My Grandmother’s Cookware

These were the pots that my  mom remembers from her childhood;  filled with delicious soups or stews when she walked home to Clarendon Road on her school lunch break.
Her mom alw20160522_114913ays had something delicious and perfectly prepared for her and her sister every day.
I was helping her sort through belongings stored in the house she was finally ready to put on the market as part of her downsizing. When we unpacked a box in her cedar closet, we found these treasured vessels which seemed overflowing with memories.
We put them aside and kept focused on our work; but later, when we sat down to sip tea and plan our evening, those memories, and the emotions that mom had been burying all day in her determination to get the house ready for sale, came flooding back.
With a voice strained  from choking back tears, she explained that she wanted to cook one more meal in these pots to pay tribute to her mother for all those fond memories of delicious meals.
The proposed menu was not what I would have liked for dinner, but I recognized the need to bring closure to this and that she also needed to do it with a family member. This outdated cookware was the source of her comfort food. So we purchased a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoyed some cheese and crackers while she started the brown rice in her mother’s cast iron, plated pot. Next, she sauteed the chicken tenders in the frying pan  and, lastly, tossed in the snow peas for a balanced meal.
During the course of this process, the rice burned and stuck to the bottom and she realized the handles were hazardously loose. Is it possible that her mother- my grandmother-  had mastered these difficult cooking techniques so that she never burned anything? Or did she compensate in a way that children would never notice?
At any rate,  it was not about the food, it was the company. Ultimately, we shared one last meal which brought a fine conclusion to this honored cookware. We sat at the table with a gorgeous bouquet of lilacs and celebrated all we had accomplished during the day.
Thanks for the wonderful memories!
20160522_114935     20160522_114947


“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

~Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist.

The new year is here, the holidays have passed, the gifts have been received and, for all we know, the world may be coming to an end. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about gratitude. According to Cicero, gratitude is the root of all other human values. Why, then, does it come more naturally to some than to others? We teach young children to say “please” and “thank you”; but is that really enough to impress upon them the real meaning of appreciation? From the piles of presents mine opened during Christmas, you would have thought there would be nothing but smiles. As adults, we all know to express appreciation whether we love the gift or not; but…

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Family Balancing Act

As we usher in the new year, I am so happy to have my  daughter home from France, where she has spent the last semester. My son has already had multiple acceptances at colleges for next year, so this should be a no stress time, right? We had a family bonding week in Florida during the holidays that really brought us back together.

Tonight, due to my son’s insistence, we planned a Fondue dinner with some grass-fed beef we bought from a local farmer that he was dying to test. My daughter was trying to regain her figure after a semester of French cuisine – so the dining requirements were quite challenging. However, we set up a beautiful 2 pot fondue system -one with oil, the other with a broth. The oil was working well but the broth was underheated. My husband, the physicist, decide to up the ante and add a pot of alcohol to the broth heat source. Unfortunately, he spilled the alcohol and set the table on fire! I wish I had a picture to share, but obviously quick action was the priority. He grabbed the fire extinguisher-which we have not used in 20+ years and sprayed the fire which was rapidly spreading across our table. Ironically , over our vacation, we had tried to explain to our children how to use a fire extinguisher if there was ever a problem.

By the time he was done putting the flames out, our dinner was coated in white residue and there were burns on one of the placemats . The table had a permanent burn in the surface.  None of the food was considered edible.

Much to my son’s dismay, we threw everything out and decided to go to a restaurant. We chose one within 5 minutes of our house where we could each choose something to our dietary needs – and left satisfied and in a much better mood. However, we did have to come home to the remnants of our disaster.

Now that it is dealt with, I am happy to say all is good- but it is an extremely unusual way to usher in the new year.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and peaceful 2016!


Kitchen Makeover: A Happy Conclusion

This update is long overdue and I apologize for the delay. The kitchen is 99% done. I am waiting for a few very minor details to be wrapped up, but I have unpacked my boxes, reorganized my dishes, pots, utensils and food pantry. I managed to accomplish all of this in time to throw a Labor Day weekend party and celebrate my beautiful kitchen- which took the entire summer to complete. All of my friends raved about it and we went all out on the food and drinks. It was a grand time and a great way to initiate the new kitchen.

Since then, I have been cooking regularly and I love it! A seat at the counter on one of those comfy red stools has become my favorite spot in the house. The NXR range is fabulous and having the extra burners makes cooking dinner much easier. The layout works really well, especially when another person is cooking at the same time; and that is exactly why we undertook this project so I am happy to report that my expectations have all been met. Sure we had some frustrations along the way, but as I look ahead to how much use we will get out of our kitchen it has all been worth it.

The island feels so inviting!


And the new floor plan seems so much bigger!




We found the perfect place for everything at our party.

Even the lighting gave the right ambience...

Even the lighting gave the right ambience…



The day after the party, we took advantage of the Labor Day sales and husband bought the Kitchenaid standing mixer he has wanted for years but never had a place for. Now in its candy red color, it deserves prime real estate on the granite countertop, don’t you agree? We are all looking forward to many more delicious meals and gatherings with family and friends.

How to Survive a Kitchen Makeover: Tip #9

My contractor came in today and laid out the final timeline for the project. I should be done on August 25th- 9 weeks from the start date. So it has taken longer than planned, but at least the kitchen is usable. To prove my point, tip # 9 is: Act like things are normal and take on a cooking project.

Whether the project is cooking a fancy dinner, using real dishes instead of paper plates, or the strenuous but necessary endeavor I undertook, it will make you feel good about your makeover so far and help you realize it is worth the extra wait to get it done.

My project was to use the abundant zucchini in my garden and make zucchini relish. That involved a complex process using my Cuisinart food processor, a dutch oven, my canning tools, ball jars and other supplies buried in my boxes.

I uprooted everything I needed and got started. The procedure flowed smoothly and I had plenty of space to work. The 6 burner NXR gave me plenty of room to set up my stations for cooking, sanitizing, loading and steaming.


Plus it was nice to have the granite countertops so I didn’t have to double layer the counters for boiling hot jars.


I did start small scale because I really didn’t want to make a huge production until I tested everything out, but I ended up with 4 jars of zucchini relish (one for the fridge, 3 for long term). My grandmothers would be proud of the tradition; but, I used a recipe I traded with my pediatrician years ago when we discovered a common love for gardening- so I think I have all my bases covered.



How to Survive a Kitchen Makeover: Update

I don’t really have another tip today, but I do want to update everyone on the progress. Obviously it is moving at a much slower pace. The backsplash tile just came in but now needs to be installed. The range hood will be installed after the tile. The trim and light fixtures still need a little work and a few cabinets have to be finished off. So not a lot to do, just a matter of coordinating worker schedules so we can wrap this up.

In the meantime, I decided to start moving dishes into cabinets. Notice all the extra space?


Of course, the coffee maker has now been relocated to the kitchen.



My husband had fun organizing the spices, cooking oils and condiments. I think this cabinet is really cool!


My stools arrived and, although I was doubtful at first because they are slightly larger than I realized, they are so comfy and I can picture spending many mornings, evenings and cocktail parties sitting in them, or at least guests sitting in them while I cook.


Finally, we have been cooking and eating on real dishes, using the dishwasher and microwave. And I even collected a bouquet of flowers to make things feel more like home.

I’ll have to move a few things when the tile work is being done, but until then I am just trying to enjoy as much of my new kitchen as I can.


How to Survive a Kitchen Makeover: Tip # 8

Tip #8: Use multiple websites and save one search engine for emergency

Yeah! My countertops were installed today on schedule and I think they are even better than anticipated.





My backsplash tile should be a perfect match, but I realize I need to make my kitchen pop with accents.  I already knew I wanted counter height stools at the island, but had not decided what they would be. Now I have the counter tops in place and I am thinking red is a great color to tie everything together (dining room, family room, laundry room). Plus, red is an appetite stimulator- so perfect for the kitchen. I have been gathering accessories I already own to test my decision. I already have several red accents which I laid out as a test run, but this was an excuse to buy more.

IMG_9103 IMG_9104 IMG_9105  accents1 accents2

I went online to look at counter height  stools and really liked a pair I saw in red. They had awesome reviews and were a very reasonable price, but I wanted to run it by my husband before I jumped into such a bold move. By the time we looked at the website the price had escalated from the bargain $229/pair to $279/pair. I need 2 pairs so that was an extra $100.

Hence my tip: save one search engine for emergency.   I do most of my research on Internet Explorer, but once I discovered I was shut out of my bargain price I resorted to Mozilla Firefox and conducted a “brand new” search. Even though I knew exactly what I was looking for, I was ahead of the “game” and managed to come up with the same initial bargain. I nailed down the offer and made my purchase. These are the stools that should be arriving at my house next week.


In the meantime, I actually had the opportunity to cook dinner in my kitchen! I used some of the fresh vegetables and herbs in my garden that are feeling very neglected: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, oregano, basil. It was a delicious dinner and it was totally prepared, cooked and served indoors! (Ratatouille with pasta- yummy!)

First dinner prepped, cooked and served in my new kitchen!

First dinner prepped, cooked and served in my new kitchen!



How to Survive a Kitchen Makeover: Tip # 7


Tip #7: Have patience and remember Tip # 6!

It has been a week since my last progress report and tip. Obviously the pace of things has slowed down and many of the improvements are internal, as in not obvious to the eye.

My husband wrapped up his contribution by putting in the vent and then covering it up so that my son can reclaim his closet space.

vent to outdoors (pre- boxed in)

The overhead lights were all wired and the gas stove, refrigerator and microwave are all on the circuit.

nice and bright




The granite fabricators came and laid out the template. My granite was delivered and I went to view it and place the template.


Andromeda granite

Andromeda granite

Corner template placement

They also gave me a chunk to carry around to compare to backsplash tiles. Husband and I have been to 4 different stores trying to find the right color.

which one do you think looks best?

which one do you think looks best?

I have been testing paint colors out, trying to merge my kitchen into the dining room, family room and hallway.


The walls are being taped and spackled and should be ready to paint in a few days. The granite countertops are scheduled to be installed Tuesday. Then the plumbing needs to be fitted.

We did choose a tile and it should be here in 10 days. After which the backsplash can be installed and the hood should be the final step.

winning combo!

winning combo!

This kitchen makeover officially started June 30. Today is July 25. Obviously we had some setbacks and because we did not order our backsplash in advance we seem to be on track with the timeline I anticipated. My tip is to just keep my patience and continue to appreciate progress. There seems to be something new every day, even if it seems small. Remember, at least I have my coffeemaker and a working refrigerator…


Surviving a Kitchen Makeover: Tip #6

Tip #6: Appreciate Progress

This project started June 30 and today is July 17. We had a holiday week in between so there have officially been 12 work days since then. I am still using my coolers for food and alternating between eating out and cooking on the grill. However, the accomplishments of today really excite me and remind me to appreciate what a great change this is going to be and how worth the small hassles. These photos were taken exactly a month apart: before and after. Just comparing them makes me excited and helps me stay calm and patient.

Before: 6/17/2014

Before: 6/17/2014


Progress after 12 days of labor: 7/17/2014

Progress after 12 days of labor: 7/17/2014

Surviving a Kitchen Makeover: Tip # 5

Tip # 5: Don’t be afraid to suggest ideas or ask questions

It is imperative to remember that you are the customer and it is Contractor’s duty to work with you and treat you with respect. You have the right to ask questions and suggest ideas, even if they seem silly or irrelevant.

For example, the refrigerator was delivered and after the appliance company left, I looked at it more closely.

Façade stainless, sides black

Façade stainless, sides black

I had wanted a stainless steel finish, but only the façade had that attribute. The side panels were a black formica. I looked up the model online, but even that described it as stainless steel, so I was very confused. I waited until a moment when Contractor was not busy and I asked him why the sides were black when I wanted stainless steel? He politely explained this is how all the models come and that he had special panels which would cover the sides. So that was a simple question with a simple answer. Done.

Refrigerator space  with corrective  pipe and supporting wall added

Refrigerator space with corrective pipe and supporting wall added


However, not all dilemmas are handled quite so smoothly and actually require some thinking outside the box.

I return to the saga of the rogue supporting beam. Because of the beam’s location, the hood vent can not be directed straight out of the kitchen. When Contractor called me over to point this out, he told me he saw no way around it and the inevitable plan would be to vent the stove directly into the kitchen.

Bay where vent was supposed to go, but blocked by supporting beam

Bay where vent was supposed to go, but blocked by supporting beam

Not good news; but I conceded the point and texted my husband with the update. He immediately called on the phone and told Contractor a very creative idea. We didn’t know if it was plausible,  but a few minutes later I was upstairs in my son’s closet while one of the guys was tapping on the kitchen ceiling, trying to locate where to put the vent. By a stroke of luck, they found an empty bay where it would not interfere with wiring; so, we will be able to vent the stove outside after all!

Son's closet saves the day

Son’s closet saves the day

Sometimes it takes a homeowner who knows the house well to solve the problem. Now my husband is very pleased because, in order to save time and money, he has volunteered to take charge of the upstairs vent, including building a box around it in the closet. He should be proud of his contribution to this project and that he didn’t give up on solving a problem that was important to him.


Surviving a Kitchen Makeover: Tip # 4

Tip # 4: Accept invitations for dinner whenever possible

IMG_9020     IMG_9019

Progress Report: The structural beam has been repaired. They have rewired the electric and plumbing and are working on the vent for the stove. Sheetrock is starting to go up and it is beginning to look like a kitchen.

IMG_9014    IMG_9015

Nevertheless, there are still no appliances and we are probably many days away from being able to cook in the kitchen. Which brings me to Tip # 4: Accept Invitations for dinner whenever possible.

Even though, technically speaking, I can cook my dinner on the grill, I have not stocked up on all the perishable items that are nice to enhance the flavors and most of my non-perishable ones are packed away. My garden produce keeps on growing, though and it is a shame to let it go to waste. I have given away many pounds of kale, collard greens, cucumbers and herbs. Now the zucchini and green beans are starting to become abundant.

My friends and family all appreciate what I am going through and kindly offer to have us over for dinner. It is a much better option than going to a restaurant or ordering takeout.  I have been showing up with freshly picked vegetables as my contribution to their efforts and we have all enjoyed each others company for a few hours. It is a nice way to step away from the chaos going on at home and an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of maintaining these friendships. It really reminds you that we can’t always do it alone and it is nice to know you have people to lean on when you need it.

I look forward to hosting a kitchen party when it is all done as a way of thanking all my friends and family for their support.

p.s. as I am typing this, appliances are being delivered and cabinets are starting to be installed! More updates tomorrow!



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