In the mornings, I sometimes go downstairs while everyone's asleep, creeping around barefoot on the cold tiles in the half-light, making a pot of coffee, getting lunches and my head together for the day ahead while the dog pads about at my feet.
Then everyone's awake and downstairs and the whole place is filled with chatter and action and stuff. There's apple juice and cereal bowls, lost hair brushes and missing shoes, drawings of princesses and snacks for school. The dog wants to go out for a wee and a bark at a squirrel. Someone wants a different radio station on. The coffee's gone cold.
The kitchen's buzzing with activity on the weekends. But it's relaxed activity on our schedule. No one has to rush anywhere. There are a lot more cups of tea. Endless snacks for busy children. Dropping the dog a little bit of cheese. And there is cooking, so much cooking, preparing food that sustains and nourishes and comforts and makes us happy. Breakfasts of boily eggs and banana pancakes, lunches of sandwiches and soups. And for dinner, pizzas and pastas, curries and casseroles, salads and stews. Sometimes, there are friends and chat and even more food, which makes it all the more happier a place.
On Saturdays, I bake with the children. We bash up biscuits and chocolate with spoons to make the noisiest cheesecake in the world. We squidge bananas with our fingers and transform it into our favourite loaf cake. The girls make messy, messy cupcakes with pink sparkly sprinkles piled high on top. We all like licking the spoons. And the bowl.
The kitchen is where we play music and we dance and sing our hearts out. Life's a Happy Song from The Muppets, Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Forget You by Cee Lo Green, Defying Gravity from Wicked. There's not an awful lot of space for dancing, but we do it anyway.
In the evenings, the music's a bit softer. Perhaps one of the Bens (Folds, Howard or Kweller). A little glass of red on the go, while I take time over a creamy risotto, some crispy home-made pizzas or a full-on Indian feast. Sometimes the mister shares some crisps and dips and we chat while I cook.
I like sitting up on the kitchen counter and chatting while something cooks. I've done it since I was a kid. I feel at my most comfortable in the kitchen. More relaxed and able to talk while there's other stuff going on. It's not as intense, I suppose.
In my dreams, our kitchen is bigger and tidier (and a lot cleaner), with a flagstone floor and a huge farmhouse table in the middle. But it's still got the same mix of people and food and love. Because really, that's what makes it home.