Monday, August 13, 2012

A new room in our house

I have created a whole new room in our house.

Looking toward the front of the house:
This was in 2011.  Shudder.  It was a constant source of horror, stress, and marital strife.  Gene's mother passed away in 2004 and he'd never had the wherewithal to go through her things.  So they wound up in the attic, rummaged through and strewn everywhere.
Again in 2011, after I'd spent an entire day clearing, sorting, and ditching things.  I'm an avid believer in passing things along (i.e. donating) that we're not using so that others may enjoy them.
A couple of weeks ago I did a more brutal sort.  Gene got in on the act and went through more things.  We took an entire trailer load out.  It was 1/4 recycling, 1/4 garbage, and 1/2 donations.  There's still more to do but it's entirely manageable - and no longer scary - now.
And finally I painted.  Gene wanted orange.  This is a little more sherbet that we'd planned but it's fine for now.  This is an inner spring klik klak futon.  The stairs are so narrow, and the roof so low, that regular bed and sofa options were out of the question.  The futon is a perfect solution.
That little door on the far right is an access door to the top of the porch.  I've never been in there (shudder) but have peered inside.  Alas... no hidden treasures.

Looking toward the back of the house:
The Big Manly Chair (TBMC), which is deeply coveted by my friend Dena, is ancient.  It's been in my family for... well, nobody is alive anymore who would have known for sure.  But I think it once belonged to the Perrins, friends of my great-grandparents.  It's been stored in basements and garages for decades and is in dire need of refurbishing.  Actually, the chair at the desk 1 photo up is also from the Perrins and is one of a pair.
TBMC is, for the time being, still in storage.  Gene and I have taken a shine to it and have decided to refurbish it.  It's a massively heavy oak thing and I suspect it dates from 1900-1920, as it's a Mission style chair with a leather seat, very similar to this one.  Given the value of the other chair, we will consult with an expert before doing anything to our chair!

Here's the storage area of the attic.
Another 2011 shot.  I've since gotten rid of all of my narrow-mouth canning jars, some 15 dozen!  I'm moving exclusively to wide-mouth, which I find are easier to pack and clean.  The previous owners generously left behind piles of hangers, broken poster frames, old electrical wire, an ancient Kirby vacuum, 2 huge leaves for a long-misplaced table, and endless rolls of vinyl flooring and carpeting.

With the exception of the Kirby vacuum, which I'm going to try to sell on ebay, everything is now gone.  The carpet rolls have been put to good use.

We're thrilled to have expanded our home by some 200+ square feet.  In a strange way, this is all due to Kaelen.  If we hadn't had Kaelen, I wouldn't have accepted a side job of finding a host family for Marius, failed to find one, then talked Gene into taking Marius on ourselves.  That prompted me to clean out the attic and make it liveable.  After Marius returns home in January, we'll transform the attic once again into a playroom for Kaelen and Gene's office. 

Then maybe, just maybe, I can finally get my built-in booth with storage in the kitchen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

To market to market

A friend of my boss sent him this photo some time ago:

Do you recognize any of the products?  Doesn't it seem odd to you that Stove Top, Lucky Charms, Crisco, Nerds, and tabasco (among others) are all in the same section? 

Have you guessed why yet? 

This is the "American" section of a grocery store in Italy.  This is what Europeans think we eat.  This is what enough ex-pats demand when overseas that this store imports these items.

Yes, I'm horrified, too.  It does not, in any way, match my own food shopping experience.  Heck, I don't even buy most of what's on these shelves, though I will admit that Karo syrup, canned pumpkin, and peanut butter are all staples for us.

With our very own German teenager on his way, I'm eager to find out how different our reality is from his expectations.

Last weekend we were in the Bay Area and we stumbled across a farmers market.  Since we were on our way to Sonoma (for an ill-advised attempt to go wine tasting on a Saturday in August), we stopped in to get some picnic items.

I picked out an "elephant heart plum" for myself, and a nectarine for Gene.  My plum was nearly the size of my fist.  Both were delicious.

I resisted the berries, but only because they don't travel well and I didn't feel like scarfing an entire container in the car.

Another vendor had the prettiest "cheddar" cauliflower I'd ever seen.

We purchased some smoked salmon from another vendor, joking with him that we'd driven all the way from Seattle only to purchase something we can easily get at home.  He was very nice and we talked about the trend in Washington to have "salmon candy", or smoked salmon that's treated with a sweet glaze.

The market was overflowing with gorgeous produce.  Hey, it was California after all.  We didn't buy much but our eyes drank in all the lovely sights of a productive and busy market.  I'd take anything from that farmers market - ANY farmers market - over the "American section" of the Italian grocery store any day.

On a related note, we've been introducing Kaelen to solids for about 2 months now.  We've yet to find something he won't eat, so I'm getting more adventurous in what I give him.  Neither Gene nor I care for beets but as you can see in his reaction to a batch of baby borscht, Kaelen doesn't share the sentiment.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We're expecting

We're expecting again.

It's a boy. 

He's a 15-year-old German exchange student named Marius.

Don't worry: no "Irish twins" here!

I signed up to be the "local coordinator" for an international exchange organization and my job was to find a host family.  That didn't quite go as planned and so we decided to take Marius into our home and hearts.

Have I told you before that our house is 1070 square feet and that we have but a single bathroom?

We've been busy transforming our attic from an unorganized and over-filler storage area into a bedroom.

Tonight I'm going to primer the awful faux wood paneling.  We're looking for a high quality futon to put on the right side of this picture against the knee wall.

I'm debating whether this needs a curtain as a door.  On one hand, Marius will have the entire upstairs to himself, with only the occassional foray by Gene or me to get something out of storage.  Privacy won't be an issue for him.  On the other hand, this space is not insulated.  A heavy curtain across the doorway will both block light from the window at the other end of the house and help keep in heat from a space heater.

In the 9 years I've lived in this house, I had never once completely cleared, organized, or even swept this space.  The previous owners thoughtfully left behind a huge pile of wire hangers, light fixture parts, curtain rods, rolls of carpet and vinyl flooring, and broken glass in the back corner.  I can confidently walk barefoot without fear of slicing open a toe or getting lockjaw.

There's nothing quite like a hard deadline to get you moving on a long-neglected project.  Once Marius returns home next January, we'll reclaim the upstairs as a playroom for Kaelen, office for Gene, and guest room for anyone who visits.  Perhaps my east coast family will finally be persuaded to venture west of, well, Boston!

I'll post more pictures once I primer the attic. 

What color would you paint it?