Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: Getting Ready for Cabinet Delivery

Tomorrow is the day our new kitchen cabinets, counters, and island are to be delivered. But before they can take their rightful place, there was a bunch of work that needed to get done so the installation can go smoothly.

We had removed the upper cabinets some time ago and found various nooks and crannies to store what they contained. That left the largest cabinet run that contained various cooking implements, vinegars, canned goods, and, most importantly our sink.

So yesterday we tackled that. We moved the kitchen table to the other side of the room, and it became one of various surface areas to be temporary storage for stuff.

The tops of  a dresser and window sill were also put to use.

While I was emptying out the cabinet, David was busy installing the new plumbing and shut-off valves for the sink water lines outside.

With the valves in place, it meant we could move ahead and cut the pipes inside and behind the sink cabinet, but still have hot/cold water to the bathrooms. A handy thing to have, even if it meant we would be doing dishes in the bathtub.

Next step was to pull the cabinet away from the wall and brace ourselves for whatever creepy crawlies might be living underneath of it.

Because I'm a considerate kind of girl, I'll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that we both wiedled cans of bug spray and my hands-on experience of working at a pest control company many moons ago made me less squemish about stepping on bugs to kill them.

Once the bugs were dead or in their last throes, I armed myself with the Shop-Vac and cleaned out the tile void and surrounding area.

Then the fun continued as we needed to remove the sink from the counter.

We thought we had all the clips removed from the underside, but after hacking through the caulk, the blasted thing still wouldn't come out. Finally David discovered there was one clip that had been installed incorrectly that was causing the problem. A couple of good yanks released the sink. Between the two of us, we moved the cabinet into our spare room.

At that point, we decided to call it a day. This is what the area looked like at that point:

Nothing says "kitchen" like a wheelbarrow and Shop-Vac.

This morning, David started the cement pour. First he mixed the cement with some sand and added water to get it to the right consistency.

Using a screed that he built, he shoveled the cement into the void and smoothed everything out. In a matter of just an hour or so, the job was complete.

It probably goes without saying that we kept the beasties out on the porch until the cement dried enough. With all the other chaos going on, the last thing we needed was having to clean up cement paw prints from throughout the house.

So now, we're ready and hopefully our new cabinets will show up sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, there's a dishrack in our bathtub and I can't remember where I stored anything.

P.S. David woke up with a cold this morning. Makes it interesting trying to smooth cement between bouts of sneezing and blowing one's nose.

P.P.S. While all this has been going on, Fernando and his brother, Raphino, are building a structure in the back to shade our vegetable garden. More on that later.

P.P.S. Sam, one of the dogs we adopted when we bought the house, is convinced there is something hiding out in the under carriage of our car and has been quite the maniac trying to get it. We popped the hood, took the hose and sprayed everything, but nothing has made an appearance. I'll be using the car later this morning and just hope to God Sam is just imagining things and there isn't something like a snake that decides to appear while I'm driving. A gecko, fine. Same if there's a lizard. But NO SNAKES!

P.P.P.S. Don't you wish you could be having all this fun?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Media Center Debut

Last month I blogged about some other projects we have in various stages of development, including a veggie garden, a possible pool, and a media center.

Well after weeks of hard work out in his shop, David had the media center completed. Before showing you what he created, let's take a short trip down memory lane. Here's what our entertainment area looked like before:

We used a table that came with the house for the TV, reciever, speakers, and miscellaneous stuff. Underneath, we put the DVD and CD player on a coffee table we brought with us. Under that, we stacked our DVDs, CDs, and large speaker. While it certainly was a workable solution, we wanted something a bit more in keeping with the open, airy look we wanted for the living area.

Here's what my man built as a solution:

David put together a design that had custom made slots for all our electronics, as well as all our DVDs and CDs (with some room to spare). He even made his own moulding (no easy task when working with rock hard mahogany) to give the piece a finished touch. Pretty cool, huh? Boy, I am one lucky girl to have a guy who knows how to do wood working stuff, not to mention stained glass, plumbing, you name it.

So with this project checked off the list, we can turn our attention back to getting the kitchen finished. We received word over the weekend that our cabinets and counters will be delivered on Friday, November 30. I am so excited and can't wait to have space to store and prep stuff.

I'll be documenting the steps we need to take prior to delivery. Namely, we need to rip out the existing sink cabinet, rework the plumbing, and fill in the tile voids with cement. But by this time next week, we should have everything -- cabinets, counters, island, plumbing -- all in place. YEA!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What a Difference a Week Makes

Last Wednesday, little Olivia joined our household, and a scrawnier, mangier looking puppy you never did see. Weighing in at only two pounds, scabby bits covering most of her skin, and almost no fur, well, folks who saw her were hard pressed to come up with compliments. It's sort of like when you see a very ugly baby and you desperately seek some redeeming quality to voice to the parents. David wondered if we should have named her "Pitiful."

But if you remember the story of the Ugly Duckling, something tells me Olivia is well on her way to becoming quite the looker.

In just seven short days, she has put on an extra pound, and by the way she is eating, there's no doubt that more are on the way. Matter of fact, her body shape rather resembles a butternut squash.

Using the medicated shampoo from Dr. Sheila, most of Olivia's scabs have gone away and her fur is starting to come in. Granted, in lots of spots it looks like peach fuzz, but it's better than being nekkid!

And her energy level? Oh my Lord! When we first got her, she could barely stand up and running around was out of the question. Our kitten, Bronte, did everything she could to get Olivia's attention, but it just took too much out of her.

But within a few short days, Olivia was racing after the cat, practically doing laps around the house, and playing with every pet toy she could get her paws on. She also has figured out how to bark, mostly at Bronte when she has a toy that Olivia wants.

When not terrorizing one another, a truce is called, and Bronte and Olivia go back to being the best of buddies.

And it's at this point, ladies and gentlemen, that I will shamelessly post gratuitous cute pet pictures:

I know, I'm worse than a new parent. But seriously, are these two adorable or what?
We still have some weeks ahead of us for five-a-day feedings, blankets being washed every day to prevent the spread of Olivia's skin infection, medicated shampoo being applied every three days, litter training, and housebreaking the puppy. But we're well on the road of having two very healthy, happy pets who have brought us more laughter (and a bit less sleep) than we could have imagined.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: Primer Coat

Earlier today, David and I stopped by Mr. Kim's shop to see how things were going with our cabinets. In all the time we've been blogging about this project, it occured to me that I never posted a picture of his workshop.

I realize this shot doesn't clue you into any of the tools or machinery he has, but suffice it to say there is a lot of stuff in here, not to mention the random chicken or dog. OSHA would have a field day.

We found the crew were busy applying the primer coat to the cabinets, cupboards, and doors. Yippee!

Island base, drawers, and doors

Doors primed and drying, drawers waiting to be primed
Base of sink cabinet primed and ready for final coats
It's so exciting seeing all come together! Once the primer is dry, the crew will sand all the surfaces again, then apply the white paint and the satin poly finish. Because Monday was a national holiday celebrating Garifuna Day, our delivery date will probably be next week instead of this Friday. We should hopefully now for sure in the next couple of days.
Unless something unexpected crops up, we'll probably remove the existing sink cabinet on Monday, cut the existing plumbing, and do the cement pour in the tile voids. We're almost there!
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Friday, November 16, 2012

It's a Pupapalooza!

So Wednesday was another milestone for us. For starters, we got word that our kitchen cabinets are back on track. The other event that rocked our world was the arrival of our newest family member, Olivia:

David was off at the cabinet maker when Fernando arrived with the puppy. To say she was the most pitiful looking thing I had ever seen, would not be an overstatement. Apparently, a guy Fernando knows in Ranchito owns the mom, who had given birth to a litter of seven or eight puppies. Their living conditions were abysmal -- nothing but dirt and all kinds of nasty stuff. Olivia, being the runt of the litter, had to struggle more than her siblings to get whatever little bit of food she could scavenge. Seriously, I had never seen a puppy this tiny before...ever.

Fernando wouldn't even let me hold her at first, because she reeked to high heaven. Once he gave her a bath, I wrapped her in a towel, dried her off, and got my first good look. It wasn't pretty. She has very little fur, her skin was just covered with all kinds of scabs, and she could barely stand up. Fernando wasn't optimistic she would make it through the night.

When David arrived home, he was as surprised as I had been to see her and not altogether pleased to have a sickly puppy to contend with. But we both agreed there was no way we could let her go back to her birth family. 

Once she had dried off from her bath, we figured she really could use something to eat. The poor thing was just skin and bones. David, bless his heart, hopped in the car and went off to find puppy chow. When we set down a dish with food, it's was clear she hadn't had a meal in some time. 

During all this, Bronte made her presence known. She tried playing, pawing, and sometimes nipping at Olivia, who wasn't really equipped to defend herself. We did whatever we could to keep the two at paws length. 

But it was amazing that once Olivia had a long nap and a full tummy, she started getting some energy. We were keeping our fingers crossed that she would be okay.

That night we settled on the couch to watch TV. I had Olivia wrapped up in a towel, like a little nest. Next thing we knew, Bronte decided to hang out with us as well:

The peace and tranquility didn't last long. Bronte woke up and decided it was time to play. I sent David  off to bed and got myself as comfortable as I could on the couch to deal with the little ones. Bronte got bored after a bit and headed into the bedroom to sleep on David's head. I am not kidding.

With Olivia curled up on my chest, the two of us tried to doze off. Around one in the morning, I woke up because Olivia was moving around and something felt weird on my arm. Turns out, she barfed all over me and her nesting towel. I got the two of us cleaned up and we tried to doze off again. We did well until about 4 a.m., when she woke up.

While she certainly had more spring in her step, we wanted to have the local vet, Dr. Sheila, check her out. Just as an aside, I can't say enough good things about Dr. Sheila. She is amazing. When I think about what types of cases she must have to deal with down here, well, she deserves the utmost respect.

Dr. Sheila estimated that Olivia is about five to six weeks old -- the same as Bronte. When Olivia was put on the scale, she weighed two pounds. Count 'em...two pounds. No wonder she was such a tiny thing. Dr. Sheila explained that the scabby bits on Olivia's skin were from a fungal infection that she contracted from being in poor living conditions. She gave us some medicated shampoo that needs to be applied once every three days. Due to her small poundage, we would also need to feed her about five small meals of puppy chow mixed with milk or water each day. After her check-up and being given her first dose of heartworm medicine, we were good to go, all for the whopping fee of $20 (BZD) or $10 in US dollars. 

Upon arriving home, I gave Olivia a bath with her new shampoo and wow -- what a difference to her skin and her attitude. Once she scarfed down another meal, she seemed to be transformed into a whole new puppy. So much so that she decided to spend some serious time playing with Bronte.

But after any rigorous workout, a nice long nap is in order:

These two have really hit it off -- when they aren't hitting on one another. 

So while we hadn't planned to add a puppy to the mix this soon, we have been totally smitten and are happy that Olivia will have a chance to be in a loving home, with plenty to eat, and lots of cuddles. She and Bronte are due back at Dr. Sheila's on December 6. It will be interesting to see how much they weigh at that point.

In the meantime, be sure to check back here for updates on the progress of our two tykes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: The Patron Saints Save the Day

It appears our chats with San Lorenzo and Saint Joseph (patron saints of chefs and woodworkers, respectively) paid off...big time.

Yesterday David stopped by the cabinet shop to see where things stood with our cabinets, specifically how to fix the problem of the sink cabinet being too long. Well, it turns out that the crew re-jigged the sink cabinet and it will now fit just fine and with a little bit of room to spare.

Everything should be ready to have a primer coat applied tomorrow. Once that's all dry, work can move ahead with applying the white paint, final finish. 

Because it took a couple of days for the work to be completed on reworking the sink cabinet, our delivery date is now scheduled for November 23. Not a biggie. 

Our game plan is to cut the sink plumbing and remove the existing sink cabinet next Wednesday. With that work out of the way, we can fill the tile voids with cement. With fingers crossed, all should be set (literally and figuratively) for our Friday delivery date. 

Let the Snoopy Dance of Joy commence!

P.S. Because nothing says home like a pet or two, we have added to our family. Ladies and gentlemen, making her blog debut, here's Olivia:

I'll be sharing all the details on how we became her pet parents in an upcoming post. And yes, the puppy is in addition to the kitten, Bronte, we adopted last week. And the two dogs we adopted when we bought the house. And yes, in the last 24 hours it feels like we booked to tickets on the crazy train. But gosh, are these babies cute!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: Measure Twice, Cut Once...But Not Really

So last Tuesday, we were doing our Snoopy dance of joy because we received our range hood, sink, and a bunch of other stuff from Amazon, PLUS we had received an estimated delivery date from our cabinet contractor. Oh happy day!

Well, things started going south on Friday afternoon. We received a call from the contractor's partner to let us know there was little problem with the island. Let me throw some design specs at ya', so you can follow along with the fun.

See the far right side where the vertical and horizontal dividers are? That's the spot where we intend to store cutting boards and baking pans. Because these items are used a lot, we specifically said multitudinous times that we did not want a door on this section.

Well, it seems the crew built all the dividers, glued and nailed them into place and then realized the space was to be open. How would they paint the inside of this area? How would they finish the outside edges so it wouldn't be raw plywood? Hmmm, seems we have a problem. 

One might think that finishing the plywood edges would just take a strip of veneer or moulding. Unfortunately, we don't have veneer in these parts. And as for moulding, it's not like Home Depot where you can just walk in, pick out the type that you want, and be on your merry way. Here moulding has to be milled to spec. On the high side, the assistant let us know they had built a door for this section if we wanted it. Thaaawaaack! That was the sound of our heads hitting the nearest concrete wall.

But, the fun was just getting started! It was also during that phone call when David asked for confirmation of the center point of the counter run that will have our new sink. He was told the center was 70 inches. Well that seemed a bit out of whack. Here's what I mean:

The base of the sink counter is supposed to be 9'-4" and have a two-inch, bullnose overhang around the perimeter. 

On Saturday, David decided to take a ride over to the shop to see first-hand what the heck was going on. He also took our new sink so the crew could accurately measure the opening that needed to be cut.

It turns out, for some unknown reason, they added the two-inch overhang on either end to the length of the cabinet base. That means the base is now four inches longer than it's supposed to be. That also means that it won't fit in our kitchen.

As you can see from the above diagram, we have our back door on the left side and the range at the other end of the cabinet run that has the sink. Not a lot of room to work with. And oh by the way, the short counter on the other side of the range is also too long.

When David returned from the shop and shared the news, I was momentarily at a loss for words. How in the world could this have happened? More importantly, how in the world would we figure out a solution to make it work?

We then spent the next few hours coming up with possible alternatives to the original design. The only solution that came close to a possibility was to eliminate the two-inch bullnose, plus eliminate the bit of wiggle room in the original design, which provided a bit of space around the range to make it easier to slide it out, should the need arise. However, even removing all of that, the counter would still be 5/8" too long. Unless we didn't want to use the back door, we are SOL.

At that point, David emailed all the options we came up with, along with updated designs, to the contractor, and tossed the ball in his court to figure out if there are any other possibilities and/or ways to shave off 5/8".  

As far as the island goes, it was agreed that the crew would mill moulding to cover the plywood edges and hand paint the dividers the best they can. Due to the dividers close proximity to one another, it's highly doubtful they'll be able to get the paint all the way to the back of the cabinet area. 

And to truly put the "fun" in dysfunctional, we have no idea what, if any, impact all of this will have on our estimated delivery date of November 21. 

In the meantime, I think I'll offer up some good thoughts to San Lorenzo, the patron saint of cooks, to see if he can help get things back on track. 

Because It's Monday...

...and you might need a little help gearing up for the week ahead, just remember to put on your game face.

Be flexible.

Be charming.

But don't be afraid to be assertive when necessary.

Most of all, remember to laugh.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: Range Hood Vent, Electric

Now that we've taken delivery of our new sink and range hood, David could move ahead with knocking out a space in the upper part of the kitchen wall to accommodate the venting for the hood and install an electrical outlet.

While the project sounds simple in concept, in reality it would be quite an effort. The walls of our house are about eight inches thick and are made out of concrete block, which are filled with cement. And while it provides a sturdy structure, it's not like working with drywall. This requires some muscle to break through.

After marking the circumference of the vent pipe on the wall, David drilled holes -- inside and out -- around the perimeter. Then, using a hammer, chisel, and a few cuss words or two, he pounded out the eight-inch thick circle.

In order for the range hood to have an electrical source, a new outlet needed to be put in, close to the vent opening. At first, David thought he would have to chisel out a channel from the outlet for the stove (the outlet you see at the bottom). That would not have been a great way to spend the day.

Instead, he was able to access the electrical wires by tapping out the cement on a horizontal line from the vent pipe opening. From there, he could splice the lines, and chip out the space for the new outlet box.

Groovy, huh? 

Here's what the vent looks like from the outside of the kitchen wall:

This morning he did all the finishing cement work around the vent opening and some other areas inside that needed to be taken care of.

So at this point, everything seems pretty copacetic, huh? Well, not so much. We had a call from our cabinet contractor on Friday, and it seems there are a few not-so-little issues that need to be resolved, not the least of which is that the counters they made are too by four inches (!).

I'll post all the details of what went down and where we are in getting the situation resolved. Stay tuned as the drama unfolds. In the meantime, we are taking deep, cleansing breaths and trying to be as Zen-like as possible.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: Dates! Sink! Range Hood! And More!

As if adopting a kitten wasn't enough excitement for one day, we had more thrills yesterday. To start with, we met with our kitchen cabinet contractor early in the morning. We ok'd the layout of the counter tops, discussed and agreed on some remaining elements for the cabinets, and, best of all, received an estimated delivery date! YAY! If all goes according to plan, we could have our new cabinets by November 21. We realize the date could slide a bit, but at least we can put our final plans together to get the tile voids and sink plumbing taken care of.

After that, we received a call from Roy & Sons Shipping that our Amazon delivery would arrive that afternoon. This was great news, as it meant we would then have:

  • Our single basin, stainless steel kitchen sink
  • Range hood
  • Printer toner cartridge
  • French bread pan
  • Oven mitt - why I didn't pack the ones I owned in the States remains a mystery
  • Two dogs beds
  • A partridge in a pear tree (not really)

Just a quick word on how the whole delivery process works with Roy's. When placing our order through Amazon, we provided the shipping address for Roy's, which is based in Los Angeles. Then we emailed our itemized order info to Nena, who works at the L.A. facility. She then let us know when each of the items arrived. Once everything was there, all our stuff, along with anything else other people wanted shipped to Belize was routed to Houston by truck, where it was then transported to Florida, placed in a cargo container and put on the next ship sailing here. Once the ship arrived in Belize, Roy worked his magic as the customs broker and then started making deliveries.

When all our boxes were unloaded, we felt like it was an early Christmas. Of course, not everyone would be super excited by a sink or range hood, but it means we're that much closer to having a finished kitchen.

David assembled the dog beds and had his trusty, new assistant lending a hand (or should I say paw?)

"I've got this side. Hand me the screwdriver why dontcha'?"

A supervisor's duties are never done.
And to put icing on the cake for a great day, we scored two crossword puzzle books (a rare item in these parts) AND our very first sunflower popped.

Happy day, indeed.

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Say Hello To My Little Friend

This is Bronte. She's only five or six weeks old, tiny as can be, and is now the newest member of the Wright household. 

But how did this come to pass?

Well, I had been oh-so-subtlety hinting to David for the last couple of months that it would be lovely if we could find a kitten, or a puppy, or both (!) to adopt.  He bought into the kitten idea with a few small caveats, like it needed to be a female, the litter box would have to be in the spare bathroom, the rug already in the bathroom needed to be moved, and I would need to make chocolate cakes and cookies for him the rest of my life.

Seemed reasonable.

I put the word out to our friends that we were interested in becoming pet parents. Days and weeks went by with no puppies or kittens making an appearance. Then yesterday, as I was sitting at my computer, I saw an email come in from our friend Colleen, simply titled "kittens" in the subject line. Just as I was opening the picture she sent (the above is the cropped version), David came in, handed me the phone, and said that Colleen was on the line. He took one look at my monitor, shook his head, and disappeared.

Colleen let me know that friends of theirs, Julie and Lindsey, had stopped by with two kittens that needed a home. Apparently, someone had thrown the mother cat and her four babies out of a truck. Only two of the kittens survived. Would I be interested in adopting one or both?

Well, hell to the yes! I told Colleen that I would go find David and would call her back. After giving David the details of the kittens' misfortune, using the most soulful expression I could muster, I asked if we could go over and look at them. With a bit of a sigh, he agreed.

As soon as I set my eyes on this little fur ball, I was smitten. And while her brother was equally adorable, I just knew that if I started bonding with him, I would want to adopt him too. Figured there was no reason to press my luck with my better half.

Fortunately, other friends of ours, Dave and Dianna, agreed to adopt Bronte's brother, who they have named Nelson. You can read about that on their Winjama blog.

In the meantime, we brought Bronte home after stopping for some kitty litter and food. Since then she has started exploring her new home, eating like a little piggy, and getting into all kinds of mischief. But after a couple hours of eating and playing, this is what happens:


Out like a light.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: New Cabinets, Counters, Island Update

So on Wednesday I wrote about where we stand with our efforts in our kitchen project and had a bit of a crankypants rant because of not being able to get an update from our contractor. Well lo and behold, we received a call on Thursday from our contractor's partner asking if we could come by the shop on Friday afternoon to take a look at what they've been up to these last several weeks.

The first piece we looked at was the island and its countertop:

Side view of island and counter
This is a seven foot long run, which will provide ample work space. The counter is comprised of various local woods, which when cleaned up and varnished will take on a darker hue than what this shot suggests. The riser you see on the right side is part of the support for the glass bar top that we still need to have made. That is a story unto itself, which I'll share in an upcoming post.

While I couldn't get a good shot of the island from the front, you can see from our design that it will have three cupboard doors, behind which will contain pull out shelves. We also incorporated an open shelving unit on the right side for our cutting boards and baking sheets. Four drawers sit about the cupboards where I can store prep items and gadgets.

The crew also had been working on the cabinets that will run on either side of the range. Here's a shot of the smaller piece:

On both the long and short counters, they had laid out wood strips that were far lighter than what we asked for. There were also a number of very short pieces that broke the flow. Those will be taken out, and the blond pieces will be swapped out for darker ones. 

Another change we made was to rearrange some of the wood pieces on the long counter run. See the black/blond strip here in the middle? In person, it's really very pretty.

Well, apparently it's also very pricey. The way they had laid out the strips on the long counter run, pieces of this wood would be exactly where the sink would be, meaning they would all have to be cut out. Didn't seem to make much sense to us, which is why we asked to have the design rearranged.

In other news, the cupboard doors are in the process of being made:

The only change we made to the overall look was to have the inside edge to the frame be cut with a round edge versus a straight one.

The good news is that work is progressing and there's a possibility that painting the cabinets could start in the next couple of weeks. The bad news is that we still don't have an estimated finish date. We made it clear that we weren't looking for something written in stone, just a ballpark timeframe. Thanksgiving? Christmas? Easter? At least, Easter was taken off the table. But for whatever reason, there seem to be some commitment issues. 

So now we will see what information we can get from the owner, but have already been forewarned that he can be difficult to reach by phone and the times he is actually in the shop are erratic. Great.

In the meantime, we will press ahead and get whatever work we need to do out of the way, except for cutting the sink pipes and doing the cement work to cover the tile voids. I suppose worst case scenario is that the crew doing the cabinet work gets done before we have the plumbing and cement work finished. In that case, they'll just have to keep the cabinets in their shop until we're ready for delivery. One way or another, we'll get it figured out, but jeez, it doesn't seem to have to be this complicated.