Friday, July 31, 2015

Way to feel young...

If you want to feel young again, move to a 55 and over community.  All of a sudden I want to put on a bathing suit and swim in the pool!  I feel sporty driving my Toyota Camry, you guys.  My local Smith's has a place for shoppers to park their golf carts.  And all those parking spaces are taken.  There are bridge clubs and sewing clubs and bocce ball groups.  Cribbage and canasta.  Woodworking and arts and crafts!  Special speakers come and talk about estate planning and knee replacement surgery.  Young, I tell you.  I feel young!

Also, it's exceptionally quiet here.  Like you hear nothing.  One neighbor is 90-plus and when my spouse tried to ask her what time the mail typically arrived she hollered, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU."  The other guy, well, let's just take a peek at the empty box on the top of his trash can this morning.  Yes, that's an empty box of Ensure.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Smells like old people . . . more pictures.

Better view of the wall of windows in the living area.

Can you see the greenbelt through the shutters in this next picture?  What about my Adirondack chairs on the patio?

This is the view from the sliding glass doors to the front.  That door has to go.  The doorway to the right leads to the second bathroom and David's office.  He needs a place to keep those ice skates he packed.  I love him.

You can see light coming from the skylight in the second bathroom through that hallway.

Especially here.

In this picture I'm standing in David's office doorway.  To the left is the second bathroom.  Straight ahead you're looking at a linen closet.  To the right you can see out to the living area.

That office is scary so that's all I'm willing to show.  I'm sorry you'll have to miss the mirrored closet doors.  You will just have to trust me how awful they are because they are being replaced in the renovation.

This is out my front door.  To the left is my garage, to the right is David's office.

And my front door . . . it needs paint, black paint.  All in good time.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Overimproving ...

We made appointments with several contractors before we even closed on the house.  We moved in on a Thursday and had the first contractor come Friday night.  Saturday morning was the second.  Anxious much?  We decided early on we wanted someone to manage the project.  When we did the renovation at our last house we did it ourselves.  Timing everything was a big mess, and even though this is a tiny place, it's a big job.  To us, anyway.  Now all that coordinating isn't my problem, you know?

When our contractor saw our little galley kitchen he suggested a built in refrigerator.  Um, no.  Right in that kitchen sat my beautiful counter-depth Kitchen Aid French door refrigerator.  The one I loved.  In thirty minutes it was over.  And if I wasn't convinced, one walk into that showroom was the end of me.  The wall with the refrigerator will be wall to wall cabinets.  No counters.  This little beauty will be flush with the cabinets with stainless built around it.  Can you see the black interior?  When you open the doors it lights up.  LED lighting!  Yes, I am officially a sucker.  NOBODY needs this.

My range is a cook's dream.  Gas range and electric oven, exactly what a cook and/or baker lives for.  So dual range it is.  Complete with 20,000BTUs on the front left and multiple fans for the convection settings.  Now I can use the convection oven to bake bread or delicate cakes on a lighter convection fan setting without fear they will fall.

Last but not least is the beautiful oven hood.  That side of the kitchen won't have cabinets over the countertops.  We saw a galley kitchen (Houzz, we love you) that eliminated those upper cabinets and it made made that little hall seem much more open.

Thanks for following along.  Not everyone thinks a range is pretty. . .

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Make Right Choices

That's about as close to whitewash as I can show you.  There are so many versions and I like them all.  Ours will probably have a little more rustic look to it.

White shaker cabinets are simple.  We like simple.  We originally were going for dark cabinets in the kitchen, but it's really dark in that room.  Not really a room, more like a hall.  At first we thought dark would make the floor pop . . . and then we realized we are always partial to a white kitchen.  We need light in that space.  As long as there's a slight contrast we should be good.

Marble countertops in the kitchen as well as the bathrooms.  Yes, I know water makes marble rust.  I had a marble floor in my bathroom in my home and, unfortunately, a toilet dripped a slow drip.  That rust won't come out.  So it's all about being careful. 
Yet to be decided is the hardware for the cabinets and hardware for bathroom faucets.
Two of these 20th C. Factory Filament Metal Triple Pendants (in zinc) will hang over the dining room table.  We are fans of those squirrel cage filament bulbs and chose them in smoke glass.
I want to show you my refrigerator.  The refrigerator I never remotely ever thought I would entertain purchasing.  But I have this contractor.  And he has an eye . . .
Appliances deserve their own post.

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Follow along for the ride...

We live someplace else now.  After 21 years we pulled the trigger, listed our house and 47 days later we moved.  Want to join us on the ride?  A renovation ride?  Because it's going to be a trip.

Have you ever seen 23 year old linoleum?  No?  Well, here it is.  This is my little galley kitchen that will eventually have white shaker cabinets and my dream oven.  DREAM OVEN.  Dual fuel dream oven.  Can you visualize?

Check out the dreamy overhead florescent fixtures below.  That's sarcasm.  Going, going, gone.

I'm not sure the carpet is 23 years old, but it could be.  That's master bedroom carpet meeting 23 year old linoleum again.  Can you envision whitewash wood floors?  Because that's what is replacing that carpet.

Mirror be gone.  New vanities.  Can you picture it?

Living area with that stupendous chandelier.  Again, sarcasm.  Can you see new 5" baseboards and white walls?  What about that whitewash wood floor?  Not yet?  It's okay...

At 1026 sq. ft. I can totally understand why someone felt they needed central vac, can't you?

THIS beauty plays cassette tapes!  And that intercom?  There's one in every room.  I suspect there may have been some 'hard of hearing' individual who lived here.  I can whisper in 1026 square feet and my spouse can hear me.  Did I mention there are TWO doorbells?  And one is in the master bathroom.  Someone was extra afraid they might miss something.

A phone jack in every room. 

Intercom on the patio?  No problem.  We have it!

See that mirror?  It's coming off the wall.  And yes, the famous Las Vegas bathroom lighting is out the door, too.  More 23 year old linoleum.

Here's the real reason we bought this place.  This is what I look at every morning.  From my bedroom windows and my living area windows.  I don't have to water.  I don't have to mow or trim.  This greenbelt makes me happy.

Another reason we bought this place?  This is the skylight in the master bathroom. I took this picture this morning, and the second bathroom has the same thing . . . sometimes during the day I go in the bathrooms to turn the lights off.  Except the lights aren't on.  It's natural light.

When the cabinets arrive in 4-5 weeks demo starts.  We vacate for 3-4 weeks and the fun begins.  Want to watch along with us?  Check back. 
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chocolate Frosting

I know, right?  A post on chocolate frosting?  I just need to memorialize this one because it's that good.  The consistency is the same a day later as when you frosted the cake.  Silk.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup cocoa
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
4 cups confectioners sugar

In a large mixing bowl cream butter.  Sift the confectioners sugar and cocoa (I believe in this step) and add it to the butter mixture.  Add vanilla.  Add milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

the weeks before Christmas

White Christmas is on the television at 2 in the afternoon and the Christmas tree is lit.  She's a minuscule version of my typical Christmas tree, but I love that she's bottom heavy and fits in a big galvanized tub.  Decorations are vintage, all glass ornaments, some indented and discolored.  When they hit the floor they shatter and today, that's okay.  It brings me back 25 or 30 years ago and I love that.  I have a few glass birds with feather tails who clip onto the ends of a branch.  My Irish grandmother would not have approved as birds of any kind in your house, whether on a plate or your wallpaper, well, they were "bad luck".  But I love these little birds.

I would like to feel certain I will always have a Christmas tree.  A real one.  I will admit to feeling tempted to skip the tradition that sometimes feels like a ritual.  It's several errands,  it's messy and it's expensive.  Ebeneezer (the man I love) could not care less about this live intrusion in the family room.  The lights are a hassle and some people are particular about the placement of those lights.  Also, you have to water the thing.  But here's the deal.  A big part of Christmas is resurrecting memories.  Blissful memories.  I don't ever want to skip that.

I read something recently (I wish I could remember where) that talked about those old Christmas movies I love.  The point was that the movies aren't really that spectacular.  I mean, I feel passionate about White Christmas and I'm not a fan of musicals.  The sets are cardboard and fake, I know.  But when I turn that movie on it transports me right back to Lowell, Massachusetts, to that house on Windward Road.  My sister and I in the finished basement in front of the tree waiting for that movie.  We waited for it each year, no DVR, no VCRs - just that one opportunity each year and we loved it.  Later I shared that tradition with my children and felt the same way.  Now they do the same.  So boys, this is what it's all about.  We really understand the tortured rolling of the eyes.  But it's not about the movie, men.  It's about the way it feels to watch that move.  So Bing Crosby, I will always love you, no matter what that new PBS documentary says about you.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Garlic and Sapphires and Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Saturday morning I decided to bake a cake I first read about in one of Ina's cookbooks, Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  The recipe seemed a little um, maybe contrived?  I have a pet peeve with recipes calling for 1 cup of flour AND 1/4 teaspoon, for example.  Yes, baking is a science and all, but that seems a little overboard.  So instead of following the recipe step by step, I made the cake the way I pretty much make every cake.  Cream the butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients . . . you know the drill.  I did not sift all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients to that bowl.  No.  I did it my way.  The cake baked and smelled heavenly.  Five minutes before it was due to come out of the oven I had a deja vu . . . this looked like a cake I made many years ago.  A sort of "wet" chocolate cake.  Not fudgy and more than moist.  It looked and smelled familiar.  The 8" pans came out of the oven and were placed on racks.  In five minutes the middle of both cakes fell.  A big hollow pit in the middle of each.  No worries.  Frosting will save the day.  I used my regular buttercream (because why stretch myself?) and added some cocoa and some melted milk chocolate.  Except in my haste I added too much milk.  Nothing was right.  But you can always salvage a chocolate cake, right?  So I began to frost the beast.  The more I worked on this little project of mine the more frustrated I became.  I tossed it.  The entire frosted cake went in the trash and I picked up my book and walked away.

Except I couldn't let it go.

Four hours later I started again.  This time sifting the flour and sugar and cocoa and baking powder and baking soda and then adding the wet ingredients to the bowl.  Precise and with precision.  And yes, the cake worked. The frosting was different than anything I've made before . . . lots of butter but little confectioners sugar.  It was light and lovely and stayed that consistency overnight.I still love this recipe, but Ina's is incredibly moist and lovely.  A completely different crumb.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake (Serves 8)

Butter for greasing the pans
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

I think I learned a real lesson yesterday.  This is now my "go to" chocolate cake.

The book I left because I wasn't willing to let that recipe win?  Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl.  What a fun read.  She walks you through her tenure at the New York Times as their food critic, documenting each disguise and persona she adopted before visiting various establishments.  Then you read her actual review of those restaurants.  Sometimes she visited a restaurant five times before settling on the number of stars.  And sometimes readers were more than unhappy with her assessment of a New York institution.  But it's a decadent read and completely enjoyable.  Her career is the the most enviable there is . . . as much as I dreamed of cracking this recipe (and but good) I dream of her life as a food critic.  That's the job that got away...

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's how you know...


Today I sat in a red adirondack in my beautiful yard and read Ruth Reichl's Not Becoming My Mother.  It was such a fitting thing to do on this anniversary of my mother's freedom from her earthly body. I thought of her and smiled.

When I was halfway through the book I thought even more about how we never really know our mothers.  I know that is true for me.  I believe it is true of my mother and her mother.  And I'm certain it's true for my children.  Mothers protect.  We are never really all out there . . . why burden those you love?

In 1961 (I think) my Mom had a baby, a tiny baby boy.  He lived only two days.  I have some vivid recollections of that time, despite the fact that I was only 5 years old.  It goes something like this.  In a VW Beetle, probably one of the first models you could buy in the United States, my father told my 4 year old sister and I that our Mom had a baby and the baby went to heaven to live with God.  Two days prior my sister and I were in a doctor's waiting room in downtown Lowell while our Mom was in with her doctor.  My Aunt Margaret walked through the door and swooped us up and took us to an ice cream parlor down the street.  I remember having an ice cream soda and wondering why she was carrying my Mom's beautiful red coat with the black fur collar.  They didn't want us to see the ambulance come take our mother out of the doctor's office . . .  it was all a plan to protect us.

Later, after my dad told my sister and I his confusing story, he took us to Lowell General Hospital.  This was when children weren't allowed to visit patients . . . so we stood on the grassy hill and waved to our Mom who stood in a window and waved back.  This makes sense to me now, that my mother would want a glimpse of her girls after losing her baby.

Most things make sense looking back, especially as you grow older.  Most of us need to have children to realize our parents once felt the very same way we did at that very moment the surge of love overtook us.  Most of us.  Some are mature enough to learn that lesson before life's experiences teach them. Not me.

Once while looking through my Mom's top dresser drawer I saw the obituary for that little baby, named John.  My sister and I didn't attend any funeral and neither of us had any memory of that event ever taking place, but it did.  We didn't experience the sadness our parents must have felt.  We were protected.

The plans you have to protect your children aren't always realized.  There are outside factors one has no control over and maybe others that are missed.  But that's what mothers do . . . and mine was good at it.

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