Thursday, November 7, 2013

First There Were Two...

Let me begin by letting you in on a little secret.
I married a Frenchman.
Sounds exotic does it not?  In fact, I like to say we honeymooned in France for the first nine months of our marriage.  And we did.  Except my Frenchman is really a Renaissance man born and raised in Indiana.  With the heart of a Frenchman and a fabulous grasp of the French language that throws off many a French national, he set off to embrace all that is French.  Uh, that is except for me.  Don't get me wrong, he embraces me but I am not French...just your basic American with a pretty good hold on sarcasm as a second language.  But I digress. So back in 1993 after we wed, we set off on an adventure.  With my PhD candidate husband, we got to live in Grenoble, France while he was on an exchange teaching program at the Universite Stendhal teaching English to French college students.

What was I going to do all day?  I didn't speak the language.  And, keep in mind, this was back in the day when people wrote letters to communicate and we went to a pay phone to call home to the States. Dear foreign gods that makes me feel ancient.  So suffice it to say, I wasn't able to sit in a cafe all day playing Candy Crush on Facebook with my iPad.  Est alors, I did what every French person does.  I walked.  I walked to the boulangerie practically two to three times a day.  In the morning for a pain au chocolat and then a baguette for lunch and dinner.  Keep in mind, this is the woman who can speak "hello", "please", "thank you" and "good bye" in French like a native.  So my pain au chocolat supplier and I had begun to recognize one another.  It was time to branch out with my French.  I decided to ask her how much my drug of choice the pain au chocolat was.  It went something like this:
Me: "Combien pour le pain au chocolat?" (How much for my hooch?)
My Drug dealer: "trois quatre-vingts"
Me: "Répéter s'il vous plaît." (Repeat please -with a very nervous smile on my face)
My Drug Dealer: "trois quatre-vingts"
Me: "Répéter s'il vous plaît." (Repeat please -but said very s-l-o-w-l-y since I didn't know the word for "slowly")
My Drug Dealer (with a line of annoyed French people behind me ready for a second revolution): "Three eighty" - said in a surly voice.
 Hanging my head in shame I paid the woman, grabbed my little bit of flaky chocolatey goodness and went to eat away my sorrows at failing miserably with my first attempt at branching out with the French.  At this rate I am sure I will never make it through nine months if "eighty" translated is "four twenties".  I was doomed.

Ah, did I forget my secret weapon?  I had my Frenchman!  Hearing him speak French was all the aphrodisiac a newlywed needed.  And eventually I became more adventurous and willing to use my dismal French.  I embraced my mistakes and today they make for great stories at cocktail parties.

But who am I kidding?
Cocktail parties?
More like birthday parties or pizza parties or play dates and if we are lucky an adult beverage (for the adults) is included!  Years later my Frenchman is now a tenured French Professor and I am a seasoned (because they don't give tenure in my line of work) clinical social worker. We have a 13 year old son and an 8 year old daughter that keep us busy.  The Professor gets to travel to France at least once a year with his work.  But me?  I get to stay home with the kids.


You see, traveling abroad, as you all may guess, requires planning, time off to go, and, oh, income.  A humanities professor and a social worker aren't exactly making the big bucks.  So the professor embraces his inner Frenchman every year while we hold the fort down until he returns.  We want to go to France as a family.  The kids are ready for their French adventure.  But having lived abroad plus being attached to our sanity, we knew that when we went as a family to France we would need to stay in an apartment.  This is where our desire to travel abroad as a family and Go with Oh paths converged.  Who better to test an Go with Oh apartment in France than the Professor, his sarcastically witty wife and their two children?  We would really put that apartment to the test.  And I have found the perfect one.

In the 11th Arrondissement, Go with Oh offers this Charming Art Studio that has a little bit of everything for the whole family.  I am imagining I might open the door and find Amelie sitting on the couch dreaming up her next adventure.

And then I see the terrace and my breath catches just a bit.  Room to breath.  To just take it all in.  -That is if the kids will be quiet for two minutes and stop asking me where they can get some real food around here and when are we going to see the Eiffel Tower- Back to my fantasy...

Oh, but wait, what did I read?  Does this apartment come with a mini-Mac and wireless internet?  My kids will think they have died and gone to heaven.  Come on...who am I kidding...I will think I have died and gone to heaven too.  The last time I was in France the closest thing we had to the internet was our friend's Minitel. Curious?  Follow the link and learn something new, my dear readers.  But having internet access may shut my children up keep our children occupied while my husband and I catch our collective breaths on the terrace and reminisce about when it was just the two of us.

This lovely slice of Paris that we could call our own for a week also has a beautiful eat in kitchen, a soaker tub and the best part is that it is dripping with character and atmosphere.  I swear if I lived in this apartment for more than a week I would be speaking French fluently.  Maybe Go with Oh and I could try a little experiment.  Think of the news we would make!  We'd become an internet sensation.

No? Uh, okay.  I'll settle for the week then.  Perhaps the next time we can test those fluency waters.

Well, first there were two and now there are four.  And we can't wait to expand our children's world view beyond where they live today.  Go with Oh's choice of apartments in Europe is exciting when imagining the options we would have traveling in Europe and the United Kingdom.  Whether it is in France or other European destinations, Go with Oh gives you the opportunity to feel like you are living there and not just visiting.

Now that is worth the price of admission...even for a professor and a social worker.

Our daughter when she was 2 wearing my t-shirt I wore as a kid. 
See? We've been prepping for years, Go with Oh.

UPDATE (11/21/2013):  I did not win the Go with Oh blogger contest.  I have to say I was very hopeful and very disappointed.  Their properties are gorgeous and provide so many options to those of us who are secretly (or not so secretly) Europhiles.  Maybe next time...sniff, sniff.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kitchen Renovation Reveal

Let me help the BIG REVEAL by prepping you with a couple of "before" pictures so you get an idea of the kitchen we lived with for 2 or so years.

kitchen - before

Patrick had taken off all the doors to the cabinets when a brief surge of DIY juice passed through him never to return.  And, by the way, the cool sink is still in our backyard if anyone is interested.

kitchen 2 before

This served as extra cabinet space.  And as you can see, the floors were definitely tired.

We used Home Depot's Kitchen design services in Simpsonville to bring this kitchen into the 21st century.  Eli, God bless her and her patient soul, designed the kitchen. And with great gnashing of teeth walked through many design questions and changes that we had.


And our contractor, Kenny, along with two other fine Southern gentlemen, gnashed their teeth as well over the four months it took to bring it to where it is today. It is a relief to have a contractor that you can trust and know that he is committed to doing a job correctly.  I'm sure there were many curse words used when they were not in my presence but in front of me they were nothing but gentlemen.


The renovation happened in fits and starts. And there were fits thrown. But in the end we have a beautiful and functioning kitchen.


 Even the 1970's Jenn Air stove has gotten a new life.


And thanks to Eli's design we can easily get in and out the back door.
Oh, and we have a dishwasher for the first time in our adult life.

Love our open shelving.
And the wooden floors? Well, Kenny worked his fingers to the bone for these floors. Thank you, Kenny!!

And now for some details that make me happy.


The pendant light over the sink makes me happy...the blinding light bulb not so much.
Any suggestions?


Love the open shelving! There was much researching because we wanted something with some design appeal but also functional. This blogger showed off her Ikea shelving and I was sold.  I didn't show it to Patrick but just went right ahead and asked a friend who was passing through Charlotte to pick us up a couple.  He obliged AND gifted them to us...sweet guy, that Michael.  So if you want your own, head on over to Ikea.  Gotta love the Swedish sensibility.


Patrick and I are sparring over objects that get put on these shelves.  Some tchotchke have disappeared since these photographs.


But then...surprise...they show back up again...then disappear again.
The great tchotchke war on East Maple.


The inspiration that finally convinced me Patrick was right about the wall color. read correctly. Patrick was right.
He was not only right about that but I have to concede one more thing.

The 1970's Jenn Air Stove that came with the house adds a retro cool vibe to the kitchen that I in absolutely NO WAY anticipated it would.

We did have some concern that the open cabinet that we originally desired was going to look odd and off balance in the kitchen. But I have to say I love it. Just wish I was taller to reach the shelves.


I knew I wanted something in the back of the cabinet to coordinate with the color in the kitchen. I was losing hope that I'd find something stylish and reasonably priced. But while trolling  Carolina Pottery in Columbia I came across this fabulous shelf liner. I snatched it up for half the price it is online (yeah for me!) and ran home to put it a very ADD fashion.  Leave it to say if you look at it too long while visiting our home you'll notice where I got a little hurried in the process.

And then there is the functionality of the kitchen too.
For instance, the drawer below has a hidden compartment that stores more utensils.
Very useful in a small kitchen.

draw collage

And a concealed trash bin is a good thing too.


Love this faucet and this deep single bowl sink... even though our dear contractor insists everyone wants a double bowl sink.

But have you noticed one thing missing? We have a backsplash dilemma. It is too late to add the small granite lip that traditionally goes with a counter top for reasons I won't bore you with. We had thought we'd do a white subway tile but then we just hit a wall and decided to wait. But in the mean time we worry about water hitting the walls around the sink and grease around the stove. Any design input would be gladly welcome...but may not be taken.  


Overall, we are very pleased with the end result of months of hard work from Kenny and his crew...therapy sessions with Eli...and many dishes washed in the bathroom sink.
Kitchen Renovation RevealSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

50 Shades of Steel Gray

The kitchen is close to becoming a working kitchen again. 
I'm not sure if I remember what that is.
Between waiting on cabinets...and waiting on more cabinets we have been without a kitchen since December 10, 2012.
On February 18, 2013 our granite counter tops, sink and faucet were installed.  So, in theory, we should be able to wash dishes in our kitchen.  Here are the granite guys drilling the hole for the faucet.
Granite counter tops are being installed today!
We were told that it would be no problem to install the faucet in the center of the sink.  Sure there would be room to operate the faucet and install the back splash! Plumbing it should be no problem.
Famous. Last. Words.
So what do you do when the installers drill a hole in your beautiful granite counter top that isn't going to give you a functional faucet?  You add a soap dispenser and have them drill a new hole for the faucet off to the side of the sink.  Crisis adverted.
The granite type is "Steel Gray".  I am in love with it.  It is a great entry level granite that looks great with the cabinets and color on the walls.
But the saga continues...

50 Shades of Steel GraySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Castle of Cabinets

The cabinets arrived under the cover of darkness. I was so excited.  It was really happening now.  We're getting a new kitchen! The delivery guys decided to drive their big rig into our front yard to bring the cabinets into the house.  Most of you know how our front [cough, cough] yard looks.  Well 18 wheels later it is much prettier (please note the snarky remark).

Where does one put a kitchen full of cabinets before they are installed in your actual kitchen, you may ask? Well, in our house they were put in our living room.

Kitchen Cabinets arrived last night...prize to the person who can guess what Anna is watching!

Big prize for anyone who can guess what show Anna is watching.

Well, Kenny and John arrived on December 30th ready to install all those pretty cabinets.  And all seemed fine.

Cabinets are going in..eventually...ran into a snafu that will slow things down.

Until it was discovered that one cabinet was going to be too big for the way the plumbing and install was planned on the contractor's end.  Our Kitchen Designer worked with us to return that cabinet and order a new smaller sized cabinet to replace it.  Almost everything else would have to wait until that cabinet arrived.  We were told it would be expedited and to expect it in two weeks. 

That was a month ago...grrrr.

But in the mean time we've had a new window installed.


I've also painted a ton of trim.  And during a visit from my parents my dad and I scraped, sanded, and primed old trim that had peeling latex on top of enamel paint.

Scraping Collage

And we had a paint color dilemma.
Most of the time if you were to pick up a multiple color swatch at a paint store and asked the Professor and I which color we preferred, he would chose the lightest color and I would go to the darkest color.  Trying to avoid crazy indecision we met in the middle and chose this color:

Color of the kitchen walls...who comes up with these names?  I want that job!

"Desert Hotsprings".
I demand to know who gets paid to sit around naming paint colors!  I want that job.
Well, it turns out that "Desert Hotsprings" looked a little too country for our tastes with the new stain on the kitchen floor.  Then the Professor surprised me.  He suggested this color...
 This my dear friends is Sherwin Williams "Frolic"(again with the names...Frolic...really?).  Frolic is on the dark end...the bright end...the sunglasses are required end and yet, he picked it.  And I, believe it or not, argued with him.  Okay.  That part is believable.   I didn't run to the paint store immediately like I had fantasized I would if he ever went there.  But eventually I did and when they mixed that color I had to admit I was nervous.

Once it got on the walls though, I was hooked.  I wanted to frolic in the kitchen.  I can't wait to frolic in the kitchen...soon.

Castle of CabinetsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Temporary Digs...

Here's a glimpse of our temporary kitchen...
Our dining room made temporary kitchen/pantry...all the banging has done a number on those pics hanging huh?

All the banging has set the pictures off kilter just a smidge.
So the dining room has become our eat in kitchen.  We packed up the entire contents of the kitchen. Some shelving was moved into the dining room for a temporary pantry and to store basic cooking utensils and plates etc.  Our trusty Ikea table from the butler's pantry is now our prep station.  Thanks to the kindness of family and friends we have a griddle and a hot plate that has seen a lot of action.  Along with our microwave, slow cooker and grill we're managing to cook meals just fine.

What is the most annoying thing about the temporary kitchen? 
Anything involving water. 
Washing and draining pasta...making coffee all are more complicated now.  But let's take a moment of gratitude here.  It is merely an annoyance.  We are renovating our kitchen NOT living in a developing country.  I think we'll manage just fine.
Temporary Digs...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Month of Letters

On September 2011, Mary Robinette Kowal made a move many of us couldn't ever imagine doing. She took a vacation from the internet for an entire month, asking her friends to communicate with her only through letters. She came to the realization that...
When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing. In some ways it forces me to think about time more because postal mail is slower. “By the time you get this…” It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral.
How so? I find that I will often read the letters that I receive twice. Once when I get them and again as I write back. So, that makes it more lasting. It is more ephemeral because I don’t have copies of the letters that I write and I am the only one who has copies of the letters that my correspondents write. So, more ephemeral.
Mary's decided to turn February into a Month of Letters, in which she challenges herself and everyone who decides do join to write and send at least a piece of postal mail every day. Here are the rules:
  • Mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  • Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
Since moving so far from the people that I love I have come to appreciate the mail I receive from them in a way I never did when we lived just up the road from each other.  I also am realizing how I have not really told them in a lasting way what they mean to me.  But here is my chance.

Of course, most of you know I am an Employee Assistant Program Consultant for the USPS.  They provide such a service that many times goes unnoticed or unappreciated.   And the USPS needs our help.  Here is chance number two.

Are you up to Mary's challenge? If you'd like to hear from me click on my "contact me" link on the side bar to send my your address.

Now grab your stationery and stamps and start writing!
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