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What the last Five Years have taught us about Kitchen Renovations

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Renovating a kitchen is a lot like getting a tattoo. It is a painful process but the end result can be rewarding enough to make you forget the pain. I have carried out several total-tear-out renovations for kitchens in the past 5 years. I am not counting the 3 remodel jobs I have done in the past 6 years. 

Right now, I am teaming up with a friend on a sagging Victorian kitchen. However, we needed to sit still for some weeks after demolishing it to put together the money for the project. Now I can think of the lessons learnt during my time renovating. I hope I can apply everything I have learned to this project.

First, let’s take a look at everything step by step. I started with the kitchen in the attic of my Airbnb. What was once a hoarders-space was transformed into a cozy and cute space with a vintage vibe, ideal for entertaining visitors. 

One of my most exciting projects was when I redid my own kitchen. It morphed from a cramped space painted in Crayola colors, into a glamorous space with sleek black walls. It has been a pleasure cooking in my new kitchen the past two years. My other project was when I worked on my other house last year. 

I changed the dirty and dated kitchen into a cleaner and brighter space. After the renovation, I immediately got an offer on the house. 

What previously acquired tips will I use on my latest project?

Budget, Budget, Budget

Renovating a kitchen can be very expensive. It is easy to disregard your budget and spend more than you planned to, even when the budget is generous. The possibilities in yummy countertops, pretty tiles, and fancy appliances are just too tempting. But my budget for the flip house and the Airbnb was quite low. 

Not only was my budget low, but it was definitely below average. I still managed to do everything within my budget in all the projects. 

It takes lots of effort to pull it off, but the payoff is amazing when you can score amazing bargains. Every time you spend more than you planned to on an item, you will have to counterbalance it by saving money on something else. Hunting down thrift items and vintage pieces can help you to counterbalance and still decorate tastefully. 

Skip the Shticks

Do I find the faucet in my kitchen gorgeous? Definitely. Would I purchase the touch sensor again? Not in a million years.

It sounded like a great deal when I was getting it. But what they don’t tell you is how when its batteries die, your faucet stays off. Do you know when it happens? At the worst possible moments (picture a sink filled with dirty dishes). Not only that, it confuses guests and is generally irritating. Before I purchase a piece of fancy tech for the sake of it, I’ll take time to think of its actual usefulness.

Statement Pieces are a Must-have

Every kitchen deserves a star. My home kitchen had the Ferrari red Bertazzoni range. I was lucky enough to get them for a steeply discounted price. The Airbnb had a vintage stove. Four people had to carry the 1940s Florence up the staircase. Both of the pieces give the kitchens a striking appearance. That is something the flip kitchen missed. 

I loved the final look. But given a chance, I would do things differently. For the current project, we want to get a great quartzite counter for the Island. It is sure to make a statement.

Before Making Big Purchases Always Check Out Reviews

I just loved the black stainless look on appliances. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework. (Why would I do such a thing? Because I was afraid of any reason that would come up and keep me from making the purchase that was already half-priced online.) 

That was a decision I came to regret. The appliance gets a scratch when you so much as look at it. I am not the only one with this regret. If I had bothered to do some research, I would have known that the same thing had happened to many other people before me.

Don’t go Cheap on the Floors. 

You cannot splurge on everything, but don’t compromise on your floors. I made the unfortunate choice of going for cheaper vinyl tiles when I was renovating my Airbnb. Almost as soon as we had installed the tiles, it became obvious why the tiles were cheap. I still have the same tiles years later now, and I regret every minute of it.

Cheap materials should not be used on kitchen floors. Yes we saved some money, but that was only short term. Right now, my floors need redoing and it is going to be so much more annoying to do it now than it we had gotten it right in the first place. If I could turn back the clock, I would definitely go for something more durable. 

Make your Instructions Specific

There was a pleasant surprise waiting for us when we demolished our kitchen floor. We discovered hardwood flooring underneath our kitchen (home). When we received this gift from the universe, we decided to refinish the floors instead of retiling them. 

However, a few areas needed patching. The crew that was to do the floor refinishing said that they would pull out the pieces where the island would be placed. 

I used painters tape to outline the area the island would occupy on the floor. The only problem was that I had forgotten to mention the countertop. They cut everything out, which left a gaping hole.

Patching was done but it wasn’t perfect. I would have avoided the problem by being more specific. I have now learned to explain everything in detail when giving project instructions.  

Tips & Advice

French Grannies let us in on their best Cleaning Secrets

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French cooking and fashion inspires millions across the world. The French have a way of bringing style to everyday activities. I wondered if maybe we learn something from the French about things like sweeping floors and scrubbing sinks.

So I turned to French grandmothers for cleaning trips have worked to give them clean and fresh homes. And I was not disappointed. Here are 10 of the best cleaning tips. As shared by French grandmothers.

Delegate

French grandmothers often have a femme de ménage. They delegate at least some of their cleaning work to a domestic help. Most people cannot afford maids. But you can identify your most unpleasant or tedious tasks and delegate them. Hire someone at least once a year to do some spring cleaning. Work is a lot easier when you get the whole family to chip in with the cleaning. 

Use Black Soap to make a Floor Cleaner

Black soap is a natural cleaning product which is also biodegradable. Made using olive oil, black soap works for everything, and it is no surprise that French grandmothers love it on floors. Black soap is too strong and needs to be diluted first before you can use it for cleaning. You can also use black soap for refreshing leather, cleaning paint brushes, doing laundry, and spraying garden plants to get rid of aphids.

Use Lemon Juice to make an Old White Shirt Brighter

Make your lemon juice solution using juice from three lemons mixed into a liter of cold water. Submerge an old white shirt that may be dull or graying inside the mixture to brighten it. Soak it for a few hours before rinsing the shirt and washing it the usual way. It will come out brighter. 

Clean Windows with Cut Onions

A French food blogger leaned into her Normandy mamie network for this one. When your windows are really dirty and you want them squeaky clean, scrub the outside of your windows with half an onion before you apply your window cleaner or a weak ammonia solution. The onion helps to take out the tough grime when your windows are really dirty. Use this trick after a long winter to give you the best windows.

Use Salt and Aluminum Foil to Polish Metal

To give your silverware and copper dishes a strong clean and shine, mix boiling water, salt and aluminum foil. Stir the mixture inside the water for around ten minutes with the silverware insider. Remove the silverware and rinse it then dry with a cloth. This treatment will turn dull and grey silverware clean and shiny. The results are magical.

Remove Wine Stains with Salt

If your tablecloth is ‘ruined’ with wine stains after a dinner party, do not worry. Simply rub the stain with coarse salt soon after it has been stained. The coarse salt lifts out the color of the wine and keeps it from setting. Wash immediately for best results. 

Use Spinach Water to improve Fading Dark Colored Clothes

If your black jeans are starting to look less black and greyer, the solution could be right in your kitchen. Soak the garment in spinach water to enhance its color before you wash it. The spinach water should not have any seasoning, oil, or butter inside it. If you have no spinach water, try black tea or coffee. 

Use an Old Sweater to Shine Floors

An old woolen sweater and some beeswax is all you need to give your wooden furniture and floors some conditioning and make them smooth and glossy. Woolen sweaters are perfect for the job. The gentle material is also absorbent enough to remove stains from wood. 

Use Vinegar for Kitchen Odors

I had to try this tip on my own mildew infested sink to see if it really worked. I was amazed to find that the smell disappeared after a few days. Keep a small bowl of vinegar at any kitchen spot that is plagued by bad odors. It works. 

Use Coffee Grounds to make Smelly Hands Fresh and Clean

Once you are finished with your chores, you want your hands to look and smell fabulous. You do not want to leave the kitchen smelling of garlic or fish. Grab some used coffee ground and some soap and clean your hands with them. The soap will make your hands clean and the coffee grounds will absorb any nasty smells.

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Ingredients

How to eat more Lobster

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Lobster is huge this spring. We are into everything about lobster. We are looking at recipes, cracking equipment, napkins, and plates. So to indulge our near fanatical love for lobster, we decided to delve deep into everything lobster. 

Here is everything you need to do for a lobster-full season:

The Equipment

There is nothing worse than cracking a lobster with a rock and scattering the shell all over the kitchen. It is disrespectful. You want to have a pick to pry tasty meat from the lobster legs. Curved seafood scissors will help you to remove the meat in one piece because of its curved blades. 

Here is where you can find the best equipment for your lobster dinner. 

The Tableware

Lobsters are not exactly simple dining fare. Lobster meat is a treat. When you are having a lobster dinner, you are allowed to go all out and invest in a lobster platter, special dinner plates, and even these lovely appetizer plates. This is a set of simple yet refined tableware that is just right for lobster.

The Lobster Dinner Preparation and Dining

Once you have your lobster pot, your well-chosen lobster, some melted butter, and lemon, it is time to get to cooking and eating. 

It takes some courage to do this. You have to choose a nice and meaty one. You could give the lobster a few minutes in the freezer before putting it to a boil. But don’t get to 10 minutes because after that the meat will be frozen. Or you could use a sharp knife to stupefy it before cooking. Boiling a lobster is not that hard once you get used to it. 

Learn the proper way to boil it, halve it, carve it, crack it, serve it, and eat it. With some tips and practice, you will be able to properly fold its claws down and remove the whole tail at once. 

The Cooking Instructions

If you are nervous about preparing your first lobster, you don’t have to be. We have a range of fool-proof recipes to choose from. Everything is covered – the rolls, salad, chowder, sliders, paella, and risotto. You can go for the recipe that seems best and which features the ingredients you prefer.Lobster does not have to be boiled. Grilled lobster is oh so yummy. You can start planning your ideal lobster dinner with your favorite wine. 

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Tips & Advice

Rodney Scott the Fire Pit Expert on why Backyard BBQs are about more than just Food

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If you happen to pass by Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston in the mornings, you will be treated to the exciting aroma of a whole hog slow cooking in their in-house smokehouse. The hog starts cooking at sunrise.

Scott’s mark of quality is their penchant for giving each pig at least 12 cooking hours in the smokehouse. They pull off the pork as it cooks ensuring a perpetual supply of freshly cooked barbecue pork to dinner time. 

Their signature barbecue has been so successful that Scott now has a second restaurant and a third on the way. In addition to the Charleston one, he has outlets in Birmingham and an Atlanta outlet coming up. 

Scott has already appeared on the Parts Unknown show by Anthony Bourdain as well as Chef’s table. He has also won the 2018 James Beard Award for being the Best Chef Southeast. 

Now Rodney Scott is taking up a new challenge. He is creating a cookbook to share what he knows about barbecuing: Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Recipes & Perspectives from the Legendary Pitmaster. 

Scott has been cooking whole hogs since he was only 11 years old. His family had a smokehouse at their Hemmingway, South Carolina hometown. So, he is perfectly comfortable cooking pigs. 

Creating a cookbook has been a whole new experience for the barbecue expert. “It’s a whole new learning curve,” said Scott. He must translate his restaurant recipes to suit family-sized meals. His average reader probably will not be looking to make an 18-gallon batch of Rodney’s pepper-flecked vinegar-based Rod sauce. The barbecue whisperer will have to put together simple directions and recipes that are easier for people to replicate at home. 

The cookbook contains many of Scott’s most famous recipes – all adapted for home cooking. He has adapted his recipe for roasting the whole hog by modifying it to fit backyards and substituting his smokehouse for some chicken wire, a steel drum, and cinder blocks. Perhaps the only thing you won’t recreate from the recipe is the warm atmosphere at Rodney Scott’s barbecue. 

“Hospitality is the first flavor that goes into your meal or your event, so of course you want to make it good,” Scott opines. “I believe you have to give people an experience as well as a tasteful dish.” 

A classmate of Scott from Hemmingway in South Carolina once told him that it was his personality that made his food great. Scott brings warmth and a confident attitude that has made his restaurants popular in a region that has plenty of barbecue restaurants. 

Rodney Scott shares some excellent tips for anyone who wants to throw a successful home barbecue party:

Invite a whole Bunch of People

When you roast a whole hog, you can be sure that the aroma will reach your neighbors’ noses. The best thing about a whole hog is that it is big enough to feed a mob. Deliver an invite to all your neighbors. It is better to have people at your barbecue than in their houses, hot and bothered by the sounds and smells emanating from your home. That way you are part of their day and not a disruption. 

Create an Ambiance

One of the things that make Rodney Scott’s barbecue so special is the unique ambiance that makes guests feel like they are in a whole different place. Scott does that with a disco ball. “I saw a disco ball for the first time at a nightclub in 1985 and I was just mesmerized,” says Scott. “Now I put one in all my restaurants. It’s a little thing, but it creates a moment, it indicates that you are stepping into a different place for a little bit.” 

You may decide to introduce color with a floral arrangement, an impressive appetizer, or a unique centerpiece. Choose something that creates a different energy. 

Be the Life of the Party

Rodney Scott has learned many lessons about being a good host while running a barbecue restaurant. One of the most important lessons he has learned is that people came to see the host just as much as they came to eat the food. 

For this reason, he no longer spends hours scooping hot coals to keep his slow-roasting pork going. You are more likely to find him out front. He greets guests and welcomes diners. 

When you are hosting a barbecue, you want to avoid toiling behind the scenes leaving your guests neglected. Set everything out in advance. Once people start showing up, you should be available to greet them and direct them to the bathroom.

Talk about your Food

People love to talk about food. Don’t be shy about going into detail about what you made, why you chose the dishes you chose, how you prepared the food, and how the cooking went. 

This would be a good opportunity to whip out your cookbook or tell your story. If you tried a recipe for the first time, share your experience and as for their opinion. 

This will not only spark conversations but also help expose people to different techniques of cooking. 

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