I think my Christmas cookie baking scenario should have given me an inkling that 2011 wasn’t going to go out easy.
For starters, I’ve never had a problem making cookies. This year it seemed I made batches of my usual kinds (butter with raspberry jam, chocolate chip, almond and amaretto butter, cinnamon sugar) and only two of the four were decent.
Decent Christmas Cookies
The others spread across the pan as they were baking as if they were trying to escape!
Raspberry Jam Cookies Wanting to Escape!
Since I’m also fairly stubborn when faced with having to pay large amounts of money for things that I think are overpriced ($9.99 for a bag of shelled walnuts???!!), I bought two bags of walnuts in the shell ($2.99 each), and then not only shelled them, but proceeded to crush them with a rolling pin the way my mother did, and her mother before her. Note to self: no way in hell will my daughter EVER do this to save a few bucks.
Crushed Walnuts, the Old Fashioned Way
Consequently, with all the holiday baking and eating behind us, I definitely felt it was time to do some serious work up at the Red House (or at least try to). So, instead of leaving after work on Friday, and getting there at midnight, and then being hopelessly tired the next 24 hours, I actually took a day off from work to get a head start.
One of my first projects nearly two years ago when we bought the house was to paint a pink hallway at the top of the staircase white. I had, however, never gotten around to painting (priming actually) the actual staircase, so this I decided to tackle.
Half Pink, Half Primed Staircase
Problem was, since everyone knows I’m afraid of heights, I actually couldn’t reach to paint the ceiling and no way in hell was I going to figure out how to rig up a ladder (without falling down the stairs) that would let me do so. I moved on.
Next on the list, help Lynn finish insulating the dining room. This involved me doing nearly next to nothing (holding up pink foam board with two fingers), while he’s struggling with screws and an impact driver.
A Nearly Insulated Dining Room
While he was doing that, I decided that a closet that had been installed in a hallway that leads down to the basement, had to be ripped out. I’m assuming the closet had once been used to hold towels or other toiletries since it had been located outside the original bathroom. Well, now that the original bathroom is gone, it was not only taking up room but was hideously ugly as well. It had to go.
I started ripping it apart and Lynn didn’t like that I was attempting to dismantle it old school-like, (with a screwdriver and a hammer), so suddenly I found the impact driver pushing my hand away from the screws that are holding the closet shelves in place. They do come down rather quickly that way (impact driver 1, Julie 0), and we decide to stack all the pieces in the kitchen. Arranged, I realize they very much look like a Georges Braque still life.
The Closet As Still Life
After this much work in a single afternoon, we decided it was definitely time for cocktails with some smoked oysters as a little amuse bouche. Lynn and I are the only people that we know who actually enjoy eating smoked oysters (other than my parents and occasionally our son if I wrap them in some puff pastry with a big dollop of goat cheese, too). I have to however assume there are other people out there who enjoy them just as much as we do, otherwise they wouldn’t bother smoking them and canning them.
Awesome Smoked Oysters with a Lime Squeeze
While Lynn would have probably liked to use his impact driver to open the can, luckily it was simply a pull top! (I promise I will soon stop the impact driver jokes.)
Since before the weekend had started I thought in order to spend more time renovating and less time cooking, I would simply bring up a bunch of food that was already cooked. That meant for the next three days, we would be eating chili, chicken rollatini and sausages. I cheated a bit with the sausages because while I did grill them beforehand, I still had to boil some water for pasta (they were going to be thrown into a pasta dish), and slice them along with some roasted peppers, too.
Chicken and Apple Sausage Fixin's for Dinner
The next morning we woke to snow, contemplated whether we should eventually get a snowblower, but then realized it would probably be one of those toys (like the Troy Bilt) that wouldn’t start when we needed it the most. That said, we both went out with two big blue shovels and simply shoveled the driveway and part of the sidewalk. This took less than half an hour.
Real Women (and Men) Shovel
We didn't shovel this part....
Besides the snow (3-4 inches), it was also pretty cold (think 2 degrees), and while the rest of the house was warm, the kitchen in it’s current unfinished and uninsulated state was simply unbearable. This meant that when I tried to wash the breakfast dishes that morning, the sponge had frozen to the sink!
Isn't this a beautiful kitchen?
I tried not to spend much time in this room the rest of the weekend and instead helped Lynn put more insulation around a new window we had installed. Luckily, we had a big bag of that cotton candy looking stuff that comes in rolls, that Lynn reminded me we had used when we redid our kitchen on Long Island. Since I’m the queen of throwing things out I think we no longer need, I’m actually amazed we still had it!
Insulation that kind of looks like a burrito!
Putting the insulation in the window was pretty simple, trying to fit the original moulding around the frame was not. The impact driver got a particularly good workout with Lynn trying to make pieces fit that should have gone back together in a snap, but wouldn’t.
This is what a new window looks like!
I decided to at least try to keep up with all the mess he was making so I started to sweep, then, mop, particularly in the hallway where we had torn out the closet. Problem is there is just so much dust from all the sheetrock we are using that even after all my efforts at cleaning, the truth is it didn’t look like I had done anything at all!
Where the closet had been...
Bored with cleaning, I decided to try out some new cross country skis I had been gifted. Now here’s the thing, the last time I was on downhill skis was probably around 1978. Cross country skis, while more recently (maybe 1997), I, in fact, had to think hard about a) how to put them on, and b) how to actually do this. Once I figured it out, I was even able to do a fairly slow glide kind of thing across the back meadow until I realized how incredibly hilly the back meadow is. Hilly, means I would have to go DOWNHILL ON CROSS COUNTRY SKIS. So, not wanting to fall on my ass just yet, I simply took them off and walked back to the Red House.
There, I placed them, skies and poles, too, against our crumbling red siding. I was always the girl anyway, who preferred to be in the ski lodge (at the bar of course), then actually on a slope. I will however, find a Cross Country Skiing for Dummies book, or some such nonsense and learn how to do it.
A Great Place to Cross Country Ski....If You Know How!
Meanwhile back on the ranch, I mean, the Red House, as I stumbled up our broken steps, afraid that if the ice beneath my boots wouldn’t send me flying, surely the icicles hanging down from the roof would give me a nice bump (or worse) on my head.
Ice Ice Baby
I did look at the other rooms that are shaping up fairly nicely (before we even had an impact driver, thanks Mom!) and thought that if we could just finish one room by the summer, maybe we could actually buy a sofa we could sit on? One that would be comfortable and wouldn’t pinch our ass?
The Living Room -- Work in Progress
So three days later, after we had tackled as much as we could, I woke up craving French toast with real maple syrup from a farmer down the road, so I made some. Lynn wondered why I needed that much syrup on my plate. Because I like maple syrup I said, and poured even more on the toast I had fried up in a pan on the hot plate.
Yummy French Toast (Why is it called French, anyway?)
Considering what happened next at the Red House, I’m really really happy I had as much sugar that morning as I did. Turns out when I went to flush the toilet in our ONE bathroom, there was no water in the bowl. When I tried to turn on the water in the sink, only hot water came out. That’s when we realized that the cold water pipes leading up to the bathroom had frozen solid.
This unfortunately came about because yesterday, knowing the temperature was going to seriously drop (think double digit minus numbers), we tried to insulate the exposed water pipes by wrapping some heavy duty plastic between the pipes and an exterior wall. Wrong! This had exactly the opposite effect we had wanted, hence the freezing pipes. We turned the heat up in the house, thought about calling a plumber, then I decided I would simply wrap the skinny pipes in towels. My theory was whenever the kids got out of the ocean and were freezing, wrapping them in towels got them warm in no time. So that’s what I did.
Trying to warm up the frozen pipes!
Ha. Ha. Ha. Couldn’t use the impact driver to solve this problem! Within an hour the pipes had “thawed,” and we had cold running water back up in the bathroom. Shortly thereafter we left the Red House for the weekend, but decided to leave the pipes “dressed” so to speak in the towels. The theory was, if the pipes actually burst, maybe the towels would catch most of the water!
I already can’t wait until spring.