Thursday, June 30, 2011

Be Nice

I deleted the last post I wrote.

It was a book review; and although I don't do book reviews very often, I was moved to explain at length just how stupid the book was, how valueless the characters, how insulting the supporting cast were to my experience of life, how shoddy the editing, and how I had to presume the author had had good connections that enabled her to get this piece of garbage into print publication.

Before hitting the "Publish Post" button, however, I decided to wait a day and re-read the post before making it public. I'm glad I did, and that review has been deleted.

There are TONS of really crappy books in print nowadays, just as there are TONS of really well-written stories that do not make it into print due to various reasons -- Barry Kirwan's story "Writerholics Anonymous" explains this perfectly, and with good humor.

My good humor had evaporated because I had spent too many hours reading what was billed as a "fun read" but what wasn't, not really. (I am truly trying not to go off on another rant here.) My time is limited; I read a lot of submissions for the Piker Press. Some are good, some are mediocre, some are god-awful, some are brilliant. That's my "job," to read them. And so reading something that was supposed to have been vetted and pronounced worthwhile -- and clearly wasn't -- aggravated me.

Eh. An acquaintance of mine has recently become very critical of people, and Bernie explained to me that the man simply was getting "Crotchety Old Man Syndrome."

As far as reading "popular" fiction goes, maybe "Crotchety Old Woman Syndrome" is catching up with me, too.

My mother used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

At least in this situation I'll follow her advice.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Humble Man

My husband is the greatest.

Not only has he endured long, long hours in every job he had since we were married in 1975, and uncomplainingly underwent major cancer treatment at the end of that same year, and has never been mean to anyone in all the years that I've known him, but in his retirement, he has turned his intellect into $$$ saved for us.

He fixed three windows that were falling apart. I was sure that we'd have to replace them, but he took out their guts, got new working parts for a few dollars, and put them back together again.

He put extra shelving in my linen cabinet, one in our bedroom, and six in Lillian's bedroom corners.

He repaired the ice-maker in the fridge, without spending a dollar. Had we called a service-man, it would easily have cost us over $200.

He built five beautiful redwood raised planters for our front yard, and a masonry one for the avocado tree.

He repaired and renovated our wrought iron patio gate to the pool area.

He refinished a living room end table, and a dresser in the bedroom.

His work is beautiful, from the cute little wooden feet he made for my footstool project, to the once-again functional sink in the under-construction kitchen.

Last, but certainly not least, he figured out that our old router and the automatically-connected server hated each other's guts when Google tested its IPV6 junk a couple weeks ago, leaving us unable to use any search engines, or blog, or comment on other people's blogs. And then, because he is so clever, he figured out a way to fix it.

Maybe he wasn't completely humble on that last fix ... when his solution worked, he did let out a roar of triumphant laughter that sounded much like what you might hear from a super-villain who has just figured out how to conquer the world.

Here's to Bernie, my hero. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Demolition and Reconstruction

 In an earlier post, I described how we took out the bar connected to our kitchen sink island. Demolition of that bar was easy, and gave us great hopes for the rest of the project.

Indeed, the next step -- one that the salesman at Lowes suggested, was to take out the edge pieces of the tile prior to the "formal" measurement by the counter top company. This was also amusingly easy.

But do you see what's under that tile? Concrete, reinforced with chicken wire.

 How does one remove it? One bashes with a hammer and wrecking bar. We had to do the sink island next, and this is what it looks like when "done."

Beneath that cement layer is raw plywood, which has been so dehydrated by its 18 years of neighborliness with the concrete that it sucks the moisture out of your hands when you touch it. As we say around this house, "DEES-gusting!!"

And then, if ripping out reinforced cement wasn't bad enough, (and it was) we embarked upon a day of frustration and aggravation. Papa Jim of the Haverim returned, and we exposed the plumbing, right down to the concrete slab, encountering shocking mistakes and sloppiness by the original installers. Jim and Bernie pounded down through the slab around the pipes and dug a small cavern, in which Jim cut and pieced a cracked pipe (what a wonderful revelation that our drain had been seeping into the ground underneath the house) and re-routed things for the new configuration of the island. (The poor sink was lying on the stones out by the back patio by this time.)

The long and sweaty, frustrating day was nearly at an end when we all figured out that our shut-off valve to the house is faulty, and that we had to turn off the water to the house at the city's street connection. Then the copper pipes' solders finally set. We sent Jim home.

As luck would have it, Monday, when we were to finish up the plumbing, Jim was sick as hell. We waited until later in the week, and then pitched into the construction on our own. We manfully ripped out the rest of the tiled counters (as the counter top people told me we'd have to do) and let me tell you that swinging a hammer all damn day is exhausting.

While Bernie worked on the lower copper lines and the box that holds the pipes, I was seized by loathing of the cement-dust flavored counters. I scrubbed them down, and when they were dry, I stained them with this cool wood stain  by Varathane, which comes in a tube and wipes on with a rag. The next day I put two coats of polyurethane finish on them.

I did the ABS (black drain pipes) and Bernie completed the copper water lines to the sink so that we could move the island cabinet back into place.  Again, it took all day both days, with solders that wouldn't stop leaking, wood that would not remain bolted into the concrete, and pieces missing necessary for the functioning of the sink.

 When Bernie at last could hook up the sink, all of us were so relieved that we couldn't wait one minute before washing the day's accumulated dishes, in a celebratory mood, all standing around admiring the running water, the scrubbing clean, the luxury of a kitchen with a semblance of order.

Here you can see my stained plywood countertops. Pitted though they may be, I can sanitize them with soap and water, which is important to me as it will be a good two weeks and more before the real deal is installed. I suppose I could have just polyurethaned over the  raw plywood, but this looks prettier, and for $7, I think it was worth it.

You can also see my long-unused wallboard repair skills where the backsplash used to be. When we ripped off the tiles back there, the wallboard came along with them!

Papa Jim was able to return to help us Monday, and hooked up the electric and made some adjustments to our work. You have no idea how big a difference moving that island out a foot made on our kitchen traffic. What was before a cramped area that allowed two people to work in it -- and only if they were on very warm and cuddly terms -- now accommodates us all so that we can work as a team, even if the dogs decide to wander through.

The refrigerator belongs in that nook at the far end, but we're not moving it back until the new counter is installed.

And oddly, we like the fridge where it sits right now. Maybe if we had known this ahead of time, we'd have taken out the window behind it, and just added more cabinet and countertop in the nook.

We're thrilled so far. 

And so, so happy to have a functional kitchen again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

57 Years

What did you do special for your birthday?

Why, I did something I've been wanting to do for years -- I took a masonry chisel and a hammer and took the first rows of tile off the island/sink in the kitchen. The activity was very satisfying, indeed.

The birthday was an incidental kind of experience; maybe I used the birthday idea to allow myself the gratification of taking more tiles off the kitchen countertops, though certainly I enjoyed the nice wishes so many people sent me.

June 8 fell in a hugely busy time in my mother's household back when I was a kid. Her greenhouse and nursery were burgeoning from mid-May until July with sales, and frankly, from mid-March with necessary duties, as she started a lot of her own plants from seed.

Dad's birthday was May 25, just two weeks before mine, so we tended to defer all birthdays until July, and just have a celebration day when we might have cake (banana cake, always the favorite) or a barbecue, or just a favorite meal. (Sauerkraut and dumplings, pot pie, a turkey with stuffing). So celebrating a birthday on a particular day still seems a bit odd to me.

When I woke up this morning, I was glad to see sun; I remembered that it was my birthday but had to pause to do the math to remember just how old I was. Do I feel 57?

How would I know, I've never been 57 before. Ask me in six months, then I might have some idea.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


This morning my cell phone rang.

I answered it, and subsequently had a long, enjoyable conversation with my sister-in-law, the first since last summer.

This afternoon, I was the contact for the dude who showed up to give us the estimate for the countertops from Lowes. I talked to him and told him what we wanted for countertops (scrumptious granite, have I mentioned that before?) while Howie woofed and Sebastian panted, showing many teeth from outside the patio door.

Later, early in the evening, I called the good friend who had cared for my mother until she needed more intimate care. From the time my dad died, Lonz helped my mom manage her property, visited her, helped her -- she loved him as though he was her son, and the amazing thing to me was that she LET him help her, which she would never let me --or anyone else -- do. I called him because his mother died yesterday, and I wanted to let him know that he was still important to me, that I felt his loss as he had felt mine.

Then he handed the phone off to his wife, with whom I've been friends since seventh grade. Deb and I yakked for a long time, about chickens, gardens, family -- punctuated by laughter, Deb's trademark.

It was odd, being so vocally in touch with the world.

I'm exhausted.

Happy and pleased, but exhausted.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wrecking the Kitchen

When we got up this morning, that space was filled with a white ceramic tile-topped bar.

The bar-island dominated the kitchen, blocking the view of the back door to the patio, collecting sunglasses, cookbooks, spare change, vegetables, mail, dirty dishes, grade school homework, stuff that was supposed to be taken to the garage, wallets ... yeah, it was a bar junk yard that once a quarter or so was cleared to put noshes on when the Haverim came over for pot luck.

'Tis gone now. Jim of the Haverim stopped by this morning to consult with us how to change the face and utility of the kitchen. After Bernie made him Grandma May's biscuits and gravy, Jim and I thought that starting the procedure NOW was a good idea. (Too early in the day for wine -- don't blame it on that!)

Bernie started chipping tiles carefully ... and that was too much for Jim. He took a hammer and a pry bar and showed us how to get work done QUICKLY.  Dang, that man can deconstruct!

This afternoon, Bernie and I went to Lowe's and bought my new sink and picked out counter material. Tomorrow we have an initial measurement being taken for an estimate. After that, it is up to Bernie and me to take out all the rest of the tile in the kitchen, down to the cabinets.

Man, I hope this turns out okay. For the first time in my life, I'm going to have a kitchen that has not only a great sink, but also the counter top material of my dreams -- rich, gleaming granite.

More on this as wrecking continues.