PART 4 – How to Survive and Eat Well Without A Kitchen! The Final Move to One Year Later with Renovations.
PART 4 – The Final Move and One Year Later: The last relaxing cottage days included good friends, followed by the move. The filth, the nightmares, and the ugliest house in the world ready to undergo a transformation. How to survive and eat well without a kitchen including a bad well full of bacteria. The end of 2018 through 2019!
September 29, 2018, With farm-fresh produce grilling at the cottage, I was still having fun, but it was about to end!
October 7 – It was nearing my last weeks in the cottage rental with much needed to be done before closing on my new home. In addition to the normal address changes, and the phone calls for both home and business set up, I was also connecting with contractors because the home I was purchasing was a bank-owned house in desperate need of repair before moving in. Every day was fast-paced, but I managed to take a last-minute break with one day off to spend with my long-time friend Kathy who came up from Florida with her fiancé Rich and her family to spend some time with me in Old Saybrook.
Following this day, it was back to contractors, purchasing appliances, picking out paint, and flooring all before closing on the house. I was about to purchase a Viking kitchen, then found a sale on Thermador I purchased! My soon to be dream kitchen.
While I was shopping, I had business updates going on with a marketing consultant for website changes, along with multiple work projects.
I’ll brief the end of 2018 here with a series of events, and fast forward through 2019, including eating on the run without a kitchen, the nightmares, and the transformation photos!
The closing day was October 31, 2018, giving me eight days before my move to have the contractors finish my office and gym area for in-house clients. Meanwhile, I cleaned the house every day after work to be ready. Immediately following the closing, it was off to look at new kitchen cabinets, marble counter, and flooring!
This was only the beginning of running around, little sleep and some sleepless nights! It meant many yogurts, fruit and kefir on the run, veggie and cheese sandwiches, and few days of grabbing peanut butter and wild blueberry preserve to take in the car.
In the days to come, the kitchen was vacant but filthy. The cabinets were dirty and slimy, the stove was disgusting with caked-on grease, and the pantry closets had layers of dirt. The kitchen floor was washed three times with bleach. The windowsills had a build-up of one-half to one inch of dirt in them, and the bedroom and bathroom doors had a film of mildew on them taking over one-hour each to clean!
You may ask why I purchased this house. After purchasing a total of six houses over many years prior to this house, including one townhouse, a cottage income property, and two homes I built where I was the acting general contractor, I saw the space in this house, the area, and immediately knew the potential. After one look and one walkthrough, I had a vision of how I could change both the interior and exterior with my limited budget.
November 2, the alarm system was in place, plans were made for new propane service lines to install for cooking and a fireplace insert, and most of the other services were in place.
By November 3, the cabinets and marble counters for the new kitchen were ordered, the business phone was installed, contractors were working away on my office and gym walls and floor, and I was still eating well at the cottage while packing up once again!
On November 4, being determined, I spent seven hours cleaning the master tub and shower. The second bath waited for another day.
The next day I discovered the toilet in the half-bathroom was leaking, I shut it off for a quick fix only to realize I needed a new subfloor too. Then the outdoor faucet broke with water gushing out at full force! I had to shut the water off to the house, then find a hose to purchase when garden hoses were out of stock everywhere! After a few phone calls, I was in luck, Ace Hardware had one hose and nozzle left for $87, a bargain when in need. I quickly returned home, hooked it up and was able to turn the water back on until my plumber came within a few days to replace the faucet.
Tuesday, November 6 was a 13-hour workday out of town, but I managed to vote at 7:00 AM after a quick workout and making a few meals take on the road that always consisted of salad with fish, beans, or cheese, along with plenty of fruit, yogurt, nuts, veggie sandwich, and plenty of water with lemon to get me through the day.
November 7, after work, I removed the old carpeting in the bedrooms. This took me over seven hours late at night after a long day, I then made a quick smoothie and grabbed a couple of hours sleep to be back at the house the next day for the movers.
Ah, furniture moving day, and it came fast! November 8– I had to be at the house early in the morning to paint one wall in the half-bathroom before the washer and dryer were delivered prior to the movers arriving with the furniture. It was a necessity as the walls were hot pink. I did mention I bought the ugliest house in the world, right?
The movers knew in advance they would not be able to get up my driveway with a large truck due to a steep curved slope, therefore it took 10 hours with three movers using a small box truck making extra trips from storage one town away. Meanwhile, the contractors were not finished on my ground level which meant total chaos with the movers having to place my office and gym equipment into a back-storage room with everyone bumping into one another. I was surviving the day with NuGo Slim bars, Think Thin bars, Bolthouse Farms protein drinks, nuts, dried cranberries, plain yogurt, fruit, and dying for greens! I, fortunately, had the cottage available another couple of days, therefore after the movers left, I proceeded back to grab a spinach salad, and continued moving my other boxes and containers at the cottage. This meant many carloads alone with my SUV.
On November 9, I had the new refrigerator installed, as the house did not come with one. The new refrigerator did not work, a Bosch (the only non-Thermador appliance purchased) – and I thought they were supposed to be great, not this one. Taking a deep breath, it was okay, I had a cooler to place on the front porch with purchased ice for one week until the next new refrigerator arrived. I could do nothing but laugh as I would have to go out on the front porch in the cold every morning for one week to get my milk for coffee, and breakfast food.
Saturday, November 10, 2018, Saying Goodbye to the Cottage and Officially Moving into My New Home. I was getting my workouts in with running up and down my front slope with boxes from the car to my house. This is the slope where I later built a stone staircase seen below, but at the time it was a mud run full of overgrowth and unruly bushes with thorns.
Near the end of the afternoon, I proceeded back to my cottage rental to clean up and gather up the last of my belongings. Following my last trip and unloading the final box from my SUV, I was exhausted and ready to call Uber to take me back to the cottage one last time to pick up my little convertible and call it a day. Only, right at that moment, the computer mechanicals to my SUV back door latch quit! My vehicle’s horn was sounding uncontrollable, my back door would not fully close, and the battery died. I called my Mercedes mechanic who is 50 minutes away, and he was able to diagnose the problem. I then called triple-A for a jump because Mercede’s free service only takes you to the dealer. Meanwhile, the horn continued sounding off five beeps every 10 minutes for an hour in my new neighborhood until triple-A arrived. I let the car charge for an hour while unpacking before heading out.
Once the car was charged, I made a cup of tea for the road with a “Think Thin” peanut butter 220 calorie bar with 20 grams of protein to have for a meal replacement while driving to my mechanics via backroads with the bell to back hatch dinging all the way from Old Saybrook to Salem, CT. From Salem, I contacted Uber to return to my other car 60 minutes away that was still at the cottage. It was now around 11:00 PM, and I was ravenous! So it was off to a local pizza shop to get an eggplant grinder and salad to go, at this point I figured I was burning calories moving all over the place, it did not a matter what I ate so long as I had some decent nutrients in me.
I managed to get four hours of sleep that evening on the sofa in the living room of my new house. My bed was not set up yet, and the sofa is where I slept for one week because the third floor where the bedrooms are located was still too dirty to go into.
As for my SUV, it turned out it needed both a battery and a new computer part to the back door, it was ready one week later with an unexpected $1,100 expense, though I could not complain because I have the best private Mercedes mechanic known to many in the auto industry as a “genius” who is much less than dealerships. And this was only pennies compared to the unexpected exciting year to follow.
On November 11, I Thought the Worst Was Over, nope, not even close. I received a phone call from the foreclosure agency saying they were not aware I had closed on the house and they never replaced the well-tank or completed sanitary measures for my drinking water! I had a bad well tank full of bacteria! Fortunately, I was only drinking bottled water, the ice maker was not hooked up since the refrigerator did not work, and the water well company took care of the issue right away.
At this point, I kept my sanity by listening to Baroque music, NPR news, and regular meditation before work. And my morning workouts continued since I fortunately never went without some type of home gym equipment.
Moving forward, November 14, I had my first sports nutrition client in the new office location!
On November 18, I developed laryngitis and sinusitis, I was completely non-verbal, not even a whisper! It was all related to removing the old carpeting and using multiple cleaning products, and in part, it was due to lack of sleep. Ah, but little laryngitis, fortunately, does not interfere with eating, staying nourished and working out. With all the chaos surrounding me, I kept up with mediation, stretching, weightlifting, and eating well despite the challenges! This saved me.
By November 19, the kitchen was gutted, and I was using the old bathroom sink to do what little dishes I had. Mystic Market in Old Saybrook became my go-to place for take-out food, and it was not bad. Later that week I set up a temporary makeshift kitchen in my dining room where I had a blender, coffee maker, and microwave, and left out a few dishes. This is how you survive a gutted kitchen with the help of take-out salads, soup, fish and vegetables. Candlelit dinners help too!
The cabinets started to get installed by November 28, and there were many contractors everywhere! There was only one mishap, my marble countertops were cut wrong, this meant rearranging every contractor from the electrician, plumber, and carpenter, to the propane installation.
I mentioned earlier and in the former blog “Part 3” I use baroque classical music for calming; it became baroque every single evening! Calming for me is taking it down a notch with music, switching out the rock for classical, or bossa nova, and this went on for a few months.
Moving forward into early 2019. There was a suspected flying squirrel in the attic when I first moved in, and it was later confirmed by another inspection company after I found one dead mouse late winter. I found the mouse while putting up quarter-round and sheetrock for an energy audit, that was a 36-hour non-stop day for me. You read that right – 36 hours straight hanging ceiling sheetrock, doors, and cutting quarter-round trim all needed to prep for an energy audit. I kept nourished by making a large batch of homemade vegetable and bean soup in advance. Back to the squirrel. The good news is the company who finally took care of my squirrels in the spring, and questionable mice in the attic were also able to eliminate the abundance of carpenter ants and carpenter bees found in and around my deck. I was able to repair the decks myself, that are now painted. The attic insulation will be professionally cleaned out and replaced due to the old squirrel and mice droppings.
It Was Finally Spring 2019, thinking not much else could go wrong, only soon the gutters were packed with leaves and clogged with water runoff everywhere, and the roof was leaking into my master bathroom, and the driveway was a disaster with an accident waiting to happen! I first had a temporary roof fix, and a leaf filtration system with a lifetime warranty was installed. Only the roof leak came back in the fall, and finally, an entire back dormer roof was replaced with a new roof and waterproof barrier. The front roof can wait. To date, the bathroom ceiling is now leaking again onto a new marble counter. It is believed to be from an opening in a ventilation pipe, this too will be fixed. During this time a driveway repair company came in to replace a large area torn up.
The only two new items in the master bath to date is the countertop sink and a beautiful chandelier that is like a conversation piece while being surrounded by the ugliest bathroom in the world with torn up walls, holes, ripped vinyl flooring, and no baseboard – at least I swapped out the pathetic rusted red painted radiator with a white radiator being thrown out during the kitchen renovation. The radiator will get sanded and painted.
Fast Forward, December 7, 2019, a new well-pump had to be installed, not expected, only another surprise. But needless to say, more than one year later, The new kitchen is installed, I installed the backsplash and floor myself, painted, and updated the half bath, installed the vanity sink myself, did some sheetrock work, cut quarter-round for the entire third floor, built a stone staircase to the office, and built a front patio, landscaped the entranceway, painted the front porch, doors, replaced hardware, and had professional painters paint the other decks, updated and painted the fireplaces, one has a gas insert, the other an electric insert. Most of the yard is now cleaned up that took several long weekend days from sunrise to sunset and a few evenings working by outside lights, and I took down several small trees surrounding the house and driveway. The gutter system and the new back roof is now in place, along with the new well-pump. I continue to work on six other rooms including three-bedrooms that presently only have sub-floor, two full bathrooms to update, living room, dining room, and two staircases to refinish, along with the rest of the landscaping. There will be a meditation room next to the gym that is already sheetrocked, and there is one raised patio with pavers I will build in the early spring next to the back deck with other stone pathways around the property.
This is a work in progress every weekend. From September to December 2019, I crammed in my “real work” with private nutrition clients, and nutrition rehab contracts out of town five days a week while packing up a few meals to take with me – always a salad, beans, lots of fruit, nuts, plain Greek yogurt, and plenty of water with lemon. I had an intern, Liam, three nights a week in my home office who helped with my business, it left me time for private clients four nights per week during the same time Liam was here. This meant quick fix meals late at night while packing food for the next day, and once again, little time to sleep. Only 4-5 hours sleep per night as I was getting up at 3:00 AM to work-out, shower, and off to work, often working until 9 PM and sometimes to 11 PM between contracts and private practice. This added up to 70 to 80-hour workweeks with driving, plus 15-20 hours of landscaping and renovations on the weekends totaling 85-100 hours per week. I had no choice but to take on extra work to pay for unexpected expenses. Much of this changed the end of December by eliminating one contract leaving more time for private practice during the day, and less work in the evening. It was a matter of health due to sleep deprivation, and I needed to take care of my everyday business operations during the day to help others. The weekends continue to be dedicated to renovations. It is a rewarding escape from my weekly work and one I enjoy!
One year later, the difference is on the weekends in the evening, there is now jazz, progressive rock, blues, or upbeat indie folk music heard playing throughout the house. The candles are lit, the fireplaces are on, and the aroma is beautiful while food is often baking in the oven. There is no more chaos, only a sense of calm, and fun excitement while I’m planning the next room to renovate. I make time for runs along the shore. And sleep, yes sleep is important, working toward a goal of 7-hours per night.
Would I do it all again? Yes, once I finish this project. This is the seventh house I have purchased over many years, and I learn something new with every home built or renovated. I will keep you posted as I have my eye on another home.
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Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT
PART 2 – On the Move! How to eat well, stay calm, fit, and healthy while packing and putting your life belongings in storage!
In the middle of this craziness having to find a new home, I had a couple of little breaks when I was working with Long Island Broadcasting radio stations WBAZ and WEHM in Water Mill, NY for advertising, consulting, and some live broadcasts. Although I was still red from the topical chemotherapy, I took the Cross Sound Ferry over from New London, CT to Long Island Orient Point, NY. An area I know well from Greenport to Shelter Island, and Sag Harbor through East Hampton to Southampton. The area has beautiful scenic views, and many great little food stores, shops, and restaurants to stop at while driving through! It felt great to break away for a day to be live on the BAZ show hosted by their broadcaster Jo. On-Air Joann Blog working with Kathy. The last stop recommended by Jo after the show before getting back onto the ferry was Kontokosta Winery in Greenport which is worth the trip alone for the gorgeous views! This was my first time at this winery, it was a fabulous way to end the day before the ferry trip back. More on the Hamptons, a long weekend in Montauk, and Kontakosta later. For now, it’s time to get back to the moving.
On August 25 I officially backed out of purchasing the house in Essex, Connecticut due to the bad inspection. The closing was supposed to be August 31 with my intentions to move the first week of September. My rental was being sold, but I was told at the time I could extend my lease until the end of September. Meanwhile, while searching for other homes to purchase thinking I had more time, I stopped packing and rescheduled my movers to a later date while I searched on for
Now for the first move, the food, the eating out, where to live, and “how to stay fit and calm” starts, and what about business, and when to find time to work and pack in one week? For one, no more groceries except my staples that included milk, yogurt, fruit and a few items for salads. With no time for real cooking or grilling, I decided the old Cuisinart Griddler I once loved had seen its day and went to the recycle center. It was time for quick healthy fixes on the run! I kept my home gym intact since most of this would be carried off with the movers. Both meditation and working out early in the morning kept me calm and at ease. It is amazing what food and activity can do for the mind. I went for one last early morning beach run on September first, the rest of the days were simple workouts, work, and packing.
I needed no mess easy clean up foods that included making mini veggie pizzas with store-bought whole grain pizza crust, organic pizza sauce, cut up broccoli, spinach, tomato, olives, onions, and whatever other veggies I had to use up along with shredded cheese mixed with 1% fat cottage cheese as toppings, and olive oil sprayed on top using my “Misto” spray pump. I then baked the pizza on foil for around 15-20 minutes and had it as a quick meal after work and in-between packing. Other fast meals were ready-made lobster cakes, ready cooked shrimp cocktail, and veggie burgers that were microwaved in 80 seconds. My breakfast and lunches were about the same as always as it is easy to make oatmeal, salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Most of my sandwiches are veggies that include spinach, tomato, Kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, bell peppers, and cheese on whole grain bread, or when pressed for time I chose natural peanut butter with blueberry preserve with a glass of milk or organic soy milk, or kefir – all this works. As the last few days in my rental with most of the kitchen now packed, I only left out the minimal essentials to cook with, or I should say kitchens because of the second kitchen in my office. I purposely did not pack my blender to make my morning smoothies and left out one small frying pan for scrambled eggs I enjoy on the weekends and used foil for baking all other items. Everything else was packed except for my coffee maker, my favorite kni
I had a few sleepless nights while packing after work, but I knew this was temporary. Meanwhile, in-between work and packing I found two other homes, one in Essex that did not work out, the other one in Old Saybrook, Connecticut that needed a great deal of work and it was going to take 60 days to close on, but I was out of options within my budget so I made an offer. Now with less than one week to move, I continued searching everywhere for rentals from academic to bed and breakfast suites to Airbnb, and after a few applications explaining I only needed two months to rent, I found a beautifully furnished comfortable cottage in Old Saybrook, CT. The cottage was only five houses from the water, and I would be able to work out of it too! Only one glitch, I was told I could move in for the first five days, then I would have to move out for three or four days before returning as it was rented to someone else. Once returned I could stay until November eighth. I agreed to provide I could have a place to leave my large container plants and find a place to store over 20 bins filled with business machines, files, supplies, and personal belongings including clothes I would need in the cooler months to come. Fortunately for me, the woman who owned the cottage was delightful and accommodated me with an empty clean storage shed that was a former summer cottage for me to store all my belongings in. What a relief! From here, every day was a new adventure of the unknown, it was fast-paced, exhausting, and exciting at the same time!
While finishing my final days with clients who came until three days before I moved, I could not start packing the office until the end as I wanted to continue a comfortable atmosphere for them and managed to pack up everything in the office in two days.
My food choices came down to take out sandwiches, purchased store-bought smoothies, and NuGo Slim protein bars to get me through the final 48 hours including multiple carloads on moving day.
Less than 16 hours to go before the mover’s show, time was running out to pack! I never would have managed without the help of my friend Debbie who came to my rescue by driving ninety minutes the night before to help me to box up the final items for the movers arriving the next day! It was pizza delivery that last night and was great seeing Debbie who only recently relocated back to Connecticut with her husband from South Carolina a few weeks earlier. She too was exhausted and left late in the evening. As for me, I stayed up the night to make sure all was packed for the movers and finished loading my two cars with my bins and boxes. Come the morning of the eighth I grabbed one last smoothie before packing up my blender and made it just on time for the movers! I was moving less than 30 minutes away, but it took several car trips, and this time my realtor Deb, came to my rescue by helping me with the last loads of multiple large plants, and she drove me back to pick up my second car. I was now awake for a couple of days, it was already evening, it was dark out, and I was exhausted and hungry. My last stop was an eggplant sub, then to the cottage to unpack.
Stay tuned for PART 3 On the run! Fun times in the Hamptons, Montauk, Old Saybrook, and lots of great dining and food!
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