Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Simple Things

Last night, I finished reading "Curious George Goes to the Hospital" to Hank for about the, oh, fifteenth time in four days. It's his new library book, isn't that a scream? The child loves books, the true son of a librarian. Incidentally, Hank now claims that he wants to have an x-ray, just like George; I'm not encouraging him in this endeavor. And besides, Curious George had to have an operation to remove a jigsaw puzzle piece? This premise is a tad far fetched to me. I'm thinking the puzzle piece would make it out in much less dramatic fashion. And then the doctor gives him the piece back afterwards so that he can finish his puzzle. *shudder*

Anyway, I digress. After I finished reading to Hank and he went up to bed, I watched an HGTV show called Spice up your Kitchen. I usually stick to shows that demonstrate how to re-do your whole house for approximately $200, like Designed to Sell. Well ok, more like $2,000, but still. A reasonable working person's sum of money that is affordable without re-mortgaging ones whole existence. Well, Spice up your Kitchen is a bit different. It showed the kitchen of a couple who had not changed a thing since circa the year I was born. Avocado colored appliances abound. Ok, seriously people. I'm all about frugality. But how much would it cost to buy a nice NORMAL sized white refrigerator from Sears? $500? Do you know how much that avocado monster is costing you on your energy bill? Why do people live like this? Anyway, the kitchen was a travesty. The avocado competed with bright pink tile on the walls and a formica countertop that had holes large enough to swallow your Thanksgiving turkey. Ok, they needed a new look. But of course, the kitchen remodel that they did cost a cool $50,000. I know kitchen remodels are expensive, but in my lifetime, I will never pay to remodel *one room* a third of the cost of my entire house.

Anyway, I'm digressing again. I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to it, I do that a lot. So anyhow, yes the finished product looked beautiful. But was it all *really* necessary? Granite countertops, cherry cabinetry with glass insets, giant stainless steel appliances, a top of the line island with drawers that closed by themselves (I am *not* making that up). I will be the first to admit that I'm an enormous fan of cherry wood, and would love to afford new kitchen cabinets. Ain't happenin'. But anyway, stainless steel appliances? I'm not saying they're not sharp looking, but they're all the rage these days. Clearly, these people do not have small children, that's all I can say. Nothing makes a kitchen look special like smudgey fingerprints perpetually on the appliances. These were *gigantic* though. Adult people could fit inside of them. I'm feeling an SUV rant coming on, but I'll save that for another time. But my biggest pet peeve is the granite countertop. I hope I'm not offending any granite owners. It's lovely. And I'm not saying there is anything wrong with having it. But here's what does annoy me: it's become the standard nowadays for having a "truly modern and with it" kitchen. Mike's friend Lowell, who was visiting us last night, commented that where he lives, in Baltimore, homes without granite simply will not sell. They are seen as inferior with a clear need for remodeling. And to back up his point, every single show I watch on HGTV showcases granite.

And of course, granite costs many, MANY thousands of dollars. MANY. Whatever happened to upgrading to Corian? To be honest, I'm a fan of regular old laminate. You're preparing dinner on it, not a heavenly banquet befit only for kings.

Over the summer I read a book that I'll never forget entitled Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish. It was written by a non-Amish woman who became fascinated with the Amish way of life. She lived with two different Amish families and fell in love with the simple beauty of thier lifestyle and outlook on life. It's easy to romanticize a countercultural group such as the Amish. But I loved her descriptions of the way they grew their own food, created very, very little trash, made their own clothing, built their own homes, and yes, had simple, functional and extremely appealing kitchens with wood-burning stoves where (some things don't change, even amongst the Amish) not only was food prepared but women gathered to socialize as they worked. Certainly, we don't all have the ability (or the desire) to live an Amish-like existence. But it goes much deeper than that, I think. How can we simplify our lives? And what I do know is that when I make an effort to do that, I'm much happier and more grateful for the things I already own, rather than coveting new things (avocado-colored appliances aside).

Certainly, a beautiful kitchen is a happy thing. But beautiful doesn't always have to come at the expense of my yearly salary. I may be naive, but I think we can make beautiful spaces for less. We can make do generally with less. Trip to Ikea, anybody?

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