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I am flying home this week to see my family in Colorado. I wish I could view this as a delightful break from Boston apartment-hunting, but in reality, going home has become so anxiety-inducing that my stomach curled into a stress ball the second I bought the tickets.

Visiting home is just so INTENSE. My parents want me to do things for them, and with them, and are inevitably hurt if I say no or ask to do something different. The quiet alone time that I need to recharge is often interpreted as a rejection, and this has been a tough semester — I’m feeling pretty damned depleted already. Also, my brother is so volatile that spending time with him feels like navigating a minefield while juggling chainsaws.

But what’s really got me nervous is my dad and my stepmom. See, I made a critical mistake with this year’s Christmas gift.

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Apartment hunting

After some disappointing news about a job I really wanted but didn’t get, I thought it might cheer me up to do something I’ve been dreaming about for years: find a new apartment.

Apparently I am too stupid to remember how much “fun” (read: not fun) apartment hunting is.

Here’s our situation. Our current apartment is relatively cheap, in a good location, and has some really nice amenities (1 covered parking spot, air conditioning, in-unit laundry, a huge master bedroom). The problem is the decor hasn’t been updated since the Reagan administration – and no, I’m probably not exaggerating.

The beige carpet, aka the bane of my existence, is ancient and grimy and only marginally improves with professional cleaning. The walls are also beige and the lease says no painting. The doorknobs are brass and the cabinets are Euro-style. It’s lacking in closet space and gets little light. I know there are worse apartments out there, but there are some days when I look around me and want to cry about the blandness, darkness, and overall tiredness of the space. I’ve tried sprucing it up with new curtains and light fixtures and colorful pillows but it just feels like putting lipstick on a pig. Also, we would really love more space for guests and/or our own elliptical machine.

I’ve been itching to move for a couple of years, but we haven’t pulled the trigger (see: good location, relatively cheap rent, plus my husband is totally content here). This year I decided to dip my toes into the water and see what was out there.

So far? In the past week, we’ve seen four apartments — not a huge number, I know, but enough to get a sense of what the market looks like. And so far the market looks … not promising. My escape from Planet Beige is feeling increasingly unlikely. Send help. And maybe also pies.

Imagine this color on your floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, and appliances. Then add brass finishings. That’s our place.

Imagine this color on your floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, and appliances. Then add brass finishings. That’s our place.

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A quick but delicious cocktail entry this week, folks. A couple of weeks ago I made a gigantic batch of rosemary-infused simple syrup to make Ophelias for a dinner party. The next night S and I enjoyed another round of Ophelias, but then I began wondering what else I could do with rosemary syrup. I decided to keep it simple and try a vodka martini version of the Ophelia.

You guys know where I stand on the vodka-vs-gin debate (hint: it’s with gin) but this is pretty damn yummy. Also, it’s easy. Delicious lazy-person recipes like this are why I don’t make my own bitters, people.

You can tell we just had a dinner party because our tablecloth came out of storage.

You can tell we just had a dinner party because our tablecloth came out of storage.

Rosemary-Lemon Martini (Makes 2)

3 oz vodka
1.5 oz rosemary syrup (recipe here)
1.5 oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until cold and strain into martini glasses.

Emboldened by my success with the Pina Colada, I decided to try my hand at a strawberry daiquiri — inspired, in no small part, by the unbelievably gorgeous strawberries beckoning me from the farmer’s market. But after some unsuccessful tries I had to admit that maybe the strawberry daiquiri just wasn’t my thing. Rum and strawberries isn’t a combination that has enough wow factor to get me excited about making one.

A strawberry margarita, on the other hand? That’s a winner on a hot summer day. Strawberries and tequila, as it turns out, are a match made in a very boozy heaven.

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Strawberry Margarita
6 oz. strawberries, pureed in a blender (about 3/4 cup pureed strawberries)
10 T. white tequila
4 T. lime juice
3 T. Cointreau
2T. simple syrup

Get out your blender. Blend your strawberries first–try to get them pretty well pureed. Then add the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup to the blender.  Blend some more.  Serve in an ice-filled glass with a salted rim (not shown here, but definitely recommended). Garnish with a small strawberry if desired.

Alternate serving suggestion: if you like frozen margaritas, add around 1 cup of ice to the blender, and skip the ice in the glasses.

On those blissful occasions when I find myself at a beachfront or poolside bar, my go-to cocktail is the mojito.  Others may swear by frozen drinks at the beach, but I contend that there’s nothing more refreshing than a fizzy, citrus-y, minty mojito.

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Mojito
Adapted from A Cup of Mai
~8 mint leaves
1.5 Tablespoons lime juice
1.5 Tablespoons simple syrup
2 ounces light rum
2-3 ounces club soda
Ice

Place mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup in the bottom of a sturdy glass.  Use a muddler (or a wooden spoon if you don’t have a muddler) to gently crush the mint into the liquid.  Add ice.  Pour white rum over the ice and top with club soda.  Stir gently before serving. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.

A couple of weeks ago, the soap door in our dishwasher decided that it would prefer not to open during the washing cycle, thanks all the same.  Since the machine was absolutely ancient (at least 20 years old) my landlord was unable to obtain replacement parts and decided to swap it out for a new one.

When we got the news about the new dishwasher, I saw a small window of opportunity to improve something about our apartment.  You see, I’ve been itching to move for over a year now, but the timing just hasn’t been right.  Consequently, I’ve been feeling a bit trapped and the things I don’t like about the apartment have really started to grate.

First and foremost?  The decor.  This apartment’s color scheme is beige and white.  Beige berber carpet (that is now very old and matted down, because berber carpet is famously difficult to clean*).  White walls (that we are not allowed to paint).  Beige Euro-style cabinets (see below) with beige countertops and a white paint “backsplash.”

This is what our kitchen cabinets look like.  No, you can't un-see it.  Image from (appropriately enough) UglyHousePhotos.com

This is what our kitchen cabinets look like. No, you can’t un-see them. Image from (appropriately enough) UglyHousePhotos.com

To say our apartment lacks personality is an insult to the personality-free.

So when my landlord said that they don’t make beige dishwashers anymore and he’d have to buy white, I screwed up my courage and said, timidly, “I think a white dishwasher might make the beige countertops and cabinets look a bit yellow?  And dingy?  What about a black dishwasher?  Or a stainless steel one, those are very popular.”

This suggestion was not appreciated.  My landlord looked at me with huge, wounded eyes and exclaimed, “But that would be UGLY!  It would be DARK and UGLY!  Everything needs to be bright and light!  No, no.  White will be best.**”  It was clear that the idea of a steel dishwasher was almost insulting to him — how dare I suggest putting something so horrible in his property?

That’s when it hit me.  This beige-on-white color scheme?  He did this on purpose!  He thinks this looks good!

Ever since, I’ve been wondering if I could renovate the apartment in a way that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, but that would satisfy our landlord’s need for “light and bright.”  To Pinterest!

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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here!  Well, it’s summer now and I think it’s time to start mixing some summer cocktails, don’t you?

My summer cocktail mixing got off to a slightly rocky start.  This weekend we happened to possess an excess of fresh pineapple.  So I did what any normal person would do: look up recipes for a non-mix pina colada!

I started with the recipe at Annie’s Eats and … it fell a bit flat.  All right, a lot flat.  The coconut was there, a nice hint of pineapple was there, but mostly my drink just tasted like icy rum.

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My first, unsuccessful pina colada

Puzzled, I read through the comments on the recipe.  I quickly realized where I’d gone wrong.  The original recipe called for “coconut cream,” which I found at Trader Joe’s.  Coconut cream is unsweetened. But the comments revealed that what the blogger actually uses in her pina colada is “cream of coconut,” which has been sweetened.  Yep.  Missing sugar would definitely account for the flatness of our original colada. (Hey coconut industry, why did you pick such confusingly similar names for these two products?!)

So what do you do if you want a pina colada and you’ve got coconut cream, but not cream of coconut?  Try my recipe!  False modesty aside, I think it’s pretty delicious.  I added simple syrup to compensate for my unsweetened coconut cream.  I also swapped dark rum for some of the light rum and added lime juice to give it even more oomph.

Pina Colada with Unsweetened Coconut Cream (makes 2)

1/4 C. coconut cream
5 Tablespoons simple syrup
1 T. milk
2 tsp. lime juice
1/2 C. fresh chopped pineapple
3/4 C. frozen chopped pineapple
2 oz. light rum
1 oz. dark rum
1 C. ice, crushed if cubes are large

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

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