Unloading vs. Loading

Loading the dishwasher is enjoyable, maybe especially for those of us who went years without one, because of the challenge to arrange things in the best way to get clean and to stuff it to the max.  I’ll rearrange it over and over as I fill it just to get it all in there.  If there’s something just won’t fit, I may leave it for the next load rather than handwash it.  I’m that person.  Lazy?  Yeah, that shoe fits.

Unloading is another matter.

It shouldn’t be.  The dishes are clean, the work has been done, but somehow I feel less enthusiastic about putting it all away.  Laundry can be like that, (love to wash; hate to fold?) but once I got efficient about my folding and putting away I do it expeditiously.  Woo!  Making word-of-the-day proud.

So, I’ve been working on a system to make unloading the dishwasher, which is a chore, less of a chore.  I amuse myself that I’ve found what goads my laziness or at least my procrastination to do something about the full-clean dishwasher.  It’s the back-tracking that bugs me.  I don’t like opening this cabinet to put this dish in, then a different cabinet to put away that dish, then lo and behold there’s another dish to go in the previous cabinet.  As exercise though, I’m sure it increases my steps.

When you move houses, it’s most efficient to load a large moving truck with everything, drive it to your location and unload it even if you’re moving down the block.  I need to pile the dishes once, in a single location, and then put them away.  Is that why loading the dishwasher is easier as most dirty dishes are in a single location, already in the sink or on the counter?  I’m making it a habit to unload the entire dishwasher in drip-efficient order onto the nearest clean counter, then moving a whole stack to their destination.  No more two plates at a time.

First, I need to unload the sink-side drain of all dishes that were drying from the previous dishwasher load and anything that had to be washed by hand.  I need the drain empty so I can air-dry this current load.

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My silverware is on the door itself, not everyone’s is.  This is my step one, but if yours is on the bottom rack I would suggest making this your first unload in the bottom rack.  I try to load my silverware heads up to get clean and to be able to put them away without having to turn them.  I can do it in one trip with loaded fistfuls.   Anything else in the silverware holder that is not silverware then gets put away or put in the drying rack.

Then the bottom rack.  Why?  Because the top rack often contains plastics which retain water drops.  If you pull out the top rack, that water will drip on the bottom dry dishes.  (When this happens you can hear my disappointed “NOOOOOO!” from space.  Seriously, it’s just water, but it feels like failure.)  I have been unloading the bottom rack entirely and stacking the plates, bowls, etc into groups to be put away.  Just like unloading a laundry basket into piles by a garment’s destination.

Then I unload the top rack, which is mostly wet and goes straight into the sink-side drain to finish air drying, but the dry items join the queue on the counter.  Finally, I close the dishwasher and put everything on the counter away in the fewest trips possible.   Or sometimes I load it anew from the dirty dish piles on the counter and in the sink, and then close it and then put dishes away.  Truth.

If this seems like waaaay too much thought put in to unloading a dishwasher, you’re absolutely right.  Over-thinking it… also a shoe sized “Maria.”  Maybe simply being grateful to have clean dishes I get to put away is enough to get the job done.  Finish strong friends!!

Bowl Backboard 

We planned our spring break getaway with enough time for me to prepare some road snacks. 

I made no bake cookies. This is my favorite recipe. Love that it gives you the number of seconds to let your liquid be at a rolling boil. So exact. Actually we ate the first batch and I had to make more. These are perfect when you crave chocolate and salt while driving. Plus the oatmeal helps things move instead of what long car rides usually do to all of us. 

We brought other snacks and drinks, so I knew we’d need a cooler. This time I thought ahead and stocked up on ice in advance so we wouldn’t have to make a stop to buy a bag. I emptied my ice maker into freezer bags as it filled up. 

Kinda hard to dump this much ice in a small opening. When I’m filling a ziplock with liquid contents or something that wants to shift I try to fit the bag into a bowl or glass and fold back the lip.

I was trying to think of a way to make a homemade funnel and I thought of my flexi cutting board. This one was a welcome gift in the mail when we bought our house, but I know a lot of people have these. 

Fold and insert. 

Now I have a backboard to pour into. 

Sorry for a blurry picture. This was hard to do with one hand so I could snap this shot.



One down. I filled two more bags this way storing them in the freezer until travel time, then replaced the ice maker to fill up. Plenty of ice for the cooler. Mission accomplished and I got a new multitasking kitchen gadget in the process. 

Making Caroline Ingalls Proud

I’ve started reading the Little House series to my 6 year old.  We’re now in Farmer Boy and she loves them as much as I did as a kid.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura mentions her mom’s weekly housekeeping schedule.

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It includes a washing day (I do a load of laundry pretty much every day, but I don’t have to fill a washtub with creek water), an ironing day (no thanks!), a mending day (this one I should incorporate), a day to churn, a day to rest, and a baking day.  Baking day sounded awesome, so I’ve declared Tuesday as baking day!  The most delicious day of the week.

When the flour, etc. is already out making multiple baked items is less of a chore.  My husband feels the same way about frying things.  “The oil is hot, what else should we deep fry…”

My freezer needs to have space to store for baking day.  I learned by listening to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast that baked items go stale at the same rate if you store on the counter or if you stir in the fridge.  What preserves freshness best is the freezer, as long as you wrap things properly.  Most things need two layers of plastic wrap and a freezer bag or aluminum foil.  Sliced frozen bread is great to go straight into the toaster.  A lot of bread will thaw on the counter from frozen in 30 minutes to an hour.  Then I noticed my microwave has a bread defrost button.  Does everyone know about this frozen bread thing but me?!

The first baking day I made a pie and froze it and also New York bagels, biscuits and blueberry muffins.  I wrapped the cooled muffins individually (after being short a couple) in two layers of plastic wrap then into a freezer bag .  Defrosting them in the microwave means every morning we could have warm blueberry muffins.  The next week I made ultimate cinnamon buns, double chocolate banana bread, baked ham and jalapeno empanadas, and more bagels (because we ate them all).  Last week I only made chocolate croissants.  These take the entirety of your baking day with all the resting in the fridge they need.  Worth it.  Oh so worth it.

Or course Ma didn’t often have the luxury of chocolate and white sugar and berries out of season and, and, and…  She and all those like her were wonder women at making things work.  But I think she’d be proud to know she influenced one modern-age woman to bake crazy delicious things for her family and friends on a designated day I SO look forward to.  And I get to bring my husband home from work with a text like this…

img_6737How about you?  Would a designated day encourage you to bake from scratch?  Do you store baked goods in the freezer and you’ve been sitting on this trick without telling me?!

Outfit Options or Lack Thereof

I stock my daughters drawers the same way I do everyone’s in our home, newly folded clothes to the back of the drawer to rotate them.  So it should be easy enough to just grab the first item in the drawer and put it on.  But, she likes some choices, and I learned she likes to see an outfit laid out, not separate pieces.  Plus, some tops just go better with specific bottoms.img_6722

So, I check my weather app for the week’s forecast and create 5 outfits on Sunday and hang them on hangers.  I try to use one hanger for each day, but tutus are simply hung beside a day’s hanger.

Jeans and shorts I hang on a hanger with a shirt using a belt loop…img_6720

or a tag if there isn’t a loop…img_6721

I fold leggings directly on the hanger. img_6719

Now there’s 5 outfits for 5 days and she has some choice (I often hold up two hangers, “This one or this one”), but not so many choices that it will keep her from getting ready and getting out the door in time for school.  I’m a big advocate for a lack of options.

How about you?  Do you lay out clothes for the next day or do you do it for someone in your family?

Marriage Savers

Marriage saving may be false advertising as nothing can save a marriage like Jesus, but as we’re coming up on our 10 year anniversary, we have found there are some helpful tools (like actual objects) that have either kept an argument from happening or solved a problem that was leading to grudgy (not a word but it should be) feelings.

Our first compromise… A toaster oven/conventional toaster combo.  When registering for our wedding we realized how differently we were raised.  He grew up with a toaster that springs, I was raised with a toaster oven.  Worlds apart, I know.  If this is you, there’s a product for that.

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My arguments for choosing a toaster oven was sandwich melts and butter storage.  (In our family, we put butter on a plate and kept it in the toaster oven for safe keeping.  I later learned that my mom did this because her butter dish broke and something about mice? )  Funny how the way things were when you were a kid creates a belief system for “the way this is supposed to be done” even when it wasn’t a preference of your parents but just a problem solver at a specific time with specific circumstances.   It’ll be great when my kids register for their wedding and they scan long handled tongs to reach things up high.  “Because that’s what you do.”  Ha!

Back to the toaster… We used our compromise happily until it broke then got a cheap pop up toaster.  I really didn’t make sandwich melts anymore and I started using a butter dish… and storing it in the fridge so it doesn’t go rancid.

My in-laws gave us these and actually called them “marriage savers.”

Are you a toothpaste tube squeezer who doesn’t mind if you’re pushing product toward or away from the opening or do you thoughtfully and wastelessly squeeze toward the spout?  Most likely you’re one and your spouse is the other and you need these cheap little plastic pinchers to appease the waste-conscious one.  We should all practice tooth hygiene grudge-free.

Do you wake up your spouse in the middle of the night when your fitted sheet comes off the corner of your mattress so you can pull it back down?  I Googled something like “fitted sheet suspenders” and I found these bad boys and got them for my husband’s birthday as the “Something you Need” present.  It was sure hard to wait until his birthday to give this gift.  These may be my new go-to wedding gift.

Finally, I do this to extension cords…img_6738Some may call it braided but it really is hand crocheted in a simple chain.  All you do is pull the ends and it comes right out if it’s crocheted right and if it is pulled correctly, but it drives my husband crazy.  He just winds cords in a loop, but that can make a knot really easily.  We nearly had to have his and hers extension cords.  Recently he bought this hand cranking spool to store our extension cord.

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I don’t intend to product promote with this blog, but these are my current marriage savers, and I want to hear yours too!  If you can think of a tool that you use to avoid petty arguments please share it; far better to have a list of marriage savers than deal breakers.

Puttin’ on the Grits

My dad eats a meal I call Grits Fully Loaded almost every morning.  It’s deilcious.  Quick cooked grits topped with shredded cheese, a salsa like Texas caviar, and a poached or fried egg.

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Grits is just a great vehicle for lots of food.  Including leftovers.

I’ve been experimenting…

Grits topped with pulled pork and bbq beans, sauteed peppers and mushrooms and cheese.

Leftover mango chicken samosa filling (mango, chicken, potato, spices and cilantro) and a poached egg.  Shockingly good.  I thought the mango would be too weird, but actually the potato threw me and the mango was awesome.

Quick cooked grits are ready in around 5 minutes making them faster than rice.  They taste like very little so you can doctor them however you like but they are extremely filling and I feel so nourished after eating my bowl.

Spice Update

Ooo that title sounds like a reunion announcement for a certain British girl band. Sorry. 

My first blog post ever was From Allspice to Za’atar.   After years, I have updated my labels to printed ones and all of my bags are now snack size. There’s still no going back to spices in their given containers for me. 


Exceptions to this…

Cinnamon. 


I keep ground cinnamon in a container so I can sprinkle as I need. 

I mixed one with sugar to keep because nothing is better on French toast. NOTHING. 


Whole cinnamon I keep in its bag not with the other spices because it absorbs the smell of the other Cs. Mainly cumin. I opened my cinnamon sticks to make stovetop potpourri, but no cinnamon smell was left. 


Pretty much everything else is in those four containers.

Functional storage of anything is beautiful.