Friday, September 28, 2012

Chicken Stock For The Soul

One morning last week I had to move four take-out containers full of left over grilled chicken to get to the milk and I thought, "What am I going to do with all of that?"  Then I saw a pepper that I'd intended to slice up for the kids for snack a few days earlier and behind that I saw some carrots and celery and I thought, "I know exactly what I'm going to do with all of that!"  It'd been a while since I'd made chicken stock but I had all the stuff and the time and it was a little chilly so why not?  I wound up making Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup on the stove top and it was soooooo good.  I used a recipe from that I cannot for the life of me find right now but made several tweaks to it. 

3 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
2 cups of cooked rice
2 cups of cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
Old Bay seasoning

The original recipe called for a bunch of spices but I'd already spiced the stock with everything the soup recipe called for so I called that one done.  In a large saucepan (I used a dutch oven) make a roux with the butter and flour over medium heat and then add the milk and chicken stock and stir it till it's smooth.  Add the frozen vegetables and chicken, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  The orignal recipe called for onions but I knew our dog would wind up with some of this somehow and onions aren't good for dogs so they were out.  In the last 5 minutes add the rice and adjust the seasoning.  I added so much Old Bay seasoning that the surface of the soup was RED but it was just the kick it needed.

Anyway, when I was making the stock I posted on Facebook that my kitchen smelled amazing and a dear friend commented that homemade soup is her quintessential symbol of love.  I get where she's coming from though for me it's baking.  I might make cinnamon rolls tomorrow.  If I do you'll hear about it.  What food for you = LOVE?  Comments are open...have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bedeviled, Bothered and Bewildered

Okay, I have pictures but in a minute.  Like I said, my house was owned by my grandparents and they both had very strong ideas about decorating.  My grandfather's idea was "Eh, beige is good for everything" and that was the case in most of the house except for the kitchen, which was my grandmother's domain.  She had very grandmother taste:  two patterns of pink and white wallpaper, pink and white curtains, pink carpet.  Did I just say carpet?  Oh yes I did and it was as much of a mess as you're imagining.  It was really nice for about a week before the first spill. 

So with huge plans and some elbow grease we stripped wallpaper and installed a light colored (I think it was called Applewood) laminate floor and repainted the walls and cabinets, uh, pink.  It was a TOTALLY different non-grandmother pink, though; it was more of an Inner-Teenager-Who-Was-Never-Allowed-To-Paint-Her-Walls pink.  The counter that we chose was a pink-and-lavender-and-blue-and-cream beauty and the pink came from there.  The mistake we made was that we used flat paint, which is impossible to keep clean.

There was also a lot of Stuff in our kitchen.  We had a small table and chairs but a huge free standing pantry and a smaller free standing cabinet in the same finish that we got at Lowe's.  In our first house after we got married (which my DH owned before we met) we had a dining room and I found myself pining for one while I was stumbling around all the crap Stuff in the kitchen.  We really needed a bigger table and couldn't we maybe convert the living room into a dining room?  Yeah, I get these ideas every once in a while.

My DH, meanwhile, had ideas of his own.  He was so done with the pink walls and cabinets and the impossible to clean flat paint that he started looking at paint samples on his own.  The tricky part was that we weren't going to switch out the counter top so whatever he came up with had to go with that.  What he showed me was a gorgeous combination of lavender and gunmetal.  Seriously, it was beautiful but ultimately bedeviling.  Why?  Because the paint refused to dry.  Enamel can take longer than flat to cure, plus it was November which meant we couldn't keep the windows open to speed things along and of course it was the very humid kitchen.  It was tacky for weeks and then it started peeling almost immediately.  The worst was my little free standing cabinet.  The kids have unfortunately found the soft peeling texture irresistible and have done quite a job on it.

 I hear you asking, "What the hell is that?" and I'm there with you.  The piece of wood leaned between the cabinet and the stove is the shelf that's supposed to be in it but has fallen out more times than I can count.  And where's the door?

There, of course.  It's still in good shape because it's spent the last two years leaned up against my dresser instead of on the cabinet.  So let's get started saving this poor thing.

The gear I used is all from Lowe's, clockwise from the top:  personal protection (long cuff chemical proof gloves, dust mask and chemical splash goggles), after wash, plastic scraper, short handled brush, stripper.  I chose Citristrip because it doesn't smell as bad as other stippers (although it still wasn't fabulous) and because it's a thick gel that wouldn't drip down the sides if the cabinet was standing up.  I got the short handled brush because I mistakenly thought it would be easier to control but the gloves made it really difficult.  Once the gloves were on I didn't take any pictures so we're going to jump to just about and the end of the process.  Oh, and a blooper.

Okay, see the white bits?  That's bad.  That's where I didn't put the stripper on thick enough and it dried before it did it's job.  I added more and waited the 30 minutes and then started scraping.

As you can see on the left I still didn't get it on thick enough in spots but what I was able to scrape off looked pretty good.

 It's ultimately taken me two tries to strip the cabinet totally and while I wouldn't call it fun it was pretty simple and I have plenty of stipper left so now I'm looking at an old dresser that's seen better days.  I'll be using the after wash on the residue in a little bit and I'll post pictures of that process later this week.  What new process are you learning?  Comments are open.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Household Inventory, Part 1

As I said in my first post, we live in the house where I grew up.  The neighborhood is one of those places where people grow up and move out but then they move back to raise their own families and really put down roots.  Take my kids' busstop, for instance.  One parent I've known since first grade; one grandparent has known my next door neighbors for over fifty years.  This morning another grandparent offered us shelter in her car when the light drizzle turned into a sudden downpour and as we chatted we discovered that she lives four houses away from my step-mother and her husband and her husband knew my dad.  Everyone on this block has been here at least ten years.  My next door neighbors moved into their house three days before my grandparents moved into this one and that's where the story of my house starts.

Actually it starts a little before that.  My grandfather spent most of his adult life working for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He worked his way up from shovelling coal to Yard Master mostly in my hometown (and if you know anything about railroading I probably just gave it away) but eventually he was promoted to Pittsburgh as an engineer (the blueprint kind, not the driving the train kind).  My grandmother was so impressed with the movers that she frequently told the story of how she'd left a piece of toast on her dining room table before they started packing up and when she walked in the front door of their new house two hundred miles away the piece of toast was on the same plate, in the same position on the dining room table.  They only lived there for a few years until some family issues called them back to their hometown.  The house they found was in a new development, so new the streets hadn't even been paved, and they were the second family after my next door neighbors. 

About the house itself, it was built in 1966 and is a three bedroom, one and a half bath split level.  It sits on a huge corner lot that would be fabulous if it was flat but instead is weirdly graded and hilly.  It used to be the garden that belonged to my childhood neighbor across the street (Mrs. G) but the back of the property was wooded and used as a dumping ground by the people on the next block.  I could probably do a post about stuff we've dug up over the years but that'll have to wait.  For now, I have a small freestanding cabinet upstairs waiting to be stripped of the awful paint job someone who is not me did to it a couple of years ago.  Photos forthcoming if I don't damage myself or it.  Till then, have a great day!    

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hey There...Uh, Again

Okay, some of you know me from FunkyBlueDandelion and you know full well that I'm a little off my rocker, right?  This is a totally different blog than that one.  This one is about...are you ready for it?...decorating.  Let that sink in for a second.  No, there will be no how-to's about turning your old records into clocks because a.) that's cheesy and b.) do you really think I'd be able to do that to a perfectly good piece of vinyl?  My grandmother did that to a box of jazz 78s and I cried for a week. 

Anyway, you know how when you're growing up you think about all the things you'd do to your house if you were in charge?  As it turns out I live in the house where I grew up and I'm now in charge so some of those things are going to be happening.  I don't think I'll be able to pull off the overhead aquarium in the secret passageway (architects just don't plan for secret passageways in the average split level, the philistines) but there are some things that I'd like to do to make the place a little cosier and you're welcome to come along.

So where did this come from?  My secret (okay, not secret now) addiction is DIY decorating blogs and about a week ago I stumbled across this tutorial about painting dining room furniture.  I have a dining room table in my kitchen that I love (it's oval and beautiful and did I mention I love it?) but it's definitely seen better days and is in desperate need of refinishing before it's moved into our currently empty dining room that used to be our living room.  Our living room is now downstairs (DH remodeled it last winter) and things are just changing all around.  Another change?  My birthday is coming up and while last year I asked for a marimba and a Bat Boy bobblehead this year I want a Lowe's gift card.  Dude, I'm scaring myself. 

Okay, so, I'm going to start off with refinishing a small free standing cabinet in my kitchen this week so prepare yourselves.  Any questions or comments, feel free to email me at funkybluedelphinium (at) gmail (dot) com.  Have a great week and barring any chemical burns or major disasters I'll post the before and after soon.