Kicking Off the Year with an Actual Bang

2019 started with a rather unusual string of events that I felt should be documented. Although to give the recap full justice, I should really start with last night. Elise went to bed at her normal hour, but instead of lying down and going to sleep as she normally does, she wasn’t having it and seemed quite distressed. After an hour and fifteen minutes of consoling, lying next to her crib on the floor, sending Chaz in to do a round of consoling, a dose of Tylenol for what we ultimately decided was teething pain, nursing, and replacing her in her bed, she finally went to sleep around 10:20. “How unexpected,” I thought, and headed to bed myself after finishing my Best of 2018 list.

She woke up 3.5 hours after I went to bed, and then proceeded to wake twice more before rising for the day at 7:00. I decided to keep a positive/negative tally for the day, and this counted as one point on the negative side.

Fortunately, Chaz had the day off today and since he was able to sleep through her night wakings and had gone to bed an hour earlier than I had, he hung out with Elise in the morning and I was able to get an extra hour of sleep. Hooray! Negative score: 1. Positive Score: 1. We’re tied!

Next, we decided to get some breakfast at a local restaurant. Thanks to her not so restful night, Elise was a little less content than usual to merely sit and eat, so we kept our breakfast a tad shorter than we might have otherwise. Nevertheless, it was scrumptious, so I gave this whole outing both one negative and one positive point. We’re still tied! 2 to 2.


After stuffing our faces with pancakes, both Chaz and I did a workout. I like to think that I consumed no more than 173 calories in my full stack of pancakes + syrup and side of bacon this morning, because that would mean that my workout completely canceled out breakfast. Don’t burst my bubble with facts here. #science. The fact that we did a workout at all was definitely a point on the positive side.

After a rather uneventful lunch for Elise, I put her down for a nap. Naps are good! We love naps! Another point on the positive side! However, she woke up halfway through. Another negative point. If you’re keeping track, we’re currently at 4 to 3. But by some strange magic, I actually got her back to sleep in her bed, and she slept for another hour. Positive point!

After she woke up, we decided it was time to take down the Christmas decorations and pack them in the box until next year. In past years, putting Christmas stuff away has felt rather sad, but not this year. This year it felt like a fresh start, and it was nice to have the extra space in our living room and at the top of the stairs, which is where we keep the chair that normally sits where the Christmas tree goes. Fresh starts! Extra space! Clean house! Another positive point!

We also decided it was high time to replace the dead lightbulb in one of our sconces by our front door. It had been out for probably 18 months, so we took care of that, though it turned out to be a rather frustrating exercise since the fixture disassembled itself while we changed the bulb. Eventually, it was done. Bulb replacement, +1. High frustration level: -1. We’re at 7 to 4.

Since we were on a roll on the home improvement front, we decided to also fix the bookshelf at the top of our stairs that had self destructed and dumped its shelves about a week prior. The bookshelf was always a bit precarious, so the fact that the shelves had fallen wasn’t too surprising.

We removed all the books from the remaining perilous shelves, although left some on the center shelf, which was part of the apparatus securing both upright sides to each other. Then we braced the sides together at the bottom and determined that we needed a screw on either side to ensure that the same issue wouldn’t happen again going forward. I got the drill, screwed in the screw, and was finishing was just finishing the final tightening when I heard a gigantic crack above my head.

I shut my eyes and leaned away from the bookshelf as the previously-firmly-attached center shelf gave way, dumping every musical score, Norton Anthology of Western Music volume, French dictionary, Conversational Solfege Teacher’s Manual binder, and rogue CD set on to the floor with an unholy crash. Did I see my life flash before my eyes? Maybe. Elise, who was standing a safe distance away to observe the operation, immediately started crying. Chaz, who was policing the Safe Distance range, did not.


Negative TWO POINTS.

However, as previously the stated, the bookshelf had always been precarious, and so I will give the positive team one additional point: we no longer have to worry about the possibility of the bookshelf collapsing at a random time and harming a toddler. Specifically our toddler. Safety wins the day!

We declared defeat on the bookshelf repair project, made ourselves dinner, and then picked up the pieces before Elise went to bed. I’m happy to report that she went to sleep as normal, without close to two hours of distress. We’ll give that a positive point for good measure.

If you’ve kept track, the positives beat the negatives 9 to 6, and if that’s how the rest of the year shakes out, I’ll be happy at the end of it. Cheers!

The Saga of the Sourdough Starter

I had high hopes that I would master the sourdough starter on my first try. I started with the instructions from what seemed like a trustworthy source. With a title like The Bread Bible, how could I possibly go astray? 

But to my dismay, my mix of 1/2 cup of organic rye flour (as prescribed in the book) with 1/4 cup of bottled water, after sitting for the recommended 48 hours, had not evolved from a ball of dough to the described pancake batter-consistency goop. Instead, it looked like a science experiment still in the shape of a ball of dough. 

While I realize sourdough requires a fermented starter, fermentation does not equal mold. So into the garbage it went.

I was determined that my second attempt would work. So I took to the internet and did some research, where I learned that sourdough starter should never come in contact with anything metallic. That must have been mistake number 1 with the first one, since I measured in steel measuring cups and stored the starter in a metal bowl. In addition, the internet said that measurements should be 1:1 rather than 2:1, and all measurements need to be exactly precise. In other words, I needed a kitchen scale.

So off to Amazon I went and bought myself a scale. It's one of those kitchen gadget purchases that I had thought of making on and off for years, and this is what it took to get me to pull the trigger.

BUT. Even Amazon Prime shipping speeds couldn't dissuade me from trying again that very night. Surely my metal-avoidance and oh-so-precise measuring skills would be enough to make a successful second sourdough starter (try saying that 10 times fast) without special equipment. Armed with my newfound knowledge about sourdough starters and an overabundance of confidence, I mixed up a second batch of flour and water and left it to ferment in a glass jar.

Days 1 and 2 looked decent, although I had a thin film of water on the top of the mixture. The instructions said that if that happened, the original measurements were off, but pouring off the film, "feeding" the starter, and mixing it very well could still lead to success. I did that, and Day 3 continued looking promising. 

However, by Day 4 I knew the second starter was also doomed. It now had a thick layer of water and was not developing a layer of foam as it should.  

And so now, new equipment in hand (thanks, Amazon...I shouldn't have been so hasty...), I will try a third time. If this one doesn't work, perhaps I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread.


The East Coast has its charms. For example, breakfast. The East Coast has breakfast places all over, and they're all mostly great. The West Coast does not have many breakfast places. It does, however, have coffee shops. 

East Coasters may think they have coffee shops. I mean...Dunkin' Donuts exists, in all of its fast food style glory, and if you're lucky you may be able to find a quirky coffee shop every once in a great while. But you have not experienced a real coffee shop until you have visited Seattle. Not only are they awesome, but they are also plentiful. Go to any town, and you will find at least three different coffee shop brands within a five-mile radius.

I, being an East Coaster (sider? Vermont has no coast...) through and through, had no idea what I was missing out on until I started dating a Washington state native. Starbucks gave me just the faintest glimpse of what could be, and I think that's the general reference point that we (the Easterners) think of when conjuring up the idea of a coffee shop. But now that I've been to the West Coast numerous times...I think it's time for something to change.

Georgetown, Massachusetts is in desperate need of a legit coffee shop, and it is my bound duty to make it happen. Just look how happy you'd be!

So I'm using "this space," as blogs are so often called, to declare my intention to finally make good on a several-years-in-the-making dream of having my very own coffee shop. Heck, I literally don't even like drinking coffee, but I love the community atmosphere, the scent of roasting beans in the air, and the comfy chairs where I can slowly sip my chai lattes. It's going to happen one day, people.

Now I just need to figure out how to write a business plan.

The Wine Rack

Today I turn 27, which means that yesterday I was feeling the full weight of the gravity of the Last Day. You know, when thoughts like, "Today is the last day I'll be 26...EVER. I must make this day count for something!" run through the mind. What? I'm the only one who experiences that? should try it sometime. It turns your Last Day hours into the most productive ones you'll have all year. 

And so as a result, I realized that I absolutely had to finish my wine rack building project before my 27th world-entering anniversary rolled around if my 26th one was to mean anything. It's a project I had started a couple of months before, but had put on hold when the weather turned chilly since I had been working on it in the unheated garage. I sawed all the wood...

Or if I'm being honest, I sawed MOST of the wood. Chaz did the beginning few cuts.

That part took the longest, and I think that's why it got put on hold. It got a little repetitive, but after that I could start screwing the shelves together.

Having two drills made ALL the different - one for pre-drilling the holes, one for screwing in the screws. Rather than having to change the drill bit for every single joint, I could just trade drills. Thanks for the extra drill, Dad!

All of that was what I had finished before yesterday. But as of yesterday morning, I still had to attach all the wine bottle slats on all of the shelves and then put the whole thing together. In other words...unless I worked all afternoon, my entire 26th year would be meaningless. 

And so after moving the entire project into our basement (and going to church - can't finish off a year as a heathen either!), I got to work.

All the slats got attached. I ran out of screws and went to Home Depot. I came back from Home Depot and we watched Downton Abbey with a side of pizza for dinner (are you caught up?? It's the final season!). And then I went back down to my lair in the basement and put the whole thing together.

And I finished the wine rack at 11:07 on 2/21/16. 53 minutes before my 27th birthday.My 26th year was saved!

I suppose this now means that we need to start collecting wine.

I've always been a believer in doing things that are beyond your normal skill-scope. I'm not a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination. There are definitely irregularities on the wine rack that the graininess of my oh-so-lovely iPhone photos hide, and it's highly doubtful I'll ever be a master woodworker. I'm totally fine with both of those things. Trying something as a beginner is one of the few places where you have absolute freedom to make mistakes and enjoy the process rather than the end result. And what do you have to lose? I admit, I could just be biased because I like projects, but there's my two cents. Don't forgo creativity just because of unfamiliarity. 

Here's to year 27.

Project Days

We were so excited on Friday because we had a weekend where nothing was going on, for the most part. Every once in awhile, that's a much needed thing, I think, as it gives you a chance to catch up on sleep and cooking and all the other things you've put to the side. the house. We knocked that one out first on Saturday morning.

Since we had so much left over time, the rest of the weekend sort of morphed into a weekend for building things. First, I put together the headboard and bed frame for our guest room, which means that if you come to visit us, you no longer have to sleep on either a twin sized bed or an air mattress!

Next, we hung up a picture that had been sitting in our office for months, just waiting for us to nail a little hole in the wall. This particular item should have been hung much, much earlier, considering it took us a total of five minutes to do it on Saturday.

It was a wedding gift from our friends - it's a painting by their uncle of the spot where we got engaged! 

After that, I decided to try to make monkey bread. We had gone to the store before looking at the recipe and got ourselves some Pillsbury crescent rolls. Those are delicious, but they aren't the right sort of Pillsbury product needed for monkey bread. Nevertheless, I attempted. The pre-baked version looked promising.

It smelled amazing while it was baking, but when we tried to take it out of the pan, all of the pieces just sort of fell apart. They're still delicious, but you can't really call it monkey bread. We dubbed them Joy Nuggets.

Then on Saturday evening, I decided to get started on a project we'd been thinking about for awhile: building a wine rack. We still have leftover wine from our wedding over a year ago, and right now it's sitting in a giant cooler that doesn't look aesthetically pleasing just hanging out in our basement. Thus, a wine rack. I'm following these instructions. It took me two trips to Home Depot to get all the stuff, and I realized at the end of the day yesterday that I actually need one more board, so that's going to make it three. 

I then spent all afternoon on Sunday cutting up pieces of wood. I hadn't used a circular saw since probably 7th grade Tech Ed class. Thrilling.

Chaz did some of the initial cuts to make sure the saw was working and to sort of figure it out, and then I took over and did the rest.

It's not done yet, so this is sort of a home-improvement cliff hanger. I'm sure you're just dying to read about my finished product, right? 


This post is brought to you by Tell-Don't-Show Writing, Inc. I'll do better tomorrow. It's Monday, after all...what could you expect?

House Ownership: The Project Edition

After almost two months of owning a house, I've discovered that I enjoy house projects a bit too much for my own good. Since we moved in on May 14th, we've painted two rooms, laid flooring in one room, hemmed some curtains, made other curtains, made some pillows, and put together a photo wall. My next project in line is to make a dining room table, although I'm a little concerned that in attempting that, I might bite off more than I can chew, as they say.

Noooooo more mustard yellow for us!

Noooooo more mustard yellow for us!

The projects might be more impressive if I said that we'd managed to put all of our stuff away, but I can't - half of the garage is still full of boxes, and they won't be moving in the very near future as far as I can tell.

A rather unimpressive photo of the photo wall...

A rather unimpressive photo of the photo wall...

Of all the projects though, the least visible one takes the cake as my favorite: the laundry room! With the exception of moving the washer and dryer, I did all the work myself: two coats of paint, moisture barrier, flooring, and curtains (don't assume too much: I bought the curtains!). One day I'd love to redo the ceiling...but one step at a time, I suppose.

The room started out as an ugly brown with cement flooring and a messy original paint job. I was determined to rid the room of ugly brown at the very least, so I got some seafoam green paint and covered it all up.

Work in progress

Work in progress

As soon as the paint was dry, I decided that wasn't enough to make it look good, and that it needed some nice new flooring to make it better. So I Google until I felt like I had enough information, and then I went and bought some fake wood laminate flooring that would withstand any water that might spew from a washing machine we were planning to hook up ourselves.


Overall, I was very pleased with how it turned out. This particular flooring was really easy to use. It was tongue and groove, which meant that each piece snapped into the others and as long as I cut it right, everything lined up perfectly. But despite being pleased with how it turned out, I took zero pictures of the final product, so you'll have to live with this oddly-colored, poorly composed, boring picture of mostly just a floor with the remaining moisture barrier poking out and a little violent turquoise thrown in for good measure:

What a tragedy. I'll taka another picture soon to put everyone out of their misery.

Here's to home improvement.