Friday, November 28, 2014

Home Improvement Continues...

I love my home, but there were a few things that I felt needed done to the front of the house in order to make it more presentable.  I hated coming home and seeing hideous looking lights (see below in the first picture) on either side of the front door and broken, missing parts lights on either side of the garage.  In the picture below you can see what the two at the front door looked like.  Seriously hideous!  The color is absolutely putrid.  The two alongside the garage were the same style except all that was there was the uppermost bulbous portion - there wasn't even a hexagonal globe below...and they were totally different colors!  GAH!! 

After putting up with this since I bought the house in June I decided to do something about the lights.  At first I thought I'd take down the lights and spray paint them an oil rubbed bronze color then reuse them.  When I priced two new matching lights at Home Depot for the ones around the garage, the cost was outrageous.  Plus, I really don't like these lights at all.  So, down the four of these monstrosities came!!


And this is what I replaced those awesomely hideous lights with.  Again, this is an electricity project and I am no fan of working with electricity (I have a fear of being shocked to death).  But, I endured and replaced all four of the lamps and it was pretty darn easy, even working by myself.  Isn't it gorgeous?  Home Depot had a set of two of these for $39.99.  Buying these four lamps cost me less than buying two of those hideous ones to replace...and I like these so, so, SO much more!  I think they're just pleasing to the eye.  They make me deliriously happy.

I also wanted to paint the front door and get rid of the brass/gold fixtures.  Well, a girl has to have a budget, so I decided to spray paint the door hardware a lovely brushed nickel color.  I read about it online and thought "what the heck, let's go for it."  So I did and I used Rustoleum metallic spray paint in brushed nickel to do the job.  I think they came out rather nice.  I painted the door a nice dark brown called Dark Cavern (isn't that a lovely name for the front door of a geologist?!?!) and installed a matching brushed nickel kickplate at the bottom.  (Look at those two gorgeous lanterns, too!!)  I ordered a little something else from Etsy today for the front door.  I'll take another picture once it arrives and I have it installed.

It's coming along nicely.  I hope you find it as pleasing as I do.
Now it's time for a nice warm cup of tea and a little relaxing.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day...

Thanksgiving is such a lovely time of year.  I'm hoping to enjoy the four days off and get a few things crossed off my list.  The school semester is always so busy, so I find that this time off is a real treat. Only a week and a half after we go back and then it's a nice long break for Christmas.

I've worked on a couple of things today.  The first was switching out the old mercury thermostat with a new digital thermostat.  I'm hoping that having the programmable mode will allow me to save some money on my heating bill this winter.  Honestly, I was really nervous installing this thermostat because I have a healthy reverence for electricity.  However, it went fairly smoothly and I'm pleased with the results so far.  Turning it on and the house not blowing up boosted my confidence...haha.


This year for Thanksgiving it's just me and Honor.  Instead of picking up a huge turkey, that we'd end up eating for weeks and weeks, I decided to pick up a large (6 pound) chicken.  I found a great brine recipe (you can find it here Turkey Brine Recipe).  I cut the recipe in half and it turned out perfect.  I don't know if I'll ever cook a chicken/turkey again without using this brine.  Here's the chicken after allowing it to sit and rest for about an hour while I finished up the other items.  You really must try this recipe.

Here is my obligatory Thanksgiving plate picture:  chicken thigh, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and whole cranberry sauce.  Delicious!

Honor had her own little Thanksgiving, too.  You can't see her drooling, but rest assured that she is.  I've taught her since she was a puppy to wait for my go-ahead to eat.  That's how I was able to get this picture.  She thinks Thanksgiving is the most delicious holiday ever.

After Thanksgiving dinner it's time for a nap.  Honor is laying at my feet on her ottoman.  We've got our little heated throw turned on.  She absolutely loves the heated throw.  Yea, she's not spoiled at all.

One of my Thanksgiving traditions is to watch one of my favorite movies, Love Actually.  It just never gets old.  It also doesn't hurt that my boyfriend is in the movie, either.

Finally, winding down the evening with a bit of crochet.  I'm working on a few Christmas gifts and I find this so relaxing.

Hope you've had a lovely day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pork Loin Chili...

Disclaimer:  This is quite possibly one of the best pork dishes I have ever made in my life.  EVER!

Chili topped with a bit of cotija cheese
I know it's summer and that chili is definitely not a summer dish, but I have been craving something a little more meat and potatoes in nature rather than the typical sandwiches and salads that I eat a lot of during the summer.  Seriously, I am definitely an omnivore leaning towards carnivore.  If I don't have a good helping of meat at least once every couple of days I get to craving it really badly.  That's what happened today.

A quick look in the freezer and I found a small pork loin and some chicken thighs.  Just as a back-story, when I get home from the grocery store with a full 2-3 pound pork loin I divide it down into 3 parts and then freeze it.  I do this because as a single person I can't eat that much pork loin all at once.  So, today I pulled out that small pork loin (it weighed 10 ounces) and let it defrost.  I looked online for some inspiration and found this recipe on Food Network.  I looked over the ingredients and knew I had just about everything and the reviews were really good, so I figured I'd give it a try.  I did modify my ingredients though to make up for what I had.  Here's what I did:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces pork loin
Kosher salt
Ground pepper
1 onion, chopped
3/4 green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup prepared black coffee
1/4 cup sherry
1 cup corn
2 heaping tablespoons cornmeal (to thicken)

Pour 4 tablespoons of the oil into a large, heavy bottomed stockpot and place over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Season the pork with a dash of salt and pepper and brown it in batches, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Set aside the browned pork.

Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the pot. Season the veggies with the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper and cilantro. Sweat the vegetable mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the pork back to the pot along with the tomatoes, honey, coffee, and sherry.  Stir well, bring up to a simmer and then lower the heat to the lowest setting.

Let simmer 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is juicy and buttery soft. Add corn during last 2 minutes of cooking.  Serve directly from the stovetop over rice (I used yellow rice) and top with favorite toppings such as cotija cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapenos, and/or shredded cheddar.

 Topped with cotija cheese and a side of yellow rice

Coconut Cake with Chocolate Chunks

 Oh my...what a delicious cake!  I've been craving a Mounds candy bar lately as well as cake.  So I thought I should combine the two together!  A quick search of the internet and I found this recipe from Epicurious and got ready to bake.  I deleted the orange zest because I really wanted more of the Mounds experience, but I've left the recipe in it's entirety here so you can make that choice for yourself.

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated orange peel
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate bars (do not exceed 61% cacao), broken into 1/2-inch irregular pieces, divided (I used Hershey chocolate bars)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut Drizzle:
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; dust pan with flour, shaking out excess. Sift 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, and sea salt into medium bowl. Stir in unsweetened shredded coconut and set aside. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and orange peel in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Fold in half of bittersweet chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly in prepared cake pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate pieces over batter, then sprinkle with sweetened flaked coconut.
Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, tenting with sheet of foil if coconut atop cake is browning too quickly, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer cake to rack and cool in pan 45 minutes.

Coconut Drizzle
Whisk powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk, and vanilla in small bowl to blend well, adding more coconut milk by 1/2 teaspoonfuls until mixture is thin enough to drizzle over cake.
Carefully run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto platter, then carefully invert again onto another platter, coconut side up. Using small spoon, drizzle powdered sugar mixture decoratively over cake. Cool cake completely on platter. DO AHEAD Cake can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover cake and let stand at room temperature.

This cake was absolutely delicious!  It is really light in texture but has a lot of flavor.  I highly recommend it!!  I'll be making this again.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands!

I've booked my vacation for next year!  I'm going to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands!!  I'm very excited about this trip because these two places are on my bucket list.  I will be leaving next July for this lovely 2 week vacation.  The other cool thing about this trip is that I have never been in the southern hemisphere.  I'm putting a counter on my page here so that I can keep track of how many days until I leave.

There are so many things that I want to get before I go....a travel guide, some of those traveling packs for my suitcase, a better set of luggage, some new active clothes, a waterproof camera, and a few other little things that I think will make my trip much easier and more fun.

So excited!

Monday, March 03, 2014


Last night we had another winter storm blow through the area dropping almost 2 inches of sleet.  Today school was canceled as a result of the icy roads.  I took today to turn off the TV and actually relax by following my advice from yesterday - taking a day of rest.  And that's exactly what I did.  I read a couple of chapters in my book, dozed a little in the late morning, crocheted a bit, and  did some yoga.  I promised myself that I wasn't going to do anything that felt like work (as they said in the piece I linked yesterday).  It was a nice day and I feel like I recuperated from the weekend.

School has already been canceled for tomorrow.  I'm waiting for my friend and PhD advisor to arrive tomorrow.  He's supposed to be giving a talk at school on Wednesday.  So, I'll get up and straighten the house while I wait for his arrival.  However, the theme for tomorrow will also be to take the day off from work.  I feel like these two days have been given to me for a reason.


Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Day of Rest...

A couple of months ago I made the decision that I was going to take Sunday off from having to get into the car and drive around to do errands or meet friends for movies, dinner, etc.  I wanted it to just be a day to myself.  What I find I've been doing though is working a lot on Sunday at the house.  Things like laundry, ironing, vacuuming, etc. have taken up my Sunday instead of going out.  I'm not finding this relaxing at all. 

This morning I was reading this article on Reclaiming a Day of Rest and found it to be exactly what I needed to hear.  If I'm going to say that "I Matter" and if I'm going to try to improve my health, I must be able to find this time in order to actually relax and recuperate.  I've decided that I'm no longer going to work on Sunday, and will only do things that I find relaxing and enjoyable.  I will not do anything that seems like work.

What about you?  Do you take a day of rest?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

I matter...

It's been a long time between posts, I know, and I'm sorry.  I've been feeling really tired since the end of last summer, but I didn't have time to go to the doctor to have things checked.  As I've said before, my work schedule is crazy busy with teaching 5 classes, doing all of the lab coordinator duties, plus trying to get my research done.  I am one person trying to do the jobs of many.  I was also working out often doing the Couch to 5K running series and was on week 4 near the end of the summer.  So I just figured that being tired was due to all of the things I was doing.  Until about 2 weeks ago.

I got to the point where I thought I was just going to fall over because I was so tired.  I was getting out of breath just walking the 1/4 mile in to my office from the parking lot - and it's a flat walk with no hills.  I also started to feel dizzy and off balance.  In fact, one morning when I was putting Honor's leash on, I bent over to do so and my head fell into the wall.  If the wall hadn't been there I would have tumbled head over heels.  For 2 days I fought with my balance, and that scared me - a LOT!

So I saw the doctor and told her about my symptoms.  She was a bit condescending in her reaction to my issues - no doubt because she saw me as this obese woman and it's no wonder I'm out of breath walking.  She didn't really seem to take me seriously.  But I told her I'd had a history of anemia and that I'd like to have blood drawn to have my iron levels checked.  She did it but I feel like I pressured her into it.

Results came back 4 days ago...normal iron levels are between 35-55mg/l....mine was 8mg/l!!  Hemoglobin should be between 15-55%...mine was 2%!!  It's no wonder I'm exhausted.  My blood can't carry enough oxygen to supply my body with what it needs.  The doctor called yesterday (3 days AFTER the results were posted) to tell me I had low iron (DUH) and that I need an iron transfusion.  I'm sure it will be a series of these like last time.  I also have very low vitamin D levels.

This got me to thinking though.  I really haven't been taking care of myself very well.  I don't always take my vitamins, I don't exercise regularly, and I don't have a healthy diet. I also try to help EVERYONE, especially my students who are taking advantage of my generosity this semester.  I'm resolving myself to fix these items starting immediately.  I've started taking my vitamins regularly now.  I am making an effort to do yoga every day.  I bought lots of fruits and veggies at the store today.  I resolve to eat better and take better care of myself.  I am no longer going to stay 1-2 hours after class is over to help my students.  I have things I need to do and I need to rest after teaching for 3 hours straight.  Long story short, changes need to be made...because, I matter just as much as everyone else!!