Throwing Our Annual Oscar Party

Our Oscar Party has become a tradition. We love movies. They’re our thing. Well, at least one of them. Since we see a lot of movies our Oscar party is a natural extension of things we love – our friends and movies.

Our party includes Oscar bingo and a prediction contest, of course. (Shout out to my coworker, Brian, who beat me at in our party’s predication contest. That’s actually the first time that’s happened! Maybe I should blame the Oscar producers…)

We enjoy theming the party food each year. So I thought I’d share our what we did this year.

Maybe next year I’ll share our ideas in advance should anyone want to try them for their own festivities.

Anyway, in alphabetical order, here’s what we made:

Arrival: Pod Cookies

THESE COOKIES WERE AMAZING! Seriously the best sugar cookies ever. The spaceships are based off the alien ship in Arrival and the design is the SPOILER ALERT Heptapod language from the film. If you haven’t seen Arrival, you probably don’t know what that means, but if you haven’t and you’ve read this far, I’m sorry that you’ve been spoiled because Arrival is a great movie.

Cookie recipe (Found at: Katrina’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your mixer cream butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in extracts and eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and add a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer turn out the dough onto a countertop surface. Wet your hands and finish off kneading the dough by hand.
  5. DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH. Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8).
  6. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Frosting (Also found at Katrina’s Kitchen)

  • 2 Cups shortening
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 8 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 Cup heavy cream (more or less to desired consistency)
  • food coloring, if desired

For the Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of your mixer beat shortening until smooth and creamy.
  2. Mix in vanilla (and almond extract if using).
  3. Add powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) until combined, then add  cream & mix until smooth and spreading consistency. Adjust cream to desired frosting thickness
  4. Add a few drops of color, if desired. We obviously added coloring to make gray, and used a black icing pen to make the Heptapod language.

Fences: Rose’s Ham Sandwiches

Throughout Fences, Rose (Viola Davis) is often in the kitchen and she makes a few ham sandwiches throughout the film. And no, this isn’t why Viola was SO deserving of her (overdue) Oscar. It was all the ugly crying. 😉 No recipe necessary here.

Hacksaw Ridge: Guts Fruit Salad

First, excuse the typo on the food sign. I made them very, very quickly this year. I’ll do better next time. As a war movie, Hacksaw Ridge is a bit bloody. Although it doesn’t quite look like guts, this salad is as creative as we could get.

Red Fruit Salad Recipe (found at Pip and Ebby)

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups cherries
  • 2 16 oz. containers strawberries
  • 3 6 oz. containers raspberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil

Directions

  1. Chop and combine cherries and strawberries in bowl.
  2. Add raspberries.
  3. In a small bowl, combine: Juice from 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons sugar, and basil

  4. Mix well and drizzle over the fruit. Gently stir with a large spoon until the fruit is coated thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Hell or High Water: Steak Fries

There’s a funny scene in Hell or High Water where Jeff Bridges’ character enters a diner and the waitress informs him that he can only order two things: a baked potato or steak. So we combined the two into one: steak fries. A lot easier to make for big group of people. Call us lazy.

Hidden Figures: Lemonade

Food doesn’t really play a big role in Hidden Figures. However, the bathroom does. One of the film’s most iconic lines is: “We all pee the same color.” Thus, lemonade. You get the idea. Brian even made it fresh too! Not from powder!

La La Land: Tapas

Poor La La Land. Many of the pundits were saying the film didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. They got their wish. (And if you’re asking me, Moonlight was the better movie of the two). Anyway, tapas play a pivotal role in the film and we went with a really easy recipe: bacon wrapped dates. Literally, just dates wrapped in bacon, but they were delicious. I’m not sure Sebastion (Ryan Gosling) would approve, but we’ll never know.

Lion: Jalebis

Every year, there’s always a film or two with a very obvious menu item. This year Lion was one. Jalebis mark a turning point in the film. They really were fairly easy to make too. And for all of you Americans reading this – they taste a lot like donuts.

Jalebi Recipe (Found at Food.com)

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Put flour in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add gramflour.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Add yogurt and water.
  5. Mix well, using a spoon, ensuring that no lumps remain.
  6. Mix to obtain what is technically called,”ribbon consistency”.
  7. (Ribbon consistency simply requires you to mix for about 5-7 minutes, really well, so that when the mixture is dropped from the mixing spoon into the mixing bowl, it should fall like a ribbon. Don’t let the term scare you, it’s pretty easy, you just got to).
  8. Add a pinch of baking soda.
  9. At this point, this mixture (batter) can be refrigerated if you are planning on making the jalebis later.
  10. If you plan to make the jalebis instantly, put the mixture in a jalebi bottle (you get these bottles to make jalebis in the market).
  11. If you dont have a jalebi bottle, you can use an empty well-washed and thoroughly clean, tomato ketchup bottle.
  12. Heat oil on low-medium flame in a frying pan.
  13. Meanwhile, spoon the above prepared batter in the icing bag fitted with the star nozzle/jalebi bottle/ tomato ketchup bottle.
  14. Drop the batter by squeezing the bottle/icing bag, into the hot oil, in concentric circular motion to make the jalebis.
  15. Lightly brown on either side.
  16. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
  17. On low flame heat the pre-prepared sugar-water syrup (known in Hindi as”chashni”).
  18. Add few threads of saffron to the syrup- these look really pretty on the jalebis later when you dip the latter into them.
  19. Now, drain the excess oil from the jalebis.
  20. Drop into the sugar-water syrup.
  21. Dip well, toss well, to coat the jalebis in the syrup.
  22. Drain excess syrup from the jalebis.

Manchester By The Sea Salt Water Taffy

This one was a stretch, but a fun play on words, right? Plus it was so much easier than making something like lobster (since characters in the film are lobster fishermen) or sea salt caramels.

Moonlight: Arroz Con Pollo

Like LionMoonlight was the other obvious food connection. Arroz Con Pollo is vital to the film’s third act. It’s really good too. You should try this! Also, how great is it that Moonlight won Best Picture?!

Crockpot Arroz Con Pollo (Found at Food.com)

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the cooking vessel. Stir well. Cover and cook: Low-8 hrs (or) High-5 hours.

And that was our Oscar menu! Until next year, happy film going!

Rehabbing Our DIY Dog Gates

Before I start, let me just say that all that mouse poop I found in the ceiling a couple weeks ago had me slightly worried for a hot second this week. For a minute, I thought those jerks may have given me hantavirus. But good news, I’m alive and well and dragging Brian into doing more projects. 🙂

President’s Day weekend was the perfect time for another project! Up this time, updating the DIY dog and/or baby gates that the previous homeowners left with the house.

Frodo and Ellie are relatively well behaved, but the gates are nice especially when we want to keep the dogs out of the basement or confined to the family room. They also are handy when friends who have kids come over: just shut the gates and let the kids have free reign!

However, the previous owners never painted the gates, so they looked unfinished and the house isn’t industrial enough to pull that look off.

Before

 

During

Because I’m basically a commercial for the product, I used Zinsser Bin Primer before painting. I promise I don’t have an unnatural affinity for this product. We’ve needed to get rid of so much wood grain in this house and Zinsser has done a decent job of hiding it.

After

We chose to paint the gates with Behr’s Iron Mountain to keep with the gate’s looking modern while staying in theme with our gray walls. (BTW, gray is totally the new beige and I’m going to hate it in 10 years, right? ;)). Anyway, here’s what they look like now. I’m happy with them. And seriously, I’m so glad we have them. They’re so functional. For anyone with dogs and/or toddlers or babies I’d highly recommend DIY-ing something like this for your home.

And here’s Ellie sneaking a peak through one of the freshly-painted gates.

How We Decorated Our Mantel & Learned a Communication Lesson in the Process

Now that we’re getting a bit more settled, it was time to decorate our mantel  in our living room. Although we had a fireplace in our first house, we didn’t have a mantel.

We wanted to make sure it had balance, movement and tied in with the rest of the room.

Here’s how it went:

Step 1: The Focal Point: Hanging the Mirror

The only item that was previously owned was the Crate & Barrel mirror below that we received as a wedding gift from my family. We designed everything around the mirror.

Obviously, the first step was hanging it. Brian, as always, was the muscle for the project. After he sweetly hung the mirror, I was a big jerk, and made him do it all over again. We realized the prior to hanging the mirror, we hadn’t communicated on where it should be hung: he assumed it should’ve been in the middle of the wall and ceiling whereas I thought it should be 2-3″above the top of the mantle.

The big lesson learned: talk about what we want before hanging anything in the future. And not pictured here: the large holes in the chimney that Brian patched and filled. He did a great job – you can’t  even tell there used to be holes!

Brian is the best and hung the mirror again. Before (6″ above the mantel) and after (3″ above) pictures are below. (And for any Disney and/or UP fans we decided that the Paradise Falls jug didn’t belong on the mantel and we relocated it a nook in our entry, but maybe that’s a post for another day.)

Step 2: Adding Objects and Layers: The West Elm Phase

Lucky for us, West Elm was having a significant sale on everything in-store because of upcoming inventory. As a result, I found everything below at relatively reasonable prices.

Step 3: Adding More “Greenery” and Foliage

Now I love designer twigs from places like Crate & Barrel and West Elm just as much as the next gal/guy, but do I want to spend $25 for stick? Yeah, no. To the local craft store we went.

Step 4: Getting Personal From Yennygrams

I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to put in the mantel’s frame. Luckily, I have a friend, Kate, from Boston University who has a design and calligraphy business, Yennygrams, who could help me out.

I just wanted a simple piece of word art that told our story: we met at Salt Lake County Democratic Party Convention and became friends, we were engaged at the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and were married at Snowbasin in Utah. The art also ties in the colors from the rest of the room. Kate did a great job and I’m really happy with it!

Step 6: Antique Books and the Final Product

To add height to the West Elm candle holder, I found two antique books at a local consignment store. One also ties in the blues from the rest of the room.

A Tale of Basement Demolition, Dead Mice and a Design Dilemma

So far the projects in our new home have been easy (read: mainly just painting), but while Brian was out of town at a conference this week I started demolition on our biggest project: the basement.

I affectionately call the basement a dungeon. While it’s not quite an underground prison, it’s not the most inviting space (wood paneling and drop ceilings, ftw!). Currently, it’s framed out to include a recreation/family area, two bedrooms,  storage room, laundry room, 3/4 bathroom, two cold storage pantries and other storage.

The ceilings in the basement are either exposed or they’re drop ceilings with office-style ceiling panels. Our house was built in 1951, so we need all the ceiling height we can get. The ceilings are only about 6’5″ with the drop ceilings in place, so they had to go.

Before (and a selfie for good measure)

After (and a selfie for good measure)

You should note that I purposefully did not include the pictures of the three dead mice (and lots and lots of poop) that I found in the ceiling when I was removing the panels. I figured that was probably something people didn’t want to see. 😉

This is one of those scenarios where its definitely going to look worse before it looks better. However, by removing the drop ceiling, we’ve now entered a bit of a design dilemma.

Design Dilemma

Originally we thought we would replace the drop ceiling with regular drywall celling and recessed lighting. This would gain us about 3 to maybe 3.5″ in height, leaving about 6’8″ in clearance where there isn’t duct work. Not totally ideal.  However, digging down isn’t a very viable option for us because the floor tiles in the basement are sealed with asbestos, and so the asbestos removal combined with the cost of digging down several inches is very cost prohibitive.

However, as I removed the panels, I had a crazy thought. What if we left the ceiling exposed? This would give us nearly 8′ in standard ceiling clearance, or at least the appearance of standard ceiling clearance. Not the most energy or sound efficient, but it might work aesthetically. I did some research and apparently it’s a thing some people do in basements. Below are some photos I found of exposed ceilings (many in basements).

Now, Brian doesn’t think we can pull this off and thinks we should stick with a lower drywall ceiling. I guess time will tell what we decide to do.

How We Threw Our Housewarming Party

Housewarming Welcome Sign

 

Now that we’ve been in our house a little over a month (and painted almost every room) it was time for our housewarming!

It was nice to finally have our friends over. Plus, I know Brian was thankful to not have to work on house projects for a weekend!

Housewarming Welcome Sign

I made the DIY welcome banner above from paint chips from Home Depot. Simple and super easy.

We gave house tours of the new digs and served a bunch of food. We made away too much — as is typical for a Brian & Jason party.

Here’s a sample of a few of the things that we stole from Pinterest and made on our own (aka the ridiculous amount of pizza purchased isn’t pictured).

Fruity Pebble Rice Krispy Treats

Ingredients (recipe found at madeitwithhappy)

  • 1 bag mini marshmallows
  • 5 cups Fruity Pebbles (or you know, Dino Bytes from Malt O Meal, if you’re cheap like us)
  • 5 tablespoons butter

Directions

  1. Line the bottom of an 8×8 pan with foil.
  2. Spray with cooking spray and set to the side.
  3. Over medium heat, melt butter and marshmallows together.
  4. Once completely melted, remove from heat and fold in cereal.
  5. After all cereal is fully coated, mix in the remaining cup of marshmallows.
  6. Transfer to the pan and even out.
  7. Cool and serve.

Oreo Truffles


Ingredients (recipe found at popsugar)

  • 1 package Double Stuf Oreos
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup white candy melts or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. In a food processor, chop up Oreos, including the frosting, until a fine crumb is reached. Save 1/4 cup of Oreos for garnish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together remaining Oreos with cream cheese. Once combined, roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a piece of wax paper. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. While the Oreo balls are in the freezer, melt chocolate until smooth (we did this in the microwave). Pull the Oreo truffles out of the freezer, and dip into the chocolate. Place on a new wax-paper-lined baking sheet, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining Oreo crumbles.
  4. Place truffles in the refrigerator to set the chocolate

Brownie Batter Dip

Ingredients (recipe found at ohsweetbasil)

  •  (8 Ounce) Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 8 Ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 (18 ounce) Box Brownie Mix, dry
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

For Dipping: we used graham crackers, pretzels and fruit (strawberries, grapes and melons)

  1. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cool whip until smooth. Add in brownie mix and milk. Mix until smooth and fold in chocolate chips, reserving a few for garnish.
  2. Serve immediately or wrap the bowl in saran wrap and store in the fridge up to one day ahead.

Cowboy Caviar

Modified Ingredients (we didn’t include cilantro because that stuff is NASTY) (original recipe found at Culinary Hill)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (11 ounce) can super sweet corn, drained (see notes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt. Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion, and bell peppers. Stir.
  2. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

All of the above were easy and tasty! Although with the Super Bowl today too, we may gain 10 lbs this weekend. Oh well, back to healthy eating on Monday.

 

Changing the Lights in Our Family Room (and Freaking Out Our Goldendoodle in the Process)

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the lighting in our house is terrible. We have great window lighting, but the overhead lighting comes down to: track lighting or ceiling fans. We’re in desperate need of recessed lighting, but until then, the first project was swapping out a pair of ancient flush mounts in our family room.

If we learned anything from our last house — it’s that a new light can completely transform a room. These lights aren’t on that level, but they’re a big improvement on what was there previously.

We swapped out the lighting at night, so the pictures in this post are pretty terrible.

Before

These are the lights we swapped out:

Here’s what the room looked like when the lights were on (SO DARK):

After

We bought the new lights from Wayfair. Most people who’ve moved recently know you’re bombarded with coupons from USPS. One was a decent one from Wayfair, so we used it on the lights and it saved a good amount of money.

After Brian’s handyman skills were put to work, here’s what the lighting looks like now:

The lights aren’t that exciting, but they’re really a much better fit for the room and the feeling of the space. Plus, they’re so much brighter and appropriate for the dim room.

The best part of the story

Now, this post is pretty boring, but it gets a bit better.  When we woke up the morning after installing the new lights, Ellie, our goldendoodle seemed pretty upset. While we were eating breakfast she kept barking — at the new light in the hallway. Who knows why, but she was very upset at the new fixture. She didn’t bark for long but she kept stalking and keeping an eye on the fixture for about an hour. Who knows why, but it was hilarious. Much better she freak out a light fixture than a machete man, right?

I should’ve taken a video, but here’s a photo of her stalking the light early in the morning.

How many pets out there really get freaked out by home decor?!

 

 

 

Kitchen Update: From Navajo Sand to Basic Brown

Our kitchen paint job is the least dramatic of our recent updates. The previous homeowners chose a color called “Navajo Sand,” which although you can’t really tell from the images below, came off as almost an orange-brown. It had to go.

I really don’t like brown. Especially for wall colors. It’s SO boring, but again, we’re just working with what we’ve given right now. And as you can tell the previous homeowners LOVED THEM SOME BROWN.

Before

After

As you can tell, our kitchen is a bit “dog-friendly.” We’re going to update it eventually. (No more brown!) It’ll be classier then, too, but for now, this will do. 🙂

We chose Behr’s Gravelstone Marquee paint. Again, although I’m just not a fan of brown, the color (with a slight hint of gray) is a much better fit with the flooring, cabinets and granite and the orange hued walls from before.

Now let’s just fast forward ten years to when the kitchen can be all white with hints of blue. Then again, maybe brown will be back in style by 2030. Maybe?

The Power of Gray(skull) Compels You: Our Family Room Goes Gray

As promised, we painted our family room and dining space gray too. Just like our living room. The results are a bit more dramatic in person, but you might not be able to tell in the photos 1) because the overhead lighting in our house is pretty awful right now and 2) I really need something better than an iPhone to take photos.

Anyway, here are the before.  More beige! (Yuck.) You’ll notice how the previous owners painted the support beam dark brown. Why they’d call attention to a feature like that, I’ll never know.

Before Gray

After Gray

Now, time for the gray.

We painted the spaces the same gray as our living room: Behr’s White Metal Marquee.

I know what you’re thinking, brown carpet and that paint?! Yes, it’s not the best match, but we really hated those beige walls. That carpet won’t be here forever either. (Neither will our blasé furniture, but that’s a post for another day in the future.)

Before we painted, we once again used Zinsser Bin Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer like we did in our bathroom (I sound like a commercial now). I wanted to make sure we covered the ugly dark brown beam in one coat. Plus the beam was never properly sanded so the primer would help cover some of the wood grain. (Yes, I guess we’re lazy too since we didn’t want to sand it either.)

And here’s the after, which don’t do the room or the paint justice because the lighting is SO poor. (I also blame winter and it getting dark so early. Is it almost June yet?)

I am just SO happy the support beam is so much less noticeable on first glance now!

 

I once had a dream that all the art in my house would be art that I created. That’s not so much a dream anymore. However our dining area is full of pictures that I took while I was taking photography classes all throughout high school and college. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I once had any photography skills based on these terrible photos of our house though. I might need a refresher course. 🙂

Brian’s wall of nerd art is on full display here.

A few projects down. Up next, painting the kitchen.

What a Difference a Gray Makes: Painting Our Living Room

When we moved into our new house one of the first orders of business was painting the boring beige walls. Our solution? Lots and lots of gray.

First up? The living room. This post will be short and sweet.

Before Painting

Here are the before pictures, which I didn’t manage to take before we placed our furniture or painted (quite a few) paint swatches on the walls. Probably would’ve been more dramatic if I would’ve staged it correctly, but oh well.

After Painting

Here are the after photos. We selected Behr Marquee’s White Metal as the color. (We’re not quite fancy enough for Benjamin Moore yet, but one day.) The paint really only took about one coat though, which was really nice. A side note: the overhead lighting in this house is THE WORST, especially since it’s winter, so the photos aren’t perfect.

We also painted our family room, which had slightly more dramatic results. Those photos coming up later this week.

From Mid-Century “Blah-dern” to Funky Fresh

Like most new homeowners one of the first things we’ve done since moving in to our new home is paint.

One of our first projects was our upstairs bathroom. Boy, did it need work. Here are some before pictures.

I actually don’t mind all the green tile (while it would never be my first choice, I promise, it’s better in person). I do like what the previous homeowners did with the shower stall to try and modernize the space. However, the paint color they chose had us gagging. And although the shower stall and faucet were attempting to modernize the bathroom, the honey oak sure was dating it.

With everything that needs to be done in the house, and other financial commitments, we don’t really have the funds for a major bathroom remodel. In order to modernize the space, we decided to continue the work of the previous homeowners and bring out the colors from the shower tiles in the rest of the space. Paint was going to have to do most of the work.

We started with the honey oak. That had to go. To get rid of the wood grain, we used Zinsser Bin Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer. After two coats on the cabinetry it did a good job of hiding most of the oak grain. However, to get rid of all the wood grain, it would’ve been best to sand the cabinets and then use the Zinsser Bin. But with a project this small that effort wasn’t quite worth it yet (call us lazy DIYers).

To tie in the shower tiles with the rest of the bathroom, we pained the cabinets Very Navy from Behr. The color is close match to some square tiles in the shower stall. We finished them off with simple, modern cabinet pulls.

Realizing that blue cabinetry and green bathroom tiles are a bit crazy town, we put a very, very light grey on the walls (Behr’s Silver Polish) that actually appears white in the bathroom.

Finally, again to bring out the colors in the shower tiles, we paired the paint with orange towels and a bathroom mat (which aren’t the easiest things to find mind you – especially when you’re trying to coordinate with a shower tile).

Here’s the finished product. A bit out there, I know.

Note to self: No more wrinkly shower curtains next time you take pictures

Now, I’m excited to, one day, design my own bathroom. No more fixing other people’s mistakes.