Thursday, February 25, 2010

Contractor Reviews & Thoughts

I forced myself to "stick to the plan" and contact more than one contractor for this potential remodeling in the kitchen. This was quite hard for me to do, but I did it. Here are my thoughts on them so far.

Contractor #1: David Harmon - Harmon Remodeling - (540) 389-3988

This is the first guy I called. A real estate agent friend called me & recommended him. While she hadn't worked with him personally she assured me that he comes highly recommended. ~ Recommendations are key for me! ~
I already told you about my first meeting with him, but I'll give a quick recap as I don't expect anyone remembers anything I've written before.
When I called him he actually told me that he was expecting my call. *Point Awarded* He told me he wasn't sure he could make it out that day, but would be able to by the end of the week. He said he would see how the day went (he wasn't feeling too good) and would let me know. He ended up calling me back and coming out THAT day & staying for 2 hours! *Another Point Awarded*
He threw out LOTS of ideas. Ideas I hadn't thought of. Ideas that got me super-excited about all the possibilities. He liked looking at my library books of ideas with me. Very cool. AND, he kept reiterating about helping people keep within tight budgets. *Mega Points Awarded!*
We left that meeting with him telling me to talk everything over with Justin and he'd be back on Sunday. He also advised that we should go out and look at stuff that we liked on Saturday. Groovus. (Sorry - I'm a Mel Brooks fan & recently re-watched 'History of the World Part 1' - watch the Roman scene & you'll figure out the 'groovus' reference)

Sunday comes around and he arrives perfectly on time. Justin and I have spent the week (much to Justin's dismay probably) talking over and over about what to do or not do, what we like and what we didn't care for as much. We went over these things with him. He was really flexible about everything, it was good.
This time we took him down in the basement to get a look at things (the leaky chimney goes from the roof to the basement), he went up in the attic with Justin, and we brought the ladder outside so he could check out the roof.
We did go out on Saturday like he recommended. We checked out Home Depot, Lowes, and Habitat's Re-Store in downtown. We decided we would rather go with tile over bamboo simply because of cost. The tile is just a lot cheaper, and cost is a very big issue. (Elena ~ Your words have not been forgotten about getting a case of the "dropsies"!)
I mentioned to him that we'd like to try and find materials from Habitat's Re-Store and he was all for that. He said he liked going there and getting stuff, as well as donating stuff there! *More Points for David!*

This time he was here a little over an hour. When he left he said to give him a couple days and he'd get back with us for an estimate.
OK. It is now Thursday and he came out on Sunday. I am a big stickler on promptness. He did mention to us something (family related) that could understandably be delaying his getting back to us. So, I won't deduct points yet, but if I end up having to call him then that will be a point deduction in my book.

Contractor #2: Structures -

The second guy I called. Again, I mentioned this in the last blog, but I'll go over it again quickly.
I called for Adam Cohen, who is known for his green design and work. I got transferred to his voice mail, he called me back. I told him what was going on and what we kinda were looking for. He told me that first I needed the "number guy" to come out. OK. The "numbers guy," aka Rob Leonard, wasn't in but he'd have him call me. He did end up calling me the next day (when I blogged he hadn't yet), which was good. However, I was left feeling like I was dealing with a Big Company, something I didn't like too much. *Points Deducted*
Rob Leonard came out this past Tuesday. I'll admit, Monday I was sick in bed all day so I wasn't really looking forward to having anyone over on Tuesday but since I'd promised to get more than one quote I didn't cancel the appointment. He called to say he was running a little late, which ended up working out better for me as my step-father was picking up the boys after naps. No points deducted for running late since he called first and arrived when he said he would. He was also very apologetic. All good in my book.

Justin and I agreed to start off on a blank slate of sorts with Structures. Not to give them the ideas we liked from David Harmon, but rather to see what ideas they would come up with and suggest on their own. After all, that is one of the points of getting more than one estimate, right?

Mr. Leonard's card says that he is the 'Project Manager' which I suppose looks, sounds, and is a lot better than it saying 'Numbers Guy.'
We talked about the kitchen first. What the issues were. Then we talked about the back hallway and bathroom/pantry. Next we went down to the basement. Finally he came back up, took measurements and drawing a basic outline of the kitchen.

He did propose some ideas, but not nearly as many as Mr. Harmon. Nor was there the excitement and general rush of possibilities there.
He told me that he would take all this back to Mr. Cohen, who is the designer, and that Mr. Cohen would draw up stuff. I was left wondering if I was going to be billed for Mr. Cohen's work. --- OK, I know I won't be billed. I didn't sign anything and there wasn't a mention of any charge, I'm just saying that is the feeling I got. *Points Deducted - I didn't like that feeling*

Mr. Leonard was really nice though. We talked about being green and doing various things around the house, in general, to work towards that goal. *Points Awarded - he was a nice guy*
He left saying he would get back to Mr. Cohen with everything and they would get back to me. He apologized for taking up so much of my time, though I think he was only here for an hour or so and there was certainly no need to apologize. Hence, the points awarded above.

In General

You can obviously see who I am leaning towards so far. In general, I always prefer to go with smaller companies, family based businesses, and individuals rather than the 'Big Guys.' It's just how I am.
However, I still am going to wait and see what they both come back with, and how long it takes them to get back with me!

And yes, I know expecting a contractor to actually stay on a set schedule is a silly pipe dream. What can I say, I'm a silly chick.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things Said This Morning

A very quick little blog here. Sometimes your kids just throw several good ones at you as soon as the day starts. Like when your three year old, sitting on top of your legs while watching some morning cartoons in your bed, tells you "Mommy, I have a web in my nose!" ~ Translation: his nose is still stopped up and full of boogers & snot from his cold.

This morning we were getting ready to go get the boys' hair cut. Temperatures were in the low 60's two days ago (last week the ground was covered in several inches of snow) but today it is only supposed to be 39 and their is a light wintry mix coming down. Go figure.
Shannon wanted to wear his yellow jacket, which is nice and warm, just not a snow jacket. No problem. ~ Quick side note - bright yellow jackets ROCK! They make your kids so easy to spot when out and about. It is now my goal to always try and find yellow jackets. ~
We have an antique wardrobe in the front room which we use as a closet for jackets, storing gloves & hats on a shelf on the bottom, as well as snow-bibs and etc. Shannon's yellow jacket was in there. I got it down, he put it on and announced "We got my yellow jacket out of the litter closet!" I'm guessing he maybe meant 'linen' closet but he said 'litter' ... and I wondered how much of a difference there really was in this case.
He zipped up his jacket and then snapped all the buttons. As we were walking out the door he informed me "I'm as warm as a bud!" He then walked all the way to the car telling Tristan how he was as warm as a bud, with Tristan repeating it back to him. Here I'm guessing this is a variation of 'snug as a bug' but, really, that is just my guess. Are buds warm?

We managed to survive haircuts very well. The boys did good, so I was proud. Tristan still has his long hair, but it has some layers in there now which I hope will help his hair thicken up. Shannon's mop is another story. In the summer, when the air is humid, his hair curls into ringlets. No joke, it's friggin' adorable. In the winter, when the air is dry, his hair transforms into this wild mop of a head. Untameable beast of red pseudo curls that is now 1/2 straight.
I made the mistake of letting Tristan go first this morning. This is only a mistake because I then told her to basically cut Shannon's hair like Tristans: trim it up some, leave the overall length, add layers. Shannon's hair does not do well with short layers up top. *REPEAT TO SELF - Shannon's hair does not do well nor look good with short layers up top!!!*
Right now he looks like a cross between Lyle Lovett and a weird mullet. I seem to remember having a similar problem last winter. Sorry kiddo. But fear not, Mama made sure to right it down on the stylist's card this time!

Now we're home and things are back to normal, despite having a miniature Lyle Lovett in the sunroom playing.
Tristan comes running into the kitchen to tell me he has to go poop. Apparently I HAVE to be there for this. I've learned not to dilly-dally when he gets like this. We go proceed to the bathroom.
He gets up there, he poops. No big deal. He then looks up at me and says "Mommy, my penis is ALL OUT of pee."
Guess he was trying to pee too and didn't actually need to since he had gone while we were at the hair stylists.

I need to end this now. Lyle Lovett has transformed into a King Kong sort of beast, roaring at Tristan, and then going into very dramatic sobs. Tristan has transformed into a very cute but none-the-less irritating Godzilla, stomping around on Shannon's (I mean Lyle's) train tracks.
And life at the circus continues on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scary Moments & Thanks for Sharing

~Here are my boys: Tristan (3 1/2) and Shannon (6). They're licking the remaining batter for Shannon's Chocolate Zucchini cake out of the bowl, before Shannon's birthday party in January~

Kids aren't always known for their willingness to share, especially little ones who are still kinda in the toddler mode of "everything is MINE!" Hence the photo above, a captured moment of happiness, sharing, chocolate, and cake batter. Life is good.
However, kids ARE known for sharing something quite well: colds, the flu, and any sort of bug going around at the moment. This "Thank You" goes out to Tristan, who so kindly shared his nasty little cold with me. I am up and about today but still manage to feel like I've been hit by a bus? By the way, since when is "feeling like I've been hit by a bus" the definition of feeling better??

We had a feeling Tristan had caught a little bit of a cold after his playing outside weekend before last without any gloves on. He had the sniffles all week, so I tried to make sure to feed us lots of healing foods. By Friday though, I knew it was a cold. Lots of warm tea from Traditional Medicine's 'Just For Kids' teas (they'll drink the adults' version too). By bed time all the symptoms were in full-swing, so Justin gave him some night-time kid's cold medicine.
About 9:30 or so, while Justin and I were watching a movie, we heard him crying. It was the "I'm sick" cry. If you're a parent, you know the one I'm talking about. I was worried he may have thrown up in bed, but luckily he didn't. We got him up and took him into the bathroom to see what was wrong. He cried, but wouldn't tell us. He was really gassy. And it didn't make him giggle - a true sign that he's not feeling good.
His nose was stopped up but we couldn't get him to blow it. Although we thought he knew how to blow his nose, he seems to have forgotten that, or at least he had at that moment. I got some Eucalyptus essential oil, put it on a cloth tissue, and we held it under his nose to try and help open him up some. Finally, we took him out into the living room, on the couch with us.

Again, any of you with kids know this scene is nothing new. It's a heart-wrenching scene because you hate for your kids to feel so miserable and there isn't really too much you can do about it except be there for them. But still, it is not an uncommon scene.
Where is began to freak us out a little was how he would calm down some, letting me gently rock him, and begin to fall back asleep. Suddenly his eyes would fly open in a look of terror and he would jerk and kind of spasm about, for lack of a better word. It was like he was going into convulsions, which is REALLY scary! Then he would close his eyes again and rest, snuggling into me and the cool washcloth I was holding against his head. This repeated a couple times.
It repeated enough that both Justin & I were getting scared and were about ready to head to the ER with him.
At one point he said he wanted to go back to his bed, so we let him. Justin had put a bowl of water, with Eucalyptus oil in it, on top of the radiator to help add some moisture to the air of their room. I ended up on the phone with my mother, sharing my fears with her. ~She is also the person who watches the kids during ER visits, so I wanted to give her a heads up~

One of the things that had us worried was that Tristan has a neat little "trick." You know how kids say that they'll hold their breath till they get whatever they want?? Well, when Tristan gets upset enough, and so far this has only happened twice, he'll hold his breath/stop breathing until he passes out. Not fun. He's ok, and always comes to quickly, but still, not fun.
When we had gotten him up the first time he was making those quick & sudden gasps for air. Like when you've been sobbing for a really long time and then try to talk. We were both worried about his nose being blocked up, about him not being able to blow it, and how he seemed VERY terrified when he had woken up. But we were really, really worried about his breathing .. or the ability to quit if he's too upset.

He ended up waking back up again, maybe within a half an hour of having gone back to bed. We asked him if he would like to sleep with us that night, he said yes. Justin went and got his bears and blankets (all the must-haves for sleeping) and set them between our pillows on the bed.
He was pretty happy about getting to sleep with us. We were happy knowing we could keep an eye on him, he wouldn't wake Shannon up, and that he was more comforted by being with us.
The comfort of being snugly tucked between Mommy & Daddy seemed to do the trick, and he went soundly asleep.
Note, I say that he slept soundly. Not quietly. And not that we slept.
He snored. He managed to snore in through his nose AND out through his mouth - at the same time!!! It was a one-person snoring symphony!

The next day Justin and I took turns "arguing" over who had gotten the most sleep. We each accused the other of snoring just as loudly alongside Tristan, though I have a sneaking suspicion Tristan was able to "throw" the sound of his snoring symphony and make it sound like other people were snoring as well.
By Sunday I knew I was getting Tristan's cold. I had known I would get it Friday night when I looked him in the eyes, my face in front of his, trying to decipher what was wrong & he breathed that heavy, familiar, "I have a cold & I am sick" breathe on me.
Still, as miserable as this damn cold is, I'd gladly be the one with it and spare my kids the misery any day of the week.

Now where are my cloth tissues?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Goals ~ Do Girl Scout Cookies Count?

I blogged the other day about some goals - wanting to shed some weight, be healthy, you know, THOSE goals. So, how am I doing??

First, I've met the walking goals pretty nicely. This week I've not only started my wonderful cycle, but I got sidelined by a nasty migraine. I made an appointment at Dancing Crane Center of Chinese Medicine for some acupuncture (they have a clinic now - very cool!) and gave myself enough time to walk down there. --- Lesson Learned: If you're going to walk, wear shoes that are good for walking. Not the shoes you've been wearing every winter for the past 6 years that are comfy as all get out, but apparently not good for strolls around town. Thankfully Stephanie was tres cool & acupunctured me right on back to not-crippled shins. Migraine is slowly subsiding too!
We also took another walk down to the library today. With both kids. And both dogs. That doesn't sound like that much of a task, but Jomo doesn't really know how to walk on a leash, is scared of EVERYTHING, looks mean but is really a chicken-shit, and weighs a very muscular 80 pounds or so. My hands feel raw from trying to hold the leash. And hold Tristan's hand. And not fall. Justin remarked that we should've given Jomo a Valium before leaving and I think he was right. When I got home I thought I was going to throw up (no joke). --- Lesson Learned: Wanna intensify you're walk? Walk Jomo!

Now, I know you're wondering about the Girl Scout Cookies. It is a cold, hard fact that the genius who came up with the concept of adorable little girls selling boxes of delicious cookies once a year should be shot. Really.
Thursday, like I said, I was down with the migraine. And I was crampy. My step-dad (thanks Barry!) picked up the kids after their naps, taking them for the afternoon, allowing me to rest. Ah .. quiet.
I have been good about eating breakfast. I even ate a nice little lunch. You know the rule: Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, approx. every three hours.
So .... does a box of Girl Scout Cookies count as a meal?? That was what I noshed on as I laid in bed, with PMS cravings and a throbbing head. I needed cookies. I HAD to have them. Justin had hidden them, per my request, but *TA DA* I found them!!
I mean, c'mon, 15 cookies should NOT count as a box!! Not 15 6" diameter cookies. No, 15 little tiny, two maybe three bite cookies. Not good, I know. But really, I don't regret it.

If I ever find the person who thought up Girl Scout Cookies I'm gonna give them a good beat-down. Unless, of course, they agree to start calling 'Caramel delites' & 'Peanut Butter Patties' their proper damn names, 'Samoas' & 'Tagalongs'!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Home Remodeling: Contractors & Choices

No photo today, just some reviews and thoughts.

First Up: Contractors

I'll be the first to admit that I am REALLY awful about looking around and getting second opinions. I tend to seek out referrals from people I know. If I like the first person I meet, they seem honest, and the price ain't bad, then I just tend to go with them. But, since this is a big project, at least to us anyway, we've agreed that looking around and getting estimateS would be wise.

The first guy I've met with is David Harmon. He came highly recommended from a real estate agent friend. While she hadn't personally used him, the word was good. I called him, he answered the phone & told me he had been expecting my call. Quite a nice surprise! He said he wasn't feeling too good that day, so it may be the end of the week before he could get out to see me, which was fine. Then he said to give him a couple hours to see how he felt. Much to my shock, he called back and wanted to be here at 3.
He arrived on time, brought a camera with him along with his other stuff and we went to the kitchen. I showed him the problems and he presented me with ideas. LOTS of ideas. Lots of DIFFERENT ideas. Like "have you thought about moving the fridge over here??" kind of ideas. And "since you need a pantry, what about doing this .." ideas.
Some of his ideas I had a knee-jerk "no" reaction to only because things have been the way they are for so long that this is just how they are. But I didn't tell him that, I tried to keep it to myself.
He ended up spending two hours here, mainly just talking over possible ideas, and taking photos. He told me to talk things over with Justin, to go out this weekend and look around at things (tile we might want for example) and he'd see us again on Sunday so that he can get a BETTER look at everything! He also plans on bringing samples with him.
~Ok Carrie, calm down, don't get giddy. Remember, you promised you'd get more than one estimate!!~

I also contacted Adam Cohen from Structures. We'd like to make this renovation as green as possible (David Harmon does a lot of green work too) and Adam is really known for that in the Valley. I called in the morning and left him a message. He called me back yesterday afternoon.
We talked a bit on the phone. Really, I need to learn to not answer the phone when I've been napping as I tend to feel like an idiot after the conversation is done.
He talked about what could be causing the possible leaks. I told him some of the other things we were looking at having done and our interest in being as green as possible. I don't think I interested him.
He told me that first I needed to have another guy, Rob Leonard (I think, stupid sleepy brain), who worked in their firm come out and look at things and do the numbers. Adam is apparently the designer. First you get the numbers guy, then you get the designer. Rob wasn't in though and Adam told me that he would tell him to call. Almost 24 hours later, still waiting. We'll see how long this takes.

So Far - Over-all feelings about possible contractors are that I liked "the little guy" much, much more. When talking with Adam I felt like I was dealing with a "big business." Structures IS a big business, but it was the feeling of dealing with a big business. I'm still going to give them a chance, but so far, they're not in the lead.

Choices, Choices -What to get, where to get it!

What exactly do we need?? Ok, well, we need a new stove/range. We need a new fridge. Then there is the countertops that we're looking at having changed from laminate to tile, and the flooring which we'll have changed from laminate "faux" tiles to either bamboo (one of David Harmon's ideas) or maybe tile.
David recommended that we go out and look at some things we may want on Saturday, so we can better get an idea of things. He recommended we check out Home Depot (apparently he can get a better deal there), but didn't put down Lowe's.
A friend commented on my "Ideas" post and mentioned the Habitat store downtown as a good source for supplies. Carole, I'm taking your advice!!! :)
On Saturday we'll head down to the Habitat store to see what we can find. We can't purchase anything now, which is likely to be hard, but I do plan on taking my camera. It never hurts to look, right? From there we'll head out to Lowe's and Home Depot to get ideas on materials - mainly tile. The idea is that the Habitat store will be our "Plan A" when it comes time to actually buy stuff and that the box stores will be "Plan B" in case we can't find what we want at Habitat. By the way, in case you don't know what I am talking about when I say Habitat store, or why it is good to check there first, follow this link -

As for the fridge and stove. We've been comparing selections and prices between the big box stores. Online shopping is just really cool and makes this part nice and easy. So far, Lowe's wins hands down for ease-of-use with their website and selection.
We've found a fridge that seems to be perfect, and is $500 cheaper than a comparable model from a different company. Not too bad. Good reviews too! Huzzah!
As for stoves. It is weird to me that a stove will cost me more than a fridge, but with as much as I put stoves and ranges through, I have criteria that need to be met. Lowe's and Home Depot have the same exact one I'm looking at, though it is currently on sale at Home Depot, making it $500 cheaper than the exact same model at Lowe's. Even if it weren't on sale it would be $400 cheaper. Wow, don't these guys try and watch the competitor's prices??

That basically sums up the first round of this new adventure. I will definitely keep you posted on how things go though.
Your thoughts and opinions are DEFINITELY recommended and appreciated!! Carole, if you hadn't mentioned the Habitat store it likely would've slipped my mind. If we end up shopping there, I'll be singing your praises for a while!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


There are some subjects bloggers don't talk about. Well, people don't talk about. Every person has their own personal subjects. Some we'll talk about with certain people, but not with everyone. Some we'll kinda talk about with everyone, but we'll keep most of it to ourselves for whatever reasons .. usually there are a myriad of them. Here is one of mine.

Here is one of the most recent photos of me. The most recent on I have uploaded at least. Not too bad but, like all people (especially women!), I wish it was better.

I've been talking with friends recently about something I read where the role of mother isn't appreciated and respected like it ought to be. Oh sure, we like to think it is but let's face it, if it really was then all those celebrity moms would look like they've given birth. They wouldn't look like they were still 19 when their new baby was only a week old!
I'm not 19, and I am a mother. I have 2 wonderful boys who I stay home with. This I am ok with. I am even ok with, to some extent, the fact that while the left side of my waist has returned to an hourglass shape the right now pooches out. It reminds me of when Shannon was still inside me, sitting at an angle, his butt pushing the right side of my waist out. It's sweet, I can feel that spot and remember him being there.

However, I am not ok with the overall weight gain. The failure to lose the "baby weight." When I was younger I used to waitress. I would walk to work (I lived a block away), be on my feet all day, and then walk home. When I got my first "real" job at an insurance agency I quickly found that sitting on my rump all day not only caused me to gain weight but, to my utter surprise, I was EXHAUSTED!! My energy level just completely dropped!! I've begun to notice something similar. Like many people, I'm spending too much damn time on the computer. I have it set up where it is on all the time, easily accessible at all times. I can check on the kids as needed, do the things that are needed, and still be back online within minutes. I hate to admit the "butt-groove" in the chair is from me. Literally, I need to get off my ass.

We used to belong to the local YMCA but had to drop the membership. 1) They kept raising the costs of membership & we simply couldn't afford it. 2) And the MAIN reason, while they offered day care, the kids kept getting sick. I would go to the Y & take them. I would get to go a couple of times and sure enough, they would catch something. We would wait a week till wellness returned, go again, and watch the cycle repeat. We aren't the only ones who've noticed this, many friends have had the same issues.
So, what to do?? Can't afford the gym membership. Kids are with me all day. There is always something that needs to be done around here. I don't want to get up any earlier than I have to, and though the notion sometimes tempts me, I haven't managed to decide to take away from "down-time" in the evening with Justin to go on walks in the dark.

Here's the goal folks, I'm going to be brave enough to put it out there:

1) Eat More - Eat several smaller meals throughout the day, starting with a proper breakfast. ~ I don't eat enough. I am terrified of eating in front of people because I have always been an Amazon of a chick. Now with the extra weight I know the looks from people when they see me eat - as if I sit around gorging myself all day long.

2) Get Out! - My kids need to be outside, and so do I. This is the REALLY big goal y'all. Get out there and get moving. There are plenty of places to be walked to around here. There is a beloved Duck Pond. There is a river, and to get to that we have to cross railroad tracks .. a very big plus with little boys! There are playgrounds and parks.
How often do I need to get out?? I'd like to say that every single day I'm going to get out for at least some form of a walk with the boys. I'd LOVE to say that, but I'm not going to set a goal that I know I won't reach. So, let's be more realistic shall we???? How about 3 times a week to start with? That sounds reasonable enough.

Like I said, I don't want to look 19 again. Ok, I do - I'd be lying if I said that I really didn't. Part of me REALLY wants that. But, I AM happy with my life now. I am a mother and that is worthy of being respected and admired. My body has born two children, I want to honor that. But I want to be healthy and slim my figure down some.

So here I go, about to hit 'PUBLISH POST' and send this post out there to you all. I am terrified. This is one of those subjects I only talk about with a few people and even then only tell some things to some people. Now I'm going to send it out to everyone. Here we go ...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Remodeling - the idea

There is a chimney that runs up through our kitchen and on out the roof, as most chimneys do I presume. It's base is in the basement, and there is a flue in it that vents out .. well, whatever gets vented out from the boiler heater.
It is a brick chimney, but the brick is very old and crumbling. I haven't actually seen that because the part in the kitchen is encased in drywall. But I am lucky, and Mom lived here before me, so I'll take her word on the matter.
This ole chimney though, or somewhere around it on the roof, is leaking. Paint is bubbling, water runs out when I pop the bubbles, there are new cracks, and I can feel the texture of the wall being different. We had a GREAT guy come out and try and fix our woes after the last snowfall, but they're back again. There is talk of possible hidden gutters and who knows what else.

The thing is, this isn't JUST an issue of the leaking roof/chimney. It is an issue of: we need a new stove, we need a new fridge, the kitchen doesn't have adequate lighting for us, and we need it to really suit us. If you open up one issue, you open up the entire can.
We're now contemplating a remodeling of the kitchen, which sent me to the library looking for books and ideas.

This picture kills me. Really it does. I LOVE that kitchen! So, what's the problem here, huh? The problem is that all the books and websites that you go to looking for kitchen remodeling ideas tend to show kitchens of this size. We have a pretty big kitchen, but still our kitchen isn't near 1/2 that size! And, I'm willing to bet, that most kitchens aren't either!

Does Size Matter?

Unless you live under a rock you can't have missed the recent talk and interest in small houses. Tiny living. I like that. Now, that doesn't mean I suddenly want to move our family of four (+ pets) into a 300 square foot house, but it is safe to say that I think we've got plenty of room right here, even if it doesn't always feel like it.
Pictures like the one above really depress me. As I poured through the books last night I saw one picture after another like that one. Then all the ones with the snazzy shelving. What I got, instead of ideas, was a checklist of things my kitchen didn't have, didn't have room for, or what just wouldn't work. Blech. No fun.
I even checked out a book on "Green Kitchens" which used the ridiculous term "daylighting." They used it as a noun and as a verb. I've been known to make up a word to suit the situation .. but really?? Anyway, even this book had those huge kitchens!

Reality Please?

Another thing that caught me was the ideas for use of space. In these beautiful and ample photos they suggested that you make the most out of space you might not be noticing. Ok, that is an idea that I can get down with!!
"Think Vertical" ~ Most of our ceilings are 10' tall, thinking vertical works for me! Give me those ideas!!! Wanna know what they're ideas were??

Look above the stove there?? Tell me - does that look practical or just pretty to you??? Don't know about you, but to me it just says "pretty and useless". Other photos hung large baskets high up. Beautiful woven baskets. I might use them, but when they're hung that high ... well, gonna still have to go with decoration. Climbing up to take them down to fill them or empty them or retrieve something, then climbing back up to hang them back up ... not to workable in an already busy kitchen.

Maybe reality doesn't make for pretty photos? Personally, I would disagree with that, but I know professionally, it may be so. That's damn sad.
When did my kitchen have to become an art gallery masquerading as a kitchen? On one hand, there is nothing wrong with that, but I don't think it should be the norm. The majority of our time is spent in the kitchen. Something is ALWAYS going on in there.

Is this a side effect of throw-away living and processed foods? Kitchens don't have to really be for working anymore? Does a designer lose designer street cred. if they design kitchens that are truly meant to be cooked in, lived in, messed up, and so on??

The search is on folks. I will not give up. A quest lies before me, a challenge to be met, and I will take photos so that we can remember what REAL kitchens look like!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Boys ..

The weather warmed up enough today to let us brew. Yes, I allow (and encourage!) brewing on Valentine's Day, I'm not your typical wife. ;)
The boys got bundled up and headed out with Daddy like they always do on Brew Days. Today they had fun playing in the snow. It had been packed down pretty solidly, but the temperature at least seemed to warm up today, the sun was out, and so they had fun.

Lesson 1: Playing in the snow with your bare hands makes your hands get cold and hurt. ~ This was learned by Tristan (age 3 1/2). Gloves help.

Lesson 2: Cold & wet fingers can stick to cold metal Hot Wheels.
Lesson 2 1/2: If you scream bloody-murder over every little thing anyway, Mommy is busy trying to make you lunch, Daddy is busy trying to brew beer, and you are too busy screaming & crying to let people know what is wrong ... well, they might not notice what is wrong.
~ Again, Tristan. We thought he was crying because he was inside and Shannon was still out. Turns out his finger was stuck to the Hot Wheels van. *I'd like to thank the Academy for this 'Worst Mother Ever' award* Luckily, his finger came off without tearing or bleeding. Just lessons learned .. hopefully.

We managed to survive through lunch with hot cocoa, topped with lots of "smarsh-smallows", and mega-cheesy, bologna scrambled eggs. Nap time arrived much to adult delight.
Tristan still takes long naps, but Shannon (age 6) merely has 'quiet time' that lasts however long I need it to. When he got up it was back outside to add hops to the beer and play a bit before a fun diversion occurred. A walk to the library.

Ok, so the walk to the library isn't anything terribly special. It was a nice walk, and we got to check out new books. It was the walk home where the "boys" title comes into play.

We're walking home, and cross a bridge that spans a small creek. Sometimes it is dry, but it can get to be raging at other times. It is always interesting to see what level it's current state is. Today, it was running beautifully.
We stood there, Shannon & I, gazing down when I promptly said "watch this" and kicked snow into the water below. An outburst of laughter ensued from Shannon and we both began kicking as much snow as we could into the creek a good 8' below us.
I peered over the edge of the railing and noticed the bigger chunks were floating. AHA!! Teaching moment. I told Shannon that we had created icebergs. That icebergs were chunks of ice that floated on water.
We walked home, noticing signs of Spring beginning to peek through the snow and ice, and giggling about the icebergs.

We get home and, of course, I have to tell Justin about our fun. I asked Shannon what did we see on our way home?? His response .. "River Virgins."
LOTS of stifled laughter from Justin and me, along with exchanged glances of "wtf??" and we began again.

Me: Shannon, what did we see & make today?? You know .. with ice ....
Shannon: Ice Virgins!

More stifled laughter. Bergs, Shannon, iceBERGS!!
Side note - when we attempted this again for the in-laws who stopped by a little bit later in the afternoon, his answer was "Snow Virgins"

..... boys ...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Ramblings

As usual, I've let too much time lapse between blogs. It isn't that I haven't wanted to write, quite the contrary. It is more that the muse strikes me at times when, well, blogging away on the computer simply isn't possible. Times when I couldn't even write it down on paper first, even if I wanted, which I don't as I was never a fan of rough drafts.
But, right now, the house is fairly calm. My music is on, I'm in between cooking stuff for Super Bowl, the boys are napping, the dogs are almost behaving, and Justin is .. well, I don't know what he's doing and I find in those times that it is best to not ask. Just go with it. So let's ramble about a little, shall we?

January 13th was Shannon's 6th birthday. Justin took 1/2 a day off and we picked him up from work and headed up to Mill Mountain Zoo. We try to do trips instead of gifts for birthday presents. Create an experience and memory rather than junk. We did, however, give him on little but very special gift for his birthday: his first camera. He loves taking photos and this was a perfect time.
The cake above is a completely from scratch, organic as can be, Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Insanely delicious. I have to admit that when I first heard of using zucchinis in cake years ago that my first thought was "yuck!" but no no no .. this is some good stuff. This is the cake Shannon gets every year for his birthday. He just asks for a "Zucchini Cake" now. Both boys got to help make this one.
As part of our homeschooling journey, Shannon has been slowly learning Russian. In honor of that, the front of the cake says "Happy Birthday" in Russian. On the back (you can't see it here) it says "Many Years" in Ukrainian. Similar languages, subtle differences. Alla, my stepmother, is from the Ukraine though, so hence the use of both.

Also new, the Blue Nymph just got a little blue-er. For Christmas my brother gave us a gift card to Lowe's, so we put it to good use and painted the living room. Finally. This makes our 5th room that we've painted some shade of blue in the house, and of course the outside of the house is blue. Well, maybe 4 1/2 - one of those rooms was a 1/2 bath and I used the same paint from another blue room. So, between 4 & 5.
The reasons for the two photos above is to show how much the color of the room changes depending on the light. Seriously, I've never seen a paint color like this, it is bizarre. Which makes it a natural fit around here!! hahaha. It goes from a beachy shade of blue, to a very greenish blue, to a gray-blue that is like the ocean. Wonderful and strange all at the same time.
We're trying to work on the front room and hallway as well, but still have to get the right shade of paint for that. Sometimes colors don't work out like you'd expect. Not bad, just not right either. Until we get the paint though there is plenty of paint scraping that needs to be done. Always fun.

Moving on.
If you live around here you're VERY well aware of the snow we've gotten this year. It started mid-December and just as the last of that snow melted we got hit with a couple more storms. FINALLY!! I LOVE the snow!! LOVE IT!! So, I've been very, very happy about all the storms. The only part I'll admit to not liking is when the snow shines bright on the snow and bounces back in all my windows. For someone who has migraines that are triggered by bright lights this makes me feel like a vampire running for cover of darkness.
We've been sledding up at the local golf course, Salem Municipal Golf Course, which is within walking distance up the hill from the house. For the first time since I've known him, Justin and I actually went sledding together. We kept getting turned around and going backwards down the hill, tumbling over and out, laughing all the way. Shannon would come to our "rescue," trying to push us further down the hill, while Tristan sat up at the top of the hill, content to eat snow. At least he was eating the fresh, white snow. That has been a fun lesson to try and teach him this winter. We don't eat snow from the bottom of our boots. We don't eat snow that has been plowed. And, though he didn't try this one (he did do the other ones), we don't eat the yellow snow!
Days of sledding followed by mugs of hot cocoa. Making more hot cocoa mix. Making hot cocoa using Cacao bars and warmed milk & sugar. Comforting, warm foods. All the things that make Winter so truly wonderful.

And, while I think I talked about this last year, it is worth noting again. Life is a little different when you have an urban homestead. It's gonna dump snow?? Well, better get out there and cover the chickens' tractor so that their winter run area stays dry. Once the snow stops, gotta get out there and uncover them, even if that the cover has more than a foot of snow on it.
Mornings find me out there, in flannel pj bottoms, an old sweatshirt, and worn-out faux ($15) ugg boots, checking on the chickens. Navigating not-cleared off steps down the deck with fresh water in one hand, feed in the other. Scraping snow off the top of the hay bin to make sure they have fresh hay. This morning Justin was out there with me: scooping the spent hay out of the nest boxes and walking it across the yard to the snow-covered garden.
The biddies aren't liking this weather. The last egg we got was on February 1st, and even then we only got one egg. I've tried enticing them with treats and even a plastic Easter Egg in the nest box. The plastic egg only seemed to annoy them. The treats were gobbled up, but we haven't yet gotten any more eggs, and so yesterday I resigned myself to buying a dozen from the store. Such is life.

A Little More Rambling.
Our next door neighbors have a huge Holly tree. It is taller than their two-story house, just the biggest Holly tree I've ever seen. It makes me think of my great-grandmother. She loved Hollies and planted several (all of which are now gone) here when she lived here. Their tree is gorgeous. I can see it from our bathroom window quite well, where it seems framed perfectly with bright blue sky behind it.
The past couple of mornings when I went out I noticed that the tree was swarming with life. Hundreds of robins were in it. If you made a loud noise they'd quickly fly out and into nearby trees. Yesterday morning I had to get the kids to see this. I ran back inside and grabbed everyone. I was in my pjs and held a barefoot Shannon on the deck. Justin was still barefoot too, so he held Tristan from the back doorway. We listened to the birds in the tree. Then we clapped very loudly and yelled "BOO!" at them, and watched as hundreds of birds quickly flew everywhere around us. It was magical.
The tree had been full of bright red berries (I have a picture of it that still needs uploading, as do all my snow pics). Within a couple days, all the berries are gone. The birds have eaten their way from the top of the tree to the bottom. Randomly dropped red berries stain spots of snow in our yard. Nature is buzzing all around us, and at the same time is dormant and silent.

Perhaps this is why I love this time of year. Life abounds, but is silent. It forces us inside. Inside to the hearth, where we cook foods that warm our bellies and souls. It forces us to be with one another. It forces us take the time and be quiet, to look within ourselves and reflect.
Like flower bulbs that require the cold so that they can bloom in the warm Spring sun, we too require Winter so that we may bloom anew and refreshed.

I think I may go do one of my truly favorite Winter activities now: take a nap.