Category Archives: Kitchen

Hangin’ out in my kitchen

It’s been a long time coming, but Eric and I finally have started to rehang some of the art and artifacts that used to populate the kitchen walls. Let’s see what’s hanging around! (Warning: This post contains potentially shocking unstaged photos! Yes, and a Lava Lamp.)

sink and stove corner

Starting on the right side of the sink wall: When we were back in Vermont for Maddie and Holly’s wedding last spring, I snagged this little mirrored door as a souvenir from the amazing, frozen-in-time Pond Store (next to the Victorian B&B where we stayed). Hung on Mother Hubbard’s flank, the mirror is mounted so I can stand at the sink and peek down the street to the west. I get a kick out of this for some reason.

old door with mirror

To the left of the sink we’ve hung a collection of antique iron trivets. Some are from my family, some are from Eric’s. It helps to marry someone who can contribute to your stash of memorabilia. Beneath them, our beleaguered papyrus plant which, despite its armored pot, takes frequent abuse from our cat, Fred. Who can resist a plant with tassels?

5 trivets

And above the sink, hanging from the cornice molding, is my collection of egg beaters. I grew up with the one in the center and used it until just recently. Any one of them can beat the living daylights out of their modern replacement. For the curious, they are, from left:

  • High Speed Super Center Drive, A&J, 1930
  • Turbine Egg Beater, Cassaday Fairbanks Mfg. Co., Chicago, IL 1912
  • Hi-Speed A&J Beater, Ecko Products, USA, 1940-50
  • Light Running, Taplin Mfg. Co., New Britain, CN 1908
  • Ladd Beater, United Royalties Corp., New York, 1908

5 vintage egg beaters

my favorite egg beater

Over in the corner by the door to the dining room is the wooden phone that hung in my parent’s kitchen for many years. I’m unsure of its origin in our family. Perhaps my dad, a kitchen designer, bought it from a client, or maybe it came from his parents. It’s a Stromberg-Carlson model with a Kellogg mouthpiece patented in 1901. Unfortunately, it’s been gutted—no more working parts—but it makes a cute little stash cabinet for something small. And how can you not love that face … you just know he would never divulge your secrets.

wooden wall phone

In the breakfast room, the first thing you’ll notice are the two salvaged stained glass panels that hang in the upper portion of our windows. Not only do they look beautiful in the morning sun, but they help block the view of our neighbors across the alley.

breakfast room through the arch

two stained glass windows

Between the windows is an antique candy thermometer, mounted on wood. I know my dad got this from a client, along with this book of handwritten candy recipes. No, I’ve never made any of them. I have plenty to do besides making a huge sticky mess in my kitchen! (Besides, I’d just eat them. Coconut caramels … mmmm.)

candy thermometer and recipe book

I believe this insurance advertisement with a 1901 calendar came from my paternal grandpa’s florist business office in Milwaukee. It hung in my parents’ office when I was a teenager, and now it’s in my breakfast room. It’s framed in a strange kind of pressed fiberboard, painted gold.

1901 insurance ad

On the north wall of the breakfast room is my beloved collection of fruit crate labels. Years ago I found these at an antique show. The vendor was getting rid of his entire stock and I bought a bunch for 50 cents apiece. I shoulda bought ’em all! For over 15 years they languished in a bag until I decoupaged them onto pine boards. No doubt it ruined their collectible value, but they’re mine, so I don’t care. I’d rather enjoy them on the wall than in a bag. I love these colorful graphics. The themes are so American.

fruit crate art on wall

Up n' Atom carrots label

Over the stove: I recently bought this rod and hook set from IKEA without really knowing what I’d hang from it. I gathered up a few odds and ends, not necessarily permanent: ice tongs, a crust cutter, a wire whisk, an old sieve, and a spidery gizmo for piercing holes in cookie dough.

antiques hanging over stove

The jury’s still out on what to do on the shelf and wall behind the stove and fridge. The shelf is formed by the posterior of the dining room’s built-in buffet. Eventually we plan to install more cabinets there, but that won’t happen any time soon (and maybe never, at the rate we move). Until then, it’s an awkward spot that’s hard to reach and great for catching dust.

My parents received the big aluminum tray as a wedding present (a popular gift item in the 1940s). When I was a little kid, my dad spray painted the tray copper, which has faded to a mellow glow. I’ve always been charmed by its circling flowers (daffodils?), especially the one in the middle that looks like it’s chasing its tail. The tray is the queen of the wall, with her ladies in waiting sitting at her feet: an enamel coffee pot, a flour sifter, an oil lamp, a coffee samovar (from my mom’s family), a venerable wooden Pepsi case (which I may or may not have filched from someplace during college), and a jug found in my crawlspace when I moved in.

aluminum tray and flour sifter

“Okay,” you say, “You have a lot of stuff. How’s the stuff in the bedroom coming along?” I’m happy to report the drawers, linen closet, and bedroom closet have been purged, eight bags of clothes donated to charity, and Eric is about to start building our bedframe! More on all that in due time!

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The never-ending list, 2015 version

With a new year comes the opportunity to get organized and be productive. (Is anything preventing us from doing this at any time of year? No … but it’s traditional to think about it now.) So what does her 102nd year hold for our bungalow? And how far will we get in the next 12 months? It didn’t take me long to come up with this list.

1.  Finish the kitchen! We don’t have far to go, but it will have to wait until summer and dry weather. I want to strip the three kitchen doors (back, attic, and basement), and that’s an outdoor job. Eric has also talked about taking the windows apart and cleaning the balance mechanisms, which means the kitchen would be wide open. Again, a task for warm weather. Painting the doors and window trim is on me, but messing with the balances is Eric’s domain. I don’t want to be to blame for ruining our windows! How confident am I that this project will be completed? 100%!

single-hung window rope

2.  Finish the side porch. All we need is a pile more lumber and a good stretch of that elusive dry weather. It’ll come.  The actual construction is Eric’s task, but I’ll be pitching in with sanding and painting. I can’t wait to see this porch completed because it’s going to be AWESOME!! Right now the porch is looking rather forlorn, wet, and forgotten. The cats are the only ones who use it. Confidence rating: 100%.

unfinished side porch

3.  Redesign the triangle garden. I’ve been dissatisfied with this garden for a couple of years, but I didn’t have the energy last spring to redo it. It’s way overgrown and looks its worst at this dismal time of year. I’m eager to get out there and at least clean it out, but every weekend day seems to cold or too wet, or we’re busy watching Seahawks football. I waste the best weather stuck in an office with no windows. Next month, winter turns the corner (as far as I’m concerned) with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, which is sure to get my sap flowing again. Confidence rating: 100%. IF my back holds out.

overgrown triangle-shaped garden

4.  Rebuild the backyard fence. Eric reminded me to add this project. The six-foot fence along the alley and south lot line is only standing up from habit. Doesn’t it have great patina? I want to salvage the fence boards. The ones that aren’t rotten. When I pressed Eric about his confidence factor, he said, “I don’t have a choice.” Twice. Of course, Duke will help him. Confidence rating: 100%.

fence with backlit Nishiki willow

5.  Finish the attic. You didn’t even know we were working on the attic, did you? Little by little, Eric’s been working on this project, but he hasn’t done anything up there since last spring, when outdoor chores took over. Our goal is to turn the attic into an art studio/lounge/storage area. There’s a ton of work to be done up there, and I doubt we’ll finish it this year. But, I hope we make some good progress. I’ll take you up there in a future post. Not now … you’re not wearing the proper shoes. (You’re dying to see what’s up there, aren’t you?) Confidence rating: 25%.

attic stairs

6.  Repaint the living room, dining room, foyer, and interior hall. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll get around to this, but it’s been on my mind and should be done soon. I painted the present color, Valspar Oak Grove with cream trim, in 2003. I’ve always liked it, but now I’d like to go with something lighter. I’ve been seeing a lot of pretty light grays with ivory trim, but that won’t go with my dining room wallpaper, which I love and sweated bullets to hang 15 years ago. I’ll be damned if I take it down! I dunno … I suppose I could find another Craftsman-y pattern and do it again. Or I could paint another lighter tan color that would complement the paper. We’ll see where this goes. Confidence rating: 10%.

oak brown living room wall color

7.  Paint the exterior. OMG, this will be the big one! Eric and I are debating just how much of this mammoth task we want to take on versus hire out. I don’t want to say we’re getting too old to do it ourselves, but it’s so time consuming. An old house like this, with all its trim and windows, will take a ton of prep work, and the gables are a long ways up. If we could take the summer off, maybe we could get it done … nah, probably not! Maybe we are too old for this stuff. Our house’s dirty little secret (one of them … well, not so little nor secret) is that when my ex and I painted it in 1994, we, um … never got around to painting the trim on the south side, or the high barge board on the rear gable. I spend, like, zero time on the south side of the house, so it wasn’t until our recent plumbing misadventure that I reacquainted myself with just how wretchedly BAD things look from our neighbor’s point of view.  It’s long past time to make that right. We have a new paint scheme in mind, but we have yet to test it on the house. Waiting for drier weather … again. Confidence rating: 50%. If we don’t finish (e.g., leave the south side unpainted?), I’m pretty sure we’ll at least make a start on prep work. We have to.

gable with peeling paint

8.  Finally, there’s the project that lurks behind this door. Can you guess what I’m about to tackle next? Confidence rating: 100%.

wood door to ?

Yes, there’s a lot on our plate for 2015. I know better than to think we’ll get all of this done (although, wouldn’t that be nice!). A lot of it depends on decent weather, for which we Northwesterners wait impatiently all winter and spring. We like to say that summer begins on the fifth of July, and sometimes that’s not an exaggeration. I hope we have some sun breaks long before then!

Meanwhile, the project behind the door is waiting for me right now.

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Tiles and tribulations

Remember the kitchen renovation? The one we’ve been working on since 2012, when I began this blog? The one we burned out on as soon as we had a fully functional kitchen? Well … we’re back on it!

ready for backsplash tiles

What about the side porch, you ask? For a while, it was on ice, literally. And then it was under water … and then .. well, maybe this isn’t the best time of year to build a porch. But it’s perfect for inching our not-quite-finished kitchen toward true completion.

Long ago we decided to repeat the bathroom’s white subway tile in the kitchen, but with gray grout to complement the floor. We bought all the materials. And naturally, I procrastinated. After months of tripping over buckets of thin set in the hall and working around the box of tile next to the sink, we finally got our butts in gear. We thought that our four days off over Thanksgiving should be more than adequate to install our backsplashes. (Place your bets now. The fact that I started writing this post in November and am just now publishing it in late December should be a hint.)

Oh no … not again! By clearing everything off the counters, I recreated this familiar scene. That dining room table sure is a magnet for kitchen crap … what can I say?

dining room mess

Months ago, when Eric installed the backing board, he was challenged to find adequate attachment points. He had difficulty installing the backing board at the same depth as the plaster wall above it. Easy in theory, but not so easy in practice. I put the camera as close to the wall as I could to get this shot, which shows a fairly wide gap between the countertop and the backing board. I was worried whether the thin set and tile would be thick enough to bridge that gap.

gap between counter and wall

I started tiling at the Mother Hubbard end. Applying mastic to the narrow space was awkward, even with a small notched knife. After messing with that for a while, I gave up and simply buttered the individual tiles.

The curved edge at the of the sink required some tricky cutting. Eric had the tile saw set up in the basement to prevent tile dust from covering the kitchen. He got his lower body workout running up and down, up and down the stairs, getting the tiles to fit. The cut tile wasn’t exactly precise, but we figured any irregularities would be disguised by caulk. That’s when I realized why I had avoided this task for so long: Tiling is messy, fussy, and time-consuming. The wall was not even and I had to scootch (technical term) the tiles to fit. The old house constantly reminded me of her age. “I’m 101 … this is as straight as I can stand!”

tiles curve around sink edge

As I progressed, I abandoned the gray grout idea because I knew gray would emphasize any unevenness between tiles. We traded the bucket of gray for white. Even without grout, I was surprised at how much vintage detail the subway tiles lent the room.

With the tile in place, I could feel the wintry air rushing in from between the window apron and the wall. Caulk … we need caulk!

sink wall backsplash nearly tiled

We moved on to the other side of the room, which we expected would be much easier, as there were no curves to negotiate … just two outlets. And it was easier. But … what the hell?? Look at the upper row of tiles—they’re WAY skinnier on the right. #$%^!!!

backsplash tiles are uneven

I had no idea that this wall was so out of alignment. Really, there wasn’t anything we could do. The counters are level with the floor, and the upper cabinets are level with the ceiling. It’s just that the floor and ceiling aren’t level with each other! Since we couldn’t change that, somewhere in the middle, the discrepancy had to make itself known. Unfortunately, it was in a place where the house screamed out at me, “Look how crooked I am!!” Those uneven tiles really looked pretty amateur. Most of our projects look darned good … I’m not a fan of amateur. I was bummed. I hoped that grout would conceal the unevenness.

tiles before grout is applied

I got busy with the grout and forgot to take photos. My small grout float wouldn’t fit behind the faucet, so I smooshed (another tech term) the grout in with my fingers. (Yes, the window trim desperately needs to be painted. That will be my next trick. Don’t hold your breath, though.)

grouting with my fingers behind the faucet

Then it was Eric’s turn with the caulk gun. I was right, the thin bead of white caulk neatly concealed any rough edges around the sink tiles, and with a little extra caulk, the winter air no longer blew in under the window. Whew!

caulking around sink

In Eric’s hand, that little plastic caulk trimmer did a great job of creating a clean line. The sink before trimming …

untrimmed caulk around sink and counter

And after. Nice, huh?

sink caulk trimmed

Overall, I’m really pleased with our backsplashes. They look so clean and shiny and Craftsman-y. The white grout did a lot to disguise the crooked top row under the upper cabinets. It still bugs me, but 95% of people who visit our kitchen won’t notice it. Of course, now you know, so you have to promise not to snicker or roll your eyes if you come over.

finished backsplash under cabinets

subway tile backsplash behind sink

So, this task is complete at last, and before the end of the year. TA DA! I can go to sleep at night knowing that I won’t have to do any tiling in the foreseeable future, and that nothing—but nothing!—will seep between my sink and the counter ever again. And really, isn’t that the secret to peace of mind?

white subwaytiles on wall

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New Mother Hubbard

As usual, the process of bringing Old Mother Hubbard into the 21st Century took longer than I’d anticipated. When we left her in the middle of her extreme makeover, her doors were on the operating table being stripped of decades of old paint. I used three applications of stripper on each side, which took time. The insides of the doors had a different color-layering scheme than the exteriors, including this bright Chinese red, which was en vogue in the late 40s when the kitchen was remodeled.

stripping paint from cabinet doors

I made three of these Jasco “casseroles,” weighing over six pounds apiece.

aluminum tin of stripped paint

Sanding, priming, and painting also took more days than I hoped … you just can’t rush drying time. Because the interiors of our other cabinets are natural, I decided to polyurethane these, too, even though I was unable to pry all the old dead paint out of the joints. Call it character.

It had been quite a few weeks since I’d used the Benjamin Moore Glacier White paint. (I am impressed that one gallon has easily double-coated all the cabinets in our kitchen.) Imagine my horror when I opened the can and found THIS staring up at me:

mold on white paint

OMG, it’s alive!! It’s … mold. I have never had this happen to paint before. What the heck got in there?? Eric pulled on rubber gloves and scooped it out. De-molded, the paint seemed fine. It stroked on smoothly and I haven’t notice Mother H growing a fuzzy green coat. Yes, I used it! Stuff’s expensive, and I didn’t feel like driving to north Seattle for another gallon when I was so close to finishing.

While the doors were curing, I turned to Mother Hubbard’s innards. A purge was in order, and I could put it off no longer. Out came everything. Each piece had to show me its pull date before I would let it back in. I was a merciless gatekeeper—cute packaging could not melt my heart. I was searching for antique food … and I found plenty. Quite a few items came from Eric’s pantry before he moved in in 2007. Not including the Pleasoning (which, by the way, is still made in La Crosse, Wisconsin), the vintage food award went to … a box of Sunmaid raisins from 1998. Guess it pays to clean out you cupboards occasionally.

Some of my finds puzzled me. Besides white vinegar, I have red wine vinegar, blackberry vinegar, and rice vinegar, all unopened except for the white. And for someone who seldom bakes, here’s my collection of colored sugar and cake decorations. A lifetime supply! How did all this stuff get in my house? Eric … ?

colored sugar collection

At last I could get to Mother H’s insides. I thought that because she was already painted white inside, maybe I could get away with just washing her out and applying new linoleum liners to her shelves. HA! What an optimist I can be! I peeled the old linoleum off the shelves. This could be the house’s original lino because it goes (sort of) with the red and gray wallpaper I discovered when patching the walls.

gray and red original linoleum

Of course, you knew it would be nasty in there, didn’t you? Yup.

pantry shelf befpre cleaning and painting

middle shelf with contact paper

I washed the whole thing down with soap and water, but some of the stains wouldn’t budge, including a dreadful dark cascade of goo from long ago that ran from the top shelf clear to the middle one. I would have to paint, too. Dammit. My big time-saving trick was to use gloss white spray paint instead of a tedious brush. But within two squirts, the house was filled with obnoxious lacquer that us had us all gagging. So much for that idea. Oh, hand me the damned brush …

I spent a day with my head inside Mother Hubbard, painting all the nooks and crannies as best I could. Huge improvement, even though the dreadful stain, so impervious to soap and water, had no trouble softening and bleeding through three coats of paint. More character. I know many people would be grossed out by that stain, but living in a century-old home sometimes requires forgiveness—and the willingness to seal unmentionables under a new coat of paint. I’m dealing with the stain here by taking photos at an angle that doesn’t show it. And, now that the pantry’s full again, I can’t see it! Hey, problem solved!

painted and lined pantry shelves

Things really started to come together when Eric cut linoleum liners from spare material left over from our flooring job. I tossed my vintage turntables (bought back when avocado green was popular) and invested in some new ones, plus a set of riser steps for a choir of spices.

Finally, I reopened the Glacier White paint, donned the rubber gloves, scooped out yet another growth of pond scum, and painted her exterior. After a few more days of curing, Eric hung the doors. Are you ready? First, Old Mother Hubbard’s before photo.

floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet

And now … ta-da!! See, Mother H, I told you that you’d look fabulous! Beautiful inside and out! Tall, glossy white, and lovely once again.

white painted pantry cabinet

finished pantry interior

close-up of pantry interior

I’m very proud that Mother Hubbard is the matriarch of our kitchen. Here’s to your second century, Mother H!

PS – Yes, the vintage shaker of Pleasoning made the cut … grandfathered in. It comes from a good family.

Pleasoning seasoning on a turntable

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Asking a favor …

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been nominated for a Homies Award from Apartment Therapy. If you have a few minutes and you’d like to help my blog get a little recognition, please go to Apartment Therapy and give me a vote. Chances of winning against some mighty stiff and professional competition are slim, but you never know—I could make the finals! Voting ends at 5:00 a.m. EST, Feb. 22, —so hurry! Yes, I AM the queen of procrastination. Just checking to see if you’re out there! 🙂

Thanks from Our Bungalow’s 2nd Century!

our house

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall …

While I was busy stripping and repainting Old Mother Hubbard’s doors, Eric had his own project going in our mudroom. (We never call it “the mudroom,” even though that’s what a Realtor would call it. In our parlance, it’s “the back hall.”)

This room started as a covered back porch. It may have had half walls, and probably a corner post. As I imagine it, it was a charming spot to look out over the backyard, and part of me wishes it was still a porch. I assume it was enclosed as part of the kitchen’s 1940s remodel. Now, it’s the laundry room, and I find it exceedingly charming NOT to have to go downstairs to do laundry. If I had to do laundry in the basement (like my mom did when I was a kid), I would simply throw out my dirty clothes every week and buy new ones.

The back hall is part of the kitchen project because it’s been torn up a bit due to installation of our new electrical panel, and it shares flooring and paint treatments with the kitchen. A couple of years ago I painted it egg-yolk yellow with white trim. That’s when I realized I’d have to tone down the yellow to a buttercream for the kitchen.

Eric had to take the interior wall down to the studs to have the new panel installed.

wall open to studs

When you last saw the back hall we were having the linoleum installed. Here, you can see the wall on the right has been sheathed with plywood.

mudroom before and after

Up in the first photo, you can see some of the house’s original cedar shingles. I want the two original exterior porch walls to be shingled once again as a nod to the room’s past. (I plan to paint them the same color as the house’s exterior to complete the effect.) Eric indulged me by patiently sanding, cutting, and applying shingles to match the original three-over-seven (inch) courses. Then he created a beautiful frame around the electrical panel to match the trim throughout our house. We’ll have to produce some sort of art piece to fit inside the frame to cover the panel.

wood frame around electrical panel

With the wall completed, the real fun began. I bought my washer and dryer a few years ago. I was tempted to buy pedestals with drawers to go underneath them, but I didn’t feel like paying and additional $500 for the set. Instead, Eric built a platform with drawers underneath, and it worked quite well, except for one disadvantage: If we needed to move the appliances, the big single platform was difficult to contend with. I had to make up my mind—did I want to invest in pedestals at last, or should we simply put a counter over the washer and dryer? I decided I want the storage that the pedestals offer … and my old back doesn’t want to bend so far to scoop clothes out of the dryer. Off to Sears we went to track down matching pedestals.

WARNING: If you’re buying a washer and dryer set and are considering buying pedestals, bite the bullet and spend the damned money NOW, because for no good reason other than to annoy their customers, manufacturers change the footprint of their appliances every year. My W&D are from 2008 (eons ago), and while the salesman didn’t exactly laugh at our request, an online search turned up one used pedestal on Craigslist … in Wyoming. Rats! (That’s not really what I said, but it is a four-letter word.)

I had nearly given up on the pedestal idea when I spied two Samsung pedestals at Lowe’s for a mere $199 apiece. They were plain white and looked just fine. How much different could they be? If our washer’s feet didn’t fit in the right spot, Eric could just remove the attachment hardware, couldn’t he? Yeah, sure.

Duke was concerned about the dryer taking up his usual kitchen-island spot, but pleased that a blanket appeared on the floor.

dryer on pedestal

Eric didn’t have much trouble making new attachments for the dryer, and hefted it solo onto the pedestal (lifting a dryer singlehandedly amazes me). But the washer, which weighs a ton, was a totally different story. First, we attempted to muscle it up a steep plywood ramp. Nope. We didn’t have enough maneuvering room in the tight back hall, so we used the ramp to ease the washer over the threshold and into the kitchen.

washer and plywood ramp

I am no longer of much use when it comes to lifting heavy objects, so we teamed up: Eric lifted one end of the washer at a time while I stuffed random objects underneath. Paint cans. A 4×4. Isn’t this how you would lift a washer?

washer lifted onto paint cans

At this point I must have blacked out, because I have no memory of how we finally got the washer onto the pedestal, but it happened. Then, once it was attached, we had to get the whole thing back into the back hall. I remember being told to push (kind of like childbirth??), but I was wearing bedroom slippers on linoleum, and the washer pushed me. In the end, Eric persevered. I don’t know what we’d do if he weren’t so strong!

We immediately threw in a load of laundry. Several minutes later during its spin cycle, the washer was rockin’ and rollin’ on its new pedestal, dancing like it was in an old Mickey Mouse cartoon. We had left the little felt scooter disks under the pedestal! And they are still there.

So here’s where it stands: The washer sits slightly higher than the dryer because, unlike the dryer, its feet do not fit the pedestal hardware. Eric substituted two pieces of plywood for the original hardware. He’s going to replace the plywood with thinner metal … but that means dragging the machine back out and lifting it off and back on again. Eric says he needs a stronger wife. I plan to be out of town that day.

washer and dryer on pedestals

Our shy tuxedo, Fred, says “Heh-woe” from his dryer-top aerie. Yes, the kitties really do rule the roost around here.

Fred in laundry basket

And finally … a nice surprise!

My friend Jessica at Cape of Dreams nominated my blog for an Apartment Therapy Homies Award for Best Home Project & DIY Blog.  I am honored! I’ll let you know if I make the finals!

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When good cabinets go bad

We’re getting so close to the finish line! Some days I feel like if we stopped now, I could live with it. Of course, that’s crazy—I still have to finish Mother Hubbard’s transformation, tile the backsplash, and paint the doors and trim. And when all is done, there will be a few things I need to touch up.

This past week, Eric finished the narrow bank of drawers between the stove and the fridge. Because the space is so narrow, the drawers overlap the frame, and are not inset like the rest of the kitchen. It looks a little odd to me, but if we’d included side stiles, the drawers would be too narrow to be of much use. I am happy that I now have someplace to store equipment that I use at the stove, barbecue tools, kitchen towels, and long rolls of foil and plastic wrap.

open drawers

BUT … somewhere along the line, this cabinet took a wrong turn, fell in with a tough crowd, and allowed itself to be skewed. Our countertop installer mentioned that it was slightly warped on one side, and sure enough, we could see the left side was a little cupped. Hmm … Well, no one will see that when the cabinet is snuggled in between the stove and fridge. Eric attached the face frames and the drawer glides, screwed the pulls onto the drawer fronts, and attached the fronts to the drawer boxes.

What the hell?? The top drawer tilts down ever-so-slightly to the right. The second drawer tilts a bit more, and the right edge isn’t flush with the frame. The third drawer tilts down a little to the left, and its left edge isn’t flush. The bottom drawer hangs out to the left, too. It’s all … wonky. When I look at the uneven drawers, I imagine a snaggletooth jutting up from a bulldog’s crooked jaw.

looking down at uneven drawers

Somehow the whole cabinet not only warped on one side, but took on a slight helix twist. It was square when Eric cut and assembled the pieces. And the Caesarstone counter is square. Sigh … Eric will rebuild it (and I will paint it and polyurethane it). Again. But for now, I’m going to use it as is, snaggletooth and all, because I’m not sure when its replacement will appear. Maybe I will grow to love its goofy face … but I doubt it.

front view crocked drawers

Update: Mother Hubbard is recovering nicely from her cosmetic surgery, and is very eager to get out in public again. For now, she’s still curing, I mean healing, in seclusion. Soon, Mother H, soon! (Okay, truth be told, we’ve been a little distracted by our fantastic Seahawks and that incredible Super Bowl!)

Old Mother Hubbard gets a makeover

Meet Old Mother Hubbard, the only completely original cabinet remaining in our century-old kitchen.

floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet

She’s a cold pantry—the kind with screen shelves and outside vents to keep things cool.  Her vents have long since been covered up and the cooling work has been done by a refrigerator for decades … but she’s still a pantry, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. Of course, with the kitchen renovation, she is getting a makeover. It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation.

pantry screen shelves

Poor old Mother Hubbard’s no longer in the shape she used to be. Countless coats of paint over the years have rendered her doors too bulky to shut properly. And inside—well, you can see she could use some nutritional counseling and a good cleansing purge. Some of her innards are out of date, too.

crowded pantry interior

See that little red, white, and blue can of seasoning next to the Pam spray (fourth shelf from top)? That’s “Pleasoning” … and it belonged to my mom. I remember this very can from when I was a kid in Milwaukee. The company address on the can does not include a ZIP code, if that’s any indication of its age (and mine). No, I don’t use it, even though the seasoning hasn’t hardened into a brick—suspicious in itself. I just like thinking about how long it’s been in the family.

Mother Hubbard’s a little skeptical of my good intentions, which one can expect of a centenarian. Everyone, including cabinets, evidently, seems to resist change when they get up there in years. “I’m fine just as I am,” I hear her murmur. “All these coats keep me warm.” “Nonsense,” I reply, as I unscrewed the knob from her tall top door. “You’ll love it. You’ll look and feel 50 years younger, I promise.” As I get out the Jasco stripper, I’m sure I see her tighten her grip on her eight-plus coats of paint.

many coats of apint on door

I haven’t used Jasco for years, and I am concerned about the smell in our kitchen, even with the window open and a fan running. To my surprise, I can barely smell it. I suspect, like many chemical products, it’s been reformulated  to be less stinky … and consequently, less effective. Mother H blushes every time she hears the word “stripper,” but Lacy is up for anything.

black cat on cabinet door

The first application of stripper eats through the current buff and into shell pink, a couple of sky blues, some Pepto-Bismol pink, and sunshine yellow. As I scrape the goo, I try to imagine my kitchen with blue or pink trim and cabinets. “We’re committed now, Mrs. H … you might as well let go of all those old coats!” But the old lady clutches her glad rags even more firmly, daring me to go further.

paint with stripper

stripping first pass

after first stripper application

After the second application of Jasco, I’ve got her down to her skivvies: a crispy, stubborn tan over a shiny, buttermilky white (what many fashionable cabinets were wearing in 1913). Patches of clear fir are showing through, and her edges are looking sharp and square again. But these base coats are resistant. I pictured Mother H as a subject on What Not to Wear. “Oh, Mrs. Hubbard … that’s got to go! No one has worn lead-based enamel since the ’60s!”

seconnd application of stripper

The third application’s the charm, and Mother Hubbard’s beautiful skin—er, wood, is exposed. Almost seems a shame to paint her again. But it would look odd to have two natural fir doors in a room of white painted cabinets. I flip her over and begin exfoliating her back.

door stripped to bare wood

I wanted to wait until Mother Hubbard’s transformation was complete to post this … but she’s taking a little longer than I’d expected (how typical). Every morning I feel like working on the kitchen as I sit at work … but by the time I come home and get dinner, I’m tired and not so much gets done. I still have to strip Mother H’s lower door, sand and paint everything, not to mention tackle her interior liposuction. So, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the big reveal. It’s feeling less like a makeover and more like major surgery. Mother Hubbard is anxious to get it over with.

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Our third calendar year!

It’s 2014, and … oh, man … that means our kitchen renovation has spanned three calendar years! How can that be? We must be the slowest renovators on Earth. We began in September of 2012. This blog debuted in November, 2012. I had swell plans for commemorating those anniversaries, but somehow the dates slid past the Queen of Procrastination, and then it was too late. This entire project feels like that much of the time. But then I look at photos of where we started and I realize how far we’ve come:

kitchen corner

Fortunately for Eric and me, the company we work for closes over the holidays. We’ve had 16 wonderful, carefree days off, and if that’s not a holiday blessing, I don’t know what is. We’ve plugged away on kitchen details every day, at a pace that I’d call “pre-retirement.” And it feels good.

What have we accomplished? We have DOORS on all the cabinets! This no small feat, because every door is handcrafted and every single one needed special tweaking and adjusting. I love walking into the kitchen and being surrounded by white Shaker cabinets!

drawers next to stove

I’ve always wanted one of those hidey-holes under the sink for my sponges … and now I have one.

sponge drawer under sink

My favorite cabinet front is this little door under the sink, with its graceful legs and recessed toe-kick. (The rest of the cabinets have no toe-kick, typical of Craftsman style.) Is that cute, or what? I love the way it sets off the sink and faucet.

sink cabinet with legs and toekick

Lazy Susan’s doors rotate with the shelves. We elected to install oval brushed nickel knobs here because latches would be a hassle. I just want to grab it and spin, like on Wheel of Fortune. Lazy Susan has made Eric work hard: The shelves have required a lot of adjustment to spin smoothly, and even the pole itself dislodged! @#$%!!!! It’s possible I’ve overloaded her … but I refuse to give her a break.

Lazy Susan cabinet

Skinny Sally is so thin that she can’t carry off the Shaker look, so she wears a plain panel. Her neighbors tease her and call her Plain Jane, but she’s beautiful on the inside. And she has a great personality.

slim cabinet next to stove

To the right of my handsome hunk of a dishwasher is a quirky angled cabinet. As you can see, the door doesn’t fit properly—it had the audacity to warp. There’s no place to attach a latch because of the angle, so this one also has a knob and a magnetic closure. Eric’s going to remake this door, but for now it keeps the fur kids from pilfering their food supplies.

angled cabinet next to dishwasher

Lastly, we have the narrow bank of drawers to the left of the stove. Eric’s currently building the drawer fronts and I just finished polyurethaning the drawer boxes. This cabinet is not permanently attached to the wall in case we (or the next owners) want to remove it to accommodate a larger refrigerator. I would miss it, though … lots of storage space!

black cat and drawers next to stove

We’ve also painted and installed base molding all around, and patched, sanded, painted, and paneled some awkward transitions from bead board to plaster to countertop. I particularly admired Eric’s ingenuity when he glued bead board to the chimney surface.

bracing bead board while gluing

I have one more cabinet to paint, dozens of finish nail holes to fill, then I’ll tile the backsplashes. And—oh yeah—I keep forgetting the dang doors and the window trim. But, you can see the list is getting shorter! I can almost guarantee we won’t be working on the kitchen in 2015.

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Thirty-two feet

It’s amazing what we can accustom ourselves to living with when we’ve been in the midst of remodeling chaos for over a year.

ugly old linoleum

This is the story of how all that changed in one day. Months ago, Eric hacked up the floor and removed about 3/4 inch of accumulated vinyl and plywood underlayment, leaving us with what may have been the original linoleum … or maybe linoleum from the 1940s remodel. At any rate, it was in sorry shape with cracks and chipped edges. We removed what we could in the area where the new cabinets were installed. And it sat that way … for months.

We made our flooring choice early on, after considering our lifestyle, which can best be summed up as “parents of fur kids.” Ideally, I’d have liked hardwood to match the color of our fir floors, but wood would not hold up well to Duke’s toenails. I love the look of cork, and although it’s supposed to be tough, I doubt it’s tough enough to withstand a bouncing 90-pound boxer who leaps and spins when asked if he wants to go to Starbucks. Then there’s all the winter wetness that our feet track in the back door … and I’m talking about ALL our feet: two humans, one dog, and six cats. That’s a total of thirty-two feet. One hundred forty-four individual toes.

Then I thought about linoleum—no, not vinyl—the real thing! It’s tough enough for hospitals, totally green and recyclable, and best of all, appropriate for our century-old house. The perfect solution. We chose a light gray, finely marled pattern guaranteed to hide pet hair. Our pattern is Armstrong Linorette ‘Silver City.’

But before the linoleum could go down, the crew would have to level and prep the floor. The night before they arrived, I felt compelled to sweep and mop the old lino before it disappeared forever. FOR-EV-ER.

old lino is clean

First, the floor had to be made level again where we’d chipped the old linoleum away. The installers used the same quick-setting concrete compound that we used to level the subfloor under the new cabinets. Then they started covering the whole floor with 1/4 in. plywood. You can see some of the gray leveler compound in the background.

floor being covered by plywood

Even the paper-faced plywood made the room look so much brighter and cleaner. (You know it’s been bad when plywood is better than your previous floor.)

plywood underlayment covers floor

More leveler smoothed the seams between the sheets of plywood. And then … the back hall (which I’m trying hard to call the mud room, but it doesn’t seem to stick) went from this … to this.

mudroom before and after

For about a minute, you could eat off the floor in the breakfast room. After that, you’d probably swallow a cat hair.

breakfast room with new linoleum

Duke and Fred checked out the new surface. Duke is happy he has lots of room to play kitchen island again.

Boxer and cat on new linoleum

The next day the installers were back to heat seal the seams. Some people don’t bother with this step, and trust that nothing will get in the crevices … but we have those 32 feet. Pets do have accidents sometimes (me, not so much). I wasn’t going to take any chances. I was concerned, though, that the gray weld rod would be so obvious that I’d curse it every time I walked in the room. Linoleum is only 6 ft. 7 inches wide, which meant there was no way to avoid a seam smack in the middle of the kitchen.

gray linoleum weld rod

I am amazed that most of the time I don’t even notice the seam. During the day it’s virtually invisible.

broom and linoleum

At night, the overhead lights pick it up a bit, as Lacy points out.

Black cat sits near seam in linoleum

We didn’t move appliances back in until two days later, after we had a chance to paint and install base molding. I’m still working on that little task! (Prime, sand, prime, sand, paint, paint … remember?)

white base molding applied

I am beyond thrilled with the linoleum. It feels great underfoot, and looks perfect in our kitchen.

I immediately reclaimed the breakfast room as my paint lab, covered in rosin paper, of course. The cats are miffed that their Kit Kat Lounge is taking so long to reopen … but I’m afraid it’ll be a while longer. Sorry, kitties.

base molding being painted

In the meantime, all you critters—wipe your paws!

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