Category Archives: New House


Last week’s columns and plume flowers strip was a quick one. Not the least because it was in plain old cross stitch. I am pleased with the darker-but-not-overwhelming density. And as you can see, I’m on to the next one, featuring the hounds and pelicans, yet another design that will be in the ever-forthcoming T2CM:

I am looking forward to unrolling this piece when this new strip is done, to see how much more real estate I have to cover, and to make plans for how dark or light those strips will need to be. Then I get to go hunting for what to stitch next.

This week’s strip is an interesting one on a couple of fronts. First, in terms of history, it has a specific point of origin – in 16th century Sweden; not Germany or Italy or any of the other countries better known for linear embroidery at that time. It’s in the Swedish History Museum, Inventory number 19600.

The museum citation says that the piece is from a chapel in Uppland, Östervåla; stitched in red silk on white linen. It also includes the matching vertical border which I haven’t graphed yet, plus a sweet row of heart-shaped cartouches bearing heraldry, the frames of which are also on my futures list. I haven’t stumbled across another piece of linear stitching in this style from this region/time, so it’s a bit of a mystery. How prevalent was it? Was this type of work limited to church linen? Did it appear also on clothing? Obviously more research is needed. If you know of any other pieces in this family, please let me know.

Now on to iconography. While this piece has non-secular origins and was part of a chapel’s furnishings, its religious symbolism is not as direct as most church hangings. No martyrs. No pascal lambs, sacred hearts, or other standard symbols. Just pelicans and hounds. Even slightly misshapen, the quadrupeds are identifiable as coursing/sight hounds of some type. They are collared and belted, slim waisted and long legged, with floppy ears and pointy muzzles. Dogs, especially hunting hounds would have been seen as symbols of fidelity, determination, and loyalty. Pelicans are a bit more esoteric. Here they are shown “vulning” – piercing their breasts with their beaks, in order to feed their young with drops of blood. This was a standard bit of common folk legend at the time – along with the belief that worms spontaneously generated from the soil, and hedgehogs carried berries home to snack on later, impaled on their quills. Obviously the imagery was associated with self-sacrifice, devotion, and parental care.

Therefore, we have a cloth covered with symbols of devotion, loyalty, and self-sacrifice – something that would have special meaning in the religious setting. The background for this may be Sweden’s departure from the Catholic church in the late 1520s. Perhaps this rather humble, non-demonstrative bit of stitching (no gold, no gems, no saints) with its generic paean to virtues fits into the schism between Catholicism and Sweden’s developing Lutheran-based faith.

I admit I knew the pelican story courtesy of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It’s no secret that I’ve been involved with it deeply in the past, and continue to have many friends active in the organization today. The highest SCA award for service is the Pelican, and its badge is a pelican vulning. This highly respected honor recognizes those vital individuals whose labor, largely voluntary, is the fuel that keeps the organization running. If you ever attend an event and see someone with a brooch or pendant with a pelican, know that the person you have met is Very Important, and widely respected by their peers. My sampler will have pelicans on it, but I am not a member of that order, nor do I intend to display it in an SCA context. I could wear a badge with a laurel wreath, but that’s another story for another time.

Finally, I announce that we have embarked onto another Great Home Improvement Journey. This time it’s the basement. I will post before/during/after pix, but right now I am still packing up and stowing my needlework library, office area, and craft room. The chaos is palpable. Here are a few of my stitching and knitting books. I’ve already had reason to refer to them, but have had to sit on my hands and just contemplate my wall of boxes. Work on the basement proper should begin by April. Until then, it’s lift, sort, box, and stack for me.


Yesterday was windy. Really, really windy. My neighborhood was hit by several amazingly strong downbursts that felled more than several trees. While a big chunk of the two trees in the corner of our lot fell victim, we were lucky in that there were no injuries, nor was there any major damage to any houses or cars. Note that the wind was SO loud when this happened we did not hear the crash. I felt a tremor through the floor, and went to look out of the window, having no clue as to the cause. This is what I saw:

Yes, my neighbor’s empty shed was dented a bit, and the rather iffy fence between our properties took some additional damage, but for such a large pile of downed wood, we came off quite lightly.

Today the tree crew is here. They are removing the debris, and trimming up the larger of the two maples involved in an effort to preserve it. Sadly, the slightly smaller (but still quite large) maple in front of the corner tree is too shredded to save. It’s only got two remaining tufts in its crown – not enough to keep it going. So, compromised as it is, it’s coming down today, in a deliberate rather than wind-wild bit of destruction.

First – how to remove half-a-tree, splayed across two properties, and precariously balanced?

From above.

This aeronaut descended on the boom crane, affixed the lift straps to the main segment, and up they went. Once the limb was off the ground and over a safe spot, he lowered himself down by rope, and the crane lifted the thing up and over my neighbor’s house to dangle in their front yard.

Then the ground crew cut the “fingers” off the suspended “hand” and fed them into the chipper/disposal truck. In the mean time, other guys in the back yard hauled the smaller stuff away.

After this debris was cleared, it was time to prune back the shattered limb of the larger maple, and to remove the smaller one (seen next to the hard-hatted fellow in the photo above).

The result. One sadly halved corner tree, and one stump.

It’s going to be a lot sunnier in our yard from now on. And that corner now cries out for a large shrub of some type – preferably with nice, dense leaves, for privacy. I also suspect that negotiation with the neighbor to the side will lead to the elimination or replacement of the falling fence. There’s also that stump to deal with…

Oh. And to prove that progress indoors is happening, too – here’s the latest on my Lucus Orthai Ta sampler, that will bear my dancing skeletons edging:

I’m just beginning the L, having finished UCU. On the second line TH and part of the A are complete. You can also spy a tiny bit of the innermost band of the edging above the UC. It’s mirrored at the centerpoint – its rightmost edge in the snippet worked so far. More on that as the piece grows, but first I have to complete the letters in cross stitch. Like finishing up a dreaded dish for dinner, before getting dessert.


At long last – after 14+ years of living with wallpaper curling off the walls, we have finally gotten the dining room put together.  The delay was mostly caused by the need to address functional/structural issues of the house before we could get to aesthetics.  So now with the kitchen done and all of the deep infrastructure problems put to bed (and with luck, staying there) we have had a chance to play.

Here’s the Before – dismal 1960s-era beige with wheat ears wallpaper, falling off the plaster in great, crumbling strips:


And here’s the after – re-papered, and with the furniture returned to the room, and the replacement, smaller sideboard happily ensconced.

In time Newer Sideboard will mellow to the same color as the rest of the furniture in the room.

The wallpaper is from Spoonflower, a play on a William Morris style print, by artist Amy Vail. Installation was by Buckets & Boards.

I think the paper truly makes the room!



It’s the end of an era here at String Central.  The sadly mangled, diseased, and ant-ridden street tree, a Norway Maple, in front of our house has been taken.

Here you see him before, in his final sickly days, already bearing The Dreaded Green Spot from the town arborist, marking him for terminal harvest.


When we moved in Tree was already teetering in health, with an extensive ant colony and other ailments.  We did the best we could by him, and for a while at least, he did look a bit fuller and happier.  But while we were out of the country in India, the utility company did some really horrible pruning, topping him and leaving the severed main trunk to rot.  Although squirrels made their home in the resulting hollow, from that time Tree declined.  Quickly.

Here’s today’s result, pix from Elder Daughter, who was on the spot (so to speak):

20170912_113603 20170912_113644 20170912_113717 20170912_113617

While it’s sad to lose the shade, we really haven’t had any in a couple of years.  Plus Tree was dropping branches, and wobbled with a strong push – not a safe state in which to be.

With luck next year the town will remove the stump, and we will be able to file our request for Son of Tree.


We’re in the final glide path to high school graduation here, plus birthdays.  We spent the weekend cleaning and gardening like crazy – and there’s still a ton to do.

That means removing a frosting of construction dust from every surface of the house; unpacking and placing the remaining kitchen goods (sorting out stuff to save for future spawn-apartments, or for charitable donation); washing all the floors; replacing the rugs stowed away from the chaos; waking up the garden from winter doldrums; building the new bean trellis out of last year’s giant grass canes; planting the beans; attacking the colonizing blanket of unwelcome weeds in the flower beds; staking the peonies; scrubbing down the bathrooms (similarly affected by construction dust); and generally putting everything to order.  We didn’t finish, but we put a huge dent in it all. That means no time spent on detailed photography of the new orderly and in-service kitchen, and precious little time on needlework or knitting (although I did finish the last of my stack of Birthday (and Un-Birthday) socks in time).  Plus the normal weekend regimen of cleaning and cooking for the ensuing week. I am now exhausted just tallying it all up.

Here is what I can report photographically.

The kitchen works!  This is old news already – The Resident Male making short ribs last weekend:


Younger Daughter and The Denizen got all decked out for the Senior Prom.  The went with a herd of friends, and had a great time.


Spiffy, no?

And we had an amazing joint birthday cake – home-baked, of course, courtesy of Younger Daughter.  She used the America’s Test Kitchen Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake recipe in her first trial run of the new ovens.  Oh, so good!



We’re finally closing in on the last leg of the Great Kitchen Rehab.

Cabinets are in.  Appliances are in and working.  Most of the drawer and cabinet pulls are installed.  The protective covers on the tile floor, soapstone counters, and range hood are gone.  All that remain are the missing pulls (the hardware order was short), a minor electrical fix on the overhead fan and its controls, final clean-up plus oiling down the soapstone, and painting.

Kitchen-rehab-19 Kitchen-rehab-20

Most of the missing pulls are cup-style, as seen on the left, below.  And one detail that wasn’t seen before is the leaded glass panel suspended in front of the transom window.  Apologies for the odd lighting – it’s tough to get a photo of a clear window in the late evening.

Kitchen-rehab-21 Kitchen-rehab-22

The backsplash extends across the entire wall below the cabinets on the sink side, and behind the rangetop, under the window and up the other side of the window (a skinny strip) on the other side of the room.  The end wall surrounding the door to the dining room is bare.

The soapstone will darken considerably when oiled/waxed.

The painter should start next Monday, possibly earlier if he is available.  It’s just the one room, so it shouldn’t take long.  The walls are a very pale dove grey, with the now-poplar-color window, door and baseboard trim done in an enamel, one click darker.  The ceiling will be white.

After painting we have the next challenge – moving everything back into the kitchen, figuring out where it goes and stowing it all safely away.  I’ve already ordered oilcloth to line the pull-out drawers of the pantry, so with luck we’ll avoid those sticky circles under bottles of oil or molasses, that happen no matter how carefully they are wiped down.

The next post on the kitchen rehab will be the last one, with everything done, plus a before and after set to finally banish the ghosts of the vaguely Colonial style cherry veneer that used to be.

What will we cook first in our new kitchen?  Hmmm…..


It’s been a while since the last post.  Progress has been steady all this time, but it’s been incremental, with not that much that was exciting enough to show off.  After all – one wall’s worth of additional baseboards or crown moldings does not make thrilling photos.  But now that it’s all in I can give everyone a peek.

The last is first – the stone countertops have arrived, and the copper sink has been placed (although functional installation is still down the road).  These pix were taken by The Resident Male, and were posted on Facebook yesterday.

We chose soapstone.  Yes, it does scratch more easily than granite, but we liked the look.  Plus, if it’s good enough for lab benches, it should be good enough for us.  The piece we ended up with has a lot of character.  Many people opt for more uniform slabs, but I really wanted the grain and inclusions to show:


Here is the area on the left side, away from the window, with the sink placed.  The dishwasher will go in the open area to the sink’s immediate right. (Finally!  A sink on the ergonomically correct side for a right-hander!)


And here’s the main workspace under the windows, where the sink used to be.  The stone is on both sides of the rangetop, also slid in but not functionally installed yet. That’s an ocean of prep space, enough for tag-team cooking and baking.


There’s another small bit of stone, on the other side of the fridge (which is to the right of the dishwasher).  That’s about 18 inches wide at most, and is a necessary place to plunk cell phones for recharging.

Now that all of the stone is in, the next thing the team did was cover it all up with protective cardboard so additional work would not harm it.  In these dawn-this-morning shots you see all of the cabinetry is now up, along with all of the crown molding, door and window frames, and baseboards. 

Here you see the lineup from the door to the dining room, with the opening for the wall oven and microwave next to it, past the sink and on to the big opening for the fridge (with the tiny counter just peeking out on the other side of the fridge space).


Yes, the upper cabinets are HIGH.  We’ll keep a stepstool in the kitchen for easier access.

Here’s the other side of the room, showing how the work area near the window flows.  There’s a small counter area to the right of the rangetop, and on the side of the prep area you see the pantry cabinet.  A real pantry with actual usable space and rolling, lipped shelves; instead of the narrow, near unusable bit we had before!


Finally, here is the view back towards the kitchen door, showing the laundry area, with its folding door reinstalled, and the utility cabinets opposite the entry door.  There will be a hanging bar beneath this, like there was before. While there are upper tier cabinets here, too, they are wood front, without the glass that’s in the main kitchen area.


The molding surrounds for the windows and doors are simpler than that in the rest of the downstairs, but coordinate with it in size and contour, as do the baseboards and plinths beneath the door surrounds.


All of the pale poplar woodwork you see (doors, windows and baseboards) will be painted.  It would very difficult to match the color of the cabinets with stain.  Also bring those linear elements forward would bring a heavier look to the room – very ‘70s, in fact.  Instead, when we paint the remaining walls a very pale dove grey, we will paint those trim elements in a very slightly darker, glossier grey, so that they visually recede.

We haven’t decided yet, but we may also paint the radiator cover under the entry way window.  Not sure yet about the folding door.

So that’s the progress for the past eight work days or so.  Remaining work includes the tile backsplashes behind the sink and stove/prep areas, install of the ovens, all supporting final finish electrical and plumbing work including the faucet, disposal, and filtered water tap, some tinkering/reinstall of the room’s radiators, and the lighting fixtures and ceiling fan.  After that comes painting. 

And then we can FINALLY move back into the kitchen, and cook our first celebratory meal.  I am so looking forward to it!


The Great Kitchen Project continues!  More cabinets were delivered and have been installed. 


Here you see the waay-up cabinets.  Sitting between the top of the standard height cabinets and the 9-foot ceiling, they are too high for access without a stepstool, but they will come in handy for storing those once-a-year things, like cookie tins, the Thanksgiving platter, and the like.  We opted for frosted glass fronts on them instead of the solid wood panel in order to lighten up the look, but still hide whatever is inside.  The arrival and beginning of the install on this set is our step forward.

Our step back is that our trusty master carpenter, on close inspection of some of the units put in by his team earlier in the week, noticed some flaws in the finish of some of the framing units and some of the doors.  He removed the suspect pieces and sent them back for more attention.  The delay isn’t great, but I am grateful that he knows what to look for, and cares about quality.  You can see cardboard protectors taped onto the front of the lower units, in place of the missing doors. 

No work today because of the cabinet return delay, and the crew needing to finish up another job for the same general contractor, but next week should see the re-install of the missing units, and the rest of the top level; finishing off the small crown molding on top (you can see the “behind” layer that will support it just above the top cabinets); and an attack made on the wood trim around the windows and doors.

Finally, in other news, the appliances have been delivered (but are still packed); and stone for the countertops will be chosen today.  And drawer/cabinet pull hardware has been ordered.  Stay tuned!


OK, here’s the latest progress on the great kitchen rehab project.  Fernando already these pix of the completed tile floor on Facebook:


The wandering washing machine has been moved back to its alcove home.  But you can see the floor.

We’ve chosen 18” x 6” tiles, and had them laid out with random overlap (instead of on halves or thirds), with the long dimension aligned with the long dimension of the room.  That makes the room look a bit larger, in both directions.

Here you can see the texture and color – it’s tile, but with a slate-like look.


Since a nice, clear room, with clean walls and a finished floor should not remain uncluttered for long, we move on:

kitchen-rehab-14  KitBefore-1a

Protective cover now down over the new tile for the duration of construction and our cabinets have been delivered!  The whole kitchen is pretty much crammed full of boxes of wood boxes.  And as you can see, they’re beginning to be installed. 

We’ve opted for plain shaker/mission style quarter-sawn oak in a light finish.  Much brighter than the dark cherry stain that was there (before pix provided for comparison).  I didn’t want painted white cabinets – the other option.  I much prefer the look of finished wood.

The layout is changing, too.  Where the useless pantry was before, will now be a microwave and wall oven (the large opening straight ahead).  On the right, where the upper cabinet notch is, will be the sink.  That used to be on the other side of the room, under the window.  I’ll miss looking out the window as I wash up, but moving the sink gives us a much more efficient countertop space allocation.  We’ll have a large prep area next to the stove. 

In the new layout photo above, there’s another cabinet next to the corner unit – then the sink, and a dishwasher ON THE RIGHT – no more twisty-turn to load the thing, and then the fridge.  And what you don’t see is that there is a second course of small cabinets going on top of these, bringing storage right up to the ceiling.  Those will have frosted glass fronts instead of the wood center panels, to make their facade less imposing.  Yes, we will need a stepstool to get into those top cabinets, but they will be a great place to stow stuff we only use once a year. 

Next photo will be more cabinet installs, both above and on the other side of the room.


Fernando beat me to the post, but progress continues on the kitchen.  We now have walls, shown here as blueboard backing:


And after plastering:


Today starts the tile floor – grey 6” x 18” tile with a slate-like look, laid the long way (parallel to the floorboards shown), staggered, so that the grouted joints between the tiles don’t line up on the horizontal.  Sort of like this:


The first step will be another layer on top of these old sub-floor boards, on which the tiles will be set.  The whole install will take several days, so there won’t be all that much other progress to report until it is completed, and we have a floor again.