When Ellen turned 30, she built a brick wall. It is a very nice brick wall. It didn’t seem like the Spencer house needed another brick wall, so instead I decided to build some cabinets/shelves/drawers. This was the final part of the bathroom project. Ellen and Dave also recently redid one of their bathrooms. They did it in just under one year. We have them beat at 18 months (longer is better, right?).
Since today is my very last full day in the Spencer house, I finally finished the cabinets last night, finishing around 12:20 a.m. (today). All I had to do was put in the trim which I had just finished staining and sealing. There were some tricky parts, especially the one piece right next to the wall. For this piece I put a shim next to the wall so I wouldn’t mar up the wall when I was hammering. Also, I am still not very good at hammering. Even after pre-drilling the holes, I bent about 1/3 of the nails. Maybe there is a trick I am missing. At any rate, it is finally done. It is not perfect by any means, but it looks much better than before, and I am pretty satisfied with it overall.
Rob and Clare by the christmas tree (with new slippers)
I had my final visit with Clare this past weekend in Colorado before I move out there for good. Clare had set up our Christmas tree, but had not been able to find the lights and ornaments. I think I must have looked at literally every box (at, not through — we did a pretty good job labeling them), but eventually I found the lights. Merry Christmas to all!
This weekend I worked some more on finishing up my final home improvement project in the Spencer house — the bathroom cabinets/shelves/drawers. The main thing left to do is the trim, which requires a lot of precision (and hopefully accuracy too). Yesterday I cut the remaining pieces of trim which I had salvaged from other projects, and then stripped them. I hate stripping. Especially since I was working in the cabin, and it was only a high of 30 degrees. I had a little electric space heater, but it did not really provide much heat.
Today I re-adjusted the drawers, since they weren’t quite level, and some of them didn’t close quite right. Since the wall next to the drawers is not completely straight, this caused some problems for the drawers. The opening near the top is slightly bigger than near the bottom. I probably could have fixed it more easily before I had put the countertop on, but you know what they say about hindsight. So I simply shimmed the runners for the drawers a bit, and that worked fairly well. Then I put all the trim into place, and marked where I wanted to drill holes. There are three pieces that go between the drawers that will be glued to the vertical trim pieces next to the drawers. I put 2 holes in each side of these cross-pieces, and 2 holes in the vertical pieces, and will then put small dowels in the holes, and glue them in place. I took Ellen’s advice and drilled the holes a bit bigger than the dowels to save room for the glue (and also to give me a bit of slop as well).
Now I just need to stain and seal the trim, then nail it into place. Almost done!
Thanksgiving was a big success for the Fedibblety family. There were 8 (and 7/9) people in attendance, including Rob & Clare, Dave & Ellen, Harold & Fran, and also Bret & Drew. We had a very nice Thanksgiving day, with lots of cooking and eating. We even used the wood cookstove for some dishes.
Then on Friday, we packed up the moving truck, and Ellen & Dave drove it out to Colorado on Saturday, which was successfully unpacked today. It was quite a bit of work, but it is always nice to be together with family. Thanks to everyone for their help packing. We couldn’t have done it without you!!
We did get into one home improvement project during the holiday, which was replacing the brick moulding and the door frame to the door above the garage, which had been rotting. It seems that water had been collecting near the the bottom, and it was rotting up the sides. Ellen had the ingenious idea to put some flashing down to try to get the water to drip down and away, instead of sitting there. Hopefully that will work as intended. Only time will tell.
This past weekend, Rob and Ellen traveled to Denver to help Clare get the Zang house ready for move in.
We both arrived Friday night around 8:30. We stopped by the house on the way back to Clare’s apartment so that Ellen could get a look at it. It was a very comfortable temperature, since Clare had gotten the new furnace installed on Tuesday. After looking around for awhile and discussing what we wanted to tackle, we headed back to Clare’s apartment, chatted a bit, then went to bed. read more (including pictures)
My last project in the long saga of the downstairs bathroom was to build some shelves where the washer and dryer used to be. The main reason for this is because we moved the laundry tub to the next room (which we now call the utility room). To do so, I had to route the pipes to the laundry tub from the bathroom to the utility room, since they are embedded in the concrete in the bathroom. So there were pipes visible in the bathroom. I wanted to hide them. Thus the shelves.
I worked in the garage since it was rainy outside
I tried to re-use as much of what was lying around. I found some old cabinets in the cabin which were 12″ deep by 36″ wide by about 20″ high, which was just about exactly what I was planning on building. So I decided to use these to cover up the pipes. I also was able to re-use the drawers from the old vanity that we had replaced. Those ended up being about 18″ deep, which is exactly what I wanted as well. The drawers were 12″ wide, so that left me with 36″ left of the 84″ space. Clare had bought some cedar planks for a different project awhile ago, and had sanded them (covering the entire kitchen and foyer with sawdust), but we never ended up using them. They happened to be 7′ long, so I was able to cut 2 3′ long pieces from each of them, which filled up the space that will be open shelving.
plumbing is now hidden
I first built a base for the shelves using 2x4s. I nailed (or in some places screwed) the 2x4s into the footers of the walls, then put a layer of plywood on top of that. Then I screwed the cabinet into the wall and the plywood. I followed the same procedure that Dave and Ellen used to construct the old vanity for the rest of the project. I attached small pieces of wood to the bottom of plywood, and then screwed those small pieces into the plywood base. Finally, I put a single piece of plywood on top, and screwed that into the cabinet and the plywood for the drawers.
cabinet, shelves, and drawers fully assembled
Since we had learned that tiling countertops is relatively cheap and easy, I decided to do that again here. I decided to use 4×4″ inch tiles, so that it would match the countertop on the vanity. About 2 minutes after I finished, I decided that 6×6 would have looked better, because I would have had to make fewer cuts. Oh well. You know what they say about hindsight.
Shelves with tile on top.
The tiling procedure was the same as usual. I attached hardibacker cement board to the plywood with thinset mortar and special screws (and 1 1/4″ galvanized roofing nails in the middle). Then I put the tiles on top one day, starting with the outside edge. I used V-cap for the edge, including a special V-cap piece for outside corners. For the inside corner, I had to make a very tricky diagonal cut (2 cuts actually). Those 2 cuts probably took me at least an hour.
This inside corner was a tricky cut. This alone took at least an hour.
I let the tile on the counter top cure overnight. Then I attached the backsplash and the trim around the floor with pre-mixed mastick. We still have a little bit left. I did use up the rest of the thinset mortar, and most of the grout. I finally grouted a couple days later. That is my least favorite part of the job.
Another tricky cut
Now the last thing I have to do is put some trim on the front of the shelves and around the drawers. That will probably require some staining of trim first. Hopefully I will get it done before we leave.
The backsplash didn’t quite fit under the window trim, so I had to make it a bit smaller.
Rob and Clare by the fireplace in the the Zang house
We are now the owners of 6423 Zang Ct. We have lots of work to do, but we are looking forward to it. It’s great that we got a bunch of experience doing home improvement in the Spencer house. More pictures in our photo albums
14 pints of salsa. Notice the blue coloring of the open jar. It is very old.
Wednesday I canned salsa. This will be the 4th or 5th time I have done it, though the first time all on my own. Previously I always had the guiding hand of my mother right next to me, with her years of canning wisdom. I first started canning salsa in grad school, and Clare joined me and my mom once or twice. I ended up calling my mom 3 or 4 times with clarification questions, which she happily answered. I harvested about 15 or 20 medium size tomatoes over the weekend, probably 2/3 lemon boy, and the rest better boy and celebrity. On Tuesday I stopped by the Bloomington Farmer’s market on my way home, and got a box of jalapeños, a box of poblano peppers, and some green peppers. Then I stopped in at the new Bloomingfood’s next door on 6th, and got 3 bunches of cilantro, and some chipotle pepper powder.
Salsa up close
I had to go to Indy Wednesday morning for work, so I planned to do the canning Wednesday afternoon. After talking with my mom on Tuesday about the recipe we had used, I thought I might need some more tomatoes. I don’t think I would have gotten enough tomatoes ripe all at once from our own garden to make salsa (at least not 14 pints). On my way home from Indy, I stopped at the hardware store in Cloverdale and bought a jar lifter, and then I stopped at a little farm which had a little vegetable stand selling tomatoes for $0.50 per pound. I bought 6 pounds, and put my $3 in their little lock box.
I started the process around 3:30. The first step is to scald the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so, then place them in ice water. This makes it easy to remove the skin. Then I chopped up the tomatoes, removing any bad spots, and placed them in a colander to let some of the juices drip out. I ended up with just about 6 quarts of chopped tomatoes, which is what our recipe called for. I chopped about 5 or 6 green peppers, 2 large onions, 1 bunch of cilantro, and 5 or 6 jalapeños and poblanos. The whole chopping process took almost 3 hours, most of which was spent on the tomatoes. I put all the ingredients in an 8 quart stock pot, which was filled to the brim, and started heating it up. I also added 2 tablespoons of salt, 3/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of cumin and coriander, and 1 tablespoon of chipotle pepper powder. Even though I drained the tomatoes, it was still very juicy, so I ladled off about 2 or 3 cups of liquid, then added one large can of tomato paste (12 oz.). Once it was hot, I ladled the salsa into pint jars. My basic canner fits 7 pint jars (or quart). I put them in for about 30 minutes, and had some dinner while I was waiting (and called my mom again). Once the 30 minutes was up, I quickly removed the first batch, and had the second batch in within about 15 minutes. I heard a few of the lids popping while I was preparing the second batch, indicating that they had sealed. I was done by about 8:10, except for doing dishes, which took another half hour.
On Thursday when I got home from work, I checked the jars by pressing down on the lids. Three of them popped up after pushing down on them, indicating they had not sealed. I put those in the refrigerator, and will have to eat them within a month or so. I tested one jar last night, and it was quite tasty. It was not quite as spicy as when I had tested it on Wednesday. I think the additional cooking made it a bit milder. It turned out fairly thick and chunky, and I would give it a medium heat rating.
p.s. thanks to my mom for her advice, and to Dorene Grekowicz, for some of the canning supplies.
It is starting to be harvest time in Indiana. What an exciting time. All the work sprouting seeds starting in February, planting in May, occasionally weeding and watering — it is starting to pay off. I have gotten several cherry tomatoes in the last couple weeks, and in the last week or so the big tomatoes are really starting to come in. I have been enjoying the cherry tomatoes all by themselves, and I have been making the big tomatoes into my favorite simple salad. Slice the tomatoes. Sprinkle some fresh chopped basil over them (plenty of basil in the garden too), and then pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them, and a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Very tasty.
tomato basil salad
Last weekend there was also quite a bit of good stuff at the Spencer Farmer’s market. I bought some eggplant, peppers, and heirloom tomatoes from the Harrimans. I know that I have my own tomatoes, but I thought that the heirloom tomatoes looked really interesting. One big one that I got was called Kellogg’s breakfast. I can’t remember the name of the other one. I also traded some bread starter with Joanna Sparks for some of her goodies, which included parsley, garlic, and pearl onions.
heirloom tomatoes – the one the left is called “Kellogg’s breakfast”
I finished out my weekend of harvesting with some harvesting in the wild. Volya, one of the grad students in my lab is an avid mushroom hunter. We went mushroom hunting in the Charles Dean Wilderness, just south of Lake Monroe. It is part of the Hoosier National Forest. He showed me which mushrooms are okay to eat and which are not. We mostly collected chanterelles, and boy did we get a bunch! We spent several hours hunting, though we took a little break to take a swim in Lake Monroe, which was quite a bit warmer than the pond on Twin Springs.
Chanterelle harvest – This is about 30-40% of what we got.
After getting home, I washed the chanterelles and then boiled them for 10 minutes like Volya told me to. I then decided to add them into a risotto, with onions, garlic, butter beans, fresh tomatoes and basil, and vegetable stock (and a splash of dry vermouth). It turned out pretty tasty.
Chanterelles up close
Risotto with chanterelles, fresh tomatoes, and basil