My husband, Mark, and I were lucky when we purchased our new home late last year. Although the beautiful house was somewhat in a state of disrepair, it already had the makings of a dream kitchen, with stunning brick walls and alcoves. We were sold!

The kitchen wasn't very different from what it is now. The brick created an ideal backdrop for the Tuscan theme we had in mind. We changed the colors, added decorations and artwork, put finishing touches on the cherry cabinets and had the imported granite countertops repaired.

I attended culinary arts school. While there, I became a fan of chef figurines, so I incorporated them throughout the room.

When I was studying culinary arts, I used Taste of Home to help me come up with new recipes. It was almost like a textbook to me! Now, I rely on Taste of Home recipes, making my own changes to each one. I feel honored to be able to make other readers' family recipes for my family.

Mark's an engineer, and I home-school our three children (Cierra, 13; Dakota, 12; and Tawny, 7), so we didn't have time to tackle the work ourselves. But we oversaw the entire project to make sure it went exactly as planned.

The counters, on each side of the center island, have become the perfect workspace for the kids. With seating for 10 people, they work wonderfully when we have large or small groups over.

Since we entertain a lot, our two side-by-side dishwashers are particularly handy. I use one for everyday dishes, and the other for pots and pans.

We wanted the kitchen to be a warm, inviting place for our family and friends, and I think we've achieved that.

But all you have to do is look out our window to see we're not done renovating yet. Right now, it's still a construction site, but eventually we'll gaze out at a pool and beach area—a dream come true!






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