Ramblings on the river – Almost a kitchen

Things are moving along at the river house. We have dry wall on one side of the first floor. We should have paint by tomorrow. It is hard to  believe we may soon even have a kitchen.  IMG_1489-2

We passed our rough framing, rough electric and rough plumbing inspections, which we credited completely to Jay’s engineering talents and hard work. We have a little help from our friends. We also passed inspection on insulation. But that almost didn’t happen–the insulation, I mean, not the inspection.

Let me reiterate for those of you who don’t know Jay and me well. He is the engineer, mechanical one–picture brain, we call him. I am the writer, producer, organizer, budgeter–word brain we call me. Jay says I am mechanically declined. That is true.  Cartoon words

So as I waited for the spray foam insulation guys to arrive, sitting on my steps, because there are not a whole lot of places to sit near the front door, since most of the area is down to studs–waiting for insulation, I was getting antsy.  They were supposed to arrive at 8 am. The time slid by, and by 9:30 am I was worried. I called the company, and they thought there may have been an accident on the 91 Interstate.

At 9:35am, I got a call from Dan , the driver/technician.

“Um, we can’t get under the bridge,” he said. “The bridge is 12’8″ and the truck is 13’1”, “he further explained.

“You have to be kidding me,” I panicked. “Didn’t your estimator, who has been here, tell you which truck to bring?”

I was beginning to feel myself getting to that wild idea stage. This was my third reschedule as it was.

Dan said he would  call me back after speaking with his supervisor. I have been talking to that supervisor three times a day on schedules, reschedules, and complications, so I was confident.

But, if the insulation had to be rescheduled, then inspection had to be changed, dry wall schedule would be upset for the third time, and appliances and cabinets couldn’t be delivered at great penalty–like paying for cabinet STORAGE. It HAD TO HAPPEN this day.  images

I jumped in my ’97 racing green Jag and drove the 1/4 mile to the bridge. Got out, and started studying the bridge from his side. There is no access to our dead-end street except by going under the railroad bridge.

Funny thing happened to word brain. She SAW something. The bridge was not straight across. It sloped a little UP at the left side. And the road wasn’t level. It was a little depressed, with a storm drain on the left side.

IMG_1409     “Back up and go under the bridge on the left side,” I said to Dan.

“But, my truck was scraping on the bridge,” he defended. “It isn’t my property,” he said.

“I know, but look! I see at least 3 inches on the left. Just try it. You won’t scrape. I am sure of it.”

He backed up, and tried it. The truck got through with a half inch to spare.

photo     They arrived, did a great job and were ready to leave when I was coming back to my house around 4pm. I saw a fire truck coming down the road, and, of course, was a bit concerned, since there are only five houses here and a fire truck is not normally cruising by.

“Any problems?” I asked.

“Just training a new fireman where these houses are,” he answered. That is a comfort. They care.

Then I told him the bridge story and asked if they were going to make it out, since I realized the truck would be higher after getting rid of hundreds of pounds of spray foam.

“You’re lucky.” the fire chief said. “It’s a hot day, and the bridge expands in the heat. They will be OK.”

They were. They got out. I had had fears that they would have to wait at the boat dock for a barge to get them out.

But, they were fine. We have dry wall. And, soon paint, appliances and cabinets. How amazing.   photo

Who is Juanita?

th    All my friends keep saying Jay had better die before me because he will never be able to figure out where all of our money is. That is to say, I do the budget, pay the bills, and decide on the credit cards, and, trust me, I have a very complicated system.

It all started because, I am dyslexic, which my friend April says I am not–she says I have a visual processing disorder (actually, it’s easier just to say I’m dyslexic. I mean, can’t I simplify even this?) Anyway, I decided, after we signed up for four extra credit cards on our 25th anniversary airplane trip to our cruise to the Caribbean, (they gave us free airline tickets) that since we were up to eight credit cards, and since I have this visual processing disorder, I would just use the eight cards as an accounting system. So I used each of the cards for a different category of purchase: Jay’s budget, My budget, travel, dining, business, household products, memberships, and business travel.  th-1

My CPA told me that was a fine system, however complex, if it worked for me.
So I created my Payment Grid, which on a monthly basis, I would fill out like a table to see the date, the balance, the payment made, the date due and which bank it would be paid from–Umm–forgot to mention that I also have five banks with several accounts in each, also in categories. *Sigh* The table also lists the last four digits of the credit cards (which amazingly I had memorized).

That worked fine until the banks started sending us REPLACEMENT cards with different ending digits, and then also sending Jay and me different numbers if we were signers on the same cards–which we always are. That meant there were now SIXTEEN credit card numbers.

Now I look at my payment grid, and NONE of the original numbers are the same as when I started this seven years ago. I also tried showing Jay the grid once, hoping he would see it, say how clever it was, and want to study it. But, no. That did not appeal to him at all. Really, the reason bill paying fell to me early on in the marriage, was that this is not Jay’s bailiwick. He hates sitting still for the time it takes. We originally tried “the sitting at the table together paying bills routine,” and we would get about fifteen minutes into it and Jay would need to go to the kitchen for something, or check something in the backyard, or the garage–which meant, I would not be seeing him again for quite awhile, certainly not in that evening. I ended up finishing the bills myself. I got the message. “How about I just do this, honey?” which was fine with him.  couple-paying-bills

So recently, I started thinking of all the pressure this system of mine puts on poor Jay to die first. I mean, I don’t want him to even have to think about doing that. So, because this system is degenerating, and because I have decided to simplify our finances so Jay doesn’t have to die at all, and because all the numbers are now on their third round of being REPLACED by the banks, and because we now use an American Express card which breaks down all purchases into categories for me, I am reducing the cards to a mere THREE: American Express, business and travel.
I still plan to do my payment grid for the three cards, and to break out all of the categories monthly to track spending. But, this is a whole lot simpler. Except I accidentally paid a couple of the EIGHT cards twice and have credit balances on them, so I can’t retire them quite yet. And I received yet ANOTHER replacement card for a card I haven’t used in months, so I don’t remember my ID and password to activate it online, so I will be able to put this card away again and NOT use it.

I tried the online chat thing with Bank of America. That was a huge mistake. After the agent apologized for fifteen minutes and told me how much she understood my frustration, she still hadn’t even asked me the first security question.

I almost worked myself into apoplexy with this person after another ten minutes, when she started the process by asking me for my daughter’s social security number (she is NOT on any of our cards). Then she asked for information about someone named Juanita! I have nothing against Juanita, and at the risk of being politically incorrect, have NO IDEA who Juanita is. I assure you this is certainly no one in our family. So, why would a B of A employee ask me this? Wait. I know. It is for my protection. Security. Right. The system to protect me is so complicated and dysfunctional that if some criminal wants to get into my account, I am sure they can. BUT I CAN’T! I am locked out by all the so-called security measures, like not knowing who Juanita is, let alone what her relationship to my account is supposed to be.  th-5

I ended the chat and called B of A. A cordial, English-speaking young man answered, and we activated the dormant card in five minutes.

Do any of you see something wrong with this picture?

I think I need to simply my life some more and get B of A out of my life completely, before I keel over from sheer exhaustion at dealing with this new world of “protecting me” from myself.

(Reposted by popular request from July 24, 2011 on www.spinningstrawintogold.blogspot.com–my original blog)

Ramblings on the river – September 16

Trains, planes, boats, autos and trucks.

5058e6df6a629340   I imagined moving out of Bigelow to our river house would bring serene quiet. It’s not that Bigelow was noisy–but there are 750 residents in six buildings there, and you’re going to have noise.

There was the laundry room directly under our first floor apartment. We knew every spin cycle and dryer roar.

The tenant above us walked around at night–who doesn’t–and we could hear her floor creak.

There were some times when drums, car radios, boom boxes and even the plaintive cry of a trumpet–reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s–invaded our quiet.  th

There were planes, cars, and trains, but they sounded faint most of the time–except if all windows were open in the summertime.

There were kids screeching, people calling out, and laughing parties.

But here in our new riverbank house, there are new sounds to get used to:

th-1    Crickets. These are really loud. After two nights, they didn’t seem as intrusive on sleep. Further research is needed to tell you if the pictured critter is a CT type.

Boats. We have a lot of motorboat traffic below us. The motorboats are further recognized, because in their wake, the waves along our shoreline sound almost oceanic for a few seconds. It’s kind of fun.  th-2


th-3    Planes. Now these are directly overhead to the point that one may start calculating the probability that one of these years, one may not be high enough over our heads. Hubby says very unlikely. Still, it gives pause. Mostly these are the landing path, which Hub says is the quieter plane. I can’t tell. A little scary.

Autos. There aren’t many autos coming down our dead end street, so we are always aware that when we hear a car, it is probably a neighbor or a visitor. That is kind of good.

Trains. Now these are directly across from our front door. I have learned to tell time by them. The Amtrak ones woosh by in a few seconds. The freight trains, at night, are much longer. I like trains. These sounds are kind of comforting, like meat loaf or mac and cheese.  I won’t mention the crash of freights carrying toxic chemicals. That won’t happen here.th-4



Unknown Trucks. I like knowing when UPS and FED EX and the mail are here. And I like knowing trash is being collected at 7:30am. I love waving to Max, our wonderful mail carrier, almost every day at 10am.

I suspect we will be getting more of these truck sounds as construction for the new transit center will begin soon. Also there may be condos beside us where woods currently are. Truck sounds will be accompanied by heavy equipment sounds. Not looking forward to these.

IMG_1365  Other than these sounds, it is pretty quiet here on the river.

Ramblings on the river – September 10

The peanut gallery (my daughter) wants to see the before and after pictures, so I will accommodate.

In case there is any confusion, the following are the BEFORE pictures. If I had the after ones, we wouldn’t be talking.

Here goes.

Our kitchen:


Another angle of our kitchen:



I KNOW, there’re are a lot of bottles there. Please read 100days-1000boxes, Day #2 for that story. It’s on MENU. Click on the boxes.

Our breakfast room:


We face the river as we eat and keep telling ourselves the AFTER WILL BE WORTH IT!   Here’s a better look at what we stare at:






My office and another section of our kitchen:

IMG_1247You guys do understand this is temporary, right?

OTHER parts of the kitchen–these are in our entry way where some of the old kitchen cabinets were just sitting there doing nothing. Can’t have that now, can we?

OK daughter dear. What do you think of our BEFORE kitchen? Let me tell you, it requires a lot of walking–around things like:

This is especially hard when sleepy or when breakfast seems to come early. But, we will survive.

Pot boil -September 8

Not having a kitchen is a challenge. Everyone says, “It’s an adventure. It will be like camping.”

Well, yes and no. When you are camping you know how many days you will be cooking over fire, or grills, or whatever the real campers do.   campfire

I always got disenchanted with the whole idea about the third day in, when I was ready for real food–you know, food with nutrients, food that is green and not brown and white.

But, I took on this river house adventure, thinking: “I have my George Foreman Grill, my crock pot, a microwave, and a propane grill.   th

Reality: Haven’t gotten up to trying the GFG. I look at the size of my crockpot, and then at the size of my little pawn shop refrigerator, and I think I had better not make that much food with no where to store the leftovers. As it is, I have to move the ketchup in the door column to get to the coconut milk every morning for Hubby’s homemade granola, which I had the presence of mind to make while still at Bigelow.

I didn’t have an  outlet for the microwave until a couple of days ago. Most of the outlets had to be off, while wiring was being accomplished.

And propane grill? Well that’s a man job, and my man is dead tired from a full time job and this huge house project, and I don’t have the heart to add dinner to that task list.

DSC03451-LouMaZi-Fried-Rice-Pot-of-rice-_1682x1274-1024x775   So I made a discovery. This little rice pot, which I seldom use, after realizing I could put a casserole of rice and water in the oven and not have to clean out sticky rice after the process, has become a great little pot.

I experimented one day, putting in the brown rice and water, and then adding frozen peas (which I have to use to make room in the tiny freezer), and a filet of wild salmon. Twenty minutes later I had a really tasty one-pot meal, all ready for serving. And, how did I clean it without hot water? I used the Chinese cooking trick of returning the sticky mess to the heat source with a little more water added to the pot, and presto, there it was, boiled rice easily scraped off the bottom of the pot.

We repeated this meal a couple of times. Then I tried oatmeal in the pot for a breakfast. Excellent. Almost like home. Added nuts and cinnamon and coconut milk. Got the sticky oats off the pan bottom same way as the rice.  th-2

Tonight, I am really pushing the rice pot. I put in rice, water, a can of black beans, and a market pre-cooked meatball, broken up–and some cheese. We shall see. I will let you know tomorrow. Of course all of this would be better in a real kitchen. Stay tuned.

But, I am certainly grateful for the just right sized little pot, where a one-pot meal has been exactly what this happy camper needed.

September 7

Breaking news!! The manifold, which has been soldered, re-solderered, pressure tested, re-pressure tested, and all of that more than three times IS FINISHED! PRESSURE TESTED. DOES NOT LEAK.

YAY!!!!!!!!! HUBBY.


Real, permanent, manifold hot water!!  IMG_1237

Oh the joy of a shower in our new home.

Thank you Jay. Thank you God. I am walking on…well hot water.


September 7

Today is a banner day, as they say. We now have hot water, thanks to my brilliant hubby who decided to work on the manifold repair AFTER “looping” some plumbing to give us hot water upstairs and down.  I joined the local gym on a trial pass–$7 for 7 days so I could have a hot water shower instead of my Grannie spit bath. I had to pretend I was there to work out on the treadmill for 20 minutes–which didn’t really hurt me. But I got my shower–2 days before this wonderful day.IMG_1219


???????????????????????????????????????????????????????    When we pictured ourselves in our river house, we were thinking of drinking our morning coffee on the deck, off our sparkling kitchen.

Of course, when we pictured this, we hand’t been in the house, hadn’t seen much besides the deck, and didn’t have any idea that after four and a half months, having hot water would far outweigh our dream of sparkling anything.

And, OK, this couple isn’t us, isn’t that picture we dreamed, or even the picture we are. We’re not ready for photos. We are tired.

We are still in the early stages of renovation. It is sometimes discouraging. But as our cabinet vendor, Norm, pointed out.

“Yes, you are working hard, and it is very hard. But when you are finished, you will not just have a house like every other house. You will have a house on the river.”

This is really our view. It is worth it.IMG_1365

We try to keep that in mind. And it does help to arise to the river view, cup of coffee in hand, on the deck and outside of the room which still has no walls, no ceilings, no floors and certainly no sparkling kitchen–yet. But it will.

Ramblings on the river – August 31 – September 6

It’s September and there will be no more Loft Life. In November 2009 we left Hotel Life, still chronicled on www.spinningstrawintogold.blogspot.com, and moved into our loft apartment at Bigelow Commons. We enjoyed our almost five years there immensely.  5058e5af7145a247

But, life moves on, and so have we. So now Spinning will be about Ramblings on the river–our little river house on the Connecticut River, where life in New England continues. We have gone from Hotel Life, to Loft Life, to River Life–with great adventures in all of these places, but, I hope, the best yet to come as we enjoy our beautiful view and the blessings of life on a river.

On one of our walks last fall, while living at Bigelow, I said I wanted to walk to see the river–which I knew to be about a mile up Pearl Street. My hub said, “Why don’t we go down under the railroad bridge and see it at a different point!”

“There’s no river there,” I said in my true-to-ignorance confidence.”

“Follow me,” hub said, and I do and I did.  IMG_0679

On our walk to the other river (really the same one, but a direction I never knew existed), we found Jay’s river, and a whole lot more. We found a few houses, one of which had a large foreclosure sign on it.

We got curious. I went on Zillow, that trusty, but untrustworthy, site, and found out a little more about it.

Then I called the bank. The house was in litigation.

I followed up from time to time, praying that somehow it would come onto the market about the time our house in Illinois was going to sell. At the time, we had renters, wonderful renters, who we hoped would want to buy our Illinois home.

In February, they kindly gave us way advance notice that they would not be renewing their lease of five years. Sad.

They had bought a little foreclosure, and were going to be moving in June.

So we put the Illinois house on the market on March 1, 2014 and guess what? Of course. That is the exact time when our little Connecticut foreclosure hit the market.  Home Front

But, we pounced. We loved the view. There were many, many things we didn’t know if we liked, but we loved the view.

Our house in Illinois didn’t sell, and didn’t sell, and didn’t sell. We lowered the price and put in more and more upgrades, which made me more than a little concerned. We were bleeding money.

But we hired a Realtor, after realizing the Freddie Mac Realtor would NOT BE A GOOD IDEA for us to use. Boy am I glad I got that little tip. Thank you Kathleen!!

After winning the bidding war, our offer on the River House was accepted. We set closing for May 1. The Freddie Mac Realtor, who was not a very nice person, managed to create drama where there was no drama–things like ignoring attachments on emails and claiming she had never received them. She yelled at people, threatened people, and generally reacted to everything as though she were some sort of victim, while in reality, she was creating her own messes and making life for the rest of us very, very stressful.

But in the end, two weeks later, we did close on the house, with “as is” strongly emphasized.  But we now had three house payments, all with utilities, maintenance and other expenses attached.

We were bleeding money. Did I already say that?

I cashed in my retirement and we prepared for what my hub said would be an adventure. Oh how right he was. Maybe not the adventure he had imagined. He tends to imagine things going smoothly. They never do.

We were held up another two weeks starting work on the house, because we had to move all of his stuff out of a kind friend’s garage. That took time, and energy. And at the front end of our house project, we didn’t really comprehend what a month’s delay would cost us later.

Then we had to apply for a building permit. That took another two weeks. Luckily that two weeks perfectly coincided with  a business trip to California. So even though the delay was still costing dearly in time, at least we were in sunny California.  Unknown-2

Now we are into September. We moved out of our apartment August 31. We have now been living in the River House, upstairs where there is running water (barely running and cold only), electricity, and a working toilet. I thank God every day for this.  IMG_0661

I also thank God that late August, we finally got an offer on our Illinois house. God is good.

But work on the first floor of the River House,  where we eventually intend to live is very, very slow.  IMG_1361

I will explain.  IMG_1237



…to be continued.