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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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!!! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ It’s really happening! *cringes at a particularly LOUD bang*

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

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚
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. πŸ™‚
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. πŸ™‚ )
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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚
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”. πŸ™‚

Beauty and Function

My husband will say it’s Function and Beauty. Every time he does something in the kitchen (cooks, cleans, preps) he comes over to me and says “As beautiful as it is, it’s even more functional than it is beautiful.” I always reply “it’s equally beautiful and functional.” It really is. IMG_9479 We are both amazed and delighted each and every time we are in the kitchen. I’m not sure but I think the sink might actually be the best single improvement in the room.

Our contractor did not think we had sufficient cabinets and counters. We kept assuring him that we thought we were okay with the new plan and that for us it was so much more than we’d ever had. He (and most everyone else) told us to think ahead, that just because it was better didn’t mean we’d achieved best. We think we achieved best. I cannot believe how simple it has become to prepare a meal. It’s so easy, and such a pleasure, that I’m cooking again, not just baking. *laughing* Sometimes we both say “I thought I’d make this for dinner tonight” and one of us will give way and let the other have the fun. I love how I can have my measures right at hand along with the compost bin, and my knives within reach if I need a new one. IMG_9474When I work there at the counter the stove is just to my right, easy reach to go from cutting board to pot.

Today we passed the last of the official township inspections: electrical, building (fire), and plumbing (note the Oxford comma). (By the way, every inspector commented on how beautiful they found the new kitchen.) That does NOT mean, however, that we have actually finished this renovation. We still have a final payment reckoning. There were MANY add-ons, and those costs need to be tallied. In addition, the floor is still not right. They are coming on Thursday to try to fix it. I’ve been promised deck lights and we’ve actually agreed on what kind and how many and where. And the kitchen ceiling still needs to be sanded and painted after the plumbing leak. We’re close, but we are NOT there yet.

I WAS going to throw a party in November, a “come see my beautiful new kitchen” party. That is not going to happen, at least not in November. It will happen on New Year’s day. Now that we moved our New Year’s Eve party to New Year’s Day, we’ll invite the world to THAT party to see the gorgeous kitchen. In the meantime we have cooked meals for a few people already. I had the ladies over for Sukkot, we had another friend over for Sukkot, and friends over last weekend for a soup-to-nuts dinner – cocktails through to dessert. IMG_9520My husband and I were able to do that dinner without any bumping into each other, or needing to time counter space or any other “right of way” issues. It was great. I made bread (from scratch, no bread machine), Turkish coffee brownies, salad, yogurt pie, and roasted broccoli & cauliflower. My husband did his wonderful hand-made pasta, and a tagine chicken dish that is sensational. I also had time to make all the accoutrements for the cocktails: allspice dram and a cranberry syrup. It was all so much fun!!!!! The leftovers are pretty yummy also. πŸ™‚

Morning Mystery

It’s a beautiful bright sunny day today! When I was opening the blinds in the breakfast room I noticed a big something on the deck. It is a piece of siding. I turned and looked at the house but….. I’m not seeing any missing pieces. A long piece of siding is a bit heavy to have traveled very far by wind. I backed up and backed up and craned my neck to see. Hmmm. Perhaps under one of the windows on the 2nd floor, above the breakfast room roof? IMG_9527But how did it get where it is without damaging the skylight? My husband came and looked also and that’s our best guess. Neither of us remembers if there was a piece of siding there or not, or if it was all flashing where the breakfast room joined the original house. There’s an UP side to it all, however!

We made an executive decision last week. We need (oh we DESPERATELY need) all new windows upstairs. It has always been ‘the next thing’ after the kitchen. I’ve been dreading getting quotes and setting up appointments and making decisions. And more contractors. I finally began researching the topic last week and what I found played right to my preferences. Most of the articles said pick your contractor first, not the window. Work with someone you trust. We have someone we trust, who does great work. We asked Don to give us a quote to put in new windows and a front door. πŸ™‚ Done. And since Don is already used to how much scope-creep we have he will not be surprised when we ask him to put back the siding as well. πŸ™‚

The other exciting news for me this morning is that all of my new appliances set themselves to the correct time this morning!!!!! I was dreading trying to figure out how to reset the thermostat and the kitchen stove. The microwave is easy-peasy but I still have not figured out the complexities of the stove digital controls. Yay for things that solve themselves!!!

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

Update: Still leaking. 😦 Even worse – leak wouldn’t happen when the plumbers came back to see/fix. This morning after I pushed the heat up I came down to find a puddle under the pipe and a drip still on the pipe. By the time the plumbers came the puddle had dried to 1/2 its original size. We pushed the heat up again in an attempt to start the dripping, but nothing dripped. I’m incredibly frustrated that I cannot demonstrate this. The good news is Michael saw the remaining puddle and believes me. They are once again cutting and replacing pipes. Isn’t it a good thing that no one closed up the ceiling yesterday? Is that a 😦 or a πŸ™‚ ? And now back to our original post….

TJI still have a half-written post about how wonderful it is to work in the new kitchen. I have photos, too. But I’ve been a bit busy with other things and haven’t had much time or mental energy to write. It’s interesting how bad things can get those mental juices flowing. That must be part of the reason so much great literature is about unhappiness. Take the opening line of ‘Anna Karenina‘: β€œAll happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” When everything is great and happy and wonderful, there is less impetus to write.

preparing front hallYesterday was an exciting day in the kitchen renovation. It should have been the penultimate day (I’m still hoping that Don will come through for me and get the electricians here with deck lighting, but just between you and me – I suspect that lighting has fallen by the wayside.). The plumbers and TJ were here to put in the new radiators, install the cold water filter under the kitchen sink and to put in the oil-rubbed bronze hardware in the pocket door. 3 plumbers and TJ all working away in the kitchen, basement and front hall. The cats were imprisoned once again upstairs. BC had gone up there on her own, but I had to physically catch and carry GC and WC up behind the wooden door. The plumber was astounded at the sounds WC makes as she is carried up to her incarceration. Hard to believe such a little thing can make such a loud appalling noise. (Her life is soooo hard, she’s had much practice.)

The new radiators were very exciting to everyone, as the plumbers had never worked with this kind of unit before. placing the radiatorI learned a lot of interesting things as well. For starters, I learned that “wall mounted” does NOT mean that the water pipes come through the walls. It means that there are no feet on the floor, but that the water pipes do still come through the floor. I’d been told that the front hall radiator would be wall mounted but the one in the kitchen would not, as it is situated in front of the pocket door. As it turned out, they were both mounted on the wall. I knew the new floor would be drilled in the kitchen therefore but I did not realize the slate in the front hall would be drilled as well. That was not an issue because I’d already told Michael weeks ago that I was resigned to the fact that the slate might need to be drilled. The holes for the pipes are so small (comparatively) that it really is no big deal. The radiators are beautiful and do exactly what I hoped – fade into the wall behind them.

The other thing I learned was how my heating system works. My husband was very smug when he told me he knew this all along. Huh. But he knows NOTHING about BLEEDING the radiators, so there. hole in ceilingMy huge old cast iron radiators all have 4 feet (hence not wall-mounted) and there is a pipe going in one end and a pipe coming out the other end. I’ve always assumed that meant the water flowed in one end, out the other and went on its merry way to the next radiator. That is NOT the case. All of the radiators get water IN from one set of pipes and release it OUT to a different set of pipes. That explains why when I see the pipe running up from one floor to another there are always 2 pipes. The IN system is controlled by valves on each radiator that can either allow water into that unit or that unit can be bypassed as the water flows to the next unit. This setup means that the boiler can be going but individual radiators can be turned off without turning off every radiator downstream. I never realized that. It will be important.

soffitAnyway, things were going swimmingly (and yes, I choose that word deliberately). The filter was in, the pocket door hardware was in, the radiators were in, the water was turned on to fill the radiators and we upped the thermostat to make the water hot. And then Michael saw water on the kitchen floor. He went to the basement and there was water dripping down onto the floor there. There was a leak within the walls.

dirty fingerprintsI will spare you the drama that ensued. I will say that I stayed very calm, which I suspect most of you will not believe. But over the last year or so I HAVE learned that things that can be solved by money are probably not the big things in life. And these contractors have worked such magic that I believe they can fix anything and make it beautiful. I was concerned that the plumber might have heart failure, he was that upset. That is NOT fixable by money.

So. At day’s end we did have heat (which was good, because the overnight temps were in the 40s F), although the 2 new radiators were still offline. There is now a big hole in my gorgeous kitchen ceiling, saw-marks on the soffit, and dirty fingerprints on the other side of the soffit (for balance while investigating). kitchen radiatorThere is also a scratch on the floor from the step ladder but you have to have your face very close to see it. I mentioned it to my husband who said “I see it” and pointed to a non-existent scratch elsewhere. *grin* I was up close and personal because I was cleaning up after everyone had left.

Michael is back today (not the whole crew) and he’s bringing the new radiators online. I understand there will be someone coming sometime to fix the ceiling, front hall radiatorbut as is typical with communications on this job (I have mentioned my dissatisfaction with the information flow) I don’t know who or when. Since there is no longer a key in the lock box they will have to let me know. I do hope it’s sooner rather than later as I was planning to throw a “come see my gorgeous new kitchen” party. Sigh.

These are all things and can be fixed. It’s disappointing, but not terminal. The house is warm, all the radiators are going. My water is filtered. I have matching hardware in my pocket door. The sun is shining. And the cats are happy.
One of these days I’ll even finish the post about how fantastic it is to work in the kitchen.

BC on boots
Obligatory Cat Photo – BC decided to rest on my rainboots