Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Honest Cottage Kitchen

It takes a lot of work to live a simple life. Nowhere is my simple life more obvious than in our tiny Maine kitchen, which is NOT outfitted with anything fancy or any modern "conveniences." Slice, mix, grind, open, brew, shred, wash, drink, dry, grate, can, hand works fine, but it takes a bit more time.

I was tickled to receive a post from my friend Debra Jean today. We're on the same wavelength, probably because we live in similar old cottages. I met Debra and her wonderful daughter Nicolette when they attended a talk and book signing I did on Cape Cod in late June. Nicolette is the one who said that their cottage kitchen is "HONEST and humble." I think ours is the same. Honest, humble, and the epicenter of island life in Maine. 
Elbow grease turned plywood and linoleum into useful and beautiful. The small alewives (fish) handles were forged by local blacksmith and artisan The Scottish Lion of Bristol. Can you see the big mortar and pestle on the counter?? I found that it Vernazza, (Cinque Terre) Italy. Jeff lifted it, "Ugh, do you HAVE to buy the heaviest thing available?" Yep, I needed this for making perfect pesto. It is made of Carrara marble, and it weighs about 10 pounds, which doesn't sound like much weight UNTIL you have to carry it onto the plane.  
Not necessities, but these things make me smile. Salt and pepper lobster shakers, a lobster sugar dish, and a cautionary sign.

I use these old friends every day. Some of them are from my grandmother. Others are finds from tag sales and antique shops. Cooking in iron makes everything taste better. 

I love this sign. Hmmmm, I wonder which industry funded the printing of it? I think it is hilarious, especially "Take a bath oftener than once a week."

This is a trivet from the old Portland Stove Works. It was used on a woodstove and is in the shape of "The Pine Tree State."

It wasn't until the night we moved in here that I realized we didn't have a single drawer in the kitchen. Luckily, Augustine, our lovely old Hotpoint, has a drawer for our cutlery. Everything else goes into tins and crocks.

Ok, it is NOT a totally "honest kitchen." I don't like appliances. The toaster is hidden under a French linen dish towel that my pal Lynn brought back from her trip to France. The apple cutting board is from a local tag sale, and the big board behind the apple is from a cottage my friends owned. I think the board was part of their floor. Oh well, it works for me.

All glassware is from a church auction and tag sale.

The lobster dishes are my favorites. I also love the Swanky Swigs with stars and boats and the old tumblers with boats. The dishes and cups with sea creatures were given to us by all our wonderful employees at my old business, Heart's Ease.

Our cupboards were the ugliest...plywood. Jeff took off the doors, sanded everything, and then painted the insides with a glossy linen white (all paints are Benjamin Moore). Not so bad now.

Fancy storage? Who needs it? An old Folger's coffee jar on the left, a peanut jar (why a fish logo), and small red-lidded peanut butter jars serve me well.

The two chickens hold salt and pepper. They were given to me by my friends Barbara and Jane who owned the cottage down the road. They're the ones who gave me the floorboard cutting board.

 Recycled dishtowels are my curtains. Look closely at each day of the week, but especially Saturday, which must have been party time.

A big pitcher and some martini glasses dance with a glass. This is very Wizard of Ozish.

Sunday is mellow as Sunday should be.

What is that screened thing on the refrig? It is a late 1800's garde manger from Paris. It was the one thing I wanted to find and tote home from France. Everyone assured me that we'd never locate a real one, but we did in Isle Sur La Sorgue flea market. Little iron hooks in the top hold saucisson. This was a challenge to pack and carry onto the plane. You should've seen the look on the face of the customs official. The basket is also from France. We met the man who not only grew the willow, but also wove it, then carried the finished works of art to market. I use this basket for our Farmer's Market.

When we moved in, our counters, back splash, and floors sported that very 1940ish blue marbled linoleum. Jeff worked for days and days with a pry bar and putty knife removing the linoleum. Then he installed thick and forgiving slabs of Vermont soapstone for the counters, back splash, and sink. The thing about soapstone that I really love is that you can set hot iron right on it without any damage. Also, if you get a scratch or scrape, just rub on some olive oil, and it is fine.  One minor pain, you can't let water sit on soapstone or it gets a gray mark. Again, just rub on a dab of olive oil.  

What could be simpler than a wire dish dryer? I do the washing, Mother Nature does the drying.
 The big water jug (above) holds our supply of drinking water. Our everyday water for showering and dishwashing comes from an open reservoir and spring about a two minute walk from our  house. Yep, we brush our teeth with frog water, but we drink deep spring water from ...

... a spring that is under our South Bristol Town Hall. We take large, empty containers to Town Hall and draw our water from a spigot at the side of the building. Lots of times we run into neighbors and catch up on the local gossip. This is also a great area for meeting new people. 

And right around the corner and down Clarks Cove Road is the little studio of famed American painter Willard Metcalf (1858-1925). I keep hoping that some weekend, when I am pawing through cheesy prints and paintings, that one of his works will flop out in front of me. "Old painting-$5.00." I wish. Anyhow, I always go out of my way to walk or drive past this small studio. It makes me feel good, especially when the pink roses are in bloom beside and over the double door.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next you have an honest kitchen? Send me a photo if you do.



P.S.  Stop by the Lowe's Garden Grow Along blog for my new posting


Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Your honest kitchen is just so charming Sharon! I so loved the tour! And with that view, who cares about cooking!
You have so many interesting pieces, love it all, and boy would lobster taste good about now!

House Mother said...

This post really speaks to me...I truly want to have an honest kitchen. Such character and history and beauty in all of those wonderful photos.

I lived for a year without any gadgets or matching dishes and I never missed a thing. Therefore, most of my 'old' kitchen remains boxed up.

Thanks for the peak into your honest kitchen.

Vee said...

Your honest humble kitchen is a delight. You've done very well with it and made it work very efficiently I'm certain.

In our family's summer cottage, we have an honest, humble kitchen because we have no electricity or running water. Our water is a pump out by the shed, our bathroom was until very recently an outhouse, and our lights are gas lanterns.

The stove and fridge also run on gas, but I well remember the days when we waited for the train to deliver our ice for the ice box.

It's definitely a spot from another time and place and that's why we love it so. Hope to get back there before too many more years pass.

And I love that milk bottle sign...such great advice. Personally, I'm delighted with the four cups of water.

maggie said...

I have a terrible kitchen. It hates me, and the feeling is mutual. But... one day, I will have an honest kitchen. It will be wonderful and uncomplicated and we will get along beautifully! Until then, I will gaze longingly at other people's kitchens, and their fabulous milk bottle signs. Oh, what I would give to hang that sign in my home and watch for the kids reactions...

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Hey, does this mean I can't have my kitchen remodel? The Herbal Husband can't see this post! Very charming, Sharon, but I need drawers that open and close without a high pitched squeal! I think after 21 years, it's about time! I have appliances in avocado. That's the bad news. The good news is they all still work! When the salesman at the appliance store said, Oh those are from the 60's, a cold chill enveloped me! I
I'll send you a photo sometime or do a post! xxoo Nancy

Erin | Bygone Living said...

Sharon, I don't think I could call your kitchen "simple"... it is absolutely marvelous! Every little detail is absolutely lovely ♥

P.S.- I don't think you'd want to see my kitchen in the state it's in now! Believe me!

Unknown said...

Oh my goodness Sharon! What a hoot! I just popped down to check email and my blog one last time for the night and here we are together showing our Honest Cottage Kitchens’ to the world on the same day!
I LOVE your Honest COTTAGE kitchen too! So sweet of you to link-up for this special post!
A happy coincidence if ever there was one for today!

YES! GREAT MINDS blog at the same time apparently! ( SMILE )

simple IS best in an Honest Kitchen!

xoxo for you and Jeff...

Unknown said...

ps. I'm loving those RED DOORS on the studio photo!
I'm inspired to paint the back door to our cottage that color... It needs a pop of color!


Noelle Johnson said...

What a wonderful place to spend part of your summer. I do love the simple life that cottage living brings. It is amazing what you can live without, isn't it?

Lady Dorothy said...

Oh, I ADORE your kitchen! Not a big surprise, I guess, because I also loved Heart's Ease. I could have stayed all day in the garden.

Lori ann said...

I just knew you'd have a kitchen like this. It's lovely beyond words and now i am jealous. I am an honest kitchen girl in my heart, but right now i have to be grateful just to have a kitchen. It's not that my kitchen isn't great, but it's not my dream.

I loved the tour Sharon, so happy and sincere are all your things. I love yellow, so i really like all your tag sale finds. That is still the best way to shop isn't it?

enjoy your days there my friend!


Mozart's Girl said...

Wonderful to have this peek into your beautiful & so New England kitchen Sharon! Ours is very different, but I love it too...will post one day! I love your eclectic collections, signs & linens. Perfection! Have a great week xox Rachel

Dawn said...

Oh Sharon, thanks so much for this wonderful kitchen tour!
In my very first own apartment in Frankfurt Germany, I had such a simple kitchen. I was way up in what used to be the attic, and the bathtub, which was as small as a couldron but very deep with a little ledge to sit on, was in the hallway just steps away from the kitchen! That was a very honest home, haha!
Then, when Ramon and I first moved in together, we had only a hot plate to cook on, and I did our dishes in the bathroom sink.
Our kitchens are getting more and more practical. I love my dishwasher! But my kitchen will never have a microwave.
What my kitchen needs now are cast iron skillets and wooden bowls.

Thinking of you...

xoxo Dawn

P.s. that farmer's market post was so lovely!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

I love your cottage kitchen and all the sweet things you have decorated it with. It feels like home to me.


Claudia said...

I love your kitchen, Sharon. It is full of charm and beauty. My kitchen is rather simple, too. It does have a dishwasher, but it doesn't work! We do dishes by hand.

You must love your home in Maine.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

In answer to the e-mails today about "Comfort Found Literary Lodging." Yes, we are breathlessly near the finish line and I LOVE IT!!!

Today is cold with a crisp wind off the sea. I'm happy that we deviated from our too safe and too often choices of paint colors and chose a soft peach for the kitchen walls. It contrasts with the green cupboards and looks warm, happy, and joyous. Lifts my spirits.

We found a great old table with fat adorable legs. We're painting it and putting it in the center of the kitchen.

I'll share photos next week.

Happy beginning of the week to you.

Thea said...

I love your cottage kitchen! esp your open shelf plates on display. I would love to toss all the upper cabinets in my kitchen and replace with sturdy open shelves. maybe someday! But I'm also a 'small' kitchen person vs. the big, open kitchens you see in new homes. Less to clean, I say! signed, lazy ol me

Jim Long said...

Sharon, the kitchen is wonderful, and totally you. But I have to laugh. People think where we live in the Ozarks is rustic, primitive, off the beaten path. But we do have running water and drawers in the kitchen. :-) I'm glad you enjoy the simplicity, it is wonderfully simple and looks gorgeous. I've lived with having to carry water, so I probably don't want to live that way again, but I loved seeing all of the things in your wonderfully honest kitchen!

Lili said...

Your kitchen is beyond wonderful! I seriously have kitchen envy after that tour. I especially love how you blended French items along with coastal and vintage and now I have to show my husband these images because he just needs to see that open shelving your husband did. WOW! ~Lili

Kristina said...

What a charming kitchen! I love all of your little accesories! It's very happy!


Velva said...

This is proof that simple is best. What beautiful "honest and humble kitchen" I wish I could say the same about mine....Latest appliances and kitchen gadgets galore.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful home with us.

Dan said...

What a beautiful kitchen Sharon! I love your yellow crockery in the dresser, all of the lobsters and especially the milk bottle sign!
Look forward to showing you my honest kitchen when I have one!!

Freckled Hen said...

This post really quenched that feeling I get when I miss those childhood days of spending summers with my grandparents. They were humble people with an honest kitchen (in Maine of course). Your things are a perfect compliment to the honesty of your kitchen. I especially love the glass sailboat pitcher.

Rebecca said...

Comforting. Soothing. Inspiring. Pure and Simple. Can't beat it!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

What a wonderful tour. Reminds me of both of my grandmother's kitchens. When I built this home by the woods - what you have - is what I planned.
But---to many children, grandchildren and even with giving half of what I had away - my creation turned into a minature of what I had in the past. I am pleased but I really yearned for the one room cabin. Guess what I have is more practical for one woman in the woods :)
Thank you again for the wonderful tour. Can't wait to see your new creation. Provide instructions of how I can fly there!!!

Marigold Jam said...

Thanks for visiting my blog - you must come to our neck of the woods if you want to see badgers there is a big sett in the woods behind our house and the badgers are everywhere at night - I was woken at 1.30 this morning by badgers having an argument in our driveway! People round here laugh when we see ads for badger watching since we can do it from the comfort of our own homes!!

Loved your post - had to smile at that comment about bathing oftener than once a week if you read my memory posts you'll see why that might not normally be the case and also find mention of the wire fronted food storage cupboards too!

Do come again soon


Storybook Woods said...

LOVE, your kitchen. Well I have a honest kitchen. It looks just like it did 70 years or so years ago. Except for my dishwasher. But we lived here for 7 years before I put it in. I felt guilty but now I LOVE my dishwasher and could kick myself for waiting so long. xoxoxo Clarice

Susan Freeman said...

Hi Sharon! I have an "honest kitchen" too. My house was built in 1903. There is one original wall cabinet hanging above the stove and there is the original stove pipe as well. I removed the doors from the cabinets (newer ones from a previous owner) and painted them white to showcase the vintage black stove pipe going up through the center. I painted the other cabinets the same blue as yours! We installed absolute black granite counters because at the time we could not find a dealer with soapstone in Idaho. I don't own a microwave (by choice) and I wash the dishes by hand and mine are dried by nature too, and the occasional towel. I will post some pics one day soon on my blog. Yes ... I love an honest kitchen too!

Susan and Bentley

Unknown said...

What a simply lovely kitchen!
Thank you for sharing it with us :) .
Catherine ... off to take a look at her own kitchen

jaz@octoberfarm said...

we can't get a break here with the weather. we are stuck in perpetual hot hot hot summer. love the kitchen. i had my stationary tub in the basement custom made by vermont soapstone. those guys are the best and i love their soapstone cookware. i bought all of it! i found a guy in irelnd that grew his own willow, took custom orders and made the most wonderful baskets. i think i custom ordered 20 from him. i have them all over the house and gardens. he told me to put them outside when it rains to rehydrate them. i also collect old embroidered day of the week towels and have used them as curtains in my bathrooms. i love the amish ones. i do not have a garde manger but it is now on my list!

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I really like Your kitchen! I will have to do something about my kitchen soon and This inspired me a lot! Those wooden signs and the apple cutting board!

But I don´t have to brush my teeth in frogwater :-) and I do have a coffee machine and water visible. But I only use these at summer. In winter I use my fire heated stove :-)

Have a great day now!

Pondside said...

That was a visit to the kitchens of my Cape Breton childhood. I have a modern kitchen, but it is honest and simple, by today's standards

Brenda Pruitt said...

I love simple. I have my silverware in crocks. Broken down into spoons in one, forks in another, etc. It makes it so easy to put away.

Claus said...

What a wonderful, honest and simple kitchen!! Though modern life has taken over Guatemala's kitchens and houses in general, I think there is still something simple and honest in most of them. At home, for instance, my mother doesn't like to use many appliances. She likes to do it "old school" :-), and except for the blender, the other appliances are kept away (yet she likes to buy them!). Not even a microwave is used. Incredible how different food tastes when not using the microwave!!
I love the yellows in your kitchen and the little touches (signs) that give the environment a special look and feeling.
Thank you for stopping by at my little corner! It's an honor to have you around.
have a lovely day!!!

Pom Pom said...

I so enjoyed your kitchen tour. I am sure good food is served with love when people come to call at your bright door.

Anonymous said...

I loved your tour, Sharon. Your kitchen is wonderful!

Yes, I do have an honest kitchen! It's U-shaped, has a 4' tall 12-volt refigerator that sits on a drawer-thingy to raise it up. The sink is 15"x15", one drawer holds my knives, recipe box & hand-embroidered kitchen towels. The range is an RV range (we had to measure the turkey in the store at Thanksgiving to ensure it would fit in our oven), there isn't a disposal or dishwashwer, and the only appliance I have is a blender. There's open shelving above the sink and a French Baker's rack for the dishes and pots&pans. Under the 4' window is a farmtable w/ wheatback chairs.

I love it. I chop, mix, whip everything up by hand - I think using our hands makes everything taste better - and when I'm not cooking or eating in the kitchen, it is also my art studio. :)


Carol at Serendipity said...


I have an honest kitchen in the cabin in Maine. There is microwave but I use it to store casseroles. The counters are red linoleum.


From the Kitchen said...

Sharon, I have an honest kitchen here in our 1921 arts and crafts bungalow. The pantry in my former home was as large as my present kitchen. In my present kitchen, I can do everything I did in that large Charleston kitchen and more. I utilize every space. In our previous kitchen, the home buyer was impressed because that kitchen had twenty-six cabinets (one for every letter of the alphabet!). And, I wash the dishes and Mother Nature dries them for me and I'm quite happy with the relationship!


kj said...

hi sharon, wow, this was fun. your kitchen is cozy lovely.

MY kitchen is small with insufficient counter space and steel cabinets from the 50's, but is is cozy lovely too in its own way. i will not be home from provincetown until sunday, but some time soon i will try to send you a picture of it.

what fun.


suzanne said...

Dear Sharon

This is my kind of kitchen...I just love it. I just know you are the person who would appreciate these to dvd's(hope you have a tv somewhere in that little cottage~!)

The one is 'take joy' and 'take peace' Tasha Tudor . Life can be so simple ...

A happy day to you Sharon
Warm regards

suzanne said...

Oh Sharon I have just had such a giggle about will-o-the-wisp~! You are right,... a fragile willow branch swaying through life simply. Having watched her life, I have no doubt she had strong opinions. I think I would have loved to have met her. I do tend to gravitate towards different souls.

You live in a very inviting little village..I shall visit in my dreams~

Warm regards

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

I dearly love your honest kitchen my friend. I love the sunshine plates and glassware in the cabinet at the end. I also love the dishtowel curtains. They are precious. I don't think my kitchen is quite as honest, but it does its best. Glad I made you smile with my lovely lady today. Someone in Oklahoma must tell people these things.~~Dee

Unknown said...

An honest kitchen...definitely. An old farmhouse kitchen (as part of an old farmhouse), with plywood cupboards that need repainting (this time, in reverse of what they are now, pale sunflower yellow with sage green trim), a wood stove, lots of garden-themed stuff...and cats. Real cats that sit on counters, get up in cupboards even though there are doors on the all these wonderful things that you and your friend have in your cupboards wouldn't work for me, as Mungus would invariably put them on the floor in one of his naughty moods.
I love the lobster dishes! My hubby is a retired lobster fisherman so we have a few whimsical things around here.

a woman who is said...

My goodness that was a long post. There is a lot to comment on, but my favorite part was the totting back of heavy and awkward treasures from France. Your husband loves you ;) It is all extremely charming, and so are you!

Zuzana said...

Dear Sharon, I am back from my travels trying to catch up.;)
I guess my kitchen can only be called honest as I honestly do not cook in it a lot, which is a great shame. But I am trying to improve on it.
LOVE all the pictures here. As a child, I would visit my aunt and spend a few week at her tiny cottage outside Prague, during the summers. She had the smallest kitchen one can imagine there; with only a gas stove and no running water: we had to get that from a nearby well. But my oh my the cooking she would do there! The taste of the fresh produce and the simple cooking made with love and care. It is all now in the distant past now, but thank you for bringing back that recollection...
Hope you have been well, have a splendid weekend:)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear friends,

In the past week I've received so many e-mails, lovely letters, and also some blog awards. I want to answer all your questions and comments, but it is easier to do it here, where one comment may answer questions for many. Regarding the awards, well, though I am honored I just do not want to post awards. I rather like being an "award free blog." Also, I have been asked to support/endorse commercial sites (.coms) and I am not interested in doing so.

I did work for Land's End this year and traveled, spoke, and made television appearances on their behalf, but they were involved in a MILLION DOLLAR GIVEAWAY to schools for science and garden projects, two things I endorse wholeheartedly.

Thanks for your understanding. Please note: I ALWAYS answer letters from children via real mail, that good, old-fashioned, and lasting way to communicate.

All joys,


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I adore your kitchen. Like you it is cozy and charming. :)

My sister compared my charming (but humble) kitchen to the house we had to sell a few years ago when my husband was out of work for so long.

She felt sorry for me but I LOVE my kitchen here, even if I don't have a dishwasher (well, it is me).

I may be visiting New England in October but I have a feeling this year the leaves will be GONE.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon - what a wonderful visit to your beautiful and practical kitchen! I am in love with that sailboat pitcher~~

Your photos are wonderful and It is almost like we are having a little chat sitting in your sweet kitchen --'Thanks so much for sharing these with us all.


Pat said...

The soft colors in your charming kitchen seem perfect for a place by the sea coast...had to chuckle at your mortar & pestle. I also lugged a very heavy brass bell(which was purchased at the Sunday market in Arezzo, Tuscany)through the Rome airport & hauled all the way back to the US. I bet you look at your piece with fond memories as I do the bell...
Have a good week.
Pat - on the road in Alaska

sherry said...

well for pity sake, i had NO idea you had a blog until reading about it on Brenda's blog (Coffee, tea and books). i'm here. gonna stay a while and soak it all in while i rummage through your cupboards for a tea bag - but i much prefer strong coffee if'n ya don't mind. have you a comfy chair in the kitchen? perhaps a stool for my little feet? there. that's better. okay - i'm all tucked in for a perusal of your on-line cottage. thank you! your hospitality is peachy. :o)

Anonymous said...

My kitchen isn't even mine because I rent so I don't care about it much... but I have to tell you this!!!!!! I have that book... The cookbook for children that is in your very first picture!! It was my mother's when she was young. I just thought that was pretty cool.. you have a lovely place.