The Case of the Kitchen Barrel Nuts

Saturday afternoon, cloudy and cool. The television was on mute, set to a NASCAR race, and the future of my newly launched marriage hung in the balance over seven barrel nuts.

Several hours and seven barrel nuts later, a beautiful kitchen cabinet. (Kim O'Donnel)

In most every partnership, there's an Alpha persona of the handyman variety; in this relationship, there is no such superhero. We both lack the handy-man gene.

The Case of The Seven Barrel Nuts involves one newly arrived "assembly-required" kitchen cabinet from Crate & Barrel. After assessing the dreary state of a slowly collapsing cookbook-jammed bookcase and acknowledging the lack of space for any of the lovely kitchen-esque wedding gifts parked under the dining table, I knew I had to act.

In the midst of the excitement over my purchase, however, I ignored the fact that we newlyweds solved everything like a crossword puzzle - and that skill, although great, may not bode well in the fix-it world.

To start things off on a jovial note, I offered to make rum cocktails, an idea that was received well. As I played mixologist, he got to work on attaching the first few pieces, which seemed to cooperate.

Cookbooks without a proper home. (Kim O'Donnel)

But then our luck changed for the worse, raining on our DIY- fix-it picnic.

"The instructions say seven barrel nuts, but there are only three holes for barrel nuts," he said.

"Well, what about these other holes?" I inquired, trying to be helpful, ice cubes clinking in my rocks glass.

"No dear," he replied (Are those clenched teeth I see?). "Barrel nuts need to work in tandem, at right angles."

After much debate over which end is the top, and scrutiny over the many holes fit for dowels, screws and other hardware, I began to hear growling noises that sounded like the beginning of a cat fight. It was him.

Gently, I suggested that we call the 1-800 customer service number, which at first, was met with a scowl, then a sigh. "Oh, alright, but YOU call them."

"Well, what do I say is wrong?" I replied. "You're the one who knows so much about barrel nuts."

A few audible huffs later, he dialed the number and got through to customer service land. While on hold, he began to unscrew what he had started and in doing so, solved the mystery.

"I put these two pieces on backwards," he said, quietly, head down.

And then, everything made sense, and as a team, we put the thing together. Two hours later, we crossword puzzlers had solved this puzzle, exhausted and definitely ready for another rum cocktail.

While he blissed out to an episode of "The Simpsons," I began to fill the shelves of my new toy with plates, glassware and serving dishes in need of a shelter.

Still, there were piles of cookbooks on the kitchen floor, asking for a home, too. I plopped them atop the sparkling new cabinet and took a sip of my drink.

Tomorrow is another day, right?

Share your kitchen fix-it stories in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 26, 2007; 1:58 PM ET Kitchen Musings , Relationships
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Wow--Mr Groom reads instructions? I wish my beloved did, but that's usually my job. I like the idea of rum cocktails before starting a project. That may have made the stripping of the bathroom wallpaper (that won't all come off) project this weekend go a little more pleasantly!

Posted by: rmh | March 26, 2007 2:20 PM

Cute.. but back to cooking blog tomorrow?

Posted by: SSMD | March 26, 2007 2:37 PM

The TV was also tuned to NCAA hoops, also on mute (as the sound of sporting events is banned in Kim's house).

I blame the rum on the barrel nuts...

Posted by: Mr. Groom | March 26, 2007 3:53 PM

One time my husband and I put a bed frame together 3 different ways BEFORE hitting on the correct configuration. He is the handy one, and I kept installing nuts and bolts and corner blocks both upside down and backwards when he wasn't looking. I was relegated to nurse duty and just handed over whatever he asked for from the toolbox. we kept our tempers without the rum cocktails, but they couldn't have hurt.

Posted by: Alex | March 26, 2007 4:08 PM

there was the time about 30 years ago that my husband and I tried to wallpaper the kitchen; neither of us had put up wallpaper before. After many "discussions" about how to cut, match and paste, it got to the point that around midnight, we had the spectacle of two college graduates arguing about how to add up yards, feet and inches. We're coming up on our 35th anniversary; I think we've made it that long because we've never again tried to wallpaper a room together.

Posted by: remodeler | March 26, 2007 4:22 PM

My fiance is the handy one around the house, and it is so wonderful to be able to let him handy it up and act macho and fix things, because I honestly don't have a clue. We are both equally clueless, however, when it comes to cars...

May we have a recipe for the rum cocktails?

Posted by: Un-handy | March 26, 2007 4:24 PM

I CAN'T BELIEVE you busted your new hubby on this blog!!!!

Mr's a good think she's not writing about your "other faults."

Posted by: A semi-handyperson | March 26, 2007 5:10 PM

We usually run into trouble when the directons go unread. As a recent example DH and FIL were reversing the door on the new refridgerator and ended up with an extra piecie. FIL and MIL decided we didn't need ti DH and I decieded we would look at the directions and fix after they left. Before they left we learned that the extra piece kept the door from opening all the way. So the refridgerator has a little dent where it banged into itself. Lesson One - manufactures do not spend money making "extra" pieces. Lesson Two - projects are best done when I read the directions and hand over the pieces and he does the work.

Luckily the manufacturer of the tricycle DS got for Christmas realized that people don't read directions and did pack an extra piece, since if you did it wrong the first time the piece was no longer usable.

Posted by: late to the party | March 26, 2007 5:50 PM

putting together furniture and not divorcing is the hallmakr of your first months together - if you haven't already, you will laugh about it later - and add one more to the many fun memories of your newlywed year!

Posted by: CA | March 26, 2007 6:07 PM

Thank God for alcoholic beverages! Next time you try to put something together, have a few drinks before assembly.

Posted by: Easy Steps | March 26, 2007 7:18 PM

Hey Mister Groom, isn't it also your house now? You must educate your beloved in the excitement that is the NCAA men's hoops tournament. Muted is ok but it's much better with sound. Although, I will allow as how I would surely advise my husband to not try to watch hoops while assembling furniture, as he, too, lacks that special gene.

I was waiting for Kim to share the recipe for the "rum cocktail"! Can you be more specific, please? Thanks!

Posted by: Meg in PA | March 27, 2007 11:28 AM

Hi Kim,
Unfortunately, I have no "kitchen fix-it" stories to post other than try to get referrals for a local handyman. (It has worked for me) Nevertheless, I want to send kudos to you on your beautiful blog on the Marble Cake! What a wonderful tribute to Hilton, who happens to be my oldest brother. I would love to meet you and further express my heartfelt appreciation for our mutual sentiments for this great man! If possible, you can contact me at Thanks again for sharing and lifting my heart in the loss of my dearly beloved brother!

Posted by: Cynthia | March 29, 2007 7:40 PM

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