Kitchen Update

With October came the realization that we've been without a fully functional kitchen for SIX MONTHS. Holy cow! 

In early April we discovered mold caused by an eroding old pipe (our house was built in the 50s, and had all the original plumbing in the kitchen), which drove us toward a kitchen remodel a bit sooner than we originally intended. So why are we here, a half a year later, and still not finished? I suppose you can always blame your contractor, right? Just kidding  We are using someone who has worked with our families before, and knows what he's doing, but he's also verrryyy busy, so he wasn't able to start until last month.

Our plywood kitchen

We had been living with our little plywood kitchen since the mold was removed and the sink was reinstalled with the new, non-leaky pipes. We had our electric range, dishwasher, microwave and toaster oven, so we could do pretty much anything, we just didn't have nearly as much counter space or storage space as we did before the mold mitigation. Cooking was hard because not everything was in the kitchen and we had limited resources to work with, but it was doable as a temporary kitchen until we got underway with the new one.

Our temp kitchen

Now we've been living without an actual kitchen for just a few weeks. We moved the old fridge downstairs, where it will continue to live since we're getting new appliances, and who doesn’t need a beer fridge in the basement? 😉 Our temp kitchen, while livable, doesn’t have all the things we’re used to having, like a dishwasher, an oven or a stove. We bought a one-burner induction stove (convenient to have as people who love cooking anyway), which I have successfully warmed food in and boiled pasta, but very much burned a batch of popcorn. We’ve also got a toaster oven, rice cooker, sous vide, crock pot, coffee maker, microwave, and an ok sink (no garbage disposal), plus these are all things we can use in a fully functional kitchen as well.

What have I learned (so far)?

  • I could probably have coordinated a bunch of this myself, without a contractor, but it’s nice not having to stay at home to meet with plumbers, electricians, and the like.
  • You always will spend more than you think. We signed a sort of maximum-cost contract, but there are clauses that basically say things can go up anyway, and they’re always going to find little things here and there (like the fact that our garage to kitchen door wasn’t up to code, so we needed a new door)
  • It’s hard to eat super well with a limited kitchen - I’ve been struggling to get enough veggies in my daily diet.
  • Things feel extremely slow, even though they’re totally going faster than I think. A lot of the headway is invisible, or even looks destructive, at first. Now that things look a little different everyday, I have more of a sense of progress, because I am a visual person. Also, taking down that darn plastic wall made a HUGE difference.

It felt like our kitchen looked like this for FOREVER, even though they were working around the clock everyday.

  • If you’ve got a partner (spouse, SO, boyfriend, hubby, whatever), you’ll find that you may care about completely different things. For example, my hubby helped pick out counter, cabinet and paint colors, but doesn’t care about the sink, faucet or handles. For me, the sink was a BIG deal because I HATED the sink we had, but he couldn’t have cared less. I, on the other hand, don't care about the texture of the walls as long as they're easy to clean.
  • Inspectors care about some things a lot, and others not at all. For example, we ended up needing insulation and a fire door because of code, but we’re not required to have a range hood. The more you know.

We’re a little more than 2 weeks out from being done (minus walk-throughs after everything is installed, making sure we’re happy and everything is perfect. Right now is a lot of waiting because a bulk of the work was able to be done before we could get a template done for our countertops, and of course we have to wait a few weeks between template and installation.

It is coming along, though 

Our floor should be finished tomorrow, and then we get to paint this weekend! Woohoo!

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Glamping - Food Edition

Stopped here for lunch during a hike one day because this rock table was too perfect!

From camping with my husband and in-laws, I have learned that the lack of a kitchen is no reason to eat poorly. Of course it’s nice to have easy snacks like granola, fruit and beef jerky, but coolers can help you transport many of the usual ingredients you have in your fridge, and camper stoves and fires work fine for most of the food you eat. Just remember you don't have an electric dishwasher (but if you do, please tell me where to get one!).

We kept breakfasts and lunches pretty simple. I brought bottles of coffee, one for each morning, and we boiled water to make oatmeal, which I sliced bananas into. We also brought bagels and cream cheese. 😋 For lunch we made peanut butter sandwiches and/or cold cut sandwiches, and threw in some apples and protein bars just in case.

Our dinners were a little more extravagant. The first night we just did mac & cheese, where we boiled the water over the fire! We also roasted sausages over the fire to add a bit of protein to the meal. Our second night, my in-laws prepared caesar salad and pork tenderloin grilled over the fire. The third night we had hangar steak and baked potatoes.

In addition to all this, we had chips, hummus, guacamole, veggies, and LOTS of alcohol. We had beer and boxed wine, and Nathaniel even brought ingredients for one of his favorite cocktails.

For dessert, we made s’mores and had Girl Scout cookies.

This menu actually was quite reasonable, and didn’t require too much work or gear. To prepare warm food, you can pretty much do everything over the campfire with a wire rack, or you can bring a small propane stove. We have a metal kettle, a cast iron pan and a metal pot that we use to cook. It’s also useful to bring a cutting board and knife.

We always bring durable, easy to wash plates, cups and flatware (you can get plastic or metal - we have an assortment). We also like to bring paper plates to put on top of the plastic plates to help with clean up. You also can just put the paper plates in the campfire when you’re done! It’s good to have durable cups for your alcohol, because no one wants to worry about glass shards at the campsite! They actually make wine glasses specifically for camping. We also discovered that Yeti makes beer coozies that keep your beer cold ridiculously well. If you’re into making your specialty cocktails on the go, you can find camping martini kits and shakers, and fun things like hand-powered blenders.

While it would have been fine to bring just easy, no-cooking-necessary foods, there’s something fun about enjoying a nice meal by the fire under the stars. You may be away from your kitchen, but that doesn’t mean you have to rough it too much 😉

Three Weeks in Europe - Chamonix, Les Houches and Aosta through Food

Once again, here I am making myself hungry. While Boulder and our surrounding towns have a great array of delicious food to offer, there’s just something exciting about being someplace completely different, where you don’t know anything about the restaurants around you and can just be adventurous.

The view from the café in Saulieu

On our drive from Paris to the Alps, we had some “road trip snacks” of a fresh baguette, coffee and pastries from a shop near our hotel in Paris (which I mentioned here). This got us pretty far, but by mid-afternoon, we needed something more, and we needed to stretch our legs a bit! We ended up stopping in a town called Saulieu (which I only know because, even in airplane mode, somehow my phone was able to tell me!). Because it was off-season, we sat down at the first place we found, Café Parisien. The chalkboard folding sign out front made it seem like they had a full menu, but they ended up having one option for us (maybe because it was too early for dinner?). So we ordered the Croque Monsieur with a side salad and some coffee, ate, and got back on the road.

Since we opted to take the non-toll country roads, we ended up getting to our Airbnb in Les Houches around midnight, so we just finished the bread, made some tea (thanks to our Airbnb hosts!), ate some of our airplane/train snacks we brought, and went to bed.

The next morning, we made tea once we woke up, and then headed into Chamonix. We walked around for a bit, exploring the cute little town, grabbed a coffee (I’m an addict, I know), and ended up going to Le Bistrot, a Michelin star restaurant. I think that’s the first one I’ve ever been to! Nathaniel had done some Googling before we went, and he thought it sounded fun. We ended up each getting the lunch pre-fixe special and a glass of wine. Our lunch special started with delicious bread and butter, which was quickly followed by the first course of a pork biscuit, a peanut marshmallow, and watermelon gazpacho. The main course was perfectly cooked beef with cheesy crepes and mushrooms. Neither of us are big mushroom fans, but we figured if anyone knows how to cook them, a French Michelin Star chef does, and they were actually pretty good for mushrooms! We each got to choose a dessert, too! Nathaniel got a salted caramel chocolate cake with ice cream, and I got pistachio olive oil cake with frozen yogurt, white chocolate, fresh raspberries and vanilla bean. We let the sommelier pair the wine with our meal, and it was perfect.😋 Because it was lunchtime and we opted for the lunch special, the price was actually quite reasonable and the food was phenomenal. I’d imagine you could rack up quite the bill there, especially for a fancy dinner, but lunchtime worked perfectly for us!

Gorgeous view from La Terrasse😍

After lunch, we bummed around a bit more, and ended up grabbing drinks at La Terrasse, which had a lovely patio upstairs, with a great view of a little town square and the nearby mountains. After, we went to Chamonix’s main grocery store, Super U, to get wine and food for two nights’ worth of dinner, then headed back to Les Houches. And of course no meal is truly complete without dessert, so before dinner we found a little bakery called Jacquier Eric in Les Houches where we each got three macarons. Cooking and eating in was a pleasant, relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities we’d been in so far (and a little easier on the wallet). The kitchen in our Airbnb was quite well equipped, and we were very comfortable eating our pasta, red sauce and zucchini there.

Quick breakfast... I forgot the name of the shop, but it was very close to the post office in Chamonix!

The next morning, after going up L'Aiguille du Midi, we stopped for pastries and coffee (breakfast, since we wanted to get up the mountain as quickly as possible to beat crowds), then it was time to drive to Italy! If you drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, you end up first in Courmayeur, where we thought about getting a bite, but driving through showed us it was deserted (again, off season in a small ski town), so we kept driving and made it into Aosta. We parked and started wandering, and eventually settled on lunch at Cafe Nazionale in the main piazza. We got a pizza, gnocchi, bread and beer, and my ego took a hit as I found my Italian to be unbearably rusty. 🙄 The food really hit the spot, and we even had a little birdie guest visit with us while we ate! And, of course, no stop in Italy is complete without gelato! We found a shop called Gelaty, where I got lavender and chocolate, and Nathaniel really enjoyed his balsamic peach flavor!

That evening was the same food as the night before, cooked at our Airbnb again, and the next morning we got up bright and early to drive to the airport in Lyon, which meant airport coffee and pastries for breakfast, and next stop…Madrid!

 

Balance

Since my hand has been getting better, I've started getting more active again. I rarely don't do something just because I'm still stiff, because I can usually figure out reasonable ways to make things comfortable (and using my hand helps strengthen it!).

However, that slowness I was forced into seems to have nearly vanished. I’ve felt the need to go for runs as often as possible because I didn’t work out at all right after the pins were put into my hand, and had to begin again slowly. I also have been struggling to understand all the medical bills we keep getting, so I’ve been spending way too much time pouring over health insurance papers. (I’ve learned a lot I wish I didn’t have to. 😜 Long story short, we’ve got decent insurance, but they’ve found ways to not cover as much as they used to…).

Since it's springtime, all the baby cows are out along the trails I run!

We have two trips coming up, though (a weekend in New York at the end of the month, and 3 weeks in Europe next month), so there’s that! But vacations also involve a lot of planning (planes, trains, automobiles…hotels, food, museums…) so I’ve also had that on my mind. At least that’s fun research!

With my hand getting better, I’ve also been cooking more, because I can actually hold things (imagine not even being able to drain a pot of pasta), and I can wash dishes now, too, since I don’t have to be worried about getting a cast or splint wet. This weekend is my mom’s 60th birthday, so I’m cooking her a yummy meal. 😋

I also am finally going to start sewing again! Hubby made me a GIANT table out of an old door, and I just bought some fabric to make a skirt, and I can’t wait to get started tonight! My craft room is still a mess from having to re-organize and make room for the huge table, but it’s clean enough to start a project (and I could keep procrastinating FOREVER if I strive for organization perfection and don’t just start).

It’s exciting that I’m able to begin doing the things I love (and that the more I work at it, the more I can do). But I’m having a hard time balancing activities, chores and relaxation. I’m doing so much that I’m tired a LOT, and I think I’m just trying to make up for lost time. Luckily, because we have some trips coming up I’ll be forced to do things a bit differently, which I think will greatly benefit the balance in my life. 2016 started out a bit rough, but it feels like things are looking up :)