Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cat, 3AM, I'm sensing a theme...

The cat hasn't exactly embraced the new dog. However, she is starting to spend time in the same room with her (although usually from a high perch). This morning TB'D decided that I'd slept long enough and we went downstairs to tend the fire. Cooper came along, as she usually does, but this time the cat tolerated it. Not only tolerated it, but came to sit on my lap for a good petting session. This is a Thanksgiving miracle!

Since I was up anyway, I got a jump start on my Thanksgiving prep work. I like to dismember the turkey before roasting and it's always a treat to see me wrestle a 15 pound bird around. Fortunately Chris was still asleep so there aren't any pictures. But the bird has been parted out, seasoned, and the leftovers thrown in a pot for the gravy. I've just finished drying the bread for Mom's stuffing and I've got the breast in the oven to get a jump start on the roasting process. Sautéed green beans with garlic and lemon as our main veggie. I save the mashed taters and sweet potato casserole for day two rather than overfilling the plates on the Big Day.

Looks like we'll be eating around 2 today. Will finish just in time to watch some football!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours - I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Making Wreaths

It was time to make the holiday wreaths and I spent a week gathering materials on my walks around the woods. Birch bark, hemlock branches, pine branches, moss, tree fungus, pine cones and whatever this stuff is.

They look like little woo-ville trees
This is my snazzy walking attire - we're very stylish in the woods.
You can't see my bear face hat. Awww.
The family arrived and we all started pulling materials together outside. Much hilarity ensued as there were very few people who actually knew what they heck they were doing (I was not one of them).
Deciding on critical supplies
It's amazing how quickly the bucket of boughs was picked over.
Cooper liked my nephew. Maybe because he was her height.

My brother's first attempt. They got better.

My SIL tries to stay warm with down vest and lots of coffee

Cooper helps carry a branch
The day was sunny and in the high 30s but once the wind picked up we decided to move assembly inside. Besides, this way we were closer to the food.

Lots of materials
The house performed like a dream - lots of room to move around, work on stuff, visit, get food, and just enjoy the space and company.

Next time I'll clear off the FP and mixer. Live and learn.
The wood stove was cranking out the heat -  most of us ended up in shirtsleeves.

Some us were even in short sleeves. 

My dumpster dive - an old sled brought back to life
In the end we all ended up with at least one porch decoration and had a great time doing it. I'm thinking this should become an annual event!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another door installed

We put up the bathroom barn door in September (see this post) but put other things ahead of installing the matching pantry door. Well it was finally time to get it done. And it's amazing how much easier it is installing the second of anything. We'd already learned all the weirdness and got it done in about an hour. Nice!

Bath door on left, pantry door jam on right. Ignore the door against the wall - that's actually to be used upstairs.
Chris trimmed the door, installed the hanger hardware, and drilled the wall pilot holes.

Drilling the door
Then we slid the door on the rail and screwed the rail hangers to the wall.


Some really neat features of these doors: they're out of the Albany county courthouse, are solid oak, and weigh about 75 pounds each; we sorted through about 20 doors to find two we liked; the bathroom door says "Private", the pantry door says "Director of Finance", and they are numbered 103 and 104. Totally a coincidence as they weren't stacked next to each other and we didn't even notice the numbering (it's very faded) until someone pointed it out to us.

I love serendipitous stuff like that!

The area between the two doors will be a closet cupboard so about four inches of door and the entire back portion of the rail will be hidden. So the doors will look sort of like pocket doors once the closet is built.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Railings, lights, and other necessary stuff

We've been pushing to get a bunch of necessary stuff done before the weather gets too bad. The final electric needed to be finished, railings and guard rails had to be installed, and the porch needed yet another reorganization so we could fit the car in the car port. Eventually the porch will be completely clear and oh! how I long for that day. Spring expectations are high.

The electrical work was to be done by our wonderful electrician so we thought we'd be able to work on other things while he finished installing lights, outlets and switches, and one outdoor fan. Unfortunately the lights we bought didn't fully cover the standard fixture mount and Chris had to drill out and chisel boards for all of the exterior wall lights. All while trying not to slow down our electrician. Took two days but it all got done.

Then we started on railings. I wanted to use hog panels like these but the gap in the upper segments was greater than 4 inches - a code no-no. So instead we bought Sheep panels - their gaps are just under 4 inches and square as opposed to rectangular. I was nervous that I wouldn't like the look as much but they pretty much disappear from sight. 
Nearly invisible sheep panel
We put them up temporarily just so we wouldn't have a drop off the Bridge anymore. Plus I wanted to see how they looked and functioned before we pretty them up next Spring (again with the expectations).
Not pretty but safe
We also put up a stairwell banister and a section of panel at the stair landing. The banister is galvanized metal and I'll need to paint it black when weather permits (Spring!). 

Installing the railing
The sheep panel at the landing is also temporary. Again I want to live with it for a bit so I can decide what design changes to make. This may end up becoming a half wall with bookshelf instead of an open panel. Not sure yet. 
We didn't even bother snipping it to fit.
But that's the beauty of doing stuff yourself - you can try it out and see what you like before committing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More kitchen progress

We have an old cabinet out of an optometrist's office. It has many drawers, an oak top, and is full of leftover lenses and prisms. It is also 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. I wanted it as a kitchen island but those dimensions weren't going to work. So Chris took a look at the way it was built and discovered something pretty cool - although the piece is definitely crafted (complete with dovetails and pencil notes from the craftsman), it was also designed in pieces. This woodshop must have specialized in cabinetry for stores and had a stock of drawer cabinets, shelf cabinets, tops, etc. Because it disassembled quite easily and we were able to choose the pieces that I wanted in the kitchen.

I was using a folding table that was 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. Here's a reminder shot of that table and a gratuitous picture of Cooper trying to make friends with the cat. She's decided that maybe if she lays down and croons at the cat then T'BD might play. Look at the cat's ears - she's having none of it.
Cooper tries to befriend the cat
Anyway. The cabinets separated into three sections, two drawer and one cupboard. We eliminated the cupboard and put the two drawer sections back to back. That gave me unit 4 feet wide and 3 feet long. 

Then I started cleaning. Murphy's Oil Soap on the exterior and bleach sheets on inside. This cabinet had been in various garages and storage units for years before we got hold of it. Lots of dirt and spider gunk had accumulated in the drawers. Yuck.
Desperately needed cleaning
While I was cleaning, Chris was figuring out how to support a temporary top. We didn't want to cut down the oak top until I was sure I liked the dimensions. So we bought a high grade sheet of plywood and cut it to fit.

One of the great things about building something like this yourself is you get to fit it to your needs. I'm short and most countertops are uncomfortably high for me to work on. So we designed this to suit me. Which is hilarious when my father or brother try to do anything at it as they are both over 6 feet tall. The good news is that if anyone in the future wants it taller all they have to do is add feet. Easy.
Figuring out the top
The drawer units were the right width but only 3 feet in length. I wanted 6. I've got a piece of bakery marble that is 2 feet and is destined for the end of the island closest to the stove. Since I'm not sure what I want under it as a support we decided to hold off installing it just yet. So we cut the plywood to 6 feet and left overhangs on each end. Chris added extra support on the end closest to the dining room table as that was deeper and we didn't want the top to sag.
From the right
The gap between the dining table's end chair (not shown) and the island was a bit tight so we cut an additional 4 inches off the top's length. Still plenty big for work space but a bit more walking room. Amazing what a difference that 4 inches made.
From the left
I oiled the top to protect it and now I'm going to live with it for a while to see if it's right. The right size, the right overhang, the right configuration underneath (I've already decided to shift things a bit). When I'm sure it's what I want, Chris will do the finish work to incorporate the marble, install the permanent oak top, and build out the shelving/cabinetry underneath.

In the meantime, I'm using it and loving every minute.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


It was time to put on the gutters. We decided to go with professionally installed seamless gutters rather than going the DIY route for several reasons: 1. seamless gutters don't leak; 2. the price was very close between the parts for DIY and the cost of installed; 3. getting them installed meant we could work on other things while these guys got to stand around in the cold; and 4. most importantly to me, we could get black commercial grade 6" gutters from the professionals but couldn't get them for DIY.

They came late in the day and I was worried they wouldn't get done before dark. No need - these guys were quick!
Extruding the gutter
The house is 64 feet long (including the garage). 

Very long gutter - no seams.
Once it was fully extruded they attached supports every foot.

Gutter supports
Then they positioned the ladders and lifted the gutter into place.
This is where the black paid off - the gutter is invisible against the black trim board. Those things on top of the metal roof are snow guards. They keep snow from sliding off the roof in one big sheet. Instead it melts slowly and drips into the gutters - as opposed to ripping the gutters off in a rooftop avalanche.

Gutter in place. Honest.
You can see the downspout and then it disappears against the black porch support. Nice and unobtrusive. 

We wanted to do a rain chain on one side so they cut a hole where the downspout would normally be. They pour water into the gutter to make sure it drains properly. Makes it messy when cutting the downspout holes though.

Hole in process. Water is flowing out.
We had to dig ditches for the water drainage hose. It runs to daylight and then down the hill.

Fortunately all this was previously dug so we didn't hit any big rocks. This was one of the warmest days we've had this fall. Sunny, warm, and no wind. Perfect for getting in a late autumn project.
Digging up the yard. Again.
At some point we plan to plant grass but I'm so glad we waited to do so. At least it doesn't hurt so much when you rip up the yard. 
Rain chain
We partially buried an old enameled wash tub and filled it with rocks. In the picture above you can see the drainage pipe leading up to the tub; Chris punched a hole in the side of the tub so he could plumb it.

What is supposed to happen with a rain chain is that water flows down it and splashes delightfully, creating a prism of water. Sounds wonderfully romantic, doesn't it?

What actually happened (it rained yesterday) is that leaves got caught in the gutter and redirected the water so very little actually flowed down the chain. We need a way to force water down the first few inches so that it catches the chain better. We're going to tackle that problem soon. In the meantime, the sun hitting the chain is pretty and I'm already planning what I'm going to hang from it. Terra cotta pots this summer and maybe metal pots or watering cans for winter. Hmmm, not sure.