Saturday, November 10, 2012

How to Paint a Wall in 10 Steps

I've been itching for a bit of a change in my apartment, and painting a bright "California Poppy" red accent wall seemed like an adequate way to scratch it...until I get paid again and can blow my paycheck on reindeer pillows, more mistletoe than I'll (n)ever use, and a roast beef that I'd like to practice roasting.

So, friends, how to paint an accent wall...

1) Go to Home  Deport, Lowe's, or other paint store. Look at myriad swatch colors and pick a few. Get crazy. I knew I wanted red going into this, so I stuck with that spectrum. However, I was extremely tempted to drift over to the blue/green colors...Buy supplies and blue paint tape.

2) Go home and tape the little swatches up. Observe them in the daytime and nighttime. Is one red more orange? Rustier? Boo. Go with what makes you happiest (and complements your skin tone--in my case, more blue. Why does this matter? It doesn't). 

3) Go back to Home Depot and buy the color you wanted, and make sure you don't let the girl who looks even younger and more inexperienced with painting than you tell you that you only need a quart. This is a lie. You probably need at least a galloon...taking two trips to HD kind of sucks.

4) Think back to your days of Pictionary and 7th grade art class (why did we have to paint a golf course in water colors?) and realize you have no visual artistic talents whatsoever. Have mild panic attack and call knight in shining armor to make a Saturday morning painting date. In this case, knight = dad. He is taller and wise than I. And has a stepping stool and broom poles to attach little roll-y brush. 

5) Have coffee ready for you and knight. Maybe some carrots for the steed.  Also, tape off corners. 

6) Pup down drop cloths and paint first coat! Revel in your victorious feat...or first coat of half of a wall because the dumb girl at Home Depot told you a quart would be enough. And return all the stuff you bought (except paint) because of course, dad brought everything you'd ever need. 

7) Take a break and run errands, including going back to Home Depot AGAIN for full, glorious galloon of California Poppy.

8) Paint second coat, and be careful not to get your weird textured ceiling with brush. Whoops. Let dry for 1 hour. Use wet paper towel to get as much of paint off of ceiling as possible. Otherwise, let it go and figure out how to hang garland there later. 

9) Realize you'll need a third coat. $&^*!. Pour wine.

10) Pour more wine. Paint third coat. Scrub more paint off the floor than is on the walls. 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brussel Sprouts with Clementines and Pecans AND a Balsamic Reduction

I recently made some awesome Brussel sprouts, and I can't not share my recipe with the world. These babies accompanied a rosemary and garlic rubbed pork tenderloin (yes, it was amazing). Yum in my tum. AND they were right off of the stalk. If you've never seen a Brussel sprout stalk before (I hadn't until Trader Joe's, bless their souls), it sort of looks like a jingle bells stick. Except green, edible, and a lot heavier. I also happened to have tons of little clementines, and thought, "HEY why not brighten up some sprouts with these citrus delights and see what magic happens?"

The Art of Cooking - with TealTheRealDeal


4 cups quartered sprouts (about half a stalk)
3 or so clementines, coarsely chopped, de-pitted, and (time for the pithy jokes...) piths removed
a handful or however many you want of pecans, toasted, please
1 1/4 cups balsamic vinegar
some olive oil


Rinse the sprouts and plop them into a large pan, around medium heat, with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let those puppies get nice and tan. Add a little salt and pepper just to get crazy...and because either Alton Brown or Lynne Rosetto Kasper said salt brings out the flavors of the veg.

After they've bronzed up a bit (or as much as you want them to), invite the clementines and pecans to the sprouts party. Encourage them to mingle and dance it out. Turn off the heat.

As the sprouts are cooking, reduce the balsamic vinegar (boil until it becomes syrupy) in a small saucepan. This may take a little longer than you'd expect. I added a little pinch of sugar, just for kicks. Not sure if it actually did anything to help the process, though.

After the balsamic has reduced to liquid gold, pour it over the sprouts, clementines, and pecans. Everyone knows liquid goodness makes any party that much better.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dream Job = Godiva Taste Tester

I love all things chocolate, and I love dreams. Jobs are cool, too. Put 'em together and what do you get? Bippity boppity chocolate. Dream job = Godiva chocolate taste tester. Except white chocolate, which is just unnatural.

I signed up for the Godiva member rewards a few months ago ONLY because of the a) free membership, and b) free chocolate once a month. As I strolled into the Godiva store today, Auntie Anne pretzel in hand, I expected to receive a microscopic smidge of a chocolate sample.


I was allowed to choose from ANY truffle (except for the liquor-infused ones) or some other option that wasn't that impressive. No choco-covered strawberries or peanut butter cups, but HOLY SMOKES! I chose the Butterscotch Walnut Brownie Cake Truffle.

Butterscotch caramel flanked some sort of walnutty maple-y cream nucleus with a milk chocolate shell. It was delicious, and that's really all I have to say...except...


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Trouble with Coffee

I would not, by any means, call myself a coffee fanatic. I didn't drink it in college to help me stay up late to write term papers--I was usually "that girl" who handed it in a week before the due date. I'm a Type A anti-procrastinator, and I like it that way, thank you very much.

I'm also not at all a coffee addict. Some people inject the stuff into their veins to wake up before 9am, but I won't bite your head off if you try to talk to me before my cuppa Joe. If I haven't eaten a solid breakfast...that's another story.

I only started drinking coffee semi-regularly this past summer. Having to be at work by 7:45am was rough, and I started small, with only half a mug or so from the break room coffee pot. One day I made the mistake of drinking two cups of jet fuel after only a few weeks of building my tolerance, and that was a hot mess. I've had a few weird experiences with inadvertent caffeine overload (someone once slipped me two green tea teabags before a choir rehearsal - woof), and they're never pretty.

I love the smell of coffee though, and I don't even mind the taste so much. I actually prefer my coffee black (like my men? Airplane? Anyone?), but I can be persuaded to enjoy it with some Kahlua or Baileys. Otherwise, Trader Joe's has a great spiced pumpkin blend. I bought it a while ago, intending to make it myself with a hand-me-down coffee pot my parents gave me.

Now, I've never made coffee in a home coffee maker. I've made it with the industrial sized gallon bins at restaurants, where you open the packet, pour it in the filter, and click a button. When I was living at home, elves made it early in the morning before the sun even came up. But I always heard them grinding the beans, and suspected they poured water over the ground beans, which I assumed then magically heated up and turned the water into coffee. Which is the same path I followed when I tried to make my own java for the first time a few weeks ago.

I put the filter in, scooped out about 4 tablespoons (2 for every 6oz), and then poured water on top of the grounds. Because, why not? Isn't that how you make coffee? No, apparently it isn't. The ghost of coffee that could've been tasted and looked like pumpkin spiced tea. I didn't understand...where did I go wrong? It was barely even warm.

I tried the next day with SIX tablespoons, poured the water on top of the grounds, clicked on, and waited. No percolating sounds, nothing. Garbage! So I gave up on drinking coffee for a little, and then buckled and bought a new coffee pot. Because clearly that dinky hand-me-down was broken.

It wasn't.

I only learned TODAY that I actually should've poured the water BEHIND the filter. Seriously? How did I not figure that out? I am 23 1/2 years old, and I only just learned how to make coffee. It started with an innocent chat with my boss about my coffee-making problems, and then my world turned upside down. So I ran home, pulled out the old coffee maker I was about to chuck, and scooped out my 2 tablespoons for a little mug of the good stuff. Then I measured out 6oz, poured it BEHIND the filter, and voila! It's time for the percolator. And delicious hot coffee.

Thumbs up for penguins who drink coffee!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not a Lifetime made-for-TV-movie

After 3 weeks of traveling solo, I haven't turned into a 20/20 special...that I know of. Three cheers for me!

I met some really great people, I was 80% sure for a while that I had shin splints from walking so much without proper footwear, and also couldn't tell if I gained a million pounds or I lost lbs. I'm pretty certain my clothes just happened to stretch out like whoa, considering I didn't wash them for three weeks (get over it). But upon my return, it looks like so far, my trousers still fit. 

My last few days in Scotland were pretty relaxed. I took a rainy bus tour of the Highlands and boated around Loch Ness. I even snapped a photo of the monster herself! 

I met some nice German girls on the bus, and we went to the White Hart Inn in Edinburgh for some pints after the bus tour. Twelve hours on a bus isn't exactly my fave, especially since it was raining and my "rain" jacket lied about being water repellent. I was soaked. Anyway, Anja, Caroline and I were soon joined by some nice Canadians and even more whisky. These lovely Canadians later led me to my doom the next evening when we embarked on a nine-pub pub crawl. It was awesome. They also convinced me to stay an extra night to see the Hibernian soccer team play Inverness, and I obliged. It caused me to miss Windsor, sadly, but I'll be back I'm quite sure. 

Cold and wet. 
Those Canadians know how to party.

Yes, my last few days were spent in Edinburgh, which I was happy to see, but towards the end of the trip in general I was quite tired of living out of a suitcase, showering with flip flops, and trying to sleep while the hulking beast in the corner snored like a maniac. I learned that I don't particularly LOVE traveling alone for such extended periods of time, but I'm certainly capable of and good at doing it. It was nice to sleep in for as long as I wanted to, stop and eat some cheese whenever and not be judged, decide *not* to climb the 233 stairs to whatever dome, etc etc. But I also missed having a companion who can laugh with me later at the silly situations we encountered or that one really weird dude in the pub. But alas! 

Next stop....?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Captain's Log


19:00 arrived after hectic train ride to Scotland--power outage made my trip 3 hours longer. It's all good.
19:20 Checked into very cool and monstrously big Hostel.
19:45 Had haggis and cask ale at Dirty Dicks--a nifty and eccentric pub in New Town.
20:00 Was befriended by an Australian also traveling solo, and he sat with me...then I didn't feel weird avoiding eye contact with other people while I ate.
21:00 After dinner, went on a non-scary ghost tour. Pints after.
23:00 Bed.


9:30 Feet dying, bought cheap £6 sneakers-bright mustard yellow.
11:00 Free walking tour of Edinburgh with awesome Irish guide. How did he talk so fast?  And why wasn't he Irish?
14:30 Lunch of highlander chicken and ale. Yum
16:00 Visited grave yard where JK Rowling was inspired for characters' names. Inner geek in me wept softly

16:30 Scotch Whisky Experience with Aussie friend--GOLD TICKET AKA 5 TASTINGS, BABY. Yum yum in my tum.
19:30 Dinner of Tapas-Scottish cheese and smoked salmon, then mussels and wine for dinner.
20:00 Bed. Passed out cold


10:00 Scone for a snack to fuel my adventure up a mountain

10:25 Hiked Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano. Wish I brought proper running shoes. or hiking boots. 

13:00 Lunch. taking it easy with mushroom soup and tea. It was windy on that volcano, and let's be honest, I'm not as young as I once was.
13:45 shopped around to compare prices for souvenirs. Really want tartan hat with pom pom. might be called a tammy?
14:30 writers museum. A little boring.
15:15 camera obscura museum. So cool and interactive! Wouldve been cooler/I'd have felt less lame with a friend.
17:00 walked home and caught last song from cool bagpipe/drum/elec guitar trio. Note to self: track them down.
17:30 read Sherlock Holmes, contemplated going out.
18:00 refused to move from couch.  Black out.
21:00 Skype with parentals
23:00 pass out after obligatory social interactions with hostel mates. So tired. 


10:30 Journeyed to Edinburg castle. Pretty groovy. Why does this city have so many darn hills?
13:00 Lunch and pints
14:00 Meandered. Contemplated trying Iron Blu, an insane soft drink that's popular here and banned in the U.S. for too much sugar and some liver antibiotic moonlighting as an ingredient. What? Insanity.  15:00 Walked inside elephant cafe where JK Rowling scribbled The first bits of Harry potter. line too long, walked out. Is my inner fan girl dying?
15:20 National Gallery of Scotland. Does it make me a child if I prefer the interactive exhibits designed for children?
16:00 Bought cheese. Walked to "The Meadows."
17:00 Found bagpipe trio from yesterday. Wait and update blog while they get ready.
18:00 Awesome set by spinning blowfish trio. Totes bought their CD.
19:00 Fought frozen pasta dish and a tin of beans to add protein. Ate a few bites, meh.
21:30 After catching up on Buzzfeed, sought trad music close to hostel.
22:00 Finally found it. not sure if 6.8% cask beverage or guitar/accordian duet made me extra happy.
23:00 bed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Quick update

I may have forgotten to mention I visited Cambridge and Ely before Oxford and had the good fortune and pleasure to stay with a friend who lives outside of Cambridge. Yay for friends and their gracious hospitality!!

After Oxford, it was on to Bath where I did a bulk of my souvenir shopping and quite a bit of cheese-eating.

I loved Bath and made some nice friends there, and we did a very fun and silly walking tour called "Bizarre Bath." It was basically a brilliant stand up comedy tour. Amazing and I haven't laughed that hard in a while. I also love the street juggling unicyclists, opera singers, drum circles, floating men, etc. So much fun! I even met a charming retired couple dressed up in old fashioned garb for the Jane Austen festival. We sat on a bench and chatted as people took our picture, and they invited me to Windsor and offered to show me around. Uh, yes please! Such dears.  Oh and the roman baths were amazing and I got to taste the water! was weird and strongly reminded me of blood.

Then I journeyed to Edinburgh via London and a hectic mechanical failure in Carlisle. Needless to say, it was annoying and a trip that should've taken 6 hrs took 9. Boooof.  But I had haggis and a few pints last night complete with ghost tour so all is well. Yeahhhhhh girrrl