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


by the Artist

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

A quote I have on my personal email signature that resonates with me. Someone commented about it recently and it made me pause. I could not remember who quoted it. William Morris a 19th century author, designer and craftsman. 

A few years back I dipped my toe into a bit of professional organizing. I loved it. It was always thrilling to see a space be transformed. It took work. For me to keep patient as we worked through "donate, sell, recycle or trash" for every single item. For the other person to stay focused and work with me through the process. 

The thrilling part comes at the end when the room is clutter free. I love to "stage" the room, rearrange furniture, bring in some fresh flowers for a table that formally was completely covered in papers- coupons, bills whatever landed there. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It's kind of like my own little "Fixer Upper" reveal. It is really a rush for this beauty bringer.

It's spring as I write this. The trees out my window have tiny leaves and buds waiting for sunshine and warmth to burst open. It's the season of new beginnings. More so then January 1 in my opinion. Who doesn't have a desire to clean something out? A drawer or garage. Organize the clutter and debris of those long housebound winter months. 

Useful and beautiful. Sentimental? A good bargain? A later possible use? How to stay in control of all the things that flow into our lives. Coupons littered on the counter among the junk mail, receipts and store purchase bags, groceries that didn't get put away, old batteries and pens that don't work, paper clips and an old key (for what?). Life on this earth can and is extremely overwhelming. Just too much stuff. Stuff strangles and can own us. I've seen it shut a person down.

I know it is easy for me to say that. I am not overly sentimental. I keep heart memories over physical memory objects. Years ago I wanted to keep something from one of our dogs when she died. The Carpenter said..."let it go and keep her memory in your heart". Well that stuck with me.

These days I share my organizing gene with friends and family. Currently I'm driving almost an hour to help a friend who owns a farm and is recently remarried. We're making room for her new husband's belongings in an already full house with not the best storage. The hours fly by like minutes. It is intensely gratifying work and brings me such happiness to bring happiness to another person. And it doesn't hurt that it is a farm if any of you know me. ;) 






Estimating for you.

by the Artist

Mazie our Snack Manager apprentice on her first photo shoot!

Mazie our Snack Manager apprentice on her first photo shoot!

We had three big projects going simultaneously over the winter. Which made this winter move along quickly. We are still on the third project- a front porch craftsman entrance and third garage for a traditional rambler. 

In preparation for the later start of phase 2 of this project- the front entry porch- we had to keep the ground from freezing before deep ground frost settled in. One day walking Mazie out in our marsh this spring I was curious about what looked like "hay" and smelled like hay laying on top of last seasons flattened marsh grass. I thought.. "well this is weird! The marsh must have grown some really thick grass last season!" Yes I'm blonde.

Then I found out that the hay that was used on top of a heavy tarp to keep the ground from freezing for the porch, had been spread around the marsh by the Carpenter this spring. Hmmm. I said well why couldn't we have given it to my friend who has a farm?... I guess it wasn't fresh enough, but it looked "fresh" to me. Anyway.. along with his "farm" like duties.. the Carpenter has been meeting with a ton of homeowners for a variety of projects. This is the time of the year when we get increased website contacts. I don't know how one guy can work on that many bids at one time.

When a homeowner contacts us for potential work, the Carpenter meets initially with them (along with me if there is design involved), takes photos, measurements, gathers project plans (if there are any) and whatever info he needs to write up an "estimate". He then depending on the size of the project, brings in his subs to get their estimates. Then he gathers all the info and writes up the estimate. This can take quite a few hours. But thankfully after 30+ years in the business, his time instincts (how long a project will take.. are pretty accurate (not including customer change orders for added work to the original proposal). He sometimes presents the estimate in person, calls or emails. Again it all just depends on the time constraints.

We do not charge for estimates. With all the work involved it seems like an industry standard that needs to be revised. And just like any other business.. the competition is steep. He just spent hours on a estimate for a large project we didn't get. Win a few lose a few. The Carpenter tries to assess what the competition might be bidding against him on a potential project.. and sometimes he's wrong. He likes to know what the competition is, how many people might be involved in the bid and what might his chances be to get the project. Sometimes he knows right away that there is no budget for what the homeowner wants to do, and he will use a very rough estimate just to see if the project is in the realm of possibility. If he knows (based on the customer's reaction) that they had no idea what it actually costs... then he knows it is time to move on. (He always asks if they have gotten other bids to use as a comparison). I asked the Carpenter what is the best way to pick the right estimate based purely on the numbers. He said.. "throw out the lowest and the highest and pick from the middle." 

Oh and if a homeowner wants to hire Applewood to handle their project.. the Carpenter then creates a formal proposal that is signed and the work begins!

I thought about what to write for this post, and realized that writing about the estimate process would be the most appropriate and transparent, as that is what is consuming the Carpenter these days. Just know that if you are reading this post and considering contacting us to bid your project... the Carpenter will put together an accurate realistic estimate for you.



Carrying on.

by the Artist

Training our hearts out. That's how it feels these days with our latest hire.. Mazie. She is full of life and sass. We haven't gotten to "how to manage snacks" portion of the job yet (right now she's exploring counter cruising). Still covering the basics. We are looking forward to starting a puppy class this Thursday night. We just know she will be the smartest dog in the class! ;)

The Carpenter and crew just finished up the Birchwood Renovation Project and The Lecuyer Project It was nice to work with two different architectural styles. It is always so satisfying to complete a project where the homeowners are thrilled with their new spaces. We are now full steam ahead on the Floral Project building a third garage, and adding a front porch entrance to update a rambler.

The Carpenter is meeting weekly with potential customers on a variety of projects. (we are booking into spring but still have room in our schedule for you!) He continues to manage the projects, pick up supplies and just generally be there for homeowner or crew's project concerns or questions. He is so busy he doesn't have time to write a post these days for this blog. What can I say? 

Carrying on.


Mazie's first adventure

by the Artist

It's been a hectic 5 weeks since Mazie Grace came into our lives. She hasn't started snack management training yet.. is still learning the do's and don'ts of civilized proper behavior for a lady. They say that manners have gone out of style.. well that won't be the case for Miss Mazie. She will have a lot of responsibilities and will need to know how to behave in different situations. 

We are on the home stretch for the Lecuyer Project (head to this link to see photos of this project) I decided that it was time to introduce Mazie to a job site. Training started when she entered the crate in the car. It was an eventful trip. She is prone to car sickness. Both ends. She is amazing. ;O

Anyway it was great to see the job in person. The woodworking trim details are beautiful. The marble subway tile is the perfect compliment to the white, gray and tan color scheme. I can't wait to see the finished project. I met the homeowner and he couldn't be happier.

So here's to finishing strong this week. And for another excellent job done. And for puppies learning how to ride nicely in a car!


Heart grain.

by the Artist

Today I remembered a small wood heart box the Carpenter made for me when we were dating many years ago for Valentine's Day. I have had it out of sight for a long time. And to be truthful.. at the time I didn't think much about it. I was young and wasn't wise enough to appreciate sweet simple "heartfelt gifts" that were handmade. I was more impressed with getting a diamond, flowers and or something really impressive. Gosh I was shallow. 

I now value life differently then when I was young. Well I guess that just goes with the territory. I used to want a large home, I wanted to live in downtown White Bear Lake, I wanted a screened porch (well I still would like that). I wanted new cars and an abundance of in style clothes. A boat and later a nice camper. I could go on as I'm sure you could too.

Today I am valuing my little heart box. I'm thinking about the care and thought that a high school kid put into it. And now looking back.. if I had looked hard enough I would have seen the man the Carpenter was going to be. His good heart, his creativty, his integrity, his values and thoughtfulness. It was all for display in that little wooden heart box.

I found the box and opened it today. I didn't remember I had stored so many memories of my childhood there. My childhood dog Schultzie's tag, my 8th Grade Good Citizenship Award, my Girl Scout ring and pins, a wooden nickel, my childhood heart locket, my first pair of pieced earrings that look like lady bugs, a miniature bottle with sailboat in it from my Grandfather and a New Jersey state charm. I am not a sentimental person but looking through the contents made me positively mushy.

I realized it's never too late to start valuing the simple things in life. That homemade gift. A modest little home. Maybe it isn't the grandest nor does it have the latest sought after features.. it does hold your life and your memories. It does have value. And it does show its potential if you look hard enough. 

So heres to a little wooden heart box, and the little treasures its been keeping for me all these years. And to that high school carpenter who created from his heart. 

I do appreciate you.








by the Artist

We have finally filled our Snack Manager position! Introducing Amazing Grace. We are calling her Mazie. She has big paws to fill. Our Grace was a sweetheart in all ways. And she did her job well! So it has taken some time to find the right candidate for the position. Our standards are high. 

This past Saturday we drove into the country (where all dog breeders seem to live) and picked her out of a squirming loud box of white! It wasn't easy. Another buyer was there picking up his pup and we were left to fend for ourselves. We knew we only had two female pups to choose from... and it was a challenge picking out a female that was not already chosen from the wiggly loud group.

I picked Gracie 13 years ago. This time the Carpenter picked Mazie. He just knew. I didn't know. I was actually kind of overwhelmed. How to pick another docile dog? And I knew the work ahead and the lifestyle change, and that shadowed my day.

And really how on earth do you know what temperament you are getting?

We thought she was docile and quiet. Well she was docile and quiet (probably terrified!) and sick on the way home. Yep.. twice.

And did I say she was quiet? Well.. that was for the car ride only. She is loud, knows her bark, uses her bark. She is sassy, spunky, smart, fearless and adorable. She is not docile. gulp. The Carpenter has already given this 7 week old pup two nick names. "Dora the Explorer" and "Mazie-a-go-go". The first night home she crawled under one of the work trailers and came out with a black smudge of grease on her face! Yep she's gonna fit right in.

It's a new day around here. We look forward to happy years with this pup. And proper snack management!