Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bathroom Update

We finished this work awhile back, but I kept saying to myself, "Wesley, I'll most likely kill you in the morning" and then the blog post wouldn't get done.

Our bathroom, when this house was built, was probably quaint and had colored tile midway up the wall.  That all changed in the 80s when an oversized jacuzzi tub was put in along with brown flooring, brown 4x4 tiles on the wall, and a vanity that only allowed tiny hineys past it.

Last year, we switched the vanity out for a small sink, and that worked for awhile.  But there was limited storage.  We knew we'd be moving the master bedroom downstairs and turning upstairs into a grand bedroom/playroom for the girls eventually...and that time came more quickly than expected.  So we needed a tad more storage in the bathroom, just enough to hold my limited toiletries and hairdryer.  That meant figuring out a solution right now that wouldn't break the bank of Kiefer.


There are few vanities small enough for our bathroom, at least in the affordable non-custom price range.  It was pretty much this one or another pedestal sink with a shelf.  I like hidden storage, so this vanity was it. We bought a darker one and painted it, mainly because I like painted surfaces, the irregularity, the character.

Dollhouse toilet adds a great touch, dontcha think?

We tore out the tub doors and hid everything behind a tall shower curtain.

It's still kind of stuck in the 80s in this bathroom, but everything's lighter and fresher feeling, I get a little storage, and I don't have to look at those awful tub doors anymore.  In a few years, we'll hopefully be able to remodel. This'll do for now.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Rules of Cooking

It's finally cooler, so I can get back into the kitchen and actually use heat without roasting the family.  The past few weeks I've been bored and unmotivated, and I figured out that part of my problem was that I hadn't been cooking anything.  Too many crockpot meals, cold salads, and tomato sandwiches (what a problem to have, though...everything was delicious).  I was missing those hours of simmering, stirring, watching.  I even miss the achy back that comes from hours of standing in front of a stove.

My father has recently become more interested in cooking, and I sent him a copy of one of my favorite cookbooks, Bride and Groom: First and Forever Cookbook.  It's basic, has quite a few useful shortcuts, and everything I've made has been delicious.  But I've also been thinking about what it takes to become comfortable in the kitchen.  How does someone become a good cook?  So here are some rules I've devised.

1) There are very few difficult recipes out there. Souffles and other items that demand a certain texture, maybe. But most dishes, even ones that require lots of time, are just a combination of simple steps.  Don't be afraid to try a complex dish.

2) The first time you make something, it might take double the time estimate.  Or triple.  Or all day and night.

3) If you cut the fat, you have to figure out how to make up for it.  Apple sauce is just another demon in the form of fructose, so choose your substitutions wisely. On the other hand, most recipes can handle changes, so don't be afraid to try one where you don't have all the ingredients.

4) If you want your food to taste like a restaurant's, expect to use more seasoning and possibly more fat than usual.

5) Expect to taste your food so much that you're eating a second dinner during preparation.  You can lay off the tasting later, when you're more sure of yourself.

6) Be prepared for major failures.  Always have a backup plan for dinner.  Like takeout.

7) Have a partner in crime, if possible.  Chopping onions is the worst for me, so I ask Ryan to do it for me. Because he loves me, he does it, even though it makes him cry, too.  A partner is also good for holding heavy pots, stirring risotto, and dishwashing.

8) Speaking of dishes, try to clean while you cook. This gets easier as you get more experienced.  The alternative is to make sure there is always someone else to clean up after you.

9) Have a few dishes up your sleeve for potlucks or parties.  Memorize a couple of recipes for things like chocolate chip cookies or banana bread.

10) Share recipes.  It's a crying shame when someone dies and their recipes die with them.  And it's honestly kind of dumb--it's unlikely that the person you share with is going to become world famous for making that chocolate cream pie of yours.  Don't hoard joy, y'all.

11) Realize that the only person you need to please is yourself.  There will be people who hate your cooking, no matter how good you think it is. They might even tell you they love it and then run to the bathroom to spit out that last bite while throwing the rest of the dish out the window. Think that's not true? I've seen it happen to other cooks**, so I'm sure it's happened to me.  But that's okay.  Also expect people to develop sudden allergies and aversions two seconds before you serve them something, and don't be surprised when you see those same people later order a dish similar to what you made before and the aversion has disappeared (this has nothing to do with people who suffer from real allergies, so don't be offended).

12) Forget the rules. There are none. Except for #11. Anyone who says otherwise is full of malarkey.

13) One more: Champagne makes almost anything taste better.  Oh, bother, I could go on with the rules all day.  Guess I'm full of malarkey, too.

**I'll never forget watching one of my favorite people politely declare a cupcake was the best ever made and then toss the rest of it in the trash ten seconds later.  And that cupcake was made by someone who prided herself on excellent baking skills.  In all honesty, that cupcake was terrible.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kitchen Backsplash

You know how we took out our old kitchen hood and ended up with a hole in the wall?  And you know how it's been like that for nigh unto 18 months?

We've finally remedied that.

Here's a little progression of our stove area:

The original Kenmore range circa 1983.

Post new range installation.

Finally! The hole is covered!
We have spent two years debating what to do about this laminate backsplash.  And by we, I mean that *I* have been arguing with myself.  Should I demolish it? Should I paint? Tile? 

All three options were problematic.  Taking the laminate down would result in having to redo the wall behind it.  Our budget doesn't allow for that right now. Painting it would present other challenges, and tile might not stick that well. Plus, I didn't want to labor that hard over this small project, mainly because there shall come a day when we renovate the entire kitchen. 

I had seen this faux tin tile at Home Depot and fixated on it.  It's glued onto the wall and costs $20 a sheet.  I looked into vintage (and real) tin, but the cost was often exorbitant, and the pieces looked difficult to work with. So faux we went.  And I'm very pleased.

Our biggest challenge was that nothing was square about this space (really? our house is kind of out of whack? who knew??), so there's a bit of stretching and fussing with the trim on the right side of the stove to make up for it.  From most angles, though, it looks perfect.

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