Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Losing my mind

Last night, as we performed the annual "sort through the gifts we've bought and stored over the last year and see how we're doing for the holidays" ritual, I discovered a small package wrapped in black tissue paper. I couldn't remember buying it, or even what it was, and I asked Will if he knew what it might be. Not that he is accustomed to storing early-bought items in the gift box in the closet; it just looked so unfamiliar to me I thought I couldn't have been the buyer.

We decided on a little mystery gift roulette of sorts: one of us would open the gift to see what it was. One of us must have bought it for the other, so there was a 50% chance that the person who peeked inside the tissue paper would get an early present and a ruined surprise...but also a 50% chance that the giver would recognize the gift. Right?

I decided to let Will go for it. In hindsight, I should have checked the mysterious package, as there was a greater likelihood that I bought it based in the fact that it was discovered in the box of gifts, and like I said, Will is not a likely to store thing there. Alas.

Perhaps you can see where this is going. From the other room, Will called out that he was pretty sure this was a gift from me to him. My heart sank a little, as I was pretty embarrassed to have forgotten about a present I purchased.

My heart sank even lower though, when I looked at the ornament (a brown bear with gold glitter, a broken foot, and a red and white striped string), and realized I had absolutely no recollection of where or when it was purchased. Or why the foot was broken and missing.

This is definitely the type of gift I'd get for Will; I'd gotten him a similar ornament (a polar bear, glittered) the year before. He is certain, and I agree that I must've picked it up somewhere along the way and forgotten about it. I mean, paging Captain Obvious over here.

That doesn't change the fact that I have absolutely no clue where I got it (flea market? but when?) -- there is a tiny little voice inside my head that seems to think I bought it covertly while in some store with Will, while he wasn't looking, and that could be right, I'm sure. I must have seen it somewhere, thought it was a good gift, and stowed it away. That's why things end up in the gift box, after all. Maybe this was years ago, though if that was the case, I'd have discovered it in the box last year. It's driving me mad that I can't remember where or when this brown bear ornament came into my life. What stores use black tissue paper? Why would I buy a bear with a broken foot?

Regardless, Will now has an early Christmas gift, and I am losing my mind.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Guerneville Getaway

This weekend, we went on a 24-hour getaway. This little escape was perfect for a few reasons.

  1. I planned the whole thing, not telling Will a single detail (except for how long we were going and what to pack).
  2. We were sort of wiped out from two weeks of construction at our place, and early-morning chainsaws next door.
  3. Our landlord was arriving at 9am on Saturday to finish the construction/remodel job, and would be working in the house all day.
  4. The holidays are fast-approaching, and while that's super exciting, it's also a little intimidating. We are basically busy every single weekend (and most weeknights) from now until New Years, and yay holidays but omg busy. 
A little romantic escape was certainly in the cards: some one-on-one time, some gotta-get-outta-town time, some plan-something-awesome-for-your-husband-and-surprise-him time. I love that.

Thanks to a Living Social voucher, I scored a great deal at Boon Hotel + Spa (there are still two days left! you can get it too!), that included wine and massages. We drove to Guerneville on Friday evening, through heavy traffic and pouring rain, arriving just in time for dinner at the restaurant Boon owns in town. We came back to our room (a Queen Suite, with a cute patio/yard that would be great in the summertime), lit a fire in the fireplace, and read, cozied up on the couch. Oh, and then we ate chocolate lava cake in our robes. Deluxe.

Saturday morning, we woke up as breakfast was delivered to our room, enjoyed our French press coffee with biscuits and yogurt and juice, and borrowed the hotel's cruiser bikes for a quick ride downtown. We picked up delicious sandwiches and beer from Big Bottom Market, and biked on over to Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve, about 2.5 miles away. It's magical to me that it only took, like, 10-15 minutes. Bicycling, man. It's da bomb.

Side Note: I am not a bike rider. I learned to ride as a kid, but didn't ride regularly (it's not really the thing to do in the San Fernando Valley), and would not consider myself someone who is comfortable on two wheels. Two years ago, I learned to ride as an adult, but haven't ridden since. And this weekend, I hopped on that bike and rode downtown and uphill and I was damn proud of myself. 

At Armstrong Woods, we took the Pool Ridge Trail, a 400 ft elevation gain over a couple miles, up through the redwoods and lush, lush green loveliness. The rain started up again as we began our descent from the saddle, and though we were pretty well-covered by the trees for most of the time, the mist was pretty refreshing.

One of the only pictures we took this weekend, because I
kept my phone off/away, and Will's camera died.
Impromptu technology-free 24 hours!
Managed to get an awkward self-portrait in as well.
Gotta love Will's hiking glasses.
The rain was coming down pretty hard by the time we reached the picnic area (about .5 miles away from the parking lot), so we ducked under some trees for our sandwiches and beer before heading the rest of the way down the (easy, pine-needle-covered, full-of-awesome-trees) trail.

After a breezy 2 mile bike ride back to the hotel in the pouring rain, we were soaked. I mean, soaked. Really, really soaked. It was kind of fun (and a bit exhilarating) to ride downhill in the pouring rain! A challenge for bike-newbie-Kim, and a fun time for Will (who always likes when I try new adventures, and who is himself an avid hiker/biker). 

Back at the hotel, we killed time in the hot tub (hot tub in the rain!) while waiting for our massage appointments, and used a complimentary hotel room to change and shower (thank you, Tom at Boon, for letting us use this bonus room! It was a much better option than hanging out, soaking wet, in the car!). Seriously, this small hotel was just full of awesome. After our massages, we headed back downtown (in the car, this time) for a great little dinner at Chef Patrick's before heading back home.

We stopped at Whole Foods to satisfy my pumpkin pie craving (did you know they sell half pies? genius), and shared it with our friend Carlos as we watched the end of the first half of the awful Cal/Oregon game before going home for real.

The drive home. It was seriously raining!
The best thing was that when we got home on Saturday night, it was only Saturday night! We still had a whole Sunday to go! The weekend felt much longer, and I am now all about the 24 hour getaway, you guys. Such a good idea.

Are you getting amped up about the holidays? Taking any time for yourself before the madness begins?

Be Prepared: Zippo Firestarter Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Kristen, the winner of my Be Prepared Zippo Firestarter giveaway! Stay tuned - I'm just working on getting it shipped to ya :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

That Week Our Shower Was Getting Re-done

If you've been paying attention to me on Twitter today, you've likely seen some ramblings about watching a Harry Potter marathon while waiting for contractors to arrive to finish our shower. Were you confused? Maybe so.

Fear not. I'm here to provide way more photos and information than you ever wanted to see about our shower remodel. I'll try not to get to ranty.

Note the mold in the corners.
There is also mold under the seat.
And in the grout.
Day 1.
Bye bye, shower.
Came home from work to find this.
Yeah, they accidentally sledgehammered
through to the bedroom.

Day 2.
Reframing and putting tar sealant stuff down.
Closeup on the framing. They were supposed
to build in a little recess for the soapdish on
the left. Spoiler Alert: they didn't. 
Day 3.
This was really Day 4, since they skipped a
day, but who's counting?
I didn't notice the lack of recess for a soap
dish...but on this day they did some drywall?
Oh, and they removed the sink.
For unknown reasons. 
And further messed up the bedroom wall.
Day 4.
More floor work. Mortar I think?
I should note that this was Election Day.
And we were having a party.
So I had to put up a note about the lack of sink.
Day 5.
We have tile!
This is when I noticed that there was no soap
dish built into the wall. Oops.
Also, at this point, we have our landlord ask
to remind the contractors about the marble
seat they're supposed to have shown us two
days ago. Apparently it's going in tomorrow.
Day 6.
Oh hey. They put in the seat. Too bad it's the
wrong color, and too small. It's hard to tell
from the picture, but it's too small to sit on.
Yes, it's still usable for sticking your leg up
to shave...but still. Too small. And wrong
color. Cue landlord calling contractor again.
It's now Day 7, and while we should be able to use the shower tomorrow morning, there is no curtain rod. You see, it was rusty and the contractors threw it (and the towel bar from the adjacent wall) away. Without telling us or the landlord. So...we found out today that they wouldn't be putting it back.

Day 7.
It's "finished".
Still to do: shower curtain rod, towel rod on
adjacent wall. The hose for the showerhead is
stretching out because it was too curled up in
the box for too long. So...yeah.
Please use the kitchen sink.
Our landlord is awesome, and he's been taking care of this for us...but it's still been craziness around here for a week. They did a pretty minimal cleanup job today, which meant I got to bust out the ole Swiffer (and dustpan/broom), and honestly I hope this is the last of them. Even though they have to come back to fix stuff...I'd almost rather not have a sink for a week and let my landlord fix it next weekend when he comes back to do the curtain/towel rod and fix the hole in the wall. And patch some other holes they made in the bathroom. Sigh.

Homeowners: I have some newfound mad respect for you.
People who DIY this stuff: Don't even talk to me. Wow.
Contractors who did our project: You don't get to show up late every day, take twice as long as you quoted, leave our place a hot mess, and expect that I won't blog about it. Not that you'll see this.

But still.

I'll post a final picture when it's all said and done, most likely, but there ya go. Our past week.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bread, You Guys.

I've waited so long to share this with you. It's criminal, really. And it wasn't until Jolie posted this picture that I even remembered that I hadn't shared it. And then I felt totally guilty, like I was keeping it a secret, when all I want to do is share this with the world.

Because you guys. This bread. The ratio of easiness to awesomeness should not be legal. There is no kneading. And now I'm going to show you pictures and make you want to make it right now. Which, let's be honest, you probably should.

And now, I'm going to walk you through the process, step by step (day by day...).

Step 1: put 3 cups of flour, 1 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp yeast in a bowl, and mix 'em all together. pro-tip: my measurements were not exactly exact, because I am lazy and didn't want to bust out my 1/4 tsp AND my 1/2 tsp. I just estimated my tsps using a 1 tsp measuring spoon. It was fine. I have no photo for Step 1, but since it just involves mixing dry ingredients together, you can use your imagination. It looks like a bowl of flour, basically. You can see it on this page if you want to, though, which is where I got the recipe. Her photos are better anyway.

Step 1.5: If you're feeling creative, add other (dry) stuff. I've done: fresh rosemary (kind of ripped apart with my hands) and chopped garlic (chunked, really; I just cut cloves roughly in quarters), and garlic powder with dried rosemary (not as good as the chopped garlic). I might try feta and garlic this weekend. Check out the original place where I got the recipe; she has a ton of combo ideas.

Step 2: Add 1.5 cups of water, and mix it all around. You'll have a ragged, clumpy ball that looks vaguely like dough. I used a spoonula for this, which worked very well.

photo taken @ 8:20pm
For reference, the red bowl dough was made with brand new yeast. The silver bowl dough was made with slightly expired yeast. I wanted to see if it made a difference. I mixed the garlic and rosemary into the red bowl dough. End of note.

Step 3: Cover your bowls with plastic wrap. Let them sit out on your counter for 12-24 hours. I know that's a wide range. Really, it doesn't matter. If it's cold in your kitchen (or wherever you're leaving it to sit out, NOT THE FRIDGE), you'll want to leave it for longer since yeast likes warm temperatures for rising.

photo taken @ 9:25am the next day
(aka, after 13 hours of rising)
Step 4: decide you want to see if they'll rise more, because it's cold in your kitchen, and maybe that yeast just needs to do it's thang for a bit longer.

photo taken @ 7:16pm that night
(aka, after just about 23 hours of rising)
Step 5: decide that 23 hours is enough time, and besides, they've risen a bit more (for reference, check the dough-lines on the silver bowl...you can kinda see the difference in how much it rose from 9:25am to 7:16pm. No? Just me? Fine.

Step 6: put some flour on your counter. Wish you had one of those fancy pastry cloths, because it's kind of hard to flour your counter very well, with no spaces showing (because this dough is crazy sticky and you don't want it to glue itself to your counter). Err on the side of too much flour, even though this will result in a very floury bottom of your bread. Oh well. Maybe use less next time?

Step 7: Heat your oven to 450scrunch your dough into a round-ish shape, and cover it with a brand new sheet of plastic wrap the plastic wrap you used on the bowl earlier. Put your le creuset* in the oven and let it heat up for 30 min while your dough hangs out on the counter. *or other ovensafe pot with a lid. or cookie sheet with aluminum foil to cover the dough. anything ovensafe with a cover will work, according to the original recipe.

The silver bowl dough. It's not as risey as it could be.
Try to scrunch it into more of a ball-like shape, but end
up creating folds of dough with flour in-between, which
will end up sticking around after it's baked, which is not
the worst thing, but not the best thing either.
Step 8: take your pot out of the oven (IT IS HOT! REMEMBER THIS!), remove the lid, flour your hands and plop your ball o'sticky dough in your pot. Let your bread bakey bake bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, and then take the lid off (WEAR THOSE OVEN MITTS!) and bake for another 15 min to get the top all golden and crunchy.

Please be careful when you attempt to remove it from the pot.
Step 9: carefully remove your super hot bread from the pot and let it cool on a cooling rack or something. Do step 7-9 again with your second loaf of dough, because you're an overachiever like that. Be careful, because you're putting sticky dough into a super hot pot.

the red bowl dough rose significantly more, and I was better
at making it rounder. you can kinda see the chunks of garlic
and rosemary in it. delicious.

I'm not going to lie to you...this bread is freaking good. We finished two loaves in about 4 days. It's so super good, and tangy (even the plain version) without being too sour...just really, really good bread. And even though this how-to was kind of long and drawn out, it's incredibly easy. And fast. Throw the bread together in 5 minutes or less, let it sit for a day, and put it in the oven. Boom and done.

You're welcome.

Now go make bread and tell me about it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Be Prepared

Ok, so not this.
But kind of this?

While I technically missed National Preparedness Month (September), it's never a bad time to check in on disaster preparedness. With Hurricane Sandy terrorizing the East Coast, and the ever-present threat of earthquakes in my homestate of California, we could all use a reminder now and again, right? And apparently, October is Earthquake Month (and National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Does everything have a month?), so my timing is...not too late?

I was lucky enough to receive an emergency kit/backpack back in the day when I worked at Google, as part of their Oprah-like distribution plan (YOU get an emergency pack! And YOU get an emergency pack! Emergency packs for EVERYOOOOOOOONE!) .

My pack contains:
  • rope
  • thick gloves
  • battery/solar-powered radio/lantern
  • those shiny silver blankets
  • a tent/tube
  • ponchos
  • glow sticks
  • a wrench (for shutting off gas valves)
  • a whistle
  • kleenex
  • a military can opener 
  • a swiss army knife
  • first-aid kit
  • matches
  • duct tape
  • emergency candles
  • water purification tablets
  • out-of-state contact info
  • expired water (oops)
  • expired MREs (oops)

This, combined with our drawer full of water bottles, our always-packed pantry, and our extensive collection of camping/backpacking supplies (including several freeze-dried entrees) means we are pretty well set for a disaster...as long as our house is pretty much intact. If the house were to burn down or collapse and we couldn't go inside, we'd be in a little bit of trouble. 

72hours.org has information on what to do in cases
of all kinds of emergencies...including setting up
your family communication plan, finding shelter,
and stocking your home with supplies.
That's why I finally put together a "Go Bag" as well, something that's easy to grab and contains the essentials. We have the Google Pack, but it doesn't have everything. Like food, for instance. I grabbed an old backpack that I never use anymore, and filled it with canned goods (fruit, vegetables, beans, and spaghetti o's - things I wouldn't mind eating cold if necessary!), candy bars, and crackers that don't expire for a long time. It's a good idea to re-check your expiration dates once a year, just to make sure everything's still good! We each threw a rarely-worn sweatshirt in the bag as well, just in case, and I added some additional items like, um, feminine products and disposable utensils, and I'm considering adding some Clif Bars as well.

I do keep our important documents (marriage/birth certificates, social security cards, etc), my backup external hard drive, and some of our more "valuable" jewelry in a fireproof safe (documents and electronics in heavy duty ziplock freezer bags for water protection), but it's a good idea to also keep copies of the documents (especially insurance/marriage/birth certificates) in your Go Bag as well. Note to self: make copies and put in the Go Bag.

One thing that could prove useful, that I never think about, is a reliable source of fire. If your power goes out, you'll want a flashlight (and spare batteries), of course, but you also might want to light candles. You might need to light a fire for warmth, or to cook food. And in that case, a reliable fire starter will be pretty handy. I would usually just suggest a box of matches (in a waterproof container!), but there are other options too.

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter, and I highly recommend it as an addition to your Go Bag. I'm not great with lighters, to be honest (I think I'm always afraid of burning myself), and if you don't have matches around (or your matches get wet), this would be a good alternative to have on hand. The waxed tinder sticks light quickly and easily, and stay burning for a good amount of time - definitely long enough to light a fire, I'd say! You can buy them online, or at various sporting goods stores...but one lucky reader is going to get one for free!

Leave a comment below, telling me what you have in your Emergency Kit -- if you don't have one yet, what will you put it yours when you make one? ed note: This contests closes for entries on Sunday, 11/11, at 11:59pm PST.

Seriously, everyone should have one. Don't be caught in a disaster without provisions. Stay safe out there.

Ed note: I actually started writing this post before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and with the stories of devastation over there, this post just seems all the more relevant now. Please help yourself by being prepared -- and if you want to donate time or money to those in need on the East Coast, head on over to the Red Cross website to see how you can help.

Official FCC Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with 72hours.org, and I doubt they even know I'm writing this post. I just think their site is extremely useful. Red Cross Bay Area (with whom I am also not affiliated) pointed me to them a few years ago. Neither company has provided me with any compensation, and my opinions are my own. Zippo sent me a free firestarter (and refills) to try and review, but I was not otherwise compensated, and they did not require that I write a positive review. This is my blog, and my opinions are mine, yo!