One Down, Two To Go (Bathrooms of Course) And A Top Ten List

We had quite a productive summer. First and foremost, our downstairs bathroom/laundry room is nearly 99% done! My contractor was so pleased about this incredible development that he even left me a note!

IMG_9075Yes, there is still some painting to be done and insulation needs to be put around the skylight and we need a towel rack or two and a toilet paper roll holder would be awesome but the toilet flushes, the sink works (HOT WATER TOO), and no one drowned in the Jacuzzi.

Considering that we started this project on June 19, 2016 and it’s now September, the only thing I can say is that luckily it’s not our only bathroom!

Here are a few shots of the transformation.

IMG_9076And the finished tub!

IMG_9091We also did the floor in what looks like “distressed” wood but is in fact simply tile. I didn’t think it would look as good as it does so I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

IMG_9078When we sold our Long Island house earlier this year, we also gave up access to a convenient washer/dryer. (Our apartment has neither.) Which means one of us (usually me because I have a shorter commute and thus home earlier) is doing laundry at the laundromat. Not the worse case scenario actually. What I didn’t realize with these new machines (ours in our previous house were really old) is that 1) they do laundry in half the time and 2) they do laundry in half the time!

So to take you back, this is what the “laundry room” looked like.

IMG_8932And this is what we have now! (I know it IS very exciting!)

IMG_9095Yeah, they’re not fancy front-loaders in designer colors. They are simple white. They were mid-range in price and they will probably last forever.

Since we have TWO other bathrooms to renovate going forward (the one that I dare not mention again until somehow magically it’s done), and the icky white bathroom we are using now, I can say I’m feeling most optimistic since this one turned out so well.

Bathroom done we are moving into the fall season with a huge list of projects.

  1. We still have NO dining room. Exhibit 1A.IMG_86992. We still have NO bedroom. Exhibit 2A.

IMG_83853.  One of our staircases is still HALF PINK/HALF WHITE! Exhibit 3A.

Half Pink, Half Primed Staircase

4. What should be the “living” room is filled with “boy toys” to help do all the renovations! Exhibit 4A.

IMG_91375. What should be the “family” aka TV room is filled with boxes from our old house. We can’t store anything in our basement since it has a tendency to flood (!) which leaves us with the attic. Unfortunately, we have some stairs missing so can’t physically get up to the attic until the stairs are put back. Until that happens, all the stuff that’s here will unfortunately have to stay here. Exhibit 5A.

IMG_91366. We are most definitely not hoarders but even the staircase landing is filled with stuff! Exhibit 6A.

IMG_91417. Did I mention the driveway is totally ripped up and an eyesore, too? Exhibit 7A.

IMG_91438. We still have NO siding. Exhibit 8A!

IMG_91289. Not to mention we need a new garage! Exhibit 9A.

IMG_9144I know at this point everyone is thinking  – WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN DOING THE LAST 6 YEARS!!! The answer is fixing everything else!

But let me continue.

10. We also don’t have any stairs to get into the front of the house. Yep, we need some landscaping, too! Exhibit 10A.

IMG_8960Compounding the lack of stairs and siding is the problem we face every winter in that the rain simply pours off the roof when we are going through the side entryway. (Shower anyone?) Also when it gets really cold we have very large icicles that form and drip off the roof onto the deck making an entrance into the house somewhat perilous.

IMG_8440To end this story on a happy gardening note, (yes, the thought of the cold and pictures of the icicles did frighten me), we did manage to harvest most of the garlic (we think) that was growing. The cloves were especially large this year and most likely the German Red variety. (Truthfully can’t really remember what we planted!)

IMG_9069Our bamboo is flowering and growing so well it has managed to create a “privacy” fence for a good portion of the property.

IMG_9108Our marigolds also did much better than any veggies I planted (except for the aforementioned garlic). Ditto for the geraniums.

IMG_9119IMG_9116So for now, summer may nearly be over but somehow when I look at our garden gnome I don’t see a smirk on his cute little face but rather a really really happy smile! Perhaps he knows there might be a cold spell but then an Indian summer that will grace our garden or better yet, at least maybe one of the ten projects we want accomplished will happen BEFORE next summer.


Posted in bathroom, Construction, Flowers, food, Furniture, Gardening, Renovation, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Summer Garden And Pizza on the Grill

Our summer garden has turned into a bonanza of tomatoes of all sizes! Here’s what I managed to quickly pick along with a few leftover peas.

IMG_9055The lettuce grew so high it looked like I threw some really bad non-organic fertilizer (think: toxic) to make it grow. I didn’t. My mother says the leaves are bitter when they are that big but I don’t mind the taste at all.

IMG_8983Unfortunately the carrots and beets were mangled by a bunny rabbit or two or three or four. No worries, since we are surrounded by lots of farmer’s markets and quite a few Amish farm stands too which resulted in some very picturesque carrots! Perhaps it was the way the Amish farm wife wrapped the carrot tops in pretty red yarn.

IMG_3831Because when I unwrapped the carrots to prepare them for dinner, one of them decided to have some fun with me and “pose” for their fall carrot-themed jean line.

IMG_9085Since our first summer at the Red House Lynn has tried a couple of times to do pizza on the grill. The first time we simply threw the dough on the grill rack (big mistake), then scraped off the burnt but still raw (never could quite figure out how that could be) dough and threw it away.

I think we tried at least one other time, too but ended up using dough that wasn’t 100% and the pizza itself wasn’t worth writing home about let alone photographing.

When we moved out of the house on Long Island and into an apartment, I chucked a lot of stuff that I didn’t think we would ever use – a French coffee press and not one but THREE Italian espresso pots, ramekins of every shape and size and chipped dishes, cake pans, and pie plates, etc., etc.  Apparently I also threw out our stone pizza board, a wooden pizza paddle and an extra large spatula — all of course which I needed now even if we wanted to make pizza on the grill again.

I went to Walmart (I know, I know) but they had pizza “pans” for a mere 99 cents and I figured I would rather waste a buck than 10 bucks if the “pans” melted on top of the grill.

Lynn loves to roll out dough. My reaction to this is: BE MY GUEST. He also loves to hand grate cheese. My reaction to this is: GRATE AWAY. (Although for this pizza he just sliced up the mozzarella). I managed to open a container of pizza “sauce” that we picked up at the “fancy” supermarket in Syracuse even though I could have made my own for about $3.00 less. As you may have deduced by now I’m really big on making things myself rather than buying them. But suddenly I’ve changed. (Don’t believe those who say people can’t change, they can and do.)

He rolled out the dough on the new pans and this time  decided to “cook” the dough a bit on the grill first.

IMG_9004About 10 minutes later, he put on the sauce, the cheese and some fresh basil from the garden.

IMG_9017They did take a bit longer to cook on the grill than I expected but they turned out pretty darn good – thin crust that I like with blobs of fresh mozzarella and basil from the garden.

Back to the garden, I found a zucchini hiding underneath the leaves that was a monster!

IMG_9084Even when I cut him in half and filled the “boats” with tomatoes from the garden, I still had to figure out what to do with the rest. (Half went into a pasta dish and the other half was grated and made into zucchini pancakes!)

IMG_9088Unfortunately by the end of August when we came back up to the Red House, nearly all our tomatoes were gone, the weeds took up most of our garden and something is growing in one corner that may be squash or pumpkins or both.

IMG_9099In the meantime, I have to fight my way through the weeds and dig up the garlic. Yes, it’s that time again.

Posted in Baking, Cheese, cooking, Gardening, Garlic, Grilling, kitchen, Pizza, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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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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