Can you believe that it's only 10 days until Christmas? How's everyone doing with their holiday plans? Are you all done, or do you have more to do?
I thought I had gotten the jump on my photo Christmas cards this year and had placed my order. My order didn't come and didn't come. Then, I realized that I had left something I thought was optional out of my order that was not optional, and my cards were waiting in the queue. They'll be here soon, but I had hoped to have them taken care of by now. Oh well, sometimes you have to be happy with plan B. It's the family time that counts.
Last night, my mother in law taught me how to do a little crochet project that we might do after the holidays. For any of you who crochet or who are interested in learning how, this is a project that's just a little bit challenging, but quick to do. I'll post more later to see who's interested.
I'm reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I've been fascinated by the details of their lives, particularly the details about the home. Here's an interesting quote about Almanzo Wilder's mother: "'Eight o'clock. I must fly!' Mother always flew. Her feet went pattering, her hands moved so fast you could hardly watch them. She never sat down in the daytime, except at her spinning-wheel or loom, and then her hands flew, her feet tapped, the spinning-wheel was a blur or the loom was clattering, thum! thud! clickety-clack!"
Whew! I can't keep up with Mother Wilder's pace, but I've noticed that excellent home keepers do work quickly, eagerly, and efficiently. Plus, they are ever-attentive to the details in their homes. This does remind me of my mother-in-law, who never sits down without a bit of hand-quilting, knitting, needlework, or crocheting in her hands. After her children went to college, she finished her nursing degree and became a home health nurse for many years. A reporter followed her around for a day, and he wrote an article about her called, "A Gentle Wind". That's a good description of her. He only saw her at work. He didn't know what a tiny little dynamo she is in her home.
When I was younger and was around my late mother and other women who kept wonderful homes, I didn't realize all of the behind-the-scenes prayer, planning, and work that kept those lovely families and homes going. The older I get, the more I appreciate that when I am around women who love their families deeply and who run their households well. I'm a reader and writer by nature and have some health challenges, as well. Therefore, I need more time for contemplation and rest than some do. I'm sure some of you can relate to that. But, even so, I'm seeing just how precious the quality of diligent watchfulness over a home really is.
Kitchen Management: There are etiquette books written for children. You can probably find one through your local library system. Reading one will be a nice refresher for you and a good introduction to manners for your children.
Even if you live a very casual lifestyle, it's good to at least acquaint your children with more formal table manners. You want your children to be comfortable dining in anywhere -- from the White House to the most humble dwelling.
Kitchen Management: "When its time to physically organize any area, the first principle to use is discard and sort. In the kitchen, this rule is paramount." Deniece Schofield.
1) Have I used this neat kitchen gadget in a year? If not, do I really need it?
2) Do I have unnecessary duplicates? (Just today when cleaning out a kitchen drawer, I found that I had two hand can openers. I'm sure one of my children left it there after returning home from temporary quarters at college.) If you do have duplicates, toss one or give it to someone who really needs it.
3) When was the last time you used all of your cookbooks? If you're like me, you have some to which you are sentimentally attached, but which you don't really use. Nowadays, we can find so much cooking information online, anyway. Give away excess cookbooks!
4) You should be able to reach things you use at least once a week with one motion. In other words, if you use a certain pan at least once a week, you should be able to lift it right out of its spot without having to move something to get to it. If you use it less than once a week, you can place it in a spot where you might have to move something to get to it.
5) How many pots, pans, and baking dishes can you use at one time? Now, if you are like me, you will need some extras for fixing double portions of things. However, it's one thing to have some extras and quite another to have more pots, pans, and baking dishes than you can possibly use. You can also probably get by with one set of mixing bowls. It is handy to have two sets of measuring cups or spoons, but not absolutly necessary (unless you have one set for wet measure and one for dry.)
Be hard on yourself in this area. I personally think the kitchen is one of the easiest places to be sentimental about stuff. Perhaps, this is because we associate cooking with giving love to our families. We inherit stuff from our mothers and remember the wonderful meals they used to fix. We are given wonderful kitchen presents, and we hate to let go of them even though we don't use them. I have some wonderful little tins for making little teeny chicken salad appetizers and little teeny pecan pies. I used to use them frequently, but haven't in a very long time. Since it was given to me by a dear friend of my late mother's, I have a hard time letting them go. But, that's an example of something that you can become attached to without really needing it.
I once visited Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, VA. This was a house owned by the Rockefeller family. Compared to their other residences, it was very small. However, the house contained a fabulous Butler's pantry to hold all of the many dishes they used for entertaining. I would love to have a large Butler's pantry. However, I don't. So, I need to make the best use of the space that I have.
Just in case you would like to have a rule of thumb about what to keep and what to throw, I've included three articles listing kitchen essentials. Don't think you have to read them all in detail or follow them slavishly. They're just resources you can use if you like. Be sure to scroll on down past the lists and catch the old Betty Crocker homemaking statment.
Here's an article from Nestle which outlines the basics you need in a kitchen:
It doesn't take a huge set of cookware to be able to make most recipes. You can cook up a storm with just a few basic pots and pans.
- Nonstick surfaces such as Teflon or Silverstone work well but are usually necessary only in sauté pans. Use only wooden or coated utensils when using nonstick surfaces and never place these pans in the dishwasher.
- Here's a tip: Look for basic cookware from restaurant-supply sources. Restaurants use inexpensive but solidly made cookware.
- Assess your needs. Basic cookware is fine for those who mostly cook for themselves and don't go gourmet too often.
- Choose a 9- or 10-inch skillet or sauté pan, a 4- or 5-quart pot and a baking or roasting pan to start. You can cook most recipes with these three items.
- Add to your basic set with an extra sauté pan, a 1- or 2-quart saucepan and a larger 8- or 10-quart stockpot.
- Avoid plastic handles if possible - some brands are made to withstand lower oven temperatures, but many others can't be put in the oven.
- Choose cookware with riveted or welded handles. You don't want a handle coming off in your hands as you attempt to remove a pot from the stove.
- Choose stainless steel or thick aluminum cookware if possible. Heavier pans conduct heat more evenly.
- Start out with a spatula, tongs, a vegetable peeler and a few wooden spoons as your basic cooking utensils.
- Be sure to get at least one good, sharp knife.
List of Items You’ll Need (if not right away, eventually)
- Garbage Container
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Can Opener
- Wooden spoons
- Serving ladle
- Potato masher
- Pepper and salt shakers
- Oven mitts
- Juice jug
- Drip coffee maker
- Salad Spinner
- Casserole dish
- Containers to store leftovers
- Pots: (all with lids)
- 10 qt. stock pot
- 8 qt stock pot
- 5 qt. dutch oven
- 2 qt. saucepan
- 1 qt. saucepan
- Frying pan
- Mixing bowls
- Cookie sheets
- Baking pans – only if you like to bake
- Muffin tins
- Cutting board
- Knives (paring, bread)
- Dish drying rack
- Tea towels
- Dish cloths
- Cutlery divider
- Hand mixer
- First Aid Kit
- Rubber gloves
- Pot scubbies
- Multipurpose cleaner
- Oven cleaner
Here's a list from "So you wanna stock your kitchen?"
Pots and pans
- 1-quart saucepan
- 2-quart saucepan
- 4-quart saucepan
- 8-quart stockpot (for cooking pasta, stews, etc.)
- 8-inch skillet
- 14-inch skillet
- Roasting pan (for that big turkey on Thanksgiving)
- Large, heavy kettle with a tight-fitting lid (Also called a dutch oven. We don't know why.)
- Ridged grill pan
It is especially important with these items that you pick quality over quantity or price. If you get cheap stuff, it'll make your job in the kitchen (more) miserable.
You want pots and pans made of stainless steel, preferably with copper bottoms (copper conducts heat better than stainless steel but requires frequent polishing). The bottoms should be heavy and flat, the handles riveted to the pan and oven-safe (not plastic), and the lids should fit securely. It's probably a good idea to get skillets that are coated in non-stick Teflon, although you should make sure they're high quality with hard surfaces that resist damage from scratching and high heat. The non-stick coating makes them much easier to clean, and allows you to cook with very little oil and fat. Remember to avoid using metal utensils when cooking (they scratch the Teflon).
You should also get your hands on a quality knife set. Although quality knives can be quite expensive, they're worth the investment because, with proper care, they'll last forever and save you extra sweat in the kitchen. You should start with:
- An 8- or 10-inch chef's knife (for cutting meat and vegetables)
- A 3- or 4-inch paring knife (for smaller tasks)
- A serrated knife (for slicing bread and soft fruits)
You should also get a set of steak knives for the table, unless, of course, you and your friends are all vegans. Buy knives with high-carbon stainless steel blades and handles that feel comfortable in your hands. Make sure the handle is riveted to the blade, especially if it's wood - otherwise moisture can get trapped in the space and deteriorate the handle.
To keep your new knives sharp and shiny, you should probably get a knife sharpener as well. The electric kinds are the best, but are also (surprise surprise!) the most expensive.
Bakeware is necessary for those of us who like to bake cookies, cakes, and other pastries. Here are the fundamentals (depending on what you like to bake):
- An oven-proof casserole dish with lid
- Two 9-inch round cake pans with straight sides
- Two baking/cookie sheets
- Rectangular baking pan (13 x 9 x 2)
- 9- or 10-inch springform pan
- Loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3)
- 9-inch pie pan
- 12-cup muffin tin
- Several cooling racks
- Assorted mixing bowls (at least one monster big one)
- A clear glass, pitcher-like measuring cup with a spout (for measuring liquids)
- A set of measuring cups (either plastic or metal) in assorted sizes
- Measuring spoons
Pyrex is a good choice for ovenware - it's easy to clean and is microwave/dishwasher safe. Other materials include aluminum, black steel, tinned steel, non-stick, and glass.
These are tons of fun doo-hickeys out there for you to buy, depending on what kind of food you're planning to cook:
- Stainless steel colander
- 4-sided grater
- Wooden spoons (the harder the wood, the better)
- Slotted spoons
- Tongs with blunt, scalloped edges
- Kitchen shears
- Vegetable peeler
- Stainless steel whisk
- Flour sifter
- Garlic crusher
- Soup ladle
- Metal and heat-resistant rubber spatulas
You'll also want a solid cutting board to save your knives and your countertops. Contrary to popular belief, wooden cutting boards are far more sanitary than plastic. Speaking of bacteria, keep a dispenser of antibacterial hand soap at your kitchen sink and a first aid kit underneath. We hope those freshly sharpened knives won't claim a finger, but you are a beginner.
And don't forget those pot holders!
Of course, you will need to personalize your own list of what you think is essential for your kitchen.
To close out,
The Betty Crocker Creed -
I believe homemaking is a noble and challenging career.
I believe homemaking is an art requiring many different skills.
I believe homemaking requires the best of my efforts, my abilities and my thinking.
I believe home reflects the spirit of the homemaker.
I believe home should be a place of peace, joy and contentment.
I believe no task is too humble that contributes to the cleanliness, the order, the health, the well being of the household.
I believe a homemaker must be true to the highest ideals of love, loyalty, service and religion.
I believe home must be an influence for good in the neighborhood, the community, the country.
Happy Home Economy!