Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bon Anniversaire

Today, I am officially in my late twenties. I have been a bit of a moper about that fact for the past few weeks, but I am over it. Instead continuing my woe-is-me routine about not feeling like I have a direction or clear plan in life right now (which is never too much bother to anyone usually until these silly birthdays come along), I am going to embrace the moment, toss on my stillettos, have some cake, and a few too many cocktails.

In a few hours, off to Zuni Cafe for a nice dinner with my Wilbat.

In a few days, out of this deplorable office on and to better things!

Thomas - completely unrelated, but he's cute, and unlike the rest of us, has learned to embrace the aging process and his love handles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Merde, Il Pleut!"

Earlier this afternoon, I drew down my office blinds to combat the sunshine glare (yes, I am awkwardly still working here 'til the end of the month). About twenty minutes ago, when I realized how ridiculously dark my office had become, I reeled the blinds up to see that the formerly sunny sky had blackened with the most sinister looking storm clouds I have seen in quite some time. Seriously, I keep expecting to see a dementor or Helena Bonham Carter on a broomstick whiz by. It's hailing like mad right now, and I'm looking at my pathetically miniscule umbrella that practically folds down to a teacup and wondering how it's going to hold up in 1.5 hours. I am seriously wishing I had the following bad-ass model .....

It's amazingly cheeky and I NEED it! What does it mean, you ask? "Merde il pleut" translates to "Shit, it's raining!" Obviously, I'm in love with it. It comes in about twenty different vibrant colors, but why in the world would I want any other than canary? I saw a girl carrying it this morning at the bus stop and am now thoroughly puzzled as to how she came about owning it. After a quick Google search, I found that though The Umbrella has had much deserved adoration heaped upon it throughout the fashionable blogosphere, it can only be purchased in Montreal or on a singular low-tech Canadian website. Not convenient. Merde!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Everytime God Closes A Door ...

He opens a window. His heating bill must be outrageous!"

--Stephen Colbert.

A. I think Stephen Colbert is hilarious. B. I got laid-off today, so it's rather appropriate.

As I am still processing this new development, I am not going to write much other than to say that everything is fine and I am viewing this as a wonderful opportunity. I have always played it safe and done the responsible thing (like being employed full-time before I even graduated college), so maybe this is my chance to do something uncharacteristically brash. What that is, I have not quite flushed out yet, but it looks like I will have some time on my hands coming up shortly to do just that. :)

Favorite Recipe: Italian Pot Pie(s)

I got brave and switched this one from Martha Stewart up a bit. If you link to the recipe you will notice that it calls for onions and carrots. Don't like those - they have to go. Secondly, to make it more hearty and substantial, I added some al dente elbow macaroni to the pie. I also made life just a teensy bit easier by putting this in one properly sized casserole dish - the fewer dishes to do, the better. Lastly, if you're wondering, I most definitely did make my own sauce. :)

Recipe Favorite: Saffron Orzo with Asparagus

Thanks to the invention of the internet (you always did have my back, Al), I have tried to expand my culinary pursuits beyond the usual sauteed chicken breast with rice, or perhaps sauteed chicken breast with potatoes. Everyday at about 3pm (or sometimes as early as 10:30am), I am asked the question: "Umm ... so what do you want to do for dinner?" Translation: "What are you going to make for dinner?"

When posed this question, I have been more recently turning to my two favorite sites for recipes: Epicurious and, you guessed it, Martha Stewart. True, I have a plethora of fabulous cookbooks at home, but they don't allow me to easily search for recipes containing certain ingredients or, more importantly, help cure worktime boredom. It has been fun to expand my horizons and try my hand at new dishes, so I thought I would start sharing some of my favorites that have actually turned out.

I have already made Saffron Orzo with Asparagus (three times now due to popular demand) and it has become a favorite dinner staple already. I love cheese, Will loves prosciutto, and it makes a nice, comforting hot meal. I recommend doubling the recipe because it's delicious reheated the next day for lunch. Also, I have found that it tastes pretty much the same with or without the saffron, so no worries if you don't keep it in the house.

Link to the recipe here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Actually, just the opposite. That title would more appropriately address my complexion. Over the holiday break, I took some time to turn our coffee table into a slightly darker shade of brown.

For some reason, I convinced myself that only an oval coffee table would do for our living room, so when I snagged this one off Craig's List for only $20, I was pretty stoked. Not only does it fit the bill shape-wise, it is perfectly on the demure side for the limited space we have. The only problems were the plethora of scratches and ring marks and the not-so-yummy honey colored stain that was clashing with our mahogany entertainment console a mere 2.5' away. My solution was same one that I bring to most problems: paint it glossy white! All scratched and banged up? Paint it glossy white! We're ending fiscal year 2009 in a $110K deficit? Paint it glossy white! You get the picture.

Will? Not so much a fan of all the glossy white in our home. He really wanted to keep it the original wood and thought it would be nice to match the entertainment console. And so, in an act of selfless love and devotion, I let him get his way on a decor thing just this once, and set out for Cole Hardware for varnish stripper, a drop cloth, stain, and varnish. Regrettably, what I did not buy was a facemask. Still getting sawdust out of my ears and nose. Amazingly healthy.

With cats properly secured away from my work area (the kitchen table - ironic?), my drop cloth in place, and the mouse sander on stand-by, I went to work .....

BEFORE: when will people learn to use coasters???

STEP 1: letting a thick coat of varnish stripper do what it does best. Later I noticed that a little of it had eeped out around the bottle and eaten off the label. Very glad I had some yellow rubber gloves on hand.

STEP 2: no picture of this one because I probably forgot due to being loopy off the toxic fumes .... Though this varnish remover was an absolute miracle potion/toxin, it took some serious elbow grease to scrape off the varnish. It was actually decently effective to get it off the tabletop, but it was almost impossible to get it off the curvy (but adorable, nonetheless) legs, which meant extra sanding later.

STEP 3: bring on the sanding! While the stripper effectively removed much of the varnish, it of course does not remove the wood stain. It needed to go! Enter more elbow grease. Here's the table after over two hours of sanding. It took about another hour to get it completely polished off around the legs. Poor naked coffee table...

STEP 4: this is just one coat of stain! In the store, I was actually unsure whether or not the stain would be dark enough, but it sure as heck as was due to my sanding method (see "Lessons Learned" below). Please note that it is dark outside ... still working ...

STEP 5: in the morning, once the stain is nice and dry, I applied the first coat of varnish. Then I continued to do that every morning for the next two mornings, for a total of three coats.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the final result and so glad I did not take the easy way out by painting it white. Sure, it has a few imperfections, but they are reminders of a novice project well done.

1. They are not kidding when they say wear a mask and ensure ample ventilation.
2. Varnish stripper is good at removing stuff. Like skin. Wear gloves!
3. Using coarse sandpaper for the entire project takes less time, but the rough surface soaks up more stain than a smoother one, yielding a darker color than you may have intended.
4. Sometimes boys are right.