Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I've been trying to bully my chef husband into writing up some of his easy go-to recipes so I could post them here, but he seems to be what I guess you'd call an "intuitive" chef (at least when cooking at home.) Which means that extracting specific amounts out of him is nearly impossible, because he doesn't understand how someone could need that. Even though I need that. Which he should know, because whenever I have to apply my own oil and vinegar to something, I fuck it up and text him to complain. But anyway, I tried my best because I really wanted to share this salad with you.

Let me tell you about this salad.

It's the best goddamn salad ever. 

I am not what you would call an enthusiastic eater of salads. I hate the way lettuce tastes, and I'm very neurotic sensitive to textures when it comes to veggies (example: the crunch of snap peas is okay, the crunch of bean sprouts is disgusting.) But this salad? I will hoover it up like it's made of sweet, sweet oxygen.

It's really all about the strawberries, goat cheese, and balsamic, which are three flavors that probably live in a new-agey three-way marriage where they all love each other very much because they are so freakin' perfect for each other that I can't stand to imagine it any other way. The lettuce is really just a canvas- a nice boring surface to cut the intensity and add a little crunch. It's kind of like when you wrap a dog's medicine in cheese to trick them into eating it, except the medicine in this case is "vegetables."

But enough jabber.

The Best Salad Ever 

Makes about 2 servings

  • 3 leaves of Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped up 
  • 5 strawberries, beheaded and sliced 
  • "Some crumbles" of goat cheese (I'd estimate a heaping tablespoon? Travis was not helpful here.) 
  • "A drizzle" of olive oil (extra virgin, none of that promiscuous stuff) 
  • "A few splashes" of balsamic vinegar (yeah, vague, I know. If you have a favorite balsamic vinaigrette recipe you could probably sub that in instead of the oil and vinegar.) 
  • A small pinch of salt 
  • Optional: some chopped candied walnuts. We often leave this out because they're not super cheap, as ingredients go, and you don't really NEED them, but they're tasty. 

Mix that shit together. Eat it. Marvel at the fact that most of the things in it are actually pretty healthy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Outfit: August 14

Aug 15 2013 

Shirt: Cha Cha Vente
Shorts: Cisono
Tights: DKNY
Boots: Hunter

I'm always a little proud of myself when I actually remember that rain calls for some sort of alteration in dressing procedures. I'll happily prance around in my boots on days that are barely damp, then when it's pouring, tell myself that sneakers and jeans will be just fine and totally won't mean my legs are cold and wet all day.

(I also like that everything but the boots came from discount/dirt cheap stores (hence, no links.) We'll talk about that soon.)

  Aug 15 2013 

Here it is with complete bundling for optimal warmosity. Clashy sweater is "Maurice's" (I want to say it came from Victoria's Secret or something... it's really old. Need to get some new cardigans. Ehhh.) Hat is Sproinger.

  Aug 15 2013 

I am super into this shorts-with-tights thing (as my pinterest will attest.) I like shorts, but hate having bare legs. I like tights, but am not super gung-ho about skirts... so basically, this is perfect. I'm so glad we're getting into the season where I can wear such a combo without looking completely insane (especially since Michigan decided that fall begins in August this year. I actually saw a tree changing colors already.)

  Aug 15 2013 

 ^^^ and of course, the secret weapon to protect the toes of your tights. It won't, however, stop this from happening. Damn dogs. I really liked those tights, too :-(

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peeing in Your Wedding Dress By Your Own Damn Self

Things I love: Fluffy wedding dresses, staying hydrated, my bridesmaids.

Things I don't love: Having the third help me handle the first in order to deal with the consequences of the second. 

I figured this trick out just prior to my wedding, as my dress was (as you can see) particularly unruly and I didn't really love the idea of employing a small army to help me keep it out of the toilet water (though my bridesmaids were willing, bless 'em.) Had it been a bit easier to get in and out of, I might have just taken it off, but no- that was a complicated, multi-person operation as well, involving a whole bunch of lacing and carefully placed safety pins and chicken cutlets- not to mention being topless in a public restroom.

And of course, I'm the kind of person who has to pee every thirty minutes, and more often when I'm nervous. And as a confirmed germaphobe, I was definitely NOT doing this, especially with tights on.

Luckily this little trick is cheap and amazingly effective- plus it's easy to stash some extra trash bags in the bathroom, or find some at most venues if you run out. (A garment bag works well too, and lets you skip Step 3 since it already has an extra hole.)

Step 1: Start with a poofy dress.

Step 2: Add a large, sturdy trash bag.

Step 3: Tear a hole in the bottom of the trash bag that is just wide enough to fit your feet through. Aim to keep it small- it will expand as you pull it up your legs, but you want it to fit tightly.

Step 4: Step into the bag and pull your feet through the hole. This is WAY easier if you take your heels off, but in case of super gross bathroom floors, it can be done. Stand near a wall so you don't topple, though.

Step 5: Pull the top of the bag up and start loading your dress-fluff into it, while keeping your feet pretty close together so you don't widen the hole too much. Some of the dress-fluff will inevitably try to escape through the foot hole, but it's not a big deal and you can just shove it back up in there.

Step 6: Shimmy the bag up your body carefully, making sure to get all the dress-parts, ribbons, trains, etc into the bag.

Step 7: Once the foot-hole is around your waist, you can gather the slack at the top of the bag and hold it in one hand, leaving the other free for... bathroom... tasks.

Voila! Look at you, using the potty all by yourself like a grown-up! Once you're done, just rip that sucker off like the Hulk (make sure you step AWAY from the toilet water first) and go back to your party. (It's not really worth trying to re-use the same bag, since the hole will get all loosey-goosey.)

Disclaimer: If you're wearing a dress that easily creases, I can't promise that this won't wrinkle it a bit...but that might be unavoidable even with bridesmaid assistance.

Also, for anyone interested, my dress was designed by this gal, who I can't recommend highly enough! It also was a lot less dirty and rumpled back then, haha. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

DIY Wood Refinishing with Vinegar and Steel Wool

Our old dining room table was unwieldy and falling apart, so we decided that rather than move it, I would try to fix up an old wooden table we had on the porch. It was covered in about an inch of dust, pollen, spiderwebs, and acrylic paint splatters, but was nice solid wood and was a good size and shape for our new place. I've been wanting to try ebonizing some wood with vinegar and steel wool for a while, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

The basic idea is that when you combine vinegar, steel wool, and the tannins that are naturally present in wood, you get a chemical reaction that oxidizes the wood and makes it look sort of... old and dark and crazy. Different woods have different amounts of tannins (with some having barely any at all) and react differently to the process, so the results are kind of a surprise (I wouldn't recommend doing this to any furniture that is super precious to you.) You can also add more tannins to the mix by pre-treating the wood with black tea- some types of wood might require that, though this table did not. I have no idea what kind of wood it is, unfortunately.

Anyway here's a lil step-by-step for you:


  • One piece of wood furniture 
  • Electric sander and sandpaper of various grits (you could probably also use chemical strippers but I was on a mission to do this as non-toxically as possible.)
  • Safety gear!! Use gloves, goggles, and a dusk mask when sanding. Seriously. Trust me. "Carol never wore her safety goggles and now she doesn't need them", and so on.
  • Some rags 
  • White vinegar 
  • A glass jar with lid 
  • Super super super fine steel wool (get the one with the most 0's) 
  • Crappy paintbrush that you're okay with throwing away (I used a foam one) 
  • Your finish of choice- in the pursuit of non-toxicity, I used pure tung oil mixed 50/50 with a pure, non-toxic citrus solvent*. I was pretty happy with this choice a few days later when I managed to spill some solvent in the car, and instead of fumigating me to death, it just smelled like oranges. (Still, the solvent is strong and can cause irritation, use it somewhere well ventilated.) I couldn't find either thing locally so ended up ordering those exact ones on Amazon.

Step 1: Sand the heck out of your table

   Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool

This is as close as I got to a before shot, unfortunately, but you can see the old finish. This step will take you way, way longer than you think it will. And your arms will go all numb and wobbly and crazy. I think all told, it took me like four sanding sessions over several days to get the thing down to naked:

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool 

(Granted, I'm pretty weak-armed.) Sand with the grain of the wood and keep the sander moving to avoid scuffing up your wood strangely. If you're going for perfection, start with a rough grit paper to get all the finish off, and then move towards finer grits to make it nice and smooth. I was pretty lazy about it, because I was fuckin' sick of sanding and wanted it to have kind of a rustic vibe anyway. There were spots where there was still a trace of stain left, which I thought might give it some interesting color variations (and it totally did, so chalk one up for laziness!) Make sure you dust all the sand off before moving on to the next steps. Also, WEAR YOUR SAFETY GEAR. I managed to get sawdust in my eyes even WITH goggles, I can't imagine how awful it would've been without them. And you don't want to breathe tiny particles of wood/stain/polyurethane/etc. Gross.

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool

Step 2: Mix up your stain and let it brew. 

Fill your jar most of the way full with white vinegar and then shove a blob or two of steel wool in there. Now, I am told that the longer you leave that in there, the stronger your stain will be (most people recommend at least 24-48 hours, and possibly much longer), but as you'll see my stain was plenty strong and I only left it for about... 18 hours. Some folks had their steel wool dissolve in the jar, or at least discolor the vinegar, but that didn't really happen for me and it still worked just fine.

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool

Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool 

Step 3: Do a test swatch somewhere inconspicuous 

This is less to show you what your finished result will look like (because it will continue to "develop" for days and who has that kind of patience? Be adventurous!) and more to make sure that your wood has enough tannins for it to work at all. Find a bare spot on the underside somewhere, paint a little of your vinegar mix on, and see what happens. If there's no sign of change after half an hour (and it may be faint since it's one coat, but still) then try painting some black tea on the wood, letting it dry, and then doing the vinegar. You might have low-tannin wood in which case you'll have to do a tea coat first. 

Step 4: Grab your paintbrush and slather that bitch up!

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool 
Here's my table after one coat and about 40 minutes (the remaining traces of stain are really apparent at this point!) 

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool 
And here it is wet with the second or third coat... whenever it had a fresh coat, it looked much paler/browner, and then would go all gray purple as it dried.

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool 

And here it is dry, after about four or five coats, which is where I stopped. Purpley! Interesting! Let it dry and continue to develop for at least a few days. Because sourcing the tung and solvent was such a pain (I tried to buy it locally first and looked EVERYWHERE) it ended up sitting for about two weeks before the finish went on, and it definitely darkened and got a little bit more brown and less lavender. 

Step 5: Put on the finish

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool

I don't have pictures of this process I'm afraid (bad blogger! Bad!) but it quite literally took five minutes. There are a lot of options for finishes- polys, tung blends, waxes, oils, etc. I like the pure tung & citrus solvent because it's nontoxic and doesn't leave it super shiny, but still gives it a bit of protection. I mixed the two half and half and rubbed it into the wood with a rag. Give each layer a few days to dry, at least (and check on it periodically to wipe away any oil that seeps out and pools.) I ended up only doing one coat, because I liked the way it looked (it darkened/browned/de-purpled it slightly more) but I think I should probably do a second because it has a few scuffs.

  Table- Vinegar/Steel Wool

This is a pretty accurate representation of the final color (pretty different than right after it was applied!) Remember though, like I said, what you get will most likely be different- some come out really grayish, some blue, some purple, some red, some almost jet black. But I haven't seen a result yet that I didn't like. This floor might be my favorite so far... that is GUTSY. 

Anyway, if not for all the arm numbness I could see this becoming a very addictive hobby. I just found out that Ikea sells unfinished wooden bookshelves.... in any case, please send me a link if you decide to try it, I never get tired of seeing the results!

*Full disclosure, those are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase through them I get a weensy kickback. But those are the actual ones I ordered and I'll vouch for 'em working!


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