Monday, September 27, 2010

final days, After pictures

it was tense. first of all, the deadline was a real deadline. (typically, in Hungarian, "deadline" is made up by the words "limit" and "time" and has nothing of the fatal seriousness of the English version) but in our case it was serious: I had to leave on Sunday morning. Friday night, when I got home from the TV Awards with my man, the living room was the manifestation of some primordial chaos; there was simply everything and this everything was everywhere. the fridge, the micro, the oven, the washing machine, the plates and forks and the forty-two mugs, chair and kitchen table; they were all piled up on 15 square meters. the only space we could move about was on the top of the bed. I don't like chaos but I can handle it somehow. my man, on the other hand, was upset and in ruins. not to mention the kitchen, which was also far from being ready. the baseboards were missing, the cupboards weren't ready, and the whole thing was still just an empty space without the furniture and the fridge and all. and then I woke up very early on Saturday, finished painting the cupboards, and called Peti to the rescue. he arrived with another guy, Józsi, and the two of them put the kitchen things back to the kitchen and laid the baseboards. I don't know if you know this but that was the hardest part. I watched them closely, so maybe next time I'll be able to do the baseboards alone. by 5pm, Peti and Józsi were gone and we could start cleaning up the whole flat. it took us 3 hrs. we had to be fast and efficient because I'd invited my parents, my sister, my man's mom and, of course, my partner in crime, Veron, to celebrate. they came and fell into happy hysteria how beautiful it all came out.

it is beautiful. I'm happy we persevered to the end. it was 6 days, and, well, about the budget, the final amount was 135.000 HUF (655 USD) but it included the new water heater. and here are the pictures. it is still not 100% ready, there are a few finishing touches missing (like dealing with rogue cables and buying a new curtain), but the bulk of the work has been done. take a look at this for maximum Before-After effect.


maybe you can see more of the kitchen without us sitting in the middle of it

I kind of miss the weird tiles [not]

I like tea

A Whiter Shade Of Blue
("why, what's your problem? it is symmetrical, you can say you did it on purpose", Peti said in a comforting, sincerely positive tone.

the lamp is KROBY from IKEA and cost 20 USD

the kitchen table we can use from now on for working on the computer here

brown on blue on brown

fridge magnets to show you how cool we are, me and my man

hah! a reminescence of the weird tiles!! isn't it cool? they are still here with us,
in a very subtle, subversive way

and now, it's goodbye from us. let us know if you need any kitchen makeover advice, we are here to help and give emotional support.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

we have done it, Pt. I.

Reader, I redecorated it.

I mean, we did, Veron and I. and we did it in only 6 days, after and before work.

because now I've got a plane to catch, here is only one picture. it is not really about the kitchen itself but about our team, continuing to sit on the floor and having a good time. we are very proud. naturally, there are more pics on the way.

remember the documentary I was telling you about? it has won the TV Awards. I am very pleased.

kitchen makeover smug

Friday, September 24, 2010

laminate flooring, my friend

this day, Day 4, has been the most exhausting and the most challenging so far. the morning I spent sitting in the car in a 90-minute traffic jam, on my way to get the second can of paint (remember? the one that changed from blue to white) I started to drive a few months ago and driving is still the source of unending thrills for me. this time my steering wheel got locked and I didn't understand why I was unable to turn the key in the ignition. after a few panicky attempts at turning the key, I asked a passerby if he could help me out. the red-haired guy was nice and/but condescending, "it's a typical mistake women make", he whispered to himself (= to me) while turning the key and jiggling the wheel back and forth. but it worked and I felt like Jessica Lange sitting on the palm of King Kong. "thank you, my saviour, thank you", I said with a trembling voice and then rushed to IKEA to ask if they had found the wall panel I had lost the day before. they did, I did leave it at the store. and they promptly sold it to someone else and they had no more left. at least I got my money back.

in the afternoon, we embarked upon laying the laminate flooring. we rolled out the underlayment pad, and laid down the planks, Tetris-style, one by one, cutting them to the appropriate size with a coping saw I'd borrowed from Aron the other day. at the edges we used spacers (nice blue spacers) to get the gap of 1 cm, this is where the baseboards would be. sounds simple but it wasn't easy. we started from the wrong corner, we mixed up what glue to use and then we didn't use it at all because we couldn't get it out from its tube and we broke its applicator. 5 hours later, at the end, we were just sitting on the brand new, dark brown floor, laughing at the fact that I almost chopped off Veron's finger. we were too tired to stand up, or utter sentences, for that matter. we just wanted to sit there and laugh.

our lucky charm, the gigantic spider. Hungarians believe spiders bring luck to one's home. my sister, for example, hates them.

the underlayment pad

Miss Precision

I thought it would work. the glue, I mean.

it didn't.

introducing Aron's coping saw

we are happy here because we still don't know
this was not the corner we should have started with.

Veron is pleased with the fact she hasn't lost any of her fingers after all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the queens of Brunei

I'll tell you what happened on Day 3. it all started out wonderfully. (apart from the fact that in the morning I rushed out to IKEA to buy a FASTBO wall panel and then I remembered to buy a few other things, then, of course, I paid for them, and then, only when I got home I realised I had left the FASTBO wall panel behind. all the other unnecessary trinkets were there but not the wall panel which is actually kind of big, so you need real talent to manage to lose it somehow. I did lose it, anyway.) in the afternoon, Veron came, and we applied the second layer on the tiles and then she went back to teach and I went to talk about Michael Douglas on national television. the program I'm in is on every second week. I enjoy it a lot. and everytime I get a really nice, really over-the-top make-up (see above). Wall Street 2 is coming out in a few days and so I talked about Douglas and also about Adam Elliot's Mary and Max which is a claymation feature film. it was shot in 57 weeks. that's a long time to shoot lazy clay figures in very small, dollhouse-like spaces. anyway, after work I came home and decided to paint more furniture blue. I spent two hours painting stuff while talking to my friend, Dora, on skype. she lives in York, England. last weekend she went to a wedding that lasted for three days and she stayed at a hotel and slept in the same bed the queen of Brunei sleeps everytime she visits England, this is what the hotel people told her. now she should have asked which one because I've just checked and the sultan of Brunei has married thrice and currently has two wives. so we were talking and I was painting with grace and fervor, when, in rapid succession, I realised two things: 1. the blue paint was actually changing its colour, namely, it was getting lighter and lighter, and then, when it was almost white... 2. our can of paint was over. so today I'm going to buy more paint and repaint everything because this blue is simply too white.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 2

and then, finally, we started work.

the previous evening I'd realised I needed help with removing all the furniture from the kitchen, including the 5-ton (not) oven. so I called Peti who is the electrican of my boyfriend's family and is also a DJ. Peti is very young, very calm, and very strong. I was lucky: he was in the neighbourhood and arrived in less than an hour. so in the end he and my boyfriend stripped the kitchen of all furniture and stuff. and Peti told me to buy a new, electric water heater and so I did.

then, on Day 2, Veron arrived and we painted the walls and the ceiling. then we started to paint the furniture blue. as you all know, before painting wooden furniture, like our cupboards, one has to clean the surfaces very thoroughly with sandpaper. (and now I have a nice, fat muscle fever). this was when we realised the sandpaper we'd bought didn't work so we had to buy new ones. the next phase, painting the weird tiles, was fun but I guess it also had to do with the mind-altering substances found in the adhesive primer. we took a few breaks eating pineapple ice-cream and talking about Veron's students. one thesis Veron had to mark was about a Polish novel where a squirrel is shot in the beginning. the whole book was 'very depressing', she said but then we went on painting and got merrier.

and here are the new pictures.

careful planning

thank you, Peti and thank you, my boyfriend

painting the town blue

the walls are ready - the tiles are not

we spent twenty minutes figuring out how to open this can.
and yes, the adhesive primer for the tiles was 11995 HUF

goodbye, weird tiles

I said, goodbye, weird tiles

hello, blue cupboard doors

money don't cost a thing

180 USD. hahaha.

as you all know you are dealing with a beginner here so you will excuse me my unbridled naivete. first lesson learned: if you are about to redecorate a space as small as this one (about 8 square meters), you are bound to end up with as much paint, adhesive primer, baseboard and all other stuff as a 15-square-meter room needs. they don't sell small quantities. the other thing, of course, is where you buy stuff.

here we are with Veron in Praktiker, the local store of the German home improvement chain. it was bloody expensive. only amateurs go there: ham-handed, decent family men or enthusiastic, middle-aged teenagers like us. I could have guessed it would be a rip-off because I couldn't see any professional home improvement workers strolling around. on top of everything, the friendly shop assistant recommended us sandpaper 60 and then accidentally sold us sandpaper 40 which couldn't do the work so we had to run out and buy new ones in the middle of Day 2.

the bottom line is that our budget will be at least twice as much as we originally planned. we'll see. actually, we have also decided to buy some extra shelves from IKEA and an electric water heater because the old one tended to scorch my eyebrows every time I turned it on. it's all extra costs.

on a different note: I hate it when I get up early to watch Columbo and I have to realise I've already seen this episode. (fun facts for early morning: did you know Peter Falk is grandson to Hungarian Falk Miksa?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 0

tomorrow is Day 1.

we have to go and buy the paint, the laminate floor and all other things necessary for the mission. I've been looking at YouTube videos about DIY kitchen makeovers and the budgets there span from 700 USD to 3000 USD. I don't know, I'm hoping to get it done under 40.000 HUF (= around 180 USD).

we have only 5 days altogether because on Saturday I'm going to Veszprém to the Hungarian TV Awards 'Kamera Hungária' where I am one of the jury members in the documentary category. I have watched 18 documentaries and elected three to be nominated. I wonder which one will be the winner. my favourite is the one about a socialist agricultural collective that survived the change of regime in 1989; it's a thrilling and bitter account of the last twenty years of Hungarian country life and of the people, especially farmers, who have or have not survived the turbulent times since the collapse of the socialist regime.

it's the first year they invited me to be a jury member. apart from teaching I am also a film critic. I guess this is how they found me. it's really flattering, I feel important.

and why didn't we start the project earlier? because Veron was busy organising a Shakespeare conference at her university; Women – Shakespeare – Theatre was the title. it was yesterday. I should have attended but instead I was lying in bed doing nothing all day. the summer course I had been teaching at finished on Friday and I took a day off on Saturday. still, in the afternoon I went to see my uncle who spends 2 months in Jordan looking for water in the desert, and 2 weeks here at home, resting. he looked skinny but was in good spirits.

and after Saturday's TV Awards, I'm going on holiday for two weeks. I'm bursting with energy. can't wait to redo the kitchen. can't wait to go to the TV thing. and I can't wait to go on holiday.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Scottish scientists

my dad sent me this picture two days ago. the subject was 'Finally, you'll be able to look Willy in the eye' and by Willy he meant William Shakespeare. he hopes by looking Willy in the eye I can make some progress in my thesis. he also enclosed an article about how a Scottish scientist has reconstructed a 'warts and all' image of Shakespeare based on his death masks. by Jove, it's fascinating.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

cutting wood

so I had the countertops cut. for that, we drove to a corner of the city I'd never been before. it was an industrial kind of place with a dusty, eerily silent inner yard and a lot of other workshops around that all seemed to be vacated. at the entrance there was a gate complete with a pike, a sign that said PRIVATE and a jovial young man, the porter, who didn't ask a word and opened the gate at once. I hadn't expected this hot-knife-through-butter entry and dialled the shop in panic. I just wanted to tell the porter where we were going, even if he couldn't care less. I didn't remember the name of the company. "What's the name of the company?", I shrieked into the phone. someone at the other end giggled. "I'm coming to have my countertops cut. Where am I going?" the man still didn't answer, instead, the giggle grew into a relaxed, happy laughter.

I teach something called 'Communication' at an American college. this is what I do for a living. I knew instantly it was a breakdown so I niftily disconnected the call. I hate talking to strangers on the phone, especially when they don't talk, just giggle. luckily, the next moment we found the shop. inside there were three young men, smiling and cutting wood panels and a little boy with protruding ears and a pair of very big glasses. like a kid from those Czechoslovakian children's programs we used to watch on TV. he was sweeping wood chips, deep in his thoughts. one of the three men was wearing headphones to keep the noise out. he came up to me and I explained to him what I wanted. he seemed to hear every word, despite the headphones. he was fast and friendly. he cut the wood, and told me it was 500 HUF (=about 2 USD) and at the end he gave me his cell number in case I needed any help in the future. we drove away, happily.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

to do list

ok, Veron has sent me the TO DO LIST. I am happy to announce that the minus 2nd point has already been accomplished.


-2. buy new countertops and have them cut to the right size (one for the countertop, one for the kitchen table)

-1. calculate everything (how many square meters of laminate floor and paint for the furniture and the walls are needed)

0. select and buy the laminate floor, the paint, the tools (paint rollers, brushes, gloves, painter's tape, etc.)

1. clear the room of all movable items and prepare the surfaces we want to paint

2. cover everything we don’t want to paint

3. hop on the ladder and paint the kitchen wall

4. while the walls are drying, paint the cupboards

5. prepare the tiles

6. paint the tiles

7. put down the under lament for the flooring

8. install the laminate floor

9. remove the old countertop and the kitchen table top

10. install the new countertop and the new kitchen table top

11. remove the old lamp, install the new lamp

12. clean the place and marvel at the beauty of the new kitchen

I'm sure there will be some tough challenges popping up on the way but looking at this list I have the feeling it is a doable plan.

Monday, September 13, 2010

sense of duty

this afternoon as I was waiting for the elevator a voice loud and clear said "sense of duty". and then "commitment". the words came from behind the locked door of one of the ground-floor apartments. I knew that voice; it was the unemployed husband of the janitress and I cannot possibly tell about what and to whom he was talking. I swiftly jumped into the elevator and contemplating those heavy words echoing in my ear I remembered that I should post an update about the project.

lo and behold. here are the before pictures of our kitchen:

granite/faux marble (?) countertop used for the kitchen table

white tiles alternating weird tiles
(thanks to a handsome water meter installed some time later than the weird tiles)

I love the lamp even if I can hardly see it stuck in the corner behind stuff

now here is the other half of the granite/faux marble (?) countertop

weird tile galore

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the decision

the decision was made months ago; I just had to call Veron to make it official and at the same time to make her join me. it's about the kitchen makeover project.

I am not a housewife, not even a wife, I am not a good cook, I am not rich, and I don't have time for anything and I don't know anything about makeover projects. I'm not good at DIY or keeping stuff organised or neat and I don't have famously good taste either. I live with my man in a 35-square-meter (375-square-feet) flat in the heart of Budapest, Hungary. I moved here exactly eight months ago and I still haven't been able to transfer my books and clothes here completely (= about 5 percent of my books are here and about 40 percent of my clothes have made it). and I keep buying more clothes and more books so we are constantly fighting things around us. or at least trying not to tread on them.

the kitchen is a slightly different issue. it's not only short of storage space but it's also rundown and damn ugly. so I've decided to dissolve this depressing combination and do something at least about the look of the place. I have not much money for the whole thing, but as I am self-confident and hungry for success, I want to create a spectacular difference between the now and the would-be. and because I'm a minus-10-level beginner in makeover projects, I made that call and asked for Veron's help.

Veron is my friend. we met eleven years ago when we started our PhD studies together. Veron graduated with flying colours and since has written a book about Shakespeare Behind the Iron Curtain that was published in the States. I haven't finished my thesis and there's not one day that passes without me thinking of it. the fact that I think of it everyday did not stop the University from terminating my PhD student status after the final, finaler, and finalest deadlines passed, thus trimming my hopes for an academic future and making my parents deeply disappointed in me. still, in theory, I haven't given up. we'll see what theories are worth.

so Veron, besides being a devoted academic in the field of English Renaissance studies here in Hungary, is a great friend. and a great home-lover with precious kitchen makeover skills (not to mention her kitchen skills). me and her, we are a great team. I'm funny and energetic, she is funny, energetic, and knows what to do.

about the blog. I used to write a blog about myself, my time in New York City, my then-boyfriend, my ever-friends such as RsB aka Rosemary's Baby and my feverishly opinionated family members. it was six years ago, the blog was popular and then slowly died. it was also in Hungarian, the only language the devil respects, or at least this is what someone told me once. now I'm doing this in English because most of the people I know respect English as well.