carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Feathering the Nest

When I tell the story about moving back to the US from Italy, one of the things that people always realize and comment on is “Oh, I guess you had to buy a car.”  A few folks will say “Oh, and furniture too.”  I guess the others think that we moved furniture…. Well we didn’t.  And we didn’t store that much.  Fortunately, our condo is so small we don’t need much.

From our experience where we rented I knew we needed a piece of furniture that could act as counterspace in the kitchen and table space for meals.   We looked online at free-standing islands, tables with storage, just about every configuration/name we could think of.  To me most of them looked exactly like what would be seen in any American kitchen.  I just couldn’t cope.  The only one I came close to liking was at Williams and Sonoma and was custom-built.  And they custom built the price too.  Then I hoped to get some one to build one for us but gave up on that idea too.  So good old DIY was the answer.

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Capital City Lumber to the rescue.  And these really cool moulded plastic forms.

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These forms allow someone to build shelves with straight cuts, no angles, no need to ‘toenail’ which can be hard if you don’t have a lot of DYI skills.  When we moved in, our friend Pat put this together for me.  As a temporary measure we used a door on top.

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When Wayne (the man who made my Murphy Bed) came over to talk about the bed I realized he was probably just the man to make the table top.  So we talked about it.  And he agreed.  When he delivered the bed, he took away the table base.  For a few weeks our door/table balanced on top of big plastic tubs and we got by.  I was very excited when Wayne returned with the table top.

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Wayne followed the measurements that I wanted.  The table is 5′ by 4′.  The counter top part, what we use most of the time is almost 3′.  He had just the hinges to mount the other part which is now a leaf that folds down.  And is down most of the time.

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Here’s what it looks like open.  We can comfortably seat 6.  8 in a pinch.  So the first weekend in November we had Pat (the clever man who put it together in the first place) and Debby over for ‘Duckappaloosa!’.   And the table worked very well.

I am ready now to declare the ground floor more or less done.  We have all the pieces of furniture that we need down here.  Pictures are hung.  The tops of two pieces of furniture are covered with things.  A few hours of focus and channeling Marie Kondo will fix that.  There are some projects that still need to be done.  They have always been on the ‘winter projects’ schedule.  I’ll get to them.  In a few weeks I’ll try to get to a before and after post.  We are very lucky that it has turned out so well.

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Getting Ready for Fall

Well I finally got my bed.  I had a Murphy bed made out of one of the old school book cabinets that my parents had.  There were 4 and I kept all of them.  Somehow, years ago, I knew I would need good storage.  Two are painted white and are upstairs crammed full (mostly of things that came from my parents’ house) and two are down, one is my pantry, the other now a Murphy bed.  I am very pleased with it.  More about that later

 

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Wayne, the bed maker from The Master’s Craftsman click here if you want to see his site

In between the two cabinets I found a kitchen cabinet at Restore (the Habitat for Humanity outlet) that holds cookbooks.  Today I have been painting (as my father would say) a hunk of wood, faux stone, to be the counter top for it.  I certainly channeled my inner Richard for that.  Tuesday the 31st , Wayne will bring back my island base and a table top for it.  Finally!  I will be almost ready to declare the downstairs more or less finished.  We can have folks over for dinner!  What fun!

 

But of course the ice maker remains but a dream.  It worked for 2 weeks and then started over flowing, making an iceberg.  After a few weeks the distributor replaced the fridge.  That icemaker worked for 3 maybe 4 weeks and then started doing the same thing.  That was July.  Various fixes have been offered including a full refund, replacement of the same again, or a different fridge (stuck out 4” more) or wait to see if manufacture can come up with a fix.  We have tried several fixes and are now waiting on a new different idea…..

Anyway the outstanding planter on the edge of the deck is a big success.  Remember this is what it looked like in the Spring when it was first planted

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So nice and orderly

And now.  Before I begin  to move a few plants that just didn’t do well in the shade and the ones that need to be wintered over

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Finally I got the whole jungle thing going on.  Now if we could just get rid of the UGLY school buses.  But that is next year’s battle.   Our friends Jim and BK will be happy to know that I have pulled out the asparagus ferns and they are just waiting for them to come pick them up and take them to their winter home in their basement.  Just kidding!  Jim and BK were good friends to care for that fern for 10 years and keep it alive.  I divided in the spring and small bits of it will be wintering in Ben’s shower.

Still warm here and dry.  The HOA’s crack gardening staff spread grass seed on the day that one of the hurricanes was supposed to hit us.  It didn’t.  We got about 5 tablespoons of rain.  For 2 weeks I watered the grass seed.  But the gardening staff kept coming back mowing and raking leaves and blowing them away.  And all the grass seed too.  So I gave up.  We have a very bare patch on both sides of the walk to our door.  I found a grass seed patch package that has a papery mulch, seed and fertilizer.  I put that down, barricaded the area off to keep the crack gardening staff and their machines AWAY and we almost have grass.  I have also been working on taming the giant patch of cannas that was out front.  Found a nice clump of day lillies that had been over whelmed by the cannas.  And I have some daffodil bulbs to be planted.  So we are busy busy here.

 

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How’s the garden doing?

Very well, thank you.

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It is quite jungle like.  Sitting in the rocker I am almost hidden.  I admit to enjoying popping up and scaring the dogs next door.  Now that the heat has broken I hope to be able to sit out there much more.

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I am picking a tomato or two every week and a handful of green beans.

This fall I plan to move the bee balm, which has not bloomed at all, to the front.  Probably not enough sun for it back on the deck.  There is one pot (not pictured) with scarlet sage and blue something (name just flew out of my mind) that is the only thing that the hummingbird visits.   I plan to add more of those pots next year.  Maybe rotating them from front to back so they get some sun.  I need to try a different variety of tomato.  This year it was a plant labeled ‘heirloom variety’.  Not impressed.  Next year I should look for Black Russian.

The deck and planter are one of my favorite parts of our renovation.  I am so glad that our contractor suggested the planter box instead of a regular deck rail.

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Noren

Noren are traditional Japanese fabric dividers, hung between rooms, on walls, in doorways, or in windows. They usually have one or more vertical slits cut from the bottom to nearly the top of the fabric, allowing for easier passage or viewing. Wikipedia

Our condo is small.  When planning the renovation, our contractor and designer Reid suggested using an outside mounted sliding door as the entrance to the bathroom downstairs rather than a door that would open out and take up more room.  I wanted a very plain one with no panels but this one came as a kit (with the hanging hardware) and was less than a plain one with separate hardware.

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Too barn door for me.  Back in February and March I had lots of time so I started looking for ways I could camouflage this barn look.  I finally decided upon noren.

This is what the door looks like now.

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Outside

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And inside the bathroom.  (something to contemplate while ‘sitting on the throne)

I had so much fun looking at norens that I decided that this one would work well to cover the entrance to Ben’s ‘office’ (also known as his cubby hole)

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I thought I was going to like the cranes the best but I think I like these guys more.

 

 

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How Does My Garden Grow?

It is doing really well, thank you.  In May, I planted 2 tomatoes and some Kentucky Wonder string beans in pots on the front porch.  The only place where we have sun.

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mid-June

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Early July.  We have gotten lots of rain.

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I plan to pick my first tomato on July 4.  Beans are just now blooming and making.  Even if I don’t get any I like the vines and the tropical look they add.  Also, out front, left over from a previous owner of the unit beside us, a forest of cannas

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There was a bare space in front of them so I used the pots that I found at a recycling center (free) to add a little color.  I have plans for this space in the fall.  These cannas need to be thinned and there are day lilies hidden in there and horrors (!!!!!)  NO DAFFODILS anywhere.    You know that I can’t have that.

The back looks good too.

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It is hard to get a good picture of it.  But that planter is one of my favorite things about our renovation project.

 

 

 

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It’s Called Ensuite

One of the things I was most excited about when remodeling our condo was that I was getting a bath tub.  Back in February I went to a local supplier to view the choices.  I really wanted to climb in a few and check them out.  But all the floor models were not secured to the floor and somewhat wobbly.  In the end I had to pick my tub online!  So I was pretty worried about my choice.  Well the big day came (the week after we had moved in) the tub arrived!

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Frank (in charge of day to day operations on site) brought it over on his truck.  With help he got it upstairs.  And of course it would not fit through my bath room door.

Several days passed.  Some ripping out of walls (washer and dryer won’t fit either) and the plumbers were back to install the tub.  Most of the day spent tweaking pipes and this and that.  I was getting excited.  And then…. lo and behold the hose of the hand shower was damaged.  Another week wait and finally this week 6/12 the tub was installed.  I had to wait for the NEW washer to be fixed (that happened this week also) because I wanted clean towels for my first bath.  And my first bath was very enjoyable.

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But I kind of liked it the bedroom too……

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First Round of Moving

The plan was the condo would be completed on 5/15.  When booking our temporary place I allowed a few days ‘just in case’.  Good thing I did.

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This is how it looked on 5/15.

I whined.  Everyone pulled together and on Thursday, May 18 our very kind friends Debby and Pat came over from Pittsboro to help us move out of the condo.  They came again on Friday with Pat’s very cool VW truck

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It was great for moving mattresses and the large trunks out of storage.

 

Ben was even put to work

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Pat and Debby helped us move, hang the TV, put together our table and organize things.  They were a big help.  We spent our first night there on the 19th and we woke up there on the 20th for my birthday.

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Jim and BK stopped by to help me celebrate but I think I was more than a little worn out from cleaning our temporary place and trying to get us unpacked enough to be able to live comfortably.

The next week with the help of our neighbor, Denis, we emptied our storage unit in Raleigh.  The week after that we rented a van and made a pass at the storage unit in Oxford.  It was great fun to open some of those boxes which have been packed for almost 10 years.

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In the next few weeks we will be going back to the building on Oxford and finally moving everything here.  This will be a lot to absorb in this small space.  I will need to channel my inner Marie Kondo.  And I know that we are so lucky to have all these resources and friends to help us get settled again.  Even though I don’t see the immigrant situation every night on TV I still think of it and realize how fortunate we are.

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Just a teaser

We have been in our condo for 4 weeks now.  Still have not moved everything out of storage so I am not ready (or have the time) for a complete post about all that has been done so this is a tease.  Things that I like and think really work.

 

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Kitchen cabinets.  See that cool hardware

 

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I really wanted these fancy Asian looking pulls.  Somehow $20 or $30 a drawer seemed like too much.  I found these pulls at a big box store for under $2 each and had black rubber washers installed outside to add a little bit of definition.

I picked the cabinets online (that means I didn’t see them before I bought them) so I am really pleased that they turned out so well.  And this was the first time I have ever picked out kitchen cabinets.

 

Ben’s bathroom is the biggest success.

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It may look like a showroom for a handicapped bar sales room but they all turned out to be in the right place.  Now that the glass by the shower

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has been installed Ben is able to shower all by himself again.  Hooray!

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The table I found on Craig’s List along with two chairs.  I found the base (a fire pit stand) in a trash pile.  It is just right to support a few pots of flowers.

Busy summer still ahead of us.

 

 

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Moving along

Now that the inspections are done, work is moving along at a rapid pace.

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Kitchen cabinets being delivered

Saturday, 4/22 there was a stack of sheetrock.  Sunday, 4/23 the sheetrock was up!  So last week they finished sheetrocking and installed the kitchen cabinets.

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This week the tile was laid which includes the floors.  Today 5/5, the carpenter is installing Ben’s bathroom vanity and trim.  Painting starts next week.  That leaves lights and appliances.  It will be close but we have to be out of our temporary place by 5/20.  So no time to fool around.

What won’t be done is my bathroom, the vanity is on back order and I don’t want to pick another one.  The stove will be in place but probably not hooked up to the gas.  It might take the gas company until June to get to it.  Wayyyyy back in 2016 I was told by someone from the home owners’ group that there was no gas in the building.  And since I was in Italy and had no way to check and no reason to doubt this person I planned for an electric stove.  Then in early April I discovered that the condos on either side of me had gas, so why couldn’t I have it?   Fortunately, this was before insulation or walls went in.  So the gas line was installed which meant more inspections and caused a bit of delay.  And we had to get on the gas company’s schedule. Who knew it took five to six weeks to set a gas meter?   And we went over budget because a gas stove costs more than an electric one.

We are also still waiting on Ben’s motorized wheel chair.  (That is a whole other post)  which means we are waiting to see where a curb cut needs to be cut in the sidewalk.  And waiting to buy a vehicle to accommodate the wheel chair.  In our current ‘big ride’ the power window on the driver’s side has stopped working.  Our friend, Cathy helped me get it up and so far it has stayed.  And the air conditioner is working, thank goodness, so I am not going to worry about that right now.

All this is to say that I’ll be really busy for a few weeks so maybe no posts for a while.  But I’ll be back.  I am sure there will be lots of fun happenings during the move.

 

 

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What have we learned by renting?

When we were considering coming back, where we were going to live was one of the questions that we needed to settle.  We considered different cities.  We settled on Raleigh and then considered housing.  I can remember that two and a half years ago we were eating Thai food with our friends Debby and Pat when we had a discussion.

In that conversation we batted around lots of choices to consider.  Selling the condo we owned and using that money to buy:

into a retirement village.  Too expensive. We never could have afforded that.

a giant Winnebago and tour around.  Yeah, right, would we have gotten out of the dealership parking lot before we had a huge argument and killed each other?

a one level house.  Probably would have to do some remodeling to make it accessible.  And then I would have all the outside maintenance.  And we couldn’t begin to afford anything in walking distance of Cameron Village.

a condo in one of the many high-rise buildings that are sprouting up around Cameron Village like mushrooms after a spring rain.  A consideration, until you think about day-to-day living.  Parking in an underground structure.   Getting Ben and his wheel chair in and out of the car.  Getting on an elevator to ride up.  Possibly having to get off at lobby level.  Going through a lobby.  Maybe fighting with a set of doors.  Up another elevator.  A set of fire doors.  Down a carpeted hall to our front door.  Tee tiny balcony.  No thank you.

Then it became clear to me that we should just remodel/adapt the condo in Cameron Village that we already owned.  From there we picked a designer/contractor and started drawing up plans.  We could have started work before we came back so it was ready when we arrived but I wanted to see work every day and wanted to see and touch the choices for appliances and finishes not just buy online.  (turns out that brick and mortar stores don’t carry everything now.  We have actually touched the flooring and tile that we picked out.  The appliances, well, I have seen similar in person but exact models, no.  Cabinets all ordered online.  Still have not seen them yet.)

Once this decision was made we needed a place to stay while work was being done.  Through Air BandB we found a short-term rental 4 blocks from our condo.  It is from this place that we  have learned a lot!

Let me just say, that the man renting to us is very nice and accommodating.  Our little nit picky things in no way reflect on the quality of this place.  It is very sophisticated, up town decor and colors, designed for a busy, young city dweller who probably eats out a lot.  Not really designed for two semi old folks who are here all most all the time.  Eat 20 our of 21 meals a week at home.  Need at least 6 feet of desk area to keep every piece of paper that comes their way (not me).  And so on.

I learned the most from the kitchen

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The kitchen in my condo before work started.

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The kitchen in the place we are renting.  Notice the similarities.   Almost no counter space.  Over head cabinets that I can barely reach.

When we came here I was firmly set on getting a smooth cooktop like the one above.  Well after using this one and I am sure glad that I did use it, I have figured out that it would be the ultimate punishment to have one of these.  I can go on and on about how much I dislike this.  I am sure there are folks who really like theirs.  I am just glad I figured out that they are not for me.

I knew I did not want over head cabinets.  That has not changed.  I did figure out that I need more counter space so our dining table will be extra counter space and an eating space.  I am looking into a large sweeper arm/disposal system that I can lower after we finish eating to sweep off any items that Ben tries to leave on the table to colonize the space.   He will have to be watched very closely.  Maybe some type of alarm system that registers the weight on the surface of the table and when things sit there and don’t move…

This rental kitchen has a wall separating it from the main room and the heating/ac unit.  Air does not move in there.  I am so glad that we will have an open plan.  I will be able to see and hear the TV and Ben and have air moving too.

This group of condos has trash stations that you have to carry the trash to.  There are two trash dumpsters and three small recycling bins for 40 units.  The recycling bins fill up within one day of being emptied and then recycling is piled around for the next 13 days.  The big dumpsters never fill up but someone closes the door and I can just barely slide it open.  Our condo has a wheeli trash can and another for recycling.  I just have to figure out where they will live and once a week/every two weeks push them out to the street.

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So work is progressing (as of 4/16).    Insulation is going up on every wall that has been stripped all the way to studs.  That will help with noise as well as drafts.  Inspections have been passed.  Drywall will probably start next week.  Things will move very fast now.   Even though we have changed some things the contractor says we are still on track to be finished by 5/15.   Still enough time for anyone who wants to plan to help us move.  Ha ha.

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