Kitchen Remodel

Our plans for this kitchen have changed so many times in the past 7 months.  We originally wanted to keep as much of the kitchen intact as possible to reduce the amount of waste that we would be contributing to a landfill.  Home improvement shows always talk about kitchen remodels with “eco-friendly materials”, but no one ever addresses how much landfill waste is generated with each remodel.  We planned to keep as much of the existing kitchen as possible and make it work for us.

Plan A was to clean and repaint the existing cabinets, update them with some new hardware, and replace the existing cheap, chipped laminate countertops with new bamboo countertops.  We also planned to keep the existing floor tiles since they seemed to be in decent shape and we kind of liked them.  We soon realized that using the existing cabinets would not really be possible since they were falling apart, and they were dirty beyond the point where any reasonable amount of cleaning would help the situation.  Some of the pieces were even missing, and that plan got thrown out pretty quickly.

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Plan B involved removing the existing cabinets and quickly replacing them with some cabinets salvaged from my aunt & uncle’s recent kitchen remodel.  The cabinets were only a couple of years old, so we figured that would be a great low-cost and environmentally friendly option (saving their old cabinets from the landfill, yay!).  We planned to get the cabinets in and set up, and then repaint them after they were installed (in the interest in saving time and work space).  We were still planning to use the bamboo countertops, so we went ahead and ordered them, thinking it would take a while for them to be delivered (it did not – they came way faster than we expected).

Once the original cabinets in our house were removed, we quickly realized that replacing them would not be as simple as we had thought.  There were holes in the wall, areas of missing drywall, no exterior insulation, and many other problems.  My husband then had to make the decision to tear out all of the walls and fix all of the problems before putting the cabinets in place.  That was the longest part of our kitchen remodel, which got stretched out over many months with him being gone out of town quite a bit of that time (for work and with prepping our Texas house for sale).

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Here he replaced the window, and found a very clever way to repurpose some found materials.

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It turned out that there were actually three layers of wall that needed to be removed.  Once the walls were finished, we now had a huge gap of space where the existing tiles did not cover the floor all around the kitchen.  There were also spots under the old cabinets where there were no tiles at all.  As much as we didn’t want to rip out the old tiles, we felt we were left with no choice.  My husband ripped out the old ceramic tiles and began replacing them with the new marble tiles that we picked out.

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We planned to set aside the usable cabinets that were originally from our kitchen and save them for when my husband builds us a garage (originally high on the priority list).  However, we have had to adjust the priorities around here quite a bit lately and the garage project has unfortunately gotten demoted to the bottom of the priority list with the new baby on the way.  We may end up donating those cabinets since it is driving us nuts to have cabinets sitting around in the yard and patio.

At this point, my husband started seriously evaluating our plan to repurpose my aunt & uncle’s old cabinets.  His original plan for those cabinets involved cutting apart and rebuilding many of them to get them to meet the sizes we would need.  We would also need some additional cabinets to fill in some areas where we had nothing that would work.  Before we started any of the kitchen remodeling, we picked out and ordered our appliances, countertops, and our farmhouse style kitchen sink, all of which have been sitting around in various rooms of our house, still in boxes.  The salvaged cabinets would not fit the microwave vent combo or the farmhouse sink, and would need some major modifications.

Life with a pregnant woman with multiple food allergies and no kitchen in our home has not been easy for my husband.  This kitchen remodel dragged on way more than either of us ever expected.  We also did not expect that I would be pregnant in the middle of the whole thing.  Given all the things on his plate currently (work, a year+ long intensive training program for his work which involved a lot of traveling, fixing up & trying to sell that house in Texas, etc.), he was afraid that it would take him another number of months to get those salvaged cabinets functional for our needs.  As much as we weren’t looking forward to another huge expense at this moment, we decided the best option was to move onto Plan C.

Plan C meant donating those salvaged cabinets and ordering new ones.  It all actually started when I was at Home Depot looking for more paint swatches, saw a Martha Stewart Kitchens catalog and brought it home for organizing ideas.  I kept telling him how nice it was that they gave away such a beautiful catalog for free. 🙂  Next thing we know, I am obsessed with a particular style in the catalog and we are in the store ordering all new cabinets.  They said the cabinets would take a minimum of five weeks to be ready, but (surprise!) we got a call that they were ready for delivery way earlier than we expected (so they had to sit in our living room for a while).

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The cabinets being ready early was both good news and bad news.  The flooring was not finished yet, and we had not had a chance to donate the two sets of cabinets that have been cluttering up all of our spare rooms, side yard, patio and trailer.

Originally, I was planning to stencil the accent wall in the kitchen with a large scale stencil that I ordered.  However, I have been having some problems with my pregnancy, including a trip to the emergency room due to way too early contractions.  I have been put on bed rest for the time being and have not been able to work on any of the projects with the house that I had planned for the past few weeks.  The kitchen walls will just have to be solid yellow until I am feeling a little better.  I also have not been able to work on the gardening at all, which unfortunately means all of my second season veggie garden plans have been postponed for the time being. 😦

Here is a quick preview of all of the progress my husband has made on the kitchen lately…almost functional!
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How To: Make Compost Tea from Garden Weeds

Weeds are a nuisance to every gardener.  They take over areas if left untended, and deplete the soil of nutrients.  They should not be put straight into the compost bin because they tend to spread easily throughout the rest of the garden.

I like to find a use for everything, and was determined to find a use for the weeds that I remove from my garden on a weekly basis.  I started thinking about how the weeds pull nutrients from the soil, and have read that weeds can be added into a compost pile if they have been heated at a high enough temperature to kill the weed seeds.  I decided to try an experiment of boiling the weeds to make a tea, similar to the concept of making compost tea.

I gathered all of the weeds I pulled from the garden, and put them in a large pot (I used my canning pot) with ample water.  I brought the water to a boil, and then let the weeds brew in boiling water for about 15-20 minutes.  After that I let the water cool, and removed the weeds from the water.  I felt they would be safe now to put in the compost bin.

I used the weed compost tea in a dilution of water in a 10-1 ratio to fertilize everything in my garden, flowers and edibles.  Within just a few days, I started noticing a huge increase in growth!  I harvested some amazingly huge squash and cucumbers just a few days later.  This is definitely going to be added to my regular gardening routine!

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“Reusable Paper Towels” Drawer

This is my “reusable paper towels” drawer. 🙂  Our current house is so old that there is no spot for a dishwasher, so we have to wash all of our dishes by hand.  With limited counter space, I usually have to end up drying at least some of the dishes by hand since there is only so much space on the little dish drying rack.  To cut down on the amount of paper towels we go through, I organized this drawer with a towels for a couple of different purposes.  There are some nice fluffy towels for drying dishes, and then some smaller ones specifically for cleaning.  When I am cleaning the furniture, the kitchen counter, or the bathroom, I use one of the smaller towels instead of using paper towels.  When I am finished using one, I have a small basket in the laundry room where they all get placed until I am ready to wash towels.  I pre-soak the cleaning towels before I wash them, and it has turned out to be a pretty good system!

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