10 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen

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As many of you know, I just completed a renovation of my kitchen. It was necessity due to a leaking sliding glass door that had caused the subfloor to rot, but it also created a good opportunity to remodel and change out some aspects of my kitchen that I didn’t love. The white finishes did not suit my family with three small children. Also, the linoleum floor was pretty outdated, and my appliances didn’t match. Finally, my husband and I have a rustic style, so our new construction kitchen didn’t suit our personal tastes.

This was the first remodel that my husband and I had undertaken, and there were some valuable lessons learned in the process. So, recently, when Unique Design of Brisbane, Australia reached out, asking me to share some tips about renovating a kitchen, I was well prepared with my new found knowledge. I am constantly in my kitchen. It is where I cook, relax, oversee homework, eat, and entertain. It is the most used room in my house, so it was essential that I thoroughly planned and considered all of the decisions regarding my updated kitchen. After reflecting on this experience, I compiled a list of my top ten things you should do when planning a kitchen renovation.

# 1 Find What You Like: You need to visualize exactly what you like. Use magazines, Pinterest, or design sites like Unique Design to find pictures of kitchens that appeal to you. Also, remember that you do not need to find all of your tastes in one place. It’s ok to find a picture of a floor and another picture of the cabinets, etc…

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#2 Research Materials: Be sure to research the pros and cons of the materials and finishes you like. Make sure the durability and maintenance match your lifestyle and your family. For example, If you are a meticulous neat-freak, you do not want to choose copper counter tops that will develop marks and an uneven patina over time.

#3 Establish A Budget: Most of us do not have an unlimited amount of money to throw into a kitchen renovation, so establishing a budget is necessary to maintaining mental health and financial stability. When establishing a budget, make sure you can afford it, and make sure your home’s value is proportionate to the renovation budget. Finally, conduct property value research to ensure that you can get a decent return on your investment.

#4 Consider Alternatives: Once you have an idea of what look you are trying to achieve, consider the options. If you can’t afford your first choice, look for cheaper alternatives that provide the same look. Also, consider eco-friendly options when possible. A good showroom, designer, or contactor can help you understand the products currently available on the market.

#5 Evaluate Your Space: Prior to your remodel, evaluate the space in your kitchen and surrounding rooms. Is the space being used as well as possible? For example, we chose to get rid of the kitchen table and created a coffee/wine nook because our dining room was going unused five feet away. Don’t be afraid to use an old space in a new way. It may just make your house feel new again. Luckily, Unique Designs has  Designer 3D, a free downloadable, digital template to use when planning your new kitchen.

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#6 Communicate With Your Designer and/or Contractor: Discuss your needs and thoughts openly from the start. Not only can this save you money, but it will offer you a different perspective and valuable knowledge gained through experience. We learned this with our contractor when he grabbed a piece of slate tile from my rejected pile and showed me how beautiful it could be, and unique ways he could arrange it to create a one-of-a-kind look. It is my favorite part of the new kitchen! Also, when we discussed our budget with him, he pointed out simple things we could do to save hundreds of dollars.

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#7 Be Creative, But Neutral: If you have BOLD style, choose a neutral foundation and add BOLD accents. Remember that your house is an investment. Your expensive renovation should not be something that detracts from the value of your home, nor something that you will regret in five years.

#8 Treat Yourself: Leave enough money in the budget to allow yourself at least one indulgence. Perhaps it will be an expensive light fixture or a new dishwasher. Whatever you choose, it will be the one piece that will jump out at you daily and make the room personal.

#9 Be Patient & Plan Accordingly: In order to preserve your sanity and happiness, plan out your renovation timeline while considering family and professional stressors. Be sure that the construction phase does not overlap your most stressful time of the year, or a major life event.

#10 USE IT!!: Once your kitchen is done, USE IT! Don’t avoid making it messy, or try to preserve its new perfection, embrace it, and appreciate it by cooking in it, or hosting guests to show it off. Make the effort and expense worth it.

So there you have it, my two cents worth of renovation advice. Good luck, happy planning, and love your space!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Food Envy

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                This past Saturday night was the kind of spring evening that made you crave outdoor drinks and dining, so when my husband and I found ourselves unexpectedly without kids, we knew we had to seize the opportunity and treat ourselves to a date night out. We knew we wanted to eat outside, but figured reservations at our favorite spots would be tough to snag on such late notice. With a little creative thinking, I called a cute little BYOB that we pass often, but have never tried. Luckily, they had a table, so I grabbed a bottle of red and off we went.

At this point, I need to provide a little background before I go any further. My husband and I are a bit competitive. We often find ourselves exchanging a little healthy competition over silly little things in life. We always have to play “guess the bill” at the end of each meal out, and many of the major decisions in our marriage have been settled with rock, paper, scissors because, let’s face it, that is a game of chance…or fate. Little did I know, that we also had a silent food competition going, too.

It all started in the car. I Googled the menu, to see what seasonal selections they had to offer. At that point, I decided on braised short ribs, but once we got to the restaurant, I heard the specials and decided on pork with a citrus pestoey kind of sauce. My husband ordered the short ribs. Well, the first course came out, and it was excellent. I loved my salad, and Brandon liked his grilled shrimp appetizer. Everything was in balance, and our date was everything I wanted. Then our main course arrived.

The server came out holding two plates. Mistakenly, he placed the short ribs in front of me. That is when the sinking feeling started to creep in. Then, when he corrected his error, and gave me my meal, my heart started to sink. I felt like a 5 year old who was just given a plate piled high with Brussels sprouts. My dinner did not look as yummy as Brandon’s, but I convinced myself that I DID have the better dish. I took a bite. It was good, but I found myself longingly gazing at his balsamic glazed goodness. Then, he delivered a final blow to my pathetic looking, green glazed, pork chop; he offered me a bite. Well, that was it. Food envy enveloped me, and all I could think about with each mediocre bite of my own meal, was that Brandon was the menu master of the night. He had chosen the winning ticket from the menu and had won this restaurant challenge. Who knew date night dinner could be so passively competitive. I was reminded once again that I do not like to lose. At this point, there was only one thing left to do, I ordered the Bourbon Pecan Crème Brule and finished my bottle of wine.

The moral of this story is to always go with your gut, literally, when ordering dinner out!

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My Heirloom Garden

Normally when you hear of heirloom gardening, it is in reference to heirloom tomatoes or heirloom seeds, but never an actual heirloom garden. Well, this weekend, as a family, we created our very own heirloom garden.

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Recently, while trolling through Pinterest, I came across this great pin about creating a garden from an old dresser. When I suggested the idea to my husband, he thought I was nuts and equated me to my very eccentric neighbor who plants plastic flowers.

Well, I had to expand my current garden, especially after the drastic guerrilla gardening measures I took last season! I had a strong need to expand, a creative vision, and an old, slightly warped dresser that belonged to my grandmother long ago. So, yesterday morning, while I sipped my coffee on the patio and gazed at my unplanted garden, I decided that I would turn my grandmother’s ugly dresser into an adorable garden, regardless of what my husband thought.


First, I enlisted the help of my girls. After my husband grudgingly carried the beast upstairs, we went to work wiping it free of dust and grime.


Next, we removed all of the drawers and flipped it on its back. I left the drawer dividers intact so they could serve as a planting guide. The girls were ecstatic that I let them paint it for me. It just needed to be covered, so it was a perfect painting task for kids. It did not need to be a fancy paint job since we hid this surface in the next step.


Once dry, we covered the exterior with 24 in. woven picket fencing to give the garden a polished professional look. (I really don’t want to be that crazy neighbor who plants old furniture in her backyard!) Here is where my husband gets the credit…I will admit that he suggested the picket fence idea. Ok. So we nailed each picket to the dresser, covering all four sides. We used two nails, one towards the top and one towards the bottom. Finally, we used wire cutters to remove any excess fencing and bent the ends of the wires to avoid the sharp edges being exposed.


At the end, we decided to drill some holes. We drilled a few in the bottom and along the sides, between some of the pickets, close to the ground to allow any excess water to drain. Finally, we moved it to a nice, level, sunny spot in the yard, and filled the bottom with gravel & stone to encourage good drainage, and then filled the rest with soil and compost.

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I have started seeds indoors for a few veggies, and when the weather warms up, I will fill the garden with zucchini, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Happily, I was able to take an old heirloom that had lost its luster and re-purpose it into an afternoon of family time, fun memories, and a hands on lesson in nutrition, which are all heirlooms in their own right.

Be sure to stop back and check the progress of my garden.

Photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels Delaware

Photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels Delaware

Meals on Wheels Delaware is hosting the ultimate foodies’ dream event. On Sunday, April 21, several of North America’s top chefs will be in Wilmington cooking decadent food for lucky ticket holders at the Meals from the Masters Brunch. This is an event that I wouldn’t miss! Tickets are still available, so please join me at this once in a lifetime culinary event.

Event:  Sixteenth Annual Celebrity Chefs’ Brunch

When:  Sunday, April 21st

Time: 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Where: The Hercules Plaza in Downtown Wilmington.

Tickets:  $175 — Guests will have the opportunity to sample dishes by international and

nationally celebrated chefs. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here: www.mealsonwheelsde.org

This year’s presenting chefs include:
• Norman Aitken from Juniper Restaurant and Wine Bar in Canada
• Food Network Canada host, Michael Blackie
• Kurt Boucher an Iron Chef Contestant
• Jay Caputo a 2012 James Beard Semi-finalist
• Dana Cree featured on Food Network’s “No Reservations”
• Francois Gagnon from Top Chef Canada
• Rick Gresh a James Beard Rising Star of American Cuisine
• Bruce Moffett a 2009 James Beard Nominee
• Davide Pugliese from the British Virgin Islands
• Nathan Rich winner of the 2012 Relais and Chateaux Rising Chef Award
• Matthew Ridgway, owner and chef of PorcSalt, a Bucks County charcuterie.
• Holly Smith a 2008 James Beard Best Chef Northwest and Iron Chef Contestant
• Daniel Stern chef of Philadelphia’s R2L
• Giuseppe Tentori a 2013 James Beard Semi-finalist – Best Chef Midwest
• Tyler Wiard a 2012 Top Chef Seattle Contestant
A full list of ‘Meals from the Masters’ participants is available at www.mealsonwheelsde.org


Here is a little background information about this great organization and it’s efforts to feed Delaware’s senior residents.
“Meals from the Masters” is the largest fundraiser held by Meals on Wheels throughout the year,
allowing meal delivery programs throughout Delaware to continue to provide 630,000 hot,
nutritious meals on a daily basis to over 4,000 homebound seniors statewide. Without a
resource like Meals On Wheels Delaware many of Delaware’s seniors would be placed on
waiting list, unsure where or when their next meal was coming. These fundraising efforts ensure
no eligible senior goes hungry throughout the year and even the most vulnerable citizens within
our community are given something to look forward to each day: a caring volunteer bringing a
hot meal, friendly smile and warm conversation.”


Oven Baked Risotto


I love risotto and all its creamy goodness, but I hate that you have to just stand by, stirring and adding broth. Its like babysitting. I have 3 kids. I do not need the added responsibility of babysitting food. So, here is a recipe for an easy weeknight risotto. No stirring, adding, stirring, and adding, jsut mix and bake. It’s simple, tasty, and a hit with my kids.



  • 2 Tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pour the butter in a 9×13 baking dish
  3. Add the Arborio rice, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Pour the chicken broth over and cover with tin foil.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes.