Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meals for the Week - May 28th



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day weekend

We had a great long weekend. Anyone else? We jammed as much as we could into a three day span. We drove as much as robin-inly possible. We travelled up to Western Massachusetts for a mini family reunion and to celebrate my grandfather's 80th birthday. It was tons of fun!


All photos courtesy of Tony.
This is Dziadziu's (grandfather is Polish) train set in the basement. Very fancy. We loved playing with it as kids. We'd just watch the trains go around and around but it was tons of fun. It's like a real mini city! Graveyard and all.


The family celebrated at a German restaurant (a favorite of the birthday boy) and I celebrated with German beer. Yumm. Didn't quite mean to get such a face in this photo, but oh well.
  


They had quite a collection of bottle openers & unique beer steins.


There was a ginormous chocolate cake that was delicious!

We looked through some old books that my grandparents had at their house. We found some pretty amusing stuff in my grandma's old beauty school textbook!



Last cool thing from the weekend - this Rutherford B. Hayes one dollar coin. We plucked it from the $12 toll booth in the Bronx. $12 toll bridge for the George Washington bridge in New York is no joke.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Why we hate to love our house

I hate to love our house. I also love to hate the house. Flip flop, flip flop. Snip snap, snip snap.

It's both good and bad (like life). The reason we hate to love the house is because parts are so wonderful while other parts are so terrible. Sounds familiar? Oh probably because this could apply to any anyone. Who hasn't liked and disliked where they live?

Everyone can relate: If you've ever lived in a college dorm or rented an apartment. If you're middle, or upper middle, or lower upper middle, or middle lower class, or anyone who's married to someone in grad school, anyone who's in their 20's still finding what they want to do in life, anyone who's working to pay off those student loans/debt/car/etc nonsense, if you've in a fixer upper, or anyone who's living in an apartment, or house, or their parents house, or with a roommate, or sibling, or anyone who's ever been in any of those circumstances. Anyone. Anyone can be president.

Not that we expect to live in perfect conditions with zero problems. Some problems are minor, others are bigger. Some things are just pretty nice about our place, others are superb. Some things we can change and others we just have to live with since we're renters. Onward to photos.


Yikes. what a great 1st photo Robin! Ants. We have them, you may too. The house is old and we have original windows with cracks and crevices where they enter (see below). We get ants in a lot of places except the kitchen. We find them in our office and in one of the bathrooms. You'd think the ants would be smarter! We use this and it works great! Hate the ants, hate the old parts of the house that let ants in.


We have a brand new dishwasher. Yay! Love this. Remember when we moved it and it was full of mold? Boo Hiss. Hated that. http://www.oursemiorganiclife.com/2011/08/how-to-get-rid-of-mold-in-your.html. Good thing is that now it works pretty well and we're grateful for that.




The house architecture. Most parts are just so easy to love. Seriously the house has some great pretty parts about it. See those super high ceilings? We have seriously amazing designed hardwood floors, some hardwood is original (not shown), some is new. Actually one room with original hardwood is poorly patched and pieces chip away (yikes). The paint in the house is nice; not plain boring white or crazy colors either. There is big, chunky, bright white crown molding, baseboards, & even a thick chair rail in the hallway & living room. We have decorative trim around the windows and doorways. Our doorknobs are those antique class and brass plate ones you see at Anthropologie. We even have a working skeleton key for them (ahem.. sometimes works, noIdidn'tlockTonyinaroom).

Love to hate the foyer really. It's easy to love and hate this area. There is a beautiful new chandelier hanging, but it's not wired to anything (we think!). Also there's a porch light. Also not hooked up. So as beautiful as this is - not so pretty in pitch blackness at night. The vent must go to nothing since it's always stifling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter.

Last thing to brag about - the fireplace. Oh but it's a love hate as well. Love: so pretty! Beautiful new black marble, antique mantle, new gas fireplace installed (not shown). Hate: no good chimney cap (we get hail in our living room sometimes) and it actually sucks heat from the house - hence the white foam board covering the opening. If we use fireplace in the winter it actually make the living room colder. Pointless.


The kitchen. We love the kitchen. It's just so darn nice. We are the first renters to live in the house since the big renovations. The kitchen is entirely brand new (we think) with very nice amenities. Top quality cabinets, lots of cabinets, decorative cabinets, brand new stainless steel appliances, amazing granite counter top, nice new hardwood floor, accent lighting & huge pantry. We have a very cool antique brick accent wall (old fireplace?) and an eat in area with bar off to the side by the back door. We have a fancy faucet (installed 99% correctly) and a neat custom tile backsplash. Nothing about this says 'renter kitchen' or 'builder basic'. Jealous? I am and I live here (wish I owned it).

It's just so hard to hate this beautiful kitchen. We even have a window in the kitchen - and it opens (see below)! One thing to hate: they used the wrong grout on the backsplash tiles so it's slowly crumbling off.


The windows. A big reason I love to hate the house. The house is old, the windows are original. Ours are at least - the upstairs neighbors got all new windows replaced in their apartment. With screens! Jealous.

We have 10 windows in our apartment. Yes that's a lot - a reason to hate to love the apartment! Two of them are tall brand new non opening windows. They're great - see below for plant lovin. With the remaining 8 windows only 2 open. Yes the remaining 6 are painted/sealed and/or nailed shut. Talk about fire hazard. We've checked and yes this is a code violation. We've complained and griped. It is what it is right now. We've tried to open them ourselves but I can only do so much with lead painted shut windows inside and out. Oh and all the windows are so tall (hate to love tall windows) than I can't find blinds that fit them without custom ordering; not happening. I hate to hate the windows.

The basement. We love to hate the basement. If it were up to us we'd lock up the basement and never go down there again - if it weren't for the washer/dryer jerry rigged system that is laundry. It's got mold, has a low ceiling, is gross, and oh it's gross. Maintenance workers come and work on it every once in a while but it's still gross. Those workers always come unannounced on a Saturday morning - seriously?! Oh and we use the pit of a basement for the kitty's litter box. That is the only upside of the basement. I hate to love the basement as well.

Our washer drains to our sump pump (what??) and our dryer vents to the utility back basement room. If you've notice I haven't blogged in a while it's probably because we died in a house fire. Almost not kidding



I love that we have a big window in the back of our kitchen that lets in a ton of light. We have this ledge/bar table (type thing (that used to be the original flooring we thinks)) that is huge. We can grow lots of plants in the area. It's where we take a lot of the blog photos since it always gets the best light. The windows are tall and wrap around so it gets morning and evening light. The windows even come down low to the floor so it's perfect for kitty to sit and watch the birds. It's easy to love.

Last reason we love to hate the house: the neighbors. No hard feelings but they live upstairs which is a separate apartment and the floor/ceiling is THIN. So thin. If people are upstairs and they're talking at a normal to loud tone and we're being quiet, we can hear them. If they're walking around in dress shoes or heels we can hear them. If they throw a party we can hear them. If they run their dishwasher, washing machine, or garbage disposal and we're quiet we can hear it. If they cheer loudly at the TV we can hear them.

Things have gotten much better since we both moved in this past summer. They no longer throw parties and we're all cool. They have all hardwood floors too and apparently no rugs. In reality they're pretty quiet and don't talk/hang around/play music at all (anymore). While things are great now we worry about what will happen if they move out and we get new neighbors. What if those people are homebodies, have a big sound system, loud dog, or even a baby?


What's your favorite or least favorite part of your place?

I haven't even touched on lots of other good and bad parts of the house - yard, location, the roof, our parking situation, bedrooms, bathrooms & more!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Deck chairs redone!

Now that the weather is nice we want to spend time outside on our deck. Our rental house has a really nice brand new deck. It does have a built up "pit" but I'll get into that another day.

We don't really have patio furniture so we've been making do with some chairs that I got from my parents house a few years ago. They're normal height directors chairs. They are indoor chairs that we've been using outdoors for a while. After almost a full year of being out in the full elements it's time for an upgrade! A cheap upgrade.

Valspar outdoor color + protection

I found this new valspar spray paint that is especially for outdoor use. "Valspar outdoor color + protection".  It is anti rust and great in all weather conditions. It's color + protection. It protects against the sun and rain and all that grossness (ie bird poop, hey, it's true). It works well on patio furniture, garden pots & fences. I got it at Lowes in a special end cap nearby the spray paint section. It was about $4.50 for one can. They had about 5 colors to choose from - yellow, blue, red, brown & black.

Valspar outdoor color + protection

Long ago we RIT dyed the fabric parts of these chairs red. They were grey colored originally. The red was nice - for about a month. Since the chairs were outside - albeit under a balcony - they faded. They turned back to grey in no time. You can see the still berry color unfaded in the cracks of the chair. We're going to leave them this color for now. Although I've seen special RIT dye for outdoor use. Could work out. This is what you get when you try to make indoor chairs work outdoors.

This are the before shots:
Valspar outdoor color + protection

Valspar outdoor color + protection


Valspar outdoor color + protection

You can see what bad shape the chairs were. Lots of paint chipping and dirty and overall weathered. These were originally a set of 8 (or even 10!) that my parents used in our home growing up. There was also lots of pollen stuck in the cracks. One of them was in slightly better shape than the other. The wood is cracked worse in one of them. Oh well. We just left it.

We wiped the chairs down and got to work.


Valspar outdoor color + protection

We sanded down the chairs some to prepare for the spray paint. We used 100 grit (I think... or was it 120?) sand paper. We didn't sand off all the paint just the really bad chipping parts. Anything that was loose, damaged or chiped we smoothed down. Then we wiped the clairs clean with a damp rag.

Valspar outdoor color + protection 

Then came the spray paint! The handles fold down so that's why this photo looks like it's not a chair anymore. That piece of cardboard may have been a little bit too small. Poor grass & gravel. A large canvas drop cloth will be the next purchase with a spray paint project. You can see a totally awkward photo below of me looking stupid and holding the spray paint waayyy to close to the chair. This should be a 'how not to lift with your legs demonstration photo. Bad form.

Valspar outdoor color + protection
I'm still a newbie with the spray paint. I know that its bad to hold the can that close, but I was impatient. Also in this shot I think it was running out and I was trying to salvage the last drops. Also by this point my finger had cramped thus why I'm doing the two hand approach using my thumb.

We bought 2 cans to make 2 coats of paint on each chair with just a little left over for another (small) project.
Valspar outdoor color + protection

The final product!

Valspar outdoor color + protection


Friday, May 18, 2012

DIY vanilla extract done

My vanilla project is done.

sorta.

I actually have no clue when it should be called done and when it's just always getting better with time.

Start over. ha.

I discuss my DIY homemade vanilla extract project for the first time here. I think I can, I think I can. Have I? Okay then see some pretty photos I took of the beans and the making of the vanilla here. Finally see how brown it's all getting here. Now that I've caught myself up with what's going check out a final product!

This is homemade DIY vanilla extract made from scratch from alcohol and vanilla beans.

This is homemade DIY vanilla extract made from scratch from alcohol and vanilla beans.

I knew I wanted to bottle some to give to my mom for mother's day. My extract-to-be had been sitting for the appropriate amount of time according to lots of sites so I just did it. I had saved this little brown plastic bottle from some previous store bought vanilla to re-use. I cleaned it up, goo gonned it and used a funnel to pour it in.

I've been checking the vanilla over the last 3 months and slowly it's been turning more brown than clear (remember it was made from vodka & sliced vanilla beans) and smelling more like vanilla extract than less like straight vodka. I gave it a shake every few days (or weeks oops!) to loosen it all up and help make it more extract-y. To be honest it still smelled a little vodka-ish to me.

Did I do it right? Well there were many recipes that claimed I should use more beans/vodka and some with less and all sorts of combinations of time. I was overwhelmed with the numbers so I bought 10 beans and a fifth of vodka and hoped for the best. I'm going to let my big bottle of master vanilla extract sit a little longer before using it in everyday baking. I wish I did baking everyday.

So this is my first portion that's been bottled but I'm not quite going to call it "done".
This is homemade DIY vanilla extract made from scratch from alcohol and vanilla beans. DIY label, homemade label, labels at home, word

I made this homemade label on picmonkey.com since Picnik is gone. I like that site a lot and have found that it's a good substitute. Even free! I loaded the vanilla logo into word and printed it onto some round labels leftover from our wedding.

In the future I plan on buying a few more little brown glass bottles to give out as gifts. I'll keep the master extract as is for now and see how it developes as time goes on. Eventually I'll take the vanilla beans out and do something awesome with them. Vanilla ice cream? Vanilla sugar?
This is homemade DIY vanilla extract made from scratch from alcohol and vanilla beans. DIY label, homemade label, labels at home, word

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kittens!!

I've been doing some more wildlife photography! Well if you consider next-store neighbor kittens wildlife that is. Remember the baby robins in the nest outside our window? One, two & three (they've flown the nest). Oh Spring is here.

I found these kittens in the empty house next to ours. There's a young mother cat and her 2 young baby kittens. They are very shy and it took days to get these shots. But aren't they darling?!?

cutest kitten ever
kitten 1

_MG_0169
kitten 2
kisses
Kisses with momma!

_MG_0117
The mother cat

I even stood still and long enough to watch her nurse the babies. No photos though. It was awesome to watch! They knew what they wanted and were not gentle about asking for it. I guess that is where the cat's kneeding habit comes from.
mama & baby kitten kittens playing
the duo litter were playing with each other.
can't figure out if they're boys or girls yet
_MG_0147 _MG_0136

injury on the neck
This kitten obviously has had some injury. Not sure what happened but it looks like something else possibly attached it - another animal? Good news - it looked much better today (vs. 5 days ago).

mama & baby

baby kitten
Cornelius looked like this when I got him. His pink nose was all blackened around the edges. This one will be even cuter one day when it clears up.

The kittens were living inside the subfloor of this house! They found a hole in the foundation and were living in there! The mother must have taken shelter under a random concrete lean-to nearby since she can't fit in the hole to be with her babies.

kittens (8)

the kittens are in the back of this box
The kittens are now hiding away (in their most scared moments) in this empty box of construction materials under the back deck. Belive it or not both kittens fit in this long thin box and can even turn around in it.

kittens in a box under the deck
Some photos are blurry. I'm not an expert with the DSLR yet. And kittens are quick.

baby kitten #2
Happy Thursday! Kittens make everyones day better right?! Tomorrow is Friday!

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