Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DIY? Do I?

I would like to consider myself a crafty person, but truth be told, when it comes to crafting, my eyes are bigger than my stomach (erm, figuratively speaking; stomachs have nothing to do with crafting. unless you're crafting cookies. oh god, this is turning out to be an awful introduction).

Let me start over.  When it comes to crafting (and all things DIY), I have big ideas.  I have tons of projects I'd love to do, from scrapbooking to artfully hanging photographs I've taken, to refinishing or staining furniture, to building a raised bed/planter out of recycled get the picture.

"So many ideas, so little time" is a phrase I utter more frequently than I'd like to admit, because if I am being completely honest (and isn't that what a blog is for?), I totally have time.  I just choose to spend it doing other things, like walking around the apartment looking at things I want to do. Or watching HGTV.  Or bookmarking recipes I'll probably never make. Or reading blogs written by people who are not only DOING these things, but meticulously photographing and blogging them.  Who are these people (I know not all of them can be full-time-DIY-bloggers)? And why am I not more like them?

My wonderful friend Patricia has been blogging the progress she and her husband have been making on turning their new rental apartment into a personalized, cozy, wonderful space.  I can admit to sometimes feeling inadequate; when I look at the amount of change their place has seen in just a few months, I become angry with myself for not doing more.  It's easy to get down on myself when I realize that we've lived here since August, and our walls are still mostly barren.  I felt such accomplishment when I first hung a picture here, a mirror there...but now it's time to really settle in and take care of the big, blank walls in a deliberate, artistic sort of way (I want to do this in our dining room) and make it look like we didn't just move in.  Says I, anyway.  Will doesn't care too much.  He's a dude.

The current state of things...
(click photos to enlarge)

Living room: facing the couch/tv area from the dining "room" and facing the dining "room" from the couch. 
We still have a ways to go...

Oh, and bonus! A picture of the last 6 boxes in the bedroom!

But this kind of stuff takes work.  It takes more effort than the tidying-up, putting things away, just trying to find a place for stuff kind of housestuff that I say I barely have time/energy/effort to do. I sometimes feel like I need a spring extended weekend...a "staycation," where I can just take a few days to fully unpack, organize, and put everything away so that I can focus on the fun stuff.  The fun stuff that is a little overwhelming to me because it requires so much work.

I am planning to do a little bit of this in August, when Will is gone on his 2-week-ish backpacking trip and my awesome friend Reed comes to visit (fingers crossed!).  Reed is one of those people who knows how to motivate me - or perhaps I just like doing crafty things with her - whether it's making my first knit-in-the-round hat, baking bread, or doing a mad rush of cleaning before a last minute party (ok, that last thing is not so crafty). Perhaps it's because she's known me for oh, about 24 years, and can get inside my head, perhaps I want to be as crafty as she is, perhaps it's just fun to do things together, but I always feel a surge of Can Do Attitude when we're hanging out. Yes, we will go to the spa and perhaps a winery and watch chick flicks and eat junk food...but I love that she also has a thing for crafting and nesting and doesn't mind helping me move boxes and such.  Side note: I need to invite my crafty friends over more often - I like doing stuff, but I also like having help when it comes to actually getting going. Especially when Will is out of town. Side note part two: Hey Tricia, want to come let your craftiness rub off on me visit for a few days in early August?

The point is that I'm good at making excuses.  That I say I don't have time, when really I don't make time.  That it's easier to say "but I'm not like those DIY gods and goddesses" and watch them on TV/read their blogs than it is to pick up the paintbrush or the measuring tape and just do it already. And yeah, ok, maybe I shouldn't rely on the motivation of friends to light the fuse.

What our apartment looked like the morning after we moved in.
Ok, so we've made considerable progress since August 2010.

I'm going to try to be better about this.  Try to dedicate time (an hour? 30 minutes? some amount of time, no matter how little?) every day to making our apartment closer to the way I want it to be. We have spent about an hour for the last two nights straightening things up, cleaning and sorting and all that, and it truly does make me feel better.  I feel a sense of accomplishment, even if it's just emptying the shredder so we can shred some more papers or consolidating boxes of magazines. Every thing I do, no matter how tiny, takes me one step closer to Total Nesting Happiness (and yes, I do know that it's always a work in progress, there will always be things I want to do/change, yadda yadda yadda).

I look at beautiful houses (oh god, can I please just have this one and not have to do any of the work - no seriously, look at it) and I wish they were mine, but I think I'm finally tired of whining about my lack of DIY-ness while I watch other people do it.  I may not be as skilled or experienced, but I can sure as hell clean my apartment and hang pictures.  And I think it's time to start taking action.

But first...a few dream house pics.  It's my reward for the straightening up (and extension cord setup) we did tonight.

I mean, hello?
When I look at this tile, I literally have
a physical reaction. My heart beats
faster, and I think "oh, that is so lovely".
I'm a woman in love.
Wait, they installed a pot filler?
I honestly had no idea that existed.
I had to look it up.
Now I want one.

For more dream houses, click here. But I warn you, you might start to drool. Expect more home-updates around here in the coming months. I vow to be more active, and to do my best when it comes to blogging about my progress. Because as much as I don't want to hold myself to any superhigh blogging timeline standards, it's fun to share, and I'm sure I'll be needing some advice. And ok, maybe a little encouragement.  :)

Coasting Along Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Andrea_Jo, who was the lucky pick of the Random Number Generator in my Coasting Along Giveaway!

If you're disappointed that you didn't win...well, head on over to Rachel's store and purchase a set, whydoncha?  They are very affordable, after all!  Plus, they're totally unique (you can even request custom pieces) and a whopping 25% of her profits are donated to, supporting women entrepreneurs.

Everybody wins!

Thanks for playing...another giveaway coming in the next week or so...ooooh!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dream Home (and a coaster giveaway!) (yeah!)

A few days ago, I took the Style Maker Visual Quiz (found thanks to Young House Love).  I like taking silly little quizzes, especially when they just involve clicking pictures I like.  I made a photo collage to sum up my favorite images...

Ah, the dream home.  How I want thee. Funny story (ok, tangent): When I originally took the quiz, it said my style was "Artisan Bauhaus" (whatever that means) - I just took the quiz again (just for fun, ya know), choosing all of the same answers as before, and now it tells me my style is "Winsome Charm".  The funniest thing?  I took it a third time, made one change (picked the Shakespearean-looking actor instead of the ballerina), and got "Winsome Charm" again, but with a different description.
Winsome Charm #1: An intimate home of modest proportions. A kitchen that reflects your passion… large, sweeping - authentic. Resort, retreat, getaway - all inside your bedroom. Choreographed by you, the design fundamentals and colors present a moving style. Your relaxed table atmosphere is enjoyed by everyone. Watch the grass grow in the hot summer sun. Pre-war, upper east side attitude. A creative and social space, your kitchen is managed competently by you..
Winsome Charm #2: Details of craftsmanship with natural materials surround you. To cook a grand meal in an elegant kitchen is your joy. Build a roaring fire and jump into your cozy bed. Players have their exits and entrances… your home the stage. Lake Cabin table for your salads and seafood. Watch the grass grow in the hot summer sun. Pre-war, upper east side attitude. Focused on good food and good company, you're the chef!.

I know.  Insane.  Your mind is boggled.  It's totally silly.  Kind of accurate though.

Anyway, I have definitely been in Dream Home mode lately.  Ever since we decided to get cable again, I've been watching a lot of Property Virgins (my current HGTV show of choice). I'm back on the reading-all-sorts-of-home-improvement-blogs bandwagon, and I'm in full on nesting mode at home.  Perhaps it's because Spring is in the air, and with Spring comes Spring Cleaning, and we still have some cozy rainy days, perfect for organizing the house.  Last night, we took two trips worth of recycling down to the garage, ridding our living room of several boxes.  This weekend, I hope to finish unpacking (eep, could we really do it?) so I can start tidying and maybe even thinking about some real decorating (side note: I'll need your advice).

In the spirit of homeystuff and nesting, I'm doing a little giveaway.  See, my friend Rachel is awesome.  She recently started a company called Coasting Along, where she sells handmade coasters.  They are really great - I got the Sudoku print ones for Will's dad for Christmas, and they were a big hit!

Rachel has graciously offered to give away a set of coasters (up to $13 value) to one lucky reader!  Omigod you guys! So awesome.

To Enter:

  • Visit Rachel's shop at
  • Come back here and leave a comment telling me which coaster set you'd choose if you win (you can change your mind later if you want)
  • You can earn additional entries by Tweeting, Facebooking, Blogging, Digging, or otherwise sharing this post on the interwebs. Simply come back here and leave a comment for each thing you did.
  • There is no limit on entries!  Enter as many times as you like!  Wheeee!
Get your entries in by Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 11:59pm PDT - a winner will be chosen on Wednesday 3/23 by the Random Number Generator!  :-)

Enjoy, and good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I was thinking today about the structure of the average workday, and the structure of our days in general, and I thought I'd like to do a little "ask the audience".

See, I enjoy a more loosely-structured workday, without strict hours of attendance and with the ability to get my work done in a way that makes sense for me (and the company, of course).  I realize that I have the luxury of a very relaxed work environment, trust me I do.  Having worked in places with strict rules about start times and end times and break times and clocking in and clocking out and arguing about overtime pay...well, you know I'm serious when I say I know how lucky I am.  I find myself thinking this every day.

But I know what it's like on the other side, and I think more workplaces should allow their employees the freedom to get their jobs done, provided it doesn't affect the business.  Obviously, many businesses have specific hours of operation.  And some types of work require knowing that people will be there at specific times (mostly service-oriented positions I think, but I'm sure there are others). But if an employee's job doesn't require specific hours, why set them? We have a general "be here roughly when everyone else is here" policy, because it's good for morale, more work gets done when you can talk to your teammates, etc. but even with our customer support team (who has dedicated hours to man the front lines), there is some flexibility with start and end times, as well as with how you manage your time during the day.

Personally, I've found that I work much better when I am in the workplace for roughly 8 hours, taking little breaks throughout the day, than when I'm in the workplace for roughly 9 hours, taking an hour for lunch (and those often-ignored but totally legally required 20 minute breaks).  If I'm deep into a project, I don't like to interrupt my workflow with a one-hour break (unless it's a special occasion and I'm making lunch plans with a friend or something).  I prefer to work on a task until I find my brain wandering (usually around 2 hours) and then take a 10 minute break to grab a snack, catch up on personal email, read the latest TechCrunch gossip, etc.  I'll usually take 15-20 min somewhere in the middle of the day to eat lunch at my desk while reading blogs...but this means I am also checking work email and handling any issues that come up.  And I generally check up on work stuff from home at some point later that night, and in the morning before I go into work, just in case there's a fire to be put out.

Allowing my brain to switch from work to non-work throughout the day keeps me more alert and more focused on the work I have to do. And psychologically, I think it makes me a better worker because I feel like I'm in charge of my day.  It's oppressive to feel like someone is counting your minutes (or worse, like you have to count your minutes in order to get paid), monitoring your restroom breaks, keeping tabs on your location every second you're not at your desk.  If someone puts the onus on you, you're more likely to respect it - it's like that whole thing about not giving teenagers so many rules that all they can think of is rebellion, right?

My whole semi-structured day seems funny to me, though, because in my personal life, I'm much more productive when I'm on a schedule - "tonight I will do laundry and Saturday at 4pm I will go return those jeans" and such.  Maybe it's because my personal life consists of more small, schedule-able tasks, whereas my work life consists mostly of larger, more long-term projects (with short-term action items, but still).  Different activities call for different types of time-management, I suppose. do YOU structure your work day?  (or if you're not working, how do you structure your days in general?) Do you enjoy a longer lunch break? Lots of little breaks?  Do you even get a break at all?  I want to know!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

And on the seventh day, she rested.

It is currently 5:50pm on Sunday, March 6 - the day on which my two, dear, unrelated friends, Colette and Amelia, were born by the way - and I have spent most of the day sleeping. We slept in until almost noon (the luxury!), and I have taken approximately three naps on the couch. I feel awake now, but goodness.  I've been just plain exhausted for the last week...I blame a draining day at jury duty on Monday and a week playing catch-up at work, and what the hell?  I'll also blame Will's being in Utah for work, which means my sleep schedule got all wonked out, because I have no will power (ha) when he's gone and usually end up staying up way too late watching Sex and the City marathons and movies starring Julia Roberts.  It's like I revert back into college-Kim when he's gone or something.

The other thing that happens when he's gone? I lose most of my motivation to cook.  I don't know what it is about cooking for one, but I am very rarely motivated to try new recipes (or even, apparently, to cook at all).  I ate pizza and macaroni and cheese (both in restaurants) and one night, had a plate of salami and cheese and pickles. And cherry tomatoes, because I wanted to pretend there was something healthy about what I was doing.  This will have to change when he goes on another backpacking trip (though thankfully, this year's trip on the John Muir Trail will be shorter than last year's PCT adventure), because my body doesn't like this whole lack of good diet and sleep thing.

Anyway, I don't know if I was trying to make up for the week of not cooking or what, but I woke up on Saturday ready for action.  I had my friends Suki and Ryan over for a delicious brunch, which means I actually cleaned up a bit around the house. And cooked.  I made my first frittata!  I kind of made up the recipe based on some basic frittata instructions from around the internet, and while I may have overcooked it a tad, it was really good.  I prepared a lox platter that would make any Jewish grandmother (or my dad) proud, and S+R brought delicious fruit from the farmer's market.  Oh, and we had mimosas. I think Suki took better pics than I did, so I hope she posts them so I can steal them.  :)

We also made mango Chobani cake, which turned out very beautifully (and I used my new bundt pan and hand mixer, both free from CSN Stores!).  It's a little dry, which I think could be from over-baking or from using whole wheat flour...or both? Any ideas? It's pretty though, and it's really good with vanilla ice cream.

And then, after exchanging some jeans at GAP and checking out the Totally Awesome New Target That Is Close To My House And Super Shiny Brand New And Huge, I decided to outdo myself and cook a third thing from scratch.

You see, I had the end of a champagne bottle leftover brunch, and y'all know that champers doesn't last long just sitting in the fridge.  So unless I wanted to have a couple glasses just for fun (which, um, not a terrible idea I guess), I would have to get creative.  Not too creative, as it seems this is a fairly common "problem" out there on the internets.  After browsing several recipes (search terms "champagne recipe" "recipes using champagne" and "how to use up the end of a bottle of champagne") and filtering out all the ones for punch (seriously, even I could have come up with "add different kinds of juice and it becomes punch!" - nice one, internet. way to be creative.),  I found this.

Yes friends, that is a recipe for pasta with a sauce made from shrimp, tomatoes, champagne and cream.  And oh lordy, it was delicious.  I had exactly one shallot left, and almost exactly the 1 1/2 cups champagne required.  I used a can of diced tomatoes (rinsed), and a little more cream than required because I accidentally let the sauce reduce a little too far, and I added a smidge of lemon juice both to the pasta and the sauce.  But seriously, so good.  I don't have a picture because we dove in so fast (the smell of champagney, creamy, tomatoey goodness was driving us insane).  There is a tiny container of leftovers, but refrigerated pasta leftovers never photograph very well, do they?

You'll have to use your imaginations.  Try not to be too jealous.  It's ok to be a little bit jealous though.  I would be.  Read the reviews on the recipe page - it really was that good.  This one will definitely be staying in rotation around here...I see it being the traditional dinner during or after any celebration involving champagne.  Who wants to have a party?

Anyway, now perhaps you can see why I was so sleepy today (oh, the justification; oh, the pity party).  It has been a luxurious day of lounging around, sampling a Jewish deli around the corner that I didn't know existed (conclusion: not good. why can't the bay area have any good Jewish delis!?!?!?), and napping.

And now I am getting ready to make dinner for other friends.  I hope your weekends were all lovely!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Corn Sticks!

Several months ago, I purchased a super awesome cast iron corn stick pan.  I still haven't seasoned it, but this weekend I made "Truly Gritty Cornbread" for an Oscar Night party (in addition to "Meat Damon's Texas Ranger Le Boeuf Chili").  The sticks were a little hard to remove from the pan (I sprayed with PAM), but they turned out really well.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

pan all filled up and ready to bake
little corn sticks, fresh from the oven! 
detail corn-like!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Corralling the Cords

Recently, I won the Most Awesome Girlfriend Award when I surprised Will by having our TV mounted on the wall above the fireplace while he was out of town.  I'd like to thank a little piece of rad internet called TaskRabbit.  You should check it out - and if you do, use my discount code (PAL40580) to get $10 off your first task! 

I was, in fact,  happy to be done with it. Our TV is now hung gloriously above the fireplace, rather than sitting on a table in front of the fireplace, and we can now watch TV with a roaring fire.  Of course, we haven't made a fire yet.  But we will.

Now, of course, there is the issue of the cords.  As you can see in the picture below, they are a bit of an eyesore.

a tangled mess of cords
also this.

Anyone out there have tips for wrangling this mess?  I'm going to get a small container or basket to go under the table, to hold the video games and controllers and any extra cables we may have. That will solve the problem of the messy piles. In front of the table, you'll notice the VCR/DVD player and the Tivo - both of which will be moved (Tivo will eventually be sold, VCR/DVD player will be moved to another location since we don't use it often). 

But there's the issue of the drapey mess hanging from the TV.  I could just kind of gather the cords together and secure them with nails, so at least they're in a straight line and not a jumble? They'd still look kinda funky, but at least it would be neater?  

Any ideas?

PS I made a fire.
PPS weird commercial.

And We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to the lovely Patricia (from A Serious Girl)!
You are the winner of several bags of pistachios!

There were five comments.
I numbered them 1-5, in
order from top to bottom,
as they appear on my blog. chose a winner.

I will be contacting you soon about your prize!