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.