All posts in Kitchen

Kitchen coffee center: just put it in a drawer!

One of the main goals for my new kitchen was to find a solution for my coffee stuff. In our previous space, it was sort of confined to a corner of the counter, but still took up counter space and still was an eyesore. Since I use a stove top coffee maker and/or a French press, I hand wash the parts and need a place to dry them. Again, that takes up counter space.

So what do we have in total? A coffee grinder, a hot water kettle, a couple of coffee pots that are used regularly, canisters of beans, a milk frother, coffee stirrers, sugar… these really add up!

The solution is using one of my drawers in our new IKEA kitchen as a hidden coffee station. It turns some of the IKEA parts that go with the Bygel rail system seem to fit nicely on the rails for the drawer. As you can see, I’ve got some of the smaller items in the Bygel cups and have used one of the baskets for drying my coffee pot. I’ve put an old cloth underneath so the drawer doesn’t get wet, and have also taken a small cloth bag and put some uncooked rice in it to absorb any leftover humidity (you can’t see it in the photo but it’s there. It’s about the size of a golf ball). So far, so good.

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Green alternative to oven cleaner: The (lazy) Baking Soda method

Oven cleaning is usually the toughest cleaning job in a home. Conventional oven cleaners are also one of the most toxic cleaning substances in you home, too. And the self-clean feature? This mode can fry the electronics in your modern range and many appliance sales associates don’t recommend it.

I propose this: the easiest, greenest and laziest method of cleaning an oven.

First, plan on not using your oven for 24 hours.

Get out a large bowl. Start with adding one cup of baking soda. Grab a cup of warm water and start drizzling it into the baking soda until it forms a soft paste… somewhere between toothpaste and clay and wet sand. If you’ll be cleaning the sides or top of your oven, you might have to experiment with the consistency and make sure it’s not too crumbly.

The inside of your oven will be white and chalky. No worries. Now here’s the lazy part: wait 24 hours. You can wait 12 if you’re impatient or have a baking emergency. Even if you forget about it and a week later realize you did this to your oven, no worries.

When you’re ready to clean it up, get out the large bowl again and mix 1 part warm-to-hot water and 1 part vinegar. Start by picking up the large clumps with your hands or a brush and a dustpan. While this substance isn’t toxic, it might dry out your hands a bit so wear gloves if you’re concerned. Now that you’ve removed the major stuff, do a check and see if there are any stains still present. If so, dip a rag into the water and vinegar mixture, wring it out well and using the baking soda residue, scrub that stain away. Don’t worry: you won’t harm the surface.* Scrub in a circular motion. If this still isn’t coming off, add a little more baking soda to the spot and let it sit while you clean the rest of the oven. To clean up the leftover baking soda, saturate your rag a little more heavily and keep wiping until there are no more traces of white powder. If it seems like there’s still a fine grit of residue on the surface, put some vinegar in a spray bottle, spray the whole surface and wipe down with a dry cloth. The vinegar will dissolve the baking soda¬†√† la elementary school volcano for the science fair.

The result is a clean oven without using oven cleaner and without a ton of work (in this blogger’s opinion, of course).

As a side note, I’ve tried cleaning ovens with vinegar solutions, including vinegar infused with orange peel which is usually a great grease-cutter. I think it works well on surfaces like counters but baked-on grease needed something grittier. If it was a delicate surface, I’d try Bon Ami. It’s my favorite when I need to scrub something like stainless steel or enamel cookware.

*if you have a fancy oven that’s made with a material other than the blue or black painted metal that most ovens have, be sure to test a spot first. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stainless steel or ceramic oven interior but I’m sure it exists. Baking soda, while gentle enough for fabrics, just might scratch a delicate surface.

IKEA Adel kitchen: before and after sneak peek!

The LA Lady's IKEA Adel DIY Kitchen

So it’s been a couple of weeks of traveling and house guests and I’ve been remiss in posting. And there was Dwell on Design where I met the most awesome purveyor of skincare products (more on that soon) and I had a great time.

Basically, I was putting the finishing touches on the kitchen and then I had to leave town! After weeks of IKEA cabinet assembly and tile installation, we have a finished product. So now I’ve been able to work in the kitchen and so far it’s been amazing. SUCH a huge improvement over the old 80’s kitchen. And now I won’t hit my head on the cabinets either!

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Making the garden a must-have in the kitchen: 5 steps to plan, grow and harvest your indoor garden

Becoming aware of where our food comes from is a big issue these days, and more and more people are turning to home gardening to ensure the quality of their food. If you have a sprawling yard with plenty of space and the desire to grow, you are capable of raising almost everything you want to eat. To do this is a tremendous effort, so I’m taking a more moderate approach. As an Angeleno, I have zero outdoor space to garden… not even a patio! What I have is a small window in an office where my Tillandsia and succulents take their place. I’m sure there are plenty of New Yorkers and other urban dwellers who are in a similar situation.

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Kitchen Renovation: DIY Installation: IKEA Adel Cabinets

ikea akurum adel cabinet bases installation diy

After running into a rogue vent, having some odd city inspections and a handful of other road blocks, we finally have our drywall and tile in and are installing cabinet frames. This is when the kitchen starts to look like a kitchen and not a tool shed. When we were bidding the project with our contractor, he said multiple times, “if you run into trouble with the cabinet installation, give me a call.” This was the major line item we decided to DIY and his faith in our ability to do a decent job was slim. I don’t blame him: these cabinets are not a simple DIY. They require some serious planning. 80% of our effort was spent on planning. Experience in assembling IKEA furniture really won’t help you on this project. What will help you is research… and a good tape measure… and a great drill, some extra screws… a laser level, etc. etc. etc.

Mr. Los Angeles has one of the best brains I’ve ever seen and the only contribution I provided was an extra set of hands and some basic suggestions. Even after paying someone from IKEA to come and measure our kitchen, he double-checked that every cabinet would fit and every door would have the right clearance to open. He also took into account that there’s not single wall that’s straight in this joint and we’d have to buy enough shims to build a tree house for The Brady Bunch. And in the true spirit of a remodeling project, there would be problems that need solving.

This process might seem obvious to any/all of you who’ve done this before, but I thought I’d include them anyways since we wouldn’t have known to do some of these things without researching it first. The way I see it, you can go about installing your IKEA kitchen in two ways:

  1. Get the cabinets and follow the directions while installing them. Done and done.
  2. Research the ins and outs of IKEA cabinets. Search YouTube for installation suggestions. Get the proper tools. Measure measure measure. Add all of the end panels, toe kicks, plinth pieces and details that finish off the kitchen.

We went with option two and, at times, it was difficult. I’d say about 60% of our knowledge base wasn’t contained within the IKEA directions but found in online forums and videos. Our contractor offered us a few tips we didn’t find elsewhere and that saved us big time. And it’s not that the IKEA directions are really lacking. In fact, it’s amazing how they’ve organized the whole process.

Before I launch into this, I’d like to recommend a few tools, some of which are specified in the directions and some that aren’t. It’s worth suggesting at this point that if buying all these tools and spending all this time installing the cabinets will outweigh the cost of having someone install them for you, then you might want to rethink a DIY installation:

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Custom DIY spice rack in your IKEA kitchen

Ikea custom diy spicerack

I’ve been immensely impressed with the IKEA process. The few problems I’ve run into have been relatively minor in the grand scheme. They’ve thought of everything…

…almost everything.

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Kitchen Renovation: 75% complete

Cambria countertop in Bellingham, lit by our under cabinet lighting from Environmentallights.com

Wow… we’ve come a long way! And yet we still have a long way to go. The floors are in, the base of the cabinets are in and I’d say about 90% of the cabinet doors/hinges/drawers are in. We still have to install the counters and backsplash, but once that’s done the kitchen is pretty much done.

 

    Cambria counter top in Bellingham, lit by under cabinet lights from Environmentallights.com

Cambria counter top in Bellingham, lit by under cabinet lights from Environmentallights.com

I’m so excited about our counter tops, and our lighting is looking great. Right now I’m writing several posts about the things we’ve done with our kitchen, plus taking a lot of photos along the way.

Stay tuned!

Kitchen Renovation: Demolition! And why we decided to not DIY this part

Kitchen Demolition

LET’S BREAK STUFF!

Finally! We’ve started our kitchen remodel today and our old, nasty kitchen has been demolished. I was dreading this day for a while but it just means we are one step closer to the finished project. I think we’ve chosen a great construction company (TME Construction Inc.) who can get this done in a reasonable amount of time. Barring any unforeseen disasters (which are probably inevitable) this should take about three to four weeks, start to finish.

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Kitchen Renovation: Preparation (and 3 ways to keep your sanity during a renovation)

There are a few things that really grind my gears: hypocrites, formal shorts and moving. I absolutely loathe moving. I’d rather do a strangers laundry for a month than pack up my stuff into boxes and move. Perhaps it’s the disorganization that bothers me:

Kitchen Renovation chaos

Kitchen Renovation chaos

This is my office right now. It’s usually a nice little room big enough to be an office, a place for my plants, and a place to do a little post-ballet class yoga. Right now it’s storing everything that was in our kitchen cupboards, plus our home theater stuff since the living room is the staging area for the kitchen. See the knife block just hanging out in the middle of the room? ISN’T IT FABULOUS I THINK IT TIES THE WHOLE ROOM TOGETHER!!!

Add to this the fact that we are without hot water until the renovation starts, the whole situation makes me a little on edge. It would be awesome to be able to stay in a hotel for a month, but that could get a wee bit expensive, no? And I wouldn’t impose upon a friend to house me during our renovation, so we’re staying put. I’ve come up with a few ways to cope with the stress and keep some semblance of order during this process:

1. Carve out a niche that’s your personal, organized space. Even if it’s just a closet or your desk, keep that space absolutely spotless and in order. Right now, that’s about one sixth of the office that includes the desk and the space next to the window where I can take care of my plants. That brings me to…

2. Maintain a relaxing hobby. Maybe it’s meditation, but I’ve taken to indoor gardening as something to focus on. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that’s NOT involved with the renovation.

Keeping my plants nurtured during the kitchen renovation might just keep me sane

Keeping my plants nurtured during the kitchen renovation might just keep me sane

3. Plan some “going out” activities. There really should be a line item in a renovation budget for mental health. Plan an outing to a park or dinner and a movie. And then vow to not talk about the renovation. That’s easier said than done since it’s consuming your whole life. Renovations can be hard on relationships, especially if you and your partner have a hard time agreeing on decisions and are constantly making compromises. That way when your contractor calls and says something like, “structural issues,” you’re ready to handle it.

The economics of a kitchen remodel: how to budget for a kitchen and not lose money

http://www.flickr.com/photos/grantm/

Much has been made of the value a kitchen contributes to a home. This wasn’t always the case and I have a few theories as to why. Anyone who has a home that predates the 1970’s probably has a very small kitchen in a very compartmentalized home. Back then, the Little Woman did all the cooking and she didn’t need a big, open chef’s kitchen, did she? It’s true that many older homes built en masse are also small, but if you look at pre-1970’s kitchen-to-rest of the home ratio and current kitchen-to-rest of the home ratios, the difference is clear. Cooking has become more of a group activity (or, depending on your perspective, men have become more involved in cooking) and therefore kitchens have become a place to cook and socialize, which warrants a bigger space. Now, the kitchen is the most expensive room in an average home. Although if Mr. Los Angeles got his hands on a home with a dedicated theater, this would be a a different story.

After installing our new floors and giving our condo a coat of paint and a good scrub, the kitchen was the room that needed the most work. The condo came with appliances that appeared Soviet in era and design and they had to go. So right after having to buy a home, we had to buy appliances (ick!). Instead of hunting Craigslist or getting ding-and-scrapes from the big box stores, we went to our local appliance store and just got what we really wanted for the long run. Mr. Los Angeles scored a top of the line fridge due to an advertising misprint. So that’s a big chunk of our kitchen remodel budget that was removed from the equation (about $5,000 worth).

Buying the condo was a touch-and-go process so for months I browsed Houzz and all of my favorite design and kitchen blogs and had quite the wishlist! Stone countertops! Instant hot water for my tea! A sink big enough to bathe a Labrador! ALL THE THINGS!!! But my ever-logical better half is wise in most things and we agreed that installing a kitchen that was appropriate to the home’s value is the way to go. We live in a decent neighborhood but we’re certainly not in Brentwood, and the median home price in our condo complex is about $180,000. So is a $50,000 kitchen really going to give us a return on our investment? In these uncertain times with a real estate market that has been described as schizophrenic, counting on a big kitchen remodel to carry the value of a home through the reselling process isn’t very wise. And when I hear phrases like, “a kitchen can’t be done for less than…” I have to laugh. Of course you can do a kitchen remodel for less! But there’s a lot of noodling that needs to be done to the budget and a lot of tough choices to be made. Here’s what I recommend:

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