Monday, July 03, 2006


Yes, it's time for some kitchen quittin'. This officially closes the blog. I hope you have enjoyed following along with the ups and downs of our renovation.

This picture really says it all about what the renovation has meant for our house and our family. When A.J. was a baby and I was struggling with trying to do everything and be everything to everybody (to be honest, these are challenges I still face every day and without a lot of success), people would say, "Oh, just let him play on the floor while you cook! Let him bang on the pots and pans!" In our old kitchen, that was flat-out impossible. Now everything and everyone has a spot in what is truly the heart of the house.

Our only real complaint at this time is that the rest of the house is even shabbier in comparison, but don't expecting another renovation blog anytime soon.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Is it time to quit the kitchen blog?

Just wondering.

(I could possibly rename it Quittin' Bitchin'.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Good to the last drop

The most obvious change in our family from having the new kitchen is that baking projects are much easier. A.J. was game about cracking eggs but soon retired to the table to lick the bowl.

There are just a few little things that still need to be done in the kitchen -- air vents installed, tip-down to go under the sink, a few bits of hardware to put on, and the wardrobe doors replaced. So unless my readers want updates such as, "I used the left rear burner today!" ... the usefulness of this blog may be severely compromised by the end of the renovation.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not what the Culligan Man had in mind.

The Culligan water purifier is the ideal spout for filling water balloons.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

These cookies made possible by the new kitchen.

I totally brought this on myself, but these cookies became an all-day project, beginning with a 9 a.m. e-mail exchange with A.J.'s teacher regarding summer-birthday celebrations and ending with packing them up at 11 p.m.

Certainly, I could have gone with cupcakes, or even bought cookies or doughnuts, but I saw this after Googling "fish cookies" and became a woman possessed. Even though I didn't even attempt to do anything as elaborate as what I saw there, I knew I had to have a go at my own version -- never mind that I'd never made glazed cookies before. (I used this shiny glaze recipe, also found via Google. The cookie was from a Land O' Lakes cookbook that now lives conveniently in my kitchen desk cupboard.)

I must give credit where credit is due: This endeavor would not have been possible in the old kitchen. As it was, I had ever work surface covered with various stages of this project, as well as dinner preparations (this is where the double oven came in very handy). In the new kitchen, both prep and clean-up were easy and logical, thereby opening the door for more all-too-involved projects in the future. I'm incredibly proud of the final product and just hope they made it to school (via the bus) intact, and that my role as first-grade Alpha Mom is secure for the time being.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dinner Done!

All right -- I know this isn't really about the new kitchen. But it is kitchen-related, so I'm posting it here.

For a while I'd been hearing about "make-and-take" places, where you pay to assemble dinners for future use. When John's co-workers started raving about a place in the area, he encouraged me to check it out, so last night I did.

I spent 2 1/2 hours going from station to station, making everything from rubbed chops to lasagna to Italian chicken to stuffed flank steak. The photo shows the spoils of my labor: Twelve fully-prepared meals that will serve four to six adults apiece (some are subdivided for our smaller family and picky little ones), all ready to pop in the oven or throw on the grill.

If I'd tried this when we still had the old kitchen, I would have returned home only to tear the cabinetry and appliances out of the walls myself because it was such a pleasure having perfectly designed and stocked workspaces. Although I love to cook, I rarely did anything elaborate in the old kitchen for lack of workable space; the new kitchen is perfect but I haven't had time to really dig into a big project yet.

Dinner Done takes care of everything but the actual assembly. Every workstation has detailed instructions for each particular recipe, as well as suggested changes to make items more kid-friendly. Every ingredient had its own "spoodle" (a combo spoon/ladle) in the correct measurement for the recipe, and every spice/seasoning was set out within easy reach. If anything was missing, a staff member would silently appear to provide or replenish it. Once completed, the only thing left to do was seal up the packages, stick a label with cooking instructions on it, and put it into my own designated shelf in the giant freezer.

To someone who really enjoys food and cooking, this set-up is Nirvana. I kept comparing it to junior-high cooking class -- albeit without the boys throwing spaghetti onto the refrigerator -- and a fancy-schmancy restaurant prep counter job. Out of thyme? More is right here. Don't want to handle raw meat? The gloves are right in front of you. Need a fresh bowl? Here it comes -- and the old one is simply whisked away for someone else to wash.

The only problem I encountered at Dinner Done was the popularity of two kid-friendly recipe stations. I'd signed up for two each of these particular dishes, and every time I scoped out their stations, they were occupied, with someone waiting behind. Since this kind of place is designed for busy families with young kids, it should have come as no surprise that chicken fingers and cordon-bleu puff pastry triangles would be in great demand, but as the session drew to a close I still hadn't gotten close to those stations. I did convince the staff to allow me to substitute one portion for another station I hadn't signed up for (stuffed flank steak), but even so I was scrambling to finish once the alpha moms finally cleared out of the popular places. As I was frantically forking my puff-pastry closed before heading to chicken fingers, a staff member offered to make the chicken fingers for me. "No!" I said, a little too loudly. Then, apologetically, I explained that I really enjoyed doing the recipes myself, and I'll be fast, I promise. And I was.

I left with all of the freezer containers above stuffed into a giant cooler. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll go through everything -- and if the food tastes as good as it was as much fun to prepare, I'll be returning to Dinner Done for another session. But next time, I'm going to plow down all the skinny, blonde alpha moms in their pink Capris and big diamonds and make the chicken fingers first.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Before and after: The door that is no more

We don't miss the door at all.

Before and after: By the door

Never underestimate the glory of not having a range behind the door.

Before and after: Sink area

Note: Tip-down drawers and hardware will be installed very soon.

I just noticed that I have sippy cups in exactly the same place in both photos. Such is my life.


Beep. Beep. Beep: My refrigerator alerts me if I leave one of the doors ajar.

: The microwave reminds me if cooking time is over, and I've left something inside of it.

: "I'm preheated!" reports the oven, in its special oven language.

Minutes to go in the dishwashing cycle? "47!" reads the display on the dishwasher. In case I'm hoping to use a certain sippy cup in 46 minutes, I guess.

For what we paid for this kitchen, I'm pretty happy that it's smarter than I am.

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