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...
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.
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.