Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dear Deb of Smitten Kitchen, I Love You.

Now I want to talk about food. I'm thinking about all of the delicious things I want to make but can't because they require an oven or a stove.

I made the poor decision of turning on my oven last night. I had my heart set on pizza, because I'd made some pizza dough out of Cooking Light July and nothing else would do. MISTAAAAAAAAKE! The pizza itself was delicious, but what a dumb idea to preheat my oven to 500 and bake a pizza! Who does that when it's 92 in the SHADE? Apparently, I do.

I think we'll be grilling out today, if we can stand that heat outside. I have a million hot dog buns left over from my birthday BBQ, so that seems the right way to go. But what I reeeeeeeally want to do is browse Smitten Kitchen and choose a recipe from her stock to try. For those of you who don't know, Deb of SK is the best food blogger out there. She is the Barefoot Contessa of the blog world: simple, delicious recipes made accessible to cooks of all levels. When I didn't know what to do with my remaining half a roasted chicken, I looked to Deb for a chicken and dumplings recipe that ended up being one of the most delicious meals I've ever eaten (I improvised a little and left out the tarragon because that's what I do). She is a constant source of culinary inspiration to me. Oh, hell; I'm going to browse her recipes anyway and daydream.

Monday, July 27, 2009


It's blazin' hot here! Do not tell me I'm a pansy who's used to a balmy Seattle summer. While this may or may not be true, the fact of the matter is we Seattleites, and I especially, live in a world largely without air conditioning. My 1939 apartment building has no air conditioning, my shiny new green office building was designed without air conditioning, and just recently all air/ac went out on my lovely little '93 Ford Escort (I drive with the windows down, even on the freeway). Good times over here in summertime Monicaville.

Sooooo, today at lunch I snagged my friend Chris to walk down to South Lake Union Park, a mere three blocks from my office. See the pics I posted? This is where I jumped into the lake. Subtract all clouds and add 88 degrees of muggy heat. I was worried the lake would be so cold I'd feel a shock when I jumped in (this is what I thought about whilst I phsyched myself out for 10 min at the edge of the dock before the plunge). Finally after threats of a bumrush from the peanut gallery, I leapt. Then again. And again. It was the perfect cool down. I'm already planning tomorrow's post workday plunge. See you there at 5:30?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking About [The Place That Shall Not Be Named]

I have been daydreaming about the coastal getaways my friends and I used to take when times were better. There is an amazing beach town at Pacific Beach that offers cottage rentals at amazing rates. It's the perfect place for Seattleites like me to take a weekend away to relax and connect with friends. There are community spaces with game equipment, shared bikes to coast around the neighborhood, and the cutest houses you'll ever see. It's like pleasantville on the coast. Then, something terrible happened... everytime one of us mentioned this magical place by name, someone lost his job or had her pay cut within days of its mention, causing us to cancel beach-bound plans due to economic hardship. Finally, once we concluded the economy had bottomed out, we started to whisper about [the-place-that-shall-not-be-named]. This fall is the birthday of one of the organizers, so we're thinking it might be safe to dip our toe into the water again. Dare we? It's tempting. Here are some reasons:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Making Progress...

This is the project I'm most excited about this summer. I found two sleigh-backed dining chairs at Value Village for $7 a pop (better than Good Will prices these days). They're solid chairs with a great shape, but ugly as all get out. The dark finish on the wood is somewhere between waxy and crusty, and the upholstery on the back and seat is a dingy embossed vinyl. I'm sure at one time it was white or maybe a nice cream, but that was years ago. Again, I'm taking pictures with my camera phone so the quality is terrble, but you get the idea.

On Sunday when I got home from Bellingham, before we went to the concert, I really wanted nothing more than to work on one of my projects, so I got out the sand paper, took one of my chairs out to the lawn and started in. I thought I'd just sand down and chipped parts, spray paint, and be done. As soon as I began, however, it became clear that I needed to sand off the finish entirely if I wanted the chairs to look right. Two hours later I still wasn't done but I was going to be late for the show if I didn't hop in the shower immediately. So I don't have an "after" picture just yet, but I do have a during shot. I really just have a little more do sand down on the lower part of the legs before I can paint. I'm hoping Wed evening I'll have a nice shot of the finished chair.

I'm planning to sell this pair of chairs when I'm done. I just hope I don't get too attached to them in the process.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting Older, If Not Wiser

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. Summer birthdays in my family happen in several layers. We do lunches, bbqs with friends, a family dinner, at least one wild night, and the actual day. I'm exhausted. Every minute was fantastic - the exact way I wanted to spend my birthday.

We kicked off the weekend with a bbq Thursday night at Andrew's and my place. About 20 friends gathered on the dock right on Lk Washington for a pot luck grill out. I made tequila soaked watermelon slices for the event. I have no pics to share - sorry! I will tell you it was beautiful; the weather was perfect, and we hung fabric solar-powered lanterns around the umbrella tables for low evening lighting.

Friday night was my night to celebrate Monica-style. I consider this to be the essential birthday activity, meaning if all other celebrating didn't happen and I only got to choose one thing to do, this would be it: family dinner. It was my mom's birthday celebration as well (hers is just 4 days before mine), so it makes sense that we rally into one grand feast. I come from a family of good cooks and control freaks, which sounds like a nightmare in the kitchen (you know the saying), but it actually works out really well once everyone has his/her station. My brother is easing his way into restaurant management from a line cook role, so I was able to sit back and enjoy my wine this year and let him give the orders. I can't believe he's so grown up.

my brother and me taking a break in the kitchen

My mom made a fresh green salad out of veggies she plucked from her garden. She has an amazing green thumb - something that never made its way to me. House plants fear me.

mom going to town on the salad

Andrew is my designated grill man. I do 90% of the cooking at home, and he does 100% of the grilling (something he is fantastic at). We are all-weather grillers. Luckily on Friday the weather was fantastic. We did chicken drumsticks, beef and zucchini skewers with red onion, and corn on the cob. We also grilled all the ingredients that went into the dipping sauces. It was an amazing meal.

Andrew at the grill

my best friend Abby and god father GT

Really, what I wanted was a typical summer night at my parents' house: hanging out on the deck with wine, hors d'oeuvres, and some of my favorite people who have become family to me. Abby made a gorgeous chocolate-guinness cake (a Hot Buns Bakery fave), which we topped with a birthday candle my brother Brian and his gf Lorena bought at a fireworks stand. I've never seen anything like it in my life. It starts off with a huge rocket flame, and then the petals all open up, each adorned ith a candle, while the entire thing spins and sings happy birthday. Pretty fantastic.

get a load of that candle!

Saturday we packed up the car and headed out at 1pm to Bellingham to celebrate Summer of Crab with Sabina (far right), and more importantly her engagement to Geoff, who has been hosting this party for years. Six of her ladyfriends trucked up for the party, and we were all invited to camp in his back yard. After a couple detours on the way, we arrived at 5pm. After setting up the tent I promptly had 2 strong mojitos on an empty stomach. I became a charmer, a fantastic dancer, and found everything hilarious. Monica, Monica, Monica....

all the ladies assembled

Oh what a night. I woke up grouchy with a headache on the day of my birthday, which could be placated with nothing other than an Americano from sbux. At least I had my ladies there to laugh at me.

That night, Andrew took me to see Death Cab for Cutie at Marymoor Park. Again, the weather was perfect and we arrived early to get dinner and set out our blanket. It was a fantastic show. I couldn't have asked for a better day.

view from our blanket
hanging out on the grass enjoying summer life

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finally Getting To My Wingbacks

I haven't been the most dedicated blogger this year, mostly due to the crazy roller coaster of life and work and finding a balance. Besides the fact that I haven't felt like writing much, I don't have a decent camera so there's another roadblock. However, I did get a snazzy new red cell phone a couple months ago that has *gasp!* a camera! My last terrible $20 nokia didn't have one, so this is a huge step up for me in the technology department. I still need to borrow Andrew's camera if I want to capture a decent photo, but for right now I'm working with my grainy pixelated cell phone camera, and I'm ok with that. On to more important things than my tech famine....

I recovered a RECLINING wingback chair!!! This is no small feat. It became much easier when, about 70% of the way through the project, I realized the seat and back piece separate from the arms and leg piece in two structurally sound chunks. I can't tell you how much easier this made prying out staples and ripping off the 20 year old pink fish-scale-esque fabric that originally upholstered these bad boys. Yep, they were ugly from day one. I remember as a pre-teen when my parents brought them home from the LA-Z-BOY showroom, shiny and new, and thinking, "Really? Pink scales was your top choice?" But hey, it was the early 90s, and based on my fashion choices of that era, who am I to judge?

[This is me circa 1992 looking hot in my mom jeans and cosby christmas sweater. The picture is too small to really expose all the glorious details that make this family portrait (and particularly me) so painfully awkward, so I'll fill you in: it was the second year I started to pudge up a little, and I'm clearly uncomfortable about it, which is why the sweater is actually tucked into the mom jeans in an attempt to slim my waist (a suggestion from my mother who knows these things). I had also just begun to experience acne, making me so uncomfortable about my appearance I had no interest in getting my picture taken, but it was Christmas and that's what families do on Christmas, so I choice but to shove my hands into my front pockets and pose for the picture. At least I remembered to wear my Santa Clause novelty earrings - that definitely made it better. Oh, the pain!]

OK back to the original purpose of the post: chairs! These chairs have seen me through all of my awkward years and then some, and have seen a whole lot of love. When my parents passed them on to me for the apartment that Andrew and I now share, they were threadbare, dingy, splitting at the arms and in places on the seat, but in otherwise great shape. They didn't look great, but they're solid chairs.... and they recline! So cool!

detail of the foam coming out of the arm where the upholstery split

I've been wanting to recover them forever, but about two years ago when I started pulling the upholstery off one of the chairs, I realized it was a much bigger job than I thought, became overwhelmed and intimidated, and abandoned the project. This is pretty uncharacteristic of me, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and it was. The skinned chair sat under a lumpy baggy slip cover for many moons looking tragic and unloved. Earlier this month, after successfully completing some smaller scale reupholstery projects, I decided it was time to revisit the giant pink elephant in the room. I had about 7 yards of hideous but good quality upholstery fabric I'd gotten from an outlet store years ago at a deep discount for the express purpose of being test fabric for a project such as this.

So... I dove in. It was a total pain in the arse, and took many many hours (at least 40) to get it from total disarray to finished, but it was worth it to go through that learning process and regain my confidence that I can, in fact, reupholster anything. It's not flawless by any means, but it looks pretty durn good if you ask me. I have the original fabric in pieces to use as a pattern, and I have a plan hatching for some custom slip covers. The trick is maintaining the full range of reclining motion, so it'll have to be a 4-piece cover. Now I know I can do it and I'm giddy and the possibilities!

This isn't an after picture, really. I still hate the fabric. I'll call this the "during" picture, and post a pic of the finished product when I've redone it with a fabric that's more my taste. I may try my hand at fabric stamping.... hmmmm.... :)