Monthly Archives: September 2013

A total wash-out

Last weekend represented an important step in our kitchen’s rebirth. On Friday our electrician installed the last of our new outlets, and, more importantly, connected our dishwasher. When I came home, I found this pile of stuff on the counter. It had all been inside the dishwasher, like giblets in a frozen turkey.

papers inside dishwasher

By Sunday afternoon we had created enough dirty dishes to make a reasonable load, and it was time for a test run. I love its shiny stainless steel interior, like an inverted disco ball. I know, you all have dishwashers and you know what they look like inside. But this one is special: this one’s MINE. The first dishwasher I’ve had in almost 30 years.

dishwasher stainless steel interior

What the heck am I supposed to do with these two eyeballs?? Ah … one goes here.

dish soap capsule

Power on. Cycle selected. Three, two, one … launch! And then wait, breathlessly. No explosions, no leaks, no sparks … and no noise. Of course, I’ve had dishwashers in my distant past, and I remember their growls and sloshes and chug-chugging sounds … but I had to stand next to this one to hear it! I was amazed. Duke was pickin’ up good vibrations. The storm outside was a lot louder than the dishwasher.

boxer checks out dishwasher

We wondered what could possibly be going on in there for it to take over two hours for the normal cycle. By reading the owner’s manual we discovered that on the normal cycle, the wash arms operate one at a time. In the future we’ll use the quick cycle to save time. Eventually we left the room, feeling secure that no watery disaster would befall us, unlike the weather lately.

We came back in time to witness the end of its inaugural cycle. When the timer counted down to zero, a chime sounded. But wait–it wasn’t just a ding-ding. It actually played a little song–a victorious little ditty befitting the occasion. Is it possible to fall in love with a dishwasher??

Then, the moment of truth: I opened the door and reached into its tropical depths. So this is what clean dishes look like!! No baked-on grease left behind. No coffee stains in the cups. An old glass that had been etched with water scale glistened like new. Everything glistened like new. This thing isn’t just a dishwasher … it’s a miracle! LG, where have you been all my life??

dishes after washing

I still love my old Armstrong dishwasher, though, and so does Duke. Here are the two models, old and new. I’ll keep them both—it’s always good to have a back-up!

Duke and Eric with dishwasher



The kitten project

Reading this blog, you might think all we do is renovate our house. Sawing, sanding, painting, visualizing, shelling out money. Yeah … it feels like that. Obviously, if we were that dedicated, we’d have finished the kitchen six months ago. Sometimes we get sucked in by a different kind of rehabilitation project. Something a little softer and furrier.

Along with being parents of a boxer and six cats, we also feed numerous neighborhood stray cats. They live tough lives, but one thing they don’t need to worry about is where to find food and water. I don’t know why there are so many cats in this neighborhood. Do the tenants of nearby houses and apartments “forget” their cats when they move? Do people come here to dump unwanted cats? Or do all the unneutered pets just keep providing the neighborhood with more offspring?

Occasionally we pitch in and neuter a needy cat. (We can’t afford to do them all.) For instance, several years ago a friendly young marmalade cat decided he liked hanging out at our house. He showed up daily, lounged on the counters, slept in my chair … and began marking his new territory.

Marmalade cat

“Oscar,” we said, “If you’re going to move in, you’ll need a simple outpatient procedure.” One hundred fifty dollars later, Oscar was neutered and vaccinated. A few days later I was chatting with a friend down the block. “Have you seen that little orange cat who runs around here?” I asked. “Yeah,” she replied, “He belongs to my mom’s roommate. Someone neutered him!” She must have read the look on my face. “Was it—you?”  (Oscar’s—actually Oliver’s—owner wanted to neuter him anyway, but was too down on his luck to pay us back. He moved away a week later and we never saw Oscar/Oliver again.) Since then, we’ve been careful to interview the cats thoroughly to ensure that they are truly homeless.

We acquired Checkers and Lacy the same way. Adopting a cat is easy around here. Just step out on the porch and make a friend.

Checkers and Lacy

A few weeks ago, I was amazed to glance out the window and see three tiny tabby kittens frolicking on our porch. “We have kittens!” I cried. And a very young tuxedo mama cat, already back in heat. Soon thereafter, mama and one kitten ceased coming around. We were determined to trap the remaining two kittens before they disappeared, too.

Two tabby kittens on the porch

tabby kitten Dot

We baited our live trap and waited. It didn’t take long to hear a loud bang and commotion. Rats! We’d caught the wrong cat! The next day we saw our own Fred (below) dining on the bait with his front paws carefully placed on the far side of the trigger plate. He exited just as carefully. (Fred is one smart cat, and not about to let someone else eat the yummy Fancy Feast.) We decided not to risk traumatizing innocent cats with the snap trap.

Headshot of tuxedo cat

Instead, we set up our large wire crate on the porch, with a string attached to the door and run through the window to inside. We set the food and water bowls in the crate.

crate and string trap

We let the kittens eat there a few times so they got accustomed to the set-up … then, Eric pulled the string and—bingo—we had us a couple of kittens! And they were NOT PLEASED.

In fact, the poor little things were terrified. But awfully dang cute.

kittens climbing the cage

The female (we assumed) had a little black spot on her nose. The male had a tabby streak on his nose. So, because we’re writers, we named them Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett—Dot and Dash.

These kittens hated us. (It’s really hard to use “kittens” and “hate” in the same sentence.) But these kids were WILD, and they wanted nothing to do with humans. We estimated they were about 12 weeks old, which may be too old to be tamed. Their first week with us produced nothing but soft hisses and baleful looks from the back of the cage. Eventually Eric was able to place his hand next to Dash, the braver of the two, and even touch his back a little. But that ended when Eric tried to pick Dash up and all hell broke loose. Dash retreated to the sleeping box and has not come out to greet us again.

Our other cats pay little attention to the youngsters, but Uncle Duke is fascinated. He lays by their cage and is front and center whenever we interact with them. Duke formed a strong bond with Lacy and Checkers just this way.

Boxer Duke lays by the cage

If they won’t be handled, how did we get these uncooperative guests to the vet? Easy! We swapped out their sleeping box for a cat carrier a few days before their appointment. They loved hiding in it, so they were packed and ready to go at appointment time. Just as we’d suspected, Dash is male and Dot is female. They were a little overwhelmed and not feeling so good after their vet visit and day surgeries.

two tabby kittens in a cat carrier

They bounced back quickly and are now more active than ever. It’s sleep all day and party all night. We manage to sleep through the banging around, and when we get up in the morning, the cage is trashed and they’re exhausted. Hard to think that these little angels would draw blood if I got too close.

two sleeping tabby kittens

In the two and one-half weeks they’ve been with us, we’ve made only small progress in taming them. Both will lick wet food off my extended fingertip (as long as I stay outside the cage), and Dot is easily coaxed into playing with dangly toys. But they still won’t allow us to touch them and they skitter away when we approach the cage door. I’m unsure what their fate will be. We already have six cats, and we can’t take in any more. Our vet tech has shown some interest in adopting one or both, but I’m not holding my breath. They will need a lot of patient work to become domesticated. The Humane Society doesn’t accept feral cats. I suppose we’ll return them to the porch and freedom, but that’ll make us a little sad.

Meanwhile, who should show up out on the porch? Kitten No. 3 is back! We’ve named him/her Ditto, because soon we will do this all over again.

Tabby kitten No. 3


When guests refuse to leave

Since the centennial party, I’ve been hanging out with a couple of old friends. We spend a lot of time lolling around the house, watching trash TV, drinking wine, and generally ignoring the responsibilities of life. [Eric’s photo]

still life of grapes and wine

It’s been fun and relaxing, but lately I’ve had this niggling feeling that I really should get back to work on our renovation project. Except … my company won’t leave. Let me introduce you to two of my oldest friends: Procrastination and Inertia.

Oh, we go way back. My first grade teacher labeled me as a procrastinator. What a rap to lay on a six-year-old kid! I’ve dedicated my life to fulfilling my potential in that regard. But at some point, when house guests have outstayed their welcome, you just have to give ’em the boot. I finally picked up a paint brush and stared down the bead board in the breakfast room.

I’d bought several gallons of yellow and white paint before we decided to renovate the kitchen. (I’ve changed shades of yellow since then. Anyone need some egg-yolk-yellow paint?) The Valspar Chef White that I intended to use for the trim is ever-so-close to the Benjamin Moore Glacier White I’m using on the cabinets. With shifting light on all the planes of white, I don’t think anyone will be able to tell it’s not the same paint. At least I’m betting on that, because I refuse to waste two gallons of perfectly good paint.

First, I popped off the old shoe molding and sanded the mop board until I found a layer of paint that seemed to want to stick to the wood. (The bead board here has been primed.)

show molding removed

Painting progress is slow. I have to force in enough paint to seal up the tiny gaps between the individual boards. It takes a lot of paint and a fair amount of pressure on the brush. You can see the effect in the photo on the right: It makes the expanse of bead board look cohesive and seamless.

white painted bead board

I have to work quickly to achieve the desired effect, yet not overwork the paint. (Paint these days seems to get tacky quicker than it used to.) It’ll take two coats, because I want the new bead board to have the softened look of several coats of paint. Does that sound crazy? To install new bead board and not want it to look brand spankin’ new?

I finish one coat on one wall, and wouldn’t you know it, my lazy friends reappear to distract me for another evening.

Then I wise up and buy a nappy roller to speed up the coverage–much better! I still follow up with a brush.

When I look up, I find I’m being watched.

Black cat wathces painting progress

I have ACRES to paint: all the bead board around the breakfast room and kitchen, the kitchen ceiling, and the plaster kitchen walls—all of it twice! Then there’s the new cabinet face frames, doors, and drawer fronts, and the drawer boxes—two, three, even four coats. I enjoy painting, but I’ll be at this task a looong time. On this plan of the kitchen, I have to paint bead board all the way around the breakfast room and kitchen (not the back hall), except for over the sink. The red line shows how far I’ve gone on coat 1. Yes, I have a long way to go … two laps.

shows how far I've painted

It’s September, which means we have now been working on the kitchen for an entire year. I suppose that’s not unusual for a major DIY project, and we have not exactly pushed ourselves most of the time. However, I’m adamant that we be DONE before the holidays. I want to stuff my bird in a FINISHED kitchen!

But … how many posts can I write about painting before we all die of boredom and you leave, never to return? (“Yeah,” you’re saying … “This is as exciting as watching paint dry!”) My painting marathon will be an opportunity to write about other aspects of our house. Thanks to some of my blog friends, I have a cache of inspirations to play with.

Now, back to the painting. Where are those old friends when I want them?

But wait—bonus feature!

Because we’re harvesting ripe garden veggies almost every day now, we soon found ourselves in a cloud of drosophila—yes, the dreaded summer fruit fly invasion. How to get rid of them without using spray? Eric made this trap out of a glass, a slice of banana, a cone of paper and some tape. Works like a charm, and the pesky critters can be humanely released outside to reenter the house another day.

glass and paper fruit fly trap

Now, back to painting. Really. Although … it’s such a beautiful Sunday … maybe we should drive down to Tacoma and go to the art museum!