Friday, June 15, 2012

Wanna see my Kitchen?

 No, not this kitchen!

 Upon seeing this post (or maybe it was this post) a few weeks back, our nephew Noah said something along the lines of, "Wow, Aunt Lauren and Uncle Michael's kitchen is a mess!"

Noah is correct, our kitchen is truly a mess (but a mess that is coming along), but that doesn't mean that we haven't been eating well.

We do, after all, have a place to cook...

 Why, Hello Basement!

 Yup, this where the magic happens, so to speak.  

Here we have our beloved John Boos end-grain cutting board, our knife block, mortar & pestle, hand-crank coffee grinder, and our hot water kettle all living on a hand-me-down library table.

 And on this side we have the microwave and KitchenAid below and on top (from left to right) is our toaster oven, rice cooker, blender, and induction burner.

I'd also like to note that the table on this side of the "kitchen" is a family heirloom, my Vogler grandparents' first piece of purchased furniture after they were married. In my mind, it is very fitting that so many decades later (it must be at least 8 decades? Dad?), it is being used as 1/2 of our kitchen in our first house.

 The blender isn't a normal fixture but was on the "counter" to make some ice cream a few days ago. (really amazing candied bacon ice cream, I should note)

 And that sink back there on the right, that's my dishwashing sink with the dish strainer on the floor.

 On the opposite side of the basement is where we store our cookware and dishes.

And just to the left of that is our "pantry", also known as the built in basement storage cabinet.

The only thing really missing is an oven.

But the fact that this will be mine soon makes it all worth it.

And if you think about it, we have far more kitchen space now than we ever did in France.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Brick Masons to the Rescue!

 I mentioned in my Monday post that while ripping down the tile walls in the kitchen, we did some unexpected (further) damage to our bay window wall.

While I was busy typing on the computer, the brick masons (Bob & Steve, I highly recommend them!) were here fixing the exterior brick and while they were here, we went ahead and had them fill in the missing clay tiles on the interior of the kitchen.

You can see the where they tuckpointed on the exterior. This picture was taken while the mortar was still wet, so it appears much darker but now that it's had a few days to "cure", the color match it quite close.

 The long vertical joint connecting the side and the front of the bay window was by far the largest crack. At the top of the joint, the wall below the front window had pushed out 1.5" at least.

 (I was dumb and didn't take any before pictures.)

The interior looks much better (and much more solid) than it had:



 And After

No before for this one:

But we're close to slappin' some sheetrock on those walls!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

If I'm being honest, not very well, really.

 I'm having issues getting the watering right and I'm not sure the pH levels in the soil are good. I guess it's all trail and error with our first real garden and I really do need to get the soil tested at least before next year.

 I think we'll also lose a significant number of plants because they were purchased so late in the season and had become root-bound, we'll see though. Despite their stunted growth and some leaf yellowing, many of the pepper plants are producing peppers and I even have a few ripening tomatoes.

Any suggestions from seasoned gardeners is surely welcome!

So, what's in the plot, you ask?

Here we have 12 tomatoes of many varieties along with some basil plants and carrot and radish seedlings popping up. (I'm trying my best to use companion planting theories.)

This section hosts far too many pepper plants (regular bell, purple bell, poblano, jalapeño, cayenne, habenero, and one mystery pepper plant) and onions.

 Eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks from seed, and pole beans from seed (they haven't popped up yet, we'll see if we do)

 Celery, purple bush beans from seed (they've popped up), zucchini (we have one normal plant and some spherical french one from seed), yellow squash, cukes (both normal plants and french cornichon from seed), and some lettuce

And corn!

Also, in my gardening book it was suggested that pumpkins and winter squash are so hardy that they can grow and thrive in the compost bin and since we had a pile of leaf compost left over from the garden-building, I though...why not? I planted some French potiron pumpkins and sugar pumpkins back there and so far, one has popped up!

Of course, I didn't note which was which when I planted so for now, they are mystery pumpkins.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Bunnies Allowed

 A few weekends ago (the weekend we got Frieda, in fact) We managed to fill out the rest of the garden with more veggies. We already had many, many tomato plants in the ground both from my dad and our CSA (we didn't get the plants in our share but they were selling them on the side). That planting happened the weekend my parents left but we hadn't had time to do much else. 

In the meantime, the bunnies were having their fill of tomato seedling branches from the bottom so as soon as we filled up the rest of the garden we got straight to work building a solution.

Of course, the whatever fence we put up would have to be removable so I can get in and play in the dirt, so to speak.

After some googling and scheming of our own, here is what we came up with:

Step one (not really pictured): staple wire fencing to the back of the raised beds.

Step two: build 8' long frames from 1x2s

Step three: staple plastic fencing (so much cheaper than the metal and much easier on the hands) to the frame and trim to size

 Step four: cut 1-1/2" PVC pieces to length for the bottom of each wooden frame and attache to the side of the raised bed with pipe strapping and screws (we didn't do this exactly, we used nails but they're under so much strain that they pull out so we need to go back and change them out for screws)

Step five (not pictured): use a chisel to trim down the bottoms of the wooden frames so they easily slide in and out of the PVC

Et Voilà! A raised bed fence that is removable in portions so you can get in to weed and generally tend the garden. 

(Click on the photos for a larger view)

I should note that for the time being (since we ran out of 1x2s) that the right end of the garden just has the metal fencing stapled on but we will be putting up a non-removable framed fence to look a little nicer. It's hard to see but that is what is on the left end. It is an identical frame to the removable ones but simply screwed to the raised bed instead of being held in with the PVC.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Walls Fall Down

 See all that lovely tile? 

We could have kept it in the kitchen, especially on this side where there won't be any cabinets needing the extra wall space. 

But we're crazy and can't leave well enough alone (and it was cracked and broken in places) so we decided that while we're tearing down the rest of the walls, these had to go too. 

So, a few hours later, here we are in the rubble. 

Unfortunately, that last little bit of wall was a...well, a word that rhymes with Witch to get down, if you catch my drift.

 At some point in the house's history there was water damage to the bay window in the kitchen, which caused pretty much all of the clay insulating tile (the layer between the tile cement and the exterior brick) to crack from freezing. Because of this damage, Michael had a rough time pulling the tile off without the wall crumbling behind him. In fact, it was impossible so a couple of brick masons are currently here to sure up the wall and fill in the voids where the insulating tile used to be.

The joys of home-ownership and DIY-ing
 (fun fact: they use DIY-ing as a verb in the UK, according to our British French teacher from Metz; in french the word is bricolage)

 Here is the other wall in the kitchen (the bay window is just to the left).

 Wall no more!
This one was significantly easier to demo since the tile and concrete wasn't fused to hollow clay bricks.


We're getting closer to a functional kitchen but the list of things to do before the cabinets and appliances go in seems to get longer and longer. 

To Do:
  • Have brick masons fix wall (at least we don't have to do that one)
  • Run electrical outlets for 3 GCFIs and light switched for the sink light and garbage disposal
  • Run plumbing line off of sink line for dishwasher
  • Run electrical line to hard-wire dishwasher
  • Run new grounded wire to the outlet where the fridge will reside
  • Pull up multiple layers of laminate flooring to expose original hardwood and refinish if possible (paint if not salvageable)
I think that's all...eek!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Uncommon Fighting Practices

After a mere two weeks together, Frieda and Pep are having a great time play-fighting. 

A few notes on the video:

1. I am still learning to focus while taking videos on the camera, so please ignore any fuzziness. 
2. Pepin makes the most horrible cat fight noises while they play; I am dreading what we'll wake up to when we allow them both out of our room at night in the future.
3. Pep's best offense: rolling over on his back and using all fours
4. Frieda's best offense: sitting on Pep
5. Perhaps Alaskarella (my dear sister-in-law) should bring her clan to St. Louis if they want to see wild animals?
6. The video was taken in 1080p so you can choose to view it in HD if you'd like.