot diminish my glee. Because this week our dear Rhiannon had her baby! Little Amelia Elanor arrived Wednesday afternoon. Hooray! Another girl in the family! Many congrats to Rhiannon, Poppa Ed, & big brother Max. I can't wait to see the new addition!

Back when Rhiannon gave birth to Max, Tim and I celebrated by raising a toast - or rather, we raised slices of toast - in his honor. Unfortunately, this time we found that we had eaten all of our bread. What should we do instead, we wondered? Tim suggested that we have a real toast with alcohol and everything. But when I saw the Bailey's and butterscotch Schaaps, it struck me that Buttery Nipples were not the appropriate way to welcome a baby girl into the world. So I'm sorry, dear Amelia, but we didn't do anything special in honor of your birth ... other than send you and your family the very warmest of wishes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

No Knead Bread

Painting the living room has got me thinking creatively. Or at least it has got my fingers twitching. I find that I want to make things and change things and improve some of the basic little details in my life. So in the last week I've started on a few little projects. Today I'll talk about my latest success: homemade bread.

As much as I adore bread and baked goods, the idea of making yeast bread has always seemed too fussy to me. Actually, anything that requires me to flour a surface and [gasp] touch the dough with my bare hands just seems wrong. I don't like having sticky dough all over my hands. Nasty. So last year when all of the food & cooking blogs started talking about No Knead Bread, I thought, "Hooray! A bread for the rest of us!"

Well ... here's the thing. At one point in this recipe, you do have to dump the dough on a floured work surface. And you do have to touch it with your bare hands. But ya know what? It wasn't so bad! It was a lot neater and easier than my previous experiences with doughs that require actual kneading and rolling.

Yes, that's right. I touched that. And it wasn't messy. The key: wet hands! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This recipe really delivers. It's easy and yummy and costs oodles less than if you'd bought it at the store. The only draw-backs:
1. You need a big pot with a heavy lid
2. You need to let the dough sit for 12 to 20 hours. Yes. Really.
The good news:
1a. You spend less than 5 minutes actually fiddling with the dough, total.
1b.You don't have to do anything to the dough during that long resting period. It just sits there on your countertop.
2. Four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, water. I like it when I can easily pronounce the ingredients in my food.
3. Fresh baked bread smells fabulous.
4. It tastes lovely, too. Especially if you eat it warm with a bit of butter.

Want to make some for yourself? Here's a great step-by-step tutorial: SteamyKitchen's Tutorial. This person had her 4 year old son make the dough for her. It's honestly that simple.

Note to Le Creuset: You seriously need to made a rectangular pot with a lid so that people can make sandwich bread with this recipe. Please! I'll be your friend forever!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Painting madness: Living room and hallway

Every time I've spoken to my mom over the past week, she has asked me if I've put pictures of the new paint job on my blog yet. Well, Mom, this post is for you!

Unfortunately, I've been having some trouble posting pics. Until I get this straightened out, just click here to see the before & after shots.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New year, new happenings

Neil Gaiman wrote the following in his on-line journal:
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Lovely, yes? What a wonderful thing to hope for. And how wonderful when you see it all start to happen to you.

This young year has been extremely busy for me, which is why it's been 10 days since I've posted.
1. I painted the downstairs hall and living room, which makes me happier than a very happy thing. Photos to come. Tim is so impressed that he told me multiple times that I am wonderful & even called me "SuperWife".
2. My friend, Laura, organized a Ladies Night for a bunch of our new female friends & acquaintances, so I got to spend many fun hours with 12 great ladies.
3. We played Rock Band for the first time at Laura's house. I'm a better singer than I knew! Or at least my pitch is pretty good. Tim had a great time playing bass and has the blisters to prove it.
4. We finally - FINALLY - had our regular little group of friends over for dinner and gaming. Kevin & Shawna even brought Hedgie with them, so Jennifer and I took turns cuddling the wee widdle hedgehog for much of the evening. Sadly, it's been many months since we've done this (Kyle had not even seen our house before last night! Shocking!), but now that most of the painting is done, we hope to have them over at least once a month.

A pretty promising start to the new year, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Finally home

Two whoooole days of driving. Again. And I survived it! Hooray! I felt a bit sick at the beginning of the trip, but I fought through it. Now it's all over and we're back in North Carolina. Maybe next year I can convince Tim to fly. If we get tickets early enough, it might even be cheaper that way, let alone faster!

Strangely enough, I'm actually glad to be back. I think this is the first time I've felt this way about returning to NC. Perhaps I feel differently because we were returning to our home - our very own lovely house. Or maybe I was just relieved to get out of that car! Either way, it's nice to be home.

We're pretty exhausted from the drive, but before I head off to bed I thought I'd post a few pics from Christmas day.

My mother decided to get me yet another wacky Christmas tree ornament. I thought we'd retired the tradition after the lobster ornament from 2 years ago, but when she saw that frog she just couldn't resist it. They look like they were made to be together, don't they?

Here's Dad minus one mustache and plus one paper crown from our Christmas Crackers.

The princess poses. And no, I can't remember why I was staring at the ceiling.

I am such a sucker. I simply had to get an ornament commemorating the purchase of our house: "First Year in the New Home - 2007".

And here is my gift from Mom: a stained glass window that she made all by herself. She was thinking of selling it, but since this is her first window I think it's nice to keep it in the family.