20. May 2017 · Comments Off on Where Have You Been, Woman???? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Yeah, I know. I’ve been scarce. I am liking the Instagram connections with the blog, but I get that it isn’t saying much.

My last “normal” post was on January 5th, about my Instant Pot that I got for Christmas. But let’s now play a little catch up. This post will be full of photos and YouTube videos, so bear with us. More »

03. January 2017 · Comments Off on A Condo Vacation’s Best Friend: The Instant Pot! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
Merry Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas to me!

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas from Dave and my boys!** Whoo!

**No, I don’t mind getting kitchen appliances as gifts. I find a lot of joy in the kitchen and the geeky side of me loves checking out the latest in “kitchen tech.”

Believe it or not, through all my cooking adventures, I never delved too much into pressure cooking. I remember my parents’ pressure cooker, it was the kind with the little weight that sat on top: when the pressure was just right, the little weight would rock back and forth singing an undulating whistle of steam. I don’t remember the specific recipes they’d cook, I think it was vegetable soup and maybe chili.

It was years before I’d really delve into how a pressure cooker works and why it could be one of the most useful things in a busy family’s kitchen. More »

02. January 2017 · Comments Off on Happy New Year! A Family Holiday Update · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Our family had a fun, although rather subdued, holiday season. Dave had a pretty major surgery Thanksgiving week — a procedure called a “microvascular decompression” — and he’s been home recovering with the family for the month of December. Because of that, we kept our social calendar pretty empty: we didn’t have our traditional holiday open house for the first time since 2008 (when I was TDY for much of December), and we didn’t go to any of the holiday parties to which we were invited…except for the Boy Scout party for the kids. That one was definitely our speed.

Dave’s parents visited for a week right after Dave came home from the hospital. By this point Dave wasn’t able to do much, so his parents enjoyed a relaxing week.

For this new year, I’ve taken the advice of a fellow GeekMom writer and tried to come up with a single word to direct my efforts. My word for 2017 will be “Return”. “Return” to work (hopefully), “Return” to writing (for this blog and for GeekMom), and “Return” to my exercise habits that I’ve allowed to falter in 2016. More »

17. November 2016 · Comments Off on Half-Bath Mostly DIY Transformation: Finished! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
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Before… (and pardon the blurriness of the photos…it was tricky getting photos in the small space.)

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After. To get these views, I’m taking selfies with the camera in the corner of the bathroom.

We are finished with our half-bath upgrades (and hopefully home improvements in general for a while)! Over the 3-and-some-change years we’ve lived here, we’ve done an assortment of little things to make our main floor half-bath look a little nicer.
More »

13. November 2016 · Comments Off on DIY Stairwell Transformation: All Done! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Back in October, while the contractors were working on the bathroom, Dave and I stained the banisters of our stairwell. Wow what a difference it made!

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This is just before taking off the masking and putting on the polyurethane gloss coat.

We used the General Finishes Java Gel Stain. Be sure to take your time thoroughly masking the areas. I used brown paper instead of taping several inches down the balusters. After “washing” the oak-colored surfaces with liquid sander deglosser, I used an old clean sock to apply the stain on the broad areas. If you put the sock over your hand, like I had, be sure to wear a rubber glove — the stain will stain your skin for several days. For the fine detail area (such as the underside of the railings near the balusters), a small foam brush worked just fine. More »

13. November 2016 · Comments Off on Half Bath Mostly-DIY Transformation: A Bunch of Little Things · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
The half bath as of today. There's one more task before I'll be truly happy with it...

The half bath as of today. A bunch of small improvements have turned it into an elegant space we aren’t embarrassed to show to visitors. There’s one more task before I’ll be truly happy with it…an updated mirror.

If you thought the upstairs bathroom was small, well, the half bath on the main floor of our house is REALLY small! Nonetheless, we were frustrated with the white tile counter—mostly because of the grout—and went with a similar resurfacing as the upstairs bathroom. But a different color.

The next thing about to happen is a frame around the large mirror. Dave and I can’t stand those mirrors, but as we learned from the kids’ bath upstairs, removing the mirror might take the wall with it…but we found a website called MirrorMates.com that offers peel-and-stick frame pieces for plate-glass mirrors such as these. So we ordered one. I’ll let you know how it looks. More »

12. November 2016 · Comments Off on Bathroom Transformation: The Final Reveal · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
Those little touches like faucets, mirrors, and lighting took us months to figure out.

Those little touches like faucets, mirrors, and lighting took us months to figure out. We are all very happy with the green color that Timmy helped to choose.

This past week we finally were able to put the finishing touches on the upstairs bathroom. At the last minute (while I was in Hong Kong) the plan for the bath towel bars changed: we decided to find a double-towel-bar version in the same design. Installing it was trickier than we thought, and some wall repairs had to be made. In addition, we had the bathtub and tile around the bathtub resurfaced as an alternative to replacing everything in that space. It’s more economical, and besides, the existing bathtub was VERY GOOD quality. There were some chips on the enamel that the resurfacing resolved.

Here are some pictures of the finished product. It isn’t the biggest bathroom, so it was a tight squeeze to get all the pictures I wanted. Enjoy some before-and-after collages too. More »

02. October 2016 · Comments Off on It’s Not Hooch, It’s ‘Booch! · Categories: Uncategorized

I recently tried kombucha for the first time and it wasn’t bad! However, at $2-3 per 16 oz. bottle, it wasn’t exactly something I’d buy to keep on hand all the time.

Note I didn’t say “I think it’s the most delicious thing ever!” It wasn’t bad.

I’ve been trying to cut back on drinking diet soda, and these days I only have it when I’m getting a “combo” of some sort at a restaurant and they hand me a drink cup for the soda fountain.

Kombucha is an interesting hybrid: slightly carbonated, and slightly sweetened, thanks to the fermentation process required to make it. I’m not going to explain the whole thing here, but feel free to read more about it.

This made a good alternative to soda. I’m not going to speak to whether this beverage is going to save my life, cure cancer, or whatever. I’m just looking for something relatively low calorie to enjoy. Since the fermentation “eats” most of the sugar in the sweet tea, you’re left with something more tangy, but still very tasty with very few calories. I’ll take it!

For the cost of two bottles of kombucha from Whole Foods, I got what I needed to make my own at home.

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The fuzzy white thing in that bag is the SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. I ordered this one through Amazon for about $6. The liquid it’s suspended in is raw kombucha and is critical for a good start to your own fermentation.

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I had this other stuff on hand: a 1/2 gallon jar, coffee filter for the top, 5 tea bags (I used Twinings Earl Grey, since it’s what I had on hand), and sugar.

I brewed the tea at a concentration of 5 tea bags per 4 cups of water. I then mixed in a cup of sugar, stirring it to dissolve the crystals. I then added it to the jar with enough ice to mostly fill the jar. This cools the tea enough such that you can add the SCOBY and raw kombucha that it came in without killing the bacteria or yeast.

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Use a coffee filter, tea towel, or some other porous covering to allow gases to escape.

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The SCOBY is floating on top here, but within a few minutes it sank to the bottom.

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Fast forward one week…the original SCOBY is still at the bottom, but this new one formed on top. So there are now two in this jar.

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In one week this kombucha is ready to enjoy…you can allow it to continue to sit at room temperature and it will continue to ferment, or you can pour off the tea and allow the SCOBY to sit at room temperature in a cool dark place until you need to use it again. I’m letting mine continue to ferment for now.

29. September 2016 · Comments Off on DIY Stairs Transformation: Our Trickiest Stain Job Yet · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

We’ve been doing a lot of little updates around the house lately. The most recent one I shared was with the fireplace last spring. I’ve been working full time off and on since July, but now I have a break for a couple months and I can return to our “honey-do” list.

There are some items that I usually do around the house in the fall: waxing the vehicles, cleaning out closets and the garage, and getting folks in to do preventive maintenance for our HVAC system. But this fall we are adding a couple of other things. More »

22. September 2016 · Comments Off on Blue Apron: No, They Didn’t Pay Me to Say What I’ve Been Saying · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
This was my family's favorite Blue Apron meal so far.

This was my family’s favorite Blue Apron meal so far. The chicken was flavorful, the potatoes were delicious, and that’s a homemade honey-mustard dipping sauce!

I know you’ve been seeing the numerous Instagram posts about our family’s Blue Apron meals. Unlike many of the other reviews out there, Blue Apron did not send me a bunch of free meals in return for the publicity.

However, I did take advantage of a promotion they often offer to new customers: your first four meals are delivered for the price of one.

I’ve been getting their meal boxes periodically for 2 months now and I wanted to summarize my thoughts on the program. This is a data dump of the features our family likes, as well as the things our family doesn’t like. I’ll try to organize the thoughts so it can be useful to someone. More »