Apr 30, 2009

Rock On!

Home Depot is having a promotion on select granite. So we put an order in last night and going to put a deposit down tonight. We're going with Sapphie Jolie. Grade B at less than Grade A prices! And free edging!

So if you happen to need at least 50 SF of granite, run (don't walk) to Home Depot.

You're welcome.

Apr 29, 2009

Eating in/out of House and Home

We've been cooking creatively since the demolition. The grill has become our go-to cooking appliance, and our powder room has been converted to a kitchenette, and our toaster oven and rice cooker have been working harder than ever. Staples in our new diet include: cereal, ramen, steak, hot dogs, rice and salads. Lots of salads.

It's been a fun challenge. Sometimes not. I've tried to be 'green' and avoid disposable serving ware, but clean up sucks so badly that I've resorted to it. And not just paper plates, but the plastic ones too. And cups. And when I'm doing clean up, I'll admit I don't regret it.

We've discovered that pretty much anything can be cooked on a grill. We've cooked BBQ, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and even Indian. For breakfasts, I've cooked frozen sausage links, frozen hash browns, frozen waffles - all on the grill. We've cooked pasta on the grill and even risotto. We cooked baked beans in the original can on the grill. We've even cooked a frozen pizza on the grill. I've documented some of our culinary journey here.

We're not big on eating out much since we're such home bodies. But we have a couple of times so far during this remodel:
  1. The Falafel Grill - we ordered take out after we discovered we were out of propane in the grill. They close at 8:30 and we picked up our food at 8:35, we love them. Their falafels are HUGE. But their steak and cheese subs are not so great. And apparently this is the teenage hang out spot on weeknights if you're bored.
  2. Sagebrush Cantina - for our friend April's birthday. I ordered fish tacos which also was my lunch the next day. Good food and margaritas were had by all.
  3. Togo's - I entered a KNX raffle at Home Depot where one of the hosts was promoting the radio station. He happened to be very rude to me for no reason and jokingly said he would make sure I won the raffle (I think to make up for his jerkiness). A week later I got a $50 giftcard to Togo's in the mail. And a week later I got another one. I don't know if he really made me win, but hooray for free sammies!
  4. Sharky's - we had lunch here after flyball practice with the team. Jesse got the fish tacos and I got some taco saladey thing. Good fuel for kitchen building after running with dogs.
  5. Garden Wok - this was courtesy of April and Ryan for helping them settle into their new house. It's vegan Chinese food and it's AWESOME. I didn't miss the meat. I took home some leftover hot and sour soup which I had for lunch this past Monday. And flipped through my free Buddha book as well.
  6. Willy's - after day 1 of a flyball tournament with some fellow team members who are also Agourians. I had the pulled pork sandwich which also rocked as my lunch on Monday. I can't remember what Jesse got which means I must have been really hungry. I also noticed they have nice dark crown molding here.
  7. Gaja - Japanese pancakes with Cindy and Wayne in Torrance. I had shrimp, Jesse had beef. Pics here.
  8. Sharky's again after flyball practice - I had a steak quesadilla. I think I'll order that from now on.
  9. Sharky's again after practice - Steak quesadilla. Hit the spot!
  10. The Falafel Grill again - You guessed it, falafels. And chicken kabobs. Tasty!
  11. Sharky's after practice once again - Steak quesadilla + strawberry cake to celebrate Kea's 3er. YUM!
  12. IN-N-OUT - after Doves concert with Ryan, Dave, Jesse. I only had fries. But it took about 30 minutes to get it. But watching the prom kids was good entertainment to pass the time away.
  13. Latigo Kid - with Stan, Denise, Cherie, Ryan. Only because Señor Carlos was closed. Leftovers became my breakfast AND lunch the next day.
  14. Señor Carlos - with Eskridges on the second to last day they would be open. Tragic...
Where have y'all eaten lately? Any good places a kitchenless gal should be aware of? (Senor Carlos is on the top of my list)

Apr 28, 2009

Riding the (micro)wave

Drumroll please... we have a microwave now! This is so novel to me. Although I grew up with a microwave, I haven't lived with one since 2003. Actually Jesse and I had one in our old apartment in Boston in 2006, but we only lived there about a year, does that count?

Mounting it was not fun. And we did it three times. Here's what went down: we mounted all the wall cabinets* to standard height above the counter, and set some crown molding on top to discover that a 2" gap would be between that and the ceiling. A gap that would bother me, I just knew it. So we took all the cabinets down, remeasured, and remounted everything up 2".

We stood back in silence, and thought about it. From my vantage point, it looked a little odd. I wouldn't be able to reach anything but the bottom shelves. Maybe we make the base cabinets higher? Then it wouldn't be level with the range or dishwasher. We both knew the answer was to remount everything back the way it was. We took all the wall cabinets down and sulked in frustration. I went upstairs to do laundry while Jesse drank a bottle of wine on the patio. We didn't speak for at least an hour.

I came down waving a white flag and offered an olive branch. And we just went to work putting everything back up hardly saying a word (we had this routine down as this was our third time mounting these damn cabinets). We ate dinner and then went to bed at 1 am.

We woke up joking about it after it was over. Did we really waste an entire night only to get back to where we were? Did we really take everything down and put it all back up and take them down and put it all back up again? Was it all a dream? A nightmare? What were we thinking? More importantly, who's sneaking the crazy pills into our diet?

Anyway, we now have a microwave. And the first thing we put in it was chocolate chip cookies. We needed comfort food big time.

For obvious reasons, I only documented the cabinet mounting the first time around.

*Wall mounting cabinets sucks, you have to make sure everything is level and plum using shims. And then you mount all the cabinets together, again level and plum. And I am not a tall person, nor a particularly strong person. We had to use 2x4's as cleats to hold the cabinets for extra support in lieu of an additional or more able person, while the drilling and screwing and clamping occurred. Learn from us and mount your cabinets only once if you can help it. And keep an eye out for potential crazy pills sneaking into your drinks.

Apr 27, 2009

Telemarketers of Religion?

Something unexpected happened this morning. I got a knock on the door from two young ladies asking me what I do to cope with stress. A quick glance at the books they were carrying tipped me off (hint: what is DOG spelled backwards?). So my options were:
  • a. Play dumb and say "I don't know" because clearly they knew they had the answers
  • b. Smile friendly and give a safe answer such as "Turn to your support network such as friends and family"
  • c. Act hungover and give a controversial response like "Drink heavily until I black out while my live-in lesbian lover siphons my thinned out blood for a transfusion"
I had about 3 seconds to decide which way to go. I had to think quick, so here's what whizzed through my head:
  • option 'a' had the potential to become a huge time suck.
  • option 'b' might mislead them to believe I am interested.
  • option 'c' had the greatest risk - neighbors whom I haven't met could overhear (and you never want them to dislike you), these ladies might think I need their help the most and suck up even more time, they could become highly offended in which I would feel bad and probably end up giving them money or food. And a promise to attend a 'meeting' out of sheer guilt and obligation.
Of course I went with option 'C' (a modified version however). I also refused their literature with a smile and they went on their way to the next house.

I never thought Jehovah's Witnesses would be knocking on doors in a Jewish neighborhood. A very Jewish neighborhood.

So here's something that I will preach to you all today: never say never.


Apr 23, 2009


I see a lot of mailboxes that are replicas of their house (examples here).

How did this trend begin? Am I the only one that doesn't fully understand this art? What does mail have to do with your home? Are mailboxes seen as architectural pieces? A mailbox houses mail. A home houses humans, animals and any other living thing. So mail = living beings? Your are your mail (I hope this is not the case, cause most of our mail consists of bills and junk)?

Why aren't other things designed as replicas of your house as well? I don't see trash cans that look like houses. Or tool sheds. Or planting pots. Or garden hose holders. Or anything else that holds things outside your home.

I see this trend with condiments as well, particularly mustard and ketcup.
And none of these are cheap.

Did I OD on crazy pills? What am I missing here?

Apr 22, 2009


There were too many problems with our old kitchen to list (maybe for a future post if I feel ambitious, it's a long list). But one of them was the asymmetry and off-centered layout in the 8' x 8' square space. A big no-no.
  1. The area to the right of the stove created an odd corner size for the counter
  2. The drawers on the right wall couldn't fully open, it would hit the handle of the range
  3. It just looked awkward
So we centered the new kitchen plan, it's hip to be square right? We planned to replace the old nasty oven hood with a shiny new over-the-range microwave. However, we discovered on Sunday that we couldn't hook up the new vent to the old vent location because we didn't want the ducts to go through the new cabinets (we need all the space we can get). So we'll just have the vent circulate indoors. And luckily we have two big sliding doors in case we really need serious ventilation.

I patched up and sealed the old vent so critters and debris wouldn't come in from the exterior. We documented the fun for y'all here.

Apr 21, 2009

An Ode to WM

Dear Waste Collector,

We know you dread arriving to our house. Perhaps even to our street. Even our neighborhood. Maybe even Tuesday mornings. We know we make your job more difficult. We know we are pushing our limits and you've been so accommodating. And we know we are not making the best impression. But please take comfort in knowing this will not last forever, you've been so patient.

We just wanted you to know that you make our lives better and we appreciate it. Because of you, we look forward to Tuesday mornings and wish you would stop by more often.

Thanks for putting up with us.


Apr 20, 2009

We Floored It

Now that the walls are complete, time to move onto the floors. The previous owners had fortunately left several unopened boxes of the Pergo flooring used downstairs, so we wanted to make sure we didn't make mistakes and run out of pieces. After a couple frustrating false starts during the week, we decided it was best to tag team this one and get it done right so Jesse made a rare appearance at flyball practice this week. He couldn't be trusted home alone.

During the week we cleaned the debris and laid down the vapor barrier on top of the concrete, to well, protect the new floors from moisture. I love saying 'vapor barrier', it makes me feel pro just throwing around that term. In reality, it's just a sheet of thick plastic.

Next we put down some foam underlayment for sound and cushioning. Our flooring is a 'floating' floor, meaning it is not glued down directly to the floor below. I think most laminate flooring is connected via a tongue-and-groove method these days, and floats to allow shifting and to expand and contract. So don't forget to leave a 1/4" gap between the planks and the walls. We also put a thin bead of glue inside the tongue-in-groove connections per the manufacturer's instructions.

Tip: keep a damp rag nearby to clean up the excess glue. A little goes a long way, and try to avoid glue getting on the underlayment.
Another Tip: the easiest way to apply is inside the grooves, not on the tongue. The tongue of the planks that is. But you should probably avoid getting it on your tongue as well.
And Another Tip: don't try to measure and cut the planks all at once. Just measure and cut as you go along. Trust us.

Right after practice on Saturday we starting ripping the Pergo planks left and right. The most difficult part was cutting out the piece for the entryway to join with the existing planks without disturbing them. It sounds super easy, but typically you don't start in the middle, and that's where our entryway was located. We also didn't want seams in the entryway, or seams lining up with the other seams, they are supposed to stagger. Once Jesse got that piece done, we were on fire and the rest of the floor went pretty quick.

So now we no longer have exposed concrete flooring. This is big. BIG.

Suggestion: say 'vapor barrier' a lot. It's fun.

Apr 17, 2009

Somewhere on my Wish List

I never thought I'd want one of these. Ever.

But I do.

Apr 16, 2009

Painting the Town Red (or the kitchen Wheat Bread)

We finished the final coat of primer so we were finally able to paint (the order goes: drywall, clean, mud, tape, mud, sand, clean, prime, texture, sand, clean, prime, paint!). I also went ahead and painted a test area in the soffit Wheat Bread. I like the effect so I'll just go ahead and finish the other edges and do touch ups. Take a peek.

We're really pleased with the progress. The texture paint turned out so much better than we expected. Can you detect any of the seams?

Apr 13, 2009

Our Soffit Spot

I'm thinking about adding some interest to our soffit with color. The paint colors in our open floor plan consist of Wheat Bread (a light gray) and Mochachino (a light olive-sage green). All our ceilings in the house are pure white.

  • Make kitchen as large as possible
  • Make soffit simulate skylight window
  • Hide the fact that the kitchen ceiling is lower than the rest
Possible cons by painting soffit:
  • Make overall kitchen ceiling feel lower and room feel smaller, darker
  • Call too much attention to low ceiling
Possible pros by painting soffit:
  • Soffit creates frame for kitchen (it is an 8' x 8' square)
  • Make the highest point of the soffit appear higher (like a skylight)
  • Create visual interest via attention to detail (like the effect from crown molding)
  • Unifies kitchen with rest of open area
There seems to be more pros than cons (although the first 'con' is a major one). Here are various color experiments, done digitally (I love technology). Any preference?

Easter Eggs

We hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend, it afforded us a flyball-free weekend full of house work (sorry doggies). Photos here.

We completed applying the joint tape and compound, sanded, primed, and texturized to match the rest of the house, and painted the soffit and ceiling. It doesn't seem like we accomplished that much because mud, primer and texture paint take a long time to dry. We thought we'd have down time waiting for everything to dry, but there's always something to do. So we changed the oil in the car, tied a slouching plant to a trellis, mowed the grass for the second time ever, and cleaned the house since it was covered in dust.

Tip: spray knock-down texture is expensive and extremely messy, go for for smooth texture paint, you'll have much better control and a lot less mess. Don't forget to prime first!

During the week we'll get the walls sanded, primed, and painted. However we are absolutely done with the soffit! I think. I have an idea to paint the soffit to match the wall color (Wheat Bread) but a little nervous to do so, I'm going to think that over. Feel free to weigh in!

I had a meeting with colleagues for a few hours yesterday and came home to the perfect home cooked dinner: spaghetti (cooked on the grill, so yes it is possible)! And I'm not being facetious. Our diet simulates a college student's lately (including ramen). It's been a while since we've been able to cook pasta!

And to celebrate the holiday, we hid an Easter egg in our kitchen behind the dishwasher (see photo above). I wonder who'll find it and when? Tee hee.

Apr 9, 2009


Now that we've gutted our kitchen, time to put it back together. We're really excited to finally get to the fun stuff, and seeing our visions become a reality.

We took down the side wall slowly, first by opening up the wall to see what was inside (electrical conduits and 3 studs, 1 of which is load-bearing), and then opening it up to a window, and then taking it all down. Now we're going to build it back up, to match the bar counter height. This will hold the light switches and outlet, offer a little extra surface area, and hide the side and sounds of the dishwasher. In order to make it stable, we had to screw into the concrete foundation, thank goodness our Makita drill has plowed through every task we've thrown at it. We also added some horizontal support in between the studs for additional support, these are called noggins according to Australian and British websites. Does anyone know if there's a different American name for those little guys?

We also built up the little 'column' that is the load-bearing stud in the corner. We neatly tied the eletrical cables along the studs and drywalled over it.

Tip: drywall screws are far superior to nails.

Now that we have concrete floors and bare studs showing, have rerouted drain pipes and welded new copper ones, why not allow ourselves to be nitpicky? The white trim around the soffit gave it a nice finished look but deep down inside I longed for a clean drywall edge instead. And now that it's done, I can sleep at night :)

We also took this opportunity to put matching dimmer switches here to go with the ones we installed for the patio lights. We also put new white GFCi outlets to replace the almond ones (does anyone use almond outlets anymore?) and moved the old almond ones to replace non-GFCi switches that were not visible.

Here are the pics of our progress.