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!



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!



How to Survive a Kitchen Makeover: Tip #3

   Tip # 3: Pretend You are Camping

My husband actually took me on my first camping trip when we were courting, so I have many fond memories from the first one. Subsequently, we took many camping trips with the children when they were young. If you are not a fan of camping, maybe this tip doesn’t work for you; but if you are- it sounds like “glamping”.


I have my coolers filled with cheese, milk, hardboiled eggs, hummus and drinks and my propane tanks are full and ready for grilling. My outdoor dining area is eager for use (which is why redoing your kitchen in the summertime really helps the process).



I have a second entrance to my deck from the dining room. The grill and double burners are only steps away.


I am using the dining room table as a pantry/work area. There is a utility sink in the laundry room and I have been using paper plates and reusable plastic cutlery.


I resisted the urge to set up my microwave; but with only a few compromises on whole grain products, I feel I am actually keeping to a healthy diet.

The coolers need a new bag of ice daily and I have to buy food in smaller, less cost-efficient portions, but overall it is similar to camping- plus the benefits of indoor flush toilets and hot showers every day. Now the only question is; “How long can I put up with this?”



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