Wednesday Weekly Renovation Update: From Concept To Reality

I have lots of photos to show, some huge progress, and a lot of blurry boys in said photos since I had to set the camera up on a tripod with a slow shutter speed to get good exposure of the rooms. Let’s just pretend the boys are blurry because they were working so fast it was hard to catch.

Saturday morning started like most Saturday mornings around here—Winnie standing in my face whining for me to let her out, and then when I say “off”, Rosie jumps off the bed to run to the door and Winnie starts licking my face as if to say, “Human is awake! Human is awake! I have to pee. Oh I have to pee. Let me out. Let me out. Feed me. Human is awake! I love you human! Stick. Ball. Human!”

So like any other Saturday morning, I drag out of bed and let them outside, proceed to fill their bowls with kibble and fall back into bed, grasping for just a few more hours of sleep. Most mornings this is the start of the “get ready for work” routine, but on this Saturday morning I fall back into bed.

After listening to the jingle of their collars hitting their metal bowls, I hear the ominous clicking of nails on the floor and thumping of tails against the wall. With one big *womp* onto the bed, I am promptly jumped on by a dog who wishes to thank me for her morning breakfast by holding a ball in her mouth and pressing her forehead into mine lovingly while making snorting noises. The other dog jumps on the bed and proceeds to roll onto her back squirming. Sleep is not happening, but it’s too cute to stop. Finally everyone settles down, I go back to bed and what feels like 20 minutes later Andy rolls over and says, “ready to get going Beatrice?”

And so begins my day.

I ask him what we’re doing today and he tiredly mumbles “re-framing the stairs” as he drinks in his hot coffee and starts putting on his work gear, which is almost always some form of Carhartt overalls. I’m starting to get nervous about what the stairs will look like, but I trust his judgement to make them fit this house the best they can, it is after all a weird spot.

At this point I have to laugh at how serious and focused on things I get sometimes when Winnie jumps on the bed one more time and stares at me and drops the ball and smiles. Rosie smiles at me too. It looked a little something like this. Same faces, different scenario. I thank them and bury my face into them.

I hear one more time, “time to get up Beatrice!” and I know it’s time to officially start the day. Seriously this time.

I hear the banging of the hammer, the radio turned on and there’s no going back. My day has begun. There’s already debris at the bottom of the stairs.

By the time I’ve thrown my sweatshirt and jeans on to help pull nails, which is pretty much my official job of this renovation, part of the landing has already been removed. We’re making switchback stairs, so this whole section of the ceiling has to be taken down and re-framed.

The dogs run upstairs to say hello to Andy, but when Winnie realizes the top tread is missing she starts whining because she doesn’t know how to get back down the stairs. Rosie jumps right over it, but Winnie is a little uncertain about things. Andy does the only thing a good Dad would do, and picks her up and carries her back down the stairs with her acting like a big baby the entire time, and us laughing.

With the dog rescue complete, it was time for Andy to smash out those timbers.

Casey comes home from an unsuccessful first day of deer hunting for a break and Andy puts him right to work on helping take the beams down. His buddy Chris is at the house too and the dogs go nuts over him. We pretty much just all start making fun of each other and laughing.

While taking the posts down it causes cracks in the drywall, just this side of the addition. I hear “we might as well take it all down” and that was that. I’m taking a way to long video of the removal process and eventually Andy tells Casey, whom I’ve handed it off to, to stop the video. He’s trying to figure something out and having the video on him is distracting. I stop while he figures it out and start it back up again. I know he loves looking back on these things, so I make sure to document them in multiple ways.

I’m pretty relieved as the ugly thick wood “trim” (timbers) ,which had been up for the last five years, come down.Off came the boards to the wall to reveal…black paint. Black. Paint. I won’t even go there except to say it’s never seeing the light of day in this house again.

Taking this wall down has been my favorite part of the renovation to date. We were able to take out the grossly oversized massive humungous window as well as the original exterior door. To say I will miss them would be a blatant lie.

Before the door came out, they initially decided to take the drywall down between the two. When Andy was banging on the drywall though to take it out, without disturbing the electrical, an arch shot out of the front of the wall from the switch. I was in the room but I missed it, and Andy was on the opposite side of the wall. Casey and his friend yelled “WOAH WOAH” and explained what happened. We knew 100% the electrical wasn’t bad, so it only took a second to see what the issue was.

At some point in time, when the original boards were up (where the black meets the white) things could slip behind it. Apparently a penny fell behind it, wedged itself and as Andy banged on the wall behind the switch, it shifted the penny just enough to cause a connection. The odds were astronomical something like that would happen and it was crazy. This is why you need to be careful about exposed metals touching, especially something as conductive as copper. Poor old Abe suffered some serious flesh wounds.

I pried it out with a piece of wood (remember, metal and humans are both conductive), and they got back to taking the door off.

So close!

Bit by bit the wall slowly went from open concept to open reality. I was both excited and nervous. I remember how the house was, but I was seeing the house my children would remember and only know.  Sometimes the fact that only Andy and I really know what the “before” house looks like feels like a little secret for just the two of us, and I like it. It’s obviously something I’m sharing, and not a secret, but I like that the before house was our before kids house, and the new house will be the after kids house. No, I’m not pregnant, but when we do have kids, this is the house they will know.

Thar she blows! This angle is from the kitchen area. I really really love how open it is. Here are shots from a few more angles.

Between the two rooms being entirely torn apart, it was starting to look a little hairy in the house. I really loved it though.

The guy who built the original addition built things to last. The staircase landing was no different.  The photo below is Andy literally jumping on it and springing up and down like a trampoline. Then I got on it and tried. Then he did it again. He finally got it out, but wowza, that baby was in there.

Fast forward a little bit, and well into the evening, I grabbed a quick family picture while it was all still open. I swear Andy has a slight smirk on his face, but I was being a little “please please family photo please please please now please please now please.” So, you know, he obliged. Such a good guy and totally not because I furrowed my brow when he initially said he wanted to keep working.

Family photo over, Andy got back to framing up the landing. I’m not sure why the above photo looks like night, and the one below looks like day, because the family photo was taken just as the sun was setting. Weird.

Right before he framed up the new landing, the boys removed some of the old drywall from around the chimney. The people before us were apparently very patriotic. I laughed when I saw this simply because I had totally forgotten about it. When we moved in just over five years ago it was the main background behind an ugly hearth we took down. It had long been removed and put out of memory, so to see a bit of it again was a fun reminder of how far we’ve already come.

I was really looking forward to seeing the new stair layout. I have to admit they didn’t grow on me right away, but I’m also someone who new things need to grow on. Rarely will I proclaim I “love” something without time. Then again, it doesn’t take too much time. A few days later and I already love them and the new layout. It really opens everything up and will let so much more light in. With the new mid-way landing up for the switch back stairs, Andy hand cut (er, made, but with power tools) the douglas fir stringers.

Finally, the base to the treads went on, which right now are plywood but the plan is to use solid beech for the staircase. After a long long day of work, we cleaned up. I stood back and then ran up and down the stairs multiple times laughing. I can just picture our kids running up and down them someday.

One of the things we realized was how much space underneath of the stairs there is, and how in a house like this we really need to utilize every nook and cranny. I was trying to figure out if we should put drawers under there, or use it as a storage spot since we don’t have an attic. Then we thought about making the access from the left side, which will be in the lower bedroom. Then Andy came up with it – a dog kennel! It’s not set in stone, but we’re seriously debating doing a built in dog kennel large enough for both dogs. It will give them a nice place to get away, without us having a large crate out in the open and will be pretty cute built in. Down the line if we want to it would be super simple to change into a built in storage area. So far I’m loving the idea, but who knows where we’ll end.

For now, the open concept is finally an open reality. We still have a few more walls to take down but I think we’ll just finish what we started here first before moving on. You know, mostly at least. I just can’t believe Andy, with a little help from Casey, did all of that work in one day.

Who am I kidding, I’ve lived with him long enough to not be shocked by it. Even as I write this he’s working some more. A man building his family a home, is there anything more attractive? I think not.



Weekly Renovation Update: Haunted House

I have to admit that I’m having trouble writing this post for one reason and her name is Brandi Carlile. I really shouldn’t listen to her when I write because all I want to do is sing along, and then those words end up on the screen and get mixed in my head with the ones that I need to write. I get to see her tonight in concert, with momma bear, for my birthday. I’m rather excited to see her live. It will be my third time and she never gets old. So excuse me if this post is somewhat incoherent, it’s simply because I’m singing at the top of my lungs while writing.

Despite my singing being something to be saved for when I’m alone, I am happy to share progress on the house which by the way is missing a ceiling.


While we’re waiting for the final small six windows to come in for the addition, Andy started renovating the downstairs of the original addition, where the living room used to be located. In the photos I have the entire ceiling isn’t quite down yet, but it’s getting there!

For some reason these photos came out very creepy to me. It was dark out, so in order to get well exposed shots I had to set up my camera on a tripod with a remote shutter and one small light. I don’t know about you, but this is just eery.
Despite being a total creep fest and what looks like an abandoned building, I really wanted to be able to show you what the split level looks like at this point between upstairs and downstairs. I somehow managed to cram my camera and myself into the tight corner on the tiny staircase landing to get these.

I swear to God these are no squatters in the house.

While I love not having a ceiling, I definitely turned myself into an apparition while taking photos. I have to tell you something—ghosts freak me out. It turns out that when I accidentally ghost myself in a photo it still weirds me out, no lie.

This is what happens when 1.) You don’t realize you’re in  your long exposed shot and jump out of it and then 2.) think you can run through the photo and not get caught.

Thank God this house isn’t actually haunted. That would not be awesome. Ahg, I can’t even look at them without being spooked.

Needless to say, I don’t watch scary movies.



Things I’ve Learned From My Husband

I think when you’ve been with anyone for a significant amount of time, you learn things from them and about yourself. In celebrating my (almost) 29th birthday, and with his 30th right around the corner I thought I would list 30 of the many things I’ve learned from Andy over the almost 9 years we’ve been together. Some of these things are very literal, some of them are funny, and some of them are about myself.

  1. Together we are Diana Ross. Our middle names that is. I have always thought this was funny. He has always found it lame.
  2. Oil Rubbed Bronze, also known as ORB’s, actual finish code is US10B.
  3. Rap is hilarious when a guy in insulated Carhartt overalls puts his laptop on his shoulder like a boombox.You’d be surprised at my husband retention of song lyrics, including but not limited to, rap and the 80’s.
  4. How to fix minor items on a car, and how cool it is to have your own toolkit.
  5. That it’s not a bad thing to be independent in a relationship and not always attached at the hip. He gets me and gives me breathing room when I need it and doesn’t get upset, offended or weirded out when I go off by myselfor  out with my friends without him. Why? Because we’re both that way. We love being together, and we love doing things apart. It’s good for a relationship and your individuality in order to grow.
  6. Construction adhesive and “caulking” are not the same thing.
  7. “Don’t ruin my truck or I’ll divorce you” does not equate to divorce when you ruin his truck. Maybe some serious disappointment, but nowhere near close to divorce. Also, we no longer even jokingly say the word. You’re either in marriage “to try” or you’re in it. We were always in it but we decided even saying the word as a joke wasn’t funny. I still feel bad about the truck though. Don’t ruin your mans truck, or vehicle, or favorite enter item here.
  8. I have had to learn to live with a man who doesn’t like making penned in plans and shutting off all of his options, when I am someone who would prefer to be scheduled. I literally write in my calendar in pen.
  9. I have a penchant for saying “NO.” very strongly if I am at all weary of a situation, request, or suggestion. It takes me time to come around.
  10. When I decide on something I “put it up there” *taps on head*. My husband has learned this, pointed it out to me, and now tells me not to “put it up there” when he throws out a potential suggestion for something, because if he doesn’t I might make the decision that’s it, and then it will be tough to convince me otherwise without a good logical argument. I think this goes back to the fact I write on my calendar in pen.
  11. We all like being loved, we all like feeling respected but I’d say men feel worth it in a relationship through respect, women feel worth through the little things that make them feel special. Is this general? Yes. Is it true for everyone? No, but it’s true in our house generally.
  12. I have a very thoughtful husband. He might consider jacking up the house so we have a straight floor to be love, but he also brings me wild flowers, fresh strawberries from the garden, lets me sleep in and takes care of the dogs for me (I do mornings, he does before bed), and sneaks out and comes back with a breakfast sandwich from my favorite place.
  13. Being thankful counts. He thanks me every single night I make dinner for him. I can’t remember a single time he hasn’t said at least said, “thanks B”.
  14. I use words wrong. I have had it pointed out to me with a laugh that I say “almost” when I mean anything from “I breifly thought about it” to I actually almost did do something. This has become a joke in our house.
  15. The man is good at making up silly songs that stick.
  16. The man is good at making up silly nicknames that stick. I am currently refered to as Beatrice. I like it, but only from him. It’s endearing.
  17. He will always call me by my maiden last name, and say it wrong, just to make me smile. I like it, but only from him. It’s endearing. He knows if anyone else pronounces it wrong I find it annoying.
  18. He’s an introvert that doesn’t like to go out, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t nice, funny, or boring. He is nice, extremely funny when he gets into it, and anything but boring.
  19. If you want to know about work ethic and motivation, try keeping up with Andy for a day. It’s been good for me.
  20. We’re both homebodies.
  21. I am a natural risk assessor, except on the occassion I’m willing to let it all go and just go for something.
  22. My husband knows when I’m stressed out and can talk me off the cliff of panic. He works better than anything.
  23. He’s encouraging, even if sometimes it’s through hearing the truth. I like this about him.
  24. He’ll say no to me. I never liked that guys I dated were always “yes” guys. It drove me bananas. My husband will look me straight in the face and say “no” in a kind but firm way. He is exactly what I need.
  25. I’ve learned that I hope our children look just like my husband. Girl or boy, they would be lucky to get his genetics.
  26. Heck, I hope my children have his work ethics and internal motivation. I am very externally motivated as an extrovert, and I hope my children are not. I want them to be motivated internally like their father. Both have their pro’s and con’s, but I love his way of thinking of things which is so different from how I process the world.
  27. He has a soft spot for puppies and kids and it makes my heart melt.
  28. He does not like cats. Even so, he was willing to give the one we had that I *had* to have (all of five days before it ran away when the previous owner told me to let her outside to help her calm down) a bath. A man who hates cats, gave the cat I had to have a bath, and managed to get scratched to high hell and back doing it. That’s love.
  29. How to laugh at myself. I LOVE laughing, but I get very very serious sometimes and can’t get out from under it. Andy will mock my face and attitude and I can’t help but laugh. Thank God for him being able to make me laugh at myself.
  30. Love. He taught me how to love. How to love through anything. How to fight for what you want. How easy it can be to love someone so awesome. How hard love can be. How wonderful love can be. Mostly, he taught me how worth it love can be. Especially when that someone is him.

That’s it. 30 of the best lessons I’ve learned from almost a decade with my husband.

Here’s to my last year in my 20’s, and what he might teach me over the next decade.



Wednesday Renovation Recap: A Little Insul(a)ting

The weather outside is getting cooler quickly, as it typically does come October in Maine. The leaves are falling off of the trees and blowing everywhere, and I’ve given up on sweeping the foliage off the deck. Mother nature has decided to decorate with her orange and red leaves, and I’m going to let her. Meanwhile, I’m not decorating at all. With the construction going on, it’s simply not worth it. I have to admit I also don’t really have any decorations anyway. I’ve never really been one to decorate for the specific time of year short of in-season flowers. To that feeling, for the fall I filled a vase with pinecones for the deck table. That counts, right?

While I’d love to talk about how much I love the weather and how chilly it’s getting, what I should really talk about is how Andy has been working hard this last weekend to keep us from getting chilly. He is currently referring to our house as the “igloo” in reference to the classic blue igloo cooler, because with the new exterior insulation it looks like a giant igloo cooler. Sort of. Maybe not? For some reason I totally got his reference. This might be part of the reason we’re married.

Even though we are referring to our house as the igloo, it’s thankfully only becoming warmer. Between the finishing of the chimney, the new insulation on the roof, and now the exterior insulation we’ll be walking around in our underwear inside when there’s a blizzard outside. That might be a stretch, but you never know.

Each time I look at the house from the angle below, it makes me smile. I can picture the six small windows in (two of them are on the other side). I can picture the new windows in the original house. I can picture the floor to the porch, the firewood stacked, the smoke coming out of the chimney, and a light snow falling outside. Ahhh yes, perfection.

The back of the house is looking just as good, you know, in comparison to what the house used to look like.

I have to admit that we initially felt like the addition was almost too tall in comparison to the original house. We were a little concerned but not enough to rip the entire roof off again and take the trusses down. No way. We figured we’d live with it but the height has honestly grown on me and I’m so glad now it’s as tall as it is. From the inside it looks good, and from the outside.

It wasn’t just the exterior Andy insulated, but between the trusses as well. The actual walls will get a different type of insulation,  but it was important to fit the rigid insulation between the trusses and rafters so everything was snug.

A lot of the time you can cut the insulation with a hand saw, but Andy took the more efficient step and used his portable table saw. I have to say I made fun of him when he got this with the “what on earth do you need a portable one for? You have one in the basement.”

Excuse me while I eat my words.

As usual, Andy’s right, and I’m eating my words. It’s just the nature of our relationship. At some point I should just stop arguing with him about things I know nothing about. We’ve been together for almost 9 years. Maybe by year 10 I’ll get it.

Probably not.



Oh So Apple Saucy Granola

The other day Andy and I were talking about making some more items ourselves here at home. I already make my own garbanzo flour (it’s loud, but a Vitamix does a great job on dried garbanzo beans), and a few times I made my own almond milk, though I decided that was simply too labor intensive. One of the foods we realized I had never made was granola. It’s one of the easiest things to make and yet I had never even attempted it. Andy eats granola every  morning for breakfast, and growing up his mom often made it. Today I decided to give it a go.

Here was my hangup: Granola is insanely sugary and fattening if made regularly. I don’t mind the fat coming from the nuts but many of the recipes I saw included both a bunch of sugar and or butter to make it clump. Gulp. No thanks.

I had this absolutely delicious granola a long time ago baked with applesauce. It was sweet, low in fat, and contained only a little sugar. I knew I needed to replicate it. I was okay with using some sugar, and some agave nectar as long as total it didn’t exceed one cup (with at least have of that cup being raw agave nectar, and the sugar being raw brown sugar). After some googling I came across this recipe at Fake Ginger.

Her recipe is as follows:

  • 2½ cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm the applesauce with the honey and oil over low heat.
  4. Mix the applesauce mixture into the oat mixture and stir to coat everything. Spread the mixture onto a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is a deep brown. Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Cool completely before enjoying.

This is what it looks like before baking. I messed up the focus on my camera so just look at that tiny strip of in focus mix *hits self in face*. This is what happens when I don’t use my camera very much for a couple months.

Since we limit animal products in our diets, and I already had raw agave nectar on hand I decided to make the switch from honey. My other changes included using cake spice instead of cinnamon since I was out, choosing pecans and walnuts for my nuts, and adding about a half teaspoon of vanilla.

Here are a few notes:

  • I did about 4 1/2 rounds of 10 minutes – meaning 45 minutes and it was a little browner than my personal preference. I’ll do 30 minutes next time but I have to say it did sets up to a nice crunch and adding the raisins in made it a lot tastier. I think it honestly just comes down to preference on this one. Andy thinks it’s fine.
  • Next time I will also either cut out the salt all together, or cut to 1/8 of a teaspoon. I found 1/2 to be too much. I’m fairly salt sensitive though, in general a little amount is plenty for me. It didn’t taste salty at all to Andy.
  • Be careful turning the granola every 10 minutes so you don’t break down the clumps too much. It’s not a clump intensive granola like some, and I don’t think you will get that with an apple sauce granola. It still clumped nicely though, but if you are too aggressive during turning you’ll break them up.

It’s held up really nice, and once it was entirely cool I put it in a tupperware. The key is to make sure that it is entirely cool. Very Very cool. You don’t want any residual heat or else it will turn chewy and blech.

One of the things I really enjoy about this recipe is that it’s pretty versatile if you follow the basic recipe. Next time I’ll likely go with almonds and dried raspberries. Mmmm so tasty.

Verdict: There’s no need to ever buy granola again. This was both super cheap, and super easy. Give it a try!