Posts Tagged ‘renovations


Stupid and simple

Let me tell you about my kitchen.

My kitchen is a horror show.

If it was actually a horror show, it would be called “The Kitchen That Time Forgot.” Really. It’s still pretty much 1950s, and I’m being generous in my guesstimation. No dishwasher, no garbage disposal, and old wiring. Cabinets are very basic. Shelf space is limited. No pantry, either.

But one thing my kitchen has going for it? It’s actually pretty big. You could have 2 people cooking in it and not be stumbling over each other. It just needs to be updated, and boy howdy, do I have plans for that … later on … you know, after I get the first floor wiring redone.

But in the meantime, I needed to do something. My girlfriend had already done A LOT of cleaning and some slight rearranging in the kitchen when I was on vacation, and it was so much better. So I felt kinda the need to take what she did 1-step further.

I created a small “prep station” using some old wood that I had in the basement.

This wood was from an old futon frame that I had disassembled and stored. I figured it would be good for something … I had already used it on my baker’s rack to create shelves. But if worse came to worst, I could always throw it in the woodburner. But I’d hate to throw out something that I know would have a use later.

So I grabbed 2 pieces, and cleaned them up. I painted them black, and then created this stupid little shelf.

This isn’t a magical thing. But man, what it lacks in personality and style and finesse, it makes up for in sheer practicality.

Before, I had these utensils randomly thrown in a big drawer, and finding what I needed was a pain in the dupa. This stupid little shelf solved a lot. I actually feel dumb that I didn’t think of this sooner. 2 pieces of leftover wood. Leftover paint. 20 L hooks (cost under $4). Leftover screws and anchors. Done and done.

(Oh, and that picture? That’s my Italian grandma holding me. I learned my basic cooking skills from her, so it was only fitting that she share that space. And that potato peeler on the wall with the ribbon? That was my Slovak great-grandma’s potato peeler. My great-aunt Pauline gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. She probably peeled tons of potatoes with that thing … and I’m honored to have it in retirement on my wall.)

Then I started thinking what else I could do. The baker’s rack! Why don’t I hang some pot and pans on it instead of stacking them there?

I have a million pots. OK, not a million … probably about 8. But they were all leftovers from my mom and grandma, and I never needed that many. So, I weeded some out, and am going with a smaller set for now (not including soup pots and such). And again, I grabbed some hook screws, and created this:

Now, again, this is simple, stupid, and non-stylish at the same time. But it’s a temporary and cheap fix (hooks were less than $2 for 5) fix to what has been a long-standing problem — easy accessibility and space. I just need to get a few more hooks for lids, and wham, done. If I find I don’t need the extra pots, they will go to the VVA.

But all of this will change when I’m ready to tackle the kitchen full on … in a few years … I hope.


Phase IV

My first planted lily ready to bloom!

When I first bought my house, I would go in the back yard and see the ivy growing there. And I would say to myself, “This shit has got to go.”

And for years, I never touched it. I thought about clearing it, but every time I would mention this particular notion, people would gasp like I had just threatened to slap a puppy. “YOU CAN’T GET RID OF THE IVY!” they said. “IT’S GREAT GROUND COVER!”

Yes. The infamous ground cover argument. Except for the fact that I would rather have grass there, because ivy is pretty much useless at best and a menace at worst. And for me, it was in the menace stage … climbing the back of my house in ever-growing numbers.

See, I can deal with mowing the lawn. Neglect your grass and it gets a little high, makes it a little tougher to mow, no big deal. But neglect ivy, and that shit is everywhere.

So, today I was starting on Phase II of my plan to reclaim my back yard. Except the weeds were dug in, the sun was brutal, and I kept having to wipe sweat from my eyes every 2.6 seconds. Not fun. I would need to poison the shit out of that area and then wait for a cloudy day to rip it all out. And with this being Western PA, this could happen sooner rather than later.

I looked around at what else I could do. Last weekend, my girlfriend and I had been looking at the ivy that was climbing my house. She pulled some of it and noted how easily it came down. This was likely because of how dry everything was, combined with an earlier poisoning spree.

I figured if I had to wait to move on Phase II, I could at least start on Phase IV. Phase IV involves clearing ivy from the back of my house, and the area is in the shade … so I figured I could rip the ivy down that was climbing up by my kitchen and feel good about my day. And as I pulled it down, I pulled down some more. And some more. And an hour later, I had a pile of ivy and weeds up to near my waist, and had basically cleared the back bed.

You can still see the remnants of it on the walls …

Phase IV just needs about another few hours of weeding, some small wall building (because there’s already some “stone walls” in place, which is why I could never just mow it in the first place) and some planting, and it will be off my “to do” list.

I still feel kinda dumb that I’m kind of excited about landscaping and reclaiming my back yard, but it’s as though with every few hours that I put into my house, the better and better it looks. And the better it looks, the more I want to do. Unlike weight lifting or whatever, this stuff has immediate and tangible results. I don’t have to wait weeks. That’s pretty satisfying.

So, yeah, not according to plan … and humble beginnings. But as long as it all gets done, right?


Domesticated sheep

Never did I think I would see this day.

The day when I became excited about landscaping.

It still seems foreign to me, even as I type this.

But time has finally caught up with me. I’m beginning to turn into the guy who gives a crap about his lawn. Well, technically, that’s not true … I hate my lawn. But I did start to give a crap about my landscaping. The credit lies with my girlfriend — not because she hounded me to do it — but because she was super knowledgeable about plants and gardening and such, and with her help, I was finally able to get an idea of what I wanted to do around my house. It all started with the idea of a patio on the side of my house that currently is unused — but to start work on that, I have to clear the space.

Now, I have an asston of creeping ivy in the back that I’ve absolutely hated since day 1, but everyone always convinced me to keep it. By this time, years had passed and it grew over everything. I decided to break up this project into phases …  Phase 1 being a reclamation project of what I call “the Step Garden,” because, you know, it’s by my back steps. This is what I was up against:


As you can see, it was a complete mess. And you see that dirt on the steps? Plants were actually growing on the concrete there. So, the steps were impassable unless you wanted to walk through ivy, poison ivy, and other assorted weeds.

I won’t lie, there was a lot of chemical warfare to help my clearing efforts. No mercy, ivy. You gotta go.

Well, after hours of work over a few weeks and several trips to Lowe’s and Michael Bro’s nursery in Russelton, this was the final result …


Two hostas (the big bottom one moved from the side of my house, where the hostas are absolutely huge), some phlox, two Japanese ferns, some deadnettle, 2 coral bells, and nine lilies.

Still a shitload of work to do, but the steps are now passable. Now, on to Phase 2: Clearing the bottom of the steps and creating another flower bed for more lilies and hostas. Phase 3: Take out the tree and azalea bush at the top of the steps so then I can work on the other side of the steps, which is Phase 4.

And then I can move on to Stage 2 (back of the house). And then Stage 3 (sunny side of the house).

This whole project will probably take me the rest of the summer and fall to complete. But my house desperately needs it, and as much as I hate to admit it, I like seeing the results my hard work.

So bring it on, projects. Because I will win.

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