Friday, January 31, 2014

2014: Year of the Clean Person (or YoCP #1)

First off, HOW has it been 18 months since my last post? What the fudge?!? OMFG. Seriously.

Well, it's a new year, a new start, and after lots of fretting and waffling and hand wringing over the state of my home, a saviour has arrived in the form of Clean Person Jolie Kerr.  I discovered her by way of Jezebel, in her super amazing column, Ask A Clean Person which some may remember from her time at The Hair Pin.

I danced around The January Cure over at Apartment Therapy, because I want to be a clean person NOW! NOW! NOW! However I was overwhelmed by the rapid pace of the program, the weekend timelines (I work as a server on the weekends so putting things off until MY "weekend" just made me feel behind and all failure like. Boo, hiss) the vagueness of the advice, and the cost of a few of the projects I need to tackle (Paint, containers, etc...)

But then, THEN hope arrived when I saw a post in my mailbox last week from Jezebel, The Year of The Clean Person: Your 2014 Cleaning Calendar.  Jolie is devoting a little time each month throughout 2014 to specific kinds of destashing, detrashing, and otherwise destressing the home. B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T. Because I can be a notorious procrastinator, and because I can be easily overwhelmed (read: I don't always finish things,) this lengthier guided timeline is great. Instead of me wasting time explaining it entirely, read it here.

January is devoted to making a list of projects and areas that need attention in the home. I have lots of more intensive projects, so the idea of addressing things a bit at a time in a designated monthly schedule seemed less daunting. I just broke up my list and applied different items to the related topics on Jolie's calender, and signed up for the Year of the Clean Person (YoCP) newsletter mailing list, and now I feel like I might actually get this stuff done sooner rather than later-sometime-maybe-never. YAY!

Because I knew I'd be hosting my sister and 8-year old nephew for a week beginning at the end of January, I sort of jumped into the cleaning right away, since my room was a nightmare not unlike one Jolie's letter writers not so long ago. Egads.  K-Bug and DJ were going to need a place to sleep, and I was tired of feeling embarrassed every night Mr. Hyde stays over (what does he see in me? OMG seriously.)

So here it is: my YoCP plan in black and white for all the interwebs to see (hows that for accountability, hmm?)

JANUARY: Make Your List

Okay! It took the whole damn month, but I also finally cleaned out the pantry shelves, started making my bed everyday and cleaned my room!

FEBRUARY: Reclaim Your Bookshelf
  • Clean and organize metro shelves in den as pantry and storage
  • Create craft and sewing storage in living room closet
  • Hang curtain rod in office area
  • Hang closet system on bedroom wall
  • Hang shelves over desk
  • Clean out, breakdown, and discard cube shelf
  • Purchase third bookcase
  • Sort books, clean bookcases, and relocate to west wall
  • Burn CDs to computer, back up on Google cloud
  • Throw out, sell, or giveaway books, DVDs and CD's I won't be keeping

MARCH: Make Your Bedroom Beautiful!

I've already started making my bed everyday, which is truly an amazing feat. As such, I will use this month to finish all those little projects I've half started to make the bedroom truly a sanctuary. And I also need better lighting.
  • Paint and assemble head and footboard
  • Hang mesh canopy and inner curtains
  • Hang full-length mirror
  • Add bedskirt and extra pillows
  • Buy underbed bins to store extra linens and seasonal clothing
  • Hang curtains in living room & office
  • Buy additional floor lamps for living room

APRIL: Clean Out Your Desk

I plan on probably moving again at the end of the summer, so I'd rather reschedule Create Your Dream Bathroom for later in the year when I'm settled into someplace new. Since April is also tax month, it seems like the ideal time to go through paperwork, organize my office, and to make sure I'm well prepared to make a stiff cocktail at a moments notice...
  • Replace desk
  • Purchase file cabinet, organize files
  • Clean computer tower inside and out
  • Make doors for, reorganize and restock bar cabinet

MAY: Winter Clothes Purge
  • Throw out, sell, or donate clothes, jewelry, and accessories I'm not keeping
  • Organize clothes, jewelry and accessories I am keeping
  • Take any sweaters or coats needing repairs or cleaning to GET IT DONE!
  • Finish coffee table project
  • Finish brass lamp and chandelier

JUNE: Organize Your Kitchen
  • Complete soaping setup
  • Transfer dry goods to storage containers
  • Organize Spices
  • Organize cat area
  • Organize under sink area

JULY: Shoe Purge
  • Throw out, sell, or donate shoes I'm not keeping
  • Organize shoes I'm keeping
  • Take any shoes needing repairs to GET IT DONE!
  • Paint dining table
  • Replace dining chairs

AUGUST: Clean Out Your Fridge & Pantry

Since I'll be moving at the end of the month, August seems like a good deadline to use up, get rid of, and otherwise organize anything in this category. I hate packing and transporting food, ugh.

  • Start packing for move
  • Paint new apartment

SEPTEMBER: Summer Clothes Purge/Winter Prep
  • Throw out, sell or donate clothes, jewelry and accessories I'm not keeping
  • Organize linen closet

OCTOBER: Create Your Dream Bathroom

NOVEMBER: Take Care Of Those Finishing Touches

With the holidays around the corner and hopefully a new, more permanent residence, I'd like to finish those projects for the public spaces in my home where guests will be entertained.
  • Make planchet coasters
  • Install a wine rack

DECEMBER:The Holidays Are Busy Enough- Take A Break And Admire The Work You Did This Year!

Well, okay!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vampires, Vermouth, and the Dirty South

I'm a vampire buff.  I have a thing for zombies too, but I'll get into that in a week or so... today is all about those sexy, sleazy, bloodsuckers and the hoomans (me) who love them.

True Blood is one of my favorite shows: honestly, I could live without Sookie and her incessant whining, but then every show needs a bad guy... Mostly, I love the snarky writing, colorful chararcters (Lafayette and the mercilessly smart-mouthed vamper, Pam) and the endless parade of man-candy: nary an episode passes without one of the many attractive male leads parading around shirtless. Life is hard, get a helmet!

Recently, the show returned for it's fifth season and it couldn't come fast enough! Personally, I think it promises to be the most exciting season yet... Anyway, it put me in the mood to finally try a cocktail I've been dancing around since stumbling across it on CocktailDB (if you haven't checked out the site, you should: Martin Doudoroff and Ted  "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh have done an amazing job collecting thousands of recipes both old and new in one place.)  It at first reminded me of my beloved Mahattan, but on closer inspection it's more like a negroni...  The name comes from the French word for 'jewel,' and perhaps comes from the use of the bright green color of the chartreuse? With a name like the Bijou, and the herbaceous notes of the chartreuse there to enhance the vermouth, it put me immediately in mind of the wild woods around Bon Temps...

Bijou Cocktail

1-1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz green chartreuse
1/2 Sweet Vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Stir in a mixing glass or tin with ice and strain into a cocktial glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
(photo from

I didn't immediately fall in love with it; I thought it was a little too strong on the 'musty' flavor- to be fair, though, I admit that I've have my sweet vermouth around and open for awhile- okay, 3 or 4 months- so that may very well have something to do with it.  I really ought to get one of those vacuum pump stopper kits precisely to keep my vermouth stash fresher for far longer.  That said, I'll probably give the drink another try before long.

While it may not have been an instant favorite, though, I will say that the Bijou definitely had bite ;) Now if I could just find my own 1,000 year old undead viking, life would be good...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lemonade, Derbyville Style

One of the toughest things to tackle when it comes to the ghost hunting trade is, surprisingly, not the hunt itself: it's the exponential hours you spend afterwards reviewing all of the footage from every camera, every camcorder, every digital recorder you had running in the place for the duration of the trip.  One needs to adequately power up.

I convened with my friend Ben last night to begin sifting through some of the data we accumulated on this past week's visit to Waverly Hills, and as such we decided to load up on brain food (i.e. pub grub and cocktails) at Dunlay's On The Square, an excellent, family-friendly pub in the Logan Square neighborhood.  Incedentially, it's around the corner from Lula Cafe which I covered in the Brandy Milk Punch post...

In addition to offering a great burger ($5 on a Monday night, if your a bargain hunter) and a hot skillet chocolate chip cookie that is just too decadent to be legal, they offer a pretty impressive selection of cocktails in addition to to a great beer and modest wine list.

Considering our recent visit to Louisville, Ben and I both latched nearly instantly on a libation intriguingly named Kentucky Lemonade.  It sounded like the perfect drink to cool off with in this brutal heat, and to tip our hats to a helluva roadtrip- It didn't disappoint!  Slightly fizzy, a little sweet, and little tart, and a whole lot of bite, it hit the spot even more than I expected.  While I didn't get the recipe specifically used by our bartender, based on the ingredients listed on the cocktail menu (Maker's Mark was mentioned by name,) a little time spent on a google search led me to this excellent recipe over at Bullz-Eye Blog:

Kentucky Lemonade

1-1/2 oz Maker's Mark or your favorite bourbon
1/2 oz triple sec
4 oz lemonade
2 oz lemon & lime soda

Combine bourbon, triple sec, and lemonade in shaker tin. Shake and pour over crushed ice, and top with lemon & lime soda.  Garnish with a nice, fresh wedge of lemon or twist.

Please be kind to yourself and your friends and use fresh lemonade, mmmkay? It just isn't the same with anything from concentrate or with tons of high fructose corn syrup... Also, I find it's worth it to use a quality soda sweetened with natural cane sugar, like Hansen's for real crispness. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On The Road

I was very excited this week to make my first trip to Louisville, Kentucky- I roadtripped down thataways with my friends from the Chicago Ghost Hunters Group to pay a visit to the Waverly Hills Sanitorium. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's an AMAZING place, and absolutely worth the trip if you ever find yourself with the opportunity to go inside.  Absolutely heavy with history, and the ghosts of the past, but that's a story for another day...

As as much as I wish we'd had some time to visit a few of Kentucky's many fine bourbon houses (Evan Williams, Jim Beam, and Maker's Mark are all within 100 miles of one another,) there just wasn't room in our two-and-a-half day agenda.  We arrived late Monday night, hoping to at least find a place to stop and pick up a bottle of something to sample and unwind with after the long drive. Strangely, we were unable to find an open shop to buy anything with a higher ABV than a six-pack of beer, but we were tickled to discover that good ol' Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy could be had rather easily- go figure...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penny Pincher's Paradise

I work in hospitality. At a four diamond hotel in downtown Chicago, as a matter of fact.  That said, since we're smack in the middle of our fallow season, I've got next to no hours, and I'm pretty broke. Well, more so than usual...

Today though, I feel like a million bucks!  I had to run some errands today, and kept Caroline company on her way to work since I had not one- but two- 50% off coupons for Joann Fabrics burning a hole in my pocket. Well, on my smart phone anyway, but you get the idea.  I used them both to buy a pair of Wilton 3-tier cooling racks which are normally about $11 a piece.  Sweet deal!

After that, I headed back toward my favorite Logan Square thrift store in the hopes of finding some kitchen items we'll be needing for our burgeoning soap and toiletry making habit.  Stainless steel pots, spoons, pitchers for lye, that sort of stuff.  While I didn't find any of these items (sadface) I was very excited to come home with some AMAZING steals- and I do feel like I ripped these nice folks off- on a few things I'd been hoping to stumble across eventually, just not so soon!

In addition to a basic, unexciting, but needed Chefmate cookie sheet ($1) I also found this cute, well-loved wall clock ($6). I haven't decided yet whether to spruce it up or leave it as is, but I figure either way a new wall clock would have set me back at least $15-$20.

Then, my eyes about bugged out of my skull when I found this old thing sitting, deconstructed and cast off like Frankenstein's monster, in a pile of it's own parts in a cardboard box....

the f*@#k is that? Tony Stark has created Iron Squid...

Can you tell what it is? It's a five arm chandelier, and the answer to my prayers!  Now, assembled and installed in it's- ahem- full glory, it's a pretty awful, bog standard late 80s/early 90s atrocity exactly like the picture below:


Now, I have absolutely no intention of hanging that Regan-Era Mrs. Havisham in my house as is, no siree!  I have a vision, people!  My dream is to fill my home with tons of ridiculously fabulous, old-world-vintage, Tim-Burton-film-set amazingness. Basically, lots of black painted furniture and finishes. Just this side of crusty distressing. Fun and outlandish, but maybe slightly weird and creepy whimsy. As such, a black and sparkly chandelier is not a want, but a need. A must even. Where most folks looked into that box and probably just saw a mess of spare parts, I saw the potential to make this a part of my reality:

maybe the little rosettes are a bit much... but Hallelujah, black & white & bedazzled!

Or These:


Okay, okay, I'm focusing! So, what could be better than a chandelier-in-a-box for $4? Well I will tell you: A chandelier-in-a-box for $2!  That fixture won't break most people's bank at an average retail price of about $40, but I am my mother's daughter, so I'm thrilled to keep the difference in my pocket for the makeover project and those soapmaking supplies ;)

Now for the pièce de ré·sis·tance, my find of finds today:  

Caroline and I have been utterly frustrated to discover that, during our move at the beginning of December, the carafe for our coffee maker had disappeared. Poof. Into thin air. Whatever- as avid coffee addicts, the beginning of each day has been a bit, shall we say, challenging?  Nevermind the Dunkin' Donuts around the corner: we both appreciate a proper pot of coffee brewing as we rise like the living dead from our respective crypts.  Sadly, replacement pots for our model are no longer available.  My hope today was that maybe I'd find another cheapie machine to replace ours, or at least find a carafe that might be compatible until we could scrounge up the moolah for a new coffee maker.  You can imagine the squeals of glee that had fellow shoppers craning their necks to see what the crazy lady with the box of lamp parts was making a fuss about. Well, I was celebrating my discovery of this:


That fine, stainless steel bedecked thing of beauty is none other than the Grind & Brew Thermal™ 10-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker.  The one of my dreams, the one I thought would stay in my dreams because it's friggin' $130 brand new.  And there it was, just sitting on the shelf, waiting patiently for me like my soulmate of Java.  Nevermind that it's missing the permanent gold mesh filter; I can replace that for less than an order of Pad Thai. Nevermind that it's missing it's official carafe; that too can be had for a small price, and the machine DID come with a glass Black & Decker carafe that will serve us well for the time being.  What matters is that this beautiful, wonderful, miracle of coffee technology is that grinds whole beans, right into the filter basket, and then brews them to perfection, all on a programmable timer. What matters is that this coffee nerd's best friend can be outfitted with charcoal water filters, to make the most perfect, wonderful coffee possible from a home brewer.  What matters is that I purchased this coffee maker of celestial origin for a measly $4. Yes, that's right.  When I said I felt like I'd ripped off these lovely people, I meant it (though dammit, I'm not sorry!) It was marked for $8, which sounded like a pretty damn good deal to me, so after plugging it in to make sure it would power up, I ran with my cart of good fortunes to the checkout line, failing to notice that today as luck would have it, yellow sticker-ed items were 50% off.  Over. The. Freakin'. Moon.

All told, my purchases today could have set me back a whopping $212 plus sales tax and whatnot, if I'd payed full price, but instead I only paid $24.  Mother would be so proud!

Stay tuned for that icky chandelier's second chance at life in a grownup Goth girl's urban dollhouse....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MxMo LXII: Morning Drinks

Pumpkin Milk Punch
A Tipsy Vixen creation

1 oz Advocaat
1/2 oz Raynal VSOP Cognac
3/4 tbsp Libby's canned pumpkin
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz whole milk
dash of vanilla extract (optional)
cinnamon or pie spice

Build ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold, and strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice. Sprinkle ground cinnamon or pie spice over the top of the drink to garnish, and enjoy!

I had my first Brandy Milk Punch while having brunch with my good friend, Millicent, at Lula Cafe.  It's quaint but hip little restaurant in the heart of Logan Square, and while some have accused the joint of being more hip-ster than hip, I have come to be more forgiving of the occasionally pretentious staff.  When I ordered the drink, after having read about somewhere (unfortunately, where exactly escapes me,) the bartender- a young lass who no doubt rolls up her left pant leg when she rides her fixie to work everyday- looked at me a little cross-eyed, and seemed almost annoyed given that she clearly thought this to be some fly-by-night trixie cocktail.  I seem to recall that she even said something like, "oh, that must be something kind of new because I've never heard of it," as she set down her copy of Franny & Zoe, to serve my friend and I.  Millicent found this exchange more amusing once I politely offered to our bonny bartender that it was in fact a much older drink, having been created by the original hipsters, the barmen of the Golden Age of Cocktails.  Suddenly more intrigued, she set about finding a recipe on her iPhone, and whipped up the drink post haste.

My first sip was sublime, and it's safe to say that I've been firmly ensconced in the bandcamp since.  Our bartender made extra, eager to try it herself, and enjoyed it so much she spent the rest of the morning talking whiskey and shooting the breeze with us.  It's the morning that finally sold me part-and-parcel on Lula Cafe as a neighborhood hang out, and opened up the field of breakfast drinks for me beyond the safe and expected (read: boring,) standbys like Screwdrivers, Mimosas, and Bloody Marys.  Don't get me wrong, I love a Bloody Mary with all my heart, but sometimes, it just doesn't make a great dance partner for my french toast and veggie sausage...

It should also be noted that I'm a big fan of pumpkin pie, eggnog, and all things autumnal.  As such, I decided that for this month's Mixology Monday theme, Morning Drinks, I wanted to not only create a drink that was breakfast friendly and decidedly lacking in orange juice as a component, but also a perfect snapshot of my favorite time of year.  I think this version nicely captures all of the  flavors of pumpkin pie, and also provided a nice excuse to use the Advocaat I made from scratch this week.  I opted for milk here, instead of the traditional half & half, since the addition of the mashed pumpkin and the Advocaat make for substational thickeners, but try it anyway if you feel so moved, or just prefer a more viscous beverage.

Also, take a minute to stop by Kevin's blog, Cocktail Enthusiast- he hosted this month's event, and has some really great reviews and cocktails to share...

Cheers, and happy fall!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Devil's Advocaat

Sometimes remakes are just not worth the effort, as seen with the 1967 film, Bedazzled, featuring the fabulous Raquel Welch, and later in 2000 with Elizabeth Hurley (sorry, Liz: no contest.)

However, I decided to take my chances this week and try my hand at recreating Advocaat- the rich, creamy liqueur of Dutch origin- since I'd be needing it for my Mixology Monday experiments... So, what exactly is Advocaat? It's traditionally a brandy-based liqueur (those Dutch really do love their brandewijn,) made with egg yolks and sugar. It's very similar in taste to eggnog, it's British cousin. It's also not altogether far off in flavor from Irish cream liqueur, which relies on- surprise!- Irish whiskey for it's base spirit, and cream instead of eggs.

Advocaat seemed like a seasonally appropriate item to acquire and use for this challenge, and since Caroline  and I are both big nog fans, I figured it wouldn't go to waste around our house. There are a few brands of commercially produced Advocaat on the market, including one from the well known Bols company, but I decided that since it can be made at home (and the store-bought products are likely to be full of extra sugar and artificial flavorings- poo!) that I would take a stab at a lovely recipe shared last winter by David over at 12 Bottle Bar. If you'd like the recipe, please go explore his blog to get it- he and his crew are the business!

1) First thing's first, I cleared space and assembled my ingredients and equipment.

I separated the egg yolks right into a big glass bowl (this would also later serve as part of my double boiler setup,) and made sure I had my sugar, salt, brandy, vanilla extract, measuring spoons and cups, and my trusting handmixer ready to go. I used light brown sugar, mostly because I realized after I got home from the store that I didn't have any granulated white sugar, but also because it's closer to what those Dutch folks be usin' back in the day...

2) I added the salt and sugar to the yolks, and beat them senseless with my mixer.

This got pretty thick and splattery pretty quickly- next time I think I'd spend a little more time smooshing out the lumps in the sugar before adding it, so that it incorporates into the yolks more rapidly and therefore stays in the bowl...

3) Then in went the brandy, and the drooling started...

This thinned out very quickly, so I learned fast to keep the mixer on a low setting; waste not, want not!

4) Then I moved the whole thing over to the stove:

I don't have an actual double boiler, so I just used my 4-quart stockpot. I brought the water to almost boiling, and then turned the heat down to low and put the bowl into the pot. Caroline and I took turns whisking, since you pretty much need to do it nonstop to keep it from gumming up on the sides of the bowl. Once the Advocaat starts to thicken again, it happens pretty fast, so I was glad for David's suggestion to use the double boiler method; I just kept diddling around with the heat to keep the water almost hot. You don't want to cook the yolks, or cook off all of the brandy... By the time it was thick enough to coat my kitchen spoon, I had the heat almost all the way down to the lowest setting. I took the bowl off the heat, and added the vanilla. Then it was pretty much a waiting game until it was cool enough to bottle...

I happened to have a pretty nifty bottle with a wooden cap, that once contained some rather inexpensive hazelnut liqueur puchased for some fancy chocolate hazelnut cupcakes Caroline made a couple of years ago. I'm kind of a packrat like that... Anyway, I think it looks pretty spiffy in there. Use any well-sealing, sanitized container you like. Be advised though, that I ended up with quite a bit more Advocaat than the 700ml quess-timate David provided; my bottle is a 750ml liquor bottle, and had nearly a whole measured cup beyond that, so pour cautiously!

So, here it is cooled, bottled, sealed and ready for le Frigidaire! Tomorrow, I present the taste test and mix up a few new drinks. So excited!

{Edited 10/22}

I was somewhat surprised this morning to find that my Advocaat had "shrunk" significantly- the bottle only looked about half full. I suppose beating the eggs put a lot more air into the whole concoction than I realize, so I must amend my assessment of the quantity produced and say that David's estimation of about 700ml-ish is pretty close; I did use some of the leftovers last night, after filling the bottle, to make the first draft of my MixMo cocktail ;)