Friday, July 30, 2010

Nearing the End... and a new beginning

This kitchen renovation that has been ongoing for way too many years is finally beginning to come to a close. Our custom drawers and doors were installed in May. There are still a few finishing trim pieces left to do, but for the most part, it's over.

The exciting news is, crazy as it sounds, we're planning a new kitchen... in a new house. It's all still up in the air right now, for we may not even be allowed to build here, but this is something we've been dreaming about for a long, long time. Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying my finally finished kitchen.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Couch in the Kitchen

Well, why not?

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Kitchen Sink

36" Whitehaus Quatro Alcove Fireclay Farm Sink

Pronomen (Numerar) solid beech countertops with Waterlox original tung oil sealer

Thermador fully integrated 9-program stainless steel Professional Series dishwasher

Pronomen (Numerar) butcherblock

Still a work in progress - just waiting on our custom doors and drawer fronts!

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Home on the Rangetop

Thermador 36" Professional Series Gas Rangetop

After my budget eliminated my dream ranges (the Lacanche, and running a close second, the Aga), last summer we finally decided on the Thermador Professional Series gas cooktop with 6 burners (PCG366E) . We knew we wanted a pro rangetop, and we had narrowed the field to include the Thermador, Viking, Wolf and BlueStar. I don't really remember all the features we compared while making our decision, but here are a few.

Sealed vs Unsealed

Viking and Wolf both give you a choice between sealed and unsealed burners, which is nice. The Thermador only offers sealed and the BlueStar only unsealed. What's the difference? Well, true cooks prefer unsealed burners because they give off the most heat. Clean freaks may prefer sealed burners because all the crud is easily accessible and doesn't fall down through the works and into a drip pan never to be seen again (until you decide to clean it 3 years later, like me, and find it is just too gross and needs to be thrown away). I chose sealed, because honestly, do I really need 22,000 btu's? No, I need an easy-to-clean kitchen. Some people are "out-of-sight-out-of-mind" about dirt, but not me. Yes, I do think about all that unseen crud (thanks, Mama Cain), and it bugs me, especially if it's going to take a whole day to clean.

LP Conversion

This was a must. Our house has propane, not natural gas. Maybe all the other brands had a conversion kit (I don't really remember), but the Thermador has one built in (factory ready). No need for a conversion, no extra parts, no contractor necessary. This one also simply plugs in to an outlet - no hardwiring.

Ultra Low Simmer

This is a very nice feature to have if you often do things like melt chocolate (no need for that double boiler anymore), or simmer delicate sauces or soups, or just have a tendency to forget to stir while you're busy doing something else. (How many times have I scraped a burnt crust off the bottom of the stockpot when making spaghetti sauce or vegetable soup? Argh.) The Thermador has one extrahigh (15,000 btu) burner for when you need a lot of heat fast, and two extralow simmer burners, which also heat up to regular temperatures. One of the other brands had a simmer burner, but that's all it did. Simmer. A waste of a burner if you're not always simmering something.

Appearance and Reliability

The Viking, while attractive, has gotten many, many poor reviews from various sources for reliability and service. I really liked the porcelain surface, which comes in different colors and looked easy to clean, but when spending in excess of 2 grand for a cooktop, I didn't want to deal with any performance problems and customer service issues. No time for that. Viking was out.
The Wolf was also attractive, but I didn't really like the shape of the clunky grates. The Thermador wasn't perfect either, since the entire top surface was stainless steel. It seemed like it might be a nightmare to keep clean and free of scorch marks. But DH really liked the blue knobs and the rounded front. I liked the continous grates. The knobs on the Viking and Wolf were more difficult to turn and felt, well... cheap. The BlueStar? A little too industrial for me - just not attractive at all. Besides, at 22,000 btu's and with SuperNova burners, we just might burn down the house.

Burner Shape

Only the Thermador and BlueStar have burners in a shape of a star. Wolf and Viking are round. Why does this matter? Theoretically, a star-shaped burner heats the center of the pan as well as the periphery, giving a more even heat distribution beneath the pan . Round burners heat only the periphery. What this means in terms of cooking is less burning, quicker boil times, and more even heating. You can also use a much smaller pan and still get heat to it. Round burners limit the size of the pan - after all, if your pan is smaller than your burner ring, you're not heating the bottom - only the handle and your fingers. I can cook in a 2 inch pot if I want. Since only the Thermador and BlueStar had star-shaped burners, and we had eliminated the BlueStar over and over on all counts, that left the Thermador as the winner.

So far, we've had no complaints. We love our rangetop!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Up a River Without a Weather Map

Whenever I try to do something outdoorsy with DH, it's always an adventure. Over the past twenty years, we've been stranded in the Everglades on a Hobie cat, we've sailed through storms in the Gulf of Mexico, camped in the deserts of Arizona with no human being around for literally hundreds of miles, barely escaping a monsoon flash flood through the wash we were camped in, and more.

Yesterday, we went for a leisurely canoe trip down the St. Croix....

We saw Great Blue herons, Cliff swallows, the usual suspects like wrens, song sparrows, crows and turtles, and best of all, no people.

We stopped on a little island for a picnic.... and noticed a big storm brewing downriver, heading our way.

Instead of trying to outrun it, we decided to sit it out. Good thing we did. Thunder, lightning and ferocious winds. Yes, we were scared hiding out under our aluminum canoe.

After the worst had passed, we decided maybe it was time to leave. Since the wind was blowing upriver, we didn't continue down to the takeout spot - instead we paddled back upriver to where we started. It only lightninged and thundered a few times while we were in the water. Eeek. When we got out, we explored the glacial potholes.

And did some amateur rock-climbing.

And general sightseeing...

Yes, our adventures... never a dull moment.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Only Child

"You Can't See Me!"
The other two eggs never hatched, so this little guy is getting all the grub for himself. Whenever I go near the porch, I can hear the parents in the tree behind me calling out a warning. Judging from his size, the little dude should be fledging soon.
The hummingbird eggs have hatched. Click on the link to see how cute they are!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Going, going... Goslings!

"Come back, Ma! You're on the wrong side of the fence!"

Six adorable little goslings hatched on May 1, just as predicted.


Do I have that finchy look?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring is... Birds

House finches nesting in my Christmas wreath
(two eggs and one fuzzy head)

Check it out: Hummingbird Nest Cam
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It's interesting how different people have different perspectives on things. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times people have brought nestling finches into the rehab center because they were nesting in the wreath on the front door or in the planter on the front porch. No, they weren't orphaned - they were just an inconvenience. The excuses were numerous: "It's April and Christmas is over - I have to take this wreath down NOW." "I've heard finches are messy and I don't want to see any poop on my porch." "I must water this plant and I'm afraid I'll drown the babies." And my all-time favorite: "Birds have diseases - we're all going to die." Oh puleeeze...
I, on the other hand, feel honored that these little birds chose my wreath to nest in. So honored that I stopped using the front door three weeks ago when I noticed them building. So honored that I locked the screen door from the inside to keep all the horrible solicitors from banging the wreath around every time they want to shove their trash in between my screen door and front door (i.e, brochures, flyers, etc. -- all trash to me since I never read them and would never use any service who advertises this way). So honored that I'm tempted to stop the mail until the babies fledge so the mailman doesn't disturb them.
Is it inconvenient for me? Of course. Do I care that my dead brown wreath is still hanging on my door when everyone else on the block has already removed their Christmas wreaths? Of course not. Because I know that it only takes 2 weeks for the eggs to hatch, and it'll only be another 2 weeks until the little birds fledge. Because I know that poop can be washed away. Bird poop doesn't scare me one little bit. (The dog that pooped in the pocket of my new white coat last night, however... ugh - another story entirely!) It's been 3 years since I've worked intensely with birds, and I miss having them around. So I feel blessed that I get to watch this little bit of nature - up close and personal. Not as close as when I was rehabbing, but close enough for now.
I also discovered a fabulous hummingbird web cam. This is her 4th brood this year according to the cam owner in California. Wow. Hummers haven't even arrived in Minnesota yet, much less thought about nesting for the first time. Click on the link above to view the nest. She has three eggs (one too many for a hummer), and they're due to hatch any day now.
One of my many sweet hummers: My Seasonal Migration

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Remembering Spring

Sea Foam

Two feet of snow fell last night here in Minnesota, and it's still snowing today. They closed the U yesterday - something they haven't done for weather since 1991 when the temperature reached -70F. Of course, this morning we were all expected in class again - despite the continuing snow and partially plowed roads. Gotta love those Minnesnowtans...