Thursday, July 24, 2008

Givin' up the Funk

I've always hated when quick-fix designers on Trading Spaces or HGTV suggest to homeowners that they should paint their kitchen floor. So naturally I was not the happiest camper when we purchased a kitchen that not only needed tons of work but had a crazy painted floor. With all due respect to the person who must have spent hours completing this masterpiece, is this not the funkiest kitchen floor you've ever seen?

Usually when I use the word funky, I mean it in the more quirky, retro-kitschy, endearing sense. This is not one of those times. This floor is neither kitschy nor endearing. I am not amused when someone chooses to glue particle board over an original hardwood floor and paints it teal. And I'm truly baffled that said person would then make it so much worse by painting an uneven cream inset and stenciling teal-colored fruits within this frame. Ick, ick, ick. Not only that but the paint is so scuffed and grungy that when I drop a crumb on the floor, you can hear it fall but can't figure out where it landed. The slightest drip has become motivation enough to get out the Swiffer. A little splatter off the stove or a dropped piece of food disappears seamlessly among the teal peaches and berries below, only to be unpleasantly encountered during a barefoot trip to the refrigerator later that evening. Apparently, filth lends itself to this decor.

So with the carpet situation upstairs now under control, I'm feeling motivated to finally tackle that tackiness underfoot in the kitchen. We're planning a full remodel of the kitchen a few years from now, but that floor is screaming for a mini-makeover in the meantime. Perhaps inspired by my transformation of our downstairs bathroom with some simple peel-and-stick vinyl tile, my husband, Jon, bought a sample square of a lovely, sandy-colored, slatelike vinyl a while back to try in the kitchen. Hopefully, I can find this stuff again, but the closest match I'm finding is something like this. Basically, anything not stenciled, teal fruit will be a major step in refreshing the kitchen...and will certainly make the floor easier to keep clean. At this point, I'd prefer a flashing Saturday Night Fever disco floor to the one I have in there now. (Actually, not a bad idea...I already dance way too much in the kitchen when no one's looking.)

And speaking of disco and dancing, isn't it just delightful when you rediscover music you didn't know you had? I've never considered myself an ABBA fan, per se, and yet here I am still mindlessly bopping along to the earworm that is "Lay All Your Love on Me" ever since I saw Mamma Mia on Tuesday night. (The movie is something I'd highly recommend, by the way, if you have a place in your heart for campy musicals and aren't afraid to embrace a serious dose of silliness for the sake of entertainment. Besides, when is Meryl Streep anything less than amazing?) Anyway, I started poking through my CD collection yesterday and was elated to find that I had two volumes of Pure Disco (in addition to two volumes of Pure Funk, of course!) and, better yet, that one of them actually included "Lay All Your Love on Me." I know I didn't buy it originally for this song, but now there's just one more reason to bust out that disk, get down, and boogie-oogie-oogie (which I shamelessly did after hubby went to work last night). Maybe a good soundtrack for the task of tiling a kitchen floor? A couple caveats, though, as I'll probably be inclined to do slightly more dancing than tiling if I listen to this, and whether or not the hubs will be on board with vinyl tiling to ABBA is yet to be determined.

Hmmm...maybe this will have to be a solo project. I am, as it happens, fairly capable of installing your basic vinyl tile floor. I worked wonders with one of our bathroom floors, which had painted tile and indoor/outdoor carpeting (reminiscent of mini-golf courses) before I got my hands on it. It still needs the finishing touch of a shoe molding along the edge of the tub and cabinets, but not too shabby. This is my kind of funky.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Sipping

I'm on a much-needed vacation this week, so in honor of all things summer, I'd thought I'd share a fantastic recipe for sangria. For the longest time I associated sangria with the stuff swigged out of mason jars at Dominick's in Ann Arbor--the kind that tastes like sweet, non-alcoholic juice until you try to stand up and nearly topple over. The atmosphere at Dominick's was good, but the sangria itself--especially in recent years--isn't all that wallet-friendly, and it was always a little too sweet for my taste.

Then last year a recipe for super-easy sangria found its way into my hands, and with a few simple adjustments, I've never looked back. This one still tastes like red wine but with enough orangey, lovely fruitiness to transform it into pure summer perfection when served over plenty of ice. I highly recommend making up a batch a few hours before you're ready to serve and then let it brew a bit in the fridge. The sangria is great on its own or with any backyard barbecue staples, but it's especially terrific with spicy nibbles like pepper jack cheese, smoky salsa, Mexican dip, you name it. Enjoy!

Summer Sangria

I like to use shiraz, cabernet, merlot, or a blend of a couple of these. Barefoot reds are perfect for sangria because they're typically very cheap (I can usually find two bottles for less than $10), but I'd draw the line at Charles Shaw (a.k.a., "Three-Buck Chuck"). Certainly don't use your best bottle of red, but don't use something rotgut either. Keep it cheap but drinkable!

2 bottles (750 ml each) dry red wine
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus an extra glug of triple sec or Grand Marnier
1 seedless navel orange
1-2 limes

In a large pitcher combine the orange juice, lime juice, and sugar, stirring well until the sugar is dissolved. Add the wine and liqueur and mix well.

Slice the orange and limes and add to the sangria. Refrigerate, allowing the fruit to "stew" until the sangria is well chilled. Serve over ice with extra lime or orange wedges.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stairway to Heaven

I'm at it again. And by “it” I’m (sadly) referring to my penchant for procrastination--particularly in maintaining my newly launched blog! Tsk. But all that's about to change because I'll now have one less excuse to use...

Carpet. We have carpet. It sounds weird to even say that because this sentence has had an extra word beginning it for the last nine months: "once," as in "Once we have carpet..." Everything we've been planning to do in the house lately has hinged somehow on this glorious, imaginary day in the far-flung future when we'd have carpeting installed in our upstairs bedroom, hallway, and stairwell. Then, "Once we have carpet, we can move our bedroom furniture upstairs, set up the downstairs bedroom as an office, get the junk out of the living room, pick out more paint colors, blah-blah-blah..." For nine months. Nine months--the time it takes to gestate a human being, for crying out loud. I have boxes in my living room that haven't budged a millimeter since we moved in last September. Well, they're moving now, baby!

I have to say it's a delight to be able to finally take advantage of my entire house. We've been camped out in the downstairs bedroom, which we plan to use as an office. So my nightly ritual has involved worming my way around the computer desk and crawling into our bed which is shoved in the corner on the box spring. (Not on the bed frame--that's in the living room in several pieces, natch.) Our swiveling desk chair has doubled as my nightstand and drawer, so using the computer--that is, if you wanted to sit down in front of it--involved moving my alarm clock, book, piles of pajamas, etc. to the bed every time, and then replacing them afterward. Grrrr. Plus, my husband is still working midnights, so we're on opposite sides of the clock many times. That ruled out using the computer when one of us is trying to sleep, as well as keeping the TV or stereo quiet in the family room just on the other side of the wall. Needless to say, moving our bedroom upstairs has made all of this irrelevant, thank goodness! Of course, that means no more "I can't use the computer" excuses when it comes to my lack of writing, so I'm prepared to buckle down and start a-bloggin'.

Behold the evolution of our upstairs (minus the furniture). Yes, we could have refinished the hardwood floor, but it didn't extend into the adjoining dressing room and walk-in closet. And given the creakiness up there--coupled with my extreme klutziness--it was more rational to opt for some lovely plush carpeting all the way down the stairs. I almost forgot how many layers of primer it took to cover the stenciling in the stairwell and also how knotty and grungy that old carpet was...

The furniture has since migrated its way up there, as well as some temporary window shades, but I've yet to take a photo of that. Anyhow, we are officially sleeping in our cozy new bedroom. Ahhhh. Climbing the stairs never felt so satisfying.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Birth of a Blog goes nothing. I'm writing for my own enjoyment again after a embarrassingly long hiatus from the practice. I haven't written anything for myself in a few years, so I'll say it loud and clear, folks--consider me officially back on the writing wagon!

To be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure what this will evolve into, but I'm setting out not only to write for the sake of it but also to write about the subject most on my mind as of late: the establishment of a home and all it entails. My husband and I just purchased our first house a few months ago, and we've now come to terms with the fact that what we actually purchased was not simply a house but a thirty-year hobby. That's not to say that we aren't thoroughly and madly in love with it--it's just that we have...a little (okay, a LOT) of work ahead of us. Besides the always-growing "honey-do" list of upgrading, renovating, redecorating, and overall maintenance projects that come with owning a house, I'm constantly reminded of the big picture--we're embarking on the creation of a home.

After a couple years of rental living and having tied the knot only a year and a half ago, we were ready to skip the "starter home" step and buy a place that we really wanted to settle down in, make our own, and eventually raise a family. We spent a stressful summer last year shopping around the suburbs of metro Detroit (our adventures in house hunting could have been a separate blog altogether) and nearly purchased a house in Grosse Pointe Woods. However, the planets didn't align for us until, on our way over to visit my in-laws, we happened upon a spacious Cape Cod on a double lot that we had somehow overlooked in Dearborn, where both of us grew up and where our parents still live. Stranger still, the house was less than a block away from my in-laws, less than a mile away from my parents, and within walking distance of our old schools. Could it really be that simple? We had been looking in every place but the one that truly made the most sense. We took a chance, toured the house, fell in love with it, and put in an offer within the next twenty-four hours. In far less time than that, the house was ours.

A couple of newlyweds returning to the neighborhood where they grew up to plant roots? Good grief--it sounds like the makings of a lame sitcom or, worse yet, like some kind of weird reality show I'd find myself mindlessly (yet faithfully) DVR-ing. But have no fear--I'll attempt to transcend the clich
├ęs. It's my hope that I can offer a tip or an idea here and there to fellow homeowners, but by and large this will be a space for me to share our everyday adventures as my husband and I dive headfirst into domesticity. Rest assured, there will be drama, and--oh, I promise--there will be comedy.