Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Kitchen That Beckons -- AND Brenda's Blueberry Treat!)

 Have You Ever Noticed Your Own Trends?
In my very first home, I had white cabinets. They fit the rather austere decorating choices of the house throughout, except for the colorful abstract artwork hanging on the walls. 
(So, in retrospect, I did like color back then but in smaller doses.)
In a few subsequent homes, I went for au naturel looks -- meaning cabinets featuring wood
and often with a preferred stain. 
Then, I discovered I definitely wanted color in my kitchens. Some shade of green, typically. 
With buttery yellow accents. Maybe a pinch of red, too.

So Here I Am, Coming Almost Full Circle -- Back To The Classics . . .
and Liking that I Like a More Serenely Elegant Look 
That's So Comfortable It Confidently Beckons:
 I'm at home in this kitchen, above. Too bad it's not mine. I like what I'm guessing to be:
 travertine tile floors, white marble on the countertops,
dark slate topping the island and the creamy glazed cabinets. 

I like the easy-living wooden trestle table in the forefront, the washable slips and the weathered grayish island base with
the magnificent lanterns hanging high above.
I like seeing the fridge (no panels!) and the open shelving to the right.
It's a delectable mix of uptown and country styles combined.
And for that color fix that I sometimes still crave,
here's a pretty French blue in the butler's pantry:

 It's interesting to look back on your own decorating styles.
It may be surprising to see that you've changed but, then again, perhaps not so much.

Yes, I can see myself whipping up a batch of healthy muffins in the kitchen above.
If you haven't tried this one yet, here's Brenda's "Grammy B's Yummy Blueberry Muffin recipe:
2 cups flour (any mixture) (whole wheat, or ½ WW, ½ white)
¾ c sugar (or honey) or agave
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
¾ - 1 c milk
½ cup canola oil
½ cup applesauce
1 T baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 - 4 T cinnamon
½ c soy protein (optional)
½ cup millet or oats or ground flax seeds
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
chopped walnuts or your favorite nut (optional)


Beat together eggs, milk and if using liquid sugar (all wet ingredients) in a separate bowl.

Mix together dry ingredients in a bigger bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry. Add blueberries, walnuts. Stir just until all dry is coated with wet. Add more milk if too dry.
She uses the big muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

As you can tell from the ingredient options, there are many variations on this theme. Have fun playing with your favorites. The basic mission is to get the dry ingredients wet enough with the milk. The applesauce adds flavor, sugar, and moisture.

Experiment with flours such as quinoa, oat, coconut, and gluten-free flours.

(Brenda tells me she often uses less sugar than called for above with success.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10 Cool Counter top Looks for Your Kitchen

What is Your Preferred
Kitchen Counter-top Material?

I've tried several looks in my own homes. So, when I saw Freshome Design and Architecture had compiled a top-10 list of materials, I was curious to see which ones they had selected.  If you'd like to see their favorite counter tops, you can go here.
Here Are Some of My Favorites:

Butcher Block.
After enjoying a dark granite in one home for a while, I sought something new and different for an island house that we bought to update. Upon reading that Chuck Williams, founder of Williams Sonoma, liked butcher block for its practicability and simple styling, I zeroed in on it. It seemed perfect for the space we were about to tackle. Mr. Williams actually used his butcher block for chopping purposes. I had a broader surface to cover and wanted to ensure it remained hygienic. The butcher block we bought did come with a sealant on it, but our contractor removed it and re-sealed it with a better lasting product. Loved it!

We selected a greenish marble for the counter top in the background on the baking table.

I like the vintage yet elegant look of Carrera marble but am not so keen on the fact that it stains easily. Think red wine spills. Yikes! When the time came again to decide on a material, I had to ask myself, "Can I continually live with red reminders of past parties?" And when also considering the price point, I had to pass. So, along comes this grayish quartz with its soft faint ingrained movement. I chose it and give it a thumb's up. It was paired with a complementary granite used in a couple places. I recommend this material and, I grant you, some will think it's the pricier marble! (Although, let me say, quartz doesn't come cheaply.)

The material in the foreground is Caesarstone Quartz.
Above on the eating bar is granite.

I was intent on getting this material, despite the warnings that it's expensive, soft, fragile and easy to chip. And, apparently, when it does chip, it exposes a white chalky middle. The top is typically light to dark gray in color. This kitchen was used often and thoroughly. Not one chip! Very pleased with the look; however, it is a bit of a high maintenance choice. It needs regular coatings of an oil treatment to prevent it from exhibiting a dry and uneven look.

A Couple Looks Featured in Freshome, which addresses all these plus recycled glass, cork, concrete and slate:

Re-claimed Wood.
This is a trending look, being paired up with more expensive materials and upscale designs.

This selection is softer than stainless, so it will show nicks and dents. It's elegant.

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