Monthly Archives: August 2013

In a cottage by the sea …

Sometimes you just gotta get away. After busting our butts getting the cabinet bases and sink in place, then working like demons to clean the house for its 100th birthday party, we were beat. Time to pack the car and take Duke on a road trip to the beach! No work, no remodeling, no schedules, and no pressure!

I love the drive out to the Washington coast and the transition from hectic city life to quiet small towns, from strip malls and traffic jams to forests and lumber mills. Along Highway 109 north of Ocean Shores, there’s even a stretch of enchanted forest—the kind where trees turn into creatures if you wander in far enough to lose sight of the road. I’m sure of it! What is it about this forest that I find so compelling, even though we live in a state where forests are as plentiful as lakes in Minnesota? Maybe it’s because when I look through these trees, I know the light I see is the sky over the Pacific. [Photo: NatGeo]

coast forest and mist

On the edge of this enchanted forest lies the fairy-tale village of Seabrook, a planned community of Nantucket-style houses transplanted to a left-coast hillside. This year, Sunset Magazine has chosen Seabrook for its annual Idea Town showcase. (We passed on the $17 tickets to tour the model homes.)

Seabrook main intersection

Seabrook houses

I love exploring this neighborhood of beautifully detailed homes that we can’t afford. A couple of Christmases ago we drove through on a soggy afternoon and peered into yellow windows to watch families gather around their holiday feasts. I felt like I was pressing my nose against a Norman Rockwell painting. Am I envious? You betcha … but even if we could afford it, would we live here? I don’t think so. Too perfect. Nothing needs renovating!

This is not where Marian the librarian works … it’s just a single family home.

large house looks like old library

Although the upscale vacation houses are tempting, we don’t stay in Seabrook. We continue another mile up the road to much humbler Pacific Beach.

view of Pacific Beach, WA

Several times we’ve rented this little Bohemian cottage, the Periwinkle. It’s beginning to feel like our own. (I wish!)

Periwinkle cottage

Periwinkle living room

Look—you can see a slice of ocean from our deck!

ocean view for Periwinkle deck

I like the artwork throughout this colorful little house. Paintings are by Barbara O’Keefe.

Sculpture and two paintings

The Washington coast isn’t like California, where the girls all get so tan, or the Jersey shore with its Situation, or South Beach with its pastel Art Deco hotels.  It’s a wilder scene, often windy or shrouded in fog, and seldom warm enough for sunbathing. The surfers here wear wetsuits.

The trees tell a tale of punishing storms.

beach staircase and trees in fog

I like the sense of mystery the fog provides. It doesn’t stop anyone from having fun. It doesn’t matter that you can’t see your kite. You know it’s there.

flying kite in fog

Like most dogs, Duke loves the beach. As soon as he hits the hard wet sand, he stops, drops, and rolls until he grinds the sand deep into his coat. His goal is to come home smelling like the ocean.

Duke rolling in sand

Naturally, the sun came out on the day we left for home. I am so ready to go back … but that probably won’t happen until next summer. Now it’s time to pick up our tools and brushes and get back to work on the kitchen. If I want to remember Pacific Beach, I’ll just take a little whiff of Duke.

flowering plant in sand



100 Years

Who is crazy enough to have a house party in the middle of a kitchen remodel? Um … am I the only one raising my hand? We had planned to have this party in mid-July to coincide with my birthday (I am younger than the house!!) … but we just couldn’t pull it together. In fact, originally we thought we’d show off the completed kitchen, freshly painted exterior, and rebuilt and expanded side porch! HAHAHA!! That’s so deluded.

It became obvious that the kitchen would not be done—forget about any other projects. For a time I considered postponing the party until next summer and calling it a “Second Century” party, but my friends (who would rather party now than wait) convinced me to forge ahead, ready or not. One hundred years only comes around once, they reminded me. And I knew they were right.

Eric and I always design our own original cards, so when I asked him if he had any ideas for our invitation, I was blown away when he produced this from a photo of our house. I plan to frame a print in an oak Craftsman frame as a remembrance.

Invitation design

We don’t entertain very much—people who have lots of pets tend not to, I think. We have seven furry reasons. So for an occasion such as this, I wanted the party to be something special. At one point I had mad visions of live music and a catered spread. Then I paid some bills and came back down to Earth with a thud. It’s more important to have a dishwasher than a live musician.

Eric and I began whipping the house into company shape. At times I got discouraged and whined that we’d never get it done, but, as Eric later pointed out, he ignored me and just kept diligently working away. By Saturday, you could hardly tell the place had been covered in dust and remodeling chaos for the past year. We did it! Whew!!

My décor inspiration came from our prodigious grape vine. How about an Italian outdoor trattoria?

Interlaken grapes on the vine

Eric strung rays of white café lights from the eave. Instant magic! I had red-and-white checked tablecloths for our round tables. We rented two more banquet tables but had to settle for plain red tablecloths for them.

white cafelights strung on deck

An old copper boiler served as our ice chest.

old copper boiler with lid

Pots of coleus and begonias greeted guests at the back door.
coleus and begonias in pots

The day before the party, Duke helped me roll and skewer trays of antipasti. Eric and I drank Chianti for weeks so I could create wine bottle centerpieces. Hey, it was a tough job, but we soldiered through!

Duke the boxer watches over hors d'ouevres

Finally, the big night came. Guests started arriving in droves (well, they looked like droves to me), and soon the house and deck were full of friends. People brought flowers. And fruit. And wine. And more food. And gifts. My friend Lynne set about arranging flowers. I realized I didn’t know where my vases were packed, but she scrounged enough vessels from here and there.

four flower arrangements

I tried to spend some time with everyone, but I was drawn in too many directions at once to be very successful at mingling. Eric stationed himself in the kitchen and told the renovation story over and over again as people passed through. He said it was actually more interesting for people to see the remodel in progress rather than seeing a finished kitchen. Hmm … I’ll keep that in mind for our next soiree.

I ordered an undecorated cake and applied my own decoration: the ginkgo leaf logo at the bottom of this post (the bakery wouldn’t do a custom design). We got to this point in the festivities—hours later—when I remembered something.

cake half gone

That’s right … I had forgotten to take any pictures. Most of the preceding photos were taken the day after the party. In my excitement, I also forgot to:

  • Make the Caesar salad (no one cared; there was so much food)
  • Put out the humus and salmon dips (more for us!)
  • Turn the lights on in the armoire (damn)
  • Take Duke’s blanket off the couch, which I’d spent a good hour de-hairing … for what??
  • Offer up the Limoncello (more for us!)
  • And put the dang Chianti bottle candles on the tables!

See? Everyone’s inside getting cake. The deck looks deserted.

party guests sitting at outdoor tables

Some of our friends …


Some of our gifts. Really, you shouldn’t have … but thank you!

orchid, dahlia, vintage yellow bowl

Notice the William Morris dandelion wrapping paper? Love it!

dnadelion design paper

Duke was thrilled to see so many people had come to visit him! He was a perfect host.

Boxer and friend

We had such a fabulous time! We’re already talking about our next party. But right now, we’re exhausted, and we’re heading to the coast for a few days’ R&R before we face the next hundred years.


The joy of washing dishes

Have you ever really enjoyed doing the dishes? If you have a new sink after two weeks of doing kitchen chores in the bathroom, you just might!

Eric and I worked until midnight Sunday, setting the stage for our plumber’s arrival bright and early Monday morning. We had to have the cabinet carcasses in place (no face frames or doors required yet), and the temporary countertop on to support the sink. (Yes, we’ll have to remove the sink when the counters are installed, but we won’t think about that now!)

I was stuck at work while Eric had the week off. I was dying to know what was going on at home. When I walked in the door last Monday, here’s what I found. What do you think?

refinished old sink installed

Like a prom queen wearing her new crown, the sink stands on her tippy toes, reluctant to let her skirts touch the rough plywood countertop, now that she’s all clean and pretty. (The drainboards have little nub legs that will be countersunk into the real countertop.) I couldn’t wait to wash a few dishes. It felt just like old times, only better. It’s great to have my old friend back again!

Completing this homecoming court are lazy Susan and her next-door neighbor, skinny Sally. I have lots of hard work planned for all these characters.

lazy Susan

pull-out unit next to stove

Back to the sink … I wanted a bridge faucet ever since I saw a distressed brass one online. It looked like something found in a barn—perfect! It doesn’t look as rustic in brushed nickel, but I like the utilitarian heft of this one. It’s not as fancy and Frenchy as some I’ve seen. That thingy crouching under it is the dishwasher air gap, which is required by code in our county. It fits nicely in the unused center hole … not beautiful, but necessary. We’ll get a brushed nickel one to match the faucet, and a sprayer to fit in the hole on the left.

brushed nickel bridge faucet

Our plumber noticed how the faucet finial cleared the windowsill by less than half an inch. “You planned that just right!” Um … yes … yes, we sure did. Whew!

faucet finial clears windowsill

At the sink queen’s feet is her prom king, the LG dishwasher. Miraculously (I mean, by plan), the dishwasher door clears the back door by about an inch. Eric’s obsessive measuring paid off. To think I used to believe we’d only have room for an 18-inch dishwasher! Ha! It’s not wired in yet, so we’re still doing dishes with our Armstrong machine.

dishwasher clears back door

To arrive at this happy day, I spent hours on the deck, sanding and swabbing the cabinet pieces with polyurethane. I even polyed Duke when a yellowjacket landed on my arm and I jerk the brush into the air. (At the rate he sheds, he will be poly-free in a few days.) Inside, Eric measured and measured and remeasured to ensure everything would fit, and then assembled the carcasses as I finished the polyurethaning. Our decision to install a lazy Susan in the corner meant he had to rebuild the heat vent that used to end under the tower cabinet. Months ago, he cleverly fabricated a custom duct elbow and we bought the perfect vent cover. But now, the configuration has changed: The duct must run under the corner cabinet and the vent must fit in the toe kick area. The decorative cover will no longer fit—dang it!

As I sanded and painted, sanded and painted, I imagined how great it will be to enjoy our kitchen when it’s finished. Although we’ve been working on the kitchen for almost a year, times flies whether you’re having fun or not. In a few short months the holidays will be upon us. I’m confident the kitchen will be done before then. I picture myself getting out the mixing bowls to bake Eric’s birthday pumpkin pie, pulling pots and pans from the lazy Susan to cook Thanksgiving dinner, packing the remains into leftover bowls from the deep drawer, loading the resulting mess into the dishwasher, and making Christmas morning espressos on a clean expanse of quartz countertop. I know all these things will happen. And I’ll owe it all to Eric’s perseverance and woodworking talent.

We think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re fairly certain it’s not a train. Now that we have water in the sink, it’s time to get ready for a party!


Kitchen Drought Diary

We have entered the maelstrom, the waterless whirlpool of strained tempers, murmured epithets, and … dirty dishes. The total destruction of the north wall of old kitchen cabinets has been accomplished. This is the part I’ve been dreading, and now it is upon us. We will be forced to live without a kitchen sink for an undetermined period of time. How long? Eric says it will be merely “a long weekend,” but I didn’t just fall off the renovation turnip truck. If I’ve know anything about home renovation, it’s that whenever a man estimates how long a project will take …  triple it.

Yes, we have water in the bathroom and we can use the washer and dryer and water our plants … so it’s not as if we are living in a tenement. But I don’t relish doing dishes or washing veggies in the bathroom sink. Can we survive this without going crazy? I decided to keep a diary of our waterless adventures to gain some perspective.

The sink wall as we knew it. Hey, it’s not so bad! Those were the good old days!

base cabinets on the sink wall

Day 1

Our plumber arrives this morning to disconnect our kitchen sink and cap the pipes so Eric can pull the sink and demo the old cabinets. As a reminder that the sink’s out of commission, Eric tapes a green X over the drain. How many times do I go into the kitchen only to be rebuffed by the big green X? Every time I need water.

sink with green tape X

We buy paper plates and disposable cutlery. I refuse to do dishes in the bathroom. Except for wine glasses. I refuse to drink wine out of paper cups. And coffee cups. I refuse to drink my morning coffee out of Styrofoam. We forget to buy paper bowls, but I don’t like eating ice cream out of paper bowls, either. Am I making any progress?

We microwave leftover lasagna for dinner. Mine fuses to the plate, and smoke roils out of the microwave. Lesson 1: Cooking (if you can call heating leftovers in the microwaving “cooking”) on paper is different than with real dishes.

Day 2

While I am at work, Eric texts me to suggest he might take the day off and drive to the Canadian border to take photos at a Scout camp for their website, which he manages. We don’t usually tell each other where we can or can’t go, but this time I drop a hint. Okay, I tell him where to go.  “We have no kitchen sink and you’re skipping out to summer camp? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?” He changes his mind.

Cabinets out and wallboard disappearing:

cabinets goe and wall surface being removed

Here goes the lath and plaster!

removing lath and plasterremoving lath and plaster

Day 3

I no longer walk into the kitchen expecting to see a sink. In fact, I wonder if I will ever see a sink there again. This is what I see now. What used to be here is now in the utility trailer, bound for the dump. Those vertical pipes tell me the original sink (not the one we refinished) had a wall-mounted faucet. Cool.

open wall showing studs and plumbing

Blocking access to my new cabinets are several boxes that hold all the cleaning junk that crawled out from under the sink like clowns out of a Volkswagen. I once read that you only need maybe six products for all your cleaning needs. If that’s true, all this stuff can be thrown out. Any chance? Because we’re installing a dishwasher, space restrictions leave us about half the under-sink space we had before. Something’s gotta give.

boxes of cleaning products from under the sink

In the middle of the room, sawhorses support the sink cabinet while I polyurethane the interior. I get up in the middle of the night to let cats in, sleepily note how extra dark the kitchen seems, and run smack into the cabinet. @#$%!!!

Day 4

Duke is impatiently waiting for Eric to make his breakfast. “Dad, I’m starving! Hurry!” demands Duke. “Hang on,” says Eric, “Mom’s still in the bathroom.” “Just barge in,” insists Duke, “She won’t mind. I do it all the time.” Fortunately, Eric has better manners than Duke.

Duke waiting for breakfast

Day 5

It’s hotter than hell on the deck, and I’m out here sanding cabinet pieces and getting them ready for polyurethane. But before I can finish the heat forces me indoors. I don’t want Eric’s progress to be held up for lack of polyurethane.

I’m getting a little testy about all the mess (I know Eric would agree) … and oh yeah, that we’re having a party in—holy cow—a week and a half!! The closer the party looms, the more overwhelmed I feel. I don’t even know where to start cleaning. I want to move boxes from the dining room to the spare bedroom, but the dishwasher in its crate is camped out in the middle of the bedroom floor. Eric insists all will be done because he’s taking the week before the party off (but not to go to camp). I know it’s foolish to think we can do it all in one week. Civilized people don’t live like this! Obviously, we’re less than civilized.

clutter on floors and counters

Tonight as I rinse salad makings in the bathroom sink, a bowl of berries spills all over the bathroom floor. @#$%^!!!!

Day 6

Day 6 already? Would you still consider this a “long weekend”? Tonight we go to a flooring store to inquire about getting an estimate. We were there several months ago to look at linoleum, and chose our Forbo Marmoleum “Granada” pattern. But tonight we walk in and—where’s the Forbo? GONE!! They don’t carry it anymore because of distribution problems. However, we hardly miss a beat and quickly pick an Armstrong linoleum pattern that we like even better than Granada! How often does that happen? Plus, they carry our Ceasarstone “Raven” countertop material … so we’ll have two estimates coming. And the guy is coming out to measure on FRIDAY. There is NO WAY Eric can have the cabinet carcasses in place for him to measure. No way.

Floor: Armstrong Linorette “Silver City” and countertops: Ceasarstone “Raven.” In between: white cabinets—nice!

floor and counters

Day 7

We play golf. Clearly, we lack the killer renovation instinct required to push through to completion.

Day 8

Eric is downstairs sawing wood, and I am upstairs with a cat in my lap, writing this post. It’s too dark to poly the cabinet pieces (which I’ve been doing out on the deck because the breakfast nook/paint studio/OR is occupied by one enormous, shiny sink). I’m going to stop keeping a diary. We will have water by Friday, Eric insists. When it happens, you will hear me hoop and holler around the globe. Now, it’s time to clean something. Better yet, it’s time for ice cream. In a china bowl. With a real spoon.

Day 9

Okay, one more entry. Eric is postponing the plumber’s visit from Friday until Monday to give us time to finish the cabinet bases. What did I tell you? This is the longest long weekend of my life. More ice cream, please.