A Lucky Find


I love farmers’ markets. There’s just something about heading out early on a Saturday (ok, midmorning on a Saturday) to walk around and look at all of the produce and products available in the different stalls. I think the trip is really half the fun!

There are many reasons to support your local farmers’ market. For one thing, just think of the convenience – it’s nearby, and you have experts on hand to help you with any questions you might have. After all, who could possibly tell you more about available produce than the very people who grow it? The stalls are run by individual farmers or farming families, and they are all happy to help you select items, tell you how to prepare fruits and veggies that you may be unfamiliar with, or suggest food pairings.

Take this rope of hot peppers, for instance. It caught my eye at the farmers market with the gorgeous red color and shiny skins of the dried peppers. Just looking at it lying on a table, I didn’t really know what to do with it, but fortunately there was a farmer on hand to help me out! She showed me that there is loop at one end so that you can hang the peppers up in your kitchen, then you just pull the peppers off from the bottom as you need them. Not only do the peppers look beautiful hanging in a garland in your kitchen, but she said they also bring good luck to the kitchen where they hang.

So far, these peppers have been great in tomato sauce for pasta and pizza and for flavoring beans. I can’t wait to see what other uses I can come up with for them!

Pretty, delicious, and lucky? This peppers were a deal that I couldn’t refuse!


A Relic from the Past


A Relic from the Past

I felt that I just had to make a record of this ancient artifact from the town house renovation project. This item was a fixture at both of my grandmothers’ houses. This tiny paper cup holder graced the wall by the sink, providing the user with a tiny paper cup to rinse after tooth-brushing or, I assume, to swallow pills. This one, of course, went with the pink bathroom in the town house. note the color-coordinated cups. My other grandmother’s tiny cup holder was beige.

I don’t recall ever seeing these aside from my grandmothers’ houses, but I could have just been to young to remember.

Do you have any memories of weird old things like this? Do tell!

Paint and Polish Don’t Mix

It’s a good thing that I do my own manicures. Behold my poor abused nails after two days of cleaning tack and painting:




I meant to post a picture update of the town house project tonight, but by the time we quit for the day, it was too dark to really be able to tell what we had done. Alas! I’ll try to remember to take some pictures tomorrow, when I’m sure there will be enough light.

So far, we have gotten the panelling washed and primed, and we did a test area of paint in one spot to make sure we wouldn’t have to use another coat of primer. Luckily, it seems to be working. Whew! We have also primed and painted the closet in one bedroom, and primed the other. We’ve also started painting the bedrooms. They’re just sheetrock that has already been painted, so no priming was required. The closets had to be primed anyway, due to fifty years worth of marks on the walls in there that would simply not come out. They were also still painted the groovy colors of the sixties that they were originally – bright yellow and turquoise! These colors were long ago covered in the bedrooms with a dingy antique white. I would actually have loved to have left them the original colors, but unfortunately the paint was in too bad a shape. Instead, they will be the current color of the rooms: pale blue and light green.

It’s very exciting to see progress being made. Painting is so much more fun than preparing to paint – washing walls, sanding trim, cleaning it all up… It’s such a drag! One thing i love about painting is getting immediate results. You run your brush or roller along the wall and you have an instant transformation! I am hoping to wield that transformative magic to great effect tomorrow in the bedrooms, and perhaps on some more panelling. 

Town House: Progress!

Thanks to Handy Andy, some of our first projects in the town house are almost finished!

The old wall heaters are gone, with nice new sheetrock over the holes:



You wouldn’t know they had ever been there!

Look how nicely this one in the paneling was matched up:



Here are a couple of stages of the bathroom. I took this one after the wall tile and vanity were removed, and the sheetrock put up. That deep hole where the old vanity sat shows you just how thick a layer of concrete the builders put in. Why? The world may never know.



I’m feeling happier already as the sixties tile goes away! In the next one, the new floor has gone in. The vanity is in the room, but has not been hooked up yet.


What a difference a day makes!


Renovation: Town House

My grandmother recently moved into assisted living, and my mother and I have taken on the task of renovating her house. Since we don’t have much of a budget, we are making the most of what we have. My grandmother moved into this brand-spanking-new house in the 1960s, and, not being much for decorating, has done little to change it since then.

Unfortunately, the builders decided to throw in every ’60s trend they could think of. If you have had much contact with them, you know “sixties building trends” pretty much translates to “bad.”

Observe the magnificence of the cheap wood panelling found in the kitchen, dining area, living room, and hall:


It actually looks a lot better in this picture than in real life. Here you see two of the few good pieces of furniture left over after my grandmother moved: an oak bookcase and an antique cherry table.

This couch is more typical of the leftover furniture:


See what I mean about the sixties? Believe it or not, we think we can do something cute with the table-lamp. It will be our “nod to the decade.”

The couch was taken off our hands most fortuitously by a handy-man, who is doing the part of the renovation that we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves:



The picture does not truly capture the horror of this room. This color was very hip in the sixties, I am sure, but now it is downright nauseating. Something had to be done. You can’t tell, but the horrible tile goes all the way around the room. The mirror was in fact tiled into the wall. The vanity was tiled into the wall. All of the dated fixtures were tiled into the wall. Thank goodness for Handy Andy – this lovely tile was secured to the wall with a good 3/4-inch of concrete. Yes, concrete.

We left the tile around the shower, which we are planning on painting white. There are specialized kits for painting tile; I have heard very good reviews from people who have used them, so we’ll see how it goes. The gaping holes left when the concrete was removed have been sheetrocked over, and we are putting down a new floor, toilet, and vanity. Thank goodness.

Last, but not least, is the kitchen:


Once again, you really can’t comprehend just how bad it really looks. The sixties cabinets are dated to start with, and on top of that, in recent years a housekeeper started trying to wash the cabinets with a wet dishcloth, ruining the finish, and something (my grandmother’s walker? A vacuum cleaner?) has been dragged against all of the doors close to the floor, putting a large scratch all the way around the kitchen. Wow. Observe also the terrible hardware and the bizarrely oversized vent hood over the cooktop. The gold Spanish-inspired linoleum can’t be ignored either. We’re still trying to decide about flooring options, but we are going to paint all of the cabinets and replace the countertops, cooktop, and vent hood. The oven is fairly new and hopefully still works.

The redeeming feature is the hardwood that is hidden underneath all of the bad carpet. Hopefully it is still in good shape. We are going to have a big job sanding and painting all of the doors and trim, and priming and painting all of that panelling. All of the ceilings need to be painted, too. I think it’s going to look great when we’re finished, though!

2013 Reno Project #1: Laundry Room

I don’t have any “before” pictures of the laundry room. It’s just too embarrassing. Let’s suffice it to say that it was dingy, dark, cramped, and generally unpleasant.

Here is the finished product!


This is the new cabinet that we put over the washer and dryer. The solid wooden doors came from the old cabinets that used to hang from the ceiling between the kitchen and breakfast area. There were two other doors in that set of cabinets that we used on a freestanding cabinet we put in the kitchen. Reusing the old doors both saved money and helped improve continuity with the kitchen, which the laundry room opens off of. We also painted the cabinet the same color as the kitchen cabinets. The door in the middle uses a pane of glass that was in a cabinet of my great-grandfather’s. Throughout my childhood, this cabinet stood in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen. My grandfather kept it stocked with “eater snacks,” or those packages of six peanut-butter-and-crackers, and he would urge me to have one with a glass-bottle Coke every time I came to visit. It makes me happy that we were able to preserve this piece of family history in our own house.


This bell pull was made by my grandmother. She was a talented needleworker and quilter, and I am proud to be able to display her work here! Here is a closeup of the crewel embroidery:


We replaced one long shelf with three shorter shelves, and placed colorful cloth baskets on them for storage. It looks much better than the previous storage area, and is more practical, too!


We also added this place to hang brooms, mops, dust mops, etc.


The strings make them easier to hang. Never underestimate the importance of a convenient place to keep your low-tech tools!

We wanted to bring some color into the room, but were concerned about how difficult it would be to do a good enough job on the walls with all of the appliances in the small room. Therefore, we just painted over the walls with a fresh coat of cream, and took this bright turquoise paint the the ceiling! This is a great way to brighten up a small room like this. It lights up the space without overwhelming it.

I’m very pleased with how it turned out! I suppose you can’t really see the true impact without the before picture, but just trust me on this one! I must say we were fortunate to be able to utilize my father’s carpentry skills on the cabinet. Nothing beats being able to do work for yourself – because of both cost and achievement!