Archive for the ‘domestic life’ Category

The changes on the other side of the galley kitchen have been somewhat simpler.  Most of Phase 2 happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because E was adamant that I was not allowed to replace the stove right before we had to cook Thanksgiving dinner on it.

  1. Removed the non-functional and revolting stove hood
  2. Added new lighting
  3. Repainted the accent wall to a much calmer but still cheerful color
  4. Redid the cabinetry as part of Phase 1
  5. Replaced the stove with a new one that believes in accurate temperatures, efficient heating, beeping when it’s preheated, and has a clock that doesn’t constantly buzz
  6. Recessed the stove outlet into the wall so the stove doesn’t stick as far into the room

Phase 2, before (this is actually a very old picture, taken before we replaced the fridge years ago, but otherwise reflects the recent starting point)

Phase 2, after

The new lighting is under the metal channel, and nicely lights the counter when turned on, but is impossible to photograph when lit without looking weird.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the weird stick-like things are near the power strip — they’re four popsicle sticks screwed to the front of the molding.  We can prop our cell phones up behind them while they’re plugged into the charging strip, and it keeps the whole mess off the counter.  They can also prop up recipes for easy reference while cooking.


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Kitchen renovation, phase 1

For the last several months, E and I have been working on a long-overdue kitchen renovation.  Somewhere on a kitchen design site I read that, “You should have a mission statement for your renovation.”  At first I thought that sounded ridiculously pretentious, and then I realized that we actually had a mission statement for our renovation.

“We want a window over the sink, instead of half a cabinet.” 

That’s probably not the kind of mission statement the site envisioned.  But after 19 years of banging pots and elbows and heads into that cabinet while washing dishes, it’s appropriate.

We planned our renovation phases so the chaotic portions would happen while M was away at college, since it’s easier to renovate a kitchen when someone isn’t eating in it every 2 hours.  For Phase 1, which happened in September through Thanksgiving, here’s what we did:

  1. Removed shelves above sink
  2. Moved upper cabinet
  3. Extended other upper cabinet to ceiling
  4. Added lower cabinet
  5. Painted cabinet boxes
  6. Replaced all exposed hinges with concealed hinges (this was a huge mathematical and measurement and carpentry hassle, but totally worth it)
  7. Replaced all cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones from CabinetNow (this was also the source of the new lower cabinet box)
  8. Installed a casement window above the sink (this was a day-long extravaganza involving help from my Dad, who did most of the cutting the actual hole in the house.  The window fit in between two of the studs, and it’s a decent width because the house has metal studs 22″ on center.  I was very lucky that the studs were only slightly off-center from the sink, and that all the utilities on the outside of the house weren’t in the way.)

Phase 1, before, inside

Phase 1, after, inside (ignore the temporary countertop on the lower cabinet)

Phase 1, before, outside (I didn’t think to take an explicit before picture so the angle doesn’t quite match the after)

Phase 1, after outside (and yes, I’m darn proud of getting the window installed so neatly into the existing vinyl siding)


The kitchen feels amazingly different. Instead of a cramped dark galley space, it now feels open and light.  We can stand at the sink and wash dishes and look at birds or squirrels or trees or the moon outside, rather than bang our heads on a cabinet.  It’s awesome.

More to come…

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As if 2016 hadn’t already been a monumentally awful year, it managed to go out in a particularly hellacious fashion in our family, when E’s mom came down with a life-threatening c. difficile infection in December. Public service announcement: if your elderly relative takes antibiotics (as treatment for a bad laceration received in a fall), and shortly thereafter has several days of increasingly severe diarrhea, do not assume it’s food poisoning from her eating lunch at a restaurant. Not even if it’s a restaurant that has given your wife food poisoning in the past. Not even if your elderly relative thinks it’s getting better because on day 4 she manages to eat a little solid food before getting sick again. Instead, just take your elderly relative to the local emergency room, and get her checked for c. diff., before your elderly relative becomes so dehydrated that kidney function (and everything else) is in peril.

Let’s gloss over how difficult hospital stays can be for a frail elder. Let’s just say that E spent enough time at the hospital that the person who runs the coffee kiosk eventually would just ask her if she wanted the usual.

Fortunately, E’s mom is doing OK now, after 2 separate stays in the hospital, and was back home in time for Christmas. We did a lot of cleaning at her home to avoid the risk of reinfection, which included some serious refrigerator purging for open packages of food, which also happened to turn up 16 outdated eggs meant for holiday baking she never had a chance to do.

All of which helps explain why we officially said goodbye to 2016 today through the highly therapeutic method of going to some deserted woods and whipping 16 eggs at trees.

“This one’s for Carrie Fisher.” SPLAT!

“This one’s for everybody who died.” SPLAT!

“Trump.” SPLAT!

“The electoral college.” SPLAT!


It didn’t matter that my aim is so bad I sometimes missed the trees, and once didn’t even hit underbrush, and got to throw the same egg twice. It just added to the comedy of it all. E, as a former softball player, got in enough good hits for us both.


Good-bye, 2016!


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Last night, E was venting a bit about what a frustratingly stressful day she’d had at work. And she’s certainly entitled to vent – she works very long hours on top of a hellish commute, and the group she manages is incredibly short-staffed, and yet the services they provide are often critical to life-and-death situations.

Her day had been so bad that she said when she got a LinkedIn job offer to work for a major women’s clothing retailer, she’d actually been tempted for a split second. I eyed her up and down very dubiously, and we both burst out laughing.

Because she’d already changed from her workday attire into her relax-around-the-house outfit, which consisted of:

     1) Navy blue men’s sweatpants
     2) A shapeless gray T-shirt
     3) A stretched-out gray long-sleeved T-shirt

and, for the crowning glory,

     4) A maroon sweatshirt which had caught fire when we were burning brush a couple winters ago, and which now has a very jagged neckline after we cut away the melted top half of a zipper.

This was so definitely not the corporate look of the women’s clothing retailer in question that we just had to laugh!

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I am officially old

Proof number 1: at the hardware store, I was buying a can of spray paint. After it was scanned, the register prompted the cashier to enter the customer’s birth date. The cashier didn’t even bother to ask if I had a license/ID, never mind to see what birth date was listed on it. She just randomly typed in some birth date that must have translated as “old enough to buy spray paint.” I used to look young enough that the cashiers would at least apologetically ask to see my license.

Proof number 2: at work, a service engineer and I were chatting about the various lab equipment that we’ve worked on. He said that the model I first used is one that he has only seen in his company’s in-house museum of obsolete technology. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d simply said that particular model was before his time, but I hadn’t realized it was now considered a museum piece!

E very kindly pointed out, after I told her about episode number 2, that I’m not old — I’m experienced. That does sound better!

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Yes, I know that based on movies and TV commercials, Christmas is supposed to be all about joy and magic and wonder. But let’s face it, when your holiday gathering includes cranky and critical elderly parents rather than small children, magic and wonder are not going to happen, and the bar for “success” is set pretty low.

Fortunately, this year we had Mother Nature and her unseasonably warm temperatures on our side. So when my parents arrived on the 24th, we went out letterboxing. This entailed a very long walk through moderately scenic conservation land in record-setting 69 degree weather.



That particular conservation tract has been rumored to contain a purple shack where high school students go to buy drugs. When I saw this shack, I thought perhaps we’d found the infamous building, and it was described as purple rather than green to confuse parents.


Then we realized that even drug dealers probably wouldn’t operate out of a wide-open outhouse.


Having the open side face the trail, for absolutely minimal privacy, makes it even more bizarre — although having a dilapidated outhouse on public conservation land was pretty weird to begin with.

Dinner was a fish-related extravaganza although we didn’t attempt to hit 7 kinds. And then my parents went to sleep in the guest room, where we’d managed to fit the spare cot in beside the twin bed, so nobody had to share a room with teenage-boy-smell.


Christmas morning, my mother and I headed out fairly early to do a little more letterboxing. Because if you ask me for a bread knife, and I hand you the serrated knife we always use, and you refuse it because it’s technically a steak knife, and then you get out a different non-serrated knife, and then you get annoyed that it’s not cutting your bread properly, then I would rather wander the woods counting off 65 paces along a stone wall from a triple-trunked tree than continue sharing a kitchen with you. Ahem. Not much to be said for the theoretical scenic vista, but at least it was neutral territory.


Back at the house, E had brought her mom over, and we then attempted to make coffee for everyone using the dying coffee-maker. It started leaking coffee out of every orifice it had (plus some it didn’t), at which point I heaved it out the window to minimize the mess dripping into the floor, and E’s single-serving French press went into overtime.

We entertained ourselves at Christmas dinner by making predictions for 2016. Each of us had to predict:

— 1 US political event
— 1 general news event
— 1 positive event
— 2 famous people who would die

Yes, this counts as uplifting entertainment by our family’s standards.

We also reviewed how well we’d done with last year’s predictions. I had succeeded with “Boston will not be nominated to host the Olympics” and “Governor Deval Patrick will fade into obscurity.” E unfortunately also succeeded with “there will be a major terrorist event outside the US.” In good news, all of the people on our 2015 death-prediction list are still alive and kicking.

Finally, E took her mom home, while M and I and my parents did one more round of letterboxing before my parents drove home.

Whew. All done for another year.

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Think they’ll notice?

We finally got around to buying a Christmas tree on Sunday. Think we can get away with not bothering to decorate it, without getting too much criticism or questions from our parents when they visit?  We did put one random bow on top, that came off a package. And we do have Christmas lights up — although not on the tree, and they’re lights we keep up year-round. 

Maybe we can just scatter a few more cat toys around the bottom and call it good. 

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