* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Kitchen

My kitchen makes me happy and I think it's pretty.  I'm not sure a kitchen can help but be real.  Most of all, being back in my kitchen makes me content.  And so I am linking to...

round button chicken

One of the most common questions I get is what I missed the most when I was in Ireland.  I really missed my kitchen.  I thought I would share some of the bits and pieces that I most enjoy.

It's a country kitchen.  I didn't really set out with a great deal of enthusiasm for the style but over time, I've found that it works well both for the kitchen I was given (the house was built before I was born) and my personal style.  I've veered towards materials made of glass and metal and wood.  I try to choose items that are sustainable and re-usable.  I like things that are easy to clean and keep clean and that look reasonably nice, even when you don't get around to actually putting them away for a few days.  I needed storage materials that are mouse and ant proof.  I needed things that are durable and easy to find and not too fiddly.  I need to easily find what I'm looking for and take my favors when they are offered.

Over time, I've grown to learn that this is pretty much the way country housewives from quite a while ago apparently approached things and so, I have a country kitchen...

This is the counter to the right of my sink.  I like my dishes to not smell like anything when they are clean- not flowers, not lemon, not vague "fragrance."  I also don't like to pay for people to drive water around to me.  So, I want an unscented powdered dish detergent.  This is surprisingly difficult to find.  I've found 7th Generation Free and Clear to be the best option.  I needed to have it out of easy reach of small people and the box wasn't all the attractive.  So, I got a cracker jar and put it in there with a pretty scoop from the farmer's market.

I keep all my tea bags in the Dr Who cookie jar.  It seemed appropriate and I've heard that country housewives of the 1920s were big fans.

I had a mug tree and it was always getting unbalanced and tipping over.  The rack was actually intended to hold houseplants but I like it better for mugs.

Big Ben is from our visit to London and the tea pot is from a friend in Ireland.

I use canning jars for all sorts of things and keep the rings and lids in the berry boxes.  Those boxes are always so pretty and fairly sturdy, it only seems right to put them to use.

I accumulated rather a lot of vases.  It seemed like such a waste to only use them for flowers so, a while ago, I put them to work holding dishrags and utensils.  Cracker jars also hold my flour and sugar.  The little jar is cornmeal for sprinkling on the baking stone.  The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is my go to cookbook.  It covers all the day to day cooking questions you might have in clear terms using supplies you probably already have and using techniques it will teach you if you don't already know them.  When Allen's international students ask me how to learn American cooking, I suggest they try looking through it.

Canning jars are a real workhorse in my kitchen.  I store most dry goods in them.  Cardboard boxes are no match for Virginia humidity and I have no patience with slippy, slidey, slithery plastic bags.  I also do a fair amount of shopping in the bulk bins and can bring my jars to the store to fill directly.  And, if you ever have a problem with any sort of critter, glass will keep them out far better than plastic or cardboard.  Canning jars will stack, have interchangeable lids, come in all sorts of sizes, and can be run through the dishwasher when empty.  A distracted mother can tell at a glance that a 5 pound bag of cornmeal was a lot more cornmeal than she realized but that popcorn is in short supply.  I also use canning jars a great deal in the freezer for everything from beans I've cooked ahead to applesauce and soup.  You just have to be careful to allow for expansion.

We use widemouth pint jars for adult cups and the 1/2 pints for children's cups.  They are extremely durable, withstanding all manner of toddler mishaps.  The 4 ounce jars are perfect for baby food, some baking needs such as baking powder, and make ideal paint cups holding plenty of water while also being very tip resistant.  The 4 ounce size is also useful for storing things like chopped onion or lime wedges that you always seem to have too many of to use all at once but don't want to throw away.  The handiest thing about the pint jars is how they have the ounces marked on the side- this makes cocktail time a breeze.  :-)

We mostly use cloth napkins.  I made cloth wipes mostly for diapering but made a few extra (color coded) for use in the kitchen.  Wipe making is one of those projects that it's just as easy to make 20 as 10 and doesn't require that much more in materials.  These are perfect for the heavy duty napkin needs of the young child.  I made one side flannel and the other either terry or chenille.  They are very absorbant, quite soft, and a managable size for the very small set to wipe up their own messes.  The only caveat is that since they are so thick and absorbant, it takes them a while to dry so you need to be mindful of possible mildewing if you get behind on the laundry.

We've started using the recipe and method offered by Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  It's a joint effort between Allen and me.  I'm pretty sure the fact that Allen is a morning person is proof positive that Jesus loves me.  I mix up a double batch of bread about once a week, form it to rise and rest in the refrigerator the night before and then Allen bakes it up in the morning.  If you want to know how to make it that nice shape, it's easy.  I line a basket with a tea towel or cloth napkin and sprinkle it with flour.  After I shape the loaf, I pop it in the basket.  The basket adds a little structure to the final rise and rest. Allen gently plops it out of the basket onto the baking stone in the morning.

I realize that there are several schools of thought on child-proofing.  My body has a very enthusiastic response to progesterone so I desperately needed to leave young children alone in the kitchen at a moments notice without having to worry about if they were dumping all the flour on their heads.  Most of our lower cabinets have child latches but we had some spinning corner cabinets that wouldn't work for.  I had my husband put in some eye hooks and used those really long twist ties that secure children's toys in packaging because a toy that will be hurled down 2 flights of stairs should obviously be well cushioned in transit to your home...

In other parts of our home, I just tied a ribbon through bookshelf door handles and we also installed hook and eye latches high up on sliding closet doors in the bathrooms.  This won't keep a really determined preschooler out but will discourage them and will also buy you some time to notice what's going on before all the toilet rolls have been unrolled or the family pictures have been scattered around the room.


  1. I need a Doctor Who Cookie/ Tea Bag jar!

    1. Isn't it fun! It even makes a timey wimey sound when you open it. It was a gift but I think Allen got it from here:

  2. I am a canning jar for cups user too. That is mostly because in the winter, when all my canning is being eaten- the empty jars are easily accessible! (As in-EVERYWHERE!)

    Happy Thursday!

    1. I know what you mean! It's like they breed in the winter but they mysteriously wander off when you're in middle of a big canning round. And, a happy Thursday to you as well!

  3. What a spectacular post Becky! We use glass jars, mostly quarts for us and half pints for kiddos. We love it! People tend to think we do it to be different, haha! I just found our Libby glass cups to shatter left and right, so then we were up a creek with no budget money for cups, viola JARS! :D
    Your bread is gorgeous.
    I love all your ways of using containers in a more practical way. Fab!

    1. Thank you so much, Suzette! I hear you on the breaking glasses. I'm not clear who they think is using the glasses but I get the impression it's not real people. :-) The bread is so simple to make and so yummy! The recipe and method are free on their website if you google the site with "basics." They have lots of other free recipes but we just started with the very most basic. I used it for making rolls last night and it worked well for that as well.

  4. Great post! I love the make-do attitude, and I find kitchens that have the old-timey feel are far more welcoming than gleaming expanses of minimalism :)

    1. Thank you so much, Leila! And, for braving the word verification (I agree, why must we call it words when it's gibberish mixed with numbers?)! I agree with the old-time feel. It can be very pleasant! I think my main mental block on the issue was that I had previously encountered a number of "Kountry Cute" kitchens that were somehow supposed to make up for a complete lack of homekeeping via excessive decorative baskets and stenciling. I actually had a great deal of fun trolling through pictures someone (ag extension office?) had posted to the University Archives site to see how women *actually* decorated their kitchens around here 80 years ago.

  5. This was such an enjoyable post to read. I like your writing style.

    My first Better Homes Cookbook, given to me as a wedding gift over 23 years ago is SO worn, it's held together by a rubber band...I still love it!
    Ditto on the canning jars (jelly jars & other miscellaneous jars, too), I hoard them all and use them for everything. Everything.
    Thank you for sharing your kitchen...

    1. Thank you so very much! I have found myself, on occasion, picking a condiment based entirely on how much I like the bottle! :-) I love to clean them well, paint the lids and then fill them with candies for gifts.

      This is actually my 2nd Better Homes Cookbook. The first caught on fire in one of my more severe moments of pregnancy absentmindedness... Happily, everything worked out just fine and I got the newer version in The Binder which was a revelation!

      I'm looking forward to poking around your recipes!