Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday thoughts - Learning Southern

As I settle in to my new life here in The South I am paying close attention to the differences in cultures given that I am from Southern Coastal California.   Last night I was at dinner at a local oyster bar with friends in town for training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).  My very well-traveled friend ordered raw oysters from the bartender as we were sitting at the bar and had decided to stay there.  The bartender, ever Southern gracious and friendly, repeated the order but I did not hear raw oysters.  With his accent I heard fois gras. Now, fois gras (pronounced fwɑˈɡrɑ) is French for "fat liver" and obviously last night it sounded like raw oysters to me.  Fois Gras is a food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened and is only served at high-end restaurants.

I called to the waiter that my friend wanted raw oysters and he looked sweetly at me like,"I know, darlin'. " He then nodded very politely to emphasize he understood.  I am reminded of people who speak another language and are trying to get you to understand but instead of speaking slower they speak LOUDER.  I said, "Raw Oysters" louder and the bartender looks at me politely and nods his head again.  By now my very well traveled friend is looking at me like I am pazza (Italian for crazy) and says LOUDLY, "Why do you keep yelling Fois Gras at the him" and I explain to him in a very clipped, exasperated SO-CAL fashion as though it must be obvious.  He looks at the bartender and explains I am from California and that seems to explain everything.

Here's what I love about being in The South, children and men have manners.  Let me explain. I am called Miss Kelly or Darlin' or Hey girl or Ma'am in a way that feels and actually is respectful.  

Last week I was walking the hallway at the gym aboard FLETC and there was a class of ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement Agents) standing together waiting for their instruction to begin. As I passed and made eye contact I heard, "Ma'am" down the line.  I went back to my office and announced to my new co-workers that I wanted to be called Ma'am but they have not started doing that yet.  Perhaps they forgot or did not hear me. Perhaps tomorrow I will repeat my request more LOUDLY but somehow I don't think that will change things.  You know raggaze (girls) you have to let them think it was their idea.  North or South, some things never change.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crown & Carpe Diem mat - accessory lead

I had a lot of inquiries about the Crown & Carpe Diem mat in front of my stove so here are the details.
It cost $39.95 and is available at The Attic (Coronado, CA).  Just call the Attics Girls there at 619.435.5614 or e-mail Nancy Michaels at and she will take care of you.  They have a couple left but will happily order more and have it to you in less than two weeks.
Carpe Diem (Latin for Seize the Day)

Here is another "French" option - Bon Jour (Hello)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Operazione Cucina - Giorno III (end of Day 3)

I stayed up until 0100 this morning talking to a friend as I cleaned, glazed walls, painted cabinets, arranged and re-arranged, hung clocks, photos, and other items I brought together to create what I think has successfully amounted to a farmhouse look. I am pleased.

I need to finish cleaning the linoleum floors before I decide what I am going to do for flooring. If the concrete under linoleum cleans up well I'll keep it and lay down area rugs. If not, I'll likely lay linoleum squares in black and khaki as they are about $1.00 a piece. For now, I unrolled a large seagrass rug to cover the unfinished flooring.
My La Vita e Bella sign, lovingly created by la mia bella amica, Rita Reade of MammaBellarte, will find a new home above the shelving this week. I will hang coffee cups from the lower part of the shelving to continue to maximize space. Today I conducted inventory of every pot, pan, and food item and gave away everything I had not used in the last year. How many pots and pans do you really need? I was committed to finding a home for everything in the space you see in these photos and that is what I did.

On Friday, as we were removing the cabinets from over the sink, I found a long under-cabinet light that I was not aware was there. I had it removed and stood facing significant damage to the drywall in that area. I did not do a good job of fixing it so after I'd sanded and glazed the area I stood looking at it, disappointed, and then walked right into the dining room and removed the clock from that wall and hung it above the sink. It hides the damage perfectly. I had the electrical moved above where the clock sits and simply installed an outside barn light given to me by a friend. The combination of clock and barn light begged for more balance so I walked the house and re-located the mirror. I then hung both a metal wheat sheath I purchased here from a local cooperative boutique and a hand-drawn picture of a rooster created by a friend's son to complete the corner.

Because the color of the appliances do not match I am going to experiment with hiding the dishwasher by hanging a linen or burlap curtain. I almost never entertain with any formality so the dishwasher is used more for storage than anything else.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Operazione Cucina - Giorno II - pomeriggio (Day 2 midday)

Scout & Kenyon helping... "go play please". Dog hair and paint bring with them a challenge all their own. Paws just rests & watches all the action, deeply sighing at various moments as though to let me know she is well and approves. At 14 and half, she is my heart.

Kenyon not helping. Good boy.
I woke early and continued to scrape linoleum. I have come to the following conclusions as a result: Linoleum is hateful. That's all I have to say. Jimmy Butler showed up at 8:30 a.m. and finished the shelving, hung the shelf I found on sale yesterday for $90.00, & moved the lighting over the sink. I patched drywall damage & scraped more linoleum in between dog walks to the beach. Today was gloriously blustery and warm. I love having the front door and windows wide open and today allowed for that which was a welcome change to the freezing conditions several days ago. I opted to leave the bark on the countertops and not to plain them but to honor their natural shape. This evening I will glaze the walls with paint the color of oatmeal.

My Coronado, CA, kitchen, due to appear in Better Homes and Gardens sometime this year, cost me approximately $35,000.00 for a complete renovation. This cucina will cost, with hired labor (mine not included), a little less than $1500.00. Mr. Butler's expertise cost me $570.00 for 13 hours; wood for the shelving cost$162.00; Southern yellow pine countertops were $200.00 with delivery; cabinets were $200.00; $90.00 for the decorative shelf; and the rest is for baskets, paints, glaze, wood stain, and butcher block oil.

Left to to: flooring (yet to be determined) and to finish countertops - a process of sanding and applying thin layers of butcher block oil.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Operazione Cucina

And so it begins...

In law enforcement, whenever we begin what will amount to be a big case we name it - sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially. Well, since I am re-modeling a rental I have decided this commitment amounts to no less than an official operation so I have have named it accordingly - Operazione Cucina (Operation Kitchen). I moved across the United States from lovely Coronado, California to the equally as lovely Saint Simon's Island, Georgia. Yes, I have a thing for islands - moving on.

My landlord didn't make a peep when I said I came with three dogs - Labradors Retrievers no less - so I am thankful for the great, old beach cottage (now called BellaRustica Cottage) blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and a gorgeous Dog Beach. The trade-off is that I have now installed $1500.00 in fencing and have initiated a kitchen remodel at my own expense. The rotted back deck is being repaired and paid for by the home owner.

My challenge was to re-model an otherwise poorly functional kitchen. There is only one drawer, and a total of seven cabinets only. Two of those cabinets are under the sink and the rest are oddly positioned around an ill thought-out island that sits right in the middle of the kitchen. In my professional life I am required to consider all angles, every reason a person might rationalize for their behavior, but this one remains a mystery to me. And so it begins, Operazione Cucina.

In order to remain in budget I priced unfinished cabinets from a variety of sources and settle on Lowes. I buy two only - one for under the sink and the other (15 inches) for one side of the stove - $200.00. Given the restrictions of kitchen dimensions, I am limited to off-the-shelf choices so I decide on open shelving to finish the cabinet area as I cannot find exact dimensions to cover the additional square footage. I have hired Jimmy Butler, a local contractor, who comes well recommended from a good friend. He is professional, darling, exceedingly bright, painfully shy, and more importantly, willing to work with me. He has to agree (did he?) to "being blogged" and I encourage him with the fact that perhaps he might meet an interesting gal out of this whole thing.

The kitchen "before". Although I am no cook, there was not enough room for basic pots and pans, dinnerware, and pantry items in this kitchen. The wall to the left had a washer/dryer hook up underneath and cabinets overhead that required ducking when you opened them. You can see how I had to stack my wire baskets with items that had no place to go.

I wanted to move the cabinetry to the floor and along the walls in an L-shape for maximum open space within the kitchen. Once I decided on the cabinets, I focused on counter tops. Lowes "no big deal" synthetic counter tops would cost me about $200.00 for a 12 foot and 6 foot piece. No thanks. I investigated other options. On my way in to work I noticed this sign for OLD STUFF and HEART PINE so I pulled in one day and met Hondo, master wood craftsman extraordinaire. Hondo manages a lumber mill and builds gorgeous tables in this old warehouse in his off-time. He also rescues dog and cats and was just beginning the relationship with a tiny, bob-tailed abandoned kitten when I met him. I knew I was in good hands when he showed me how he'd not only set out food and water but had a rather ingenious plan for the eventual winning over of this little one. It became immediately evident Hondo was an old-hand at this so I decided I was in the right place for my very secondary and material needs.

He set aside and kindly delivered two pieces of Southern Yellow Pine for my countertops. Cost to me with delivery - $200.00.

Of course it started to rain on the first day of Operazione Cucina but that did not deter me one bit. We simply brought our lovely Southern Yellow Pine inside for the night.

This morning Jimmy Butler arrived on time and began dismantling La Cucina. I call him Jimmy Butler like people tend to call me Kim Kelly. I have the hardest time getting him to smile for the camera though. He likely thinks me such a nuisance but tolerates me quietly.

Photos tomorrow of the two-cabinet install, custom shelving in between those cabinets, continued removal of the laminate flooring, and my very-lazy effort to "paint" (read: spray paint) and then wash the walls with a combination of glaze and raw umber. Since I only needed to even out the areas on the walls where the old upper cabinets were mounted I opted for spray painting using a standard white as the walls were white. Even though I know there are 100 WHITES I just needed to clean it up enough to create a "backdrop" for glazing. I love the natural look of glazing walls and furniture but I also like the practical aspects of it. I can glaze an entire room in an hour whereas painting might take me six hours. Results domani (tomorrow) - you judge.
Buona Notte - Kim

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cucina (Kitchen)

I've decided. If the owner of the cottage I am renting here on Saint Simons Island, GA, will commit to a three-year lease, I am redesigning la cucina to make it more efficient e bellissima. Right now I have one drawer and an odd configuration of cabinets not easily accessible plus an entire wall, wasted, because it sports a washer/dryer hook-up. I thought to just run bead board on top of that but it's only a band-aide and does not address the serious lack of cabinet space or the fact this kitchen lacks everything else to include charm.

"It's a rental" you say and a month ago I would have agreed but before I left my darling cottage on Coronado, CA, I sunk $4,000.00 into it. It never looked better than the day I pulled away from the curb. So, I've decided, instead of complaining about this I am going to enjoy another creative endeavor and take you along with me. I am already off to a good start because there is concrete under the hideous linoleum so I am hoping that is in good shape and we can do something with that. I say we because I will be relying on you to weigh-in and keep me focused. I am thinking concrete, natural and painted woods, & rustic but elegant shelving to display tutti bellissimi cosi (many beautiful things). In order to be able to access a couple of pans I hung them on a old pot rack which I had mounted on a piece of fencing that is falling down beside the house. I loved the faded, chipped blue paint and the moss. Goes perfectly with my over-sized completely impracticale Cucina sign. Thinking of using salvageable back decking from the deck re-do for the counter-tops. Cosi, vieni con mi...

Gretchen Georges, international flight attendant, photographer, mother, and good friend to me has promised me a visit to CUCINA (Kitchen), a lovely shop a Roma next time we get a chance to travel together. I like the combination of the natural woods and a hint of industriale.

Via Mario de Fiori, 65
00187 Roma

Once I get my new kitchen here in order I am hanging Gretchen's great prints Vino e Olio prominently; see Travel with Symphorose Photography for your own set.