Monthly Archives: September 2012

My simple kitchen

My kitchen is probably the least-cluttered room in my house. I am really happy with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.

My mother is a very talented cook. She has all sorts of nifty tools and pots and pans and appliances. She’s always trying to talk me into getting various kitchen supplies that she’s found useful.

By contrast, I’m a very simple cook. I can make good food, but it’s all from recipes I know by heart, requiring few ingredients.

Here’s what I’ve got in my kitchen. First, pots and pans:

  • 2 non-stick skillets: small and large
  • a 2-quart saucepan
  • a 4-quart deep skillet/saute pan (about 10 in. wide)
  • Dutch oven (for soups)
  • glass baking pan
  • Pizza stone

I’d like to get a 1-quart saucepan for heating sauces, etc. And I will probably get rid of that baking pan and replace it with a nice casserole. I never bake breads or cakes. (There is an amazing bakery 5 minutes away, so why bother?)

Now, prep tools. This is where I get really, really basic:

  • 2 cutting boards
  • 1 medium-sized knife
  • 1 serrated bread knife
  • vegetable peeler
  • salad spinner
  • 2 Pyrex measuring cups (1- and 2-cup)

If a recipe calls for anything more complicated than washing, peeling, and chopping, it’s not for me. 🙂 I don’t have a food processor, because I hate cleaning all the fussy little parts.

I’ve never been able to use those big chef’s knives. My hands are small, so I prefer a smaller knife. It works for me, as long as I keep the blade sharp.

And I don’t have a lot of measuring cups and spoons, because I don’t do a lot of measuring.

I am not completely without kitchen gadgets. These are my small appliances:

  • toaster oven
  • blender
  • rice cooker
  • coffeemaker
  • microwave oven

The microwave may be leaving soon. It’s rarely used, and it takes up a lot of space.

For food storage:

  • An assortment of Pyrex storage bowls in various sizes from 8 oz. to 2 quarts.
  • Plastic zip-lock storage bags. I have them in “snack”, “sandwich”, quart, and gallon sizes.

One of the best things I ever did was to get rid of all my miscellaneous plastic storage containers. No matter what I did, they always became disorganized in my cabinets. I prefer my glass containers because they stay put in the cabinets, they don’t get stuck together, and they double as mixing bowls. And they are easy to clean, and never get stained.

For hand utentils, I have:

  • 3 turners
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 stirring spoon
  • 1 soup ladle
  • tongs

My potato masher got ruined this year. I miss it. It is on my wishlist of housewares for 2013.

For setting the table, I have:

  • 4 wine glasses
  • 8 tall drinking glasses
  • 8 large coffee mugs
  • white china dinnerware set for 4
  • stainless steel flatware for 12
  • 4 deep soup bowls
  • A small assortment of handmade pottery serving dishes
  • 2 tablecloths and 8 napkins

Clearly, I have more flatware than I need. I plan to replace my huge unmatched collection for a smaller, nicer one. I also want to get some new soup bowls. The ones I currently have are ugly leftovers from an old dinnerware set.

And yes, I eat off my china every day. I used to keep it stored away in a cabinet, but then I decided I might as well use it. It’s at least as sturdy as the old cheap dishes I’d been using; and it’s easier to clean, because food doesn’t stick to it.

I used to have more dishes, but I realized I wasn’t using them. I do occasionally have large groups of guests over, but my friends and family are the type that I would feel comfortable asking to lend me extra dishes if I needed them.

My kitchen would not be complete without my tea-making supplies. 🙂

  • tea kettle (I have a Le Creuset and I love it.)
  • white china teapot
  • a handheld strainer

Don’t forget about cleanup! My cleaning supplies are simple:

  • Dishwasher detergent (I use Cascade because it works).
  • Ecover dishwashing liquid
  • hand soap
  • Scotch-Brite scrubbing sponge (the pink/gentle one)
  • Bon Ami powder cleanser (for scrubbing pots and pans, and also great for tea stains on cups)
  • Rubber gloves: I never wash dishes or scrub anything without gloves on!
  • Homemade vinegar cleaner
  • Seventh Generation botanical disinfecting wipes (for the occasional icky job)
  • Paper towels. I’ll admit to using these liberally.
  • 8-10 kitchen towels

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There you have it. Hmm, I’m calling this “my simple kitchen” but I feel like I listed a zillion things. But trust me, it’s not a lot.

I wanted to mention one blog post that inspired me to go ahead and let go of my “extra” cooking supplies. Take a look at this post by Janet of The Gardener’s Cottage. Janet is a former chef who often posts beautiful dishes and recipes on her blog. Her simple collection of kitchen supplies is proof that you don’t need every sized pan, or a lot of specialized gadgets, to make great meals.

I might actually do this.

I tend to shy away from participating in wardrobe “challenges”– or any of the various challenges that are always circulating around the Internet (no-buys, handmade-only, make-or-do-something every day, wear only x number of items, etc.) Not that I don’t want to– they look like great fun! But I know that I’m easily bored, and that I change my mind a lot. I have a hard time sticking to rules (especially if there are no real consequences to breaking them); so I usually don’t even try.

But last year, I decided to try it. I quietly put myself on a “shopping ban” for housewares and home decorations. And it worked! I was able to stick to it.

I did this because

  • I knew I had everything I needed in my home for daily living.
  • I wanted to give more careful consideration to my next purchases: to think about the difference between needs and wants, and to consider what level of quality would be most appropriate for new items when the time came to purchase them.

Over the past year, I haven’t bought any new housewares, but I’ve been making a list of things that need to be replaced, or things I want to add to my home environment. I’ll buy them in 2013. It’s not a long list.

I’ve also gotten rid of a lot of stuff around the house. I learned that when you take time to live with your things, you start to notice what gets used or enjoyed– versus what is just taking up space. By making do instead of shopping, you learn the difference between what you “might need” vs. what would actually save you time or make your home more comfortable.

And I haven’t had to make do very much at all. If anything, I’ve learned that getting the excess out of the way solves more problems than does buying something. (And I didn’t have much to start with!)

Really, we need very little to have a comfortable, easy life.

……….

All that above is a long-winded way to introduce the actual point of this blog post:

I think I might do a wardrobe challenge in 2013.

I’m not following anyone else’s rules, although my challenge is inspired by The Vivienne Files’ “Common Wardrobe” plan which I mentioned in my previous post.

Here a tentative outline of my own plan:

  • Throughout this autumn, I’ll shop to fill some holes in my basic core wardrobe. I’ll stick to neutral colors only. (I’m including a few conservative shades of blue as neutrals.)
  • Starting in January 2013, I’m going on a self-imposed shopping ban for both clothing and cosmetics (except to replace cosmetic products that are used up).
  • Accessories are not included in the shopping ban.

The reason I’m not including accessories in the ban is because I actually need to build my collection of accessories, and I want to improve my accessorizing skills. (I’m not very good at accessorizing! )

I think I can do this, and I think (hope!) it will be a good learning experience. Already, as I shop for basics, I’m realizing how much I tend to be drawn to brightly-colored clothing. Oh my. No wonder I have gaps  in my basics wardrobe.

Color is not a bad thing; but I think it will be good for me to learn to use accessories as my source of color, for a change.

Common Ms. M

Common Ms. M
This is my interpretation of the “Common Wardrobe” as inspired by Janice of The Vivienne Files.
I did change a few things to suit my needs:
  • I can’t wear turtlenecks (short neck!) so I substituted a cowl top.
  • I have learned, through trial and error, that I really do need interesting necklines on my knit tops. A simple crew or even scoop neck won’t cut it for me. So I went a little fancier with the knit tees.
  • I never wear white knits except for layering–they are not kind to my stomach bulges–so a white camisole works best for me, since it’ll be mostly covered up. (I’d also buy it in nylon and get a smoothing effect!)
  • I substituted a denim jacket for the denim shirt. I’ve tried wearing denim shirts and they are just not flattering on me. (Collared shirts in general are difficult for me to wear.)

Anyway, this little exercise was a lot of fun for me. I could absolutely wear these 12 pieces throughout the whole year (with accessories) and not get bored.  (Just to be clear, I’d need multiples of most pieces.)

The only thing I might add is a black dress for dressier occasions, and maybe a lighter colored dress for spring and summer. And I’d probably purchase the beige pants in wool or some other formal-ish fabric, for important meetings etc. at work.

I just love this concept. Most people have at least some of these pieces. And if you don’t, they can all be found at affordable prices.

Dressing is easy, and then you can easily add interest and color with accessories. I love it.