Thursday, January 26, 2017

Goodbye Closets

In the last post I talked about drilling five deep holes and pouring in reinforced cement to create piers down to bedrock which will attach to the foundation. Well, I learned later that they only got three of the five completed. This week, after a number of days of heavy rain, they came out to drill piers 4 and 5. Pier 4 got drilled but had to be lined with slurry to keep it from collapsing in on itself. Drilling pier 5 turned out to be too problematic. They encountered a large rock five feet down and the vibration of drilling through it caused the hole to collapse in on itself. The water table was too high so they decided to pull the crew off the job for a couple weeks and let things dry out before continuing. So our first typical construction delay has already happened.

Meanwhile there was still some progress. In the downstairs room, there is an original three door closet structure. The first door (on the left) was a small broom closet. The next one housed the old furnace which we needed to replace shortly after we moved in since what was there was an original from 1956 and slowly dying. We updated the furnace and relocated it further under the house years ago so this one's been empty for awhile. The third contains our hot water heater (more on the relocation of that later). We needed to investigate some venting issues because we have plans to reclaim the space that these closets took up and the heating vent for the room is above door #2. Our inside contractor said that the best way to figure out what will work is to completely remove these closets.

So this evening I came home to find that the entire closet structure was cleanly removed. Tomorrow, there will be an HVAC contractor coming in along with our contractor to take a look at the venting to see what options are available with the venting.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Major Remodel Project Underway

If you were to go back to my first post on this blog you'd see that Boomerang Kitchen started out as a chronicle of a major kitchen/living room remodel so that family and friends could follow the progress. I was inspired by our good friends who posted a similar remodel project on a blog for their San Jose house the year before we started our remodel. However, once their project was completed, they no longer posted an entries. But by the time our initial project was nearing completion, I was starting to follow a number of food blogs and I began to consider whether I should stop posting upon completion or if I should post some of the recipes I was making in the newly-remodeled kitchen. I decided on the latter and, hence, this blog still lives.

Well, a number of years later, we have begun another major remodel project on the house (built in 1956) and I have decided to return to the roots of this blog for a few months and share some of the milestones. I will also keep the food content going.

Sloping floor
The latest project's genesis comes from the fact that our house is on a slight slope which is creeping downhill. We started to notice some unusual interior cracks in our drywall which had grown larger over the years.
As you can see in this shot, there is a difference in the height of the floor from the left side to the right side on this closed door upstairs close to the west wall. More evidence that part of the house is moving.

We had some engineers (soils and structural) out to examine, measure, and study everything. The final report's recommended action was to get a structural company out to put piers down into the bedrock, lift the house back up, and redo part of the foundation.
Rebar piers to be placed in drilled holes

The most impacted room is a downstairs bonus room. It's where we have our main TV but it's not a room that is fully utilized. Closets installed by the original owner of the house is where we store a variety of old items, Christmas decorations, etc.  We decided that after the foundation was secure we would also do a major remodel of the room to make it into an inviting media room.

Filled pier outside of west wall
So just after the start of the year, the work began on the foundation. They cut holes in the cement outside and under the west and south walls (closest to the slope) in order to create five 18-foot deep piers around the southwest corner of the house and attach those piers to the foundation. Drilling went on for two very noisy days. They called the county out for an inspection but by then one of the holes had partially collapsed. So another half day of drilling and the the cement truck arrived around 3 PM and they poured concrete into the rebar-filled piers in the pouring rain until 8:30 that night.

A few days of recent rain has delayed further work but I was told that the crew will be back next week.

Inside the house, the west wall of the downstairs has the sheet rock taken down in order to install some reinforcements which will connect to the piers. The 3 foot stem wall on the bottom will be removed and the foundation redone with another, shorter stem wall foundation. Where the current window is will be converted into an 8' x 8' accordion door. The grey open door on the left edge will be removed and converted into a solid wall. 

Meanwhile, we have also been working with a different contractor who will be doing the interior remodeling. We are trying to set other aspects of the interior remodeling in motion so that work on the interior can begin soon after the foundation work is completed. More to come. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cream of Broccoli Soup

A rainy Sunday here in California. Also trying to use up a backlog of holiday ingredients. All of that meant is was a great day to make some soup before heading back to the work grind tomorrow.

We had three weeks of broccoli from the CSA box and the oldest was getting a bit tired. So I decided to use the oldest broccoli and a good part of the second oldest for a soup today.

But cooking with broccoli reminds me that you also need to be using the stems. I admit to many years of tossing the stems. But more recently we have been discovering the subtle, tender flavor of broccoli stems. They are great in everything you use broccoli florets for. Here's a YouTube video on how to trim the broccoli stems.

One of the original recipes I riffed off for this version called for an additional 3/4 cup of half and half but I don't think it needs it. This is pretty rich already with all of the butter. 

Serve it sparingly with other things for dinner or lunch and you'll find it's very satisfying as is. 

Cream of Broccoli Soup


Butter - 1 stick (I used salted), softened
Flour - 2/3 cup
Yellow onion - 1/4 cup or more, chopped
Broccoli - 4 cups florets and peeled stems, cut into bite sized pieces
Broth - 6 cups
White pepper - 1/8 teaspoon or to taste
Salt - to taste


In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add onion and some black pepper and stir until onions are softened. Add the broccoli, along with a pinch of salt, and stir to mix. Cook, stirring often, until broccoli softens a bit and the florets have turned a deeper shade of green (about 6-8 minutes).

Add broth to the broccoli mixture and turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and let the soup cool a bit with the cover on. 

While the soup is cooling, melt 6 teaspoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly until the roux is well-blended. Break out the immersion blender at the end to take care of the last of the roux crumbs. Take off of the heat and set aside. 

When the soup is cool enough to work with, use an immersion blender to break up the softened broccoli pieces. Return to heat and add the roux. Stir constantly, seeking out chunks of roux to break up. Reheat and stir for about 8-10 minutes or until you think you have no more chunks of roux. 

Add white pepper and salt and stir to mix. As the soup nears boiling, turn off heat and move the saucepan to another location to cool a bit. Let it cool enough to taste and then salt and pepper to taste