Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Backsplash! Done!

So it's done!  the backsplash is now up, and looking fine, and the kitchen is completed. I have more backsplash material and if my tenant at the condo likes it, I'll do another one over there, now that I know how.  Two views. As you see, I did the entire wall, figuring that would be better than just one section. And it does look nice and finished and continuous.  I should have put the oven light on, too, to show you how the panel glows in the light.

I started off adhering it, but then realized it was just as good to use panel tacks and tap them in at intervals, this being a 2 x 4 foot lightweight sheet cut to fit, rather than individual tiles.  In fact they were not panel tacks, but the kind of small nails you use for basket making, since they came from Mittens, and I'm guessing that was their previous use?  worked fine in lieu of the panel tacks I couldn't find. 

I learned about cutting out to allow the outlets to work, and all that, and matching tile patterns, not obvious even though this was an all-direction design with square motifs. 

I painted the outlets and covers, and will give them another coat, using liquid acrylic, since I found that in practice leaving them to match the walls looked a bit jarring.  I painted, then sponged.  But I can fiddle about with this at will, now that the main job is done.
Took about three plus hours. I do like to do my own work! and it's a big improvement over the old glum wall it covered. Also I covered up the old landline phone jack,  out of use for years.

So now I'll just wait, hot and tired and smug, for all the cheering and stamping and whistles...well, I can dream.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Of pasta and kitchens and plants and friends

Handsome Son and I went to the annual Italian American Festival at the local park on Saturday, no pix, since all the photogenic aspects were missing this year. No lovely streets laid out with the historic Burg street signs (well, one, lost in a mass of fast food booths), no children's puppet theater, no in person acts interesting to watch, few crafts.  Mainly it was about fast food, and a big midway, with the really good food sort of shoehorned in.  So next year we may rethink this.

However, undaunted by chilly and windy weather, we forged on to find dinner, and had some excellent sausage sandwich, funnel cake, pasta e fagioli, aka pasta fazool, and old fashioned soft icecream with sprinkles distributed by an antique original soda fountain sprinkling machine.  And the best funnel cake I ever had.

The crowds were as happy and nice as ever, despite crowding, and big families with not a single crying kid,  and the family who were leaving as we arrived to eat wiped off the whole picnic table surface for us, since as the grandfather said, my kids were here!  so when we left, we did likewise for our successors.

The pasta e f. was so good I decided to learn to make it.  And since I had the Plethora of Potatoes to deal with, and had made several hundred gnocchi, you can't make a few gnocchi, I had two large bags of them in the freezer (only freezable potato recipe I found), so here was a chance to use some of it up.

So yesterday I got to work,  already had the tomatoes in the freezer, the parsley growing fresh on the patio, the Italian seasoning in the house, courtesy of dear Karen, red pepper seeds, chicken stock in the house, only needed the white beans.  

While I was cooking friend G. showed up to put up the plant hangers he'd promised me to do this morning before he vanishes for three weeks, leaving me to watch his plants.  And commented several times on how good the soup smelled, what was it, etc.  

So after he helped create this lovely effect in my kitchen as seen from the living room, through the pass through

he had the honor of hanging the first plant, since I grew it from cuttings I'd swiped, I mean pruned, from his plant long ago.  Then he packed up his tools, and we processed to his house, he with all the tools, me with a bowl of soup and a hunk of homemade bread for him for later. 

He eats dinner close to midnight, so he saved it for then.  And this morning gave it a good review.  So much so that I think he was putting his name down for the next time I make it..

and here's the soup: Sunday's lunch for me

and Monday's lunch, for the fridge, and it is very good on the second day as well.  

Definitely a good home for the gnocchi. New mantra: when life hands you potatoes, make gnocchi!

Later, just when I was watching The Aristocrats on my tablet, another friend came by, bearing a lovely dish of Indian food she'd just cooked and wanted to share.  She admired the paint job in the kitchen, and said how she'd like to learn about plants, or rather she wants her husband to learn it, and would I show him how to get started.  They're about the age of Handsome Son and are developing into honorary kids to me!

Well, of course I will help him, he's a sweet guy, and her agenda is to get him more among Americans and their ways of talking (yes, I see the irony here) and a little bit more away from Indian groups.  He will be job hunting, and they would like him to move into an American firm if he can, rather than the paternalistic Indian company he's at now.  

But he needs to be a little bit more outspoken and assertive, and I guess she thinks he can develop that around me, learning how to pot up plants!  Or something!  anyway, whatever transpires, I'll be happy to work with him on learning cuttings and planting and developing an indoor garden.  First use, for me, of gardening as a learning tool for assimilation.  I already worked with them on their front area, helping with planting and dividing and identifying what to weed, and he does love it and can tolerate me.

Little did I know what painting the kitchen might unleash.  Next I will be doing the backsplash wall with a faux copper sheet deal, and I hope I won't end up working with a tinsmith on making soup..

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From painting art to painting kitchens

As planned, the Painting of the Kitchen went forward this morning.  A couple of secrets about this:  I move everything the previous night, including stirring the paint.  I'll stir again before using, but it gets my mojo mojoing.  And I set out the old painting clothes and the various tools I'll use.  That's Secret One.  

Secret Two is that I never plan to paint more than one wall per session.  If there's paint in the tray, I use that up, but don't refill.  And I wrap my trusty roller up tight and don't wash it at all.  At the end of the room, I toss the roller sleeve.  

And you know to slide the tray into a garbage bag, which you shape around the tray and pour the paint on top of it? that way when it's used, you reverse the bag over the tray and toss that.  No cleaning of trays.  The only washing I do is the small brush I use to cut in at ceiling and floor and around awkward corners.  

I don't tape, either. I have a steady hand, and that and my trusty damp cloth at the ready takes care of any stray splashes on the cabinets.  And I don't throw sheets over the other furniture.  In fact I have a very lazy way of  proceeding.  Also cheap -- did I mention that the paint was a full unused gallon of this nice spring green color left at the dumpster?  probably somebody bought more than they needed. It looks quite a bit greener in rl, and very cheery. The previous paint had gone more grey than green and was looking a bit downhearted.

I also scored a gallon of white enamel, which will probably go into the laundry area.  So here's today's effort.

As you see, I didn't even take down the hanging plant, since it was out of the line of fire. I did take the clock off the wall I was painting, though, big concession.

here, where you can see the ceiling is not yet cut in, that  was to use up a bit of paint while I was up there anyway.  

And eagle eyed blogistas who can spot antiques and collectibles will see a few choice items in the kitchen...on the counter and the top shelf.  Try naming them!  fun quiz.  Prize is smugness at knowing your onions and your collectibles.  Clue: five nations represented.

Back to painting: I still have to do one full wall, the one you see started where the plant is, then one bitty one with the passthrough cut out of it, and cabinets everywhere.  Then there's the fascia above the cabinets, and that will be done. 

So happy that after last winter's illnesses and weakness for ages, that I'm really back and able to do this, yay.  This whole deal to date took half an hour of organizing last night, and about an hour and a half of painting today.  And I laundered the curtains, might as well seize the day, then when I put them back up, they'll fit the ambiance of new and clean.

I have two plant hangers coming, to suspend those begonias above the window, and off a needed surface, which is why I started on the window wall, so it would be ready.

I'm out tonight, so later this afternoon, I'm moving stuff around to get at the next wall.  The island is on casters, easy, the freezer a bit more tricky, and I have to unhook the aprons!  not too strenuous a prep.  And pushing back the shelves I moved out to paint today won't be too tough.  I do it without moving anything off them...has worked fine so far.

Now I'm going to sit and drink tea and read A Few Green Leaves, a Pym I scored at the used bookstore the other day.  An actual book not a CD this time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Decisions about farmshare, and dieffenbachia gives me a surprise

So this year's farmshare has not lived up to the excitement of previous years.  The farmers have made various decisions about crops and choices, and since I've been going to farmers' markets this year, too, I'm thinking about switching my budget next year to shop more at farmers' markets, just going to the farmshare farm for fruit, which is the best.

Mainly this year there has been only one farmshare location -- previous years they've switched to the other side of the farm with different crops for the second part of the season, and that's when the zinnias were part of the adventure, and a wider variety, it seemed to me, of fruit.

This year one location only, and I think fewer shares of fruit, no flowers, many fewer free add ons, smaller variety of vegetables, and a large amount of potatoes, way too many even for this potato lover.  I'm two weeks behind in my potato consumption, even sharing with Handsome Son, and there's another couple of pounds in this week's share. 

I spoke with the farmer today when I picked up, about this, and she, lifelong farmhouse dweller, and thrilled with their bumper spud crop,  seemed to be quite amazed to hear that there are homes in this town (most of them, in fact) without the capacity to store potatoes. 

I explained no garage, no basement, no cool upstairs rooms, and she said, well keep them on the patio, at which point I gave up, since bylaws flatly forbid keeping food on the patio because of squirrel and rat populations.  We can't even put out birdseed!  and speaking as a squirrel ridden homeowner, I'm in favor of the ban.  She ended by saying, well eat potatoes every day. No use explaining I'm already doing that, and I'm still swamped!

I can, and do, give away my surplus to friends and neighbors, but I can't afford to give half my share, no point in the membership then. Sooooo, thinking, thinking.  I was fair to her, though, pointing out that the imbalance didn't suit this customer.  If they announce any changes for next year I'll be in.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try making gnocchi  to freeze and see if that's a good solution to the Plethora of Potatoes, since I love gnocchi and have never made them.  Had wonderful ones long ago in France.

But I still think I might switch my allegiance next year to farm markets.  It's been fun, but maybe it's time.  And going to the farm market is a great morning out anyway, much more food variety and all kinds of interesting people.

So look for pix of gnocchi in process!  This month's Bite Club cook is Nigella Lawson, and I love the way she writes, very readable and honest, and I hate the photographs of herself, very cheesy, supposed to be ironic, but come off silly and a bit cheap, throughout the book. If I were to buy this one, I'd cut out all the pix of her and just keep the food!  

Last month I made, from the 123 book, by  Rozane Gold, her maple walnut bars, and they were just lovely.  They were made in the late afternoon, polished off at the club meeting, and no pix are available, sorry. Maple walnut is a favorite flavor, dating back to historic times which I'll talk about another time, not wishing you all to nod off today...

And, back in the living room, the dieffenbachia gave me a heck of a surprise, by putting out five new flowers, in the house.  I was surprised enough when she did it last year out of doors, in excellent light, but I guess she's got the hang of it now, and see her latest effort.  Since there are few insects indoors to pollinate her, she's going to be disappointed.  

They are hermaphroditic -- first part of the bloom is male, I think then that fades and what appears is female, or it may be the other way around. The interval for insects to fertilize is only a matter of hours or days, so these are finely engineered plants.  

You only need one plant to propagate flowers, no need to worry about a partner.  What you see here is the first bloom of the cluster, to be replaced by a different appearance to the same spike.Can't name her, unless I choose a gender neutral name.  Dana the Dieffenbachia, or Tracy, or Evelyn or something.

All this activity in here today is treading water while I get up the gumption to start painting my kitchen that the Big Insulation is done, little last bits all complete and working fine, and the dress I made into a coat thing is all finished and ready to wear, and the plants are indoors, and I can't think of any other household chores to use to postpone the Painting of the Walls, I'm for it.  One wall per session is my mantra.

Hardest part is getting out the can of paint and stirring.  After that it usually goes pretty well.  I'm thinking of tiling the backsplash wall, too with copper tiles.  Or possibly farming that job out, but I'd rather do it myself.  Anyway, that wall won't be painted.  

The kitchen is awkward, not that many square feet, but a lot of stuff to move around and climb over and reach behind.  I have a nice gallon of lovely fresh green paint, free from the dumpster, so that's a small investment..and I already removed the phone jack from the sink wall, dating back to when I had a landline, easy to remove, and the hole will vanish under the tiles.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Festival Weekend followed by Recovery Sunday

Sunday was a quiet, sunny day perfect for all kinds of things from bread baking, finally the weather allowed it, to a stroll by the river, an icecream in the sunshine and a walk down a historical street.  And since I was pictured and crowded and musicked and noised out, I decided just to do it, not to take pictures.  The pic here of Brainerd Lake in Cranbury was my only concession, so as to give you a nice general image of the day.

So I had a peaceful time just watching the sparkles on the river and the reflections of the water under the leaves of the pin oak leaning over the water, then a stroll past historical houses and their gardens, in the last flush of flower and fruit of the summer before Fall starts officially.  A stop for peach icecream, then a duck into the used bookstore, where I scored a Pym I don't own, though I've read it a lot, a Few Green Leaves, and home to rest from all this exertion, reading Pym on the patio.  Just focusing on being there, not on framing up pix of it and transmitting it all.

To see why this was vital, and why after an exciting day on Saturday, I needed down time from people, however wonderful, for a little while, go here

 And, since I heard of Jackie Collins, a writer I'd never read, not my taste I thought, having died, I thought I'd do a bit of tribute reading, and I put Hollywood Wives on my library list!  I could have got it on CD but I thought having that prose read over my goldwork stitching wasn't very congruous, so I'll read it in an actual book, with a cup of tea.

Speaking of reading, and of CDs, since I'm always busy doing stuff and can't be reading paper books at the same time, I've done quite a bit of CD reading, and highly recommend Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins, just brilliant.  And Philippa Gregory The King's Curse.
Currently I've finally got my hands on Shirley Jackson's collection of essays and short stories, some not published before, the collection put together by her children and recently issued, I Want to Tell You.  So far, so excellent. Well, it's Jackson, what did I expect but brill?

And I've been eating and cooking, too, but will get into that in the next day or two, with some dogmatic statements...why are you not surprised?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

DIY Insulation Caper, aka Renovators Without Borders

The problem: the downstairs bathroom, very pretty little place, full of art and art toys, has zero insulation on the outer wall.  This wall backs onto the inside of the outdoor storage place, where the breaker box is housed and various gardening implements used at will by the community.  I never lock it, since who knows when someone urgently needs my stepladder or portable ramp or gardening tool and I'm not there.  And it's in the full blast of the wind, to the point that leaves and debris blow in there all the time no matter how carefully the door is fitted and snug to the threshold.

So the outside wall backing onto the bathroom is, well, it looks like cardboard to me, but I'm told sheetrock, and it clears the floor by a full half inch.  You could slide your fingers completely under it and encounter only the two by four between the elements and the bathroom floor. Hence the screaming wind in the winter.

So I consulted with various authorities, all of whom live in similar places, and we looked into the sort of foamy stuff you can fire into the cavity, but I vetoed that since it only swells and cures on an open wall with oxygen going, but inside this closed cavity would make sludge and no better insulation.  Then I wondered what else might work that is cheap and light and I can do.

So neighbor and handyperson Helen said, wait, I used styrofoam sheets on my indoor closet (different house design, same problem but hers is a coat closet that backs onto the outdoor wall).  And, since I'm very familiar with good old styrofoam in the studio, and decided I could use silicone caulk as a glue, went ahead and ordered up a package of four sheets.

Total cost about $30.  I measured and found the wall is eight feet, which I expected, by three feet, with a gap for the breaker box which requires a bit of extra cutting. And I got a package of four 2 x 4 foot sheets, ripped one down the middle, just using a pencil, a straightedge and a lino knife.  Then installed the halves on top of one another, ripped side concealed behind the doorframe, then the second I attached whole from the floor up, 

and the third I cut across to allow for the breaker box and fitted that in from the ceiling down.

I buttered the back of the foamboards with the silicone caulk, using the highly technical tool you see here.  

Remember this is the renovator who once repaired three broken sashes in double hung windows, the ancient kind with the weight going down into a pocket, weighed a ton, using a steak knife to remove the frame and my tack hammer to set it back after the sashes were repaired. 

They were charging $100 per window if I'd hired someone.  Why the steak knife?  well, for domestic reasons too complicated to go into, all the tools had decamped leaving me with a big house, no money and no tools.  But I was determined to get those windows to open.  Where was I?

Oh yes,  buttering the foamboards.  The reason I had to use a knife and saw open the container is that every time I try to use a caulking gun, the bottom of the container pops off and I have two handfuls of caulking, none of it coming from the nozzle.   And my hands are not strong enough to squeeze it out manually.  So sawing and buttering was the answer, though I doubt if any handyman would recognize the terms.

I was very happy that my measuring resulted in such a snug fit for the top piece that I had to press and squeeze it into place, yay, good stuff.  And I caulked some of the joins.  You will see that there are a couple of bits still to cover, not yet done because of a technical hitch.  I ran out of caulking compound. 

 No problem, I can cut the extras at my leisure and they'll be simple to attach, after a trip to the hardware store.  Meanwhile back inside the bathroom you can not detect any draft at all at the floor level. Last winter it was lifting the rug!  

My next door neighbor and good friend was dying to take over and do this for me, but I knew he would introduce all kinds of sophistication, translation -- complication, into a simple operation, so I sneakily did this this morning while he's away on vacation.  That was starting to sound like a comic riff from G and S..

He was urging that I get a third friend to bring a special power saw to cut the sheets, all very Y chromosome. He wants to do a similar thing to his own storage wall, but he plans on tearing out the entire wall, using manly power tools and so on, and I didn't exactly want that level of attention to the issue.

And if anyone's worrying about outgassing in case of fire, don't.  This is outside the house, in fact outside the firewall, and it's not the exit anyone would be trying to use.   

So it's, almost, done.  The messy blots on the breaker box was done by the original builders, not by your faithful renovator.  Just sayin'

I now have the rest of the third sheet to cut and fit into the final gaps and an entire sheet to play with in the studio.  Always nice to have a backup sheet in case of disastrous mismanagement with one of the others, such as falling on it and breaking it, or cutting in the wrong direction.  Quite a contrast to stitching peacefully on goldwork.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sign of Fall Chez Boud

When I sigh and drag myself out to the deck to start hauling in, cleaning up, and setting up houseplants again in the house.  these are just the ones downstairs, too big to make it up a flight.  Well, this is a sign of Fall.

The one on the right standing proud is doing that because she's tethered to the bookcase!  can't be trusted to hew to the vertical otherwise.

I just got these in before some torrential rain which would have made them weigh a lot more and caused torrential streams of curses from the gardener.  But they look pretty happy here.  The summer outside always causes a rush of growth -- you see the ficus now brushing the eight foot ceiling -- and makes it harder to just put them back where they were in June.  I found a little tiny toad on one of them, and she clung to my thumb when I gently lifted her and carried her to a safer spot, not on a traveling houseplant. Last year I had quite a few hitchhikers, so I'll see if I get any this year.

I have some nifty diy stuff to show you, when I get it under way, this time to do with insulation, always such an exciting topic. But I'm actually quite chuffed about this, since it will make a difference to the lives of all who use our downstairs bathroom, whose back wall has zero insulation as of this writing.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday Puzzle

What pet:

1. comes when called
2. drinks from the toilet
3. plays with a tennis ball
4. runs to greet visitors at the door to insist on petting
5. loves to get wet 
6. likes wrestling with his friends
7. protects Boud from strange men

 A dog, you say?  a black lab, maybe?  nooooooooo, it's Duncan The Wondercat, aka CK Duncan (Chocolate Kitty, because not really black when the sun shines through his fur).

And, as he says, Better Than a Dog! Cats Rule..


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Holiday weekend in the US

Labor Day weekend, perfect weather, and if my friends and neighbors are anything to judge by, a way of celebrating labor by doing not much!  everyone planning on reading, resting, pottering, no major strenuous plans.  And that's pretty much today for me, too.

One of those days that are not special in events but are full of things to remember.  Trip to the farmer's market, and I met a lovely young Cane Corso  puppy, Luca, already 80 lbs, and probably going to top 100 by maturity.  Only 14 months old yet. Very sweet guy, friendly and happy to be petted.  His owner told me I was the first person ever to identify him correctly!  but then I've known other Italian mastiffs, fearsome looking fellers, and total pushovers for petting.

Yesterday, I taught a little workshop in paper jewelry, and took part of the proceeds to the market for great figs and eggs and farm-made chicken sausage, then off to the other farm for blackberries, peaches, raspberries nearly the end of the season.  And yet more Roma plum tomatoes.

Dessert was a huge fruit salad, figs, blackberries, raspberries, peach, plain yogurt, sprinkle of brown sugar.  Summer in a bowl.  Earnings well placed to support our local farmers, too.

Soon the farmshare will include apples.  This is the year of the apples for me, I think, after that bushel basket I picked from the friend's tree.


And I think I've manage to rehome my extra pool lounger.  I suddenly had too much furniture on the deck, and only needed one, so the other is going across the street to live, as soon as my neighbor carries it over there.  Neighbor K. across the street is thrilled because she was about to buy one anyway.  I didn't mention she was the fourth person I'd offered it to!

Painting daily is going along, to my surprise.  But stitching is also in the mix, or the offing. Too hot for much cooking, more like assembling. Enjoy the weekend, even if it isn't a holiday one for you.