Found, no. 2

The attic crawl space held a few secrets.

Most of them were revealed by our extremely thorough, talkative home inspector (the latter quality being a huge bonus, when you have many thousands of dollars hinging on what he tells you). There was various duct work that was too close to joists. Bathroom ventilation that emptied directly into the attic space. Insulation that ranged from one to .01 inches thick. Thankfully, none of it was even close to a deal-breaker.

The spouse had to crawl around up there for a bunch of DIY electrical work (the home improvement category that requires endurance, strength, and serious smarts. Rawr!). He turned up some desiccated bird remains–feathers and wings, mostly. And, there was this:

Found painting

I can’t decide. Irredeemably ugly? Or the start of a fun conversation piece? Would you do something to it to make it worth hanging, or toss it in the debris pile?

Friday Sky Day, no. 3

I am a preparer.

Not a planner. Plans suggest that we have control. Planning fixes the future in place with best intentions. But I believe the best plans are almost always laid to waste — at the very least nibbled away at the corners, sometimes gutted from the inside out.

Preparation is the best we can do. We can learn and teach, assemble and arrange, train and organize, take inventory, calculate odds, push ourselves forward, trust and hope. Then add a heaping cup of Life and shake vigorously.

One of the first real arguments I had with my father was about the nature of spontaneity. He asserted, you cannot prepare for spontaneity. I vehemently insisted that you can be more spontaneous if you are prepared for the moment. (I was 12, and pretty sure I had life sorted out.)

hwy 20 roadside

I still don’t know who was right. But, thanks to the late David Rakoff and his book Half Empty, I have a nice label for the way my preparer brain works — I am a contingency thinker.

Yes, I am beleaguered by the What-ifs. I am a cursed Cassandra, able to see the future and unable to do anything to change it. But I am also an excellent process thinker and decent project manager. I’m really good at listening to your vision and helping you find a path forward, through the stones and around the flash flood zones, straight on toward whatever lights you up. I’ve been known to throw obstacles in my own path, but I’m great at helping you remove yours.

I bounce back from calamity with fortitude and resolve, because I’m not surprised that things fall apart. With a grim cheeriness, I acknowledge that the center does not hold. (Except when I’m clutching the pieces, grasping at falling shards, insisting I can hold it all together. But that never works for long.)

lawen store

All of this brings me to Monday morning, early. Barely awake, I was pulling apple sauce and bread from the refrigerator, and my daughter’s lunch box from the cupboard, when my spouse said, “You remember it’s President’s Day. There’s no school.”

Crap. CRAP. What are we going to do all day? I wasn’t prepared for this. A Kipper marathon loomed bleakly on the horizon. Endless Candyland. And then a little, crazy, totally impractical idea wiggled across my mind.

I started swatting at that idea with every contingency I had — no way, we don’t, I can’t, what if … and then I stopped. I stopped myself right there, and I held myself to my own bendable-life promises. The ones I made when we closed up shop on our old life and called do-over: Fear less. Follow through on good ideas. Jump in and see what happens. Trust adventure. Trust yourself.

Hwy 20 toward home

Forty-five minutes later, the kid and I were in a car haphazardly stuffed with snacks, swimming suits, pajamas, and audio books — heading east on Highway 20. It turns out, we had everything we needed, and then some.

Happy Friday Sky Day, everybody. Go find the horizon. Jump in.

hot springs

Cardamom and kitchen swatches, 2013-

Bend, Oregon has a thing for cardamom.

Cardamom simple syrup in the Old Fashioneds at Zydeco. Cardamom Turkish coffee gelato at Kebaba.

And, the Ocean Roll from The Sparrow Bakery. Crunchy nubs of cardamom are swaddled inside the buttery pastry spiral, the whole thing studded with vanilla bean sugar. Good morning to me.

I have no clever metaphor to connect delicious, local baked goods with today’s decisive moment. But it was helpful to have something spicy-sweet in my maw while I gave the final nod on our kitchen swatches.

kitchen swatches

That’s the glossy white IKEA cabinet surface, Sherwin Williams Pure White paint (it’s warmer than it looks here), and laminate countertop in a creamy tan with vintage-y hatchmark pattern. (I was pining for quartz countertops, have grieved properly over the inaccessible expense, and am moving on. But don’t talk to me about undermount sinks right now.)

Yeah, yeah. I have a Pinterest board¬†or two on this kitchen situation. Over there, you can get a better view of the big vision — open shelves, white, wood, and stainless. What is, apparently, an “organic-modern” look. I’m feeling pretty good about it. Bright and warm. Clean and earthy. Spare and comfortable.

Our IKEA Abstrakt cabinets will be loaded onto a truck in approximately 48 hours. Allen wrenches, assemble.

Surfaces, 1965-

Me: Ohhh! Look at this Holly Hobby shelf paper! I love it!

Spouse: …

Me: Fine.
Vintage Holly Hobby shelf paper

I would absolutely choose this print for a bedspread. Today. I would.
vintage flowered shelf paper

Why the 1980s veered away from faux mosaic vinyl to hideous grid patterns is beyond me. (Looks a bit like that “Armstrong embossed Excelon tile in swirl chip design” from yesterday, no?)
vintage vinyl flooring

All of this has gone to the great construction graveyard, sadly. Next up: the clean, bright swatches we’ve merrily settled on for our home’s new look. (Also known as: the selection that made it through weeks of yelling, pouting, meltdowns in the immaculate IKEA kitchen showrooms, and aggressively emailed links to Pinterest boards. All of the aforementioned being me. Spouse is innocent.)

“It’s the active room!”

Okay. This is AMAZING. Googling around for info on 1965 asbestos tile, I found this commercial for Armstrong floors. So many things to love, here. That fireplace, for one. Somebody, please dress up in a pencil skirt and come dance with your fella in my living room, m’kay? It’s the ACTIVE ROOM!

What would Don Draper say about that piece of genius?

In fact, that’s exactly what we found under the filthy carpets in the dining room — a wide swath of asbestos tile.

asbestos tile

We’ll be covering directly over that situation with engineered maple planks, which are waiting for us in a local storeroom¬†as we speak!

Besides the bummer of finding hazardous material under the carpets, we were also left with hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of tough little staples to pull out by hand. Those blue-green blobs are one row of said staples, with nasty carpet pad stuck underneath.

Here’s me, gleefully pulling up that carpet, still innocent. This is easy, I’m thinking. No problem! I’m humming. Nothing a little ventilation mask and matching pink work gloves can’t handle!

ripping up carpet

All of this brings back memories of the original avocado green shag in my 1980s childhood home–which gave way early on to dark brown low-pile carpets. What were your floors like? What do you wish for now?

The kitchen, part 1

There’s something to be said for an original 1965 kitchen. And that thing is, it’s charming and retro and utterly inefficient (hello, blind corners). The kitchen in our new house did have a few recent “improvements”: a huge, repurposed slab of 1980s wood grain laminate with a massive and unstable overhang (an attempt at bar seating), a filthy and broken acrylic sink, and a single can light wildly off-center of the sink.

In our last house, we’d lived with 1920s cabinetry — heavy slab drawers that scraped wood-on-wood with every pull, sending sawdust into our silverware. Lower cabinets that were a full 10 inches shallower than standard, so nothing really fit. Uppers that came so close to the countertops, they rendered our work surfaces useless. (These useless countertops were also “upgraded” with terrifically ugly, giant granite tiles that hid every splash of goo — which is not a benefit, when you’re constantly setting your hand down into sticky, disgusting spots of unknown age and origin. If you can’t see a spill, you can’t guarantee it will be cleaned up. That granite also broke dishes like you wouldn’t believe.) The layers upon layers of shelf paint were eternally soft, easily dinged, and stuck to the bottom of dishes. For seven years, I did all of our cooking–slicing, chopping, mixing, blending, spooning, lunch-packing, dinner party prep, everything–on a 26×26-inch butcher block. I worked in my own shadow, since the only light was behind and above me.

Presented with the opportunity to demolish a crappy kitchen, we couldn’t get those hammers into our hands fast enough. We could exact our revenge on years worth of privileged, middle-class problems, blow by blow.

Here’s the before (note the gorgeous light fixture and popcorn ceilings! And that, uh, sweet little arched cutaway so the cook can see into the dining room — yeah. It was basically hacked out with a jigsaw.):

ranch renovation, kitchen before

Uppers = down! Carpet = gone! Annnnd, that’s asbestos tile and a huge patch in the floor.Kitchen mid-demo

All clear. Rawwrrr, victory! We ripped out the soffits to create a clean ceiling line and maximize the space for open shelving. At this point, I am dying to take down that gorgeous light fixture and send it to its peaceful grave at the rebuilding center, but it’s the only light left in the room. Baby steps.kitchen demo complete

Up next: how do you design an efficient cabinet plan, and The Great White vs. Stainless Debate.