The sun comes up. It is a good sign: a new day, a new beginning.
I love what is solid, tried and true but I also love new beginnings! I have to remind myself to look over my shoulder and see where I have been because I am always excited about new challenges and opportunities.
For a long time I have been wanting to add to our selection of kitchen articles and gifts. But as I pondered our commitment to the concept of “The Handmade Kitchen” I wondered how we could do both. I love creating things but my responsibilities for keeping the shelves at The Pantry stocked with goodies from all over the world limit my time for creative endeavors. Yet……
My friend Charmaine Stulp is my hair stylist. She has been making people feel beautiful about themselves for a long time. Yet… she, too, was yearning to explore her creative side further. Charmaine is my type of girl! She is happier in a lumber yard or home repair center than in a clothing store…unless it is a thrift shop. So it wasn’t surprising when she announced a new business venture she was starting with another friend. Both of them are hair stylists, hence the name of their new business: Scissors to Saws.
One morning…the time for new beginnings…an idea came to me. By partnering with local artisans, I could honour our commitment to “The Handmade Kitchen” and I could encourage creativity right here in Niagara. So if you have been by the store lately, you will have noticed new handcrafted and hand-painted gifts appearing on our shelves. The signs are the work of my friend Charmaine. We will be reaching out to other local artisans but today I would like to introduce Charmaine and let you see some of her beautiful work. You will be able to buy her signs off the shelf here at The Pantry, commission her to make you a personalized sign or attend one of her very fun workshops.
Our first line of signs is “bon appetit”. It doesn’t matter what your language is, everyone has an expression that means “Enjoy your Food!” The line of signs will also enable you to honour the mothers in your life with personalized messages like:
- Everything Tastes Better at Grandma’s (or Oma’s or Nana’s or Nagymama…)
- Mom’s Kitchen: Satisfied Tummies Since (insert the year she became a mom)
We have some great other new ideas that will be coming and we also hope to offer kits that will enable you to create at home. We will keep you posted!
Read more about “The Handmade Kitchen” Here.
Connect with “Scissors to Saws” Here.
Usually this is my forum to share about foods and products I am excited about. I confess though that I have been rather quiet this past year. This is why…
You may have heard that last year was the Chinese year of the rooster but for me and my family, 2017 was the year of the kitchen. We have lived in our century home for over 25 years. In spite of raising a relatively large brood of children… five, in case you were wondering….our 8 by 10 foot kitchen was adequate during most of those years. For larger baking or canning projects I always appropriated the dining room table.
But children grow up. They bring home friends, spouses and then grandchildren. Suddenly, that adequate kitchen feels too snug for two generations of cooks sharing the space during family gatherings. Kitchen cabinets take a beating over 25 years of use. It was finally time to get to work and realize some dreams.
We are a family of avid do-it-yourself-ers. My neighbours are never surprised to see me up on a roof or creating something with my table saw on the front driveway. Yes, you read correctly. My table saw. My husband, John, prefers his circular saw. So there never was any doubt that this would be a do-it-yourself kitchen…or that the “yourself” would be me with the exception of plumbing and electrical. I gladly deferred those elements of the reconstruction to more able persons.
To be honest, the year of the kitchen actually started August of 2016 but before I get ahead of myself let me give you a tour of the “before.”
The kitchen was a solid fortress of double brick walls that once formed what was most likely a workshop addition on the back of a tradesman’s two story house. The early inhabitants of our street were the families of men who worked at the nearby steel plant that was torn down a decade ago. Back in the 1990’s we added a family room and the exterior brick walls were absorbed into the house. The windows came out but the old sill remained as a shelf in the pass through. The entrance way became a hall; the coat closet, a pantry. The plan was to remove the bricks under that window sill to floor level so we could push the cabinets out and enlarge the kitchen’s square footage. I also planned to remove multiple layers of wall coverings to expose the brick of the original back of the house.
Before I was ready to install new cabinets, over 400 bricks were removed. There are always surprises when you take apart an old house. The original builder, a bricklayer by the name of Roach, constructed the house in 1916 using reclaimed bricks half of which were handmade. On walls that were to be covered, Roach used less than perfect bricks and his mortar was left rough. His fine craftsmanship was evident on the walls that once formed the back of the house, however, the mortar had become crumbly over time. So I learned how to repoint mortar and rebuild a brick wall. Plaster board covered a tongue and groove wood ceiling. Two old stove pipe holes were revealed.
One of those holes went through a joist which had to be reinforced once all the wood boards came off the ceiling. As I removed layers of history, I got a glimpse of the people who had inhabited the house over the years.
This process took months because frequently I only had a few hours each week to invest into the project. During the busy Christmas season here at The European Pantry all work went on hold. Finally a year after I started demolition, it was time for the new kitchen to take shape.
The kitchen isn’t complete yet. There is a dishwasher to come and it still needs some finishing touches. This week I painted the door trim showing in the one pic and next to be painted is the plank floor in a distressed effect. And that old window sill? It is on the front porch waiting to become rustic shelves. But the year of the kitchen is finished. Through it all I managed to keep an operational kitchen so I could feed us. Now that it is mostly done I can shift my focus to cooking for enjoyment again…and sharing tips and new ideas with you!
However, this project has taught me a lot of what makes a good kitchen…ideas I will be happy to pass on to anyone who is starting their own “year of the kitchen.”
When I was a child, my best friend Debbie used to get a Christmas box from her grandparents who still lived in The Netherlands. In those days we called a box like that a “kist“. That translates as “crate”. When the kist arrived for Debbie’s family I wished my Opas and Omas still lived in Holland. Oh the wonderful things that could arrive in a kist!
But that kist couldn’t contain all the goodies that arrive at The Pantry at this time of year. We have already started unpacking crates of treats. More is coming in each week! Here is a peek at the Christmas products available at The Pantry this season:
At The European Pantry we encourage people to eat intentionally. That means:
- knowing about what you are putting on your fork. Those with food allergies make it a practice to look at ingredient lists but it is a good habit for everyone.
- planning your meals. Each week I purchase enough fruits and veggies for the week and make sure they end up in our meals and not in the compost. Having good ingredients in the house means home cooked meals can be quickly put on the table. As I raised my family I used the Canada Food Guide. Currently it is being overhauled to better reflect our lifestyles today. I am looking forward to seeing the new guide. There are other good resources that you can use to plan your meals. I came across a good blog: PositiveHealthWellness recently. Their article: What is Clean Eating provides some good guidelines for meal planning.
One of the most exciting developments here at The European Pantry is our TEA BOX organic loose leaf teas. We have been partnering with Organic Connections to build the best loose leaf tea collection in Niagara. Our collection includes a choice of 20 black, green and herbal base teas. You can create your own personal blends with an additional 20 spices, herbs and fruits. Jacqui will specially measure and mix to your specifications and keep your unique recipe on file to refill the same or adjust in the future.
Or you can try Jacqui’s special house blends:
- Summer Bouquet Green
- Gingersnap Cookie Honeybush
- Rootbeer Rooibos
- Orange Creamsicle Grey
- Smores Black
- Ms. Grey
If looseleaf isn’t your cup of tea, we will have your tea in a bag: choose from 50 types.
Come on in! We have something for everyone!
Here at The Pantry you get to taste! Come in for Sample Saturdays…because you don’t want to find out you don’t like it when you get home!!!