Monday, October 14, 2013

It's been a while.

Wow. A lot has happened since the last time I hopped on this blog. Things have finally settled down a little, we have real internet now and I have today off (perks of working at a bank) so I thought I'd give his hobby another go. Here's a recap of the last (almost) year - can you believe it's been that long??

 Life Event Recap

One: We moved to Durango. This, you all knew. We were renting Tony's uncle's place outside of town up a mountain. Beautiful, yes. But high-speed internet capabilities up there? Not so much. Attempting to surf the web and even blog always resulted in several face-palms and handfuls of hair (luckily, I have plenty to spare). Also, driving 20 minutes to and from town doesn't sound like that big of a deal when you're used to living in Kansas City and Tulsa. But when you live in Durango and literally everything (including your friends) is centrally located in town and you have two dog-monsters waiting for you at home, that drive makes any sort of social life a bit difficult.


Dog-Monsters



We were (and still are) so grateful to Tony's uncle for letting us get our bearings in that place, but we needed to be in town. So what did we do?


Two: We bought a townhome! Okay, this section of the post could take take up the rest of my day to write and the rest of yours to read because it was a process. But I'll try and keep it short. The jist of it was that we started looking for a house in town back in March. We decided to go with a USDA loan. The rates at the time were 3.25%. We looked at a few places for about a month, found a tiny 600 sq foot house with a yard (have I mentioned how outrageous the Durango housing market is?). It was small, but so cozy and cute and way below our budget. We took a weekend to think it over and called to make an offer the following Monday. However, the seller had just accepted another offer literally 30 minutes before I called.

We kept looking.

We found the PERFECT little house with a PERFECT little lawn and this one was 1,000 sq ft. Much better. However, it was for sale by owner. This is where it gets annoying. And long. And really annoying. We made an offer immediately (this was in April). However, the sellers kept dragging their feet and by the beginning of July, we were still without a signed contract. In the meantime, all that fun stuff was going on with the Fed and Ben Bernanke and rates were now at 5%. We were about to call the sellers and tell them we were out - we couldn't afford that house anymore, or any detached single-family dwelling in town for that matter - when the seller e-mailed us to tell us they "decided not to move at this time." Comical, really. So, we contemplated renting again and looked at a few units. But ultimately, we decided to re-visit the townhome option.

The townhomes we were looking at were much bigger, cheaper and nicer than any home we could have dreamed of purchasing in town. However, the obvious drawback: no yard for the monsters. But we found a unit with potential (and really nice appliances) that is a stone's throw away from an elementary school with a large fenced property that locals pretty much use as a dog park. We made an offer, which was accepted the same day. Woo hoo!! We thought the frustration was over. But shame on us for even entertaining the idea things could move that smoothly.  

SURPRISE!!! Turns out we don't really qualify for a USDA loan, even though we had been pre-approved for the past five months. J/K! So our only options were to:

 A) Go with a conventional loan, deplete our savings and put way more money down then we had budgeted for

or

B) Rent, save up some more money, but most likely be in the same situation the way Durango's housing market is moving. (Example: We looked at this house back in April, which was listed for $310,000 at the time - don't let the pictures fool you! That house is a complete gut. And if the ceilings look low, that's because they are about 6 feet high.)

We chose option A. Now we are the proud owners of a 1,272 sq foot, 2 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home with a large two-car garage!

Okay, so that wasn't really that short...sorry! It just gets me riled up every time I talk about it. But I am thankful for the way things turned out because we don't have to worry about this place being a money pit, these townhomes have 0% vacancy rates so we could turn it into an income property one day, and the dogs are actually getting more exercise now that we don't have a yard to stick them in. Photos and a synopsis of our big plans for this place to come soon.


Three: WE GOT MARRIED. Since that last life event recap was too long, I'll make this one short and sweet. It was so beautiful, so fun and so stressful. I'm so happy we decided to go the traditional route (I had a few meltdowns in the process and we contemplated eloping). It was so amazing to spend three days with our closest friends and celebrate with a bangin' dance party with all our friends and family on the big day. I'm so glad we did it. I'm also so glad it's over.

We kept it classy.


Now, we can get relax and enjoy living in town and making our new place our own. Hopefully we're done with life events for a while.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cranberry Pear Mimosa

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I wanted to share this perfect holiday concoction I whipped up this morning:
 

Since we're all busy stuffing our faces today, I'll make this post short and sweet. I know that Mimosas are typically reserved for brunch and we've past that point in the day, but as far as I'm concerned, brunch should be enjoyed all hours of the day. So try one this afternoon, or wait til tomorrow morning for a nice post-turkey pick-me-up! Although you don't actually taste any of the rosemary, you get a fresh whiff of the garnish with every sip, which tricks you into thinking you're tasting it! Can I just say....so good.


Cranberry Pear Mimosa

Ingredients:
* 1 ripe pear, small to medium in size (will be enough for about 6 drinks)
* 4-6 dried cranberries, per drink
* 1/2 cup orange juice
* Champagne
* 1/2 Rosemary sprig, per drink

Instructions:

1) Place dried cranberries in a bowl of hot water. Allow to rehydrate for 15 minutes.

2) Core the pear and cut into inch-thick pieces.

3) Toss chopped pear and orange juice in the blender and puree until almost no lumps remain.

4) Fill your champagne flute 1/3 of the way with the pear/orange mixture.

5) Fill the rest of your flute with champagne.

6) Remove cranberries from water and pat dry. Stick 1-2 of the plump cranberries on the bottom of your rosemary sprig (this will make it float) and garnish.


7) Add the rest of the cranberries to the drink and enjoy!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homemade Ginger Beer




Last summer I discovered a drink that I'd never had or heard of before. This drink would subsequently change my life. Forever.

Okay, that's a little dramatic. But for real, once I had a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer and lime) I found myself asking for it at every bar I visited. It is honestly my favorite drink....ever. Any drink that involves ginger beer: I'm all over that. If you've never had a ginger beer drink before, do yourself a favor and make that your next cocktail.

So you can imagine my elation when one of my super awesome birthday gifts from Tony (bar tools and cocktail books) included a recipe for homemade ginger beer. Needless to say, I tried making it right away and it was a huge success!

It's super easy and super cheap. And, it'll keep in the fridge for up to a month. But if you're like me, there's no way it's lasting that long!

So without further adieu...

Ginger Beer

Ingredients:
(Makes just over 4 cups)

5 cups of water
1 large ginger root, minced
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
1 table spoon fresh squeezed lime juice

Instructions:

1) Bring the water to a boil. Turn off heat.

2) Add minced ginger and cover. Let infuse for 1 hour.

http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=a3df541382&view=att&th=13b26217a82fd1d1&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9AEL9yCW-8xPXiAT08Q6rm&sadet=1353556426121&sads=bmJiiU2o9KfgB8qu8eNS5uIEoXM&sadssc=1

Tip: if you have a food processor, mince the ginger in there. It'll be a lot faster. If you're like me and your food processor broke...cut up the ginger into inch-thick pieces and pulse chop in a blender. Remove and continue to mince by hand.

3) Strain the mixture through a fine strainer. Use the back of a large spoon to press on the ginger chunks and squeeze out all the yummy liquid.

http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=a3df541382&view=att&th=13b26223d92d10ff&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9AEL9yCW-8xPXiAT08Q6rm&sadet=1353556671371&sads=hNUfxfPYuSk2fcMHyWe8TXZW66U

4) Add lime and brown sugar, sir and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

YEAH. I KNOW. IT'S THAT EASY!

Now, the difference between this and ginger beer you buy at the store is that it's not carbonated. This makes for an awesomely smooth flavor. But, if you find you're missing the bubbles in your drink, just add a few splashes of club soda. Makes up for it without changing the flavor.

Now get concocting!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall into Winter

We had our first snow here in Durango this weekend.



Unfortunately, it melted pretty quickly. But fortunately - after raking for three weekends straight - we got up all the leaves just in time!

Here was the before (this is only about a third of the backyard):

 http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=a3df541382&view=att&th=13af5ad5777f63fb&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9AEL9yCW-8xPXiAT08Q6rm&sadet=1352741842825&sads=p6qKvw_QNYddEtUPpTmB4lSxZMs

After the first weekend and only getting the front yard done, we decided to rent a leaf vacuum. We rented it for 4 hours, and only got about half of the backyard done.

Here is Tony's after:



Then finally, 50, 50-gallon bags later (we used every last one):

http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=a3df541382&view=att&th=13af5beff40acce8&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9AEL9yCW-8xPXiAT08Q6rm&sadet=1352742725235&sads=eqS9FIae3_Af2qr4O5ReY94hgXI

Just in time for the snow!

It had stayed in the upper 50s, lower 60s right up until the snow fall. Now, highs are in the 30s. And just like that, winter is here. And winter in this house means PROJECTS!! I'm really excited to get started. Here's what's on the list for this season:

1) New kitchen light fixtures
2) Turn a Craigslist tea cart into a fabulous bar cart
3) Paint the kitchen
4) Refurbish an old bench
5) ORGANIZE!

And I've already started the organizing part. We have a bad habit of forgetting what food we have, especially dry goods, which seem to get lost in the cabinets. So after a little Pinspiration, I decided to make good use of all those Mason jars we have acquired.



The next step is to buy (or make) some chalkboard paint to label each of the jars.

More to come! What are your winter projects in the pipeline??

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This and That: Bourbon for those who don't like Bourbon

Alright, so I was talking to my friend Heather the other day and the topic of our blogs came up. Unlike me, she's been posting away some seriously easy and delicious homemade recipes over on Nothin Fancy Eats. (I dare you to try one a prove me wrong. Can't be done.) While on the topic of blogs, she let me know that her favorite post of mine was the This and That post I did a few months ago. I had intended to make it a sort of weekly or bi-weekly series. However, let's be honest: I'm lazy. Taking pictures of the steps while you're cooking is so time consuming. It adds on at least three minutes to your cook time. Who has that kind of time to waste nowadays? Apparently you do, Heather. But I digress.

The "This and That" posts were originally intended to be a formula of drink+food+music that would compliment each other. I should have thought it out more though because then I would have realized that I don't cook very often. And when I do, I just want to eat, okay? So many times I would think "I should really take pictures of this" while I was making something. And then every time I would think "But I'm hungry," and go about my business.

SO I'VE CHANGED THE FORMULA!

I'm brilliant. No shame.

You might recall that I want to really beef up my drink-making skillz. And I still plan on doing that. Now that we're getting more settled, I am finally feeling more justified spending money on booze. So NOW, the new formula is just drink+music. So much less stressful!

So for my first installment, since it's been absolutely beautiful (both in color and weather) over here in Colorado, and because I bought about 5 fall-scented candles at Wal-Mart the other day, I find it fitting to start with a drink aptly named "The Fall Classic."

DRINK THIS: The Fall Classic 



(Please excuse the bad photos. Like I said earlier...I'm lazy.)

Let's begin by letting you know that I hate whiskey. Bourbon too. Just the smell makes me queasy (I think we can thank undergrad and Evan Williams for that). Tony, on the other hand, loves whiskeys, bourbons and scotches. His drink of choice is an Old Fashioned (which I will be posting soon). I've tried numerous times to ease myself back into this liquor category, but all to no avail.

But when I saw the recipe for a Bourbon drink that involved apple cider and thyme simple syrup? I mean come on. I had to at least try it! And guess what? IT'S AWESOME.

After I mixed the drink, the smell of bourbon was definitely pungent and I thought "Oh great..." But honestly, though it smells like bourbon, I can't taste it at all! All I taste is fall deliciousness. This is seriously the perfect fall drink because it's not too fruity and not too pungent - perfect for all tastes. (Plus I think putting it in a tumbler instead of a martini glass makes it much more appealing to the gentlemen. Tony loves it too).

HERE'S WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

Ingredients
(Makes 2 drinks)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of sugar
15 sprigs thyme (a sprig is just 1 stem)
4 tablespoons of apple brandy
4 tablespoons bourbon
4 tablespoons apple cider
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1 apple slice or thyme sprig for garnish (optional)


Instructions

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, constantly stirring to dissolve sugar.


Remove from heat and add the thyme. Let completely cool. Leftover syrup can be kept for up to a month in the fridge.



Add 2 tablespoons of the syrup, ice and the rest of the ingredients (minus garnish) to a cocktail shaker and shake at least 20 times (1 shake=up and down - learned this tip recently). Pour into a tumbler, add garnish and turn up your speakers...





LISTEN TO THAT: Ghost Towns by Radical Face

While you're enjoying your cocktail - preferably cozied up in a blanket next to a crackling fire (or Wal-Mart scented candle) - listen to "Ghost Towns" by Radical Face. Most of you probably know Radical Face for the single "Welcome Home" from his album, "Ghost." While I do love that song, I still much prefer his debut album "The Family Tree: The Roots," which is what "Ghost Towns" if off. This song puts me in the mood for fall all year round. Enjoy!!



Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Music

I am ashamed to admit it, but I will: I haven't been into music for a long time.

Let me explain.

I grew up with music. I played classical piano for 11 years and percussion for 15. I was always in symphonies, bands and orchestras. I played music almost everyday. And in addition, I was extremely serious about listening to music - finding new bands, new styles, new composers.

And then real life happened.

I got so busy with school and the K-State newspaper that I stopped playing music. Then I got so busy with finding jobs, paying bills and working that I stopped searching for new music. And then I got so sick of the music I already had that I stopped listening to music. Now, I don't mean entirely. I still listened to the radio, went to a show here or there and played some tired tracks on my iTunes. I would try to listen to new albums by new artists or by old favorites, but I really never had the patience to get into anything. I haven't really felt passionate about music in a long time. I chalked it up to not finding anything truly new. If I think about the progression of my musical taste, it boils down to always finding a band, artist or combo that introduced a totally new sound to me. After a while, I felt like I'd heard it all.

Well, I've had enough time to get over that crap logic. It's time to start getting into it again. Plus, I think it also helps that I now have Spotify Premium.

What follows are a few artists that I've really loved lately that I want to share with you. No, they're not totally new sounds to me, but they're good. And that's all that matters anyway, right?

Frank Ocean - Thinking About You (Album: Channel Orange)
--I've been really listening to a lot of Frank Ocean lately. So much so, in fact, that you're going to get another taste of his music later! Pick up this album. I think it takes some getting used to, but after a few listens you won't be able to get some of these songs out of your head. (PS This music video is kinda weird...I suggest listening to the song without watching...)


Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough (Album: Is Your Love Big Enough)
--I'm actually not really a big fan of this album. I think most of the songs are too repetitive and they get annoying after a while - how many times do we have to hear the chorus/hook in one song?? But I do love this song...a lot.



Mumford and Sons - I Will Wait (Album: Babel)
--I just cannot get enough of this band's harmonies. That's it. 



Frank Ocean - Super Rich Kids (Album: Channel Orange)
--I love this song because 1) the beats are awesome and 2) the subject matter is one you don't hear about too often, and that makes it interesting for me.


Hope you found at least one new jam for the weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DIY Tripod Floor Lamp

So, admittedly, I've been lacking on the posts lately. But some really great things have been occupying my time (like jumping head first into the banking world and actually having a life with my other half post Bar exam) so I've got some excuses, okay? Also, I've been working on a few of DIYs that I'm really excited to share with you, but most of them are still mid-project. HOWEVER!! I finally have one completed! So without further adeau, my DIY tripod floor lamp:


Awesome, right? (And that is a sheepskin rug under there, by the way...starting to collect for the room revamp.) Now, first I must tell you that the only overhead lights in our house are in the basement - a floor we never use - and that before moving to Colorado, we sold all of our lamps. Turns out...that was a bad idea. We were in desperate need of a floor lamp (or 3). But have you seen the price of those things?? Unless it's from Wal-Mart or Target (and we already discussed the Ikea issue), be prepared to shell out a hund-o, at the very least! So. I decided to make my own.

My inspiration came from a few places. First, I saw this lamp on Room and Board and instantly fell in love with the design. However, the $400 price tag? Not so much.

Then I saw this lamp from West Elm:


Still simple and beautiful...and $300.

And then I remembered reading about this DIY coat rack and seeing lamp kits at Home Depot while working on this DIY (almost finished - super excited to share!):


And I thought, why pay hundreds of dollars for a tripod lamp when it looks like it would be so easy to make your own? And guess what...IT WAS! My total cost for this project? Thirty-Five Big Ones. That's right. $35. And it was so simple! So simple, in fact, that I think you should make one too.

Here's what you'll need:

3-4 heavy duty tapered wood handles ($5 each at Home Depot)
1 lamp kit ($10 at the HD)
Zip tie
Wire
String or twine
Lamp shade
Staple gun

Step 1:
Stand up your handles in the desired formation (I wanted the tripod effect, but you can also use 4 or 5 handles if you want). Measure the distance between the handles to make sure they are equal for a stable base.


Step 2:
Tighten a zip-tie around the bundle so it stands on its own.



Step 3:
Take your wire and wrap it around the handles making sure to weave in and out of each handle. Twist the ends of the wire to secure. It will look pretty ugly, but don't worry, that's why you've got the string.


Step 4:
Assemble your lamp kit. (Note: If you find that the shade sits too high once you are finished, you can always use a shorter harp from an existing lamp, which is what I did, or find one at a thrift store.)

Step 5:
Place your assembled lamp fixture in the opening of your handles. It should fit snugly on its own. Make sure you arrange it so that the knob to turn the lamp on is easily accessible.

Step 6:
Weave your wire around the harp and each handle to secure it. Again, it will not look pretty, but the shade will cover it.


Step 7:
Wrap your string or twine around the bottom wire so it is completely covered.


Step 8:
Add the shade and set up the lamp in your space. Using a staple gun, staple the cord to the back of the post facing your wall. Have someone hold the post steady while you staple so you don't injure yourself or the lamp.


Step 8:
Sit back and enjoy your new creation knowing those less crafty than you have done the same for 10 times the price!


So...what do you think? Will you be adding this baby to your living room any time soon?