The Garden and the Chicken Coop

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Let’s start with some pansies! I got so tired of Noah (and now Chloe) eating all the pansies that I decided to haul this big pot outside the fenced yard. Better to feed the deer than be irritated at my dogs. I found a little piece of portable fencing to try to protect it from the deer. Within a few days, there were a million blooms!

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I am so happy that the lilac is blooming so well this year. Last summer MLG, with my direction, did quite a bit of pruning. They say that lilacs don’t particularly like pruning. I guess we did a good job!

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Most of the blooms are too high for me to touch, but this is the best its bloomed in years. I am happy.

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And now inside the yard and to the right. Those tall plants are the money plants. They are way taller than I thought they would be. Their blooms aren’t anything spectacular, but its nice to see blooms early in the season. I like the shape of the plants and the leaves are very pretty.

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Here’s a close-up of the fringed tulips in that bed.

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The flowering cherry is blooming.

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And the Japanese maples look so pretty when the leaves first come out.

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I can hardly wait for these foxgloves to bloom!

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Another view of more Japanese maples. You can see my car there, and a truck behind it.

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The truck belongs to J. the Contractor. Yes! The time finally arrived for the construction of the chicken coop. He and his helper were here for an entire week working on the house and yards! Here is the coop with the first yard that was built between the wood shed and the coop.

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Nest boxes can be accessed from the outside, and are built at just the right height for me–no need to bend over 🙂

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Nest boxes from inside the coop. The rail in front can be removed for easy cleaning.

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And a little ramp for the chickens to get outside each morning. There is a sliding door (that I can close from outside) to keep them safe each night.

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I started worrying that the yard we planned would not be big enough for the chickens, so I asked J. to build a second yard behind the coop. Both yards are connected by a simple gate. You can see my house behind the coop, so you know where its located. I like that I will be able to look out my kitchen window and my studio windows and see the chickens.

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And I thought I’d end with a lovely neighborly story. My neighbor is a wonderful gardener. Over the years she has shared many vegetables with me. This year she planted a lot of tulips. And twice, before a big storm hit, she has gathered some tulips and brought me a beautiful bouquet.

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I wanted to show you the white interior of these dark tulips–so dramatic! Tulips last a long time in the house–who knew?!

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A New Room and A Clean Dog

J. the Contractor came back last week to finish up a bunch of things. He put the fascia boards on both rooflines. For the longest time, this little shed remained the old red  of the cabin, because there was no point in painting it, since the siding needed to be replaced. Its so nice to see it now, when I walk up the road.

That’s the old window from the dining room that we saved to put here, on the “wet studio.” It will provide lots of light and good ventilation when I am working in there. BTW, its called a wet studio, because that is where I will do all my dying and any other messy creating I need to do. You can see the kitchen door there, and the small deck. So I can just go out the kitchen door and down the stairs to this room.

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Because of the roofline, the door was not a regular size. So J. the Contractor built a door! And he used the glass and the door knob from the old door!

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Here is the (almost) finished room. I got the same light fixture that I have used in the studio and my laundry room. I love how bright the light is–its LED lighting. J. used wood that he milled himself from local pines for all the shelving and the walls and ceiling. I love the coloring of it, so I’m leaving it natural for now. There’s so much storage now– I’m sure eventually I will use it all. The back counter is about two feet deep, and that side counter is just one foot deep, but J. thought of making it the right height for me to eat, in case I wanted to eat while I was working out there. I sanded those two surfaces and coated them with polyurethane. I also ordered three anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

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The only thing that’s not done is the backsplash. Somehow, when we did the house, we ended up with three boxes of white subway tile. So I saved that, and J. will be back in a couple of weeks to do the backsplash. There is a nice laundry tub (J. did something or other to finally fix the water pressure problem) and a full size stove! I talked to J. about getting a used stove, and it just so happened that he wanted to get himself a gas stove, so he was willing to sell me his old electric stove very reasonably. When you dye wool, it needs to be heated for the dye to set, so that is why I wanted a stove out there. You can see the small granite top between the two. That is from where they cut out the piece for the sink in the kitchen. J. had the tools to cut it just the right size for that small counter. And of course the bigger piece of leftover countertop is on the other side of the stove.

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I had this idea, to make narrow shelves near the door opening, and have the shelves closer together so I could use it for all my dye jars! This is the coolest thing. so much nicer than any other place I’ve had for my dyes.

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And since the water pressure was finally fixed, and we were still having days with high’s in the 70’s, I had no more excuses to avoid washing Noah. The laundry tub faucet is adapted so you can just attach a regular garden hose to it, so I can wash him with warm water. After we were all done, he had a photo shoot. There is a “pet” setting on my camera, and I usually forget about it. But it is really cool–takes the picture at the lightest touch immediately, and somehow focuses as quickly.

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Its so nice to have all this work done. Now we’re in for a week of storms, but as soon as the weather clears up, I hope to be out playing with my dyes in my new wet studio. I am one lucky girl.

 

Happenings

Lots has been happening. Life goes on, even when I don’t blog about it. Here’s a picturama of the past month.

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Southern California. Being a Northern California girl through and through, I am not a fan of driving to southern California. But man, it sure is fun to be down there for a week, wearing flip flops and t-shirts! I went for a week with my rug hooking friend, Mary Lynn, to a “California Getaway” rug hooking retreat.

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Mary Lynn and I go a day early, so we can visit Crystal Cove (where the beach cottage from the movie “Beaches” is located!) We sit in the cafe and eat beignets and watch the ocean. This year we saw a whale!!

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We stayed in the Ayres Hotel, which I thoroughly recommend, and took a shuttle each day to Gene Shepherd’s studio, where we hooked and designed, and were surrounded by beautiful color and inspiration for four days. Gene’s wife, Marsha, is a wonderful cook, and we had delicious lunches served each day. We have already signed up to attend next year.

The “wall of wool.”

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Gene teaching a dying technique:

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Earlier in the month, between rain storms, a new project was underway. J. the contractor was coming back to run the electricity underground from the house to the dog room. MLG had the great idea to add a water line, so I would have a hose up at that end of the yard. MLG got nominated to dig the ditch, which is no easy chore, since the ground here is mostly made up of rocks and roots.

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The dogs were most interested in the new project.

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And the beginning of a new renovation project. This is the old “laundry dungeon.” Its just a small room, about 6’X15′, added on to the side of the house. I don’t know what the original purpose was–probably just a storage room, but at some point the people I rented from added a washer and dryer. The walls were never finished, so all those exposed beams meant there were lots of places for spiders to build their webs. And since I am afraid of spiders, I only knocked down those webs maybe once every two years. Thus, the laundry dungeon.

Anyway, I thought it would have to be demolished when J. the contractor did all that work on my house. The siding and the door were rotting, and there was a huge tree stump growing into the side of it! But he said it could be salvaged, so it will be a “wet studio,” where I can do my dying, and also have a tub for washing the little girls. It will even have a stove for when I need to dye wool. And lots and lots of shelves for storage.

This is a picture after it had been cleaned up a bit, and some work had already been done on it. We added a big 3’X4′ window that I saved from the house re-do, and I also saved the old kitchen cabinet and the leftover granite from the new kitchen!

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This is just a meal I had sometime during the month. But very yummy, so thought I would share. a turkey burger with enough lettuce and tomatoes for each bite. And rutabaga “fries” (baked) with a bit of BBQ dipping sauce.

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Cute dog laying down:

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Cute dog sitting up:

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Getting as close to my lap as possible:

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Miss Bess has not been feeling well lately. She has a probable herniated disk, and is on steroids, muscle relaxers, and pain medication. Hopeful that this will do the trick.

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Yesterday, in the yard. Noah keeping a close eye on the suspicious neighbors up the road:

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And one camellia still blooming!

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Queen Sophie was giving me the evil eye for not including her in this post, so I took a picture of her–she stole Bess’s perch this morning.

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As always, on returning from a trip, I am so happy to get back to “food as normal.” Shopped on Sunday for mostly vegetables and fruit, and yesterday morning I had a marathon cooking session. Surprised even myself. I started out making my “Fabulous Quinoa Breakfast.” Then I started a batch of yogurt. Since I had the milk out, I decided to make some SF chocolate pudding. And then, I decided to go ahead and make the broccoli salad for lunch. And THEN, since I was still in the kitchen, I thought, what the heck, and a made up a batch of taco meat. Half went into the freezer for future taco salads, and the other half I added corn, tomatoes, and onions to, and made some taco soup.

I haven’t made it back to the gym yet, but I am doing my PT exercises and got out for a long walk with Noah and Chloe yesterday. If you want to see more of what I did at my rug hooking retreat, check my other blog!

One Year Later

I thought I’d do a post or two about the renovations I made to my house last year. What I liked best, and the few things I might not like as well. Just in case anybody is considering having work done on their house.

I’ll start with the kitchen. Sometimes it seems like I’ve always had this kitchen, and then other times I can’t believe that I have such a nice place to work. And such a big kitchen, compared to what I had before. (My kitchen was about 48 square feet, and the new kitchen is about 165 SF.) There’s really nothing I would change about the way we built the kitchen. It is very user friendly and practical. One of the things I originally wanted was three large windows. Well, that would greatly cut down on the space available for cabinets. So we compromised, and the window over the sink is bigger than J. the contractor originally planned, and then I got glass-fronted cabinets on either side of the sink instead of the windows.

But here is one of the things I like the most: my BIG white sink! When I was making decisions, sometimes I would just get “the best.” But most of the time I was looking for what I wanted, and also trying to get a good product while being financially conservative. My first choice was a farmhouse sink. They were quite expensive, but I wanted one. Then I found out that it would not fit with the cabinets we had already started. So then I found a dark blue enamel sink, which was even more expensive, and I decided to splurge on that. Turns out it was no longer being manufactured. So then I just started looking at white sinks, and when I found this one, which was just the way I wanted, and it was also a really low price, I went for it! And I do love how big it is, and how white it is. I have worked at keeping up with my housework, and keeping the sink clean is one of the things I stay on top of.

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There are so many things I love in the kitchen–the granite countertops are great, and so far have been very easy to keep clean. I still like the wood cabinets, which kind of started this whole idea. The toaster oven was just a cheapie from Walmart. I use it almost every day. I love the butcher block island (not shown, it was the only place cluttered when I was taking pictures,) and I love having the drawer pull-out in the island with double containers–one for garbage, and one for cans. My dishwasher love knows no bounds. That was one of the things I was completely ambivalent about ordering, and I like the most. No more dishes drying on the countertops, and they all come out so sparkly and clean!

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This was one more clever idea. A friend said that if you had an odd corner, you could put a pantry in there. So its just a small corner (J. the contractor had to make a special small door,) but as you can see, there’s plenty of room in there for lots of stuff.

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In the bathroom, one of the things I like the most is the medicine cabinet! That was another thing I didn’t really want. I told J. “no” quite a few times, and he just said, he framed in a space for it “just in case I changed my mind.” So finally, I saw a little $15 cabinet that I liked (white wooden frame.) I love having it. It keeps the counter from being so cluttered. Oh, see that dark towel there? If you remember, I got navy blue towels to go with the picture that I put in the room. Well… I guess all towels shed, but that navy blue fuzz is still showing up a year later. I still like those towels, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get dark colored towels again.

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The bathtub (the room is not all pink like this looks.) I chose this bathtub because it was inexpensive and I liked the way it curved out. I still like that. But it is an acrylic tub. I think its harder to keep clean, and there are quite a few products that say “not recommended for acrylic.” I might go for a cast iron tub if I was doing this again. That little square indent that J. put in? I LOVE those. Just right for all my bathing implements. There’s one in the shower too.

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Here’s the shower. If there’s one thing that I am slightly unhappy about, it is the shower. We had a lot of conversations about the size of the shower. I really wanted it to be 40 inches. But 36 was all the space there was. Okay. But one day a couple of months after the construction was all done, I started counting tiles. The inside of the shower is only about 30 inches. It is too small. But do you know what I think about EVERY SINGLE TIME I take a shower and start to grouse about the size? Yes, I think, well, hot water comes out every single time you turn it on. Shut up and enjoy. If you are ever unhappy with your shower, I recommend a trip to a third world country. I paid extra for the plain clear glass door. I like it, although I’m not sure it was worth the extra expense. Also, I paid extra for some kind of coating that would keep it from getting water spots. I would NOT recommend that. It didn’t even last 6 months.

The floor, which you can just see a bit of, is marble. I got it because it was pink and it was cheap at Lowe’s. I love the way it looks, but marble is very finicky. I ruined the finish on four of the tiles by using diluted vinegar on them. One of these days I’ll get that fixed. One other thing in the bathroom that I really wish I had done differently: they have one thousand and one options for light/fan/nightlight/heater combos. I got a fairly expensive one because I thought it had all those things, and also because the fan was supposed to be quiet. Well, the fan is quiet, and I like the nightlight. But somehow, I got home without the heater. And I was so frustrated at that point that I told J. to go ahead and install it. I wish I had a heater. My old bathroom was smaller, and it seemed like the hot water would heat up the bathroom. But its cold when I get out of the shower. That is something that can be fixed, and eventually I will get that replaced. Maybe in ten years or so 🙂

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And lastly, the indoor laundry room. I used to have to go out on the deck and down the stairs to my “laundry dungeon.” Washing clothes has always been one of my favorite chores, and how fun it is to have the washer and dryer inside the house. I lost some closet space to make enough room for this, and it was totally worth it.

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That’s about it for now. I’ll try to review the other rooms in future posts.

Storage and Garden Report

First of all, I want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU for all the nice comments on my last blog about Mr. Monk. You all knew him better than most of my friends! All of us are doing fine. Especially Queen Sophie. After she got over her worry that she might be the next to be “banished” from the kingdom, she has taken back her “rightful place” on the chair next to me in the evenings.

And, I also wanted to thank so many of you for your interesting and informative comments on the previous blog about my knee. Since I wrote that, my first ortho doc got back in touch with me. He had been battling the insurance company all this time (over their refusal to approve the Orthovisc injections), and now advised me to file a complaint with the State Department of Managed Health Care. I completed that today. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

In the meantime, how about a report on some everyday life stuff 🙂

Last week J. the contractor came back to finish the little pantry and add shelves to the laundry room. Squeee!!! MORE STORAGE SPACE. I hardly know what to do with it all.

Here’s the pantry. That’s all I’ve put in it so far. I have those two big corner cupboards with lazy susans in them in the kitchen. I’m not sure what to put there, and what to put in the pantry. If anyone has ideas or opinions, feel free to share.

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And here’s the laundry room shelves. Plenty of extra storage up there for I don’t know what!

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I also had J. put this little hanging cupboard in the mudroom. It used to be in my bathroom. I still liked it so finally decided that this would be the place for it.

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I tell you, for someone whose ONLY storage space for many years was a big closet in her bedroom, I feel like I’ve hit the storage jackpot!

And here is a view of the garden. Still pretty bare, but things are sprouting. There are little buds on all the trees. Its fun to go out there and scope things out every day. I have to be careful to not get carried away with planting, because there’s still a real possibility that we will get some frost, up until May.

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The camellia bush is chock full of buds. The Pink Flower Thief is keeping a close eye on it….

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The Bathroom

 

Well, its even harder to get good pictures of a small bathroom than it was to get good pictures of the kitchen. But I wanted to share it with you because I think it is so pretty. I wanted a separate shower and bathtub, because all I’ve ever had was the small bathtub with a shower in it, and always had to use a shower curtain, which I was really tired of. Even with all the renovation, we still had a limited amount of space, since we were moving the laundry room inside the house. J. the contractor came up with the plan for this, with a separate “privacy” area for the toilet. I don’t really need the privacy area, but it sure is nice to take a bath without having to look at the toilet right next to the tub 🙂

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I really liked the color of pale coral-pink that we came up with for my bedroom, so I decided to use that for the bathroom. It looks a little brighter than the bedroom since it is gloss paint. At first, I was like, “Oh no, what have I done. Its very pink!” But now with the mostly white tiles and decor in there, I think it is just right.

I got a little thrifty when I went shopping for the bathroom tiles. The floor tiles are marble, but were only $2/SF at Lowe’s. They were one of the very first things I picked out, because they were pink. At first I was going to use them for the shower and tub surround. But then I asked if it would be okay to use them on the floor. That turned out to be a better use for them. J. came up with the idea to cut and polish them to make floorboard trim.

Wow, this next pictures shows a LOT of the decisions/choices that I had to make! I found the large tiles for the vanity countertop on sale for 70 cents each–ten of them was more than enough! The wave tiles were used for the backsplash. I found the framed mirror at Home Goods, and I came home and painted it myself! The framed picture is a giclee print by a local well-known watercolor artist. I really like it in the bathroom (originally bought it for the kitchen!) and that is where I got the idea for dark blue towels. The cabinet was made by the same cabinet maker that made the kitchen cabinets. I asked if he could do the bathroom in maple, and he very nicely did it for the same price as the knotty alder. He did the vanity as well as an over-the-toilet storage cabinet.

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I bought enough of the “wave” tiles for an accent in the shower and around the tub, and then bought a lot of subway tiles that were on sale. At the last minute, I decided to go back to Lowe’s and get all “wave” tiles for the shower. I’m glad I did that. Thursday the VERY EXPENSIVE SHOWER DOOR was installed, and I got to take my first shower last night!

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J. asked if I wanted a little built-in indentation in the shower for supplies, and I was very excited about that. I asked if he could do the same thing in the tub. So much nicer than having all my stuff balanced on the edge of the tub.

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He also asked if I wanted a medicine cabinet. “No! I do not like medicine cabinets!” So he just said he would frame that in, just in case I ever decided I wanted one. Well, before all was said and done, I saw a simple one at Lowe’s and changed my mind. Very nice for keeping clutter off the counter.

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My neighbor came over today with “housewarming” gifts. How thoughtful! Some blue stuff for the kitchen,

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And some pink stuff for the bathroom (bath salts and soap.)

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I love the bathroom, and do feel like a princess in it. I realize it wouldn’t work for most of you with husbands, but lucky for me, I do not have one of those 🙂

The Kitchen

Friday was a big day. J. the contractor was here all day, putting finishing touches everywhere! It was basically his last day, but he will be here Monday just doing a few more outside jobs, like wrapping the pipes and other stuff I don’t know about. I feel sad and glad at the same time. He has been here almost every day for the past three months, many weeks only taking Sunday off. I will be glad that I don’t have to worry about getting dressed and ready for someone to arrive, but I know I will miss the activity and excitement of the “next new thing,” and his cheerful presence, always ready with a quiet “hello Noah.”

Anyway, at long last, here is the finished kitchen. Oh, but wait, first I have to show you a couple of pictures of the old kitchen. This is the kitchen that I cooked and created in for the past 28 years. The entire kitchen was 6 feet by 8 feet. The open floor area was probably about 2 1/2 X 5 feet.

This shot is from the living room, and you can see into the kitchen and the bathroom. Yes, the refrigerator just kind of stuck out like that, and it was parked in front of the door that went nowhere.

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Here is the old kitchen after I cleaned it up! The entire counter space was just always filled up like that. I did all my food prep work on the pull out cutting board.

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And here is the new kitchen. (Its really hard to get good perspective shots of a room. I now really admire the people who are able to do that.) For those of you who have been following this year long adventure, you probably know this–But my original intention was to only add on the studio and mudroom. And then I saw some beautiful wooden cabinets in Noah’s trainer’s kitchen… and that was the start of this whole process.

I saw a blue island in some magazine, and I really wanted that. I am searching for a few blue accent pieces to add to the kitchen. I found the plaque that says “i tuning you out” at a store on my recent trip to Lake Tahoe. PERFECT for The Queen. The cabinets are knotty alder. I fought the recessed lighting, but now I love it so much! And I like my hanging lamps over the island too. They were on sale at Lowe’s.

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To the left. Oh, I found the butcher block top for the island online at a place in Ohio. I ordered it there because they were the only place that had knotty alder butcher blocks! You can see the edge of the refrigerator. After I got over my disappointment, I am VERY happy that I have a refrigerator with the door opening in this direction, instead of having to take two steps to the left to get into a side-by-side.

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To the right. We used the backdoor from the studio (which got eliminated–the kitchen shares a wall with the studio,) for the kitchen. It lets in lots of light, and it has a shade enclosed in the glass. Which I have to close in the morning and the evening. Otherwise, Noah keeps watch there. (“There must be something out there I need to bark about.”)

The white door is a little pantry (which still needs shelves,) and the wood door is a little broom closet!

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And this photograph?? It is from our very own Lori! I saw it on her blog and just loved it. I asked her if I could possibly get a copy of it, and she very nicely emailed it to me. I got it enlarged on Snapfish, and then had it framed about a week ago.

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Here are some of the really fun things I got to go in the cabinets. A spice drawer! LOVE this. So much better than ruffling through the cupboard that I can barely reach anyway, and knocking over half the spices before I find the one I want. And see that Garam Masalla there? Yep, Lori sent that to me as a “housewarming” present. She remembered that I had mentioned that I was not able to find it out here. I am actually going to try a recipe using it tonight!

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The corner cupboards are pretty deep. The cabinet guy suggested Lazy Susan’s in both upper and lower cabinets.

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These two tier organizing trays are pretty nice too.

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This is just a shot of the granite countertop. The granite was a good buy, IMO, from a place called Granite Outlet.

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Here is a shot of the backsplash. Those tiles were on sale at Lowe’s.

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I think most people are familiar with these, but they were new to me. Oh, how nice to have a place to keep the garbage away from the dogs! (and a place for the ever-present collection of diet soda cans 🙂 )

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And this baby? Oh I am very pleased with myself on this one! I am using it for dog food! The lid closes when you close the cupboard door. It is right under the sink, which of course is where I prepare their food twice a day. All of the cabinet gadgets are from a company called Rev-a-Shelf.

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The floor, in case you are wondering, was one of the pricier investments… Its vinyl tile, but very thick (so says J. the contractor.) It wasn’t my intention, but it definitely does not show the dirt!

The kitchen sink is HUGE, and white. Its cast iron, and I also got a bargain on it (after choosing several other sinks that either would not work or were not available.) I feel a lot of pressure to keep it clean 🙂 The faucet was one of the first things I picked out. It sure was fun to see it go in place.

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I have been bringing stuff in from the storage shed one box at a time, running them through the dishwasher, and then finding places to put everything. Gotta admit, its fun having a dishwasher too. Everything comes out so Sparkly and Squeaky Clean!

I can’t end without mentioning Shelley again, who was ever-present via text messaging for consultations and confidence building. Sometimes I needed an opinion or advice, and sometimes I just needed someone to say, “yeah, that looks right!” Thank you again, Shelley. Other IRL friends helped with ideas and decorating advice. My BFF listened to me prattle on endlessly about the construction and decision-making on almost a daily basis. My rug-hooking friend back in Chicago who is an interior decorator also had some good advice for me. Thank you to everyone!

I want to mention one other thing. I don’t know if people are wondering about this or not, but feel like I should say something. When I did the studio and the mudroom, I used money that I had saved for ten years, specifically for the hope of adding on a studio. When the idea for the kitchen add-on and other renovation came up, I thought long and hard about that. I had some money I had inherited from my dad. Was this the wisest use of that money? In the end, I decided that it was a good investment, because if I was ever going to move, my house was not worth much as it was. I wanted to mention this because I have strong feelings (from personal experience) that going into debt for almost anything is not  wise. And of course it goes without saying, that although I am grateful for the money we received from my dad, I would gladly cook in that little kitchen in exchange for more time with my dad. I like to think that this project is something that he very much would have approved of, and would have enjoyed watching.

Thus ends the tale of the kitchen. If you have lasted this far, thank you for reading along. It has been an adventure, and you can be sure it is an adventure that you won’t hear about again!