Friday, November 21, 2014

Adventures in Low Popcorn Ceilings and Awkward 100-year-old Angles

My handsome, handy hubby. < 3

Last weekend Hubby and I tackled lots around the house. Specifically, lots of overdue, lingering and necessary things.

Most pressing was replacing our thermostat interface. The old one that came with the house was completely stuck on the programs that the sellers had set it to, which didn't really work for us. And I tell you no matter what we did, that thing was like, "BAH HA HA I DO WHAT I WANT!" Sigh.

And so we decided to take on our first electrical project without any help. Well, I mean, we had the instructions that came with the new thermostat, but aside from that, it was just us and the possibility of electrocution/explosion. Since I'm writing this, obviously neither of those things happened.

It was all very simple and straightforward, aside from trying to work with tiny wires in an iiiity biiity space. But the old bisque-hued unit came off with no trouble, and aside from having to quickly paint the newly expanse of wall, it was about a 30-minute process.

I'm old and sad and didn't work very efficiently.

I'm new and shiny and gladly do all things you need me to!

Now we have a lovely and modern white unit that lights up, and is very very very user friendly as far as programming! Ahhhh. It's the little things.

Speaking of little things, I completed three long-overdue curtain hangings as well. The main success was hanging thermal-lined curtains across our sliding glass door to the deck. We had never replaced the weird bamboo slidey-panels that came with the house. But we're slowly and surely trying to mitigate air leakage around the house as best we can short of a total gut-and-re-insulate job. And so down the bamboo came and up the thermals went. I'll have to go back and spackle the holes from where we removed the old track system, but that's easy.


After. No matter what I do, this photo will not turn rightside-up. Sigh.
And now that we have a real curtain rod and the little rings with clips, we can change up the curtains any time we like. We will probably choose something lined, but a bit lighter, for the summer. Thankfully, the back of the house never gets direct sunlight, so we're not worried about baking, but we do want to keep the outside air outside and the inside air inside!

Lastly, I finally finally finally found and put up curtains in the guest room! This was put on hold for a few reasons, the main one being, well, my laziness. We've had only a handful of overnight guests since moving in, so the push hasn't been all that great to git er done. But it's beginning to bother me that it's the last largely unfinished space. Curtains have made it feel much more homey. Delaying this install as well was finding the danged curtains I wanted! Target never had them in stock until just recently. In fact, when I went to buy the curtain rod for the back door, I checked, just out of habit, and blammo! There they were! Whoo hoo!

Here's my battle station. PS: I HATE ironing. Ugh.
The guest room presented a very unique challenge, though, in that the window across from the bed has basically no edge and sort of runs straight into the mirrored closet doors--see below. So after scratching my head for a while, I figured I'd just have to cheat the curtain rod inside the frame a bit. Once the curtain was draped, you'd hardly notice. Thankfully, this worked out just fine.

Cheating the curtain rod inside a bit.

The real adventure was hanging the rod over the bed window. Low ceilings...ahem, low popcorn ceilings, meant while standing on the bed to measure, mark, drill, and hang my hair was ever getting stuck to the damned popcorn. I looked like Don King by the time I was done, my ponytail now teased out like I was going to a 60s disco. Sadly for you, but good for me, I didn't take any selfies of that look. (Sorry, Mom.)

Looks much more welcoming that just a stark, naked window.

I'm getting the itch to finish up the guest room, or at least make more strides in that direction: painting the walls, getting a real night stand situation in there, and maybe even an enclosed bureau for additional (and behind-closed-doors!) storage, and hanging some shelves and more thoughtful wall art.

Other things I'd love to address over the next year is getting a "grown up" bed frame--at the moment, it's just the metal frame that holds the box spring and mattress but offers no decorative elements. We also may look into a new mattress soon. Ours is just not comfortable anymore. And of course, there are other small-ish things like painting the kitchen and laundry room, perhaps adding shelves or something in the bathroom, and hanging the rest of our photographs around the house. First up, however, will be replacing the bathroom sink faucet--it's been leaking, and let's just say the leak hasn't been getting better. So that's our current priority.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Antique Silverware, Playing with Piping Techniques, and Chocolate Cheesecake

Now if that isn't a mashup, I don't know what is!

Back in mid-October, John and I went down to Cape May with some friends and we explored the old timey village of Cold Springs, which was putting on a pumpkin festival and craft show. The first table we passed featured jewelry and garden herb stakes made from antique silverware--flattened spoons and forks and the like. But the woman was also selling some still-useable pieces of servery as well, so of course I couldn't want to dive in!

I have been wanting fancy spoons to use for fancy tea with my fancy teacups. I rummaged around and settled on two spoons, and also decided to look for larger serving utensils for things like holidays or hosting brunches or dinners where I want to serve carved turkey or scoop salad up-right! When I found a serving fork with an engraved "R" I knew I could do no better.

The spoon at the right is a bit deep, so I've used it for cereal, soup, and porridge. The spoon at left is shallow and a bit more shovel-like, and I've used it quite a lot for nice, thick Greek yogurt. Both have been amply used for stirring tea and coffee! The cute bowl is actually a find from Home Goods, and is microwave- and dishwasher-safe! Win! I wish I had take a photo with greater detail of the various embossing and details on the silverware, but I had to get a close-up of the "R" for sure!

I've also been messing around with my fear of the piping bag. I found my error was pretty foolish--I had purchased a detail-piping kit, so everything is in a miniature scale--fine for piping fine details onto cakes and cookies, but crap for actually frosting a cupcake! I found this set from Fat Daddio, and John very sweetly surprised me with it one day! I sucked it up, spent three days reading about tips and techniques and stalking tons of photos of beautifully frosted confections before I attempted to do it on my own. I picked the large star tip to start, and was actually quite pleased! I've now used the star tip quite a few times (and even for my first commissioned baking gig--cupcakes for a friend's daughter's birthday party!) and have recently added the large round tip to my repertoire. I'm still gaining confidence, but am at least no longer terrified of the idea, and like that I can frost with both an offset spatula for a really casual vibe, or get a little fancier with the piping bag. I even overcame the witch-hat point I said I wasn't happy with in this post, which talked briefly about my very first attempt.

Round tip frosting at front (vanilla) and star tip frosting at back (chocolate).
I jazzed up the chocolates with white pearls and the vanillas with rainbow pearls!
This is half of the 2 dozen I was commissioned to bake--a reprise of the pumpkin cupcakes from my tea party.
Finally, to wrap up this disjointed bonanza, John's and my third wedding anniversary was last week. I had fully intended to bake us a chocolate cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, but life, as it is wont to do, got in the way, and I simply didn't have it in me to make at the time. So I spent some time in the kitchen this past weekend and delivered on my promise. Plus, I had 30 ounces of cream cheese in the fridge...what choice did I have? I even staved off buying cookies when grocery shopping since we'd be chowing down on homemade sweets for the week.

This recipe called for a water bath for the cheesecake (my usual NY style cheesecake just bakes low and slow but without a water bath), and I didn't have a pan large enough to fit my 9-inch springform, so I instead made an 8-inch cake and a miniature cake in a little 4-inch springform my mom had just gifted me. Everything turned out yummy, and I'm looking forward to eating a slice tonight for dessert. We shared the 4-inch guy on Monday night. Photos of both finished products are here:

The 8-incher on my cake stand.

My favorite plate was a perfect platform for the 4-inch cake!

Fork for scale.
And until next time, this is where I leave you.