Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wine Wednesday: Sycamore Canyon Sparkle

Well, would you look at that, it's Wednesday.  And you know what that means.  Wine Wednesday!  I apologize for the absence in WW posts lately, but that just means I have a few special bottles saved up for you guys.
Beautiful Sedona
While my mom was visiting, K and I took her up to Sedona.  It really is such a beautiful place and shouldn't be missed.  While we were there, we checked out a wine shop I have had on my list for awhile, The Art of Wine.  The place has rave reviews for its "art" and its wine.  I didn't have a chance to really look at the art, but it looked like the same kind of stuff you find in most upscale tourist towns.  Brightly colored paintings, many of them wine themed, plaques with cutsie little sayings on them.   The shop was cute enough, although on the expensive side.  Their wines are overpriced in my opinion, but I guess that is what you get in the super touristy area of a super touristy town.  It carries only wines made in Arizona.  However, I realized that some of their wines are made in Arizona, but the grapes are actually grown in California.  I think it's a little bit of a stretch to call it an Arizona wine when the grapes aren't even grown here, but I guess that is done sometimes. Honestly, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit this shop again, but if you are nearby and want some wine it might be worth checking out ( if you are prepared to spend some money).
Sycamore Canyon Sparkle - goes well next to my coffee maker, no?
One of the bottles that we ended up picking up was this sparkling wine by Sycamore Canyon.  Apparently it is sold exclusively at this wine shop.  The bottle is pretty, though, isn't it?  And it is delicious.  The sommelier described it as "pecan pie in a glass".  I wouldn't go that far, but it is sweet with strong vanilla flavors.  Even though it is sweet, it isn't overly so.  I like moderately sweet wines, and my mom doesn't like sweet wines at all, but we both enjoyed this wine.
A toast to the new house!
Apparently this can only be purchased at The Art of Wine, so if you want to try it you will have to go to Sedona.  Although I did find a website where they have an online store "coming soon", so you may eventually be able to buy it online.  I would call this a good special occasion wine, both because it is a higher price than I would normally pay, and because, well, it's a sparkling wine.  So if you find yourself in Sedona and you want to toast with a special bottle, this might be the one for you.

Wine:  Sycamore Canyon Sparkle 
Year: 2011
Region: California, Arizona
Purchased From: The Art of Wine, Sedona
 Price: $35
Verdict: 4/5
Just caught the sunset walking out of Art of Wine - this is from their parking lot

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Merry and Bright

I love decorating for Christmas, and since we are in a new house I have all kinds of new places to decorate.   We have this half wall in our entryway that is part of our staircase, and I decided that this year it is the perfect place to hang our stockings.  Above the stockings I hung a little string garland to hang Christmas cards using clothespins.  It looked a little off when I first finished it, so much so that I texted a picture of it to my BFF and my cousin to ask it if was ugly or cute.  They both assured me it was cute (as is their duty), and  my BFF suggested adding some greenery.  I had already been wanting to make a swag that I saw on pinterest, so I decided to go all out and try to make a garland as well.
Inspiration photo from Better Homes and Gardens
When we bought our Christmas tree at good old Home Depot, they had a basket full of extra tree branches free for the taking.  My mom and I gathered up a bunch of them with the intent of getting crafty, but I didn't get around to it until today.  I had also picked up some other supplies at Joann's and Michael's.  After gathering all of my supplies, and digging my hot glue gun out of a drawer, I realized that I had a hot glue gun with no glue sticks.  I have had it for years, but never actually used it.   I attempted to finish using just regular craft glue, but it was a no-go.  So, off to Joann's I went, where I acquired some glue sticks as well as some green floral rope for the garland I would make.

After that short little field trip, I returned home to finish my first project, a greenery bunch to attach to my banister.  I just arranged some clippings of the evergreen branches and bound them together using 26 gauge green floral wire (It is just what I had on hand, but I think any floral wire that is easy  to wrap around your greenery and cut should work).  I then arranged a smaller bunch and attached those sticking out in the other direction so that there would be some greens on the bottom.  I used a small bunch of bare sticks as a backbone, but I think that is optional.  I just liked the way it looked in the inspiration photo.  I clipped apart some floral sprays that I bought at Michael's so that I could arrange them on top of the greens and attached those with more floral wire.  I then tied a ribbon around it and tied it in a bow.  The bow was not cute.  I even watched a Martha Stewart Tutorial on "How to tie a bow" (for real).  That helped, but it was still not a great bow.  But luckily, I hot glued some glittered pine cones and mini Christmas balls in the center to finish it off (and hide my pathetic bow).  I ended up being really happy with how it turned out.

I wrapped the post to protect it before hanging the swag

Next, I attempted to make my first ever garland.  It was actually really hard to find a good tutorial on how to make one, but I finally found THIS one.  I pretty much followed her instructions exactly except that I did it inside and I only used one type of evergreen.  After I finished the basic green garland, I attached it to the top of the half wall with thumbtacks ( maybe not the most secure method, but I am trying to avoid leaving a bunch of holes in the wall, and it works).  I wound a string of lights through the greens and then tucked sprigs of pine cones and berries into the greens.  The strand of lights I used was a little too long, so I put the leftovers in a clear vase next to two other clear vases filled with Christmas balls and glittered pine cones.

The supplies I used for the garland and swag are:

1 bunch of branches (from Michael's - if you live somewhere with trees you can just go cut some down)
6-8 leftover Christmas tree branches
2 glittered mini-pine cone sprays (cut apart)
2 golden berry spray (cut apart)
mini Christmas balls ( I only used 4)
3 medium pine cone sprays
26 gauge green floral wire
Green rope (mine was wired, but I don't think that is necessary)
wire cutters/garden shears
Hot glue gun
1 strand of clear Christmas lights

Everything I either had on hand or picked up at craft stores.  I'm so happy with how these projects turned out! Although making something like this can seem daunting, it actually was fairly simple and and fun. Once you have all the supplies they don't even take that long. Happy holiday crafting!
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Friday, December 7, 2012

The lazy person's guide to keeping your house clean(ish)

Now that we are getting settled in, I am trying to return to the normal routine that we had established of cooking at home, planning our meals and having a cleaning schedule.  A cleaning schedule!  What are you, thirty?  Yes, I am.  Thirty-one, actually.  See, I am naturally not a tidy person.  I like things to be clean, but I hate cleaning.  When I first moved to Portland, I moved into a house with two other roommates.  They already had a chore chart, and asked if I would be OK with that.  And I found that having a chore chart really helps me to stay on top of keeping the house clean(ish).  Of course, it helps when you have roommates and so only have one major chore a week.  In that house we used a whiteboard calendar that we filled in every week.  Each roommate had their own marker color and had a different chore assigned each week.  For example, one week would be floors, one week would be kitchen and one week would be trash.
I think this is exactly the same calendar that we used

 This works well for roommate situations because it leaves little room for resentment from one person doing all the chores and another never doing any.   After living with the chore chart for awhile, I decided it was the best way to keep myself on top of housework, and I thought I would probably try to continue to have a chore chart even after moving out.  K also really liked our chore chart, so we decided to keep one after we moved in together.  We assigned chores to ourselves according to our schedules, but instead of using a white board, we use our iCloud calendars.  This is great because you can keep calendars for different people or events, and you can access it from your phone or a computer so you pretty much always have access to it.  Each of us has our own chore chart, and we also have a general calendar to schedule things that we do together like events we are going to, people visiting, etc.

  Since I am not working right now and have more free time, I figure I can at least attempt to keep the house clean (easier said than done).  I kept seeing these things on pinterest that were links to blogs saying "Clean your house in 15 minutes a day!".  So I based my current cleaning schedule on THIS one.  Honestly, I don't know if I am just a slow cleaner or what, but it is at least half an hour to an hour per day, who are they kidding with 15 minutes a day?  To be completely honest, I am not very good about sticking to this 100%, but having it written down reminds me that it hasn't been done in X amount of time and needs to be done.  This can also be adjusted to your own personal needs or preferences.

Monday: Dust
Tuesday: Sweep and mop tile
Wednesday:  Clean out fridge, deep clean kitchen
Thursday: Clean downstairs bathroom (half bath)
Friday:  Clean master bath

K has take out trash, vacuum carpet and clean second bathroom.  Dusting and cleaning the half bath take the least amount of time, those can probably actually be done in 15 minutes.  I added the cleaning out fridge and moved kitchen to Wednesday since we moved into this house because we now have to keep our trash cans in our garage.  I don't want to throw out stinky food and have it sitting in the garage for 5 days.  Wednesday night is when the trash goes out, so that is the best time to do it.  Keeping up with cleaning out the fridge once a week will allow us to avoid any gross situations in there and help us to avoid food waste by keeping tabs of what is in the fridge that needs to be used up.  Plus, I really love my new fridge and I want to keep it nice!  (Nothing like deep cleaning your old house when you move out to show you how gross you are!)
Fancy new fridge

The most important chore that I have started doing is in my kitchen.  Although I am lazy when it comes to cleaning, I HATE a messy kitchen.  Drives me nuts.  And I felt like I was constantly cleaning the kitchen, especially since we cook at home so often now.  I was facing a pile of dishes and messy counters everyday, and it seemed to take me about an hour to clean my kitchen daily, only to mess it up again at dinner.  So, I started a daily routine that helps me immensely IF I stick to it.  If I skip one day it messes up the whole thing and it takes me a day or two to get back on schedule.  It is fairly simple, and might be a "Duh" moment for some people who already do this, but for procrastinators it will be a life saver.  In the morning, while I am brewing my coffee, I unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher and quickly load the few stragglers from the night before and that morning.  Then the dishwasher is empty and accepting dirty dishes, so throughout the day if I dirty a dish it goes directly into the dishwasher.  After dinner, leftovers are packed into lunch sized portions for the next day,  all dishes are loaded into the dishwasher, and counters are wiped (takes less than ten minutes).  I set the dishwasher to run overnight as it has a delay button, but you could run it right away.  The point is that the dishes should be clean the next morning so that you can unload them and start over.  This takes a little discipline because doing a chore first thing in the morning before you have even had coffee is not the most fun thing in the world, but it is REALLY not hard, and it makes a huge difference in the amount of time spent cleaning up for the rest of the day.  Also, I really like walking into a clean kitchen, which happens most of the time now!

Basically, regular maintenance is your friend.  As a procrastinator, I often avoid doing something for as long as I can.  The problem with that is that often I have twice as much work when I finally get to it.  After cleaning up, it is best to KEEP it clean, instead of putting it off until you can't stand it anymore.  And yes, those type As out there already know this, but this guide is not for you.  We all know you have no problem keeping your house clean.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Weekly Recap

Oh wow!  I just took a big long unscheduled break from blogging, didn't I?  I apologize to my many readers ( Hey C!).  I do have an excuse of sorts - we finally moved into our new house!  Yay!  So, we were without internets for almost a week - I know, the horror!  Two days after moving in, my parents arrived to have Thanksgiving with us and help us get settled in.  Then the next day my back went out and I was essentially out of commission for about three days. And on and on and on.

  Thanksgiving went relatively smoothly considering that I was injured and couldn't bend or lift anything.  Oh, and that only half of the kitchen was unpacked and we had to keep looking for things "Where is my measuring cup!?!  Where is my meat thermometer?"  and so on.  I wanted to try an unconventional turkey recipe that involved cutting it into pieces, so K did his manly duties and butchered the turkey into quarters (or something, I don't know butcher lingo).  It was manly, I tell you.  Also, we decided that next year we will go back to roasting a whole turkey, the way it should be done on Thanksgiving.


Deconstructed Turkey

My pie crust turned out waaaay too dry and could not be rolled out, so I had to press it into the pie pan.  Then I opened the can of pumpkin puree and it had a big black spot on it.  Panic!  But the pie was saved, because I had roasted a pumpkin that we got in our CSA earlier in the month, and frozen the puree.  It turned out to be one of the best pumpkin pies I have made ( although, admittedly, not the prettiest).

Ugly Pie, tasted great
Ready to eat (finally!)
 Much work was done on the house, my Step-dad installed my new chandelier for my closet!  Yay, it looks amazing.  He and K also put in our new garbage disposal, and we finally had our blinds installed, so we are not on display to the entire neighborhood anymore.
Imagine the sound of angels

Chandelier in the walk in!  Makes me happy every time I see it.
We also got our Christmas tree up and decorated.  When we first moved here, I was convinced that we would need to buy a fake tree, as I imagined that trees would be super expensive here.  Growing up in Alaska, almost everyone had fake trees because the real trees had to be shipped up from the lower 48 and were very expensive (unless you went with a true Alaskan tree, which are quite scraggly).

I asked my Alaskan friends to send me pictures of real Alaskan Christmas trees and my friend Sandi sent this one.  Ha!
My friend Alisha shared these pics of the tree her family had a few years ago.  Check out her awesome blog HERE!

A Real Alaskan Christmas Tree 
After living in Oregon for years, however, I got used to having a real tree.  And became very anti-fake tree.  I used to go to a tree farm where you could cut down your own tree, and I loved that.  I love establishing traditions that you can do every year with your family.  Although this year we didn't so much go to a tree farm as we went to Home Depot for our tree (Home Depot has become our home away from home) - we were still able to get a real tree!  I was so excited to have my parents here to help with the tree because to me, the fun part about getting a tree is making it a memorable outing and then decorating it together.  Since they won't be here for Christmas, it is a nice way to get to do some celebrating with them.


 After the guys got it set up in the stand, we pulled out all of the Christmas boxes front the garage.  APPARENTLY some people think I have too many Christmas decorations.  I don't really know what they are talking about, I think I have just the right amount, but whatever.  The nice thing is that I was able to pick and choose my "theme" this year since I have built up a nice collection of ornaments (The one and only benefit of working retail.  25% discount plus 50% clearance (and sometimes 75% and sometimes even 90%)?  I have a lot of nice ornaments that I got on the cheap).  Since we are now living in the Valley of the Sun, I wanted to create some sort of wintery feeling in the house.  So I went with white, silver and gold for the tree.  I love it!  I have slowly been trying to get the rest of the house decorated, still working on it.

But now we are fully moved into the new house, our guests have returned home, and so we are trying to return to the routines we had established in the past few months.  Cooking at home, meal planning, cleaning schedules... yes, we might be becoming adults.  Of course, our house is still filled with unpacked boxes, so I wouldn't bank on that yet.
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