Dear Architect

Following is a recent e-mail I sent to our architect after viewing the preliminary drawings and thinking about the changes to the rooms.  I’ve linked to posts which shed more detailed light on our decisions.

Hi,

Here’s what we’re thinking for the renovations to The Glade: (1st floor, 2nd floor, outside)

1. Mud room – Plan B

Mud room Plan "B"

2. Kitchen – Plan A with added bow window as in attached drawing. We’d like to have a table in the kitchen and move the sink and dishwasher (and an undercounter fridge) to the counter between the living room and dining room.

Also, the ledge between the kitchen and the DR should be a little wider, not wide enough to eat on but maybe 10-12 inches.

Our revised kitchen plan has a bow window which allows for a round table, a central island and a counter between the kitchen and dining room where the wash-up sink, dishwasher, undercounter refrigerator and coffee prep area will be located.

3. Conservatory – Modified Plan B giving the bathroom an extra couple of feet into the conservatory. Reconfigure the closets.

One central French double door with a window on each side off the back of the conservatory, windows along the side.

Larger bathroom will allow for a different layout perhaps.

4. Living room – move door to center. No wraparound porch.

In Concept "B" the porch remains on the left and the front door is centered.

5. Master suite. Plan B closet as designed.

Plan "B" - Keep closet as is, extend bathroom to current wall (dotted line).

 Bathroom extended to current wall. One sink. Is it possible to have a bird’s eye in the bathroom on the driveway side and a conventional window in the closet? Conventional window on the back of the house in the bathroom. Place to sit to fix hair, make-up possibly next to the sink.

General size of the new bathroom but not necessarily the layout.

 I don’t know if I’ve hit all the issues but those are the ones we’ve thought through thus far.

Thanks for your work,

Jo

I can’t wait to hear the architect’s response.  I love being in on the design process.

Do you enjoy making decisions? BIG decisions? Or do you leave the details to the experts?

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Laundry Closet: Part 1

Building this closet is no joke. We had all the elements but just installing the shelving took two weeks 6 months.

Laundry Closet - Before

  First Charlie put up the standards that hold the clips that support the shelves. This in itself was an ordeal. He insisted on using screws that were larger than the holes in the metal so he had to drill the metal then install it. 

Oversize screws are difficult to put in but ensure a secure shelf.

 On the stud side that was no problem.  On the drywall side we bought special screws with plastic moly attachments which needed to be drilled first then screwed in by hand.

Screws and clips

  My tip here is to trust your level as to whether the shelves are straight (or not). Most people’s eyes are skewed in some way.

Standards, clips and shelves.

 Then Charlie trimmed the shelves to size and laid them on the clips. 

Laundry shelves are built in back of the closet to hold seldom-used bulky items.

 Naturally I couldn’t wait to fill the shelves with quilted bed protectors, handmade afghans, spreads and blankets.

Seldom-used and seasonal bulky items go on the shelves at the back of the laundry closet.

 Oh, how I’ve longed for this laundry storage.

Next step: Enclose the closet with drywall.

Do you have sufficient storage in your house?  Crazy question, I know.

The Glade a la Carte: Kitchen

I met with our architect who showed me two different sets of plans for the renovation to The Glade. I liked both of them.  The best part is I don’t have to choose one or the other, I can mix and match, one from column A two from column B, an a la carte menu.

Currently the first floor at The Glade looks like this.

Living room, dining room, kitchen, powder room on the first floor

 Plan “A” is a more compact version and Plan “B”, while not overwhelming in scale, is a bit larger.  The layouts, too, are slightly different.

Plan A - 1st Floor - Compact Version

 The new kitchen is at the driveway side of the house on what is currently the flagstone terrace.

Plan B - 1st Floor - The Generous Version

In today’s post we’re discussingthe preliminary things (not the actual decor) that should be incorporated into the kitchen design.  In addition to Charlie and me, we’ve included our friend Chef Neault, who  has been in and evaluated far more kitchens than we. He made us focus on where we want trash cans, coffee pots, recycling bins, dish cabinets, pots and pans, microwave, toaster oven. Oh, we are such novices!  Charlie and I are going to look at some model homes to see some modern layouts. Understand that we have been living in 50+ year-old house with a 50+ year-old kitchen for so long it’s difficult for us to think outside the box (or should I say shoebox?). 

 But I digress. While both kitchen designs are similar in square footage, we specifically wanted a counter to divide the space between the dining room and the kitchen so dirty dishes and food preparation are partially hidden from the rest of the house.

Plan A incorporates a 2-level counter between the kitchen and dining room and a central island. (I removed the skylights shown on the comprehensive plan above.)

 But we like the mud room design from Plan B which would change the counter space and pantry layout close to the refrigerator.

Plan B is a more open design between the kitchen and dining room with a larger island which houses a sink and seating.

One of the items on my wish list was an eat-in kitchen which the above plan addresses but not actually how I envisioned it. I would really love to have a round table in the kitchen where we could eat breakfast or have a cup of coffee and a snack. So my revised plan adds that seating area into Plan A while changing the counters near the refrigerator to incorporate the Plan B mudroom.

Our revised kitchen plan has a bow-window which allows for a round table, a central island and a counter between the kitchen and dining room where the wash-up sink, dishwasher, undercounter refrigerator and coffee prep area will be located.

On the counter which runs between the two rooms we’d like a coffee station because (as you know) we’re all about our coffee. We haven’t run this revision by our architect yet but we’re hopeful it can work.

 

I’m picturing the bump-out bow-window will look something like this at the back of the house. The inside could be set up similar to the photos below.

Just a little bump-out.

What’s in your kitchen?  Can you eat in it? Or barely turn around?

Swappin’ Soup

Saturday night, we all got together at the usual place like we usually do,
Saturday night, cooked up something special: 
Peanutbutter bagels and goldfish stew.
All we had in the house were 2 teeny guppies
Had to serve six but we thought it might do.
Saturday night, cooked up something special:
Peanutbutter bagels and goldfish stew.
 
Small stove with lots of soup.

 Ok, so I know some goofy weird songs but appropriate, n’est-ce pas?

Fourteen people (some were couples) came to The Glade for the soup swap providing 51 quarts of frozen, homemade soup to exchange for something they could heat up and enjoy later in the winter.

Containers filled with frozen soup.

 We started by loading up the soup table with the frozen quarts.  Then everyone who was swapping (not a requirement for attendance) pulled a number to determine his/her selection order.

 “The Telling of the Soup” commenced with tales of extraordinary ingredients and ancient recipes. The first story set the theme for the evening with a short skit by one actor playing all the parts and a singing dog faithfully helping. The theme: LOVE!

A story of love and a singing dog.

 Everyone joined in on the theme and all the “tellings” featured love at their core.

The first soup selected was Hoppin’ John Soup whose creator received the “Super Souper Award,” a bottle of homemade double vanilla extract.

The awards

 The last soup off the table was minestrone whose chef received the “Pooper Stupor Souper Award,” a candle in a tea tin.

Buffet table ready for pots of soup.

 We supplied handled brown grocery bags with names written on the bags to carry the loot home. Folks stashed their cache in their cars (it was a cool night so the soups would remain frozen) and proceeded to warm themselves with soup from the buffet set out for all to enjoy.

The singing dog made his rounds and helped Charlie out on a couple of musical numbers.

The singing dog was such a big hit that the evening turned into a sing-along.

Charlie thanked the little fella for his musical collaboration.

 When’s the last you had a good bowl of soup with friends?  Don’t wait. 

Corn Chowder

For the Soup Swap this weekend as part of the menu I’m making corn chowder, my favorite soup especially if it’s enhanced with crab meat (or shrimp or lobster.) It wasn’t a good choice of soup for the swap itself because it doesn’t freeze well. 

Large pot of corn chowder

Here’s the recipe with which I’m starting then I’ll tweak it until it’s my style.

  • Four quarts of chicken broth
  • Four cans of corn niblets
  • 4 peeled potatoes cut into half-inch dice
  • 1 onion minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of cream
  • Flour
Corn chowder looks smooth but is full of hearty bits of corn and potatoes.

 Add minced onion and potatoes to the chicken broth and cook until vegetables are tender. Add corn. (I added a large pinch of dried thyme.) If the soup is not thick enough make a roux to add to it.

Roux – Heat chicken fat or oil or butter (or a combination thereof) in a pan.  When the fat is hot add an equal part of flour and cook until bubbly. (Turn it off before it browns because chowder is a light color soup.) Add some of the soup to the roux to create a thickened version and add this back to the pot.

Corn chowder after the roux and cream have been added.

When the soup is ready to serve top it off with cream which can be warmed but should not be boiled.

A creamy bowl of corn chowder

Salt and pepper to taste. YUM!

What’s your favorite soup?

Rusty Elegance

Look at this little cabinet.  Found it in the dumpster. Should have left it there. Right?

RUSTY metal and glass cabinet

This is not a light-weight piece. Notice the cabriole legs. And the little swing-down glass door. It’s downright elegant, ain’t it n’est-ce pas?

Maybe the 3 openings at the top could hold shelves or .  .  .  ? Any suggestions?

What should I do with it? Leave it rusty? Paint it? Put it in the potager to hold hand tools?

GET RID OF IT?? Yikes, quelle idée!

They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  I hope it’s true in this case. Right now, one person’s trash is my trash.

Are you holding onto something? Trash or treasure?

The Austerity Program: Step 3

As I mentioned in step two of the Austerity Program stress is a huge contributor to weight gain, especially belly fat. How does it work?

We know stress produces cortisol in the body which has all kinds of bad side effects (see step 2). The real question to answer is how do we reduce stress?

Dr. Oz to the rescue.  Here are 10 ways to reduce stress and some of them are easy and pleasant.

Oz’ Destressing Plan

 Let’s take them one at a time.

1.  Take 10. Even a short burst of physical activity can release stress relieving endorphins which help you feel calm, happy, and energized.  A 10-minute walk or 10 jumping jacks is a great stress relieving break.

2.  Eat Orange. Eat orange foods rich in Vitamin C which helps fight cell damage that results from being under pressure.  Sweet potatoes, oranges, orange peppers, carrots — you get the picture.

3.   Breathe. Deep breathe.  Take air in the nose for 5 and out the mouth  for 8. Feeling calmer already.

4.  Take a multi-vitamin. A multivitamin with A, C, E and B complex vitamins helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

5. Change the scenery. While I was working on this post I took a stroll out to the mailbox.  Even a short break with fresh air and midday sun revs up the serotonin and helps reduce stress and gives a sense of well-being. 

Fall view of spring blooming trees at the Glade

6.  Make Friends.  Quality relationships influence your immune cells to increase your body’s ability to resist disease and cancer.  Friends help with managing stress  and living a long, happy life.  Make an effort to have friends. 

My friends

7.  Relax with a rub. Give yourself a stress-relieving rub by placing fingertips between your eyebrows and rubbing them away from each other following the browline.

8.  Smell good aromas.  Lavender and rosemary scents have both been revealed to have stress lowering effects.  

Rosemary at The Glade

 

9.  Take a nap.  Lack of sleep leads to more stress.  A short nap (20 to 30 minutes) can be a rejuvenating daytime boost.

10. Have a good laugh. There’s nothing like a a laugh, a giggle, even a smile to take the pressure off a situation. One of my favorite feel-good, makes-me happy-every-time videos is Evian’s skating babies ad on YouTube.

These suggestions are easy to incorporate to reduce the bad effects of stress. (Some stress actually has good effects.)

What’s your go-to stress reducer?