DIY, Baking and Around Al Ain (aka our weekend)

Remember when I said we were going to Ikea? Well, we didn't.  We actually stayed in Al Ain this weekend.  We started with a few errands and grocery shopping.  I took a few photos of "downtown" Al Ain while we were out and about. (Excuse the glare.  Most of these were taking through the car window.)

Then it was DIY time.  This requires a bit of a back-story.

Bryn recently (a little over a week ago) bought himself an electric piano.  He's wanted one since we moved here, and when a work colleague offered him one for a very good price, he finally caved.  I was happy for him since I know how much he loves to play, but the minute he came home with it and got it inside, I turned to him and asked, "does your colleague smoke?"

The piano reeked of stale cigarette smoke, ugh.

I immediately put the bench and the music books out on the balcony to hopefully air out.  He took the entire thing apart and cleaned it up, but it didn't help much.  The whole living room smelled like an ash tray.  I gave him a week - if the smell didn't go away, the piano had to.  Lucky for him with a bunch of stick-on air fresheners/odor absorbers, open windows and practically a whole bottle of Febreeze, the piano smells normal again (unless you put your nose right in it, which I will avoid doing.)  The music and the bench however, still smelled really bad.  The music books can be replaced.  I decided that I could rip the old leatherette off of the bench and re-upholster it, hopefully getting rid of the worst of the stench.

So back to the weekend!  We got some leather-looking material from one of the fabric shops, some Japanese style floor cushions from the 100 yen shop, and a staple gun from Ace.  I spent the better part of the afternoon pulling the old staples out of the bench and removing the stinky "leather" and foam cushion and replacing them with our new, makeshift materials.  The end result was a decent looking piano bench that didn't smell like a bar!  So, I'm happy that my house doesn't smell of an ashtray anymore, and Bryn's happy he gets to keep his piano.  Win-Win.

Saturday morning Bryn went out to meet a friend for coffee.  They went to the mall I very much dislike, so I stayed home and baked cookies instead.  I've started to keep ingredients for chocolate chip cookies on hand so that I can whip up a batch whenever the mood strikes me.  There's nothing worse than craving something sweet, having nothing in the house, and having no means of transportation to go out and get anything!  I like the Nestle Tollhouse recipe (which is actually in my Southern Living Desserts cookbook!) but the secret to an amazing chocolate chip cookie?  Add a pinch of flakey sea salt on top just before baking - YUM!

I went to all this trouble to try and take artsy photos while I was preparing and then the first batch of cookies came out of the  So disappointing! My cookies usually turn out really good! I blame that I didn't have brown sugar (uh, yeah...about keeping all the ingredients on hand...), so I tried to improvise by mixing some molasses with white sugar.  I kept the dough anyway, and Bryn managed to fix it a bit by adding some more flour.

We had roast duck for dinner.  I think I have only eaten duck one other time before this and I couldn't remember whether I liked it or not.  Bryn wanted to have a go at cooking one and it was actually pretty good!  He served it with a red wine reduction, celeriac puree, sautéed fennel and fresh green beans - quite a fancy dinner!

The rest of the weekend was filled with episode after episode of the Australian cooking program, My Kitchen Rules.  We're a little bit obsessed, and now I really, really, really want to go to Australia.  (This is also the reason he wanted to cook the duck).

So there you have it, an oh-so-exciting weekend at the Thomas house (watermelon and all)!

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