I Could Make That!

Even though our kitchen wasn’t ready for the holidays, we are settled into it again. After last week’s chaos and tension, this long holiday weekend felt downright homey. Last Monday and Tuesday I put together the two cabinets that flank the gas range. Then I was able to move back the spices and other baking goods on the one hand and the pots and pans on the other. Thursday and Friday, AJM put the handles on the cabinet fronts. We’ve made temporary counter space out of various cutting boards we have.

kitchen remodel

Our First Thanksgiving Dinner

Several people have asked me how we managed Thanksgiving dinner. Well, there’s just the two of us so we didn’t make a lot of food. And the kitchen is more together than it’s been in these past eleven months. We even moved the table out of the front bedroom and back into the kitchen and had our first sit-down meal in six months. Our kitchen in Japan was much more primitive and difficult to work in. Keeping with family tradition, JQS came over on Friday to share leftovers and make the fruitcakes. I introduced him to Guitar Hero and we never got around to making the fruitcakes together. I made them on Saturday and baked them on Sunday.

Working in the new kitchen is such a pleasure! I can’t decide what I like the best. All four burners of the stove work and I love that the grill over the burners covers the entire surface and that they don’t wobble when you put a pan full of liquid on them. The vent is fantastic…I even turn it on when chopping onions and don’t tear up as usual. The new lighting enables us to have the prep area next to the stove and that is also very convenient. This means that (when we get the refrigerator) we’ll be able to move the table into the center of the kitchen and use the butcher block cart as our bar. I can’t even imagine how wonderful it will be when we finally have a refrigerator in the same room, counters, the real sink, and a dishwasher. I’ll never want to leave the kitchen.

Do It Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about a comment that a friend made. She was amazed that we did things on our own like cut into our roof. I don’t feel that it’s amazing partly because I feel that I have no choice. It’s got to be done and if we don’t do it, who will? I do call a specialist when I have to…but I find it more difficult to find, hire, and communicate with a third party than just doing it. We tend to feel our way along and design and innovate as we need to. I make a lot of non-traditional choices based on what is practical for how we work and use the kitchen. I don’t care if it doesn’t look like a standard American kitchen. I’m not at all concerned about resale value. I’ve built this kitchen for me and if the new owners down the line don’t like it, they can do their own remodel.

So part of my reluctance to trust the job to third parties is persnicketiness. And part of it is that I enjoy the design and problem-solving. But the biggest part of it, is that I was raised to do it myself–and it never occurs to me that I could get someone else to do it for me.

And so on this Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank both my mom and dad. Some of my earliest memories in our house on Shady Lane at Clark AFB was of my mom sewing while my Dad built model airplanes on the screened porch. From sewing our own clothes, dolls, and toys, making bread, painting water-color “stained glass” holiday decorations, constructing a real gingerbread house, making and flying model airplanes, building a color TV and electric organ, learning how to change a tire or clean off the terminals of the car battery to coax it to start, remodelling a bathroom, painting a mural, laying a brick patio, or building a deck–my parents showed me by their example that I could do it myself. And that it was fun. And that doing it myself allowed me to improvise and make something uniquely mine. Construction is construction whether you’re making a dress, a pie, or a kitchen.

We have a family saying, well, more like a family joke. Whenever we’re out shopping and one of us stops to look at something, we finger it, turn over the price tag, shake our head, and say, “I could make that!” Yep. No one in my family is going to spend good money on something we could make ourselves, and better.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Love you!

2 Responses to “I Could Make That!”

  1. M2 Responds:

    What I love most about lived in, loved houses are the real solutions. The “this is where the *x* is needed, this is where it goes.”

    I’m envious of your family heirloom of “get it done” persnicketiness. I might have to settle for a second-hand case of “what would ToM do?”

    I didn’t realize it was a gift until other people made me aware of it. Now I’m worried that I didn’t pass it on to the next generation. JQS’s attitude seems to be, “It’s more trouble than it’s worth.” And so he prefers to do without. Which is halfway there…he still doesn’t get someone else to do it for him. And he does prefer doing things to having things. It’s all about the process, baby. — mss

  2. Annie in Austin Responds:

    Your childhood experiences sure explain your confident attitude–and ability with tools. I can do a few things on your list, but only learned to do them after I was married.

    There’s nothing like a stove with all burners working–I can relate to that feeling, M. Our house is all electric, which means we need the gas grill for some things, and I love the ceramic top, but your new stove is making me jealous! Even if you’re not done yet, at least the new kitchen has been “christened” with the Thanksgiving meal. (I don’t know if you christen your rooms and new furniture in the other popular fashion.)

    We’ve done lots of remodeling and repair ourselves (my husband much more than I) for some of the same reasons you mention–the fun, the difficulty of finding, trusting or affording someone else to do work, the custom nature of the design. But we haven’t had that luxury of ignoring resale value and saleabilty–that was not just a possibility to us but was more than a probablility, it was an eventuality. That need to keep the house fairly neutral impacted a lot of decisions. We’re in a different house and a different situation now–there may be more adventurous times ahead!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Resale value in my neighborhood is related solely to the land which is very expensive. Developers buy the land and then build giant duplexes where little cottages like mine once stood. I think I will probably be the last person to live in this house. The next people will bulldoze it. That thought frees me up considerably. — mss

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