Monday, September 28, 2009

Before and After

I've mentioned renovations quite a few times here on MLM, but I'm not sure I've ever really given an idea of just how much we did. It was a three-phase operation: Phase 1 was our master bathroom, Phase 2 was our floors, and Phase 3 (most relevant to this forum) was the kitchen.

Phase 1 went very well. There were a few very minor bumps in the road, each easily solved and none of which put us more than a day or two behind schedule. We took the bathroom down to studs and slab and started over, everything new except the toilet. It turned out fabulously, with a larger shower, deeper soaking tub, feature wall of stone, more cabinetry, and small layout changes that made a world of difference.

Phase 2 involved more work, both on our part and the part of the workers. Hubband and I packed all of our things, and moved every piece of furniture out of the first floor. The garage was full of our furniture, the bedrooms upstairs were stuffed with boxes; there was even a bookcase on the front porch. He and I moved into a guest bedroom at Mom's for about a week and a half (Thanks Mom!) while the workers came in and chiseled up the wood floor. (Yes, chiseled. It was glued down.) They had the old floor up in 3 days, and laid the new floor in just 2 days. We spent the next few days cleaning the house with the help of some wonderful neighbors and setting things to rights again before we could move back in.

Phase 3, the kitchen. The phase that involved the most planning and the most thought. The phase with the most bumps in the road! There was some confusion over cabinetry pieces, a few minor things that were fairly easily fixed. The biggest issue was the range. To make a long story short, after much research and thought, we settled on a very particular model, which we were assured was in stock. The night before we were scheduled to take delivery, we received a call telling us that there had been a mistake, the range was not in stock. It was, in fact, back-ordered. It would be two more weeks before we got it. Then, a few days before that delivery, Hubband called to double-check. Oops, the company rep said two weeks? He meant four. Hubband demanded that we be provided with a loaner range in the meantime, which eventually we were. They ended up pulling something close to what we ordered out of their showroom. It was very disappointing, but I've found myself curiously at peace with it. I spent a lot of time cooking with my Mom, and I've gotten to challenge myself by figuring out ways to make meals with a wall oven, a microwave, and a single gas burner that's outside, attached to the grill. Now that we have the loaner stove, I'm playing with that a bit, and discovering that there is definitely going to be a learning curve. Before we get into that, though, how about a before and after photo?

Note the nice color, but plain style of cabinets, backsplash made of various shades of tan porcelain tile, and icky shades of beige countertop.

All new cabinetry (the old was recycled, given to a friend to redo their kitchen. Countertops were recycled as well.) including a large hearth/mantel style hidden hood. The backsplash is a continuation of the countertop, natural stone. We moved the refrigerator, placing it next to the existing full-size wine refrigerator and placing a microwave, wall oven, and hidden warming drawer where the fridge used to be. The range has increased in size from 30" to 36", from four burners to six. We installed an LP tank and gas line. In the 'Before' photo you can see the extent of the island; it ended at the pillar on the left. In the new kitchen, we've added more cabinetry there and extended that end to create an integrated eating area, as well as a very large workspace. I love that now when we entertain, guests will be able to sit at that eating area and talk to me while I cook, but not have to worry that they are in my way. I think we've added a lot of character to what was a very bland and standard kitchen. I love it.

The first thing that I made with the loaner stove had to be pasta, because I was finally capable of boiling a whole pot of water in a reasonable amount of time! Bacon, caramelized onions, butternut squash, with a splash of white wine, fresh thyme, some chicken stock, and a pinch of cayenne.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Read Nie-Nie

I wonder if you've heard of Nie-Nie. Stephanie Nielson, she of the paper silhouettes , back-to-school-dinners, and nearly fatal plane crash. A woman of faith and a woman of hope.

Have you heard of her sister, C Jane? Courtney Jane, who took in three of her sister's children while Nie recovered, who rejoices in the little things but isn't afraid to talk about wanting some big ones.

Both are Mormon, (I am not) both are mothers, (I am not) but both are very inspiring to me. They are unafraid to discuss their shortcomings, unafraid to discuss faith and loss, body-image and love, cake and Mormon-inspired vegetarianism. They will also willingly delight in a fabulous pair of shoes.

I've been reading both for well over a year, and I'm not really sure why I've decided today to blog about them. Maybe it's because I noticed this morning that when I don't have much time, and cannot check in on every blog I've bookmarked, those are two that are never skipped. I always check in on Nie and C Jane and their families.

Do you read Nie Nie?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Big Sur

As discussed back in JUNE (shame-face), we headed from San Francisco down the Pacific Coast Highway to get to Big Sur.
Eventually we found our resort for the night and after being scared out of our wits by a man that popped out of a tree*, we checked in and were driven to our treehouses:
After ooh-ing and ahh-ing at our amazing accommodations, we decided to take a walk around the secluded property, and there were gorgeous views every way we turned:
Part of the property is a redwood forest, and it was truly amazing to encounter these giants. I remember being shocked at how straight they grew:
After a fabulous dinner at the resort's restaurant (I forgot my camera. Let's blame jet lag, eh? At this point I had been awake, traveling, and enjoying to the max for an absurd number of hours.) we went back to our respective treehouses, and Hubband started a fire for me in the treehouse's beautiful stone fireplace, step one toward our goal of a fire every night. We only enjoyed it for a short time, as sleep was soon to come, but it was wonderful. The next morning, we enjoyed the views for a little while, then bid adieu to this amazing place to continue south, to Hearst Castle. We stopped for breakfast at a little place I had researched called the Big Sur Bakery. Simple and unassuming, you'd never guess from the exterior what lay within:
Ricotta-asparagus tarts with kalamata olives, apricot-studded coffee cake, multiple flavors of danish, huge cookies, scones, cinnamon buns, croissants, and other assorted trays of deliciousness, all freshly baked! Fabulous coffee too. All in a rustic little wooden building attached to a gas station. Breakfast was fabulous, and we picked up ham and gruyere stuffed croissants to save for our lunch. We jumped back in the car, and continued south.

*No really, a man popped out of a tree. Mom and I were already slap-happy at this point, and were laughing out of proportion to the actual humor of anything. Poor Hubband. Then we pulled into the resort, Hubband was telling us to calm down, and A MAN POPPED OUT OF A TREE. He was the security guard of the resort, checking to be sure we had reservations, but his hut was an enormous tree trunk that perfectly blended in with the landscape. At that point, we all lost it, and to this day we feel that we were accosted by a Hobbit.

Friday, September 11, 2009


*Crickets chirping*

Wow. June 25th. I'm a little ashamed that June 25th is the date of my last post. This year has been so incredibly busy, and gone by so quickly. We've been renovating our home since mid-July, including the kitchen, so the cooking has fallen by the wayside a bit. Thank goodness for having Mom close by. We had to move into her house for about a week during one stage of the renovation, and have been eating dinner there for several weeks while waiting for the new kitchen to take shape. Everything was supposed to have been finished today, but of course, there's always a hiccup, and that hiccup just happens to be my new range! Backordered, so it won't be here for two more weeks. I must admit that this renovation has gone incredibly smoothly, and if there had to be a hiccup somewhere, I'm grateful it was just a backordered appliance, instead of a plumbing or electrical disaster. Grateful, but still wishing I had my range.

I need to get back on the right track, and putting up a list of things to come is one way to keep me honest. There will be posts to come about our California vacation, about the baking challenge I set for myself during Phase I of the renovation, and before-and-afters of the kitchen. They will all be mixed together.

If you're checking in, thank you for sticking with me through the silence!