The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home

Make it special

Holidays seem to come with the expectation of home cooked dinners, desserts and specialties reserved for once a year. Perfecting creations without someone to teach you and opportunities to practice can put added pressure on inexperienced or under trained cooks. Many times the tradition was passed on but the knowledge wasn’t.

Years ago, I tried to make divinity fudge. My grandmother had made it every year for Christmas. She passed away without teaching me her secrets. Last month, I spent an evening teaching my grandson my recipe for Cowboy Chili. I sat on an old red kitchen stool and talked him through each of the steps. When every step had been completed and the chili was simmering, we sat at the kitchen table and talked through it again as he wrote the recipe in a Moleskine Recipe Journal. From memory, he was able to list the ingredients, amounts and process for each step. At the end of the evening, he told me how much he loved cooking and spending time in the kitchen with me.

Make it fresh

When I think of Renaissance in the kitchen, my friend Misty is one of the women who come to mind first. A single mother raising sons in the beauty of North Carolina, she has built a company literally from the ground up. Growing her own produce to supply her products and provide for her family, she relies on her knowledge of gardening, weather, and preserving with skills most have lost or never had.

Make it your own

Maybe you know how to make divinity. Turns out my grandson does and is going to teach me! Maybe you know how to make Cowboy Chili. If not, I will be doing an instructional video soon. Maybe you know how to make jam from the produce of your own garden, if not you can order it from Misty at Ma’am’s Hot Jam. My favorite is the Blueberry Seven Pepper Jam. It’s so good on fresh hot biscuits or pork chops or goat cheese with crackers.

Don’t be afraid of your kitchen. If you don’t have a grandmother or mother to teach you, it’s ok. You can still learn to make special dishes and memories. Look around our kitchen for ideas and inspirations and links to learning. Then get creative and make something new!

Here we go…

Late last Friday night Renaissance Wife relaunched the website thanks to the dedication and patience of an amazing web designer and dear friend. Now comes the fun part! This is where you get to wander around and find things to learn and do and consider.

It was always my plan to feature a new room and a new inspiration each week starting with the Library. I know libraries can conjure up images of dusty, dry old buildings with stern faces shushing you. But I want you to consider this an open-air library where not only is talking allowed but questions are encouraged.

I met my favorite librarian in 1978. We were Juniors in high school. She is now a Ph.D at a prestigious  southern university. Anything but stern, her love of literacy and reading has inspired young people to pursue education in all disciplines leading to medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries that are changing the way diagnosis are made and treatments are implemented. She is also a gifted vocalist, devoted wife, mother and new grandmother. Much more about her to come in future posts.

Looking over the freshly launched website Saturday morning, I was inspired to use a gift certificate I had received for Christmas to a unique experience near the waterfront in Detroit. If you ever get a couple of free hours in Detroit the John K King Used and Rare Books store  is the place to spend them. An old glove factory has become the home to more than a million books, from rare and obscure to recent and trendy. Over whelmed I sat down in one of the aisles on a couple of stacked milk crates scattered throughout the four stories for just such a moment. Scanning the shelves, my eye caught a title on the spine of a book that just jumped out from the others. “The Whole Five Feet”… Now if you have ever followed a White Rabbit, you can probably recognize this as one of them. The chase was on.

“The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death and Pretty Much Everything Else” is a paperback I paid $6 for. Before flipping it over to read the back, I had a suspicion I knew where the author was going. I didn’t know exactly why but the name Harvard Classics came to mind. The Whole Five Feet is his experience the year he decided to read the Harvard Classics. All 51 of them.

Don’t get too far ahead of the story…but, yes. I did come home with 2 heavy boxes in the trunk of my car. Turns out John K King had exactly one complete set of The Harvard Classics. Now I have them.

If you are not familiar with the Harvard Classics, don’t worry. A lot of people haven’t read them. But turns out a lot of people have them or had them. You may remember a set of reddish colored books in your grandparents’ home. You probably don’t remember ever seeing anyone read them or talk about them but they were a standard in many homes, passed down because they were important if not understood.

In 1909, Dr Charles Elliot ended his 40 years as President of Harvard University by curating a comprehensive if not exhaustive set of books based on his premise that the average person could get the equivalent of a liberal arts education by reading a 5-foot bookshelf. He believed if just 15 minutes a day were devoted to reading these books, the depth and breadth of knowledge of higher education could be attained independently. 110 years later, I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Elliot.

While I do not have an advanced degree, I have always believed that the only limitations put on education are self-imposed.

I have always believed the axiom that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. 

I believe that if someone, anyone, else has learned something, I can too. I may not be as good at it or master it but I can learn it.

For too long, I believed that most of my opportunities to learn had passed before I recognized what they were. Case in point, over dinner Saturday night, explaining to my husband what a wonderful find these books were, I realized why I knew Harvard Classics. A quick call to my mother confirmed, my parents had subscribed to the 1969 publication. They never finished getting all the books and my mother no longer had them but the green spine with the gold print was part of my journey each time we packed and moved growing up.

This morning, I am excited about picking up a book that is 110 years old, that was overlooked when I was 10 years old but that has quietly challenged me to learn for myself. To read and study, to explore and discover, to think and talk and teach and grow…

I’m not saying everyone should read the Harvard Classics but if you are ready, you can read them for free thanks to the Gutenberg Project.

Where ever you decide to begin your personal renaissance…just get started. Who knows where your White Rabbit will take you today?

Welcome to Renaissance Wife

Your personal renaissance awaits.

This has been a dream in the making for as long as I can remember. I always envisioned a place – an online resort of sorts – where women could come together to learn all the skills we’ve put off while raising families. One central location where women of every walk of life could come together for their own personal renaissance. Now here we are together.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have you join me here.

Bare bones construction

Right now, we have five rooms available for you to tour. In each of those rooms, you’ll find a handful of navigational markers for you to explore. This is just the beginning – the bare bones of the Renaissance House we’re “building” for women just like you.

Feel free to tour the rooms and look around. If you’d like to see something added to any of the rooms, hop over to our Guest Book and leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

What’s to come?

We have several more rooms under construction for the Renaissance House:

  • Guest Bedroom
  • Dining Room
  • Study/ Office
  • Ballroom
  • Garden
  • Garage
  • Sanctuary

We will also be launching a membership section in the future. Members will have access to experts in several areas who will be offering specialized courses and coaching.

Don’t miss out!

Be sure to sign up as a house guest so you never miss an update on rooms, information, courses, etc. Be the first to know when our membership section opens and what it will mean for you. If you have a special skill you’d like to teach, you’ll want to become a house guest so you can have your course added to one of the rooms.

Become a House Guest Today

Until next time, enjoy your renaissance!

Lana