Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Minute "Grilled" Cheese, With NO Oil!

"Grilled" Cheese, sans OIL

Okay, I'm going to keep this super quick today, because this sandwich is only going to take you 10 minutes to make! Seriously. Go ahead and pre-heat your oven to ~350 degrees, and let's get started!

Gather up your supplies. I like whole-wheat bread and three slices of American cheese, but you can mix and match breads and cheeses, this is not an exact science, after all. You will also need two (2) cookies sheets, and one (1) large piece of aluminum foil (or a silicone baking mat if you have one!).

I love my baking mats, and I highly recommend them!

Assemble your sandwich however you like, and when you're ready, take the second cookie sheet, and go ahead and put it on top of your sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly, on top. Still with me?

Yup, just like that

 Now go ahead and put the whole shebang in your heated oven, and leave it alone for about 10 minutes. That's all it's going to take before you get a beautiful, scrumptious, perfectly toasted "grilled" cheese sandwich, without any OIL!


Your results may vary, but I promise you, it'll be yum. I recommend dipping in ketchup, but that's just me.

Enjoy!
 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chair Rail, Yes It's DIY!

Before I get started telling you guys all about our latest DIY project, I want to share a quick "before" picture with you. That way, at the end of the post, you can really appreciate what a difference a little bit of DIY-TLC can make in a single room.


This is one of the two back bedrooms in our house. Please ignore all of the crap that the seller never bothered cleaning up, and try to concentrate on how boring and ugly the room is.



The right-side "purple" bedroom

When we first saw the house, we had to look past how cluttered and boring everything was to see the true potential of the spaces. We knew right away that we wanted the house, but we also knew that it was going to take some work to really make the spaces look unique and beautiful. Paint and blinds helped, but there was more to be done.

Before we had the house painted, we decided that we wanted to have the two back bedrooms multi-colored, and that we would use a chair-rail to split up the walls. So we picked out colors we thought would look nice together, marked a level pencil-line in each room (with the help of a laser-level gifted to us by my husband's best friend), and told the painter to have at it.
Then, we crossed our fingers and hopped to hell it wouldn't look too weird and messed up. But when we finally saw the results, we couldn't have been happier. It looked amazing!

The left-side "Blue" bedroom



But wait, you say. You had the house painted professionally? That's not DIY! Well, you're right, we didn't DIO. But there's a reason for that. The house needed to get painted before we could move in, and we were on a fairly strict time-line. We needed to be out of our apartment by July 31st, and neither of us really had the time to dedicate to painting. Besides, the professional that we hired not only did the painting, but all of the prep-work too. You know, patching and sanding and mudding and all of that not-so-fun stuff. I was very happy that we hired this particular job out (even though I originally wanted to DIO), and he did an amazing job. As you can see.

I know this blog is about DIY though, and I promise, we're getting to that point. Okay, now that the paint was on the walls, it was time to put up the chair-rail, and at this point, we were committed to the project. Unless we wanted to have that lovely white gap showing between the paint-colors... Uh no. So we picked up some chair-rail, and got started. Te chair-rail was actually a gift from my uncle, a contractor, who had some left-over from a job he had done recently. He was even nice enough to drive it over to our house, since the 16ft lengths wouldn't exactly fit into either of our cars.

Our first priority was getting that stuff cut down to size, so we took some careful measurements, and got started cutting. It was a little tricky, because we had some odd angles to account for, and ended up having to cut some really tiny pieces to fit our unique space. My advise? If you've never done chair-rail before, try to start in a room that's pretty much square, since you're already going to have to cut mitered corners, and compound angles are just going to be confusing at first. We started in the purple bedroom, which was more or less sqaure.

Once we had all of those pieces cut and dry-fitted (we held them up on the walls together to make sure that they would pretty much fit), we moved onto the blue bedroom. It was trickier, but eventually we got everything cut and ready to paint.

See all those tiny pieces?

We then laid everything out in the garage, where it could be painted and dry undisturbed. It's really nice to have spaces (like the garage) to work in. It's a nice change from painting things out on our 3rd floor balcony, and hoping that we didn't drip on the neighbors!

We had a lot of left-over paint from doing the house, and the chair-rail got one coat (it was pre-primed) of the same color that all of our trim was painted. This way everything will be matchey-matchey. Now all that was left to do was to attach it to the wall. In exactly the right spot. And have it all be level, and pretty... No big deal, right? Right...

Out comes the laser-level again, this time to line up exactly where we want the top of the chair-rail to go. We didn't need to mark the wall, since the laser line was plainly visible, and we could just line the top of the rail up with that. Then I held things in place while my husband came along with the nail-gun and did his thing. A few times, I was even brave enough to try my hand at using the nail-gun!




The trickiest bits were those tiny weird corner-pieces, and when it came time to figure them out I was very glad that we got a chance to practice on the big squared corners in the purple room. Don't know that we would have been able to get everything sorted otherwise. But we did, and everything ended up on the wall more or less where it was supposed to go.

We did end up having to fill a couple of gaps, where small pieces didn't quite meet-up. But that's what caulking is for. And to be honest, we had to caulk anyway, to cover-up the nail holes.

And really, that was it! Chair-rail, easy DIY. Okay, maybe not easy, but totally DIY. I promise you, if we could do this, you can do this. It just takes a little bit of patience, and the willingness to end up with something that doesn't necessarily look 100% professional. Because guess what? It's not. You did it yourself! And it'll look beautiful:






Monday, August 31, 2015

Super-Easy Veggie "Chili"

Okay, I was going to write about more home-improvement DIY type projects, but I thought I'd take a little break and talk about food instead, because you know, everybody's got to eat.
So today, rather than regal you with tales of my DIY prowess, I'm going to share a quick, easy and absolutely delicious recipe with you. Because I like food, and I think you probably like food too, and I especially like food that is quick and easy to make.

So, without further ado:

Super-Easy Vegetarian "Chili"

 
 
 
First of all, I'm putting chili in quotes because this is not going to be the type of chili you cook and simmer for hours, so therefore, some people might say it's not "real" chili. I don't care. It's yummy, and I enjoy eating it. So there. Second, YES! this is vegetarian! You could easily add meat though, if you are so inclined. My husband and I are not vegetarians, but we do like to have a lot of meat-free dishes. Why? 1, because meat is expensive, and we can't really afford to be eating it every single night. 2. because we keep kosher, and can't mix milk and meat. So if we want our food to be cheesy, we go vegetarian.
 
Alright, enough chat, on with the recipe! You will need...
 
  • 1 package (~16oz) Morningstar Farms Crumbles (you could substitute any veggie-meat you like, or real meat!)
  • 1/2 can cooked kidney beans
  • 1/2 can cooked cannellini beans
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes (if you can get the kind with chilies in them, good!)
  • 1/8 or 1/4 tsp chili powder: depending on how spicy you want it
  • 2-3 tbsp. tomato paste: to thicken it up
 
Now this recipe is really complicated, so pay attention:
 
Step 1: Put everything in a pot, and stir over med-high heat until cooked and delicious.
 
Got it? I know, I know, so much work. But trust me, it's worth it. ;op Seriously though, this is such a quick and easy meal, I can't even tell you how much I love it. Now, if you are using real meat, you might need to cook things a bit longer, to ensure that your meat is cooked through. Since I use veggie-meat, I don't worry as much about this, and really just heat & stir until things are nice and hot.
 
If you want to make your meal extra yum, you can serve it with cornbread. I'm not going to give you my recipe, since I just use the one that comes on the can of corn-meal, and besides, I'm sure Pinterest has one or two recipes you could try.
 
 
Okay, so that's it! My super-easy vegetarian "chili". Feel free to substitute anything you want. More beans, less tomato, more spices, whatever! If you make changes, and it comes out good, let me know here in the comments! I'd love to see what you guys can do with such a basic simple recipe, and I'll try your substitutions if they sound yummy to me!
 
Stay tuned next time for more DIY, and maybe some cooking. We'll see.
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Little Paint (and Blinds) Go a Long Way...

It's amazing what a difference a little paint will make on a house. When we first looked at our new house, we tried to see its potential, but it was hard to get past the drab and boring walls. We knew that if we bought it, we were going to have to paint, like, right away.

And we did! And it made a huge difference!

Not only did it transform our walls from drab to fab (sorry, couldn't resist), but it was the first real step towards making this space feel like it actually belongs to us. Our apartment took a very long time to feel like "home" to me; bu despite the fact that we've only lived in the house for 3 weeks (and we were out of town for 10 days of that), and its still full of mess and boxes, it already feels like we've always lived here; and I think a lot of that is because we put our "stamp" on this property right away. That way, by the time we started actually like, moving our furniture in, the place already felt homey and familiar.

So, this won't be a long post, but I just wanted to share a few of the color choice we made, and show you how just a little bit of paint made our house feel so much more like a home.

Living room

Kitchen
Bedroom (converted attic)

I've got two other rooms to show you guys, but I think I'm going to save them for the next post because, well... you'll see!

We also put up blinds before we moved in, so that we could work on the house without passers-by wandering up to our windows and pressing their faces up against the glass for a better look (I'm just kidding, no one did that). And as my husband pointed out "it makes the house look less like a... uh... fishbowl." Always a good thing.
We installed the blinds ourselves, and after a bit of back and forth to Home Depot (3 trips in 1 day!), it was actually fairly cheap, and really easy to do. I'm not going to go over the steps, because blind kits come with instructions, and the whole process was actually super easy. I will show you some pictures though:






And that's about it for today. Stay tuned for more DIY home-improvement projects, and some Pennsic blogging, and general nonsense. You know, the usual.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Front Flower-Bed Fix-Up Finished!

Hey there loyal readers! I know I haven't blogged in a long time, and I'm sorry for that, I really am. I love blogging, and sharing all of our projects with you, I've just been a bit too busy.
We had a lot of projects that needed to get done at the house, and most of them (like painting and cleaning) needed to get done before we could move in, and since we were under a bit of a time crunch... well... things didn't get blogged about.

But don't worry, I took pictures, and will be blogging about all of the projects that I need to catch you guys up on over the next month or so. And I want to start (finally) with the raised flower-bed/retaining wall fix-up, which is finished!

So, just to refresh your memory, this is what we started out with:

yikes...
So, we dug out the ugly black plastic that wasn't doing anyone any good, and tossed it. Then we moved all of the pavers to the side so that we could start trenching out the spot where they would get put back.
After trenching, we tamped down the earth, and attempted to get the ground to be nice and level for putting our first course of bricks on. I already blogged about this here, so I'm not going to go into too many details.

Next it was time to lay out the first course of bricks, and make sure that they were nice and level. This didn't take too much time, but we ended up getting stuck here for a bit. We laid out the first course, and then... didn't have time to get back to it for a few weeks. See, we had to have the house painted and cleaned so that we could move in before the lease was up on our apartment (we didn't want to have to pay and fees, or another month's rent), so the outdoor projects kind of took a back seat to that.

We finally did get around to laying out the next course though. We put down some landscaping cloth to prevent weeds from growing up in between the layers of bricks (though looking back, I might skip this step next time, as it was kind of a pain in the ass, and doesn't seem to be working all that well), and then we glued on the next course of bricks, offsetting them by one brick. To do this we used construction adhesive, specifically branded for concrete (you can pick it up at your local hardware store for ~$5-$8, and it fits into a standard caulking gun).

We set them down, and left them alone for a bit to dry (it helps to do it on a nice sunny, dry day), and when everything was ready, we glued down the third course. I sadly do not have any pictures of us gluing down the second or third courses of bricks, but it's pretty simple to do, and if you guys have any questions, drop a comment and I'd be happy to help!


I do however have a lovely picture of the finished product! Doesn't that look so much better? It took a lot longer than we had originally thought (mostly because we ended up having to take time to work on other projects), and it didn't go as smoothly as planned, but it got done! And I'm pretty damned proud of how it turned out, especially when you look at it next to our "before" picture. As I said, yikes.

Now, we're not quite done, you see, we have two flower beds in the front, and while we've pulled all of the pavers out of the right-side flower bed, that's about all we've done so far. So, as soon as we have a chance (and maybe we'll have to wait for the weather to get just a little bit cooler), we can start on the right-side flower-bed, and then we'll really be done. For now. With this project. Ah, the never-ending joys of home ownership.

A little preview, all of the brick pavers we have to use to make the right-side flower-bed:

wish us luck...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Project Sundays 5-10 & 5-17-15


*5-10-15*

Now that we've finally got that railing out of the way, it's time to start on our next project, which is to fix up the two raised garden-beds in the front of the house. And by "fix", I mean "completely re-do from scratch". You see, the previous owner of the house left us this:



A friend of mine described it as "A masterpiece. No finer landscaping has ever been done..." So yeah, we had to start from scratch. The first step was to sit down and get very overwhelmed. We've never done any real landscaping before, and this is sort of a big project to take on. We found some tutorials and a youtube video, and decided that it was time to get started. We decided to start on just the left side and see how it went before committing to doing the entire yard. Also, the left side was a lot worse, and needed fixing more desperately.

I yanked out that ugly-ass plastic liner and chopped it up with a sawzall so that I could throw it out. Then it was time for the daunting task of removing every single one of the pavers that were already in the ground. We saved them all, of course, and we'll reuse them when we're ready to re-build the wall.

After everything was neatly stacked on the porch, it was time to start digging. At this point, we took a break and went to the hardware store (a pattern in our lives) to pick up some supplies. We got some marking paint, pea-gravel and landscaping cloth. When we got home, we marked out the line where that we wanted to dig to, and then... then it started raining. 



We got a little bit of trenching done, but the ground was getting muddy and gross. So uh, we took another break. But it was a productive break, we went down into the basement and did a lot of demo work. Some previous owner had put up some really shitty studding, that at this point, wasn't even holding anything up anymore. Our house flooded last summer, and I guess the ugly paneling that was in the basement had to get ripped down, so all we were left with were these weird studs. We spent a couple of hours with a friend ripping down the studs and removing the falling drop-ceiling tiles. It was a productive afternoon, and we got a lot done.




At this point, we left to go back to the apartment and get cleaned up. It was Mother's Day, and we were taking our moms out to a fancy-ass dinner. Okay, we went for pizza, but everyone had a good time and it was a lot of fun.






 

*5-17-15*


We started out strong this weekend! We got to the house and worked on finishing up the trench for the left garden bed. We were going to dig down to about 2-3", but got a bit carried away, and dug to about 4-5" instead. But I've been told that this is good, as you want your first course of bricks in a retaining wall to be as deep into the ground as possible so as to provide a stable base to build up on.
I had purchased an expensive tamper to squish down the trenched ground into something resembling a flat plane, and it turned out to be exactly the tool we needed (good thing too, it wasn't cheap).



The next step was to lay out all of the bricks (or pavers) in a row to check on how flat the round is, and if the stones sit where we want them to, and a million other little finicky details. Like I said, it's super important to get this first row perfect, because you're going to be putting 2 or more rows on top of it, and you want them to look good, and not to fall over. Once we determined that yeah, it looked good, it was time to move all of the bricks and use our landscaping cloth.

I cut the cloth into sections with a utility knife, and laid it out about half-way across the trench, so that it would be covered by the bottom course of bricks. The cloth serves a few different purposes, but it mainly prevents weeds from growing up in between the layers of bricks. While we were doing all of this, some of our friends stopped by and got busy moving all of the bricks from the right-side retaining wall onto our porch, and in the time it took us to lay out 1 course of bricks to our satisfaction, they even managed to trench out the whole right side! Needless to say, hubs and I felt like we weren't getting nearly as much work done as them! But it all looks pretty damned good, if I do say so myself.



Here you can see the left-side bed with its first course of bricks, and the right-side bed all trenched out! This all took us about 5 hours of work in the hot sun, so we decided that it was time to call it a day. We're not going to be having a Project Sunday next weekend, and I've been a bit under the weather, so I don't know when we'll have a chance to come back and finish this up, but I'm hoping that it'll be soon! I want this project to be done with already!

Also, we're having the house painted right now, and I can't wait to show you some shots of the interior (which also needs some fixing up and some TLC), and to give you guys an over-view of some of the inside projects that we're going to be taking on!

So stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Project Sunday 5-3-15

We spent a long day yesterday working on the house. We've decided that the projects for this Spring/Summer are going to be working on the front exterior, so... railings, and flower beds and tree trimming and such. We're making progress, and getting things checked off the list, so check out:

Railings pt. 2

Again, I'm calling this post pt. 2, but as we've already discussed, I think this should really be pts. 3 & 4 (possibly even 5?). Meh, whatever, it's done, so does it really matter how long it took... (two weeks, if anyone out there is counting).
Anyway, when we last left our heroes, they had successfully installed the anchors that would hold the posts that would hold the railings. The next step was to attach special L brackets to the house where we wanted to put the railings. This turned out to be a bit more tricky than we had guessed.

Last time we installed a railing, we did so on a brick-exterior house. So installing the L brackets was as simple as drilling into the brick and screwing the brackets into place. Okay, so it was a good work-out, but it wasn't difficult. This time we were attaching the railings to a house with vinyl siding with squishy squishy foam underneath. The problem? If we attached the brackets and tried to tighten them up, we would crush the siding. Not so good.

The solution? Ask at the local mom-and-pop hardware store. The guy gave us a look for about 0.5 seconds, and then took us to the right aisle to find these little plastic plugs that were exactly what we needed. (If you have a little mom-and-pop hardware store in your area, I highly recommend going there for questions like these. Don't get me wrong, I do love my big-box stores, but I feel like they're mostly for when I already know what item I need to get. If I want to ask what type of item I need for a particular project, I have much better luck at the little local places).

After our trip to the hardware store, we headed back to the house and drilled some large holes in the siding that we fitted our little plasticy plugs into.

This will give us something to tighten against, so that we don't squish the siding.

Once that was done, we could actually go ahead and instal the L brackets! Finally! This was taking a lot longer than I had expected, and at this point we had already been working on this easy afternoon project for a couple of days. I'm writing this up fairly well after the fact, so I don't actually remember how long this took us, but I think it was at least three days total.

The bracket that we will eventually attach the railings to!

Now that we'd installed the anchors and the brackets, it was finally time to put in the damned railings! Huzzah! That part actually went fairly quickly, and I'm sorry to say that I don't really have any pictures of it. It was late in the day, and I was tired, and I just wanted to be done with the damned thing, so I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do. Sorry. My bad. Here's one shot of the first part of the last railing. Yeah, think about that.



You can see both of the columns, plus the brackets attached to the house, if you look really closely. At this point, we realized that it was like, 4pm and hot out, and we hadn't had any lunch yet. So we took a break to go get some fries, and came back to install the very last piece of railing.

Here it is, finally finished!

As a bonus, in this last picture you can see the sorry state of our front garden beds, which are, indecently, our next project! So, I think that's going to be it for right now. I know that I took a long time to write this blog post, and as a result, I probably forgot some important details of the project (which has been done for about 2 weeks at this point). We're currently working on those garden beds, and I'm going to try to write up my posts about those a little more often, so that I can give you guys all of the really boring details you love!

Stay tuned for more "DIY Summer 2015"!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Project Sunday 4-26-15

I know it's been a long time since I've done a Project Sunday (grad school will do that to you), but now that we're home owners, expect to see more of them coming your way! Let's start with this one...

Railings, pt. 1

Okay, if I were to be 100% honest, this would really be "Railings, pt. 2", since this is actually the second day that we've been working on this project.  After work this part Thursday, we decided we had time to instal a railing on our front porch. Long story short, we really only had time to go to the Home Store and get all of our supplies before it got too dark and too cold and too tired to really get any work done.

The lovely hubs.

So, we got up early this morning and decided that we were going to get the railings done before we had to leave for a concert at 3pm. Long story short, we didn't. But we did make a lot of progress, and I wanted to share that with you. Here's the before picture, so that you can see what we have to work with:

Before...




We're installing a railing along the side of the stairs to make it easier to get in and out of the house. It's not super high up, but some of our relatives have had issues with it, and when it was covered in ice... ugh, forget it. Nightmare city. We're also installing a piece of railing on the other side of the porch, where there is a 2'+ drop to the drive-way. Right now it's a nice place to hand things up from the car, but I can see myself tripping and falling, and I really don't want that to happen. So yeah, railing.

We've installed railings before, and I don't remember it taking an extremely long time, so I figured we'd be able to finish the whole thing in a few hours. Turns out, I was wrong. The first step to installing railings is to put up the posts (newel columns). In order to do that, you need some of these funny looking feet-things to anchor them into. And in order to do that, you need to drill holes into the concrete, with a special masonry bit and a hammer-drill. Not a quick process.

Trust hammer, gets the job done.




After we drilled the holes, we need to pound in some masonry anchors, which are basically special screws that expand when you hit them, so they stay in place in the concrete. Pretty nifty, if you can get them to work. It took a lot of finagling, but finally we got all four holes drilled, and all four anchors in... for our first post. Then came placing the footing on, and tightening the nuts down so that everything stayed in place. Here's a joke for you: How many vice-grips does it take to instal a masonry anchor?

That's my father-in-law's foot! He helped!


The answer is: At least two (which was all we had on hand). Once all of the nuts were tightened down, we had our first footing installed. Just two more to go! Luckily the next two didn't take quite as long as the first one. We got into a rythem, and it actually went pretty quickly. All in all, installing three footings took about 3 hours, with one quick trip to the harware store and a break to mow the lawn. Not too bad. Still, we spent all morning on the railings, and I feel like we don't have too much to show for it. At least we got to use our giant shop-vac!

It came with the house, honest.
Anyway, I'm not sure when we'll have time to get back to work on these, probably Wednesday. You see, we're not actually moved in to the house yet. We're waiting to get all of the painting and flooring done before we start putting our stuff in the house, so we're still in the apartment. So we can only work on projects after work and on weekends and such, and have to allow time for schlepping everything there and back. Fun, right? Anyway, stay tuned next week for Part two! (I hope)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Mock" & Cheese

Every year on Passover, I face the same challenge: what to feed my picky husband. He won't eat fish, or eggs, or veggies, or... grown-up foods, really. He mostly lives on pasta & pizza and bread, and on a holiday when we can't have any of those, not eating the same thing 10 nights in a row becomes... difficult. So my plan is to try to collect a list of easy go-to recipes that I can make any night of the week with little or no prep. This is the first one in my new collection. A friend gave me the recipe just two days ago, and I already love it. So, here it is:


Tova's "Mock" & Cheese


Ingredients:

3 eggs
3 1/2 cups matzah farfel (I made my own with regular matzah, a plastic baggie & a hammer)
1/2 lb. (or more) of cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 pint sour cream
1/2 pint cottage cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Grease an 8x8 baking pan, pre-heat oven to 350. Beat the eggs with the milk & seasonings, and add in the matzah farfel, to soak. Cut or shred the cheese into small bits.

2. Mix in the cheese, sour cream & cottage cheese. Pour the mix into the baking pan and try to make it look all even and pretty.

3. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious.

4. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bought a house!

We're still more than a week out from our original closing date (for the house), but because of circumstances we moved the closing up, and as of last week... we're home-owners!

Yup, you read that right. We closed on the house last week, and have actually owned it for 8 whole days now! Though it doesn't really feel like we own a house, since I never get to see it. Sadface. We closed on Monday the 30th, and my husband and I camped out there over-night (after cleaning it up a bit). We have two twin size air-mattresses borrowed from my best friend (who lives right down the street) and four chairs that the seller left us.
Or rather, we have four chairs that we asked the seller to get rid of before the closing. He dragged them out to the curb and called that good enough. The city however, disagreed, and we had to move them or get a ticket, as we found out once we came home after the closing. So, we took them back into the house, and now we have bonus chairs.

Anyway, I haven't even seen my house in a week because I've been so busy with school, work and of course, Passover. Hopefully I'll get to go out there tomorrow afternoon sometime and you know, make sure its still standing? Then I probably won't see it again until Sunday night, when it'll be time to start assessing how much work needs to be done, and what we have to finish up before we can move in.

Stay tuned next time for: The House Saga: Part 1

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Buying a House

So uh yeah, we bought a house!

Okay, not quite, but we're very very close. Maybe I should back up a bit? At the beginning of this year, my husband and I finally agreed that we were ready to get our own house (read: I finally talked him into it). We started poking around on Zillow (here's a link to their homepage, if you are interested), just to see what was on the market.

We found a few houses that we liked, but not much. So my mom asked if she could hook us up with her agent, who had helped her sell my grandfather's condo after he passed away. I said sure, have him send us some listings, it can't hurt.

So he started sending us listings. A lot of listings. Like, 10 a day. And granted, some of these were updates to previous listings (like price changes), but still, we were quickly overwhelmed. We tried to sort through the listings and keep track of our favorites. Luckily, we knew exactly what area we wanted to be in, so that helped.

We quickly found one that we liked, just slightly outside of our preferred area. We asked the realtor about it, and he sent us more information. Then I called my mom to tell her. But when I gave her the address, she said she had to check on something and she would call me right back. Turns out, my cousin owns that house, and he's not actually interested in selling. Okay, back to square one.
We found another property we liked, and once we ascertained that this one was in fact for sale, we made an appointment to see it on Monday March 9th. Perfect.

Sunday the 8th was my birthday, and since the weather was so nice, my husband and I decided to spend the day at the zoo. At around 12:30 we get a call from the realtor. There was another offer on the house we were interested in. He could fit us in that day at 2 to look at the house, but the seller was ready to make a decision, and if we liked it, we would have to put an offer in before 5pm. No pressure, right?

So what did we do? We went to the giraffe house to sit and think about the situation (and to vent our frustrations to a very nice docent). We decided that we should at least see the house, after all, maybe it wouldn't be what we liked and we would have no problem passing on it. Just in case we liked it though, I called my uncle the contractor and asked if he could come walk-through the house with us, and let us know if there were any glaring issues with the structure or the foundation or the roof, or anything really.

At 1:45 we were parked in front of the house, nervously wondering what the protocol was. At this point I had never actually met our realtor in person, and didn't actually know what he looked like. I guessed however, that he was the guy standing on the front stoop waving at us. I was right. We took a deep collective breath, and got out of the car.

We looked over the house, and it was every bit as charming in person as it had been in the listing. We fell in love, we wanted it. Our relator looked at us like we were nuts when we told him that we wanted to put in an offer.

"Are you sure?" He asked. "After all, this is only the first house you've seen..." But yes, we were sure. It was in the exact location we were hopping for (literally down the street from my BFF), and had everything we wanted in a house, including an unfinished basement that we could fix up. So off we went to my in-law's house, where my mother-in-law (the attorney) helped us look over all of the paperwork before we stupidly signed our lives away.

We sent in our offer, and 20 minutes later, it was accepted! We were now officially on our way to being home-owners! The whole thing still feels like a dream, especially since it all happened so fast. I woke up Monday morning (the day we were supposed to see the house) in a state of shock. I turned to my husband. "Did we really buy a house yesterday?" I asked. "Yeah, I think we did."

There is still a lot to do, and nothing's final until its final. We have our inspection on Sunday (though I'm not anticipating any big surprises, after already walking through the house with a contractor & an engineer), and then we're closing on Tax Day.

So let the countdown begin!

35 Days!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I Read in 2014

Okay, I know it's taken me a little bit longer, but I've finally put together my list of books that I read in 2014! This is becoming somewhat of an annual tradition for me, and I really enjoy the opportunity to look back and reflect on what I've read over the last year.

Some of these are going to look a bit familiar to you. After all, I wrote about 6 of them for my Librarian's Corner series, they're highlighted so that you can find them, and if you click on the (**) symbol next to them, it'll take you straight to the post!

I kind of wanted to do a big break-down of what I read, like I did last year, but it seems a bit too overwhelming with this many books, plus, I kind of want to move on with my life. So instead, let me take just 1 minute (ok, maybe 2) to tell you about some of my favorites this year.

Favorite GN (graphic novel) series I finished this year: Preacher by Garth Ennis, and you can read all about why I loved it in my Librarian's Corner post about it.

Favorite "new" series I started this year: The Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs. You probably know Dr. Brennan from the TV show Bones, but this Tempe is a completly different woman, and the series has almost nothing to do with the show. Very enjoyable though. I'm on book 9 right now, and I can't put it down long enough to write...

Favorite book by new author: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and other lessons from the crematory) by Caitlin Doughty, AKA Ask a Mortician on YouTube. Her channel is awesome, and not for the faint-of-heart, or those not into talking about dead bodies. Her book was everything I had hoped it was going to be, filled with gory details and touching stories. Just like the show.

Favorite book that made me cry: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. There's so much I could write about this book, that I'm not even going to try. Just go read it, seriously (if you haven't already), and bring a tissue, or 20. And then see the movie, trust me.


Okay, you're bored. On with the list:

  1. The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman
  2. The Walking Dead: The Calm Before by Robert Kirkman
  3. Faked to Death by Dean James
  4. No Time to Lose by Peter Piot
  5. The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer by Robert Kirkman
  6. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  7. Decorated to Death by Dean James
  8. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost & Gail Steketee
  9. A Curious Man by Neal Thompson
  10. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  11. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  12. Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
  13. The Walking Dead: Here We Remain by Robert Kirkman
  14. Baked to Death by Dean James
  15. Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent
  16. My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach
  17. Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween by Melissa Atkins Wardy
  18. Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks
  19. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  20. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson
  21. Ruby's Diary: Reflections on All I've Lost and Gained by Ruby Gettinger
  22. Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
  23. Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time by Caitlin Boyle
  24. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield
  25. Paper Towns by John Green
  26. A Long Day at the End of the World by Brent Hendricks
  27. The Fault in Our Stars
  28. Bound by Donna Jo Napoli
  29. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  30. Call the Midwife
  31. Breath by Donna Jo Naopli
  32. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  33. The Walking Dead: What We Become by Robert Kirkman
  34. This Bloody Mary is the Last Thing I Own: A Journey to the End of Boxing by Jonathan Rendall
  35. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  36. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt (**)
  37. The Walking Dead: Fear the Hunters by Robert Kirkman
  38. Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
  39. The Walking Dead: Life Among Them by Robert Kirkman
  40. Preacher: Dixie Fried by Garth Ennis
  41. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum
  42. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  43. Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
  44. Preacher: War in the Sun by Garth Ennis
  45. The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad
  46. The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates
  47. Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs
  48. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (**)
  49. Yes Means Yes by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti
  50. Mommy Man: How I Went from Mind-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad by Jerry Mahoney
  51. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
  52. Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs
  53. Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  54. Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity by Anne Elizabeth Moore (**)
  55. The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee William
  56. Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs
  57. Like No Other by Una LaMarche (**)
  58. Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs
  59. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett
  60. The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado of Death by Daniel Pinkwater (**)
  61. Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism by Tova Hartman
  62. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
  63. Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs
  64. Victoria: A Life by A. N. Wilson
  65. The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters
  66. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
  67. The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
  68. Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days by Brian K. Vaughan
  69. Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudson
  70. Ex Machina: Tag by Brian K. Vaughan
  71. Preacher: Salvation by Garth Ennis
  72. Preacher: All Hell's A-Coming by Garth Ennis
  73. Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction by Brian K. Vaughan
  74. Preacher: Alamo by Garth Ennis
  75. Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
  76. Ex Machina: Smoke, Smoke by Brian K. Vaughan
  77. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
  78. Ex Machina: Power Down by Brian K. Vaughan
  79. Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet by Dr. Jan Pol
  80. Ex Machina: Ex Cathedra by Brain K. Vaughan
  81. Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal by J. Jack Halberstam
  82. Ex Machina: Ring Out the Old by Brian K. Vaughan
  83. Ex Machina: Term Limits by Brian K. Vaughan
  84. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  85. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  86. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  87. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  88. The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years by Rebecca Hains
  89. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
  90. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg & Hannah Green
  91. Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
  92. Ex Machina: Dirty Tricks by Brian K. Vaughan
  93. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  94. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

My husband and I are both doing a reading challenge for 2015,  so expect to see a post about that at some point in the near future. And of course, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled Librarian's Corner on the 21st of Jan, see you then!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Wrap-Up

Okay here it is, my year-in-review post for 2014. Just a few days late, no biggie. I had a lot of fun sitting down last year (err, 2 years ago? err, Dec 2013) and thinking about all of the wonderful things that had happened to me, and that I had done over the year. I got married in 2013, so I figured that was going to be the highlight of my year, but when I sat down, I got a chance to review all of the other amazing things about the year.

So of course, I couldn't wait to do it again for 2014. I didn't get married this year, but it was still pretty damned fun. Let me tell you all about it.

In January, my husband and I got to go to Washington D.C. for a conference. We turned the whole thing into a mini-vacation that we both badly needed. We got to see the National Zoo, and more Smithsonians than you can shake a stick at. (Seriously, all of the Smithsonian museums have free admission, you're welcome). We also got to spend time with my aunt & uncle who the train up from Baltimore to spend an afternoon with us at the National Air & Space Museum.

The National Air & Space Museum, and yes, it was free!

In March I celebrated my 26th birthday (and my 1st as a married lady), and got my brand new Asus laptop (it has a touch-screen & a back-lit keyboard), that I love so so so much!

In May we went to New York to dance at my niece's wedding! It was so much fun, and so beautiful, and it was a wonderful chance to get to celebrate a happy occasion with my husband's side of the family. I also got to meet my sister-in-law (who lives in Israel) for the first time. It was a wonderful time, and I know that the "new" couple is happy because.... baby is on the way! She's due this March, and I've already got plans for a baby-blanket for her!
Of course we visited the New York Public Library!

May was also the month that I started graduate school. I'm working towards getting my Master's in Library and Information Science (yes, I want to be a librarian... shocking). This is by far the single biggest thing that happened to me in 2014. Graduate school was a big decision for me (historically, school and I have not gotten along all that well), and it took the rest of the year for me to figure out whether or not it was the right decision.
Even though it's still sucking up all of my free time, I'm 4 classes in (1/3 of the way through), and I finally know that I made the right choice. (Remind me of that in about 3.5 months when finals roll around again, will ya?)

In July we went to the 43rd Pennsic War, my second one ever. We had a blast, and got to spend time with some friends who I hadn't seen in over 5 years. I'm already making lots of plans for next Pennsic, and we'll have a lot of SCA-related projects coming up over the next few months, so keep an eye out for those.

The field battle

In August we celebrated our first anniversary. It was a very special day, and of course, we spent it at the zoo.

October brought a promotion at work. I went from being a page to being a Library Assistant. I'm working in the same department, with the same people, but more hours, more money and benefits! It's an amazing job, and I love it every single day. Even when I'm dealing with "Problem Patrons".

In November my mother and I made our own Thanksgiving for the second time ever! It was a little stressful since my in-laws were coming over, but it was a lot of fun and everything came out delicious, if I do say so myself.

These are just the leftovers!

And I think that's about for big events this year. I did a lot of crafting this year, and of course, made a lot of delicious food (I'm looking at you turkey), played some amazing video games, and over-all had a blast. I don't want to talk about every single awesome thing, 'cause that's what the last year of blogging was for! Go browse, take a look. I'll wait.

In the mean time, I'm going to go ahead and get started on making 2015 just as amazing (if not more so) than 2014 was! Bye!