Thwarted!!!!!

blockade!

It was only a matter of time. Sooner or later there would be something happening in the renovation which would be deemed not-cat-safe. Sheetrock is NOT cat-friendly. It makes a complete and total mess. The floors are covered in white dust. There is STUFF everywhere: debris, workmen’s tools, supplies, unknown stuff. BC got out during dinner (the door being opened a zillion times to the dining room and us being less than speedy) and headed upstairs. She did NOT want to come back down. She was Exploring. When I went to pick her up she ran into our bedroom. I locked her in. After a bit she was willing to be freed and come into the dining room for Greenies. As much as I love her being with us, I did NOT want her wandering about the mess, nor did I want white dust-covered paws jumping into our bed. Drastic measures were needed. I took one of the large boxes in the front hall (the one with the pedestal for the sink) and put it across the bottom of the plastic zip door. For good measure I placed another box on top, although I was fairly certain one box would suffice. I was correct. BC did try valiantly to get out that night, as evidenced by the shredded plastic in the morning. But as determined as she is, she is still a little too small to push that box out of the way. We’ll open it up again soon, little kitty, I promise.

defeat

Black Cat Houdini

Or: Where there’s a will there’s a way

Felis Triumphans

Black Cat wants to be with us. Mostly with me, but also with my husband. Pre-renovation she would follow me about the house. If I was doing something that appealed to her (as in creating a lap, working somewhere she could have a view of the world, etc) she would stay with me. If I was doing something boring like ironing in the basement she’d see what I was doing and then leave for more comfortable/interesting locations. During the renovation she’s had great fun walking between my husband’s keyboard and my keyboard – she can annoy both of us without too much effort. *grin*

How it began – ah, the innocence

During the work day all is copacetic. Her preferred spot is the cat tree next to my “desk” but sometimes she neeeeeds to be on the table with her tush on the edge of my keyboard. Hey – if that’s what she needs, that’s what she needs. My friend Honour understands this and understands who sets the priorities in a household. 🙂 Lately BC has taken to walking across my keyboard. We have been having many discussions about this habit.

Let’s see you push THAT door open

It’s been 2.5 months since the renovation and the Second Great Incarceration began. Apparantly BC has lost patience with being incarcerated. Oh sure, it’s fine during the day when there is almost always one of us incarcerated as well. But she has THINGS to do at night, especially walking on us while we are sleeping and meowing loudly at 2:00 am. Being incarcerated impinges on the things she needs to do.

Insufficient # of shoes and brick placement

In our defense I need to remind everyone that WC and BC are incarcerated to PROTECT THEM. Upstairs the walls are opened, there are holes in the floor, splinters and dust. Yes I try to keep on top of all those things but still. Our friends have a horror story of how THEIR kitten managed to get up in the walls and get herself dry-walled there before anyone knew it. They had to tear down the wall to get her. We’d really prefer to avoid such a situation.

So to protect our fur babies we blocked the doorways, creating the Second Great Incarceration. It has been working well. Then about 2 weeks ago my husband informed me that I had forgotten to latch the door to the dining room and when he came down in the morning there was BC – on the stair landing, NOT incarcerated. Then he told me the same thing the next morning. Well, one night of forgetfulness I can believe but not TWO nights. I investigated. I discovered that if one tapped on the door with enough pressure (and it didn’t need much) the hook would pop out of the latch and the door would open. Such a BRILLIANT kitty!!! I switched the latch to a carabiner AND began putting the paper recyling bin in front of the door when I went to bed.

reinforced the netting

She got out again. We realized it when my husband got up in the middle of the night to “use the facilities” and I heard him call her name. He came back to bed and she followed. The next morning we went to check. Carabiner & bin in place. Plastic door, brick and shoes in place. Did she teleport??? We discussed this. I investigated and noticed that there was actually a lot of space above the bookcases in the living room, part of the plastic doorway setup. I thought maybe she jumped up there, walked behind the plastic and then jumped down to the hallway. I spent a good hour the other morning putting up screening, enforcing all the tape on all the existing screening and plastic. I was sure that would be the solution.

Reinforced door – notice addition of screening to block passag

That night we hadn’t even made it to sleep before BC was up in the bed with us. I confess that we both adore her and it was NOT a hardship to have her snuggling. She does NOT try to escape when there are workers here, nor if we are also incarcerated. Even so – this was a mystery that needed solving. There might come a time when we do NOT want to risk her wandering about and getting stuck/hurt. In the morning I said the only way she could have gotten out was by wriggling UNDER the plastic door in the front hall. There were shoes there, and a brick on one of the zippers, but she’d seen me go in and out that door. When I checked I saw that yes, a cat COULD fit underneath, but only if it didn’t mind wriggling and pushing through a tight space. I didn’t think cats really did that kind of thing.

I am Cat. I am Strong. I am Determined.

Last night I determined to “win” this game. I moved the brick, I put my husband’s shoes, my sneakers, my sandals all onto the plastic flap on the floor. You’d have to be one very very determined kitty to push ALL of that out of the way to get out. BC is a very very determined kitty. When *I* got up last night to use the facilities, eyes closed, still half asleep, a little furry head brushed my hand. Yep, there were 3 of us in the bed again last night. Where there’s a will, there’s a Black Cat.

Napping after a hard night’s work moving shoes and bricks.

Construction or Destruction?

Because no matter what the post topic, nothing beats a beautiful orange hibiscus

Sometimes during a renovation it’s hard to tell which description is most apt. Of course given that I’m still dragged-out from Covid, and I’m STILL congested with a runny nose, it’s hard to do most anything.

Grape tomatoes don’t require my brains or energy to thrive. Can you see all those green tomatoes?

There has been some work done with framing and pipes since my husband and I were felled by Covid. I think it all happened on the Monday before I lost touch with reality. Ken & Chris added more pipes and connections for the new bathroom.

sometime last week there were pipes for the sink & toilet

Yesterday John and coworker (don’t know his name) were here doing more framing – hammering, sawing, generator running, maneuvering large plywood sheets around my old, beloved chestnut bannister and railing. You know I first started to watch and then decided to turn away because I did NOT want to see it go wrong. Of course it was fine. They are pros, after all.

and we’ll have a working shower as well 🙂

The HVAC person, Marcel, came by last week with Don. We got the quote on that yesterday. All told, not unreasonable. I really consider putting in central air to be a necessity. Yes I’ve lived here 38 years without it, but there have certainly been times it would have been a very nice option. Once I decided we’d do this renovation, I figured out there were 3 guiding principles.

Boards come, they go. I thought that was framing the shower but later photos say no

First goal was to give my husband the 2nd bathroom he’s been wanting for years and years now. The second goal is to add the other things that we’ve thought would be nice to have. For instance a new floor. The original/current one squeaks. A lot. It’s also very worn. We’re going to use it as sub-flooring for new wood floors.

replacing broken boards, and they’ve leveled the original floor that was under the wall – had to bring it to the level of the exposed flooring

The third and very important guideline is for selling the house. Ultimately we will move and have to sell the house. We cannot sell it with the knob&tube wiring in place. We’ve been told that insurance companies will no longer insure homes with K&T and so we either deal with it ourselves before we sell or we have to factor that into a reduced desirability/cost when we sell.

In case you forgot knob & tube wiring. I believe the fuzzy stuff is insulation, NOT wiring 🙂

Although we love our hot water radiator heating, the radiators are the old huge iron radiators. They take up a LOT of space and are not especially attractive. We’ve dealt with them on the first floor by purchasing attractive radiator covers decades ago, and removing the 2 in the kitchen & front hall as part of that renovation. But there are 5 old iron ones upstairs and we’re replacing them as part of this effort. I don’t want to hear about “ew the radiators are so big and ugly”. Incredibly efficient but ugly.

Chris removing the radiators

I want my windows back. For 38 years I’ve had to deal with a/c units rendering windows useless. In 2019 we replaced all of the upstairs windows yet I still lost 3 of them to a/c units. I LIKE windows. A lot. As long as the walls and ceilings would be ripped open I said let’s put central air up there. Don said it would not be much more effort to drop it to the 1st floor as well, which would be wonderful. I’d get back my dining room window. We’re going to take the window that was removed from the little room (which will now be a bathroom) and we’re going to put that in our bedroom next to the existing side window. MORE LIGHT!!!! And fresh air in season.

There will be a different window up there ultimately, in the shower. an “awning” window

Today John & friend and Ken & Chris were here. Not sure what all the woodworking was about but the radiators were going. *laughing* And not a moment too soon. I had the a/c units going this past weekend. I woke up Monday morning and as I pulled up the shades I thought “is that radiator WARM???” Yep. I’d forgotten to turn DOWN the thermostat while the a/c was on. *rolling eyes* I told Ken & Chris to make sure they not only removed the radiators but turn OFF the connections from the thermostat as well. *grin*

there was a board, now there is not. but there IS insulation

So here we be. We are still home not working. Well, I managed to do a little something today that did not require a lot of brain power. There’s something I need to do for someone at work but it requires much more attention to detail and thought than I can muster at this point. The radiators are disconnected. There’s woodworking done. Don said that next he wants to start on the shower!!!

If those boxes are for the shower, WHY NOT THE TILES??????

I was SO EXCITED and asked if that meant I should have the tile delivered so we could start designing the tile walls. Don got that patient long-suffering face he uses with me and started shaking his head saying “too soon”. 😦 I want to play with the tiles! And I’m afraid that he will tell us one day – get the tiles so we can install them tomorrow, without leaving us time to obsess and agonize and do and redo our design. 🙂

the gardenias are blooming. so are the canna lilies but they are the WRONG cannas. 😦 too short
Why I need to protect the hibiscus every day with repell-all. so beautiful!!

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.

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.

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. 🙂

The Pie Lady

It has happened – we handed over the final payment check. The kitchen ceiling was repaired after the pipe leak (yes, the pipe was repaired also). The floor was pulled up and redone in the doorway and the breakfast room. The kitchen is gorgeous and functional and I love every moment I spend there. I have been cooking and baking and trying out new recipes. I may have done more cooking in the last few weeks than I have done in the last few years. Okay, that WAS an exaggeration, but you understand the emotion there. 🙂

I’m not a vegetarian, I do eat meat, but I eat a lot less meat than I did in years past. That’s partly age/digestion and partly diet/weight. 🙂 Now you know all my secrets. kale pie openAlthough Thanksgiving dinner is not at my house (except for the fun of hosting it last year), I do contribute a vegetable side dish and sugar free desserts. This year I wanted to find something exciting and interesting, something that would ‘represent’ my gorgeous new kitchen. A FB friend posted a link to LiveKindly’s article “12 Meat-Free Mains for the Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving”. The picture looked so yummy I had to click through. The pictures of the entrees were GORGEOUS and nearly all the dishes sounded delicious. Some of them even looked as if they would not be too difficult to make.

There were still 2 weeks to go before T-day, so I decided to test out some of the recipes and decide which I should make. I got ambitious and made both the Kale Almond Butternut Squash pie and a no-sugar apple pie. I was in a hurry and multi-tasking, so I did not chop the kale as finely as it needs. cooked kale pieMy other take on this recipe, and I thought this while I was making it and after eating it, is that it needs liquid. Next time I will either puree some of the squash before adding it to the pie, or mix in some squash soup. The crust, however, is phenomenal. I’ve not cooked with coconut oil before (I’ve used coconut milk) and the particular brand I used was very solid (I gather some brands are not as thick). I foolishly put the dough for the top crust into the refrigerator while I was working and it was so thick/dry that it was very difficult to work it. That’s on me, however, not the recipe. The crust is delicious. My husband said it was like eating scones. He broke off edge pieces and munched on them. 🙂 I have to agree. Using the coconut oil for the crust added a dimension to the pie I’d never have imagined. Fantastic recipe (but add some liquid).

The apple pie was also an experiment. I used to make my sugar-free apple pie filling by pureeing raisins with some juice. There is a LOT of sugar in raisins. I had 2 ideas for this year. apple pie closeupI used dried apricots, which have a lot less sugar than raisins, pureed with cranberries and cranberry juice (diet). I misjudged that as it was my first time working with the apricots, and I did not have enough liquid there. I layer the apples, then spread some of the pureed mixture, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg, and do the layers again. On the top I put fresh orange zest. It tasted fine, but it needed more moisture. It also was not going to be sweet enough for my brother-in-law, who likes things much sweeter than we do (my husband and I). But we had a great dinner that night – pie for dinner and pie for dessert.

I’ll tell you about the other dishes and the apple-pie remake in another post. 🙂 I’m including the obligatory cat photo. I apologize for the horrible quality but I took it with my incredibly old iPad2 (7 years old already). Had I gotten up to get my camera, WC would have moved and I would not have this picture of her. She’s so cute when she is sleeping. Also QUIET. 🙂
wc sleeping

Dressing the Walls

IMG_8035One of a homeowner’s great pleasures, and often greatest frustrations, is decorating the walls of the house. Some people like a stark look, almost nothing on clean walls. Others hang zillions of photos – family, or vacation, or nature, or animals. Others hang artwork (however you choose to define it). My old kitchen had walls with LOTS of pictures and art and photos, because I had a lot of wall space and LOTS of chachkes.

My new kitchen has cabinets and brick, not exactly conducive to attachments. It also has a very clean, spare look, also not exactly welcoming to chachkes. I had a lot of chachkes hanging on the old cabinets, from the windows, on the refrigerator. I didn’t want to repeat that in the new kitchen. But there was a wall that cried out for artwork. I knew from the design stage that there was a wall that would need something.

I thought I’d found the perfect picture to hang on the wall between the basement door and the doorway to the front hall, above the new radiator. I’d found it in July at a street fair, when I bought another picture from the artist, Linda McAdams.IMG_9532 As I realized when I started looking for dish towels and oven mitts, there is no way that RED will work in this kitchen, and the “perfect picture” had a big red and white striped beach umbrella (that’s why it was perfect and I loved it *grin*). I was a bit bummed, to tell the truth. My friend and I started idly perusing Linda’s website via my phone and discovered that besides her beach/ocean series, she had an Italy portfolio as well. So many of the colors were the same colors as the brick backsplash in the kitchen – warm, rustic, brick. My friend was clicking through the mini pictures when I stopped her. “That looks like Castel Sant’Angelo”, I said. We enlarged the photo and sure enough – it was Castel Sant’Angelo.

I LOVE Castel Sant’Angelo. When my son and I were in Italy a few years ago, one of our best experiences was touring Castel Sant’Angelo. IMG_9531We spent so much time there, loving every floor, taking a zillion photos, staring out at the bridges across the Tiber. Originally Hadrian’s tomb, various popes turned it into a fortress, attached to St. Peter’s Basilica. We both took panoramic shots of the river and Pons Aelius (sorry – we switch to Latin for this *grin*) and the 10 angel statues decorating the bridge. We spent our whole time there exclaiming how much my husband would love to see it – structures, architecture, archaeology, history. All 3 of us adore those fields. *grin* And for B, who I know reads this blog – we love talking about Hannibal and elephants, too. *grin*

Once I saw that photo I knew I had THE picture for my kitchen. 3 of my friends had seen photos of the kitchen with the back splash and said it reminded them of Tuscany/Italy. I’d felt that way also. IMG_9538 Here was a picture that was the right color, the right mood, and a reminder of an extremely happy time. I had to have it. I contacted Linda McAdams, gave her the measurements for that space, gave her my credit card and within 2 weeks – there it was. I also learned a lot about how to hang artwork on a drywall (not plaster wall) that was hollow – the pocket door is behind the wall – no long strong nails could be used. A friend had recommended Command hangers (I’d never heard of this fantastic product before) but although I DID buy various packs of Command hangers for future use, we ended up using High and Mighty hangers, which are designed specifically for drywall.

My sister “discovered” the art for the doorway between the breakfast room and the kitchen. It was in my dining room. I’d bought it many years ago with a bonus check I’d received, due in part to the work I’d done in virtual worlds. The piece was mounted on a dark wall. IMG_9537It SHOULD have been on a lighter wall but we never did get around to repainting that wall for that purpose. The piece, therefore, has probably been overlooked by most visitors for years. Now it has a place of honor over the new doorway, with lots of light from the skylight and a clean white wall behind. I can enjoy it every day when I sit at the bistro table.

I will probably put back at least one of the pieces that used to be in the breakfast room on the driveway-side wall above the table, and very possibly put them both back. I’ll have to get that done before the “come see my new kitchen party”. 🙂