Saturday, 24 July 2010

Raising money for the kitchen improvements

Well, I've just about finished emptying the kitchen and the fridgefreezer is now up and running again. Thank God for the ability to drink cold beer once more...

So now I'm back to the challenge of acquiring new things - and how to fund it with a budget which is currently next to non-existent.

The first thought was to sell any worthwhile kitchen contents on eBay, but there wasn't a lot of treasure hidden away. But there's plenty in the rest of the house. So a lot of things we don't use will be appearing on eBay, Amazon (particularly some high value books), and also on some useful forums for local sales.

And anything we can't sell online will be collected together to head down to the local car boot fair to see what we can raise. Hopefully we'll make a bit towards our goal in the short term, and that'll go into the pot along with some overtime...

So there's not too much physical progress, but at least some of the preparation is done. And one additional job has been added to the list - with a small child, the fact the gas meter etc is openly accessible in the larder is a bit of a worry. So I need to look at boxing it in to prevent small hands creating a big explosion!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Busy defrosting the fridge freezer

Not much progress to report as I've spent the last couple of days eating assorted old food from the freezer, ready for the titanic struggle against huge build-ups of ice (pun intended!).

Aside from the desire to sort the entire kitchen ready for proper work to begin, the ice layer was not only stopping the fridge freezer from working effectively, and costing us money to try and keep things cool, but was also starting to swallow up and encase various items of food.

So the steps are pretty simple

  • Empty food by eating it, or throwing it away. Anything you might want to keep needs to go into a cool bag or cool box - but it'll be 24 hours after full defrosting before you can put food back in with any confidence it'll be cold enough.
  • Unplug the fridge freezer, and open up the doors.
  • Grab towels etc to mop up the water - a baking tray can be quite handy as a water collector thin enough to fit at the bottom of the fridge freezer.
  • Ways to speed things up: A bowl of hot water placed at the bottom of the fridge or freezer (heat rises remember), or a hair dryer (if you're careful about mixing electricity and water.)
  • Don't use anything with a naked flame, or sharp objets because repturing the cooling coil which runs through every shelf in a freezer is a bad, bad thing to do.
  • You can remove the ice as it melts - but do it gently. Again - breaking cooling coil = bad.
  • Once all ice is removed, everything has been cleaned as per the instruction manual, and you're ready to go again, plug everything back in and leave it for 24 hours.
  • While you wait, go and buy some ice cream to celebrate, safe in the knowledge you'll have to eat the entire thing in one sitting.
  • Don't plan on cold beer for 36 hours...
And that's it, really.

I've started wondering about the best way to customise a fridge freezer. If I had the money, I'd be tempted to buy something like:

Unfortunately, that isn't an option at the moment. And I don't think some fun fridge magnets are quite enough for what we're going for...

Time for some kitchen appliance research!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The one kitchen gadget I'll be fighting to keep

As you might be able to tell from my previous post, there's not much in our kitchen which we bought because we fell in love with it - probably the coolest two things we have are a funky toaster, and a Typhoon Retro Revolution Buick Red Bread Bin.

But there's one kitchen gadget which I believe is completely and utterly essential, and I'll be fighting to ensure it keeps a rightful place in our new kitchen. And here it is:

It's a Pure Evoke Flow DAB radio with a WiFi internet connection. Which means that I get the usual FM stations, the much wider choice of DAB stations (Which is a relief considering I'm out in the sticks and have specific music tastes), and the other big advantage is that I can get most of my favourite podcasts to access from the radio. I could use my computer, but the Evoke has a really good sound quality, and I don't want to be constantly moving a laptop from room to room and getting it covered in cooking fat and other stuff. Whereas the radio takes up a much smaller space, so it can be kept safely out of the way. It's the same reason I don't use an MP3 player - and it's nice to be able to listen to a load of DAB only stations for a change from my own music collection.

And although the touchscreen Sensia is pretty cool, the combination of working in the kitchen and using a touchscreen seems like a bad combination - and I know I'll end up losing the remote control

I could go for something which looks a little more retro - Pure, Roberts and other brands all have more retro styles, but none of them include the wifi internet access as far as I know:

So out of all the DAB Radios available, I think the Evoke Flow is definitely the one we'll be keeping in the new kitchen. Now to find some other hi-tech kitchenwear to match - internet connected kitchen mixer anyone?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Step 1: Starting the preparation

Even without the budget to start acquiring new bits for the kitchen, there's plenty to get done in terms of preparation.

For starters, while I've got some time without the rest of the family team around, I'm busy sorting out everything so that we can start making a difference when they return.

And the first step is working out exactly how much space we have to play with, what we want to keep, and particularly how much storage we need.

Over the years, we've acquired the usual kitchen items - fridgefreezer, washing machine, tumbledryer, cooker and microwave - and each was bought as a necessity for the money we had available at the time, rather than the choices we'd have made if we had an endless budget. So which of these will work in the new kitchen, and which will we need to start saving to replace? And can we make them work in the meantime?

And aside from that, every kitchen builds up endless amounts of cans, jars and tins which have lurked in back of cupboards for years, alongside rarely-used cookery books and various pans and other stuff.

Add in the cleaning products under the kitchen sink, and the fact we also store a lot of our paperwork in our larder beside the alcohol supplies, and there's a fair amount of storage being used - but do we need all of it in our new kitchen? Could we reduce the amount of cupboards and shelves?

So I'm on a voyage of discovery to find out exactly what we've got in the kitchen, and what can go. And once that's finished, I can start measuring up for the new kitchen!

So before you start work on your new kitchen, it's worthwhile figuring out if you really need to replace everything you already have...

Image - rubbish emergency in Campania by Chiarra Marra on Flickr (CC Licence). It's not quite representative of the couple of bags of out of date jars I've removed so far, but it might not be far off by the time I've finished!


Saturday, 3 July 2010

How to find and save kitchen inspiration

When I'm not thinking about refurbishing the kitchen, most of my life is spent being a bit of a digital information junkie - both in my work and my spare time. So when we decided to start looking for ways to update and improve our kitchen, I started to research it in the same way as my other projects, using some handy internet tools.

Finding inspiration:

Blogs: Blogs are great ways to find new inspiration. Not only are they written by other people who are generally passionate about the topics they're writing about, but quite often they'll pick up on more obscure items that wouldn't make it into a mainstream magazine. The simplest way to start finding good blogs is to just search Google for a term like 'kitchen blogs' and find any that you like. If you want to keep up with them on a regular basis, you can normally subscribe either via email, or in an RSS reader like Google Reader

Photos: An image can often be worth a thousand words - especially when you're looking for visual ideas. You can find a huge amount of images via Google Image Search, but probably my favourite place is Flickr, as you can comment and find out more about the images that you like.

Websites and magazines:  There's a bit of crossover here with blogs and print magazines, as the bigger websites combine elements of all of them. There are loads of DIY and design sites worth taking a look at, and non-kitchen sites can be inspirational. For instance, I adore Make Magazine, which is a DIY site for the sort of people who play with electronics and circuit boards. Whether or not any of it makes it into my kitchen is another matter - but seeing what creative and talented people have done at least inspires me to get off my backside.

For real serendipity: One of the best tools for finding almost random selections of great stuff is Stumbleupon. Sign up, select the things you're interested, and click the Stumble button, and you'll be taken to something in that topic recommended by other users. Hit the button again, and you'll get another one. Keep going till you're inspired - it shouldn't take long because the quality level is generally pretty good.

And saving all this stuff for later?
I've already mentioned Google Reader and email subscriptions, but probably the most useful way to keep track of all this stuff for later is a social bookmarking site like Delicious, or Diigo

There are two reasons for this - you can save websites, articles, images etc just the same way as you'd bookmark them in your internet browser, but because you're saving them to an online site, you can access them from any computer (or smart phone), at any time. So if I spot something at work, I can save it and then find it quickly and easily on my computer at home, for example.

You can also 'tag' everything you save, and group those tags together. So if I find a kitchen picture which has a great fridge and a great cooker in it, I can tag it with 'kitchen sink' and 'kitchen cooker', and it highlights the reason I saved it, as well as meaning I can find all the 'kitchen cooker' inspiration in one place.

But I can also create a Kitchen group, and then put all the related tags in one place, keeping kitchen sinks, cupboards, flooring, cookers etc all in a group I can find.

The way I run all of this is to have an account with Delicious, and with Diigo. I use Diigo to save everything (They have a plug-in you can use with Firefox to make it really quick and easy), and I set up my Diigo account to automatically also send everything to Delicious. That way, if one site stops working for any reason, everything is backed up at the other one.

And that's it - when I've had time to find some more inspiration and carefully file it, I'll start sharing it on the site, so you can see everything I've found!


Thursday, 1 July 2010

What on earth is 'Patchwork Kitchen'?

Patchwork Kitchen is a new website for renovating, refurbishing and generally creating a cool kitchen, written by two people who are attempting to do up their own kitchen with a mix of styles, a lack of DIY skills, and a complete lack of budget.

The reason we're doing the site is that after dating and living together for a while we decided to buy a house which needed a bit of work, as it was the best we could afford as first-time buyers. So the weekend we moved in, we gutted and decorated the living/dining room. In the next few months we also completely redid the bedroom, and in the run-up to the birth of our first child we went to town on creating a great nursery.

And then everything stopped. We've made a little headway with the garden, but when it comes to the house, the combination of jobs and a family have meant that we've struggled to do more than fix a door handle and replace the odd lightbulb in the last two-and-a-half years.

So this is as much to help us as it is to hopefully help anyone reading - by publicly writing about our ideas, plans, purchases, how we did certain things and whether it works or not, we're hoping we'll keep ourselves motivated to complete a kitchen which is going to take quite a while. (We know enough to know that the time a project takes is inversely proportional to the money you can spend on it!).

And keep in mind my own father started renovating my parent's kitchen when I was a child and hasn't finished it over 20 years later, and you'll see the kind of genetic imperative I'm fighting.

But why 'patchwork' kitchen?

The patchwork name is a reference to the fact that we tend to disagree on almost everything we do. So although we've got some shared ideas of the themes and styles we like (cool, retro, funky, maybe 50's style, some bold colours etc), we're never going to settle on a strict theme and stick to it.
Plus when you're on a very tight budget, you're going to have to comprimise occasionally on the authenticity of every item, or you'll never get there.
Plus it sounds kind of cosy, which one of us liked.

But that's enough for an intro post, and I'll let the lovely lady of the project introduce herself without me getting in the way...

'patchwork' Dan