Seven Things I Love About Our Kitchen

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.

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8 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Work Better Today—No Renovations Required

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.

Here’s what I learned.

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7 Questions to Ask Before You Renovate Your Kitchen

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.

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Practical Hospitality: How Clean is Clean Enough?

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.

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Two Years Later: A Before and After

Two years ago today, demo began on our house. You can read about it here. At the time, in my naïve, foolish, little head, I had visions of us speedily and efficiently transforming this house into a home in a little over six months. Just like you see on TV. Oh, sweet innocence of youth.

Three general contractors, mountains of debt, anxiety attacks on the regular, and about 600 martinis later, I’m still making my peace with our decision to buy and renovate this house. Our little guy is helping, though, and the more we fill this place with memories of him, the more peaceful I’m starting to feel about it all.

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One Year Later: An Update…Of Sorts

If there were a contest for laziest Catholic blogger, I’m pretty sure I’d win. It’s been so, so long since my last update, and so, so much has happened, that I’m at a bit of a loss about where to begin.

Probably the best place is with a word of thanks to all of you who offered such kind words of consolation after I wrote about our struggle with infertility and who have been praying for us ever since. At first, I tried so hard to thank everyone individually, but eventually I just got too overwhelmed, by the sheer volume of comments and messages and by life in general, which, if it’s been anything this past year, has indeed been overwhelming.

As some of you know, I’m currently under contract with Emmaus Road to write a book about the house renovations (working title is Don’t Paint the Subway Tile! Lessons in Love, Sin, Gin, and Grace from a Real-Life Fixer Upper). I’ll be starting on it in just a couple weeks, so thoughts about what I want to say are filling up my head. I have lots of those thoughts, but so few are what I had in mind when I originally came up with the book.

Don’t worry, though; the gin recipes haven’t gone anywhere. They’ll still play a supporting role in the book…even a starring role in some parts.

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Renovation Lessons: God is God, I am not.

Greetings from the land of dust, fumes, and noise. It’s been a while. I know. I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few months, though, filled with delays, setbacks, and unexpected problems (and lots of writing to pay for those unexpected problems). I haven’t blogged about it all because I figured you people have better things to do than listen to me whine. Today, though, in celebration of our mantles and bookcases getting installed and the picture rail going up, I thought I would do some whining with a theological point (and a few progress pictures, thrown in for good measure).

For starters: The Mantles (still in need of finishing trim, but in place at long last).

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Dining In the Time of Dry Wall Dust

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. If, however, you want to make Him do more than laugh, if you want to make Him double over and fall down on the floor in stitches, write a book.

In it, be wise. So very wise. Combine the writings of the saints and Scripture with practical examples and tips from your own life about how you personally Do The Wise Thing.

Admit, ever so humbly, that you don’t always follow your own advice. But give the advice just the same.

Before the book is even off the presses, God will be in hysterics. And you will find yourself nearly incapable of following a single word of your own advice.

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Day Drinking In the Rubble

Living through a major renovation teaches you all sorts of things about yourself.

For example, spending day after day, working and planning, eating and drinking, talking and resting in the same shadowy 450 square foot space, unable to invite anyone over for dinner or even a drink, has taught me that I would make the world’s most crashingly awful hermit. If I tried really, really hard, I might last three days—three dreary, miserable days that would inevitably end with me being kicked out of the hermit club, and all the other hermits cheering with glee since I’d spent those three days repeatedly breaking out of my hermitage and sneaking into theirs because I wanted a chat…and variety…and space.

Self-knowledge: I am a women who needs lebensraum. The lack of it makes me a little tick-tick.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to keep you company in a bombed out, post-apocalyptic shell of a building, I am your girl.

Despite my love for beauty, order, and floors that don’t have 4’ x 8’ holes in them, I have discovered that I have a surprisingly high tolerance level for filth…and rubble…and 4’ x 8’ holes.

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