Believe It Or Not…

Our kitchen is done.  Well, except for a single windowsill that needs to be painted.

The goal this past fall was to have contractor #3 do “indoor” work during the cold snowy winter months. It wasn’t like there was a huge amount of work that needed to be done in the kitchen but it was the annoying little projects (many of which required a very large ladder) that Lynn and I were simply not capable of doing. (#1 we don’t have a ladder that long and #2, I hate heights. More than that I hate being the girl that holds the ladder for the boy to go up and hope he doesn’t fall.)

So we had a “stop sign” window that had been installed roughly 6 years ago that was never finished or painted.

It was annoying to look at and even more so since no one could reach it!

Because we couldn’t just have one annoyance in the kitchen, on the other side of the wall, same height but different shape, we had another window that was also unfinished! This we named the “Juliet window” because technically if you stood in that room (a bedroom that will hopefully morph into a closet), one could lean out and look down into the kitchen.  No one knows why we named it the “Juliet window” other than it kind of reminded us of Juliet’s balcony in Verona.

Consequently, a few weeks ago, both these windows had proper moulding installed around them and were painted as well.

We also had the proper high hats finally installed in the ceiling (you can see one above the stop sign window).

Last but not least, we had a range hood installed above the stove which required yet another trip to Ikea to get one last kitchen cabinet. The range hood we originally bought was high end with a fancy glass top which our contractor told us would need to be ducted outside thus costing millions of dollars to put up (well not millions but you get the idea). It’s sitting somewhere in the garage if anyone wants it.

We also bizarrely now have a light above the kitchen stove. I know that’s not strange but truthfully it’s taking me longer than I expected to acclimate to actually being able to see the food I’m cooking!

Besides the kitchen, the other major project this winter was to paint the “pink” staircase.  I’m assuming the previous owner was trying to match a pink bedroom that was on the second floor because the color was exactly the same. One summer, I attempted to paint some of the aforementioned staircase.  This resulted in a staircase that basically looked like this for nearly 7 years because neither Lynn nor I wanted to tackle it.  Yep, it was pretty ugly.

I particularly like the couple of pieces of duct tape I must have stuck on many years ago trying to cover the holes in the wall.

Besides the pink staircase, the walls were also a mess as was the ceiling on the landing.

OK, so apparently we have a problem with lead paint in an old house. Really? Our contractor was hemming and hawing about it but I went into denial mode even though I understood EXACTLY what our contractor was telling us. This resulted in an up-charge for all new sheetrock and special paint that would somehow magically “contain” the lead.

Let me just say, it cost me as much to paint this one frigging staircase as it does for me to pay the landscaper to mow our back 4 acres FOR THE ENTIRE SUMMER SEASON.

Yes, thank you I will take a deep breath.

So, in the end the staircase came out quite nice and contractor #3 did in fact even paint the doors.

Really now that I look at the before and after, it turned out very nice!

Right now that both staircases are done we need to figure out what to do with the steps. These stairs, like the stairs we had when we owned a house on Long Island, are in pretty bad shape and were simply painted over and over again.  A few weeks ago we tried to sand one of them. 20 minutes later we gave up realizing it was a project that A) wasn’t the worth the time and B) would come out crappy whether we painted or sanded. So, basically a lose-lose scenario.

Because we’re trying to save some money (we still need the guest bathroom totally renovated by next summer and hope to expand the deck), we thought we’d try putting down some vinyl floor planks ourselves over the existing treads and see how that looks.

Truthfully I can’t tell the difference between the vinyl and the “real” floor below. Between both staircases (14 stairs each), I’m thinking this might be an affordable alternative.

On the weather front, we drove up to the Red House Friday night in 59 degree weather, hit some rain and a 20 degree drop in temperature, only to wake up to about 6 inches of snow (if not more). Luckily, our neighbors across the street and next door were extremely kind and snow plowed the sidewalk and lower part of our driveway so we could get out. And yes, come the spring, we’re finally going to buy our own snowblower and hope to snag a discount for an end-of season sale. (Thank you guys, you know who you are!)

Finally, we are still winding down after a whirlwind Christmas holiday with our kids and family and a week-long FOODIE road trip to SC and NC. (Note to young chefs we met, we appreciated everything you cooked for us but NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE GRILLED.)

I’m hoping 2018 will be a good year for us and the Red House. So to my readers I send  best wishes for good health, much happiness and love, no parking or speeding tickets, great wine, real farm to table food and lots and lots of money.

PS Our daughter Rachel, gave us this cutting board for Christmas and we LOVE it!


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The Final Floor

It’s now shortly after 1 p.m., the smoke alarm has gone off twice and we’ve already blown the same fuse (upstairs bedroom where all the big boy toys are apparently being used simultaneously) twice as well. Did I mention I have to listen to country music in between the sound of a painfully high pitched saw as wood is being cut, an electric nail gun is being used as well as the hissing of a large compressor. (I don’t actually hate country music, it’s just not my preferred genre.)

Yes, thank you for asking, I do, in fact, have a headache…

It’s Thursday, the day we’ve been waiting for nearly 3 months to get our bedroom floor installed.

Three months prior, this is the image that greeted us early in the morning. Boxes of wood flooring that had simply been dumped in our driveway. How they were getting up to the second floor bedroom appeared to be a mystery.

When we had two other bedroom floors done 3 summers ago, I don’t remember it being such a big deal. All the supplies and the wood got delivered IN THE SAME DAY and the installer came and did BOTH rooms in 2 days.

Now, we have one room, a narrow hallway and two small landings and it’s become a project that became impossible to schedule let alone have all the required materials delivered. Did I mention that this one room and above mentioned spaces is also costing roughly $500 more than both bedrooms combined?

Three guys and 8 hours later, we had half a bedroom and the hallway done. In fairness, they actually weren’t able to start until 10:30 a.m. even after showing up by 9:15 a.m. because even though the wood has been here for nearly three months, everything else they needed (plywood, matching wood thresholds and tar-like paper that is making the whole house smell like we put in a new driveway) was not and one of the installers had to go pick  everything else up himself at the BIG BOX store.

Obviously, this is no way to run a business!

The installers were concerned they were not going to be able to finish the job in 2 days so I had to give them the reality check that they might have to work on a Saturday (imagine that)! Christmas Eve I said would work for us too. (A small lie as to when we would next be back up at the house, but effective.)  Their response was they would be here by 9 a.m. tomorrow and bring a “fourth” guy.

In case you’re wondering, this is what the bedroom floor looked like prior to the installation.

Plus a hallway that was still covered in what looked like old snake skin patterned linoleum circa 1964.

And two very dreary landings. Here’s one of them.

Day 2.

8:56 a.m. The two original guys show up. No word on third guy (the boss) and the mystery “fourth” guy. The compressor goes on right away as does the radio where they’ve managed to find a station that’s playing Lynyrd Skynyrd. I can live with that.

9:59 a.m. Third guy (boss) shows up by himself.

10:20 a.m. “Fourth” guy shows up. He’s actually the guy who came out in JUNE to do the original estimate. We spend a lot of time complaining about BIG BOX store and how they don’t have anyone working there in flooring who knows anything about flooring. Really? I remind myself they are subcontractors and tell him this is our very last project with BIG BOX store.  Well, at least I hope so.

1:34 p.m. “Fourth” guy leaves to go do paperwork for another job and says he just came to “help,” and make sure they would finish today. We tell each other that we hope to never see one another again (in a nice way) but then I mention we were thinking about putting some carpet in one room and bingo – he does that too.

Meanwhile, when they’re working upstairs, I go outside to look at the garden.  This summer weather (oops, I forgot today is the first day of autumn) has resulted in very colorful wild flowers, lots of peppers and jalapenos and marigolds that look like they are just starting the summer season not ending it.

After the garden, I walk around the house and look at all the new gutters that we had installed Labor Day weekend which seem to be holding up so far.  Of course, it has barely rained in the past 3 weeks and even this weekend the temps are in the high 80’s!

One of the gutters is ridiculously long but we are hoping that the “pond” that collected on the side of the house after the last heavy rain storm won’t have a chance to form again if we try and divert the water as far away from the house (and down the driveway) as possible. The bonus feature of this gutter is that it actually flips up (so you can mow under it) which I thought was pretty clever.

Geez, it looks even longer in this shot!

2:55 p.m. One of the two original installers has to leave to go get a “haircut” since he has a second job bartending at a banquet hall that night. My reaction is why not just sweep your hair up in a”man bun.” He was already in his car before I could suggest that to him or even hand him a pony tail holder.

Now we’re down to two guys. I go back to the garden and look at the last remaining tomato still clinging to the vine, decide to leave it alone but cut the pumpkin since I figure evil bunny might eat it before I could at least admire it.  The pumpkin is heavier than I thought but I love its “wrinkles” and the vibrant shade of orange.

3:21 p.m. They claim they’re done and start packing up all their things. I go upstairs to look and yes, I am impressed, the floors came out really nice! But then I realize we didn’t pay for them to install any quarter round moulding around the baseboards so Lynn has yet another project to add to his very long “to do list.”

I happened to catch the sun shining in the windows after they left which made a pretty pattern on the bedroom floor.

The landing came out really nice, too.

But wait, why do we have so many boxes of wood left? FIVE BOXES to be precise. Did they totally overestimate the job? Yes, they did, Yes, indeed. We decide to put four of them in the car (the fifth box is broken and impossible to carry down the stairs) and return them to the store in the morning. Then, I think, we can relax for the rest of the day.

Relax? Oh yeah, I forgot, we need to put the bed back in the room so we can sleep tonight which means setting up the frame and dragging in the box spring and mattress and making up the bed. But before this can be done, everything in the room has to be swept, then mopped. Including the landing with windows and window sills that hadn’t been washed since we got new windows 6 years ago!

But wait, suddenly we realized that the installers had taken off all the doors – doors to the bathroom and bedroom and hallway – in order to install the floor, but hadn’t put them back up. And guess what, when we tried to put one of them back up, we realized it wouldn’t fit because now the floor was higher! So while we thought about taking the doors outside and shaving a bit off (as we have done for other doors in the past), the thought  of carrying 3 doors down the stairs, outside, and then back up again was daunting.

So Lynn brought the saw horses upstairs and we cut two of the three down so they’d fit. Then I made the bed – sheets, blanket and comforter – only to realize I had forgotten the mattress pad (!) so I stripped the bed and started all over again.

This final floor in our bedroom was our last project for the summer. Hip Hip Hooray!

I’ll leave you with a summery flower arrangement I put together from the Red House garden and hope everyone has a lovely fall and not too dreary a winter.

PS I just realized our new dining room table almost exactly matches the oak floors we put in the bedroom! Trust, me this was purely accidental.

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Let There Be Light (And Siding, Too!)

Hard to believe we’ve been living with light bulbs hanging perilously from the ceiling, a bladeless ceiling fan that was begging to be updated and probably the ugliest “chandelier” that was ever manufactured. (I know someone probably likes the light in the third photograph just don’t tell me you think it’s lovely, it’s not.)

Along with the massive siding project, we finally broke down and hired an electrician to put up every light we had purchased in the last seven years for the Red House as well as a new fan for the ping pong room. Oh yeah, maybe someone who could even put real covers on all the exposed switches?

Yes, you can live like that for years and years when you no longer have any young children running around.

First to be capped were the exposed wires in the kitchen we had been looking at for at least three years.

Next was the dangling light bulb that was replaced with a soft glow “sputnik” and a funky new fan whose glass cover broke so we have to try and find one that size. (Initial research has revealed that this, however, will not be an easy task since it’s not a “standard” size. )

I was just happy I wasn’t the one who had to stand on a step stool (or more likely a paint-splattered chair) holding up a light fixture while Lynn attempted to install it and not electrocute himself.  There are just some things we refuse to do anymore and this has become one of those things.

Besides the new lights throughout the house, we have finally finished all the siding. The installers said it would take one week which I was skeptical about considering the size of the house and hence I took off 2.5 weeks from work to be here to make sure that all went according to plan. When all was said and done, it took them 8 days – they lost one day to rain, one day to “camping,” and one other day to do a window installation at another property.

Here are some pictures of the process.  We even got to see the original color of the house (dark brown) when they tore off some of the old shingles.

And yes, the Red House is still RED! And while I was skeptical about the color of the siding when I saw it online, I have to say the Red House looks really really nice. I was worried that the vinyl would look really plastic-y but it doesn’t.  It looks exactly like the color it should be. Watching people drive by the house, it’s been amusing to see people do double takes when they see the sudden transformation. Not so amusing is that someone from the post office took it upon themselves to stop delivering our mail because they thought someone else had bought the house and finally made it look “pretty”!) Can you even imagine that?  It took me two phone calls over two days along with a trip downtown to chat with the postmaster in charge to have this corrected.

Meanwhile the other morning, there was an older gentleman taking pictures of the Red House while his wife was sitting in the car.  I politely inquired what he was doing and it turns out they are friends with one of the early owners of the house (that would be 1950’s not 1850’s!). They were going to visit this elderly couple and wanted to show them the “progress” of the house. When the wife got out of the car and joined in our conversation, she was eager to know if we had kept the third staircase in the kitchen. (I politely told her we did not.) But “what about those wonderful wood floors?” she asked. I told her they were still there but were in pretty bad shape and we were wondering what to do – refinish or totally redo.

It’s difficult to try and convey to people what the house looked like both inside and outside and now with the new siding it will be even more of a challenge.  Although I don’t think this blog and the tale of the Red House is quite over yet, ironically I am missing the look of the old beaten up Red House a bit.

So here’s her new look! (Of course the Red House is a she.)


And yes, we absolutely still need some front stairs, a new garage, a mason to redo the foundation and last but not least landscaping please!

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The Red House Gets A New Set of Clothes (And A Hot Water Heater, Too)

A few weeks ago we came up to the Red House to start “prepping” for the siding that would finally be put on the house. I made the mistake of driving into Manhattan to pick up Lynn from work which meant our usual 4 hour drive turned into a 7.5 hour drive.  Consequently, when we finally arrived at the Red House at 10:35 pm after leaving Long Island at 3:35, I was not a happy camper.

Imagine then if you can that after a quick dinner and a bottle of wine, all I really wanted to do was jump in the shower and go to sleep.  Except when I turned on the hot water in the new bathroom, the water was barely luke warm. Ditto for the kitchen, the guest bathroom and the downstairs bathroom. I sucked it up to “old” pipes and figured we would deal with it in the morning. (Except most of the pipes have been replaced and therefore not “old.” )

In the morning, Lynn and I went down to the scary basement where we proceeded to stand and stare at the old water heater. Yep, there it stood.  Ironically, this is the first hot water heater we’ve ever had in any home we’ve lived in (not that it made an iota of difference in this situation) but the fact that there was this gizmo that made hot water like magic was impressive considering our history of being hot water heater-less for over 30 years.

After a suitable amount of time staring at the darn thing, we went upstairs and I started to call plumbers. Plumber #1 was on vacation. Plumber #2 was retired. Plumber #3 had to go to a wedding and a funeral in the same day and didn’t think he could swing by the house.  I called our contractor who said he would come out and “take a look,” but he had to cook a birthday/graduation meal for like 300 people (well maybe 30 but you get the idea) so could we just shower cold until Monday?

Since the sole purpose of visiting the Red House that weekend was to deal with all the  weeds and the vines that were growing around and up the side of the house (meaning we had to cut them down), in order to prepare for the siding installation, we figured lots of hot sweaty work outdoors would be just fine when faced with our cold shower conundrum.

We had lots of vines growing up one side of the house in particular that had the Red House been a stone cottage somewhere in the south of France or even Tuscany it might have been particularly pretty but here it just didn’t work.

So we pulled and we tugged until we noticed a big part of the vines had attached themselves semi-permanently to a heavy black electrical wire going out to the street. Deciding that we didn’t want to risk electrocution or take down the power lines for the entire neighborhood with a too hard tug to try and dislodge the feisty plant, we left it as is.

Then we moved onto the weeds. There were weeds that were nearly as tall as I am (that would be 5 foot 8 inches). Some were easy to simply pull out of the ground, others needed to be cut down with a knife and some really stubborn ones needed the weed wacker.

This was an incredible amount of hard work on a really HOT DAY which is exactly what we needed given our hot water situation.  It took us about 5 hours (who says Upstate isn’t fun?) but we did get it all done and while I did take a cold shower, I will admit that I washed my hair in the sink (less traumatic that way.)

Meanwhile a quick garden update. The tomatoes are bountiful this year, but the zucchini is just revealing blossoms no fruit.  But I’m excited we have our first ever acorn squash! I haven’t seen the evil bunny in a while, so I’m hoping he/she has left the property!


We arrived Wednesday night (8:30! No traffic!) to find our new hot water heater installed AND WORKING.  Look how pretty it looks!

Yes, the water is sufficiently hot although it does take a while to get up to the second floor from the basement. (I’m not complaining.)

In the morning, the first of many boxes of siding and insulation and wood appeared in our driveway – the start of a very difficult and large job.

So far so good. The siding is nearly a perfect match for the exact color red we wanted. After all, the Red House couldn’t suddenly become yellow or green or grey!

Stay tuned.

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The Red House Basement Floods Again…

This past July 4th weekend was spent unfortunately eerily similar to July 4th in 2013. Friday, before the long weekend, we endured a day of heavy rain only to find ourselves dealing with 4 inches of water in the basement and a “lake” on the side of the house.  We also had water pouring through a basement window and fissures in the stone walls that had we been at the Villa d’Este in Italy with it’s “fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts and, 364 water jets” (courtesy of a quick look on Wikipedia) might have been quite soothing, but that much water in the Red House basement is really a nightmare.

Ironically, this was the first long weekend since we bought the Red House (yes, that would be seven years) that both kids and their respective girlfriend and boyfriend were coming to visit. That means that when they arrived right around cocktail hour when we should have been toasting the start of the weekend, we were actually scrambling for flip flops and rubber boots for everyone to wear and a wet/dry shop vac we could plug in without getting someone electrocuted. Did I mention we needed at least 3 brooms so we could take turns pushing the rising water towards the sump pump that while going was simply not keeping up with the insane amount of water?

After a good hour of trying to keep up with the water flow, we decided to stop and luckily  at this point the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I was able to show them the garden and the FINALLY FINISHED MASTER BATHROOM.

We have lots of gorgeous looking lettuce.

And the biggest sage leaves I’ve ever seen.

Coupled with so many beautiful flowers…

As well as celery and some very green tomatoes.

Meanwhile after the garden tour, they got to see the newly finished master shower and the dining room table Lynn and I put together the night before although the dining room itself has quite a ways to go.

We picked up those green chairs at a garage sale on Long Island ($15 for 4!) and like the color so much that when we buy “real” dining room chairs they obviously have to be this exact shade of green. (I know, I know, this will be difficult but the “tastemaker,” aka Lynn says it is possible.)

But back to the flood. Even though the Red House sits fairly high up on a hill and when the bamboo dies in the winter we actually have a pretty view of the houses in the valley below. The problem is the house is also directly in the path of nearly 4 acres of sloping fields. So when the water runs down the field, we get a flooded basement and this time a “lake” on the side of the house.  Looking at all the water, we suddenly remembered a pipe that had been buried in the grass that we decided to dig out – thinking we could channel some of the water to the pipe.

This resulted in a ditch being dug the length of the property and more water than I’ve seen in our backyard. Luckily, the guys helped dig out the ditch which was a dirty muddy mess. (The girls decided to put up a volleyball net since after all it was 4th of July weekend!)

The theory was if we could divert the water away from the house, we hoped we wouldn’t be spending another 4th of July making sandbags. While we did manage to eventually stop the flow of water, we were worried that there weren’t enough sandbags around the new furnace and hot water heater. So after the kids left, I ordered sandbags online and we drove down to the Big Box store to buy sand. This time however, we carried the 50 lb bags of sand into the basement and made the sandbags there instead of stupidly making them in the driveway.

We also tried to shore up the basement window by putting a large metal window well in front of it but then got side tracked cutting down all the beautiful vines that were growing on the side of the house. (We rarely go on that side of the house so weren’t even aware how incredibly tall they had grown!)

Meanwhile, we finally have guest bedrooms for people to stay in, comfortably I think, as well as two finished bathrooms with one to go. Lynn also put back the railing leading up to the second floor and even spray painted the hardware! Whoops, this close-up reveals a spot he missed.

I also did some baking (blueberry muffins and zucchini bread) which as everyone knows I loathe (not the goodies but the act itself). And put out lots of good cheese from Jones Family Farm for everyone to nosh on before dinner.

Meanwhile, we started to clean out the TV room, dragging boxes of stuff up to the attic on the hottest day of the year (of course) a few weeks ago, but are still left with the church pews that we thought we could use in the kitchen but that didn’t quite work. (Anyone who wants them kindly message me – they’re free!)

Meanwhile, all this bad weather at the Red House has made us a bit paranoid about rain which is annoying only in that rain has never deterred us from doing any activity or road trip in the past.

Since we are still waiting for a date for our siding to be installed, we probably need to spend a day or two outside patching up holes in the foundation and maybe learning how to re-grade the slope around the house. Why do I already know this absolutely won’t be any fun at all. At least if we are working outside, I can look at the sumac that’s slowly turning red, just in time to (hopefully) match the new Red House siding.

Happy Summer!


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Our Seventh Summer at the Red House

Lynn and I sometimes can’t believe we’ve been working on the Red House for nearly 7 years. There are pros and cons to any project that takes this long.

First and foremost, if you buy something in the beginning and then decide further down the road you don’t like it or it simply doesn’t work, you can change your mind and replace it with something you think will work better. This, in my mind, is a plus.  The downside of this lengthy renovation is since you’ve had so much time to change your mind and do it differently, it inevitably will cost you more money than you originally anticipated.

Case in point. I’m afraid to even mention the upstairs master bathroom (recently renamed the “million dollar bathroom”) but I will. Okay, I know it REALLY didn’t cost that much but the fact that I paid a previous contractor a large sum of money to do the bathroom, but ultimately had to pay another contractor THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT to rip it out and redo it is why it has definitely earned that title.

Consequently, because I had to come up with double the amount of money I had budgeted for the bathroom, I had to eliminate something from our very lengthy “TO DO” list and that was (drum roll please), finish the kitchen.  I know, I know, it pisses me off, too.  I mean really, I would love for all the electrical work in the kitchen to be completed, the exhaust fan/hood above the stove to be installed as well as the “stop sign” window to be spackled, sanded and painted! Hopefully, by the end of the summer, this will move back up to the top of the list.

This is where the exhaust fan needs to go! Look the outlet is already there and waiting!

I guess the fact that we put up a decent looking metal back splash is a lot better than what we had before (that would be a very ugly black garbage bag and not even a good one, a crappy one) like you see below. This of course was before we got cabinets, and counters, etc., etc., etc. Wait is the stove on? Am I cooking something and taking pictures at the same time? Do you see the flame? I do! Obviously I’m just boiling water since there doesn’t appear to be anything in either of the other pans.

Besides having the exhaust fan installed, the “stop sign” window needs to be finished!Trust me, it looks a lot worse on the outside. Technically, it is centered so we’ll see how this really looks once the siding is done. In the meantime, we are almost finished with the upstairs master bathroom! Hip Hip Hooray! Yes, it looks much better than we ultimately thought it would and it’s the biggest bathroom we’ve ever had in any apartment or house we’ve lived in so I guess it was worth the wait and the money. We have to still install the shower door, hook up the faucet for the vanity and simply put the drawers in. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Remember, this is what we started with – a former nursery with no plumbing that managed to become a bathroom. The original thought was to put subway tiles on the shower walls and a simple gray tile for the bathroom floor. In hindsight, the subway tile looked a lot better when we laid it on the floor than the wall.

This was Round 1 of the bathroom. Yeah, it just didn’t work.

Ultimately the subway tile had to be ripped out and a whole new unit needed to be put in. And yes, they did throw out the piece of marble that cost us a pretty penny on the step you see here that I hoped could be saved! (Case in point: when you tell someone to demo a room and throw everything out and start again, that’s what they do!)

And this is Round 2.

Okay, in hindsight this looks a lot “neater.” And I do love the shelves although they will probably make me crazy trying to keep them clean.

And I think the floor tile came out nicely although Lynn is complaining the grout lines are too thick! REALLY?

Besides the master bath near completion, we also managed to convert a bedroom into what will eventually be a walk-in closet but more probably some sort of office. (I don’t really have that many clothes and would rather have a room to work and/or write in.) Remember we originally had six bedrooms (!) and are now down to three. Here are some before and after shots.

This shot actually looks a lot nicer than the space really was.  I hated walking into that room, it was really scary. We also originally had planned to have a skylight in the room (notice the plywood frame in the upper right hand corner where the skylight was going to go) but since then the wall has totally been dry walled.  Here are two pictures to show the process.

I think the track lighting to replace the single hanging light bulb is a huge improvement! The walk in closet also leads to the attic but a portion of the attic stairs had to be ripped out to put in the plumbing for the master bath.

Now that the plumbing is finished, the stairs have been put back.  This means I can finally start putting some of the many boxes we brought up from our old house up there in storage. Somehow, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw out all the kid’s old toys and books and school certificates just yet.

Once that’s done, I can also focus on putting a new wood floor in the bedroom as well as new flooring for both landings. (Yes, we have two landings because we have two staircases.) Unfortunately, with all this construction going on (think dust and more dust), there’s a lot of clean up we have to do. Really, how is this going to become a bedroom one can comfortably be in! Courage!

Okay, I know the table saw, shop vac and garbage can, coupled with leftover drywall, plywood and tubs of spackle will all go away but really – this is a huge room to clean up.  Let me segue here briefly.  When my current contractor started the job and one of the stipulations was to throw out all the old iron radiators, he actually asked me if he could just throw them out the window.

See this radiator (yes, of course we did save some), well imagine this times 4 and you get the picture –  they’re old and weigh a ton. So no, throwing them out the window was not an option. My luck, they’d bounce back and break a window!

But back to the landings. Here’s one of the landings that’s big enough to perhaps accommodate a reading nook in the future. When I get rid of all the boxes and put a bookcase I bought the first year someplace else (along with numerous dictionaries), I think this will be a pleasant little space.  In case you missed the dictionary in the picture, it’s the big white paper thing with black tabs on it. Side note: Before anyone had an app that would help you spell and define a word, there were dictionaries! Besides English, I also have dictionaries in German, French and Italian! And they’re all really big and heavy! But more confusing is why exactly do we have so many blinds lying around? What rooms are missing blinds? Are there rooms in the house we haven’t discovered yet?  Just kidding!

Our biggest project this summer (money-wise, too) is that we are finally ready to do the siding. We also hope to install some much needed gutters over the porch. This should help to alleviate the “shower effect” we so often get when we’re trying to get into the house when it’s raining.  Yes, indeed the water just pours off the roof! And with new siding we’ll need new outdoor lighting since the ones on the porch are no longer a complete working pair since one particularly bad winter a heavy duty icicle smashed one of them.

We also have been working on the dining room. I say “we” but really Lynn has been doing all the work.  He ripped off some weird moulding and other strange material that had been put on the walls only to find some old floral green, white and gray wallpaper and what I can only describe as an attempt to stencil huge bows on the wall.  I do wonder if there were any family portraits at one point that had been put in these ornate “frames.”

Here’s a before and after shot.

Gearing up for the summer planting season, our garden took a beating this winter even though we were told it was a “mild” one.  “Mild” compared to what I wonder? This weekend I spent a few hours tilling the soil, thinking about what I would plant, trying to remember what worked last year (zucchini, beans, beets and peas), what the rabbits ate (zucchini, beans, beets and peas) and what didn’t grow at all (sage, eggplant and peppers).

We had luck growing basil in containers when we had our house on Long Island so Lynn suggested we try that this year. Luckily, we seem to have a nice crop of asparagus that seems pretty hearty (here’s a shot of a few very tall stalks early in the season).

The strawberries appear to be doing well, too, provided the birds and aforementioned rabbits don’t eat all of them. Dare I mention I saw a couple rabbits the other day and they looked really BIG! Maybe they’ll be too full to venture into the garden? Or maybe they’re large because they’re about to birth little bunnies! Hopefully they won’t eat a new rose bush I was just about to plant in the ground.

On that note, if you’re planting any veggies or flowers this Memorial Day weekend, think of me! And, don’t worry, I’ll have lots of follow-up photos and a story or two about the Red House and its new “look.”

And so our 7th summer at the Red House begins.

Posted in Construction, Flowers, Gardening, Renovation, The Property, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!


Posted in Baking, Construction, Renovation, Travel, VW | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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