Tuesday, June 24, 2008

while we wait

I took some time out from The Book this weekend to spend with my old (have I really known her for over 20 years? yes, I have) friend Beth, who decided to shoehorn in a visit in our waning days as a family of three. Not for anyone else would I have swept, mopped, and scrubbed the entire house at 38 weeks pregnant. But since it was very likely the last top-to-bottom cleaning this house will get before (and let's face it, after) Baby Brother arrives, it was good to get it done. And of course, great to see Beth, who is truly a fellow traveler in this life.

The only unwanted drama of the weekend was that poor Jasper impaled his thigh on a branch in Frick Park and had to be carried to the vet for treatment of a pretty gory wound. We've been nursing him with painkillers, liquid skin, lots of petting and special treats, but he's going to be an invalid for a while, poor pup, and it's sad to see him not his usual spunky self.

With all that excitement now over, and before I put my blinders back on to finish (let's hope) The Book, allow me to introduce... Ladies and gentlemen, my new kitchen! Go ahead, view it large!

Lest you merely nod politely and move on, I think a little before and after action will dramatize the transformation. The "before" shots are scans of old film prints from several years ago – in other words, not that great – but you'll get the general gist of the hideosity we were up against.

Here's the corner where the window had been walled over and we were able to install an exhaust hood. The stove and cabinets date from the last renovation of the kitchen in 1962. My father-in-law generously offered to buy us a new stove, but we like our funky old one and will keep it till it quits. The steel cabinets likewise fall under the heading of "they don't make 'em like that anymore," so we had them refinished rather than spend more money on new ones. A new pull-out style cabinet to the left of the stove provides 12 precious inches of extra counter space next to the cooktop and is where we now keep our most-used cooking oils and spice jars, saving multiple mid-sautée trips to the pantry.

Here's the other side of the kitchen. Same cabinets, new butcher block counters and tile backsplash (our one big splurge). Where you see the little bookcase in the "before" picture is where, a couple years ago, we busted through the back wall and restored a doorway to the former butler's pantry. Aside from restoring the house's original circulation pattern, this brought a lot of borrowed light into our otherwise cavelike kitchen.

A "new" sink was key to the whole project – actually an old enameled cast-iron double sink with a double drainboard, which allowed us to skip building any countertop between the dishwasher and the window. We haunted Construction Junction for this sink for a year and a half and finally picked it up for only $20, which allowed us to splurge on a super-deluxe faucet. I had no idea what a difference a a nice faucet would make. Have I mentioned how much I love my faucet? I lurrrve it.

Finally, here is the little hallway which leads from the front of the house to the kitchen in the back. Some years ago, we knocked out a broom closet on the left which allowed us to move the refrigerator across the room and install a dishwasher (another life-changing event). The two doors lead to the basement and the pantry. I painted the wall at the back of the little hall with chalkboard paint – fun for Iris, a place to write shopping lists and notes for J and me.

Even though it's not a whole new kitchen, it is. We may have kept the same cabinets, appliances, even roughly the same layout, but small improvements have made it a better space in every way. The room where we spend the most time is now a room where we like to be. So good!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

another insomniac post, which brings us to how many now?

I wish I could bottle some of this wakefulness for when the baby comes and I'll need it.

I am 37 weeks pregnant, and if you've been in my shoes – which are flip-flops because that is the only footwear into which I can cram my feet, which are swollen like popovers – you know what that means. It means I am officially full term, so I could go into labor at any moment, or still be pregnant a month from now. It's a weird waiting game.

Until recently I've been complacently confident that Baby Brother, like his big sister before him, will almost certainly be late. On time at best. But recently, I've begun to get some inklings that this baby might actually come early. And, uncomfortable as I am with all my late-pregnancy aches and pains, and as eager to get that pesky business of having the baby over with so I can actually meet this squirmy little person who's been taking up increasingly greedy amounts of my internal real estate, I really don't want the baby to come early. Are you listening, Baby Brother? Please don't come too soon! Because I need my month of June!

Because I am desperately trying to finish a book. Writing one, that is. The manuscript consists of my 10-year-old master's thesis, to which I need to add a host of updates and revisions, and this month – this month only! – I have the incredible luxury of being able to work on it full-time. The past couple weeks, I've been on a roll, and if I can continue at this feverish clip, I think I can finish by my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month. If no cataclysmic life events intervene.

It's not too much to ask, is it, that Baby Brother should come not too late (so I can avoid the dreaded pitocin drip this time) and not too soon (so I can put my right-brain cares away, or more accurately lob them into my editor's court, and just enjoy this boy when he gets here)? I feel like I should make a Goldilocks joke here but I am too tapped out to think of a good one... maybe you can.

On a related tangent, I got the best mail this week. For the work I'm doing on my manuscript, I decided I needed to have my own copy of a book that I had had on indefinite library loan when I was a grad student. The book is out of print, so I ordered it from an online used bookseller, which for me, as a person who is picky about books, is always a bit of a crapshoot in which I weigh the price of the book versus what little information about the edition, condition, etc. I can glean from the seller's (often unhelpful) description. The only edition of the book I ever knew was that borrowed grad school copy, which had a plain blue library binding, so imagine my delight when I opened a manila mailer the other day and found this:

It's the little things in life, I tell you. I keep this beside me even when I'm not actively referring to it because just looking at the cover makes me happy.

And, although I've severely curtailed almost all non-book-related activities lately (now you know why I haven't been around here, or your blog, or Flickr much), I did drop by the thrift store that is on my way home from my neighborhood library (how conveeeen-ient!) and bring this home recently... because another serving bowl is just what my household needs... not. But it's a slightly different size than the rest of our bowls, J pointed out, and has already put it to use. Good man.