Monthly Archives: May 2013

The leaning tower of Auburn

Over a typically cool and soggy Memorial Day weekend here in the Pacific Northwest, we were less tempted to spend our precious three-day break gallivanting about the countryside, and more likely to stay home and make progress in the kitchen. That’s the attitude we started with, anyway.

Red and white stripes against raindrops on smole bush

Eric got in gear Saturday, building the cabinet we call The Tower—our attempt at gentrifying a section of undesirable real estate between the sink wall and the stove, in an awkward nook created by the furnace chimney enclosure and the posterior of the dining room’s built-in buffet.

kitchen before photo

We’re building a tall cabinet that will repeat the mass of the pantry cabinet to the right of the sink. Where once a funky particle board shelf squatted in a slummy corner, we’ll soon have high-rise tower all the way to the ceiling. Instant high-rent district!

original pantry cabinet

The tricky part: The back of the buffet leans to the east, while the face of the chimney section leans to the east. The campanile in Pisa has nothing on us. Eric has to build the cabinet so it will be square for the shelves and doors. (We’d considered using four drawers instead of shelves, but the off-kilter dimensions and the shallow depth make adjustable shelves more practical.)

nook cabinet destination

But wouldn’t you know it, just as Eric was trimming the side pieces, his table saw gave up the ghost, smoke curling from its motor. You can’t make cabinets without a saw, so Sunday became shopping day. And, of course, an opportunity to upgrade. We came home with a bigger, badder table saw in an enormous box. A couple of burly store employees hefted it into our utility trailer, but how would we get it out? (Eric’s two months post-hernia surgery and my back’s not much good at lifting anymore.) We opened the box and carted all loose pieces into the house, then, with considerable effort, slid the body of the saw onto the pavement and a hand truck. Heavy rain intervened, and the saw spent the night in the garage.

The next day, we hand-trucked it up the back steps and into the kitchen, where it proved wider than the passage between fridge and cabinet.

table saw and hand truck in kitchen

After we shoved the stove and fridge aside, Eric fashioned a sled out of the cardboard box and we aligned the hulk with the basement staircase. Gravity was finally on our side. I wish I had a photo of this process, but I was busy trying to stuff the cardboard sled into the stairwell while repeatedly asking Eric, who was standing on the downhill side, “Are you okay??” (Secretly, I was just glad the monster was no longer in the middle of the kitchen.) We hoisted the saw onto its table, and then I fled the basement to make a fruit salad … something I felt confident I could handle without injuring myself.

Voilà: The new beast! King of the basement!

table saw

Finally, I got to work polyurethaning more drawer boxes. My “studio” had degenerated into a greenhouse for my failed zinnia crop (spindly and weak, now squashed by rain ), and a dry haven for succulents. I kicked the plants outdoors.

plants on plywood on sawhorses

I’m happy to report I’ve finished the drawer boxes for cabinet no. 2, and I’ve begun the deep bins that will hold the dog and cat food containers. By this weekend, I’ll have caught up to Eric!

Sneak peek: These pieces of tape mark the eventual position of the new sink, subject of a future post. I’m very excited—can’t wait to write that one … some day. Stay tuned!

tape marks on countertop



Made with love

Eric and I were married in our backyard on June 11, 2009. In the weeks before, we created our Japanese garden as a kind of wedding gift to each other.

Japanese garden lantern

Here’s the “before” shot—we (Eric) tore down this eyesore shed.

garden shed

We (really, this time) built a symbolic island out of basalt rocks salvaged from a friend’s yard, surrounded it with river rock, and added stepping stones. I can’t believe how small everything was then!



A year later, the plants had filled out quite a bit.

Japanese garden 2011

We lost our beautiful ‘bene kawa’ coral bark Japanese maple in the ice storm of January, 2011. We replanted with another Japanese maple, but it’s not a coral bark.

ice storm 1/2012

Here’s the garden now. The space has really changed as the maple tree and the weeping blue Atlas cedar grow. The ginkgo tree, out of frame to the left, is 15 ft tall now. A few plants haven’t made it, which is just an opportunity to buy new plants.

Japanese garden 2013

Japanese garden at sunset

Our garden is made with love, and, like our marriage, it grows and changes and expands, surprises and comforts us. (Of course … it’s really for the cats.)

checkers in the forest grass


My blogger friend Victoria Elizabeth Barnes is hosting a link party with the theme “Made with love.” Stop by her blog for a great story about friendship and to see what others have made with love!



Lately I’ve been writing a lot about gardening, as many bloggers are this time of year. The front garden is bursting with spring color, even on a cloudy day.

colorful garden seen from paned window

And moles … why, with six cats, do we still have moles??

mole hill on brick sidewalk

Lacy doesn’t know how to catch a mole, but she knows how to pose for the camera.

Black cat sitting in front of Japanese lantern

But, you’re wondering … what happened to the kitchen project? It went underground for a few weeks. More precisely, Eric developed a hernia, very possibly from running (hard) into the corner of one of the cabinets. (A lesson here: Do not park unfinished cabinets in the middle of the kitchen.) As his symptoms worsened, he could do less and less physical work. Seven weeks ago he had surgery, and believe me, recovering from hernia surgery is no picnic. (I say this never having had hernia surgery … but I’ve witnessed the result, and I know I never want to experience it!) Eric’s getting better every day, and he’ll soon be back to 100%. But the bottom line is, we’ve lost two months of progress on our kitchen renovation.

I’ve had my heart set on celebrating our house’s 100th birthday with a big party in July (August, at the latest), but the reality is, it’s just not going to happen. I can’t deny that I am bummed. (No way are we entertaining before this kitchen’s finished!) This saddens me because a house only turns 100 once, and on the West Coast, relatively few houses are much older than that.

I also can’t deny that I’m partially responsible for our complete lack of progress during this time. At the very least, I coulda, shoulda painted the breakfast room, the ceiling, and all the beadboard. Nothing was stopping me. I just ran out of steam and enthusiasm, and I was distracted by Eric’s distress … and a garden full of weeds. Without Eric working on the kitchen with me, renovation just wasn’t as much fun.

As for the party, there’s always next year, right? It won’t be a 100th birthday party, but it could be a “Happy 2nd Century” party. And with a year’s reprieve (see how I’m talking myself into this?) we’ll have time to paint the exterior and rebuild the side porch! Whew! I’m suddenly so glad I don’t have a July party deadline breathing down my neck anymore! (I know darned well we will be rushing to complete whatever project we’ll be doing at that time … but it won’t—better not—be the kitchen.)

Now that Eric can resume building and installing drawers and there’s no excuse for me not being productive, we’re rededicating ourselves to getting this train back on track. Once again I’m hearing saw-and-sander noises coming from the basement. (I admit this always makes me a little nervous, but Eric’s only come upstairs holding a bleeding body part a couple of times. He uses safety equipment and he does know what he’s doing.) Now he’s actually waiting on me to catch up and apply polyurethane to the drawer boxes.

We can almost see the finish line on this section of cabinets. Most of these drawers and their glides are not yet attached to the cabinet boxes. They’re just sitting there, looking good (like Lacy) … but as soon as I finish finishing them, Eric will magically make it all work. Of course they’ll all have drawer fronts and pulls attached when they’re done, like the one at upper right. But you knew that.

base cabinets with drawer boxes

Turns out, installing the drawers has been a bit of a pain because the drawer fronts are inset (they don’t overlap the frames). The glides are attached to blocks inside the cabinets, and the boxes and fronts have to line up precisely, adjusted for the pressure of the load they will carry. Much tweaking involved. I tend not to watch because it makes me twitchy.

drawers and glides installed in cabinet

Duke points out which drawer will hold his food bin. The cat food—which he likes even better—will be in a similar bin in the next drawer.

Boxer sniffing plastic food bin

Last week I picked up a paintbrush and finished touching up the upper cabinet shelves, which, if you’ll recall, Eric had sanded down, trying to get the doors to fit properly. (This didn’t really work, and we are resigned to straight doors that won’t fit perfectly flush in the warped frame—or is it the other way around?) Finally, I reinstalled my shelf paper—for the third time—and moved our dishes back into their home-with-a-view. This accomplished two things: I got rid of FIVE boxes from the dining room, AND we can once again eat off of our real dishes (b-bye plastic picnic set)! Think we have enough coffee cups and wine glasses? Good grief … it’s just the two of us!

upper cabinets with glass inserts

I love how this cabinet turned out. To paraphrase Woody Allen, “Love is too weak a word for what I feel — I lurve it.”