Kitchen Minimalist

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I’ve thought a lot lately about what it means for us to live a more minimalist life.

Minimalism is everywhere, and I hope that means Americans are starting to see the light: a bunch of expensive, excess “stuff” is never going to make us happy. I am not saying Mr. V and I don’t have a lot of stuff laying around – because we do! – but I am not especially attached to it unless it has real sentimental value to me.

(And hey, Mr. V, any time you’d like to get rid of those three broken computers we have, I’m all ears.)

JessieLeigh wrote the other day about how she is pretty minimalistic in the kitchen. And while I would probably call myself a minimalist in this area, too, I have every single one of the excess kitchen tools she listed: bread machine, garlic press, salad spinner, and even pastry bags. (Plastic ones, but I have the tools to go on them – a Pampered Chef find at the thrift store!)

Cheese Grater
source: Charlie Matters via Flickr

I think for me, as JL puts it, everything must “earn its space.” When your space is smaller, having pastry decorators might not be the best use of space. One of the greatest things about our apartment, though, is that I have a ton of cabinet space. And it houses items I use, often. Because I bake a lot of cupcakes for our dorm boys, the decorators come in handy pretty often. Items that I don’t use as often – that bread machine and salad spinner, the tupperware vegetable tray and cake carrier – are relegated to the laundry room shelves, where they are still easy to access but not taking up the prime real estate.

Today I pulled my cheese grater out from the dishwasher for the zillionth time. And I thought, maybe I should buy another cheese grater. Because I grate almost all of our cheese, and we eat a lot of it. I’m forever washing that thing or running it through the dishwasher.

But do I really need a second grater? No, I need to wash it when I want to use it. For me, that is minimalism enough. We don’t have one plate per person or anything, but our kitchen isn’t overflowing with duplicates just because we have the space.

So maybe that is my version of minimalism. Having what we use – whatever that may be – and being responsible with it. Maybe we don’t need stacks of DVDs we don’t watch when we can watch stuff on Netflix and Hulu Plus. Maybe we don’t need enough clothes to wear without washing for weeks; I need to do laundry more often.

Also like my pal JL, I am going to share with you a tool to help you get more use out of those kitchen tools you have. Our friend Tara from Feels Like Home compiled a great e-book of lists of uses for some of your kitchen paraphernalia, everything from a muffin tin to empty eggshells. Tara kindly hired me to copy edit her work, and I was astonished at how many of the tips I had NEVER heard before. I especially liked the idea to clean my kids’ stuffed animals with baking soda and the vacuum cleaner!

The book, Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters, is full of these great lists, plus tons of simple recipes and helpful tips. I enjoyed reading it as I worked and I think you would, too!

Saturday Linky Love

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Good morning, friends! Mr. V and I are lacking one child this morning – she is spending some time with grandparents. The boys slept until 8 (!) and then we had waffles for breakfast. I miss my girl but I did enjoy the sleep. It’s raining and gross, but we don’t have anywhere to be. So it’s OK.

What did you read and love this week?

Reading offline: The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. Man I love her prose!

So, what did you read that was great this week? Link up here. You can grab the code for the button in the sidebar, if you want. Please link back here and add the PERMALINK to your post, not your home page.

The Big Story: Red Jacket Drive

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Jessie and Mr. V, 2006

Our younger selves

(See Part 1 and Part 2 of The Big Story.)

After I stopped working in daycare and actually started making a salary, Mr. V and I knew it was time to think about saving. We didn’t have a car payment, and my parents were paying back my student loans (Mr. V didn’t have any). Our apartment’s rent was reasonable, so other than tithing, utilities, and groceries we really didn’t have a lot of expenses. Our first year or two of marriage we didn’t even have cable, or our Internet was dial-up through NetZero. (Yep. That seems like forever ago!)

Most months we were able to squirrel away $600 – which is a fairly big chunk, I think, considering what we made together. We didn’t go out very much, didn’t travel, and buying clothes was a big treat. We had a lot of wonderful friends through our Sunday School class, and most social time was spent with them, at game nights, bluegrass clubs, or just having dinners together. It was a sweet time in our marriage and life together.

We weren’t quite sure whether we would try to buy a house or not, knowing that we would only be in Nashville for 5 years, the length of Mr. V’s time at Vanderbilt. After he graduated with his PhD, we hoped he’d be able to find a job at a university somewhere on the East Coast, closer to our parents. (By 2006, both sets of parents lived outside Philadelphia, despite the fact that neither of us grew up there!)

I remember many conversations where we talked about the house thing – debating staying in our comfortable apartment for 5 years versus buying a house after 2 years with the intention of at least breaking even. We had a great, large apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. The dining room was tiny, and we used the linen closet and above the washer and dryer for grocery and appliance storage, but it suited all our needs.

I think the final straw, though, was the people who lived above us. The tenant’s alarm clock would start buzzing in the wee hours of the morning and go off for HOURS, and we could hear it perfectly. Then the tenant acquired a few more people living with her up there, and we could hear loud movies playing and a child’s heavy footsteps pounding back and forth all the time.

Oh, to live somewhere with no one above us! It would be bliss!

Also, I had just been hired as a copy editor at LifeWay, a step up from my current position, with a better salary. I was high on life, finally (after a whole 18 months!) escaping the world of customer service.

It didn’t hurt that we had friends through church connected to the real estate business – one was a mortgage broker and one had a realtor father. In the spring of 2006, we looked at a few houses, but decided to buy a new townhouse in a neighborhood where some friends had already bought just down the street.

Red Jacket kitchen

The place was smaller that our apartment in square footage, but we felt like the space was used wisely. We still had two bedrooms, two full baths, and a half-bath thrown in. It had a big kitchen, a real pantry, and a tiny gated patio. We were assured it would all be built and bought up by 2008, so we shouldn’t have trouble if we wanted to sell after that.

So, just before our second anniversary, we signed on the dotted lines promising payments and loans, 30 years seeming like a laughable number, knowing full well that we’d be wanting to sell our home in less than three years.

We moved into our beautiful townhouse on Red Jacket Drive, content in the path we were taking.

A Prayer for You

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I found this in my journal today (which I write in, oh, every 6 months … despite all my best intentions). I felt strongly that I needed to share it, and I hope it will bless you.

Dear Lord,

I am the Queen of beating myself up.

Your grace is not an excuse to act poorly, but thank You for forgiving me instead of abusing me about my sin.

prayerforyou

Be near me today.

Lord Jesus, I want to live in Your power. Show me what must be gleaned from my life.

Amen.

Weekend Linky Love

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We had company in this weekend, so I’m just getting around to writing this up. Sorry if you’ve been waiting on pins and needles! I was too busy having fun with our best friends from college, Michelle and Dan. We went to Rock City, had “Sofa King” Juicy Burgers, played Mario Kart and talked, went out to a nice dinner sans children at The Public House, checked out the Chattanooga River Market, and played on the aquarium water steps. So fun! I think I may have had too much fun, as I feel a summer cold coming on today. Oh well.

Here are some fun and interesting things I read this week.

Reading offline: I just finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes this afternoon, and plan on starting Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan tonight or tomorrow.

So, what did you read that was great this week? Link up here. You can grab the code for the button in the sidebar, if you want. Please link back here and add the PERMALINK to your post, not your home page.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Not Coming.

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Once a week, Mr. V plays trivia with some of his friends from the school where we live. It’s one of those same bat time, same bat channel things. And for five school years, I’ve stayed home with the kids that night of the week. It’s fine – it’s his thing, not mine.

But it’s something he loves, and I enjoy the scattered times I’m able to go, too. We decided this summer we’d try to get a sitter who could come that night of the week. It’s worth the money for me to be with Mr. V in his element and get to hang out with some of our friends sans kiddos.

The last time we had the sitter was three weeks ago, due to her vacation and ours, and this week she was supposed to come.

For a variety of reasons, our wires got crossed and she didn’t. I didn’t know for certain that she wasn’t coming until the clock on the wall ticked past 7:15 and Mr. V finally thought to check his email.

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Also at 7:15? Three tired children were having meltdowns as we tried to figure out what was going on and put them to bed. The baby was wailing, Libbie was screaming, dinner dishes were still on the table, reeking of salmon, and Mama had HAD IT. Then the baby decided to sit on my lap, yank off my earring, and bite me on the shoulder.

That is when I went and hid.

And cried.

Oh so many days I feel like I am not qualified for this parental position. I don’t like to play on the floor, I am really excited about my child going to kindergarten, and I hear myself and wonder, how did this get to be my life?

How am I the person who just said, “I didn’t know I had to tell you NOT TO RUN AROUND NAKED IN THE HALLWAY.” (That would be the hallway OUTSIDE our apartment.) Or, “Look, I found Finn McMistle and Jeff Gorvette!”

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I love them so much it makes my heart feel like tissue paper, each hard word I say making it crumple. I just want to be fun and sweet and have everything be happiness and butterflies. But that’s not parenting.

Which is why sometimes Mama needs a night out. And having the exit ramp closed, having to retreat home … well, that can be enough to make a woman throw a temper tantrum.