Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ending July in Red, White and Blue

This weekend, I spent some time painting... a canvas! I actually got this idea off of young house love who got it off of pinterest (which are great websites if you havent yet experienced them). I used acrylic paint on a canvas. No this wasn't a difficult painting, but it was pretty fun.

I measured the lines out with a straight edge and used pencil to sketch it out before painting. I am planning on putting it up on our dining room wall, but want to paint a "sister" painting in the same color scheme before I hang them up. I really do have a blue and white theme on the main floor... Hopefully that doesn't mean I am boring! By the way, I mixed my two deeper blue colors with varying amounts of white paint to get all the shading down. I really like the final result - J pointed out it looks like ribbons.

I also made red velvet cupcakes this weekend (from scratch). J's parents and grandma came to visit us on Sunday for lunch, and since I recently was able to use the electric stand mixer (wedding gift that we hadn't had a place for until now), I thought it would be fun to make something delicious! Yes, that's right, we have our new C&B kitchen island! I love that I have more prep surfaces, and that the piece fits perfectly in the room. I was worried about the flow between it and the rest of our kitchen, but it works great!

And yes, mom, the mixer works! My mother had been worrying about not having tried out the mixer and it not being returnable (ya know since it's almost two years old now). But it was in perfect condition and able to make some scrumptious red velvet cupcakes!

A little sidenote about the icing. It didn't work out quite the way I wanted it to (as you might be able to tell from the pictures above). I think there were two problems. The first, I don't think I let the cream cheese and butter soften quite enough. The second is that I maybe should have stuck the icing in the fridge for just a little to get it to harden just a bit. I tried using frosting tools, but it really just made the frosting look sqiggley and didn't really achieve the look I was going for. Next time, right? They tasted great anyway, so I guess it didn't really matter. Actually next time I want to try these red velvet macaroons not to mention trying these oreo cupcakes. Good thing I got that elliptical huh?

Lastly, J's grandma brought us a housewarming gift! And no kidding, the idea came from this blog (my fairy blog-mother- ha!). She got us a hydrangea bush! At first, I thought to put it on the front steps, but as soon as I really thought about it, I decided to plant it. So, after some time sweating it out digging in the ground, we have a hydrangea plant! I'm excited to see if the flowers change color! And now, I can stop plotting to take the blooms off our neighbor's gorgeous hydrangea bush. :) Just kidding, I wouldn't do that. Hopefully this one will turn out as gorgeous as the one at my parent's house. I will remember to water, I will remember to water...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seal up your grout

I finally completed a project this weekend that has been on my to-do list since May. I had been dreading it for some reason, but it really wasn't that bad. The most irritating part though is that you can't tell a bit of difference before and after. The project? Sealing the grout in our shower. The contractor recommended we do it, and we did (but three months later). The reason I suddenly felt eager to get this one crossed off the list was that I was noticing mold/mildew buildup (even though I wash once a week). So, the first step was to get all of that buildup out of there before I sealed it all up. This was accomplished with first scrubbing everything down with 409 so it was nice and clean. Then, I used the super heavy duty magic eraser to get rid of all those hints of red I was seeing in the grout. The magic eraser did the trick (along with a lot of elbow grease). After that I dried everything off really well with paper towels. The next step was to use the grout and tile sealer I had picked up from Home Depot. Funny story about that, while I was intensely studying the different brands, a customer rep approached me to ask if I needed help (sidenote: this never happens when I am with J at Home Depot, only when I am by myself - they must think I look lost or something). I asked what the difference was between the brands (though I had pretty much already decided). The guy explained to me that one was good, the next one better and the last one best. There was also a $10 difference in price as you went up that scale, so I asked what I was really getting if I chose the $30 version versus the $10 version. His response: "Well, the best one has a 20 year guarantee." Yea, I got the $10 one. It was also the only version that was no-VOC which I liked. I will have to reapply in 3 years, but as I already stated, this wasn't that difficult to do, so I really don't mind. The Scotchguard brand one has enough VOC content to kill you (which was the "better" brand) and after my spray paint episode, I wanted to avoid affixation if at all possible.

Okay, so the next step was to basically follow the directions on the back. I sprayed the sealer over about a sixth of the tub bottom at a time and spread with a sponge. I did a little bit of the bottom vertical tiles as well, but they don't seem to be getting much water on them in general, so I only did the areas I thought were needed. I can always do this again if I need to. I then waited 5 minutes then wiped off the excess sealer with a sponge and left it to dry. I actually repeated the steps again the next day, just to make sure. Here are some pictures, but yea, no real aesthetic difference, which is what you would want anyway.

In other slightly more exciting news, I bought an elliptical last weekend which arrived yesterday. It went down in the basement, and I am so thrilled that I can cancel my gym membership and get rid of driving to the gym.

An added bonus was that putting the elliptical downstairs forced me to organize that room a little more. It had been a catch all for all the crap we didn't know where to put, so I spent some time re-arranging and organizing and am pleased with how the downstairs is looking.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

oh the vanity

Hopefully you remember my previous post on how to not paint the cabinets. Well, since our travel schedule finally died down, I decided to paint the other vanity in the master bathroom (you know, so they match). This time, I decided to do things the right way, and it took a lot less time!

First of all, here is a before shot:

The white was looking dull. First, I took off all the hardware so that I could paint easier.

I then sanded everything down with a medium sand sponge (I love those things) and filled in the holes on the side of the vanity with wood filler. The other holes are for our toilet roll holder (remember I posted earlier when we installed them?)

Once everything was nicely sanded and wiped down with a damp cloth (and then dry), I went into painting. I had considered a primer, but the sanding seemed to be enough to make the surface a little roughed up, so I skipped that and went straight to the paint. My paint had actually gotten separated from not being used, so I spent some time stirring it first. The painting went really fast even with just using a regular brush.

I then painted the cabinet fronts (which had also been sanded and wiped down). That took a little longer as I had to wait for one side to dry before I could flip them. So that process happened over a couple of days. Once everything was nice and dry, I reattached the cabinet fronts with the hardware (that I did clean up). And our vanity was nice and "new". Yay for quick and easy updates!

Now that I am officially done painting the cabinets, I need to start working on the trim (in various rooms), but I have another task that is higher on my list this weekend. More on that later.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter comes to an end

With my last post primarily focusing on our Harry Potter Party, I wanted to write a little bit about Harry, and the last movie which closed out the series. J and I have been huge fans of Harry Potter, but we really only got into it after college. During our senior year, the 5th (?) movie came out, and our friend Stevie asked us to come to the last movie with her and a few other college friends. We hadn't seen any of the other films, so we borrowed the DVDs and watched movies 1-4 before going. The movies were good, but I was a little confused about the whole story line, and didn't pursue it further. During graduate school, my roommate, Laura, was re-reading the Harry Potter books. I remember one morning making fun of her for reading children's books, and she replied with telling me that they were, truthfully, very good books. So, I decided to give it a try, and started reading the first one. I was hooked almost as soon as I started and convinced J to start reading them as well. I finished all 7 books in one month. During that month, I actually had a conference in Edinburgh and was reading books 5 and 6 in the place (or at least the country) they were written. I even had tea at The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter. Being in Edinburgh was pretty magical, and it was late fall, so it was also pretty dark, which made it an even better setting for the books (I actually remember getting slightly creeped out at points while reading). From that point on, I was hooked. I re-watched the movies (liking them significantly more after reading the books and understanding the story better). By the time the 6th movie appeared on screen, J and I were excited about the new movies.

The 7th and 8th movies have been my favorites. The 7th book was also by far my favorite, so I suppose this makes sense. But I think it is also because the childhood actors/actresses have grown into their roles, and the films have much more of an adult setting than previously. They are also more true to the book than the ones where a lot of information has to be crammed into one movie (movies 4-6 had the most deviance from story). The 8th movie really does tie everything back together.  

Spoiler alert:  

I love the scene where Harry confronts Snape in the great hall and McGonagall starts hurtling curses at Snape. It is possibly one of the better scenes in the movie. As always, there are a few things I wished they had kept in. Some more younger Snape character development would have been good. Harry's parents come across as looking like jerks without it. Snape is clearly the winner in this film, as he should be. I have loved Alan Rickman's portrayal of Snape throughout the series, and it was exciting to finally see him show some emotion. The pensieve scenes left me crying. The part of the film that we both thought could have been done better was the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort. It is the final battle and it is somewhat of a letdown. It just seemed like there should have been more poetic justice for Harry, who has had to deal with Voldemort's soul inhabiting his body for the past 16 years. Not to mention Voldemort attempting to kill him twice. And the rebounding killing curse was very subtle. I actually didn't even catch it when it happened. J had to explain it to me. More people clapped when Belatrix was destroyed by Mrs. Weasley than when Voldemort was killed. That was a little weird to me. I did love the kiss between Ron and Hermoine. Overall, I think this was a great film, a great ending to the Harry Potter series. But the books will always be better. 

Dumbledore: "After all this time, Severus?"
Snape: "Always"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Harry Potter Party... harry-er than ever!

This weekend, we threw the party that has beat out every other party we have thrown... meaning it was 17.5 hours long... no, I am not kidding. We showed all 7 Harry Potter films starting at 7:30 AM. Luckily, we have been planning this party for quite some time, so we knew what we were getting into. We had Harry Potter decorations, food and drink. And saw more Harry Potter in one weekend than is healthy. But we all had a good time celebrating the end of this series with our friends.

I'll start with food... in terms of sweets, we served Licorice wands, chocolate wands, every flavor beans, chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes.

Licorice Wands
Ingredients: black licorice sticks, white chocolate chips, and white sprinkles

1. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave approx 1 minute (make sure not to overheat or the chocolate becomes unusable)

2. Dip the licorice in the melted chocolate and then rotate in the sprinkles. Put on wax paper to cool.

3. Serve on a bed of M&Ms.

Chocolate Wands
Repeat the steps above with chocolate and pretzels, but use more chocolate per pretzel.

Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean
I just used Jelly Bellies in a Mason Jar. :)

Chocolate Cauldrons
1. Prepare chocolate cupcakes (I added some chocolate chips to mine)
2. Let cool.
3. Mix frosting with green food coloring

Chocolate Frogs
So, there is actually this great Deli right by our new place that sells chocolate frogs, which are awesome!

For drinks, I did make butterbeer, which actually turns out to be liquefied sugar, but tastes awesome.

1. Put two teaspoons of butterscotch topping in the bottom of a cup.
2. Squirt some whipped cream over the butterscotch.
3. Fill the cup with cream soda.
4. Stir & serve.

We had a tea time with "Slughorn's tea". We also later served elf-made wine & muggle beer.

For breakfast, I cooked Hagrid's Rock Cakes, which turned out to be like a moist-er scone.
Recipe was found here.

For lunch, we served Fleur's Cream of Brie soup with a baguette and french salad. The Cream of Brie soup was found on MuggleNet.

There were only four of us at lunchtime, and the amount of soup was perfect for 4. Here's some shots of the presentation (and one of our guests)

For dinner, I made shepard's pie (Hogwart's Shepards Pie) as well as chicken and mashed potatoes. We served a salad and two of our friends brought some homemade bread. It was very delicious and rich. I found the shepards pie recipe from Mugglenet as well: link. For the chicken, I bought a rotisserie chicken, cut it up, and simmered it for 4 hours on heat 1 with BBQ sauce and peppers and onions.

We also had snacks, courtesy of our guests who brought things (thanks guys!). We renamed the Buffalo Chicken Dip to Dragon Dip, which was coincidentally served during the 4th movie. We also had peppers in the Gryffindor colors and a chicken and bean dip (none of which I made).

And a final shot of our goodies on the table with some of our decorations, which will lead nicely into the decorations portion.

For decorations, I borrowed ideas from numerous places as well as creating some ideas myself. I made a sorting hat out of lunch bags that I taped together (google: how to make a witch's hat out of construction paper and modify for lunch bags instead). I bought ribbons for all the house colors cut small strips of ribbon, tying the house colors together (Gryffindor: scarlet & gold, Slytherin: green & silver, Hufflepuff: yellow & black, and Ravenclaw: Blue & Bronze). I then had guests select a house by pulling out a ribbon pair out of the sorting hat.

I also had an impulse buy of a talking sorting hat from Toys R Us (yes - I am sometimes a 5 year old).

I placed Mason Jars of potions throughout the entertaining area.

The potions were water with food coloring in them except for the Veritaserum which was supposed to be a colorless, odorless liquid (water) and Gillyweed (garden weeds in water). I actually used two twigs from outside to make wands by sanding them down.

I placed quotes from the books on nice paper (left over from the wedding) that was printed using the Harry Potter font I found on Mugglenet and tied in place with ribbon.

I made brooms out of lunch bags by cutting them into strips and tying them around a shim.

Displayed Galleons (which were actually also chocolate).

And house ribbons.

I also made my shirt which reflected the 3rd Harry Potter movie by saying "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good".

And now some shots of the party!

me & my friend Stevie

Watching some Harry Potter

And the 17.5 hours of films. 

All in all, a very magical party! Thanks to all of our friends who joined us this weekend! We saw the last movie this morning, which means that we saw all 8 movies in 28 hours. And yes, I did love the last movie. A lot.