Sunday, October 30, 2011

I am the fire starter

Here's the listing photo of our den area. Doesn't this photo just make you want to run over to a house and drop more than a quarter of a million dollars on it? Yeah, it didn't make us want to do it either and that's why we passed up on the house more than once. Oh well, it was fate I tell you.
Seriously, what is that? I'm not kidding you, this photo has not been doctored or manipulated in any way. That is exactly how the listing photo appeared online. I don't even know if it is physically possible to take such a bad picture of a still object. Camera phones take better pictures than what was shown online for our house.

Okay, rant over.

Here's the first photo I took of the area during the home inspection. Note - it was POURING outside during our home inspection and even though it was 2pm in the afternoon it was nearly pitch dark outside and the lighting was off.

It's not a bad space. It's cozy, has character, and is dark just like the hubs wants it to be. The weird little window in the corner is odd, but we're kind of digging it. The long-term plan for this room is to get rid of the dreaded popcorn ceiling and put in wood panel ceiling, paint the walls orange, stain the bricks*, put in hardwood floors, wall mounted flat screen tv, and get a sectional. Piece of cake!

Well, step one was really to get the wood stove in working order. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a fan of the wood stove. I actually suggested to the hubs very early on that we could have it removed and convert the fireplace back to a fireplace. "How about no, Scott!" was his reply. The wood stove was staying and that was it! Turns out that wood stoves are quite a bit more efficient than fireplaces so I had to give him that. We took a trip over to Ace Hardware to talk to the Jotul representative since we have an old Jotul Series 8 wood stove and I was pleased to see that we could re-enamel the stove. I'm immediately thinking a nice glossy black would look great. Honestly, they had a stove that was blackish-purple and I wanted that color, but the hubs vetoed that option because it's his man cave and purple is not an option.

Fine, whatever.

Like any overprotective and anal retentive first-time homeowners we had our chimney and wood stove professionally cleaned and inspected prior to lighting our first fire. The chimney sweep suggested that we re-gasket our stove since the gaskets looked a little worse for wear. He could have done it, but he said his price would have been nearly double what it would actually cost to do since the parts are so cheap. So we picked up the appropriate sized gasket ropes and cement at Ace Hardware and re-did the gaskets ourselves.

We found this video on You Tube that showed us how to re-do the gaskets and followed the video's instructions:

Post-removing door: ripe up all old gaskets. All of them came right out and we were both shocked!

Scrap the crap out of the grooves with an old screwdriver. The hubs was all over this part.

After scrapping we used our vacuum to get up all the little fuzzy pieces of old gasket. Then we wiped down the channels with a damp rag to clean. Next, we poured our cement into the channels and let sit for 10 minutes so it could take on a "tacky" feel to it per the cement's directions.

Replace gaskets. Go slowly and don't pull the rope taunt. Trim the edges. Wipe down with a dry rag to pick up the excess cement.

Replace glass and then rehang the door. We put newspaper in between the freshly cemented pieces and the rest of the stove just so we didn't have to worry about the pieces getting cemented together!

The specific cement that we used said to wait 2 full hours to let the cement dry so we gave ours four hours before we went all pyro on the poor wood stove. Our best guess is that our wood stove was put in the house in the early '80s based on the stove model type. In a nutshell, the stove is just as old as us and it takes a lot less work to get it in firing condition!

Build fire and instantly brag to your husband that you build a better fire. True story! My years of Girl Scouts and camping came in handy as the hubs couldn't get a fire to stay and my fire game was on FIRE!!!

The man cave just got bumped up on our priority list because hanging out by the wood stove on a chilly evening was really nice. Jewels was also a big fan because she loved the extra warmth the stove provided. I think it's save to say I'm buying the hubs a flat screen tv for Christmas this year :(

*In keeping with all things manly the hubs refuses to pain the bricks white. He's not a fan of the look and instead we'll be staining the bricks to bring back some of their original color. It kind of works for me because Baltimore has so many brick rowhouses so it's kind of like we're keeping with the look of the area.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who says red heads can't wear red?

There are numerous fashion rules in this world. I'm not the biggest fashion risk taker in the world so it's safe to say that I generally stay within the confines of the "rules." One rule in particular is that I've followed semi-religiously over the years is the rule that states red heads don't look good in red. If you looked in my closet, you'd probably think I followed that rule because there isn't a lot of red in my closet. What is red in my closet is a Caps shirt, running shirts, and a few old school pride shirts from my black and red high school days.

However, when I saw these Cole Haan Air Violet pumps on sale at Nordstrom's for $95 I had to have them. They were deemed a necessary purchase and part of my Shoe Upgrade project. I have the Target Pearce shoes and while they are indeed comfy, they don't even hold a candle to the real deal.

I've had them safely tucked away in my closet for a few weeks and I've been saving them as a personal treat after running my latest race. It might be weird, but I like to give myself a little treat after running a race and shoes are usually the best way to go. One thing I absolutely adore about running is how strong my legs are and I don't have a problem clicking away in high heels for hours on end. Now, I don't break out the new shoes immediately post race, rather I like to give myself a few days to let any lingering soreness subside.

Dress - Target.
Cardigan - Jackie from J.Crew
Belt - Target
Necklace - Ann Taylor
Shoes - Cole Haan "Air Violet" from Nordstrom
Adorable Boston Terrier - Private breeder in Delaware

The hubs was having some difficulty with the white balance and by difficulty I mean he said, "you look blue in these pictures." I'd also like to point out that I'm not in focus in the picture either, but I'm fully prepared to only fight one battle at a time.
Gotta love my chubby boy.
Sure fire way to make any outfit look better - pose with adorable dogs of course!

How about you: what are the fashion rules you like to break?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011 Baltimore Running Festival Recap

Notice the title above - yeah, I'm hoping that I make the Baltimore Running Festival a yearly occurrence and therefore need to date the post each year. At least that's my game plan and I'm sticking to it, for now.

Friday night my bestie came over and we hopped over to the Baltimore Convention Center pick up our bibs for Saturday's Half Marathon. It was an expo - nothing too glamorous and nothing to complain about. My only complaint is that in my transaction to drop down from the marathon to the half two months ago my projected finish time was never adjusted. I'll take some blame for that, but I was a bit ticked when we picked up our bibs and I found out I was in the fifth and final wave. That was so not happening. Add in my bestie was rubbing it in my face that she was in the first wave. Whatever.

On Saturday we slept in and then I woke up to make my go-to race food: Banana Bran Muffins with Flaxseeds. Two of them are all I need to get through a race and with a 9:45 a.m. start time for the half marathon I had plenty of time to whip some muffins before hopping in the car.

I will say, living 15 minutes from the start of the race is incredibly nice. We didn't leave the house until 8:45 a.m. and that gave us plenty of time to get to the race, check my bag, and then walk over a few blocks to the start line.

Some of my bestie's DC friends didn't have it so lucky and we actually missed the start of the race waiting for them to show up. Once they were accounted for we hopped in at the tail end of the second wave. Yes, I ditched my wave assignment - sue me. I didn't feel bad about it considering my bestie was supposed to be in the first wave and I'm not that much slower than her!

Off we went! It was nice to run a race on my home turf. I knew all of the streets, I knew where the hills were (hint - almost everywhere), and I knew where the hubs would be waiting for us. It was super nice because my bestie's friends made a big sign for us and they were camped out about a mile from the finish line. That was a nice kick to get our butts in gear.

My bestie ran with me the entire time and it went much better than the last time we ran a half together, which in my defense was my first half. We actually chatted during most of the race which was nice. Both of us are training for the Philadelphia Marathon and were treating the half as a training run with the intention to continue running once we were done with the half. Well, by time we got through the finish festival that was jammed full of people and picked up my checked camel pak my legs started to tighten up and I couldn't get in more than another mile.

That was the most frustrating part because I didn't fully race the half. I came in under two-hours, but just over two minutes slower than my fast time. GRRRR!!! If I didn't plan on running an additional 3-6 miles after the half I think I could have easily trimmed off some time. The worst part is everyone I've talked to keeps saying something along the lines of, "you ran just 2 minutes slower than your PR, in BALTIMORE?!?!?!?"

Apparantly, Baltimore is known for it's hills. I don't know, I grew up in the Catskills and I kind of like hills. I actually remarked to my bestie before the race that I was slightly nervous about the hills for the first time in my life because since I've moved I haven't run any significant hills. The two main trails that I do my long runs on don't have much in terms of elevation. Back to Saturday's race, my bestie yelled at me, "Heidi" every time I started to charge up a hill. Excuse me, but I truly believe that if attack a hill it takes less time to get up it and then you don't have to deal with it for as long. That's my defense and I'm sticking to it.

However, I will say it'll be nice to go from this:
to this in November:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everyday I'm shuffling

Party Rock!

I get the most random songs stuck in my head sometimes and it drives me bonkers. However, it's a decent and fairly accurate description of my life in general. I become absolutely obsessed with something and then as always my interest inevitably flounders and I move on to the next obsession. Except for the things that make up my inner soul: I'm not committed to anything. Have no fear hubs - you're definitely a key aspect of my inner soul :)

When I started this blog back in July 2008 I didn't have any grand intentions of what it would turn into. As like most things in my life, it's turned into a random hodgepodge of things that pop into my head. Some say I probably have ADHD, I like to say I'm well rounded. The funny thing is that when I'm at work, I'm intensely focused and organized. Unfortunately, when I come home I spiral out of control and I'm the most disorganized and unstructured person humanly possible. At this moment right now there is literally a dozen projects sitting around me in some various form of production, yet nothing is close to being finished. Let's be honest - I no longer care for the fabric that I was using to make throw pillows for last Christmas and somehow I doubt they'll be finished by this holiday season.

Wait, back to the blog. A few weeks ago I gave my little ol' blog a minor face lift with a new background and such. It needed more yellow or at least that's my general rule of thumb for most things. As I was scrolling through a few pages of older posts I developed my own headache of disgust. What the hell was I thinking in that post? That doesn't make sense after that post? Who the heck came up with these post labels? In a nutshell: when you can't even follow the bouncing ball on your own blog it's probably a good idea to step back.

No, I'm not taking a leave of absence or some other form of forced hibernation. I post infrequently enough that there's no warrant for a formal dismissal. Part of me wants to cut ties and start over new, but another part of me is quasi-proud that I started something in 2008 and haven't completely abandoned it yet. That's progress in my book!

All rubbish aside, I'm hoping to make things more organized around here. Kind of give this blog a purpose, which would help both me and you (if anyone is still out there) follow the bouncing ball.

Here's what I propose:

- Shoe posts. I'm obsessed with shoes. To me they both finish and start an outfit. It's not a random coincidence that my second post on this blog was professing my love for a pair of Kate Spade Pumps. I've already informed the hubs that all I want for my 30th birthday (in over a year!) is a pair of Christian Louboutin's. The river of my eternal shoe love will never run dry.

- Fashion. This might seem like a funny topic from a self-proclaimed tomboy, but it's a secret that I've been a fashion loving closeted individual for years. My biggest struggle is I always think, "oh, that won't look good on my shape" or "if I lost 5lbs I could pull that off." Guess what, I ran a freaking marathon last year and didn't lose that infamous 5lbs. It's not coming off and I'm finally okay with it. I have thighs. I have an ass. Now I'm slowly learning to embrace them and I'm going to belt my dresses and start to show off the curves that I have. Plus, I'm really hoping that if I post more of my outfits here I can get constructive feedback and that's a perk for me.

- House projects. Words like "demolition," "permit," "custom," and "insanity," get tossed around my house these days in such frequency that you'd think we either lived by HGTV or were fighting crime. Our little foreclosure needs some serious house loving and the hubs and I are itching to get started. First up, we're ripping apart our half bath before the end of the year.

- Food posts. I bake a treat for every single one of my office co-workers on their birthday. I make pumpkin rolls on random Wednesday evenings for the hubs. I seem to come alive in the kitchen and it's because I love how you can take such simple ingredients, combine them, and come up with something amazing. And I love chocolate. I do, however, absolutely stink at remembering to take pictures of said baking creations. It's a weakness, but when I'm in the thick of things in the kitchen the last thing I want to do is stop, take a picture, and blog about it.

- Running posts. The hubs said this to me the other day and it might be the most profound thing someone has ever said to me, "Do you ever think that the reason fall is your favorite season is because you're running the most then and the happiest?" Now, fall has always been my favorite season. I think it's because of the colors, the crispness in the air, and my favorite holiday is Halloween, but it also used to be the prime soccer season for me and I absolutely loved playing soccer. I'm miserable in the summer time because my body just doesn't do well in the heat, so when the temperature starts to dip is when I truly come more alive. The last part of the hubs proclamation really hit me, am I happiest when I'm running? The answer is most likely yes. I feel sluggish on days when I don't run. If I go more than a few days without running I have trouble falling asleep and then I'm lethargic. As I get older and move farther and farther away from labeling myself as a "soccer player" I become closer and closer to labeling myself as a "runner."

- Random things. Yes, even if I try to be more organized it's going to happen that complete and seemingly random things are going to pop up. That's life. I hope you stick around to enjoy the ride.

Oh, and don't even think you're going to get less of the pups. Jax and Jewels are here to stay and they will make appearances in just about every aspect of this blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I will not wear suits...

three days in a row. It's a quasi work related rule I try to self-impose as much as humanly possible. I feel far too masculine in suits and even as a self-proclaimed tomboy, I love to throw on a dress or skirt and wear a pair of high heels from time to time. So after a quick trip up to NJ* for two days and in full suit mode, I decided to go the opposite way the next day when I was back at my office.

Shirt - Banana Republic
Skirt - J. Crew
Tights - Target
Boots - Cole Haan (the most expensive shoes I currently love and by far my favorite pair of 4 inch heels)

Ugh, note to self - take a picture in the morning and not 12 hours later and having running through a rainstorm.

Now, that might just look like any run of the mill black skirt, but it is most certainly not.

It's the softest, lace, tulip skirt and one of my favorite skirts. I've always thought it was too mini to wear to work, but throw on black tights and it worked. I'd love to get a chunky colorful necklace and a pair of black booties to wear it with.

* Family members - I was in NJ as part of a team and was in-state for less than 48 hours. There really wasn't time for a family get together. Maybe next time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Scones


Saturday morning was slightly gloomy and the hubs and I needed a bright start to the day. Okay, really I was just excited to use my new scone pan, which just came in the mail from Rue La La. There was a Nordic Ware sale last week and I picked up a few new baking items.

Don't worry, I washed the pan before I used it.

Flipping through my cupboards I realized I had just the right amount of ingredients to make Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Scones from The Joy of Baking.

Here's the recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk or semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in middle of oven.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. (The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.) Stir in the chocolate chunks (or chips) and dried cherries. In a small measuring cup whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla extract and then add to the flour mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together (add more buttermilk or flour as necessary). Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 11/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 4 pie-shaped wedges (triangles). Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Finally, nestle on the couch with one or two scones and a glass of milk. Repeat the eating process in a few hours.

Any other recommendations for scone recipes? I'm so happy to finally have a pan even though I've made scones in the past, just plopped them on a baking sheet.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Miles Run in September

93.63 Miles run in September

I almost broke a 100 miles in one month! Clearly, that's the goal for October, which should be easy to do because I've got a 20 miler scheduled for later in the month.

In August I had a serious discussion with myself that I was in no way shape or form ready to run the Baltimore Marathon in October. I just hadn't been running and getting in marathon shape in two months sounded like a sure fire way to end up back at a doctor's office or worse, hate running forever. I was able to switch my registration and will be running the half marathon distance instead.

That's when my best friend, B, stepped in and convinced me to sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. Sure, having three months to get back in running shape sounded a lot more realistic. Tit for tat, I was able to convince B to run the Baltimore Half with me. Thankfully, she just received her notification that she gained entry from the wait list.

It's on like Donkey Kong. My long runs have been slow and with intermittent walking breaks, but so far I've been feeling pretty good on my runs.

Except for the half marathon I ran on 9/11/11. I got tangled up with a group of runners trying to avoid a massive mud spot on a trail and I got clipped by a guy behind me. I SLAMMED my hip and knee into the ground and actually had to walk quite a bit for the rest of the race. On the plus side, this happened after mile marker #8, so it wasn't like I had that much farther to go.