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Category Archives: Week 6: Kitchen Counters

After the “After”

I have spent the last few months pouring over articles, pictures, books and blogs researching methods of organization. It’s been inspiring and given me so much to aspire to in my own home organization. Yet, this morning I looked around and thought, “You are writing a blog on organizing!? You’ve got to be kidding!”  The couches were stripped of their cushions and blankets and pillows were strewn about the living room as the kids played “pillow house”; breakfast dishes were undone, crumbs and Cheerios on the floor and counters; laundry I had folded was still on the table; the floor needed mopping (again); the areas I have yet to get to in my week-by-week organizing were leering at me; and even my organized spots didn’t quite look as I thought they should.

I’ll be honest. I wanted to get angry — with the kids for making another huge mess, with my husband for not keeping up with my system exactly as I envisioned it, with myself for not keeping it together better. . . However, this morning I had managed to accomplish one thing on my to-do list – my quiet time. I had just finished a study on Jonah. We’ve all heard the story of Jonah and the great fish, but sometimes the end is left out of the Sunday School story version. Jonah is sitting outside Nineveh, angry with God for His compassion, watching and waiting for Him to destroy the city. God sends a vine to shade Jonah, then a worm that eats and destroys the plant, and finally a scorching wind that makes him miserable. Again, Jonah is angry, this time about the plant dying. God says, “Have you any right to be angry?” and makes the point that Jonah is more concerned about a plant that brought him comfort for a short period of time, than he is about a group of living, breathing people who make him uncomfortable.

In that moment of my frustration, as I started to get angry, immediately the thought entered my mind, “Have you any right to be angry?” So things got a bit messy. That’s life, especially life with four children. This incident got me thinking about how discouraging it can be comparing my home, even the organized areas to those pictures in books and magazines and the beautiful “after” pictures on blogs. The reality is, these pictures are taken at the moment when that area is at the absolute best it can be. These “after” pictures are the writers and bloggers putting their “best foot forward.” And truthfully, that is what I do in my after pictures as well. So, today I thought I’d do something a bit different. I’m going to put my “real” foot forward and show you some After the “After” pictures — my organized spots when life is actually happening.

I’ll start with my kitchen counters.

  

The first picture is my “after” picture. The second is after the after. Unfortunately it currently houses my seedling trays because it is the spot with the best sun exposure. And that’s how it will stay for the next month or so until I can plant.

This was after I organized one of the kid’s toy areas.  Below is what it looked like this morning (before I sent them back in to clean up).

And now my command center area.

       

Clearly, I need to attend to my “to do” box. I’m putting it on my to-do list now.  I could show you more, but I think you get the general idea. Things can’t always look like the “after” picture. We have to do some living too. The benefit of organizing is that you create an ease with which you can get back to that “after” look. My kids can quickly get their toys back in order because of their labels. I can quickly go through my to-do box and my filing box (if I don’t let it grow too large), and on planting day I’ll have my counters back. So, there you have it, real, but sometimes not-so-organized order.

Counters (Mostly) Complete — And My Next Project

Last week I attacked my kitchen counters, which were far too cluttered and had the tendency to become the catch-all for whatever.  After clearing the corner, I spent some time on the edges. They weren’t bad, but still needed some work. My biggest problem was my the wireless router for our Internet.  It sits on the edge with an ugly green cord and just looks out-of-place.

Laura, from Monkeys On My Back (a very fun blog, check it out), suggested a basket. I went to Target and bought and returned baskets twice. . . it was harder than I thought.  I finally settled on a basket I already have and use for a “miscellaneous-papers-I don’t-know-what-to-do-with-right-now” basket (my next project will be to do something with those papers :-)).

I still am not sure I love this particular basket here, and I would like to hide the cords a bit more, but it is better.

The other end of the counters I didn’t change much. My biggest problem area on this end was a recipe box that I continually shoved all my odd-shaped and printed-off recipes behind; it was quite unsightly.

I simply removed that pile of and placed it in a file folder. I have plans for a recipe binder, but that will be a project for another week.

I toyed with the idea of removing the toaster, but we use it frequently enough that I decided to keep it where it is. I think I may make a cover for it so it doesn’t look so toaster-y. 🙂 I have some decor issues I will be taking care of, but the counters are organized and I feel mostly satisfied.

This upcoming week I will be staying in the kitchen and taking care of my paper-work problem. My hutch, the purpose of which is supposed to be to hold and display my dishes, has turned into the place where we stash keys, nail polish, coupons, mail, books. . . anything that we just don’t want to deal with right now.  My plan is to create and organize a sort of command center for our family to deal with the paper-work and miscellaneous stuff problem; and to get my hutch back.

The Best Cinnamon Rolls Ever!

I’m thoroughly enjoying my newfound counter space, and have been utilizing it to bake.  I started with homemade bread this afternoon.  Then I happened to have cream cheese that needed using, so cinnamon rolls came to mind.  I’m going a bit off-topic here today (hey, I referenced my kitchen counters), but these are all I can think about.  Now I know that cinnamon rolls are a lot of work, but these are soooooo worth it! The recipe I use is my mom’s hybrid compilation of several recipes — and it is the best!  It will forever spoil all other cinnamon rolls for you.

Mom’s Awesome Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Dough:

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup milk

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, the 1/3 cup sugar, the 1/3 cup butter, and salt just till warm (120 to 130 degrees) and butter almost melts.  Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.  Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball.  Place dough in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double in size (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Lightly grease 2 9X1 1/2 inch round baking pans (I use 1 rectangle 9X13 pan).  Make filling.

Filling:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 T cinnamon

Mix on medium until combined, but still crumbly (about a minute)

Roll each portion of the dough into a 12 X 8 rectangle.

Spread 1/2 filling onto each rectangle.

Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side. Seal seam.

Slice each roll into 12 equal pieces and place in prepared pans. Repeat with the other dough half.

Cover and let rise in a warm place till nearly double.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let sit a minute or two (don’t allow to cool).

Turn pan over onto a serving tray (if I’m not concerned about presentation, I use a large piece of aluminum foil so I can quickly wrap up the left-overs — this also seems to keep it warmer for transporting).

Look how gooey they are -- turning them over helps the filling that seeped to the bottom work it's way back through. Mmmmm!

Frost and serve while still warm (although still very good when cooled).

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 T softened butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 ounces cream cheese

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Combine in a mixing bowl until well blended. Frost cinnamon rolls.

Tips:

We all know that cinnamon rolls are best right out of the oven, but who wants to get up at early o’clock in order to make them and have them ready for breakfast (well, somebody might, but not me!). I like to prepare mine the night before, but not bake them.  I cover them loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate over-night. When I’m ready for them (at a much more reasonable hour) I uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then bake.

If you want to make them extra gooey (and extra fattening — might as well, you’ve gone this far), after greasing pan(s), add a few slices of butter around the bottom and sprinkle with brown sugar. You can also add your favorite nut (walnuts, pecans) here. Place the rolls on top of this. My kids prefer just this extra goo to the cream cheese frosting. I prefer both.  If I’m going to eat a cinnamon roll, I’m going to eat a CINNAMON ROLL!

If you want to pretend to make these healthy (ha, ha) or if you just like the flavor, add raisins to your filling.

Enjoy!

Check out the Weekend Potluck here.  Lots of fun recipes, including this one.

De-cluttering Counters – Part 1

I began working in ernest today on my kitchen counters project.  I started with my worst corner first.  Some time ago, I had the idea to use my cookbooks as decor for my counter.  It started out cute, but then got out-of-control; the cookbooks started taking over. I also love those cinnamon-scented pine-cones that come out every Christmas.  They might be a bit cheesy, but it’s just not Christmas without them. This year, I didn’t know where to put them, so I stuck them in my already crowded corner. Needless to say, that area needed some serious help!

Browsing magazines, books, and the Internet for kitchen ideas, I came to the realization that these beautiful kitchens have one thing in common — the counters are clutter-free.  This is my goal this week — beginning with this corner, I am de-cluttering the counters. The pine-cones were the first to go; they had long since lost their scent and were always just an after-though, never really having a place.  Next, I took a good look at the spice rack.  I’ve had it for several years and the spices that I regularly use are empty.  The others have long since expired.  It too had to go (I’m washing it up and holding on to it for a bit just in case I come up with a brilliant idea for repurposing it — any suggestions?).  I removed the cookbooks from the counter completely. I will display a few of the nicer ones on a shelf; the others were either donated or went into the cupboard.  I then tidied the knife block and placed it closer to the kitchen sink, where it is most frequently used.

Notice the utensil holder to the left.  It’s a large cookie jar that I have jammed full of all my wooden spoons, ladles and spatulas.  I like keeping things handy so I can grab what I need as I’m cooking, but this is ridiculous.  I needed to pare down. First, I had to look at what I really am using, and get rid of those that I’m not.  I didn’t love the white cookie jar, so I used a cute water pitcher instead.  It adds a bit of character and color to my counter.  Finally, I moved it next to the stove-top so it is with-in reach while I cook.

    

My corner is now de-cluttered!

I even found a use for my shells (see previous post).  I had a nautical-looking piece I’m already using in my decor.  I simply added the shells.  It took 5 minutes!  I’m not sure why I waited so long. 🙂

   

I still have some work to do, but I’m feeling good about that corner.  My next dilemma is how to hide or disguise our Internet box.  It has to be in the kitchen because of the location of the outlet, but it is UGLY!

Any ideas?

Week 6: Organizing my Kitchen Counters

This is the story of a sea-shell.  There was nothing extraordinary about this shell.  It existed, as all sand dollars do, on the bottom of a the ocean, burrowed under the sand, avoiding its prey and feeding on tiny organisms.  It was a simple existence, but one that could not last forever.  It passed on, as all living creatures do, and loosing it’s grip on the sandy bottom was swept to shore by the incoming tide.  That morning a vacationing woman was enjoying an early-morning jog on the beach.  She spotted its dollar-shaped skeleton, perfectly in-tact, and excitedly picked it up to take home to her children.  Her children, naturally were thrilled to have such a treasure. They had found their own sand dollars, but none were in such pristine condition as this.  Carefully they washed the sand, laid it out to dry, and added it to their growing pile of coastal finds.  When the vacation came to its end, the woman carefully wrapped each of these treasures (the ones worth keeping) and placed them inside a keepsake bag to transport them safely home.  Once home, the bag was placed on her kitchen counter – on top of her bread box to be exact – until she could find them a permanent home. She had the best intentions of doing “something” with these momentos — the beautiful sand dollar, some sea glass and other miscellaneous shells — but the days turned to weeks, the weeks to months. . .  Soon, she no longer even noticed the bag on top of the bread box, and neither did anyone else in the family.  It had simply become part of the decor.

I’m ashamed to say that the woman in that story was me (as if you hadn’t already guessed).  What’s worse is that our beach vacation was last March!  And it sits there still (along with a jar I need to return to a friend and a few other things for which I have yet to find a place). . .

This week, I’m attacking my kitchen counters (and the top of my bread box). I no longer want it to be the catch-all for things I haven’t yet put away. My goal is to clear, organize and come up with a method that will help me maintain my new look.  I’m even going to find a place for those shells.