Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy Houseiversary To Us!


Today is the one year anniversary of Charming Suitor and I buying our forever home.  Now you would think this wouldn't be a big deal, since I'd been living in it for 20 years when the papers were finally signed, but it was.  Everything I always loved about this place got better the moment CS moved in, and then EVEN BETTER when we could officially call it ours.  I think the same happens for people who live together for a long time and then finally get married.  It just brings everything into delicious focus.  So I want to take this moment to say Happy Houseiversary to my extraordinary Charming dream house is anywhere you are, but I'm so glad it is here :)

In honor of our Houseiversary, we have a new bit of updating on the improvement projects, now that we are six months in...

As we speak the drain tile and sump pump are being installed in the basement.  Very boring, but the peace of mind that our currently historically dry basement will remain so, makes it a very happy thing indeed.

In even better news, we found a sink for our basement vanity project!

Remember our awesome Craigslist find?

We knew immediately that it would make the perfect vanity for the basement bathroom.  The patina on the wood and brass details are going to bring some much needed warmth and originality to a space that traditionally can feel a little cold and generic.  The next choice we had to make was about the sink.  We knew that we wanted a single long trough sink, both for the look (I hate side by side sinks) but also for the functionality (I hate getting elbowed in the head when CS and I try to brush our teeth together over the one sink in our current bathroom).  So a single long sink with two sets of faucets would not only be a great look, but also would be very useful.

And Look. What. We. Found.

Is that not the sexiest sink you ever did see????

The sink is almost 4 feet long, just over a foot wide, and about 4 inches deep.  It is from a company called Wetstyle which is a Canadian company that our architects suggested we check out because they have always found the products to be that magical combination of superior quality and reasonable prices.  And boy am I glad they did.  It was love at first sight.  Not only did they have the PERFECT size and shape of sink that absolutely matched the picture we had in our heads of what we wanted, but they were also lovely to work with.  When I emailed a couple of questions, I had answers practically instantaneously.  Their products are made of a natural stone composite material that is very eco-friendly, but also enormously durable.  You can get them in a high gloss (which we are doing for this one) or a very cool matte finish that I find inspiring and am pretty sure we will be exploring more soon.  I got lost on their website for the better part of an hour, dreaming of future bathrooms.  After all, there are five more on the horizon, lord help us!

After we found the sink online, we headed over to a local design studio to see them in person, and were very impressed with how they looked and felt.  We compared them in person to sinks from other high end companies, and they were the clear winner...beating out a lot of sinks that were double the price! We ended up ordering the high gloss for this project because this sink will be getting a lot of use in tooth brushing and shaving, and we wanted easy quick cleanup.  But I have to say, when I felt the matte finishes?  I definitely want to do at least one of these somewhere in the house.  I can't really describe how nice the surfaces felt, but I never thought I'd want to pet a sink....until now.  

I don't know if this pic captures the matte finish that well, but, trust me, it is a gorgeous look and when you touch it, it feel sort of cool and soft and smooth like a river rock.  

And I know we are literally like 2 years away from even thinking about the Master Bath, but, um, I can't stop dreaming about this....

Shut the front door!  I'm a bathtub girl anyway, but this?  Can't you just imagine?  It sends my heart into palpitations.  

Sorry.  Where was I?

Oh, basement bathroom.  It feels like now that the vanity is coming together the rest of the bathroom is going to fall into place, design-wise.  And it was definitely smart to start here.  The brass handles on the vanity mean that we are actually going to go with antiqued brass finishes for all of the faucets etc., so that the room feels cohesive, in a pretty traditional or old-world style to underscore the age of the buffet.  I think having this cool modern Wetstyle trough sink paired with the antique vanity and antique-repro brass faucets is going to be pretty spectacular.  We went with the undermount version of this sink because the buffet is already counter height, so adding another four inches of vessel sink would have been very bad for short little me.  We will replace the wood top with some sort of stone countertop TBD, and the sink will be attached underneath.  SO EXCITING!

The other big find for the house is the kitchen table!

I know, you are asking yourself, isn't our dear Polymath some 18 months or so away from having a kitchen into which she can put a table?  And the answer is, um, yup.  But when the table finds you, you have to go with it.

It is a 1920s oak trestle table that was in the conference room of a bank!  A full four feet by eight feet, the top is just a solid slab of oak.  Gorgeous oak...

Look at that grain!  Couldn't resist it.  We found this beauty in Milwaukee at a cute little antique place, and all I can say is that it was a total STEAL.  Like, think IKEA pricing.  We are headed back to Milwaukee in a couple of weeks to pick it up...and foist it on my parents weekend place until we can give it a home!  Thank goodness they don't care if we temporarily redecorate their dining room, because we can't store it here while we are under construction, and to be honest, both of our storage units are full to the brim!  So big props to Mom and Dad for the assist :)

I'd say welcome to Spring, but we are expecting about 4-5 inches of snow today, so happy Wednesday!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winners One and All


It is snowing here.  Again.  I swear this winter is trying to kill us.

So, the winner of the cookbook title contest is Yours in Good Taste.  I submitted all three to my editor. And the official name of the cookbook is....


Stacey Ballis’s Most Awesome Simple Recipes

Now you may be noticing that the only thing this has in common with ANY of the titles we all sent over is my name.  Welcome to publishing :)  I have all the creative control in the world when it comes to what lies between the covers of my books, and none at all when it comes to their titles and cover art. The nature of the business.

But I adore you all for helping and playing!  And I would like the contributors of the three top entries to please send your shipping addresses to me at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com, so that I can send you all a little something.

The good news is that now we have a title, and I am working hard on getting it together for you, and it will be out in October, in time for holiday cooking.

But I thought, since the whole Throwback Thursday thing is in effect, I would share a retro recipe with you.  One of our dear friends didn't grow up in the States, and as a result, every once in a while there is a food he just never has tasted.  A couple of weeks ago he expressed a curiosity about Sloppy Joes.  So I said I would make a batch the next time the four of us got together for one of our movie nights.  Charming Suitor was not happy about this, since Sloppy Joes do not invoke happy memories for him, but he was willing to take a bullet for his buddy.

Here is my updated recipe for a more grown-up Joe.  Not cloyingly sweet, like so many, but a good balance of savory and sweet.  No green bell peppers which make your house smell like an armpit and make everything they touch taste like a foot.  CS called them definitively the "best Sloppy Joes" he had ever eaten...and then requested I never make them again.  

Any childhood food you've been craving an update on?

Stacey's Sloppy Joes
Serves 6-8

3 lbs ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken and pork all work fine)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 sweet onion, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into 2 inch chunks
6 serrano chiles, seeds and ribs removed, minced finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
½ c tomato paste
¼ c water
3 T grapeseed or canola oil
1 c ketchup
½ c bbq sauce (I use homemade, but use whatever bottled sauce you like)
½ c chili sauce
1 t Worcestershire sauce
2 T dark brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In your food processor, pulse the carrots, celery and onion until you have a coarse paste, with about the same texture as the ground meat. 

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, and add the oil.  Sauté the vegetable mixture for about 6-8 minutes, letting the water evaporate and some good browning should occur.  Add in the tomato paste, and water, mix well and continue to cook, letting it brown a bit more, about another 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the minced garlic and Serrano chilies, and cook about 2 more minutes, and then remove the mixture from the pot.  Add the meat to the pot, and break up with a potato masher or spatula and cook until well-browned.  Drain the meat, reduce the heat to medium low, and then return it to the pot with the vegetable mash. Stir in the ketchup, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bbq sauce and brown sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes to let the flavors blend, and then taste for salt and pepper.

It is best made the day before, and then reheated in a low oven or a slow cooker the day you want to eat it.  Freezes beautifully.