enough space / kitchen reno

We have been living in a kitchen remodel since we moved into our home three years ago. Little by little, as we cam swing it (punny!), we have knocked out tile, a wall, another wall. We installed light fixtures, a dishwasher, a range, fridge, a sink. Currently, our counters and cabinets are cut up pieces of the original counter and cabinets screwed together. The counter we installed after taking out the south wall is our old bedroom closet door. We have several holes in the floor. It’s a mockup version of what we want. It functions great. Sure, I wish we could afford to just bang it all out in a month like all those homes my husband works on. But I’ve grown to really appreciate living with the mockup, living with the daydream of what it will someday be.

A few of the benefits of living with the mockup:

  1. We have changed our minds. We are testing it out and have found that things should move a bit from our original ideas.
  2. Waiting has allowed us to score some pretty awesome things. Like, last summer, we were given some leftover (gorgeous, designer, sea glass-looking) tile from a job my husband worked on. Enough to tile one entire wall and a backsplash. Like the range and sink (click links above).
  3. We are good daydreamers.
  4. We feel lucky now. When it is all done, we will value it more than ever.

I’ve not shared much of our progress here because I wanted to share it when there is the big, fancy before and after. Because who doesn’t love a good DIY before and after?! Truth is, our home renovations aren’t seamless and quick; they are not wave-a-wand-voila! There are a lot of guts between before and after. So, our before and during:

Looking south. Living room is back there.

Looking in from front door.

Looking north. The green door is our front door.

Sink.

Looking west.

We lost a quite a bit of storage when we took out the south wall. It was the greatest change for us; that dark corner is now a bar counter with two stools (our girls favorite spot) – it is where all the kitchen action happens. Having limited storage space has forced us to choose what we really need. Seven pie plates? Five mixing bowls? Four spatulas? Two salad serving sets? Don’t need them. We store a lot of bulk food and kitchen items (like pressure cooker, serving dishes, extra wine glasses) in our garage.

This isn’t to say that things don’t get bananas in those few cabinets. We aren’t the most organized bunch. Every so often – when things have felt crammed and messy for a few months – I get a wild hair to sort and purge. It usually happens when I have coffee in hand and several other very pressing things to do.

During this process I always re-remember that we have enough space. There is always more than enough space.

As I consolidated and organized our pantry (a slender freestanding cabinet in our living room) recently, I took this photo. I will reference it the next time I say we don’t have any food in the house.

One of most-used pantry items is pancake mix. Thought I’d share our go-to recipe.

Pancake Mix

4 cups flour
1/2 cup ground flax (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make pancakes, use 1 cup mix, 1 egg and 1 cup milk (almond milk is our favorite; any milk will work). Even if I am using 1/2 cup mix and 1/2 cup milk I still use one whole egg.

These cakes can be altered in so many ways. A few of ideas:

* add 1/2 cup almond butter and one mashed banana
* add yesterday’s leftover oatmeal
* add 1/2 cup cottage cheese (might need to add a bit more flour)
* add a few spoonfuls of jam

This year in the kitchen we hope to replace the vinyl floor. (so wishing the original linoleum could be saved!)

Next will be cabinets. Counter. We took the doors off one our current cabinets to see if we’d like open shelving for the stuff we like to look at – mostly handmade mugs, colored glass and vintage lovelies. We like it and plan to install thick wood bracketless shelving there. But it could all change, by the time we get to it. I’ll continue to dream and pin and enjoy the enough-space we’ve got.

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hump day nuggets: 2015 will be awesome

We have been living in a kitchen remodel since we moved into our home three years ago. Little by little, as we cam swing it (punny!), we have knocked out tile, a wall, another wall. We installed light fixtures, a … Continue reading

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white space

I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.

I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees, the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.

There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).

I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees. Continue reading

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Feel it. Love what you love. Trust. Be devoted. Give in.

Last Monday at noon I went to my first yoga class in several years. For whatever reason my yoga practice vaporized from my agenda when I had my second kid. It went from daily to nada. I’ve missed it and blabbed about missing it but didn’t do anything about it.

And then Alice died. I haven’t hiked or ran since. Well, I did once and felt like an anvil sat on my heart the entire time, pushing buckets of tears out of my body. I am not ready to be up in these hills without her.

One late night last week I got out of bed to look up yoga schedules in Missoula. I found a class time that worked for me and promised myself I’d go. And then I saw the teacher. Marina. She’s my old teacher. In fact, the last time I went to this particular studio I was eight months pregnant with a breech Margot. Marina helped me through giant-bellied handstands and headstands until my bug swam herself 180. Marina!

People say dogs don’t live long enough. This statement is true in human brains. For dogs, I think they feel just right. Because they always do feel just right. Always.

Alice died on a Thursday night, November 20. It was a shock. We had just – two days prior – ruled out the kidney failure diagnosis we had mourned. We have a new vet we loved. We release ourselves into an ocean of relief and optimism.

She falls over in the living room. She recovers. My kids think she slipped on their paper snowflake scraps. A short while later, her back legs stop functioning. I am on and off the phone withe vets, neighbors, my husband. She wants to drink endless water, she wants to lay in the snow. She is scared. She looks into me for answers. All I have is love.

The day before – the day of the glorious blood and urine work news – we ran together. She gained four pounds back in two weeks. Moments before the episode I took a picture of my new boots to send to a friend. She pushed her wet nose into my hand. I called her into the kitchen for a treat and she bounced into me to be sure I remembered.

Four bucks stand 15 feet away, staring at us. One is impossibly noble. I see his breath in the cold air. Alice lays in the snow and can’t get up.

Fuck. Is this happening?

I carry her back into the house. I felt calm and alert. My kids are playful and hungry. I manage it all and feel emotionless. Alice vomits everything she ate that day, undigested. I clean it up with a dust pan. I make dinner.

Andy walks in and says hey, girlie like he always does. Every day for 11 years. She softens. She wags her tail. Continue reading

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nuggets: how bout we do some seasonal bits

I keep coming here trying to decide what to publish. I’ve been writing. About the confusion and truth of life and death — the dance of a life ending the day before a fifth birthday. About grieving with my husband and kids and without our dog. A friend pointed this out to me: the most unfair and painful part is that I want my dog’s love, cuddles and walks to get over her own death.

I will share more here about Alice last day the the next day. Today I share seasonal bits that make me happy. It’s complicated because the joy of cutting a tree is sad without our girl running up the hillside and the fun in the advent scavenger hunt is unbelievably quieter without our girl wagging and hopping beside the kids as they hunt. I’ve noticed that with every painful moment there is something beautiful to witness, that even the pain can be beautiful in its authenticity. And I’ve notice laughter. Man I love to laugh.

It snowed a few days ago. The big, meandering quiet kind. Margot said:

Wow. I like, FEEL Alice. It’s like she is in the snow or something. Is that what you mean by her spirit? I really think her spirit is in that falling snow.

Yes, that.

:: I do so enjoy decorating and arranging our home this time of year. It’s a solid shot of brightness and levity. Plus we will have a huge houseful this year, making the jolliness extra amplified.

:: My favorite new addition is the tiny, sparkly peacock that I attached to our bird feeder. I wondered if it would detract the droves of finches, nuthatches et al that feed here but on the contrary, they are unaffected. I like to think they enjoy their new always-gazing-over-shoulder pal.

:: We always cut our tree on our friend’s property the weekend after Ruby’s birthday. This year we went on Thanksgiving day because we had our big feast with friends on Wednesday. Honestly, it was a hard day: the big exhale after birthday party, company, Thanksgiving. We settled into the distraction-free realization that Alice wasn’t there. We all kept seeing her, looking for her, hearing her. On the drive home the strap that held the tree to the car whipped in the wind against the window. Margot pointed out that it sounded exactly like Alice’s wagging tail against the inside of the car when she heard us approaching. It did. We drove under a giant full rainbow set against graphite sky. We saw mountain lion tracks and bushes that looked like dogs. Continue reading

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