Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post-Christmas Prettifying

A belated merry Christmas to you, my readers, both of you. This month has not been great in terms of blog updates, but has been pretty good in terms of life happening and keeping me busy. We hosted Christmas for my family, so that was a self-inflicted whirlwind of planning and execution. If I had it to do over again, I might chill out on a few elements of the meal, but I had to put the kitchen through its paces, right?

We had prime rib at Eric's mom's house on Christmas Eve, so I searched for a non-beef idea for Christmas dinner at our place and found it in a pork crown. It's a crown! Of pork! This photo was taken just as I was realizing that I had neglected to read up on how to actually carve a pork crown. So that turned into a crude hack job, and then once everyone was served we realized that despite my use of a meat thermometer and the newfangled oven, some cuts were still a little too pink. So they went in the broiler for a few minutes and everyone was chill. Thanks to my wonderful family for making it no big deal.

My family went totally overboard on gifts, but I'm not complaining because we scored some awesome stuff for la casa. My brother and his girlfriend gave us this groovy retro clock for the kitchen. I hung it above the fireplace temporarily for this photo but have plans to move it once we get the room painted. (Soon! Stay tuned!)

I also had a comforter and duvet cover on my wishlist, which my parents treated us to. I'm trying to tone down some of the bolder colors in the bedroom to go better with the wall color and curtains, so the new duvet cover was a big piece of that. It was also nearly impossible to drag myself out of bed this morning, so I think that means the comforter is living up to its name. Next on the list for this room: a new bedskirt and rug. 

Eric, vying for the Indulgent Husband of the Year award, picked up a couple of new pieces of gravel art for me on eBay. They are perfectly ridiculous and I love them deeply. 

Also in that vein: a new cardboard moose trophy, also a gift from Eric. We had talked about finding some kind of vintage mount for the basement to really embrace the cabin-y feel, but it turns out those actually go for serious money. So the cardboard is more affordable and also conveys that it is indeed a joke. "It is indeed a joke" is basically my decorating mantra.  
Not a joke: Eric's collection of ticket stubs, which he's been accumulating since... forever. He'd actually been keeping them in a teeny box that had basically become a brick and was at full capacity, so my gift to him was this shadowbox. Now he can see his collection a little better and it becomes cool art. Also, it's top-loading instead of back- or front-loading like most shadowboxes, so he can slide open a little panel in the top and continue adding to the collection.
It was a dorkishly great Christmas! I really loved hosting and finally being able to hang out in the kitchen with people. I am overdue on posting a kitchen update but we are aiming to paint it within the next few days, so I'm going to save it until then and post a bunch of the new stuff all at once. A preview: I am writing this post from our lovely new desk! My cup runneth over. Merry Christmas again, gang. I hope your holidays were just what you wanted.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Installing a Never-MT for Maximum Soap Dispenser Optimization, Synergy, and Robustness

I just completed my first kitchen DIY, and it was only a few minutes ago but so far has NOT resulted in property damage, so, big score.

We got the okay to move stuff into most of the cabinets yesterday (we're leaving a few of them empty because they still need work in/around them) so I unpacked all of the dishes and pots and pans, and also WASHED DISHES IN THE KITCHEN SINK, which I never thought I would be so excited about. We've been using the laundry sink in the basement for the past month, and it was just... blech. Unpleasant. So I was actually really thrilled to use our beautimous new two-sided sink.

Never MT
Now, I've mentioned the ladies of GardenWeb (I might be generalizing there, but yeah, they're mostly ladies) in a past I'm-stressed-out-about-the-kitchen post. There have been times when I've browsed those message boards and rolled my eyes at their dramas (glass house?), but there are also lots of good tips. That is where I learned about the Never-MT, which is a kit for a countertop soap dispenser that makes it so you don't have to futz with refilling the bottle. If you look really closely at the photo, you might notice that they've used the wrong "its" on their package, but let's forgive that and forge onward. 

Countertop soap dispensers come in either a top-filling variety, where you can pull off the pump and add soap from above, or the bottom-filling variety, where you have to clamber back into your sink cabinet and unscrew the bottle from below to refill it. Ours is a top-filling version, which is preferable, but this little doohickey does it one better. To install it, you do have to git all up in your cabinet (just this once) and unscrew the soap bottle from below. 

Then you take the pump off the dispenser and feed the Never-MT's plastic tube up through the hole. The toughest part is next, and that's jamming the plastic tube onto the other plastic tube attached to the pump. The kit tells you to soften the clear plastic tube with hot water for this step, and I found that very necessary. Also, my pump tube was covered in soap (dur), so I had to rinse that off really well and then hold both parts with dry paper towels to keep my hands from slipping. I eventually succeeded at getting an overlap somewhere near the suggested half inch. 

The kit comes with caps in four different sizes to fit whatever size soap bottle you have. This particular bottle is gross and we actually inherited it from the previous owner, who left it downstairs on the laundry sink. I will be purchasing a new one soon. It also just occurred to me that I could have just used the actual dispenser bottle on the right that the soap was already in. So way to go, me, for jumping that mental hurdle. 

Last step (for me anyway): Thread the remaining three caps onto the tube so you'll have them if you switch bottle sizes later, then stick the tube down into your soap bottle. Bam. The soap just chills out on the floor of your undersink cabinet, and you never have to mess with the undermounted bottle again, or guess at if you're filling the bottle enough from above. I plan on buying a big Amurican-sized bottle of soap at Costco and then forgetting about it for a year or so. The kit also gives you a Velcro strap that you can use to affix the bottle in place under the sink, but that didn't seem necessary to me. I'll update this if I later change my mind. I also left a towel wadded up in the cabinet underneath where the tubes meet, so if I didn't jam them together as securely as I thought and they come apart, I won't have a soggy mess. I'll double check tomorrow and then hopefully will feel confident enough to call it good.

So I guess I'm doing product endorsements now. The Never-MT is online here, and no, they do not have the most cutting edge web presence, but mine arrived in one week and no one has stolen my credit card info yet, so good enough. It's around $17 with shipping. Treat yo-self, or someone you know who has a countertop soap pump.

Thank you, obsessive ladies of GardenWeb!

Sunday, December 2, 2012


You guys, I just spent 10 minutes trying to find a gif of Julie Andrews spinning on a mountaintop. I failed to find a version that would be appropriate for this, a family-safe blog, so please just picture that image in your head, because that is how I feel about the kitchen.

I haven't been the greatest at posting updates of each step. The last you saw, just the lower cabinets were in.

Then came the uppers. Then, skip ahead a zillion steps or so...

... now we have flooring, countertops, appliances and lighting, i.e., pretty much a FUNCTIONING KITCHEN, whaaatttt?! There are still a lot of odds and ends to be done (the hood, more electrical work, trim, and one of our cabinets needs to be swapped out because the shelf brackets don't align properly) but yeah, things are good. 
Total honesty, though: Eric was home when they installed the counters on Thursday, and he sent me this photo when I was at work and I had a quiet inner freakout and started questioning everything. It just all looked so foreign. Especially the new floor juxtaposed with the old. The new floor is cork, and we picked a dark color because we didn't want it to look like we had tried to match the old hardwood and failed. But this photo just looked so strange and off to me! Then I got home and saw it in person and it was fine. I think it just takes a few days (and seeing it in the flesh, not a photo) for your brain to adjust to changes like these.
The whole thing made me remember this post from Young House Love a couple weeks ago (yes, I will be referring to YHL pretty much constantly) about how "the middle makes no sense." Even now, the whole space looks very cool (as in not warm) but I keep telling myself that after we add paint, window treatments and accessories and actually start LIVING in the space it will all come together.

I think paint will go a long way toward unifying the two halves of the room. It will be a happy day when we get rid of this lime green. Soon the action will start on the other side of the room, where we're having a bench built in under the bay window (it's the law!) and a desk built in on the wall by the door. 

 Eric has a good friend who works for a stone distributor, so we actually got a bit of a hookup on our countertops. The granite we chose is called Coast Green, and it's in a honed finish instead of polished. It always looks more gray in photos than it does in person. 
We lived without an oven for four and a half months, so now we're overcompensating with TWO. I'm psyched about this thing. If you're just baking one thing the little oven on top preheats faster and is more energy efficient. Or if it's Thanksgiving and you need to do things at different temps, no more noodling around trying to figure out the best way to split the difference. Every time I've lived somewhere with an oven that has one of those bottom storage drawers, I put something like a muffin tin in there and then forget that drawer exists and six months later I'm like, "Where's that stupid muffin tin?" So now, no drawer. MOAR OVEN. 
When our contractor gave us the initial schedule that said they'd be done by mid-December I thought, pshyeahhh, right. Meanwhile it was determined that we'd host Christmas for my family, so I started preparing everyone for takeout from Buca di Beppo. But... like... this is real now! I have a Christmas dinner to plan!