May 22, 2014

8th Annual Wine Trip

Jessica, Russ, Me, Jessica, Jason, Katie, Troy, Cameron, Amanda & Joe (the rookies)
This past Saturday was our group of friends' 8th Annual Wine Trip. We started the tradition for Cameron and our friend, Pat's, 30th birthdays. We've gone all over Northern California, from Napa & Sonoma, to Healdsburg and Ukiah, Russian River and Lodi. 

The first Ferrari we saw - Loved the shade of blue
This year we planned the trip, and selected Monterey as our destination. And the rookies on the trip had the best suggestion on where to go. Joe & Amanda live near Monterey and suggested we buy tickets to the Wine Trolley which takes you over the hill to Carmel Valley. It made planning this year so easy - not only were the winery tasting rooms pretty much selected for us, but this way there was no need to worry about a limo, and every one could get their own tickets at whatever level they wanted. Cameron and I selected the package that included 2 wine glasses with the trolley etched onto them, a wine opener and a cheese, cracker, meat & fruit platter for lunch.  
 
What I focused on most of the day ; )

There were only two stops with the wine trolley as well, the first being at the Winery Tasting Room for Ventana. There we were given a quick tasting for 6 of the wines. 


Troy & Cameron "test driving" a Ferrari

The wines were ok here but I don't think anyone in our group took advantage of getting a free bottle of wine there or bought a bottle. Before we headed over the rest of the hill, the boys did take advantage of the 7-11 next door, grabbing a case of beer to enjoy for the 20 minute ride over the rest of the hill. And within minutes the boys had made friends with the rest of husbands and boyfriends along for the ride as the beer was handed out to anyone that asked. 
 
We took a wagon ride over to Talbott - Joe, Troy & Cameron

Did I mention the Trolley was packed? Normally, a tour bus follows the Trolley to accommodate all the people so every one had a seat. But the bus broke down that morning. 35 had signed up for the day and there was only seating enough for 24. Any one that volunteered to stand would receive a free bottle of wine. We had a group of 5 couples and each male representative of the couples offered to stand. It was just like high school with the cool boys in the back of the bus - our boys. The ladies and I had nice seats inside the trolley. 
 
Jessica & Russ

The second stop was what the trolley was all about as there are over 240 wines to taste in this little town, with the streets lined with tasting rooms. Our friends Troy & Katie work in the industry and they had a few tasting rooms to suggest. Our first stop brought us to Bernardus, where we walked away with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc. 

Amanda & Jessica
We then made our way to Chock Rock, where I used my coupon for A Free Bottle of Red and a free bottle of white to walk away with two bottles of Chardonnay - the owner was fine with substituting a red for a second bottle of white. And while we were there, a wine club member stopped in to pick up his shipment - in his Ferrari. Cameron chatted him up some and then our buddy Jason asked if Cameron could sit in the car. He obliged. Cameron looked like a kid on Christmas morning. 


Last up, we visit Talbott. All the wines we tasted here were fantastic, but given the higher prices, we only walked away with a chardonnay, and that will be saved for a special occasion. 


The ride back into Monterrey was full of a lively bunch, as more beer was passed around. After the ride, we headed to Joe & Amanda's house for a BBQ full of yummy food before calling it a night by 9:30 PM!

May 20, 2014

The SINK is in!

 
My New Love

I'm in LOVE! Yes, I'll say it, I'm in love...with our new sink! Over Mother's Day weekend, even while Cameron wasn't feel great, he worked hard and, after several trips to Home Depot, which included conversations about thinks being not to code in the old set up, he got it in and functioning. 

One last look at the old, awful sink!

Two days with no kitchen sink was an adjustment, plus there was no dishwasher because of the dismantling. I did end up washing some dishes in the girls' bathtub, but it was all VERY worth it in the end. 

Dismantling in progress
Let's just say that with the new sink, dishes get done around here. I don't even dread cleaning the George Foreman grill, or the Wok. Before, these items, after use, would likely sit next to the sink for a good week, week and a half, maybe even 2 depending on how many other dishes needed to get done or stacked up in front of them. They were just such a pain to clean in a double sink. 
 
We discovered after removing the old sink, that it was never sealed, so there was water damage to the particle board counter top. Luckily, no mold. We ran a fan on the area for a day to dry it out.

The large single basin sink now makes everything so much easier to clean. I can actually fit 3 pots and pans inside the sink without even a handle sticking out. And since the new sink it 9" deep, not 6" I don't walk away with a wet belly after each washing. 

Did I say I was in love? Can you tell? It's amazing what the right sink will do. 

Oh, and the kitchen wall painting is complete. Taking a little break and then I'll either start on the cabinets or continue the wall color throughout the rest of the house. I have the semi-gloss in the wall color for the girls bathroom, so I may start there once I get more painter's tape and some drop cloths. 

May 15, 2014

Easter 2014


Easter weekend was a busy one for us, and in a way, kicked off our busy season. 


The Friday night before Easter, I prepped by boiling and blowing out eggs, to be dyed the next day. Cameron's not big on hard boiled eggs and with our Easter decor a bit lacking, I decided to add to it this year. First, I added a painted board in the shape of an egg, which said "Welcome" to the front door with the egg wreath we already had. 

I also had Cameron build me a flower box using reclaimed wood found on our land and filled it with fake spring flowers. I'll share that another time, soon, as while it was meant to be a special feature for just this time of year, it quickly became a focal point in our house for year round since we liked it so much. Before I share I need to get some different faux flowers in it. I lined the base of the flowers with some of the blown-out Easter eggs that London and I dyed on Saturday while Sydney was taking her nap.The rest of the blown out eggs that were dyed went into some "nests" I created out of basket filler and placed inside my cake domes.

Saturday started with an Easter Egg hunt at a local park, being put on by the local Active 20-30 club which we have friends in. Then I whisked the girls off to a new hair salon for some hair cuts - this included the official "first cut" package for Sydney. Both girls ended up with some version of bangs, as much as Cameron can't stand bangs on the girls, it had to be done as hair was constantly in their faces. Both are not blessed with nice hair - its thin, slow growing and stringy. Add in the cowlicks and bangs were just inevitable at this age. Our hope is, as they grow older, that their hair gets better and more open to being styled. 


We followed the trip to the salon up with Costco and Raley's, our usual weekend stops for the week's groceries. Included in the items picked up though, were the ingredients for homemade pizza dough and carrot cupcakes & cream cheese icing. 

We started the tradition of making homemade pizza on Easter Sunday the year we moved into our old house. We love it so much that we knew we wanted to continue the tradition this year in our new home. 

London assisted in helping me make the carrot cupcakes on Saturday as well. 


She could hardly wait to try one of these puppies out. For a girl who will hold a carrot in her mouth and chew but never swallow for over an hour, she didn't seem hesitant at all to try one in cupcake form! And it turned out she loves carrot cupcakes (I'm sure all the sugar and cream cheese frosting has nothing to do with this...) - so much so that she actually snuck a cupcake on Easter into her room to devour it unseen. Problem was, she left the rapper under her desk. I also found finger tracks in a few of the left over cupcakes' icing. When confronted, at least she owned up to the thievery and sneakiness. 

Of course, the Easter Bunny visited the night leading into Easter. Sydney wasn't sure of what to think about her basket - it actually took my taking everything out of the basket for her to get interested in it. And hard to believe, but she didn't like the Peeps or Carrot Cupcakes. She's our good little eater, but unless its a cookie, she doesn't go after sugar much. I'm sure that will change. 




The rest of Easter morning was spent prepping the dough for that afternoon and making a quiche for breakfast out of all the blown-out eggs' yolks. It was delicious and may make it into the Easter tradition rotation. Last of all, I whipped up the Cream Cheese icing and iced the cupcakes. I couldn't believe how easy the icing was, or how delicious it was. We're considering making these cupcakes for London's birthday in June since she loved them so much, too. 



Cameron's mom, step brother and family all joined us for Easter Lunch/Dinner. Since we would have several kids over, Vicki and Pua planned an Easter egg hunt. Cameron mowed a maze in the grass out front to hide the plastic eggs filled with candy in. 50 eggs were hidden. Only 42 came back inside. 

And while we decided to "hide" empty eggs on the lawn just out front for Sydney, she insisted on finding eggs out in the tall grass with the big kids. Here are some fun photos from the hunts:






May 8, 2014

Phase 1: Kitchen Plans

As mentioned on Tuesday, we have two phases for the changes we plan to make to our house. Phase 2 is the major overhaul/remodel we have our hearts set on to achieve the ultimate house in our minds. Phase 1 is designed to make us happier with the current house and live with it for 5 to 10 years so we can save money up for Phase 2. 

And since the white fridge's death, painting has begin in the kitchen, making it the first room in the house we will tackle for phase 1. Because of that, I thought I would share the plans for the kitchen in Phase 1. 

Here they are: 

Walls, etc. - Paint & Message Center
The walls, baseboards and window seal painting is in progress. We're painting the walls the Behr color "Bone" in an eggshell finish, and the baseboards and window seal in the Behr color "Bleached Linen " in a semi-gloss finish. 

As for the message center - the previous owner left up a horizontal cork board and we went along with using it as soon as we moved in. The major problem I had with it was the horizontal positioning. I plan to find a nice fabric that compliments the kitchen and re-hang the board up vertically, that way the calendar can hang next to it, not below it. I am going back and forth on getting a more square, smaller cork board to cover and a matching square white board to hang above it and then the calendar next to both - that way we could remove at least one of the white boards on the front of the fridge. Thoughts? 

See how the calendar had to hang low?
Cabinets
The Cabinets are well built. But we aren't fans of "blonde" cabinets. And opening the drawers can be hazardous to a person's fingers. Sometimes the darn things stick, making you have to grasp to open them (I've lost a few nails to these darn things), and then they are designed to slide close so you have to physically hold it open when putting things like tupperware and silverware away. 

The plan is to paint the cabinets black, likely in a semi-gloss finish and then outfit them in brushed silver knobs. The drawers will be outfitted with brushed silver cup pulls. This will at least fix the aesthetics and save some fingers. We'll still have to deal with the fact that most drawers aren't deep enough to store the saran wrap in, but we'll get by. In the lower cabinets, the top shelves are only half shelves. I think we may decide to add the other half of the shelf to increase the storage space down there.

Pulls and Cup Pulls we are looking at
Look at all  the lost storage space!


Sink
The sink sucks! It is no deeper than 6 inches. Seriously, you can only get one layer of sippy cups in it. And the two basins are 10" x 10" squares - some of our plates and bowls barely fit in them to rinse or wash. The faucet doesn't help either. It's short. You have to carefully tip a pot for pasta sideways to get it under the faucet and then into the sink for filling. Don't fill it too full either - you'll lose half of it trying to get the pot back out of the sink! 

I think the sink is our biggest frustration. But that's getting fixed in phase 1 too! My dad very generously sent me some money after his visit in April to purchase a new sink and faucet. The faucet arrived last week. Look at the difference people! 



The rest of the sink arrived on Monday. We had a little fun comparing the two with different items you would place in the sink. I can't wait for it to go in! Good thing we are home this weekend.

The sinks edge to edge are the same dimensions!
A comparison of how much more room our large salad bowls get in the sink

And a sippy cup and extra large pink cup in the old sink
And now in the new sink!
What it will look like with the faucet on it - so much room for a pot!
This is how much we hate the current sink - we are ecstatic over a new one! And we plan to salvage the new sink during phase 2 to be used in our dream kitchen as well.

Percolating Thoughts
Other than that, I am toying with the idea of finding a clearance tile to create a back splash - the grouting would be good practice for Phase 2 projects in the future. I'm even considering watching for Home Depot's women workshops that go over grouting. And the last things I could consider doing is installing some lights above the main work center in the kitchen and adding in some bar stools, but that stuff likely would come only when I was bored and done with the rest of the house for phase 1 and we were still working on saving for Phase 2. Time will tell.

May 6, 2014

Painting!

When we moved into this new house, Cameron and I both agreed - it was livable. But we could also see so much potential via remodeling. And we have grand plans forming in our minds. But we currently don't have the budget to put these plans into action. The problem is we came from a pretty much brand-spanking new home that was almost complete with our little touches. 

All we really had to do in the last house was install a mud sink in the laundry room and paint inside. Outside, the backyard needed designing, and we even completed the planned raised flower bed made out of lava rock before we sold the house and moved. I mean, this house had gorgeous granite tile counters in the kitchen, perfect cabinets in our favorite dark, cherry color throughout the house, and tile floor where we wanted. Putting in brand new carpet to sell the house just added to the finished feeling. All I really wanted to do, had we stayed, was build an entertainment center upstairs for the TV, many of our books and a built-in bookshelf for our DVD collection.

I think this is why over the last few months Cameron and I both have admitted feelings of disappointment in our new home and why even the little things can sometimes get us bummed out. Don't get me wrong - we would still have made the move. The land is great, especially as our summer garden is growing. And Cameron gets great stress relief from the yard. Plus, my commute is heaven compared to before. It's just that we have these plans and we know we won't have the money we need any time too soon to make these changes. So we've decided to make changes in 2 phases with the new house. 

Phase 2 will be the major remodel and overhaul of the house; our Ultimate plans, if you will. 

Phase 1 is going to consist of smaller things; minor adjustments here and there to make the home more functional and more like home. 

And phase 1, I am happy to report has begun. Each little step made in Phase 1 has helped soothe us and make this house feel more like home. 

In some ways, it started with the Fridge. See, we inherited a working white fridge with the house. It didn't have an ice maker, nor a filtered water dispenser. But when we moved it, we just didn't feel like moving it into the garage and our black, ice-making and filtered water dispensing fridge into the house. So our black fridge has been functioning as a second fridge, in the garage. Until the week before Easter. 

That's when the white fridge decided to malfunction. The freezer still worked but the fridge was barely keeping anything cold. We moved everything we could into the black fridge and set up our old tiny fridge (think dorm size) from our old upstairs into the main entrance hallway to once again become a beverage fridge. Then we moved the white fridge into the garage to defrost. We actually plugged it back in on Sunday and it is functioning properly, so the defrosting fixed the problem. We'll again have two refrigerators, which is wonderful and something I had grown used to. The white fridge will hold overflow condiments - because apparently we are condiment hoarders - as well as beverages. 

BUT before we moved the black fridge into the house, I decided that the are behind the fridge needed to be painted.  It took us 3 years to pick a color for the last house. And we loved it so much we knew we wanted to eventually paint all the white walls in the new house with the same color. Why not start when the fridge was out? I mean, its a pain to move it to begin with. Why on earth would I not paint while the opportunity presented itself?!

So off to Home Depot we went to get the paint! I also purchased a gallon of white paint, as I decided that the base boards in this house needed a fresh coat. So much dust had accumulated on these things that even a toothbrush scrub down won't remove some of it. And this began phase 1 - painting!

The first paint to go up in our house - behind the fridge

I'm going slow so that I don't overwhelm myself like I did at the old house. We were in such a rush to complete the paint at the last house to get it on the market that we never got to enjoy the finished product and I thought I would never want to pick up a brush or roller ever again. 

Before
I should have know better though, as I had the itch to paint by Christmas. One wall at a time baby, one wall at a time. This is how far I have gotten - one full wall in the kitchen in 3 weeks. Some of the delay was because we were having people over for both Easter and the weekend after and I didn't want the paint tape up while we had company. Once the tape goes up, I like to have that section done in two nights. And by doing one wall at a time, I still get to enjoy my evenings. 


After - 1 Wall Down, 3 to go to complete the kitchen