The Challenges

I started this project to cook everyday from the Berlin Cook Book because I felt I needed to try something new. My home and work lives were fine but I just needed a challenge. What better challenge on New Years Day then to do something everyday for an entire year and help my city celebrate a special anniversary. Little did I know that Life was about to present me with some challenges beyond anything I could have imagined.


On April 4 I received a call from my house guest telling me that my home was flooded with water from a burst pipe. It turned out that the water shut off valve for the hot water tap in the bathroom on the top floor of my home had blown. I don’t know how long the hot water flowed but probably several hours. It flooded all three levels of my house. Calls to insurance and the remediation company they recommended started my journey into an entirely new world for me. It was Easter weekend so we lived with drying equipment and fans going 24 hours a day for four days in hopes of drying out the walls, floors and ceilings. Nearly every part of the house was affected. My guest’s room, my sewing room on the top floor, part of my kitchen, and the laundry room on the bottom floor were the only places untouched.

The remediation company found that the drying had worked to a point but they were still going to have to open everything up. Nearly all my belongings had to be packed up and stored away off site . I was told to set aside treasures and anything I would need for the next two months. A temporary bedroom was set up for me in my sewing room. I was fortunate that very few special things were water damaged.

Heartbreaking – the original plaster ceiling had to come down

I was unprepared for my distress as I watched my heritage home being pulled apart. Gone was the original plaster from ceilings and walls, original trim was removed and saved. Floors were taken back to the base. I got to see my home in an entirely new light. I saw the strength of my home — after 120 years it still stood. I saw the changes previous owners and tenants had made in the house.

Through all of this I continued to cook and blog every day. I made food in hotel rooms, a church kitchen, and at friends’ homes. I climbed over and around things in my own home as the contents of my kitchen grew as the few remaining pieces of furniture and boxes of treasures and cooking supplies were moved from one room to another to allow various work to take place. I will have a memento of this time for quite a few years. I have a long scar on my arm from a burn I received trying to cook in my crowded kitchen.

Each day seemed to bring another home issue. The open walls revealed electrical problems. I had to arrange for complete re-wiring. A wind storm damaged the roof and brought to light shoddy workmanship during installation several years ago. It had to be repaired temporarily and will soon have to be replaced. Money was flying out of the house.

And then came the next challenge.


On April 30, I found out I was going to lose my job along with many other people — a job that had seemed very secure. A job I had for almost 14 years. Here I was facing a completely disrupted home life and now my work was coming to an end. Although insurance was covering most of the work I had some additional expenses and the prospect of financial problems if I am unemployed for a long time.

And yet I have continued to cook and blog every day. What had started out as a challenge was becoming the stabilizing force in my life. No matter what was happening in the house or at work I knew I had to keep going with 366 Day with the Berlin Cook Book. Some people had questioned whether I could keep this up for an entire year and now I had an excuse. I could stop or take a break. People would understand but I’ve continued every day.

It is four months later and my job will soon end and my home is still not restored. The electrical work is complete and I have painted walls again but I am waiting for floors and trim and finally for my belongings to return home. The delays have been unexpected but not unusual. The insurance company and the remediation company have been great. And my friends and family are the ones helping to make this blog possible as they provide support and kitchens in my times of need.

Stay tuned for the next chapter!


5 Responses to The Challenges

  1. Amy says:

    You are a wonderful, strong, beautiful person! Best wishes and please don’t give up!

  2. Laurie says:

    Echoing Amy’s cries of DON”T GIVE UP!

  3. Laurie says:

    Can you give us an update on the outcome of all the challenges you faced in 2012? Photos of your freshly renovated home?

  4. Elaine says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    I have been meaning to contact you for a long time. I was saddened by the closure of Woodside and I remember you very well. You are so knowledgeable and you captured the attention of the students I brought. I am pleased that you have the cookbook to distract you from the trials you have faced. Good luck with your future endeavours.

  5. Carolyn, this is such an astonishing flood of challenges coming at once. So deeply unsettling. But your spirit shines through in this telling. It was obviously an awful awful time, but your commitment to persevering is inspiring. And mouth watering! All that yummy cooking:)

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