Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Weekend re-cap: cookin' and decoratin'

This past weekend was great. Terrible weather kept us inside except for some hair-drenching trips to the market (E had to force me to go both times), leaving us with time for some home improvement, relaxing, and cooking.

Friday night we made these awesome burgers, seriously some of the best ones I have had in my life. I used to dislike burgers--I would always order a grilled cheese off the kids menu or the chicken mcnuggets at mikey d's--but I've come around. They're far better for you than baked goods, my main vice, so I feel free to indulge now and then. E had me buy a pound and a half of meat, claiming he would make three half-pound burgers, so I bought two hamurger buns and one brioche bun from this new place in Essex Market, Pain D'Avignon. That made the difference. This place is also a restaurant supplier, and the final burger (also thanks to Eric's superb cooking) had a real restaurant taste. But anyway, he ended up making two twelve-ounce burgers, and I ate the whole thing. I felt fine, since I had a small lunch, but three hours later the foods was still sitting in my stomach and I started making some groaning noises. toooo mucccchhh fattttt. I also drank red wine with the burger, which I would have anyway, but I heard there is something in red wine that neutralizes a bad thing released when you digest red meat. So doubly awesome.

Our next big cooking adventures are going to be in bread, so that night we started on a yeasted coffee cake that we had for breakfast the next day. It was a little dry and possibly overcooked, and the cinnamon-pecan crumbles on top kept on falling off, so they probably should have been tucked into the dough, but it was a good start. Yeasted things are also less sweet than chemically leavened cakes, so I look forward to developing a more adult, less sweet palate when it comes to baking. I found this recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake that we plan to try next, for a more decadent takeb. I also attempted the much-talked-about no-knead bread. I used the recipe in my copy of "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman (also where we got the coffee cake recipe from), and it called for 2 cups of water, when a lot of the other online recipes called for less. This turned out to be a problem when I got to the baking time and the dough was wayyy too wet to shape into a ball. I had to add more flour and let it rise more, and then I had to disrupt the dough once more to try to plop it into a pan (it cooks in a covered cast iron to produce steam similar to steam-injected. I think the latter part disrupted the air bubbles and created the dense loaf that popped out of the oven. It did have an awesome look to it and great crust, so, again, good start. This isn't as easy as making chocolate chip cookies.

Sunday Eric made omelettes (new for him) and we made another Bittman recipe, Chicken with Chickpeas and Lentils. I am so used to eating really rich food with Eric that it tasted kind of healthy and bland. I added some yogurt and mango chutney, however, and that fixed the whole thing. It was yummy. Since we were so healthy and had some processed peanut butter left in the fridge that neither of us will eat plain, we made peanut butter cookies that night. Seriously, so much cooking!

Last week I bought this cute lampshade at KMart to go with the vintage lamp I got in Michigan that it beaded white milk glass. Now we have more lighting in the bedroom, woo! It also matches the bedspread pattern so I am excited about that. I also bought a side-hanging plant bracked that we were able to install, after our failed attempts to drill into our steel beams near the window. I couldn't hang up this cute shadowbox in the bedroom for the same reason (so annoying), but I did hang up the photo calendar Eric made that has a lot of pictures of us in Costa Rica. But, my most exciting DIY project was the handkerchief one!!

My grandma sent me this beautiful handkerchief from the 1940's (she's an antique dealer, so she knows) with a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle and four other tourist attractions on the side. I thought it was cute and was going to hang it up with tape where the shadowbox couldn't be hung up, when I had a flash of inspiration.

I've been carrying around this picture frame I found in my old apartment's "take it" section for over two years. It said $39.99 on the back and was from Bed Bath & Beyond, but it has a thick mat and I could never think of anything to go in it. Still, I was happy to have it because I've discovered that framing shit is expensive but makes your walls look really, really good. Also, the saw hanging thing on the back was missing. I bought an additional saw hook from Home Depot a few weeks ago, but still had no picture.

I fitted the handkerchief into the frame and voila! It was a little too big so I did some artful adjusting. It's not perfectly straight and it has a little wave in it so you can tell it's fabric, but I like the overall effect. We hung it above the bed and it looks really, really good, with the black matching the black bed frame. I had planned on getting New York City-themed prints anyway, but this is totally unique and a nice way to remember my Grandma. Plus, you can look at the picture then look out the window and see the Brooklyn Bridge! I LOVE IT!

Last night we watched the Season Finale of Season 4 of The Wire. SO AMAZING. I love this show, but it can be so depressing. Boiled down, the theme of the show is "anytime you try to fix something the system/society will prevent you from making any meaningful change." This season

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Apartment Update

I moved into my new apartment the last weekend in February. I stressed so much about the move, while E was chill the whole time (figures). The total cost of the move ended up being little more than one cab fare on the very last day with a few extra bags, so I was very, very happy with how that worked out. I didn't really have any furniture, except for my bed, which I sold, but I still had a nightstand and mounds of clothes to move. The move ended up happening in three parts. A couple weeks before the move, E had borrowed a friend’s car since he was going to multiple Trey concerts. We moved a bunch of stuff after work, which was great.

Then, the second-to-last week in February, E had to rent a car for work. The only car they had at the time was a huge plumbing van, like the kind serial killers use. He decided to take it, even though it was a pain to drive, since it would be convenient for the move. It was so big I had to help navigate. Anyway, that was fabulous. We were able to load up my nightstand, side table, mirror, and my millions of bags. I didn’t really have boxes, so a lot of stuff I just piled into random large purses and garbage bags. The next day, I scoured craigslist for cheap furniture and we ended up buying two bookcases for the apartment (for under $100!) that fit quite easily into the van. I was also very happy because when E bought a bed a few months ago the security guy yelled at us because it’s a co-op and you have to use special moving passes whenever you’re moving stuff, so they can pad the elevators. You’re also not allowed to use luggage carts to move furniture. We disobeyed both of those rules but didn’t get yelled at again, for which I was grateful.

The weekend after moving in my stuff, we went to Home Depot and bought everything you could possibly need for home improvement...well, almost everything. A drill, drill bits, screws, superglue, picture hanging things, extra hooks. A really nice worker helped us, and he told us to fill out this customer service thing online, which I did. I hope he gets recognized for his good work!

E turned out to be a whiz with the drill and it feels so nice to have hooks and, thus far, one picture hung. The only problem is my plant hook. In my last apartment, my philodendron hung from my window, but I think by our windows it’s steel, because even our masonry (aka concrete) bit wouldn’t go through the wall. It’s now hanging precariously in the middle of the living room because it seems to need to have all its leaves hanging to survive. I just bought a side-mount plant hook at Kmart during my lunch break so I hope that that will do the trick.

I’m pretty happy with the new space, but I hate hate hate all the old fixtures. There is just decades of grime that won’t lift, no matter how hard you try. The enamel coating has worn off the 60s-era sink and bathtub, so it’s porous and stains quickly and leaves weird dirt streaks. Doors are broken and shredded and don't close very well and are covered with layers and layers of paint. Our kitchen cabinets don’t close. The whole apartment needs to be repainted. A lot of things are covered in paint from the previous haphazard paint job. The toilet leaks. The ceiling has water damage that we need to call maintenance about. We’re missing blinds (working on that) and are hit with blinding afternoon sun on the weekends. The areas that do have blinds have orange or blue mini blinds. I hate 60s and 70s-era color choices. The floors are a little scuffy-looking….and did I mention WE DO NOT HAVE A DISHWASHER??? This is very dire, given that we cook EVERY DAY and have all these nasty dishes in the sink. I bought some heavy-duty washing gloves at Home Depot that hopefully won’t hole up in like a week like the other ones. At least that way I can wash in hot water AND have hands that don’t feel painfully dry. However, it is really frustrating to be in an apartment that needs so much fixing up. Laura, I am jealous of your well-refurbished apartment. However, I need to keep the benefits in mind: HUGE apartment (by New York standards). 19th floor view of NYC, Brooklyn Bridge. A balcony to go outside and enjoy the view. Laundry in the basement (another only-in-New-York-it’s-a-luxury). Rent…well I think the rent is reasonable by New York standards (at least when it’s split with boyfriend), but it’s still like mortgage-level.

Oh yes, and an apartment to share with the boyfriend!! I’m actually really pleased with how far we’ve come already with the apartment, and we have a Salvation Army pick-up in a couple of weeks so we’ll have a little more space in our closets (another New York luxury). But that doesn't mean that when I'm searching for my next place I will want it to be sanded and painted and have non-vinyl, chipping countertops. Ugh. My apartment and I definitely have a love-hate relationship.