Friday, January 29, 2016

Winter Sowing 2016

I apologize for the lack of content for the past two weeks. I've been super busy with work and other things. And besides, it's hard to come up with a lot of content when you're trying to dig yourself out from a blizzard.

I started this year's first batch of winter sowing today. I decided to try those compostable, peat pots versus styrofoam or plastic cups and this year I am using a soil-less, seed starting mix. Besides being able to plant them directly in the ground, I'm also hoping the peat pots will help with maintaining moisture when the weather heats up.

If you'd like a little more information about what Winter Sowing is, check out the WinterSown website.

If you can remember, last year's attempt at using a potting mix and planting directly into my winter sowing tubs was a flop.

I'm not going too bonkers with perennials, as we are putting the house up for sale in about 6 weeks (eeek!), but mostly I am doing this for science to see what combination of growing medium and container works best.

Here, I have mostly columbines, poppies, and nasturtium. These perennials need the longest stratification time in the cold weather.

I started one other tub along with this one which had some borage and Giant from Italy Parsley. I remember last year I didn't winter sow the parsley and I was sorry for it because the seeds didn't sprout when I planted them later. I sure did miss that parsley last year! I'm going to winter sow some more of it in March, as my previous notes weren't clear on whether I started it in January or in March.

Oh well, we're almost into February, so it's not that far off anyway!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

So, um, yeah...we had a bit of snow this past weekend. You may have heard of it?

Back to shoveling...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Boyle's Law of Cat Thermodynamics:

"Heat flows from a warmer to a cooler body, except in the case of a cat, in which case all heat flows to the cat."

Brrrr...we have frostbite warnings for today and the temps will barely get out of the teens.

I don't know how he does it, but Leo LOVES to lay right in front of the fire. Occasionally, me or my husband will sit on the stone hearth to warm up after a chill, but we can only take a few minutes of it as it gets HOT.

Neither Chaz or Miss Thang does this, but Leo seems to relish in roasting himself for as long as he can take it. I half expect to smell burning fur at any time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ugly Furniture Series: Blue Chair After

This past weekend, hubby and I drove up to pick up my reupholstered ugly blue chair. But before the reveal, a reminder of what we were working with:

That fabric, those flappy pieces of whatever on the front arms, that squattable height. UGH! This chair was certainly an ugly duckling. I originally purchased it off Craigslist last year and it has sat in my basement since then. That's were all my old, ugly furniture dirty, little secret. 

But, I saw potential in those big, beefy arms and that masculine frame and this is what it looks like today:

I decided on a dark blue microfiber, as it was very durable and reasonable in price. I was initially looking at velvet or mohair, but I wasn't feeling it and I think that it would make the already beefy chair look more bulky. I hindsight, I might have gone with a more masculine, weave-type fabric like tweed to make the chair look more unique, but for a no-name, mid-century ugly duckling, this is a HUGE improvement. 

Besides updating the fabric, springs, cushions and padding, I changed out the old legs to these beautiful, walnut ones I purchased from a craftsman in Vermont. It sounds fancy, but the price was extremely affordable. 

The old legs were pretty beat up and were missing some of the ferrules. Plus, the old legs were only 5 1/2" long and made it hard to even sit in and get out of the chair, so I had the new legs made at 7".

I am still on the fence if these legs are TOO long. I dunno...I reached out to some of my peeps on Houzz for feedback and it's been mixed. 

What do you think? Are the legs too long?

As it is, the chair kinda reminds me of one of those bodybuilders who forgets leg day at the gym.

The seat height is 19" at the top of the cushion and it is comfortable to get in and out of. I've thought of either shortening the current legs by 3/4" or ordering newer, bulkier legs to match the chair's style. For now, it is growing on me and I do love it. 

But overall, I am thrilled with how it came out. It was a little more expensive to have done than my last chair, but I definitely paid less than what I would have for a real, reupholstered mid-century chair from a showroom or designer.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Well, Leo is just a tad over 7 months old and is drop-dead gorgeous, dontcha' think?

First off, can I just say how weird it is that it was warm enough over the weekend to let the kittehs out on the back patio porch IN JANUARY???!!

Anyway, back to the cute kittehs...

This one has definitely been the most destructive kitteh I've ever owned, by far. I feel guilty to admit that it's been touch-and-go on many, many occasions on whether we should give him back up for adoption with our veterinarian.

He's broken a few (expensive) things and ruined a few (expensive) things, most recently he's had an elimination accident that we are accounting to recovery from surgery (standard surgery). We had to throw away a $200 memory foam mattress topper and have some professional spot cleaning done on the carpet. Knock on wood that it was that only time and he hasn't had any issues since.

There were actually two other times where he did not make it to the litter box: When we first brought him home, he was playing with Chaz in our master bedroom with the door closed and he peed on the bed. Second, when we moved his litter box from his "kitten room" down to the basement, he got confused and peed on his plastic kitty tunnel toy. This last time, he had surgery and was quarantined in his "kitten room" (our spare bedroom) and must have not liked the temporary litter that he had to use, so he peed on the bed and in a corner. 

I have never had a cat that had an accident outside of their litter this makes me very, very nervous. I've heard horror stories of people who own cats that are notorious "pee-ers" and I'm ashamed to admit that I won't keep a destructive cat in my house. 

On top of this, I've noticed that he has a very different temperament than Chaz and Miss Thang. He's more skittish and not as sociable, plus Chaz and Miss Thang still really don't care to hang out with him. All of this combined makes me really nervous about the cat he will become and the voice in the back of my head tells me that he'd be easier to re-adopt out now while he is a kitten, than as an adult with issues.  

For now, I am taking it one day at a time and I'm praying these 3 incidents are isolated and explainable. About once a week, I take my CSI black light and go through the house to check, which has also led to some very "interesting" conversations with my husband about his...umm...aim in the bathroom. 

What is seen cannot be unseen. LOL!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Painted Kitchen Cabinets: 6 Months Later

I have a love/hate relationship with white kitchen cabinets.

I love how clean, open, and modern they make a kitchen look, but I hate that they show every smudge, drip, and finger print. I had white kitchen cabinets in my house in Florida and I was always on the lookout and wiping them down. I swore that I would never have white kitchen cabinets again...ahem. Well, people change, right?

It's been a tad bit over 6 months since I finished painting the kitchen cabinets and they have cured and held up WONDERFULLY!

I have only had 1 chip in the paint on an upper cabinet, and that is from me hitting the cabinet pretty hard with a glass measuring cup when I was pulling it out for use. Somehow, I had underestimated where the cabinet door was or I was distracted/in a hurry and hit the door pretty hard. This is the result:

No biggie. A little sanding, a drop of primer or two, and a touch of paint will make that good as new. That IS one of the benefits of painting your cabinets though, when you have a scratch, it's easy to fix. If I had taken a chunk out of a pre-fabbed cabinet, I wouldn't be able to match the paint.

Otherwise, the rest of the cabinets get a scuff or drip here and there. Mostly, I just wipe off with a damp washcloth, but for scuffs from silverware or stainless steel bowls, I VERY LIGHTLY buff them out with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

I've not seen any wearing-down/scuffing of the paint when I do this, even if I have to use a little elbow grease on tougher scuffs. That's a benefit of having white cabinets too. I know others who have painted their cabinets darker colors and have wiped-off scuff marks which later show. I attribute this also to the type of paint you use.

Overall, my husband and I are VERY happy with how the Benjamin Moore's INSL-X Cabinet Coat paint has held up and we've had many compliments. You can now get it at Home Depot too.

Would I do it again if I needed to? Absolutely, and may HAVE to depending on what type of house we buy next and where we want to spend money. However, next time I would invest in a sprayer to get that perfect, manufactured finish and to save time.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

How to Use a Pressure Cooker: Risotto in 10 Minutes!

You know, every time I discover an easier technique for doing something, I ask myself, "Why have I been doing it the hard way for all this time?"

Such is the case for pressure cooker risotto. I was convinced, I SWORE the only way you could have creamy, tender risotto that's full of flavor, was to cook it over the stove-top and ladle-stir, ladle-stir, ladle-stir until your feet were tired from standing and your stomach was growling. So, risotto had become one of those "special dishes" that I made very rarely, and that is sad because I love it so, so much.

I tried a technique a long time ago that required me to bake the risotto in the oven and at the end, it made me want to cry. So, I've spied this technique from Lorna Sass' Pressure Perfect for years and never got around to it. I was convinced that it was going to be a flop; risotto is an art form! But I was wrong. SO. WRONG.

Friends, lovers, Maytag repairmen, I give you perfect, creamy, delicious risotto IN 10 MINUTES!

You're welcome!

Pressure Cooker Risotto in 10 Minutes
Recipe modified from: Lorna Sass, Pressure Perfect 

Mushroom Parmesan Risotto 

3 cups clean, chopped fresh mushrooms (I used shiitake)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced shallot
1 minced clove garlic
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry, white wine
3 1/2 - 4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced, fresh parsley

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the mushrooms until they start to release their liquid, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in your pressure cooker over med-high heat and saute the shallot till soft, about 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add arborio rice to shallot mixture and cook over high heat for 1-3 minutes, stirring continually, making sure all the rice is coated in butter and none is sticking to the sides or bottom.

Add wine to rice mixture (it will sputtter when added) and stir continually until all the wine is absorbed. Add 3 1/2 cups of the chicken broth and the cooked mushrooms to the rice mixture. Attach the lid to your pressure cooker, seal, and bring to pressure over high heat. Once pressurized, turn heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove pressure cooker from the heating element and perform a fast pressure release. After depressurized, remove pressure cooker lid (opening away from you) and return the pressure cooker pot to the heating element. The risotto will look soupy at this point. Cook over high heat, stirring continually, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. If the risotto needs more time to cook to your liking, add the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth and continue to cook/stir until done. I like mine a little creamier than al dente.

When done, remove pot from heating element, add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and stir till mixed well. Garnish with parsley and additional grated Parmesan if desired.

Pour yourself a glass of wine and dig in!


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