Monday, July 16, 2012

Kitchen Redo--Step 4 No Woman is an Island

“How’s that?” Mr. Wonderful said while on one bended knee.
“More,” I said standing over him.
"How about now?"
"Another 10 inches."
"I just gave you 14 inches.  Twice."
"Give me 20 more and we'll call it even.”

After weeks of plans, work and countless decisions on our kitchen remodel finally we’d reached question #1,367: Do we build an island?  Or not?  To help us decide Mr. Wonderful was on the kitchen floor with a roll of masking tape outlining the size of our potential island.  It was as if we were homicide detectives chalking out the lay of a dead body; except our taped outline didn’t have arms, legs or bloody gunshot wounds. 

Yet.

Currently our kitchen floor plan had all the cabinets lining the perimeter walls leaving the room’s center empty, making the space as warm and cozy as an Olympic ice skating rink.

I felt we should take advantage of the openness and break up the space with an island that could double as a work station, storage bin and home water cooler.  I could see it now: I’d slice dinner and store all my Tupperware in organized stacks while swapping gossip with Mr. Wonderful over a glass of rosso on our exotic kitchen island.  How romantic.

Meanwhile Mr. Wonderful wanted to keep the space as it was: big enough for an ice skater and her partner to do four triple axels—at the same time.  However by getting him to tape out the outline of a possible island meant that maybe, just maybe, I could sway his opinion.  My goal: to make the taped outline a three dimensional island.  My plan: A-ttaaack!

“Hello…?  Anyone home?” a cheery feminine voice wafted on the breeze before our blond, 50-something neighbor leapt into our kitchen. 
“Hi, Mary,” I said.  “Come in—”
“Already am!” she said with a smile so warm it could melt glaciers, which actually just might be the cause of global warming because she smiled a lot.  Every time I saw her, in fact.  I wondered if GreenPeace and the EPA knew about Mary’s grinning warmth?  I decided not to tell them because her smiles were too gracious to miss.

“You remember Mike,” she said pointing to the gray-haired man beside her.
We did.
“They’re redoing their kitchen,” she said to her husband.
We were.
“Mike’s the one to call for a remodel,” she said.   “He’s a contractor contactor and can organize your redo if you don’t want to.”
We wanted to and were currently doing it.
“He’s really busy but really good,” she added. 
At this point I realized neither Mr. Wonderful nor Mike nor I needed to be here.  Mary was running all sides of the conversation on her own.  Like a homicide detective on “Law & Order”, she had all the best—and worst—lines. 
“Thanks,” I said smiling at her.  “But we’ve got it covered.” 
“If I were doing this job,” Mike said, “I’d start by getting rid of this gunk,” and in one fell swoop he yanked our tape outline off the floor.
“My island!” I shrieked. 
“An island?  Here?” Mary said smiling.  “Don’t do it, you’ll just clutter up the room.”
“See?” Mr. Wonderful said raising an eyebrow at me.

I needed to tell them about my island envy.  How through my kitchen remodel research I’d discovered Americans spent six hours a day watching television and 39 hours of that day in the kitchen, which made for a long day.  I also learned that when a hostess was in her kitchen cooking, entertaining or burning the creme brulĂ© her guests wanted to be three feet away from her—or less.  We were cook entertainers so I needed a place where the guests could congregate that was close to me but not in my hair.

Instead all I mustered was, “I want an island.” Before stamping my foot.

Mary tossed us a gorgeous smile then said, “Don’t put in an island, you’ll just clutter up the room,”  
What did she know about clutter?  Then she and Mike hurried out to drive their three kids to soccer, ballet and oboe practices. 

I saw her warning words seeping into Mr. Wonderful’s brain.  I needed to act fast.  I rushed out to the guesthouse, grabbed several boxes of books and returned to the kitchen where I stacked them 3½ feet tall and 2½ feet wide to mimic the size and height of an island.  Unlike the outline taped to the floor, now I could feel this island’s heft and space requirements.  This was the way to test drive an island!

Before I could show it to Mr. Wonderful I saw a bearded man through the window approaching our house.
“Hey, neighbors,” Charles said lugging two large shopping bags, “I brought you Meyer lemons.” Charles and his spouse, Stephen, lived across the street from us and their walled garden was as lush as Eden.  Boy, those guys knew fruit.  Their pomegranate trees were ripe with red globes, their grapefruits laden with fruit the size of volleyballs and their orange trees had more vitamin C than all of California and Florida—combined.  Now our neighbors wanted to share their citrus wealth with us.

“How beautiful!  Put them right here,” I said patting my makeshift island. 
“Let me move the junk,” Charles said grabbing all the boxes from my island and—before I knew it—lining them up against the wall.  He was so quick and efficient he put our professional movers to shame. 
“Charles,” I said, “that’s my kitchen island!”
“You’re putting an island here?” he said followed by a long whistle.  “I wouldn’t, you’ll just clutter up the room.”  Right then Mr. Wonderful entered the room.
“See?” Mr. Wonderful said raising both eyebrows at me. 
“You don’t need an island or its clutter,” Charles said.  I saw Mr. Wonderful nod his head in agreement.  I watched him dig in his “no island” heels.

My big island plans were faltering.  Before my romantic isle became deserted, I needed to make a bold move.  I raced to Ikea and bought a butcher’s bock table.  It had a solid wood top for chopping and two open shelves perfect for stacking Tupperware.  I unloaded it from the car and set it in the middle of our kitchen.  No more makeshift, fake islands.  I now had the next best thing to a built-in island: a real, three-dimensional table.

At least this time no one could mistake the table in the middle of our room for anything but an island.  I had to show it to Mr. Wonderful!  In the meantime I started dinner.  I opened the refrigerator door, which hit my island table.  I slid the table way from the frig but moving around the island I bumped into the built-in counter bruising my hip.  I washed the salad at the sink then carried the wet lettuce to the island—sloshing water across the floor as I went. Turning back to the stovetop I slipped on the lettuce water puddle and hit my funny bone.

“Whoa!  The island looks great,” Mr. Wonderful said upon entering. “I needed to see it.”
“I needed to, too.”
“You were right—”
“No, you were,” I said.  Our kitchen was large but putting an island in the middle of it would torpedo the spacious feeling and just clutter it up. 

Mr. Wonderful looked at me with raised eyebrows ready to scream bloody murder.  And he would have too if I hadn't said the magic words: “You were right.”  I repeated them. 
“Thank you,” he said.”
“Thank you,” I said hugging him.

We deserted our island, avoided the clutter and bypassed dead bodies.  Then we squeezed some lemonade.  It wasn't exotic or romantic but it sure was sweet.