Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Place for my Cookbooks

One of the features I wanted in the new kitchen was a book shelf to keep my cookbooks. So it was built into the island. I now have more than enough room to keep the books in one place and there's room for more. I've got some already on the shelf but there are more still tucked away in boxes.

Christmas time brought some additional books that will be added to the collection. Santa brought me The Gardener's A to Z Guide to Growing Organic Food. While not technically a cook book, it will be a big help in the garden. The book goes alphabetically through most of the fruits and vegetables one might grow and provides information on growing, watering, pests, diseases, and harvesting tips (all organically).

At a recent Costco visit I picked up Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. For each section she has a lengthy discussion on the particular item. Each recipe is followed by 4-5 variations that one could try. There is a great introduction with tips on ingredients and hardware that every kitchen should have.

Santa also brought The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook. It is packed with over 600 recipes arranged traditionally. It looks like it will provide some interesting new ideas.

After Christmas, we spent a day in Half Moon Bay and I brought home some books from the used book stores there. I bought The Silver Palate Cookbook because someone once made a recipe from it and when I asked where the recipe came from I was told it was this cook book. When I said I didn't have it I got, "You don't have this cook book!?!?" So now I do. This one has an interesting butternut squash soup recipe I will try next week. I have a box of about 14 squash that I grew in the fall.

Finally, I also picked up Michael Pollan's Second Nature. I have read most of his other books and thoroughly enjoyed them. So I'm looking forward to reading this earlier work of his.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas with the Kitchen

We had the painter here working on the 22nd and 23rd of December doing final touch ups. We also had him paint the pantry so that we could start unloading boxes. At the same time we had the cabinet guy in installing his final touches. We brought up furniture into the living room. Our new dining room table arrived. We got our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Stocking were hung. Although it was not complete, we were able to use our kitchen for the holidays.

Our new DWR table has two leaves and we expanded it in order to seat ten for a December 26th luncheon. We're quite happy with the table.

We started to arrange furniture in the living room but we will have to play around with the arrangement some and find something that works for us.

The fireplace is still sitting there waiting for the face to come in. They hoped it would arrive by Christmas but didn't honestly think it would given the cold weather in the midwest.

This week we'll just enjoy the holidays and not worry about the kitchen until January.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Side Cabinet Completed

Yesterday, the cabinet people were here trying to finish up all things related to cabinets. They didn't finish as of 8 PM but a lot got completed. The side cabinet that is on the east side of the house was installed. The Richlite counter top got installed on it and the glass cabinets placed on the counter top. Most of the drawer pulls were installed but we may have some issues to resolve with that.

All of the contents of the old fridge have been moved into the new fridge. Today we will move the old fridge into the garage and we have to decide if we'll continue to use it or give it to PG&E who will pick it up and give us money for it.

Tomorrow morning our new dining room table will arrive which will sit in between this cabinet and the island. We've been watching for chairs on eBay but we haven't bid on any yet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Floors are Finished

The entire week was devoted to the hardwood floor. Monday and Tuesday were sanding and prep work. Wednesday through Saturday were devoted to adding coats of finish to the floor.

On Sunday, we had the floor finished and it looks great. Joel installed the refrigerator. We cleaned up and began moving items into the new kitchen. We also began moving items from the old fridge (downstairs) to the new fridge.

Sunday afternoon and evening, we started to clean up the kitchen and remove the fine layer of brown dust that covers the entire house after sanding the floors.

With the floor done things will, once again, begin to move forward.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Countertop Progress

Today the Formica around the sink was reinstalled and (finally!) we're happy with it! The pattern is much better and the installation job seems fine.

Now that that's done, we have a permanent sink, faucet, dishwasher, and garbage disposer.

So now that we've crossed that bridge, we're ready for the next steps. Today Joel cleaned up the room in preparation for the hardwood floor work that will happen beginning on Monday. We're told that sanding the floor in both noisy and stinky so we'll board Evlin for at least a day so she's not freaked out or walking across wet floors. Should be an interesting week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Slow Progress

Things have been slow over the last few weeks. We decided that we weren't happy with the Formica counter top around the sink. The printing job was not good and the installation was not up to par. One attempt at a reinstall was made but in the end it was not good enough. We ended up having to reorder Formica from a different company since the first company decided that "variations" in printing were within the normal parameters. So you'll notice that the counter top is missing from around the sink area

Today, (finally!) we saw some progress. They pulled out the old counter top and worked with the cabinet installer to fix some alignments. The new counter top should go in later this week or early next week at the latest. Many of the drawer pulls were installed.

The cabinet installer stayed today and installed the glass doors and pulls on most (but not all) of the drawers. The hinges are still not correct but that will come.

Floors are scheduled for Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The big news is the Richlite surfaces were installed. We have it over the oven, on the bar, and over the sink. It looks great and we're quite happy with it.

The Formica counter tops were recently installed (and parts reinstalled). The Formica on the island looks great and we like it. The counter top along the back wall (around the sink) is not as great a job as we were hoping for. The printing on the Formica was quite faded and we were told by the company that such "variations" are normal. The workmanship has not been up to our expectation. Long story short, we are attempting to negotiate a reinstall on that part of the counter top. We're not sure where it will end but we'll see.

Meanwhile, the cook top, down draft, sink, and dishwasher were installed today by Joel. That, with the already installed oven, means we have a semi-working kitchen. The dishwasher will have an integrated panel to match the bamboo cabinets but it is a working dishwasher.

Everything is covered with dust and I can't wait to clean it up and get it ready to be a kitchen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lights! Camera!

The electrician was in today to finish up the lighting. The trim pieces were installed, light bulbs screwed in, and the switches were finalized. One of the two pendant lights was installed so that we can decide the height we want and he'll then install both. Under counter lighting is still on the to-do list. He reinstalled the ceiling fan as well.

The next few days should see some major developments. Counter tops are in but there's a story there for another post.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pantry Shelving

The pantry shelving has been installed and the special order door is in. The shelving was installed by the same guy that installed our cabinets. The door has an embedded 3form product with grass reeds embedded in it. More on that later.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Appliances Begin to be Installed

Electricity and gas have arrived on our island. Today the oven and the warming drawer were installed and plugged in. Although they are capable of being fully functional, we'll not use them in favor of keeping the protective plastic covering on them until after more work has been completed.

On top of the oven are the grates for the cook top sitting in their styrofoam. The cooktop and downdraft ventilation are still being installed.

Lots of items are waiting in the wings and ready for their next steps.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Rendering

Months ago, after going through a number of design decisions, we received the above artistic rendering of how the kitchen would look in the end. Back then it was very difficult to imagine this ever coming to life. Now it's more amazing to watch how the actual kitchen is starting to resemble the rendering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cabinet Installation Begins

Most of the cabinets in the kitchen are up. Some detail work is still needed but the major work is done. There are three glass doors still coming for the wall cabinets and two glass doors for cookbook library on the island.

Installing perfectly square cabinets into an imperfect 50 year old house is not without its challenges. These particular cabinets don't come with the little cheater strips on the ends to mask imperfections. And the floor is not perfectly level so it took some work to make everything fit neatly.

The Formica counter top fabricator and installer was here today to measure out the exact specifications. He should be back next week to install the Formica. Appliances arrived today and are sitting in the garage.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Electrical Upgrade

As a part of all this we also decided to upgrade our original 1950's electrical system with something more modern. We took out the old outside box and replaced it with an upgraded 125 amp box.

Building code required us move it to the left a bit. Below the old box is the gas meter and new code requires that gas and electrical not be on top of each other.

We centralized the two sub panels into one sub panel in the garage and lost the old breakers which were probably more of a fire hazard than a safety feature. It's generally not a good thing to hear your electrician say, "Gosh, I haven't seen these in years."

All this has been happening over the last few weeks along with everything else. But now the texturing and paint is all that's left to do on the electrical upgrade.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cabinets arrive

Our bamboo cabinets left Washington state on Tuesday and arrived today around noon. They were greeted by our cabinet installer who unpacked and inspected them. They will work through Tuesday of next week to install them.

Today they unpacked and unwrapped each cabinet and took away all of the packaging surrounding each cabinet. They began actual installation of the cabinets to the right of where the sink will be.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the garage, Joel patched the walls where sheet rock was cut away in order to upgrade the electrical system for the house. We upgraded our main breaker panel outside the garage wall and did a few minor electrical upgrades in the garage.

We also have finally found a product we like for the facade of our fireplace. But that's another post for later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Color my walls

The walls and ceiling have been painted. The ceiling is white, the back wall of the kitchen is painted with Kelly Moore's "Tropical Teal," and the gray covers the other walls.

We're excited to finally be playing with bold colors after so many years in a white or off-white residence. People would tell us that it's just paint and you can always paint over it again. But we never mustered up the courage to actually do it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


The bulk of the work this last week has been on getting the sheet rock back up, taped, filled with mud, and finally textured. None of this is particularly photogenic so we'll have to rely on text for this post. There were a number of days of working on the ceiling to make sure that seams will be invisible.

Last Thursday and Friday were the texturing days. Because the rest of the house has skip trowel texturing we wanted the walls and ceilings to match. This means it had to be done by hand rather than spraying on which is more common now and much quicker.

This coming week we will have the walls and ceiling primed and painted.

The pace is starting to pick up!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Island Forms Off the East Coast of Pantry

The first evidence of a future island has emerged. The pony wall is in place and behind it will sit an island of cabinets as well as a cook top, an oven, and a warming drawer. What you see here is the future counter where a piece of Richlite will span and serve as our surface.

Work continues at a frantic pace as early October is the time when many of the major appliance and cabinets are due to arrive. Because some items were back ordered, we delayed the delivery of the appliances since they would just sit in the garage.

Craigslist helped us unload more of the old appliances. The electric cook top and fan went to a landlord trying to reconstruct a trashed apartment. The remaining cabinets,
in the "Free" category, have generated some interest.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sheet Rock

With the rough inspection done, the past few days have seen sheet rock going back up and the room looking more like a room. The pantry is taking shape and we can go in and imagine where cans and boxes of food will go.

The lighting is in place but bulbs are still hanging down in "test mode." We should have a full electrical upgrade in the next week moving our electrical system into this century.

You may notice the blue paint samples on the window sill. The next decision is the paint color on the walls.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rough Inspection Passed

On Friday, the county inspector spent the better part of an hour going over everything with Joel. The good news is we passed our rough plumbing, electric, framing, and exterior lath inspections. With that out of the way Joel got started on finishing up the walls by adding insulation.

The appliances are scheduled to arrive this week. They will have to sit in the already crowded garage for a bit so I'm posting ads on Craigslist to unload the old appliances. The old oven has already found a new home.

We're happy to report that the old boomerang formica counter top also found a new home. A young couple starting an optometry practice took it to reuse it in their future office. They are trying to establish their practice with all reused and recycled products. They are actually coming by later to take some of the old cabinets as well.

Friday, September 7, 2007

New Kitchen Window

Old kitchen window: 39" wide.
New kitchen window: 66" wide.

'nuff said.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


We got an early morning call from the electrician who asked if he could come over today (Sunday of the Labor Day Weekend) to continue his work. We had no plans so we gave him the green light. So it was a lazy day of reading the Sunday paper and napping on the couch downstairs as more sheet rock was cut away and reels of wires were snaked around the rooms. But most of the receptacles are in the studs so now we get a sense of where we'll be plugging things in and turning on lights, etc.

All of the recessed lighting is in place in both rooms now.

With many parts of the room down the studs, it's interesting to see occasional notes in pencil from the original builders on the studs. An "S" on the stud where a switch was to be placed by an electrician fifty years ago.

Our electrician, by contrast, is far more prolific. Soon to be covered by sheet rock will be his many notes to himself, his mathematical calculations
, and his measurements. Indeed, at some point in the next century, someone will have fun uncovering all this and finding so much writing in the walls.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hardwood Floors

The floor installer will be by later to put in the final hour or two of work that needs to be done to finish the wood floor. Even unfinished, it's attractive. Our cat, Evlin, likes it too. But once he is done nailing he will cover the wood with a thin layer of wood filling. Once the cabinets are installed he will come back, sand the entire floor, and stain.

The floor took the entire week to install mostly because of the detail border that existed in the living room. We wanted to continue the decorative border into the kitchen and dining room. But wrapping that border around several turns was where the time went.

Today we will place the order for our fireplace insert. This coming week we will begin work on an electrical upgrade to the house as well as the wiring and light installation in the kitchen and living room.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Our house was built in 1956 and a young couple, Morris and Pearl Wolf, bought it. They raised a family in the house and both eventually died here. To be the second owners of a house built in the '50 was, in our minds, good karma.

In addition, there were a couple of other selling points:
  • The oak hardwood floors throughout much of the house (which evidently had been covered by lovely green hi-low carpeting) now seeing the light of day 50 years later.
  • The original boomerang Formica in the kitchen maintained by "Mo" for half a century.

According to Formica's history page, the product dates back to the early 1900s when the Industrial Age demanded lighter and cheaper insulators. An engineer, Dan O'Connor...
....had an idea that was pretty straightforward: take fabric, coat it with resin while it winds on a spindle into the shape of a tube, slit the tube lengthwise, unroll it, press it flat and then cure it. The result was a laminated plastic material that was tough, light and an excellent electrical insulator.
Mica was a common electrical insulator at the time and the new product was a substitute "for mica."

In the post-WWII housing boom, Formica...
... patented a rotogravure printing process that produced decorative designs on sheet laminate that could be used on tables and counter tops. In the early 1950s, Milwaukee designer Brooks Stevens came up with a pattern of interlocking “boomerangs” in blue, pink and yellow against a gray background. Skylark, as it was named, appeared in restaurants and on passenger trains and soon became one of Formica’s most popular patterns.

Boomerang was originally named Skylark and depending on the styles of the times it has been discontinued; then reissued. Fortunately for us, it's currently available and that's what we will be putting in for our countertop surface. The original Formica in our house was the pink and gray pattern. We're going with the "aqua" pattern shown here.

We are also bringing in the hardwood oak floors into the kitchen to match the existing wood.
This entire week is all about the hardwood floor getting installed. Photos to follow.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Down to Nothing

The progress continues.

The microlam beam has been installed and the rest of the old wall was taken down. The shiny Simpson ties join the ceiling joists to the beam. It truly feels like one large room now.

The remaining kitchen was completely removed taking everything back to the studs. The refrigerator was moved downstairs which is where we will be preparing food for the next number of weeks.

The pantry has been framed which can be seen on the right half of the photo.

Today, the electrician is here starting to install recessed lighting and begin work on the electrical system.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Studly Kitchen

The demolition continues. Most of the dry wall in the kitchen is gone and areas of the ceiling have been removed, as well. This is our final week with a sink and cook top. Starting next week our eating options involve a microwave, bbq, restaurants, or friends.

The large beam you see in the forefront of the bottom picture is a 22 foot 3x16 microlam beam which was carried into the house by 6 men. The wall we are taking out is load-bearing. This beam, which is much more impressive in real life, will take the weight of the roof and carry it out to the outside wall. In the top photo you can see that the ceiling drywall was cut back on either side of the existing wall. The existing beam will be taken out and the microlam beam will be put in its place. That event should take place this week.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day One Demolition

We packed up the kitchen and living room in one day. I am back at work so Alida ended up doing most of the work. We relocated the living room furniture to other rooms and got most of the items out of the upper cupboards. Later we will need to clear out the base cabinets. Our contractor, Joel, is trying to leave us a "functioning" kitchen for as long as possible. But we're told the base cabinets (and all appliances) will need to be removed at the end of next week. The hardwood floor guy is scheduled to come in and lay the wood on August 20.

So today, after protective paper was put down on the existing wood, the sheet rock on the wall came down, the upright air return was removed (yeah!), and the upper cabinets were removed.

Monday, August 6, 2007

And So it Begins

So work shall commence later this week. We signed a contract with our contractor. Not that work hasn't been happening in the last number of months.

Once we decided to redo the kitchen we brought in a designer that was recommended to us by our contractor. We hit it off immediately and we have been working with her on the redesign.

The scope of work includes:
  • Remove existing wall between kitchen and living room
  • Enlarge and replace existing kitchen window
  • Replace all counter tops, cabinets, and backsplashes
  • New kitchen lighting
  • Add a walk-in pantry
  • Replace all existing appliances
  • Replace kitchen flooring with oak to match living room
  • Reface living room fireplace and add gas fireplace insert
  • Remove raised hearth
  • Remove and relocate "decorative" air return (the hideous raised contraption by the front door)
These shots were taken soon after we purchased the house.