Saturday, June 25, 2016

Minor Kitchen Remodel on a Budget

Even when you are on a tight budget, there comes a point where 'serviceable' turns into 'get this out of my house'. We live in an older double wide manufactured home, and the original cabinets have seen better days. Scrubbing has worn the finish away so they just look permanently grimy, the pink (pink!) formica counter tops are chipped, handles won't tighten any more, doors won't hang straight any more, etc. And, did I mention the counter tops were pink?

The real tipping point was when we realized there was black mold in the cabinet under the sink. Once we ripped that whole cabinet out, we realized the mold was in the wall, so as home improvements usually do, it became a slightly more involved operation involving replacement of walls and insulation. In the end, though, I had a MUCH bigger sink, a dishwasher, pretty brown counter top (on that side of the kitchen, anyway), and space for a tea cart I bought for $5 at a yard sale.

We planned to do the opposite side of the kitchen relatively soon, but...then there were new tires, transmission issues, a grand baby moving in, etc. And two years went by. We finally decided we better get on it before they discontinued that particular counter top. It turned out that one store had actually stopped carrying it, so I'm glad we didn't wait much longer! 

As usual, I forgot to take "before" pictures until I had started the demo...

Oh, look, an electrical cord running through things. And a lot of wasted space. Not to mention having to reach in and dig when I wanted something in that blind corner.

Oh, goody: More black mold.

Nothing makes you feel like a great housekeeper like remodeling....ew.

So, wall replaced, retextured, and repainted, and we hit the Memorial Day sales - 20% off unfinished cabinets!

And, after:

Am I a total geek that drawers are making me happy? I had one drawer. One. Now I have four, and my life is forever changed.
There is actually more available cabinet space with it NOT going around the corner. I had planned on a lazy Susan, but the outside edges would have made it take up way too much space.

Now, we were just going to do this corner for now, because: budget. There was another wall with a pantry and refrigerator, and of course because the pantry was built to fit, none of the replacements were the same size, no matter how we configured it, so we thought we might have to have something custom made some day. Then Mike started a sentence with "What if..."

Don't you love when people do that just when you think you are almost done?

In this case, however, it was a pretty brilliant "what if". See the washing machine just on the other side of the doorway? We took out a set of plastic shelves between it and the dryer, slid it down, and put the refrigerator there - giving us an entire 6 foot wall of space to play with!

Once again, I got so excited about demo, I didn't get a 'before' picture until after I had removed the doors and emptied it out!

 That made room for a 24" pantry, a 30" cabinet, and a space between for the trash can (which had previously just been floating around the kitchen). I was planning on using the same type of counter top, but Mike decided I was having too much of the fun, and I think he missed doing some of the finer carpentry work he used to enjoy. So, this part is NOT in the budget....

a solid oak, doweled-together, cutting board counter top...

...but isn't it purdy?! I won't actually cut anything on it. In fact, I won't do anything on it. It's like having your first brand new car - that first scratch is heartbreaking! I'll just balance a cutting board over the sink for a while longer...

The shelves are to the exact height I wanted, and I plan to add cup hooks to the exposed supports.

That left the exposed side of the pantry looking a bit bare. I needed something 18" wide, a couple feet high, and preferably with a drawer...

...voila! Another $5 yard sale find. The original finish was that 1960's orangey-brown stain that's so thick it looks like paint. A LOT of sandpaper and elbow grease later...

Yes, I forgot a 'before' picture AGAIN!

The end panels were a pain in the you-know-what to attach, so I painted this side with chalkboard paint instead.

There's that refrigerator in the background, literally just two extra steps away!

The spice racks and jars were another splurge, but I paid for them by selling some of the small appliances I decided I didn't really need as I was rearranging (why did I have two pressure canners??) 

I like the rustic look of the racks, and the uniform glass bottles make my OCD side soooooo happy!

The total cost for everything except the oak counter top was about $700. That looks like a huge chunk of money to me, but when compared with those 'budget' remodels in magazines that come in with a couple more digits, I feel a lot better about it!

And none of it is pink:)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dadcademy Awards

We have held several Father Daughter tea parties in the past, and while they take a lot of time to prepare for, they are one of my favorite events. I didn't like leaving the boys out, though, so this year we changed the theme slightly and made sure everyone could come! As always, we encouraged kids to bring their special grown-up guy - Dad, Grandpa, Big Brother, Friend, Uncle; whoever they wanted to celebrate!

To set the stage, I got this background online...then discovered when I went to put it up that it wasn't high enough. I had to compensate with black material at the bottom.

Red carpet, of course, sample award at the podium, microphone and speakers.

For the table settings, I raided the dollar store just before graduation - plenty of black and gold!

We had two crafts: an Oscar award with metallic pens, so you could write what your Big Guy was best at, and these cute boxes. Kids were to decorate them to look like their Daddy, then use them at home to leave him notes or pictures.


Finger food type snacks - fancy cookies, fruit, and cupcakes that looked a lot prettier on the box...lesson learned! Red punch or apple juice (looks like champagne!) to drink.

And shiny star dealies hanging from the ceiling.

I chose This is the Van That Dad Cleaned as our one read-aloud, then everyone unrolled the scrolls at their tables to find a list of how-well-do-you-know-me questions. What is Dad's favorite food? What is Kid's favorite outfit? It was fun listening to some of the answers!

I'm just here for the sugar.
 Then on to the crafts.

Artist concentrates while subject poses.

It looks just like him!

And, finally, the awards! This young lady couldn't wait to be first, she was so excited to tell us about her Dad!

Unfortunately, my batteries were running down, and it looks like the picture of them together didn't get saved :(

Next year: a platform - or a whole flight of stairs - behind the podium!

 Some of the kids were happy to speak into the microphone, while others just went with pictures.

Some did not want to give the microphone up!

I am pretty bummed, because several other pictures didn't save, and many of these are blurry. Another note to self - start every program with fresh batteries!! In general I think everyone had fun - I am just sad that I don't have pictures to send to everyone who came.

Here's to the dads and dad-type figures everywhere! Wishing you many other photo-worthy moments this weekend, and plenty of special memories!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Stranje House series by Kathleen Baldwin

When you are in a 'reading rut', it is so nice to find a new series that hooks you from the start!

A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House Series #1)

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies-plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father's stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible-until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads-or their hearts....

Hand these to patrons who have long outgrown The Gallagher Girls, or who are waiting less-than-patiently for another book in the Agency series. The trope of intelligent young women being able to use their talents under the noses of those who would have them remain meek and subservient is always an attractive one. The Stranje House series adds an alternate history, as well as a combination of 'normal' and 'magical' talents.

While Georgie's talent is a highly scientific mind, Tess's talents include prophetic dreams and an ability to communicate with animals. The most spirited of the girls in the school, she was the one who intrigued me the most, so I was pleased to see the second book in the series featured her.

Exile for Dreamers: A Stranje House Novel

This was the very last book to squeak in at the end-of-fiscal-year ordering, and I snatched it up immediately. I was not disappointed in the story line, and while I am not a huge romance fan, I'll confess I did enjoy the steamy tension between Tess and Lord Ravencross: "I could not decide between slapping him or kissing his rude lips. Hard." 

On the other hand, we have Alexander, the uncouth American scientist, for comic relief. I literally laughed out loud a few times at his joyful disregard for societal rules, and I have the feeling we will be seeing him and a certain scandalized young lady featured in the next title.

Some stereotyping of ethnic characters - Madame Cho, the mysterious weapons instructor, and mystical Maya from India - but they are becoming more fleshed out as the series continues, so I have hopes they will become much more three-dimensional. This series is my new guilty pleasure, and I will anxiously await the third title!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Magic at the Library

Our actual programs began this week, and we can definitely say they started off with a bang! Great numbers for story times, tweens/teens, and family programs. This morning we had our first performer, Tall Paul the Magician. If anyone in NM is looking for a great show, we highly recommend him. We had him two years back, and all week Sheridan and Christopher have been starting conversations with, "Do you remember when he...?"

As you can see, we had a big crowd, just stretching the limits of our last remaining shade tree. Fortunately, there are plans to put a pergola over the patio area just behind it, so next summer we should have almost double the shade area.

Tall Paul has just the right level of goofiness to keep kids in stitches.

He makes much use of volunteers, which of course is always a crowd pleaser.

and the crowd was definitely pleased!

In fact, I spent most of the show just zooming in on smiling faces.

Thanks for a great start to the summer, Tall Paul!