Home In Disarray

August 29, 2011

Challah : Great Success!

Challah : Great Success!
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First, I let the dough rise about an hour, then I did a 2nd coat of egg wash

egg wash on challah

unbaked challah bread

Then popped that sucker in the bottom level of the oven for about an hour

challah bread in the oven

And after it came out of the oven!

loaf of challah bread

loaf of challah bread

Posted in: Baking, Cooking, Food
August 29, 2011

I’m baking challah tonight for the first time.

I’m baking challah tonight for the first time.
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In fact, I’ve never even HAD challah before.  I’m gonna make some mean french toast next weekend.  Have you ever braided 4 strands before?  Yeah, me neither before today.

unbaked challah bread dough

I hope it looks as nice as Rose’s!

rose levy beranbaum challah

Posted in: Baking, Cooking, Food
August 28, 2011

Quick update on the yard – Our grass is growing!

Quick update on the yard – Our grass is growing!
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Just a little.  2 weeks in and it’s certainly taking its time but we are making progress and every morning I wake up to just a bit more green.  The far side seems to be much slower, but I’m thinking it has to do with that side getting constant sun, and the other greener portion getting a bit of shade throughout the day.

freshly seeded grass

Posted in: Garden, Landscaping, Projects
August 28, 2011

Happy Wedding Anniversary!

Happy Wedding Anniversary!
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Today is my first wedding anniversary.  Since I never posted any of our wedding photos on the blog, I figured that now was as good a time as any, and to tell you guys a bit about it.  We had the ceremony and reception at a nearby koi water garden location.  It was a mid-afternoon ceremony and the main goal was for it to be a laid back comfortable event for our friends and family to enjoy.  My favorite flowers in the whole wide world are dahlias, so I made my bouquet from my favorite dahlia ever, A La Mode!  Then I bought 3 A La Mode tubers over the winter and planted them this spring.  They haven’t performed particularly well this year, but my first bloom opened up this morning, an anniversary present from our garden!

A La Mode Dahlia

To give credit where credit is due, my aunt took most of the photographs, but a number of them came from the wife of one of my coworkers, Kate.

Dahlia bouquet in milkglass pitcher

A few weeks before the wedding, I stopped by one of the flower stalls of the local farmers market and ordered enough bouquets in our wedding colors(which were orange, red, and yellow) from them to go on each table.  The morning of the wedding, we drove down to the market before it opened, picked up all of our bouquets, and then walked through the rest of the flower stalls to make up the remainder of the flowers that we needed, which were about 2 dozen assorted dahlias to go in quilted mason jars hanging from shepherd’s hooks to lead the guests from the parking area to the celebration space, and 2 dozen A La Mode variety for me to pick through for my bouquet.

Garden Party Wedding Tables

Dahlias in Mason Jars Path Liner

Dahlias in Mason Jars Path Liner

A La Mode Dahlia bridal bouquet

We had a beautiful, short, and sweet ceremony.  Guests had beer, wine, soda, and water available before and through the ceremony.  No point not having it, and they seemed to like having the option.

Wedding Ceremony Arbor

Walking down the aisle

Wedding Ceremony

After the ceremony we got PELTED with birdseed from our guests. It got EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, all the nooks and crannies that you’d imagine something smaller than rice would get. That was a fun idea from my mom that seemed a lot better in theory than it turned out.  Don’t do this at your wedding.  I was picking bird seed out of my hair through to the next day.  Huge mess.

Bird seed throwing at wedding

To help keep our guests cool before/during the ceremony, we put together these fans.  I made a document for both sides on my computer and had it printed in a dark red color on a creamy cardstock.  The cardstock was folded over and double stick taped to itself and a tongue depressor that had been drilled and strung with some color coordinated ribbon (red, yellow, or orange) to a drilled golf pencil.  One side of the fan was a quick program type thing, and the other was either a personalized crossword or mad lib.

Wedding Program Fans

We had good friends, great family, and were truly blessed by everyone who came out to celebrate with us.

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Bride and groom

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Now, my favorite part – the cake and food!  I found a local caterer through Yelp! that got some great reviews, and I was so happy to go with him.  Here’s the plug – it was Starry Nights Catering.  We were first impressed by his cakes.  It was clear that he had mad skills, with the quality of his buttercreams and the way the flavors paired perfectly.  We went with a vanilla chiffon cake, raspberry jam and lemon curd filling with a standard (real) buttercream.  Craig, who doesn’t even like cake, loved this cake.  His cake skills translated into his food too.  We did utensil free snackies.  Crab cakes, tea sandwiches(he even made a custom reuben for Craig), tortellini skewers, spanikopita, hummus with pita, etc.  We kept it simple but have gotten a lot of compliments on the food and cake, and honestly, I haven’t had better food or cake at other weddings that we’ve attended, though I haven’t been to any high-dollar events, so I can’t really compare there.

Wedding Food

Wedding Cake with Dahlias

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The wine came from Washington vineyards, and the beer came from Black Raven, a local brewery.  We had a keg of their Scotch ale and a keg of their IPA.  Then we got a few cases of PBR.  We actually bought so much PBR that we had several cans kicking around in the fridge up til a few weeks ago.  Then I saved 2 of them to have for our anniversary just because we had gotten so far!

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To us the wedding was perfect.  We had a lot of family busting their butts to help us pull it together, and really couldn’t have made it work without them.  So to those of you who came, here’s a walk down memory lane and a huge thank you!  And to those of you who don’t know us, there’s a little insight into our wedding last year!

Posted in: DIY, Garden, Projects
August 14, 2011

Front yard renovation

Front yard renovation
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Since we looked at photos of the house that we ended up buying online, I have hated the junipers out front.  Like enough to almost not go see it.  Strangely, the two things that I hated the most about the house, I have lived with for nearly 3 years.  Those are the kitchen floor (you’ve seen photos, it’s terrible) and the junipers out front. They are nearly 40 years old and have been feeding on the yard ever since they were planted.

overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers and dead lawn
overgrown junipers eating lawn
The first summer that we lived in the house, we were under the impression that the grass would go dormant, and then when autumn came, it would grow back.  So we did not water it.  That was not the best decision that we could have made.  It turns out that not watering your lawn during a record breaking hot summer in the PNW makes your lawn die instead of going dormant.  Like…. All the way dead.  We learned our lesson the hard way.  Ever since that summer, the state of the “lawn” has been a point of contention.  I really have no interest in having a front lawn, but I also don’t feel up to figuring out a non-lawn landscaping solution financially. 
totally dead lawn
This summer (2 summers after the lawn had died!) the issue finally came to a head.  It wasn’t something that I was interested in dealing with, but knew that I needed to, and Craig was sick of having the house look like meth addicts live here, so we agreed to replant the grass (le sigh) and TEAR OUT THE FREAKING JUNIPERS!!!!!  Craig got his grass, and I got the juniper removal.  It seemed like an ideal compromise.  Especially because I can take the grass out in 2-3 years and the junipers will still be gone!
tearing out a lawn using a dethatcher
The agreement was to replant the grass, because once the junipers came out, the totally dead grass would be a lot more visible to passers-by.  So I posted on the lawn subforum of the gardening forum I’m on, and got a reasonable plan to fix our problem.  The solution:  Spray round up, water for a week, spray round up, water for another week, rent a lawn dethatcher, set it on lowest setting, destroy structure of dead grass, spread some real soil (over the pure sand and rock base we have!), rent a lawn roller, and seed.  Then water 3x/day every day for 3+ weeks.  OK!  I can handle that.
lawn dethatcher
So we got started.  And it was easy.  But we had all of this dead grass that needed to come off of the lawn, and we didn’t want to pay to remove it, then pay to have more dirt delivered when the junipers eventually came out, so we figured we’d open up  a small gap in the back(house side) of the junipers.  But then Craig’s best friend, Ian, got a little carried away with the chainsaw, and the plan quickly became “open up the whole back of the junipers to make the lawn project easier.”  And then when that got done, it became “let’s just take the whole front side of those junipers out too.”  So we did.  chainsawing some junipers
pulling out juniper branches
pulling out juniper branches
Craig was not amused. 

cutting out juniper bushes
in the process of removing junipers
juniper pile
juniper pile
The next day I rented a uhaul truck and took the brush to the local yard waste recycling center.  The uhaul rental and recycling fees were the best money we have EVER spent on the house.  There were 9 stumps left over.  They were about 4 feet apart each.  Awesome.  Good planning old people who landscaped the house.  After spending 2+ hours digging out 2 stumps, I determined that there were only 6 of the 9 that REALLY needed to come out.  We’d bury the others!  Oh yeah, we have power lines running directly under those stumps, so no pulling them out with the jeep!  The 6 stumps that I dug out took me 8-10 hours in the evenings over the course of the work week.
juniper pile
empty naked front yard
naked front yard
juniper stumps
Saturday morning we had 10 yards of compost delivered.  About 2-3 yards went in a thin layer over the new lawn area. The remainder went into building up a berm where those hellspawn bushes once lived.
landscaping design
freshly planted grass seed
Now let me tell you about my rock.  For years, I have wanted to get a big rock and put our address numbers on it, and put it on the corner by the driveway.  Craig tends to have negative responses to things and then eventually warms up to them.  But every time I mentioned it, he always had a negative response, generally “they are only seen on nice houses” and “sounds like it costs a lot of money.”  But I was pretty confident on how great a rock would look there, and I don’t tend to make bad landscape design decisions (if I may toot my own horn a wee bit!).  Part of the agreement that we reached when removing the first half of the junipers was that we plant the first portion of the berm (next to the driveway – where I wanted my rock!) so it didn’t look like we just had a huge dirt berm.  Since I KNEW that I wanted my rock there, I was going to have it.  But I had to figure out a way to make it work.  The most reasonable method that I had was to track down a sheet of interestingly shaped slate (that I could move (and hide!) by myself), then a rock to prop it up on.  Luckily the day that I hit the stone yard, found a great black, mountain-shaped piece of slate, and stuck it in the back of my car, Craig was not feeling well, and went to sleep at about 6:30.  So I pulled the sheet of slate out of my car, and tucked it into a corner of the house, behind a bush, and then set about trying to find a rock big enough to prop it up.  I found that rock in the far corner of our back yard.  So I stealthily rolled it up the hill, tediously, and into the front yard to check to see how it would look with my slate, and it looked PERFECT.  So I tucked the slate away and went about my business.  A couple days later, Craig spotted the slate and asked about it.  I dismissed it as “oh, I just got it for the yard, it’ll look good, promise.”
new drought tolerant planting

When we got the soil spread out, we leveled and rolled the soil out in the lawn area.  Then Craig took off for the store and I rushed to get my rock into place and place the potted plants around it before he got back home!  Did you know I decided to go with all drought-resistant plants?  I don’t want to be out watering a few times a week all summer long.  I can handle that for a year for the plants to get established, but not long term.  Everything but the lawn will be drought tolerant in the front of the house.  Regardless, when he came back, he finally saw how awesome our rock looked, and understood my vision.  After picking up a few more plants that afternoon, we got everything in the ground and have had a great response to the landscaping.  About 1/3 of all the cars that drive by have been slowing way down to take a big look at how great things look!
new drought tolerant planting
We can’t wait for the lawn to grow and the plants to fill in a bit.  We are SO pleased with how it has turned out.
Cost breakdown (after tax):
Lawn thatcher rental – $127
Grass seed and water timer – $60
Lawn fertilizer, new plants, more gloves, etc – $75
Uhaul rental – $50
Yard Waste Recycling – $150
10 yards of compost – $315
Lawn rolly compactor $20
My rock – $21
More plants – $75
New chainsaw chain – $26
More plants that were needing to be moved from the back yard – $0
= $899  total
new drought tolerant planting