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Enjoy Clean Dishes and Soft Hands at the same time

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I like to make my chores interesting, even something as boring as washing dishes. I do that by reminiscing about the time when my great grandparents’ cows would come home. My great grandmother Cookie was a dairy farmer’s wife. 

She was famous for keeping her hands soft even as she cleaned so many dishes and raised four kids. What made it even more interesting was that she fed the farmhands in her kitchen. According to my mum, Cookie’s secret lay in scrubbing with butter and sugar. Going by the softness of her hands, she must have been swimming in these ingredients. 

As much as my hands do half the labor Cookie was exposed to, they are definitely more chapped. If it isn’t because of the hot water I shower with, it’s the bike rides. The harsh sanitizers and the constant hand washing make matters worse. This means my hands will need a little more TLC this season. Fortunately, I have discovered a process that makes washing dishes feel like a much-needed spa day. 

  1. A homemade hand scrub

Just like Grandma Cookie I create a hand scrub from items that are available in the home. This could include; coconut oil, last bits of butter, or olive oil for moisturizing; a substantial amount of salt, cornmeal, sugar, or breadcrumbs to act as an exfoliant. Before I wear gloves and begin washing dishes, I rinse and apply moisturizer. The heat from my hands and the water allows my skin to take in the moisture as I wash the dishes.

  • A Paraffin bath 

Whenever I have loads of work waiting to for me, I ensure the paraffin bath is plugged in. It is an impulse purchase that I still use luckily. I feel pampered when I put my hands in warm melted wax before wearing gloves. 

  • Essential oils

When I want to take things a step further, I use a drop of eucalyptus or peppermint oil in my hot dishwater.  It vaporizes the sinus-clearing scents that turn dishwashing into a spa treatment. I turn up the music and I don’t tolerate interruptions until everything is clean, dry, and put away.  

Before I discovered the magic of supple, softened skin, and the cool air that came after removing them after steaming, I hated dish gloves. I hate how they get sticky on the inside because of moisture or wax. But once turned to the other side, rinsed and dried, they become as good as new. As much as the chores are repetitive, I have no worries since I will have hands like that of Cookie even as we get into winter. 

Tips & Advice

Arrange your Baking Tools Like A Pro

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It is not easy to decorate festive cookies or to create an Instagram-worthy baking cake project from a cluttered, messy kitchen. 

When you always feel like you’re ransacking your pantry for the sprinkles container, or like your whisk is jammed up the kitchen drawer, it is time to better organize your baking tools and have all the appliances, ingredients, and utensils, sorted in the right places.

When you are organizing, a lot may hinge on the layout and size of the kitchen. As each space is separate, a variety of tricks and tips can work on countertops, pantry, drawers, and cabinets so that you may choose and pick what best works for you and your available space. 

Before you start organizing, take note of this tip: never feel limited to the store’s kitchen organization section. Look for home improvement and office organization for various sizes and shapes of items leading to even more creativity (with often surprising) storage ideas.

Countertop Organization

The kitchen countertop area is prime real estate. Save that space for the most beautiful or frequently used items. This is where you want to put that frequently used wooden spoon for stirring your beloved homemade fudge or that perfect rubber spatula that scoops out the very last batter drop from the mixing bowl. 

You might want to leave them very close to the workspace. They are going to be on display, so you may want to store them in an antique crock or heirloom vase.

This adjustable countertop rack can expand to fit different spaces and help you differentiate between frequently-used items and reserves much space for showing off a collection of your favorite cookbooks.

Pantry Organization

The pantry is where you store most of your baking ingredients. Freshness as well as order, matters here. Store sugars and flours in airtight containers to retain freshness and quality, labeled every container clearly with what it contains (you don’t want to guess as you bake). These containers for storage come with a convenient handle and are stackable.

Arranging spices and herbs is always a challenge for me. Some plans look great in a photo but they are not practical for the plethora of ingredients in all sizes and shapes of bottles. A slim vertical rack slipping to the side of the pantry can do wonders.

Instead of sorting spices and herbs alphabetically like a grocery store, I would rather separate the savory baking spices from the sweet ones. When I want to make gingerbread, I love having the nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon conveniently nestled together.

If you are often decorating cookies or cakes, your pantry could be easily overrun with containers of decorative and food coloring sprinkles. These items are small, and a divided office organizer could help you arrange them in a way that you can easily pull out one thing from the lot without disturbing everything else.

Drawer Organization

Your kitchen drawer is the perfect place for often used items that won’t find space in the countertop area. A drawer organizer is essential here, especially one that is expandable to fit in any space.

I was thinking about using each slot for the commonly used items together. Probably the pastry brush could be near the pastry blender. Or the offset spatula is close to the piping tips and bags. 

The workplace’s drawer closets should contain the items you use most such as oven mitt or hot pad. It’s the perfect place for lining aluminum foil boxes, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and hanging the favorite kitchen towels on the handles for fast cleanup.

Cabinet Organization

Kitchen cabinets are excellent for more cumbersome, large kitchen items. This is where you want to store more seldom used appliances. Slide-out drawers will come in handy when bringing them out for baking.

Cabinets are ideal for muffin tins, cake pans, or Bundts. Arrange them from smallest to largest to save space. 

At the bottom, I keep the 10-inch springform pan filled with 9-inch round cake pans, then the 8-inch one, and so forth. If you place a shelf lifter in the cabinet, it could provide additional space.

It becomes easier to see all your bakeware and quickly grab what you need for your project. The area near the shelf lifter is good for vertically lining up cooling racks and cutting boards.

Creative Space

It seems like there is never enough space in your kitchen, no matter how big it is. It takes creativity to make good use of space. Why don’t you borrow a tip from Julia Child by mounting up a pegboard for hanging frequently used items inside a door or on a wall?

Consider the unused kitchen spaces like the refrigerator side. The magnetic refrigerator rack is a small space but a genius solution. It’s not on site but functional and stylish. I would always lose the cake tester until the day I glued a magnet at the back and would keep it on the fridge side where I could grab it fast to check a batch of cupcakes.

My last tip: after placing each baking tool where you want it, wait a week and bake some of your favorite treats. This will help you familiarize yourself with the setup, and make few logical tweaks in the process. You might not know the perfect place for an item until you need it in the middle of baking.   

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What the last Five Years have taught us about Kitchen Renovations

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Renovating a kitchen is a lot like getting a tattoo. It is a painful process but the end result can be rewarding enough to make you forget the pain. I have carried out several total-tear-out renovations for kitchens in the past 5 years. I am not counting the 3 remodel jobs I have done in the past 6 years. 

Right now, I am teaming up with a friend on a sagging Victorian kitchen. However, we needed to sit still for some weeks after demolishing it to put together the money for the project. Now I can think of the lessons learnt during my time renovating. I hope I can apply everything I have learned to this project.

First, let’s take a look at everything step by step. I started with the kitchen in the attic of my Airbnb. What was once a hoarders-space was transformed into a cozy and cute space with a vintage vibe, ideal for entertaining visitors. 

One of my most exciting projects was when I redid my own kitchen. It morphed from a cramped space painted in Crayola colors, into a glamorous space with sleek black walls. It has been a pleasure cooking in my new kitchen the past two years. My other project was when I worked on my other house last year. 

I changed the dirty and dated kitchen into a cleaner and brighter space. After the renovation, I immediately got an offer on the house. 

What previously acquired tips will I use on my latest project?

Budget, Budget, Budget

Renovating a kitchen can be very expensive. It is easy to disregard your budget and spend more than you planned to, even when the budget is generous. The possibilities in yummy countertops, pretty tiles, and fancy appliances are just too tempting. But my budget for the flip house and the Airbnb was quite low. 

Not only was my budget low, but it was definitely below average. I still managed to do everything within my budget in all the projects. 

It takes lots of effort to pull it off, but the payoff is amazing when you can score amazing bargains. Every time you spend more than you planned to on an item, you will have to counterbalance it by saving money on something else. Hunting down thrift items and vintage pieces can help you to counterbalance and still decorate tastefully. 

Skip the Shticks

Do I find the faucet in my kitchen gorgeous? Definitely. Would I purchase the touch sensor again? Not in a million years.

It sounded like a great deal when I was getting it. But what they don’t tell you is how when its batteries die, your faucet stays off. Do you know when it happens? At the worst possible moments (picture a sink filled with dirty dishes). Not only that, it confuses guests and is generally irritating. Before I purchase a piece of fancy tech for the sake of it, I’ll take time to think of its actual usefulness.

Statement Pieces are a Must-have

Every kitchen deserves a star. My home kitchen had the Ferrari red Bertazzoni range. I was lucky enough to get them for a steeply discounted price. The Airbnb had a vintage stove. Four people had to carry the 1940s Florence up the staircase. Both of the pieces give the kitchens a striking appearance. That is something the flip kitchen missed. 

I loved the final look. But given a chance, I would do things differently. For the current project, we want to get a great quartzite counter for the Island. It is sure to make a statement.

Before Making Big Purchases Always Check Out Reviews

I just loved the black stainless look on appliances. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework. (Why would I do such a thing? Because I was afraid of any reason that would come up and keep me from making the purchase that was already half-priced online.) 

That was a decision I came to regret. The appliance gets a scratch when you so much as look at it. I am not the only one with this regret. If I had bothered to do some research, I would have known that the same thing had happened to many other people before me.

Don’t go Cheap on the Floors. 

You cannot splurge on everything, but don’t compromise on your floors. I made the unfortunate choice of going for cheaper vinyl tiles when I was renovating my Airbnb. Almost as soon as we had installed the tiles, it became obvious why the tiles were cheap. I still have the same tiles years later now, and I regret every minute of it.

Cheap materials should not be used on kitchen floors. Yes we saved some money, but that was only short term. Right now, my floors need redoing and it is going to be so much more annoying to do it now than it we had gotten it right in the first place. If I could turn back the clock, I would definitely go for something more durable. 

Make your Instructions Specific

There was a pleasant surprise waiting for us when we demolished our kitchen floor. We discovered hardwood flooring underneath our kitchen (home). When we received this gift from the universe, we decided to refinish the floors instead of retiling them. 

However, a few areas needed patching. The crew that was to do the floor refinishing said that they would pull out the pieces where the island would be placed. 

I used painters tape to outline the area the island would occupy on the floor. The only problem was that I had forgotten to mention the countertop. They cut everything out, which left a gaping hole.

Patching was done but it wasn’t perfect. I would have avoided the problem by being more specific. I have now learned to explain everything in detail when giving project instructions.  

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How an Internet Video got me Cleaning my Toaster with a Hair Dryer

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It is always exciting to find out how home appliances often come in handy in the most unexpected ways. 

From hand vacuuming your microwave to get rid of crumbs to cleaning greasy cabinets with a steamer, and as I recently discovered, cleaning dirty toasters with a blow dryer. 

Household appliances have always done more than their job descriptions required, but it is not every day that an appliance crosses over from the dressing table to the kitchen.  

But as online influencer Jessica Haizman proved, what’s good for your dressing table can sometimes be good for your kitchen.

Haizman took to TikTok to show case an interesting way to clean up a filthy toaster. It takes only three steps, and it seemed to work. 

I had not deep cleaned my toaster in all its years of service, so I was eager to give it a shot. What made me even more excited about the project was that according to the video, I already had all the tools I needed to execute the job. I was ready to do it. 

Haizman first suggested using a microfiber cloth to help dislodge bigger particles inside the toaster slot. If the microfiber cloth is dry, it should be easy to push the crumbs so that they fall into the tray. I tried that part and found it was not too hard. 

Now I just had to get rid of the bigger particles once and for all by removing the tray from the toaster and washing it in the sink before drying it on the dish rack. This part was not difficult either. 

By now you are probably wondering how the blow dryer comes in. This part is a little more complicated, but the main idea is that you are blowing the air downward in order to force out the debris lodged inside the toaster. These particles would be hard to get out any other way. 

The good news is that it worked. The particles stuck inside the toaster did come out. The bad news? They ended up scattered across my kitchen floor and counter.

If you want to avoid this, you can hold your toaster upside over the trash can and proceed to shake it gently until the crumbs budge. 

After that, you can use the blow dryer to remove any small particles still stuck inside the toaster. Do this over the trash can to avoid a mess. Use a low setting. 

After you have finished removing the crumbs, you can now wipe down the toaster’s outer walls using water with some white vinegar in it. This will remove all the grime and grease on the surface.

The results? Even though there are still some rusty looking spots, my toaster looks a lot younger and shiner. Now if you will excuse me, I need to clean all the bits of toast scattered across my kitchen counters. 

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