Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kitchen progress - Chapter 5.

Once all the appliances were in the kitchen was mostly finished. All that was left to do was to add final details and, of course, unpack way too many dishes, gadgets and utensils. Since the small details are all important but not necessarily related (other than by being in the kitchen), I will do a small blurb about each.

Pendant light: The kitchen in our apartment had one, very bright, ceiling mounted fluorescent light, a small task light in the stove hood and no windows. This meant that you had very few lighting options and honestly, I used only the hood light even when it was dark because of the ugly light supplied by the standard ceiling fixture. We really wanted the new kitchen to have some options for lighting that could change depending on the time of day and the task at hand. As you will recall from Chapter 2, we had the electrical box for the existing pendant light moved from the middle of the room to a position centered above the sink and installed 6 new pot lights which are on a dimmer. These are the main lights in the room and they provide a nice, bright light that isn't too harsh. In addition to the pot lights, we also installed the new pendant over the sink, put in 3 under cabinet lights and installed an exhaust hood with a built-in light.

We looked for a long time at pendant lights and explored options from a $20 IKEA fixture to a much more expensive glass globe light. In the end, we chose the Renovators Harbor Pendant 2 finishes (that is the actual name of the fixture as listed on the website), an industrial style metal pendant from Shades of Light. As the name implies, it is available in two finishes, Olde Bronze and Polished Nickel. We couldn't decide which finish we liked best so we ordered both and waited until almost everything else was done so we could see the fixture in the space. Final answer: Olde Bronze. The brushed stainless finishes on the appliances and the faucet just didn't work with the Polished Nickel but the bronze echoed the new coat of oil rubbed bronze that was freshly spray painted on our window hardware and just looked more like it belonged in the room.

Pendant over sink.
Pendant installed.

Likewise we considered several options for under cabinet lights. You would never guess that there are so many types of lights for this purpose, but we found out that you can get under cabinet lighting in fluorescent, halogen, xenon and LED. A local lighting store had all the options on display so I and my lovely MIL took a trip to check them out and determine which one looked best. All of the lights were a little more blue than I wanted, but the xenon was pretty tolerable and low voltage so we relayed our opinions to M, who agreed that xenon was the winner. We considered purchasing the units locally but found that they were much cheaper online. I think we finally ordered ours, in the brushed silver finish, from Amazon. We opted for the brushed silver because it was possible to see the light housing from some angles and the silver looked much nicer than the white or black options. We decided to install 3 units: two under the cabinets to the right of the fridge and one under the cabinet next to the wall oven. This may seem like a strange choice, given that there is more counter space next to the wall oven than next to the fridge, but unfortunately the cabinet boxes dictated what we could install where. We were told that it was unwise to have the light boxes straddle a join in the cabinet boxes, so centering one light under the cabinets next to the fridge wasn't an option as those cabinets are two separate boxes that abut each other (instead of one box with two doors - make sense?). You can see the two lights in the picture below because of the angle, but we don't notice them when we are in the room.


The cabinets next to the wall oven are also comprised of two cabinet boxes, but one of them is double the width of the other which is why there are three doors. The middle and right-hand doors are a single cabinet box so our choices were to use a light under each door or to put only one in the middle (a longer light box would have fit but it would have straddled a cabinet box join so that was out). We decided that three boxes was overkill and just installed one in the center, which provides plenty of light for the space. The under cabinet lights are also on a dimmer, which is helpful for making bottles at 3am.

Cabinet drawer and door hardware: Because all of the cabinets came from IKEA and we were eligible for that lovely 20% discount on most of the additional kitchen hardware, we decided to go with cabinet and drawer handles from the same. This time there was very little debate. M liked the LANSA handles and since I was 7 months pregnant and had a stress fracture in my foot and an active toddler, I liked whatever I didn't have to choose. And I do really like the LANSAs...they have a simple, clean aesthetic and are easy to pull. Radar likes them also and spends a considerable amount of time biting the ends, mostly when he wants to be fed which is anytime we are in the kitchen. Silly kitty.

Soft-close hinges/drawers: We bought dampers for both our cabinet doors and our drawers from IKEA and had them installed on all the cabinets and drawers. I think that the large pantry door required a different damper, but I can only find one of them online. These were a really nice addition to the room, especially since we have a kiddo who isn't too gentle when he closes things.

Drawers vs. cabinets: For storage in the kitchen we opted to use drawers for anything below the counter and cabinets for anything above, with the exception of the cabinet under the sink. I think this is pretty conventional but storing my pots and pans in drawers was new to me and seemed a little strange. A year later I have no idea how I ever could have been okay with the gymnastic twisting that was required to get anything from the very back of my old cabinets. (Side note: anything involving gymnastics makes me think of this old Dave Barry article about potato guns. And then I think about his Weiner mobile article and I go back and read it and laugh until I cry. Where was I?) I really like having everything in drawers and because their listed max load weight was around 100 lbs I put everything I wanted within easy reach into those drawers. One of the many advantages of having our contractor install the cabinets was that he could do things we likely could not have done. Best example: drawers under the cooktop. Our IKEA kitchen rep told us that most people just put drawer fronts over the opening for show, since the cooktop makes it impossible to install the drawers without modification. Thanks to Doug, who was able to mill out the sections of the drawer that would have interfered with the cooktop, I now have two drawers that would have otherwise been wasted space. The presence of the cooktop means that the contents of these drawers must be fairly shallow, so I use the left one for spices (with the Rationell Variera drawer inserts for spice jars - I can't find these on the IKEA site but could swear I saw them in the store recently) and the right one for cutting boards.

Drawers under the cooktop!
Installation of drawers under the cooktop.
Filled drawers with my random assortment of spices.

Trash cabinet: We stored our kitchen trash under the sink in our apartment and it was kind of a pain to pull the can out whenever you needed to dispose of something. Instead of repeating that here, we chose to have a cabinet dedicated to the trash next to the fridge, which makes cleaning out the fridge really easy. I will say that having the pull for the trash cabinet at the top of the door is creating a lot of stress on the door where it attaches to the drawer, especially because the Numa tends to get a little too enthusiastic when pulling it open to throw out his banana peels.

Glass doors: We used the plain, birch veneer doors and drawer fronts for most of the kitchen but decided it would be nice to break up the solid wood with some glass front doors. We used them only on the upper cabinets that would be housing dishes and one day, when we don't have so many bottles and colorful plastic dining ware, I hope to have those cabinets contain only white, stainless and glass items for a clean look.

Glass door cabinets.
Glass doors with empty cabinets.

Pantry cabinet: The pantry cabinet is magical. I never knew you could store so much in one cabinet. We went with the AKURUM high cabinet that was 24"x80"x24", which sounds huge but doesn't look out of place in the room. We decided to use the drawer inserts with a hinged door and I love, love, love this cabinet. Having drawers that pull out one at a time makes it stupid easy to load items in and to find them when you need them. Like all the other kitchen drawers, they can hold a fair amount of weight so I haven't been shy about storing cans and repackaging my grains into large glass jars, partly because they are prettier and partly because they are neater.

Heater: The electricians and Doug installed a toe-kick heater under the cabinet beside the wall oven so our little (or in my case, huge) feet wouldn't get cold in the kitchen. Also because the radiant heat was on that wall and this would be the only heat source in the kitchen during the New England winter. So kind of necessary.

Well, I think that is everything. All the final details. The only thing left is after pics, which will be up soon!

Be well,


Freeze frame: Early spring 2013.

(I started this in April and am publishing it now with no updates. I wanted it to be longer but it is more important to me that it reflect that particular period in their lives, so on with the show.)

When you have kids, everyone tells you that the days are long but the years are all too short. Unlike so much parenting advice, this is actually true and it is sad and wonderful at the same time. Children change so quickly; like a watch in the night their infancy and toddler-hood speed past and you are left wondering who stole your baby and replaced them with this little person who is crawling or walking or jumping off of the swingset while your heart skips a beat.

I have gone back and reread my Freeze Frame post from February many, many times. It is amazing how much both HH and the Numa have changed in just two months and thus, I have decided it is time for another.


Crawling. My baby is crawling. I can't believe that we are back in baby proofing mode again, this time with stairs. It happened overnight, as in Sunday she wasn't crawling and Monday she was. It didn't take her long to master this new skill and she is loving being able to move on her own, so much so that holding her has become an aerobic event. She twists and lunges constantly because she just wants to be down and moving all the time. She wants to be standing all of the time that she isn't moving, so now when she wakes from her naps we walk in to find her looking at us while holding the crib rails. Her sleep is much improved, and on most days she sleeps from 7 or 7:30pm to around 3am, has a bottle and goes back to sleep till 6:30. Plus she pretty consistently does two naps, one at 10am and one at 2pm, which means that between HH and the Numa someone in our house is napping from about 10am till 4pm.

The babbling. She talks constantly, to herself, to us and to the Numa who continues to be her hero. She has also discovered shrieking and screaming, to M's great delight, and very much enjoys the sound of her own voice. She gets that from me. She loves baby food and the new tastes she is getting of our food. Peas are still a big favorite, but she also likes O's, graham crackers, carrots, potatoes, avocados, bananas and bagels. When she starts to get bored or full she throws individual pieces of food to the floor and then stares at them with great interest. Cleaning her up after meals is becoming a challenge that bibs cannot meet, so as soon as it gets warmer I am predicting that she will be dining sans clothes.

She is so big and so tiny all at the same time. When I compare her to pictures of her as a newborn I can't believe how much she has grown, but when I compare her to the Numa she still seems like my baby for a moment. She has delicious dimples, at the base of each finger, two on each elbow and behind her knees, but escapes being really chubby due to her height. She isn't quite as tall as the Nums was at this age (he had already outgrown his bucket car seat) but she is definitely above average and wearing pants in at least a 12 month size, though some 9 month onesies will still snap over her cute little cloth diapers. Every time I change her for bed I end up stripping her down to just a diaper and then have to spend at least 5 minutes kissing her soft back and squishy thighs and round baby belly before I can bring myself to dress her again. M pretends to be embarrassed for me but he is just jealous. She remains happy and healthy and I can no longer clearly remember a time when our lives didn't include her. To say we love her is to completely miss just how deep our obsession goes.


The Numa, if I do say so myself, is just an awesome little guy these days. He is loving his new school, from the teachers to the classrooms to all his new friends. M and I retrieve the littles together almost every day and after we get the Nums into his seat and begin to head home, he tells us that he wants to go to school. When one of us remarks that he was just at school, he gleefully exclaims "Wes [let's] go to school AGAIN!" We are so happy that he is so happy - it makes all our sacrifices to have him there worthwhile. After all of the issues we encountered at his old school, nothing has ever made me prouder than hearing his new teachers talk about how kind he is to everyone. He is still restless, still has trouble listening sometimes and has far too much energy, but he is the first one to comfort fellow students who have fallen down or to hug a teacher who has been out sick. So. Very. Proud.

He has been so good at remembering his manners lately that I think I can actually imagine a time when we won't have to remind him to say please and thank you. He pretty consistently says "excuse me" when he wants our attention and, more often than not, has replaced "I want milk" with "can I please have milk." He shares with HH, somewhat more reluctantly since she became mobile but mostly without pouting, and will help pick up toys when asked.

He still has his moments where frustration consumes him and in those moments, I am reminded how important sleep can be when patience is required. He is so opinionated about everything, from his clothes to his food to his hair, which he still HATES to have touched or washed. He has actually started requesting haircuts and is super excited until they start cutting, at which point he tries to melt into his chair. He looks so much older with short hair - it makes M sad and makes me wonder how on earth he got to be such a big boy when we weren't watching. I am constantly reminded that this time in his life is so short and both M and I try very hard to savor the moments because they don't last.

Together they are a happy little duo and they bring us an enormous amount of joy each day. Even when we are exhausted and completely out of patience, we are so thankful to be their parents.

Be well,