Thursday, November 21, 2013

shoestring reno: painting the home office

Painting the home office.

I’m kicking off the home renovations series of entries by showing you what a difference a coat of paint makes.

I know that you’re expecting kitchen renovation news, but I don’t have them yet. I’m just doing my homework and research and trying to figure out what goes where and when. When there’s something to report, like hey, our half-wall has been removed and that opens up the kitchen area, I’ll give you a full report.

For the moment, however, it’s researching things like cabinets (Ikea), countertops (hopefully honed marble), appliances (let’s pray they fit), and some other stuff.

Last weekend, however, we kicked off the “shoestring reno” project (its official name since we’re trying to do this for as little money as possible) by painting the tiny home office adjacent to the kitchen. We aren’t yet sure how this room will be laid out – it really is super tiny – but hopefully, with a little ingenuity and some built-in shelving (down the road), it will make for a great, cozy little space.

One of the reasons we decided to paint this room is because it doesn’t get much light at all. Sure, it might look well lit from the pictures, but in reality – it’s quite dark. This is where the lens definitely makes something look better than it is in life.

Anyway, dark room and this horrible yellowish cream paint color that made the whole room look like this is where everything that’s alive and beautiful goes to die. In fact, I should say that the entire apartment is painted in this horrible, lifeless color.

Painting the home office.

Why did they do it? WHY???

At the paint store while picking up my supplies, a young couple was also set on painting their bedroom that weekend. I overheard them complaining to the store clerk that their whole apartment was painted in this sickly looking yellowish paint.

“I look like I have jaundice when I’m in there,” the young woman said.

“It’s deathlike,” agreed her husband.

There was some solace in knowing we weren’t alone in battling the soulless off white paint. But it still didn’t answer my question: why is it the color of choice for landlords and home sellers? Does anyone actually like that color?

When we got to the apartment, Andrew and I laid out the tarp, taped the corners with painters tape, changed into our painting clothes. Then we cranked up Andrew’s iPhone as loud as it cold go and took to painting.

The results were, well, look.

Continue reading shoestring reno: painting the home office.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

carrot coconut soup

DSC_4423

I have become that person – unable to focus on anything. Too many things are going on at once and I’m finding it overwhelming: editing one book, working on two others, planning Thanksgiving dinner for next week. There are also other distractions. Do laundry. Unload the dishwasher. File a pile of receipts away. Pack a box. Or two.

I wonder if I am the kind of person who is too ambitious with my daily lists. Every morning, I make one; it’s one of my favorite things to do. The satisfaction I get from making a list and then crossing things off it…. well, I find few things as thrilling. But when I look at that list at the end of the day, and I count the number of crossed-off items, I frown. I seem to never get the whole thing done, no matter how hard I try. Either I set unrealistic goals or I’m shit when it comes to time management. Let’s hope it’s the former – otherwise I’m in trouble.

I haven’t talked about renovations yet, because nothing’s happened as of today. But there is a lot of groundwork happening. Foundational preparation so to speak. We’re working with a lovely architect who happens to be a friend and while we cannot, at once, act upon his amazing and genius plan, we are taking it piecemeal.

Continue reading carrot coconut soup.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

a better use for your butter wrapper

butter wrappers

I stopped by a friend’s house recently while she was in the middle of baking something. She had softened her butter earlier in the day and was about to cream it with sugar. Carefully, she peeled the wrapper off the butter, and into the mixer bowl the butter fell. Then, she crumpled up the butter wrapper and threw it away.

“Don’t…” was all that I managed to blurt out, but it was too late – the wrapper landed deep in the garbage bin.

“What? Why? It’s just a butter wrapper,” she said.

A wrapper that’s been generously slathered with softened butter – that could’ve been used for buttering the pan that she was using to bake. When I’m baking with butter, it’s a natural by-product, so instead of softening more butter, I just use what is left on the wrapper and most of the time, it manages to be enough. Plus, it’s a great way to be efficient and frugal in the kitchen.

Continue reading a better use for your butter wrapper.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

pan-seared branzino with orange-fennel salad

Debating blogging this. One of our favorite dinners and I never seem to take this in daytime. So the result is a poorly lit photo. It is however remarkably good.

These days I test my recipes when I have time to test them – which is not nearly as often I want to, or at a time of day that’s convenient. When I feel that I’ve made enough progress for the day in my other work, if there are enough working brain cells in my head, I turn to food that inspires me, ideas I want to play with. I miss the days when I could test recipes in the morning, with perfect, ample light streaming through the window, but in the real world where you have to pay various bills (and that apartment you just plunked some money on), you do what it takes to make your life sustainable.

It’s not lost on me that a good picture will make it more likely for a reader to click on a post. I’m not even talking about getting more eyeballs, or traffic, or comments, or “likes”. I’m talking about trying to convince a reader that a dish is not only worth his time and effort, but also one he’ll want to make for dinner over and over again. We all know that a good picture is usually one taken in daylight. It’s the single most important thing you can do to improve your food photography, says every food photographer worth his salt. And yet, here I am taking iPhone (no less!) pictures of my messy plate trying to convince you to make this for dinner tonight. How am I doing?

Continue reading pan-seared branzino with orange-fennel salad.

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