Friday, January 27, 2012

Eating Good in my Neighborhood

No, I'm not talking about Applebee's.

The past few weekends Justin and I have been checking out some of the restaurants in our neck of the woods, Capitol Hill.

A couple weekends ago we went to Zest Bistro because it was Restaurant Week.

I took part in the Restaurant Week menu and had the seared foie gras bilini, pear habanero jam, with balsamic reduction as an appetizer:   

The chocolate porter braised short ribs, cauliflower puree, kabocha squash, kale, and mushrooms as an entree:

And for dessert I had the milk chocolate bread pudding with espresso caramel anglaise:

Justin, on the other hand, had the lamb shank on the regular menu calling his name, and boy did it look delicious!

Last weekend, I used my Open Table Spotlight $20 for $40 coupon at Bistro Cacao. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but the food was delicious! I had the venison and Justin had the rack of lamb.  The service was was excellent the ambiance was very romantic! The lights were dim and we were sat in a curtained area with wing back chairs. Very luxurious! I almost felt bad that Justin and I weren't celebrating something! 

Right when we thought we were too stuffed for dessert, we opted to go to another Capitol Hill establishment, The Sweet Lobby, for some french macaroons! There were so many different flavors it was almost hard to choose, but we tried the pistachio, chocolate, lavender, salted caramel, and mint chocolate. Yummy!

Lastly, we went off the beaten path and had some Italian food with friends at Bistro Italiano. This place is a cute storefront amongst rowhouses near Union Station. The food was solid and reasonably priced. I had the pasta and clams and I love how the spaghetti was cooked to a perfect al dente.

I can't believe that I've lived on the Hill for almost a year and it was my first time at all these places. I really want to make a point to eat at all the restaurants on the Hill...or at least come close to it :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Super (Handy) Man

**WARNING!! Super Long Blog Post!**

Hello Everyone! As I alluded to in this post, we got more work done our house. Nothing structural or anything, just some things that we wanted to check off our list. For the most part, you all know Justin and I as DIY'ers. We've tackled most of the smaller issues with our house ourselves, but there are certain things that we can't do (or just don't want to do) that we leave up to the professionals. Or in this case Bobet.

Bobet is our family's handyman. He's a jack-of-all trades. (By the way, that's not his real name, it's his nickname. I feel like all Filipinos have Filipino nicknames, right?). When we went out of town for the holidays I asked my parents if they could "loan" us his services for the week and they were happy to oblige.

The three things that we wanted him to handle were:

1) Patch the framing and install the deadbolt in the basement door
2) Patch the holes in the basement left by the plumbing incident
3) Paint the upstairs/downstairs hallways, the stairway, and trim

Let's start with the first item.  We have had an ongoing saga with the basement door ever since we purchased the house. We had the contractor who was working on our kitchen replace the door, however, he didn't bother to fix the framing around the door or install a deadbolt so he basically left the door looking like this:

Yes, I know our contractor it sucks, but more about him some other time.

One day I came home and the basement door was open. It totally freaked me out. It was probably due to the fact that we didn't have a deadbolt and knob lock wasn't secured. I knew from that point we needed to get the door fixed ASAP. Bobet to the rescue.

Isn't it amazing? It looks so good and professional! He installed the deadbolt just like we asked and not only patched up the framing around the door, but added molding around it to make it look more like proper interior door. Justin and I probably wouldn't even have done that. Wow!

Now onto the second item on our list...

A few months ago we found some some mold in our basement, but before you get your panties in a bunch, it wasn't because of water/moisture issues in our basement. It just so happened that our toilet on the main floor was leaking and it was leaking into the basement.

Gross, huh? We have since gotten it fixed thanks to our home warranty, however, in order to diagnose the problem, the plumber had to cut holes into our basement wall. Not like our basement is fnished or anything, but it was no fun to look at.

The holes (and mold, yuck!) up close:

And from a distance:

With the materials we provided (a piece of drywall, drywall tape, mortar, etc.), Bobet was able to fix it--just like that. When he patched the holes he even painted the entire wall so that it would all be uniform.

From another angle:

A pic of both the door and the former holes repaired. Ta da!

Lastly, we had asked Bobet to paint the hallways, the stairway, and accompanying trim.  Justin and I (with the help of our friends) usually do all the painting, but we felt like the stairs would be a little tricky. We had no clue no how to paint the tall walls of our stairway (a long pole? a ladder? scaffolding?!). 

Here is the upstairs hallway:

Here is the stairway:

Here is the downstairs hallway:

Although you can't really tell (darn flash!), the hallway/stairway is actually this really dark, ugly, tan/olive green. Why the previous owners chose a dark color palate for the entire house is beyond me. Interior Decorating 101 states that dark colors make small areas/homes feel even smaller and this flat paint wasn't doing the hallways and stairway any justice.
Bobet's specialty is painting (he painted the entire first floor of my parents' house), so we figured he could best diagnose the correct way to paint the areas with high ceilings and awkward angles.

Here are the after pictures (you can see someone wanted in on the photo shoot):

I love the glossy finish of the paint. The shine really opens up the space and makes it feel a little more airy. We used Valspar's Paint and Primer in One and color matched it to Benjamin Moore's Wickham Gray, which of course is one of their Historical Colors (my fave).

Overall, we are super happy with all of the work that Bobet did. So, in honor of our family handyman, I'll end this super-long blog post with the video "Bebot" by the Black Eyed Peas. Bebot, relation, but hey, it's what my sisters and I immediately thought when we first met him. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Travelin' Miles for Carpet Tiles

One major thing that our living room has been missing is a rug. 

I wasn't too keen on getting a regular rug because although Louie is 90% potty-trained, he still has some "accidents." I couldn't imagine spot cleaning every time he made a mess on it. Several spills, messes and accidents later (I consider the living room is a high traffic area), you got yourself a ruined rug. After doing some research I thought the perfect thing for us would be carpet tile. You can configure them in any size you want and if one of the carpet tiles gets dirty, all you have to do is clean/replace that single tile. Completely Louie-proof. 

I originally had my heart set on getting some FLOR brand carpet tile (the Sophitikat pattern to be exact), but after taking into consideration the price of the pattern I wanted (about $13/tile) and shipping (more than $50), I realized it would cost nearly $300 to make a rug the size we needed (8x6). The price is somewhat reasonable when you're talking about rugs, but I'm not reasonable, I'm cheap. ;)

One day while Justin and I were lounging around watching TV during our winter break in Kentucky, a commercial for a place called iCarpetiles came on. They specialize in commercial and residential carpet tile and they're based right in Louisville, so I figured we might as well stop by and see their selection.
Upon entering their showroom (which is in their warehouse), you can see a bunch of framed plaques. It looks like they've been featured in several publications so that must be a pretty good sign.

We perused their samples and although their patterns weren't as trendy as FLOR, they were still pretty solid. Since we have a blue motif going on in the living room we decided on the blue strata pattern. They sent our request to the warehouse and they loaded up our car with the tiles. Note: These carpet tiles are heavy! When we flew home we had to distribute several of tiles in our suitcases since the carpet tile package exceeded the 50 pound weight limit.

When we got back to DC we put the carpet tiles together and it was super easy. We laid them out in our living room and unlike some carpet tiles where you have to use double sided tape and stick it to the floor, we used the iCarpetiles' product called "Tac-Tiles." All you do is stick them in the corners where floor tiles meet, and voila--instant rug.

Action shot of Justin putting the carpet tiles together

Here's a picture of the  finished product. (Louie approved :)

I know it sounds cliche but it really anchors the space! To me, it looks like a large rug and you wouldn't know that they were carpet tiles unless you looked at it real close. So far I really like our rug but the best part of these carpet tiles was the price. For an 8x6 rug (with five extra tiles to spare) it only cost us $96 dollars and no shipping (since we brought them from Kentucky), which to me is definitely a good deal! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Habitat for Humanity 2011

Last November I volunteered to do Habitat for Humanity through my job.  I've done Habitat for Humanity several years ago and coincidentally, I would be working at the same site as I did last time in Washington, DC.

Here's a pic of my teammate and I. We made the main page of my work's website. Woo hoo!

I remember the first time I did Habitat for Humanity the homes we worked on were nearly finished.  I painted walls and caulked some crown moulding and window frames. Pretty easy stuff. This time around the house we would be working on that day just consisted of framing. Unlike my time before, I did some serious manual labor. I nailed down additional framing, assisted in lifting a roof from the ground to the third floor, and sawed lumber to make a roof line. It was actually my first time using a circular saw which was pretty neat. And all the hammering I did guaranteed that I would be super sore the next day.

I really learned a lot about my handygirl skills (or lack thereof) but appreciated the fact that my colleagues and the Habitat for Humanity leaders had faith in me doing it myself (sometimes over and over again :) Have you ever done Habitat for Humanity before? It's honestly one most rewarding community service activities that I've ever done because you truly feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and you learn some handy skills, too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Bulbs Are Early Bloomers

Apparently my bulbs (which I talk about planting here) didn't get the memo that it is still winter.  I followed the instructions diligently and ensured they were planted before the winter's frost. However, what do I see when I step out today, but this:

A little green stub popping out its head beneath the dirt.

Can you see him? Right smack in the middle of the picture.

But he's not the only one...

Sorry you can't see my yellow arrows very well (my hubby is better at Microsoft Paintbrush than I am :) but you can see the other little bulbs that decided to sprout early, too.

I don't blame them, we've been having some pretty crazy weather lately. On Saturday it was in the 60's and on Tuesday we experienced significant snowfall. Go figure. Despite my flower bulbs perking up their little heads, I hope they survive long enough to fully bloom in the spring.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Holiday Break

If you didn't know by now, I spent over a week in Kentucky for the holidays.  Justin and I didn't have much of agenda so we mostly spent quality time with our family and friends.  We really took rest and relaxation to the extreme and towards the end I was getting a little antsy ("Shouldn't I be doing something?!")

I didn't take many pictures due to my sheer laziness, but here are the few I took--

Partaking in some absinthe at the Bluegrass Brewing Company (not me, the guys):

Holding down the fort at O'Bryon's while everyone else went to the Xavier-Gonzaga basketball game:

Meeting Washington Nationals pitcher, Jordan Zimmerman.  He happened to be at the same New Years party that Justin and I were attending.  I must say that he looks different in real life than the stock photos I've seen of him.  Justin didn't believe it was him, but I guess we'll never know...

We did other things, too, like catch the latest Mission Impossible movie with the fam and watch the UK-U of L game with all of Justin's Louisville friends (a split crowd to say the least!).  Our visits to the bluegrass state seem few and far between at times, but don't worry we'll be back Kentucky Derby weekend with our DC friends in tow.

Oh, and we did manage to do some house stuff, but I'll blog about that in another post. :)