Home Improvement


Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!


Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.

YARD WORK:

The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

Normally Mondays are when  I share a new Flavor of the Week, but this weekend was once again filled with home renovation projects that took up more of my time than I anticipated, so it’ll be postponed until next Monday. Today’s post is a mix of home renovations and a very fun and frolicky episode of 23 Paws, sponsored by Cinnamon at Eat, Pray, Tri! I’ll start with the serious business of home renovations first. :)

It all began on Saturday with my husband opening up a wall panel out on the porch and discovering an infestation of these picnic crashers in a corner post which has supported this lovely house for over 200 years (I made the picture small in case anyone doesn’t care for bugs/insect pics, click on the picture to see a larger view):

Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants! The closet on the porch had some water damage. After opening up the wall panel, we realized how extensive the damage really was. These carpenter ants are eating away at one of the main posts of the house. It seems their nest has been exposed, but we’re definitely having an exterminator come over to get rid of them once and for all!

After seeing this damage, I got really upset…more like mad…more like pee-ohed! I felt invaded by these tiny creatures, and the added expense getting rid of them just pushes back other projects we had planned. There was nothing I could do about these ants, or about the rotting pillar, and I needed to take my anger out on something…ah, the kitchen floor!

Before: cracked and water-damaged vinyl tiles made the kitchen floor uneven, dirty, and our chairs always got caught up on the curled-up edges of the tile.

After: the bare wood floors are nice and even, no water damage.

It took about 2 1/2 hours to remove all the nailed-down sheets of tile, and the thousands of nails that were used excessively to hold them down. The next day, my plan was to move out the stove and a section of cabinets to remove the rest of the old tile. The cabinets were nailed to the floor as well as the walls, but my husband and I were able to pry and saw it free! After that, I decided to start painting.

Still had enough anger the next day to prime some of the cabinets, part of the wall, and spray paint the handles shiny silver.

All in all, it took about 5 1/2 hours to pry the cabinets from the floor & walls, get rid of the tile underneath, and paint just this section. Still lots more to go, and if it weren’t for the discover of the ants, I would have never been motivated to get started. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?

Okay, now to the fun part of today’s post: it’s 23 Paws, hosted by Cinnamon at Eat, Pray, Tri23 Paws is a monthly meet-up for bloggers showing off pictures of their favorite animals in action. Since the first half of my post was all serious and a bit stressful, here are some not-so-serious and very relaxing photos of my cats enjoying their favorite plant: catnip!

Here’s Sammy hogging the catnip shortly after I planted it. I thought that plant wouldn’t make it through the week, but it’s pretty resilient.

That catnip plant that used to be picked on grew like the weed that it is! Sammy is going nuts over a freshly crumpled leaf. That’s his drool that he’s lying in. :)

Awww…Wolfie had a whole branch of catnip and Trixie cautiously looked on.

Trixie, unabashedly giving herself to the allure of the catnip.

Do you have any catnip for your cats? How do they react to it? :D

As fun as it is to load up my Pinterest board with ideas for a dream kitchen or dream outdoor kitchen, I realized (after watching my husband do all the dirty work,) that nothing is more important than taking care of the basics: electrical and plumbing.

Last Sunday he started ripping out parts of our kitchen floor to replace some old pipes and wiring that ran from the basement to the kitchen. He installed a new line and electrical for our washer and dryer that’s now located outside on the porch:

You can see the box he installed behind the washer. All new pipes & electric.

It was pretty difficult because he couldn’t access the pipes from under the kitchen floor; there is the stone foundation directly underneath so he had to rerun the lines the same way as the old ones by going horizontal about 10-12 feet amidst the laid-up foundation and wooden beams supporting the kitchen. It wasn’t a straight shot and the space was pretty snug, but thanks to fish tape and an assistant with smallish hands, he was able to get the new pipes and electrical through.

Then the next difficult part was soldering elbow pieces to fit the small spaces, then to solder them together in tight spots, like under the sink and within the wall. After he made sure the water lines were leakproof, he moved out the washer and we now have an empty corner in the kitchen for our future bathroom!

Not sure how we’ll do it, but we’ll get a bathroom down here.

With all the stuff going on inside, the garden outside is growing. Despite my parents raising tomatoes and roses commercially, I didn’t inherit their green thumb. This is my first time having a garden and I love seeing new growth every day:

cucumber tendril

I planted chamomile where I could see the flowers from the kitchen.

Sammy by the squash. He is the most camera shy out of the three cats.

A gray and rainy morning giving our plants a good soak.

Salamander enjoying the much needed rain.

I hope your Friday morning is off to a good start. I’ll be back tomorrow with a light lunch recipe for this month’s Recipe Redux!

Hi, everyone! My apologies for not having the Flavor of the Week post ready today. My husband was busy updating the plumbing and electrical in the kitchen, and I was kind of helping:

Exposing the pipes to rerun water lines and electrical to sink, porch and stove (he had to replace the plug on that, too!)

He cut through the floorboards to rerun the water line to the kitchen, then cut a hole in the wall to run it out to the porch for our washer and dryer (currently in the kitchen by the front door.)

The pipes were weird: they ran under the floor, then jumped up a few inches to run above the floor (bottom center.) The fridge was propped up on 1×2’s to accommodate for this unusual plumbing design.

The other side of the kitchen sink: the bottom of the wall was removed to run the water and electrical for the washer & dryer. The white box is where the shut off valves will be.

Future location of our washer and dryer, back left corner.

Dinner from the Doctor! My husband said it’s like the Kraft brand in Germany. :)

It’s not burnt, we like our cheese well-done! It wasn’t bad for a frozen thin-crust pizza, but since it was a wheat crust, my belly inflated like a party balloon. Oh well, at least it was the end of the day!

My husband is slowly working on home improvement projects here and there, and I can’t wait for the kitchen to be updated! We’ll be doing some painting and installing new floors in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

I know some of you are working on home renovations as well, how’s it coming along? Or if you are in the process of moving, what are your plans for decorating your new home? What’s your favorite room to decorate? (it’s the kitchen, right?)

In the meantime, I’ll post the Flavor of the Week by Wednesday, so stay tuned!

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