Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meal No. 83: Grilled Filet with Shiitake Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Usually, when I am coming in from a road trip, the rule is to eat out somewhere fast but good, like Pancho Villa or 6th & Vine. But this evening, with the beautiful weather and an extra bit of pep in my soul, I picked up some filets on my way back to Winston-Salem. This set me up to grill them to near perfection, top them with a shiitake gorgonzola cream sauce, and add sides of sugar snap peas and mashed potatoes with ample melted butter.

I worked hard the last two days, and this was a meal that felt like a well-timed reward for those labors.

A Mere Year Ago...

With all this intense blogging I've felt like doing so far in 2010, I got a little curious about where things stood a mere year ago. At the end of March 2009, the flooring was down in the kitchen, the cabinets (but not countertops) had been installed, and more of the electrical work was completed.

And now, of course, I get to sit in that fully completed incredible kitchen, in my old man chair by the fireside, and blog about what I used to blog about. Awesome, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Persistence of Rainwater

That was quite a storm system that passed through North Carolina over the last few days, and while I don't have an official total, back on Sunday they were calling for as much as 1.71 inches to fall. And so it's no surprise that there was again water coming into the cellar on the south side of the house, which has always been a problem. This photograph is from Sunday evening, before it had a chance to really get to its usual point halfway across the floor.

The last time Peter LaRoque, my general contractor for the addition and renovation project, was here, he said he thought sealing it would not do the trick. Instead, since it's not a regularly used cellar, he thought putting a gravel trough along the interior wall and a sump pump would probably be my best bet. I'll have to get that evaluated and see if it's the way to go.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meal No. 82: Seared Sesame Tuna over Greens

Since I've got to slip down to Richmond County, NC, this afternoon, circumstances called for the fixing of an early supper. This one is simple but can sound impressive once you call it by name: seared sesame-encrusted yellowfin tuna over mixed greens with balsamic sauteed onion and sesame shiitake vinaigrette. Yum.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meal No. 81: Salmon with Agrodolce Sauce

It is a brutally rainy day in Winston-Salem, and this evening brings the first thunderstorm of 2010 for which I've been home and of which I've been aware. (I think a pretty harsh set of storms hit earlier in the month but I slept right through them.) The rain is pouring and the thunder and lightning are putting on a heckuva show. At the moment, the area is under a Tornado Warning, with a couple having been spotted in the general vicinity. I'm listening for the roar so I'll know to duck into the cellar, if need be. The laptop is unplugged for safety's sake but I'm stealing a few moments to toss up a blog entry on this evening's meal.

I was hoping to get the yellowfin tuna that's on sale at Harris Teeter but both local stores were sold out. So I reached for some wild-caught Atlantic salmon instead and prepped a nice agrodolce sauce (balsamic vinegar and red onion, among other things). Along with couscous and some sweet white corn, it made for a nice Sunday evening meal.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meal No. 80: Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole

After a two-week hiatus from the kitchen thanks to travel and work and social schedule, it sure did feel good to get back to meal preparation. On this chilly Saturday evening, I kept it simple but appropriate to the autumn-like weather interrupting Winston-Salem's progress toward spring. Borrowing from my friend Cindy Coulson's cookbook for fans of P. Buckley Moss, A Moss-Lover's Cookbook, I tried my hand at a chicken and wild rice casserole that was pretty darned scrumptious.

In my endless quest to tally things, this amounted to Meal No. 80 in the new kitchen. Accompaniments included Italian-cut green beans, garden salad, and yeast rolls. Dessert was to be found across the way at Caffe Prada: I could not resist having some more Euro Yogurt artisinal gelato.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Beauty of the Final Friday of March 2010

Spring has definitely arrived, and the glorious sunshine of this morning drove me outside with my camera to try to snap a few more shots before the promise of afternoon rain moved in.

There's something about the Spring Street view of the house that I really like, as noted above. My eye looks right past the telephone poles and wires and street signs and such and settles on this cool old house.

If you went to the back of the property and stood up on the back wall and looked east toward the City of Winston-Salem, this is what you would see:

Not sure what it is about my Bradford Pear tree, but it blooms a short time and quickly gives way to the new green leaves. That does not seem to be the case for all the pear trees up and down the local streets: they started blooming first and are continuing to hold their blooms. It's why, with my travel schedule, I usually miss most or all of the pear tree's spring glory, darn it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballpark

BB&T Ballpark

Here's something else all this spring weather is doing to me: making me all the more excited that the new downtown baseball stadium is getting very nearly completed. We are under a month away from the anticipated opening day of play at the recently-named BB&T Ballpark, home of the Winston-Salem Dash. While there were some nervous nancies all hyped with worry about noise and lights and such in their neighborhood, I'm hoping that those concerns prove unfounded or, at least, not on the order of something to fuss a lot about. I also think people shouldn't kid themselves about what it means to live downtown.

When I lived in Winston-Salem 20 years ago, some of us were regulars for Thirsty Thursdays at the Winston-Salem Spirits home games at Ernie Shore Field, out near the Coliseum. Ah, but to be living within walking distance of this venue: now that's another plus of downtown dwelling.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gift of Yard Waste from Neighbor

What you're looking at in the picture above is the product of someone's very careful attention to yard care: clippings, fallen leaves, trimmed limbs, debris, and whatnot that are the result of getting property all prettied up for the beauty of spring. The problem is: this ain't from my yard. The other problem is: the city does not do yard waste collection from the curb the way it does for leaves in the autumn or large junk in the spring or limbs any time of the year. Instead, the homeowner is supposed to buy/rent a yard cart from the city, for something like $60 a year. This stuff piled up on my curb will probably result in me getting a fine.

Guess I'd better send a note to the city but I wonder if it will help?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Downtown Winston-Salem Blog

It was nice for the Roediger House to get a mention recently in the Downtown Winston-Salem blog, which is vigorously and enthusiastically updated constantly by Jason Thiel, the president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership. If you want to keep up with what's going on downtown, you should subscribe to the DWSP blog.

And also join the DWSP. Seriously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh

So when I got home this past weekend, there was a card left for me from the Forsyth County Tax Assessor's office, and you know what that means. It's time for them to take new measurements of the house, and I can only imagine what the next bump is going to be in my assessment.

I get it, where taxes are concerned. I feel like I derive a lot of benefits from the services the city and county are providing to me as a resident and member of this community. Seriously: I do get it. It doesn't mean I like that tax bill when it comes. It's the trade-off for having a pretty nice place to live in.

Nonetheless, I'll also tell you it was pretty irritating that my first tax bill on the house showed it had a valuation several thousand dollars more than I'd just paid for it. I think it was elevated because, back then, everybody thought the new Krispy Kreme headquarters would be developed behind the house, as part of something that was going to be called "Unity Place," with the North Carolina School of the Arts as a partner. And a mere seven years after buying the house, the tax bill was based on an assessed value that was 26 percent higher than I'd paid for it back in 2003. I've made some nice improvements in the place, and my regret is that I fear the new valuation will be based on an inflated starting point, rather than what the house--in this neighborhood as it REALLY was when I bought it--should have been valued at.

Yee ha.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Didn't I Service the Lawnmower in January?

A few times during the winter, I thought about taking my lawnmower in for its annual servicing, thinking how smart I'd be to do it when no one else was thinking about it.

Alas, the warm weather and initial breaths of spring have come, and not only is the grass greening, it's also definitely growing.

It would be awesome if I could get it cut this afternoon before I have to hit the road. But I doubt it will happen.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Buds

It is a stunning 78 degrees in downtown Winston-Salem right now, and while this is an unusual burst of summery heat, it is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. There's enough of a breeze that it made for a delightful stroll over to the Old Fourth Street Filling Station to meet a former graduate student for lunch out on their patio today.

And in the yard, one of my early indicators of the approach of a more humane season in which to live has appeared: buds on the Bradford pear tree. It was quite a sight up against today's Carolina blue sky (and yes, the Tar Heels won their second game in the NIT tournament).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Downtown Living

Since the house is located just off Fourth Street and just west of downtown, it is a fantastic homebase for being able to take advantage of the good things offered by downtown Winston-Salem. I am walking distance from a lot of very good restaurants and drinking spots, as well as several entertainment venues. This was one of the key attractions for buying the house back in 2003: I like very much the idea of being down in the heart of things.

For instance, on many a Sunday morning (and no shortage of lunches and dinners), you might find me at 6th & Vine (209 W. Sixth Street), a very unique cafe and wine bar with great food and a wait staff so cool you just want to take 'em home with you. The Sunday brunch is fantastic, and while I'm too often guilty of driving up there, it is also a very easy half-mile walk from the house. They win hands-down for being the eating spot of first and most frequent resort for me. The following would be a suitable representation of my view from the couch when I'm there for brunch:

After coming in off the road on Friday night and catching a late dinner out, it's nice to take the short stroll behind the house and drop in on Caffe Prada for some satisfying artisinal gelato. Located at the corner of Broad and Fourth Streets, in the beautiful West End Village, Caffe Prada boasts the feel of "a European cafe" with easy counter service, sidewalk seating, bright interior, and a selection of cafe favorites and fun twists on the theme.

My most recent excursion to this neighbor of mine gave me a chance to sample their Euro Yogurt gelato, a crazily tasty concoction that I couldn't quite get enough of. I also sampled the pink lemonade and the mango gelato, which were also highly tempting, but one must be as restrained as possible in these enticing encounters with Caffe Prada's goodies.

Photograph from Caffe Prada's Facebook Page

Thursday, March 18, 2010 Website Make-over

When I first bought the Roediger House, I really wanted to be able to show pictures of it to friends and family who were interested in what I'd gotten myself into. So I set up a simple website with a selection of pictures, and I took the easy path by depending on the iWeb software from Apple to build the pages. It did the job for a while but I hadn't updated it in years.

I finally took some time over the last week to completely re-do the original website, which was completed this evening, at long last. Once I get into webpage mode, I find it hard to extract myself from it. Now, what you'll see if you visit the site is hand-crafted: I write all the HTML code and design all the images. However, I really like the slideshow feature in the iWeb 09, so I cheated when it came to providing a selection of pictures that show the house inside and out and that represent the variety of events, gatherings, and happenings at the house. So those picture index/slideshow launch pages are from iWeb with a bit of my meddling thrown in.

Check it out and let me know what you think:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stairs Staring

When I bought this house, there was a rather filthy old black ceiling fan up above the stairwell, with no light kit on it. And even though there was a switch for it downstairs and another one for it upstairs, it was not set up on a true 3-way switch. With the renovation project, I replaced a lot of light fixtures, and I like the one that now hangs over the stairs.

Turns out the light spill on the stairs can look really neat at night:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chewing Under the Carpet

A Little History...

Before I bought this great old house, it had been used by FIRST, Inc (which stands for Forsyth Initiative for Residential Self-Help Treatment). The organization was founded by a former addict, and they bought up this property when it looked like it was falling down, secured grants and donations, and put the residents to work bringing the house back from the brink of death.

As nice a job as they did with getting the house all fixed up (primarily the downstairs, where the offices were), there were a few things I found surprising about how they did or did not care for things once they were all moved in. For instance, the former president/director/founder had a dog she kept in the director's office, which is now the master bedroom. It did not like being cooped up, and so there are serious scratches on two of the doors where he/she/it pawed and pawed to be let out. Also, the base of the fireplace mantle has been chewed up.

But the human damage in this room seems to have resulted from the director putting her office chair on one of those plastic secretarial mats so it would roll around smoothly, but there was nothing on the beautiful hardwood floors to protect them from the spikes under that mat. Here's the result:

When I brought in some hardwood flooring experts to talk about refinishing the much rougher floors upstairs, we also talked about whether anything could be done for this chewed up area. The most knowledgeable of these guys postulated that the hardwood floors downstairs were actually covered with a thin veneer, rather than being true all the way to the sub-flooring. He thought they might be able to do something with it, but it came with the warning that there might not be enough thickness in this veneer for them to work with. We are talking about a house that's now 105 years old, after all. As you can see from the picture here, there is some beautiful inlay work in the hallway and parlours, and some nice thin border inlays in the bedroom along the walls. I'd rather leave the floors untouched and rough than do anything that might monkey around with that amazing design.

So when the HVAC folks decided an additional return duct was needed in the master bedroom, it meant there was a great opportunity to extract a sample of the flooring and see exactly what's what:

That's some pretty wood, isn't it? You can clearly see the veneer laid on top of the tongue-in-groove hardwood flooring, and below that at an angle is the original sub-flooring, which is some solid old wood that was laid on the diagonal. Even though his firm was pricier in its estimate, the hardwood flooring guy who knew that it was likely a veneer laid on top impressed me with his expertise, and when it's time to get the floors upstairs finished, he's pretty much at the front of the preferences list.

Here's a shot of the cross-section of that flooring:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Southern Hospitality

With the fireside area and old man chairs in the new kitchen, very little time has been spent in the South Parlour. But it's still a darned fine space, warm and welcoming, and I'll look forward to bringing it back to life when the whole house get finished.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Final Payment; Semi-Final Corrections

It's almost time to say goodbye to Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC, the general contractor for the addition and renovation project that got this whole blog started. (Here's Pete pictured with the ever-faithful Robert, the only guy in his crew he's not laid off. This photo is from December 10, 2008, when the subflooring was laid for the kitchen area.)

After three Saturdays spent fixing and correcting problems, or addressing things that were left undone, I was finally able to write a check for the final one percent of the project. We're not done with one another, though: there will be quite a few repairs to be made in drywall where corners have separated. But we're going to let the house go through one more change of a season before we go to tackling those things.

When Pete was wrapping up today, he asked if I was worried that he was not going to come back to make good on his work. I told him that, quite honestly, when I did my survey of all the problems that had cropped up in the first few months living in the new space, I was simply overwhelmed. He assured me again that he'll stand behind his work and that he'll be back to address any other issues with his craftsmanship. I'll take him at his word.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meal No. 79: New Year's Day Meatballs

Quite a few years back, at some gathering of the family on New Year's Day at home in Buies Creek, my sister Allison served us a platter of meatballs that were pretty darned amazing. I've had the recipe all this time but never tried it, until this evening. They cook for about two hours, and almost immediately upon going into the oven, they put out this incredible aroma. Those who were gathering for the meal who came early were taunted by it...that's how good it smelled cooking.

And the result was well worth the taunting. I'm not big on meatballs...never have gotten into them. Maybe I just like them better outside of an Italian meal. But I definitely recommend these without reservation.

"New Year's Day Meatballs," from Carol Fultz and shared with me by my sister Allison Jones Holden of Rossville, IN (2001).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Meal No. 78: Fragrant Curry Chicken

After about two weeks without being home enough to cook anything, it felt good to get back in the kitchen. The result: a simple chicken dish with Indian inspirations, called Fragrant Curry Chicken.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Finally Breaks Through

Good goshamighty: this is the gorgeous spring morning that I got to walk out into with my handy-dandy Roediger House coffee mug, and to just enjoy the pleasure of the sun warming me. It's been a long winter, my friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Cook'd Cooktop

Having people over for a variety of reasons is definitely one of the joys of Roediger House living. So, back in the fall, when the occasion called for a pumpkin carving party, it also was a good time to get some spiced apple cider going on the cooktop in the kitchen.

Now, if you've got a sauce pot on the stovetop and you want to refill your mug, it seems that most people would either use a ladle or they'd take the pot over to the sink in order to minimize the mess. Unfortunately, one of the erstwhile guests decided to just pour out the cider over the hot eye on which the pot was sitting, and of course it spilled everywhere.

Apparently, the cooktop cleaning products that I can get my hands on were not the ones that were invented for cooked-on apple cider staining. So, a few months into living with my brand-new kitchen and my snazzy 36-inch ceramic cooktop, we might consider that it is now "broken in." The lighting doesn't quite show it, but it's the lower right eye as you look at this side-view picture (but it's the front left eye when you've properly situated yourself as though to cook).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Leak-Free Chimney?

It looks like the chimney flashing might now be effectively repaired...our recent heavy rains in Winston-Salem led to no visible evidence that water was continuing to get in. That leaves me hopeful, and increasingly assured, that the complete reworking of the flashing around the chimney was the necessary--and perhaps final--step in remedying the problem. One more thing to check off the corrections list...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Latest Visitors

The Wake Forest-Clemson basketball game brought good friends to town that I had not seen in a while, and it was also a chance to take them around all that has been done to the house since they were last in town. Eric Nesbitt was an RA for me when I was the Hall Director in Kitchin Dorm at WFU, during my masters program; Alison Pomeroy Edwards (who visited along with her husband and a couple of their friends) graduated in 2006 from the undergraduate social studies education program and is now teaching in Durham.

I'm in the habit of posting pics with just about every post, but I can't do it on this one just yet. How in the world did I spend a whole year with Alison Pomeroy Edwards as a student and have no pictures chronicling it?? Oh well. She has yet to respond to my request to send me a headshot or something...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Smiling about Tiling

I didn't make it a priority in the design of the kitchen, but one of these days I'm going to need to bite the bullet and get a plan for installing tile on the walls of the kitchen between the counters and the cabinets. To me, it's not just a matter of being trendy and of bolstering the classy look of this space. It's also for very practical reasons.

For instance, I've been a bit hesitant about wok cooking because I know how much the grease can splatter, and that's not a good thing for the walls. So far, it's all wiped off pretty well, but it doesn't seem to be good for the paint over the long haul.

I also do a lot of washing dishes by hand, and I've got a space beside the sink where I place things to dry. But it didn't take long for some of my pots or pans to start marking up the wall as they lean against it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spring Brings the End of the Cozy Fires

I think it's somewhat safe to say that, with the beautiful days of spring upon us, it's going to be time to retire the new wood-burning fireplace in the kitchen addition for the season. At least there were some cool firescreen doors at Lowe's so it'll look nice in the meantime.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gouged Wall

When the grading was done around the addition, which involved removing quite a lot of good Piedmont red clay, the Bobcat skid-steer loader operator did a nice job. But he did manage to gouge the back retaining wall along the rear property line:

It is one of the issues of which I informed Peter LaRoque of Mocksville, NC, the general contractor for the project, in my letter to him several weeks ago. When he was at the house recently to work on correcting problems that have cropped up or that were never addressed, he looked at the gouge.

"There's about a 4-inch root where those bricks have fallen out," he said, and left it at that.

But I'm left wondering: Does that mean his subcontractor didn't gouge the wall? Root or no root, the wall was intact until his guy missed his mark with the earthmoving equipment. Chalk this up to another disappointment from LaRoque Construction.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Thoughts Are in the Gutter

It is, of course, better when people do what they promise and do it right. I'm not sure that's what can be said of how things turned out with the gutters on the addition to my house that was contracted to LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC. The existing house had Leaf Guard gutters installed before I bought it, which is especially helpful given how high the second story is and how steep the pitch on the roof. I didn't mind cleaning gutters on my parents' split-foyer two-story ranch-type house in Harnett County. But I have no interest in having to worry over debris and drainage on a house like this one.

So, the stated promise was I'd get "gutters to match existing" when I contracted for the renovation and construction of the addition with the kitchen and bathrooms. Instead, I've got a clearly inferior low-grade set of gutters on the addition. Particularly galling is to discover that its design creates mis-aligned drainage, resulting in over-the-gutter dripping, as shown here:

In addition, because these gutters are using a knock-off leaf guard system, or because its installation was not designed right, there is a sunken screen instead of a molded leaf-guard at the top of the downspouts, which serves as a perfect collection point for debris that will be creating problems for me. There's a lot of difference between the manufactured sturdiness of a Leaf-Guard open gutter and a flimsy plastic mesh screen where trash finds a place to rest, which weighs it down, meaning more trash will collect.

So it's hardly maintenance-free, and it doesn't even come close to a "match" with the existing gutters. Add that to the disappointments that exist alongside the celebrations in this endeavor.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cracked Landing Bathroom

Come in the front door, and head to the stairs as though you want to reach the second floor. You'll go up four steps, then turn and go up around a dozen steps, and then there's a landing where you'll turn twice and go up four final steps to reach the second floor hallway. That landing when you've still got four steps to go is where the main bathroom for the upstairs is located. You can see the door that leads into it from the vantage point of that second floor hallway if you look at this picture.

It's the shower in this bathroom where I first noticed, probably all the way back in October, that the floor was beginning to separate from the wall:

When this crack in the grout first showed up, I chalked it up to an understandable outcome of settling and drying out of the new lumber used in the construction of the addition. But, as I'll probably talk about in some future blog update, the problem was not limited to this shower. Suffice it to say that cracks in the corner grout and floor separation showed up in all of the showers.

Had you been with me on December 23rd, and watched me go around and examine every bathroom in the new construction, you could have also perhaps comforted me when I became physically ill after seeing how many cracks had occurred in the short half-year since the construction was substantially completed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Front Porch Gutter Frustration

One element of the renovation project undertaken for me by Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction in Mocksville, NC, dealt with the upstairs porch. While I had no worries about its structural integrity, the flooring for that exposed porch was just plywood with an exterior flooring paint on it. [The picture above is from summer 2008; you can sort of see the flooring there.] At one time, it might have also been watersealed, but there was extensive cracking and peeling going on that hasn't gotten any better with my six years of neglect. And while the ceiling of the porch underneath this balcony did not show water damage, there was clearly an ongoing deterioration of the columns and the trim at the outer edges of this area. (See picture here to the right.)

Pete raised the front railing, replaced the rubber seal under the flooring, and built a deck-style floor with pressure-treated lumber. Because of some of the water damage to the fascia trim and the capitals of some of the columns, the crew removed the gutters that caught water from the balcony, which is directly above the front doors. What I still don't understand is why he did not arrange to have it remounted. It's true that these are those fancy LeafGuard gutters, and that's not what his gutter sub-contractor can work with. But wouldn't you think a general contractor would take care of contacting LeafGuard and arranging to have the balcony project completely completed?

Instead, the gutter sits, leaning against the front porch.