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The Story of a Kitchen

September23

We once had a family home in the Wolseley neighbourhood of Winnipeg. I loved the schools, the shops and the friends we knew and made in the neighbourhood. This was over twenty years ago and the community was not as gentrified as it is now and D was often concerned about our safety and was just as happy when we made the move to River Heights. The Wolseley kitchen was a do-it-yourself job with white cupboards and black hardware, white appliances and pine ceiling and walls. There was a door to the back porch, a door to the dining room, a door to the front landing and a door to the basement. J1 who we called “crash” as a toddler, once hit one of those door jams which forced his recently exposed front teeth, back up into the tooth sockets. Overall, it was an awkward space and poorly laid out and we would not miss it when we moved.

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Our River Heights kitchen was smaller but had a more efficient footprint and was relatively new. At that time I was overjoyed. There was no designated dining room in the house but it had a built in kitchen table and it was perfect for our young family. Perfect, that was, until our border collie-cross puppy ate off all the legs to the chairs for the kitchen table! Over the years, things went down hill from there.

When J1 became a young man, he and D backpacked through Europe. Back home, for no apparent reason, the tempered glass on the front of our stove imploded into a million little glass shards. D and J1 redesigned the kitchen footprint on the back of a napkin in some European pub along their route. By this time, we had reworked a little TV room into a dining space so we no longer needed the kitchen table. We did a small redesign to move the stove where the table had been and replace the flooring which was very much the worse for wear.

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In more recent years, we had run out cupboard space and the cupboard doors would literally fall off their hinges on a regular basis. We were disgusted by our popcorn ceiling and the grime that had accumulated there from our constant use of the stove. I had suggested a modest face lift to fix the cupboards and ceilings and create some more space. D want to start from scratch and so we waited until we could afford the reno.

In the mean time, my Momma had moved out of our family home and shared the proceeds of the house sale with my siblings and me. The kitchen dream, came back onto the front burner, so to speak! We researched some very grand plans of creating a doorway into the living room and going back to the bare bones with the help of our designated contractors-DAB Building and Renovation.

In the end, our plans had to be scaled back without the access and retaining the flooring and appliances, or we would have to continue to save. We chose the former and moved ahead. The guys from DAB are friends of our offspring and had some appreciation of our casual lifestyle. They suggested a beach-like kitchen decor and I was SOLD! The only thing that we modified was replacing a laminate counter top with a granite one. Otherwise, we accepted every one of their practical and design suggestions.

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The majority of the work was scheduled to be completed while D and I were up at the Beach House on our August vacation. We emptied the cupboards and moved the contents of the city fridge to the lake one. Right on schedule, the demo and rebuild began. We got regular up-dates from the guys and I remained up at the beach house for some extra time to stay out of the guys’ hair.

A custom-made window took a bit of time to be completed and installed, but otherwise, the job took about three weeks.

Here’s a tour:

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D prepared our first dinner at our dining peninsula. We wanted butcher block surfaces but was cautioned about surrounding the sink with wood, so we mixed it up with the granite top on the cupboards opposite. (This photo also illustrates that we should probably pour less hearty wine portions in the future).

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We had never before had a spice drawyer. This one is right next to the stove top and D was thrilled with how easy it was to season everything up before the grilling that he did that evening.

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In the drawers directly opposite the stove are all of our utensils. These three drawyers were newly acquired and much needed space. I seem to have accumulated way too many gadgets, given as product samples at blogging events. I itentially placed all of the plastic items in the bottom drawyer so that the Wee One could open it up by herself to help me unload the dishwasher or just play. The granite gives me a place to work with dough and is very “organic” looking in appearance.

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The shelf to the left was added so that there would be clearance by the stove which allowed for a bank of open shelving. We had one of the shelves removed so that our tall bottles of various oils could be readily available at the stove top.

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The open shelves serve a number of purposes: I never before had the space to place my much-loved cookbooks. Having a place to display a couple of decorative items means that it is less tempting for me to “clutter” up the counter as D likes clear counter tops. I think that we have found a number of good compromises between form (me) and function (him).

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In our previous kitchen a double lazy susan (Sister #3 has always wondered why Susans are labelled in this manner), was full of packaged goods. Now one shelf holds all of our stove top cookware and another, all of our small appliances.

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In addition to the lazy susan space, the pevious cupboards that occupied this space, right down to the floor, was full of food packages. These days, we find that we depend on hardly any packaged foods and so we were able to incorporate almost all our food stuffs and ingredients into this one space. We retained the wire baskets from our former kitchen so that we could pull out the shelves and see all of the ingredients so that nothing would get lost and forgotten about at the rear of the cupboard. In addition, I categorized each pull out, so if I am baking, I just pull out that entire basket and place it on the counter for easy access.

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We do not have a stove hood or vent in the kitchen so it is so lovely that the window now opens to let steam and cooking odors out and the fresh air in.

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The plant shelves by the south window are for growing herbs in the winter. The glass fronted cupboard is a great place to display some glass and pretty coloured serving items.

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We have tripled the lights with numerous pot lights, strategically located. The pine that serves as our backsplash was white-washed to cover the popcorn ceiling. The double farmer’s sink is great for rinsing on one side and allowing supper to defrost in the other. The floor matt was out on our back deck and I initially brought it in just to have a place to put it over the winter but I love it so much that I will not want to give it up. I think that it ties everything together and really contributes to the beachy decor that we were going for.

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Now here is the ironic thing, a detail that I do not think that D has even remembered: the white cupboards with black hardware and the pine on the walls and ceiling are exactly the decor of our first kitchen those many years ago (the one that we couldn’t wait to leave behind)!

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Kath’s quote: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. -Joni Mitchell

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on being married for 31 years

September2

Today I was struck by the math that I have been married for more than half my life.

D and I have been friends for almost 40 years.

The numbers have caused me to reflect on what has made our marriage a success (not always, but mostly). Paul Newman wrote the following to Joanne Woodward on the day that they wed and if I were to search for the advice that would come closest to our own, this would be it:

 

“ Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the Art of Marriage, the little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon; it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have the wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding rooms for things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and obligation is reciprocal. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.“

Today D left me a note on the kitchen counter which made me smile and his words have stayed with me all day. Tonight we will dine together at a couple of places that I have been but D has not had the chance to visit. The plans are not grand but I am as excited as a school girl. We don’t feel the need to give each other extravagant anniversary gifts but D often brings home my favourite flower on this day. I bought him a football magazine so he can read up for his NFL picks this weekend. He kisses me before he leaves our bed every morning and we often find ourselves holding hands in the night. We write each other notes if we are not going to be together and hide them under pillows or in toiletry bags. We’ve had our share of difficulties, disagreements and sorrows but we have had many more times filled with joy, laughter and utter contentment. We still love to be with each other more than anyone else in the entire world. What a feeling.

Kath’s quote: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine“. Song of Solomon 1:2

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Celebrating our 30th anniversary in Boston.

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Lake Life-My Peeps!

August28

At the lake, solitude is readily available. I can snuggle back into bed with my book, ride my bike to the beach or escape to the gazebo on a rainy day. I LOVE to be alone. This is when I am most imaginative: dreaming, planning and writing. Even though I am a “chatty Kathy”, I am actually an introvert because I need my alone time to recharge for my wonderful life.

But Lester Beach is where I get to spend the most time with my precious family-sometimes in an intentional way but mostly by poking our heads into each others porches to pass along a detail or some news, meeting on the road as we walk to and fro or accumulating on the beach.

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J1 and J2 hosted the Wee One’s second birthday at the beach and in the yard for a barbeque so we got to see her other “other” Glamma and Poppa, our Goddaughter and members of D’s side of the family. The Wee One’s great grandparents gifted her with her own version of a beach house which Grandpa Harold constructed and carved himself.

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This is my handsome D in the water balloon toss with the Wee One at Lester Beach’s annual Family Fun Days. This event gives us the opportunity to be with family, neighbours and friends alike who share property at one of the province’s loveliest beaches.

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After all that rigourous competition, naps were in order.

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A shared hammock was put to leisurely use by these beautiful cousins.

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I love how the generations fit together seamlessly when we are together at the lake. Since my Dad is in heaven (where he is constantly enjoying lake life), my eldest brother is the patriarch of our compound. This pic was taken at the impromptu boccia tournament that I made reference to in my previous post. Under his arm is one of my great-nieces who proved to be a rising star on the boccia courts.

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We hosted two of our city groups for summer wind ups at Life is Good. I didn’t manage to get any photos of the group assembled the weekend previous to this one, but it was a glorious hot day and we spent the afternoon on the inflatable “party island” where we kept cool with our feet in the water as we floated along. The weekend pictured above was variable with sudden showers. Our young family gang made hay while the sun shone.

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The “big girls” enjoying the beach

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and the boys tucking in at supper.

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I didn’t manage to get a photo of Rudy (another one of the gang), so here’s one of his Mom cradling his new babysister. In fact, since our get together two baby girls have been born to our group! Good thing we have lots of parking at Life is Good.

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As much as we enjoy hanging with the youngsters, we love the time spent with their parents too. We have patiently waited for this time to have the space to invite gangs of people to be with us here. We are blessed with them all in our lives.

Kath’s quote: “Eventually; it’ll all make sense. You’ll realize why you don’t have the same group of friends. You’ll realize why your first love didn’t work out. And you’ll realize that it all happened . . . So you can have something better”. -Ritu Ghatourey

heartmushroom

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

Lake Life-Part 3: The Food!

August27

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Since we have 4 family cottages in the same vicinity, meal times are often communal. These tomatoes along with pounds of apples were dropped off by my nephew who had a surplus of both from his garden. When we make too much salad at supper, we run the remains across or up the street to whatever family hasn’t finished up their dinner. If you are out on your own you will invariably be invited to someone’s place for supper. If you happen to ride your bike by when everyone is eating brunch on the deck, you will be pulling up a chair and digging in, in no time. When Sister #3 has catered an event and has extra dessert around, all the kids will be invited over for make-your-own sundaes. When Sister #2 is making eggs Benedict or anyone has taken a pie out of the oven, word goes around really quickly.

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We typically eat two meals a day: brunch when the guys get home from the tennis or volleyball courts and then dinner. Bacon is a mainstay at many weekend brunches, pictured above with wild blueberry pancakes.

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At “Life is Good” everyone pitches in on the cooking and whomever hasn’t cooked has to help with the dishes. J1 will whip up his fabulous Denvers or Boo and the Frenchman will make everyone waffles (with real maple syrup, of course). The grownups typically can manage until happy hour.

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But the toddlers like the Wee One and her cousin may need a picnic of cheese, crackers and strawberries!

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The surplus apples mentioned above were fantastic with slices of cheddar and fig & kalamata olive crackers. These were placed on an over-turned tree stump between two swinging hammocks one snack time.  Some of the gang bring spring rolls and samosas for communal happy hour. This summer I often put out antipasto, marinated artichokes, olives and feta and loved it each and every time.

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The surplus tomatoes also mentioned above went into this caprese salad with huge basil leaves that I harvested from home just when our vacay had begun.

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Our favourite dinners are those centered on the grill. D does a great job with squash and mushrooms and peppers. New potatoes were amazing with rosemary & sea salt. Whatever mixed greens had arrived in our garden share were sautéed with garlic and lemon juice.

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One evening we enjoyed a batch of moules et frites (mussels and fries). The former made with wine, garlic, butter and whatever fresh herbs were available and the latter cut thin, blanched and then finished on the barbeque. We dined el fresco on this evening and to our surpize the Wee One loved the mussels as much as the adults. Unfortunately, so did the bears which are plentiful in our area, as the beach house is located in the midst of a provincial forrest. At 5 the next morning, D woke to a sound, looked out of our bedroom window, to see that an absolutely enormous creature had unsecured the clamp down handles on the garbage can, dumped out the mussel shells and lay on his (or her) tummy for their feast! We are not about to accidently forget to secure the garbage can in the shed again any time soon.

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Even though I am not the greatest baker, I make the occasional pie or crumble utilizing the bounty of summer fruit.

The best dinners of all are the random ones that miraculously become delicious times together. The first weekend of our vacation, it was casually mentioned that we were invited for boccia and beer by my eldest nephew. The games attracted more of the family and when it was time to disperse for dinner, he suggested that we all bring what we were preparing that evening and put the finishing touches on together. There were hot dogs, slow roasted chicken, left over monster pork chops, taco salad, kale salad and the sweetest corn on the cob I have tasted this season. There were 17 family members at dinner. I called it a “30 Something” supper. Do you remember that show?

My nephew’s trick with the corn is that he soaks it still in its husk and then places it on the barbeque until the husks burn away. He then throws half cobs into an enormous pot with butter and salt and recruits someone with upper arm strength to jostle the pot around until the cobs are perfectly seasoned-YUM!

Kath’s quote: “Well, I haven’t really anything to eat at home, I began, but then stopped, as I realised that a dreary revelation of the state of one’s larder was hardly the way to respond to an invitation to dinner.” ― Barbara Pym

heartrock

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

Lake Life 2015-Part 2: Life’s a Beach!

August26

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No matter what the weather, the Wee One cannot stay out of the water. Her little feet were frigid early in the season but she insisted on skipping rocks. She is a “noticer” and a “collector” like her Glamma. She loves to gather stones on the beach but even on a gravel road where she will stop dead in her tracks when she spies a good one.

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I love walking the beach and am fascinated with everything that nature has deposited on the sand-the way drift wood accumulates into a cradle and the designs that floating sticks make when washed in by the waves.

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I even love what others would consider trash. If only I could get someone to cart this rusted stove drawyer back to the yard of the beach house. I would strategically place it to display my favourite drift wood and rocks.

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The beach is usually calm and blue but I also love it when it is wavy and grey.

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D and I often lug our chairs and a glass of wine down to the beach to watch the sunset together. I get a little too focused on getting the perfect photo and don’t pay enough attention to the sun itself or the beautiful man sitting next to me, so I try to reserve my photo taking to solo walks.

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Sunsets are my favourite time of day.

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The sky seems impossibly big by the water’s edge.

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All kinds of pretty wild life are found on the shore, like this little pink mouse

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and this pussy cat created by one of our many young guests.

Kath’s quotes: “To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”-Jeanne Moreau

heartbunch

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

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