Happy Birthday to Me

IMG_8905 (1)So now a post about a hotel that does things right…. Okay, that’s probably not fair. The staff at the Four Points did all they could to help make a bad situation (no a/c) better. The complaint really should be directed at the management in charge of the infrastructure. Be that as it may, we fled the Sheraton Sunday morning and spent most of the day running around again in the 100+ degree temperature.

We arrived at the Hilton Phoenix/Chandler a little after 5pm. I have no idea how many miles we’ve logged on the car by this point. We have been all around Tempe, around Chandler, to and from Scottsdale, pretty much everywhere but Phoenix itself. I was hot, headache-y, dehydrated (my fault) and thoroughly done with all of the errands we’d been doing (more about that in a different post). Today is my birthday. I’ll be spending most of it alone at the hotel. When we checked in at the front desk yesterday we told the front desk clerk how thrilled we were to be there. We began to tell her the highlights (lowlights?) of the last 4 evenings. When we mentioned no a/c she looked truly horrified and said that she thought that might actually be illegal in Arizona. We told her our woes and she immediately wrote a voucher for 2 free drinks from the bar. 🙂 I thanked her and said that it would be a wonderful birthday treat as my birthday was the next day.

We went up to our room on the Executive level. The room was nice, had WORKING a/c, access to the Executive lounge, free breakfast, and I have a late, 2pm checkout. We changed into our bathing suits, stopped at the lobby bar to get directions to the pool and ask about hours for our free drinks. The bartender offered to put our drinks in plastic cups so we could take them to the pool. *huge grin* We accepted. We had the pool to ourselves. IMG_8918It was great. There was a faint breeze (warm of course but at least moving air). After the pool, it was perfect (I even was a bit chilled). We went into the whirlpool. Ahhhh, jets on my aching back. We sipped our drinks. The woman in charge of public areas, Luisa, came by and we had a great chat with her. She was the first native-to-Phoenix area we’d met. We talked weather, and which Hilton I should use when I come back to visit my son in February. (I confess, I’m going to miss my yearly February trip to see him in FLORIDA.) Luisa was lovely and very helpful. When we went back inside she introduced us to one of the managers and mentioned my birthday. *grin*

We changed and went back to the lobby bar/grill for dinner. The food was fantastic, much to my surprise. I know we are off-season and it did not appear that there were many people there, so it could have been possible to have the kitchen off its game. Not the case. The same bartender also took our order and knew how to make my G&Ts (yes, plural) just the way I like. I had a very interesting chat with my son and learned more about his writing work, the details of which I’d never quite understood. At the end of our meal the front desk attendant came to comp us a dessert for my birthday, and the bartender comped me a drink. It was absolutely lovely. We came back upstairs and luxuriated in the COOL room.

This morning we took advantage of our executive breakfast privileges. My son headed off for his first day of work at the new job, and I came back to my COOL room to blog. 🙂 In a bit I will change into my bathing suit and head to the pool. Keeping with this theme of hardship and suffering today, I need to search for a place for birthday dinner and first-day-of-work celebration. We’re thinking steak. I have a red-eye out at 11pm tonight. I have checked in and it seems that I am still in 1st class, and my plane is on time. May it be so – don’t fail me, United!!!! Let’s end this travel on a positive note!!!!!!

If it sounds too good to be true…..

If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably missing some fine print…..

When you travel, much gets compressed into a very short span of time. Although this was only 5 days ago – it feels like last month.

My son and his friend picked me up at Sky Harbor terminal 4 and we headed off to terminal 2 to drop off the friend for his flight out. *smile* Learning the signage of a new airport is always interesting. Suffice it to say we had a very comprehensive tour of the Sky Harbor before stopping at terminal 2. We headed for the hotel to address the little hiccups of our reservations.

I was juggling many things at the time I needed to book a hotel. I really hate having to make travel decisions when I am faced with many options. In such situations, I turn to my sister. I asked her help for booking me into a hotel for 5 nights. I gave her my son’s new work address, I gave her a price range, and my basic “musts” – free parking and free wifi. She is a devotee of Bookings. com and came back with an amazing find: The Four Points Sheraton only 15 minutes or so from my son’s new office. The amazing part was the special deal being offered on Bookings.com: $47/night. Normally I’d be looking for a 4 or 5 star luxury hotel on the theory that this trip was my vacation. But this deal was too good to pass up, and Sheraton is a good brand, and the hotel not only had my “musts” but Bookings.com claimed there was a spa onsite as well. I booked my 5 nights. I heard from my son that they were almost to Tempe and they’d booked a different hotel. I said let’s just have you in the same place I’ll be so you don’t have to change. I went online and got them the same hotel, but for $52/night for the 2 nights before I arrived. Unfortunately (and not unreasonably) the hotel needed my okay before they would roll my son’s stay into mine (think about packing luggage and all that). He had a delayed checkout so that’s what we needed to address once I landed and before we did anything else.

Let me stop here and say that this hotel should have been an absolute perfect choice at an amazing price. The rooms were nice, the beds were comfortable, the lighting was good (enough light to read in a comfy chair in the room and great lighting in the bathroom – white, not yellow, for people who might want to apply makeup), the water pressure was excellent, electrical outlets and USB ports everywhere, and fantastic staff. The room had both a safe and a refrigerator. The refrigerator was large enough to store two gallon-jugs of water. The room and the hallways and the common areas were clean, the elevator prompt, and there were desks and tables for business use in the lobby area. There was a pool. There was NO spa, despite the claim on Bookings.com. The clerk explained to me that it HAD been right next door but that it had moved across the road. This hotel really has/had a lot going for it. All WE really needed was a place to sleep at night – we were out all day long every day doing business.

As we drove to the hotel, I learned more details about the previous 2 nights, and why there was a special deal for $47/night. When they had checked in to room 203, there was a slight problem – the a/c was not working. Given that Tempe was under a severe heat advisory for temperatures reaching 117 degrees F, a/c was a necessity, not a luxury. They went back to the front desk where they were booked into 218 which had working a/c. Ahhhhhh. But the wifi was sporadic. The next morning my son attempted to extend 218 into my reservation. He was told no problem, happy to help. But when they attempted to update the computer, room 218 could not be changed (dates couldn’t be updated). Odd, they said. We’re sure someone can help with this tomorrow which is when you need it. When the men went up to room 218 for their second night, their keys didn’t work. Okay, that often happens with these digital keys. They went back to the front desk and got the keys reactivated. Everything was okay except for the broken desk chair, which really was not such a big deal, and the wifi – which kept cutting out. Even so, it was okay. The men spent time chatting with the front desk clerk, Jimmie, and learned that the hotel was being sold by Sheraton to Marriott. I’m not sure at what point of the transfer-to-business they were at, but both Sheraton and Marriott are reputable hotels and things should have been maintained.

Let me reiterate that the staff a this Sheraton have been wonderful, cheerful, helpful – not a single complaint here about the people involved.

It was now the 2nd morning for the 3rd night stay and we went to the front desk. But they couldn’t change room 218 to be for additional evenings. Jimmie said no problem! I’ll book you into a better room (I’d mentioned casually that I was really a princess and liked luxury). He booked us into 106 which was a suite!!! A living room, and a separate bedroom. Uh oh – it was a single king-size bed. I love my son very much but I do NOT want to share a bed with him. We went back to Jimmie and explained this and he said no problem – I’ll get you a room with 2 queen beds. He did, but the room was not yet available. We left our luggage in 106 and took off for lunch and errands.

When we got back a little after 3, we got keys for room 233. We went there and all seemed fine. The wifi worked, the room was cool, everything looked good. I showered (good water pressure, hot & cold water) and we rested awhile before going out to dinner. We came back and noticed that the desk chair was missing a roller on one of the legs. Not a big deal. We went to sleep but noticed that the room was really not as cool as the thermostat was indicating. In the morning on our way out the door we mentioned the a/c and the chair.

Back to the hotel late on Thursday evening and up to the room. Our room keys didn’t work. We went back to the front desk to get them charged. Up to the room again and – wow, it was warm. Chair still broken. We lowered the thermostat as far as it would go and put the fan on high. We went to sleep. Yeah, it was warm all night, not all that comfortable.

Out early again Friday morning, waved to Jimmie. Back late on Friday – hot, tired, just wanting to drop and relax. The room keys didn’t work. Back down to the front desk to charge the keys. Up to the very warm room. I suggested to my son that he take a cool shower and that perhaps the room would be more comfortable. He went in, and came back almost immediately. Great idea, he said, but there’s no cold water. I’d noticed that there was only a very short arc for the cold water the other day and then you hit the hot water. I went in to see if that was the issue. Not only was there no cold water at all, but the water coming out of the faucet was scalding hot – you could not keep your hand under the water. I did lose my temper at that point (having lost my cool a long time ago that day *smile* Tempe is HOT).

I went down to the front desk and, in a calm, quiet but very very forceful voice told Jaylen that he had 10 minutes to get maintenance up to that room to fix the water or we were out of there. That the a/c issue was bad enough, the room keys ridiculous, but only scalding water was completely unacceptable. Fix it or we were gone. (To be honest, even as I said that, I kept thinking why would Jaylen care if we stayed or went? But I suppose someone within the Sheraton or Marriott hierarchy might care.) Less than 2 minutes after I got back in the room, the maintenance man was there. When he saw my son he smiled and said Hi! how are you? as if they were old friends. Which I suppose they were by this point. He did fix the water and I pointed out the broken desk chair and he fixed that as well (all it needed was a new roller). The room was warm but at least we were both cool so we stayed.

Up early Saturday morning and out the door. Running all day, back to the hotel late again. We were getting wiser about the door keys. I went up to the room while my son got his key recharged. Wonder of wonders – my key still worked. Unfortunately when we entered the room it was hot. Not warm, hot. The little bit of a/c we’d been having seemed to be gone. Okay, we’ll take showers, relax. Scalding hot water again. Back down to the front desk to Jimmie, who really should not have been there at that time of night but someone hadn’t shown up and he was working a double-shift. (My son’s theory is that Jaylen couldn’t cope with the issues and quit. *grin*) Jimmie was looking a tad beleagured and there were people all over the lobby and at the desk. He looked up at me, smiled, and said – I know – the a/c, right? I said ‘oh no, we’re used to that, this is something else’. I listened as he explained that yes, the a/c was broken, yes, they were working on it, no, he couldn’t refund money, no couldn’t pay for an Uber to another hotel, no, he couldn’t pay for another hotel, he was happy to ‘comp’ guests to free food and drinks at the bar, but he could not do anything more. In addition, he was keeping the pool open all night for people to use to cool down. Amazing how many times people keep insisting on the same demands and refusing to accept the reply. Finally it was my turn and I explained about the water. The maintenance man came (same man) and did the same thing to fix the water. The room was still uncomfortable. I found that by propping the door open with a suitcase we could get air movement through the room and it was tolerable. Unfortunately we did need to shut the door ultimately to sleep. I said to myself that there was no way we were staying for the last night and I went down to tell Jimmie we’d be checking out in the morning. I went online and did what I should have done Thursday evening – I booked myself into a nearby Hilton.

I woke around 3:30 in the morning and I was HOT. I went to the bathroom to run my hands under cool water. I was hot. Really hot. If I was hot, my son must have been in total misery. I came out to find he’d moved off the bed to the chair. I touched his skin and he was burning. I went and filled the ice bucket and began filling plastic bags with ice and putting them on his pressure points (temple, wrists, ankles, feet) to cool him down. I had the door propped open again to try to get the air to move. I wrapped more ice in a wash cloth to wipe his back, arms and legs. This was ridiculous. He was finally cooled down sufficiently to go back to sleep. I shut the door again and also went back to bed.

We packed and went down to check out early Sunday. Poor Jimmie was back on the front desk. Honestly – he is phenomenal. He stayed cheerful and polite. I told the Hilton people to hire him away. 🙂 Anyway, time to check out and the final insult upon injury – they’d charged me $52/room, not $47. I couldn’t find my confirmation email on my phone, Jimmie couldn’t find any such rate in his computer. After perhaps 4 minutes of looking I thought – what the heck am I doing, just get the heck out of this heat trap. It’s $20. Kiss it goodbye and run. And so we did.

And thus ends the saga of our stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain.

Leaving. Not Leaving. Leaving. Not….

Well. This has been an eventful week. The walls are spackled and sanded, and the painter has begun priming the walls and painting the ceiling. My understanding is that he will be done sometime on Saturday. I have no pictures to share, however, as I am not there. I am in Arizona. Lucky and glad to be here, too!

IMG_8791WHY Arizona in July??? Because my son has gotten a new job here in Tempe. He and a friend took a week to drive from Orlando, FL to Tempe. The friend flew out on Wednesday and I flew in to help with house/room hunting. The flying-in process was messed up and annoying but did work out ultimately. I think in the long run I may even have come out ahead.

You may have gotten the impression that at times I decide I neeeeeeeed to be treated as a princess. *grin* Flying is one of those times. I booked 1st class tickets using 2 different airlines so that I would have the most comfortable accommodation AND the most convenient flight times and fly non-stop. Odd as it may sound to you, the convenient fly-to-Phoenix time involved getting up at 4:00 am to get to the airport for the 5+ hour flight. I was just shutting down my applications in preparation for sleep when I received a text message: your AA flight is cancelled.

IMG_8793Of course I stressed out immediately. My husband had already gone to bed because he, too had to get up at 4 to take me to the airport. Immediately after the text about the cancelled flight I got a text that I had been re-booked to leave 6.5 hours later, from a different (inconvenient) airport with a stop in St. Louis. There was no way that would work for me. I knew that UA, which I was using to fly home, left EWR 45 minutes earlier than AA. I called UA to see if they could modify my flight to include flying to Phoenix. They were happy to sell me a 1st class ticket for only $1500. Ummm, no. She recommended I call AA and see if they could put me on the UA flight.

I called AA. I chatted with a pleasant man named Michael. As we talked, about changing my flight to UA (where he claimed he saw no seats despite the fact that *I* could see that 1st class seat still) he told me my flight was reinstated. I was again leaving on my AA non-stop flight to Phoenix at 6:45 am. I didn’t get any text message about this, nor did I get an email. He assured me that I was indeed on that flight, but my boarding pass was not good anymore – I’d need a new one. What that SOB failed to mention was that while I was reinstated on the flight, all my seat information had been wiped. Poorly played, American Airlines, poorly played.

IMG_8827When I got to the airport, and printed my boarding pass, it said I had no seat assignment. Please keep in mind I’d paid over $300 extra to be in 1st class. I hate to sound money-oriented or cheap but that is a significant expenditure. I’m going to summarize here but keep in mind I had to live this for over an hour, with many, many, many other unhappy people.

When I got to the boarding gate, and went for my seat, they offered me a middle seat all the way in the back of coach. I said no way, I paid over $600 for 1st class, where the heck is my seat?? They explained that when the flight was cancelled, all that information was lost. I said that nice Michael had assured me I was okay. They said well maybe he’d fixed everything but they claimed that the flight had been cancelled and reinstated several times overnight. In the end, the 6:45 am flight was ON, BUT the 10:15 am flight was cancelled, and all of THOSE people were also on the 6:45 flight now, and 1st class was full. I said there is no way this is acceptable. They would not refund the price differential. They offered me $200 voucher as compensation BUT because the flight was now oversold, they’d offer me $500 voucher to not fly. I said are you out of your minds? Either put me in first class or refund the entire differential. They said – how about a $1000 voucher to give up your seat and we will put you on a non-stop leaving at 9:00 am?

IMG_8806My son will now live in Tempe, AZ. There will now be family traffic between EWR and PHX. As long as I bought the ticket for my son (in his name), I could use my voucher for it. $1000 would buy either a lot of trips for him in coach, or a round-trip for me in 1st (he’s not a princess *grin*). I did not have to be in Phoenix at a specific time. Although they did not have a 1st class seat for me on the 9 am flight, I decided that this was actually a good deal and I accepted it. I watched as that plane was crammed full, out of overhead bin space, every seat taken. I accepted my new boarding pass and my voucher, thinking I was well off that plane. I texted my son and gave him the new flight information and wandered off to find some coffee and breakfast.

While I was eating breakfast and relaxing, I got a text message. The 6:45 am flight (which I was no longer on, remember) was not leaving at 6:45 am but now leaving at 7:45 am. I thought – those poor people, stuck on that plane. A little later I got another text. The 6:45 flight was now leaving at 9 am. Omg, I thought, are they STILL stuck on that plane??? I was quite relieved to be sipping coffee in the restaurant with lots of room to either side of me.

IMG_8829After breakfast I wandered back to the boarding gate where I saw scores of familiar looking people, and bins filled with water and juice bottles. Yes, it was the 6:45 am flight. I began chatting with some of them and it turned out that the pilot had never made it to the airport – they were waiting for a new crew. The night before we’d had torrential rain in NJ. Apparently the pilot was on Rt 80 on his way to the airport when they closed down that interstate due to flooding. He couldn’t move forward, he couldn’t get off, he couldn’t get to the airport.

Again I laughed to myself and thought I’m so glad I’m NOT on this flight. They loaded up the plane again and as I sat there, waiting to see the plane leave, I heard the attendants paging “Passenger Heliosense, Passenger Heliosense, please come to the desk”. Heliosense is fairly common name around these parts but I went up to the desk and said, am I the Heliosense you are paging? They said: Ahuva? I said yes. They said, we can put you on this plane. It was the same young man I’d talked to before. IMG_8835I said I am NOT getting in the back of coach in a middle seat. They assured me that I was in a window seat, the first row behind 1st class, and I would keep my $1000 voucher and my carryon could be stored in an overhead bin. This was again a decent offer so I accepted and texted my son again with changed information.

The attendant walked me down to the plane and led me on. My overhead bag was placed in a bin in 1st class. *grin* My bag knows how to travel. I went to row 7 but….. it was a middle seat. Apparently the couple in the middle and aisle seats had decided that the window person wasn’t coming and he’d moved over. The whole plane was now waiting on me to sit down so I did – in the middle seat. But I performed my own rebellion – I kept my OTHER bag with me, despite not having a seat under which I could store it. It was gray, my pants were gray, I tucked it behind my legs and hoped no one would notice or if they did, they’d ignore it. And that’s how it worked out.

The flight was not bad, I had plenty of room since there was no row ahead of us, the couple both slept, each slumped to the side of their seat AWAY from me. I arrived in PHX around 11:15, only 2 hours later than originally planned.

I went outside to wait for my son to get me and …… OMG. It is HOT here. I love heat, I love sun, I am a sun worshipper (HELIOSENSE – get it????) but oh my. It was 116 degrees F. I have been in the Negev and the Sinai desserts and I do not believe I have EVER felt heat like this. But the sky was clear and there were MOUNTAINS, and I was in PHX AND I have a $1000 voucher to try this again and hope it’s less eventful. 🙂 I’ll leave this story here for now, but I warn you…. the saga continues with the hotel……

(Apologies for the poor photos – many of them were taken from a moving car. Although my son is better than Honour at stopping for photos, sometimes we did have to keep moving.)

Light and Air

I’m not very observant. Oh for some things – like spotting a spider on a wall or ceiling – I’m eagle-eyed. For others, like new haircuts or eye glasses, not so much. Apparently light-switches fall in the “not observant” category. IMG_8786 It seems the day we got the walls, we also got a working light switch in the kitchen! It controls the light at the bottom of the basement stairs. This is wonderful news (although NOT as good news as a working kitchen sink will be). Whenever I’ve had to go to the basement in the evening, I have had to take a flashlight. There is a working switch at the bottom of the stairs but if I don’t want that light burning all evening, I have to turn it off. Then I have to navigate both the stairs and the rough, unfinished kitchen floor in the dark. Now I have light. It’s a lovely touch.

The men doing the spackling were here again yesterday and I got to meet them. It has been extremely humid and raining off and on. This is NJ in the summer after all. They pointed out that it would be really helpful if I would run the a/c unit in the breakfast room to help speed with the drying. IMG_8787I said there’s no power in the breakfast room. I know this because I lost my deck light, my garage light and the ceiling fan, all things I have been reaching for in vain for the last 8 weeks. Then we both looked at the a/c, the wall, and the outlet, and I realized that the spackler was running a little fan in the breakfast room. Obviously there is power in the breakfast room, but on THAT wall, not the deckside wall. They didn’t rip apart the wall on the driveway side. Another visual miss (or maybe a logical processing miss). This morning I pulled off all of the insulation, inside and outside, and the a/c is humming away. That was a great excuse for me to turn on the a/c throughout the house because it is again extremely humid with forecast for scattered showers. I sat and sweated yesterday but today, in deference to the spackling, I’m running the a/c. 🙂 I’m very thoughtful that way.

Renovations Resume

IMG_8765We passed the inspection earlier this week and we are now back on track! The drywall came in on Wednesday. I was so out of practice of renovation blogging that I forgot to take a picture of all of the drywall boards lined up in the kitchen. I wasn’t home Thursday but when I got back there were walls! It is amazing how the size of the room seems to change depending on each new stage. I’d gotten used to the BIG kitchen area. Now it seems small again.

I fled the house again on Friday so I have no idea what it sounds like when they are building walls and ceilings, nor when they begin filling in the cracks. What I DO know, however, is that drywall makes lots and lots and lots of white dust. IMG_8780We grilled on the deck last night for dinner. The front hall looked much the same except that I cleaned it already. 🙂 And that even if no work is happening in the basement, there is sufficient banging and thudding upstairs to create dust and chips and mess downstairs. So much for all my vacuuming and dusting last weekend. I had to sweep up debris again last night when I went downstairs to wash some dishes. I am longing for a kitchen sink with running water.

I’m still a tad ignorant about the whole drywall business. I gather there is still more to be done, that it (something) takes multiple coats. They are due back on Monday to do more whatever. In the meantime my painter stopped by on Friday and chatted with the workers. It seems as though he might be able to prime the walls and paint the ceilings beginning Wednesday or Thursday. I’m told that depends on how quickly the walls dry, which is impacted by humidity. New Jersey. Summer. Rain forecast for Monday and Tuesday. There will be humidity.

IMG_8781After the walls we get a floor. That will be wonderful because despite all of the warning, and despite knowing better, I keep walking through the construction bare-foot. Yes, invariably I find sharp things on the floor. Much like stepping on Lego blocks – no serious damage to the foot but EXTREMELY uncomfortable.

Where was I hiding while the seams and cracks in the wall were being filled? A friend had invited me to go down the shore with her for the day. IMG_8772Twist my arm. 🙂 I promptly rescheduled my dentist appointment, cancelled one of my meetings for Friday and sent my regrets for the others. I’d much rather be breathing salt air, and hearing the sound of wind and waves and happy beach sounds than breath white dust and hear hammering. I’ll have plenty of that on Monday, I’m sure.


IMG_8695Construction has come to a halt while we wait for the township to come and inspect the insulation. I have been extremely surprised at how quickly we have had the past inspections. It seemed Don had but to call and an appointment was scheduled within the week. Not this time. This is more what I had expected, given some of my other dealings with government when trying to sell our mother’s house. We are stalled for over a week, waiting to get the next inspection done. I think this is the last inspection for quite a bit. I don’t think the next few rounds of activity are going to require stage-by-stage approvals. So no renovation news until next week sometime, when we pass inspection (we hope) and start on the walls.

In the meantime I’ll share garden pictures. I’ve been working in my sun room in the front of the house. The house faces south, which means that sun room can get quite warm. IMG_8697That’s a good thing in the winter but can be a bit much in the summer, hence the awnings. A friend of mine said “why AWNINGS??? They are so DARK!!!!” Well, yes, I replied, but come and join me when the temps are in the 90s. The awnings are a real help then. There are 8 windows in that sun room. I keep the blinds shut in the early morning, until the sun rises above the awnings and there is no direct light into the room. My co-workers have been commenting on my beach room, because that is, of course, what I did with my sun room. It is a very happy place for me, even if the chair/desk situation is not very good for my back. I’m in the office today and I’m wearing my sweatshirt and drinking hot coffee because I’m COLD in the air conditioning. But the chair is soooo comfortable and I love my 2 ft monitor. Pros and cons everywhere.

Spring flowers (peonies and roses) are done but many of the summer flowers are blooming. I love them, but I confess that I get bored around mid-July with having to water them so much. I have a soaker hose, and I even have a 4-way spigot I could put on the outdoor faucet. I just haven’t gotten to it. IMG_8710A common refrain: “not gotten to that yet”. I know Honour knows this song too. I love canna lilies as you can see in the photos – I have them in 3 places. It’s almost time for the rudbeckia to bloom as well. I picked some of my “crops” to snack on today in the office: yellow cherry tomatoes, which are wonderfully sweet, and Mexican sour gherkins. The gherkins are fun but they are very sour. 🙂 I’m trying to think of a good way to use them to take advantage of the taste. I have another tomato plant as well as the cherry tomatoes, but that second plant has produced a single tomato. One. And my hot pepper plants have done nothing. I bought all of those at the ag fair back in the spring. I’m a bit disappointed with most of my purchases there. Only the gherkins and the cherry tomatoes seem to have thrived.

I need to trim the front hedge again. I took it down quite a bit in the spring, but it needs some attention. I need to tame the forsythia and the rhododendron on the side of the house. I cropped the picture to avoid the overgrown azaleas and the huge taller-than-my-dining-room-window weed that is growing by the outdoor faucet. That side of the house is definitely in need of major pruning. The lilac bush is blocking my way to that faucet, and so are the spider webs that spring up as soon as I clear them away. This past weekend was actually perfect pruning weather but I had other plans. I need to hire someone. Of course, I now need to hire someone to cut the grass as well, because my young high-school grass-cutter found himself a permanent job. It may be time for me to stop supporting the local youths and simply hire a lawn care service. But only if they’ll do it without chemicals. Or I could just let it all grow and grow….

Up and Down

basement wiresLots of things have been up and down this weekend. Especially me – up and down the basement stairs. One of the ‘promises’ my husband and I make to each other is that our next home will be one story – no more stairs. Highly unlikely, but everyone needs the hope of something better.

Down: I broke 2 pieces off of the vacuum cleaner while I tried to get every little spec of kitty litter off the carpeting upstairs. Oh yeah, we are so ripping out those carpets when the kitchen is done. This is only half-down because the vacuum still works. I’m not sure what those pieces did.

Up: a wonderful day spent out in glorious sunshine, without humidity, at a very good street fair with a fun friend. The weather was perfect, the fair was well attended but not jammed, and we found a parking spot in the shade.

laundry sinkDown: broke one of the 2 light bulbs in the refrigerator. Again, not really down-down because we are not keeping this refrigerator anyway. But annoying because there is now less light. Also annoying because I think the bulb broke off so part of it is still in the fixture, so I can’t just put in a new bulb.

Up: found a new artist at the craft show whose work I really like – Linda McAdams. Had to buy a piece to bring home with me, and I’m hoping to get one to put in the kitchen, to hang between the basement door and front hall door. She takes photos and transfers them to wood. The grain of the wood enhances the photos and makes for extremely appealing landscapes. She can make them to spec as well. I notice that the one that I liked is cropped differently in the photo I took at the show, than it is in the version on the website.

new art palm treeDown: I dropped one of my plastic lids so that it is under one of the cabinet drawers. I don’t have room to remove the drawer to get to the lid, and I haven’t been able to get sufficient leverage to try to knock it out under the opened drawer. When they move this piece back into the breakfast room they’ll take the drawers out and I’ll get it then. In another 6 weeks…..

Up: Managed to find enough surface and tools to make 3 different salads to have handy in the house. I’m very tired of store-bought salads and all the plastic containers. Here’s a concept – just like we bring our own bags, we should be able to bring our own containers to have them filled with salads and other prepared foods. We managed to cook dinner 3 nights in a row on the grill, with salad and corn on the cob. Perfect. And I also found everything I was trying to find (plastic containers, potato peeler, measuring spoons, spices) with the sole exception of the good can opener (hand operated). I did find the not very good one, which I had upstairs to deal with recalcitrant cat food cans, but the good one is not in any of the 3 kitchen implement storage bins. Or it is, but it was hiding. But still – this is the first thing in 6 weeks that I have been unable to locate. That’s not a bad percentage.

Down – or is this Up? Once again I am playing the role of Sisyphus, this time trying to deal with dust and debris. We’re both a bit tired of having to schlep dirty dishes to the basement to wash them (and I had a lot after making the salads and dinner). I spent a good hour or more in the basement sweeping and vacuuming and wiping down surfaces and objects trying to deal with the residual mess from opened ceilings and drilled holes and other banging and hammering. care packageI am REALLY growing to loathe the hanging wires at the foot of the basement stairs. Short as I am, I still bang my head on them no matter which way I duck. I understand why my husband goes down those stairs even less than I do. But on the upside of this down, the laundry area is MUCH cleaner, even if I did inhale a ton of dirty dust, and even if I know it’s only momentary until the workmen are back. I also swept the kitchen and breakfast room areas, including the “carpet” that is meant to help us walk safely between rooms. Another probably pointless task but at least for the moment I am not seeing pieces of wood or wire or other chunks of whatever. It was the window seat in the breakfast room that triggered this particular boulder-up-the-hill effort. I just had that replaced this March and it was completely covered in dust and debris. I wonder if my new blinds will ever be clean again. I wish I had realized they’d be coated with dust. I could have taken them down. Or realistically – had someone take them down for me. *grin*

flock of sea birdsHUGE UP: I came home from the street fair to discover a BOX! It was from Honour. On the label it said “paper bags”. That was odd. Why was Honour sending me paper bags????? I opened the box and lo and behold – the label lied. (Must have been her Canadian accent.) It was a care package sent with love from Canada. Apparently somewhere in the last several days Honour had gotten the impression that I was a little stressed, and thought I could use a bright spot in my day. 🙂 Brilliant woman. The box was chock-full with edible goodies AND a non-edible puffin!!! My husband and I both grabbed for the puffin. 🙂 It’s mine. 🙂 We made a start on the yummies that night with the cranberry cookies. The puffin made friends with the seagull and took up residence in my sun room, which is my beach room. A good place for a puffin, right?

Adding not Subtracting

IMG_8699We have definitely turned the corner. We are not yet in the home-stretch but
have rounded the first curve. 🙂 Yesterday we passed another inspection – a building inspection for the fire-stops. Today the insulation was added. This means another building inspection and then….. then…. WALLS!!!!

I’ve been answering some questions from Manny (do I want a want a tilt-out soap tray? No.) and hoping for some suggestions from him about new deck lighting. It’s clear that my husband and I are excited about very different aspects of the kitchen. When I talk to people it’s all about light & space: opening the doorway, the pocket door, the slanted ceiling in the breakfast room. He is very much about the stove and the counters. When I was chatting with the foreman and reciting back to him “what happens next” I listed walls, floor, cabinets, appliances. I forgot about the counter top completely. I confess – I’ve NEVER walked into any kitchen or showroom or anywhere and said “WOW!!! What a gorgeous counter!” Obviously counters are not my thing. Although at the moment I am missing them greatly because it’s very difficult and unpleasant to try to do any food preparation in the little piece of the dining room table that is available. I know, first world problems, right?

We are also tweaking the schedule to make life easier on our painter. Don (the foreman) suggested that our painter might want the opportunity to get in and do the priming and the ceilings once the sheet rock was done.IMG_8700 I checked and he agreed. Given that this is July, we all expect that it will take days for the sheet rock to dry sufficiently for any further work. Our forecasts here are 3Hs – hazy, hot and humid – now through August. Don even suggested having the painting done, but I haven’t the faintest idea what color I’m going to want. I’m not going to be able to figure that out until the counter top and the backsplash are in place.

I think it’s probably time to start looking for a new ceiling fan for the kitchen (sans lights) and for funky cabinet handles and knobs. I’m going to have to make a decision whether I want to keep with my earth tones/materials in the kitchen or if I want to look for something funky (like steampunk) or if I want to get splashes of bright color. One thing about knobs and handles – if I get it wrong it should be fairly simple to change. I hope. Sure beats knob & tube wiring issues.

A New Career

Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Apparently I am an architect. 🙂

We were having a lovely, lovely 4th of July BBQ with friends, folks we have not seen in ages. Of course we were sharing the saga of the kitchen renovations. Most of them had also lived through a renovation or two. After asking about the contractor we were using, one of the men asked “Who’s the architect?” I looked at him, puzzled. “Architect?” I shrugged and said “we don’t have an architect, what does an architect DO?” He replied “Decides on heights and changes in walls and where things go.” I looked at my husband, still a bit puzzled. My husband gave that little secret smile of his and sort of nodded my way and said to me “You’re the architect.”

I guess I AM. I’m the one who is changing the doorways and the ceilings and deciding other structural changes.

Look at me – I’m an architect! I’d better figure out what the heck the soffit IS and how it’s going to work with the crown molding. *grin* search: images soffit………

Renovation Hardships

When we told our friends about the kitchen renovation, and that it would take 10-12 weeks to complete, almost ALWAYS the first question was “What will you do about FOOD?” I scoffed and said what was so terrible, we’d have the grill on the deck, we had a microwave, we had a refrigerator. I was right and I was wrong. We do have all of that and more (coffee, hot water, toaster oven) but it’s really not the same. My husband is reveling in this lack of kitchen because he gets to stop every day and pick up food for dinner. I notice he’s also spending a fortune on eating out for breakfast and lunch because there are never any leftovers to take. Bringing in food is not awful, but it’s a lot higher in calories and much less fresh than if we were making our own. I usually make up a huge salad and then munch my way through it during the week (much the way the local deer work their way through our gardens and yards). I miss all the fresh veggies and I miss my weekly trip to the local farmers’ market 5 block away.

I thought I was prepared to deal with the cutlery and dishes. I bought a huge quantity of plastic ware and paper plates and plastic (recyclable) cups. After all, we have no dishwasher and no kitchen sink. Yet we still use dishes and utensils that need washing. drying dishes in the bathroomWe can either do this in the bathroom sink or down in the basement in the laundry area. The basement was working well – I had the dish drainer on the washing machine. There is a big sink so we could do the cutting board and other large items. Then the electrical work began. Not only did the alien electric cords emerge from the ceiling but there is dust and wood chips and other debris down there. The contractors do a very good job of cleaning up each day but there is still the debris that has fallen down among the items on every surface. Washing the dishes in the bathroom sink is a challenge because the faucet is fixed and low – very difficult to get a 16-oz glass clean. I also worry about glass items because the sink is so shallow that anything larger than a cup hits the sides.

The recycling hasn’t been too much of a hardship. That all used to be in the kitchen. Now we have the glass/plastic in the front hall and the paper in the living room. Both containers are tucked in neatly. They need to be emptied more often, however, because (1) we have a lot more containers to toss and (2) they are unsightly and (3) it’s summer and I don’t have central a/c and it gets warm and they start to smell. Still all in all, not really a problem.

Water and ice are perhaps my biggest annoyances. I can’t make my own ice and I have to buy bags of ice. The ice in bags is NOT really cubed ice. IMG_8676It may have started that way but by the time you get it home and hammer it apart (because it melted on the way home and then froze into one huge lump in the freezer) it has a lot of little pieces and lots of pulverized ice. The crushed ice is great for a frozen drink, but if you want iced tea or coffee or water, cubes are much better. And the fragments fall on my wood dining room floor which makes me crazy. 🙂 Okay, crazier. I don’t want my floor ruined because of stray ice chips. We are in the 5th day of a heat wave, with at least 2 more days predicted, and we are using up a lot of ice. Although it costs more, I’ve gone back to the gallon jugs of water instead of the 2.5 gallons. The 2.5 gallons are not as easy to use for filling coffee pots and pitchers. Sometimes they are difficult to close one-handed and that means water on the dining room floor. They also take up a lot of room, and counter space is in short supply these days. dust on tableOn the other hand it finally occurred to me that I could store things under the dining room table since I removed half of the chairs (so we had room to walk around the table).

I guess the last “hardship” is the dust and debris that seem to be everywhere. I don’t consider myself an especially “neat” person. I can tolerate a fair amount of disorder in the house. But when I get stressed, my solution is to clean and straighten. There is kitty litter being tracked all over the upstairs which is, unfortunately, all carpeted. That may have to change after this experience. There is dust and minute particles tracked all over the downstairs from the open ceilings, walking back and forth through the construction, food handling in the dining room and eating in the sun room. There is plastic hung between the front hall and the construction to limit the mess, but as we keep walking back and forth to the bathroom, the deck, the basement, the plastic can only do so much. plastic in doorwayNot to mention that having to wend our way through the plastic is annoying. When the workmen are not here, I try to keep the big plastic sheet tucked out of the way. This all seems to be causing a low-grade, subconscious stress for me because no matter where I look, things are not clear and organized. I had no idea I was so obsessive about order. No wonder I love Seder so much. Vacuuming is do-able if I don’t mind freaking out the cats when I do the upstairs. Downstairs is okay, but there is so much stuff in the way that it mostly consists of moving furniture. It all feels extremely Sisyphean.

I was going to call this “first world hardships” because nothing I’ve described is really a hardship. There is an end to it, I’m getting something wonderful, and I chose to do this. It all reminds me of a wonderful parable I read when I was young. A poor couple has a one-room house and many children. They are very crowded in their house and it’s becoming very stressful and unpleasant for them. They ask the Rabbi for help. The Rabbi has them bring their farm animals into the house, one-by-one. Finally when all the animals are crammed in the house with all the family, the Rabbi has them take all the animals out. The man comes running back to the Rabbi to proclaim how WONDERFUL it is – there is sooooo much room in the house!! *grin* That’s how I am going to feel once all of this is out of my living room and dining room. Wow!!! Look at how LARGE a house I have!!

(of course not EVERYONE in the house agrees with me…… )

Renovation hardship cat
TRUE Renovation Hardship