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And now for the other stuff that’s been keeping us busy lately (besides trying to keep Austin out of trouble) — kitchen planning!

Background first: As I was finishing up my Teach For America years in LA and looking ahead to possible graduate programs, I took the GRE (like the SAT for grad school for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing it). This test has three sections, the usual verbal and math, plus this unusual section that I think they called “Logic.” (I don’t know if the test is still structured like this but it was back in 1998.) So anyway, I took the exam and did fine on verbal (which is my strong suit) and fine enough on math (which is definitely not my strong suit), and then I got an 800 on the logic section.

A perfect score. On a section that I don’t even know how to describe to you. The questions basically involved multiple factors and a set of rules and you had to determine the scenario that would fit the factors and still follow the rules.  Sort of like those mind games you played in elementary school where you had to place the families in the houses on a block but the Browns couldn’t live next to the Greens and the Whites needed to be on a corner and the Grays had to be on the odd side of the street, etc etc and you had to try and try and try to make them all fit in the right spot.  Anyway (long introduction!), I felt pretty darn smart getting that perfect score but also knew that it meant I was best suited to be a parking garage attendant because I could make all the cars fit. Or maybe an air traffic controller.  (Or maybe it just meant I was a conformist and was good at following rules. . . but I don’t think so.)

But what I learned last weekend, after Mark and I went on our second successful trip to the Kraftmaid warehouse, was that it really means I am perfectly suited for designing a kitchen out of a hodgepodge of cabinets of various lengths, widths and heights. After another seven hours and $700, I have arranged these cabinets into our entire 20 by 24 foot kitchen and it all fits perfectly!

We need to order one 18″ wide base roll-out for our trash and recycling and one 24″ wide microwave caibnet and various doors and that is it. Two trips and two thousand dollars have bought us an entire matching kitchen!

We didn’t think we’d be so successful this time, it being our second trip and all.  We thought maybe that first one was something of a fluke since we’ve heard about people who make ten or twelve trips to piece together their kitchen. So we decided to borrow our friend’s flatbed truck instead of wasting money renting another U-Haul.  Let me refresh your memory about this past Saturday though: windy and rainy, as in very windy and very rainy. So, we end up finding almost every thing we need, including another 90-inch tall pantry cabinet that perfectly matches the first one we bought. Let’s just say, as we spent more than an hour rearranging and tying down and covering up and tightening and tightening and tightening our load, that we came to regret not having that U-Haul. Check this out:

 

Ready to roll
Ready to roll (well, not yet ready — there was a lot more securing to do!

The entire way home, as the wind whipped through our tarps and nearly pulled everything apart, I watched intently in the rearview mirror, deeply afraid that some single piece of molding might come loose and slam through the front window of any car foolish enough to be following close behind us. But, as we always seem to do, we made it home safe and sound. And the only piece that was damaged during our crazy journey was the wooden range hood that we had shoved into the backseat. All those cabinets exposed to the brutal elements were fine and we damaged the one thing in the darn backseat. Nice.

Lots of loose ends. First, the current house: Not much movement here.  We’ve had really good turnouts at all our Open Houses and have received lots of positive feedback but no offers. It’s frustrating but we keep reminding ourselves that it only takes one person or one family to make this happen. So we’ll just keep plugging away and hope that that person walks through our door sooner or later (well, sooner rather than later would be nice!).

And the new house: I love it, love it, love it. But this is no small project. Demolition started on Monday and we’re now in the process of framing out the new kitchen.  Tomorrow the GC and I will lay out the entire room, using all the cabinets we bought at the Kraftmaid warehouse and figuring out exactly what else we need to complete it. Then Mark and I will head back to Youngstown on another cabinet-hunting adventure this Saturday. Anything we can’t find on this trip, we’ll order that very day from Home Depot. Work will be done in two months at best, but you know how that goes. I’d love to be in before Christmas. A week ago I was saying Thanksgiving but I’m trying to be realistic here.

I promised to entertain you with before and after pictures but you’ll have to be quite patient for that. So here are some before and during pictures:

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

 

The window stays . . . and that's about it!

The window stays . . . and that's about it!

 

Another lovely view
Another lovely view
Recognize this?

Recognize this?

What's for dinner, Mom?

What's for dinner, Mom?

And now for the other loose ends: Austin is doing slightly better at school although my departure is still pretty ugly. I was the Parent Helper on Monday for his birthday so that was obviously fine. Yesterday, he screamed like mad and I left feeling totally awful yet again. Today he cried but with a little less fervor (just a little). He still participates in the activities, does his art project and eats his snack and all that, but he’s not interacting much (or at all) with the other kids. I know it will get better but it’s still hard to leave him each day when he’s so miserable.
Braedan, on the other hand, absolutely loves school.  Aside from waking up in the morning, he has no complaints. There are about six different kids he now refers to as his “new best friends” and he adores his teacher. And I have to admit that even with my high expectations for this school, I am floored by how much he is learning. Every single day, he has some new skill or tidbit of knowledge (yesterday he was talking about the cypress tress in Van Gogh’s Starry Night) and it is such an exciting thing to see — actual growth and learning occuring before my very eyes. When I leave his room at night, I can hear him clapping out the syllables in words while he lies in his bed and talks to himself. He’ll be reading in no time and I can’t wait.

Listen to his fabulous adventure Mark and I went on yesterday . . .

First of all, my parents took both boys to Chautauqua for the weekend, a first for Austin and a first for me (I’ve never been in my own home for two full days without them, ever). So, did Mark and I decide to party all night or sleep in late on our day off?  Nooooooooo. No indeed, instead we got up at 4:45 to drive a U-Haul truck an hour and a half to Youngstown to this Kraftmaid warehouse located there. I’m not sure if any of you have heard of this place, but apparently there are TWO in the country, one in Utah and one in my own backyard. All of the overstocked, returned and floor model Kraftmaid cabinets from every Home Depot and Loews in the country end up at one of these two places, where they sell them for outrageously low prices.

It’s quite a system too, let me know if you want the real nitty-gritty details (what to bring with you, what time to arrive etc) and I’ll post it all here because they don’t have a website and it seems to be a bit of an insider’s secret. I found some info online in do-it-yourself forums and remodeling blogs, so we were pretty well-prepared. We got there at 6:30 and stood in line to get numbered wristbands, #229 and 230 (which means that many people were in line before 6:30!). At 7:15, they randomly pick a number and then let in 150 people while the rest have to wait for the next number to be drawn a half hour later. The number they picked? 220! So we were the ninth and tenth people to walk through the doors! You then dash around and mark anything you might want to buy with a piece of masking tape with your name on it. If something’s already marked, you can put a #2 next to your name and wait a few hours to page the #1 person to see if they really want it. Once we found our way around and located the aisle with the particular wood and finish we wanted, and once we learned to read the SKUs to differentiate the Cherry Peppercorn from the Cherry Kaffe (which was probably the hardest part), we labeled like crazy. We ended up buying twenty-five cabinets–everything from base cabinets with pull-out drawers and special racks for pan lids to wall units with wine racks built in to a fabulous seven-foot high double french door pantry unit for $110!! All in all, we spent $1300 for what would cost almost TWENTY THOUSAND if we’d order them from Home Depot! Yes, you read that right. If you haven’t remodeled a kitchen lately, perhaps you’re not familiar (as I wasn’t until a few weeks ago) with how jaw-droppingly expensive new cabinets are.

Now they’re not perfect, mind you. Some have scratches but most of that will be hidden when they’re mounted to the walls or flush against one another. And some of the door styles don’t match but we can switch them out and buy new matching ones from Home Depot for a fraction of the cost of the entire cabinet. But all in all, it was an incredibly worthwhile trip, even after including the cost of the U-Haul and the storage unit we had to rent to hold it all! Now I’m going to work with our contractor to lay it all out and see what other pieces we need to complete the space. I think we’ll go back one more time to buy molding and toekicks (which cost $5 and $3 for eight feet versus $75 and $50 at the stores). You can also buy all the interior kits like roll-out trash and recycling bins or cutlery dividers for $5 a piece.

It was pretty incredible and everyone was surprisingly civil to one another. There was no shoving or racing past competitors and I never saw anyone take someone else’s tape off of a cabinet. If you’re doing  a kitchen (or bath, they have sink vanities too), I definitely recommend it and would be happy to provide you with more details. I even read on one forum a post from a woman in New Hampshire who drove here and said it was totally worth it. If you come from afar, maybe we can put you up in our new house!

And yes, once we’d recovered from our cabinetry adventure, we did go out last night and did sleep in this morning.

This one cost FIVE DOLLARS because it doesn't have a door!

This one cost FIVE DOLLARS because it doesn't have a door!

 

A double door wall unit for $60 (it's upside down)

A double door wall unit for $60 (it's upside down)

 

We're going with a very dark cabinet (obviously) with white and gray marble countertops, white trim around the windows, wood floors and lots of natural light.

We're going with a very dark cabinet (obviously) with white and gray marble countertops, white trim around the windows, wood floors and lots of natural light.

 

I love this shot. The color shows up so nicely in the natural light.

I love this shot. The color shows up so nicely in the natural light.

I see many of you have taken a virtual tour of our house.  Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? I must say, those wide-angle lenses are remarkable because there are some rooms I barely recognize!  No movement yet but hopefully this weekend’s Open House will be productive. Of course, it’s supposed to be the hottest day we’ve had yet this summer!  Mark wants to put out a bucket of ice cold water bottles for everyone who comes through. Not a bad idea . . .

A lot of you have asked about the new house and our timeline for moving. If anything were set in stone, I’d have already let you know! But we do take possession on September 17 and then work will begin the following Monday. We had originally planned to redo the entire kitchen and mudroom plus a major renovation on the second floor to create a master suite (new bath and walk-in closets) out of two smaller rooms and an existing bath in desperate need of updating. Oh, plus refinish the hardwood floors and paint most of the rooms. But when we got the estimates in from our various contractors, they were all well over what we’d hoped to spend. Well, no they were about exactly what we hoped to spend but included the labor only leaving nothing for those little expenses like cabinets and countertops and appliances. Imagine that — my vision outpaced my budget!

So, we’ve decided to scale back quite a bit and do this in stages, with stage 1 being the kitchen/ mudroom/laundry plus basics like flooring and painting. The master suite will take place sometime next summer. I’ve had to go through a bit of a mourning period since I’d already gotten very attached to the walk-in closet and sanctuary-like bathroom that existed only in my mind. We’ll still have our own bathroom though, which is a big plus.

As I’ve learned from my new obsession with all things HGTV, renovations never seem to stay on schedule but we are hoping to be moved in before Thanksgiving. I have a feeling that the next few months of this blog will be dominated by this project (as will the next few months of our lives). I will try to keep you entertained with many before and after photos!

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