Saturday, January 13, 2018

January Thaw

Hooray! The January thaw hit on Thursday. We still had a foot of snow on the ground and the subzero temperatures of the past month (yes, December felt like February this year) had dried out most of the moisture. Couldn't even make snowballs for Cooper.

Thursday was warm though with a temp of 46F and we started to see some melt-off. The solar water panels started to clear though the solar PV stayed covered. Amazing how the snow clings to those.

Friday was even better - we hit 57F and things really started melting. The PV cleared off, the snow level dropped to 6 inches, and I walked Cooper while wearing a short sleeve shirt. So weird. Unfortunately it also rained like crazy - great for clearing the driveway (we can see gravel now) but disappointing for enjoying the temperature. We did get to open some windows to air out the place and  it made it easy to build the walls in the bathroom since we could leave the bridge door open. That's where we've got the miter saw set up and we got to easily carry boards in and out for trimming.

The temp this morning? 24F and ice raining. *sigh*

Monday, January 8, 2018

Planning the upstairs bathroom

Yup, after 5 years we're finally going to create the upstairs bathroom. It's served us well as a storage space - too well. I had to clear out boxes and boxes of stuff and then figure out where the contents should be permanently stored. One thing about a house with no basement, you have to really curate your "extras" since you have no overflow storage.

Anyway, the bathroom; here are the design thoughts. It's 9 feet by 7.5 feet so lots of square footage to mess about with. I've got an antique sideboard that I got from my Mom way back when - that's going to be turned into the sink cabinet. I've got a salvaged sink that will hopefully fit without too much rigging. If it turns out not to work, then I'll buy this one instead. So that's the sink and associated storage sorted.

The shower (no tub) will be 42"x42". We had that size in our old house and loved it. Large enough not to bump your elbows but small enough to hold in heat. Plus that gives us room for a framed closet on the shared shower wall. Nice! [Kick yourself note: I really should have planned more storage space upstairs. We have clothing storage but no miscellaneous storage for upstairs vacuum, suitcases, etc. This closet hopefully solves that issue but if we'd wanted a tub up there we'd really be screwed.]

There is a vent that sits directly above the wood stove and gets great air flow all winter long. Towel hooks will be installed on that wall and we'll have warm towels every morning! We'll also vent into the closet so that we have an airing cupboard like they do in England.

We've picked out sink faucet, shower controls, lights, and towel bars. The floor tile has been ordered (white penny tiles with a black tiled rug pattern), the materials to build the shower and closet walls have been purchased, we already own the white subway tile for the shower stall, the toilet was installed long ago, and I bought light gray paint for the walls. So we're just waiting for the shower pan to arrive and we can officially start construction. Sounds like a good winter project to me.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It's going to be a...

Many years ago I bought a velvet covered bedroom chair at auction for $5. It had great bones and the upholstery was in good shape. I knew I'd get some good use out of it. And I did. But great use is hard on a chair and it was looking really ratty. So I decided to take it apart and see if I could do something fun with it.
Uncovering those bones
Wool batting
Extremely well constructed 
Now what? 
Let's lower the arms
Much better profile for... 
Cooper's new bed!
Obviously I'm in the process of reupholstering it. I've reattached the arms, inset a plywood base to support a new foam cushion, and added batting to the bottom edges. Next up is strapping to support a back cushion then more batting around the arms and sides. Finally I'll enclose the chair sides and back in dark blue duck canvas and use the plaid wool blankets to cover bottom and back cushions. Assuming I can get Cooper out of it of course...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Loving the snow

Cooper loves getting out in the snow. This time of year our walks are filled with snowballs flying into drifts and skittering down the driveway so she can chase and kill them. And if we're distracted or busy, well she'll just throw them herself.
It's here somewhere... 
I think I got it
There it goes!
Don't let it get away!
Ta dah!
It's mine!
Huh. It's here somewhere...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Kitchen Island

My kitchen has a big island in the middle of it. I designed it with multiple work zones: an antique butcher block forms one corner conveniently near the stove; a marble slab covers the other end for working dough and making candy; a long run of open space provides room to mix ingredients and stage stuff; in the middle are my stand mixer and food processor.  
The end by the stove
The end nearest the table
Supporting part of the worktop is an antique cabinet that used to be in an optometrists office - it was full of old lenses and blanks for making eye glasses when we got it. Chris had to do some woodworking repairs and I had to scrub the heck out of it (it had been stored in a garage for years) but it wasn't in bad shape overall. It had originally been constructed in sections and I chose to utilize only the ones that had stacked drawers (I'm sure we'll find good use for the others, probably in the studio).
The unit with large, deep drawers supports the side nearest the sink and has baking pans and food processor supplies. 
Wow, do I need to paint that kick board!
The other drawers hold similar stuff
The unit with shallow drawers sits on the side nearest the refrigerator and is full of baking tools and supplies.  
Yup, that kick board needs paint too.
Before anyone says there is no way those drawers will stay that organized, yes, they will. I've had them like this for well over a year. You just need the luxury of space. An overriding goal in this kitchen design was to have enough space to not stack or jumble things. These drawers (and many of the other drawers in the kitchen) are shallow (3" or so) so I can fit more of them into a standard cupboard space. More drawers = less jumbled mess.
I can always find my measuring spoons
Chris made the worktop by joining some ash boards that we picked up at auction. Originally I was going to use maple from the property but the grain on these was just too good to pass up.
Custom fitting the new top 
One corner of the worktop was supported by shelving that had consisted of 2x4s and plywood for the last few years. I wanted something much prettier so got some old sewing table legs. These things were nasty - rusted, pitted, and no table attached at all. Just two legs left outside for who knows how long. I scrubbed them, scraped them, sanded them, and painted them. And they look awesome!
The restored antique sewing table legs
What it's replacing (and look at that grain!)
In place and ready to fill
Love the pop of red 
Four shelves of wonderful: shallow top shelf for electronic scale and a cutting board; next shelf for sugars, choc chip jar; then mixing bowls; bottom for flour (yes, I have five bins of different flours down there - don't judge). Everything is easy to grab as I'm mixing and just as easy to put away despite messy fingers. 
Probably should have pushed back the dog food bucket...
Chris didn't care for the simple maple blocks that we had supporting the worktop so he carved some new ones.
Chris getting cute with the worktop supports
So now the island is finished and it's functioning beautifully. I can easily move the mixer and food processor to a side counter (or even to my workroom) when we host dinners so that space is available for a buffet. And it creates a nice gathering area in the kitchen - plenty of room to move around it while still providing access to food, drink, and tools. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My turn at pottery class

Chris had such a great time at his pottery class that we bought a kick wheel so we could turn at home. It quickly became apparent that I could benefit from some formal instruction as well, so I signed up at the studio for a beginner's wheel class. 

Looks like a bowl to me...
I learned an amazing amount and I'm proud to say that the quality of my items improved dramatically as class went on (in large part because Taylor, our instructor, was great). If anyone is interested in a pottery class I can't recommend Saratoga Clay Arts Center highly enough (no sponsorship, just loved the studio). And if you turn or hand-build at home but don't have a kiln, they charge for firing by the piece.

These pieces have been trimmed and bisque kilned, just waiting for glazing.
Salt pig, succulent planter, dram tumbler
Glazing was a bit overwhelming. There is a huge wall of example tiles and an amazing number of glazes available to you. Taylor warned us to keep good notes on what glazes we used so we'd be able to decide what we liked on the finished pieces. Why would that be important? Because the glaze goes on looking totally different from the color/finish it becomes after firing. All the reds on the pieces below? Some were black. Some were purple. Some were, indeed, red.
Trying to keep track of what glazes went where
I took good notes but ultimately too many of my pieces were basically the same shape (wine coaster, dram tumbler, ring bowl) and it was hard to match them up to the list. Next time I'll take a photo of the raw pieces and write my glazing choices right on the page (learned this from one of the more experienced potters; she keeps a binder of her work). No matter what though, realize that glazing is truly an art and you're never positive what you'll get. Much depends on where it's placed in the kiln and how the heat impacts the glaze. One time it might look one way, another time, quite different.
Some(!) of the haul
I did many wine bottle coasters and ring bowls for the family for Christmas and you want a nice smooth bottom so they don't scratch the table.  The glaze can leave some slightly sharp edges so you use sandpaper or a sanding disk to smooth them. It's really more a polish than a true sanding.
Smoothing the bottoms
In all, it was a great class and I had a lot of fun. I've still got a lot to learn and I definitely need to improve my technique but Chris and I will have a great time figuring it all out on our own wheel. Now we just have to get it set up in the studio.

Oh - and remember that red and green salt pig above? Yup, black and green now. And look at the garlic roaster! It was pale and uniform - now purple and two tone.
Garlic roaster, tumblers, salt pig, bowl, coasters

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to all

Oh Christmas Tree 
Oh Christmas Tree
How lovely
are thy
Merry Christmas