Nana’s Kitchen Table

My Nana passed this evening.  Everyone is on their way, hospital first, house second. We always gathered in her house around the wooden kitchen table.

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It was designed to seat four, but there was always room for one more plate, glass, a pulled up chair. It’s fitting to come here. Gather here.

My nana was a special person, but this blog isn’t about special people. It’s about houses, or more importantly, the sense of place you feel within a home. Most of my life I was a nomad, staying out late, finding a better place to be. Renting dumpy apartments I moved from every four to six months to army housing to buying a townhouse. So far, none of these feel like my Nana’s home. None of them had a kitchen table everyone instinctively went to for comfort or cheer or celebration. None of them had an open door with a zillion keys given to friends and family. None of them had a fridge stocked with the special food people liked, or refrigerators covered with photos from years of memories with loved ones.

The house is old, with creaky sighs from the six kids who grew up here. Original breadboard paneling, wood floors. Comfortable in a way old houses are, lived in, worn a little, accepted for their quirks and even loved for them. Nothing works a hundred percent. The drains are slow, the water not always hot, it took me a while to figure out if the tea kettle actually whistles or simply makes a whoosh to tell you the water is ready for tea in a mug found in a handmade wooden cabinet.

Nothing here is expected to be perfect, people included. Then the imperfect people gather around the kitchen table and tell stories and laugh at the memories and life and the imperfect moments and you can see that here, in this place, everything is exactly as is should be.

It is home, anchored by the kitchen table.

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Repairing a Textured Ceiling

Some days the projects go smoothly.  They follow the chicken scratch I call a plan and just sorta work out.  Poof. Kittens and glitter.  Some days the project morphs in a pile of tuba players piling up like dominoes on the field during a half time show.

Behold! Thy name is cluster fuck.

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I have been putting off dealing this damage from a leaky pipe.  The pipe was repaired over a year ago.  The ceiling was just sorta left.  I hired a drywall guy and he put up some sheet rock and a base coat of plaster stuff and then he abandoned the project and I resigned myself to a life of intentionally looking at the floor every time I entered my home.

A year later, it was time to finish the mess.  Matching the ceiling texture is not nearly as easy as YouTube makes it seem.

The home depot squisher didn’t work.  It didn’t match when it was goopy or wet and dry or thin and goopy or dry and thin or all combinations of the above.  It didn’t match when it was twisted a little and smooshed hard, or smooshed less hard and twisted a little or only applied pressure on the twist or a twist with no pressure and thin paste.  I am amazed my liver still functions.

With each twist and attempt, I got more desperate.  Is this it? Is this where I have to call the crazy expensive but awesome contractor who knows how to fix things like ceilings?  Could I even afford him if I called him?  Should I rip down the ceiling and do a non textured finish?  Can I just glue something to the ceiling that would hide all of the texture and the repair?  Would that something fall from the ceiling and maimed one of us as we took the pooches on an early morning bathroom break?  Would the ER believe it was an accident?  Would Charlie escape and wander the neighborhood while I lay unconscious and unable to call the ER?

This is exactly how my mind works.  46 out of the 47 people who live inside my head all debating the merits of each option.  Thankfully the 17th person is a rabid Googler.  While these questions were trying to be answered, the one sane personality started googling for salvation.  And salvation it found in the form of All-Wall – Your Drywall Tools Super Store.

Turns out, the technique wasn’t my problem – it was the tool.

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I ordered the stamp that matched my ceiling and went to town.  First you roll a coat of plaster on the ceiling and then smoosh some plaster onto the stamp and stamp, exactly as the video described.  The trick is not to judge the outcome until it’s painted.  The new plaster will be like a beacon compared to older ceiling paint, so hold off your judgments until everything is painted in a crisp white paint.

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Then, just for fun, paint the walls, because you can, for the kittens and glitter.

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Any idea on what to do with the floor?

 

 

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Foodie Funday: Slow Cooker Awesome Sauce

Folks,

We recently received a slow cooker as a wedding present.  Our lives will never be the same.

I had a slow cooker previously, and everything I put in there came out a jumbled pile of mush.  I once tried to make jambalaya in it.  By the time the guests for my dinner party arrived, it looked vomitorious.  Eeeeewww.

We ordered pizza.

But this slow cooker is magical.  Whatever I put in there, it comes out, a few hours later, all moist and flavorful.  We tried a fiesta chicken recipe this past weekend.  The chicken was delicious, spicy, and soaked in tomato sauce goodness.  Check it out:

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That’s taken with my crappy camera phone, but you get the idea.  Yumzers.

I’m trying to figure out other good things to make in the slow cooker.  I’ve only tried it with meat so far.  Can I use this baby for veggies?  Fish?  Pasta?  I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

The best part of the whole thing is when you open the door to your house after a long day of work, and it smells like someone has been toiling at the stove all day.  It smells like home.

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Explosion! Paint! Video!

My paint mishaps never looked this beautiful…..

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Wainscoting is Installed!

Remember back when I began the DIY Diva Duel?  No?  It was a long time ago – before the hurt ankle, ripping plywood fail, insane summer heat.  It was so long ago that I almost forgot all about it.  Well, I pushed it out of my mind until I walked in the front door and saw the mess that I started and sorta ran away from.  I walk in and out the door multiple times a day.  I was tired of the running.

But guess what?!?  Bacon?!?

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Is that wainscoting on attached to the wall?

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Attached to every wall?

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Holy Moses – something has actually been finished!

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  • fix the ceiling – it was damaged during a leak a few years ago
  • add trim to the wainscoting
  • trim the stairs
  • patch and paint the foyer
  • do something with the floor
  • some sort of table under the mirror
  • lower the mirror so I can see more than the top of my head
  • paint the doors
  • paint the wainscoting & trim
  • do something about the lighting
  • get lots of Charlie rubs

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He tried really hard not to move.

Just to keep the crazy list in perspective: then & now

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Foodie Funday: Gone Fishin’

Hello there!  So nice to see you again!  I have finally returned to the world of blogging after an extended wedding/honeymoon break.

We went to Alaska for our honeymoon, where I learned how to fish.  And by “learned,” I mean tried valiantly with very little idea of what I was doing.  E.g.:

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I obviously caught no fish, but I caught no fish in a very pretty place, so that was nice.

Luckily, my new hubby, who is startlingly competent at killing small water-bound creatures, was able to land us some graylings.  And we cooked them, over a campfire, with no seasoning at all.  They were DELICIOUS.

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Those are the graylings on the left, a freshly-caught salmon on the right (a gift from our camp host for our two-week anniversary), and a bottle of sake on the corner.  Sake warmed over a campfire is surprisingly delicious.

So my foodie advice for the day: go fresh.  The fresher, the better.  If you can catch your own fish in an Alaskan lake, awesome.  If not, buy it from the fisherman.  If not that, then get as close to the fisherman on the supply chain as possible.  It makes a huge, huge difference in flavor.

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Power Tool As Dog Toy

Leaf Blower Vs Dog.

I think the dog wins.

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Salad and Sludge

I tried to make salad.  I washed and chopped and peeled making a huge salad of fresh tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers and broccoli.  I spent at least a half an hour slaving over the counter top, figuring out what knife to use to best cut  vine ripe tomatoes without squishing them.  As I peeled and chopped I dumped the extra bits and whatnots into the sink.  The sink had a garbage disposal.

It didn’t like the broccoli.

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It splashed and boiled.  A creature should have been coming out of it.

It was green and gross, kinda sludgy looking, and smelled awful.   After the jumping, and frowning and hemming and hawing, I found Mike.  We have a good marriage.  I make the house pretty, and he fixes the things I break.  It’s normally a pretty good deal because I normally break simple things like vacuum cleaner belts, and only once made the toilet explode.  This time he was definitely holding the short stick.

He went under the sink and twisted wrenches and banged on pipes with only the occasional curse.  I ran to the garage to find whatever tool he randomly called for and kept his beer full.  That’s why the photos kinda suck.  Shoving a real camera in someone’s face when they are battling the lagoon seemed like a bad idea.  The crappy camera phone seemed less jerk like.

Just go with it.

I had just jmped up to sit on the counters when the disposal fell down and a gallon of gross sludge fell all over the bottom of the cabinets.  We rushed to empty the cabinet and clean the “water”.

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Yes.  I may have a bag issue.  They seem useful.  Until coated in a gallon of gross.

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After the excitement had faded and the disposal was fixed, this was left.  Water damage to the cabinet.  I could easily pile the bags back in the cabinet and hide the damage; pretend the whole incident never happened.  I have this theory though – that cabinets get that junky look because too much stuff happens and it isn’t dealt with.  So I dealt with it.  By hiding it, if that makes sense.  I got some wood colored vinyl tiles for 88 cents at a big box store.  They cut easily; you just score with a utility knife and fold.

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Presto.  Nice looking cabinets.  Less bags.

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Foodie Friday: Cake or Death

Sue has abandoned us to go on her honeymoon.  Thankfully, the world is full of food videos.

You’re welcome.

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Home Improvement: Pants Optional

Home improvement isn’t always about DIY around the house.  Sometimes it’s about improving your experience at home.

Take for example my addiction to iced coffee.  I like to blame my addiction on the combination of having grown up in New England and the relentless heat that is consuming the U.S.  The reality is that I love coffee.  The shock of caffeine, the slight bitterness tempered by the yummy smoothness of a touch of almond milk.  The comfort of being reminded of a place where everyone sounds like me and there is a Dunkin Donuts on every corner.  A morning and mid-afternoon cup of coffee reminds me that the world is okay, and that I can focus and helps me to type really really fast.

In the summer, when it’s hot and gross, only iced coffee will do.  Iced coffee has always been mysterious.  You can’t just make hot coffee and add ice because then it’s not iced coffee.  It’s watered down luke warm coffee.  You can’t make regular coffee and out it in the fridge and add ice because it’s a bitter weak form of hell.  Only the folks at Dunkin’s know how to make awesome iced coffee.  But going to Dunkin Donuts every day is running about twenty bucks a week and requires me to put on pants before drinking coffee.  Pants before coffee, unacceptable.

Instead of putting on pants, I opted for a different solution: a Bodum Shin Bistro 8 Cup Coffee Press, (No Cork) 34-Ounce French Press!

French Press

This magical piece of wizardly coffee goodness means that I no longer have to operate heavy machinery – like drive a car – before drinking coffee.  It’s easy.  Like dishwasher safe easy.  All you do is fill up the glass jar with water, add one and a half times of coarsely ground coffee as you would use in hot coffee.  DO NOT PRESS THE FILTER DOWN YET! Let it sit overnight and in the morning, press the filter down.  Pour over ice and sweeten to your hearts content.

Iced Coffee

Home improvement.  And it didn’t even require pants.

PS. There is an affiliated link in this post.  Because textbooks cost money and stuff.

 

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