Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Kitchens and Routines...

Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen. It seems to have taken over my existence and my mental space and my conversations. Kitchen is my theme lately for better or worse and my attention has been drawn to some fun and helpful articles and posts about life in our kitchens be they new or old, large or small, cozy or modern.

I thought I'd share what I've been reading with you in hopes that you might also benefit as I plan to.



  • Mark Bittman, one of my favorite food writers and cookbook authors, shares a cooking strategy that makes complete sense in the New York Times article "When Cooking, Invest Time. Or Work. Not Both." Read about his theory of the everyday cooking work-time continuum.

  • Sam Sifton, writing in the New York Times encourages us in a very relaxed Home Cooking Manifesto to "Just cook." He warns, as do others, that "cooking can be stressful" but that it pays large dividends. After coaching us on making the most lovely sounding chicken dinner he writes, "Cooking is patience. Cooking is trust." It's a medium length article that is worth your time.

  • I want to add this to our family's dinner rotation just because it's fun to say...  Chicken Waterzooi

  • THESE look wonderful! Three ingredients of loveliness I think.

  • A food memoir that is on my To Be Read List because of its super reviews but more so because of it's super title and cover, A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus by Renee Erickson.





"I walked around my house, looking at all the things that I should fix someday, and I imagined God noticing all the things about me that should get fixed up one day, and loving me anyway and being ok with the mess for the time being."
~Shauna Niequist



Monday, April 20, 2015

Bathroom Before & After (Bathroom the First)

As the floor was being completed in our kitchen, it became apparent that we were going to have enough wood flooring left over to cover the floor in the small bathroom upstairs which the girls use daily to get ready for their days.

That bathroom has been a busy but ill-equipped room for many years. It possesses a toilet,

{That cabinet is embarrassing, one of the things we've been meaning to replace for about 2 years!}

a sink, 

...and a bathtub but no shower. 


The carpet was a thick smelly fluffy mess, testifying of spilled nail polish, spilled baby powder, spilled little bellies...you get the less-than-appealing picture. 



The hot and cold fixtures on the tub seemed so fragile and were difficult to operate and when operated did a poor job of stopping the dripping of water and so we never used the bathtub which necessitated all 6 of us using the main bathroom for showers and baths...this would prove problematic but that's a post for a later time.

It was soon decided to replace the bathroom carpet with the left over kitchen hardwood and then, as so many home improvement projects do, one thing led to another and Pappa decided to add a shower and fixtures to our hardly-ever-used bathtub. This addition required tiling the tub surround, adding a new window, a new sink cabinet (while we were at it), and fresh plumbing. The job would also involve no less than 1000 trips up and down two full flights of stairs in this house as tile had to be cut with a saw in the garage.

The stepping accomplished by our recently-turned-seventy Pappa caused us to begin calling him The Stairmaster.


The floor went down quickly followed by the new sink cabinet. 
A lovely new window was added and then the tiling began.


After the tile was placed and the grout was added, it had to sit for a few days to dry and seal.


(It was during these few days during Easter week that our main bathtub cracked and left us showerless for a time...again, another post.)

Pappa finished the bathroom upstairs and we couldn't be more thrilled. A friend gave us with a gift card to TJMaxx (THANK YOU!) which went a long way toward adding some cozy details to the girls new bathroom.

Befores and afters below...









Billy Sunday




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Things I Do

Every few mornings after I've read the day's selection in "The One Year New Testament for Busy Moms" Bible, I reach for one of the most unique looking books I own and read from it. Savor by Shauna Niequist is filled with 365 short readings which aim to help the reader focus on "living abundantly where you are, as you are" as laid out in the subtitle. I'm enjoying what I've read so far and one entry in particular has me thinking.



Niequist titles the entry "Things I Do" and she lists a few items that she's figured out that she cares so much about that she's willing to give up other things to attain. Once those things are figured out (easier typed than figured) then it's not difficult to discern your priorities...or so the theory goes.

Of course, all of that reading set me to thinking about the things I do...


  • I worship my God. My favorite part of the week happens on Sunday morning in the sanctuary of the church among my faith family. I am fulfilled by adding my voice to that of the congregation and singing praises to my Maker, the one who loves me best. I try to worship all through the week on my own and with my family, but worship is the sweetest and best for me in the pew. I make sure I'm present.

  • I make food for my family and we do our best to eat it around the table together. This is the way of serving my gang that takes most of my time these days, perhaps even more time than teaching the kids just now in this season. Fixing decent meals is about so much more than the food.

'The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another.  When we say, 'Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don't be shy, enjoy it,' we say a lot more than our words express.  We invite our friends to become part of our lives.  We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us.  We desire communion . . . Every breakfast, lunch, or dinner can become a time of growing communion with one another.' ~Henri Nouwen


  • I teach my kids. Sure, I teach them how to read and we "do spelling" and math and all of the other subjects you would imagine but the kind of teaching I am most focused on these days is of another sort. As my teenagers continue growing older each year, I am increasingly aware that my voice in their ears grows fainter as other voices and influencers grow louder. This natural and necessary shift in their attentions causes me to shift a bit too-- toward making sure they are ready for the adulthood that is before them. Yes, math is vital, but so is knowing how to treat others with respect. Science is important, but so is knowing how to feed oneself and not have to rely on junk food to survive once they've left the family table. They need to know how to put in an honest day's work every bit as much as they need to know the plots of Shakespeare's plays. Therefore, I am trying to teach my kids.



  • I read. I read like someone is going to set my books afire if I don't. I am calmed, centered, and continually educated when I am able to spend time between the covers of a book. I would rather talk about the books you are reading than just about anything else. If you aren't reading a book then I'd like to tell you about a book I am reading or about a book I think you should be reading. I'm sorta pushy that way. A friend of mine was recently swept away by a good, looooooong book and told me that she'd barely done anything except read that book for days. This friend would not call herself an avid reader and so upon hearing the news, I was as excited for her as if she'd told me she'd won the lottery...because, she sorta had...being lost in a good book is worth so much!



  • I love my Man. We've been married 20 years and they've been full of the things that 20 years of marriage are full of. After 20 years, I've learned more about what love is and what it looks like in different seasons and situations. I've learned that marriage might just be like a new leather purse. In the beginning it feels stiff and unbending and maybe a bit difficult to handle, but the longer the purse is carried and used and filled full of the things of life, the softer and easier and more beautiful it becomes. I'm carrying that purse now but I'm all about continuing to pursue more beauty and more use and more life within it.



  • I write stuff down. "Hey Mom, do you remember when...?" If I've not written it down, the answer to the question is usually "No, I don't remember." If, however, I've added a memory to this space or to a journal, the chances of remembering are much better. My Ant Sab told me years ago that I'd be glad that I'd spent time writing about our adventures here. So many times when I don't feel like taking the time or spending the energy, I remember her words and I type a few of my own. As I look back over the 5 years of posts, I'm rewarded, not with the stellar writing style (as if!) or the expert photography (hardly!), but with clear memories of moments that will never be again but are still able to be visited on the page.


Of course there are a few other activities that find their way onto my To Do List, but the things listed above are the ones I try to place at the center of my world, the ones I'll shift my list around to attempt to accomplish. Hours and energy are finite.  Niequist says, "When we know what's essential in our lives, everything else is negotiable."


Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes, there's just no stopping it!

The kids and I all shuffled into a pew near the back of the little church in a town next to ours. We were there for Meg's piano recital and we'd come from church so we were looking rather fine and fancy in our Sunday duds, at least that's what I told myself as I settled smugly into the pew and looked around the crowded sanctuary.

Meg had earned her spot at this recital by playing for a judge a few weeks ago and receiving a favorable rating. Every other student in the room today had earned a similar honor, some by playing the piano and others by performing a vocal selection.


As the recital began one student after another rose and made their way to the piano in the front of the room. Soon a student in a pew just in front of us heard his name and rose from his seat on the right aisle and proceeded to squirm his way across the full row of people to his left until he finally reached the left aisle. Nerves had a large part in his perception of the logistics of his situation I'm sure and it occurred to me that my own Meg, also seated on the right aisle of our pew might need some direction regarding her path to the piano when her name was called.

I leaned close to her ear and said, "I'm assuming that you know to exit this pew that way," motioning with my head toward the right. At that moment, both of us got awfully tickled...awfully. It was the kind of overcoming laughter that happens in just that setting, shoulders shaking, tears sliding down our cheeks, squeaking attempts to stifle the hilarity. The tears flowed so freely that before long Meg and I were both mopping them with my "don't-I-look-fancy" scarf.

Just as one of us would get our laughter under control, the shoulders of the other would begin to shake ever so slightly and then both of us would drown anew under the fits of silent laughter, dabbing our eyes and casting looks toward the questioning glances being tossed at us from the rest of our curious party who couldn't for the life of them figure out what was so funny.

Finally, finally the waves of snickering and snorting passed and just as we were taking deep calming breaths the recitals emcee announced the name of the next young singer who, she said "will be singing Do-Re-Me from the Sound of Music ... and it seems," she said, "that she has the hiccups."

I fear we shall never be invited back.



Friday, April 3, 2015

A Bit of a Snag

My father-in-law declared the kitchen finished about 5 hours before Molly's first softball practice of the season began. He was just a day away from finishing the kids' bathroom upstairs (which we began because we had extra flooring left over from the kitchen floor) when a serious crack in the bottom of our only working tub/shower in our main bathroom appeared. 


Five years ago we removed a cast iron behemoth from that old bathroom when Pappa completely renovated it. In its place we (read : Pappa) installed a shiny new white light weight tub and we loved it...a little too much it now seems.   


So the five-year-old tub has to go and as result, so does the beautiful tile and at least some of the floor. In what may be the saddest before and after set of pictures ever posted at The Wright Place...



 Happily, the bathroom shower upstairs that Pappa is installing should be all ready to use by Easter morning...maybe!


Until then we are just sorta hanging out in the kitchen, enjoying the luxuries it affords: running water, a functioning dishwasher, an abundance of coffee, a fridge that has enough food to feed us for the foreseeable future, 


...and a small spray of carnations which remind us that spring is surely present and that beauty exists amongst this chaos.



Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Phil 4:8


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Eleventy Hundred Pictures and a Couple of Words About a Kitchen

"How's your kitchen coming?"

Beautifully, thank you so much for being brave enough to ask. I'm much like a grandma with a new grandchild, would you like to see some pictures?

OK then...here we go.

I sorted through a picture or two from years past to see if I could find some decent "before" action pictures. I found a few {cue music...'Memories......'}










Ah, old kitchen...we had fun, but you flooded, so ... 

...we invited Papaw to come up and the guy at Lowe's told us that 
the fridge would work better in a different place ...






...and you only had two burners and ...


...your microwave was IN THE SIDE of the island?!

What was up with that oven which was perfect for a doll house but not a full sized house with a bunch of kids and a grown man and a crazy woman trying to feed them.






Let's face it old gal, YOU HAD SERIOUS ISSUES...ok, so do I but YOURS were fixable.


We tried to tell the Lowe's kitchen designer that the fridge would be a disaster on the other side of the room. He asked us to consider it and we are so very glad that we did! It made our large room feel like all kitchen instead of kitchen-plus-Gretchen's-messy-desk-area like it did before.

Once the fridge was relocated, it was possible for a cabinet and counter top to replace it.

{before}

{after}

The doll house oven has been replaced by a normal sized stove. We are still getting used to the idea that we can cook more than one pan of food at a time.

 {before}

{after}

The microwave has gotten a raise. 
Now we can heat things without having to do squats.


In addition to the space gained by moving the fridge across the room, we added a crazy amount of useable square feet by replacing the homemade white cabinets, as deep as my fully extended arm, with traditional standard-sized cabinets. The corner in front of Molly in the picture below was built out away from the kitchen wall a foot or so leaving a hole behind the cabinet wall that was empty and unusable.


It's all better now. 


The island with it's microwave and it's stovetop and its single drawer is gone and has been replaced with a plain topped island with scads of storage.






We've circled the room now and find ourselves in the neighborhood of the dishwasher which replaced the dishwasher that made all of this renovation possible necessary ;-). 

The new dishwasher and I have had a big talk about how one should behave in the winter and I feel we have come to a healthy understanding... I will do my best to keep it shiny, I will give it lots of attention and more than enough work to do and, in return, it will keep all of its hoses enact and drip free and it will under NO CIRCUMSTANCES burble, bust, burst or, in any other fashion ruin this kitchen. 
It was a good talk.


And finally...here is where I'm sitting as I type...


...actually, I'm sitting in a dining room chair at my desk because of the barstool and desk chair situation. The situation is that there are none or neither or there aren't any. We have hauled three different sets of four barstools into this room and all I can say thus far is that I'm as good at choosing bar stools as I am paint colors which is abysmal! 


The first thing I did when I sat stood here for the first time was to order a cookbook I'd been waiting all renovation long to purchase as sort of a prize I guess. Really, though, why in the world would I need anything else besides this...


I still can't believe it's our kitchen.
It still seems like somebody else's kitchen which is a good thing because as I'm sure you've already discovered, it's always more fun cleaning someone else's kitchen!

There's still paint to be painted and a few little items to be seen to, but we are 87% finished I think and our little world is settling back into its regular rhythms. The kids have begun once more to take over the island during our school hours ...


I'm back to Sunday breakfasts ...


...and making messes.


Meg's been baking cakes, Cole has been making nachos and is heavily hinting about reinstating burrito night. Kate flits and frolics in the much more open spaces between the island and the countertops and Molly, she is glad to have her "wake up" place back...


I am excited and thankful and amazed and thankful and blessed and thankful...

for them...


...and for him...


...and for the food and the family and the fellowship 
that is to happen in this place.


...I might even blog about it.


Grace 
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends,
We offer thanks. Amen.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

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