Monday, August 29, 2011

Presto Chango

The end of this month marks 2 years since Seth and I have been in our little house.  And with few (no?) exceptions, the furniture is pretty much in the exact space it landed on move in day.  For the most part, this is a good thing.  When we move, we take our time arranging furniture to make sure we like everything.  But our living room, man, the room was just not working for us.

When we originally arranged the furniture, we placed the couch in the middle of the room, so that the fireplace would be the focal point of the room. This was a great idea (not really) and it meant that things were nice and cozy the 3 days a year we actually have a fire going.  The rest of the year, the room just felt cramped.
This is what the room looked like when you walked in it.  As you can see, there is no room to move about.
This is the view if you turn left.  See, no room?
Turn left again, and you can see that the couch is scooted as far back as possible, while still keeping an area for walking too and from the door.
And out last wall is taken up by a huge beautiful window and a kitty condo (so not proud of that).  And you can see how Matilda lies on the couch cushions, effectively squishing them so far out of shape, they are virtually useless.  Thanks, dog.

So with this in mind, Seth and I decided that we had to rehash this space.  It just wasn't right.  The room isn't huge, but it shouldn't be that tight.  And believe it or not, the couch is actually the right size for the room, but the placement is allowing for total couch domination.

We started by pulling all the furniture out....
And Seth got to vacuum the whole room...

Now that we had a nice, clean work space, we moved furniture around... a lot.  Sadly, no pictures of this process because I was helping.  Believe it.

We figured pretty quickly that everything hinged on where the couch went...  And as much as I am anti-counch-against-the-wall, Seth was right and it worked out...

So the couch went on the big wall, across from the window, making the window the new and lovely focal point...
The leather chair moved to where the kitty condo had been (the kitty condo went to live in the guest bedroom- sorry guests!).
The bookcase stayed where it was.  If you had asked me before we started this process, I would have put money on the bookcase moving...
The orignial TV stand went to the garage for Seth to use and the dresser we ganked from the side of the road took its place.  The dresser holds part of our extremely too large DVD collection.
And the room was done.  This room is totally functional now.  I am so happy with the amount of space we have.  Seth and I can happily watch a movie and not feel like we have to be on top of each other.  The dogs have room to play and we have room to move. Of course, this move around has made me notice how much this room looks like a bunch of college kids decorated it... Lets just say, I'm working on it and plan to show you an easy project later.

Anybody else have fun adventures in furniture moving?

Friday, August 26, 2011


Get your heads out of the gutter- I am not talking about taking my clothes off.  Rather, I took sometime off in June and spent the whole time in my garage trying to strip down a dresser.

To properly frame this adventure, we must go back to my days in high school.  My parents were fairly awesome in that they let us all paint and decorate our rooms however we wanted.  For me that meant dark purple walls with lime green trim AND a mural of a sun on the ceiling.  Looking back, I am fairly certain that this gave my dad a nervous tick and may still account for why he is a little odd...

When Seth and I moved to Greensboro, my mom was kind enough to give me my dresser, which I had painted lime green.  I am fairly certain she just didn't want that in her house anymore.  So for a few years, this has sat in my house.
Lovely right?  Seth was beyond thrilled when I proposed stripping this bad boy down and giving him (her?) a nice coat of dark pretty stain.  And so the adventure begins...

I started by moving everything out to the garage and removing the little knobs.  Its worth mentioning that when I originally painted this thang that I wasn't smart enough to remove the hardware first, so some of those knobs were a bit painted on stuck.

In doing some stripping/Lowe's research, I determined that chemical strippers were the way to go.  However, not wanting to kill myself, I went with a water based more eco friendly stripper.
In my naivety, I figured that this would be an easy project.  Dump stripper on, let it sit, remove and  move on.  Well, that wasn't the case.  After just one coat of stripper, I realized I was in for some real fun.
Progress?  Almost none.  So a second coat it was...
Progress?  Negligible.  Onto a third coat...
Hmmm...  Still not so good.
Finally some progress.  But not really enough for my liking.  I think part of the problem was the temperature.  The stripper recommends only trying to use it if the temperature is between 65 and 85.  Seeing as this was NC in June, the temperature was above 85 and the stripper would dry before it could really be effective. 

So, I busted out my sander....
MUCH BETTER!  So, I sanded the whole damn thing.  I also started getting pissed off, so there are no pictures of the process.

Once I had everything nice and sanded, I gave the whole thing a nice wipe down with a barely damn rag.  With my surface ready to go, it was just a matter of staining.  Two coats did the trick.  And with a quick trip to Target for some new knobs, this baby had a new lease on life...
Not too shabby, eh?

A couple quick notes on stripping-
  • I recommend skipping the messy chemical strippers altogether.  In the end, my sander was way more effective and left me with a better work surface.  You can pick up a cheap little hand sander from Lowes, or the likes, for around $20-$30.  Not bad considering chemical strippers will run you around $10 a bottle and you'll need multiple bottles.
  • Due to beginning with chemical strippers and the cheap nature of this dresser, my prepared surface was still not 100% perfect, so there are some obvious flaws if you get close enough.  But considering that this is the guest bedroom and we already had it, both Seth and I are totally pleased with the results.
  • If you have a true family heirloom, I recommend hauling that baby to a professional.  They will do an A+ job of carefully and precisely stripping her down, so that you can get back to where you want her.
So without further ado, how about a comparison...

Anybody else tackle any crazy projects this summer?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grilled Shrimp Panzanella

As I mentioned in my last post, part of my summer absence was due to a mandatory work retreat.  I am not gonna lie- I dread our work retreat every year.  And this year, it was twice as long as years previously.  However, for our team building exercise, I scheduled a cooking lesson with Chief Elliott of Elliott's on Linden.  This certainly made the whole experience much better.

The whole Elliott's compound was awesome.  There is the resturant, but also a sweet "provision" store with awesome speciaility foods and a ton of kitchen gadgets.  I was in heaven.

Chief Elliott demonstrated four dishes: grilled shrimp panzanella, a watermelon and tomato salad, grilled scallops with a pea puree and an asian steamed salmon.  All of it was beyond delicious.  As soon as I got home, with recipes in hand, I knew I had to make the shrimp panzanella for Seth.

Grilled Shrimp Panzanella
24 shrimp
loaf of stale bread
3 maters
2 bell peppers
2 green onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbs. capers
6 tbs. red wine vingar
8 tbs. olive oil
umami paste or mixture of tomato paste and anchovy paste

Shred your bread.  If you buy a fresh loaf, do this the day ahead of time and let it get nice and dry.  Alternatively, if you are short on time, pop your bread chunks in a 200 degree oven until they are dry.

Grill your shrimp.

Add the tomatoes, peppers, scallions and capers to the bread.

Mix together the olive oil, garlic, parsley, vinegar, salt, pepper and various pastes.  Quick note:  adding just a bit of umami paste/tomato and anchovy paste makes the most amazing difference in the dressing.  Its just makes you go mmmmmmmmmmm. 

Pour your dressing over the salad, mix in your herbs, top with your shrimp and enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sorry, Friends

I know, I know.  I have been a very bad, no good, absentee blogger lately.  Well, all summer.  But its been a freakin crazy summer.  So let's back up to memorial day...

  • My dad and his wife own 93 awesome acres of land in Rockbridge County, Virginia.  They were kind enough to host Seth and me for memorial day.  It was lovely and relaxing as always.  The big house is currently being built on "the land," so I look forward to showing you this fantastic place.
  • The first week of June, I said goodbye to a dear coworker and welcomed another one.
  • And then I left for my 5 year reunion at Hollins.  Great time, lots of laughing, some minor trouble making and lots of gin.  That's all I have to say about that.  Much like Vegas, what happens at Hollins, stays at Hollins.  I sure do love my college girlfriends and can't wait to be with them all again.
  • And then I went on a work retreat.  Painful, right?  The biggest highlight being a cooking lesson with Chef Elliott of Elliott's on Linden.  This food was beyond amazing and I have some sweet meals to share with you.  In fact, I better get on that so you can enjoy these summery treats before the leaves start changing...
  • And then Seth got a new job! Woo hoo for a happily employed honey.
  • And then I took a couple days off and banged out an awesome project.  In fact, I have all the picture lined up, except the "after" picture.  Oh those pesky details...
  • And then it was the 4th of July...  Damn.
  • And then Seth and I celebrated 6 years of being together.  Short version of the story- on a wonderfully starry night at Camp Hilltop, where Seth and I were both counselors, he was walking me back to my cabin (yes, I am scared of the dark) and he kissed me.  The rest is history.
  • And then our sweet Matilda Bean turned 5!
  • And then we went to the Ridge.  Glory Ridge is a camp in Madison County, NC, about 25 miles north of Asheville.  Madison County is one of the poorest counties in NC.  Each year, our youth group heads up for a week of fun, fellowship and hard work helping to do home repairs in the surrounding area.  This year, I lead my very own project!  Hurrah!  And then, my sister suprised us and flew in from California and showed up at the Ridge.  BEST.  WEEK. EVER.
  • And then it was August.  And I hadn't done anything for my dear husbands birthday.  So I scrambled and I did okay.
  • And then we went to DC for my sister in laws baby shower.  Yes, that's right Seth and I are going to be an Uncle and an Aunt and we are thrilled.  
  • And then my grandmother turned 80.   But first she has to have emergency hernia surgery 6 days before her party.  But miraculously she got better and was released as soon as her boyfriend showed up. Yes, my 80 year old grandmother has a boyfriend, don't ask.
  • And that  brings us to today.
So really, friends, I am so sorry for my absence.  But I am back.  Kiss and make up?