We’re Going to Need More Pipes

unstressed wc

We finished growing framing for the time being. Not sure if I mentioned this already but this project will happen twice – first for 3 rooms and then for 2 rooms. Anyway, John has finished growing closets, and some walls, and a doorway. Now we need to grow some pipes. Maybe this weekend I can get back out to my garden so I can grow plants, not house. 🙂

lots of framing got done

The plumbers, Ken & Chris, were here bright and early this morning. I knew they were coming but I didn’t have a time. I decided I had time to do my morning walk, shower & dress before they’d get here. Wrong. 🙂 I got out of my shower and saw the trucks parked out front. Whoops. I made it to the front door at 7:59am and personally I think that should keep me out of the dog house.

it begins with a hole in the floor of the new bathroom

Since we are adding a bathroom, we need to add pipes. As usual I had no idea what this means in terms of destruction/construction. I learned that they would be cutting open my NEW breakfast room wall (see 2018 for new wall photos). Ken was not sure about the wall – what they’d find, what it would imply. I said to him “never fear!!! I BLOGGED all of 2018’s renovation. I’m sure I have some picture of the inside of the walls from that angle.” And indeed I did. 🙂 Yay me! The upside of being able to produce exactly what they wanted to see is that they have no objection to me wandering about today, taking pictures at various stages. I didn’t think John really enjoyed me coming around. I tended to wait for him to take breaks.

Next we cut open my beautiful wall to see the hole in the new bathroom

I’m still amazed at how fast this seems to be going at the moment. My recollection of the kitchen renovation is that someone would come and “do something” for a day or 2 and then everyone would vanish for over a week. Someone else would come and “do something” and everyone would vanish. If Ken’s schedule is correct for this week, I’ll have had workers here for 9 days straight: demolition, framing, plumbing.

Now to find the stack in the basement!

I still can’t envision how this will come together – what pieces happen when. When does the new flooring get put down? In stages as a room is done, or will they do the whole floor in one process? When they tell me that we will have the new bathroom working before we demo the old bathroom, what constitutes a “working bathroom”? In truth I’m a lot less stressed about it now that things are happening and I can talk with them than I was before the demolition. I’m also less stressed, I think, than I was with the kitchen. One, I’ve lived through a major renovation now. Two, I think we did a better job creating living spaces for us during the process. Three, honestly – I’m just too old and tired to spend my energy stressing about the renovation as a whole.

As with plants, the pipe grows from the bottom up

No, my Super Power IS obsessing/stressing, but my specialty is on parts of the whole, not the whole renovation. *laughing* I’ll focus on specific areas for my stress. Speaking of stress, the cats are holding up remarkably well. I didn’t think WC would mind too much given her deafness and overall preference for the 1st floor anyway. But BC seems to be doing alright as well. She has her set times to join me in “my office” in the morning and afternoon. Now that I’m doing my exercises on the living room floor she joins me there to coach. We both miss sleeping together, but we fit in lots of cuddling during the workday and before bedtime.

Pipes grow even faster than framing – right up that wall in a day!

My current worry is about my roof. John pointed out last week during the rain that the roof was leaking – water on the floor beneath the eaves. That roof is only 10 years old. I’m not happy. Don said he’d take a look at it but Don comes in and out sporadically. He’s very reassuring when he’s here but part of me wants to tie him up to a post and make him explain EVERYTHING to me in detail. And then have him fix it too. 🙂 It’s supposed to rain tonight/tomorrow morning so maybe I’ll be able to find the spot in the attic.

Meanwhile back on the 2nd floor, the hole gets bigger and gets a companion

I’m also finding the construction noises a bit wearing. I’m not sure why. You’d think that hearing productive noises would be enjoyable. Yet I find myself cringing when the hammering or drilling gets above a certain level. Unexpected BANGs also make me cringe. There seems to be much more dust involved in this renovation. It could be that there is, or there isn’t but I spent less time in 2018 moving in and about the construction. I feel like I’m always breathing dust. I also learned today that I don’t care for the smell of the glue the plumbers use to seal the pipes. It’s like rubber cement smell on mega steroids.

Look! There’s my breakfast room!

I want to see some of the items that I’ve ordered actually get here. The teak cabinet and the track lighting for the new bathroom are not here yet. The cabinet is due anywhere from now til mid-July, and the lights aren’t expected until mid-July.

Pipes!

I want to start playing with the shower tiles. 🙂 That’s a “reward” for me – getting to layout the tiles and create wall patterns that I think are aesthetically pleasing. I gather the tiles won’t be needed for a few more weeks. They’re at the tile store waiting for me but I don’t have a good place to store them here until I need them. No fair!!!! I want to CREATE!!!

unstressed bc

Indoor Cultivation

Yep, I am definitely growing closets upstairs!!! 🙂

June 16 – Notice the emerging buds – closets grow bottom up AND top down!!! Plenty of light.

While it looked at first to be a single closet, I can see now that it is actually TWO closets. One for the room, if the room reappears, and one for the hallway. How exciting!!! And growing closets from scratch appears to be a MUCH faster process than trying to grow plants from seeds.

June 17 – the 2 closets are clearly visible. Like many weeds, they’ve pushed out something I liked – the window.

The Vanishing Room

When I woke up this morning, the room was gone.

Not a mystery – we know where it went. 🙂 The attic. The basement. The garage. The local Buy Nothing Group. The garbage.

May 11

We started with a room that served a double purpose – my son’s bedroom and my office. It was very full.

June 13 – we’ve done what we could

Then we began to move things out. We needed help with the bed. James took care of that, and the desk and the shelving in my husband’s office. By the way – that room has vanished as well. 🙂

June 14 – it began to get a noisy and messy up there

James and the demolition crew arrived. It still looked like a room.

Now it looked like a very distressed room. I went up at lunchtime to see how it was doing.

There was still evidence that it was/had been a room. But between lunch and dinner, it disappeared. 🙂

June 15 EOD

I have high hopes, however, that something will grow. After all – look how well the willow bush is doing! This evening there seem to be signs of new wood. That looks like a very little room. Ah – maybe I’m growing a closet????

June 16 EOD

Days 1 & 2 – An Experience

I was trying to sleep

Well, I made it through the first full day of renovation. I say “I” because my husband has the good fortune to go off to an office every day, leaving me working from home and managing my part of this renovation project.

The start of the obstacle course

The first thing I learned is that there are still a lot of decisions I haven’t made. James asked me about saving the curtains/shades and I didn’t think that far ahead. I told him to save the ones from the 2 bedrooms and toss everything from the little room. Even if I end up not keeping the current shades/curtains, at least I’ll have them while I decide. Given inflation and the way the stock market is tanking, I may need to reuse whatever I can rather than buy all new fun items.

When the house is not rocking with demolition, the window seat is a good place to be

The next major revelation had to do with the hooks on the dining room door. The cats and I were nestled on their side of the doors when my husband came home. If I’m on the dining room side of the door, the hook on that side is latched. That means that someone on the kitchen side of the door cannot get in. 🙂 We are now rethinking how to latch that door so when TWO people are in the house, the door works either way. When he locked ME out later that evening *I* went through the zip door in the front hall. Not especially convenient if you are carrying something, but it worked.

I don’t see us making the cover of Better Homes & Gardens with this setup

I’m wondering how many days/weeks/months it will take before my auto pilot stops trying to go through the front hall into the living room. I am working at my “desk” and someone calls me and I start to head to the front hall via the living room, and then realize I need to back-track around the dining room table, unhook the door, hook the door and go through the kitchen to the front door. 🙂 Can I count all those extra steps as EXERCISE????

At least the FLOOR looks nice (if you ignore the litter box setup)

I was too hyper to sleep last night. My husband went up to bed and I stayed with the cats. I could tell sleep was not going to come easy so I made up the recliner in the sunroom to sleep there. The positive side of that is that I do not feel compelled to shut all the downstairs windows if I’m sleeping down there. When I thought about it, I wondered why I feel that me sleeping downstairs would be any deterrent to someone trying to break in. It’s not as if the would-be burglar can SEE me sleeping upstairs or downstairs. I’m so hard of hearing these days, especially with window fans going in every window, I probably wouldn’t even HEAR someone coming in. And what would I do if I did???

No plans for any indoor dining in the near future. Maybe by Thanksgiving???? So my work office is next to the window, my husband’s work and gaming computers took over the (rotated) dining room table, and my “personal office” is tucked into that far (dark) corner

What I did hear at 2:00 am was my neighbors’ dogs barking. Yes, the next-door dogs. I know their barks well. Every Saturday morning my neighbors evacuate their house so they won’t be there when the cleaning service arrives. Every Saturday morning the 2 dogs begin barking non-stop until the cleaning service arrives, and then again until the owners return home to shush them. Please tell me why the dogs were either (1) outside at 2 am barking or (2) inside with open windows barking and no one in the house to shut them up. Yes, I AM a little cranky this morning – I didn’t sleep very well. Why do you ask?

When the bed is moved after nearly 30 years

We are here at Day 2 – demolition day. James said the truck would probably be here around 8am, he’d be here by 8:30. I had a text from Don at 6:11 this morning saying they’d be there at 8am to start. No problem. I was up by 6:20, fed the cats, cleaned the litter box, dressed and on my morning 2.8 mile walk. Showered & dressed at 7:50. James arrived around 8:15. No truck. Ooooh, around 9:30 James came in a bit shame-faced saying that the truck was a little delayed. Apparently they had a full truck at EOD yesterday and had to go empty it before they could come here. *grin* Back in the days of the kitchen renovation I’d probably have found this all very annoying. But I’m an older and wiser woman now, with a lot less energy to get all het up about what time the demo starts.

Demolition in action!

I was doing some work when I realized I heard truck noises and men calling. I went out to see the action. They were all a little hyper about having backed the truck down my narrow driveway. They need to park it under the 2nd floor hall window so they can toss things out the window into the truck. The willow bush is a bit cramped but I’m sure it will recover. This is not its first rodeo with trucks down the driveway. The garage has gained more STUFF. I asked James to set up one of my folding tables so I can take boxes from the front hall and store them on the table in the garage. The sink is way too heavy to move, but if I can get the lighter boxes out that would be pleasing. 🙂

Does this ladder make me look fat?

Listening to the scraping, crashing, banging, thunking happening above my head. The whole house is shaking. BC is under the couch (I think, I can’t actually see her anywhere ) and WC was sleeping happily on the couch in the sun room while they tossed the easily-tossed items. Now even WC is awake as the whole house shakes to the demolition. 🙂 It’s really happening! *cringes at a particularly LOUD bang*

The Dream (although it doesn’t show replacing the electrical/plumbing/floor. 🙂 )

The Great Incarceration II

The calm before the storm. Which will last 3-4 months. If I’m lucky. Otherwise maybe by Thanksgiving.

We are doing it again – major renovation in the house. This means – drum roll please – locking up/protecting the cats. If you recall, 4 years ago we ripped out the entire kitchen and redid that and our breakfast room. We confined the 3 cats to the upstairs. We installed a temporary door in the upstairs hall, and gave them the run of the 2nd floor. [By the way – we fell in love with our temporary door. It’s still there. Don and I discussed it this morning and he’s going to make it look much nicer. The new people (that’s what I call the people who will buy the house once we finally decide it’s time to sell) can then remove it.] This time renovation preparation is not so simple. We are re-doing the entire 2nd floor. The workers will need access to the front hall to go in & out, and access to the basement for the electrical panels and the plumbing. So how to confine the cats?

How we used to be able to move in and out of our living room into the front hall.

There are only 2 cats now – BC and WC. WC as I’ve noted is very old (20 in August) and sick and feeble and deaf. Her voice and will to live are EXTREMELY strong but physically she is delicate. Unfortunately she has difficulty with “solid output” (hey, I’m trying to be delicate about this) and does not always accomplish the process completely. This means our life has become furniture covered in plastic, with easily washable towels on top. Sigh. BC, like many pets during the pandemic, has become very comfortable being wherever I am all day and night long. BC does NOT like visitors. BC is not going to be happy with the noise and the people and not being able to be with me every second of the day.

Not only do we no longer have easy access to the living room, but our front hall is full of boxed lights, sink and shower seat. I can’t see us zipping and unzipping that door much at all. There is webbing in the open areas over the bookcases.

Don and James showed up today to begin. WE began back in April. If you want to redo the entire 2nd floor, first everything on that floor has to be moved out/away. This necessitates either throwing out everything or finding a place to store things to be retained. We have been in this house for 38 years. We have been together for 45 years. I have the letters we wrote to each other. Sheesh, I have the letters my friends wrote me when we were all away at college. I am one of those people who saved every single receipt/bill/tax notice/piece of paper for all those years. Yes, I do indeed have not only my tax filing from 1981 but the supporting documentation as well. Thank goodness THOSE are stored in the basement under the sun room in what used to be a coal bin. It’s an old house – over 110 years old at this point. We are only the 4th owners. Other than painting the upstairs when we moved in and new windows 3 years ago I don’t believe we have done ANY upgrades on the 2nd floor.

Our main way to get from one side of the house to the other – the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room. Both sides. Notice also the obstacle course of cat food. This door is DEFINITELY temporary.

Stress does not even begin to describe how I’ve been feeling since April. I’m not really an obsessively clean person (which is MORE than obvious from these photos), but I do like a sense of order and space (which is NOT obvious from these photos). There is STUFF everywhere. Thank goodness for the Buy Nothing group on Facebook. I managed to get rid of some furniture, shelving and other STUFF during May.

Look- I never claimed to be neat. This is my son’s bedroom, my office. The cat tree came upstairs as part of the kitchen renovation and never returned to the breakfast room.

I still have 21 bags of books in the basement that need to be donated somewhere. We moved 5 bookcases down to the basement for the books we are keeping. There are books in the attic. There is STUFF in the attic. First we had to CLEAR the attic of STUFF and old papers (2006, 2007, 2008 vintage) so that we could move more STUFF up there. But we couldn’t just move things up there. No, because part of what we are doing is getting central air upstairs. That means not only will they be doing work in my garden but they apparently need my attic as well. We had to get bins and containers and sort and store and toss all the STUFF that was up there before we moved more STUFF up there. Stress. Stress. Stress. Stress. Shred. Shred. Shred.

Once upon a time this was our 3rd bedroom. Before my husband decided he need an office and a man cave. Do note the books. The half-empty bookcase is because he moved a bunch of books before I took this photo.

One night last week the stress and tension were so bad that I tackled the basement in an attempt to find the floor and be able to walk from the washing machine to the dryer without having to climb over bags and boxes. I now have paths through the stuff. It’s like practicing to become a full-fledged hoarder.

This is/was our little room (you may remember it as our cats’ toilette pour dames. As my husband said – we are really going to miss this storage space

So what ARE we going to do with all of this heretofore used space? That little room is going to become a full bath. It is in that room that I am letting my creativity loose and following my rule for the kitchen renovation: Everywhere you look should be pleasing to the eye. We are taking space from that room as well, and making 2 closets between the new bathroom and what was my son’s room. One closet will face to the hall for linens, the other will be the closet for my son’s room. We are taking his existing closet and adding it to ours. We are putting down new floors in all the rooms and the hallway. We are upgrading ALL the electric upstairs and the remains of the knob&tube wiring downstairs – everything up to code, no more knob&tube anywhere. We are replacing the huge cast iron radiators with radiators like the ones we did in the kitchen and front hall (still hot water heat, and the smaller radiators DO put out a lot of heat, but take up much less room). Upgrading the existing bathroom. Putting in either mini-split air conditioning upstairs or central air for the whole house, depending on how hard (expensive) it is to drop vents down to the first floor. Tankless hot water heaters. Cold water filters at the source (not under the kitchen sink where I end up weeping every time I have to change the filter). I think that covers it. I might have forgotten something. 🙂

Stuff stuff stuff. More stuff.

Anyway. It’s begun. James and Don are here today to take apart the 3 pieces of furniture we could not do on our own, and move them to the garage (which does flood in the front during heavy rain). They will be taking down the lights and the doors. And whatever else they are doing.

Those big frames are so we can lay out the new tile ourselves. 🙂 And now there are pieces of the office furniture & bed in there, and I realize we have no idea other than photos how to put them back together.

I keep saying to Don: “I think this is going to be worse than the kitchen.” He grins and says “oh yes”. It’s not really very reassuring. 🙂

Obligatory BC photo. No strangers in the house. within 4 feet of me. All is right with the world.

Refuge in the Little Moments

Sigh. I made the mistake of looking at the news. Although it is beautiful sunshine outside, it is also COLD – in the 30sF. Too cold. My to-do list is uninspiring. At moments like these it’s good to turn to the little things in life that can take me away from this moment and into a moment that makes me smile.

White Cat. Sigh. She’s not often a moment that makes me smile, I must confess. She’s over 19.5 years old. Arthritic. Ill. Unclean. Dying of starvation (literally) – we need to feed her every hour. She’s noisy – very meowy because it hurts to move (arthritis), it hurts to defecate, it hurts to be hungry, it is annoying when HER person (my husband) is NOT on the couch where he belongs so she can snuggle. Meow meow meow. I’m probably not supposed to admit or say this, but it will be a huge relief in my life when she finally decides she’s ready to quit hers. And then I catch sight of her all curled up and sweet and innocent on the couch in the sun. All I can do is melt and smile and enjoy her little pink nose and her little pink paw pads and her little pink ears.

Spring flowers always lighten my mood and gladden my heart. These pictures are from one of my afternoon walks. I’m not sure what that purple ground cover is – the flowers look like azaleas but it’s WAY too early for azaleas. I think. The magnolia tree takes me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live on a street that had an island running down the middle. Down the middle of the island were magnolia trees, one after the other. They were glorious for about one week, before the petals began turning brown and dropping. My sister’s birthday is a week AFTER that peak magnolia time. My grandmother, who LOVED flowers and gardening, would always come out for my sister’s birthday, and always bemoaned the fact that she was too late for the magnolias. Tradition! That is a cherished loving memory of us all happy together, even if my grandmother missed the magnolias.

Of course it’s wonderful to see my OWN garden starting to wake up as well. I think that this year instead of tying back the forsythia, I’m going to cut it way back. We are having construction done (again) on the house, beginning in May. Yes – I will indeed be documenting it and inflicting the photos and my complaints on you. For some reason I am incapable of remembering what they call the a/c unit we are having installed upstairs (split? slim?). It will have some unit that sits outside the way central air units sit outside, but we will have vents in each of the rooms upstairs. The outside unit is going to be sitting in either the forsythia or the rhododendron, although I suppose maybe we could tuck it back on the far side of the rhododendron and lose the azalea and the andromeda bush back there. In any case, the forsythia needs some heavy pruning. It’s way too straggly. And it’s fun for me to think about gardening. 🙂

There is an old sexist saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In our family we laughed at that saying because both my sister and I married men who are great cooks. We always joked that the way to OUR hearts was through our stomachs. 🙂 While my husband is indeed an excellent cook, there are a few meals that are “mine” to make, mostly in the comfort food category. I make the holiday briskets, the tuna casseroles, the ground beef casseroles and the corned beef & cabbage dinners. My husband so enjoyed his corned beef & cabbage dinner this past March 17, he insisted that I take a picture of it. 🙂 I agree – it was delicious. And now I’m hungry.

My cookbook insists on calling this “Boiled New England Dinner”

Quick Thinking

Rose mallow

Ah, my husband has gotten SO WISE in these last few decades. 🙂 He has learned that it is NOT a “soft word turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1) but a WITTY reply averts annoyance. Our stove – our beautiful, 2-yr old, 6 burner stove – is having a problem. One of the middle burners does not light. Not only is it not lighting but I noticed it was causing a different burner’s lighter to spark. Hmmmm. I cleaned all the burners, then turned them on one at a time to see if the difficult one would light properly. It did and was fine for a few days, but started sparking again today, instead of lighting. We stood in front of the stove discussing it and that probably a good cleaning would resolve the problem. Then my husband said “We have a warranty on this, we could have someone in to take a look at it”. Ahhhh, that famous “we”. “We” means *I* will end up calling, *I* will end up arranging my schedule, *I* will do what needs doing. I looked at him and said “We?” Pause. “We?” “Weeee?” He looked at me and grinned and said “We – Woman Extraordinaire”. Okay, he wins. 🙂 It’s really hard to argue with THAT response.

Finally Attending to the Back Yard

IMG_3547
Path at noon (standing on the rocks under the breakfast room bay window)

As you can tell by my photos, I spend A LOT of time on the front and side of the house. There never used to be much reason to spend a lot of effort in the back as I never really saw it. We have a huge deck (I think it’s 14′ x 20′) attached to the house and we entertain there. You’ve seen the photos of the trellis all around it with the ivy thick on the trellis. The only view of the back yard is from my breakfast room window or when you are walking from the driveway up to the deck. Since I never sat in my breakfast room facing the windows, I didn’t really care about that yard. I’d tried various methods to tame the weeds. I tried putting down burlap covering the dirt so we could get to the composter. I tried using bamboo fencing as a pathway. My goal was about walking to the composter, not about having a nice view.

view from my window including hanging sculpture
view from my window including part of the hanging sculpture

Once we redid the kitchen 2 years ago, I ended up with my wonderful round counter-height table. I sit there all the time. In front of me is the glass wall and door to the deck. To my left is the back yard. Which looked terrible. I began working on it last summer. There are a few problems with the area. The first is the lack of sun. Because of the trees, house, garage and deck that area gets almost no sun on the back property line and very little between the deck and the garage. The soil is poor and complicated by the fact that over 25 years ago I had landscaping done. Why is landscaping a problem? Because landscapers put down that horrible black weed-barrier material, which is nearly impossible to cut. It doesn’t prevent weeds, either. I had the area around the deck completely mulched. I had visions of my son and his friends climbing on the deck rail and falling off. The mulch deteriorated, we replaced it many times, and it became and accumulated dirt. The weeds grew in the dirt. There was easily a minimum of 2 inches of dirt above the weed barrier. I began trying to grow plants back there. They’d die because they couldn’t get roots down far enough. That’s what led to the burlap and bamboo paths.

view from the composters
view from the composter (spiderwort, behind the deck)

I finally realized last year that if I wanted plants I was going to have to do battle with the weed block. First I need to determine the battle site, excuse me, site for the plant. Then I need to push all the dirt to the side to uncover the weed barrier. It is now over 25 years old, so sometimes it yields fairly easily to the box cutter knife. Other times I could swear the barrier was made of steel. Not only do I need to clear the barrier from an area sufficiently wide to dig a hole, I have to slice it for a distance from the hole so the plant can spread. I’m not sure that I always do a sufficient job of slicing to enable spreading. It takes a lot of strength and energy to cut that material, even as aged as it is. I’ve started looking for shade-loving plants (I should move the cilantro back here) and ground covers that will spread. I really don’t want to have to deal with this yard with the effort that the front requires. I’m very pleased with how it’s looking these days, although you can tell from the photos that it is due for a massive weeding. I was planning to do that this weekend but I ended up tackling the rhododendron and the weeds on the side of the house, and then weeding the driveway. Oy. Exhausting.

Early morning sun (8:30)
Path early morning (8:45 or so)

I’ve ordered another 5 stepping stones for the walkway. The bugleweed is doing GREAT. It looks beautifully healthy and has already begun to spread. My only reluctance about it is that it is not native to this area. Besides supporting pollinators, I’ve tried to grow native plants. The lamium (dead-nettles) is doing well also. The 3 smaller plants closer to the house are all from last year. The larger one I bought this year (and did indeed buy a larger plant than I bought last year). There is a small coral bells near the entrance to the garage that is still struggling – I planted it last year. There are 2 larger ones back by the ivy. The curly grass was a transplant from my sister’s yard this year. The tag on it claims it likes shade whereas the site I linked says sun, so we’ll see how it makes out. I need to prune the dead curls and figure out if it’s struggling or doing alright. I added a fern this year that is thriving (it was fairly large to begin with). That was the site of a major skirmish with the weed barrier, complicated by 2 huge tree roots. I forgot to mention that the tree roots are yet another complication in the back yard. I’d planted ivy last year (the solid bright green) and then added more, smaller plants this year. Considering how well ivy does coming up on the deck trellises, I’m hoping they will cover the barrier hiding my neighbor’s garage. 🙂 I moved some spiderwort 3 years ago, as well as some goldenrod. The spiderwort is holding firm but the goldenrod gave up the struggle.

path in the afternoon
Path in the afternoon – after 3pm

The fuchsia are hanging from a pole that I used to put in the front, in the middle of my rudbeckia. I decided it worked much better in the back. When we first moved into the house, the front of the house was shaded by 3 large trees that are no longer with us. For years I’d hang huge baskets of fuchsia on the front porch. Once the trees were gone, so went the fuchsia. I’m very happy to have them back where I can enjoy them. The vine along the deck trellis is a new experiment. It’s adlumia fungosa, also known as Allegheny Vine or Bleeding Heart Vine. I got this (along with my usual butterfly-attracting plants) from Heritage Flower Farm this year. I didn’t really understand what it means to be a biennial plant. I gather I’m not going to get any flowers this year but next year the flowers will come. I thought it also meant that it flowers every other year Apparently it will die at the end of the 2nd year. If I’m lucky, it will seed itself and repeat the cycle. I’ve had limited success with self-seeding plants (note to self: STOP hiring the yard cleanup crew in December). In addition, what I’ve been reading seems to imply that Allegheny Vine is a bit finicky. Given the poor soil back there, I suspect that I’ll be lucky to even get flowers next year. It was worth a try, and maybe it will turn out better than expected! Sometimes plants do flourish when you least expect it. *laughing* ESPECIALLY in the cracks of my driveway!!!

bleeding heart vine
Allegheny Vine (bleeding heart vine)

Party Day!!!

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 4″

table 4

At last here it was – Party Day!!!! I was up very early. I hadn’t really slept very much the night before – between the pain in my legs (long-standing issue – hah hah – did you GET that???) and my whirling brain, I was lucky I got any sleep. What was the first thing I did? I fed the cats, of course. 🙂 I know what is important in this house and so do they. When I walked out to get the newspaper (yes, I am old-fashioned enough to receive a PAPER newspaper daily) I saw that someone had parked their car in front of my driveway. Although the car was about 3 feet from the apron, it still didn’t leave me room to drive on the grass to get out and get bagels. table 2 Normally this is the kind of thing in the past that would have had me calling the police hysterically demanding that the car be towed but I’ve mellowed a lot over the years. I wasn’t thrilled, because I was hoping to use my driveway for parking guests’ cars, but I wasn’t as freaked out as I might have been because my husband’s car was at the curb and driveable. But still – a bad omen or something getting rid of any last bad karma by having an inconvenience that wasn’t a show-stopper? I decided to consider it a clearing.

At this distance from the day, I have to confess that I don’t remember a lot clearly. My husband went out to get the bagels (stopping at the most likely neighbor to own the offending car). My sister showed up early to help put together the things that couldn’t be assembled the previous day – the Asian Salad Wonton Cups. There was more. I know there was. Because we were setting the table, arranging the drinks, and cleaning every utensil as it was used and putting it away. You see, I had one march of the cruditemore major request of my staff, um, I mean my family. I told them that I wanted the house to look as if I simply waved my magic wand and all the food appeared. The guest of honor at this party was the renovated kitchen, and NOTHING could be out to mar the look and beauty of the counters, cabinets, floor, and appliances. That is a big ask when you consider my menu and the work involved.

We had to cook the hot food – the quiche and the mushrooms. The turkey had to be sliced. The condiments, liquors, drink add-ons and utensils all had to be laid out. I had to make the mulled cider and assemble the cocktail punch. My husband had to run out for more sugar (we had none for coffee & tea) and beer. My brother-in-law showed up with his home-baked pretzels and salt-sticks (the most fantabulous rolls you will ever have) plus a tray of his spinach & cheese (maybe it was broccoli??) rolls he’d made for the prior night’s party. We did it all. Arranging trays and platters and drinks and paper plates and plastic utensils and vacuuming and sweeping and wiping surfaces and putting everything away.
stuffed mushrooms
We were so efficient and so on-top of everything that I even had 45 minutes to go upstairs, change into my party outfit, apply make-up (I was pretending to be a grown-up) and spray glitter in my hair (not too grown-up). My sister and her husband had everything cleaned and put away by the time I came back down. The kitchen was immaculate (except for the cider pot on the stove, where it belonged for that day). It looked as if I had waved my magic wand and all the food simply appeared!!!
walkin cooler
EVERYTHING was in place and party ready. Or was it? WHITE CAT!!!!! That cat. I wasn’t going to put this in but I changed my mind. BC and GC very quickly grasped that there was a LOT happening on the first floor and they headed upstairs (despite their memories of The Great Incarceration, I’m sure) and there they stayed – out of the way. Not so WC. She was not pleased and she was very happy to let me know that. First, she – sigh, what is the delicate way to put this??? She left a DEPOSIT in the front hall. That was still fairly early on in the morning so I removed it, washed the floor, told her that she exhibited poor behavior and carried on with what I had to do.
skewer city
On my check list for Tuesday, and you can see this in the photos, I had “take off red couch cover”. I’ve posted pictures of WC in what she considers to be her boudoir – the back of the red couch in the sun room. I keep that couch covered with a matching cover in the vain attempt to protect it from stains and non-removable cat fur. WC has the silkiest, finest fur you will ever encounter. She was ensconced on the couch. We would be in the sun room because the TV is in the sun room and people would be watching the football games. cat fur on couchMy sister went to dislodge her. Now you need to know that for 16+ years my sister has attempted to make nice to WC and for 16+ years WC laughs in my sister’s face and runs away. We all figured this was a piece of cake – my sister would walk in there and look at WC and talk to her and WC would take off, as she has done REPEATEDLY in the past. It didn’t happen that way. WC simply glared and did not move. We must have gone through this routine 3 times and each time I said, fine, leave her be, we still have time. We ran out of time. WC finally headed up the stairs when the first guests arrived. I threw my big, grand, celebration party with white cat fur matted all-over the back of my red couch. I didn’t mention it and neither did the folks watching TV. But other than that, I think the house looked great and the party was quite a success.
table 1

Menu:

My brother-in-law baked the salt sticks, the pretzels and the spinach/cheese rolls. No recipe available from me.
I made the quiche, and I made several changes to it, including making it gluten-free (but not nightshade free *grin*). This is a good recipe for getting started on a 13×9 quiche (my pan is 14×10).
I made the marinated (fake) crab meat – *laughing* – the fake part means that the fish is really pollock, not shell fish. The original recipe is Zesty Marinated Shrimp. I probably did not do justice to this recipe as we found it too citrusy for our tastes, but to be fair I did not keep the proportions as I found them. So I still like the recipe and will do it in less of a “factory production” moment.
I mulled the cider and I do that by looking at a variety of recipes and then gathering up whatever I have and wrapping it in cheese cloth. I put the cider on a low flame and let it seep for a few hours.
The cocktail punch was delicious, simple and kept me going all party. 🙂
I considered also making several Champagne Mules but decided that even for me that might a bit much. So I left all the ingredients and the instructions out with the prosecco and other cold drinks and desserts.
I made the fruit skewers and again, they were simply what I thought might work, no specific recipe.
I also made the tahini cookies and the shortbread – I don’t have any links for those. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll post them.
I also made (or assembled) a sugar-free strawberry shortcake. I bought a sugar-free angel food cake and cut it in half on the y axis. The day of the party I used whipped cream and strawberries, put the top layer back on, then used whipped cream and strawberries on top. In the interest of speed, I used the canned whipped cream, which does not hold up as well as hand-made whipped cream. But it sufficed for this purpose and was eaten. 🙂
My guests also brought cookies and cakes and other very tasty desserts, so that table was much fuller than the picture shows.
My sister made the crudite cups, as I’ve mentioned. I saw a picture online and it made me think of doing something similar. We ended up using 2 oz cups, and a few 3 oz cups. 2 oz cups are more than sufficient. Next time I might not make the cups pretty, because people wouldn’t take a cup because they didn’t like EVERYTHING in it. Oy. So eat what you like and subtly ditch the rest. We did have a lot left over but they did NOT go to waste. I rinsed off the dressing from and my husband made a fantastic vegetable soup.
My sister also did the cheese skewers, which were our own creation with what we had, and she assembled the caprese skewers, which were beautiful and tasty. The only tricky part to that was adding the balsamic glaze at the last moment.
My sister assembled the Asian Salad Wonton Cups which were gorgeous and delicious but again needed to be assembled the day-of, although I had prepared everything in advance.
My husband prepared the marinade, cooked and sliced the turkey.
I made the stuffed mushrooms, and made them gluten free (yes, Virginia, there ARE gluten free bread crumbs). They were very good and there weren’t many left over at all.
My husband made the mini BLTs. We used turkey bacon and party rye bread. These were a mistake – one of my “we didn’t need so much food” mistakes. They tasted fine, but with all the other dishes, they just weren’t that popular. My b-i-l ended up taking them home, ditching everything but the bacon and used that in a different dish. It’s a shame, really. They were so cute.
Little preparation, only presentation:
Bagels, lox, cream cheese. I believe it was my husband who prepared the tomatoes, lettuce and sliced onion for the lox. (Correction – it was my b-i-l, with cleanup by my sister. 🙂 )
Store-bought cheese cake slices. Again, an unnecessary item given all the other desserts that did arrive. But I can’t count on food that I don’t know is coming (which will be the subject of another post one day). The cheesecake made my office mates very happy. 🙂

Collaboration Pie

img_0022There are many good things about posting about food and cooking. Even if people disagree about my recipes, my tastes, my process, the comments and reactions tend not to get personal or nasty. 🙂 If I’m thinking about food, I’m NOT thinking about other aspects of reality. On many days that is the REAL reason I write about food. I like creating things and cooking and baking are creative. My friend Honour talks about the difference between cooks and bakers, that one has more leeway and room for error than the other. I’m still not sure I’m convinced about that, but again, it doesn’t (usually) get personal when we discuss it. *grin*

Today I want to write about leftovers and collaborating and when cooks and bakers work together. img_0023My husband does not bake – he cooks. Oh wow, he is SUCH a great creative cook. I love to bake and while I enjoy cooking now in my new kitchen, I’m nowhere near as innovative as he is. I’m getting better, but I’m not at his level by any means. I mentioned he brought home a store-cooked chicken the other night. That meant we had leftovers. We also had rainy cold weather all day Sunday, as well as other annoying reality. 🙂 I started thinking about cooking. I decided that a chicken pot pie would be perfect for dinner. I mentioned that to my husband and he agreed.

Now *I* was thinking more of the kind of pot pie I had growing up – basically a white creamy inside. I found a picture of one online to show you what I mean but we grew up on frozen pot pies, not home-made. It was something my father would make for us for dinner when my mother was at rehearsal. img_0024As we don’t mix meat and dairy, we use coconut milk to get our “creaminess”. I also thought I’d take my leftover steamed vegetables and throw them in too – sort of a vegetable chicken pot pie. I’d already decided to use the coconut oil for that hint of flavor while making the pastry crust. I was browsing recipes online and thinking about concocting when my husband came down with a piece of paper and said “This is what I plan to make for the pie.”. *grin* Of course his recipe looked nothing like mine (his had curry and more asian flavors) and he had no intention of putting in the leftover vegetables, only the leftover chicken. I told him his concoction sounded great to me and I’d make him a crust.

That’s what we did. I made up my pie crust using margarine and coconut oil (remember, no dairy). It was a beautiful flaky crust. It’s interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem making pie crusts (except for 2 crusts for our New Year’s Day party, but that’s a different story) since I first began. I use the recipe in The Settlement Cookbook. img_0025It says that the key to a good crust is very cold ingredients and as little water and handling as possible. That very morning as I listened to the radio talk show host, she was talking about making pies and bemoaning how difficult it is to make a good crust and how it took her so long to learn. I’ve just never had that particular problem and I know people love the pie crusts I make. Thank you Lizzie Black Kander and your fantastic cookbook (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, my #1 go-to cookbook).

The new kitchen gets another rave review here because while my husband was working on the stove, there was room for me to be rolling out the top crust. That NEVER would have been possible before the renovation. 🙂 I probably should have ‘over-ruled’ him about temperature and time (I’d have picked the higher temperature and the shorter time, which is more typical for pies) but dinner was delicious. Yay us!!
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