Sunday, February 28, 2010

DIY Kitchen Island

The first thing we did in our new home last year was to redo our guest bathroom. Since then, the old bathroom cabinet has been sitting in the garage. I've really wanted a kitchen island, but the cost of an island or even a new cabinet is so high! So we decided to convert the old bathroom vanity cabinet into a kitchen island...Which is a lot of work.

First of all, it has holes in the back, from the bathroom plumbing. Second, it had some old water damage on the bottom righthand of the cabinet.
It also had become the testing ground of the many stains we considered for our kitchen cabinets, as you can see in the dark patches below.
And the doors themselves had been painted and stained three times over and polyurethaned.
So just the prep work for this project is prodigious, but the fact that we already own almost all the supplies needed for it won me (and eventually Mike) over.

First we had to strip the cabinet doors. It took two to three coats of paint stripper and much, much scraping. It was kind of fun, as the paint and stain come off like skin. Then we also had to strip the paint off of the cabinet itself and remove the old moldy kickboard. This was followed by some trisodium phosphate cleaning and some deglossing with liquid sander. Man, I'm so tired off those steps after doing them on so many pieces of furniture!

Mike bought and cut a piece of wood to act as the back of the island, to cover the old plumbing holes. Then he used the plywood from our kitchen cabinets to cut a base for the counter.
Next we painted the cabinets the same color that we painted the cabinets. Now what's left? Antique the cabinets and doors, install the hardware, tile the top with our leftover granite tile from the kitchen countertops, add a wood trim around the edges, and install the two columns I bought for it. Whew! I wonder why Mike wasn't eager to start this project...

More to come once more steps are complete!

Friday, February 26, 2010


For today, here is a post my friend Brandy wrote. I got an email on Tuesday from my coworker Delanyo in Togo, asking if I could tell Brandy in person. Dela asked that we give thanks in all things, but that is sometimes hard. My pray is that Avouki is now in the place where every tear is wiped away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bread and Wine

One of the simplest and greatest pleasures in life is a fresh baked loaf of bread. Oh the joy of ripping off a chewy hunk of warm bread with its earthy smell of wheat. A Great Harvest Bread Company just opened directly across the street from work, so my life will now be more joyful, I'm telling you.

And I do mean joy. The simple pleasure of the table, the sustaining wholesomeness of bread are part of the joy of life. Bread is such a rich symbol of life and pleasure and fullness.

And wine...The fruit of the earth in liquid form. Fruit is ever so lovely and poetic. I believe it's the feminine form of food. Barley and wheat are sensible and stodgy and probably male. But fruit is juicy and red and definitely female. Wine is like fruit in communal form, to be passed and shared and enjoyed with friends.

Really, bread and wine are ripe with import.

And this is why it pains my English major soul that our modern-day observances of taking the wine and the bread in remembrance of Jesus are so stripped of the rich symbolism they ought to be imbued with.

A centimeter square that tastes like cardboard and a doll-cup of kid juice in a hushed room replace the table of friends talking and eating and drinking.

If someone had never witnessed our modern communion in its various forms but read the Bible verses about it, then closed his eyes to picture what it is like, he would most likely not picture the cardboard squares and the plastic cups and the hush. If those who experienced the first communion were suddenly whisked to a modern one, they would be puzzled.

Gathering around a dinner table with friends drinking wine and eating bread was a part of daily life for them. It wasn't something done one Sunday a month or one Sunday a quarter. It was daily, it was communal, it was sustaining. The bread and the wine - they meant something. Jesus asked them to take the most common, albeit enjoyable, daily occurence and do it in remembrance of him.

It taught them that though they might eat bread each day to stay alive, Jesus is their real food - what brings them ultimate life. That though they may drink wine to quench their thirst - Jesus is their real water and wine, what saves them and cleanses them.

But we have divorced the elements from the rich symbolism of food and drink. No one could possibly be sustained or satsified by a centimeter of cardboard. No one could possibly have their thirst quenched by a doll cup of juice.

And of course, then there is community. By asking them to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him at a dinner party, Jesus was making it communal - something we do together at a social gathering. Instead we tend to do it in hushed quarters, solemnly, without talking.

Surely, it should be reverent, not getting drunk as some in the early church did, but surely it's not something that should be sequestered to the lofty and lonely cathedral, away from daily life and community.

Though our communion is still meaningful, I can't help but think we are missing so much. So much meaning, so much togetherness, so many reminders. Someday, I wish for a communion revival, an awakening to all our remembrance of Jesus can and should be.
This is a topic I've considered proposing a book about, though it's a dangerous and touchy topic. What do you think?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Muledeer Strolling on a Winter Day

Spent the weekend hanging out with my parents, watching Olympics, playing the Farming Game. Came home to a winter wonderland and a little deersy family.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Such a Time

After sitting in a meeting this week, hearing about what our staff are going through, it moved me to write this. This really doesn't even touch all the difficulties being faced daily.

We hear in the media about Haiti being cursed because of their spiritual past. But did you hear in the news that they held national fasting and prayer for 3 days, gathering en masse beside the ruined presidential palace? Probably not. Suffice it to say, the Church is alive in Haiti, but it faces devastation and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Will you pray?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In a Tuscan Stream for Three Days (Thus the Cats Cook Themselves)

Ironically after my last post, I really just can't help myself from posting this video.

If you don't speaka the Italian, read more here. Mmm...

No mangio il gatti!

Water for Haiti

I haven't been blogging much lately. I've been writing about Haiti for work a lot, so that's kept my mind tired at night, I guess. I spend my time watching goofy Onion videos to relax instead of filling the blogosphere with my scribblings.

Most of what I've written is used for our internal web site, so I can't show you that. But I can link to this one I wrote.

I'm doing this instead of posting all the many inane internet videos I'd like to post, because I'm trying to resist my urge to turn my blog into a goofy video dump. That's all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Vacation Journal

For the past several years, Mike and I have gone to the mountains on Valentine's Day, usually Estes Park. This year we returned to the Y. Our cabin had great views of these peaks, except for the clouds that shrouded them most of the time. On Friday, I worked a half day, then we drove on up. We felt like relaxing, so I'm not ashamed to say that we raided the puzzles in the cabin and I did a Beauty and the Beast kids puzzle, while Mike did a Toy Story puzzle. I get great nerdy enjoyment out of puzzles. Then we went down to the lodge (where there's internet), and watched our Thursday night TV by the fire.

Restaurants in Estes are overpriced and mediocre, so Mike had gone to Garden of the Gods Gourmet and picked us up indulgent foods to gorge on all weekend. So we dined in and had chicken and vegetable rice casserole and lemon blueberry bread pudding. (Sorry, when you read my vacation journal, you have to read about everything I eat.)

Saturday, we slept in to a delicious and unheard of 8:45. Mike had bought a red pepper and sausage strata for breakfast (again with the eating!) that was delicious. Thus fueled, we hiked up to Gem Lake, one of my favorites. Mike slid on the ice like a crazy seal, sending a bystanding group of adolescent girls into giggling fits.

We then waltzed down the candy-lined streets of Estes with a fresh bag of taffy from the Taffy shop. In the afternoon, I started a crazy 1000 piece puzzle, which ultimately defeated me. We went to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians that night, which I'm reviewing. I liked it. It made me want to read the book, which I've had on hold at the library since the 3rd grade, I swear.

Today was glorious. A more perfect winter day never has been.
It had snowed and blustered like the usual Estes February, but it got it all out of its system last night in a snowstorm. By 9 on Sunday, the clouds had blown off, revealing the deepest blue sky against white snow and mountain crags.

We went into the park to snowshoe to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake. We were there early when few but the chickadees had touched the perfect white expanse of fresh powder. Oh, it was heavenly. Snowshoeing down fresh powder is like floating on a cloud, as Mike puts it.
That's Mike there on the mountain. Seriously, look at the blue of that sky!
Famished after our sojourn we gobbled cold leftovers in the Moraine Park parking lot before making our way back home (with an obligatory side trip to Glacier).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Away to Estes

We're off for Valentine's Day weekend to our favorite, Estes Park. We're staying two nights at a cabin at the Y. See you soon!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today I interviewed a couple of candidates to be my intern this summer. It's so nice to be around the fresh enthusiasm of a 20 year old! Although they do make me feel a bit creaky and old.

One today said, "What's it like to have your job?" As she thought my job sounded pretty cool. (Which reminds me, is it cool to say "cool" anymore? Should I be saying "sick" or "fierce" or something to these whippersnappers?)

It's always a good reminder to be thankful for what I have. It's so easy to take what one has for granted or focus on what isn't quite right about it. Like the fact that I'd rather be independently wealthy or that I'd rather be in a less stressful job or I'd rather be baking muffins. But, life will never be just so, will it? I want to savor and enjoy what I do have, which is a lot.

When I started at my job 2 1/2 years ago, these two little twins from the Philippines looked like this:

And then, after I'd been here awhile, they looked like this:
And today I received another photo, and they look like this!
I can't believe how long it has apparently been. When I first started my job, I wanted to run crying back home to Longmont or Ft. Collins or Loveland or wherever. My wise friend Sarah told me to give it 6 months. So I did. Then I gave another 6 and another and another and another. Now, I feel blessed at all the richness these past several years have brought to Mike and I, even if they weren't how we planned them.

Today at chapel, Dan Wooley spoke, our now famous coworker who has been on Larry King, Good Morning America and scores of other shows. We had a full hour to hear about his experiences trapped under 6 stories for 3 days. The advice he left us with:
  • Be right with God. Don't wait or keep a long account with him. You don't know what will happen, so seek him today.
  • There is no place you can be safer than in God's hands and in God's will. God could have chosen to take Dan, but two walls just happened to fall together exactly correctly, forming a tent over him and he lived. Many others did not.
  • Focus on what is important in life.
  • Remember that in the spiritual realm, we really are all completely helpless and in need of rescue. Dan could do nothing to save his own life. He was utterly dependent on outside rescue. Likewise, we are utterly helpless without God and his saving grace through Jesus Christ.
Yesterday we heard the news that David Hames' body had been found. He has a wife and a 5-year-old and 2-year-old boy, Aiden and Zander. Before going to Haiti, they all prayed together about it and felt that God was calling him to go there. Pray for the continued support and encouragement of their family.

Remember the good things you have today, remember God, and remember his saving grace that he offers to you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meatballs and Monkeys

This post is purely an advertisement for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. We weren't sure if we wanted to see it because the only person we knew who liked it also thought my cowboy boots were "retarded" and my cooking was weird. So I wasn't sure if our tastes matched.

But this movie was surprisingly funny and extremely quirky in a good way. My favorite part was the monkey, Steve, who happens to be Neil Patrick Harris (if I were a girl who screams and then faints behind police partitions for celebrities, I might for him).

Now that it's Oscar season, many feel that they should watch "art," like violence and poetry and nudity. I'll take meatballs and monkeys.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seasons of Love

Last night was the big night. Compassion held our "Seasons of Love" dessert auction and theater show. It was like being in high school again! Through the auction, we raised over $4,000 for the Hames family; David Hames was the videographer shooting for Compassion in Haiti who still has not been found.

My coworkers all did a great job, singing songs like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Matchmaker" and "All I Ask of You." I didn't feel nervous until I got on stage and Mike was singing, at which point my knees began knocking together. Here is a picture of Mike and me mooning at each other as Liesl and Rolph. (Sadly, Mike has already taken off his Nazi tie.)
Even my family got in on the action and bid on this cake for $140!!! We all enjoyed eating it at our house afterwards. Fondant is better looking than it is tasting, but as my mother said, it was about the experience. I had hoped to bid for my friend Brandy's cupcakes, but the auctioneer decided to make that a kids only round. It was fun seeing 8 year olds fight over cupcakes. And now, something unprecedented. I have graciously decided to post the video of Mike and I here. I feel the compulsive urge to apologize for it or insult it or make excuses for it, but I am resisting. Enjoy!

And as a parting treat, check out the Taiwanese version of "We Go Together" from Grease. You have to at least watch starting at 1:05.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Outside My Window

Outside my window: The long blue ridge line of the mountains, punctuated by white Pikes Peak, dropping off into the abyss of Cheyenne Mountain. (I always like to think that Cheyenne Mountain is in the sea, and drops deep into the abyss. Call me crazy.)
I am thinking: How very tired I am, and that whenever I work too much, it bites me in the behind.
I am thankful for: Simple routines, like a cup of coffee each morning in my cubicle while I look out at the mountains.
From the kitchen: A peach crumble, my grandmother's biscuits, and chicken noodle soup for a dinner with a young man from our small group.
I am wearing: Boring work clothes. A ruffled green shirt and brown slacks.
I am reading: The new Compassion children's magazine, which I helped the editor get pictures of Tanzania for. My work is not in vane!
I am hoping: For a bank loan by Friday.
I am hearing: The hum of an office building, the clearing of my coworker's throat, the clickety clack of keyboards.
I am creating: A new island for my kitchen, if I can convince Mike what a great idea it is to use our old bathroom vanity in the kitchen.
Around the office: We have chapel this morning, in which a man who led a medical team to Haiti will share, but I feel the need to hide from Haiti today.
One of my favorite things: Estes Park, where my honey is taking me for Valentine's Day in just one week!
A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week: Dinner with Will tonight. On Friday, my family is coming down to see Mike and I sing at our little love event, and I will hopefully show them my new bannister and table in person afterwards!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Springs Weekend

We had a fun Springsy weekend. Here are a few highlights. We finally went to the Pioneer Museum in the old courthouse building. I liked the old creaky elevator best. It made me feel like I was in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and the courtroom made me feel like I was in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Much eating occured, such as this glorious creation called a boxty from Jack Quinn's. It's corned beef and cabbage wrapped in a pancake and covered in mustard cream. Brilliant. The homeless man on the corner asked me for my leftovers. I had been pretty excited to eat them as leftovers.
To make up for it, we stopped by Patsy's candies...and then Colorado Custard Company in Manitou. You know, market research. Then Mike worked bunches and bunches while I laid around like a water buffalo and read.

Then we finally used my Christmas gift for the first time, the chiminea! It took awhile to get the fire going, but once it was we sat outside and looked at the stars and the fire. Then Mike stuck on his headlamp and read to me in the dark. But the fire got going too well, and would never die. We eventually got so cold, we had to come inside. Then we watched the fire from the kitchen (see the fire in the bottom right of the picture?) while Mike still read to me with his headlamp on, while we warmed up with hearty bowls of ice cream.
La vita e bella!