2016, December 2

Things I hate and love in mom’s remodeled house

Right off the bat, I need to state that the remodel took place two years ago. I was so disappointed by the outcome, that I never even thought about writing a blog post on the topic.
About a month or so ago though, I read a blog post over at Bloggoneit, and then another one, which got me thinking about the old remodel, and decided to write down all my own thoughts.

We didn’t have too much money to spend on it, which might also have contributed to some things not being done properly. The house itself is very old, it was built about 100 years ago. The layout is not ideal, some rooms are warmer and others keep a steady freezing temperature even during summer. We have a closed patio-type thing and its roof leeks every time it rains, or when snow starts melting. I still have a loan to pay off, because it was the only way we could afford the remodel in the first place. It is basically a money-pit I can’t wait to get rid of!

And I could go on and on, with the old issues, but I am also stealing the idea of making a top likes and dislikes list, because you might just need to set aside a whole day to listen to my complaints otherwise.

Top five things I hate in mom’s remodeled house:

  1. The total cost for quality and time spent. We went over budget, even though we rounded every price up. It’s not the quality I would’ve expected. And it got done in a full four weeks over schedule.
  2. The shower. My mother insisted on getting rid of our (albeit bulky and old) bathtub, and replacing it with a shower pan the workers would build, then install a shower curtain around that.
    Well, what we ended up with is not a shower pan, but a tiny wall built which has a square cut out so the water can flow out of it to reach the drain. Yes. The drain is outside of the ‘pan.’
  3. That we didn’t get more wall sockets. We could’ve, but we didn’t. Now the house is, again, filled with a bunch of extension cords to plug in appliances and electronics.
  4. Unfinished things. We still need doors for a cabinet, covers for seat cushions and an armchair needs reupholstering. Up until last week, we still needed to replace our 30+ year-old fridge. A friend was kind enough to bring over her 3 year-old fridge since she bought a bigger one and would’ve thrown it away otherwise.
  5. Piled-up crap. Everything we owned was boxed up, stored on the patio during the remodel, and for the most part I managed to convince mom to only take back in the stuff we actually need inside.
    Unfortunately though, there’s still a lot of crap (I won’t even try and name it differently, because that’s what it is) that is on the patio, waiting to be thrown out or donated, because my grandparents refuse to let me near the stuff. Come to think of it, we also have a garage full of crap my grandparents don’t let me near because I’d happily throw it all out/donate it…

wall-of-art

Top three things I love in mom’s remodeled house:

  1. The wall of art in the kitchen. I wanted to display my plaster wall hangings for so long, but all the walls were covered by too many pictures/paintings, in odd places because the paint was peeling off or we had holes from previously hung stuff.
  2. The color of my room’s walls. Light blue. Exactly what I wanted when we moved into that house in 1998, and what I didn’t get because someone thought an eleven-year-old won’t know the difference if they paint it pink instead.
  3. The fact that I moved in with my boyfriend while the remodel was ongoing, and he wanted me to stay instead of moving back home once the remodel was done ;)

Have you guys remodeled your houses? Did you regret not selling the place instead? Or did the remodel turn out lovely? I’d love to hear how you survived a remodel, and possibly even kept your sanity! What are your likes and dislikes about it all?

2016, November 25

Six reasons to smile in November

I took part in Positively Present’s 2016 Gratitude Photo Challenge this month. You may recall I took part in the November 2011 one, carried my camera with me for the month of November and it inspired my very own, year-long photo challenge.

Go check out my Instagram or Facebook feed to see all the photos I posted this month. There are still a few days to go, but even so far it is a lot of fun, and it was hard to choose six that I love most. So, one of them is a collage of four as a small bonus.

I am so thankful for being able to take pictures and enjoy my surroundings. I need to be more present in the moment.

Here are the reasons I smiled in November:

six-reasons-november

Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

2016, November 21

In the eerie stillness of Dracula’s Castle

While the Bran Castle in Brasov is most commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” on looks alone, the castle I stayed at in Piarta Fantanele during a team building trip with my colleagues is supposedly located exactly where Stoker imagined the Count’s castle.

If you feel like searching for Count Dracula, fancy a visit to spend a spooky weekend in the eerie stillness of Piatra Fantanele, or want to go running, hiking, cycling or skiing, head on over to Milliver’s Travels and read my latest travel article about “Hotel Castel Dracula in the village of Piatra Fantanele”. You might even get to see Dracula’s coffin ;)

2016, November 18

Recipe of the Month: Chicken Paprikash

I have only now made this delicious Hungarian stew for the first time since my boyfriend and I are together. After tasting it, having lunch and asking for seconds, too, he asked why I’ve never cooked this before. Truthfully? I haven’t thought about it.

My grandmother used to make Chicken Paprikash in a different variation which I don’t really like, and my mom used to make the below version with basically any part of the chicken, except chicken breast. Mostly because in my country, chicken breast is more expensive than thighs, legs or wings (let me know if it’s different where you live), so chicken breast wasn’t always an option.
In my honest opinion, the different parts of chicken do taste differently, and now I prefer chicken breast. But until recently, I haven’t thought of trying this particular recipe with it. I am so happy my mom suggested it though, the recipe is absolutely perfect this way!

csirke-paprikas

page-csirke-paprikas

Chicken Paprikash (Csirke Paprikás)

1 chicken breast
olive oil
salt, black pepper (to taste)
2-3 teaspoons sweet Paprika spice
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
2 bulbs of garlic (about 20-25 cloves)
2-4 tablespoons flour (depending how thick you want the sauce)
2 tablespoons sour cream
0,8 liter water

Start by cutting up your chicken breast into small pieces.
Add a little olive oil into a larger pot, add in the chicken, and season to taste with the salt, black pepper and the sweet Paprika (I only used one teaspoon of Paprika since I don’t like it that much, but it was enough for giving the dish a nice taste). Stir until the chicken turns white all over, then cover with the water and leave to simmer.

After the chicken is cooked, remove it onto a plate from the chicken stock and set it aside.

Into a glass add the flour, the sour cream, and a few tablespoons of the still-hot chicken stock (because if you add cold sour cream to a hot liquid it will curdle), then mix it as well as possible to avoid the flour forming lumps. Strain this mixture into the chicken broth on low heat, stir well and let it thicken to a sauce.
Once thickened, add the chicken pieces back and some parsley to taste. Stir a few more times, then turn off the stove and you’re done.

The traditional Chicken Paprikash is served with Nokedli (dumpling-like boiled egg noodles), which I dislike. So instead, I serve my version of this Hungarian recipe with rice, mashed potatoes or bread. Feel free to have sauerkraut or pickles with it.

Usually, I make double the amount of sauce for this recipe. After the chicken is eaten with as much sauce as everyone wants, I make some macaroni or penne pasta and use some of the Paprikash sauce on that. I love it!

PS: I usually wash fresh parsley, place it in small plastic baggies and store them in the freezer. Other greens as well, such as basil, oregano, dill, etc. After frozen, they’re really simple to cut into really thin stripes, when cooking. They’re perfect for having “fresh” greens instead of dried over the Winter as they taste way better.

Bon appétit! ;)

2016, November 11

5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

Today we have a guest post from Alexis MacDonald for your reading pleasure. Her excitement to write a guest post and the wonderful content she provided have quickly sealed the deal for her guest post on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running. Since the website closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.

It’s November, NaNoWriMo is well into its second week, most of my readers here are also writers and let’s face it – we all need to read this advice. Maybe even more than once.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I have, and happy NaNoWriMo writing!

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5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

There are times in our lives that no matter how diligent we are about setting aside private time to write, life insists on getting in the way. Here are a few tips to help writers roll with the metaphorical punches and get some words down!

  1. Self-discipline

Make writing a habit. Write at the same time every day. Write throughout the day. Read a page about writing and then write a paragraph.

  1. Disengagement

As writers, we do not need to be connected to others every minute of the day. We know that in order to focus, we need to disengage ourselves from our social life.

  • Install a door. There are limits to what a door can do. In spite of their best intentions, family members tend to neglect to respect this impediment and will knock and open it anyway. But the door will diminish the recent movie rental or stereo playing in the family room.
  • Telephones. Ring tones and vibrations are extremely distracting. If you have a mobile phone, arrange it so that it does not ring, a light merely flashes. Set it off to one side and in either case, merely glance at the caller ID and unless it is an emergency, ignore it. As long as someone else is at home who can answer it, do not answer the phone at your writing desk.
  • The Social Internet. It should not have to be said that in order to better focus, a writer should be self-disciplined enough to have turned off all their social applications that would vie for attention. There are programs to download that help writer’s monitor their time and block out social sites but why would a disciplined writer resort to using these programs? On the other hand, having the Internet up is important for research.
  1. Nutrition and hydration

It is important to be energetic yet be calm enough to focus. Did you know that the lack of calcium causes mental depression or that iodine is a mental energizer? Besides salt, iodine is found in peppers, kelp, and raw goat milk. Although coffee and alcohol are commonly connected to writers, water, green tea, and organic fruit juices help maintain hydration and energize the mind. There are also over-the-counter eye drops that help moisturize dry, weary eyeballs.

  1. Music

Because writers are creative people, many are also musicians and artists. Some writers cannot work while listening to music with lyrics because they tend to concentrate on the lyrics while others who play instruments cannot listen to music at all. Some need white noise in the background in order to write. Be aware of this and use whatever helps you get the job done. Ear plugs can help but, some people strain to listen to the outside world even more when they use them.

If the above tips failed to help, this next one – while seemingly a detractor, might actually remedy the situation.

  1. Be in a noisy, busy environment

Going to a place like a mall or a coffee shop where there are people and noise all around you can be freeing. There are times when an overly busy environment actually helps one block out individual distractions and concentrate better. Along those lines, being around other writers who are engaged in their writing can really get you cracking on your own project.

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More about the author:

Alexis MacDonald is a stay at home mom, midnight scribbler and a freelance pregnancy writer. She answers questions such as “how do you get pregnant” (hint, it’s more complex than you think – for instance: there’s a fertility calendar…)

2016, November 4

Fall in a jar

So, last year around Halloween, I bought some pasta. But not just any kind of pasta, Halloween-themed pasta! It is in three different colors and they’re shaped like pumpkins, spiders and bats. So very cute!

I’ve only tried cooking them once, and albeit still cute after done, they are so awful-tasting I had to throw them away.
I kept the left over pasta in the bag though, figuring I might try to use it for some kind of DIY project. And that day has come!

It’s a bit difficult to decorate the apartment with a way-too-curious and mischievous kitty underfoot, so for Christmas two years ago, I made a jar ornament (I’ll write about that one in December.) And it was perfect – no kitty attack whatsoever!
Two days ago, I remembered that little DIY project when rescuing the chestnut and acorn bowl from falling off the shelf due to curious paws, and decided to try the same for a fall-themed decoration. Here’s how I did it.

fall-in-a-jar page-fall-in-a-jar

Fall in a jar

jar with a lid, to your liking in size
Halloween-themed pasta
chestnuts
acorns
tea candle
crafting paper

Wash your jar out well, and remove any labels from its side. Mine was a huge pickle jar which I wrapped in a wet towel to soften the labels, then ran it under the tap and used a kitchen brush to rub the labels and adhesive off.
Let it dry thoroughly.

Add the pasta as a first layer, then place the chestnuts and acorns on top. Place the tea candle in the middle. I love that you can even burn the candle if you want, and then put it out by screwing the lid on.

Screw on the jar’s lid.
Mine wasn’t a single color, so I cut out and glued on a round piece of crafting paper to cover up the pickle brand’s name on the jar lid. It just so happens that it’s a Halloween poem, so it adds even more to the Fall feel of the decoration.

Place your jar on a side table or where ever you like, and enjoy the Fall decor.

PS: of course, you can skip adding pasta or any of the above mentioned and use what ever Fall things you have laying around. The possibilities are endless.

Happy crafting ;)

2016, October 28

Six reasons to smile in October

At the beginning of the month, my boyfriend and I took a little one day trip to Jibou, where we had the most lovely walk in its Botanical Garden. I never knew it existed until a friend of my mom’s told us about it. The place is really beautiful, and our day together came very close to perfection.

During the enigmatic and spooky team building I took with my firm last week in the mountains at over 1100 meters altitude, we stayed at Hotel Castel Dracula. It was a nice weekend, even nicer for the people who love partying. But the view did bring smiles to my face and I was happy that it stopped raining just enough for a one hour walk to take it all in.

Here are the reasons I smiled in October:

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Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

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