Tag Archives: observations

Self-Cleaning Cooking — Put It To Use (or Try)

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

  1. Use up ingredients! This generates less clean up: you don’t have to deal with storing what’s left. (It generates less waste and happily is frugal too.)
  2. Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)! Each tool or utensil generates two clean up tasks — it has to be washed and put away.
  3. Limit cooking areas! Each cooking area generates one clean up task: cleaning the area after it’s used.
  4. Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! Partially prepared foods may be the best way to cook from scratch, with fresh foods, and limit clean up tasks.
  5. Try using commercial prefab ingredients! These can also save many clean up tasks, but you sacrifice knowing exactly what’s in the food and how it was prepared.

So! Given those, what can I do?


  • Use up ingredients!

For us, that means that I will try and do more bulk cooking. I do this with meats already, that is, when I open a package of 1 lb of chicken thighs, these days I always cook all of it. However, I don’t do this with vegetables say. Items which will store well, I do: cooked rice as an example. But what to do with fresh veggies to handle/store them as little as possible is the challenge here, and I don’t have an answer.

  • Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)!

I think with measuring tools, I already do this. I’ll measure dry ingredients before wet. I’ll use the smallest spoon measure and use a graduated cup measure for items.

Cooking tools? Hm, not so much.

Pans: if items need to be dry roasted (like dry roasted cumin, in a soup recipe I use a lot) and then another ingredient needs to be sauted, wiping the pan out with a paper towel (or not, depending on the ingredient) between makes sense. Using the pan you roasted meat in to make gravy might make sense, but it would usually generate another dish to hold the food taken from the roasting pan.

I have two sets of divided pans: small, almost triangular pans made to fit inside a bigger one and be cooked that way. I wonder if using those more often could help? It might not lessen the quantity of items to be cleaned, but it certainly would lessen the square inches of surfaces needing to be cleaned. There’s only two of us and often I’m only using the bottom inch of a pan . Hmm…..

Cooking utensils: I automatically just reach for tool x or y or z as I’m cooking. I think I need to become more aware of what I’m doing and see if I can just not use the wooden spatula I’ve used for years to saute items, and then need a spoon instead. Why couldn’t I saute foods with the spoon? No reason; I’m just used to doing things a certain way. As I said, this one will require some work on my part!

  • Limit cooking areas! 

This is the same as cooking cools/utensils: I automatically use this cutting board, that knife, the peeler, etc. I will have to *think* before I cook to find ways to lessen cooking areas. (The horror!)

  • Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! 

As I said, I often make a quart jar of sauted onions.

At the end of the summer last year, I made up something which also worked: I made up bags of tomatoes, onion, green pepper, all chopped and ready to go, for marinara for me (no red tomatoes) or my husband (with red tomatoes). I also made up bags of salsa verde for me (no red tomatoes again) or regular salsa for my husband.

I’ve discussed this earlier, I think to limit the number of recipes: I’ll make a red tomato stewed tomato recipe and a nonred tomato stewed tomato recipe. I’ll probably also make salsa verde. Tomatillos, which I love and can eat, are readily available at the farm late summer. A jar of salsa verde is about $3 (or more)! I love Mexican food and use a lot of salsa.

stack of dirty pots & pans

  • Try using commercial prefab ingredients!

Of course, I have done this and do. But I have limited storage and money. In the summer I toss a huge amount of the farm food unnecessarily. Especially since I’m losing my big freezer this summer, finding new ways to use the farm food, rather than buying more prefab food is my mandate.

 

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Philosophy of Clean

It seems to me that there are “truisms” about cleaning. Some of these I’ve discussed:

  1. Clutter is usually made of “stuff.”
  2. “Stuff” is frequently made up of pieces you can pick up with your hand.
  3. Hard surfaces are easier to clean than soft ones.
  4. The only way to get an area clean and keep it that way is to keep cleaning.

My new one is related to #4. That people who manage to get and keep areas clean don’t see cluttered or untidy as acceptable.

For someone in their 60s who’s trying to learn to live differently, that last piece is not easy. Even when I clean regularly, I just don’t have that muscle. I’m so used to mess and clutter that I often just don’t see it.

This creates an all-too familiar situation for me: that I clean/cull an area and within a week or so, it’s a mess again.

I noticed this because of yard work. I’ve been working on raking out the beds, specifically, the bulb bed. For weeks I’ve had piles of leaves in the yard. I’ve been pulling them up and taking them to the dump, when I can get to the dump, at a rate of about 8 bags a trip. The piles aren’t there forever, and I finally have one more trip and that’s it to finish picking up those leaves. (It will be 4 trips when I finish.)

I’ve restricted myself. I’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning out the leaves in the other areas, and piling the leaves into neat piles. If I keep it up, it will still be another month or so before I manage to clean up most of the yard. This is an acre and I’ve never done this before; we’ve lived here 20+ years. Lots of dried leaves!

My neighbor’s yard always looks neat. Both of them work on it, instead of one person. And, whatever yard work they do is entirely cleaned up, before they quit. It occurred to me that there are some reasons for this: they have more storage than I do (a garage and a basement) also, they ALWAYS clean up and put away whatever accumulated mess and tools before they quit.

Also, in this neighborhood, we almost all have wood piles. There’s a neighbor who has a wood-fired, exterior furnace, with large wood sheds, as you might imagine. His wood piles, even when it’s a grapple load, are rarely messy. The wood is almost always cut to size and stacked in the sheds. The neighbors with a garage and basement have a small pile of wood for power outages, it’s tidy. Us? We have the end of two cords in a pile in front of the porch — which just looks messy.

The difference is that the large pile and the mess is something we live with, and the others won’t, for whatever reason.

I’ve been pecking away at that pile, a log or two here or there. I’m very aware of my weakened elbow and the potential for permanent injury if I’m not careful. Otherwise, I would have tackled it long since . . . .

But my observations are what got me to item #5.

5.  Keeping an area clean requires the attitude that a hodge podge isn’t visually acceptable.

J

No Shortcuts

Apparently I’m not the only one who reacted badly to all the clutter of “shabby chic” or the bald sterility of “minimalist” styles. I found an article yesterday talking about “warm minimalism” which isn’t what I want, but it is a lot closer than either shabby chic, industrial, or minimalism.

I’d decided that whatever I called my decorating style really didn’t matter, although it has been a pain not being able to find things which suit me in a group, instead of piecemeal.

I want  a frugal hygge-cwtch combination. Hygge is a better known term, it’s Danish and means “acknowledging a moment.” Cwtch is a Welsh word. The first meaning I found was “feeling safe, loved, & totally comfortable.” So contemplative, safe & comfortable.

Rather than a decorating style, it’s an emotional state I’m after? This is me, so that figures. Why didn’t I just fall in love with Modern, like my Dad and Husband? Or Shabby Chic, or “Country” or ?

There’s a sign in our living room,”There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Of course, this fits. Here’s yet another attempt to define my style:

Simple lines, industrial/retail, warm & uncluttered —  a hygge-cwtch space.

If I was going to make an image for this? It would be sitting wrapped up warm on a porch, holding a cup of tea or cocoa, and looking out at a lake or other body of water with early morning mist rising from the water.

I grew up a block from the Pacific Ocean: water within seeing distance is just part of what makes “home” for me. Unfortunately, this house has no water within sight, except vernal ponds in the spring.

We have talked, at various times, about buying a lakeside cabin as a retirement home. Maybe.

fineartamerican.com via images.google.com

(Image is NOT mine, fineartamerica.com via images.google.com )

 

It’s Monday!

Beginning of a brand-new work week.

I’ve read a story, deleted unneeded emails, figured out a seed order and cleaned the bathroom counter and part of the kitchen counter.

Have a friend coming for breakfast in a couple of hours and want to do a bit more before that. I cancelled, as I’ve been sniffling and sneezed a few times since I got up too, sigh. I do NOT need to get or be sick!

Got the wood stove started making coals at the moment, still just small stuff, I’ll add the bigger stuff in a bit. Building fires is a lot like culling this house. You have to be content with the small, slow steps in order to get where you want to go. Learning to just walk away from a cold started wood stove fire was difficult for me. In my childhood home, the way you started a fire in the fireplace was to put in wood, turn on the gas, add a lit match and a little while later turn off the gas. Absolutely foolproof  and easy. Doesn’t teach you to watch the fire for where it is; doesn’t teach you to build coals starting with really small stuff and lots of paper, first. Didn’t teach or show any of that. I was spoiled, yes, and ignorant too. I learned better.

But cleaning the house or any other really big change for me is very like my experiences with building fires. I expect to see a problem, turn on the change, say “Go!” and I’m on my way. Um — no. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. It requires learning what the small steps are, nurturing those small steps, walking away and letting them seep in/work, (because if you mess with it too much frequently you undo the fire/change). Then slowly doing the next steps, one after another.

I’m in the waiting mode for the stove. The flue temp is 127 right now. It needs to be around 150 before I add anything of size.

I won’t keep flogging the build a fire/make a change analogy, but I’m sure you see what I was after. I have no patience, unless I have had it shoved down my throat again and again, that the only way that works is to go slowly. I want things to happen

Now!

or with little effort; it works far better if I use patience and let it build on its own.

The stove is at 129 now. I’m going to go get the broom and sweep the stairs. The routine I’ve gotten for sweeping the house starts with the stairs, to the entry, to the living room, the hearth and then the hallway. The kitchen is done separately. The sweeping routine is one of the small steps towards cleaning and clearing this place. Frustratingly small sometimes, but of a piece.


Got through my appt. and other needed stuff, finally got home around 5:15. I feel like crap; I’m going to bed!

New Monday List!

Okay, this is a restart of my 6-5 list idea. This is the six things on Mon and 5 each Tues – Fri, and catch up on the weekends notion.

Also I will redo the larger, long-term “to do” list sometime this week.

This will make THREE chore lists! The backlogged 6-5 lists, the current 6-5 lists, and the long-term list. Either I’ll just get overwhelmed and quit, again, or I’ll get it done.

What’s really likely is that I’ll get some of it done, for a while, then get overwhelmed and quit. That’s my pattern problem. Somehow, being organized about getting things done eventually leans on the PTSD and I panic and stop. Since many folk seem to get overwhelmed  I guess I don’t feel so bad about not being able to stick to it.

This blog has been a many-year long set of experiments to get me to be able to set a goal then get to it, ‘eh? A tidy house doesn’t seem to make most people panic like it does me, it makes them feel good. It makes me feel good too, but if I do it too consistently? I panic.

The problem has always been the panic. It took me until I was in my mid-50s to be well enough otherwise (not hurting/running scared) to be able to see that what happens to me in a tidy house is panic, and that because of that, it is instantly overwhelming. Telling me “ignore it,” [I can’t tell you how many people have said that to me!] is really useless. Telling myself that is equally useless.

The only real answer has been to find ways to turn tidying into habit, so that I don’t think about it, I just do it. Fine. Except that the process of doing that causes me to panic too — and the rat wheel goes around — again.

So. Here I am, again. With another shot at it, again.

Monday’s 6:

  1. File something. 5:11 p.m.
  2. Clean the front of the kitchen cabinet that hasn’t been cleaned the longest (I put stickies in the drawers/cabinets that tell me when I cleaned them last.) 6:30 p.m.
  3. Clean the cat food bin. 10:28 p.m.
  4. Straighten an underwear drawer. 10:20 p.m.
  5. (fill in). Bathroom floor & counter clean up. 1:40 p.m.
  6. Get the planner started.

My Rose by Any Other Name is a Cacti

Came up with a name for my personal style, not that it will help me find things!

I guess it’s not supposed to? Newer decorating books talk about people’s decorating styles as “raspberry coolatta meets Bullwinkle,” well, no not that, but you get the idea!

If the name doesn’t actually have to be *useful* in telling others what you’re looking for? Well, mine could be:

Funky industrial/retail meets modern, or functional & simple lines are best!

( If you put that into google? You get a bunch of pinterest hits for industrial decorating, which is nice, but . . . .)

An example could be our hearth: the wood box is an old crate we bought at auction: on one side it has a label which reads “American Consulate.” On another it says “Mrs. (somebody) and “silverware.” Who the woman was, what kind of silverware, which consulate? There’s history and an untold story in that crate.

We use it for firewood, 2 wine crates for kindling, an old leaky pressure cooker holds fire starters, and a counter display for carborundum blades holds matches. Oh — and two steel US Quartermaster’s bins hold paper.

The club chairs were bought used at an antique store, the table between is a small library catalog, with a step stool behind it with a plastic cube on that we got as a wedding present, lo those many years ago. The end tables are picnic baskets, also from an antique store.

That’s my style — whatever it is!

Maybe?

repurposed/interesting/useful/retail/military/frugal/industrial — or functional & simple lines are best

Almost none of the stuff in the room was new when we got it. Exceptions: the plastic cube, the ash bucket, the hearth materials and the stove.

So, another revision:

repurposed/interesting/useful/retail/military/industrial/frugal —

or used & functional: simple lines are best

The last bit is the reality, really, I don’t go looking for the industrial or military or retail things. When I find one? It’s a plus, but not a requirement. That makes it:

Used & functional: simple lines are best

Put that into google? You get info about linear regression. NOT helpful!

Sigh.

(You can find the first description of this problem here.)

Dilemma

Thought I’d found the perfect rug/runner for the staircase for $100, free shipping. Realized the reason I loved it was that it resembled the end of a bolt I had in my office. Dug that out. It’s as wide as the stairs (5′) and 6.4 yards long. More than enough there to carpet the stairs, wall to wall, and I only want a runner. Also, it’s a slubby upholstery fabric with a light backing (like a plastic rug backing, but not as thick) — I have no idea how well it would wear, as a rug.

I could fold the sides into the middle and make a runner rug with a double thickness with the fabric I already have.

I just don’t know what to do. I’m in a style conundrum.

Do you like just one style of stuff in your home? Aren’t you lucky! My dad was a designer/engineer. I was raised to see/appreciate good design in everything, forks to forklifts. He liked modern, I don’t as much. I married an artist, also heavily into design, modern art, and how things look. Also, I was teased, a lot, as a kid, because I had no dress sense, so I decided that I didn’t know what was good or bad.

The result is at 60+ I’m trying for the first time in my life to really decorate a house and I don’t know if I want country, artsy, sleek, minimalist, modern, vintage, or industrial. So far? The modern couch (with a blue/black plaid throw from Pendleton on it) sits in the living room with a painted country jam cabinet I hauled out of a basement, rehabbed box bookcases bought for shows, and a modern coffee table, selected because it was in the attic and fit the very tight space.

There’s a large oak flat file coupled with an antique French baker’s table on the opposite wall. Most of the art on the wall is DH’s photos and there’s a mix of decorative stuff on top: the jam cabinet holds a cat sculpture, some silk flowers, a bird cage, a blue bird and a camera at the moment. the bookcase holds a “books” sign, some silk flowers and two large jars.

The couch is worn, but starkly modern. the throw is 1960s style plaid (not neon), the club chairs are about 1970s “modern” unadorned black fake leather.

The coffee table (also modern) holds a bellows from a very old wood enlarger. The lights are rehabbed theater cans, and there’s a wood casting mould on the wall too.

When the room is tidy, I quite like it. The main problem is the stuff, the things cluttering up the space ruin it, but I like it. I have ideas about new throws and one or more ottomans for the club chairs, but haven’t settled on anything yet.

My problem is that I don’t know why I like it enough to find more! I like the pieces. I love black painted steel stuff, so the mould, lights and the bellows on the table fit that, as does the wood stove and the screen for it. I like large plaids and thick/thin plaids, that takes care of the throw on the couch. But that’s it.

We had a modern house in Florida. We bought the couch for it. The club chairs were small, comfy chairs that are so simple they’ll go with almost anything, and they were cheap in an antique store. The flat file is a tool. The antique baker’s table was bought on sale and has become essentially a work platform. The jam cabinet was rescued from a friend’s basement of a house she was going to sell, they’d stored paint in it (and the mice lived in it) for years. It took a lot of work to destink it and clean it — and I love it.

All of it has simple lines. No ornate carvings, no sweeping curves or arches. The couch is the most sculptural piece of furniture in the room. I’d buy a cozier couch except we already own this one and I actually like the looks of it a lot, but it is NOT cozy. And cozy, warm and comfortable are the only things I know I want, except for simple lines.

I know people talk about styles so that they can talk about groups of things instead of one thing or the other, it’s a way of grouping. I get it. But I don’t know HOW to use what I know to go look for throws for the club chairs on ebay, for example.

“Blue plaid” doesn’t work, nor does “1960s plaid” (found one I loved listed this way, but not two). Neither does looking for more copies of the throw I have at the manufacturer’s site, it seems they no longer make it. So I tried other variations and found the same things I’d already seen.

I’m frustrated. I know what I like when I see it, but have no shorthand way to group those things together which anyone else will recognize. “Simple lines” is wonderful, but it brings too many results. “Blue thick plaids” does the same sort of thing. I can’t find rugs, throws, house designs, curtains, etc. which suit me. I look in home decorating sites or magazines and I find most pictures are either too stark or not to my taste at all. I put stickies in decorating books/magazines of the things I like, usually it’s a small percentage of what’s there.

Because I appreciate good design (as promoted by my Dad) I see and appreciate a great many things, which further muddies the waters quite a bit. I can (and do) look at a lot of things and think, “That’s nice design.” but that doesn’t mean I want to live with it. That last piece is vital, and it’s really very easy for me to forget. There are a great many things here I purchased because I thought they were well designed! (But not because I wanted to live with them.)

It’s supposed to be my taste, right? It should be easy. I suppose this is the result of decades of being told what I should appreciate (Dad), that my taste wasn’t any good (Abuser), and the resulting belief that I had no right to impose my taste on anyone.

I’m so confused!

(You can find further discussion about this here.)