A few years ago, starting in the month of February we purchased, gutted and remodeled our home with our own four hands (between Jonas and I, that’s four, right?). We didn’t entirely plan on sub-contracting ourselves and consequently having to execute the whole nine, it just happened that every sub-contractor we hired kind of sucked and showed up late expecting lots of money. Eventually it just became easier to hang the sheetrock, cut and lay the tile, cut and lay the hardwoods, engineer, fabricate and install the steel staircase, et cetera all on our own. We typically started working when we both got off work, around 7pm. We continued until midnight or more, went “home” to our previous residence that was about to sell, and started the whole thing anew the next day.
Did I mention that we were also planning our international wedding, slated that May 24th? And that our previous house had to hit the real estate market before it began its now ubiquitous descent (of which we were hearing rumblings, since I’m a real estate agent by day)? Yeah, there really wasn’t much of an option but to get to work, so we hit the hack saw hard those few months. We hadn’t yet met the neighbors, but I could tell they thought I was something of an anomaly. I’d arrive at the house in Louboutins and pencil skirts but I’d come out shouldering 2x4’s two minutes later in coveralls spattered in paint and spackle.
We talked through every possible use of the existing layout of the house, wanting to maximize everything, and so trying to think of all scenarios our lives might take. We have 30’ ceilings in the living room, but it doubles as a dining room and one whole wall is glass to let in the view of downtown Seattle. I’ve always had a thing for Christmas trees, and in those early planning stages we tried to sort out where the tree would eventually go (weird, I know, but you want to think of everything!). There really wasn’t an option for the tree that wouldn’t be right in the middle of the dining table or blocking the view, which is so nice on crisp winter days. We’re fairly unconventional, so we decided to think outside the box. How could we take advantage of the height for a massive tree, but not totally disrupt our lives? The solution: hang the tree upside-down from the ceiling much the same way a chandelier might hang right over the dining table. The rest of the year the spot houses a candolier (a chandelier but with candles) our interior designer-friend Robert unearthed, but during the festive month of December we pull the candolier and hoist up the Christmas tree, ornaments and all.
When Jonas initially drilled the bolts in the ceiling beams that would come to hold our trees, he had to awkwardly maneuver himself on a shaky ladder up way way too high. I made him do it quick, since I hate watching him up there. He was always a little displeased with one of the bolts, but everything seemed fine, so we finished up the remodel. Meanwhile we forgot all about the bold and masterminded our Italian nuptials in Portofino which involved herding 60 crazy friends around the Italian Riviera for several days (complete with stolen vehicles, an entire country cleaned out of their limoncello stock, and a lot a lot of nudity, but that is a tale for another time). When we got back in June we had less than a month to vacate our previous residence as it had sold, so we had to wrap things up. We slated the housewarming party for early August and invited a hundred people, to really dig the nail in the coffin. Ten minutes before guests arrived for the housewarming, we had a crew of good friends still running frantically through the house wielding paintbrushes, drills, cables and pipes trying to piece the place together, but on the whole we finished the remodel in six months while working full time and planning a wedding. This is not a period of my life I ever wish to relive, nor my relationship at that time J.
Life was good for two years. Two Christmas trees successfully hung over the table during Christmas, much to everyone’s delight. I was especially happy this year, since the tree is suspended high enough in the air that my climbing toddler can’t reach/break all the delicate ornaments he so covets. I invited some friends over for a tree decorating party, luring them with homemade bagels, beignets, Bellini’s and bacon-cheddar scones. You were going to get the recipes for the beignets, bagels and Bellini’s, but the universe had another plan for me that day. I fed everyone when they arrived, thinking it would bolster their strength for tree-trimming. I think it had the opposite effect, however, as everyone settled into the living room nursing their respective food comas. Two hours (and two trips to Lowe’s) later, the lights weren’t even finished and not a single ornament had adorned the tree. We can’t hoist it up until it’s all finished, but unfortunately we had to be somewhere, so everyone went home and we abandoned the tree, poised at ground level in a sorry state. We didn’t get home until 10 that night, but since the baby was out for the count, we decided to finish the tree up ourselves.
I armed myself with a generous glass of tawny port for the occasion, and miraculously, we finished up just after midnight. It was so exciting that we decided rather than wait for a strong neighbor to help us hoist, surely we could do it ourselves. I used the pulley system up high to rein in the stainless steel cables as Jonas singlehandedly hoisted the tree. Unfortunately my strength was not enough to hold the cable very well, and I had to rely too heavily on the bolt in the ceiling beam. This is when slow-motion kicked in, and we heard a resounding crack. Right after, the tree used all its gravity and girth to attack Jonas who was standing just beneath it on the ground. Luckily the only bruises sustained that night were those of the ego nature.
I wanted to cry, but it wasn’t a pity party, so we shored up the tree as best we could, cleaned up lots of broken glass ornaments, and went to bed. The next day after work, our neighbor Jamie came over, and he helped steady the ladder while Jonas properly drilled in the bolt. We redecorated a bit and used the strength of two men plus little ol’ me to rightfully suspend the tree. It’s up there nice and sturdy now, beaming down at us with a little twinkle here and there, and I can tell it’s there to stay- at least until January 1st!
I’ll leave you with an easy Bellini recipe- you may need it to make it through these next few weeks.
- 1 10 oz bag frozen peaches
- 1/2 c water
- 1/4 c sugar
- 2 bottles prosecco
Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water by boiling it down for 5 minutes. Blend it with the frozen peaches until uniform. put in container and refreeze the puree for at least a half hour. To serve the Bellini’s blend one bottle of prosecco with half the peach puree. Pour a teaspoon of grenadine into the bottom of each champagne flute. fill each flute with the Bellini mixture, and garnish with mint or a peach slice if you desire.