Friday, August 3, 2012

Mom's Kitchen Remodel Options

My mom, brothers, and I are working to remodel my parents' house, our childhood home (Mom and Dad purchased it in 1978 and didn't move since). Mom still lives there but has been looking to improve it for both liveability and marketability. It's not without deep emotion saying goodbye to many familiar, quirky, fun things about the home where we grew up, but it is time to update the home, particularly the kitchen, which hasn't really been updated much since we moved in as a young family 34 years ago.

Here are some potential designs for mom's kitchen, which is currently enclosed by four walls with two small doorways (no doors), one into the dining room and one into the laundry room.

Note that Autodesk Homestyler, the program used for these designs, doesn't allow for half walls or cutouts, so the south wall cabinets appear to be "floating". This wall will actually be a passthrough/cutout with small cabinets overhead. The passthrough would look out into the living room.

Also note that we MUST replace the kitchen floor (and the flooring Mom has selected is much lighter than that shown here--flooring options were limited in Homestyler), but the hardwood flooring in the dining room is original and beautiful, so we're keeping that, and also the dark, brick-red ceramic tile in the laundry room. Thus, three different kinds of flooring.

Please vote for your favorite design in the comments and explain what you like/dislike about each one, and if you have any other suggestions. Mom (and all of us) could use some expert opinions!

Option 1: Red-finish cabinets; base cabinets divide kitchen and dining room. View from dining room:

View from laundry room:

Option 2: White-finish cabinets; base cabinets divide kitchen and dining room. View from dining room:

View from laundry room:

Option 3: Natural-finish cabinets; base cabinets divide kitchen and dining room. View from dining room:

View from laundry room:

Option 4: Red-finish cabinets that extend into dining room; no divider between kitchen and dining room. View from dining room:

View from laundry room:

Option 5: Natural-finish cabinets that extend into dining room; no divider between kitchen and dining room. View from dining room:

View from laundry room:

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Anniversary Cave

Jon and I spent our 6th anniversary in Kokopelli Cave in Farmington, NM. It should be one of the seven wonders of the world--a 1250 sq. ft. cave blown out of the sheer cliff face, fully furnished and stocked with all manner of food, drinks, and amenities. It was the perfect, romantic way to celebrate our six years together!

After our one-night stay in the cave, we visited nearby Mesa Verde national park to see the amazing ancient cliff dwellings of the Anasazi.

We spent our remaining evening in lovely Durango, Colorado, a perfect way to end our sixth wedding anniversary.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Musical Inclinations

Two of several reasons we've been so busy (and not updating the blog):

I'm taking fiddle lessons while Jon is enrolled in guitar. We've also been practicing and teaching ourselves at home from online video tutorials and sheet music. It's such a blast, we're wondering why we didn't pursue music this passionately earlier in our lives. Our first round of lessons ends in just a couple of weeks, and we'll miss them!

We experienced the unifying power of music last night when my family came over to celebrate my mom and dad's 50th wedding anniversary. We had a small, informal family dinner at our place (BBQ ribs and potato salad with celebratory champagne!), and I broke out my fiddle to play a song I had been learning all week for the occasion: Auld Lang Syne. The song couldn't be further from an anniversary song (look up the lyrics sometime), but it's such a beautiful song on the violin and it's in my songbook, so I couldn't resist playing it for them.

As I played (despite the screeching and missplaced notes--I'm still learning), I watched everyone's face relax and their eyes wander off into distant places in their minds. But nothing was more gratifying than to hear my mom begin to softly sing along--in French. Apparently, Americans aren't the only ones who sing this song each New Year's Eve. And my mom said that during WWII, people sang it to each other as a way to say "we'll see each other again". It was so moving to play along with my mom's sweet voice.

Then my brothers took a stab at playing my violin--which was pretty funny--and Jon broke out his guitar, which prompted my brothers to participate in showing him a few chords, since both of them are proficient in guitar and bass. The evening became a serenade of various instruments and my mom and I listening to bluegrass tunes I want to learn to play on the fiddle someday from my iPod in the other room.

As Leonard Bernstein is credited with saying, "music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable." Last night, it certainly brought our family together in a delightful way we've never experienced.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Name Our Farm!

We're ready to register our farm name in the state of New Mexico, and we'd like your help!

Here's the backstory on a few name candidates we've come up with. Vote in the poll provided below the backstory!

A few facts about the farm:
  • produce only, driven by market requirements and our ability to grow (so far we've grown watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, herbs, chiles and sweet peppers, beans, cucumbers, and squash)
  • we'll be a local provider, not national (within 100 miles of the farm)
  • we use organic practices but are not certified organic (at least not right away)
  • not only do we plan to sell our own produce, we'd like to also distribute for other local farmers

Name Candidates:

1. Thunderhead Farms - We always marvel at the enormous thunderheads that accumulate in the big skies of New Mexico during summer growing season.

2. Que Sera Farms - After the song "Que Sera, Sera", "what will be, will be". With farming, so many elements are out of our control, and each season is a miracle. "Que sera" is also a great life philosophy--have faith, let go, and live in the present.

3. Maximus Farms - As many of our friends know, Maximus was our first pet together (a very fat cat), and we moved him to the farm from San Francisco. He's since passed, and we've entertained the idea of naming our farm after him, designating a % of any proceeds to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

4. Cat Scratch Farms - Just a funny name, and indicative of our two current cats. Again, % proceeds would go to the animal sanctuary (which we plan to do no matter what we name the farm).

5. Labyrinth Farms - "A thoughtful path to better living." We were married in San Anselmo at a seminary that featured a meditation labyrinth. The labyrinth became a symbol throughout our wedding festivities, and we plan to build a small one on our farm. Labyrinths symbolize spiritual focus and make for cool (and memorable) designs. Many small farms feature a "corn maze" or labyrinth for kids to run through during harvest festivals, and we could incorporate something like this into the farm.

Please vote! Also, comment with your own ideas. We'd love to hear them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sound of Silence

It's been a long time since we've updated the blog. Busy times! Jon has been researching and writing articles for the Health Fitness Professionals Network in addition to preparing for Spring projects on the farm, and I've continued to be overwhelmed with work at Autodesk--but better busy than unemployed!

We're also trying to decipher and wrap up our tax return (like everyone else in the U.S. this month) while trying to figure out what we want to do when we grow up. It's been long days and long nights at our desks, eagerly awaiting the first budbreaks of Spring....

And just Monday I made the delightful discovery of finding already-flowering crocuses while accompanying the cats on their daily outing in our courtyard. Then I noticed that all of our other bulb flowers have started to break ground. If you have a garden and haven't planted bulbs--they are the most gratifying display of early Spring after a long, desolate winter. Can't wait for longer, warmer days!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sabbatical Recap VII - Playing in the Desert

One of the highlights of my sabbatical was an overnight camping trip near the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. Jon and I decided to do the overnight trip on one of the two days the Trinity Site is open each year, so we could stop by the historic site and learn more about the Manhattan Project and the first atomic test detonation on July 16, 1945.

So, we packed the car and took off for the long, six hour drive through Socorro, the Trinity Site, a gorgeous area called the Valley of Fires (a sprawling valley of ancient petrified lava that's really something to see), then off to Alamogordo to head to our campsite at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. It rained on our way through Alamogordo, one of New Mexico's dramatic, Indian Summer thunderstorms that lit the brooding sky on fire and cooled off the 80-degree temperatures.

We arrived at our campsite after the rain, and a couple hours before dark, just in time to set up camp in the waning daylight. The campsites around us were abuzz with activity: families setting up their tents or hooking up their RVs to a water source, walking around to orient themselves to the grounds and exercise their dogs--until suddenly Jon and I noticed that the campground became very quiet. Everyone had disappeared, and we realized that we were the only ones left on the grounds. We joked that perhaps incognito G-men from the nearby White Sands Missile Range stealthily abducted them and that perhaps we were the rejects.

I walked to the ranger station to see if anyone was still on duty, but it was closed. Instead, I found an announcement on the bulletin board that a full moon was to rise that night. Everyone had gone to a 7:00 storytelling about native American moon folklore at the group shelter. Apparently the park rangers do this for every advent of a full moon at Oliver Lee park, and it's such a great idea. Too bad we missed it, but we certainly didn't miss the drama and the glory of the full moon slowly making its grandiose entrance over the Sacramento mountains escarpment, shining brighter than any flashlight ever could. It was so close to the earth, its light shone nearly like daylight well into the wee hours of the morning--and it was fabulous. We toasted the moon with a glass of wine while cooking our dinner over an open fire and retiring to a game of gin rummy by moonlight.

In the morning we cooked breakfast, packed camp, and took a quick hike up part of the Dog Canyon trail, the main attraction at Oliver Lee. We didn't make it very far into the canyon before deciding to turn around as we were running short on time, but by all accounts it's a New Mexico hike you don't want to miss. On our drive out of the camping area, we were greeted by a tarantula wandering lost in the road, perhaps to tell us, "y'all come back now, ya hear?". This was the first time either of us had encountered a live tarantula in nature, and it was the crescendo to an already fascinating trip.

After our short hike, we headed to White Sands national monument to play in the blinding gypsum dunes for a couple of hours before making the long drive back home. Growing up in New Mexico, I only had one opportunity to visit this unique place in all the world but was thwarted by a haboob-style sandstorm, and being only 12 miles away this time around, I didn't want to miss even just a short visit.

Mid-way home, we had the pleasure of stopping at Laughing Sheep farm near Lincoln, New Mexico, to stock up on grass-fed beef, pork, and elk--the latter for dinner that evening, thanks to the fine cooking skills of our dear friends and neighbors Karen and Jerry. After communing with nature as we had that weekend, it was fitting to sit down to a well-cooked meal that was itself well-fed.

Some people travel the world on their sabbaticals--a wise and wonderful choice--but I chose to explore local treasures, and discovered that I am none the poorer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year! 2010

We wrapped up a wonderful 2-week holiday season with a New Year's Eve "Around the World" party with friends Scott and Chere who drove all the way from the Phoenix area, and our neighbors Jerry and Karen, before they left for their second lives in SE Asia this week (sniff, sniff).

For the party, we prepared several small dishes from around the world, accompanied by their local libations. So, for Ireland Jon made shepherd's pie (technically, he made cottage pie because he didn't include lamb) and paired it with Guinness and Irish soda bread. For Italy, we arranged fancy salumis and artisanal Italian cheeses on a platter, and for France we prepared my mom's traditional New Year's Eve French onion soup, paired with a 2008 Beaujolais.

From North America, we had deviled eggs, French onion dip with Ruffles, and a local microbrew from Albuquerque (Marble I.P.A.), and blue tortilla chips with salsas and guacamole with Coronas to represent Mexico.

For Asia, Jon and Scott (who doesn't like fish!) prepared ahi tuna sushi paired with sake to represent Japan, and Jerry and Karen graciously presented us with Southeast Asian delicacies such as Laotian and Thai jeows (spicy dips) with purple Cambodian dipping rice.

At midnight, to ring in the New Year, we "flew" to Russia and indulged in whitefish caviar on seaweed rice crackers with crème fraiche accompanied by sparkling wine (Gruet, from New Mexico). Finally, we traveled to South America with chocolate Brigadeiros (a type of Brazilian fudge), displayed with a bowl of floating candles, to honor a Brazilian new year's tradition.
What a great way to ring in the New Year, but it's time for moderation again. Gotta go--all this writing about food made me hungry!