Category Archives: kitchen

The Chicago Fridge

Food cooling on porch

Steaming hot chili cools off in the Chicago Fridge.

Like many of Chicago’s mid-century homes, we have an enclosed porch (AKA 3-season room, bonus room or Florida room) off of the kitchen at the rear of the house. Ours is in need of an overhaul, but when we asked our general contractor to jack up a corner of it, he cautioned us that what we thought might be a $400 job, could turn into an expensive rebuild.

We decided to live with the ramshackle look a bit longer. It’s vintage chic, right?

Even in its rundown condition, the room has its uses. Even, nay, especially, in the 4th season. The uninsulated room is like a second, giant refrigerator. But it wasn’t until Jen saw me place a setaming bowl of chili on the porch to cool that I heard the room referred to as the Chicago Fridge.

We often place hot items out there to cool rather than overwork our fridge. In the dead of winter, we can freeze things, too.

Now that it’s warming up and we can use the room as more than an extension of our refrigerator (and garage and mudroom), I’m dusting, scrubbing and organizing it. I’ll be back soon with pictures.

Do you have one of these fab little bonus rooms?


You Want a Sneak Peek at My Kitchen?

Of course you want to see my new kitchen! Check it out in my monthly post on Angie’s List: Planning a new kitchen, Chicago style. It’s full of resources, tips, a bit of my anxiety and it’s even got a fancy before/after slideshow.

What are you waiting for? Click, already!


A Prayer for Children

marian wright edelman prayer for childrenI’m posting this because I want to clear out clutter, which the scrap of paper on which this prayer for children is printed has become, yet I want to remember these words, these thoughts from Marian Wright Edelman, who included it in her book of prayers and meditations on (raising) children, Guide My Feet.

I copied this out of her book well over a decade ago, when my boys were quite young. Or perhaps it was back when I only had one boy. I think my intent was to read it each week on Shabbat, when we lit the Friday night candles.

Many of our traditions and habits fell aside during the years we lived with my parents and our Friday night candle lighting was one of them. We are getting back into the habit, though.

Dear God, I thank You for the gift of this child to raise, this life to share, this mind to help mold, this body to nurture and this spirit to enrich.

Let me never betray this child’s trust, dampen this child’s hope, or discourage this child’s dreams.

Help me dear God to help this precious child become all You mean him to be.

Let Your grace and love fall on him like gentle breezes and give him inner strength and peace and patience for the journey ahead.

Upon further reflection, I’ve decided that this wrinkled scrap of paper held together with tape isn’t clutter after all. Its message is timeless, and as the mother of a teen and tween who have learned well how to push my patience to its limit, I should read and reflect on these words at least once a week.

I’m sticking it up on the side of the fridge, just as it was posted in our previous house.

Even the Kitchen Sink

Silgranit by BlancoEven the kitchen sink was something of an ordeal when it came to bringing our reno plans to life. Thanks to your feedback, we knew to avoid a corner sink, but we were still puzzled about what material our sink should be made of.

We ruled out stainless steel as too industrial.

Solid surface was out because it doesn’t wear well over time

Cast iron enamel looks lovely at first, but tends to chip and scratch. With my fondness for cast iron pans and metal baking sheets, I knew this wouldn’t be a good long-term fit.

What was left? Silgranit.

Silgranit is a lightweight, durable granite composite that promises to stand up to what my family and I could dish out. Not that we routinely let crusty dinner dishes pile up in the sink, but, well, sometimes it happens.

Silgranit was suggested to us by our appliance saleswoman; that was the first I’d heard of it. As I was searching online for more information on this wonder-sink, I crossed paths with a PR peep who works with the brand and she arranged for me to receive a Blanco SilgranitII sink and a Blanco faucet.

Not only is Silgranit tough, it’s pretty, too. It comes in a wide choice of styles and colors. We (yes, DH had an opinion about this) selected a Blanco Diamond 1 3/4 bowl undermount sink in biscotti, which goes perfectly with our counter tops and our wall paint.

We got off to a rocky start with our sink because, durable as they are, they can get cracked during the shipping process. We did not notice any cracks in our sink upon arrival or before it was installed, but one appeared after the counter top guys installed it. Maybe they screwed it in a bit too tight or something? After a near-heart attack, near tears, foot stomping and a finger pointing drama our guy provided a replacement sink of the exact color and style we ordered and installed it that very same day. (If a Silgranit II sink is damaged during shipping, Blanco will replace it.)

Since then the sink has been in for good. And it’s been great. Nearly two months into living here, it still looks like new.

(When it’s not full of dishes.)

So far, Silgranit is living up to its scratch-resistant and easy-to-clean promises. Hooray!

We also received a Blanco faucet. One of the challenges here is that we selected our model from online photos, which made me nervous. I like to see and touch products before bringing them into my home, but even the high-end kitchen shops in my area had limited displays of Blanco faucets. We went with our gut and selected the Rados with pull down spray because it had the functionality we wanted, namely a pull down vs. pull out spray.

We’re happy with our selection. The faucet’s brass body (with satin nickle finish) gives the unit a substantial feel. It feels more solid than the plastic chrome-plated faucet from the Big Box store that we had in our previous house.

See those rubbery bumps on the back of the pull down unit?


Blanco faucet

The small one unleashes a steady stream of water that can be adjusted for temperature and water pressure.


Blanco faucet


And the larger one releases the spray. The spray makes it easy to wash dishes and the sink. It also leaves me fantasizing about playing “beauty shop” in my kitchen.


Blanco faucet

Washing dishes by hand* is never fun, but I’m so glad to be in my own fabulous kitchen, that it’s almost a pleasure to do them.


*We do have a dishwasher, but it always seems like there are a handful of items that demand a hand job.

The Reluctant Renovator is now on Angie’s List!

shower ceiliing with Kohler water tilesNo, I’m not providing any home services, I’m writing! In the months since we purchased our house I’ve learned quite a few things about making home improvements and repairs, and now I get to share my best gems with Angie’s List members each month. Check out my first post: Tips for hiring a Chicagoland contractor.

So far, we’ve been more about HIY (hire it yourself) than DIY and, frankly, I’m liking it this way. I do hope to make better use of my tool belt and start digging in the dirt in the coming months, but I have to admit that things wouldn’t be looking quite so nice if we had completed major renovation tasks on our own.

Speaking of which, the guy in the photo on Angie’s List is David from Tigele Tile. Though Tigele owner Johann Janoschka, did note that our job was less grand than some of his projects, he and David did a great job. Our master bathroom looks fabulous. So good, in fact, that other tradesmen commented on the expert installation. Typically, tradesmen look at another guy’s work and tell you five ways they could have done it better.

Tigele also tiled our laundry room and kitchen floors. Johann scheduled his work around our other renovations and completed his portions on time.

We did encounter two issues: one was that we did not like the coiled heating element he first installed in the bathroom floor. Luckily, we noticed this in time and talked to Johann about installing a higher end heat mat. It cost us a little bit more money to get the mat, but we were happy to pay as the overall job price was reasonable.

The other issue was that when our plumber came to install the fixtures, we realized the fixture slots were tiled in too closely. Despite the fact that he was in Europe when this happened, I was able to contact Johann and one of his workers made it to our house in time for the plumber to complete his work that same day. (It would have been nice if the plumber mentioned at the time that he wouldn’t drill the tile to install the mounting for the hand spray, but frustratingly, he waited another week to share the news. Ugh. Don’t get me started on our plumber.)

Hmmm. I need to get that on Angie’s List, too, only in the review section.

By the way, you can also catch a bit of home improvement with a side of snark in my monthly post on Aiming Low’s Teach Channel.

Yes, yes, yes, more pics of the fab-o master bath to come. Between the lighting and the mirrors it’s hard to get good shots.

Ramekins- The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

ramekins make a lovely mother's day giftI suggested to my dear husband that ramekins would be a lovely Mother’s Day gift. If I had ramekins, I could finally make, well, whatever it is one bakes up in them. I’d get daring and whip up creme brulee or…something. I can no recall what I longed to bake because he gave them to me for Mother’s Day back in 2005. And look! After I dug them out from a box, I finally removed them from their original packaging.

And I rediscovered my candy thermometer, too. I bought that when I was pregnant with my younger son back in 2000. I recall being at Target, I might have even made a special trip to the store to buy it because I had. To. Have. It. I could no longer live without a candy thermometer.

Yep, it’s still in its original packaging.

I guess it’s time to get cooking.