Kitchen Refreshed

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I have wanted to do a few updates to our kitchen for the last few months, and I finally got around to one of my project ideas a few weeks ago. Our kitchen is far from modern, with a basic white tile floor, white speckled laminate countertops, very basic wooden cabinets that I believe were constructed by the previous owners and painted white, a big white farmhouse sink, and all white appliances. On the walls we have a combination of laminate backsplash and yellow and white striped wallpaper.

Eventually I will do a full kitchen renovation, but we have decided to hold off on that for a few years, until some other projects are completed. I know I won’t do the granite countertop and stainless steel appliance thing when we do get to the kitchen renovation, but I haven’t decided what we will do instead. In the meantime, I want to do a few updates to keep the space fresh, make it feel like it’s ours, and test out some ideas to determine what we like.

I am currently trying out open storage, after completing a quick half-day project that involved taking the doors off two cabinets, painting the shelves and interior of the cabinets, and reorganizing their contents. This project took a few hours and minimal materials, and I think it makes a big difference in the kitchen. It feels so clean and springy now! I also hung a framed photo of bright yellow lemons above my sink, and removed the ugly wooden accordion door to the left of the stove. The view from the kitchen to dining room is so much more open and bright now.

Here are the before pictures:

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And the after pictures:

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I wasn’t sure about the blue paint at first, but once I filled the shelves with our dishes, I grew to love the warm yellow and cool blue together. Also I am really starting to embrace the white kitchen appliances. They make the room bright and they feel so clean and neat. Especially with the lemon yellow, everything just feels so sunny and zesty now.

This color scheme isn’t for everyone, but it makes me pretty happy. Kyle likes it too and he has even offered some ideas for further improving the organization and storage in our kitchen. My next project will be installing a pegboard for storing pots and pans, which will free up some cabinet space for appliances, and therefore free up some counter space for cooking!

So. . . what do you think? What spring cleaning or renovation projects do you have going on at your house?

A Bright Idea for Ingredient Storage

Since we moved into our new home last month, Kyle and I have been wading through a sea of stuff that needs to be organized. Organizing our kitchen has been a fun challenge, and my ingredients and equipment are constantly moving as I figure out the layout that is best suited to my workflow. I have come up with a few solutions that put the “fun” in functionality and I love how they are working out. I borrowed a trick from the cabinet-challenged kitchen of my very first apartment, and put an IKEA BILLY bookcase in the kitchen for open storage of my cookbooks and pantry overflow.

See that second shelf? I borrowed the idea of storing grains in Ball jars from Emily at Daily Garnish. She has used this organization trick in two tight spaces: the kitchens of her Alexandria, VA home and her Seattle, WA home. It works fabulously in my bright Richmond kitchen!

I used wide mouth quart jars for rice, quinoa, couscous, and lentils. Then I expanded on the idea to store smaller quantities of ingredients with shorter shelf lives, like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, in regular pint size jars. I have my rolled oats in a larger airtight hinged Mason jar in the middle of the mix.

And this is only the beginning. I also have clever solutions for storing my spices and linens, which I will share in a future post. I have a box of miscellaneous kitchen equipment that is still looking for a home, and I know I have a lot more arranging and rearranging ahead of me, so we aren’t out of the woods yet. Do you have any kitchen organization tips to share? I could use a few more bright ideas before all the pieces fall into place!

A Very Veggie Christmas 2010

For the first time that I can remember, Christmas was not a Major Production brought to you by the McDonald household. Dad was recovering from a minor surgery, which gave us the excuse to have a quiet, relaxed Christmas at home this year. We woke up in the morning to fresh brewed coffee and pastries and we tore into our gifts. However, this year we didn’t have to rush through presents and quickly pick up and run to the kitchen to start preparing food. I especially enjoyed being able to watch my family members open their gifts and seeing their reactions to the presents I had carefully chosen for them. They reciprocated with some great thoughtful gifts too!

Here are some highlights…

Gadgetry:

I asked for the Joby Gorillapod and I am so excited to be able to take photos with my point-and-shoot in odd places with my new versatile tripod. With the surprise video camera, my family has requested more videos on facebook and the blog (eek!) and now I have no excuse. What should my next video be?

The Rec Stuff:

I’m super psyched to go hiking and biking in my new wool socks. Kyle got a hiking book and some socks too so I think we’ll be heading out with our packs and our camera and gorillapod soon! I also got a sweet lime green lock for my cute bike, and a Rodney Yee DVD.

Kitchen Toys:

Finally, a mandoline!

A serious triple timer! No more burning the granola!

We took our time getting ready as the snow fell lightly, dusting the ground and making it the first White Christmas in a long time. When the snow cleared up, we took a trip from Bel Air into Hunt Valley to visit with Mom’s side of the family and then came home to make a vegetarian dinner for four.

I can’t remember ever having a Christmas without ham, but with three out of four family members going vegetarian, a very veggie Christmas made sense. Mom was a great sport; she didn’t even sneak a steak onto the grill for herself. I’ll have to make it up to her somehow.

It was great to share the kitchen with Mom on Christmas, without all the stress of having to feed an army of family members. As we all got settled in, I started dicing onions and Mom said, “shall we commence the drinking?”

White Christmas? Oh, no. It was a Red Christmas for me. A Cabernet Christmas to be exact.

It looks like we were cooking dinner vegology-style. Who needs printed recipes when you have a laptop and two square feet of counter space?

A wire cooling rack makes a great laptop stand! One thing that was missing was my santoku. I am seriously spoiled by my cutlery and rarely have to hack into one of these with such a small knife.

I didn’t butcher it too badly though, all things considered.

We made a delicious little menu of spaghetti squash, black bean cakes, and roasted vegetables.

We ended the night with some seasonal cookies: eggnog, cranberry, and pumpkin. Then we had a Christmas night viewing of my favorite holiday movie, Love Actually.

Hope you had a joyous weekend. Stay warm!