Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kitchen is coming together

Spouse built me shelves.
A few months ago I posted about some decorating ideas. This included building some shelves in the pantry as well as getting some counter space. Well my wonderful husband has shown himself to be a wonderful carpenter as well. Here is the reveal on the pantry shelves he built and installed as a Christmas present. He worked through the night for several nights and ALL Christmas eve, so his camera work isn't exactly the greatest. But you get to see both the pantry and the island

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Well, the deleading is finally underway. We're required to be out so are staying with friends nearby, which  is the best thing that has happened with this whole thing. We're all together, even the cat, with plenty of room, kitchen and even closer to the T than our house is. Still, I want my house back soon.

When we do get to move back, which, if we're lucky will be next Monday, it will be like moving in all over again. We had to move out as much as we could so our shed and basement are full of packed books, clothes, food, furniture, etc. Everything left in the house was put into the center of rooms and covered with thick plastic to keep them dust-free during the work. Once we are back we will finally be able to begin painting and really unpacking. Only six months after buying the place!

Spouse wants to take thing slowly, and I think I agree (although also want it all done NOW). My first room to attack will be the kitchen. We still need to move the cupboards up but once they are off the wall to begin with then we can paint the walls. When I do that, Spouse can finish the counter workspace and shelves he's making for me.  Then pantry shelves, another counter, paint the dining room, bookcases, ... Ugh! Well, at least the lead will be gone.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Bread

So I made this today. It's a no kneed recipe I found online that I made with sourdough instead of dry yeast.  t came out very nice but the flavour is a bit too sour for Spouse (who said it tastes like snot.) the Sprog and I like it though.

I'm not giving up on the recipe though and will do the next batch with honey in the dough. I think the child is old enough now for honey, plus it will be baked so it's not like she'll be eating it straight.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kitchen table

So I made a table.

We really needed a kitchen table, in addition to other things in there that will be coming later, and Spouse and I disagreed on they style. I wanted a formica '50s jobbie like I used to have years ago and he preferred a farmhouse style. The ones I like, however, are rather expensive. So I went with farmhouse and decided to make it myself.

I found the Ana White site, which has TONS of plans of every level. The Narrow Farmhouse Table was the style I was looking for, but not the size. Fortunately the plans are very clear and I was able to alter it to make the table the size I needed.

table legs and apron
I decided to go for a cheaper wood for the bottom of the table and paint it. My main concern was just that it be sturdy so I went for poplar. In retrosepct, I think I should have gone for something heavier as the table top is oak which is incredibly heavy. All the planks were purchsed in standard widths and cut to the right length at Home Depot. That saved me a lot of time and probably kept me from making a complete dog's breakfast of the project.

The legs are supposed to be tapered and since Home Depot doesn't do custom cuts, I did have some actuall cutting to do. Fortunately, I have a circular saw. Unfortunately, I'm afraid of it. Or rather I was afraid of it! Eight cuts later I think I finally got the hang of it! (If we discount the mistake in cutting the support planks)

Starting to look like a table!
After the bottom was put together wth glue, screws and nails (many thanks to Spouse for doing all the nails!)  it was time to get the oak plans on. They're mounted with glue and screws to the apron and with some more to a single support plank the middle underneath. All the countersunk screws were then covered with wood fill and it all left over night.

I should probably clarify the actual time on this. I started the table on a Sunday with buying and cutting the wood and getting the base together. Monday after work I cut the support and did some more sanding. Wednesday was getting the top on and Thursday was sanding and finishing.  The entire project wasn't that long but as I was doing it in small chuncks between getting home and having dinner it did take a while.

So last night was finish night! After some sanding, and I really should have sanded the legs more, but I think they'll be fine, I painted the bottom Mid-Century White. I wanted the top stained but really don't like working with traditional stain. I searched around online and found it is indeed possible to stain with tea! So the top is stained with a very strong tea reduction. It will be sealed soon with an oil and bee's wax mix, also home made.

Things I would do differently:
The next table I make will have more similar wood top and bottom, at least by weight.
I'd like to try pocket holes for the screws to really hide them and make it look professional.
In addition to making my own stain, I'd like to try making my own paint as well. I think a home made milk paint, which will develop a patina over time, would be very nice with the farmhouse style.

So, there's my table. The next kitchen project will be a kitchen island to be used in lieu of counter and cabinets in a vacent corner. This one will be Spouse's project but I know I'll at least be making the stain again, if not horning in a bit on the contruction.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Finally finished!

Just a quick update on the sweater. Finished it last night but it gapped a bit in the middle so I added a few button this morning. Blurry tablet photo taken just before the wee one woke up (in time to test it out!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Froggy Day

Well I did finally finish my nursing top only to find the neckline was VERY baggy. When I increased the front I didn't tak into accont that my shoulders are obviously slimmer than my chest. So collar has been removed and I'm frogging down a few rows to take that part in a bit.

On the plus side, I've already woven in lots of ends and finished the short sleeves. I may decide when this part is actually finished to make some attachable long sleeves to get more varried use out of it too. But for now, just getting it to fit as is is the priority.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sunday Donuts

Cutting the donuts
Last weekend the folks were in town to help stepsis and brother-in-law move. I had the urge to make some donuts as a nice Sunday treat and to use the donut cutter I bought a few weeks ago at Streamline Antiques in Lower Mills. The results were wonderful so I decided this Sunday should be a repeat for just our little household.

I recently decided to cultivate a nice sourdough starter and use that in lieu of any dry yeast in recipes. Rather than trying to catch wild yeast or let yeast go wild, I opted for the easy route and just bought some from King Arthur Flour. The starter has been living nicely in the fridge and made a great start to these donuts.

Mr. Donut rising
The base recipe, and the one I used for the family was this one I found online. The base recipe is lovely but I decided to mix it up this week and do banana donuts. I pureed a banana in the blender then added the rest of the wet ingredients. To make up for the extra moisture I rounded the measures for the flour and leavenings. Still, the dough was pretty sticky.

Deep fried goodness
Since I didn't have anyone watching the baby this morning (Spouse was still asleep), I tended to overcook these a bit.. It made them a bit crunchy, but I didn't feel they are overly heavy, which was nice, especially since 1/4 of the flour (and 100% of the flour in the sourdough starter) was whole wheat.
Child in motion, victorious with donut

Draining donuts. Cup of tea
The original idea was to dust the donuts with maple sugar. I boiled down some syrup and beat it until a bit creamy. When it cooled it was soli but it still had too high a moisture content to really work. So I just added a bit more syrup, some water and heated it all up until it was liquid again and made a maple glaze. Not a bad compromise at all!

This recipe is almost too easy. Fortunately I have friends nearby I was able to unload a half dozen of these on but that still left us A LOT and we had no problem scarfing them down. As the occasional treat though it's not that bad. And I like being able to provide a special something on the weekend. It helps make the house, even in the disarray we are still living in (still waiting on lead abatement), feel more like a home.

Stealing daddy's breakfast

A donut hole of one's own

Thursday, August 09, 2012

On the Sticks

Our new house is much closer to the T station than our apartment was, but it is further out on the red line. This gives me a much longer ride and I've been taking the opportunity to get more knitting in. It's hard to knit at home with a active near-toddler so the commute is really the best time I have.

Peek-A-Boob halter
Never going to work for me
Since I not only nurse my daughter but also pump milk at work, I find I have to be mindful of what I wear all the time so that I can have access. With that in mind, I decided to make a nursing sweater. does have a pattern for a nursing halter, but while it looks nice, it's not going to offer me any support (I am MUCH more generously endowed than the model) so I had to think of something else.  I like the idea of something I could lift rather than pull down so decided to work something up myself.

sweater in progress
Work in progress
Knitty had a pattern for a very easy pullover called Tempting that gave me an idea. The eyelet holes at the top might just work  as a decorative edge for somthing that lifts up from the middle. I decided to use this pattern for the bottom and add the eyelets halfway. I also bound off the front half and then continued the top using the pattern for Tempting II. Pardon the stained office carpet, but you can see here how the two peices are put together with a gap in the front. The ribbon will be thread in the middle, tying the top half down. I may add a discreet button or two as well to make sure it stays in place. I then need only untie the ribbon, lift and nurse!

Hopefuly once I finish and weave in ALLLL the ends the humidity will drop and I'll have a chance to wear it. It actually knit up fairly quickly so I may even try another one to add to my autumn wardrobe. Now if only I could get a sewing room together at home I could try for some skirts or trousers to complete the look.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This lead abatement issue has me thinking even more about decorating the house. Even if we can get one of the abatement loans, this will still be costly so making it nice again will have to take some time, working on it on an as and when we can afford it basis. That said, there is so much I want to do, from simple painting to more complex construction.

On the simple end, there is a triangular bit of wall under the stairs that cries out for something, but I don't think framed art will do. Solution: chalkboard paint! I see no reason to discourage my child from drawing on walls, but this will keep that impulse a bit controlled and still be fun for all of us. Spouse and I could even use the upper portions for notes to each other.

Now of course we wanted to repaint the rooms as well but I think I'd like to add a little bit extra. I think picture rails along the walls, perhaps with a different paint color (or preferably wallpaper) above the rails would look lovely. It's a Victorian look, much like this amazing Brooklyn brownstone, but by using a paint on the lower portion, and a lighter colored wood we can update it and make it our own.

On the construction front, we still have pantry shelves that need building. The style will be like these Williams Sonoma shelves, but Spouse wants to do them in maple or oak. They will be fitted into our small pantry space. Right now we have two book cases in there and there is just not enough shelf space for the food let alone small appliances that don't get used every day such as the food processor or the rice cooker.

Still in the kitchen, our cabinets are far too low. Right now we just slide the dish drainer under them but then the cabinets block off access to half of the rack! We also need counter space and have even had the stove moved (along with the gas pipe moved) slightly so give space for a counter with drawer and cabinet under it next to the stove, plus space for the same on either side of the sink.

Just thinking about the work involved with the kitchen alone (I may try to convince Spouse to hire someone) make my latest idea of a mantle with hat hooks and shoe shelves by the entry way seem easy! Realistically though I know I just need to concentrate on getting the lead out, but dreaming of a shiny new living space is the one thing keeping me from pulling my hair out over everything we're going through now.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

That phrase sums up our home owning experience right now. We bought a house with little work other than some cosmetic things to be done and now find ourselves facing a very large bill with lots of hassle and work on our part, not to mention the health issues already there.

Lead. The house is full of it.

Most houses of this age still have lead paint in them. This is pretty much a given here in Boston, and might not have been a problem here had we really been aware of it (no we have no statements from the previous owners on the lead issue) and had been able to make sure we were dusting and mopping daily and making sure every crack was covered. But we weren't and we didn't and now Sprog has high lead levels, the cat surely must (he will be the next to be checked and treated) and the city has inspected and given us an order to delead.

Most of the lead seems to be doors, walls and trim, which means paint removal. That's considered high-risk (although removing lead coated windows is somehow a lower risk) which means we have to hire someone to do it. Oh and we have to pack up all our stuff we've just unpacked and move out. Thinking about it makes me want to cry. Again.

I could go into the other issues such as the electrics need sorting, the dampness in the basement, even the simple need for more counter space in the kitchen, but that all has to take a back seat to the lead issue since the clock is ticking on that. Oh, didn't I mention the city gives you deadlines to get this done? Yeah, fun. Not included in the time is what is needed to really understand the report. They do give you time to get financing, but oddly they expect you to do that before getting a contractor. Personally I'd like to know how much it will cost before I mortgage my soul (all I have to bargain with since they house doesn't have the equity) to pay for it.

Now I know why the previous owners took our offer even though it was $29k less than they were asking. Jerks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TomAto, TomAHto

First tomato
Photo by Spouse
One of our tomato plants in the upsidedown planter has fruit! There was another one that did but I accidentally pulled that one off. But this baby has two, count 'em, TWO tomatoes on this Defiant vine. There are also two green ones on the Pol Big, one sweet green pepper and one Anaheim hot pepper!

My herbs are struggling but four have managed to cling on. I should be getting some mature chive plants before the month is out as well.  Don't ask about the onions (we shall mourn them.)

All in all, it's pretty good for a couple who haven't done this sort of thing in ages. I had decided to not get my hopes up this year so having anything makes me happy. We still haven't cleared out the raised beds yet, but I think that will happen as we prepare for autumn.

Friday, July 06, 2012

New house

painting in the shed
I've been out in the shed painting a bookcase. I wish I could say "bookcases" but it has taken me ages to get one out there and with the rain it's been too humid to do more than one coat in a session. But one of the fun thing about painting in our shed has been using the unfinished walls to clean brushes and otherwise do things we could never do in our rental apartment.

I'll post pictures of bookcase #1 when it is done, but the gist is white outside, the pink inside the hear in the photo inside and on the shelves and the darker red on the inside back. Two bookcases will be like this in the dining room and I'll use that color palate for the two cabinets and the table and chairs in there too. I think the walls need to be painted something different but that works with those colors.

I don't feel I can do much in the house until we at least have a couple bookcases ready. Two bookcases are doing temporary duty as pantry shelves right now until we build proper ones. That hasn't excused everything (I've got one case ready to go in Sprog's changing room) but there really is still a great deal to do here, from structural (electrics) to cosmetic (I hate all the downstairs paint colors) before I can feel settled in.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The house is ours!

Well, we did it! The house is now ours and ready to move in to. Now we need to pack and engage movers.

Here's a preview of the house. It cuts off at the end. And yes, the doorbell needs repair to it actually rings.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dreaming of The Good Life

The Good Life, known in the US as Good Neighbors, was a telvision series about a couple who opt out and decide to become self sufficient - growing their own food, producing their own electricity, etc. The gimic being that they do all this while living in the suburbs. The show is charming (and available on Netflix if you haven't seen it) and much is played for laughs, but I have always seen it as aspirational.

The idea of growing our own foodhsa been appealing to me for so long. When I lived in Somerville, we tried having a garden one year, but nothing much grew. Shortly after I moved to a building with no available green space. The tiny unit we are currently in does not even get enough light to grown things on the window sills (well, tables as the sills are far too shallow for even the cat to sit on.) Soon I'll have the opportunity to see how green, or not, my thumb is.

One of the things we looked for when house hunting was a large lot. I needed to be able to have a garden and it would, of course, be nice to have a place for Sprog to play (once she gets over her new-found fear of grass.) The house we're buying, while not having the largest yard around, did meet specs for us, and also had the advantage of not needing any work done to it. There is also a two car garage at the end of the back garden in which we can store supplies.

I've been advised to start small with a garden. They are a lot of work, and it's work I'm not used to. Plus we'll be moving in June, the growing season already underway! So my plan for our first year is to star with the raised beds the previous owners put in the back and perhaps some of the front garden as well. They have what was called "perennial landscaping," which is pretty and all but not really functional. My plan is to pull out the front plants and replace with herbs and edible flowers (if anyone wants some perrenials, I'll be giving  them away.) These are things I can easilly get in pots already growing so I need not worry about starting from seed. The list so far of what I want:
  • Thyme
  • Lavendar
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • lemon balm
In the back there are two raised beds. I already have an upside down tomato planter, so hopt to put some plants in there. For the beds I have spinach, carrot and French breakfast radish seeds. I'd like some more herbs in the back as well and already have basil and Chinese basil seeds (the latter Spouse came home with ast night.) I think corriander and catnip should round out the herbs for the year. Other items I'll try this year are potatoes, chili peppers and onions. Even if nothing grows this year, we'll still prep for next with some garlic planted in the fall.

In addition to all this veg, I want to have some fruit. This is long-term planning obviously, but I want to get a Meyer lemon tree as they can be kept small and in a pot, brought inside in the winter. To stay outside blueberry bushes would be lovely and an apricot tree. Some currants and grapes would be lovely as well.

Other long term plans for they home include alternative power sources like a wind turbine. That's obviously not something we'll be able to afford right off the bat, even if it does pay for itself in the longrun. Now, if only we could get the laws changed so I could legally keep chickens, I'd be all set. The Good Life, indeed!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


We're buying a house. It's a little thing - well, twice the size of our apartment but smaller than other houses on the street - built in 1900. It's in Dorchester, right on the red line and I cannot WAIT to close and move in. Expect tales of actual gardening on our actual land.

More to come after we close at the end of the month.