Category Archives: kitchen

Before & After: A Mini Makeover for the Kitchen

Kitchen upgrade at the Delbert Meier House

While most people spend the week before Thanksgiving finalizing menus and trying to think of conversation starters for certain relatives with opposing political views, we spent last week overhauling half of our kitchen. Oh, we still found the time to roast a bird and whip up a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, but we prepared our feast in a kitchen that was getting a mini-makeover.

After: Refreshed Kitchen at This American House

It’s fitting that we should finally tackle the kitchen mini-renovation the week before Thanksgiving. It was during the same week in 2013 that we became the owners of the house and stood in the kitchen making our plans. As I looked around at the thirtysomething-year-old dark cabinets and the countertops that the previous owners had painted silver (and quite sloppily, I might add) I declared that the kitchen would need a slight facelift. We’ll just paint the cabinets, I said, and switch out the countertops.

So why did it take us three years to finally follow through? Well along the way we’ve vacillated between moving forward with the mini reno and committing to a full rehab. I’ve always wanted to design to my own kitchen and we had plans to reclaim some of the kitchen’s vintage elements. So we stalled on the kitchen decision while we dreamed of all the things we could do.

And then the refrigerator started leaking. Then the oven died. We couldn’t keep holding out on buying new appliances but we’re still not ready to completely renovate. A facelift it is!

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I basically stuck with the vision that had come to me during that first weekend of ownership back in 2013 – white cabinets with a butcher block countertop. I knew that I wanted to replace the existing black appliances with new white ones so that helped confirm the design choices for the kitchen. So, here’s how we did it.

First, we removed all the doors and drawers from the cabinets. I then lightly sanded the cabinet frames. Honestly, I probably could have sanded the frames a little better. But good God the dust! In my kitchen! A light sanding was all I could muster. Since I was able to take the doors and drawers to the garage, I did sand them more meticulously.

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After the cabinets were lightly sanded and then washed, I applied a coat of fast drying primer using a small foam roller and small paintbrush. I let the primer dry for a few hours and then applied the first coat of white satin finish paint.

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Again, I used a roller as much as as I could on the frames, supplementing with a brush when I couldn’t get the roller into tighter spaces. After two coats of paint and allowing plenty of drying time, I applied a top coat of polyurethane (also in a satin finish). This poly will help protect the paint, make it easier to clean (this is a kitchen after all) and help prevent chips.

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You’ll note that I left the old countertop in place while I painted the frames, doors and drawers. It’s a small kitchen and I needed that countertop as a work surface. Also, I wanted to get the new fridge in place before I made the final cut on the new countertop.

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Removing the old countertop was easy. Since we’re replacing the old formica with a butcher block top that doesn’t have a backsplash, we did have to do a bit of patching to the wall, which we were planning on painting anyway.

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The old formica extended about two inches beyond the cabinetry, creating a space between the fridge and the cabinets. I was hoping to achieve a tighter look (and prevent repeating the little dust tunnel that drives me crazy). So once the new fridge was in place (ain’t it a beaut?!) I made the final measurements and cut the butcher block to size.

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Once the countertop was in and the doors and drawers were re-installed, the only thing left was the hardware. I actually ended up finding new drawer pulls that mimic the design of the fridge handles on Amazon. I also picked up some coordinating satin nickel knobs and hinges.

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The painted cabinets and white refrigerator definitely brighten up the kitchen. And I’m so happy to be rid of that painted countertop.

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While we’d still like to completely renovate the kitchen, this mini makeover makes it a more livable space. And I’m definitely in love with the new refrigerator! So clean and new and stylish!

So now that we have this half of the kitchen finished, we’ll have to tackle the rest of the room. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take us three years to get to that, too.

Rhubarb Jam: Hello Summer!

Freshly Canned Rhubarb JamMemorial Day weekend was jam packed with activity. Literally! We cut down the rhubarb in the garden to make way for other plants and found that he measly little plant I had plopped in the dirt last year gave us a lot of fruit! Since I had such a big pile of rhubarb and – thanks to the gift of some old canning supplies from a friend – a package of Sure-Jell, I got the sudden inspiration to make rhubarb jam.

I Googled around for a recipe and came across this one from Kraft, makers of Sure Jell. Making the jam is actually quite easy. Canning it is easy, too. It’s just all so damned time consuming! And I swear that at one point we had every pot and pan in the kitchen in use.

It was a lot of work for 8 jars of jam, but it was actually kinda fun. And this jam is going to taste so good this winter when we’re baking bread and fattening ourselves up to stay warm.

And you know what else? It really gave me an appreciation for home canning. It was only 80 years ago that most homes relied on this form of food preservation to survive. We’ve got it so easy, with our store-bought, high fructose corn syruped jams!


Replacing a Kitchen Faucet is the Easiest Plumbing DIY

Replacing a Leaky Faucet is One of the Easiest Plumbing DIY Project | This American House

Apparently the developer who rehabbed our condo building back in the early 2000s used some of the cheapest materials he could find. Over the past seven years everything that was new in the condo has failed. Take this faucet on the kitchen sink, for instance. Within a few months of moving into our condo the faucet started leaking. Not a slow drip kind of leak, mind you. That we could live with. No, this leak came out of a hole in the back of the faucet and would slowly flood the entire counter top.

Over the years I’ve found some little fixes for the faucet but the leak would always return. And then a month or so ago the leak became intolerable. If we didn’t tie a towel around the base of the faucet, water would shoot out of the back of it and flood the counter top. The towel would get soaked but at least it would absorb some of the water and also divert it into the sink instead of onto the counter. I lived with the towel wrapped around the faucet for a few weeks but I would groan every time I saw it.

And then one day I said to The Mister, “It can’t be that hard to replace a faucet. I think I can do it myself.”

I pulled up my old friend Google and searched around for faucet replacement tutorials. And you know what? Replacing a faucet is actually one of the easiest DIY plumbing projects in the history of ever!

Replacing a Leaky Kitchen Faucet | This American House

I’ve learned my lesson from past hubris when it comes to DIY projects. Sometimes a project may seem easy at first glance but then when I’m elbow deep in grease and screwdrivers I realize that it’s not easy at all. With that in mind I watched a few tutorial videos before I finally accepted that this was a project I could tackle on my own. The video I found most helpful was this tutorial from Lowes. In fact, I was going to try to photograph my own faucet replacement so that I could write a tutorial but this video is so good that that didn’t seem necessary.

After watching that video a few times I was totally confident that this was a project I could handle on my own. And I was right! In fact, the only trouble I encountered with the project was disassembling the old faucet to remove it. Oh, and of course, it wasn’t exactly a picnic contorting my body under the kitchen sink. How do plumbers do that all day?

With the old faucet removed (and after I did a little happy dance because I wouldn’t have to deal with its leaks ever again) it was quite easy to install the new faucet. It’s really just a matter of slipping the faucet into place, securing it to the counter from underneath and then connecting the water lines. The new faucet I bought – the Cantara by Pfister – even came with a handy tool that made securing it to the counter super easy.

Pfister Cantara Kitchen Faucet | This American House

Oh, new faucet. You make me so happy! I never liked that old faucet to begin with. It was too short to be useful and the sprayer was always a bit wonky. This new faucet works like a charm and the arched spout makes it super useful.

Of course the best part of any DIY project (besides economics) is the satisfaction of knowing that I DID IT ALL ON MY OWN! Every time I walk past the kitchen sink I am filled with a sense of accomplishment. Plus, I never had to witness plumber butt during the installation of the faucet!

Images: This American House

6 Ways to Use All Those End of Summer Tomatoes

How to Use All of Those Tomatoes Before the Frost | This American House

It’s the end of summer and all of the tomatoes are suddenly getting ripe all at once. And what’s that in the forecast? Frost?! Uh oh! If you don’t get those tomatoes off the vine soon, you’ll lose them! Whatever will you do? Well, you’ll set aside an afternoon to prep that beautiful late summer fruit and then you’ll use one (or more) of the methods and recipes below to make use of them all.

Freeze them: You’ll want to peel the tomatoes first but then you can chop them up and put them in freezer bags or containers. They’ll be great for soups and sauces this winter.

Can them: Freezing tomatoes will only preserve them for a 3-6 months. While canning is a lot more labor intensive, it will also preserve them for much, much longer. For beginners, there’s a wonderfully illustrated tutorial on canning over one Food in Jars.

Make Salsa: Why buy jarred salsa when making your own is so easy? By tossing together just a few ingredients – tomatoes, onions, jalepeno, green pepper, cilantro and lime juice – you can whip up a batch of fresh salsa in a jiffy. Once you’ve perfected your salsa recipe, make a big batch and can it!

Make Pasta Sauce: I haven’t purchased jarred pasta sauce in years because homemade is just too easy. I like this Food Network recipe for its simplicity. Then again, I rarely stick to a recipe when it comes to sauce. Add extra veggies or olives to make the recipe your own.

Make Homemade ketchup: Ditch that overly sweetened bottled ketchup and make your own. This recipe from Ball, the canning jar folks, looks fairly straightforward.

Make Fried Green Tomatoes: Let’s face it – not all of the tomatoes will ripen before the first big frost. What a great excuse to make fried green tomatoes. There’s a great tutorial at Southern Living. Although most recipes, like this one from My Recipes, call for a flour/cornmeal mixture for the breading, I prefer using panko crumbs.

EVEN MORE TOMATO OPTIONS:

Image: This American House

How to Freeze Fresh Green Beans

How to Freeze Green Beans | This American House

In the opening scenes of the 1981 film Mommie Dearest, Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford goes through her morning routine. You see her plunging her face into a bowl of ice water and steaming herself in a hot shower. I thought of this scene yesterday as I was preparing green beans to freeze. With the blanching and the ice bath it felt like I was Joan Crawfording the beans!

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