Beauty in the Kitchen

We all need beauty. It is simply how we are made.  Truth, beauty, and goodness give us a window into the Divine and so while it would seem to be enough for us to have a kitchen that is practical and uncluttered, it would never feel complete.  We need to bring in something beautiful.

What is beautiful?  Surely, there is some aspect of beauty to a space that functions well.  That lacks the excesses and allows the person using the room to enjoy its use.  Then, the space should be clean.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness they say.  Take the time, if not this week, then perhaps during the Lenten season or the springtime to do a deep clean of your kitchen.  You know the feeling when you are done – it is absolute joy.  There is nothing like a sparkling sink and clean floors and an oven with nothing burnt on it to make one feel like cooking a delicious meal for others.

So you have a space that is functional and clean, but what then should you add to it?  The answer is as personal as the person and the family.  I’ll give some ideas to spur your own creativity and then welcome your ideas as well.

Favorite cookware:  Is there a space to hang your dear cast iron pan, show off your wooden spoons, or somewhere to display those copper pots you love so much?  If you reach for it often and love how it looks as well, why not bring it out for others to see?

Favorite serving pieces: Perhaps you love to look at the platter from your wedding or your favorite Polish pottery rather than just storing them away.  Put some pieces on the wall if you have the space and you can enjoy them for their beauty as well as their use.

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Found on Etsy here.

 

Quotes or inspiration:  I personally love the quote I have over my sink from St. Teresa of Avila that says, “God walks amidst the pots and pans”.  It reminds me that when I am doing simple tasks for the love of others, that is often exactly where God wants me most – especially if it is my least favorite chore.  Maybe you could find something equally inspirational for you!

A rug:  Kitchen rugs are useful in spots where floors get chilly in winter or standing on tile can make legs weary.  Don’t feel limited to the selection you find in the designated “Kitchen Rug” section at the big box stores.  Sometimes a runner or area rug meant for another part of the house can have a beautiful pattern that brings a smile to your face each day.

Curtains: Does the room need a bit of simplicity in the way of beautiful, white panels over the sink or perhaps your neutrals in the rest of the space can be livened up with some color and pattern framing the window?

Upgrading just one thing: Is there a small appliance that is on the verge of dying or a utensil holder you just don’t like or some similar item that for you, is the opposite of beautiful?  You don’t need to update the kitchen to love it, sometimes it is just replacing the one thing that really bothers you.  It could be as simple as some beautiful new hooks, new knobs on the cabinets, or getting a new coffee maker.  Donate the old thing if you can and bring some joy into your kitchen with a small upgrade.

This is the time to really think about what brings you joy – what would make you smile each time you saw it?  Add that!

What is your favorite item in the kitchen?

Simplify the Kitchen

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

Simplicity.  It will look different to each of us, but I am asking you to consider it in your home.  It is one of those quiet ideas that can really open up your ability to have time for all the things we want to do.  Why?  Because everything you own takes up your time.  It may be that you have to move it over in order to wipe the counter, or dust it, or take it out and put it away for certain seasons – whatever the upkeep for that item is, it costs you time. It may be just a few seconds or minutes each day, but that time adds up quickly. Now, if that is a delightful activity for you, then by all means continue; but if you would rather spend your time doing something like reading, hiking, painting, or some other activity, it might be time to consider simplifying your space.  Today, we start in the kitchen.

Now, many of us bemoan our kitchens.  They don’t have enough cabinet space, or counter space, or room to move about.  That may be true, but I invite you to consider that you may be trying to store too many things.  This struck me right between the eyes when I began reading great books to my kids and I realized that most of the mothers had no cabinets at all.  Often, it seemed they had just a table, an armoire, or a hoosier in addition to a pantry, a cellar, and a stove.  Most of these books also told the story of families much larger than my own, and so I wondered what I had stuffed into my cabinets that perhaps I didn’t really need.

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Well, it turned out that many modern conveniences are tools that do only one job, and that often didn’t cut it for mothers of previous ages.  I began to look at my kitchen differently and I purged a lot of things.  Then, I realized that many of the items I was hesitant to part with were things I used for special occasions.  They were absolutely useful to me when I held a dinner for many, but on the average day they were just taking up space.  Those items I decided to move to a shelf in the basement so I didn’t have to constantly move them out of my way in my cabinets.

Here is how my cabinet clean out went:

 

 

I am thrilled with the results.  Everything is easy to see and easier to reach.  Things were donated, but more things were simply moved out of the way until they are needed.  Those things now live in what I affectionately call The Butler’s Pantry in my basement.  It is far from what many would consider true minimalism, but it suits our family perfectly.

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If you are looking for some more kitchen inspiration as you simplify, check out this article. I love the use of space and the fact that it is a family of eight makes it all the more inspiring!

For another example that is much less minimalist and a kitchen that serves a family of 10, check this out. Auntie Leila has some good ideas for a hard working kitchen.

Lastly, tackle that junk drawer if you have one.  I always feel so much better knowing that everything in there is useful and has a home.  I used a kitchen utensil organizer and some boxes from IKEA that I had on hand. Labels are helpful in keeping this organized so everyone knows where things should go.

When you simplify, take a photo and tag it #delightfulhome2017 and maybe we’ll post them here with a fun photo round up!  We’d love to see your progress!

The Kitchen

Welcome to the first room in our series, the Kitchen.  Let’s start here, as this is both the heart of the home and where much work of the mother occurs. Before we dive into cleaning, simplifying, and making our kitchen beautiful, it would make sense to think about what we need our kitchens to be. If we think of our rooms as servants to the people who use them, how can your kitchen better serve your family?

Think through the annoying spots.  That counter that is just NEVER clear, that drawer that doesn’t even open all the way and you have no idea what is back there, the cabinet where all the storage containers are in a jumble or the pots are jammed in… You all know what your least favorite spots are.  Write them down.  If you use one, this would be a great page in your bullet journal.  Write down all the things that make your kitchen inefficient or unpleasant right now.  Some of these we can work on this month and it will be so nice to look at this list after the problems are solved!

Related to this is also the idea of where do your processes have a bottleneck?  Is one part of the kitchen where people are bumping into one another as they cook while no one ever seems to be in another spot?  Maybe some rearranging is in order.  We’ll discuss work zones later in the series, but it might be a good time to start thinking about yours and how you can arrange the things in your kitchen to accommodate the people who use them.  In my home, I’d like my kids to unload the dishwasher with less help from me, but that means it would be nice if all the bowls and glassware weren’t on shelves they cannot reach.  Perhaps moving the coffee maker and mugs away from the main cooking area to prevent morning traffic jams would help you, or creating a space where kids can help prep veggies without being too close to a hot oven is your need.  Write down all your thoughts and possible solutions.  Brainstorm here for a while because sometimes a very small change can have a big impact.

When the cooking is through, is it easy to clean?  Do you have a system for getting the dishes cleaned quickly after each meal and the counter cleared as well?  Is the floor swept and the table wiped so that if a guest were to drop in, you could bring them gladly into your kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee?  Do you have a schedule for cleaning out those things that are not everyday tasks – the oven, the microwave, the refrigerator?  Cutting time off of your cleaning means you can use it elsewhere so we’ll focus on this aspect of the kitchen too.  Until then, write down a list of things that don’t get done as often as you like, and another list of all the people in the home who are able to do those tasks.  Caring for the home is a family affair, not yours alone.

Switching gears, what do you love about your kitchen?  Maybe you appreciate the ample cabinet space, or you love an apron that was passed down from your grandmother.  Big or small, make a list of things that are great about your space.  Good light? Charming woodwork? A lovely piece of art hanging on the wall?  We’ll figure out a way to highlight these later and hopefully make the list even longer.

Lastly, I like to remember that when we make our space the best it can be, then it is up to us to improve our attitudes toward the space as well.  I like to think of the fact that there are women who blog daily recipes and write cookbooks out of tiny kitchens.  Ma Ingalls had no cabinets or refrigerator and she raised five children and cooked delicious meals. You need not live in or pine for some imaginary dream kitchen when the one you have now is where your life is being lived day by day. Amazing meals happen in awkward spaces and amazing memories are made in humble kitchens.  Celebrate the space you have now, and let’s make it as pleasant as possible.

 

 

 

Atmosphere in the Delightful Home

 

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We came across this clay heart on a recent hike!

I wanted to stop in to say thank you!  In the few months since we have begun blogging, we’ve had so many kind readers reach out to us with comments, suggestions, and encouragement.  It is a joy to share some of our stories and advice with you.  We were honored to have so many of you join us last night for our first webinar and it makes us excited to create more posts and talks to inspire you in your journey as a mother, teacher, and homemaker.

Since so many new eyes have come to our blog in the recent weeks, we also wanted to call your attention to some of the posts in the archives.  In discussing the home going forward, it might be helpful to look back a bit as you think about what you want from your home and how you can make it fulfill those goals.

We have chatted about how the atmosphere of our home is shaped by our person – the attitude and tone that we set.

We discussed our thoughts on organization and decoration, which often means cutting clutter to make room for other aspects of a full life.

We wrote about the tactile nature of your home – textures, smells, and sounds.

We pondered the fact that we NEED beauty, it isn’t just a want.

Then we talked about our outdoor spaces and the atmosphere outside of our four walls.

We hope this gives you something to ponder as you start critically looking at the rooms in your home!  We’ve been doing it too and we have lots of pictures to show you as we simplify, organize, and add beauty to our spaces.  We hope you are taking pictures too, or will as you follow along.  Don’t forget to use the hashtag #delightfulhome2017 when you post them on Facebook or Instagram!

Thriving in a Delightful Home

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Thriving.  This is what we all want to be doing, but all too often we find ourselves feeling like we are barely surviving.  We are treading water, or worse – drowning.  There are times this is a legitimate feeling.  Illness, pregnancy, new baby, lack of sleep, moving, job loss, etc. can throw us off of our usual routine and send us down a path where we find a temporary new normal in a lower gear – survival mode. If you are in a time where you are in legitimate survival mode, get some rest and take care of what you must do as best you can.  You can come back to this series later, it will still be here.

For those who are ready to Learn How to Liveand to Thrive… read on.

thrive: 1. to prosper; be fortunate or successful. 2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.

To thrive is a decision.  The greater part of this decision is mental, but we need to support this decision with changes to our physical space in order to aid our success.  For example, I can make the decision to eat well, but unless I shop for proper food and make a plan to step out of old, bad habits, I am not likely to succeed.  In order to thrive in my home, where I spend a large portion of my life, I need to make a plan.  Not a plan for a home that works for someone else on Pinterest, or a home that looks great in that catalog in the mailbox – a home that supports the people who live in it.  If I am the home-maker, then it is my job to make a home that supports my decision to thrive.

So then, what does it look like to thrive as a homeschooling mother, which is what I am? This is my vision of a delightful home- easy to maintain, pleasant to look at, many cozy spots for reading, a place for everything and everything in its place, a quiet space for prayer, designated toy spaces, organized pantry, bird feeders just out the window to look at, bookshelves (oh, the bookshelves!), neat and easily accessible storage for out of season items… Your list may be the same or radically different, but now is the time to make it.  Now is the time to sort out what you want from daily life – then adjust your home spaces to that vision.

This series isn’t about just cleaning your spaces, or just decluttering them, and certainly not about creating spaces that are picture perfect at all times – it is about creating spaces that will help you to thrive in your daily life.  Your home can’t do all the work, but it can either aid or sabotage your efforts.  Cooking is easier when you can see your ingredients, know your meal plan, and reach your tools with out other tools falling out on you.  Cleaning is easier when there is a schedule of chores and the cleaners you need are neatly stored near to the spot they get used frequently.  Laundry is easier when there is a method to the madness. Schooling is easier when you know where the books and supplies all reside and they are easily accessible for use and when they need to be put away.  When each of these tasks become easier, they take less time.  That is time you can now use for those other things in life that bring you joy – reading, writing, crafting, birdwatching, or any amount of other things.

All of this planning and change doesn’t take place over the course of a day, week, or month.  At least, we didn’t think we could!  We wanted to take our time and do this well.  Amy and I are both in the oddly similar situation of living in a home where things are unpacked, but not… ideally placed.  Maybe you are in the same boat.  Let’s go room by room and make our homes into places that serve our families well and help each member to thrive.

Each week, we’ll discuss some aspect of a room here on the blog.  We’ll talk about the room itself and what the purpose of it is.  What do we do here, and what do we wish we could do here?  What does this room do well, and what can we not stand about it?  Is a big change needed, or would a small change be enough to make a big difference?  Then we’ll declutter – remove all the things that prevent the room from doing its job well.  The rest will be organized so that it can be a room that helps us, rather than hinders us.  Lastly, let’s add in a few things that will add beauty and joy.  Every room needs to be one that we enjoy being in!

Here is the schedule for going through our homes this year.  We will post all the links to this post as we create the posts week by week.

February: The Kitchen

March: Dining Room

April: Pantry

May: Laundry

June: Bathroom

July: Outdoor Spaces

August: Schoolroom

September: Bedroom

October: Living Room

November: Entryway

December: Storage

Resources for a Delightful Home

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When we set out to begin this delightful home series, Amy and I really thought long and hard about why we would do it.  We discussed that we really wanted to share was a series of posts that would help you love your home, right where you are.  We have both recently moved (sadly, farther away from each other, rather than closer), and we’ve fully unpacked, but we needed to live there a while to really let it feel like home – to see how we use each room, what feels out of place, or what we’d like to adjust.  We’re sure you have similar adjustments you’d like to make and maybe you’re on the search for new ideas and to see how other homeschooling moms use their spaces.

We began to discuss the resources that we had used in the past to really bring order and joy to our spaces.  First and foremost, Amy and I both really liked The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Sure, Kondo thanks her socks for their usefulness before puts them in the hamper and there are some other strange notions to avoid, but the overall message is a good one: Keep only the things that bring you joy through their beauty or usefulness.  It is amazing how much your home will change for the better when you implement that rule alone.  Add in a few other ideas for storage and space saving folding and suddenly you’ve freed up hours of your week because you don’t have to maintain and contain messes.

When you’ve decided on what to keep, there are best practices in organization.  The Complete Book of Home Organization really helps here.  (Her blog also has lots of inspiration and ideas!) Many times, we may have dishes stored across the kitchen from the dishwasher meaning tons of extra steps and wasted time when unloading or other similar inefficiencies.  We may store pans where they are buried under pots and being scratched and dented, and so disorder means having to spend more on replacements.  This book has many tips to keep things orderly, and before you know it, using and cleaning your rooms is so much quicker and easier.  We can also put into practice ideas to make chores easier for younger folks by keeping certain items in lower cabinets or drawers.

The book that taught Amy everything she knows about homemaking and, even more importantly, convinced her it was a worthwhile endeavor was Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. I still remember hearing the NPR story our first year of marriage (yes, 1999) and then heading to the bookstore (there were still lots of those around back then!) to buy it.

When I was in the midst of having a whole gaggle of babies (3, 3 and under!), I would reread  A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul every couple months. Pierlot applies lessons from monastic living to motherhood and homemaking for a higher sense of vocation.

We also love Like Mother, Like Daughter, for her very practical approach to homekeeping. It is inspiring to read the wisdom of a woman who has raised seven children and has really reasonable advice for how clean a home should be and great advice to keep it so.

The Madame Chic books are refreshing and elevating. At Home with Madame Chic offers practical advice on “having a happy, fulfilling, and passionate life at home.” Jennifer Scott shares how a little planning and the little details go a long way in refining the tone of your home.

I also loved this 31 post series about having a Heart of Hospitality.  It reminded me that my home is not to be made beautiful in order to puff up my own pride, or to impress those who may see it, but rather I should have a home that is beautiful in order to offer beauty and hospitality to others.  To make them feel comfortable, welcomed, and loved. That goes for people who visit as well as those who live here.  I now think of my rooms as servants and ponder how they serve those who use each spot.

Along those lines is also the book, A Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson.  It is lovely and was the book we used last year to guide our monthly chats.  There is a lot to enjoy about their story as well as the home life the Clarksons aim for.

Lastly, while not a book or a blog, may I recommend, before starting on a path toward order to take a good hard look at your cleaning supplies?  A few months back, I realized that I disliked cleaning in part because my supply closet was disordered and full of ugly things. A neon broom that was frayed and cracked, a mop that was just not that good at the job it was supposed to do, etc.  Now might be a good time to check the tools of your trade. It may be time to freshen them up. If your mop and broom are in good working order, consider a fresh new caddy for your cleaning supplies and maybe some non-toxic cleaners. Something that is a joy to use and leaves your home cleaner will make the job so much easier.  As Mary Poppins says, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  Then organize them in an attractive way.  A few tools neatly arranged on hooks can be pleasant to use and easy to put away.

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We kick off our month of the Kitchen in February.  I hope you’ll join us in decluttering, organizing, and beautifying one of the hardest working rooms in the house.  If you want to share your photos with us on Instagram or Facebook, we’re using the hashtag #delightfulhome2017

THE PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL FOR THE CHARLOTTE MASON MOM

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We here at Learning How to Live love the method of the Bullet Journal for planning, collecting, and organizing.

The longer we use it, the more we use it.

The more we use it, the better at “life” we get.

Over the next few weeks, we’d like to provide you with

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL!

We’ll show you how the Bullet Journal works for managing our homes, our personal goals, our money, our menus, our life.

We’ll blog on how the  Bullet Journal fits so naturally for homeschool planning–book lists, future goals, evaluating our children. It especially works well for a Charlotte Mason approach!

We’ll write about how the Bullet Journal has simplified our routines, organized our lives, and helped us find peace.

But first, we want to talk about why the philosophy behind the Bullet Journal fits with the way we see the world. Like so many of our readers, as we’ve read Charlotte Mason’s life-giving philosophy of education, we’ve learned principles that haven’t just made us better teachers and parents, we’ve become better humans!

So principles first, then practices for a cohesive, integrated whole!

Why is the Bullet Journal such a useful and revolutionary, yet simple way to get a hold of your life?

We believe that its success is because it’s a method, not a system.

The Bullet Journal is a method, not a system!

Charlotte Mason writes on the importance of method vs. system in education and her ideas are all of the same reasons the Bullet Journal works.

So what’s the difference between a method and a system?

A SYSTEM is a machine, like a bodies, like a factory conveyor belt, that breaks down when it comes into contact with our very real, very human life. We are not cogs in a system; we are persons!

A METHOD, like a system, is way to achieve a desired end, yet it provides for “the vital growth and movement of a living being” (Volume 1 page 11).

Method implies two things––a way to an end, and a step by step progress in that way. Further, the following of a method implies an idea, a mental image, of the end of object to be arrived at. What do you propose that education shall effect in and for your child? Again, method is natural; easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; yet, watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling. Method, with the end of education in view, presses the most unlikely matters into service to bring about that end…Charlotte Mason.Volume 1 page 8.

  1. We all need a way, a path, a step-by-step guide to achieve the end, the idea, the object we have in mind.

This is true in education, but it also true for menu planning, party planning, homeschool planning, list-making, tracking appointments, wish lists, recording memories, collecting ideas, brainstorming for the future.

If we don’t stay on the path, we will get lost in the details or lose a detail. We miss  appointments, stack up library fines or forget to pick-up more vanilla and toilet paper at the grocery store. Without a method, we feel stressed and anxious.

The Bullet Journal allows you to create a way, a path that is flexible, meeting your individual families needs and the way you think.

2. We all need a way, as Mason says, that is “natural, easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple.”

The Bullet Journal is just that. A simple Pinterest search will show you the thousands of different ways people set-up all the things you might ever need to track, all in one place.You can doodle, add art and stickers, or you can be plain Janes, like Camille and me! If you need to change your weekly spread, you can!

The blank page of the Bullet Journal is key.

The problem with other planners, apps, or systems is that they operate on creator’s ideas but may not work with your world.

Take the example of Meal Planning. You want to meal plan and make your grocery list on the same page. You only want to plan dinners but your planner has a 3 row by 7 column grid. Or you like to have your menu list in your calendar on that day of the week, you don’t want a whole separate table, but the cells aren’t big enough to hold your to-do list, your appointments, and your menu. So you have different notebooks, papers all over the house, sticky notes, apps. You end up needing a system to keep track of all your systems! Or you just give up!

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3. The Bullet Journal, as a Method, is “watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling.”

We use it for everything–work, family, creativity, home-making, holidays, journalling. And it helps us to be more “watchful [and] careful”!

A great example is planning for one of my children’s birthdays. When I create the monthly calendar and fill in my child’s birthday on the 9th, I immediately turn to the next open page and create a new page titled, “Birthday.” Perhaps, I also had that nagging thought that she wanted new shoes and I had an idea for a great theme so I jot them down and then head back to the calendar. The “Birthday” page is there for me to come back to and create menu plans, wish list, shopping list, RSVPs, etc, etc!

4. As an analog method, the Bullet Journal also helps us be more “careful.”

With technology we can move at such a fast-pace that we often let details slip. As we are forced to slow-down and write out our plans and ideas, we ruminate on them. This plants our plans in our minds, new ideas grow, and we feel at peace.

5. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that once you figure out your method, you can turn it into a system.

But if that system stops working, you can try a different method, but you don’t need a new notebook or a different approach. The Bullet Journal allows for you to change as you need.

Mason tells us that “There is always the danger that a method, a bona fide method, should degenerate into a mere system.” Volume 1 p 8.

Since the Bullet Journal is just a blank book, we can always turn to the page and start again as we need. After trying different weekly spreads, for example, I have one I mainly stick to week after week, but if it’s a very different week, Christmas or illness, I can change it up easily.

Method…aid[s] the many sided evolution of the living, growing, most complex human being; but what a miserable wooden system does it become in the hands of ignorant practitioners!

We are living, growing, complex human beings. In the Snell home, there are 7 of us, living growing, complex human beings! No wonder wooden systems have failed before.

If a human being were a machine, education could do more for him than to set him in action in prescribed ways, and the work of the educator would be simply to adopt a good working system or set of systems.

But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being… (Volume 1 page 10).

Thus, a bullet journal is needed.

So how do we Bullet Journal? What do we recommend? Would you like to see how we keep track of our curriculum as Charlotte Mason mamas? Subscribe today so you don’t miss out future posts!

Would you like to learn more? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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