Sometimes It’s the Simple Things . . .

I was recently browsing through the archives of Betsy Speert’s blog, admiring the changes she’s made in the kitchen of her Florida home, when I felt the lightbulb above my head click on!! Here’s the picture* that prompted it:

I was admiring the stove . . . and vent hood . . . and glass-door upper cabinets . . . and how the glass-door upper cabinets surround the vent hood . . . and then :::ding ding ding::: lightbulb moment!!

We could totally do that in OUR kitchen ! ! !

I’d had such a mental block about not having upper cabinets in our kitchen, in an effort to not block the sunlight that comes in the window at the far end of the room -and- to keep the room open-feeling, that I never thought about using upper cabinets on the stove-side of the kitchen (the side of the room opposite the window) . . . and of using clear-glass in the cabinet doors.

I’d mentioned in this post that I was hoping to have no upper cabinets at all, but as it turned out I just couldn’t figure out a way to have adequate storage for pantry foods if we eliminated the upper cabinets that currently function as pantry storage.  And even if we had clear-glass doors on the upper cabinets on the sink-side of the kitchen, the cabinet boxes would still block light coming from the window next to them. But removing those cabinets completely and then having clear-glass door upper cabinets on the opposite side of the room would be PERFECT.

And since I’m not a fan of the look of vent hoods (we don’t currently have one but we really do need one), I like the idea that having clear-glass cabinet doors would allow the eye to be drawn to pretty dishware and whatnot that’s stored inside those cabinets, rather than being drawn to a vent hood.

Of course, replacing cabinets versus removing cabinets will be a much pricier venture and probably won’t happen this year. But that’s okay . . . we’re not planning on going anywhere for the next decade or so ;-).

[photo used with permission of Betsy Speert and is from her March 1, 2012, blog post]

Around the House: 6-5-2012

At some point yesterday morning I walked into the kitchen and saw Annie sprawled out on the doormat in our mudroom. It took a sec for me to realize she was multi-tasking: keeping an eye on the backyard via the doggie door (birds or squirrels might venture into the yard — egads!!) while catching a few winks here and there.

And then I noticed the doggie door was looking pretty grimy (if you have dogs + a doggie door, you know what I mean!), so after she’d gone outside to check on things I cleaned the doggie door so it’d be ready for her next multi-tasking moment.

I spy with my little eye an Annie-dog, catching some shade while ensuring our backyard remains bird- and squirrel-free!!

A few days ago I went to Hobby Lobby looking for some type of hanger for my aprons and found the perfect solution in the garden goodies.

Here’s a closer-up look at ‘em:

Aren’t they cute?!!

Several weeks ago my crafty friend Corinne (of So September) surprised me with a package containing an embroidery-themed mug onto which she drew some embroidery stitches. Since I’m currently in the process of adding more indoor plants to our house, I decided to repurpose the mug as a planter.

I’ve been looking for the perfect plant for it at Lowe’s for a couple weeks, but only today did I find something that I thought would be perfect, this beautiful red “Irisene: Chicken Gizzard”.

Here’s where it’s living now:

And here’s another look at the mug — check out the Blanket Stitch on the handle!!

Brilliantly done, Corinne!! Thank you muchly for such a wonderfully fun-ctional snail-mail surprise =).

Squash Abundance + Cluckies

Our yellow squash plants are producing like crazy, so we had the opportunity yesterday to try out our new dehydrator and new vacuum sealer. New kitchen toys = wheeeeee!!

The four packages in the top row contain squash chips — thinly-sliced and salted yellow squash that was dehydrated, and which can be eaten like potato chips. That’s nine trays’ worth of dehydrated squash, which was something like ten or eleven raw squash.

The packages in the bottom row are the squash that wouldn’t fit in the dehydrator — my hubby blanched and froze them. They’ll be good cooked and tossed with butter or olive oil, or added to soups or stews. That was another six or seven squash.

And there are more on the vines ready to be picked!! I’ll be doing some more dehydrating tomorrow ;-).

Our dehydrator is the Excalibur 9-Tray 3900 (no timer), purchased through Excalibur’s website. Our vacuum sealer is a Food Saver V3460, purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond using a 20% off coupon, which you can get when you first sign up to be on their email list. I plan to purchase the wide-mouth jar sealer, which BB&B did not have, so that we can make use of the bazillion mason jars we have around here, which can be re-used time and again, unlike the Food Saver bags. We love the dehydrator and the vacuum sealer, both, and look forward to getting plenty of use out of them this growing season!!

I’m making use of the vacuum sealer to take larger quantities of items that are in our freezer and putting them into more useful portion sizes. Today I took what was left in our gallon pail of Tropical Traditions organic unsweetened coconut flakes (it was about one-fourth to one-third full still) and packaged up eighteen packages of 1/4-cup servings of coconut flakes. They’ll stay fresher longer in the small vacuum-sealed packages, as compared to being in the big pail.

I’ll do the same thing with the organic raw walnuts and the organic raw almonds in our freezer — they are the BEST-tasting walnuts I’ve ever had! but I’ve been too chicken to try the almonds yet — the potential for my body to negatively react in some way or another to them is high and I’m not willing, yet, to suffer the consequences if they don’t work out for me. So I’ll package the nuts up into small serving sizes and then they’ll stay fresh in our freezer for a good long while.

The vacuum sealer overheats quickly, so during the times when I was waiting for it to cool off enough to be ready to work again, I took my camera out back and had fun taking some snapshots.

I’d never really been around chickens before we got our own, and I’m still, eight months later, in awe of the beauty of their feathers:

 

Don’t let their beauty fool you, though — survival of the fittest is very much a part of their lives! They will peck each other in order to steal a juicy morsel (worm, beetle, moth, whatever) right out of the other’s mouth. One day my hubby watched one of them attack a sparrow that’d landed inside the pen/garden area to eat some grain. If they see you holding something that appears to them to be edible, they’ll jump and flap to try to snatch it out of your hands. I’m thinking that I don’t want to have an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment around those girls ;-) . . . can you imagine calling Life-Alert and explaining THAT scenario!!

For Mother’s Day, my fellas surprised me with this huge, beautiful set of windchimes:

On the days the weather’s been nice enough to have the doors open, I’ve so enjoyed listening to the music of these chimes. They remind me of what I would expect to hear in a Buddhist temple. They bring a sense of relaxation and peace, when I hear them ever so softly chiming. I really do get the best Mother’s Day gifts from my fellas!!

Our Kitchen: From “Before” to “Current” (but still In-Progress) — Part 2

Picking up from the end of Part 1 of my “Our Kitchen: Current, but still In-Progress” topic, I’ve been doing some preliminary shuffling-of-things in our kitchen, in anticipation of these upper cabinets being removed:

I like the challenge that comes with deciding which kitchen gear earns its keep and which can be passed along, and how many plates/bowls/glasses/pots-n-pans we actually use in the course of a day. I did a decent-sized downsizing of all that kind of stuff several years ago, but now that the way I cook and eat has changed so drastically I know there’s more cookware and bakeware that can be passed along to other folks. Which will, in turn, free up a decent amount of storage space in our lower cabinets.

I’ve stashed the countertop appliances (crockpot, Kitchenaid, blender, food processor) underneath my hubby-built worktable.

But there’s still the potential to store more things under there, so my hubby’s going to add a shelf that can hold baking sheets/pans and other cookware that isn’t used daily. (The stepstool will have to live elsewhere, to make room for the shelf.)

I want to paint the worktable whatever color we opt to paint the lower cabinets, and possibly skirt it with a cute fabric. As for the top of the worktable, I know that I want to personalize it in some way. Right now I’m leaning towards a hodgepodge of photos, combined with photocopies of handwritten recipes we have that belonged to our grandmothers — things that can be easily shuffled around and swapped out — then covering the tabletop with a piece of plexiglass for protection.

The metal shelving underneath the window (in the first photo) isn’t intended to remain there. I put it in that spot to get an idea of what size standalone cabinet would fit well there, but it’s serving a useful purpose for the time being by housing our new dehydrator + some foodstuff. The shelving is a bit too long for the space, but it’s given me a good idea of what size standalone cabinet to look for.

We’re leaning towards painting the base cabinets and worktable a creamy-white. We stripped the green paint off the small cabinet between the fridge and stove (see second photo above) — I wish we’d done that sooner instead of me cringing every time I walked into the kitchen and looked at that green cabinet and thought to myself how much I disliked that particular paint experiment! — the lesson I learned with that project is that just because a paint color looks great in someone else’s kitchen does not mean it will look great in mine ;-).

We’ve decided to keep the white laminate countertops. We’re not fans of granite or stainless steel, and the existing countertops are still in good condition. If we want to change them out at some point down the road, we certainly can . . . but there are other updates to the house we’d like to handle first.

For the flooring, after talking about the various options (which we’ve discussed on and off for years, at this point!), we’ll likely go with some sort of sheet flooring. That’s what we put in our hallway and bathroom six or so years ago and it’s held up wonderfully and looks nice, in spite of being in high traffic areas. Our kitchen gets a lot of foot traffic, of the human variety AND dog variety, particularly since we have to go through the kitchen to get to the backyard, so we need something super easy to clean, something that’s okay to get wet or muddy, and something that won’t get goobered up by the shifting that happens with a pier and beam foundation. The flooring will likely be the last big update in the kitchen, but hopefully we can get that done by year-end.

So, the big changes: remove upper cabinets (and repair / paint walls behind them as needed); acquire a bit more lower cabinet-type storage; paint the lower cabinets; and have new flooring installed.

Those will all be fabulous changes, particularly because they’ll all lighten up and brighten up the kitchen.

But the real fun for me will be adding the little details and personal touches. I already see places where I want to add lamps and plants and doodads on the walls. I’m looking forward to that part of our kitchen project =).

Milkglass Lamp + the Scale that’s actually a Clock

I went back to the antiques mall today and picked up the scale/clock that I fell in love with last week.

Turns out it’s not a scale at all, but rather a two-sided clock designed to look like a scale. The tag on it says one clock works but the other doesn’t; however, my hubs said we can buy a new clock mechanism and get the second clock working. Cool beans! I’ll end up moving it elsewhere in the kitchen and probably put a plant of some sort on the “scale” part. Oh, the cool wire basket is an antiques mall purchase from last week, and it works perfectly as our egg-gathering basket.

On my way out of the antiques mall, I spied this milkglass lamp with toile shade.

It works, but the cord and plug are old-school and don’t jive smoothly with nowadays electrical outlets, so we (meaning, my hubby) will get that updated.

I’ve been doing some shuffling around of “stuff” and love how this corner of our living room has turned out.

It’s especially cozy and pretty at night with the overhead lights off, because the red toile lampshade casts such a warm glow in the room (but that’s not particularly evidenced by this picture!). I’m not a big fan of overhead lights, but I *am* a big fan of lamps . . . lots and lots of lamps!

I’m on the hunt for some little something to put in that empty spot between the speaker and corner. We have a couple family-heirloom quilts that I’d love to display there, maybe on a stack of trunks or vintage suitcases, or on the wooden stepstool I saw at the antiques mall last week, or some other interesting doohickey I might find.

P.S. — The two framed prints in the above picture are photos taken by my hubby. We have quite a few of his photos framed and displayed in our living room!

Our Kitchen: From “Before” to “Current” (but still In-Progress) — Part 1

As first-time homeowners, after being l-o-n-g-term renters, we made lots of cosmetic changes to our house within the first several years of purchasing it back in 2003: replaced carpet, painted walls, and tore out the airplane-bathroom-sized half bath the prior owners added half-assedly just to inflate the sales price (the things you learn from neighbors!).

The one room we didn’t tackle right away was the kitchen . . . mostly because trying to figure out what to do to make it a space we loved was overwhelming. Here’s what it looked like in September 2006, when the only change we’d made was removing the laundry cabinet that’d been mounted on the wall at the far end of the kitchen (where the white square is on the upper portion of the wall; the white square on the lower portion of the wall is where the W&D had been located):

The info furnished when the house was on the market indicated all this cabinetry was added in 1993. I suspect that’s also when the carpeting was installed in the kitchen. And perhaps that was when the window at the kitchen sink was boarded over from the outside . . . or maybe that was done by an owner prior to whoever owned the house in ’93.

There is a hideous gray rental duplex within spitting distance on the kitchen sink side of the house, so I understand the reasoning behind boarding over the window. But adding floor to ceiling cabinetry on both sides of the room AND having no natural light in the main work area of the kitchen made the room feel soooooo claustrophobic and dark and . . . uncheerful.

A month after that photo was taken, I removed the section of the lower cabinets that jutted out into the middle of the room, and I pulled up the carpet.

Removing that section of lower cabinetry opened up the room so much! The sheet flooring was pretty hiddy, especially where the carpet padding + carpet glue had discolored it, but removing the carpet lightened up the room a great deal, which was extremely important to me.

A couple months later I took down the small cabinet over the stove and the microwave cabinet that was next to it, and one of the two shelves over the kitchen sink.

I was slowly experimenting with determining how much cabinetry we could eliminate, to help the space feel roomier and more open. Each time a piece of cabinetry was removed, I was faced with deciding how much of our kitchen “stuff” was truly necessary.

In the fall of 2009, we removed the big 3-door pantry on the right side of the kitchen, as well as the cabinet that was above the fridge. That was one of The Best changes we’ve made to that room . . . it no longer felt like being in a coffin!! At the same time, we removed all the doors off the very uppermost cabinets on the left side of the kitchen, to break up the “wall” of solid cabinetry. (The pictures from that particular demo were lost forever when my previous laptop took a nosedive off the couch onto the floor, destroying my hard drive in the process. Nope, I had no back-up.)

My hubby used those pantry doors to create a worktable for my workspace and a worktable for our kitchen. They are sturdy and awesome worktables!!

In September of 2010 I got tired of the hiddy green sheet flooring and pulled it all up. It wasn’t glued down, rather it’d just been laid down right on top of some type of underlayment. Ironically, the underlayment is the best looking flooring we’ve had yet in the kitchen ;-).

Even though that picture is from 9/2010, that’s essentially how the kitchen still looks.

But not for long!!

[Part 2 to follow.]