Monday, January 16, 2017

here we go

I am so glad the contractors aren't working at my house today. It's 38 degrees and pouring rain, most of which is turning to ice on the pavement. It's so dreary and miserable out there, I'm content to stay at home in the peace and quiet and not have to go out.

The contractors were actually able to start a little work last Friday. They tore off the wainscoting and got some of the drywall torn off. If I had've known they were going to do this, I would've had Brian and Tim take the kitchen table, chairs and rug to the basement, but the contractors were able to just move everything closer to the kitchen counters and it didn't get in their way at all.

They also installed the over-the-range microwave. In order to fit the microwave, they had to tear out the two small cabinets that were previously there. (See my previous blog post for the "before" photo.) The problem is, that left a big gap between the top of the microwave and the soffit. So, they built us a little wooden shelf above the micro. I know it looks a bit strange right now, but once they paint the entire kitchen and then I put some decorative items in that bare space, I think it'll make a pretty nook.

Now for the reality part:

Renovation is stressful. 
The contractors are on your doorstep at 7 am.
That means you have to be showered and dressed and your entire morning routine done by then.
Coffee made and a quick something grabbed for breakfast ~ because you certainly don't have access to the kitchen once they start working.
Cats fed and locked up in the basement.
Car moved out of the garage and onto the street.

The one teeny perk to getting up early? You get to see the sunrise.

There's nowhere to go at 7 am to escape the noise and dust except a coffee shop. Nothing else is open. I suppose you could go wandering around a 24-hour Walmart or Walgreens if you were bored enough. I'll pass on that.

So, starting tomorrow morning, I'll hole myself up in my bedroom or in the basement with my laptop until I feel I can't stand the noise any longer. I have a feeling that coffee shops and the library are going to be my temporary home these next couple of weeks. I also have a few visits with friends planned.

I've also learned that renovation requires a lot of planning. Since I won't be able to cook during the day, I made several meals yesterday and put them in the refrigerator. Outfit for the day needs to be chosen and set out ahead of time - because you're certainly not going to have time in the morning to make any decisions. It's grab and go. Little things that might be kept in the kitchen - vitamins, phone charging cords - need to be kept in your purse or in a room that's not being worked on. Anything you need to take with you when you leave for the day - purse, keys, laptop, reading material, water bottle, food - has to be ready the night before.

We just found out that when the contractors are working with the drywall, they will be taping the kitchen cabinets shut on both sides. (That's another thing: the drywall dust is supposed to be horribly invasive.) So, we won't be able to open cabinets to get plates, silverware, or pots and pans. I'll be taking a few of these items out of the cabinets today and keeping them downstairs - where everything else from the kitchen and living room is piled. Even the normal stuff I kept on the kitchen counters for quick access - coffee pot, cooking utensils, bananas, pepper grinder - all had to be taken downstairs. Our dinners will be eaten down there, too. Dinner on the couch (if we can find it) in the family room...our new normal.

It's also very unnerving to have strangers in your house. Yes, you kind of get to know these contractors, but they're still strangers. And they're tearing your house apart and basically taking over.

I thought a lot of this was just me and my over-anxious mind until I came across this article on Houzz: 

Whaddya know - it's universal!

One more worry? My fur babies. I hate that they have to be kept in the basement all day. Sure, they have their little beds and nesting spots down there, as well as a cat box and a bowl of water, but they're used to having access to the entire house, including sunbeams on comfy beds. And I hate that they're subjected to such loud noise, especially since we usually have such a peaceful house. I wish I could explain it to them and that they understood. Last Friday when I went into the basement to feed them and talk to them and pet them, Monkey was cowering underneath a chair and didn't want to come out. :-(

Yes, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. But let's face it ~ we live in the here and now ~ so I'm writing about the here and now. Perhaps it will help someone else out there when they decide to go through some remodeling or renovations.

See you soon with more updates and reality checks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

getting ready

Happy New Year (it's still not too late to still say that, is it?) from cold, dreary Illinois. I apologize in advance for the dark photos, but this is what the natural light in the house is like right now. 

Monkey and Clementine love to hang out in their cat tree in the living room, watching the birds and squirrels (if you look closely, you can see the gray squirrel on top of the fence) out the window. But, in just five days, their cat tree will be relinquished to the basement, as workers will be here next Tuesday to start renovations.

Totally clearing out rooms takes more time than you think - even if you think a room doesn't have that much stuff. You learn you really have more "stuff" than you think you do! When you have to remove every knick knack, plants, artwork, mirrors, books, and every piece of furniture...well, let's just say I'm glad I not only have a helper, but that we have a basement where we can move all this stuff to in the meantime.

You can see that we still have to remove the curtains and blinds, cat tree, chair, rug and coffee table. The couch and buffet will stay in the living room and the workers will cover and seal these two pieces.

One of the things we're having done is having a mantle built and installed. After almost 27 years of waiting, I'm excited about finally having a completed fireplace.

This photo shows how the fireplace wall is on an angle. I'm considering getting rid of this buffet ~ it takes up so much room in our small living room. It used to belong to my parents and my mom doesn't want it back. The thing is, a lot of my serving and glass baking dishes are in this buffet, along with wine glasses. The drawers on top hold extra dish towels and cloth napkins, as well as paperwork and mailing supplies. I could relocate the dish towels and paperwork, and perhaps get rid of some of the wine glasses, but I have no idea where I'd put all the serving dishes and baking dishes. Most of the wine glasses are Waterford crystal from our wedding registry back in 1984 and we never use them - I think I could sell them at my favorite antique consignment shop. I'm entertaining the idea of clearing out a lower cabinet in the kitchen where we store all the extra food containers (mostly glass). Then, perhaps I'd have room for the baking dishes. 

Another idea is to keep the buffet and have my mom chalk paint it (she's in the business of doing this now) so the living room doesn't look so dark. I haven't passed this idea past Mom yet, so Mom - if you're reading this - surprise! ;-)

The biggest project - and most dramatic, I think - will be having an 8' pass-thru cut out in the living room wall. (The other side is the kitchen.) This is the main supporting wall, so it can't be totally removed. Well, technically it could if we chose to have a support beam put in the ceiling, but that's a ton of work and expense. And this little house and neighborhood we live in isn't worth that kind of major renovation as far as resale value.

Here's the kitchen side of the wall. Can't you just picture the pass-thru and how much light will flow between these two rooms?

The workers will also be tearing the wainscoting off the walls and then painting the entire kitchen a neutral cream color. Good riddance to robin's egg blue! The kitchen has been painted this color the entire 27 years we've lived here. Needless to say, I'm way past this color.

The color I chose to have the kitchen painted is Behr Eggshell Cream. It'll flow nicely with the living room and hallway, and having neutral walls in the kitchen also means I can decorate with whatever colors I wish. With having blue walls, I was limited in color choices with table linens, dishes, chair pads, and decor.

We'll also have that lovely 1980's range hood and the two small cabinets above it removed, and a microwave installed above the range. The microwave on the counter will be donated. We're thinking of purchasing a toaster oven and putting it in the microwave's place.

Lastly, the brown faux wood trim around the kitchen doorway that leads to the basement will be removed and white molding installed. Sorry for the horrendous photo. I had to turn on the ceiling fan lights and it cast shadows all over the wall.

There's still a lot more that needs to be done in the kitchen - recessed lighting, new kitchen window, new counter tops, backsplash, maybe some upper cabinets removed and open shelving put in its place, and cabinets refaced - but all that will have to wait until more money is saved up. Not to mention, there's a lot of other (more important) work to be done in the house. Ah, the joys of home ownership!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

farewell 2016 and taking care of yourself

From what I've seen on social media, it seems a lot of us are glad to see 2016 go. I don't need to rehash world news here, but it was an "interesting" year, to say the least.

I like to reflect on my own life and goals at the end of the year, and also look back at the happenings of the year. There were lots of good times, but some heartbreaking news as well. Though, of course, that's not surprising. It's all part of life.

I find it helpful to journal some thoughts and goals for the New Year instead of making resolutions. Ask yourself what you discovered about yourself in 2016...what surprised you...what held you back? Did anything change for you? How did you handle these challenges?

What are you looking forward to in the New Year - and what are you unsure about? How can you bring more calm into your life, heart and head this New Year? What will you make more time for? 

That's just a few of the many questions you can ask yourself and think about. Two women who really inspire me toward personal growth and self-care are Jennifer Louden and Susannah Conway. If you need inspiration and motivation, I highly recommend you taking a look at these two blogs. 

In the meantime, wishing you all a blessed and safe New Year's Eve. Are you staying in or going out? For the first time in years, we are going out to dinner in Chicago with some friends. We'll be back way before midnight though ~ don't want to be on the roads after midnight celebrations, that's for sure! 

Thank you for your continued friendship and support of my little blog. You all are appreciated and treasured.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

another christmas come and gone

Christmas Day was spent at my sister's house with extended relatives where we had a spiral ham and turkey breast, a variety of side dishes and appetizers, and homemade pies and cookies. Brian had to work a 12-hour shift, so couldn't join us until later in the evening, which was kind of a bummer. But, after being married 32+ years to someone who has worked in the emergency services field, I'm (somewhat) used to his crazy hours and shifts.

Brian, Tim and I had our Christmas celebration on the 26th since Brian finally had a day off. It was perfect: quiet and relaxing. I made a breakfast casserole and a pot of coffee and the three of us sat in the living room taking our time opening presents and demolishing the breakfast casserole. Please excuse our pajamas and bedhead in the photos. ;-)

Brian totally surprised me with a beautiful leather BedStu purse that I had admired when we were on our weekend anniversary trip to Shipshewana, Indiana in September. He actually took a photo of the purse I was looking at and then contacted the store to have them ship it to his work before Christmas. He also surprised me with a handcrafted silver and gold ring that I saw and tried on in a shop in Evanston in October. When I had asked the artist the price and she told me, I quietly put the ring back in its place. Unbeknownst to me, when we were in a coffee shop and Brian left to feed the parking meter, he went into the artist's shop and made arrangements to buy the ring for Christmas. I don't know what's gotten into my hubby ~ he usually doesn't surprise me like this ~ but I like it!

Of course, the kitties were spoiled, too. I got them catnip filled spider toys and catnip filled felt balls, both of which they love. Even Zippo - at age 17-1/2 - chases the balls around for a little bit. If you're interested, the seller is HERE on etsy.

All the Christmas decorations have been taken down but are still sitting all over the bar and floor in the basement, waiting to be packed away. A job I dread doing, but am grateful for a husband who will end up helping me. I know a lot of people keep their decorations and tree up until at least January 1st, but to me, Christmas is over on the 26th. I'm ready for that cleaner, simpler least for a couple of weeks before the remodeling work begins in our house!

Friday, December 23, 2016

just a little note

Sorry I've been MIA...lots of busyness this time of year. I know most of you are in the same boat. 

Not only have I been busy getting ready for Christmas, but we celebrated Tim's 26th birthday this week, too. From cute, fat, drooly baby to handsome young adult in the blink of an eye!

So, from all of us at Comfy House, including Zippo (enjoying his new catnip-filled spider toy that I found on etsy)...

and Monkey (who loves baskets)...

and Clementine, who enjoys watching birds at the feeder...

may you have a most happy and blessed Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

frigid weather, some general chit chat, and a little more christmas

As I write this post, I can hear the winds howling outside my house and I'm watching gusts of snow fly past the window. The sun is shining but the wind chill temperature is already below zero. I know this is a horrible photo - I just grabbed my phone from where I was sitting and zoomed in outside the living room window to capture this photo of the sparrows lining the fence and fluttering about the bird feeder (and the mourning dove sitting on the branch on the left). The birds are all sitting there like the wind is a gentle summer breeze. They must have some good feathery insulation and super grippy claws in order not to blow right off the fence!

Earlier in the day, I went to open the side door (I can't even remember why now) and I heard this ripping sound and felt the door opening slowly. I was wondering what was going on and when I got the door open, I saw that the velvet ribbon from the wreath had adhered itself onto the ice on the inside of the door! The ribbon pulled away from the wreath as I was opening the door.

Inside, the cats and I have a better idea of trying to stay warm and snuggly, especially in the long, dark, cold evenings. I'm not much of a TV watcher so I've been doing lots of reading.

Last night I was reading on the couch and didn't realize at the time that the cats were each perched on the back cushions. When I got up and saw this, I grabbed my phone to take a picture. Zippo was in a hurry to get up and take my warm spot on the couch, so that's why he's blurry. 

On Monday, Brian was working a later shift so we had a chance to go out to breakfast. There's an old-fashioned diner in town that's been there "forever", but yet in the 26+ years we've lived here, we'd never been there to eat. I had a coupon for a 1/2 off breakfast, so we decided to give the place a try. I have to say, I give the place five stars for ambiance because it looks and feels like hometown Americana. But unfortunately, the food wasn't the greatest. Oh well, you live and learn. Sometimes it's fun just going to a new place instead of the usual.

A few more touches of Christmas around my house...a collection of Santas at the end of the hallway.

Every Christmas season, I put this special bunny on Phil's memory shelf. You'll see that on his scarf it says, "Joy Phil". As for the photo of the heart with the hand on it...when Phil passed away seven years ago, Tim painted that heart on Phil's bedroom wall. As an artist, that was Tim's way of expressing his pain. A few years later when we were painting Phil's bedroom, we asked Tim if he wanted to keep the heart on the wall or if we should paint over it. He wanted us to paint over it. So I took a photo of the heart and framed it for Phil's memory shelf.

In the main bathroom, I added just a few simple touches with angels, a bottlebrush tree, and a bathtub full of mini ornaments.

 Hard to believe Christmas is only 11 days away. I got some gifts wrapped today, which is actually a bit of a miracle. You see, I loathe wrapping (and I'm truly lousy at it), so I usually procrastinate and do that at the last minute. I'd like to make a few different Christmas cookies, too and get those in the freezer. 

How are your holiday preparations coming along?

Friday, December 9, 2016

christmas in the kitchen

One thing I hate about running normal errands this time of year is that everyone is Christmas, traffic is insane, stores are crowded, and lines are verrry long. Even on a Friday. The positive? I didn't encounter any crabby people at all today, like I usually do when out in public. Quite the opposite. I saw a middle-aged woman helping an elderly woman who was parked in a handicapped spot, with putting her groceries in her car and taking the cart back to the cart corral for her. In another store, two older ladies were shopping together and laughing. The one said to the other, "See? I needed to be with you today. You always know how to cheer me up and make me laugh." Made me smile while I was shopping. All the store clerks were in good moods, too. 

I put a little of that Christmas spirit (which we need year-round) in my kitchen with decorations here and there. Again, nothing fancy. Just casual, festive and home-y. That kitchen wall will be going bye-bye next month. We're having an eight-foot pass-through cut out in this wall. On the other side of the wall is the living room. The wainscoting and blue walls will be leaving, too. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the display space for the Santa mugs and Christmas glassware.

I recently bought this trio of tealight holders at Crate and Barrel with a 15% off coupon. Good thing is, I can use them year-round, not just for the holidays. Makes a simple, pretty centerpiece.

Reindeer plates and a vintage Marshall Field's crock (both found at Goodwill years ago) on top of the fridge...

Touches of red and white in the china cabinet...

On the wall to the right of the china cabinet, more red and white...

To the left of the china cabinet, my favorite red and white winter mugs came out of storage...

as well as a milk glass piece that's perfect for holding Earl Grey tea bags.

I attempted to make a coffee and tea station on a tray on the kitchen counter, but it turned into more of a catch-all station!

If you're a coffee drinker and have a Trader Joe's near you, I highly suggest this limited Wintry Blend coffee. I normally don't like flavored coffees, but this one's delicious. From the Trader Joe's web site:

It begins with a blend of quality Arabica coffee beans from a variety of locales, including Sumatra and Guatemala. (There are others, too, but telling you where all the beans originate might just give away the secret to our blend, and well, we wouldn't want to do that!) The beans are roasted to a smooth, medium-dark Vienna roast. But since this is no everyday coffee, we didn't stop there.  After the roast comes the intriguing part, the part where whole green and red peppercorns, fresh whole cloves and chunks of sweet cinnamon are added. The coffee isn't flavored; rather, it's spiked with spices. When the beans and spices have been combined, the blend is given a good grind, making prep a snap, and ensuring the spices are evenly distributed throughout.

 I buy several containers of this coffee so that it lasts me all winter, because it's always sold out right before Christmas. And if you're a tea drinker, I suggest trying Republic of Tea's Comfort and Joy flavor. Between this and the Wintry Blend coffee, it's hard to decide which one to have each morning! I found the tea at World Market, but you can also order it online. The cute mugs were purchased at Kohls years ago. The one that says "Nice" on the front says "Naughty" on back. I'm a little of both ~ how about you? ;-)

More snow is coming here this weekend - they're saying 6+ inches Saturday evening into Sunday. And then the bitter cold will hit on Tuesday, with daytime temps in the single digits and below zero at night. These frigid temps don't normally happen until January. I guess that's what we get for having a warmer-than-average November!

Stay warm and cozy...until we talk again.