Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The rest of the 2012 to-do list...

I admit it.  I am a hard-core list maker.  I love to check things off! Also, I find the act of making a list helps me focus on what I really need versus want. And being an avid DIYer, I have to keep in mind what's realistic. I don't usually share my lists with others, but I'm putting this one out there hoping that will motivate me (and the bf!) to finish some things.  The following is what I hope to accomplish this year.  It is by no means a complete list of what I'd like to do around this little cottage! All in good time...

  • Re-do the front yard. I've got lots of ideas I'd like to try. One side of the front yard has a massive 80 year old Oak.  Although there is some Vinca (minor) and Liriope growing at the base of the tree, not much else survives the heavy shade.  Have to think about what to do there.  Any suggestions?  On the other side, while shady in the early morning, gets full sun in the afternoon. But not enough sun for roses (I know, because I tried.) So my idea for that side could include something like this, below.  It's a big job - turned out to be too big of a job for last summer - but one can hope, right?
I'm thinking a little less "patio".  Maybe something in the middle - a bird bath with lavender all the way around the base?

For the walk up to the front door I'd love to do these large pavers with gravel instead of the rocks they have here.
(These photos from Pinterest.)
  • Finish the damn Murphy Bed that the bf has been working on - off and on, mostly off - for months now.  I am so looking forward to the bed in the guest room being out of the way so that I can use the room for other things (YOGA!!) when we don't have guests - which is much of the time.
  • Paint both bedrooms.  They are the last two rooms that are the same as they were when I bought the house.  I don't mind their present colors, they're both just a little dark.  I'm thinking an "almost" white in the guest room, probably the same color as the living room.  It's a dark room (that massive Oak tree in the front yard is right outside the room, so it doesn't get very much natural light), so it could stand a little lightening up.  The master bedroom will also be lightened up, but I haven't decided just yet exactly which color.  I am thinking it won't be white, though.  Again...any suggestions?

I guess now I will have to keep you up to date on my progress, won't I?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The to-do list

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently finished one of the many, many items on my very, very long to-do list!

And here it is:

Some of you may not remember (who am I kidding - none of you remember, I'm sure!) what the hall floor looked like BEFORE:

That gaping hole is an air intake for the heating/AC Unit.  Terrible place for it, I know.  The dogs are scared to death of it, even when we put the metal cover back over it. Just something we deal with in an old house.

 I tried to cover it with a rug, and many of my friends have mentioned that they never noticed the floor in the hallway before, and didn't notice when we changed it.  But I noticed.  I hated that ugly white(ish) tile with the gray mottling that always looked dirty.  Well, it is dirty no more! It is now a warm and lovely cork flooring, same as what we have in the kitchen.  I had hoped that there would be salvagable oak flooring under the tile (fat chance, right?), and there was some, but most of the floor was tile backer board over plywood.  It would have been a lot more money and a MUCH longer time frame to install a new wood floor, so I went with the cork, and I really do love it.

So, what's next?  Hmmmmm...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On the (never-ending) to-do list....

This weeks project:

It doesn't look bad in this photo, but the finish was becoming faded and several places were worn thru entirely.  I've had this table for 20+ years - my children grew up eating at this table.

We refinished my old table.  I thought about painting it - and I might still do that one day - but once I sanded it down a little it was easy to see how nice it would look with just a coat of stain and a couple of coats of a Polyurethane finish.  We're on the fourth application of Poly, and I think that's gonna do it.  A couple days for it to dry and set up completely, and we can go back to eating on it.  Someday I hope the bf will make me a long, gorgeous farm table, but til then this table has lots of memories behind it.

Another item on the January "to-do" list:

Salvia, Sea Holly, Coneflower and Monarda seedlings-to-be!

Last fall I gathered up and saved seeds from some of my favorite plants I already have in the garden, with intentions of quadrupling my flowers without having to spend any money.  Wish me luck!

And here is what we did tonight:

An after-work glass of wine outside on the patio...

I am so loving this weather!  It was almost 70 degrees when I got home from work tonight!  Last year about this time we were shoveling snow.  This year I think we've had 2 or 3 days of less than 65 degree days.  So nice.  Thank you Mother Nature!  Come on Spring!

I'll be back in a day or two with the afters of the table and another item we crossed off the list last weekend.

Til then...peace, y'all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Por favor, ven a cenar

In an effort to stay true to my intentions to write a post at least once a week, I will post a recipe!

This past weekend the bf and I hosted a dinner for friends who have just come back from a few months in Central America.  What were they doing in Honduras, Guatemala and San Salvador for a few months you ask?  That's just how they roll.  They're both retired (well and happily! and young!) and often spend several months at a time driving - yes, driving! - all over the continent.  Most years they spend at least a good part of the winter in Mexico and/or Central America, fishing, spending large amounts of time in hammocks (that last part may or may not just be in my imagination) and generally just living the dream.  My dream, anyway.

Anywayyyy... they came back to town just after New Years so we had a Mexican style dinner (as a former Californian I like to think I know my way around Mexican food, but I don't know anything about Central American food, although I suspect it's similar). Apps consisted of Ceviche with shrimp and scallops, and for dinner I made my favorite chicken enchiladas, cheese enchiladas and some Mexican style rice, and one of the guests brought an avocado salad.  It was all delicious, but the biggest hit of the night was the Flan we had for dessert.  I've made this before and it is incredibly easy, which of course makes it even better, right?  But honestly I was surprised at the reaction of my guests - they loved it and we finished it off quickly!



  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a small nonstick saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. Shake and swirl occasionally to distribute sugar until it is dissolved and begins to brown. Lift the pan over the heat source (4 to 6 inches) and continue to brown the sugar until it becomes a dark golden brown. You may slightly stir while cooking, but continually stirring causes the sugar to crystallize. Pour caramelized sugar into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish or a large loaf pan, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan evenly.
  3. In a blender, combine sweetened condensed milk, cream, milk, eggs and vanilla. Blend on high for one minute. Pour over the caramelized sugar.
  4. Place the filled casserole dish into a larger pan and add 1 inch of HOT water to the outer pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until set.

This is actually one of the "mini-flans" I made before.  I forgot to get a picture of the bigger one I  made for this dinner.

**A couple of notes:

When I made this flan before I used a large muffin pan and made 18 or so individual mini-flans.  This time I used the casserole dish and there was enough to make two!  Also, in the muffin pan it did set up in about 50 minutes, but in the casserole it took more like 75 minutes (maybe a little more). I would suggest just checking to see that it's "set", however long that takes.

It's important to bake the flan pan inside another pan with the hot water.  If you don't it will crack and not look very appetizing.

Flan can be made with a lot of "extras" - fruit, etc., but I made it plain and honest, and it was fabulous.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

a very happy new year!

I don't make New Year's resolutions, do you?  I think every day is a chance to make a resolution, set a goal, become a new and/or better you, or start a new life. But I have recently decided that I'm going to try (my very best) to post something here at least once a week from here on out. "Try" being the operative word here.

So what's new? 

The holidays are over.  I love the holidays, but I'm always relieved when it's over.  Although I must say, now that my children are grown, the holidays have become so much more relaxed.  More of a time to reflect, to appreciate time. Time to cook and bake, time to spend with my family, time to relax and just be.  The trip to Paris earlier this fall was part of my gift to my daughters, so Christmas was even more low key than it has been for many years, and I think that really contributed to the relaxed and easy feeling we all had this year.  I've decided that giving the girls an "experience" instead of a new blouse or shoes or jewelry is the way to go. Although I certainly won't be able to take them to Paris every year, I think they would both agree that they remember we have been to see "The Nutcracker Suite" every year since they were really little waaaay more than any "'thing" they've received on Christmas.  It might require a little more creativity on my part, but I think (hope) they'll remember it longer.

Another nice thing that happened this year was that while some in my family have been doing it for a while, this year we all contributed to our favorite charities instead of sending gifts.  We decided that we all have enough stuff. Too much stuff. No one needs any more stuff.  It was so nice opening all the envelopes and seeing where the contributions went.  And I learned a lot about some organizations I hadn't heard of before.

New Years was low key as well.  I did my annual 108 sun salutations in the morning, had a lovely brunch with my fellow yogis, went to a matinee movie, then spent the evening laying on the couch while snacking (finished off all those holiday treats!), reading, and catching a few episodes from the first season of "Parenthood" (which I have a love/hate relationship with - it's about a close knit family that reminds me of my own family in California, and while it reminds me of all the great things about being part of a big, close knit family, it also makes me so homesick and heart broken to be so far away from them.  So I spent much of the time watching with tears in my eyes.) Then I cried a little when I saw Dave Clark.  We watched the ball drop, called our children, then went to bed.  Not much different than most other nights, really.  Except for the weeping.

Our weather has been so mild that this was what my Lady Banks looked like on New Years Day (this is not my actual rose, but it looked like this.  I haven't taken a picture of mine, and if we wait for me to do that I may not post for another month!):

I am off to work now, but I will really be trying to get into a regular posting schedule.  Wish me luck! Hope you are all having a wonderful day.