Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home Tasks ~ Digging right in with gusto

I want to tell you about a lesson I learned almost 13 years ago.  I was a young mother with two very young babies.  At the time, we lived about ten hours away from my parents and my family home.  It could be lonely, but I think I was doing a pretty good job of things.  After all, two little ones kept me very busy and I *loved* that season in my life. 

At the same time, I was still very young and still had many lessons left to learn.  We were a happy little family and I was running our home to the best of my ability at the time...but yes, many lessons still left to learn. 

We were finally able to make the ten hour trip to visit my parents.  This was a very big deal.  There is a lot of planning that goes into taking a trip like that with two littles ~ one who was still nursing at the time!  I was able to spend a week at home with mom and dad.  It was a very eye opening week for me because it was my first trip home with two children and I was at that point in life where I was starting to see my mom as another woman instead of my mother only.  I'm sure many of you ladies can relate to that time in life and know what I'm talking about.

So I watched her that week.  I really observed her and how she did things.  Not that I had never done that before, but this was the fist time that *I* had something at stake here.  I was now a wife and mother too!  One thing I always had trouble with was letting myself get derailed from my day's needful tasks because of one type of stress or another.  If I didn't feel very well or if the children had a bad day or...insert any number of things here...my day would get off track and never really get back on.  Granted no one would go hungry, but that doesn't mean dinner would be on the table.  It would be more of a throw-things-together or even a let-hubby-forage type of night.  I couldn't quite figure out, well, how to get it together.  My mother had been an excellent example for me growing up but sometimes I, quite frankly, need some hands on experience of a thing  before the light bulb comes completely on.  :-)

I remember one day of that week in particular had been hectic and a bit stressful.  I don't remember the exact reason, but she and I had been out of the house most of the day and were quite behind in getting home.  Then once we got home there were things to unload out of the car, the children to attend to, well you can imagine.  At that point in time, if I had been at home rushing in like that I probably would have plopped a pizza in the oven (if that) and called it good.  But I remember taking note that as soon as we got in the house, my mother went straight to the kitchen and, very quickly, started putting together a "real" meal.  She still had other things tugging for her attention and she would stop and attend to them as needed.  But she still stayed focused that it was supper time...time to cook the family meal...and regardless of the day's stresses she stayed focused on the core needs and did not let them slip.  I remember her in that little kitchen working with gusto.  And in just a little while, she had accomplished what she set out to do.  We may have rushed headlong into the house but before I knew it, we were all sitting at a set table eating a home cooked meal. 

The difference between what I had just witnessed and what I knew *I* would have done in my own home that evening was not lost on me.  It made quite an impression ~ and she never even knew it.  She was simply living her life...doing what was utterly normal to her to do.  I decided that night that I needed to pay more attention to what I think of as the "core" household chores. ~ The things that should be done each day regardless of what else happens.  And I also realized that when I was put into one of those days where things were tempting me to throw my hands up and say, "Forget it!  I give up," that those were the very times I needed to really dig in with gusto.

Soon it was time for us to head back home and it was a long day.  We got up early and packed the car, the kids, and ourselves.  We drove all day long.  Finally we got back -home and we were all exhausted and tired and there was a car packed to the brim to unpack and two littles all up in the middle of it.  I quickly realized that I could either put into practice the lesson I had learned or continue on in my let-the-hubby-forage ways.  So I decided to dig right in.

Just like that evening at my mother's house, I focused on the task of fixing supper.  I would still have to stop here and there for a child or to help hubby in with something as he was unloading the car.  But then I went right back to what was needful.  Before I knew it, we were all seated at the table enjoying a "real" supper at a nicely set table.  And it was truly what we needed after the long day we had.  I don't even think my husband noticed what I was up to while he was going back and forth to the car.  Because on his last trip in, I had dinner on the table as he came in the door and he did look a bit shocked, lol.  But he was certainly pleased!  And I was too. 

I have used that lesson on "digging in with gusto" so many times since then.  Yes, there are plenty of times when going about housework with a slow and steady pace are certainly called for.  But I have to say that, for me, when things start to get off track and I feel like I am very close to falling off the homekeeper wagon, putting the gusto principle to work is what helps me keep on track.  And it certainly helps keep the family happy!

I am linking this post to the following blog parties:

A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life

A Titus 2sday Link Up at Time Warp Wife

Domestically Divine Tuesday Homemaking Link Up at Far Above Rubies

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beautiful Music

I love music.  I always have.  I took classical piano lessons from the age of 6 until 17.  I almost always have music playing in my home.  I am very partial to classical and bluegrass/folk music.  I love Pandora Radio ~ it's a free online radio that let's you build your very own station.  You put in an artist and it builds a station based on that exact type of music, using the one you gave them plus pulling from other artists that use a similar style.  If you want to listen to what I have playing in the background of my kitchen most days go to Pandora, open an account, and in the spot where you fill in the name of your preferred artist type in "Vivaldi."  I love Vivaldi and the Vivaldi station on Pandora.  It is *perfect* background music for me when I'm working in my kitchen.  :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Last night I attended our Ladies Day committee meeting after church. We always hold a large ladie's day each November. We have a guest speaker and many ladies from other churches attend. We decided on doing a Ladie's Tea as our theme and we will use the "Beatitudes" from the books of Matthew and Luke as our Scripture basis for the day.

We're going to do something (well, *try* to do something, if schedules allow) different this year for our speakers. We would like to put together a panel of four ladies who grew up in our congregation and have since married and moved off ~ to see how the things we have established for the youth can pay off and how it helped these ladies become established in their new church families.

I'm thrilled to say that I am again in charge of the brunch. I *love* this job. Since we have a "tea" theme this year I will make sure we have scones, tea cakes, biscotti and assorted teas as well as our other offerings that we normally have.  It will be so fun.

After two brunch sessions in the morning and two assemblies to listen to the speakers, all the ladies will go over to our Christian Service Center for lunch. We have a whole team of ladies set to prepare lunch and our teenage girls will be the servers.

Last night was just our first meeting. There will be lots more to plan over the next two months. But I'm excited and happy about it. This is always such a fun venture for me. :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Reduced Circumstances"

I was recently watching an episode of Anne of Green Gables and Anne was going to stay at a boarding house ran by a lady who was renting rooms due to "reduced circumstances."  When I heard that, it caught me and gave me pause.  It is one of those old fashioned statements that we have all heard from time to time.  But usually in old movies, shows, or books instead of in real life.  It struck me just how much was being said with those two words.  If you are on the receiving end of that comment, you should know;
* It is a time of financial difficulty or something similar.
* The person may be making changes to their lifestyle because of it.
* The "reduced circumstances" may be temporary or long term.
~~~~ And, most importantly ~~~~
* It is absolutely, positively...none of your business!

There seems to be something going on in the frugal/housewife/homemaker set.  I will fully admit that I do not know if this is something going on everywhere or if it is peculiar to my area.  But I'm going to post my thoughts on it.  It seems to me that when women who are like minded (Christian, homekeepers, wives, mothers) become close to one another there comes a time when they feel that it is ok to lay bare every detail of their family's financial life to each other.

 This can sometimes be done under the guise of something noble.  Examples could be:
*Asking a close friend for prayer. ~~ "Please keep us in your prayers.  My husband lost his job and I just don't see how we're going to make it."
* Not wanting to make someone else feel bad.  Perhaps lady A's husband makes more than lady B so lady A will say something like, "Oh, we got that on clearance," if lady B notices something new in the house.

Now, asking a friend to pray for you and wanting a spare a friend's feelings are very good and noble things.  Yes.  But...do we have to sacrifice the personal details of our family's life in order to accomplish those things?  No, we don't!  You can still ask your friend for prayers without telling her all the details.  And if you have something nice in your home...it really isn't anyone else's business if you paid a lot or a little.  Truly.  Somewhere along the way we told ourselves that it is ok to tell our best girlfriends everything we are going though.  This frame of mind can sneak up on you and before you know it,  it will become established within your relationships with other women.

Let me ask you something.  If you were going through a time of financial hardship...because of job loss, bad decisions, whatever the cause...and you were sitting down for coffee with a close female friend, would you tell her all the details of what was happening and why?  Now, what about if your husband were sitting at that very same table with you and your friend.  Would your conversation be any different?  For many women, I believe it would be.  Is that right?  I don't think it is.

I have seen this culture of lay-it-all-out-for-our-friends play out.  It usually ends in one of two ways.
* When other people are told every nitty gritty detail of someone else's financial life, they may (hopefully) feel bad for them and pray for them.  But it also colors, even ever so slightly, their viewpoint on their friend's decision making skills.  " Well, if I were going through that, I would do this and this and this differently."  They will start to watch what you do and where you go.  "They said they couldn't pay their bills but there they are at the shopping mall."  Not seeing the whole picture they may not know that a grandparent gave money for new clothes for the kids or any other of the many ways that scenario could play out.  By telling your friend all your business, you might garner some sympathy but it is a very real possibility that you will garner some judgement as well ~ whether you ever find out about it or not.  This does not help with building a respectful and dignified reputation for your family.

*The other thing I have seen happen is that in circles where all the women have shared all the business of their finances or lack thereof with each other, it seems they will try to "out-frugal" each other.  They feel like if they have something nice or are able to spend a bit of money on a treat for themselves or their family they have to justify it to their friends.  "Yes, it's a new outfit but the store was having a really good sale."  It's almost as if this culture of I-can-be-more-frugal-than-you can make women feel ashamed of their blessings.  And this is just as wrong as being irresponsible with them!  If God has given you a financial type of blessing, then He wanted to bless you with it, not have you be ashamed of it!  But, at the same time, private things are just that ~ private.  And our best girlfriends should not be exceptions to that.

So whether you are having a wonderful time due to a financial windfall or you are struggling with nary a light at the end of the tunnel, please keep private things private.  As much as we should not boast about things we have purchased or the amount in our bank account, we should not lay bare the details of our financial life when it is troubling and a struggle.  I have to admit that the more I think about it the more I like the old fashioned term, "reduced circumstances."  It succinctly sums up a situation if someone were to ask while at the same time, to anyone with some manners and decorum, it closes the door on any further talk of the subject.  Yet again, just another example of how the generations before us valued their personal pride and dignity and privacy.  We surely need to start bringing that attitude back!

I'm liking this post to the following blog parties:

A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life

A Titus 2sday Link Up at Far Above Rubies

Domestically Divine Tuesday Homemaking Link Up at Far Above Rubies

L.A.C.E ~ Wednesdays at Lily~Rose Cottage

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Carefully placed hedges in our life

I really was not sure what I wanted to title this post.  My first instinct was to call it, "Making your life small," but I feared that some might misinterpret my meaning as negative when in fact I mean it all in a positive light.  But then I thought that "Carefully placed hedges in our life," might convey exactly  what it is I am wanting to share.     
It is quite common in our time to hear someone say that it is such a "small world."  It is said that with all of our technology and knowledge we have made the whole of it all so much smaller and more accessible to the masses.  Which, in many senses, is true.  But in reality, have we really made our world, our personal world that touches us each day, any smaller?  I think we have done just the opposite.  Gone are the years when wars on the other side of the planet would go unnoticed by us.  Gone are the times when news of weather systems hundreds of miles away from us would never reach our ears.  Gone are the days when our life would consist of...our life ~ instead of our life with everyone else's life (and stress and strife) heaped upon our shoulders as well.  Gone are the moral standards of privacy when no one would dream of laying out all of the personal details of their life for every Tom, Dick, or Harry to view. 
Is this really good for us?  Is it helpful or edifying?  Or does it take time and mental energy away from what our real life really is.  Let's face it, real life can be very stressful.  It can be painful and hard.  That is simply a fact of life.  So is it helpful for us to fill our minds and homes with so much extra information that can also cause stress and pain and hurt?  Does anyone else think that perhaps we have taken it all a bit too far?  Remember the Tower of Babel...

        The more I live and the more I see of the world, the more I want to pull down my shades and roll up my sidewalks and work on cultivating the life that God gave me.  He did not give me wars on the other side of the world to attend to.  He did not give me politicians to reason with or a national budget to balance.  He did not give me control or influence over whatever the headlines of the day happen to be.   He did give me one little house with one little family inside of it.  And I find that I am becoming more and more fiercely protective over it.  I am feeling very strongly just exactly where my scope of influence and activity starts...and just exactly where it stops.

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I will tell you something.  Over the course of the past week (or two ~ I'm not sure) the big news and big talk has been of the impending financial doom of our country.  And I purposely...deliberately...ignored every bit of it.  Because you see, there is simply not a thing on this Earth that *I* can do about it.  God did not place me there.  He placed me here.  And here still needs to be attended to in as thorough and charming a way as it ever did, despite what the national ills are.  If I partake of all the hoopla going on over it (and after this hoopla there will be a different one and one after that, repeat, repeat, repeat) all that will happen in *my* life is that *I* will get upset and stressed out.  That will transfer onto my family members right down the puppy dogs and kitty cats.  (Perhaps the chickens would come out unscathed...)  It would take away my peace of mind which would in turn effect my ability to concentrate on my family and home.  ~The very family and home which God gave me! ~  I would be forsaking the blessings and responsibilities he placed before me in order to, at least mentally, pick up the responsibilities He gave to someone else!

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Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I don't care for the news anymore and I choose to stay away from it.  I have a small circle of online sites I go to ~ my blogs and others I read, my Yahoo group The Gingerbread Cabin, Netflix where I have found some wonderful period movies (*love*), and a small spattering of a few more.  I leave it at that.  Now days, when I turn on the tv it is usually to watch things like Cranford, Wind to My Back, Anne of Green Gables, or The Waltons.  I am blessed to still be able to get all of these on t.v. although I would not be surprised to see them yanked off the air soon.  (In which case I will purchase the dvds and be happy as a fat little bug in a rug.)  It does seem that people's tolerance for wholesome entertainment is quite low...but I do hope each of these stay on air for a long while yet.

So.  It is in that spirit ~ of taking care of and attending to the things of my own life instead of that of the world at large ~ I bring a few homemaking tips to you today.  :-)

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The first one is something I do with cinnamon sugar.  I started doing this as a young bride and continue on with the habit today.  When I am making a sweet bread ~ pumpkin, zucchini, pear, what have you ~ after I grease the pan instead of flouring it, I liberally sprinkle on cinnamon sugar instead.  Then after my batter has been poured in, I also sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.  It bakes up beautifully, the bread does not stick to the pan, and the top has the slightest crunch that people can't quite figure out how I achieved.  Cinnamon sugar.  It's a good thing.

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                   The next tip is about febreze spray.  I know everyone already uses it and it is a staple in almost every woman's home.  But one of my favorite things to use it on is our bedding.  I always spray the bed while I'm making it but I also like to spray it every night after I pull the covers down.  I spray the sheets and blankets and the pillows also.  It is not an overpowering scent but just enough to where it is noticable.  It's so nice to lay down in a bed that smells good!  Very relaxing at the end of the day. 

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And finally, furniture polish.  If you, like me, have a shower with a glass door you know they can get very yucky with soap scum and film.  It is very difficult to get off.  So they key is to never let it get on there in the first place.  What you want to do is spray some furniture polish on your rag and wipe it all over the inside of your clean shower door.  It has the same effect as wax on a car. The water rolls right off.  Just make sure you use the adage of, "a little goes a long way."  You don't want to drench your rag.  Just a bit.  Too much and it might slip off the glass door into the shower and make a slippery hazard.  But I have been using this method for over two years now ~ making sure to use just enough but not too much ~ and have never had any get onto the shower floor.  And I've got the cleanest shower door in town.  ;-)

May God bless you as you attend to the quiet pleasures of your home & some carefully placed hedges as well!
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The *very best* way to die

I want to share something amazing with you.  I have had a very full weekend filled to the brim with activity.  My church had it's annual Gospel Meeting with a wonderful guest speaker and I was truly blessed by hearing his sermons.  This morning he was telling us about his parents.  He mother died when he was only four years old.  His father - a strong man of God himself - then raised him alone and loved him deeply.  He said he was so glad that his father got to live long enough to see him become a preacher.  His dad even got to lead the singing at his first two Gospel Meetings that he spoke at. 

Then our speaker shared with us they way his father died.  He got up on Sunday morning to teach the morning Sunday School class.  He walked up to the pulpit looked out at the audience and said, "There has never been a perfect man in this world except for Jesus Christ."  And then, he fell over dead.  He had a massive brain aneurysm that killed him instantly.

Can you imagine dying with the name of Jesus Christ on your lips?  Can you imagine teaching others about Christ being your very last act of life?  Can you imagine a better way to die?  Because I certainly cannot!  This man was truly blessed.  His family is blessed as well ~ what an amazing legacy to leave behind and what a comfort to his loved ones to know he was serving God with literally his last breath.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Cake

(The above picture is not mine but is from the Just a Pinch site.)  :0)
As promised, here is my recipe for strawberry cake.  This cake is one of my family's favorites.  **Love** this cake.  It is very moist and delicate ~ so much so that it lends itself much better to a sheet pan rather than a layer cake.

1 box white cake mix
1 box strawberry jello mix
1 C. oil
1/2 C. milk
4 eggs
1 C. mashed strawberries (not drained)

1 box confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 C. mashed and drained strawberries - very important that they are drained
1 container regular vanilla frosting

Spray your baking pan with cooking spray.  Mix all the cake ingredients together with a mixer and pour into pan.  Bake at 350* for 35-40 minutes.
For the frosting, mix the first three ingredients with a mixer.  Next, add in the store bought frosting and stir well until everything is incorporated together.  Frost when cake is completely cool.

I'm linking this post to:
Tea Time Tuesday at Sweetology
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace

Dressing as a lady

I know that many of you who blog, especially in Christian circles, have noticed that sometimes it seems there is a certain subject that is on the minds of many bloggers at the same time.  I do not know if that is merely coincidence but I certainly would not discount the thought that it may be the Holy Spirit giving us a nudge as to what we need to be thinking about and what others need our influence with.

So it is with that thought that I bring my ponderings to you today.  This subject has been on my mind for a while now and I have noticed it must be on other's minds as well because I have seen quite a few blog posts about it.  It is about the manner in which we dress...or in some cases, do not dress.  When I look around today at the public at large, I truly cannot make myself be okay with what I see.  Please know my intention with this post is not to cast fire and brimstone down on others for that alone is the Lord's job and not mine.  But as I said, I cannot be comfortable with or happy about the way women in particular dress now days.
Let me give you an example.  This weekend past my family (with the exception of my son who was at a friend's house) attended an author's talk and book signing.  We had a very good time and the author was very informative and entertaining.  Our daughter was tickled pink to get three of her books autographed as well as getting a picture taken with the author.  We were all glad that we went.  But what I could not believe...and what my husband could not believe...was that there were a great many young ladies in attendance with shorts on so short that they...well, as my momma used to say ~ they came up to their ying yangs.  Now, I have a few thoughts on this.  Not the least of which is how absolutely improper that is in any setting at all.  But also, who in their right mind would would dress so flippantly to an event as dignified and proper as an author's speech and book signing???  Also, how and why did the parents of said girls allow them out of the house dressed like that?  And finally, I was soooo glad we did not bring our son with us!  I told my husband that as we were waiting for the event to start and he agreed with me.

Which brings me to something else I noticed.  The difference in the amount of clothing the males and females were wearing.  There was not one male there dressed in an immodest way.  They were all completely clothed.  And I daresay that if a man had arrived dressed in clothing as scanty as most of the females were in those very same females would have thought it gross and creepy.  Why then is it any less so for them simply because they are female?  Can someone please answer me that??

There were close to 200 people in attendance and besides my own family (and we were all completely clothed I assure you) there were probably ten or less women there who looked as though they took care in their appearance for the event.  One mother/daughter pair stood out among the rest.  They were not raving beauties and neither was slim by today's standards either.  Although to me they were both cute as buttons. The mother had on an ankle length navy blue and white floral patterned dress and the daughter had on a skirt and blouse combination with the cutest old fashioned looking shoes.  They looked like something a school marm would have worn in Anne of Green Gables.  The were neat, feminine and simply precious.  It was nice to have somewhere the eye could fall that afternoon and have it be a safe haven.

I have read on Lady Lydia's blog Homeliving that some of her critics have said that the women who dressed properly in the past were all very rich and well off and that "real" women didn't have time for such things because they were busy slaving away day in and day out in factories or other similar jobs.  Apparently they believe that in order to dress well and spend your days looking like you have a certain measure of dignity one must have a lot of money and do no work.  Oh, hearing things like that just make me tired.  Truly.  Does it look like the woman in the picture here in the car is rich?  Does she look like she's never known a bit of hard work in her life?  What about this one?  She is in an apron in a kitchen.  I daresay that no one would look at her and say she never has to work or that she has a silver spoon in her mouth.  But she is neat, clean, modest, has taken time to dress and fix her hair and she looks like a lady.  See, what I would like all of the detractors to know is that those of us who do not want to "shlumpadink" through our life (and quite frankly, would prefer that others did not either) and care about how we present ourselves and our families ~ we are not trying to sit around all day in full blown Victorian regalia.  Yet that seems to be what we are accused of trying to do.  It is very much a plausible and doable thing to dress nicely regardless of if you are a housewife or "slaving away" in a factory all day.

As a matter of fact, my mother when she was in her 20's was one of those girls working day in and day out in the factory.  She used to tell me how she would sit and sew for hours and hours on end in a room that had no air conditioning and even had covers over the clocks so the women working would not be able to keep an eye on the time.  She also talked about how she always made sure she was dressed neat as a pin for work (simple, shirtwaist dresses) with every hair in place.  I'm not kidding.  My mother was actually known her neatness from head to toe from the time she married at 16 through the years working in factories and nursing homes and after that during her years as a stay at home mom and preacher's wife.  Let me tell you right now, she knew hard work and we were never rich.  So as far as I'm concerned, the whole "real women couldn't live that way and it's all just looking at the past through rose colored glasses" does not hold one bit of water.  Any reasonable, thinking person could figure that out.
The picture above is a housewife from the 1960's.  Simply grocery shopping on a rainy day.  Dressed nicely ~ imagine that!

I've heard many other bloggers talk about how they are treated differently when out in public when they are dressed like a lady.  I honestly tend to be a bit too lost in my own thoughts to notice such things but something did happen last week that I could not help but notice.  I needed just a few things from the store and decided to go to our local Stuff-Mart (you know which one I mean...I don't really like going there but that's a post for another day!)  I had on a long skirt and top, hair done and face put on.  When I got to the place where the buggies were, three people had the way completely blocked.  One man getting a buggy and one woman and a friend getting another.  The man was simply taking his time while the women were actually standing there having a conversation (another pet peeve, but I digress.)  So I chose to simply stand there and wait until someone decided to turn around to see that they were hindering progress.  The women looked up but didn't care and continued on blocking all the buggies and talking.  The man looked up and realized what he had been doing and started to walk away with the buggy he had chosen.  Then he looked at me and stopped.  Without a word, he came over and handed that buggy off to me and turned around to get himself another one entirely.  It took me a bit by surprise but I took the buggy and said, "Thank you," as he was turning around.  Then he looked back shocked that I had thanked him!  Good gracious.  I really think if I had just blended in with the crowd of halter tops and cut offs he would not have even registered my presence.

I realize that I am somewhat preaching to the choir here considering the audience of my blog.  And I'm so glad for that!  But ladies, please never underestimate how much our daughters, the young wives and the rest of the women in our population need a Christian influence in regard to dress.  If those of us who agree on this subject don't work to be an influence on them, then the standards of dressing like a lady will be gone within one generation's time.  For heaven's sake they are already being told they can't do it if they are not rich and have to work in almost any capacity!  There needs to be other women who will tell them and show them differently!

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