Saturday, December 24, 2011

brunch for twelve and a costco christmas tree

It might be almost Christmas, but I'm still catching up from Thanksgiving-time. The highlight of which was discovering that my house can accommodate exactly twelve people, maximum, for a sit-down meal.

If momma hadn't invited half the family for Thanksgiving brunch, I never would have tried it. Seemed like a crazy idea to me. But it worked! We moved the big dining room table toward the stairs, and set up the folding table near the window. I had to move the side table out of the window nook to make room, but it came in handy as a beverage station behind the couch.

Just two days later, the main floor went through another transformation. I wasn't sure I was going to go all-out decorating for Christmas this year, since I'm sort of in and out a lot these days. But, we found a great deal on Christmas trees at Costco (8 foot pine for $30!!) so I relented and pulled out the ornaments and lights (and just a few nutcrackers).

When I left Minnesota the other day, there wasn't any snow on the ground. So it didn't make it so hard to come to California for the holiday. I sure hope there's a few inches when I get back, even if it means I have to shovel!

Merry Christmas to you all, wherever you may be.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

what do I know about circuit breakers?

Not a lot. But today, a lot more than yesterday.

Today has not been my favorite day at the farmhouse. I debated blogging about it (especially since I have a backlog of other posts to finish) since it is not a happy story. But that is life, and this wouldn't be an accurate portrayal of my life as a young, first-time homeowner if I didn't tell you some of the not-so-fun stories. So here goes.

The story starts a few weeks ago. I got home from a trip and the internet wasn't working. Four days later, inconvenient turned into "what the heck is happening" when the cable guy showed up and pointed out that my neighbor's tree had a fallen branch that was leaning on my cable and power cords. (If that doesn't sound good to you, you're smart -- it's not). The nice cable guy rerouted my cable line around the tree branch so I could get back online, and I proceeded to work with my neighbor to figure out how to fix the rest of the tree situation.

A week or so later, a friend and I were having dinner when the power started flickering. The energy company paid a visit, and quickly decided it was related to the broken tree branch. No other tests or investigating possible causes. File that away, please.

This morning, on the 12th day of my parents' visit from California, we were getting ready for a quiet day of projects and relaxing when half the power went out. Just half -- all the lights in the basement and main floor, and some of the upstairs outlets (the downstairs outlets still worked). So, we called the energy company ... they sent someone out ... blah blah blah, "it's probably the tree branch but let's just check a few more things"...

When the energy company guy pulled off the cover of the main box on the back side of the house, it was obvious even to me that something was really, really wrong. One of the four lugs (that'd be the technical term) was blackened and the insulation on the wire leading up to it was burned away.

I quickly learned two things: that I was lucky to have escaped a fire, and that this was not going to be a cheap fix. Oh, and the furnace was connected to the side of the line that wasn't working. And it was getting kind of chilly in the house...

So often I have to deal with these things alone -- and although I'm sure my parents would have rather not spent our last day of their visit calling electricians and sitting around without power, I was so grateful to have them here. It was not my happiest day and it was a lot nicer to have them here to help me figure out what to do.

Also, nice to have people to laugh with when the flashlight broke, and the carbon monoxide alarms started going off, and the security company called to "make sure everything was okay" (although tempting not to, I told her it was.)

Eventually, we tracked down an honest-sounding electrician who had the parts in stock to replace the main electric box and wiring today. I'm sure they had fun working out in the snow all afternoon.

They replaced the entire box that connects the power line to the circuit box in the basement, plus the wiring just to be safe. It now has a fancy bypass switch (and apparently this is a big deal? Who knew.) And while they had the power off, dad helped me hang some twinkle lights on the front porch. So now that the power is back on, it looks like this:

My wallet might be a little lighter, but the house is safe and the heat is back on. So that's a wrap on today. I'm going to eat a pint of ice cream or something now...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

garden: ready for snow

This time last year, I was running around like a crazy person trying to figure out how to "get the yard ready for winter."

This year it didn't take much to convince me to hire it out. My thought process went something like this:

  1. I don't want to rake the leaves.
  2. What am I thinking, I don't have time to rake the leaves. Or mow the lawn. Or clean up the garden.
  3. You could make time if you wanted to, Lauren.
  4. No, I really couldn't -- I am traveling too much.
  5. Oh, and what's that? Another work trip to New York? Okay ...
  6. If it snows before the leaves are raked I'm going to lose all my grass to snow mold over the winter ... all the grass that didn't die in the drought this summer, that is ...
  7. What the hell is going on with my perennials? (the pictures would just have made you sad, like me)
  8. Where am I going to borrow a mulcher from this year? And an edger? Why don't I just buy a fancy lawnmower? Can't it wait until spring?
  9. This is ridiculous. I'm not dealing with this anymore. 
Best $150 I've spent all year. Thank you, Earthworm Lawn Care.

(I love the leaf line between my yard and the neighbor's!)

Believe you me, I took copious pictures of the way they hacked my perennials to the ground (i.e. last photo above) so that I can do it myself again next year. Probably. Maybe...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

house crashing: boston (part 2)

A few days before my trip to Boston, the girls emailed me a list of vegetables they had on-hand from their farm share. My job was to bring recipe ideas for a gourmet cooking event on Friday night.

The ingredients:

  • Hen of the woods mushrooms
  • Turnips
  • Shell beans
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Butternut squash
  • Buttercup squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Parsley
  • Apples

And cook we did. Four recipes from Bon Appetit magazine, as a matter of fact. I think that's a personal record for one night (and not likely to happen again soon.) Totally, completely worth it, however.

The dishes:

The finished products (please excuse me forgetting to change the white balance between living room and kitchen):

The process (a box of red wine from Trader Joe's may have been involved):

Surprisingly, the potatoes might have been the biggest hit (other than the pie). But everything was delicious and these recipes are absolutely going into my regular rotation.

Also: who knew that you could (slash, should) put tapioca in a pie? I had never heard of this before, but apparently it's "a thing." My new best trick.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

house crashing: boston (part 1)

A few weekends ago, I ran away to Boston for some long-overdue R&R with dear friends Bethany, Alissa and Megan.

We've known each other for ages (I moved to their town in elementary school, and they've known each other much longer). Alissa and Bethany and I spent three months wandering around Europe about five years ago, and I still miss them every day.

The lucky three get to live together in a cute house in Boston, chock-full of personality and charming details. Here are a few of my favorite bits and pieces.

PS: The game pictured above, Bang!, is amazing. I haven't had so much fun playing a game in ages. Don't pick it up if you don't like lots of rules, though :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the big reveal...

OK, so I meant to post this on Tuesday but my internet has been down all week. Le sigh.

The good news is this: my house has a brand spankin' new roof!

Taking before and after pictures wasn't really worth it, since it looks exactly the same (luckily). But here are some of the in-between mess:

It all started last spring, with a hailstorm that led my insurance company to declaring the roof "totaled." And then a summer of back-and-forth with the roofing company. And then a long line of other roofs for them to fix. But finally, it was my turn. And two days after they arrived, waking me up at sunrise with ladders against my window, they pulled the last pile of shingles and tarps off the front lawn and I have a new roof on my house.

Ta-da. Major "someday" project = checked off the list.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

summer travels, lonely house

These days when someone asks me "how is the house," the answer is usually "I haven't seen it in a while." Not to mention working on house or garden projects. Since mid-May, I've:

  • been to 10 weddings
  • changed jobs (yeah, I probably forgot to mention that)
  • traveled (for work or for weddings) to Omaha, Northern California, Atlanta, New York City (twice), North Carolina and Washington D.C.

Truth: Fun for me but not so fun for keeping up with this place.

October is turning out to be just as hectic as the summer was, but I'm finding more efficient ways to keep up with the cleaning and lawn care on the days in between trips. It's a challenge, but I do like having this place to come home to ... so I think I'll keep it :)

In honor of a truly amazing summer, and to give you a glimpse of my life outside the house, here are some of my favorite moments from the last four months:

The stunning sunset at the wedding of this amazing lady and her fantastic husband

A rare photo-op with 12 of the 17 cousins at Rachel and Mark's wedding in Omaha (the first of three cousin weddings this summer!)

Grade-school girlfriends at Carolyn's wedding in Half Moon Bay, California

One of many Lake Minnetonka days with my family

Reminiscing with Kelli about our childhood days in Texas on one of my two trips to New York City, where she now lives (and blogs!)

College roommates! Nancy was the first of the Plum House girls to tie the knot

Catching up with more college friends in Washington D.C. in September

Dancing with Stephen, my like-a-brother friend that I've known since 5th grade, at his wedding in Napa Valley in May

Nate, Care, Sugi, me and Newman at, you guessed it, another wedding

Johnny and Maria's wedding in Minneapolis (more cousins!)

Twins win! One of the best comebacks in baseball history.

Celebrating mom's 20th anniversary with PartyLite at their National Conference in Minneapolis in July, alongside two of her best friends (amazing women, all of them)

Getting my Michael Cuddyer home run ball signed (I caught it during a game two summers ago) -- definitely a top highlight :)

A weekend at Newman's lake cabin in Wisconsin

An Agnes a Cappella reunion at Kelin's bridal shower


And, the most surreal moment: standing next to Alison, my best friend since we were born, during her beautiful wedding in Atlanta.

My southern roots are showing a little bit more than usual, eh? Did I mention there were hats?

Yes. An amazing, blessed summer. 

It's okay if I hibernate in the house all winter, though, right?


PS -- I'm back home for a few weeks before a jaunt to Boston ... and tomorrow I'll have photos from a major house upgrade. One where I didn't have to lift a finger. Hooray :)