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Monday, January 30, 2017

Our Farmhouse Kitchen Facelift

 Our 1886 farmhouse kitchen has undergone a renovation.  No walls were torn down; no addition was constructed; and no cabinets were replaced.  But to me, it looks and feels like I have a brand new kitchen.  

 If you recall, this is what our kitchen looked like a week after Christmas.

 Four days later after we moved everything out, the kitchen looked like this.

Here we are on day three of the renovation with painting well underway.

 Week two began with the white pine floors being sanded and broken boards replaced.

By the end of week two the floor was nearly finished.

As we entered week three, finishing touches were made, the new white cast iron sink was installed, and the floor received a second coat of polyurethane finish.

When everything was finished after two and a half weeks, our contractor and his assistant were kind enough to move the appliances and furniture back into the kitchen for us.  I was too afraid of marking up the walls and floor, not to mention that what took us three hours to move, they did in twenty minutes.

So this was before...

 ...and this was on the last day when they were finishing up.


...After (I love that this sink is twice as deep as the old one.)



A month ago, our very lived-in kitchen looked like this.

But today it looks like this.


...And Now.  I lowered the leaf in the table so there is much more space in this room.

Earlier this month...

 ...and at the end of this month.

This facelift was the best thing I've ever had done.  It is everything I envisioned, and this construction business was superb.  They took my list of what I dreamed of and made it a reality.  I wasn't sure how these old pine floor boards would look once they were stripped and sanded, but they're beautiful now---even with their lasting imperfections.  I'm not sure they'll make it through another refinishing project though.  Once the countertops were sanded, we opted for no stain or varnish, but we're coating them with oil instead so they are safe for placing food on.  Our contractor purchased the paint, stain, and satin polyurethane finish from Sherwin Williams.  The Kohler sink we bought at Home Depot.

I love this room so much that I often sit on that bench in front of the window and read a book or blog at the kitchen table.  It's become my favorite and brightest room of our house, even on these gray, cloudy days of winter.

  Now if only I could relax and not fret that my husband and children are going to destroy it every time they walk through.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Until tomorrow...

We've been binge watching Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime this afternoon, and we just finished the episode where Lady Sybil dies from eclampsia after giving birth.  The members of Preppy Mountain Farmhouse are in mourning until tomorrow evening when I finally post our kitchen reno pictures.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Things

This evening's post is a random list of little things going on here this week.

1. We got a surprise a few days ago when our goat Feta gave birth to twins: Fontina and Manchego.  After losing two of our older goats in the past month, these babies were such a pleasant surprise.

2. We've been picking up our grandson and hanging with him one day each week.  He is definitely a bright spot in our gray winter days.

3. We had more ice and snow here this week, which gave the kiddos another 2 hr. delay.  As you can see, the snow hit the upper mountain ridges while the valleys got the ice.

4. I realize I'm coming late to the game here, but my husband got a trial Amazon Prime membership, which means Downton Abbey is available to us for free.  Oh my gosh, I can't believe we went all these years without watching this.  It is now the favorite evening drama show of every big person in this house.

5. After coughs, fevers, and sore throats last week, we have now moved on to a stomach virus.  So far two of our little ones have been camped out on the loveseat next to "the Bucket."  Yuck.

6. This actually feels like a big thing because the carpenters finished our kitchen renovation yesterday!  I'll post no more pictures of this though until the new Amish-made corner hutch has been delivered, and I've put everything back together again.  But I am so happy with this fresh, bright room.

7. I'm sure you noticed that my blog has a slightly different look.  I wanted to make more room for the pictures, and there will be plenty more of those coming next week!  I hope this change is easier for you readers to view and not quite as "busy."  I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Organizing Those Open Shelves in the Farmhouse Kitchen

I have a love/hate relationship with the open shelves in our kitchen.  As the renovation continues, I debated whether or not to have solid cabinet doors made so everything could be hidden inside. I finally decided that they don't need to be enclosed, I just need to better organize our stuff.  So I have been on a quest to find organizers that will match our newly renovated kitchen and hopefully cut down on the messiness and clutter that our big family generates.

Much of what I was looking for could be found at Home Goods.  I brought along most of my children after school one day and we perused all the aisles and shelves of this store, along with Pier 1 and Michael's.  I love the white canisters with the chalkboard labels on the front, and these were the last two on display.  The metal basket with another chalkboard label will be used for storing boxes of teas and other miscellaneous items.  The glass canister with the wood lid will hold rice or quinoa so we don't have bags spilling out over the front of the shelves.  I would have preferred to buy a few more of those, but this was the last one.

Earlier this month, I picked up this white ceramic crock at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for holding various kitchen utensils instead of keeping them stuffed in a very cluttered drawer.  The three-tiered bamboo spice rack was purchased at Weis, and I may get a few more of these because this is only a small portion of the herbs and spices I regularly use.  I found the basket at Target and am using it to hold medicines, vitamins, bandaids, and first aid supplies that we always need to have on hand.  There are some really cool spice racks made from pallet boards on Pinterest that I might try to persuade my husband to build for me during his many hours of leisure.  (Just kidding, Hubby.)

I think that we might be moved back into our like-new kitchen by the end of the week. Time to start deciding what to hang on the freshly painted walls.  I might just leave them simple, clean, and bare for awhile.  I think the rest of the family would rather I spend the week planning what we'll have for dinner the first evening I have access to the stove and oven again.

I'll leave you with another peek at the kitchen project in progress.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My January Reading List

Reading is my first love, and books have always held a sort of magic for me.  From as early as I can remember, libraries and book stores were my favorite places to be.  When those Scholastic book order forms came home, I circled and starred books that I wanted like someone filling their Amazon wishlist.  In elementary school, I devoted some of my recess time to helping in the school library.  And it was a special day indeed when the teachers issued shiny new books whose spines had never been cracked.  To this day, the faint sound of a brand new hardback book being opened excites me.  I still volunteer regularly in a library.  I still go on dates with my husband to the local bookstores.  I still feel like a child on Christmas morning when I get a new book I've been dying to read.  And curling up on my favorite rocking chair with a soft throw blanket, a cup of steaming flavored coffee, a new book, and precious hours of uninterrupted quiet is my idea of a perfect morning.  These are the books I am currently reading or re-reading:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne & John Tiffany is based on J.K. Rowling's story.  A number of my children are big Harry Potter fans, so they bought this book the day it hit the shelves and read it in a day.  Since it's a play, it's a quicker read than most of the Harry Potter books.  I usually don't read the books, but I have watched all the movies with my kids, but my ten year-old keeps insisting that I read this.  They found it a bit confusing for some reason, so I am committing to finishing this before the month is over.

Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu is a book referenced by so many of the sociology books I love to devour.  I couldn't find it in any of our book stores or in the local library, so I had to order it from Amazon.  It arrived with one of my husband's graduate school textbooks, and I'm not lying when I say this is three times as thick and far more scholarly than his book.  Written in the seventies by a French sociology professor and writer who loved to write in paragraph-length sentences, I've got my work cut out for me with this book.  This one might take me more than a week or two to finish.

Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers, and Rebels by Alissa Quart is my current library book.  While the writer is far more politically and socially liberal than I am, this was an interesting book about modern day renegades who are making grass-roots changes in a variety of areas.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on autistic people redefining "neurotypical" people and joining together on the Internet, as well as the final chapter on crafters and urban farmers who are rejecting mass production and industrial agriculture.  The Internet has made so much possible for pioneers and renegades who think outside the box, allowing them to spread the word and find other like-minded people.  I find that so encouraging.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines is one of the books I received for Christmas, and I read it in two days...on my favorite chair, with cups of cappuccinos, under my favorite plaid blanket.  It was so interesting, so uplifting, so inspiring that I'm going to read it again before the month is over.  This couple just oozes joy and life, and it's contagious.  I'll close today with the final lines of their book:

"...the key to everything Chip and I have learned in our life together so far seems to be pretty simple: Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.  Don't quit, and don't give up.  The reward is just around the corner.  and in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice.  Know that God has been there from the beginning---and he will be there until...The End."  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

10 Dinners at Home With No Kitchen: What We've Really Been Eating

It is Day 10 here of having no kitchen while the renovations continue.  Two weeks ago I had noble plans of coming up with creative dinners for the family using only the crockpot, microwave, and indoor grill.  I thought I'd compose a fantastic, helpful blog post full of simple recipes that others could use if their families were also without a kitchen for some period of time.  Our family brainstormed ideas, and I created a memo in my phone of dinner ideas, along with a list of ingredients I would need.  The reality is that I've only made two of those meals.

In all fairness to me, I couldn't have known that over these ten days I would have sick children home from school and Church a total of four days.  Nor that my husband would be home from work with an injured foot for two days.  Or that in this period of time the children would have one early dismissal, one snow day, and one 2-hour delay due to ice. Plus there was the holiday yesterday when everyone was home that I did know would occur.  Oh, and I couldn't have predicted that I would end up with a killer sinus headache that no OTC meds could touch that lasted for two whole days.  Tending to everyone's needs while squeezing through the mounds of stuff stashed in the dining room trying to find where I put the cough drops, pain relievers, herbal teas, cold medicines, ice packs, etc. proved to be a part-time job.  I soon realized that the hearty beef stews, burgers and veggies done on the George Foreman grill, and pulled pork sandwiches with freshly chopped tossed salads were not going to happen.  Sigh...

Instead, this is what we've actually been eating for dinner for the past ten days.  This includes what we're having tonight.  Other than a scheduled dinner out this Thursday due to a track meet we have to attend, I have no clue what we'll be eating during the remainder of the renovation.  I will say that my crockpot has gotten a lot of use due to the discovery of these Reynolds Slow Cooker liners that a friend told me about.  If it weren't for these, the crockpot would be packed away in the basement somewhere until I have my kitchen back.

Day 1: Frozen burritos and pizza bites heated in microwave (the only frozen dinners eaten so far)
Day 2: Takeout from Pizza Hut only because the pizzas were 50% off that day, and our daughter had a coupon for a free personal pan pizza
Day 3: 3 large cans of beef barley soup warmed in the crockpot and cold cut sandwiches
Day 4: Tacos with grass-fed ground beef browned in microwave with chips and salsa and queso
Day 5: My homemade crab dip, artisan cheese with crackers, baked potatoes (microwaved) with leftover taco meat, & canned baked beans heated in microwave
Day 6: Deli roast beef & cheese sandwiches on kaiser buns, potato chips, & pickle spears for the kiddos.  Hubby & I attended a cocktail party and ate there.
Day 7: 3 large cans of chicken noodle soup in crockpot & crackers.  This was a lean night and my refrigerator was getting bare, but I was 2 pounds lighter the next morning!
Day 8: Grilled bacon wrapped pork loin that Hubby froze weeks ago, potatoes done on the grill out back, green beans steamed in microwave
Day 9: Meatball subs from frozen mini meatballs cooked with jarred spaghetti sauce heated in crockpot, raw veggie platter
Day 10: Deli creamy potato/bacon soup in crockpot, bakery croissants

This was Day 8: Barbecued bacon wrapped pork tenderloin and potatoes that Hubby created himself and put on the patio grill surrounded by snow.  It was, by far, the best dinner we'd eaten in a week even if it was a coronary event just waiting to happen.

What I have realized over the past ten days is just how much of my kitchen I take for granted.  With absolutely no counter space for preparing food right now, it is very difficult to make anything from scratch.  With no cupboard space, all my food ingredients are packed up in boxes and bags or crammed on shelves in the basement.  With no sink in which to wash dishes and cutting boards and knives, it's nearly impossible to rinse, peel, pare, and slice fruits and vegetables.  And of course, with no stove or oven, I am relegated to using only the microwave, crockpot, or grill.  Or we eat things raw.  I have to totally rethink what I should buy at the grocery store, and I'm finding that to be way more challenging than I'd originally thought.

So, instead of publishing a post full of recipes for wonderful "kitchenless" dinners for your families, I humbly post what we're really eating for dinner during this temporary sabbatical from cooking.  I am still welcoming any simple meal ideas from you Dear Readers.  I think we've probably got another ten days or so before we are back in our farmhouse kitchen.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Ice Storm

When I posted on Tuesday, schools were dismissing early due to inclement weather.  While the forecast said a coating to an inch of snow, this is what it looked like here by the time my husband and children arrived home in the early afternoon.  I just happened to create a new chalkboard design that day, and once everyone was home safely, I felt I could display this and mean it.

When the children went to bed that night, they were hopeful they'd be on a 2 hour delay the next morning.  I told them not to hold their breaths because it was supposed to warm up and start raining by midnight.  Instead, we got the call at 5:30 AM Wednesday that schools were, indeed, on a two-hour delay.

Shortly after that, schools were canceled for the day due to the 1/4 inch of ice that coated everything overnight when the temperatures didn't rise as predicted.

I put my Yak Trax over my hiking boots, picked up my new camera, and headed to the woods.

If I stayed off our lane---which was a thick sheet of solid ice that my spikes couldn't penetrate---I could safely hike and photograph this winter wonderland.

Things were just starting to melt as the clouds began clearing, but I managed to get some photos of ice stubbornly clinging to everything around me.

A strange fog sort of hovered near the tree tops, and the sun never shone fully that day.

However, it did warm up A LOT as temperatures reached the low sixties yesterday, and everything completely melted.

But I am so glad that I braved the ice and took some time out of our busy, noisy, bustling house on that snow day to slow down and be in the moment and notice the small, simple, beautiful gifts that surround us here on the mountain.  Above all else that I hope to accomplish this year, choosing to be still and aware and present tops my list.  

And now, to finish this week on a totally different note, here is a peek at our kitchen at the end of day three of the renovation.  We all wait until the evening when the carpenters leave for the day, and then we practically run to those doors and have a look inside as we watch it transpire.  I've been visiting a local antique mall looking for farm treasures, and my Pinterest boards are expanding as I peruse the farm kitchen pins.  I think it's safe to say a trip to Home Goods and Pier 1 is in the plans for this weekend.

May all of you have both moments of excitement and stillness this weekend. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Creating a New Normal During Our Reno

While there is a snow/ice storm occurring outside that seems significantly worse than what was forecasted, I'm waiting inside for Hubby to safely bring home the children from their early dismissal from school.  I've got nervous energy from the stress of roads being closed, worry for all the families and buses out there driving their kiddos home, and too much coffee this morning, so I decided to blog to get my mind off my concerns for awhile.  

We finally managed to get absolutely everything except the wood/coal stove out of our kitchen on Sunday.  It looks like an empty house that's on the real estate market.  Well, it did before the contractor's crew began working on it yesterday morning.  Now I keep the doors to the kitchen closed and try to stay out of their way all day.  We do take a peek at night though to see the magic they have worked.  The day we cleared the last of everything out and wiped down the last of the cobwebs and dust (and there was an awful lot of both), our 7 year-old daughter put on her most beautiful princess dress, broke out the classical music, and danced her little heart out in the middle of that big, empty kitchen floor.  It was her own personal ballroom until her brothers came running in, loving the way their voices echoed in there.  Once the work began, however, all children have been banned from the kitchen, as well as all animals.

We have decided to look at this temporary change in our lives as an adventure as our big family lives without a kitchen, which happens to be the largest room in this house.  Everything that we would absolutely need, and everything that I was afraid might break, got placed in our dining room/multi-purpose room.  That room already had much going on in it: instrumental practice, homework, Internet browsing, game playing, video watching, and roughhousing.  Now the kitchen table and refrigerator are in there, along with much, much more.  

We look like we are hoarders now.  Every inch of space in that room is filled with boxes and bags of stuff that had been located in the drawers, cupboards, and counter tops of our kitchen.  We're having to come up with creative dinners that only require a microwave, toaster, or crockpot.  I'm still working on that.  Any dishwashing that needs to be done has to happen in one of the bathroom sinks, so there's a lot of paper plate use, I'm afraid.  Yesterday morning was the first school and work morning that the kitchen was off limits, and it was rather chaotic.  My husband couldn't find what he needed for work; our middle school son forgot his PE uniform; people were tripping over each other in that very cluttered space; and our youngest dropped and spilled half a quart of juice.  It was a mess.  But we are adjusting, and I'm happy to report that this morning went much smoother.

But I do tend to forget that we have the stove and dry sink stashed in the hallway, and I run into it nearly every time I round the corner with a full basket of laundry on my way down to the basement, which is where the washing machine is located in this old house (another thing I'd like to change.)  The past few days have really reinforced how much I never want to move again. If simply packing up the contents of one room to temporarily move into the next was a lot of work, I can't imagine having to pack up and move everything we've accumulated over the past ten years and moving it hundreds of miles away.  Been there and done that and hope to never have to do it again.  I'm grateful that this temporary situation is minor and of our choosing, and is leading to something we're all excited about (well, mostly I'm the excited one.)

I have every confidence that in a couple more days, we will have all adjusted to our new surroundings and be as relaxed and well-adapted as this guy---whose only issue seems to be that he has to eat in the hallway now instead of the kitchen.

And what do you know?  I see that the snow has stopped just as I come to the end of this post.  Have a great week, All.