Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Remodel the Kitchen 101: Oh, the things we learn.

 We are at  two months into this project.  I took the before photos on February 18 and deconstruction began the next day.  To say I have learned A LOT during this renovation of our cooking/eating space would be a gross understatement.  Without an excessive amount of whining, I will try and touch on the major lessons I learned. 

These photos illustrate a problem we didn't know we had until it was discovered about a year or two after the house was built.  I feel very blessed I am married to an intelligent, and skilled man.  He entered the garage on several occasions only to smell something that wasn't quite right.  After investigating, he discovered:  The plumbers hired when the house was built back in 1979 had cut a hole in the drywall and vented our stove vent directly into the wall.  Note the melted vapor barrier and singed insulation.  I shudder to think what could have happened if Rick hadn't fixed the problem by venting it properly.
NOTE:  Double, triple and watch over workers.  They may act like they know what they are doing, but in some cases, haven't got a clue.  Hire those you know are capable.

Next lesson, or should I say, frustration- the floor.
Things seemed to be going along rather well.  I had researched flooring options and made the decision to use carbonized bamboo.  It is one of the hardest, most durable floors and I like the fact that bamboo is replanted and ready to harvest in four short years.  I ordered it, no problem.  We made spaces for it to acclimate to the environment. still no issue.  We also purchased underlay, as suggested by the salesman when we picked up the flooring. And that is where the problem began. 
My brother, the contractor we hired, is a skilled, dedicated carpenter with over twenty-five years experience.  He's my go to guy when we need that type of work done in our home.  Anyway, he had a terrible time getting the floor to go in and look good.  Bamboo is a hard wood and he went to the website and read their directions, followed their recommendations and began. He questioned the use of the under lay, but the website and the salesman was adamant about it's use. It's a good thing he is not a swearing man, 'cause it might have sounded like I a had a sailor in my house.  He worked and struggled and still the floor would not install properly.  What he thought should take 3 days for all the flooring, turned into three days and less than half finished.  And neither of us was happy with the way it looked.  It was uneven, had dimples [bulges where the nails went] and in general, looked terrible.  We both knew these would wear quickly and I was feeling quite sick to my stomach.  I called the company.  Try a different nail gun.  So I went to a local rental agency and rented a tool that was recommended. 
'That will $40 for the tool and $3000 for the nails."  Well, you can imagine my reaction to that request.  "I am NOT paying $3000 for nails on a $3000 floor.  I will rip the entire thing out and use a different floor before I spend that.  It's just not good math.  I'll buy a few nails to see if this works on the floor."  So I took two sleeves of nails and left the store.  Sure enough, the salesman made a mistake [really?] and had called my home before I left town.  We tried the new tool- didn't work any better.  We called the company again and I made a special trip to purchase the tool they sold, about 50 miles from my home.  When that tool couldn't handle the job, we made the decision.  Rip it all out!  I knew I couldn't live with a disaster of a floor for the next twenty years.  My contractor brother talked to all the experts he knows about our issue with the floor.  All said the same thing - Never use that under lay with bamboo.  The Quiet Walk sold to us was rolled up, rosin paper replaced it and the floor went it as he knew it should.  LESSON:  Trust your instincts, not the salesman.  He probably works on commission.   
More on lessons in my next blog.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kitchen remodel 101, the continueing saga

What went up, must come down...
For those who check this blog frequently to see our progress on the kitchen remodel, I apologize.  I guess time has been getting away from me.  As many of you may or may not know, the kitchen reno has morphed into living room and bathrooms up-do.  I've been talked into purchasing new furniture for the living room and I decided to purge the wallpaper in both baths and replace with tile.  As with most remodels, progress is slow, things go awry and tempers get short.  Yup, I'm guilty of all of the above.  I am most grateful to the hard work put in by my contractor, my brother, John, my husband Rick and my brother Fritz.  Trela and Kathy have helped me with some of the decision making, taken me shopping and encouraged me.  We are currently waiting for the last of the cupboards to arrive, finish up installing the floor and stripping wallpaper.  The baths - yeah, this week has give an whole new meaning to 'stripping in the bathroom."  When I get a chance, I will post photos and lots of details on what has gone wrong, things that have gone right and why some people just say, 'that poor, poor man,' when referring to our household.   Til then...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sharing Spaces

There was once a show called 'Trading Spaces.'  I caught a few episodes, but since we don't have cable, I wasn't a regular viewer.  I did, however, enjoy the decorating shows I watched.   We have been in the midst of our kitchen remodel for several weeks now.  Somehow, it seems to be a lot messier here than it did on the television set.   I am certain I don't have a clean room in the entire household.  Each room has become very good at  sharing spaces.  And me, I am surviving the assault to my not so neat housekeeping skills.  For those of you who visit me, you must be nodding your head in agreement.  For a outie with flat surface disease to comment about a disorganized and ridiculously messy space, it must be bad.

First I emptied the majority of my kitchen cupboards before phase one.  Our 'Fifties Diner' is filled almost to capacity with dishes, food staples, and miscellaneous items.  It doesn't help that Christmas decorations were NOT put away before this process began.  Add to the mix our daughter's items.  She moved home just in time to be a part of this wild ride.

As we made progress the piles in the other rooms just keeping getting higher and deeper.  At first we bumped the table into the front room so we had a place to sit for our meals and coffee breaks.  It didn't last long and the table went to reside in the garage and the chairs to the Safari bedroom.  (Yes, I name the rooms of my house, just like I name my equipment in my shop.  It's what I do, so snicker if you like.)  Every spare inch of space has turned into a 'for now' storage warehouse.  I have stacks of bamboo flooring in the bedroom, laundry room and Rick's office.  All the wall decorations are taking naps on various beds of the spare rooms.  My booths in the basement diner are filled to capacity with boxes, dishes and decorations. 

Cooking has become a game of hide and seek.  "I wonder what box I stashed the cayenne pepper?"   I thought I was being so clever as I packed away the kitchen.  I kept the most used spices and herbs in a  drawer beside the stove.  Tongs, spatulas and spoons found out they COULD get along with  jars of salt, pepper and oregano.  Slowly my stored jars are making the way to the kitchen once again.  One day it took me five minutes to locate the muffin pans.  By then I was out of the mood to bake.  I later found them and made muffins for Easter brunch.  Epic failure- the tins must have known and were hiding on purpose.

As I head into this weekend I realize my time with my old kitchen is coming to a close.  We left a skeleton of a working kitchen.  I have a sink, stove and two base cupboards.  Last Thurday we removed one base unit and moved it to Rick's office.  Our cobbled up printer stand from twenty years ago has been replaced.  I think we are going to like it.  Repurpose, reuse, and upcycle when possible.
The first thing on Monday, the remainder of the kitchen will be demolished.  The old vinyl floor will head to garbage heaven and the new floor will take up residence.  I expect to be without a kitchen for a few more weeks as the new cabinets, counters, etc are finished.  I guess the laundry room and diner will share a few more tasks.
Happy Workers are great workers. Fill 'em up with caffeine


Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools Day - Merry Christmas

Greetings from Rottinghaus University!  As many of you know, this school of hard knocks was established in 1975.  Acceptance into this University is a process and once a member, always a member.
        As students in the educational program called life, Rick and Mona have been working together on degrees for over thirty-seven years. 2012, has been no exception. It’s been another year for the discovery for all the students at this fine institution of higher learning.

Rick, one of the founding members, learned that healthy food was not good for him.  That’s right.  The diet his lovely bride forced upon him enabled his body to super-size his kidney stones.  After an ‘uncomfortable’ semester, the dietician explained those ‘delicious’ vegetables were high in the very thing that grew kidney stones.  Rick walked out of the office resembling a cheerleader.  Flips, cartwheels and jumps were executed with finesse (in his mind).   Rick is also enrolled in the course, Retire from the Family Farm.  The syllabus is interesting and challenging as he lays the groundwork to one day pass the tractor steering wheel to the next generations.  As professor, he would love to oversee younger farmers take over the operation that received his time and passion for the last thirty-nine years. FYI – he will continue to farm for as long as he is able.   The hardest class this term has been, How to Spot a Crook.  It was quite an expensive course to take, and had a very large learning curve.  We failed the homework portion, but since we paid such high tuition, we passed the course anyway.  A lonely tower stands in the farm yard as a constant reminder of failure to do the proper homework.  At this time they are waiting patiently for the different wind turbine to arrive in 2013.  The defective turbine, sold to them by the crooks, will be sold for parts. Mona, also a founding member, enrolled in “Bye, Bye Bunions.” She received high marks on the first section and immediately took section two.   Coursework included being a couch potato from January through June.  She tried to be the teacher’s pet by following all instructions.  As a result, she loves being ‘just another pretty foot.’  During recovery from her bunion class, Mona took two online writing courses.  One story, Bell Bottom Trousers, was accepted for publication!  The love story of her parents, Rita and Gerry Kies, is in the anthology, “My Love to you Always.”  She continues to work on her own book of stories.   She is still enrolled in Guitar 101, practicing at church.  She hopes everyone enjoys this class as much as she loves to play Taylor, her twelve string guitar.  After Rick fired her as Dr. Mom, she applied her information from Nutrition for Dummies to her diet and not his.  Mona continues her involvement with NAMI, both teaching classes on mental illness and leading support groups.
The dormitory at the farm was rarely vacant.  Mona’s brother, Larry and his family enrolled from May – October.  Larry, adjunct professor, managed the farm workers, as Jane oversaw the kitchen staff.  Carly took the course, How to be an Iowa Teenager, and Michael was head gardener, growing wonderful vegetables in the garden.  The welcoming door revolved continually as family and friends took turns bunking in various dorm rooms.

Field trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, local hospitals and doctor’s offices provided travel for Rick and Mona.  We hope to add more field trips in 2013, ones that provide a tad more entertainment. Currently a road trip to a Florida/North Carolina with farm shows on the front and back sides of the journey is planned for this winter.  We hope to learn about Alaska in the summer.  
Dr. Eric, member since 1976, spent a good chunk of his time opening a new clinic.  A second chiropractor joined him as they opened Summit Chiropractic Center in a new Waterloo location.  He still operates the clinic in Jesup.  He also enrolled in Father Knows Best as he coached Kile’s soccer team.  Trela, our most faithful student by choice, celebrated 11 years of membership on August 11.  Trela passed her course, How to Kick Cancer, when she received her five year survivor checkup this fall.  Together, Eric and Trela, completed Basement Remodel 101, as they finished off the basement in their new home.

Dean, member since 1978, received an “A+” in the course, How to Get a Promotion.  He works for Casey’s General Store.  This year he went from help desk phone technician, to a system administrator in the company.  He proved he knew his stuff from experience, and not from a

Kathy, member since 1980, continues to live in Maryville, MO, teaching the youth about the Lord.  She is very active in the campus life, socializing with the sorority and fraternitymembers who share her faith and values.  She has been blessed with many new friends in Maryville and Kansas City.
Adam, member since 1982, learned what can happen in the romantic city of Paris when you have someone special by your side.  He surprised Alia by asking for her hand in marriage in a garden in Versailles.  Of course, she said yes. The two of them are in Wedding Planning 301 for the occasion in July.  It will be held in the pasture, with the reception in our barn.  Alia now has the distinction of being a Rottinghaus University pledge, so we refer to her as GonnaBe 2013.
Kile, a next generation member since 2003, loves any class he can take, math is his favorite.  He is active in the athletic department with 5K runs, soccer and basketball.  The platypus captured his imagination this year and he studied this curious creature any time he had a chance.  His ninth birthday in June was celebrated with a stuffed platypus and platypus print pajamas, courtesy of his paternal grandmother and her business, Mona’s Originals.  He even has a platypus costume.

Cavanaugh, member since 2006, and Lauren, member since 2007 are quite involved in the Drama Department.  We enjoy their skills when they are singing, or dancing, as opposed to dramatic acting.  Cavanaugh, daughter of Eric and Trela, and Lauren, daughter of Dean and Meg, are taking the class, Beginning Sewing, taught by Mona.  A miniature, but working sewing machine, is used when they come to visit.  Grammie thoroughly enjoys teaching skills to these two willing students.  Both girls took dance classes and it was fun to watch their recitals.

In conclusion, Rottinghaus University is thriving.  Life continues to throw challenges and lessons to be learned.  We pray 2013 will bring a year of great adventures in coursework for you and your loved ones.  If you are near our campus, please stop in.  The coffee is always free, or we will treat you to a latte.  If you are lucky, we may have some cafeteria food that can pass as a meal.
Love, and prayers,