Welcome to Tumbleweed Tidings! One of my “rights of passage” each year is recording all of the birthdays, anniversaries and other special events onto the new calendar. Yes, I’m that old fashioned girl that still uses a paper calendar:) As I went through each month, it occurred to me that a new calendar is like a blank slate, just waiting for us to fill in the squares with appointments, meetings, holidays, and times spent with family and friends. As I flipped through each month of 2020, the changes that the pandemic created were glaringly obvious. In January, February and most of March, life was full of meetings, travel, and appointments, as well as fun times spent out to dinner and visiting my mother in Walla Walla. My husband’s weeks were filled with working four 10 hour days at the Hanford site. These squares were pretty full…maybe too full. Spoiler alert; all of that was about to change.
By the middle of March, Jim was forced to start teleworking from home, and all of my classes and meetings had gone to the Zoom format. Each approaching week had items crossed off one-by-one, and our calendar began to look like a very empty blank slate. Thank goodness I’m also that old fashioned girl who has white-out tape, because I was using it on a daily basis. Cancelled trips, non-existent social invitations, and much baking and comfort food making ensued. Based on the flour shortage, I think the entire country was doing the exact same thing. We began spending most of our time at home, and were getting about 4 weeks per gallon of gas. For a year that had held such promise, 2020 was turning out to be a bit of a disappointment, to say the least. That being said, as I entered everything onto the pages of 2021, I began feeling optimistic about the possibilities this next blank slate might bring.
Another right of passage for me each January is to put away the Christmas decorations and re-decorate for the coming months. This too, leaves me with a blank slate with which to work, as I go room by room, bringing back the pre-holiday decor. Many years, I just put everything back exactly as it was before Christmas, just to get the job done. Then later, when I have more time, I tweak the rooms with subtle changes. But this year I was determined to shake things up a bit and give the rooms a slightly different look and feel, starting with the kitchen.
Our kitchen is broken into a few different zones, so I decorate each according to its usage. When all of the counters are cleared off, it looks absolutely huge. Every time I think it’s time to downsize, I can never find a kitchen that comes close to the space and functionality that ours has, so I’ve probably been ruined forever by this one:). The far side of our kitchen is more of a butler’s pantry area. It contains all of the glassware, platters, and serving pieces that is mainly used for entertaining. Some of the cupboards have glass fronts to display special items, and if you missed my post on creating this butler’s pantry area, you can read it here: In Plain Sight…
For that side of the kitchen, the counter space is long and seldom used on a daily basis. When entertaining, we use it as a buffet space, dessert bar area, or beverage station. When not being used for entertaining, I keep it decorated with a few small vignettes, using things I love. Starting with the blank slate, I placed three large base items spaced along the counters. The first base is a tray, the second base is a large wine barrel lid lazy Susan, and the third base is a round cutting board with metal strapping.
For the white metal tray, I topped it with a sterling silver round tea caddy, a couple of special cookbooks, and a white stand with a green wreath and a candle in the middle. This particular grouping is almost identical to what was here before, but I changed out the wreath to something more airy and lighter in color. Starting out with a blank slate doesn’t always require changing things that were working, just for the sake of change.
For the lazy Susan, I found a white bowl that was oval shaped and had very thick sides. It reminded me of a ceramic dough bowl, and I filled it with a collection of artichokes, oversized pine cones, other spheres, and some wine corks. I also placed a couple of sayings on paper that I had on hand; one from our table at a winery and one from a fortune cookie. Adding these sayings was a small touch, but I think it’s my favorite part. Behind the bowl, there is a marble and wood serving board propped against the wall, and in front of the bowl there is a candle and a white ceramic pear.
The third grouping on this wall is the round cutting board, a copper container topped with greenery, a small basket, and a beautiful cutting board that one of Jim’s Purdue classmates made for us after the last reunion. It adds the perfect vertical touch, and the various woods he used make it a piece of art.
The next area of our kitchen is the island, which houses our glass cooktop. For this surface, I kept my white ceramic pig there with his chalkboard. I change up the saying on the chalkboard from time to time, and for now it says “hello 2021.” What I wanted it to say was “hello 2021…you’d better not be the disappointment that 2020 was or I may have a nervous breakdown…” but there wasn’t space to write all of that on the small chalkboard:) On the other corner of the island, are the salt and pepper mills, and a small mortar and pestle for spices that sit atop a small wooden cutting board. And some days, like today, it is where I cool my fresh baked banana bread.
The other side of the kitchen is the functional side of the room. These cupboards contain our everyday dishes, glassware, mugs, and serving pieces, and the drawers contain all of the cooking implements necessary to prepare meals. On the countertop, there is a coffee maker for my husband’s cost effective weekday coffee, and a Keurig machine for the weekends. Next to those machines, is a utensil caddy for wooden spoons, two favorite cutting boards, and a “grab and go” bowl of snacks like granola bars, applesauce, and bananas. In the corner, I placed a few cookbooks topped with a large glass jar with rope trim, that is half full of wine corks. Beside that is a new print with two birds on a branch that just spoke to me.
Next to the coffee station is the sink and a long eating bar peninsula for casual dining. Most of the time, I keep a large copper tray there, and for now, it’s topped with a white tiered wooden bowl full of pinecones, a glass cloche covering a small plant, and a candle. Typically, this copper tray is also where I rotate out seasonal decorations and display recent cards we’ve received.
Last, to the right of the refrigerator there is a small counter that sits atop our beverage cooler and cookbook storage. It used to be lower and was a desk, but when we purchased the beverage cooler, we had it raised to counter height and it is kind of “command central” for the phone, notepaper, the weather station, tape, stapler, and pens. (Side note: I didn’t clean this up, so it’s kind of a mess, and where on earth did all of those pens come from?!?) At the back of that wall, I propped the large gather sign my husband mounted on some beautiful wood pieces he glued together. In front of that is the weather station, a small bird, and a candle. Many times for entertaining, we will place wine, cocktail ingredients, and glassware on this counter for a self-serve bar setup.
Having all of the kitchen countertops empty for a couple of days felt great and gave me time to reflect on how I wanted to style them. As I completed each area, I would stand back to admire my handiwork, and then move on. Like filling in the new calendar, I looked at each of these areas and imagined the meals that will be prepared, the family and friends that will gather here, and the memories we will create. Ahh, I just love a blank slate and the possibilities it contains.