Birthday Kitchen Party

Kids in the new kitchen. That’s Tara in the middle.

I did not expect that when I spent this summer jobless I would be busier than ever, but it’s true! I thought that those hours when I used to be glued to the computer I would now spend more time in the garden, or just relax on the deck with my kitty. What happened is that I just filled up all the rest of the spaces. Looking back, I realize my 10-hour work days might have been the closest thing to physical rest I got, other than when I was sleeping.

One of the most fun things I did this summer was to finally show off my new kitchen. You remember my whining about the remodel woes earlier this year. It took 10 months instead of the projected 2-4 months. The Project Manager TRIED to charge me double the estimated price, but he didn’t realize that the person he assumed was a dumb girl, that he had been ignoring and disrespecting the whole year is actually a wildcat. I got advice from a lawyer and submitted a letter to the PM with a corrected invoice, and a check for what – in my opinion – was the correct balance. …and then I sent a copy to his boss at the parent company. A month later I received a response accepting all my corrections except one. No apology. But whatever. It saved me over $10,000!! Gold star for Crystal.

Now it was time to have people over. First let me show you a before and after:

This photo is from last spring. I’m standing in the front room, facing a wall that holds a utility closet and a pantry. Behind all that (you can see the stove and microwave) is the tiny galley kitchen.
A photo of what it looks like now, while standing in the same place.

Tara wanted to have a big 22nd birthday party at my place in July, and said it was ok if I invited a bunch of my friends (since most of them know Tara anyway) and had a kitchen-warming party at the same time. Tara’s partner, Brynnen (orange hair), came over, and Tara’s best friend also came over the night before, and they insisted on making dinner. I unhesitatingly agreed.

We had the party on a Friday, and I told people it would go from 3pm to 8pm. That way, people could come and go all day long. A few of my friends stayed the night too, and so obviously the party really went till 1am or so. We had a fire in the fire pit and talked and laughed till we were finally spent.

While the photos of the perfectly clean kitchen are lovely, I like the following pictures better because this is the whole point of a kitchen: to gather and eat and drink and laugh.

The kids filling their plates after they finished making dinner.
Friends in the kitchen. My front room is still dark, but believe me it is so much lighter now after the remodel.
Three of my best friends and former co-workers.
Hosting parties is not typically my thing, and this part where people just break off and talk to each other without my help is magical to me.
Tara’s friends rigged up the TV to play video games and spent their time in that room.
Tara and a couple of my friends.
Here are the same two friends, who are also newly married, and took the opportunity to go for a long walk.

Speaking of friends… earlier in July I had the chance to spend a day with a blogger friend, Marlene, and help with her yard sale. I am fortunate to call several of you friends, and I lucked out when one of you bloggers turned out to be a neighbor (she’s an hour and a half away, but that’s pretty close). Anyway, I spent one of the best days of my whole summer with Marlene and a few of her beautiful family members. If any of you follow her at insearchofitall, please let me assure you that she is even more sincere, generous, and wise in person than she seems on her blog. Marlene wrote a great post about the yard sale. She also handed over some bowl cozies that she made specifically for Tara and Brynnen. These are bowl-shaped hot pads that you set your bowl into before you put it into the microwave. When your soup is hot, you can just wrap your hands around the cozy and pull it directly from the microwave without burning your hands. Brilliant! Tara and Brynnen are huge fans of soup, and use the cozies constantly.

Marlene wears a great apron that of course she made for herself.
Customers survey the treasures for sale when two homes get merged into one.
Blue and green leaf pattern chosen specifically for Tara’s cozies.

Another thing I did with Tara and Brynnen in honor of Tara’s birthday, is take them to see the Broadway show Wicked, a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. Tara is a huge fan of Broadway. They listen to the Broadway Pandora channel and know most of the songs for most Broadway shows by heart, despite only having seen a few of them. Tara has been dying to see Wicked for years, but it took a very (very) long time to come to Portland, then it sold out the first two years before I could get tickets, then we were busy, but finally it all came together. I read the original book by Gregory Maguire (based on the original original by L. Frank Baum) and couldn’t imagine a Broadway show of that book. However, the performance takes only some of the key ideas of the book, and to my delight, keeps a lot of the creepiness of the uncomfortably strange world, while also showing a way to connect with that world.

The Keller Auditorium in Portland, with crowds of people who want to see Wicked.
Merchandise for sale in the lobby. I’ve always liked the artwork and design for this show.
Though not allowed to photograph performances, I always try to get a shot of the stage before shows that I see. This one is one of my favourites ever because…. Yes! the DRAGON! (It’s eyes lit up and its head moved, too)

If you don’t know, Wicked is about the days when Glinda (The Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz) and Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) were college students together. How they started out as friends, but how politics and society told them that in order to pursue their dreams they had to present as enemies. In a way, one ended up on the right, and one on the left, and society didn’t allow them space to respect each other (sound familiar anyone?). Though they always cared about each other, publicly they were forced to denounce each other, and privately they didn’t really understand each other. There was also a very strong story line about discrimination of a group of citizens that the people of Oz felt were too different to be welcomed into society. And a third strong story line about how Elphaba didn’t fit stereotype of a pretty and desirable woman (her skin was green after all), and how handsome party boy Prince Fiyero not only falls in love with who she is, but is also motivated to become a better man after watching her example. The show makes us reconsider everything that the beloved television special The Wizard of Oz taught us, and makes us realize that the “truth” of history is a function of who gets to tell the story.

A whole string of good advice, wise warnings, biting criticism, intentful introspection, and positivity with tolerance. Great songs, great actors, and all of us went home very happy to have seen it.

We were, however, curious about the strange sights in the parking garage as we entered and left.

This sight on the wall near where we parked inside the parking garage. So creepy we actually laughed out loud!
On the way down the stairs to street level, we laughed again. It’s a play on a famous line from the 1977 film Star Wars.

15 thoughts on “Birthday Kitchen Party

  1. A delightful kitchen, Crystal, and it looks like you had a grand party to celebrate its completion. Peggy and I are thinking the same thing about our logging operationโ€” if we are ever home long enough. Curt

  2. Wow!! That kitchen is truly transformed! Love it. I wish I could still drive the distance to have been there. Thank you for the pingback and the kind words. That play sounds wonderful. So happy they loved the cozies. I’ve been trying to get here for days. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love and hugs. M

    1. Yes, the kitchen is transformed from when you were here. Remember the tile floor that you scrubbed when I moved in? It doesn’t exist anymore; all the tile was ripped up and the wood from the front room was extended all the way across. The person who lived here before me had remodeled the bathrooms, but the kitchen was very outdated. I always said I was glad for that because when I got the chance to improve the place, the kitchen needed it the most, and I would be able to make it exactly how I wanted it. And I did! I love the openness, and the way the island design makes people want to stand there and chat with whomever is in the kitchen. This room now pulls people in.

      It still needs work. I have to come up with something for the big empty space over the sink, beside the window. And the windowsill is not trimmed. My hope is to match the wood of the cabinets, and re-do the trim and windowsill. For the wall, I’m thinking maybe shelves and more plants. Maybe a hanging plant too, since that’s a big space there in the corner.

      Try not to give yourself a hard time about not visiting blogs as much as you want to. It’s a lot of work and you put in a lot of time to maintain your part in the community. Even when you’re not out reading others’ posts, you still respond to your own comments, and you have a big following, with people who write whole paragraphs to you. Just responding to them is a big job. I guess maybe I can say that, because if I’m not getting enough from you online, I can just drive to your house! ha ha! I win!

      1. You do win at so many things, Crystal. ๐Ÿ™‚ At least you can drive that far. I wish I could still do that. I try to be short with everything I write. My goal is always around 500 words and up to 600 with photo captions. Most people attention span. I had a writing teacher caution me on that. I’ll read and return any length of comment to anyone who stops by. I love the conversations. Since I can’t get out, this keeps me connected. Maybe one weekend, my daughter can drive me up. ๐Ÿ™‚ During the day.

      2. Your words remind me that I need to do that: keep my posts shorter for people. I do try, but I do let it slide. You are better at being diligent.

        Yes, I do love the conversations we have in the blogosphere, the friendships, the support networks. It’s a wonderful world.

    1. Thank you! Tearing out the walls opened up the whole room and makes the room inviting. It is now a focal point in the house and draws people to it. I have never witnessed how architecture can change behavior like that. It’s so interesting and I am super pleased about this bonus effect just from trying to get a bigger, lighter kitchen.

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