If someone questioned our sanity right now, I wouldn’t blame them. About a month ago, Jan and I began a serious home-improvement project. Fed up with carpet and linoleum that didn’t stand up to our frequent entertaining and furniture re-arranging, we opted for one of the most durable and low maintenance flooring surfaces we could find: porcelain tile. With the goal to replace all the floors in our house with beautiful 18”x18” tiles, we began in the living room/hallway/dining room, since all the other rooms in the house branched from that central axis.
Gung-ho to complete the project ourselves, we delved right in, and since Jan had installed tile before and I’d installed laminate flooring, we had great confidence in our ability to get it done quickly and efficiently.
The tiling was a lot more work than we’d anticipated, and a month into the project, it still feels like we’ve only just begun. We started with enthusiasm, but after working at our jobs all day, it was difficult to get motivated to come home only to do some seriously strenuous physical labor. In addition, as I’m sure many can relate, working harmoniously on a DIY project with your significant other is one of the biggest challenges a person can undertake. While well-meaning friends shared statistics in jest about DIY projects being a contributing factor in many a divorce, I started to wonder if there was more merit to the numbers than I’d previously thought.
Choices, choices, choices. Tile, or relax? Spend the evenings and weekends happy and peaceful, or engaged in a heated debate over the “levelness” of one particular tile? The project didn’t always win out.
But sometimes the only way to get things done is with a deadline, and we definitely had one looming. Hosting a big celebration for St. Patrick’s Day has started to become a tradition at our house. Right around this time, Jan gets excited and antsy, scanning the grocery store ads for the exact moment when corned beef goes on sale for $1/pound. Last year, Jan cooked 10 pounds of corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, and last week, he came home with 33 pounds of corned beef ($.99/lb at Fresh and Easy, and with the “Limit 2 per customer” difficult to enforce at a store that only employs self checkout lines, Jan may have gone overboard.)
With guests expected to help eat the corned beef, I knew we couldn’t welcome them into a halfway-tiled space they had to tiptoe over. The corned beef would make us finish, whether we wanted to or not.
Corned beef and cabbage used to be one of those things I liked to have once a year, and once a year only. You wouldn’t catch me thinking, hmm, I’m craving corned beef and cabbage for dinner (like Jan does). But it might be one of those dishes that grow on you. I’m starting to think I could have it about twice a year and be OK.
Good thing too, since Jan was so excited to celebrate, he decided to do a test run of the corned beef and cabbage. Besides, it was a welcome break from tiling, and with our approaching deadline, we were actually making good progress. We opened up one of the packages and after trimming off as much fat as we could, cooked according to the package directions using the included spice packet. The general rule is to cook for one hour per pound, adding the cabbage and potatoes in the last half hour of cooking.
To wash it all down, we made Black and Tans, using Guinness Draught and Harp Lager. To prepare, we filled the glasses about 1/2 of the way with the light colored beer (Harp Lager), then poured the dark beer (Guinness Draught) over an upside-down spoon to fill the remainder of the glass without splashing and mixing the two layers.
We sat together in the hallway (dining table moved there in order to tile the floor of the dining room), eating our corned beef, sipping the beer, and admiring our newly laid tile.
“It looks so good, I think it was worth it,” Jan said. I gave him a sideways glance. “Worth the amount of work, and worth almost getting divorced,” he said with a smile.
I had to agree with him. It did look great. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. Apparently we agreed on more things than we thought, including that the corned beef and cabbage was delicious.
While we might have only completed a fraction of our big project, and probably won’t lay another tile for another six months, we’ve got everything we need: a completed dining room, a completed living room, and 31 pounds of corned beef.