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You’re not going to believe this …

You’re not going to believe this …

but the kitchen is FINISHED.

Well, okay, not 100 percent finished. We still need to get a new fridge and hood for the stove, but those are last on the line. We’re also getting new curtains for underneath the sink. But the bulk of the work? DONE.

It’s amazing.

Here’s a recap of the kitchen’s past.

Here’s what it looked like completely gutted.

And now, here’s a panoramic set of photos of what it looks like now.

Pouring the concrete countertops

Pouring the concrete countertops

It finally happened.

Here’s the mixer Steve rented from Home Depot:

Mixing the concrete:

Steve built the molds more than a month ago:

The, um, vibrator. After you dump the concrete into the molds, you have to vibrate it to get it rid of all the air bubbles and make it even. This was my job.

Making it all smooth:

Now they have to sit for four days.

Concrete countertops here we come

Concrete countertops here we come

I believe the rest of the song goes, “Right back where we started from.” And really, that’s quite appropriate because way back when we first started talking countertops lo these many years ago, I was really pushing concrete. I like it. I don’t like granite. Most of it is way too shiny and busy, and my own theory is that in about five years people will scoff, “Oh that’s SO oughties.” (Or rather it would if that tripped off the tongue the way 70s or 80s does.)

Speaking of scoffing, that’s EXACTLY what Steve did. To be fair, it wasn’t so much about the material as much as it was about the sheer cost. The material itself is cheap, but it’s incredibly labor-intensive. So we told ourselves it would be slate. ‘Cause really, slate looks kinda like concrete. And after two years or so of discussion, we still have the plywood substrate as our surface. Lovely, really.

Anyway, now that Steve is out of work, he has time. Two weeks ago, he looked at me with that maniacal gleam I know so well–the one that presages a new obsession. “You know what?” he said “I think we’re going to do concrete countertops.”

Like this was an original idea.

So we got books from the library, and now he’s practicing.

He doesn’t want to start with the countertops, so he’s building a side table for the Kamado:

Here’s a cardboard cutout of the shape, complete with holes for grilling implements (and yes, the base is the stump):

And here’s the mold:

Let the adventures in concrete begin …



I have actually let a whole month go by without blogging. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s longer than a month, but I’ve been focusing on the fact that my February 2008 listing in the archives will be … missing. Oh well, such is life. And life is good. The shack is shacky (more on that later). The kitchen is still far from being finished. Steve put two windows in my former office, but other than that, it’s still down to the studs. The dog is cute and furry. Steve is cute and furry too because he’s growing a beard. My soapmaking obsession continues, which means that my essential oil threshold (i.e., the most I am willing to spend for a single oil) just keeps increasing. Anyway, I’ve been working all day and my eyes are starting to blur; it’s time to rouse the snoring pug and go for a walk. Good night, sweet blog, good night.

(I hope not, but it seemed a fitting end.)

Steve has kicked me out

Steve has kicked me out

of my home office.

I’ve had such fun saying that with a pregnant pause and watching the perplexity on people’s faces because I sound so happy about it.

He’s been making this push for a couple of months, and I’ve been resisting. About a month ago, we were sitting in the hot tub, and he brought it up again. I, as usual, resisted. But he was getting more and more frustrated. First, our house is small and he feels cramped, because he really doesn’t have a place of his own. Which is completely fair. Second, his Mr. Demo-ness has been thwarted, because more than anything, he wants to start tearing into the walls in the bedrooms–and he can’t when one is a bedroom and one is my office.

The thing is, 90 percent about what I like about working for myself is being here–being able to work, then futz around the house, work some more, run errands, go to the gym, whatever. He kept on saying that I need to get over that … and drive somewhere. That was a complete non-negotiable for me. If I had to drive somewhere, I’d still end up working from home–only much less comfortably.

What to do?

I was driving home one day and passed the shack right around the corner that’s been for rent for ages. A light bulb went off.

Long story short, the owner has rented it to me. He’s thrilled to get someone with good credit who won’t deface the walls. I’m thrilled that my commute now consists of walking down the alley. It’s a great solution all the way around. And while the house is nothing on the outside, it’s perfectly functional on the inside. Nothing special, but I’m feeling pretty spoiled that I’ve managed to get a 770 square foot house for about the cost of renting a decent office somewhere (if not less). It’s a great solution on a variety of fronts. First, it’s an office space. Second, it has two bedrooms. I can sublet one if I want, and anyone who comes to stay with us can stay down there. Third, it has a kitchen that I can devote to soaping.

I’m in the process of moving this week; should be completely set up next. Will post pix soon.

New Kitchen Windows

New Kitchen Windows

Mr Demo didn’t like the old windows he installed, so he put in new ones. It’s hard to tell from my pictures, but this is a huge improvement. I didn’t even mind the old ones, but then again, I didn’t have the vision. As I keep being reminded.



And while I’m uploading pictures, here’s a snap of Harry on Christmas. The ribbon traumatized him.


It’s beginning to look a lot like a kitchen …

It’s beginning to look a lot like a kitchen …

Sing along everyone!

But let me caveat this with the statement that I admire people who have minimalist tendencies. We’d like to. But the simple fact is that we have SO much crap. Anyway, this is what the kitchen looks like as of right now. Mess and all:


We still have to replace the windows over the sink (Steve didn’t like what he put in), put in countertops (Steve now wants marble, not slate), tile the backsplash all the way around, and put in a vent over the stove.

But the amazing thing is that we not only have kitchen cabinets, but also that we have a stove.

I have to tell you a little bit about the stove because it’s kind of funny. Steve was filling in some patches of tile and sent me down to talk to his contact at Albert Lee. Before I left, I asked what our budget was. He named a figure–and I was shocked at how much he was willing to spend on a stove.

“But you can get something decent for $500 to $700!” I said, with not just a tinge of sanctimonious frugality.

“I’d rather spend more for something we like. And all the stainless steel models with nice clean lines cost more.”

I rolled my eyes, grabbed my keys and wallet, and went to Albert Lee. Where I promptly, and quite irrationally, fell in love.

It was the center griddle that did it to me. How could I live without a five-burner stove? That comes with a griddle? FIVE BURNERS! The excessiveness of love felled me; I was helpless in its clutches.

I bought it on the spot.

And when I brought home the catalog to show Steve, he asked how much it was.

“Never mind,” I said.

“How much?”

“Ummm ….”

Even with the great deal that his contact gave us, it was quite a bit more than the figure he had named. Steve’s been chuckling ever since.




Are you sitting down?

The kitchen is actually being worked on.

Yes, that’s right. We now have cabinet doors and uppers above the stove. The gas guy’s coming to plumb the gas line Thursday morning, and the new stove’s being delivered Thursday afternoon. Pix to come …

On kitchen appliances, and who writes this crap anyway?

On kitchen appliances, and who writes this crap anyway?

I just crockpotted a whole chicken–just took the skin off and threw it in there with a can of tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, and some marjoram. Pretty cool. Except for the fact that the stupid knob on the lid fell off, and it turns out that when you factor in shipping for a replacement part, it would actually be less expensive to haul myself down to Fred Meyer and buy a new one. Which is one of those things that just makes you grumpy because it shouldn’t be cheaper to be more wasteful, but I guess that’s the way it goes.

Anyway, in my webbish peregrinations searching for a new lid (or better yet, just the KNOB) I came across this lovely gem of complete and utter crap.

I mean, who writes this stuff anyway?

A company called Sneakin Design, that’s who. And guess what? They’re recruiting! Yes, that’s right, they’re looking for writers (“The only requirements are that you can read and write in American English… That’s it!”), and you too can join the ranks of people making 50 Phillipino pesos per article.

Obviously, someone’s making money on these advertising-driven pages, but it’s certainly not these poor (in every sense of the word) writers.

Anyway, I was curious about whether there would be any more gems in the registered users area, so I registered. I now have the opportunity to submit two sample articles to see if they like my work. Better yet, I don’t have to scout around for topics either, because they’ve given me some to choose from:



On Upcoming Holidays and Not Having an Oven

On Upcoming Holidays and Not Having an Oven

We’re going to Rockford for Christmas, but my mother said that if she doesn’t have anything going on–i.e., friends descending on her–she’ll hop a plane and then come up here. But then she asked (with more than just a note of suspicion in her voice) whether we have an oven yet.

And of course, the answer is no.

The good news is that the Kamado is pretty amazing. I’ve even been baking bread in it, believe it or not. But the bad news is that we’ve been ovenless since February.

Yes, February. That’s when Steve and Dave killed something in the oven when they dragged it outside.

Steve has a contact over at one of the appliance stores in town who might get him a special deal. He came home the other day saying that we were getting one of those flat topped electric jobbers. I really don’t want one; I’ve read nothing but bad things about them. What I really want is gas–not that I’m a good enough cook to really be able to tell the difference, but it seems to me that if we’re going to spend the money, we might as well get something we really like.

The problem is that getting gas requires plumbing the gas line from the furnace. I begged and pleaded, and finally Steve said, “Fine. You deal with getting it installed.”

Fair enough. I have three people coming week after next to give us an estimate. So we could conceivably have a new stove within a few short weeks.

Now I just have to return the IKEA kitchen cabinet doors we broke down and bought–and then decided we didn’t like.

One final note before I get back to work: You know you’re getting old and matronly when your boyfriend gives you a KitchenAid mixer for your birthday–and you’re thrilled about it.

I stink.

I stink.

It’s been a long, long time. I’m chock full of excuses for not updating the blog, but basically it comes down to one thing: Sheer laziness. Here’s a brief recap:

1) Amazingly, the ranch didn’t burn. The fire was only about two miles away, but everyone stayed and were fine. I was pretty useless for a full week, doing nothing more than hit refresh on the various google map mashups people created. What is really stunning is how different this catastrophe was than Katrina.

2) Obie the foster pug has been adopted. Steve is relieved; he hated him. As for me, I grew rather fond of him, but it’s nice to have a single mellow dog again,

3) No progress on the kitchen, but Steve did finish rebuilding the deck this summer, started and finished carriage doors for the garage, and busted out more concrete in the backyard. He also ordered new windows (2 large , rather than 4 narrow ones), which are sitting on the deck.

4) All of a sudden, I’ve gotten really, really busy workwise. This is going to be one of those weeks. Actually, this is probably why I’m probably updating the blog, after these many moons. It’s funny, but when I’m not busy, I get nothing done–and when I am, I get oodles and oodles accomplished. Not very logical, but there you go.

5) I’m feeling all sustainable living and stuff. Those pumpkins I grew? Peeled, pureed, and frozen. Okay, okay, I never quite got around to making the pickled green tomatoes, or making as much jam as I did last year, but there’s something so satisfying about putting up the veggies you’ve grown for the winter. Granted, most of it will probably end up as dog food–and granted, if I HAD to do it, we’d starve. And, of course, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. However, I’m kind of on a buying locally kick, making a concerted effort to buy only food that’s grown around here. Alas, my efforts are completely negated by:

6) On the Japanese print front, I finally took the plunge and bought some from artelino. The shipping costs are outrageously high, so you can choose to hold your prints over a period of time and then have them shipped all at the same time. So I don’t have them in my hot little hands yet. Funny thing though–I keep seeing prints recycle their way across the Internet. Something that was on ebay with no title reappears on ebay with artist and title and then wends its way over to artelino or a gallery.

7) But speaking of the buying locally thing–I’m trying to buy more stuff locally too, so no more book chains, local supermarkets, and so on. But here’s my question: Amazon and Starbucks are headquartered in Seattle, so does that constitute buying locally??

Labor Day Labor

Labor Day Labor

“I’m bored,” Steve said.

“Let’s go over to Geoff’s,” I suggested. “He rebuilt his wall and wants you to see. Plus, I’m curious how our cheese is doing.” Geoff and I made kefir cheese yesterday.

So across the alley we trompled. Steve admired the wall; I admired the cheese. Not that there was much to admire; it’s resting in a bamboo steamer with a glass and 25 pounds of free weights on top of it. But anyway, Geoff was talking about how he was going to pressure wash something and Steve bemoaned how dirty the river rock wall is. I reminded him he was bored … and long story short, he’s been on a tear for the past three hours. He just called me outside, saying that he had a present for me:


It warmed the cockles of my heart, and I told him so. To which he replied, “That’s pathetic.”

Well, we take what affection we get …

On not having cabinet doors

On not having cabinet doors

“Harry can’t play with Sasha and Willy any more,” Steve said this morning.

“Why?” I asked, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and preparing to stagger into the kitchen for coffee.

“They’re a bad influence.”

Indeed. Mr Potsticker pulled the flour off the bottom shelf and proceeded to wreak havoc.


And as if that weren’t enough, he also started licking it off the floor.


Remember how you were a kid and made paste out of glue? Harry discovered that if you lick up enough flour, you’ll eventually glue your mouth shut.


Granite vs. Silestone

Granite vs. Silestone

One of Steve’s contractors is giving us a deal on granite countertops. So last night we went to their web site. And now, we’re wondering: should we do silestone instead?

Here’s the thing: I spill things. Coffee, oil, vinegar, all the stuff that stains. Am I capable of maintaining granite? Steve says, rather insultingly, an emphatic NO. He’s probably right. So has anyone out there actually seen silestone? Used it? Have an opinion?

You may call me Mrs. Demo

You may call me Mrs. Demo

Oh, not in any legal sense, though the only thing that would please my mother more is producing an anklebiter or two. It’s just that Steve did an amazing job framing in cabinets and such while I was in San Diego last week–and then he decided that we should really rip out the cabinets at the end of the kitchen.

I complained that I always had to do the crappy stuff, like clean up. So Steve handed me a huge hammer and a chisel. And while he did this:

I did this:

Then Steve and I both cleaned up.

Here’s the thing: Smashing into walls is the BEST.

A Surfeit of Soap

A Surfeit of Soap

So I’ve been making soap like there’s no tomorrow. I’m up to ears in it. Steve is threatening divorce. Well, that’s probably because a. I set the kitchen on fire the other day; and b. apparently the source of the kitchen drain clog was unsaponified soap from when I used to clean out all the pots as soon as I made the stuff. Anyway, does anyone want some? Let me know what flavors you like, and I’ll send you a little soapy care package.

A few thoughts on vitiligo

A few thoughts on vitiligo

I think the hardest thing about vitiligo is not knowing how it’s going to progress. And coupled with my general paranoia, it’s hard to know what’s really fading and what’s my imagination. It seems to me that it’s spreading on my face and getting whiter–but it could also be more sun (I went white water rafting on Friday and even though I am very careful to wear sunscreen, still soak up sun). Steve says he doesn’t notice it, that I’ve always been this blotchy, but I don’t know. I think it’s worse. Also, his idea of support–bless his heart for trying–is to deny that it’s a problem. I teeter between sheer relief that it’s mainly noticeable to me and anger that he refuses to see that this is a real condition. But he tries, and that’s one important thing. And it doesn’t bother him in the slightest, and that’s another. I can see clear as day how this might affect our relationship–not the vitiligo itself, but how I feel about it and myself. Yesterday, he saw me putting on makeup and asked why I didn’t just let my skin breathe on the weekend. I told him that I hate looking in the mirror without it. He staunchly said, “It doesn’t look any different to me.” What’s not to love about a partner who does this? (And who hooks up the kitchen faucet and reconnects the dishwasher to boot?)

Vitiligo affects 1-2% of the population, and it affects all races equally. It’s just more noticeable in darker skinned people. I’m fortunate that I am not super dark. Even so, if it affects 1 or 2 people out of a hundred, why is it that I don’t encounter it more often? I remember seeing some people in India years ago with it, and I had an African-American professor in college who had some patches on his hands. But that’s pretty much it. People are coming out of the woodwork though; whenever it’s mentioned, people mention someone they know who has it. My neighbor Nicki came home from her weekend in Portland and told me, “My friend has what you have!” Her friend told me to contact her if I need support, and that’s been wonderful. I should probably go to a support group, but I don’t know if I’m up for that yet.

There are spokespeople for everything. Breast cancer. Prostate cancer. Incontinence. Impotence. Why are there no spokespeople for this thing? The closest we’ve come is Michael Jackson, and let’s be frank: He’s not a good representative of normal people who live with vitiligo. He’s not really a good spokesperson for anything. It’s sad that he’s done so much to himself that people question whether he really has vitiligo and chose to depigment himself because it was so severe or just wanted to be white.

This is not a pitiful post, begging for sympathy. Even though I know that this is something I’m going to have to live with, I’m not going down fighting. To be honest, I really like my dermatologist, but felt she was abrupt. She did have me tested for thyroid stuff because about 20% of vitiligo sufferers also have autoimmune thyroid conditions. The test was fine–but I’ve also read that vitiligo sufferers can be low in B vitamins and copper. Vitiligo can be a sign of pernicious anemia, which can prevent absorption of vitamins and minerals. There was a very small study that showed that gingko biloba can help slow the progression. Anyway, the medical approach seems to be to treat the symptoms, so I went to a naturopath last Wednesday. On Thursday, I went to give blood and urine samples, and they’re testing everything. I should be able to go back in a few days to see what the results are. I know it is really perverse to hope for odd levels of vitamins or whatever, but I do.

He Giveth, and He Taketh Away

He Giveth, and He Taketh Away

Mr. Demo, that is. Not God.

Still no dishwaster. I had one, and it was wonderful. Now I’m washing dishes in the bathtub again.

Which really sucks.

We won’t even talk about the division of labor. Suffice it to say that I have descended to the level of leaving his dirty glasses in the bathtub so that when he comes home and wants to take a shower, he gets a little hint. The first day, he laughed. The second day he said, “Looks like you have some dishes to do.” Today’s the third day. What’s in store now?

On Kitchen Non-Progress

On Kitchen Non-Progress

Steve was home sick yesterday. He’s not a very good sick person because he can’t seem to loll around and read all day. Instead, he has to be doing, doing, doing all the time. This elicits very little sympathy from me; I am the queen of lolling about and reading. But anyway.

His mother is coming for a visit week after next. And he realized that he needed to get the sink hooked up. (Apparently his mother can goad him into action; I should invite her to visit more often.) So we hoisted the darn thing off the pedestal so he could connect the faucets, cracking the pipe on one side. This was completely my fault; the thing weighs, like, 3 million pounds. There are two sinks, with two sets of faucet holes. He got one faucet attached, thinking that one is god enough for now.

YAY! Running water. We danced around the kitchen, Harry barking at our feet. Only to realize that there’s a major leak. Somewhere. We don’t know where. he dismantled the pipes trying to figure out where it was leaking. So the status update is this: We now have running water in the kitchen, only it doesn’t drain. We also have no dishwasher now.

There is some good news, however. He works in construction, and is now doing some pretty nice condos. The architect had specified these really cool, ultra groovy subway tiles from France, which are 2″ by 8″. They came in and the color was slightly off–they’re a light mushroom and apparently he says they’re too pink. No one can see any pink to speak of–and it means we’re getting them for free. Also, we’re getting new fridge, also free. Stainless steel, with the freezer on the bottom. It has a minor ding on one side.