Friday, April 23, 2010

In the Kitchen

My antsy-ness to get the house done continues, but so does progress on the house. The hot news this week is that the kitchen cabinets are in and they are gorgeous!

I wanted the cabinets to go all the way to the ceiling, but I read in a design blog that solid cabinet doors would look too "monumental". They suggested putting a second, shorter bank of cabinets with glass doors up near the ceiling. And that's what I did. I can put my fancy/pretty stuff up top. It won't be used as often so it's OK that I'll have to get out a ladder to access the upper cabinets. The space on the right against the far wall is where my fridge will go. The "window" on the left is a pass-through into the dining room.

I believe we'll be measuring for the Silestone counter-tops next week. 

The tile has been grouted. The air conditioner has been installed.

We had a bit of a delay this week caused by discussions between the painter and the contractor about whether the floors should be finished before the interior is painted, or vice-versa. Finally they determined the floors should be done first. The sanding is occurring as we speak.

Today my wonderful father-in-law brought up the boxes he built for my Square-Foot Garden. I have been reading about this raised-bed technique for years, and it's about to become a reality. This soil-less technique requires vermiculite as part of the growing medium. It's a bit hard to find vermiculite in the quantities needed at a reasonable price, but abundant, inexpensive vermiculite is one of the joys of South Carolina. Vermiculite is mined in Spartanburg county and the mine referred me to a nearby processing plant that let me buy 8 cubic feet of it for a song. A nice country drive up to Enoree, a visit to the plant (where the operators filling and palletizing the bags of vermiculite reminded me of my bill-print plant in Houston) and I was in business. I'm going to try to start my planting this weekend. My father-in-law built the boxes for me in exchange for a promise of part of the eventual harvest!

I'll close with an amusing anecdote. When Frank and I first discussed moving to South Carolina we were still in Southern California. I'd never lived in a house with air conditioning. I asked him if we could have AC if we got a house in South Carolina. He looked at me rather strangely -- as if I'd asked if we could have indoor plumbing. Very kindly he explained to me that virtually everyone in South Carolina has air conditioning and that, yes, we could, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mid-April House Status

For some reason I'm antsy about the house today. Some days I'm pretty cool and calm about how the project is progressing. Other days I'm just ready to be DONE. I think a couple reasons I'm impatient today are that I just wrote a big check, and we seem to be on the home stretch. But we seem to be ambling along the home stretch rather than racing towards the finish line. 

Since I last wrote about the house, 
  • The interior walls are primed.
  • The bookcases in the hall are in.
  • The garage doors have been hung.
  • The hardwood floors are laid -- excepting for about four square feet in my bedroom where they ran out of flooring. 
  • The tile floors are being laid as we speak.
  • The drive has been graded and spread with crush-and-run. 
  • The light fixtures and ceiling fans are ready to be installed. 
Next steps include:
  • Finishing the wood floors.
  • Laying the vinyl flooring in the studio. 
  • Installing the bathroom cabinets and toilets.
  • Installing the light fixtures.
  • Painting the interior.
The cabinet maker is working on the kitchen cabinets. I'm expecting great cabinets since the bookcases are really nice. This design element was my idea. The hall was built wider than usual to permit bookcases to go in on either side. My father-in-law remarked he was skeptical, expecting the hall to seem narrow and cramped, but it's still a good four feet wide, even with the bookcases in place.

Last week I ordered furniture for my studio -- a sturdy table, a couple kitchen islands on casters which I can use for cutting and pressing stations, and some chairs. I also ordered a small table for my kitchen. This furniture is unfinished and I'm looking forward to finishing it. It's been a few years (probably 20!) since I finished any furniture, and the products available now for the DIYer look pretty user-friendly. I also found a pair of twin beds when my mother-in-law took me to the Metrolina Antique Show near Charlotte. They are mahogany and seem to be sort of Art-Deco style -- perhaps from the 20s or 30s.

So I'm hopeful that the end is in sight. I'm ready to be in my own home, sorting through stuff and settling in. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Taken by Surprise

One fact has been brought home to me in the aftermath of Frank's death: I have many wonderful friends who will go out of their way to help and support me. 

Last week I stopped by the house to pick up my mail. No one was working that day so I thought I'd walk through and enjoy the peace and quiet for a moment. I noticed I had a voicemail on my iPhone, so I checked it. One of my quilting friends from Florida, Sharen, left a message saying I should check my US mail box because something was waiting for me. 

Intrigued, I continued to wander around the house. The mailbox had held the usual bills and circulars, but no notice of a package waiting at the post office. Then I saw it. Apparently the mail carrier had left a package for me at the house the day before. The workers set it carefully aside where I'd see it, but where it would be safe. Oddly, it wasn't from Sharen; it was from another quilting friend, Aileen, in California. And it was a good sized brown cardboard box. 

With all the self-control of a child I opened the box and my jaw dropped. Inside was this lovely, lovely quilt. Aileen included a letter of explanation. 

My quilt group, A Pocket Full of Mysteries, the quilters who make my mystery quilt patterns, had organized this project. Each block -- 82 in all; there's a block on the back -- was made by one of the members. The blocks arrived from all over the US and from many foreign countries. There are embroidered, paper-pieced, appliqued and embroidered blocks -- personalized with the block makers' names and locations. It is no exaggeration to say that the love and care that went into each block clings to my quilt like a fragrance. Quilters all over the world organized this project, made the blocks, designed a setting, assembled the top, quilted the sandwich, bound the finished quilt and labeled it. Words are quilted into it -- words of comfort as well as the names of quilts I've designed for the group. 

Aileen's wonderful letter touched me deeply. She wrote (in part), 
I consider myself a writer, but words failed me when I heard about Frank. I spent a lot of time moaning, "It's not fair,'' as did so many of your quilting friends. And as quilters do when we can't reach out and hug, we sewed ... May our threads wrap you in love and hold you near when you need us ... May we have many more years of stitching together. 

I sometimes think a quilter is the perfect recipient for a gift quilt. She understands the care and work that go into the project. In this quilt every stitch is very dear to me, and I will cherish it always. I can't wait to move into the house and display my quilt proudly on my bed.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

South Carolina Explorations

Last Saturday I attended a small Sacred Harp singing at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Pendleton, SC. Pendleton is in the northwest corner of South Carolina, near Clemson University. My visit was a great opportunity to learn a little more about the history of my new state, and to reflect on how important history is to South Carolina. 

Remember, I'm from Southern California where few residents can trace a family connection back 70 years. Still today, many Californians are from somewhere else. Most of the oldest buildings date back to the turn of the 20th century, and old buildings are often razed to make way for new ones. 

Not so in South Carolina. Most people from elsewhere think of the Civil War when they think of the history of this state. That war and its aftermath was, indeed, hugely important. My father-in-law has filled me in on some of the gaps in my understanding of that terrible conflict: South Carolina started it; the opening shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter, just off the coast near Charleston. South Carolina never surrendered. And the proper name for the conflict is The War of Northern Aggression. Monuments to Civil War incidents battles and other incidents abound. 

But South Carolina was first colonized by the English in 1670. So at the outbreak of the Civil War, the notion and the reality of South Carolina was already two hundred years old. The University of South Carolina was 60 years old in 1861. South Carolina was in the thick of the American Revolution, and several battlefield monuments commemorate that period. 

One thing I tend to forget is how small the US was in that time, how sparsely populated most of the country was, and how many of the major players were related to one another. A few examples: Both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis served as superintendents of West Point before the Civil War. Jefferson Davis was married to Zachary Taylor's daughter. And at the start of the Civil War the standing army had only around 2,500 officers. 

And so my visit to Pendleton revealed to me some facinating connections among the movers and shakers of the South Carolina Piedmont and Blue Ridge regions in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. St. Paul's church was founded in 1822. One of the gentlemen at the singing told me that it was founded by Thomas Clemson and Floride Calhoun. Thomas Clemson was the statesman who left his fortune to found the institution that became Clemson University. (He did not specify in his will that women and blacks should be excluded from the school, unlike the founders of some other Southern universities.) Floride Calhoun was the cousin and wife of US vice president, senator and statesman John C. Calhoun, and a landowner and manager in her own right.

What my informant failed to mention was that Clemson was married to one of the Calhouns' daughters. So we have a close connection between these important individuals that sheds light on the society of the time. 

The church appears to be wholly original. We found a hand made nail on the floor. Examination of the pews and floor showed that this was the fastener used throughout. The joinery is careful, but amateur. This is not a monumental cathedral but rather a frontier church, built for use. It's surrounded by a graveyard still in use. Floride Calhoun traveled to New York to buy the hand-pumped organ. The organ was sent via ship to Charleston, then up country via river and road until it reached its home where it is still in use today.

As I drive around the state and get to know it, it's fascinating to see the juxtapositions -- old and new, history and today, city and country. South Carolina is bigger than I expected, and it's also more interesting, more diverse, more complex. I still have plenty to learn, and I'm enjoying the journey.