Saturday, August 31, 2013

Everything Works

The tiny plastic piece that does so much. Without it, the spray hose doesn't stay connected to the supply hose.

The tiny plastic piece missing from my new Kohler faucet was delivered yesterday and within minutes I had the spray hose and supply hose securely connected and a finally a working faucet.
Mission accomplished!

It was a great moment for me because it meant that everything in my new kitchen was working. Now it's a rush to the finish line with baseboards, cabinet kick plates and touch up painting.

The big reveal is just around the corner and I'll share the final cost of my remodel.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Memorable Meal

Dean Bill Lupfer joined us during the meal today.
Church bells rang midway through the Wednesday Community Meal today at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral to mark the 50th anniversary of "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" and Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Then the Dean of the Cathedral, Bill Lupfer,  joined us in the dining room to offer a prayer for justice and freedom for all. The pause was brief but meaningful to the guests and volunteers.

I am pleased to be part of a cathedral that is open, welcoming and respectful of all races and religions. Every Wednesday the dining room is filled with people from all walks of life, coming together for sustenance and fellowship. It truly is a wonderful thing.
Volunteers Sarah and Leah worked hard preparing the salads today. Sarah is a student and starts school next week. We are really going to miss having her help.

A view into the busy kitchen from the dining room.
We served 418 meals today of oven baked chicken, soup, salad and dessert.
A meal of oven baked chicken, sauteed chard and a baked potato. Volunteer Suzanne did such a good job of cooking the chard that it was a surprise hit with the guests. "I was scared to taste it," admitted one guest, "but I'm glad I did because I love it."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Working Dishwasher!

After a long day of work, I got to load and run my dishwasher!

My dishwasher is installed and back in working order. It's so exciting for me because I'm anxious to clean clean clean and start putting things away.

On the downside, my kitchen faucet is yet to be hooked up due to a missing tiny plastic tab that keeps the sprayhead hose connected to the supply hose. I called Kohler and they are mailing the part. In the meantime, I'm using my instant hot faucet with the heating tank unplugged to get water into the sink.

Another setback was that I wasn't able to attach the drain basket that came with my sink because it extended a good 3-inches below the sink that's already 10-inches deep. I should have moved my drain pipe lower when I had my walls opened. It would have been so easy to do, but at that time, I hadn't ordered my sink and didn't know I was going to be lured by one of the deepest sinks on the market.
I found my hidden talent -  I can fit into a cabinet and use a hacksaw to cut a pipe.

My friend Bill was once again super helpful and supportive. When things don't go as planned I've learned that that's okay, there's always another way to get things done.

Our solution was to go to A-Boy and purchase another basket that matches the finish of the sink. We found one that extends only an inch below the sink and just barely fits.

In hindsight, I now know it's best to choose your sink before you drywall and install a cabinet over your plumbing. Also, a deep sink is great but you've got to have the space for it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Filling The Drawers

Today I'm filling my new kitchen drawers with the help from my daughter Eleanor. This morning we made a trip to Ikea together for organization supplies.

At Ikea we found shallow plastic trays for 1.49 each and two fit perfectly side by side in my 15-inch drawers. We also found deeper clear plastic containers for the same price and we are using them as separators in the larger 36-inch drawers.
An efficiently organized drawer. Food colorings, sprinkles and extracts could spill and make a mess so it's good to have them contained in a plastic container.

Inside each of the deep containers are sugars and sprinkles, food colorings, extracts and pastry bags. The former are items that could potentially spill and make a mess so I like having them contained to help keep the new drawers clean. I also like that the containers are easy to lift out of the drawers.
I like that these deep clear plastic containers are easy to pull out of my drawers. I also like that they only cost 1. 49.

At Ikea we also purchased a cool shallow spice holder for 3.99 that I like a lot. It will be so much easier to find what I need since I used to have my spices in a cabinet that was deep and inefficient. Now I won't have to practically pull every spice out to find the one I want.

No more struggling to find spices with this cool spice rack that lays flat. I also have space for all my cupcake papers. I stored them upside down so I can see the designs and sizes better and quickly find what I want.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Drawer Pulls

All the cabinet hardware is in and I'm very pleased. The stressing, sweating and tedious measuring paid off.

Last to be installed were these pulls on two large banks of drawers. I'm excited to begin putting things away and clearing out my dining room and the rest of my house that has looked like a storage locker for the last four months.

I now have lots of room for my cookie and cake decorating supplies. I can't wait to begin baking in my new kitchen.
Lots of storage space!

Hardware Hesitation

I had been putting off installing the hardware for my kitchen cabinets because I was stressed about putting them on perfectly.

There's a lot of careful measuring involved and it's a one shot deal. Mis-drilled holes can't be filled and painted because of the reflective foil finish on the cabinets. There is no way to duplicate the finish.

After pondering and pondering I got a great tip from my brother Josh who just remodeled his own kitchen - use painter's tape to mark where you want to drill. The texture of the tape also keeps the drill bit from slipping and sliding.

Yesterday afternoon I got the courage to start with the knobs which went very smoothly. This morning I started on the drawer pulls which are more complicated. I just took my time and I'm off to a great start. I have one bank finished and later today I'll tackle the remaining two.

Here are some installation tips.


Put a piece of painter's tape on the cabinet where the knob will be placed.

Make a template out of a square edged piece of cardboard by simply lining it up with the top and side of the cabinet door and marking with a pen where you want your knob to be placed. Drill a hole there and then line it up again and mark with a pen through the hole and onto the painter's tape where you need to drill.

Make sure you use a drill bit that is the same size as your screws.
Add the knob and repeat.  Be sure to flip the template for the second door on double door cabinets.

The pulls needed to be lined up perfectly so I snapped a chalk line down where each of the screws holes needed to be drilled and where the center of the handle needed to line up. My daughter helped me snap the chalk lines while I held the string in place. I then put painter's tape on the middle of each of the drawers so that I could draw center lines through the chalk lines. Where those line intersected with the outside chalk lines is where I pre-drilled for the screws.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meatloaf Sandwiches

We served meatloaf sandwiches today at the Wednesday Community Meal and I think it might have been our most popular entree to date.

After just a few minutes of serving, longtime volunteer Carol said, "they are so happy when they see the meatloaf sandwiches coming to their table."

The meatloaf was made with premium ground beef, pork and sausage all donated by Phil's Uptown Meat Market. The small independently owned market is so generous with us, giving us bags and bags of food every week.

To season the meatloaf, we added tomato sauce, herbs, garlic, cornflake crumbs and salt and pepper. The resulting meatloaf was flavorful, tender and moist.
Volunteer Linda worked hard today slicing meatloaf and assembling sandwiches.

I had planned to serve the meatloaf as is with a side of rice and veggies but yesterday Good Samaritan Hospital donated a huge amount of Oroweat hamburger buns so the meatloaf sandwiches were an obvious choice and I believe helped make the meatloaf go further. Good thing too because we served 399 meals today. When we opened our doors at 11 a.m. there was a line around the block.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The one thing that got done today. I do like the look of my new Kohler faucet.

After thoroughly cleaning the grout off my tile wall with lots of help from family and friends. It was time to move onto plumbing today.
Family member Ken helping me clean the grout lines around my tile.

I was so excited to get my faucet and instant hot installed and have a kitchen sink back in working order.

I picked my friend Bill up at 8 a.m this morning and we headed to our neighborhood A-Boy plumbing store for supplies and with intentions to install the disposal, faucet, instant hot and dishwasher. We always go to A-Boy when we need  expert advice since they have the best worker there named Jack. He is nice, knowledgeable and very patient with us.

Well, things don't always go as planned. Because of the depth of my sink, the disposal wasn't going to work unless I cut into the cabinet and drywall and moved the drainpipe down by about 5 inches - water doesn't drain upwards! After talking with Bill and Jack, I decided to forgo the disposal. So we got our supplies and headed off to get to work.

The faucet went in well but we weren't able to tighten the 2. 5 inch washer and nut underneath because of a crosspiece that was in the way. So we removed the faucet and used a hole drill bit to make adequate space to tighten the washer and nut. With that done I was feeling good and we were ready to tackle the instant hot. Well, the instant hot didn't fit into the hole drilled by the countertop installers. That hole was 1 1/4 inches and we needed a 1 3/8 inch hole.
Bill helping me today.

Ugh - I called the countertop installers and they will increase the size of the hole this Thursday. I've learned that you can't get upset, there's always a solution and I'm so fortunate to have my friend Bill to help me stay positive. He was just the person I needed by my side when everything seemed to not be working out.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sugared Walnuts

These sugared walnuts enhanced with ginger and maple are so tasty and quick to make. The secret to making these extra delicious is toasting the walnuts in an oven before sugaring them. Believe me, toasting is pure magic when it comes to nuts.

I like to make a big batch of these and keep them sealed in a plastic bag in my freezer. I then use them to top salads - spinach, pear and gorgonzola is my favorite. They are also a great addition to a cheese platter when you need something easy for entertaining.

Here's the recipe:

Sugared Walnuts
2 1/2  cups walnut halves
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. And,  lay a sheet of parchment paper on a cooling rack.

Put the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for 6 to 10 minutes. Watch them closely because you don't want them to burn. Once you begin to smell the walnuts, get them out of the oven.

Put the remaining ingredients except the butter and salt into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and give it a good stir to combine. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar mixture is melted and bubbling. This takes about 5 minutes.

Quickly, add the butter and salt and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the toasted walnuts and cook for another minute or so, stirring constantly.

Transfer the walnuts to the parchment paper and use a spoon to break them apart. Be careful because they are very hot. Let them cool completely and store in a sealed container.

Let the sugared walnuts cool completely before packaging.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Toiling, er, Tiling

I've been working pretty much nonstop this last week, finishing the large tile wall in my kitchen. Cutting the tiles to fit around my two windows went slower than expected. I had to cut some very tiny pieces of tile for small gaps that needed to be filled.
Just one of many small pieces of tile I had to cut.

The tile all set and ready for grout.

Wednesday evening, I added the grout. I chose a color called quartz that is a pretty close match to my countertops.

What I didn't expect though was how long it has taken me to clean the excess grout off of the tiles. After two solid days of work and help from my friend Bill, my nephew Sam and my daughter Una and her boyfriend Jordan, the tile is looking good but my hands are a mess.

Una and Jordan cleaning tiles.
After nonstop tile work, my friend Bill lifted my spirits today by helping me move my oven into place and hook up the water line to my refrigerator.  I'm feeling much better now that I have two appliances in place and cold water and ice at my beck and call.

The dishwasher is next.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Courtyard Dining

We moved the Wednesday Community Meal outside today because the floor in Kempton Hall where we usually serve is in the process of being refinished.

The temperature was in the upper 80's today in Portland so actually it was perfect weather for an outdoor meal in the courtyard of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

Serving outside meant more work transporting the food but all of the volunteers were good sports and everything worked out. We were also lucky that today we had three spry teenage boys volunteering who were willing to act as "runners" throughout the service.
Boy were we lucky that Micah, Nicholas and my nephew Sam came in to help today.

We served 380 meals of hotdogs, rice with roasted veggies, kale salad and mixed fruit. We also served soup, dessert and of course drinks.
Sam heading out to the courtyard with a tray of food. Sunglasses and sunscreen were a necessity today.

A change of venue once in a while can be fun, especially if you stay positive and work among friends.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Easy Hors d'oeuvres

My friends Cheryl and Dave helped me cater Jack's 90th birthday celebration. We all worked hard and the event turned out great. Everything we served was finger food, plated and arranged in the dining room.
Here's a pic of the spread:
Cheryl was so smart and brought #10 cans and blocks to raise some of the platters. She draped a tablecloth over them and this allowed us to get so much more food on the table at once and it looked gorgeous.

One of the guests' favorite hors d'oeuvres was smoked salmon with cream cheese and dill on brioche toasts. This was also one of the easiest to prepare so I thought I'd share how to make them. It's actually almost embarrassing how easy these are.

The pretty and tasty salmon treats.
All we did was arrange mini brioche toasts that we purchased at Trader Joe's on platters, pipe on a dollop of cream cheese, add smoked salmon and top with a sprig of dill. They looked so pretty and the guests loved them.

The brioche toasts that we found at Trader Joe's. They were packaged tightly and not a single one was broken.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Jack's Cake

I baked the cake for Jack's 90th birthday celebration yesterday and today I decorated it. Jack served in WWII as a navigator on a B-29 so his wife Mary asked me to decorate a cake with his plane "Goin' Jessie."

I knew I wanted to decorate the cake completely with vanilla buttercream since nothing beats it for taste. Using another medium like fondant, sugar paste or modeling chocolate would have been easier but in my opinion not so tasty and a 90th birthday celebration deserves a great tasting cake.

Mary loaned me a book with a photo of "Goin' Jessie," and I found lots of helpful information on the Internet as well.

When it came time to draw the plane design for the cake, I admit I cheated a bit by recruiting the help of my husband Joe who is great at drawing. So with my husband's help, this is how I decorated Jack's cake.

I researched Jack's plane. In the photo, he's in the top row, second from right.

My artistic husband helped me by drawing this plane made to fit on my 12 x 18 - inch sheet cake.
I baked three recipes of "The Greatest and Easiest Chocolate Cake" and spread dark chocolate ganache between the layers.
I iced the cake with two batches of vanilla buttercream and made an additional batch for decoration. My sweet niece Maya was a wonderful support. Look how big that cake is!
I got all my icing colors mixed and ready to go. My kind sister loaned me her kitchen for the big baking project since mine is still undergoing a remodel.
I cut out the B-29 my husband drew.

I set the cutout on top of the cake and used a skewer to draw around it.

Here's what the outline looked like.

Then, I just followed the lines.

And, I filled in the lines. I piped icing on the inside and used an offset spatula to spread it to the edges.

Then, I started adding details.

And, more details.

Finally, I added "Happy Birthday Jack" and used my favorite trick of using a skewer to draw the letters onto the cake before adding the icing. If you make a mistake, just smooth out the icing and start again until you get it right. I hope Jack likes it.