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Brighten Up Breakfast On the Cheap

For an inexpensive way to brighten up mealtimes — especially in the wintertime — you can’t beat these melamine plates from Crate and Barrel.

Crate and Barrel plates

Graphic florals pop on bright backgrounds, and the cute color combos make them fun to mix and match.

Crate and Barrel plates

At $6.95 each, these plates are as easy on your budget as they are on the eye.

A Minimalist Kitchen

I remember long ago living in a Brooklyn apartment that was totally tiny. The kitchen? Smaller than my mother’s walk-in closet. Luckily, my roommate had already stocked the kitchen cabinets with all of the pots and pans and dishes we could want. Well, as many as could fit in those minuscule cabinets, anyway. Nonetheless we had just about everything we needed to cook almost anything.

Now I’ve heard people say that you can’t make a gourmet meal in an itty-bitty kitchen, but I’m going to say they’re wrong. Check out the Portable Kitchen guide, which is a PDF geared toward traveling cooks, but way useful for those of us with no space to spare.

minimalist kitchen

The best part is that you can get everything you need on the cheap. I mean all these things. As cookery book master Mark Bittman found out, you can outfit your kitchen without spending a gajillion dollars.

I contend that with a bit of savvy, patience and a willingness to forgo steel-handle knives, copper pots and other extravagant items, $200 can equip a basic kitchen that will be adequate for just about any task, and $300 can equip one quite well.

He started with an eight-inch, plastic-handle stainless alloy chef’s knife for $10. Nice. Next up was an instant-read thermometer for $5. Then three stainless steel bowls for $5 and tongs for $3.50. A sheet pan set him back $6, and he continued on with a paring knife, a colander, and a can opener, among other things. He also bought pots and pans, in case you were worried he was starting off with an unfair advantage. Remember, cast iron is cheap!

Bright Dining, Two Ways

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve sitting down to big European style breakfasts in my grandparents’ dining room. Because the rear of their waterfront home was almost all window, light and warmth were never lacking. Cut to the present day, in which I don’t have a dining room and am more likely to be breaking my fast at my desk in my home office. While we do have a perfectly serviceable kitchen table, the kitchen in its current state is rather too white for wintertime. In the summer, it stays cool. In the winter, it just feels too cold.

Note that The Beard and I are considering various DIY renovations. Here are two images that are inspiring me right now:

Orange dining room

Yellow dining room

Maybe they’ll inspire you, as well?

(Images via Wohn Idee)

Birch Tree by Jessica Rust

Birch Tree Dinnerware

Jessica Rust specializes in small-batch ceramics that are both playful and functional. The patterns don’t immediately jump out at you, which is part of the fun. At first, the trees and birds emblazoned on this dinnerware appears to be an abstract pattern, but the truth gradually becomes clear. What’s lovely is that the line can be personalized, so the initials carved on the birch trees can be those of you and your honeybunch.

DIY Serving Tray

When it comes to amazing DIY transformations in the home, it seldom gets more amazing than this:

Serving tray, before

One of these white kitchen cabinet doors at the salvage yard doesn’t know it, but it’s going to go home with a superlative crafter with serving trays on her mind.

Serving tray made out of a cabinet

And here’s what that kitchen cabinet door became! Monica of Craftynest is the brains (and I suppose the brawn) behind this oh-so-easy DIY project, and she’s been kind enough to share a how-to on her blog. If you’re in the San Fran Bay area and you love Monica’s stuff — hey, one out of two ain’t bad — then you’re in luck. She occasionally puts some of her projects up for sale on the local Craigslist board. Lucky Californians!

Nom Nom Nom?

On one hand, these French serving trays are delightful in their hybrid beauty. They are, at once, serviceable pieces of kitchenware that are perfect for entertaining and portraits of beautiful woman.

French serving trays

On the other hand, I just can’t seem to shake the image of my hors d’oeuvres being eaten from underneath by ravenous ghost people.

Gifts For the Home: The Under $40 Edition

I’m proud to say that I actually have quite a bit of my holiday shopping done, though this is by no means usual. This year, I copped out and went with gifts for the home. I guess it’s fun trying to buy gifts for my elders who already have everything they need, but I just plain don’t have the time this year to dedicate my time and energy to shopping.

What do all the parents and grandparents in my life have? Homes, that’s what. And I’ve never heard anyone complain that they simply have too much cute in the kitchen.

Picasso napkin ringsholiday appetizer platesretro clock
cake standretro spice rackblue coffee press

What you see:

(Not So) Fleeting Elegance

At my wedding reception, the caterer brought along something they called “upscale disposable silverware.” Prior to the reception, we were all pretty interested to see what that would turn out to be. As it turns out, upscale disposable silverware is silver plastic cutlery designed to look more like an actual silverware set than the white plastic forks, spoons, and knives one can buy in the garbage bag aisle of the local Winn-Dixie. Okay, then.

Designers Donata Paruccini and Fabio Bortolani took the concept a step further with their deluxe plastic cutlery sets (manufactured by Pandora Design).

plastic_silverware

The set is decorated with a floral motif typical of 19th century Italian silverware and is dishwasher safe. Why would you re-use plastic cutlery for reasons other than ecological friendliness? Maybe because a sixteen piece set costs a whopping $120. The plastic glasses also come from Pandora Design, and a set of six costs $140.

Yikes?

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