Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Parisienne's dream kitchen, the finale

Ca y est, we're moved back to our kitchen, and I've organized, vacuumed, dusted, and reclaimed the rest of the apartment.

(OK, I confess I still have a pile of cookbooks under the dining room table awaiting some sort of storage solution, but we'll just ignore that detail for the moment.)

For the inaugural family dinner last night I made roasted duck breast, sautéed potatoes, provençal tomatoes, and a lemon tart I had stayed up until a thoroughly unreasonable hour the night before to bake. I love my new stove top and oven, and I'm happy to report that even piled with dirty dinner dishes the kitchen seems twice as big as it was before.

The Great Moving Back In happened to coincide with my dad and step-mom's visit to Paris, so not only was my dad around to eat and celebrate, but he also got to help me drill holes for cabinet pulls. No, there is no such thing as a free lunch, especially not in Paris.

So, as promised, some pictures:

The appliances are still there, but the Darty look is gone! I love the new wood counter top.

The dusty bookshelf is gone, replaced by this cabinet unit

Our spacious porcelain sink, so much better than the old stainless model

A place to display some faïence

Even the fridge looks happier in its new home

I am thrilled, THRILLED with how it came out. Details I was unsure about, like the cabinets that replaced the bookshelf, have turned out even better than I hoped. There are a couple of 'oops', as in any project, of course. The floor tiles, though as attractive and as stain-camouflaging as I had intended, were accidentally ordered with an anti-slip coating meant for outdoor use, so on bare feet they feel a bit sandpaper-like and they grip and shred disposable mop pads. But as accident-prone as I am, it probably isn't so terrible a thing to have. Also, we've found that controlling the water pressure with the new faucet takes a delicate touch, but even a dream kitchen has a learning curve.

So hooray!

Now, if anyone can suggest a convenient way to install a shelf in the 60 centimeters above the radiator in between the new cabinets and the door, please let me know.

Now that we have a kitchen, I'm embarrassed to admit we're heading off for ten days of vacation in Spain and the Gers. Yes, I am truly spoiled.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Parisienne's dream kitchen, part II

I still haven't figured out how the contents of my nine-square-meter kitchen took up sixteen (16!) cardboard boxes. I took the day off today -- thank you, blessed RTT -- to attempt to put everything back. Somewhere.

I have five boxes left to unpack and a pile of cookbooks that have no logical place in their new home. I've discovered we own enough wine glasses to host a medium-sized wedding reception and that if Paris is besieged in the coming months, we can easily survive on cocktail olives and canned tomatoes.

To think I woke up this morning certain that by five o'clock today I'd not only have everything organized in the kitchen, but the entire apartment vacuumed, dusted, and ready for my dad and step-mom's visit tomorrow. Yeah, right.

Will everything fit? Will my new kitchen prove to be as functional as it is attractive? Will my husband stop complaining he can't find anything anymore? Will I drown in packing paper or be crushed under a toppled pile of cardboard?

I'll post an update soon, complete with pictures.

Monday, May 11, 2009


As the long weekends of May melt into the hot, lazy months of summer, vacationers throughout Europe will be heading south in a seasonal game of musical chairs (or rental properties, as the case may be).

To those headed for France in search of some idyll of provincial calm complete with crusty baguettes and tree-shaded country roads, I have the following advice:

The authenticity of a French town or village (or the index of its relative isolation from all things Tourist and Parisian) can be measured by the inverse ratio of joggers to other pedestrians on a given Sunday morning.

If there are more prim women "of a certain age" walking their dogs, more old men waving each other to the counter at the local café, more children clanging metal scooters over cobblestones and more weekend fishermen stooped over their poles and their newspapers along the river than there are Parisians plodding along plugged into their iPhones, you've found the Real France.

(This Sunday, May 11, 2009, Troyes passed the test with flying colors, as it always has in the ten years I've known it. My husband and I were the only ones foolish enough to be out jogging in circles in the rain.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fluctuat nec mergitur (despite everything and the kitchen sink)

I was going to post pictures of the state of advancement of the Big Paris Kitchen Project tonight, but I couldn't find my camera in the mess that has overtaken the apartment. When I did find it ("In the china cabinet, next to the onions," my husband said) I was dismayed to discover I hadn't taken any pictures at the height of the chaos, when both the washing machine and the dishwasher were in the living room, wall cabinets were stacked like blocks behind the dinner table, and our bedroom was barricaded with Ikea boxes.

Things are better now. The washing machine has been repatriated, although the dishwasher still sits at a forlorn distance from the coffee table, covered in the accumulated grime I haven't had time to clean off the sides. In my new kitchen, the appliances will be sheltered from kitchen splatter by our beautiful new butcher block counter top.

The counter top, the cabinets, the stove, oven and the sink are all installed as of today. The new floor tile is already showing its stain-camouflaging prowess by dissimulating the dust of two weeks of drilling, sawing and painting. Tomorrow the wall tile will be laid, and by Monday there should be nothing left but details like drilling holes for drawer pulls. I'm hoping to take a day off on Tuesday to clean, unpack, and organize.

It has been a rough couple of weeks, though, and I'm not sure I recommend that anyone with a child under three embark on a major home improvement project. We survived with our sanity intact thanks in large part to my in-laws, who live close enough to provide moral support and feed us dinner every night. My mother-in-law not only let me drag three loads of laundry to her apartment weekly, but insisted on folding and packing it for me. My dishtowels are ironed for the first time ever.

The low points, ready to be recorded in the Big Book of Family History:

1) My husband staying up until almost 4 a.m. painting the second coat on the walls so the cabinets could be installed the next day. Le Petit waking up at approximately 4:15 the same morning and staying awake in my arms until 6.

2) Practically walking right past my husband's car, all the while screaming at him into my cell phone as we tried to rendez-vous after work to go select tile.

3) Realizing this morning, as my husband got ready to leave for a very early morning business trip to Switzerland, that I needed to get some big, heavy things out of the basement. My in-laws came later at my emergency call for help, and when they rang at the door, I had le Petit on the changing table and had halfway removed his very dirty diaper. I picked him up and ran to the front door with him anyway, diaper and all.

And my favorite -

4) Standing in line at IKEA with a overloaded cart of kitchen pieces, fielding a frantic call from my mother-in-law who had just discovered that le Petit could climb out of his crib. Getting yelled at by the guy directly behind us, who decided we weren't moving quickly enough. Without lowering his voice, he self-righteously skipped ahead of us. Only in France, I thought, and gave him a less-than-polite English vocabulary lesson.

Le Petit seems relieved that his parents folie is subsiding and he can once again play soccer in the kitchen. I don't know what he thinks of the new design, but he has already discovered the buttons on the new stove -- and, we fear, may not be that far off from figuring out how to defeat the child lock mechanism.

Tomorrow is a holiday in France, so we're all off bright and early to the family house in Troyes, where I can play with le Petit in the garden. The dust may be settling, but the kitchen faucet still isn't installed and I'm fed up with washing dishes in the bathroom sink.

(I hope I'll be posting more often now, so stay tuned!)