Archive for June, 2018

Mexican Sour Gherkins

IMG_8623There is a lot of hammering and drilling and other construction noises emanating from the basement today. It’s sunny and warm and dry outside, which means it’s a good day to check out the garden.

I am growing Mexican Sour Gherkins!!!! They were a spur-of-the-moment purchase several weeks ago in May. It was FINALLY a warm, sunny, weekend day and I fled the house to soak up some sun and fresh air. Rutgers University was having its big Rutgers day celebration which I believe started many years when the Rutgers Ag school would have Ag day, and the students would sell their plants – flowers, herbs and vegetables. I have NEVER made it to Ag day, despite many of my friends singing its praise. I headed over there and picked up a few items, including my strawberry plant (which got its very own post) and something I’d never heard of before: Mexican sour gherkins. IMG_8620 I asked if I could grow it UP a trellis instead of in the ground with runners. The answer was as long as it’s supported, it should be fine.

The plant has been putting out skinny light green runners for weeks, and little yellow flowers have been appearing everywhere. Last week I noticed that some flowers had become fruit!! I’m hoping I’ll know when they can be harvested because so far the most detailed description that I have for size is “smaller than a grape”. That’s very small.

If you are going to follow one of these links, I suggest the one above to “Modern Farmer”. I found Mexican sour gherkins in Wikipedia, but they have a horrible name there: Melothria Scabra. All I can think of is scabrous which is a big yuck. *shudder* The description is a mite alarming as well. It says it can grow to 10 feet. Um, I have this in a pot. IMG_8621 There is no way I can support 10 ft of plant. On the other hand – it’s a very skinny vine. Maybe I can just keep looping it.

It’s very exciting to see these tiny gherkins growing. They are colorful and I’m getting a good crop. Stay tuned for more adventures of the ignorant farmer. ๐Ÿ™‚

Return to Renovations

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When last we left our heroine, she was remarking on the widened passage to the breakfast room, the emergence of the white cat, and hoping her husband liked sloped ceilings.

WC is still doing fine, and still throwing periodic hissy fits of hiding to remind us that she does NOT like change and does NOT like the new living conditions. On the other hand she is eating, drinking and producing output, even if she IS refusing any cuddling (wrong chair โ€“ she can only be cuddled on the downstairs furniture). IMG_8606As you can see, she’s just fine. BC and GC are fine too, although there seems to be a slight dispute over who sleeps with me. BC prefers to be on or between my calves, whereas GC prefers โ€œnext toโ€. BC understands the concept of sleeping in (at least until 6:30) and the concept that turning over in the middle of the night does NOT mean Iโ€™m awake. GC believes that ANY time is good for a cuddle and will purr in my ear, or lean over to tickle my face with her whiskers. If I roll over she will begin meowing to remind me that she is there to be cuddled. As GC never used to sleep with me, BC is a bit annoyed. I would not be surprised if one of these days I wake to a bit of caterwauling.

I’m still thrilled with the wide opening between the 2 rooms. It feels much more like a single room. Version 2We now have a pocket for our pocket door. The door to the basement has always partially blocked the big bay window over the sink. As the door stands open probably 98% of the time, it would be wonderful NOT to have it there. But for the 2% of the time that I NEED a door, I couldn’t get rid of the door. Solution: pocket door. The pocket door is one of the ways we chose our contractor. Contractor J didn’t think it was a good idea and wanted a folding door. Contractor M said good idea, yes, we can do that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Contractor M pretty much heard EVERYTHING I said even though I didn’t think he was listening. Contractor J ignored 3 of my key requests. Anyway, the pocket went up amazingly quickly. It necessitated removing 2 radiators (boiler/hot water system, 12 old cast iron radiators in the house). The front hall (yeah, I haven’t mentioned that little bit of this project) and the kitchen will have something more modern and stream-lined for heat.

IMG_8506I think that the same day they built the pocket they also framed out the cabinets. I had a long chat with the foreman yesterday and learned something I’d not noticed and probably never would have noticed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Apparently the (sewer?) pipe that runs from the upstairs bathroom down to the basement has an unsightly bulge. Now in some houses and pipes that unsightly bulge would have placed itself a little higher, a little lower. Not in our house. Never in our house. (Have I mentioned we hit another knob & tube wiring issue?) IMG_8567 In OUR house the unsightly bulge is right where our (gorgeous) backsplash is to be. The foreman dealt with this by framing out the cabinets about an inch further out than had there been no bulge. This does leave a gap between the existing tiled bay window and where things will now be, but that will be addressed with additional wood framing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I LOVE having competent, intelligent, forward-thinking contractors. This crew (foreman, electricians, carpenters, plumbing) have been simply fantastic. Innovate, responsive and cheerful. Which leads me to my sloped ceiling.

Much to my surprise and dismay my husband, the structural engineer, DID have an issue with a sloped ceiling. Keep in mind that the description I provide next is a non-engineer attempting to convey an engineering lesson. IMG_8592 Apparently if you remove the cross beam supports of the flat ceiling, you will have pressure on the bay window wall, causing it to bow outward. At the time when we discussed this I had no price estimate for the job, I had no reason to create marital discord and I let it drop. I was disappointed but knew that there were other things I’d want to champion and I’d already lived with the (wrong) flat ceiling for over 20 years. This past weekend we got the quote for doing the sloped ceiling. I wrote back to them and mentioned my husband’s issue with the slope and asked them to explain how they would deal with that downward-outward pressure. Yesterday the foreman and construction chief came by and discussed plans with my husband. To my everlasting gratitude, he agreed with their proposals and said that their adjustments addressed his concerns and we could go ahead. YAY!!!!!!! IMG_8593 My husband then took off for work leaving me to discuss all the OTHER issues: ways around our latest K&T issue, placement of switches, the fact that our electrical sub-panel is not up to code (the way they put it in 20 or so years ago), despite all the permits stuck on it, and what we’re going to do about modern radiators. There may have been a few other things but those were yesterday’s top items.

Today has been a day of hammering and power on and off and calls of “can you see if I’m on the right side?”. I had a long chat with the chief electrician and, oh what a surprise, we are adding another update to this job. For decades I’ve had a switch to turn on the deck lights on my deck (small, low wattage bulbs mounted under the bottom rail of the railing). The switch works fine but the lights don’t. ๐Ÿ™‚ We will get new deck lighting and have that done while the insides are ripped open. ka-ching, ka-ching. And one day I’ll describe what we hope to do in the front hall…….

Siri on bed

A Day at the Beach

IMG_8581Literally. There’s been a lot happening with renovation and personal issues. I’ve started several blogs but have been too crazed to finish and post. The short summary is that I had some minor surgery on Friday – part of the being crazed and then being totally exhausted. My niece, operating from her own POV and life (do other people REALLY have lives that do not center on ME???? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) contacted me and her mom (my sister) and suggested a beach day. The Jersey shore is my idea of heaven on earth so I “let” them “twist my arm”. We piled into the convertible and headed down the shore. *grin* Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” blasting from the speakers, passengers singing along loudly:
“Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer”

I said to my sister: We’re being filmed right now. We must be in a movie or a commercial. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are spoiled Jersey Girls – we NEVER go down the shore on the weekend – we always take off during the week. view of NY and shipsSo we were astounded at the backup to get into Sandy Hook. It must have been over 30 minutes to go those 2 miles. Of course I did NOT wait there. ๐Ÿ™‚ And NO, I did NOT line cut right at the end. I headed south past the exit, found a place to turn around and come back from that direction. Much faster. We found a great parking spot, a great blanket spot. The weather was perfect, the neighbors were orderly, quiet, no cigarettes, no music, no screaming. It was all perfect beach sounds of wind, surf, seagulls, and happy people. Only 2 sounds marred the perfection. The first was a drone but mercifully it only went by twice. NOT a beach sound. The 2nd was the sound of the group next to us with their battery-operated blender (against park rules, btw). But everytime they crushed that ice, omg, I wanted to go over and make friends. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d consider getting one but I don’t want to have to shlepp the ice.

Anyway – I’m sharing my day of healing and escape with you. I don’t have a premium account so I can’t upload the video I made just for you.

Renovation recording will resume.

view from my blanket

Where Do I Log My Complaint?

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This HAS to stop. This is WAY too cold for June. I’m cold. I’m tired of gray skies. I don’t mind the rain so much but could we kick the temperature up by 15 degrees???

Oh well, I suppose it could be worse. I could be having frost warnings like some people I know…..

Two Steps Forward

IMG_8525One step back, but then forward again. Which means that progress is being made. Let’s deal with the most important gains first.

WC, although still extremely angry, has relented sufficiently to allow us to see her during daylight hours. I’ve found her secondary hiding spot (in the office under a table behind a box) as opposed to the primary spot under our bed. She has even deigned to come and eat in the food room 2 out of 3 days. For breakfast that is. She’s still not convinced it’s safe to eat there for dinner. And that means that we are still serving her dinner in whichever room is her safe zone at the time – bedroom or office. Yes she has us VERY well trained.

IMG_8524GC and BC appear to be fine. BC is happy if we are upstairs with her. GC is happy as long as she gets fed and petted. Last night we were tossing rolling toys for BC to chase up and down the hall. I thought for one fleeting moment there GC might actually run, too. Hah! ๐Ÿ™‚ They are eating, complaining, playing, providing output and in general they seem to be adjusting. I’m not going to say any of us LIKE this setup as a permanent option, but it really gives me peace of mind during the day when doors are open all over and there is a lot of noise.

This week has been about plumbing and electricity. I knew something happened with the plumbing on Tuesday while I was out. You can’t fool ME, experienced homeowner that I am. Version 2I turned on the faucet and there was that familiar spitting air-in-the-line action that we all know from water being turned off. Wednesday I actually met 2 of the plumbers. They drained the radiators. Sigh, I spent thousands of dollars in March to put in a new boiler, which necessitates draining and refilling. Had I but known then what I know now, I could have done the radiator work then. More importantly, they removed the pipes that used to be behind some cabinets. This is EXTREMELY exciting because removing those pipes enables us to widen the doorway between the kitchen and the breakfast room by about 21 inches. Of course I have no “before” photo that shows clearly the limited sight line from the kitchen to the breakfast room, but the ‘after’ picture thrills me. Anyone reading this who has been in the rooms will see immediately the difference the wider doorway makes. I think it pulls the 2 rooms together to make them feel much more like one room. The other thing you can see in the ‘before’ photo I did post is the horrible ugly wall paper that we lived with for 6 years before we did the addition. I circled it so you wouldn’t miss it, and drew an arrow to show what got removed to make the larger passageway.

Today I was expecting the plumbers back but no, it was the electricians. When I finally left my desk to go say hello, not only were the electricians here but Manny was here as well. IMG_8527We were chatting in the breakfast room and I mentioned that had I realized that they’d be ripping out everything in the ceilings, I’d have asked to have them change my breakfast room ceiling to a sloped ceiling (vaulted?). This is something that escaped me when we did the addition. I thought that by asking for a skylight, I’d get that sloped ceiling automatically. Not the case. Anyway, Manny is supposed to ask Don for an estimate. Manny, Eli (the electrician) and I all think it would look fantastic. ๐Ÿ™‚ And most importantly for me – would let in a LOT more light. I’m all about light as you can tell from the bay windows and the multiple banks of lights in the kitchen. I haven’t actually run this new idea by my husband yet….. Even if Don okays it, it might not happen. Apparently my husband does NOT like garbage disposals in the sink, so that idea was abandoned. I hope he likes sloped ceilings.

IMG_8528 (1)The “one step back” came as I ate lunch. Eating my salad, reading the paper, and the lights went out. They were cutting knob and tube wires. YAY!!!!! It’s a small price to pay – no light in the dining room – if it means getting rid of the K&T. ๐Ÿ™‚ Eli and Chris just left but they restored power to the dining room lights and outlets. We even tested the TV – which works. Of course I still can’t work the TV properly because sometime since the superbowl cable tv has dropped off the menu at the bottom of the screen. There is now some convoluted routine to get from netflix to cable and back again, but don’t ask me to do it. That’s DEFINITELY a step back but NOT one I can attribute to the renovation.

I was going to go stare at my beautiful wide opening between the rooms and smile. But as I typed this I heard a forlorn beeping coming at regular intervals. I’m hoping it’s the microwave. Or the coffee pot. Or something easily silenced.

Worth a 1000 Words

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Weather Swings Like a Pendulum Do

IMG_8515Apologies to Roger Miller but England is not the only thing swinging. Our weather is crazy. It seems that since January we swing between extremes. I’m sure we had an 80 degree day in February, then we had a nor’easter every week in March. April did nothing but rain, rain, rain. Or was that May? May was another month of back and forth – warm and sunny one day, back down in 50s (that’s Fahrenheit folks) and gray for the next 6. Yesterday we hit 87F and it was incredibly humid with bright bright sunshine. Until the rainstorm hit about 2pm. Today it struggled to reach 65, and the wind is blowing so strongly that our deck umbrellas were knocked over.

IMG_8489My cats “swing” too. Great success with WC yesterday – she came out and ate breakfast in the doorway of the food room. She even sat in the blueberry box in the hallway – a favorite cat resting place apparently. All 3 cats loved the blueberry box (8 pints of blueberries came in that box) so I made sure to bring it upstairs to be part of The Great Incarceration. Today – WC scorned breakfast and never even came out from under the bed for dinner.

I went out and bought a microwave yesterday – much smaller than our previous one, which is headed for the rummage sale. Trying to situate the new microwave properly was an adventure – we “swung” from level surface to level surface. My first choice was no good because we couldn’t make the cord reach. I opted against my second choice because I realized the refrigerator was on the same outlet. IMG_8490The third surface was the charm but necessitated me reorganizing some of the dining room so that the cord would reach the outlet.

In the garden I noticed that the deer not only attack my hibiscus, but they appear to be eating the white wave petunias in the hanging baskets and also the tops off of the purple-leaf-thing-that-has-yellow-flowers. Something also feasts on the sweet potato vines. So I got out my cayenne pepper and covered them all. I like this approach because I grow a lot of herbs and vegetables and even if we missed washing off ALL the cayenne it won’t hurt us. And besides – the commercial repellents are truly repellent – for us, too. Which reminds me, I forgot to spray the ferns out back with the truly repellent chemicals. It’s rained (of course) since I did it last. But it’s WAY too windy to attempt that now.

IMG_8517There have been some minor successes and improvements. I ATE my first home-grown strawberry. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can see it in the picture but it’s not there anymore. My new porch railings are up and they are GORGEOUS. My Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia arrived and got planted. I finally remembered to get the plant supports out of the garage and brace the spiderwort. I planted two canna lilies where the wretched weeds wandered in. I bought a plastic dish rack for sitting on top of the washing machine in the basement – our new dishwashing location. (Notice the preponderance of garden tasks as opposed to indoor tasks.)

Today was given to a few more errands, still trying to make our renovation existence as smooth as possible. Somehow that also involved buying 2 new pairs of shoes….. It’s not MY fault that the shoe store is next to the BB&B store.

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