Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

The Ranch House Kitchen Reveal

Dear friends, welcome to our new kitchen!

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The before and after

After years of planning, months of hard work, and many, many microwavable meals, our kitchen renovation finally came to an end!

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We are very satisfied with the new kitchen. I’d say that it functions very well with our small family and life style.

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We made a decision to save the kitchen renovation for the last after renovating the rest of the house. And years of waiting was worth it. Knowing very well how we wanted the kitchen to look like and to function made designing the kitchen a smooth process.

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Before we get into the details of the finished kitchen, here is a reminder of the old one:

The cabinet wall

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The sink/window wall

The living room wall:

And here is the new kitchen today:

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The open design and the center island:

The biggest design decision we made in this kitchen renovation is to open it up to the living room. We removed the dividing wall between the two rooms, and made the floor a seamless transition. Here is the view of the open kitchen from the living room:

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Personally, I prefer closed kitchen design for its practicality. But when it comes to our 850 sqft main floor space, opening up the kitchen is the best decision for this house. It is the only way we could accommodate a center island for the kitchen, which completely changed the way we use the space.

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One reason we wanted an island is to have some eat-in space in the kitchen. This house does not have a formal dining room, so we have been struggling to find a good layout in the living room to accommodate a dining table. With the overhangs on two sides of the island, we have plenty of space for eating daily meals.

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We can even get away with a couple close friends’ visit with the island seating. For larger parties and holiday dinners, we purchased a drop-leaf dining table, which can be folded into a console table when not in use. This combination really benefited the furniture placement in the adjacent living room. We now have room here for a big sofa Slav always wanted, and a decent size coffee table.

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The center island also offers lots of storage. We chose to have three back-to-back cabinets as the base of the island, and used two as pantry storage. We removed the old pantry closet shown below to make room for the refrigerator, so baking supplies and my instant noodle collections now live in the island.

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Relocating the refrigerator:

Speaking of the old pantry closet, it used to face the front door and was the first thing you see when walking into our house.

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Here is the same angle now. We relocated the refrigerator here to face the kitchen. An end panel that matches the cabinets was installed here to hide the side of the fridge. A custom Chinese calligraphy proportional to the panel makes the design more intentional:

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Losing the hall closet space is not a light decision to make for this small ranch house. But relocating the fridge is far more important. Our old fridge stood between the two windows and protruded out into the room. Being able to incorporate it into the cabinet wall really helped to achieve a clean look for the kitchen.

The old fridge location:

The new one:

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We can now have a microwave nearby, making heating up leftovers really easy.

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The new fridge features a French door opening and deep freezer drawers. It also has a filtered water dispenser, which is hard to find for a 30″ wide model.

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Relocating the fridge also opened the possibility for us to relocate the stove. The old stove was centered on the now cabinet wall. With the sink and old fridge, the already-small counter space was broken into three small pieces. After moving away the stove, we were able to place a 90-inch continuous countertop and upper cabinets on this wall.

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This countertop is big enough for prepping meals on a daily basis. It also houses all the small appliances we use often. Thinking ahead of time we installed outlets behind where the small appliances would be, so I can hide all the wires from the plain view.

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The cabinet wall

I have talked about the cabinet design and installation before, now we have filled all the cabinets and drawers, I cannot believe how perfectly they all worked out.

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The cabinets surrounding the dishwasher store crockery and cutlery.

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And the middle upper cabinet is used for storing glassware and tea.

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Under the countertop we installed a trash pull out.

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And the corner cabinet has a lazy Susan for pot storage.

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Above the corner is the only art we have for the kitchen. This is a tile featuring a castle in Slav’s hometown in Poland.

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I drew the color inspiration of the current kitchen from this frame, can you tell?

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The stove/window wall

Around the corner there is the window wall. Without the bulky fridge we were able to keep the top portion of the room open.

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We decided not to install any upper cabinets or shelves here. A range hood in the most minimal design was chosen to keep this wall as airy and open as possible.

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The gas stove and the range hood were centered between the windows. The whole wall was tiled to the ceiling as a backdrop.

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We are fortunate to have enough room for a pair of spice cabinets surrounding the stove.

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Having spice cabinets next to the stove was highly recommended by our friends who have them and now we understand why! Four pullout shelves and the two top drawers house all the spice we need for cooking Western, Asian, and Polish cuisines. Now we no longer need to walk across the kitchen a hundred times a day to retrieve spices from the pantry closet.

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Under one of the windows is the new sink! We opted for a single bay sink so we can accommodate the corner cabinet. The new sink is much smaller than the old one, but much deeper. I like that you cannot see dirty dishes in the sink from the living room now.

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I like the simple look of the disk faucet. The pull-out sprayer is long though to reach the left burners of the stove, so this sink faucet can almost double as a pot-filler.

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The new countertop

One of the best choice we made in the kitchen is our countertop. The quartz countertop is super durable, and we love its look.

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The simple edging profile and the rounded corners are also very cute. And the manufacture company even made matching window stools for us using trimmings from our slab.

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The biggest piece of countertop is on the center island, which quickly became the workhorse in the kitchen. It adds so much prep space, works as a wonderful baking surface, and doubles as our dining table.

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Under one side of the overhang there is Roxie’s food and water:

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And the cabinet facing the stove stores cooking utensils and pans:

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We have lived in this kitchen for over a month and honestly, I would not change a thing in this kitchen. Everything we have chosen for the new kitchen worked as well as we hoped. We spend most of our evenings here cooking, chatting, and nibbling around the island, while looking over to the big living space which will soon be furnished. I think Roxie’s smile speaks for us all!

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Summer Blooms + Nine Year Anniversary

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Time flies by fast. Suddenly we are at the end of July. Slav and I celebrated our nine-year wedding anniversary this week. And we have the bouquet from our summer garden for the special occasion.

The 2022 summer garden

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Happy summer!

 

The Summer Backyard

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My friends, welcome to the backyard!

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June came and went quickly. We travelled, worked, and spent weekends tidying up the yard. Slav was busy at fertilizing, watering, and mowing the lawn, while I took care of the flower beds and planted the veggie garden. We managed to keep the backyard pretty neat this year, so I figured I will show you how far we’ve come.

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Climbing roses and fruit trees

After the hellebore blooms in Spring we finally entered the rose season. The climbing roses “awakeningI planted back in 2018 started covering the back fence.

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Also planted in 2018 are the fruit trees. The two cherry trees have not given us any fruit yet. I heard that it takes 5-9 years for cherry trees to bear fruits. For now we enjoy the healthy leaves and the privacy they provide.

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The apple tree we planted in 2018 bore exactly two apples this year. LOL. There should have been more had we not had snow in the middle of May. These are honey crisp apples which are hubby’s favorite.

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The nectarine and the peach tree planted in 2018 had died due to frost. So we planted another apple tree and a winter-hardy pear in their place. These two tree was purchased from Jung Seed and I can tell from the get-go that they were super healthy and much more robust. Just look at how many apples the new apple tree (transparent) bore this year:

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Can you believe that we just planted it last Spring? The pear tree also has grown tall.

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Speaking of newly planted trees, my baby ginkgo is going strong! It is supposed to grow slowly during its first ten years, but I can see how happy it is judging by the leaves and new branches. It also grew much taller than when it was first planted.

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Peppers and tomatoes

We had a cold, cold spring which really shows in the vegetable garden. All the heat-loving vegetables, such as peppers, aubergine, and okra are embarrassingly small. I actually intended to grow more peppers this year, and seeded lots of different varieties. But most of the pepper seedlings died during the crazy May snow storm and the ones survived have grown very slowly.

Pepper (my biggest one)

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Aubergine

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Okra

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Thankfully we still have lots of tomato plants. Oh the tomatoes! We ate so much fresh on sandwiches and salads and Slav made several big patches of tomato sauce, which we enjoyed all winter long on pizza and pasta dishes. This year I seeded even more and different varieties. The dedicated tomato bed can only contain half of the seedlings I raised, so I planted the rest in other vegetable beds wherever there was space.

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Some of them are dotted among the asparagus ferns,

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and the rest were planted in the pepper bed which was rather empty anyway….

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Did you notice the size differences between tomato seedlings planted in different beds? They are all from the same batch of seedlings! The ones planted very closely in the tomato bed are relatively small:

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On the other hand, the ones planted in between the asparagus ferns grew a lot bigger. It seems to be true that more space you give a crop, bigger it gets.

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I am looking forward to a good tomato year and we cannot wait! Especially given that other crops like peppers and cucumbers did not seem to be growing well.

The garlics and bean tunnel

One crop that did not get affected by the Spring weather is the garlic. ~140 garlic cloves were planted last Fall, and all of them sprouted.

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After enjoying scapes in June, we are ready to harvest the garlic heads in a couple weeks.

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I planted the garlics under the bean tunnel this season, and seeded noodle beans and cantaloupes in between. The beans have come up looking slender.

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I love how elegant these string beans look when climbing up. I actually do not know if they are green or red noodle beans, so it will be a surprise in July!

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Also these beds I planted lettuces and mustard greens. We have been using the leaves in burgers, soups, and for stir fry in June. Several rabbits visit often and I can tell that they enjoyed some leave too. 🙂

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The cold Spring weather was bad for some but good for others, including the rhubarb I raised from seeds last Spring. They were tiny and scrappy last season, but all three of them came back strooong this year. We have harvested a bunch of stalks and made several delicious pies. Rhubarb is hubby’s another favorite.

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Squashes and pumpkins

Last year we grew way too many yellow squashes and green zucchinis. It was nice to watch the plants grow, but honestly, it was a pain to consume that many. So this year, I only grew one plant each. The goal for my edible gardening this season is to only grow what we can/like to eat.

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As of the pumpkins, I raised mostly butternut squashes and small Kabocha pumpkins. Not only they are our favorite to eat, they also store very well in our heated house.

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I planted all the butternut squashes along the edge of the veggie beds, and concentrated all the Kabochas in the small side yard north to our house. I think they like the slopes there:

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The rest of the sloped side yard was planted with ornamental pumpkins. I am raising six different pumpkins and gourds here, which can be used for Fall decorations. A couple plants each will be enough for us and all of our neighbors. I felt proud seeing every front porch on my street decorated with my pumpkins.

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I used to scratch my head over how to use this sloped side yard. After last season, I know the answer: a pumpkin patch! Rambling vines love the sloped yard and their big leaves shade the soil in summer. I cannot think of a better use for this space.

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The hazelnut trees I planted in 2019 have grown to 8 feet tall. They have flowered profusely this Spring, but I have not seen any nuts yet. How many year does it take for hazelnut to produce? Anyone knows?

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Melons and cantaloupes

Another goal of mine this year is to grow more watermelons and cantaloupes. Last year I grew very few, and the fruits were so sweet and fragrant. So this season, I dedicated the mulched area along the back fence to melons:

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The melon plants remained small since planted. These seedlings needs a long time to put down good roots and they really need consistent heat to grow. I think the biggest lesson gardening has taught me is the art of patience. A Chinese proverb says, “Planning extensively and execute slowly. Patience and accuracy leads to steady progress”. I see it in gardening and try to apply it to my work every day.

The herb garden

The herb garden was the first flower bed we planted. It has been the most robust flower bed in our yard. And this year is no exception:

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Tarragon:

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Lemon balm:

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Walking onion:

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Mint:

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Comfrey:

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Catmint:

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Rosemary:

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I raised this little basil plant from seeds this Spring. Hopefully the July heat will help it grow better:

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One new plant I added this year to the herb garden is this Bay Laurel. We use bay leaves a lot in soups during cooler months. It makes sense to have our own plant and dry the leaves ourselves.

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As usual, Dill has been popping up everywhere.

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The berry garden

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I planted berries heavily as part of my edible garden. Nothing beats getting up the morning, walk around in my pjs with a cup of warm tea, and enjoy fresh berries of the plants. We had a good month of strawberries and service berries, and now come in season are raspberries and blackberries.

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Pies are made and smoothies are drunk. We felt such healthy peeps now!

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So, here is the backyard! I cannot believe how many trees, flowers, and different edible plants we have now in this small backyard, especially considering that four season ago, this was just a big lawn with a few half-dead trees! You have come a looong way, my backyard!

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