The Start of a New (Downstairs) Bath/Laundry Room

So, remember how we really wanted the upstairs/master bathroom to be done so Lynn and I could move into our bedroom and move out of the smallest guest room in the house? We have now been sleeping in the small guest room for roughly two years. By small I mean although it does fit a king-size bed, an Ikea Parsons table, and a set of plastic storage drawers I picked up at Goodwill one summer for $5.00, there’s no room to stand and one simply wakes up and exits the room as quickly as possible.

Well, okay in full disclosure, I also have a luggage rack that’s stuck in a corner. Why? Because I simply cannot stand having suitcases or bags on the floor in any hotel room or temporary abode I’m staying in. (I get really cranky.) Two years ago I stayed at a Hilton in Munich and they simply couldn’t provide me with a luggage rack. I asked various hotel employees where I could find one and some of them had no idea what I was talking about.  It got so bad that I even considered TAKING UP SMOKING to relieve the stress of the no-luggage-rack room but decided to simply keep asking every time I saw an hotel employee. This resulted in me kind of performing a strange SNL skit asking every single employee this, “excuse me do you have a luggage rack, excuse me…” along with a crude sketch of what I thought a luggage rack should look like that I carried around in my purse to show any hotel worker I encountered for the duration of my stay.

But I’m getting away from the story. Perhaps you will remember (I can’t remember if I told you actually!) but our contractor (that would be contractor #2) left us last October with a bathroom that was not finished. This is how he “resigned.”

IMG_2622He placed a set of keys (kitchen door, garage door) and a Lowe’s gift card I had given him if he needed supplies on our temporary dining room table. (PS – There was still $32.17 left on the gift card.) Remember, this is what the upstairs unfinished bathroom still looks like!

IMG_8456At first I was in disbelief, but in fairness, he had been ill and would occasionally say something about going “south” for the winter. I was dreading having to find someone new but I had no choice. I had 3 other people come in to do estimates. One refused to even give me an estimate, the second one said he could do it but then his boss said no he couldn’t because they couldn’t be responsible for someone else’s work and the third, well, the third contractor would only do it if the downstairs bathroom/laundry room could be done first. (Hint: downstairs room was going to be way more expensive to do.)

So, Lynn and I took vacation days from work which resulted in us having over 2 weeks of uninterrupted time up at the Red House. This was the most consecutive amount of time we’ve spent up here since the summer of 2010 when we bought the house. So, third contractor got hired through Big Box Store, contracts were signed and money was paid.  The plan was to start in two weeks.

Day 1. Everyone shows up. Yeah! Debris is hauled away. Old sewer pipe is taken out piece by piece. Plumbing and electrical are installed. This was all done in less than six hours. To say I was extremely encouraged and this new turn (and speed) of events is putting it mildly.

Here’s how the room looked before they hauled all the icky stuff away.

IMG_8932IMG_8940IMG_8936Day 2. Sheetrock is brought in on the back of a pick-up truck and a “helper” is there to put up the rock. It actually takes the “helper” less than 6 hours (including lunch breaks, pee breaks and every half hour cigarette breaks) to drywall AND spackle the laundry room. At this rate I was thinking could I possibly have a new bathroom by the end of the first week?

IMG_8981Day 3. “Helper” rocks entire bathroom before 2:30 p.m. after arriving at 8 a.m. Above mentioned breaks are ditto for day 3. I’m actually quite fond of the purple colored drywall. Maybe we should rethink our preferred color choice of all-white walls?

IMG_8969Day 4. We get a phone call that no one is coming to work today because they have to work on another house. Lucky them.

Day 5. Apparently today is camping day for every contractor in upstate New York. (I just thought it was Friday but apparently I was mistaken.) There is also a very loud and non-stop stream of RV’s, campers and Monster trucks on flatbeds driving past our house and heading up the hill to some sort of Monster Mud Truck Fest 17 miles further north.

Day 6 & 7. (Saturday and Sunday). Lynn and I decide to go up to Vermont.  After all it is the weekend! And the Monster Truck Mud Fest had something to do with it, too. Plus I finally got a reservation at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try.

Once again, I need to diverge here. Some people seem to think that being up at the Red House is like BEING ON VACATION ALL THE TIME. That is absolutely not the case. While we’re up at the Red House, Lynn is constantly trying to finish some moulding or wainscoting or spackling or painting himself into a corner and I’m inevitably sitting in front of my laptop and working Job #2. (Job #2 pays a portion of the home renovation expenses.)

Day 8. Monday morning. 8 a.m. rolls around with no contractor in sight. By 8:30 a.m. I’m on the phone with the contractor who says we need to go to the Big Box Store with him because he doesn’t want to use most of the items the sales person included on the installation sheet (that would be cement board, mortar, grout, etc., etc.)  We meet at 2 p.m., get the new stuff plus insist on delivery of the tile for the floor, the washer, dryer and very important – the toilet that has no exterior curvy lines. (Remember this is the ONLY toilet Lynn says we are allowed to have in the Red House.)

IMG_7235Day 9. Subcontractor of contractor shows up to tape and spackle bathroom side of room. By noon, we have to suddenly leave to go to Albany to put a down payment on a car* we bought in Syracuse. I’m prepared to leave subcontractor a house key but he’s already finished!  Could I possibly still be in the running to have the bathroom finished by the end of the week? He tells us to leave the fans on in the room to “speed” up the drying process and we even open the skylight for the first time in 6 years.

IMG_8980*We had to go buy a used car ASAP because our VW TDI is part of the diesel emissions scandal and we don’t want to drive it anymore seeing how EVENTUALLY (think late fall) VW is going to buy back our vehicle.

Day 10. Subcontractor and sub-subcontractor both show up at 7:50 a.m. to tell us spackle is not dry and to get another fan in the room if possible. We keep both fans on high for the next 24 hours.

IMG_8979At 2:00 p.m. Big Box Store shows up with a delivery of the tile for the bathroom, a bag of grout and two bags of mortar.

IMG_8995Basically stuff we could have fit into the back of our new (used) car. I inquire about the “big” stuff – mainly the washer/dryer and toilet and they have no “record” of that having to be delivered. I convince delivery guys that they need to call whoever they need to call to have washer/dryer and toilet delivered by tomorrow (that would be Day 11). They tell me my wish is their command. No they don’t but they do manage to arrange for another delivery same time tomorrow and then they just get in their truck and drive away.

Before they left however, I did offer to make them cookies if they returned with the missing items in the morning. Luckily, they didn’t take me up on the offer since as you know I detest baking but before we get to Day 11, the delivery guys and I had to have a conversation about chocolate chip cookies with or without nuts. (They prefer without.)

Day 11. Subcontractor and sub-subcontractor have an early morning job and can’t get here until 3:00 p.m. I realize while we may have had an excellent start to this summer bathroom  project we will most definitely NOT have a completed bathroom by Day 12. That would be tomorrow. They did however install hot and cold water pipes for the washer/dryer that I’m still waiting to have delivered.

IMG_9031Finally, right before lunch, I also got the washer/dryer and toilet delivered. I really should go out and play the Lottery at this point.

IMG_9025IMG_9027Day 12. It’s Friday. We’ve been here exactly 2 weeks. We have to drive back to Long Island today. Contractor showed up to go over the “plan,” and to do some touch-up work. A wall he built is going to be torn down because he realized the Jacuzzi I want to put in wouldn’t fit. I kind of liked the wall, oh well.

IMG_9033They rip out the wall and we exchange phone numbers to  monitor the progress of the renovation. Lynn and I are in a rush to get back to Long Island because we need to grab a plane out of JFK in 2 days and need to do silly things like laundry (too bad I couldn’t do the laundry at the Red House, hint, hint) and repack. Thing is as mentioned in Day #6-7 when we drove up to Vermont, we were gone for a mere 24 hours. Since we haven’t been on a “real” vacation since our aforementioned luggage-rack barren trip to Europe in 2014, we decide to go to the Charleston, SC area for an entire week! (It’s also my birthday.)

Let me segue back shortly to the night of Day #11. The night before we left the Red House we saw a moth that landed right by our patio door. He or she had a yellow and brown coat with what looked like some sort of King Arthur sword tattoo.

IMG_9041Seeing how King Arthur’s very famous Excaliber sword was bequeathed upon him to give him an unbreakable blade as well as magical powers, I can only assume this was a sign that we, too, shall need some sort of magical intervention to finish this bathroom!

Stay Tuned.

PS. I had luggage racks in EVERY SINGLE HOTEL ROOM we stayed in in South Carolina!


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Hand Pollinating My Zucchini (Really!)

Growing up in Munich my mother was the gardener. I was the girl who liked to visit the Viktualianmarkt and “ooh” and “aah” at the colorful bouquets of flowers but in reality I was much more interested in looking at all the fresh veggies, fruit, and cheese that were on display.

Here’s a couple of photos from my visit to Munich’s “Markt”in July 2014!

IMG_7708IMG_7706When we bought our first condo on Long Island, I reluctantly planted some tomatoes on our balcony in pots that didn’t grow and basically didn’t think about any true gardening until we bought our first house in 2001. There I had a sizeable yard – enough to grow rose bushes that bloomed without me having to do anything at all, hostas that would come up even if a certain husband ran over them with the lawn mower and herbs (sage, parsley, chives, and rosemary) that would come back year after year even after the coldest of winters.

Now I have 4 acres – a lot of it forest – along with some bamboo and sumac trees. When we planted the first garden a few years ago, we first had someone rip up the sod so we could throw down some gardening soil, cow manure and peat moss.  Basically anything that came in a bag that said “organic” on it and bragged that it could help grow crops as tall as the Empire State building and cause flowers to burst into bloom and be worthy of an appearance in Macy’s annual flower show, I would use to get my garden “ready.”

I know about crop rotation and about not planting certain plants next to each other. What I didn’t have in my Long Island garden that I have Upstate New York are 1) deer, 2) many many rabbits and 3) groundhogs. This meant that even with the fence Lynn put up, the deer managed to nibble on any large flowers that sprouted above the fence and both the rabbits and groundhogs dug holes or simply wiggled their way through openings in the fence.

See? Here is Mr. Bunny waiting to get into the garden after lounging around all day in the grass!

IMG_9011Consequently, much of what I planted was eaten before it even had a chance to grow! This year, unlike last year, it seemed I would have a bumper crop of zucchini! I had never seen so many blossoms and even made some fried zucchini blossoms for dinner one night that I stuffed with goat cheese from a nearby farm.

IMG_3487Problem was all I had were blossoms, there was no actual zucchini attached.

After a little bit of research, I found who walked me through the process of hand pollinating female zucchini blossoms with male ones to result hopefully in baby zucchini!  Although I was skeptical that this Australian lady could help me, she also had really great pictures that made it seem easy and doable.

Since anything science-related was not my strong point (when we had to dissect a frog in 10th grade bio I decided skipping school and risk being expelled from the National Honor Society was a better option than having to deal with a frog), I decided to try and focus on what I was doing and maybe it would in fact work.

How difficult could this hand pollinating thing be? Strangely, I can handle blood and cutting things up and dealt with many a messy poopy diaper from both children but I absolutely cannot deal with vomit. Case in point: my son Nicholas threw up in his car seat one morning, the vomit rolling down his winter jacket and literally enveloping the entire jacket zipper. I was so grossed out about touching the vomit-laden zipper that I simply cut the jacket off of him!!  (Nicholas, I don’t think that traumatized you that much did it?)

So, last week I did what theveggielady told me to do, although I must admit that the inside of a female zucchini blossom didn’t look much different than the male ones! (I was never good at doing those stupid tests where you have to find 3 of the same or figure out which one is different than the other.) I gently snipped off the male stamen (sorry, Mr. Zucchini Blossom) and gently rubbed the stamen onto what looked like a Ms. Zucchini Blossom.

Afterwards, I decided that this experiment is the true meaning of “food porn!” Okay, foodie/chef friends, you should really be laughing and not groaning at that statement right now.

Like any “Mom” who wants to have a baby, I waited and waited and suddenly yesterday, I saw a tiny little zucchini actually growing from a blossom. Holy shit!

IMG_8988Okay, so I’ll never get an honorary Horticulture degree from a college for this revelation but it did work and was kind of neat.

Posted in cooking, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening tools, Munich, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A New Door For An Old House

After we ripped out the concrete porch which I mentioned in my April story, we started to think about getting a new front door. The door we have right now is an old French door that sticks when you try to open it and once open is nearly impossible to close again. It doesn’t help matters that Lynn broke one of the panes last winter and stuck a piece of cardboard on the bottom to keep out the critters and the cold.

IMG_8950Above the door was also an old transom with what originally might have been delicately etched glass but over time simply looked dirty. On the outside of the French doors were some screen doors that wouldn’t properly close and during quite a few wind storms would rattle and bang about.

We knew we wanted to get rid of the French doors and the screen but really tried to save the transom. This didn’t happen. First and foremost, we couldn’t find anyone to build us a custom door in this size. Why I don’t know but it wasn’t an option. Second, even with ripping the doors and the transom out, a new door and two new side panels cost nearly as much as a couple of used cars I’ve seen for sale in the area.

So we ordered a new door May 30th and nearly 7 weeks later it arrived and was ready to be installed.

Here’s what the outside of the house looked like before the new door.

IMG_8943Here’s what the front of the house looks like now with our new door installed.

IMG_8960We hope to have new siding by the end of the year and plan to get rid of the ugly white shutters and replace them with a few black ones on the first floor. This I think should bring the look of the house together.

We also need to figure out how one would get into the front of the house if one had too.  Obviously we need some stairs but is it stupid to think about having a porch or small deck built especially when we just ripped one out?

Inside the house, with the transom gone, the installers left us with some plywood that needs to be drywalled and painted and moulding needs to be added as well. Since Lynn is still working on the wainscoting on the other side of the staircase, this area will probably be his “office” for the next week or so.

IMG_8976While I know some people might have attempted to try and salvage the appearance of the house as it was forever and ever, I’m glad that we are totally changing the way the Red House looks both on the inside and the outside. There were too many families before us that neglected this wonderful old house and at this point I think we can do whatever we want to in order to make the house reflect us.

While I do miss the original columns that were in the front of the house (even though one of the columns at the end didn’t match), I definitely don’t miss the broken concrete, the peeling paint and the strange oversized pediment the columns were supporting.

IMG_2574I saved two of the columns anyway – maybe one day they can be artistically “arranged” for a Red House sculpture garden!

IMG_7422The meadow (freshly mowed no less) is just waiting for them…




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The Start of Our Sixth Red House Summer

Unbelievably, it has been six years since we bought the Red House. Needless to say we still have quite a bit of work to be done but hopefully now that we got rid of our house on Long Island (as well as a huge mortgage payment), we will have more time and money to put into the Red House renovation.

I have quite a list of projects I would like to be completed by the end of the year. Not being a total pessimist, I’m hoping we get at least half of them accomplished.

This past spring we finally got a new roof for the main part of the house. The shingles on the house were so old that while I thought they would simply have flown off at the touch of the tool the roofing guys were using to remove them, instead they held on as tight as can be so stripping the roof down to the rafters was a struggle.

Here’s our shingle delivery as well as the start of the project.

IMG_8848IMG_8856There was a ton more debris than I anticipated but then again the main part of the house has a huge roof so what did I expect?

IMG_8862And then of course it started to rain.  It took about 1.5 weeks to finally finish the roof because of the rain delay but now that’s its done, the roof looks quite nice.

IMG_8860We also ordered a granite counter top to finish our kitchen island. I’m reluctant to admit that the one piece of granite cost more than it did to install all of our kitchen counter tops! Even before we got our kitchen counters installed last summer, we survived nearly 4 years with a handy metal cart we inherited from our son.  It served us well.

IMG_8881In the meantime, leftover backer board comes in very handy to cover up the kitchen island until the counter gets here.

IMG_8878We also covered some kid’s cushions we got at Ikea with some red fabric to make the benches and backs of the benches pop a little more in a kitchen that’s primarily black and white. While neither of us can sew, we figured out a way to wrap the fabric around the foam cushion with some heavy cardboard. For now the fabric is in place although Lynn swears whenever he sits on the bench a staple is pinching his ass! (I think he’s imagining being pinched but whatever.)

This is what the cushions looked like before and our finished dining nook. (We had originally wanted a German “Stube” and even bought some church pews to try and make benches but the pews were too long and curved and simply didn’t fit.)

IMG_8872IMG_8875I’m reluctant to admit that we are currently in the process of hiring contractor #3. I promised myself that he will be the last one we work with and since he’s affiliated with a big box store that will replace him if he fails or bows out of the project, I’m pretty confident that at least this way the house renovation will eventually be finished.

Ironically, the project he is working on first was at the bottom of the list. What happened is as follows. If you remember, last fall we were left with a master bathroom that wasn’t finished, ditto for some odds and ends in the kitchen and a room that is totally gutted that I want to turn into a closet. These were the three projects I wanted to be finished ASAP.

As a reminder here’s a shot of the bathroom that can’t seem to get done!

IMG_8456 But, big box store management wasn’t keen on finishing a project that someone else had started citing liability issues. They did, however, offer to work on the downstairs bathroom/laundry room since nothing had been started there.  That is how the last Red House renovation project suddenly got bumped up to be the first Red House renovation project for the summer of 2016.

We start in less than 3 weeks.

Lynn has spent the past few days working on the main staircase into the house. The plaster was torn off (actually it looked like someone at one point simply put their fist through it – the previous owners perhaps knowing they were being foreclosed on?).  He thought about sheet-rocking the wall but the angle was so strange and the moulding a bit weird, too, that we decided to try and put up some wainscoting.

IMG_8912We bought some panels that have a “wainscot” look. Was it easier than putting up drywall? Probably not since each panel had to be cut to size and then each of the primed 1×4’s had to be cut, too.

IMG_8916In the end, I think it came out really nice – it just needs to be painted, and the other side of the stair done too!

IMG_8921In the meantime, I’ve had a family of rabbits on the property who have managed to get into my garden and have eaten all of my green beans, peas and even my broccoli! They were good natured enough to leave me the Romaine, beets, carrots, cauliflower as well as the tomatoes. They also apparently don’t like garlic since my scapes were quite pretty and artistically shaped.

IMG_8890IMG_8893IMG_8896IMG_8891Although the weather has been beautiful, both the field and the garden desperately need some rain. We have a timer set up in the house that waters the garden every two days for about 20 minutes and that seems to be enough to keep my flowers looking particularly colorful this year.

IMG_8904IMG_8903IMG_8906Food-wise – I will be grilling this summer and frequenting as many farmer’s markets as possible. I’ve already made some delicious salads from the lettuce in the garden and pick the asparagus to throw in a pasta dish whenever I see a stalk peeking out from the ground. When the tomatoes are ready, I know they will be perfect with some burrata or oven roasted with a piece of fish.

IMG_8892Oh yeah, just as I was finishing this story, our counter arrived. It’s absolutely gorgeous! And perfect to roll out dough if I want to make pizza or Christmas cookies or Hungarian Kolach! Hint: Kids time to come visit Mom and Dad! Even though I hate baking, I love that they eat everything I bake.


Posted in Baking, Construction, Flowers, food, Garlic, Grilling, kitchen, Renovation, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Years Later – The Kitchen

We didn’t have a kitchen for almost 4 years in the Red House. And even just 2 years ago our kitchen consisted solely of a stove, a new dishwasher and an old fridge.

While we are still struggling to put the rest of the house together, here are some pictures to show everyone how far we’ve come.

Back in April of 2010, this is how the kitchen looked after we ripped out the walls. As you can see, the “sink” was barely standing on what the previous owners thought were perfectly acceptable kitchen cabinets that were held together with duct tape.

IMG_0514There came a day shortly thereafter in 2010 when the sink, unfortunately, had to go too.

IMG_6927So we ended up with no sink and were forced to carry dishes and pots and pans up to the second floor bathroom to scrub them after cooking. Yes, we occasionally did use paper plates but more often than not we didn’t.

IMG_0305IMG_2411After the drywall was put up, we temporarily used a “scrub” sink which was better than hauling everything up to the second floor. We also had a small table next to the sink to let everything dry after rinsing.

The Temporary Sink...

We also ripped out the ceiling in the kitchen (thereby losing a 6th bedroom) and by doing so instantly transformed the kitchen from a dismal dark scary space into a light and airy room.

THIS IS WHERE I'M COOKINGIMG_3414New Kitchen beamsWhen we started putting in the cabinets, we put in a sink with a make-shift plywood counter that felt like almost a real kitchen was in the works. Ironically, we decided that we needed a dishwasher before we needed a new fridge! (For those who really cook and use lots of knives, bowls, pans, and ultimately platters to create a meal you will understand why this was priority#1 and not #21.).

IMG_7308A fun fact that I don’t think Red House readers are aware of is that when we bought this house back in April of 2010, it had 2 kitchens! Both in the back of the house but in different wings. Here’s what the back kitchen looked like before we had to rip it out.


Since the back of the house unfortunately was falling down we not only lost the kitchen but a bathroom, too. Here’s what the back of the house (along with a separate entry way) looked like along with the unfinished addition that STILL LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME SIX YEARS LATER. (Actually the Weatherguard wrap at this point has quite a bit of green moss on it!).

We also, as you can see, got rid of the door and put in a window instead.


THE NEW ADDIITONIMG_6981I have written stories about the process of putting the kitchen together and Lynn and I have often struggled with everything that had to be done but most people don’t know that we also hauled up all the kitchen cabinets for the Red House. That means that whatever would fit in our VW – box by box by box – would be the project for the weekend. I wish now that I had counted all the boxes we brought up but I didn’t.

Meanwhile, we still have a bit more to do. We are in the process of finding someone to finish some of the electrical work including installing a kitchen exhaust hood over the stove.

We have also started to put together a kitchen “island” in the center of the room.  I never thought I would have a kitchen big enough to accommodate an island comfortably but now I do!

IMG_8823IMG_8822So while we’re nearly 90% done with renovating the kitchen, I actually think quite fondly of how far we’ve come. (Confession: I cleared that percentage with Lynn to make sure he thought we were that far along!)

Cooking back in 2010 revolved around our handy Proctor Silex and usually something simple (and manageable in one pot or pan) like scrambled eggs with fresh chives from the garden or chili.

IMG_7210Lovely Chive Speckled Eggs

Perfect Chili

We also ate a lot of fondue and in the summer months grilled everything we could outside.


Perfect Eggplant Parm

BBQ Chicken Thighs

In the summer there was the bounty from our garden and local farmer’s markets as well as things we managed to forage on our own (ramps for example up in the woods).

IMG_8571IMG_5178IMG_7239There was also many a roasted supermarket chicken and on occasion expensive stuff (lobster, burrata and smoked salmon) we’d bring up from Long Island.

A Really Good Chicken


Norwegian Smoked Salmon

Then there was the baking. When Lynn and I lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, we didn’t have an oven (see how history does repeat itself?) but somehow I managed to bake everything in a tiny toaster oven including even holiday cookie baking! Who knew that nearly 20 years later toaster oven baking would be replicated up at the Red House too before we got a “real” oven!

Here’s a picture from November 2010 of homemade little fruit pies!


So while our kitchen is nearly complete I will admit there hasn’t been as much cooking going on as I’d like. It seems we are forever having to put up drywall or paint or hammer something together.

This month alone we’ve put up a bookcase, had our tree guy rip out the ugly cement porch in the front of the house and had a chimney cap finally put on our chimney (we had none).

IMG_8842IMG_8799IMG_8825IMG_8829We’ve also rediscovered my vinyl collection and like to spend evenings listening to music (and dancing) rather than painting!

IMG_8845PS I love this new portable turntable we just got although the sound could be louder!

So coming up this spring and into summer we’ll be adding a new roof, hopefully finishing a master bathroom and bedroom, building a walk-in closet and above all cooking in our new kitchen!

These Are Real Wood, Painted Red



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The End of Summer at the Red House

I’ve been remiss in writing about the Red House and things we have accomplished and things we unfortunately still have not gotten around to doing. So a quick recap should bring everyone up to speed.

First and foremost, although we did spend an enormous amount of time and some money planting a variety of vegetables and flowers in the spring, in the end only the flowers seemed to do well this year. Maybe it was the lack of rain even though we did have the sprinkler on a timer running every other day. Or perhaps it was the rabbits or the squirrels or even the occasional neighborhood cat that got into the garden and ate everything in sight. When we would arrive on a Thursday night for long weekends up at the Red House, we were initially very happy with what was growing in the garden. There were zucchini blossoms, cauliflower, broccoli and beets.

IMG_8563IMG_8571IMG_8637IMG_8582Most Friday or Saturday mornings I could be found weeding the garden, admiring the veggies that were growing as well as noting how pretty the flowers and sumac trees looked. But I was also worrying about how very dry the back meadow seemed.

IMG_8549IMG_8550 IMG_8643IMG_8614However, as the days of summer grew longer and hotter (especially if we missed a weekend or two up at the Red House), we would come back to find that the lack of rain coupled with the heat had literally “roasted” the cauliflower on the stalk. And while some of the green beans grew, most of my tomatoes did not.

IMG_8634IMG_8631IMG_8621With very few vegetables to pick, we started visiting more farmer’s markets around the area to make up for our own feeble growing results. What’s even more disappointing this growing season is that this year not only did we till the soil first and both fertilize and try to water, we were also spending an enormous amount of time weeding the garden. (The weeds won.)

Speaking of winning (and losing, too), I had been thinking of getting a ping pong table for the Red House for a while. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Munich playing ping pong on a fairly regular basis coupled with the fact that my parents still have a ping pong table in their basement and many a grandchild was raised playing a game or two before a family meal. I researched buying tables online (too expensive!) and then started scouring Craigslist ads for garage sales. Low and behold, one Friday morning I saw an ad for a garage sale listing the exact ping pong table I was looking for up the road from the Red House!

It was in four pieces with a stand and a complete set of paddles and balls. I won’t mention how long it took Lynn to put it together (hint: nearly two days) but finally when it was assembled, we had a ping pong table to play on! (Eventually, it will be moved into our attic but for now it’s in the room next to the TV.)

IMG_8596Little did I know that Lynn grew up playing ping pong, too, and was EXTREMELY competitive playing ball with me. Even though I was usually the one who had to coax him into playing a game or two after dinner, inevitably he won. Here’s our scorecard to date – LOL.

IMG_8702Since our ping pong table also looks out onto the back meadow, I realized we had a dead tree in the backyard, in addition to two very large dead trees in the front of the house. I was seriously worried that one if not both trees in the front could possibly fall on someone driving or walking by the house so we had to get an estimate to have the trees taken down ASAP.

Another reason to have the trees taken down right away was that we were also in the process of getting estimates to have the main roof of the house redone.  I’m not one to cut down trees ever but unfortunately these two had to go.

IMG_8641So the day before the tree guys were going to take down the trees, they parked their “toys” in the driveway.

IMG_8707IMG_8708Let’s just say when they came to do the work Friday morning shortly after 7 a.m., they started up both the truck and the Bobcat at the same time in addition to revving up their chainsaws. Regardless of the incredible noise they were making, they did manage to get all three trees down in under 3 hours.

IMG_8714IMG_8716Trees down, we are trying to get the money together to get a new roof before the winter sets in, followed by much needed siding in the spring.

IMG_8670In the meantime, even the little projects are coming along. For example, Lynn put up some solar stair lights so now that it’s getting darker earlier, we are not fumbling in the dark to walk up the Red House steps.

IMG_8674Granted, they don’t shed a lot of light, but enough so I’m not tripping in the dark carrying bags and trying to find the house key. (A problem we wanted to rectify before going into the winter especially since I broke my wrist last March slipping on some ice in my driveway on Long Island after taking out the trash!)

Lynn has also taped around some of the ceiling light fixtures in anticipation of someday spray painting them.

IMG_8648Wow, Lynn what’s up with all that blue painter’s tape? Just kidding!

And even though some may be confused about labeling the purchase of a grill cover as a “project,” the fact is we have been grilling in the driveway for 5+ years. This may not be a big deal to some but our driveway (like everything else on the property) slopes which means when we want to grill we have to lift up the grill (which is pretty heavy) and place it on a part of the driveway that’s fairly even. This past weekend, I decided the purchase of a grill cover in addition to a grill “mat,” would enable us to place the grill on the deck and leave it there permanently.

IMG_8729Other projects include Lynn buying a bunch of clamps to try and get our kitchen cabinets to hang properly which is a really big problem since the kitchen walls and floor (like our driveway) lean more than slightly to one side.

IMG_8680Meanwhile, even though our kitchen is slowly coming together, we keep making more and more work for ourselves! While we originally were going to buy more cabinets to fit next to the stove, Ikea discontinued the cabinets we already had and the replacement cabinets were an entirely different size. So we talked about putting an eating area near the stove, a “Stube” as the Germans like to say, but had to build it first.

So back to Ikea we went after seeing a picture of someone who had built such a “Stube” by using a couple of kids benches. Lynn put the benches together in an “L” shape but then realized there was still space between the two so he used a piece of wood from an old desk to bring the whole thing together.

IMG_8723And here’s how it’s going to look with cushions although I’m going to recover the cushions at some point with a different fabric. And, of course, we need a table, too.

IMG_8725The biggest news at the end of this Red House summer is that nearly 13 months after thinking about getting a kitchen counter – we finally have one. Here are the before and after shots!


IMG_8720It came out pretty nice – a sturdy black laminate with a grain pattern that actually gives the counter a wood look. We also were finally able to put the remaining drawers into the cabinets and Lynn spent nearly an afternoon attaching the handles, too.

Unfortunately, to make room for the counter installation we had to move everything out of the kitchen into the dining room.

IMG_8699So while one project is seemingly done in one room, we often create a bigger project in another room.

And even though it’s nearly the end of September, the flowers are still blooming and we are still putting shrimp on the grill with lots and lots of homemade pesto with basil and garlic we grew here.

IMG_8666IMG_8662We always enjoy these last few days before the leaves turn and the cold weather sets in. There will be more projects to do inside since everyone knows an old house renovation is never ever done.

IMG_8642On a final note, two weekends ago we spent a few days in Manhattan celebrating Lynn’s birthday and our anniversary. We had lunch at Bouley (!) and one of the dishes was fresh asparagus. I was bewildered since normally asparagus herald in the start of spring. Up at the Red House however, I realized that we, too, had a second crop growing and we weren’t here to reap the benefits of one of my favorite vegetables.

IMG_8731Here’s a shot of one of my many asparagus plants! So in addition to an overabundance of asparagus (which we’ll definitely be looking forward to when spring arrives once again), the fall will bring us a ton of brussels sprouts to eat with many holiday meals.

IMG_8732But for now, it’s the bees that grabbed my attention as we were about to leave the Red House this weekend. They are still drawing the sweet nectar from the flowers in the garden – enjoying every last minute of this very lovely summer.


Posted in Construction, cooking, Flowers, food, Gardening, Gardening tools, Garlic, Grilling, kitchen, Renovation, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Years Later…Strawberries!

After planting strawberries in one corner of the Red House garden nearly five years ago, we suddenly have lots and lots of strawberries. It seems, however, that I’m a bit late in picking them since when I parted some of the strawberry leaves, I discovered many that had already started to rot. Little did I know that picking these precious little berries is not an easy task. First of all, there was the logistical problem of actually standing in the strawberry patch without trampling the other strawberries in the process! Furthermore, I didn’t realize how delicate the berries are and often the minute I touched one, it would turn to mush in my hand. It’s almost as if it decided to become a jam first rather than a strawberry to be eaten!

IMG_8468So when all was said and done, or picked to be more precise, I was left with barely enough strawberries to fill a ramekin. (Truthfully, there were many more out in the garden but it was difficult to get to them.)

IMG_8527Besides the strawberries, everything else in the garden this year appears to be growing nicely. Last year we were lazy and didn’t properly till the garden or even set up a sprinkler to keep things adequately watered. This year we did both and used new top soil and fertilizer because I was determined that everything I planted would grow. So the zucchini is doing nicely as well as the spinach and basil, too.

IMG_8476IMG_8485IMG_8478I’ve also been picking asparagus since the end of May and have managed to get at least 4-5 stalks to eat with nearly every Red House meal. Like the strawberries, they are perennials which are exactly the kind of vegetables I like to nurture. You buy them once, plant them and they just keep giving you food year after year.

IMG_8474This asparagus obviously grew way too high but the dill-like fronds when the asparagus is trimmed down will make their way into the soil for more asparagus to sprout next year.

On the home front, I’ve been remiss in writing about the Red House renovation because right now we’re in a holding pattern. Our current contractor has been trying to put in an upstairs master bathroom for nearly a year. Why this has taken so long can only be attributed to his working infrequently on the project coupled with him undergoing some major surgery in the past few months. Unfortunately, a lot of what we want to do (finish the master bedroom and build a huge walk-in closet) can’t happen until he finishes the bathroom.

I am, however, encouraged when I see things he has labeled indicating at least there is the possibility of a shower and lights, too!

IMG_8460I also like the fact that he randomly leaves “boy toys” lying around which also gives me hope that eventually the bathroom will be done and we will have one more room finished.

IMG_8461In November this is how the shower looked.

IMG_8453And as of June, this is where we are now. (In other words, we’ve got a long way to go.)

IMG_8456Since we spend a lot of time outside in the summer at the Red House, I can’t complain about what’s not being done inside the house. The rabbits living on the property have been gracious enough to not eat everything (so far) I’ve planted which means the lettuce (usually their food of choice) is amazing and the flowers are absolutely gorgeous.


IMG_8484The deer, too, seem content to nibble only at the grass and wildflowers around the property. Isn’t he/she adorable?

IMG_8494Going into the start of the summer season which is my favorite time up at the Red House, I’m trying not to fret about how things have crawled to a halt on the Red House renovation because of time and money. It’s no good worrying if the very old roof on the main part of the house will make it through another Upstate New York winter or the fact that we really need to get new siding! Since we’re half way through our anticipated completion of the project (yes, we’ve been here five years!), I have to take a step back and be happy for all we have accomplished.

I know there are quite a few people who think their dream home has to have a water view. With the meadow that we have and all the peacefulness it inspires, we can only be very, very thankful for the Red House.

IMG_8462 Oh yeah, and hope the tree that’s dead in the foreground doesn’t fall on top of the kitchen roof that is new! Happy First Day Of Summer!

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When we left the Red House a few weeks ago, the back meadow was still green but all the leaves had nearly fallen off the trees.

IMG_8394And the deer, who love to walk down from the waterfall and roam the property, also still had plenty to nibble on.

IMG_8293So imagine our surprise a mere 2 weeks later when we drove up to the Red House after Thanksgiving to find icicles hanging from the roof and the back meadow covered in snow!


IMG_8403So, even though our intentions last time had been good by leaving our shovel “ready for action” on the deck by the side of the house, we had to get through the snow to get up to the deck in order to get to the shovel!

IMG_8342Luckily, our contractor had driven his truck over our driveway enough times that there was a path (albeit icy) for us to follow so we managed to pull the car in just far enough to unload everything.

But as we were walking through the snow I couldn’t help but think of the vegetables I had just picked from the garden. Hadn’t I just made a big batch of tomato sauce from the last of the season’s tomatoes? Washing them and chopping them up until they boiled down to a rich goodness?

IMG_8306While I was still contemplating that activity, Lynn managed to reach the shovel and shoveled some of the driveway and the sidewalk. I went inside and pondered lunch and thought about our last visit to the house.

Two weeks prior, he decided that the project on my list that was nearly dead last (that would be replacing all the door handles) became his #1 priority!

Remember the photo of my bag of handles from (gulp!) the spring of 2013! Yep, here it is again. Well, suddenly he was reaching into this bag and pulling out handle after handle.

IMG_6170So while my #1 priority was to WORK ON THE MASTER BEDROOM…

IMG_8387Lynn’s priority was to do this:

IMG_8381I won’t even go into how long it takes to cut a round circle in a door to put a new handle a couple of inches above the old one but let’s just say it takes a lot longer than you think it should!

In fairness, he did build a new entry way into what will one day be my office.

IMG_8319 And since neither the opening or the wall existed prior to this, I have to say he did a really nice job. (Thank you Lynn, it’s okay you spent 2 days doing 3 door handles – only 300 more to go – just kidding!)

Meanwhile, I guess the snow surprised me because just two weeks ago we had put away all the outdoor furniture (which means we carry it inside and put it in an empty room).

IMG_8327Notice the leftover pieces of sheetrock placed on the table so the metal chairs don’t crack the glass? Really, if you are ever in need of tablepads for a dinner party, this works just as well!

We also picked out additional tile for our bathroom (please don’t ask how the bathroom is coming – it’s just coming) – choosing a simple white “subway” tile for the inside of the shower floor and walls.

IMG_8316And while we still have yet to get a countertop for the kitchen, I’m just really happy that none of the upper cabinets have fallen down (even though Lynn assured me they wouldn’t.) Truthfully, finding things in one of the lower kitchen cabinets is a lot simpler without a countertop because I can just reach into a cabinet and pull out the pan I need! (Getting a countertop will hopefully happen early in 2015.)

IMG_8332Meanwhile, the town itself has gone into full blown Christmas mode and seems to have made an effort to decorate the downtown by hanging up festive kissing balls and angels tooting horns from the light posts. My reaction? At least there’s no awful Christmas music blaring, too!

IMG_8419A few blocks from the town’s main drag, the gazebo in the park was also decorated with lights. When I saw it and looked at all the pretty houses nearby, I almost expected George Bailey to come running out of one them on his way to save the Bailey Building and Loan Association! (Yes, there is a certain It’s A Wonderful Life quality to living here.)

IMG_8408Dinner at the Red House (and lunches, too) this post-Thanksgiving weekend consisted of  generous slices of turkey with nearly every side dish you can think of, omelets filled with pieces of the leftover Thanksgiving ham, and finally overstuffed turkey sandwiches topped with lettuce and tomato.

IMG_8445I was a bit concerned for the deer on the back meadow, especially since I saw one trying  to push away the snow with a hoof, hoping I guess for a couple of inches of grass that he or she could eat.

IMG_8433But here’s the thing, the first snow regardless of where Lynn and I have lived is still kind of exciting. There were tons of kids sledding on the hill next to our house (even though it was a brisk 28 degrees outside) and even our crappy old Colonial lamp post that’s in the driveway managed to transform itself into something quite pretty.

IMG_8401 So even though winter has come a bit early to the Red House, it will not conquer us (we hope).

red house november snow 2014Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, too.

P.S. I promised Lynn Santa would bring him a snow blower in 2015. His response: “Make sure it has heated handles!”

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Fall Upstate And A Craving For…Baking

Fall has definitely arrived at the Red House. The leaves are turning shades of crimson, yellow and orange. I think the sumac trees on the property are my favorite only because their colors are so intense and often the deep dark red stays that way sometimes through much of the winter.

IMG_8175I wish I could report that we’ve made progress in renovating the Red House but unfortunately at this stage in the game (meaning the complicated stuff), we’re very dependent on our contractor to finish our upstairs bathroom. This means while most of the plumbing has been installed, the insulation needs to be put in the walls before the sheetrock and then tile are applied. As you can see not much has changed in this room since the last time I photographed it!

IMG_8221Apparently since our contractor has a lot of outdoor jobs that he’s scrambling to get finished before the weather takes a turn for the worse, I do have to give him some slack. He has assured me that I’m #1 on the top of his list when he finishes with everyone else. Being me (frighteningly straightforward and to the point), I also reminded him that last winter he complained that he couldn’t get into the house without shoveling a path to the door because of all the snow. (I don’t have anyone who plows for us and don’t intend to incur that expense either!)  I also suggested since he obviously didn’t want to spend half of his day shoveling when he could be inside working on a room, he may need to speed things up a bit.

I would also love to start working on the dining room. But since all the materials he needs to complete the bathroom are sitting in the dining room, this room, too, has to wait.

IMG_8216While the leaves are turning, the marigolds seems to be thriving in the garden, the weeds even more so and with all the asparagus ferns cropping up, I’m thinking I’ll have a very nice asparagus harvest in the spring indeed. I’ve decided however, after planting two seasons of garlic in the fall, I’m going to wait until the spring to do it this year and see how that turns out. Reason being: Lynn is busy trying to finish our master bedroom (that means even though he took off all the moulding around the room and put everything back up, there is still a lot of patching that needs to be done as well as taping, spackling and finally painting.

IMG_8219To pull him away from this to get out the tiller (I’m afraid of the tiller it kind of drags me across the field) to plant some garlic seemed dumb. So the garlic will wait until the spring to be planted along with whatever else we can manage to grow in hopes that the deer, rabbits, squirrels and even a local cat or two won’t devour everything we’ve planted.

What is particularly nice about living up here especially in the fall are all the farmer’s markets as well as field after field filled with pumpkins in lovely shades of orange.

IMG_8234Last year I was lucky enough to grow a couple of pumpkins. This year I had to buy one.

IMG_8269Since the weather is turning colder (it was barely 55 degrees when we arrived this Columbus Day weekend), I’m also thinking of food that will warm us. That would be soups (pea and lentil), stews (goulash and chicken paprikash in particular) and lots of carbs like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese! And while I do try to stay away from sweets as much as possible – I have been thinking of making cinnamon rolls (no, not the kind you bang out from those icky cardboard containers in the refrigerated section of the supermarket) but cinnamon rolls made from scratch.

For those readers who have children or other instances where your household size shrinks from 4 to 1 or 2, I can say that I’ve finally mastered cooking for just the two of us without a huge amount of leftovers. And if we do have have leftovers, it’s because I’m usually trying to make sure at least one of us has something to take to work for lunch the next day.  The problem with this cooking for 2 instead of 4 (or more) thing though is that there are simply dishes (particularly desserts) that just don’t get made anymore. Why bake a batch of brownies or oatmeal raisin cookies if there aren’t any teenagers around to eat them all in a single sitting? Did I mention I’ve been craving cinnamon rolls?

In the meantime, I picked the last of the tomatoes (still green) from the Red House garden.

IMG_8186And admired not only the meadow but how pretty the marigolds still looked in the garden.

IMG_8146IMG_8144And since it was rather chilly, I also decided to make some Braciole stuffing the meat with slices of mozzarella and some smokey ham.

IMG_8213I managed to find a few (albeit slightly bruised) leaves of basil still growing in the garden and found a bag of potato gnocchi we buy at a little Italian deli near the Red House for under $3 a bag that was still in the freezer from the summer.

IMG_8199Did I mention even as I was cooking the gnocchi and Braciole I was craving cinnamon rolls?

On a completely different note. We have a neighborhood cat who shows up like clockwork between 5 and 5:30 on the weekends we are here. He or she slowly meanders to the back of the property seemingly looking around for maybe a tasty little mouse or some other morsel to eat. Now, this cat is really the slowest cat I’ve ever seen so it was particularly funny when I tried to take a picture of the cat and suddenly the cat took off at an amazingly fast pace.

IMG_8251I followed the cat as it walked the length of the property and found myself staring at the stainless steel rolling cart we’ve been using in the kitchen as a table/work counter since we still don’t have countertops for the kitchen cabinets. Wouldn’t that surface be just fine for rolling out dough?

Since I also don’t have any cookbooks up at the Red House (I know that’s old school but I still use them!), I dragged out my laptop and followed a recipe from the Pioneer Woman for Cinnamon Rolls 101 online.

IMG_8247And yes, I already did have all the ingredients on hand so this was a really easy recipe.  I mixed everything together and tried to follow the instructions but the dough just seemed a little bit too wet so I added more flour than called for. The dough rose, I rolled it out, layered it with melted butter, sprinkled on some sugar and lots of cinnamon just like the picture online.

Except I wanted to add some apples to my cinnamon rolls so I did just that.

IMG_8265Really, doesn’t this just look yummy?

I rolled the dough into a log shape, cut the log into slices, and arranged them in a pie pan. The dough seemed a bit wetter than it probably should have been but I figured it would “correct” itself when baking.

I’ve always had a problem with every oven I’ve ever owned and this one is no different. I read a recipe and it suggests a cooking time of say 15-18 minutes and when I peek at what I’m baking, 9 times out of 10 I need double the amount of baking time indicated. Since I was convinced that the thermostat in this new oven wasn’t working properly, I actually went out and bought an oven thermometer. I’d like to say the oven was off, but actually the temperature was exactly what it was supposed to be.

IMG_8285So back to the cinnamon rolls. The recipe called for adding “maple flavoring” to make the frosting. Ha Ha Ha. Living in Upstate New York, I don’t need “maple flavoring,” I can use the real stuff. So I did, mixing maple syrup together with some powdered sugar and milk.

IMG_8281The rolls came out of the oven, I frosted them, and here’s what they looked like.

IMG_8279Yes, they looked delicious but when we ate them in the morning for breakfast (after sticking them back in the oven to warm up a bit), they were a tad too gooey inside! So even after following the recipe and adjusting the baking time and having for the first time ever a second thermometer inside my oven to make sure the temperature was correct – these rolls needed to be baked a bit longer. (We ate most of them anyway, no worries!) So like the cat that prowls our property looking for tasty tidbits, I got mine too this weekend.

Finally, knowing that winter is literally around the corner up here, it’s awesome to drive a mere 5 minutes from the Red House and see the leaves changing, some late summer flowers still blooming and the water in the creek flowing so beautifully. What we’ve learned up here the last 4.5 years is to enjoy every minute of it.







Posted in Baking, chicken, Construction, cooking, Dessert, Family, food, Garlic, kitchen, Pasta, Teenagers, The Property | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Midsummer Night’s Red House Story

Since I posted my last article (end of June), quite a bit has actually transpired at the Red House. First and foremost, we have all of our kitchen cabinets in place (minus some drawers and a couple of doors).

IMG_8103And even though Lynn was really cursing the entire time he was putting everything together, in the end he said it was “easy.” Go figure.

I feel I have to share once again how the original kitchen looked in 2010 just to give this story some perspective.

IMG_0288We also have two amazing hardwood floors in Guest Bedroom #1 and Guest Bedroom #2.

IMG_8111Originally I was going to get a laminate floor to save some money but the guy installing the floor (who came to do the initial estimate, too) advised us against it. Also we have hardwood floors throughout our teeny, tiny Long Island house and even 12 years later the floors still look great and are really easy to clean.

So in case you don’t remember what the floors looked like, here’s a shot:

IMG_7999Unfortunately, our master bathroom and bedroom are nowhere near completion…

IMG_7436So right now we are bunking in Guest Bedroom #2 (the larger of the two).

We also finally got some of the electrical work done – so no more fixtures literally dangling over our heads.

IMG_7426Lynn and I always have a problem finding products that we like (ceiling lights and bathroom fixtures are our two biggest challenges) so we decided to try and salvage the existing light fixtures. A can of silver spray paint on one of the bedroom light fixtures and some rewiring on a decorative living room fixture therefore were a good compromise.

IMG_8109IMG_8101And yes, we cheated a bit, too and picked up a really inexpensive Ikea light that looks like a spaceship!

IMG_8102With my kitchen nearly done (I’m having an issue with ordering the countertop I want but more on that in a later blog post), and my parents coming up to visit, I also baked. I know I complain about baking over and over again but not only did I make zucchini bread but I made a cheesecake, too! Originally the plan had been to make zucchini bread using the zucchini that was growing in my garden. Obviously, that didn’t happen but I can say I did get two huge zucchini from the farmer’s market – one went into the cake, the other went into some homemade ratatouille.

IMG_8086 IMG_8093 IMG_8088Originally I thought when we came up to the Red House our garden would be brimming with vegetables. I had planted zucchini, beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes and tons of basil. Unfortunately, we now have a very large family of bunny rabbits living on the property.

IMG_8114 While they did leave me with some basil and a few tomatoes, they ate nearly all the peas and all the zucchini! (The carrots are still in the ground so I’m not sure of their status yet.)

IMG_8010I did start to harvest some of the garlic since this time last summer I had dug it up. I was particularly happy that I managed to grow a crop from some of the cloves I harvested last year. After digging up about 30 garlic heads though, I decided to let them be for another week since some of the heads were rather small.

IMG_8035One interesting side note to our time up at the Red House this summer has to do with a reunion we attended. Most people know I lived in Munich, Germany, for 10 years but some may not realize I graduated from high school there, too.

IMG_7779Since this was my 35th (gulp!) high school reunion and Lynn and I hadn’t been to  Munich since 2007, I decided it was definitely time to go back (especially since I had also somehow missed every single reunion prior to this one as well). Dare I mention that Lynn and I will be celebrating 35 years together, too, this October?

Consequently, while most summers are spent exclusively up at the Red House, this year we spent 10 days in Germany and 5 days in Italy. As usual we did a lot of driving and eating and gushing at all the beautiful architecture, vistas and of course food.  And while I love the Red House even in it’s unfinished state, I do want to share some pictures of the trip.

There were farmer’s markets brimming with fresh radishes, artichokes, beans, tomatoes and lettuce, as well as flowers in nearly every hue imaginable.

IMG_7708IMG_7546There were shots of castles on the Rhine as well as picturesque vineyards (even on a gray day), and too many pictures of Italian art and architecture to share but a handful.

IMG_7630IMG_7614IMG_7883IMG_7949And then there was the food. Bread and cheese, homemade pasta, beer and pretzels the size of basketballs, Apfelstrudel and pizza!

IMG_7976IMG_7706IMG_7975IMG_7838photo(134)photo(87)Of course after the Europe trip (particularly with nearly a week in Italy) and with a “real” kitchen, I had no excuse but to make my first Red House pizza in my new oven, too!

IMG_8042Truthfully, the oven could have been hotter since the crust came out soggy. (The leftover pizza that we warmed up and kind of burnt the next day actually tasted better.)

What I realized after this trip however, was how very similar the area around Munich (particularly Garmisch-Partenkirchen) was to upstate New York. Undoubtedly, it’s why I always liked being up here. Granted, the mountains are not as high, but we have very pretty lakes and streams, rolling hills, and gorgeous forests a mere hour’s drive from the Red House.

IMG_8074On a different and not so bucolic note, we came home from our journey to find bats in the Red House. Our contractor has been working diligently to replace all of the plumbing in the house primarily to put a bathroom in the master bedroom and in doing so has unfortunately created a few “holes” in the walls.

IMG_8001This has resulted in at least two bats trying to take up residence inside the house! We noticed this one night when we were watching a DVD. Suddenly one of us saw something fly by out of the corner of one eye with what looked like very dark wings. Lynn and I are not good with bats or any other type of scary monster-like animal for that matter. Consequently, we quickly exited the room, shut the door and ran upstairs.

The next morning, our contractor showed up and found the bat sleeping by the basement door. He put on a pair of gloves and simply picked up the bat and put him inside a plastic supermarket bag. Once in the bag, he took him outside and released him back into the wild! Since the bat slept through the entire experience, I can only conclude it was a “teenage” bat.

We thought the bat episode was over, until the next night we were watching another DVD and sure enough once again there was something dark flying around in the next room. So, we repeated our previous night’s performance by quickly exiting the room, closing the door and going upstairs. This night however, Lynn also decided he was going to “seal” us in the room – so underneath the doors he wadded up some placemats and a kitchen towel.

photo(175)This didn’t bring me any great amount of comfort and truthfully, I woke up at 4 a.m. thinking I heard and saw something flying around the bedroom. Plus, I was really really hot since the room was probably around 300 degrees since we had put in new windows, insulation and now a new floor! (Okay, it wasn’t really that warm but it felt like it.) Plus, now that I was hot and annoyed, I really had to pee but was afraid to go into the bathroom. Note to self: this is why you’ve never been camping – you hate bugs, creepy crawlies, bats and other things that are generally scary.

Finally it was morning. Our contractor showed up again (in itself always a good thing) and he found the hole in the wall that he thinks the bats were flying through. He grabbed some insulation and filled up the hole. We have not had any bat sightings for about 24 hours now so I’m hoping this method worked.

I was also hoping that similar to Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” our very own “Puck” would emerge from the forest behind the Red House and tell us that the bats were only just a dream! Unfortunately, he did not, they were in fact very, very real!

I will leave you with this thought and image. We started our trip this year in Frankfurt, Germany, a city Lynn and I had never visited. We walked through the old town and came upon a pedestrian bridge called the “Eiserner Steg.” There on the bridge, similar to many bridges we’ve seen in Paris and Florence, were locks that had been affixed not only to the structure but to other locks, too.  As romantic history buffs will know, the padlocks when locked with a key, symbolize a love that can’t be broken especially since the key to that lock is thrown away.

Since I, too, am a hopeless romantic, I spent a lot of time looking at the engravings thinking I would find a couple who had the same initials as we do. Perhaps, instead, I should have been looking for a lock with the initials “RH.” After all, I think our relationship is pretty darn good after 35 years (especially since this is our THIRD house renovation). The Red House still needs a lot of work and love put into it – somehow I know we can do it.


Posted in Baking, cooking, Family, food, Garlic, kitchen, Mom and Dad, Munich, Pizza, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment