Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Farmhouse Buffet

We spent the day up at my parents' farm & while we were here I thought my mom's buffet would be a fun "re-arranging" project.  So after an afternoon of playing around with her decor, here it is!

I'm in love with her Ironstone collection, so that took center stage.

 I found this pretty dried lavender & loved how it looked with the color of the eucalyptus wreath. [& the milk can was a nice contrast to all of the ivory Ironstone.]

& this chicken wire basket to collect the glass milk bottles in the kitchen.


 My mom loves birds, so you'll find her little feathered friends hidden throughout the house.  I found this guy in her eucalyptus wreath.

My Grandma Pauline made this gorgeous wreath!  [Every wreath she makes is incredible.]  It's one of my favorite things in the house.

I'll be back soon :) Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Great Grandma Healy's Ice Box Cookies

I was browsing through some old cookbooks in my mom's kitchen today when she pulled out one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes; my Great Grandma Healy's Ice Box Cookies.  This recipe is so old & the paper is so brittle, my mom keeps it separate from the rest, protected in a plastic sleeve.  

 The recipe was salvaged from what is left of my great grandma's old cookbook.  

My mom has made these cookies as far back as I can remember.  They seemed to be more of a Christmas tradition for us, but I don't think one off-season batch will hurt anyone..

So here it is:

2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup soft butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten

Sift flour with salt & baking soda.  In another bowl, cream butter until smooth, add sugars gradually, creaming thoroughly.  Stir in vanilla, then eggs one at a time, and beat until well blended. 

Slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture. 

Chill dough until stiff, then divide in half & place on two sheets of waxed paper.  Quickly shape into two uniform rolls about 2 inches in diameter, then roll up the paper.

Store on flat surface in the refrigerator until very firm (4-6 hours).  If rolls flatten out in the first hour, remold into round rolls. 

When firm, slice with a sharp knife into 1/4-inch thick cookies.  Keep thickness uniform for perfect baking.  Place an inch apart on baking sheet. 

Bake at 400 degrees [about 8 minutes] -makes 40 cookies

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kitchen Storage: Cupcake Liners

I just retired my new [but rusting] colander & gave it a fresh purpose: pretty cupcake liner storage...

...but, the main reason for this post?  How about these adorable [vintage linen/country-esque] cupcake liners I found at Micheal's in their bargain section [near the checkout]?!  Pictured above are three of the packages I bought for $1.50 each!  These are just too dang cute, I had to share.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. brown sugar [packed]
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
2 c. flour
3 c. oats [I've used regular & quick cooking, both work just fine!]
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix sugars, eggs, butter & vanilla, until thoroughly blended.
In a seperate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. 
Then mix it all together.

I used a large cookie scoop & dropped dough balls [about the size of a golf ball] on the parchment paper lined cookie sheets [2 inches apart].  Using a fork, I flattened the balls. [shown below]

I bake these cookies for 7 minutes.  When I take them out of the oven, they look undercooked! [pictured below] However, once they cool completely, they turn out perfect!  They are so soft & chewy! 

I let them cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet, then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.  They'll harden as they cool.  

Pour yourself a glass of milk & enjoy them while they last!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cleaning & Organizing [Kitchen Storage]

On this fine day, [Day 2 of my overwhelming organizing project], I focused on the kitchen drawers & cabinets.  I started off by purging the kitchen of EVERYTHING I can live without... if I haven't used it in the last year, it's gone.  For example: A pineapple cutter & corer.  I've cut dozens of pineapples...without it.

Next, I wiped down all of my [newly lined] drawers & shelves.  I also put my new silverware tray to work [as shown above.]  After lining the drawers, I didn't like that I couldn't see the pretty contact paper through the plastic storage tray I was using.  I switched to wire & I love it.  No regrets there.

If it worked before, why mess with a good thing?  After a nice wipe down, the cabinets still look freshly organized, though I didn't make any changes with my dishes.  I started grouping items by use.  I kept the things I need to grab in a hurry in convenient locations, based on where I'd be using them.  [For example, dishes: directly above the dishwasher, for easy unloading.] 
I keep hot pads, wooden spoons, spatulas, olive oil, etc. - within reach of the range.  Although in my kitchen, everything is within reach.

 I freed up two entire drawers by moving my kitchen towels to this pretty wire basket & my cookie cutters to this pretty cookie jar.  Also, I stored all of my measuring cups & spoons and other various baking utensils in cute glass canisters.  All of this found a new home on my baker's rack!

& here's that handy baker's rack.

After lots of thought on "what are my biggest issues in the kitchen??" ...I have to say SPICES have been very inconvenient to find.  I kept them near the stove for convenience, but since the spice cabinet provided near the range is so narrow, I had to pull all of the spices out to find one.  I decided to lay the spices in a drawer, label up.  This is much more efficient.  & Other than the spice issue, I can't complain much, my little kitchen has been pretty good to me! 
 I have also condensed all of my kitchen goods down to the basics & necessities.  I went from 3 "cooking utensil" drawers down to one, 1 "baking utensil" drawer to 0 [it's all aesthetically camouflaged on the baker's rack now], etc.  As I sorted, I asked myself a few questions; "Does it serve a purpose I cannot live without? Can I do the same job with a different smaller object, perhaps a knife?  Does it take more time to clean than to use?  & If I have no use for it, is it pretty enough to take up precious cabinet/countertop/drawer space & store for another year?" 

I stored all of our food in two large [double door] cabinets.  I bought a little bin to store on-the-go snacks for the kids, so we just combine them all into the bin, discard the boxes & save on space.  Other than canned goods, everything else was grouped & stored according to where I find it in the grocery store.  This coordinates with how I write my grocery lists. 

After several kitchen re-organization projects in the past, I think I found a system that works.  It's all about trial & error & taking notes on what works, what doesn't, & what could work better.  Does the process ever really end?


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cleaning & Organizing [Coffee Station]

This may seem pointless & so simple, but it made my mornings shine a little brighter.  I used to have my coffee beans in one place, filters in another, measuring spoons in another... all spread around the kitchen, & now it's all in one place, ready to brew! 

 3 Canisters.

 The large canister for the filter papers.

 Medium canister for the coffee.

& the small canister for tea.

Cups, cocoa kit, & coffee grinder are neatly stored in the cabinet directly above.

Why didn't I do this a long time ago?

*I'll get back to you on that cocoa kit!

Cleaning & Organizing [The Kitchen Sink]

This year I'd really like to spend more time with the kids & less time on housework.  I'm not big on "New Years resolutions," but since the holidays are over, it seems like a good time to clean up & organize!  I figure if I can "simplify" my system, my daily cleaning will become a breeze.  So for the next few days, I'll be chipping away at my goal, one project at a time.

Day One: The Kitchen Sink & A Coffee Station [next post]

All of my cleaning adventures start in the kitchen.  My cleaning motto: the worst comes first.  Because of the "high traffic" in this room, I try to keep up with it throughout the day so it doesn't get the best of me at the end of the day.  & To me, the sink area is the foundation of a kitchen;  & I see it as a reflection of the cleanliness of the rest of my house... so if i have water spots on my faucet & dishes in the sink, I can't relax.  Sick, I know.
Hear those angels singin'?
The secret to sparkling windows, mirrors, & plumbing fixtures: Water & Norwex Window Cloths.  I will never polish a shiny surface with anything else again, ever.  Literally STREAK-FREE.  Next to Mr. Clean Magic Erasers & Barkeeper's Friend, this is one of the best "cleaning discoveries" I've stumbled upon.  *I'm not benefiting in any way by mentioning these.  I just have to share how amazing they are... they completely changed the way I clean.

 & as I have mentioned before, I keep my sink looking new & polished with Bar Keeper's Friend.

 I love this handsoap/lotion set from Anthropologie.  It was a bridal shower gift [a couple of years ago] & it's so pretty, I've been using it & refilling it since.  [I'd have dry, cracked hands all winter if I didn't have this wonder-team sitting next to my sink, reminding me to moisturize.]

 & everything deserves a pretty home... including the sponge.  I use a small antique serving dish.  When I replace my sponge [at least weekly], I just run the dish through the dishwasher!  Simple, pretty, & sanitary.
 One of the more time-consuming projects I've been working on: lining every drawer & cabinet in the house.  The results are magical.

I keep my daily cleaning supplies simple & under the sink.  In one bucket, I store vinegar, vinegar/water mixture in a spray bottle [I use this for dusting wood surfaces, wiping my kitchen countertop & table, wood floors, & go-to spray, not the best smell, but natural, cheap, & effective -not for use on natural stone or porcelain!! It can eat away at the finish!],  Bar Keeper's Friend [for the kitchen sink & bath tub], & when I get tired of the scent of vinegar, & want to turn my cleaning days into "spa" days, I just pour a little of this all-purpose cleaner [my favorite scent - Lemon Verbena] in a bucket of warm water, grab my microfiber cloth, and indulge in some aromatherapy. 

In another bucket under the sink,  I store my dishwasher detergent, rinse aid, a small bottle of bleach, dish soap, extra sponges, & a scrub brush [only used on] my cast iron cookware.
& in a third bucket, I store my color-coded microfiber cleaning clothes, along with my Norwex cloths.

Because of the lack of storage space in the kitchen, I store my "specialty" & bulk cleaning products in our laundry room in the basement.
Also, I keep the bathroom-specific cleaning products under the sink in the bathroom.

On to the next thing: the coffee station.