Dream Kitchen (part four): The Installation

Wow, it’s been more than two months since my last kitchen update! Things are progressing very slowly. What I had thought would be just an overall three-month renovation has dragged on and will be closer to six or seven months. However, we’ve been living here a month now because we do have a working kitchen and one working full bathroom.

Anyway, all the cabinets, appliances, and countertops are all in place. It still needs to be finished off because the fur-downs created a challenge. None of them were particularly straight, so there were gaps, but we will put some edging on them and paint to match the cabinets to make them look like an extension of the cabinets. We couldn’t get rid of them entirely because they hide some of the HVAC ductwork as well as some wiring and plumbing.

kitchenpt4

I am happy with the functionality of the IKEA cabinets (still using the AKURUM system, which is being discontinued by IKEA), but painting them was a real chore. I got some incorrect information that I could just use some alcohol-based primer and I wouldn’t need to sand all these pieces, so I’ve had to do some painting, re-painting, sanding, and re-re-painting. Of course, I probably would have been okay if I’d used an oil-based paint instead of latex. But I’m not going to re-do it all again! And I’m hopeful that they’ll last a while. They have a 25-year warranty, but they are not real wood, so I’m anxious about how they’ll hold up. I plan to take care of them, though. Prevent spills, keep them clean, and so on.

For the countertops, I went with quartz. There is some quartz that is just gorgeous…and also very expensive. But I opted for Caesarstone in “Nougat” which is pretty with just a bit of sparkle to it. It’s in the middle range as far as quartz pricing and about the same as some of the nicer granite. I really like it.

The Bosch appliances have been mostly great. The counter-depth fridge is low on space, particularly in the freezer, but it’s very sleek (thanks to the water and ice dispensers being inside) and the alarm is nice since I don’t always get the door closed. Also, the stainless steel front will take a magnet! This is great news for my little artist.

The Bosch dishwasher (a 500 series) does a great job and is very quiet. So much so that when it does make a noise, it’s startling because I’ve forgotten it was on. However, I am accustomed to a “dry” cycle that could be disabled so that I could put any item anywhere in the dishwasher. This one does not have a dry cycle, but uses extra heated water to “made drying faster.” Well, that water melted a silly straw already. I used the express cycle once, but it did not get the dishes as clean as the “light” cycle on my old Kenmore. However, I can get a lot more stuff into the Bosch, so I don’t have to run it as often, so I suppose that works out.

The slide-in range is a bit disappointing. Though it is gorgeous, doesn’t require any countertop behind it (it is “full depth”) and has many, many nice features (most of which I’ll never use), the one problem with it is a big one. That is, when the oven is on, the cooling fan is also on. And it is not quiet. This is only true for the slide-in models and I really don’t get it. Even when I had it on a warming mode of 120F, the stupid fan was still running. In this age when everyone is blowing out the walls in their homes and many of us have living areas open to the kitchen, this seems like a real design flaw. And as quiet as the dishwasher is, I’d rather have it not be quiet and have a quiet oven because I can run the dishwasher at night and never hear it. And when I’ve finished cooking dinner, the fan will still run to cool down the oven for some 10 minutes after I’ve turned it off. So we hear this clutter noise while we’re eating. This is something I think Bosch should really address or they’re going to have a tough time selling these things. Though, in reading the reviews of the microwave, this feature may be preventing the microwave front from melting…

The microwave is the last of the suite of appliances I got. Its functionality is almost identical to the LG that I left behind (and loved), though it is smaller (by choice) and doesn’t heat items quite as quickly. A weird thing it does is run the vent fan after items are heated, but the fan turns off once you open the door. I suppose this is so there’s a lesser chance of your food continuing to be heated and cooked after it shuts off, so that’s actually a rather nice feature if you use it to steam vegetables (as I do).

The floor remains on the to-do list. Of the many mistakes I have made, I definitely count purchasing Behr Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain near the top of the list. I should have let a professional do this job (and I will have to let a professional RE-DO this job). Here’s the deal. This is acrylic water-based stain, which means it’s really just very liquidy, thin paint. So, when it goes on, you can’t really see where the stain is going because the water discolors the concrete. When it dried (lighter than when it went on), I could see roller marks that did not show up before. And by then, of course, it’s too late to fix. You can put another coat or two on, but then it’s not really semi-transparent any more. It’s mostly opaque. Also, it’s not a great sealer. Water-based sealer isn’t great for sealing against water (dur) and it wears off within a couple of years anyway (I learned this from another DIYer after the fact). I also didn’t prime the floors (I thought it was not necessary because of the sanding) and the stain did not adhere well. Lumps of drywall mud were left to dry on the floor when I had the ceilings finished and when I cleaned them off, the stain came with them. So I will pay someone else to stain and seal my floors…sometime.

Note that you see two faucets at the sink. Even though we have a filtered water dispenser inside the refrigerator, I wanted one at the sink (I don’t like to drink really cold beverages). Mr. Eats wanted something a little sleeker than the standard water dispenser, so he chose this Delta prep sink faucet. It’s not from the same line as the big pull-down faucet (Delta Allora, which I highly recommend), but similar enough and both come in Delta’s newest finish, “Arctic Stainless” which is brighter and closer to the color of stainless steel appliances. It’s really pretty.

The two barstools have been in my possession for 20 years now, purchased at a friend’s yard sale, so they were already old then. But finding comfy 24-inch bar stools (counter height) is more of a challenge than I’d thought! And WTH, bar stools are expensive! I also still need the new windows install and trimmed out, a stainless steel backsplash for behind the range, install the shelving for my cookbooks over the 6-foot long counter between the pantries, choose a paint color for the breakfast room, and find an island that I like. So far, I haven’t needed it.

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Nasoya TofuBaked Tofu Review and Giveaway

Being the good southerner I am (and being of a certain age), my first experience with tofu didn’t come until I was in college back in the early 90s.  An enlightened friend introduced me to a small natural foods market in Memphis called Squash Blossom (it was later bought by Wild Oats) where, along with groceries, they sold prepared foods. They served a tofu salad there that was just like mustard-based potato salad but with firm tofu instead of potatoes. It was delicious! I quickly bought a block for myself to make the salad at home, but things didn’t go so well. I didn’t realize you had to press out the water and then freeze it to get a good texture, so I did not try tofu again for another ten years.

I still don’t love working with tofu at home. But when I discovered baked tofu, everything changed. They have plain baked tofu at the Japanese market nearby and a favorite Thai restaurant (Smiling Elephant) uses it in their tofu dishes. The texture and taste are so much more palatable. Trader Joe’s also sells marinated baked tofu that’s pretty darn good, too. But, it’s not always convenient (or even accessible to some).

TofuBaked-Sesame-3So I was really excited when I discovered that Nasoya now offers a line of marinated baked tofu, TofuBaked that’s readily available at the grocery (each Publix I visited in Nashville carried it). Actually, their line of organic and non-GMO tofu also now includes another new product, TofuPlus, which is fortified with other ingredients to address specific dietary needs or tastes. They’re really doing a lot to make tofu more accessible, palatable, and enjoyable for the masses.

TofuBaked comes in two flavors: sesame ginger and teriyaki. Nasoya sent me some coupons so that I could try both and I have to say they are delicious. I sliced the teriyaki flavor and put it on a sandwich with some massaged kale and smoked salt (mostly for the benefit of the kale; the tofu tasted great on its own). The sesame ginger was cubed and heated and added to some sesame noodles (which I served with roasted bok choy) for dinner. Though I admit to eating more than just a few of the cubes before they made it to the dinner table. They’re just so good!

TofuBaked-Teriyaki-3Of course, I shared this information with some friends recently who were less than convinced. But I tell ya, both flavors are great.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Enter here to win a giveaway of a free salad kit direct from Nasoya with coupons to try the tofu for free! The folks at Nasoya said their research indicated that a lot of folks like to eat the baked tofu in salads, so they have this lovely bamboo bowl and spoons to give people a little incentive. Once things settle down in my dream kitchen, I’ll probably try the sesame ginger flavor in a cold seaweed salad. Nasoya has a ton of great baked tofu recipes on their site that I’d also like to try out.

To enter the giveaway for a salad kit with coupons for free Nasoya products, just leave a comment about what you’d like to prepare with your Nasoya baked tofu. A salad? Sandwich? Soup? Stir-fry? Curry? It’s so versatile!

For a bonus entry, tweet the following: “Enter to win a salad kit and tofu #giveaway from @Nasoya and @lesleyeats http://ow.ly/Ezw50”

Leave a separate comment for each entry for a maximum of two to increase your chances of winning! Limit 2 entries/comments per person. The contest will be open from now until Wednesday, December 3 at 1pm CST and is only open to residents of the United States. The winner will be chosen at random and be notified by email that afternoon and will have until Monday, December 8 at 1pm CDT to respond with a valid mailing (street) address. If there’s no response by that time, I will choose another winner. Good luck!

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Dream Kitchen (part three): The Layout

It’s been a long time since I updated about the kitchen. Right now, we’re in the middle of renovating the home, pretty much top to bottom and side to side. There’s not a single space in the house that doesn’t need something. But it’s moving along; it has to since we have to move in soon.

Since last time, I spent all afternoon in my local Ferguson showroom deciding on appliances as well as lighting for the entire house. The appliances were the easy part; after surveying a lot of friends, I decided to go with all Bosch appliances. They had the French door refrigerator without a dispenser on the front, the slide-in range (that’s full depth, so I didn’t have to run the countertop behind it), the over-the-range “microhood” microwave, as well as the dishwasher, which is what folks really rave about. The lighting took much longer (so many choices!) and is primarily Kichler in brushed nickel (to go with the stainless appliances and Delta Allora pull-down faucet, which I currently have and like so much I wanted it in my new house), including this badass fan (that I need because my microhood doesn’t vent to the outside):

The Kichler Starkk fan

The Kichler Starkk fan

But now to the other really important part: the cabinets. I chose to use IKEA cabinets because of their high customer satisfaction rating. I have two friends with IKEA kitchens and they’re both very happy. A local company, ModerNash operates as an importer of IKEA goods to Nashville (because we don’t have our own) as well as a kitchen design and installation store. So, because they are experts on all the nuances of IKEA kitchens, I had them measure and design the space to my specifications. Namely, moving the appliances to where they made sense and making the space more functional. In the process, I lost a double oven (I didn’t like losing the space on a 30″ cooktop for the controls), but I think this will work just fine. Besides, I have a great Breville toaster oven!

Here’s the mock-up of the kitchen layout:

kitchenrendering

It’s changed some since this rendering; there was a miscommunication on the size of the slide-in range as well as the microwave, so now it’s back at 30″ wide for both (no filler panels) and a 15″ tall cabinet over the microwave. Note that now the range is a shorter distance from the sink (for pot filling and draining) and that the refrigerator has been moved out of the primary workspace (and the sink is also accessible without having to pass by the range). It’s a full-on functional work triangle! I take items from the fridge and either place them on the cabinet by the range or on the island (which will be removable). Also, not shown here is that the peninsula cabinets are all drawers. For all my many food storage containers (both plastic and glass).

The tricky part of the kitchen is the cabinets themselves. I’d pretty much decided on the Adel, but when I saw it in person, I saw that it was white laminate. It looked pretty cheap to me. No offense to Adel owners, but that’s just not what I wanted. So I opted for the Orsa birch, which will be painted white. This is a huge PitA, but I’ll have real wood cabinets, which is important to me (even though they’ll be painted white). Sixty-eight pieces of cabinetry (including the laundry room) that need to be primed (twice) and painted is a lot of painting (and a lot of time, particularly when waiting on them to cure between coats). Aside from the painting, the other tricky part is having the cabinets look right with the soffits, which are uneven. But I’ve been assured that “it will look great.”

Here are some pictures of the demolition, which we did ourselves (with some help from PopPop Eats):

You know how they always attack cabinets with sledgehammers? Now I know why: stripped screws and 4x4 tile. Sledgehammers are the only way.

You know how they always attack cabinets with sledgehammers? Now I know why: stripped screws and 4×4 tile. Sledgehammers are the only way.

 

Over the course of a couple of days, we got all the cabinets and tile out and all the flooring out, too. Not bad!

Over the course of a couple of days, we got all the cabinets and tile out and all the flooring out, too. Not bad!

But there was still more to rip out. All the drywall had to be replaced; some due to tears from the tile removal, some due to rot and water damage.

But there was still more to rip out. All the drywall had to be replaced; some due to tears from the tile removal, some due to rot and water damage.

 

Finally starting to look like it's ready for cabinets. Note that the floors are finally clean. Two days of sanding with a diamond head floor sander (messy and loud) finally got rid of 40 years of mastic and vinyl glue. Ready to be stained!

Finally starting to look like it’s ready for cabinets. Note that the floors are finally clean. Two days of sanding with a diamond head floor sander (messy and loud) finally got rid of 40 years of mastic and vinyl glue. Ready to be stained!

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