Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Bar with Concrete Countertop (Part Two)

Part One is located here.

Okay last we left off, the concrete was mixed, dyed, and poured, and we had waited a while for it to completely dry for the sanding process.

We use a wet sander and a whole bunch of different grain/grit rotations.

Here you can see how the more you sand, the more these gorgeous stones start to show up.  And in the top photo, you can see one of the wrinkles from the plastic.  Don't worry about that- it'll buff right out.

Here's a nice shot!  Check out the detail that shows up!  Had no idea that was inside concrete, did you?

The next step is to glaze/wax the surface.  No photos of that because my dad snuck over and did it while we were out of the house.

Then over here, back inside the house, we see the base of the bar.  It's a couple of cabinets.  One of the wood planks makes a base for the counter top, and we cover it in glue.  Then you have to enlist the help of some strong folks to carry the concrete into place- it weighs probably like 230 pounds.  

Pictured: strong dudes

Get it settled into place, and let gravity and time do the rest.  Once it's there, it's not going anywhere- promise.  

Voila!  Completed bar.  Well, mostly.  It's still a work in progress, but I guess I should say- completed concrete counter top.  And it didn't break when we moved it!  Check back for more as we complete this project.  We have big plans and I can't wait.  For now, I'll leave you with another close up of the detail in the top.

I mean seriously.

Monday, November 25, 2013

DIY Bar with Concrete Countertop (Part One)

Merry early Christmas!  Scott and I have been talking for a while (since we moved in) about wanting a bar in our den downstairs.  At the very least, a mini fridge and a cabinet to store some drinks so we don't have to trek upstairs every time we want something.  Lazy, whatever.  Plus it'll make the room seem more complete.
Anyway, my dad caught wind of this and decided he would like to build us a bar- or help us build a bar, or have us help him make a bar as the case may be.  And my dad's new thing recently is concrete.  He made himself a concrete side table for their outside patio, tested a sample for us, and a plan was made.  Cabinets were purchased, and placed, and then came the fun part.

First we made the form.  This is two large, flat boards on top of some cinder blocks as our work space.  Oh, and covered with plastic- actually, it's leftover plastic from when we painted the house.  Then these little boards making up the form- the exact measurements of what we want to top to be- including height/depth.

And get the angles right! (that's a pun)

We were concerned that the weight of the concrete might warp/push out the form, so we blocked it with more cinder blocks.  

While all of that was going on, Scott was in charge of cutting this wire mesh to go in the middle of the top.  Its purpose is to hold the whole mess together so that it (hopefully) won't snap in half.


Concrete goes in the wheelbarrow.  Water goes on the concrete.  Stir with hose.  

We wanted our counter top to be a terra cotta color because we're doing an earth tones theme downstairs.  So we add our dye/coloring/whatever it's called.

That looks great, doesn't it?  Pour it on until it's halfway up the form.

Smooth it down!  Tap on the edge of the form with a hammer to get rid of air bubbles.


The place the wire mesh on top of the layer.  You want about an inch barrier or more from the edges so it won't poke through when you sand it down later.  

Smooth it down again.  Tap the edge of the frame to get rid of air bubbles.  Smooth it out flat using a 2x4 or something similar.  Then wait!  We waited I think a week before removing and sanding.  Which I will write about in another post soon!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NOMS: Crockpot Sausage and Navy Bean Soup

Still into crockpot recipes.  That's not something that's going to change anytime soon.  Especially with this cooler, wintery type weather that's moving in, there's nothing better than something hearty, warm, and slightly spicy.  Last week, I challenged myself to find a recipe that 1) wasn't potato soup and 2) didn't actually involve potatoes at all.  I stumbled across this one, and with Scott's approval, made it for dinner this week.  With some tweaks of course, because I can't leave anything alone, and also because I might've messed a couple things up.  But lets get onto it, shall we?

Whatcha Need:
18 oz Italian Sausages 
1 tablespoon olive oil
Onion powder
Garlic powder
2 cans of navy beans
1 (large- don't make my mistake) can of chopped tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Poke holes in the sausages and throw them in a pot with about 1/4 cup water.  Bring that to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated and the sausages are brown-ish.  Transfer them to a plate.

Drain and rinse the beans.  

Here's a side note.  I am a suuuuper picky eater.  I have the diet of a cranky, spoiled 8 year old.  I have a weird thing about textures, and basically I don't eat my fruits and veggies.  Ever.  So the idea of chunky tomatoes in my soup was not at all appealing.  So I threw mine into the blender and hit puree and voila- tomato sauce.  Basically.  

Here's where the other problem was though- I grabbed a small can of tomatoes.  I guess I had thought I was halving the recipe or wrote it down wrong or something, but I ended up with half the amount of tomatoes I was supposed to have.  So I added about 1/4 c water.  No biggie.  It came out just fine.

Anyway.  Heat oil in the same skillet.  Add garlic powder, onion powder, navy beans, tomatoes (or tomato puree) and thyme.  Stir frequently.  

After everything's nice and warm and mixed up, pour half of the bean/tomato mix into the crock pot.  Then put in your sausages (whole).  Then pour the rest on top, cover, and cook.  The original recipe says on high for 4 hours, but I work during the day, so I cooked it on low for about 9 hours.  Apparently this recipe can also look kind of dry, and if you're home to check on it you can add water.  I wasn't home, and mine was perfectly not dry when I came home after 9 hours.

When you're ready to chow down, remove the sausages from the pot and slice them up.  Add salt and pepper to the beans/tomatoes, and then toss the sausages back in and stir.  Serve it in a bowl with crusty bread and talk about how amazing of a cook you are for an hour at least.

Things that I will do differently next time:
We are going to try a spicy sausage next time.  Italian sausage is great, but Scott and I both agreed we'd like to try it with a spicier sausage next time.

More tomatoes- maybe even more beans.  My bean to sausage ratio was off, but I think that was due to either a failure in my math skills, or a "this is the amount they have at the store so it's what we are going to work with" situation.  Either way, I know I was lacking in the tomato area based on my 14 oz versus 28 oz or whatever can of tomatoes.  It tasted fine, so it wasn't that big of a deal, but I'll go for more next time.  Plus that gives me more tomato juice to sop up with my bread at the end.

Less salt.  I come from the "don't measure just toss in what seems right" school of cooking, and I tossed in too much salt.  Scott didn't think so, but I did.  And as the chef, my opinion counts more than his.  I also come from the "I don't do cloves of garlic or onions" school, which is why my recipe uses the powdered versions instead of chopping up the real thing, but you go for it Glen Coco.  

Final verdict:
I mean come on, do I even have to say it? Delicious.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Lately

"Hey, Alissa, where you been?"

Great question.  Well let's see, what have I been up to?....

  • We bought our house.  We are officially homeowners!  I have never signed my name so many times in my life.  Especially since it was my ~new!~ name.
  • The new career is killin me.  It's great, don't get me wrong.  And it's my dream job.  But I'm new, and it's intense.  I work with fantastic folks, which makes it easier, but it's still.. well, intense is the word I would use.
  • We painted some of the rooms in our home!  We painted the living/dining room and the downstairs den.  I will have photos of that shortly- we were all decorated for my favorite holiday (10 months out of the year)- HALLOWEEN, so I wanted to make sure the decorations weren't too distracting when I take the photos of the paint!  
  • Speaking of Halloween, I DIY'd my halloween costume!  I'll make a post on that soon.
  • We built a bar with a custom concrete countertop!  Actually, my dad and Scott did most of the work, but I was an excellent cheerleader and photographer.  I'll make a post on that soon too!
So that's really about it.  I'll leave you with some fun photos to tide you over until I can draft up some actual posts.  

We went to a wedding and used my favorite photo app!

There have been some GORGEOUS sunsets lately.

First frost

And some gorgeous opportunities for photos with the changing leaves.

Monday, October 7, 2013

NOMS: Crockpot Creamy Potato Soup

Recently, I'm really into my crockpot.  I've always loved it, but something about fall just demands crockpot dinners.  That, and not wanting to spend these gorgeous afternoons/evenings inside cooking when I can sit on the deck and read.  

I totally hoarded like 6 bags of sweettart jellybeans at Easter time.

This recipe is a combination of two that I had in my recipe binder.  It's the easiest recipe in the world (aren't all crockpot recipes?) It also tastes like something from a restaurant.  Not gonna lie, it's really, REALLY good.  Especially with a nice crusty bread.  

Whatcha Need:
A bag of frozen homestyle potatoes (or hash browns)
One can condensed cream of chicken soup
Two cans of chicken broth (I used bouillon and filled up the can from the cream of chicken to measure)
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 cup milk
pepper and onion powder to taste (for me, that means a ton of both)
bacon and shredded cheese

Throw potatoes, condensed chicken soup, chicken broth, pepper and onion powder into the crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Add the cream cheese, stir, cook another ~15 mins until it is blended.
Add the milk, stir, cook another 10-15 mins.
Serve nice and hot, sprinkle cheese and bacon on top!  Eat with crusty bread.  Yum yum!

Monday, September 30, 2013

What I've Read

Ever since I discovered that the local library offers e-books downloaded directly to my kindle- FOR FREE- I have been spending less time on my computer and more time doing exactly what I did as a kid- curling up with a dog and a book for hours on end.  I have a fairly specific niche- Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and contemporary "young adult" fiction (think The Hunger Games, the Divergent Series).  But while the queues/wait lists for these books can be up in the 70's or even in the triple digits, I started searching by what's currently available and taking a dive.  And that's how I found Sanctus.

I don't write reviews.  Because I am pretty notoriously happy with everything.  I like almost every movie I watch.  Same goes for TV shows.  And books.  Sure, there are those that I love and will rant about for days/months/years.  But I'm not exactly what one would call critical.  I utilize these materials for entertainment, and what can I say- maybe I'm just easily entertained.  

I chose Sanctus (by Simon Toyne) because I was ticked off over the wait line for the next Divergent book and a novel by Joe Hill that I've been dying to read.  It was a week or so before the honeymoon, and I REALLY needed some books for the trip.  I searched on my library's website, narrowed the field by "what's currently available," clicked on- I don't even remember what category- and Sanctus showed up.  The description sounded interesting enough:

One man's sacrifice shocks the world . . .
One woman's courage threatens a conspiracy as old as humankind . . .
And some will do anything--anything--to keep their secrets in the dark.
A man climbs a cliff face in the oldest inhabited place on earth, a mountain known as the Citadel, a Vatican-like city-state that towers above the city of Ruin in modern-day Turkey. But this is no ordinary ascent. It is a dangerous, symbolic act. And thanks to the media, it is an event witnessed by the entire world.
Few people understand its consequence. But for foundation worker Kathryn Mann and a handful of others, it's evidence that a revolution is at hand. For the Sancti, the cowled and secretive monks who live inside the Citadel, it could mean the end of everything they have built. They will stop at nothing to keep what is theirs, and they will break every law in every country and even kill to hold it fast. For American reporter Liv Adamsen, it spurs the memory of the beloved brother she lost years before, setting her on a journey across the world and into the heart of her own identity.
There, she will make a discovery so shocking that it will change everything. . . .
I started reading it sometime during the honeymoon, and was intrigued!  But then it expired and I kind of forgot about it.  Probably because Divergent finally became available.  Then it was time to fly to Portland and wait in long lines- so I needed another book, STAT.  And there was Sanctus, available.  I downloaded it again, and picked up where I left off.  And I'm really glad I did- because maybe it starts out a little bit slow, but this book has got to have one of the best endings/twists/plot points of anything I've ever read.  Towards the end there, I was reading so fast my finger didn't leave the page, and I actually yelled at Scott to leave me alone because I NEED TO READ MY BOOK.

I love twists and turns.  I live for thrillers.

And I love me a good strong female character.

And did I mention the ending?

Oh... AND it's part one of a trilogy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Color Run!

"Oh no guys, it's fine!  I stopped blogging but now I'm back, promise!"

HA!  Here's a fun little quick and dirty (see what I did there?) blog post to hold you over until I can get to the good stuff.

Scott and I have done the couch to 5k program off and over over a period of a couple years.  First the weather in Oregon put a damper on it, and then we moved, and then we started over with my parents.  Then wedding stuff got crazy and we fell off that train again- but not the whole health train!  We continued to work out at home and at the gym a few times a week.  But the running thing?  Not so much.  However- we had already signed up to do the Color Run in DC.  I thought it was a good choice for your first 5k- it's not timed, so it isn't super competitive.  People run or walk it, so if we got tired we wouldn't look like losers walking.  And most of all- FUN! 

I have to say I was pretty proud of myself.  It was my very fist 5k and I did manage to jog my booty through most of it- we walked the giant hills and a few times when I got color powder in my throat and started wheezing.  But overall I was happy I did it, and proud of my time (even though they didn't time it- we did, using the RunKeeper app on our phones).

My favorite thing about the run is that it gave me something to look forward too.  I'm big on motivation- as in, I don't have any within my inner fitness goddess or whatever, and I need it to come from outside.  The Color Run (and other runs like it) break the whole thing down into bits.  In this case, there were 4 color stations.  SO you start running, run through the mud/up some hills and right when you're like "I'm pretty sure I didn't sign up for a mud run/warrior dash when is the color going to happen oh God," you can see Pink up ahead.  And there's music blasting and people are screaming for you, and people are laughing, and there's cute little signs, so you think, "Hey, that's not so far away.  I can make it to Pink!"  So you find your ~motivation~ and you run your butt to/through Pink.  And when you finish with that, you feel rejuvenated- and up int he distance, you can see puffs of Yellow powder floating into the sky.  So you say, "that's not TOO far away.  I can totally run to Yellow."  And so on and so forth until you finish running through Blue and can see the finish line.  And if there's one thing that DOES motivate my inner fitness goddess, it's finishing strong.

And then of course, there's a huge party at the end and everyone is happy and colored in pretty colors and it's a wonderful experience.  If all of my runs were broken down into little pieces and had big parties periodically throughout, I would be a much better runner.  Who wants to come line the streets by my house with some boomboxes and cheer for me?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In The Garden: Sunflowers!

SOMEONE fell off the blogging train!  I'll give you a hint- it was me.  I started my new job, which has been wonderful and also chaotic, and we took a trip to the pacific northwest over the labor day weekend, so I'm just now getting back into the swing of things.  There have been a few new things worth mentioning happening around here,  but lets get to one of my favorites- the sunflowers!

The last time I posted, we had one row of flowers that had popped up.  Here's what the garden looked like at the end of August, before we left on our trip:

The first two rows in buttery yellow bloom, the third row coming in with a deep burgundy color.  Well, then we had a massive thunderstorm and left for neatly a week.  When we returned, the garden looked like this:

Holy mackerel look at that guy on the left... where did that even come from???

It is so tall it is up by our master bedroom window.

Pretty obsessed with the colors on this one.

I've been periodically cutting some and bringing them inside for the vase on our table.  I've also been collecting the seeds once the flowers wilt and the petals fall off- maybe I can grow a new garden of sunflowers next year using the seeds I collected from these!  Wouldn't that be something special?  

This garden has come a long way int he past few months.  I mean, just look where they were in June.  Just little baby sprouts.  And now there's stalks that are 10 feet tall!  It's pretty great, if I do say so myself.  And they make me smile every time I go outside.