Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wine Wednesday: 2011 Hedgeline Pinot Gris

This Wine Wednesday features a Washington Pinot Gris called Hedgeline.  I've never heard of this vineyard before, but then I am not as familiar with Washington wines as I am with Oregon wines.  This is quite a fragrant and fruity Pinot Gris, with a tart apple flavor as well as a some sweetness.   It was a pretty enjoyable wine.

Wine:  Hedgeline Pinot Gris
Year: 2011
Region: Washington
Purchased From: Fry's
 Price: $10
Verdict: 4/5

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

What!?!  Two red wines in a row???  I know, right?  It just happened that way, don't get excited.  Who knows how long it will be before I feature a red wine again.  I picked this up because I was making this Jacques Pepin Beef Stew, and because the stew contains an entire bottle of red wine, I thought the only appropriate drink to go with it was another bottle of red wine.   Also, I thought the bottle was pretty cool.

This is a Chilean wine called Root:1.  -  apparently Chile is one of the only places that has grapes growing on original root stocks.  A disease of the grape called phylloxera (do NOT google that, so gross) wiped out most of the grape vines in the world and so to fight the disease, most growers started grafting cuttings onto disease resistant stocks.  I'm not sure if this makes the grapes better or worse, but I just thought you might enjoy a mini history lesson with your Wine Wednesday.

This is a nice, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon.  I would go so far as to call it velvety.  K recommends that you let it breathe, and advises that it opens up nicely.  Also, did I mention the bottle is pretty cool?

Aren't my pumpkins cute?  I picked them up at Pier 1 Imports.

Wine:  Root:1 Cabernet Sauvingnon
Year: 2011
Region: Chile
Purchased From: World Market
 Price: $10
Verdict: 4/5
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Red Diamond Pinot Noir

That's right, I have a red for you this week!  I know it doesn't happen very often.  But watch out, because I'm on a roll - I have another one for you next week.  K and I picked up this one while we were taking advantage of Fry's wine sale - buy six bottles, get 30% off, in addition to sale prices!  This means that I got this bottle of wine that is regularly sold at $10.99 for only $5.59. That is crazy talk!  In case you didn't know, Fry's is owned by Kroger, so it is a sister store, sort of, to our beloved Fred Meyer.  Well, more like step-sister store.  But we take what we can get.  If you have a Kroger affiliate where you live, you can probably take advantage of a similar sale.

We bought this wine because we knew we had some grilled steaks in our future.  And we pretty much only drink red wine when we are eating steak.  It turns out that this wine might not have been the top choice to go with steak, although it was pretty great.  It was a very smooth wine, soft and mellow.  Not at all what I am used to with Pinot Noirs.  I actually said this when I first tasted it - "It's like drinking a fuzzy blanket!"  and it was.  In a good way.  I would recommend this wine if you want a nice, drinkable Pinot Noir.

Wine:  Red Diamond Pinot Noir
Year: 2011
Region: California
Purchased From: Fry's
 Price: $5.59 (Reg 10.99)
Verdict: 4/5
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wine Wednesday: King Estate Luminous Pinot Gris

When K and I were on our trip to the Northwest a few weeks ago, we did a little bit of wine tasting.  Of course I couldn't miss my favorite winery in the world, King Estate.  We decided to pick up a bottle of this limited edition Luminous Pinot Gris.  Don't be fooled by the pink color, this is not a rosé!  I am not a fan of the rosé, so I was surprised that I actually liked this wine.  That's because unlike a rosé , which is traditionally made from red grapes that are separated from their skins,  this is made from Pinot Gris grapes and is allowed to soak with the skins for 72 hours.  Traditionally Pinot Gris is separated from its skins before fermentation, because the Pinot Gris grape is actually purplish grey.

Anyway, this is a really nice crisp, dry wine.  It isn't at all sweet, but it isn't too tart.  It's nicely balanced.  The skins added tannins, which give it a tiny bit of astringency.  I realize that doesn't sound like something you would want to find in your wine, but it worked here and was not at all unpleasant.  This wine was great with spicy foods, but also it cuts sweetness nicely.  I served it with some easy happy hour foods, a  few kinds of bruschetta and also some figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto.

Because this is such a great summer wine, and figs are such a great summer fruit, I decided these two had to be on the same table.  I made my favorite fig and goat cheese bruschetta, along with pesto and sopressata bruschetta, and a new one with brie, figs and prosciutto.  

I had some figs left over, so I quartered them lengthwise, almost but not quite to the bottom.  Then I stuffed them with goat cheese, wrapped them in prosciutto and topped them with freshly cracked pepper and a little drizzle of honey.  Then I baked them for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Wine:  King Estate Luminous Pinot Gris
Year: 2011
Region: Oregon
Purchased From: King Estate Winery
 Price: $18
Verdict: 5/5
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Flip Flop Pinot Grigio

Hey there, Wine Wednesday!  This week, we are featuring a wine that I have long avoided.  Flip Flop Pinot Grigio.  To be honest, the only reason I avoided this wine was because it was called Flip Flop.  I don't know why, it just rubbed me the wrong way.  But K suggested we try it, and I decided to put aside my name snobbery so that I could bring you all a new review.  Do you see the sacrifices I make for you readers?  And by "readers", I mean my mom and my cousin.  Oh hey, Mom!

Anyway, after purchasing this bottle, I realized that part of the reason this wine is called Flip Flop is because the proceeds benefit Soles 4 Souls, which is a shoe and clothing charity.  So, sort of like when you buy a pair of Toms, your purchase helps provide shoes to someone in need.  Ok, Flip Flop.  Bonus points for charity.  Now I feel bad about judging you for your name before.

Anyway, back to the task at hand, which is the wine.  To be honest, this wine was exactly what I expected.  It wasn't a bad bottle of wine, but it was pretty much exactly what you would expect to get for seven dollars.  It was light and refreshing, with balanced flavors.  Nothing really stood out to me about this wine.  Although it was fine, I don't think it will be replacing my fallback cheap wines anytime soon.

Wine:  Flip Flop Pinot Grigio
Year: 2012
Region: California
Purchased From: Sprouts
 Price: $7
Verdict: 3/5
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Gruner Veltliner Laurenz und Sophie 2011

Wine Wednesday, where have you been?  I've been on a blogging hiatus recently.  I'll blame the fact that I finally got a job and have less free time.  But it is really just because I've been lazy.  Don't worry, though, I didn't forget to celebrate Wine Wednesday all this time, I just neglected to blog about it.

I'll launch this Wine Wednesday with a clearance find from Target.  The great thing about buying marked down wine is that it feels like you are taking less of a risk.  So the random wine you bought was horrible?  At least you didn't pay full price for it.  This was the logic behind grabbing a few random bottles we found on a clearance endcap on a recent jaunt to Target.  Until recently, I had never heard of Gruner Veltliner.  But I was looking for a new wine to order at our favorite (also the only nearby) wine bar.  I spotted the Gruner Veltliner, and had to google it to A.) learn how to pronounce it and B.) decide if I wanted to try it.  After teaching myself how to pronounce it at least somewhat correctly (Grooner Velt-Lean-Er), and learning that this is a white wine grown in Austria, I decided to go ahead and order it.  And although nothing can replace my beloved Pinot Gris, I did enjoy it.  And so, all of this lead to me throwing a few bottles of Gruner into my shopping basket.

This particular wine was veeerrrryyyy dry.  And it oddly reminded me of champagne without the bubbles.  Which makes sense because I later learned that this type of a grape is often turned into a sparkling wine.  This wine was not sweet AT ALL, and not really fruity.  If you love chardonnay, you may like this wine - although this doesn't have any oaky taste to it as many chardonnays do.  I normally prefer a frutier, slightly sweeter wine, but I did enjoy this wine.  I think we also got a fabulous deal on it, because my online research seems to indicate that it runs around $15, and we only paid $5.74 for it. Clearance win!

Wine:  Laurenz und Sophie Gruner Veltliner
Year: 2011
Region: Austria
Purchased From: Target
 Price: $5.74
Verdict: 3.5/5
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

Happy Wine Wednesday!  Today I decided to change things up a bit with a Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a New Zealand wine, specifically from the famous Marlborough region.

I recently read a funny article about the weird words that people use to describe wine.  In fact, a study was done surveying people who regularly drink wine about how helpful those descriptive words actually are.  Ridiculous descriptions such as "old bones", "nervy" and "tongue spanking" (!!!) were found, unsurprisingly,  to not be very helpful in describing how the wine actually tastes.  More common words, such as "zesty", "fresh" and "peachy" were found to be the most helpful. Now, I have been known to use the term "fresh", and I might have even used "zesty" once or twice.  But I did think that the word peachy sounded pretty generic. Who would use that word?"  Well, me.  Now.  This wine was totally peachy.  And not like the 1950's slang word for totally cool.  All I could think about when I was drinking it was how it tasted like peaches.  It is quite aromatic and somewhat floral as well.  The label describes this as a zesty and zingy wine.  I guess that it is, but I didn't notice that until I read it on the bottle.

Apparently the Marlbourough region is known for producing Sauvignon Blancs with unique flavors.  Although it is different than what I am used to, it was really an enjoyable wine, and the price is great.

Wine:  Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Year: 2012
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Purchased From: Costco
 Price: $8
Verdict: 3/5
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Manos Negras Malbec Stone Soil Select

A Malbec isn't normally something that I buy, but this is another one that K and I picked up at the BevMo! 5 cent wine sale.  We were saving it for a nice steak, since pretty much the only time I want a red wine is when I am eating steak.  Well, the time finally came, and we were grilling some beautiful New York Steaks, so I pulled out this bottle.

It turns out that this is a really interesting Argentinian wine.  It is made from 100% sustainably farmed Malbec grapes and grown in a very stony soil with a high mineral content.  This imparts a strong mineral flavor to the wine.  It is a dark red wine, but not heavy.  Dry and not very fruity.  This was a great wine, and I think even people who are not big fans of red wine would like it.

Wine:  Manos Negras Malbec Stone Soil Select
Year: 2009
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Purchased From: BevMo!
 Price: $30
Verdict: 4/5
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Box of Sunshine

It seems that Oregon has had a particularly grey and rainy winter, or at least that is what my Facebook feed was telling me.  My BFF was reaching the height of winter fatigue and fighting a never ending cold, and I found myself wishing I could send her some of the plentiful Arizona sunshine.  Then I remembered seeing a cute idea on Pinterest awhile back for sending a "box of sunshine" (I'm not sure who first came up with this idea, but it might have been Happy Money Saver).  Since citrus is so plentiful here this time of year, I decided to build the box around that.  I went on a mission to find yellow and orange things to fill the box with, and made a few citrus treats.  Here is what I came up with!

In the box:
Locally grown oranges
Lemon Curd made from local lemons (maybe don't send this in the mail - it needs to be refrigerated)
Blood Orange Syrup made from locally grown blood oranges
Dried mango and candied ginger tucked into cute little yellow and white treat bags
A citrus juicer
Yellow and white chevron stripe washi tape
Yellow and white chevron stripe straws
Lemon soap
Lemon body wash
Yellow note cards
Emergen-C Super Orange Drink Packets
Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea
A mix CD that I made (Yes, we still make each other mix CDs.  We would probably still make each other mix tapes if we had the technology)

Packaging for oranges

Lemon Curd and Blood Orange Syrup

Little Sunshine

Don't be jealous of my artwork.  Why dinosaurs, you ask?  I think the more important question is why NOT dinosaurs?
This was a really fun package to put together, although finding yellow and orange things when you are looking for them is harder than you would think!  I had tons of ideas for items to put in this package that I couldn't find.  But I did end up finding more than enough cute things that fit the theme, and in fact almost didn't have enough room for everything.  

You can tailor the contents to whoever you are sending the package too.  Rather than just going out and buying a bunch of cheap generic stuff, I wanted to pick out specific items that I thought my friend would like and want to use.  This added to the challenge and made picking out the items more fun.  You could really take this idea and adapt the theme to be any color or even a state theme.  Run with it!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wine Wednesday: 99 Vines Pinot Grigio

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone!  Here is another wine that we picked up at the BevMo! Five Cent wine sale.  This is a California Pinot Grigio, it doesn't taste oaky at all, so I'm going to guess that it is aged in stainless steel barrels. I don't taste much fruit in there, but it has a little bit of light fruitiness when you look for it.  I would almost call this wine tangy - but it really is in a pleasant way.  This has a nice, refreshing acidity to it, with a pretty light flavor, which I think makes it a great warm weather wine.

At $9.49, this is a nicely priced wine, and with the Buy One Get One for Five Cents price, it really is a great deal.  This is a good everyday wine that I would recommend.

Wine:  99 Vines Pinot Grigio
Year: No year listed :/
Region: California
Purchased From: BevMo!
 Price: $9.49
Verdict: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Redtree Pinot Grigio

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone!  Remember last week when I wrote about Total Wine, the awesome giant wine, beer and liquor store?  Well, there is ANOTHER store here in Arizona (and California) similar to that called BevMo! (That wasn't an unnecessary exclamation point, it is actually part of the name of the store).  We went here for the first time last weekend when we wanted to pick up a bottle of wine to bring to a party.  We happened to be there during their famous 5 cent wine sale.  The deal is that on certain wines when you buy one, you get another one for 5 cents.  Can't beat that!  I thought that their prices were generally higher than Total Wine, but when you factor in the 5 cent wine sale, you can get some pretty great deals.  One of the wines we picked up was this Redtree Pinot Grigio.

This is a great crisp wine that could be paired with lighter foods.  It has some fruity tones to it, but nothing overt.  There is also a teeny bit of oak in there somewhere, but it is subtle.  I am not a fan of oak at all, and it doesn't bother me.

This is a pretty good, mild wine that I would recommend, particularly because it is in the under $10 category.  The regular price on this is $8-10, but since we got it on sale we got 2 for $10 - really, you can't get a good wine for less than that.

Wine:  Redtree Pinot Grigio
Year: 2011
Region: California
Purchased From: BevMo!
 Price: $9.99
Verdict: 3.5/5
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Monday, March 11, 2013

DIY: Paint that IKEA Table!

Most people have at least one piece of inexpensive furniture around their house that they are not that fond of. It's not that the piece isn't functional anymore.  It's just that your style has changed, or back in 2001 when you bought it, light birch wood was all the rage, and now it looks hopelessly dated.  But then, you don't really want to get rid of it, because it's a perfectly good piece of furniture, aside from being ugly and not matching anything that you own.  Well, I'm here to tell you: you can paint it!

Our Ikea table before: Dated "Birch Effect"
Like most people, I was under the assumption that laminate furniture could not be painted.  However, I started doing some research and I found that it is totally possible!  You just need to follow a few rules:

Supplies needed - not including the paintbrush and sandpaper/sander
1. Lightly sand the surface.  EVERY tutorial that I read, except for one, recommended that you sand the furniture.  I listened to the masses and sanded.

2.  Prime.  You MUST prime.  I used the highly recommended Zinsser oil based primer.  The reason that I used the oil based one and not the water based one is because the oil based primer can cure overnight, but the water based one requires a full 7 days to cure before you can paint.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

This is the primer that you want
3.  Paint.  I used my beloved Behr again, this time in a deep based since I chose black as the color I was painting my table.  I didn't see the exact black that I wanted in the sample paint chips, so I talked to the paint guy and he made one that was just "black black", which is what I wanted.  It took two coats of paint to get the coverage that I wanted.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint
4.  Protect with a topcoat.  I used Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish in Clear Satin.  I HIGHLY recommend satin instead of gloss.  I started out with gloss, and it was harder to work with and didn't look as good.  I wanted my furniture to be a little bit shiny, but the Satin provides a really nice sheen and looks great.

Quart and spray can of Minwax Polycrylic in Clear Satin

So, I pulled our Ikea "Birch Effect" table and six chairs out to the garage and started sanding.  I used the corner cat that we had previously purchased to do the sanding, which helped it go a little faster, but I have to say that sanding is by far my least favorite part painting.  The chairs we have are actually solid wood, they are the Stefan chairs from Ikea, but they had a varnish on them that I wanted to remove.  The table top is a veneer, so you have to be more careful with that.  You only want to lightly sand to remove the shiny varnish, but you don't want to sand too much because you can sand through the veneer to the MDF or particle board that is underneath, and you don't want that.

 After sanding, I used a paint roller to apply one coat of Zinsser oil based primer to the table and chairs.  I had one spray can also, and I used that to do the slats of the chairs because I knew that getting in there with a paint brush would be time consuming and messy.  The spray cans are expensive compared to the liquid quart sized cans, and they don't have much primer in them.  One spray can only covered the slats on the backs of six chairs!  I think it would have taken at least 3 spray cans to cover all the chairs, and probably 2 more to do the table.  If you have a flat surface (such as a table or dresser) using a roller is pretty quick and easy.  But if you have something with a intricate surface, or many corners (like chairs, or a piece that is more detailed) you may want to spend the extra money and just use spray cans.  Just be prepared to buy several cans - probably more than you think you need.  

I only did one coat of primer, let that dry overnight, and then started painting the next day.  As I said, I was using the BEHR PREMIUM PLUS ULTRA® Flat Enamel because I knew I would be using a glossy topcoat.  If you know anything about paint, you know that the more matte a paint is, the better it is at hiding imperfections.  So, the paint went on pretty smoothly and looked great. I used a roller again on the table, and because of the flat surfaces, it was really easy and quick. I would roll over one section of the table, and then grab a paint brush to catch the drips and smooth out the edge of the table.  The chairs took longer because of all the corners and surfaces.  I ended up using the roller on the seat and the other areas I could reach, and then going back over it with a brush to get the places the roller missed.  It is important that you catch drips as quickly as possible, because once they dry you need to sand them to get rid of them, and they start to dry pretty quickly.  I did two coats of paint, letting the first coat dry overnight before applying the second coat.

Finally, it was time to apply the topcoat.  At this point, I had selected the Minwax Polycryic in Gloss for my  topcoat.  I decided to start with the table and use a roller again, since using the roller with the primer and paint had worked out so well.  Big Mistake.  Huge.  DO NOT do this.  The topcoat went on unevenly and looked absolutely horrible.  I was so upset!  I had worked so hard, and now my table looked terrible!  That was when I decided to switch to the Satin topcoat.  I also did more reading online, and I found out that you should either used a high density foam roller OR a brush when working with the Minwax polycrylic.  So, I decided to grab a few foam rollers when I was at Home Depot picking up the Satin Minwax.  I stood in the aisle a very long time trying to decide if I should just get spray cans for the top coat or go with a liquid quart again.  I ended up buying one spray can and one quart so that I could use the spray can on the difficult parts of the chairs.  

My table still had that horrible, uneven coat of polycrylic on it, so I decided to sand it down - the directions on Minwax suggest that you sand between each coat using 220 grit sandpaper.  So I took my corner cat and started sanding.  HORRORS!  Sanding totally ruined my paint job.  It unevenly removed paint in certain areas, letting the primer show through.  RUINED.  Yes, I was upset.  Also, I was out of paint, as it took the entire quart of Behr to do two coats on the table and chairs.

Sanding disaster!

Back to home depot to get a sample sized pot of paint matched to my table paint.  I finished sanding my table so that the surface would be smooth - it now had spots of primer showing through the paint all over the tabletop.  I slapped on two more coats of paint and it looked great again.  I DID NOT SAND anything after this.  I then applied the Minwax Polycrylic using a brush.  The key is to work quickly, apply very thin layers and do long, even strokes, catching any drips as soon as possible.  The topcoat goes on milky white, but dries clear as long as you have applied a thin coat.  If there are drips, they will dry white, so be sure to catch those.  I did five coats on the table top since it will be getting heavy use and be getting wiped down often.  I did two coats on everything else (the apron and legs of the table and the chairs).  I used the spray can on the chair backs and it was wonderful.  I still had to paint the topcoat on the other parts of the chairs, and it was time consuming and messy.  It would have probably taken two spray cans to cover all six chairs fully, and probably two more for the table.  For the chairs, I used a foam brush, foam roller and regular paint brush. If you only chose one tool to apply this with, I would say go with a regular, but high quality paint brush.  You don't want to be picking brush hairs out of your newly painted furniture.  Minwax even makes a brush specifically designed for their product, but I didn't use it as I only discovered it after I finished my paint job.

Finally, I was finished!  Well, almost.  I had made the mistake of using the roller to apply a coat of gloss to one of the chairs before I realized it was horrible.  It is still sitting in the garage like a red headed step-child because I am burnt out on sanding and painting, and we have five perfectly good chairs!  I'll fix it eventually.  Probably.
Lonely Chair
After curing overnight in the garage, we brought everything back inside, put together and it is sitting majestically in the dining room.  We have not used it yet because I read that paint needs thirty days to fully cure, and I am paranoid about messing it up after all of that work.  It looks great, though, and I am really happy with it.
After! (Now with leaf!)

Sans the banished chair
So, in conclusion, here is what you need to paint your laminate furniture:

220 and 120 grit sandpaper (can do by hand or use an oscillating sander)
Zinsser Oil Based Primer (other bloggers have used Kilz with success as well)
Latex paint of your choice (I used BEHR PREMIUM PLUS ULTRA® Flat Enamel)
Water Based Topcoat (I used Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish in Clear Satin)
2 high quality paintbrushes (one for paint, one for topcoat)
1 cheap paintbrush (for the oil based primer - you will likely throw this brush away)

Optional (but you will probably be happy to have)
2 paint rollers (one for primer, one for paint)
1 paint tray if you are using rollers (use the pinterest trick and cover with foil during each use so that you can reuse the same tray and just throw away the foil)
1 cheap foam brush (for topcoat)
1 high density foam roller (for topcoat)

1. Sand
2. Prime
3. Paint
4. Protect

This took me almost two weeks total because I got sick in the middle of it, but if you worked on it every day and didn't run into the same problems that I did, you could probably get this done in less time. Let each coat cure overnight, except maybe the topcoat - that is fine with just curing for a few hours between coats.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wine Wednesday: Kudos Pinot Gris

As you can probably tell by now, I am a Pinot Gris girl.  It is by far my favorite type of wine, so it is the one I drink most often.  I know that wine snobs agree that white wines don't really count, and the really good wine is red - but I think that is a matter of opinion.  The good wine is the wine that you like.

K and I made a stop at one of the stores that gives Arizona a big old check mark in the
"pro" category - Total Wine and More.  One of the things that confirms Arizona as a party state is that they really, really love alcohol here.  There is booze everywhere you look!  Wine and beer before lunch?  Sure!  Arizona beer week overlapping with Arizona cocktail week?  Why not?  Giant, warehouse sized stores selling noting but beer, wine and liquor?  Absolutely.

This store is pretty cool, and there is nothing like it in Oregon as far as I know.  They obviously have a huge selection, and their prices are great.  We don't really like going there too often because the parking lot and store itself is usually a crowded nightmare, but we popped in last week to pick up a bottle of wine and ended up with...four bottles of wine.  Also a bottle of vodka.  But hey, we're talking about wine here!

I bee-lined to the Pinot Gris section and was intrigued when I saw a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris that was unfamiliar.  The Wine is called Kudos, and is from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Apparently it is bottled in Dundee, Oregon, which is the wine country outside of Portland.  I am familiar with many Oregon wineries, so I really wanted to try this one that I had never heard of.

What a great wine!  This is light and refreshing, a little fruity but not overly so.  This would be a great spring and summer wine for sipping out on the patio.  I would definitely buy this again, and recommend it.

Wine:  Kudos Pinot Gris 
Year: 2011
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Purchased From: Total Wine
 Price: $12.99
Verdict: 4/5
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Friday, March 1, 2013

DIY: TV Shelves

So, K and I have been searching for a new entertainment center for, like, forever to replace his old Ikea "birch effect" Lack TV Stand.  We searched and searched, but could never find one that we loved for under five hundred dollars.  We almost bought one at Ikea (a step up from the one step up), but we decided to hold off since we weren't that excited about it.  When I saw THIS idea on pinterest, I knew that I had found "the one".  I am so happy with how it turned out!

This is like the before and after pictures in weight loss commercials where the person is all frumpy and not wearing any makeup before to make the after look even better.  Our before wasn't normally that bad, this was right before starting the project.
I have this problem that I think is the root of all of my time management issues.  I seem to think that everything is going to take significantly less time than it actually does.  And then when I am in the middle of a project I either run out of time or I am shocked at how long it is taking.  Obviously you aren't in danger of running out of time when building an entertainment center, so my reaction here was to be surprised at how long this project took.  Which was not actually that long - it was probably about three days of work, not including shopping for supplies.  As new homeowners and inexperienced DIYers, this probably took K and I a little longer than people who may have more experience building things.  But we are so happy with how it turned out, and I think we learned so much from this projects (plus, we acquired some new tools!).

My beloved sander

We pretty much made our shelves exactly like the inspiration photo, except I didn't want to do the chains as our style isn't quite that rustic.  To me it looked like the chains were more aesthetic than functional anyway.  We spent a LOOOONG time at the hardware store getting supplies.  We had measured our wall, figured out where the studs were and decided how long we wanted the shelves.  We finally decided on 12x1 pine boards for the shelves, then spent forever picking out boards that weren't warped.  We picked two 8 foot boards and then had the store cut the boards each into one 78 inch and one 18 inch board.  That way we had two long shelves and two short shelves, but we only had to buy 2 boards and none of the wood was wasted.
Some things that we bought - five inch brackets, small saw, screws, wall plates
We decided to paint the boards white to match the trim and blinds in the house, and so I went with Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Satin Enamel in Swiss Coffee.  I have been in love with Behr since I painted my closet with it, and I love that it has the primer in it already.  And I went with the color Swiss Coffee because when I asked the paint lady at Home Depot what the standard, builder grade color was for trim in most houses she said "I don't know, maybe Swiss Coffee?"  PS - Swiss Coffee is white, not brown like you might think something named coffee would be.  And she was right, it is a very close, if not exact, match.

I sanded the boards with my brand spanking new Ryobi Corner Cat Sander - we bought it both for this project and some other projects I had planned.  I love it!  It made the sanding go really quickly.  After sanding I applied two coats of paint with a brush.  A roller would have made quick work of it, but since I had left my roller sitting out after painting the closet, I had to throw it away.  Take care of your brushes and rollers, people!  But even with a brush, this was a pretty easy and quick painting project.  Just be sure to catch any drips before they dry and make your new shelves look like a three year old painted them.

Making sure the brackets are level
After they were painted, they cured for a few days while we did other stuff, and then it was finally time to start the exciting part!  We decided that when we wall mounted the TV we wanted to hide the cords, and so we read THIS tutorial on hiding the cords in the wall.  Apparently this is not "up to code", just FYI.  This was by far the most frustrating part of this project. It requires that you cut two holes in your wall, one right behind the TV, and another straight down from the first hole for the cords to exit the wall.  We ran into multiple problems with this, the first one being that there is SOMETHING in the wall blocking the cords from  dropping to the bottom.  We are not sure what it is, but it is like a hard metal plate.  No getting around that.  So, after spending what felt like hours trying to push the cords through the wall, only to discover that there is an actual blockage, we decided to cut ANOTHER set of holes in the wall.  Nothing like cutting four rough holes in the smooth, beautiful wall of your brand new house.  Also, the above tutorial suggests that you buy something called steel fish tape to feed your cords through the wall.  K and I were like "Pfffft, no way are we buying that, we can just push them through without it, or at worst make our own tool to feed them through the wall."  NO!  Don't think that you can do this.  It was after much heartache and frustration that we realized we should have just bought the damn fish tape, and so it was back to Home Depot for me the next day to pick some up.  Luckily, I had spotted one in the clearance section, and it was still there.  Because, I mean seriously, who ever buys that?  Anyway, now we are the proud owners of Steel Fish Tape that we will probably never use again.  The reason it was so hard to get the cords through the wall was because of the insulation, and the steel fish tape is just flexible but sturdy enough to push past the insulation.  I know it doesn't sound like that would be difficult, but trust me, it is.

Ahhhhhh!  The terrifying moment that you start to cut a hole in your wall.
It looks much better after you slap a wall plate on it.  Yes, that is the original failed hole on the far left.

OK, so finally we had the TV mounted, so it was time to put up the shelves.  We had agonized over brackets, and finally went with the five inch brackets because I liked the simplicity of them (I HATED the ugly, super cheap metal brackets and was not having those in my living room .  The issue here is that we needed ten brackets, and the nice ones were about ten bucks each.  So right there you are looking at a hundred dollars.  For brackets.  K wanted to get at least eight inch brackets, but that meant either get the super ugly ones or spend $100 on brackets. We ended up exchanging three of the brackets for the more expensive, larger brackets for our bottom shelf  because it is the one holding the heavy items.  Really, if you are going back and forth between brackets, just get the larger ones.  If you have a twelve inch shelf, you need an eight inch bracket.  Our brackets are offset because we wanted them to be screwed into the studs.  I was going to do what my inspiration blogger did and paint the brackets the same color as the wall, but I haven't done it yet, and at this point the metal is just fine with me.

The cheaper five inch brackets.  Not very sturdy for a twelve inch shelf.

Much sturdier and more attractive brackets.  Also more expensive.

I styled the shelf with mostly with things I already had, although I did pick up a accessories at Marshall's (my new favorite store, I had a hard time controlling myself in there!).  I also thought a long time about how to hide the cords and plugs at the bottom of the shelves.  I'm not really a basket person, and so I wanted to come up with something different.  I started thinking that I would prefer a box to a basket, and that is when I started thinking that I would like to do some vintage crates.  My parents are antique lovers, and so when I told them how I was planning on trying to find some vintage soda crates, they sent me a coca-cola crate that they had.  I picked up the other two crates at a local antique store in Gilbert, Flashback Antiques.  I just love how they look!

Vintage soda crates hiding cords

Some vintage blocks my mom gave me, plus my life philosophy.
The vase was one of my Marshall's scores.
We have had the shelves up for about a month now, and we absolutely love them.  They are a great focal point in the room, plus we get to feel all proud of ourselves every time we look at it because we made it!

What you need for this project:
Boards cut to desired size (we used 12 inch by 1 inch pine boards cut to 78 inches and 18 inches)
Paint for the boards
Brackets ( 3/4 the size of your boards - 12 inch board needs 8 inch bracket)
Wood screws (we used 3/4 inch for the boards and 1 3/4 inch for the studs)
Power Drill
Screw Driver
Small Saw (if you are wall mounting TV)
TV Wall Mount Kit (if you are mounting your TV)

Again, if you are mounting the TV and want to hide the cords, I strongly suggest you read THIS tutorial over at House of Hepworths.  If is really detailed and gives you all of the info you need.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2013


The bruschetta inspiration: Postinos
 OK, FINALLY we have made and purchased alllll of the necessary pieces in order to put together a pretty amazing bruschetta board (or plate, in my case).  As I mentioned in my previous post, K and I had date night at a local wine bar called Postino that is known for it's bruschetta.  We decided to recreate this at home, and admittedly 4 kinds of bruschetta requires lots of different ingredients.  It would be all well and good to just make one or two of these.  But if you are serving it as a meal instead of a little snack, or if you are having a party, it is nice to have the variety.  Although prepping the ingredients can take a little while, once you have everything prepped these come together pretty quickly, which is what makes them a great food for entertaining.  The four kinds of bruschetta we attempted were:

Brie and Apples with Fig Jam
Prosciutto with Figs and Mascarpone
Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese
Salami with Pesto

What I bought (prosciutto not pictured)

Start out with a couple of loaves of good French or Italian bread (I make my own, but you can also buy it)
Slice into about one inch thick slices, brush both sides lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay out on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for 3-4 minutes.  Flip them all over, and then put them back in for another 3-4 minutes.  You want them a little toasty.  After this, you can start assembling the different bruschetta.

Brie and Apples with Fig Spread

Brie (I used double cream)
Granny Smith Apple, very thinly sliced (we used a mandolin slicer)
Fig Spread (Make your own, or you can usually find it in the fancy cheese section of the grocery store)

After taking the toast out of the oven, spread with a thin layer of fig spread, and then top with a slice of brie. Put it back in the oven for a few more minutes, until the brie is a little melty.  Remove from oven and top with  thin slices of apple.  Drizzle with honey.  DONE!

Prosciutto with Figs and Mascarpone

Mascarpone Cheese
Dried black mission figs, sliced
Fresh ground pepper

After toasts come out of the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes.  They can still be warm, you just don't want them too hot when you spread on the cheese.  After they have cooled down, spread with mascarpone, top with slices of figs and then a slice of prosciutto.  Sprinkle with just a tiny bit of fresh ground pepper.

Mascarpone and figs, just top with Prosciutto 
(This was the easiest one because this is the only one that I didn't have to make any of the ingredients for.  I also thought it was the most bland.  It might be that the mascarpone was not the best brand, I have not worked with that type of cheese before.  but in the future I might even replace the mascarpone with goat cheese)

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

Soft Goat Cheese
Roasted Red Peppers, diced (Make your own, or buy)

After toasts come out of the oven, spread with goat cheese and then top with the diced roasted red peppers.  Done!  So quick and easy.

I failed to take a close up of the Goat Cheese and Red Pepper - So this is the best I can do!

Salami with Pesto

Pesto (Make your own, or buy in refrigerated section)
Salami, thin slices

After the toasts come out of the oven, spread with pesto.  Top with 2-3 slices of salami.  Done!

Finished Prosciutto and Fig on the left, just need to top the Pesto with Salami
Transfer all the bruschetta onto a large serving platter or two and serve to your dazzled guests.  Best served with wine.

 I personally think that making many of the ingredients from scratch improved these bruschetta.  Because they are very simple, the ingredients are all major stars.  If they are only mediocre, your bruschetta will probably also be mediocre.  Make sure that the ingredients you do buy are the highest quality!

Casual Happy Hour
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