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This is the original kitchen, viewed through a “window” from the TV room.

Prior to the remodel, I was lucky to have friends remind me to take before and after pictures. I knew the change would be drastic, so I needed a point of reference. I chose to stand in the TV room and look through the open walkway into the kitchen.

I’ll do another post with more kitchen details, but here’s one that shows one perspective of the changes that took place from September 2018 through February 2019. Remember in a former post where, to be safe, I judged the kitchen wouldn’t be ready till Valentine’s Day? It was a good thing I did because it’s still not done. Really close though, just a few cosmetic fixes left.

Take a look at how the view changed over the months.

I scraped the popcorn off the ceiling so I could have a nice smooth finish. Then I began emptying the cupboards and the pantry.

Then tore out all the old cupboards, removed the appliances, and began tearing up the tile floor. The refrigerator was moved into the TV room and plugged in with an extension cord running into my bedroom, behind me as I take the photo.

At that point the contract work came in, dismantling the walls. Look how much that opens up the room already!

After everything was torn out, I cleaned up the floor. It’s still such a mess.

Sheetrock went up, the water heater was replaced with a tankless water heater for more space, and I was able to begin to visualize the future finished walls.

Tara came home from college for a couple days and we painted the walls.

Where did I wash dishes for all that time? You guessed it: in my bathroom sink. No, it was not ideal.

When the painting was done, the electrician hooked up some of the lights so we had something to work by. Then the cabinets were installed.

At long, long last the floor was installed. It was finally taking shape. Since the wood in the kitchen is white oak, and the wood in the TV room is red oak, it’s not a seamless transition. As the wood ages it will blend better. Even with the different wood, I like this much better than the trim pieces in between each room. Now it’s a flat surface that doesn’t trap dirt.

Finally put the dining table and the refrigerator back into the kitchen (and I scratched my beautiful floor in doing so – arrrgh!). Also installed microwave and wall oven.

And viola! My kitchen today. I’m all moved in and cooking again. And washing dishes in a proper sink.

Wanna take one more look at what it used to be? The old kitchen was small and dark. The new kitchen is bright and open.

Big changes.

One day I was sitting at the dining room table and heard a thumping in the cupboard. I had a suspicion that I knew who was in the cupboard, and began recording. Viola! My cat, Racecar, emerged from where she clearly does not belong. I explained to her about cats and clean pots, shooed her away, then did some dishes. Sigh.

Early this spring, my financial advisor told me that in his opinion, I could afford the kitchen remodel I have wanted since I moved into this house. There is great light coming into the house from the north side, where the small kitchen and dining room are. It’s dark as a cave on the south side, where the living room and woodstove are. My idea: knock down the wall and make one giant open room!

My sudden loss of a job last month was unplanned, but much of the upfront fees for this kitchen remodel had already been paid.  I had no choice but to follow through, despite the fact that right now is bad timing for spending money unnecessarily. The bright side is: I am home and available to let construction workers in.

Before photo. From the living room, looking toward the kitchen. You can’t see the kitchen because there is a utility closet (door on left) and a pantry (door on right) blocking your view.

My front room is a very big room, and off in one cramped corner was a kitchen. The appliances are black and the cabinet doors dark brown. Inside the cupboards were particle board shelves on plastic pegs with peeling, wrinkled contact paper. The countertop was old school formica with gold flakes in it. I plan to update everything.

You noticed in the paragraph above, I used past-tense verbs.

First step was to remove the furniture and art, and to empty the pantry.

The next step was sorta drastic.

Everything that had to be removed was removed. The water heater will be replaced with a tankless (on demand) water heater in the future. For right now, they will leave this tank here so that I still have hot water.

This is what it looks like right now, the first week of November. See the extra framing to extend the dropped ceiling?

There is still a problem with light. I just have a dark house. I’ve included some of the better photos above, so you may not notice the darkness. With the room opened up though, it is significantly better, and that makes me happy.

The plan is for the new cabinets (already completed and sitting under a tarpaulin in the garage) to be installed against the two walls you see. From the electric panel to the corner, and from the corner to the big window. There will also be an L-shaped island where the pantry used to be. The floor footprint of the kitchen will match the dropped ceiling area.

Old floors had three styles meeting. The tile has all been ripped up and the natural wood on the right will cover the kitchen as well.

Dark cupboards are gone! I am holding a sample piece of oak with the new light finish.

I am not allowing myself to get excited yet. This project has taken so long just to barely get started. I know construction always takes longer and costs more than expected, but I can’t tell you how impatient I am already. Like I said at the top, this began in the Spring. I settled on a plan with the contractor in April, and it is still only this far. I’m trying not to go crazy, ha ha. He assures me that it will only be another 6 weeks, possibly 8. So there is a potential for this to be done by Christmas. I’m going to plan on a Valentine’s Day kitchen instead!

View of chicken pen and coop from my bedroom window. Look at that pretty little spike deer.

Remember the Hussies? My chickens are still with me. Only three remain (Lacey was hit by a car, and I ate Gimpy), and I love them as much as I ever did. It was high time I demonstrated this.

A friend of mine needed a place to stay and he is not able to pay but is the handiest of handy men. I live alone in a three-bedroom home on a big property and work full time so I don’t have extra time left over to take care of my big property. Obviously, this was a situation that could help both of us.

Josh moved in the end of March and started helping me. (You may remember Josh from our hike last October) The list of improvements ranges from finally having a towel rack installed in my master bathroom to constructing new buildings on the property! One big change is that my chicken Hussies finally have a decent home.

At the beginning of March, I began some work before Josh showed up. I hired some professionals and had a new chicken house built. My poor hussies have been living in a tiny chicken house designed for chicks. For two years they huddled in that tiny house and roosted and nested in the same space.

Original chicken house, soon after I moved here.

The beginnings of the new house lit up by morning sunlight, while the old house remains. You can pick it out behind the workman in blue.

Walls go up.

Roof and siding on.

One of the first things Josh did when he arrived was to finish the chicken house. He installed roosts and nesting boxes. Installed moisture-repellent flooring for easy cleaning. Covered the walls with tar paper (again, for easier cleaning). He painted it. Josh had the idea to cut a little hole in the side and install the old ramp from their little house, so there is a special chicken-sized access door. Now they have a chicken palace, and they roost on the opposite side of the room from where they nest (translation: no more poop on the eggs).

Brand new chicken palace.

Roosts, chicken, pellets, and poop

I can walk right inside! Open the window, fill their feeder, marvel at what a mess they make.

Eggs in the nesting boxes.

Newly painted.

Stay tuned for updates on the landscaping, the pump house, the upcoming kitchen remodel… and more.

When we first bought the house in 2008

We’ve had so much fun on a little landscaping project here that I wanted to show you our progress.

We live in one of those Portland homes that sits on a hill above the sidewalk. Ours is a rather steep hill, and it makes sense that the previous owners were happy to leave the hillside covered with invasive ivy. And leave it for oh, say, twenty years or so.

ugly & overwhelming

I spent many days last summer becoming overwhelmed with happy, healthy ivy. We live in the city, and we don’t have a truck. We get one trashcan-sized “yard waste” container, which is emptied for us once every two weeks. Last summer I had a continual pile of wilting ivy. Before all of the trimmed ivy could be picked up, I would need to trim again.

needs trimming


Mark remains unemployed and keeps looking for stuff he can do that keeps him occupied and doesn’t cost much money. We have decided that one good thing about the rotten economy is that our ivy is gone. Mark did all the most grueling hard labor parts while I was at work.

This stuff covered the entire hill from end to end and was 4 feet deep. The roots were well established. He quickly learned that clipping each ivy branch would take too long. He borrowed a chainsaw from The Uncles and chainsawed the stuff level to the dirt. That took two days. The next step was to pull out the roots, which was the worst.

Tara and I periodically helped. It turned out to be an easier job than we imagined, despite the hot and dirty work. The neighbors have been telling us horror stories about how difficult their own ivy removal projects were. They regaled us with tales of injuries and requisite, expensive, ivy-killing chemicals, and sheets of black plastic, which must cover the ground for a year before anything else can be done with the property. We used the elbow grease method, and it was pretty effective. If exhausting.

conquest of the ivy root!

We were left with MOUNTAINS of ivy and roots and no clear plan of what to do with it all. Mark started yanking stuff out in a frenzy when Mom planned a trip here, in hopes of using her truck to make a couple dump runs. We managed one trip, but Mark had wiped out his body pulling roots for a week, and was too spent to do more.

By the time I had a weekend free and Mark was rested, Mom was gone again. So we left our piles of roots until one day a neighbor that we hadn’t met yet stopped by. They live kitty-corner from us across 86th and Morrison. She asked if we would like to borrow their truck. Mark said it would be great if they parked the truck out front. Then we could load it and take it to the dump, put some gas in and give it back to them. We were very excited.

ahhh, dirt sans ivy

The next day, Mark looked out the window in time to see the elderly couple finishing the job and driving off. Tara and I baked them corn muffins and took them over the next day. The man told me his named is spelled with only one O. (“It’s Bob, not Boob,” his wife explained.) He is retired Air Force and between him and Gigi (also at 86th and Morrison) who has completed her active duty but remains in the AF Reserve, they’ve been calling it “Air Force Corner.” They were thrilled to hear I am also an Air Force veteran. Bob is 90 and Louise is 86 and they are amazing. I can’t believe they would load up all those roots themselves. But they insisted that’s what neighbors do, and besides, says Bob, “We get the SENILE discount at the dump!”

I thought at first it would be ok to leave the hillsides of dirt. We can’t afford to landscape now, but maybe next year. My plans were changed because it turns out that I live with an 11-year-old, who has 11-year-old friends. Bare dirt hillsides are a great place to play. As the days went by, the dirt spread farther across the sidewalks. I would hand rakes and brooms to the kids and tell them to put it back, and they did a pretty good job. However, I began to think it could be a long warm season if it required hollering at kids to clean up the dirt every few days.

Mark working hard to prep for a wall

We did a little research on wall-building bricks and found the least expensive and most reusable (in case we change our minds). For only $112 we purchased enough bricks to build a bit of a wall to keep the dirt off the sidewalk. Home Depot (which is about 1 mile from the house) rented us a truck, loaded the bricks on with a forklift, and within two hours we had a pile of bricks in front of the house and a bit of eager excitement to get to work again.

Mark began by digging a trench for me. Pretty soon the neighbors came out of the woodwork. Everybody had to comment. People we had never seen before. They would walk their dogs on this side of the street in order to be close enough to give advice, critique, or ask questions.


A couple driving by stopped their car. “We live in the house with the deer on the porch.” I knew the house, but thought it was a funny way to say hello. The old man continued, “You know, most people put in three levels and terrace it.”

“Yes, we plan to put in three levels as well. But we can’t afford it. We will only do a little bit till we save up our money again.”

“Ok, well, some people put a couple of different levels.” He persisted.

“Thanks for letting us know!” I answered cheerfully.

our wall

“And that wall would probably look better if it were a little higher,” he added.

“I think you’re right,” I agreed.

He then took a good, long look at the other side of the stairs, where we weren’t done pulling out roots yet. “You should do both sides though.”

“Yes, sir. We plan to. Like I said, we can’t afford all that right now.”

“Well, ok,” he says in a friendly way. “Nice to have you in the neighborhood!”

If you build it, neighbors will come

Perry, an elderly Chinese guy on the other side of us, got home from work and came right over. “You use dirt? I have the dirt?”

“Sure, Perry, take what you need!”

Twenty minutes later, Perry’s brother David comes down the sidewalk in a work shirt and gloves and a sun hat. “I take dirt. Perry no have wheelbarrow. Ok I take dirt?”

“Knock yourself out, David!”

“I’m sorry? Knock?”

“Yes, take the dirt!” (I couldn’t help but smile) Perry came over soon after. Mark shoveled it out of the hillside, while Perry, David, and I filled the wheelbarrow over and over.

Anyway, you get the picture. It’s been a real neighborhood affair with the ivy and the dirt and the wall.

With the trench dug, I nabbed a couple of levels and started to work. I carefully leveled the 12 inch bricks front to back, and leveled them side to side, and leveled them according to the brick before. Mark finally commented after awhile, “This job is perfect for you.”  I think it was a polite way to call me anal-retentive. The first row took about an hour. My excessive leveling paid off because the next three rows took twenty minutes.

cleaning up after I finished the wall

We pulled down the dirt to fill against the wall, and realized that prime planting real estate had just been created. We’ve been talking about a garden, but were discouraged because the only real yard space we have is in the back, which is always shady and damp. The front is in full blasting sunlight all day long. Viola! Vegetable garden.

tomatoes, hens, chicks

We have cherry tomatoes, regular sized tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, yellow peppers, zucchini, cilantro, chard, carrots and beets. Of course, very few of each because there is only one row of dirt (unlike those other people who put in three levels…) We had a bunch of neglected strawberry plants under the brush in the back yard, which had produced one berry last year. We dug them all up and brought them out front. We thought with love, sun, regular watering and some fertilizer, we might coax them to make more. I built a shelf of dirt at the top of the hill because I thought ripe strawberries at sidewalk level might be TOO tempting to people walking by. The berries can only be reached from the top of the yard.

beet sprouts

In an attempt to keep the dirt from slipping between cracks in the walls, I have planted Hens and Chicks all along the wall. Rich said, “Those things will just spread!” “That’s what I want.” “No, they’ll spread all over.” “Well, if there are too many, I can pull them out.” Neighbors.

As you can see, the other side is not yet done. But Mark is still unemployed, so I imagine that will be taken care of soon! If you stop by, we will be happy to share.

Happy dance

One of my many guises

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