Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blue Skies, Sunshine and Headed for the Pond

January 29th ... Right Shoulder Rotator Cuff Surgery .... yep, that's correct. Well prepared for a period of hellish pain, as of March 8th, have had no pain and taken no pain pills. For this I am deeply greatly. To those who have suffered grievously, I can only imagine and wish you relief soon. However, as I'm right handed strapped in a cumbersome sling have found myself unable to do anything to pass the time except sit, watching the weather/snow and T.V. whether recorded series, movies, whatever or go to therapy [passive] 3x's a week for an hour. Even considered attempting to paint left handed with a palette knife. Trouble is eating left handed resulting with most spilled and resorting to sandwiches..... kept dreaming of a plate of spaghetti with any sauce or a bowl of mussels. Painting ... hahahahaha.  O.K., 6 weeks into 52. Apparently, the older we are the longer the recovery process. What a surprise. So, as these 10 digits work, thought I'd share some time now that I've finally gotten out of my head and quit feeling sorry of myself.  

While I was "in my head" ....who said, "reflection is good for the soul?" Trust me, isolation will certainly provide ample time to address all aspect of a life should one really care to look. After long examination, the finding are mixed with satisfaction, frustration, failure, sadness and the quandary of "how do I fix this".  What we are as opposed as to how we are perceived can be drastically opposite. Perception is a shallow image and frequently false denying the possibility of a genuine relationship. What's that song .... "See Me".  The trouble with this is the time requirement and a vested interest to actually share and know. Right ..... see?! ..... being friends shouldn't be this hard. We are the culprit .... shame on us ...... just accept and hope you are accepted equally without an agenda or ulterior motive. No need to divide and conquer when the truth is, there can be more than one equally. Wow, move on.

So left with few devises, am considering options. There are 12 days til Spring. For a gardener, it's the harbinger of dirt therapy, starting tomato seeds inside .... oh, come on .... this is trying to the soul. At this moment, seems all that's left is to grab a book, sit by the pond no longer frozen over, watch the fish as the parade of hikers pass enjoying this 60 degree day. Would light a fire in the new fire pit ..... no logs ....  whatever, there are blue skies and sunshine to be absorbed. Enough already!

Tea ... a fresh pot of tea .... perhaps we could commiserate ..... what do you say? game? .... Shoot, it's just one more of life's adventures...... right??  Headed for the pond ........


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Renovation Journey - The Look Back

Six weeks to the day, the Potato Cellar Studio/storage was completed on March 6th. That left almost 3 months to clear out 46 years of  accumulated "stuff" from the house. June 6th ..... contract with October 1 completion date agreed on and signed .... the deconstruction began with the resonating staccato sounds of a jack hammer the very next morning.

One year plus 2 weeks later, I'm here to confess this has been the most torturous experience of my entire life and frequently unable to express myself in coherent ladylike terms. Those of you who remodel in stages amaze me with your resilience and resolve. In the euphoria of renovation [rebuild] enthusiasm, totally accepted the unrealistic completion dating. Of course, we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas at home. Are you beginning to feel a knot of doubt and anxiety in the pit of your stomach? RIGHT!! Well, I'm getting ahead of the story.

The roof over the original living room and kitchen was raised to bring the entire roof to the same elevation. Should this be part of your plan, beware of monsoons ..... apparently they strike without warning. Also, should the contractor say, "3 days is all it takes to remove and replace your roof", check with the weather service first to determine which 3 days are dry. We looked like a Katrina victim .... blue tarp and all. Now tarps can take on a life of their own depending on how water is collecting. Yep, water moves down hill .... so, through the floor into the family room downstairs with stored furniture, paintings .... oh, you know, the good stuff so it would be safe. This was mid July.

According to the dictionary, Contractor is one who supervises the day to day work; organizes sub contractors; keeps construction on schedule.  There were days and weeks when no one was even on the property. Yet, there were days when 6 guys seem to have nothing specific to accomplish. Finally, roof, insulation, walls, things appeared to be on some track and moving forward. Doors, windows  and shingle siding arrived. For the second time, water is standing in the living room on the new flooring.  By mid September, the metal roof was finally finished .... bet you thought that had been completed back in July .... right?! Yes, we had schedules and revised schedules and little work.

A rainy October 1 with the shingles beginning to slowly creep up the outside walls. Kitchen cabinets arrive. Stone masons arrive. Bath tile and plumbing fixtures arrive. One would think that since he is now in the penalty phase of this event, work would be a whirlwind. 

It was my simple impression that we had plans to be followed. Unfortunately, it appeared folks were making stuff up as they went along..... putting dark stain on wood that was to be pickled, for instance.  All the walls were yellow. That's a lovely color just not the warm Egg Shell I had chosen.

It's November, double penalty phase, Thanksgiving did not happen in the wonderful new kitchen and gathering room. One needs ovens, gas eyes, refrigerator etc. etc. and maybe some furniture. Stone masons still at it .... the rock work really does look good. To say I was irritable, frustrated and generally beside myself, is being generous. Finally my ultimatum .... "I'm coming home December 15th, get it done NOW!!!!!". There was no Christmas tree or any decoration but was sleeping in my own bed in my own bedroom. Stone masons have completed everything except the little water fall. Came home to discover a monstrosity that looks contrived instead of more natural and fitting to the surroundings. You know, organic. Just another example of not following the plans. At this point, nothing is a surprise....... and they are so proud of themselves they are taking pictures. Boxes that had been store in the Potato Cellar were being returned to the house to be emptied very, very slowly.

January brought attention to the garage with new wall work, garage doors, openers; as well as, gutters, an additional small water heater to service the new kitchen, and more painters, plumbers and electricians. February brought a landscaping nightmare ..... well, of course. Working half days it was really slow going. Then he gets a burr under his blanket, jerks all the plants out throws them, bare rooted, into the plastic pots and into his truck tearing off down the road loosing a bale of pine straw in the road which he never collected. 3 days later he's back replanting where he decides to put them. Finally with contractor and architects and the plan, he nods in agreement and they are jerked out and replanted. Have you ever wanted someone just out of your life. As I write this am waiting for contractor, architects and landscaper for a walk through to point out the unacceptable mess he has left.

This house has been my home since 1949 except for 5 years of college and getting married. It would have been cheaper, simpler and quicker to have knocked it down and built new. BUT, the history of the house my father built .... my youth, my sons, our lives here ..... history can still be felt. Was it worth all of this? I love where I am ..... the enjoyment other people have had improving their home was lost under mountains of irritation, fury and frustration. However, it's almost done. Paintings are being hung, carpets cleaned, having friends for dinner .... the settling in has begun. Maybe this Summer, after a cooling off period,  there will be a gathering of friends to celebrate our survival.

So, there you are an abbreviated visit to the past year. Oh, and by the way, it's 5:30 p.m. and no one is here .... surprise, surprise! Communication is a fine thing .... only it has to be in both directions. Well, luck to all with home improvement intentions. You are a brave lot. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Renovation Journey - The Backhoe and ....

The unmistakable sound of a BIG, heavy truck changing gears and struggling up hill interrupted the perusal of my morning paper and fresh cup of tea. Oh, my word, the backhoe has arrived. It is beginning!!!!

Funny how it had just been conversational. Yes, of course, there are the conceptual plans; but, in the world of my mind, reality had not slipped into focus. WELL, that clanging banging sound is definitely real!

Apparently, the Potato Cellar walls were stones encased in a concrete sleeve. This is a really good thing. Those, cleaned up, will be usable in the up coming stone work. It is amazing the mess one man and his large "toy" can create. Remember when your boys were little and playing with Tonka Trucks in a sand pile? This man was, of course, much older; however, the expression on his face seemed, oh so, familiar. You know, almost gleeful, self-satisfied, truly enjoying the moment. He waves and smiles as I watch his progress. Reaching down, you work your fingers into the red clay. Retrieving a lump, fingers begin forming it into a ball. A war was fought on this soil .... young men and their fathers not always fighting together but against each other. That heart breaking time in our country's past .... they slept, ate and fought right here on this clay. AND, today we are disturbing that same ground. Wonder if there is such a thing as "soil memory". If so, it will recall .... a farm with fruit trees and cows .... my parents and my feet chasing dogs and horses .... our family and 2 boys feet, tepees, fireworks, years of cutting grass, badminton, horseshoes and croquette. Funny, the history of one plot of land. Well ..... well, here we are launching into a new adventure.  

At mid-afternoon, quiet ..... why is it quiet? He was gone leaving behind a very large 3 sided hole [on elevation]. The inspector must approve this tomorrow in order for the concrete to be poured ..... all before the RAIN returns!!!! 

This is surreal ..... the Architect and Contractor arrive for a "talk" .... oh, my. In an effort to cut the cost, they have a list. Hummmmmm, we won't use materials that will diminish the appearance of the concept. That just will not happen! Apparently, many will opt for a cheapening look. The Architect appreciated that his concept was loved and not to be lessened. What an emotional day ..... I'm exhausted .... you'd think I'd done all the digging. When everyone had gone, poured a Single Malt over ice, sat down in my favorite chair, took a sip and toasted the BEGINNING, releasing a quiet sigh  ... holy cow!!!!!! Does anyone out there actually care?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Renovation Journey - January Weather - Waiting

It's a good thing patience is a strong point here. As previously mentioned, the Potato Cellar must be constructed first for storage purposes. Rain has presented itself at least 2 days per week the entire month. Just this morning, Contractor remarked, "Good thing we didn't rip the roof off the house". Well, anyone beginning this type of construction in January is "plum" out of their minds. Kinda makes one smile to themselves and think [but never said] "I told you so"!

Also, waiting to hear from the architects as their parting remark was "we'll see you next week". So far, not a word. These are the working plans; and if more time is needed, they must be dealing with an issue or two or three. So, take your time; and please, get it right.

As I write this, must admit the comfort of long time surroundings makes this someone realize there is a sense of dread.... not for the outcome but the actual process. This is the first time that thought has been allowed to bubble up to the surface. Finnegan [ gray tabby cat], Hooker [Basset Hound] and me; guess we'll grit our collective teeth and bear it. Yes, yes ..... it's an adventure .... boy, is it an adventure. So, we wait. Presently, waiting for the weather to cooperate. Waiting for the working plans. Waiting ................... waiting!

 A positive countenance is presented to the world at large; but it's scary out here by myself. What in the world was I thinking???? Cold feet? No, not that; but, maybe fear and trepidation because the decisions are all mine for a major, MAJOR, project. Maybe it's time for something stronger than a pot of tea. Maybe a double Glenfidich; maybe 2 and calm down. What do ya think?? Yes?? Yes!! Catch up with you when the waiting is over or maybe before. Note a bit of ambivalence here??

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

, Kitchen Renovation - The Journey - Appliances 101

Isn't it funny how we are so easily led by commercial advertisement. Wolf, Sub Zero, Thermador, Kitchen Aide, Jenn-Aire, Frigidaire, Electrolux, GE, Whirlpool, Maytag ....... where in the world does one begin, much less know what they really need .... let alone want. High end versus low end and everything in between. With that in mind, we are forever told "do the home work" ... so considered my needs and began asking questions. Of course, the poor fella, that was being drug back and forth among the stoves etc. for 3 hours, was grateful when he heard "thank you for your time" and was left alone to consider the whirlwind that exited.

You know, comparison shopping isn't easy.My word, the Jenn-Aire has a computer program for almost everything. That's great but don't want to give up so much control. Every one had something the other didn't. I am a cook [not a chef]. So,here is my bottom line at the moment: Wolf 6 eye counter top or Electrolux .... the main difference for me, the Wolf simmered on all eyes and the Electrolux only one one. But, big selling point for me, Electrolux will start with out power and we loose power alot [yes, there will be a generator .... but what if something debilitates it .... it isn't a perfect world]. Ovens; have decided on Wolf doubles simply because the functions fulfill house needs [I'm not a beginner ... have even catered for up to 300] and am determined to have 2 full sized ovens. Their racks are tremendous and slid completely out of the ovens [big selling point if you are 5'3" and 71].  In the Microwave world, new concept for me ..... a drawer [Sharp] .... no more counter top or under a cabinet. Dishwasher, the quietest and "cleaningest" turns out to be a Bosch.

Refrigeration wasn't a big issue; just wanted reliable with minimal problems. Have a GE and am sick of replacing ice makers. So, have found Scotsman makes one that has large cubes [actually, little hats] that don't melt immediately. As for food stuffs, there will be plenty of room for a full box refrigerator and full box freezer. The Electrolux has everything needed. Yes, yes, Sub Zero's are great; but, for my money I don't keep lettuce and apples together to create gasses. My apples stay on the counter in a bowl. Gimmick features just slay me.

Am down to vent /hood. Everyone seems enamored with big bulky hoods; yet again I'm swimming against the stream. So am continuing to struggle. No, don't say down draft. Too many issues not liked. The eyes at the back of the cook surface, nearest the vents, are hotter than should be due to the draw of air. That's not good.

So there you are .... best advice from this corner .... know your cooking skills and what you really need. Be wary of gimmicks that break. Repairs are expensive and who actually will be doing them. This is the last kitchen I will ever have and ovens were the first item considered. Granted I can prepare a banquet on anything from an open log fire, or cast iron camp ovens over charcoal, to an in home kitchen with ovens that are not true heat. It will be such a pleasure to have decent equipment at long last. The goal here was to find trouble free, good to great appliances that were with in the budget. No money has changed hands as yet .... the mind is open and welcomes findings. Probably need some more "hands on" time in the stores.

Sat down with Architect and Contractor to view the educated guess numbers. Who knew patterned concrete was sooooo expensive. Fine, wanted organic stone work in the first place. Don't you just love the elegantly rustic feel of Tuscany? Oh, my .... yep, caught me dreaming.

O.K.   ........ We will see working plans next week. Weather is lousy at present. Bet the first nail is months away. Still waiting on the footings for the "potato cellar". Good thing I'm patient..... right? Right. I need a fresh pot of tea and watch the rain.  Hope your project, if started, is going well......       

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kitchen Renovation - The Journey - Intro

O.K., here we go stepping off that frightening and uncertain  precipice, laughingly, referred to as the renovation or the kitchen I've deserved for 40 years. Fortified with a lunch of Cannelloni Carni and a crisp white wine, let's get a few things behind us [as though you really cared]. Sharing this journey may help the multitude of us lost in the morass of creation within the confines of an older home .... mountain rancher [first section built 1949, completed 1952].

The driving August rain and muddy red clay dampened moving day, 1949; my parents had built the house. And, except for 5 years during college, it has been my home. You see, my husband and I bought it from my parents, as Mitchell [husband] loved it. Parents had moved to NC while I was in school and rented the house. At one point Mitchell suggested we update the kitchen, but not increase it's size ...... so nothing occurred. Rediscovering and defining myself over the past 12 years since his sudden death, finally feel the time has come for my kitchen.

For years, refined my wishful drawing until everything was worked into the space that included enclosing a deck that more than doubled the working space. Summer 2011 took the plunge and found a contractor. Following his recommendation, an architect was brought on board. He was so enthusiastic we were excited to see his vision of the possibilities. To say the least, disappointment was the kindest description of our reaction. He had actually simply redrawn my sketches on a computer program. AND, had omitted the number one need .... an elevator. He never returned to talk about issues; allowing the contractor to deal with my frustrations. So time drags past into Fall. Then miracle of miracles, a neighbor mentions an acquaintance who is an artist/architect that might be able to relate to my issues and sense of style. Happiness is a team of architects that actually listen, then translate it into something you never dream could possibly be yours. Would have moved into those drawing immediately..... they gave me my home in spades. Now all we have to do is ..... well, put it together. But first, there is the issue of the "potato cellar" storage/studio.

Yes, that was "potato cellar". It was dug in the late 1800's, early 1900's for storage of root crops and firm fruits. You see, this property had been part of a farm; we have the potato cellar and a cistern to store rain water. Therefore, to utilize it properly, the bottom [in ground into elevation] floor will store yard equipment.The above ground floor will be used for storage during construction; then later, a pottery studio. This has, as yet, not been created due to Christmas ..... so am patiently waiting.

Your eyes have probably rolled back into your head at this point but yesterday actually spent a few hours learning about "new age" kitchen equipment. Drove home exhausted with overload. After a decent nights sleep, reviewed cooking 101. Boy, things sure have changed. The options considered were to buy the best ovens [Wolf], gas counter cook top [probably Electrolux 6 burner that will ignite with out power and comparable to Wolf], Bosch dishwasher, Scotsman ice maker, a refrigerator and a freezer [undetermined, as yet].

Time for the cramped 1950's pine paneled galley kitchen go away allowing that space to become the dining room, the north facing deck becomes my painting/writing studio with lots of windows. If you can see it, the "new" construction will be in the opposite direction; building south from the front wall of the existing house at the present kitchen door.

Bet I lost most of you with the second paragraph; but those who stayed and are in the midst of, are starting or are considering this activity, we could have a fresh pot of tea, get acquainted and share thoughts on this journey. I'm told misery loves company or the journey is the joy. So here's to us all where ever we are in the mix ....... I am soooooo ready!!!!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stiff Brushes and Rusty Fingers

So, met that fork in the middle of the road and made an unexpected detour from the norm running  headlong into the past. So, what were your plans 40+ years ago? Not complaining, BUT, 180 degrees about describes the path and out of that comfort zone.

August was an eye opener returning to a painting class with no confidence and questionable skills. Just signing up for the 2 day workshop required an extreme amount of pressure and persistence on the part of a friend. There you are in way over your head ... just looking at every one's work. Gave the instructor 2 assessments she could give ...1] "That's nice" meaning it's not going to get better, just  go home and garden, cook or read. 2] "You need to keep painting".  Brought the unfinished canvases home and stared at them for days thinking of the "you definitely need to keep painting". Not sure they will ever be any different .... something to remember that feeling of frustration, rusty skills and most of all "I've missed this". Then the absurd occurs, overload of 4 and 6 weeks classes with a weekend sculpture workshop just because "it'll be FUN". Exhausted, pooped, worn out!!!! Obviously, thinking was not part of the equation. Having survived and with a more reasonable plan, am moving forward and learning techniques from the best artist/instructors ..... people actually teaching rather than leaving the student to eventually figure it out on their on.

Embarking on another reinvention; actually, this has been a rediscovery. Like writing, one can get lost in moving paint around a canvas or words around a page. Odd how long it takes us to learn and truly accept a few important lessons ..... 1] It isn't a competition; and this was a major struggling point generating envy. 2]  The word TALENT is qualitative and should be allocated to Mozart, Bach, Chopin; perhaps we should use skilled, studied, technique. We worry too much wondering if we have talent rather than can this skill/technique be applied. Sure did take a long time for this to sink in and be understood much less accepted. Shame on me!!

Ah, well, appears there is a need to paint everyday ... practice, practice, practice ..... the only solution for the improvement of any skill. And there is still a piano that hasn't been touched for the past 11 years.