Monday, April 21, 2014

A Little Green Post

 While Mom was in, I mentioned how much I'd like to clean up my big shade garden.  Someone at some point planted orange daylillies in there...and those suckers grow like weeds.  In big packs.  Towering three feet tall.  These had escaped the garden border and were making for the hills.

As an aside, last year around this time I planted a mess of columbine, astilbe, and hostas in this garden.  They grew, but not very enthusiastically.  I'm blaming the daylillies.
 Hello, columbine!  Grow, baby, grow!
 See this?  There shouldn't be any lily sprouts on the far side of that rock.
 Mom is such a trooper.  Those sprouts, tender though they seem, were not easy digging.
 She piled them up in the wheelbarrow, trundled them up to the road, and guess what we did with these beautiful weeds?
 Yep, we threw them in the ditch.  Well, sort of...Mom dug up a few spots and we laid big clumps of lilies into them.  Maybe they'll catch on and we'll have a ditch full of waving orange lilies this summer.  We planted a few cannas on the end, too...they're not supposed to be hardy in this zone, but we'll see.

By the end of the day, it turned cooler and rainy.  This was my office view of the shade garden.
 So much cleaner without those little escapees!

*****

While Dave and Mom and I were in the hospital (they kept me overnight), we watched Julie and Julia on the hospital's movie channel.  You know, the one about Julia Child?  So then we watched some youtube of Julia Child's actual TV show, The French Chef.  And Mom turned around on our rainy afternoon and made us this:
 "Fish in monk's clothing."
 With halibut, french bread, sparkling cider, and candles.
 My get-well flowers from all my family.
  I love fresh flowers.  They are never not an excellent idea.
 In the days since Mom went back to Dallas, I've pecked even more at the lilies, a little at a time.  Dave made a great big dent in them on Saturday.  As of ten minutes ago, my shade garden looks like this:
Respectable, right?!  It's such a site for sore eyes, especially after the winter we've had.

And I've made a terrible, terrible discovery.  Terrible.  Did you know...ebay has hundreds of thousands of seed and plant dealers???  I found bareroot trillium.  I've been looking for trillium ever since I moved here!  It's a humble forest wildflower, but very difficult to find, apparently.  Well, I found it.  On ebay.  Guess what's going in my shade garden as soon as it arrives?!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chicken

Dave just recently got me a very nice present.
Like my nesting doll measuring cup?  That wasn't the present, but she's cute, right?
 I feel totally inept in the kitchen.  And with just I can't eveneven finish that sentencecan't he two of us here, and neither of us being really all that snooty when it comes to food, well, there isn't a whole lot of need for real live cooking in this house.  So if it's dinner time and I'm home alone, I am totally not above pickles and peanut butter for dinner.  Maybe I'll go all out and fry an egg, but really, why bother.
 But then I watched a movie and read a book and listened to a sermon ("If you want to experience God but not good food, not breathtaking views, not music and dancing, not beauty, then you have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of God." I mean, of course! Of course!), and it has motivated me to move.  Not so much as a self-improvement (although there is that too), but as a deepening of joy and expansion of life.
 So the other day, I made this thing with a French name but it is basically chicken in a spicy cream sauce.  It has to be French because it came straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the Julia Child authoritative textbook, as faithful an execution as I could manage.  Yup.  Dave bought me the boxed set of volumes 1 and 2, and guys.  I never thought something so delicious would turn up in my kitchen not in a Macaroni Grill leftovers box.
So am I writing you today to tell you about chicken?  Well, sort of.

I went into surgery the other day.  It was my first time to be admitted to a hospital, you know with the whole being knocked out for several hours and waking up with a four inch gash in my neck and who knows what-all side effects.  Which sounded awwwwesome.

And what's the question you always ask people going into surgery?  "Are you nervous", right?  Right?  Because presumably this surgery involves you voluntarily letting a guy with a knife I can't even finish that sentence.  And results in a four inch gash and who know what-all side effects (which turned out to be numbness from my neck across the shoulder cap and down my upper arm with minimal muscle authority).  But I really wasn't all that nervous going into this...and why?  A couple reasons, I guess.  Denial is a good one.  The good old fingers in the ears lalalalala, this isn't happening schtick.  Also, like the chicken, when you have an international expert telling you it's all going to be ok, you tend to believe them.  It turns out my neurosurgeon is one of those, just like Julia Child. Sort of.

But my favorite reasons are two: my husband and my Mom.  Mom came in the day before the surgery and will be here for a few more days, helping me wash my hair and make dinner and keep me company (and transplanting day lillies, whoohoo!).  And David has been nothing but gentle support and kindness and encouragement.  With this kind of loveliness enveloping me, how could I worry?  God has provided for this expensive fiasco, both in the practical and the comfort of the soul.  I really feel the "leads me beside still waters" right now, even with the inability to use my right arm except as a sort of club with fingers on it (I can still type, as long as my left hand places my right in the right spot).  It turns out that the mass they removed was about the size of an egg, and several nerve strands were stretched taut across it.  When they moved those taut strands, it shocked them...which is why I've lost so much feeling.  But the Julia Child surgeon said both feeling and strength would most likely all return...in time.

So.  Here I wait.  In this beautiful place, surrounded with love and care.  I miss my family, but I am so grateful.  I'm so grateful for this sweet time of dependence, the ability to give the gift of asking for help, and the gifts lavished on me from all sides.  I am so grateful for this "trial" which is really just an invitation to let go, to be small and weak for awhile. To not be the capable one.  Thank you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Up High! Down Low! It's Another Cabinet, Yo!

Yes, folks, after months of waiting...and waiting...and putting on hold...and waiting some more...the first set of upper cabinets is in place!

Remember how my mother-in-law Kathy requested a space filler?  You know, something to go next to the oven and provide some counter space and storage?  Here's the hole:
And here's the filler, installed over the summer:
And I figured while I was at it, I'd redesign the whole kitchen.  Literally.  Because why not, right?
(This is actually a redesign of the redesign...you can see I've already bumped my original "space filler" and replaced it with something else.  I've also "bought" a new sink and faucet, replaced the window, replaced the countertops, and moved the stove to the right about a foot.  Cause I dream big, y'all.)

So I started building the carcasses for the upper right-hand bank of cabinets immediately upon installing that base cabinet, like, 8 months ago.
The design goals were:

  1. Increase storage and use all available lateral and vertical space
  2. Get the microwave off the new counter
  3. Provide wineglass storage

And for me personally, I wanted to learn to install euro-style hinges (completely concealed), build more grown-up doors (still not quite "Fine Woodworking", but more complex than anything I've done so far), and get that bank of extra tall upper cabinets on the wall as solid as a rock.  And work with something other than oak, pine, and poplar.  For this, I used maple special ordered from our local lumber yard.  For which I'm still proud of myself.
Now, the bulk of the cabinet is still plywood, and the panel in the doors is plywood...but the face frames are maple.  They're painted, but they're maple.  I also bought and began learning to use a router, a table saw, and a few other new tools.  I am totally spoiled.

Wanna see it??
Ok, first you have to see what was getting replaced:
 The upper cabinets are metal construction with pretty short shelves and shallow of depth.  Also they didn't fill the space effectively.  Here they are again with the new cabinet installed below (this was June, btw).
This is where I was back in October (with the new router in the foreground).
 See, I lost the entire month of August to training for my job.  My company transferred me to the emergency medical service in Cleveland flying a different aircraft, and the training took no-joke-7-weeks.
 And then I was adjusting to the new aircraft, new environment, new flight suits (not as comfortable as you'd think), and new sleeping/working/traveling schedule, and so progress really slowed down for me on this project.  (In the meantime, I had all of Kathy's wineglasses here in Ohio so they'd be on hand for planning and fitting the wineglass holder...Kathy had the patience of a saint.  And no wine glasses.)
But the doors did get built and finished, the wineglass holder got rigged up and added, and the doors got their hinges (finally - and I totally recommend Blumotion hinges, if you don't have them).  Dave transferred each piece to Pittsburgh as he made various trips over the next few months...because transporting a stack of finished doors is much easier when you're not worrying about the huge cabinet carcasses and piles of tools you're also transporting.

For hanging, I ripped a piece of plywood to 8 inches and cut it to the length of both cabinets side by side.  Then I made a 45 degree rip down the middle of that board to create a french cleat.  With the two cabinets lined up and sitting level on the floor, I attached the top half of the cleat to the upper portion of both cabinets.
(This is how you want this portion to look)
I made sure this board was nice and level all the way across.
Then I cut that board at the joining of the two cabs so that, you know, we wouldn't have to carry them both at the same time since they're attached at the cleat.
Now once we get to Pittsburgh, we can hang the bottom half of the cleat nice and level on the wall, screw it to death into every stud, and all we have to do with the big heavy cabinets is hang them on the cleat.  Boom.  No holding a giant cabinet while balancing across a stove, trying to get it level, and praying you don't drop it on your partner's toes.  I had debated about doing two cleats, an upper one and a lower one, but then decided that would be overkill.  Instead, there is a spacer board that gets screwed into all the studs about two feet below the cleat...and that way we can screw the cabinets into that board without worrying about hitting studs since the board itself is already screwed solidly into studs.  Make sense?  I hope?

So now let's move to the scene of the hanging, shall we?  This is after we pulled the old cabinets off the wall.
 And then we hung that cleat (and also the lower board) and lifted the first big cabinet onto it.  (This was on my dad's birthday, by the way.  Happy Birthday, Dad!!)
  The other beautiful thing about using a cleat like this is that we could hang this cabinet about 6 inches left of where it needed to finally end up.  This enabled Dave to perfectly mark and notch the existing wall trim to allow the cabinet to nestle in tight to the wall.
Once the trim was notched, we just slid the big beast 6 inches to the right and screwed it through the back into both the cleat and the spacer board at the bottom.  Easy peasy, no sweat needed.
 Then we hung the second one and screwed it into place.
And then we added doors! And the microwave!  And dishes!  And you're probably wondering why the trim sticks up into the air like that...but really, it's not a mistake; those verticals are going to support the crown molding that will eventually top these cabinets.  And then they will be finished!  (Which, at this pace, may take around 8 years.)

Do you want to know about installing euro hinges?  Cause I can tell you about it...but not if nobody's interested.  It was so much easier than I had thought it would be, and it turned out I didn't even need the router for it, which was the main reason I purchased that tool for this project.  But come on...who doesn't need a router??

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Soon-to-be-Sister!

I had the tremendous honor last week of flying into Dallas to spend a little time with my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Alex.
Because I got to be the wedding dress seamstress!  Mostly.  See, there was a dress she had her heart on, and there was a dress she could afford...and I got the humbling and squeal-inducing right to alter the second so it would look more like the first.

Um, no, you can't see it.  It's a wedding dress, y'all, and my brother will probably read this maybe at some point maybe.

So instead of white fabric, sewing machines, and thousands of pins, I've got shower pictures for you!
Since I was in town for such a short time, I got invited to the coworkers' Kitchen Shower!
This is Teresa, whose name I have probably butchered in the spelling.
Sorry, Therisa!  She is totally sweet and generous and adores Alex, so I think she's probably an all-around winner.  And Mom!  Mom's a winner, too.
 Ellie was clearly the most adorable person in the room, so she had a great time.
We had delicious Campisi's food and played some shower games.
And then Alex got to open her presents.
 Terisa made the bow bouquet as we went along (I so wish I knew how she spelled it!).
 I was busy with the camera most of the time, but Mom offered to take one of me and Alex.  With no communication whatever, this is where the two of us went with that:
 Ellie just loved that bow bouquet.
 What a great party!
I'm so glad I got to go to this shower!  This wedding is coming up soon!!  Heading to Dallas in 2 weeks!
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