One year ago, I launched my e-cookbook, Around the Catholic Table: 77 Recipes for Easy Hospitality. Our hope was that it would help us raise enough money to adopt a second child debt-free. By God’s grace, it did. And seven months after our fundraiser went live, we adopted a beautiful baby boy: Becket Christopher Martin Chapman.
After Becket’s birth, we spent three weeks with him in a NICU in Dallas. We arrived home, exhausted, but over the moon in love with our little man. We thought that maybe someday we would adopt again, but with a two-year-old and newborn preemie, we also knew that any future adoptions would have to wait. Our hands were full and our bank account was empty.
Not six days later, though, my husband walked into the kitchen with some news. Our first son Toby’s birthparents were expecting again. They could not and would not parent. Would we?
It’s been a long time friends. But, I’ve been busy! There have been books and Endow studies and a whole lot of Instagram posts, which are faster and easier to write than blog posts when you only have one free hand and a ginormous toddler sleeping on you. One day, when I have both hands back, I hope to return to writing more in this little corner of the Internet. But, I’m kind of hoping that will be a while! We’re in the process of trying for a second adoption—hopefully a more peaceful process than last time around, but that’s up to God. I did want to pop on here, though, and let my non-Instagram/Facebook followers know about my newest project, an e-cookbook and essay collection, called Around the Catholic Table: 77 Recipes for Easy Hospitality and Everyday Dinners, which I wrote for a very special cause.
In my lifetime, I have cooked in countless kitchens—both my own and others’—and through it all, I kept a running inventory of design features I liked and didn’t like. So, when we moved into this house in 2016, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted. I had do to a bit of tweaking to deal with our space and budget, but overall the kitchen you see now is the kitchen I saw in my head the first time we looked at the house.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about various choices I made from people wanting to know if they should make them in their own kitchens. Not being able to see the kitchens or know how the questioners use their kitchens, the only thing I can really do is say why I chose something and if we’re happy with it.
Here are my answers to the features I get asked about most often.
If yesterday’s post about kitchen renovations left you
feeling like you’ll be stuck with the same dysfunctional kitchen forever and
ever and ever, amen…today’s post is for you.
The truth is, you don’t have to knock down walls and buy new
cabinets to make your kitchen more functional. You might need to do that to
make it prettier, but pretty is a nice secondary. The most important thing
about a kitchen is that it works. And almost any kitchen can be made to work
better. Not necessarily well…but better.
That’s a lesson I’ve learned in every home I’ve lived in as
an adult, none of which has boasted anything close to a dream kitchen from the
start. This Hawthorne House Renovation is the first time a real, genuine
kitchen renovation has been in the cards for me, so for 20 years before that,
my cooking, hosting, large-crowd loving self had to figure out how to make the
best of what had been handed to me. And what had been handed was never good.
Are you thinking about a kitchen renovation? Do you have visions of subway tile and quartz countertops dancing in your head? Or are you still steeling your nerves at the thought of kitchen upgrades before you try to sell your house? Before you start calling contractors, stop, make yourself some coffee, and ask yourself the following questions.
(Really. Make some coffee. This is going to take a while. I’ve written book chapters shorter than this blog post.)
Okay. Ready? Here we go.
1.) How long will I be in this house?
Why? Because how you answer this question helps you determine three things: Your budget. Your style choices. The quality of materials used.
If you’re only looking at staying in your house for a few more months or few more years, your kitchen renovation is really about re-sale. Which means you can keep your budget small, limiting it to essential visual upgrades. It also means you can paint your cabinets that trendy dark blue or choose that floor tile that’s all over Pinterest; you won’t be around in five years, when all those choices look oh so 2019. They’ll look good now, which is all that matters. You also don’t have to invest in furniture-grade cabinetry…or even mid-grade cabinetry; if doors are falling off their hinges in 10 years and laminate finishes are peeling off, you’re not the one who will have to deal with it.
If, however, you plan to be in your house for another decade (or two or three), you have a vested interest in a renovation that lasts (because, trust me, you don’t want to do this again for a long, long time). You also have a vested interest in a renovation that doesn’t look dated five years down the line (unless, of course, you can afford to shell out big bucks every time backsplash trends change). The longer you’re going to be in your house, the more important it is to invest in quality materials that last and classic design choices that work with the rest of your house. If you can’t afford to do that now (or if a house full of destructive littles makes you leery of having nice things), it’s better to either live with what you have until you can afford it/the time is right OR make a few cheap upgrades now and save the major work for later.
…Is coming up on the blog (and Instagram) this week. I know: It’s not the most Lenten-themed series imaginable. Regardless, I’m talking about kitchens this week because, well, I want to talk about kitchens. I like kitchens. I like spending time in kitchens. I like looking at kitchens. And I like what kitchens make possible: delicious food and happy evenings enjoying that delicious food with people I love.
Also, after creating this kitchen…
…where this duplex dining room…
…and duplex bathroom used to be…
…I have some thoughts to share on the whole topic of kitchen renovations. Fancy that.
Creating our kitchen was a stressful, grueling, dirty, exhausting, expensive, and yet, still, somehow, totally fun experience. I learned so much during the year—yes, year—that we worked on it, and if all I learned through that process can save you some stress when you get around to renovating (or even just reorganizing) your own kitchen, that will make all the headaches it gave me a little more worth it.
The calendar tells me that Lent starts tomorrow. Which is odd because I’m pretty sure it started almost three weeks ago here, when the Black Death first descended on our household. We’ve been battling one health issue after another ever since then, including issues I won’t mention on the same page with food. Regardless, I’m all tuckered out and having a hard time settling on my various Lenten penances. Isn’t sleeping only a few hours a night penance enough?
All this is to say that while tomorrow I might come up with something eloquent to say about fasting, today I’ve got nothing. Except for a recipe that you can cook on days of fasting and abstinence.
This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. On Instagram, I’ve been talking about how, after a six-year struggle with anorexia, the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food (I’m also giving away five copies of The Catholic Table over there this week). But it wasn’t just the Eucharist that helped me. Just as the Eucharist transformed my understanding of food, the theology of the body transformed my understanding of my body.
For most of the first 25 years of my life I equated my body’s value with a number on the scale. I thought it’s worth could be measured and weighed. It was a perpetual problem for me, something I needed to control.
Then, when I was 25, I read Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. It taught me that my body wasn’t a problem to be controlled; it was a gift to be cared for. It was me—as much a part of who I was as my soul and as much a gift as my soul.
February is always hard for me here in the land of eternal grey. Writing is work. Cleaning is work. Cooking is work. In years past, I’ve been able to escape for a week or so to more southern and sunnier climes. This year, with the baby, I’m lucky to escape to the bathroom for a nice long soak (still a February goal). So, since I can’t fly away, I’m trying a trick from my poverty-stricken grad school days, and acting like it’s spring inside my house.
This week, we cranked up the heat a bit, I pulled out a “transitional” clothing items (aka not wool), and we dined on one of our favorite summer dishes: Rosemary Almond Chicken Salad.
Let’s talk housekeeping. Not ordinary housekeeping. Not “Do
the Laundry on Wednesday and Clean the Bathrooms on Fridays” housekeeping. But,
rather, “Friends are Coming Over Tonight, and We Need to Get the House Ready”
housekeeping. What exactly, in that scenario does “get the house ready” mean?
This is an important question, because how you answer it determines: 1) How free you feel to have people over; and 2) How crazy you make yourself and everyone in your household prior to your guests’ arrival.