Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Happy New Year!

Not a bad year overall. Pretty good, really.
Good: Got a new kitchen, got a regular date, work went okay, Prop 4 failed to pass, and the big one: Obama got elected president.

Cursed: Online book club blew up and is still reforming; Prop 8 got passed but has started more supportive activism; sleep is increasingly wonky but nose surgery might help, economy is tanking but it's the same everywhere and people are still buying cell phones.

Looking forward to: Better sleep resulting in better work and more time to spend doing things outside work including dating and maintaining friendships (that means you!). By the end of the year, I'd like to have plans in place and prep work done to start on a master's degree... in something or other. I'd like to have the major work finished on the condo - all floors and walls patched and repainted, all shelving where I need to have shelving, all plumbing sound and attractive, and all light fixtures where they need to be. I think if my space is settled, I can be more organized and productive. And have more time to post pictures to the blog.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

Plague of Locusts

The parents finally made it in last night, late. From Seattle. Don't ask unless you're loaded for cranky.

We picked up my brother this morning then stopped in Westwood for coffee, tea, and snacks before starting a driving tour of LA. While we were walking around, my brother did a double take and said, "Hey, I just ordered new scrubs from that store last week!". So we crossed the street to say, "hi" at Scrubs Unlimited and both mom and dad found some work shoes with good arches. We briefly drove thru UCLA then down Sunset Boulevard which is a fun winding drive past "star maps" signs. We detoured through the neighborhoods around Rodeo drive where the streets are named after Boston suburbs in order to see the iconic palm tree lined roads and fun architecture. We made it over to Gower to see the Hollywood sign too.

Nearer to the tar pits, we circled around a bit when I confused "Santa Monica Boulevard" with "Santa Monica Freeway" on my sketched map. Probably for the same reason I had problem with Russian. I stop listening (unconsciously) when I think I know what the remainder of a word or phrase will be and start thinking about where to go from there. In Russian, half the meaning is the ending tacked onto the root. The endings just never penetrated that well. So "freeway" vs. "blvd" took me a different map and a pull to the side of the road to sort out where I'd gone wrong - I was trying to stay north of "Santa Monica" when the pits are between the two.

But we made it, had another snack (a piece of multigrain bread dad picked up and put in the trunk), and wandered the grounds where we were nearly trampled by a tour group of 1800 people. Last time I went (and dragged Kvarko with me) we'd had maybe 18 people in our tour - and only one thought that people had planted fossils to lead us astray from God's true word.... Anyhow. I was able to give a reasonable outside tour of the excavations (and ossicles), showed them some pictures from Kvarko's visit (the wall of dire wolf skulls in particular), told them some fun facts (sabre toothed tigers had baby sabers with concave backs so their adult sabers could grow in behind them), and we decided that after a brief gift store visit that we didn't need to go in the museum after all.

One funny thing today. We were driving around and my brother swallowed wrong and started coughing. Mom sent up 3 homeopathic pills to fix coughs and the brother asked what was in them. Dad said, "eye of newt". Mom's answers were all "it helps your cough" or " it's supposed to", so he handed them back with a thanks but no thanks. Then mom went on to tell us how her coworker had a bad dentist visit and was all swollen up and purple in the face and she gave her the magic beans and - at this point my brother interrupted and said, "Poof, her cough was all gone!" Turns out there's some other pill she "routinely" carries and foists on people as of 2 or 3 weeks ago that is good for swollen up and purple, different from the cough one, but I laughed so hard I almost missed my home exit.

Where we walked over to Claim Jumper, vultured a table in the bar, and devoured about half the pub menu like a plague of locusts. (In our defense, the food was really good and a slice of bread with water is not a filling lunch.) For Years and Years mom tried to get us to eat slowly and savor. But all she gets for her troubles is my brother snagging her maraschino cherry, my dad sipping her drink, and me too far away to poach, but too busy inhaling my tri-tip dip slider and fried zucchini and kebabs and heffeweisen to really care. Even if we did get someone to bring us extra cherries and still I didn't get one.

Day One wound up with my brother helping me re-wire my media stand so that my DVD doesn't route in a way that oversaturates the screen so we could watch a movie. yay! I pulled out Love Actually on DVD. (I apparently left the tape "A wish for wings that work" in the VCR last Christmas and it was unhappy about that and broke in there.) Now, they are at the hotel down the street and I am blessedly alone again. Until early tomorrow and even earlier the next day.

So good points were that we were all in a good humor today, they made pleasing noises about the kitchen, we were not stuck on the freeway behind an overturned armored tank (but got to see them re-loading it onto a flatbed from the opposite direction), we found our parking place and bleacher seats for the parade, my DVD player works easily now, I know some cool things to take visitors to, and we laughed out loud.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Very Last Nerve

My parents are coming to town tomorrow and my brother a couple days later. The plan is to see the Rose Parade, which is my mom's favorite thing. But they're going to be here for 5 days. So they're staying at a hotel. We get along great over the phone but in person, rub each other a little raw. My brother was able to live with them as an adult on and off as his roommate situations ebbed and flowed, but my 5 months after graduation nearly killed us all. While I maintain that his having a bedroom in the basement and mine having one directly across the hall from them did have an influence in the social dynamic, we do not live together well.

And here I am, thinking I would have been in bed an hour ago so I can get up early (for me) tomorrow and kind of prep for them being here, but nope. I crashed on the couch and staggered up and, after finishing up some dishes from yesterday's late night cooking binge (I made bao from scratch starting at 11:30pm) then headed to the internets and *poof*, there went an hour.

The only thing that disturbed me from my websurfing (partly useful, I did find out that Craig Ferguson -mom's 2nd favorite thing on TV - does not have any shows taping while mom's here) was this zit on my upper lip. It was one of those subterranean (actually subdermal, I know) ones that you really can't even see but I knew it was there because it decided to grow directly over a nerve. It was only by prodding for the most painful spot that I was even able to find it. I know the pain isn't comparable, but it reminded me of my good friend whose 2 year old headbutted her nose on Christmas Eve and by all evaluations seems to have broken it. And it needs to be moved back into place to stop hurting and be straight again, but that will be really painful. Likewise, extracting this zit made my eyes water and my nose run, and me do a little dance. While it's still a little sore, I can now touch my lip without bursting out of my chair. Wasn't this supposed to be over 20 years ago? My joints now ache *and* I have acne? On the plus side, I can stay up all night cooking bao if I want to, with flavoring from my own liquor stash, and swipe bites from the rum cake.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everybody!

So I'd thought about hanging with the Jews and hitting up a movie and having Chinese food today. But I bought a lot of food yesterday to make some specific recipes and I cooked all day. Which is a little weird as I'm cooking for 1, but it's fun. I always want to make more food than anyone could possibly eat. I held back a little today, but if you add it to the vat of soup I made yesterday, my fridge is pretty full. The kitchen, it's working well, efficiency wise. Still have to figure out where some final things go (mostly the small appliances) but overall? Waaaaay better. And it smells good with the mulling spices warming on the stove.

I made a lamb stew type thing which came out too pasty to look good for a picture. But it was tasty enough to eat, so whew! I also cooked up artichokes and peeled a pomegranate so it was a Greek kind of meal. I do wonder why pomegranates were one of the earliest cultivars though. Yes, it stores well - it can last for weeks or months, maintains the juiciness of the seeds, and one rotten seed rarely affects many others. But dang are they a PITA to peel. I do wonder how Pom does it industrially for juicing.

I also made my favorite cranberry relish and just finished rolling out some egg noodles. It's a recipe I made up myself. Typical recipe is 1c flour, 1 egg, 1T water and 1t oil with a pinch of salt. I use 1c flour, 1 egg, 1T low sodium soy sauce and 1t oil - although this time I also ground up some dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder and added an extra t of water with the powdered shrooms. They're drying right now. Usually I don't have the patience to wait for them to dry, but I'm pretty full. (I had to test out the Corn Pops I bought for mom's breakfast...)

Tomorrow, I need to get out of the condo though. I'm meeting up with a friend at some point, and I want to go to the beach because it's California and I can, even if it's still pretty wet and chilly. I could use a good 3 hour walk, too. Hope you had a fun day hanging with family and don't need too many gin and tonics to recover from said family.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Road Trip

Hey all, I'm home from San Fran. Unlike my Alaskan friend who got snowed in at SEA-TAC on her way back. I have re-purpled hair, I'm getting my voice back after cable car caroling, and I've slept like the dead for about 2 days. Today's my last day of work before some extensive time off. (To me, 12 days is extensive. One day, I will take a month or 2 off. Really. Just not now.)

My parents and brother are coming out for New Years and dad called saying they did get seats for the Rose Parade, which is just about my mom's favorite thing evah. Here's hoping that our weather gets a little nicer all over the country in the next week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Irish Weather

It's 45F and dreary and drizzly here. Since when does SoCal get Irish weather? It's warmer in San Francisco! Sheesh!

But I have a place I can make all the hot chocolate I want. Because I have a baking drawer full of chocolate. And a mostly done, new kitchen. I still want to post stills for before/after/chaos but I couldn't help myself and took another tour. I'm not sure if I point down because I'm enthralled with my lower cabinets, having lived with the uppers for a while now, or if I just naturally point down. I tried to narrate a little this time. We'll see if that worked.

Well, it's been 3 hours since it started uploading. Hrm. I guess if you're watching this, it worked.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Will You Won't You?

I tried to find something in my purse tonight and failed. I tried to find something at Lowe's and they've discontinued it. However, they do have a sink that would suit me better (with one center hole and 1 dishwasher air-gap hole on the side and a half inch shallower) than the one I just bought and installed and way more options on faucets than they had even 2 weeks ago. So I'm going to try and replace my sink. I'll do the plumbing myself, thank you very much.

In the meantime, I spent about 2 hours sorting through all my home improvement receipts and paperwork and everything in my purse, and my other recent purse that didn't get completely unloaded. It was a disaster. Now it is better. I don't know why I put off organizing so long when it makes me so relieved to have it done. It must be regulated by the same section of my brain that motivates exercise.

What's been pushed out during my kitchen reno aside from paper sorting: I've waffled for weeks about going up to San Fran for a long weekend this weekend.

Pro: I get to hang with some fun friends.
Con: I'm already getting 2 weeks off starting next wednesday and this is extra vaca days.
Pro: but I don't have plans until the new year (family coming for Rose parade - dad, did you get the tickets yet or should I?) so it would feel really crummy to spend the holiday alone when the opportunity to hang with people is *so close*
Con: I have crucial experiments going on at work with results coming in this week
Pro: I might not be able to do the followup experiments anyway as we don't like to muck up the equipment just before holidays if we're expecting any production to get through on the last day or two.
Con: Too late to buy really cheap flights
Pro: Gas prices have sunk to 1998 levels so I can drive it for less than a hundred dollars
Con: I'm feeling a tad ill, so I'm hoping it doesn't become full blown sickly
Pro: I have sudafed and tylenol.
Con: I didn't want to ask for the time off at the last minute and I thought I'd glimpsed someone's name on the common calendar asking for the time off so I wasn't sure I'd get it.
Pro: Turns out that was my name on the calendar, from months ago, saying "tentative". So my boss was expecting it and I don't have to get all weird about asking 2 days in advance.

Conclusion? I'm going to San Fran. I'll be driving up thursday morning because I just can't get everything done in time to leave wednesday night. I have to mail some christmas gifts, get some charity gifts, pack, unpack all my glass supplies from the back of the car (taking out 50 pounds of stuff helps gas mileage), and... post pictures of the kitchen. Although, I might just do a lot of that during my christmas downtime.

new countertops with sink

This is the sink I want to replace and move the faucet to the new bathroom sink. There are now doors and such on the cabinets, and it looks great but you'll have to take my word for it until I can upload the newer pictures. Probably not before SanFran tho. Sorry, folks!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookie Party

Yay! Cookie Party happened. Cabinet boy deserves HUGE thanks. He came over this morning to help me CLEAN. Can you believe it? I need ideas for thanks (massage is on the list). But thanks to his help the project got done, and the place was clean and clear enough to have people over for foodmaking. We really worked well together, I think. We only got a little snippy once in a while, but wow. Seriously, I'll post some pictures once my head stops spinning.

Just wanted to let y'all know that it came together in time. After powering through a 5# bag of flour and 3# of butter and a container of sugar, I now have these kinds of cookies:
  • sugar cookies rolled in decorative colored bits
  • Chocolate Hotties - triple chocolate with chili powder
  • chocodoodles
  • coconut macaroons
  • cranberry-cherry-pistachio biscotti
  • chocolate chip
  • oatmeal cranberry pecan
  • oatmeal butterscotch
  • persimmon
I'm going to make them into gift bags for coworkers and the countertop guys. And eat some. And put away the mixing bowls in the corner cabinet with the lazy susan, instead of on the open shelf where they had previously been exiled due to no adequate space.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Can Has Countertops

I'll post the gritty details in the next post. I'm impatiently waiting for the pictures to upload to photobucket.

This is what the countertops look like as the installer is packing up. I'm happy. So far 2 people have walked in and said "nice granite counters!" and yet they're laminate so I can drop stuff on them and not break my (likely handmade) stuff.

S from New Door Knobs suggested a video to get a better sense of the space. So here you are. Me and the jitters and the new countertops. Wilsonart "Milano Quartz". Joy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Template, Check

Whew! The countertop templater came out and didn't raise a fuss about anything. Only asked about the filler next to the dishwasher and I said I'd put something in. Which I will, but it was not on the critical path for templating. We discussed the counter layback - we're going with my idea and I'm excited about it. It doesn't have to get done before the party so if I can't figure it on friday night or saturday morning before the faucet goes in, faucet rejiggering will be the only extra work needed.

It did cost an extra $150 to have him come out twice. But I didn't know enough about countertop manufacture to know what could or couldn't be done before. I think it was worth it because having him there for the rough draft allowed the final version to be better. I also asked for clarification on why he suggested I cut out notches from the top supports for the sink cabinet. I showed him the clips and mentioned how they bend into place. Then he pointed out that you still tighten them with a screwdriver and the notches are for the scredriver, not the clips. All is now clear. It will be done.

The bar will seat 3 comfortably and look good too. It's 13" deep which is what the previous bar was. I liked it well enough without the edge that stuck into my walkway and narrowed it to 2.3 feet. That and the grotty grout was bad too. And the old (meaning damaged and grungy) epoxy painted wood edges, blech. I'll have a 3' opening below the counter edges and 3' less 2" at the counter height. There's heapo plenty room to move the fridge out or other appliances should that ever be necessary. And someone in a wheelchair could get in and out. Might not be able to reach the sink, but that can be retrofit, right?

Lastly, the small pony wall wraparound was a little warped (2"x3"s were inherently funky even after cherry picking) but I managed, in the half hour between getting home and the templater showing up, to re-settle it with a shim so it's level and straight. Was a lot faster and easier than I expected it to be and now I don't have to worry about it, like I do the rest of these things.

Punch list before countertops:
  • Figure out the filler between corner cabinet and dishwasher and install it squared and leveled.
  • Make sure the electrical conduit is secured in place.
  • Figure out endcap of small pony wall (probably not drywall).
  • See if there's a fire retardant, thin something I can use inside the small pony wall next to the dishwasher (optional).
  • Add drywall, patch, texturize, prime.
  • Check one last time that the devil counter between the stove and fridge is square and level.
  • Locate and cut out notches on sink base cabinet.
  • Cut out hole(s) for dishwasher water lines and prime around them.
  • Install plates for affixing the top front panels of the sink cabinet.
Punch list post countertops:
  • Attach new drains and faucet to kitchen sink. See about new rubber gasket for garbage disposal.
  • Install kitchen sink with source and drain hookup.
  • Attach garbage disposal and dishwasher.
  • Attach doors to all lower cabinets and pantry.
  • Cut, adhere and grout floor tile.
  • Paint drywall of pony wall.
  • Install toe-kicks
  • Install edging around exposed edges of cabinets that aren't perfectly flush.
  • Confirm all upper cabinets are level.
  • Figure out the range hood.
  • Prime upper wall behind the stove. Rearrange pot hooks.
  • Put all my stuff where it now goes. Because it has a place!
  • Vacuum, wipe, and scrub drywall dust off of everything I own.
So. Friday. I'll have countertops. For the record, or if you're browsing your local store and want to check a swatch/chip, I'm going with Wilsonart's Milano Quartz with a minimally textured finish 4726-52. Runners up were Sandy Topaz, Milano Amber, and the orange DeepStar Mineral (which I figured was too taste specific, but if the first 4 were unavailable, I'd have used it). Milano Quartz laminate. It'll be grand.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gazelle Stacking Boxes

A friend of mine once watched me perform some task involving moving stuff around. His assessment was "You are graceful as a gazelle... stacking boxes" with the obvious point that gazelles are not particularly graceful at stacking boxes. If there's a way to carry something that involves bumping into every possible wall, scraping every corner and damaging the face? I'll find a way. Any instruction that says "protect using method A or "just be careful", I must choose method A or prepare to live with damage. I will never be able to be an appliance installer with this defect. Do not let me carry ladders. Cabinet boy, though, he's really good. Meticulous and careful - with the exception of one angled stud that will never be seen again without a teardown - and he can navigate through chaos with damageable parts no worse for wear. I'm impressed.

I've been dark this whole weekend working all out with cabinet boy to get the cabinets installed with meticulous detail. It was all I could do to get him to let me order a pizza by way of a break. At some point with insufficient water and food I become useless. I hit that point at 4 yesterday but we didn't quit until 5. Today, we thought we just had a little bit to do, but worked 10am-10pm. Yikes. About 3 hours of that was spent trying to figure out my corner cabinet. It faces out to the dining room and we had to install it then measure to recut the pony wall. And it had to be level with cabinets it was 3" away from. I got to the point where I barely cared if it was level or flush at some point and ordered the pizza.

But we got it done and knocked out the concrete anchors and pony wall in, comparatively, no time flat. It looks really nice. Moving the entrance over a foot does make it slightly more awkward to turn on the light. I anticipated that. But everything else is all good. I thought it might feel smaller, but it actually feels bigger because you don't walk in with the fridge right in your face, but off to the side. Because the fridge is so bulky, it really takes up a lot of physical and visual space. Coming in to the side of it makes it visually smaller in the same space. I did not anticipate that, but I like it. Also, the way I'm re-doing the shorter wall, it'll be easier to watch TV while I chop stuff up.

For the cookie party, it will allow 3 or 4 distinct places for people to be inside the kitchen,
  1. baking at the stove,
  2. stirring at the right wall by the pantry
  3. stirring at the pony wall over the dishwasher
  4. washing stuff at the sink.
which is one more spot than last year.
Also someone can be grabbing things from the pantry and someone else can sneak by into the kitchen. Handy. I'll still have the bar too, which can seat three, and I'll pull out the table which can handle four. It's going to be really, really nice. Yay!

Countertop guy comes tomorrow to template for the final fit. I've decided to go with mostly cove (integrated) backsplashes for easy cleanup and I prefer them for laminate. Under the bar, it will be a separated backsplash because they can't make the coved one full height. I've got an idea for the window layback. It'll work, but whether or not it works well is the question. It might involve being careful, which means I should get someone else to do the execution.

Pictures to come. Most of them are of the total mess my dining/living room is. But too sleepy to cope with them now. Must go back to work to pay for countertops.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8 the Musical

There has to be a reason I like Jack Black (I want my stretchy pants! is funny) and can't stand Will Ferrel (I'm a moron elf is not funny). Making cool stuff like this might be one reason. Also check out Allison Janney, Neil Patrick Harris, the lady who plays Becky on Scrubs, and several others. About 3 minutes of singing and dancing.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Long Lunches

I'm needing to work extra late several days this week because I took a long lunch to order counters yesterday. A long lunch for counter measurment and allergy shots today. Then tomorrow I have a followup with the ENT to discuss surgery on the schnoz innards and thursday I *might* have a test at the urologist if the insurance gets straightened out. It'll be interesting.

In the meantime, I got some answers from the countertop guy. I have to raise my cabinets up a half inch for my window cutout. The countertops will be 1.5" thick. I'll go with the double rounded front (not the ogee) because they have to subcontract the ogee but do the double round themselves. This saves me about $300 in finishing costs, so I'm not super broken up about not taking my first choice. This finish edge will be totally fine.

However, he needs to come back to template the place after the counters are actually installed. This may be an additional cost, but it'll come out of the edge savings so whatever. I basically need to have the kitchen in final form by sunday night. He's coming back monday. If there's anything still left to do by then, I won't get my countertops, but I should be ok. He was confident that his company honors their timetables. Whew! And I have that decision made about the bar-stud-pony-wall placement and even sleeping on it, it feels like the right decision. Whew!

Still and all, I hope cookies are good for ulcers because I think I'm going to have one before this is over!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Panic at the Disco

I need to have a kitchen sink before my party on the 14th.
I need to have countertops before I can install a sink.
My dratted countertops are a custom order, not off the shelf, so I can't just pick them up, slap them down, and be done with it this coming weekend. As it is, the scheduled install is the 12th.
In order for the countertop order to be finalized, they have to measure.
They want all the countertops in place and level and secured before measuring.
In order for the final cabinet to be set in place, I need to rebuild the pony wall.
Um. That won't happen by tomorrow noon, when measurement guy shows up.


Here's hoping that he can measure based on what I have got in place and apply standard countertop making allowances to get everything right. I think I've got it set up in a way that they can tweak it or leave some fudge space for the final day and still be alright.

So. I forced the date to come over and help figure stuff out even though he'd had a bad day. I'm more decisive if I can talk things over with people. And he was working or camping this weekend and didn't come over when it wouldn't have been panic inducing. Plus, he's a morning person and I haven't had enough sleep so I hope the decisions we made today (move the pony wall out the width of a 2x4, aka 3.5") are sound. They feel right, though, and I take that as a good sign.

Now to stop spinning so I can sleep. I'll try not to think about the "full wrap ogee" edge vs the "double roundover" edge. I think I want the ogee - it looks good on stone but I'm getting laminate and that might look a tad queer - as the roundover is more boring but still tolerable. Both wrap the laminate to the underside of the counter. I hate rough edges under my counter that absorb water. Dumb, dumb, dumb. On the other hand, I was worried that they don't sell the color I want, but it turns out they're out of swatches because it's one of the most popular colors, not because it's discontinued, so it's not a super-special order. Then, do I want a 12", 13" or 15" bar width? I'm thinking 13, but don't want to do something so weird it'll delay my order when I can live without that for the time being.

Contingency plans for countertops failing to materialize next friday: (1) buy off the shelf counters for about $50 and install them temporarily, (2) see if another friend can host. I think I'll call her about the backup hosting just in case, but - fingers crossed - it looks like the counters will go in on friday. Assuming I rebuild the pony wall, move the electric, remove the tile edges out from under 3 legs from 2 cabinets so I can get the level set, and install the pantry in the next 10 days. Which I can, but dang. It means I have to be done with things and that's not really my forte. If I can't get the sink (and dishwasher) hooked up and leak free, the plumbers can come on saturday. In the meantime, I have to start stashing or trashing all my stuff that's just laying about everywhere I turn. Driving me crazy. And I don't need more of that.

If you don't get your christmas card before St. Patty's day, this is why. I might get the patio lights up by then too.