Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bathroom facelift

I’ve wanted to change out one of the bathrooms for quite a while. It was an orange wallpaper nastiness when I first moved in. We promptly ripped all that out and made it pretty. We painted it a light beige top, green bottom, and a shimmery flower wallpaper border in the middle. I loved it when we did it. 15 years later, I was tired of it.

I specifically made sure to take photos of what it looked like before I started tearing stuff out, but I apparently misfiled it and cannot find the picture right now. You can see sort of what it looked like here, when I had taken off the border and had various paint chips taped to the wall:

Also notice the disfigured wall by the light. There had been large wooden beams making a frame up there. They were attached the wall, and then had plastic across it so you could not see the ugly utility light that was the main bathroom light. That was a challenge to take down! And then, of course, the wall looked nasty where the beams had been.

When I took down the fluorescent light, I discovered the light box was not in the center as we had expected. It was all the way over at the left end of the light. In fact, the “light box” was merely a hole in the wall with the wires coming out. There was no box at all, nor was it located anywhere near the beams that could support holding a box. As the new light was designed to attach to the light when it was installed, this was a problem.

Messing with electrics is not at all my forte, and it makes me very nervous. Having a bathroom with no light at all was even less appealing, however. So, I checked the wires, and discovered they could just barely reach to the middle of the wall where I wanted to put the new light. I punched a big hole into the wall and used this pvc light box that has clamps that expand to hold it into place without having to attach to beams. Alex and I stretched out an old wire coat hanger (good thing I still had one in the closet!) and used it like a shepherd’s hook to wrap the wires around the hook and drag it through the wall to the new hole. That was quite a challenge!

After patching up the original hole, I painted the bathroom and then installed this new light. Doesn’t it look so much nicer?

I still need to either replace the mirror or do something to cover where it is eroding along the edges, but I’ve got to do it as I have the time and funds. The visual difference of just the paint and light change is really amazing and cheers me up immensely. Now I’ve got to do the same thing to the other bathroom! At least I will be prepared for the level of difficulty in changing the light fixture for this round.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It did not work out to celebrate Thanksgiving with "blood family", so we spent the day with "heart family". We've done this before, and it is always a nice time. There were 8 people total: Valerie, her two kids, her mom Doris, her boyfriend Michael, her friend Katherine, and the two of us. As usual, we had more food than necessary, but it provided wonderful leftovers. Due to some paperwork snafu (on their end, not mine), the jobs I had planned to do on Monday got pushed to Wednesday, so all the prep work I’d intended to do got scrubbed and I ended up doing it all Thursday morning. Thankfully, Alex was very helpful getting it all done, and at least I got the grocery shopping done on Monday before the stores got crazy.

Our menu:

Turkey – Valerie baked hers for Thursday, but I also bought one and baked it on Friday. It’s good, filling, and so very inexpensive this time of year! Some of it got frozen for later use. I also made a big stockpot of broth from the bones.

Ham – I got a spiral-sliced ham from Costco. Those come pre-cooked, but I had to heat it and make the glaze.

Stuffing – Doris made this. It was good, but I’ve realized that I’m not a big stuffing/dressing eater. It’s nice, but I don’t get overly excited about it.

Green beans – Valerie did not make it into the loved/reviled green bean casserole, just served green beans.

Baby Carrots –boiled until tender. I don’t think I actually tried any of these, so I don’t know what seasonings Valerie used.

Mashed potatoes – Doris made some for the meal, but I also made some at home. I’d bought them planning to make them before I knew she was going to do it, and didn’t want them rotting. Besides, I love mashed taters!

Sweet potatoes – Valerie makes a casserole that I don’t want the recipe for. I love to eat it, but I’m quite sure I do not want to know the butter and sugar content. The potatoes are creamed, then topped with a brown sugar and pecan topping. It’s like a candy. No marshmallows are involved.

Mac & Cheese – This was Alex’s request, and he grated the block of cheddar for it. I used mostly cheddar, but added some pepper jack for a little kick, and threw in some smoked gouda I had that was a bit old and rather crumbly. I was amazed how the little bit of that I used infused the whole pan with the smoked flavor. It was quite yummy.

Marinated Asparagus – I generally don’t enjoy asparagus as I find it tough, sometimes stringy, and not all that flavorful. Apparently I normally get served the thicker stuff. Doris used little thin stalks (about the same thickness as the green beans, maybe even thinner) that she roasted then marinated in a vinegar and oil sauce. This stuff was fantastic. I will probably get some asparagus myself to make this again, and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say!

Caramelized onions – I saw this, thought it sounded good, and figured this was a good time to try it since even if I didn’t care for it, someone else might. Nice to use everyone as a guinea pig, huh? The pearl onions were $3/lb and the yellow onions were $1/lb, so I opted to just use the smallest yellow onions I could find. I can see how the pearl ones would have been a little easier for eating, but what I used came out just fine. I also substituted dried cranberries for the raisins since that’s what I had.

Salad – I used a spring lettuce mix, spinach leaves, and romaine lettuce. I grated some carrots, diced green peppers, and used grape tomatoes. I figured we had enough other veggies in the rest of the meal. The leftovers made a perfect light lunch the next day with some of the olives, cheese squares, and shredded turkey.

Cranberry sauce – For someone not that fond of cranberry sauce, I surprised myself by deciding to make some this year. I made a double portion of this recipe, but used two cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon, reduced the sugar by 1/3, and added a finely diced apple. I also zested the orange that I juiced. Apparently I like “real” cranberry sauce, just not the canned jelly stuff, and it was so easy to make. It firmed up a little after it was refrigerated for a while, but it was noticeably soupy at first. I think I would cut back the liquid just a little bit next time.

Baguettes – I got them from Costco and just cooked them up in the oven right before we ate. They are fabulous, and we had enough made-from-scratch food.

Beverages – Katherine brought some wine and tea, plus we had a couple soda options.

Pecan and Pumpkin pie – Valerie purchased from a local diner. Both were delicious.

Death by Chocolate – This was Alex’s request for dessert. It is layers of chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate pudding/mousse, and whipped cream. You can also pour Kahlua or Baileys on the cake for additional flavor, and can put chopped up bits of candy in it. I’ve done it all those varieties, but we left out the alcohol and candy this time. I made the pudding on Tuesday and ended up making the whipped cream, but Alex did pretty much the entire rest of it, including assembly. It unfortunately escaped the photo of the feast as desserts were intended to do separately and then were forgotten.

Since dinner never ends up being served when we expect it will, I made a little platter with four kinds of olives and three types of cubed cheeses to use for munchies. Lo and behold, Valerie had made a tray of sliced cheese, sausage, and crackers! We’ve never included an “appetizer” before, so for us to both do one the same year without mentioning it to the other was pretty funny.

Hopefully I didn’t leave anything out. It was clearly a smorgasbord of food! Even with portion sizes of literally 2-3 bites to basically just taste test each item, it still filled the plate and the tummy. It was a great time, though!