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!!!!!