15 Months, 15 Companies, 1500 Hours Later

We did it. We finally made a decision on the windows. 15 months, 15 window companies, and 1500 hours of research later and we made a decision.

Here's what most of our windows look like now, plus several cracked panes of glass and glazing literally falling from the outside of the windows.
(cleaning decades of mold off the windows with a toothbrush and bleach)

And in 3-4 weeks we're going to have Jeld-Wen premium wood windows delivered and installed by an independent window installer.
At the end of the day going independent enabled us to save thousands on this super expensive investment. Jeld-Wen also happened to be the only company that offered every single one of the options I wanted. Everyone else had one or two minor details that just didn't work. I put 150 paint chips on a wall a couple weeks ago, details matter.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little sad we won't be restoring the old windows. It's almost a badge of honor on old-home blogs to restore old windows, and it's certainly less impact on the environment to spare the landfills the extra waste. Several quotes to re-glaze and repaint only the exteriors was going to cost more than some of our most expensive wood replacement quotes, and more than twice as much as the lowest vinyl quote. Plus, we'd still have the expense of buying screens for the windows since we literally can't open more than half of the windows in the house because of their massive storm windows.

I read for hours and hours about restoring windows, and last summer I thought re-glazing would be my weekend project this summer, but we've got other plans in mind that just don't jive with spending the summer sweating it out on a ladder while scraping and sanding what may very well be 80 years of lead paint. And forget about trying to remove the sashes from the inside; we'd have to destroy most of the trim just to get at them. I imagine that I will literally cry when they take away our old windows, but I'm sure that I'll get over it when we're able to shut the a/c off, open the windows and enjoy the end of the hellacious D.C. summer a little bit earlier this year.

Despite my angst over disposing of the old windows, we are excited about the new windows. We're a little shell-shocked by how much money we just spent. This could be our most expensive outright purchase yet, but we are fully confident that we researched this purchase to death. 15 hundred hours? I meant 15 thousand. We're not ones to count our chickens before they're hatched, but once these beautiful ladies are in and looking glorious we'll share the slightly unconventional details of how we made our decision and how we saved many thousands of dollars on this latest project.

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A Little Modern, A Lot Easy

So let's recap what we're working on right now. We're getting quotes to replace windows, figuring out how we want to add a bathroom and bedroom to the basement, considering re-doing the entire basement, picking out tile for the kitchen, painting all the trim inside the house, painting ceilings in three rooms, and I want new entry doors. And all of that is on top of the ongoing little projects like changing all the electrical outlets so they're white and not painted-over cream, for example.

So since we're obviously not busy at all, I decided to buy some new pulls for the kitchen cabinets. The ones we have are just fine, but I've coveted those long rod-like pulls since we lived in our Florida house where we had no cabinet pulls.
As much as I like the long pulls I didn't want to have to drill a second hole in our cabinets to install them. In fact, I'm pretty sure S said "absolutely not" when I suggested them when we first walked into our house. So I've been looking for modern looking bar-like knobs on the sly since we moved in over a year ago. The other night on a whim, I decided to check out Home Depot's online knob selection when I came across these guys:
They seemed to fit the bill: kind of modern looking with only one fastener. I ordered 16. And they were delivered in record time. While I waited for my afternoon tea water to boil the other day, I installed a few just to see if we like them
I think I may love them. S isn't entirely convinced, but I think he's leaning towards agreeing with me, which is to say he isn't adamantly opposed to them.
We're still on the hunt for the perfect tile, but I think the knobs are a step in the right direction. Just a touch more modern, and far easier a project than doing something fabulous with that basement we have going on beneath us.

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Saturday Supper: Sweet-and-Spicy Salmon with Pineapple

When we lived in Florida there was this amazing seafood place right on the water down the street from my gym. I would go to the gym just to have an excuse to pick up some fresh fish for dinner. Now my gym is across from Home Depot and we all I know we love the Depot, but I really miss our seafood place. We rarely buy fish anymore but the other day on a whim we bought a piece of salmon. It just happened to be the same day that the latest issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food arrived. And I just happened to be flipping through the magazine when S got home and was telling me about his day when lo and behold I came to a recipe for sweet-and-spicy salmon. The cover claimed to be the fast issue, so we decided to give the recipe a try, in lieu of eating our own arms off. We're pretty glad we did.
Now we know we're going out on a limb here posting about fish. It's kind of polarizing, one of those things you bathed in ketchup and choked down just so your mom would let you have something delicious for dessert. But salmon is kind of like the chicken nugget of fish: common. So just trust us, next time you see salmon on sale, buy yourself a pound and try this recipe out instead of going for the same-old, plain-old salt and pepper seasoning.

Sweet-and-Spicy Salmon with Pineapple
serves four

1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
pepper & kosher salt
1/2 of a whole pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into rounds
1 can pineapple (crushed, chunks or rings, your choice)

Preheat broiler with the oven rack in the top position.
1. In a small bowl whisk together syrup and cayenne pepper
2. Season salmon generously with salt and pepper
3. Spray the bottom of an oven proof dish (do not use glass) or sautee pan with non-stick spray. Arrange pineapple and salmon in a single layer evenly in the pan.
4. Brush fish and pineapple with half of the syrup mixture, reserving half. Make sure to cover the salmon completely with the glaze
5. Broil until salmon is cooked through, 8-11 minutes, brushing with remaining syrup mixture mid-way through

Cut pineapple into chunks. Serve salmon with pineapple and lime wedges.

adapted from Everyday Food March 2011

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Turns Out, I Just Like Glossy White

The other day I was lamenting the fact that the darker of the two "grays" in our dining room looked way too blue.
It wasn't that I just noticed it the other day; it's been bothering me for months, but I had come to a breaking point. Black and white: I didn't like the bluish gray. Nothing gray about it. It kind of makes sense that S was on a weeks-long trip to Europe and I was itching for projects to keep lonely from creeping into the house. And there's only so much sewing one can do to keep busy before you just need to take drastic steps to change your surroundings.

So I started by painting some of the trim white and by taping about a hundred gray paint swatches to the wall.
Then, because BM paint is so pricey, I had the paint folks at our local Home Depot color match four BM paint chips to their $2.97 samples. And that's when I learned a valuable lesson. Color matching is not exact. And in fact, you can do a "color match" on the same swatch five times in a row and come up with a different color each time. I learned all that when I took the samples back to the Depot the next day to ask wth went so wrong. Moral of that story is that when you have 100+ paint chips on your wall and you're THAT particular, you're going to notice that color matching isn't exact. Or, you may just notice what S noticed as I stood at the paint counter discussing the variations in gray: it's a whole new level of neurotic.

So once I got (I'm totally dropping S from this project post now since he was out long before we got to 100+ samples) to the point of having two BM samples on the wall, I decided to go with Timberwolf. On the right here:
I confidently strode into our local BM dealer and ordered a full gallon, convinced I had another spot I wanted to use this lovely dark gray that didn't turn blue in the sunlight. As I waited for the paint I decided to just chat with the in-store designer, who happened to have a rare moment without a customer. We discussed the light exposure for the room, the yellow-y trim that we were painting/ had painted white. She picked chips at random and I told her how they all looked on the walls, because not only did I tape them all up, I scrutinized and remembered how they each rendered, no small feat for someone who can rarely remember what she ate for breakfast on any given afternoon. And then we stepped to the light box, which after a year of going to this particular store, was the first time I'd seen it. We held the gray that I had mixed and waiting on the counter for me under the "south" sun lights and I said, "that's green." Oops. We found one that wasn't green, which happened to be one of the chips that was mis-matched at the Depot, which I shied away from ordering in a BM sample because the mis-match had looked so purple. But the Timberwolf was mixed, so I paid and took it home. And S helped me paint.
And sure enough, I can see green. It's 100 times closer to what I want, so I'm not complaining, but expect a blog post exactly one year from now with a new gray on the wall.
I can't in good conscience spend money on another gallon (or quart) of paint when I'm pretty happy with this color. At least not this year. What I am over-the-moon excited about, however, is how the Ice Cube Silver is looking on the walls now that we've painted the trim white. The Ice Cube Silver was by far my biggest paint complaint in our house, far more so than the little bit of below-the-chair-rail dining color. Check it out here, I challenge you to see baby blue on those walls!
I could not be more excited about the Ice Cube Silver now. Seriously, it's taken me forever just to write this post because I keep looking up to check out the area above our front entry door, which was the biggest baby blue offender. Gray, just the perfect palest of grays. Just like the paint swatch I fell in love with over a year ago. Now I just need a week's vacation so I can continue with the trim upstairs and can put a few coats of glossy white on those icky yellow doors. So I'm happy with the darker Timberwolf, but ecstatic about the Ice Cube Silver. Seems to me that the biggest impact here wasn't the gray I painstakingly poured over afterall; it was just pure white.

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Where's that Cold Breeze Coming From?

The other day when I was painting the kitchen in anticipation of our big date to the tile store I was squished in the corner painting the wall behind the fridge when I yelled at S to move the fan so it wasn't pointing directly at me. (I'd like to say I asked nicely, but I'm sure S would chime in and correct me.) As it turns out S wasn't in the room and neither was the fan. The breeze making me cold while dressed in overalls over a sweater and fleece jacket, covered with a large long-sleeve t-shirt, was coming from our kitchen exhaust fan.

The exhaust fan is on the outside wall above the refrigerator, which we assume is where the stove used to be in the original kitchen.
It's a very charming fan, but it's usually covered by a little plastic beauty with magnets at its four corners that hold it to the four little discs you can see on the fan, above. Side note: I always thought the cover was yellow, but a little bleach and soap solution with some very gentle scrubbing so as to not crack the brittle plastic revealed that it's closer to white. Gross.
The whole thing vents outside just to the right of our side door. When you flip the switch on the wall by the fridge (which is uncovered just because I was painting) a little flap inside moves and the fan sucks the burnt-toast air out of the house and into our yard. But it turns out that the little flap that works with gravity doesn't close so reliably after 80 years of service. So we sprayed her old joints with some WD-40 and came up with an easily removable solution to keep the cold air out of the house.

While I finished painting, S measured the opening of the outdoor vent and cut a scrap piece of plywood to size. He used the staple gun to affix a piece of leftover insulation to the wood, screwed in a couple of eye hooks to the bottom and knotted a piece of nylon rope between the hooks as a handle. Then he called me outside to take some photos.
The whole thing compresses into place and has held up well during several strong wind storms. The handle makes it easy to pop out the back door and pull it out, if I burn something in the kitchen. But I rarely use the fan and have only had to take it out once so far when I let water in an overfilled and unattended tea pot boil over, blow out a gas burner and fill the kitchen with the stink of gas before I turned off the burner. I'm a hot mess sometimes.
And I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I feel a difference in the temperature in the kitchen - this whole time I thought it was just because the unheated, unfinished portion of the basement is beneath the kitchen. Oh well, at least it's an improvement moving forward!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

When I worked in my company's main office I used to bring baked goods to work all the time. When I announced that I was moving and (very thankfully) would be working from home, I think my coworkers were secretly happy to be rid of the weekly temptations. But mere weeks before I took off for Florida another department hired sweet Aimee.

Yes, sweet Aimee is the sweetest person you'll ever meet, but she also bakes the most amazing sweets. Without missing a beat, she picked up the office baking where I left off. Sometimes she'll make the Tuesday Treats from Our Little Beehive like our chocolate biscotti, or last summer's triple chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. But last week she mentioned the batch of chocolate chip cookie dough truffles that she made for the office and I started to drool.
If you don't have an office to bake for, you may want to adopt one for a day 'cause these things are addictive. We found they freeze well, if you just let them thaw uncovered at room temp for a few hours before serving. But I promise you, they won't last long on your counter or in your freezer.   

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
makes 4-5 dozen truffles

1/2 c. butter at room temp
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (we used fat-free)
1 c. mini chocolate chips
1 c. finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 pounds chocolate, melted (we used Baker's semi-sweet)

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl), cream butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla
2. Slowly beat in flour and add sweetened condensed milk. Add chocolate chips and pecans
3. Using a one-inch cookie scoop, or a teaspoon, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on a silpat or waxed paper and chill for two hours. If using your hands, lightly coat your hands with flour since the dough will be sticky.
4. Melt chocolate coating in a double boiler
5. Using a fork, dip the cookie balls into the chocolte and coat to cover. Place on a silpat or waxed paper and chill for an hour to set

Note that this recipe does not have raw eggs so there is no salmonella risk. Please don't substitute a regular cookie dough recipe!

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Who Knew a Little House Could Have So Much Trim?

Happy President's Day! We started painting all the trim in the house yesterday and ran out of paint just as we reached the top of the stairs (we started in the dining room). Who knew a little house could have so much trim? And we even skipped the window sashes since we're still hoping to replace them! S and I both have the day off today, so we're taking a break from projects and heading out to get a few window quotes and to pick up some more paint this morning.

It's overcast today, but we can already tell that the ultra bright white trim is making a huge difference in how gray the Iced Cube Silver walls look. Last week I admitted that I thought I made a mistake when choosing the paint because the walls look baby blue, but with the yellowy cream trim on its way out I might be singing a different tune.

My one and only camera lens is off getting repaired and these photos were taken with our back-up camera without a flash on a cloudy day, so I'm not going to fool myself and think you're going to see a difference. But, here's the yellowy trim where it hasn't yet been painted white:
And here you can see where we ran out of paint just as we hit the turn in the stairs:
I know, I know, nothing too exciting. But trust me, it's making a huge difference here and all throughout the downstairs. More updates, better photos and a discussion of paint brushes to come.

Enjoy your day off, if you're so lucky to have it!

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I Love You, Tile Samples

We had the best Valentine's date to a couple of tile stores last week followed by some take-out Chinese (I'm a cheap date). We walked out with eleven samples from one store and five from the other, super eager to see what worked with our kitchen. As we held each sample up to our freshly painted walls we were able to eliminate all but four of the tile samples immediately. One natural stone pencil tile (all the way to the right) was too warm and just brought out the yellow in the cabinets. Several had different colors and grays, which reaffirmed that we want to go as all-white as possible.
These few shades-of-white and clear samples made the final cut:
We both agreed that the center sample is our favorite, the large tiles on the right our second favorite (but we wish the tiles were smaller though), and the frosted square tiles on the left our third favorite. The center sample has a mixture of natural stone, clear glass and frosted glass:
The natural stone in the mosaic makes the tile blend well with the cabinets and kind of takes the warmer cabinet white and cools it down a bit with the glass tiles. We seem to be drawn to cooler shades of tile and having the warm and cool mix blends what we like with what we have really well. What's not to love is the price, at nearly $50 per square foot it's five times more than our ideal price. We know $10 a square foot is a long-shot, but $50 per square foot is tough to swallow when we're gearing up for a basement reno and want new windows. However, the tile store has a similar option where the clear tiles are textured wavy glass, which I love, for $30 per square foot. Better, but still not great.

Our second favorite, the larger tiles has the varied textures that we like, but the tiles feel a little too big for the small kitchen. Plus, we've figured out that we would need to cut A LOT of tiles if we go with the larger tile option. On the plus side, they're under $15 a square foot.
Our final option, the small one inch squares are the least expensive, and are remarkably similar to the only sample we liked from store number two. They also seem to be similar to styles available on a lot of discount tile shops online. But, I'm just not in love. They're great, they'd look nice, but I don't get the "those are perfect!" feeling like I do with the first one. S says he'd be happy with any of the tiles and as the more frugal one in our frugal couple, he'd just like to go with the least expensive option that will make me happy.

I think we're going to do some serious hunting online to see if we can find our favorites at a more affordable price. We'll also go back to the tile shop to ask for their best possible price. We've found that a lot of independent shops will extend their contractor's price as a military discount, which we always really appreciate. It never hurts to ask what a shop's best price is before laying down the cash, so it looks like we might be gearing up for some negotiations or at least for several hours of googling.

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Saturday Supper: Linguine with White Clam Sauce

This is one of our favorite busy night (or spent all day working on house projects and now we're starving) go-to meals. It's super fast and super easy and is a great alternative to eating soup for dinner, again. Of course we'd love to use fresh clams, but we don't exactly live on the coast of a clam-haven, so canned clams it is. Easy. Delicious. Enough said.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce
4 generous servings

4 - 6.5 oz. cans chopped clams, drained and liquid reserved (we used Snow's)
4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 T. dried parsley
1 t. dried basil
1/4 c. fresh parmesan cheese, grated
fresh ground pepper
4 servings of linguine

1. In a pot of boiling water, cook pasta to al dente
2. While pasta is cooking, in a medium saute pan over medium heat, sautee garlic in olive oil until tender
3. Add reserved clam liquid, parsley and basil. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes
4. Add clams and heat through and stir in parmesan cheese, add fresh pepper to taste

Serve over linguine with  more fresh grated parmesan

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Big Ideas for Our Little Basement

After a hiatus for the holidays and a couple long trips for S, we're finally moving forward with our basement renovation plans. The first step is to have a few contractors over to give us an idea of how much it will cost to have the work done to various degrees of "finished." At the very least we want someone else to do the rough-ins for the bathroom plumbing, but we'd also like to know how much it would cost to have the entire basement finished with an ideal layout.

Currently half of our basement is a utility room, which is basically our entire household storage and laundry room. When you enter through the door from the den straight ahead is our freezer, where we have at least a month or two worth of meals frozen for those days when we just don't feel like cooking.
To the right is our stacking washer and dryer and the utility sink. I absolutely love the utility sink, but I'm starting to accept that we'll need to downsize when we renovate. We never use the right side, so I think I can handle a sink half its size.
It is the perfect sink for washing our paint brushes, which I have hanging from the Ikea Gorm shelves on the left, where we keep cleaning supplies, painting goodies, and paint.
Just to right right of the washer and dryer is a half door that leads to a storage area under the stairs. I won't show you inside the door, but it's just a bunch of blue rubbermaid totes stuffed with everything we don't want to store in the shed and stacked to maximize the use of the storage space.
To the left of the entry door we have more Ikea Gorm shelves wrapped around our furnace. We use the shelves closest to the door as our pantry and the shelves after the 90 degree turn hold some household storage stuff like flower pots, vases and lamp shades, some of our etsy supplies like giant sails, and just a few tools at the end.
We still have access to the furnace behind the shelves where we left a two foot wide walkway and the exterior door that we replaced in December is at the end of this long row of shelves. Across from the big set of shelves (and to the left of the freezer) we have even more Gorm shelves where we keep all of our serving dishes, baking pans and all sorts of goodies you'd find in the huge, fancy kitchen I dream of owning some day.
Now that you have an idea of how we use our utility room, what we'd really like have in the same area is a bathroom, a utility sink area, a bed room and a furnace room/utility room with a space for a pantry inside of it. (Actually I'd really like to add a pantry in the den where S has his desk, but that's going to take some serious convincing.)

We're open to suggestions from the contractors that we're having over, but our layout thoughts right now are that we'll remove the door from the den and have a slightly wider opening that will lead to a hallway. When you enter to the right will still be the half door leading to the under-stair storage, just updated with some trim to make the door pretty. To the left would be a door to the furnace/utility/pantry room. Straight ahead and to the left would be a door to a bedroom, which would have the exterior door as its code-required egress window. Unless we get rid of a lot of stuff, we would likely use the bedroom as a storage room for the time being, but want to have the option to sell our house some day as a four bedroom house.

Straight ahead and to the right of the bedroom door would be a second door to the new bathroom where we would likely have all the usual bathroom goods, a stand-up shower, ideally with a glass door, and our stacked washer and dryer, which we'd move from their current space. Where the washer and dryer are currently stacked would be outside of the bathroom and just to the right of the new bathroom door. We would use that space as a utility area with a smaller utility sink and cabinets hanging from the wall where we'd store our paint and painting supplies. Confused? We are too. But we're super excited to meet the first contractor tonight and hear what he has to say about our ideas.

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Our Guest Room had a Dirty Little Secret

When we revealed our spiffed-up guest room last summer, we didn't tell you about its dirty little secret that I surreptitiously cropped from all the photos. And I mean dirty. It was home to the last remaining ceiling fan in our house. And while we're not totally anti-ceiling fan, we're totally anti-ceiling fan with chair caning detail and gobs of dust caked on them from when a previous owner had the floors sanded. Achoo, dirty!
I've mentioned that it took a while for S and me to agree on a light fixture for our master, or rather that he didn't agree with my choice of modern round crystals or a capiz chandelier similar to the one in our dining room. We both agreed on the simplicity of CB2's Eden pendant, so I bought another for the guest room. And while S was away the other day, I spread a drop cloth on the bed and took that dirty ceiling fan down. Using an inexpensive Westinghouse pendant fixture, I hardwired the Eden pendant and in no time flat our guest room was liberated: no more dirty little secrets.
The new light is fab and all, but this is why I love our guest room so much:
When you're lying in bed, you have a view of our wedding photos hung in the stairwell. I love our wedding photos. Although I'm not sure that reminding my parents, our most frequent guests, of all the hard work they put in for the wedding they hosted at their house is really the best way to motivate them to help us with our house projects when they're here!

What little secrets are you hiding in your house? Any ceiling fans with chair caning details, or did we have the last remaining hold-out?

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Tuesday Treats: Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Last week we got a little surprise package in the mail from Singing Dog Vanilla in Eugene, Oregon. Singing Dog has a whole variety of vanillas and in exchange for featuring one of our recipes on their site, they thanked us by sending along two of their most popular products: vanilla paste and vanilla extract.

I've never seen vanilla paste before so I was excited to make something that would really let its flavor shine. I am obsessed with all desserts chocolate, but vanilla enhances chocolate in recipes and only makes chocolate even more of a superstar. We wanted the vanilla to be the star. I considered another batch of vanilla cupcakes, but we just made those two weeks ago. So since everyone around me is wishing for summer (seriously, do you all remember last summer? Let's practice being in the now, I can't handle 97 days of 90+), I caved and we made ice cream.
I chose a reduced fat vanilla ice cream recipe and then negated all reductions of anything by adding a double batch of cookie dough. I love a good mix-in. If you're more of an ice cream purist then halve the cookie dough. Consequently I ended up masking a lot of the vanilla flavor, but when I dug around for a few bites of just ice cream it had a rich, pure vanilla flavor. And the vanilla paste, which was really more like a gel, was very cool to use. It's like having a jar of vanilla beans already cut and scraped for you. A novelty that I've totally fallen for. 

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

for the ice cream
1 1/2 t. unflavored gelatin
1 T. water
3 c. milk, divided (I used skim)
3 egg yolks
1 14 oz. can nonfat sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 T. vanilla paste or 1 1/2 vanilla beans
for the cookie dough
10 T. salted butter, melted (or unsalted butter plus 1/4 t. salt)
2/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. flour
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. cup mini chocolate chips

prepare the ice cream
1. In a very small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand
2. In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups milk and the vanilla. If you're using a vanilla bean then cut it in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod
3. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat until it starts to steam, do not boil.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk
5. Gradually add the steaming milk to the yolk mixture, whisking until well blended.
6. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the back of a wooden spoon is coated, 3-5 minutes. Do not boil
7. At this point you may strain the mixture over cheese cloth or a fine mesh seive, but I usually skip this step.
8. Add the gelatin to the milk mixture, whisking until it is melted
10. Whisk in remaining milk
11. Cover and chill at least two hours, or overnight (I accelerated the chilling by transferring the mixture to a bowl and sitting the bowl in an ice bath). While the ice cream mixture chills, prepare the cookie dough
12. Prepare the chilled mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions (we use the ice cream attachment for our Kitchen Aid), adding cookie dough at the very end and mixing to just combine. Transfer to a sealed container and return to the freezer to harden a bit more, if necessary.
prepare the cookie dough
1. Combined melted butter and sugar until fully incorporated. Add vanilla. Mix in flour. Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.
2. Place cookie dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and roll into a long thin log. Transfer to the refrigerator to set.
3. While the chilled ice cream is mixing, slice the cookie dough into bite-sized chunks. Add to ice cream during the last minute of mixing. Mix only to combine.

Ice cream recipe from eating well, cookie dough adapted from Annie's Eats, vanilla provided by Singing Dog Vanilla.

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Replacing Fort Knox with Globs of Wood Filler

Happy Valentine's day! I hope your day is filled with lots of love. In preparation for our big Valentine's date night to the tile store tonight, I painted our entire little kitchen, including the trim, window, and back door. We decided that since I was painting the door, it was probably time to take off a few of its 6 locks, most of which are totally useless. It appears as if one of the window panes on the door was replaced, so it makes sense that someone was totally paranoid after having the house broken into at one point, but it's just all a bit too ironic to have five locks that can just be unlatched once the window is broken. 

Out of all the useless locks we decided to keep one, the day lock, because it serves as a latch since the latch on the original glass door knob doesn't catch when we close the door. The only really secure lock is the deadbolt that opens with a key on both sides. Kind of dangerous if we're ever stuck inside in a fire (we have an emergency key plan that we really hope works, if it's ever needed), but it's really the only way we've found to secure a glass door, apart from our alarm system.

So with all that said, we de-fortified Fort Knox by chipping off as much paint as possible around the screws that had been painted over several times. Then after backing the screws out, we had to pry the actual locks off the door.
One of the slide locks had so much paint on it that it was almost blending into the door completely. S persuaded it off with a few whacks of a hammer followed by a couple of minutes with a flat head screwdriver.
Usually when you back a screw out of a piece of wood, you're left with a little hole to fill with just a dab of wood filler. But since we had pried the locks out of caked on paint, we were left with big gaps surrounded by crusty paint. So I took out our paint scraper and flaked and scraped off as much of the rough areas as possible, then, using a putty knife, I filled the space with wood filler and left it to dry.
While I waited for the filler on the door to dry, I moved on to scraping a section of the window trim that was flaking off down to the bare wood. Our windows are a mess in general. They all need to be re-glazed on the outside and the insides have seen a half dozen or more coats of paint and are all in various degrees of flake. Disaster. The kitchen window is one of the better windows, but happens to be the first one we've actually painted or scraped, so I didn't really know what to expect. I scraped big chunks of paint off around the window frame and then started to sand the rough edges at the edge of the paint so the whole area would look nice and smooth when I painted.

Then, as I was standing there on the counter, sweating because the nine recessed lights in our tiny kitchen give off some serious heat, it suddenly struck me: I bet some of this paint has lead in it. So I stopped sanding. And I carefully wiped up every single surface the tiny dust particles could have possible fallen on, rinsing my microfiber cloth frequently. That was a pain in the....

I stuck my finger in the wood filler and filled in and smoothed out all around the rough edges of the scraped paint around the window trim. My thought was that I would build up the area just a little with wood filler and then sand it and only to top layer or two of paint around it, smooth.

My don't-inhale-a-bunch-of-lead plan worked; when the wood filler on the window was dry I lightly sanded it to smooth everything out and then stepped back to the door and sanded smooth its wood filler too.
A couple coats of glossy white paint later and we're calling our first window and door update a success. But I'm not sure if we're really up for doing the same inside and re-glazing all the windows too. It seems like it would take a weekend a window. 12 weeks of windows? Ugh. What are your thoughts on replacement windows v. re-glazing?

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Black and White and Gray all Over

We started our quest for the perfect dark gray the other day by sticking a bunch of gray paint chips on the wall, stepping back and eliminating the ones that didn't look right that night or the next morning. Then we went off to the Depot and picked up at least fifty more chips, including all those that you guys suggested we try.

We had two goals: first to find a darker below-the-chair-rail color for the dining room; and second to find a light gray for the kitchen that would look truly gray in all lights, before we ventured out for our big Valentine's date to the tile store.Yes, we're tile shopping for Valentine's day this year, it should be fun.

Before we could really tell which gray paint chips were the "best" gray we knew we had to paint a section of trim from the original yellowish-white to the ultra bright white that we used for the sun room/office and in the basement den that we intend to eventually use everywhere in the house. So at 8pm the other night I grabbed our short, cutting-in brush and the trim paint and painted a section of chair rail.
And then while a jet-lagged S was asleep on the couch, I kept going. And going, until I finished painting all the trim in the dining room and the kitchen, including the kitchen door.

And then a funny thing happened, the Ice Cube Silver gray above the bright white chair rail didn't look so baby blue anymore. It was more like a skeptical "hmm, that looks a little more gray than usual."  It also meant we were able to narrow down the 100+ paint chips to a more reasonable number.
We narrowed those choices down further and then ventured out for some actual paint samples, which we're going to live with for a couple of days so we can see them in a few different lights. We want the dark gray to help balance out the black frames around the bright art in the dining room, so S held one of the prints above the two paint samples while I stepped back to analyze.
I'm not 100% sold on either of the two grays (BM Steel Wool (l) and Timber Wolf (r)) and want to try BM Pewter and Glidden's seal gray.

But what we area sold on is a pale gray for the kitchen! After seeing how the Iced Cube Silver looked in the dining room with the new bright white trim, we decided to paint a swatch in the kitchen. Then when I was digging through our paint collection I came across the gray that we used in our bed room (Glidden Shaded Ice, color matched to a Behr paint), which I've said to S a few times is what I envisioned when I said I wanted to paint the main living areas the palest of grays. And it turns out, it is the right palest gray for the kitchen. So we're painting the kitchen.. And that's one shade of gray resolved.

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Saturday Supper: Crab & Shrimp Ravioli

This was our first foray into the wonderful world of homemade ravioli. We have a very cool ravioli making attachment for our Kitchen Aid, but this filling has big chunks of shrimp that might not fit into the attachment's pockets, so we went for the made-by-hand route instead. The whole process is time consuming, but a lot less so than we expected. And it can be done entirely by hand (although using a pasta roller attachment makes getting the dough nice and thin much easier than using a rolling pin).
Crab & Shrimp Ravioli
serves 4-6

for the pasta:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. semolina flour
1/2 t. salt
4 eggs
1T. olive oil
2 T. water

With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, mix dry ingredients together. Create a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Mix until incorporated. If the mixture is very dry, sprinkle lightly with a little more water. You don't want the mixture to be crumbly, but you don't want it to be sticky either. Cover with a damp towel and let dough rest while you prepare the filling.

for the filling:
1 T. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. shallots, minced (or onion if not available)
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, shelled, deveined and chopped
6 oz. lump crab meat (we used canned this time)
6 oz. ricotta cheese
2 oz. fresh parmesan cheese, grated
salt &pepper to taste

In a large sautee pan, sautee garlic and shallots in butter for a minute or two. Add shrimp and cook until pink. Remove from heat, add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper.

to assemble the ravioli
Cut the dough into four portions, work with one portion at a time and cover the rest with a damp towel.

1. With the pasta roller attachment on a stand mixer, roll the dough out on the widest setting. Fold into thirds and roll out again. Repeat. After rolling and folding three times, roll again gradually decreasing the thickness, one setting at a time until the dough is just becoming translucent. The same rolling can be done with a rolling pin, if you prefer.

2. Lay rolled dough on a surface dusted with semolina flour. Scoop filling evenly along the dough, leaving plenty of room between each dollop of filling for seams.
3. Roll out a second ball of dough the same as for the first, but stop at one setting thicker than the bottom layer.
4. Lay the second piece of rolled dough on top of the first and press around the dollops of filling, making sure to press out any air pockets before sealing. Press well to seal.
5. Cut with a knife, a decorative scalloped edge rotary cutter, or a small, round biscuit cutter
To cook, boil lightly salted water in a large, wide sauce pan. Boil ravioli, uncrowded in batches for 3-5 minutes until al dente. Drain well and serve with a sauce of your choosing (we used a cream sauce with fresh parmesan).

To freeze, transfer ravioli to a cookie sheet dusted with semolina flour and freeze fully before transferring to freezer bags. Cook in boiling water straight from the freezer.

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