Saturday, October 8, 2011


It's that time of the year again. The time when hordes of wool loving people descend on Rhinebeck, NY for the annual New York State Sheep & Wool Festival. This is my 4th year going, and I can't be more excited!

Of course, I love to prowl all the many barns to see what each vendor has on offer. It's not all about the wool for me, though. Last year, I bought a lovely, simple drop spindle (much simpler than these lovelies from Golding) and some roving, thinking I might learn to spin. After a lesson I got the hang of it, but I'm not sure I'll ever be a spinner. I'm a production crafter, meaning that I need to see the end product quickly. I know some people are all about the process. I do love the process, but if it takes too long my enthusiasm for the project peters out.

This year, I'm playing a little game called Rhinebeck Bingo. Some yarny folks over at the knitting site Ravelry sign up to be on a bingo card, then the people playing the game try to find each other. There are prizes, and it's just a great way to connect with folks, especially if you're shy, like me.

I love it all, the sights, the smells, the FOOD! But most of all, I love spending the weekend with girlfriends and a whole lot of like minded people. The animals are cute too.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Demolition in cramped quarters

Demolition isn't turning out at all like those DIY shows (to which I am addicted, by the way). You know the ones... a team comes in and they rip out the bathroom in a few hours. We could probably do that if we had a big house and could block off the area with the bathroom. But we live in an apartment, on the second story, so our demolition is taking a more calculated form.

Today was my day off from work, but not Rob's. I needed to figure out a way to get the most done while no kids were at home, so I grabbed my respirator and got to work pulling down plaster. I came up with this system for moving the demolition debris out. This bin, when filled with crumbled plaster, tile, etc. is just about the most I can dead lift from the ground. So I fill it up, drag it down the long hall (over some towels to help control dust), and bring it out to the front porch.

It's not like I can just throw it off though. Our tiny front yard is completely full of snow right now, and even if it weren't that would be a huge mess. So instead I am using the giant box our new sofa came in. I knew there was a reason we hadn't dragged it to the street yet! Voila! Makeshift dumpster. I drag the debris out and throw it in this box. When we are done we'll get a bagster and put that in the yard, fill it up, and have it hauled away.

In all this destruction, we are saving some of the old blue tile. We still have two bathrooms with it after all, and they are also showing their age. The specialty pieces like bullnose and baseboard are hard to come by, and the field tiles are a non-standard size now. Actually, the dimensions are all different now.

We carefully removed all the accessory pieces (TP holder, soap dish, toothbrush/cup holder, and towel rack ends) and they are in perfect condition. Think there's a market for vintage baby blue ceramic tile on eBay?

Overall, today was productive. All the plaster and lath is off the wall up to shoulder height, except for over the tub. That section is being stubborn so I need Rob to help me. Then we get on ladders and work our way up to the 9 ft. high ceiling.

I can't wait to see what's going on up in there.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop everything! Let's renovate the bathroom!

It all started so innocently, as I suspect many renovations do, but soon we found ourselves in the land of "might as well". Now we're doing a gut renovation in the bathroom of our New England triple decker, built in 1922. Want to join me for the ride? I'm sure there will be fun (nightmarish) surprises along the way.

First, a look at what our bathroom used to look like. Now, this is actually the twin of our bathroom, located on the first floor of our house. We had the sink out and the floor up in ours before I thought to take out the camera. Luckily there are (were) three nearly identical bathrooms in the house.

The bathrooms were remodeled in August of 1954. How do we know? That was the date on the newspaper we found in the wall. Notice the baby blue tile in the tub surround? It continues around the wall on all sides. There are built in towel racks, soap dish, toothpaste, and tp holders. They are cool and vintage, but they do limit the placement of things like sinks and vanites.

50s mosaic tile

Here's the tile pattern that was on the floor. I don't have anything against mosaic, but that grout never seemed clean, and the pattern on the floor is very busy. We're told that a larger tile pattern makes a room feel bigger, and this room needs all the help it can get.

We have tile picked out that we think we'll use. It's a combination of 12x12" field tiles with smaller accent tiles and blue mosaic glass tiles.

Uh oh, it's not just a few loose tiles
So we'd been struggling with a slow drain in our tub off and on for years. We (and by "we" I mean Rob) have snaked it a couple of times a year, but this last time that did no good. We decided that since our old particle board vanity was disintegrating anyway, we'd take that off the wall and try to snake through the sink drain. That worked, and since we had the vanity out I thought we should repair the loose tiles on the floor. Well, removal of those tiles revealed dreaded rot in the sub-floor, and it turns out most of the tile wasn't even stuck down anymore. They came up like cookies on a cookie sheet! When you can basically rake the floor and the tile comes up, somethin' ain't right.

hole in the floor
Before we knew it, the tile was up, exposing the rotting subfloor. It had been screwed down to en existing hard wood (!) floor. Unfortunately, those had rot too from years of neglect and water damage. When we pulled them up, we discovered a giant hole in the floor! When the plumbing for the tub and 50s sink was put in, a whole bunch of floor joists were notched and floor boards were removed to accommodate the weird plumbing.

At that point, we were thinking we'd just replace the floor, sink and vanity. And the toilet. And while we're at it, the tub is in really bad shape. Here we go, let the might as well's begin! We pulled off some loose tiles from the wall and lo and behold we found mold. Great. You don't want to see the mold though, right? Because I took a picture of it. It's gross, trust me. So while the vintage tile is cool, mold is not. Nor is horsehair plaster that's no longer connected to the lath and is bowing in some places and buckling in others. After some reading up on bathroom remodels and a visit to Ikea to price bathroom stuff we realized that we have to go for it.


Once we made the final decision to gut the bathroom, demolition began. Yes, demolition is fun. It's easier when you don't need to be careful. It's hot and messy when you are taking down old plaster. But it's also cool because we are learning interesting things about the house and uncovering some neat details. More on that to come.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, July 25, 2008

Long time no post!

Wow... it's been months since I've updated my blog! It isn't that there hasn't been much going on. on the contrary, we've been quite busy.

In May I injured my shoulder, and it's definitely made life a bit more difficult. I fell off my bike and fractured the greater tuberosity of my right humerus. It's the part of the arm where the ligaments and muscle attach, making it painful to lift and lower my arm. I'm just now, in late July, to the point where I can do most things again. Even something as simple as putting the dishes away was difficult and painful. I'm lucky though, it could have been worse. I could have babies, I could have a physically demanding job. My physical therapist helped a lot, and I've reached that plateau where it's just going to take time to heal and gain my full range of motion back.

We've taken our annual family vacation in Maine where we camped for a week. The kids love this trip, as do I. There's such a sense of freedom there, the kids can roam, and you get to spend a week outdoors. We were fortunate to have really nice weather, despite the otherwise wet summer we seem to be having here in New England. The only downside to the trip this year was that we didn't get to spend time with my friend Suzanne and her family, as we have for the past few summers. Next year Suz!

One thing we're trying this year is a CSA. If you're not familiar with the term, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You purchase a share of a farm at the beginning of the year, and you receive a share of produce each week once harvesting begins. It's given us an opportunity to try some vegetables we've never heard of before (kohlrabi anyone?). This week, however, I am excited to see some favorites coming in to season. Corn on the cob! Tomatoes! I'm very excited to work these in to dinners this week.
Anyone have a suggestion for the eggplant?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Confessions of a Lazy Mom

I'm trying to become a reformed lazy Mom, but I'm taking baby steps. There are a few lazy elements I'll probably never really be able to move past. One of them is my dislike of and lack of ability in cleaning my house. There are just so many other things I'd rather do. Maybe they are just avoidance tools? It gets the best of me, and my house is often just on the other side of the line from acceptable.

I've found a few little helpers along the way, and they have definitely improved the, uh, cleanliness level around here. One of them is my friend Mr. Scooba. I got him about 6 months or so ago. He drives around and mops my floor. He doesn't do a perfect job, but it's certainly better than not mopping at all. I used to gripe and moan about the condition of my kitchen floor and how it needed to be replaced. Turns out I just wasn't cleaning it often enough. Gross, I know, but there it is. If I run him a couple times a week, my floor is just fine, if a little dated.

I'm also trying to get better about making a complete dinner nightly. The last menu challenge helped with that, but we had a few snags there. I need to make a plan and grocery shop for the week, after taking a little inventory since I have some things lurking in the freezer I suspect. Last night I made Black Bean soup, which is almost a cheater meal. To make it I sautee some carrots, onions and garlic (I food process them for no chunk boy), then add diced tomatoes, black beans, some water and a handful of brown rice. I served it with corn bread (mix from TJs) and fresh steamed green beans. Two out of three kids gave it a thumbs up, so this is a regular dinner around here. Owen has been asking for chili, so I guess that will be on our menu this week.

I was really surprised to find a selection of organic goods at a super Walmart the last time I was there. I know, I know, Walmart. I'm sure they aren't free-range, local organics ;) but they are affordable, so I'll stock up next time I'm out that way.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stir Cry

Well, I've already fallen behind on the menu challenge. I decided to take my kids on an overnight with skiing when my sister sprung the opportunity on me suddenly. I did manage to make dinner on Wednesday. We had the dinner known fondly as Stir Cry. It's a favorite of mine and my husband, but I bet you can guess how it got the name.

I start with a mix of fresh veggies. In this case it was cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and snow peas. Once it got cooking I added red pepper because it was looking boring. First, I heat up my stir fry pan and add some oil. I cut up some boneless chicken breasts and sautee until cooked through. Then I add about 1/8 cup of water and the veggies. I cover that and let them steam for about 15 minutes.

While that's going I mix up my stir fry sauce. I use:
* 1 cup broth (chicken or veggie, what ever I have on hand - boullion works in a pinch)
* 3 Tbsp white vinegar
* 3 Tbsp corn starch
* 2 Tbsp soy sauce
* 2 Tbps sugar

Blend those together and add to the pan. Stir that around until the sauce thickens up, with the heat on med-high. My kids think it's cool to watch the liquid change.

Serve with some rice of your choosing. We like Jasmine rice. Enjoy. Cover your ears to block the crying if you must. Actually, for the first time ever, this dinner did not cause any crying. Not even one little wimper! The key here for me was that my oldest ate early and was not present at this meal. Dastardly, I know, but without his negative vibe at the table, the littles actually tried the dinner and declared it not at all bad. In fact, Owen declared it yummy!

Oh, and lest you think my jaunt to the slopes was all fun and games... Here's a cute photo of Leah with her ski-school skis.

Here's how I spend my time from lunch on when she decided she "just don't like skiing". Sigh. I wish I'd brought my knitting!
Oh, and after that I got to drive home in a snowstorm. It took more than 5 hours to get to my sister's house. It should have taken two. So we spent the night there since my nerves were shot. I've never been so happy to see bare pavement in my life!