Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home Improvement: Painting the Bathroom (During)

Well, I was hoping to do just "before" and "after" photos, but the project turned out to be a little more extensive than I expected, so I'm adding some "during" photos as well.

First was removing the wallpaper. Remember the peeling wallpaper border? Here, let me refresh your memory:

It had to go. Believe it or not, that took almost two hours. The bottom layer of adhesive just didn't want to come off. It was a slow-moving process as I scraped it all off, little by little. I didn't get any pictures, but just imagine a big pile of wallpaper shavings on the floor and you'll get the idea.  :)

Under the wallpaper, I found a few nicks and gouges in the drywall. This was an unpleasant surprise, as I'd now have to fill those spots. Of course, if I was going to do that, then I'd have to use primer on the wall, too. I know a lot of people will gasp in horror at what I'm about to say, but here goes: I rarely use primer when painting. I know, I know.... it preps the wall and all that, but unless I'm painting brand-new drywall (which I'm usually not) or I'm painting a lighter color over a darker color (again, usually not), I don't mess with primer. But another reason to use it is if you've fixed a few spots on the wall you're about to paint, so I gave in and decided that I'd use primer this time around.

I wasn't there yet, though. First, the spackling (which, actually, I enjoyed doing):

While that was drying, I tested a color I'd bought a sample of earlier:

I had a little fun with trying out the color.  :)
Kentucky is greater than Michigan State.  :)  My husband (the Michigan State fan) enjoyed seeing this when he got home.

I liked the green, but I wasn't sure it was what I wanted to use. I didn't want to keep buying and trying samples, though, so I decided to go back to my paint swatches and try again. In the meantime, though, it was time to sand the areas I'd spackled and then apply the primer.

You can't really tell very well in this picture, but here's the bathroom after priming:

The coloring looks weird because of the lighting, but all the walls are white.

Next step: painting!

While I've never particularly enjoyed painting, I've never really minded it, either. Sure, it's messy and time-consuming, but I've always enjoyed picking out a new color for a room and the difference it makes when all is said and done.

It's usually been easy enough to get all the work done in a day or two, but this time around, the work has taken a lot longer than expected. For one thing, it's a small half bathroom, so I figured it wouldn't take too long to paint since there wasn't much space to cover. I had forgotten, however, about all the nooks and crannies involved with painting a bathroom (like painting carefully around the toilet and the sink). I also hadn't expected the lack of space to be an issue, but it was.... imagine having all the painting supplies in that one small room. Also imagine when you're trying to paint behind the door in said room and therefore said door must be shut, and it's just you, the paint, and the paint fumes. Yes, I can safely say that I would prefer to paint a large bedroom or sitting room any day over a small bathroom. Oh well... lesson learned.

I'll be posting "after" photos as soon as it's finished!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A grocery story

Yesterday afternoon, I ran in to the grocery to get some salmon (yum!) and a few other things for dinner. There was a special on shrimp, which was set up in a display in the middle of the aisle. Here's the sign that was next to the display:

My New Year's party? Either they reuse their signs, or else I've been missing out on the second-New-Year's-party-at-the-end-of-February holiday that everyone else has been enjoying.

Taped to the top of the shrimp was this sign:

In case you can't read that, it says, "Please put shrimp inside a bag before you weigh it."(There was a scale next to the display.) This idea seems like common sense, and the sign seems totally unnecessary to me.... unless someone had actually tried this before. Seriously... had someone just dumped a bunch of shrimp on the scale without putting it in a bag first? Had they carried it up to the cash register that way, too--two big handfuls of shrimp--and dropped it on the checkout belt?

Sometimes I worry about our world today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Home Improvement: Painting the Bathroom (Before)

See this picture?

This is a corner of our downstairs half bathroom. See the wallpaper border? See how it's peeling? And, you can't see it here, but the very light blue paint was apparently applied with no more than one quick coat, because when you look closely, white still shows through in places.

This means only one thing....

It's time to paint the bathroom.

The big question: what color?

I went to Lowe's about six weeks ago (yeah, this project has been on my mind for a while) to get some paint samples. I kept thinking about it, and last weekend I went back to get some more samples.

Here's what I'm working with now:

It's possible that I may have gone a little overboard.

My original thought was a chocolate brown. Our bedroom and bathroom upstairs are dark green and brown--the sheets, comforter, pillows, curtains, towels.... everything. The bedroom is painted green, and I'm planning to eventually paint the bathroom brown. I figured it'd be easiest to just do the other bathroom the same color. The problem is, while the upstairs (full) bath is a pretty good size, the downstairs half bath is probably too small for such a dark color. So, it was on to a new plan.

My next thought (and David's suggestion) was a neutral color, like some shade of beige that would match anything. It might be boring, but it was safe and would look good. The problem here was that this would require some planning ahead. Our condo has a very open floor plan, so the kitchen, dining room, living room, front hall, staircase, and upstairs hallway would all have to be painted the same color. We're planning on having all that painted in the next year or two in--you guessed it--a neutral beige. I don't want to paint the bathroom the same color as what the rest of those will eventually be, but I don't want it to clash. I also don't want to have to pick the color for the giant project yet. So no neutrals for the half bathroom.

This means we're down to a light color. I'm not a big fan of too many light colors, so I'm trying to find one I do like--meaning it's dark enough for my taste, but light enough for a small room.

Right now I'm thinking either a light (but not too light) sage green or maybe a teal (a more bluish teal that isn't too dark).

Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cooking class

For my birthday, my parents got me a gift card to attend a cooking class at Kiss Z Cook. David and I went to class on Friday night, and it was great.

(Side note/funny story: The gift card was for the amount of one cooking class. About a month after receiving the gift, I realized I couldn't find the card. I looked and looked and looked..... nothing. Obviously, this was a problem. It was also a surprise, as I'm generally pretty organized. David and I got in an argument about my organizational skills--or lack of, in his opinion--but when it came down to it, there was no card to be found. My mom still had the receipt, though, and the company said we could bring that in in lieu of the card. We were already planning to visit my parents that weekend, so we got it from them then. My mom gave it to David, who took several pictures of it on his phone before putting it in his car. The receipt was lost two days later. I got to laugh at David and make some "I told you so!" comments, and we had to call Kiss Z Cook and explain the situation yet again. And yes, it was starting to get embarrassing. However, they agreed to honor the "gift card" at a class as long as we brought in David's phone with pictures of the receipt. These people are awesome!)

The class was an Italian cooking class. There were 20 people (10 couples) working in groups of four to make dinner. The class started off with everyone being served drinks of their choice. David had a beer (I forget what it was called) and I had a glass of wine (Torrontes, a type of wine from Argentina). I'd never heard of this kind of wine, but a couple of the assistant chefs told me about it. (Read more here and here.) Here's a picture of me before class (note the wine in hand):

See the snazzy red aprons? They were a must, as the cooking got a little messy.

We started out by going to the front to watch the chef do a little prep work. Actually, the first thing he showed us was how to roast a red pepper. It got my attention and let me know right away that I'd be learning a few new things over the next couple of hours.

First, he greased the pepper in olive oil, then he put it on the stove to roast it. Like, directly on the stove. The stoves were gas (apparently you can't do this on electric stoves), and he had us put the pepper right on the burner, directly over the flame, turning it ever so often

Next he showed us how to prepare the veggies--chop onions, slice and peel tomatoes, mince garlic... you get the idea. Apparently there are techniques to doing this properly.... who would have thought? I got to work with fresh basil for the first time (yep, I generally use dried herbs and spices that come conveniently in bottles, all ready to sprinkle on your dish), and I must say, the fresh stuff really does make a difference.

A note on the chopping: a good knife really does make a big difference. I've heard this before but experienced it firsthand at this class. The knives we have at home are not fancy or expensive at all, and they're probably not as sharp as they should be, either. They get the job done, but they require a good amount of work from the user.

These knives were a whole different story. The first one I used sliced easily through the basil and minced herbs without too much trouble. I say "too much" because an assistant chef came over to watch when she noticed I wasn't chopping the herbs as easily as I should've been. She thought the knife was a little dull and brought me a sharper one. And THAT was when I really noticed a difference. WOW. I chopped the thyme up really easily. No scraping the knife back and forth across the cutting board, trying to get it to cut into small enough pieces. I just simply had to use it in the rocking motion the chef had shown us, and in no time, it was ready to go.

After that, I was a believer. I was ready to buy one of those knives.... until we saw a display of them for sale. The price tag? $240. Hmm... perhaps I'd have to find a less expensive version, or wait for a sale.

After the prep, we got started on the cooking. First up: Caprese salad. I've had this many times before, but thanks to a little variety in the recipe and new cooking techniques, this was one of the best Caprese salads I've ever had. (I don't want to say too much about the recipes, partially because I don't want to give away the company's recipes, but also because I don't remember any of them. We didn't actually take copies of the recipes with us.... they are going to email them to us next week.)

We made two main dishes. One was shrimp with polenta. I don't remember the exact name of the recipe, but I do know that it was good. I'd never had polenta before, so, needless to say, I'd never made it. The other couple who was working with us actually did most of the cooking on this one, but it was good to learn how to make polenta. And I love shrimp, too, so this dish was definitely a winner.

The other main dish was probably my favorite part of the whole meal. I don't remember what it was called (again, I don't have the recipes on me), but it was beef cooked in a skillet with vegetables (like red pepper and onion--yum!) and all kinds of spices. Delicious!

Dessert... I don't want to brag, but this was where David and I proved how awesome we are.  :)  The dish was supposed to be made with berries and this type of dough called phyllo, and that is what it ended up being, but plans changed a little along the way.

An assistant chef came over with a plate covered in a wet paper towel. She asked if who would be making dessert (us or the couple we were working with), and David and I said we would. She asked if we'd ever worked with phyllo before, and we responded by asking what it was. Ha! Turns out it's a type of very thin dough. You can read more about it here, but what we learned was this: it must stay damp or it tears easily. Actually, even if it is damp, it tears easily.

She told us to layer it with butter and bread crumbs. It was a tricky and very slow-going process, and we kept getting small tears in the dough. Overall, though, we were doing pretty well, and we were about halfway through when the chef announced that the phyllo was being particularly uncooperative and we were going to scrap that plan. David and I didn't want to give up on it, though, and we showed the chef our tray and asked if we could keep going. He said ours did look good and to continue. We finished layering the phyllo and cooked it as instructed.

When it came out of the oven, the chef came to inspect it. He told us how well it had turned out and said he'd use it to make dessert for the whole group. So, thanks to David and me, the whole class had dessert that night!

After we finished cooking, it was time to eat. I think I've mentioned this before, but the food was delicious! We got to spend some time with the other people in the class and get to know them, and for the most part, they were very friendly and had a good time.

One thing that I didn't expect was to make an entire Italian dinner without any pasta. I mean, Italian food? Pasta seems like an obvious choice. Looking back, though, I'm glad we didn't, because it gave me a chance to try some new recipes that I probably never would've known about otherwise.

The people who worked at Kiss Z Cook (the chef, the assistant chefs, other helpers, and the main who talked with me on the phone at least five times about our gift card trouble) were so friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. I can't say enough good things about them. The class was a "date night" class and, at $125, isn't something I would do every week, but I would certainly go back in the future to try something new.

Thanks for a great birthday present, Mom and Dad! And thanks to Kiss Z Cook for a great experience and some new recipes!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Well, I've done it.... I've joined Twitter.

Follow me! @LizVL1215

Quitter Conference

Last weekend, I was in Nashville to attend the Quitter Conference, hosted by Jon Acuff, author of "Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job." (I've written about this book before; check out my previous post here.)

This conference was, in one word, awesome. Jon is a great speaker--equal parts informative, inspirational, motivational, and funny. He told us about his experiences with past jobs and working to find a way to pursue his dream (which he's now doing!). The conference was Friday evening and all day Saturday and consisted of several different parts, including figuring out what your dream is, discovering (and overcoming) fears that may prevent you from pursuing your dream, and getting started on your dream.

Jon also had a few guest speakers, including his wife, who talked about being married to someone chasing a dream and how to keep working on your marriage while working on your dream. They were great to listen to as well.

And then there were the other attendees. There were 200+ people in attendance, and it was quite motivating to see others in my situation. They came from all over.... Florida, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Tennesee, Nebraska, and several more. They were all there to find out how to follow their dreams (or, in the case of some, figure out their dreams).

It was a very inspiring weekend. It's motivated me to keep working on my writing, editing, and graphic design. I'm going to try to blog more often as a way to keep writing regularly. I'm building an online portfolio with all my writing and design clips, and it's been fun looking at what I've done in the past and thinking about new projects. I'll post those here as I complete them. I want to keep learning as well.... reading books and taking classes.

I'm looking forward to all of this! And I'm so glad I went to the Quitter Conference! Thanks, Jon, for inspiring us to follow our dreams.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl!

Way to go, Giants!

That's right.... David and I watched the Super Bowl with his brother, sister, and her fiance, and we were all cheering for the Giants. It was an easy decision to make--as Colts fans, and Peyton Manning fans, there was no way we could cheer for Tom Brady and the Patriots, especially when they were playing in Indy. But the Giants and Eli Manning? No problem!

I even wore my Manning jersey for the game. Sure, it was the wrong team, wrong color, and wrong number, but at least it had the right name on the back! Unfortunately, it very well could have been the last time to wear it while Peyton is still a Colt. I hope he doesn't end up with another team next year, but I'm afraid he will.

The Super Bowl wouldn't be the Super Bowl without the commercials. My favorite was the M&M commercial. (You can check it out here.) Close seconds were the VW commercial with the dog working out (click here) and the Sketchers commercial with Mr. Quiggly and the dog race (here).

And food is important, too! We ordered pizza and breadsticks and also had crackers with cheddar cheese dip, cookies, soft drinks, wine, and beer. Yum!

Indianapolis got great reviews as Super Bowl hosts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Super Bowl Village downtown had a lot to offer, and the weather cooperated by being unseasonably warm and mild. Residents and visitors alike had a great time, and I hope Indy will see another Super Bowl in the future!