Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings!

Merry Christmas

and Happy New Year!

from the newlyweds:
Steve & Sarah Nyktas

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marriage License Time and other news

Today is one month till our wedding! 31 days to be exact. I am actually feeling less stressed and starting to get excited about everything. There are only a few loose ends to tie up. Today we are taking care of one of them - going to get our marriage license. I hope that it is not as painful as renewing a drivers license, but we shall see.

After that I want to make a trip to Super H Mart because it's on the way home and I have been wanting to go there for AGES!!! I guess it is a huge Korean grocery store but they have lots of other things too.... Maybe we will have to pick up dinner there as well.

Other than that, we have just been trying to enjoy our summer when we can. Haven't had as many trips as usual so that has been nice. At the end of May we went to Iowa for a big party for my cousin's graduation. Then in June I had a bridal shower in Cincinnati (but there are no photos of that b/c I am the family photographer so I am rarely in photographs....)

the DuVall clan - this probably isn't even half of us!

At the beginning of June we had some wonderful visitors staying with us. Joe and Andrea Valley and their new son, Sacha. I really enjoy being the mom/host for my friends and family that I love so much. Someday I hope to have a huge house so that everyone knows they always have a bed to sleep in if they are passing through town. I guess I am like my own mom in that aspect. She can never have too many people in her house - no matter how small it is. Okay so maybe sometimes our apartment is too small. But our hearts and our dreams are big.

Joe and Sacha Valley at 1mo

I also went to Michigan at the end of July to surprise my dad for his 50th birthday! Definitely a fun little trip. Catherine and I made the yummy chocolate peanut butter cake from Smitten Kitchen. Dad loved it and he was definitely surprised to see 20 of us waiting for him at his favorite steakhouse. Also see photos of the hummingbirds at Dad's house - feeding them is his summer hobby every year.

Dad blowing out his birthday candles

We never got that brown couch that i talked about. I measured and it wouldn't fit through the front door.... oh well... there are other couches in the sea, I guess. Our landlord managed to get rid of our pigeons so we are now able to use this little back porch area as a seating area if we ever want to sit outside. I have a hanging basket, and a little lantern, and some other plants. And it has provided us with a way to get to know our neighbors a little more.

Steve hanging out on our "deck"

Recently we had some friends over for dinner and I made this cake! I will admit it was a great excuse for me to use the new cake dome I received at my shower. It is a lemon pound cake, also from Smitten Kitchen, but i decided to make it in layers. And i did a couple of other things differently. I put the syrup on when it was cool. The frosting recipe is one that my mom has always used and taught me how to make when I first started baking. Except that I added lemon juice and a little food coloring to get a nice yellow color. The cake was so good cold out of the fridge on a hot weekend. I think I will have to make it again soon. I did not have a sprig of mint to adorn the top of the cake so i used basil. At one point i was using a tiny sprig of dill. It had a very interesting look and I even thought, what would dill be like in sweet baked goods. Has anyone ever done that???? Maybe it's a bad idea...

the lemon cake

On the Monkey forefront, the supplements from the specialist were not working. Now we are trying B12 injections. I am giving them to her myself at home and it really is a heckuvah lot easier than trying to give her a pill or make her eat something she does not like.

Monkey is still beautiful on the outside :)

Well this post was supposed to be about the marriage license but since I am not regularly blogging it ended up being about everything else, too!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Polymer Clay anyone?

I bought some polymer clay (fimo, premo, sculpey) to sculpt my cake topper out of, or at least give the cake maker a rough draft of what I am going for. I have never used it before. Any tips or anything I should know about???

I also purchased a bottle of the glaze. Does it go on before or after I bake? If I want to paint it with acrylic or water based paint, should I do that on top of the glaze or under the glaze?

Thanks art/craft buddies if you have any info!

Friday, June 5, 2009

should we get a new couch???????

My friend is selling her couch and I'm wondering if we should buy it... what do you think? It is a very nice and comfy Ikea couch. It's a cotton fabric couch that looks kind of leather-ish. She wants to sell it for a really great price. Here are some photos of it:

Will I be sad giving up the couch we currently have?
CON of current couch: It is ugly
PRO: but I "custom-made" this cover for it.... which took me FOREVER.

PRO: I really like the fabric that the cover is made out of,
CON: but the fit is not perfect by any means.
CON: it is light colored and could get stained easily... would not be good if we ever have children. Though it has yet to be stained over the past 1.5 years. (which is actually amazing since Steve eats chocolate on it all the time and has only gotten chocolate the pillow so far)

PRO: However it is also an EXTREMELY comfy couch!! SO CUSHY - i could prob sleep on it for a week or two if needed.

Here are some photos of current couch before the cover:

After the cover:

Will the new couch go well with our rug/other decor, or will it make the room look too heavy? I think it might be okay b/c our walls are cream colored.

I would like to sell or give away the current couch b/c it would be a waste to throw it away. Not sure if I would relinquish the cover i slaved over.... I know, i keep saying i SLAVED over it and it doesn't look fantastic, but I DID slave over it. I guess it depends on who I was giving it to....

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Rambler

Oh the places I've been... Here's a quick list of all the things I've done since my vermicomposting post (which, consequently, does not involve vermicomposting):

Click on the picture to see more from that event!


1. Went to Michigan for Valentine's Day, to visit family, and all the folks at Albion.


2. Catherine stayed with me for a weekend while playing in the tour of her college symphonette.

3. Volunteered at Voice For Luca benefit at Mars Gallery.

4. Celebrated my 28th birthday.

5. Started biking to work again.

6. One of my bff's from HS came to Chicago and we had a girls night out.


7. Whirlwind trip to Colorado Springs to surprise another bff from HS for her baby shower (yay, Annie! she could go into labor any minute now...) and saw Elizabeth & Ben, and Joe & Andrea, who were all expecting as well.

8. Mom and Catherine came to visit for Easter and we saw Mary Poppins. (and we found her "mother-of-the-bride" dress)

9. Drove to Holland, MI for Elizabeth's baby shower.

10. Had one weekend at home to relax.


11. Helped my mom recover from surgery for a few days in Michigan. Trip also coincided with a Book Scanning Demo in Kalamazoo (for work) and hanging with Brenna (former roommate).

12. Flew to Tennessee to meet up with Dad and Catherine for a visit with Papa and Aunt Irene.

13. Drove to Cincinnati for my nephews' and niece's first birthday party.

14. We were whisked away, by Mom and Ed, to Iowa for Memorial Day Weekend and to celebrate Allison's high school graduation... more pics of that later...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Flora and Fauna of Tennessee

Oh my goodness! I have been neglecting my blog! If it weren't for my tweets, I bet anyone visiting here would have thought the earth had swallowed me up into a big dark hole. (In fact, I think my wedding has swallowed me up into some kind of hole... I don't think I would call it dark.)

Anyway, here is my latest trip - a visit to Tennessee to spend time with some of the Clanton and Ellis relatives.

This is Magpie (Maji) meeting some of the cows on the farm. You can see the rest of my pictures here.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I think I might actually try to convince Steve that we should start doing this in our apartment. It will be like having our own worm farm.

Here is the Wikipedia for vermicomposting and here is a guide from the Chicago Recycling Coalition.

Friday, February 27, 2009

It's like a chain letter - except it's bread...

... because we all know that the Amish frequently use instant vanilla pudding in some of their oldest recipes.

I just received my second batch of starter for Amish Friendship Bread. According the instructions, only the Amish know how to make the starter. Honestly it kind of creeps me out that hundreds of people have added milk, flour, and sugar to this bag and then let it sit out on their counter for a week. But the bread is GOOD. And no one has died from it yet.... that I know of.

Here's the low down: You get this bag of gloppy stuff from your friend. You let it sit, unrefrigerated, for a couple of days. Then you throw some milk, flour, and sugar into the bag and let it sit for several more days.

On the last day you add more of those ingredients, take some out for distribution among friends, and - after adding a slew of things including the pudding - bake the rest! Then you have TWO loaves of this yummy bread to eat and/or take to work. Well, it's more like cake or banana bread, really.

I'm going to be baking my bread on Friday the 6th, so if anyone would like a starter on Saturday the 7th let me know and I can bring it to you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Chandelier and the Rug

I feel like a real adult now. Steve and I just purchased our first rug together. It all happened so fast and then BAM! a rug was delivered and we were the owners. We first started looking on for styles and patterns that we liked. I was very afraid to commit to anything. I was very comfortable with my beige carpet remnant from college.... hey... i LIKE beige! But we've been gradually trying to distance ourselves from college furnishings, though we do have a lot of hand me down items that i love and I think still work in our home.

A couple of weeks later we were looking around at Crate n Barrel and noticed one of the rugs there was the same as our top picks from Overstock. AND it was double the price at Crate n Barrel. The nice thing is that we were able to see it in person and feel it. So we decided that night to place our Overstock order. It was here within a week.

can you find two cats in this photo?

It is a little bit wild for a beige girl, but I have become used to it. And especially after suffering a seizure after discovering chocolate smeared on one of my couch pillows, I think the bold pattern and brown color palette was a wise choice. (Hopefully there will be children using this rug in a few years!) I also love that it is wool and so soft and luxurious feeling. The cats love it, too. They lay on it all the time. It must feel very warm and cozy to them 'cause i know it feels great on my feet.

The main reason we went to Crate n Barrel was to use this gift card we had received from Steve's work for Christmas 2007. It needed to be used ASAP! It's not good to keep gift cards laying around. As of late, I have acquired a habit of breaking glasses - esp. tumblers. So it seemed a new set of tumblers were in order. We bought these. Also broke a ramekin so I got some fancy new ramekins with a different shape and I really like them. I don't mind have two different kinds of ramekins at the moment, but I imagine after we get the other sets of matching glasses we will get rid of our old Target glasses. I'm hoping we get them (and all the other things I registered for!) as wedding gifts later this year.

And the last, but certainly not the least important home improvement item checked off the list is the dining room chandelier. Here is a photo of it before:

Yes we have lived with this thing for a whole year. I don't mind the brass but combined with the fake oak reminded me of my grandparents trailer in Michigan..... aka not our style. We rent so we could not / didn't want to invest in the installation of a new chandelier. Instead, I managed to take some of the clunky parts off of the existing one, added fluorescent light bulbs (to save energy and so they would not get too hot), and Steve and I somehow squeezed this huge, $7 paper lantern over the entire thing. Now I feel as though we have the moon floating above our dinner conversation every night. How enchanting...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paczki Day

Paczki Day has come and gone. I had two! They were so yummy. Thank you to Maura in the office down the hall for bringing them in. Then I decided to do research on the calorie content..... according to this article they contain anywhere from 300 to 450 calories AND 22 to 27 grams of fat. And you would have to jog for a whole hour in order to neutralize that ball of yummy goodness. But they are well worth it, my friend. In my opinion they beat the socks off any old krispy kreme. Not a big fan of krispy kreme. Too sugary or something. I love how paczki's are so fluffy and yeasty..... mmmmm.

I found a recipe and I think I may try to make some next year.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I woke up this morning in Chicago, to a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. The bitter cold temperatures and the layers of ice we endure in the midwest can drive me nuts, but I'm always in the mood for snow. Afterall, I do consider myself 75% Michigander and 25% Buckeye. I know some parts of Michigan are vacation destinations for Lincoln-Park-ers to go play rustic tourist. I'm not saying I don't like tourists or tourism, it's good for business and jobs! For me it's different - it's HOME. Today I'm leaving on a solo road trip to the home lands.

I am in love with the most recent ad campaign for Pure Michigan ( that I've been hearing on the radio. I guess there are some on tv, but since I don't watch much tv I haven't seen any of those. The music and the man's voice and his words, like poetry, all tug at my heart strings, bringing back memories of my snow covered yard at my Dad's house on Lawrence Rd..... I know that sounds dumb, but that's what the ads are trying to do right?

Here's one called "Snow Days" made for televsion:
Remember Snow Days?
When the schools were closed
and the day was wide open.

The first step into fresh powder
was like stepping into a new world:

the crunch of the snow as it packed under our boots,

the drip of icicles melting in the sun.

So pull the hat down a little lower,
and make sure
there's a cup of hot cocoa waiting.

Because this winter,
every day is Snow Day
in Pure Michigan.

This one makes makes me tear up every time I hear it on the radio:
Snow can keep us in
or snow can call us out.
Snow makes us shovel,
but snow can make us wonder again.
Snow will melt off our boots,
but the snowmen our kids make
will melt our hearts.
Snow makes everything new again,
falling across millions of acres of forests
blanketing more than 3,000 miles
of cross country ski trails
and waiting patiently at more than 40 downhil ski areas and resorts
Sure, snow is cold
but it stirs up amazing memories:
of snowball fights
of sledding with our friends
of waking up to a fresh canvas
and doing it all over again.
Snow can do so many things,
and right now it's rolling out the white carpet.
Come play in the snow
of Pure Michigan.

(I could do without the ski resort part, personally.) If you haven't heard the advertisements yourself, click here and play "Snow Days - TV" and "Snow - Radio". Oh and make sure you have some tissues handy... okay so I'm a sap.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Birthday Report

This weekend we celebrated Steve's birthday!!! We had some buddies over, played video games, and ordered Candlelite pizza... had some beers, broke out the Stevie Nicks vinyl... and I made the chocolate peanut butter cake again. This time the cake was a little bit different. First of all, I made the mistake of buying expensive, organic powdered sugar. The back of the bag says "We add a bit of cornstarch to discourage clumping." And what was the bag full of???? CLUMPS! Rock hard clumps of powdered sugar that did not break up in the mixer. It was okay though. You couldn't tell by looking at the cake. For the top glaze, I used Dark Chocolate Chips. I'm not sure if I didn't heat it enough or if it's because I used Dark instead of Semi-sweet because it was more ganachey than glazey. But it ended up being REALLY GOOD. I think I liked it better than with the semi sweet glaze. I wish I had a photo of the cake... but I don't think anyone took one. It's in our bellies now :)

I gave Steve some movies AND I finished his sweater!! You know the one I started over a year ago??? Well it's DONE and it fits him perfectly and he loves it. I'm so proud. I made him model it a million times on Saturday. There are no photos perfectly showcasing the cardigan but it makes an appearance in some of these. I will post some better ones in a future blog entry, which will be entitled "Knitting Report".

The weather on Saturday was so nice, I bet it was probably the best weather anyone with a February birthday could hope for. It almost got up to 60 F. We've had a warm streak these past few days and I am NOT complaining!!!! I'm trying to convince Steve that we should ride our bikes to work tomorrow...

found a cake photo... "Happy Birthday, Steve!"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Holiday Report

Bless me blog for I have sinned. It has been 37 days since my last posting.....

ok so it's been a while, right? Many of you know that is not like me, so it seems I have a bit of catching up to do.

First on the list is the Holiday Report!

Our holidays were lovely. You saw our very fake tree... well we liked it so much we didn't take it down till... um... this is kind of embarrassing..... Jan 26th! Yes, a whole month after Christmas Day. I wasn't ready to get rid of it right after Christmas or even New Years because we didn't put it up till Dec 12th. Plus, you know, we were busy. Hence the lack of blog posts.

Elvis and Monkey after little kitty fight on Christmas Day... siblings...

Anyway, we both had lots of time off work. We stayed at home by ourselves on the 24th and 25th. Exchanged gifts. Ate LOTS of food. Watched Movies. It was a White Christmas in Chicago. On the 26th we drove to Columbus, OH to have a gathering with the Nyktas's. There was about 2 feet of snow here, but the day we left it began to warm up. All down 65 South there was lots of post-holiday traffic and fog. At some points the visibility was only 1/16th of a mile! The drive took a bit longer than expected, but it was an adventure.

Visiting with Steve's family was great, as usual. The temperature there rose to almost 70 F that day begging us to go outside, follow the kids as they rode their bikes up and down the street, and play some catch and monkey-in-the-middle in the yard. They guys worked on Louis's car and most of the ladies stayed inside with the babies. All of our fun and games came to a grinding halt when it was discovered that Otis, the family black lab, had somehow found and devoured the pumpkin pies that I had brought for dessert.... And you probably already know that my pumpkin pies are not from a can. Some tears were shed and twenty minutes later everything was fine. It really was no one's fault and obviously Otis could not help himself. (I still love him.) We enjoyed some lamb that George cooked on the grill and we had plenty of sweets made by Lynn, so we were not deprived of our holiday sugar.

Isaias, 7 mos

Drew, Lydia, & Eric, 8 mos

Vee with Yiayia Helen

the whole Nyktas clan

warm enough for Carly & Vee to ride bikes


my favorite photo of Miss Carly

The rest of the trip was all fun 'n' games in Cincinnati seeing the rest of Steve's family and our friends Forest, Ann, and their two kids. Usually we do a weekend in MI and a weekend in Cinci, trying to cram everyone into a day or too. This was a much more low key, slower paced, several days with some time to relax in between. In 2009 we will do Thanksgiving with members of the Nyktas family, and Christmas in Michigan.

George is swimming in grandchildren. Here he is with Emma.

self portrait with my sweet fiance

Also worthy of mentioning: Just a week before Christmas my little sister turned 21! I took a snowy train to South Bend to have a lovely dinner with her and my mom at the Studebaker Mansion, now called Tippecanoe Place. The mansion is absolutely GORGEOUS! and so is my sister.

Catherine, my "shyvester"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year and New Ottoman!

Happy New Year everyone! I did not manage to stay up past midnight CST, however, I did watch the ball drop in NY on tv. Instead I was more focused on reupholstering our beloved ottoman. It is something we use everyday to put our feet up while we're sitting on the couch. It came from Steve's grandma and was originally a sea foamy green velvety material. The cats have gotten some good scratches out of that thing, though they were not encouraged to do so. (Click on the photo to see more.) It was time for a change.

Steve has been eyeballing some leather ottomans from Crate & Barrel for some time now. So I decided to go with some nice looking vinyl and that I found at Vogue Fabrics about a week or two ago. It is an espresso color with cocoa colored areas between the "scales".

I had expected this project to take a while, but I was armed with a staple gun and finished it within a couple of hours. I did use an upholstery needle to stitch the corner edges where the fabric overlaps. I might need to put a few more staples in as time goes by. I also removed the skirt around the bottom to make it look cleaner and more modern. This really feels like a new piece of furniture!!!

Hopefully the cats will not destroy it, but so far they have not shown any interest in it. I also started spraying it with Feliway every now and then to discourage them from marking it with their claws.

Before & After

And after all that I fell asleep watching Elf. We didn't even pop open our bottle of champagne.... oh well. I'm not a big New Years Eve person. I think I had trouble staying up last year, too. It's better to go to bed and then wake up early to start the year off fresh.

Tomorrow, my vacation ends. But then I still have the weekend!