Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Holiday Greetings!

Time for a look back at 2011...We vowed it would be Year of Nothing, but we sure crammed a lot in!
January brought actual snow!
Bigger than the news of snow was the start of Jim's new job as Director of Oregon State University's Glee Choir.  Between 75 and 100 students have enrolled every quarter and they are a big hit around campus.
OSU Glee
Jimbo hit the big 3-0 in April.  His best friend Lucas turned 30 a few days later so we rolled the whole thing into one big birthday shindig (complete with matching novelty t-shirts) at the Kennedy School in Portland. 

Soon after we celebrated another friendship - my 20th anniversary with my bestie Brenda Lee.  We'd been promising ourselves to celebrate milestones (10 years... 15 years...) but never managed to pull it off.  So we went big for our 20th and flew off to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. 

Jim and Thatcher came along to..."supervise"...and we had a fantastic time!
April included one more special celebration - showering our girl, Erin, and anticipating the arrival of her sweet baby Aiden.  

My pals from grad school got together in Las Vegas in May.   We had a fantastic reunion, including a Cirque du Soleil show and a special baby shower brunch to celebrate Nikki's little guy, Oscar.

In June, I joined a group of OSU colleagues to run our Hawaii orientation program in Honolulu.  Thanks to an unused companion fare, Jim was able to tag along.  Of course he was put right to work and learned a lot about academic advising and online registration!

July found us in Charleston, South Carolina, helping our dear friend Amanda move.  A few days later we'd gotten her settled in Columbus, Ohio.  We got to see a few new states and try out the Piggly Wiggly.
I dig the Pig!

We traveled back to Montana in August and had a nice relaxing vacation.  We spent time with my Mom and Fred in Missoula, and took a camping trip with my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Dean. 
Four days with no internet, no cell phones, and nothing more pressing to attend to than getting the boat in the water?  Hello Vacation!  I finally got good at towing/backing/parking a trailer.  I think I'll add that to my resume...
We squeezed in a day trip to introduce Jim to Glacier National Park.

Just as we returned from Montana, I had my last day at OSU's College of Pharmacy.  It was hard to say goodbye after 8 years, but opportunity knocked for me and I took a new job as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Programs for OSU's College of Engineering.  About a month later, Jim was offered a position as Choir Director for the First United Methodist Church in Corvallis.  Glee and the church keep Jim happy and busy, and we both feel so fortunate to have found such fulfilling work this year. 

Knowing that we are happily settling into long-term jobs in Corvallis, we decided to take the plunge and buy our first home.  We looked at 10 houses and fell in love with number 11!

We moved in to our new digs in October, and have been enjoying "fancy" amenities like the dishwasher, a garage, and a real yard for Sugar.  It's a big step up from our 850 square foot rental!

Thanksgiving found us at my brother's house in Spokane, Washington.  It was a  nice low-key weekend with my family and included a benefit dog-walk for the Humane Society. 

And now it's time for Christmas.  It will be our first in our home, and Jim's family will come to celebrate with us.  As we count our blessings - family, friends, good health, meaningful work, and the world's greatest dog - we wish you all the best.  May all your days be filled with joy! 

Happy Holidays from Jim, Nicole, and Sugar

Sunday, November 27, 2011

DIY Ornament Wreath

There are gobs of cute ornament wreaths all over Pinterest, and I finally got around to making my own!

I followed a very nice tutorial from Andrea, and there are plenty of others out there so I won't bore you with the repeat here.  I found these fun silver ornaments at Winco (of all places!) and they were even cheaper than the dollar store options.  I used 70 ornaments total.  The best part?  The globe snaps into the hook on the ornament so there was none of the tedious gluing required on the other tutorials.  I think Winco is also called Cub Foods in some areas (wink wink Minnesota girls!).

Our door is super tall so standard over-the-door wreath hangers weren't working.  We found a really nice decorative metal Command Hook at Home Depot and adhered it to the door.  It's sturdy, but removable so I'm not worried about damaging the door surface.

Come knock on our door!  We are super festive!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ETSY Find: Self-Inking Return Address Stamp

Buying our first house gave me the excuse I've been needing to order a return address stamp.  A little hard to justify when we were renting, but absolutely essential to home ownership!

There are a zillion options on ETSY so I didn't bother looking elsewhere.  Since I was a liberated woman who didn't change her name the day after the wedding, all the really cute monogramed stamps were out.  Bummer!  Honestly, that's my only regret about keeping my name...not having a monogram.  And, if that's my only misgiving, I suppose I made the right choice.

So, anyway, back to the ETSY selections!  Eventually I settled on this one from Savethedate Design's shop.

Cute.  Simple.  And solves the mis-matched last names issue by eliminating them all together!  

About a week later our fancy new stamp arrived in the mail. 

She packages her stamps in little fabric drawstring storage bags - a nice touch.  Obviously I covered up our exact street address (you all know it anyway!) but you get the idea.

My excitement over this swell new self-inking delight (combined with a couple sick days at home) motivated me to finish up our holiday cards early.  Now that's an amazing stamp =)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pinterest Project: Glittered Light Bulbs

I finally made something I found on Pinterest:  Glittered Christmas Bulbs!  Though the instructions were minimal, the project was easy, inexpensive, and fairly quick.  The gratification was big =)

What you need:
* Old Christmas bulbs
* Glitter
* Modge Podge or Decoupage
* Paintbrush
* Paper plate
* Cookie Sheet
* Waxed Paper

Both Recollections and Martha Stewart make Extra Fine Glitter.  It was perfect for this project - good coverage, and not  as chunky as regular glitter.

Each bottle is $4-$5 each, but I hoarded Michael's 50% off coupons and spent $6.50 total.  I do love to save!

Martha's glitter was more expensive, but I didn't really see a difference in the quality.  Both lines have awesome color choices.

Let's get this show on the road!  Remove the bulbs from their string.  I scooped up this set at a garage sale and paid 50 cents.  Again with the savings!  Of course, they were grimy from life in someone's garage so I had to wipe them all down first.  Still worth it.  

Using the paintbrush, apply a medium layer of Modge Podge over the colored surface of the bulb.  I chose to leave the metal base exposed.

Working directly over the paper plate, shake glitter over the bulb.  It was easy to miss the pointed tip so I had to go back and catch those little bare spots.

Still over the paper plate, tap the excess glitter from the bulb, allow it to dry just a bit.

Lay them on your wax-paper covered cookie sheet to dry completely.  I left them overnight just to be on the safe side.

Return the remaining glitter to the jar.  Covering 24 bulbs used very little glitter so I have plenty left over for other projects.

And that's all there is to it!  I'll be exercising a lot of restraint to keep these in the closet until after Thanksgiving =)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fast Freddie's Balsamic Vinaigrette

Need a good recipe for vinaigrette?  Just so happens I swiped one from my step-dad, Fast Freddie.  It's quick and easy, and goes together from ingredients you probably have on hand.

You need:

*Olive oil
*Red wine vinegar
*Balsamic vinegar (optional, but so good!)
*Lemon juice
*A cute bottle for your finished product
*A blender

The ingredients are not measured exactly, so you can make as much or as little as you'd like.  My bottle holds about 2 cups of dressing so I use a 1/2 cup for each "part" in the recipe.

In the blender, combine:
      3 parts olive oil
      1 part vinegar (I do mostly red wine, and a little balsamic)
      minced garlic (I like garlic - two cloves for me)
      basil (a bit less than a tablespoon)
      salt (to taste, maybe a teaspoon)
      fresh ground pepper (to taste, about a teaspoon)
      1 shot of lemon juice
The next step is really key to getting good dressing.  First, fail to notice that your blender is switched to the "on" position.  Next, ensure that the lid is off.  Better yet - place the lid far down the counter so it's nowhere near your blender.  Now lean over and plug the blender in.  Do all of this while on the phone with your mother so that, when the s**t hits the fan (literally...sigh) you can squawk in her ear about "olive oil everywhere!" and drop your phone in the sink.  

Awesome!  Once you've cleaned up your mess, changed your oil-splattered clothes, and called your mother back to ensure her you weren't nose-to-nose with a burglar, you can blend up your dressing and get on with your life.

 Confession: there was a moment here when I considered pitching this whole mess and starting over so I could have nice tidy pictures for this post.  But then I realized two things.  First, that's wasteful!  Secondly, I am SO not the gal with the picture perfect life, coiffed and spit-polished for presentation on her award winning blog.  I make messes and screw things up and think that pulling the covers up counts as making the bed.  So I'm keepin it real.  This is how I make salad dressing.  Go ahead and judge me, Martha.  My counter is cleaner than your criminal background check.  Oh snap!   

Now you have a tasty bottle of homemade salad dressing and a freshly cleaned kitchen.  Enjoy!  

Your dressing should be stored in the fridge, and you'll notice the olive oil and vinegar separating.  Not to worry!  I usually take the dressing out of the fridge while I'm making dinner so it can warm up a bit and then give it a good shake.  Got your buns in the oven?  Set the dressing bottle on the stove and it will warm up nicely.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome to Monica & Chandler's!

We made it!  We're IN our new home!  Thanks to the world's greatest friends our new place is painted, every last thing we own has been schlepped, furniture's assembled and beds are made.  It's a pretty exciting time here at Hotdish Central.  Every day one of us turns to the other to say "can you believe we own a house?"  Our first mortgage payment isn't due for a whole month so we are love-love-loving home ownership!

Do you know what that means for you?  In addition to our here-and-there ramblings about cooking, crafting, choral music, and canines, we'll have all sorts of home improvement and DIY projects to trot across the blog.  For our debut project, I'm only showing you the front door.  =)  

If you run in our circle of friends, chances are good that you can quote episodes of Friends like it's your job. Seriously, if some struggling cable network ever works up a Friends Trivia Hour our people will be the champs!  Move over, Ken Jennings, we've got the game show domination thing in the bag.  We spent the last couple years bringing Jimbo up to speed by rewatching the entire series, so it was his proud graduation from the Friends Academy when he suggested we frame our peephole.

Genius!  Why didn't I think of that? For a quick second we googled "Monica's Door Frame" and found that you can buy replicas online for upwards of $30.  Are you kidding?  I can do better things with that $30!  Perfect opportunity to do it ourselves. 

Enter the cheapo frame from TJ Maxx:

This gold finish did NOTHING for me so I took a page from Mrs. Lovely's book and bought sent Jimbo to Home Depot for my first can of spraypaint.  Even better?  He also picked up this swell plastic trigger.  Now my spray-finger won't be sore or covered in paint!  

One coat of Rust-oleum Colonial Red, a little double-sided adhesive tape, and done!

Mmmmmm....shiny & red.  These are good things.  

Never one to be left out of the action (but easily bribed with a biscuit to do what I ask of her), Sugar volunteered to show you our entry.  I once heard  that your photos should always have someone in them...
 Welcome!  Can't wait to peer through that cute peephole at all our future visitors.  

PS - you can have your own swell rug (in a few other nice colors) from Costco =)

PPS - I'm hoping to provide better photos (not taken with my phone) soon.  It's a long story for another time, but my camera took a swim this summer and I just got a replacement.  So glad Santa came early so I can really document important things like spray paint triggers!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Height of Rudeness

I have been rude.  I'm mortified.  And here's why...

In the process of packing up our house this week, I stumbled across two envelopes that had fallen behind my desk.  They were thank you notes from our wedding.  The one that happened nearly a year and a half ago.

They are written, sealed, and stamped.

Just never mailed.

Hence my mortification.

Martha Stewart should have me flogged.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick & Easy Brown Rice

We eat a lot of rice and, about two years ago, we switched to brown rice to be a little healthier. The only problem is that cooking brown rice takes 2-3 times as long as cooking white rice.  Throwing a quick stir-fry together is nearly impossible when the rice requires an hour to cook!  For those nights when we'd really like a quick side of rice, and don't have an hour to let it cook, we started buying Trader Joe's Frozen Brown Rice.
The box holds three microwavable packets - each with about two servings of rice.  Perfect for the two of us! $3.50 a box, the price of convenience seems a little steep.  So, we came up with a great cost-saving DIY solution.  Want to hop on board the frugalista bandwagon to make your own?  Read on!

Here's what you need:

  1. Long grain brown rice (I purchase in bulk. Cheap, cheaper, cheapest!)
  2. Bouillon of your choosing (we like Knorr's chicken or vegetable)
  3. Quart-sized freezer bags.  Regular sandwich bags don't hold up as well for this process.
  4. Rice maker {or a saucepan to cook your rice on the stove.  Stove-top cooking instructions can be found at the end of the post}

For our small rice cooker, I use two cups brown rice and one bouillon cube.  Knorr's cubes are double-sized, intended to be used with two cups of liquid.  If you are using smaller traditional buoillon, you may want two cubes.  It's really a matter of taste - I like a little flavor, but don't want it to overwhelm the main dish.

Add four cups of water.  Brown rice requires more water than white...keep your water-to-rice ratio at 2:1.

Pop on the lid and let this handy-dandy appliance do it's job!  An hour later your rice will be ready.

Allow the rice to cool a bit so you don't burn yourself (or melt your freezer bag!)

Divide the rice into 3-4 servings, putting each serving into a freezer bag.

Flatten the rice a bit so it fills the whole bag with a fairly uniform thickness.  This will make it easier to stack your bags in the freezer and will allow the rice to defrost evenly.  

Place the bags in your freezer.  When you are ready to use them, open the zipper about 1 inch (to allow the steam to vent) or just puncture the bag with a fork.  Microwave on high for about 4 minutes, and enjoy!

{Stove-top instructions}  
1.  In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, and one bouillon cube to a boil.
2.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 55 minutes.  
3.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.   

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So Long, Pharmies!

In keeping with our commitment to making 2011 the Year of Nothing {HA!}, I made the decision to leave my position in the OSU College of Pharmacy in August.  I spent eight great years as the Academic Advisor for the Pre-Pharmacy students, and had an outstanding experience.  But then opportunity knocked, and I was offered a position in OSU's College of Engineering.  So I took the leap and left the comfy job where I totally knew what I was doing and dove headfirst into the world of Engineering as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Programs.  I think it's gonna be awesome, but I have NO idea what I've gotten myself into.  Hello, steep learning curve!

The hardest part of leaving Pharmacy was definitely saying goodbye to my students.  Because it takes 7-8 years of school to become a pharmacist I had been advising some of those students for a long time.  I raised a few of 'em from pups!  I was touched by the outpouring of kind notes from the Pharmies when my departure was announced, and had to break my "no crying at work" rule a few times.  Those stinkers.

Last week marked my first full month in Engineering, and I got a surprise visit from a Pharmie bringing me the most wonderful gift.  The students had collaborated to make me a beautiful hard-bound photo book.

About 40 students submitted photos and letters remembering our time together and describing the impact I'd had on them.  Well cue the waterworks because I was wrecked! Only a month into the new job and I'm already crying at work.  Those stinkers.

I have absolutely loved my career as an Academic Advisor, and this is why.  I have the privilege of being invited along on the college journey with some awesome people who are in the process of deciding who they are and where they belong in the world.  There's never a dull moment.  And most importantly, there are moments like this one where I can see that I've made a difference.

(source: Pinterest)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Napping with Sugar

My wife said to me as we were about to pickup Sugar, "She will not be allowed on ANY furniture!"  For the most part, this has stayed true.  Sugar got up once on the couch and after being scolded and having chairs put on the couch for two or three days, she never touched the furniture again.  It was less than a month however that I caught the two of them napping on the bed on a Saturday afternoon.  

Nicole and Sugar napping on a Saturday

This dog loves to nap and most of all, she will do anything to make sure she is as close as possible to the person she is napping with.  She is quite the cuddler and we quickly realized that if you want to sleep in on Saturday morning, just let Sugar into the bed and she won't move until both humans are up and out of the bed.  

The other day a strange phenomenon occurred.  We napped as usual and upon waking up Sugar rolled over on her back and continued to sleep fully sprawled.  Her lips and jowls going where gravity desired contorting her face in the opposite of it's naturally occurring direction.  

I, of course, fully amused took a picture and proceeded to laugh hysterically which didn't seem to bother the dog...she continued to sleep.  Showing the picture to my wife, she joined me in the hilarity until she turned the phone upside-down and we encountered this image:

Now that I tell you is a happy dog. 


Monday, August 29, 2011

The Best House Yet

Dear Loyal Friends,

As some of you know, we are seriously considering settling down in Corvallis and have began our search for our first home.  Below is a show and tell of the house we really like!
It's located in a small subdivision in SW Corvallis.  It's adjacent to a retirement community and the Corvallis Country Club (no Dad, we can't play unless we're members)
The entryway is right next to the first living area that has a great dining area framed in by this low wall.  
Of course there is a great Sugar window that looks out on the street.
Nicole's must is a separate laundry room/mud room.  This stands right off the entry way and connects to the garage.  Perfect for dog doors to the back yard.
The kitchen is divided by the other living area with this great little bar.  
We're pretty stoked about the layout.  
Huge pantry (including spices and a pencil sharpener).
Then there is a little hallway back to the bedrooms.
 Here is the guest bath.
 Two bedrooms mirrored with great closet space and a cool nook above.
 And a nice big master bedroom.
 With connected bathroom including TWO sinks!  Oh ya.
 Great skylight, don't need the light at all during the day.
And of course, an amazing walk-in closet!

The negatives are a small yard, close proximity to neighboring houses and a pretty small front yard.  It does however have a little porch!  The kicker is that all the lots share easement through the back yard for a stormwater system and this yard has three manhole covers that give access to that system.  All and all the benefits outweigh the negatives.  A great neighborhood close to friends, stores and campus.  An awesome house with high ceilings and a wonderful layout.  Now if we can get the low price we want, we might just be moving up in the world.  Goodbye 900 square feet and no garage, hello 1786 with a two car garage.  We won't know what to do with ourselves!