Monday, February 09, 2009

Kitchen, Repurposed

This girl, interrupted, was idling through a Pier 1 store today (for those of you blissfully ignorant, it's an "imports" store, with mostly brown furniture and stinky candles). Not as much fun as it used to be, when you could buy trashy earrings and jaunty sashes and carved giraffes.
I was hurrying back out the door (the whole store reeks of candle), where I had to pass through ground zero, with all those vanilla waxy towers, bottles of liquid incense (why?), smelly tea lights... when I noticed an incongruous shelf of little glass dishes.
So pretty. So tiny, almost exactly the same size as in this photo.
Wouldn't that make a nice salt cellar, I said to Cranky. He said, or a dish for olive pits.
In fact, they were candleholders for tea lights.
I bought four. Cost me two bucks. If they had been sold as salt cellars, I probably would have had to pay $12.
It reminded me of the time I bought a bag of gas-station dipstick wiping rags at Costco. Y'know, those pinkish squares of loosely woven cotton that your serviceman stuffs in his pocket after checking your oil. No engine oil for me. I bought those rags to use as napkins at a chili party. If any of them got seriously stained, I could just chuck them.
But after all these years, I still have most of the pink rags, and have never used them as anything other than napkins. Oh, yeah, and they were cheap, too.
What clever, inexpensive substitutes have you sneaked into your kitchen and repurposed as dining hardware? I'm particularly interested in table settings, but I'm happy to hear iterations on the bean can for bacon drippings, and like that. (Me, I like a label-off bean can on the table, holding sad flowers — heartbreaking. The doily underneath it is a lace glove, of course.)

30 comments:

Emily said...

Not exactly my cheap addition to tablewear, but a good joke to go along with the theme:
One time a child was curiously looking around her bathroom and found her mom's pads (sanitary napkins). She brought one out to her mom to ask what it was and her mom stealthily replied, "oh, those are special napkins," and thought nothing of it. A few weeks later the mom decided to have a dinner party and asked her daughter to set the table. As guests were arriving the mom looked at the table and saw her pads (sanitary napkins) placed delicately along side each and every place-setting. Yelping in surprise, she asked her daughter why she put them on the table. The daughter replied, "I knew it was a special dinner so I used your special napkins!"

Traci said...

I use an old, small, single serving sized can of Le Sueur peas as a toothpick dispenser. It's really cute.

ardie said...

I use a curvy candle votive holder for toothpicks; and a small white Chesapeake Bay Bridge collector plate for a spoonrest by the stove. oh and reusable party swizzle sticks (like for cocktails) as coffee stirrers...way better than using thirty spoons a day for two seconds.

~Ardie

cookiecrumb said...

Emily: Har! That is, um, almost what I was looking for. I had to read it out loud to Cranky.

Traci: OMG, remember those little cans? That sounds adorable.

Ardie: Yeah, now you're talking. AND, your spoon rest? Right on. I use a genuine scallop shell by the stove for mine (http://tinyurl.com/ao3933).
I saw a box of colorful swizzle sticks in the store today, and wavered. Didn't buy, but now?... heh.

Kailyn said...

I use saucers as serving dishes for the canned cat food. They have bowls -- for the dry. But you can't put both the wet and dry in the same dish. And it's not like I ever use the saucers myself. Except as the occasional spoon rest on the stove.

cookiecrumb said...

Ardie: No, try this one, better.
http://tinyurl.com/bjocc6

cookiecrumb said...

Kailyn: Pets deserve real dishes. My Bean Sprout eats dinner out of ramekins. But we don't put them up on the stove as spoon rests!

dancingmorganmouse said...

I use old coffee tins to hold the windows open when the sash ropes snap. Does that count?

Kel said...

hows about a male bed pan as a swedish inspired wine decanter

cook eat FRET said...

i can not handle the smell of that store
i get a gag reflex
i mean it is BAD
there's some shitty mall store called yankee candle or something and when i go by it i have to hold my breath. luckily i am rarely in a mall...

besides this comment on smelly stuff - i've got nothing creative to add to your quest and for this i apologize.

Anna Haight said...

How about a Ramune (old fashioned Japanese soft drink) bottle with its built in marble as a vase or light sauce bottle?

el said...

Uh, I use canning jars as wine glasses. But that's mostly because my mother taught me "no stemware outside." here's the pic:

http://fastgrowtheweeds.com/2008/06/04/on-ones-food-history/

Greg said...

I just want to know where you found someone to check your oil.

kt said...

Aloha CookieC., I don't know much about what goes on in the kitchen--you know that. So what would you do with a salt cellar? My Mom had little crystal thingies that held salt. We'd dip a celery stalk into it, but that's when we used to EAT salt. Now the salt shaker is not even on the table, much less a lil' pile of it. I do have some scallop shells and I'm gonna put one on the stove right now! Love yer photos! (among other things!)

namastenancy said...

First of all, I love your photo. It reminds me of a painting. I use all sorts of "cheap" tricks but mine are mostly for my painting studio. City Builders Supply is full of inexpensive rags, brushes, floor mats and little gizmos that cost far less than what you get in the art store. I also use their "rags" for my clean up in both kitchen and studio, buy their garbage bags in bulk (far cheaper than the grocery store), get cans of enamel paint for art works (ditto on the cheap, etc). But if you are ever feeling adventurous, come to SF and explore SCRAP. It's a huge warehouse on the other side of Bayshore Drive, in our industrial district. It's used by artists, teachers and hobby folks to get all sorts of things ultra cheap. Who knows what treasures you might find?

Heather said...

I use an old brown glass vase (on sale at the florist section of the grocery store for a couple bucks) as the holder for my wooden spoons, and a small ceramic jewelry box as one of my salt cellars. One time I used a flowerpot (with moss growing in it instead of the plant for which it was intended, which had subsequently bit the dust) as a nice candle holder.

Zoomie said...

I use an olive oil bottle with pouring spout for my dishwashing liquid - prettier, and the neck is skinny so it doesn't slip out of wet fingers.

pea said...

its not really out of the ordinary, but i use canning jars for glasses and culturing yoghurt; mini ramekins for tea candles; and bracelets for napkin holders (for some reason people give them to me and i never wear them).

cookiecrumb said...

Morgan: Only if it's a really old coffee can, because you use whole roasted beans now, right?

Kel: You want me to shut down comments here? Do you?
(PS: We heard about somebody using the bidet in the bathroom for an ice bucket during an - ahem - overflow party.)

ceFRET: Well, at least you weighed in on the stinky stuff. I am right now drinking a cup of spiced plum tea, and it's good, but it smells like a candle. :(

Anna: That's so cute. I wish I had one of those bottles (the one with the light blue soda inside - what flavor was that; tasted like Juicyfruit).

El: Oh, yeah, I remember that photo. In the South, you MUST drink your sugary iced tea from a Mason jar. Your mom is not old enough to have such rigid ideas!

Greg: Ha. I should have put it in past tense. Why do you think there were so many bags of wiping rags for sale at Costco?

KT: Yes! The little crystal thingies! These tea light thingies are almost as small. I'm tickled you're going to copy my idea about the spoon rest. Very Island.
Aloha. xoxo

Nancy: Thanks on the photo. Harsh sunlight, that's all it took. Oh, and framing, I guess. Take a copy if you want.
You know, I've been to a salvage store on Bayshore, years ago, but it wasn't cleverly named back then. I'd love to check out the place you're describing; fun. And CBS sounds good too. I miss the city (not very much, though).

Heather: Can you say eclectic? Romantic? Really sounds sweet. I lrv your ideas.
I was thinking about using a flowerpot for baking a panettone, but I chickened out.

Zoomie: Dreamy. Very California. I'd give it a try myself, but I know I'm too klutzy. I use a pump bottle I don't even have to pick up.

Pea: Two of those ideas are brand new to me. I'm gonna go raid the "jewelry" box. As for candles: DARN, why don't I use them more? Thank you for the nudge.

kudzu said...

I use a plastic Pellegrino "change tray" (cafe) from Italy as a spoon rest next to the range top.
Have collected nice old bottles (smallish) for years to decant olive oil and homemade vinegar for keeping on the counter instead of exposing larger bottles to light and heat. My most-used cooking utensils are out where I can grab them, in two antique crockery pitchers from grandmothers. I have saved the souvenir glasses from wine and food events over the (many) years I've covered them and have enough to use for parties -- everyone likes to check out the logos and dates. When you find those decorative tiny juice glasses from the Forties/Fifties, snap them up: use them at place settings for single flowers or little bouquets.

MC said...

Pier 1 Imports totally reeks! I don't mind going into Yankee Candle because I think their scents are actually lovely.

But I always go to the dollar store for cheap alternatives. Of course, I'm sacrificing on quality and the possibility of leaking harmful chemicals into my foods but, it's only one dollar

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: That's a classy spoon rest. Me, I'm a compulsive bottle collector, too. I'm always planning to give away fabulous gifts of homemade vinegar or something... Mostly they gather dust.
Fun ideas from you.

MC: Oh, you just ruined me!! Now I gotta find a dollar store (the nearest one has closed for a mall facelift). Of course we can stand a little mercury or melamine, all in the name of a beautiful table. It's WORTH it.

dancingmorganmouse said...

Cookie, I blush to admit it's Illy pod cans.

Ilva said...

I used to have a glass bed pan as a vase for tulips and the glass window of a washing machine as a fruit bowl. and I once bought a round street sign that my mother turned into a garden table.

cookiecrumb said...

Morgan: Illy is so good. I have a can of it in my pantry! You are absolved.

Ilva: It's obvious, in case we didn't already know it, that you are a creative person. Wonderful.
(We have a coffee table made from an old, weathered window!)

Anna Haight said...

ah, so you'd like one of those bottles... I know where I might find one for you...

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liberal foodie said...

not for the kitchen.

I use a square candle holder for bar soap in our bathroom. all in hopes to support etsy artists!

cookiecrumb said...

Liberal Foodie: Oh, that's nice! I actually use... yes, a scallop shell for bathroom soap.