Saturday, November 30, 2013

Perfect Simple Chocolate Covered Pretzels

 The super secret tip to doing this easily is the foil boat. C'mon, I'll show you.

I like Rold Gold pretzel rods as I find they tend to have the least amount of broken rods in each bag. Use whole rods, not broken ones as they look nicer.

Buy any color Wilton chocolate discs you like. They even come in flavors now like peppermint, if you dig that. Follow the directions on the melts! Never ever put them in the fridge or you may as well throw them in the garbage as they will not melt right afterward.

Make space in your fridge for 2 cookie sheets laid flat (on top of other things is fine as long as you can lay them flat).

Prep your kitchen with 2 baking sheets covered in foil, an open bag of pretzel rods, a paper towel for your hands and for drips, a butter knife, and some sprinkles (if you choose) poured into a little container. Baking is not like cooking; you have to be right on top of things. You can't answer the phone or wander off.

Make a little foil boat not quite as long as the chocolate-dipped area of your pretzel. This is the key to success!

Set your microwave to half-power and put it on for like 3 minutes. Stay right there. Pop in a ramekin of melts, about half the bag. After 30 seconds, stir well. Redo this every 20 seconds until they melt nicely.

Pour/scrape melted chocolate into your foil boat, concentrating on the opening, not the back. You're going to lay the pretzel in, but also drag it through, so better on this end than the other.

Dip and twist, dragging toward the open end of your boat. Coat well, no pretzel showing through. Set immediately on the foil covered cookie sheets you laid out. I put the naked-pretzel pieces out and alternate left-right. (This is something I learned AFTER taking the photos above, but is shown in the last photo.) This helps when you're moving them to a storage container and maximizes space.

Coat with sprinkles, if you like. If you're fancy, use an icing bag to heat more in an opposing color and zig-zag that color across - don't worry, this isn't a neat craft, messy is fine.

Microwave the rest of your melts, popping one finished sheet into the fridge. Dip the remaining pretzels. Put those in the fridge and you should be out of chocolate. You should have a few pretzels left over.

After 15-20 minutes, take the trays out of the fridge and move your pretzels to a large Tupperware. I lay them flat and they seem to not break or flake apart that way. 

Pro tip: for Halloween, use brown chocolate and chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) and add a slivered almond to the end for Werewolf Fingers.
These are the ones I brought to a Holiday Party in 2012 - Christmas and Hanukkah colors.

 These are the ones we left at home that were made from the leftover colors swirled together.

These are the "icicles" I invented in 2013.

Did you try it? Show me! :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Snowman Cookies

Pinterest fail. 

I tried to make these for a party last year and documented my progress. I thought I had it nailed but...not so much.

This is what they were supposed to look like:

Here is the original pin and the directions. If you are brave, please share your photo! See also this website for Epic Pinterest Fails like mine.'s how they turned out:

 So far, so good!

Ruined only 1 set of mashmallows by overnuking them. That smells terrible, BTW.

 Still looking good. It's the icing phase that kills it...

 Oh, gods, what holy hell is this?
I'll just make them all look terrified! They're melting after all.
 Kill me, just kill me.
 WTF is this supposed to be? Are those giant mustaches or arms?
I give up.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Moved In

We're all moved in but far from unpacked. The garage is full to the 4' mark with boxes of stuff I thought we "needed" but don't. It's been interesting to see what we thought we really liked and haven't even missed. We're going to be continuing to purge items for awhile, I think. It's also curbing our spending by realizing "eh, I don't need that and I don't even really want it." Good stuff, living small, simple.

So here's the house tour, even though it's a little bit messy and there's still tons to do:

From the front door: living room. Love this sofa table made of zebra wood and ...maple? I forget. The white accent wall, we're still undecided as to what we want to do with it.
Living room. Still need to put up a cord-cover under the tv, but we want to replace the entertainment stand, just not sure with what yet. Also, need some kind of shelving for DVDs and video games, but we disagree on what to get just yet. And yes, we need to hang all our art.
Living room. This couch is so cozy!
Future reading nook needs chairs. We found chairs we like but they're a bit out of budget right now. Still trying to find a way to have 2 catboxes without it looking like we have 2 catboxes. There's not a lot of extra space.
Future reading nook and kitchen. This is the cat dining area and there's all 3 cats. El has adjusted well to being an indoor cat. He has a lot less bad habits than we thought he would. He likes to go on the tables, but doesn't scratch the furniture and barely meows, which is different from when he was outside when he meowed so loudly! They don't play together yet, but have experimented a few times at it. Pullo gets afraid when giant El jumps on him and he gets flattened.
Kitchen. Yes, the dishes need to be done. Dave still has to put up shelves on the right side of the pass-through. We also have to cut the left side of the door frame because our fridge is apparently slightly over-sized and the fridge door rubs against the door frame. Ah, home ownership...
Dining room. We had a full table this weekend and I thought it was quite comfortable space-wise.
Dining room with pantry and bar. We're still in the "I don't know if this works here or if we should move it...somewhere" phase of trying things out in the house.
Office, my side.
Office, Dave's side. We haven't gotten around to straightening up the bookshelves yet. And there's still more books in the garage.
Office, left wall. We bought this TV with points we'd accrued from putting home remodeling stuff on the Best Buy card. We got this awesome thing called ChromeCast that plugs into the TV's USB port and we can take anything on our computers and show it on the TV. We use it all the time! "Check out this YouTube video. On screen." (Yes, like Star Trek) Dave had taken over the closet with his miniatures, his pew-stuff.
Bathroom. It doesn't lend itself to a landscape picture or you'd have lots of hallway in the shot. This is still my favorite room because everything is new in it and it's got my stamp all over it. The only drawback is there is tons of light in the late morning, which is bad if you are taking a shower because it's blindingly bright in there and there's nothing blocking the window. The little stones on the shower floor feel so nice after being on your feet all day!
Bedroom. Yes, it's a mess. We got a new blanket and it's super soft so the cats jump up and are instantly paralyzed and have to paw it and not walk to your call. We have to replace the blinds in here, and 1 set in the office, but it's expensive and a project and we simply haven't gotten to it yet.
Bedroom, left side. I hate that there's not room for symmetry in here like we had at the townhouse, but there's just walking room past the foot of the bed so the dresser had to go to one side and the closet it at the other side. Yes, those are boxes I still have to unpack. Dave's been good about unpacking all his stuff and I have been...less good. But I've done more unpacking of the house's stuff, so it all washes out.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

House Progress 5

Everything is in a state of "almost done."

El has been using the planter boxes as his personal litter box. In the small planter, I planted seeds of basil and pansy. The basil, toward the back, was completely dug up within a couple of days. I planted a couple of flowers that were pre-potted into the small planter box hoping to take up the space. He half dug one of those up as well. The other day, I put him out of the front door and he jumped right into the front large planter box and used it. Brat.

We've been talking more about painting the exterior. We'll have to dig up the front planter box first to expose the front wall behind them. That project sounds like it will suck and leave a giant ugly cat box at the front of the house.

My city has a drawing going on to give you $2000 toward home improvement if you bought a house between certain months, of which we did. If we get that, it'll go toward replacing the windows with impact-resistant.

The back patio is going to wait a long time to get redone. The driveway needs repaving, maybe in 6 months or more.

Bathroom, minus shower doors
The last thing to do is to have the shower doors made. Unfortunately, because it used to be a tub and I'm a fancy-pants who wants a frame-less enclosure to show off how cool it looks, it has to be custom made. The doors I originally bought, I've been trying for weeks to return, but they have to be picked up in a lift-truck and FedEx is giving me a problem all week about it after Overstock ignored my contact for weeks before they finally okayed it to FedEx. So now we wait. Of course, that's money we're out in the mean time, which blows. Having a working toilet in the house seems like such an obvious thing, but it hasn't been true for nearly a month, so it's kind of a big deal. The last thing to do is order the glass doors. I got estimates and now just have to put in the deposit and get it started. The contractor broke one of the tiles in the shower step by dropping a tool on it, oops! He's going to fix it this week, though, no big deal.

Kitchen, cabinets & counters in
The last thing to do is have the cabinet people come back out as they failed to put a piece of wood under the counter top over the dishwasher so the dishwasher can be attached. Otherwise, the sink works and all that good stuff.

Living Room
Living room, awful orange, hall, office
From kitchen to dining room
That horrible wooden entryway thing is gone and the floor is patched there. The ceiling is no longer popcorn, but smooth. The wall you see as you walk in, we're making an accent wall (in the next several months) and no longer looks like a barn. It's painted. We just have to hang the ceiling fan. We ran into a snag here as the color is all wrong! The chip was a dark brown-orange, but on the wall it's like a crayon, bright and hideous. We're deciding on a color for repainting, which sucks to redo it, but it's just awful. I'll do some test-paint this time.

Dining Room
The walls needed some repair and the one wall was rebuilt that used to be exterior. The pass-through is shorter. The door was rebuilt. It's painted. The electric was redone from being dangerous and homemade to something real. The cabinets were removed and the tile beneath repaired. We just need to hang the ceiling fan and buy the wardrobe to serve as our pantry.

Bedroom, former closet organizer at right
The ceiling was replaced and the closet emptied and painted. The one wall the used to be exterior was built from new. The room is painted and Dave doesn't hate it. He was afraid our brown picture frames wouldn't go with the green room, but I assured him that trees match (brown and green). I have to figure out if the closet organizer stuff is in good enough shape to put back in or toss.

It's painted. We still cannot figure out what to do with the furniture in there. Dave insists we don't need much storage and that keeping things in plastic bins is sufficient and I say that's no way to do things. I talked to a company that does modular custom-built furniture and the price was well above what we had in mind, so I think we're looking for other solutions. We've just finally come to an agreement on where the desks will go, which took longer than you might think and 4 different diagrams. There was a lot of sighing and head shaking. Dave likes the color, which surprised me. He thinks it's blue, so just go with it.

The AC needs to be replaced, probably soon. That work is much less invasive than everything else and I can handle that once we're in.

So everything's almost done. That means I have to really get started packing. Ugh. I need a few more hours each day and the desire to get that done.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

House Progress 4

Things are at the beginning of the wrap-up phase.

The back door was replaced from the homeowner-made monstrosity that was not secure to a real metal secure door, and the locks changed.

The roof was replaced and is now stepped, so there is no flat roof to pool water and give us troubles in a few years.

The small planter box is sprouting pansies in the front, but it looks like El, or some other neighbor cat, is using the back to dig (and maybe make waste?) in and none of those basil sprouts were seen again. I'll have to pot a plant in there that is large and takes up the space.

All the shutters were removed, bringing the look decades into the present.
The walls were patched where the shutters had been.
We still need to paint the exterior, but that will likely wait until after we've moved.

The driveway still needs to be redone. We have some creative ideas, but they are not budget-friendly and will wait.

We bought a machete (I know, Dave's not even supposed to have butter knives) and cut back the palm in the yard and it's many seed clusters.

We'd like to change the front long planter into a water feature, but I think that will be expensive and will definitely wait, maybe a year or more.

All windows, except the bathroom still need to be replaced with impact-resistant glass. They have cranks now, from the 70s, bleh.


The walls are painted yellow, which Dave hates.
The cabinets are in and look great.
Some electrical had to be redone and a water line had to be run.
The microwave is installed.

I'm waiting to hear from the cabinet company about a date on the counter tops. I had already paid for and picked out my granite, and they came out to do final measurements, so it's all cutting and scheduling now. After those are in, I can have the sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher put in.


The floor is tiled.
The tub was removed and converted to a shower.
The shower enclosure is mostly tiled, but not finished.
The border I picked looks awesome, and once it's all done is going to kick ass.
The shower floor tile is not yet installed.
The window was replaced with a hurricane-impact window today.
The light fixture was raised but is not yet installed.
The medicine cabinet is not yet installed, nor the hole made for it.
The toilet, vanity, and small accessories still need to be installed, probably after painting.
Once the tile is finished in the enclosure, I can schedule the glass company to come measure for the shower doors, which have to be custom made, unfortunately. I had bought doors, but the door was centered and it can't be or it'll hit the toilet, so I had to work with the returns department for 3 weeks before I finally got that issue settled today.

Other Interior

The baseboards have all been removed and are in the process of being replaced.
Painting is beginning this weekend. The walls are being prepped now.
We had to replace 3 interior doors.

The contractor changed the price on rerunning the electrical in the dining room and doubled his price, so I told him to wait and I'll ask someone else more affordable in the mean time.

The horrible "barn wall" accent wall is drywalled over and is now just a wall.
The bead board was removed from my future reading nook outside the kitchen.
The horrible wooden divider as you come in was removed. Unfortunately, it left a missing piece of vinyl flooring - which we were told by the owner was hardwood.

The ceiling in the living room was redone from popcorn with a settlement crack in it to being reinforced and having a slight texture. Much more modern.

The water heater was replaced and we went from gas to electric and from a tank to tankless.

We still need to:
  • Change the front door locks.
  • Hang the mailbox.
  • Rerun the dining room electric.
  • Hang the 4 ceiling fans.
  • Redo the driveway.
  • Replace tiles at front step - might roll in with driveway project, make it uniform.
  • Fix some flooring in spots.
  • Find office furniture that works for us. 
  • Make El an indoor cat, somehow. Hoping he can get along with our other 2.
  • Paint the exterior.
  • Do something to the planter boxes.
  • Replace the AC, ran out of budget for this.
  • Move. /sob...packing and moving suck.
  • We have some cool ideas for what to do with the former barn-wall and are narrowing those down now.
  • I've gotten Dave excited to build Shoji Screens over the dining room windows (inside) so we won't have to replace the blinds and will still have privacy and natural light.

It's really starting to look like something out of this century finally.

For old updates, see:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Friday, March 01, 2013

House Progress 3

Finally, I'm starting to see forward movement! It was so upsetting to go over to the new house every day and it look worse than the last, with all the demo that had to take place. However, now new things are going in and color is blooming and plants are sprouting and it's springtime and new life all over the house.

Kitchen: After meeting with 4 different companies for cabinets, I found one we could (almost) afford and went with them. It's solid-wood construction and has a lifetime guarantee. They were installed today, though the countertop won't come for another week or two or three. I'm very pleased with the look of them, even though the color I initially wanted was lighter, more of a honey maple, and this is more of a cherry. I think it looks good with the yellow walls (even if Dave hates the yellow) and will go with our dining table, which is a medium wood tone, well.
Sink cabinets are the only ones with doors, for trash can and such,
all drawers otherwise, so much more useful to me.
Dishwasher goes in that space to the left
Other angle. Dishwasher left.
Above will be shelves, not cabinets.
Upper cabinets. Bad lighting made the color look weird.

Lower cabinets, spaces for stove/fridge.

Far angle.

Bathroom: Today was a frustrating day of visiting 4 different places to try and find a coupling or adapter for the shower head arm because the one I got was just strange. I ended up ordering a new arm with normal sized threads as a solution. I also didn't know I ordered the border tile wrong for the shower and now have to rush-order a few more pieces because I didn't get enough.

On the bright side, all the demo in the bathroom is done and the first bits of tile have gone in already.
Original look of the bathroom

Tub removed to form a shower.
Masking tape stripes for me to visualize where I wanted the accent border

Old vanity & mirror & light

Shower floor tile, so smooth

Wall repair from removal of old vanity and such

Shower in the making

Custom nooks cut into the wall.
A change from my original design due to the placement of a stud.

First row of tile

Door: The backdoor, which was some kind of slipshod making that I could have kicked in, is now replaced with a metal up-to-code door and proper frame. The wall isn't yet finished around it, but it's getting there.

Other: The walls are all repaired in the master bedroom and dining room. The ceiling is replaced in the master bedroom and closet where water damage from the roof had ruined them. Those things are ready for paint. Dave cut the baseboards for the office, but didn't have everything he needed for installation yet. This was a BIG project and I'm so glad to not be living in the house while all this is going on! The dust alone would be making me cranky, let alone the noise, the people in the house all day, and the chaos of it all. It's sanctuary to be able to leave there and come home to where all my stuff is.

For older posts, see Part 1 and Part 2.