Here! There! Everywhere!

OH HELLO! It’s June! How did that happen?! There’s so much going on. Let’s run it down in no particular order because my brain’s all over the place.

The gang is back together! Edwin, Edgar and I are in the midst of building a large-and-in-charge wraparound front porch on a circa-1900 house in Kingston! Perhaps I should say rebuilding, since the porch was demolished long ago. So we’re constructing a close resemblance of the original porch, based on the bits of information we have—a few photos, dimensions from old tax assessment records, and the few pieces of the original porch that remained. It’s a big huge project that’s been in the works for a couple of YEARS now, so it’s super exciting that it’s finally happening. It’s also daunting! Partially because it’s HUGE at almost 800 square feet, and partially because it’s a significant addition that will completely change the appearance of this old house and I have to make it look right and like it’s always been there! Part of my job is keeping everyone occupied and PAID, so aside from this big project I’ve also been hustling my ass around town on a bunch of smaller projects that the guys can hit when it rains, or a product order is late, or whatever. It’s kinda a lot to manage.

Let me tell you a story! Last summer, I reluctantly dove into the waters of Instagram Stories while we were working on a different house just outside of Kingston. Admittedly, I’m an extremely rare story-watcher, but evidently I’m a semi-prolific story-maker. It’s fun! It’s easy! As we know by now, as much as I like to write, I frequently struggle with actually having the time to dedicate entire blog posts to stuff that I plan to dedicate entire blog posts to while they’re happening, so Instagram Stories have been a nice alternate way to document things in real time. If you’re not following me already, first of all get your life together, and second of all go find me @DanielKanter. Then just keep an eye out for new posts, I guess! I try to archive the more relevant bits into the Highlights feature at the top of my profile, if you need to catch up a little on the aforementioned porch project.

What’s that you say? A different house outside of Kingston? Yeah! I guess if you don’t follow me on Instagram, you wouldn’t have a way of knowing about the cool quirky old farmhouse the guys and I renovated last summer/fall/winter! Honestly it was another doozy—not quite Olivebridge proportions, but still managed to go from a couple changes and a bunch of sprucing up to a top-to-bottom overhaul of…everything? 2 bathrooms! Kitchen! Laundry! All the rooms! The whole outside! Mechanicals! The bulk of the work ended in February but I just did a final install last week. I have to go back and photograph it but it’s nice to have this 8-week-turned-8-month project off my plate a bit.

Speaking of Olivebridge. If you read even one of those tumultuous posts about the Olivebridge house, I owe you some resolution. We don’t have to get into all the mostly-stupid reasons that hasn’t yet come to pass, but I haven’t forgotten. Honestly the fact that I haven’t blogged about it makes me feel like the book is still open on that project—in spite of the house’s successful completion!—and that feeling sucks so it’s high time to get my shit together on that front. MAYBE IT COULD ACTUALLY BE FUN! At the very least I think it will really and truly feel finished in terms of big life events I’d never want to repeat. Ha!

5 years! So I didn’t even think about it until the day after, but Friday marked the five year anniversary of owning my house! What a journey we’ve been on, this house and I. I still love it. I’m still overwhelmed by it. There are still parts of it I haven’t tackled and a lot of other parts in some stage of progress, but (knock on ALL the wood) I think the worst of the renovation is pretty much over and that feels GOOD. The past 2 years or so were particularly rocky, but it’s finally started to feel like a real home again—my home—and I’m more grateful than ever that I get to call this special house mine.

Laundry! Kitchen! Anticipating that this summer would be exactly as crazy as it’s shaping up to be, I set some concrete goals for myself and my renovation for the first four months of the year. We can talk about this more later, but experience is a valuable thing—and it’s taught me that working on multiple major renovation projects at different properties at the same time is a recipe for inefficiency and frazzled-ness and general misery, but I also obviously can’t just work on my own house all the time. So, I try to give myself a little time between client projects to re-focus on my own stuff and get as much done as I can. May 1st became the goal for having a functioning laundry room, a functioning kitchen, and doing some MAJOR clean-up and space-reclamation everywhere else once the first two items were accomplished and there’d be a bit more room to spread out. I DID IT! Having laundry again is amazing and having it on the second floor lights up my life. The kitchen is FAR from complete, but IT HAS WALLS and electric and plumbing—enough to hook up a sink, move in a few of my old cabinets, and start using the space again AS A KITCHEN for the first time in almost 2 years. And now that my dining room isn’t also a kitchen, and my living room isn’t also an enormous glorified dog kennel, I spent a weekend just rearranging my own shit for hours and now those two rooms look and feel so much better than they have in a LONG TIME. I even had two friends over for dinner! Like I said—still a ton to do, but getting to this point of basic usability feels huge.

So interior progress at my house will slow, but hopefully exterior work will continue. There’s a lot to do on the outside of my house—between gardening on the street-facing sides (and just maintaining what I have!), finally putting the finishing touches on the major exterior work that started last summer and the one before, and trying to get SOMETHING good going on in the backyard, I hope I can bang it out in my “free time” before fall/winter hits again. I’ve already decided that this summer I’m going to skip tearing off more vinyl siding in favor of just polishing off what’s already started—I can’t stand all the loose ends out there right now.

I have a major itch to landscape. Or hardscape maybe, more specifically? Getting the backyard just to square one was so labor-intensive and expensive that gathering the motivation (or setting aside the time, with the house itself needing so much attention!) to do much else with it has been tough. I’ve done two things that helped get my ass in gear, though: first, I asked a friend with a great garden to help me prioritize and plan and make a few decisions. FRIENDS! THEY’RE SO HELPFUL! Second, the Brinson’s invited me last minute to the Trade Secrets garden show in Connecticut, where we toured 3 amazing gardens including living legend Bunny Williams’ property, which I really just need to do a photo-dump kind of blog post about because it was so insanely good. Going to see this stuff IN MY CLIMATE (“omg, I can actually grow that too!!!”) was really valuable and the whole thing was for-real inspiring. Like I literally got home and began construction on a dry-stacked bluestone wall because I just had to get my inspo-overload ya-yas out somehow.

But don’t get carried away about my house, because there’s still Bluestone CottageI feel I owe a longer explanation about this than I want to get into right this instant, but long and short of it is—I MUST finish that house. Personally, professionally, emotionally, physically, financially—it needs to happen. I think I successfully enlisted an electrician last week, and the plumber has finally (sort of) reemerged after beginning the rough-in a YEAR ago, and my own living situation is finally back out of complete shambles, and life will go on and the house will get done and then I can stop feeling shitty about bad decisions I made when I was younger and dumber. Well, at least one of them.

Mekko is the best dog. We’ve also been dealing with some health stuff over the past few months, requiring visits to vet offices in 3 different states and a whole lotta money. It’s certainly not good but seems to be surmountable (yay!), and it’s been stressful and expensive and basically I’m trying to not freak out. I lost one dog 7 months ago. I refuse to entertain that this could resolve any way other than completely fine and she’ll go on to be the longest-living dog on record and then I’ll clone her. So anyway. That’s been awful, no lie, but could be way worse. Surgery, again, this Friday. Sigh.

I’ve bought some stuff. You know, since the last time I showed you some stuff I bought. I like pretty old stuff.

So that’s basically what’s up in my little corner of the world. What’s up in your little corner of the world? Do we want to hear about any of the above items in particular more than others? Watched any good TV lately?

MINE: Porcelain Treasures + A Mirror

Yesterday I went on a high-stakes salvage adventure up to Albany. See, right now I’m looking really hard for nothing in particular so unfortunately it just had to be done.

I got a few things. You don’t drive an hour to simply turn away empty-handed. That would be unethical.

How stupid cute are these little porcelain bathroom sconces??? I’d guess they were made in the 1930s. I’m used to seeing sconces all the time that are similar to these, but I’m not really used to seeing that sweet bubbly rounded cloud-like shape on top. Precious! Naturally, every item in this store had price tags except all the things I bought (I don’t know why—it is just my way), so I was pleasantly surprised when the manager suggested $15 for the pair. Sold! They don’t have any sockets or wiring, but that’s easy enough to replace.

Where will these go? I don’t know, but I do know that $15 to have these two in my back pocket for some future bathroom renovation even if it isn’t my own makes me feel PREPARED.

By the way, they were super grody so I used my tried and true cleaning method of sticking ’em in the dishwasher. Thanks, Cascade!

Sometimes when it rains it pours, and yesterday’s theme was porcelain! ‘Tis what the thrifting higher being dictated. This is another porcelain light, also likely from the 1930s, also with no socket or wiring, also with no immediate function, but $5! You just gotta! I have a few lights very similar to this (including one I blogged about a while ago), and they just seem so handy for when you just need a little tasteful inconspicuous-but-still-special ceiling light.

I noticed later that it says “Alabax” on it, which I didn’t realize was actually a whole line of porcelain light fixtures produced by Pass & Seymour Inc. starting in the 1920s! I only knew it as the name of Schoolhouse Electric’s new production version, which I’ve used in a couple spaces over the years. IT’S ALL MAKING SENSE! The Schoolhouse versions are really lovely, and Rejuvenation has a few vintage ones available, and a nice write-up on their history.

More porcelain please, I do not have enough. Here we have a $1 plumbing escutcheon, sized for a 1 1/4″ pipe which is generally what’s used for a bathroom sink drain. I think this one will be for my downstairs powder room once I get around to it! It’s also just another good thing to have on hand because of COURSE when you really need one, they’re nowhere to be found.

ANDDDDD to round out the theme, I scrounged up 5 porcelain door knob escutcheons which match the door hardware in my house!! SEEE?!?!

It’s the little things! These have been super hard to find and of course break easily, so I’m missing a few around the house and unreasonably stoked to have a little stockpile to draw on as I inch along with restoring all the doors. At $2 a piece, they’re also by far the cheapest ones I’ve ever come across.

Amazingly, these literally came into the salvage place about an hour before I got there, and were still attached to the doors that the rad salvage guys had just pulled out of a DUMPSTER. Ugh, I mean, can you even? DOZENS of solid oak 1860s doors without a lick of paint on them and all the original hardware, in a goddamn dumpster. People are so infuriating. I’m so glad they got saved.

Anyway, salvage places usually remove all the hardware so they can store the doors more easily (and sell the hardware separately), so I offered to pitch in and take the escutcheons off myself and they gladly passed me a screwdriver! You can sort of see in the back of the group one that’s dis-assembled: there’s a round metal plate that screws into the door, and the porcelain part covers that and then a brass threaded piece screws into the metal plate and holds the porcelain part in place. Naturally these pieces always get separated from one another, so having FIVE complete sets is very exciting.

BTW, if you ever see those little white porcelain keyhole covers like the one on my door while out and about and they’re under like $10 a piece and you don’t buy them for me, we’re not friends. I’ll pay you back!!! They’re so elusive and so fragile.

Finally, this specimen. If you have more than two of something, it’s a collection, and therefore I collect mirrors like this. They have to be missing their frames (otherwise they’re just part of the mirror collection—I think of this more as a sub-collection, but it’s also been labeled “hoarding”), be an interesting shape, have beveled edges, and foil backing in vaguely this kind of disintegrating condition.

Right now they live in this totes-normal arrangement up in the den, but someday I’m sure I’ll do something else with them. It’s not like they’re creepy or anything.

Just don’t look directly at them or you’ll see your own death. K have a great weekend everyone!!!

Putting the Laundry Room Back Together!

Remember how I’m crazy and putting in my second laundry room in this house in the space of 5 years? Fun times with fickleness.

Step #1 was demolishing the chimney. We’ve discussed this. It was painful but worth it: otherwise my options were to have the machines side-by-side next to the chimney with no sink (where my floating desk was) or stack the machines and have a sink but no other work surface really, or demolish the chimney and have side-by-side machines and a sink. The last option won out, but left a big hole in the floor, the ceiling, and about a foot and a half of missing wall from floor to ceiling! Cute.

Step #2 was getting the electrical in place. Evidently I did not take pictures of this, but that doesn’t mean it just happened by magic! The room had two existing outlets, but a washing machine requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit and a dryer requires a dedicated 30-amp circuit, so both had to be brought up to the room. Luckily, this was very uncomplicated: my old laundry room was further away from my electrical panel than the new one, so it was just a matter of turning off the power to those circuits, pulling the wires back through part of the basement and up the new chase (where the chimney used to live!) and into that back wall. This kind of stuff is actually super simple to do yourself with the slightest amount of know-how, but of course if you have any concerns at all or even dead wires make you queasy, hire a qualified electrician. Duhzville.

Once that was done and my electrical boxes installed, it was on to Step #3: drywall!

Typically I would have tried to patch the missing section of plaster left by the chimney demolition, but in this case I had the depth on my baseboard to add another 5/8″ thickness to the wall, so I opted instead to just drywall over the whole wall. The biggest reason for this is noise: luckily my machines are pretty tame, but I’m still moving big laundry machines to the second floor, basically in the middle of the house, and on a wall that backs to my bedroom, so some additional sound-proofing seemed to be in order!

I wrote several months ago about the line of Purple XP drywalls, and National Gypsum was kind enough to supply the drywall for this project so I could test it out. This is the SoundBreak XP, which is essentially two high-density gypsum boards with a goop in between that blocks sound transmission that would otherwise occur through the wall. It’s also mold and mildew resistant, which is nice now that this room has plumbing! My thought was that leaving the remaining plaster behind it should provide additional sound insulation too, but otherwise you’d probably want to insulate the wall if things are all opened up.

Working with SoundBreak differs from more standard drywalls in a number of ways. First—both sides of the board look the same, but only one side (clearly marked) is supposed to face out. Second, SoundBreak should be installed vertically—not horizontally! Huh! I think it may be to keep seams contained only to where they’re backed completely by framing members. Third, SoundBreak—due to that layer of goop—cannot be scored and snapped like regular drywall can: you have to cut it with a saw! As you might imagine, this is very dusty and ideally should be done outdoors with a good respirator. A circular saw is best for straight cuts, but we were working in tight quarters and used my handy little oscillating saw to get the job done. Fourth, it is HEAVY. I can lift a sheet of 1/2″ lightweight drywall without too much effort, but I cannot lift a SoundBreak board—so be warned that hanging is likely a two person job unless you have Hulk-like strength.

And, since you asked: YES covering up that fabulous Hygge & West wallpaper was a sad moment. Don’t take it personally, wallpaper, I still love you so much! That being said, I still have an entire roll of it (first floor powder room, anyone??), and it’s still in production, and…ya know, there are worse sacrifices. There’s something I sort of like about hiding it behind the drywall, though, like a little time capsule! It’s gonna be OK.

Here you can see the part of the baseboard I had to patch. It’s behind the dryer so I’m not SUPER concerned about it being perfect, but…ya know, I want it perfect. In part because I do not trust myself and now that there’s no chimney in here, this room can actually fit a twin bed…QUIET DOWN, VOICES IN MY HEAD.

Also, that piece of plywood is covering the big hole in the floor where the chimney used to be! Without it, you could stand in the attic and look all the way down to the basement floor, which is just an odd new experience to have in your own house.

ANYWAY. Once the drywall was up, I patched the missing piece in the ceiling and then enlisted Edwin and his mudding and taping skills to get the walls and ceiling ready for paint. The finishing work here isn’t anything crazy, but he can do it so quickly and well that it usually feels worth it to save myself the headache. Normally you’d apply paper or mesh tape and 3 coats of joint compound to the seams and over screw holes, but I like to overcomplicate literally everything and skim-coat the entire wall as a final step, too. I find that this gives new drywall just enough irregularity once painted to match adjacent plaster walls, since those are never so perfectly smooth!

It’s getting there! It’s getting there! Luckily I had a scrap of baseboard that was large enough to patch in the missing section, and old pieces of subfloor to patch the floor. It’s nice when the house provides the material to fix itself! The patched floorboards are the same dimensions as the originals, but the joints are tighter so things don’t quite line up. Don’t care! It’ll be covered anyhow by the dryer, but I don’t really mind funny staggered patches like that in wood floors.

Speaking of wood floors, now is the part where I openly admit: I cannot have white painted floors. My god, they are not for me. Some people (Swedes, primarily) seem to have no problem keeping white painted floors looking great for years, and I admire them. But the combination of dogs and a house under construction and frequently using the window in this room a couple years ago as an entrance while Edwin and I tore down additions and worked on restoring the exterior of this side of the house left these floors pretty destroyed and terrible looking. Even before that, they drove me crazy. Never. Again.

But…remember how I mentioned that this renovation is really just about getting the major players in place without draining significant funds, time, or mental energy? I mean that very seriously. For a while I was so hung up on needing to install a tile floor or run the wood flooring from the adjacent room into this one that I would get overwhelmed by the whole project. It would cost a lot! It would take a while! And it’s such a COMMITMENT and I don’t even really have a fleshed out design plan for this space so I don’t even know what I want! And I refuse to let this become a big project so I don’t even really want to have to know what I want! WOE IS ME!

THEN I realized I could actually just re-paint my fucked up white floor and nobody was likely to die as a result! Isn’t that something!

Sometimes reigning it in is difficult for me. Like all the time.

So. I patched a bunch of the larger gauges with Bondo, caulked here and there, chose a color off a paint chip (seriously, why in the world I think I can do this but would never advise anybody else to is beyond me), thoroughly cleaned the floor, and painted it!

Immediate Uh-Oh I Hate This. The color is a color-matched version of Farrow & Ball’s “Setting Plaster” and it’s roughly the color that would result if dried Bondo and a Band-Aid procreated. As a frequent user of both, this was not exactly what I had in mind.

While I stewed on that, I painted the walls and ceiling. I did not exactly think this through—I actually intended to just paint the new wall and touch-up just where necessary in the rest of the room (because restraint!), but once I got into it I realized how much everything would really benefit from a fresh couple of coats (because perfectionism!) so I ended up repainting the whole thing! Had I decided this beforehand I probably would have gone with a different color, butttttttt whatcha gonna do! On the plus side, I still had enough leftover paint from the first time around to eek out two coats! The paint is Clark + Kensington flat finish, and the color was called Casa Blanca but I cannot find it on the internet for the life of me and I think maybe it’s no longer part of the color deck. I’ve had the can for 5 years; who knows.

Unexciting color choice notwithstanding, there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint. Even at this stage the room felt kind of…pretty?

I repainted all the trim Benjamin Moore Simply White which I’ve used all over the house (and also had the paint already!) and then forged ahead with the floor, figuring worst case scenario I’d just call this the primer and do something else…and then a great miracle occurred! I LOVE it! Context, man. It changes things. By the way, that’s the little teeny closet door for the little teeny closet under the attic stairs. It’s one of the cutest things in the house and makes me happy. Also, the laundry room is going to have its very own little closet! For stuff and things!

So. My quick n’ easy just-make-it-function laundry room got a little more TLC and time than I was even intending to give it, which honestly at this point I was pissed at myself about. BUT! It really feels like a whole new space, and ultimately I think I’ll be happy I went the extra mile for it.

Or, ya know, at least like a few blocks.

Couch Potato Diaries: Stop Losing the Apple TV Remote

I’m not going to say it’s the worst thing, but it ranks. Let’s set a scene. Maybe you’ve made your dinner. Maybe you had a long day. You go to curl up on the couch and finish the Netflix series you’ve been binging (it’s Wild Wild Country, if you know what’s good for you).

The fucking Apple TV remote is nowhere to be found. It could be between the cushions. It could be under the sofa. It could be in your pocket. Maybe it’s already in your hand. The night is ruined until you find it, and your dinner is cold.

There simply must be a better way. This cannot stand.

You know what’s funny about this future-time we live in? Both pieces of technology above are still relevant and do the same thing. It’s like…COME ON television and cable companies, get your shit together! Why does a cable box still need to be so enormous? Why do television clickers still need a thousand buttons? Apple sorted this mess out like a decade ago and y’all still using, like, original Betamax players as design inspiration. It’s a crying shame.

But also…the Apple TV remote is so slim, so tiny, so easily misplaced that I often wonder if it’s actually terrible design masquerading as good design? I, for one, lose the thing constantly. (And yes, I know there’s a remote app on my iPhone, but I can never get it to work so like most technology that doesn’t work immediately without issue, I pretend it doesn’t exist.)

So if you are like me and tired of this bullshit, I have a very complicated project for you. See if you can keep up.

Get some stick-on velcro. Put some on the back of your Apple TV remote, and then put some on the back of that black brick that came with your TV that you can’t possibly lose because it’s the biggest thing on your coffee table. Line up the velcro and press the clickers together.

Classy. Elegant. Impossible to lose.

Carry on. You’re welcome.

Cooking Without A Kitchen!

As we already know, my kitchen for the past nearly two years has been a sorry gutted pit of despair. Let’s not dwell on it. If you didn’t already know, here’s a basic rundown. Life comes at you fast sometimes.

While the period between gutting the old kitchen and finishing the new one might be JUST A TAD longer than what a more normal renovation might demand, most kitchen renovations do result in a space that’s temporarily unusable. The classic response to this is often some combination of microwaveable meals and take-out, the latter of which I am ALL ABOUT except for the part where it gets insanely expensive and super unhealthy and, honestly, pickings are slim around these parts. Additionally, I actually do like to cook my own food, especially to wind down a bit at the end of the day!

SO. If you are anything like me, and you might be taking on a kitchen renovation, HEED MY WORDS: give yourself the gift of setting up something efficient and functional in the meantime. It can be tempting to just throw yourself 300% into the renovation while your life disintegrates into squalor around you, but you actually don’t have to make your house a living hell of dysfunction as punishment for trying to make it better long-term. Don’t be a martyr. It’s taken me…a while to learn this.

For me, the most painless way to do this was to set up my dining room as a temporary kitchen. And honestly? It’s not the worst kitchen I’ve ever had!

I turned the dining table the other direction to free up a little space for that honker of a fridge next to the hutch. That big butcher block is my makeshift countertop, and the cookie jar thing holds food scraps for compost. I know they sell containers for this very purpose, but I find that it needs to be emptied because it’s full long before it ever starts to stink, so I like my vintage crock thing.

I gotta hand it to that fridge, by the way—it came from my friend Anna‘s old kitchen and is at least a decade old and aside from a few dents on the door (don’t ask), might as well be brand new. All LG appliances (including televisions!) I’ve ever had have been wonderful. Sometimes I get a little weepy over how great my LG washer and dryer are. On one hand I kind of hope the fridge dies because having a built-in ice-maker would be HEAVEN but at the same time, a new fridge is not an expense I need to incur at this moment. Anyway. Carry on, fridge. A+ work.

The hutch now holds all my everyday dishes, glasses, mugs, mixing bowls, colanders, measuring cups, etc., as well as pantry items! That thing can store so much shit. It’s not the most beautiful display I’ve ever put together, but it’s organized and efficient and works! Good enough!

Speaking of unattractive but organized and efficient displays, here’s what’s happening on the other wall! You might recognize the dresser from my old Brooklyn apartment, but I think it was originally intended to be a server. Those top two drawers are the perfect depth for storing flatware and various cooking utensils like peelers and pastry brushes and measuring spoons and stuff like that. The other drawers hold saran/foil/plastic bags, tupperware, pots, pans, oven mitts, tea towels—I basically have a whole slimmed-down kitchen in there! Those plastic drawers next to it could probably be eliminated, but do hold a few things, and mostly provide a pedestal for the trash so that my adorable and naughty dog doesn’t get into it. That girl is incorrigible.

I have to pause for a second to gush over these little induction cooktops because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Induction is pretty crazy/amazing technology that I won’t claim to totally understand, but essentially it turns your pot/pan into the heating element, rather than heating the pot with an electric coil or a gas flame. It’s super efficient and precise, and because the cooktop itself doesn’t heat up (although it DOES get hot just from the residual heat of the pan during cooking), the cooktops are incredibly easy to clean—WAY easier than an electric glass cooktop. After a bit of searching around, I bought two of these single-burner cooktops by Waring for just $60 a pop! They make a double-wide version too, but I’m glad I bought these because they can stack and store away easily. For over double the cost, you can buy one with the Cuisinart brand name on it, but it’s literally exactly the same product so don’t do that.

Anyway. I love my little hot plates a lot. The plan for the kitchen is a gas range, but I can totally see myself continuing to use these now and then if I just need to boil some spaghetti or fry an egg or just keep something warm on the lowest setting. Endless opportunities!

Oh also! That leather skillet grip was a Christmas gift from bae and it’s perfect. It was made by locally owned and operated Jay Teske Leather Co.. And now that I’m looking at their website, I want to order about 5 other things…so much nice stuff, gah! I love the way natural leather patinas over time and expect to have it forever. I love that there are so many artists and makers producing stuff like this right out of Kingston. And at $24, I mean, such a good gift idea.

Oh also, also! The marble piece is this pastry slab from Crate & Barrel, which amazingly is still the same $50 as it was when I bought it several years ago. Once I tried to find a less expensive alternative, but this one’s such a great value for the size that I couldn’t beat it.

On top of the microwave (also a hand-me-down from Anna—thanks, pal!) are a few essentials within easy reach! I don’t know what that little teeny tripod bowl is for, but I use it to hold Malden Salt flakes which in my experience make all food taste better. A few cork trivets, paper towels, salt and pepper mills, and I decant olive oil in that little cork-lidded container which is supposed to be a creamer.

Side note: just realized the creamer was designed by Kaj Franck, who also designed my mushroom bowl from my last post!

Side-side-note: who knew BB&B sold iittala?! That little stack of 20% off coupons just got a whole lot more valuable.

In terms of actually cooking instead of just talking about cooking…I have a hard time getting to the grocery store regularly while in the midst of big house projects, and Sun Basket has been a GODSEND. I know, all you wanted today was to read another blogger review a meal delivery service. BUT I have no affiliation whatsoever with them, I just heard about them a few months ago on a podcast about cults like any other normal person and gave it a shot.

It’s been several years since I used a meal kit delivery service (Max and I used to get Blue Apron—also no affiliation), so I’m not sure how far the others have advanced, but Sun Basket is the best as far as I’m concerned. The food is REALLY good, produce is fresh, portions are generous, and I’m always kind of stunned when I look at the calorie counts—each meal is usually somewhere around 500-600 calories but you’d never know and it does not feel at all like diet food. Every week, they put out a menu with 18(!) different meals to choose from, of which you can either pick your selections or let Sun Basket do the work for you by specifying a meal plan. The meal plan thing is AMAZING—there are 8 options like Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian…and gluten-free! This is a big deal for me. Bae needs to be gluten-free, so consequently I end up being mostly gluten-free, and figuring out what to cook is hard enough already without throwing dietary restrictions into the mix. Sun Basket’s gluten-free meals have made that transition a billion times easier and unquestionably tastier. You can also skip as many weeks of delivery as you want, get 2, 3, or 4 recipes each week that can feed either 2 or 4 people! I have mine set up for three recipes a week for two people ($78), but it’s easy to bump up to 4 recipes or down to 2 if the spirit moves me. Each delivery comes with a little recipe book containing all the recipes from that week, so you can reconstruct and cook ones that you didn’t even order to try out. They’re actually good enough that you want to do that, for real!

The cooking part is nice, by the way. It’s never too complicated, but is involved enough that you really feel like you’ve made something instead of just tossing some pre-measured stuff together. Typically recipes will require 1 or 2 pots/pans and rarely do they call for the use of an oven, which is convenient because I don’t have one. I do have a lil bitty toaster oven, though, and that’s usually fine for whatever the recipe’s asking me to do. It really just works out well all around!

ALSO JUST SAYING: if you were considering trying out Sun Basket, now is a good time because they’re running a promo for $40 off your first order! And if you follow this link to place your order, I’ll get a $40 credit too, which I would not complain about.

Try Sun Basket. Feed me. Win-win.

Annnndddd while I’m just recommending ways to spend your money left and right, I just got a bottle of this stuff and it’s SO GOOD. Expensive and SO GOOD. I’m gonna have to experiment with trying to make my own because I cannot afford for this to be a habit, but I’ve never used something that cleans and protects a wood countertop in one fell swoop, and I just want to smear it all over every wood product I own. Liquid. Motherfucking. GOLD.

So there it is! The irony of gutting a pretty decent kitchen with the goal of building a better kitchen and then ending up living with this for two years isn’t lost on me. But I do feel like this “kitchen” has actually taught me a lot about what I actually need rather than simply want, and has really forced me to evaluate the utility of each and every kitchen item I own—it’s amazing how much extraneous stuff we can justify when we have the space for it. Also, just IMAGINE how luxurious my expanses of countertop will feel after becoming so accustomed to this set-up. I won’t even know what to do with it all.

The ounce of shame I have left will not allow me to show the dishwasher strapped to a stud in the kitchen to keep it from tipping over and draining into a five gallon bucket that I dump in the backyard because the kitchen sink still isn’t plumbed, so I’ll just let your imagination run wild with how fancy that is. Related: what the hell is wrong with all plumbers? That’s not a question that needs an answer, just one that I ponder constantly. LET ME GIVE YOU MONEY TO DO THE THING THAT YOU DO TO MAKE MONEY. PLEASE.

Anyone ever plumbed a kitchen sink? Asking for a friend.

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