Troubles behind the Green Door

The trouble with winter … is not snow.

The trouble with winter in the country… is not snowy unplowed roads.

The trouble with winter in the county in an old house… is not frosty, drafty, arctic air.

The trouble with winter in the country in an old house that’s not quite finished…

is mice.

The other trouble is that we were lulled into thinking we had successfully insulated, caulked, and boarded up all holes when we redid the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, and the mudroom.

The other trouble is, we aren’t finished; so there are other parts of the cottage that are not successfully insulated, caulked and boarded up so the worthless little critters can still get in. (Mice can get in a hole that is the size of a pencil eraser!)

Trouble lurks behind this green door.

green door to the basement

(This green door illustrates the most famous post on Apple Hill Cottage’s blog. About 50 (!) people per day read this post about making a shiny brass door handle look like oil rubbed bronze. It amazes me that there is so much interest in getting rid of shiny brass.)  But back to the troubles at hand: behind this green door with the lovely oil-rubbed bronze handle is the basement of the cottage.

We have a split level basement. Behind the green door go down five steps and turn to the left and there’s a door to the outside. There’s also a closet where King Henry the Cat has his litter box. The laundry is down there too as well as built-in shelves, which are filled to the max with the sundries of living in an unfinished house: screws, nails, paints, paintbrushes, stains, tarps, caulking tubes, electric supplies…. Turn to the right and go down six more steps and there’s the rest of the basement — the furnace, the hot water heater, the toilet, sink, and shower (!)  and beyond that Mr. H.C.’s workshop.  In addition to all that stuff, Mr. H.C. keeps a lot of his business inventory down there. It’s a basement’s basement, and there are quite a lot of holes to the outside that have not been insulated, caulked, or boarded up. And frankly, it is WAY down on the list of things to redo around here.

We tried to close the green door last night before we went to bed. About three o’clock King Henry woke us Mr. H.C.  because he needed to get down there to his litter box fast. So there really isn’t the option of closing the green door. There is, however, the option of locking the cat down there with the mice…

(Spoiler alert: If you are a mouse lover, read no further…)

As far as we know, our lovable but worthless cat has caught one mouse. It was dead in his mouth when he brought it to us, but lately I’ve been living in fear that he will jump on the bed at night with a live mouse in his mouth. Mr. H.C. also found a trap with nothing but one mouse leg in it, so the cat could have eaten the mouse out of the trap too. We aren’t sure about that; we haven’t seen any 3-legged mice around lately, but if it gives the cat a taste for mice, I’m all for it.

Mr. H.C. reminds me that Henry caught a mouse this summer too. Yes, he did; but that doesn’t count because he caught it outside. I’m fine with well-behaved mice who stay outside where they belong.

It’s terrible to have mice in one’s kitchen. Suddenly nothing is certain and I can’t be sure if  a mouse did or didn’t scurry over a pan. In the warming drawer of my OVEN I found mouse droppings! Ugh. Now I have to wash every pan before I use it. I’ve lived with mice before. It’s not a surprise. I just thought I was done with them when we finished our beautiful kitchen.

The last straw was a few days ago when I opened the oven door and found a stash of cat food in the corner of the oven. CAN I SHOUT HERE?

Yes, we are feeding the cat expensive Rachael Ray Zero Grain Chicken and Potato cat food, and the mice are stealing the expensive Rachael Ray Zero Grain Chicken and Potato cat food, and hoarding it in the corner of the oven. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

And just so you know, last week when we were in Home Depot the mouse traps were SOLD OUT! So we must not be the only ones with this problem…

And just so you know, I am blessed that Mr. H.C. takes care of all the mouse trap issues…

And just so you know, the oven is now sparkling clean, the green door is now closed at night, and the mouse troubles are staying downstairs. For Now….

cat napping on blanket img_7762

So the cat can continue with his daily routines.

145. The Harvest Kitchen

It’s been a busy harvest season; yet still I don’t have any canned peaches or pears. We had only about a dozen peaches on our little second-year peach tree and about a dozen pears on the Bosc pear tree. The other pear tree — a Bartlett — is taller and more beautiful and has never had a single pear so far. But the apples are beginning to ripen…

harvest kitchen

And how has my beautiful new kitchen held up under the rigors of harvest season? Well, I can tell you that it hasn’t looked beautiful and pristine lately.

I’ve learned a few tips for all you would-be kitchen designers out there…

kitchen triangle

During harvest season the kitchen triangle is most important — but this triangle is sink, stove, chopping block.  Under my butcher block island are big wide drawers for all manner of utensils. It’s a must to have all those necessary kitchen tools close at hand for chopping, tasting, stirring, filling, straining, and hot jar-lifting.

IMG_6392Also filling a huge need is the deep farmhouse sink. I’ve always loved it, but never more than this canning season. I have asked Mr. H.C. to put his carpenter brain and hands to work to fashion a chopping block that I can put (temporarily) on one side of the sink. That way, I can just  chop tomatoes or peel apples and not worry about the juices dripping on the floor.

IMG_6451 A big, wide windowsill helps too, for ripening green tomatoes, keeping paper towels handy, and putting aside certain fruits or veggies to deal with later.

Clean Kitchen floor!

Clean Kitchen floor!

A comfortable floor to stand on is a necessity — and it has to clean up easily. My VCT (vinyl composition tile) kitchen floor is both of those. It’s cool to stand on in summer bare feet, and mopping up the VCT is fairly easy too. It’s been down now for two years, and I am just now thinking that I should probably strip it and re-wax. After canning season is done. (And I didn’t mention that it is probably the most inexpensive flooring you can buy…)

The soapstone counter that I can put hot pans on with no worries is a must in a canning kitchen. Hot jars, pans of boiling water, a pot of hot tomato sauce — all can go right on the countertop. No, it doesn’t look beautiful and waxed and shiny right now; that’s for after canning season is over.

That lovely little glass “filling cup” came to me from Clara, Mr. H.C.’s mom. It’s been a workhorse this season.

The high faucet and deep sink is fantastic for filling the canner. And I’m not sure if it’s the finish (brushed stainless) or the expensiveness of it, but it never seems to get dirty. For that I’m grateful…

deep sink and high faucet

The biggest drawback I’ve found with the kitchen design is not enough room on the left side of the stove. I’m not sure if that is a permanent state of affairs or not, because that’s the one unfinished area of the kitchen. missing the backsplashThe subway tile back splash will continue around the corner, and there’s a planned shelf above the backsplash where the appliances will sit. Before canning season, I was hedging about this, thinking they were fine right where they were. But now I’m not sure. Storage is limited in this smallish kitchen, so the shelf will be built, but what goes on the shelf is TBD — hopefully before next canning season.

And that brings us to the last necessity for a harvest kitchen — space for one’s jars of Beautiful Canned Goods. I thought the old-and-lovely built-in cupboard would be big enough, but it isn’t.  I’ve purchased five dozen canning jars so far this season; that’s sixty extra jars in a cupboard that was already sort-of full.

Aunt Mary stored her canned goods on the shelves that are four-steps-down from the kitchen in what was probably built as a storage cellar. The shelves are perfectly sized for canning jars, but they are currently filled with the tools of Mr. H.C.’s trade — painting, plumbing, and electrical supplies — and I don’t think they will be cleaned off anytime soon, so here’s the inside of my over-crowded kitchen cupboard:

the fruits of canning season

the fruits of canning season

How I spent August and September… and the apples are just starting. Anyone have an easy recipe for apple butter that doesn’t include burnt pans or exploding pressure cookers?



107. Pinterest, Shminterest : the top ten reasons to get rid of your Pinterest account

Apologies to Pinterest addicts…

I spend a couple of hours a week on Pinterest.  I don’t check other people’s boards; I only pin something I like to my own. I have 15 boards, 212 pins and 17 followers. In the Pinterest World, I’m pretty much a nobody.

And that’s fine with me.

I started my Pinterest boards to keep track of ideas for each room in the cottage. As an idea file, it worked for awhile, until I wanted to get more specific. First came frustration, then estrangement, and now? I’m considering an annulment. I have done only one other top ten list, and it was a long time ago. So, here are:

The top ten reasons to get rid of your Pinterest account:

    10. Pinterest is a reflection of our self-absorbed, materialistic culture; it has very few benefits. It is classified as social media, but there is minimal social interaction. It might be a good place to store recipes, but so is your bookmarks folder. It might be a good place to store links to photos you like, but then the links don’t work. It should be useful as a design board, but see #7 below.


    9. Your own uploaded photos don’t look as good as ones you pin from the internet. I have beautiful photos that I’ve uploaded and they look fuzzy and blurry on my boards. I think they do it on purpose.
    8. Pinterest is no respecter of copyright ownership or artistic integrity. Posted a cute photo? A good idea? Anyone can steal it under the innocent guise of pinning it to a board. I’ve done it myself. (Not lately.)
    7. You can’t move pins around on your boards. Want to move a lamp or a pillow next to the couch you pinned three months ago? Hah, just try it! Makes it useless as a design board.
    6. It actually keeps you from doing all those unfinished projects you already have stored in your craft room because you are too busy finding new and better items to do someday.
    5. It quadruples Envy Potential. I mean, everyone has a better brownie recipe than you, right? Quadruple chocolate pecan brownie bites with salted caramel sauce and double praline whipped cream. Make it in ten minutes And it’s gluten free.
    4. There is no longer any excuse to not do anything and everything yourself. See above… (This is a whole ‘nuther post — stay tuned!)
    3. Time-suck. Nothing more needs to be said here. (My daughter suggests this should be reason #3, reason #2, and reason #1…)
    2. It makes you think you are being creative by pretending. Pinning is not doing or making or creating.
    1. It creates Dissatisfaction by encouraging you to want things you don’t need — expensive new clothes, giant white kitchens, giant backyard party spaces, giant elegant bathrooms, giant expensive furniture, a giant collection of more trinkets and stuff, and a giant new craft room to do all the pins you’ve just pinned and will never do.

I don’t know about you, but I have enough of those unfinished projects without Pinterest helping me along. (I know this, because I have just thrown many of them out!)

I don’t know about you, but I have enough stuff. (I know this, because I have just thrown a lot of it out!)


These are the unfinished projects that I kept…Yes, I threw just as many away. I know I am not alone in this; I wish I had all the money I’ve spent on craft projects that were never finished.

So as of today, I’m deleting the Pinterest link on my blog, and I’m getting rid of the Pin It button on my desktop. (That’s two of the twelve steps — is the next one apologizing to my unfinished projects?) 😊


Take a stand against the tyranny of pins!