Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kitchen Demolition

Our kitchen renovation began in the middle of August.  It's exciting!  And messy.  And inconvenient.  But it will be beautiful!  Just not at the moment.  Want to see pictures?  Of course you do.

Here is the kitchen from a few angles the last night before it got torn up.  (If you are thinking "But that looks nice!  Why would you gut it?" please review exhibits A through, oh, let's say Q, here.)
looking from the breakfast nook
from the windows

from the sink looking back at the breakfast nook

And here is everything in stages getting all torn up.  The floor had to go, the ceiling became a mess of holes awaiting can lights, etc.

At this stage you could see between the floor boards which was a little unnerving.  I was impressed that the workmen thought to go into the basement and put tarps over everything down there.

tarps in the basement

The family room, which is the path from the back hall to the back door, was turned into a bubble tunnel for a few weeks.  There were poles supporting big sheets of plastic with zippers in them so we could still access the space on either side of the tunnel.  Watching the TV on movie nights in the bubble got really warm.  The other bubble had the vent with the air conditioning, so that one was cold.  When they finished all the really messy work they took the bubble tunnel down.  We don't miss it.
We were excited to watch the installation of the new stove vent!  During part of that work someone caught that something in the plumbing from the bathroom above was leaking, so we had to have the plumber come in and address that to prevent future disasters, so that was an unexpected expense, but better that now than bigger problems later.
 New floors awaiting installation!  Maple to match the rest of the house.
In the meantime all the things in the kitchen that we can't really use are in the basement.  I did most of that while the rest of the family was at the cottage in July.  It was a good chance to see what we had and what we didn't need and I took about five bags of things to Goodwill.  I'm not planning on putting anything in the new kitchen that we don't actively use.
We're replacing all the appliances, but plan to keep the old refrigerator in the basement for things like holiday overflow and making birthday cakes.  (The new fridge will have the freezer on the bottom--which is nice now that everyone is tall enough to reach things and not have to bend down to use the fridge, but we need the easier access shelves in the old freezer for better carving and frosting of elaborate cakes.)  In the meantime the old fridge is living in the back hall just outside the basement door, so we still have access to eggs and milk, etc.

The rest of the food and dishware that we still use is all in the dining room on temporary shelves.
We're getting by okay with just the microwave and the toaster to heat things.  The kids have discovered Eggo waffles and figured out all kinds of recipes in mugs.  Aden even once made a good banana bread on her own in the microwave!

But the problem isn't cooking.  It's cleaning.  We grill when we can, and we are clever enough we could probably eat much like we normally do.  In fact, one of the kids said she missed spinach quiche, so Ian put one together and baked it in the oven in the studio at the violin store before the teacher back there arrived.  But no kitchen sink is a problem.  The two tiny bathroom sinks are not easy to wash anything in.  We bought plastic bowls after Quinn accidentally broke a ceramic one while washing it in the downstairs bathroom.  And we've already had one clog when too much food went down the drain at one point.  Plus we miss easier access to drinking water.  We try to keep water bottles filled up to carry around, but it's awkward.  When you're at home you want to just be able to pop into the kitchen for a glass of water if you're thirsty and it's odd to not be able to do that.

At least we're all out of the habit of starting to go in there when we need something.  For a couple of weeks anytime we needed a fork or a cup we kept walking into the kitchen only to feel silly.

Anyway, drywall is up, things are painted, cabinets are installed and just awaiting trim.  It's looking more like a kitchen again.  We have to wait at least a couple of weeks for the new counter tops, and there is still woodwork to do and a new window to install, etc.  We're looking at another month before it's finished.

Can't wait!  In the meantime the kids I occasionally stand in the new space and discuss what will go where when it's time to more things back in.  And we dream about what we will cook.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Toys of Yesteryear

There is a lot to write about lately, but very little time.  I want to tell you about the kitchen renovation, the annoyance of living without a kitchen in a house with five people, how we started Halloween costumes early, school, cool things we've seen, thoughts on life and the world....  But in the small window for blogging I have available this morning I'm going with Tinker Toys.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Health Update: Limbo

Enough people have asked me about my medical situation that I feel I should just post another health update.  Anyone who reads this blog for posts about violin making or parenting or cakes and feels this is too much information, please read this, or this, or this instead, and I'll meet you at the kitchen remodel post soon.

To recap, I've been struggling with granulomatous mastitis for over a year.  It may be gone, but it's hard to tell.  I have been on and off steroids since December.  When I went off them the first time a few months ago I thought we were done, but then my breast started to flare up and hurt again, so back on them I went, and at a higher dosage for longer than the first time.  The steroids weren't pleasant but they did the trick.  I'm off them now and hoping this time it's for good.  Generally people with this condition suffer it for about a year to a year and a half before it burns itself out, and it's been a year and two months, so maybe I can start really healing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Custer, Jewel Cave, and the Badlands (and more)

Life is just rolling along and there is much to write about, but I need to get down the last of our trip from the beginning of August before it all fades away.  So this is the overview (with lots of pictures).

After leaving Yellowstone we stopped at the battlefield site of "Custer's Last Stand" in South Dakota.  It's not a place I would have thought to stop on my own, but Ian being a Lt Colonel in the Army is fascinated by such historical sites and his insight always brings them alive.  It's kind of amazing to stand in such a place and try to picture what people on both sides saw in that landscape as things unfolded. 

The area is beautiful but looks like an unforgiving place to live.  The memorial and graveyard are in an official park service space, but the larger drive you can do to follow the historical markers are on someone's private land.  It was a hot day and this was a relatively small stop so I was glad to do most of it in the car, but we did get out and look around periodically as Ian told us the story of the battle from various vantage points.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Our first night in Yellowstone we were mostly just excited to finally be there, and happy to have real toilets and sinks in bathrooms that were a convenient walk from our tent.  We stayed in the Bay Bridge campground toward the middle of the park near the lake.
It was really crowded and busy compared to the National Forest site we'd used in Wyoming--like a camping town.  It was really smokey, too, which surprised us since fire danger was listed as high everywhere we'd been, but the campsites all had lined, sunken fire pits, and I guess it was considered safe there.  Everyone seemed to have a fire going but us that night.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Devil's Tower

After a day in Minnesota we got on the road early and started heading for our campsite in Wyoming, so it was an entire day of crossing all of South Dakota.

This is a good moment to mention again what good travelers my kids are.  They are no problem ever on a long drive.  It's almost spooky how good they are in the car.  They hunker down with their own projects and are happy, and they let me read to them for hours on end.  (This trip we finished reading Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Black Stallion.)

This was my kids' first trip west of the Mississippi that they are old enough to remember, and certainly their first time driving across the Great Plains or into the Rockies.  They were amazed at how different the landscape was, how dry and vast.  It was interesting to spend the first part of the day making our way across Minnesota which feels almost tropical by comparison to South Dakota.

South Dakota also means Wall Drug, which I'd seen the billion signs for on other trips but never stopped in.  Now seemed the time, and I'm glad we went!  It's souvenir heaven, and Quinn was able to stock up on state magnets for his collection, I got a fossil and some salt and pepper shakers, Aden got a necklace and some shot glasses, and Mona found the coolest mug ever.  (I'm glad it survived the trip.  We tried to keep it safe in the box with our Mold-A-Ramas.)  We were able to sit down for an early dinner, admire all the weirdness, and refill our water bottles.
Aden on a jackalope

Mona's mug of awesomeness

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mold-A-Ramas at Como Park Zoo

The first stop on our camping vacation was with family in Minnesota, and we were finally able to check the Como Park Zoo in St Paul off our Mold-A-Rama list.  There are not many places left on that list at this point, so our Mold-A-Rama updates are becoming few and far between.  The last big place is San Antonio Zoo, and then there is a car museum north of Chicago, a bar in Chicago, and a record studio in Nashville.  In the meantime the collection on our mantle is up to 146.

Como Park Zoo has four machines.  We got (yet another) waving gorilla, a (blue!) polar bear, a seal, and a tiny lion.  The lion mold is new for us--we've never seen one that small, and we really like it!