Christmas Gift To Myself

Happy New Year! My apologies for the drop in posts. I’ve been busy with the bakery division of Sister Girl w/ Skills. My family loves my carrot cake, so for the last few years I’ve been gifting mini loaf size pan versions, each person gets their own cake. The recipe is one I’ve had for over 40 years, which I got from my Big Mama, Inez Kent (she was tall, over 6′ so I distinguished my two grandmothers by Big Mama and Grandma). She was a scratch cooker, using the palm of her hand to measure out teaspoons and tablespoons, but she wrote down this recipe for me. I’ve got to get this framed before it disintegrates more. This year I followed her recipe exactly, putting the nuts in the frosting. Over the years I had morphed it to follow my zucchini bread recipe, which I’ve also had for years. It was given to me by a colleague of my mom, Vivian Dobur, who use to grow enormous zucchinis in her garden every year.

The zucchini bread recipe saw a lot of action this year too. My friend, Carolyn owner of Perfect Brew catering, asked if I could make it in tiny pans that would allow her to include it in a gift box she created called, Making the Holidays Bearable. I think she may have birthed another side hustle for me. Typically I have two versions of the bread raisin or pineapple walnut. Given nut allergies in some people we stayed away from that one, but a few months ago when I had a taste for some bread I stumbled across a combination that is to live for, cherry chocolate. I ended up making more of it and actually selling it to other friends. I’ve been encouraged by those friends to market the bread to local restaurants and coffee shops, so I’m strongly considering it. I now have three sizes x-mini, mini, and regular, which I’ve priced at $4, $8, and $12. Not a killer profit for me, but at this stage I just like that someone loves something else I created and it’s worth exploring since Covid is forcing me to reinvent myself.

Living A2

In regards to the gift for myself my living room is comfortable, but it lacked a coziness that made me prefer to eat dinner on a TV tray in my master suite while watching TV.  I was spending too much time in my master, so I decided it was time to make my massive Rookwood fireplace (100″ wide, 60″ to top of mantle) functioning.

When I bought my front door lock set at Bona Hardware in Oakley two years ago I noticed they sold log sets. Remembering this and the great service they gave me I decided to get pricing on their units. Guy, my sales clerk, showed me a couple of options. I was looking to spend as little as possible. The opening, which was only 18″ deep and 39″ wide at its narrowest point and the existing location of the gas line (hole for gas line was there when I bought house) became the driving factor. I selected the vented Rasmussen Cross Fire log set in a sand pan with manual ignition. Guy connected me with a plumber, Lyons Plumbing and Heating, they frequently partner with on fireplace installs.

Gary (owner) and his son Joe came out to access my situation and give me a quote, which I accepted. Given I had already paid my HVAC company a similar amount to run the gas line two years earlier I thought their rate seemed high. I have no point of reference to compare and I wanted it done by Christmas, so opted to trust the referral and not obtain other bids. They returned on December 22 with the third member of the crew, son/brother Matt, and got to work. I already new my HVAC company had not installed the gas cut-off in the right area. They put it in the fireplace and code requires it to be outside. I was fortunate the City inspector didn’t flag me for it at that time. I bought the correct part months ago and was waiting for this moment to have it installed. I selected an oil rubbed bronze finish since I knew it would be located in the floor.

Gary and sons did a great job; I’ve found another reliable plumber. They discovered that my HVAC company had failed to replace a key 1′ section of iron pipe, which needless to say really annoyed me once discovered. They had put new pipe and valve in the fire place, but the 1′ section that ran underneath, accessible in the basement, they did not replace instead only connecting a new iron pipe line to it that ran back to the gas meter. That 1′ section was completely clogged, so clearly they never bothered testing their new line. The pipe was hard to access. Gary and his sons spent an hour working to free it, which is probably why the other company ignored it. I’m so grateful they just didn’t give up, since running new pipe was not part of their bid. I had to pay an additional $100. After about 3 hours of work my gift to myself was up and running. That first night I wore my mother’s robe and Bombas gripper slippers while enjoying hot tea from Churchill’s Fine Tea laced with brandy, ice cream, and a Sugar Tin mixed berry hand pie. I think I’ve fallen asleep on my sofa (which isn’t a comfy couch) every night since.

Sugar Tin Pies

Why am I featuring a picture of a pie in the middle of my shed build project?  This was my reward for the end of this phase of work.  Sugar Tin Pies (@sugartinpies) is a new cottage industry that just started up in Cincinnati by Cassandra Jones, a person I met at one of my client’s conferences.  This is her 6″ pie, the perfect size for me.  I’ll get three servings out of it.

I was looking forward to the weekend, so I could put a full day into the project.  Rain was 20200424_163317coming in the afternoon on Saturday and expected to rain all day Sunday.  Bone head move on my part, I decided to start the day installing the drip edge followed by the roofing paper.  Well the drip edge actually also goes on top of the fascia.  I’m not sure why or how I managed to skip several pages in the plans, but I wasted valuable time and will have to remove it when I do get to the fascia.  Fortunately only a waste of about $10 in material.

Per the plans, I ordered 6 sheets of T1-11 siding.  I cut the two front pieces from the same sheet.  The two sides were a sheet each.  The back would take two full sheets, so I realized I didn’t have enough for the two doors.  In hindsight I should have cut a door and one front piece from the same sheet, it would have been nice if the plans told you to do that. This was a bit more expensive mistake as it meant buying another sheet at $35.  I got it from Home Depot, so they could cut it for me otherwise I couldn’t get it home.  I had them cut it to the exact length of 70 1/2″, but only cut enough width that allowed it in my car.  I did the fine tune cutting at home.  In route to home I picked up my pie, but Cassandra also made me some spaghetti sauce.  I could smell the rain coming, so if I had any hope of getting the sides up I needed to work fast.

The front pieces are only 18″ wide, so very easy to handle and nail up.  The plans called for 2″ 6d nails, so I had to bag my little friend and pull out my hammer.  Nails every 8″ on each stud.  The side pieces took a bit more work.  I really could have used another person, but I pulled out my house jack and that worked amazingly well.  So well that I jacked the roof rafter up.  I expected it to stop/give resistance once the top met the Voerhang plate, but it didn’t.  The ease in which that rafter came up was concerning.  One bad storm with gusty winds and I could see my shed roofless, so I decided to reinforce the connections with 4″ Timberlock screws that I had.  Now the two extra rafters Bill had me add had a purpose.  For the back side I was able to easily add the screws into them as the were offset from the wall stud.  The front was a bit more complicated because of the additional support beams and angles to reach the right part of the rafter.  In the case where I could drill straight up, but had three boards to go through, I drilled a 1/2″ hole through the bottom board.  That would allow the screw to go into the rafter by at least an inch.  For the rafter where an angle was involved.  I drilled at an angle and then inserted the screw.  I could see the rafters drawing up tight.  This was a very smart add on.

I got the left side and front up with sunny skies.  The right side up in steady rain.  The back would have to wait for another day.  The beauty of this rain is it forced me to stop working at decent time to eat and I had not worked to the point of exhaustion that day.

The main reason I lost so much weight on my house restoration project is I was too tired to cook, or stopped to late to order delivery, or it was too late to eat if I did (I don’t like to go to bed on a full stomach). Thanks to Cassandra I had dinner waiting.  My cousin Alex had stopped by to bring me 20200425_190815face trimmers for my dogs and she was kind enough to stay long enough to cook some pasta noodles for me.  I just had to heat up some garlic rolls.  I’m not sure how I got to age 55 without ever having a significant other in my life, but I sure hope Mr. Right can cook and would enjoy preparing a meal for me to eat at the end of a hard days work.  The sauce was fabulous, hearty with a slight kick.  I ate it while watching The Way Back on Amazon Prime (not as good as I hoped it would be).

It was only about 8:30p, so I decided to wait on that first slice of pie and go in the basement to work on the doors.  I used my straight edge method again and got the width made.  If you haven’t figured out yet the shed colors will match the house colors, right down to yellow doors.  I had about a half quart of the yellow left and same of wood primer.  I knew it wouldn’t be enough for both doors, but buying quarts would be cheaper than gallons.  On my full stomach of pasta I lost all track of time.  I got both doors built, but ran short on primer.  It was after midnight at this point, too late to enjoy pie.

Sunday I ran to Sherwin Williams to get another quart of Harvest Yellow and Ace Hardware in Clifton for a quart of primer (no way was I paying SW prices for a shed door-I had used up some Kilz 2 primer I had in basement, so bought more of that, $10).  I applied the primer and let it dry while I worked on a client’s project.  Cassandra called to let me know she had made me another treat, a garlic cheddar, tomato, and spinach quiche.  I’ll have a great breakfast or lunch tomorrow.  She brought it around 6pm, so that prompted me to return to the basement and apply the yellow paint.  Doors complete.

I finished early enough to enjoy a bacon cheeseburger for dinner and my first slice of peach pie.  It was worth the wait.  The crust was made from scratch and it was flavorful, 20200426_235525flaky, and tender to the chew.  Honestly this is one of the best peach pies I’ve ever had.  Not overly sweetened, which made the scoop of vanilla ice cream I had not feel like a put a teaspoon of sugar in my mouth.  The peaches were firm, not mushy like so many that I’ve had.  She definitely did not use can peaches.  Her blend of spices were point on.  I most certainly tasted cinnamon, perhaps a hint of ginger and lemon peel too.  I’ll definitely get another as a reward for the finished project, this time cherry.