Category Archives: Kitchen rehab

Stair Rails, Minisplits, & Life Work

I told DH yesterday to add to the list I want to replace the stair rail at some point. It’s shiny brass. The house is going towards flat black or brushed zinc hardware. Flat black on incidental stuff and brushed zinc on things like faucets. (Not shiny brass!)

So I did a bit o’ research and so did he, it will cost $100+ these days to replace the railing.  We explored some DIY ideas, and they’d all cost about the same, so why bother?

It’s a detail and not on the urgent list. If we find a  used flat black or brushed chrome set of hardware, we now know where to buy the railing, prefinished or raw lumber. Info. is almost always nice to have.

I had found a fireplace set I didn’t hate for < $100 and sent him a link. He pointed out it has 2 tools more than we actually need and why buy them? The place where I found this I think has some tools a la carte. I’ll have to go look. The tongs from the current set wound up in the flea market pile because of this discussion too.

The minisplits got more discussion, as did the house design ideas we’ve explored. We talked about taking the home plan we now have to a big box store and talking about floor plans, changing the kitchen around, etc. with one of the free kitchen designers. Don’t know if they’ll actually talk to us without a monetary commitment, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

DH came up with a piece of hobby equipment for the flea market, prompted me to go find 4 bowls and a length of fabric to add to a new flea market box.

I found in the shed a few things I thought were long gone, but no, they were not sold long ago and far away… they’ll either be put in the booth or the new flea market box, after they’re cleaned. I have a silk pantsuit which needs to be ironed before it gets added too. The china and silk will fill up the end of the box — and another cubic foot o’ stuff goes outta here!

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But we’ve both been sick, for most of 6 weeks with 2 different colds. And the second one is a bitch and a half to kick, let me tell you!

3 rules of work

DH dismantled one of the 2 snowblowers last week. The motor is being kept for a project he has in mind. The rest of the bits and pieces went to the dump. The last of it today. Also, we’ve started hauling the accumulated leaves and bark piles to the dump too.

He resigned from the board he was on and I asked him what we could do to forward his avocation using his now free time? What he did shocked me!

He bought organization materials for the accumulated work, so we can label and catalog it. His heirs will be pleased and I’m relieved. I had this nightmare vision about going through the work and only having my best memory and no knowledge of the technical side of what he did, when and where. Hopefully, at some point, there will be (even self-published) a complete catalog.

We’re adulting here. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. All I have to do now is find some weird convoluted way to turn it into some $. That’s all?

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The Unhibernated Dining Table

The dining room table had been “hibernating,” or something. It had a length of fabric over it and the cherry coffee table, which currently has no home, upside down on top of it.

That means of course, we couldn’t eat at the table. During the winter, since this is the north side of the house, in a room that’s cool by nature, that wasn’t a problem.

But I bought new rugs yesterday for the dining room. In order to get them in the room and convert it to the two or three separate functional spaces it needs to be to USE those rugs? The table had to be cleared. It is.

Unfortunately, it had also developed a rather bad check (crack) while storing the coffee table! DH looked at it and said something like, “Hm. You really want a round table, right?” and indeed I do. One of the pieces of research I did on decorating talked extensively about the effect of square or rectangular tables in a room, that is that emotionally, it’s says, “Stop!”

I bought the table and chairs to decorate our Tampa house, in 1985 or so. It’s oak, modern, and rectangular, which fit the open-concept, new/modern house we had. It was our kitchen table. There was a tiger oak dining table, which I sold a few years back, an English antique, it was one of our first pieces of “real” furniture. A relative of DH’s contributed tiger oak chairs. We still have the chairs, they’re heirlooms.

So, DH may make me a new table top — we’ll see! But in the meantime, the dining table has emerged from where it was hibernating — progress!


Other things I bought yesterday were a desk organizer and a sign, also for the kitchen/dining area. While at the company’s website, I decided wtf, I’d take their decorating “quiz,” because it could hardly be worse than all the others I’d tried.

Much to my surprise, the description of what I like was pretty accurate:

“You love the fresh, stylish-yet-simple look found in today’s updated Farmhouse Décor! Your style is graceful and uncluttered but retains a welcoming and warmhearted feel. Clean, soothing whites, taupe and grey tones, mixed with weathered wood and the occasional splash of color create a simple backdrop that’s easy to live with and even easier to accessorize! If you love the look of painted bead-board, or ship lapped walls paired with wooden floors…you’re all in girlfriend!”

Well, okay. I like whites, (and matte black) but I hate most greys and taupes and “greige,” ug. Lots of splashes of color. Yes, I like painted bead-board. Shiplapped walls? Nope, but this is a log home, it looks like we shiplapped the entire building! Wooden floors? Well, I like my wooden floor, I just wish it had been finished before we moved in!

“Farmhouse style reflects a way of life that is intimately connected to the land. It represents a lifestyle where necessity and a do-it-yourself attitude demand that items be repurposed and reused – often by generations of farm families. You love this style because it hearkens back to the simpler days of yesteryear and satisfies your longing for good-old-fashioned hard work, practicality, and close family ties.”

I don’t know if any of this is true or not. Certainly we do a lot of DIY and I like reused items quite a lot. But I said years ago that I liked “shabby” not because I loved chippy paint, but because I liked the fact that you didn’t have to fuss to maintain the surface. My observation about modern decorating is that it’s all about surfaces: clean, shiny surfaces — and they demand extensive caretaking. I do NOT want that. I want a place I can put my feet on the table or couch without stressing about it. The Tampa house was beautiful, but it had a great room with a white floor and the other floors were all med. grey carpets. Took a lot of maintenance to keep up the huge horizontal surfaces (which I didn’t do well).

“A Farmhouse style home is unpretentious, but definitely stylish, with an emphasis on useful yet aesthetically pleasing items. Flea market finds and DIY masterpieces are combined with new items and reproductions – it’s all part of the charm. A neutral color palette sets the stage, followed by weathered or painted furniture, apron front sinks, open shelves, and farmhouse tables. Complete the look with grain sack, linen, or ticking stripe fabrics, farm and industrial accents, galvanized tin items, vintage signs, chalk paint, white ironstone, and mason jars.”

I agree with all of this, up to the apron front sinks. I’m not fond of most of the rest of it: grain sack linens, ticking, farm/industrial accents, galvanized tin items, vintage signs, chalk paint, ironstone, and mason jars. I like all of that in moderation and HATE most of what I see. I call it “cheap Chinese crap.” I’m not fond of cutesy. I don’t want this place to look like the Sears catalog or any other. 

This was weird, because I hadn’t found anyone who seemed to have any idea that I might like a huge old industrial pressure cooker (we use it to hold fat wood) as well as the LCD op art looking thing on my bedroom wall (it’s a thermometer). If you read this blog at all, you know that I’ve written several posts about trying to find a description of my preferred “style.” And, although I will likely never put up a sign about farm girls, farmsteads, or country, or sweet tea or… this is pretty darn close!

The company has NOT asked me for this review, and I’m not getting anything for it, but the company is this one.

Different

I have been reading a book I’ve had for some time, and only used before as a reference: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. She has this to say, which I found really mind-boggling:


“The sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease. It is a complex thing, an amalgam. In part, it is a sense of having special rights, dignities, and entitlements — and these are legal realities, not just emotional states. It includes familiarity, warmth, affection, and a conviction of security. Being at home feels safe: you have a sense of relief whenever you come in and close the door behind you, reduced fear of social and emotional dangers as well as physical ones.” (page 7)


 

As an abused and neglected child, I had none of those things. Home was, as I have said elsewhere, the place where they knew how to put the (emotional) knife so it hurt the most. And, if a person wasn’t actively hurting me, they were wondering wtf my problem was? So, I have no expectation of safety at home.

I also have no experience of someone as she talks about caretaking a home as a way of showing love.

DH’s circumstances were different from mine, but his childhood home wasn’t happy and protective entirely either.

I have been for years trying to figure out what makes a place “home” and the most I could come up with was cozy and safe, so that’s what I’ve been heading towards decorating wise. But it has been an ongoing problem for me, because I want something I have never had, and decorating magazines and books just do NOT talk about how to create a home-like atmosphere.

And then there’s this:


“…what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent anyway). Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home.” (page 9)


And that I’ve never done.

The panic attacks happen in at least one predictable way, or used to. That was if I set up something to please myself. I was sure others would see what I did as laughable, stupid, or just wrong.

That’s a product of years of conditioning as a kid. It’s part of the cyclic rant: “Someone will break it. Someone will steal it. Someone will deride it or make fun of me,” that is the verbal side of my panic attacks.

Standing in front of a bookshelf with palms sweating and near tears, because I displayed some of my favorite things isn’t an experience I remember fondly, but it used to be common.

I identified myself not with the space I occupied, but internally. Inside was my only safe harbor.

I feel rather at sea in some ways. Years ago, my therapist told me to nurture the wounded kid inside me. I asked, “How?”

She looked at me and said, “If you’d had a kid, you would have learned, because your instincts and the child’s needs would have taught you. But you never had a kid. And you weren’t nurtured. I’ll have to think about that.”

And we came up with some answers, but not a lot. Although I don’t see myself as an uncaring person, frankly, I suck at relationships.

I ruin friendships, put off people, and always have. Some of it was being wounded, because I said inappropriate things, but much of it was just that I never learned how to build community, closeness, not really. I try hard. I try to have integrity. I try to be of use to the people I know, but I’ve never been sure I do it right, and think I screw it up, all the time.

The house is much the same sort of thing. It used to be that every time I did some new decorating thing or worked on cleaning the house, what I said to my husband was, “Are you mad at me?”

And although that’s pretty pathetic, it’s still the truth. These days, by contrast, what happens is that I’m grumpy. I was this morning, when I cleaned the kitchen.

You know? I’d really, really love to outgrow my childhood. Maybe by the time I’m 70?

 

Status

  • Email: I’m still deleting old emails, back to at least 2012 now. I’m down to 27,400 unread emails. Remember this? I had 28,000 unread emails then. Not remarkable progress, but actually, it is when you consider that of course I’m still getting daily emails  and I’m not doing the deletions except now and then. That’s 600 unread emails I’ve eliminated in about a month. Definite progress. ||Still working on this, but not as fast, with all the new ones I’m only down 30 this morning. 3/5/19 See next post for updated, corrected number! 3/6/19
  • There’s a hole in our kitchen where the old freezer was. I need to do a major clean up in the kitchen because the new-to-us freezer is supposed to be here Thursday. Next week! 3/6/19
  • I used up 2 packages of frozen food with last night’s dinner. Haven’t added it to the tracking, but I will. When we took everything out of the freezer to defrost it, I made a brief catalog. Now I should know EXACTLY what’s in the freezer. I’ll use the basic form I came up with to track our food usage and put the data in there. Then I’ll know what I’ve got, mostly. There’s still the fridge’s freezer;it hasn’t been tallied. . . .
  • I need to finish pulling together business data. That got set aside. My appointment is next week, so it definitely all needs to be done before that.
  • Part of making enough room on the porch for the old freezer: eliminating a trash bag o’ stuff, and 2 boxes of books were unpacked into the house.
  • There’s 1 full box for the bookstore in ME, there’s one of priced books to go to the booth, and 2 more flea market boxes. The check was sent off for the flea market. I gave a book to a friend.
  • The last check needs to go out this week for the farm food.
  • We need to find another cord of DRY wood.

That kitchen clean up effort is on-going. In the dump bin are the ms. for a book I’ll never finish, because the internet made it obsolete. In the shred folder are the W-2s for years before we were married? (Four decades or so ago.) Also the review from my first 6 months as a professional writer!

 

Action Items

I’ve been whacking away at the various piles of boxes in the bedroom. I’ve created some clear floor space and stuffed our swap shop/recycling bins. Today is a dump day —

Hurrah!

Another thing we’ve been doing for some time is replacing and upgrading what we can, as we can. This is prepatory to either selling this place or retiring here. We probably won’t have money to replace the roof, upgrade windows, etc. when DH retires, and so the updates need to be done beforehand. We’ve been doing a big item every few years, and little stuff between. We pay off one big item, then do the next. We started this years ago.

We found some LED lighting on sale just before Christmas, and DH has been busy installing them. Our favorite type of upgrade: it replaces the badly done, dead cheap, marginal stuff which came in the house with something we can 1) afford 2) is cheaper to operate 3) will function more productively and 4) looks better than what we’ve lived with for years.

What we got when we bought this place were shop lights, hidden with cheap plastic grids. They looked awful, didn’t light the room well, and the plastic grids disintegrated all over the counters — just what you want in your food: bits of oxidizing plastic!

(We took down those grids right after we moved in.)

Shop lights are not my idea of attractive kitchen lighting. Picky, I know.

Especially when they’re on the ceiling of a post/beam room. The available lights were in a hole, the light was blocked by the beams, right? So the fixtures looked awful, didn’t function well and have been on our “Replace This” list nearly since the day we moved in!

The new lights are suspended from the beams, no blocked light! Also, light where it’s needed. What a pleasure!

 

Christmas Bread and Dear Bosch

Every year on Christmas Eve we bake bread for the neighbors. It gets involved. We all but sterilize the kitchen first, for one thing.

Last night we self-cleaned the oven. Today I’ve cleaned all the counters around the stove and sink, sterilized them and the sink. DH, as I write this is scrubbing oven racks, the dishwasher is going, as is the washing machine with a large wadge of dishwashing flannel (I gave up on sponges this year.), dish towels and counter rags (I use washcloths).

This year we’re baking 12 loaves, we’ve done up to 16. We give 2 to families with kids and 1 to those without.

We started this years ago when DH was out of work. We just couldn’t come up with the $ to bake cookies or do more elaborate gifts. It’s a single-rise bread, which is the only way we can start this production on Christmas Eve morning and be done before dinner!

After 25+ years now, it’s a tradition, and so we’ve continued it.

But we’re using a lot of our appliances, of course, and that reminded me I keep wanting to write a letter to Bosch.

Dear Bosch,

We love your products. We have various Bosch bits in our cars, a water heater, tools, a dishwasher, range, etc. As I said, we love your products. They’re made with the usual German precision, except when they aren’t, and then they’re a PITA!

  • Why wouldn’t you make oven racks which actually fit in the oven without fussing?
  • The manual for the range says you offer dehydration racks. When we asked Bosch USA about them, quoting the manual? They said there never were such things. (?)
  • Why didn’t you make your “buttonless” controls easier to actually start the machines they’re on?

 

Bosch, obviously, we don’t mind waiting while we save for products we think are well made and will last. I like what you make, and have for decades now, but sometimes….

Well

The writing project got done, the writing group did a preliminary review. And those changes got made.

I sent the book off to others, as necessary.

What else is going on? DH has nuked the kitchen. We had the world’s worst peninsula, 3′ x 10′, just WAY too big.

That’s gone. The old dish drawer is gone. The old washing machine is gone. The kitchen, the biggest room of this house is a complete disaster.

When everything is replaced we’ll have a working dishwasher again, a smaller island, more functional cabinets and more sane traffic flow from the kitchen to dining room and out. It will be wonderful!

But right now? Now it’s a mess disaster!

The fellow is scheduled to come and get the marble table Tuesday. I should put him off, but I really hate to, as it has taken me months to get where he could do it at all. I have a business meeting tomorrow, but aside from that, and the holy terror the kitchen is, I jut might be able to get to the table enough to do what needs doing. Maybe. Marble table was removed over the weekend.

I have a work thing to do before the meeting. Bought instant food for dinner, but it’s microwave food and the micro is NOT on the counter, because nothing is on the counter.

Sigh. We’ll figure it out!