Tuesday, March 27, 2012


So you asked for pictures of my project... Here we go.

This is a view of the steps leading down to my back door... See that horrid paneling? Yeah, that was the first thing that absolutely had to go.

Here's the main spread of cabinets. They were awful, but simple enough in design that I figured that something could still be done with them... Oh, and see that horrendous formica backsplash? Yeah, that had to go too.

TA-DA! A little blood, sweat, and a day or two later, that shit is toast!

Oh, fear not, I ripped out the continuation of both paneling and nasty backsplash on the other side of the kitchen too!

What was that? You said you want to know what was under the paneling? And you're laying even money on the option that it was commercially adhered to a mega-high-gloss fire engine red paint? DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER!

And with that, the demolition work was complete... (This is roughly when the fire happened so we had a five month hiatus in the process...) Once all the other restoration work was complete, that kitchen looked extra raggedy by comparison, but the contractor did make sure that the walls were sanded flat, primed, and painted... But that was really the least of my worries. There was still plenty to do, and that wall paint would need some touch-ups before all of this was said and done anyway. So I proceeded to take the cabinet doors off the hinges, scrubbed those bad boys down, used wood filler to fill the holes from the old hardware, pre-drilled new holes for the new hardware... Then I sanded out the worst ridges in the doors, and on the frames, de-glossed them all over, primed them, painted them, re-hung them... did minor touch-up work, and BIBBITY-BOBBITY-BOO!

This is what you get!

Get ready, because here's where you find out for just a couple hundred bucks, and a lot of personal patience, BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!

Sink and dishwasher area:

Lower cabinets and new floor:

Fridge and bar station area:

Down the back steps to the back door:

And the main spread of cabinets near the stove and sink:

And with that, I patted myself on the back, because THAT--my friends, is what a job well done looks like.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Home improvement never really ends...

So, after five months of hotel living, during which time my house was full of various contractors, construction workers, and carpenters, you would think that there was nothing left to do with regard to home improvement. You'd think that once we had the leak in the breakfast nook under the bathroom and another month and a half of contractors in and out re-plumbing, dry walling, plastering, and painting would REALLY have knocked everything out and left me with no projects to tackle... WRONG.

You see, the kitchen had just been replastered the week before the fire. I had ripped out the horrid paneling and stripped out old wallpaper, and the plasterer had been finished with his gig less than a week before all hell broke loose. No kidding. It was still freshly primed and awaiting paint, I had planned on painting it that weekend, but the fire was on a Thursday afternoon... And firemen with all their equipment and such were not expected to be particularly careful while running in and out to deal with the problem that was my burning house.

The contractor who saw that the fire damage was repaired also made sure that the kitchen got repainted, so that was a nice little bonus. But when all was said and done, the cabinets were as old and shabby looking as ever, because they weren't damaged enough by smoke to warrant replacing. And so I have done my homework and figured out what I want done, and purchased some supplies so that I can make my kitchen as sexy and sleek as the rest of the house.

For the record, the prep work (arguably the most important part) has been a HUGE pain in the ass but I'm hoping that the results justify the leg work in the end... We should know for sure in a little over a week or so.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A new obsession...

Ok, so let me tell you about my latest obsession... Aside from playing a dozen or more games of Words With Friends at any given time, and every episode from the series "House" (regardless of the fact that I own all the seasons on dvd and have seen all of them multiple times...)

This is an obsession of the nerdy sort... (My favorite brand of obsession, really.) And no, I am not about to launch into a dispassionate argument on the merits of "Star Wars" or announce that I am becoming a "Trekkie." (That is just a little too nerdy for my particular tastes... But I still love many people who love them, so I try not to frown on either too harshly.)


I don't think it is a secret that the best writers are avid readers. So many authors give interviews that will tell you just that... They dive into the written words of others, and that assists them with knowing how to tell the story they want to tell... Or how not to tell it. (I am sure I've read an interview or two where an author implied that they don't generally enjoy reading other people's work because they don't like how the style of others then creeps into their own work, or that they are so often annoyed by the way other writers don't tell the story the way that the author/reader thinks they should.... But for the most part, the best writers are hardcore readers too.) I don't labor under the delusion that anyone puts me in a category with "the best writers." I do, however, contend that I know how to paint a specific picture using the written word. (I've been told I am a glorious verbal story teller, because I have the added benefit of intonation and flailing hands and bodily gestures, but I digress...) I attribute whatever skill I have in either capacity to the fact that under normal circumstances, I am a voracious reader. (I read too slowly for my own liking, but it's only because I take a certain kind of joy in absorbing every word and turn of phrase, and I know that the writers and editors who had a hand in the final product I get my hands on carefully chose specific words and phrases for specific reasons, and frankly, seeing the intertwining threads come together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts is just awesome... I also make notes in the margins of books I read multiple times, much to the dismay and disapproval of the few people to whom I trust enough to lend said books... But that's a whole other can of worms.)

That said, I have a decent sized personal library. It has been a big problem every time I've moved, because boxes of books are generally pretty damn heavy. It was heart-wrenching to have to throw out many of my books after the fire because they were just beyond salvaging because fire, smoke, and water are not friends with books.

I generally have a pretty steady lineup of books waiting in the wings for ready consumption when need of a new tome arises, but occasionally I do run dry, and while I love rereading books, more often than not, I just crave new input. In those instances, I turn to my friends, peers, family, whomever I trust as far as being a bankable opinion on things they think I'll like, and I ask for suggestions.

I admit that occasionally that I have been steered wrong, and I've found that even among books that somehow mysteriously land on the bestseller list, not all of the suggestions are my cup of tea... But those instances of misdirection are rare. For the most part, my trusted resources give me a push in the right direction.

The last time I put out a call for suggestions, I got a suggestion that I was a little leery to invest my time and money into pursuing. Among other suggestions that I took under advisement, a friend of mine recommended "The Hunger Games" trilogy.

For those of you not familiar with this selection, it is a trilogy of books primarily marketed to the "tween," teen, and young adult demographics. This alone had me worried. (I have had too many people tell me that I "NEEDED" to read the Twilight books with such fervent ardor even when I wasn't asking for suggestions that it was more than a little annoying. I still have people stare back at me with their mouths agape when I say that I haven't read the Harry Potter books. I just wasn't interested in either one, and then my best friend, and most trusted resource told me that her sister had cajoled her into reading one of the twilight books, and my theory was confirmed. She reported back that despite all the hormonal teenage adoration, they were poorly written, and bordered on intolerable. The titles of the trilogy, "The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay" further concerned me. I was underwhelmed with the idea of reading fictional a book about teenagers and hunger. I had seen the titles on the shelves at the book store, and had been so underwhelmed with my mental concept of them that I never even bothered to pick them up to read a dust jacket to see what the fuss was about, even though they were on the shelves reserved for best sellers for quite some time. Pursuing the issue further by asking my friend about the initial premise and finding out that it was about a girl who volunteers to take her sister's place in the literal death match known as "the hunger games" had me ready to write off the suggestion as just ludicrous and banish the suggester to the reject pile, never to be heard from again... But then I decided that since I had the book budget to replace those lost in the fire, and I could always pass it off to my kid sister who is a full decade younger than I am, I might as well give it a shot, if only so I know for sure whether or not to trust that particular person's suggestions ever again.

I am pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised. I started the first book on Wednesday and finished it Thursday night. Friday night and Saturday morning were spent on the second book. Sunday was the third book... (Mind you, these books are about 400 pages a pop, and I am not a speed reader.) I just couldn't put them down! They were simply irresistible! I admit to being shocked at how well written they were. They were interesting without being overly complicated. They were exquisitely paced and suspenseful. I just couldn't believe how engrossing they were. I barely moved all weekend aside from eating, breathing, and turning pages. (And when you've got things to accomplish on the weekends, spending a whole one in a stationary position, reading books marketed to teenagers is really indicative that they are something special.)

So nearly 1200 pages and an otherwise wasted weekend later, I loaned the books to my mother, and she has found herself equally engrossed. She has told me that she is mad at me because now she can't get anything done in her downtime either, and she finds herself fighting sleep to squeeze in one more chapter.

The first book has been turned into a movie that comes out later this month. While I admit to being obsessed enough to lose a whole weekend to the books, I won't be one of those silly folks standing in line waiting for a midnight showing. I won't be in costume when I do eventually go see it, and I ardently hope the movie lives up to the image I created in my head as I was reading... Though based on the previews, I don't think it will disappoint... But then again, many movies do no justice to the books that they are supposed to be based on. So many of my favorite books have been absolutely AWFUL movies, despite stellar casting, properly sized budgets, and best intentions, so I know it is in the realm of possibility.

We'll see.