Friday, January 25, 2013

Living with Marble Countertops in a BUSY Kitchen

It’s been exactly one year since we remodeled our kitchen.  And yes, I still love it, and no, I wouldn’t change anything. That’s the short answer. Here are some details.

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What marble lovers really wanna know is—how has life been with your honed Carrera Marble countertops.  Let me preface my worthless opinion by saying that we are a family of five and we cook a lot. Everyday.  I mean, look at the wicked enemies  to marble just blatantly sitting on the counter? A lemon, greasy frosting, and yes, my kids.


I am to blame as well—rolling out enchiladas with the biggest etching weapon of them all--enchilada sauce splatters.


I bake bread. I roast chicken. I sauté veggies that splatter grease everywhere. This is a working kitchen for sure that is used, abused, and loved. The photos at the top of the post show the counters still perfect with no signs of marble abuse after one year right? Wrong.

For those of you that don’t know, marble is a bit tricky in the kitchen because it is porous, can stain, and can etch with anything acidic like tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice, ketchup. So why not get granite which is easy peasy to take care of? Well, there are no white granites (I looked and looked to find an alternative—there is nothing even close to white to satisfy this lover of white stone) so if you want a white natural stone for countertops you are left with marble. Believe it or not, engineered stone like Caesar stone or Silestone is more expensive than Carrera marble. (We spent $3,800 (counters plus install) and I was told to expect to pay at least $1,500 more for Caesar stone) I went into purchasing marble with my eyes wide open. The marble dealer gave me a small slab to take home and abuse. I did so with stainable sauces and foods to make sure I knew what I was getting into.  I decided that any wear and tear on the marble gives it a patina and over time they’ll change even more and I love that.

Forgive me for posting the below photos which are horrifically dark. The only way to show the etching and streaking is to try to photograph the counters with just the glare of the sunlight on them. (I tried using a flash or brightening the photos but that just made the etch marks disappear.)

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The above photos are of  the island, which has the most marble abuse. However, you can only see those scars when natural light streaming through the windows shines on it.  And yes, I see those marks everyday, but not at night.  I am not a perfectionist so this doesn’t bother me. The photo below, with the circled area, is showing the same section photographed above but with regular light.


There are no stains on my counters—and in my book, that’s the more important part.  Streaks I can live with, but I don’t want my countertops to have purple and red spots. I’m supposed to seal them every 6 months and I have been naughty and haven’t even done that. (I promise to do it this weekend as I have the sealer finally.)

The below photos show command central. It’s the spot where grease splatters the most next to the burner I use the most. No stains, no problems here. Etching yes, stains no.

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There are however only two things that annoy me about marble that nobody told me about. But because we’re friends, I’ll tell you.

First, there are no antibacterial cleaners that can be used on marble. Nothing that I have found—you can’t use anything with bleach, ammonia, or vinegar to kill nasty raw-chicken germs. I am left with hot soapy water which bugs me because that’s a lot of work. In fact, I don’t think there is a single germ killer out there that can be used on marble. Every cleaner I have encountered can’t be used because it will etch the marble. I really need to do more research on this problem. I made the mistake of using a Lysol antibacterial cleaner on part of the counters when we first had the kitchen and sure enough, it etched the counter—leaving an obvious dull spot that felt ‘rough’ to the touch. That spot has since rubbed out (more on that later.)

Second, the counters are honed, which means they have a matte finish, which I was told would help ease the obviousness of etches, which I think is true, but I also think it makes any oily residue or dirt more visible by showing the dirty/oil and shiny spots on the marble. I wipe the counter day and night to clean them but that does nothing to remove oily looking spots.  I notice the shininess the most when I roll out dough for cinnamon rolls or even regular dough that contains oil/butter.  Using the scrubber side of a kitchen brush with hot water is the best way I know to keep those oily spots to a minimum. But I also have to ‘buff’ the counter every once in a while with a clean kitchen towel to rub out the oily spots. Just like waxing a car—it takes a ton of elbow grease to make the counters look uniformly 'matte’ again. And because I am lazy, and hate buffing anything like nails or shoes, this annoys me. I am almost positive this problem would still exist had I left the counters with a high gloss instead of having them honed. Marble is just finicky.

Lastly, I have etched the counters as is obvious by my photos but weirdly enough, the horrible etches created by Lysol (see above) eventually wear away. I will confess to you my worst sin thus far: We were going on a vacation for a week so I made sandwiches with sliced tomatoes for the long drive. I left that cutting board on the counter, and the tomato juice ran off the cutting board and made a 5-inch scar of etching on to the counters. I gasped when I came home a week later and discovered my stupid, stupid mistake. But within 2 months that spot just rubbed out. I guess because marble is stone it will wear and patina and change along with my messy family. And  that’s why I still love them and would do it all over again.

(To see all the details from our remodel, including sources for cabinets, counters, and wall tall, click here.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

How a California Girl gets through Utah winters

Nothing good happens in January. Nothing. Well, I was born in January so something good did once happen in January. I don’t know anyone who loves the bleakness of winter. Oh sure, I have friends who love to ski here in the great state of Utah (Greatest snow on earth according to our license plates. Pfff) but I don’t know anyone who loves month after month of freezing temperatures and dark mornings and nights. No one. Especially me, the California girl.

My Vitamin D goes low, which leads to sleep problems. And as you know, no sleep, no happiness. So here’s what I’ve  been up to this January (and late December) in order to ward off the winter blues, stay healthy, and keep my sanity at sub freezing temperatures.


First of all, I always head to California right after Christmas day to see my family and gather in some sunshine to last me 3 more months of winter. We stopped at the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas this time. What an amazing structure man can create to control nature. Unbelievable.

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Here I am snapping a few photos on the Hoover Dam. I like the message on the wall “Danger Keep Off”. Ummm, yea, no problem.

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While in California, Paul and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary on Huntington Beach. We went for a 5-mile run along the Pacific  Coast Highway. Oh the splendid sunshine of my home state!

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An evening walk on the pier with my sweetey.

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But once we got back from California, it was back to business. Back to the business of keeping sane through this record cold winter.

First up, piano. A little Mozart and a little Norah Jones. Wolfgang keeps my brain working overtime and Norah keeps me calm and soothed.


I’m also working on this famous Nocturne by Chopin. I love Chopin. And I’ll love him more if I can actually learn this nocturne. You can listen to it by clicking here. So beautiful it gives me tears. That’s my goal: to make others cry because I’m so awesome on the piano. Or something like that. Or cry with pity. I’ll take either.


Second, good books. Here’s my reading pile for January. A crazy mix I know—a little Science Fiction, a biography of a University of Utah president , a book about being a Muslim woman in America, and a little light fiction by my buddy Orson Scott Card. (I’ve read Sarah twice now, loooove it.)


Third, exercise. I wish this wasn’t necessary, but I simply don’t sleep well without a little physical exhaustion. So out come the weights and away went my running shoes until temperatures can get above 30 degrees. I wish I was one of those women on inspirational posters, running through the Himalayas with the caption “No pain no gain” or something stupid. But I’m not. My knees hurt so unbelievably bad, running or not, when I so much as so get the mail at 0 degrees. I really hate that I’m not tough.


Besides, while lifting weights I also watch re-runs of Alias on Netflix. Go Sydney Bristow!



I turned 39 this week, on January 14th. I’m feeling good about, I think. Feeling even better about the chocolate cake and flowers my hubby bought me.


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Lastly, I’ve been working on new embroidery designs for

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Twigs Monogram and Jigsaw Border coming next week.


And that’s how a west coast girl gets through a snowy winter.  That and dreams of warm vacations. Preferably the kind on tropical islands.


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