Closed Floor Plans

I’d like to take a moment to speak in favor of the lesser known closed floor plan.

While the Gaineses rule the world, eliminating one non-load-bearing wall after another, we cheerfully survive in a smallish house stuffed full of walls. And what’s more, we’ve added back doors!

How can this be? We want to promote family togetherness through maximizing shared space BUT

  • J is a night owl and we are a young family
  • At least two of us are introverts

What’s more, “If Dwell Magazine ruled the world, our homes would be one big open warehouse, and then I’d have to be tidy.” (via) I’ve lived the open floor plan, most notably in a beautifully sunlit, impossible-to-keep-clean pool house, and I prefer my dim warren any day.

Cottontail Cottage is a small Craftsman built in 1940, decades before the trend of open living. Our many small rooms allow us to parcel up space more efficiently. We once had a lecture in the living room while behind two doors a half dozen small children romped. And while I was pregnant, J could often have friends over to visit in the evening while I slept undisturbed, two doors away, upstairs.

There are also concerns about open floor plans I had never considered. Apparently, open floor plans have also intensified home fires. And I have anosmia, as we’ve discussed, so I’ve never had to contend with the permeating odor of the kitchen wafting throughout an open living space, but apparently that’s a thing, too. (To be fair, we don’t currently have the door between our kitchen and dining room up, but you never know–maybe someday!)

The only time we really feel the inconvenience of this set up is when we are entertaining more people than can comfortably fit into one smallish room. But so you mingle! And that’s only a few nights out of the year–for family life, this set up suits our everyday life much better.

What is your house like? What do you prefer? Would you ever take out walls or add doors?

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House Hopping

We just completed a three-week long tour of the south, stopping with family and friends in four states. Along the way, I was reminded: Early childhood needs are universal and easily acquired. Goldfish. A low bed or blankets on the floor. Diapers, size 3.Read More »

Crunchy Cons and (Anti?-)Consumerist Posturing

Ok, so here’s a sincere question: If we spend more time acquiring goods locally and ethically, doesn’t this mean we are becoming more materialistic, not less? We are definitely thinking more about stuff and probably spending more money, to boot. This is a question that’s been bothering me on and off since AP Environmental Science in twelfth grade, and most especially since a Dorothy Day-inspired private lecture on distributism got me thinking about consumer ethics again in a special way.

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Embracing Limitations in Home Decor

It’s easy, with Instagram and Pinterest and the rest, to see your home (and basically everything else) as a blank canvas. Who are you? How can you make your home express the best possible you?

These are not stupid questions, to a point. While I think there are more pressing areas to direct most of our time and effort, beauty is important, and cultivating coziness takes deliberate effort. The problem with the questions, I think, is their premise that your home is a blank canvas reflective of you.

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Am I a Bad Friend to Fix Unhealthy Stuff?

My naan is always a little too small and tall and this does not stop me from eating it hot from the oven.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a baker at heart, not a cook. My favorite things in the kitchen are caught up in the baking side of things: the feel of warm naan dough in my hands, Pippin and Scout’s help rolling molasses spice cookies in Demerara sugar.

But increasingly people I love can’t eat the things I love to make, and I find myself feeling guilty serving them even to people in the clear. Do we ever really need brownies?

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Linking Meals, Using Up & Making Do

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These are not my teacups. They’re my sister-in-law’s, because she is classier than I am.

“Now the aim of the good woman is to use the by-products, or, in other words, to rummage in the dustbin.” –G. K. Chesterton, “The Romance of Thrift”

First, let me say, there is nothing wrong with just having a meal plan rotation. I have recipes I use over and over and even a homemade cookbook of favorites. But I often find I have things to use up, and wanted to share my strategies for avoiding waste in the kitchen.

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A Year in Meals

After Christmas 2016, without a lot of consideration beforehand, I bought myself a magnetic meal planning calendar. I’d done meal planning for a few years at least now, but this was a more visual means of organization — and besides, it was pretty.

I’ve kept most of the pages from this year, and in reviewing them, drawn some helpful conclusions: 2017 was a year of more meat. Lots of meals brought by sweet friends. Heavy reliance on the slow cooker. So often, nearly every week, so many changed plans, but still, in the end, I think the exercise was a good practice.

Here were some greatest hits that featured again and again:Read More »

Let’s Waffle About Sponges

Remember how we talked about food safety? Let’s go back into the dark underbelly of kitchen horrors. Here’s something I mostly have tried to pretend isn’t a real concern: the sponge situation.

It’s just — sometimes I’m at other people’s houses doing dishes and I use a dishrag because they’re dishrag people, and I just can’t get anything clean. We switched years and years ago to stainless steel from nonstick pans for various semi-proven health reasons, and we cook A LOT with eggs and cheese, certifiably the stickiest foods on the planet, right? So I know that sponges carry a bunch of bacteria and also that they often stink (a penalty from which I’m exempt, ha ha!), but I just can’t quit them because hey, they do their job, at least, festering cesspools that they are.

So my solution the last few months? Microfiber kitchen scrubbers. They’re basically sponges you can toss in the wash each evening and use again, and since I have a pretty regular load of rags and cloth napkins going, it doesn’t add to my laundry burden. And when I start up on Scout’s horrible egg yolk high chair tray right after breakfast, I’ve got a sponge new every morning, like the good Lord’s grace.

Caveat: They definitely aren’t as scrubby as the scrubbiest disposable sponge (though scrubbier than a dishrag), but I’ve been using steel scouring pads for the worst messes since switching away from nonstick pans, anyway. Sometimes they get gnarly food bits stuck in them and need a pretty serious rinse, but at least they aren’t a moist, soft environment for breeding the next antibiotic-resistant plague, and they respond satisfyingly to elbow grease. (If you want to get really fancy or need something safe for cast iron, you can try what I always considered The Giant Fingernail but is apparently just a “pan scraper” to civilized folk.)

And this has been more than you ever wanted to think about sponges, dishrags, and washing up.


Do I need to say this isn’t a sponsored post? And that these aren’t affiliate links? I really just want to talk about sponges, because I’m that lame, apparently.

 

 

In Praise of Animal Fats

J and I have never been vegetarian (well, I think J was one Lent), but for a very long period of time, we weren’t eating very much meat or many vegetarian dishes.

I’ve heard it called “flexitarian,” but for us it just translated to “can’t afford meat as main dish.”

Recently we celebrated our comparative prosperity and invested in a quarter of a cow. This led to a carnivorous celebration called “Beef Week,” but also made me think about how we used to stretch meat.

Thekitchn.com is historically a good resource for thinking about meat as a condiment, not the main event. Here are some of the techniques we accumulated over our grad school years:

  1. Chicken stock. Our mainstay. If you can’t roast a chicken yourself yet, you can save up a couple rotisserie chickens or ask to take home the turkey carcass at Thanksgiving. (You weirdo.) Then you chuck it in the slow cooker overnight or in a stockpot for a couple hours and you end up with something rich and salty and nourishing with basically no effort. Use it in soups, especially cheap simple ones like this polenta soup where it will really shine. Or make your rice fancy by using it instead of water. (And if you don’t know how to roast a chicken, consider this slow cooker method.) Store leftovers in the freezer in 1- and 2-cup bags or jam jars for easy thawing. (Bonus: the gelatin in a good bone broth is really good for you, though I can’t say the same about bacon grease.)
  2. Bacon grease. People are generally secretly excited about this. Bacon by itself is an excellent way to make an otherwise vegetarian meal special (as with lenticchie con ditalini, baked potatoes, many soups) but you can save the grease (call it “renderings” if it makes you feel better, you foodie) in the fridge and use it for salad dressings, greasing cornbread pans, giant skillet cookies, and sautéing greens with vinegar.
  3. Duck fat. J recently called this an “essential oil.” We like it for roasting vegetables especially. It can be hard to find, though sometimes it’s affordable on Amazon.
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Eat me with bacon fat. Or duck fat. Mmm.