December 19, 2014

Trash Talking

I've had to adjust, moving from a city of nearly a million people to a municipality of only a few thousand.  Sure, there's a proper city within an hour's drive but with only about 100,000 residents, it's small potatoes.  I've been meaning to write more about this ongoing transition, but a lot of what I've had to adjust to has turned out to be far more enjoyable than expected, and I've easily slipped into new routines that now seem so comfortable and natural. 

One change still feels kind of weird: dealing with our garbage.  When I hear couples argue about who brought the garbage cans back from the curb, who left the lids off and whose responsibility it is to move those cans twenty feet, I want to knock their heads together.  Hubs and I (although sometimes it's just me), collect, bag and tag our garbage and then drive it many kilometers to our municipal landfill, which has somewhat inconvenient and limited hours.  Each tag costs 50 cents, but we get an annual allotment plus a free bag tag for each bag of recycling we bring in.  It's an open pit landfill, with black bears strolling around.  We stand in the back of our truck and heave our bags so they fly as far as possible into the pit. 

Sometimes it smells, as you might expect, and it's normally super muddy, but in the winter it's not so bad.  At first I was horrified by this process, but now, even though it still feels strange, I've grown to like this household chore and I loiter there more than Hubby would like.  There's something kind of powerful about seeing all of this garbage against a beautiful, rural backdrop.  It's eery and horrifying, but in some ways strangely beautiful.  In the city, folks are so removed from the collective amount of waste produced, thanks to door to door trash collection, but also because the landfill in our nearest city is a giant trash compactor and you don't see anything but a large silver machine.  It seems so neat and tidy.  Here, though, it's just heaped and sometimes the wind takes pieces, obscuring a beautiful landscape.  It makes me really mindful of the garbage we produce.  I hope it's encouraging Hubby and I to produce less waste - we definitely produce less than when we lived in the townhouse.  It certainly makes me think more about garbage.

On an uplifting note, the picking is awesome.  There's a shed for people to leave things for free, and I've scored mittfuls of vintage goodies - incuding turquoise Pyrex (I've left treasures too).  On instagram I hashtag these finds #goodneighbourshed, but I've only shared a few finds.  I've absconded with quite a bit more than I've let on.  I have yet to pluck something from the actual landfill, but there was a box of vintage dishware - just out of reach - that had me thinking about wading in.

The Good Neighbour Shed!

After we moved into the lakehouse, we devised a system for garbage that was not totally unlike what we used before.  In Ottawa we had a garbage bin and then a black bin and blue bin for recycling.  Here we bought a huge new garbage can that holds colossal GLAD bags so we can cram in as much garbage as possible - I really cling to those 50 cent bag tags (could I be any more miserly?).  We bought another huge can for blue bag recycling.  I re-use a carboard box for paper recycling to save a blue bag (miserly!).  Inside the house, a cute aqua bin collects recycling under the kitchen sink, and I bring it outside to sort almost everyday (I try to make trips outside with Szuka fruitful, much to her chagrin - she'd rather we just play).  I haven't really devised a good system for our garbage inside.  Our old step-can was in the way in our small kitchen and so I used a random lid-less can I found in the house, that the old owner's left behind.  I stuffed it underneath the kitchen sink when we were working on the house, and there it stayed.  At one point I used GLAD kitchen catchers but when they ran out, I started stuffing various plastic bags I accumulated into the empty box.  It seemed cheaper, but these bags often leaked and some were a tight fit for the can.

When GLAD offered to send me some product and sponsor a post on trash talking, I was happy for an excuse to ramble on about our landfill and the weirdness of handling our own trash to such an extent, but I was a bit reluctant to use the kitchen catchers.  Surely what I was using was just as good?  And free!  Well, the odor-guard kitchen catchers have sure come along way since I bought my last box.  These new odour-guard bags with Febreeze are fabulous because although they smell perfumed coming out of the box, once they've been in the bin they don't smell flowery.  Instead, they neutralize any odor really well, without just masking it.  It was never atrocious under there because I take the garbage out to garage regularly, but it is garbage so it didn't smell like roses.  After testing these bags for weeks, I don't smell anything!  It just smells clean under the sink - these bags are perfect for use with my open can.  And they fit the can with room to spare - no more leaks thanks to too-tight bags splitting.  I'm sold.

I haven't tried the compostable bags because we don't compost.  Isn't that horrible?  I feel a lot of guilt about that.  I didn't realize until recently that our dump has a compost section.  I thought we had to compost ourselves, and with my lack of interest in gardening, Szuka the digger, and our bear problem, composting seemed like a nightmare.  I'll have to make some room under the sink for a compost pail and start!

This post was sponsored by GLAD and I also received product to try out.  The idea for this post and all words and photos are my own - as is the embarrassment I endured taking photos at the dump.  I wasn't super keen on showing you the under the sink area, because its only redeeming features are that it's clean (go me!) and it boasts a pretty a pretty aqua can (thanks Umbra!).  I have not washi taped or pattern papered anything.  Bad blogger!  While garbage and garbage accoutrements are certainly not the sexiest topics to blog about, particularly in the absence of any beautification, products that make our day to day lives a little nicer are worth their weight in gold! I'm happy for this opportunity to re-think what products I'm using. Maybe getting stuck with my garbage for a month won't be quite so smelly this summer? Stupid landfill hours.

December 17, 2014

This is How We Do it...

I'm so happy that many of you found Monday's post, re-assessing my kitchen open shelving, useful!  There were some excellent questions (and suggestions) raised in the comments, so I'll be adding to that post later today.  In addition to worries about keeping open shelves clean, a major obstacle to opting for open shelving seems to be concern for showing off less attractive kitchen wares.  It's definitely a bit of a challenge to organize open shelves so that they're functional and also attractive.  I've only re-arranged mine once in six months and I guarantee I'll do it again, partly because it's fun, but also because I'm striving for the best arrangement.  I find myself paying close attention to open shelving in kitchens now, trying to pick up tips. 

The simplest way to style or organize open shelving?  Collect matching or complementary dishware, like this beautiful jadeite collection, which is easily and effortlessly arranged:

Style at Home
Not everyone can piece together a beautiful, vintage collection, but just having a set of dishes (they don't need to be fancy), instead of bits and pieces, makes it simple to arrange them attractively on a shelf:

Via Nicety
My dishes are all white -  most are a set of Villeroy and Boch, snagged from HomeSense seven years ago - but I've also got some random vintage plates (white with a turquoise pattern) and Hubby's beloved (but chipped and awful) cereal bowls.  Because they're all white, it's hard to tell that they're not a set, so I'm cheating my way through.  The Pyrex collection up top is handy because it's distracting ;)

If mismatched dishes are holding you back from trying open shelving, then maybe keeping plates behind closed doors but showing off pretty glass food canisters might be the way to go.  I mentioned Monday how much I love our open pantry, but these ones put mine to shame!

Via The Budget Decorator
I love how these matching canisters look and they're so practical!  I've been shopping at bulk places to re-fill mine, and I love that I'm saving a bit of coin on some grocery staples and also cutting down on packaging.  I'm currently brainstorming cute but practical ways to display/store loose leaf tea (it's tricky because tea doesn't fair well when exposed to light, which is a shame because it's often so beautiful).

Ella Claire
I do think, though, that beautiful open shelving can be had even with random pieces mixed in.  I think the key is to simplify a bit.  I de-cluttered and pared back a lot, and probably should have jettisoned more but I've got too many sentimental pieces so I made them work (and hid some in the credenza).  It also helps to find some common thread, perhaps a colour or natural material, like wood.  If you study the shelves carefully in the following pictures, you can see that these shelves don't house perfect sets or collections, and there's definitely some mixing and matching, but they all look tidy and beautifully styled.  Most seem to offer great function, too, with few purely decorative objects but lots of useful items.

Better Homes and Gardens
Better Homes and Gardens
Polished Pebble
Style at Home
Restless Arrow
Thanks for letting me share the open shelving eye candy I've been admiring.  I love finding inspiration for my own shelves, plus I find it encouraging to see other folks eschew upper cupboards  - like this beautiful kitchen renovation from All Sorts of Pretty.

All Sorts of Pretty
All Sorts of Pretty

December 15, 2014

Honest Thoughts on Open Shelving in the Kitchen

I've long been fascinated by open shelving, but always preferring to keep my kitchen a little more stream-lined and uncluttered than open shelving usually affords.  In the lakehouse kitchen, though, the upper cabinetry was small and incredibly awkward: the corner shelves couldn't fit two glasses side by side, part of the cabinet to the right of the window was unreachable because the doors and counter got in the way, and the cabinet above the range hood was fake!  I also didn't love the cathedral style door profile or the jumble of sizes.  Open shelving was an inexpensive, easily solution and it definitely increased our storage (although some people dispute this, I know this for a fact because I couldn't fit half of what's on the shelves now in the former cabinets).  While most people have been so positive about the makeover, there have been those who have been...insensitive (I so badly want to use a different word).  These folks haven't popped up here, but some websites where the kitchen has been featured have yielded some weirdly personal criticisms.  Apparently either I don't cook, or I'm not a good cook, or else I'm totally slovenly and live in a grime-filled home.  Never mind that apparently I'm hoarding the world's Pyrex so a person can't even find a set of mixing bowls.  People have also had weirdly specific concerns, like how I should have a single sink and not two (I guess what I prefer is irrelevant).  Le Sigh.  Some questions are legitimate and non-accusatory ("is it easy to keep open shelves clean?" is a biggie), so I'm going to tackle them today.  It's been about six months since we finished the kitchen update, and I'm feeling chatty about it. 

Would I Recommend Open Shelving?  Would I Choose it Again?

My Mom is currently pondering a kitchen makeover (torn between a full reno or spit + polish) and recently she asked for my honest thoughts on open shelving.  Would I do it again?  Would I recommend them to others?  Would I recommend them to her?

Yes, definitely.  Maybe.  No.

I still love our open shelves.  I love the storage we gained and how easy it is to grab something or put it away.  I know that sounds silly (how hard is it to open a door?), but I was totally been clocked in the head - more than once - by an open cupboard door when Hubby and I were both bustling around in the townhouse kitchen.  Open shelves are safer when there are two cooks in a relatively petite kitchen.  I enjoy sitting at the counter and admiring my Pyrex and pretty Iittala glassware while I crunch my cereal.  I've never been one for clutter and I think my aesthetic is pretty spartan (sometimes a little too spartan?), but this is the one area where I've got a lot of pretty stuff to look at. 

BUT!  I'd never replace my Mom's perfectly fitted, ceiling-height cabinetry with open shelves.  Her melamine door fronts have bubbled up in the last twenty years and while the style she chose still looks current, they look a bit shabby (which is such a shame).  For her, I'd suggest new cabinet fronts.  For someone like me, who couldn't make use of the existing upper cabinetry (and that's highly subjective), open shelving was perfect: cheap, easy, and it's fun for the interim.  The kitchen feels happy and casual.  When we do our real-deal reno, though, I'd like cabinets again, although I'd probably still go with a few shelves (maybe to the right of the window, for Pyrex?).  My desire for having cabinetry again is partly because the kitchen is so open to the house, so I'm dreaming of a stream-lined kitchen that doesn't look "kitcheny".  However, I'm seriously thinking about keeping a more stylish version of our DIY open pantry for the reno.  I've ended up really enjoying those canisters.

They are so easy to grab and filling them is deliciously satisfying.  I enjoy the look of the uniform shelves and jars with the differently textured contents.  Is that weird?  People have wondered where I keep food with open shelves.  The pantry holds twelve jars - I usually even have empty ones!  Smaller ingredients (baking soda, canned goods, crackers, etc.) are stored in the lower cabinets.  I often decant into smaller mason jars and then things take up less room so I can cram more in.  This winter we're also going to set up some shelves in the basement for our apocalypse over flow of canned goods.

For anyone with dismal cabinets like mine were, I'd definitely give my vote for shelves.  For someone with salvageable cabinetry, I might suggest a mix of open shelves and cabinets, like Mandi Johnson's kitchen makeover (featured on A Beautiful Mess).  I'm actually totally smitten with her makeover and have pinned it a zillion times to every board:

A Beautiful Mess
Is Open Shelving a Dusty, Greasy Mess?

Before I had open shelving, I read a few reviews of open shelving and people who had them (like Sherry and John from YHL) swore they didn't get really messy.  I didn't believe them, because my bookshelves get plenty dusty.  I figured kitchen grime would be ten times grimier than bookshelves.  I can now join the ranks of people who swear that open shelving isn't a pain to keep clean!  I didn't believe them, but now I do.

First, a little more information: we don't have a range hood so when we cook, we sometimes pop open the kitchen window and sometimes even the half bath window, for a nice cross breeze.  I air the house out routinely, anyway (even in the winter - doggie smells!), so this doesn't seem weird to me.  I've mentioned before that we've never had a working range hood, so we're used to it.  We cook about three times a week, often relying on our slow cooker or cooking in big batches.  This way, we coast on leftovers and have more time for not-cooking.  More of our recipes require browning meat, sauteing onions, etc.  Sometimes, though, we'll toss a meatloaf in the oven or use our grill pan for grilled chicken, so we're not cooking with oil every time.  Maybe if we cooked every single day and used oil for cooking every single time, we might have more of a mess on our hands?  I'm not sure, but the dust on the shelves has been minimal - far less than what my bookshelves in the office accumulate, but with a slightly different texture.  Not sticky, really, but not as fluffy as bookshelf dust (so no dust bunnies skittering around, if that makes sense, the dust stays put). 

Funny story: when we moved into the townhouse, the former owners - who had lived there for two years - had turned the kitchen into a horribly, greasy mess.  In fact, all of the walls - from the kitchen to the living room right up to the front door - were greasy and sticky.  It was terrible to get it clean in preparation for paint.  The stove (and range hood) was so horrifying that I actually hired a professional cleaner to tackle it because it was seriously a job for a pro.  She bustled around a bit but after she saw the oven - I kid you not - she "left for more oven cleaner" and literally never returned.  I called and called and called and eventually she wearily answered and offered to clean something else, but not the stove.  It was THAT gross.   After fours years of us living there, the kitchen wasn't greasy at all.  So maybe it's cooking styles?  Cooking frequency?  Maybe the open window is pure magic?

Full disclosure:  I'm fairly fastidious.  I'm not saying this in a smug, humble-brag way.  It's actually kind of a problem in my life and it makes it difficult for me to be productive in a meaningful way (or really relax), because I'm always tidying, scrubbing, washing.  I have nervous energy, I think.  But it's not like I ever need to wash the walls, so I think that we just don't produce as much of a mess as others (like the former townhouse owners).  There's no shame in that, I think the biggest messes produce the best meals.  I don't mean to imply that people who get grease everywhere don't cook as well, I'm just saying that some people seem to produce more grime when they cook, and others don't.

To make this post a bit more objective, I did a little experiment.  About a month ago, I took everything off of the shelves for the first time since we completed the kitchen.  I washed/wiped things if necessary, re-assessed and re-organized (and this was "down time" for me, so you can see that I have issues).  I took a good long look at the shelves.  There was a bit of dust on the top shelf (as in, I could see a faint outline of the shapes when I removed items) but it wasn't horrific and wasn't greasy.  The second and first shelves had a little less dust but the dust was less fluffy (a bit greasy).  The first two shelves are constantly in use and the contents are run through the dishwasher a lot.  When a pile or stack is emptied, I'll wipe the shelf down quickly with a dishrag so the minimal amount of dust wasn't surprising.  I was surprised, however, with how little dust had settled on the top shelf.  It took me a few hours to rearrange and clean everything but a simple wipe-down would have taken an hour - even less if Hubby would have been around to hand stuff to.  After that big clean, I left it for about a month and resisted the urge to do any wiping or dusting (I suffer for my blog).  Yesterday I wiped down the first level of shelves with a paper towel to objectively present the evidence.  This is the amount of dust/grease that settled on one shelf (on the left), after four weeks:

And the other shelf, the one to the right of the stove:

I couldn't see it on the shelf until I wiped it up with the paper towel.  In real life I often use a cloth I've fashioned from cut up clothes (often they've got patterns, etc), so I used a fresh piece of paper towel so you could clearly see the dust.  By the way, I can't believe I just shared my grime on the internet, but I figured it was the only way to quantitatively demonstrate the amount of dust on the shelves.  And there's more, so if the above photos grossed you out, scroll down a bit - quickly!  

Although I purposefully didn't touch the shelves for a month, prior to my study I've found the swiffer duster to be useful.  It's great for getting in between the dry goods canisters and plates and glasses, plus I can easily reach the top shelf with it.  Yesterday I also dusted the pantry shelves and the upper two shelves and this is the amount of dust (again, after a month):

That's not so bad!  The bookcase in my office had way more dust and dirt on it when I cleaned it for the photos for my DIY magazine files.  I think that because there's more activity in our kitchen, things being removed/cleaned/replaced, that the dust doesn't settle as much?  Using a glossier paint finish, like people typically choose for trim and baseboards, really makes it a snap to wipe down or dust.  I wouldn't choose a matte finish for open shelves.  

There is one spot that is super dusty, though: the bottom shelf of the pantry.  Now that shelf gets really dusty - just an insane amount of dust gets in there, likely because it's so low to the ground and near the front door.  That's where the microwave was going to go but after living without one for awhile we realized we don't need it.  A cooler, on the other hand, is essential for getting food home on our hour long drive and when I got my hands on a vintage blue cooler that belonged to my great-aunt (who passed away), it seemed like the perfect spot.  I think about her every time I see it, which is nice. 

Do I Get Tired of Looking at My Open Shelving?

I've spent a good 10-15 years collecting vintage glassware, Pyrex and other goodies and it's nice to have them out in the open, finally fully appreciated.  I'm not bored yet (although reorganizing was fun and I might do it again in another six months).  I know that the kitchen looks like it has an insane amount of turquoise, and like the shelves, the colour is polarizing.  In person, everyone who sees it thinks it's great, but online there are people who think it's fabulous and a few who think it's way too much.  I think pictures are misleading (I blame my skills and my camera.  I almost bought a DSLR for Black Friday but I think there might be better sales in January and February, so I'll step up my photo game soon, I promise).  The kitchen definitely has a hefty dose of colour in real life, but it's not so dramatic because the kitchen is more open and airy than it seems - it's also larger than it appears.  The white to aqua ratio is different.  As well, in real life there's nice variation in the colours, from minty greens to blues.  The sheen and pattern varies - plus the clear glassware is more noticeable, lending a bit more visual interest.  Really, the content of the shelves seems more muted and nuanced in real life - not so bright and not so repetitive.  I don't love the kitchen in photos, but when I'm in it, it looks so beautiful and I can't help but smile.  It's a bold look, to be sure, even in that elusive third dimension.

I did purposefully opt for a stream-lined palette because I think it helps the shelves from looking too cluttered.  If there was a jumble of colour with that many shelves, I think it would drive me nuts.  There is a lot of bakeware and glassware crammed on these shelves - plus lots of sizes of plates and bowls.  Having everything white, clear glass, or some shade of turquoise/blue, soothes me.  Also, it's just my cup of tea.  My super ordered brain likes to see this kind of uniformity.  And this kitchen was meant to be personal and fun.  One day I'll have a serious kitchen (right now I'm loving this one), and I'll look back on these days and say, "hey, remember when we were young and crazy and had a totally insane turquoise kitchen?"  For someone tackling a more permanent spruce, I might suggest a more neutral colour like Emily Henderson's kitchen, which can easily be made more wild, or more subdued and elegant, with accessories and art.

Emily Henderson
But I wanted to go bright - it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity! 

Better Homes & Gardens
I know that it's visually pleasing to mix some orange or red with aqua so that it's not so AQUAAQUAAQUA, but I just love the whites and blues and grey together.  The heart wants what the heart wants (but I added some seasonal red for you!).  You'll notice that I did move my photo turned into an oil painting to the kitchen (I'm testing it out and weighing my options), so between that and the enamel paintings from Hungary above the stove, the eye can rest a little before it's assaulted by more turquoise ;)

Have I Made Peace with the Brackets?

Nope, I still don't love the brackets.  If you recall, Hubby was adamant that we get industrial-strength brackets and wood shelves.  I wanted thicker shelves, but these were pre-fab and easy, plus the thickness matches that of the open pantry, so maybe I like the thickness after all.  I still pine for thick, floating shelves.   But in the kitchen they would look weird butted up against the pantry, and they'd compete with the gloriously thick wood counters Hubby and his Dad made.  Still, look how pretty:

A Beautiful Mess
BUT, the Pyrex has not come crashing down, so maybe I'll grow to love the monster brackets.  The wood shelves are similarly holding strong (knock on wood), with no signs or warping or buckling.  Maybe with our forever kitchen, if I do a bit of open shelving I'll finally get the floating shelves I want.  It's Hubby's kitchen too and I catch him checking the brackets from time to time, pleased with their performance.

I think that's all I have to say about open shelving.  I've been jotting down some thoughts on the entire kitchen makeover: what we love, what we regret, what we'd do differently, and what I've realized about what I need/want from a kitchen.  I'll share those thoughts at some point, but I want to live with some things (like the wood counters and painted cabinetry) so I can get a better sense of how they wear.  In the meantime, feel free to ask me questions about any aspect of the kitchen update

And please, weigh in on open shelving - especially if you have it!  For people considering it, it's always nice to hear different opinions.  I'm sure that location, weather, heating systems, pets, kids, cooking styles, ventilation, etc., all impact how dusty these bad boys get, so my experience is very limited.  When the kitchen was featured on Apartment Therapy it was the people without open shelving who seemed to know so much about it getting messy, but many people with open shelving confirmed that it's really not that big a deal to keep clean.  The debate rages on but, in a moment of frustration (someone accused us of not eating spaghetti!), I came up with this theory:

Ignore the grammatical errors.  I was incensed.  But I tend to make grammatical errors regardless. 
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