Monday, February 20, 2017

Dear Jacinda - The Kitchen Post

I can't believe I haven't done this. When you mentioned wanting to see more updates, I didn't realize just how long it had been. You missed it all, man. It's been forever. So here's some images to amuse you, and update you on the craziness we put ourselves and this little house through last fall.
This is what we started with. To the right you can see the studs of the wall that divided the dining room from the living room and kitchen. I discovered after pulling all the sheetrock off that the wall was indeed load-bearing. The consequence is a 22' long beam in my attic that cost a tidy sum, but was well worth the investment.
 I think this may be the first time Gene has ever demo-ed a kitchen on his own. I had taken the wall down, the carpet was all up, but I was working a lot and he hadn't started work yet, so he got the brunt of the kitchen demo. My favorite moment was when he announced to me that removing old built in cabinets was "a big pain in the ass". Yes, dear. Yes it is...how well I know it.

 He proceeded with the demo and we eventually were down to nothing. The plan was to sheetrock the entire space; living, dining and kitchen, including the ceiling. I wanted to save as much of the old crown and baseboard as possible, not so much for money but because there isn't anything wrong with it. Why throw it away? The contractor was pretty sure I was nuts, but I really didn't care. In the end, all the crown and baseboard is original with a few small exceptions. I just primed and painted it all after pulling all the nails. 
 This is into the living room from the dining room - you can see on the floor where the old wall and closet were. 
 From the pictures above, to this...still in progress, but that partial wall/bookshelf with the pillars is about where the old closet was. The near edge of the gray rug would have been the original wall the divided the kitchen and dining room. 
Another view of the bookcase things - I wanted to create an "entry" feel, which I accomplished beautifully, I think. The remaining closet on the left is perfect for jackets, etc. The pillars and bookcases are now painted white to match the trim and cabinets. The flooring is "luxury vinyl", which was a cost saving decision. If the entire space had been hardwood, I would have made different choices. Because it was mixed old vinyl over plywood and hardwood, it was more cost effective to just go over it with the vinyl and save the money for other things, like granite on my island.
Kitchen almost done. Lights are not in yet, and the backsplash isn't up. But you get the feel. We still need to paint the interior doors white. 
I will put some more photos of it "done" at the end. But now an update on what we do with our spare time...Gene went on that roller coaster, repeatedly. It is called Fury 325 and I love it. It's huge and fast. It's about 45 minutes from here at Carowinds. We also went to Dollywood and rode the coasters there, including a new one that may have ruined me for all other coasters.
 I work sometimes, when not wearing glasses with lights on them. Honest, I really do work. 
Jen and I went horseback riding in Tennessee, and then I dragged Gene and made him go too a few weeks later. It was fun. Very pretty scenery. I like Tennessee a lot. Jen and I had planned to go to the beach, but Hurricane Matthew changed the plan. Mountains, beach, whatever.
 We went to Florida (as usual) but without seeing Mickey Mouse not even ONE time, and ate insanely fresh strawberries from a roadside place. It was amazing. We also were advised to visit a place called "Robert Is Here", which we did - and ended up eating some of the most intriguing fresh tropical fruit I have ever experienced. Highly recommend. We sat outside watching chickens while slurping down smoothies made from crazy things. Very fun.
Everglades visit - we took a boat tour into the 10,000 Islands, and the dolphins followed us around and jumped in the boat wake. At one point the whole pod was there, including a baby shepherded by two adults. It was really cool.
I think this is from the keys. We drove all the way down to Key West, and then drove back to Key Largo where we were staying. This isn't a thing I would probably repeat.
We took selfies. This was snorkeling somewhere...maybe? Or maybe just a swim. We stopped at a bunch of beaches up the west coast, because instead of flying back we drove home. We swam and snorkeled wherever it was possible. I loved the beaches, particularly Venice. I did not like Naples much. Entirely too chi-chi for me. 
When I sent you the text about the place we had dinner at in Everglades City that you would love?  This is it, Camellia Street Grill. Lights on strings, a dance floor to the left out of the frame, lots of bare feet and beer and stone crabs caught that morning. They have a wonderful salad with fresh herbs, and just generally are the sort of laid back image I have of old Florida, before the Damn Tourists Showed Up and Ruined It.
 This was also in the Everglades; a board walk through a jungle, surrounded by wildlife. Snakes, gators, birds. It was picturesque and slightly intimidating. I was happy to be on the boardwalk. We did see tons of gators lying on the bank of a channel beside route 41 between Miami and Everglades City, and a couple of large things draped in trees that I suspect were pythons. They weren't gators, and weren't birds, but they were something big and drape-y. 
Quilt 1: Started for my father, but the lady wasn't going to get it back to me "in time" back there, so it sat until now. Now it is done and has no home, but there it is. 
Quilt 2: Jelly Roll Race quilt made with a jelly roll I got for free somewhere. We like this one and will probably keep it.
The quilt that made me hate quilting. I started this when we lived on Jewett Road I think, and it sat forever unfinished. I finally just threw a back on it and had it finished on a long arm here, and sent it away to Texas to a good home. The good news is that I like quilting again. 
The finished kitchen. Granite on the island, the legs we got for $1 a piece at the ReStore. There is a prep sink in the island, which is right close to the fridge for easy prep. The "big" sink is under the window, and is a single-bowl 32" long, quite deep one. I was really frustrated by not being able to fit my half sheet pan easily into the sink, because we use it fairly often.
Quartz countertops on the perimeter. Kitchen backsplash tile is ceramic wood-look planks intended for flooring. I love them. Plus they cost me less and 1/4 of what a wall tile would have cost. We got these at a discount place in Charlotte. I LOVE this tile SO MUCH. It echoes the floor, and gives some interest without being overwhelming or pigeonholed to a color. 
 There used to be a wall there, separating these two spaces. Crazy. 
And there. Wall-be-gone! Dining room into living room, everything open and light now. It was SO dark at the back of the house before, but now light penetrates everything.
And last one - the living room. We kept the built in, which houses the TV perfectly. The picture over the fireplace is a poster of a picture I took in Plymouth mounted on canvas and framed. Loved the picture and it its perfectly. 
So that's it, that's the nutshell update! Lots of other things going on, but mostly just working and being in this place, which we like...but we're open to more change in the future if we feel led to wander again. I like NC, but the road is always open and seems to be calling! 

And a note for Sally...yes, we are right down the road from you, and have been to Troutman a few times! I am starting a new job in Statesville, so I am up and down 77 through there more often now. Small world! :) 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Orange Azalea

Once upon a time I met Corinne, a hospice nurse who's presence with her patients touched me to my core. She lived next to my mother, and she precepted me during a clinical rotation with hospice - my chosen community nursing experience. She was an avid gardener with a green thumb who loved growing the unusual as well as the ordinary. She was an extraordinary nurse and an amazing human being. One time when my mother's side yard flooded and then froze, she grabbed her skates and my kids and their skates, and spent a joyful day in the side yard, slipping and falling and just having fun. 
I watched her during our days together as she navigated end of life issues, financial issues, fear issues, family issues, medication and pain issues with her patients and their families with an amazing level of pure unconditional love and selfless presence. She brought only herself - no judgements, no opinions, just herself. They adored her, rightly, and would tell her their deepest fears without even a glance in my direction - she made them feel so safe, and so secure, that I disappeared from the space, and she was just there with them, holding hands, opening hearts, loving. She was the epitome of nurse to me. 
Then she developed cancer. And many hearts broke and many prayers went up as her friends and family rallied around. I wasn't lucky enough to be that close, but I watched from next door and prayed along with the rest that God would heal her. After some time and treatment, her cancer went into remission. So she made it a priority to LIVE. She and her husband traveled more, to places mostly familiar and nearby. They rode bikes together, adopted a new healthier lifestyle to help keep cancer at bay, and spent lots of time with family and friends. It seemed as if a brush with death had taught her how to live in a way even more open and more giving and move loving than she'd lived before, which felt impossible.
She once tried to grow an orange azalea - not common in Massachusetts. But it didn't do very well in her yard, so she gave it to my mother. I coveted it, and my mother didn't give it the attention it deserved. When my mother lost her house, I stole it from her back yard. It was a scrawny puny thing, but I loved it. 
Then the cancer came back. Again we prayed, and my mother and I made soup, and her friends from hospice moved into her home and stayed by her side and gave to her and her husband what she had given to so very many. And after a long and hard battle, Corinne died, and the orange azalea suddenly took off. I'd moved it it to my house in Bernardston, and it thrived and grew huge. 
When we sold that house, I cried over the azalea. I had actually included it in a list of things we would be taking with us, but time grew short, and no one could be found to help me dig it up. And it needed help by that point. It needed a truck, and a chain, and a group to pull it up. So it stayed behind.
After we moved to West Northfield, our realtor and very dear friend Pam found one, and brought it to me. She wouldn't let me pay for it. I cried as I planted it, because it felt like home. It grew and bloomed and did very well in the back yard right outside the bedroom window. When we left, I had to leave it behind. I didn't think it would do well in a pot in Plymouth for however long our time there lasted, and I didn't know if it would thrive wherever we landed next. It made me very sad. Orange azaleas somehow now mean home.
When we got here and I started to get to know my very beloved neighbors Troy and Wilma, I discovered that Troy and I share a love of flowering shrubs - although he is a genius and an expert with them and I am a novice. Camellias and azaleas are his favorites. My yard is very barren for the time being because the former owners weren't into the whole yard maintenance thing, and Troy will often call me over to see specimens he thinks are worthy of note. 
The other day he called me over to see his newest azalea - only one year old - a native orange azalea; Tangerine Delight, orange with a little lick of yellow on one side, the exact one Corinne tried to grow, that followed me to Bernardston, that Pam found for Northfield, that I once again had to leave behind. I literally choked up when I saw it. I asked where it came from (Asheville) and promised myself I would get one sometime this spring.
Just now there was a knock on my door, and Troy and Wilma were in my front yard. Troy pointed to a big pot between my bigger maple trees, and said "Well, now, where did THAT come from?? Don't you think you should get that thing into the ground?"
It's my orange azalea. It has a few buds coming - things are colder in the mountains and a bit behind here, and it should bloom in a bit once it's planted. And they won't take a penny for it, and Wilma told me about the iris she bought for $3 each, and Troy bragged on his new red azalea that should bloom in a few days - these are from the mountains and are a little behind us down here - and I tried not to cry (unsuccessfully).
I think I must be home.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Game Continues

Dear Jacinda Again - 
These entries are going to be pretty light on words and heavy on images...or at least for now they will be. We're gonna do it like I just opened an envelope from FotoMat. Remember them? 
So much has happened since last time. I finished the bathroom. We had a hole in that wall under the window, and no art up. So now there's art and the hole is fixed and the towel bar is up. Tell Greg not to look too close. It's up. That's what matters. 
So. Electricians. Yeah. I called a plumber to fix a couple of small things - run a line for the ice maker that Lowe's generously gave me for free with my fridge purchase, and while he was here maybe move the washer fill hoses up from floor level (as in on the floor, no kidding) to a more normal three or four feet up the wall. While he was doing that there was a zzzaaap and some swearing. And then a second ZAAAAP and a lot of swearing. Louder, and with sparks inside and out. He hadn't hit anything; just leaned on a wall, and he got hit pretty good. I asked if my bill would go up - and said I'd provide the electrocution for free if he wanted. So I called electricians. Many, many dollars and many, many days later, I have a new panels inside and out and everything beyond that (super pretty, right? Just what I wanted. Everyone will notice it, I know), and some extra things just for kicks - like ceiling fixtures and outlets that aren't all (yes, all) tied to a wall switch. I am also mostly rewired. The thing that bit the plumber was the 220 to the cooktop. It broke and shorted. But the breaker didn't trip until he hit it a second time, and the old panel was proved to be some older model known for not tripping and causing house fires. A lot of the breakers were melted, there was a ton of corrosion. I won't bore you with the details, but it ate the whole kitchen budget, or enough of it that everything came to a grinding halt. Except that I don't do "halt" well at all as you'll see below.
Violet really loved getting into the cabinets. It was driving me really crazy. Couldn't keep her out. And really I was so sick of looking at my stuff. I like things put away. Between the stuff on the counters from the electricians and plumber needing to get in everything and the darn cat climbing up there it was getting annoying.
Oh! We went for tacos on my birthday! I found this place called Burrito Loco. So, so good. I had these - gringa tacos with pork (because one cannot be a vegetarian when there are these kind of tacos. Just cannot) and fresh lime and cilantro and tomatillo...sigh. SO good. Gene had shrimp tacos which were also AMAZING. Love it there. Remind me to take you.
Gene hung out with the boys which made them very, very happy. I don't play ball right. I don't rough house right. They miss him a lot. And I really enjoyed not walking them for potty time ONCE for DAYS!
I got a birthday present from you - and it totally made me day. So excited about the syrup, the seeds and the picture. The seeds are started along with my cherry tomato seeds from farmer's market cherry tomatoes I got back in Greenfield. Don't know who sold them to me, don't know what they are, just know Gene loves them. Started tomatoes. Before my birthday. Love it here. Except...no April. Sad Omie face.
Gene hung the Algot shelving from Ikea in the craft room/office closet. Now we both have room for all the stuff we think we need but totally don't. It's come together. I could work in there if I wasn't all over the rest of the house.
 Dad had a birthday, too, or would have. We celebrated with KFC, just like we did last year with him. We sat and ate in the restaurant and I remembered how he would take me to the one in Keene on the way back to Dublin and we would talk. It was a right thing to do.
And Rusty Nails, because he would want me to. Then I watched the Dayton 500, because he would also approve of that. Since then I have watched three other races. It's not a bad way to pass a few hours; watching cars or trucks turn left while knitting with dogs on my feet.
We went to this place on our last night before Gene left - Lancaster's. It's ... well. I don't need to go again. Tacos, I need. I don't need this. It wasn't bad. But it just wasn't for me.
 Or for Gene...
Love this fixture in the dining room. Love it. So do the neighbors, who all complimented me on it after I left the shades up the first night it was hanging. In case you wondered if the neighbors are in your business, they most certainly are. And it's ok with me. If something is out of place, off, strange, they will be the first to know, and will have no problem asking about it. Feels very safe.
We started getting the cabinet doors on and finished them just before Gene left. Again, Greg should not look. They are up and that's all that matters. I need to sand in spots, do some touch ups, and hang the last few handles. I sort of lost interest in this after Gene left. I got kind of mopey. Kind of.
He will be back in March. But it is hard to do all this separation stuff. It's not who we are. I am sure some shrink would tell me how healthy it is - look, I can live alone, and isn't that great. Well, I already knew I could. And I chose not to, until now. I will be happy when it is May.
The electricians took away all the baseboard heaters that weren't functioning, and I started scraping the mess left behind. Since this they've been tapped and patched where needed and skim coated with joint compound and sanded once. I need to do a couple more coats, and then I can paint and put up baseboard. They left the wiring for the heaters in boxes at the floor. I can cover them with white plates after I put up the baseboard around them, and they will sort of blend in since the baseboard will be white. It's better than blank white plates on the walls, I think. Pulling it all out is complicated because the crawl space under the house is insulated and they all come from down there. This is the best fix for now.
These two guys came and cut a hole for a proper range after the glass cooktop electrocution incident. I really needed an oven that could hold a sheet pan. The wall oven I had is a 24 inch model. Nothing fits in it. Teeny thing. The cooktop had been dead since the plumber got hit. Now there can be cooking. They bartered me the cooktop for half of the work, which worked out well for everyone.
I wanted the ceiling fan in the bathroom replaced, and got one with a light so that you get light in the shower and a new, modern fan that vents to the soffit vent instead of the old one which was venting to....the attic insulation. Tipped right over, face down in the insulation. Because one wants one's shower steam to go into insulation. But I could not find a fan that would fit the old space, so I had to fix the ceiling. 
 See. No fit. Very sad. But that fix Greg can look at, because so far it's going brilliantly.
We lost power. We had tornado warnings and such while the guys were making the space for the range. We never would have known if Neighbor Troy hadn't wandered over and come along to tell me. I battened down, closed the garage, and the storm passed by pretty quickly. The guys finished and left, and about an hour or so later the power went out, and stayed out until after dark. We had some intense wind for about 16 hours.
The power was off long enough that I decided to cast on a sweater (because that's what you do when you have no lights...). It came on later that night, but the wind howled away until morning.
I got miserably bored with the black front door and decided it was time for a change. This is not the change...it's the pre-change!
I fried eggs. Repeatedly. It is true that 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone'. I was SO happy to have a stove again; I could eat fried eggs every day just so I can use the stove.
More ceiling patching...it's actually almost done now. I will be glad when there's a light and a cover there. But this fan? Wow. Before it was like there was no fan, just a ceiling based noise-maker, and now the mirror doesn't even get the slightest bit wet, and I take insane long hot showers. Very happy I made this choice, even though it requires more work.
Red door - it's really orange, like a bittersweet crayon (or like the berry). I am debating bringing that color on to the storm door too. Today when I came home from shopping it really felt like I need to bring it out all the way. More will be revealed.
I bought this fabric to cover this chair. The chair was Aunt Blanche's. I need to refinish it and then make covers for the cushions. I had been using it as my porch chair in Plymouth, but now I am undecided. It's feeling heirloom-y now. Maybe it deserves to be inside. It is a perfect sewing and knitting chair in height. My feet actually touch the floor. Unheard of!
 Violet. Found. Yarn. And she loves it. A lot.
Today I was bored and really actually... ok look. I wasn't bored. I was heartbroken. Sad. Crying a lot. Dad's dead. Gene's gone back north. I'm alone. Not alone-alone, but alone. I had a pity party and decided that I needed to DO something about it, so I did. I did something. I grabbed my maul and a wrecking bar and a hammer and a broom and a box of black trash bags.
I stopped here. I said that wall was coming out. I meant it. I only stopped because when you do demo alone you realize that there's clean up. And dogs to walk. And maybe lunch to make. And there isn't anyone to pick up the slack when I decide to remember I am not 25.
I need someone to come and tell me for sure that I am right about what's structural and what's not, and then this puppy is coming DOWN. Down and out. Until the sun went down I could not stop looking over there at the sun pouring in the front window. This is going to be amazing.
And then next week I can make a few trips to the dump and get rid of all this... which down here is pennies a pound. It's crazy. 800 lbs of carpet and padding for al of about $16? Sign me up! If the quantities were smaller, they'd come and get it at the curb. Actually, they may do that now based on some of the piles I've seen outside of people's homes, but it's easier to just load it up and get rid of it rather than carrying it all up to the curb.
That's it for now...more later when there's more to see!