Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Now We're Cooking!

My new kitchen is really just my old kitchen dressed up and changed cosmetically. We have lived in our house for 22 years. We didn’t build the house, but we have been its sole owners. Over the years, my kitchen cabinets have changed hue from light to dark and back again. I had first painted my kitchen cabinets country blue. A few years after that, I painted them black. The cabinet doors had begun to sag, and we had already replaced the original worn hinges with ones that never fit quite right. After many years of use, the appliances no longer functioned well, either.

Instead of ripping out the entire kitchen, however, we chose to purchase new cabinet doors, drawer boxes with new glides and matching drawer fronts, along with convenient slide-out shelving, in order to refurbish and update our cabinetry. Danny Sullivan took on the monumental task of measuring, ordering and installing all those drawers and fittings, and he also put up crown molding. Danny is a craftsman par excellence! I painted—again—the cabinet faces, interiors, doors and drawer fronts. This time, I chose a creamy color.

For the floors, I chose ceramic tiles in varying warm tones and sizes. New appliances feature a stainless finish. Our GE Trivection range offers speedcooking, which combines radiant heat with microwaves. This oven cooks quickly and enhances both the taste and the texture of food. Our new microwave also bakes and speedcooks in addition to standard microwaving, and when the kids are away, it’s perfect for preparing a meal for two.

We have enjoyed our new/old kitchen very much. However, after nearly suffering heat stroke from the daunting task of scraping unsightly texture compound off the ceiling, I thought I’d never see my project completed! Word to the wise: Some jobs are not meant for do-it-yourselfers!

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeless and Distressed

After Ike wreaked havoc on the Texas coast, the nasty storm weakened into a tropical depression once he made his way to Arkansas. However, the storm still packed a punch with heavy rain and gusty winds. Spin-off storms also spawned tornadoes.

Once the storm passed, one couple living next door to me assessed the devastating damage to their home. The couple was quite distressed and seemed not to understand what had happened. They fussed and flitted around the remains of their former tree-top abode, but no help arrived to give them direction or offer temporary accommodations.

This couple, a sprightly pair of Cardinals, broke my heart when I realized their fate. Two days have passed since the storm moved on, but the birds maintain a vigil over the downed tree that was once their safe haven. The colorful birds still dash into the toppled branches, and I assume that perhaps this couple could have or may have had young nestlings in the tree. Like many others who were displaced, this couple will have to find somewhere else to live and start over. Life goes on, after all.

I am truly sorry for those who lost their homes and businesses. I wish the very best to the brave workers and volunteers as they toil diligently to restore power and give aid to the folks affected by Ike.

A photo of the fallen tree Ike's winds pushed over

A photo of the homeless male Northern Cardinal (bottom left)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Tiny but Tidy Space for Sewing

I recently worked on and off for a week to organize and re-arrange my sewing room, which is the smallest bedroom in our home. It was originally our daughter’s bedroom, but when she outgrew the space in 2000, we added on a new master bedroom suite and gave her our old bedroom.

I have three sewing machines and two sergers. My Bernina 630E was a gift to myself and was purchased with some of my inheritance. I love my new computerized sewing machine, and it also embroiders beautifully.

My mother was a seamstress, and when I was a child, I watched her create many garments on an old black Singer 66. Last Christmas, my sweet husband drove me three hours from our home, so I could purchase a vintage Singer 15-91. The nice woman selling it said the much-loved machine had belonged to her mother-in-law. My Singer 15-91 still sews perfectly and is similar to the machine my mother had. I used all of my Christmas money to buy it. It came with a gorgeous walnut cabinet fitted with fold-out “wing” extensions.

I also own a mint-green, mid-70s model Kenmore, which is similar to the machine my mother purchased to replace her Singer. I bought it from my neighbor for $25, and that machine still operates quite well. The old machines require a bit of maintenance, but I enjoy the process of cleaning, oiling and re-filling grease pots.

My first serger came from Sam’s Club. It was my Christmas present in 1993. Although it is branded as a Singer, I later learned that it was made by Juki. I have never had a problem with it. Thinking I needed a coverstitch option, my husband gave me a Pfaff 4852 for Christmas last year. It forms perfect overlock stitches and feeds smoothly, but it sometimes takes a while for me to thread it properly.

Anyway, my space is a bit cramped, and it certainly won’t win any design awards, but I enjoy working in my newly organized sewing room. I can pull my cutting table out and easily move it when needed. My space makes me happy. My dog Chloe also loves spending time with me while I sew. The space makes her happy, too, unless I accidentally step on her tail. Now I just need to get busy and create something!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Launch a Star Today!

Tonight the Stand Up 2 Cancer Telethon airs. Donations fund research for all types of cancer. A couple of months ago, I launched a “star” to honor the memory of my parents at the Stand Up 2 Cancer Web site.

My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1994. She called me after a too-long postponed colonoscopy and said, “They found a mass. A mass—it’s over for me.” I assured my mother that everything would be okay. The day of my mother’s surgery, the surgeon delivered bad news as gently as he could. My mother’s cancer was advanced.

My mother took her chemo treatments robotically. I’d take her by the arm and usher her to doctor’s appointments. Overwhelmed and devastated, my mother’s spirit died the very moment the word “mass” slipped from the doctor’s lips. By early February of 1995, my mother’s outlook brightened a bit. It was a rare good day for her. However, the doctor phoned me and told me that the cancer had spread to my mother’s liver.

When I walked into my parents’ house to deliver more bad news, I found my mother sitting up on the sofa. My dad had placed a tray table before her, and he was busily preparing a meal. Dad worked frantically, racing against time and hoping that my mother’s appetite would not wane before he served much-needed nourishment to strengthen his sick wife’s shriveling frame.

A couple of weeks later, I arrived at my mother’s house, as I did daily, and discovered that she’d burned a half-dollar-sized lesion onto her back with a heating pad. The cancer’s pain was out of control. Hospice services were a godsend at this point. As difficult as it was to watch my mother suffer, it was still heartbreaking when I saw my sweet mother draw her very last breath. She died on April 4, 1995. I have missed my mother’s companionship every minute of every hour of every day since that moment.

Ten years after my mother died, my father also succumbed to colon cancer. He’d been diagnosed almost two years before. I was alone when the doctor told me that the obstructive mass in my father’s colon called for immediate surgery. My father was a stronger patient emotionally, but he knew what he faced. He rallied a bit during chemo, and we all raised our hopes.

However, when my father became deathly ill one quiet Sunday afternoon in late August of 2005, I rushed him to the hospital. Tests proved that the cancer had returned and had again grown into an obstructive mass. My father suffered a serious heart attack during surgery. At that point, his weakened heart became more of an issue than the cancer.

My father grew tired of fighting and begged to go home. His nurse took me aside and explained that my dad wanted to go home “to die peacefully.” Hospice was again a godsend. In late October, three days after I moved into my dad’s house to care for him, he passed away. My father, the man who could do anything, was gone. I miss him so very much.

I hope that someday soon research will lead to the creation of vaccines to prevent cancer. However, technology exists today to easily screen for colon cancer. Prep for the test might be unpleasant, but early detection is the key to a cure at this point. I urge everyone to contribute to cancer research—do it today.

Go to and launch a star!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Day in the Dark

The so-called “remnants” of Gustav whirled through central Arkansas bringing sustained high winds and sheets of rain, which together managed to flood roadways and down trees onto power lines. We lost power about 5 a.m. My husband and daughter managed to dress for work and negotiated traffic nightmares on their journeys. I miraculously scrounged six “D” batteries, so even though my house was dark, I was able to enjoy listening to NPR on a portable radio. I missed my computer, but I used a trusty flashlight to read the morning newspaper.

After about five hours with no power, I decided I should get the refrigerator/freezer going inside our motorhome. I dressed appropriately in my very unstylish rubber raincoat and oversized boots. I waded through standing water as I pondered a task I had never done before. I braced myself against the wind and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I peeked under every trap door around the lower body of the motorhome before I located the LP gas tank, but I finally “lit” the pilot that ultimately powers the fridge, and after a few trips from the house fridge to the motorhome's, I successfully relocated ice cream and other perishables into a smaller, but cold, refrigerator. Well, I relocated most of our freezer’s perishable contents. Two half-melted Skinny-Dipper ice cream treats, one after the other, went into my mouth. Hmm—I think there’s no guilt involved in dire circumstances.

After a day of clearing downed branches from my yard and sorting fabric in my darkened sewing room whenever rain prevented outdoor tasks, our power was restored twelve hours after our home lost electricity to Gustav’s wrath. After a quickly made dinner of soup and grilled sandwiches, my family decided to enjoy ice cream for dessert. I declined. I may have already gobbled more than my share, but at least I had saved the ice cream from melting into unappetizing goo.

I heard that the weather forecast calls for more rain before Gustav exits Arkansas, but I think the 25- to 35-mph winds have finally subsided. I look forward to a quiet, restful night and a normal tomorrow. Hmm—another day, another ice-cream treat—but just one.