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?

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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

SPACES TO THINK NO. 6

Habit a Delight in itself.

…the forming of habits in the children is no laborious task, for the reward goes hand in hand with the labour; so much so, that it is like the laying out of a penny with the certainty of the immediate return of a pound. For a habit is a delight in itself; poor human nature is conscious of the ease that it is to repeat the doing of anything without effort; and, therefore, the formation of a habit, the gradually lessening sense of effort in a given act, is pleasurable. This is one of the rocks that mothers sometimes split upon: they lose sight of the fact that a habit, even a good habit, becomes a real pleasure; and when the child has really formed the habit of doing a certain thing, his mother imagines that the effort is as great to him as at first, that it is virtue in him to go on making this effort, and that he deserves, by way of reward, a little relaxation––she will let him break through the new habit a few times, and then go on again. But it is not going on; it is beginning again, and beginning in the face of obstacles. The ‘little relaxation’ she allowed her child meant the forming of another contrary habit, which must be overcome before the child gets back to where he was before.” Volume 1 page 121.

Fruit from our Farm Pick-up, Amazon Fresh and Wegmans in a big mess.
Tidied into bowls
Keeping clean, empty counters has been a new habit for me for the last year or so. It brings me peace and happiness (and fortitude to prepare yet another meal!)
Putting away small appliances and dishes washed-by-hand takes only an extra moment or so.

What are some of the good habits you have in your life? How do they bring you delight and pleasure, even in the very doing of them, not just in their result?

Now that the new school year has started, with fresh eyes think through one habit you most need to develop? What bumps in your day could be helped by a good habit put in its place?

What is the contrary habit to your good habit that you need to overcome? What reward do you get from your contrary habit that you need to let go of to really establish your new habit?

What reward will you get from your new good habit? Think through the delights that your habit holds, in doing them and in the result.

What “penny” will you need to give to create your new habit and what will be the “pound” (dollar) you will receive in return?

This summer I read The Power of Habit and found much that confirmed Mason’s theories on the power of habit in our lives. It was inspiring and worth checking out of the library. I hope to blog more about it when my Charlotte Mason reading group gets to the habit section in Volume 1.

 

 

 

This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.

 

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Atmosphere in the Home: We all Require Beauty

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…for we all require beauty…

-Charlotte Mason. Volume 6 page 14.

Camille asked me to share my thoughts on “The Atmosphere of the Home.”  With our busy lives, we can so often live day to day and don’t take time to consider the art of creating bright and cheerful homes. And the idea of Beauty?! When we have piles of laundry, hungry children and a deadline, beauty seems a frivolity.

We are all very different families and in different seasons of life, but we all were made for beauty and as beings created in the image of God, we have a capacity and role to foster and bestow beauty… or as the poet-priest GM Hopkins says, (Listen to a fabulous recitation of this poem here. It is a favorite!)

 

“Give Beauty Back, Beauty, Beauty, Beauty, Back to God, Beauty’s self and Beauty’s giver…”

 

Isn’t that lovely…God as beauty’s self and beauty’s giver…Give Beauty Back.

The Ancients asked the question and attempted to work out Who or What is God? What are the Transcendentals of God, or the Properties of his Being. This question was taken up by Aquinas and other Church Fathers time and again and ultimately they answered with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Yes, Truth. Yes, Goodness. But in our modern age…beauty? Let us not fail to recognize that beauty. Pope Benedict 16th in an address to artists said God is “the first and last source of beauty.” There is Beauty in His holiness, perfection, infinitude, and in His gift of redemption.

When we contemplate and experience the beauty of God we know Him more.

When we create beauty we are participating in His very nature.

Beauty thought of on this higher plane, is what lifts the mundane or ordinary into a gift, into what is lovely. Beauty reveals and highlights the true and the good. Beauty makes Truth and Goodness desirable.

I remember when I was very sick last year and a friend made our family a meal. What a gift, a sacrifice and time. I was so humbled that she would do it. And it was delicious, but what I remember is how simply, yet beautifully, it was presented. A nice basket, pretty linen, a bottle of wine, a lovely note…It touched something more than the just the physical.

We can feed our children the fuel they need for their bodies to run or we can create the beautiful experience of togetherness around the family table with a nourishing meal.

At night, we can put our children to bed or we can tuck our children into clean sheets of a nicely made bed filling them with a sense of home and safety and coziness.

Bestowing beauty is a way to do these small ordinary acts with love. And I have found that trying to do the work of the home in a beautiful way, rather than in an efficient, or orderly, has helped me to enjoy it more. The work is elevated.

Sadly, in our modern world, beauty is pushed aside for what is efficient or merely useful. We allow ourselves to be satisfied by the cheap and easy. Even worse in a world of air-brushing, we’ve become jaded to think that beauty is superficial and lacks meaning. And oftentimes many of us sorely lack an interior life able to take in beauty.

And so, just as I spend time considering curriculum and extracurricular activities, planning grocery lists and menus, do I work on building a bright and cheerful home? One of beauty and peace and love.

How do I teach my children to recognize, love, and will what is True, Good, and Beautiful? Are there ways I can incorporate more beauty in my children’s lives?

Mason has many answers to these questions in her six volumes on education, but I believe the place to begin as parents and educators is with one of the three educational tools that we can validly use in raising children: atmosphere.

When we are surrounded by the beautiful, our perspective changes. Roger Scruton, says in his documentary (a must watch!), Why Beauty Matters? that the great artists were “aware that human life is full of chaos and suffering and they had a remedy for this and the name of that remedy is beauty.”

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This is what the beauty does; it draws us out of ourselves…to what is real…and that reality is infinite. As parents and educators one of our main goals is to help our children to grow into maturity and adulthood. Sadly, an option many young people are not choosing! In the book, Family Virtues, edited by Jose Martin, “Initially a child is focused on his or her own private world; children mature when they begin to understand that they are not the center of the universe, when they begin to become open to the world and others around them” (page 5). When we expose children to beauty, we call them out of themselves…to what is real…and they mature, they open themselves to the world and to others.

“As for that aesthetic ‘appetency’ (to use Coleridge’s word) upon which so many of the gentle pleasures of life depend, it is open to many disasters: it dies of inanition when beauty is not duly presented to it, beauty in words, in pictures and music, in tree and flower and sky. The function of the sense of beauty is to open a paradise of pleasure for us; but what if we grow up admiring the wrong things, or, what is morally worse, arrogant in the belief that it is only we and our kind who are able to appreciate and distinguish beauty? It is no small part of education to have seen much beauty, to recognize it when we see it, and to keep ourselves humble in its presence.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 6 page 56

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