Friday, December 12, 2014

We are DONE Remodeling!!

Some of you who know me may recall that we've been remodeling our house since before any of us were born. We've poured a driveway, torn down a shed, built a garage, sided, roofed, re-windowed, gutted the second floor, gutted the living room, and installed a pleasant little patio on which I have a semblance of privacy in which to drink my morning coffee.

Well, guess what? We FINALLY tackled the last two rooms: the kitchen and first floor bathroom / laundry. This was a massive project, and we hired a real-life design & reno company to manage it all. (Mosquito Creek in Appleton--they seriously rock, y'all.) It all cost more than J paid for the entire house back in 1997, so I've been questioning my decision-making skills and stress-eating way too many baked goods lately. (Hint: carbs only create more anxiety once you're digesting them.) BUT--I no longer have to look at this (apologies in advance for the horrid lighting):

Not overtly gross, but my only counter, which was like three inches long, ran into the window.
More on that later...
Hey, I have an idea! Let's put the fridge in this weird corner, practically in the living room, far away from the sink and stove.
Work triangle, Schmirk Triangle!
Love what you've done with the flooring, renters from 1920 - 1993!
A squishy floor around your toilet is no cause for alarm whatsoever.
Whee! Everything's gone. Including my sanity. Also, see that window? We have to DRYWALL OVER IT, because the city passed an ordinance last spring prohibiting removal of any windows or doors without a variance. So from the street? You'll see a dark window. From my living room? You'll see cabinets. Can't wait to explain this when we try to sell one day!
More scary stuff. This is where the toilet & tub used to be. We considered leaving it like this and just turning the house into a Haunted Dungeon ... could be a real moneymaker each Halloween.
Daisy is confused. And collecting asbestos dust, probably. See that hulking shape behind the plastic? That's our fridge. In the living room. It's like my old dorm room again in there, minus the Yo-J mixers and garbage music. What fun!
So I skipped over a bunch of stuff--including pictures of us weeping, necks permanently twisted at weird angles while we paint all of the walls, ceiling, and trim--to the finish line. Ta-da! 
It's a real, live kitchen! Almost like one from the Hipster Farmhouse home decorating porn I subscribe to.
Your move, Pinterest.
There is an extra hole in the counter near the faucet, but that will soon be filled with a cute lil' soap dispenser. Which is a way better idea than a plug of spackle, don't you think?
Also, farmhouse sink. Perfect for washing large heads of lettuce, cauliflower, fat babies, and Fiats.
Pull up a stool and watch me load the first dishwasher I've ever owned! Also, here's a bowl of fruit. Feel free to pet the counter. It's so shiny. Also, that is a picture of the Green Giant holding a birthday cake. (Ho ho ho!) In case you thought you were losing your mind.
J spent 7 hours refinishing this tub because he's a Super Hero. An extremely anal Super Hero named Never-Half-Asses-It-Like-His-Wife-Does Man. The tub was installed in the house in 1920 and badly neglected since.  He painted the clawfeet with a tiny brush, in two colors. Fancy!
Don't you want to take a bath in it? I do! I also kind of want to lick the chrome. Or play telephone with the handheld shower: "Hello? What's that? Your bathroom no longer makes you want to puke? Hooray!"
We went into Lowe's to buy paint stripper and came out with these. Well, we came out with the receipt. It's important to tell an accurate story.
Why yes, that IS an Edison bulb! Also, do you like the tin of Shinola above the toilet? Just in case you forget the difference between ....? It's little touches like this that make it special. 
I ordered that mirror on Etsy--an antique refurb that was actually my second choice. 
More on that later.
This is where the fridge used to be. Now, Bob Hope carrying a cake!!! And a bird's nest.
(Put a bird on it! Don't have a bird? Put a bird's ovum on it!)
There are two pictures of cakes being carried in my kitchen, I just realized.
Ignore the ancient iPod dock and focus on the sideboard. It used to be yellow. We painted it to look all old and scuffed up and stuck a few felt pads under the left feet, because our floors still make you seasick. A fun game: release marbles at the edge of the kitchen. The person whose marble reaches Daisy's feeding bowls first wins a spoonful of tahini!
Put them together and what do you get?  Sensible flow and space to walk between rooms!
WAY better than a huge refrigerator, amIright?
So there you have it. We have essentially re-built the entire house. Next week some guys are coming to insulate and encapsulate and reinforce the crawl space (yeah, we still have that icky situation going on). And then we just sit back, relax, and enjoy our dream vacation to Botswana and Kenya, otherwise known as our functional, no longer disgusting kitchen & bath.

PS: Does anyone want to buy a BRAND NEW recessed medicine cabinet from Rejuvenation, still in the original box and NEVER USED? We paid $550 for it and are asking $250. Couldn't use it because the plumbing stack from the second floor cut into the space I'd allotted for it above the new vanity. And you can't return medicine cabinets to Rejuvenation and I just learned a painful lesson about patience.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Morning Visitor

Give me the treat already!
The last 24 hours have been pretty exciting here at the Riley homestead. First, Daisy got her first-ever haircut! Isn’t she cute? It only took us twelve years to make her appointment…and the groomer walked away with all ten fingers and completely unbroken skin!

It looks like the carpet is 6 inches tall and has swallowed her legs.

Back fat roll!!! We never knew it existed...

Maybe this is the place ...
 This morning I was doing my usual plant-watering routine when I saw a very elderly man park in front of my house. He was driving a beige four-door sedan. (What, you were expecting a bright orange Charger?) My front door was wide open to let some fresh air & sunshine in, and I peeked out to see what was happening. He shuffled up to my front steps and appeared to be admiring my flowers up-close…I went out the back door to continue watering and looked up just in time to catch him opening my screen door to walk right in my kitchen.

I hustled right back in. “Can I help you?” Crap. This was the second time an elderly person had gotten lost and tried walking into my kitchen.  And what if he’d gotten in? He would have made himself comfortable on the couch, turned on the Xbox, and the next thing you know we have a new roommate leaving Cheeto stains on the furniture and hanging the toilet paper roll upside-down.

The scene of the B & E, minus the B.
The poor guy looked confused; he had to be ninety, maybe 264. He had an impressive hearing aid situation in place, with external ports and docks and gizmos and antennae. “Do you know Isabelle Somethingorother? I’m looking for 808 Eleventh.”

Well, he was in the neighborhood, so to speak. But I shook my head. “Let’s go out on the porch so I can take a look at some of the street numbers a few houses down.”

“The back porch?”

“No,” I clarified loudly, “right here.” I peered down the street and gave a rough estimate of where I thought his friend lived, while he took a seat on the bench.

“Where’d you get all these flowers?”

"Stein's, Stuart's, Hrnak's, all over, I guess."

"Ever go to Allenville? Buy some sweet corn?" Turned out his son still runs the farm, selling sweet corn and strawberries at local stands and the city farmers’ market. I promised I’d pick some up when it was ready. We talked about the weather, and how much Oshkosh had changed in the last 80 years (I was using my imagination here), and about how he lived at Bella Vista senior retirement community. He apologized for his confusion.

“Things are so different today. I just get mixed up.”

“It happens,” I said, thinking that one day it would probably happen to me, too. 

“I forgot to bring the directions, so I’ll have to go back and get them, I guess.”

The idea of him driving through the busy city roundabouts to get back to the "home" gave me heartburn, but he'd made it this far, right? I helped him back down the stairs and told him to DRIVE SAFELY (with emphasis). Later I saw him still tooling around, doing a wide U-turn at my intersection and holding up traffic while he looked for house numbers.

Sometimes you don't even have to leave the house to find the story. Sometimes it comes right to you.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Peeking from the Grant Weeds

After one of the most unpredictable grant seasons ever, I am busier than ever at work--hence the silence on this trusty old blog. I am making serious hay while the sun shines. I do miss the novel I started last summer, but I've been adding to the tidbit folder. Ideas are percolating. Other developments:
  • We're considering remodeling our kitchen and downstairs bathroom this summer, after which we will have fully renovated our entire house. A human being can only take so much toilet so close to the kitchen for so long. Developing story, stay tuned ...
  • I've started my seedlings! Far too early, it seems. Every so often you can hear a soft, wistful sigh coming from beneath the grow lights ... it can only be the kale, looking longingly out the window.

  • We have something new to yell at in the house! It has one eye and watches us whenever we enter the living room. "XBox, turn! On!" "Xbox, go home!" "Xbox, choose this person! Off. TURN OFF!" We've named it Hal (because 2001 and utter lack of imagination), and it's only a matter of time before it develops self-awareness and kills us in our sleep.
  • I met with my Dad's freshman comp students two weeks ago after they read Driving Sideways as part of their required coursework (Teehee! Nepotism!) I also got a sneak peek at their response papers after my visit. Here are three of my favorite excerpts:
"After finishing up Driving Sideways, I thought it was an overall good book. It is a book more on the ladies side, but once you start reading there's no turning back (and it's required)."

"When Jess walked in the classroom, she was nothing as I pictured her to be. She was so pretty, nice and open about everything.* I thought she was going to be a little stuck up because she was an author but I was completely wrong" ... "I already told my mom she needs to read this book over the summer."

"Jokes like this are exactly my type of humor. The other day I was gibing a man for his hair style. I looked at my friends and said, 'Look, it's ChangesoneBowie.' I swear he looked exactly like David Bowie, but no one understood the reference. Leigh and I would have shared a laugh at that one."

"I just never knew of anyone that was an author ... and Jess seemed almost too human, too regular to be writing a book."

"Instead of selling this novel back to the school at the end of the semester, I plan on keeping it to offer to others for a fantastic read."**

So that's the news from Yawn City. Back to the Grant Cave for me. Got to chase the million-dollar donuts...see you in June, kids!

*I love that student!!!

**I have signed the same book multiple times, because some students sell their inscribed books back at the end of the semester. Yeah.