Time Again for Planning and Preparing

After an unusual summer of almost perfect weather, it was simply too nice to go anywhere. Sometimes you have to appreciate what is right in front of you, especially when it happens so rarely! The last two weeks of August turned hot; a good time to consider the next adventure and make some plans. While thinking over options, I took the time to consider making more “improvements” to how we travel with our Stuff. After seeing Skruben’s brilliant strategy on Pinterest for adding a compact spice pantry by repurposing Tic-Tac boxes, I knew this was one I had to implement. Here’s my version, which takes one-third the amount of space I had been using. In addition, I was also able to add greatly to the variety I was bringing with me. Other basic pantry staples were added like baking soda, baking powder, yeast and cornstarch. The amount that fits into the Tic-Tac container measures 6 teaspoons (or 3 Tablespoons), which works well for the length of time I spend traveling in the RollingSilver2ndHome. THANK YOU Skruben, for improving my storage options by sharing your idea with the world! My little home became much more organized, while freeing up some much needed space.

Spice Pantry

Spice Pantry

Another improvement I wanted to make was finding better pantry storage options that actually fit my cabinets. I’ve tried many different things, and after a trip to Home Goods and Marshall’s, these square, stacking containers caught my eye. They are big enough to store the things we use most, in the amounts we use them, for the time we are typically gone. I bought all that I could find, which turned out to be exactly enough. There was just enough room left in my pull-out pantry for a long drawer bin, which fit oils and liquid things like extracts, vinegar and sauce ingredients. This made me happier than you can imagine, since I’ve been struggling since the beginning, with how this should all fit together. FINALLY, a working solution I can live with, and don’t ever have to reconfigure again!

It has taken me almost two years to figure this out.

It has taken me almost two years to figure this out.

Now, because my pantry space is very small, and I actually cook, there is still Not Quite Enough Space for everything else, which might include a can, a small jar, bottle, or box of something. I also make my own mixes to take with me for things like pancakes or pizza, so a solution of a different type was needed. The idea is to purposely keep it small, and clear open bins in the bottom of my clothes closet are my choice for getting into quickly and easily. After a whole lot of tweaking, I think I’ve finally figured out how to manage my stuff, in a way that will actually work. It feels like a breath of fresh air just swept through my little kitchen.

Satellite Storage

Satellite Storage

Since I’m planning ahead, I also took some time and made some Sweet Buttery Rolls to put in my freezer. These turn into small sandwich buns from there, and you might say they are “Just Right!” After talking to a friend who asked what I’d been doing this summer, the conversation went something like this: “Well…I’ve been testing dinner roll recipes to find the one we like best. You know how when Thanksgiving comes around, and everyone looks forward to the dinner rolls? If they aren’t good, it’s a terrible disappointment! No one should be disappointed at Thanksgiving.” She agreed with me and said, “I can’t make rolls. I hate to make them.   My rolls are always a different size, and never turn out. I won’t even try any more.” I said, “Oh, I can tell you how to fix That. You just need a different technique!” After spending some time in my personal Test Kitchen, THIS is the recipe you want if you want to be Dinner Roll Queen for the holidays.

SWEET BUTTERY DINNER ROLLS
1 cup warmed milk ( 110 degrees F.)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
3/4 t. salt
4 cups bread flour
1 T. instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in the bread pan of your bread machine. Select the dough setting and press start.

When the dough cycle has finished, remove dough from the pan. Form the dough into a disc, and place into a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and let rest for 10 minutes. After resting, divide the dough into 16 pieces* and shape as desired. Place 12 rolls into a buttered 9 x 13 inch pan, and the remaining four into a smaller buttered pan (or shape into sandwich buns).

*NOTE: To shape the dough evenly into 16 pieces, turn the dough out onto a board (or silicone kitchen mat/Silpat). With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into half. Cut each half into half for four pieces, each of those into half for 8, and again until there are 16. Each piece will be approximately the same size.

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.

Cover the rolls and place in a warm spot to rise, around 20 to 35 minutes. After putting the rolls in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

Bake approximately 25-30 minutes on the upper and lower rack of the oven. Switch the pans hallway through the baking time (after 13 minutes), and bake until golden brown.

When the rolls are golden brown, remove the pans from the oven. Brush the tops with softened butter.

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Revel in being your family’s Dinner Roll Queen. Enjoy the attention; You deserve it! The only problem here, is you will be expected to make the dinner rolls from now on, for every occasion. It may be good to be Queen, but be prepared for the responsibility that will become yours alone, unless you are willing to share the recipe and teach others. You decide!

I just have to ask…What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast? Am I the only one who thinks the rolls are the best part?

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The Bonus Zone

Since it’s still hot and getting hotter this week (temperatures are expected in the 106-108 range), there are no trips in our immediate future. We are in the middle of Mercury Retrograde, which is a time of going over old ground. It’s a period that lasts about three weeks several times a year, and rules travel and communications. Susan Miller writes Astrology Zone and explains it very well if you’re interested in why sometimes it feels like we can only take one step forward, before taking two steps back. I like to keep a record of the “old ground” I’m going over during these phases, which in hindsight is always quite revealing.

Since Mercury Retrograde is usually  a good time to revisit what came before, I noticed the last real trip revealed some things that were working for me. It’s not like I was surprised exactly, since I’d put some thought into how things would function.  You never really know how well your plans will work out in reality though, until the opportunity comes to put them into practice. I bought some specialty items in order to make more workable space, and theory turned into practice! Here are a few of the best items I find are working quite well:

Silicone Collapsible Lunch Box

These ECO silicone lunch boxes have clip-on lids, collapse to fold flat, and store in very little space when not in use.  They come in different colors, and I  use erasable labels with these.  You can find these at The Container Store, or look at TJMaxx, Marshalls or Home Goods, which is where I found mine.

Erasable Labels

From The Container Store, or also found at my local Tuesday Morning.   I put these on everything and find them quite useful.  These are stored with a large pink eraser to make quick work of relabeling.

https://i0.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/16/14160681_120626163000.jpgProgressive Produce Keeper

This also folds flat, has humidity control and the lid is see-through.  When you remove the bottom, you also have a colander.  Dual Purpose!  I bought a couple of these.   A friend told me once I like things in pairs.  I guess she was right.

Progressive Collapsible Dish Drainer - Red/White

Progressive Collapsible Dish Drainer

I like how the ends pull out to fit any size sink.  My sink is very small, but the dish drainer fits perfectly.   The end pulled out makes a great place to air dry a dishcloth or tea towel.  When I’m done with it, the dish drainer becomes very compact and stores in a fraction of the space.

Progressive Collapsible Tubs

Yes I bought two, so I have a pair.  Really, why go against my true nature?  There is one for cleaning, and one for food; both appropriately labeled.   I often need a large vessel for mixing, mashing or stirring, and this fits the bill.   The dish drainer is also a perfect fit, and everything stores flat.  Do you see a recurring theme here?  My favorite things seem to be  flat, or have the capacity for turning into flat, for compact storage.  Dual Purpose Rule!

Clear Handled Bins

I use these to store separate categories of things overhead.  Since I’m…uh…vertically challenged, I can grab the handle to easily reach what I need to. The small baskets fit perfectly into the overhead cabinets in our Airstream.   One holds mugs/teapot/tea things, there’s one for glasses, and another for dishtowels/dishcloths.  Since they are see-through, it’s easy to put your hands on what you need.  These are Very Convenient.

One thing I’ve discovered about myself living in a small space, is a need to cut down on the visual clutter.  I prefer to use things and put them away.  Since storage is limited, I figured anything useful that could be made smaller when it’s not being used lives in the Bonus Zone.  There are still a few areas I could tweak, but all in all, I’m finding my little space is easy to use and I can easily find what I need.  How nice!