Thursday, December 30, 2010

You Can't Lose What You Never Had

Our offer was the runner up. It stings a little bit to realize that we lost our first bid, but I just keep reminding myself that our house is out there, and we will end up where we are supposed to. Although it's so early in our house hunt and I truly believe this, today I am a little sad.

Here's what I keep wistfully thinking about: The light filled and totally open living/dining/kitchen combo.

The loft. (I didn't get a picture of it, but the second pic above is taken from it.) The views from the backyard. The pic doesn't do it justice. Really, it's 180 degree views. Swoon.

All the space: 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, plus TONS of closets. Oh, and what about all those stuck-in-a-bygone era -1950's-1980's to be exact - elements that needed some serious modernizing? I stay awake at night just dreaming about the upgrades we could do, and surprisingly, so does Ryan. (Well, I don't know if he stays awake at night, but he definitely has opinions and ideas.)

But the house certainly wasn't perfect, and there were a few things I am not bummed to leave behind.

The (lack of) curb appeal, for instance.

The small yard and bathrooms.

The master bedroom that used to be the living room before the 1980 addition, and which is right off the front door. Yep, that's the master. (We'd prefer a master in the back of the house, especially with those views.)

The narrow and viewless entry (which I failed to get a pic of). And I know Ryan would LOVE a two car garage for all his projects and to use as a man cave.

The bottom line was we have a better idea of how to be competitive with REO's - move quickly and start with a serious offer - and we now have a clearer and shared sense of what we are looking for. Any lessons to impart? Any thoughts on this place?

We plan to continue to look in this area and see what pops up in the weeks/months ahead. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Waiting Game

We were supposed to hear back about our offer by 5 pm today, but that deadline just passed us by, and still no news! I have been a wreck all day and have been running errands, cleaning, and organizing to try to keep myself occupied. The fridge and freezer are stocked. Our bedroom is as clean as it can be until my appointment with The Wardrobe! I can't really clean anything else because the vacuum refuses to do its job.

Cooking helped me pass the time last night, and today I brined two chickens so I can make the hubby some homemade chicken salad sandwiches. (Why not spoil him while I have the time?)

Last night's dinner was so good that we will be eating the leftovers again tonight. Here's the recipe, courtesy of Giada.

Saffron Orzo with Shrimp

4 c chicken broth (I use free-range organic broth)
1 t saffron threads
1 lb uncooked orzo
7 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
3 t salt (I tend to cut this in half since I don't use reduced-sodium chicken broth)
2 t black pepper
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Capers to taste (optional)

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low simmer and add saffron, stirring and simmering until saffron has "bloomed," about 5 minutes.

Return heat to medium and add orzo. Bring stock to a boil and cook orzo for 9 minutes (or until tender but still firm to the bite), stirring occasionally.

Add 4 T of olive oil, parsley, half the lemon juice, 1 t each of salt and pepper, and capers (if using.) Combine thoroughly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with 1 t of salt, 1 t of pepper, and remaining lemon juice. Heat remaining 3 T of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook until shrimp are just turning pink, about 3 minutes per side. Take the tail off the shrimp and chop into bit-sized pieces.

Add shrimp to orzo and enjoy!

Happy eating! I will keep you posted as soon as we have an update!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Give 'Em Your Best

Well folks, it turns out that we are in the middle of a bidding war. I know some people love the thrill of an auction - whether live, silent, or just ebay - but I am not that person. We got a call from our agent today explaining that there are two other offers on the house, and we needed to submit our highest and best offer by 3 pm today for consideration.

"Okay, we're still in the running," I thought. "No problem." Not quite. Turns out that Ryan did not answer his phone or respond to my panicked texts for 45 minutes. And we only had two-and-a-half hours until the new offer was due. So what's a girl to do? I drove out to his job with two possible counter offers in hand. (Thank goodness he had told me where he was working; he is a carpenter, so his location can change daily). He was up on the roof and looked more than a little surprised to see me.

Long story short, we agreed on a new figure and got the paperwork back to our agent with a half hour to spare. Now the waiting begins...

How about a closet update? I pulled about 50 items from my closet. 15 or so I am going to donate to Goodwill, and the rest I am going to consign at The Wardrobe. I even already called and made the appointment! They take 25 in-season items at one time and split the profits 50/50.

Here's my pile of winter items to consign all ready to go for next Friday's appointment: 2 leather jackets, 2 suede jackets, 2 sweater coats, 2 dresses, 2 pairs of black boots, 1 purse, 4 skirts, and the rest are sweaters, shirts, and tops.

I also have a pile of spring/summer clothing just waiting to go to The Wardrobe when the seasons change. (Found in the bags in the basket in the first photo.)

I didn't take a before photo (too embarrassing), but here's what the closet looks like now.

There's still much to purge, but 50 pieces was a lot for one day! Not sure what's up next for the great purge. Any suggestions?

Enjoying the View

Christmas, a distant speck in the rear view mirror by now, left us largely unscathed except for a stomach bug I can't seem to shake. (Could it have anything to do with the massive amounts of food we have been surrounded with? Perhaps.) Santa was quite good to us this year. I kept telling family that we are not wanting for anything, except a house...

Well, there's exciting news in that department as well! We went to look at five homes on Christmas Eve, and we were quite taken with the last house we saw: a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1950's ranch with a 1980's addition. It's up on a hill with stunning 180 degree views from the living room, back bedroom, and porch. 

In a move that shocked me, my stoic guy - who is deliberate in every move he makes - decided he wanted to make an offer! So we did yesterday. We will not hear back about our offer until Wednesday at 5 pm, and until then I will be a nervous Nelly. We are thinking it will go to some all cash buyer who will update it's stuck-in-the-70's look, but we are holding out a little hope that it could be ours. I just keep telling myself, "If it is meant to be, it will be." Literally. It's my mantra right now. 

If by some miracle our offer is accepted, things will move quickly; it is a 30 day closing. I am having a seriously hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that there is a (slight) possibility that we could be moving in a month's time. We have been in our current house in 6 and a half years, and while we moved in with almost no furniture or stuff (besides way too many clothes), now we are packed to the gills. So, since I have another two weeks off work and since the new year is approaching, I have made it my mission to purge. Yesterday's project: the hall closet, specifically the shelf that houses our wrapping paper. (I did not think to take a before pic. I will try to get an after shot up today. It will still look sad.) Today: my closet! Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Soft and Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

If you have yet to do any holiday baking like me, here's a recipe to try out: Soft and Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies. I had visions of making at least three different kinds of sweet treats, but I just finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, so I was feeling like I needed to ratchet down the dream just a tad. But I wanted to try out a new recipe... Luckily, during my last minute shopping yesterday, I was reminded of a ginger molasses cookie that a local chain of coffee shops (Carmel Valley Roasting Company) makes, and that I have wanted to emulate for years. The sweet caramel-y-ness (is that a word?) of the molasses mixed with the bite of the ginger makes the flavor perfect for this season!

Here's the recipe:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • In a medium size bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:e2 1/4 c all-purpose flour; 2 t ground ginger; 1 t baking soda; 3/4 t ground cinnamon; 1/2 t ground nutmeg; 1/4 t salt. Set aside.
  • With a standing or hand-held mixer, cream together 3/4 c butter (a sick and a half) and 1 cup white sugar until light and fluffy. 
  • Beat in one egg.
  • Stir in 1/4 c molasses and 1 T water.
  • Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, about 1/4 to 1/3 at a time, until just combined. 
  • Shape dough into walnut sized ball (I did this my rolling it in my palms), and then roll them in 4 T of white sugar.
  • Place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. 
We enjoyed ours last night after a dinner of leftover roasted chicken and butternut squash soup, courtesy of the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I am planning on giving some of the cookies away to my dad's family and to our friends hosting a holiday cocktail party tonight. I will try to take some pics of how I package them up to give away. 

Happy baking and eating! 

Recipe adapted from

Oh, and we are going house hunting for the first time tomorrow! We are so excited. Can't wait to share some pics and details!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Cards

For a few years I have wanted to send out holiday cards. One year I even went as far as to buy a bunch on sale the day after Christmas, but I never sent them out. The first year it was because my now-husband and I were not yet married, and a proper Southern friend of ours told us it went against etiquette to send out holiday cards together. The next year I was in grad school (even though we were finally married and it would have been appropriate to send out cards together), and after that I was a first year teacher. Enough said.

But this year I had no excuses, so I ordered some props on Amazon and held a little photo shoot in the backyard. Behold! 

My two Rhodesian Ridgebacks were the reluctant models for my creative vision. Azlan, my momma's boy, is the angel on left; and Zoe, my demonically possessed girl, is the devil on the right. 

After the "photo shoot," I had to find the perfect card to accompany my silly photo. I knew I wanted it to say something about being naughty and nice. I searched high and low, and found many lovely options, but they either needed customization or were out of my price range. So I ended up going with the following card from Shutterfly

In retrospect, I wish Azlan and Zoe could have traded places so my devilish girl was above the "naughty" and my angelic boy above the "nice," but I still think it turned out well. 

What holiday cards are you sending out this year? Have you ever made your pets dress up or play model? 

Glam Granola Recipes

Welcome to my blog! I hope to share my exploits as I go from being a renter (of a sad little cottage), to a first time homeowner. Along the way, I intend to share what inspires me in the decor, food, and fashion worlds and adapt them into realities, at least in some form. 

But first, an explanation of the title of my new blog. Anyone that knows me knows that I make my own granola and have been for years. I eat it everyday with plain yogurt. It fills me up and powers me through my mornings so much, that I take it with me everywhere: to school where I munch on it in front of my poor students, to conferences (no muffins or pastries for me), and even on vacation. And of course, I get made fun of endlessly for this - until someone tries it and realizes that this is not your crunchy aunt's granola! So to honor the name of this blog, here are my two favorite granola recipes: 

The Original (inspired by the addictive La Brea Bakery granola)

3 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1 c pecans
1 T ground cinnamon
2 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t orange peel
2 t pure vanilla extract
*Note: I add the spices by hand, but this is my closest approximation

Stir together with the following:
1/2 c. safflower oil
1/2 c. honey

Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 16 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring once halfway through. Be careful about browning.

When light brown remove and let cool to room temp. Loosen from pan in chunks and add dried fruits. 
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. dried blueberries
1/2 c. dried currants

Serve with yogurt and fresh fruit or with milk. It's not exactly the same as the inspiration, but the combination of spices and dried fruit make this my favorite during fall and winter. Yum!

The New Obsession (adapted from Joni Brosnan courtesy of GOOP)

2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 c walnuts
1 c pecans
1 c shredded coconut
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c flax seeds
Stir together with the following:
1/2 c. maple syrup (I like the maple agave blend from Trader Joe's)
1 T pure vanilla extract

Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring once halfway through. Be careful about browning.

When light brown remove and let cool to room temp. Loosen from pan in chunks and add
1 c. dried cranberries
Serve in the same way as the Original Granola. The addition of the coconut makes this a delicious breakfast in the spring and summer. 
Recipe can be found at
Let me know if you try them. Happy baking and eating!