Of Love and Loss

English: Hearts and flowers On the stone parap...This past week a young man I went to church and school with growing up reached the end of his 5-month battle with cancer, leaving behind a young wife and 5 children. My sister wrote a beautiful post two days after they learned he was dying, a poignant reminder to treasure all of the moments–both the good and the bad–that we have with our loved ones.

Made in China

On Thursday our ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets finally arrived. We spent most of the day Saturday putting them together. Nick, Bre, and Nick’s brother showed up around 3:00 to help us with what was left, which, due to the complicated Lazy Susan we’d put together first thing in the morning, ended up being most of the cabinets. Now our living room and part of our dining room are full of cabinets, waiting for us to decide on someone to install them. We ordered them from RTA Cabinet Store; here are some of my thoughts on the experience.

The good:

  1. The cabinet doors are gorgeous. They’re a lovely toffee color with a satiny-smooth finish.

    First one!

    First one!

  2. The boxes are 1/2″ plywood, not fiberboard, so they should be durable.
  3. This style comes standard with all the bells and whistles:
    1. dovetailed drawers
    2. full-extension, undermount drawer glides
    3. soft close drawers
    4. soft close cabinet doors
  4. The price is unbeatable, and we got an additional 10% off.
  5. For the most part (Lazy Susan excluded!), the assembly is super easy. The pieces connect with cam locks, so a screwdriver is literally all you need.
  6. The doors were already attached to the face frames, making our job that much easier.
  7. My few experiences with customer service have been fairly pleasant.
  8. The cabinets are guaranteed against defects for 5 years.

The bad:

  1. The shippers did a terrible job loading our cabinets, and a number of them arrived broken and/or scratched. Presumably, these will be replaced. (Quickly, I hope.)
    Ugh...

    Ugh…

    Is it so hard to seat this straight?

    Is it so hard to seat this straight?

  2. There were no assembly directions in any of the boxes. The website does have directions for some of the cabinets, but we found minor variations in our cabinets from all of the directions listed. For the Lazy Susan there were four different sets of directions, none of which matched our particular cabinet. Luckily (see point 5 above), once we figured the first couple out, assembling the rest was straightforward.

The ugly:

  1. The website has an annoying habit of popping up a “We beat anybody else’s price, guaranteed!” banner from time to time, and the size of my laptop screen is such that the “x” to close the window is inaccessible. I’ve resorted to deleting the HTML node using Firebug.
  2. Although RTA Cabinet Store is a US-based company, the cabinet boxes are made in China. This bothers me for a couple reasons:
    1. I would really prefer to support the American economy.
    2. As often seems to be the case, the focus with work outsourced to China seems to be “get it done as fast as possible” rather than, “take the time to make sure we turn out the best product possible.” In contrast to the gorgeous doors, the boxes displayed poor workmanship: cams were installed crooked, holes and troughs weren’t drilled deep enough or cleanly at all… A number of little details added up to make me wonder if we’d made the right decision.

Bottom line:

They’re beautiful cabinets, and I think the quality of the materials is good enough to offset the poor workmanship of the boxes. Time, of course, will tell.

FLOPS says, "I guess they're OK, but where's the fish?"

FLOPS says, “I guess they’re OK, but where’s the fish?”

Update 8/19: I submitted a damage report yesterday, and I already received a response back from the claims department today. We’re getting $15 back per scratched cabinet (a pittance, really, but every little bit helps), a free pot of stain to fill in the scratched spots, and two new panels to replace the ones that were broken. Here’s hoping they ship faster (and more carefully) than last time!

A Tisket, a Tasket, a Watermelon Basket

Lately it seems that I have time to write only on the weekends. I wrote this post on the bus on the way to work Friday (giving my tired legs a break from the bicycle!) but didn’t get a chance to type it up and add pictures until today. I have a whole slew of half-written drafts just waiting for me to have the time to finish them and post them, but Jordan has recommended I write once per week right now while we’re involved in home renovations. I will make that my goal and hope to write more in the future.

This week our CSA share included a watermelon, so I’m going to assume it’s not too late in the season for a post about one of my favorite summer fruits. Back in June, our church held a picnic one Sunday between the morning and afternoon services. This was the weekend Jordan was away at RECon, so I was glad for the opportunity to spend the day with my church family. At these events, everyone signs up to bring something; I had promised to contribute a fruit salad. Let’s just say I have a very loose definition of the word “salad.” For a green salad, lettuce is plenty (although Jordan would disagree). For a fruit salad, a watermelon is all you really need.

My favorite method of preparing watermelon is to use the rind as a bowl.

What you need:

  • a watermelon with a mostly flat underside for balance
  • a short, sharp knife
  • a metal spoon or melon baller
  • a large bowl (or two!)
  • a couple grocery bags

Steps:

  • Lay out the grocery bags and put the watermelon on top to catch most of the juice while you work.

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  • If you want a “handle” on your watermelon basket, with the knife trace two parallel lines the long way across the top of the watermelon. NOTE: the handle is for decoration only!

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  • From the ends of the handle, again use the knife to trace a half oval on each side of the watermelon. The bottom of the oval should be low enough to allow easy access to the fruit inside but high enough to keep the fruit from spilling out. I try to let the shape of the melon guide my knife.

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  • If you want a decorative edge, trace your pattern along the outside of the oval. (If you trace the inside, the initial cuts will be visible after you remove the top of the watermelon.) I usually do a triangle edge, but you can do any shape you want (and have the patience for).

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  • When you are satisfied with the tracing, cut the lines you’ve traced.

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  • Once your edges are fully cut, gently work the cut pieces out of the melon.

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  • Using the spoon or melon baller, remove the flesh of the watermelon in bite-sized chunks. I prefer to use a spoon for this part. Collect the pieces in the bowl.

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  • Eventually you will get to the point where there is too much juice in the melon for you to see what flesh is left on the bottom of the melon. Over the sink, drain this juice into a glass or bowl… It’s delicious (and reminds me of the agua de sandia I had in Mexico)!

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  • When you’ve removed all the flesh, it’s time to put it back into the watermelon bowl! (Or, if you’re adding other fruit, make your fruit salad and then add it to the watermelon bowl.) If you bought a seeded melon, now would be a good time to remove the seeds.

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Enjoy!