Monday, October 20, 2014

Philadelphia escape


These weekends in Philly are so excellent. After a big summer and fall of just going going going, of the digging and planting and cooking and weeding and raking... I need to uncork. Literally and figuratively. And that's just what I, what we, did. 

The drive wasn't bad. It was way better than taking the bus, which is what I did last time. Friday night there were tasty beers, including homebrew, and Chinese food, and Trivial Pursuit. I slept like a log on six inches of memory foam. 

Saturday, there was brunch at an excellent, excellent farm-to-table kinda place, and champagne. There was some driving around gawking at the attendees of the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter festival. Grown men in capes, I tell you.

Then Meghann and I headed to center city for... oh... girl stuff. We were like, have a drink... a little shoe shopping. Have a drink...

...go to Anthropologie. Have a drink...

...get a makeover. Yes, really. Then have a drink... a little guacamole.... catch the train home, for take-out Indian and more board games at the house.

Evidence of said makeover:

I wore eyeliner, people. Just terrifying.

Ahh. What a splendid weekend. 

It's SO nice to have a sister-in-law this awesome, who somehow thinks I am awesome, too. You don't get to choose your mate's family, and in a lot of ways it's a crapshoot-- but I have to say I just feel luckier and luckier as I go along. I'm already looking forward to next time. 

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall view

Yesterday was officially the last 70+ degree day of the year, I am pretty sure. It was tanktop weather. I canned 26 pints of applesauce, which took all day, and in between doing that I cut and installed ceiling trim in most of the kitchen, and overhauled and planted a couple of cold frames, and started mapping out next year's garden. I also flopped in the grass with Del and Pete, not realizing until afterwards that I was flopping directly on top of a rotten green tomato I'd lobbed towards the compost and missed. Swell! 

But then later I got to call my mom and flop into bed and watch my one weekly episode of Nashville, which I love so much. (Anyone else into that soapy, ridiculous show?) And today, after busting out a quick article, I am going to Philly. And in Philly it is going to be 70-ish and sunny all weekend, while it rains and threatens to snow (!) here. Good timing, that. Yep. Feeling generally pretty excellent about that. Ciao!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The hole in the laundry room ceiling where I tore out sodden and moldy ceiling panels.

The hole underneath the panels that goes directly to the attic, where there once was a chimney.

The brackets for our new kitchen shelves being painted (glossy black).

The kitchen tiling I finished last week.

The kitchen shelving boards being varnished.

Woo! I had a feeling this would happen once I unplugged myself from the giant time-suck of painting the house. (In some moments I have thought of that project as a giant leach with vampire fangs, sucking sucking sucking the momentum out of my weeks.) Free from spending half the day chained (not really) to the manlift, I am thrillingly getting shit done. I usually spend the morning hours at some kind of physical project, because I have found, at least lately, that sort of discharging some of my physical energy in the AM makes me much more able to focus on writing in the PM. That's something I'd like to keep up even after winter descends. We'll see if I'm able.

So I've been swinging from cutting, sanding, and staining these boards to painting those brackets here to loading the truck for the dump there, trying to get as many things underway as possible-- because each little thing has many steps, and often the next step will be delayed by the necessity of waiting for varnish to dry. So it goes. 

The laundry room ceiling is something I'm really not thrilled about having to redo, for the third time, since we bought the house. Remember two years ago, when we had water damage? We bought a fresh bucket of tar, Patrick lugged the (80 pound) bucket of tar to the roof, and spread it out, and then I scraped and primed and painted the ceiling, and we expected the damn roof would hold water. And it didn't. The water stains spread like cancer all across that pretty white ceiling, all over again. So this summer we coughed up nearly $2,000 for pros who came with rubber membrane and covered up the flat part of the roof with that. It appears to be holding, though making it through ice-dam season will be the real test. 

And so, I am this time tearing off the trim, and replacing the drywall, and spackling, priming, and painting. And if this doesn't keep out those damn leaks I'll... I'll... 

Establish a laundry room pond, with frogs and lily pads, and replace the whole ceiling with a screen.

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Monday, October 13, 2014


Just a few pretty pictures to help start the week. Patrick and the band played in my hometown this weekend, at a harvest festival of sorts, and it was so nice to tag along. Those hills... 

Somehow, even though Gilbertsville has its own scenic hills, the hills of home are always a little sweeter.

This week, with the house exterior painting over with, I'm looking forward to ticking off a bunch of smaller jobs. Less daunting jobs. Some trim, and some touch-up painting (inside), and those open shelves above the sink. That should be good. And then on Friday, I get to head to Philly for girl time and the complete dispensing-with of responsibility. Yeah. It's gonna be a good week.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

What a journey

I shed actual tears on the man lift this morning, as I pushed the joystick for down for the final time this season. It feels like praying, being up there in heat and cold, shine and sometimes rain. And I only know that because I have a friend who said, once, when we were weeding the garden we shared together, this feels like praying. I am not the type to pray, but my friend is, and so, I guess I know what it feels like. Or what it should feel like. And I have to say, I spend an awful lot of my time in things that feel prayerful. Canning, weeding, and painting this magnificent old house. 

It's humbling and empowering at the same time. It's a privilege, a curse, a cross to bear. The price of living. The most intimate connection to this place and its history. Up there, I get to think about how they raised the roof in 1888, making it two full stories instead of 1 1/2, and a story ran in the local press. "Mr. Brewer will have quite a nice residence, with a fresh coat of paint, when the work is finished," it said. Yes. Mr. Brewer had quite a nice residence, in 1888, and Mrs. Strain will have one, too, in 2014. One little piece at a time.

I might finish off that little corner by the door, but I'm really really really ready to put this project away for the season and check off the inside jobs, and then maybe I'll have a few weeks to do something sewy, too. That's all I want.

I got the kitchen tiling finished this week, too, which was a long time coming (we needed to address the wiring issue in the wall on the left of that window-- two outlets suddenly not working!-- before doing the tiling) and feels good to have done. So that means next week, I get to move forward with putting up those awesome open shelves I've been dreaming of for months. Almost a year. Goddamn. Crazy how so often the thing you want the most, when you begin a renovation, is the thing that takes the longest to put into place.

Those open shelves, and that wacky pot rack, and then it can snow. What a journey.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Last rites

We had our first frost Saturday night. I was ready. I wasn't ready. It's always bittersweet-- the end of so much work, but also the end of so much joy. Sigh. 

This week the tomato plants will come out, and more leaves will be hauled and spread on the garden. The garlic will be planted. Green tomato chutney and vegetable stock and perhaps pickled beets will be made. 

Still there is broccoli and kale and beets and carrots, plus everything that's already been harvested and put in storage. Pesto. Dried beans for soup-making. Thirty-five quarts of stewed tomatoes. Fifty pounds of potatoes. 

Hoof. It's been a good year.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Falling leaves, changing light, and some quick (!) reupholstery

It's fall. It's really fall. The light is changing.

The leaves are falling. The backyard hickories hit October 1st and just... sneeze, hemorrhaging their leaves all over the yard. 

Piles of materials are showing up inside...

...and out.

This week, I reupholstered our little Victorian couch.

You can see it pretty well in this picture from Christmas--

It was a really nice hand-me-down from Patrick's parents, right as we moved out here. It's been our primary lounge area and only couch since then, and it's served us well. The quick, in-a-pinch reupholstery job P's mom did, with bedsheets and a shower curtain (!) was showing its wear, however, and most of the year I'd been on the lookout for something to recover it. Last week I found a set of six giant unmistakably 70s gold curtains for $8.99. The fabric has almost a faux bois look, and, well, that harvest yellow is definitely one of "my" colors. It's in the painted wall in the great room, and in splashes in other rooms. And who could beat that price?

Anyone who went with me through the Great Reupholstery Adventure of 2010 may question my willingness to get involved with another project. I did too. But let me tell you, all reupholsterings are not created equal! This was a two-afternoon project. Sewing the rubber-backed fabric together to create pieces long enough for the back and cushion was the toughest part-- everything else was total cake. There's so much wood on this couch frame, all the seams get tucked away. That's what made it easy. 

Olive approves. Olive approves, and I am beyond satisfied. Nine dollars and maybe five hours of my time? Most excellent.

In other news, the exterior continues to inch closer to completion. Patrick's dad came out this week to apply the fish scale to the peak, and so now I'm gunning to get that painted and the rest of the windows scraped, etc, by the end of next week. I did get the yellow trim painted this week, which really helps to bring it all together. I love this thing, this place. 

Next up: finishing that last section of kitchen tile and installing open shelving, addressing the laundry room ceiling, and replacing a couple baseboard pieces in the dining room. Oh yeah, and installing crown molding in there. Yay, fall.

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