Sunday, May 30, 2010

One Lonely Peony

Two summers ago, I bought two peony plants on sale very late in the summer. I wasn't even sure what color they were. I planted them and was disappointed when neither plant produced blooms last summer. I pulled one of the plants that didn't look healthy and I moved the other one to a sunnier spot in the garden.

This year, the plant looked much healthier but its two buds only developed into one lonely flower. When it rained yesterday afternoon, the bloom flopped over and was barely visible so I decided to cut it and enjoy it in the house.
This one little flower fills the entire room with its beautiful fragrance. I think if I had a plant covered with a dozen or more blooms, I wouldn't have enjoyed them as much as this one precious bloom.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quick Memorial Day Picnic Appetizer

A friend is visiting from out of town for the long weekend so I thought I'd have a few friends over for a little back porch picnic. I prefer to put most of my effort into the meal so I like appetizers to be quick and simple so I wanted to share an appetizer idea that can be thrown together in less than five minutes. This is a mediterranean layered dip.
First put layer hummus on a plate or shallow dish. I chose several of these smaller Moroccan dishes so I can set them on little tables around the porch, almost individual servings. I chose a hummus with kalamata olives in it.
Add a layer of tabouli. I usually make my own tabouli but the store brand is good enough for this appetizer.
Add a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese and you're ready to go.
Serve with pita chips and enjoy. I would suggest adding a bowl of marinated olives as accompaniment and you're now free to focus on your meal.

This appetizer is perfect for picnics because everything can be thrown in the picnic basket and easily assembled right on site.

Have a safe Memorial Day everyone.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Variance Hearing Day with a Quick Roadtrip

Yesterday was the date of my variance hearing. I was feeling a little nervous so, since my hearing wasn't until 8:30 p.m., I decided to carpe diem and hit the road to Cape Cod see Provincetown one day before tens of thousands of people headed to town for the summer season.

The town was up and running and the gardens were in their full spring glory.

This is the old entrance to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Hello Kitty!
This allium garden was ridiculous. I think there are about 100 of the purple beauties.
A sweet vista.

The reflection of a house in an art gallery window.
Cute little shops open for business.
A home furnishings store with great pillows....
...beautiful pottery...
...and, for you martini fans, a big GIN sign made from vintage advertising letters.
The famous Lobster Pot.
It was the perfect day for a long walk.
Between every house and shop are quick peeks at the fishing fleet...
...and pleasure boats....
...but it's gotten to be mid afternoon and need to head back to Cambridge for my hearing.

Normally I would make this a cliffhanger, leaving you to wait to find out the results but that would be mean. I did get my variance to restore the front porch but it was a late night while we waited for a hearing where 14 neighbors showed up to object to a developer's plan. It was interesting.

Hope everyone has a safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Kitchen

Before I can show you the ideas The Architects came up with for the kitchen, I have to show you what's there now. The kitchen is at the very back of the first floor. The photo below is a "before" image taken from the living room, looking through the dining room.
Just inside the kitchen door to the left is the back door that goes out to the porch that overlooks my little garden. Yes, that's my dishwasher.
I also have two windows that overlook the porch and the garden. It has probably the ugliest tile I've ever seen. White with band-aid brown veining. The bullnose tile is the same band-aid color. To add insult to injury, the door and window trim was painted to match.
I know this room is going to require the bulk of my renovation dollars (at least I thought that before I started the outside) so I wanted to clean it up and make it work for now.
This is the other side of the room. As you can see there's virtually no counter space. I don't know what women did in the 1940s for prep space because this isn't uncommon for period kitchens around here. In fact, I've rented aparments that have an apron sink and a stove...that's it! I do have a pantry over in the back left corner that didn't seem to make it into these photos. You also get a peak of the bathroom that was modified for a wheelchair at some point so there's a big--actually, nice--shower. The brown pipe to the right of the sink is the heating duct that goes up to the master bedroom. I guess that's the pre-industrial look.

And this is what it looks like today. Not pretty, but presentable. What a difference a coat of paint makes. Just getting rid of the yellow and brown--two colors that should never be put together--made a huge improvement.

The green console table is a Mexican antique. I'd like to have it reworked (made wider) to become a kitchen island, maybe with marble on top? I keep some of my mixing bowls below and my vintage tablecloths on top. They're fun to use outside on the porch during the summer.
I painted the cabinets an ivory color...
...and added some new brushed nickel hardware...
...and I even painted the tile. I washed it really well, primed it with Kilz and then with white semi-gloss. It looks so good, no one has every noticed it's painted.
I also added a folding table from DWR that acts as a big island. The aluminim top is also great for rolling out pastry dough.
And here's my pantry. It's still band-aid brown and that's my mother's fault. She visited about a week after I moved and all the boxes were driving her crazy so she made me put everything away. I think the next time she visits I'm going to make her unload everything and paint it.
I wish it could all be pretty but this is pretty much my only storage space except for drinking glasses, coffee mugs and mixing bowls that I have in the cabinets above the sink.
All of my spices, vinegars, baking goods, teas, extracts, eye of newt, etc., go in these racks that I installed. Whenever I cook or bake, I go to the pantry and pull everything out at once, just like Rachel Ray.
On the other side is my Asian cooking section, the brown transferware all stacked up for special occasions, plates and miscellaneous bowls.

Don't tell anyone, but all of the pots, pans and baking sheets are packed in the dishwasher. My kitchen staff likes to wash everything by hand. I was able to move the fridge down a little and squeeze the dishwasher in next to the stove so I have a little bit of counter space next to the stove.

So that's my sad excuse for a kitchen, patiently awaiting renovation dollars to be transformed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Can't Help Myself

I had to leave work early today to pick up my updated blueprints to get them to the Zoning Board by tomorrow's deadline so I thought I'd stop by this great little import store that's near my architect's house/office. I've wanted a little table for my back porch to set a cup of coffee or a cocktail and some snacks for guests. I found this little metal table from Africa made from a vintage sign. I liked that it didn't look new and I love the vintage green color. Sitting out in the weather, I even hope it gets rusty.

I'm never caught without my camera anymore, not just because of the blog, but I'm really trying to capture house colors and details like wrought iron railings, light fixtures, etc. As I was on my way back to the car with my new little table, I saw this huge Greek Revival house down an unassuming side street. And I just can't help myself. I had to snap a few photos.
This house is presently being operated as an inn so it's had some alterations that aren't typical such as the bridge with the big round window. The bridge was created to leave a driveway that dips down to a parking lot. This is the first Greek Revival I've seen that has pilasters that go right up the center of the house rather than just at the corners.

Here are those windows that go to the floor and check out the little wreath details on the entablature of the porch. Also notice the tongue-and-groove siding. The entire front facade of this house in done in the same siding. This was done to make it look more like stone, just like a Greek temple.
I'm not sure if this right-hand side of the house is original or not but this portico entry with square columns is beautiful. What do you think of the light? There were no electric lights when this house was built so who's to say what's appropriate. But I feel this light feels too colonial.
Here's a close-up of the fluted ionic columns. Fancier columns for a fancier house. And no porch railings. I'll bet their lawyers (or insurance carriers) made them put up the railings to limit access to the railing-less deck.
Here you can see the underside of the porch, painted sky blue just like many New England homes. And the deck is a dark green which is pleasant compared to the typical gray. Except for the Paul Revere light, I think this place has been beautifully restored.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Historical Commission Meeting

My meeting with the Executive Director of the Historical Commission went well...but not a slam dunk. I have to say it was incredibly nice of him to take the time to meet with one lowly homeowner in search of input and support. He opened my blueprints and scanned across the street elevation with his hand, his finger stopping at each of the integral details: the pediment, the windows, the sidelights, the skirt detail around the porch. Each was accompanied by a nod of approval until he got to the columns. "Your columns are undersized," he pointed out. "I was intending to do something much chunkier," I agreed.

"What style columns are you using?"

Uh-oh. A test.

"Fluted doric."

"Well, that would be right."

I guess I passed the test.

I brought up the issue of the expanded living room windows pointing out that we've included an enlarged window in the plans but if we discover the windows did not go to the floor (thinking that would be what the Historical Commission would prefer) and he explained I can't to do that. If I get a variance for a plan with larger windows, that would be what I *have* to do. If I want to keep them the same, I would have to get another variance.

So I guess I'm doing the larger windows. It's a detail I really love so I'll be happy with that even if the cost is greater.

He suggested that I update the plans with more detail. So I had to go back to The Architects to have them tweak the plan.

And here's the new elevation showing the full-figure fluted doric columns. I also had them show a six-panel front door, the top two panels being glass and we've added mullions to the sidelights. It looks better don't you think?

Now I just need to get three new sets of blueprints printed and get the updated plans to the Zoning Board.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Notice of Public Hearing

I got a letter from the Zoning Board of Appeals. My hearing is scheduled for just over TWO WEEKS FROM NOW! I had no idea it would be so fast. Does anyone have an Ativan?
I had to run over to the zoning board to pick up this sign this morning (late for work) and it needs to be posted on the front of my house for two weeks before the hearing and until I get a written decision from the board.

I have an appointment with the Historical Commission tomorrow (leaving early from work) to show them my plans. I'm hoping they like them and will write a letter of recommendation to the board. I've been taking a bunch of photos of other houses on the street that have a close setback to show that such a violation can still look nice. Actually I think the closeness adds to the historical character, don't you think?
Close and beautiful.
Closer and beautiful. (I think mine will be pretty close to this.)
You can't get much closer than this one.
This is one of my favorite houses.
Pretty darn close. I love that they painted their entire entryway black. I think it's really handsome.
Now this is just ridiculous. This makes me want to get on the board so I can I reject it. The paint doesn't even match. That should be some kind of violation right there.
Close and perfectly lovely.

Close and pink. Very pink. I probably wouldn't pick the paint but it does look pretty for the one week the tree is in bloom.And while I was taking pictures, I thought I snap a few quick ones of the garden so you can see how it's shaping up. On the back (chain link) fence of my neighbor's, they have an autumn clematis. I asked them if I could trim it. By the time I was done, there was almost nothing left. Oops.
And now it's all cut back, I kind of like seeing through it a little bit. Wouldn't something like an espaliered apple be cool?