Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Recent Reads -- The Ruth Galloway Series by Elly Griffiths

A few months ago, my friend Janice suggested a book series that she thought I might enjoy. The author is Elly Griffith, and Janice said that the main character is a forensic archeologist in England named Ruth Galloway who works with the local police to solve mysteries about discovered bones.
Elly Griffiths, author. You can find out more
about this author at her website HERE

I always pay attention when Janice says she likes an author because Janice is an avid reader, we have a lot of the same likes and she is usually spot-on in her book choices.

This time, she was oh, so right.

I started the first of seven in the series, The Crossing Places,
and as soon as I finished it, I downloaded the second and when that was over, I downloaded the third, and you can infer how it went from there. I read all seven books in a row and have pre-ordered book eight which is coming out in May 2016. I am addicted enough to pay the $9.99 for a Kindle copy which added up to $70. I usually pay no more than $2.99 for an e-book, but I just had to keep going with these characters. I wanted to know what happened to them next.

As I said, the main character, Ruth Galloway, is a single, overweight, almost-40-year-old forensic archeologist who teaches at a university in Norfolk, England. She lives with her two cats in a rather isolated area on a salt marsh on the coast.

In the first novel, Ruth meets a detective, Harry Nelson, who comes to her for answers concerning bones discovered at a construction site. As the two of them work on this case, they recognize and deal with their many differences. They establish a working relationship that is somewhat tense but each has great respect for the other’s abilities and knowledge. 

Many other equally-captivating characters appear in these novels. First is Cathbad, the druid priest often dressed in a flowing purple cape, who becomes friend to both Ruth and Nelson. Cathbad seems to have knowledge of mystical events happening around Ruth and Nelson; therefore, he keeps them out of danger, most of the time. 

Other characters in each novel include Phil, Ruth’s unlikable department chair; Shona, Ruth’s questionable best friend; Judy, a police officer working to advance her rank; and bumbling detective Clough.

Why do I like these books so much? One reason is Ruth. I found her extremely likable and vulnerable. She has a PhD in forensic archeology but is often filled with self doubt. Secondly, I like learning about new information or about parts of history I didn’t know about before. In these books, I learned about the Stone and Iron Ages, England during Roman rule and druids.

If you need something to read, Janice and I encourage you to try the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Please let me know what you think about them.



Images found at Author's Website

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Major Kitchen Remodel

My house was built in 1980, and nothing in the kitchen had been updated since then except appliances. When I bought the house in 2005, I replaced the range because the original one was really ugly. Since then, I also replaced all the other appliances because the old ones broke. I hated the formica countertops and the dark tile floor, but I didn't really like cooking anymore, so the old kitchen wasn't a priority. 

I decided that I would wait until I retired to begin a remodel project and in January 2016, that's what I did.

Actually, I started this project a year ago by looking at websites like Houzz and HGTV for kitchen ideas. If I found a picture of something I liked, I saved it in a folder on the computer. I also researched prices of big-ticket items like appliances and cabinets in order to stay within my budget of $30,000. 

I didn't know where to start with hiring people to do the work, so I hired a contractor, Scott Bentz of Bentz Remodeling in Tallahassee, FL. The prices of the other contractors I investigated were much higher and it helped that I had known Scott for 35 years. My first year teaching, he was one of my favorite students in one of my 10th grade classes. It was nice working with someone with whom I had a history and felt like I could trust. 

Scott told me to first visit certain business and select the cabinets, tile, granite, appliances, etc. His list of contacts was great as all the recommended people knew their stuff. It was obvious from the start of the project that Scott had built a network of tradesmen who were professional and who had years of experience. I always felt comfortable with them in my house and they never had down time. They came in, did their job and left. Scott had a detailed calendar online on which I could see who was coming to work on which date which was extremely helpful. 

This remodel took about eight weeks to complete. During those weeks, I washed dishes in the bathroom sink and we killed many trees using paper plates and cups. There were a couple of hiccups but nothing that wasn't corrected quickly. One major problem was my fault. When I ordered the appliances, I thought I wanted a really big refrigerator which is what I ordered. When the deliverymen came with it, I knew before they unloaded it that it was too big. Fortunately, I bought all of my appliances from a local business and they happily helped by replacing it with a cabinet-depth unit without charging me a restocking fee. Thanks Mays-Munroe! The refrigerator is smaller, but I kept my old one and put it in the garage so I have plenty of storage for extra items. This was definitely one time when buying local paid off. I don't think one of the big national stores doing all of this for me. 

Here are my before and after pictures of the remodel. I'm really happy with how it all turned out.

The cabinets were in good shape but needed updating. I found that replacing the cabinets was about the same cost as refinishing the original ones because of labor. The lights were fluorescent tubes recessed into the ceiling and covered by a plastic grid. 

Hi Drew!

The kitchen tile joined the parquet in the dining area. I wanted something lighter that would make the area brighter and feel bigger.

The original pantry was like an abyss where everything got pushed to the back and out of sight.

First came the new lighting -- LED can lights on the outside and a ceiling fan in the center of the recessed area. These lights are awesome -- very bright but no heat is coming from them. I love having the ceiling fan in the kitchen, too.  I didn't want to close off the recessed area and make it level with the rest of the ceiling because I felt that it would make the area really small. (Note: The electrician on the right is a former student. They are everywhere!)

The kitchen and dining room were completely gutted to make way for new 20-inch porcelain tiles set on an angle.

Next came the cabinets -- Shaker style in honey maple. I don't like white or painted cabinets which is what seems to be popular right now. I like wood tones but wanted to lighten everything.
The new pantry has pull-out shelves. Now I can see what's in the back.

The paint color for the dining room is Crushed Cinnamon by Benjamin Moore. The granite color is Crema Bordeaux. It's hard to tell in the pictures but there are specks of cinnamon color in the granite.

 All of the appliances are GE. I used almond-colored subway tiles for the backsplash. I wanted something neutral that would not compete with the granite.

The only extra cabinet I added was for the trash can. The old can set here and I hated having it exposed to the dining area. (There was still paint touch-up needed when I took this picture.)

I bought the faucet at Costco. I wasn't familiar with the brand, Hansgrohe, but my plumber said it was fantastic. I paid $269 but the next month, Costco marked it down to $189. Since mine hadn't been installed yet, I took it back and re-bought it. 

No one ever noticed this cabinet before. We use it for storing pool items, flower vases and dog food. I requested the pull out shelves to make it easier to get to items.
I never stressed about anything, and any time I had a question or concern, I called Scott. I jokingly told him that my calls were why he was getting the big money he was making! I did go over my budget by a couple of thousand dollars, but I made several changes which increased the cost.

All in all, I'd say this project was a good one. I might even enjoy cooking now.

Here are links to some of the businesses who did all the amazing work: