Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Here's a Flour Tip for You

This just in from my Notes from the (America's) Test Kitchen from my pals over at Cook's Illustrated: to keep your flour fresh and bug-free, store it in the freezer. But if you don't have that kind of frozen real estate, get the same results by keeping it in your microwave instead. Just take it out when you need to nuke something.

I Wouldn't Call This "Living"

Take a peek at our living room. Yes, this is how we've been living for the past 8 weeks. Cozy, isn't it? I don't think I'll know what to do with myself once we have room to walk around in here again. Assuming that once all the dust settles from our kitchen remodel I'll be in the mood to clean it up.

Friday, June 20, 2008

There's a Light at the End of the Tunnel

And it's coming from under our kitchen cabinets. And above the sink. And the ceiling fan. And the refrigerator.

Yes, folks, it's true. Just one day short of 8 weeks later, we actually have electricity in our kitchen again. Ya-hoo! I am so excited. The only disappointment was flipping the ceiling fan switch near our back door and nothing happening, but I guess it wouldn't be our kitchen project if everything went smoothly.

Another little 'funny' was wondering why we had an outlet on the left side of the stove near the small window, seemingly for no reason. Then remembering that, way back at the beginning, there was supposed to be a cabinet over there. Ha ha, right? But you can't have too many outlets in the kitchen, that's what I always say. Plus, it will come in handy next time I want to use my stick blender directly in a pot on the stove. It's the little things...

Now, I don't want to set myself up for disappointment, so I'm not really banking on it, but rumor has it we'll be finished with the kitchen this weekend. Somehow, I don't think all the little details will be wrapped up by then, but we'll be damn close. And all my appliances should be hooked up, in position and ready for action. Watch out Kroger, here I come!

Cupcake Cutthroats

Wish I could come up with something like this. *sigh*

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thank God That's Behind Me

Don't get too excited; I'm not referring to the kitchen project. That still lives on. But last Friday, I finally got my last two Christmas gifts in the mail. For 2007. Color me excited – it was a long time coming. And it was a giant, ominous, depressing, dark cloud hanging over my head. So now that it's finally gone, there's room for the other 17 or so waiting patiently behind it to move in. Yippee.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's Been an Exasperating Day

Let me preface this entry by saying that I realize, in the grand scheme of things, the problems, frustrations and disappointments I've encountered with this kitchen remodel are nothing compared to what's going on in Iraq, Darfur, the National Democratic Party headquarters and any number of other places in the world.

With that said, please allow me to dump the details of this day from hell. It started in much the same way as many other days associated with this project have: filled with anticipation and guarded hope – in many ways, it seemed entirely possible that we would pick up our backsplash tile, start laying it and be done by early afternoon.

Unfortunately, nothing even remotely close to this scenario was in the cards. After a delicious, relaxing breakfast at Pleasant Ridge Chili, one of our regular haunts since this journey began 7 weeks ago, (Yes, folks, it has been that long, God help us.) we headed over to The Tile Shop to pick up our backsplash tile. On the drive over, I said (and perhaps I jinxed us here): Dare a girl dream? The resounding answer: Hells no.

We've been to this little warehouse/showroom several times and every time we've been there, I've asked and confirmed and triple-checked that they did, indeed, have our backsplash tile in stock, ready to be picked up whenever we were. (Ironically, this tile was one of the first things we settled on way back in the day.)

So there was no doubt in my mind that we'd walk in, tell them what we needed (50 square feet, by Jim's estimation), drop several benjamins and be on our merry way. As luck would have it, they had just sold the crux of their stash but would happily order it for us – it would be here by Thursday. That's when the shine first started to come off the penny.

You see, the plan was to get the backsplash tiled today in time for our appliances to be delivered tomorrow (that's another story in and of itself), grout tomorrow, have the electricians come back on Tuesday, and wrap this bitch up by the end of the week. Thursday would not do at all, especially since I unplugged our upstairs refrigerator this past Thursday night (part of the aforeto mentioned other story).

I said as much to Steve, our helpful salesman. He asked us to give him a minute as he figured out who bought the tile and when they needed it; maybe he could perform the old switcheroo and give us theirs and have theirs come in on Thursday. After several minutes, he came back to say it had worked. I was not convinced. Even though Jim was sporting a positive outlook, I said I wouldn't believe it until we were driving off with it. Maybe that's when I jinxed us because upon further calculations, Steve figured out that even if we bought every last one of the tiles they had on hand, presold or otherwise, we'd be short about 100 tiles.

Slit my wrists now. And the sad part is, that wasn't the worst of it. In an effort not to drag this story out too much further, we went to Home Depot and found a tile we liked, until we put it up against our granite. Yuck. So then we went to Lowe's where we picked up at least 10 different options so we could go back home and see what we liked best, if anything (we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we may have to wait 'til Thursday after all).

Surprisingly, we liked two options. So after we ate lunch, we hopped in the car and headed for the Lowe's near my house. They didn't have it, but called around to find out where we could get it. They put 40 square feet on hold for us 25 minutes east of my house and the remaining 10 square feet back up north at the Fields Ertel location, where we started.

After much searching around, the western location finally located the boxes of tile, but couldn't find more than just 5 pieces of the pencil edge we needed. We said no problem, we were going to another store and could just pick up the rest there. Not so much, as it turned out. But the guy there looked it up for us and found some out at a store about 30 miles west.

Since we hadn't had much luck thus far, I decided to give that store a call from the gas station before we took that drive just to be on the safe side, and sure enough, they didn't have them. But the nice girl there called around and called me back to say they were at the Highland Heights, Kentucky store (about 30 minutes from where we were and in another state) and that someone there would have them on hold for us.

We drove all the way out there and of course they weren't on hold, but they were at least on the shelf. By the time I walked out with them in hand, it was about 7:30 p.m. By the time we got home after grabbing a bite to eat, it was almost 9 p.m. We started out around 9:30 in the morning and 2 Home Depots, 4 Lowe's (including the same once twice) and almost 12 hours later, we still didn't have the first tile laid. De-pressing. But as Scarlett once said, tomorrow is another day. I just hope it doesn't suck as bad as today did.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It Pays to Read the Label

My trusty broom was decapitated early on in the kitchen remodel. Not sure what exactly happened to it, but one day, I noticed its head just lying out on the back deck in the rain. Sad.

Not long after that, I was disturbed to see both my husband, Rick, and our friend and contractor, Jim, using another one of our brooms to sweep dry wall dust off the wall – it's the same broom we use in the basement to sweep up the wayward kitty litter. Gross!

Plus, it gave me a flashback to when I watched a former roommate clean the walls of her bathroom with her toilet brush when we were getting ready to move out. Yikes!

But I digress.

I don't get out much anymore, but my sweet little man, Ian, and I made it to Sam's Club the other day and miracle of miracles, I remembered to look for a broom.

They had a Libman version there. It looked sturdy and it was a good price, so I picked one up. As I was removed the plastic head cover, I decided to read it. Call me crazy, but I'm funny like that. Maybe it's because I'm an advertising copywriter, maybe I just need a hobby.

Regardless, I noticed on the back of this piece of plastic they had listed 'Expert Tip #22". It read:

"Get rid of spider webs and dirt! Put an old towel over the bristle head of your Libman brrom. Drag the broom head across your ceiling and into corners. Throw the towel in our next load of laundry."

While I'm not necessarily down with putting sticky, yucky spider web bits in with my body-cleaning towels, I thought it was a good tip. So when I saw the call to visit their web site for more cleaning tips, I figured I'd check it out.

It's a good little resource of their customers' cleaning tips, and they're not all related to Libman brooms. The set up could be a little better, but still interesting. So check it out when you get a chance. You may pick up a thing or two.

It's Just Not Funny Any More

There are two running jokes here on the kitchen job site:

1) That we're in a race to see which kitchen is finished first; ours, or the one at the new location of a great Ethiopian restaurant in our neighbor that was originally slated to open October of '07.

Some days, my money is on the Ethiopian joint, though it does appear that I'll be able to fire up the oven (if it ever gets here) at our house by next weekend. [Fingers and toes crossed, please do the same.] I don't think the chefs at Emanu can say the same.

2) That our house hates us. No lie, pretty much everything we do has some kind of problem and generally speaking, if we do it once, we do it three times. It is the charm, you know. Some of the stuff that goes wrong can be attributed to 'user' error; my friends from Sweden have caused their share of headaches; and now HH Gregg is proving to be somewhat of a thorn in my side.

But something happened today that kind of gave me the creeps. I was in the basement anyway, so I decided to just go ahead and use my favorite bathroom while I was down there. After I finished my business, I went to wash my hands and noticed this gross, chunky, whitish-with-black-things in it gunk on the vanity and on the floor by the vanity.

After looking upwards, there didn't appear to be anything dripping from the ceiling. Peering in the sink, nothing seemed particularly awry there. It was a complete mystery for a few minutes as I tried to figure out where that disgusting sludge could have come from.

Finally, I determined the sink vomited. That's a creepy realization to come to. Very Amityville-horror like. And even more frightening was the fact that this all happened at 5 o'clock on a Friday – scary big bill if I have to call a plumber over the weekend. Isn't that always the way?

Our friend and contractor, Jim, told me to try some Drano and that we would pick up a snake tomorrow to see if we could clear the drain pipe. (It would seem that was backing up and causing the overflow to pop up in the sink - later on in the afternoon, more than once, the sink filled up enough to worry me it was going to overflow.)

Since I couldn't find any Drano here (nothing's ever around when you need it), I called up my neighbor, Amy, to see if she had any or, if not, if she could come over and hang out while I ran to the store since my little beano was sawing toothpicks.

She had some and was kind enough to give it to me – and to comment that my house does kind of look like the one in Amityville (thanks, Amy). By the time I got back to the sink, the water had drained out. I put some glugs of the Drano in there anyway and waited the appropriate 15 minutes to flush it with hot water.

It didn't back up again, but I believe it was thinking about it. I took a shower upstairs afterwards and brushed my teeth, the whole time wondering if I was flooding our basement as a result, but I was too scared to go look. Guess I'll find out tomorrow. I just hope the joke's not on me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This Kitchen Remodel is Making Me Fat

So here we are, halfway through our 7th week of our 3-week kitchen remodel and I have packed on 8 pounds already. Which is depressing enough in and of itself, but particularly upsetting because I was so proud of myself for losing all my pre-preggo weight plus 5 pounds. *Sigh*

It can be tied back to all the chips, Oreo cakesters, chocolate (I bought a ginormous bag of mini Mars candy bars at Sam's club last week), mayo-laden sandwiches, nightly cocktails and complete lack of exercise. But it's still upsetting.

Our contractor, Jim, said he's lost 11 pounds so far. I sure hope I don't find those other three...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

What the Suck was I Thinking?

One of the daily emails I get is from iVillage – it's their "Things We Love" segment. Generally speaking, they feature a lot of products I am interested in and wouldn't mind buying, but mostly they are very expensive.

That's why I was excited about their write up on Pickle Sickles. They were only $19.95 – including shipping – for a box of 20, and I could mix-n-match to try both their regular and spicy flavors. Seemed like a deal to me.

That is, until I got them. Not sure why, but I thought they were frozen pickles. In reality, they are like Fla-Vor-Ice, but with pickle juice. Now I like pickle juice. I like vinegar. I've even been known to drink malt vinegar straight. I'm weird like that. I figured I'd like these pops. So far, I've only tried the spicy version, but I'm here to tell you that try as I might, I couldn't finish the whole thing. It was too salty and, well, yucky. For a few minutes there, I thought I might hurl.

I wanted to like them, I really did. Rick thought I was nuts. He may have been right. But at $1 a piece, for all intents and purposes, I feel like I should suck it up. Or maybe pawn them off on someone else. Any takers?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

If Ingvar Kamprad Were Still Alive...

I'd give him a piece or two of my mind. Wait a minute, he IS still alive, worth over $23 billion dollars, and drives a 1993 Volvo 240 GL. Are you out there, Mr. Kamprad? Because I have a bone to pick with you.

Your kitchen cabinets and the frustrating lack of employee knowledge about them are driving me insane. For every one step forward in completing our total kitchen remodel, we take four steps back – and usually at least three of them can be tied back to your ridiculously successful brainchild, IKEA.

Most recent case in point: my husband, Rick, was attempting to assemble drawers for one of our cabinets last night. Following the simple illustrations in the virtually wordless instructions, the first drawer he put together wouldn't fit in the cabinet properly. As it turns out, the illustration suggests putting the drawer front on UPSIDE DOWN. Perhaps someone in the editing department overlooked this little snafu, or perhaps that person just has a sick sense of humor.

I would join in laughing, too, if we could get the damned thing back off and set it right (or wrong, according to the directions – depends on how you look at it). So that means yet another trip back to your new store in Westchester, Ohio. With gas prices what they are, all the money we saved buying from IKEA rather than one of the other box home improvement centers has been spent going to and from your store. Repeatedly. Seriously. We know the returns ladies on a first name basis. Amy will be the godmother of our next born child. It's that ridiculous.

The most frustrating thing that has happened so far, and believe me when I tell you there are plenty of little gems to choose from, was also regarding bad directions. We had the granite counter tops installed last Thursday. On Saturday, Rick went to install the split top drawers on one of our cabinets. The directions instructed him to screw in the center piece before the counter top is installed.

He told me IKEA's cabinet instructions said to put the counter tops on before installing the shevles, drawers and doors. I wanted to believe him, but I'll be honest – he and I both know I wasn't quite at 100%. I wanted a little proof so I would know who exactly to lose my sh*t with. Technically, it felt like a $1,500 mistake*. Granite isn't cheap and that mother is glued on there good. Turns out, Rick was right.

He located the "7 steps to installing your cabinets" guide your company is kind enough to provide. Sure enough, Step 6 instructs one to install the counter tops and Step 7 indicates its now time to install your shelves, drawers and doors. As you can imagine, we both found that extremely frustrating. Not to mention the cause of a little marital tension. You just may be getting a bill for couples therapy when this is all over.

It really surprises me your company has been around so long, done so well and secured such a loyal following. I can't imagine we're the first people to experience these problems. But whatever.

In closing, may I ask on behalf of money-conscious, do-it-yourselfers everywhere that you create some sort of system of checks and balances to ensure accurate instructions are included in your products? If it's not too much trouble, of course. We'd really appreciate it.

* Luckily, Rick came up with a solution of his own - installing brackets to secure the center piece. Way to go, sweetie. Here's hoping it holds up once all our utensils are in there. You are not off the hook by any means, though, Mr. Kamprad. Watch your mailbox.