Monday, February 26, 2007

Pantry Paradise!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a pantry.

It's finished and it's beautiful. I keep wandering over to it, opening the door and just standing there drinking it in.

Wanna see?

Of course I had to put a few kitschy little things in there, right in the center where I'm sure to see them first thing when I open the door. The round tubs hold our medicines and vitamins, the old bank bag hides the grocery store bags we've accumulated and the big silver pot is actually a Laotian steamer used for making sticky rice (and I'm sure other things, but I only know how to use it for sticky rice). I may be using them for practical purposes, but they still make me smile when I look into my pantry (37 times a day just for fun).

I know these pictures do not do it justice. You can only see half the shelf space and thus cannot fully appreciate the depths and breadth of its storage capacity. But, alas, I lack the mad picture-taking skillz possessed by The Viking and so this will have to do.

It was so wonderful to unpack that last box and finally put everything where it belongs. The first thing I moved was the dog food bin; I have hated having that thing sitting in the living room all these months! The mop and broom finally have a home after 8 years of simply leaning against the wall next to the fridge, and all miscellaneous items now have a place to hide. Filling the pantry cleared a lot of space on the counters which lets the beauty of the beadboard and butcher block really shine through.

We finally have that spacious, uncluttered and lovely kitchen we've dreamed about since we first moved in here. It's amazing what a difference it makes and I still feel like I'm going to wake up and find it was all a very realistic dream.

The completion of the pantry meant we could finally give the floor a good cleaning and clear out all the pieces of wood, boxes of tools and piles of debris from the far flung corners of the room. Remember this?

All the wood has been removed! That large red thing is a storage box The Viking made for the fire station and has since delivered to them.

This area also got a bit of a spruce up:

It was a big moment when The Viking packed up his tools and carted them down to the basement.

And this:

Thanks to the help of my gracious and organized friend who shall ever after be known to this blog as Mrs. Nugent, the hutch now looks like this:

I have never known such spaciousness and ease in my own kitchen. I feel so spoiled and I absolutely love it. It is easier to keep clean, I feel a greater sense of accomplishment when I clean it and I find us gathering and lingering in there much more. Saturday is My Boy's birthday so we're having our first post-renovation party and I can hardly wait! The big debut! That will be the big test. Will the improvements make entertaining any easier? Stay tuned to find out!

I really must go. It's time to start dinner and then I must go lie down. I haven't been feeling well and have a busy weekend ahead so I'm trying to rest whenever I can.

Until next time...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Granny Pantries

So, in response to showing you all the ugly underbelly of my house in my last post, I'm going to move on as if it never happened and keep showing only small, quickly cleaned up, carefully edited snapshots of the progress here at my Wit's End. Everyone on board with that? Okay, let's proceed.

I've been slooooooooowly bringing things back into the kitchen and acclimating them to the new environment. I've thrown away 2 large boxes of stuff, something that brought a huge smile to The Viking's face as he cheerfully booted them out of the house. He loves getting rid of stuff whereas I have a harder time parting with things.

Today was a most victorious day; I stormed the dining room, battled bravely and reclaimed it as our own. There are still a few things I have to find a place for (like the pretty but impractical canister set that came with our wedding dishes), but WE CAN SIT AT A TABLE AND EAT!

Here's My Boy mugging for the camera while he enjoys his sit-down dinner of rice! See the canisters? They need a home!

All our boxes are unpacked but one which must wait for the completion of the pantry. But I did sort through it and get rid of some things so it's all ready to be put away. Speaking of the pantry, The Viking has been hard at work on it all weekend:

He was fussing over me taking a picture of him, but that didn't stop him from working!

The pantry is lined with 5 wrap-around shelves, has a long, shallow space on the right side to hang the broom and mop and enough space at the bottom to slide taller things like the dog food bin. I am so dorkily excited about this pantry, I can't even tell you. I keep swiveling around in my chair as I'm typing to look at it. I've never had a pantry before and it was always one of those things that sounded like dreamhouse luxuries to me, like a fireplace, laundry chute, built-in bookshelves and window seats. We have yet to put in our fireplace or laundry chute, and we'll never have the bookshelves or window seats, but, by George, we've got a pantry! Squee!

I've also been trying to figure out how to display some of my decorative items without taking up precious storage space. So far I've come up with two areas: a somewhat awkward cupboard over the microwave, and on top of the fridge.

The Viking had to rebuild the cupboard over the microwave. When we went to install the stove (good old Mrs. C) we found that her backsplash made her an inch too tall to fit underneath the microwave. This caused quite a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth until The Viking said he could pull out the cupboard over the microwave, mount the microwave higher to accommodate the stove, and rebuild the cupboard. This worked beautifully, except for the fact that we now have no doors for the new cupboard. We decided to worry about that smaller detail later.

When my organized friend came over she asked me how I wanted to use that space. I was unsure because I am rather short and have a hard time reaching it. She suggested I stash something up there I don't need to use very often, and if it was something pretty, I could simply leave the cupboard open like shelves. We tried some crystal pieces like candlesticks and vases, but they didn't look quite right. Then as I was staring at the cupboard trying to decide what to put in there it hit me! It's a perfect place to store my few pieces of stoneware!

The inside isn't finished, but once that outlet is covered and the whole thing is painted green like the outside, the white pieces are going to look great in there! I've had that soup tureen for years and rarely use it, but I love it too much to get rid of it. The footed bowl was a gift from my mother this Christmas as was the small gravy boat to its left. I acquired the candy dish from somewhere I can't recall now and the little pieces are ornaments I bought from abc distributing two years ago because I knew they'd be perfect for the red, green and white kitchen we were planning.

While I was at it I decided to try and sore a few things up on top of the fridge, an area I am probably never going to use for storing practical things. I had several picnic baskets/hampers stacked in my dining room that I decided would look pretty great up there. I added my great-grandmother's egg beater and a couple of red tea tins I bought at a yard sale for a quarter. I've had those things floating around for 3 years because I knew someday they'd be a nice touch in my dream kitchen!

In the far left of the pic you can barely see my green Goodwill candy dish and two more of the tins. I'm not sure if any of that stuff is staying, but I don't think I have any better place to stow the picnic baskets. The littler things might be moved around a bit, I'll have to live with it a while and see.

So, the pantry is now nearly finished and The Viking just announced he will have it done tonight so I can start filling it tomorrow! I'm so excited! I'll be sure to post lots of pics of the finished product tomorrow night!

Yay for the pantry!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

This Is For Kim:

Poor Kim over at One Woman's Cottage Life (one of my most favoritest blogs ever) is feeling blue about the state of her home. She's feeling overwhelmed the all the things she wants to change about it, all the work that needs to be done. She thinks she's not getting anywhere. I think she is too creative, industrious and inspirational to be stuck in the blahs (and there really is nothing new to report on my own house at the moment), so I'm going to try to cheer her up. Or at least stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her.

But first, Kim's blog was the first blog I ever read. I didn't even know what a blog was until I stumbled onto her site, searching for cottage-style decorating ideas. The discovery of her and her blog opened a whole new world for me! I now have two blogs and something to be passionate about for the first time in a long time! If you haven't been to her site (and you probably have if you've found mine) check it out. I don't know how she has the time and patience to maintain such a great one, but somehow she does it.

So, Kim, I've toured my house and have taken pics to show you I understand. And what's worse, I have pics of rooms we HAVE redone, but just let get very messy. That's just tragic, and I'm going to document it here.

Ready? Okay, I figured we'd start with the porch. One of the porches. There are two. This one is right off the kitchen, the entry we use every day. All that stuff is stuff that got placed there when we were doing the kitchen, and we just haven't gotten around to clearing it yet. Get used to that last sentence, you're going to be hearing it a lot!

This here is right inside and behind the kitchen door and next to the new dishwasher. This is where we used to keep our coats, hats, boots, bags, etc. We're going to build something new there to use the space in the same way, we just haven't gotten to it yet. For now, it's where all the extra wood goes, I guess.

This is on the other side of the room, right outside the still-evolving pantry. The Viking got it sanded and primed last night. I'm hoping it gets finished this weekend so I can put all my stuff away!

Just around the other side of that wall, is my hutch in the dining room. Usually it's crowded with my favorite pieces of china and stoneware. Most of that stuff is still there, but camouflaged by inches of dust and piles of more stuff. Oh, and the pantry doors.

Now we're getting to the pics I really don't want to post. Our living room is very cluttered, in part because of the kitchen and the overflow it has caused (case in point, that mass of stuff to the right of the blue armoire) and in part because I am a very messy person.

The gate-leg table being used as a coffee table is too tall for a coffee table. It used to be our kitchen table. But we have the island now, and I just don't know where to put this table that I love. My children left their clothes and breakfast dishes all over the place and I've been too busy taking picture of my messy house and blogging to clean it up! Also notice that half of my Christmas decorations are still up and it's nearly March. Yes, that's right.

I especially like the Styrofoam cup on the piano (which never looks clean no matter how frequently I dust it), Red Headed Snippet's basketball shoes on the floor, and My Boy's blanket on the couch.

But this is the area of the living room that drives me most crazy. That weird "bump out" thing that I've tried to camouflage with my grandparents' wedding photo was a sad result of our second-story addition. It houses the heating ducts for the bedrooms and was put there because we had originally planned to close off that door (which leads to the laundry room), open an archway from the kitchen into the laundry room instead, and build closets all along that end of the living room. According to that plan, no one would ever see the goofy "tumor" as I call it, except for the coats and vacuum cleaner stashed in the closets. As you can see, that project never materialized and I am now stuck with this horrible growth on the living room wall. Also, that stuff piled in front of the bookcase? Our Christmas bins, still waiting to be put into the basement. And the bookcase doesn't usually look that sloppy, I just have been busy with other things lately...

The laundry room and powder room, off the living room, are unimpressive at best, but nothing is really glaringly wrong with them. But I had to include this pic of my nice, clean powder room with the mirror, sink and sconces I love, and the unwashed paint brush in the lower right corner. That, I think, sums up my house perfectly!

Now we head upstairs.
Though I mostly like it, the bathroom has it's faults, including a super modern-looking fiberglass tub and shower which scream to be replaced with a clawfoot tub. That's why the shower curtain is always drawn, to hide the fiberglass. The vanity is modern and boring, and looks especially bad after the kids' morning invasion. The goofiest thing about this room? The window frame, on the back wall, to the left. Rather, I should say, what USED to be a window frame. Before we built our addition, the back wall of the bathroom was the back wall of the house with a lovely large window right next to the toilet. When we added our new bedroom, the window had to go. I was very upset about this and wouldn't let The Viking take the trim and window sill down. I was determined to find a way to use it to charming, decorative advantage. That was three years ago. And we still have a filled-in window in our bathroom.

Red Headed Snippets lovely but very messy room. It's the only original bedroom to have survived intact. It used to be the Master bedroom. She and I decorated this room together and we both love it, but I just wish she kept it neater so its true beauty could be enjoyed!

This room is one of those odd, quirky things frequently found in cottages. This used to be the second bedroom. It was only 8 feet wide by 12 feet long. When we built the addition, most of it became hallway and closet space, but an 8-foot square chunk of space was left over. We decided to add small stained-glass windows and make it a "snuggery". I envisioned it housing comfy chairs and rows and rows of books. As a joke, we began calling it "The Library" because it was such a pretentious name for such a small space, and don't you know? It stuck. So, this is our library. With only one small bookcase that has more videos in it than books. I love this space, but just don't know how to use it. We had our computer up here while the kitchen was torn up, but it's just too hidden away for us to keep our computer in all the time (we like the kids to be right out in the open when they're using it). So, right now, it's storing things we don't know what to do with, poor lovely room.

This is the rest of what used to be the second bedroom, the hallway to the new bedrooms. I plopped that bookcase there as a temporary filler until the perfect piece could be found. Again, 3 years ago.

My Boy's room is basically charming.

If it weren't for the crooked, constantly dirty rug, the GIANT fish pillow (thanks, dad) and the decals he stuck all over the walls. I'm also not a fan of the race car bed, but it was a gift, he loves it, and I figure it's just a matter of time before he'll get tired of it and I can bring his lovely wooden bed back up from the basement.

But the big problem with his room is the closet. It's not finished. Fortunately, he does not yet have a big need for a finished closet, and really, likes playing in it more than anything. But the time will come when he'll need a place to store clothes and shoes and other things, and not just a cavern in which to stuff an extra mattress:

I really do like the new Master bedroom.

But even it has its dirty little secrets. This is the outside of a bookcase that hides a secret closet. We intended to use it for storing blankets and other infrequently used items.

But inside-

It's still unfinished! Obviously, finishing a secret closet behind a bookcase is not high on our list of household projects, and who can blame us? But every once in a while it bugs me.

There are a ton of other projects still unfinished around here. I didn't even venture into the front yard, back yard, front porch or scary basement. But, we are D-I-Y-ers and this is our life. We chip away at stuff, slowly transforming it into what we want, every once in a while taking a big chunk and making magic with it. It's tiring, messy and frustrating, but nothing beats that sense of satisfaction that comes with sitting down, gazing at something that makes you smile and thinking, "Hey, I did that."

So, now that I've posted messy pictures of my house in its worst light, I'm going to have to clean and spruce up all those rooms and take some nice pics of it in its BEST light. I'll get right on that, I promise.

And, Kim, if you're reading this: chin up. You will get it done. Because you love doing it and you're good at it. It's in your blood and no matter where you go, you'll be renovating things. So, enjoy your down time, stew for a while, then pick yourself and your paint brush back up and jump right back in there! We're all pulling for you!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh my aching back!

My wonderfully helpful friend just left and, boy, am I tired!

To the naked eye, my kitchen looks no different, but on the inside, where it truly counts, it is much improved. And all the boxes formerly laying siege in my dining room are now disarmed and deposed.

I threw out at least two boxes of stuff because, apparently, I have too much stuff. And I still have too much stuff, but my lovely friend was being kind to me today and let me hold on to it for a little longer. The problem is I've managed to collect too many silly little things that I think are lovely and want to display. And I have very little counter space, which I also think is lovely and would like to display. And those two things are at cross purposes with each other. Sigh.

There are still several trouble spots that need some attention, but at least the boxes are gone. One giant step closer to getting my dining room back and sitting around a table as a family!

One Hour Till Organization!

I just have to post a little note to say my highly-skilled, organized friend is on her way over in an hour! Squee!

We're doing lunch and then setting my kitchen to rights! I have NEVER been so excited about getting organized in all my life!

I will most definitely post an update with pics soon!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Still plugging along

So, we've been using our kitchen relatively normally for a week now and I must say it's been SO NICE! I can't say it's done, but it's close. I can cook normally and clean up completely, but I still can't put all our stuff away. The pantry isn't finished yet so the dining room table remains pushed into the corner, draped with a protective white shower curtain and covered with things that have yet to find a home, but need to be used regularly. Four boxes still wait in the shadows to have their contents unpacked and redistributed. And we keep having this conversation:

"Hey, have you seen the_____?"
"Look in the boxes in the dining room!"
"Ugh, never mind!"

So, I'm waiting for the pantry to be done so I can get my highly-skilled organized friend in here to help me put stuff in sensible, efficient, easily accessible places. In the meantime I keep trying to take care of little decorative items here and there. Like the valances and sink skirt! Mom got them done in record time and they're perfect!

You can't tell in the picture, but the fabric is red ticking and sets off all the colors perfectly! I love how it works with the berry vine patter of the paper, the green of the cabinets and the white of the sink surround and dishwasher! I have enough fabric left over to make basket liners for the baskets going in the shelving units on each side of Mrs. C, but I have yet to find the baskets!

Today, The Viking got the inside of the pantry mudded and finished most of the odds and ends of trim that were left. Now we just need to sand and paint the pantry, then build the shelves. That's going to be a bit tricky as we had to build around the original chimney, which was much faster and more cost-effective than pulling the wall down and tearing it out! But we put our heads together, made a few sketches and came up with a plan that will utilize the space as best we can.

Every once a while I go a little spazzy and fuss over things like, "Dog food! The dog food! Did we set aside a place to store the DOG FOOD???" But I think it's just the stress of the whole thing getting to me, don't you? The dog food will be fine!

The good news is when we have my family over for My Boy's birthday in two weeks, we'll be able to welcome them into a kitchen we can be proud of, instead of ashamed of! The birthday party has provided us with a goal: to have the kitchen AND dining room back in presentable form in time for our family to gather. And the way The Viking works, I know it will be done so I'm very excited about it! We kept telling everyone at Christmas, "NEXT TIME you all are here, we'll have our new kitchen!"

Okay, dinner has dinged so I have to go play mother! More exciting updates to come!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Now we're gettin' into the fun stuff!

Today was another productive day at our little cottage. Running water has been restored to the kitchen and the dishwasher performed its inaugural wash and dry cycle. The garbage disposal isn't connected yet, nor is the drain from the sink, so we can't dump anything in there, but we can surely fill the kettle at the sink once more!

I went out seeking a pair of stools for the island and a mat to go underneath them this afternoon and didn't find anything suitable, but I DID find a few other things I couldn't pass up:

I found these strawberry dishes at Home Goods, along with the sign behind them. I love that store; it's like a retail rummage sale! I always leave with some little treasure I've managed to unearth from the piles of goods clogging the shelves. I'm thinking of maybe using the bigger dish as a spoon rest, and maybe the smaller one for change and spare keys. I don't know, but I have a friend with great organizational skills coming over soon to help me put everything back better than it was before, and I'm sure she'll have some good ideas.

I didn't get this today, but at Goodwill a few weeks ago. It was $2 and I knew it was just the right color for the kitchen, plus it matches the cup to my great-grandmother's old egg beater that I plan to display (once I unpack it). Behind it is another Goodwill find, my $3 lamp. I topped it with a $6 shade from Lowe's and, voila, a great cottage lamp for less than $10!

I had been looking at signs similar to this on ebay and was glad to find one at Home Goods today. It's metal and was only $6 and I've been gazing contemplatively at the walls all night trying to determine the perfect spot for it. I really like it propped up against the backsplash, but counter space is kind of precious, even in this newly spruced-up version of the kitchen, so I doubt I'll be able to leave it there.

I have a few other things that I've been collecting since I decided on the color scheme two years ago, but they're packed away and will have to wait their turn before coming out to serve their purpose. It's going to be hard waiting until all the utilitarian stuff is situated before I can start gilding the lily!

Well, I'd better get myself to bed. I have a lot of things to catch up on tomorrow (such as laundry, grocery shopping and planning My Boy's birthday party) and I had hoped to make it a sewing day: I'm longing to bring forth the lovely red ticking fabric and whip up some cottage valances and a sink skirt! And, hopefully, I'll be dumping slop down my kitchen drain in time for the dinner bell!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Yes! The countertop is IN!

Thursday afternoon, The Viking called from work to tell me the countertop would be dropped off the next day sometime between 9:00 and 12:00!

Friday, The Viking worked from home to be present for the dropoff. I went to the gym and to Target and came back an hour later to find THIS:

In my excitement I dropped my bags on the floor and ran over to the counter with a squeal! It's so beautiful! And clean-looking! And wooden! I couldn't believe it looked better in real life than it had in my day dreams!

The Viking was happy too, and already at work prepping and sealing:
That's a piece of the backsplash in his hand.

After a few moments of admiring the new addition, I had to leave for an impromptu overnight trip with my mom, sister and aunt, so I snapped a few pics of the room to show off and ran out the door.

Roughly 24 hours later, I arrived back home to find THIS:

He'd installed the backsplash, the sink and faucet, painted the shelving units flanking Mrs. C., replaced the trim and window sill and finished the ceiling and crown molding. Every time I think it just can't look any more beautiful than it does, he finishes another little job and I'm blown away again. I keep wandering into the kitchen at night, just to admire it!

He's hooking up the sink, disposal and dishwasher tomorrow (after he takes My Boy to the Monster Truck Jam over in Philly as an early birthday surprise)! That means I can start cleaning up and moving all the stuff that's been crowding the dining room back into the kitchen! And I'll be able to cook normally again this week! I cannot wait for that!

Of course, there are still other things that need to be done, such as the inside of the pantry, the doors for the cupboard above the microwave, and the coat closet between the dishwasher and the kitchen door. I also have to get floor mats, two stools and a few other sundries, as well as make the valances and curtain for under the sink. We'll still be chipping away at stuff for several weeks yet, but as of the start of the work week, we'll be cooking, eating and washing as normal once again!

I can't wait to have our first dinner guests; I've already starting agonizing over the guest list!

Okay, off to bed for me. G'night!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Home Stretch Part II

Only got about an hour before I have to leave, but I would like to start out by sharing that I have just spent the entire morning sitting in the kitchen, something I haven't done since Christmas! And there may be no countertop, so sink and slabs of wood leaning against one wall, but it's still a whole lot nicer than it was the last time I sat in here!

So, where were we? Oh yes, I remember. The pantry had just been finished, the walls had been papered and beadboarded, and the microwave and Mrs. C had just been moved in. With that, it was time to bring the fridge back in.

Shortly after the cabinets and their doors were painted and reassembled, the Viking turned his attention to the spaces on either side of the stove and under the sink. We pulled cupboards out of there, used them elsewhere and didn't have it in our budget to buy new ones so he decided to create custom units to replace them.

Here you can see the shelving units on either side of Mrs. C. They're going to be painted green like the cabinets and left open with baskets for potatoes, onions and other items I'd like to have handy.

The sink "front" and legs are going to stay white and I'm making a skirt out of red ticking I bought on Fabric Row a few weeks ago. You can also see a corner of the finished island in this shot.

Once the new cabinet units were built and the cabinets for the island were anchored, measurements for the countertops were FINALLY taken and the order was placed. We decided to go with the red quartz for the island top. It came in about a week ago and looks better than we had even imagined.

We painted the "front" of the island the same green as the cabinets and I sanded them a little to distress them. We found these great porcelain knobs and chrome drawer pulls at Home Depot that I think add just the right touch of vintage charm.

Here's The Viking, resting on his laurels for just a moment, looking very tired and proud, as he should.

Completion of the island left little else to be done besides little jobs like trim and crown molding while we wait for the butcher block to come in, so we put in the light fixtures and started on the ceiling. We put the chandelier in a few years ago and have decided to keep it (though I am seriously considering spray painting it so it better matches the chrome of the stove, sink and drawer pills, but don't tell The Viking). The fixtures over the sink (which you'll see a few pics down) are new and provide lots of task lighting over the sink.

I don't think it shows very well in this pic, but this is the ceiling camoflauged with the faux wood planks made by Armstrong. It's not the real thing, which we originally wanted to install, but it looks pretty darn good, was easy to put up and was much kinder to our budget.

So, here it is, the most updated pic I have of our kitchen renovation, including my sweet Viking, sitting at the computer, checking his email. As you can see, we wrapped the "back" of the island with beadboard to match the backsplash and lower half of the walls. You can't really see the color of the island (it shows up much better in daylight), but I think you can get the general idea. The large piece of cardboard to the right of the island is concealing the dishwasher (or protesting it, according to The Viking), and yes, the bulb is blown in the far right lamp over the sink. It keeps blowing out for some reason...have to check that.

The plan now is to relax a little, finish the trim, paint the side door (not pictured), find some kitchen rugs and a few stools, make the sink curtain and valances, and wait for the countertop to come in. Once that's here, the sink goes in, the disposal and dishwasher get hooked up and we are back in business! I was hoping this would all be finished by next week, but at this point I'm hoping to be back to normal by My Boy's birthday the first week of March. We'll see.

Okay, gotta run. Hope you enjoyed all the new pics and the first view of our new vintage cottage kitchen!