A Fantastic Kitchen has Appeared!

Really, the pictures are worth a thousand words. But first, let me show you the fabled white squirrel of Western North Carolina, whom Brian caught climbing up a neighbor’s tree.

I think this squirrel has been groomed like a poodle, but I could be wrong.

Ok, on to the good stuff. As you may recall, when we bought the house, the kitchen looked like this:

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And then like this:

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And then we got our Ikea delivery:

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And now it looks like this:

We christened the oven Sunday night, roasting a delicious “Chicken with Two Lemons” a la Marcella Hazan, and then today making Marcella’s authentic Italian lasagne. Caitlin made the green noodles, and I made the Bolognese sauce and the Bechamel. It was divine; a good omen.

My poodle girl is growing up! She will be groomed tomorrow and may no longer look like a little black bear afterwards.

Progress on the Ridge

This morning I received a visit and a handwoven gift from a fellow weaver. We had never met before, but he was an affable black chap, short, round and leggy. He just appeared outside one of the sliding doors in the master bedroom and hung around until I noticed him. He is still out there, hoping to mooch off of us for a while– and as long as he is comfortable and can provide food for himself I don’t mind, though I’m a bit jealous that he can weave and I can’t.

In the last post, the old control room had been removed and posts set in place to support the upstairs.

After that, Brian lifted the big heavy beam into place with the help of a couple of other men, settling it into its cradle. We admired that for a week or so.

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And then our guys covered it with sheetrock and mud. It’s ready to prime and paint now.

The dining room window finally arrived. I exited the vicinity, cowering and covering my ears while Brian and John were installing it, but it all went well and we love the extra light that it brings in to that corner of the house.

Progress on the kitchen? A bit, but still far from complete.

Our countertops will be delivered in 3 days, and we are excited about that! The dishwasher is installed and working, and the stove top still needs to be hooked up to the propane.

Gisela is growing fast and is a sweet and affectionate girl. She and Beo get excited when they hear the word “walk”.

Downstairs, much has happened, but I have no photos as they are hard to take. Every room except for the sewing room has been drywalled, mudded and primed, ready to paint. Brian did the same thing downstairs as he did upstairs with posts and beam so that he could remove the wall between the great room and the large unidentified room; together they will become my weaving studio. But the ceilings still need to be repaired and retextured.

Last night there was a glorious sunset that was impossible to capture with my camera, but I tried.

All but the Lack of a Kitchen Sink

Yesterday marked a historic occasion in the chronicles of Bebbanburg: I got to wash dishes in a new kitchen sink! We got around the limitation of not having countertops by re-using the countertops from the old control room temporarily.

It was a luxurious experience to have a tall goose-neck faucet and a deep double sink and a countertop on which to put a drainer. The disposal isn’t yet connected to electricity, but that is minor compared to the joy of not having to wash dishes in our master bathroom.

A double milestone was achieved when the remains of the control room were removed and the ends of the trusses cut off. The next step here is to place a beam across the tops of the two posts, inside those metal brackets, and then to attach the truss ends to the beam using a different kind of bracket. After that, our drywallers can cover it up, create the ceiling and proceed. Of course we will put a railing up there as well. The cats don’t seem to mind that their perches have been eliminated. This photo is Brian having just cut off the end of the last truss.

Each evening Brian and Beowulf walk (or run, in Beo’s case) down the drive to check the mail and shut the gate if it is open. This is often at sunset, which spreads a rather purply glow along the drive.

Just after the sun has dipped below the horizon, the cicadas tap each other on the wing and say “let’s get started”. A few start out and are joined over the next half hour by more and more until there is a deafening chorus that continues until the wee hours of the morning. When Brian went to check the mail a couple of nights ago, a lone cicada was waiting for him on the neighbor’s mailbox. He was a little longer than 2 inches, including wings.

Today we are working on putting drawers together to go into the kitchen cabinets. I like it.

Thor’s Gift

For the past few days the weather has been cool and dismal, smacking somewhat of Seattle except that thunderstorms punctuated every day, ranging from light commas and semi-colons to apostrophes and occasional exclamation points. Thor, the Norse god of thunder, concluded the span of fecklessness with triple bangs yesterday and now sweet sunshine once again filters through the forest.

It is sometimes said that the sound of thunder occurs because Thor is bowling and we hear his ball rolling down the lane, ending with a crash as it slams into the pins.

I submit to you now Exhibit A followed by Exhibit B. Exhibit A was a photo taken in May; Exhibit B was a photo taken right after the storm ended yesterday.

Hmm– something (besides Brian) seems to be missing in Exhibit B; namely a very large tree.

Thor gave us three things when he made his big score yesterday: the elimination of the need to hire a tree service to remove the old and ailing tree; a much improved view and a good supply of firewood!

He also was kind enough to lay the tree down parallel to the back of the house and far enough away so as not to damage anything.

This tree has confused me for quite some time. Using a tree identification guide on the internet, I had ascertained that it was a Chestnut. Yet I saw acorns on it rather than chestnuts. How could this be? The mystery was solved by contractor Billy, who explained to the North Carolinian newbies that it was a Chestnut Oak— an oxymoron of a tree, but indeed a species.

It is interesting to note that, according to Wikipedia, Thor is known as the god of thunder, lightening, storms, oak trees, strength and protection of mankind. Perhaps he felt it was time for this particular oak sentry to go to live at Valhalla.

While the thunder roared and the lightning cracked, Brian was busy with the house. He created strong pillars to support the I-beams at either end of the balcony and secured them with something something (those metal things) LDL brackets?

Then he was persuaded to begin putting kitchen cabinets together. He started with the wine cabinets which will be on the dining-room side of the island and show the true color of the cabinets once they are done.

Then the outside wall cabinets were constructed and hung on the wall and the peninsula cabinets put in place. He is now working on plumbing the sink, but I am told I will not actually get to use the sink until the countertops are in, because the faucet must go on top of the countertop.

In other news, little Gisela grows, and tries very hard to reach Beowulf’s food bowl, set out of reach at the back of the hearth.

Speaking of the hearth, we have a tale of woe.

Once upon a time there sat upon this hearth a beautiful ceramic crane vase by the artists Dave and Boni Deal.

I decided to replace the branches that I had never been happy with and put a nice arrangement of curly willow and dried grasses into it (which you see on the mantel now) and it was good.

However, the rogue knight known as Stonewall the Grey wished to display his prowess in the high jump in order to impress all and sundry with his skill, and also to eat the grass.

Jump went the cat.

Crash went the vase.

The castle of Bebbanburg became very sad, for the vase was sentimental and, like poor Mr. Dumpty, cannot be put together again. Stonewall the Sorry may be forgiven in time.

The Faint Outline of a Kitchen appears in the distance…

Sadly, not much consequential progress has been made at Bebbanburg since my last post a month ago. But last week we had had enough of waiting for the engineer to give us a report, and gave her the proverbial pink slip. (No dear, that does not mean we supplied her with a rose satin petticoat– we relieved her of her duty).

Since then, our guys have put up walls and ceilings and just today painted them this awesome color called Aviary Blue (Sherwin Williams, of course). (You can pretend that those strips of painters tape are our pendant lights that will hang over the counter-height bar, since they are basically the same color. We have a much larger pendant that will hang over the dining room table.)


Pretty impressive, huh? That was sarcasm speaking. I mean, I'm glad it's this far, but being without a kitchen for almost 3 months is getting old.

So what does one do to lift the spirits? As the saying goes, "happiness is a…

… warm puppy!". This is Gisela Bella, 9 weeks old and over 10 pounds, she is likely to be 15 pounds heavier than her brother Beowulf leBlanc. They are getting along well together. The older cats are gathering their sticks and bandanas and plan to head out for the nearest empty railroad car. The younger ones are cautiously optimistic that Gisela will take up all of Beo's free time and he will no longer be interested in chasing them. So far, their dreams are coming true.

We have been talking about getting another puppy for a while, and since an excellent breeder/veterinarian tech/groomer less than 20 miles away just happened to have a black female pup available out of a litter of 7, we made her ours.

The powder room did get finished, in case you wondered:

The guests arrived and we all had a great time.

Hopefully we will have more to report soon as we move ahead full speed. Meanwhile, Beo practices his GQ pose.

Getting Ready for Guest #1

We’ve been busy!  And by “we” I mean mostly Brian and Keith.  We still have not heard from our engineer, so nothing has been done on the kitchen, but as we expect our first guest tomorrow there were some things that just had to be done.

You saw the painted powder room in the last post.  Once that was done, Brian could begin laying floor tile in the room.  But first, he needed some light.  No problem; he installed the light bar we had chosen nearly a year ago.

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Then he got to work on the floor.  When he was about to lay the slate tile in our Seattle home, he researched and learned how to use the Schluter Ditra products, and he has never looked back.  Unfortunately, it is a hideous orange color.  But maybe that’s good, because it means “we” are motivated to cover it up as quickly as possible!

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We purchased the tile at Lowes; they are ceramic with just a touch of patterning and they measure 9.75″ x 15.5″.  Once the orange waffles are laid (that’s the Ditra), he laid out the tiles to see how he would need to cut the ones that would need cutting.

As it turned out, he didn’t have to do many small slices, as the ones on the end of every other row just had to be cut in half.   The only slightly tricky ones were the ones in front of the door, which he cut first.

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After spreading a layer of thinset atop the Ditra, he was ready to lay the first tile.

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And then with a bit of ceremony, he pushed the first one down firmly into place.

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Soon all of the tiles were in place, and he was ready to grout.

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Here it is all grouted, but the grout has not dried.  Those shoe prints were an interesting touch, but in the end we decided to go more classical and wipe them off.

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That was all done by last night.  This morning when I got up and looked, this is what I saw.

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Will the baseboards and door frame, the faucets and mirror and toilet be installed by the time Guest #1 arrives tomorrow?  Stay tuned for the next episode.

Meanwhile, we were able to get the girls’ room ready for G#1, since after all she is a (grown-up) girl.  First, the room before anything was done:

There are still odd things in the room, and perhaps the light switches and outlets remain without their plates, but the fan works and bed is freshly made up.  A fun rug hides a lot of the unfloored underflooring.  It will have to do for now.  We decided not to paint trim yet, until we decide what to do with all of the windows and doors.

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Brian’s sister Diane made the beautiful handstitched appliqued flowers and gave the framed piece to us for Christmas one year.  It is perfect for the room, the wall color and the rug.  It was hard to get a larger photo without glare but I tried.

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Animals?

Why of course!   Nothing new though, just a cousin of Myrtle’s having a staredown with Beowulf.

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PATIENCE IS NOT MY FORTE

In my last post, I mentioned that we expected three things to happen eminently:  the piano would be delivered, the last pod would be delivered, and the engineer would deliver herself for a day of poking around to see what should be done about the structural deficiences of the construction of the house.

Was the piano delivered?  Delightfully, yes.  George sits in a corner of the great room, with a view.  He loves his new space and is perfectly sized for it.

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Was the pod delivered?  Yes.  It was the last pod, so contained all that remained in the garage, plus a lot of things I may have preferred never to see again.  Our garage is full.  Caitlin visited for Father’s Day and was as always a great help.

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Did the engineer arrive?  No and yes.  She was sick and had to delay her visit for 5 days. She was here for about four hours a week ago, and promised a repair plan for us, which we have been waiting for so that we can begin our solution and get the kitchen done.  I have no patience for that, but naught can be done about it.

Meanwhile, the sale of our home in Seattle was supposed to close yesterday but may be delayed until Monday. I have no patience for that, and all we can do is wait.

Our contractor John is going to be gone for at least two weeks.  However, Keith faithfully shows up, works diligently and gets a lot done.  He has repaired and finished drywall and primed and painted  the girls’ room, the boys’ room, and the powder room.  Now he has begun on the upstairs hall.

Brian had cleared the powder room of the old vanity, the failing mirror, the wooden towel bars, the toilet and the flooring.  I chose a Sherwin-Williams paint color called Blue Nile, a dark luscious turqoise.  We’ve tried photographing it with high quality cameras but still cannot capture the true color.

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Today Brian will be putting new tile in the powder room.  The tile is white, as is the marble top of the new vanity.  All new fixtures are shiny chrome, and I think the end effect will be lovely.  I hope to show you the end result very soon.

Animals

A reader wrote to me asking if the turkey hen I reported seeing outside the front door might not in fact be a guinea fowl.  Yes, it could be.  And I hope it is, because they like to eat ticks.  I haven’t seen any ticks around, so she must be doing a great job.

But this black rat snake doesn’t seem to understand that when danger approaches in the form of a motorized vehicle, snakes should slither away quickly.  Instead he made himself into a curly willow branch and adamantly refused to move.  Brian had to get out and deliver a persuasive monologue, accompanied by some physical convincing, before he would move.

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Hot Showers: The Necessity Thereof

Our hot water heater works quite well, but will only deliver one shower’s worth of hot water.  After researching new water heaters, Brian settled on a Rheem 80 gallon electric one, went to Asheville and brought it home.  He plans to install it himself, having done that task before in Seattle.

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So we will continue to wait, whether or not patience is our forte, for the opportunity to have a kitchen.  Meanwhile we will continue to take our meals on the Sunset Deck.

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A Bird in the Basement is Worth a Turtle

Who knows what the little bird who flew into an open basement window wanted to tell us. He was panicked by the experience and kept flying toward the light fixture thinking it was the daylight and his path to freedom. Meanwhile, Katie was demonstrating her remarkable high jump skills, leaping at least six feet into the air in her attempt to catch him, while humpty-dumpty Loki’s attempt at the same feat landed him back onto the floor with a thud after attaining a record-breaking height of precisely three inches.

The cats were peremptorily banned from the basement for the night, and the next morning the little bird had flown.

Other animals in the neighborhood have come to pay us a visit. My children’s father had a grandmother named Myrtle (“Mamaw” to the family) who was quite elderly when I knew her. She walked very slowly, bent over with osteoporosis, but never appeared anywhere without bringing a sweet potato pie, complete with two or three marshmallows atop, the whole effect of which was as if the Sta-Puft marshmallow man had drowned in orange quicksand with only the tips of his slightly melted fingers showing as he struggled to free himself.

So when Beowulf and Brian reported that a turtle had arrived in front of the house, given my memory of Mamaw and my irresistible urge to name everything, she was promptly christened Myrtle, the Turtle. I saw no evidence of sweet potato pie, however.

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Myrtle was inordinately sociable for a turtle, so Brian did not get a photo of her totally inside her shell. If he had, I imagine it would have looked very much as if a helmeted WWII Marine had, like the Sta-Puft man, been sunk into the ground with only the top of his head showing. (I’m assuming there were Marines in WWII. I did not really pay attention to the drone who taught my college history class).  Eventually she had completed her inspection and headed back from whence she had come.

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Work on the house progresses quite slowly and in a fashion not visible unless one were to notice the new wires that are creeping in to form outlets and light switches, and copper pipes slithering like rigid snakes to their new endpoints for the dishwasher, refrigerator and sink.

We did manage to put our former dining room rug down in front of the fireplace and to situate real furniture around it, if only for the weekend, and pretend that the house was not in chaos.  Spencer, our giant huggable young cat, who is inexplicably afraid of everything, deigned then to grace us with his presence, stretching out on the hearth after having toppled Beowulf’s fierce and furry teddy bear.  I suppose he was hoping that he was the tawny color of  a lion in the wild and would blend in with the stones.

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Our drywall contractor, Keith is a consummate artist in his craft. He loves his work, and our walls reflect it. He had been working very carefully and conscientiously on the walls just outside the fireplace stones. He feathered many layers out, precisely outlining each stone like a sculptor. The work was so intense that the effort caused his dormant psoriatic arthritis to flare up, and he was unable to work for the next three days. This happens, he says, about twice a year and he is forced to take pills that finally give him relief after about 5 days. He was fearful that we would fire him because of this. Do people really fire excellent workers because they are temporarily disabled? We are jealously guarding our super wall guy; we’d never fire him for that. But this is the sword of Damocles hovering over every aging tradesman– the body begins to fail and the source of income is endangered.

Meanwhile we anticipate the arrival of George the piano tomorrow, the arrival of our final POD Friday, and the arrival of the kitchen tile within the next three days. Also, the structural engineer will be here on Monday to inspect and advise what repairs need to be made so that we do not have to worry about total collapse of the house once we put  the final Jenga block in place.

Until then we are enjoying glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s with an occasional thunderstorm to alleviate boredom. No regrets here!

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n Steps Forward, n++ Steps Back

This bird was outside behind the car yesterday. It is a white broadbreasted turkey hen. They are supposed to be very good to eat, but I had to wonder if she was a little lost, there being no turkey support group in sight. Maybe she was sent to scope things out.

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It is a universally acknowledged truth that a renovation project, like a software project, will take much longer to complete than anyone estimates. Imagine me explaining Agile methodologies to our two contractors, one of which was happy to get a schedule, and the other who was not.

But before I explain what has impacted our work, let me give you some good news. First, here are more photos of the office, trying to capture the color. It is a robin’s egg blue, called Watery by our hyphenated pal, Sherwin-Williams.

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It’s apparently a very relaxing color.

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The great room has been primed and is wearing its first coat of paint (SW Colonnade Gray). I love the way it looks with the stone fireplace. We are holding off on painting the rest of the trim so that we can decide exactly what we want to do– replace all the windows? paint the trim? Replace the trim?
The second coat is being applied today.

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We drove over to Brevard on Monday to select kitchen tile. There is a wonderful builder’s supply place there called Jennings. After looking through every last type of tile and stone they had, we selected this one, shown here with a piece of wood having the same general coloring as our cabinets.

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We think it will go well also with our countertops, which are Caesarstone in the color Himalayan Moon:

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We were pleased that the tile is ceramic (easy to clean) and not too expensive, since we needed 500 square feet of it for the kitchen, dining, laundry and hall areas.

Meanwhile, John has been continuing the electrical work on the kitchen and there came a point in time at which he had to cut into the ceiling in the basement to find wires and plumbing and route them to their new positions. Unfortunately, when he opened a hole he was showered with what appears to be the worldly possessions and apocolyptic-anticipatory larder of a very wealthy squirrel, not to mention the liberal sprinkling of that which emits from the body of squirrels on a regular basis.

John was not wearing a mask.

John went home for the day to recover.

Brian went to the basement and pulled out a huge box full of all kinds of delightful squirrel treasures– “200 pounds” of acorns, a part of a dog leash, many granola bar wrappers, large pieces of wood and bark, pieces of insulation cleverly used to keep squirrels warm, and so forth.

(updated 6/14 to add photo– it is right and just that all except the insulation went into a box that once contained a toilet.)

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Since we had patched all rodent entrances to the house last summer, we don’t think this squirrel has been here in a while, but he and his ancestors may have inhabited the palace for many many years. It brings to mind Grey Gardens and the raccoons that lived in the upstairs. For those not familiar with Grey Gardens, here is an excerpt about it from Wikipedia:

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as “Big Edie”, and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (1917–2002), known as “Little Edie”, were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at the Grey Gardens estate for decades with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation.

The house was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe and purchased in 1923 by “Big Edie” and her husband Phelan Beale. After Phelan left his wife, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” lived there for more than 50 years. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist.[6]

Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their living conditions—their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay—were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine[7] after a series of inspections (which the Beales called “raids”) by the Suffolk County Health Department. With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories.

I think we are far from the plight of Little Edie and Big Edie, but they are a sobering lesson in what can happen.

We are considering that we may have to remove the ceiling from every single room in the basement and clean out everything so as not to have a biohazard on our hands. Since we recently paid good money to have the ceilings relieved of their popcorn and nicely textured, this is hard to bear. Not to mention that a certain weaver would really like to set up a loom or ten and this will be prevented for a while.

Also, my PC is very ill and decided it must rebuild all of its RAID partitions, which takes approximately 14 hours and still counting.

But the view is wonderful.

The Bugs of Bebbanburg

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Mountain Laurel blooming all over the Bebbanburg property in May

It has been proven that even though I quit my job, I can’t get away from two things: bugs and mice. Now, would I rather be assigned a software bug and spend days trying to find root cause so that I can fix it (often with one line of code) or would I prefer that, like now, my cat scratches had been mostly replaced with bug bites– mosquitoes and gnats and chiggers and the like? It’s hard to say.

But the question of whether I would prefer pushing a wireless mouse all day or cleaning up the gift that the cats left me– which was subsequently stepped on by the drywall finisher and whose internal organs were not living up to the first part of their name (To quote a line that someone else quoted to me from some book I’ve never read and thus cannot make attribution)– is more easily answered. Give me a healthy live computer mouse any day.

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Whenever I go outside, mostly for Beowulf’s benefit, I find more things to admire. Yesterday I found a daylily blooming beside the driveway, with many more to follow. In turn, I myself am admired– by all the bugs from the next county over.

It is a fact that Henderson County, in which we live, is situated adjoining Transylvania County. The vampire mosquitoes who come from there are leg and arm men, fastidiously avoiding the neck and attacking exposed parts of legs, arms, hands and ankles instead. Supposing they even have a heart, it would be rather difficult to reliably drive a toothpick through it, so perhaps I will have to radically increase the amount of garlic in my granola and see if that works.

Speaking of granola, we have a kitchen!

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Ok then, we have the makings of a kitchen. The delivery guys made it to the right place with the right boxes this time, and had no problems getting up the hill. The appliances were put in a different room; these are all the boxes with little pieces that we get to put together and see if they fit!

In contrast, the PODS guy who delivered our fourth pod this morning was cursed once again by his truck which, even though it was not accosted by a downward traveling vehicle, would not make it past the point it was stopped the last time. It was the same driver, and he was made to hike up the drive and knock on the door so that we could extricate him once again. He said “This company is headquartered in Florida. They don’t even know what a hill is!”

I had intended to show you our office in this post, but there was a slight problem. My desk, which Brian took completely apart back in the rainy city, is missing its hardware. It is surely in one of the boxes scattered throughout the house and the garage, but which one? I’m thinking of posting a reward for its capture, alive or dead.

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And good news for future guests! John has just finished replacing the upstairs toilet, since the old one wasn’t quite working as expected.

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Meanwhile, Keith is sanding the walls he has fixed in the great room, and they will be ready to prime and then paint on Monday.
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And here is the kitchen door, all re-framed and installed, complete with deadbolt and lever knob.

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