The Dish of Sysiphus: How to have a clean kitchen without having to clean the dishes for your dirty residents

If dishes were wishes, I’d be the most magical genie in the universe.

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My primary genie wish I will grant today is to bestow you with Part 2 of the official  Kitchen Manifesto: a guide to keeping your kitchen squeaky clean.

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How to Make Awesome Posters and Why You Would Want to Do Such a Thing

Happy 4th of July! Let’s celebrate. If I may I direct you to gallery number 1:

I WANT YOU

America wants you to use *hot* waterDishes poster

Shamelessly ploying my residents to do dishes by using slogans with vaguely sexual undertones

SOAP-

Another very compelling argument

VIGOROUSLY

Inspirational!

He's watching youProbably the most terrifying of the bunch

These are my World War II propaganda kitchen posters. I like to think they are so charming, my residents won’t even mind the fact that they are being reminded of…gasp…THE RULES! I printed a couple of these babies out (I couldn’t quite bring myself to put the last one up), covered them with clear packing tape, and put them on the walls. The packing tape functioned like a laminated coat, protecting my beautiful works of art from the perils of water and kitchen grime monsters. Ah, the vintage charm, the sweet je-ne-sais-quoi, that they lent the room!

Putting up some sweet posters might not convince my residents to start taking care of the kitchen, but I do think that they will remind residents of conversations I’ve had with them about the importance of the kitchen, and how to take care of it. Failing an education reminder, perhaps these posters will scare them into doing their dishes. Either way.

I made these priceless masterpieces using google documents. It was simple. Instead of making a ‘document,’ I made a ‘drawing.’ All I had to do was find pictures on google, upload them, and play around a little bit–add text, insert shapes, make borders. You can see in the first photo that I covered up the text below “we want you” so I could reappropriate the message for my own selfish means. I might have had a little *too* much fun.

A huge bonus with google documents is that you can share these documents very easily. Therefore, if you make a great poster for the kitchen, or a quiet hours poster, or a poster advertising a hall event, you can easily share them with your staff members so that they can print them too as needed. You can even have a staff folder of shared posters and documents.

If I may direct you to gallery number 2:

Kitchen poster 1 Kitchen Poster 2 Kitchen poster 3 Kitchen poster 4 Kitchen poster 5

I stole these images from Mr. Ron Fehling. You can see the originals here. http://rf_photography.imagekind.com/store/Images.aspx/a917b3ce-2810-4f9b-bc73-86dfd295b965/Stilllifekitchenblackandwhitephotography

You might say I did these out of sheer sadism. I just enjoy the tortured groans and existential crises they leave in their wake. In all honesty, I made these because they reflect my personality (I make lots of terrible puns), and therefore add unique flavor to my hall. These posters are affectionate, dorky, and beautiful, and they made my kitchen feel less like a laboratory and more like a home where I live.

Finally, and here is where I will stop for the time being–gallery number 3:

Kitchen wear care

Another Kitchen poster

The first poster has photography by smitten kitchen, my favorite food blogger. As you can see, it is an attempt to enlighten my residents–some of whom may have never cooked before in their lives–some of the finer points of kitchen wear care. Again, it would be most useful if you also tell them this information face to face, so that this poster only serves to remind and cement in the information.

The last photo, I apologize sincerely for how rude this is, but I can’t find where it comes from. It is just so beautiful and so simple, and I thought it might light up the overly plain white kitchen with its quiet charm.

In conclusion, freedom. Liberty. Posters.

I have performed the miracle of turning wine bottles into water glasses

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This is a creation of–almost–biblical proportions.

In all sincerity, I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this project. I have been fantasizing about trying it for months.

These glasses are beautiful. They are sturdy, strong, well made, safe. They are everything I want them to be and more. They are quirky, charming, they have character, they are ecological. They are magic. And I hope, I just hope, that if someone walked into a warm, spice laden kitchen with a set of these beautiful glasses on display, they just might want that place to be their home.

Your ass is glass

Maybe I’m taking it too far. But maybe not. These glasses have good vibes.

It’s kind of stupid, please don’t laugh, but I spend time dreaming that these glasses will change my college campus. There is an inexhaustibly supply of wine bottles on a college campus, sitting quietly in the bottle of recycling boxes. The only supplies required are a wine bottle cutter ($20 to $30 on amazon), sandpaper or an emery cloth ($5).  I don’t know how many bottles you could cut with those, but I think the answer is a lot.

They don’t take much time–each step takes a minute or a few, depending on how slowly you go (though it requires a bit of practice). It’s educational, it is an empowering community builder, they could be souvenirs. With glass etching liquid and a stencil, you could either decorate these, or, as I plan to do, mark them with the name of my hall so that they announce their own place and cannot be mixed up or lost. Although, with such distinctive glasses, it is harder for them to get misplaced anyways. In my ideal world, every single kitchen would have glasses like these, made by residents. Each hall would have their own symbol–maybe an embellished letter, a short word–made into a stencil, which they would use to mark every glass. Eventually, people could make glasses just for fun, just for gifts, just for hall souvenirs.

I am getting away from myself. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t the whole point that sometimes, we are able to do incredible things with stupid little objects and a sense of transfixion? Isn’t that where a bit of magic enters the picture–when we care about things more than we should? And it’s dumb, and you might feel dumb when you go to your supervisor and the only thing you want to talk to them about is some project you read about on the internet, and your residents might not understand your enthusiasm at first, but something odd will linger and people will remember years later that there was something special about those odd green glasses.

It takes a little bit of practice to figure out how to cut a perfect straight line. Expect to experiment on a few. Out of the first 7 bottles, I had 2 successes (I think my success rate will be much higher now though). Apparently the glasses will break more evenly the shallower the cut you make (you only want to score it lightly once), but I found that my cutter sometimes didn’t leave a mark at all if I didn’t press pretty hard, and then the glass didn’t break evenly at all.

Here is an excellent video on the process. 

Practically goes without saying, but be careful around the bottle cutter and the bottles. I forgot to watch myself around a severed bottle and accidentally brushed my finger against a raw edge and cut my finger.

I hardly noticed the cut though. I was too busy performing miracles.

The Home is Where the Kitchen Is

On my first day at Lewis and Clark, I was so excited that my dorm had a kitchen–that is, until I saw the kitchen. When I first walked into it on that fateful August day three years ago, I deflated. I melted into a disappointed little puddle. It wasn’t just that it had the width of a bowling alley–no, I think what got me was the fact that it was completely and totally empty. I checked every cabinet, above and below. I looked in the fridge, the freezer. I checked the drawers. I just couldn’t quite believe that there was nothing in this kitchen.

There was nothing in that kitchen.

But not for long. Soon, there were dirty rice makers, salsa chunks and ramen noodles down the sink, dirty dishes casually strewn everywhere. Most people kept their dishes in the kitchen, but the extra available dishes hardly made up for the stealing, the inconsiderateness, the ever-renewing mess. I remember buying myself a little food with my small personal budget, only to find myself cleaning my own dishes that someone else had left dirty with my own damn food in the sink.

When I became an RA, I furiously determined that my kitchen nightmare would never happen again.  “This kitchen is MY kitchen,” I muttered furiously. “It’s going to be a nice, functional hub of community, dammit!”

And it really was. Often I’d come home to the smell of spicy curry my residents made in big pots to share with each other, or plates of cookies, or home-cooked loaves of bread.  It felt like home, it smelled like home, it tasted like home. But still, the sink was full of dirty dishes. 

This year, I’m aiming for the sun; I want to have a beautiful, well-stocked kitchen that builds a sense of belonging kitchen AND stays clean without me doing dishes every night. Stay tuned, folks. kitchen

Getting inspired by cafes to make a better kitchen

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Cafes are beautiful places. They are filled with quaint tables, steaming mugs of bitter drink, laptop laden students…I can’t help but feel camaraderie with the baristas and the other patrons from the shared participation of the customer in some of the small work of transporting the drinks, garnishing them to taste, and busing them after one is finished. No matter how many times you visit a restaurant, you will always be a guest. In a cafe, you participate and thus, you can belong.

Sometimes, dorms have a lot in common with restaurants. The dorms are, in a real sense, a service package; students pay exorbitant amounts of money so that they may live in functional rooms and be guaranteed certain benefits and services as a result. Like restaurant waiters, we must listen to our residents and show them how carefully we have listened by being responsive. Often as an RA, much like as a waiter, our residents will forget or not realize how much our work contributed to their experience. Sometimes the tips don’t reflect the effort we put in, or even our successes.

There are many lessons about humility, patience, and dedication that come from the solemn kitchens and dining rooms of restaurants. And yet, when we can, we want the dorm to have the soul of a cafe and not a restaurant. Cafe’s afford their patrons a degree of liberty–the customers may come, may go, may order, may sip, may loiter, may reorder and reorder. But in exchange, the customer will do little tokens of service for the maintenance of the cafe.

It is in this spirit that I have decided to have the plastic dish busing bins in my new kitchen as part of the organization system. 

The rules will be simple; our kitchen will give you its heart. It will be beautiful and full of food and charm and nourishing support, and in exchange it will ask you to gently wipe its counters, to bus your dishes to the bin instead of leaving them in the counter or on the sink, to gather in groups and to wash the dishes with soapy water when they are full.

In return, you will belong.

12 ways to spice up your cake baking life

Let’s get our cake-tivity on. Get it? Like, creativity, but with cake!

Okay, not very funny, but I’ll make it up to you:

With cake.

Or rather, cake-spiration. Nope, that one isn’t any better. Well, some fun with your cake. Play with your food. Your residents will love you for it, and you can even pretend that you did it *just for them* without any regard for your own cake predilections.

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