Archive for February 2015

On Small Kitchens

I have been posting about our upcoming kitchen renovation off and on and thought I would “share” just a couple of thoughts!

DSC_1987 nx2Here’s the thing, our kitchen is what you might call smallish, so I get all annoyed when we discover things such as IKEA and their “great” kitchen re-design. Apparently, done to accommodate the North American market of larger homes, i.e. larger kitchens…what?  I wonder if they checked the market here in Vancouver to see the cost of a single family dwelling? News flash: the Real Estate Board recently released numbers on buying a home in Richmond, Burnaby and the East Side.  The prices have climbed to 1 million dollars! On the West Side of Vancouver, where we are, it’s even more! To put this figure into perspective, the annual income is $72,200.

So, I ask you, how is it that these “average” people living here are going to be buying larger homes…how about condos and townhomes, that would be more realistic but certainly not cheap, just cheaper. A young couple will probably have to get a 1 bedroom condo “starter” home and work their way up the food chain. All of which means, smaller kitchens for most of us!

This all brings me to the IKEA upper cabinets being switched out from an inside dimension of 12” up to 15”…I’m still trying to wrap my head around this! You might think…wow, more storage but in a small kitchen that means a 3” loss of space both visually and in reality, a 3″ encroachment over your work space. By the way, the quote came in the other day for having a semi-custom kitchen installed in our condo…over $14,000. Not outrageous but in our case that means a couple of plane tickets! This brings me back to IKEA! For the record, the 12” cabinets seem to be available in Europe! No kidding…where a lot of people don’t live in huge North American type homes!

slide and hide ovenWe’ve been watching the Great British Bake-off (got hooked when we were staying in London). We love the show, even if it sends us running to the kitchen scrounging around for some dessert! The have the most incredible ovens! When you open the door flat, it actually slides underneath the oven! Now, that’s a great idea, especially in a small space! WOW, is that cool or what? P.S. if you live in the U.K., aren’t you the lucky one, as they don’t seem to be available here in Canada! Check it out: http://www.neff.ie/why-neff/get-the-best-from-your-neff/slide-hide.html

No sour grapes here…we don’t have space for a wall oven!  But I’m tempted to cut a hole in the wall and install one of these babies!

 

 

 

Phyllis Signature_01

 

Celebrating a Milestone!

It’s my husband, Joe’s birthday today!

Turning 65 is a rather strange feeling…it was our parents who were 65 not us boomers!

Anyway…not a time to get maudlin but a time to celebrate that you’re still here and still young…or at least is in my eyes! Who knew that way back in the mists of time…time spent enjoying favourite musicians like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Jimmy Hendrix in clubs as a teen in Toronto, you would have reached this milestone!

CONGRATULATIONS, here’s to you Joe… embrace this day and all the days to come! Keep dreaming those dreams my Pisces and remember your glass is half full just waiting for you to fill up the other half!

 

birthday cake

 

Phyllis Signature_01

 

 

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

the family cookbook italianI have been totally consumed by finding recipes and cooking for what feels like forever! Except for a time out to get my Interior Decorating Diploma, I’ve been in love with cooking and baking. The baking thing all started when I was probably 7 or 8 and the cooking, well I used to ask   our neighbours for recipes when they gave me samples to taste and I would rush home and ask my mom to buy the ingredients so I could make whatever it was.

Growing up in a Danish/Russian home, it’s safe to say we never ate any sort of Italian food…but living in Vancouver…there was always access to Chinese cooking. The Italian thing reared its head when, once again our neighbour made her ragu for spaghetti and l sneaked a taste…hooked! She got the recipe from her Italian sister-in-law. It was slow cooked stew beef in a tomato sauce seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper. I spent the following Sunday making it and except for the fact that my family, who didn’t eat anything spicy or anything with garlic, spent the meal gulping gallons of water, it was a success (just cut down on the cayenne next time, OK?)

Il viaggio cookbook coverI bought my very first Italian cookbook way back in 1971. It’s “The Family Cookbook: Italian” by not very Italian sounding authors Charlotte Adams and Alvin Kerr. I poured through it and piano, piano (slowly, slowly) I began to make a few of the recipes….hey this is where I learned to make Osso Bucco and the well-stained Milanese risotto recipe (and an oven version of that wonderful saffron scented rice)…who knew that it is usually done on top of the stove??? Not me!

The book had, as its “special consultant,” James Beard! Who? I’d never heard of him! Boy oh boy! The introduction was written by J.B. and to be frank, I probably never read it and if I did would not have “gotten” what he was saying as I knew almost nothing about Italy or the cuisine! Here’s a couple of quotes from the Introduction: “The Italians, (unlike the French), unfailingly emphasize the true flavor of their ingredients. Each food is treated with respect for its unique individual contribution—and the results are notable” and “In Italy good eating and drinking is as natural as living. The intense honesty of fine Italian cookery makes eating a national joy wherever one travels in in Italy. Nowhere else these days is regional produce so strongly stressed—not even in France.”

Things have changed a lot since those days! Not only have I been studying and cooking Italian for more than 30 years…again, piano, piano, but have had the good fortune to travel in Italy on five occasions. Those trips opened our eyes…we haven’t been the same since!

Rice Pilaf recipe for blogFrom the humble beginnings of that worn red cookbook to the most recent; a Christmas gift from my husband, who shares my passion for Italian cooking and savouring Italian wines. “Il viaggio di vetri a culinary journey” the first cookbook by Marc Vetri of the Philadelphia restaurant “Vetri” is a long way from that first book! The ingredients used may be simple but oh my…the end results are so sophisticated and look amazing! I wonder what preparation I might make first? Maybe it should be the spring peas with walnuts and fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or homemade pici with hen ragu and apples? And if this isn’t enough to set me (or you)  running to the stove, then how about the corzetti pasta with walnuts?

Fire up those burners!

Phyllis Signature

Decisions, Decisions!

 

Hot off the presses: kitchen renovation update!

Not so small steps towards bringing together the whole project. Last week the final selections were made for the countertop (Caesarstone), backsplash (porcelain tile) and…here’s a big news flash…we have even selected the grout!

frosty carrina 3

Beige Backsplash Tile 2

 

There was a glitch with the chimney style fan. We thought it wouldn’t fit but low and behold…we have been advised it can be cut down! Yeah! It will look so cool having the backsplash going up to the ceiling behind the fan.

This coming week brings a meeting with a carpenter we know, to discuss more options for the cabinets! Our designer friend who did the drawings is putting out her feelers to get some quotes too. IKEA appears to be off the table because they changed their systems this month and it appears the sizes of the drawers will not conform to normal standards, meaning that if you don’t want to use their door fronts you can’t change them out for another product because they won’t fit, leaving a buyer no option but to use their product. The cabinets are probably the biggest piece we need to figure out to complete the puzzle. And…to keep to the budget (remember…we want to go to Rome in the fall after the kitchen is completed!)

Keeping our fingers crossed! Wish us luck!

Phyllis Signature_01