Friday, December 28, 2012

Big Days in Small Places

This was my kitchen BEFORE anything was put in it.  It's pretty small!
Now, add a dish drainer, canisters, cooking utensils, food, drinks, the ever present junk corner and everything else that goes in a busy kitchen...  

We made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Funny, my thoughts upon sitting down to write this were on the immeasurable value and power of perspective, and then I wrote the first line the way I did instead of saying that our Holidays were wonderful.  They were, indeed, wonderful, and also-- we made it through them.

I thought accommodating a visitor in our small home for Thanksgiving would be the real challenge, but really, that part wasn't bad at all.  I guess we kind of knew we'd have to make arrangements and we were more or less ready and expecting some adjustment.  We had trouble with our blow-up mattress (lesson learned) but other than the few extra minutes it took for us to rearrange things for sleeping, it wasn't a huge change.  We transform daytime living areas into night time sleeping areas on a regular basis.  What's one more bed?

We had a week long visit planned with mom, and I was afraid we'd all be pulling our hair out by the time the week was up, but we honestly hated to see her go.  It was truly, very nice.  It might have been a little tougher if mom had been an early riser, since we aren't, particularly.  There was quite literally NO floor space to put a toe down even to step around things.  She isn't, though, and thankfully, we got up first and cleared the area before anyone else needed it.  It would have also been a lot tougher if we'd had different attitudes, but we all went into it with, "Great to be with you, we'll make it work!"

Fall and winter holidays are most noted for the food, and my kitchen is quite small.  Even in the world of small homes, mine would be considered moderate to small, probably, and I have to say that for holiday feasts, if you're planning the whole shebang, plan, plan, plan and prep ahead.  You may have to find creative alternate methods to accomplish some things.  Other things may just have to be put on the chopping block.

The hardest part of the holiday shindiggery (Like that word?  I did!  I'll probably use that again someday) was kitchen space.  Burner space, counter space, floor space, any space at all was at a premium in the kitchen.  Two people can't do the work at once, so my number one and two suggestions are these: do as much as possible ahead and plan to take turns to get things done if you are going to enlist the help of the family.

We used a great alternative method.  We'd always wanted to try fixing our big holiday meal in dutch ovens outside.  I have a lot of cast iron cook stuff.  I have several decent sized dutch ovens and one huge dutch oven that fit our big turkey, five pounds of potatoes and two pounds of carrots! Hats off to the cook: my wonderful husband.  He was so helpful!  He probably wouldn't have helped had it been cooked inside like "normal," but, since it was outside, he manned the fire, and it helped me with space, labor and time.  I had more free time to sit and enjoy with family than I ever have, I think.  It was wonderful!  There's usually so much work!  We sat around outside quite a bit while it cooked, one stacked on top the other with the turkey on the bottom, green beans next, then stuffing on top.

I did the pies and got the side dishes ready during the two days leading up to Thanksgiving. We have a really tiny refrigerator, too, so we had to plan all of that to death as well.  We had to sacrifice the spiced cider, relish trays and cookies.  I sort of missed them, but it's a lot of hassle and in this small of a place it was just too much. We're starting new traditions now.  That's not to say I won't do that stuff later on for another holiday dinner, but I'll have to incorporate it back in slowly and in more clever ways.

Eating was interesting.  It's a blessing that we had nice weather, because we set up most of the food buffet-style, in sort of a chow line outside on the picnic table.  We came in with plates filled with the outdoor goodies and all of the extra things that I had cooked in the house were set in dishes along the front of the counter in another serving line.  It went smoothly enough.

For the record and for future reference, had the weather been too cool or wet or whatever, I would have had to set the other food on the oven door and the oven rack, and then maybe squeeze something else on the stove top.  It would have been just that much more congested, but it's nice to know that I could have done it.

We can't really fit four at the table very comfortable, let alone five. We managed to put four of us there, anyway,  and it wasn't too bad.  We have a small, booth style dinette area.  I served drinks after everyone was seated to ease up on the traffic in the kitchen and in order to avoid a "Chinese Fire Drill" that we would have had to do if each of us were to get our own. I felt bad that one boy sat behind us on the couch, but, bless his heart, he didn't mind, and he purposefully eased my mind about it.

Clean up wasn't as bad as you might think, but I've always been very big on "clean as you go."  If you aren't already a clean as you go-er, I suggest you become one.  It's a necessary skill in a small home anyway, and it made a lot of difference with a meal like this.

This is longer than I meant for it  to be, so I'll stop.  Oh, yeah... the "after":

WOW!  I need to thin it out!


Retta said...

LOVE the cooking outside with coals. Any way you could make use of vefrtical space for things? We're using peg board for our walls in order to create more storage space. Not sure how that would work for y'all though.

Representative said...

Too close to hang anything under the cabinets, too low of a ceiling to hang anything from above. Just have to pare things back. I might be able to put one small shelf behind the sink, but it would be so small I'm not sure how much good it would be. :p