Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes

Larry and I have lunch out at a little barbeque restaurant in Lynden called Jakes every once in awhile.  Larry likes the sampler plate with ribs, brisket, and sausage and I like their hamburger topped with grilled onions and fried green tomatoes.  All the flavors complement the other ingredients and the sweet crunchy fried green tomatoes bring back memories of my mom, grandmother, and aunts and their home cooking, southern style.

My daughter Kelly first became enamored with the idea of fried green tomatoes after watching the movie of the same name featuring the Whistle Stop Café.  My children grew up with their grandmothers cooking and Friday night family dinners with anyone who showed up (not many missed a good meal).  Nothing I made, even if I used my mother’s recipe, ever tasted as good as what she could make.  All three of my children, James, Michael, and Kelly, have a love of cooking and trying new recipes and family favorites from their grandmother’s cookbook.  Occasionally I get a phone call with a quizzical sound to their voice and I always seem to know that they need a recipe.

Our daughter Kelly asked if I would maybe fix friend green tomatoes the next time we come for a visit.  Yes, that is if we can find some green tomatoes or at least some very hard, red, not so ripe red tomatoes. 

You can find links to The Whistle Stop Café, the café used for the movie, and the cookbook. 

Here is my receipe for:

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes


4 large green tomatoes – firm and heavy
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk  
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
¼ c. sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Canola oil for frying
2 c. milk

Go ahead and slice your tomatoes to about 1/3 inches in thickness. Discard the ends.  Lay sliced tomatoes on a foil covered baking sheet and generously add salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar to each one.  Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.  The tomatoes will start to sweat liquid (this is normal).  Then soak tomato slices in a shallow dish, covered with the milk for about ½ an hour.  Drain on paper towel and pat dry.

In a medium bowl- whisk eggs and milk together.  Add flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper until you have a thick batter.

Dip tomatoes into the batter and wipe off excess.

In a large skillet pour vegetable oil, enough so that you cover about 1/2 inch of pan and bring to a high heat, 350 degrees, but not smoking.  Place tomatoes into the frying pan. Be sure to not crowd the tomatoes, try not to have them touching.  Cook till golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.  Drain on paper towels and eat while they are hot.

The saga continues

Monday: Larry and I were watching a HGTV (Home Garden Television) show a while back and they were saying the average home owner spends around twenty-five hundred dollars a year to maintain and fix up their homes.  We both looked at each other in a dazed, bewildered, uh-oh look on our faces.  We have taken care of little things around the house and garden, done improvements like pave the really long driveway with asphalt instead of driving on crushed rock, and  installed a French drain when we moved in, but other than that, everything has been minor.

Note to family and friends, it might not be a bad idea if you can set up a savings account labeled home and put whatever you can afford into it for the bigger things in life that pop up unexpectedly.  Wish we had heard this information several years ago and we would be way ahead of the unexpected surprises that hit us upside the head in this simple kitchen remodel.

My credit card statements arrive by email and I just forward them to Larry.  I don’t really want to look at them or think about them because all the appliances, building supplies, miscellaneous everything goes on my card and while I am building air miles for travel, I would rather not see those large numbers rolling in.  We do have an account for the remodel expenses to come out of that has been sitting in the bank for a year while we did our final preparations and planning, but it does fall short of covering new plumbing for the entire house, and three full and partial bathroom remodels.

So when the first really big credit card bill arrived and Larry scrutinized it carefully and then said you need to check this.  I pulled out a handful of receipts and accounted for all charges but was missing one big credit.  When the company we ordered the first island light fixture from kept changing the ship date, I went back to internet searching and not only found it but found it cheaper and bought it.  I then cancelled the first order but it seems like Home Decorators, a division of Home Depot, doesn’t want to give us a refund until they get theirs from the supplier-- but I didn’t pay the supplier.  The bank agrees with us and a dispute has been issued we will be issued a refund. 

I told Larry I was going to put him down on a corner in town with his crutches, leg boot, and a cup to earn the extra cash to pay for the difference in our home remodel bank account and the actual cost.  Kelly has a much better idea for him though, she wants him to write a children’s book about the fraidy cat dog, which of course is Deuce the dog.  It wouldn’t be the first children’s book he has written and sometimes at night in his dreams he writes whole books, so maybe I should just put him out in his sporting goods room (the man cave) and put his writing skills to work.  The third idea Kelly and I had is he could sue the person who has plagiarized one of his books and continues to sell.

Well given time to think it over, Larry and I both came to the same conclusion Saturday morning…we don’t like the vinyl we “settled” on for the downstairs bathroom.  Larry called James and left a message not to order it and told him our new idea is wood look vinyl plank flooring.  Looks like wood, installs like laminate, cleans like vinyl, a much nicer finished look in the guest bathroom.

The Simplehuman ten gallon trash can that is fingerprint proof has been ordered for the kitchen as has the Kraus eighteen inch square countertop vessel sink for our bathroom.  Both should arrive within a week and I picked up the new Delta single handle open channel vessel faucet from Lowes today.

Larry and I talked to James today with Lay Me Down Floors (love the name) and told him of our change of plans for the bathroom floors.  He will be bringing more samples out this week and I am going to pick up samples from Sherwin Williams today.

Who would have thought finding slate would be so hard.  I only need fifteen square feet of twelve inch and sixteen inch tiles that Bill will cut into a mosaic pattern for the fireplace surround.  Lowes’ slate is too red and green, Home Depot is too grey and yellow, this store doesn’t have any, this store is overpriced, and this store has the wrong size.  Do we switch from slate to stone?  I have to go to Mt. Vernon Tuesday to pick up the subway tile for the kitchen backsplash so I will check the big box stores there to see if their tile selection is different. 

Our local Lowes received bisque subway tiles but not the white and Mt. Vernon has twenty-three cases.  If they are sold out before I get there then Larry and I will need to drive to Everett later this week.  Lowes has orders for twelve hundred pallets but orders being shipped are only for 780 pallets.  Each store will get a small amount and I was told this two by four white subway tile is their most popular selling tile.  Figures!

We wanted to put the laminate flooring from the main rooms in the guest bathroom but everyone said no…you can’t put it in the bathroom.  Bruce from Sherwin Williams who sold us the flooring said it is all they install in new homes on all the main floors and guest baths.  So we are back to our original plan to install it.  Now we just need to decide on what we put in the two upstairs bathrooms. 

Curtain rods…so many choices, colors, materials, and so expensive.  We need one that has to be at least one hundred thirty inches wide and really should be a double rod.  If we don’t mind spending several hundred dollars no problem—lots of options at that higher price--but finding a bargain would be so much better.  We have exhausted all local options and eliminated most major internet sellers.  Looks like we may need to make a trip to IKEA where price meets budget.  Although a trip to IKEA could be really hard on the credit card. 

No workers in the house Monday or Tuesday so we have had four whole days of quiet.  I don’t really mind the workers, the jokes, the laughter, the music, it’s just the unexpected expenses that drive me wild.  This week we will start to see our home be put back together and that is exciting.

I bought white paint on Monday to paint our bathroom and linen closet.  As long as the flooring has been ripped out and it is sort of a blank slate, now is the time to freshen it up.  No slate to be found and that leaves me a little unsettled about what to do around the fireplace.  I picked up samples of plank vinyl flooring for Larry to look at for the bathrooms.  Bruce at Sherwin-Williams said is commercial grade and will hold up really well in the bathroom.  Bruce also said it was fine to put the laminate flooring that we installing in the rest of the main living areas in the guest bath.  He said no more water in the guest bath than a kitchen so that so we are back to where we started for that room.  Check….another thing off the list to do.

Tuesday  morning I drove to Mt Vernon Lowes they had exactly twenty-four sheets of twelve by twelve white brick joint subway tiles in the two by four size we need.  I called ahead and had them hold the tiles for me.  I wiped out their inventory and still need to keep checking for a few spares because when you are handling, cutting, installing tile you never know if you drop on, break one, or just need one extra piece.

Larry and I are going to IKEA because they sell the oversized curtain rods we need and the price won’t break the bank.  Maybe next week we will go shopping and have lunch.

I walked into Mt Vernon’s Home Depot not expecting to find the slate I was looking for and when I did, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t all grey.  More to my surprise was a very helpful young woman managing the department who opened box after box of slate, helping me pick just the right tiles that looked good together and did it with a smile.  Such a difference in staff between Mt. Vernon and Bellingham.  The manger in our local store opened two boxes and she was done helping me…she didn’t want to open any more boxes and the whole time she was helping me if you can call it that, she had a frown on her face. 

I felt successful after driving to Mt. Vernon and then Larry called with the icing on the cake….the sink, faucet, and specialty tile for the kitchen had arrived. Yay!

Friday, February 24, 2012

One week and one day...

Friday: Jennifer Hudson sings the song, “It’s A New Day.” My theme song is going to be “It’s The Last Day!”  One week and one day into the renovation and I am ready to be finished.  I enjoy watching the process of the remodel, even the deconstruction; it’s the constant finding one more thing wrong with a forty plus year old home that was built with love but also with a focus on doing things as cheaply as possible.

The sink and faucet are so old in our bathroom the faucet is rusting out and cannot be removed except to use a saw to cut it off…sort of welded on with age but still rusting through.  The sink was attached probably with marine glue which was also used for the toilets upstairs and that is probably why they didn’t just fall over since they weren’t bolted down.  Our plumber tried chipping the old sink out from the center a little at a time and he did get it out but the tile counter and backsplash were installed sort of attached, sort of floating, and that means a few got broke.  I am online looking for a sink that will cover the hole, and new faucets and drain, because we would rather not renovate the whole bathroom with a new vanity cabinet. 

There was a movie some of you may remember called Money Pit….welcome to our world. 

One of the last things to do yesterday for the plumber was to install the new toilet in our bathroom.  Great plan!  Well almost.  The seal was cracked so he installed the new downstairs toilet upstairs and I went back to the store to return the broken toilet and buy a new one.  A simple process, or so you would think.  The nice gentleman helping me in hardware wanted to inspect the new toilet so I wouldn’t have any problems when I got home and in a split second the lid to the tank slipped, fell, cracked into lots of tiny pieces, and that was the last toilet in stock that we had picked out.  I asked a lot of quick questions of the salesperson and bought another Koehler toilet that had exactly the same specifications but the tank was shaped just a little bit different.

The original plan called for removing the slate tile around the fireplace and running the laminate flooring right up to the base of the fireplace.  We can do this because it is a gas fireplace and not wood.  Of course as I said before that will require a jackhammer to remove the old mortar base and the almost paper thin slate tile.  The worst case scenario would be the jackhammer might damage the brick fireplace and that could be costly have it repaired, so in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep because of worrying over details I decided if Larry agreed we would keep the slate surround…sort of.  I want to retile over the top of the ugly thin, plain, grey tile with a thick multi color (grey, brown, rust, black) slate tile and finish the underneath part that is sticking up above the flooring with either a slate face or trim that matches the new laminate flooring.  Larry liked the idea and that will also save the rental of the jackhammer, the extra labor hours to chisel it out, pour self leveling cement to fill any dips, crevices, holes, or the unexpected. Yea! We’re saving money… 

So now I am planning on shopping for slate today, picking up insulation, maybe a few tiles to patch the tile sink base in our bathroom, trim tile for the downstairs tile, and placing a few more orders online.  Buying local is great if you can find a good price, get exactly what you want or close to it; but with only two big box stores and a handful of specialty stores in our area we don’t have a lot to choose from and why would I want to spend $400.00 for a sink only when I can get the faucet, drain, and sink for half that online. 

Bill just arrived from another job to check on the plumbing and the change in the fireplace.  The slate is going to work out nicely and I will talk with the flooring guy for trim to finish the edges.  The previous owner glued the ceramic tile to the old Formica counter top upstairs in our bathroom, and I think the only thing holding the tiles on was the sink being glued down with marine glue.  Now that the sink is gone the tile is pulling away from the Formica top at the slightest touch.  So now I need to look for a new laminate bath vanity top or spend labor hours installing a plywood base, cement backer board, then the tile, grout, sealing, and so on.  

Our house sits on one acre of a very slight slope to the front of the road.  Behind us is an old farm and at some point in time before we bought our house, the farmer covered over the pond behind us with dirt.  Water runs downhill and since we are the closest to the old buried pond, it runs down one side of the property making its own little pond (that dries up around the end of June) and the runoff moves slightly to the center of our property and meanders to the other side of the property.  We have a French drain between the back deck and the rock wall to the upper garden that we installed when we moved in, literally we were moving in and the drain was being dug.  When you live in Washington State, on the west side, you get a lot of rain.  More rain and grey days and I would like but you tend to get water logged in the fall, the winter, the spring, sometimes like last year, even the summer. 

I tell you all this because the constant rain and having a plumber under the house fixing all the previous installation errors he has discovered we have a small pond under the study, right in the corner of the room where the desk sits and I use the computer.  No wonder I am cold all the time.  It doesn’t need to be done right now, and probably couldn’t because of the water and mud, but in the future we might have to think about installing a sump pump.  To add to the problem the east side of the house drains to the left side and that is where the small pond of water is.

James the carpet/linoleum guy will be here with samples this afternoon and his estimate for the three bathrooms.  He brought out a bid for installation and installation materials and we picked the vinyl for the downstairs bathroom and will make the final decision before James comes back with more carpet samples for the stairs and upstairs landing.  Nice guy, lots of information, and very professional.

This is the remodel that goes on and on and on…..

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mid week...

They call Wednesday “hump day” because it is supposed to be all downhill from there….not so fast. 

I slipped out of the house to go to the noon time art demo at Stampadoodle…relaxation, art supplies, techniques…my kind of break since I can’t really play in my own studio because it is now filled with more than art supplies.

While the cat is away the mice will play.  I call home to say I have picked up the sink and faucet and Larry broke the news that the guest bath upstairs is being taken apart, at least the part around the toilet.  Seems like the plumbers who worked on this house had as much skill as the carpenters and we have just been really lucky living here for twelve years.  The toilet was only being held down by one nut and the sub floor is substandard.  They thought maybe they could salvage the tile in the guest bathroom but Larry knew what my answer to that would be.  Why would I ever want to put blue and gold vinyl tile back down on the bathroom floor?  I will be shopping for flooring for two bathrooms now.

Oh and by the way Larry tells me that there is a small amount of dry rot in our bathroom because that toilet also was never properly installed and it had leaked.  Back into Lowes to purchase a new toilet because I think the one in that bathroom is original to the house.  The clerk looked at me as I came back through her checkout line and I smiled and said the kitchen remodel was now a kitchen and three bathrooms.  She looked totally shocked as she covered her mouth and said “I’m sorry”.  Me too but that is life.  Larry and I are “never, ever” going to buy a really, really old house and fix it up unless he should buy that elusive lottery ticket, win, and then gut it before we ever moved in.

The tile that I thought Larry would like for the guest bathroom downstairs is a twelve by thirteen with two different size linear tiles and no way to split them in half to install them without a lot of waste.  I didn’t see anything else I liked so now I am off to Home Depot.  I found a stone and marble square one inch mosaic tile that I think will work with the butcher block top.  Four sheets and I am out of the store.  I get to go home…no I forgot I need to stop at Wal-Mart again. 

Fritz is gone and he has installed temporary bulbs in all the kitchen light fixtures just so we can use them, although there isn’t any real reason to be in the bare bones kitchen.  He did a really nice job and was professional in his work ethic.  He did install the new ceiling fan in the study which is smaller, sleeker, and so much nicer than the oversized fan with scrolly, frilly, glass    shades  that hung down and made anyone over five foot ten duck their heads.  The fan/vent is installed in the downstairs guest bath and is very quiet and efficient.  The old fan in the sitting area is gone and the new light will be installed when Fritz returns to finish after the sheet rock is up, the painting is finished, and the cabinets are in.

The day is gone and we are worn out.

Thursday: Coffee, I need coffee.  I am packing boxes of items to drop off at the restore, the odd things for Goodwill and a box of usable items that I will stick aside for a friend who needs household items. 

Bob is here first to begin work in our bathroom and Bill arrived just shortly after him.  I emptied the linen closet in our bathroom so the shelves can come out and give them more room to work.  Tony arrives next to begin pumping out the water under the house so he can get to the rest of the sewer pipes to repair them.  He will also install the toilet downstairs in the open concept, no wall bathroom. 

The carpet/vinyl guy is here to measure the stairs, landing, and bathrooms.  His little yorkie in her hot pink sweater was cradled in his arm and was content to just be carried around with dad while he measured and worked, unaffected by our Springer Spaniel who is furiously barking away at two new intruders in his home.  The carpet guy will come back with samples and said the order time is short so it won’t be a problem getting materials.  He had ideas for the carpet on the stairs since we have a waterfall/bullnose lip.  We are staying fairly neutral with wall colors, tile, flooring, and using accessories and furniture for pops of color.  This means I don’t have to go out to shop for bathroom flooring.  This is a blessing.

I sent Larry off to the gym so he can get some exercise for his foot and ankle since he is no longer seeing a physical therapist.  He was doing laps around the  house and sets of stairs but with workers in the house, everywhere, it is hard to maneuver without bumping into someone and workers have the right away.  When Larry returned home from the gym I asked him if he felt good and his reply was he felt moral for going.

I need to stop at Target today to see if I can match the decorative curtain rod we have in the study.  We need to purchase new rods for the living room and the sitting area and we like the one in the study.  I keep searching the internet for ideas for drapes for the living room and sitting area but have not found anything that I just love and want to ask Larry about.  The chairs in the living room are staying so I need to work around the blue color in each chair and the loveseat with its red slipcover.  We have thought of making burlap drapes and lining them, then hanging them with decorative rings and clips.  Burlap may seem like a strange choice for drapes but it seems to be the fabric of choice for designer homes right now, along with butcher block kitchen countertops. 

I was beginning to wonder this morning how tired this crew was, there was no singing and dancing.  I think since they don’t drink coffee they just needed a little more time to wake up because soon they were singing along and you could hear the whoops and doo whops bouncing off the walls.  Looks like we will have two working toilets and a sink by the end of the day and that is a good thing because they won’t be back until Monday (unless it rains) to start the sheetrock and then the dust will fly.

The sawdust is being vacuumed up and Larry and I are removing another layer of dust from the study…not dust free but less of it.

We now have new plumbing upstairs and downstairs and just before the plumber left we found out our faucet in our bathroom is failing and to replace it, it is a special size.  Tomorrow I am looking for a vessel sink and faucet for our bathroom that will cover the hole without putting in a new counter for an old vanity that we really don’t want to replace right now.

How high’s the water mama?…six feet high and rising.  Flexibility…that is the word of the day.  What you think is going to happen, might not, and what you never thought would happen, has!

It's a New Day....

Come Monday:  The electrician has arrived and is trying to figure out the mess of wires and the kitchen plan.  There is not enough room to put a three switch box where it needs to go, so what to do.  The wall of cabinets and appliances fit between the studs on one end of the wall and all the way to end of the other wall with no room to spare.  The two new switches we need will go next to the garbage disposal switch.  That works.  Fritz can take out the plugs in the pantry because those will be covered up by new cabinets.  The television plug is being removed because I just don’t have the need to watch TV while cooking and we have never used it.   Eleven new cam lights are being installed in the ceiling, electrical for the hood vent, refrigerator, and plugs for the island.  New plugs for the microwave cabinet, and the door bell was wired into a light fixture which is not done to code so Fritz is fixing that also.  The wire that was nicked during the kitchen demo will be replaced and the new fan for the study and light fixture for the kitchen sitting area will be installed.  Fritz will come back to install the kitchen island fixture when we get the cabinets installed.

The plumber arrived and now that he can see the copper plumbing in the exposed ceiling we need to have some additional work done inside besides the work under the house.  Tony left to buy supplies will return later today to begin the needed repairs and again on Wednesday to complete the job.  Tony needs to move some of the copper plumbing so Fritz can install one of the cam lights in the pantry.  He will be moving the gas fitting for the cook top and installing a new shutoff valve in the kitchen, moving the plumbing so the sink is centered to the kitchen window, plumbing for the dishwasher, and a new water line for the icemaker in the refrigerator.  Bill will be here tomorrow so he can remove the old toilet and check to see how extensive the dry rot is, get it fixed and Tony can install the new toilet Wednesday.  Tony said the plumbing for the new bathroom sink should be okay with what we have picked out.  Good news…yeh!

Larry is off to a meeting for Communities In Schools so we will go out later today after the workers have gone to do our ordering and shopping.

The good news is the kitchen sink and faucet have shipped and the light fixture for the kitchen island should arrive tomorrow.  I love online tracking for shipping.    

There are just certain smells that remind me of my dad.  The plumber is drilling through old wood to install the new plumbing and the wood smell reminds me of all the times my dad would working on a project in the garage.

There are bits and pieces of electrical wire everywhere in the kitchen and Fritz is trying to figure out where all the new outlets and switches go, where some were removed and now need to be replaced.  Toolboxes, tools, ladders, wire, pipes, it really is a two person kitchen right now so I am staying in the study.

Change of plans…surprise…shopping will have to wait until Tuesday because it looks like we need a few more things and the plumber and electrician also need more supplies. 

Tuesday:  Tuesday I’m out of the house by 6:15 AM to attend a board meeting and the electrician is due to arrive by 7:30 AM, and Larry needs to leave by 9:00 AM.    By the time I arrive back home the guys have decided that if Larry is sitting my desk chair then he could make executive decisions.  A baseboard heater at in the entry by the stairs is coming out, a partial wall is coming out in the entry way, and the electrician discovered the heater in the living room has never been connected. 

Bill is going to build the wall hung vanity for the downstairs guest bath for us and the good news is we only have a small area of dry rot in the bathroom to remove and replace a small section of subfloor that had some water damage a few years ago. 

Bob is working on removing engineered wood floor in the entry way that is glued to the vinyl floor that is glued to the subfloor.  When the slate tiles were installed next to the fireplace they just used lots of motor to build up the base before laying the subfloor and tile and it is going to be a tough job to remove. Bill says he’ll rent a jackhammer to get ‘er done.

Fritz is working finishing up the electrical in the kitchen and as he was cutting out a grove in the overhead joist to hide the electrical wiring he discovered that some of the joists are not nailed in or at least not nailed in as securely as they should be.  Bill assured us he will make sure they are unmovable before we sheetrock.  I would really like to meet the carpenters who built our home but then again maybe for their safety I should never know who they are.  Not everyone is meant to be a carpenter even if they can swing a hammer and wear a tool belt.

The big green giant dumpster is almost full and the pile of debris is still growing.  Larry said he is thankful he ordered the largest size instead of ordering a smaller dumpster that he thought would hold it all.

The pressboard wall that was installed instead of sheetrock in the guest bath has been ripped out…literally once a small hole was punched in the wall almost all of it could be pulled out by hand except the portion where they used glue.  We now have one working sink in the house, the laundry sink in my studio.  Both toilets upstairs are working as are the bathtub and shower, but not the upstairs sinks. 

Deuce the dog is nervous to say the least, barking at the guys as they come and go like he had never seen them before when really they are just passing back and forth in front of him.  Fritz said maybe Deuce has a memory problem.

The end of the day and the crew will be back tomorrow.  Tony will be working in the bathroom and cutting a hole in the wall in the living room to refit a connection to the outside faucet bib to update it and keep it from freezing during the winter.  Fritz will be a little later as he is picking up a ceiling fan/vent for the guest bathroom.  Everyone talks about an open concept living area…well we are wide open right now.  You can see all the way across the house from the dining room to the studio.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The weekend

Saturday morning Larry and I drank our morning coffee and discussed what needed to be done over the weekend to get ready for the coming week.  I know I told Bill no homework and he just laughed and Bob chimed in about HGTV doing a six week renovation in just a matter of hours.  The magic of television..isn’t it wonderful?

Concrete floors are still very hard for Larry to walk or stand on for very long, so I will try to pick up what we need and check out ideas and then take him with me on Sunday to see if he likes anything I have found.  If he vetoes everything, then I am back to the internet for more research which is exactly what I did before leaving the house.

Larry will talk to Bill on Tuesday about making a hanging wall vanity in the guest bath and topping it with the piece of the butcher block top we just removed from the kitchen.  I have several vintage wire swimming pool baskets that I will line with canvas to hold towels and tissue paper and they can sit under the vanity.  Larry thinks a backsplash of the same butcher block or glass tiles would look good. 

First stop was at a closeout store for home remodeling.  Great products but some of the prices were not what I would consider bargains, more like high end showcases.  I browsed in and around the fixtures, stopping to look at prices of items that caught my eye and found a round vessel sink that I think Larry might like and one that won’t break the bank.  The store is closed on Sundays, so it will have to be Monday afternoon before I can take him to look at it.

Next stop was Lowes.  The contractor’s desk was closed when I arrived and the person I needed to talk to won’t be in until Monday.  I walked back to the bath section of the store and they no longer carry the vessel sink I thought Larry might like.  They do however have a faucet for the bathroom that I think would work if he likes the other sink I found earlier.  Toilets:  efficient, self closing, short, tall, round, oval, heated….can’t they just put all these features in one toilet and make life easier?  I am going to have Larry log into Consumer Reports to figure out the best one to buy for the guest bathroom.

Lighting:  I found a four light LED fixture with square glass globes and if I turn it upside down I think it would work in the bathroom.  Now I moved onto finding LED lights for under the kitchen counters.  Whoa….fluorescent, incandescent, LED, wire, not wired, fifteen dollars to eighty-five dollars…and not a single customer service person around to help.  I’m tired and if I leave now I can get home in time for Larry and me to attend the 6:00 PM church service.

We saw Patti and Mike at church and they are just finishing their kitchen remodel…lucky couple.  It was a wonderful service, thoughtful, moving, tearful, rejoicing, and thankful. 

Since our new temporary kitchen consist of a microwave and George Foreman grill set up on a tea cart and serving table in the garage and our coffee maker ensconced  on the washing machine in my studio, Larry took me out to dinner after church.  It was a treat not to tip toe out to the cold garage to heat up food from the freezer but having someone else fix a meal for us.

When you can’t sleep because your mind is constantly thinking about not one but two renovations taking place in your home, you research on the internet.  Our pendant light for the kitchen island is five vintage looking wire baskets that hang from one center base and will have forty watt Edison bulbs in each fixture.  I’ve ordered from Home Decorators before and had to this time because no one else had this fixture and could beat this price.  The electrician is coming Monday,  and last Thursday our ship date was showing as 2-13-12.  Friday I called and the customer service representative said he would call back, which he never did.  A second call and I found out our ship date was 2-28-12.  We found an alternative three light vintage looking basket we could be happy with if this lighting fixture was unavailable.  Settling for second best when you get one shot at creating a dream is not what we wanted.

I have searched, I think, every possible combination of words to try and find this fixture.  The problem is everyone is now looking for vintage, wire, industrial, Edison, type everything for decorating.  The funny thing is I actually found in a Google search a reference to this fixture on my own blog.  This was new.  Maybe there was hope of finding this and not willing to give up, Larry went to bed and I searched on.  Bingo!  About half an hour later I found not only the same fixture but the manufacture’s name (which had been missing on all other websites--I assume so you couldn’t order directly through them) and Amazon had this light one hundred dollars less.  Score!  I know I have used all these search terms before, but God must have heard my pleas and understood my stress because there it was about the 4th item down on my latest search.  About that time, I heard Larry coming downstairs.  He couldn’t sleep and I was excited to share the news.  I ordered the light fixture with two day shipping, which will still get here after the electrician but he can put the wiring in based on the kitchen layout and attach it later. 

I also found a photo of the sink I had thought Larry might like and sent it to his email thinking he would see it in the morning.  Open it…now…tell me, what do you think?  He likes it so we can go look at it Monday and buy it, if Bill is willing to build the hanging cabinet. 

Okay now I can sleep.

Sunday morning I placed a call to cancel the original order for the lighting fixture and when they asked why I would want to cancel the order I told them customer service was lacking and delay of shipment had caused a problem, which I realized had now been bumped back to 3-28-12. 

We need to wait to order the Edison bulbs to go with the fixture until it arrives to see what size bulbs we need because each wire basket is uniquely different in size. 

So onto the next quest…Amazon here I come.  When I bought the light fixture last night, Larry had been asking me if we should just sign up for Amazon Prime which means you pay a low yearly fee and shipping is free for the rest of the year no matter how many orders you place or where you send them.  Now I am onto ordering the new red slipcover for the loveseat in the living room because the yellow botanical print will not go well with the new neutral color scheme.

Larry is researching new toilets for the guest bath.  We made a decision on the kitchen sink and faucet, ordering a Kraus thirty-two inch single basin, square, sixteen gauge stainless steel sink and a Kraus dual pull-out spray head with a spring tension retractable hose that swivels 180 degrees.  The faucet looks like one you would find in a restaurant. 

Talking with Kim at small group she asked how the remodel was going.  I explained about the plumbing and she nodded and told me when they did their remodel that one thing led to another and they wound up doing more than they originally planned.  I wonder what Monday will bring?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Friday 8:00 AM

It’s a good thing Larry ordered the big oversized dumpster.  We get charged based on weight when they dump the load and there is only a tiny bit difference in price from one size to another, so in this case Larry can go first class with the big, giant, enormous green dumpster which is filling up really fast.

The sheetrock is gone in the kitchen and the insulation removed, which will be put on the bathroom wall that backs up to the kitchen pantry when we start construction because new higher “R value” insulation will be put on the outside wall. 

Now the fun part, removing the ugly dropped ceiling, fluorescent tube lighting.  We thought it was just a simple one by four bulkhead frame but turns out this bulkhead was overkill.  Two by eight lumber, notched out to fit over the top plate on the wall studs.  They build this to last but that was before Larry and I bought the house and knew that someday it would be gone.  Bill and Bob had to cut the bulkhead frame into pieces just to get it out of the house and because it weighed so much.  The electrical wiring was not drilled and run through the floor joists, all of the wires were stapled to the joists.  Bill took the fixtures we removed and that is one less thing to dispose of for us.

Bob borrowed neighbor George’s wheel barrow to remove multiple loads of sheetrock and debris out to the dumpster.  The floors are swept and we are ahead of schedule.  The plumber and electrician come Monday and Bob will be here to work on removing the remaining carpet if he doesn’t have another job.  Bill will be finishing up a job started before ours began.  You can’t really have too many trades people in the house at one time or they bump into each other and you get less work done.

So the weekend will be spent looking for a new toilet, a vanity, a sink, and lighting.  Since Tony the plumber found a few problems on his initial inspection, we have to remove the old toilet to replace the seal and why put an inefficient water waster toilet back in.  To remove the toilet to replace the seal we have to remove the carpet….yes I said carpet…the previous owners’ first love was blue and their second love was carpet.  The wall in the bathroom is the backside of the kitchen pantry where all the sheetrock has been removed. If you are going to replace the toilet and flooring, it is time to remove the 1976 vanity with faux marble Formica countertops and brass and porcelain fixtures.  Of course when you put in a proper vanity we need to replace the inside door jamb because it was cut and notched to fit the current vanity.  This is not the way my dad would have built a house.  The end result will be a new kitchen and guest bathroom. 

I know they always say to plan for ten to twenty percent more than the budget calls for to cover unexpected problems.  Let’s pray there are no more surprises. 

The cabinet order has been in for a week and the best case scenario is they will arrive in four more weeks. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

A new week, a new plan

Thursday will be our starting date for the remodel now.  Bill needs to complete a job he is doing for a friend of ours (Mike L.).

One extra day to pack boxes, and speaking of boxes, I had to buy another fourteen boxes Tuesday and made a trip to The Bellingham Herald to buy paper mill ends to wrap dishes in.  I have always had two drawers in the kitchen full of dish towels.  One drawer is filled with towels that are pretty enough to have out when company comes.  The other drawer is filled with once pretty towels that have mopped up a few too many spills to be presentable to anyone outside the family.  Having about seventy-five to one hundred towels has come in handy since I have used the towels to wrap the china that my parents give me in high school.  A set of dessert dishes that belonged to my grandmother and a set of Anchor Hocking Burple green ice tea glasses that my mother bought filled with tea when they were brand new.

I have a set of snack plates and cups, a few milk glass pieces, my china, and a set of crystal champagne flutes that are packed safely away in my studio.  Everything else is packed and stored in the dining room.  We still have all the platters, casserole dishes, trifle dishes, punch bowls, everyday plates, cups, bowls, and ceramic serving pieces to pack up, but the cabinets are looking empty and my house looks more like we are moving out.

The subway tile is out of stock but should arrive within two weeks and I will order the accent tile after a final measurement.  The sink and faucet still have to be ordered and I need to find Edison light bulbs, cheap, because we need five bulbs for the new chandelier over the island.  Our canisters are worn out so I am looking for a new set but not sure what I want, so I guess I’ll just keep looking and hope I find something I love or I am not buying anything (I’ll wait…I have patience).

It’s Wednesday and I didn’t realize how much “stuff” we owned and even though the thrift store pile is growing, I am out of boxes and paper again.  10:30 PM and we are headed to Wal-Mart for more packing supplies.  Bill and Bob will be here at 8:30 AM Thursday morning and my part must be done.  It is amazing how quiet our little town is at this time of night, locked up and almost deserted.  Wal-Mart looks just about as deserted except for all the clerks restocking the shelves. 

Home again and back to business.  There is no way the 50’s lounge chair is going to fit in the dining room because I had to rearrange boxes just to get the door closed.  Whoops…forgot to empty the dishwasher and pack those dishes.  With the cost of boxes and packing paper, maybe I could have chucked all the dishes and just bought new ones when the kitchen is done and saved both of our backs.   Three boxes to spare and it is 5:30 AM Thursday morning. 

I wasn’t ready to roll out of bed but not only does demo start today, I have an appointment with Jeannie at Argyle Salon to get my hair cut and a permanent because I am blessed with stick straight hair.  A quick stop for Starbucks coffee and I was ready to let Jeannie wash, perm, rinse, cut, and style my hair.  The bonus to all this was Argyle has a new esthetician named Stacey and she introduced herself and asked if I would like my hands massaged.  Wow…I could almost fall asleep I was so relaxed.  Jeannie laughed and said with the lack of sleep and my new state of relaxation I might not be able to drive home.  All good things must come to an end and soon it was time to return home and see what our home looked like.

No matter what I envisioned, walking in the door and looking straight ahead to the kitchen with the island, the appliances, and fifty percent of the cabinets removed was enlightening.  Larry has been asking me if I was excited about the remodel and I was, but there was so much planning and thinking of details that I couldn’t slow my mind down long enough just enjoy what was to come.  Now it was exciting.  Now the talk was behind us and it is all a forward motion to a kitchen with a transitional contemporary design. 

The boom box is playing loudly, Bill is singing, and Bob is laughing.  They make a good team.  I snapped a few photos as I left the house this morning and left explicit instructions for Larry to take lots of photos (he thought an occasional shot would be okay) because I had to miss the first hours I wanted to be able to relive what I missed.

Cabinets hung from the wall, stuck on with paint and age, even after the screws holding them to the four by fours were removed, they refused to budge.  Crow bars, hammers, shear muscle, man against cabinets, the cabinets finally lost but not before giving up a good fight.  The carpet in the kitchen has been removed and only the orange pad and tack strips remain. 

Friday the rest of the carpet, the hardwood, tack strips, the half wall, and ceiling will come out.  The wall will get opened up for the plumber to begin work Monday and then we will also be ready for the electrician.  So this was the good news. 

The bad news?  Behind the pantry cabinets there was no sheetrock covering the plumbing stack to the upstairs backrooms.  They were wrapped in insulation but the original builder, rather than deal with the one quarter inch protrusion from the wall, just hid the problem.  Bill moved the insulation around and realized a sheetrock patch will fit flush.  Problem averted.  But I would have loved for that to have been the biggest, baddest problem we would encounter.  We also have some weak plumbing pipes under the house that must be replaced, several pipe joints are not even glued together, we have two sewer leaks in the pipes, a leaking seal on the toilet in the guest bath downstairs and maybe dry rot. 

Friday I will be shopping for a new toilet, sink, mirror, and light for the guest bath and the bathroom will get a new subfloor if we have dry rot and new sheetrock to replace the questionable wall board that is passing for sheetrock in the bathroom.  Of course the previous owner cut the inside door molding to accommodate the bathroom vanity so we will need new molding, paint, and flooring. 

This sort of reminds me of watching HGTV and one of those renovations gone wrong…except this is it…from here on out it will only be good things….it will, it will, it will.  Now I will click my heels three times, toss a penny over my shoulder, check my horoscope, and then I will ask God to watch over this renovation, to guide us, direct us, and bless us.

The night before deconstruction

Everything stored in the dining room and the kitchen is empty and ready to be demolished.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

These are the days of our lives...

The cabinet order was placed yesterday or so we thought.  Troy arrived this morning to pick up a check to pay for the granite slab we have picked out and tell us about the latest cabinet modification for the gas cook top. 

It seems that our European gas cook top is not quit uniform to American made cabinets.  Everything is off by just a fraction and the gas line can’t come from the back, because the cook top takes up almost the whole depth of the cabinet, so it will come from underneath meaning a notch will have to be taken out of the drawers below and the shut off valve will be in another cabinet against the wall.  This means the typical cabinet you would use for a cook top won’t work in our plan.

Troy worked yesterday and today and still has a little more tweaking to do today before he submits our plan to the cabinet company making our cabinets, which has to be today to stay on schedule, or we are another week behind.  We now have furniture drawers under the cook top with several fillers and modifications to make this work.

It seemed too simple in the beginning.  Beautiful gas cook top, built well, good reviews, good quality similar to Viking and Wolf, but cheaper than even the Sears brand.  What could possibly go wrong?  You may wonder why we don’t just send it back.  It has been sitting in our garage in the shipping crate since November and we can’t match the price and value with anything else.

This is where having a good trades person (Troy) to work with is of the utmost importance.  Taking our ideas, our appliances, our cabinet choices, and working with us to make our dream become a reality.  My dad was a master finish carpenter and he would have enjoyed the process we have been going through and I am sure had some expert advice that may have kept us a few steps ahead of where we novices are at now.

Wednesday is the day we begin the deconstruction and reconstruction process, at least that is the plan today.  Larry is going to order the dumpster on Monday that will decorate our driveway for a week or so.

Saturday Larry tackled the garage to clear away items to store and take to the shop or sporting goods room in order to make room for a makeshift table for the microwave that will be our main mode of cooking for the next couple of months.  This was not an easy task since the boxes keep arriving with items for the kitchen.

I cleaned out the file cabinet in the pantry, packed up the cookbooks, packed up seven shelves from the pantry, and took all the throws and art work upstairs to be stored in the guest bedrooms.  The dining room has been rearranged, chairs stacked, and the church pew has been moved in.  We still have room in the dining room for the loveseat and maybe all three chairs from the living room.  The vintage dresser we use in the living room may need to stay put and just get moved around as the new flooring is installed, same for the barrister bookcase.  Larry is taking his old red leather recliner to the sporting goods room and the 1950’s vintage vibrating dentist style chair will probably get moved to the shop for storage. 

I’m almost ran out of boxes I had to make another run to Wal-Mart Sunday afternoon.  I packed most of the china and while I was gone Larry worked on cleaning up the garage…this is a never ending project. 

Wednesday is almost here and I still have fifteen cabinets to go and ten drawers….

As Larry says, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The ups and downs of renovation!

Last week we thought we were almost there with contractor bids and cabinet bids due by Friday.  We had the weekend to look at the numbers and weigh the pros and cons before making our final decisions.

The cabinet bids were close but still a little higher than we expected but lower than two other bids submitted by contractors and two other cabinet makers.  We had looked at all the options for countertops and had almost come to a decision when the final two cabinet makers suggested granite.

Marla and Bill said they spent a Saturday in Seattle going from stone yard to stone yard before making their selection and having it shipped to Bellingham to be fabricated locally.  Unless we could somehow tweak the cabinet bid, granite was not going to be an option for us.

I found the tile for the backsplash accent online from a supplier in Oregon and just need to make a final measurement before ordering.  The color we settled on is: sandy beaches blend brick pattern in white, dark grey, brown, and a grey blue and they come attached to a mesh backing.  Each one foot square will be cut into three strips.  The accent tile is the bling in the kitchen.  We are going with a dark grey grout and it was suggested to us to use QuartzLock2 premium professional pre-mixed grout because it is water proof, we won’t have to ever reseal it. It is stain resistant, has mold and mildew protection, low VOC, and no dust when mixing.  We are ordering the white two by four subway tiles from Lowes because you can’t beat the cost of twenty-five cents each and they are attached to a mesh backing.

We talked to the cabinet makers again and did some additional measuring.  We have eliminated the twelve inch deep cabinets backing the kitchen cabinets because we cannot remove the backs of both cabinets (this is how the existing cabinets were made when we moved in) for more useable space without compromising the integrity of the cabinets.  Since the seventy-five pound gas cook top needs to sit on top of one of these cabinets we need to make sure the strength of the cabinet will support the cook top.  Remove the bottom cabinet and you no longer need the upper cabinets.  Now the pantry is twelve inches wider and requires the backs of the cabinets to be finished with a panel.  Paint versus stain.  Maple versus Cherry.  Add a cabinet, take away a cabinet.  Molding or not.  I’m tired.

Whoops…on Monday the cabinet maker came to do a final measurement and forgot to add a cabinet where we are removing a non load bearing wall.  Larry has a saying “it only cost a dime more to go first class”--not true….  Well that wasn’t the only change we made.  I kept looking at the plan and realized that the L-shaped portion of the cabinet that houses the cook top was longer than planned and would not allow enough room to stand in front of it and open the doors without standing with our back to the cabinet and inches from the burners.  More measurements.  The bank of drawers in the island are coming out and it will be a regular cabinet next to the other bank of cabinets that make up the island.  The microwave is bigger than the plan allowed so the whole bank of cabinets being built to look more like a hutch has to be reconfigured.  The double ovens are big, bigger than the cabinet in the plans and require a larger cabinet.

W printed out the specifications for the cook top, the double ovens, and our oversized thirty-one cubic foot French door refrigerator, re-measured the microwave, and plotted.  Troy thought maybe moving the L-shaped cabinet six inches into the pantry area were we have an additional twelve inches of space since we removed a bank of cabinets, then move the refrigerator down in opposite direction three inches.  Same floor plan, just stretched out a little.

I went in search of tile samples similar to what I have picked out on the web to take to the stone yard when we to look at granite.  Troy still thinks this is an option we can afford.  It doesn’t hurt to look. 

Now we have a slab of white granite called Bianco Antico with cream, bronze, and silver.  The bronze brown to mimic the cabinets, streaks and flecks of grey to reflect the stainless steel appliances, the white and cream to blend with the kitchen island color, and flecks of silver are the bling to balance the accent tile.

We left Troy to brainstorm with cabinet layouts, adjustments, prices, appliances, moldings, heights of cabinets, and so much more.  Now we waited for a phone call and it didn’t take long.  Good news, cabinets came in with a budget cut, granite came in with a cut in price and included a remnant piece in a different color cut for the fireplace mantel in the study--everything fits where it should.

Next step for Larry and me is finish cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, packing the art work, taking more loads to Goodwill, a trip to Costco to buy paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils, ordering a dumpster,  and setting a date for the contractor to start work.

Larry keeps asking if I am excited.  Until any project begins, I am always a little apprehensive of the little details, details, details….but what I am really looking forward to is the end of the project and seeing all the planning we have done for several years become a reality.  In between the start and finish, Larry and I are planning a menu so we can invite family, friends, and all the trades people who are involved in this project over to a remodel party.

Friday, February 03, 2012

One step forward and two steps back...

One step forward and two steps back.  I have had tile samples laid out on the kitchen cabinet for weeks, planning how much we needed for the design.  White two by four subway tiles with a 5/8” mosaic tile in clear glass, white stone, and grays.  Well a change in cabinet color from white to a rich saddle/cigar brown color means the grays won’t be a good match.  Now what?

When we first started looking at flooring and tile I brought home samples for colors and loved one particular tiny subway tile with a crackle finish in white, blue grey, and browns but it was way out of our price range.  I just need color waves to look at.  Well with a little late night internet research I found the tile half price out of Oregon and since it is only an accent to the white subway tiles, I think it might be the one.  But stay tuned because for every time I think we have made a decision something has us rethinking the process.  The accent tile comes in standard size sheets already attached to a backing mesh and each sheet can be cut into three strips of four tiles high.  Whether we set them on the counter top and add the white subway tile above them or break up the subway tile with these in between is yet to be determined.  But a little bling can go a long way if used the right way.

The flooring guy just came  to measure the rooms for the laminate so we can place our order.  Since the product is warehoused in Seattle and is in stock we won’t have to wait weeks to get it.  We choose Bourbon Street Applewood from Sherwin Williams for durability, price, and a recommendation from our friend Bob who is also our painter and installed this in a different color in his home.  A designer for a vendor for the upcoming Whatcom home show was in the store yesterday ordering the same flooring we are ordering and insisted it had to be that exact one.  We made a quick trip down to a spec home in Ferndale where the same flooring had been installed to see what a large area looked like.  Then the floor guy arrived, measured, and as we talked we asked about a similar product we saw at another store.  He also carries this and we will still be under budget from a box store in Seattle that he had considered.  So now we are buying Western Pecan laminate flooring in a 12mm which looks just like the applewood pattern in a ever so slightly, almost unnoticeable darker color…darker just doesn’t seem like the right word to even use…it has a tiny, tiny, touch of a reddish hue.  It sounds confusing but most people would never even notice the difference in color and we changed because it is a upgrade in thickness and durability for a small fraction in difference in price.  Score!  The order is being placed so we took a step back and then moved forward on this one.

The hood vent for the gas cook top is supposed to ship from Los Angeles today.  We will see, since we ordered it eleven days ago.  The company was waiting on their shipment to fill orders. 

Another cabinet cleaned out of unwanted or needed items.  This time it was glasses and coffee mugs.  I have one box to pack and store of special mugs presented to Larry during his years at several universities for service and awards.  One little mug sitting far back in the corner belongs to our daughter Kelly and she has had it since she was little.  Guess this one will go in my studio in one of my many cabinets filled with children’s treasured mementoes that I am storing until they have homes and cabinets where they can store them or use them.  One more box for Goodwill filled with miscellaneous mugs that you just sort of accumulate over time that have no special sentimental value, the over flowing collection of Harley mugs that are the run of the mill give aways that were used when we had Harley meetings at the house or very large parties with lots of coffee drinkers.  A few cups that Ally the cat used as her drinking cups, large bases so she couldn’t tip them over, and now when I look at them I want to cry from missing her so much.
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