Sunday, 26 October 2008

kitchen: organizing

i filled the cabinets this afternoon.

the tea cabinet

dishes and glasses

s's new coffee corner

cereal and baking

under the sink
for now, the pots and pans are stacked (crammed) on the bottom shelf, but we hope to alleviate some of that when we hang the shelves and rails. it will be a few days (weeks?) before that can happen, though.

under the oven
this drawer is a bit disappointing - it is so shallow that the springform cake tin won't even fit. still, i managed to use the space as well as i could.

the cantilevered carousel - top shelf
i am quite pleased with the carousel. food that used to live in the upper cabinets and on top of the counters now has a nice home, with the added bonus that i can reach it. there is also room for more. eventually, we are going to hang some magnetic spice racks underneath the cabinets, but for now the spice jars are inside the carousel.

lower shelf
very pleased with the lower shelf, too. the only thing that does not fit very well in here is the vegetable oil. as luck would have it, we ran out of olive oil yesterday, but both bottles are too just a bit too tall for the carousel. we will either need to buy shorter bottles or find a different place to store them. i recently read that some people keep their olive oil in the fridge... the only person i ever knew who kept olive oil in the fridge was a friend in japan, who needed the extra "warmth" in the winter so it wouldn't freeze on her counter! where do you keep yours?

would you like to see the carousel in action? it's very swish.

so the best part is that the counters are much cleaner and less cluttered than before. next steps: flooring, replastering and tiling, painting, and hanging shelves and rails. in the meantime, s is making curry and rice for dinner. yum!


in other news, british summer time officially ended last night. on the plus side, we got an extra hour in bed. on the down side, the days are getting shorter. too bad hibernation is not an option!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

kitchen: first meal


wow - i like the new oven!

we didn't take aed's suggestion to make spaghetti and meatballs (maybe tomorrow), opting instead for pork chops with roasted veg and potatoes sprinkled with olive oil, ground pepper and fresh rosemary. we put the oven on the 'convection with ring heating element' setting. somehow it defaulted to 80°C which didn't seem hot enough. s figured out how to increase the temperature to 180°C. i put the veg in first on the top shelf while the potatoes boiled. (we also have to figure out the temperature settings on the hob. the burners go from 1-9. the manual suggested 4 or 5 for boiling potatoes. i don't think 5 is hot enough to properly boil potatoes, but since we only wanted them parboiled it worked well enough).

i added the pork chops onto the same rack as the veg. the veg seemed to cook quite fast once they got started. i added the potatoes on a lower shelf. after a few minutes, i switched the racks so the potatoes could brown; in the meantime, some of the veg practically evaporated!

i was not too confident about the meal until we tried it. everything tasted great! fresh rosemary certainly helps, but the convection oven kept it all moist and flavorful, while giving the potatoes a nice crispy brown edge. (i could have made them extra crispy à la ddd, but we were getting hungry and everything else was already done. next time.)

and cleaning the roasting tin: easy! woo hoo!!! can't wait to use it more!

Friday, 24 October 2008

kitchen: during 5

we have a working kitchen now!





i took these photos right after the fitter left, so you can still see the sawdust. it wasn't easy to get good pictures of the cooktop or oven, but they're nice... so sleek and modern! did you notice the buttons? they were a definite factor in our decision. the oven is a combi convection/conventional oven and it's self-cleaning. hurrah!

so, where are we now? john lewis has (more or less) finished their part and it's our turn next. there are a few outstanding issues:

1. the microwave (see yesterday's saga)

2. two of the upper cabinet doors will be replaced due to nicks and scratches when they were delivered. grrr.

3. you can't see it in these pictures, but there are small gaps on either side of the upper cabinets along the underside. s and the fitter weren't as bothered by the gaps as i was. just goes to show that the perspective from my height is different! (brief aside: one of my first purchases will be a step stool: i can't reach anything anymore, even the lower shelves!)

4. the plaster

i'm sure you have noticed the unfinished state of the former tiles. we knew that john lewis would not re-tile for us. however, we were led to believe that they would leave the walls slightly less ... holey? the fitter has agreed to re-plaster the really bad sections, but the rest is up to us. the planner made it sound like we would be able to sand and paint over those areas. the fitter strongly suggests that we replace the tiles. so, another decision.

5. the floor

we are having someone come to measure the floor on monday morning. our plan is to lay some simple vinyl. hopefully it can just be glued over the existing floor.

6. accessories!

i have been researching all kinds of wall racks, magnetic strips and hanging options for pots, pans, spices, utensils, paper towels, etc. aside from ikea, someone suggested lakeland. the nearest one appears to be at the opposite end of the northern line, but i'm willing to make the trek!

question of the day: what should our first meal in the new kitchen be???

Thursday, 23 October 2008

kitchen: during 4

liking the countertops...


click the photo for a larger version on flickr

while it might be hard to tell from the pictures, the kitchen looks simultaneously bigger and smaller than before (to me, at least).

the large gap between the sink unit and dishwasher is gone

the counter space seems huge! the units are a bit deeper than before, so i think we have gained a few inches in storage and counter space, but probably sacrificed a few inches on the floor. overall, i think it's a worthy sacrifice.

the eagle-eyed viewers amongst you might notice that the upper cabinets have changed since yesterday! read below for the fascinating story of...

the contentious microwave

remember how the microwave used to sit on the counter?


our kitchen planner suggesting housing it in a new cabinet to save some space. brilliant!

as of yesterday. space for the microwave on the bottom shelf (far right).

unfortunately, he didn't measure the microwave accurately, and thus he ordered a cabinet that was not deep enough to accommodate it! the only polite response is d'oh! our kitchen fitter had some less friendly words to say on the matter.

the problem became apparent yesterday. the fitter called the planner. the planner's solution was: pull the cabinet out from the wall approximately 4 inches. cut out a hole in the back so that the microwave will fit. fill in the gap at the back with some left over wood. everybody's happy!

except that we were very unhappy. this was, at best, a stupid solution. the two upper cabinets would appear to be 4 inches deeper than they actually were. the inside shelves would have to be rejigged so that they would be flush with the bottoms of the other cabinets. the gap filler might be subtle, but still visible. it was a hack with no positive result. the only person who would benefit would be the planner, because he would not have to write off having ordered the wrong cabinet as waste if we could reuse it.

so i called the planner to object rather strongly to this suggestion. there were 2 reasonable options: a deeper cabinet (which is what should have happened according to the original plans) or a shorter cabinet with the microwave below on special brackets. s and i talked about it and decided that we would prefer the brackets.

the planner said 'yes, fine, i'll sort it out for you' and called the fitter. in the meantime, instead of ordering a new, shorter unit, he proposed shortening the longer one! if i were to be uncharitable about it, i'd say he was still more concerned about his waste record than giving us the service we had - expected? at the very least - hoped for. i wasn't very pleased about the idea until the fitter reassured me that it is actually quite easy to do, and it does not look very obvious. this brings us back to this evening's version:


the cabinets are now all in line. the microwave will be supported by a bracket underneath the far right cabinet. it will stick out, but there is nothing we can do about that. at least we will have access to the counter below. all in all, i think it's probably the best solution and we should have done this right from the start.

(a brief aside: the fitter told me that the planner had actually recommended a floating shelf instead of brackets. how idiotic is that? it would have fallen off the wall the instant you put the microwave on it. it might look pretty, but we need something sturdy.)

so progress: it looks like the fitter will be done tomorrow! i have been daydreaming about the container store, and bemoaning the fact that it doesn't exist in london. i found this store, which looks tantalizingly similar, but it's in chester, which google maps informs me is 209 miles away from london. not gonna happen! i hope s doesn't mind too much if i drag him to ikea this weekend...!

(by the way, have you been enjoying the cut out pictures? i discovered an editing tool in iphoto '08 that does these in a few simple clicks. no need to use photoshop for things like this. ah, apple, we love you...)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

kitchen: during 3

wow! look at this!

the kitchen this morning at 8 AM:


and this evening at 5:30 PM:



nice on the outside...


...and inside, the fancy cantilevered shelf thingies!



in case you were wondering how our small flat is accommodating all these changes, well, it's a good thing we still have some old sheets lying around.



it's so exciting to see it happening... i can hardly wait to see the new oven and cooktop tomorrow!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

kitchen: during 2

no building today, but the worktops arrived this morning.


here's a fuzzy sneak peek:


Monday, 20 October 2008

kitchen: during 1

sunday, 19 october

well, the title of this blog entry is a bit misleading. we emptied the kitchen over the weekend in preparation for the fitters to come this morning. the fitter arrived just before 8 AM, but the 18-ton articulated lorry carrying the cabinets was too big to come down our street! we rescheduled the cabinet delivery in a smaller vehicle for wednesday morning. the worktops come tomorrow. progress so far: um, none.

Friday, 17 October 2008

double passports

got my british passport today! you wouldn't know that i was excited about it from my photo, though. the brits don't let you smile. still, i'll be beaming the first time i breeze through the e.u. queue. now, we just have to decide where we're going next...

Monday, 13 October 2008

kitchen: before

in june, i mentioned that we are getting our kitchen redone. the builders come next week, so it seemed like a good time to take some 'before' pictures.



as you can see, the kitchen is quite small, but it's big enough to make a turkey for thanksgiving or to bake some tiny cheesecakes.


it's functional... we just think it could use some improvements. we'll never be able to make it bigger. we'll never have a full-size refrigerator (unless we put it outside the kitchen, under the stairs?) we'll always have limited counter space. we considered changing the layout by swapping the placements of the sink and oven, but we decided that that would add a fair amount of extra work and expense for very little gain.

so the changes are primarily cosmetic. i can't wait to say goodbye to the perma-dirt.

caution! disturbing photos ahead!



no amount of scrubbing or mr. muscle limescale destroyer has made a dent in the three years i have known s. apparently the sink was like this before he moved in.

the oven is a shameless grease collector.


and we've never figured out how to program the timer. sometimes it just starts beeping.


one thing we're both looking forward to is making better use of the corner.


we're raising the microwave so that it will be directly below the new cabinet, which will give us a bit more space on top of the counter. we're also putting in a fancy cantilever shelf system in the space below the counter (it's actually the most expensive unit in the entire kitchen.)


no longer will it be the cavernous hole where good tupperware goes to die.

and finally, a new floor.


be gone, horrible linoleum!

you might think that we could do it ourselves with a bit more determination and a bit less fear of drilling holes into (what? are the walls hollow? are there electrical wires behind them? we don't know.) but the electricity is a problem. we're having the place re-wired. we're hoping that we'll finally be able to use all 4 burners without blowing a fuse for the entire flat. we're replacing the double oven with a single oven, since we've never been able to use the second oven anyway. and the dishwasher stopped working last month in another mysterious power-related act of rebellion. fingers crossed that it will all be better soon!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

end-of-summer soup

i'm not sure that we actually had a summer this year, but the season of sandals and t-shirts is definitely over. it's now time for fleece jackets - even indoors. scarves and heavy socks. as of tomorrow, i predict i will be wearing gloves to work as well. yes, gloves.

so it's a good time for hearty beef and barley soup. three nights' worth!

approx 500g diced beef
1 onion
1 leek
1 pack button mushrooms
1 carrot
500g pearl barley
soup stock
salt/pepper to taste

put in large pot. boil. simmer for approx 1.5 hours. season to taste. enjoy!