Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baking Rugelach


I'm more of a baker than a cook. I'm intimidated by the lengthy process of cooking a meal from scratch and I definitely don't know how to be smart about my grocery list. I'm jealous of those who can pick out random ingredients from their fridge and whip up a meal. That is why I like to bake. I always have flour, eggs and sugar in the pantry and who needs scented candles when you are baking cookies and other baked goods?

I've had the Martha Stewart baking handbook for many years now and embarrassingly enough, I've only made a few recipes. However, those that I've tried, I've made over and over... and over again (it's how I discovered popovers!). Since I got my first Kitchen Aid mixer on Friday, I flipped through every page of the cookbook to try something new. I had a craving for cinnamon buns but when I stumbled on the pictures of the Rugelachs, I just had to make these little crescents. 

The dough is cream cheese based and the apricot spread gives a nice kick to the chocolate filling. Rugelach I learned, finds its origins in the jewish tradition and literally means "little twists". For different filling alternatives, you can find inspiration here.

 Just started my Sunday morning with one of these little guys and a cup of coffee. Ah, my definition of a perfect day. 

Are you a baker or a cook?

You can find Martha Stewart's recipe for Rugelachs here.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Auto-Construction : Our Housebuilding Story (Part 2)


Building a house hasn’t been an over-night realization. It’s been a carefully planned process. More precisely, we’ve been talking about it for the last 5 years.

If you’re thinking of embarking on the same journey or preparing for some renovations, hopefully these next topics can be of help or simply food for thought.

What we did before we started:

       SAVING MONEY


It’s no secret that we both still live with our parents. We recently just turned 27 and all of our friends have now moved out of the family nest. It has been very frustrating at times, but in the end, we are both grateful that are parents are supportive. I strongly agree with those of you who think we should have moved out ages ago, however as I mentioned before, I wouldn’t be writing this post today if it wasn’t for this decision.

We are both young professionals working in a vibrant city. We obviously like to keep up with our friends but we have made sacrifices along the way by restricting things such as restaurant outings and making money-conscious travel decisions.  

If you are having trouble saving money try this: make a list of your basic expenses (food, commute, cell phone etc.) and a second list of your "other" expenses. Now, the difficult part is to decide what you can cut out from the "other" list. Perhaps, you'll only have to restrict the number of times you go out to the restaurant a month or maybe you simply need to allocate yourself a certain budget for things such as hobbies and outings. There is a ton of great apps out there that can help you achieve your goals or keep track of your spendings- . I’ve been using Mint, found here.

Yes, it’s not always easy to tighten the belt. Sometimes what keeps me going is simply to remind myself that I COULD have a collection of fancy purses, but I CHOSE not to. It’s a very trivial way of thinking but it works for me.


     CREATING A BUDGET (the build AND a monthly household budget)


THE BUILD:
Your architect is your first line of knowledge as to how much your house will cost to be built. Before you start building, talk to a few contractors to see what you can expect. You can either chose to hire a single entrepreneur for the entire project or opt to chose your own contractors as you go. Be mindful to figure out exactly what will need to be done. Make multiple calls to get an idea of costs. Remember to ask what is included in an estimate and ALWAYS compare prices but NEVER solely base your decision on cost. You want your house to be around for a hundred years. Hire professionals who know what they are doing.

Example of what costs to consider: architect, land surveyor, legal fees, city permit costs (ex: 5,000$), demolition, excavation, soil testing, possibly needing to compact with sand (in our case 15,000$), equipment rental, formwork, foundations, structure (labor and materials), trusses, roofing, gutters, concrete slab, outside stairs, welding, metal beams, containers, plumbing, electricity (in the house and connection to the box), insulation (in the garage, under the slab and in the house), HVAC (the machine and the pipes), water tank, urethane spray, windows, doors, masonry.

Once you have these elements, your house is pretty much done from the outside. What’s left is putting up the walls, the flooring and adding the finishing touches (kitchen and bathrooms).

MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD BUDGET:
Talk to your friends and your family. Budgeting is not taboo. These people can give you an idea of exactly what to expect.

You should consider things such as: groceries, restaurants, internet/tv, car (payments, gas, repairs, regular maintenance), commute, electricity/heating, mortgage/line of credit payments, insurance (car and house), taxes, cell phone, hobbies (gym, classes etc), clothing, beauty/hygiene products, medical reserve, miscellaneous.

This can seem overwhelming, however the idea is to be realistic. You’ll be glad you did this at the end of the month.

   RESEARCHING THE LAW AND BY-LAWS


DEALING WITH THE CITY:
Before asking for a builder’s permit, remember to research exactly what needs to be provided to the city and be mindful of potential cutoff dates. You may need to present plans prepared by an architect as well, a plan prepared by a land surveyor as well as any other documentation. Your best bet is to consult a professional as each city has it’s own by-laws.

Evaluate whether your land is situated in a problem area such as a potential “flood zone” (extra precautions may be required).

DEALING WITH THE CONTRACTORS:

Do your research. Check if your contractor has a license and whether the company is still up and running. Do they have suits filed against them? Be cautious.

Know your rights. You are your first line of defence. Consult a lawyer to know what rights your contractor or sub-contractors may have and be mindful of delays. Do not pay a contractor upfront. Keep track of what is owed, obtain receipts and releases. Protect yourself.


MY EXPERIENCE... 


At the end of the day, you want to be prepared for what may come. There will be plenty of surprises so why not eliminate as many as possible. We've still a long way to go, however I am glad that the summer has already come and gone. Today, our windows and front door were installed and for the first time, I could see our house coming together. There is no better feeling. 

Surround yourself with people who will support you throughout your project. I know I'm infinitely  and eternally grateful for my friends and family. 

Part 3, coming soon! xo




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