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………

Finally the Ceiling I Wanted

flat ceilingI can’t remember how long ago we did the addition on the house – maybe 28 years ago. As I’ve mentioned before, when I requested a skylight, it never occurred to me that it did not come with a slanted ceiling automatically. Instead I’ve had a shaft going up to the roof, letting in light and air (the window can be opened). It hasn’t been bad, or a problem, it was just not what I had envisioned. After we all agreed to slope the ceiling, it was almost a matter of minutes before all the extraneous boards were removed, and the proper supports to satisfy the engineer were installed. I wish I knew how to take photos that would convey the slope, but you will have to make do with what I have. As happened with the widened doorway, freeing the skylight from the shaft has already made a HUGE difference in the room, even with only rough boards. I now also have a beam that WILL be noticeable when all is finished, but I am already planning to hang flower baskets from the beam. That may NOT be a good idea unless I put in fake plants, because I tend to water my plants until it runs out the bottom, and I will also have a brand new floor under those plants. I’m open to suggestions because I’m fairly certain a beam like that is calling for something creative or funky.

I ask questions when the workmen are here, hoping to learn more about how things work, what other people do when renovating old houses. sloped ceilingI was pondering putting in a new electric skylight but we all agreed that making it a power window (and shade) would be adding one more potential headache. I’m not sure what to do about a shade up there. I have a suspicion that now the window is freed from the shaft, there may be a lot more heat than even I will like (I have a very high tolerance for hot weather). That is one of those things that can be addressed at a later time. Still on my list of “things I’d like to accomplish this year” is the replacement of all of the upstairs windows. I can think about the skylight at that time too. Also a new front door. I really want a new front door, too. 🙂 The window people usually do doors as well. Again – that’s something for the fall. I figure maybe October/November time frame to replace the windows. It would be nice to have more energy efficient windows come the cold weather.

I believe that I have mentioned my dislike for the knob & tube wiring in our house. The K&T struck again. We knew that the dining room chandelier was down the line from the kitchen K&T. skylight with high hatsThe electrician had come up with an ingenious solution for getting the dining room back online once we replaced the kitchen K&T. I’m going to spare you the photos and diagrams that would explain this, because – spoiler alert!! – we didn’t do that anyway. I’m sharing it so you can truly appreciate the nuances of replacing K&T. By the way, 3 knowledgeable folk have told me that K&T is SAFER than the current approach. I have NOT understood their explanations but they have all assured me this is so, and they are people who would know. The explanations for why insurance companies won’t insure homes with K&T make as little sense to me as do the explanations for why K&T is safer, but we do what needs to be done to get the permits from the township.

The plan was to take the new up-to-code wiring from the kitchen and run it up the wall to the ceiling, where it would hang a left and go into the breakfast room area. At THAT point it would hang a right and go outside the house, secured to the siding by tubing. I was told that there would be no problem with this if/when we replace the siding. Once the new wire was in line with the dining room chandelier, it would hang a right and head back into the house in the ceiling. They would take down the chandelier and hook it to the new wiring. If all went well, and if they had a clear sight line through the ceiling, they would even send the new wires straight through the ceiling to the sun room, where they would put the ceiling fan/light on the new wiring. You remember the new fan in the sun room, right? That’s what started all of this a year ago. 🙂

Well, the best laid plans and all of that. When they went to replace the K&T in the kitchen, they discovered that the hot wire and the neutral wire did NOT go in the same direction in the dining room. dining room ceiling PLEASE, do NOT ask me to explain what that means. The hot wire went up the wall, hung a left, went down to the switch in the dining room and then up to the chandelier. The neutral wire did not accompany the hot wire on this venture. No, apparently the neutral wire went straight across the dining room and somehow met up with the hot wire near or at the chandelier. In other words – we couldn’t redirect as planned because we wouldn’t have all of the parts available.

The electricians were very apologetic and sorry and, to be fair, as unhappy as I was, but for different reasons, I’m sure. They needed to cut open the dining room ceiling to figure out where the neutral wire was exactly. We discussed all the permutations and as long as they were cutting open the ceiling in the dining room, we agreed to take the new wiring all the way to the sun room and get that done properly as well. That meant a hole in the ceiling and wall of the sun room. This is where again, they know what they are talking about and I imagine something else. That happened in the breakfast room when they said they’d “open the ceiling” and I didn’t realize I was going to lose the whole ceiling and get to beams. That worked out well for me, however. I was imagining the same “rip it all the way open” approach in my dining room as well. Nothing like that. They marked out sections to cut, hoping that they’d hit gold in the first one or two sections.

sunroom ceilingThey covered everything in the dining room with plastic, hung a big plastic sheet between the dining room and the living room, and proceeded to cut away. As you can see in the pictures, the openings are NOT very large (well, not compared to what I was imagining). It just means more painting at the end of the job to get the dining room and sun room cleaned up. In the meantime, I am almost completely free of K&T on the first floor!!!! The front hall light (and I suspect therefore the front porch light) and a few wall sockets are the only K&T left on the first floor. I’m hoping that when we go to deal with them, it will be a non-event. I hope. Please.

So the good news is all of that got done. We had our rough electrical and plumbing inspections last week and passed. I love how we pass the electrical with the wires all hanging down in the basement. aliens in the basementJim and I do need to go down there for laundry, and some other supplies, and we’ll need to empty out all of the STUFF we have stored there for the congregational rummage sale. Yay – we can bring our donations now!!! But we will have to weave our way through the alien life forces that have emerged from the basement ceiling and have congregated around the foot of the stairs.

We’ve started Week #6 and we are making progress. The next thing to be done is to get past the building inspection. I think I understood that means that all the holes around the wires need to be fire-stopped (plugged with fire-retardant material). And I *think* we may get the insulation put in before that too. But our township seems to only inspect on Wednesdays so despite the fire-stopping being completed, I doubt much will happen for another week or more, since the next Wednesday is July 4th. I rather doubt any inspectors will be here on July 4th. But once we pass this point now we start ADDING things instead of REMOVING things. We get walls, then a floor, and then appliances, and then cabinets…. It’s really happening!
approvals

It Has Begun

IMG_8417Although the workmen are MUCH quieter than I had expected, I see no sign of any catabitation upstairs. I have refrained from looking under the bed because I suspect that will be just one more upset for WC, if not for all of them.

Everything has been removed that needed to be removed. The refrigerator and the oak cabinet are both in the dining room AND fully functional. 🙂 Even better, right? A few more boxes needed to migrate into the living room in order to open the refrigerator door but I’ll sort them out later.

IMG_8478There are 3 doorways with trim in the kitchen. Two of those doorways have the original chestnut trim. You can’t get chestnut anymore because of the chestnut tree blight originally diagnosed in the early 1900s. We requested that the workmen preserve and reuse that trim. I was quite happy to see how carefully they were removing it.

I was planning to toss the stove but it pains me too much to throw away something that is working fine when I know that someone out there could use a good working stove for free. My sister has kindly volunteered to help me out with posting the stove to the local swap meet board. I’m also second-guessing myself about the dishwasher, which I love and planned to put back in the kitchen. It’s 4-5 years old, a Bosch, and it’s great. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I’m being penny-wise but pound-foolish. I’m wondering how well it will function after being disconnected, moved, spending several weeks in the garage, and then moved again. *grin* I guess if I’m NOT spending $3400 on the faucet (I did NOT miss a decimal on that price) I could get a new dishwasher.

IMG_8419There is plastic sheeting up on the doorways to the front hall and dining room (think chestnut trim) so I can’t get a good look at what’s not there. I’m fairly certain I no longer have a finished ceiling. 🙂 I did get a few shots as the walls came down. Somewhere I have a photo that shows the wallpaper that was up when we moved into the house. It was truly awful. It might have been that wallpaper alone that caused us to do the addition on the house a mere 8 years or so after we moved in. Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was even older wallpaper buried behind the walls (I wonder why there was wall in front of the wall paper). I can’t say that I like this ‘new’ wallpaper very much but as unbelievable as you may find this – it’s better than what we lived with for years. 🙂

I really like this crew. They are friendly, they are polite, they are cheerful and they answer questions. IMG_8477Normally I like to watch and ask questions and learn, but I decided this time I’d stay as far away as possible and let them do their thing. I’m hanging out in the sunroom. I’d normally have taken today as a vacation day from work because I knew I’d be as distracted and as stressed as I am, but I have a major project underway and I need to be accessible, even if I can’t focus on my own, without a specific question/request.

The next step was supposed to be the framing (okay, I confess – I have NO idea what that really means) but Don came over to tell me that he thinks he needs to bring in the electrician and plumber first, because “there are pipes and wires all over the place”. *laughing* Well, I DID warn Don and Manny that once they opened the walls and floor and ceiling not to expect anything standard. I think everything in this house was built Rube Goldberg-style.

IMG_8480For the moment quiet has settled on the house as it’s lunch hour. That meant I could go through the basement door to see what’s been happening behind the plastic. Wow. Amazing how quickly it all comes down. By the time they left all the walls and ceilings were down. They vacuumed up the dust, put down carpeting for us to make it from the front hall to the deck safely, and promised to come back tomorrow to rip up the floor.

Dinnertime brought out BC and GC, but I have not seen WC since this morning, before the noise and vibrations. I asked my husband to look under the bed to see if she was still breathing. Poor WC. Life is so stressful for her. GC did eat her dinner but stopped after one helping, instead of her more customary three. Maybe things will be more ‘normal’ (feed me feed me feed me!!!!!!) for breakfast tomorrow.IMG_8486 (1)

A Last Look

IMG_8403We are as ready as possible. The Great Incarceration has begun. 2 of the prisoners walked in of their own volition; one was betrayed in her belief that she was getting petted but seized and brought up the stairs and deposited behind the door.

We have moved everything moveable out of the kitchen and breakfast room. Items are tagged indicating if they are to be saved and stored in the garage or saved and stored in the dining room. The dining room is packed with items yet we expect to have both the refrigerator and my kitchen cabinet/table moved in there as well. I must have done a decent job packing items in clear boxes and organizing groups because my husband went looking for something on his own and found it. 🙂

IMG_8404My basement is impassable with items that have been bagged and boxed for our congregation’s huge rummage sale in the summer.

The garage is reorganized to allow space for a dishwasher and table and 2 ceiling fans/lights and the microwave (rummage sale for most of that). The stove is being trashed. The doors are being trashed. I do feel a bit guilty about that but there is only so much I can deal with getting to the rummage sale.

IMG_8406Of the 3 prisoners, BC is upset only when I leave her on her side of the door and go downstairs. BC has had her dinner, also munched on the dry food and I believe may have availed herself of the litter facilities. WC has been under the bed for hours. She emerges to meow loudly but if I talk to her or look at her she goes back under the bed. I don’t think she’s pleased. GC has emerged and joined BC and I in the food room (I incarcerated myself for awhile to read there, hoping it might prove that it was safe territory). She allowed herself to be petted, ate some dry food, but scorned her wet food twice. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s decided this flavor is not suitable for this location, or if it’s simply too stressful to eat under these circumstances. I’m willing to bet that come breakfast time tomorrow, GC will be able to eat.

IMG_8410The only troubling note in all of this is the lack of a phone call from my contractor. When I spoke with them on Wednesday we talked about Tuesday being demo-day, but Don would call me at the end of the week to confirm. Don has NOT called. It really makes no huge difference if demo-day happens Wednesday instead of tomorrow, but I am very ready for this to begin already. The sooner we start, the sooner it’s done.

I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight…..

A Last Hurrah

kitchen stove dining room doorLast night we threw our last party with our old kitchen. It was Memorial Day weekend, always a great time to throw a BBQ. We had several reasons, however, to throw a party. Our wonderful next-door neighbors are moving down (back) to Florida. They will be gone by mid-June. All of us in the neighborhood are heart-broken that they are leaving. We love them, we’ve had such good times together, it was a wonderful, wonderful relationship. I decided that we needed to do a good, fun send-off to remind them how much they like us all and that they would need to come back and visit. (I already have a promise of a return for our Passover seder. 🙂 ) When I first proposed the Bye-bye BBQ I thought that we’d have already lost our kitchen – that we’d be doing this kitchen-free. I’m very happy that we still had a kitchen to do food preparation.

Kitchen sink door to basementThat was the second “last hurrah” – bye-bye to the kitchen. For 34 years we’ve been entertaining, throwing parties, feeding people all from this kitchen and breakfast room. Okay – I’m exaggerating. The breakfast room and deck are only 28 years old. Putting that addition on the house was a true life changer. When we do BBQs, drinks and appetizers are out on the deck and the dinner selections are in the breakfast room. I probably should have taken some pictures of that last night – we had a MOUNTAIN of ribs. 🙂 And LOTS of non-meat sides because we have a fair number of vegetarians in our gathering.

view from breakfast room to front hallYet another reason for the BBQ was my brother-in-law’s birthday. He, like our guests of honor neighbors, is carnivorous so we decided on beef ribs. My sister has a membership in a fantastic warehouse called “Restaurant Depot”. It has every and anything a restaurant/food vendor would want/need. My brother-in-law and I went there on Friday to get the ribs. It’s probably not a good idea to let the 2 of us do this sort of adventure without a chaperone because we both believe that more food is better. No – more than more. We came home with about 30 pounds of beef ribs. But that’s fine, because in 3 days, we’re not going to have a kitchen, no stove, and we’re going to still need to eat. Leftovers!!!! I know some people HATE leftovers but I love them. Leftovers mean I don’t have to cook or prepare something. My husband is the real chef in the family (I bake) and he did a great dry rub on the ribs. For good measure we tossed in some chicken dogs and veggie burgers. view from breakfast room doorwayWe had sugar free cheesecake and sugar free pound cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream for those needing SF, and we had sugar full cheesecake and sugar full ice cream cake for those wanting that good old sugar hit. The appetizers were delicious also. I’ll also give a little mention to the fact that I nearly lost my husband last night. As in permanently. One of my guests brought a home-made keto dessert (she’s very big on all sorts of healthy diets) and I’m not really sure what these things were, but they were sugar free. So she gave 2 to my husband who, of course, ate them. I only found out after the fact when I heard her describing the ingredients which included macadamia nuts. I said – don’t give any to him because he is highly allergic to macadamia nuts. Which is when I heard he’d already eaten them. Everyone joked about it and teased him and her, but the truth is – he was somewhat sick from them last night. 2 little tiny doses but enough for him to have a reaction. :/

I originally planned to do this party today, but as I write this post, rain is thundering down outside, and our phones periodically beep with emergency alert notices about flash flooding. The weather forecasters got all of that right because that was the forecast they were giving a week ago, which is when I said better move the party to Saturday night.

breakfast room table pots and pans closetEighteen of us on the deck – chairs and space enough for everyone, although I will admit there was a tight squeeze in one corner. I had the chance to show everyone the plans for the renovation, and got to show off the now-famous upstairs hall door (you remember – an essential piece for The Great Incarceration). We’ve decided on the faucet for the kitchen sink (somewhat steampunky) and I got to show pictures of that as well. Plus the really amazing steampunk faucet we are NOT getting. 🙂 It’s going to be a huge change.

I’m going to miss my kitchen. I know that many people look at my kitchen and go “ugh”. It’s small, old, kitschy, loud. But I do love it. I love the pink and yellow and bright and the art work and the decorations. I no longer love the floor (28 years ago) or the stove (15 years ago) and I hate that the cabinets and drawers don’t work properly. I’m not loving the current ant invasion, either. Despite all its flaws, when it’s clean and bright, it makes me smile. It makes me happy. I’ve been worried about getting a new, modern, soulless kitchen. I think we’ve made some good choices so that although we will have a new modern kitchen, it shouldn’t be soulless. Time will tell.

breakfast room cat treeToday, however, is designated as “pack up the kitchen and breakfast room day”. Tomorrow is probably the same thing. We are working out a plan for how/when to move cat paraphernalia upstairs in preparation for The Great Incarceration. We are trying to determine in advance where we will put all the boxed up kitchen ‘stuff’. We have a lot of stuff. Where did all this stuff come from? Do we NEED all this stuff????

Tick tock, tick tock….. Less than 48 hours til the wrecking crew arrives…..