After finishing most of the touch-up work in the kitchen, this weekend I moved out into the dining room. (Some history: the dining room has been unfinished since our first year in this house. We scraped wallpaper and pulled the lousy paneling off the walls before the wedding, pulled the carpeting up the night before our first Fourth of July party, and painted last fall. It’s been in stasis ever since.)
The strange hole in the front corner has been filled. There are two new baseboards installed and finished with cap molding, waiting for a fresh coat of paint. The other two will get new molding and a sanding before being painted—it’s hard to get a 17′ length of wood without having it specially cut—and the remaining nicks and dings in the wall are getting smoothed out.
I’m leaving the window as it is for a while, until we can afford a replacement—getting something architecturally accurate with modern construction is going to cost big bucks. Until then, we’ll cover over the holes with curtains and I’ll tack in the replacement molding.
Also, I covered the nasty paneling out on the front porch with three(!) coats of white Kilz to try and brighten the light coming in the front of the house. Years of nicotine have already burned through the paint and stained it brown.
With these two rooms done (or close to done), we’ll have three rooms on the ground floor completed, and we’ll be able to focus on the living room.
Date posted: November 14, 2005
| Filed under appliances, house, kitchen | Comments Off on Kitchen/Dining Room Updates.
Yesterday morning two compact men of Central American descent pulled up in front of the house and unloaded several thousand dollars worth of new appliances. At first we were worried when they took the boxes off the units in the truck, but they treated our shiny new children with care as they hefted them up the front steps and into the front porch. I stood back with my coffee, amazed, when the smaller of the two men carried our dishwasher up our front walk and into the house on his back. (Note to Sears: Send your deliverymen out with a Johnni-Lift or something next time.)
And then, it was time to say goodbye to the legacy range. The two men strapped it to the cart, carefully navigated through the hallway, and then practically threw it down the front stairs. Goodbye, lousy electric range: may you never spatter grease, burn cookies, collect hair, or stink up our house again.
B. the electrician came back and finished roughing in the electrical work as well. As with the rest of the house, we’ll have several dozen outlets and dedicated circuits for all the appliances instead of two ungrounded plugs and an extension cord—halleleujah, amen.
I followed B. last night by patching up various holes in the plaster, insulating the weight channels in the window sash (which were empty, no wonder it cooled off in that room so quickly) and slapped a coat of Kilz on the Pepto-pink walls. In one way, I’m glad I was laid off, because this room needs a lot more work than I expected to get it ready for cabinets.
Date posted: October 18, 2005
| Filed under house, kitchen | Comments Off on Kitchen Update, Day Six.
This weekend I finally got to the two projects that have been bugging me for weeks now. The upstairs bedroom (The Cream room) has been closed up for months, waiting for an electrician to come and hook up the wiring. Since that got accomplished two weeks ago, It’s been waiting for me to cut new baseboards and reinstall everything I ripped out. After I ran data, phone and cable to the basement and made several trips to the Lowe’s for lumber, I put in new shims and tacked the boards back into place for fit. Everything checked out, so the baseboards and cap molding are in and ready for primer.
Downstairs in the kitchen, the sticky mess on the floor that’s been collecting cat hair and dust finally got addressed this afternoon. I started at about 3 and by the third quarter of the Patriots/Steelers game I had everything on the east side of the kitchen up and clean. Observe:
There’s more under the cabinets and under the range, and the perimeter of the floor needs to be hand-scraped, but it’s beginning to shape up. After a good drum sanding to the point where it’s all an even tone, it’ll look much nicer.
As for the installation, we had a brief freakout with the cabinet colors. The color we thought was “red” was actually a sort of yellowish brown, and that was definitely not cool. After cancelling the original order, we got a pair of full-size cabinet fronts and compared colors with a sample of granite (the color is called Bianco Romano), and finally decided on the red. This set everything back by about two weeks, but that’s fine—we can use the time to get all the other stuff organized. The other good news is that the quote for the granite is actually a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the original ballpark I’d been given.
Date posted: September 25, 2005
| Filed under house, kitchen | Comments Off on Planer-Fu.
This morning I awoke to the sound of the doorbell click-clacking and a knock on the door. I was laying in bed ignoring the snooze alarm and trying to decide if the beep-beep-beep sound outside was a road crew hot-patching the hole across the road (it wasn’t) and later, if the hollow tapping sound was our door, when I suddenly realized we had an appointment with a cabinet installer, who was supposed to take measurements of our kitchen so that we can find out just how much blood we have to sell to finance a remodel. He seemed ok when I greeted him in my pajamas and bedhead, and clucked when he saw the room. The good news is that we’ll probably be able to fit a dishwasher in there, and running a gas line for a range should be easy. The bad news is that it’s still small, the stove stays where it is, and there’s not a whole lot we can do with the fridge.
In the meantime, I’ve been lax about writing here so that I can put the finishing touches on the local version of a new weblog. I have a sideblog installed (a sort of secondary blog of interesting links, in this case) and the templates completed; I’m still working out the archive sections and the search result page. Unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting to settle on a name for the damned thing, which is kind of important in buying a domain. Suggestions? Really, I’m kind of stumped here.
foursquare and brokedown are all unavailable with the extensions I want (.com, .net or .org). Fivecentsplease has been ruled out. Waitingroom is unavailable. (I’m thinking of a doctor/house theme here, have you noticed?) PerpetualRenovations is available but a little long—maybe there’s a shorter cousin…? ThisOldGrouse is available.
It Is Decided. Our firstborn son will be named Octavio.
Corrollary: It took us about an hour to remember the third Bee Gee’s name (Jen finally got it). Can you get all three? No cheating…
Progress is being made on the design front; I have a working, usable index page template in Movable Type running on my Powerbook’s webserver (where my test install of MT resides) and it’s been slowly coming together. I’m tweaking the fonts and coloring, and I’ve moved some stuff around. Next up is enabling and configuring the comment section (popup vs. inline?) and then wrassling with the Archive section. Finally, I’ll install some sideblogs for other content (the music and links sections). I’m excited.
Can somebody else out there with IE6 or 5 check my home page and tell me if the image shows up at all? Thanks! (My install of IE here at work is hopelessly buggy.)
This weekend looks like it’s going to be very barfy around here, so we may keep close to home and get things done around the house. I’d like to finish the painting job and put the baseboards back permanently, and actually get to work on the wiring in the back bedroom. I also got in touch with a friend’s wife who designs kitchens, in the hopes that we can get our disaster cleaned up before we’re in the family way. Note: the other night I pulled up about five square inches of the linoleum to expose a thin layer of plywood and green pre-war linoleum underneath. Under the green is pretty pine flooring, ready for sanding. No word yet on its condition….
Thanks again to Todd and Heather for a wonderful evening of tasty food, good folks, and a slideshow presentation on Rome—they offered to host a honeymoon show-and-tell at their place with drinks and dinner. It was great to get a cross-section of our friends together in one house and get them talking to each other; it’s funny how there’s so much overlap between each couple. I kept the DVD presentation under fifty slides and tried not to bore everybody too much, and it seemed to go over very well.
Progress. Ever since college, I’ve lived out of containers as varied as milk crates, cardboard boxes, laundry baskets, and tupperware. My laundry has been organized in free-standing piles for as long as I can remember. Currently, ¾ of it sits out in the doctor’s office, a sizeable percentage of which is laying on the exam table. It’s a drag to have all of your clothes on another floor from the bathroom, especially when it’s wintertime and the porch is about 40°. This weekend, Jen and I decided to follow one of the millions of tag sale signs around Catonsville, and it led us to a $50 mahogany dresser, with five big drawers and two small ones on top. I feel like an adult again.
Other developments: Jen reorganized the whole kitchen, which was a herculean undertaking: not only did she dispose of two garbage bags full of old/bad food from our shelves, but she was able to fit most of the crap spread throughout the room into the new pantry. There are shiny new recycling bins lined up under the shelves, the cat food is out from underfoot, and it’s now possible to see all the cans at one time (the rack on the back of the basement door is gone.) She also sorted and culled our varied collection of pots and pans without mercy—the Goodwill is gonna have a big delivery coming.
Meanwhile, I got a coat of primer on about 90% of the back of the house before the game got called on account of weather. I’ve got the formula for successful paint spraying down, and the job should go much quicker now.
Sunday night we were invited to a barbecue down the street at our neighbors’ house, where we met another! couple! under! the! age! of! thirty! After the introductions, we all stood around silently for fifteen minutes, marveling at the novelty of it all, and then got along famously. Good food, good company, and a late evening—we left at midnight and walked home, full and happy.
In case you thought I was sitting around doing nothing all weekend, I’m going to post some boring pictures of the stuff we got done because I pulled the parade photos off the camera and left them all on the server at the house. But I should back up and talk about the party first.
chair, Catonsville, 7.3.04
Friday night Jen and I ran around cleaning and preparing for the party (which is really sort of misleading; she was cleaning all day before I even got home, and I just continued helping chase the dust around the first floor.) After finishing what we could and having some dinner, I decided that good enough wasn’t, and ripped up the dining room carpet. You see, my strategy to avoid vacuuming the carpet, the largest repository of used cat hair east of the Mississippi, was to remove it the night before we hosted twenty people at our house. Brilliant, Dugan. (Cue the sound of Jen slapping the back of my head.)
Saturday went off relatively well, considering we were running around doing all the stuff I should have done the night before as our guests were arriving. The day started warm, and made its way to hot by noon, which meant that plenty of cold beer was in order. Our friends brought all kinds of tasty foods to share, and we enjoyed the first sounds of children running around in the backyard since we’ve lived there (I could get used to that.) Making camp in the side yard, we watched as the people began to arrive on the street—by 9am the curbs were lined with chairs, and a small turf war broke out on our section; my lovely wife graciously defused the situation and made everyone feel welcome.
The parade started with a marching band, and what followed was a spectacle: fire trucks, coronet bands, Shriners in miniature Mack trucks (no ATVs this year), classic cars, politicians (two Senators, the Governor, the Baltimore City mayor, and the Attorney General), Mummers, a baffling POW-MIA float (Catonsville: Setting The Standards For Poor Taste!), our neighbor riding in a Marine humvee, and a dixieland band. We sat the kids under an umbrella at the curb and enjoyed the show—Jen was happy to see Martin’s car stop in front of our driveway for a minute—and I shot lots of pictures, none of which I can show you today.
Sunday we were stuck inside because of rain, so I tackled the job of improving the pantry shelving. The pantry itself is old-school, a 6’x8′ larder hung off the back of the house and minimally insulated. Marks on the wall show where old shelving once hung, but when we moved in, we inherited two sticky, yellowing wire racks tacked to the east wall, which had served us well for cans and boxes, and a rickety dual shelf under the window for pots and pans.
On the left: nasty wire shelves. On the right: sturdy wooden shelves.
I pulled this all out and by noon on Monday had replaced it with eight sturdy wooden shelves which wrap around the room from wall to wall. By last night I had it all primed for final paint, and hopefully we’ll be able to get all our canned goods off the dining room table by Tuesday.
After pulling up the linoleum and sanding the floor. The quarter-round on the baseboards got pulled and replaced with new stained wood.
We redid our kitchen back in the fall of 2005, when we were newlyweds and it was still a relatively good idea to walk into a Sears to buy Kenmore appliances. And for the most part, the appliances have held up. We had to replace the fridge a few years ago, but our stove and combo oven are still humming along. The dishwasher was beginning to worry us, however. Already a loud unit, it was getting louder and washing less with every week. It gets run pretty much every day, and due to Finn’s distracted method of loading it (skipping the step of scraping food off the plates first) it had to work extra hard. I’ve disassembled the screen and chopper several times, and mopped food sludge out of the bottom repeatedly. We weren’t surprised, then, when it stopped working last week: the light on the front flashed on startup, which meant that the computer was confused. I found a couple of reset codes on the internet and tried them all with no luck. I cleaned out the drains and the chopper. After another reset, I restarted it, but the light continued flashing sadly, as if to say, “that’s all, folks.”
So we hit the Home Depot to shop for a new one. We’ve got multiple relatives and friends who all swear by their Bosch, so we took the chance on German engineering and laid our money down on a 500 model. The 800 model has wi-fi for some reason. I guess it emails you when the pots are in the wrong rack, or to tell you when it piddles on the floor. They are all super-quiet and have a third tray on the top for silverware. Apparently we need to watch a video, take a quiz, and be licensed to load it properly. We had to settle for a stainless-front unit, as the black units are special-order and apparently trapped on a container ship somewhere. I’m going to see if I can get a black replacement panel and install it at some point, as we like the way a black unit blends in with the cabinet better.
Two guys showed up today and traded the old for the new in about an hour. I guess 17 years isn’t too bad, all things considered.
Here’s where we stand in the kitchen right now. The grout is sealed and ready but there are two plugs in the corner that aren’t working for some reason—they were fine before I put the tile in but I can’t get them to work. I replaced both of the outlets with new units; sometime GFCI outlets fail over time, but I can’t for the life of me understand what’s happening with these. Strangely the one in the back corner works fine because it’s on a separate circuit. The other big update is that I replaced the rope lighting above the cabinets. Over fifteen years the original filament unit had slowly died, so I pulled that out and replaced it with an LED version. It looks strange in the photo because the under-counter lights are bright white LEDs while the rope is warm light, but in person they warm up the whole kitchen dramatically.
Jen and I were talking this morning about how much brighter it is in there during the day, due to the light reflecting off the shiny white surfaces. It could all be wishful thinking, but I know there’s a big difference when I walk in there every day. Best $200 spent this year.
A few weeks ago, Jen was at Lowe’s shopping for something and stumbled upon a tile pattern she liked. She sent me a picture and we talked it over, and I bought a few to bring home and test-fit. You see, we’ve been thinking about a tile backsplash in the kitchen since 2005 when we had the whole thing redone; we just never decided on what we wanted back there.
This is a large (2’wX1’w) tile with a repeating wavy pattern, sort of a knockoff of the large architectural panels that were popular 10 years ago. It’s meant to be sort of a subway tile for an entire wall, but for our purposes it was perfect: a minimum of grouted area to have to clean, an organic pattern to break up all of the right angles, and a shiny surface to reflect under-counter lights back out into the room.
The big problem was the number of outlets we have surrounding the counter and how I’d cut holes in the tile to bring them all through. I did some digging and found an Italian-made sawblade designed to fit an angle grinder that got stellar reviews for cutting small holes, so I ordered that from Amazon and then bought two boxes of tile.
Saturday morning I rented a wet tile saw, cleared the counters off, and got to work. For the most part it was easy going, and after I figured out the best way to cut outlet holes right the first time it went smoothly. The corner by the range was the only place where things got tricky, but I found a way to make it work and proper application of grout should hide any sins.
There’s a full size tile on the bottom and then a ~2″ slice around the top edge that meets the underside of the cabinets. With some creative engineering I was able to get a medium-size tile saw to cut an oversize tile exactly how I needed.
So, next up is grout; I’m already planning to get a tub of white grout to fix a small stain in the new bathroom floor (one of the cats knocked over a can of purple PVC pipe primer, and that shit stains everything) so I can use some of the remainder to grout the kitchen.
For a grand total of ~$200 and a full Saturday, I’m pretty pleased.
We did a round-trip into Ohio over the weekend for a funeral, one of Jen’s extended family. His name was Floyd and he was a funny man, extremely nice to me when I met him, and he and his wife always sent us Christmas cards. While we were there we saw Jen’s sister Annie and her son Scott, as well as her father and the larger Ohio contingent of her mother’s family. It was a long trip out and a long trip back, my second in a month, and I don’t think I need to go to Ohio again for a while.
While that was happening, our refrigerator decided it was going to go wonky (probably in protest of the small upright freezer Jen bought and installed in the basement). Jen had emptied and defrosted it after moving a pile of stuff to the new freezer, but when we plugged it back in the temperature in the fridge section wasn’t staying cold enough. We packed up a bunch of food and brought it to our brother and sister’s spare garage fridge the night before we left; hopefully we haven’t lost three dozen eggs and two gallons of milk. On our return from Ohio the fridge was cooled properly, if not slowly, so we did some recon on the tail end of the Labor Day sales to see what’s out there.
Most of the new model fridges have things like TV screens and cooling drawers and lights that come on when you knock on the window (yes, they have windows). Most of them are bottom-freezer designs, which I like. They are larger, taller and deeper than ours because they were made for modern kitchens. Ours is a smaller traditional top-freezer design. It’s hiding out in the old hall closet under the stairs, tucked into a hole hacked in the wall. Because of the angle of the stairwell above, I’ve only got a certain amount of width and height I can work with, and the closet is only so deep. Most modern units are 70″ high by 36″ wide, and I think I can make a hole big enough to squeeze one in there. I would have liked to have the weekend to cut and trim the walls to test my theory before making a $1500 purchase, but didn’t have enough time, so we will miss out on Labor Day sales. I’m betting our fridge will probably last another couple of months, especially now that the heat and humidity has left, and we’ll look at a new one in late winter when money is more plentiful.
Meanwhile there’s a hurricane blowing in this week, and we have no idea what it will do to this area. I bought a submersible pool pump from Amazon for delivery tomorrow, and I’ll go out and shore up the defenses after work tomorrow night. I would also have liked to clean the gutters this weekend, but I guess I’ll deal with what I get when it gets here.