Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kitchen teaser...

So I had every intention of uploading images of the finished kitchen today when I got to work. Turns out, however, that I never actually TOOK a picture of the finished kitchen.

Instead, here's an image of the floor as it was being laid. Looks insane, right? The final product is fabulous, though.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Booty tomato

At least I think it looks like a butt....
The rest of the harvest is yummy, but not as funny

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kitchen pics, as promised.

You might not be able to tell a lot of difference between the old kitchen wall color and the new one. But I can. It was a sickly yellow, more yellowed with age than intentional. Inspired by the clock, we added a chic avocado color to the walls, which I think tempers the over the top patriotism of a red, white, and blue kitchen.
This is what it looked like when we moved in. Blergh.
Cabinets and Walls painted - much less dingy.
It's much brighter too, given that there isn't a lot of light in the room.

Soon this will be a red,white, and blue kitchen. Tiling is next on the list.
One drawer is still missing (it broke and needs repair), the floor sucks, and we don't have the cup pulls for the drawers yet, but I love it so far. Woohoo for progress!

Monday, July 8, 2013

How has it been a month and a half?!

Good grief. Worst blogger ever. I don't really have a great excuse, other than the fact that not a ton had happened indoors on the house until recently. And I never carry my phone with me anymore (currently it isn't even charged) so I never take pictures of anything. The result is that I don't write posts because they're not very interesting without pics. Or maybe that means I'm a bad writer. I'd tell my students that meant they need to use more descriptive language.

So, I'm going to try catching up on the last two months in two paragraphs; here we go.

Amazing red knobs on white cabinets! I loves them. And having the knobs back on  gives me a place to hang herbs.

Attached to the wall! Like in a normal house!
May was cooler than I anticipated, and I was glad I waited out the warm April before setting out tomato and pepper seedlings. I headed to a friend's wedding in Ohio behind a cheese factory, taught a maymester course every day, and then it was June. In June I went to Sweden for an academic conference; it was beautiful, warm, and I learned a lot about myself from solo travel. We also travelled to a ranch in Colorado for another friend's nuptials. Then I had a week long faculty technology workshop, where I learned a lot about what I was doing wrong in the classroom and how to make it better. No work had happened on the house by the last week in June, but the garden had exploded. No fewer than 100 green tomatoes. Then my parents came to visit! We fixed the squeaky ceiling fan, affixed a duct cover in the hallway after removing the masking tape that held it in place since before we bought the place [Least you think I am admonishing the previous owner, I should share that we detached the tape from the wall, but then just rested it on the floor instead of screwing it to the wall. For a year. And a half.] and tried in vain to fix the vacuum.
This is the dirt and bunny hair collectied from vacuuming just the stairs. Terrifying.

The vacuum should get it's own paragraph, but instead I will say this: it stopped working in April and we didn't buy a new one until last weekend. Let that sink in and then be glad you didn't visit during that period. I will call it "the filth period" at Frayne Street. We also spray painted the cabinet knobs for the kitchen cabinets that I started (and never finished) painting MONTHS ago. They are purty. I was so emboldened by experiencing what it was like to be productive on the house again that we painted the kitchen and all the rest of the cabinets this past holiday weekend. They look great but, as usual, I haven't taken a picture. But I will! And I will post that picture soon(ish).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Some Progress Indoors

It's the time of year when I'm much more concerned with garden projects than indoor projects. However, we have made a little progress. We hung the mantle a while ago, but I never posted a picture.

We also put up the last bits of trim in the dining and living rooms. I need to get my butt in gear to paint the cabinets, but I will wait until next week most likely.

Thriving Yard

Bunch #3 of kale from our raised bed.

Radishes! Don't throw out their tops, do this instead.

Pak Choy, Cabbage, Collards, and lots o' Kale

Not a bug or bite on these leaves! 

The snap peas were stunted from the row cover, so I sucked it up and freed that whole garden bed.

Garlic tops! You could harvest now, but that'd mean less mature garlic later.


Peonies are ready to rock.

And the rhubarb is most undead.

Tomatoes, started from seed, now hardening off before they go in the ground next week.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Custom Wallpaper!

I couldn't find wallpaper I liked, so I decided to commission a toile of my life! You'll recognize the house, the bunny, the garden, the chicken coop, and pittsburgh's downtown. Also included is a fire engine and my busstop in squirrel hill. 

A friend of mine from my Colorado days, who also happens to be a talented illustrator, did the piece. If you are interested in seeing more of his work, I suggest you go to his lovely professional website:

I've sent away for samples from Spoonflower, and if all goes well, I will be ordering wallpaper rolls. Spoonflower also does fabric, decals, and wrapping paper so I could customize my whole life if I feel inclined!

This wallpaper purchase does mean I've broken a rule: I wasn't supposed to start thinking about bedroom or bathroom renovations until I was done with the kitchen. And we are far from done with the kitchen....

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Violet Jelly

Tomato seedlings under the grow light.
I had big plans for today: rent a nail gun from Home Depot, finish the living and dining rooms, (or, you know, quasi-finish), maybe even get going again on the kitchen painting. I sent Alex to grab the nail gun while I made a quick batch of jelly to can and got the yogurt maker going. I was feeling very industrious, but we forgot one key thing.

Today is the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Alex had to drive 15 miles east just to find a place where he could cross Penn Avenue (the main street, located between us and the Home Depot) and even then, couldn't find any road on which he could go back west. Boo.

Still, this was a productive weekend all in all. Yesterday we moved, scrubbed down, disinfected, and reoriented the chicken coop. We transplanted all the tomato seedlings up into bigger pots. They are looking very healthy and happy. Yesterday I made and canned lemon curd. Then we attended the second annual "Food in Our Neighborhoods" event at Chatham. The students do a great job of putting it together, and there is always yummy grub to be had. One woman at the event was selling dandelion jelly and violet jelly, made from wildflowers on her farm. It was gorgeous and delicious, so we bought some at the heart-rending price of 10$ for 4 ounces (!!!!)
Wild violets soaking in the boiling water.
Aren't they gorgeous?
We have dandelions and violets all over the yard, so I got to thinking. How hard would this be to make some of our own.

The answer is, not very.
Blue violet infusion.

Now it's purple once the lemon juice
is added.
Finally it becomes pink with the sugar addition.
I picked 2 cups of violets in the time it took to get our kettle to boil water. You pour 2 cups boiling water over the violets, and let them steep for up to 24 hours. The water is a gorgeous blue color, which is pretty fun.

Then you just make jelly the usual way: lemon juice, sugar, pectin, and heat. The lemon juice changed the color to purple, and because I only have unrefined sugar, the color changed a little more to pink when I added the sweetener.

It's a really subtle flavor. I think it'd work better as a syrup so the violet is more concentrated. I also think squishing the violets more to get more oil out of the petals might work well. Dandelion is a more flavorful flower, so the jelly ends up tasting a lot like honey. We'll try that this week.

They don't look like much now, but it'll
be awesome when it's holding buckets of
potatoes in midsummer.
We also got most of the seed potatoes planted, and indeed, constructed new experimental stacking potato beds from old trim we removed from the living room. Pictures to come, once the vines pop out. Right now it's just a depressing pile of old tires and mud.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ok, it's really, really spring now. For real.

Apple tree still alive, unmarred by deer, and
surrounded by violets.
Yesterday, we harvested the first huge bunch of kale from four plants that we over-wintered. This morning we sautéed some and topped toast with our girls' eggs, local salsa from the CSA, and the kale. Add a side of hash browns made from local taters, and it was a great saturday morning feast.

This does make finding a corner of table on
which to eat breakfast a little tricky.
Most of the herbs I was certain had died are looking great all of a sudden, the strawberry plants look ready to get down to business, and I transplanted a ton of healthy tomato seedlings into larger pots this morning. Yesssssssss!

I also dug out my seed potatoes from the back of the fridge, cut the ones that needed separating, and set them out on newspaper to dry. If all goes well, they'll be in the ground in the next few days.

The kitchen is back in production mode.

But perhaps the most spring-y part of today, is that I did our first round of canning. Huzzah! We had a few of the lemons left that Alex's aunt and uncle sent, and managed 4.5 cups worth. I love this stuff, and I love giving it out to people, which means you can never have enough. The curd is yellowier than I was last time we made it because the girls' eggs are so much more colorful than the ones you get in the store. It's gorgeous.
I finally got little jars!

If you are interested in trying it for yourself, the recipe is below. Adapted from Sheri Brooks Vinton's Put Em Up Cookbook because I like my curd tangier and thicker than her recipe suggests.

1.5 sticks of unsalted organic butter
1 c sugar (preferably raw or unrefined, fair trade and vegetarian)
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs (our girls eggs are a little smaller than the store-bought kind, so I add a 5th sometimes)
1 c lemon juice (from 5-ish organic lemons)
1 T lemon zest (or just whatever comes from the lemons you juiced.)

Combine all in a double boiler, and whisk until it's a custard, around 10 minutes. You can store this in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 weeks, or can in a water bath canner for 10 minutes so it's shelf stable for a year. Yumm-o! If you don't have lemons, limes or oranges would work too.

Friday, May 3, 2013

This is Why We Could Really Use a Farm Truck...

Sucesses and Failures in Local Cooking w Spring Ingredients

We subscribe to a "Cabin Fever" CSA share this year. It gives us a box of goodies from a cooperative of local growers from the beginning of April until the middle of June, which is about the time when our garden will be exploding. It isn't actually enough to keep us fed all week, so supplements from the freezer and our garden are working really well.

It was a slow spring here, so there are very few greens so far, and more value-added products like corn meal, honey, maple syrup, and cheese. This week we got ramps, which I'd never had before. They get a huge thumbs up - filling the taste space between spring onions and garlic. In Appalachia, there are ramp festivals every year heralding the Spring. Ramps used to be poor people food, but now they are trendy, so farmers get 17$ a pound now as opposed to the 2$ they'd get 10 years ago.

I took the local wheat flour we got in the CSA box last week, combined it with salt, yeast, local honey, and water to make the pizza dough, and topped it with some of the last of our homemade tomato paste, local goat gouda cheese, and the sauteed ramps. Was it the best thing I ever tasted? No. But it was pretty doggone yummy!

Sauteed the ramps and their green tops in a little butter.

The local gouda got a rough grate and went onto the pizza

As usual, I never remember to take pics until we've begun eating.

Then yesterday, I decided to use the recipe for a cheesy grit souffle that my CSA posted to their weekly blog. The recipe called for hominy grits, but the CSA suggested I use some of the local cornmeal instead. I added spinach instead of the suggested ramps (all gone), and it looked like a really lovely polenta.

Until I cooked it. I don't have a souffle dish, but the recipe said it needed to bake in the oven in a water bath. I put it in a springform pan, and put that in my largest frying pan filled with water, which then went into the oven. I knew immediately that I'd made a mistake. Some of the water seeped into the springform.

An hour later, I took the thing out and it looked pretty good. It had a nice crust on the top and seemed springy and eggy. The second I unsnapped the Springform though, it all oozed out the sides. Nothing else had become spongey or souffle-like but the top layer. Two hours down the drain.

We did eat it. It was polenta, basically, and a tasty polenta at that. It was also one of the more filling meals I'd ever had. Peasant food gets the job done.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Now We're Getting Somewhere

Things are really moving now. Although a frost over last weekend (while I was in Las Vegas and Alex was in Ohio) did kill our early girl tomato, the rest of the place is looking quite alive. The chickens are so much happier now that they can venture outdoors more. They are also eating less food, which is nice.

This might be my fav - yes, that is our old Christmas tree, sitting behind the blooming azalea. The Azalea also hides our compost pile, so it isn't getting trimmed any time soon.

The peonies are poking out of the ground at the rate of about a foot a week. Buds are forming! I can't wait for the hot pinks and baby pinks to shower our yard.

In the raised beds, we are trying something different this year. Last year our greens were devoured by cabbage worms, and I hated spraying them. Now we're trying row cover to let them get established before we expose them to the little grubs. Water and light still comes through, and a lot of our kale overwintered, so we are only a week or so away from our first harvest!!

Hardy herbs are rocking, despite my refusal to weed them properly.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bunny - Chicken Playdate

While we weeded out the overgrown rose garden this morning, we thought we'd let Winston and the girls meet each other. We set up the pen in the yard, and then brought Winston out first. He was excited, but also a little nervous. Since he's always been a house bunny, I'm not sure he'd ever seen outside before when he wasn't in a carrier.

He ran around, didn't try eating anything, but did scratch a little in the dirt. Then we added the chickens to the mix. I stood guard, in case one of them tried to peck him. To my surprise, he seemed unconcerned about the chickens, but they tried to avoid him as much as possible.

I guess this makes sense -- Winston used to live in a pet store with a cat, dog, guinea pig, hen, and rooster to play with. He's used to other creatures. The chickens, however, freak out when a sparrow finds its way into their pen.

All went peacefully and the chickens, ahem, aerated our yard quick a bit, which they haven't had a chance to do in months.

The Yard is Waking Up!

Plum seedling, now with little buds!
We've already planted a few new seeds in the yard (vit and snap peas), though nothing has come up yet. Well, not nothing. I'm mostly convinced this tiny shoot (below) is vit and not a weed. Mostly.
A weed? Or the first sprout of the season. I vote the later.

But the plum tree has buds, the rhubarb (2 of 3) are emerging from the ground, and our experimental kale overwintered beautifully. Tomorrow I'll do another sprinkling of lettuce and other greens and the season is underway.  We need lots more dirt (maybe delivered?) and two more raised beds built if we want to double our space from last year to this.
Garlic, planted in fall, shooting up in the mulched raised bed.
PS: yes, all those little round bits are Winston's contribution to the garden this year. Bunny poop is the only animal poop you can add directly to the soil. It is nutritious, but not so filled with nitroge that is hurts the plants.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Thinking Ahead - A Year of Our Diet

So I want to preface this post by saying that I have NO PLANS to eat only the food we grow in our yard. But I do like puzzles, so I've compiled a list of what I think we could produce from our yard between April and April if we really pushed it into crazy mode.

The following list is made of things we tried to grow last year or are trying to grow this year. The starred ones worked well.

*Potatoes 2lbs a day x 52 weeks = 104lbs; this year we are trying blue, red, and white. Assuming one of these varieties fails, it's still possible to get 20-30 lbs of potatoes from a single stack.

Cabbage 1 head a week x 52 = 52 heads; this is great for kraut, it lasts a long time in cellar storage, has tons of vitamin C, and our bunny loves it. The big problem we couldn't grow it last year! The cabbage worms ate it, and it didn't get big enough to make a head before the weather turned hot. Plus, it takes up a TON of space.

Broccoli 1 crown a week x 52 = 52 crowns; broccoli freezes really well, which makes it a great option. However, we had the same problem we did with the cabbage. We only netted 2 crowns last year, and that wasn't until late fall. We need to get advice on how to make brassicas happen.

*Spinach AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, ideally 1 lb a week x 52 = 52 lbs; it freezes well, and we eat a lot of it. It grew really well last year, but we only planted like 6 plants. It's a cut and come again plant, but we still ate it all, so couldn't freeze any.

*Lettuce 1 lb a week for 12 weeks = 12lbs; tasty, exciting in spring, but doesn't last well. However, it comes up early, so it's great to interplant with garlic or onions, or can be pulled before the tomatoes are ready to go it.

Vit (Corn Salad) 1lb a week for 24 weeks = 24lbs; this one is new this year, but is endorsed by cold weather gardeners as the only green that truly prefers cold weather.

*Kale AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE; 1 lb a week x 52 weeks = 52 lbs of kale. Freezes well, filled with nutrients essential to vegheads, delicious, and grows in cold weather.

Collards .5lbs a week x 52 weeks = 26 lbs; a nice alternative to Kale, but not quite as healthy.

*Arugula .5lb a week x 12 weeks = 6 lbs; a short season crop, but adds a peppery interest to early salads.

*Carrots 4 a weeks x 52 wks = 208 carrots; Our bunny loves them, and they keep really well (you can even leave them in the ground.) In winter, this would be a staple. Plus there are lots of different varieties and they are really sweet, which would be good since there would be few sweets in this diet.

*Radishes 4 a week x 24 weeks = 96; makes the salads interesting in spring and fall; pickles well.

**Snap/Sugar Peas 1 lb a week x 52 weeks = 52 lbs; best snack food in the world, freezes well. I think this goal would be possible if we gave them enough real estate. The deer decimated our pole beans last year and we still got 10 or so lbs from 2 square feet.

*Edamame 1/4lb a week x 52 weeks = 13lbs; I'd love to have more than this, because they are high in protein, delicious, and there are so many ways to cook them. You can even let them dry on the vine so they keep. Unfortunately, more than about 13 lbs of bean is out of the scope of our yard. In an ideal world, we'd have 2 lbs a week of these or more.

**Green/Wax/Purple Beans 1 lb a week x 52 weeks = 52 lbs; delicious raw or cooked; freezes nicely; substantial enough to be the center of a meal.

*Drying Beans 1/4lb a week x 52 weeks = 13lbs; See edamame entry.

Rutabaga 30; would be handy in winter, but I'd be SO uninterested in summer. They are huge, so one is more than a lb.

Beets 1 lb a week x 52 weeks = 100 beets, roughly. Essential for winter. Also sweet.

*Turnips 1 lb a week x 52 weeks = 150 turnips, roughly. So tasty. Like a better-for-you potato. Lasts almost as well; can be grown quickly in spring and fall.

Corn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE (which isn't a ton.) Ideally 100 ears to eat fresh or freeze, another 20 ears dried for popcorn (we try to grow a variety that can be used for both since we don't have the space for more than one because they have to be 100 feet apart.) = 60 stalks. Last year the stalks mysteriously died when the corn was still tiny, so this could be tough.

**Tomatoes 4 lbs a week x 52 wks = 208 lbs; They grow well, freeze, can be canned, are great for snacking, and are my favorite food. A necessity for chili, enough said. No problem getting this volume. I had 45 lbs of tomatoes from a single plant last year. Yes, it was an aberration, but 25 plants should do this no prob.

**Peppers 5 gallons hot, 10 gallons sweet; I think of peppers in gallons, since that was how I stored them last year. I think this is also viable. 10 sweet bell plants of different varieties, and three hot pepper plants should make this happen.

*Eggplant 10 total; I don't love eggplant and it doesn't store well, but it's a nice break from potatoes.

Garlic a clove a week x 52 weeks = 52 cloves. This would be no prob to grow (I currently have 25 cloves sprouting I think) but it might be a struggle to store in such a way that it lasted all winter. Then again, I could always freeze it minced. Or can in the pressure canner.

Onions 2 a week x 52 weeks = 104 onions. I struggled with onions last year. You have to find the varieties that can grow in the amount of sun you have, and start each little one under a grow light. This year, I'll go with sets.

Cucumbers 50 lbs; fresh eating, pickling, and sauces. We were drowning in cucumbers last year and we had 3 plants. Not a prob.

Sunflower (seeds) 20 lbs; This diet is very low in fat thus far, so seeds would really help with calories. The kind of flower we bought says you can get almost a pound of seeds from a flower, but finding space for 20 sunflowers might be tough. We were thinking at the row ends of the corn.

Squash: 104 lbs; stores well, calorically dense.

Melon: 10 lbs


Rhubarb 10 lbs; a pipe dream for our baby plants, but they are emerging from the ground, so eventually this would be viable.

Asparagus 6 lbs; I think our asparagus crowns are dead, but perhaps not. In any case, this would be essential if only from a psychological perspective if we were growing our own food.

Raspberries 12 pints for jam making, 12 pints for eating and freezing. Not viable from our one sad plant, but eventually if we got them to grow on the edge of the property, would be possible.

*Blueberries 12 pints for eating and freezing for pancakes

Goji berries 2 gallons dried, a few pints fresh. It's a super food, but we only have one plant, so this is already way out of reach.

Wintergreen berries 2 pints, for a nice autumn snack or crumble

Honey berries 12 pints to eat and put in pancakes or jam

Apples 52 lbs. Our 4-variety tree might one day produce this, but that's a long way off. If we get one apple this year, I'm ecstatic.

Plums 20 lbs. They freeze, they make good jam, they are a great snack, and the chickens love them a lot.

Strawberries 4 pints for jam and 12 pints for snacking



Animal Products:

**Eggs 2 a day = roughly 700. This is no prob. In an ideal scenario, we'd each get 2 a day, but that'd mean 2 more chickies.

I was feeling pretty good about this, because I was thinking how much of this stuff we usually eat a week, not considering that we supplement this with bread, cheese, and grains, not to mention processed soy and the like. But when I added it all up, what would our caloric intake look like for a week? Let's just say we'd be very thin.

500 calories from potatoes, 560 from eggs, 400 from other root veggies,  210 lbs from squash, 300 calories from greenbeans or snap beans, 200 from apples, 100 from other fruit and berries, 100 from spinach, 100 from raw greens, 350 from tomatoes, 700 calories dried beans or edamame, 200 other green veggies, 100 cabbage, 400 sunflower seeds, 300 corn = 4520 calories.

Yup, not going to cut it. And the above numbers really stretch the capacity of our yard if we want variety. Good thing the zombie apocalypse isn't here. I think Leningrad under siege was eating about this much, 500 calories a day, and that didn't go well, as we all know.

If we were ever in this situation, we'd use virtually all of the yard for potatoes and green or soy beans. It'd be boring, but we'd do better survival-wise. For us now, this would work well if we could supplement with sugar, flour, quinoa, rice, and dried beans. Which, of course, we can and do.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Of Broody Hens and Pink Mold

Last week we were worried Desi was sick or injured. She wouldn't leave the coop and insisted on sitting in the nesting box all day. Alex and I both had work all day, so we didn't really confirm that anything was really wrong until the following morning, when we found Desi guarding FOUR eggs under her chest. Oh no, a broody hen!

We put ice cubes under her and stole all the eggs. She looked miserable, but didn't budge. Then we isolated her in the run. She flapped around, and tried her best to get back into the coop or rejoin her fellow chickens. I felt like the meanest chicken owner in the world. But 10 hours later, when I tested to see if she was cured, she pried the door to the coop open with her beak (!!!) and went right back to sitting in the nesting box in less than 2 minutes. The poor girl had to sleep outside for 2 nights to cure her motherly inclination. Thankfully it was warm. Yesterday we let her go to bed with the rest of the chickens and, finally, she didn't try to hatch any eggs. Phew!

Broody hens are tricky because they are so single minded. She didn't eat or drink anything unless she was isolated and didn't have anything else to do. If she had access to the nesting box, she'd just have sat there until she died of dehydration, since those eggs will never hatch. Broody hens can also be mean to other chickens, and keep them from getting to the nesting box. Farm wisdom says to cool down their bodies (hence the ice cubes) and isolate them until they forget about egg hatching. The poor girl spent all afternoon out in the rain yesterday since she had to be separated in the pen, and the pen has no roof. She looked like a drowned cat.

We're also struggling with seed starting this spring. The potting mix I bought from Home Depot is the worst. It's like oil -- it doesn't so much mix with water as resist it. So the self watering container isn't doing a lot. The seedlings we started in a different mix have sprouted, but now there is the weird pink mold stuff on the outside of the containers. I need to try to transplant them into larger containers, but I worry that the root system isn't established enough to take that kind of trauma. Le sigh. Worst case scenario is we focus on the direct seed plants the most and buy seedlings for tomatos, peppers, and chard. Worse things have happened.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bunny Room Upgrade

Well the mantle's been constructed and stained for 3 weeks. It hasn't been warm enough to apply the polyurethane one single day since then, so it's languishing in my living room.

We did manage a little house productivity yesterday in the form of removing the chartreuse carpet from the bunny hallway. I liked the carpet a lot, but it was more than 30 years old, and Winston had taken a shine to scratching at it to file down his claws. I didn't care that he was wrecking the carpet, but was a little worried he'd eat the fibers.

So now it's gone, and to our surprise, the floors underneath are perfect. The best floors in the house. Naturally.

We also moved the chest from the attic downstairs as a place to keep all of Winston's bunny plunder. It's a vast improvement, no?

In other news, life is getting slightly less terrible and snow-covered for the chickens, we've started our first round of seeds for spring planting, and I'm hopeful that today might be the first precipitation-less day in more than a month.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The 20 Day Cure [UPDATED x 3]

Apartment Therapy, one of my favorite blogs, does this thing called the January Cure, where willing participants tackle their homes all January long to make them more productive, stylish, clean, and cozy. Each day they are given a different task, the idea being that by February 1st, their homes are more functional and they will have beaten a bit of the winter blues in the process.

My January was whirlwind. Any time not spent working was spent entertaining, doing things I convinced myself were fun, but that were really work, or trying to stay warm in freezing weather. I blogged rarely, cooked rarely, but spent a lot of time snuggling with Winston. And working, did I mention working?

I'd like to do something in the spirit of the January cure, but it's now January 27th. I'd call it the February Cure, but I know myself, and if I don't start today, I won't do it.

For Apartment Therapy's January cure, each day had an assigned task. Again, I know myself, and there are days when cleaning the kitchen sounds awesome (usually when I have work deadlines I should be attending to), and other days when I'd rather eat dirt.  Here is the plan of action. I need to tackle all of them, but not in any real order.

1: Compile a list of all the home projects (small projects, less than a day's work) you'd like to tackle over the next 20 days.
2: Tidy the insides of cabinets, closets and drawers.
3: Tackle papers/filing. (I should have done this before my sister moved in. Now it's nearly impossible.)
4: Spray Paint cabinet knobs red for kitchen. [Explanation: the knobs I want will cost more than 150$, which feels a little extravagant presently. If I can reuse what I have, it'll be better than spending 30$ on cheap plastic versions.]
5: Inventory freezer - come up with list of meals I can easily make and a shopping list for all the stores I visit reguarly.
6: Care for houseplants. Give them a bench, clip dead stuff, discard those that aren't salvageable, and get them out of the way so Winston isn't poisoned.
7: Figure out socks - do all laundry during one day, and discard socks that don't have mates. Or use them as rags. Just get them out of the rotation.
8: Deal with trunk in attic - what is in there? Do we need it? Where should be store it? Once the trunk is empty, put it in Winston's room to be filled w bunny supplies.
9: For the love of all that is holy, finish the trim so you can finally say you're done with the living and dining rooms. (cut and stained. doing polyurethane tomorrow and then nailing monday)
10: Fill the moulding gaps with wood filler.
11: Vacuum and dust attic. Do something about the million electronic cords. (waited too long on this, and Winston escaped to the upstairs and chewed through most of them.) Add proper lighting.
12: Attend to the lighting in the living room. All we have is overhead and it's horrifying. And energy inefficient. And horrifying.
13: Set up a bedside table scenario in our room, including a lamp.
14: Give the stove and oven a good scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar.
15: Bake really lovely whole wheat bread.
16: Make a hard cheese (ideally three - two kinds of cheddar and a parmesan) that need to be aged in cold weather. If not now, when?
17: Have Alex make one kind of cold weather beer.
18: Touch up living room. This means finally scrape the paint the previous owners got on the moulding, scrape the paint I got on the window glass, dust hell wall so it looks less hellish, put foam on the bottom of the couch, which is DESTROYING my floor every time someone plops down in it.
19: Tidy the yard. We still have hornet spray sitting in our window sill. The madness must end.
20: Cook a new meal. Pair it with new wine. Enjoy. (of course I did the fun one first)
21: Make mantle
22: Stain mantle
23: Hang mantle
24: Reorganize plants in dining room
25: Plan 2013-2014 garden
26: Start cold weather seeds (broccoli, kale, cabbage)
27: Create a better grow light scenario
28: Deep clean vacuum
29: Clean sink drains

I will mark through them as I go.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Katie's Kitchen Nightmare (ok. not really.)

No, we haven't finished the trim for the dinning room yet. It's 10 freaking degrees outside. It's 50 degrees inside because our December heating bill was quite a shock. (We had lots of guests and kept the heat above 60 degrees more than usual.)

It's hard to remember what life was like 2 short weekends ago, before the permanent icicles took up residence in the rose bushes, but we actually had a bit of a heat wave. It was 60 degrees. Alex and I ate lunch out on the patio at a new restaurant. And, for the first time in a while, I made some house progress. I knew it'd be warm enough to leave windows open, so I started in on the kitchen project.

Yes, it's breaking my rule about finishing one room before starting another, but my desperation was reaching critical levels. I needed to see dramatic action. And I did!

First step was to clear off everything from the kitchen counters. That's a bigger job than it sounds like, since I don't have enough cabinet room to store dry goods, so they are all out in jars on the counter. At first, the pile of stuff in the dining room looked nice and home-y, like I cook a lot more than I actually do.

But once the appliances entered the picture, things got cluttered and ugly. I have to keep all appliances out on the counter too, since every single shelf in my cabinets is the same height, and there is less than 9 inches between shelves. It's madness. Sheer madness, I tell you!

So then it was down to business. I couldn't be bothered to remove the doors, since it seemed like a lot of work and I wanted the hinges to be white anyway. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The thick, glossy kitchen paint shows every brush stroke, so you have to get every line perfectly straight. On the side with the hinges, that becomes virtually impossible. Furthermore, paint just peels off hinges anyway, so a few weeks later, they are looking quite mangy. I'll have to strip the hardware later or, the more likely option, get over it.

I didn't get to all the cabinets, but I did sand and paint three coats on all the top cabinets, which are the most work anyway. No knobs yet, but I'm going for red.

The room already seems brighter and happier.

I also took the door off the dish cabinet so guests know where to get everything. Serve yourself, that's what I say. 

Next warm day I hope to do a bit more, but frankly, this semester is bananas at work. It took me two good weeks AFTER I took these pictures to post them. Drips still aren't scraped off the range. I'm a mess.