Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 23 Lights, hardware, ACTION

I started cooking when I was working in Asia. It wasn't really necessary as you could get delicious hawker food for a pocket of change. Nonetheless, I realised that cooking was simply reading the recipe, wielding a chopper and voila...a reputation was born. (Said reputation has often resulted in my having to cook for relatives while on vacation...not quite the outcome I was looking for....).

Using American cookbooks while living in Asia meant I spent a fair amount of time in various specialty expat grocery stores. The products cost three times more than in the US, and at least 10 times more than a local substitute. At times, there was no discernible substitute for "marshmellowcreme" or "pumpkin sauce". It's not as if one can just dump a can of kaya or belacan into an American recipe and have it come out well.

Having done most of my expat cooking shopping in expat stores, it was culture shock to find myself in the aisle of a King Scooper in the US looking not only at prices less than the GDP of a small island nation, but at the staggering range of choices.

Take pickles. In Jakarta, there were two types of pickles. The big jar and the little jar. The big jar was probably over $10 and the little jar might have been $7. In King Scooper, there was dill pickles, kosher pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickles with bits of garlic floating around, quartered pickles, sliced pickles, diced pickles, pickles with jalapenos, was pickle heaven. It just took a bit of getting used to. All those choices. What to do, what to do. How to choose?!!? How would I know that I made the right choice? Do I go by price? Appearance? Taste?

It was deja vu at the store choosing hardware. If I thought the choice of plumbing fixtures were overwhelming, the selection of hardware was over the top. My hear sank when I started walking around the display boards and realised I had to make choices of the infinite varieties. I managed to delete the porcelain firetruck doorknobs, and since I'm not Texan, I was able to eliminate the wide choice of Texanware; horns, Texas stars and boots. So that only left me with about 2678 choices to go.

Then it turned out that hardware was very versatile. You might like knob A but want to pair it with plate X in finish G. Done. It made me rather nostalgic for the old days when you had a generous two choices.

Fortunately, having shepherded me through yesterday's selection of fixtures, Robert knew what I needed and steered me in the right direction. I opted for levers on the doors and chose simple lines. "These are easy to clean, aren't they....."

The only decision pending is the finish. Nickle or living brass? As usual, I learned quite a bit about hardware and now know why there is a difference between shopping at Home Depot and at these speciality stores. Other than the fact that you don't wait for 20 minutes to get someone to notice you're in need of help, it turns out there is a difference in quality and you do get what you pay for. Since the critical point for me was not having to repeat this experience by buying something that would tarnish quickly and require replacing, I opted for durability. The price difference really wasn't that big. But the pain factor will be significantly reduced.

Incidentally, the brand of toilet we got - the Toto - the company produces one that - get this - SELF CLEANS!!!! has an automatic lid, and even warms your behind. I'm sure they have a model that will assist in other ways too....anyway, I saw that in one of the design magazines at B&N. Of course, it's over $5000, but imagine, it SELF CLEANS!!! That alone might be worth the price of the toilet.

I went ahead and braved the lighting allowance which was across the street. Paul greeted me warmly and asked me what I needed. I returned a blank look and said, "I dunno...." (I have been spending too much time around my students....). He made some quick phone calls as I wandered around the showroom. I knew I didn't want the arty farty stuff. My gosh, you could poke your eye out with that type of 3-D futuristic lighting fixture.

He came back with a list of what I needed - some fans, light fixtures and maybe fluorescent. Paul wanted to know what type of furniture we have. I explained that having purchased mainly from living abroad, we had an "eclectic" mix of furniture, mostly old, hand carved wood pieces, and lots of persian carpets. He nodded and said, "Transitional" Robert had said the same thing. So, there is a word for people like me and it's not "stubborn" or "difficult"..imagine that.....

I asked him the difference between two types of fans that looked like twins. He said, "It's like a Chevy and a Ford."

He was taken aback by my response. "I don't understand that. Which is better?"
Since he didn't tell me, having decided to switch analogies, I am now haunted by the fear that I will one day have to decide between a Chevy and a Ford and make the wrong choice.....although in Ford's favour, it hasn't asked for a government handout....yet

Paul was very helpful and tremendously assuring, but I was relieved to be done. We got fans that will run without threatening to take off like a helicopter and decapitate anyone, and they even come with a remote. I tell's like a whole new world out there.

Back at the house, the roofers had arrived and would have shingled the roof if the shingles had been there. Instead they covered it in black paper while the workers tyveked the house. They also removed the old side window on the master bedroom which now looks into the new family room. The plumbers had been and were leaving. I saw evidence of their work in the utility room and in the new bathroom, and there were squares cut out in the computer room, no doubt some piping or other will snake under the boards for one reason or other. I also learned the inspector had not come.

Jeff had warned me that once the second story goes up, it will seem as if work slows down. I concur. The most dramatic change has already taken place, and even now, it's becoming increasing difficult to remember what it was like to live in the original structure. Delays will also arise from inspectors not turning up.

Nonetheless, we're still immensely impressed with how fast the work has gone and really how efficient the men have been. Any changes made were due to design issues, or us changing our minds.

So, we cross off another day.....and Jeff was true to his word. He told us that he was going to have the house covered and roofed before Thanksgiving so there would not be issues with weather. If it had not been for last Thursday and the bad weather on Friday and Saturday, he would have achieved this much earlier.

Photos taken earlier this week on Monday. Back of the house with the second story, front of the house and inside of house with staircase already built.

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