Friday, August 30, 2013

what we're eating

The last few months in our old house I made monthly menus instead of my usual weekly menu. Then the moving chaos hit and three months later I'm just returning to my kitchen routines. So last night I decided to make a September menu. And it was so fun! Aren't early fall menu's the best? All the summer produce is lingering but the season is starting to change and so all sorts of foods that were off the table all summer suddenly sound wonderful. I love making a menu for the whole month because I really have an excuse to spend a lot of time pouring over my cookbooks and thinking through recipes.
I also think it's fun to try and balance our meals over a whole month between different types of foods, flavors, meat/fish and lots of good meatless dinners as well. I also find it's easier each week to get organized around groceries and prep because the menu is already made.
coconut shrimp soup (Everyday food, Great Food Fast)
Indian red bean curry with brown rice (smitten kitchen blog, recipe here)
Lentil soup, buttered radishes and bread (everyday food, great food fast)
steak, pars-lied potatoes and green veg
black eyed peas, brown rice and green veg
spaghetti and salad
red bean soup (from Tom Fitzmorris New Orleans Food
Chicken baked in rice and green veg (from The New southern basics
Chicken corn chowder (gourmet magazine cutout from long ago)
Date Night
Pinto beans with bacon, rice and collard greens
Pot Roast (from The new southern basics)
pot roast hash and eggs
stewed eggplant with brown rice (The New southern basics)
Basque potato and green bean soup with garlic chips and bread (Farmhouse cookbook)
steak, roasted veg, and green
hoisen Salmon steaks, rice and Chinese broccoli (everyday food, great food fast)
roast chicken with ginger and potatoes, salad (Farmhouse cookbook)
beef stew
paneed pork chops with fennel creole sauce (Tom Fitzmorris new Orleans Food)
squash and chickpea stew (smitten Kitchen)
black bean and chorizo soup (bon appetite magazine cut out)
chili and corn bread
chicken alfredo rice casserole (better homes and garden magazine cutout)

There it is, a glimpse into what we least this month. Not that you care but I, being the food dork I am, LOVE to see what people are eating. It's like I think they have discovered some brilliant recipe/food/food blog or cookbook and I just have to know about it.

 Another sign that fall is approaching,
Rain boots!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Go out one door...

and come in another. Or so you could, because there is not one, or two but 4 doors onto our back deck. Add this to two front doors, three lower level doors to the outdoor patio and three doors in/out of the garage. The result is a whole lot of doors with a whole lot of locks.

The harrowing total is 12 doors and 17 different locks. Harrowing because one of the renovations we did before moving in was to have each lock re-keyed, several repaired and a few replaced. And 17 locks adds up. In fact the total cost to get all of these locks working and re-keyed was $330. We were prepared for several unexpected expenses like this to crop up and had a contingency set aside so it wasn't a big deal and it was very worth it to have securely locking doors with fresh keys. Plus it was kind of fun to walk through each door with the locksmith and learn a little bit about the different locks, door knobs and keys we had. And fun fact: we ended this project with three different keys into our house! So imagine Chris and I at any given time or place outside our house trying to figure out which key goes to what door. 

Almost all of the locks and door knobs were original and over half were broken. The locksmith was able to rescue 8 original knobs and locks but we had to replace the remaining 4. Luckily, the 6 really cool vintage ones, the two front door knobs and these four on the back porch,
he was able to take apart fix and reassemble.One lock even had a broken off rusty key inside! 

I file this post under "crazy things you don't even think of when you buy and old house". Because while a lot of things were going through my mind when we made our offer, old tile, mildew stains, roof leak and rose carpet, rusted out broken keys inside of non-functioning locks was not one of them. And I definitely hadn't counted how many doors there were!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It was long overdue but finally I have a new updated and simplified blog design. The best part is it didn't cost a dime. My computer savvy friend Rob helped me navigate the blogger design settings and do some reformatting and the rest was some trial and error on my part. My favorite part is the header collage made entirely of iphone snap shots of us and our house' before. Perhaps someday I'll actually use my DSLR to take house photos and then they won't suck until thank goodness for the iphone. Overtime I'd love to have this collage transition to more and more after shots and show our progress.

Regardless, I'm glad to have a space to document this crazy adventure of ours!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The scariest place in our house

The truth is there are a lot a few places in my house I'm kind of scared of especially at night. And then there is the place I'm kind of scared to go in even in broad daylight.

Tucked far away in a back corner of our house is this strange staircase corridor. It connects the lower level shop to the garage and happens to be the only access directly from the inside of the house to the garage.
Up these stairs you have the unfinished crawl space on one side...

Is this not completely creepy??? I mean there could be anything back in there. 

And the platform storage space on the other. This is a huge space which goes all the way back to the wall that you can't see in the photo.It is pretty ideal for storing x-mas decorations, baby clothes etc.

Then the stairs continue up the concrete block corridor and through a door into the garage.

Mostly this space appeared to be empty except for some old screens to our windows and a random solid wood door and this very old can of paint.

Because we have so many colors going on inside our house I decided that for phase one of house renovation I'd just color match the existing off white/ivory paint for the main livings space and kitchen. Then down the road when we can tear up rose colored carpet and put in hardwood we could re-think the overall color pallet in the house. Judging from the paint drips I had a good hunch that this random can of paint was the color on our walls but I couldn't get thing open to save my life. I hauled it down to Sherwin Williams and sure enough they got it opened and confirmed it was our paint. Oh and the can, was from 1961! Do you know what happens to a can of paint after 52 years??? It gets quite hard. However, they were able to color match it and send me on my way with two new cans of our ivory paint in a nice semi-gloss perfect for our kitchen. 

And that my friends was the very long winded way of telling you that I finished painting my kitchen Friday night thanks to my Mother who came to my rescue and helped me paint until midnight and kept me from having to spend the night as the only adult in the house (Chris was backpacking). We had an impromptu sleepover, made margaritas and primed/painted until it was done.Oh yeah and she made me dinner too. Isn't my Mom so nice!

The result was pretty good. The paint is a little more yellow than what was there. You can really see the difference where the wall meets the cabinets. I suppose paint does fade a bit in 52 years. I think I'd almost call it a butter cream or a whipped butter color more than an ivory especially in the evening when the natural light goes away. Probably not what I want throughout the house but it does work in the kitchen. It is especially nice against the tile backslash behind the stove.

We will have to repaint the cabinets and door trim but we're going to wait until we replace the floor for that step. Until then it's just  nice to know we have no more raw plaster patches everywhere and we can cross off one more painting project from the giant list.

Friday, August 23, 2013

From better to worse

Sometimes things get worse before they get better, right?

At least that seems to be the case with my kitchen right now. First the oven headed to the repair shop leaving a dark scary cavernous hole. Then I taped off the windows, trim and cabinets so I could start to prime, and we all know about the aesthetic quality of blue painters tape..., and now I have a partially primed room. I thought I would at least prime it all in one evening...HAHA. Consider this example #59 of how much I underestimate the actual time a project will take.

Well tonight friends I will tackle it. Chris heads into the woods for his first backpacking trip of the season and I will prime plus paint that kitchen tonight even if I have to pull an all-nighter to do it. Meanwhile, I'll hope and pray that the painters tape sitting on my cabinets for three days doesn't do any lasting damage...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Restoring our vintage appliances

I am pretty confident that our kitchen is almost completely original. It comes with the original linoleum flooring, which is coming apart under my feet, tin lined drawers, green glass sliding cabinet doors, and single pane aluminum frame windows. When I took my faucet parts to the hardware store the plumbing guy confirmed that the faucet was in fact a 1950 era faucet and the flip up laminate counter tops with metal trim scream 1950. But the true stars of this vintage kitchen are the ORIGINAL kitchen appliances. 

Just look at that oven. Could anything be more charming? "Sure it's tiny... never mind that a full size cookie sheet or pizza pan will not fit, yeah it's pretty scary inside...meh...and who cares that there may not be precise temperature dials...the cookie sheet doesn't fit anyway...I don't care what you say my vintage oven stays!!!" Oh yeah and that wall it's built into, it's a concrete block wall, the wall between the house and the garage and a load bearing one to boot. Bottom line this is our oven and this is our stove and barring a complete remodel of this kitchen they are what we got.

What we've got they may be, but working they were not, or so our inspector informed us before we bought the house. So after a big gulp and some initial consultation with with a local appliance repair shop that specializes in rehabbing vintage appliances we took a leap, hoped for the best moved forward. A few days ago the appliance repair man came out to asses our situation. The stove top was sort of working, or at least some of the burners were although they seemed to have two temperatures off and HOT, but I'd somehow managed to cook dinner for the first week on it. However the oven wasn't even turning on.

He pretty quickly assessed that the problem with the stove top was easy, heating elements simply needed replaced and the knobs needed changed out so that they properly corresponded to the heat indicators on the face plate. The oven on the other hand...yeah that one's not so easy. I wish I'd taken more pictures as he pulled it apart. The heating elements were wire coils running underneath a metal plate, both the coils and the pate had rusted through in parts. Once he pulled those out it was easy to see that we needed new heating elements. But then after further exploration he determined that the internal wiring was working for the broiler plate but not for the main heating element. Which means our oven got to come out of the wall, which was quite a process, and get's to be rebuilt. The good news is these old Thermador wall ovens were very well made quality appliances and once rebuilt will have a good long life to come.

Meanwhile I get to clean this mess. EWWWW!!!!! That black line around the oven box is 50 years of grease and grime and I don't even know what all of those spider web like things are hanging in there, they are black and sort of fuzzy and distinctly not spider webs.

The oven will take 2-3 weeks, there is a bit of back log in the shop. They will take our oven apart to assess the internal wiring and probably re-wire it, replace the heating elements and then check the thermostat. So far we are $275 into the project. In addition to the parts we will have to pay an hourly service fee as well. So we are probably looking at an additional $300-$600. Which is okay because as I said we knew before we bought the house that rehabbing appliances would be required and we had a very good idea of what that might cost so it was all factored in.

And that my friends is the story of how we are keeping our vintage appliances and how they are likely going to come to cost more than brand new ones in the end. Se la vie...they are 100x more charming than new ones anyway.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Second hand

I don't know about the rest of you but for us thrift stores are where it's at. Oh yes, I did just say that....I am in fact that dorky.

Regular readers will be familiar with how often St. Vincent de Paul's get's mentioned on my blog. Margot and I can spend a good 2 hours at our favorite Goodwill on a free Saturday and no beach trip is complete in our family without an afternoon wandering through the thrift stores. But what's even better than $50 cent books and second hand baby clothes is quality yet affordable used furniture. We see it at St. Vinnie's and Goodwill occasionally and sometimes other places, there's always craigslist and garage sales but lately I have been going more and more to a couple larger used furniture liquidators in town.
These spots focus mainly on used furniture that they pick up from estates and direct sales. It's always a diverse mix of stuff with a lot of garbage thrown in for good measure. But among the overcrowded warehouses and small shops stacked with 1980's oak coffee tables there are bound to be some gems.

Take this chest of drawers. While I wouldn't necessarily pay $250 it is pretty awesome. And the best part in these places is that they always negotiate. So maybe if they were to go to $175...

These tables aren't my style but imagine how cute they'd be in a kids room or run room painted a bright color?

And these old classroom chairs...totally awesome and there were about 12 of them. They would be so great around a really great big dining room table.

And this vintage kids classroom chair, a little rusty but for the $10 dollar price tag totally worth a good dose of CLR and some love.

These 70's office chairs would be great with a large glossy parsons desk in a den or library.

But perhaps my favorite find was this miniature roll top desk which was the perfect size for a grade school kid. Wouldn't be stellar painted some fun bright color tucked into a kids bedroom. Man I would have adored a desk like that when I was seven years old.

Plus there's something really satisfying about rescuing some old disregarded piece of wood in lieu of buying something new. It's better for the environment and your wallet.

Locals, any great used furniture places to share? Anyone been to River Road second hand furniture? I think that's my next stop I keep passing it (our favorite St. Vincent's is out that way) and wondering about it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

if I can fix a faucet...

...surely I can fly/drive to glacier national park and back in a 3 day weekend with a toddler, right?

Still high from my faucet fixing success I headed of to the airport Thursday evening with Margot and my Dad for a quick weekend jaunt to Glacier National Park. My sister is a tour guide there this summer and my Dad and I hatched a last minute plan to go visit her while she was there and thought we'd bring Margot along for good measure. We were short on both time and money for the trip but decided it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity and found a way to make it work.

And thank goodness we did because Margot LOVED going to Glacier with us. Planning this trip could be seen as pure foolishness, 4 hours on planes and 20 hours in a car over 3 days with a 21 month old. Could have been 1000 x harder than fixing a leaky faucet. But it was a blast and airplanes are Margot's new favorite thing.
I was so nervous about taking her on both the plane and the very long car rides. We flew into Spokane, WA and then had to drive 7 hours from there to St. Mary in East Glacier were Jess is. But Margot did so well. She was so excited on the airplane and did a great job sitting on my lap playing with her new special toys for the flight. It helped that she had both Grover and Minnie Mouse with her and we had a few treats to keep her chewing during take off and landing. She even handled an almost straight 7 hour car ride with only a few short breaks and a few short naps. It was amazing and we were so proud of her. I think it helps that she is old enough to understand so much. When she wanted something she couldn't have, like Milk on a hwy in the middle of nowhere, she reacted really well to the explanation and seemed to handle waiting. I'd explain and she'd say, "oh, okay Mama". She was such a trooper. 

And Glacier National Park was gorgeous. I wish we'd had more time and I hope to go back with Chris' and Margot when she's older and do a lot more hiking. The geology is breathtaking. And we saw so many animals which was really exciting and Margot especially seemed to enjoy.

But we're glad to be back to our "new house" as Margot still calls it. When she woke up the next morning at home she emphatically exclaimed, "new house, Mama, new house!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Plumbing...why not

A couple of years ago when we bought our first house I couldn't DIY anything. And to be perfectly honest becoming a home owner wasn't really inspiring me to learn. Maybe if home ownership hadn't been so quickly followed by a high risk pregnancy and newborn things would have been different. But this house....this house requires us to learn to DIY. Way too many things need to be updated/fixed for us to rely on professional help each and every time. So we are embracing DIY. And it is in this spirit that I decided to fix my leaky faucet. 

And you know what??? It was easy, kind of fun and immensely satisfying. The faucet was leaking out of the base where it connects to the sink. Every time we turned the water on a pool of water immediately began to emerge. Not so conducive to dish washing. And with no dishwasher we're washing A LOT of dishes. There was also a pretty bad leak below the sink coming from one of the drains. Since that leak was covered by our home warranty and the plumbing under the sink looked pretty scary we decided to have the warranty fix it. While I met the plumber to fix the below the sink leak he explained to me how to fix my leaky faucet (which was not covered by the warranty). 
First the water had to be turned off under the sink, easy peasy. Then the faucet had to come apart. Once apart it was pretty clear what the problem was, the large o-ring at the base of the faucet had worn down in several spots and had finally broken apart. 

This is the original 1950 Moen faucet (so the guys at the hardware store informed me) and these faucets have two o-rings, a large one at the base of the faucet and a small one near the handle. If the leak is coming from the base it's usually a broken large o-ring and if the leak is coming from near the handle it's the smaller. However, since I was taking it apart anyway the hardware store guys told be to just replace both. I had a hard time getting the smaller one off but finally got it with a small flat screw driver.Once they were off I cleaned all of the gross black gunk off with a paper towel.

Then I put the new ones in place and covered them with some silicone grease as directed by the guys at the hardware store.
Now I was ready to re-assemble the faucet. First I scoured each part before putting it back together since it had a lot of caked on grime, grease and soap scum. I used my all purpose natural cleaner & de-greaser and a scotch-brite scouring pad to clean it all off. 
Then I re-assembled the faucet. Since I'd kept everything in the order as I took it apart it wasn't too hard. Once the O-rings were in place I set the faucet nozzle on top, placed in the bolt and screwed on the nut to hold it in place.

Then I put the lever back and replaced the screw, and finally, attached the cover. 

And ta-da!!! Shiny clean faucet as good as new. The best part is the plumber said he could do it but it would cost $150 and I only spent $6.47 at the hardware store for the two o-rings and the silicone grease.

That's 1 DIY project down and oh...230 to go. But at least it's a start.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In the beginning....

there were lots and lots of boxes.
So many boxes that I can barely walk through the library or access my closet.

However, Margot's room is coming along. Once all of the stuff was in the house Saturday we focused our attention to her room installing her chandelier, assembling her crib and book shelf and digging out all of her books, clothes and toys so we could have a big reveal for her by the end of the day. We were scrambling to get her room primed and painted Friday night and ended up painting until 1 am. But turned out so nice (we still have to repaint the windows but they are painted shut from the outside so we have to wait until we can get them unstuck). It's a soft pearl grey and it's even prettier in person. We need to get her new dresser from my in-laws garage and we are still waiting for her new chair to arrive but it's coming along.
All of our work paid off however because her reaction did not disappoint. She actually squealed when she saw it and started running from her bed to her book shelf to her chandelier and jabbering a mile a minute. Then she went strait to business pulling books out of her shelf to read and making sure clothes were in her closet. You know, the important things. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

On the flip side

Yesterday I read this post on secrets to a smooth move. It seemed timely since we are moving into our new house tomorrow. The irony was on me since the post was really how to pack in order to ensure a smooth move.

Yeah......we didn't pack like that. By the end packing just got more and more chaotic and labeling got messier. Honestly I really have no idea what I'm going to find once all of our stuff is in one place. I'm sure there will be several days of "where is my..."

But at least we'll have the comfort of knowing that that us and our belongings are all in the same place for the first time since June 5th. Oh yeah and we'll be FINALLY LIVING IN OUR NEW HOUSE!!!!!

So it will be good no matter what I've misplaced. And we'll be back with some kind of messy house photos and a very excited Potter family.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

drills, wine and a crow bar

While deep cleaning our house was first on the to do list a very close second is painting. The oil furnace not only did a number on our woodwork but the walls as well leaving the once ivory walls looking dingy, dark, and well, ugly. But before we can get started painting we had to have some plaster repair done. With our plaster contractor scheduled to start Tuesday and Chris holed up in his office Monday evening writing closing arguments I invited my friend Stephanie over to see the new place and help me prep for plaster work. I promised wine and demolition so it promised to be a good time!

Unlike most houses that have drywall ours is all plaster. We had holes and some dinged up corners as you'd expect but we also had significant water damage in the kitchen from an old roof leek and damage around a few windows and in the bathroom. There were also some random holes and cut outs from who knows where.
 random holes in our bedroom wall
water damage in kitchen windowsill 
hole in the wall downstairs???

Our plaster contractor had instructed us to mark each place we wanted repaired with blue painters tape and to remove any screws, bolts and nails in the wall so those could be repaired. I'm embarrassed to say I had never used our drill before. I know.... I know....pathetic. Luckily the drill was a piece of cake, the painted over screws, nails and anchors not so much. But after a lot of drilling and yanking with the help of needle nose pliers we got everything out of the walls and were able to go through and tape areas for repair. All of that peeling plaster below is from that old roof leak...yikes!

Having drank some wine, used the drill and taped off areas throughout the house we were ready for the fun part...the demolition. In the lower floor guest bedroom there was an odd unfinished built in book shelf that I was dying to take out. Think of it as step 1 out of 57 to make this room an awesome guest retreat. Crow bars in hand we were super excited to have at it.

Turns out it wasn't very tightly attached so it was probably the worlds easiest demo project and we were slightly disappointed. A few crow bar swings later and we had a blank wall and a pile of lumber. And we were able to retreat to the porch upstairs to finish our wine.
Notice my very unwise shoe decision. P.S.A.: You should probably wear real shoes and gloves when demoing and probably other stuff too. I did wear real shoes last night when we tore out all of that lovely industrial grade carpet. More on that later.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In the still of the night

...we've been cleaning, cleaning and cleaning some more. After putting our little moon pie to bed each night we've been heading to the new house and cleaning. We've logged over 9 hours scrubbing this dinosaur of ours and I'm sad to say we aren't even halfway done.
Our problem is the furnace. Not the current furnace, we were able to negotiate a new 95% efficient gas furnace as part of the deal, but the old furnace was oil and it was original to the house---yikes!!! We think the furnace overtime left an oil film throughout the house. It's worse in the lower level and near the air vents. The walls have an oil film on them with a good measure of grey/black streaks on the lower level. That can be solved with a good coat of primer and paint. The real time suck has been all the wood work. Every room has beautiful walnut baseboards with several grooves, the windows have walnut valances and the doors and door frames are all solid wood. There are two fireplaces with woodwork surrounding them and several built in bookshelves in walnut. And all that gorgeous wood is hiding underneath oil film. After a good cleaning with a mild de-greasing dish soap and a long conversation with the woodworking expert at bi-mart we have a plan of action. But while we are making progress on the wood we are completely stumped on the tile. There is so much tile and it is DIRTY. Both the tiles and the grout and I am at my wits end trying to get it clean. I've scrubbed with hot soapy water. I tried vinegar. Against my better judgement I tried a bleach/water solution. And I finally resorted to scrubbing the whole bathroom floor with soft scrub. If I don't give myself cancer this week I'd like to find something to get this stuff clean. Next on my list to try is oxy-clean. I also heard peroxide can whiten tile. Anything else? Any secret tile cleaning tips for me? 

While tile continues to stump me we do have scrubbed bathrooms, fixtures, kitchen, windows and have treated all the old wooden closets with vinegar to remove musty smells. So the first floor is coming along. Progress is nice! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy Camper

We had so much fun Camping with Margot this weekend. It was her first camping trip and I really had no idea what to expect taking a 20 month old camping but she did so good. I think it really helped to have all the extended family around so there were lots of people to share the "Margot watch" and keep her entertained. Plus she adores her "kiki and awe-va", Katie and Ava. Here they are all ready to go.
We talked a lot beforehand about camping and about sleeping in a tent. When we finally got there we hung out in the tent and played and Margot was so excited about that tent. When we went to bed that night she kept saying "Tent Mamma, tent".
Of course Grover came camping too and now Grover is in need of a bath.
We tried to be pretty relaxed about food. We offered the same healthy food options we always do and made sure we had lots of fruit, cheese and crackers but we also didn't worry too much about treats. Even when Nonna gave Margot an entire cookie right before dinner!
Margot loved to use the camping cups for water and for cheddar bunnies. She was so cute toddling around the campsite with her little cup of food.
And of course she shared.
I didn't even try to keep her from getting dirty. And when she finally discoverd all the dirt and how fun it was to play in we just sat back and watched. I brought clothes that could get dirty and keep her warm and when she was good and done with the dirt we did our best with baby wipes and called it good.
The thing I was most concerned about was keeping her warm, it can get really cold at diamond lake, but we really didn't have too much difficulty. We brought warm fleecy pj's which we layered over a white tee shirt and we let her sleep in the sleeping bags with us.
We had a blanket that could go outside and kept her snuggled with us around the campfire in the early morning and late evening.
She loved all the people and being outside. We did bring some toys but we didn't use them that much because she was having so much fun just hanging out with family and toddling around with the bigger kids. We also brought our bikes so we were able to take her on some bike rides which she always loves.

Can't wait for next year!