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Where’d you go?

The last year has been a crazy wonderful ride. I got promoted at my job and have been jet setting to wonderful places like Boston and Las Vegas working trade shows. I’ve been developing new packaging lines and revising existing ones and traveling to wonderful places like Wooster, Ohio and Hauppauge, New York to supervise press runs. That’s still going on, but I plan to try to fit more blogging into my busy schedule.

I haven’t stopped crafting and I haven’t stopped taking pictures of the dog being ridiculous and cute, so expect some back articles throughout the next couple of weeks!

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The Built Ins

When we were house hunting, almost every house we saw had a room we weren’t sure what we would do with. We didn’t really  need a “living room” and a “family room.” We also knew we wanted a basement if we could find it, and many times a basement doubles as a living room, and Tucker just doesn’t need his own sitting room, so what could we do with that third TV/hang out space? Two rooms on the same level of the house that served the TV/hanging out purpose was actually #1 on my Do Not Want list. As I think back, I think we only saw one house that met that criteria, and that house missed the mark on many things we did want. So I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to a) get creative or b) have a room we just weren’t going to use.

One thing I was definitely looking for was more storage. We did (finally) get rid of a lot when we moved. But we own a lot of books and things we might not read any time soon, but we definitely want to keep. So we (with some help from Pinterest) came up with the solution to build our very own custom built in bookshelves. Big, relatively-permanent project? Let’s do this! (Thankfully we have lots of family with expertise and tools, both of which we borrowed a lot. This project would have gone much less smoothly and, most importantly, been a lot less fun, without our wonderful families there with us!)

I got the inspiration from this tutorial, though I did not by any means follow it. Nor am I making this a tutorial because Paul and I are not experts on building built in bookshelves.

In that tutorial the people started with unfinished upper kitchen cabinets. I wanted to start with unfinished base cabinets because a) I wanted as much storage as possible, b) we had plenty of room for them and c) that eliminated the step of framing out the bottom. But mostly a.

We ended up getting ours at Home Depot. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menard’s all carry pretty much the same thing. In the end, Home Depot’s were the cheapest to start with and they were on sale. In the end we paid just under $300 for all 3.

The experts at work

The dogs ... hard at work ...

DSCN1531

The counter for the cabinets was a bit of a challenge. No matter how we figured it, we’d have to piece something together. We weren’t going to be able to find a piece of wood large enough to cover the whole thing. In the end we got three poplar planks (we also used poplar for the facing) and Paul used the Kreg system (more on that later) to attach them all to each other and then he sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded … until it looked like one piece of wood!

The Counter

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room ... and the front room ... and the garage ...

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room … and the front room … and the garage …

We also decided on MDF for our shelving. The plan all along was to paint the whole thing white. MDF is already smooth and ready to paint, it’s going to be straight and level, it was strong enough for what we needed and the price was good. We used a Kreg system to attach the shelves to the uprights using pocket holes on the bottom and wood glue, which we puttied in and painted over – no screws showing! The Kreg ran us about $100, but it was worth every single cent, even if we never use it again. It was easy to use and made the project look professional.

More experts hard at work

More experts hard at work

Building the ShelvesHere it is with the poplar facing:

Plus FacingThen we painted every last inch of all of it! Once it all had a few good coats, we put it all together!

DSCN1560The next step was to touch up the paint, fill in some gaps with wood fill, and caulk all along the walls. We also installed crown molding around the top and baseboard around the bottom to match the baseboard in the existing room.

And voila!

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

We have hardware that needs to be installed on the drawers and doors, and we also have sconces that will illuminate the front of the shelves. The sconces involve getting an electrician out, so we’re letting funds recoup a bit before tackling that step of the process. Not to mention the fact that the arrangement of things on the shelves will be a work in progress for, well, ever.

Want to see my thoughts as they progressed through the project? Check out my Pinterest board here.

Everything turned out great in the end, but we ended up with a few, um, situations. Like ourfacing for the top being about 1/4 an inch short, and crown molding being installed at the wrong angle. In the end, we love them. They serve the purposes we need and they make that room a great introduction to our home.

 

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Seafood Stew, Game of Thrones Style

Paul and I are both reading the (amazing) series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Mr. Martin frequently talks about the food the characters eat in details. One that seems to occur frequently is a rich stew served in hollowed out trenchers of yesterday’s bread. (Are you hungry yet? I am.) They also talk a lot about the fish stew. Being a lover of all seafood (at least everything I have tried.) I thought that the newly cool temperatures and an unexpected Friday at home were the perfect excuse to make a big pot of seafood stew.

I did a little research on the recipe, looking at my usual go-tos, like my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, a soup specific cookbook I got Paul as a gift eons ago, http://www.allrecipes.com and the FoodNetwork website.

In the end I chose the recipe that I knew all along I’d probably end up using. (Although a curried salmon soup recipe from the soup cookbook gave it a run for it’s money. That one is definitely on my list.)

I went with the Thick Seafood Stew from Inn at the Crossroads, a website dedicated to creating the recipes for some of the foods mentioned in the books. They even have a cookbook out! We don’t have it, but someday we will, I don’t doubt.

I was going to use my breadmaker but Paul and I decided it was a special meal and we should just go all out and actually make bread from scratch with our own four hands, so that’s what we did. The night before we made some bread bowls:

I made a 1.5 batch because, well, it just worked out that the amount of ingredients I had made it silly not to just make a bigger back. The first step is actually making your own fish broth. All this involves is boiling a piece of fish for about 10 minutes. While that is boiling, you fry up some bacon, then fry your onion and potatoes in the pan with the bacon. (The recipe doesn’t actually tell you what to do with the onion. This seems like the most logical step.)

After the potatoes have cooked for about five minutes, you add the fish broth and the rest of your fish to the pot. I used cod and swai, which is a type of catfish.

Let that “burble” (their word) for about 10 minutes, then you add cream, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, crab meat and whole mussels. I used imitation crab meat and frozen whole mussels, both of which worked quite well.  I have cooked fresh mussels before and they are delicious, but it didn’t seem like it was worth the trip across town to get live mussels for a stew that would be simmering for much longer than is needed to cook live mussels. You simmer the whole pot for about an hour and then it is ready to enjoy! While it simmered we baked our bread bowls. We used the Classic French Bread recipe from Peter Reinhart’s artisan breads every day, which is a fantastic book for someone who has no experience baking bread.

We served it in our bread bowls and garnished it with lots and lots of fresh cracked black pepper!

Both recipes we used are delicious and I definitely recommend them!

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Fingerless Mitts – Craftsmas 2011 Project 2

First of all, I know I am waaay behind. I’ve been incredibly busy, and as much as I love crafting, there have been other priorities, so I’m going to extend my deadline to the end of the winter.

This next project is something that I also didn’t get from Pinterest, but trust me that you can find lots of these on the site. Fingerless mitts are wonderful in that they keep your hands warm but don’t limit your mobility. i.e., you can still type, text, dial the phone, etc. while having toasty warm hands. I got my Aunt Lynn’s name for our Christmas trade, and she is notorious for cold hands, so I decided to bust out my DPNs (double-pointed knitting needles) and whip up some of these. I just made up the pattern as I went, and I plan to get it written up and post it here just as soon as I can (which will definitely not be before January 16)

 

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More knitting!

Remember when I was so excited because my photo of my knitted gnome got some love on mochimochiland.com? Well I took it for a photo competition she hosts every year, and I made it into the semifinalists! Next step is getting lots o’love in the comments. If I get enough, I’ll be a finalist and be up for an official vote to win some awesome knitting loot!

I’d appreciate any help I can get!

http://mochimochiland.com/2011/12/semifinalists-11-group-two/

(I am LoveInIndy and my photo is called Tiny Gnome at the beach! And it looks like this)

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Living room revamp

I’ve been dreaming for a while now about updating the chairs in our living room. The ones we had weren’t a matching pair, but they were the right color for my living-room-color-scheme and I thought they worked well enough for the room. Especially since we already had them.

Our mismatched-already-had-them living room chairs, very early in our living room set up

They also were comfortable, though we honestly rarely sat in them. We mostly just sat on the couch, and after we got the rug I started to sit on the floor more.

I had kind of been drooling over this guy for a while, but the price tag stopped me from pursuing it. It’s Crate & Barrel’s Klyne collection (http://www.crateandbarrel.com/furniture/chairs/klyne-chair-and-a-half/s237445) The plan was to try to find a similar chair and a half in a similar color. I have been trying to incorporate a burnt orange into the room for a while but haven’t found anything quite right. I also love the couch with chaise in this collection in a lovely gray color, so maybe it’ll stay on the list for future major-living-room-upgrade some time in the future when we can afford to spend money on things like awesome furniture. (Greer and I actually went to Crate and Barrel a while back to check if the thing is actually comfortable, partially in hopes that it wouldn’t be so I could stop pining for it. It’s amazingly comfortable. So now I want it more.)

When Paul’s grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, we went to Wichita. The day after the funeral, we went to his home with a U-Haul and our three families (My parents-in-law, Paul and I and Paul’s brother Keith and his wife Emily) with the goal of taking home a few momentos. While we were there I kind of fell in love with this green velvety chair in his living room, and Emily and I decided it definitely needed to be in my craft room. Turns out, it had a mate in another room, and so one chair that made me happy turned into a total revamp of 4 (yes, 4) rooms in our house.

Most of those rooms are still not ready. In two cases, time is the problem. In the third, I’m just not coming up with a great way to rearrange the furniture that is in there, but I’ll talk more about those later.

For now, here are some shots of our new-and-improved living room.

Changes:

New-to-us green chairs replaced mismatched brown and tan chairs, while also adding a really awesome pop of color which is something I have been craving for quite a while. We already had those brown throw pillows (Mom gave them to us, she had relocated them to her basement then passed them along when they matched our living room.) The brown ottomans came in a set with the longer brown ottoman that used to sit under the window(also from Mom, a Christmas gift). The chairs are in great shape and are really comfortable, especially with an ottoman to prop your feet on! I am thinking about relocating that sewing machine cabinet and plant, but haven’t decided for sure yet. I think the plant for sure has to go elsewhere, just because it is too crowded. We also plan to hang a clock or a shelf with a clock on it above the sewing machine cabinet. My search for a clock has not gone well. I’ve actually been searching for months and haven’t come up with anything quite right.

That art on the left wall is also something we brought from Wichita. It was done by a Wichita-local artist and has a whole list of shows that it has been in on the back, but we haven’t done much research on the artist herself. The green blanket on the couch is actually a shawl, but it’s the right color.

That radio cabinet (in front of the window, between the green chairs) is also something we brought with us from Wichita. It’s very cool and everything still works, it has a turntable and a radio. Paul and I did a little bit of radio-surgery to fix the tuner, which didn’t work when we brought it home. The string that made the tuner work had broken, and it took a few tries, but we were able to replace it. (We ended up using light blue embroidery thread. The light blue makes no different, the embroidery thread seemed like it would be strong and hold up well. Also, I already had it.)

On top of the radio are a couple of other neat mementos/heirlooms. On the right there is an old handguide for Electrical Engineers (which is what Paul is) that we found in his grandfather’s bookshelf, and on top of it is a tiny spy-cam that we found in a closet. On the left is another very cool old camera. Still not sure if they work.

The vase of flowers is actually something I am very proud of. Those artificial yellow glads were hanging on the posts around the dance floor at our wedding, and I’ve had them in a bag upstairs ever since, hoping to find a good use for them. I thought they would look great in a tall vase, but wasn’t sure where to put them. Once we put that radio under the window I knew that was where I wanted them to go. The vase was a wedding gift from Paul’s aunt and uncle who live near Wichita. The glads were a little too tall, so I cut them down to size and filled the vase with glass marbles (mostly white and clear with a few yellow ones mixed in) so it wouldn’t tip over.

That ottoman that was under the window is now next to the TV(the entrance to the living room is just to the left). The wreath hanging above it was a gift from my parents in memory of Paul’s grandpa. I also added the tiny basket with the yellow liner to the right to wrangle Netflix DVDs and library movies. Also to add some more yellow to the room, since that is supposed to be one of the room’s accent colors and it wasn’t around much.

This is what it looks like standing in the kitchen looking into the living room.
Paul’s grandfather also had some awesome old suitcases in his basement, and they were also in just the right color.

That round white one on top? Guess what it really is.

Think of something crazier


It’s a hairdryer!

This lamp is also something kind of fun that Paul really wanted from his grandpa’s house. It’s actually meant to be hanging, but we couldn’t decide on a good place to hang it, and while we were standing in the living room with Paul holding it up, a light went on! (har har)

Ok. If we’re totally honest I wasn’t completely sold on it at first. But it does look great when it’s lit up (I had only ever seen it off) and he really wanted it. So what was I to do? Part of what was also throwing me was coming up with a place to hang it. In the end, this looks pretty cool, the shelf look pretty awful beforehand and we didn’t have to screw 5 holes in the ceiling to find a stud! (like we did with the pot rack in the kitchen) I would definitely like to have it hanging over an armchair in a cozy little corner someday, but said cozy little corner doesn’t exist in this particular house. Someday! Someday the lamp will have a perfect home, and we’ll be glad to have a little piece of LaVerne around.

An overview of the other half of the room:

So that’s how one room has shaped up! Three more are in the works, including what I was afraid was going to be a super daunting project. Luckily, that project worked out easier than I thought it would, but more on that later!

In the meantime:

Tucker in a t-shirt! (Sorry it's blurry)

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Zoom zoom

Despite my hopes of getting some pictures up here of our (awesome) house switcharoos, the true fact of the matter is that the house has gone backwards this week, looking even more like we just moved in and have not in reality been living there for 8+ months. But sometimes things get worse before they get better, right?

This weekend we don’t have many plans, other than heading into Broad Ripple to enjoy the first Colts game of the season at some or the other bar, so I’m hoping to get things straightened up and get some nice pictures for you.

In the meantime, I thought I’d give you a quick update about a very exciting occurrence in our life!

On August 27, Paul and I became the proud owners of a Mazdaspeed3 (Yes, I’m pretty sure it is supposed to be all one word like that. Yes, I also think it is weird) This is the first major purchase we have made as a married couple! It’s a 2011, but gently used, and still has the new car smell. We’re pretty sure it got repossessed, which is a bummer for someone out there, but we’re glad to have it. This particular car is only made in Japan, so they have been in short supply since the earthquake/tsunami, and we were lucky to get our hands on one. I also think it’s kind of neat that it came over on a long boat ride, but I’m also kind of a dork.

When we started looking for dreaming about buying a car, Paul and I were on pretty different pages about what we wanted. There wasn’t anything wrong with the Grand Am, I was just ready for a change. I wanted something practical, Paul wanted something fun. We started by looking at cars that kind of fit both bills, such as the VW Golf GTI and the Subaru WRX (though we weren’t actually able to find a WRX to test drive as they sell faster than they can be made, and people who want them want them to have the least number of miles possible so dealerships won’t let you test drive them anyway. Apparently they are pretty awesome.) Both of us were super psyched up about the VW Golf GTI, and were both let down pretty hard. Not that it isn’t a great car, but it definitely didn’t make us want to take it home. right. now. (Though I was a big fan of the plaid seats!)

What I had more in mind was a crossover (an SUV on a car chassis) and we only ended up driving one, but we couldn’t imagine a single thing we would change about it, and are actually pretty sure that if we someday find that we need more people/stuff hauling space, we’re just going to get one of them. It was the Subaru Forester and we loved it. Tons of space, smooth ride, quiet ride, minimal rolling in the turns (for an SUV type thing). After we drove the Forester, we decided to check out the used car dealership nearby (they actually told us they had a Mazdaspeed3 coming in, which is why we went. It turned out to be a Mazda 3, which isn’t what we were looking for. More on what the “speed” means later.)

At the used car dealership, they just happened to have a MiniCooper on display, and it was yellow, so naturally I had to drive it. It was SO much fun, and that put me in a “I’m young. I don’t have kids. Maybe I need something fun” mode. After that, I was pretty much sold on el yellow Mini, but felt like the wisest thing to do would be to do a bit more research, see how much other similar Minis went for, etc. We were pretty much in a “Let’s do it” mindset, when Paul suggested that we go to the Mazda dealership and just try a Speed3. It had been on his list of “super awesome fun cars” since the start, and we hadn’t actually ever driven one.

My first thought driving it was “It’s so fun!” It was as fun as the Mini to drive, and at least 100 times more practical. It is 4 doors (which was on my original list of “musts”), it was fun to drive, it had a hatch big enough for the dog to ride comfortably in. But this brought up a whole different decision. The Mini had so much personality and pizazz, and was just a fun car. In the end, the combo of practical and fun won out, and I’m so happy we made the decision we did. The Speed3 also has personality, and it’s kind of fun driving around in it and thinking “This car is turbo charged and crazy quick and it’s disguised as a hatchback!”

The Speed3 (not the regular 3) has a manual transmission and a turbo charger, so it’s really fast and a lot of fun to drive. Paul could probably give you a better description, but this will have to do for now.

More about the house to come this weekend!

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