Thursday, January 17, 2013

12 homekeeping projects 3

Don't you love a new year?  It's good to have a fresh, clean start on things.  I recently read Papa's Wife, which is the sweet story of a Swedish family who eventually come to the USA.  It is a fictionalized account of the author's -- Thyra Ferre Bjorn -- own family life.

The Mama character first worked as a maid and housekeeper for the minister who would become her husband.  Mama was too pushy when she thought she knew best about something, but, otherwise, she was a wonderful mother and housekeeper. I love this description of the pride she took in her kitchen:

"But the kitchen as Mama's special pride and joy.  It was a pleasant room with a wide window overlooking the valley.  Geraniums bloomed on the window sill the year round.  Papa had seen to it that his house, unlike most homes in Lapland, had running water, although this luxury extended only to the kitchen.  The rest of the plumbing was outside.  All kitchens in Sweden at that time had a large wooden sofa, and here, for the two years she acted as maid, Mama slept. It was not an ordinary sofa.  The top part was loose and could be lifted off at night and the sofa made into a double bed.  during the day the bedclothes were stored in the sofa-bottom.  In front of the sofa were a table and two chairs.  A maid did not eat with her master any more than she walked on the same side of the street with him.

"Saturday was Mama's busy day, for no work was permitted in the parsonage on Sunday.  When the baking was finished, Mama scoured and polished and cleaned. And there was plenty to polish.  The reservoir attached to the huge wood stove was of copper, and this had to be shined to gleaming gold every Saturday.  Above the stove was the kapa which held the copper pans and covers.  the big copper coffeepot always stood on the back of the stove, ready for chance or expected guests.  Even the woodbox had a copper cover on it."

Why is it that I love to read about domestic labor more than I like to actually do it?  LOL.   But, I must say that while I am not the shining housekeeper that Mama was, I do love my blue kitchen with white trim and lots of windows.  I especially love the window over the sink that opens outward when you crank a bar.

Today's home keeping project:  dusting ceilings.  I use a Swiffer; some use a vacuum with a hose that reaches to the ceiling.  Use whatever you have on hand that will rid the ceilings of dust, cobwebs, and the like.  Depending on how much dust your efforts stir up, you may want to throw an old sheet over furniture and also to cover your hair with a scarf or something.  This is a chore that we can do in the cold months in preparation for a thorough spring cleaning. If you work steadily, this task shouldn't be time consuming.  Even a through dusting just around the edges where the ceiling meets the wall and around any light fixtures will make a difference, though it's wonderful to attack the whole ceiling.   



Friday, September 28, 2012

12 home keeping projects project 2

Make some plans...

Proverbs 31:21  When it snows, she has no fear for her household for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

The worthy woman anticipates foreseeable needs.  Our example lives in a climate where snow is possible, maybe even probable.  So, she prepares her family's winter clothing ahead of time.  Then, when the snow comes, everyone in the family has the gear they need.  There is peace, not a desperate  scrambling for what is needed.   Of course, we can't foresee everything, nor should we try to.  Being over controlling leads to anxiousness and not peace.  We have to trust the Lord.  However, there are plenty of things in our lives that we can plan for, and we can have things in place to make our lives smoother.

I know the value of this by having failed to plan and to follow through with my plans.   I know from experience that trying to wing too many things isn't a good way to manage a household.

Now, with the fall holidays upon is, is a great time to plan for the season, if you haven't already started.
Plan any meals that you intend to cook now and start working any non-perishable food items into your grocery budget.  If you buy one or two things between now and Thanksgiving or Christmas, you will have a well stocked pantry.  Cook and freeze ahead.  Think through any bedding you will need for guests and have that clean, fresh, and in easy reach.  Stock up on extras you need when company comes, such as extra t.p., shampoo, snacks, etc.

Now that I have grown children and a grandchild, I have learned that I must be flexible when it comes to holiday planning. I communicate ahead of time with my children to determine what their need or wants might be.  However, I try to allow room for things to change.  If I stock my pantry with things that end up not being used, I just use it later.

This brings up the fine balance that we have to keep when planning.  I have a romantic outlook and can get pictures in my head of how I want things to be.  (Have you seen the photos on Pinterest of the three children beautifully photographed in white and the comic attempts people have made to re-create that look?  The comic attempts give me a big chuckle, because I can relate to having one ideal in your head of what you want to accomplish while the result isn't quite the same.)  When managing a household, we need to take into account that others have pictures in their heads of what they want, too.  Besides, circumstances can change our original thoughts.  Always, we commit our plans to the Lord and trust Him to bring them about, while seeking his will above ours.  If our plans take a left turn on us, that's ok. God works everything out for good for those who love Him.

We mustn't allow the fact that our plans might change stop us from being decisive in planning.  Generally, we make plans by choosing from a number of acceptable options.  In the example of the worthy woman being prepared for snowy weather, today's homemaker has a number of options when choosing winter clothing for herself and her family.   There are also many ways to organize seasonal clothing.  Given so many choices, a wise home manager picks one and follows it through.  She does not second guess herself.  She does not get stuck wavering between options.   If later circumstances reveal another course would have been better, she learns.  She does not, however, beat herself up over what might have been.  She does her best.

Decisiveness is a great quality for the home manager.  She must be able to plan and to work her plan.  This has never been more important than now, when we live in such a quickly moving society.  The winter coat that seemed like such a good deal last week

is on deeper sale this week. We bought navy beans to cook last week when the doctor siad that they were nutritious, but we have second thoughts when we read a new study that says they are not.   We make a choice in our childrearing, but everyone we know wants to add their 2 cents about it, and none of them agree even with each other.  

How delicious it is that we have such bounty at our fingertips, even in these hard economic times.  How wonderful to have so much information just one touch of a keyboard away.  Enjoy, but don't be overwhelmed.  Over-analyzing and second guessing are enemies of peace and effective planning,

Where have you been caught short-handed in the past?
What in your present life needs planning and oversight?
Are you able to plan decisively and take action, yet be flexible enough?  Are you too flexible to the point that you have trouble choosing a plan and sticking to it?

This week's project:  Determine what in your life needs planning, put your plans on paper (or smartphone), and complete the first step of your plan.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

12 Home Keeping Projects...

Fall's coming, and it's time to go back to class. :)

Would you like to join me in 12 quick and easy home keeping projects to get house and home back on track?

Here's the first:  Selecting Simplicity

Simplicity is an often talked about virtue in our culture.  That's probably because we live in anything but simple times.  We long for schedules that are less hectic and homes that are warm and nurturing. We also see the needs in the world, and we realize that we need to find ways to live that don't involve over-consumption.  To that end, many have undertaken a lifestyle of simplicity.

Here's the definition of the English word simplicity.

In the positive connotation:  freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity. absence of pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity.

freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner, purity of motive
In the negative:  a quality of being gullible, lacking mental acuity and sharpness, uneducated, unskilled, naive
Obviously, if we voluntarily pursue simplicity, we want to aim for the positive qualities associated with this word.  Some have defined simplicity as living by all of the skills used in prior centuries.  For example, a home keeper who is pursuing simplicity might garden, can, sew, compost, etc.  Returning to these skills can be good for our families and can also be good for the environment.  However, many people find that making or growing everything by hand makes life more complex, rather than promotes a simple life.  
True simplicity is not found in returning to Little House on the Prairie, but is found in determining what your priorities are and sticking to them.  The story of Mary and Martha demonstrates this principle.  When Jesus came to visit, Martha bustled about doing good things.  Though her motive was to serve, she became impatient and anxious.  Mary, on the other hand, peacefully listened as Jesus taught.   Mary's priorities were ordered around the Lord, and she recognized the importance of those precious moments with Jesus in a way that Martha did not. 
We can relate to Martha's distraction.  After all, she was serving the Lord, and that's a wonderful thing.  However, instead of finding peace at Jesus' feet, she let herself become distracted by her service.  Perhaps, she would have been better off in the moment if she had set out a simple meal that required little serving. 

The trick is to define simplicity in terms of what best fits you and your family.   So,as you go about your week, think about your priorities for your home.  Where do you feel that things are working?  Where are you becoming overwhelmed or frustrated?  Are you anxious or are you at peace?  Are you trying to do too many "good" things instead of what is "best"?  What is your current stage of life?  Are you attempting to do things that you might be able to do in another stage of life, but which might be too much right now?  What do you think is the right balance in your life of spending time and money? 
How is your clutter?  (Why does clutter look so appealing in Pottery Barn catalogs and so junky in my house?:) )  Are you drowning under too much stuff?  Do you really use the things  in your home?  Or, do you like the idea of using a particular thing, but honestly never get around to it?  What can you let go?

How are you reaching out to others outside of your family sphere?  Do you, like the worthy woman in Proverbs 31, reach out your hands to those in need?  Do you have time for friends?  Our homes are not meant to be just bastions from the world, but are to be opened in the service of the Lord -- as Lazarus, Mary, and Martha used theirs.  
This week, let's take a step toward simplicity.  


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Check it out: Year II is here!

I've started on my second year of studying the art and science of keeping a home. If you'd like to participate along with me, join me at Home Economics Project: Year II!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Year II -- Excel in Love/Excel in Managing the Home

Year II is on it's way. Check later on this week for a link to 2011's Project Home Economics: Excel in Love/Excel in Managing the Home!

Come along with me as I teach myself more about the art of loving a family and managing a household!

If you're interested, you might want to look back over the posts from Year I and think about what you're life's focus is and also what your focus is in your household. Can you sum each focus up in one or two phrases or sentences?

Those who excel in life and in managing something -- whether it be an international corporation or the mom and pop business on the corner or a large family or a single person creating a home for one -- keep their goals firmly in mind. This allows them to tend to the important and cull out what isn't needed in terms of time, possessions, and finances. Knowing what your purpose in life and in the home is all about helps give you the confidence that day by day, you are spending our life on what is meaningful to you and to your family. You will be less likely to be thrown off course by persuasion or criticism from others, the little urgencies of life, and the like.

For those of us who are Christians, Jesus is our primary focus. We do all things for the glory of God. However we word our goals, we draw them from God's goals for us. Since He is all wise, all powerful and all loving, His direction leads us to life and peace. Even in our walk with God, we don't want to be unfocused, but intentionally doing all things for his glory.

Your life's and your household's goals may change over time, and that's ok. Refining our goals keeps us on track towards a meaningful and productive life. Now's a good time to review and renew your focus.

Happy Home Keeping!

Friday, February 26, 2010

March is coming!

I've been out of pocket again. My father has had some health issues, including a short stay in the hospital, and I've not been feeling tip-top myself. So, both my home keeping and my posting has suffered some.

However, I'm glad that March is nearly here. Aren't you? I just read about how one woman uses March as her "preparation" month. She does her taxes and catches up on other things.

Wherever you live, March is usually a transitional month from one season to another. There is much that can be done in March to renew our minds, our bodies, and our homes.

One chore that is urgent is to clean your mattress and wash any mattress pads. We've already discussed this, but keeping your mattress clean and sanitary goes a long way toward keeping your health and your sleep sweet. If you have any tendencies toward allergies, this chore is even more vital. You must clean your mattress at least twice a year, if not more often.

Vacuum the top of your matatress using your upholstery attachment. Also, inspect your mattress for any stains taht need to be sponed off. You can wipe down the surface with a cloth lightly dampened with col water and a small amount of upholstery shampoo or something like Woolite. Be careful not to soak the mattress. You don't want to feed any lurking mold with moisture or damage the inner materials.

You can help protect your mattress from dust mites by investing in a quality mattress pad and washing the pad every six months -- or more.

Speaking of dust mites, there is a rumor going around that the average mattress will double its weight in ten years due to dust mites and their waste. I, myself, have heard this quoted in conversation a number of times, and I believed it. Fortunately, this yucky bit of gossip is not true. See this. However, mattresses do harbor some dust mites, as well as collect some other unlovely things. So, again, be sure to keep your mattresses clean.

I also believed that you needed to flip your mattress as well as rotate it when cleaning it. Sometimes, that's hard to do with a mattress that has a pillow top built in. (Since I do have allergies, I personally prefer a mattress pad that you can take off and clean to a mattress with a built in pillow top.) The most important thing to do is to rotate your mattress head to toe every six months or even every quarter. Why? Because this ensures that your mattress will wear evenly. It's a bit like rotating your tires to make them last longer.

Cleaning your mattress is a weather neutral chore. Some deep cleaning chores can be done only when the weather allows. Others, however, can be done any time of year. So, if your area is still cold, snowy, and rainy, start with weather neutral chores to give your house that fresh springy feeling a little early.

Speaking of spring cleaning, check your front door. Nothing makes the front of your house sparkle like a freshly cleaned or freshly painted door. Also check the hardware on the door. Keeping your door properly maintained sends a welcoming message to family and guests. Also, it adds curb appeal should you need to sell your house for some reason. Even if you live in an apartment, see what you can do to make your door look fresh.

If you have a storm door over your front door, be sure to shine that, as well.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Moving on with our Quilt

If you're doing the quick quilt with me, you're ready to start cutting your fabric.

We will be cutting and stitching three strips to form Patterns A, B, and C

For strip A --

If you are using the colors suggested by the original quilt instructions, use your blue check and white for this strip. Otherwise, use a patterned fabric or a medium toned fabric and a lightest or white fabric of your choice.

Cut 5 4 1/2 inch by 44 inch strips of your check or medium toned or patterned fabric
Cut 5 2 1/2 inch by 44 inch strips of your white or lightest fabric

Pin the whites to the checks or patterned or medium toned fabric (whichever you are using) along seam lines (right sides facing together). Stitch 1/4 inch seams. Make sure your 1/4 inch seams are precise. Press all seams toward the checked or patterned or medium toned fabric.

To make sure your cutting is precise, you can mark the backs of your fabric with a #4 pencil or silver-colored pencil or washable fabric pencil and a ruler. Or, you can use a quilter's cutting mat and a rotary cutter.

Good friends are like quilts; they age with you, but never lose their warmth.

Before Prozac, there was quilting.

Blankets wrap you in warmth; quilts wrap you in love.

Finished is better than perfect.

From Quotes about Quilting, A Prairie Home Quilts

Happy Home Keeping!