Monday, September 22, 2014

A Handyman and his Handygirl

"Let's get some new cabinets," said the husband.

"Okay!" said the wife. So they went out and got new cabinets and lived happily ever after.

Oh, except actually that is the story of a different husband and wife, maybe named something like, I don't know, Donald and Melania Trump, and it is nothing like the story I am about to relate here.

Our story goes more like this:

December 2013, our first time in the house. 

"This is going to be awesome," says Stephen. "We'll get different floors in here, obviously. And get rid of that yellow. We might as well just get all new cabinets."

May 2014, after 5 months and one loooong semester of school.

"I found some cabinets!" says Stephen. "Only problem is, I don't know if they would fit. They're on KSL, I just have to see if the measurements would work."

*Repeat that maybe 10 times. The measurements don't work, or we hate them, or they are already sold. You may recall that we are kind of KSL connoisseurs, but cabinets are a different story.*

July 2014, while both of us are on break from school. 

"I say we just get new cabinets," says Stephen. "It'll be worth it."

August 2014, when I have just gone off-track for the first time and he has a week off of school. 

"Welcome to Ikea," says no one, because it is not so much a store as it is a 100,000 square foot maze of a building with crooked escalators and deceptive arrows, and you sometimes have to walk for a half-hour before you even come across a worker, who still doesn't welcome you there because they have no idea how recently you actually arrived, and they probably don't want to talk to you, anyway.

"Oh, wow! Isn't that nice!" says a cute little old grandma, scooting into a seat in the kitchen computer place where you go online and design your kitchen. She's hooked! I vow not to be her.

30 minutes later.....

I am also hooked. I have designed my kitchen and I have never been more proud! (To be fair, designed is probably too strong of a word. Actually I just recreated it online from the measurements we took of everything, but still.) Every victory at Ikea feels like a big deal to I-me-a.

45 minutes after that....

I am no longer hooked. I printed out the item list and that's fine, but now I want to leave the store and take Stephen to work. And at this point I have been wanting to leave for about 20 minutes and there are 40 exits in plain view and I'm not allowed to exit out of any of them.

Later that week.....

We did end up finding our way out of Ikea, and now we are standing in the kitchen. We move the refrigerator into the far corner of the kitchen. We move the oven and table into the living room. I cry for a week about how sore I am from that.

"Are we going to be okay without an oven for a while?" Stephen asks.

"Sure," I say. "We can just make meals in the crockpot, or go out to eat. It won't be that long."

We buy a crowbar and start ripping up the kitchen floor. There are so many layers! The laminate is on top of plywood, which is on top of some underlayment, which is so old that it is gray and fuzzy, and the underlayment is on top of the original wood floor. And apparently, whoever laid down these ugly laminate floors in my kitchen had just gotten a brand spankin new heavy duty inch-long staples staple gun right before they got to work up in here, and they did not leave one inch of this floor unstapled.

Fun Fact: Exactly zero staples would have been necessary for this project.

But we can't put down the new floor until every staple has been ripped up, so we get to work. Stephen jams the crowbar under the top two layers, breaking the plywood and peeling up the laminate, and I start exploring the most effective way to pick up staples.

The next day....

My back feels like I have been stepped on by an elephant. As it turns out, the most effective way to pick up the staples is jamming screwdriver underneath and prying it carefully up. But sometimes it is rusted and it breaks, or it gets stuck, or one end comes out before the other, and when that happens, you have to either hammer it into the ground or pull it up with pliers. Pulling it up with pliers is a quick and easy way to feel like you've been stepped on an elephant.

A few days later....

Back to Ikea! We briefly considered getting unfinished cabinets from Home Depot and painting them, but that was short-lived. We eat free breakfast (!!! They do this err Monday??) place our order, pay for them, fit almost everything in the car, call Stephen's mom to come with another car for the last piece, and take our cabinets home. They look like this:

I should have taken my own picture, but I didn't. So here's one from http://bayporthandyman.com/wordpress/ikea-master-installer/ which I read like 4 times before we actually bought our cabinets. 
There are so many boxen, and the first one I open is unfortunately a door, which doesn't come with instructions for obvious reasons, so then I panic and spend 2 hours online searching for directions and regretting everything.

The next day....

I open one of the cabinets. This box has instructions in it. They are pictures, but I am thrilled anyway! There is a little bag of al the screws / nails I will need for this cabinet box. I build my first Ikea cabinet and almost fall over, I am so proud of myself. I call my mom and txt my sister and sit there smiling at the cabinet for about five minutes.

One week after that.....

I have put all the cabinets together! And the floor is all the way ripped up! I am back in school, so it's harder to get stuff done during the day and now our basement renters probably hate us, but we are ready to start laying down the floor.

It seems like the work should go really quickly now, but we happen to have a diagonal doorway going from our kitchen to the hallway to the bathroom, and that diagonal doorway is what Satan would look like if he was a doorway. Stephen spends a good five hours and goes through almost a whole box of wood planks trying to cut it exactly right.

Two days later.....

Stephen eventually cut the plank to fit in the left side of the Satan doorway. It is absolutely perfect, and now we have arrived at the right side of the doorway where there is another diagonal piece of death that we'll need to cut, and we haven't mustered up the courage to do it.

But I am tired of not having a kitchen, and I'm less of a perfectionist than Stephen. So on this day after school, I plop down in front of the evil doorway corner with a piece of paper, a pencil, and a screwdriver, and start trying to trace the corner on the paper. I cut out my outline and lay it on a plank, trace around it, tape it, re-measure, and decide that this is too scary. I find a plank that Stephen ruined, trace my outline on that, and take it outside to try and cut it.

I've watched Stephen do this a lot, but never actually tried it. So it is a miracle that just an hour later, I still have both hands, and I also have a plank that fits pretttty well around the doorway. I am as proud as I have ever been.

Two days after that.....

We have finished laying down the floor in our kitchen! We have nailed the backs on the cabinets. We are almost ready to move the oven and fridge back in the kitchen and put up the new cabinets. Stephen and I walk around on the floors in awe that we can step from one room to another without getting tetanus.


I sit here blogging, listening to the light hammering in the kitchen. Stephen and his dad have moved back the fridge and are putting in the first base cabinets. There were (about 96) times I thought (and said) that we should have just hired a contractor, and if I had known how much work it was going to be we would have just hired a contractor, and we are never doing this again, and blablabla.

But the truth is, part of me loves that we do these things on our own. It's very satisfying to remember what this house looked like at the beginning, and then to see it now. Up until a week ago, I had never used a jigsaw and I certainly hadn't taught myself how to use any power tools. But now I have! It is a very empowering feeling. (If you are in need of a jigsaw, we used the Dewalt one in that link and I love it. I mean it's kind of a scary looking blade, but I found it to be very user-friendly.)

I'll post before and after pictures of the kitchen when we are all done, fo real. Trust me, I am even more excited than you are for that :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Survive without a Kitchen

I can think of a few scenarios that might land you in a kitchenless situation, such as:

- some sort of natural disaster destroyed your kitchen
- maybe that natural disaster was your own underestimation of how long the demolition and reinvention of your kitchen would take
- you are living in a hotel or traveling for an extended period of time (summer sales? roadtripping around doing a concert tour? since Selena Gomez definitely reads my blog....)
- your husband sees a documentary about this photographer nature lover rock climber guy who has been living in Yosemite for a few years, just camping there and occasionally going into town to shower and go to the bar and stuff, and he thinks that lifestyle sounds cool and has somehow convinced you that it would be fun to follow in that guy's footsteps. Don't worry, this one isn't about me. And never will be. 

Anyhoo, if you do find yourself without a kitchen for several weeks, you have a few options:

1. You can become one of the Six Sisters and prep 40 freezer crockpot meals in a few hours, and then while you don't have an oven, you can just pop open your freezer, choose one of the pre-prepped gourmet meal-in-a-bags, and throw it in the crockpot. 

{Or if you're me, you can optimistically say you'll do this, and wind up having just one freezer crockpot meal the entire time your kitchen is under construction.}

2. When the crockpot meals don't pan out exactly how you had hoped, it's time to start stocking your fridge with the necessities. 
- Milk goes with cereal
- English muffins can be toasted in any room of the house
- Deli meats and provolone cheese, because the husband could happily eat sandwiches err meal of err day
- Cheddar cheese goes with Ritz crackers
- Apples, so you can include some fruit in your well-balanced diet

3. The microwave is going to be your best friend. Do you know what you can make in the microwave?? EZ mac, Ramen, Pastaroni, and any number of steam-in-a-bag-in-the-microwave vegetables. 

4. Take-out and fast food are other options. 

But, if you're anything like me, they will leave you with a sense of annoyance and fat, and you'll have to get the most expensive thing on the menu just because it looks the freshest while your husband is happy with two 50-cent sandwiches that probably got sat on. 

But, people have to eat, and sometimes take out and fast food are the only options. 

So, sue (persize) me. 
5. Free food is better than no food, and no food is better than free food. This is my personal motto for life, actually. I like free food more than some people like their brand-new puppies. 

During my kitchen hiatus, I took advantage of every free food I heard of. I cashed in on the free meal on my Cafe Rio card, used up the rest of a Zupa's gift card, used up the rest of a Coldstone gift card, went to Tucano's for a free meal for Stephen's birthday, got a muffin and a banana from some retirement people who came to my school, got a granola bar from some JEA people who came to my school, and asked my students to bring in apples for Apple Week. We used some of them in cinnamon apples (it was supposed to be applesauce, but we didn't cook it for long enough, so we just ended up with some bomb-amazing cinnamon apples instead), and then tasted some of them fresh. If there is a meeting during this time where they will feed you, you should absolutely take advantage of it. If someone brings in a box of donuts and leaves it in the faculty room with a note that says "Eat me," you should definitely oblige. Farm to School is in full swing right now, and you better believe I have taken my share of the raspberries and yogurt / fresh peaches / watermelon they offer at my school.

6. Try to go over to your in-laws' house as often as possible. They will feed you! And they will even let you use their oven / stove / sink, and after spending a weekend over there, you will feel almost back to normal.

7. Really, you need to accept that you are not going to be eating the greatest during this time. And then lower your expectations, and try to still be happy. 

The struggle is so real. 
Happy remodeling!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bouncing Bettas and Hairy Hamsters

In the 3rd week of school, I taught a lesson on persuasive writing to my two classes of second graders....and it was just about the most successful and adorable lesson I have ever taught. I took pictures during the lesson and called my mom and my dad on my way home to tell them about it, and then showed the pictures to Stephen and almost cried talking about it, because I was just overflowing with so much happiness about it, and then I told my team about it, and now since I can't seem to shut up about it, I'm here to tell everyone else in the world about it in a blog. 

To be honest, I based most of this unit off of this free packet from Soaring Through Second. It is an amazing resource! We spent Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday learning about betta fish, hamsters, and hermit crabs and recording facts about them in different graphic organizers. 

The kids loved using the iPads, but the really fun part came on Thursday, when we were ready to argue our opinion on which class pet we should get in a persuasive writing piece. I worried all week about this. My kids are basically still 1st graders at this point in the year....how could I ask them to write a whole page about their opinion and then support it with reasons? It's something that I saw college kids struggling with when I worked in the writing center! 

Then on Thursday morning, I was struck with inspiration to combine the writing with art! A hermit crab headband, to be exact. My lesson ended up going like this:

Step 1: Title / Headband
Step 2: Opening statement (Opinion) / Open eye
Step 3: Hook / Crab claws
Step 4: Reasons / Shell
Step 5: Closing statement / winking (closed) eye

Step 1: I explained the the first thing you need in an opinion writing is come up with a title. Once they had written their title, I gave everyone a strip of construction paper and told them to write their name on it. Their name is kind of like their title, so those two went together well. 

2. Then you state your opinion in an introduction. We wrote up a list of ways you could state your opinion: "I think...." "In my opinion..." "We should..." etc. I then explained that the intro sentence is also called the opening statement, and our hermit crab needs one open eye to remind us of that. It's how "I" feel, so we're using an "eye" to show that step. Once the students had written their opening statement, they came up to me to get it approved and I gave them a fuzzy pipe cleaner, a strip of construction paper, and their choice of a black or white eye (circle of cardstock). 

To get the open eye ready, we cut two tiny horizontal slits in the strip of construction paper (headband). We slid the fuzzy pipe cleaner through one slit and out the other, and then to secure it, we bent it up and twisted it around itself. We attached the eye to the other end of the pipe cleaner the same way: slipping the pipe cleaner through one slit in the eye and out the other, twisting it around itself once again. 

Hopefully the picture helps clarify that...
3. The next thing we had to do was come up with a "hook!" The hook is what gets the reader interested. We talked about ways to get people interested. Here's what my class came up with: 

Obviously for the hook, I handed out a red paper with 2 crab claws to each student. They cut them out and glued them somewhere on the headband. 

4. The next step is explaining and supporting your opinion with reasons. We can't just say what we think: we have to defend our opinion! We have to protect it. And of course, what protects a hermit crab? It's shell! Everyone had to write down three reasons and then they got a blank half-sheet of manila cardstock. I let them decorate and cut it out in any shape / design they chose, and they turned out so cute!

Stephen told me I had my "teacher goggles" on when I showed him this picture, but come on, is that not a cute crab??
5. After stating our opinion and reasons, we were ready to conclude. I told them that this step is similar to Step 2, since we're again saying our opinion, but it can't just be the exact same thing again. We have to re-state our opinion and say it in a different way than the first time we said it. 

So we need another eye, but this time, the eye is going to be closed. It's our closing statement, so the crab is going to be winking. I cut out O's with the dye-cut machine, so for the closing statement eyes, we used the O and they just folded it in half to show that the crab was winking. 

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when my kids brought me their papers to read their closing statements! They really got the concept of re-stating their opinion, something that my kids last year never really got. Is that something other teachers struggle with or just me?

Cuties :) 
It was so much fun and they loved making the crafts one piece at a time. It broke it up so we weren't just writing the whole time, and the craft actually had a purpose. Let me know if you end up using this method in your class! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

365 Days (or 386, same thing)

Of all the things I love about Stephen's family, one of the things I especially love is that his mom dabbles in photography. Which, when I say she dabbles, I mean she dabbles in the professional sector of photography, occasionally taking her nice camera to shoot engagements or senior pictures or the very occasional wedding.

In her personal life, it's less of a dabble and more of a compulsion, and she takes like 700 pictures a day if we're doing something special or on vacation or really looking beautiful. And if you know me at all, you won't be surprised that I, personally, love this.

I also love having a makeup junkie for a sister-in-law, and Natalie is just about the sweetest person I've ever met. Did I mention that as of a month ago, both of these talented people live 30 minutes from us?

So really the only thing I needed to do for our anniversary pictures was to dress myself and Stephen and show up at their house so Natalie could work her magic and we could take some pictures in the magical land called American Fork Canyon.

The cake was definitely better one year ago....you could smell the freezer burn right when you opened the box.
But what good are traditions if you don't keep them?

Thanks again Diane!! 
Not pictured:

-When I showed up at the house with no makeup on, so Natalie could work with a blank canvas, and every one of Stephen's brothers told me how weird I looked
-Stephen leaving me wobbling on the rocks in my wedges so he could run off and explore
-Logan walking around in the shot with his shirt over his head
-Us spitting out the cake after we tried to eat it
-Stephen almost throwing me in the water
-Logan falling in the water accidentally-on-purpose
-Pretty sure there was a nice view up my dress at more than one point.