Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jackhammer and Sledge Hammer

I haven't written in quite a while, mostly due to the fact that I was on vacation. Also due to the fact that this week we went back to school and that always entails quite the preparation to gear back up for the kids. I've really geared this blog toward projects thus far, so it really seems appropriate to jump back into the cyber world with a loud bang, so to speak.

Our latest project is a much less peaceful one than those I've previously written about. When we purchased our house last June, the only thing we did not like about the house was the designer concrete parking pad in the back and the lack of fencing. We never have a problem with parking in our new neighborhood and the parking pad is so small anyway that it is pretty much impossible to park either of our cars there. In addition, we loved having a patio with plants and a veggie garden at our old apartment. It was great to be able to have a small pocket of green space within the city. And it is great to let Lilah have some outdoor space aside from the park. She loves being able to nap outside when it is nice out. While the rest of the house was a complete rehab job and in great condition, we knew that this parking pad would become our huge project, soon to become our back yard.

So, the first step to making this our back yard is to tear out the concrete parking pad and a concrete block wall. We are definitely DIY-ers so Andrew set off this morning to rent a jackhammer to add to his sledgehammer and pick. After the concrete has been taken out we'll take it to a concrete recycling facility, get some filler dirt, put in some stone pavers, put up a wood fence, create a veggie garden area, etc. Needless to say, this will be quite the extensive project.

A few before pictures for documentation:

And I promise, next post will be a bit more peaceful! No jackhammers involved! What home have you been working on?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tornadoes and Beaches

Today officially marks the beginning of our fourth day of vacation. Our first day was a 13 hour drive that turned into 16 hours without us even making our final destination. Due to some ridiculous weather and the entire state of New York taking their vacation and driving down I95 South, our trip took much longer. Almost every car we saw, by the time we reached North Carolina, had a New York license plate!

Then there was the ridiculous weather I was speaking of. Yes. A tornado. In North Carolina. Headed straight at us. The most bizarre road trip of my life.

We tend to have a bit of bad luck when it come to road trips. Something weird and weather related usually happens. One winter we drove through the blizzard of the century in Nebraska on our way to Colorado to my sister's place for Christmas. You could see nothing but white out the windshield and we ended up having to stay at the most gross hotel I have ever stepped foot in. That was concluded by a meal on Christmas at the only place that was open where we met Russ the trucker and some crazy old ex-marine that ended up peeing himself by the end of the night because he was so drunk.
Oh yes. It's true. Worst road trip luck ever.

Last summer, on our way back to Baltimore from camping with my parents in Canada, we ran into some pretty psycho weather again. We had spent the night in Indiana at my parents' house and were headed out on our last stretch when the sky began to turn green. I checked the weather, and sure enough, tornado warning. Luckily we didn't run into any tornadoes, but we were caught in one of the most incredible thunderstorms I have ever been in. Rain so hard you could almost feel it pelting you through the car. You couldn't see anything out the front window and the wind was so strong that we had to pull over.

Yup. Not as bad as the blizzard, but bad road trip luck nonetheless.

So as you can imagine, as we left Baltimore early Saturday morning, and we heard on NPR that bad storms were expected in the Carolina, we laughed and said, "Wouldn't that be our luck."
We thought nothing of it. There was rain for most of the day on our drive. About halfway through North Carolina, we began to get hail. This, we thought, was our crazy weather experience for this road trip. Little did we know what we'd be in for about two minutes later.

This is what we were in for:

Let me just say, I am now quite happy to be relaxing on a beautiful, sunny, Florida beach!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mother's Day Cards

Three and half weeks out, I feel that I have actually prepared for Mother's Day in my Etsy shop. I had to make the decision way in advance to make Mother's Day cards. I don't know that you will be able to expect the same from me come Father's Day as it is already quite a feat that I am this well prepared! To put it in my own mother's words, when I had noticed a recent influx of interest in one of my cards, my mom stated, "You mean people buy cards and prepare in advance for that!?"

Yes, my family has never been one that thinks months in advance for any holiday. We were always those people trying to scrounge around for a decent looking Christmas tree the week before Christmas. Or the one's that realized a holiday had come and passed before we had even stopped to think of it. So now, as you can see, it is really quite a feat that I have prepared myself well in advance for this occasion. But in the end I suppose mother's are most definitely worth it. At least I know mine is! :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grilled Pizza for a Cool Spring Evening

The rain has passed for now and the weather reached a beautiful 65 degrees today with a sunny afternoon creeping in through the dissipating clouds. With evening temperatures just warm enough to get us thinking about the grill, we decided to go for it and fire up the big green Webster. It didn't quite feel like a kabobs kind of night. Despite being tempted we decided to save that for a summer evening still to come. Instead, we decided upon a heartier meal-- pizza.

We first had grilled pizza at a friend's house last spring and it was delicious. We had it again last summer, over a wood fire during a camping trip with my parents at Ontario's Pancake Bay Provincial Park-- an amazing spot along the Lake Superior coast. And once in the fall on our own grill. Now that winter has passed, this delicious meal has made it's way back onto the menu.

Whenever I make pizza, I make my own dough, so this was no exception. It is a simple recipe with only four ingredients-- flour, water, yeast, and salt. (I would give you the exact recipe, though I feel as though it is someone sacred considering that it is the same recipe my mother uses to make her baguettes at her bakery.) While the dough is rising, Andrew fired up the grill in order to be sure we had nice hot coals just in time for baking-- or I guess in this case grilling.

Then it was time to make the sauce. A bit of this and a bit of that in terms of spices, but one thing that I have found that makes my sauce extra special is extra garlic and a few extra glugs of red wine. While the sauce was simmering, I sliced some fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and green onions. Meanwhile, I fried a few pieces of bacon. Once all of my ingredients were ready and the grill was hot it was time to shape the dough.

I decided to make two pizzas so I cut the dough in half and shaped it on a floured counter top. I placed the dough on the grill for about 5 minutes-- just long enough to get a little crispy and brown. Next, I flipped the partially baked dough upside down onto a floured baking sheet, topped the dough with my sauce and toppings, and popped the pizza back onto the grill for another 5 to 7 minutes. An in a matter of minutes we had two delicious pizzas-- one tomato, fresh mozzarella, and pesto. The other spinach, bacon, and green onions. The pizza was delicious and was the perfect meal to warm us up just as a cool chill began to settle on the night.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rainy Day Music

I've got the rainy day blues. And by day, I actually mean days. Spring is usually beautiful in Baltimore. It's the time of year when we can look forward to weather in the low 70s, cherry blossom lined streets, tennis in the park, outdoor meals along the water, pints and music on the rooftop deck with friends. But March never warmed up (except for one beautiful Friday afternoon) and we're now a week into April still with no beautiful weather in sight. Instead, all we've seen are cold days with rain-- lots of rain.

Last night turned into a lazy night with homemade vegetable soup and bread. While cooking, music is a must so I turned to perhaps the most perfectly named album of all time-- The Jayhawks' Rainy Day Music. Rainy Day Music does in fact embody exactly how I feel on a rainy day. Slightly lazy with just enough energy to mimic the endless drumming of the rain on the sidewalks and streets. Minor keys made for melancholy days like these. Acoustic and electric tones mixed with a little organ weaved into melodies here and there. Vocals that are soothing yet leave you with that same slightly gritty feeling you have after being caught in a downpour. And melody lines that tease you with a pop of sun, only to see it disappear again behind the clouds once more. This album, no doubt, is most definitely rainy day music.

This morning I woke up with that lazy feeling again. Maybe it was the long school week, but more than likely it was the rain. So onto the stereo goes Rainy Day Music while I sit and enjoy my cup of coffee. And so far it is riding out the rain-- we have clouds now and maybe we'll be teased with that sun later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whimsy, Arts and Crafts, and Moroccan Flair

I recently came across some of the most fabulous cards and envelopes-- beautiful white linen cards with envelopes to match. I am obsessed with quality so despite the fact that they were a little pricier than some of the papers I had been previously purchasing, I felt that it was a must to purchase these. I had a bit of a lull in the card making last month due to school obligations, but I have finally had the time to sit down and work on some new designs. Finally, this past weekend, I was able to print my designs using the new linen cards, and man are the superb!

As seems to be the usual case, my designs are quite eclectic. One design is arts and crafts inspired. Another is whimsically designed with a cursive "hello." And lastly, one design features a Moroccan inspired pattern. However, one things always remains the same-- they look amazing on these cards! Is it possible that I could potentially design the ugliest thing out there and have it look like a million bucks just because of the cards? I am convinced (not that I plan to do that). Already, I have sold two sets of luscious linen sets and I am printing several other sets for an upcoming trunk show at Alexandra Webb on Charles Street in Baltimore's Federal Hill. I plan on ordering more of this fabulous paper and designing quite a few more of these goodies in the upcoming week. Hope you love these lovely linen fibers just as much as I do!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The End of the Chair Saga

Finally it is complete. That old olive colored chair which had seen better days is now a fresh teal, super contemporary accent chair that is begging to be sat upon. I must admit, it turned out a thousand times better than I had ever hoped. The hardest part, no doubt, was fastening the leather accent buttons to the seat back. This was done with some help from Andrew and a complete McGyver technique in which we taped the upholstery string to a piece of wire which was then threaded through to the back.

In order to make sure the thread knots that I tied in the back did not pull through our chip board backing, I used two leftover buttons as a backing before tying the knot. Nothing pretty of course, just two buttons from our stash of extras that are saved for that unfortunate incident when you pull your pants out of the dryer, only to realize they are now buttonless. And in the end, our technique stands up to our tests of sitting down into the chair in the bounciest ways possible. Luckily all of Andrew's handy man (or as he calls them, handy Andy) tricks have been concealed with the final backing of fabric.

In the process of making a new cushion, I lined the old springs with burlap and then covered that with the seat cushion before adding the final upholstery. All in all, our final product is spectacular-- keeping to the old chair's vintage look, yet adding a modern and contemporary flair. And of course, now for the obligatory before and after photos. Enjoy!


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