Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Kosher Kitchen

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Kashering For Pesach

Should countertops be kashered or covered?
May one kasher the sink with boiling water heated
in a year-round kettle?
Is it necessary to cover refrigerator shelves?
Must one cover oven knobs?
Must one cover an oven hood?

Many women are overwhelmed by the task of preparing their home and particularly their kitchen for Pesach. They approach Pesach with anxiety and even panic. Some women believe that the house must be rid of even the smallest speck of chametz. Anything that may have come into contact with chametz, even by remotest chance, must be scrubbed and kashered. This admirable and wholesome instinct to prepare for Pesach in the most comprehensive manner possible is inherited from our grandmothers. However, the shoe must fit the foot. Truth be said, much of this cleaning is a chumrah (praiseworthy, no less) that is not absolutely required by halachah. Read on for a step-by-step guide for preparing your kitchen for Pesach...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Outdoor Living Takes a Giant Step Forward

AK is proud to publish a guest blog this week written especially for our readers by CedarStore.com:

   CedarStore.com is a family of five websites specializing in outdoor furniture and garden structures. Offering a wide variety of top quality and handcrafted patio furniture, CedarStore.com, GazeboCreations.com, AllPicnicTables.com, TeakDesigns.com and DesignerBridges.com can boast the absolute authority on both their products and their ideal uses.
   As experts in the field, CedarStore.com writes a well-read blog, AllOutdoorPatioFurniture.com, to help outdoor enthusiasts, landscapers, and gardeners design their gardens, lawns, and patios to suit their needs. Their biggest passion is always making sure everyone can get the most out of their outdoor living spaces as possible!
   To learn more: visit CedarStore.com, AllOutdoorPatioFurniture.com, Follow them on twitter with @CedarStore, or, of course, simply call them up at 1.888.293.2339

Although we’ve always had a national passion for outdoor living, these days, we are spending more time than ever, socializing, and even taking our vacations, in the comfort and safety of our own backyards.

Because of this, we’ve also developed a great talent for making the most of our outdoor living spaces. In fact, more often than not, they’re actually becoming extensions of our homes, as we’re commonly turning our backyards, porches, decks, and patios into veritable outdoor living rooms. As these areas are now so essential to our lifestyles, we want to decorate them as luxuriously as our indoor rooms; and, with the endless varieties of modern outdoor furniture, we can.

Today, even classic wood outdoor furniture is more dazzling and durable than ever, and is designed to fit any d├ęcor, from the very rustic, to the decidedly elegant. The newer aluminum furniture is striking, and unexpectedly chic, as is polywood outdoor furniture; and both kinds are nearly indestructible, and available in a rainbow of colors. You can also find synthetic wicker furniture that looks just like the real thing, but lasts indefinitely; and it comes in a number of earth tones, and features thick, soft cushions in dozens of colors and patterns.

Photo Courtesy Of http://www.cedarstore.com/

By selecting colors, styles, and textures that reflect your home’s interior, you can create an easy transition from indoors to the outside, while conjuring the perception of a larger space. For example, you can get patio furniture to match the color of your walls, or simply add some accessories, such as outdoor throw pillows, furniture cushions, or patio umbrellas, in complementing shades.

Having flowers of the same hue in your garden bed, and in planters near the door, will also contribute to the effect; and putting some in a vase on an indoor table will really give it a unified look. If you have a lot of wood furniture, or paneling, indoors, you can find corresponding wood porch furniture, picnic tables, accent tables, or outdoor dining sets, to further enhance the continuity.

Garden structures, such as trellises, arbors, and pergolas, can be used to define separate areas, and will give your outdoor rooms beautiful, colorful walls and ceilings that provide privacy and shade, while allowing air to circulate.

Photo Courtesy Of http://www.cedarstore.com/

Gazebos, sheds, pool houses, and sunrooms, have also become important parts of the outdoor living equation, and can be as simple, or as elaborate, as you want them to be. Available with options that include insulation, hidden wiring, skylights, screens, windows, ceiling fans, window boxes, different kinds of flooring, and several types and colors of siding and roofing, they can be used for anything from storage, to basic shelter, to cottages, home offices, and guest houses. You can even choose siding, trim, and shingles, in colors to mirror the look of your home.

Another great way to extend your living area is to integrate a gazebo with your deck. This will give you a spectacular outdoor room for dining, entertaining, or just relaxing. It’s close enough to the house for convenience, but far enough removed to afford some privacy. Many people are even installing hot tubs in their gazebos, to create their own backyard spas.

Indeed, the spark of ingenuity is getting hotter all of the time, as it seems that, every day, outdoor living is taking another giant step forward.

Yours Outdoors,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Maintenance Checklist

  Whether your “Honey-Do” list is getting out of control or you have some projects around the house that are just too much to handle on your own…AK's Atlanta HandyMan Services are the answer. We’re here to make your life a little easier. With the busy schedule everyone keeps today, finding time to do the small home repair and maintenance items can be a daunting task. We’ll help you check those items off your to-do list in a convenient and easy fashion!

  Spring is a great time to prepare your home for the warmer weather and fix those little issues that popped up over the winter! Properly maintaining your home has many benefits besides just the aesthetic appeal:
  • Reducing energy consumption and utility bills
  • Maximizing the life of your home’s components, equipment, and systems
  • Eliminating preventable failures and more costly repairs
  • Lowering overall repair costs
   Here is a quick Spring Maintenance Checklist, as recommended by many major home insurers, of items that you should check and maintain in and around your home before summer arrives:
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure that there is one on each floor of your home. Test them and change the battery every three months or as needed.
  • Check the light bulbs in all your fixtures to be sure that they are the correct wattage as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Replace all high-intensity bulbs (such as halogen) with fluorescent bulbs that don't produce as much heat.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible that is filled and ready for operation.
  • Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating.
  • Check your water heater for leaks and corrosion.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material or cloth.
  • In your yard, remove all dead trees and keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from utility wires.
  • Safely store oil and gas for lawn equipment and tools in a vented, locked area.
  • Repair driveway and walkways that are cracked, broken or uneven to provide a level walking surface.
  • Call AK!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Planning Kitchen Work Zones

The single-cook work triangle is out; multicook work zone approach is in!

By Barbara Barton, CMKBD

Since formal kitchen design research started in the early 1900s, we have constantly been analyzing what works and doesn’t work as each generation expands lifestyle issues, products and aesthetics around the most important room of a home. Ergonomics and efficiency in time/motion studies were the biggest parts of the early “work triangle” and subsequent placements of appliances, storage, traffic patterns and sinks. It was, however, all based on a one-person/primary cook kitchen. Now that we have multiple cooks, a double work triangle has emerged, and even more recently, labeled centers or zones for the activities associated with any kitchen today.
Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer Ellen Cheever, who has researched, authored, designed and taught in the industry for more than 30 years, recently made the distinction in space planning based on activity zones, not work centers as previously described. Her recent Pathways to Profits Seminar, sponsored by the National Kitchen and Bath Association and Kitchen & Bath Design News magazine, addressed the, “… phenomena as a change due to what families do in the kitchen as well as what they are eating at home."
A myriad of noncooking activities such as watching TV, entertaining, homework and talking on the telephone have been a “but of course” staple for many families. Just as important, according to Cheever, is that shopping for preprepared gourmet takeout meals is more common than “from scratch” meals, impacting the activities we are trying to identify. Her major points are:
  • Outdoor living is valued, impacting the grilling and outdoor kitchen rage
  • Multigenerational families are sharing the same space. Consumers want to stay in their homes (aging in place)
  • Consumers want a kitchen within a “cooking room” to serve weekday warm-up meals in a smaller environment than needed for weekend gourmet feasts
  • Gathering spaces for personal interaction between cooks and noncooks is valued
  • Appliances are broken up into smaller point-of-use pieces, along with special-purpose fixtures
  • Multiple cooking stations for shared cooking activities are valued
As a designer who continues to deal with a lengthy interview process before attempting a space plan, I also have encountered the same activities that Ms. Cheever labeled as noncooking activities.
Communicating activities including the telephone, Internet, personal visiting and any type of correspondence demand more than just a desk or an Internet connection these days. I fondly call this the command center, but it’s more than just technology for cell phones and Wi-Fi. It’s the place where people can comfortably talk, share and maintain a master calendar.
Entertaining/educational activities seem to be growing in style (hanging-out bars instead of just eating-only bars). Video game activities for the family or any TV-based entertainment, and a children’s computer/homework area (to help control computer use) are on the top of many families’ lists.
Household management activities may have been just a desk in the past, but now include a family home office, security area, smart-home technology controls, multipurpose laundry/hobby area and a pet care/feeding center.
Pleasurable pastime activity spaces include those for gardening, flower arranging, a cookbook library, photography/scrapbooking or even wine cellar/tasting areas. One of my customers collected pinball machines and it was high on his list of inclusions.
Ms. Cheever has certainly covered the range of activities and thus helps us evaluate how to include them in our expanded kitchen spaces. For food assembly, however, the activities could help to explain five activity zones, up from the initial three zones when the work triangle was used solely:

1. The Consumable Zone — This space contains food items such as rice, cereal, canned goods, pasta, staples, drinks and refrigerated goods. It usually is in one main spot, but could be labeled as such in two areas.
2. The Non-consumable Zone — These items are the dishes, glasses, plastic containers, storage items, silverware and even cookbooks.
3. The Cleaning Zone — The sink, dish-washer(s), trash and recycling as well as cleaning supplies are found here.
4. The Preparation Zone — This is the most important area in the food-assembly process. Utensils, mixing bowls, small electrical items plus items such as spices and oils needed to prepare food are kept here.
5. The Cooking Zone — The appliance package for cooking, including microwave, cooktop/range and oven is the start, but this also includes all pots/pans, cooking utensils, baking sheets and some spices, oils, etc.

I suggest there also are other specialty zones which could incorporate Ms. Cheever’s stated activities. There’s an entertaining zone, which in older circles could have been called the bar. Undercounter refrigerators, ice machines, wine chillers, along with countertop or built-in coffee machines and all the accompaniments suggest a self-serve or hostess-run area strictly for guests. Some have bar sinks, but most don’t.
Some designers I know now incorporate a plating zone when entertaining which allows the owners or caterers a space for serving plates, appetizers, larger quantity of drinks, serving platters, etc., when entertaining a group of guests.
Sometimes this is in a butler’s pantry and sometimes is an extension of the kitchen/breakfast nook areas.