Wednesday, April 25, 2012

a recipe and an apology

I'm sorry. I promised to be better about posting, and I haven't been. But I've come down with an awful cold and I've been so busy with the house and had no extra energy.  I also do write over at The Loud and Clear, so sometimes those posts take precedence over the ones here.

Anyway, these aren't house pictures, but they are dessert pictures, and I'm pretty sure that's almost as good better anyway.  I made this fresh raspberry custard tart for Dan for his birthday.  I saw it in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living and was dying to try it.  I figured Dan's birthday was the perfect excuse. Raspberries are his favorite fruit and I thought it would be a refreshing break from the typical birthday cake.  I still topped it with candles, obvies.

This recipe is really quite easy to make.  It has a lot of steps that require long amounts of time, but labor-wise it's not bad.  Above you'll see my tart crust cooling in the fridge.  It's important to pay attention to the times in the recipe.  I cut into the tart too soon at the end - that's always the hardest part to wait through, isn't it? - and it wasn't pretty. Hence, why you see no pictures of slices here.  (p.s. can you tell I'm obsessed with Fage yogurt?)

I recommend splurging for a heavy bottomed tart pan for this one.  My Target purchase - while colorful and fun, was a bit flimsy for the job.  My crust burned a bit, and I blame my penny-pinching ways.

Here it is with the custard inside.  The custard was AWESOME. By the way, it can be a bit difficult to find creme fraiche in America.  Trader Joe's carries it and so does Whole Foods (I think), but if you don't live near one of those places, try any small gourmet grocer you might have in town.  Maybe they'll even order some for you if they don't already carry it. 

The final tart.  It makes me realize how badly I need to learn photography.  The colors are so off and the focus isn't where I want it to be - and this is the best of the batch.  I kind of feel like Tyra Banks on ANTM - "And here's your best photo." Clearly, I'd be getting kicked off the show this week. One final note, I think the recipe ends up calling for 3-4 of the little things of rasperries that you get at the grocery store.  I found this to be too much.  I put on just under 3 of the containers and the raspberries were a bit overpowering.  

Here's a link to the recipe again, in case you're still reading.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

the bungalow files: and the awning drops out


excuse the quality, this picture is taken from the real estate listing...


Doesn't it look SO MUCH better just with the awnings gone? Obviously spring is on my side in these photos, with the greener grass and the blooming Dogwood.  But even so, the awnings being taken off made a much bigger difference than I ever could have imagined.  It was a lot of work (thanks to Dan, his dad, and his brother-in-law!!) and involved some serious sawing of metal, since most of the bolts had rusted into place over the years. 

Before and after from a different view point:

Look at all of that light! I don't feel so cut off from the world anymore.  What are we doing with the screens? You're not the first one to ask.  We're leaving them up.  For now anyway.  Bugs in Kansas Missouri really like me.  While the mosquitoes in Maine never paid me a second glance, the bugs here seem to want to eat me alive.  

The awnings were lighter than I expected them to be, which has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because they were easy to move to the backyard and hide, a curse because when the 40 mph gusts blow through during the storm that was supposed to ravage the Midwest and the awning blows around, keeping me up ALL NIGHT LONG.  And no, not because it was particularly loud. But because I'm a stressed out mess and in my delirious insomnia I kept envisioning the awning blowing into our neighbor's homes and wreaking havoc.  This would have been almost physically impossible. And yet, I still made Dan go outside with me sometime after midnight to lay bricks down on the awning in an attempt to prevent it from blowing away.  Sigh.  Needless to say, work wasn't any fun the next day.

Anyway, getting awnings off the front of our house was a big step. Getting them out of our yard will make it even better.  The next large item trash pick-up is only 3 weeks away.  Want to join me in the countdown?

Monday, April 16, 2012

the bungalow files: quirks

One of my favorite things about living in this house is learning all of its little quirks.  It seems to have more than most other places I've lived.  Twice already I've stood bewildered as I tried to figure out light switches.  You wouldn't think it would be so difficult, but it is.  For example, the washer and dryer are hooked up to a light switch.  If this switch is off, no laundry's getting done.  The first time I went to wash a load of laundry I almost had a new-homeowner meltdown when I couldn't get the machine to work.  Not only did I desperately need clean clothes, but I also was envisioning having to lug heavy, broken machines out of the basement.  Luckily, shortly thereafter Dan's mom saved the day by flipping a little light switch.  All I can say is, phew.

This wall of the kitchen is completely free standing. Well, aside from the built-in upper cabinets anyway.  It amuses me how the tile just stops. Also - counter space is a bit of an issue.  That little metal cabinet is where I do the majority of my food prepping (not that I've been much of a cook lately - don't forget the cream style corn), and needless to say, it leaves a bit to be desired size-wise.

Our shelves reach all the way to the ceiling! And almost all the way to the counter below.  They come down so low that not much will fit under them, as documented by this photo.  Furthermore, the sloped floors in the kitchen caused me to stub my toes on the cabinets the first few times I tried to do the dishes. My subconscious quickly learned not to step so close.

It's funny the things you fail to notice when you're touring a house. It's like when you first get a crush and every thing's all rainbows and butterflies (please tell me that was a phrase before the Maroon5 song...) and you fail to notice that that super cute guy actually picks his nose every 5 minutes.  Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.  But whenever I'm in the market for a house again, if all of the blinds are down and closed, I'll take it as a warning sign. Those nice, brand new blinds in the dated house probably aren't just there to keep people from peering in the windows. Most likely they serve to distract you from what's hiding behind them as well. For example, some windows open and some don't. Some sashes are kind of rotten, most aren't. All windows are were very, very dirty.  

Can you tell which window is clean and which one's still dirty?  Ha yeah, it's not very tough.  Dan's mom and I have spent A LOT of time (and even more Windex) on these windows.  We've made it about halfway around the bottom floor.  The windows in the picture above even had this tinted film on them (on purpose, not dirt) to darken the room.  Once ripped off, the amount of sunlight streaming into the room was an incredibly welcome change.

There are about a million more little things we've found and discovered and I'll be sure to share them all with you soon.  As much as I may sound like I'm complaining about some of these things (okay, yes I would prefer to have the windows a bit cleaner and more counter space), really I have fun discovering them.  I actually fear the day when I stop finding new quirks, because they give the house so much personality.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

the bungalow files: work work work

The last time Dan and I worked on a house was when we renovated the bed and breakfast two summers ago.  And let me tell you, it's a lot more tiring to fix up a house when you also work 40+ hours a week at a desk job.   Our only daily duties back then were to practice making breakfast foods and to get the house ready for guests.  It's different this time, but the realization that the space we're renovating is ultimately for us (not guests) offers quite a bit of solace.

In fact, thus far we've been really motivated.  Ripping up carpeting until 12 am, dutifully pulling staples out of the hardwood flooring before we leave for work in the morning, and painting walls until we have blisters on our hands has all been worth it.  

I actually ended up wearing the same outfit to work 2 days in a row.  I was so busy packing essentials like toothpaste and a hair brush that I completely forgot about things like clothing.  After a few days of frantically searching through boxes and bags for unwrinkled, work appropriate clothes I decided to forgo working on the carpet downstairs and work on my closet upstairs. (Yes, I *ahem* ever so generously offered to take the extremely large closet upstairs, so Dan could have the nicely sized, but significantly smaller one in our bedroom.)

This is a terrible picture, but it is the best one to illustrate the exact color and texture of the wall to wall carpeting that was in the closet. I'm pretty sure when I was little my bedroom had this same exact carpeting, only in yellow.  Awesome.  

And here's the closet a few minutes later.  Hardwoods unearthed. It was only being held down by two pieces of double sided tape. Seriously, why did people love wall to wall carpeting so much? Could somebody please explain this to me? What made them think that that green was better than this?

The most frustrating thing about moving in is wanting to renovate everything and make huge changes, but being stuck having to do boring things that nobody will even notice - like cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms.  I have a confession to make - I never cleaned the fridge.  Eeep. (Please don't judge me! I will some day! Soon!)  After a few nights, I was so sick of eating fast food, and too tired to even be bothered to go get it. Fast forward to Dan and me and a dinner that consisted of a can of cream style corn.  And that's it. I kid you not.  The next day, I spent a small fortune at Trader Joe's (which is fortuitously, or not so fortuitously, on my route home from work) and loaded it all into the fridge.  I had the good intentions of cleaning it out first. I really did. But it already looked clean and there were so many other things to be done.  And...enough excuses - I just need to clean it.  Maybe tonight.

These are the daffodils I treated myself to on that over-the-top trip to Trader Joe's.  They lived all of 3 days. Sigh.

I DID scrub the kitchen cabinets.  They were relatively clean, but I still probably used enough Clorox on them to kill half of my brain.  I'm sticking to green cleaners from here on out.

This is the little "bling" that was left on our backdoor.  I'm not overly fond of the religious nature of the sign, but I do think it's cute and the design reminds me of something Scandinavian, so I'm keeping it for now.

I feel this weird, sort of subconscious need to honor the memory of the people who lived here before us.  Even though I never met them, for some reason knowing that they were here for 56 years and seeing the ways they cared so much about this home, makes me feel like it will always partly belong to them. Maybe that's just the new homeowner in me not knowing how to fully take on my new role and needing to hold onto some sort of renter mentality.  In all honesty though, I can't see myself ever fully letting go of the memory of the family who called this house a home before us.

Stay tuned - there are more pictures to come!