Friday, February 28, 2014

Just a quick announcement ...



I have plans for them. Fingers crossed this goes better than every other attempt I've ever made.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dealing with extra deep drawers

Four of the eight drawers in my new kitchen are pot drawers. Super deep, not terribly useful, pot drawers. If I used them as intended, it would mean that half of my available drawers were being used to hold three pots and our food storage containers. This just doesn't work if you also have lots of smaller kitchen implements that you use on a daily basis.

Luckily D is a master with cardboard and a glue gun, so we pulled everything out that we wanted available and he corralled it all into triple layer storage. It is roughly arranged so that the items we use most often are closest to the top. You have to remove each layer in order to get down to the next, of course, but it is absolutely the best solution for us.

1st level
{1st level}

2nd level
{2nd level}

3rd level
{3rd level}

He made custom inserts for our shallow drawers as well, which makes a world of difference in keeping everything easy to access. You'd think cardboard wouldn't be strong enough but we know it holds up because he did this for our last kitchen as well. There are major advantages to living with an architect. All those model building skills you suffer to learn really do have practical applications.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The weekend, briefly

Our shortest desert trip yet. We packed it full.

window wake up
{window wake up}

not quite camping
{not quite camping}

joshua tree
{joshua tree}


succulent greenhouse
{succulent greenhouse}




We tossed a pile of blankets and pillows in the back of the car and got to Joshua Tree at 11:30 on Friday night. Predictably, all the campsites were full. I was so exhausted that I overcame my deep fear of being yelled at by park rangers and told D just to park in one of the little pullouts for a trail head and we all curled up in the back of the car (we have a hatchback, which is almost, but not quite, comfortable for car camping). It was worth it when we woke up to the desert.

We meandered over to Palm Springs in the morning, stopping in no less than three vintage shops and the dig your own cactus store.

The reason for the trip was checking out the vintage travel trailer show going on as part of modernism week. We have a project up our collective sleeves (I could try to be vague here, but what other way is there to interpret that? We are crazy so we're planning to buy, gut and redo a vintage trailer in the next three months). I loved seeing what people have done with their tiny spaces and Circe loved being a dog model for everyone who had trailer themed dog wares.

We were back on the road to LA just about 20 hours after leaving in the first place and it means we didn't get any laundry or standard weekend chores done but I feel oddly refreshed. Who needs clean pants anyways?

Friday, February 21, 2014


A few glimpses of the progress around the new place. 


hallway art
{hallway art}

bathroom shelves
{bathroom shelves}



We wanted to tackle the big projects first. D put shelves in all the closets (they are huge, but shelf-less, which meant we got to choose between installing shelves ourselves and just cramming things in there) and he built a storage compartment in our parking space, so we'd have somewhere to stash our tools, holiday decorations and other stuff that didn't need to be in the apartment all the time. The next big project is our kitchen but I decided we could distract ourselves long enough to take care of a few aesthetic issues that would make our place feel more homey. These were all very small projects but I'm so glad we have them done.

We are being super cautious about hanging anything on the walls. We've managed to accumulate quite a bit of art that we love over the years, partly because our old apartment had a lot of wall space. I hate not having it all out, but I think with a place this size everything will end up looking cluttered if we put too much on the walls. We'll probably slowly hang a little more, but we're taking the time to live with the bare walls and really consider our options. I'm thinking a rotating display might be best, where we switch out the art every few months (will we ever do this, though? that remains to be seen). In the meantime, most of our art is propped up in a corner but we did hang our beloved homesteads from Lily in the living room and a trio of our favorite LA pieces from Self Help Graphics are in the hallway.  It feels good to have them up, like seeing old friends. 

I wanted to make use of our relatively large bathroom, so we cut a couple of Ikea shelves we already had down to size and installed them (over the toilet, if you must know - at least it draws the eye up, right?). The high shelf holds towels, which frees up space in the linen closet and the lower shelf has some trinkets and a few photographs that we weren't worried about damaging with humidity because we can always get new prints. 

D treated himself to a couple of anchor hooks he'd been eyeing from West Elm. We try to keep them pretty clear so they're available for guests. I miss our entryway set up from our old place but it would just be too much visual clutter here, even if we had the space for it, which we don't. We moved our old hook rails into our bedroom, so we just have to get ourselves in the habit of walking in there to hang everything up as soon as we get home. 

One of my favorite features in our new place are the display niches built into the walls. I have a little box of tiny things we love and it's fun to arrange them in there. 

We're gradually getting the kitchen set up and knocking out other small tasks on our list. I don't even want to talk about our bedroom because we haven't done anything in there and I'm still using a cardboard box as a bedside table. There's just only so much we can do given our schedules, so prioritizing is key. It makes sense to tackle the rest of the apartment first, given that we're only in the bedroom at night, but man, I am itching to get started. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Around here

Lots and lots of little projects, a few big ones.

slow roasting tomatoes
{slow roasting tomatoes}

sunday morning spooning
{sunday morning spooning}

pot shelf
{pot shelf}

crown knot, knees
{crown knot}

dog ate my homework
{dog ate my homework}

circe supervisor
{circe supervisor}

I am learning how to cook in our little kitchen and it involves a lot of balancing. I use the sink as counterspace, I use the stove as counterspace, I prop bowls in the dish drainer. It is interesting.

Circe has become the most cuddly dog on the planet. She tries to split the night evenly to be fair to both of us, so she starts out curled up against my stomach and then transitions over halfway through to hang out with D. The Thundershirt continues to be a success and we've found she doesn't even need it every night anymore.

Yet another kitchen shelf we installed, this one for our pots and pans. We used Ikea brackets and a piece of wood and then added the rail and hooks below. It's working out pretty well.

It's been way too long since I've tackled a creative project so naturally I decided to get into macrame. Hopefully I'll have some results to show you soon.

We found Brouweij West's Dog Ate My Homework at our local liquor store and I was thrilled. It was my favorite beer from the brew crawl last year. The bottle is not bad either.

The cabinets are  not entirely installed yet, but we are SO close and they are going to be amazing. D built these from scratch. He is pretty great.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Reading, lately

December + January in books.

The Tiger's Wife - A young doctor in a war torn country investigates her grandfather's mysterious death through the stories he told while alive. Almost like a fairytale with stories taking place on two planes. I really enjoyed this one.

All That Is - A picture of post WWII life in America, heavy on the male experience. I found the main character pretty tiring and the females seemed very one dimensional (maybe because they were only seen from the male point of view?) but the writing is strong and it was oddly compelling, given my lack of connection to the male lead. I guess I would give it a hesitant recommendation. Other people seemed to loooove this book, so I might be way off base here.

Telegraph Avenue - Hijinks, hot air balloons (okay, fine, just one zeppelin) and the death of the local record store, set in Oakland. Not my favorite Chabon novel (Mysteries of Pittsburgh wins). It was funny, as expected, but it felt like it was over the top in a way that didn't work for me and I just couldn't quite fall into it.

The Burgess Boys - A family torn apart by tragedy reunites over a troubled teenager, set in a tiny town in Maine and NYC. I enjoyed Amy and Isabelle and Olive Kitteridge and this didn't grab me the same way. It felt a little - bloodless at times? Not sure if that's a product of the characters and my deep unfamiliarity with the east coast mindset or just where I was mentally when I read it, but it just didn't sing for me.

The Newlyweds - A Bangladeshi woman meets an American man on the internet, they marry and she moves to the US. Culture clashes ensue, along with some self awakening. This is a very easy, light read. I'm a sucker for culture clash stories, so I enjoyed it. The focus is mainly on the female character and the American husband just sort of exists. Fair enough, I guess.

Unseen - Another in the Will Trent series of thrillers. Solid, if you're into that kind of thing.

Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood - Re-reading the first two in Atwood's dystopian trilogy, since I'd just read the third one. I can never read a single book in a series like this without wanting to re-read the others.  This just reminded me of how much I love the series as a whole and also that I will always, always skip over song lyrics in a novel, even if I love the author to death. I hate reading song lyrics.

The Complete Miss Marple Collection - Agatha Christie was my very first introduction to mysteries and I have read everything she has ever written. I gave up my Agatha Christie mysteries when we moved because they were taking up an entire bookshelf and I hadn't re-read them in a while. For Christmas, D surprised me with the complete Miss Marple collection for my Kindle and I binge read them (and then felt slightly sad that I'd given up my others, so I might save up to replace a few more).

W is for Wasted and V is for Vengeance - Sue Grafton writes the only mystery series that has stayed good the whole way through. I love, love, love her voice (I appreciate humor in a mystery) and the plots are pretty consistently good so I treated myself to these as a purchase over the holidays. Also considering purchasing the entire series for my Kindle at some point, because I enjoy re-reading these.

Just One Evil Act - The latest Inspector Lynley novel. It goes a little off the rails and I'm sad to think this series is going downhill, but that seems to be the case. I'll probably keep reading them anyways, because apparently that's what I do.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Three weeks of meal plans in detail

In the comments last week someone was curious about what the week to week looks like with meal planning in the new(ish) system, so I'll recap what I've done the last three weeks. I usually do the meals in the order listed but the days vary and I'll adjust if necessary. I didn't keep track of what days each of these meals were cooked, so I'm working from memory.

meal prep
{week 1 - meal prep - sorry, the planning page was long gone by the time i started this post}

Week 1: Basically starting from scratch because our fridge was bare.
Salad (Monday): Chinese chicken salad with red chile peanut dressing
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Soba noodles with sesame-ginger-soy vinaigrette
Easy meal (Thursday): Bean burritos

Planning thoughts: I'd been having major cravings for Take a Bao's side salad, which is their Chinese chicken salad without the chicken. I was torn on whether to go with baked tofu or chicken for the salad protein, but D offered to pick up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods on his way home. And then the noodles just sounded good. I'm currently searching for a great soba noodle recipe.

Advance prep: Washed and chopped all vegetables for the Chinese chicken salad and the soba noodles. Set aside in separate containers, labelled. Made dressings for the salad and the noodles, labelled (I store the dressing directly in the containers that come with the blender because they have lids and it means fewer dishes, but obvs it would also work in jars).

Recipe thoughts: The salad was pretty good but not what I was looking for. I may have sliced the cabbage a little too thin and the dressing wasn't exactly what I wanted. Clearly, this means I need to go back and taste test the T.A.B salad several times (strictly for recipe development). The soba noodles were good as well, and might end up on our regular rotation. I think I was more into them than D was, but that's pretty standard with noodles of most varieties.

week 2
{week 2}

Week 2: Random ingredients from the week before - sour cream, cheese, cilantro, tortillas
Salad (Monday): Farro with roasted veg and fontina (doubled the recipe)
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Coconut curried red lentils (+ roasted cauliflower and naan from TJs)
Easy meal (Thursday): Frittata with roasted cauliflower, orange bell peppers and fontina

Planning thoughts: I decided our burrito fixings would hold up for another week, although we did have breakfast burritos a few times so that was helping make a dent. I wanted to test out this farro salad and D requested the red lentils, which was perfect because we could use up the leftover cilantro. I figured we'd have leftover vegetables from something, so I decided on a frittata for our end of the week easy meal. The orange bell pepper was a spontaneous addition, because they were on sale.

Advance prep: Minimal this week. I could have chopped all the vegetables in advance but I didn't have much time on Sunday and I had Monday off that week so saving time wasn't a big issue. I roasted twice as much cauliflower as we needed on Tuesday so that I could chop up half and use it in the frittata later in the week, so it was a really quick Friday night meal. I used up the rest of the fontina in the frittata as well.

Recipe thoughts: The farro salad was so good that we were tempted to make it again the next week. I think I'm going to play with it a little and then share my modifications here soon. I'd never made a frittata with roasted cauliflower before but we loved it and will probably do it again.

week 3
{week 3}

Week 3: Random ingredients - orange bell pepper, sour cream, tortillas
Salad (Monday): Orzo with feta and bell peppers
Meat/lentils/pasta (Thursday): Turkey burgers with romaine slaw (+ side salad)
Easy meal (Tuesday): Roasted vegetable quesadillas (based on Moosewood Cookbook recipe)

Planning thoughts: We wanted to use up the last of the burrito ingredients and also the random bell pepper I had leftover from the previous week when they were on sale.

Advance prep: Sunday evening I chopped everything for the orzo salad and made the dressing. I also chopped and then roasted the vegetables for the quesadillas. On Monday all I had to do was boil the orzo, toss it with the veg, the feta and the dressing. The quesadillas were also a 15 minute meal because I had the vegetables waiting. The turkey burgers I made the day of because I never buy meat ahead of time, just in case something comes up and we don't get around to using it.

I also randomly ended up making butternut squash soup that week, because they were on a good sale and I haven't made it all winter. We ate it for lunches and also as a side with the quesadillas and it was a good addition.

Recipe thoughts: The orzo salad is one of our standbys and it was reliably good. I really enjoy those turkey burgers and they're a quick weeknight meal. I always use the mini brioche buns from Whole Foods if we're doing burgers, because they're the best. I've never posted about the roasted vegetable quesadilla recipe because I don't make it often, but it's always in the back of my mind. It's the perfect winter quesadilla.

It drives me a little crazy that this round up is three weeks instead of a nice even four, but we had some big family medical appointments scheduled this week and I knew I'd be tired and unmotivated to cook so I just ditched meal planning altogether and baked a giant side of fish, steamed a pot of broccoli and made some rice on Tuesday and we're going to eat that Tuesday - Friday. After years of experience, I can tell you this - knowing yourself is the best way to succeed at meal planning. If I try to convince myself that I can suck it up and just make dinner even when I know I won't want to, I will fail and order take out and feel guilty about the wasted groceries I bought. I mean, sure, set reasonable expectations for yourself or you'll never "feel" like cooking. But also be realistic and reduce your cooking schedule if that's what it takes for you to manage.