Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bath time

I gave up on trying to choose a room to feature and instead am going to show you bath time.  It's way more fun anyways.

Jon mowed the lawn while Cailey was playing outside.

This is what happens when you let a dog outside in freshly mowed grass.

I'm really not into having green paw prints all over my floors so I thought it was a good time to give the dogs a bath.  I should mention that Cailey doesn't really like baths.

I mean she really doesn't like baths.

She'll pretty much stand herself up against the back of the tub to shy away from the water.

Poor Cailey.  I try to explain that bath time really isn't so bad, but she won't listen.

I tell her that she gets to have her ears scratched and tummy rubbed.

But there is nothing to console her.  I guess the best that I can do is just go as fast as I can and get her out of the evil tub.

And into a warm and fluffy towel.

There, that's a little better.

Towels beat tubs pretty much 99.99% of the time for Cailey.

As much as she hates bath time, Cailey sure does love towel time.

And she is always happy to be clean.

Well kids - next time we see each other, it will be time for a give away!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A special look inside our Kingdom - the Master Bedroom

When Jon and I first bought our house and moved in, we spent the first month living in the guest room.  We only had one set of bedroom furniture and it's about as old as I am (well, maybe not THAT old, but definitely at least 13 years).  We decided that we would start our new marital life (we were married a month after we bought the house) with a new bedroom set.  We waited patiently to save up the money and pick out the perfect set.

Our new bedroom was small, so we could only fit a queen set.  But the odd part was the tiny space available for a dresser.  We measured it precisely and brought a measuring tape with us to every store we went to.  I think we measured about 50 different dressers before we found the perfect one.

Here is the bedroom from the doorway.  It's simple and small, but it has everything we need.

There is a bed, two night stands, a dresser, a couple of mirrors, and some dog beds.  What else could we want?

The painting on the wall is from the Starving Artist sale.  If you find one nearby, I recommend you go.  The paintings are amazing and increadibly cheap.

Across from the bed is the perfect dresser.

I'm not sure if you can tell, but it fits perfectly into the space between the doorway and the closet.  Of course, it has a mirrow, some decorations, and a small light.  One of the things that Jon and I were definitive about when we first moved in was the TV in the bedroom.  We refused to put one in.  I read somewhere a long time ago that marriages will last longer and succeed more if there is no TV in the bedroom.  The first couple of years went by and I found one or both of us falling asleep in the living room on weekends because one of us wanted to stay up to watch TV.  And when Jon traveled, I dreaded going to the lonely, quiet bedroom on my own.  So a couple of months ago we gave in and moved the TV from the kitchen to the bedroom.  So far we've turned it on about twice, but it's comforting to know it's there when we need it.

Above the dresser is my favorite picture from our wedding day.

I think my dad's friend took this with my dad's camera.  It depicts precisely how we felt when we were finally married.  It was the happiest moment of my life.

And to the right of the dresser is my wonderful creation - the closet!

When we first moved in, this closet had the two wooden sliding doors that never opened or closed.  It had one bar going across that always bent in the middle under the weight of the clothes and one ugly shelf above that was too high for me to reach.  I never did understand why people thought this is a good way to build a closet.  So, naturally, we updated it.

Hmm, let's please not pay attention to the mess in the closet.  Perhaps I should have skipped the open-door picture.  Oh well, cat's outta the bag.  As you see, the doors no longer block half of the closet and I've rearranged the way the shelves and bars fit in.  We put two levels of bars on one side, added some shelves, and one long bar on the other side.  We got everything we needed at Home Depot (did I mention that we pretty much live there?).  Under long rack there are some shoe shelves for my extensive collection of shoes.  Don't worry, I only put the ones I wear daily and that are in season there.  But most importantly, we now have a light!

Moving on.  Here is another very important feature of our bedroom - the doggie bed!

This hairy one is Cailey's.  She sheds.  A lot.  Travis used to have one just like this one, but he ripped it apart.  That's the third bed he ripped this month.  But he's cute, and we forgave him, but I'm not ready to buy yet another dog bed.

This is my nightstand.

It has all the essentials: an alarm, a picture of Jon and me from our honeymoon, some books, a light, and a glass of water.  I am thirsty pretty much 24/7.  I blame running.  I'd show you Jon's nightstand but it's boring and doesn't have anything on it except for a back scratcher.  I guess that's his essential.

Next to the bed on the wall between the entry door and the master bathroom was a big empty wall.  The way the doors open there isn't much room for any furniture there, so we put in a shelf with a mirror.

My dad installed an outlet and some lights for me.  I'd like to get something cuter here someday, but so far it hasn't been a priority.

That is pretty much it for the bedroom.

Except for these awesome pillows and comforter.  I found them on Overstock.com.  I also bought matching curtains, but I'm apparently not very bright because they were about 40 inches too short and only included two panels, while we need 4.  So if you are ever shopping around and find some nice matching off-white, tan, moss, or chocolate brown curtains, let me know.  I'm still looking for some.

I'm still deciding on which room to showcase tomorrow - my last post about the house for a little while.  I'm between the guestroom with the 80's furniture, the dining room with my favorite dining set that I've wanted for years, and the basement - which we are currently saving up for to update with new furniture.  Feel free to vote!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Next stop on the tour - the Purple room

Only 3 more posts until the big surprise.  I mean, giveaway.  Are you excited?

On to the purple room.

What were you expecting?  A baby room?  Noooo, sillies.  We don't have a baby for a baby room!  At least not yet (I think my husband is in hiding).  It's the master bath.  It's our newest addition to the household.

About 6 months ago we decided to finally dive in and update it.  I have no "before" pictures because it was just so horrible that I tried to hide it as much as I could.  The tiny itty bitty sink, the nasty linoleum floors that never look clean, the weird corner toilet.  Ugh.  I hated it.  As is our nature, we decided to do this on our own (and by "our own" I mean with my dad).

These are the beautiful floor tile that I picked our at Home Depot.  We spent hours in the store walking back and forth, comparing tile, paint colors, and furniture.  I thought my parents and husband were going to kill me and bury me among the tile.

We laid it down all by our selves after spending another few never ending days and evenings scrubbing the darned linoleum off the floor.  Ugh I hate linoleum.  Anyways, we settled on this here tile and spent a couple hours putting it down.  My dad measured, Jon cut and I carried them up and down between the two of them. 

I also picked out this tile.

I'm very proud of it.  I'm also very proud of my two favorite men who cut all these to fit so perfectly.  I got tired of carrying the tile back and forth and ended up just sitting around, watching.  I'm not a very good helper.  But I'm an awesome picker-outter and director.  I love my shower.  Well, mostly "my" shower.

And I love the door to the shower.

Quick story about the door - it took about 4 hours to put in.  I am not even kidding you.  You see, I don't like to make things simple and I wanted the door to be attached on the right and to open to the inside, basically the opposite of what the door was made to do.  But my dad, the magic man, said that we could totally figure out how to put it in backwards.  We put our heads together and made the appropriate adjustments and installed the door.  Which didn't close.  We took it apart, looked everything over, decided we were right and put it back together.  It didn't close.  We got down on the floor and looked underneath for anything that might be blocking it, we got on top of the toilet to see the top in case something was in the way.  We opened it, we closed it, we banged with a hammer, we turned a screwdriver.  The darn door would not close!  Fast forward 4 hours later, almost midnight, we finally figured it out.  I won't bore you with the technicalities, but let's just say it should NOT have taken 4 hours.  In the end though, I'm glad we put forth all that effort because I love this door.

And I love my hook.

This took about 2 months to find.  I wanted the perfect one.  Jon was not happy when I dragged him to the 20th store in a row.

My most favorite pieces is this sink.  For such a tiny bathroom, I really wanted a large sink.

And a large sink I got!  I picked this out at the Home Depot and it fits in amazing!  The totally cute design makes the whole bathroom look way bigger than it is.

Here's the last piece to complete the puzzle - the light. 

This isn't the only light in the bathroom (there is also a fan with a light in the ceiling), but I really wanted a light above the sink because, well, you know, make up and stuff.  And again I dragged my poor innocent husband all over the place trying to find the perfect one but nothing seemed to fit.  Low and behold, we found this one at Home Depot.  And it matches the door!

All in all, the whole project took about 2.5 days, about 45 trips to the Home Depot, about 4-6 fights among me and my parents, me and my dad, me and Jon, me and my dogs.  I get feisty when I'm stressed out.

Tomorrow I'll show you the bedroom.  It's nothing special, but it's our haven.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kingdom tour continues - the Magic Room

No, not that kind of magic.  I am referring to the room where beautiful and delicious meals are prepared.  The room where all the guests will gather no matter how much more specious another room might be.  It's the place for socialization, laughter, and where secrets passed on from generation to generation are told.  It's the Kitchen.

I wish I had some pictures of the kitchen before we renovated handy.  Instead, you'll just have to do with my description.  It had a rotten linoleum floor, white painted ugly rotting cabinets, nasty counters.  And the fridge, for some reason, was blocking the door in the back.   I have no idea who came up with that.

When we moved in, we knew that the kitchen would have to be fully gutted due to the rotting floor, but we didn't really know what it would take.  Especially since we decided to do it on our own.  Honestly, if you want to save some money, it's generally a good idea, but be prepared for a lot of hard work.  I think the worst part was scrubbing the linoleum off the floor.  It took over a week.  I think we may have cried.  And cursed a lot.  But we got it done and ta-da!  There it is.  Complete with new appliances, an addition of a dishwasher, and a new tile floor.

When we finally finished the kitchen, there was a spot along the wall that needed a piece of furniture.  Some extra counter space.  It took us almost a year, but we found the perfect little hutch.

It holds more junk in the drawers (we have a lot of junk), bottles of wine (as if those last long in my house), some recipes, and recipe books.  Underneath are empty cans and bottles and the dog food.  I have no idea where else I would put that stuff.  I love this hutch.  We got it at Bob's.

Above it is a wine rack we got at Overstock.com.  I've always wanted one of these.  It holds bottles of wine (or lack there of as you can see) and my glasses.

I love wine glasses.  But I brake them a lot.  That's why there is such a large variety.

On the counter we have a tea kettle, some knives, and a picture.


The picture is of my puppies - Travis, Cailey, Jasmine, and Benny.  I know Benny is not exactly our dog, but we pretend like he is since he spends so much time with us.  We love him.  And we miss Jas.  A lot.

Moving right along - to the spice rack.


It was a wedding gift - and definitely one of my favorites.  I recommend it to anyone who'd listen.  It's from Macy's.

On my other counter is stuff that I'll be using to make eggplant parm - but more about that during another post.

That's about it.  It's small, but it's enough for what we currently need.  I love cooking and I think I finally have everything in just the right places.

Tomorrow I'll take you to see the newest addition to our renovations.   It's purple.  And pretty.  See you then.

Living like the Kings

Today I am starting a new series of 5 posts that will lead up to the big finale - post #100.  That's right. 100.  This is a big deal, people.  And to celebrate, there will be surprise.  A big surprise.  An awesome surprise.  It's a giveaway, ok?  Sheesh, there's no need to be so pushy, I would have told you eventually anyways.

In the meantime, since this is Living like the Kings, I'll show you our kingdom.  Today we will start with the room that we spend the most amount of time in.  It's where we relax, unwind after a day of hard work, chat about our days, and veg out.

If you guessed the living room - you guessed right!

Our living room is the main room of our kingdom.  It's our pride and joy.  When we first moved in to our house, it looked like this:
Sorry for the fuzzy picture.  But you get what a mess this is.  We were young and poor when we bought the house.  But we waited patiently and saved our dollars and bought the couch as a Christmas gift to one another.  The rest came together from finds and gifts from family.


Here is the entrance.  When we moved in we painted everything in the house, including the door.  The new couch allowed us to set up an entrance - although I still dream of a mud room.

On one side we put up an old shelf that we spray painted.  It now acts as a shoe shelf and a stand.


I think it's one of my favorite little fixes.

It also holds one of my many baskets which holds our unaddressed mail.  When we first moved to our house, we threw the mail on the dining room table when we walked in and it drove me nuts!  This resolved our issue and gave us one place to look for things like wedding invitations or the latest bill that we haven't paid.

On the other side is a hook we bought at Home Depot.

It stores things like jackets and purses.  We turned our coat closet into a pantry for the kitchen and that left our coats hanging on the back of dining room chairs.  Another one of those things that drove me nuts.  Apparently, I'm a bit of a neat freak.  The best part is that when you open the door, it hides the coats and I feel like I have an extra closet.

Next to the coat hanger is one of my favorite pieces of furniture.

We bought this on Amazon.com because, well, I buy everything on Amazon.com.  It's totally cute and matches our spray painted shelf/shoe rack.  The little drawers help keep surfaces clean from all the loose pieces of papers, keys, receipts, wallets, and all the other little things that clutter counters.  It also leaves room underneath to store an extra seat and a large basket (yup, another basket).

This is where the rest of the junk is - hidden away.  This huge basket was a gift from my awesome sister-in-law and it's from Crate & Barrel.  Crate & Barrel might be my favorite store ever - if I could afford to shop there all the time, I would.  For now I settle for gift cards and generous gifts from families.  Anyways, here's where all the hats, leashes, dog toys, shoe horns, and other random large items hide away.

Onto the rest of the living room.  You can see this table in the picture of the old living room.

It is this amazing antique marble-top side table that I absolutely ADORE.  When we first moved into our house, Jon and I didn't have much and the things we had were handed down to us by our amazingly generous family and friends.  Except for this little table.  This was our first new piece of furniture when we moved in.  Jon's grandparents gave it to us as a house warming gift and it still makes me smile.  It's so perfect and fits everything in our house just right.  They guessed our taste in decorating just right!  The cute little candle holders are purchases from one of my favorite good-find stores - Home Goods.

Next to the table is a fireplace.  To me no living room is complete without a fireplace.

Our mantle displays little pictures, candle sticks and some nick-knacks.  But above it is the real prize item.

A framed wedding photo.  There's a story...there's always a story with me.

When Jon and I got married we hired a professional photographer to capture the important moments in our lives.  When we finally got our pictures, I talked non-stop about getting a large photo framed to hang above our fireplace.  That's all I did.  I talked.  Then a year went by.  And another year went by.  And I still talked about it.  Finally, last Christmas I decided to take action.  It was the first year that Jon's family was coming to our house to celebrate Christmas and I wanted everything to be perfect.  Jon had a broken neck (a whole long tale that we won't get into) and his immobility didn't help things.  I stressed and talked about things I wanted to get done and stressed some more.  Every store I went to I looked for frames for our wedding photo.  Jon kept talking me out of it because each frame wasn't perfect enough for him.  This stressed me out further.  In the end, I gave up and decided to hold off on the frame.

On Christmas morning I opened a gift from Jon - our gorgeous wedding photo in the most amazing, perfect frame I ever laid my eyes on.  I couldn't believe it!  Jon couldn't go anywhere because of his injuries, but he plotted and planned with his family to steal our photo from my holding place and get it custom framed.  Everyone pitched in and got it done and I cried Christmas morning.  It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

Okay, moving right along.  To the swine.  You can read all about swine and me here.


And to complete our tour, here are the bookshelves.  From Crate & Barrel.  Did I mention that I love Crate & Barrel?

Our tiny little living room doesn't leave much room but the blank wall was driving me nuts.  These book shelves are so airy that it makes the living room look even larger than it is.  And on it are - you guessed it - baskets.  These looks less like the wicker baskets that I have all over the house, but they still server their purpose.   They hold our remotes, external hard drives, cameras, dog bones, batteries and other crap that hangs out around the house.  If you haven't noticed, I hate clutter.  And I love baskets.  And pictures.

And thus completes our first tour of the series.  Tomorrow I'll show you my second favorite place.  I'll give you a hint: I use it to cook stuff.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pelmeni - a family affair

Pemneni are these tiny little bundles of joy that you get to enjoy if you're willing to spend hours making them or if you have family that's willing to make hours making them for you.  They are sort of like raviolis filled with meatballs.  Yes, they taste as good as they sound.


Pelmeni have been a Russian tradition for generations upon generations, enjoyed by children, adults and the elderly everywhere.  When my husband and I visited Moscow a couple of years ago, we learned that they are even served in restaurants.  In fact, I've never met a Russian, American, or any other person who hasn't loved them (that is, unless you're a Veggie).  The one thing about the Pelmeni is that they aren't easy to make.  Some old school peeps still make them by hand, folding over the dough to lock in the delicious meaty filling.  Others use this honeycomb to make them a bit easier:
(You can find one on ebay, try searching for Pemeni mold).

This weekend my entire family (well, the ones in the US) got together at our house to celebrate my mom and dad's 50th anniversary.  My mom and dad came from NJ, while my sister and her boyfriend drove in from MA.  We're a perfect middle ground and we certainly love having them here.  One little thing that you should know about the Russian folk is that they can't sit still or have nothing to do, so we always try to come up with a project or two to keep my dad from taking apart our appliances or lawn care equipment.  This time we decided to spend the day making Pelmeni, partly to keep everyone occupied, but mostly to make sure that Lana (my sister) and I learned the family recipe to pass on to our children some day.  To be honest with you, my dad still took apart some of the fans in the bathrooms and unclogged all the sinks, but at least our lawn mower is in one piece.

Let's get started.  Please bare with me as these are recipes passed on by showing the next generation and learning from experience, so there are no exact measurements here.

Here is what you'll need:
Dough:
  • Flour - a lot of flour.  Depending on how many Pelmeni you are making at a time, but I'd say a couple of lb bags might do.
  • Eggs (2-3)
  • Water (no need to go to the store for this one)
  • Salt
Meaty filling:
  • Ground beef
  • Ground pork
  • Onions
  • Salt
First, make the dough.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 eggs and 2 glasses of water.  Use a hand mixer to blend the ingredients and begin adding flour about a quarter cup at a time.  Continue to mix and add flour until the dough begins to thicken.  You might want to use your hands here.  Keep adding until the dough is thick and feels whole.  Stick it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to let it settle.  It should look like this:

Now while the dough is in the fridge, make the filling:
Start by using a blender or a food processor to chop up the onions (about 3-4 large ones) until they are smooth.

You really want them to be completely smooth.

Now mix together ground beef, ground pork, onions, and a little bit of salt.  You want about 1/2 part of pork for every part beef.  And you'll have to use your hands. 

You gotta really get in there.

No turning back now.  Don't you feel great?

Time to pull that dough our of the fridge.  You'll need a large and sturdy surface to work on.  Since this was a family affair, we decided to use our porch table so everyone could gather around.

Now flatten the dough.

And use a rolling pin to get it thin, but not too thin.

It will be similar to a pizza dough.

You'll want it to be sort of round and about the size of the honeycomb.

Now gently put the dough on the honeycomb and use your palms to very gently press it down, just enough to see the outlines.

Here comes the fun part.  You will need a fork and a lot of patience.

Using your fingers, take a small quantity of the meat filling (about a teaspoon) and put it in one of the holes.  Use a fork to gently press the filling into the filling, making it flush with the honeycomb, but being careful not to rip the dough.

You want to make sure to avoid the area around the hole.  It needs to be clear of all meat so the dough sticks together later.


This here step is called "forking" courtesy of my really mature sister.

We continued to make "forking" jokes for the next 3-5 hours.  My entire family is really mature.

The result should look something like this:

Now take an equal piece of dough and roll it out the same way as the first.

Lay it on top of the meat filling and press it down gently with your hands.

Pat it down until you can see the outlines just a tad.

Now use the rolling pin to really press the dough together.

You'll want to press it down kind of hard until the honeycomb begins to cut through.  Then take the excess dough off from the perimeter of the honeycomb and set it aside.  You can mix it in with the rest to use later.

Now shake the Pelmeni out of the honeycomb with swift, hard movements.

They should all fall out.  You might have to hit the cutting board nearby to force them.

You'll want to throw a handful of flour to make sure they don't stick together.

Now you get to turn around and do it all over again.

And again.

And again.

When you have a bunch of them together, throw them in the freezer for about 60-90 minutes to freeze them.  You'll want to try and avoid putting too many of them on top of one another so they don't stick together or squish each other.  Once they're kind of cold, you can take them off the tray and put them in a bag to store.

When you're ready to eat them, just boil however many you want (I eat the number of my age.  It's something I've done since I was a kid.  I'm not telling how many I ate today).  You can add a couple of bay leaves and some salt, but I add a pinch or two of Vegeta.

It's the perfect combination of spices and salt.  You'll know they're about ready when they float up to the top.

Yum!

Now put some in a bowl or a deep plate, depending on how much soupiness you like.

And now it's time to decide how Russian you are.  Me?  I'm pretty Russian, so I put about a tablespoon of Smetana (sour cream) in mine.  My dad likes about a teaspoon of mayo in his.  When I was a kid, I put both.  My husband sometimes uses some soy sauce.  He's not very Russian.


Look at that goodness.

Ah.  Enjoy.

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