Archive for May, 2008

Mea Culpa

May 29, 2008

Good friends keep you honest and call you on your bullshit. When your good friend is your architect, there is no escaping forgotten details. In the flurry of this renovation, and the messiness of life in general, I have failed to deal with a few things that we’ve discussed. Like getting a slab of corian on the wall next to the cooktop for resilience and heat resistance. Once my cabinet maker told me that it would probably cost $500, I sort of forgot about it, swept it under the rug. At the same time, I was waffling over the un-broom closet – which said piece would be attached, another spot of denial. Now it’s all coming together and I’m reminded – or prodded, or shamed – to deal with it.

He also wonders why I oiled the old cabinet instead of using beeswax, as he suggested. Honestly, I didn’t know how. My internet searches yielded making your own beeswax by melting a chunk with linseed oil, I really didn’t want to do that. Was Butcher’s Wax an appropriate substitute? Don’t know. So I asked my cabinet maker who knows wood and went with his suggestion. Maybe I can use a wax on top of the oil, I’ll have to find out.

Another friend, who reminded me to get my sink basket – not a terrible hardware store one, but a Kohler – has said that renovations will test you and push you to your limits. This test has unfortunately shown me that I can be negligent when I don’t want to deal. Whether it’s the devil or god in the details, it should be addressed, not ignored. Or they’ll have to answer to my architect.


As If Nothing Happened

May 28, 2008

Remarkably, a coat of paint covers up the fresh wounds of the recent “surgery” on my apartment. One would never know that the walls have been dug out, embedded with wire, and filled with concrete. I’ve been getting used to seeing my place as sadly patched up and scarred, now it’s shell as good as new. All it needs is a floor and a kitchen.

Operation: Productive

May 27, 2008

Faced with the prospect of three days at home, it was time to get cracking on the apartment. There was an endless amount work to be done, I didn’t know where and what to begin on. Friday night, I needed a sense of accomplishment so I sanded and painted the patch in my closet so that I could put back all the contents that normally live there. I even put away all the shoes that had formerly littered the floor in a feat of orderliness. Very satisfying for very little time and very little work.

Saturday was spent working on that old cabinet. Hammer, chisel, and metal spatula in hand, I chipped away at the old joint compound around the cabinet. The right tools really mad a difference, even for getting at where the crown meets, a bit of a horror show as with every dig to get the gunk out yielded the black corpses of cock roaches past. Because of the gap between the crown and the cab, I needed wood filler. Looking like the Amy Winehouse of the neighborhood – hair in a lumpy disarray, white crustiness around my nose from sanding, and the dazed look of breathing fresh air – I stocked up at the hardware store so that I could be prepared to work for the next 48 hours.

I learned with the wood filler, one needs a gentle hand, and the other is to hold a damp sponge to wipe up any excess messiness. I say this after sanding my little heart out to make my fill line less visible, after having slopped the gook on. For the first pass, I let it harden for the prescribed 30 minutes, but it was still soft, so for the next time around, I let it set overnight while I did my laundry, called my mother, moved the dishes out of the cabinet, and took out the garbage and recycling.

Sunday was for finally sealing the cabinet in Watco oil, as recommended by my cabinet maker. I’ve been a little afraid of using Watco oil since it can spontaneously combust. I found a how-to video on, and I was put at ease, if not downright excited. The reason why Watco can spontaneously combust is because it gives off heat, hence the proper disposal of rags – soaked in cold water and tossed far from my abode. Using an old sock, I rubbed the oil on the cabinet, which soaked it up beautifully, but it made apparent any light wood filler and film of old varnish that I failed to get, specifically the crown. This contrast emphasized by the Watco, reminded me that I didn’t do that good of a job of stripping. Oh well. I applied a few more coats, wiped the excess off with the other sock, and let it sit while I went to a barbecue.

The next morning, I sanded all the pale spots with the various sandpapers and aluminum oxide sponges that I had. I was worried that the vigourous rubbing of the sandpaper on the oil impregnated wood would be like striking a match – there was heat, but no combustion. The spots sanded off well without creating any bald spots like chipped nail polish, since the oil gets into the wood. I like Watco oil.

The rest of Monday was spent taping up the cabinet to prepare it for joint compound and paint, sanding and wet sanding the joint compound, and covering my stuff in plastic for when they paint tomorrow. It’s still a mess and doesn’t look all that different than it did on Friday, but I know what’s been done in three days, and that’s more than I’ve done in the past three months.

I Heart Bouge Coffee

May 23, 2008

Coffee is very important to me. It is the proper foundation for my day, my constant and comfort every day. I rely on it, so it has to be good. My new favorite coffee is Gorilla’s Brazil. Nutty, almost chocolate-y, it has full coffee flavor without being sharp or acrid. I first bought a pound at Whole Foods, but have since decided to go directly to the Gorilla coffee shop in Park Slope instead. A whole dollar cheaper, I also get a free cup of coffee with purchase and a frequent buyer card. When I buy nine pounds of coffee, I get the tenth free, well worth the pleasant walk over. Seeing that I go through a pound a month, I should be getting my free coffee next March.

Getting Close

May 22, 2008

Could the end be near? The electricity is hooked up, the gaps are filled and the outlets are in place. It’s down to the paint and tiles before the cabinets can be installed. Given the upcoming three day holiday, maybe I can paint it myself. Nah.

I hope it’s almost done, because my apartment is a disaster. The kitchen is in the living area, as are the new cabinets, most of my books, and now half the contents of my coat closet. I can’t wait to put everything away and dust, as there is a fine layer of cement dust and sawdust everywhere. A matter of days, hopefully, not weeks.

OMG, part 2

May 21, 2008

I didn’t know what to expect when I got home after midnight last night. Given the complications of the bookcase, I would have bet on an untouched apartment. Such was not the case. The bookcase was moved, pryed off it’s base, which was held together by silicon, not nails. The crevices from yesterday were filled with wiring and cement. And new chasms were made for more BX cable. True, crazy, mad progress.

The biggest shock was having to bust into my coat closet. There’s a deadbolt on there, and they locked it to keep the door closed and dust free. Somehow, I couldn’t unlock it, so I had to unscrew it off in order to get in. Out pours a small avalanche of dust, gravel, plaster, gypsum block, everything that was in the wall, broken through from the other side. Surprise.

Cold Brewed Coffee

May 20, 2008


Sunday mornings are for coffee brewed with cinnamon.  Not a creative breakthrough, but a nice way to make Sundays different from the rest of the week.  This Sunday, I tried something totally different, cold-brewed coffee.  I had read about it in an old New York Times in the the context of iced coffee – the profound difference between regular brewed with ice and coffee steeped in cold water for 12 hours never to feel heat.  By letting the coffee sit over night, it never gets bitter.  I tried it in the French Press since I was getting bored with my 2 cup microwave routine.  1/3 cup of coffee to 1 1/2 cups of water makes a coffee concentrate to be diluted with more water upon consumption.  Delicious both hot and cold, the problem is I drink twice as much coffee.

Cold Brewed Coffee

-stir 1/3 cup ground coffee and 1 1/2 cups water in French Press

-let sit overnight

-plunge as usual.  Dilute 1 to 1 with cold water.  Drink cold or hot.


May 20, 2008

The tomorrow of two weeks ago is finally today – they’ve started to rip through the walls to lay down the new circuit wires. The gashes in the walls are almost like abstract expressionist installation pieces – organic in its undulations, violent in execution, intriguing to look at. Almost precarious is the hollowed area where the plumbing is, a cavity of concrete and chicken wire. It would have almost been finished today if it wasn’t for the bookcase, it’s still fixed to the wall, even though I’ve loosened the screws from where it’s attached. Another phone call, another bump in the road.

Taco Salvation

May 19, 2008

The loser bean salad worked out not so much as a salad, but as a perfect spicy filling to vegetarian tacos.  Slices of avocado for creaminess and radish for crunch, all the flavors complement each other wrapped in an earthy corn tortilla. Not having a stove has made reheating the tortilla a challenge in that aside from being warm, they have to be pliant enough to fold up.  Microwaving turns them into cardboard.  Wrapped in foil in the toaster oven didn’t make them flexible enough.  Neither was wrapping them in a tea towel afterwards to steam it.  Brushing with a little oil made them more like tortilla chips.  Maybe it’s the tortillas.  These fancy handmade tortillas from Urban Rustic have big corn flavor, but are thick and brittle.  Or maybe I just need a stove.

Vegetarian Tacos

-slice 1/4 avocado and 1 radish

-heat a corn tortilla in a pan over medium high for about 4 minutes until warm and pliant

-layer avocado, 2T bean salad, and radish

-fold in half, eat

I love tacos, the combinations are infinite, but I find that it needs 2 or 3 things going on to make it satisfying – a combination of bold flavor, soothing creaminess, and crunchy tart texture.

The Contractor That I Don’t Have

May 16, 2008

There are two sides to every story, and yesterday’s New York Times had the contractor’s tale.  Fascinating for its portrayal of the beleaguered good guy contractor (where are you? who are you?), it attempts to shake up the asshole myth.  In reading about what clients do to torture and harass their contractors, I am disgusted by what people think that they can get away with – delaying final payment for petty details, calling at inappropriate times, poaching the help.  But at the top of the list of annoyances is “avoid making decisions”.  Why, that’s me!  While I couldn’t imagine the sheer rudeness of these other acts, I was the worst offender of all in my inability to make decisions.  I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t have a GC.