Chasing the cold.

by the Artist


It's been a trying couple of weeks weather wise, for a good part of the US and here in Minnesota. And in particular for those who work outside. We thankfully are mostly inside right now. Except for one project where we are building an addition, where we broke into the main house this week. That took a run to Fleet Farm to purchase kerosene to heat the new addition, to keep the existing home warm despite the hole in the wall! Also lots of plastic over the opening to keep the drafts at a minimum.

We've had our fair share of outside work during the coldest part of winter. It is always challenging. Always. The Carpenter has frostbite damage to prove it! Everything just takes longer and is harder to do in bitter temps. Why are we in this business? Makes us wonder sometimes! 

Currently we are working on a large sun room addition/master bedroom/bath remodel, master shower project, and next up replacing windows. Life goes on here in Minnesota despite our temps. I've taken the Snack Manager outside for play times every day at subzero wind chills. Somehow she's still puppy enough to not notice her cold paws as long as she has a ball to chase, a stick to chew, or the marsh to explore. Me it's harder to ignore. But as the cold snap continues I seem to be acclimating to it. And I'm originally from New Jersey. So it is possible to survive and thrive in this cold without being made of sturdy midwest stock!

So cheers to living in Minnesota! To having a small construction business in Minnesota and to not only surviving but thriving! 

Some cold construction photos. 




by the Artist


This year is a different Christmas for me but more so for my east coast family. My father fell and broke his hip, and will spend Christmas in rehab. My father's sister is moving into his house while she figures out where she wants to live next after some life changes. In the meantime my sister has been trying to stay on top of taking care of my father's needs- kicking in Long Term Care Insurance, bringing requested items to the rehab facility, and preparing his home for his sister to move in. She carrys a heavy load with me 1200 miles away. So.. there will be no Christmas in Doylestown PA this year. And that is a first. 

I've told both my sister and aunt.. please don't worry about gifts this year. It doesn't matter. Give yourself permission to let it go. I've had years where I didn't put up a tree. And it was okay. I didn't really miss it. 

For me... this Christmas is different too. The Carpenter.. after an extremely busy fall.. continues not to be home very much. (right now as I write this at 6:30 PM he is yet again at Home Depot picking up supplies for tomorrow morning.) So I've been taking care of Christmas preparations. Today I was at Cabella's waiting in a long line of Christmas shoppers when one of their clerks fainted (or something like that) The EMT's came and they helped the poor guy onto the gurney. He could hardly hold himself up. I usually get squeamish when I see medical emergencies, but this time I talked myself through my panic and prayed for him. How awful to collapse in a public place with everyone looking at you.

In the blink of an eye Christmas plans can change. 

I choose to let go. Embrace or at the very least relax into what life is sending my way. I choose to enjoy my "lightly" decorated home, to look forward to spending Christmas day with my Minnesota family, I choose to accept the ordinary and maybe... will find the extraordinary. 

I choose to be present this Christmas. To remember the reason behind why we deck the halls, stand in long lines, hunt for the perfect gift, and spend long hours in the kitchen. There is nothing in the bible that requires us to do so. We need only accept that one precious gift.







There's no time like the holidays to start updating your home!

by the Artist


I have a very small gallery style kitchen. When we gutted this old house I chose to have a view from my kitchen window, and so we moved the kitchen to the other side of the house and I lost space. I do wish I had an island but am more content these days with what I have. (but if the Carpenter has a notion to knock out a wall to widen my kitchen I won't complain!)

Two weeks before Thanksgiving with help from friends I repainted the kitchen and eating area a pale warm gray and repainted the red hutch black. I had been living with a sage green that we had used on our last spec home kitchen. No more green.

I bought new curtains, a star shaped foyer light fixture, and new dining room chair cushions. I bought Joanna Gaine's striped black and cream cloth napkins to use on my kitchen window. And a paper mache deer head to mount on the wall. (I did ask the Carpenter if I could have a set of real antlers to paint but that request didn't go far). I've got roman shades to buy, a new love seat and more but I'm off to a good start.

I plan to repaint the entire interior of the house this winter. And update whatever I can without asking the Carpenter to knock down any walls. You know he doesn't have any time for that sort of thing! I do need new countertops but will have to wait for those.

I love Joanna Gaines style. I love a white, black and wood tone palette. I love gold and navy.. bold colors contrasted with pale colors. When we moved in the walls were Ben Moore "Floral White" and my kitchen knobs were gold. I was on trend before anyone else was. And now white and gold are back, and I threw those lovely gold drawer pulls away years ago in favor of oiled bronze. sigh.

I will share my thoughts and some photos along the way. You can hold me accountable to keep on task!




by the Artist


It's been a rough few weeks. Four years of searching (and all that entails) for talented crew members finally caught up with us. Bountiful projects and not enough workers. It brewed a perfect storm. And it landed heavily on the Carpenter's shoulders and mind. He's had to manage the projects and step in to do the work. It's been extremely long days, very late nights and weekends. He's had to juggle the crew to keep all the projects going. And in the spirit of transparency about our build life.. working seven days a week doesn't make for much home life. 

The past two weeks culminated in the longest days yet this week. The carpenter had a project deadline he was determined to meet because he made a promise. He would roll in around midnight and be gone by 7:30 the next morning. Last night he came home at two am. (the homeowners were out of town so he could work on the project late). He is beyond exhausted physically and emotionally. I've never seen such sheer resolve.

Well thanks to two new crew members who came on board in the past two weeks, our lead and the Carpenter's determination, we have met that particular project deadline, as well as keeping up with our other projects within the constraints of waiting for and bringing on new crew. And we are happy to say that we have found two really super guys.

Hiring talented crew isn't easy in this economy and culture. But through it all we believed that if God brought the work.. he would bring the workers and he did!

So I'm looking forward to having the Carpenter back home in the evenings and weekends and he's looking forward to getting some rest!

Porch update

by the Artist


Anyone traveling by Applewood headquarters will notice our porch is getting a facelift. It was showing its age after 18 years. Hard to believe we have lived here long enough, that now our original renovation is needing renovation!

So for the past two weekends the Carpenter has been demoing and rebuilding. And this has brought us to a big design decision. To remove the porch railing which opens up the space pretty dramatically as well as updating the style, or rebuilding the rail system. 

My original intention was to rebuild the railing. It has served us well. It adds just enough privacy from our very busy road. And now we are wide open to the road. Wide open. So there's a problem needing to be solved! After much discussion we have settled on adding a landscaped garden area to create soft privacy. We could incorporate a section of fencing too. But I'm not sure I want that much privacy. 

This will be phase 1 of updating our 20 year renovation project. I'm going for all white with black accents. Modern "farmhouse" style. I'm focusing on simple updates that won't take much of the Carpenter's time or strain our budget. The most expensive part of the update will be a new craftsman front door which will be either black or stained depending on where I land design wise. I'm going to try painting all the window grids black and remove the shutters. These changes will definitely freshen and update our cape cod. 

We also have a very old mostly dead pine tree that will be taken down that the Carpenter wants a wood carving done with part of the trunk. If we can nestle a "white bear" into garden scape in a subtle way then I'm all for that!

The Carpenter finished up late last evening in the rain. He had to get the steps in. I can't wait to see it finished! If only the Carpenter had more time. ha!


by the Artist


It is really September! Today here in Minnesota feels like fall. It never fails. The warm month of August slips into the first days of September and the great "switch" in the sky is flipped to "autumn". That's the way I've always thought of it living here. And the Carpenter commented today that the "Old Man" is coming. (winter).

The Carpenter has had a particularly busy summer interviewing and hiring to expand our work force. We have the biggest project load in 30+ years, and more help is needed to complete all the projects done in a timely manner. He has spent many many evenings/days at our local Caribou Coffee shop meeting potential candidates. We have found some great guys and are looking forward to having them all on board by October.

The Carpenter is also is spending many hours putting project bids together. (right now it is 10 PM and he is in his office) He recently told me about a method he uses to put together the bids. (so he doesn't miss any areas) He literally starts from the ground up like he is working on an actual project, detail by detail "building" the bid. And the bids are complex. Every single aspect of the proposed project has to be written down, thoroughly researched, and all pricing/information gathered from vendors and subcontractors. I handle the final part. Proofing all the proposals. 

And somewhere in all of that he has to project manage on the job sites, as well as meet with all the current and future potential homeowners.

And then there is home time. There isn't much of that these days. This past Labor Day weekend he did start a project to replace all the rotted wood on our 20 year old front porch while I painted new Applewood lawn sign frames. Yes Labor Day lived up to it's name for us!

We're looking forward to fall and a full crew. It will speed up our work timelines and free the Carpenter to spend more time with me. I can only hope!





Getting there.

by the Artist

We have just returned from our first two week vacation in 30+ years! When I realized that fact the other day I kind of shuddered. That just isn't right. 

We headed to our favorite camping spot in Hayward Wisconsin pulling our RV behind us. We left very late in the day.. missed our departure deadline by 3 hours which caused us to have to set up in the dark (more about that later). The worst thing about setting up a remote "home sweet home" is all the preparation involved. If I wasn't so full of adrenaline and anticipation to get away... I would surely sit down in the middle of the driveway.. arms loaded with more "necessary" stuff.. and have a good cry. But I usually save the tears for unpacking after.

Along the way to camp we donated a lovely three plug electrical cord (the Carpenter's favorite) to a lucky fellow traveler. The Carpenter looked back at the bed of the truck and saw the cord just ever so slightly over the side. He asked me if I thought it would move... it was very very still... and I said "naah". 

We pulled in at dusk, had a hard time backing the trailer in, between the tight campsite entrance, and the artist "helper," it wasn't pretty. Then as I was standing waiting for my next order... I didn't see the Carpenter in the dark on the other side of the truck. I walked around to find him picking himself up off the ground gripping his side. He had tripped on a tree root and dislocated a rib and basically couldn't breathe. I thought.. well so much for our first two week vacation! But thankfully the next day it popped back into place and we were able to stay. 

We're back and getting settled into build life. We have a full load of projects for the balance of the summer and need to hire. So this week the Carpenter is setting up the interviews. We are hiring an experienced residential remodeling Carpenter and also looking for an Apprentice– an individual who wants to learn the trade and start a new career. Know anyone?

I'm going to start planning our next vacation now.




Time for a cup of lemonade!

by the Artist

The other day the Carpenter came home after work and told me a sweet story. He had visited a little lemonade stand that had been set up across the street from one of our projects. Two adorable little sister girls were manning the table. Of course the Carpenter bought a cup and gave them a generous tip. 

Anyway he went back to the job site and happened to look up and see a group of boys biking onto the street. He heard them say.. "Hey a lemonade stand! Let's take it!". (I go right to the bully scenes in a Christmas story.) The Carpenter headed back over to the girls and made sure the boys left them alone. He asked the little girls if they knew the boys, and if they were mean to them and they said yes. He said "well if you have any more trouble come get me or better yet... go get your Mom!" The boys left without a sip of lemonade.

Now how can you not trust a Carpenter who defends little sister girls at a lemonade stand from a pack of bully boys on bikes? I think he will more then care for your project. And he also wouldn't mind a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day if you have one!

PA or Bust!

by the Artist

My Mother's vintage rose bush. Was from my great grandmother's bush. Beautiful blush.

My Mother's vintage rose bush. Was from my great grandmother's bush. Beautiful blush.

I've been away. The Carpenter had to take care of business, home and puppy duties on his own. While I spent two weeks in Pennsylvania helping my Dad transition into life without my Mom– who passed last July. What I anticipated being two weeks of clearing out clothes, light organizing and throwing expired items out of the frig.. ended up being two weeks of dealing with my Dad's mounting health concerns.

I had a crash course in senior issues. 

Doctor visits, scans, PT, senior community housing tours and looking into when long term care insurance could be activated occupied my days. It broke my heart to see my 6'3" executive father in a weakened state. And harder yet to see my sister struggle to handle all the crisis' as the "first responder". (she lives near by)

We had a nurse visit the last day I was there to do an evaluation on my Dad and his home. She just shuddered at how dangerous his home is. No light for the stairwell to the second floor! area rugs, narrow crowded pathways and a large step-in tub. Not to mention the beautiful 3 acre property is a landmine of tree roots and uneven ground. What made this home so beautiful is now a hazard to my father.

He wants to stay there.. not sure how that will shake out. In the meantime we need to make the house as safe as possible. Lighting for the second floor staircase, a lift chair for both staircases (one for the basement), clearing furniture clutter, somehow simplifying his complicated lifestyle.. he's always loved antiques, feeding the birds and working in the yard.

It's gonna be a huge job. A bigger change. But one that is doable if done with sensitivity and firm positive steps.

Hopefully my Dad can stay where he lives for the foreseeable future. He will be able to continue enjoying the birds, deer and turkeys and putter around. If we can make his environment safe, and get him the in-home care that he will need.

One thing I noticed about the house. It has lost its heart. My Mother was the heart of the home. She had a lovely warm decor style and a soft presence. I always looked forward to her big smile when I arrived from Minnesota. She was always so happy to see me. And she never complained about anything. Never made me feel guilty for living so far away. I missed her terribly this visit.

I'm sure I will be heading back to PA sooner then later. It's hard being 1200 miles away. I wish I could bring the Carpenter along in my suitcase to help. And maybe the snack manager to brighten the day with her antics!


by the Artist

"In every nook, I find little things that tell me about her. She was a noticer... for all the shelves are lined with shells, bird feathers, dried sea grasses, pebbles, eggshells. They're just bits that were lying on the ground, that anyone else would step over or on, but she saw that they were beautiful and brought them home."

I am currently reading a book and these words jumped out at me. I haven't heard that term "noticer" before but it resonates with me. I'm a "noticer". I have collections too of bits of egg shells, feathers, a piece of birch bark. I walked last week up in Brainerd on a nature trail. I kept my eyes on the ground constantly looking. I'd rather take a photo of a detail of nature then of a human. It's just how I'm made. 

The Carpenter is a "noticer" too. Nothing gets by him. He notices when something is ever so slightly out of level, when there is a small gap, when something doesn't quite line up. He notices subtle variations in matching stain hues. After so many years..he just knows and can "see". And if he notices he makes sure it is fixed. Nothing is going to change that. Our lead carpenter Adam who is in his 10th year with us notices now too. Our standards are high. I've said that before. It's not gonna change.

So if you want your project done right, even in the "unseen" areas.. you probably want to give us a shout. We'd be happy to be a "noticer" for you.

Quote:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society