Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Changes in the kitchen

I don't post much about my home, mainly because I rarely spend real money on it. It's kept very clean and very tidy, and from time to time I buy little things for it, but I haven't bought anything postworthy since the new gas cooker February 2013.

Nor have I embarked on any redecoration. That's partly because I am a languid kind of person with no DIY skills to speak of, so it all seems a daunting task. But there are also three other problems.

One: Nothing has been altered or repainted since the early 2000s, so making a small start on anything (white gloss on the door frames, say) will immediately make the rest look shabby, and nothing will look right again until it's all had a makeover. Just now I haven't got the time or inclination to do that. So it will remain in its present state. As for the style of decor, it was last decorated in the early 2000s, and even then it conformed to my parents' taste, which I can best describe as 'Pre-IKEA'. The look is distinctly last-century. And although he was a keen DIYer, Dad's execution was a bit rough-and-ready here and there. But if you ignore that, the decor and the furniture do at least look, in their own way, consistent and harmonious. It's not 'me', but I can happily live with it.

Two: I'm not yet ready to obliterate the look and ambience that Mum and Dad created. I may have put my own pictures up on the walls, and my own ornaments and books on the shelves, but the house remains essentially as they had it. The furniture (with the main exception of my bed) is all theirs. The wallpaper was their choice. It absolutely says 'Mum and Dad did this'. They created a very comfortable, well-equipped home, and I have gratefully enjoyed that comfort. I was surprised to inherit the house, rather than sharing a pot of money, but I like its atmosphere and in many ways it does feel to me like a survival pod that my parents knew I would need. I owe it to them not to tear it apart too soon, simply to start afresh. And even though my home is in no sense a shrine to my parents, it does constantly conjure up their memory, wherever I glance. Everything about it reminds me of my parents, and really my home is my last tangible link with them. One day I will decide it's time for a new look. But not yet.

Three: Money. I am putting my social life, my car, and my holidays a long way in front of home beautification. You can't afford it all. You have to decide which things must have priority. I have made my choice, and I think it's the right one.

So as things wear out, I make a decision on whether to replace them, or just do without. Replacement is not automatic. I do want the essentials, of course, but not a lot of gadgetry that gets in the way. My parents bought gadgets galore. (I believe this is a common feature of older life) I have gradually been throwing stuff out, rather than buying replacements.

Here's an example. Mum and Dad were among the early purchasers of a dishwasher, once they became available at a reasonable price in the 1970s. But for some reason they made do without one when they moved into this house in 2000. I suspect that was because the era of regular family entertaining was pretty well over. Washing dishes by hand was no trouble. But in late 2008, Dad decided to buy a small Bosch dishwasher for Mum. It was installed near the sink, underneath a wall unit. If I show three kitchen shots, one taken in 2007, one in 2009, and one just the other day in 2016, you can see what the arrangement was, and how that corner of the kitchen developed:

The middle of these three pictures shows the kitchen in the state I inherited it after Dad's death - pretty well exactly as he left it after his last meal and the washing-up that followed. And it must be obvious that since then I've made only minimal changes.

That little dishwasher was hardly used. Mum grew ill, and by January 2009 was in a hospice. Dad washed up by hand. That was his preferred method anyway. And after he died, I always washed up by hand too. That said, the dishwasher was still useful as a fold-away drying rack. I'd lower the front door, pull out the rack, and place bowl-washed items in it.

The water and suds would drain onto the lid, and then back into the machine. I'd leave the dishes and cutlery to dry naturally, then, some hours later, unload the rack, push it back into the machine (on its little wheels), and close the door, leaving a gap for ventilation. The water and suds would pool inside somewhat, but if left long enough would dry. Once a fortnight I'd shut the door properly and run the machine empty on the final rinse section of the washing programme, to pass hot water through it and clean it out.

Unfortunately I live in a hard-water area, and I became aware that the machine was slowly furring up with the kind of mineral crust that you get in kettles:

I knew that one day it would stop running as it should. That began to happen early this year. Last week it stopped altogether. It was of course entirely possible that a thorough service would bring it back to life, but I didn't see the point of spending the money - for I had never used the dishwasher as it ought to be used, and never would. It was time to disconnect it, remove it, and take it to the tip. I'd gain a useful amount of worktop space. I wanted the rack, though - it would still be perfect out of the machine.

So yesterday my next door neighbour Kevin came in with his plumber hat on, and the deed was done. He capped off the piping and obligingly carried the thing out to my garage for me. I was left with a space to fill.

After cleaning that corner, I shifted the microwave oven - another gadget I rarely used - and plonked it where the old dishwasher had been. This left sufficient space for the rack.

You can see what happens. At dishwashing-time, I roll the rack forwards onto the stainless-steel draining board...

...and roll it back out of the way after everything is dry, so that I can wipe the draining board. Meanwhile, the worktop on the other side of the kitchen is minus a microwave oven, and has become relatively decluttered:

I now finally have a long stretch of worktop, which will of course be invaluable or any cooking process or serving-up operation that involves a lot of plates, and/or two persons working side-by-side. (I am not too proud to accept assistance in my own kitchen)

Less is more!


  1. Not feeling that you have to be constantly redecorating is very aristocratic and just how I expect our Lucy to be.

    A trick worth trying on gloss paint which you think has become dull is to polish it with something like brasso or car paint restorer, start where it is seen most and do a small section each week as part of your cleaning and you should hardly notice it happening. Saves on too much disturbance.

    I just save dishes until the pile seems big enough to make it worth while filling the bowl with hot water. The door to the washing space used to be closed to hide the mess but when the door was taken off for floor repairs I liked the open plan look and save so much tie and energy opening and closing that door...

  2. part of your cleaning...but Coline, I don't do my own cleaning, I have a cleaner. So I can't use your tip.

    Aristocratic, eh? I'll take that as a great compliment.

    Lady Lucy

    1. I know that aristocratic Lucy has help, sure she could be persuaded to give it a try bit by bit...

  3. You, my Sue and I are definitely of one mind! We abhor gadgets that fill kitchen surfaces and leave little or no working space.

    The only essential item for an accomplished cook that I don't see is the kitchen scales. Might mum and dad's traditional white scales (clearly visible in your first 2 photos) have been replaced by a digital one, discretely hidden in a draw? If so, I applaud you. I can't get Sue to part with ours, with it's two sets of weights -- imperial (for her) and metric (for me).

    1. I am happily ambiscalus but cannot part with my huge sweet shop scales, which show pre decimal prices in fractions of an ounce, no matter how much valuable work space they take up.


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