29 March 2012

Installing kitchen cabinets

The kitchen cabinets were ordered and have arrived. After some long months you’ve finally got your shaker style kitchen cabinets staring at you in their plastic wrap in your garage. Now it's time to install them and in most cases some advanced planning is required. This especially holds true if the installation is for a remodeling project. We'll assume that the cabinets that were ordered are the correct ones so the first thing that I do is some checking.

Is the floor level?
The way I do this is by setting up a laser transit in the room.

Once this is set up it will spin and create a perfect laser level line on the wall. I then take a chalk line and snap a line that matches that one. I now have a level line to reference and by measuring from that line to the floor at various points I am able to determine if the floor is level. If the floor isn't level then I can make marks down from my reference line to create a level line with another chalk line. Now I know where shimming or trimming will be required.

Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

Are the corners square?
This is easily accomplished with a standard framing square and allows me to see if I will need to make adjustments. I also need to check the corners to see if they are plumb as many are not.

Studs and blocking?
As there is nothing on the walls yet I need places that I can secure the cabinets to. Putting a couple of screws into a Sheetrock wall won't cut it. If this is a new kitchen then critical blocking should have already been added. However in remodeling projects you'll need to locate and mark the studs so that you have a strong place to attach your cabinets.

Starting the installation.
I do my installations a bit different than many.  Many will add a ledger board at the desired height and install the upper cabinets first while they can get right up against the wall. I start with the base cabinets as this is the system that works for me.

The first cabinet is critical. It has to be installed perfectly in regards to plumb, level and square or every one after it will be off by an increasing amount. At this junction its check, check and re-check until you have fully attached the cabinet to the blocking or studs. Once that is done you can attach, shim, plumb and level the next one. As you move along you will also need to attach the face frames together. Here I clamp the two units together and drill and screw them securely to each other with a finish head trim screw.

Installing the upper cabinets.
The next step for me is to apply the chosen counter top material, which I'm going to gloss over for now.

When that is done I am now ready to use the same techniques as for the base units but with a couple of great jacks.

I have already marked the wall with a level line to show where the base of the unit will be. Now with two of the above jacks in position, I put the cabinet on top of them and with the squeeze handles I can micro adjust it to be exactly where I want it with no real effort. Once it is set in place you just apply the screws and move to the next unit.

The finished project!
Planning and installing kitchen cabinetry takes time but the finished product is well worth it.

27 March 2012

Cookies: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive when bloggers of all stripes weigh in on the same topic in something called a Blog Off. The topic of the current Blog Off is "cookies."


I love shortbread with something that borders on an obsession and I played around with if for years until I perfected a recipe that produces a buttery, somewhat salty, somewhat sweet and perfectly sand textured shortbread. The ingredients couldn't be simpler, the art to this one comes from the perfect oven temperature and time spent therein.

I used to try to make these with a spoon, but they have to be of a uniform thickness or they won't have the right texture. On a lark I bought a cookie gun one year and it yielded the perfect shortbread cookie. Who knew? Some people call them cookie presses, but I call it a cookie gun. It makes me feel more macho that way.

Anyhow, I bought a Wilton Cookie Press (gun! it's a gun!) Pro Ultra 2. It's perfect --plenty of shapes and it's easy to load and clean.

My Ultimate Shortbread


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Whip butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Beat on low for one minute, then on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Drop cookies by spoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Watch  them like a hawk. Pull them out of the oven at precisely 8 minutes or they will scorch. Once they're out of the oven let them cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar while they are still hot if you'd like.

That recipe will make enough shortbread to feed an army but fear not. Take the extras, throw them in a food processor, grind 'em up and make an amazing crust for a cheesecake.


As the day wears on, there will appear below a table of all of the participating bloggers in today's Blog Off. Give 'em a read!

15 March 2012

Introducing Todd Vendituoli

Hello everyone,

My name is Todd Vendituoli and you may have seen me in various places around such as Twitter, Facebook and many other venues. I have been a builder since 1984 and over that period of time I have worked on building new homes, remodeling and commercial renovations. Over the many years there have been vast changes in the construction field resulting from better tools and practices and that continues today. One of the changes that I have been recently pursuing is the area of social media, which I feel very strongly about. Social media is about  the way people reach out to search for information, recommendations and more. It is not a passing fad, and will not be going away. 

Due to the gracious offer by my friend, Paul Anater, I will also be writing here. Now the main focus of Paul's blog is Kitchen and Residential Design so logically that will be my focus as well. I am hoping that I will be able to provide you with additional insight in this area and look forward to your comments and suggestions. 

So to start with I'd like to ask if there are any areas that you would like to see explored or maybe you would like a product installation explained or...  Really I would love to hear from you and what interests you.

Drop a comment below or on one of the other sites or Twitter or Facebook... You get the idea and I'm easy to find.

Lastly I know I shouldn't but I will be speaking at the Coverings Trade Show in Orlando, FL  this April concerning Social Media with some really great people and I would love to see you there.

I have listed the other places that I can be found below and would love to see you there too!

And I can also be found around the web on:

13 March 2012

We, ourselves, have grammar pet peeves: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive when bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic. The current topic is "Grammar pet peeves." Here's my take:

I have too many grammar pet peeves to list, so I'll pull out a few that work my nerves the most. As an intro, I pride myself on my knowledge of the English language. I'm not a grammar purist and I don't correct other people, not any more at least. I love English because it's so flexible and it allows its speakers to take all manner of liberties with its structures and norms. However, in order to break a rule of grammar, one has to know the rule he's breaking and do so intentionally in order to avoid looking like an illiterate clod.

My knowledge of English grammar is a direct result of my studying other languages. I never "got" my mother tongue until I learned how to compare it to other languages. It's a bit of a paradox, but the best way to understand English grammar is to study another language. A good grammar handbook helps too.

I still have my copy of the Little, Brown Handbook from college and I say it's the best guide to English there is. Pick up a copy, it's worth the investment.

On to the pet-peeves. (Yes, I know that's a sentence fragment.)

The first one out of the gate is the blatant misuse of reflexive pronouns. Modern English has eight reflexive pronouns. They are: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves. Reflexive pronouns refer the action of a verb back to the subject of a sentence. A few examples:

I saw myself in the mirror.
You drove yourself crazy.
He worked himself into a frenzy.
She grew that rhubarb herself.

You get the picture. The use of a reflexive pronoun is only correct when it's used in similar ways to the examples above. Reflexive pronouns have to have a verb between them and their antecedents.

I hear reflexive pronouns being massacred all the time and the one that gets beaten up more than the others is the first person singular reflexive pronoun, myself. It's usually misused thus: "I, myself, think that this is the best rhubarb pie I've ever tasted." Wrong, wrong, wrong; and using a reflexive pronoun that way makes the speaker sound like a boob. Don't do it. "I, myself..." doesn't add emphasis in the least; that's why English has adverbs and other parts of speech. "I think this is the best rhubarb pie I've ever tasted." is already making a statement. If you want to drive your point home even further, just add another clause to the end of the sentence. "This is the best rhubarb pie I've ever tasted and I've had some of the best."

Next out of the gate is the misuse of the first person plural pronoun "we." We indicates that the speaker is including other people in the statement he or she is making. For example, "My family and I were on vacation, we went to Paris." See how the first clause of that sentence limited the scope of the second person pronoun in the clause that followed it? It's imperative that a speaker limit the scope of second person pronouns to avoid dragging in innocent bystanders.

Writers from independent blogs to the New York Times misuse that all the time and it goes through me like a knife. When Sarah Palin's not putting her foot in her mouth, she's always making statements like "We're sick of President Obama." Who the hell is we? Please don't include me in your delusions.

If you have an opinion or a statement to make, stick to the first person singular and stand up for yourself. Say "I'm sick of President Obama." Use plural pronouns only with clearly defined groups. If you can't define a group clearly, then use an indefinite article and a noun. Here's an example, "Some people are sick of President Obama." Using an indefinite article in this way is not only correct, it's polite and it's a more accurate description of what's so.

The last one I'll get into here is a disregard to English's subjunctive mood. Modern English has four moods: indicative, imperative, infinitive and subjunctive. I've you've ever studied a Romance language, you know that those languages make ample use of the subjunctive. English reserves it to a handful of uses.

A quick primer:
Indicative is the default mood in English and example is "The dogs are barking."
Imperative is a command, "Don't  just stand there!"
Infinitive mood describes a state of being without referring to a subject directly. Infinitives always have the word "to" in front of them, so a statement such as "He came to see you." is using the infinitive mood.
Subjunctive is a whole other animal and it needs a bit more explanation because it requires a different conjugation.

A verb uses its subjunctive mood when it expresses a condition which is doubtful or not factual. It is most often found in a clause beginning with the word if. It's also found in clauses following a verb that expresses a doubt, a wish, regret, request, demand, or proposal.

The most obvious example is when someone is expressing a thought that's contrary to fact. "If I were a rich man, I wouldn't have to work hard." Collectively, wishes such as this one are called "if clauses." By starting the sentence with "if," the speaker is setting the stage for a statement that's not true.

The subjunctive comes into play in other cases too. If someone asks to you come into his or her office but doesn't specify a time, the correct response would be "Is it necessary that I be there at ten?"

Did you catch that? It's not "Is it necessary that I am there at ten?" Because there's an element of doubt involved in the interaction, the sentence calls the subjunctive mood. In the subjunctive, "I am" becomes "I be."

The subjunctive mood is a lonely thing in modern English and many speakers are all to eager to ignore it. On behalf of the subjunctive mood, I will vouch for the fact that it likes company and it misses the attention it deserves.

English is a remarkably nuanced and flexible language and everyone who speaks it bends it to his or her own will. That's a good thing and I take liberties with it all the time. However, English is a language that's capable of incredible precision. That precision's only possible with a thorough understanding of the many, many rules of English's grammar and the widespread agreement that its speakers abide by the same rules.

I have been studying and trying to master my mother tongue for most of my life and it'll always a work in progress. I'll never have it fully mastered and that's one of the things that makes English so appealing to me. English has as many exceptions as it does rules and I have an incredible respect for anyone who studies it as a second language.

Native speakers have no excuse however. Grammar rules and guidelines are easy to find and though it takes a bit of effort, a facility with English isn't so difficult. If you're someone who writes, speaks or thinks for a living; you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of the Little, Brown Handbook.

Your audience will thank you.

These are my top three and rest assured, there are plenty more. If you're not participating today, what are some of your pet-peeves?


As the day wears on, the other participants in today's Blog Off will appear today in a table. Click on their links and leave a comment.

11 March 2012

Anthroplogie continues to offend

I walked past an Anthropologie store in New Orleans this week and was mortified to see their store windows decked out in some bad reproductions of Mark Rothko's work and they were calling it and their new collection as "Abstract Expressionism."

I can sense that Rothko would have been mortified by not only his being classified as an Abstract Expressionist, let alone being the pivot point of a marketing ploy to sell overpriced, unattractive crap. Rothko was a Russian emigre whose family fled the last gasps of the Czarist pograms as the Bolsheviks conducted a bloody coup over the Romanov autocracy. He and his family barely escaped Russia with their clothes on their backs.

The Rothko family was fortunate to escape while they could and so they ended up in New York and then later moved onto the Pacific Northwest.

The Rothkos (nee Rothkowitz) family suffered mightily. They were poor but they managed to keep it together despite their circumstances. By all accounts, Mark Rothko was brilliant and he ended up at Yale.

In the 1930s he started to paint, and his subjects shifted from the Cubist/ Primitivist styles of his contemporaries to something utterly new. By the time the 1950s rolled around he was breaking new ground with a perspective that came to be called "multiforms." These multiforms were in essence individual photons of light, the smallest part of an artistic vision. Take a look at these paintings and imagine what he was looking at when he painted them.

That imagining is the whole point of Rothko's work. It makes me want to look at the parts that make up everything. No one had ever painted that way before and he pioneered the very thought of a pixel. He was painting in the 1950s something many of us take for granted now.

So what does any of this have to do with Anthropologie? Nothing, that's what. How do the get from this great, thoughtful art to this thing?

This sofa's offensive because it's hideous for starters. It's doubly offensive for its $3200 price tag. What makes it trebly offensive is Anthropologie's attempts to sell this crap off the back of Mark Rothko.

Don't buy into it. An ugly sofa is an ugly sofa, despite the marketing hoo-hah that surrounds it. There is nothing about a sofa with that price tag that harkens back to anything but bad taste. Enough, enough, enough.

I have no problem with $3200 sofas, provided they're well made and look like something other than a trail of cat sick. But asking people to spend that kind of money on a piece of furniture that's purposefully ugly and is being hawked by using one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century is just plain wrong.

What do you think? Would a sofa that looks like this and with this kind of back story ever figure into your home?

Go see this movie

I had the good fortune to see The Artist this week. I can't remember a film that's entertained me and made me think so much at the same time.

The Artist is a joint French and US endeavor and the entire movie is carried by this guy, Jean Dujardin. He deserves every accolade he gets.

Yes it's in black and white and yes, it's for the most part a silent film. However, it has a story to tell that won't quit. In addition to all of that haute film making, it has some great hoofing.

Not bad for a guy who used to be a Parisian general contractor. Would that all the building professionals I know tap danced like this.

Go see this film and if you have seen it already, let me know what you thought of it.

10 March 2012

Notes from New Orleans and the cities of the dead

One of these days I'll get back to writing about kitchen and bath design but in the meantime, I'm going to continue to write about whatever comes to mind. Bear with me. I'll get back to my niche eventually.


I spent a good part of last week visiting some long-term friends (Kevin Smith and Brandon Bergman) in their new hometown, New Orleans.

While the rest of the world thinks of New Orleans in terms of Bourbon Street and the shenanigans that accompany Mardi Gras; or the horrors it suffered when the infrustructure failed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; there is much more to that city. It's a place that doesn't feel like the rest of the United States, and the city's conventions and norms make it unlike anywhere else. New Orleans feels like a place without a time or a country and it serves as pressure valve for the world.

I have a number of friends who've moved there over the course of the last four years from Florida. Collectively, I refer to them as economic refugees. People who moved to New Orleans to seek their futures as the city rebuilds itself in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans is back in a very big way and it's a real thrill to watch my friends there riding the wave of the Crescent City's rebirth; FEMA, BP and the Army Corps of Engineers be damned.

Rebirth isn't really the right word though. New Orleans has been through the mill since its founding in the early 1700s as La Nouvelle-OrlĂ©ans. The city passed from French to Spanish and then back to French hands before it became part of the US. Huge amounts of that pre-US infrastructure still exist and it's impossible when in the heart of the city to keep an accurate count of the 18th-Century structures that are still in day to day use.

Beyond its architecture, the culture of New Orleans stands apart from the rest of the US. While it's a thoroughly American city, it retains a feel for its founding cultures that the rest of the US has lost utterly. One of the things that amazes me more than just about anything is its numerous "Cities of the Dead," as cemeteries are known.

I had the pleasure to spend a leisurely afternoon this week in Lafayette #1, one of New Orleans' cemeteries in the city's Garden District. Lafayette #1 was established in 1833 and is a perfect example of how the City has sent her residents to their final repose since the city's beginnings.

Unique in the United States, New Orleans disposes of its dead in above-ground crypts rather than burying them. The going story is that the crypts are a function of the city's low topography but that's not really true. It's as much a throwback to its Continental roots and the reality of its lack of space as anything.

The crypts of New Orleans, like everything else about the place, have an interesting story to tell.

Crypts are owned by families or organizations and the crypts sit on leased land.

When someone dies, he or she is placed on the shelf shown here and the crypt is then sealed.

After a year and a day, the crypt keeper opens the crypt and with a ten-foot pole, pushes the remains to the back of the shelf. At the back of the shelf there's a slit and the remains fall through that slit and drop to the bottom of the crypt. The crypt is now ready for the next family death and it's re-sealed. According to the lore of New Orleans, this is the origin of the expression, "I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole."

On All Soul's Day every year, the people of New Orleans lay tribute in front of these crypts in the form of flowers, beads and other mementos. It's a touching gesture of respect of the deceased.

Not all crypts are owned by families. Some are owned by fraternal organizations or charities. While at Lafayette #1, I came across a large crypt owned by the Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys, an organization that still exists in New Orleans.

In the most touching example of an already touching practice, the ledge on the face of the crypt was filled to overflowing with toys.

New Orleans is an amazing city and one with a legacy it's all to willing to share with anyone who asks. So head there some time and ask.