Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In the mood for the perfect New Year's Eve cocktail!

Three Perfect Cocktails for New Year's Eve!


What are you plans for New Year's Eve?  We're going to a Roaring 20s Party!  It's a birthday party, but if you think about it, it's the perfect party theme for NYE.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't want every party I ever went to to be a Great Gatsby party!
 




Head over to punkymoms.com to check out my post on NYE cocktails!  I've crafted three cocktails to suit any occasion - whether you're partying it up like Daisy Buchanan, or going to bed early, I have the perfect drink for you!

Monday, December 28, 2015

In the Mood for Bourbon Milk Punch!

Hey, guess what?  I wrote a post over at punkymoms.com about one of my favorite cocktails - the Bourbon Milk Punch!


Bourbon Milk Punch is everything you want out of a cocktail!  It's creamy, dreamy, and boozy, with a fine dusting of nutmeg.


It's perfect for Christmas or New Year's morning, and Sunday brunch!



 Go check out my post here, and whip up a batch of Bourbon Milk Punch!

Monday, November 16, 2015

In the mood to set up my office: which chair should I buy?

So I'm trying to decide between two chairs to put at my desk.  We recently added a desktop that my parents owned but didn't use (thanks Mom & Dad!), and I need a chair that have variable height, and that provides arm support.  The whole typing with my elbows hanging out in mid-air gives me a migraine.

The benefit of office chairs (as opposed to pretty chairs) is that they often give you variable height and arm support, but they don't often have adjustable arm support.  I had good chairs at my last few jobs that allowed me to change up the arm support height depending on whether I was typing or writing by hand.  I found this chair on Amazon for $75.



Pro: adjustable arm support, adjustable height, good price.
Con: ugly as hell.  Screams "office."

Our "office" is actually a little corner of our library, which is light and airy and lovely.  The last thing I want in that room is an ugly, black office chair.


However, I will buy an ugly black office chair if I have to.  But what are my other options?

This little number is super cute, a great color, has arms, and is height-adjustable, but the arms aren't adjustable.



I've also seen hacks where people have spray painted the base gold.


Lovely, right?  The gold makes it look like a much higher end chair.  The problem is, of course, that while it has arm rests, the arm rests aren't adjustable and may not be the right height for me.  Also, it's $200, which is more than double the Amazon chair.



Again, pro: arms, con: the arms are not adjustable.  So, it would depend on whether the arms are the right height for me.  I love the shape of this chair, it's so 1960s, which would go well with our library.  I also love that it's faux leather, which means it won't collect cat hair the way fabric does, interweaving it into the weft of the fabric to create a new, cat-based textile.  I could also do the same thing as the chair above, and paint the base gold.  The con, aside from the fact that it might not fit my body right, is that it's $150 - twice what the Amazon chair costs.  On the other hand, it's at least 10,000 times cuter than the Amazon chair.  That's worth something, right?

So, now I get to go to Ikea!  If the white chair works with my body, then I think I'll get it.  If not, then I'll have no other choice than to go the ugly route.  All things equal, which chair do you prefer?




Saturday, November 14, 2015

Not in the mood to be in a fashion conundrum

So I have a little riddle for you.  What should a thirty-five year old woman who has recently quit her (awful) job and who is now experiencing the much longed-for experience of being a housewife and homemaker wear during the day that is both practical to her activities, appropriate for being out in the world, and also not make her feel like a hideous monster?  Take into consideration that she lives in central Florida during an El Nino year, and it's mid-80s in November.

I guess the biggest reveal there is not the weather, it's warm this autumn, but the fact that I quit my job!  Woooooo!  

But the real issue is that it's hot as hell and I have no idea what to wear.  But it's not merely the weather that's causing this conundrum, it's also the fact that I'm no longer required to dress in office-appropriate clothing.  I've accumulated a lot of business and business-casual clothes since I graduated law school and realized I had only casual/ school-friendly clothing and no office-appropriate clothing.  Apparently I go in cycles.  What I need is a nice blend of business clothing and casual clothing.  

I think the real reason for the lack of blend is that lawyers have to dress much more conservatively than other office workers.  We have to go to court, and that means we have to wear suits.  I've never worn suits every day, but my office clothes are almost suit-level of conservativeness.  Even on casual Friday, it's only a few degrees less conservative than a suit.  This means that there's really very little overlap between my "work" clothes and my "casual" clothes.  Further confusing the mix is the difference between casual day and casual night clothes, and the fact that the weather is so damnably hot here in Tampa, and it almost seems as if I need four different wardrobes.  I mean, that wouldn't be the greatest tragedy in the world, but it's a bit wasteful, especially since I'm not bringing in an income.  Also, I've found that having a lot of clothing doesn't really help the "I have nothing to wear" problem.

So, let's break it down by need!

  1. Office clothes, for when I go to court and/or go back to work.  I have this pretty well covered.  I have suits and blazers and dresses and heels aplenty.  Of course, if I end up being unemployed for long and/or having kids, who knows whether these office clothes will be appropriate (or even fit) once I do go back to work.  But that's a problem for another day.  For now, I'm fine.  I shall buy no more office clothes!
  2. Casual day clothes.  Now this can be broken down into two categories:
    1. Housewiffery clothes, for when I'm working in and around the house, doing my housewife thing, cleaning, gardening, etc.  Currently, this category of clothing is essentially my gym clothes and my grungy gardening clothes - you know, old and not in great shape + exercise shoes.  It's not a good look.
    2. Clothes appropriate for leaving the house.  You know, clothes that don't make me feel like a monster.
  3. Casual evening clothes, for seeing friends, going on dates, etc.  Ordinarily I'd wear a pair of skinny jeans, a top, and some heels, but you know what?  IT'S TOO HOT FOR JEANS.  In November.  At night.
So it looks like I need to focus on 2.1 and 2.2, with a slight nod to 3.

I think I also need to do my hair and makeup, if not daily, at least a few times a week so that I feel more human. 

Naturally when trying to figure out pretty much anything, I turned to Pinterest.  But when I searched "cute casual outfits for summer," what did I get?  ALL JEANS.  Also, even though it's as hot as summer (November 17-18 are slated to have highs of 89 degrees.  It's going to be in the 80s on Thanksgiving.), it still gets dark early like Fall, and it seems depressing and just wrong to wear summery colors and clothes.  I mean, I could spend the day at the beach, but I don't want to look like it.  Fall is for darker colors, and layers, and textures.  How can I get that sense of fall in 85+ degree weather?  I guess I can do the colors of fall, but the lightweight fabrics and cuts of summer.  I bought this figgy dress, and if the weather complies, I can wear it with tights.  I can wear shorts, so long as they're more restrained than the wild, too-hot-to-care hedonism of summer.  I've been wearing my birkenstocks lately, which are dark leather and have a late summer quality to them.  I think that dresses and shorts should be my go-tos.  I just need some sleeveless tops to round out the wardrobe.

Now that we've solved that little problem, here's the bigger question: how does one dress for a day spent cleaning out closets and garages and gardening, yet not look like a grungy slub?  That is a hard nut to crack.  Pinterest is of no help, as it's nothing but hot bodies in leggings and sports bras.  I need something that's easy to move around in, has pockets for my iPhone (podcasts get me through the day thank you very much), isn't too precious because I spend a lot of time cleaning, and is comfortable and (at least somewhat) flattering (or at least isn't unflattering).  I think that might be too much to ask.

Anyone have any favorite exercise clothes?  Are exercise clothes the answer?  I'm getting mighty tired of wearing the same thing every day.  Help me!


 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In the mood to do some sewing

So, I like to say that Pinterest is a window into my soul, but actually it's more like a window into my brain, because it shows exactly what I'm thinking about.  As you may have learned by now, I get REALLY INTO THINGS.  And Pinterest will show you exactly what I'm really into at any given moment.

Right now, I'm really into sewing.  I've always loved sewing.  I mean, fabric is so pretty, and not to dumb it down, but sewing is kind of magical.  You have this fabric and this thread, and you use this magical machine to create something new, something that didn't exist a few minutes ago.  My mom is a big sewer/quilter and pretty much as soon as I was old enough to understand what a sewing machine was, I wanted to use it.

Alas, historically my sewing projects have been really simple.  Much in the same way I have no patience for recipes with more than 10 ingredients, so too do I have no patience for involved patterns.  I can sew drapes (essentially rectangles) and pillows, but those are just straight lines.  What I'm dying to try right now is blouses!  And dresses!  Nothing too complicated, (leave that to the actual professionals), but simple, clean lines.

Here's what I've been pinning to my Sewing Projects pinboard.

1.  Simple sheath dress.








I've also been pinning some adorable fabrics!  I'm loving the Cotton & Steel line at fabric.com.

This would be lovely for the sleeveless sheath dress, so 1960s mod!



This would be so cute on a blouse, like the simple blouse, above.  It's pink tigers, people!



I'm picturing this for a shift dress, or a sleeveless top.



And this would be so sweet for a blouse.





So, what do you think?  Should I take the plunge and try my hand at garment sewing?  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In the mood to talk about cat ownership: Intro to Kittens

So a friend of mine just got her first cat, (Hi Danielle!), and had some questions about first time cat ownership.  Since Brian and I have five (yes, five) cats, and we've become total experts on the subject, I thought I'd put together a series of posts on first time cat ownership.

First off, the Quirks of Cat Ownership:
They puke everywhere.  They shed everywhere.  They destroy everything that you love.  And yet, when they snuggle up to you, purring and sweet, all of that just doesn't matter.  It probably should, but it doesn't.  And why?

BECAUSE THEY'RE SO CUTE.



Gaahhhhhh!  So cute!!!!!


I've already told the story of how Brian and I went from having zero cats to having five cats.  I didn't grow up with cats, because I was allergic as a kid.  (I'm mildly allergic now, but I get allergy shots and that seems to have helped.)  We were a dog family.  We had a standard poodle named Max and a tiny chihuahua named Madeline.  In 2003, after I moved back home from college, this adolescent grey tabby showed up at my parents' house and decided to move in.  We really had very little say in the matter.  He caught the mice that were terrorizing us, and we named him Oliver.  He's a sweet, if slightly neurotic, boy and we love him.

When Brian and I adopted the triplets, I had no idea we would be adopting cats.  We'd gone to a cat show because my mom wanted to get a Siamese, and there was supposed to be a good breeder at the show.  We never found the breeder, but we dropped by the SPCA booth and ended up adopting three tiny kittens.


I remember asking my friend, who had grown up with cats, what I was supposed to do with these kittens once I got them home.  Nothing, she said.  Just let them go.  Make sure there's a litter box, and that they know where it is, give them food and water, and let them go.  So that's what we did.



There's a great debate raging, that has likely raged from the beginning of time and will not likely be resolved as long as we roam this earth: which is cuter, a puppy or a kitten?  I really can't take a side.  I'm only human.  Besides, cats and dogs are just different.  Dogs are incredibly social creatures, as social as humans, if not more so.  They crave acceptance.  Puppies look to their humans for approval, they're human-focused, which makes an owner feel very loved indeed.  Cats?  No so much.  Cats are not very social creatures as a rule.  They're loners.  Consequently, they really couldn't care less whether what they're doing makes you happy or not.



Puppies like eye contact, and can even take direction by following a human's eyes.  Kittens do not.  (Fun fact: cats actually consider direct eye contact a threat.  If you want to show your cat that you're not threatening them, blink your eyes slowly.  The cat will likely blink back to show that they understand that you're not threatening them.)  I think that this is a pretty good metaphor for puppies vs. kittens: puppies need reassurance, eye contact, a structured day, a kennel until they're house-broken.  Kittens don't.  You just let them go.  They'll find their way.



Come back for more tricks, tips, and observations of cat ownership!

Monday, August 3, 2015

In the mood to talk about cats

I should really title this "In the mood to talk about cat pee," but is anyone really ever in the mood to talk about cat pee?


Who me?  Pee?  I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about.


So, we have five cats.  I know.  We started out with three littermates.  Well, actually, Brian only wanted to adopt two littermates from the SPCA.  There was a tiny orange boy, a grey tabby girl, and a tuxedo girl.  There were so many other kittens in cages surrounding us that I assumed that once we adopted the other two, they'd just put the tuxedo girl in with another kitten family.  Not so.  Apparently kittens must be separated by litter?  Because they might have tiny kitten diseases or something?  No idea.  So, our foray into kitten parenthood went quickly from two (reasonable) to three (eh... not that bad?) because I just couldn't leave that tiny black and white kitten in a cage all by herself.  We named her Matilda, and we're so glad that we decided to keep her, as well as Darling (the grey tabby) and Simon (the orange boy).





   

Once you have three cats, it's really easy to creep up to five.  When the triplets were about three years old, we kept seeing these two adorable black twin boy kittens that the vet's office was trying to adopt out.  We didn't want to take them (really.) but after they hadn't been adopted in about a month, and after trying to talk everyone I knew into adopting these babies, Brian and I stepped up.  Or rather, I begged and pleaded (and maybe cried a little?) and Brian stepped up.  Because he's a good man.  We named them Jasper and Julian.  And then we had five cats.



With cats comes cat pee.  It's as unglamorous as it gets, but it's reality.  Sorry.

So, cat pee is one of the grossest substances on earth.  It smells horrendous, it's extremely hard to clean, it has... unique physical properties (I'll address that in a bit), and because like attracts like,  once a cat pees somewhere, it will likely continue peeing there forever after.

In terms of its unique physical properties, what I mean is that it isn't just like human or dog pee, which, when it dries it simply evaporates, leaving behind a smelly but relatively harmless residue.  No.  As cat pee dries, it solidifies from a liquid into a gel, and when it's finally dry, it almost crystallizes.  (Brian and I can estimate how long pee has been sitting by how gelatinous it has become.  Our lives are RIVETING, I mean DISGUSTING.)  I'm guessing that this tendency towards gelification has something to do with the molecular structure of the cat pee molecule, but I'm no scientist.  I've read that it's ammoniac, but I'm not sure if ammonia does the same thing when it dries.  I'm guessing not, since people, like, use ammonia to clean with.  Which leads me to wonder, if cat pee is ammoniac, and ammonia is used to clean, WHY.  Just why?

So how does one clean such an unpleasant substance?  Well, because cat pee is ammoniac, you can't use ammonia or bleach to clean it.  Like attracts like, remember?  Ammonia smells like cat pee, so not only will it not get rid of the smell (it'll actually make it worse - yay!) but that spot is just going to keep attracting your cat to pee on it more.

So what do you use?!  (And why do people even keep cats?!)  Well, you use vinegar.  (And I don't know.)  Plain old distilled white vinegar.  We buy it by the gallon and use it for most of our cleaning needs.  This really increased in the winter of 2011 when I realized that my sweet Julian was peeing all over the damn house.  Actually, as it turned out,he wasn't peeing so much as he was spraying.  Yes, despite being neutered, my boy learned to spray.  I blame the vet.  I blame their mother.  I blame his rough life on the streets before we adopted him.  I blame the media!  But blaming doesn't really clean up cat pee, and it certainly doesn't stop a grown cat from spraying up the inside of my home.  We had only one choice: he would henceforth be an Outdoor Cat.

Now, fortunately for us, our neighborhood is super safe, we have an extremely private back yard, and generally I feel great about my cats being outside.  In fact, Julian had been dying to get outside all the time before I realized he was the culprit of Peegate 2011.  Julian, you see, is a bit of a wildling.  In fact, since becoming an outdoor cat (and since I started watching Game of Thrones) I refer to him as The King Beyond the Wall.  (What makes it even funnier is that we actually have a wall at the front of our house - super private, like I said - and he loves to hang out beyond the wall.  It works on so many levels.)  So, fine, Julian gets to be the King of the Wildlings, and everyone is happy.  For a time.


I'm a wildling.  Deal with it.


As it turns out, Julian wasn't entirely to blame.  We had a respite from the foul stench and odor for a while.  But it seems that, much as happened when King Robert Baratheon died, when Julian got kicked out, there was a bit of a power vacuum...  and my sweet Jasper rushed in to fill it.  With cat pee.

So we had to make Jasper an Outside Cat, too.  It broke my heart because Jasper is my baby.  I now call him The King of the North, because he's as handsome as Rob Stark.

  

Don't worry, I won't be attending any weddings this year, Red or otherwise.

This really has just turned into a post about my cats, though, hasn't it?  Should I get back to how to clean up cat pee?

Okay, if you're sure.

When cleaning up cat pee, it really depends on the surface.  In our house, we have tile and wood laminate.  We use a spray bottle of vinegar and paper towels.  Soak up the pee with paper towels, spray down the spot (making sure to get the whole radius) with vinegar, and wipe up the vinegar.  Repeat, just to be safe.  If you have a rug or carpet, you're going to need to pour about a half a cup or more of vinegar on the spot, blot it up, pour more, blot it up, and repeat until the smell is gone.  Once it's dry, if there's still a lingering smell, dump some baking soda on the spot, rub it in, let it sit until dry (for anywhere from a few hours to a few days), and vacuum it up.

I will warn you, though: another one of the unique physical properties of cat pee is that it can eat through fabric, and maybe even wood and metal.  One of our many cats peed on our old sofa when we moved (because cats hate moving), and even though I cleaned it up, the pee actually ate away the fabric as though it were acid.  True, it was vintage fabric, and true, it took me a few days to locate the pee, (see below), but still.  The cat pee dissolved fabric as though it were acid.  That's scary.  There's also a spot on a window that the cats have sprayed, and while the metal window frame isn't melting or dissolving, it does appear to be rusting in that one spot.  So it's important to work quickly.

And although the eating-away-at-fabric nature of cat pee is probably it's most frightening, and the drying-as-a-gel quality is probably its most revolting, I have to say that it's most annoying characteristic is the haunting, ghost-like quality of the smell.  Cat owners will get this, but those of you who have never owned cats might not.  Cat pee, as I've said above, is the worst smelling thing ever.  But.  It's not like a garbage can or a burned dinner or cigarette smoke, where you know where the smell is coming from.  You can point to the rotting refuse in the can, or you can smell that your shirt is smoky because you were hanging out at the bar the last time you wore it.  Not cat pee.  Now, if you can see it, you're (probably) in good shape.  But cats are sneaky little shits, and you can't always see where they've defouled your home, you can just smell it.  Everywhere.  So you start looking and you start sniffing.  But cat pee refuses to be pinned down.  The smell is everywhere and yet nowhere.  If you can't visually spot the, er, spot, then you're going to drive yourself out of your damn mind.  That was not an option for us.  We may be cat owners, but I refuse to be those people whose towels are covered in cat hair and who can't tell that their house reeks of cat urine.  Not on my watch!

Know what we did?  We bought a UV light.  It looks exactly like this, although now there are smaller, more compact lights.  It's totally ridiculous, but it worked.  It saved my sanity, I kid you not.  The key to the UV light is that you have to make sure that all of the lights are out, and you have to get the light really close to the surface that you're searching.  That means floors and walls, for the most part.  The pee shines purple in the UV light, although it's pretty faint.  It helps you to locate the whole stain, rather than just part of it, so you can get rid of all the smell, rather than just part of it.

So let's sum it up, shall we?

Kat's Tips for Cleaning Up Cat Pee:

1.  Use vinegar.  If it's fabric, such as carpet, follow up with baking soda.

2.  Do not use any of those scented cleaners because they don't work.  They merely mask the smell to you the human, but not to your cat.  Your cat won't be fooled by that nonsense!  He or she will strike again in the same spot.  For a while we tried Anti-Icky Poo, which, aside from having the stupidest name in history, is supposed to be an enzyme cleaner that gets rid of the smell from its source by breaking it down?  Like with enzymes?  I can't say that it really works, but I also can't say that it doesn't work.  We stopped using it because vinegar seemed more effective and was way cheaper.

3.  If you have male cats, they may be spraying rather than peeing.  Therefore, if you're having trouble locating a spot, look at about cat-butt-level on vertical surfaces (walls, bookcases, plants).  Pro tip: check cat-butt-level for all the places where your cat stands, such as the wall behind the couch (or in our case, our curtains.  WHY DO THEY HATE US?).

4.  Get a UV light.

5.  If they're male, and they're spraying, sorry.  You're going to have to either learn to live with the smell of cat pee everywhere or kick the damn cats out.  Cats are not logical creatures and they don't take direction well.  If anyone has ever had any success in training a cat not to spray indoors, I am all ears.  I just don't think it's possible.

6.  Pray.

7.  Resolve never to get cats ever again after these die.  Well, maybe just one.  Two, TOPS.

The happy end to this story is that our outside boys are doing well.  They've adapted.  When it gets really cold, or rainy, or when they seem sick of being outside, I bring them in and put them in a cat carrier in the bathroom.  I call it "nap time," or with Jasper "nappy-noo."  They are only allowed in the carrier, because as handsome as he is, Jasper can escape from my line of sight and spray up my curtains quicker than you'd think possible.  Fortunately they're Ikea and machine-washable.  The curtains, not the cats.  If only.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In the mood to live outside my means

So, today, I'm fantasizing about living outside my means.  Although it's looking like we're going to build (eventually, like in 10-15 years), because that's so far away, I just want to redesign a house that I can't afford.

This one is my current favorite, although "favorite" might be stretching it.  Really, it's just the least objectionable house with the best bones.  It needs work and it's way out of my price range.  But that's okay!  Fantasy!


The pros: the exterior has clean lines, fairly big yard, nothing too objectionable.  I mean, the yard is bland, I'd jazz that up, and I'd definitely paint the exterior.  I'm thinking white with black garage doors, like so.




Moving on to the interior.  The pros with the interior are that it has wood floors throughout (with the exception of tile in the kitchen and bathrooms, and carpet in the loft).  There's also a separate mother-in-law apartment for when my parents inevitably end up moving in with us.  



I love how big the kitchen is, and that it has an eat-in option as well as a bar.  But, since it's my fantasy, I'd make some big changes.  I'd retile the floor, maybe in a faux-wood tile in a herringbone pattern, or maybe I'd just continue the wood from the rest of the house.  I'd paint everything white.  All that tan and wood - it's way too warm.  I'd do a full-on Ikea kitchen, with black lowers and white uppers, like Dana from House*Tweaking.  I think I'd reconfigure the kitchen, too.  That island doesn't make any sense to me.  Maybe do a peninsula off the bar, and then turn the island 90 degrees?  

Or maybe I can save myself some money (this reno is going to cost me some serious imaginary money!) and keep the wood lowers, and just add white uppers, built all the way to the ceiling.  (Seriously, why do builders leave a gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling?  It makes no sense!)



And instead of the separate table and chairs, I'd do a built-in breakfast nook.



Something like the pic on the left, working with the windows, but with a fabulous table like that pink beauty on the right.  And then some fantastic light fixture above to define the space.

Now, moving on to the master bath:




Pros: nice size, I like that there's a window, and I like the separate bath and shower.  But...obviously I'd demo the whole thing.  No more garden tub.  No more builder-grade plate glass mirrors, no more beige!  Instead, I'd do black and white, with subway tile and hex tile, maybe some natural wood tones.




And maybe a fun pattern on the floor?



Or a fun wallpaper?  Maybe in the w/c?



The bathroom has a separate shower, which I'd make the most of.






I love the window panes look, but it might be a lot to keep clean.  The open shower (below) is low-maintenance, while being cool and modern.



One thing I really like about this house is the loft.  Since we're going into the whole having-a-family phase of life, I'd love a space like this for our future kids.




I'd get rid of that carpet, of course.  And what's with that weird niche on the left side of the hallway?  I'm just not sure what that's supposed to be.


I like the idea of having a couch and TV set-up, but also some shared work space.  However, instead of a free-standing desk (that looks more like it belongs in an office), I'd do a wall of desks and storage, but keep the pieces light.







I like the idea of a big cork board to display kids art and other inspiring things.

Finally, on to the back yard:



The yard is nice and big, but since we have a dog, we'd need to add a fence.  I'm loving black and/or slatted fences lately.







I love how the black really makes the green pop.


And finally, since this is my fantasy, I'd put in a POOL!  Maybe it's the 98 degree heat talking, but I'm dying for a pool!  The unfortunate truth is that, since we live in Florida, we would have to have a screened-in pool.  I say "unfortunate" because screened-in porches can go really cheesy really fast.  But of course, with my imaginary millions of dollars, I'd do a really classy job.








That last picture is from a house in Tampa, so it's pretty representative of the outdoors here.  I love the clean lines and the more substantial look of the screened enclosure.  It makes it look more like part of the house, rather than something that was just added on.

So, now all I need is $600k for the house, plus another $100k+ for improvements.  No problem!