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MelissaH's Kitchen (Renovation) Dreams


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#1 MelissaH

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 07:05 PM

Hello, everyone.

At long last, we're able to seriously think about redoing our kitchen. Since I've never had the opportunity to do one myself before, I thought I'd ask the Great Collective Wisdom to add input before it gets much more expensive to do so. In fact, the GCW has already been of tremendous help with some past threads, in particular this one because it's fairly recent.

We're hoping to begin this project about a year from now. Why the wait? Because first we'll need to have the electric system in the house upgraded, and that probably won't happen until fall. Then, since we both live in the academic world, we'd prefer not to have massive chaos around us during the school year. But once summer comes, we're able to devote our attention to other places. (Furthermore, this is upstate NY, where we get an average of 120 inches of snow a year. I don't think we could get through this without being able to use the grill.) And the kitchen isn't so bad that I curse it out every day, although should something die in the meantime I may change my tune.

The main reason for the upgrading is to modernize. Our house is about 40 years old. Our kitchen is also probably about 40 years old; we don't think anything significant has been done to it since the house was built. We've now lived here for 22 months, which has given us plenty of time to figure out what we like and don't like about the kitchen.

First, though, here's a rough drawing of the kitchen (courtesy of the Ikea kitchen software, with a bit of Photoshopping afterwards), as it currently stands:
Posted Image

The narrow dimension, measured wall to wall, is 8 feet. The kitchen floor is 16 feet, 3 inches long (and the cabinets add another 2 feet). The dining room adds an additional 7 feet of length to the far wall (with the window). All the dark areas are walls. We plan to leave all walls as they are. The large open area at the left side of the picture is our dining room. The flooring in the dining room is the same yucky off-white carpet (with no padding left) that flows through the opening to the living room and hallway. We would eventually like to put hardwood in the hallway and living room, since that's what we have in the bedrooms AND the closets. (I don't get that myself. Someone who knows, please enlighten me?):hmmm: The lighting in the dining room is hanging from a ceiling fan over the table. We're planning to keep the fan or a replacement thereof, although I'd probably choose a different lighting fixture. (I'll try to snap a few photos when there's decent light.)

The door at the back of the dining room is a heavy sliding glass door that leads to the back deck. There's a floor-to-ceiling window on the other wall of the dining room. The deck is on the back side of the house; it faces south. Between the window and the door, we get a fair amount of light coming in, particularly in the mornings through the window. I should add that our house has baseboard heaters for the hot water heat; there's one baseboard heater running the length of the wall with the window, and another heater that starts just to the right of the sliding door that extends nearly to the edge of the cabinets, behind the semicircle in the drawing.

That semicircle in the drawing is a set of three semicircular shelves. They aren't the right size for much of anything, mainly because there's a support pillar right at the outside of the curve that makes it tough to fit anything bigger than a softball inside. We do, however, have a couple of platters for fruit storage resting on the top shelf and some odds and ends on the two lower shelves. We nearly took a Sawzall to the shelves our first winter here, because the heater was clanking and the bleed valve for that heater is at the edge behind the shelf.

And then we get to the cabinets themselves. I'm guessing the doors are made of plywood, because the edges of each door have grain wrapping around, and because the entire cabinet unit has matching veneer that seems to be cut from one giant sheet of the stuff. I wouldn't have a problem with the looks, but I have a huge problem with the function or lack thereof. I don't think there's a single door or drawer that actually opens and closes or otherwise works properly. For instance, the base cabinet on the left of the sink can't be opened without also taking the drawer above it. And the drawer refuses to open without also popping the cabinet. (The wall cabinet is mostly fine, although it doesn't latch too well due to deterioration of the little roller-thingie. But the kitchen has a soffit, which doesn't serve any purpose in our minds, and we'd just as soon get rid of that and let the wall cabinets go all the way to the ceiling, using the highest shelves to store the stuff that only gets brought out for big fancy meals, like the gravy boat and the fancy water pitcher.)

There's not much counter space. That's another of the huge problems in the kitchen as it currently exists: it's a large space, with very little work area. My grandma refers to it as a "one-butt kitchen." And she's right: my husband and I trip over each other if we both need to be doing things in the kitchen at the same time. Forget about having one person at the stove while the other preps salad at the cutting board! But the good part of having so little of it is that we don't have to look at much of it: sort of marbled yellow laminate that I'm sure was much more "in" 40 years ago.

I like the sink's position in front of the window. This is very important, because we spend an inordinate amount of time there doing the dishes. One priority of the remodeling is to put in a dishwasher. (We realize the cabinet on the left of the sink would be perfect to

hold a dishwasher. But there's nowhere to plug such a beast in right now, and no room in the breaker box to add a new circuit for the dishwasher until we upgrade the house's electrical system.) I'm not overly fond of the sink itself: it's a stainless double sink, both basins the same size, with a garbage disposal in the right basin and a dish drainer in the left basin. Because this isn't large enough to hold everything we'd like it to hold, we have a secondary drainer on the counter next to it. The disposal functions, but is an older model with a wimpy engine. Whoever did the plumbing decided that both basins needed traps, so there's not much room underneath the sink for anything other than the garbage can. I wish the sink basins were large enough to hold even one cookie sheet flat, much less my roaster!

The stretch of countertop is our main...no, make that our only prep area. That's also where the toaster oven lives, since that's the only place it would go and still be able to plug in. (The other option would have been in the corner, at the other outlet, but we put the microwave there, on a diagonal, and periodically pull it to one side or the other to rescue whatever's fallen behind. In the new kitchen, I want enough electrical outlets that my power does not determine where I can work, AND enough counter space to leave both the mixer and the food processor out but still have room to work. If I'm shaping bread dough or rolling out pie crust, I shove the toaster oven to the side so I have room to slide my wooden pastry board onto the counter.

The stove isn't bad for an electric stove, from a temperature-responsiveness point. But it's 40 years old, horribly designed from a usefulness point of view, and placed such that the right edge of the stove is bumping up against the oven cabinet. As long as you don't have anything in the oven, or don't want to saute anything in a large pan, it works.

There are cabinets up above the stove. This is bad, because it means that the hood under the cabinets doesn't vent anywhere other than back into the kitchen. The hood is dark brown ugly, and useless for anything except as a light bulb holder. (More on the lighting later.) The backsplash is (get this!) GLASS. Not plexiglass, but the real thing, held in place with little clips like the ones that hold mirrors up. The glass protects the faux brick that runs all the way to the end of the cabinets on the left of the sink.

As I alluded, to the right of the stove is the oven. It's nominally a double oven, but they're tiny (24 inches wide on the outside) and horrendously uneven (hot spot in the back left corner of the main oven that's only partially corrected by leaving the quarry tiles in all the time). There's a clock that's stopped at half past 6, so anything timed is out of the question. And I wish there were some kind of indicator when the oven is up to temperature! The tiny bottom oven does broil decently, though. I suspect there might have been a third oven rack at one time, now long lost. There is a cabinet above the oven and another below the oven, but since the oven's insulation is notably lacking we don't put anything too delicate there.

On the other side of the doorway (open doorway; hall on the other side) is a tall cabinet with no soffit above because we took it out. That happened when we were given the generous gift of a new refrigerator by my grandfather last year about this time. The new fridge (Amana freezer drawer on the bottom; whatever name they call off-white or bisque or almond or whatever it is) was about half an inch too tall to fit under the over-the-refrigerator cabinets. So we took them out, but to do so we had to remove the soffit on that side as well. The biggest problem this has created is that one of our cats has decided that the cabinet top is a great place to sit and watch the world. This in itself isn't a problem; the real issue is that he can't get up there without making intermediate landings of places he's not supposed to go! This refrigerator is the one thing that is likely to remain of the old kitchen after the remodel.

In the big empty space, we put a small table gleaned from a yard sale. The cats are not permitted on tables, but this one's apparently irresistable as a stepping stone to the top of the fridge and beyond.

And the lighting? The entire lighting in the kitchen consists of two fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling, each of which takes a large and a small circular tube; a 60 watt bulb over the sink; and the light in the otherwise useless hood. Seeing what you're doing? Forget that!

So what will we do? Here's a first approximation, also roughed out with Ikea software and then cleaned up a touch in Photoshop:
Posted Image

The dishwasher will go just to the left of the sink. The sink will ideally be an undermount, although if countertops that permit undermounting are prohibitively expensive, that may need to wait a few years. The cooktop will be gas, 36 inches wide, 6 burners with continuous grates, and the hood will take advantage of that outside wall and vent such that my husband can make mole indoors without smoking me out for the next few hours. We're debating the oven still (one or two? dual-fuel range or separate wall oven and cooktop?), other than it/they will be electric and convection, and large enough that I can bake two 9-inch round cake layers at the same time on the same shelf. The fridge will stay about where it is now, but there will be counter and underneath storage where we now have empty space and table. I'd prefer to have no wall cabinets between the window and the sliding door, I think. And if we can remove the baseboard heater between the sliding door and the cylindrical shelves, we'll extend the counter all the way there.

Flooring is a question mark still. One big point of debate is whether to make the dining area part of the kitchen floor, or part of the living room floor.

I'll post more details of what we're thinking, how we tend to use our kitchen, and potential questions or options, along with some photos tomorrow. (We haven't even begun to think about budget yet; we figured we would wait and see how much our realistic-dream kitchen would cost and then work from there.) In the meantime, let me know what you think. (But be aware that I, like some others who have done renovation threads, am apparently not known well for my ability to take criticism well. :biggrin:)

MelissaH
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Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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#2 MelissaH

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 06:39 AM

Here are some photos of the kitchen.

Posted Image
This first photo was taken from the dining room area. Check out the faux brick walls and glass backsplash in the stove area! The semicircular shelves are just visible in the lower left corner of this photo. You can also see one of the two main sources of light: the circular fluorescent monstrosity on the ceiling. (Its twin is about where the semicircular shelf is.) What was the last year appliances were made in dark brown?

Posted Image
Now, here's the view from the corner by the oven, looking toward the dining room. Here, you can see the two different floors, as well as the sliding glass door and the large window. We didn't choose the floral frilly window treatments. The big wooden thing at the bottom of the fridge is my pastry board, which lives in the space between the tall cabinet and the fridge. That's Lyon, crouched just inside the kitchen by the baseboard heater we'd ideally like to remove. He can also sometimes be found on top of the refrigerator...or curled up in the bathroom sink.

Posted Image
Our kitchen sink. It's usually like this, the drainer half and counter to the left loaded with washed dishes in the process of drying. If it's really humid (we live about half a mile from Lake Ontario) we can sometimes accelerate things a bit by putting a box fan where the gigantic roll of plastic wrap usually lives. The fan is the only thing we've ever used that electric outlet for. There's a light hidden behind the wooden trim piece over the sink: one of two pieces that might be considered "task lighting" (the other is the lamp in the hood over the stove). We aren't big soffit people, and we'd like to take it out in favor of cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling.

Posted Image
And finally, the work area. It's usually pretty cluttered, as it's really the only counter space in the whole kitchen. My husband made popcorn last night, hence the large bowl and the air popper in this morning's photo. We also put the dishes that have been rinsed but not yet washed in this area, close to the sink, because I'd prefer to do dishes in as few batches as possible. We try not to put anything in front of the microwave, so we can open the door without a problem. (The one exception: the coffeemaker.) When I want to use either the stand mixer or the food processor, I first clean up whatever's in the work area, even if it means doing dishes a second or third time that day. Then I haul the machine out from whatever cabinet it lives in, and move the toaster oven to accommodate my machine, and go about making whatever. Then, when it's time to shape or roll, I put the body of the machine back in its cabinet, stash the bowl in the sink to maximize available counter space, slide the toaster as far left as I can, and bring out the pastry board from its home next to the fridge. In retrospect, it's amazing I bake as much as I do! (Although I admit that I use the mixer far more often than the food processor: it's just easier to wash by hand.)

MelissaH
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Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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#3 Smithy

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 08:19 AM

Great topic, MelissaH, and good timing, too: giving it a year to percolate should give some good ideas. I agree with you about soffits. What's the point? In our kitchen, the cupboards don't go all the way to the ceiling, and we use the top space for storage of some more decorative items - colorful pots, large impressive stockpots, etc. We like the way it looks. Do you have any idea whether the soffits are hiding anything - like wiring?

I'll be interested to see what sort of constructive suggestions you get from TCW; our kitchen isn't as cramped as yours, but we're also considering remodeling to solve similar problems. So far we've used a rolling cart with cupboards to store most of the baking stuff and provide extra work surface; it moves out to be a work island when needed, and we're considering installing a permanent island. I'm not sure you have that much room. I wonder if there's something like a fold-out work surface, similar to but smoother and sturdier than the old slide-out cutting boards that used to be in every kitchen?

If I'm reading those diagrams properly, you'll be going from one corner cupboard to two. Do you have turntables in there? Are you planning to? If you check out Varmint's kitchen remodeling thread, Varmint's New Kitchen, you'll find that he installed another type of corner cupboard in there called a Magic Corner. Now that I've seen it, I think I'd rather have it than a turntable arrangement. By the way, that thread and the monster thread preceding it (Varmint's Story of a Kitchen Renovation) may have a lot of helpful info for you.

You're spot-on about wanting better lighting and more electrical outlets.

Edited because I finally found some desired links.

Edited by Smithy, 05 June 2005 - 08:48 AM.

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#4 *Deborah*

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 10:18 AM

I wish you the best of luck with your remodel! :smile: how fun!

I wonder why the seeming hate for the glass backsplash behind the stove? I think glass is the most sensible thing to have there, mostly because it's easy to clean. I have subway tiles behind mine, and basically, the grout will never ever be clean. I used to want stainless, and I might still put it in one day, but what I really want is green glass frosted on the reverse side so it's opaque, but smooth on the front side so it cleans up in a jiff.

I can't imagine trying to clean those bricks off!!
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#5 MelissaH

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 11:39 AM

To answer a few questions from Smithy and *Deborah*:

Do you have any idea whether the soffits are hiding anything - like wiring?

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As far as we know, nothing nasty is hiding. At least, when we tore out the soffit on the other side of the kitchen to make the new fridge fit, we didn't get any nasty surprises. We do have attic above the kitchen, so if anything needs to be relocated we may be able to do it from above. We're also not averse to tearing out the kitchen down to subflooring and studs, if need be.

If I'm reading those diagrams properly, you'll be going from one corner cupboard to two.  Do you have turntables in there?  Are you planning to?

Yes, we will be going from one corner to two. I hadn't thought a whole lot about what goes inside the corner, but I do remember reading about Varmint's Magic Corner and I like the idea. Varmint, if you're reading this, do you still like yours? Whatever we do, it must be better than the current teetery and sticky turntables!

You're spot-on about wanting better lighting and more electrical outlets.

We're planning to grab an idea from some friends who remodeled their kitchen a couple of years ago. Right under the countertop, in about the top inch above whatever cabinets or drawers are there, they added a power strip. It lies just about flush with the surface of the cabinetry, hides nicely under the overhang, and gives them an outlet every four inches or so the whole length of their large island. I'm sure you couldn't use them all without tripping a circuit breaker, but it would be so nice to not have where you use your appliances dictated solely by where you can plug them in.

I wonder why the seeming hate for the glass backsplash behind the stove? I think glass is the most sensible thing to have there, mostly because it's easy to clean. I have subway tiles behind mine, and basically, the grout will never ever be clean. I used to want stainless, and I might still put it in one day, but what I really want is green glass frosted on the reverse side so it's opaque, but smooth on the front side so it cleans up in a jiff.

I can't imagine trying to clean those bricks off!!

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Well, for one thing, it rattles. And I'm also perpetually petrified of being in the middle of cooking something, and having hot something splash onto the glass and the glass shatters into whatever I'm making. I don't know if it's tempered glass (did they do that 40 years ago?) but it's certainly not laminated or coated in any way: it's about a sixteenth of an inch thick. I'm also concerned about bashing it with a pan handle, particularly on the right side of the stove where there's no room to work, and doing it in that way. And finally, as I've discovered, it's somehow possible for stuff to get behind the glass, where you can't clean it off! :angry:

My husband discovered something interesting yesterday as a possible backsplash option: Frigo Design. I'm hoping the company has a showroom, because they're in our neck of the woods. At this point I'm leaning away from stainless appliances, but I don't think I'd mind it or another metal for a backsplash.

MelissaH
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Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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#6 jgarner53

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 04:41 PM

Congratulations on your upcoming reno! Our dream (or at least workable) kitchen is still at least a couple of years out. It's great that you're thinking about these things now. You have plenty of time to refine your plans and figure out the details that you want/need.

what are you thinking of for countertop surface?
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#7 MelissaH

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 06:19 PM

what are you thinking of for countertop surface?

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My husband and I are both old-school science types. We like the idea of soapstone countertops, just like the indestructable ones we've used in every lab we've ever worked in. However, I have no idea (yet) whether it would blow the budget (whatever that winds up being). I'm also a little concerned that soapstone might be a little dark for the kitchen. Another possibility is one of the composite stone materials now on the market. I'm not as fond of corian and the like, and while I like butcher block for removable and replaceable cutting boards, I'm not so fond of it for countertops that I'd never feel comfortable were clean unless I'd just drenched them in bleach.

My parents built a house in 1988, and at that time they put in laminate countertops. Their logic: it's relatively easy to change out countertops, so put the money into something that's less easy to change later, like good cabinets and a more-than-adequate septic system. A couple of years ago they did the upgrade, to granite kitchen countertops with an undermounted sink. They also changed the bathroom counter from laminate to stone, although there they opted not to undermount there due to the added cost of cutting openings for both sinks and their faucets. (And I admit that even without the undermounted sinks in the bathroom, it's still a huge improvement over what it was before. The kitchen, of course, is wonderful, and so easy to clean!)

While I would very much like an undermounted sink, I'd be willing to view this as an upgrade for later should the budget run tight. My husband would like a farmhouse-style sink; I'm not sure if farmhouse, undermounted, and stainless are mutually exclusive because I haven't looked too hard yet. We did have a Lowe's store open in town a few months back, which may help initially in some of the looking. (It's about an hour's drive to Syracuse, the nearest big city, where we might be able to find other places to browse.)

Something we've thought about doing is using multiple counter surfaces. I was sort of thinking of the counter next to the fridge as my baking space, where my mixer and food processor could stay out all the time and maybe my flour etc. could live underneath, and I'd want a stone surface there. But if I also want an undermounted sink then I think we're pretty much forced into using the stone all the way around. But I'm not stuck on that idea either. If we decide we need a second sink, it's pretty much got to go at the end of that counter section by the dining room. But I don't think this is a great place for a sink, and it would also be a pain to get water and drain to that location (underneath is our family room and the ceiling is finished with tiles of some kind), so that's probably not going to be an issue.

Have any of you used multiple counter surfaces in a single run? How did you handle the transitions?

MelissaH
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Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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#8 fou de Bassan

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 08:03 PM

Melissa, you mention that your reno is still a bit away. Have you thought of using that Sawzall to take off those rounded shelves and then getting a rolling kitchen cart to increase storage in the meanwhile? You could put your stand mixer on it. We took that route and find that cart still useful. Ikea has a few models, unfortunately I haven't figured out the link thingy yet.
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#9 highchef

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 08:08 PM

The cabinet issue is obviously new ones. to the ceiling, some clear glass. Lose the second entrance to the hall, and move all cabinets down, by that I mean toward the larger entrance. Use the end of the room for the stove/cooktop, but do 6 burners and a large bottom oven/s. That's a galley kitchen from the plans I've drawn, and the 2 cook kitchen comes from the back of the baguette you do for the dining area. Face 1 seat toward the south and another under the window. You do have to raise the window for this, but you'd be able to use the north seats/backs to achor the small half wall that will act as an optional seating area plus work area/buffet area. Keep the sink where it is, add washer. space over washer and corner is perfect work area. snug the refrig. next to the hall entrance at the end of the cabinets, or better yet, build it in to the right angle from the ovens. I look forward to seeing what you do.

#10 snowangel

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 09:45 PM

Melissa:

Good thing you aren't me or Mayhaw Man or your husband isn't either one of us, our the decision would have been made. Both Brooks and I seem to be of the "I'm pissed off at my kitchen, hand me a sledge hammer or power tool variety; see Brooks Kitchen Project topic for some details of us mad-persons.

But, a few thoughts. The less number of doors on any wall is better. Think about removing one of the doorways from one of the walls on that wall. A longer counter is better. You can break it up with an applicance, but a doorway creates all sorts of complications, especially if you ever envision a little one underfoot. My current kitchen has three walls/countertops un-interrupted by doorways. While small, I love the fact that this kitchen is contained, and can be blocked off.

Outlets. You can't have too many. I went from more outlets (in the former house) to a four plex and a duplex. We increased the duplex to a four plex, and are currently mapping the circuits and checking the rafters in the basement to see just where we can put more outlets.

Sink. Deep is good. Really, really good. When we moved into our house, we had a stainless that was 8" deep. Really. I can't believe that anyone would make a sink that shallow. Think thoroughly through that faucet choice. I did not opt for a pull out thing, but opted for a Moen Legend hi-rise. Kid proof. No cable thing to replace.

Counters. No advice. We replaced the harvest gold leatherette with granite, continuous. I didn't feel a need for another kind of surface. I got mine from a monument company, at great savings over the granite counter places. I love my granite. My kids can't destroy it.

Lighting. We're still arguing about it. We have a stupid flourescent "cloud light" that I hate, but my husband insists is "adequate." We'll see what happens to it on eof these days he's not home.

A couple of last thought. How much of this are you doing yourselves? We've done two. The first one 18 months before we put the old house on the market, and are still in the midst of doing this one. If you DIY, it's a lot of work, and a lot of turmoil for whomever lives in your house.

The last thought. Please consider if you want music in your kitchen and dining area, and how you will incorporate it. We did it via a car stereo in the cupboard above the vent hood. Speakers mounted on the useless air soffits on the other side, with the cord fished through the soffits.
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#11 MelissaH

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 06:25 AM

Melissa, you mention that your reno is still a bit away.  Have you thought of using that Sawzall to take off those rounded shelves and then getting a rolling kitchen cart to increase storage in the meanwhile?    You could put your stand mixer on it.  We took that route and find that cart still useful.  Ikea has a few models, unfortunately I haven't figured out the link thingy yet.

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We thought about it. Should we have another issue with needing to let air out of that baseboard, I'll be revving that Sawzall! However, our nearest Ikea is a 5+ hour drive away if you limit yourself to U.S. stores (Ottawa's closer than New Haven, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or anything in NJ) and we don't know of a good source for similar stuff any closer than that. If we can find a nice cart, we may not even wait until we have air in the baseboard.

On another note, we're considering Ikea cabinets, although we aren't yet sure if they'll have the right sizes for what we want.

MelissaH
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Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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#12 MelissaH

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 06:46 AM

To answer some of snowangel's questions and comments:

But, a few thoughts.  The less number of doors on any wall is better.  Think about removing one of the doorways from one of the walls on that wall.

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Highchef also suggested closing off this doorway. However, I hesitate to do this because I'm afraid we'll wreck the traffic plan for the house. We actually use that side door more than the dining room entrance to the kitchen. What the kitchen drawing doesn't show is that if you walk out the "side" door of the kitchen, in front of you just to the left is the staircase leading to the entryway and down to the first level and garage. (It's a split-entry house.) All the groceries that we bring in come up those stairs and straight into the kitchen. If that doorway isn't there, we'd need to walk up and go around to the end through the dining room to bring them in. I'm concerned that this would be inefficient and make us grumble. Before I committed to doing this, I'd tape some cardboard to the wall and temporarily close it off, to see how we feel about losing the door before doing anything irreparable.

Sink.  Deep is good.  Really, really good.  When we moved into our house, we had a stainless that was 8" deep.  Really.  I can't believe that anyone would make a sink that shallow.  Think thoroughly through that faucet choice.  I did not opt for a pull out thing, but opted for a Moen Legend hi-rise.  Kid proof.  No cable thing to replace.


My aunt and uncle have a faucet that looks like one you'd find in a restaurant, with a huge sprayer. I think it would be fun to have!

What do you do when you're cooking pasta, snowangel, with a large pot containing an enormous amount of water? Is it difficult to lift out of the sink to get to your stove? That's my only concern about going to a very deep sink. If we put a pot filler in at the stove, we wouldn't have that problem, but I'm nervous about having a faucet with no drain underneath. (That lab background again.)

A couple of last thought.  How much of this are you doing yourselves?  We've done two.  The first one 18 months before we put the old house on the market, and are still in  the midst of doing this one.  If you DIY, it's a lot of work, and a lot of turmoil for whomever lives in your house.

We'll probably do some of it ourselves, but not all of it. We'll certainly let the plumber and electrician do a good chunk of the work, and we know good people to install the various appliances. (That's one great thing about life in a small town.) My husband is great at building things, but he's not going to be able to devote all of an entire summer to kitchen cabinets. So, we'll probably be looking for someone to do at least some of that. The short answer: however much we can manage but still keep the project to a reasonable time- and financial scale, we'll do.

The last thought.  Please consider if you want music in your kitchen and dining area, and how you will incorporate it.  We did it via a car stereo in the cupboard above the vent hood.  Speakers mounted on the useless air soffits on the other side, with the cord fished through the soffits.

I like to cook to music, if it's just me in the kitchen. I particularly like to do dishes to loud obnoxious music, but once we remodel that won't be as big of a concern. :biggrin: We currently have a radio and CD player in the living room, and the sound goes quite nicely into the kitchen from there. We can always put a second set of speakers in the dining room, to project the sound more directly into the kitchen.

Time for me to turn off the computer. We've got a bit of a thunderstorm coming through! Lightning over the lake is so cool to watch!

MelissaH
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#13 therese

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 07:22 AM

While I would very much like an undermounted sink, I'd be willing to view this as an upgrade for later should the budget run tight. My husband would like a farmhouse-style sink; I'm not sure if farmhouse, undermounted, and stainless are mutually exclusive because I haven't looked too hard yet.

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Farmhouse sinks are well-suited to undermounting. Here's a pic of mine---it's obviously not stainless, but they're available and would presumably also undermount well:

Posted Image

My husband and I are both old-school science types. We like the idea of soapstone countertops, just like the indestructable ones we've used in every lab we've ever worked in. However, I have no idea (yet) whether it would blow the budget (whatever that winds up being). I'm also a little concerned that soapstone might be a little dark for the kitchen.


I also liked the look and durability of soapstone (both husband and I also have science backgrounds), but it's not done too commonly in my area and so it was going to be a bit of thrash to find a fabricator, plus it was going to be more expensive. So we went with a black granite, choosing a honed rather than a polished finish. Not quite as matte as soapstone, but very nearly so, and very easy to maintain. Here's a picture of it that emphasizes it's very minimal shininess:

Posted Image

You could pick a lighter shade of granite and use that it a honed finish if you're concerned about the dark color. Soapstone can be sealed before it acquires its dark color, and you can also have a sink made of it.

We used maple butcher block for some of the counters in the kitchen, all in relatively "dry" areas. We didn't mix counter materials on any runs.
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#14 snowangel

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 08:43 AM

Highchef also suggested closing off this doorway. However, I hesitate to do this because I'm afraid we'll wreck the traffic plan for the house. We actually use that side door more than the dining room entrance to the kitchen. What the kitchen drawing doesn't show is that if you walk out the "side" door of the kitchen, in front of you just to the left is the staircase leading to the entryway and down to the first level and garage. (It's a split-entry house.) All the groceries that we bring in come up those stairs and straight into the kitchen. If that doorway isn't there, we'd need to walk up and go around to the end through the dining room to bring them in. I'm concerned that this would be inefficient and make us grumble. Before I committed to doing this, I'd tape some cardboard to the wall and temporarily close it off, to see how we feel about losing the door before doing anything irreparable.

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Have you thought about just closing off the bottom part of the door so you can extend the counter and have more cabinets, but have a pass-through for getting the groceries into the kitchen easier? Try putting a table in front of that door in the kitchen and see how it works.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#15 Smithy

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 08:44 AM

Melissa, you mention that your reno is still a bit away.  Have you thought of using that Sawzall to take off those rounded shelves and then getting a rolling kitchen cart to increase storage in the meanwhile?    You could put your stand mixer on it.  We took that route and find that cart still useful.  Ikea has a few models, unfortunately I haven't figured out the link thingy yet.

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We thought about it. Should we have another issue with needing to let air out of that baseboard, I'll be revving that Sawzall! However, our nearest Ikea is a 5+ hour drive away if you limit yourself to U.S. stores (Ottawa's closer than New Haven, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or anything in NJ) and we don't know of a good source for similar stuff any closer than that. If we can find a nice cart, we may not even wait until we have air in the baseboard.

On another note, we're considering Ikea cabinets, although we aren't yet sure if they'll have the right sizes for what we want.

MelissaH

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I got my rolling cart from Sunny Kitchens, the online store of Catskill Craftsmen. (They may not be physically so far from you, MelissaH.) I've been very happy with it, and as I consider getting another to serve as a more-or-less permanent kitchen island, I'm thinking about buying from them again.

Maybe I'm missing something. What is an undermounted sink, and what's its advantage? The photo I'm looking at looks like one more ledge to clean (the sink rim, below the counter). That would drive me nuts.

I think you're spot-on about keeping that side door, now that you've described the traffic flow.

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#16 *Deborah*

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 08:58 AM

To answer a few questions from Smithy and *Deborah*:


Well, for one thing, it rattles. And I'm also perpetually petrified of being in the middle of cooking something, and having hot something splash onto the glass and the glass shatters into whatever I'm making. I don't know if it's tempered glass (did they do that 40 years ago?) but it's certainly not laminated or coated in any way: it's about a sixteenth of an inch thick. I'm also concerned about bashing it with a pan handle, particularly on the right side of the stove where there's no room to work, and doing it in that way. And finally, as I've discovered, it's somehow possible for stuff to get behind the glass, where you can't clean it off! :angry:

My husband discovered something interesting yesterday as a possible backsplash option: Frigo Design. I'm hoping the company has a showroom, because they're in our neck of the woods. At this point I'm leaning away from stainless appliances, but I don't think I'd mind it or another metal for a backsplash.

MelissaH

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Oh, I see what you mean about the glass, not knowing if it were tempered would be a bit scary!

That backsplash stuff is cool! Smooth stainless would be easier than the brushed stuff, which sucks in the grease (see my fridge and stove front :hmmm:)
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#17 MelissaH

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 08:58 AM

My husband looked through this thread last night, and he had some good ideas.

He thought the baking area would be better located opposite the cooktop. For one thing, it would then be much closer to the oven. And for another, if I'm baking when guests are over, we wouldn't have an up-close view of the entropy I tend to create anywhere I go. And we'd also have counterspace to act as a "landing area" for when we're setting out the food, or clearing the table afterward. This sounds reasonable to me. We'd then have a full complement of drawers, cabinets, etc. to store our dishes and other eating implements, and since this is all in the near vicinity of the dishwasher it would be convenient.

But then I think about the ovens in the last two houses I've lived in, and their resounding lack of insulation. That's resounding, as in the yells of everyone who leans up against them when they're on. :raz: And I can't imagine trying to roll out pie crust on a counter preheated by the oven underneath. Those of you with ovens younger than 40 years old: have insulation techniques improved since then?

The more interesting idea came from the discussion on closing off the side door. If the whole motivation for closing off the door stems from getting more uninterrupted counter space, there might be a way to do so without wrecking the traffic flow of the house. We're currently thinking that we'd have counter on one side of the doorway, and a tall pantry cabinet of some sort on the other. So here's the somewhat kooky idea: how about a swing-up or fold-down section of countertop? It would be attached to the pantry right next to the doorway. When you need the extra counter space, you'd simply swing up or fold down the section, which would be carefully aligned to the same height as the rest of the counter. It would block the doorway, but only when you needed the extra counter space. When it's not needed, it's out of the way.

My initial thought was something that folded down, because then it would be easy to support on the other side of the doorway with a lip on the existing counter. My husband's initial thought (and he's far more construction-minded than I am) was for something that swings up, because he thinks it's easier to swing up than to fold down. And after thinking this through, I came up with another reason why swing-up might be better. In a fold-down, the working surface would be hidden from view in the "resting" position. For a swing-up, though, when it's not being used the working side would be out. And with the working side out, it would be easier to attach a second small piece of something with a piano hinge, to act as a backsplash so you don't push things off the back, through the doorway, and onto the hall floor. (We envision the backsplash attached to the working side, just far enough in from the edge that when you're using it and fold it up, the work surface itself holds the backsplash upright and you won't be able to push it forward.) However, I haven't been able to come up with a good way to support the swing-up section when you're using it as a counter. (We don't necessarily see this 30-inch section as a heavy-duty work area, but rather as a little extra counter space that could be useful to have.)

Has anyone done anything like this? Any thoughts on fold-down vs. swing-up? Or can you not envision what I'm talking about at all?

MelissaH
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#18 karma police

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 02:19 PM

The best thing I did on my kitchen renovation was to use electrical outlet strips next to the undercounter lights. They are still GFI but the backsplash is not cluttered with outlets and each run has more receptacles than I could ever use.

#19 Smithy

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 09:44 PM

Mm. I think swing-down is easier to support. I also think that a backsplash attached to a fold-down surface is a potential shin-basher - or perhaps, in this case, ankle-basher. Depending on how big you intend this backsplash to be (as in height above the work surface) perhaps you could recess the side into which it swings? In other words - fold the word surface up (no, I do not think a folding counter is goofy, I've seen many an office and library with such a beast) with the backspash sticking into a recess made to fit it.

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#20 fifi

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 05:50 PM

Since you have time, let me suggest this planning process. It helps with priorites when you run into the inevitable budget problems. Building my house got delayed but it is about to happen. In that time I have revisited the kitchen design doing visualization walk throughs and still wouldn't change anything. I am about to repeat the process to make the final decisions on cabinet drawer configurations.

I, too, spent my share of time as a lab rat and love the soapstone. Some time ago I caught the Martha Stewart shows where she was showing off the new studio kitchen. I had forgotten all about soapstone and started drooling. Unfortunately, the kitchen in the new house has enough counter space that you could buy a really nice car for the cost of whatever kind of stone or manufactured stone. I. Just. Can't. Do. That. I have had laminate counters almost all of my life and have no complaints. Then Varmint did the granite tiles and that seems like a good compromise. I have found that some of the soapstone suppliers have tiles so I may consider it. Whatever I do with the counters, I am going to put a marble insert in the island for messing about with dough.

A friend of mine just put in that quilt pattern stainless behind her stove. She loves it.

Ikea cabinets are about the best deal going when you look at the quality price ratio. If my builder doesn't opt to job-build that is probably how I will go. The selection is amazing.

My favorite kitchen floor material of all time is commercial vinyl tile (CVT). Dave the Cook used that in his remodel. If I can find the link I will post it. My last house had ceramic tile and it was pretty but hard to stand on and anything breakable that dropped, well, kiss it good-by.

edit: fixed the link
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#21 goldie

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 06:27 PM

I did my kitchem remodel a few years ago and have been really happy with the choices we made. Some of my favorite features are:
My undercabinet lighting- halogen, nice and bright with good color
My hot water tap (right on the sink)- makes boiling water for pasta so much faster
My sink- undermount and elbow deep, never have problems lifting heavy pots out but I also regularly slug around forty wiggly pounds of boy :raz:
My microwave mounted undercounter with a deep drawer beneath
"Steps" for my spices
Electrical outlets every twelve inches or so
An Imperial range with two huge ovens- I can cook two turkeys and a primerib at the same time. Don't forget the importance of good ventillation- I used commerical fans and lights over the stove.
I love my granite countertops and they are easy to keep clean. I did tiles on my backsplash and over my stove and solved the dirty grout problem by using black grout with my deep red and bronze tiles- they can be nasty dirty and still appear clean.

I wish you the best. I had so much fun planning my kitchen, almost as much fun as using it when it was finished.

#22 highchef

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Posted 09 June 2005 - 07:48 AM

My undercabinet lighting- halogen, nice and bright with good color
My hot water tap (right on the sink)- makes boiling water for pasta so much faster
My sink- undermount and elbow deep, never have problems lifting heavy pots out but I also regularly slug around forty wiggly pounds of boy
My microwave mounted undercounter with a deep drawer beneath
"Steps" for my spices
Electrical outlets every twelve inches or so




as Goldie says, this is good. I can't vouch for the stove because I don't have the space for such a lovely thing and have wall units and a separate cooktop. This is because I refused to give up the sinks spot under a window. Amazing that I would give up the stove of my dreams so I could look out the window, sad but true.
Could you show us what's on the other side of that east wall? I know you said a hall, but is that the living room with the patio doors? Is it load bearing? If you could tear it out between door openings, you could get a substantial island in there....

#23 MelissaH

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 01:47 PM

To answer highchef's question about what's on the other side of the wall, I've put together a quick sketch of the entire floor of the house, sans windows:
Posted Image
The kitchen and dining area are what I've previously sketched. The only transition between the two is the change in flooring. As I alluded to earlier, the deck is on the south side of the house; the door out there is a slider so we don't need to worry about leaving clearance. The wall between the dining/kitchen and living room really needs to stay put because it's a load-bearing wall.

The living room has the same cruddy carpet that's in the dining room and all the way down the hallway. It was also on the stairs from the entryway up, but we took it off to reveal hardwood underneath. There's a wood-burning fireplace at the west end of the living room (on the right side as this picture is oriented) that we view as a prime candidate for a gas log at some point in the future. (There's another fireplace downstairs that's been outfitted with a wood-burning stove, and we use that quite a bit in the long winter season here.)

You can probably see, based on the position of the stairs, why we hesitate to close the opening from the hallway to the kitchen. That set of stairs goes down half a story to the house's entryway, and the coat closet is at the level of the entry. The closet we use as a pantry sure looks like it was intended to be used as another coat closet, but we decided that we needed more storage space for kitchen stuff than for coats. The closet's close enough to the kitchen that it's not too big a deal, but it would be nice to have room in the kitchen.

Another reason for not closing off the kitchen-hall link: that doorway breaks up what would otherwise be a very long wall. Having that doorway there keeps us from feeling like we have a bowling alley or tunnel running down the center of the house. My husband, who likes to build things and is very good at it, plans to make a sideboard to go against the wall in the living room. Then we'll have somewhere to store the set of china his mom's been saving for us since before we were married.

The gray square below the pantry is the entryway, which is open to the ceiling level of the top floor. I'm not entirely sure what's in the space between the stairwell and the living room wall; I suspect that this is empty space that's closed in so the entire wall is flush, with the fireplace recessed to the depth where it meets the stairwell wall on the other side of the insulation. The linen closet's door is just opposite that of the spare bedroom. The other closet marked is the office closet, so the office counts as a true bedroom. And we don't plan to change anything major in the bedroom side of the house.

My mom was just visiting here for a couple of days, and she (of course!) had a few suggestions as we talked things through. And she realized something that neither my husband nor I had considered: as things are currently set up in the kitchen drawing, you can't have both the dishwasher and the fridge open at the same time. :shock: So we started rejiggering things a bit (haven't redrawn them yet, sorry!) and realized that the only reason we'd both been stuck on putting the DW to the left of the sink is because there's a DW-width cabinet there now. So we're thinking that the way to go may be to put the DW to the right of the sink instead, and put the cooktop at the end of the kitchen, about where the current cooktop is. We'd still be able to vent to the outside, because this is the top floor of the house and we can go up through the roof. (Any thoughts on the merits of venting straight up vs. out the side?)

Something else we discussed with my mom (who's absolutely terrific): how much room do you need in front of an oven? We're talking about a normal open-at-the-top pull-down oven door. This came up as we were discussing whether it would be realistic to even consider putting an oven anywhere other than at the end of the kitchen...which would mean that multiple ovens might be out of the question should the cooktop wind up there. We don't view this as a tremendous issue, since we aren't the kind of cooks who tend to bake at more than one temp at a time anyway.

We also spent an inordinate amount of time talking about surfaces, both floor and counter. My mom's a big fan of ceramic tile floors, but I'm not. Then again, she loves ceramic anything, and I'm more fond of comfort while I cook. Fifi, if you can find the CVT link, I'm quite interested. As for the countertops, as my mom pointed out, we'll have a lot of them in the new kitchen. (I counted something on the order of 20 linear feet of counter space in all.) While this is wonderful to work in, fifi notes above that lots of counter can create a big problem for the budget. And fifi, you must have been talking with my mom because she also suggests a stone tile (laid tight together, no grout lines) as an alternative. Those of you who have done this, do you find that the junctions of the tiles create a problem for anything, either in using or cleaning? Am I correct in thinking that I'd want to put in a solid marble or other stone area for my baking area, so I have somewhere to roll dough without a tile grid imprinting itself? (I found this for soapstone tiles, at the very bottom of the page.) I suspect an undermounted sink would be out of the question if we're doing stone tiles instead of a solid surface, but one way to remove the obstacle of having a horrible sink lip to clean around might be to use one of the styles of sink with built-in drainboards. My mom also suggested concrete counters, but I just don't like the way they look!

We're all definitely getting into the idea of a swing-up or fold-down piece of counter to bridge the doorway when necessary. No consensus on which would be the better way to go. But we all agree without a doubt that we'd want something to make it very obvious that the counter was folded down (flags? traffic cones? giant stop signs?), so nobody gets hurt trying to come through the doorway!

Edited to clarify comments on edited drawing.

MelissaH

Edited by MelissaH, 11 June 2005 - 09:50 AM.

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#24 snowangel

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 04:01 PM

One further thought. Move the door into the kitchen closer to the pantry end of the kitchen.
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#25 fifi

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 05:23 PM

Sorry for the glitch in the link to the planning process. I edited above but here is a link that should work.

Planning a Kitchen
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#26 johnder

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 05:37 PM

We just got finished installing quartz countertops in our kitchen and have a apron fron kohler dickinson farmhouse sink. We love it. This Zodiaq quartz is an amazing surface. It is completely non-porous and the FDA approved it as a "food preparation" surface. The only other surface that has this approval is stainless steel.

We opted for the Zodiaq Mercury Grey. If you want to see a picture of it and our sink installed, click here.
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#27 MelissaH

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 09:49 AM

One further thought.  Move the door into the kitchen closer to the pantry end of the kitchen.

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I sometimes think it would be nice to have a straight shot from the stairwell to the kitchen. But I'm afraid that if we start messing with walls, we'd blow the budget. However, we'll see what we find when we start to really plan out the cabinets, to see if adjusting the doorway will give us a more advantageous layout of normal-sized (aka less-expensive, off-the-shelf sized) cabinets.

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#28 MelissaH

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 10:19 AM

Mm.  I think swing-down is easier to support.  I also think that a backsplash attached to a fold-down surface is a potential shin-basher - or perhaps, in this case, ankle-basher.  Depending on how big you intend this backsplash to be (as in height above the work surface) perhaps you could recess the side into which it swings?  In other words - fold the word surface up (no, I do not think a folding counter is goofy, I've seen many an office and library with such a beast) with the backspash sticking into a recess made to fit it.

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This morning as we went for a ride on our tandem (best marriage counselor ever; it'll make or break you probably about as well as a kitchen remodel will) and talked a bit more about the swing-up/fold-down section. He assures me that supporting a swing-up will not be a problem. He's also thinking that this section would be perfect to make out of a different material, such as marble, and we could even put it at a slightly different height (a touch lower than a standard countertop, because I'm short enough that when I roll dough on my pastry board on top of our counter, my shoulders go up around my ears.)

But this is the part I think is really neat. One of my concerns about a swing-up was that the working surface is on the outside, where it can get bumped, bashed, shin-whacked, or worse. His plan now: build a sort of cabinet around the swing-up, with a door that looks like all the other cabinet doors. Then, when you want to use the swing-up, you'd open the door---which would then block the doorway to prevent people from trying to come through and banging their hips on the swing-up. A multi-tasker! (Depending on how things are set up, the door may also help to support a fold-up backsplash.)

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#29 Smithy

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 03:25 PM

Mm.  I think swing-down is easier to support.  I also think that a backsplash attached to a fold-down surface is a potential shin-basher - or perhaps, in this case, ankle-basher.  Depending on how big you intend this backsplash to be (as in height above the work surface) perhaps you could recess the side into which it swings?  In other words - fold the word surface up (no, I do not think a folding counter is goofy, I've seen many an office and library with such a beast) with the backspash sticking into a recess made to fit it.

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This morning as we went for a ride on our tandem (best marriage counselor ever; it'll make or break you probably about as well as a kitchen remodel will) and talked a bit more about the swing-up/fold-down section. He assures me that supporting a swing-up will not be a problem. He's also thinking that this section would be perfect to make out of a different material, such as marble, and we could even put it at a slightly different height (a touch lower than a standard countertop, because I'm short enough that when I roll dough on my pastry board on top of our counter, my shoulders go up around my ears.)

But this is the part I think is really neat. One of my concerns about a swing-up was that the working surface is on the outside, where it can get bumped, bashed, shin-whacked, or worse. His plan now: build a sort of cabinet around the swing-up, with a door that looks like all the other cabinet doors. Then, when you want to use the swing-up, you'd open the door---which would then block the doorway to prevent people from trying to come through and banging their hips on the swing-up. A multi-tasker! (Depending on how things are set up, the door may also help to support a fold-up backsplash.)

MelissaH

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That's bloody brilliant! OK, I'm a convert now!

...and I agree with you about the tandem; try tandem kayaking sometime, too! :biggrin:

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#30 MelissaH

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 06:14 AM

Planning a Kitchen

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I think I'll take a page out of fifi's book (excuse the expression!) and start keeping a log of what we cook and otherwise how we use the kitchen. (Yesterday dinner: loin lamb chops marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, herbes de Provence, and S&P for about 10 minutes before getting grilled for about 4 min/side, and a cool crunchy green salad.) Of course, as I say this, we're in our hottest weather of the year, and we haven't been cooking inside at all for the last two days, and aren't likely to do so again for a few more days. (I know that heat's all relative. We're so close to the lake that we don't get as hot as Syracuse or even the nearest NWS post ten miles south of here, but the humidity and dew points are way up so it's sticky. We don't know anyone living here with air conditioning, because we generally don't need it! SUNY-Oswego has a meteorology program, and you can check a real-time display of our weather.)

What we cook: the short answer is a little bit of everything. We often joke that if you have half an hour, my husband is better at putting dinner on the table; if you have all week, I'll serve you a meal you'll never forget. In reality, most of the time, who cooks depends on who gets home first, or who had the later class, or the longer day. During the week, we tend to do quicker meals, or leftovers. Quicker meals are things like mac & cheese (either my way on the stovetop with a bechamel, his way which uses evaporated milk, butter, and cheese chunks and goes in the oven, or the Blue Box way, depending on who's cooking and how much time we have), a one-dish something, pasta with sauce, something Asian, Mexican, or Cajun-style to go with rice from the rice cooker, a quick saute of some kind, or whatever else we can throw together. We don't always eat meat; I'd estimate that about half the time, we instead choose beans, veggie crumbles AKA "burgeroid" in our house, or another alternate source of protein. Sometimes we'll also use just a little meat (usually ham, bacon, or sausage) as an accent in an otherwise vegetarian dinner. When it's soup or stew weather, we'll often make one in the crock-pot, often prepping it the night before and then cooking it while we're at work. Beans usually get done in the crock-pot no matter what the season.

On weekends we're more inclined to spend more time in the kitchen, especially during the 51 weeks a year it's not too hot to even think about boiling water. Weekends are when a chicken or other large cut of beast might get roasted, and it's not uncommon for us to use the leftovers in weekday dishes for some of that week. We like to keep a pantry with enough staples to eat for a week if necessary, and we also freeze stuff for later use. It's common for us to buy chickens or parts thereof on sale, and then bone them ourselves and make stock when we have enough bones to make it worthwhile. The stock typically gets reduced way down, frozen in ice cube trays, and then bagged for later use. The hardest part about the freezer is remembering to bring meat up from the deep freeze at least a day before you want to eat it. This year's strawberry crop was partially destroyed by a freeze a couple of weeks ago (hard to believe it now) so I'm glad we still have plenty of last year's berries, which we picked ourselves, safely frozen. We also still have enough pitted sour cherries for two or three pies, and a few gallons of the blueberries we picked.

I bake more than my husband does. He does a batch of cookies or bars or muffins or something every three months or so; it often gets brought in to share with his colleagues and students.) I do lots of different kinds of breads, as well as cookies and pies. (Actually, we share the pies: I make the crust, he makes the filling. Doesn't matter who puts it together.) I don't do as many cakes, because the current oven doesn't seem to do them well. For one thing, there's a tremendous hot spot in one back corner. Keeping the lower rack filled with quarry tiles seems to help even things out somewhat, but any time I bake anything, I must rotate halfway through or I'll char the corner. The oven is also small, so if I want to do anything in more than one round pan, I need to use my 8-inch pans because otherwise they don't fit. (Forget about using multiple oven racks in this oven, for anything.) Another pipe dream of mine is a wood-burning oven in the back yard.

We have a Weber gas grill, which we use extensively when the weather's warm enough that the propane ignites. We cook just about everything on it, including our Thanksgiving turkey and the asparagus that came from the farmer's market last week, but have never had much luck grilling tofu. When we have the time and a reasonably full propane tank, we'll do a beer can chicken. The grill is an absolute savior during the one week a year it's hot...like now. When we entertain large groups during non-winter, one of our favorite ways of feeding everyone is to ask everyone to bring a dish to pass, and cook brats and veggie burgers on the grill. The brats always get boiled in beer first. Our first year here, we had a hard time finding brats in the supermarkets!

My husband brews beer, so we have a 170,000 btu burner to boil gallons of water in a hurry. This burner also gets used for stir-frying in the summer. When we're done, the garage smells exactly like a cheap Chinese restaurant. :smile: It's also great when I load up the canner, if we've had a good year for tomatoes or something else. While high output burners are probably nice to have right there in the kitchen, this works well for us, and has the added benefit that most of the mess is outside! We also have an ancient three-burner propane stove, which came from my husband's family's farm. We use this when we make mole, so that smoke from toasting chiles and then frying chile paste is outside.

I'll be keeping track of what we cook over the next few weeks, to see if what I think we do is accurate. I'll also try to remember to repeat the exercise in fall or winter, to see what difference the seasons make to me. In the meantime, I need to figure out what we're doing tonight, which will probably involve a shopping trip later today, so I'd better look at the new sale ads! A friend will be bringing her dinner over to grill alongside, so it will be a pleasant if sticky-hot evening.

MelissaH
MelissaH
Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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