Saturday, November 3, 2012

Is a Woman Her Kitchen?

Reality is that while we dearly loved this old 1920 farmhouse ever since the day we bought it in 1990 and made many improvements such as adding on a second bathroom, there was one eyesore that became  more and more depressing over the years--the kitchen. It became my bane both as to function and form. Built from the old back porch, long and narrow, I did my cooking--at stove, sink, refrigerator--all in one end of the room about the size of a closet. No matter what I tried to do to pretty it up, it was ugly, ugly, ugly, especially the crack across the middle of the floor that grew to a half inch as the years passed. There was only one small high window at the cooking end, over the stove, and I faced a wall to wash dishes. After fourteen years of it, I was beginning to feel that I was being sent to jail every time I had to go in there and cook.

                                                                1990 Tiny Kitchen


                                                         1990 - Note the Daisy Wallpaper



If it is true as some say that a man is his car and a woman is her house, then I must admit that I often felt over the years that I became my ugly, old kitchen.

I stopped having company over other than family. Even though we had often had parties and smaller company suppers since we moved here in 1990, while thinking that we'd soon get around to remodeling the kitchen, I began to feel that we'd used up our years of "getting around to it." I felt that my roughing it days should be over. My favorite Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mystery is Gaudy Night. In it Harriet Fane thinks to herself: "As one grew older, as one established one's self, one gained a new delight in formality." There had been a time in my life for slapdash living. The time had come for a tad more formality even in a little country farmhouse, or so I hoped.

Please don't say, "Oh, you shouldn't have let something like that stop you from having company." I know that a house should never become a symbol of pridefulness. Dorothy Canfield wrote a whole book about this very thing in 1911 called The Squirrel-Cage. When I read a paragraph near the beginning of the book, it jumped out at me because I suspected that it was true, whether it should be or not.

"The house of the Emery family was a singularly good example of the capacity of wood and plaster and brick to acquire personality. It was the physical symbol of its owners' position in life; it was the history of their career, written down for all to see, and as such they felt in it the most justifiable pride."

That grabbed my attention. I felt not so much that other people were judging me by my house, which perhaps they were, but that I truly felt unfinished, ugly, just like my kitchen. Face it, doesn't a house reveal the woman who lives there, and the kitchen most of all?

It wasn't that I wanted to become the woman Miss Canfield wrote about who literally drove her husband to his death in order to surpass the Jones family--hence the squirrel-cage image, or as we know it today, a toy that seems to keep gerbils happy. Gerbils love running in place to make that toy go round and round. Husbands are an entirely different matter.

                                                          No Cage for Our Squirrels

Fortunately for me, R.H. began to feel as I did about the kitchen. He began to draw up plans and they got revised for several years. Eventually he discarded the notion of remodeling the kitchen. He announced that instead we would be adding on a completely new kitchen.

                                                                 Building Begins

                                         Including Old Bathroom In Process of Being Gutted

Lots of Windows

Countertops!


Five months of cooking in a microwave and electric skillet later we sat down to our first meal in our new kitchen. The best thing about it? It has windows, three casement windows that I can easily open out to fresh air as I wash dishes and cook. Three windows and french doors to give me a view out, and when I walk the dogs through the valley and come back to the house at dusk, a view in.

Sigh.....................How divine! No, that's Candice Olsen. How very much me. And R.H.


Christmas 2004 in New Kitchen


Wallace & Defee in Our New Kitchen


Our kids playing Rub My Back Train. You can see the new red sofa and all the Retro red colors. I loved these colors for years, but there came a day...





24 comments:

  1. I remember the time the old kitchen window "bit" you as you tried to open it. I guess the old kitchen didn't like people as we didn't like it,lol.

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    1. Maybe you're right...if I hadn't stopped loving that old kitchen, the window wouldn't have fallen on my little finger? There's a lesson in that.

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    1. Thank you so much, Deb! It has been a joy, especially when all the kids and grandkids come home.

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  3. Whether it should or not, I think a woman's house gives her a sense of self, just as a man's job does for him. (And sometimes a woman gets that same sense from her job...) But for those of us who are stay-at-homers, ... and as God created us, I believe, to create beauty around us ... we need to have our home bring joy to our souls. I'm thrilled that you got your gorgeous new kitchen, and I'm coming over next time you play the back rubbing game!!!

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    1. Yes, there is that desire to surround yourself with beauty--not luxury, just beauty. thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments. And the kids would love to add you to the back rub game, they would even put you at the front!

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  4. What a wonderful post! I love the literary elements you included. I know what you mean about stopping the parties and inviting people over. Our first home had a really rough little galley kitchen that was impossible to brighten up. We remodeled and I then LOVED the new kitchen. Your new kitchen looks wonderful! We create the love that makes our homes feel cozy! Wonderful family pictures.

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    1. Thank you, Lottie, I enjoyed your comments. I have seen adorable tiny kitchens but the trouble is, everyone wants to congregate in the kitchen! R.H. and I still sit and look around in appreciation of this kitchen, even after 8 years.

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  5. Love your kitchen! It is the heart of the home. Coming by from Cozy Little House. I'm a new follower...love your blog. Hope you'll come follow me too. ~betty

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    1. Just visited your charming blog and can't wait to go back. The North Carolina mountains are my favorite place in all the world. We lived there for a few years when I was little and I feel like I'm going home every time we visit. It actually hurts to get off the Blue Ridge and back on the interstate home.

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  6. I love your kitchen, and I too, want to come over and play the back rubbing game, lol. Lovin the new blog.

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    1. Wow! That back rub train is getting longer! The more the merrier. Thank you for liking our kitchen!

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  7. Brenda sent me over! What a lovely kitchen! Wow! I am going to love stopping by.
    I love that back rubbing train game! When's the next session?
    LOL!
    Good to know you here and I wish you much love and fun! It has been three years for me blogging and I am still learning so much!

    Hugs and Happy Weekend,

    Anne

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    1. Hi Anne, I'm so glad to have you here! I'll be sure to visit you too.

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  8. I don't even remember that wallpaper. I do remember being jammed in like sardines when it was my turn to rinse and dry the dishes while RH washed them. It's funny how when you are a kid, you really don't care about much when it comes to the function of your house. One bathroom...who cares? We have over 20 acres and we are boys!
    Also, notice how Gurn is at the front of the back rub line...

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    1. You don't remember the daisy wallpaper? That's because you were so young and then a couple of years after we moved here the little gas stove in the other end of the kitchen had a major breakdown during the night and we got up to black soot covering almost everything in the house, the worst being in the kitchen. So everything there got painted white....and Gurn had the right idea!

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  9. Your old kitchen reminds me so much of mine. Our kitchen and bathroom are in what we guess was once a porch. Trouble is the exterior wall is barely six feet tall, but fortunately we're all vertically challenged so we don't bonk our heads. We also have only one window in the tiny space, the stove sits in front of the only heat register and I have to face a wall when I'm at the sink. We did a small reno a few years ago as the lower cabs were falling apart and the sink broke.
    I also have a 1950's red kitchen set! Love your black and white checker floor too. You have a wonderful, bright space now.

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  10. Shirlee, ours was the former porch and the exterior wall just like yours. In fact we kept the slated ceiling when we built the new kitchen and it is now a small dining room and area by the pantry. You know, I really loved that kitchen when we bought the farmhouse but I wanted so much to have a window to look out while I washed dishes. I tried mirrors and then kept pretty pictures from my old calendars to tack up and change monthly to give new things to look at. But...I sure do love having windows now.

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  11. What a cute kitchen! That was so funny what you said about being your old ugly kitchen. Now you must be cute and bright and fun! So happy you have a blog up and running!

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    1. Oh, Nita, I like to think that I am, but definitely need some work on the cute part. R.H. was the cute one this morning, not only letting me sleep in and had a country ham breakfast ready for me but photographed his whole cooking process! He's really getting into being my camera man. Now that's cute!

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  12. I hate to think of the dysfunctional old kitchens I have worked in over my life. Somehow I managed, but it is nice to have one that mostly works. I love your blog!

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    1. Thank you so much! I connected to yours from first reading the title because there's always this war within of wanting to write but wanting to write in a pretty place. Trying to keep a good balance and enjoy both.

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  13. Oh, your new kitchen is just beautiful... so cheerful and I just love those windows. Our kitchen also was formerly a back porch... we've done quite a bit of work but still have more to do! I love what you have done and look forward to seeing more!

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    1. Thank you so much! I showed your blog to my husband today and told him about you finding your little town. He thought your photography was so good and loved your farmhouse. There is nothing like an old farmhouse to raise children in.

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