Archive for October, 2005

What do you do when….

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Your two-year-old hands you a Sharpie marker you thought you left out of reach on the kitchen counter as you walk through the door from the basement laundry room and notice the scribbles all over your brand new cabinets and counter tops?

Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical question.

In my case, I took the marker, gently escorted her down from the step-stool which she had moved over to the right part of the counter in order to reach the marker, grabbed a wash cloth and started scrubbing. To no avail, of course. Joe was downstairs washing a paint brush, and I knew he’d be up any minute. How the hell was I going to explain this to him? I kept scrubbing as Julie wandered off to the living room to play with her doll house.

By the time Joe came upstairs, I was in tears and I begged him not to be angry with me. He wasn’t…but suggested I check the Internet for cleaning tips. Wise man. A quick search on “remove sharpie” yielded a discussion board topic on the subject that suggested rubbing alcohol, as well as the Mr. Clean Erasers. The actual Sharpie website was useless. We had a few rubbing alcohol pads on hand, and I gave them a quick try. They seemed to be working, so I scooped up the kid and ran to the store – after drying my tears and washing my face of course.

An hour and half a bag worth of alcohol-soaked cotton balls later, my counter and cabinets were pretty much good as new. Just in time for the call from the in-laws declaring their intent to drop by with some mail and other stuff. Whew! They got to see the newly-remodeled kitchen sans decorations. And they approved. We got the highest complement they could offer: “Looks like a new house!” Crisis averted.

The in-laws also brought by three new outfits for Julie, plus a new pair of shoes and a Haloween pumpkin thingie. A very pleasant and welcome surprise. Now if we could only get them to stay and play with us for more than 5 minutes at a time, they would be the perfect grandparents!

In other news, that we spent half our day at Ikea picking out a new bed for Julie. Actually, we ended up with bunk beds that can be set up separately so we can use one for her now and hopefully both as a pair one day when baby girl #2 is old enough to sleep in her own bed. Ikea was a madhouse as they were having a 15% off sale that we didn’t know about till we go there, plus it was a rainy Sunday afternoon. The bed is being delivered on Wednesday, and in the mean time Julie and I have a mission to pick out new sheets and linens because I was unimpressed with the quality of those at Ikea. We’ll see if she agrees to sleep in it. In the mean time, I was pleasantly surprised tonight when she fell asleep within 10 minutes for the second time this week.

Kitchen Culmination

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Okay, I said I was going to have pictures of the kitchen up last night, but I didn’t lose any sleep over avid readers spending hours hitting the refresh button hoping for a new entry. If any of you – and I know you are out there – ever left comments, I would worry a lot more about my blogslack. I was busy last night doing last-minute organizing and gathering of materials for today’s class, which I have to leave to teach in an hour. I was busy enjoying the new kitchen, making a mess in it and cleaning it up, putting the kid to sleep, and then fretting over the baby blanket and whether or not there will be enough yarn. But that’s another story.

The cabinet guys showed up on schedule yesterday and spent the afternoon doing their job. Everything went smoothly – there was one point when we thought they were going to run short on trim, but we found a leftover piece from the last time they were here out in the garage and crisis was averted. By the time Joe arrived home from work, I had already moved some of my stuff into the newly-installed cabinets. But there’s still lots of unpacking and rearranging to do.

I’m okay with all that because….my kitchen is BEAUTIFUL! I’m in love with it and oh-so-happy with how it’s turning out. I’m warning you, the pictures you are about to see show the kitchen as it actually is this morning with dishes drying on the counter, boxes waiting to be unpacked, Joe’s coffee cup still sitting there and all other manner of junk that represents the normal way we live in our house. The electrician hasn’t come to do the undercabinet lighting, the plumbers have to come back and hook up the ventahood over the stove, and Joe still has to install trim around the baseboards and windows. But you’ll definitely get the general idea.

First, let me show you the before pictures. This is what the kitchen looked like during our final walk-through before we closed.


And, finally, what you’ve all been waiting for….


SteeksSteeksSteeks

Friday, October 28th, 2005

I am alternating between last-minute procrastination and freaking out over the steek workshop I’m scheduled to teach on Saturday. I know I’m qualified to teach it. It’s just that I’ve never taught this subject before, and it’s not one that you see taught very often. There are a LOT of opinions out there on how to do them, and lots of vague references in the literature to what they are and how to do them, but not a whole lot of really solid information. So I’m trying to organize what I have and write up a little handout of my own and simultaneously organize my thoughts enough to coherently fill four and a half hours with my wisdom on the issue. Not to mention, I need to pull out my sewing machine and make sure it still works and is threaded properly and I know how to use it before I drag it to the store and try to act like I know what I’m doing. Gack!

So what the heck is a steek? It’s the technique of stabilizing your knitted fabric through one of various sewing or crocheting or other techniques (including doing nothing) and then cutting into it with scissors in order to create armholes or the center front opening for a cardigan. It’s the coolest thing ever, and every knitter should know how to do one. It’s not even that scary once you’ve tried it. But no one was teaching it, so I stepped in to fill the vaccuum. I just hope none of my students is already well-versed in steeks and starts asking me all kinds of arcane questions.

That said, I had my third session out of five with my current beginning knitting class tonight, and it rocked. I love it when they are all nice people, everybody learns how to knit, and they ask good questions while having entertaining conversations amongst themselves. I am SO going to miss that next quarter when I am off having a baby and welcoming her to the world.

Now back to my pile of books and my Word document…

Can I just say Yay?

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

The Silestone guys called last night and asked if they could show up an hour early today and I said YES! So they were here at quarter to eight this morning. With my new countertops. They were polite, professional, and efficient…and they did a great job installing my beautiful new counters. I peeked in to see what was going on and I couldn’t believe how different the room looks. They also installed the new sink and faucet, which are lovely.

As if that weren’t enough, the plumbers showed up mid-afternoon and got the sink all hooked up and left me to fill it with hot soapy water and wipe all the dust and renovation grime off the counters, the cabinets and the appliances. Ahhh. I’ll admit, I stuck a video in the DVD player so Julie would let me have a few minutes to commune with my new kitchen. Bad Mama, I know.

I have a huge expanse of empty counterspace at my disposal right now. To celebrate, I cooked this lovely Thai green curry chicken. It was delicious.

Oh wait – you wanted to see a picture of the kitchen?! Well, I’ll taunt you with a glimps of the counter

And I’ll further tantalize you with a couple peaks at the walls…the first with flash and the second without, neither of which translates to the exact color on the wall, but you can imagine the reality as something in between.

I’m not going to show the big picture till Friday, when the cabinets have all been installed. Don’t want to ruin the excitement too soon, you know. But at least I’m not making anyone wait till the undercabinet lighting is installed – that will be some time next week. So for now, just take a moment to share the joy with me. I am now the owner of an almost-pretty kitchen.

You Could Lick It

Monday, October 24th, 2005

…another episode in the ongoing kitchen saga. Joe got the kitchen mostly painted this weekend. The color I chose is called Fragrant Cherry, and when I came down from putting Julie to bed Friday night, he had most of the first coat on the walls. He said he wanted to lick it because it looks like black cherry soda to him. Which reminded me of the scene in the original Willy Wonka movie where they lick the fruit on the wallpaper.

He was right, of course. It does look just like real black cherries. Unfortunately, it’s going to take three coats total to really cover up the much lighter color that the walls were. I just hope we don’t tire of this color any time soon, ’cause it would take that many coats again at least to cover up this dark color. But I think I do like it, and Joe says he does too. Hopefully, he’ll get the last layer on the walls done tomorrow night and the edges on the ceiling done Tuesday, and we’ll be done with it before the installers come on Wednesday to put in my NEW Silestone Countertops! I can’t believe the day is finally coming…we’re going to have real countertops again, and not 20-year-old ugly yellow countertops, but beautiful brown stone countertops that you can wipe down and get all the way clean.

Although I have yet to see them with my own eyes, the reordered cabinets have supposedly come in at Home Depot and will be delivered to our house in the next couple of days. I have to call again in the morning and triple-check this because I went around and around this morning with the kitchen designers, store manager, and customer service guy when I was at the store to pick up another gallon of paint, and couldn’t get a straight answer on exactly when. But, if the kitchen gods can keep a straight face with me this week, I’ll have them in time for the final install on Friday. And THEN – oh my, dare I even suggest it – I may emerge from kitchen hell and finally get to unpack my beloved pans, cooking tools, ingredients, and miscellaneous stuff-that-goes-in-the-kitchen for good. I can not wait to screw some nice big holes in our freshly plastered and painted walls and hang up my beautiful spice racks.

Of course, I’ll have one more round of plumbers and electrician to deal with, but I love those guys and can manage that. And Joe has a little bit of trim work to do on the floors and windows still, but that can wait till spring as far as I’m concerned when it really comes down to it. Looking back a the calendar, it has been exactly one month today since Joe and his dad knocked out the old cabinets. It feels so much longer, and the entire project will have lasted almost six weeks by the time we’re really done. I can’t wait to take the after pictures and show the world how worth it it is!

The Kitchen Diaries – Day 20

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Today was a glorious day. At least in several ways.

One, the plumbers arrived earlier than expected and hooked up my sink, stove, fridge and dishwasher. Granted, it was the old sink they hooked up, and the kitchen is still a wreck. I’ll have to wipe everything down because of all the dust and unpack some of my kitchen tools and paraphrenalia before I can actually cook, but now at least I have running water and a place to start. Yay, me!

I have promised myself that when I am done here, I will run off and scrub out the inside of the microwave, which has seen about ten times its normal amount of use in the last three weeks and absolutely no dishrags or soapy water. It’s a little disgusting, and now that it’s at eye leve, that’s something you really notice when you open the thing up. I hates me the inside of a dirty microwave. Yick!

Two, I just came home from the first session of a beginning knitting class I’m teaching at the store. It is a full class, so I have eight students. This can be worrisome, especially if you get what I call a stinker and/or a majority of people who have never touched needles or yarn before. I SO lucked out tonight. Although only a couple of people had knit at all before, none were stinkers and all picked it up pretty quickly – even the one woman who arrived looking very scared. To celebrate, I stopped off at Cafe Latte and scarfed down a piece of raspberry-chocolate torte. It is Dangerous with a capital D to work next door to that place.

Three, Julie had her allergist appointment downtown today. We didn’t get any bad news. He did to some more scratch tests for fruits this time, and they all came back negative, even the ones to which we know she reacts. Not altogether surprising as false-negatives are not uncommon. Before the test, I said to him that it would be reassuring to see reactions just to know for sure, but that I’d keep doing what I’m doing avoiding the foods either way. Thank goodness he didn’t disagree with me! In fact, he didn’t balk when I told him that we’re still avoiding wheat and soy despite the negative scratch test last time. I explained that we’d tried them again and gotten sleepless nights each time, and come to the conclusion they aren’t good for her. Whoopee – he agreed. It’s nice to have an expert agree with you when sometimes the rest of the non-allergic world gives you funny looks when you tell them all the stuff that your kid can’t eat.

Four, today was farmer’s market day downtown, and we had an extra 20 minutes before the appointment. I bought a couple of bags of apples from a local farmer. I’m planning to make a pie or crisp of some kind that Julie will be able to eat probably this weekend. Oddly enough, although both Joe and Julie are allergic to raw apples, they can eat cooked ones with no problem. They deserve to enjoy some of the fall bounty too. We also stopped at Target and I bought childproofing hardware for my office-room door – the kid can now open doors at will, and since she can also climb up my desk and grab whatever she wants off it, she really has to stay out of here unless supervised.

I really would like to take and extra ten minutes and show the world a picture of the baby blanket I’m knitting for the new one – I’m very excited about it. Maybe tomorrow. But the microwave and the rest of the kitchen are calling, and it’s already 10 p.m. No more computer time tonight…and no time to watch the second DVD of Colonial House that Netflix sent today…and no time to keep working on that blanket. I guess there were some advantages to having no kitchen – I didn’t have to squeeze cooking dinner into my afternoon, and I didn’t have to spend the after-dinner hour cleaning up after dinner.

But I’m still happy to have a kitchen again! I think I’ve survived the worst of it after all.

The Kitchen Diaries – Day 18

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

I never thought I’d be living my 18th day without a working kitchen, but here I am with still no working sink or stove, about half the cabinets one normally expects, and what can barely be called countertops if and only if you consider a piece of plywood laying atop the cabinet a counter. Today I have a special treat for my readers (and by the way, if anyone is reading this thing, an occasional comment would be more than welcome!) Today I took some pictures of the project in progress so I can guide you on a virtual tour of my little galley.

First, a shot from just inside the doorway from the dining room.
Notice the lovely patched up walls in desperate need of painting, the huge blank spaces where cabinets should be but are not, the plywood countertops, the old sink perched atop the counter waiting to be hooked up, the pile of tools and parts all along the far counter. Notice the hacked-up window-trim that will need to be replaced, and the open cabinet whose door is still on reorder. Okay, and while you’re looking, go ahead and admire the beautiful cherry that our new cabinets are made of, the fresh new Pergo that is almost completely installed – well, sort of – and the shiny stainless steel dishwasher begging to be hooked back up as well. There is some hope in this picture. Really.

This is a shot from the opposite end of the room, showing off the new cabinets on the other side. I’m not even going to go into the very long story about the closest cabinet in the picture, but let’s just say it’s also got a replacement on the way because if we put a vent hood under it, you’d have to be about five feet tall in order to comfortably cook a dinner on the stove. I’m really liking the microwave nook, though – it’s going to free up some room on the counters. I had no idea how huge our fridge is until I saw it in its intended home, but I can live with the way it blocks the view to the hallway as long as I don’t have to fill ice trays and Britta filters or worry about cramming holiday-meal groceries in a smaller one. Try not to notice all the smudges and finger prints on the stainless steel. We’re under renovations, and that’s my excuse.

Another shot of this side of the room. I’m still waiting for Joe to install my plywood countertop on this side, and you can see Julie has found a loose spool of tape to carry around. At least it’s not the box of nails she found yesterday when I left the gate down for a minute. Oh, and you can also see the wall from which I removed the wallpaper last week – the plaster guy fixed the giant holes, then also had to mud over the entire wall to deal with the layer of old paint or whatever it was that had been hiding underneath.

This shot shows the crap-tastic baby gate we are using to keep Julie out of the construction mess. It doesn’t swing open, but is held in place with pressure, so one has to step over it to get in and out of the kitchen. Normally not a huge problem, but when you’re carrying three plates of hot food and wearing maternity pants whose crotch tends to slide down 6 inches below your crotch and have an ever-expanding belly – well, it gets annoying fast. And poor Julie is stuck out in the hall wondering loudly when her food is going to be ready and begging to be held.

Finally, a shot of our lovely main floor bathroom that is in desperate need of renovation in its own right, but will have to wait till we get the current renovations paid off. I’m including this one to illustrate “What Julie can get into while Mama is in the basement washing dishes” Luckily, today it was just digging through the bath toys in order to find and bang on plastic cups. It sounded like something much scarier when I was a flight of stairs and a crazy baby gate away with soap bubbles up to my elbows.

The reasons for all this delay are numerous, but I have to say the Pergo gave Joe a lot more trouble than he expected. As frustrating as it is to have no kitchen, it is even more frustrating watching my husband struggle valiantly with all the prep work, getting the boards cut just so, fitting them into place, “helpful” advice from his parents and – um – me when I forget to control myself. The poor guy took two of his precious vacation days to work on this, spent an entire weekend at it, and has been coming home from work and slaving for hours each night without complaint. But it’s looking good, and there is only a little square left to finish on the landing by the back door. Then he can move on to sealing the edges, sanding the newly-mudded walls, priming and painting all the walls, and all the other projects lined up for him.

The Kitchen Diaries – Day 10

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

The fact that I’m sitting here typing a blog entry is proof enough that I have made it through my day thus far without my head exploding. But I promise you, I came close this morning.

The cabinet installers arrived around 8:30 or 9 and quickly set to work. As I’ve mentioned before, I like any hired help that shows up anywhere close to on time and sets to work in a cheerful, friendly manner. Especially if they seem somewhat competent. Julie and I continued our little morning routine, coloring in the coloring books, folding laundry, waving to the kids waiting for the school bus in our front yard. Who knows why, but our front yard is the bus stop, and since it entertains Julie, I’m more than fine with it.

A little later, installer guy calls me in and points out a problem. It is a problem that really didn’t surprise me all that much, as the installer’s supervisor had pointed out the problem when he came to double-check the kitchen-designer’s work. However, the kitchen designer – Bob from Home Depot – had promised, guaranteed, and sworn up and down in three different languages that it would work out just fine and had refused to change the cabinet order to suit the installers. So, no huge surprise when, in fact, the cabinets intended to go over the windows turned out to be too tall to fit. Many annoying details ensued, involving who said what when, how much it was going to cost to make the changes, and most importantly….how all this is going to affect our timeline. ARGH! A phone call to Joe helped reassure me that I was making the right decision, and plans have been laid.

We’ve re-ordered the cabinets to get ones that will fit. Three weeks. THREE MORE WEEKS! Yes, I’m yelling. Three more weeks of waiting till I can put everything back where it belongs in my kitchen and start cranking out nice, yummy homemade meals for my family to enjoy.

To be honest, I will be able to do some cooking well before then. The installers will still be able to put in all the base cabinets and the upper cabinets on the other side of the kitchen. The Silestone guy will still be able to measure for my countertops later this week. The plumbers will be able to plumb and the electrician will be able to finish most of his wiring – just not the exciting under-cabinet lights. I will be able to get some plywood to use as temporary countertops as planned, and the sink and stove and fridge will all be hooked back up and life WILL go on. I just won’t have any place to keep my dishes and dry goods and all the stuff that normally goes in the cabinets. But we’ll figure it out.

I did talk to Bob-the-designer’s boss this morning to make sure he knew what was going on. When Bob-the-designer called back later this afternoon and tried to act all smooth like everything was okay, I ripped him a nice, large new one. I wasn’t planning on going spastic – catch more flies with honey and all that – but I just couldn’t help myself when I heard his creepy salesman every-thing’s-wonderful-and-I’m-taking-credit voice.

And the installer worked dilligently all afternoon, made significant progress in the areas where he could. He promised to come back first thing in the morning to install knobs and doors and finish up the last couple of base cabinets. He even left his tools in my kitchen, which proves to me that I didn’t scare him away for good with the steam that I’m pretty sure that was shooting out of my ears when he explained the situation to me this morning. Not to mention the very-real vein on my forehead that pops out and turns purple when I get angry.

Still, I needed a bit of a break. Julie asked to watch her video – one of the DVDs that Uncle Dave brought with him from Korea for her birthday – and I agreed, knowing that it would give me a half hour to chill out and decide whether I have it in me to take her to the park this afternoon or not. I rationalize her watching this silly cartoon by telling myself that since it’s all spoken in Korean, I’m exposing her to the language so that maybe some day if she wants to learn it, she’ll have an easier time hearing and speaking the sounds that I as an english-speaker can’t.

Oh – and one more thing. I have to share. Remember we went out to dinner at the hamburger/malt joint the other night? Well, I chatted with the waiter and explained that Julie has food allergies, sorry for the restrictions I was about to impose. I was very careful to ask what was in the burgers – some do have dairy or wheat-based fillers. I was very careful to ask that they wipe down the grill before cooking hers so that it wouldn’t be contaminated by other people’s cheese or the butter they use to fry them in. When the first one came out, it was on a bun and I sent it back explaining that she couldn’t eat it because it was contaminated with wheat. Out comes burger #2 and Julie ate maybe 1/3 of it because she was busy eating the fries and ketchup and the corn I had brought from home.

We were up with an inconsolably screaming baby from 1-2:30 that night. I sat there internally cursing the waiter, the cook, and most importantly myself for feeding her contaminated food. I should have known the minute I saw that bun on the first burger that it was not going to be okay. I was too busy slurping at my chocolate-banana milkshake to just say “forget it, we’ll feed her at home.” But we won’t be going back to Snuffy’s again any time soon.

The good news is that last night we went out to Pho 79 and ate our delicious #8 pho with lean rare beef (no tripe, no brisket, no soft tendon, thank you). The people there always treat us wonderfully, the prices are shockingly low, and Julie can slurp all the noodles she wants without any of us having to worry about losing sleep.

Wallpaper

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

There are two kinds of people in this world…those who choose to hang wallpaper in their homes, and those who 40 years later end up scraping it off when the old people sell the house. Okay. It’s nowhere near as simple as that, I know. But I definitely fall into the second category.

I simply cannot ever see myself choosing to hang wallpaper in my home. I’m a plain-jane kind of girl, generally. Tonight I just spent three hours scraping nasty old wallpaper off the one kitchen wall that was papered, and I’m thanking my stars they didn’t do ALL the walls. The Courts – the old farts from whom we bought our house – apparently fall into the first category. Lucky for us, the paper in the other areas where they chose to decorate was old enough, cheap enough, or poorly enough installed that it peeled right off with almost no resistance. I still have to wash down the walls in the hall and the entryway with wallpaper-glue-remover, but from my experience with the stairwell, that part is easy.

The paper in the kitchen was another story. In the first pass, I managed to peel off the top layer of the paper – the waterproof part obviously meant to be washable. In the second, I peeled off the bottom layer that looked like a cross between tissue and toilet paper, and in the third pass I scraped off the remaining bits that were stubbornly attached and came off looking like giant spitballs. Blech.

This was a project I had been putting off basically since we moved in, and I was forced to face it by the plastering/patching guy who came to bid out the job of patching up the many holes left in the kitchen walls by the plumbers and the electrician, not to mention the kitchy telephone nook. Part of me wanted to keep the telephone nook as part of the character of the house, but a bigger part of me said no, not going to pay to replace the nasty old yellow formica countertop part of it with expensive Silestone when I can cover it up and be done with it. Who needs a telephone nook in these days of cordless phones? Not me, at least. Plastering dude said he’d do the job for $550 next Tuesday, as long as I had gotten rid of the paper before then. I said Okee Dokee.

Unfortunately, under the paper there is a layer of peeling paint, which looks like someone unsuccessfully tried to scrape off some time in the distant past. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to sand the walls smooth before we can prime and paint over it. D’oh! It could be worse.

In other news, Julie lived up to her nickname of Monkey today. She kept trying to climb ALL OVER me. I have no idea why she enjoys stepping on my feet, but she does and it hurts. So does a 30-pound toddler climbing up your legs and sliding down when you’re trying to relax for ten minutes with your feet propped up on the coffee table. And when I tried sitting tailor-style to keep her from doing this, she cried and told me to put my feet back on the table where they apparently belong. By the time Joe came home, I was laying curled up on the couch and she was standing gleefully on the coffee table. At least neither of us was crying.

I made Joe take me out for dinner, where I indulged in a banana-chocolate milkshake, onion rings and a bacon cheeseburger. At least the heartburn is giving me a break at the moment.