Welcome to the Floor Show

For the past four years we’ve lived in our house, the work we’ve had done has been pretty straightforward and relatively stress-free—putting in a new deck, adding proper attic access, having a new heat/air system installed. All of that changes next week, however, when my kitchen floor gets ripped out down to the joists.

About a year after we moved in I started working on the kitchen. I removed all the wallpaper (which is quite therapeutic, if I’m being honest), sanded and painted the walls, repainted the cabinets and changed out the hardware. At that point the next step was replacing the floor, which is currently a totally awful brick-patterned linoleum. In its place I wanted a black-and-white checkerboard tile. I found the tile at Home Depot and set an appointment to have everything measured and quoted. First I was told I had two layers of linoleum and the tile couldn’t be laid on top, the existing linoleum would have to come up. Fair enough. Oh, but because the house was built in 1952, there might be asbestos under at least the very first layer of flooring. Awesome.

But then the water heater exploded, more life happened and the floor project was put on the back burner until last winter, when we took out the cabinets around the tiny fridge that came with the house in order to make room for a new one that was made in this century. Here’s what we found beneath where the cabinet was.

We decided to get back to the flooring thing so we could get the kitchen finished and move on to other projects. The guy came back to take a sample to test for asbestos. And of course it came back positive. And it turns out there’s three layers of linoleum, not two. And he tells me that while they can’t remove the asbestos, we can totally remove the flooring and clean the subfloor ourselves. It’s not hard. Just use a lot of water! And we can bag it all up and leave it for the trash collector. Yes, of course you can just remove asbestos-covered flooring yourself with water and toss it out on the curb. All I could imagine was the EPA showing up at my house and turning it into the last part of E.T., when the government quarantines the house and covers it with plastic tunnels and what not.

So, fine. I got in touch with the only “asbestos abatement” company in the state. The guy comes and looks at the multi-layered floor, and tells me that the asbestos is in the mastic, which is what’s holding the first layer to the subfloor. Which means there’s asbestos in the subfloor, not to mention between the myriad layers of linoleum. And that means the entire subfloor has to come up. They’ll seal off the kitchen, cut out the entire floor (except where the cabinets are) and dispose of everything in an environmentally safe manner that does not involved piling it up by the street. The next day, my contractor, who sounds a lot like Rick Steves, comes in and puts in the new subfloor and then finally the new floor itself.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. This weekend we’ll move everything on the counters, the stupid hutch I can’t seem to get rid of, and the refrigerator into the dining room. (And then the dogs will totally freak out because there’s a fridge in the dining room) Monday morning the work begins, and the dogs will get a two-night vacation at their favorite kennel, and we’ll spend Monday night in a hotel, since by Tuesday evening we’ll at least have a plywood floor in the kitchen. Everything should be finished by midday Wednesday, and we’ll finally, hopefully, be able to move ahead with the rest of the work we’ve got planned…because now the goal is to get this place on the market next year!

Tis the Season…for a Shiny New Grill!

So after much debate, price comparisons and checking of Consumer Reports ratings, the husband and I finally got our first grown-up grill this weekend. It’s a Char-Broil Red grill, with “Red” referring to the infrared heat the grill uses. Instead of an open flame, three stainless-steel tube burners are tucked away beneath a U-shaped trough, providing high, even heat to the cast-iron cooking surface. Not only does the infrared system save someone like me from catching their hair on fire, it also prevents meat from drying out and losing all of that juicy goodness.

Despite the horribly hot weather (100 degrees! 110 heat index!), Saturday evening we grilled a couple of inaugural rib-eyes, and they were phenomenal. The grill is easy to use, with a “SureFire” electronic ignition button and individual burner knobs with a range of temperature settings, including one for rotisserie, should we ever feel the need to purchase the electric grill rotisserie. Which we won’t. But the lower setting is ideal for fish and veggies, which can also be cooked on the side burner.

The grill heats quickly, and only uses a third of the propane regular gas grills require, and our thick, juicy steaks were perfectly cooked in about 10 minutes. Even better, it has a cleaning mode that ramps the heat up to around 700 degrees and basically disintegrates anything left on the cooking surface, rendering that grill brush completely useless!

Even after one use, I think we’re really going to like this grill. It’s not gigantic and takes up minimal space on the deck, but it’s the perfect size whether we’re cooking for just ourselves or for a few other folks. Considering the easy operation, the side burner and the storage space, not to mention the effortless clean up, I can see a lot of our cooking moving from inside the kitchen and out onto the deck, especially in the evening and when the weather cools. But for now, I’m looking forward to grilling up some fabulous burgers (I have the most excellent recipe!) over the 4th of July holiday this weekend, no matter how hot it is!

Keep it Fresh

prepara herb savorDon’t ask me how, but my husband has a knack for finding cool kitchen accessories that actually live up to their claims, and this thing is no different. Because that’s what I thought when I opened it during what I like to refer to as “A Very Foodie Christmas” last year—what is this thing?

This thing is the Herb Savor from Prepara. Aesthetically pleasing in its design, the Herb Savor was created to prolong the life of fresh herbs for up to three weeks. Having been in a cooking slump, until recently the thought of cooking with fresh herbs really hadn’t crossed my mind. But last week, I decided to reinvigorate one of my favorite go-to recipes—oven-roasted fingerling potatoes sprinkled with sea salt—with some fresh Italian parsley. Noting the presence of the still-unused Herb Savor sitting on the kitchen cabinet, I figured I might as well buy a big bunch of parsley and finally give it a whirl.

Continue reading

Collecting canisters

Canisters from Great Bay

Canisters are one of those items that make collecting fun and challenging.  Many times sets are made to be broken, as is the case with this decorative and useful item.  Usually found in sets of three, these containers are little stories in themselves.  But because of their nature as separate items with detachable lids quite often canisters sets do not survive the test of time.  The canister itself can be found in interesting shapes and sizes while the subject depicted on the exterior creates another dimension where stories can be told. 

Continue reading

Zesty! The Marvelous Microplane

microplane zester/grater

Microplane Classic Premium Zester/Grater

I have to admit that on Monday I wasn’t certain what I would write about today. It’s been one of those weeks, right? But Tuesday morning I was putting together a crock pot dish before work, and when I started grating the ginger it dawned on me—Microplane’s excellent (and sharp!) kitchen tools. I have the zester/grater pictured above (in red), and a spice grater sans handle, both of which I use on a fairly regular basis.

Aside from being well made, extremely sharp and impossibly sturdy (I’ve had mine for five or six years), I love that they’re made right here in Arkansas, about an hour or so north of Little Rock. Located in Russellville (aka RussVegas), Microplane started out innocently enough as a woodworking tool, created by brothers Jeff and Richard Grace, whose company manufactured parts for the printing industry. But it was a Canadian woman more than 1,400 miles away who helped bring Microplane into our kitchens.

Continue reading

High-Performance Cookware

Over the past 10 or so years that I’ve been cooking, I’ve accumulated numerous pots and pans, in an “oh, I need a bigger sauté pan…oh this stock pot will do for now” sort of way. But I never went all out and purchased a full set of proper cookware, mostly because there’s too much to chose from and the decision-making process would be, for me, never ending. But luckily my husband decided to make the decision for me, and surprised me with my first grown-up set of matching cookware for Christmas. And considering he’s the good cook that taught me how to cook, his decision making was spot on!

I am so incredibly happy with my 10-piece set of Emerilware (made by All-Clad) which has a porcelain hard enamel exterior with a sleek black finish and wonderful ergonomic handles. The set includes 8- and 10-inch fry pans, 1- and 2-quart sauce pans, a 3-quart sauté pan and a 6-quart tall stockpot, plus lids for the sauce and sauté pans and the stockpot. The tempered-glass lids, by the way, are almost the best part, because they have two sets of straining holes, which eliminates the need for a precariously perched colander in the sink for draining pasta and the like. But the best feature of these excellent scratch-resistant, nonstick pots and pans are the pouring spouts on the sauce pans, which is awesome for, well, sauces! Not to mention having another option for draining veggies and the like! It’s one of those things where you think, “yeah, that’s alright…” until you need it, and then you think, “wow, that’s pretty handy!”

The nonstick surfaces are super easy to clean, almost effortless (completely effortless if you just stick them in the dishwasher, where they are indeed safe), and I love that everything is also oven safe…which means I officially no longer have an excuse for not making that beef bourguignon, as I’ve been promising to do! The set is well-priced and available all over the Web, and some open-stock pieces, like the 5-quart sauté pan and 3-quart sauce pan, as well as a griddle, are also available to round out the collection.

A Very Pantone Christmas

pantone_typhoon_peppermill

The best gifts, no matter the occasion, are the ones that truly speak to the recipient. I love buying gifts that reflect someone’s personality and interests, whether it’s a (totally badass) neon deer lamp for my outdoors-y nephew, or paintings by a local fashion designer-turned-artist for my mom-in-law, because they were friends from way back when they were both starting out in the business.

I also, of course, love to get the same kinds of gifts. Over the weekend I got together with my best girlfriend for drinks and the customary rehashing of our Christmas holiday, as well as a little gift exchanging. For me? The Pantone Universe peppermill, which has been on the wish list in my mind for ever, but I never mentioned wanting it to anyone. It’s available in several colors, but she chose Dazzling Blue to complement the orange walls of my kitchen and I absolutely love it!

Made by Typhoon, the peppermill is more than just a fabulous design statement—it’s also incredibly well made and eco friendly! The biodegradable outer shell is made from corn starch, and the grinder has several adjustable settings for coarseness, and carries a 25-year guarantee. Which is perfect, because with the combination of three new cookbooks and my first full matching set of cookware, my new peppermill is going to get quite the workout!

Good wood product: Butcher block

I met and fell in love with the butcher block many years ago in my then boyfriend’s kitchen (now he’s my husband and I have the block in my home).  No, I didn’t marry him for his butcher block if that’s what you’re thinking.  The diversity of this product has proven itself three homes later, it is the focal point in my kitchen.

My Butcher Block

IMG_5338.jpg

Continue reading

Gingerbread Real Estate

If you have ever attempted to construct a gingerbread house, you know how daunting it can be.

This is a replica of the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto. It took three weeks to build this gingerbread version.

ht_Fairmont_Royal_York_ginger

Most of us don’t have the ambition, “people” power or materials to construct these masterpieces. I explored other possibilities, history and finally our attempt. Continue reading