DIY Food

4 Messy Kitchen & Home Projects to Embrace this Weekend

April 17, 2015

Today: It's time to celebrate the mess. Put on our new striped and summery linen apron, get set, and go ahead on your weekend projects.

Do you ever find yourself watching your kid wistfully as they wreak havoc in the living room, completely oblivious to you or anything beyond the glitter they're currently saturating the carpet with? It's a sinking feeling: You look down, the dustbuster pulling your hands towards the floor, with your thumbs primed to hit the on-button. You sigh.

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As your couch gets reupholstered into a disco ball, you're internally throwing a tantrum. How is this fair? Why aren't you allowed to flail around with rainbow dust in your hands, not a care in the world? Put down the dust buster. Accept it: You ARE allowed to make a mess! Now, this post isn't an endorsement of childish behavior. Put your apron on—this is Mess-Making 2.0. Here are our favorite messes worth the clean-up.

Knife Cut Noodles

The Sticky, Floury Mess

There's nothing worse than finding an inexplicable stray sticky spot or a congealed dab of dough on the kitchen table. Where did it come from? You wonder. Was it from last week's baklava syrup or, even worse, last month's puff pastry dough? Fling open the windows this weekend and take on a cooking project—Knife-Cut Noodles are a lot more fun to make when you have time to spare.

Here's a tip to make things easier: Take yourself to the craft store and grab a length of clear PVC, table size or smaller. Whip it out when you know you're going to be getting your hands in challah dough, for when the homemade dumpling assembly line gets a little rowdy, or for some in-home gardening. PVC is easier to wipe down than wood grain, and when it gets too gross, toss it. If you're making an especially enormous mess, say flinging caramel around a croquembouche or concocting a crazy ice cream sundae (with strawberry syrup and chocolate magic shell, of course), plastic wrap your tabletop. This has the added bonus of one stop cleaning—when you're done, toss that sticky mess into the trash.


More: Missed a spot? Amanda and Merrill's top cleaning tips have your back.

The Can't-See-the-Sink-through-the-Dishes, Emptied-the-Cabinets Mess

Let's face it, that towering Mount Doom-size pile of dishes in the sink is not a one-person task, but some of the most rewarding recipes do require pulling out all the stops. Macarons and crêpe cakes require many different pans and utensils, but they're always worth it. And, so what if you almost needed a mechanic the last time an unruly piece of bacon got stuck in the blender? When the recipe you're embarking on is the opposite of one-pot, here's our advice: Phone a friend.

Promise them things, like a lovely shared meal of the most complex Duck à l'Orange, or several slices of a 31-ingredient (!) Chocolate Thai Green Curry Cake. It's a strange math in which you get twice the fun while making the mess and half the pain of cleaning up. The equation, in which x is the all-day kitchen project, goes something like: You + x = frustration, {(You + Friend) + x}/2 = delicious, happy memories!

The DI-Why, What-Have-I-Done Mess

It's always more fun to DIY, they say. But what if you get halfway through, strong multi-purpose glue strands and oil paints splattered all over, only to realize that you've messed up? Don't despair, and don't give up on the idea before you even start. DIYs shouldn't intimidate. Our tip? Read them like a recipe. Start simple, with DIYs that require mostly materials or ingredients that you already have. Case in point: these reed diffusers. We're willing to bet that you probably already have a glass container, tap water, and vodka. Maybe not bamboo skewers or essential oils, but both should be easy enough to find at a nearby store.

Once you build up confidence, you can start branching out. If you bought a leather punch to make a leather catch-all, consider taking on headphone holders or magazine displays. Maybe you've always wanted to bring more plants into your life. Make them a home with this simple coffee can planter, or spend a day making a terrarium. Gardening is supposed to be soothing, and isn't it all the more wonderful when it can be done from the comfort of your own home?

The Power-Washing-Not-Optional Mess

There are certain events that leave behind memories for a lifetime. These things include a pan coated with burnt sugar after attempting a burnt caramel pudding, skillets with stuck rice that won't budge after you made paella, and a cheesy or chocolatey lining baked into your soufflé ramekin. These remnants are often the sign of a truly excellent meal, so here's how to deal:

Put the kettle on. You'll need some tea to soothe you, but also, you'll need a steady supply of very hot water to soak that residue off. It's just a waiting game at this point, so don't stress. If you have a small or frequently used sink, grab a big heatproof tub and set it in a corner. Drop your stuck-on tools off, fill it with hot, soapy water, and just let it be. Think of it as time-out for those pesky pieces.

Now grab your tea and get on out of there. That might be the real secret behind mess-making: Sometimes you just need to let it all out. It'll all be fine as long as you remember that the future, calmer you can and will deal with the clean up tomorrow. 

What are your favorite kitchen messes, and which ones are you tackling this weekend? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Corynne Pless, Betty from Le Jus d'Orange, Bobby Lin, Corynne Pless, and Mark Weinberg, respectively.

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Jenny Xu

Written by: Jenny Xu

Dorm baker and connoisseur of digestive biscuits.