Saturday, June 10, 2017

Avocado Soup

I made this avocado soup on a whim one day when I had 2 ripe avocados lying around needing to be eaten.

How beautiful is our granite by the way? I am obsessed with its brown waves you see on the right side below. It is so much more enjoyable to be in the kitchen now than before with our decades old pink counter!
I referred to my cooking bible 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles and came across this simple recipe for which I had the 3 ingredients on hand.

2 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups of chopped ripe avocados (I found 2 hass avocados to be the perfect amount)
1 cup of buttermilk

First bring the broth and avocado to a boil over medium heat.

Then place in a blender or food processor (depending on size, 2 batches may be needed). 
Cover and process until pureed into this beautiful smooth color.
Then put back in pot and stir in the buttermilk. That's it! 

I first had a bowl hot. Once cooled in the fridge, it is a delicious gazpacho! Great for a summer snack or side with a sandwich.
The recipe also suggests adding a 1/4 cup of chopped scallions or cilantro before pureeing if desired.

It stays green too (no browning)! I am guessing the buttermilk is the reason for this. 

Thank you for stopping by. I hope I have inspired you to try something new in the kitchen! ~Val

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Revealing and Refinishing 117 Year Old Floors

We have been moving at a rapid pace with our renovations! The plan after the granite counter was installed was to move onto the flooring in the kitchen, hallway and half bath.

We got sidetracked with replacing our back and side doors which were original and in rough shape. This also included rebuilding our side steps and decking.

Then we moved on to the kitchen flooring. Well just before we had contractors coming to measure for estimates we tore up the carpeting in the hallway. 
Holy crap! The wood was in perfect condition (minus the paint of course which sands right off). There was no way we were going to tile over such loveliness.

There were no intentions of refinishing the wood floors anytime soon. At 117 years old we figured there would be some wear. But seeing the hallway we just had to see more!

The dining room (aka my office) was also in perfect condition (minus the paint again).
The living room however made us nervous. The prior owners told us there was a carpet inlay in there so we didn't know what exactly to expect.
Back in the day, to save money, inlays of pine were installed within the pricey woods that homeowners would throw an area rug over.

This took up the front half of the front to back living room.
As you can see there had been a wall in the middle so this was 2 rooms originally. To save us money, Jim did the prep work of removing the pine boards so the wood guy could work his magic. I was the carpet staple remover person. Not fun!

There were a couple of other areas needing patching where radiators had once been as well as the threshold areas. A couple of the guys who looked at the floor believed this is red birch which is now hard to come by. They all suggested red oak for the patching so that is what we went with.

Now for the big reveal! 

The hallway. The wood tone is gorgeous!
Below to the left you can see where the nasty kitchen floor starts. Soon to be replaced (we are currently working on this yucky prep work as I publish this post)! 
 Living room.
The oak looks beautiful where the pine boards had been. It looks like an intentional wood inlay. The contrast is spectacular.
The back of the living room was pristine to begin with so it is stunning too!
So now we need to put the heater covers back on and put the curtains back up. Eventually I will get around to touching up the moulding too. There was a lot of prep work in this one with the removal of the old carpeting, staples, tacks and pine but worth every minute!

This project was less expensive than we anticipated and we could not be happier with the results! Even though it was an unexpected expense, this will bring us back at least double what it cost us in resale. It makes a huge difference in the home's marketability too. 

I hope you enjoyed our reveal! Thank you for stopping by. ~Val

Saturday, May 13, 2017


I haven't been blogging much lately due to various ongoing house projects consuming me. Hopefully we will have things wrapped up by fall but I do have a long list of tasks to do, mostly involving painting. Very time intensive!

The weather has been cool and wet for the most part. The upside is the plants and flowers are loving it!

Our azaleas which barely had flowers last year are incredibly happy! They are ancient so their shapes are a little funny. I'm afraid trim them too much which could affect their livelihood.
Above is a bit on the red side. The shrub below it hot pink, still waiting for the flowers to fully open!
These purple tulips are experiencing a very long bloom life.
One of them is shy not wanting its picture taken.
We have these stunning red tulips that look fake! It was mentioned to me that these are sometimes referred to as peony tulips which makes complete sense considering how the flower opens and appears when in complete bloom.
The petals are amazing.

Our ancient lilac bush is back like crazy (we considered chopping her down last summer)!
Definitely a keeper now!

I hope you enjoyed some of the color we are seeing around the yard.

Thank you for stopping by! Have a wonderful week. ~Val

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Kitchen Update

From drab
To fab!
I am in love with our Fantasy Brown leathered granite. It has a matte finish with texture that is perfect for our 1900 house.
The old sink had 2 small bowls that were extremely difficult to work with!
Now we have 1 huge sink that is amazing!
The faucet is fantastic. I am loving the 1 piece that switches from single to spray stream and has the pull down sprayer.  We have more counter space now too!
The granite back splash was applied right against the brick facade. I was a little concerned with how this may look and 100% satisfied with it!

We still have details to address like the outlet that Jim will change to a GFCI as it should be. We will be buying decorative oil rubbed bronze covers for this and the switch. 

Another detail to address is the space right underneath the granite.
The old counter curled over the cabinets so I was not able to stain all the way to the top. For whatever reason I did not foresee an issue! 

Jim had the brilliant idea of applying a decorative corner molding over that portion. That will make everything even richer.

When we browsed the home improvement store we found many options so now we have to decide. Surprisingly there is even vinyl corner molding that is already the espresso color of the cabinets. No one would know that it is not even wood! 

However I am thinking of a really decorative one that can be spray painted with the same paint used on the hardware. Since it is metallic, there would be a pop of prettiness under the counter. We'll see.

The new dishwasher is not hooked up yet either. We need 1 more tube and a longer electrical cord. 

We also decided to purchase a new ceiling fan instead of upcycling the one we have. Another thing to add to the shopping list.

Time to start shopping for tile too!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring is certainly revealing itself in our yard. 

I am very excited to report that the young magnolia tree our neighbor gave us which we transplanted in the Fall is starting to bloom!
Almost open! 

If anyone know which  variety this one is, please let me know. I tried identifying it online but that was difficult since there are so many. Its petals are quite floppy. We are in Massachusetts so it is hardy to the area. Maybe its leaves will tell me more when they start to show.
The daffodils are trying to get there.
The holly has berries starting (at least I think that is what that growth is!).
The sedum is growing very healthily.
We will have some tulips.
Lots of blooms will show on the giant rhododendrons.
We also have this little rhododendron which I believe is the PJM variety. It did not bloom last year since it was squished between 2 ancient burning bushes with a fence against its back side. Since we removed the old fence and routed the new one differently, this shrub is so happy and covered in soon to be flowers!
I think our roses survived too and will come back beautifully.
I hope you have enjoyed our yard's start to the season. Hopefully you are seeing all sorts of prettiness where you are too!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kitchen Update

We chose our granite for the counter! 
This piece is called Fantasy Brown Leathered.  The photo does not do it justice. It is full of waves and other gorgeousness. It is on the lighter side which will be a perfect contrast to the dark cabinets.

We got extremely lucky and did not even have to go to the granite warehouse (which I was worried about since the choices are overwhelming and I seem to like everything stone). The fabricators had this slab on site and we immediately fell in love with it!

Leathered is a newer finish on granite that we were unaware of. It has some leather like texture rather than the polished smooth. It is beyond stunning. What I love even more about this finish is that it is matte, not shiny. I always thought granite would be shiny which I am not too keen on. This will be perfect in our 1900 house!

The big day for installation is April 19! The plumbing will be updated too.

Yes the staining is done.
We will put the bottom doors back on after installation. I finished touching up the brick in that back corner too so it looks much better than the photo. 

The sink will be an under mount one that is huge but actually has a smaller footprint than the current one giving us a little more counter space.

The dishwasher will be replaced with a black one.

We may have to remove some of the brick but we will find out Monday when someone comes out to draw up the template. There will be a 4 inch granite back splash.

After this we can start looking at flooring to complement the rest! We decided against a build out at this time. A future owner of the house may prefer to put a large kitchen table in here instead like the prior owner did. An island can be easily added. 

Thank you for stopping by. I hope your spring is starting off beautifully. Our season seems to be right on point with tons of April rain so far. ~Val

Saturday, March 25, 2017

House Update

Here is an update on the kitchen cabinet staining project!
I am working on those last 2 upper doors, then will move onto the lower cabinets.

I thought I would share a couple of tips I have learned through the process in case anyone out there is looking to do the same.

We are using Minwax PolyShades which is the stain and polyurethane in one. It can go over poly surfaces, however only if going darker. If one was to go lighter, the cabinets would need to be stripped.
First I clean the door with mineral spirits. Then I sand it with 220 grit sandpaper which helps smooth out any areas needing it but also aids in better adhesion.

Between coats I am using 330 grit for a very light sanding to remove any dust, lint etc. 

Airborne particles are the enemy here since they do settle on wet stain. The only way to not have it be an issue would be to work in a sanitary room that has nothing in it and work naked...not going to happen.  So this is a constant battle.

Another great thing about this stain job is the inside of the doors really doesn't need to be done so we kept them as is. That way any future owner can see the wood grain. Since wood is forever, I am sure someone will decide to strip them years from now!

When staining the door, a bit will find its way on the back side.  However I found that simply running a paper towel underneath along the edges when a side is done will do the trick!

Being winter, I have been waiting 48 hours between coats just in case. The coats need to be fully cured before adding another. So a tip I learned online to save the messy work of cleaning the brush everyday - put it in the freezer!

So I wrap it well in foil, then in a freezer bag. This must be air tight! 

It does not freeze although there is some ice build up when opening it. I use that piece of foil to wipe it off so I don't need to worry about dust particles getting on the brush. Then I use a new piece of foil at the end of that session.

I give the brush a good cleaning though once a week to prevent too much build up.

In addressing the handles which we chose to keep and paint, they needed a scouring first. They were full of gunk! I realized that the buildup must have been the initial coats of paint and poly from years ago since it was way more than dirt.
Well mineral spirits were not cutting it for me! So then I started washing with with dish soap to dissolve any grease and dirt. Then found sanding with 220 grit paper was the way to go! This took all the nastiness off so I could reach the brass base.
To the painting station they go with a trusty can of Rustoleum. We also spray the hinges and screws that show. The handle gets 2 coats and the other components only 1 since they barely show up and do not get handled.

Once I am done staining, I will move onto that dated ceiling fan. Since it works great, it is worth trying to salvage. We can purchase a light kit for $40 that will change out that old glass piece and compliment our other light fixtures.

I will attempt to paint the metal components oil rubbed bronze and the paddles espresso to compliment the cabinets. I think it will work!

Thank you for stopping by! If you are attempting such a project and have any questions, please let me know. ~Val