Kitchen

In Which I Realize The Manor Will Be the Death of Me

The house is killing me. At least twice a day I am convinced we made a huge mistake in taking on this behemoth that seems to be falling apart faster than we can (afford to) fix it. I'm counting on the fact that back in 1907 houses were "made to last" and thus should hold up for another couple of years at least.

I've narrowed my despair down to four main culprits:

  • I've been really busy at work lately. More work = more stress = more grumpiness. Plus, I've had less time at home to tackle small projects or do the daily organizing that keeps my family's disheveled habits in check. It's a bit of a vicious cycle -- clutter makes me anxious (which reads as "bitchy" to my family) so when I'm busy at work, the house gets messy, which makes me more stressed, which makes me more tense at work. Yada yada yada. 
 Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.

Except for the randomly placed and disproportionately small picture frame on the wall, this is what happiness looks like for me. Tidy and spare, with lots of white.


  • I was sick over the holidays. I caught the flu the day after returning from a trip to Bangkok in mid-December and that flu virus turned into a cold, which lingered until it became bronchitis. In all, it was a full five weeks of misery before I turned the corner. I felt off my game for Christmas and New Years, and it drove me crazy that the time I took off (almost 4 weeks out of the office) was devoted to laying on the couch and coughing rather than tackling any of the dozens of house projects on my list.
  • Bill and I are not on the same page. We've had a string of disagreements lately about project choice, scope, design, and budget. The Manor is a hard enough project to tackle, without being on the outs with your partner in crime.
  • Several of our projects have gone wrong, or haven't been finished. The expensive paint job we did on the front porch last year has bubbled and peeled, making it an eyesore every time I have to go through the front door. The plaster ceiling repair we did on several parts of the house looks fantastic, but there are still multiple areas in other areas where the ceiling is peeling away. The chicken coop paint job isn't done, nor is the new ramp to the back door. Living "in between" is hard.

I'm hopeful that the impending spring weather (although it snowed again last night) will create a renewed sense of optimism about The Manor. Otherwise, I've noticed some very attractive downtown lofts available for a steal.

That said, there have been some nice points over the last six months. Here are a few of the highlights

Sewing Projects

 Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

Warm pajamas for the rooms where the heat is still a little iffy.

 An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

An animal-print wrap-dress for #JungleJanuary.

 Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Matching dresses for me and the spunky one.

Small Home Improvement Projects

 We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

We got rid of this hideous light (and gave it to my sister, who thinks it is awesome)...

 ... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

... and replaced it with a ceiling fan. So much better!

 We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

We got a new storage unit for our bathroom, which gives us more room for everyday necessities, and about 15 extra rolls of toilet paper. #beprepared

 We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

We upgraded the dining table to a proper one with pull-out leaves that will comfortable seat twelve. Finally had our first dinner party, which was a rousing success.

 Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Ultimately, I'd like to have the table repainted (professionally) but once we set it up for that night's dinner party, I came to grips with the fact that it will probably stay like this for the next decade.

Happy animals

 My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

My sewing room is the warmest place in the house (since I crank up the baseboard heaters) and I find a lot of animals napping there.

 This fall, all was bliss...

This fall, all was bliss...

 And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

And the sassy creatures paraded around with glee.

 And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

And we ate delicious fresh eggs almost every morning.

 Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

Then one of the chickens got a hernia. There's nothing to be done, and some chickens can live for years. Sadly, about a month after it happened, her skin split and she died. Thank goodness BIll took care of the remains -- I was told it was pretty gruesome. 

 Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Still, the eggs from our remaining hens are delicious, and a nap can fix almost anything.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

I would be remiss not to mention a life-changing discovery. Putting a sheet of tinfoil on your baking sheet makes chocolate chip cookies bake perfectly -- soft and chewy with no burned bottoms. Please implement this trick immediately.

That's all for now!

The Big O

This weekend we continued our goal of checking small stuff off the master list. It helps us feel momentum while the big projects linger in limbo 

The focus this time around was organization. I tackled the master bathroom and second floor linen closet, and Bill took on the kitchen. 

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It's going to be years until we properly gut and renovate this bathroom, and in the meantime we have only open shelving courtesy of the leaning bookcase we relocated from the guest room months ago. I've slowly been paring, shuffling, and containing the bathroom "stuff" and I finally feel like we're at a point where I wouldn't be embarrassed for a stranger to walk in and use the potty. 

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My trip to Target today was all about containers--for the bathroom and the storage closet. I may have cleaned them out of plastic storage-with-drawers options, and for a minute when I got home I was worried that I had over-purchased. Ha ha, as if a person can ever have too many storage containers! Everything is now sorted and labeled and I have threatened Bill and the kids with something very unpleasant if they fail to keep it tidy. 

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After planning it for months, Bill finally hung up my plants in the kitchen. They had previously been sitting on the counter and it is remarkable how much more counter space we have now that they have been relocated. 

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We also finally put a Command Hook up on the wall, so that we can hang the oven mitts. As with the plants, both mitts had been sitting on the counter for the last few months, and it make me unreasonably happy to hang them up. Maybe if I get ambitious I'll wash them. 

Bill also tackled several other small things, like shearing off the screws that had accidentally poked through a kitchen cabinet when he installed the paper towel holder. He also screwed the plastic bag holder into the pantry wall (our earlier efforts to attach it with Command Strips was a colassal failure. Oh, and he continued to pull down mountains of brush from the backyard. But that is a story for another time. Instead, here is a photo of Bill enjoying a moment of rest after a long day.  

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The Second Kitchen

Because one kitchen in the Manor isn't enough, we are lucky enough to have a second full kitchen in the basement. There was a hint of it in the photo tour earlier this week, but it's worth it's own set of pictures don't you think?

Party kitchen!!

 The kitchen is big, but not quite as big as the photo indicates -- the back wall has three mirrors that reflect back the other side of the basement. (Note the Pile-o-Boxes.)

The kitchen is big, but not quite as big as the photo indicates -- the back wall has three mirrors that reflect back the other side of the basement. (Note the Pile-o-Boxes.)

 On the other side of the kitchen are shelves which will hold plates and bowls and glasses and more liquor than all the kids can guzzle in a weekend of underage stupidity. For now, though, it mostly holds DVDs, board games, and puzzles. 

On the other side of the kitchen are shelves which will hold plates and bowls and glasses and more liquor than all the kids can guzzle in a weekend of underage stupidity. For now, though, it mostly holds DVDs, board games, and puzzles. 

All the amenities.

The kitchen has all the common elements except for a dishwasher, although sized for an apartment. There is a small refrigerator, a small stovetop, and a sink. I don't think there is a garbage disposal, but to be honest I haven't spent a lot of time checking it out. 

The biggest bonus is the cabinets. So. Much. Storage.

There are base cabinets all the way around the peninsula, on both sides of the kitchen island, and along the back wall (under the mirrors). Right now more of those cabinets are empty, and lord knows I love unused storage space. It feels like the ultimate luxury.

Kitchen Confidential

We finished the kitchen on Sunday, which was no small feat since we had approximately one billion boxes marked "kitchen".

I faced the task with no small amount of trepidation.

The kitchen is pretty small -- at least as compared to the rest of the house. (I mean, if you're going to live in a manor, you kind of want a manor-sized kitchen. Amirite?) I was worried that there weren't enough cabinets for our many, many dishes, But it turned out okay -- with everything in it's place.

When I took these photos on Monday morning, it was looking a bit stark.

Things have since begun looking a little more cheery.

Artfully arranged baskets of green apples and  orange clementines will do that, as well as a few strategically placed turquoise hand towels. My children will tell you that their coats and shoes strewn all over the place also add color, but we agree to disagree on the artistic and aesthetic merit of their detritus. 

My very favorite part of the kitchen is that the island has two deep drawers for my pots and pans. So instead of having to get down on my hands and knees to find the right saucepan, I can just open up a drawer and survey the lot of them. 

I feel very fancy. Like a more jaded Martha Stewart.

I'm less keen on the electric stove -- I got spoiled with a high-end gas stove (and stovetop) in our old house and I'm having trouble adjusting to the temperature control issues in an electric version. First world problems, I know.

Bonus points if you can identify the major appliance that is missing from this kitchen.

Go ahead, I'll wait while you scroll up and scrutinize the photos above.

Seriously, go look.

If you noticed that we were missing a refigerator -- ding ding ding -- you are a winner! Yes, it's true. Our kitchen has no refrigerator. There's not space for one. It's sadly been relegated to the pantry with all of our food stuffs and small appliances.

And there's the rub.

The pantry isn't even connected directly to the kitchen, but sits off the adjacent breakfast room.

Note: I know, I know -- who in this day and age even needs a breakfast room? And who am I to be complaining about the kitchen when I have a house with so many rooms that I don't even use them! Well, that's not strictly true -- right now the breakfast room is the temporary repository of all our empty boxes. And that's no small responsibility.

But basically that means that anytime we want anything from the refrigerator (or the blender, or a handful of goldfish crackers), we have to walk out of the kitchen, through the breakfast room, and into the pantry. It might not seem like a big deal, but consider that it takes 4-5 trips back and forth to move the ingredients for dinner into the kitchen, and then another 4-5 trips to return the items to their proper place when you're done. It adds up.

More on the pantry situation next time, including our short-term ideas for easing the pain and our long-term plan. Hint: it involves some demolition!