Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out.
Let’s face it: there is never a good time to begin a renovation. And when you’re in a business where your surroundings have to be impeccable at a moment’s notice, you can multiply this platitude by about a million.
As many of you have noticed or read in this paper, we’ve started renovating the funeral home. As of press time, no one’s fallen into the hole at the front of our building (graveyard jokes notwithstanding), nor has the “Frankenstorm” filled it to swimming pool capacity. It’s exciting to see our addition take shape after years of planning; every day when the Coddington and MCC crews go home, there’s something new to see.
But while you’ll be able to see the progress on the exterior of our building, the interior is a different story. We’ve redecorated five of the rooms on our main floor over the past year, doing three in the last month alone in anticipation of the addition. If you didn’t notice the change, that’s exactly the point – although it’s a challenge to keep a disaster zone under wraps for too long.
We’re no strangers to painting: since moving here nine years ago, we’ve repainted practically every inch of our apartment. But redecorating the main floor has been intimidating. Not only was most of it wallpapered, the rooms themselves were altered when the house was converted into a funeral home. But no time like the present, when a brand-new room would contrast with the aging wallpaper, however attractive it might be (and considering the Sasses picked it out in the ‘80s, we fared very well!).
Andrew and I had a debate familiar to any homeowner: paint over the existing paper, or take it down and hope for the best when it came to the plaster beneath? The first option would be easier, but my stubborn streak emerged, and we decided to be extra-ambitious. We’re not getting any younger when it comes to manual labour, we reasoned, and if the walls were really rough, there was always paintable wallpaper!
So, we let’er rip – well, steam. Ripping off that first layer was exhilarating, until we realized there were two more layers underneath… and only an industrial steamer (or two) would do. Liz and Stuart Jeffrey did an amazing job on the top layer; the couple signed the wall, and their mastery of tight corners certainly was a work of art, if a challenge to remove! Much steaming and scraping later, we hit plaster: surprisingly good plaster in some spots, and not-so-great in others. But on the whole, we believed we could overcome the cracks that be with more elbow grease and bravado.
A few weeks ago, I talked about experiencing new things. I admit that “plaster repair” isn’t on my bucket list, but there was no time not to learn – it’s one thing to have families walk around a construction fence, but quite another to make them wade through wet wallpaper and plaster dust! As it turns out, my fashion experience came in handy when it came to plaster repair: as any woman who regularly applies make-up or nail polish knows, it’s best to start with a thin layer and add as needed. The fill dries faster and requires less sanding – all the more important when time is potentially of the essence. While there’s only “before” photos on my Facebook page, rest assured, every errant scrap of paper is gone and the paint is dry. My camera’s focus has shifted to what’s happening outside; it’s much easier to chart progress when someone else is doing the work!
Want to build a great meal at this time of year? Try stuffed peppers; they’re a classic comfort food and peppers are still in season. The recipe actually calls for pre-cooking the peppers but they’re easier to stuff when raw. Tuck leftovers into your lunch bag!
(Adapted from bettrycrocker.com)
4 large bell peppers (any colour)
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 tbsp. chopped onion
1 cup cooked rice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups of your favourite pasta sauce
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cut a thin slice from the stem end of each pepper; remove seeds, membranes and rinse. If necessary, cut thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up easily. In a skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in rice, garlic and 1 cup of the tomato sauce; cook until hot.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff peppers with beef mixture. Stand peppers upright in ungreased 8-inch square glass baking dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over peppers. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 10 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle with cheese prior to serving.