Renovation, Weeks 6-8: Update and Wait

When I walk into the kitchen, I hear crickets. Ok, not real crickets, just the metaphorical ones. Which is good, considering that in Week Five we had issues with really undesirable creatures in the house. But I hear the crickets like the humor in movies when it’s so quiet and nothing is moving that the moon is staring at you so brightly that you have to look away.

Freaking crickets.

The cabinets are in-- but still TOPLESS!

The cabinets are in– but TOPLESS!

I should back up and cheer before I complain. In Week Six, the cabinets were installed. Can I get a “hell yeah” from the crowd?! (hell. yeah.) Thanks. Finally, real progress. They are beautiful and clean and I am amazed how easy it looks but how many excrutiating, intricate details are necessary to make it all look just right. (LUCAS- IF YOU READ THIS, YOU ARE AMAZING.)

Cabinetry is like wizardry, but without the cool hat.

Shortly after the cabinets were hung by the sink with care (yes, St. Nicholas had recently been there), Carolina Custom Surfaces came to take the measurements for my countertops. They used some of the coolest technology and gadgets that I’ve ever seen– again, wizardry! Freaking laser beams to measure the space, the angles, the cuts. I don’t mean to overestimate here, but I am anticipating sheer perfection from this process.

We expanded the small pantry space and added drawers and doors. I love the easy access now!

We expanded the small pantry space and added drawers and doors. I love the easy access now!

And then the crickets. Oh, the pain in waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. And waiting. I know that the countertop template process has me believing in perfection, so I should wait patiently. This is not an unusual or even unanticipated wait time (especially considering these three weeks include the New Year holiday), but patience is not a virtue I possess.  What do I possess– a cell phone. And yes, I’ve called to check on the progress, my scheduled appointment time, called back to see if materials arrived, and reconfirmed the appointment time. (Thank you, calm, caring staff at Carolina Custom Surfaces, for handling my crazy. Because it’s out in rare form right now and you are on the receiving end of the line.)

So I quiet the crickets by playing really loud music in the kitchen and share my cooking adventures with you instead. (Are you following me on Facebook and Instagram?!) I’ve made two batches of Crock Pot French Onion Soup. I’ve shared my passion for Korean cooking by making kim bap rolls (very much like sushi but so much better!).  We’ve had sandwiches and cereal and easy-peasy mac and cheesy and all those other go to foods that don’t require any prep.

Three weeks of updates, all wrapped into one post. I hope you are enjoying my adventure and my crazy.  Be sure to check back next week and see what the final week of install brings!

#nokitchennoproblem Right?!

Cool Tools

I’ve been playing with a bunch of new kitchen tools and wanted to share them with you. PROS– they do exactly what I need them to accomplish. CONS– they really only do one trick each, so it’s annoying to try and store them all in an organized way. But seriously– I love kitchen gadgets! And if it’s something that makes what I do easier?! That’s a total win.

I’ve been particularly interested lately in cool tools that my kids can use, too. I worry that they are so spoiled by home-cooking that I have totally ruined them to someday become functional adults and helpful spouses. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I want them to appreciate and enjoy what I cook for them and also be able to cook for themselves.

So here is a short list and some links for my favorite new purchases:

Pro-Apple Peeler. This gadget suctions to your countertop and easily swirls around pretty much any size apple. I’ve even used it for redskin potatoes! My kids can set it up and use it, no problem. They are funny– one kid likes apple skins and then other likes peeled apples– this machine deserves applause in our house.


The Hands-Free Baggie-Rack is pure genius. I don’t know about you, but I do most of my cooking by myself. When I want to bag up ingredients, especially soups, it is so hard! I like to freeze broth-based soups in plastic bags because I can fill the bag and lay it flat in the freezer; when they are frozen solid, I can stand them up like books on a bookshelf. I also use this when I make hard-boiled eggs. I like to peel all the eggs at once and then store them in a bag instead of a plastic container.


I use my Immersion Hand Blender at least a couple times a week. We use it for smoothies, creamy soups, mashed potatoes, pancakes and just about anything else that needs to be smooth. It is so much less cleanup than using a full blender or stand-up mixer. I want less fuss and more doing with pretty much anything I am using. Don’t you?!


I’ve posted a couple recipes recently that suggest using a rack, or trivet, in the crock pot to keep the meat elevated from the liquid. I used in my Crock Pot Pork and Prunes and I also use it when I roast a whole chicken!


Sometimes I like to read cookbooks for inspiration or to learn a new approach about putting foods together, so I have two recommendations for you. They are COMPLETE OPPOSITES, but both worthy reads.

I have been reading Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck and literally cracking up laughing out loud. It is crass and mouthy and absolutely real life. The entire cookbook is meat-free (not my typical style) because they want to motivate cleaner eating and while you may be asking “hold the f*ck up, where the meat?” they assume that “the last thing anybody needs in another book coming out telling you how to cook meat. Clearly you got that sh*t on lock”.  This book is entertainment and amazing recipes and here’s the kicker– it teaches you HOW to cook, not just giving instructions and ingredients. You’ll find yourself not only reading it for fun, but learning that “eating real, healthy food” doesn’t need to be “a big f*cking deal”.

I’ve also been learning how to Eat Happy. This book is the recipe for a healthy life. It doesn’t have the glossy pictures that you might anticipate in a cookbook, but has great explanations and education about what we should eat and why. It does have a great section of 50+ recipes with new ideas like buckwheat crepes (yum!) and bison meatloaf.  The lessons in this book are helpful– I feel empowered to move away from any processed foods and pick foods based on their benefits, not just their taste.  As the author states, “unfortunately for your health, the actions that are best for corporate profitability are all too often the worst for your health”. I want to focus on keeping me, as in MY BODY, in business– it’s the best investment I can make.


So there you go– a few of my favorite things that I’ve added to my kitchen. I’m learning more and more everyday about what works, what doesn’t, and what helps me in the kitchen. Eating well and feeding others should be about food that tastes good, is good for you, and doesn’t destroy your kitchen in the process of making it! Get a few cool tools and get organized. Let’s go!


My Favorite Gadgets

Forget that Mary Poppins crap, my favorite things have nothing to do with rainbows or kittens. In every room of my house, I’ve been known to simplify, down-size, update or re-organize. But my kitchen (insert content sigh here!) it’s full of cutesie, single purpose items, that coordinate, decorate or accentuate my meals. I LOVE kitchen gadgets.

My kitchen is organized by purpose and size and I can always find what I’m looking for, so I don’t think it’s cluttered or compromised by my collection (and no, I’m not just in denial!). As I look around this haven, I thought it would be fun to write out my favorites for you and give you the chance to add them to your own collection. Think about the foods that you make, the entertaining you do and the ways that you can add a little flare to your flavors.

In no particular order, these are the Top 10, but they are ALL favorites in my kitchen:

Silicone Rolling Pin1. Silicone Baker’s Pin: When you roll out dough with this pin, you can feel the thickness better than using a traditional rolling pin. It also is easy to clean and isn’t porous like wood.  The downside is that it’s unusual in size and hard to store, but the pretty red exterior makes it fun to leave out too. It also doubles as a lethal weapon against anyone that wants to bad talk your cooking.

Cheese Slicer2. Cheese Slicer: I fell in love with this cutting board while having a 3 am snack with a close friend, during her eighth month of pregnancy. Halfway through our second brick of sharp cheddar, I realized that the design and convenience were both top notch. It makes great sense to have a slicer attached to a cutting board and it comes with replacement wires so your cheesiness can last forever.

OXO Kitchen Scissors3. OXO Kitchen Scissors: I use these more than once a day, no joke. At breakfast, it’s the easiest way to cut up waffles, pancakes or toast into small pieces for the kids. At lunch, I use it to shear a head of leaf lettuce for a salad. For dinner, I skin and de-fat my meat before throwing it in the crock pot. I have my purposes, but the most common use— it’s a sanitary way to cut off the top off those plastic-wrapped popsicles. It’s easy to hand wash or you can throw it in the dishwasher, especially after using it on meat.

Rubbermaid Mixing Pitcher4. Rubbermaid Mixing Pitcher: This is way smarter than always pulling out a wooden spoon or spatula to stir up orange juice pulp, mix an instant lemonade or swirl ice around a mojito. Measure the height of your refrigerator’s top shelf before buying it though, to make sure it will fit.

Primo Water Cooler5. Primo Water Cooler: I love having hot and cold water readily available, especially if it tastes good and not like a metal tap. The hot water valve is childproof but still easy enough to use with one hand. It’s easy to change the 5-gallon jug because there is a plunger built in= no spilled water since you don’t have to flip anything over. This is a much more sleek design that the top-loading coolers, it is a nicer presentation to have the water jug stored easily underneath the unit.

Lock and Lock Containers6. Lock and Lock Containers: These are so much easier to operate than the typical sealed container. I keep my brown sugar, corn starch and cinnamon sugar in these for easy accessibility, but also to keep the bugs and humidity out.

Silicone Ice Cube Trays7. Silicone Ice Cube Trays: While the name may give you the primary use, I have come up with so many others. You can use these cubes to make jell-o jigglers, divide any meat/fruit/veggie/pasta into proportionate sizes before freezing or to prepare homemade baby food. FOR BABY FOOD–After cooking and pureeing single-ingredient items, pour the substance into the trays and freeze. When frozen, pop each cube out and store in a freezer-safe gallon bag for up to a month. To thaw, throw a few cubes in a microwave safe container and heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat again if necessary.

OXO Flexible Turner8. OXO Flexible Turner: This is different than your usual spatula or turner. It is incredibly thin and scoots under foods very easily. I use this for removing meringue cookies from parchment paper and flipping tofu when searing it in oil. I prefer the metal turner, but they also make this item in plastic and silicone.

Salad Bear Claws9. Salad Bear Claws: Looking for a fun way to entertain and serve dinner? These are “handy” gadgets to help grab salad or pasta and move it to an individual plate. I get comments every time I use these to serve food, I love it. P.S. They would probably be great to scratch the cook’s back after dinner, too!

IKEA Gadget Charging Cup10. IKEA Gadget Charging Cup: Isn’t your kitchen counter also the charging station for your ipod, cell phone, blue tooth and pager?! This organizer hangs on the wall and stores all the little power cords so it doesn’t look like an octopus is crawling out of the outlet next to your crock pot. That would just be uncool to crowd your crock pot.