Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Great Kitchen Remodel

I love, love, love my house. But the one thing I disliked about it when I bought it is the kitchen counters. They are white tile with a lip to the edge, which makes them impossible to clean. I decided for my 30th birthday, I would treat myself to the long-lasting present of a kitchen remodel.

I started out by getting quotes for granite counters at Lowe's and Home Depot. Then I hooked up with a talented interior designer friend of Brad's, who connected me with a granite installer, granite warehouse, and a carpenter. I found that going through these individuals rather than a big box store was much cheaper and much higher quality. I couldn't believe the granite selection I had to choose from compared to the boring colors available at the box stores. It was also a super fast process. They did the tile removal and granite installation in one day and the backsplash on the second day. The results are amazing and worth every penny.

My kitchen when I bought the house. Notice the breakfast nook to the right of the island. I knew I would never put a table there, so why not extend the island and turn it into usable space?
My kitchen with the new counters and backsplash, including the extended island. Once I get stools, I will be able to have guests sit and enjoy wine and appetizers while I am cooking (the island also serves as a nice barrier for my cooking space). It can even be used as an eat-in kitchen, and I could probably get 10 people around the island.
Detail of the island and the granite. I am so happy with my selection. It is light enough that it doesn't take over the kitchen, but it is unique with its movement and color variations throughout.
Detail of the sink. I had not factored the sink, faucet, and plumbing into my budget, so this is where I blew my budget. But I'm happy with the money I invested into it. The right basin is twice as big and twice as deep as a regular sink, which will make cleaning pots and pans much easier.
Detail of the granite backsplash behind the stove and the stone backsplash behind the rest of the counter. The stone might be my favorite part of the kitchen. The opposite wall in the living room has similar stone tiles (but darker and bigger), so it brings the whole great room together.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

French Brasserie

While I was in RTP, a group of co-workers and I checked out Coquette Brasserie at North Hills in Raleigh. The decor looked just like a bistro in France, without the cloud of cigarette smoke. I've been to French restaurants where the waitstaff is fluent in French (Bonjour Bistro) or is taught a handful of French words (Mon Ami Gabi), but this was not one of those restaurants. I really wanted steak au poive, but didn't want something that heavy, so I ordered moules frîtes. The mussels were fine, though I sort of lost my appetite for mollusks after watching the guys eat raw oysters. The fries were wonderful, thin and soft with a slight crispness. If I lived nearby, I would go again for a drink and an appetizer or dessert, but I think there are better French restaurants in the area to try.
Not related to the French dinner, of course, I flew back to Las Vegas through Phoenix and took this picture of the mountains to the east of Phoenix. This looks like a beautiful area and I'd love to visit it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"It's hard to speak after seven wines"

I flew into NC to spend a couple of days in the office. The great thing about going into the office is that it's a great excuse to catch up with my UNC friends. Stephanie offered to host me this weekend, and she went all out by inviting the crew to a blind wine tasting. Everyone brought a bottle of wine and covered it up - the goal was for us to guess the grape and origin of each wine. I enjoyed each wine, but I was horrible at identifying the wine's details. I missed every single grape (there were two zinfandels, which are my favorite, and I misidentified them), and I only got two origins (when in doubt, California is a safe guess). Of course, you can't expect much after one wine with dinner, seven wines to guess, and a port to finish it off!
The wine gang
Kona enjoyed her squirrel while we were sampling wine

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grand Staircase in Calico Basin

It's the middle of January and the temperatures are in the 60s. This is why I live in Las Vegas. The Meetup group scheduled a short hour and a half hike up Grand Staircase in Calico Basin at 9:30am, which gave me enough time to hike before my golf lesson. It was warm enough for people to be in sleeveless shirts and shorts (though I'm still a wimpy Floridian and had on long sleeves and pants), and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Some of the 44 people on the hike starting up.
There's still some snow on Bridge Mountain. It was great hiking with Rick again after a several month break.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Stone Temple Pilots

Jen and I went to see Stone Temple Pilots in San Diego last summer, and the show was phenomenal. When I heard they were coming to the Pearl at the Palms, I immediately bought two tickets to see them again. Leigh and I went together, and the show was again great (though the lighting wasn't as impressive as at the San Diego show). The Pearl is an intimate concert venue with great acoustics and no bad seat in the house. I managed to take some decent photos with my iPhone.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Brad and I enjoyed a quiet New Year's Eve at home with three pounds of Alaskan King Crab, the best rosé champagne I've ever tasted, and the dogs who were quite interested in the crab. We had enough left over to have a second round of crab and chamapgne on New Year's day. Quite a nice way to start 2009.