Sunday, February 27, 2011

...and Then We Ran Away From Home

Here's the lowdown on the house projects. I don't know that I've summarized all we're having done. So here it is.

Repaint the exterior and reglaze the windows. Done. Finished. Thank goodness.

The bathroom: New flooring to replace rotting hardwood, regrout shower tile, refinish the tub, install shower doors so future flooring doesn't rot like the old wood floor. (What a concept!)

The mudroom: Get a stackable washer and dryer and place beside the water heater and put louvered doors in front of them. Replace the old, horrible, aluminum, horrible, crappy, horrible window with double casement windows so you can actually see the backyard, which we've kind of busted our heinies on over the past 11 years. Put some tile down on the painted plywood so we have an actual floor out there. Replace the back door that has a tiny little cat door that Dinky keeps trying to use with a full glass door.

See the horrible horrible window?

The kitchen: Rip out our horrible made-from-plywood horrible 1940 cabinets and the horrible, horrible tile horrible countertops and replace with new cabinetry with stainless steel countertops on one side, butcher block on the other and get me a halfway decent range with a vent-a-hood that will suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. (I'm originally from Arkansas! Can you tell, y'all?)

We haven't started that yet.

What HAS happened is this:

They came and took away my toilet and sink for four days. Then they got my toilet and sink back and took away my water heater for four more days while they put the tile down in the mudroom, rendering my replaced sink and my shower useless.

The mudroom tile is pretty, though.

Just when they replaced my water heater, the Grout Doctor came and took over my shower for another day. Then the tub refinisher followed right after him. Two more days. Then they installed shower doors - another two days. Then the plumbers reinstalled the drain.

This was not Jeffrey the Beneficent, who restored my toilet. No. He was on vacation. These guys... oh, these guys. Witness the following exchange when they were refurbing the tub drain to keep it from dripping.

Howler Monkey 1: "Ma'am? These fixtures... wow. They're REALLY old. We're going to have to drive around a while looking for parts for this."

Me: "That faucet is four years old. We bought it at Bird."

Howler Monkey 1: "Oh... really? Well, in Plumbing Years, four years is really old."

Me: "Go to Bird. Talk to Mike. Get the parts you need. See ya."

So these guys came back to replace the drain. In case you've lost count (I haven't) this bathroom project at this point was stretched to 16 days. Thank god all but four of those we've had a toilet. But ALL BUT FIVE of those days, I've been without the use of a shower. I've been having to mooch off my neighbors and my in-laws. The drain replacement should have been the last thing on the list and after the putty dried (another 24 hours), we SHOULD have been finished.

But no. Did I mention who my plumbers were?

Naturally, since the tub refinisher told them to be careful putting the drain in and not torque it too much, they torqued it too much and tore the finish. Around the drain. Which meant it would eventually rust. Which was, of course, unacceptable. So back the tub refinisher came to touch up. And boot us out of the shower for another 48 hours. Only he forgot to put something on the faucet to catch the drips. So the fresh paint got wet and buckled again. Back the refinisher came AGAIN to touch up. Another 48 hours of me loading myself in the car and driving over to my in-laws for a shower. We're up to a total of 20 days on the bathroom project, 15 of which I've been without a shower. I told Nick (the contractor) that if I saw these plumbers' truck in my driveway again, I'd set it on fire. Promise honest.

And then we ran away from home.

To the Sunspree on Wrightsville Beach, 15 minutes from our house.

It was glorious.

That's right. The Sunspree is at the end of THIS rainbow, people.

Twenty-four hours of a working shower, just STEPS away! No house projects! No responsibility!

Just me, Pootie, a couple of books, and a 6th floor room with a beach view.

We had gorgeous weather Sunday.

Perfect for relaxing on a lounger and reading.

Or watching people on the beach.

Or messing with Pootie.

We returned a little less cranky, and to a shower that has fully cured and a bathroom that is FULLY FUNCTIONAL! Forecast for Andie: Sunny and warm! I might even be in a tolerable mood until they destroy my kitchen on March 14.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shrimp with Barbecue Sauce

Look! Food! In a food blog! What a novel concept! No pictures of Dinky or updates on the house redo right now. Let's have some dinner!

Now you can't call these barbecued shrimp, because they're not done on the grill, they're done on the stovetop. But I made a makeshift quick barbecue sauce to go on them. I served them with smashed crispy potatoes. Recipes for those are all over the place, but here's how I did them.

Boil about a pound of those small white potatoes for about 30 minutes, until they're tender and you can poke a fork in them easily.

Stick a fork in us! We're done!

While they're still hot, fold them in a clean dishtowel and gently press to kind of mash them.

Put them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Stick them in a 400 degree oven and do something else, like peel your shrimp. The potatoes need to cook about 40 minutes to get nice and crisp.

For the shrimp, peel and devein a pound of them. Salt with kosher salt (about 1/2 tsp.).

In a large pan over medium heat, cook 3 cloves of minced garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil for a couple of minutes, until soft. Add the shrimp.

When the shrimp is a little pink, pour in 1/4 cup of bourbon and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add 1 Tbs. of brown sugar, a Tbs. of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. of chili powder and 1 tsp. of paprika.

Cook it until the sauce thickens and the shrimp is cooked through, about five minutes.

Serve with the crispy potatoes and a nice green salad. Here's the .pdf of the shrimp if you want to give it a whirl.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Blog about Dinky, Dogsitting, and Awards and Not Food

I could totally go for some possum right now.

This blog has nothing to do with food, unless you think dog is tasty. But I figure Dinky is old enough now that he's probably tough and greasy, like possum. (I've heard that about possum. I don't know first-hand.)

Dinky's real name is Love Boat. Let's see how short I can make this long story. Our first Berner was Tow Truck.

Yes. I was much younger and thinner. Shut up.

The breeder thought his name was Tugboat and never did quite get his real name. So we decided when we moved from Atlanta to the coast and lost him to cancer, our next boy would get the Tugboat moniker.

Me with Tugboat. Still younger, still thinner. Still shut up. Wasn't he a cute puppy??

After a short while, we decided Tugboat needed a brother, so we got Steamboat.

Oh, they did dig each other so.

Sadly, we lost Tugboat at age 3 to cancer. So Steamboat was without his buddy. We had the bright idea to get him a little brother, so we brought Love Boat into our home. And things have never been the same.

Oh. My. God. You CAN'T be serious. What IS that vile thing?
Love Boat was so much smaller than Steamboat, that Dinky quickly became his nickname.

See? Dinky.

And despite his increasing height (and girth), it stuck. He still thinks he's that small.

Yes, I see the grey hair. Thanks.

Not that I mind all that much.

So Dinky it is, and we rarely call him Love Boat anymore, even though he is quite the ladies man.

It's his motto. "Believe it, baby!"

Dinky is definitely a rock star, and I kid you not, has had fans send him things, like cards, candy and bling.

So Dinky is no stranger to fame. Hell, he's probably got stalkers I don't know about. He's campaigning for his own cell phone and unlimited texting, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Now the awards part: (I promise there's a connection here.)

Every year there are all these "Best of" awards all over the place, and Wilmington is no exception. Encore Magazine does a Best of for a bunch of categories, from Best Car Wash to (this year) Best Local Blog. At least I think that was the category. Anyway, yours truly got a mention for this piece of internet litter. A few people congratulated me before I had any clue what was going on. Truly, I have no idea who voted for me besides my pal Allison, because my own husband doesn't even read this unless I ask him to proof it for me. But whoever you are, thank you. Someone said I tied for third (?) with another blog, The Appalachian Ridgeback.

As these things go, it turns out that I know that blogger. Small world! Well, actually, small city, so it's not all that unusual. Still, it was cool to be tied with Visha and her (much-better-than-my) blog. Check it out. It really is excellent.

What does this have to do with Dinky the Scourge? Visha is his latest girlfriend! Well, OK, petsitter. But don't tell him, please. We met Visha when his usual parade of women weren't available to stay here with him over New Year's Eve. Evidently, they had hotter dates than Dinky, although I really don't know how that's possible. The boy can party like nobody's business.

Drunk already, and it's still light out. What a lush.
 Visha graciously agreed to stay with him over New Year's so we could go out of town to see our friends Ben and Amy, who made me stay up until midnight, so we probably won't be doing that again. (Kidding, guys!) Dinky wasn't all that thrilled to see us come home, because he liked Visha better, and said she was hotter than either of us. True enough.

I was talking to Dinky about the Encore awards and how Visha's blog and my blog both got mentions and (I think) tied for third or something. And he said, "Well, Mom, what do those two blogs have in common? ME, of course! I have made appearances in both! Coincidence? I think not."

"Yeah, that's right, bitches. You're rubbin' elbows with a playah. Oh, hey! Scratch my butt, wouldja?"

So to all of Dinky's fans who voted for this blog (and Visha's!) because Dinky has graced our pages with his presence, thank you. He'll never forget the little people who made him who he is today.

"You're welcome. Now bring me food."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cafe 305 Kitchen Renovation: The Bath and Mudroom parts

Everyone who has ever had any work done on a house will warn you: It drags on forever. Projects that YOU think will last a week go on for three. (Or projects you are told by your contractor will last a week ... you know.) Take, for example, our bathroom. Oh, never mind, you can't. Because the contractors already took it.

While we have had our sink and toilet restored to us, we're still limping along in there without the shower. We had a few days of normal, just to lull me into complacency, but Monday they started the mudroom portion of the project.

No, the red on the walls is not blood. My toilet was put back barely in time, though. Things were about to get ugly.

See the pipes on the left with nothing attached? That's where our water heater goes. Went. Was. Is no more. The pipes on the right belong to our washer.

Where was I going with this?

Oh, yes. The bathroom. We lost the water heater on Monday, so while I did at least have a working toilet (!) and sink, there was no hot water, so not a lot of point in trying to shower here at 305. Unless you're into that kind of thing. Which I'm not. It also makes it difficult to wash dishes and obviously with no washer, impossible to wash clothes. So we've been spending some quality time with Ps parents, using their shower and their washer and dryer. I drew the line at bringing dirty dishes over there, though. I boiled water on the stove, just like the cavemen did. No really! Look it up!

Me, with Dinky. Circa this week.
Anyway, new slate tile went down in the mudroom, among other things.


Brad didn't enjoy putting that down. It's not perfectly square. He doesn't like that. Something about it being a ^*% to work with. But he liked it once it was down. And picked out his favorites. Pootie told me which ones they were, but I've forgotten.

Meanwhile, back in the bathroom, which has apparently become open to the public, the tile was getting new grout, and the tub refinished.

Look how white! No way am I showing you how it looked before.

More brilliant white!
The tub was refinished Friday. There is no drain. Next week the plumbers have to come back and install one. Then someone else is supposed to install shower doors. So I've given up hope of ever actually being able to use the shower again. The upside of this is it should stay this white and clean forever!

While the shower tile was being regrouted, Brad completed grouting the mudroom floor. We called it Grout Day. He told Dinky to stay out. "Don't get your toenails in my grout, Dinky!"

"Tell ME, no...Ima sneak in there in the night and write some stuff in the wet grout, bitches! Look out!" (Dinky has a potty-mouth.)

Then when the tub refinishers were giving me a headache and making me high as a kite with their solvents and their paint, someone installed the new water heater. I think it was fairies. Or maybe penguins. I was seeing a lot of those once the tub refinishing started. They also put my washer back. We've sold the dryer. The washer is for sale, too - we're getting stackables and everything will be put behind louvered doors. But the stackables won't be in until March 1. It's always something.

Nick, the contractor, got the hoses backward on the washer. I laughed at him. Because I totally would have done it right.
So SUPPOSEDLY, next week: Put a drain back in the tub and caulk so we can actually use it and install shower doors so we never have to replace the freakin' floor again. Then my bathroom will be closed to the public FOREVER!!!! Also Nick said "Trim the mudroom...something paint something...Brad on vacation...something doors something something." Clearly my focus is on kicking everyone out of the bathroom, and since I don't have the means to do my laundry until March 1 anyway, I don't care. I have a toilet that works. Have I mentioned that? Not that I've been able to actually use it much, since it seems there is always someone in there, but still, I have one.

Coming soon! (Or not so soon - it's all relative when you're talking house renovations) The completion of the bathroom and the mudroom, and the initial demolition of the kitchen of Cafe 305!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Spicy Ginger Sauce

Today was Valentine's Day.

Oh, come on. You know better. You've seen dogs eat.

Right. You and I both know going out on Valentine's Day wouldn't be like that at all. You couldn't pay me enough money to try to go out and eat, reservations or not. Nope. No way.

Not this, either.

And while my love of all sports is legendary (cough, cough), certainly not this.

Besides, I'm still reluctant to leave my bathroom, so very recently returned to me. I'm celebrating Valentine's Day with it.

Also, there was the truth that I wasn't feeling all that great today, and leaving the house was not high on my list. During Insanity this morning, Shaun T beat me up, took my milk money, and left me lying in the dirt on the playground.

So I needed a quick dinner option for tonight. Pootie has been jonesing for some fish, so we picked up some gorgeous salmon yesterday at Fresh Market.


This is a recipe I found on Fine Cooking by one of my favorites, Tony Rosenfeld. Of course, I had to modify it, because in making my grocery list for the weekend, I suddenly forgot how to read, and missed two or three ingredients that I needed. Also, I don't cook fish in the house if I can help it, since I don't have my new vent-a-hood (coming soon with the Big Little Kitchen Redo!) and I hate the way fish makes the house smell. So I usually grill it.

Preheat a gas grill to about 500. Put the salmon on a foil lined roasting pan topped with parchment. Sprinkle the salmon with kosher salt, pepper and about 1/2 tsp. of coriander. I love the way that stuff smells.

Set that aside while the grill heats up.

Dice half of a large red bell pepper and mince 2 Tbs. of fresh ginger and 3 cloves of garlic.

Put a large pan over medium heat and put in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the red pepper, ginger and garlic for about three or four minutes, until the red pepper starts to wilt and brown slightly.

Add 1/4 cup honey, 3 Tbs. rice vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1 Tbs. of soy sauce and 1 tsp. of Asian chili sauce (I like Sriracha) and simmer it. Mix a teaspoon of cornstarch with about a teaspoon of water and then pour it in the sauce. Simmer it until it thickens. (You can put the salmon on the grill now.)

Cook the salmon on the grill for about 8 - 10 minutes, until it's firm to the touch. Serve with the sauce. Wah-lah. Dinner. Here's my modification, if you'd like to try it, but I'm sure Tony's is better.

A few people have asked me about these plates. I got them for Christmas from Anthropologie. And I love them.