Wednesday, 23 January 2013

To-do list versus WANT to-do list

There is currently a to-do list happening around the house...unfortunately there is also a want to-do list (in my head) and they are battling each other...a battle no one will win.

On the real to-do list I have: cleaning the basement, painting the entry hallway/stairwell/second floor hallway, refinishing more furniture that is piled in the basement and the big on the master bedroom! The master bedroom is at the top of the list, I am due to really get going on it this week (like right now!). Two of the three bedrooms in the house have been finished (okay, almost finished, the major stuff is done, there is just furnishing and decorating left and those things will wait because it is expensive trying to fill empty rooms with furniture!). The master bedroom, like the other two bedrooms, doesn't need much work, just a thorough cleaning, sanding and painting (I have typed those words too many times in the past few months!). I am a little afraid of the window frame/windowsill, it looks to have been painted badly (about a hundred times) and on top of that it has taken a beating! It will require a great deal of sanding and filling and who knows what else!? I am also nervous to go near the ceiling. It is not in bad shape and I haven't even spotted any cracks, but it could use a fresh coat of paint and I know what can happen to a dodgy old ceiling when you try to give it a coat of paint! Another possible challenge is the current ceiling fan/light fixture. The fan/light that is there now must come down - it does not work, its just a big dusty eyesore...but it seems when it was installed someone used some sort of plaster filler on the ceiling around the base of the fixture, as if to seal some cracks or gaps? It is all over the ceiling and the fan...the fan is basically "sealed" to the ceiling...I can already see it now, the plaster and pieces of the ceiling breaking apart as I take the fan down! Maybe that is why I have been putting this whole thing off!? Oh well, I cannot put it off forever, and I know I need to expect the unexpected...but can you really do that?

Sneaking in some knitting here and there!

Now as far as that WANT to-do list...that is the list of things I truly want to do (they make me happy!) but that are so NOT a priority that I can't justify spending much time doing these things right now. I want to get back to knitting...I have been sneaking it in as much as possible (I couldn't sleep Saturday night so I got up and got to knitting for an hour or so) I can also knit here and there when I am couch potato-ing-it. I also want to get back to more creative arts, maybe take an art class or two, as well as re-open my Etsy shop. I had a shop for a while, but closed it (temporarily?!) due to some happenings in my personal life. Then life got busier and busier. I never went back to open the shop - I couldn't even find the time to work on creating new things to put in that shop if I tried! I am hoping that will change soon...but that damn to-do list keeps getting in the way!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A tiny bit of wedding talk

Over the past couple of weeks I have really got cracking on the wedding planning business. I really like the idea of a small, fun and unique wedding, but getting the major details like the venue and church arranged is the challenging part. I have had a lot of back and forth by email to some venues and a church and it seems I may have had a break-through (nothing official yet...I need to take a trip to see the venue, and this is not easy since it involves a trans-Atlantic flight!). If all goes well over the next few days, I should know for sure if we get the church we want and the venue is holding our spot so we can visit first, sometime in April - they are really doing us a favor!

Once the church and venue are arranged, along with all of the paperwork and other bits and pieces involved in getting married abroad, the other details such as flowers, photographer, cake, decorations - the list goes on, should be a bit easier and a bit more fun to do. The one things that I am not looking forward to is the wedding dress. If you must know one thing about me, it is that I am not a dress-wearing kind of girl...I have not worn an actual dress for well over 10 years and even a skirt is a stretch for me - I own a handful but they have not seen the light of day in years. So getting a dress is going to be a challenge, especially since I do not want the typical wedding dress, it is not my style and I don't think it would fit with what I have in mind for my wedding...besides, I just can't see myself going to a big bridal store, getting into a long white strappy (or strap-less) is not me, no matter what anyone says, I can't do it, not even for my wedding day! I am after something a bit different, something that is still wedding-ee, but that I can be comfortable in for the day* and something that will be suitable in the autumn weather of Ireland. That is not to say I am after track pants and a pair of wellies, but I need to be happy and comfortable otherwise I am liable to get grumpy and I don't need that on my wedding one needs that ever! 

So...any ideas? I have a few places to visit in Toronto that were recommended, but I won't be heading to the city for a few weeks still (it's too cold right now, I am in hibernation-mode). If anyone out there has any other ideas, suggestions, photos (anything) don't be afraid to send em' my way! I will need all the help I can get!

*Comfort is not usually at the top of most wedding dress "must have" lists, but for me I need something I am not going to be tugging at all day...seriously, how do people do the strapless dress thing? I would be hoisting it up constantly to ensure a boob doesn't fly out...and if the thing is so secure nothing is at risk of slipping out, it can't be that comfortable...I don't care what you say, it can't be! I don't want to feel like I am wearing armor for the day! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

China cabinet: Before and After

This past fall I purchased a china cabinet (type-thing!) at the same time as a three tiered shelf. It took forever for me to get that shelf finished (I posted about it in December)...while I was working on the shelf, I was also working on the china cabinet, which is probably one of the main reasons for both projects taking so long! I am trying to break my habit of working on too many things at once! Now, after all this time, it is finally done!

Before: Sanding the cabinet in the garage shortly after it was purchased. There were a few cracks and splits in some areas that need to be fixed. The unit is solid wood and was painted a dark brown, I suppose to look like a dark wood stain? After this point progress was slow but finally...

After: Finished! The cabinet was sanded and cleaned, then primed and given several coats of paint. I chose a very pale blue, just a shade darker than the walls in the sitting room/TV room. The shelves and inside backing are painted white and the shelves were given a protective varnish finish...such a nightmare but it does a good job protecting the surface! And the glass door?!...A complete pain in the ass! The glass is old and is seriously fragile and has razor sharp edges. Originally the glass was tacked in place with small nails and a strip of wood, but that wood broke when the glass was removed prior to painting, so a clear caulking was used to secure the glass in place. It looks okay from the outside (don't look too close), but the caulking is less than pretty on the inside. Oh, and heads sounds pretty dumb, but if a drawer is already a little snug-fitting in the first place, 4+ coats of paint will NOT help the situation. I never thought about it until trying to get the drawer into the unit this did not come close to fitting. Two hours of planing and sanding (plus clean-up) later and the drawer for more touch up paint.

Unfortunately the cabinet didn't get done in time for Christmas (and the great dining room reveal!) but I am happy with how it turned out - even if it did take several months longer than anticipated! I now have a home for the china I received from my Nana several months is so good to get things unpacked after all this time!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Happy Weekend!

The forecast for this weekend is RIDICULOUS! It is smack in the middle of January and it is 13 degrees today and is due to be around 8-10 tomorrow! I can't remember when we had weather in January like this! It is deceiving to those (am not naming names *Jeremiah*) who have not been in Canada for too long and who have not experienced a true Canadian winter. It may just be for a short while, and there is PLENTY more time to get loads more snow, but for now enjoy the weather this weekend!

Despite the beautiful weather, there are lots of chores to do in the house. The last of the Christmas decorations have been put away (they were hanging around a bit too long), lots of cleaning and laundry too. I am also putting the finishing touches on the china cabinet I have been working on forever. It should be done by the end of this weekend and ready to fill with bits and pieces a few days from now. I cannot wait for it to be done. As much as I like the look of some painted furniture, and as good as the idea of giving a new look and life to old furniture is, I can get sick of doing it myself! I get pretty bored while painting and being human, it's not easy to get things to look perfect (or as perfect as I hope) so there is a lot of time spent touching up and re-sanding (oh, and the more you do that the more likely you are to mess something up and be set back...again!). So while a coat of paint dries, I am taking a break to knit.

The beginnings of a super soft scarf and my whiter-than-white feet in my "after Christmas" slippers...slippers purchased for me after Christmas when the sales got real good...and after I complained to everyone that I was the only one who didn't get slippers for Christmas!

I am trying to get back into knitting and sewing and some of the other artsy things I used to do. Baby steps for now, since there are so many other things to be done around the house...but I sneak in what I can!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Curried Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Since the pea soup I made earlier this week has almost completely disappeared (as if by magic!), it is time for more soup...this time I am making a curried acorn squash and sweet potato soup. Normally I would do one or the other - the squash or the sweet potato, but this time I decided to mix the two since I bought what may be the world's smallest acorn squash and possibly the world's largest sweet potato*!

The squash was not just tiny, it looked a bit sad and pale on the inside (but so pretty on the outside!). So I am hoping the sweet potato, a good dose of curry and some coconut milk will help save the day. This soup is going to be a big batch, so I am bringing out the BIG POT!

I received this pot as a Christmas gift several years back from my parents. It is great for making large batches of soup and chili. I have not stopped using it...even though it weighs a ton and is a pain to wash!

I decided to try this powered coconut milk, rather than the canned stuff I usually buy - turns out it is great and works out to a better price, plus if you are stuck carrying your groceries home, it is much easier to carry this one box rather than a bunch of cans!

Curried Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Makes aprox. 10 cups

2 Onions
2 Cloves minced garlic
1 Small acorn squash (peeled/cubed)
1 Large sweet potato (peeled/cubed)
4 Cups chicken or veg stock
2 Cups coconut milk
1 Tbsp Curry powder
2 Tsp Ground cumin
2 Tsp Tumeric
1-2 Tbsp Curry paste**
1 Tbsp Tomato paste
2 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
**I used a mild curry paste, so I threw in 2 heaped Tbsp, but if you are using something hotter or if you want more/less heat, just adjust to your liking.

Start by sauteing the onions in the olive oil on medium heat until they soften, then throw in the garlic and chopped carrot. Next add the acorn squash and sweet potato, chopped into small-ish cubes. Stir everything together and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add the curry powder, cumin, tumeric, tomato paste and curry paste and stir well to coat all the veg. At this point things look like hell, but I promise it will get better! Give everything another 5 minutes to cook before adding the stock, followed by the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you like.

After the soup has simmered you can blend it smooth with an immersion blender, or leave it as-is if you want a chunkier soup. Since the soup is pretty rich, I stick to small portions and have a little something on the side - it is also really yummy poured over some cooked rice!

*I picked out the smallest of the LARGEST sweet potatoes I have ever my life!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

I'm not talking about weddings...but how do you plan one?

So when I started this blog a couple of months back, I mentioned I am engaged and have a wedding to plan, but that this blog is NOT going to become a place for me to talk all about weddings. I have followed other blogs that became too "wedding-ee" and it gets very boring very fast. So as promised, I am going to keep any wedding-talk to a very bare minimum. I just want to know, from anyone out there with do you plan a wedding? Where and when do you start? And how do you go about planning a wedding that is to be held in another country (Ireland to be specific)?!

The plan is to get married this year, in the autumn...have I left the planning too late? I have the tendency of getting over excited/overwhelmed and either making plans far too soon, or leaving things way too late. A wedding is pretty major, so I don't want to screw anything up, throw money down on something too soon and then change my mind. And since we are talking planning an event in Ireland (and home base is Canada) what if something happened and we had to cancel or couldn't travel...remember that volcano in Iceland...REMEMBER?!?!?!

So now it is just over a months time it will mark 1 year since our engagement and we have pretty well told everyone we know that the wedding IS happening this year...I actually need to get started! I have emailed a few potential venues that I had my eye on, but the more I look, the more I realize these are not the venues for us...they are home to the "typical" big white weddings, which is the complete opposite of what we are looking for. For starters this is going to be a small wedding, and I mean small! There will be some family and friends heading to Ireland from Canada and England, along with those already in Ireland. In total we are talking about 40-ish people. As I mentioned, we are looking for something in the autumn, so an outdoors wedding is out of the question (although my first trip to Ireland was in October 2010 and the weather couldn't have been more perfect for an outdoors wedding! You know you can't rely on the weather over there!). So I am left looking for an intimate, indoor venue, something that doesn't look like your typical "event venue" or "banquet hall", something warm and homey, full of character, something unique and where we can have GREAT food and drinks. I would also love to work in some DIY's but since we will be far from home, it may be challenging, but I do want to incorporate some handmade decorations if possible - I just can't see having the over-priced flower arrangements, the usual white table clothes and chair covers with <insert your choice of accent colour here>. At this time I am open to suggestions!

So this may be a shot in the dark, but if anyone has any wedding planning tips, and has any ideas in Ireland, please let me know!!! Oh, and to make things more of a challenge, we are looking at south-western Ireland, County Cork, Kerry or the surrounding area. I am not saying it is a challenge because there isn't anything decent in Cork or Kerry - I am sure THE PERFECT place exists, it's just not making itself easy to find like venues around Dublin...everywhere I look it's Dublin this or Belfast that!!! What about the south?!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Back to real cooking: Pea Soup

For most of December, due to renovations in the dining room, the kitchen was a war zone and I was too pooped from the work I was doing to cook a proper meal. By the time things were "back to normal" it was Christmas and I was not back to my usual cooking/eating habits. Now that things have settled down it's time to get back to real food and real cooking!

I like to make batches of food ahead of time, things like soups, chili's and pasta sauces that I can freeze and bust out for dinner when I have had a busy day. Sunday marked a colossal trip to the grocery store, so today I am going to get cooking! First up is pea soup with ham. I really like pea soup and it's been a long time since I have had some...mainly because the man LOVES pea soup and the last time I made a pot he somehow managed to have it all (no sharing?!). This time I will be sure to save some for myself!

Pea Soup with Ham
Makes aprox. 6 cups

2 Slices of bacon
2/3 cup Ham (cubed)
1 Onion
2 Cloves minced garlic
1 Carrot
2 Potatoes
1 Cup of split peas
6 Cups Chicken stock
1/4 Tsp Thyme
1/4 Tsp Ground cumin
1 Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

I don't like my pea soup blended smooth, but also don't want massive hunks of veggies, so I chop everything into small cubes. I have also chosen to cook the vegetables in bacon fat (for flavor!) rather than oil but you can certainly leave out the bacon and use a couple teaspoons of olive oil.

Start by chopping bacon into small pieces and frying, adding the onion just before the bacon starts to crisp. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic, carrots and potatoes. Continue cooking until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Throw in the cubed ham, split peas, thyme, cumin and bay leaf, stir then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit - I am a lover of black pepper but I go easy on the salt because of the ham and bacon. If the soup becomes too thick, just add some water.
*The longer the soup sits, the thicker it gets, so if you are eating next day you may want to add a drop or two of water. Soup freezes well!

Tuesday Treasures!

Okay, so I purchased these treasures on Sunday, but it's Tuesday and here they are!

Two Pyrex (spring blossom) bowls. The larger of the two is in perfect condition, the smaller has obviously been used but still looks great. Since I started my collection with the medium (olive green) one, all I need now is the largest bowl to complete the set!

This Pyrex divided casserole dish was a surprise find (since I had already grabbed the two bowls mentioned above I thought the chances of finding anything else would be slim!). It is in good shape but I can tell it has been used...there was a bit of food still stuck on it! Gross, I know, but nothing that can't be washed away.

These three juice glasses...there should have been four. I had my arms full of the Pyrex mentioned above, but still managed to get my paws on these lovely juice glasses. I made it safely to the checkout where the cashier accidentally tipped one over and *SMASH*! So sad, but I still took these three home.

So I should be cutting down on the thrift shopping this year, after all there is a wedding to save for, but I considered this trip a freebie! I received a thrifters dream Christmas present of gift certificates to Value Village and while I was there I donated a massive bag of clothes. The way I see it, I made room at home by shifting things I no longer need/want and I am giving a loving home to dishes that may otherwise be neglected!

Friday, 4 January 2013

What's going to happen in 2013? (part two)

For starters, I am NOT making New Years resolutions for 2013! I have learned from past attempts that I often fail and feel crappy and discouraged for not succeeding. So instead, for 2013 I am making a list of things I want/need to do, things I have to look forward to and some things I want to try (and things I want to avoid!). Will see what happens...

1) Plan that wedding!
I have my wedding to look forward to, but first I need to plan it! When I got engaged I did not (like so many people) set to work immediately planning my wedding. I relaxed (or tried to) while people all around me kept asking about my plans. I think because I had so many people asking me what I was going to do and how far along into the planning stages I was (not to mention the horror stories people had to share), that I decided to avoid it for a while. Then we bought a house and there was no way I had the time to think of anything else! The only thing I had "planned" for the wedding was the when and where. It is quickly approaching the when and so far no plans - I need to get moving! The goal is to have the major details arranged in the next few months - and since the location of the wedding is Ireland (and I am in Canada), I need to get moving! I must (in the next few weeks) contact some possible venues overseas and arrange to head over there to check some things out!

SALE Squirrel Cake Topper
I have no problem picking out items like this for the wedding, its just the major details like a venue that I need to get moving on!

2) Be healthier
As far back as I can remember, my New Years resolutions have been to lose weight. The hard part of that kind of resolution is that you make it when the house is still full of Christmas goodies (which you can't possibly throw away - that's a waste), so a week into the New Year you are still eating chocolates and nuts and January (in Canada) is way too damn cold to go outside for exercise and before you know it you have failed your resolution before you have really been able to start it. So another year of being fat it is! This year (since there is no pressure of a resolution - right!?) my goal is to just make simple changes and cut out some of the obvious unhealthy food items I eat and increase healthier options. I also aim to get outside and get walking more often and may even join a fitness class or two (for me that is MAJOR!). Besides doing this for my health, I also have to think about fitting into a wedding dress! I am not a dress person...the last time I wore a dress? I can't remember. A skirt? That's going back some time. So for me to feel comfortable getting into a dress (and standing in front of actual people while wearing it) I am going to have to cut back and shape up!

More of this
Sigh...less of this

3) Get back to work
By "get back to work" I mean two things. First, I want (need) to find a job. I left my job in Toronto when I moved to the house and my life since August 1st has been working on this home. There has been no time for a job - the amount that had to be done here would not get completed if I was at a job all day. Now that the major work is done at the house, the job hunt begins. Not something I enjoy, I have done this many times in the past, but I need to be making money again and interacting with actual humans, rather than talking to my cat while painting a ceiling in my pajamas...yes that happened. The second thing I mean when I say "get back to work" is getting back to artwork. It has been a long time since I have been able to do anything creative and I am going through serious withdrawal! I finally have a space of my own where I can focus on artwork, so I need to put it to good use. But as much as I want art to be number one, I must focus on a paying job first!


5) Keep in touch with family/friends more
Life gets busy and keeping in touch with people that are a little (or a lot) far away gets challenging and sometimes stops altogether. I am going to put in more effort to stay in contact with family and friends more often, by any means necessary - phone, fax, email, mail, text, Skype, smoke signal, carrier pigeon - I will do whatever it takes!

4) Stay positive and relax a little!
As someone who tends to be a little (actually a lot) negative and wound just a tad too tight, one of my goals this year is to stay positive and relax a bit! This may sound like an easy thing to do, but for me it will be a bit of a challenge, especially with all of the things I want/need to accomplish this year! Time to take a deep breath and get 2013 going!

Relax a a wiener dog in a sunny patch!

What's going to happen in 2013? (part one)

The end of one year and beginning of a new year is a rather odd time, don't you think? I know this time of year is full of parties, food, drink, fancy clothes, family, friends and cheer, but it can be downright depressing for many people. It can often be a time to dwell on what has happened in the past and the pressure to make the new year better can often feel daunting. There is usually so much focus (particularly in the media) on the bad that happened in the year ending and speculation of what is to come, that I would rather just hide under the covers and let everything pass me by. So I must be incredibly thankful that 2012 was a pretty good year for me - that is not to say 2012 was perfect, but some pretty darn awesome things happened! I got engaged and just a few months later I was making the move out of the city and to my first home! Exciting stuff - stressful and expensive, but an adventure nevertheless. So what is going to happen in 2013?