Like A Cup Of Tea Homesteading and A Handy Husband Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Who Needs Drywall When You Have Americana Wallpaper? Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:00:07 +0000 On Monday I showed you the beautiful, spectacular, outside of the house including the most wonderful window that has ever been installed. Today we move to the inside. These photos are some of the last “pre-demo” photos we have, but I use “pre-demo” loosely. Very, very loosely. Truth is, these were post early demo, but long before this last weekend when family came down and shit got real.

First up, the bathroom. These photos are during the initial deconstruction of the big items, so we could tear it all out.

House Renovation June 2015-41House Renovation June 2015-47Here’s the bathroom into the start of demo, as well as the gaping old chimney hole that was behind the medicine cabinet.

House Renovation June 2015-51House Renovation June 2015-38House Renovation June 2015-37House Renovation June 2015-55Moving on from the bathroom is my brother-in-law’s old bedroom, and what will be the new bathroom. This is the room we put a new window in, as shown on Monday’s post.

House Renovation June 2015-58House Renovation June 2015-60The closet is going to be expanded and will house the washer and dryer.

Next up is the first office, and going to be new guest room (I think). We were going to use the downstairs bedroom in the addition as the guest room, but I’d really prefer to work in that bright beautiful room the vast majority of the time. It’s currently set up as our makeshift office/pantry while the kitchen is torn out, but I think I’d like it to stay an office. 

This room however has seen the most transformation of the years. It first was a lavender nursery (before we moved in), and then it stayed that color for a long time as a guest room, before it became my office/soap room. Below are a few before/afters of when it was my office versus what it looks like now. There was an intermediary step of it being a little more torn apart because we had moved the office, and had to put a new window in. This is pretty clear though on the differences over time.


Here are more shots from similar angles.

DSC_0732-01House Renovation June 2015-63DSC_0745-01House Renovation June 2015-64DSC_0730-01House Renovation June 2015-61Second to last is “the green room” which has been everything from an office, to a makeshift bedroom while we built the addition a few years ago, to a storage / soap room.

House Renovation June 2015-67House Renovation June 2015-69House Renovation June 2015-70This final photo leads us into the main part of the house, which has seen a crazy huge change. Let’s just soak this in, because my upcoming posts will look shockingly different.

House Renovation June 2015-73House Renovation June 2015-71With that I leave you in bewilderment, and knowing that yes, I definitely made sure to keep a piece of that fantastic americana wallpaper. Like I wasn’t going to put a swatch of that up framed in the completed renovation? Yeah. Right.


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Eight Years and Two Doors Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:00:56 +0000 As of this blog post, the only way to tell where our kitchen used to be is because the sink and fridge are still hooked up. That’s right – it’s down to the studs. We need to back it up a quick notch though, since I haven’t posted any of the “before”. As of a few weeks ago this is what the outside of the house looked like.

House Renovation June 2015-20

You’ll notice two side-by-side doors, one new window on the far right, Andy in the process of installing a window on the left, and a terrifying heap of what the hell in the middle. Let’s walk through these before we get to the inside. Well, except for the window on the far right. We won’t discuss that one because it’s not gross, it was straight forward, and I can’t find any pictures. I may not have even taken them. Here’s me. Here’s the rails. I’m off them.

A crazy freak malfunction in a pneumatic nailer and one 16 penny nail straight through Andy’s thumb (I will save you the photos, but he missed all bone/nail/nerves), we have a new door to what will become the mudroom. In fact, we have two functioning doors side-by-side. Eventually the old door will become a wall with a fridge in front of it, but for now it’s like a fun house guessing game for the dogs of which door I’m going to let them out of in the morning.

House Renovation June 2015-4 House Renovation June 2015-5

If this didn’t look messy enough, let’s move on.

On the far left is the room that will become the new bathroom. This room, as you can see, also needed a new window pretty badly. It’s not that I hated the oddly long sliding basement windows, but I hated the oddly long sliding basement windows. Not only was the windows coming out, because – gross, it was coming out so we could fit the new layout of the bathroom. House Renovation June 2015-25

House Renovation June 2015-28

House Renovation June 2015-34Tada! That one wasn’t too bad.

The old bathroom window was the kicker. Get your heave bucket situated firmly in front of you. At no point move it.

House Renovation June 2015-8This is the bathroom window from the inside. What a window, right? Well, it wasn’t ever put in properly. Shocking, I know. It was more of a hack in the side of the house. There’s nothing better in this world than a permanent closed window, which was installed improperly, in the room that gets tons of moisture.

House Renovation June 2015-10Oh yeah, that’s mildew and rot. Let’s go closer.

House Renovation June 2015-12Have you lost your dinner yet? No? Let’s try again.

House Renovation June 2015-13Still No? One more.

House Renovation June 2015-15FOUND ALL MY BOBBY PINS! Also, I just found your dinner spewed on the floor. You’d spew more if you could have smelled it.

Take it in, take it in.

House Renovation June 2015-18I think that’s all I’m going to leave you with now. I’ll be back with another set of “before” images of the house on Wednesday morning so I can try to get everyone up to speed pretty quickly.

Be safe, strong, and go empty your heave bucket.


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A New Porch, A Garden Downscale, and A Kitchen On The Way Thu, 04 Jun 2015 18:34:25 +0000 read more »]]> Last year Andy cut down cedar on his mom’s property for the porch we needed to finish. We then brought the cedar home, milled it out, stacked it, and turned it into decking. I’m of course using the marital “we” because it was 99.99% all Andy.

Here’s the kicker, I took photos of Andy turning the lumber into random width, plantation grown, decking. I cannot for the life of me find them though. So what you get are finished photos instead.

June 2015 House Updates (3)June 2015 House Updates (5)It’s a pretty great view, and the porch creates a little wind tunnel from the field to the road. It’s perfect for sitting on because the almost perpetual light breeze helps keep the black flies and mosquitoes away. We’d call it intentional, but it definitely wasn’t. We’ve already had a few “porch parties” with small family gatherings on it, as well as dinners outside etc.

Andy really wasn’t sure if he was going to start the kitchen first or finish the porch, and I have to say that I at first pushed for the kitchen. Once again, Andy had it right. Having this porch is SO nice, and it’s going to make a nice retreat when the kitchen and everything else is completely torn apart.

Speaking of “completely torn apart” we are getting there on the other side of the house. The windows have come in, and the siding…well, it looks like this:

June 2015 House Updates (2)Propped up is the new door that is going to the right of the current door, which will lead into the new mudroom. I don’t really have much else to say beyond that, so let’s awkwardly segway into the last big to do here…

..we’re not growing a garden this year.

I know, I know. This is hard to even wrap ones head around, let alone mine. Essentially it came down to three factors, first and most important, the soil needs to rest because it became too weedy so it’s now covered in black plastic for the summer; two, we’re renovating; three, I’m in graduate classes until August. Between the soil needs, and our schedules, it was one of the hardest calls ever not to grow the majority of our own food this summer.

Thankfully, we live in Maine where CSA’s (community supported agriculture) are rampant. We’ll be getting one this year through Winter Hill Farm in Freeport, Maine. We’re looking forward to see what comes our way, and we’re hoping it will help keep our diets on track while the house is ripped apart. We have a new grill (you can sort of see it on the deck in the photo above) that has a side burner as well. The plan right now is to cook up big batches of rice and beans at the beginning of the week, and then grill veggies all week long. This will allow us to have quick, delicious and healthy dinners which will help both our budget and our waistlines.

If you thought we weren’t growing ANY food however, you would be wrong.

June 2015 House Updates (1)Troy did indeed come out this year once again. We tilled a small patch behind our blueberries and planted some butternut squash, summer squash, zucchinis, and cucumbers. Then, behind another stone wall we planted basil. In the garden area we do have about 100 feet of garlic, as well as our asparagus. That’s all we’re doing for vegetables, but we have more fruit going this year. We expanded our blueberry and strawberry beds because they are getting large and spreading fast. It’s perfect! We even added some more blueberries this year, two more grape plants, and six elderberry plants.

Then there are the herbs. Like I’m going go go through a summer without a sufficient planting of herbs. Knowing we didn’t have anymore planting space, I bought a huge planter and now my herbs are right on my deck.

June 2015 House Updates (6)Overall it’s been a good spring and summer, now if I can only remember to keep my camera on me. If I ever find the photos of Andy turning the lumber into decking, I’ll post it here. As you can imagine, it was a load of work (understatement), and I’d love to be able to show you all how it went!

All for now,


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Non-Vinegar Essential Oil Cleaner Sun, 26 Apr 2015 01:56:35 +0000 NaturalCleaner_Blog (7)

There has been a ton going on lately, with new calves at the farm, house renovations, graduate school starting back up, and general life. I really have been wanting to start writing again, so I thought I’d start up with something that was a wild ride this winter. I was hoping to come back “full swing” with a more upbeat post, but I decided to go this route because it’s something a lot of people might appreciate. So, let’s go!

Last November, after using some harsh chemical cleaners, I ended up breaking out in chronic hives for the first time in over a decade. In November after using a cleaner my hands got very very red and itchy, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I broke out in hives on my hands. Days later they were showing up just about anywhere in patches. This was not a typical dermatological response to a harsh chemical. These were standard off the shelf cleaners you can find in any store. Brand name cleaners.

My system was already more sensitive than normal for various reasons. The chemicals simply caused a reaction that fueled itself. Eight weeks later the hives were still there. An allergy panel showed no allergies (even ones I used to be allergic to). This led the decades long allergist to tell me that my symptoms and onset were pretty consistent with an immune disorder. Clearly – my body had been attacking itself for weeks. I’d say that was my immune system acting disorderly.

Thanks to some changes and starting some herbs that help with mast cells and immune health, I’m doing pretty good. One of the changes I made was starting to search around for a homemade natural cleaner, and vinegar was out. Andy simply cannot stand vinegar based cleaners. The scent in the house is just too much for him. I too was hoping I could find something that cleaned very well, and had a better scent. A plethora of research ensued and this ended up being the final analysis: good essential oils, a gentle cleaner, water, and a spray bottle.

You cannot even believe how good this stuff works as a general cleaner, and with baking soda for tougher spots. It’s not going to strip your kitchen spotless in no time like a commercial cleaner (kind of the point). What it will do though is clean surprisingly well for every day cleanup. To prove to you the cleaning power of this, I am going to show you something I dare show no one: My stove after a bit of cooking crazy meals that I didn’t wipe down.

Non-Vinegar Homemade Cleaner:

  • Spray bottle (the size does not matter)
  • Dr. Bronners castile soap
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Tea Tree essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil
  1. Pour enough Dr. Bronners in the bottom of your spray bottle that it covers, and comes up about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.
  2. Add about 10 drops of each essential oil. I tend to add just a couple more tea tree oil because of it’s awesome anti-bacterial properties.
  3. Add water to fill up the rest of the bottle. Gentle tip back and forth to ensure everything gets mixed well.
  4. Spray away!

The Fully Unscientific, Non Peer-reviewed, Non-Control Group Stove Test

I fully do not believe in hack science that touts backup when it has none – no matter how good it sounds. I believe in peer-reviewed, control group, scientifically reproducible studies. This is not any of those. This is just what I’ve found works well for me. I’ve reproduced this a few times in my kitchen, but that’s about as scientific as this gets.

Here it is in all it’s glory – my absolutely repulsive stove that I didn’t clean up after cooking for a few days. Hey turmeric rice that boiled over. Hello curry! Also, that totally gross burner has been there no matter how much I scrub it. Deal with it. I’ve dealt with it for five years.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (2)Looking at this repulsive beast, I then sprayed my concoction all over and let it set for a few minutes. One light wipe down (no scrubbing), and the stove was looking better.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (3)One more light mist and a bit more of a detailed wiping down, and it almost looked presentable. Or, rather, as presentable as I care. We’re not talking a Martha Stewart visit here. Even if it were, I mean, come on – it’s me. Hi Martha, here’s a mason jar full of Coors light.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (4)That one damn burner looks better, but it’s still not good. Scrubbing until I had no cartilage between my elbows left wouldn’t really help. I decided to pull out the baking soda to try and get a better clean. I put a bit more cleaner on, and then doused with the baking soda.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (5)Now, before I give the results here let me say this. After wiping just a little bit, it started getting better but then I got annoyed. Then I remembered about the chain mail scrubber my Dad got me at Christmas for my cast iron. Then I remembered it’s a matter of months before this stove gets completely ripped out in our kitchen renovation and that I do not care if it gets totally scuffed to shit. So, chain mail came out like a knight in shining armor.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (6)I’d say that helped quite a bit. I was satisfied enough to take myself out to breakfast. If you think for a second I was about to cook on that newly cleaned stove, you’re out of your damn mind. I’ll cook on it tomorrow. Maybe.

The point is this, overall, just looking between the first and second photo, you can see how well the cleaner works. Plus, it smells super great.

So, there’s that.

All for now, enjoy if you want. I’ll hopefully be back soon with some more updates!

You know how it goes,


Disclaimer: Just like any cleaner, this cleaner does not substitute for proper cleanliness, preparation and sanitation in a kitchen, bathroom, etc. Please do not do weird things like cut meat directly on the counter, and then use this spray and expect it to kill bacteria. That’s just very poor judgement. Use this cleaner at your own discretion.

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Chirp Chirp Tue, 13 Jan 2015 17:00:18 +0000 The birds are not chirping, but I’m sticking my head out from my little hibernation hole and chirping, hence the title of this post.

This break has been wonderful, and has been much needed. I’ve had some time to think about things, and realized my renewal of “Like A Cup of Tea” was coming up. That’s when it hit me – this blog is staying put. Here’s what I’m toying with right now:

  • Writing? Your guess is as good as mine for frequency. I’m still very busy and all the same reasons in the last post still hold. Time is simply limited.
  • Instagram? I post as I see fit. It’s fairly regular, except when it’s not.
  • Comments? HEYO. THEY ARE BACK. I don’t think it was fair to write my last post and then completely shut down comments. As well, I’ve been receiving emails about certain posts and how-to’s. I think it would be a lot more fair for these to be comments where everyone could access them, versus emails directly to me that don’t help the general population. So, comments are back on. Plus, if I do end up writing sporadically again I’d like them to be available. I’ll do my best to respond to comments in a timely manner and hopefully this will be a good thing for everyone.

I hope you’re all having a nice New Year and the holidays were kind to you. 

Until next time,


P.S. We no longer have the third dog mentioned this post from the autumn. Bella went to her forever home at the beginning of the year, but is close enough that we might get to watch her when her owner travels, etc. Three dogs ended up not being for us, and Bella has an (awesome) new owner and a buddy she gets to hang out with. We’re very very happy how it turned out. No more fosters though (famous last words).

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