• art,  house

    Kitchen Remodeling

    I’ve been thinking a lot about space lately, which is a pretty natural offshoot of my house having been taken over for the kitchen remodeling project. Since Hurricane Sandy, my house has been in an almost constant uproar. It began the night of the hurricane, when we saw the water coming near us and quickly moved everything from our basement to our ground floor. Then we had no electricity, but were safe from water damage, so we moved everything back. In the dark, which went about as well as you might expect. Then the house went topsy-turvy as things were moved about as we tried to navigate a dark and cold world for two weeks until the power was restored.  (On the upside, without telly, my beloved will get bored enough to clean the fridge – and I will get bored enough to mop all the floors.  True fact.)

    Not long after power was restored, my beloved began remodeling our kitchen. There was a special reason to do it in December, relating to his work schedule, but I was very wary of the effect not having a kitchen would have on Christmas. It turns out that I was right, but we got by. It’s amazing what you can cook on a barbeque. The immediate result of the kitchen remodeling, other than the way it took over my life in terms of my spare time, was that the kitchen now became scattered all over the house. The cat food is in the guest bedroom, the teas are in the basement, the nice glasses are underneath my fiber arts table. The dishes are sitting in my entrance hall, while the new cooking station, with our microwave and toaster oven, are sitting in the dining room. My stove and dishwasher spent a solid month in the back yard.  We’ve done a fairly good job of keeping things organized, but the kitchen stores a lot of items.  There’s only so much you can do.

    The physical chaos has bothered me a lot.  I’m not the neatest person the planet, but I do like things to be put away when they’re not in use. Clutter disturbs and upsets me. A little untidiness isn’t so bad, but when the task becomes “clear the place where you make art” rather than “make art”, things begin to fall apart.  The first week of kitchen chaos was pretty terrible for me, but then I decided to dig in and do whatever I could to get my kitchen back.  I had dreams of it being back in place by New Years, which didn’t happen, but it’s starting to happen now.  I spent last weekend painting the walls, after which we started moving the appliances back in.  We only have a few things left to do – putting in a window that was removed by the previous owners and installing the cabinets, then ordering the new counter top.  They’re all now in a period of waiting for things to arrive, so at last, we have time to do something other than work on the kitchen.  The cabinets will arrive on Tuesday, the window this Friday.  So we’re nearly there.

    The kitchen is looking beautiful.  We’ve replaced the brown theme with creams and silver, torn down a wall and added a window.  Instead of being a little dark cave, we’ve made it into a spacious and light space that’s going to be a beautiful new heart of the home.  Once everything is back, the next spot that’s going to get the treatment is my fiber arts space, which is currently utterly chaotic.  Before we began the kitchen, I asked my beloved if he would build me a custom cabinet that I designed in order to fit all my various spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing, drawing, photography, etc. tools.  Now that I’ve spent a month doing demolition, learning how to use a cordless drill, sawing at tiled floors, painting and project managing, I’ve asked him to teach me how to make it my own damn self.  Because we all know that what I needed was to add in carpentry to my list of hobbies.

  • art,  house,  writing


    December has passed by in a whirl of days, filled with so much activity that I’ve barely been able to breathe. We’ve been in the middle of a little bit of an impulse kitchen remodel and it has gotten fairly out of hand (which is to say, we’ve ended up ripping out and replacing everything). It is starting to move towards completion, minus the cabinets and counter tops that may not arrive for another six weeks, but it certainly made hosting Christmas dinner interesting. This year, I find myself grateful for propane and a barbeque. The rest of Christmas ended up being much of a non-event, as I’ve been busy ripping out sheet rock, helping tile floors, project managing and researching and ordering windows, dish washers and microwaves, caulking and painting rather than getting into the Yuletide spirit. I find I’m in it now, after the holiday has safely passed. Here’s to next year.

    Pictures of the remodel soon, as soon as the after pictures are something to look at.

    I have also been reading Steven King’s The Stand, which is compulsive and over a thousand pages, which has rather killed my productivity. I’ve never read King before, always being shy of horror novels, so I’ve rather had my mind blown so far. He’s a master writer, who draws a character sketch possibly better than anyone else I’ve ever read. I am certain there will be more in the near future. I’m told the Dark Tower series is also compelling. I am a little horrified that I let over thirty years go by before picking up his work – it’s a good lesson on how it’s a good idea to not limit yourself from a reading perspective because of genre.

    My New Years Resolution for 2013? Read, read, read, write, write, write. As with last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. I have actually been successful each year at fitting more writing in, but I’m still struggling with certain elements of technique. I want to fit in some more writing instruction this year than I have in the last few, not having taken a class since I graduated. It’s going to happen…just as soon as I have a stove to cook on.

  • health,  house

    I would wear more sunblock

    Last weekend was one of the busiest weekends of my life, in which I was barely able to accomplish half of what I wanted to do.  (Clearly I ought to learn how to set realistic expectations.) My house had gotten to a point of distress, so I spent the Saturday not just cleaning, but also taking the time to buy storage for the sheets and organizing them, as well as getting rid of things and switching out winter clothes for summer clothes and dealing with the mounds of laundry that have piled up.

    I really don’t have any idea how people with neat houses do it; I also have no idea how to make my house stay clean and still have time to do anything else.  I do live with three people that have greater thresholds for mess than I do, so I do (probably a lot) more than my twenty-five percent, which contributes, but it’s still a mystery.  Even after working all weekend, there are still a ton of messy spots in the house; the bathroom I scrubbed top to bottom two weeks ago needs scrubbing again.  From a time management perspective, short of quitting my job and spending all of my time keeping up with the house, it seems impossible.  I presume that there are ways to make cleaning less labor intensive, so I’ve been focusing on setting up things in that vein, like getting the sheets sorted into nice storage bins and setting up cleaning supplies on every floor of the house.  The best that I’ve got is to keep trying to be more efficient, because I’m just not willing to give up the things I’d rather be doing just to have more time to keep the house clean.  Though I do love coming home to a clean house – the Saturday didn’t feel wasted, because the house seems so much fresher and restful now for all the decluttering and scrubbing that I did.  The process of turning chaos into order is a little bit magical, even though I’m not one to normally love cleaning.  On Saturday, though, it just felt like the right thing to be doing.

    On the Sunday I made time to go out cycling, doing a 16 mile training ride in preparation for the 5 Boro Bike Tour, which we’re riding tomorrow.  Cycling is a funny sport for me.  I never want to actually go, but once I’m on a bike and past the first mile, I am filled with such a joy for the freedom that a bicycle brings. There’s really no other transport like it.  Cars rush you by so fast that you can barely take in your surroundings.  Walking is so slow that you barely get anywhere.  But on a bicycle, you can cover a decent amount of ground in a short enough period of time to really get somewhere, but you’re going slow enough that you have time to look around and really see where you are.  It’s a delightful mishmash of situation.  It’s freedom and adventure.  It always fills me with a wonder of the universe, as I get to see my surroundings in an entirely new way.

    I tend to take a trail that runs from Massepequa to, I learned, Bethpage.  I was at the north end of the trail when a tall man with a rather impressively extended pot belly walked up to me.  He’d come to the park on foot.  He asked me if I knew how to get to some particular surrounding street.  I told him I had no idea even what town I was in, since I always start at the opposite end of the trail.  He looked at me in surprise, his eyebrows shooting upwards.  “You didn’t know this was Bethpage until I told you right now?”  Not at all, I assured him.  He looked amazed and chuckled, then walked away.  That’s the adventure of cycling; I managed to bike several towns away without even knowing where I was.  The town I was passing through was so irrelevant; but conversely I actually did know exactly where I was, in a different sense.  I knew the trees and the park and the water fountains and I knew how to get there.  What’s in a name?  It’s about the adventure.

    I read a recent Time magazine article with Julia Luis Dreyfuss, who most of the world probably knows as Elaine from Seinfield. She’s apparently on a new show called Veep, in which she plays the vice-president.  As a feminist, I probably should have known about that and should probably even watch it.  As a me, I have failed once again at pop culture.  But the very last question they asked her was, “What would you change about your life if you had it to do over again?”  She said, brilliantly, “I would wear more sunblock.”

    I am so inspired, Julia Luis Dreyfuss.  To the cycles and the pedals and the cleaning. I hope to live a life where I regret nothing and no time wasted. Here’s to the adventure and wonder of it all.

  • cocktails,  house

    Warning: Blueberries Improperly Muddled

    It’s Cocktail Sunday (others may be watching some game in which a bunch of padded dudes run around outside in February, which is an insanity that *should* be watched by millions, because that’s crazy town). Today we did Blueberry Martinis. I’m not much a fan of martinis because they’re too much alcohol in far too little liquid, so they always taste like barely disguised burning. It’s also difficult to nurse them all night (or more than about 90 seconds, from the way my fiancé drank his tonight).

    But…we had blueberries and brand spankin’ new martini glasses. And they are pretty.

    The ingredients are very simple; blue caraçao, vodka, lemon juice and the ingredient of honor, the blueberry. I’m not sure I knew what the inside of a blueberry looked like before this. (But thanks to my CSA, my first thought was…”that looks like the inside of a gooseberry!”)

    The first step is to take the blueberries, cut them in half, then put them in your shaker and “muddle” them. Of course, I don’t have a muddler, although it’s now high on my shopping list, as it’s instrumental for mojitos and I do love me a mojito. So I used a fork and did my best, but I must warn you that the next picture displays Blueberries Improperly Muddled:

    Shield the eyes of your children. And, well, perhaps any friends that you may have that are also bartenders. I promise I’ll learn to do it properly soon.

    At the end, you get a drink that’s more lemony than anything (though perhaps this is due to Improper Muddling), but is very pretty and very alcoholic. Those Poles do know their vodka.

    While I might be an improper muddler, I did learn how to remove and install a new bathroom faucet this weekend, which was extremely exciting. So while many of you will be watching the foot ball (go Packers!…yes, that’s for you, my Wisconsin family), I will be delighting in turning on and off the faucet and stopping the sink, because I made that go and it feels damn good to be handy. Look at that beauty!

    We’re having an impromptu dinner tonight for some local friends, so I must now go invent something…and perhaps make a few Tom Collins’s and Blueberry Martinis….

  • cooking,  health,  house,  nature

    Season Change

    Here in NYC, it has become impossible to deny the fact that autumn is upon us. The temperatures have dropped significantly and I find myself wearing a sweater to and from work. Not yet a coat, thank goodness. I dread winter like nothing else.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my garden. My goals for my garden this year were to raise some food and to get the roses all settled into one corner and producing. It was a miserable year for the roses in terms of flower production, but they did have a lot of stem growth. And blight, unfortunately. Food-wise, I managed to grow a lot of tomatoes and chili peppers, a few cucumbers, a handful of strawberries and keep a persistent herb garden (mint, basil, rosemary, oregano, chives). My green pepper plant was stolen by the local squirrel mafia.

    I inherited a number of flowering bushes that all flower for about a week in the springtime. My yard turns pink. They don’t do much for the rest of the year and are not what I would have planted. Still, I have some reluctance to kill a living thing just because it’s taking up valuable land. But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to maybe try to move them into large planters so that I can have the valuable garden space for growing food. Or kill them. What happens in the garden stays in the garden.

    I have a very small amount of space and it’s in the front of the house, in a neighborhood where no one except me seems to devote land to food at all. I am sensitive to the needs of my neighbors, but I do think that I’m going to tear out the decoration and really plant food next year.

    I have a whole winter to plan – but would any experienced gardeners want to opine on what I should be doing now to make the soil as fertile as possible for next year? Would chopping up my bushes now and burying the body, as it were, be of benefit? Would the decomposition help with the soil? I could probably get down with plant murder if it would help feed me better next year.