What Kitchen Countertop Is Right For You?: Real Life Hellish, Beautiful, Blessed Nightmare

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I am glad I decided to purchase my backsplash first. It is much easier to carry around and match with countertop samples. Real life moment: the stone samples you look at in the showroom will not perfectly reflect what you’ll end up with in your kitchen-each stone is unique. Mother Nature can be unpredictable; this is reflected in granite (I have narrowed down my options to granite and quartz. Here is a great quiz and an informative article. If you’re doing an upgrade, I also send up a silent prayer for you.). It has no repeating pattern or color scheme. Irregularities are part of its beauty. The solution here is to go to a showroom where you can see whole slabs and pick out your own. This is also a good time to set your budget (I decided on $55 square foot) and to remember to ask these questions:

  1. Does your company allow me to select which parts of the slab will be used on my project and where they will be used (i.e. template pairing/ slab layout)?
  2. Can I buy my sinks and accessories from you?
  3. Ask your stone fabricator who will be handling the plumbing installation and hook-up. This person should be an expert with plumbing or a licensed plumber.
  4. Ask your stone supplier about warranties on their products. Warranties should cover such issues as stains from food and beverages. Make sure to discuss this so you know what the warranty entails and covers, and for what period of time. If your countertop gets damaged, a professional stone fabricator most likely can repair your countertop. Of course, most fabricators charge for on-site work other than warranty work.
  5. Do I get to keep the remnants? Is there a charge for this? For us creative types, we want that sink cut out piece. I am still pissed I wasn’t given this option- that would have made for two perfect tables in my backyard.

The first showroom we visited I found some lovely things that would make my tile pop. My spouse also found some lovely things (You want to test your relationship? Remodel something together!). Then, it happened! The salesperson said, “I can’t sell to you.”

We looked at each other, and she quickly clarified they only sold to contractors (I know, what the hell?). What a beautiful, blessed nightmare. I then asked for a quote so we could perhaps find contractor. She let out a little gasp and informed us that was not an option, as the price varied three to seven percent (seriously!). What beautiful, blessed nightmare. My spouse grabbed his sample and we stormed out in a theatrical fashion and headed to the big box stores. We thought maybe we were overlooking the obvious (PLEASE stick to your gut). Lowe’s’ selection was hideous and very limited. Home Depot had something I thought was lovely, made my backsplash sample pop, and that my spouse could live with. Then it turned into another beautiful, blessed nightmare.

I’ll spare you the letter I sent to the Home Depot customer service department. However, I am curious- am I the only one who didn’t know that if you get a quote at one Home Depot store, the other Home Depot stores won’t honor it? What the hell? Aren’t they a chain? So, pissed off and annoyed I have decided I am boycotting them.

Exasperated, we agreed on one last showroom. Thankfully, the place was an amazing paradise of counter material. The staff was friendly and they let us loose in a warehouse full of beautiful slaps where I probably hugged and touched every beautiful piece. My spouse, on the other hand, was still holding on to his sample from the first store (men!). He inquired if they could order his slab, and she happily informed she could and it wouldn’t cost extra. I tossed in my three favorite samples for quotes. She happily gave us four quotes and informed us the price would be adjusted after our kitchen was properly measured, and no rush on making a decision as it was good for 30 days. That night we laid samples on top of our old laminate counter top. My spouse’s samples popped against our cabinets, but my samples popped against what would be our new back splash, accent wall, island and curtains. Hmmm, what to do. We decided after a proper measuring and seeing the bottom line we go with the cheapest. The difference between our top two was $14.82. Ugh, we still had decision to make. What a beautiful, blessed nightmare.

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Backsplash: Real Life Beautiful, Blessed Nightmare

“Who pays $147.32 for three pieces of tile? “

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I have been living a hellish, beautiful, blessed nightmare. I am in the final stage of my kitchen remodel. Things quickly snowballed into a hellish, beautiful, blessed nightmare. That is my phrase, and one I used often during my kitchen remodel. My spouse threatened to get a “swear” jar if I continued to use it. Though I swear to you, there is no other phrase for what I will share with you this week.

Which do you select first- kitchen counter or backsplash (I swear this is the chicken and the egg scenario)? How do you coordinate colors? Is it OK to mix patterns? How do you pick a design pattern? These are real life questions, people.

The seemingly unlimited countertop and backsplash choices can feel overwhelming. Luckily for me, I knew what I wanted in the backsplash department: clean, white subway tile. What I didn’t realize was the selection on this product. Did I want the mini tile, the extra-large squares, or did I want beveled edges?

Oh.

I wanted beautiful, classic, beveled edge subway tiles. When I saw the sample in the store, they simply spoke to me. Here’s the thing- just because you love something, don’t lose all your common sense. Here are some great questions to ask:

  • Wear and tear. How easily can you clean the tile, and what is the best way to seal it? Ceramic tile doesn’t need this extra step, but natural tile does if you want to maintain its appearance. If the tile is stainless steel, find out if abrasives will scratch it, and I would suggest getting a grout additive and sealing the grout itself so it stays fresh and clean for longer.
  • Remember trim pieces. If you choose a beveled tile, you’ll need a corner round trim piece (rather than a bullnose). Ask which trim and decorative moldings come with the tile- these pieces should all coordinate in glaze and thickness, and if you order them in separate batches, there could be discrepancies. Spoiler alert and real life moment, I skipped this obvious thought, so I share it with you in hindsight
  • Ask if the tile you want is in stock. This can affect install dates.

My beloved tile was not in stock. I requested a quote. The salesgirl quoted me by the piece, which had a price tag of $328.94. However, it took her way too long to calculate. I spoke up and asked the woman who was obviously in charge to recheck the salesgirl’s numbers (It’s okay to be blunt; this is your hard earned money you’re spending). The boss lady said, “She is training, we will all learn together.”

She picked up the phone, called the manufacturer, gave what I assumed was the ID number, clicked a few things on her screen, and informed me she had to charge me shipping from California. I said, “Sure,” praying she wouldn’t come back with a higher number. She handed me a receipt that read $147.32.

Before I could speak, she informed me it was sold by the box, not the piece (this is another great question to ask). What a beautiful, blessed nightmare. I put emphasis on the nightmare. Fast-forward a week to me picking up my order, and the guy handing me three mini tiles. I informed him that I didn’t order that. Glaring at me, he claimed I did. Really?! Who pays $147.32 for three pieces of tile? I handed him my receipt and then he looked baffled. I spotted boss lady and informed her of the incident. She assured me she would handle it. In the end she would reimbursed my shipping fee of $39.76 and overnighted my order directly to my home on their dime- beautiful, blessed nightmare.

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3 B’s: Beer, Brats, Backyard

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What do you with your leftover cans of beer? If you just laughed and asked what leftover beer, you’re a good person. I have often found after a party there always a can of beer, as if someone thought it was good etiquette not to drink it or take it with them. This is not a sweet gesture- it leaves me with a pantry full of random beer taking up space and trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s not like you can donate a random six pack. I decided today I could smartly get rid of a bottle by making beer brats on the grill. Since I am in my backyard, I will also give you an update on my backyard dreams. Thought first let eat

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of brats
  • Beer, to cover
  • 1 medium large sweet onion
  • 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 pack of buns
  • Ketchup, and/or mustard.

Directions: Place brats in a Dutch oven with onions and butter, cover the brats with beer. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until brats are cooked. Remove brats and set aside beer mixture. Grill brats until golden brown and return to beer mixture until ready to serve. Serve brats on buns with, onions, ketchup, and/or mustard.

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Water fountain: Let me be clear the damn thing never worked. When we bought our home over a decade ago, the one previous owner said “Oh, it just needs a new tube” Liar! I decided it wasn’t worth my money to fix it, and used it as a planter. However, with the new backyard vision, it had to go. I once again channeled my wonder woman for this project. Forty-five bricks and a mountain of slate and rocks later, it is gone. I did not need a sledge hammer, but I did have to break out my Kobalt hammer. Yes, I felt like a female Thor. I am also itching to wheelbarrow the bricks to the front of our home and tack up a free sign, as this is the time of year where many are working on home projects (what’s yours?). However, my spouse thinks we should save them to either build our own fire pit (no, neither of us have ever done this) or for seating. What would you do with these bricks?

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Lighting: Was not a part of the original dream; but just take a look at the before and after and tell me you don’t agree I needed new sconces. Oh, wait, there is no good  before  photo as I was so excited to get these installed.

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Deck: Real life moment: this is a tedious fucking nightmare! We have tried sanding and power washing, and only thing that seems to work at this stage is applying paint remover every 30 minutes, scraping, sanding, power washing, and then repeat. Silver lining- we only have come across three boards of dry rot so far. I also experienced a beautiful silent conversation as my spouse and I found our groove we worked in silence with occasional looks that said “I would only do this bull shit for you”.

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Fresh Summer Dressing Meets Pasta

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I always love when a good dinner idea comes to you. Laying in my hammock reading this month’s Sunset, I came across a recipe for fresh oregano dressing. I am one who can take a hint, so I lazily picked a handful of oregano, thyme, and a tomato from my garden and thought pasta salad. Bon Appetit.

Ingredients :

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. pasta (any shape)
  • 1 bell pepper (any color, I used red)
  • 1 heirloom tomato cut into chunks (any tomatoes in your garden would be perfect)
  • ½ English cucumber (1.5 cups diced)
  • ¼ bunch thyme
  • ¼ bunch of oregano
  • 2 oz. goat cheese

Salad dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced green onions (shallots or chives would work)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

Preparation

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, honey, salt, thyme leaves, garlic, and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil, then stir in oregano leaves. Let dressing sit at least 10 minutes for flavors to blend. Mix one more time before using (dressing won’t be completely blended). Place the chicken breast in a zip lock bag and add half of the dressing, saving the rest to add to the salad later. Mince one more clove of garlic and add it to the bag with the chicken and marinade. Squeeze the air out and massage the bag to make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain in a colander, and let cool.

Cook chicken on grill (about five minutes each side). There should be enough oil in the marinade to keep the meat from sticking, Dice the cucumber and bell pepper, and tomatoes. Pull the thyme and oregano leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop. Remove the cooked chicken and let it rest for about five minutes. Once slightly cooled, chop the chicken into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Finally, build the salad. Add the cooked and cooled pasta to a large bowl. Top the pasta with the cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and chopped chicken. Crumble the goat cheese over top. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Nachos meet lazy summer nights

You want a family game night and culinary challenge? Just tell your family you’re making nachos. Then say you must come to a compromise on ingredients. We decided on this yummy version.

Ingredients :

  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 whole yellow onion, diced
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Tortilla chips
  • 1-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 whole roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, diced finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 whole avocado (pitted and diced)
  • Salsa verde

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and half the onion. Cook it until starting to soften, then add the ground beef. Cook the meat until it’s totally browned, then drain the fat. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt.

To build the nachos, place a layer of tortilla chips on a platter or plate. Top with a layer of the beef, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cheese. Repeat process twice more. You may also place the platter into a 325 degree oven if it’s heatproof. Just leave it in until cheese is melted.

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