Archive for September, 2005

Life Without a Kitchen – Day 5

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

So far so good…

Brad the electrician just finished up his work after two days worth of showing up pretty much on time and working hard, but being nice and friendly, and communicative about what was needed. I would highly recommend him to anyone I knew doing a remodel. He did a great job of helping me figure out what I wanted where, and even hooked me up with a plastering/patching guy who’s supposed to show up tomorrow – very short notice – to get the holes covered up before the cabinet installers come on Monday. Brad will be back next week to finish up the lighting and other wiring that has to wait till the cabinets are in.

In chatting with him, we discovered that Julie and his son were born one day apart, and his wife is due with their next a couple of months after our new baby is due. Having a worker around the house all day is a little awkward no matter how nice the person is, but it was a little easier being around someone who understood Julie’s two-year-old behavior without raising an eyebrow.

The plumbers came and did their stuff on Tuesday – in and out within half an hour – they’ll be back next week to follow up as well. Could it be possible that I’ll really have a kitchen back by the end of next week?!!!

On the surviving without a kitchen front – well, we’ve been dipping into the frozen food section at the grocery store a little more than I’d hoped. It’s been a fun walk down memory lane – we got to talking about our favorite Swanson’s frozen dinners from when we were kids, and today I went and bought a couple for Joe and me to eat tonight. He’s having fried chicken, I’m having the mexican enchilada version. My favorite as a kid was the salisbury steak, but in the current version they have it paired with some sorry looking green-beans and it just didn’t look as appetizing as it used to. I’d rather have the current-day Lean Cuisine version that comes with mac and cheese even if it means I have to live without the chocolate brownie square. After all, there is still leftover birthday cake in the freezer.

I don’t know whether it is all the prepackaged food or an early version of what I experienced last time I was pregnant, but I have had some fierce heartburn this week. Normally, I NEVER get heartburn. But the last trimester with Julie I had it constantly no matter what I ate or drank. I got heartburn from drinking water. The night before the scheduled c-section, we went to Red Lobster because I was craving those evil cheese biscuits (which are the only real reason to visit Red Lobster). I was up most of that night with the worst heartburn I’ve ever had, and thank goodness, it went away as soon as the kid was out! I’m really hoping that once I start cooking meals again, it will subside at least for a couple of months till this baby really cramps my stomach’s style.

Speaking of the new baby – she’s wiggling around quite a bit these days. Joe was able to feel her moving with his hand on my belly for the first time earlier this week. She tends to wake up right when I get into bed to go to sleep, which makes trying to fall asleep interesting when I want to lay there and enjoy the weird sensation of a baby wiggling around inside me. I’m starting to feel more motivated to think about names – we have a horrible time picking out names, but there’s still plenty of time to find the right one for this little girl.

The sign we inherited when we bought our house.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

The sign we inherited when we bought our house.
Originally uploaded by shellykang.

I think we’ll keep it for now, as we and our friends think it is

hilarious! The people who owned the house before were in their late

80’s, so I am sure they are totally innocent of the joke.


Life Without a Kitchen – Day 3

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Friday night, Joe’s dad came over and the two of them spent the evening ripping apart our kitchen. Joe’s dad was under the delusion that it was going take a couple of hours – his estimate, not ours. It took them more like 4-5 hours, and there was much cursing involved. I had made it clear to Joe that we were planning to reuse the countertops temporarily for the next three weeks while we wait for the Silestone people to grind us some new ones, but somehow they didn’t survive – something about being glued down to the cabinets yadda yadda. I had also posted on Freecycle hoping to get rid of the old ones in a useful way without paying for dumpter space and got many responses…but most of the cabinets ended up getting cut and/or torn apart in the removal process. Oh well. We’ve already filled up four dumpsters from this house, may as well go for two or three more!

But they got the job done. That’s the important part. They saved us several thousand dollars that it would have cost us to have the installers take it all out and cart it off. And now, we are left with a half-empty room at the back of our house with bereft-looking appliances and a pile of grocery bags filled with dry goods to get us through the next week and a half or so. The plumber is coming tomorrow to disconnect the sink and the gas stove. The electrician is coming Wednesday to rewire the whole kitchen in a way that makes sense for the modern world. I never thought I would get excited about under-cabinet track lighting and a microwave outlet on its own circuit, but guess what – I am!

A week from today, the cabinet installers are supposed to come and clear out my office room and our dining room, turning all these puzzle pieces into a cohesive kitchen layout as specified on my carefully-planned printouts. Please, if there is a god, let them show up and get the work done and make it as good as the kitchen in my imagination.

Joe has taken Wednesday and Thursday of next week off to install new Pergo flooring…and again, please, whatever diety exists, let it work out okay! Then, I begin the process of begging our plumber – who does great work, but is sometimes hard to track down and get over here – to come and reconnect our sink, stove, and refrigerator. For the first time in my adult life, I will have a fridge that automatically filters water and shoots out crushed ice cubes. The novelty! No more filling Brita pitchers and ice cube trays.

I will still have to wait three more weeks for the countertops, and we will have to figure out SOMETHING to cover the open cabinets in the mean time – probably sheets of plywood – but at least I will be able to perform some semblance of cooking once more.

In the mean time, we are living off the meals in the freezer. Well, okay – I convinced Joe that I needed a cheeseburger Saturday night, so we went out to the Edina Grill where I ended up ordering the Steak Salad Murphy instead, and yesterday I bought us some Lean Cuisines to heat up for dinner. I want to make sure I don’t run out of food that Julie can eat. As fun as not having to cook for almost two weeks sounds, it is not all that luxurious when you have to look at a gutted kitchen all day, heat meals up in a microwave sitting on a coffee table, wash the dishes in the basement laundry tub, and generally live in chaos with fingers crossed that everything will happen on time and that we will really have a beautiful kitchen in the forseeable future.

Did I mention the crappy baby gate we have set up in the kitchen doorway, which one has to climb over while carrying all the food and drinks into the dining room? Sunday morning I managed to drop a brand-new jar of jam on the floor as I was crossing the gate, and of course it shattered. That was fun.

But it is really cool to see that the process has started. To know that not only will I have a new kitchen in a couple of weeks, but that my office room will be free of construction debris, the dining room will be open and uncluttered once more. That we will finally be able to clear out our giant new garage, which is now full of construction debris, cardboard moving boxes and old people junk, and park our cars within. I will be able to unpack most, if not all, of the kitchen boxes which are currently cluttering up the basement along with so much of the rest of our junk.

I have survived a summer of upheaval – packing, painting, cleaning, moving, selling our old house, living with the in-laws for two months, more painting, moving again, more painting, and oh-so-much more. I can surely survive another week and a half in the current condition, especially if I can wheedle a way to eat out a few more times from the deal.


Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Julie normally hates wearing socks. It’s a huge fight to get them on her feet, and for most of the summer I let her wear just shoes so we wouldn’t have the big battle every day. This morning, it was a different story.

First, she managed to strip off her diaper so she was running around in just a white t-shirt. Then, she dug a pair of my handknit socks out of the dirty clothes basket and put them on herself. This is what I caught as she tried to put her shoes on.

Dave’s Back!

Friday, September 16th, 2005

My brother-in-law loves surprises. As in, he loves to surprise other people. Especially when he can travel halfway around the globe in order to do so. Made easier by the fact that he lives in Seoul, South Korea.

A few years back, Joe’s grandfather was turning 90 and we were all meeting in L.A. for his birthday party. Dave claimed he wasn’t going to make it back for the party, then showed up DURING the actual luncheon and surprised his mom and dad. That time, he had let me and JOe in on his little secret.

Well, Dave has been talking about wanting to meet his neice for two years now. Every time we send him pictures or movie clips, he goes on and on about how much he loves and misses her. Life has been busy for him, as it is for all of us, and travelling halfway around the world, even in this modern day of airplanes and all, still means about 24 hours of travel and a significant chunk of money. All this Spring he swore he was coming home for Julie’s birthday, then gradually started hinting that it wasn’t going to happen because of his new job. And finally a couple of weeks ago he told his parents that he wasn’t coming.

And Friday afternoon, I get a call from Joe. Joe’s mom had just called to say that his dad was on the way to the airport to pick up Dave. Surprise! Neither Joe or I were floored with surprise after the time in L.A. But we are pleasantly surprised that he’s here.

Although we weren’t fully prepared for houseguests, what with the guest room being currently full of our new kitchen cabinets, we do have a comfortable futon couch on which Dave crashed Friday night after finally meeting Julie, eating a paella dinner which I had luckily planned to make anyway, and sitting around chatting with us for a while.

Watching Dave play with Julie is undescribably fun. He is obviously making up for lost time, and doing a great job of it. He took my advice when I told him to let her come to him – to give her some time to warm up – and it worked. She loves him, and he can’t get over all the little things she does. Plus, he loves playing with her toys. He spent about an hour rearranging her dollhouse Friday night after Julie went to bed. I’m not even going to tell you how much he enjoyed the crayons. It is so cool to see your beloved child through adoring new eyes that pick up all the little things that we love, but have come to taken for granted. Dave has always had a knack for coming up with zingers and funny commentary on everything, and it is playing out perfectly in relation to Julie. He has been in awe of how much she talks, how much she eats, all the things she can do like climbing the stairs and slurping noodles.

I am so glad he finally made it back. He will only be here till Tuesday, which is too bad. He is going to miss out on so many every day things. He is going to miss out on the baby stage with our new little one as well, and I know if he were here to see it he would love that part too. Some day, he could make a great daddy in his own family. But it will be exciting again when he finally does come back, to marvel at our little family and reflect all the joy we see and feel every day, but that gets lost in the hubbub of diaper changes, cooking meals, and daily grind. Thank you, Dave. We love you.

North Pole

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Remember that awesome friend who we visited in Hawaii, who showed us all around the island and took us sailing and generally bent over backwards for us when we were there? Well, I knit him a cap as a thank-you gift…I was going to make him some socks, but he wanted a hat because he figured he’d get more wear out of it. He doesn’t normally wear any of these things in his daily life in Hawaii, but was planning a research trip to the North Pole at the time. Well, today in my inbox, I find this picture:

Doug took the hat all the way to the North Pole and wore it while standing out on the ice there. How cool is that? Very cool. I’ll never make it to the pole, but my knitting now has. Thanks, Doug!

Terrific Twos

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Today is Julie’s second birthday. I can’t believe it’s been two years already, and I can’t believe it’s only been two years. It’s been the best experience of my life, and it’s pushed me farther in patience and love than I ever knew I could go. Geez, and I think it’s only going to get better!

A personality snap-shot of my girl…she loves coloring in her coloring book with crayons. She’s obsessed with her farm animal toys, and loves pretending they are going to bed, waking up, eating, pooping, going places with her. She recently discovered the fun of spinning around and around till she’s falling-down dizzy, and she does so often. She also knows how to hop and jump, and does so when she is excited or especially happy about something. She speaks in complete sentences, and lately when she’s looking for something, she uses the phrase “I don’t see it”, straight out of my lexicon in words and tone. Julie is the cutest little kid ever (of course, she’s mine) with beautiful brown hair that is absolutely WILD when not pulled back in a ponytail. When we get in the car, she always says “Music, please” and often “Listen Sesame Street” because that is her favorite album. She still hates bedtime, but her current obsession with her Wee Sing songbook sometimes makes it easier because she’ll sit still while Joe or I sing through the entire book, and occasionally even drowses off to it. But don’t even mention the word nap. We gave up on those a couple months ago, and she will take one only if she falls asleep accidentally in the car or while watching Sesame Street in the late afternoon.

We had a good day today. We spent the morning at my friend Kari’s house, where Julie played with Kari’s son Jack who is 2 and a half, I got to hold newborn Will, and another friend came over with her baby to play and chat. We came home for lunch, and after a brief meltdown over some other nominal reason but rooted in her being worn out from the morning, we hopped in the car where she fell asleep immediately. I drove over to Pea Pods in St. Paul, where we picked up her birthday present, a cloth doll with a real cloth diaper, anatomically correct parts, and coloring that matches Julie’s. She woke up and was interested enough in their wooden train set-up that she didn’t seem to notice what I was doing while the clerk wrapped up her gift.

After that, we came back to our own neighborhood and stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Julie LOVES those carts with fronts that look like cars for the kids to ride in, and I managed to score one for her from the cart corral, even though it was raining and I had to go to the service desk to get some paper towels to wipe it down. We got some of her favorite fruits, a package of birthday candles (I nearly broke down in sappy tears while picking them out – my baby is two and will be blowing out candles tonight!), some other ingredients for dinner tonight and things that were on sale, and at the checkout counter, I picked up a helium birthday balloon which she couldn’t wait to show her daddy when he got home.

Dinner tonight was one of my favorite soups, a thick gravy thing with lots of vegetables and some ground beef. I pulled some cake left over from Joe’s birthday a couple weeks ago and stuck two candles in her piece. Joe helped her blow them out, and she scarfed that sucker down like it was – well, chocolate cake.

The big celebration will be on Sunday, when the whole extended family and some close family friends come over for a lasagna dinner and a fresh birthday cake. After last year’s two wild parties, and all the moving and renovating going on at the moment, keeping it simple made more sense for us this year.

Happy Birthday, Julie! You’ll always be my baby.

Now I’m off to sew the head back on her bunny rabbit doll, which was given to her by Derik and Sarah the week she was born, and which she has loved the head right off of.


Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Originally uploaded by shellykang.

Thank goodness I have14 more years before she gets to do this with the

keys in the ignition!


House House House!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Buying a new house is a scary business. I’m sure for everyone who does it, on some level it must be. Our case was no different.

Our top priority was to find a house we could afford in a nice, quiet, decent neighborhood while staying in or as close to the city as possible. Our wish list also included keeping the square footage we had in the old house, getting a nice two-car garage, 4 bedrooms (two up and two down, please) and 2 baths. Um, and a decent kitchen. I had a huge and beautiful but poorly laid-out one in the old place, and I wanted something functional. There were other items on the wish list, but those were the most important ones.

We looked and looked – really, Julie and I did most of the looking since our old house sold relatively quickly, and we thought we were going to close almost immediately (HA! that didn’t exactly happen) but at the time, I was feeling considerable pressure to find the right house quickly. As lovely as the in-laws are, none of us wanted to live out of boxes in their basement for any longer than absolutely necessary. Anyway, while Joe was at work, and Julie and I spent several days with our lovely agent Sharlene scrounging through every available house in the Twin Cities major metro area that came anywhere close to meeting our needs and our price range. Joe joined us for a couple more outings. The pickin’s were looking pretty slim, and I was starting to resign myself to a longer search – the kind where you jump at each new listing hoping it will be the one.

Then we saw our house. A nice quiet pocket in St. Louis Park, an inner-ring suburb, and our pocket is almost at the border with Minneapolis – so we are actually closer to some of our favorite places in the city than we were in South Minneapolis. The school district is known for its quality, so we can plan on sending Julie and the baby to public schools eventually versus forking it over for private ones. Sharlene mentioned that her son and daughter-in-law live right across the street and love the neighborhood. They happen to be friends of Joe’s best friend from college, so that was a pretty high recommendation.

Inside, I was reminded of the house my mother bought after the divorce. Owned by a little old lady who had done nothing to it for years, the superficial condition was horrid, but there was a gem beneath the grime. This house was owned by a little old couple who had also gotten way behind on their upkeep, and he had been a “handy-man” type who added all sorts of -ahem- interesting shelves and cubbies in and around the house. Every single room needed paint. There were plumbing issues, electrical issues, and the kitchen would need to be gutted. The upstairs carpeting was old, stained and smelly. There was clutter and junk everywhere, and the house showed so poorly it had been on the market for months.

But I thought I saw the gem shining through. It has a good layout- a huge living/dining room, a narrow but potentially efficient kitchen, two bedrooms up and two down, something that was much harder to find than I expected, but also something quite desireable in my eyes. Joe and I each like to have our own office spaces, and having them on the main floor makes sense so that we can use them while the kid(s) are asleep upstairs where they can sleep through any noise we might make. There is a large finished basement room that, once spruced up, will make a nice rec room – a place for all (or some of) the toy mess to go, a place for an extra couch an TV for nights when we both want to watch something different or he wants to play a game or whatever. A place, when the kids are older, for them to hang out with their friends.

The upstairs, added on in the 50s, was full of built-ins that needed new hardware and a better paint color scheme, but would update nicely to modern retro. And the space was big. My friend Elizabeth saw it (on a Sunday when I was here painting by myself and having a freak-out about the color scheme I had chosen) and commented on how I have a knack for finding houses with good closet space. I guess she’s right.

Anyway, I knew this was our house when I saw it. Joe took a little convincing – we were talking about an awful lot of work to be done, much of it ourselves, and this is not a word that he cares to hear when it comes to his private life. I felt like I was sticking my neck out all the way. That gem better be there underneath the dust and grime.

We worked in shifts and with huge help from Joe’s parents both painting and watching Julie so we could paint and polish. I spent weeks making phone calls and meeting contractors to arrange plumbing, electric work, kitchen design, carpeting, and other things like dumpsters, locksmiths, refinishing hardwood floors, you name it. By the time we moved in last week, we had the upstairs repainted and on seeing it completed, I felt like one of those people on the cable remodeling shows. Even though I had been there for the whole process, I couldn’t believe how different and wonderful the upstairs felt with just a new coat of paint and carpeting. (Oh, uh – and Joe and his dad ripped out a nasty old built-in in our bedroom and put up new trim all around the walls. No small feat that) Still, I had a much-needed glimpse of the gem before we piled it full of boxes and furniture and took up residence despite the main floor being totally NOT DONE YET.

It’s only been just over a week since we moved in, but it stretches much longer when you’re trying to pick through boxes trying to figure out what can be unpacked even though the living room, dining room, and both offices still need to be painted. Well, we spent this weekend on the living room/dining room and finished painting in there today. It looks GREAT. We just finished putting most of the furniture back in place, and I am so happy. In our old house, our living room was long and narrow, so it was hard to host very big groups of people without half the people sitting on the floor or at the other end of the room. Here, we have a nice, square seating area to hold 8-10 of our friends if we have them over for football or something. And it just feels good. The gem shone through tonight.

I needed that, as we’ll accept delivery this week of our new kitchen cabinets, which won’t be installed till early October. In the mean time, they will sit cluttering up our living room (because they need to be in the same climate as the room where they’ll be installed, according to the manufacturer, so they can expand and contract to fit the space properly or something like that). We will have over a week of no kitchen cabinets at all since Joe and his dad are going to do the demolition over a weekend, then the electrician and plumber need a week to come in and do their thing, and then the installers will take a couple days to do their stuff. This is if everything goes well. Also in the mean time, we hope to complete painting in the offices, which means moving the mountains of boxes currently in them down to the basement or somewhere so we can actually reach the walls.

But the gem is here, and it is starting to shine. I am pretty sure we made the right decision. This place is starting to feel like home. And the neighbors are great so far. Everyone we’ve met – from the friendly family of four with a dog across the street one way – to the older couple with the wild lawn ornaments next door who moved in on their wedding night 52 years ago – to the eastern european couple behind us – to our agent’s son across the other street – well, they hardly could have been half as bad as the rental property we were 10 feet from in the old house, but they are all beyond our wildest dreams for good neighbors.

How Embarrasing!

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

So, we’re finally in our new house. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me, despite the huge mountains of boxes left to unpack and daunting number of rooms left to be painted. Don’t get me wrong – I love the in-laws (with whom we’ve been living for the last two months) and everything. It’s just nice to have our own space again, be able to cook in my own kitchen, actually live in the building on which we’re making large mortgage payments.

In the last couple of months, we’ve had lots of work done on the house. Hardwood floors refinished, electric and plumbing in the basement gutted, we repainted the upstairs ourselves with lots of help from Joe’s dad, recarpeted, ripped out a built-in and put in new trim in the master bedroom. I could go on.

One of the things we hadn’t been planning to do right away was replace the washer and dryer. Sure, they were old and ugly, but the old people had been using them – so they would work for us at least till the renovation dust settled. Wrong. The plumbers pointed out that the dryer was very very old, that it’s gas and uses a pilot light which could easily ignite lint that tends to collect under dryers, and poof suddenly we would have Kentucky Fried House. Then, I tried to do a load of laundry in the washer and we found out that the lid was warped or the switch was screwed up so it only works when you stick a large, heavy object on the lid. (In our case, it was a big bag of concrete that the plumber’s helper was carrying – I think it scared the crap out of him when the washer suddenly started its spin cycle!) That sealed it. New matching set. I was not-very-secretly happy that I now had an excuse to get a fancy new matching set – and thrilled to discover that a front-loading washer set was within the budget I had improvised.

So, today they finally arrived. I greeted the delivery guys at 8 a.m., called our plumber, whom I now know on a first-name basis (Steve), and feels free to bring his toddler along to play with my toddler while he does his work. He agreed to come over later in the afternoon to hook up appliances, which for whatever reason, the appliance delivery people won’t do. I go about my day – start dinner in the crock pot, take down and burn the ancient curtains in the living room, unpack a few more boxes. Steve and his toddler show up to do their respective things, and as I’m showing him what needs done.

We’re down in the basement, and he says “It smells like sewer gas down here. I’m going to have to check this out.” Now, I panicked for about half a second, but was glad to know that my favorite plumber was on top of the job. I sniff (I have a notoriously bad sense of smell) and I do notice an odor that could be sewer gas. Then, the neurons flicker – a connection is made. My face starts to redden. “Uh, I have some beans cooking upstairs. Could that be the smell?” Steve agrees that yes, it probably could be, but he’ll check around just in case. I go wandering back up the stairs mumbling about how my dinner (bean soup – we *are* a bit house-poor after $30K in renovations – did I mention we’re gutting the kitchen too?) smells like sewer gas.

An hour later, plumber and toddler are gone and Julie is happily pretending to feed her plastic horse water out of an empty Canola oil bottle. I realize I’m starving. We did eat lunch, but it was healthy and I am pregnant and all. I decide to try a bowl of my soup – not bad for sewer gas. Maybe it would be best not to visit our house (or Joe’s new office at work) tomorrow, though!