Thursday, February 27, 2014

Planning a Dream Kitchen for a Large Family

One of my favorite places in our house is our kitchen.  It's where we gather to eat, to play, to clean, to do homework, to create.

When we built our house, I got to design it.  We tried to consider how to create the space for a large family's needs.  Seven years later, I still love our kitchen just the way it is.  We saved money where we could.  My husband built the cabinets, and we went for just plain laminate countertops instead of granite or Corion. 

For the sake of those who might be building and wanting ideas on how to plan a kitchen for a large family, here are a few of my favorite features:

1.  I love, love, love, my large 8 x 4 foot island.  I love being able to have multiple people in my kitchen working at the same time.  I love having plenty of counter space, and there's something psychologically uplifting about facing my family and the nearby great room while I prepare meals rather than facing a wall, like I did in my old kitchen.

the view while I'm cooking:

2.  I love my little veggie sink.  In college, I took a class called "Housing the family" which talked about, among other things, how to create an efficient workflow in the kitchen.  One main point was to have an efficient work triangle, with only a few steps between your fridge, your stove, and your sink.  Our main sink, near the window, is too far away for this purpose, but this little sink fills the purpose well.  We fill up pans for cooking here, fill up pitchers for the table, and clean our fruits and vegetables.  It has a disposal in it, so we can put all the veggie trimmings in it and blast away.  I think this sink gets used as much as our larger one.

3.  Speaking of sinks, I love our large one beneath the window.  And I LOVE what they are made out of.  Unlike porcelain sinks, which stain, and stainless steel, which shows every spot of water, these granite composite ones NEVER look dirty.  They don't stain, they don't show dirt, and they're easy to clean with just a swipe of a rag. As a sidenote, I don't like the faucet.  The part at the bottom is supposed to pull out and you can push a button to change from a pouring fuction to a spray function.  Great in concept, not so great in practice.  The head doesn't click into place and often hangs down, and the button to change the spray function doesn't work very well.  I don't know if that happens with all models, but it has with this one.

4. I love, love, love having two dishwashers.  No explanation necessary.

5.  I love our fridge and freezer.  Though they look expensive, they are really just two stand-alone units placed side by side with a trim kit making them look built in.  They are a Sears brand, so they were a quarter of the cost of the fancy ones they resemble.  They are cabinet depth, so they don't have quite the capacity you might expect, but they sure come in handy.
 the inside of the freezer:

6.  I love these cute hooks to hold our aprons.  This is on the wall across from the sink, next to the pantry door.

7.  Speaking of which, I LOVE our pantry.  It's just the right size.  

Ignore the flour on the floor:

And on the side behind the door.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but that's an upright freezer on the right of the picture.  I love that we're not treking to the garage for our extra freezer goods and that I have space to stock up when I see a good deal:

8.  We went for a stand-alone two-oven range instead of a built-in stovetop and ovens.  We did it mostly to save money, but if I had to do it over again, I'd go this route again.  We love the double ovens.  The top oven is smaller, so it heats up faster and is the one we use 80% of the time.  The bottom one is standard size.  Essentially, this is the size of a regular range unit but they remove the bottom drawer and put in another oven instead.

9.  I love our table(s).  My husband built them after buying two pedastals for a steal on Ebay.  Pushed together, they seat 12 (two can fit on each end), and we can pull them apart when we have guests to seat another four.

10.  I love this wall across from the table.  Our family motto is up top.  We have room for a basic table and a few chairs that works as both a puzzle table and for homework.

11.  I love the view from the kitchen window, especially in summer and fall. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Valentine's Day (Wordless Wednesday)

I love Harmony's full-of-life personality.

Eliza's class hosted a dance party for Halloween and her embarrassed smile while dancing was awesome!  She loves her best friend Grace.

Grace's mom just happens to be one of my best friends too.
Harmony with her teacher and her best friend Kate.

Allison's class party.

A week before Valentine's Day, we took the kids in with their report cards to Krispy Kreme for a donut bonanza:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Random Thoughts: Olympics, Biggest Loser, Projects

*  We've enjoyed watching the Olympics together. Snowboarding is so fun to watch, as is figure skating.  Still haven't figured out how to feign an interest in curling.

* Did anyone else cringe a bit when one of the Russian figure skaters, after winning gold in the team competition, went on a long spiel about how grateful they are for their wonderful president for putting on such a wonderful games and how their President is so great? (I couldn't find a video to link to, but it was during prime time coverage).  It reminded me of the praise heaped upon the North Korean "Great General" in this documentary.  After the visiting doctors performed eye surgery, each recipient fawned over how it was only possible through the goodness of their dictator (starts at about the 40:00 minute mark). 

* One of my favorite parts about the games is learning more about the individual athletes.  Lately, though, I find myself feeling a bit cynical, as a lot of the profiles seem to be some variation of "I worked really hard and my parents have a lot of money to pay for coaches, so that's why I'm here,"  with the underlying message being, "Live near the right coaches and have enough money and enough obsession, and you too can be a one-hit wonder at some future Olympics.  So it's always a treat to see a story like Alex Bilodeau's profile last night.  Seriously, go go watch it -- I can't embed it here.  What a great testimony to the power of family and the love of a sibling.

*  Other cool Olympians this year: Torah Bright Kate Hudson.

Biggest Loser?
*  One show I have enjoyed the last few years is the Biggest Loser.  I've always understood and explained to my kids that the way the show works is not realistic nor is it the best way to lose weight -- losing so much so quickly sets people up to gain it back quickly as well.  But I've still mostly enjoyed the show and I've thought it was pretty amazing what the human body is capable of if given the chance to focus full-time on weight loss.  Last week's finale, though, was shocking to me.  I watched the season with my kids and one girl was a stand-out, winning all the challenges.  A former swimmer, Rachel Frederickson applied herself amazingly to the challenges, lost weight consistently, and looked amazingly fit her last week on the ranch, weighing in around 150 lbs.  They showed a clip with her visiting the doctor, who informed her that she was just five pounds away from having an elite athlete's body fat percentage.

I figured Rachel didn't have as good of a chance to win the overall show because she didn't have very much more weight to go while her two competitors had plenty to lose.  So when she stepped out at the finale, it was jaw-droppingly sad. She'd lost the muscle in her arms and legs and her face looked as though she'd aged twenty years.  She weighed in at 105 lbs, much too small for her frame.  This article does a good overview of the reaction.

Some have complained that people just want to "body-shame" Rachel for being too thin, others have said that she isn't that far off, and others think hey, it's a weight-loss competition and she won, good for her.  I personally hope she doesn't have any long-term consequences to her health or her relationship with food and I hope that she can get back some of the muscle she used to have. I wish her the best. 

But I think I might be done watching the Biggest Loser.  I think the producers should have seen this coming and put a stop to it.  They supposedly have trainers, doctors, and nutritionists supervising the contestants.  I've since read a few articles and thought about a few others things that make me think I should have stopped watching long ago.

*  I've been in a project mode the last few weeks.  Last week, I made an inventory of our food storage and this week, we've been working to fill in a few gaps.  Yes, we Mormons do try to have a year's supply of food, but it's less about a potential zombie apocalypse and more about being self-reliant and prepared.  The zombies might get all the attention, but I've known a lot of people who have been able to endure unemployment better with a full pantry.  And in the event of a national disaster, I want to have enough and to spare.

*Yesterday, I deep-cleaned and organized my laundry room. It was nice to go through my cleaning supplies and get organized as well as to wipe down all the dust and lint that's accumulated.

* Today, I made some strawberry-blackberry freezer jam.  We go through that stuff like crazy.

*  I'm trying to use my camera more and I've challenged myself to take a picture every day in February.  Except I missed yesterday.  Still, it's been good for me to take more candids of my kids.

* I got to do newborn pictures for a friend last week and I'm loving how they turned out.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom ~ Friday Favorites

I haven't been doing Friday Favorites for a while, partly because when I find a link I like, I just share it on Facebook and then forget about it. But I'd like to start gathering the best of what I encounter and share it here more often.

 Here's one of my favorite reads from this week: A Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom

If you've read the The Screwtape Letters (and if you haven't you need to), you know the drill.  A senior devil writes letters of encouragement to a lesser one, advising him on the best ways to turn his assigned subjects towards evil and away from God.  So the letters are written as if any sign of sin is good and the Enemy is God.  That said, go read the post.
"I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother.  You have a good lead, from what I hear.  She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged?  I’m so glad to hear it.  If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity.  With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage.  A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one. ..
Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most. When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper.  When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her.  Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible." 


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