Kitchen Progress and Hermitage

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I started a kitchen renovation a long time ago and it’s still not done. There has been bursts of progress, periods of neglect, mental blocking, grand ideas, lack of funds, influx of funds, deals and bargains. I’m happy to say there’s been lots done, but I still don’t know when the end will be. So, rather than an even longer grand reveal, I thought I’d give a progress update. I should share more of the in-betweens anyway.

If you reference the earlier kitchen post here, you’ll see a lot has happened. I still have some small loose ends like trim work, hole patching and a soffit to make, and bigger ones like ignoring the ceiling forever and making a real walnut shelf to replace that large oak board that I had laying around in the shop. Also, I thought I liked those brackets, but I think I’ll change those out too. Something more interesting, maybe hanging, or brackets above instead of below.

Since it was nice and bright today, I figured I might take some other pics of the place. It’s been a while since I had documented any home projects, and things around here have probably changed some. If you follow on Instagram, you’ve seen bits, but here’s something bigger.

A friend once introduced me to the word ‘hermitage’. No one wants to be called a hermit, but hermitage has a slightly more regal sound to it. I have a tendency to hide out sometimes and I’m perfectly comfortable with that. This place is a good reflection of me and my hermitage tendency. I like to get out of course, but for me… Damned if there’s not a better place to retreat to. Even if it’s never finished.

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Project Tiny Kitchen

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One of the bigger projects in my house is/will be tackling the kitchen, so I figured I might as well introduce it. When I first looked at the house, my realtor and I just had to laugh at it. You could barely open the oven door without hitting the adjacent cabinets. It seems the kitchen was just tacked on during some earlier renovation, hence the weird sloping roof. I had wondered about knocking the wall out and making it bigger, but then a tiny kitchen fits the tiny house and the cost would have been too crazy to factor in. My plan is to just utilize the given space in the most effective way possible. Thankfully, the hard and messy work is over – removing the left-side cabinets and patching up the wall.

My projects planned are to have 1. Lots of storage  2. Open shelves over the main counter  3. Backspash? Also what’s up with that 4inch thick window trim? 4. Replace main floor cabinets, new counter, single basin sink, apt-sized cooktop/built in oven. Needless to say, I will be tackling the cheaper stuff first – the main counter and appliance purchase will be the priciest portion.

First task in this kitchen project series is to create more storage. I thought about making a pantry over that whole back wall, but then decided it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more counter too. I didn’t want to close the galley back in again, so it would have to be a very shallow setup. I went to the wonderful, inexpensive, cabinet-wonderland that is IKEA, and scoped out the sizes of their cabinets. I went with upper cabinets, which were only 12 inches deep, and 24 inches tall, so they would be floating. In fact, I remembered Anna did something similar in her apartment too. The layout was super clean, and as a bonus – super cheap. Three cabinets, doors, hinges and pulls was all under $180.

Installation was a little challenging, just because that wall curves out at the last 12 inches. WONKY OLD HOUSE! I shimmed the main bracket so it was somewhat straight to the tile lines and once it was all installed, it turned out mostly plumb and straight. For a counter, I had thought about just using some of the IKEA butcher block, but wasn’t completely sold with the idea. Too easy. I needed something more ambitious, right?

Enter my good friend Ben – an amazing cabinetmaker and craftsman. Ben’s built some amazing creations, including my credenza, and as soon as I thought of him, I was ASHAMED at myself for even thinking of anything else. Now, I understand that having a master cabinetmaker in your friend bucket isn’t that likely… but the overall cost was quite reasonable when I considered how amazing it turned out. By the way, you should check out Ben’s work at Phloem Studio. I chose Western Walnut, and Ben ordered the boards from a local mill. After building it, he introduced me to a finish called Osmo, which is an eco-friendly finish that is also really beautiful on wood. Like oil finishes, it soaks into the wood, so you get great protection and the wood still looks natural and amazing – not plastic-wrapped like polyurethane.

So there you have it… the first steps in my kitchen renovation. Next step will be the open shelving above the main counters, and I’ll be sure to document that when I begin.

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Homemade Ginger Ale

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You’ll need some tools:
  • Clean 2 liter bottle with cap (no glass at this stage)
  • Funnel
  • Fine tooth grater
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1/4 tsp and 1 Tbl measuring spoons
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Lemon juicer device
You’ll need a few ingredients:
  • Ginger root – enough to grate for two heaping tablespoons.
  • One lemon
  • One cup table sugar
  • Water – Portland tap is awesome
  • 1/4 teaspoon brewer’s yeast – I use dry ale yeast from F.H. Steinbart

It’s not really Spring weather around here, but you can still enjoy some Spring/Summer beverages. Here’s my home-made ginger ale recipe for you to try. (previously blogged at KO-OP)

Begin with your clean 2 liter bottle, use your funnel and pour in the sugar and yeast. Grate the ginger so you have about 2 Tbl worth and put in a glass measuring cup. You can use a potato peeler to clean the ginger if you like, not necessary, but at least rinse it and cut off any dry root. Cut your lemon in half and squeeze all the juice into the measuring cup as well. Mix it up so it’s a slurry of lemony ginger. Making a mash will help it pour through the funnel. Don’t worry if you get a seed in there, you’ll be straining later anyway. Pour the slurry into the bottle, fill with cool water, leaving a couple inches at the top. Cap tightly and put in a warm place, like near a window. The heat will help activate the yeast.

You’ll need to check on the bottle within the 24 next hours, squeezing the bottle to feel the bottle pressure. This is why you should always brew in a plastic bottle, the pressure can explode a glass one. Fermentation should take 24-48 hours, so keep checking the bottle’s firmness. I’ve had the yeast fail for one reason or another and the bottle never pressurizes, but you can add another 1/4 tsp of yeast and cap again. Once the bottle is firm like a new bottle of soda, put immediately into the fridge and let cool overnight.

After the ginger-ale is cooled, I usually pour into 1 liter glass bottles for storing, serving or giving to friends. Still remember that it’s a carbonated beverage and even when cooled, the yeast will still ferment slightly, so there’s some pressure when opening. Always point away from your pants when opening!

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