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It Only Took Two and a Half Years

Two and a half years ago, I posted about painting the white ‘cracks’ of my cabinet doors. Yesterday, while doing some baking, I finally finished the last of them.
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Now every cabinet door and drawer is solid orange.
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I can’t tell you how good it felt to finally cross that off my master to-do list.  Also, the apple strudel that I baked was super delish and I’ll be back later in the week with the recipe.  Right now I’m just going to hang-out in my kitchen and admire my lovely doors.
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Did you accomplish anything on your to-do list this weekend or was it nice and relaxing? Share!

New Curtains

Falling well within the category of function over form, I purchased these RITVA curtains from IKEA a couple of weeks ago. At $24.99, they’re a good price for a pair of full-length decent weight curtains.
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We’ve had other IKEA curtains hanging in our bedroom for the last four years and they have been great. The only drawback to them is their sheerness, which allows the early morning sun to stream through. I’m such a light sleeper and awaken at the crack of dawn if there isn’t anything to block the light.
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These RITVA curtains have helped immensely but I don’t really like how they look. I think I need some blinds behind them to balance things out and further block to the light but everything we do around here is one step at a time. J, however, loves them and thinks they’re perfect but that might be his way of distracting me from spending more money.
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At any rate, they’re doing their intended job and they look okay. It’s hard to balance the desire for form over function, though. It seems like there’s been a lot of functional compromise going on in our house lately and I’m feeling itchy to let my creative side take over.

Do you ever get tired of compromising with function over form or do you hold fast to your aesthetic? Please share!

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck When it Comes to Kitchen Knives

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Lately, J has been doing most of the cooking in our house. I have been swamped with work and not only has he had more time on his hands,  he has taken this opportunity to expand his culinary skills.  He has read, watched and learned an immense amount over the past six months and really stepped-up his game when it comes to cooking.  Consequently, we have been the lucky recipients of some amazing meals.  During our kitchen overhaul, J bought a few new knives and wants to share his findings with you.  Not only has he found an economic solution, it’s a superior one at that.

J here: I ❤ Chinese chef knives. No longer shall I daydream of owning an $800+ set of German Wüsthof knives when only two or three of these babies will perform just as well or better at a tiny fraction of the cost. I only paid $41 for these three knives including a sharpening stone (+ ~$15 for shipping) and I’ve barely touched my $275 set of Anolons in weeks. No, I’m not crazy. I have my reasons:

Control – Even though they appear large and unwieldy, a little time & practice with them will prove how nimble these are. Since they are a sizable weighty hunk of metal they will do most of the work if they’re sharp enough. No need to force downward pressure on the blade because they just glide through nearly everything with little effort. It’s important to place your index finger on the side of the blade rather than holding it with a full grip like a hatchet. Watch chef Martin Yan give a tutorial and show off his sublime skillz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV8FPk5qN9k

Safety – With a big rectangular cleaver I know where all of the knife is at all times. I’m never going to get caught by a stray tip because the knife turned. With a normal knife as I put my knuckle parallel I can’t lift the blade too high or I could cut myself but if I lift my finger too high it will be over the top of the spine. With the cleaver the sky is the limit as to how far I can lift. I raise my knuckle just above the food and I have ~4 inches of leeway before my knuckle is over or under the knife.

Value – When your knife only costs $10 it’s hard to worry too much about destroying it. Two of these knives are stainless steel which require very little maintenance. The one on the bottom is made of carbon steel which will practically rust in your kitchen when it’s raining outside (not really). Clean it immediately after using, then wipe it COMPLETELY dry. Wipe a few drops of cooking oil on it to inhibit rust. The advantage of carbon steel is how wickedly sharp it can be, while the stainless are a bit tougher to keep a super sharp edge on. if your carbon gets a little spotty just rub some Barkeeper’s Friend on it to take off the rust. Good as new. It’s very similar to cast iron cookware which is also an incredible value. If somehow I lost all my worldy possessions and had to start over, a couple Chinese chef knives and a cast iron skillet would be among the first purchases I’d make. Of course you can spend $40 or even $400 on a Chinese chef knife. If you got it flaunt it.

Bad-assedness – These things just look the business. Not only could I scare off any solicitors or Jehovah’s Witnesses answering the door with one of these in hand, but they just look so bad ass hanging in my kitchen on a magnetic strip. I also feel like I’m in a kung fu movie or something when I’m only chopping onions to feed the family.

The three knives have different functions. The thickest cleaver at the top is for heavy duty bone chopping. The middle one for cutting thicker items like pineapples and hard root vegetables. The carbon steel knife is for ultra thin slices of veggies or boneless meats.

Here’s where you can buy 2/3 of these knives and a sharpening stone.

• The thick meat cleaver I bought at a local Asian grocery store for $13 and there was only one left. You can buy a similar one here: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/meatcleaver.html

• The middle stainless knife is a Winco KC-101 I bought on Amazon for $10: http://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Cleaver-Wooden-Handle-2-Inch/dp/B003HESNR8

• The carbon steel veggie knife was purchased online from the Wok Shop in San Francisco: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/vegcleav.html

Make sure you buy the large sharpening stone too: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/sharston.html

Here’s a video on how to sharpen them. Make sure you soak your whetstone first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIycmyzrcF0
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So that’s J’s take on these knives. I want you to focus on that magnetic knife strip.  That’s where I come into the picture.  A couple of weeks ago I was shopping with one of my BFF’s and we hit the Kitchen Collection store in an outlet.  I had printed a 20% off one item coupon before I left because I knew I was going after a particular magnetic knife strip. It was marked at $13.99 online but when I got to the store, the tag was marked $11.99 and I ended-up getting it for $10.31 with the coupon and sales tax.  After that we headed to a new casino that had opened a few miles away where they were giving out $15.00 in “free play”.  Now, make no mistake, I am too cheap to be a real gambler but if they want to give me $15.00 to play with, I will.  I managed to make $12.41 real money on my “free play”, so it paid for my knife strip with a couple of bucks to spare.  As J mentioned above, all-in-all, this knife upgrade has cost us $41.00.  Along with our $9.99 IKEA cutting board, we have certainly enhanced our kitchen.
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What about you?  How do you get the most bang for your buck in the kitchen? Any good tips to share?

Weekend Uploader at RR

The uploader is on over at Retro Renovation!  Stop on over and see the fabulousness.

Dreaming of a Special Place

At the start of every spring I start dreaming of some special little spot in the backyard where I can hide and read. So far it hasn’t happened (especially since there’s still snow on the ground and it’s 11 degrees outside), but when I spotted this little Bohemian trailer on Apartment Therapy over the weekend, I knew I’d found the perfect thing. I even went so far as to see if there were any trailers listed in the ‘free’ section of Craigslist, but nothing so far. Isn’t this place amazing? What a great escape!
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Compromise

I’ve had my eye on this Bissa shoe cabinet from IKEA for quite some time. I want to put it next to the front door to collect all the shoes that end-up on the floor. Now that it’s winter, we have a large collection of boots overflowing the boot tray I purchased a few years back and melting snow is a big problem with our wood floors. Plus, I’ve been wanting to give that area a “landing zone” since we don’t have a true entry and thought it would be nice to put a basket or bowl on top to catch J’s wallet, cell phone, etc. I showed it to J, who was less than enthused and pointed out that putting snowy boots in a shoe cabinet might not be ideal. (Sigh. Always, Mr. Practical but he’s my Mr. Practical and that’s one of the many reasons I’m madly in love with him.) Still, we were near IKEA last weekend and stopped in to take a look.
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Our son N was with us (his sister had ditched us for parts of IKEA unknown because that’s what teenagers do) and I showed him the cabinet. He was super impressed and actually liked the pull-down fronts of the cabinet. He even told me it was “pretty”, so I ask him if Mama buys one will he use it for his shoes and the kid looks me dead in the eye and says “probably not”. J, of course, starts snort-laughing in that ‘told you so’ kind of way, so we move-on to the textiles. J and N disappear for a few minutes while I  peruse pillows that I don’t need and return with a sisal doormat.
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J hands me the doormat and tells me that he’s found the answer to our problem. We’ll just use it in place of the boot tray and the rubber backing will catch any melting snow. It’s big enough to hold all of our shoes and boots and the kids will actually use it. “But”, I sputter, “it’s ugly and not at all what I envision for that area”. J, in his infinite patient wisdom says “yes, but what’s really important? What are we really trying to accomplish? We’re trying to protect the floor and have enough space for everyone’s footwear. I think this fits the bill and it’s cheaper than the shoe cabinet. Plus, it doesn’t have to be forever, so that gives us time to find a better permanent solution.” Fine. Compromise. Sold.
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As it turns out, there’s even room for the cat. Plus, the boots are ending-up on the mat and there have been no more water on the floor issues. I have been contemplating buying one of the shoe cabinets for the warmer months and swapping it with the mat for colder months but that might be a bit excessive. Who knows if the kids would use it for their flip-flops anymore than they would for boots? I would probably just end-up with a pile of sandals next to the cabinet because J’s right. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of our fantasies, though, you know?

So what about you? What have you had to compromise on in order to meet your more realistic needs? (I’m still not giving up on my dreams of an organized and stylish entry!)

The Kitchen is Still the Heart of our Home

After J hung the shelves over the prep table, I “styled” them. I don’t have that special knack for artfully arranging things that so many others seem to possess. It takes me a few times to get something that’s balanced and pleasing to the eye. These shelves are also supposed to be useful so I don’t want them to be cluttered with a lot of useless bits and object d’art. My first attempt had a lot going on.
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After living with it for a few weeks, I knew that the bright yellow painting my daughter made me had to be relocated because it just didn’t flow with the kitchen. The turquoise boxes for J’s fancy tasting spoons really popped against everything else so I took everything down and started over. I moved the painting to the master bedroom and found a dark basket in which to hide the spoon boxes.  I also moved the other items around so now things look a little less cluttered and a lot more cohesive. Here’s what I have now.
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Here’s the painting in our bedroom where I can see it every morning when I wake-up.
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It works with the yellow “highlights” I already have in the room and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of moving it there before.

Slowly, but surely, J and I are moving toward our shared vision of our “dream kitchen”.
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In fact, we got a second opinion on the gas cooktop and it’s now installed! There’s still an issue with moving the regulator so the drawer can fully go back in and as soon as it’s finished, I’ll post some pictures. I’m thrilled that we didn’t have to get a different cooktop or have to re-sell the one we’d already purchased. At this point, the drawer is a minor issue which can (hopefully) be easily remedied. There are still a few  other things we want to do:

1. Replace the double sink with a single bowl.

2. Replace the faucet with a higher arched model for filling large pots and buckets.

3. Have the garbage disposal removed.  It’s old, rusting and leaking.  We thought about replacing it but since we’re on a septic system, we don’t put any food scraps down our sink anyway.  After much research, we’ve decided to get rid of it altogether and get the pipe replaced under the sink.

4.  Install a couple of magnetic knife strips for our butcher knives.

5.  Fill the existing holes in the mortar of our brick wall and install some hooks for our cast iron skillets.

6.  Buy two more LÄMPLIG chopping boards for the counter.  We bought one about a month ago and it is awesome.  A great value at $9.99.

This kitchen has been on an almost four- year journey of discovery and is finally feeling comfortable in its own skin.  I’ve loved the kitchen since the moment I saw it and, while it’s evolved quite a bit from my original interpretation, I’m still trying to honor the home’s ‘bones’.  I hope the house likes it.

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