Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kitchen Remodel In 6 Phases

Our kitchen has been problematic in our house since the day we moved in.  Besides being tiny, with two long windows taking up valuable base cabinet/countertop space, it was hideous to look at.  We have done some improvements to it, but have never been able to fully get it to functional and beautiful.  This was due to a combination of reasons.  First, kitchen remodeling is expensive, and you need a whole lot of money at one time.  Second, there always seemed to be other projects clamoring for attention (in the early years, basic home systems such as electrical, plumbing, windows, and the foundation; later bedrooms and living areas). Third, the badly placed, ugly, knotty pine wall covering, that went up over half the wall and would require complete wall-gutting to get rid of.  I have been anxious to move to the next phase; Paul not so much.  But a mostly dead dishwasher has spurred us into action.  Rather than replace it with another clumsy portable one, only to spend money again later this year or next year when we would finally have gotten the new base cabinets with a built-in (the built-in will need to be an 18" if we place the base cabinets in a more logical formation, due to our tiny space), we have decided to do another two phases of our kitchen remodel.

The kitchen will never be a fancy-schmancy gourmet kitchen; however, we can do what we can with our small budget and Paul's amazing skills as a carpenter and handyman to make it nice.  The trick here is that it must be done in stages to accommodate the budget and our time.  Plus the inconvenience of having the kitchen torn up all at once.  That would be great in a way (git-r-done!), but then you are without any portion of your kitchen for weeks.  So, below, I will describe our phases of getting this done.

When we first moved in, we made some inexpensive changes just to make the kitchen semi-functional, such as removing the absurd "island" (which was simply some homemade knotty pine wall cabinets set on the floor with a piece of plywood on top - yuck!), and getting some decent base cabinets for the south wall.  We dealt with part of the knotty pine in late 2012, when we did a partial remodel of the kitchen (see here).  I realized I never posted the photo of the "dolling up" that Paul did when he adjusted the level of the middle upper cabinet to make it more reachable.  Here are some photos of that:

Paul moved the center cabinet down, then added trim to fill in the gap above, and then below for symmetry.

Here is a full shot, showing the old metallic base cabinet and the dread-dishwasher-that-died below.

So, here are the phases (a indicates completion):
  1. Make it livable (completed in 1988): remove "island", place south wall base cabinets and cheap countertop)
  2. 2012: North wall gutting, insulating, windows, wallboard, and upper cabinets, west wall uppers
  3. Knotty pine removal, wallboard, and electrical for east and south walls, keep existing base cabinets and cheap countertop
  4. New base cabinets for north and west walls (including a blind corner cabinet with pull-out hardware for easy access), new sink (buh-bye old metallic monstrosity), built-in 18" dishwasher, adjustment of stove on north wall to accommodate new bases, new countertop 
  5. New upper cabinets and countertop for east and south walls
  6. Knotty pine removal and electrical for last portion of south wall (no cabinets here)
I will keep you apprised of our progress.  I am so excited to move on to another (two!) phases.  Although not complete, the new placement of cabinets and stove will supply more storage and counter space, making meal prep so much more enjoyable.  Plus the aesthetic of prettiness, so long lacking from our kitchen.  I feel blessed!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Protected By Angels (and other friends)

I had to get a photo of this. Tyler, who is often a little scared at night, has taken to surrounding himself with protective friends when he goes to sleep at night.  Tonight, I gave him a holy card for Saint Michael the Archangel.  We prayed together, and I recited St. Michael's prayer, and propped the card up by his water glass.  When I went in to check on him just now, I saw that he had placed his protectors about himself: His hat with the scary face (to scare away anything that might decide to scare him), his stalwart birds of prey (his eagle, and one of his owls that Anna made), and I saw that he had moved the holy card to be closer to him. I love this boy.

"Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thoughts Before Christmas and Health

As we move into Christmas, I have had to reconcile myself to the fact that I will be working all of it.  This is a fact of life for a nurse, especially when in a new job (next year I will have a better chance of having at least some of Christmas off).  It is hard for me: no singing with the choir on Christmas Eve, no family dinner Christmas Day, watching Tyler open presents on Christmas morning in a blur after coming off a night shift.  Our dinner will be postponed to the weekend.

My health has been a challenge starting back at the beginning of fall.  I am working with a new doctor and am improving, but my energy is so sapped.  A simple walk to the pharmacy today in beautiful weather was tiring.  I feel extremely old, but I am only 56!  I must have faith that the interventions the doctor has prescribed for me will continue to improve my health.

So I am a little melancholy this season.  What I am telling myself is that there is hope for health improvement, and that I am performing an invaluable task this Christmas: caring for tiny preemies that I love, giving of myself and providing aid to the sick, as Christ asks of us.

"The care of the sick is to be placed above and before every other duty, as if indeed Christ were being directly served by waiting on them."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saint Perpetua

Today at Mass, an excerpt from the diary of Saint Perpetua was read during Scripture reading.  She was a young mother, martyred for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

 "Perpetua, unwilling to renounce Christianity, comforted her father in his grief over her decision, 'It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly we depend not on our own power but on the power of God.'"

Monday, December 8, 2014

English Country Dancing

Last week Paul and I, along with our friend and her daughter (the daughter is in the process of choreographing a Regency dance for her school's production of Pride and Prejudice) went to St. Mark's Church in Evanston for their biweekly English Country Dancing.  I spontaneously decided to dress up.  My recent weight loss enabled me to fit back into my Regency stays, and a gown I made several years back.  I even found enough time to do a Regency hairstyle.

The dancing was fun.  We were all a bit confused, but the more experienced people helped guide us into the proper places.  I would like to do this again soon.  Below are some photos of me in my gown, and my hairstyle.  (Please excuse my wrinkled appearance; although I had ironed my dress prior to dressing, it got very wrinkled in the car ride to pick up our friends and drive to the church.)


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saint Nicholas Day

Yesterday was Saint Nicholas Day.  Tyler found a surprise in his shoe:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two Gluten-Free Dessert Ideas

I have tried going gluten-free previously on health cleanses I have done, and I have always felt great during these times.  This time, however, my doctor has placed me on a gluten-free diet due to lab results showing an auto-immune problem (nothing super-serious, but requiring medication and lifestyle changes).  This has not been too bad (three weeks so far), but I was concerned with Christmastime and treats.  I recently tried two gluten-free desserts.  Both were very easy (one requiring no real baking skills at all!).

First I tried gluten-free amaretti cookies.  These were very good, and especially important, as our go-to meal for any holiday is a butternut squash lasagna that calls for three amaretti cookies to be crushed into the squash mixture.

Some of the amaretti cookies.  I made a few plain ones for the squash recipe.

Next I wanted to try a gluten-free pie.  I was completely lazy on this one, but what can I say, I have been working a lot lately.  I ordered pie crusts and some all-natural pie filling.

These pie crusts were pretty good, but ever-so-small.  
I will try to find a larger crust for next time.

I loved this filling.  Not too sweet, and no corn syrup, gluten, or other undesirable ingredients.  You can find it on amazon.  Caution, these are large jars - more than enough for one pie each, and the link is for a four-pack.  It might be best to buy a single jar to try.  But I was glad I ordered four, because I will definitely use this again.