Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Accent Piece

This is my turquoise jug. Isn't it a gorgeous accent piece? I adore it. My sister and I found it at the Z gallery. This picture is from Christmas morning when I received it as a gift. Everybody else in my family hates it. When I opened it Mr. P said, "Our house just got a lot weirder". Honestly, they just fail to see its brilliance. Right now it is still looking for it's true home in our house. I envisioned it nestled in some wonderful built in shelves among books. My lovely grey dream couch would go well with turquoise accents don't you think?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

April Showers bring May Flowers?

Man I hope this is true because the rainy forecast is starting to discourage me. Despite how much I love rain I need a break. Yesterday I was talking to someone about how delicious white rice is. I love white rice. I know brown rice is healthier and I do try to mostly eat it but white rice is so much better. I think for me it's similar to how many people feel about crusty white bread versus whole wheat. White rice is my crusty white bread. Last night I used my leaded crystal glasses for the first time! I have had these glasses since before I was married, they were one of my grandparents wedding gifts, but have never used them. I was always too afraid I would break one and I kept them safely wrapped in a box because we never really had room in our kitchen. However, now they are unpacked in our house and we decided last night was just the night to break them out. I think wine might taste more Delicious in crystal. We are planning a trip to Montana with our friend Jessica to see our friends Anne and Daniel, so so so exciting! They live on a real life ranch in the middle of nowhere. It will be so gorgeous! And I have been wondering what our summer vacation would be this year.This will be just perfect! Here's to hoping spring is just around the corner and summer not far behind and trading in hardy lentil and sausage soup lunches for fresh tomato soup and cold chicken salad. mmmm...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Today I'm loving

The sweet bus driving who took pity on my frantic purse swinging running for the bus and pulled over early to let me nice.

The amazing breakfast I had at Brails this morning with my Government Affairs Committee. The "Joy special" consisting of hash browns topped with diced ham, green bell pepper, tomatoes and onions, topped with Swiss and cheddar cheese and then finally topped with homemade gravy. A good dose of Tabasco later it was heavenly! I am such a sucker for over the top diner breakfasts.

The wonderful homemade Korean dinner we enjoyed last night at friends. I haven't eaten a lot of Korean food and it was such a treat to try so many new wonderful things.

My ability to eat said Korean dinner with metal chopsticks without embarrassing myself. While I pride myself about being able to eat my entire meal with chopsticks when the occasion warrants it I have never tried metal chopsticks and I was nervous.

Anticipating a second full weekend in our house. I'm kicking it off with some delicious spring vegetable risotto and trashy television with my sister. Can their be a better end to the week? I think not.

Here's to a very happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stay home Date nights

More and more Chris and I find we need to schedule time to spend together. Between evening meetings and early morning meetings for my job, his job, his growing practice, continuing legal education classes in Portland, the gym, church, family and social obligations we can go a long time without spending quality time together. When that happens we both get grumpy, we feel frazzled, and we start to get into little fights about stupid things. So we try to purposefully schedule time together. Often this is simply a night in together cooking something delicious, watching the Office or Frasier and hanging out.

This Friday we decided to make a Jamie Oliver recipe and hang out in our new kitchen. We did the dishes together. Chris sat on the bar stool and chatted with me while I prepared our dinner, we had some wine, we started unpacking our china and basically just hung out in our kitchen for the hour and a half dinner was in the oven. It was delightful and yummy.

We made Roasted Pork Loin with Peaches from The Return of the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.

It was so good and just as beautiful cooked as it was before it went in the oven. But we were so hungry by the time that it came out of the oven that I failed to take a picture.

Roasted Pork Loin with Peaches

pork loin (I made two so that the pork would stretch to 3 dinners)
2 TB butter
2 cans peaches with natural juice
fresh thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil
Yukon gold potatoes

Preheat oven to 425. Butterfly loins and season well with salt and pepper. Dot with butter and add thyme. I think I used 4-5 sprigs. Then lay peach slices in middle tie up with cooking twine. Line roasting pan with chopped potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay pork loin on top of potatoes and add remaining peach slices. Reserve juice to baste as cooks. Brush some oil on top of pork and season again with salt and pepper. Place in oven and cook 1 hour-1 and a half hours for medium. Check once or twice and baste with reserved peach juice. Remove from oven when meat registers 150 degrees on meat thermometer. Let meat rest at least ten minutes before slicing.
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's see notes below

*Notes: the original recipe calls for using a pork loin roast with bones and fat still attached. I think this may be more common in the UK because it isn't something I see in our grocery stores. I probably could have gotten it that way at a local meat market but that would have made this a very expensive dinner, so I opted to alter the recipe instead and used a regular pork loin. I was also dealing with a new oven which I am learning runs low. I need to test the oven temps with a thermometer, but my sense was that 425 was not actually reaching 425. The recipe says to cook the roast for one hour (this is with skin and bones and fat) for medium and we ended up cooking it one hour and twenty minutes before it hit 150 degrees. The leftovers were great the next night and we still have pork left which I will be making into shredded pork tacos tonight with queso fresco, green salsa and cabbage slaw.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is the news a dying art?

People are always telling me that nobody reads the news paper or listens to news anymore. However, Mr. P and I are total news junkie. I read both the local newspaper and the NY times online everyday and I listen to NPR every morning while getting ready. Then I listen to "All things considered" and the nightly news on NPR when I'm making dinner. Mr. P is even worse than I am. He does all of that plus he reads a ton of financial news, financial blogs and editorials. I get all my entertainment, pop culture and consumer news from blogs I read. My favorite way to get the news is via the radio. I abhor TV news. But I think this stems from the years in college I spent working at the local news station. Lets just say that was not my favorite job.

Our local paper has a weekly public opinion poll on their website every week. I take it every single week. I don't know why but I do. I'm always really interested to see if my opinion falls in the majority or minority. Usually it falls in the minority.

I love the radio. On Saturday morning I listen to random radio shows while I clean house, on Thursday we like to listen to philosophy talk (we were philosophy majors), and on Sunday evenings I listen to "The Splendid Table" then when it is over I listen to this old country radio show that plays old country music from the 40's-70's. It's nice because I'm home alone so much while Mr. P is at work in the evenings and it feels less lonely to have the radio on.
Do you read/listen to news? what is the main way you get your news? People always tell me that our generation doesn't read news, do you think this is true? Do you listen to the radio? do you have favorite radio shows? I'd really love to know others thoughts on this.

Monday, March 21, 2011

House Pictures

I am so excited to share pictures of our house. We are mostly unpacked with the exception of some random stuff in the spare room and outdoor stuff in the garage. We still have an empty family room awaiting a couch and the walls and windows are quite bare. But I think it's coming together quite nicely.

This is the living room, or front room, that you walk into from the front door. This is one of my favorite rooms so far. It has a really nice big window looking out to the front yard and street. It has really nice light and feels cozy and pleasant.

All the furniture in this room are hand me downs and a dumpster find! I think the pieces work really well together, especially considering how randomly they came together. The futon was in my husbands college apartment. The yellow chairs used to be in my Dad's cabin. The wooden end table was my mothers parents and the coffee table we just inherited from my Father and Step-mother. At first I thought it was too big for the space but it is kind of growing on me. The big book shelf was a dumpster dive find by our friend Taylor. We (and by we I mean my husband) sanded and stained it. The lamp on the other side of the futon is sitting on three stacked hat boxes. We don't have enough furniture to fill this house and so we are being very creative with what we have.

This book shelf was a Goodwill find last year and still needs to be stained. I would like to find an over sized ornate gold mirror to sit on top next to the red lamp.

The dining room is adjacent to the living room. We (actually our builder friend Josh) replaced the original boring fixture with this one I had made for our old apartment. I just bought this lamp shade and had a local lamp shop wire it for me. Our table randomly came to us via my friend Katie from college. Her parents had bought it for her college apartment and then she left it with me after college. It is a really great table. It extends another four feet which is great for dinner parties. We would like to refinish it eventually.

Past the dining room is the kitchen. I LOVE our kitchen. This first picture isn't very good. I should have turned on the light. But you can see the nice big window and deep window sill which I plan to use for herb pots. You can also see the built in cook book shelves.

As you can see the kitchen opens into the family room or back room.

The family room is very sad and empty right now. We finally ordered a very simple white couch that was on major sale at West Elm. Not the grey beauties of my dreams but a practical choice. In the future I will move the white couch to the front room and put a grey one in this room. We still need to find a TV stand and will continue our routine Goodwill/St.Vinney's runs until we do. Despite it's current emptiness I think in the long run this room will become the soul of our house. Right next to the kitchen it is perfect for me to have cooking company without people in my kitchen. This room also has a door out to the back patio and we want to put in a wood stove insert into the fire place eventually. There are those unfortunate heat vents right over the mantel so I need to find a mirror or piece of art to cover them up.

At the other end of the house are two bathrooms and three bedrooms. I didn't take pictures of the spare room or spare bath because the spare room just has stuff that needs put away and the spare bath is undergoing a little home improvement project right now and is a bit of a mess. This however is our bedroom and master bath. Complete with not one but TWO closets.

You can see that the bedroom has the sink part of the bathroom in it and then a door to the shower and toilet. You can also see my (bigger) closet and my snazzy gym clothes.

The front bedroom is our office. This room has great furniture. The antique desk was handed down to us by a wonderful lady at our church. We were helping her move and she decided to get rid of the desk and asked if we wanted it. It is an amazing piece of furniture and even has a secret compartment! The ceder chest was made for me by my grandfather as a hope chest. This room has one large book shelf on the opposite was as the desk, but as you can see we still have surplus books! Those are just going to live in that stack. I'll just think of it as eclectic!

The filing cabinet was a great find by Mr. P at the Salvation army. Knowing my love of the color he bought it for me and it's so much nicer than the normal tan ones.

So that is our house. We are so in love with it. And for all our real life friends and family out there reading we can't wait to have you over! As Mr. P said, "there are so many people we need to have over for dinner we'd better plan a dinner party every two weeks until we get through them all". So I guess you all should be expecting an invitation!

Friday, March 18, 2011

House Thoughts

Since putting in the offer on our house my thoughts have been rather consumed with the house most specifically decorating our house. It was so much fun to decorate to my hearts content in my head. I looked at furniture, magazines, and catalogues. I discussed color themes, DIY projects and drafted a rather lengthy to buy list. So much fun, right?

However, now that we are in our house I find myself feeling much differently on the subject. As much as I would love to decorate our house to my hearts content signing papers has brought about a new reality if you will. As exciting as buying a house is, it is also a really big scary step. We are now responsible for a mortgage and we just tripled our debt. Not that this is a bad thing. I think buying a house and building equity is a good financial step but it carries a certain weight that is different than renting. Now, even more than before, we have a deep desire to pay off law school loans. We also have a deep desire to pay off our house earlier rather than later. Because really, what would be better than owning our house? Owning it free and clear with no mortgage. That is a beautiful picture of financial freedom.

I suppose all of this is to share what I think is a really interesting challenge for our generation. Never before has a generation had so many obstacles to face on the debt front. Not only are credit cards handed out, but we, on average, finish undergrad with $30,000 of debt. Yet, we live in a society that thrives on consumerism, design and a need for instant gratification.

As much as I'd love to throw a few thousand dollars into decorating my house I think I'd love more to pay a few thousand off my student loans. This leads me to challenge myself in a really hard area. How much can I make do with what I have and how much can I sacrifice to get to that financial freedom we aspire to?

This isn't to say we won't put any money into our house in the near future or that I won't try to add some nesting touch where I can but I want to see how far we can stretch that dollar. After all shouldn't the fact that we bought a house be enough for now? I think it should. Besides the end result will be that much more satisfying if we know we scrimped and saved for it rather than simply charged it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Settled

Our move went fabulous! Really I don't think it could have gone better except perhaps for me to not have a cold. But we were completely moved and unloaded by noon and we had the whole afternoon to rest, run to walmart and start getting settled. We are getting there little by little. I'm finding it so much easier given how much space we have. 1200 square feet may feel small to some but to us it's an amazing amount of space especially with a garage on top of that. Everything I've put away easily has a proper place. My favorite part of moving day was to say, "garage, garage, garage" when I was directing people where to put stuff. For the first time we really have a good place to store fishing poles, skies, camping gear and tools. I will take pictures, probably this weekend and share.

Meanwhile, I really wanted to post this recipe because it was AMAZING! I didn't take pictures which is sad because it was beautiful too. This dinner literally only took 20 minutes to make and we loved it.

Caramelized red onion and sun dried tomato pasta with balsamic vinegar

1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of sun dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, chopped
3 Tb high quality balsamic vinegar
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil torn or chopped
whole wheat spaghetti

Bring pasta water to boil. While pasta is cooking. Heat olive oil in skillet, add sliced onions. Cook on med-high heat until they begin to brown and caramelize a bit. Add tomatoes and vinegar and cook a couple of minutes. Drain pasta then add to skillet. Toss well. Add basil and cheese. Toss well again and serve.

*adapted from Jamie Oliver Return of the Naked Chef

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Keys in my hands

Well actually they are on my desk but the important point is they are in our possession which means we have closed on our house! Now that the long buying process is over I thought I would share some thoughts and lessons I've learned.

  • Patience is a virtue and one I am not blessed with. This process taught me a lot about myself and the biggest thing it taught me is that I have the patience of a four year old. If you are like me be warned: there is a lot of waiting, unknowns and what ifs involved in buying a house.

  • Be prepared before you officially start shopping. Because of my job I was already very familiar with our local real estate market and the process of buying a house but even then I spent months looking at houses in our price range on the RMLS and in our neighborhood. This allowed us to be familiar with what we could expect in our price range, what costs what in different neighborhoods, and most importantly, what was a good deal. We were able to recognize very quickly that our house was a screaming deal given it's price.

  • Know what you want. We spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted in our house. Not only what were the deal breakers, but also what would be nice. That really helped us identify what had potential and what didn't. It also helped Chris' understand why I hated option A and me understand why he would not settle for option B. It helped us see past ugly light fixtures, outdated cabinets and a strange back door. We were able to recognize that the bones where what we wanted.

  • Put a lot of thought into your Realtor. I work with a lot of people in the housing industry and I know a lot of Realtors but we thought very carefully about who to work with. Even as someone who works with the industry there were still unknowns for me in the process and I knew I wanted someone that I could trust with things I didn't know and who would deal with my type A impatient personality. Our Realtor was perfect for me and if you are shopping in the Eugene/Springfield Area I cannot recommend Kathi enough. She answered her phone every single time I called her, she anticipated my nervousness, questions and issues. She fought for the best deal for us and she was brutally honest.

  • It always costs more. It is really important before you go shopping for houses to get prequalified for many reasons. But the most important reason is it helps you understand what you can afford. We had a general idea of what we could afford but it wasn't until we sat down with our lender and went through a good faith estimate that we knew for sure. This allows you to account for all the costs besides the mortgage and understand what your actual monthly payment will be. If you know ahead of time that you can afford $13oo a month for you house then your lender will help you understand how that breaks down. Remember besides you actual mortgage payment there is interest, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance.

  • Get an inspection. This is so important and made a huge difference for us. Most states, including Oregon, don't make you get an inspection. In a lot of transactions the sellers actually pay for the inspection. We followed our Realtors advice and hired our own inspector and a really good one. Think about it, you want the inspector to work for you not the seller. It is in your best interest for them to find every possible thing wrong with the house before you buy it. In many cases you can renegotiate the sale with the Sellers and have them pay for many of the repairs. In our case the inspector found $10,000 worth of issues that needed addressed including standing water under the house and needing a new roof. We were able to negotiate to have the sellers pay for the larger repairs and we agreed to take on the smaller ones. You also have the option of walking away from a deal without loosing your earnest money if you find serious damage during inspection.

Those are some of my thougts. I couldn't be more pleased with our house and I am so excited to move in and get settled this weekend.

*Please note I am not a real estate professional and these are just my thoughts based on our process. If you are thinking about buying a house you should talk to both a lender/broker and realator to seek their professional opinion.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Furniture Love

To distract myself from my impatience I have been thinking of decorating and furniture. As I mentioned I have been thinking about grey couches for sometime. Here are some that I am currently loving as options for our new house. Thoughts?

The "Vaughn Apartment Sofa" from Crate and Barrel

The "Petrie Sofa" from Crate and Barrel

The "Lorimer Sofa" from West Elm

The "Eugene Sofa" from Room and Board

The "Camden Sofa" from Crate and Barrell

The "Bolla Sofa" from CB2

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oh dear...

Not to beat a dead horse but seriously moving is not fun. Case in point...examples of how moving stress is negatively impacting my life and the lives of those around me:

I may or may not have eaten 5 Hershey's dark chocolate squares yesterday at work.

I have not had a truly good night sleep since we put in an offer on the house.

Cooking is horrid..if money allowed I would order take out Chinese every single night for dinner until we move.

I feel like I have permanent newspaper smudge on my hands.

My Martini shaker will be among the last things I pack.

I find my self constantly distracted. Either I'm wondering if our file is at underwriting or I'm daydreaming about amazing orange velvet chesterfield couches or I'm trying to figure out where to put our TV in the new house or I'm worrying about someone getting mud on my new carpet moving day or I'm planning out every minute of moving day in 10 minute increments in my head.

I actually did plan out moving day in embarrassing amount of detail. You don't even want to know.

We are having eggs for dinner no less than three time in the next week.

I'm driving my husband nuts.

Moving Madness!

We are scheduled to move in 9 days!

I am afraid my worst Type A tendencies are out in force. Nothing brings out my Type A qualities more than moving. And despite my best efforts to be ahead of schedule with the organizing, packing and cleaning I am feeling horribly behind schedule. This weekend must be a marathon of cleaning, packing, and Goodwill runs.

Meanwhile, may God grant my husband and friends patience to deal with me!