Thursday, April 12, 2012

Home Tour: Welcome to Ground Zero

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." - Harry S Truman

When you come to visit me, please come right in through my green front door - don't you dare ring the bell or knock; just step right in. Walk through the yellow entry hall and into the doorway that leads to the family room. Glance to the right and this is what you will see:

Welcome to Ground Zero. 

Yep. Here is where you will most likely find me. Because here is where it all goes down.

In the kitchen.

The kitchen is the heart of most any home and mine is no exception. So let me show you around.

First, step across the room and look back in the direction you came from.

See that open doorway with the white door ? That's the doorway to the entry hall, where you just came in.
As you will immediately notice, I am the proud owner of an eighties kitchen and I've got the oak cabinets to prove it. But honestly, I really like my cabinets. They are warm and natural and easy to keep clean.

Years ago, I started taking the doors off my upper cabinets. For a long time, I used these shelves as a bookcase; more recently, I have found that it's a really effective way to hop on the currently trendy open-shelving train without doing any work or spending a penny. While my doors are stashed safely in a closet, awaiting the day when they are once again cool, I enjoy having my favorite treasures in plain sight. I'll tell you a few stories about them.

My third daughter gave me all four of these pieces. The blue and white porcelain cups came from San Francisco's Chinatown; the lovely plates were thrifted Christmas gifts. She bought them in Bremerton, just for me.
You can use any of these small plates and bowls on this lower shelf  to help yourself to the snacks stored in the jars on the counter below. The pewter bowls and plates were wedding gifts; the inexpensive Pyrex bowls are a long-standing family tradition. The bowl on the display stand is a hand-painted Italian piece from the thrift store and I love it because it makes me want to go to Italy and eat fresh mozzarella cheese.
See these blue and green Tag bowls? I love them. Help yourself to the one you like best. On the left are the holdouts from my old set of Dansk Bistro china. Still love it.
I know...I already showed you this bowl. But I really love it, so please let me show you again.
Years ago, my youngest gave me this garland of origami cranes for a birthday gift. I'm very fond of it.
Here are the glass snack jars; feel free to take a serving...or just grab the whole jar and dig in.

Found this little scooping cup at the thrift store; it's originally from Pier One and I love it.

Smack dab in the middle of the kitchen is a little Värde cart from IKEA. You'll find lots of useful things here - dishtowels for drying your hands, potholders, and my favorite cast iron skillets. Look carefully in the baskets; besides potatoes and onions, you might find a sleeping cat. When they were tiny kittens, all three could fit together in one. 

I'm forever rearranging what goes here and there on the various rods and hanging devices. I sometimes confuse myself, but the little cart always looks good.
I'm a fan of stripes. Have you noticed?
Years ago, I bought two old hand-carved wooden bowl at an antique market in the Midwest. This larger one is my favorite fruit bowl, and in the summer months, I often put out the smaller bowl too, to handle the delicious overflow. Help yourself to whatever looks good.
Ready to move on? Okay, standing near the origami birds, here's the view of a little nook of cupboards and the pantry door:

This is where coffee and toast happen. Care for a latte?
This is the cupboard above the coffee and toast zone, opened for your inspection.  Here you will find my most-often-used big bowls, a fun collection of interesting mugs (each one tells a story), and some of our old standbys - microwave popcorn, tortilla chips, bread and peanut butter. We are currently out of tuna.
Here's the inside of the pantry; ready for a mini-tour?
The green boxes on top shelf hold secret stashes of items that are off limits. Sometimes the system works, sometimes it doesn't. The second shelf holds bulk items - brown and white rice on the left, flours and sugars on the right. The basket in the middle holds special baking items, like condensed milk, unsweetened chocolate and slivered almonds.
The third shelf is the home of my low tech but highly efficient spice organizing system. I took three lengths of 2 x 4 lumber, cut to the width of the shelf, and stacked them like little stair steps against the back wall of the pantry. Yes, I do keep my spices organized alphabetically, with the labels facing forward, of course, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The fourth shelf holds three big baskets that organize my general stock of ingredients - Mexican-related stuff on the right, Italian sauces and pastas on the right, and basics like ketchup, mayo and pickles in the middle. Oh right, front and center is a row of pet treats. 
The lower you go in my pantry, the more free form it becomes. The big orange baskets hide a variety of weird things, like paper plates and extra aluminum foil. Please note my Chicago Cubs styrofoam cups; I bought them many years ago, and pledged to keep them until the Cubs win a World Series, at which time I will serve champagne in them. My daughters have already made arrangements with each other about how they will take on this challenge, based on the assumption that I will die before my plan is fulfilled. Go Cubs! 
Aprons hanging from Command hooks inside the pantry door.
Ranger heard the pantry door open and came in to see if anyone was handing out treats. I succumbed to his charms, so here you see him finishing off his treat. In the meantime, here's another perspective shot of a different corner.

Check out that fridge. 

That little almond beauty is the last survivor of the original appliances in the house. It is an ugly relic of a bygone era but bless its reliable little heart, it still works like a charm.

But wait, let's get closer and take a look at that freezer door.

"Crunch, crunch, chunch."
Moammar Gadhafi's obituary from The Economist, various Target coupons, a flier from the Seattle Art Museum about the Gauguin exhibit, the symbol of the Deathly Hallows (!!!), three different charts, a travel itinerary and camping reservations for this summer.
Wait. This is not the way refrigerators are supposed to look in bloggy house tours. But I think messy refrigerators are fun because they reveal so much about the people who stick stuff on them. So I want you to see mine in its natural state. Feel free to look and read and move things around. It's an ever-evolving collection of stuff.

But honestly, we don't always leave it looking like this. Every couple of months, the clutter will start to drive one of us crazy. Then we take it all down, sort through the rubble, reattach whatever needs to be saved on the side of the fridge, where it is accessible but much less cluttery, and the cycle begins again. 

Ahhhh. So fresh and so clean, clean.
And here's how the side looks. I can't get rid of Moammar, Gauguin or the Deathly Hallows, and those magnets look cute all by themselves. We are not going to be able to make my niece's Ohio wedding this summer, so her 'Save the Date' magnet stays as a consolation.

There. Same shot, clean fridge. My eyes are so happy.

Oh, here is one of my favorite bits of my kitchen. You know how we all have a bunch of plastic storage containers with lids cluttering up some corner of our kitchens? And no matter how cleverly we try to store them, they always find a way to flop and fall all over the place, creating an explosion of mismatched tops and bottoms every time we touch them?

Yeah, I finally found a solution to that drama. I keep a low, flat basket on top of my fridge. A person of average height sees only the basket; with my camera up over my head, I can give you a sneak peek of what's inside. 

Yup, there it is. My random collection of plastic containers, all laid out in neat stacks. It's so easy to see what my options are, and to choose the matching lid. Sometimes I just pull the basket partway down, like this, and grab what I need. Other times, I pull the whole thing down to the counter so I can dig through to my heart's content. Most of my dishwasher unloaders enjoy the zen of keeping the stacks sorted and tops organized; for my family, this has been a foolproof system and I love it.

That door to the left of the fridge leads to the dining room and you can see my dishwasher is nearby; accordingly, I keep most of my tableware in this corner of the room.

Glass pitchers, assortment of glasses mostly from IKEA but including a Nutella jar from Europe and a little plastic ABC cup, my beloved Fiesta ware (one in every color they sell) and for balance, white basics from Target. One of the huge benefits of open shelves is that when you want a drink of water, you will never have to ask me where I keep my glasses.
I do most of my actual cooking on the left side of the sink, and keep my tools over here on the right. 
Most of my knives are Chicago Cutlery, my tried and true cutting boards are from IKEA and Target, and my mixer is cobalt blue. I'm always down for making cookies.

I used to be a stickler for keeping all my utensils put away in drawers, but I've gotten wild with time.
All in all, I keep my kitchen fairly neat and orderly. But honestly, a lot goes on in this room and it does not always look as neat as you are seeing it today.

Take, for example, this view of the sink. I would say that in reality, this level of cleanliness is achieved approximately 2.53% of the time. 
If anyone leaves a dish in that sink, I may threaten to behead them.  Just kidding. Sort of. Maybe.

After taking that picture of perfection, I added back a few real-life details and took another shot.

I keep notes to myself and all of my appointments on Post-It notes in the window.  Absolutely the only system that truly works for me. These basil plants have spent the winter in this sunny window, and my bin for collecting food scraps is lurking there in the shadows on the left. 
 Perfect is pretty, but I don't want to live in a magazine. Honestly, don't we all feel a bit more comfortable in a space that is full of life, and that is especially true for kitchens. I love the open flow between my kitchen work area and the spaces nearby. I'm sure that, like all of my guests, you will spend some time standing around in here, leaning up against the cabinets and chatting with me.

You are also welcome to pull up a counter stool here and sit and talk with me as I cook. I'll make you some tea and if you're willing, I may give you a knife and put you to work chopping. 

Just to give you fair warning, if you sit at that counter, you'll be right near the back door and I guarantee a non-stop parade of pets who would like you to open and close that door about a billion times, allowing them to go in and out to their hearts' content.

 I've left one area of the kitchen still lurking in the shadows. See those shelves and the counter area underneath them? I'm experimenting with some new arrangements in that area, so I am going to save it to show you another time. So I guess you'll just have to come back and hang out in my kitchen again soon.

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Want to see the rest of my house? Check these out:


  1. Oh the memories...feels like home. Missing you.

    1. I can't even handle how many years have passed since the good old days. Come back soon!


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