The Floors

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.  It’s really nerve-racking when your not that great at decorating and you’re forced to choose all the materials for your kitchen months in advance of the renovation.  Luckily, our designer has a pretty good eye and could tell what I wanted after we spoke with her for an hour or two.

We knew we wanted brown cabinets…apparently a huge deviation from the white ones that are so popular these days.  Call me old school, but I hate white cabinets.  So hard to keep clean and just not warm enough for me.  Jeff and I wanted a warm, inviting environment and, to me, that meant Italian-inspired.

After we picked out the brown cabinets, we chose the countertops and floors.  Speaking of countertops, we should be having them installed this week!  Here’s a sneak peak of what that material looks like:

IMG_9042The first tile Carrie, our designer, picked for us was OK, but the matching subway tile was too big for what we were looking for.  We poked around the showroom looking for exactly what we wanted and, finally, we found it!  It was gorgeous.  Cream colored, with brown veining throughout, it was perfect.  It had that old world charm and just modern enough to fit what we were looking for.

IMG_9381Tom, our contractor, called me on Thursday morning to talk about a couple things and then let me in on the news:  our floors were being installed that day!  He told me there would be areas we wouldn’t be able to walk on, but which would be clearly marked.  Unfortunately, it was my late day at work, so knew it would be a long time before I saw the results.

That evening, Jeff called me, frustrated.  Apparently, they had laid the tile in rows instead of staggered like you normally see tile.TilePattern2

Our tile is like the top left diagram.  We were expecting 50% offset like the top right.  I was talking with a coworker who informed me that that was an option but we had to specify it was what we wanted.  Jeff and I were a little annoyed because we were never asked what our preference was.  I told Jeff to pull the contract to see if it specified in there, which he did.  Wouldn’t you know it…it says straight in the contract.  Actually it says “pattern: none”.  Regardless, neither of us remember them asking us what we’d like.  Fortunately, we still like it enough.  Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if we do or don’t…we’re stuck with it!

They did 80% of the floor Thursday and came back to finish the rest on Friday.  They also installed our washer and dryer Friday.  Thank goodness because the laundry was starting to pile up!!  Three guesses what I did all weekend…

IMG_9403They added door pulls to the cabinets too.  I love them!  They look silverish in this picture, but they are more bronze-y in real life.

IMG_9404Oh, and they plumbed for our kitchen sink.  I’m so ready to not have to do dishes in Jake’s bathroom!

IMG_9405Finally, on Friday, they installed our new sliding patio door.  It arrived with a chip in the handle but Jeff called and took care of that in minutes.  Our new handle is on the way!  I really like our new door.  It has internal blinds, which means we won’t have to have curtains in our kitchen!

Two weeks down and two to go, supposedly.  Fingers crossed they finish on time!  It’s really not a super big deal if they don’t…I’m just anxious to start cooking in my new kitchen!

 

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Kitchen Update | Construction

I have struggled with what I want to share about our kitchen project after the demo happened last week.  I want to share, but I also want to have a big reveal at the end of all this.  There have been a ton of changes this week and every day I still rush home to see what new bits and pieces have been accomplished.

Here’s a run down of what’s happened so far:

cabinetsMonday
Probably the most exciting day so far, I walked in to the house to see my cabinets installed!  I actually squealed when I saw them!  Not only were the wall cabinets installed, but the cabinets for the island were in place too.  They weren’t anchored, but they were in roughly the right spot for me to stand behind and picture myself cooking.  Teaser picture of the cabinets above.  Please ignore the tools left behind by the contractor.

I have always had this desire to be cooking in the kitchen and have friends and family sit around my counter watching me cook and talk to me.  I grew up with this type of kitchen atmosphere, watching my mom and dad cook since before I can remember.  It’s where my love of cooking came from.  I remember standing on a chair next to my mom helping her put the pepperoni on the annual Christmas Eve pizza.  I remember forming my favorite sausage balls with her because it wasn’t Christmas day without them.  I remember making chocolate pudding for my older sister’s friends when they stayed over on the weekends.  I remember whipping up chicken sandwiches for my friends after a school dance when everyone came to my house after.  Cooking for friends and family is a feeling I have a hard time explaining.  It is one of the most special things in the world to me and I love it.

Now that I’ve gotten all mushy…

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.40.34 AMTuesday
The biggest change we noticed on Tuesday was the paint color.  They painted the kitchen and hallway in our color of choice:  Sherwin Williams Familiar Beige (pictured above from their website).  I wanted a color that was easily accented by a wide array of colors so we could change the feel of our room with various textiles.  I was a little worried about the wall color when I first saw it because I thought Jeff might think it was too pink.  There’s a touch of red in the color, but luckily Jeff really liked it.

We also got a door ordered from Home Depot to be installed by our contractor.  Plus they installed the microwave over the spot for the oven.  Finally, the rest of the cement board was installed in the laundry room.  It was another one of those “little things” days where it’s harder to tell what they accomplished.  I know there is a ton of stuff they have to do that I don’t see.  I just patiently wait until those “wow” days!

tileWednesday
Another one of the “little things” days, but with a bigger impact than normal.  Every day when I walk in, the first thing I do is turn on all the lights so I can see as much as possible. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find they installed the can lights!  We had regular lights beforehand that were covered, making the light diffused and soft.  Not that that’s a bad thing, but in a kitchen you need to see what you’re doing.  You don’t want to accidentally cut off a finger because you thought it was a carrot or something!

They also attached the island counter to the floor.  Finally, I’m pretty sure they are going to start on the tile soon because one of the tiles was placed up against the cabinet.  I was able to see what the two looked like together and I have to say I’m excited.  Our tile is a grayish white with cream and beige veining throughout.  I added a picture of it above and whited out the cement board on the sides so you could get a clear picture, even though it looks a little funny!

We used to have a fan over our kitchen table but decided we’d rather have a chandelier instead.  But John, our designer, suggested we keep the fan in the kitchen, but move it over the oven area.  We have faulted ceilings, so it would be very high, but that would give us even more air movement.  What a nice option in the summer!

I noticed when they installed the lights Wednesday, they marked the location for the chandelier but, when I stood under the mark, I realized it wasn’t centered over where the table was going to be.  So I left Tom a message about it and he called me Thursday morning to discuss it.  During that conversation, he mentioned before the weekend they were going to start the tile, install the granite in the laundry room, replace the door, add hardware to the cabinets, and begin plumbing the kitchen sink!  Yay!  It’s only been a week and a half and I’m already in love with my new kitchen.  I can’t wait to share the finished product with you!

But for now you must wait…muah ha ha ha.

Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

img_91781.jpg
Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)

IMG_9220

Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?

 

Small Changes, Big Results

Every day I came home last week, I eagerly opened my garage door to see what changes came about in my kitchen during the day.  The first two days it was very obvious what they did considering when we left our kitchen it was in tact and when we got home it was…well…not.  Before is on the left, after is on the right (obviously):

 

The first two days, we saw the cabinets come down, the wall disappear, and the floor vanish.  Day three the only thing we really noticed was different was more of the floor was missing.  Day four brought a new little turn of events to us.  Black mold.mold

When they removed the floor by our patio door, we saw the dreaded black stuff.  We also noticed how corroded the wall and floor were.  You can actually feel the wind coming in from the outside, which makes sense why it was always so much colder when we were eating dinner!

Our contractor, Tom, asked us if we had considered replacing the door which, oddly enough, we had been talking about.  We were going to wait to do that until the kitchen was done since we were making so many changes at once, but now it looks like we might need to proceed with that change sooner rather than later.

The other thing they did on Thursday was fix our half wall.

Originally, we had a “beam” going from our cabinets to our half wall but, when we removed the beam, we just had a wall sort of hovering in mid air.  (You can kind of see what I’m talking about in the left picture.)  We wanted to fix the wall and take it all the way up to the ceiling so it looked like it was built in, which they completed.  Other than those changes, we didn’t notice a whole ton.  I’m sure they did more “behind the scenes” work that we don’t really notice though.  We also received a note saying the electrician had been sick but would be back to work on things the next day.

cement-floorFriday came and, much like the last few days, it was tough to see what all they did.  I have a feeling until we start seeing cabinets and floors being installed, I won’t really notice as much as I expect to.  We did notice they put down “cement board” on our floors in preparation for the tile to be installed!  I’m really excited to see that part.  You can only imagine so much when you pick items out in a showroom.  They also removed the plumbing from where the sink and dishwasher used to be and cut the carpet so it was straight across.

They are supposed to work on the floors as well as the laundry room this week.  I had to turn in our paint color last week, so I’m thinking they will be painting sometime this week too!  They say it should only take 4 weeks and we are 1 week in already.  It will be interesting to see if they are really able to deliver on their timeline!

To pass the weekend, I headed to Kentucky for my best friend’s bachelorette party.  I was in charge of the weekend and spent most of Thursday night making “survival” bags for the bridesmaids.  I even used my Photoshop skills to make custom champagne bottle labels!  I have to say I’m pretty proud of those bags!

We had a great time.  We started the day with a painting class, headed to Seviche (an upscale restaurant) for dinner, and then ended the night at a club!  We even convinced our limo driver to stop for Starbucks!  It was a great night but I sure was ready to get home to my guys.

parkIt was such a nice weekend we went to the park for hot dogs and smores!  Who’s ready for summer?  I know we are…

Destruction

Days 1 and 2 are in the books.  Our kitchen renovations started Monday when we met with the contractor and his assistant at our house at 8:30am.  He asked us several questions including where to put the fridge, what we wanted done with our oven (which we are giving to charity), and other things of that nature.  I left for work with an eagerness in my step.  I just wanted to get to work so I could come home and see the changes!

First, however, we had to attend a kindergarten parents information meeting.  I cannot believe my kid will be old enough for kindergarten in the fall!  I bet this mama is gonna cry big, ole crocodile tears!!

I tried to keep my speed in check and not race home after the meeting.  I knew there would be some changes, but I seriously didn’t know what I was in for!  Here’s what we saw on night one:

I couldn’t believe how much they had gotten done in one day with just the two of them!  All the cabinets were completely removed and they had taken down all the walls we were eliminating as well.  They ended up having to put a wooden post in temporarily until they could take the rest of the framing down.  They were very neat in their removal too.  No debris.  No dust.  Great work so far!

When we got home, Jake and I headed down to make our dinner, which ended up being delicious!  I posted about our French Dips yesterday.  After dinner, Jake and I spent some quality time with one of our favorite games:  Candy Land.

Then my little carpenter decided he wanted to assist the guys.  Ugh!  I love him!img_9188edited

The next day was more of the same.  Get up, get ready, go to work, try not to get a speeding ticket on the drive home.  I was even more impressed when we walked in that day!  They didn’t waste any time getting the room back to basics for installation of everything!

img_9197editedThis is going to be my view from the kitchen.  I’ll have the whole expanse of the living room before me as I cook.  It will make it easier to look at things when Jeff shouts, “Honey!  Look at this!” from the couch.

img_9196editedThis is how the kitchen will appear if you’ve viewing it from the front door.  An island is going to be right about where the black part stops in the lower part of the picture.

img_9208editedYet another view of the kitchen looking from the fireplace.

You can see the difference a little more in this picture.  This is looking from the patio door towards the laundry room.

One thing you can’t tell in these pictures is just how LARGE the space feels!  It’s echo-y and roomie to say the least.  I know once we get the cabinets in, it will feel smaller, but I can already picture the finished product and if it’s anywhere near where my brain is putting it, I will be a happy mama.

After admiring our day two results, Jake and I went down to make dinner.  He still loves helping and finds cooking in the basement even more fun than I do.  Probably because he doesn’t need a stool (or stoove as he calls it) to see what he’s doing.

We went easy tonight.  Grilled cheese and bacon with baked Cheetos.  It might be simple, but it was delicious!img_9198editedI keep a little plastic tub downstairs and while I’m making dinner I throw the dirty utensils and cooking things in the tub.  Then when we’re done with dinner, I take the bin upstairs and wash the dishes.  It keeps the basement tidy and gives me a place to put my dirty stuff so it’s out of the way while I finish dinner.img_9206editedSo far I am very pleased with the renovation process.  Granted, it’s only two days in, but as far as the cooking goes, I can’t complain!  It’s really not too much different than cooking upstairs.  Except I have no stove and I have to wash everything by hand.  But a month of “sacrifice” will be worth a lifetime of cooking memories.  I just cannot wait!

It’s Like We’re Moving

Once I got the date for our kitchen renovation, things got real, fast.  Jeff got the call that the other fan and the light fixtures were in at the light store, so he picked those up Saturday morning.  Also Saturday morning, my new baby arrived!oven

I took Saturday off to get to work on the rest of the kitchen.  I spent most of the day cleaning out the remaining cabinets and organizing our workspace in the basement.  I can already tell it’s going to be an interesting few weeks!  I’m going to get a lot of stair credit on my Apple Watch, I’ll tell you that!

The first, and probably most important part, we tackled was the pantry.  I started by removing all of the food and organizing it into what I knew I’d need (oils, sauces, etc) and what I might not (waffle mix, lemon curd…you know…those non-everyday items).foodNo, this is nowhere near all of it.

Jake was a HUGE help!  He removed the items he could reach and put them on the counter for me.  Then I went through and organized things.  Eventually we switched and he started “organizing”.jake1I had tons of plastic bins from over the years (I told you I liked containers!), so I organized things into bins where I could.  Jake loves thing organized (unless it’s his toys), so he really enjoyed helping! jake2Once we had everything pulled out of the pantry and organized, it was time to haul the stuff downstairs to set up.  I have a bunch of these shelving units in the basement with bins of things on them, so I was able to clear off and stack the bins and move one of the shelves over to my work area to act as a pantry.jake3I have had “overstock” (yep…you can tell I work retail) in my basement for years (on the lefthand shelves).  When I see a good deal on something, I stock up.  So adding another shelving unit of food just seemed the right thing to do!

I will be cooking in a “make shift” kitchen throughout the process.  My personal challenge is to only eat out once a week.  The boys might eat out twice because I work one night a week, but other than that, we are STAYING IN!  The more money we save, the sooner we can take on the next project!

cooking-setupI’m pretty proud of my little “kitchen”.  I can’t really have the fridge items downstairs with me, which is the only thing I’m really not looking forward to, but I’m pretty sure I have everything else I need!

toasterI love my toaster oven.  It’s good size and I can cook a small pan of lasagna or stuff shells in it.  I’m pretty sure I won’t have to use it nearly as much as I would have before I got my Instant Pot though!  It would be pictured, but I’m making Mississippi Pot Roast for dinner, so it’s up in the kitchen currently.

olive-oilMy “workspace” has my most used items within arms reach.  My olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and DLM spice rub is right there as well as some small mixing bowls and measuring cups.

cooking-itemsThe rest of my utensils and important accoutrement are in the stacked drawers that sit on the table. Ignore the labels…these were from my very brief days of scrapbooking.  I was too lazy to remove them.  The bottom drawer has various baking things in it.  The next two drawers are filled with my spices…I told you I was addicted!  The second to top drawer has measuring cups and spoons, whisks, spatulas, mixing spoons, etc in it.  And finally all the tall bottles are at the top.  You never know.  I might actually like this set up!  I won’t have to bustle around the kitchen quite as much!

coffeeOf course I couldn’t forget my coffee maker!  I’m not really looking forward to going downstairs for my morning cup of joe, but we all must make sacrifices.  Maybe it will get me in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  (Wow…I sound lazy!)under-tableUnder the table, I have some larger mixing bowls and other kitchen items on the left, my big bin of baking things in the middle, and all the plastic wrap, bags, etc on the right.

jacobAt this point, I had spent a good few hours in the kitchen and basement.  Jake was tired of helping so he decided to drive his truck around and pout, waiting for me to play with him.  I should have sent him to his buddy’s house so he wasn’t so bored!

Finally the kitchen was cleaned out and our basement kitchen was assembled.  Here is our final look at the kitchen I’ve been cooking in (and wishing to update) for over 7 years:

ceilingThis is the main space I’m in when I’m in the kitchen.  I spend most of my time cutting and prepping my food on both of these counters.  One thing I love about our house is the tall ceilings.  Our new kitchen is going to have cabinets that go all the way up to the crown molding above our fridge.kitchenThis is the opposite side of our kitchen.  You can’t tell in this picture, but the space between these counters and the previous counters is too great.  It was too small for an island and felt bigger than necessary.  Our new kitchen will be straightening out the counter and removing pretty much everything thats not attached to the counter.  Our upper cabinet (complete with its crooked door) and pantry will be gone and the counter will be turned into an island.  I’ll be very excited to get rid of the “bar height” counter. No one could ever use it because the builders made it way too high.barThis will all be gone!  So long, ugly bar stools!sinkGod, I hate our white cabinets and blue counters.  So dang ugly!  We are going to have a medium brown cabinets and grey/black counters.  It’s hard for me to describe the color, but it’s very pretty.  We love it.  We will also have creamish colored tile on the floor and the same color subway tile as our backsplash.fanYou can baaaaarely see our cabinets and counters on the left side of this picture.  In the new kitchen we will be extending the cabinets by TWO pantries!  The cabinets will go nearly all the way to the windows!  And there’s another one of those ugly fans!  Good riddance!  We will also be parting with our kitchen table.  Jeff got this table when he was in college so it’s a good 15 years old!  It’s a nice table but won’t really go with our new “look”.

So that was my Saturday.  I feel accomplished and excited, though I am a little apprehensive to see how this whole cooking in the basement thing goes.  It’s kind of like camping!  Wish us luck!  Now to go see Fifty Shades Darker.  😛

 

 

Cooking Through Construction

We are ½ of the way through February.  Can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.  But I also can’t wait for March because…my kitchen is getting renovated!  Not just new paint and cleaning out a couple cabinets.  I’m talking removing walls, y’all!  I’m beyond excited!  Here’s what we’re working with right now:

kitchen

Ugh.  Ugly.  I hate it.  It doesn’t look terrible in the picture, but what you can’t see is all the scratches on the countertop lip, the “paint” coming off the cabinets, the crappy quality of the product, the cabinets not staying screwed into the frames, and basically just the general disfuctionality of the kitchen.  My house was one of those development houses where they were just trying to get the work done in as quick of a time frame with the cheapest stuff they could find.  Not anymore!

kitchen3

Like I said, we are taking down walls, adding cabinets, getting a new oven (EEEKKK!!!), painting, new countertops, new sink, new backsplash, EVEN MORE counter space and cabinet space, raising the height of the cabinets, new floors, the works!!!

Basically everything in this picture will be gone or moved:

kitchen2

The one thing about this whole process I’m not really looking forward to is the whole being without a kitchen to cook in thing.  I cook dinner at least 6 nights a week, but most of the time I cook every night.  Even on the nights I’m not going to be home, I try to leave my boys with something they can heat up.

I’m combatting that by making a dinner plan for the month of March (they think our reno will take about 4 weeks) which will include a LOT of freezer meals and Instant Pot recipes.  I’m planning on starting a new series on here called “Cooking Through Construction” which will focus these oven-free foods.  Follow along with me while I experience this adventure!

Step one?  Replacing our couch.  I know what you’re thinking…how is the couch part of the kitchen renovation?  We are basically redoing our main living space.  Our house is open concept already and, with the removal of the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, that openness is going to be even more vast.

Our old couch was in sad, sad shape and we were looking for more “adult” furniture.

couch3

So we upgraded to this beauty:

couch2

She’s so comfy! We are still working on side tables, lamps, fans, decor, etc for the space, but step one is complete!

couch1Stay tuned for step two! (Ugh…we have so much work to do!)

If anyone is great at decorating, let me know.  I suck at it.