Remodeling the Kitchen

Dare to Design

There are two things that really drive up the cost of a kitchen renovation—well, really any renovation. One is labor costs, and the other is the cost of professional design. The way to keep costs down, obviously, is to do as much as the labor yourself as is possible, within your scope of ability, and to dare to design your own space.

When we gutted and remodeled the kitchen twenty years ago, with the help of a friend, Leonard, who built houses for a living, it turned out pretty much the way I wanted it to. We had a shoestring budget, and even though the cabinets were custom-built, we had to go with the cheapest possible material, which was pine. It was the same with the countertops and the floor. Laminate for the countertops, vinyl for the floor. This time around, we will actually spend more on new countertops alone than we did for custom cabinets and countertops twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago, the footprint of the old kitchen was altered drastically to create better function for cooking and ease of movement through the space. That is the scariest part of designing your own space, making sure that it actually functions. And this is where you really may need the help of a professional. I was so glad to have the advice and expertise of Leonard and his wife, Lynzie, all those years ago.  We all collaborated on the kitchen layout in that remodel, and what we came up with works so well, it doesn’t have to be changed this time around. All the appliances can stay where they are now, in an elongated triangle that touches both side walls of the kitchen. That makes designing the renovated kitchen much easier this time around. I am glad I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions, at least!

If you do want to change the footprint of your kitchen, you may need to get some professional help, or at least advice, in relocating the sink, dishwasher, stove, fridge, etc.  Changing the plumbing can be particularly problematic and expensive, so keeping things where they are, if at all possible, is one way to keep costs down.

The other thing that makes designing my own space not quite as intimidating these days is the plethora of online resources and the proliferation of DIY and construction programs on television. I love those shows and have watched them for several years now, gradually acquiring enough knowledge to make me dangerous, in Dennis’ view, but also getting a much better sense of what will function and be sturdy, practical, and attractive at the same time.

Designing your own space comes with pitfalls. A professional designer is trained to know what looks good together, what color of cabinets or types of materials look nice with what kind of countertop material, with what sort of backsplash. For me, it’s really a guessing game, an experiment. And yeah, that’s a little scary, because I’m spending thousands and am going to have to live with my choices for perhaps the next twenty years. But I’m taking the dare.

I figured I would go about the design methodically, but taking one step at a time. I knew it wasn’t going to be possible for me to choose everything before the work began. I did know right from the start what I wanted in flooring and cabinet material this time. I love natural oak, and it’s hard, which is what I need. I need something that can withstand hard use, because this kitchen gets it. I figured when those materials were chosen and ordered or purchased, I’d work on choosing countertops, getting samples and looking at them alongside the sample cabinet doors. And then once the countertops were chosen, I’d have to try to find a backsplash material that looks good with both cabinets and countertops but is easy for me to clean.

It’s not quite working out that way.

Dennis and I went to Reno on Sunday to look at countertop material and try to choose a material and installer. Because we can’t do it locally, we decided to limit our search to Home Depot and Lowes in Reno. We just don’t have time to run all over town looking at multiple shops and installers.

I had ruled out another laminate or solid surface countertop. Laminate is the cheapest option, but it also the least durable. Solid surface countertops that mimic the look of granite are attractive, but are neither heat nor scratch resistant. I wanted something I wouldn’t have to be quite as careful with as I’ve had to be all these years with a laminate countertop.

When we went into each store, we chose a low-end quartz and two or three granites, one in low-range pricing and one or two in mid-range pricing, and had estimates written up based on each material, so we could see what fit into the budget.

Ideally, I wanted quartz because it requires no maintenance. Most granite has to be sealed once a year to prevent staining. (Yes, I learned that watching DIY shows.) I was worried about hard water staining around the sink, and food stains from all the preserving I do, if we went with granite. But even low-end quartz countertops cost more than I want to spend. And they were ugly besides. Well, not exactly ugly, but certainly boring. Mid-range quartz, much more attractive, was just not possible with our budget. So we turned to granite.

We already had a pretty good idea of what low-end granite countertops would cost us because I’d asked about it when we were getting estimates for cabinets. Once we’d decided quartz was out, we started comparing both price and a couple of other factors at each store.

Home Depot’s installation fees were cheaper; they gave us free samples, and there were two granite choices I liked there. We even looked at backsplash tiles while we were there, and I realized something I hadn’t thought too much about before. The busier the countertop, the simpler the backsplash tile should be, for my taste. The plainer the countertop, as in a low-end quartz, the more I could tolerate a busy, decorative backsplash, and the less I liked a plain tile like the one in the photos below.  But with the busier granite material, I liked a plain, almond- colored subway tile. Hopefully you can see what I mean in the badly-lit pictures below.  The first photo shows the almond subway tile with the beige quartz.  Blah.  The second photo shows the same subway tile with the busiest, veiny-ist granite.  Much more attractive to my way of thinking.

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I only found one glass backsplash tile I liked with my favorite of the granites from Home Depot.  That’s the one below.  I took a picture with my phone so it isn’t a very good photo, but I liked the longer strips of glass in this 12″ tile better than the ones with the tiny squares, which Dennis liked because they’d be easier to cut!

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I like this stone the best because it has small red splotches in it, although it’s hard to see in such a small sample.  Red is one of the accent colors in my kitchen.  It is called Butterfly Beige, but it has a slight greenish tint that I like too.  Here’s a close up of Butterfly Beige and that red splotch.

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I thought I’d picked a stone (the one above) and maybe had a choice for backsplash tile (also above) until we got to Lowes. At Lowes, we discovered that if we took advantage of a sale, we could get a mid-range granite that Dennis liked (below) for the same price as the lower-end granite that I liked there.  The picture of Dennis’ pick doesn’t do it justice.  It has a nice wave pattern to it, and many different shades of brown speckles.  It looked very nice with the cabinet color and that plain almond subway tile. I could do a dark brown grout with that subway tile and have a very easy-to-clean backsplash.

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There was one lower-end granite at Lowes (below) which also had a red splotch in it.  I do like that red splotch!  Crema Pearl is very similar to Butterfly Beige from Home Depot, but the designer at Lowes said I’d definitely need to pick out my slab if I chose that one, because he’s seen them come in to the store with big, purplish patches the size of a pumpkin!  I don’t think I’d like that as much.  And there is no greenish tint to this one.

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Both choices at Lowes came from the factory already treated with a process that prevents staining, without the yearly sealing, plus a 15 year warranty. This granite at Lowes was only a few hundred dollars more than the untreated granite at Home Depot. But to choose our individual slabs after ordering from Lowes, we’d have to go to the stone yard in Roseville, several hours away. To choose our slabs after ordering from Home Depot, we’d only have to go to the stone yard in Sparks, a few minutes from Reno.  We’ve been advised by both stores to choose our slabs individually, because they can vary so much in color and pattern from the samples.

My first inclination is always to pick what’s least expensive. Fortunately, I have Dennis, who says, “What’s a few hundred dollars in the long run?” And he’s right, at least in this. But cost isn’t the only factor. I’ve still got the problem of the backsplash tile in my head. So I’m thinking about what’s going to be easiest to coordinate. And what’s going to look best in the room with all the other design elements I have planned: the barnwood shelves, the utensil gate, the cookbook rack. Not to mention the built-in banquette benches. Have I mentioned those yet?

Ah, decisions, decisions! I haven’t decided yet. I’m weighing all the information I’ve gathered. Since the floor is holding everything up (more about that in another post), I’ve got a couple of weeks to think about it before the sales and promotions on the granite are over.  I think my daughter and I need to go on a backsplash tile hunt.  Maybe then I’ll be able to choose the countertop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-free, Recipes

Gluten-free Yeast Bread

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There is no scent more homey and comforting than a baking loaf of bread. When I gave up wheat, I missed yeast bread so much, it was almost painful. For a year or so, I baked almond flour bread, which is quite tasty, but doesn’t have the flavor or consistency of a good loaf of yeasty wheat bread. It’s more like a dessertish quick bread. Nor does it work quite as well for sandwiches or toast. So I set out in search of a recipe for a gluten-free bread that would taste and perform like a yeasty wheat bread. And I found it.

My thanks to Josie Hyde, who posted the recipe I started with on the Bob’s Red Mill website. I’ve tweaked it in a couple of ways, added salt (bread needs salt), adjusted the yeast, used a different sugar and slightly less of it, and come up with a variation for Cinnamon Raisin Bread that I absolutely love. I’ve been promising this recipe for a year or more, and I’m finally getting around to posting it.

Just one last thing before the recipe. While this bread tastes delicious and very much like a yeasty wheat loaf, it isn’t as smooth and pretty as a wheat loaf. You’ll see in the pictures. It’s hard to get a smooth top on this very sticky dough. But if it tastes good and performs well in all the different applications for bread, what does a wart or two on top really matter?

Gluten-free Yeast Bread

  • 3-1/3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour** (See notes)
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (necessary to stabilize the dough)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar (brown, white, or other—I use coconut palm sugar and love it!)
  • 2 ¼ teaspsoons instant yeast*** (See notes)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil**** (See notes)
  • 1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons warm water***** (See notes)
Step 1: Grease a 9×5 bread pan* (see notes). Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hooks. (You really do need to use a stand mixer for this sticky dough. It climbs the beaters of a hand mixer something awful!)

Step 2: In a measuring cup, beat the water, oil, and eggs together with a fork.

Step 3: Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Step 4: Beat for 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently, or until all ingredients are incorporated into a smooth batter. Do not overmix.

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Step 5: Scrape batter into greased bread pan and smooth out top with wet spatula or wet hand. Cover with greased/oiled plastic wrap. Place in warm spot to rise.

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Step 6: Let rise about 30-45 minutes, or until the batter is just slightly above the rim of the pan. The bread will continue to rise in the oven.

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Step 7: Bake in a 375°F pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes (or until internal temperature reaches 190-200°F). Top will be quite brown.

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Step 8: Remove from pan immediately; cool thoroughly on a rack.

Cut when thoroughly cold. Makes 12-15 slices. Wrap well and store in fridge, or slice and freeze in a freezer bag (I put waxed paper between layers in the bag to keep the slices from sticking together) for longer keeping.

Notes:

*Greasing the pan has been a source of frustration for me. I don’t want to use vegetable shortening, but I have, and it does work. I’ve used coconut oil, and the bread sticks to the pan. I’ve started greasing the pan with butter, and it works. Grease the piece of plastic wrap to cover the loaf at the same time you grease the pan. Less mess.

**I buy the bean-based baking flour at Winco. It is not marked Bob’s Red Mill, but I have used the bagged Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, and it is exactly the same as what I get at Winco for much less moolah. This is my workhorse gluten-free flour. I use it for pancakes, biscuits, pie dough, and bread.   Ingredients: garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, fava bean flour. Nutritional information for the bulk flour at http://wincofoods.com/bulk-bin/2105. Compare to Bob’s Red Mill GF AP Baking Flour at http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free-all-purpose-baking-flour.html.

***If you don’t have instant yeast, you can use 3 teaspoons of active dry yeast, and the dough might need to rise a little longer. Don’t use bread yeast. Bread yeast is formulated for more than one rising.

****The original recipe called for vegetable oil.   I don’t use vegetable oil because it is actually soybean and other oils I don’t care to use. I’m trying to use healthier oils, so I have been using grapeseed oil and sunflower oil in my breads. Both are virtually flavorless but high in healthy fats. I would also use olive oil, but not extra-virgin because it is so strongly flavored. Use whatever oil you prefer.

*****I wanted to see how the bread would work without powdered milk, so I tried warmed milk instead of water and omitted the powdered milk. I ended up with a slightly denser loaf. It’s do-able, if you don’t want to buy powdered milk. I get powdered milk in bulk at Winco, which is also where I buy xanthan gum.

What I love about this bread is that it works for sandwiches and toast. It is delicious warm, too (but the raw dough doesn’t taste good, so don’t let that scare you). I usually cut off and freeze the heels until I have enough to dry out and make bread crumbs, and then I have gluten-free bread crumbs for breading whatever I want to bread. I also make croutons for salads and soups out of the heels by tossing the cubed bread in a little melted butter or olive oil or a combination of the two, garlic salt and pepper, and crushed herbs, then toasting them on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until browned. They keep indefinitely in a sealed bag. I don’t eat bread every single day, so I slice my loaf when it is cool and keep it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When I want a sandwich, I have bread that only takes a few minutes to thaw. And for breakfast, plain bread toasted with low sugar, old-fashioned blackberry jelly.

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Or how about cinnamon raisin bread toast?  Love, love, love!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Make loaf as above, using brown sugar. To dry ingredients add 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon. To batter, add 1 cup of raisins and just mix in. Don’t overmix! Bake, cool, and slice as above. I keep a Ziploc bag of sliced cinnamon raisin bread in the freezer for breakfast toast. Oh, I love this! I missed it so much the first couple of years after giving up wheat bread. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have taken a photo of my Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  I was probably too busy gobbling it up!  Next time I bake a loaf, I will take a pic and add it to this post.

I don’t miss wheat bread at all any more.   I hope you won’t either.

I’m working on a gluten-free sourdough bread recipe. When I find a method that really works, I’ll be sharing that one as well. Right now, I’m experimenting, and I can tell you that making a sourdough starter with kombucha was an epic fail! More later. 😉

 

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Remodeling the Kitchen

Painting Tips

Tips for painting are probably completely unnecessary for most people, but I do know some folks who have never painted a room in their lives. This sort of blows my mind, because I can remember painting walls when I was very young, and since Dennis and I married 35 years ago, we have always done all our own painting, both indoors and out. Painting is the easiest of renovations, and the cheapest way to perk up a gloomy or blah room.

I love color, but not so much on my walls. I like a neutral wall so that my art pieces will show nicely, and I have six paintings/ wall hangings in my kitchen. When this kitchen was renovated twenty years ago, I chose a cream color for the paint. The paint was Color Place brand from Wal-Mart, and amazingly, it held up through twenty years of hard use. We’d have had to paint this year whether we’d renovated or not, because it was starting to look a little dingy, and I have scrubbed it off in places behind the stove, where my jams and preserves splatter, but for an inexpensive paint, I’d say it performed very, very well. For that reason, when Dennis said last week, “Hey, guess what? Wal-Mart has Color Place Country White on sale for 14 bucks and change a gallon,” I said, “Let’s grab some!” Country White is the color I put on the walls all those years ago, and while I’d toyed with the idea of changing the color a bit, I was happy enough to go with that soft cream again. It’s going to look great with my new oak floor and cabinets. I’ll just have to make sure it also goes well with whatever countertop and backsplash I choose. I’ll take a paint sample with me on a paint stick when I start the search for counters and tile.

So, my first painting tip concerns color. Whatever color you choose, be aware that if it is not very close to the color that is already on the walls, you will need to use a primer. Primer is an inexpensive base coat that helps hide the color underneath your new paint so that it does not show through. It’s less expensive to put on two coats of primer before your colored paint, if the paint underneath is either several shades lighter or darker than the color you want to paint the walls. If you don’t use a primer in this situation, you may find that you need several coats of paint, and paint is far more expensive than primer. Another option is to use a tinted primer, which the paint store or department can help you with, if you’ve got a really stubborn color to cover like black, bright red, bright yellow, dark green, or dark brown. A general rule of thumb is that the more expensive the paint, the better it covers. If you’ve got an ugly situation to fix, go for the best quality paint you can afford. It will cover better and quite possibly save you money in the long run. And if you use good paint, you can often get away with a very inexpensive primer.

Paint comes in several different sheens. There’s flat, with no gloss at all. Many people choose flat paint for interiors. I don’t like it because it doesn’t wash well, and I scrub my walls in the kitchen and bathroom, probably not as often as I should, but often enough to warrant a paint that can resist soap and water. I’d rather wash my walls and ceilings than repaint them. High gloss is usually reserved for trim paint rather than walls or ceilings because too much reflection on surfaces is distracting. So for me, semi-gloss or satin is like Baby Bear’s porridge; it’s just right. It washes well and is only lightly reflective. You’ll have to decide what sheen is right for your rooms.

Paint store or department people can also help you figure out how much paint you need if you know the dimensions of the room you’re painting. I have learned to get a little less than I think I need. Personally, I’d rather have to go back for a quart of paint than have a gallon more than I actually need. That’s because once the store tints your paint, you can’t return it. You’re stuck with it. And with the price of paint these days, especially good paint, I don’t want to fork out for paint I don’t actually need. Our kitchen measures 12’X 21’, but because we are getting new cabinets that will go all the way to the ceiling, there was no need to paint above the existing cabinets, or where the wall will be removed, or where the backsplash will be applied. We painted everything we needed to paint with less than a gallon, but we decided that we needed to give the ceiling another coat, so Dennis went back to Wal-Mart for one more can. If properly lidded and stored (don’t let it freeze!), a re-closed can of paint should last for at least five years, so this extra partial gallon will probably be enough to paint another room in the house, since this same color is on all the walls and ceilings in the house. When I find something I like, I do tend to stick with it!

My next tip is about preparation for painting. Really, you cannot skimp on prepping unless you are a professional. They seem to know how to manipulate the paintbrush to avoid applying paint on trim, countertops, cabinets, light fixtures, switches and outlets, and oh, let’s not forget the floor, but I have learned that I need to tape off or cover those items. I love the blue painter’s tape that comes in several widths. I can choose which tape works best for which application. And I tape everything. I would rather pull tape off window and door trim than scrub off paint smears and speckles later. And if you wait too long to scrub, you’re stuck with speckles. It can take longer to tape, and to clean before taping, than it does to paint, but it is worth the effort, in my book.

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Before you tape, wash the walls, ceilings, and trim. Professionals often use a product called TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) for prepping surfaces to be painted. I have used this product, but I’ve found that clear ammonia works just as well, and I always have it in the house for multi-purpose cleaning. I mix about a cup to a gallon of hot water, and I don’t have to rinse after washing. Dennis uses a sponge to wash the walls; I use a rag. Change the water frequently, because the cleaner the walls are, the better your new paint or primer will adhere. Paint does not stick well to dirt. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) You might think you shouldn’t have to wash your trim if you’re not painting it, but you want the tape to stick so no paint runs underneath, and tape won’t stick to dirt or kitchen grease.

Don’t forget to tape off your baseboards unless you are replacing them or painting them the same color as the walls. We are replacing our pine baseboards that matched the old cabinets with oak ones that will match the new floor, so Dennis pulled all the baseboards. They are just pin-nailed, so they come off very easily. If you pull out your baseboards, and your kitchen is a dirt magnet like mine, you’ll need to wash that space too, because there will be a dirty line where dust sifts down behind the baseboard. Also remove the outlet and switch plate covers if you can and wash around them. You don’t want any dirt or grease to get onto your brush and into your paint. If the covers are caulked, tape them off instead of removing them. We had one that was caulked and three that weren’t! (They will all be caulked when this is over.)

Finally, cover the counters, the fridge, the sink, stove, ovens, anything else you don’t want to scrub tiny paint splatters off of, and the floor. You can buy a roll of thin plastic sheeting that works well for shielding the floors and large appliances. I have some old cotton sheets from my kids’ twin beds when they were little (boy, you can’t beat an old cotton sheet for durability) that I use for drop cloths. I also have some plastic mattress covers from the days when the grandkids were babies and some old shower curtains that I’ve saved for drop cloths. (Yeah, I’m chintzy.) When you roll a wall or ceiling with paint, tiny droplets fly off the roller and land on any surface below. If this happens, you can scrub the paint off with a plastic net scrubber and a little Dawn dish soap, and it will come off very easily when it’s fresh, but if you cover, you won’t have to scrub.

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When the walls and ceiling are clean, dry, and all the trim and counters, etc. are taped and covered, you’re ready to paint. Don’t forget to stir your paint thoroughly before you begin.

At this point, I should probably say a word or many about tools. Buy a decent paintbrush. A good paintbrush with a thin edge will give you a nice edge. Ask for a cut-in brush when you buy your paint. For the newbies, cutting-in refers to the process of painting the corners and around the trim with a paintbrush, because you can’t get into those spots with a roller. A good paintbrush makes painting so much easier. A good paintbrush is worth washing out. I hate cleaning paintbrushes—hate, hate, hate it, but I will wash out a good paintbrush. For some things, I use foam brushes and throw them away, but not for a big job like the whole kitchen.

I feel exactly the opposite about roller covers. There is no roller cover worth washing in my book. If you want to buy a roller cover so expensive that it must be washed out rather than thrown away, well, you go right ahead. As for me, I will stick with the cheapies that can be tossed when I’m done with them. Quite some years back, when we did the work in the living room, our friend, Lyndon, who did the drywall and texture work on the ceiling, talked Dennis into buying a lambswool roller cover. Lyndon had been a professional drywaller and painter in another life, and he swore by this thing. I refuse to use it because I will not wash it out. However, if I am painting on consecutive days, I will put my paint-soaked roller cover in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and stash it in the fridge, because if you keep the air off the cover and keep it cool, you can use it again the next day. Without washing!

I wrote a post recently about our disposable culture, but I will admit that I am glad some things, like cheap roller covers and foam brushes, are disposable.

You’ll need a ladder or a step-ladder or a bench scaffold, also sometimes called a painter’s bench. If you don’t have these things, they can often be rented at tool rental places.

If you’re painting a ceiling, and you’re scared of ladders or don’t have a tall enough one, buy a long-handled roller. I cannot handle these myself—they are just too unwieldy for me and my damaged hands, but I’m not afraid of climbing up on the ladder if I have to. Fortunately, I have Dennis, so I don’t usually have to. It helps to have two people painting, one to roll and one to do the cut-in, but I have painted many a room all by myself. I like to do the cutting-in first when I’m painting by myself, one wall at a time. When I paint with Dennis, I just try to stay ahead of him.

One more tip concerns painting the ceiling. I’m in favor of painting the ceiling the same color as the walls, because it is so much easier when you are cutting in, but this doesn’t work well when you are using a dark color on the walls and a light color on the ceiling. Unless you have really high ceilings in a really bright room, you don’t want a dark color on your ceiling. It will shrink the room. So there are tools you can buy, edgers and shields and such, or you can use a piece of thin cardboard, like card stock, which you hold up to the wall while you use a sharp-edged cut-in brush to put a lighter color on the ceiling. The cardboard helps keep the light paint off the darker walls. You can use the same piece of cardboard to shield the ceiling from the darker wall paint, so that you don’t have to cover up dark smudges on the ceiling. Make sure whatever paint is on the cardboard is dry before you switch to another color!

You will also need plenty of soft cotton rags. Old cotton underwear and tee shirts are great for cleaning up after painting, staining, finishing because they don’t leave lint behind. Always have a wet cloth handy for cleaning up drips of paint immediately. Wet paint is much easier to clean up than paint that has dried, and paint dries fast.

That’s my final painting tip. Drying times really vary depending on the type of paint you’re using, the temperature and humidity levels in the house (or outside if you’re painting the exterior), and the condition of the surface. The paint can will give you guidelines about drying times. My experience has been that it’s best to let paint dry for several hours, even overnight, before you decide if you need a second coat. Wet paint always looks streaky. Semi-dry paint often looks streaky. Let the paint dry the full time specified on the can before you re-coat, if necessary.

Dennis and I painted the kitchen on Friday and gave the ceiling a second coat on Saturday, and if this paint last as long as the previous paint job did, we shouldn’t have to do it again in our lifetimes.

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Painting is a lot of work, but it’s not difficult.  I can’t see spending mucho moolah hiring a professional to do something that’s easily done ourselves.  If you haven’t painted before, take the plunge into your first gallon of paint.  It’s really satisfying to see that fresh color go up on the walls.

Did I miss anything or get something wrong? Experienced painters, chime in. Inexperienced painters, ask questions. We’ll try to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

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appetizers, Recipes

Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites

Now, I know you’re not supposed to try new recipes when you’re having guests over.  But since my guests are almost always family, I feel perfectly comfortable trying out new ideas on them.  They like the food or they don’t, but either way, it’s a chance for me to use people who love me as guinea pigs!  So I tried out a new recipe of my own devising on them yesterday for our Super Bowl gathering: Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites.  It was a hit with those who like and eat seafood.  (We have some family members who don’t, so they don’t even try things like this.)  It was an easy and fun appetizer, and really pretty too.

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Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites

(makes 24)

For the won-ton cups:

24 won-ton skins

Canola or vegetable oil for brushing

Mini-muffin tins

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top and cups of the mini-muffin tins with oil. Gently press the won-ton wrappers into the bottom and sides of the cups.  Pleat the sides and press as needed to keep the cups open.

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Bake until lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Gently lift the won-ton cups out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. (I only have one mini-muffin tin, so I did them in batches.)

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For the filling:

½ lb. frozen or fresh crab meat

1 eight oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened

2 scallions, sliced

1 avocado, diced

2 tablespoons lime juice (fresh is best, but bottled is okay, too)

½-1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (optional)

Hot smoked paprika (optional)

Thaw frozen crab or use fresh. Drain liquid from frozen crab. Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Beat until creamy. Slice two fresh scallions. Add crab and scallions to cream cheese (and sriracha, if using) and mix together gently. (I did this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, on stir.) Chill mixture in fridge for an hour to firm up the filling.

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Dice avocado, toss in lime juice to prevent browning. Fill wonton cups with small spoonfuls of cream cheese/crab mixture, and sprinkle a few avocado pieces on top. Dust with hot smoked paprika. Serve. (I had to serve on paper plates yesterday because most of my serving dishes and platters are packed in boxes while we remodel the kitchen.)

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My darling granddaughter couldn’t stop eating these yesterday!

 

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