Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fun and yummy at the same time

I've gotten hooked on dealnews.com, a site reports on great deals from all the web.  There are a lot of other similar sites but since Mike introduced me to dealnews, that's where I go for the deals.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a 50% off sale on Williams-Sonoma Star Wars vehicles cookie cutters.  The cookie cutters not only cut the shape, but then you can stamp the imprint on the cookie, making it easier to decorate.  While I was on the site, I noticed they also have Star Wars Heroes and Villains cutters so I had to buy that set also.

Once I got the cutters, I decided to start with Heroes and Villains since they seemed easier to decorate.  I made the sugar cookie recipe suggested on the box (less rising during baking means better imprints) and made about 5 cups of royal icing.

The cookies came out great even without any icing.  The imprints stay strong so you don't actually need to use icing.  Note: since Yoda has less mass and more pointy corners, he does cook a lot faster in the oven than the other ones so keep an eye out for browning.

Once the cookies were cooled, it was time to make the mess.  A fair bit of the cookies require flooding (cover the entire cookie) so you do have to wait until the first layer dries before making any further decorations.  Plus anytime you change colors, you have to wait for the layers to dry so they don't bleed into each other.  The good news is since there were about 4 dozen cookies total, by the time I finished the first layer of colors, cleaned up all the piping tips and made new colors, the first set of cookies were dried and I could work on them.  As long as I continued to rotate the cookies in the right order, it worked out ok.  It did take me about 1.5 days total to finish everything (baking and decorating).  The cleanup wasn't as bad as I imagined but that's because I would clean up between each color change.  It definitely made the mess a lot easier to handle.

Last of the mess to clean up.

I love the way they turned out.  I also figure it was a good practice session for me for the upcoming Christmas baking season.  There is obviously room for improvement but still really pleased with the results.  I did take notes so next time they will look even better!  Mike did suggest that I flavor the cookies next time (chocolate for Darth, mint for Yoda).

Next up is to try the Star Wars vehicles.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yet another new skill

A few weeks ago, we attended a friend's BBQ/Housewarming party at his new home.  They had custom-built the home and it had a lot of really great features, including huge picture windows, wire cabling for stair rails, a very open first floor plan, and a single basin kitchen sink.

The sink really caught my attention and I thought it was the coolest thing.  We have a double basin sink which probably comes in handy for those who like to have a soapy area and clean water area but we usually soap and rinse at the same time.  If anything, the double basin is more annoying than helpful since the divider makes it difficult to fill large pots, clean baking sheets, and often causes me to spill water everywhere if I'm washing large items.

Our old kitchen sink
Mike and I talked about it and decided since we needed to replace the kitchen faucet (it had been leaking for a while and replacing the washer and o-ring didn't seem to help), we decided to indulge in a new kitchen sink too.  I found a great looking single basin sink at Lowes that got some very good reviews.  It's made of composite granite and many reviewers stated it didn't chip, stain, or scratch.

After removing the sink
We bought the sink and faucet and decided to install it ourselves that upcoming weekend.  The internet (the Google is great) stated it's much easier to install the faucet before placing the sink into the counter so on friday morning I decided to at least attach the new faucet before saturday.  That only took about ten minutes.  Once finished, I got really antsy and decided to just finish the install completely.
New sink sitting on top of the drain loop
I unhooked all the plumbing, removed the old sink (hardest part of the job since it was cast-iron), and placed the new sink into the countertop.  Then I ran into a snag.  The new sink is about an inch deeper than the old sink.  That meant the drain loop was too high and the sink wouldn't sit flush.  I had to make another trip to Lowes and pick up some pvc and cement.  Hack-sawed the old pipe, fitted the correct new length and cemented it all together.  The rest of the work was cake.  I had to buy new piping since we were going from two drains to one and the location of the new drain was different but that was relatively simple.  Putting the garbage disposal back and reattaching the dishwasher drain was also quite simple.  Caulked everything and crossed my fingers.

This is when naughty words came out of my mouth

Once the caulk dried, I ran the sink and there didn't appear to be any leaks.  It's now been two weeks, the dishwasher and disposal has run successfully, the drain doesn't leak, and I am absolutely thrilled with the new sink and faucet.