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It really is darkest before the dawn…

Day 8, Wednesday, contained an unexpected mini-pause in the schedule. The plumbers couldn’t come as the crew had hoped (they’re coming Friday), but the windows arrived earlier than the original order had predicted (score!). That meant some construction (fixed the hole-y subfloor in the kitchen and finished framing the ceiling in the area where the tiny pitch change will be) but mainly more planning for the guys, and more electrical work for Brad (previously identified as The Electrician). With the carpentry crew off on tasks unknown to me (I had to leave earlier than they arrived, and returned after they left), Brad had the opportunity to continue rescuing the house from its 1920’s past, eradicating more knob and tube from the belly of the basement. He pulled wires from here to there, snaked things through hidden pockets of space, transforming the workings of the previously convoluted wiring schematic in the laundry room. Most of what he did was completely un-photographable (but believe me, NOT unnoticed).

read on…

Hallelujah, and sparks flew up to heaven…

Day 7 was as busy as ever – we heard the nail gun (and compressor), sawing, some shouting (mainly because the tools are so loud), many a trip up and down the attic stairs and even some laughter. The weather was hotter, but still lovely, and not so humid as to turn everyone grouchy toward one another (though I can’t speak for Brad, the electrician, who spent a fair amount of time in the still hideously uncomfortable attic). With everything buzzing away, I could focus on some other projects that I’ve been trying to find time for – mowing the lawn, refreshing the front planters, and printing out/working on Jeff’s sister’s wedding invites.

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Goin’ down (out?) in a blaze of glory…

Day 6, week 2, and the work is steadily progressing. We got a mini-fridge set up for the crew, and music was wafting through the house as I calmly set out on a leisurely trip around the area to run errands. Fields of corn bent in the wind, the sun baking sweet goodness into every kernel. Trees sang in the constant changing breeze, as the leaves scuffed against one another, dangling gently from bowed limbs. Ahhh, it was spectacular today.

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What’s happening all over? I’ll tell you what’s happening all over…

Day 5 started off with a complex question: do we want to preserve the ceiling height in the original part of the kitchen (8′-6”) or lower the ceiling (8′) to maintain a smooth continuous ceiling throughout the space? Budget issues prevented the best possible solution (i.e., rip off the roof of the addition and raise the outer wall to the proper and consistent height of the entire first floor), so we were left with two viable solutions. This was a complex decision because choosing either way created a whole slew of work and issues to solve (that had to happen before work could continue in any significant way), as well as compromises to the finished look of the space. Did we prefer the volume to the unity of a flat ceiling? Did we want to vault the ceiling and create a new architectural story? Could we find a light to address an angled ceiling in time for the electrician to move forward? Did they order enough/the right materials? Ultimately we all concluded that with either choice we had to give something up.

read on…

The calm amid the storm…

Day 3 and 4 have been much less dramatic, and therefore less photogenic.  Much of what’s happening is either more of the same (demo) or planning, and you can’t really photograph that. The crew is placing orders for lumber, and expects to be framing as early as Friday. Although, the mini-drama has been that a week’s worth of not enough sleep, not being able to cook, and having nothing left to wear (we skipped our weekend laundry because we were too busy prepping the floors to protect them from the trampling they are getting daily) caught up with me, and I had my first tearful moment. Much like the thunderstorm that was building for days, humidity rising causing irritability and discomfort, I too just needed to let out some water to let the beautiful weather shine through.  And it’s beautiful today! I also fell asleep while watching TV, sitting up on the sofa, about 20 minutes into a show I picked (Top Chef). A clear sign that I was overtired, and just needed a good night’s sleep.

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Busy, busy, busy…

Day two demolition finished with only a little bit of blood spilled (culprits: nail and lathe in walls, wily little buggers), and plenty of sweat.  All in all, despite mild injuries (I was assured they were “merely flesh wounds” and was “just a scratch”) it was a great day. Plumbing that was tangled and twisted and altogether not quite cutting it anymore was completely removed like a tumor. Walls that existed have been reduced to a single post; floors have been removed and have vanished from the house, just like that. Ceilings came down, raining plaster on the crew – they even had to take mini-showers in the yard with the hose.  When I asked if they needed towels, I was told, “Nah, I’ll just drip dry in the yard.” Adorable! Hard work like that deserves a reward that a “thank you” just doesn’t seem to provide.  I’ll think of something…

read on…

Welcome to the jungle…

Ok, where, oh, where to begin?

8am-ish: Contractors and electrician arrived
810am: Jeff and I started bickering
820am: First hammer swing, subsequent dust bowl began
830am: Dumpster arrived
831am: Jeff yelled at me (“Once is enough!”)
832am: I decided not to help Jeff anymore
840am: Jeff and I apologized
845am: We both wished we could  have a nap

The rest of the day was a mix of noises – shoveling, hammering, banging, prying, sawz-all-ing, classic rocking, chatting, barking, panting. We both spent much of the day fighting sleepiness and soreness, and tried to keep the dog as chilled out as possible. Much was accomplished in one tiny day, yet much more is yet to be done.  Mostly, some of the underlying structure of the house was uncovered for the first time in (probably) 90-ish years, exposing the home’s flaws as well as its unique story.

read on…

One more time, for the cheap seats!

Ok, so it’s about 12 hours before mayhem begins. Dumpster scheduled for delivery in the morning, dudes will be showing up (quantity?) starting around 8am, and the prep work here isn’t done yet. Nearly, but not yet. Whew, it’s gonna be a long summer.

Things we’ve learned thus far:

1.) It’s not easy to cook in the living room when you only have a sink either upstairs or down. Water is ESSENTIAL to making a kitchen work.

2.) Everything we think that will take 10 minutes takes a half hour, and those half hours add up. We’re behind, and we haven’t even begun yet.

3.) Extreme heat and humidity, combined with the extreme nature of the renovation process does not make for a bicker-free household. Luckily, we rebound well from tiffs.

With a sore back, a mini-sunburn (from yard work both here and at Dad’s place on the lake) and a sweatified-grumpy attitude I await the coming days with a sense of dread and excitement. I’m certain that this process won’t be easy. And I’m also certain that this process will be incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunity to partake in such an endeavor, and I’m looking forward to every bit of it, even the hard stuff.

Until next time, kick back with your favorite beverage, enjoy a cool shower, the ability to wash your hands as often as you like while cooking, and the privacy that comes with not having to share your entire house with at least a handful of contractors.

Do it for me.


Deconstruction to destruction: a story in pictures.

More to be done, photographed and reported on, but for now, feast your eyes on these:

Cabinets, painted and new hardware’d by us in 2007.

Our temporary kitchen counters, now slated for use in the laundry room (perhaps?), were a welcome change from the faux-oak laminate we inherited when we moved in.

New appliances, in 2007, to go along with the mini-update that made living with this kitchen much easier. (Many of our appliances are being used in the new kitchen, save for the range/oven. We found a new and loving home for that.)

We installed under-cabinet lighting, the sink, faucet (counters) and the faux backsplash to hide the dirty, crumbly paint underneath.

So faux… it’s just paint. Blue tape, measured painstakingly, cut and applied precisely by Jeff to replicate 4″ tiles. We used a mish-mosh of old paints all mixed together to get this color.

I’m standing in the so-called “eat-in” area of the kitchen. The dog’s head is sticking out of the dining room. Why would you have two dining areas right next to each other?

Mystery plumbing lies underneath that soffit area… let’s just hope it’s what the builders think it is, and that they can bury it in the walls with newer, smaller pipes.

Door to driveway, door to full bath (right IN the kitchen!), door to broom closet that hides more plumbing issues.

Don’t mind me, I don’t take up any room at all!

The stove is/was lovely, just not big enough.

View from kitchen into “eat-in” area, affectionately known as my hair studio. I painted the tree with left-over paints around the same time we painted the faux backsplash.

I think you can get the sense of how awkward this layout is.

Oh, and this stuff (plaster? wallpaper? who really knows…) would routinely fall into my baking area, making me afraid to prep food on that side of the kitchen.

The current maid’s staircase. This area will be turned into a closet at the top of the stairs for a bedroom/office, and a pantry at the bottom for extra kitchen goodness.

Crumbling plaster, covered with our attempt at helping (sheets of pre-finished beadboard style panelling that we incorrectly nailed into brittle, nearly 90 year-old plaster), adjacent the foot of the maid’s staircase.

Hello, crazy wallpaper.

The crew! Paul (up high!), Jeff (down low) and Keith (‘sup).

Unearthing more gems, like giant holes in the wall for former stoves!

Mystery 1970’s flooring.

Getting there. (Cabinets also found new home, with range/oven. Will be well-loved and not chucked into landfill! Success!)

Take that!

And that!

And that! (Paul was doing Crane, Daniel-son-style, just before this kick.)

Amazing how much bigger it seems when you can see out both front windows.

Gingerly removing wood to be salvaged by someone, somewhere, later.

Hmm, electrical that seems like it shouldn’t be installed like that.

Unearthing the heating pipes that made everything in that cabinet very hot in the winter!

Even Christine stopped in for a look-see.

The crew worked so fast!

Then the floor was attacked. Decimated. It was awesome.

From the kitchen… sort of.

Grilled Chicken Caprese sandwich with sweet potato chips and pomegranate-lemon-lime spritzer.

There’s always time for a sandwich, right?

On the last day we had our kitchen we were able to whip up a lovely little sandwich using the grill and the toaster oven. It was so beautiful, and so tasty, that we decided it should photographed and shared for all to see! I’m hopeful that even amid the inconvenience of having only one bathroom sink to do all the washing up, and prepping on one little table in the living room, we can still manage to be creative with our food, and keep the cooking spirit within us alive.

Grilled Chicken Caprese sandwich

Rosemary-olive oil sourdough bread, toasted lightly
Fresh mozzarella
Grape tomatoes, quartered
Fresh whole basil leaves (from the garden)
Grilled chicken breast seasoned simply with salt, pepper and olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Toss the tomatoes with about 2-3 teaspoons (use as much as you like) pesto, a little salt and pepper, and a splash (1 tsp?) balsamic vinegar. Lay some of the tomato mixture on each side of the bread. On one side, lay sliced chicken; the other, whole basil leaves, then sliced fresh mozzarella. Pile on some more tomatoes then close up the sandwich. Slice to show how gorgeous it is, and then devour it! Sooo good!

More house pics to come. Until then, lunch it up, people!