Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at Casa Gibson!  I decided that our dining room table needed a little sprucing up for Christmas.  I found the set of 4 festive plates for $10 at Home Goods and everything else I already had.  I add this picture just so Chris' cousin Jill knows we patronize the stores of TJX Corporation.  :)

At Paprowski's Tree Farm last Sunday.  We found a tree in under 10 minutes.  (I find the amount of time it takes to select and cut down a tree is inversely proportional to how cold it is.  It was pretty chilly that day!)

As soon we got the tree home and in the house, Bailey commenced with his favorite part of the Christmas season: eating the tree.

With lights!  But no ornaments yet.

And here she is all decked out!

We have three new Christmas ornaments on the tree this year.
This one we got from Chris' parents last year.  I love it!

Chris and I like to bring home a Christmas ornament from each trip we take.  We're not really souvenir people, so ornaments are the perfect way to remember each and every vacation (although our St. Lucia trip went by so quickly we didn't find one.  Whoops!)  This one I found on Block Island when we went this past June.  Technically I think it's a sun catcher you're supposed to hang in a window, but I think it looks beautiful on the tree. 

And this one is another Christmas gift from last year.  My older sister Angie gave Chris and me this to remember our first Christmas as a married couple.  :)

And one more thing...last week when we were at the Christmas tree farm, a reporter from the Danbury News-Times (local newspaper) asked us if she could take our picture.  We swung by the grocery store this morning to pick up a copy, and lo and behold there we were, right on the front of the section!  There's a smaller picture of Chris at the bottom of the page, sawing down the tree.  Very fun.  :)  Click right here to go to the News-Times website and get a better look at the pictures.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving and...Christmas?

We've been really busy this fall and winter.  I've been doing a terrible job of keeping up with our little blog here, not that we have a lot of readers anyway.  :)  But, it's time to blog because we got to spend Thanksgiving (and Christmas! sort of) with Chris' family a few weeks ago and it was great fun.

Chris and I both had to work on the Wednesday before Christmas.  Because we've seen how bad traffic can be on the Mass Turnpike the night before Turkey Day, we opted to drive to Maine on Thursday morning.  And it worked like a dream!  There were cars on the road but no real traffic and we got to Eliot at 10:30.  Perfect timing.

I'm sad to say that I don't have many pictures from Thanksgiving (could have something to do with the fact that I did a LOT of eating) but here are a few:

How's the gravy, Chris?

FIL (or Jay to the rest of you) carving the bird!

Beautiful table!

And somehow after all that amazingly delicious food I managed to go shopping at midnight with Mary Pat and Caroline.  Once we actually got to J Crew I realized I was pretty tired and sort of walked around in a zombie-like state for awhile, but I perked up at Banana Republic.  I bought Christopher 8 pairs of boxers for $19!  It was practically highway robbery.  :)

Then the Saturday after Thanksgiving we got together with Chris' side of the family for the annual, not-to-be-missed, better-wear-your-stretchy-pants-because-there's-bound-to-be-tons-of-food, time-to-get-your-Yankee-swap-on, HORAN FAMILY CHRISTMAS PARTY!

Meg, Scott, and Eric

That adorable little ball of fluff is Sophie!  Jill's maltipoo!
I think we need one.  Bailey could use a teeny little sister.

Dick was #14 for the swap so he got stuck with Chris' gift, which was actually pretty fun- 2 sleds and a box of hot chocolate!  Just add some snow for a fun afternoon!

So much merriment.  And the Christmas season has only just begun!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is it a bird? A plane?

Nope!  Just Jess.  I haven't posted in about three weeks so I figured you might not recognize me!  We've been busy, to say the least.  Here's a little catch-up.

Here are the clams that Chris collected at the bottom of Long Island Sound during our dive three weeks ago!  He cooked them on the grill and made a tangy sauce to go with them.  I actually didn't try them, but Chris said they were great!  He wasn't able to get all the grit out of them though...wonder what we should do different next time?


I had hoped to go diving again that following Sunday, which was Halloween, to do my 3rd and 4th open water dives, but that didn't end up happening.  Somehow on my second dive in the sound, water got behind my right ear drum.  A week later my ear felt better and the water was slowly making its way out, but my Dr. strongly suggested I not dive again so soon.  Bummer.

Another week went by and we found ourselves in Boston for Jill and William's engagement party!  Chris found a bed and breakfast in Newton, MA that was just a quick 15 minute drive into the city.

We had dinner in the North End before the party.  Restaurant look familiar??  It's Il Villagio, where we got engaged two and a half years ago!  It was the first time we'd been back since that night, and just as good as we remembered.  The night we got engaged I had chicken parmesan, but my new favorite dish is gnocchi.  Yum.


We had planned on finding a Starbuck's where we could change clothes for the party, but we didn't pass one on our walk back from dinner.  So...we changed into our party clothes in the parking garage!  More specifically, in the car, in a very dark, unlit corner of the parking garage.  Once we both had the chance to get dressed, however, Chris moved the car.  Dark corners are good for changing clothes, but not good for keeping your car safe.

But back to the party.  We had such a great time!  It was wonderful to see everyone.  We can't wait for the wedding in August...congratulations Jill and Will!


We woke up early the next morning (daylight savings helped) and drove straight to Bridgeport, CT...so I could do my 3rd and 4th dives!  We knew Capt. Steve was taking the boat out one last time, but originally he'd been planning to take out a group of 10 hedge fund managers (or investment bankers? I can't remember) who were getting certified together as a team building exercise.  With 10 students there wouldn't be room on the boat for me.  But luckily half of them dropped out by the end of the course so I could go!  There was room for Chris to go too, but diving in 52 degree water didn't sound like much fun to him.  :)

The other guys on the boat ended up being a lot of fun and by the end of the day, we were all certified SCUBA divers!  Now I'm even more excited for our trip to St. John.  It was definitely worth freezing my tail off in Long Island Sound!

After another week of work (the weeks just fly by when you're busy!) and it was the weekend again.  This past weekend we ate a LOT of food.  And it was all FANTASTIC!  Friday night Chris and I went to the Inn at Newtown (one of the few restaurants here in Newtown we like) for dinner with a couple from our church.  Saturday morning we drove into the city for breakfast at Sarabeth's with a few Texas friends who were visiting the city.


After breakfast and a quick stroll through NYC, we drove back to CT and straight to our pastor's house.  He and his wife had invited the whole church (it's a small church) over for BBQ ribs.  Even though I'm from Texas, I can honestly say these were THE best ribs I've ever had.  Wow.  When we got home that evening we both fell asleep before 8:00.  Nothing like a baby-back-rib-coma!

And that's what we've been up to lately!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scuba Update: Open Water Certification

To earn your scuba certification (after the classroom and pool sessions), you have to complete four open water dives spread out over two days.  As I've mentioned before, our instructor likes to take his students to a few sites in Long Island Sound.  We knew the visibility in the sound would be around 6-8 feet.  Not great, but better than the sandpit where Chris did his open water dives!  As far as the sixty degree water went, we reckoned that if we could dive in a long wetsuit...with a neoprene jacket on top...with a hood...and gloves...then the warm waters of St. John would be a walk swim in the park!

That said...day #1 was an epic FAIL.

Saturday:


We had hoped to get in two dives but ended up with zero.  I didn't take any Dramamine...per my scuba instructor's warning...and ended up sicker than I was when I went fishing waaaay out in the Gulf of Mexico.  I felt terrible.  When we anchored Steve (our instructor) wanted to get me in the water right away because that helps seasickness.  It takes awhile to get suited up when you feel sick, but eventually I was dressed and ready to get in the water.  And in the water I went!  And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  My mask was fogged so I couldn't see anything that was happening on the boat and the surf was whipping the tag line (and me with it) in the water so much that I couldn't defog it.  As it turns out, the holdup was due to our instructor's zipper breaking on his wetsuit.  Eventually he joined us in the ocean, broken zipper and all.

After a few attempts at descending (I was just nervous and Chris was having mask and hood issues) I told Steve I wanted out of the water.  I'd rushed to get into the water and then spent way too much time bobbing around in rough surf.  Despite all my training and practice in the pool, I was rattled.  So we got back on the boat (where I was stillll seasick) and went back to the marina.

Sunday:

We did a lot of things differently on Sunday.  I took Dramamine at 9:00 a.m.  We went back to the dive shop where Chris got a smaller hood and I got a much smaller wetsuit (my farmer john had been way too big the day before).  The seas were a bit calmer as well.  I felt 100 times better than I had the day before.

On Saturday, it was just our instructor Steve, Chris and me, and Jose, a former student of Steve's. On Sunday, the four of us were back along with Capt. Noel and another student Gary, who was getting certified to be on the police department's diving rescue team.  This worked out really well because Noel stayed on the boat, Steve took me and Gary, and Jose and Chris (the already certified divers) were able to go off on their own.

Lots of tanks!

We did our first dive at the site of an old wreck that was in about 25 feet of water, our second in a clam bed about 20 feet deep.  Chris and I weren't diving together, but we both saw a TON of starfish, he saw a huge crab, and later collected a bagful of clams.  We're not sure if taking clams is entirely legal, but he's cooking them on the grill right now so it's a bit too late to worry about that!


Jose and Chris with their contraband clams!
Despite our many layers of neoprene, by the end of the second dive we were COLD.  But we'd had such a great time that it didn't even matter!  And I can finish my scuba certification by doing my final two dives in St. John!  There's a chance that I can do two more dives on Halloween, but that depends on a number of factors, one being my right ear.  I didn't think I was having any problems equalizing pressure on my descents but on our drive home my ear felt full of water...and now loud noises hurt it.  Pots and pans banging together, Bailey barking, even the sound of ice dropping into my Nalgene bottle make me wince.  Hopefully it'll go away soon.

Brrrr!!!
I'd been dreading diving into Long Island Sound since we started these classes.  Now that I've done it once...I totally love it and am ready to go again!  Yes it's cold, and it's murky, but it's so neat to see what's down in the ocean right where we live!

Thanks, Captain Steve!  Here he is in his dry suit (since the zipper on his wetsuit broke the day before.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Columbus Day Getaway

So, I know Columbus Day was nearly two weeks ago, but better late than never, right?  Chris and I have been busy with our scuba classes!

We spent the long weekend up in the White Mountains with Chris'  parents.  We took a (chilly!) hike up to the glacial potholes on Mt. Jefferson, where we passed people coming down with frost on their hats!  Brrr.

The four of us also did the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour and it was SO MUCH FUN!  It included 9 ziplines, 2 sky bridges, and a few spots where you had to repel down.  We had beautiful weather and a ridiculously good time.  I highly recommend it!

On Mt. Jefferson

Ready to zip!

@ the Top of the Quad

On one of the sky bridges...these were scarier than the ziplines!



The couple that zips together, stays together.  :)

View of the Mt. Washington from the treetops!

This was a video taken by Paul, one of our guides.  This was the longest and HIGHEST zipline!
Ziplining from Jessica Hasty on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scuba

When Chris was living in Beaumont (and just a teeny bit bored), he took a course to become scuba certified.  He even did his qualifying dive...in a sandpit!  Not much visibility, but it meant that he was certified to scuba dive almost anywhere in the world.  I'm not though.

Luckily, a few weeks ago Chris found a scuba Meet Up group here in Connecticut that offers a "I Tried Scuba" experience every few months.  I thought it would be a great way to try out scuba diving and see if I liked it before I invested all that money in the full course.

So last Saturday I went to the Norwalk YMCA, put on all the gear, and tried scuba diving...for FREE!  And I loved it!  The full scuba course entails three nights of classroom training and three nights in the YMCA pool.  Chris was certified so long ago that he needed to take a refresher course.  The scuba instructor said he could take the full class with me for the cost of a refresher course...so we signed up for the October class!  Tonight was our first night in the pool.

Just a few more weeks and we'll be certified!  After the qualifying dive of course.  Did I mention it's in Long Island Sound?  No, you read that right.  I'm nervous already!  :) 

Here I am with our scuba instructor whose name is...wait for it...Steve.
Yes, I am learning to dive from Scuba Steve. Hee, hee.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My New (forty-year-old) Chair

I'd been looking for something to make our master bedroom a little more cozy.  I thought a "reading nook" might be just the thing, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a piece of furniture that wouldn't get used all that often (since we have so much seating downstairs.)

I found this chair for $20 on Craigslist:


And somehow it became THIS:




I still can't believe I actually did it!  I know a professional could have done it in a day or two.  It took me six weeks of working on it in pieces.  But, somehow, slowly, it all came together (even with my serious lack of sewing-know-how) and I ended up with a chair that I love!  And the owner of a sewing shop that reupholsters furniture said I probably saved $500 by doing it myself.  Even if you subtract the cost of the chair itself, the fabric, and some supplies, the total for the chair still comes in at about $100.
Like most of my other sewing projects, it's certainly not perfect.  But I'm so proud of it and I can't wait to cozy up in it with a good book!

********



Now, for anyone who might be googling around for reupholstery tips (like I did), this is what I learned along the way...

Do your homework.  Having never attempted reupholstery before, I knew I needed information.  I borrowed the book Complete Step-by-Step Upholstery from my local library.  I didn't have the book open in front of me while I worked or follow their directions explicitly, but the book was a terrific source of information about the process.  I also stopped by a local upholstery shop and spoke with the owner.  He said the Sunset magazine series has a great issue on furniture upholstery.

Tool up.  The books might tell you to get fancy tools, but from my personal experience a flathead screwdriver, good pair of pliers, sewing machine, hot glue gun, and staple gun are all you need.  My chair was FULL of staples, so I was convinced I would need a special tool to remove them: a staple lifter.  But after checking with four hardware stores and a few fabric stores, I couldn't fine one.

The owner of my local upholstery shop told me I really didn't need one if I was just going to dabble in reupholstery.  So I used a flathead screwdriver and pliers and got all the staples out.  Don't get me wrong, though, it was not a quick task.  I devoted a few hours in the afternoon on three different days to removing fabric and staples.  And, a word of caution when removing staples.  Some of them are going to be tight.  Make sure that nothing (hands, legs, eyes, etc.) is in the path of the screwdriver.  (I even kept safety glasses next to me just in case I had to get close.)  It is all too easy for the screwdriver to slip on the most stubborn staples and go flying.  (I've heard that the staple lifter can make a HUGE difference, if you're willing to spend between $25 and $40 for one.)




As you take off each piece of old fabric, try to keep it as intact as possible so it can be used as a pattern.  It also helps if you cut your new pieces just a smidgen larger, so you're guaranteed to have enough room for stapling.  My old fabric was is such terrible shape I wouldn't even sit on the chair until it was all removed!


Find a fabulous fabric.  The cost of upholstery fabric adds up quickly.  I chose to search for fabric at Joann's because they frequently put their 54" fabric on sale (for 40 or even 50% off) AND because as a teacher I get an extra 15% off that sale price.

I took a yard stick to the chair to estimate how much fabric I would need (I figured four yards) and it turns out I was right.  Fabric stores usually have a book that shows different styles of furniture and how many yards of fabric would be needed to cover each.  Sure enough, the book said four yards, but as a nervous first-time reupholsterer, I bought five just in case.

I picked a fabric that I loved...without thinking about whether it would be good for my first reupholstery project.  Picking a solid fabric definitely would have made my life easier, but it turns out the pattern wasn't as difficult to work with as I had feared.

All buttoned up.  The back cushion of my chair was buttoned.  The book recommended taking your buttons to a professional to get recovered.  Which was what I was planning to do until my mother-in-law said I could buy a simple button cover kit for a few dollars.  I bought this one at Joann's, which included the two round "tools" to cover the buttons along with four buttons.  Once you have the tools, you just buy the packages of button cover refills (which are even cheaper) until you have all the buttons you need.




 



I had to buy VERY LONG upholstery needles to thread the buttons through the cushion and out the back of the chair, but they were relatively inexpensive at Joann's.




Bring out the big guns.  Chris has an air-powered staple gun and boy does that thing pack a punch!  I think it would have been incredibly difficult to use a manual staple gun on forty year old hardwood.  



We had to use tacking strip to create a finished edge along the top edge of the back of the chair.  This was the only edge that wasn't covered up with glued on double piping.  The tacking strip seemed simple enough, but it turned out to be a HUGE headache because we laid the fabric over the front of the chair while we worked instead of just holding it up like a tabletop from the back and working from underneath.


See what happens? Attaching the back with the tacking strip was the LAST difficult step of the process.  I just knew this moment was going to be big finish!  My husband was humming "Chariots of Fire" to mark the end of our loooong chair recovering process when...


Luckily only the back edge was a finished edge.  The rest of the pieces were just stapled on, as is, and then the rough edge covered with double piping.  I though this was going to be difficult to make, but it was actually one of the easiest steps.  I used a zigzag stitch (with the piping foot) to sew the pieces together.  Then I just folded one side over the other and used a straight stitch to hold it all in place.



Then I used a regular hot glue gun on the high setting to attach it to the edges.  And that was the FINAL STEP!  Wahoo!  :)



I'm so happy that I saved money AND saved an old chair!  Although if time is money...I may not have actually saved any money in the long run...but I still had lots of fun!

Big thanks to my two helpers.  Chris helped me pull out some of the toughest staples and also did ALL of the stapling.  Bailey...well, Bailey just did what he does best: jumped in the middle of the project right whenever we needed a little encouragement.  :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Giving back.

Today the church that Chris and I attend had its annual Great Day of Missions.  There were three different service opportunities to choose from, but we opted to go to Jericho Partnership in Danbury.  Jericho is a collaboration of Christ-centered ministries and congregations serving the youth, homeless and other at-risk populations.  A lot of churches in the area support the church and at least two other churches were there with us today.

Chris and I thought we were going to be picking up trash or working on the grounds, but as it turns out we ended up doing something completely different!  Jericho needed a group of people to walk to the homeless and drywall the ceiling.  Chris' recent experience with our half-bath made him a natural choice for this group. 

They also needed a group to sort through and organize their storage space.  I'm talking food for their food pantry, clothes, school supplies, furniture, books, plates, utensils, etc., etc., etc.  You name it, there was a TON of it down there!  And as nice as it would have been to work with Chris, I knew as soon as I heard organize that that was where I was supposed to be.  :)  We both had a great time, and got to know people at church a little better too.

They fed us lunch at Jericho, but we realized when we got home that we were both wiped out!  So we went to Demitasse Cafe for coffee and a snack to perk us up.  Demitasse is our new favorite coffee shop that opened up in the space formerly occupied by our old favorite coffee shop, Mocha.  We were pretty bummed when Mocha closed at the end of May.  Luckily we think Demitasse's coffee is even BETTER.  And the owners are great too.  And guess what we finished when we got home???

I'll give you a hint: it starts with "ch" and rhymes with "stair"!!  :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's cookin' good lookin'?

How many women can say that their husband is a fabulous cook?  I'm part of a very exclusive club.  :)  My husband became such a great cook out of necessity.  He missed his mom's wonderful cooking so much when he moved to Beaumont for work that he had to try and replicate it!

I'm a rule and recipe follower (which makes me the better baker), but Chris' tendency to follow his instincts and just toss in whatever he feels like makes him the better cook.  So cooking together has always been something we love to do, especially when we get to try out new recipes and they turn out to be winners!  Here are a few new ones we tried out over the weekend.

When we were in NYC with Evie the weekend before last, we stopped at Alice's Tea Cup for iced teas.  And a white chocolate raspberry scone...yum.  Which reminded me of the one I had when Chris and I went to Vancouver way back in 2005.  Which made me want to try baking some myself!  So I used this recipe that Chris found online and I was more than happy with the results.  I always thought scones were difficult to make but they weren't bad at all!

I was excited that they matched my shirt.  :)



Once school starts and we're both busy again, we like to make big suppers on Sunday night so we don't have too much cooking to do through the week.  We've been enjoying grilled chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese with a smoked chile cilantro sauce and toasted Israeli couscous with vegetables and lemon-balsalmic vinaigrette.  I take terrible pictures of food but trust me, it was delicious!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poor little shed.

This is our shed.


It's sad, I know.  Chris painted it awhile back, which made a huge difference, but he decided what the shed really needed (and ideally before winter) was a new roof.  Always one to try new things, Chris did a little research on roofing and now the little shed looks like this!



It was great for practice, because the big shed also needs a new roof before winter.


Chris actually wanted to start this project on Saturday (since I was spending the day with Evie who came up from NYC for the weekend- yay!), but I think I convinced him that a super-windy, post hurricane day was not the best time to be standing on a roof.  Thank goodness.  :)