Friday, July 30, 2010

from the garden to the table : : margarita pizza

South Bend seems like a great place to plant a backyard veggie garden (to us first-timers at least...). The soil is rich black in color and fertile (certainly the weeds grow fast), the earth worms are huge, it is hot and humid and we get plenty of rain - all good for growing some of our own food.

Home-made pizzas are great for a night-in with a cold beer to drink and a DVD to watch. The classic margarita pizza is so easy to make when the two key ingredients come from the backyard - tomatoes & basil.

If you want to get into the home made pizza routine, I would suggest two key investments:
  1. a pizza stone & rack (between $10-$20)
  2. a good mixer (not so cheap, but a lifetime investment if you get a good one) - the best being the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series
The results are good (this is Andrew's handiwork...)!

Here's how to make it...
  • we use Deborah Madison's pizza dough recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (the only addition is to add ground pepper, chili flakes, dried basil & oregano to the dough)
  • per-heat the oven 30 mins prior to 500 F with the pizza stone in the oven on the rack
  • roll-out the dough to about 75% size of the pizza stone
  • take the VERY HOT pizza stone from the oven and place the dough on the stone, pushing the dough to the edges (this bit needs to happen quickly, so the dough hits the hot stone and seals the crust)
  • then take your time making the pizza... start with pizza sauce
  • we blend mozzarella with some parmesan and a little cheddar, and mix it through with ground black pepper and olive oil
  • add your tomato slices - cherry tomatoes sliced in thirds work great - add plenty!
  • put the pizza in the oven until the crust starts to brown
  • take the pizza out and add your ripped-up basil leaves + a sprinkling more of the cheese
  • then back into the oven for another 3 minutes or so...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Jessica is now blogging at...

Wondering Fair seeks to… gather a worldwide community of people discussing matters of life and faith under an informal, relational atmosphere.... We bring a Christian perspective on things to the table, with the aim to also hear others and talk about the things that matter most. Wondering Fair is your online corner to take a break and think about life.
The blog was launched a month ago by a friend from Regent College, with a bunch of other friends/Regent alums as writers. 
Jess will post monthly - all of her posts can be found at:
Check-out Jess’ first post on Giving and Hospitality
Make a comment or ask a question via the WF comments.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Basement Renovated! Finished pics...

Our basement has been "finished"... (well, almost - I still need to install the door). Just-in-time too for our first guests to arrive and stay - it is great that the room has been used for one of its intended purposes so quickly after we finished the DIY renovation...

A BIG THANK YOU has to go to Matt (Jess' brother) for his hard 18 days of work - without Matt this project would not have been finished! Thank you also to Steve & Linda (Jess' parents), while not present to help - they were super supportive from afar - offering advice & ideas, having the foresight and generosity to fly Matt out to help us, and making sure we were able to eat a true tradie diet whilst working the hard and long days. Thanks also to Amanda and H. Ross for chipping-in at the end to get this project home. And to Jessica, who helped me prior to Matt's arrival with the windows, and with everything after we got the drywall in place - a great effort for a first time pregnant lady with only 6 weeks to go...

Now that we really do have space for guests, please come and stay...

From start-to-finish,
view the transformation...

Matt & Maria's wedding

After finishing the basement on Thursday evening, on Friday we moved in our guest beds just in time for two more Regent friends, Sarah & Kristin, to arrive on Friday afternoon to join H. Ross and us. It is great to have finished the basement and immediately have it used for one of its intended purposes, a guest room.

Then on Saturday morning, the 5 of us drove to Grand Rapids Michigan to witness the coming together of tow Regent friends in marriage. Then it was onto a spectacular venue for the reception - a cottage on Lake Michigan. The weather was perfect, the beers were exotic and plentiful, the company of Regent friends delightful and the celebrations for Matt & Maria joyous.

Check-out the wedding pics at:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Basement Reno - in goes the flooring...

The flooring is in! We have put a similar floor in before (a click-in laminate), but in a much smaller room (our kitchen)... our basement is a big room, and this job took forever! Jess was such a trooper, 7.5 months pregnant, getting up and down so many times... we were both really glad to be done with it!

We couldn't have done it with out some help from Amanda laying several rows with us, and H. Ross who helped with some of the final cuts - thank you!!

Baseboards and quarter-round this afternoon...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Basement Reno - (a bump) in the flooring...

Yesterday we began the flooring... We started with the existing concrete floor - it is in good condition, but could certainly use some paint.

Like the precautions we took with the walls, we also need a temperature & moisture control barrier for the floor. We used a layer that promises to be The Warm & Dry Floor System.

We started to lay the laminate flooring, but when we read the instructions, we realized that the flooring needs to be stored in the same place as it will be laid for 24 hours or so to acclimatize to the conditions, so it won't expand or contract. A bump in our plans... we had to put the flooring on ice until today.

This is the look we are going for...

It's not all hard work... there's time for some puppy play along the way...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Basement Reno - window transformation

This whole basement renovation project is about transformation... which is what made us so interested in doing all the DIY work. We get to take a cold, dark, dirty and unusable space, and transform it into a bright, clean, inviting space - that is cool in the summer and hopefully warm in the winter - a space that can be used by us, by our child on the way, and as a hospitable space for guests.

Hopefully the transformative nature of the project is evident in all the photos, but I think it is particularly evident in the windows... see the transformation from start to finish...

1. remove the old windows

2. mortar in glass block windows

3. frame around the windows to create a window box support

4. cut wallboard out to reveal the window 

5. add wood panels to create a window box

6. add trim to the wall

7. putty and paint the trim and window box, cork next to window - DONE!

We finished the window boxes and the trim on the 3 windows last night. Now we move-on to flooring...

Color note: we have not painted the top-half of the walls lime green... that lime green color is a color cast from an incorrect white balance. Picture #7 above shows the truer green, the same color we used in our kitchen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Basement Reno - in-built shelves & utility closet

As it turned-out, my tradie partner's flight was cancelled... so Matt returned to the basement to find it exactly as he left it (rather than returning to see it all of his great work finished)! Matt's return was a good thing, as it allowed us to add the closet doors to our big piece of in-built furniture. This was Matt's and my first attempt at hanging cabinet doors... its a tough job.... but with some patience, a few adjustments and the chalk line & line level that Clyde gave me for Christmas, we got the job done pretty well.

We decided to add this in-built piece of furniture to conceal the house's water shut-off valve and meter that lurks behind the utility cabinet (Matt felt that this great piece of craftsmanship was wasted on a ulitity cabinet...). The bookshelves hide the water pipe that was lower than the ceiling we put in.

This is a solid piece of furniture! 5 feet long bookshelves and a 3 foot cabinet from floor to ceiling (about 6.4 feet high). The bookshelves should come in very handy for the kiddos' play things...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Basement Reno - my tradie partner has gone...

Matt arrived in South Bend on 22 June. The next morning we started work on the basement project and we kept working for the next 17 days. Matt was excellent to work with and he did some great work... It is a a rare and wonderful thing for someone to be willing and able to take-off on a 3 week trip and dedicate themselves to helping others out like this... thank you Matt!

after 3 weeks, tradie cracks have emerged... time to get some Man-Show Crack Spackle...

working hard, straight out of bed... no time to do our hair...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Basement Reno - painting & cabinetry

We are well into the finishing stage... and Matt only has 1 more work day with us - our aim for tomorrow is to get everything done except the flooring.

Today the paint went on - a two-tone effect... but you'll need to see the final result to fully appreciate it.

We are also working on our in-built shelves and utility cabinet...

Big day tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Basement Reno - drywall sanding, clean-up & primer

What is my least favorite task in this DIY project?
Without-a-doubt the drywall sanding!

After the joint compound is applied with tape to the seams in-between the wall and ceiling boards + on the screws, the excess compound must be sanded smooth to the wall. The dust is super-fine and it gets everywhere (I thought about getting a picture for you, but I didn't want the dust all-over my camera)... it is s miserable task - and it is now over with! The clean-up after the sanding is a task in itself...

Next step was to paint the thirsty (dry)wall and ceiling boards with primer (for the Aussies "the undercoat"). Because the boards have never been painted before, this takes a while and we will need two coats.

The finishing stretch has begun...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Basement Reno - recap & drywall finishing

RECAP: we are in the middle of a major DIY project.... finishing our basement. Jess and I did the prep work, and then for the last 10 days Jess' brother, Matt, has been helping me... often working long days, sometimes into the early hours... (Matt has been a HUGE help and has been amazing to work with - thank you Matt!!). 
You can see the transformation take shape through some photos at each stage on our Picasa photo album. All the blog updates can be found under our "DIY" category. 

The drywall finishing has begun... using joint compound to hide any gaps between the wall & ceiling boards and cover the many screw holes. Jess is great at finishing tasks (i prefer the building stage), so she has stepped-up with a baby due in 2 months to help out...

Until today, we had kept Ziva out of the basement (she had never gone down the stairs). Now she seems right at home in the basement, keeping a keen eye on her people as they work, from her bed.

Now we wait for the seams to dry and then we have a dusty and uncomfortable task ahead - sanding the excess compound away...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Basement Reno - the wallboards are up!

This stage was much easier than getting the ceiling boards up...

The existing concrete shell is taking shape to become  a finished room.

Next step, drywall finishing... then we paint!