Wednesday, November 12, 2014

kitchen improvements

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We’ve been focusing our efforts on the kitchen during the past few weeks. I had to dig up a photo from 2011 because that’s the last time I took one. We haven’t done much in here since painting the cabinets several years ago. That was a story all by itself. First the cabinets were taupe, and then they were blue, and then they were blue and white, and then they were less blue and more white. It was like the paint job that never ends. Luckily, I’ve been pretty happy with them since then.

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The only thing we really disliked about the kitchen was the brown and black matching laminate countertops and backsplash. They were dark and dingy. They hid dirt… and appliances. They were ultra durable, but not very fun to look at. We dubbed this area of the kitchen the “sea of laminate”. It was time for it to go.

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We started off by peeling up all the laminate from the backsplash and countertops. I encourage the boys to get involved in projects if it’s something they are interested in. Jonathan thinks demolition is God’s gift to mankind. If our projects involve tearing something up, he’s usually the first to volunteer.

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Our wood pile in the garage contained a handful of 12 foot long cypress boards that were given to us by some friends when they moved out of town. We’d used a little bit of the wood for small projects, but had been saving the majority of it to do something big. Turns out we had just enough boards to turn the cypress into a kitchen countertop. 

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We found a local cabinet maker who cut and planed the boards for us so they would fit together seamlessly. Then Caleb used wood glue and a plethora of clamps to hold the pieces together overnight. 

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We filled all small cracks and knots with wood filler and sanded the countertops for hours with 80, 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. Sanding is my least favorite part of projects. It gets everywhere. Ew.

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We didn’t originally plan to put a new sink in the kitchen, but it sort of made sense. The plumbing under our old sink was a disaster. The pipes were sloped wrong and one drain would bubble while the other sink was draining. I was determined to fix it and we decided to put in a deeper, single basin sink while we were at it.

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My philosophy for cutting holes in big important things (like countertops) is to measure ten times and only cut once. Or leave the measuring to Caleb while I look over his shoulder and second guess everything. I’m ultra helpful like that.

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More sanding.

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This is the larger section of countertops. We laid them upside down and dry fit them together to make sure the corners lined up nicely. Okay, I admit to being the doubtful one.

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The next thing we did was take a week and finish the tops with five coats of stain/poly and five more coats of straight polyurethane. I am notorious for rushing on finishes so I really had to sit on my hands and let each coat dry completely. The result was a smooth surface that beads water nicely.

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Once the finish had cured we attached the sink to the underside of the counter.

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There were particle board counters under the laminate we ripped out and we decided to leave them in and install the new counters over top of them. This would provide extra stability and keep us from having to do extra demolition. Caleb had to trim a lot of the particle board to make things fit correctly. That collection of dust on top of the dish washer? Super fun. We orchestrated this trim by setting the new counter in place and marking any spots that didn’t fit correctly. Caleb calls this a “MacGyver Installation”. Most of our projects include something harry like this. It eventually meant we were without a kitchen sink for 24 hours or so.

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When everything fit correctly we applied wood glue between the particle board and the cypress and clamped everything down.

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In the places that clamps wouldn’t work Caleb fashioned some makeshift wedges to keep the counter flat until the glue cured.

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While waiting for the counters to set we tackled the plumbing and reconnected the water.

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The kids were really happy to have running water in the kitchen again. I was happy to do dishes somewhere other than the bathtub.

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The following weekend we tiled the backsplash. I’m really digging subway tiles right now. They’re cheap, simple and they go with everything.

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Here’s photographic proof that I dress like a lumberjack while tiling.

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Compared to the other aspects of this kitchen, the backsplash went quickly. We grouted the next morning and caulked the seams to finish things out.

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Common sense tells me the kitchen isn’t larger, but it feels huge without the expanse of brown laminate. And the separation between backsplash and counter is wonderful. I no longer feel like dishes are being sucked into a dark abyss.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

a nod to October

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I tried my best to slam on the brakes and drag my heels through every. single. pumpkin lovin minute of October. One day it occurred to me that I’d successfully cruised through September and barely remembered a thing. Except the paint. I do remember painting the garage at 8 PM. And the ten million trips we made to the hardware store. I remember all those.

Once the October winds started dumping leaves on trampoline and we were waking up to frosty windows, I was well over the house. So over it. We filled up the rest of the month with all of things that make it my favorite.

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Pumpkin Patch. Around here that term means “gourds on pallets”. These southern kids have never seen an actual pumpkin growing on a vine so they don’t know what they’re missing. There are hay bales, though, so you are redeemed Alabama.

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The Fair. Oh how I wait with in anticipation for it to arrive every October. Possibly our favorite night of the year. While the kids stuff themselves with fried snickers bars and have impromptu dance parties in front of the farris wheel, I always take a step back and make a mental list of how they’ve changed. Last year we couldn’t convince Jonathan to go on many of the rides, this year he rode every puke inducing monstrosity his height would allow. My wild child.

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Pumpkin Patch, take 2. This time with all the other third graders at the elementary school. These pumpkins are trucked in from Illinois and spread around the field so it ‘looks’ like they grew here. The field next door was growing one of Alabama’s more successful crops.

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Trick-or-treating. Jackson said this was the best year so far, and I grudgingly agree. Candy Day (because I refuse to call it Halloween) is historically my least favorite. Of everything. But it’s growing on me. Helps when the kids are able to stay out late without having meltdowns on the sidewalk. Helps that the gracious peeps in Burger King allowed us to park in their lot for three hours without calling a tow truck. Helps that Harry Potter and Hedwig got stopped by random people on the street who wanted to take a picture with them. Which totally made up for all the hours spent cutting out hundreds of felt feathers.

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The kids get harder to please every year. I remember when we could whip up a Jack Sparrow wig out of yarn and broken shells. Now they’re all “Mom. Hedwig does NOT have blue feathers.”

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Happy November 1st, known in this house as “Sugar Rush Day”.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

between a rock and a better place

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Today is our anniversary. We’ve been married 11 years. I’ll be honest, we aren’t spending the day together like we have in a lot of past anniversaries. We didn’t pick out cards or gifts. And we didn’t make any big plans to go out after work.

Texts of encouragement are enough for today.

Still, today feels momentous. Seems an appropriate time to get real about the changes going on around here. A lot has happened in the past four weeks. At the top of that list is the sudden news that the Army has decided to move us along to another location. Here’s the part where we should be excited and joyful… because promotions are generally considered a good thing. And moving on a regular basis is just a simple fact of military life. Except that during the past 10 years promotions have meant we could remain with the same unit. In fact, we have been with this unit longer than anyone else currently there. 8 years we have lived in the same house. That’s somewhat of a miracle for a military family. Don’t think I didn’t know how blessed we were.

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The new location is only 2 1/2 hours from where we live right now. Too long for a daily commute, too short for us to feel like we absolutely have to move. The irony of the situation is all the options we have… and still feeling completely stuck. In the week after Caleb brought home the news I went through every stage of the grieving process. I dove into a frenzy of activity trying to get the house ready to put on the market. I painted, I cleaned, I removed every personal photo from our walls and I upset the balance of our kids’ routines. I let normal every day things go by the wayside in favor of cleaning out closets and caulking around the baseboards. For several weeks my life was dominated by paintbrushes and cleaning supplies.

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Just when I had reached the point of accepting our forced move, we hit a major curve when it became pretty evident that selling the house would not be a good option for us. The housing market has not recovered enough in our area to indicate we would be anything other than paying someone to buy our house from us.

The home that I had so desperately been clinging to suddenly felt like a ten pound weight around my neck. It’s funny how your perspective changes when the doors start closing. I realized I’d put up a lot of conditions in my head and while I felt like I was doing a good job of accepting and trusting, I really wasn’t. Okay, I’ll move away from here as long as the kids can still go to a good school. I’ll live in a less than perfect house as long as the neighborhood is safe. I’ll give up my country lifestyle and my chickens as long as I’m close to Caleb.

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In all of my bargaining I never reached the point of Okay, I’ll stay here and only see my husband on the weekend and just be grateful that he has a job. You could say I’m learning a lot… maybe learning it the hard way, but at least I recognize that I’m learning it.

For now it looks like we will keep our little house in the woods. We’ll enjoy our chickens and our fire pit a little longer. We’ll finish some of the house projects we’ve started. And we’ll be glad for a home that is quite possibly cleaner than the day we bought it. I don’t know where we’ll be six months from now. I don’t know if we’ll have another house. I don’t know if we’ll still be tied to this one. All I know is that I will choose to let my faith take control of my uncertainty. 

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In the midst of grace is the best place I can hope for so I’m trying to start there.