Archive for August, 2018



End of Season Browns

IMG_9055This happens every year. I cannot WAIT to get into my garden in the spring. Cleaning, pruning, preparing, digging in the dirt – it’s a siren song. Then comes buying the plants, arranging, planting, potting, admiring, dead-heading – the joy of seeing the blooms and produce. Then comes summer and it’s hot, hot, hot and the rain doesn’t fall on the hanging baskets. It either is a drought and all the plants need water daily or it’s constant rain (like this year) and the weeds emerge and conquer. IMG_9053The spring flowers are past their time, the fall flowers are battling the weeds, the summer flowers are fading and being punished by the incessant deluge from the heavens. That’s the time when I say “I’m really done with gardening for the year.” That time is now.

Most of my wonderful 3 ft tall daisies are brown. The spider worts are done. The rain has beat down the rudbeckia and the giant cosmos. Some careless weed-whacker (ahem) took down some of the dahlias. The dill is done, the cilantro is cooked, the tomatoes never took, and the weeds wander at will. 🙂 Couldn’t resist that last sentence. The hanging baskets still show a pretty face to the passersby, but all WE get to see is dying brownness.

IMG_9062I did finally weed-whack the driveway and the back yard. I probably whacked some of my ivy too, by mistake (just like the dahlia), because the day I was whacking, it must have been the most humid day ever without actually raining. I know it was real-feel over 100F. And of course the weeds are flaunting their wretched little heads again. My husband razed the lawn because we are both so tired of it and our young helper abandoned our neighborhood for a better paying job. I have not yet coerced my new teenage next-door neighbor into being responsible for our lawn and walks.

IMG_9054I want to take my shears and clip all of the herbs down, down, down. The willow needs major pruning as it appears to be staking a claim on the driveway. The contractors’ trucks do battle with the willow weekly but that is one determined bush. I need to get someone to help me wrestle the rhododendron down and back a few feet. Ditto the forsythia. I have no idea what is happening in the far corner back by the water spigot and the deck. There is some weed that is about 6 feet tall now. I could reach it through the dining room window if I were not afraid it might turn me into a pod person. I’m hoping it dies in the winter because otherwise we may need a flame-thrower to battle it. That might be awkward as it IS against both the (wood) house and the (wood) deck.

IMG_9058There are still a few blooms of joy in the garden. Nothing can diminish my joy in my tropicanna canna lilies, the remaining rudbeckia laciniata hortensia (best flower ever) and the mandevilla. There are dahlias fighting the brave fight as well, and a few remaining daisies. The hibiscus has been disappointing all year – even the deer were so uninterested in it that they have done less damage than expected. But it has put out a few more blooms this week as well, encouraging me to garden on. I propped up the cosmos (as well as broke off a major stalk) so they are feeling a bit more up. *grin* The goldenrod is well over 4 ft now, which means it should have a wonderful fall bloom. Of course, most of us are allergic to the goldenrod pollen, but what price beauty, right?
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Rethinking the Hardware

IMG_9048Four of the sample knobs have arrived. While I really like 2 of them, I don’t like them for my kitchen. There is still one more sample due from my first batch of samples, and it’s possible that one will be okay. But I think that as much as I like the 2 stone ones in the bronze setting, they will “argue” with the pattern of the counter. I may end up having to wait for the counters to be installed before I can make a decision.

brittanicca goldOn the one hand I think it’s a bit silly to be obsessing about the knobs. On the other hand, for what I’m spending on this kitchen, and for how much time we (and our friends) spend in the kitchen, I want everything that I see to be pleasing to the eye. I don’t want to look at something and think “I could have done that better”.

1st choice knobAnd so I went and ordered a sample of the $70 knob. That knob is actually $86 on other sites, but the place I found it has it on SALE!!! Right. As I look at it I think that I would not want all 35 cabinets and drawers to use that knob anyway. We’ll see if it looks as good when it gets here. If it does, and I still love it, I will hunt for a pull that will work with it. I’m hoping I can find a suitable pull for under $70. 🙂

I’m also rethinking the tiles for the front hall. I’ve already received 2 different boxes of slate, neither of which really matches what is there now. I sent off 2 emails today to see if I could get a reasonably-sized order of some gorgeous copper red slate. The problems there are cost, size of the tiles, and the fact that when you see something in the light of day, it does not always look as good as it did on the website.

Took Me Long Enough

unbound aliensI have told you about the “aliens” at the foot of my basement stairs. They’ve been there for about 2 months now. They impeded us when we attempt to enter the basement and even when I elude them on my way in, invariably they ‘get me’ on my way out. It’s been quite annoying.

Yesterday was one of my “get things done days”. It means I get up and start doing things – taking care of the cats, vacuuming, emptying garbage cans, laundry, grocery shopping, cat food shopping, making salads, and whatever else catches my eye as I am whirling about. Did my cleaning tornado thing upstairs and headed to the basement to start on the laundry. Evaded the aliens on my way IN but they got me on my way out. Aliens -1, Ahuva-0. Upstairs to grab a cup of coffee and some Cheerios. Back to the basement to swap loads of laundry. Made it past the aliens, swapped the laundry, grabbed paper towels to take upstairs, started toward the stairs. And that’s when the great revelation occurred.

restrained aliensThe Aliens. I needed to DO something about the Aliens. I needed to tie them out of my way already. I looked about the basement. Nothing obvious in the way of string. And then….. there they were …. my gear ties!!!!!

I LOVE gear ties. Every time I’m in the hardware store I have to restrain myself from buying just one more package. I don’t always succeed at restraint. I took 2 of the large gear ties, dragged a folding chair over to the Aliens and BOUND them. Two Gear Ties to Bind Them All.

It is now safe to enter and leave the basement. I can’t believe it took me 2 months to take care of this. Game, Set, Match to Ahuva!!

Lots of Progress

I have a room that is beginning to look a lot like a kitchen! It’s been a very productive week. On Monday they came and measured for the counters. A friend had suggested that maybe we’d want the bay window seat in the breakfast room to have the same top as the counters. IMG_9044I suspect it will (1) cost too much and (2) make the window seat too heavy to move to get to the radiator underneath, but we did have it measured and we’ll wait for a quote. We don’t have to move that window seat all that often, so if there is sufficient material left from the slab being used for everything else, and if the quote isn’t exorbitant, it may be our next change order. *grin* I’ve had a lot of them. We did get word later in the week that it will be longer than a week to get the counters made. Apparently they are back-ordered, and they ship from Minnesota. There will be a delay of 2-3 weeks for the counters.

My husband feels very strongly about the seam in the counter, as in he does not want any seam. 🙂 We all agreed that we would shift the sink over if it meant getting rid of a seam. IMG_9041We already broke with the concepts of symmetry and centering with the sink anyway. It “should” be centered with the bay window above it but that didn’t leave me sufficient space to the left of the sink for a dish drainer. 🙂 Although we ARE very concerned with the appearance of this kitchen, ultimately it has to be about functionality as the foundation. We are supposed to be contacted by the counter people once they have the slab so we can come up and see it before it is cut, and decide where to place the templates for the cuts. That way we have some say in both the seams AND the pattern that will be on the largest counter area. Our quartz selection is Cambria Brittanicca Gold, which has a marble appearance, which means there are waves of color, not one single constant appearance.

The soft area in the floor has been pulled up and repaired. IMG_9028I can still feel the difference in floor level underneath but it is a firm change, not a soft one. I think it will be okay. The trim has been put on the doorways and the pocket door is installed.

There was an issue with the door trim. I am learning a lot of new terminology with this project. I joked with Don (the foreman) that I will have to do a lot of studying before the final exam in September. Every bit of wood around the door (or window) has its own special term. I now know that the little bit of wood trim sitting on the BIG door trim is called “back band”. 🙂

IMG_9032The wood in our house is American chestnut, something I believe I mentioned during the demolition stage of this project. It is very very difficult to get chestnut wood anymore. There was a blight that struck the American chestnut trees back around 1905. It wiped out billions of chestnut trees. As I type this, I realize this is actually a bit odd, as my house was built around 1923 – where did they get all the gorgeous chestnut in my house? Ah – the tree was still around until 1950. The good news for the chestnut tree is that it is being brought back with a resistance to the blight. It has been cross-bred with the Japanese chestnut. We were quite insistent that the chestnut trim on the doorways to the dining room and the front hall be saved and reused.

One can insist but often life has its own plans. The chestnut trim was removed and stored in our garage. IMG_9030A lot of other things were in the garage also, and there has been a lot of activity in there. It was time to put the trim back this week. Unfortunately, some of the pieces had broken, and pieces were missing. They would have to build new trim out of new wood. Ideally of course we’d want chestnut. Unfortunately for us, chestnut is not yet plentiful and so it is expensive, and not as easy to obtain as other woods. And this is where I began my education in wood grain.

My husband was more upset than I at this news. My perspective is that the kitchen is changed so radically that as long as the wood gets stained the same color as the chestnut that was still usable, we’d be okay. He felt that the grain made a difference. Don and I discussed this and I asked if there was a readily available wood that had better grain than the default pine that gets used everywhere else (the pocket door, the trim on the floor – skirting!!). IMG_9031Oak has a more detailed grain than pine, closer to chestnut in appearance, and is available and not as expensive as chestnut. I made one of my executive decisions and said – use oak. I’m quite pleased with the oak, which is good, because I hadn’t realized that we’d lost all the dining room door chestnut. The onus is now on Matt, our painter, to get the proper stain for all the wood trim. He’s excellent at that and we’re used to mixing stains to match chestnut all over the house. You really can see the difference in the grain between the oak and the pine when you see them next to each other, as with the pocket door. I’m glad my husband put up resistance when I described the situation. I think my only issue with this might be that I wish the workmen had mentioned to me that there were other woods that would look better with the chestnut, as opposed to saying that the stain would take care of it. Even I with my untrained eye can now tell that wood grains are not equal and pine against chestnut is NOT the best approach.

IMG_9037We have a wood threshold between the dining room and the kitchen, and the threshold from the kitchen to the basement stairs is complete. We are only missing a threshold from the breakfast room to the bathroom, and I said that could be metal. Ultimately we need to redo the bathroom also (thanks to a diabetic cat and a dog trained to use pads indoor instead of having to be walked). I LOVE the pocket door – I am soooooo HAPPY to look there and not have the window blocked and to have the clean lines of that simple door. I can see that I need hardware for it. Which reminds me….

I did mention my expensive taste in cabinet knobs and pulls. I’ve ordered several samples and they’ve begun to arrive. Good thing I ordered samples. One of the ones that looked most promising came and it’s totally wrong. One is okay, not loving it, but it’s okay. The ceiling fan has come as well but that won’t be installed for awhile, so no link to show you it in advance. 🙂 And we DID order the funky bistro table. *grin* Sorry, Debbie, but while you sit there drinking coffee with me you won’t have to actually look at it. Now we are hunting for chairs that might work with the table and the room.

We are probably looking at a completion somewhere at the end of August, at least for the contractors. Matt is on vacation then so he won’t be able to do his painting and staining until September. I KNEW it would never happen in 10-12 weeks. 🙂
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Don’t Get Too Close to ME

Driving up to CHQ this morning I was in the usual stop-and-go slowness on Rt 287. I was in the far left lane and looking to merge right as my exit was approaching. I happened to notice the hubcap on the truck next to me. Quite eye-catching, isn’t it? I don’t know it there was a matching cap on the far side as well, but I do know that none of the other wheels on my side of the truck matched that hubcap.

What do you suppose he does with that hubcap?

dangerous hubcaps

Conditioned Behavior

I spent a lot of time in therapy, not a big secret. I went to a behavioral psychologist. We didn’t focus on WHY I had issues, we focused on what behaviors I exhibited that I wanted to change because they didn’t bring about positive results. He told me repeatedly that behavior is very difficult to change, we have to consciously work at it. Given my own experience and time with him, I’d have agreed 100% with that, until this renovation.

IMG_9014There is a doorway between our dining room and our kitchen. You’ve seen it in the pictures – it’s always covered in plastic sheeting. Our only access to the kitchen area (and, therefore, to the basement and deck) is through the front hall into the kitchen. We’ve turned the dining room into our ersatz kitchen. For weeks we would start to walk through the dining room door only to find the plastic sheet blocking the way. We learned to walk out through the living room, into the front hall, into the kitchen, and then to the bathroom, in order to get water from the sink.

This past week the men putting in the floor opened the plastic in the doorway so they could lay the floor. The door is open. WHAT A RELIEF!!!! Except…. I find myself walking the long way around all the time. If I am not actually looking at the dining room doorway when I head to the basement or deck, I will be walking the long way around to the front hall. 🙂

Why isn’t it this simple to change behavior we DON’T like????? 🙂

Cat Expressions

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It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I took these pictures the other night when I was, apparently, late in serving dinner. Actually, WC pretty much has this expression all the time now. Maybe she’s always had it – that slightly worried look, furrowed brow. The world is unpredictable. Stick close to shelter – 4 paw widths from under the bed.

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IMG_9013I caught BC as she was looking around. She rarely has such an evil expression but the other pics were too fuzzy and this seemed to fit this post a bit better: hunched shoulders, tension in the back as she gazes towards GC sitting in front of where the missing dinner should be.
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IMG_9007GC waits patiently for her dinner, somewhat sad that it is taking so long to appear. She is NOT this patient for breakfast…
Please note that there is PLENTY of dry food available if any of them were actually HUNGRY. 🙂

Reveling in Green

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IMG_8986I did love my time in Tempe. I’m glad that I now have an excuse to go out west to the desert regularly. (Did I mention in any of my posts that despite my belief that the Jersey shore is heaven on earth, I think that the Negev desert is the most beautiful place I have ever seen?)

It was soothing to be coming into EWR and see all the GREEN spread out below me. It felt welcoming.

IMG_8978My husband had kept all the plants alive on the porch (they are sheltered from rain for the most part) and we’d had several rain storms while I was away. When we pulled up to the house, there were my favorite plants in full bloom – rudbeckia laciniata hortensia.

The canna lilies are also blooming fully, as well as the mandevilla.

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Picking Up Speed

spackled sanded primed wallsWe had a very slow week before I took off for Tempe. It takes several days for dry wall and spackle to go up and dry. I believe they were sanding the walls while I was (finally) heading towards Tempe. Next came 2 days of priming and painting. Notice the smooth white ceilings and walls. Good thing that the a/c in what was the breakfast room still had power, as we ran it during the entire drywall/painting process to speed up the drying. Which brings up a very important question…. Will it still be the ‘breakfast room’ when all of this is done or will it ALL now be only ‘the kitchen’?

I got home early Tuesday after taking the red-eye home from Arizona. Shortly after my arrival, the floor installation began. We selected a vinyl floor with padding underneath (Strive Luxury Vinyl Plank). My husband had seen (felt?) this at a friend’s house and loved it. I confess that I can’t feel a difference between this floor and the hardwood in the living room. floor with cushioningMy husband and sister both say there is a difference, so I’ll believe them. My feet are NOT my most reliable body part. *rueful smile* (You’d have to go back and find the blog posts about the foot surgeries.)

I might not be able to FEEL a difference but oh wow!!! The floor looks GREAT!!! I love it. It took the two workers 2 days to get it all installed, but it’s gorgeous. Unfortunately there IS an issue – one that was stressing me out greatly. One of the key requests for the renovation was to have a level floor. When we added the breakfast room long ago, we were young and inexperienced and we let the contractors get away with having the kitchen floor and breakfast room floor at different heights, joining them with a metal whatever it is called (once again my vast ignorance of construction terminology is on display). (I’ve been told it’s a ‘threshold’.) Having the two rooms at the same height was non-negotiable. The join between those two rooms, however, was a tricky spot. I’d noticed that there was a lot of nothing under the vinyl flooring that was removed. I’m not sure why/how the gentlemen installing the new floor did not notice that what they did in the doorway was inadequate.floor close up Seriously – how can you not notice that the new floor boards don’t have sufficient support? When I stood in the doorway, the new flooring sagged. I was not happy. (And no snide comments about weight-load and all that!)

I sent an email immediately and got an immediate response from the contractor. I do love our contractors. 🙂 The next morning Manny was there and assured me that it would be fixed, fixed properly, fixed sooner than the end of the job, and I could stop stressing. *smile* He doesn’t know me very well – “stress” is my superpower. He and I talked about many things, including a new ceiling fan for the kitchen, and knobs and pulls for the cabinets. I kept circling back to the floor and he promised me it would be done, and done right. I did finally begin to feel reassured. I was fairly calm about it by the end of the day. Wouldn’t you know that is when my husband began to freak out about the floor, the warranty, damage. *grin* We really need to coordinate better. I think I got him calmed down. (And after Don talked to us when he came by we ARE both relieved and confident. That’s why we hired these contractors.) I said “look, it’s only a floor, how often have we ever relied on warranties anyway – they always expire, Manny and Don will get crews in here to fix it, it’s just a floor.” kitchen cabinetsOne thing that I have learned over the last 30 years is that “things” can be fixed. Damage to people is a matter for concern because often no matter how much money you have or time you have, some people damage can never be repaired. A floor is only a thing. On the other hand – yes, it would be nice to have it done well and right. Don will make it so. *grin*

Here is a very odd thing that I noticed when I went to lookup the product information about the floor. The floor is the correct color. It looks like what we selected (Himalayan bamboo). The boxes, however, say Georgian red oak. What is in the boxes and on the floor looks NOTHING like the sample of Georgian red oak in my renovation-selection photos. I think I should pretend that I did not notice this and go on my way quietly. (I’m way too neurotic not to dig around. I found a label on the end of the boxes that indicates it IS indeed Himalayan Bamboo. *grin*)

breakfast room cabinetsThe cabinets are in as well, another thing that went astoundingly quickly. I forgot to get a picture of the kitchen filled with boxes of cabinets (stressing about the floor AND the cabinet installers were there before 8:00 am). For those who asked me, the cabinets are Fabuwood, a NJ company. The boxes are gone and the cabinets are up and oh my!!!! It’s starting to look like a real room!!! I’m told the cabinets still need to be adjusted and drawers balanced 100% but they are all in the right spot and looking beautiful. I’ve begun researching knobs & pulls. I DID find one I loved, for only $175. That would be $175 per single pull. 1st choice knobI need a total of 35 knobs and/or pulls. I’m going to have to find one that perhaps I don’t love as much but CAN afford. 🙂 I have champagne taste – my second favorite is $70/pull. That is still a bit steep. (But it would look sooooo goood, she whined. “See???”)

I thought the workmen would be back today to do the trim and the pocket door, but I guess that is happening next week. I know that on Monday they (he? she?) are coming to do the template for the counters. I’m told that takes about a week to fabricate. I gather that installing the counter and installing the appliances can happen together or separately. After that the electrician and plumbers return to make everything WORK. I can’t even begin to imagine how wonderful it’s going to be to have an ice maker and cold water in my refrigerator. uninstalled pocket doorI started wondering about filters for it but Don told me that new refrigerators typically have the filters built in, and he’d show me where and how to change it. I hope so. It’s very educational moving into modern times.

The plumbers will have their work cut out for them. It’s not just the sink and the refrigerator – it’s 2 new hot water radiators as well. We’ve picked out very modern units. One will be installed the old fashioned way – the pipes through the kitchen floor. The other in the front hall will be mounted on the wall. That will allow us to change some things about in the front hall as well. I’m hoping that the electricians found and handled all the knob & tube issues already so that their work will be uneventful. Except, of course, they need to install a whole new sub-panel. Sigh. The homeowners’ motto: It’s Always Something.

Anyway, at the moment things are looking absolutely beautiful. I’ll be spending the weekend looking at bistro tables and knobs & pulls. I want something funky, unusual and bright. They have to stand in place of the artwork I had to remove in order to have cabinets everywhere. If you find something funky & unusual – let me know!

adjustable bistro table

What do you think? Too much? or way cool? 🙂

Travel Fragments

IMG_8858We saw this Arizona license plate when we were up at a mall in Scottsdale. It was too wonderful not to share.

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IMG_8912I love the road art out west. I’ve seen this in Nevada and it was everywhere around Tempe as well. The highways have rock designs along the embankments. The bridges and walls have decorations. Most of the time we were moving too fast to capture any decent images. I was able to take 2 pictures from my hotel finally.
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We drove through what seemed to be a sandstorm on our way to the airport for my flight home. I couldn’t catch the sign that was warning of reduced visibility due to blowing sand, but I think this picture can give you an idea of what it was like.

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IMG_8926There were many things to love about Tempe: the variety in cuisine, the friendly people, the acceptance of dogs at restaurants and in stores, the road art, the wide highways and the awareness of all things ecological and green. This shot is from the airport restroom.

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IMG_8952One of my all-time favorite views: Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook in the distance (top of the photo).

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IMG_8961The sun rising over Port Newark.


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