To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit of a foreigner in my own kitchen. I’ve never liked to cook much–there’s too much mess and chaos involved. You have to juggle all the sizzling, snapping, popping things–it’s like those circus folks who spin plates. There’s too much pressure! It’s a lot easier to just avoid making the mess in the first place. Right?

Well…

After a while, I get really tired of eating the things that don’t involve cooking. A gal can only consume so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before she rethinks her evasion of frying pans. So here I am, in my kitchen, trying to make sense of the equipment I have and make it through an entire recipe without crying or cursing.

I may never really love cooking. I may always look longingly at the frozen meals in the freezer aisle at the grocery store, though I’ve never actually purchased such things. I’ve come to terms with this. But I’ve discovered that there is one thing I really enjoy about being in the kitchen: stocking it. Not with food, necessarily, but with “accessories.” Brightly colored silicon spatulas. A cute cookie jar. A new utensil crock. The decorator in me really digs that part. And my kitchen looks goooooood.

While figuring out my kitch sitch, I’ve discovered a few things that are absolutely indispensable. And, though I enjoy it, I’m not actually talking about buying cute stuff. That’s fun, obviously, but not really that important. (Yea, I’ll admit it.) A pretty kitchen isn’t really the ultimate goal, but there are five things that you just can’t compromise on.

  1. A collection of beloved family recipes

I have my mom’s tuna and noodles dish, my husband’s grandmother’s cinnamon rolls, and my own favorite sweet potato fries. Nothing says “home” like the recipes that make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

  1. Pretty serverware

Even if your pans are ugly and your silverware came from a garage sale (like mine), you should invest in some serving dishes you love. If you have pretty things to use when sharing your food, it’s more fun to open up space around your table to friends–and that community is worth investing in.

  1. A cabinet for littles to explore

We have child locks on all the lower cabinets in our kitchen except one. That cabinet is full of pans and pots and lids–it’s my daughter’s favorite thing to dig through in the whole house. Yes, it does mean she’s more underfoot when I’m cooking. But honestly, she’d be there anyway. At least this way, she’s happy and gets to explore. Happy toddler = happy mom.

  1. A chair for visitors

The kitchen is one of the best places for conversation. And there’s something about cooking that primes me for listening. A chair is a simple thing–keep one open at all times for someone to join you.

  1. A bottle of wine

Whether we’re talking about celebration or commiseration, a bottle of wine is just necessary. We have one or two in the fridge at all times (I’m a white wine girl). Popping the cork becomes an act of love when that visitor’s chair is full and your heart is open.

Happy cooking, loves!

Beacon Insurance

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Kenzie Swanson

Kenzie Swanson is the blogger behind Hello Neverland http://www.helloneverland.com/ She’s also a wife, mom, Etsy shop owner, and avid journal writer. She likes her books printed on paper and her coffee hot. She’s shy and messy and can’t cook to save her life. Originally from Iowa, Kenzie has settled into life in Nebraska pretty well—she’s even embraced the crazy that is football Saturday in Lincoln (well, mostly). She spends her time working her day job, chasing her wee kiddo, and starting (and sometimes even finishing) crafty projects of all kinds.

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