Domestic Dorks

Even Marcello’s fancy panoramic camera phone is having a hard time capturing the beauty of our shiny new dining room.  Marcello and Carlos put in the board and batten last week, we installed the light fixture on Saturday, and the painting was all done over the course of the 2 weekends by professional painter Mom and Marcello.  The camera did manage to capture my goofy painting outfit and 7 month baby bump.  Do you think I can get the furniture arranged and pick out curtains before my third trimester energy slump kicks in?

Even Marcello’s fancy panoramic camera phone is having a hard time capturing the beauty of our shiny new dining room.  Marcello and Carlos put in the board and batten last week, we installed the light fixture on Saturday, and the painting was all done over the course of the 2 weekends by professional painter Mom and Marcello.  The camera did manage to capture my goofy painting outfit and 7 month baby bump.  Do you think I can get the furniture arranged and pick out curtains before my third trimester energy slump kicks in?

Get Your (Non-Alcoholic) Drink On

Summertime is adult beverage time! Aaw, who are we kidding? It’s ALWAYS adult beverage time.  Of course, this particular Crowberger is abstaining from rosé on patios and beer at ballparks while I’m incubating a tiny human.  Fortunately for me, the most recent issue of Bon Appétit had a nice feature on non-alcoholic cocktails.  Call it a mocktail or call it a virgin, if you want; I’ll call it way better than drinking plain seltzer all the time!  

  Being the crafty cocktailer that he is, my sweet husband didn’t wait long to mix up one of the drinks from the article.  The one that most intrigued me (with the fewest oddball ingredients) was submitted by Minibar, the DC area’s top spot for haute cuisine.  Made of just chai syrup, lime juice, and seltzer, it sounded refreshing and easy yet complex—a virtue that my beloved seltzer and pomegranate juice spritzers have been sorely missing! 

 Marcello made a full sized batch of the chai syrup (enough for 4 drinks) and has been making me a mocktail every day for the past couple of days.  We like the drink so much that Marcello is ready to find a way to add booze to it.  So much for my special drink!

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Pictured here with Marcello’s nice tall Whiskey Rickey 

Chai Syrup (for 4 drinks): Steep 2 Chai tea bags in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes.  Discard tea bags and stir in 1/2 cup sugar.  Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chai Blossom (for 1 drink):

5 Tbs (or, 1/4 c + 1 Tbs) Chai syrup

2 Tbs fresh lime juice

1/4 cup (or more) club soda

Fill a double old fashioned glass with ice.  Combine the syrup and lime juice in the glass and top off with club soda.  Garnish with a twist of lemon and a star anise pod.

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 On a related matter, perhaps you saw the cute picture that my sis posted on Facebook of Marcello with this drink.  It had some tantalizingly close (but not quite in focus) sonograms in the background.  Since a couple of folks have specifically asked for a better look, here’s a photo shoot of baby Crowberger.  We have lots of silly names for it but lately we’ve been calling it “Beastie” because I am ravenously hungry and we need to FEED THE BEAST! The little Beastie is about 13 weeks along in these pics and seemed to have the hiccups while we were watching.  Precious little Beastie!

Semi-Final Kitchen

  Hello there, friends.  The major work on the kitchen has been finished for just about a week (only 1 day behind schedule!) and even though we STILL don’t have it organized and accessorized, I thought I’d share some semi-final pics with you.

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  Why just “semi-final?” I’ll get to that in a minute.  For now, can we just appreciate how yummy it all is? We went with Ikea Adel off-white cabinets and Numerar oak countertops.  They look super swanky, but it all came in at just over $3,000.  That’s about half of what we would have spent at Home Depot or a specialty cabinet maker, and we probably quadrupled our kitchen’s cabinet space and doubled the counter space.  Boo-ya.  

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  I had a little mini freak out when I realized I had fallen in love with off-white cabinets after already buying bright white appliances.  (We did not intend to replace our 2 year old white white dishwasher, and we weren’t interested in spending the extra money on stainless steel appliances anyway.)  So, I had to pull a cabinet door off the wall at Ikea and take it over to the appliance section to compare the colors.  The whites are by no means the same, but they’re not so crazy different that I can’t live with it.  Would you have even noticed the difference if I hadn’t mentioned it? Just humor me, guys.

 Those open shelves below the cabinets are Ikea brackets topped with regular wooden boards cut to fit the space.  Brackets, shelves, and the trim on the cabinets were all painted with Benjamin Moore Paper Mache paint in a semi-gloss finish to match the cabinets.  (A big thank you to this super cute blog for informing the internet of the right color match for Adel off-white cabinets!) The open shelf above the sink was built from scratch by Carlos.  It was designed to hold three recessed lights on the bottom and some cute tchochkes on top.  Very well done, sir.

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  The stainless steel apron front sink and goose neck faucet were one of my big splurges.  I scored them as a set on Overstock.com for $500.  They’re made by a company called Ruvati, and they came packaged more beautifully than my wedding dress.  (Hey! I just realized my kitchen sink and my wedding dress cost the same.)  The faucet has a pull-out sprayer, which Marcello loves, and the sink is HUGE, which I love.  

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  Oh, giant fridge with freezer drawer, I love you, too.  Especially since you were on sale at HHGregg AND Pepco sent us a $150 rebate for buying an energy efficient appliance.  Martha Stewart drawer pulls from Home Depot for two bucks a pop, I totally love, too.  Cork floor, I love you now, but Carlos is very concerned about the effect that my high heels will have on you.  So, I guess we’ll see if the love lasts.  

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  See that thin vertical line on the wall? That’s where the wall pops open to reveal our coffee nook—I think that’s Carlos’ favorite part.  And, I know that Mom loves the wine shelves that she suggested we add at the last minute.

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  Oh, hi.  Nothing inspires a photo shoot like a fancy new kitchen, and this baby was brand spanking new when we took these shots.  Literally the second that Carlos and his crew had everything cleaned up and cleared out, we started playing photo shoot, so you can see that the counters are still moist with mineral oil.  A week later, the wood still seems pretty thirsty, so we’ll rub a few more coats of oil into those countertops sometime soon.  

  And that brings us to the work still to be done.  We had planned to DIY the subway tile on the wall sometime this summer, but as you can see we went ahead and had Carlos and the guys do it for us. They miraculously accomplished the feat in just a day and it looks great, so I’m pretty sure that was money well spent.  The black finger tile trim was kind of an impulse buy, but apparently no Home Depot in my area sells a simple white trim tile.  I like how crisp it makes the whole wall look, but now I have to tie in the black somehow.  I’ve also been looking for a bigger light fixture to fill the space (that schoolhouse style fixture will fit in just fine elsewhere in the house), so maybe I’ll end up with something oil rubbed bronze to bring the black into the rest of the room. 

  What else? Oh, so much accessorizing to do! Our everyday plates will be kept on the open shelves, so I’d love replace the cheapo Target plates that we’ve been using forever.  I’m also looking for a runner to gussy up the floor and hopefully protect it from the dangers of high heels and water spills.  And, I’m on the lookout for some fabric to make some nice window treatments. I already framed a few old Chez Panisse menus for wall art, so now I just have to find a piece of wall that isn’t covered with a cabinet or a tile! 

  Most importantly, it’s time to GET COOKING!!!!

The Home Stretch

Hello lovelies.  Have you been awaiting with baited breath the next pictures from our kitchen renovation? I certainly have been eager to see for myself how it’s all going to turn out! I may seem to know what I want, but really I live in a constant state of doubt and uncertainty.  Fake it ‘til you make it, right?

It drives my poor sweet Marcello crazy, but he does a good job of steering me in the right direction and supporting my decisions.  He’s been steering and supporting on a full-time basis for 3 years now.  We celebrated our 3 year anniversary yesterday, and while the traditional gift for that occasion is leather and the contemporary gift is crystal, the Crowberger gift is a kitchen renovation and a trip to Mexico.  Not too shabby.  

Carlos and the guys had an obligation elsewhere yesterday, but they were back today continuing to finish things off.  Carlos has also been wonderfully patient with my indecisive nature.  I threw him a couple of curve balls this week that he has handled beautifully.  The kitchen looks like it’s still just a day behind schedule, even with the last minute additions.

You can see that the open shelving was put up today, along with the trim under the cabinets.  They all still need to be painted to match the cabinets (Benjamin Moore Paper Mache is supposed to be a perfect match to the Ikea Adel off-white cabinet finish), and of course you still haven’t really seen what the pretty cork floor looks like.

Won’t our plates and spices look cute on those shelves? And can you see the shelf that Carlos built above the sink? It’s housing three recessed lights on a switch next to the sink.  It’s look so pretty all lit up!

Two days ago, I finally decided that I wanted some kind of wine storage system, an idea Carlos has been pushing since the day we started planning this whole project.  There was just enough space left to squeeze in some simple shelves for a wine cubby, and he whipped it up today with materials he already had at the house.

What do you guys think of everything? I guess I’m not in love with the light fixture in there.  Of course, I still like the fixture, but I’m afraid it’s too small for the space and it might be relocated to the entry way or a hallway.  I’m also curious to see if the paint for the shelves is really going to be a good match for the cabinets.  Plus, I’m starting to think about window dressing options.  Is there anything else that I’m not thinking of? Do you think it’s coming together?

Cookin’ and Good Lookin’

Well, we’re not cookin’ quite yet.  But, we’re darn close! Almost everything in the kitchen has been moved into position and we’re just waiting on finishing touches and the addition of the stove.  Wanna see some pics?

That’s how it was left over the weekend.  Cabinets were (more or less) in position and one side of the counter top was cut and ready to be attached.  By the end of Tuesday, we had this:

There’s so much action going on here.  Putting in the stainless steel apron front sink was a beast of a job, but the gorgeous faucet went in fairly easily.  The space the guys left for the GIANT fridge was so tight that they had to slightly shift all of the lower cabinets (by about 1/4”) to squeeze it into place, but it’s in position and it is awesome.  Hardware and drawer dampeners are all on the cabinets, and the dishwasher has found its way back home.  That bottle of wine is sitting out on the cabinets because at the last possible second I decided I wanted the wine nook that Carlos has been trying to talk me into since the day we started planning, so we had to be sure there’s still room.  Oh, and that’s the back of the old gas range you see in the foreground; it’s old, but fully functional, so let me know if you want it!

Too Much To Tell

Oh my friends! So much action over here.  We planned a little vacation for the first week of our big kitchen project, kind of because we wanted to stay out of the way of Carlos and his crew and kind of because nobody really needs an excuse to go to Playa del Carmen.  The kitchen looked like this the day before we left:

  The guys got some insulation packed into the walls and got all of the electrical worked fixed up after this picture was taken, though to be honest everything looked more or less the same after.  Five days and a whole lot of guacamole later, we came home to this:

  We’ve got walls.  We’ve got paint.  We’ve even got floor underneath that protective covering.  

  

  Here you can see the Ikea cabinets are starting to get built and put into place.  Just goes to show you what can get done in a few days!

  I am dying to show you the gorgeous site that I came home to today. (Hint: cabinets aren’t the ONLY thing that we got from Ikea and are super easy to install!) But, I am not going to do that quite yet, just because I now have to get through an entire weekend without further progress and I want save something to show you until a little later.  For now, here’s a little vacation pic.  Hooray for breezy days on the beach!

Countdown to Destruction

  My friends, we are in fact counting down to the destruction of our kitchen as we know it.  On May 1st, it will have been 2 years since the first time we saw our house; so, that means it also will have been 2 years since I started plotting the kitchen’s demise.  I guess that sounds pretty harsh for a poor, defenseless kitchen.  But, it’s got it coming.   

  We fell in love with the house more or less at first sight, but it was the kitchen’s shortcomings that kept us from snatching it up at that very first open house.  It took 2 more open houses, plus a visit with our real estate agent, plus a visit with a contractor to evaluate the kitchen’s potential, to convince us (er, me) that the kitchen could be made into something that would fit our needs.

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 The kitchen rug is at least fitting Twix’s need for a good spot to flop.

  The kitchen had actually been given a pretty major makeover just before being put on the market.  Brand new cabinets, counter tops, and floors meant that everything at least looked shiny.  It didn’t even bother me so much that the laminate floors and counters and generic maple cabinets looked like they belonged in a rental.  Nor was it really a big deal that the appliances looked like they were made around the same year that I was.  

  No, the big Big BIG problem with the kitchen was (and is) that space is both limited and incredibly inefficient.  Measuring about 7 ft x 11 ft, the square footage is comparable to our old apartment kitchens.  Even that would be okay, except we have about half as many cabinets and drawers as before.  When the listing agent renovated, she only put in 1 modestly sized base cabinet, 2 wall cabinets, and left a great big empty space.  She claimed that she left all that space open to create a “breakfast bar,” where we could put in a couple stools and have a nice little eat-in kitchen nook.  Hooey, I say.  Cheaping out on cabinets, I say.

With most of our small appliances and much of our food stored in the basement, cooking a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast with coffee makes for a decent morning workout.  Downstairs to get the coffee maker, back up get it brewing.  Downstairs to put bread in the toaster, back up to mix up the eggs.  Downstairs to get Marcello’s toast and re-toast my bread (for extra toast flavor!), back up to pour the coffee and cook the eggs.  Downstairs to get my toasty toast, back up to plate it all and get to eating.   

  Granted, we could just keep the coffee maker on the counter all the time like everybody else.  Same with the toaster.  But, we only use them on Sundays, and I try to keep our limited counter space cleared of extraneous stuff.  So maybe that one’s on me.  But still.  

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I surprised Marcello when he came around the corner in his awesome pj’s  Not sure this picture is really illustrating anything other than how cute he is.   

  Why am I telling you all this? I guess I just want you to see where I’m coming from with this whole kitchen renovation thing.  Every time I dig through the only cupboard for a brownie pan or tupperware; every time I run downstairs for the popcorn popper or a can of chicken broth; every time I open the tiny cabinet with the broken bottom hinge to move aside the bread and tea and crackers to get to the cat treats; every time I walk right into the refrigerator door handle that sticks out into the middle of the entryway; every time I attempt to wrestle a wooden spoon, spatula, or (heaven forbid) tongs into either the one dumb drawer or the oversized beer stein that we keep on the counter; and, every time I see the “breakfast bar” that serves as Twix’s formal cat dining room, I can’t help but think of how much potential for improvement was ignored when this kitchen was fixed up 2 years ago.  

  The semi-official first day of work is April 17th.  We’ve got everything more or less worked out (perhaps you recall the arrival of our big, beautiful refrigerator) so I’ll tell you about some of our plans sometime soon!