Friday, October 24, 2014

Victory, kind of

The short version of this story is, the shelves are installed, and I got to spend a few hours yesterday filling them, and it was awesome. The kitchen finally looks like MY KITCHEN. I love everything about it. It was the best, most gratifying "step" in the process so far.

But oh, the long version. The long version is, I suppose, a lesson in improvisation. Sometimes it works and it's awesome, and sometimes... oh, sometimes.

You might notice the brackets. You might notice (or maybe not) that they are, in fact, builders' hardware angle ties. Like, the kind of steel bits folks use to attach studs to sills or headers. I liked their simplicity; I thought with a nice coat of glossy black paint they'd look awesomely industrial, understated, and chic. And they do. They're gorgeous. But... they wobble. And sway. The steel flexes under the weight of the dishes. In fact, you can the forward-tilt pretty clearly in the above photo. 

I feel totally confident that they aren't going to break, and they certainly aren't going to pull out of the wall (I used toggle bolts rated for 265 lbs, two per bracket). But... the sway. I spaced out the heavy stuff, but even so.

Suffice it to say that, even in spite of the time I got to spend playing with my new shelves, yesterday was not a good day. It was a day of realizing that much time and money had gone down the drain.

It's days like this I wonder how REAL DIY bloggers keep going/kept going. It can be sooo awesome so do something yourself, for small monies, and get it just the way you want it. BUT it can also be one of those experiences where you don't realize how in-over-your-head you are until... the shelves go up, and the bleeping things wobble. Quiet sob. 

I think my November plan is to give up home improvement! No, seriously. It'll be just like giving up drinking, only SO MUCH BETTER. I'll get a head start on Christmas gifts, maybe (just maybe) paint a window or two (the kitchen ones are a little dingy) maybe do some organizing.... yesss. I need to stop pushing myself so hard, even though I want to get crown molding installed in the dining room, replace a couple baseboards, and fix the laundry room ceiling before Christmas. Oh, man. This balance thing is so tricky to figure out sometimes. Wish me luck! 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Not quite.

Remember this cool thing?

Well. It sat all summer. I used the shelves in the pantry alcove area for my pots and pans (highly inconvenient). But then, this week, probably because the brackets I'm using to install the shelves upon are giving me a royally hard time, I found I had a minute to shout at my friend Jay, the sculptor, who offered to help make the small modifications this marvelous piece of junk needed to become a pot rack... four months ago. He was still game, as luck would have it. 

Twenty minutes of welding and grinding later and, voila. The main modification was installing that straight central piece, for stability.

After a few minutes of pacing and fretting to make sure I put the hooks into the ceiling in the right places, it took only about ten minutes to install. 

And, I LOVE it! The whole view from the first picture will look a lot better sans clutter. And, actually, now that I mention it, it does bother me a little that it seems to compete with the dining room lights. That might be one of those things that's way less noticeable in person, because I didn't notice it until looking at the picture. We'll see. 

And in other news, this is the state of the open (freaking) shelves, which I foolishly thought I'd have done by the end of last week. Pah. Silly human. Oh, sweet chaos of toggle bolts and heavy-duty anchors and tile-cutting drill bits and spade bits and knee pads...

Once the brackets are all set, though, it should be a ten-minute install. The boards are ready to go. And I can't WAIT to fill 'em with all kinds of fun stuff, some decor and some function and just... the perfect stuff to complete the farmhouse vibe. 

I do loves me some farmhouse vibe. We're getting there.

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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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