Thursday, December 17, 2015

slow and steady...

Somebody had a birthday on Monday!! We now have an 8yo in the house. She is very happy with her new Creeper softie made and given to her by Daniel (of course he made it a bit smaller than his handmade Creeper softie.)

Creepers are a Minecraft thing. I'm just assuming that those of you out there who are parents of children age 7 through adolescence at least know about Minecraft. If you have somehow dodged the Minecraft obsession in your household, I applaud you.

We have a fairly recent tradition around here of the birthday gal or guy choosing menus for every meal of the day. They haven't yet figured out that they could ask for something totally crazy like pizza for breakfast and ice cream for lunch...still, cooking a day's worth of meals in the basement kitchen was challenging enough. Anya wanted doughnuts for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch - easy enough once I told her we couldn't possibly make doughnuts from scratch in the basement and she'd have to make do with ones I brought home from a local bakery - and then Banh Mi (Vietnamese-style pork meatball sandwiches) for supper with homemade bread because store bought baguettes are too chewy

I obliged. I spent the whole day shopping for food, making food, cleaning up after making food. I didn't mind so much, really, but I did think a lot about how this will all be so much easier on her next birthday when I have an actual kitchen to work in.

I did everything by hand because my trusty gadgets were unavailable. I mixed the cake by hand because when I started, that seemed easier than pulling down the stand mixer from the bathroom windowsill where it currently resides and washing all the dust off before mixing up a cake in it and washing it all again. I might have been wrong about that. If you've ever made a cake by hand with a wooden spoon, you'll appreciate the workout I got beating the milk and butter into the dry ingredients. Holy cats is that a lot of work. She wanted whipped cream on the cake instead of frosting (that's my girl!) so I did that by hand with a whisk, too, because I couldn't find the mechanical mixer. It's buried somewhere in the stacks of boxes lining the walls of the basement.

I mixed the dough for rolls by hand, and even sliced and grated all the vegetables for the BanhMi pickle by hand because there was no way I was going to unearth the food processor and clean it twice.

The meal was a success, the cake was delicious, and after all that mixing and kneading, my arms are a little stronger than they were last week. It almost makes me wonder if those gadgets are even worth having? Aren't we all supposed to be trying to live more simply these days and appreciate the effort that goes into making something by hand, even a birthday cake?

Food for thought, certainly.

Because I'm sure some of you are wondering how the renovation is going, here's an update. Progress is slow, but steady. 

We went two weeks without laundry, and finally got the washing machine re-installed last Friday and discovered that the plumber got the hot and cold mixed up when the first load of "cold wash" came out steaming hot. 

I spent a couple days staining up the bay window and putting coat after coat of polyurethane on the seat. I love this window so much. I'll love it even more when it's got trim and drywall and a fresh coat of paint on the walls.

Here's what the front porch looked like yesterday. Even as I write this, one of the carpenters is finishing up the detail work and adding rail posts.

Painting and finishing still seem like a long way off, but I've been looking at paint colors. Everything upstairs but the bathroom and two bedrooms are getting repainted! (I redid Daniel's room two years ago, the bathroom one year ago, and now what's left is our bedroom, which desperately needs work, but that will have to wait for another time. And funds.) It's really not easy to find the perfect neutral, but I've at least got my options narrowed down to two or three, and I'm counting on the painter to help me make the final decision. It means a lot to have a painter you can trust.

Slow and steady, that's how progress is going.  You better believe, though, that I'd rather be behind schedule than have an expensive catastrophe, or work done shoddily, or sketchy people in and out of my house all day! At least, that's what I tell myself. When I'm moving furniture around for the third  or fourth time since the project started (this afternoon it was to make room for the drywall work tomorrow) and choking on dust and scrounging for dinner in what Daniel has dubbed "the concrete chamber," I think about the big picture.

Friday, December 04, 2015


Most of this entry is cross-posted from Mad Knitting because I'm too tired to write something fresh!

I spent Thanksgiving week packing up everything on the east end of our house in preparation for kitchen demo and asbestos removal. This remodeling project is huge, badly needed, long overdue and of course taking a wee bit longer (weeks...months...) than originally anticipated. That's how it always goes, right?

Sunday was the day the asbestos-laden flooring came out. We had to make ourselves scarce for several hours, so after a leisurely breakfast out, we went to the zoo. On a Sunday morning in 25-degree weather, the zoo is not exactly a hopping place, so we had it mostly to ourselves.

Here are some alpaca butts.

When we got home, the floor was stripped down to the bare boards. We could see through cracks and knotholes to the unfinished basement below. See the laundry there? It's not hooked up (waiting for the plumber to install a new utility sink to replace the concrete behemoth that was removed on Saturday) so the dirty clothes are piling up.

We're told we'll have functional laundry by end of day Monday, Tuesday at the latest. Anya wore her last clean shirt today and I suspect Daniel is out of pants. Some friends invited us over for dinner tonight and instead of bringing wine or dessert, we brought a week's worth of dirty clothes over to wash in their machine. They didn't mind at all. (We have pretty awesome friends.) They're already first on the list to get invited over when this project is done. 

In any case, progress is progress. As of now, the new dining room looks like this:

The light in there is going to be fantastic.
Today the kitchen ceiling was stripped down to the rafters. A double layer of drywall came down and piles of insulation were pushed aside to prepare for electrical work.

This is how we wash our dishes now. They drain in the shower. It's not all bad.

Meanwhile, I had a huge program to play for the other night. It was a graduate recital with two orchestral reductions and a Brahms sonata. It's not easy to practice when there are people in your house running drills and saws and nail guns.

That afternoon, my car wouldn't start. Instead of taking a shower and making a nice dinner and having a good long time to properly warm up on all that music, I called Stuart to come home early so we could stand out in the cold and jump the battery in the setting sun. Somehow, within the next three hours we managed to get the car to the dealership to have the battery replaced, I threw a decent meal at the children (almost literally...I was in a hurry), I cleaned up and got my music together and even arrived a bit earlier than anticipated at the recital venue.

I got home at 11:00 that night, put away a whole bunch of groceries because my husband forgot to do it, fell into bed, and then got up early for work the next day.

It's been a week.