Saturday, May 13, 2006

Kitchen Remodel

I've been promising many of you pictures of our new kitchen for quite some time now. So, I thought the best way to do this was through the blog.

As many of you know, Paul remodeled our kitchen at the end of 2005/beginning of 2006. After much planning and trips to Home Depot (we probably could have qualified for an address change), Paul finished the kitchen in only 6 weeks. He did a tremendous job!! I should note, that Paul has never remodeled a kitchen before. This was a "learn as you go" experience for him. Thank goodness for confidence, huh?!

During the 6 weeks, he finished our cabinet doors, drawer fronts and cabinet facings. He refaced our kitchen cabinets, replaced the cabinet hardware, replaced our countertops with new formica, replaced our 2 basin sink into a one basin sink (which required new plumbing work) and ran new electrical to install accent lighting above our cabinets. When he finished his handy work, my dad painted above our cabinets my parents and I put up new wallpaper. It looks like a whole new kitchen.

Here are some pics of the "old" kitchen:

Here are some "working" pictures, including the piece of finger that Paul lost during the process.

"Daddy's Little Helper"
"The Missing Piece"

Now you didn't really expect to get through a big project like this without a trip to the ER did you? No such luck! On the day after Christmas, I was out shopping with my mom when my cell phone rang. It was Paul explaining that he had cut his finger with a razor blade and was on the way to the emergency room. I dropped my mom off at home and met Paul at the ER. I figured, it was just a razor blade AND he's driving HIMSELF to the ER, how much damage could he do, right? Well, when I arrived in the ER Paul was sitting in a chair trembling, from the pain. Immediately after, they called him back to take his vitals and ask him all of the insurance questions. As part of routine questioning they asked him if he was taking any drugs. He mentioned that he only took an over-the-counter antihistamine. The nurse looked up at me and said ever so calmly, "I'm not going to write that down because I don't know how to spell it." I should have known, at that point, that this visit was not going to go well.

Paul starting shaking violently and complained of seeing stars. Then he passed out! Immediatly, there were about 6 nurses smacking him around and calling his name. They got him on a stretcher and made reference to a siezure (I didn't take that too seriously, because I wasn't real confident in the abilities of the people that surrounded us). However, given the fact that Paul wasn't conscious at that moment, I couldn't very well suggest driving to another hospital. A doctor stuck his head over the cubicle, threw his hands in the air and said, "oh, just get him in a bed." Good Grief, this place needs a lesson in bedside manner!! I could go on about the completely incompetent staff we encountered, but I'll spare you. To make a long story short, Paul needed stitches. However, he left the piece of finger at home (to be found later), so they had nothing to stitch. They bandaged him up and sent him home. I was so relieved to be leaving that place and very thankful that Paul wasn't in serious condition. I would have feared for our lives. Much to my dismay, he started back to work later that evening.

The finger incident didn't affect his abilities whatsoever. The finished product was MUCH more than I ever expected. I am so proud of him....and the kitchen! I think he did a fabulous job....but you can judge for yourself!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Great Smoky Mountains

Walking the streets of Gatlinburg, and enjoying some ice cream with daddy!

We’ve returned safely from Gatlinburg. I’d like to say that our vacation also returned us well rested, but that would be a HUGE lie. We went non-stop, but enjoyed our first trip to the Smoky Mountains tremendously. We left last Sunday at 4am, along with my parents, for the 8-hour drive to Tennessee. I thought that by leaving at 4am, Aidan would sleep for the first half of the trip! No such luck. He was wide-awake the whole time…but was a very good traveler. Mostly, he watched the Spongebob Squarepants movie for what seemed like a thousand times. If I never saw Spongebob again in my life, I would be forever grateful.

We arrived in Gatlinburg, TN around noon. We were so excited that we decided to take in our first site, the Ripley’s Aquarium. The aquarium, with 1.3 million
gallons of water, was fantastic, to say the least!! There are 8,000 living aquatic animals, with 34 filtration systems that clean approximately 25 million gallons of water per day! The most amazing part of the aquarium was the 340-foot underwater tunnel that you stand on a “people mover” and take a slow ride through. Only 6.5 inches of clear acrylic divided us and schools of fish, stingrays, sea turtles, snappers and 10-foot GIANT sharks. Thank Goodness for 6 inches of Acrylic. This experience literally enabled us to walk along the bottom of the ocean floor.

Since we were pretty tired after this experience and our long drive, we went back to our hotel and spent the evening at the pool. We picked our hotel solely based on the wonderful pool. Aidan loves the water, so this was an important feature for us. The pool had a waterfall and a cave to swim through. Aidan was thrilled to pretend that daddy was the water monster and swim and squeal with delight when the monster finally grabbed his foot.

The next morning, while Paul and my dad went golfing, my mom, Aidan and I caught a trolley and went to the Outlet Malls in Pigeon Forge. Aidan thought the trolley ride was pretty cool. He loved it when we had to travel through a tunnel. The three of us shopped and played a round of putt-putt. When my dad and Paul finished their round of golf, they met up with us for lunch. The restaurant was sitting
right next to a go-kart site. Throughout lunch, Aidan stared out the window and begged us to ride the go-karts. So, of course, we did. Paul decided to buy an afternoon pass. So, while he and Aidan rode go-karts, my dad and I decided to hit the local scrapbook store!! Now, that was exciting. Many dollars and many laps around the go-kart track later, we headed for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. Prior to leaving for Gatlinburg, we purchased tickets to this dinner and show. I was worried that Aidan wouldn’t sit through this 4-course meal and live show, but again, he proved me wrong. The show included live animals (buffalo, horses, pigs, etc.) and the arena of people was divided into two sides….the north and the south. We were on the north side and Aidan was very competitive. He waved his flag and cheered for the north like he had money on them! Everytime they would compete, Aidan would say, "did we win?" and then he would jump up and down and shout, "YES!!" (He gets this from his dads side of the family :-) The meal was pretty entertaining itself. We were served soup, chicken, pork, corn on the cob, potatoes, biscuits and dessert. However, there was no silverware. You had to eat everything with your hands. Have you ever tried to eat soup with your hands? Aidan was leery at first, but it didn’t take him long to slurp that soup right up!!

That evening, we took our first ride through the Smoky Mountains…to search for bears. We drove up to a place called Cades Cove. Cades Cove was once known as “Kate’s Cove” after an Indian chief’s wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Nation back again and again by it’s abundant wildlife and good hunting. Later, Cades Cove’s wildlife drew European descent frontiersmen to make it their home. They and their offspring cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms to sustain them. The pioneer’s families lived in Cades Cove for many generations before the cove became part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I’ve been told that Cades Cove is still as full of wildlife as before….but we didn’t see ANY wildlife. Perhaps it was because by the time we drove the 25 miles through the Mountains, it was pitch black.

On Tuesday, as the guys headed out for another morning of golf, my mom and I decided to take it easy. We walked the streets of Gatlinburg. Aidan was thrilled at the candy store so we stopped for a chocolate covered marshmallow. While eating his candy, we watched the filming of a Gatlinburg Tourism commercial. Lucky for us, the commercial featured a bear, so we snapped a picture with Aidan….just in case we couldn’t find any of those real bears in the Smokies!!
After walking up and down the streets of Gatlinburg, we headed back to the hotel for some outdoor swimming. The temp exceeded 80 degrees and we couldn’t wait to get our feet wet!!

After the guys came back from their golfing, we took a ride into Pigeon Forge again and the 5 of us took a helicopter ride. The view was magnificent!! They took us over the Smoky Mountains. While this view was quite different than what we had seen on our ride to Cades Cove, it was something that I will never forget. I thought Aidan would chicken out on us as we got into the helicopter, but he didn’t. He actually smiled the whole way. We all wore headphones during the tour so we could speak to each other. We couldn’t get Aidan to stop talking. I think he liked to hear is voice in the headphones. The tour guide was trying to point out different areas of interest, but we didn’t hear much of him over Aidan’s chatting.

The next day, we rode the trolley to the Hill Billy Golf. When we got on the trolley, Aidan told the driver that he wanted to play Hilly Billy Golf. The trolley driver got a big chuckle out of that. After a game of hilly billy putt-putt, we rode a ski lift to the elevation of 1,800 feet. The view of the mountains was so beautiful. Again, Aidan amazed me by how brave he was. It is hard to imagine that just last summer, he was afraid of any and all carnival rides!! At the bottom of the ski lift, we stopped at a hot-dog stand that boasted 21 styles of hot-dogs. 21 different ways to have your hot-dog and Aidan chooses plain with no bun. That evening, Paul and I enjoyed a ride through the Smoky Mountains while my parents stayed at the hotel with Aidan. We decided to take the 5.1 mile one way road on a motor tour called Roaring Fork. I was still determined to see a wild bear. The scenes and sounds were beautiful. I have never witnessed nature like that before. It was unprecedented. However, again, we left too late and it was pitch black half way through our tour….but we kept our windows down and enjoyed the sounds of nature. The only wildlife we saw was a single deer.

The final day of our trip we headed to DollyWood. For those of you who don’t know, It is a 125-acre theme park nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is named after Dolly Parton, of course!! We spent the day taking in rides, games and quaint little shops. We were exhausted by the time we left but I was still determined to find that bear. So, Paul, Aidan and I decided to take one last trip through the Smoky Mountains trying to find that bear. We decided to does the Roaring Fork motor tour again. Aidan hadn’t seen it yet and it was truly, truly beautiful. This time, we left early enough so that it would stay light throughout our entire tour. I can’t pick a favorite spot on this tour because it was all so beautiful, but one place of particular interest was an area called “The place of a Thousand Drips.” Here we saw a waterfall cutting away at bedrock. Eventually, this will produce a side canyon, although we will never live to see its finished product. The air around the waterfall was cool. So, we took a few moments to get out of the car, relax and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the creation that the Almighty creator has made.

Oh, by the way...We NEVER saw a wild bear!!