Tuesday, June 5, 2018

We bought a house; God gave us a home

June is upon us, with its symphonies of birdsong and the iris promenading in their purple ballgowns. It's hard for me to believe as I type this, gazing occasionally out through the open front door at the expanse of brilliantly green grass and blooming trees, that so much could happen in a year.  Only twelve short months ago, we decided to buy our first house, an 800 foot 'shack', as some close to us called it. Not only was it so tiny that people walking by often did not realize that a house was even on the grounds, but it had been a rough rental property where at one point, according to our neighbors, TEN men had been camped out at the same time. The house took your breath away with the reek of cat urine, and had been completely gutted and painted by the landlord in order for it to be put on the market. Only twelve short months ago, we took a deep breath, kept the strait-jackets in reserve in case of emergency, and took ownership of what seemed to be nothing but problems disguised as a mortgage.  
 I remember pacing in this kitchen, trying not to explode into total hysteria, because the movers could not fit all of our boxes into the house. I have moved many times in my life, and you would never have guessed by the utter chaos around us that every box had been carefully labeled corresponding to the room in which it belonged. It seemed that the second we entered this house, nothing went according to plan. Things were far more filthy than we would have imagined after a fresh paint job, and there was no room for ANYTHING. Flowers on the far right in the above picture were a housewarming gift from the banker and the realtor, but I quickly began to wonder if we were celebrating making the mistake of our lives.

And how wonderful it is that I was so completely wrong. After days of thorough cleaning, and weeks of getting the rodents permanently out, the kitchen was the first pleasant surprise. Understand, we kind of bought the house without really looking at it, because the price was right in this over-inflated market; we had received a home-buying grant for this part of town; and most importantly, the house sat on two lots, which had great potential for ministry. So all I really knew about the kitchen was that it was the size of a shoebox and full of mice droppings. I discovered that most of the cupboards were the sturdy 1930s originals and the storage was simply unbelievable. My grandmother's entire heirloom set of china is in those drawers and the upper cabinets hold everything from an ice cream maker to all of my plastic containers. The cabinets and drawers are deep and high, spacious enough to hold pots and pans, table linens, and even all of my Christmas china. I still can't believe after all the years of having to lug out my Christmas china every December, now it's just sitting right there on the shelf. I even have a drawer or two with little or nothing in them, and I have all the tools and gadgets of a very serious cook.

We also learned that a little bit of paint could pack a HUGE punch. Best thrifty hint ever: we used the sample jars that they sell at paint stores and used them to paint accent walls. For the kitchen,I wanted a yellow so buttery, it looked like it was fattening. This room actually used took two sample jars, because I loved the main accent wall so much I kind of went crazy painting accent panels on the cupboards and trim.

I believe the red cabinet handles may be original. We bought an antique folding table for this room, an extravagance, I know, but it was the only size table that would work. Our ancestors indeed know how to live in small places.

Here, I am, realizing that it is indeed possible to be horrified and elated at the same time. We literally had to climb over boxes to get through our front parlor, and our couch barely fit into the largest room. I still marvel at the fact that we slept in this house the very first night, but we did. (How did I even get sheets on the bed?)  We had moved from a 1979 mobile home, and had always been minimalists. It was quite the shock to be stuck in an avalanche of our few belongings! 

According to plan, we did wind up making this room a 'parlor' and a formal office space, but to our chagrin, realized that the adjoining room, which we intended for a family room, would have to be our bedroom instead. The downstairs stair case was simply too narrow to bring our bed down!

Below is the same point where I was standing--roughly--in the previous photo with the mountains of boxes. The main thing we did in this room was to paint an accent wall a soft, mauvy beige. This is a color that is quite accurate to the 1930s color palette, and even hearkens back to the Victorian era.

The entry way going downstairs was actually the first area we got done, only because we discovered that one particular bookcase fit there perfectly. The artworks in that corner are still some of my very favorites, created by artist friends who mean a great deal to me.

We had quite the adventure in the bathroom. It didn't need much initial work, but when I was painting it on a steamy July day, the toilet erupted with an exploding geyser of water rising UP through the bowl. I'd never seen anything like that--except at Old Faithful. After calling the water company in record time, I discovered that they were testing the water main...and attempting to give me heart failure. 

But on to more pleasant things...Here I went with another very pale, delicate yellow, and an additional color that is a little light brown, purple, beige combo, a color that just always makes me think of doilies and grandma's house. Someday, we hope to get the dingy, paint-spattered vinyl flooring replaced but that, unfortunately, is at the bottom at the list for now. (Oh, and I should mention that this room was so small, an entire paint sample jar pretty much covered it..)

Dear husband read online that in houses of the 1930s, they liked a color palette that was cool, like soft blues, violets, and lavenders. We kind of combined all three and painted one accent wall this lovely enigmatic gray and lilac. Moving a queen sized bed and and one bureau in order to paint, in a room where there is hardly room to walk around the bed was, however, far from lovely. In fact, the bureau that you see got wedged in sideways into our tiny clothes closet, because I had the brainy idea that it might fit in there. It didn't, and to this day, I look at the gashes in the closet casing and wonder how in the world we got it loose and back out. It had to have been that prayer we quickly said, when fifteen minutes had gone by and despite our groans and sweat, it was as stuck as stuck could be...and then suddenly after the prayer, it popped right back out. God cares about even the tiniest details in our lives.

But even now I love to look at this wall the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I believe the color makes the room look a bit bigger, and it makes me feel cool and calm. Dave's uncle, who helped us with much of the handyman work declared it 'the color of a Pennsylvania sky,' and as a former resident of that fair state, I'm inclined to agree.

And so now, let me take you downstairs, or as I referred to it then, the 'dungeon of all dungeons.'

Yes, this decrepit cell was supposed to be our laundry room. The washer and dryer that the seller assured us were functional were simply a repository for caked dirt, grease and hair, as well as other substances I'd rather not think about. After a full day meticulously trying to scrub out the crud, I discovered that no matter of persuasion or button pounding could get the dirty hunk of metal to work. After clearing out a full trash bag's worth of fast food wrappers and cigarette butts behind the dryer (nice), I bravely turned it on only to discover an odor that smelled like the prelude to a house fire mixed with skunk. And yes, all this escaped our inspector. After a few weeks of $15 a pop at the laundromat, we decided that a new washer and dryer on sale would actually save us money, and greatly please the lady of the house. The appliances were carted out and up the narrow stairs, and we thought things were rolling along, until it was called to our attention that the sewer needed to be completely overhauled. Pipes were so caked with rust that the slightest bit of movement could completely break them open, spilling out some particularly nasty contents. The floor drain was also completely unusable and hadn't been clear for probably decades. The floor drain had to be redrilled, and new master pipes put in place.

This was a bit of a complication, because on top of just being noisy, dirty, expensive work, we had just had a tile floor custom laid. The tile was a top priority, since the cement floor was crumbling and constantly dusty, not a good thing for my asthmatic lungs. The tile floor was laid by one of my favorite people, a man who's heart is as strong as his work ethic. He lugged bag after bag of cement down the steps without complaint and managed to make a semi-smooth, level floor from a surface of nothing but hills and valleys.

I absolutely adore this room, because I have never really had a bonafide laundry room before. A little bright white paint and some vivid art work helped brighten up a windowless corner.  It used to seem a lot more spacious, but a local alley cat adopted us, and that is her kennel (with her four-week-old kittens) that you see in the foreground. No, she isn't the best thing for my asthma, but she does decrease my stress, so I figure that it balances out.
And last but not least, is our family room and mini library. The only thing I did in here was to paint the far left wall a yummy caramel color. It took us an entire afternoon to arrange the furniture in here; it was like playing a Herculean Jenga game with enormous puzzle pieces.The space is so small that we can confidently say that this is the only way that all these components will fit. Thank God, they did!

This is where we kick back and occasionally tube out. The chair you see directly was a garage sale find for $20.

 And just off of this family room is our tiny library. This is quite a multi-functional space, since it is a private worship area for my husband, (an Anglican priest), his dressing area, a space for his religious books, and also for my collection of domestic and home management books. We loaded nearly 500 books down the steep stairs to get this task accomplished. I adore the scent of books, and turning that printed page, but wow did that love leave me nursing my sore back and leg muscles.
This is just a fraction of our books, however. Dear husband still has five large boxes in our shed. There are also other full bookshelves throughout the house. The piles of notebooks are all from his seminary work, and their are many of his civic awards on the walls and shelves.

There is still so much to do, but it is dizzying to see how far we've come. The Christian mindset is one of redemption--that nothing should go to waste, and that all people are made in His image and thus are valuable and paid for with the most costly of price. This view extends to things like homes as well, that we are encouraged to live our best lives and see the possibilities in even the most humble of circumstances. Sometimes a bit of heavenly glory can be found somewhere where the floors might be uneven and the windows leak.

'Bloom Where You're Planted' really is a profound saying.

 I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, May 14, 2018

After Easter update and some new finds

Easter, with its jellybean colors and fluffy bunnies has passed, and it's now time to create another look for spring, one that will last until I change things out for summer.  I thought I'd take a break from all the discussion of the nitty-gritty practical details of housekeeping and show you what fun I've had with just a few items.

The tablecloth is my Grandma Ellen's--the namesake for this blog-- and probably about 70 years old.  The dishtowel on top of the toaster was one of a set made for me by a dear friend and was featured in a previous post on this blog. And I'm sure that many people out there will recognize the familiar Pioneer woman motif on the pitcher and rolling pin!  Both were Christmas presents from my dear mother-in-law.

One cool thing about being an artist: there is not a shortage of wall art around here! I decided that the new apple piece would really pop with my grandmother's tablecloth, and the other bright artwork is from a series of postcard sized abstracts I did a few years back. I spend so much time at the kitchen sink; I am always dying for pretty things to focus on while I scrub out that last dirty frying pan!

An office chair, found outside by our dumpster. I believe the hydraulics are worn out in it, but we are short people and find the chair quite comfortable. A bit of Lysol and a damp cleaning cloth to spiffy it up, and it is like 'new'. 

A sprig or two of Dollar Store silk lilac updates the formal parlor. 

Hopefully, this year with the gardens we are starting, there will be REAL daffodils on the way. Meanwhile, artificial silk ones suit the bill. The light in our downstairs family room is always strange; sorry about that.

I thought it would be fun to show what I like to do with our bookcases. Someday, I'll take you through a tour of our library. I like to follow the English style, and tuck little meaningful momentoes among the books. A touch of vivid yellow is off-centered by dainty blue 'Asian' vases. The tiny cup and saucer were trinkets bought on a vacation to South Dakota when I was a teen. Boy Scout memorabilia is near hubby's Boy Scout manuals, along with one of many items brought back from his years overseas.

You might notice that I change out the same exact areas seasonally. Just changing out certain focal points makes decorating much simpler!  Having a small cupboard to tuck away a few boxes of seasonal decor helps, too.

 Another find at the same dumpster. I can't really say I'm a 'dumpster diver' per se; but when things like this are literally outside your window...it seems rather providential. I plan to strip this little sweetie, paint it a luscious color that goes with the house, and arrange some brimming pots of flowers around it.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Home Binder--Weekly Home Schedule

First of all, let me confess I have almost always been a 'neat-nik', except for a brief sojourn into sloppiness as a teenager. But even that didn't last long...the picture to the right is me as a very young-soon-to-be mom. Already our first trailer house was quite clean.  I tend to lean more on the obsessively tidy side, so my problems in home-keeping were--and are--much more about keeping things manageable without working myself to a frazzle.

Oak Tree Beauty, Cory Jaeger-Kenat
My system has evolved from many sources, beginning with Emily Barnes book, "More Hours in My Day", and culminating with the famous Flylady system detailed in her book "Sink Reflections". I've done a great deal of tweeking over the years to get things just right to fit my current life, and my system works quite well.

On the third page of my home binder, is an overview of the scheduled tasks that happen every week.
is nothing fancy, just a piece of paper put in a plastic sleeve of the binder.  It incorporates for me not only my housework, but also my schedule as an artist in the studio.

I do these every day:
  Every day includes a 'daily tidying time'. Here's how it breaks down, following the Flylady system. I wish I could say that I follow this every day to the letter, but I try to get close. It's amazing how much time is saved and how much my well-being goes up when these things are done in this order. It really bothers me to still be in my pajamas at ten a.m.!

1.) I get up and make our bed.
2.) I get dressed, made up, breakfast eaten, medicines taken.
3.) I then finish daily tidying, when means I sweep the floors, put away the clean dishes from the previous night, do a load of laundry, and put away the clean laundry from the previous day. This is usually about an hour.
4.) I spend 10 minutes wiping down our bathroom, the sink, making sure the toilet is clean, as well as the mirrors.
4.) I also give myself what I call a 'studio hour' in order to get my painting time in.

But here's how my week breaks down:
Monday is Desk Day
I like to ease into the week by facing paperwork. On this day, I work on my website projects, organize files on the computer (including getting rid of pesky old emails!), work on menus and grocery lists, balance checkbooks, and work on any correspondence I might have. This is the day to write out thank you notes and cards, a vanishing art that I hope to keep alive.

Tuesday is a Project and Zone Cleaning Day
I like to keep this day open for things that randomly come up. So, I might spend an entire morning working in the studio, or I might concentrate on yard work. This is the day that I do any of those tasks that are easy to procrastinate on, and sometimes I even try to exercise or get in some yoga. Sometimes this is the day I might do a large baking of bread and cookies or put together some freezer meals, or even do some canning. It might be purging files, de-cluttering, cleaning the vehicles, or whatever else needs doing. I also work in the particular room in the house scheduled for detailed, deep cleaning; this is called Zone Cleaning, and I will get into it in the next post.

Ode to a Stove, Cory JaegerKenat
Wednesday is Errand Day
I try to fit all of my errands into this day.
This is the day to stock up on groceries for the next two weeks and go to the bank. It's also the day to eat out for dinner with hubby. :)

Thursday is another Project and Zone Cleaning Day

It is so helpful to have two flexible days per week. That way, I don't feel tied to an iron-clad schedule. I do things mentioned above, or I might schedule other appointments, or I might work heavily in my studio. Again, I will also work on the scheduled room for detailed cleaning.

Friday is Home Blessing Day
This is the day that I dig deep into house-cleaning. Here are the things I do, and I do each task for between 15 minutes to a half hour tops. I love a clean home, but even this domestic geek doesn't want to spend the whole day cleaning.

I damp-mop all our floors for about 15 minutes.
I put clean sheets on the bed--this takes about 15 minutes.
I vacuum for about 15 minutes.
I take out all the trash, which takes less than 15 minutes.
I spend 15 minutes cleaning a particular area of the kitchen, like wiping out my oven or a cabinet.
I run a Swiffer/feather-duster on all the flat surfaces of the house, nothing elaborate just where dust is noticeable, and again time myself for 15 minutes. 
The Home Blessing Day and the Home Cleaning Zone ideas come from the book 'Sink Reflections' by Marla Cilley, otherwise known as the Flylady. I have been doing this system for nearly a decade and it really helps me to get things done. Check our her channel on youtube or catch her site on the web-- not only does she have great ideas, but she really is like a housecleaning fairy godmother, with a sweet Southern drawl. More to come on Cleaning Zones, and how they can keep us from never having to a massive Spring Clean overhaul ever again!




Monday, April 23, 2018

My Home Binder: Mission Statement and Contacts Page

Okay, with no further ado, drum roll please, my home binder...

Being the proud tightwad/cheapskate that I am, I spent no money on this. I used one of my husband's spare 12 pocket plastic sleeved binders, and  some Christmas gift wrap with a homey theme to slide into the front cover to make it pretty. 
I decided that the first page should be sort of a mission statement, detailing how my homemaking contributes to our household. My list goes as follows:
As a homemaker, I contribute:
Good food
Order and organization
A Haven/Sanctuary
A Flawed, but Sincere Example of Jesus' servant-hood and also Godly Womanhood.

Also I wrote my favorite calming and strengthening verses from Scripture:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
"The Lord will fight for you, all you need do is be still. " Exodus 14:14

I like to refer back to this page on those 'lack of motivation' days that we all have from time to time. It may sound a bit self-absorbed to write such a complimentary list, but in a today's society, where homemaking is so scorned, these powerfully positive words are ways to get me feeling valued again. Also, the Scripture helps me to stay balanced and courageous even in these tough economic times. 

The next page is all about emergency contacts.  It includes:
1.Our address and all personal phone numbers, in case someone else had to use this book.
2. Our work phone numbers and contacts.
3. The names of our family doctors.
4. Names and phone numbers of our hospitals.
5. Any allergies that we might have.
6. Emergency and non-emergency numbers for police, natural gas, water and electricity.
7. Medical insurance contact information.
8. Car insurance contact information.
9. Life insurance contact information.
10. Next of kin (family addresses and phone numbers)

You could also include a list of PINs, passwords, and the like, but be sure that they are hidden in your home or office. I didn't feel comfortable listing them in this binder.

I also included:
11. The name and number of a carpenter we liked. (We are always doing home repairs, it seems.)
12. The name and number of a fire restoration company that I had heard good things about. Hopefully, we'll never have to use it.
13. The name and number of a reliable tow truck company.
14. A good hauling and odd jobs company that we have done business with.
15. The name and number of an appliance repair technician.

The next page, because my husband is a police chaplain includes a list of frequently called pastors and other church contacts. It also includes people we have worked extensively with in ministry, as well as human resource numbers for my husband's regular job.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. I just started thinking of the kind of numbers we were always frantically looking around for, and decided to put them in one place. Although we are in an age of smart phones, I cannot tell you how often my husband I grab for this book. In the next post, I'll dive into the home management section.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Home Binder

from the book 'Little House in the Big Woods'
After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say: 
"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."
                    ---Laura Ingalls Wilder
                    'Little House in the Big Woods'  

Over the past few years, I have become fascinated with the topic of home binders. Plug the term in any search engine, and you will see homemaker after homemaker displaying the lovingly constructed notebook she has made to keep her housekeeping, menu-planning, appointments and other tasks all neatly categorized and arranged. I can't get enough of  hearing these lovely ladies share how each day has its own special tasks, strung on the week like differently colored beads. The binders are as individual as their creators, but in general they are an interesting blend of the practical and the fanciful, printed with pastel computer fonts, quaint little graphics of home blessings and curlicue flowers. Some are laminated so they can be written on, others are quite luxurious and look a bit like an office planner. I believe Martha Stewart's company now makes their own version, which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

These videos are oddly fascinating, and yes, comforting to me.Their popularity says that I am not alone in my love of an organized home. Again and again, I am reminded how varied in style and function home-making can be. Some women manage homes that are working towards self-sufficiency; their home binders contain elaborate inventories of their home-canned goods and the meats packaged in their freezers. Others are the opposite end of the scale--glitzy society ladies who focus on lavish holiday preparation, complete with perfect gifts for everyone in the PTA and differently themed Christmas trees. Others are the matriarchs of large families and meticulously record clothing sizes of their growing children, so they are always ready if they come upon a good second-hand deal of jeans or T-shirts. Others have the year mapped out in Bible study lessons, or a home-schooling curriculum, while still others construct ledgers to budget tightly and eliminate credit card debt. And almost all of them contain my very favorite part--the cleaning and maintenance schedule. These ladies rotate every task you could think of, from cleaning the oven to organizing the attic, with a precision that would make any CEO sit up straighter. 

My humble little planner, which I use every day.
I am of German ancestry, and one of the mottoes I always heard growing up was, "If you're going to do it, do it well." And that's what these videos demonstrate--how much it takes to really run a home to its ultimate, and how many widely different skills are involved. There's a whole heck of a lot of self-discipline, attention to detail, time-management and well--stubborn devotion--that goes into taking care of the relentless physical needs of other human beings. There is a reason why nurses, chefs, accountants, chauffeurs, professional house-cleaners and the like are paid quite well for what they do, and one could even argue that they should be paid more. A homemaker touches on all of these areas, to name a few.

'Woman at Desk Writing', Albert Chavallier Tayler,
Since the tsunami of feminism, housework has been viewed in one of two ways. One camp seems to see it as non-work-- as something that can be squeezed in haphazardly once a year, and that's really all that's necessary. These are the folks who frantically throw everything in a closet when company comes, and hope the door won't burst open. They are also the ones who seem so mystified when rush hour hits yet again, and there is nothing in the fridge for dinner--or they stare dumb-founded at the tower of dirty underwear that seems to have materialized from nowhere.

The other camp thinks that housework is work, but it is work made for idiots--or chimpanzees. These are the folks who will wash a dish here, or pick up a few things off the floor there, but they do it as if it is a life insult, glowering at their bad luck and, looking for anything or anyone to free them from their shackles. They loathe what they are doing, don't think it matters at all, and even thinks it devalues them as a person. These are the ones who scream at the kids and the spouse to pick up after themselves, even though no one, including the screamer, is doing any picking up. They can't figure out why work that seems so basic, so menial, is so hard to keep under control. They don't realize that ALL work requires skill, and that is where very smart people are not being very smart.

I believe that both camps live in a perpetual state of anxiety and exhaustion, no matter how much they proclaim that 'they like things just the way they are.' It's sad, because they think that organization and maintenance are synonyms for perfection or outside judgement, like an unknown someone inspecting their coffee table with a white glove. Repeat: this is not about perfection. In reality, home care is just another way to care for oneself, and the standards that you set are just that, YOUR standards. There is no shame, despite what feminism tries to tell us, in making our homes a top priority. Remember the hair color commercial that says, "you're worth it." Well, having a home that nourishes your soul is every bit as important as any cosmetic.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that any project, no matter what it is, can not expect to go well without care, respect and planning.  If we abandoned those principles in our outside employment, we would be fired in a heartbeat. Everything from a wedding to a weekend fishing trip requires planning--and yet somehow, the care of our homes is something that for many has become slapdash or simply ignored.

Having solid home routines and even a home binder conveys self-respect. It is a statement of self-worth, that says that we deserve to live in a home that is not only neat and pleasant, but also run in such a way that there is no need for rush or guilt. Chores can be organized and broken down in such a way that they, although a constant in our lives, are easier to complete. Ironically enough, the more 'business-like' we are about tackling our homes' demands, the more 'haven-like' they will actually become.

I've done the 'hurry, scurry before company comes' dance many a time, and I've certainly wished myself anywhere but over the kitchen sink, AGAIN. This explosion of dirty dishes is a daily challenge, in fact this picture was taken just this morning. But I will clean it up with gratitude, grateful for the blessing of another homemade meal, and the satisfaction of yet again creating order out of chaos.
After preparing oatmeal cookies and enchiladas for dinner.
Not a clear counter in sight.

But over the years, I've come to realize that a funny thing happened when I began to respect my home and the work entailed to maintain it.  Respect is really sloppy stuff, and it managed to splash all over my four walls and even onto me. The more I planned my work, the more I saw what I got done and the more clearer my goals became. And the more I had a place to rest and to dream.   

This post is getting rather long, so I'll show you my system, learned through trial and error over many decades, in part two.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I wish I had a Housewife

The U.S census-taker was tapping earnestly away on his lap-top. I sat across from him, trying to be polite, although I was a little ill-at-ease with this bureaucratic stranger asking me financial/governmental questions I really wasn't in the mood to answer. It was the middle of the morning, and I was in the middle of my work, and I really didn't want to hear that short awkward silence that inevitably arrives when anyone asks me my occupation. 

"Are you employed?" is a question that can throw me for days on end.  Someone asks me that and immediately, my mind flashes over all the things I do in a day, the baking, the cleaning, the washing, the budgeting, the organizing, the shopping, the phone calls, the projects, the planning, culminating with the last sink of dirty dishes at about 8:00 at night, and every time, because I have no societal value as a wage-earner, I must answer, "No."

I've coped with this in different ways throughout my life. For many years, I would quickly say, "No, I'm just a housewife", often followed by the wave of a hand and a scrap of self-deprecating laughter. Sometimes, if I was really feeling pathetic, I would go into a long ramble about my outside work credits, how I had once been a professional artist, worked in the psychology field...blah blah blah, like some 'has-been' rehashing 'glory days'. And if things were really down in the dumps, I would skip the dreaded housewife word entirely and just say that I was a working artist in some sort of slump. I never failed to feel like every approach was not only a lie, it was a betrayal. It felt like I was in the witness protection program, lying about my real identity.

Fact is, I have always loved being a housewife--and still do. I was one of those little girls who played with china tea sets and truly believed her doll needed special treatment when she was 'sick' and I dreamed of having an Easy-Bake oven. My favorite game when I was in the bath was to pretend to be 'washing' the washcloths and hanging them on the edge of the tub to dry. I was cross-stitching by the time I was eight. Even when I was working out in the career world, I spent many a frantic year, doing last-minute house tidying and insisting on hot, homemade breakfasts for my kids replete with cloth napkins and gingham place-mats, all before we would charge out the door to conquer the chaos of work and school. I read interior decorating books along with my college textbooks, pored over cookbooks for fun. I still feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I have mopped a floor, or polished a coffee table. And although I have worked as a cleaning professional, the thought of having my own maid--which many women dream of--simply fills me with dread. My hands always itch to put things in order, to make them gleam, to puff up pillows and make things cozy.

And of course, the census-taker turns to me and yet again asks the question. And I reply, "I am a homemaker." Simply, without apology. As the years go by, I am slowly learning that the least said is the easiest way to power through it. And of course, we clarify that I am making no income, and thus by implication, what I am doing with such joy and attention is 'worthless.' Same drill, different day.

He continues typing, and suddenly looks up, pausing for a long moment. His gaze seems to take in the abstract painting of blues and greens in front of him, the books so neat and dignified in the case nearby, the silver teapot carefully placed on the lace tablecloth. "My," he says, with a happy sigh, "I wish that I had a housewife. This place is so...so...well.."

He tries to finish his sentence with a variety of adjectives; 'quaint' and 'nice' seem to head the list. He tries to finish, but I can tell that he hasn't found the word he is searching for.  He is an older man, a veteran, in many ways an old-fashioned gentleman. It seems to me that he is recognizing something he once knew much better. It is like he is staring at a faded photograph. He is sincere, and I understand what he is unable to say.

The sense of feeling at home, surrounded by order and beauty, is much out-of-fashion nowadays. Big screen TVs and dual incomes are how we make meaning out of our lives today. I am not only out-of-fashion, to some I am an insult, a brain-washed block in the way of progress.  But each day it is easier, each day something more is built in response to this modern-day madness, with each bed made, each dish washed, each day that the morning sun is slanting through clean windows. 

Each day, I am a homemaker, making something so important that we barely have words for it.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Getting things blooming for Spring

When I was in elementary school, my teachers picked up on my ability to draw and I was chosen to put the new bulletin board art up every season. For a little girl who always felt like an outsider and more than a little bit odd, creating Pilgrims in November and leprechans in March that all of my classmates would see when walking down the hall, was quite the heady experience and almost like being 'popular'.  I've never lost that sense of how fun that was, and it's reflected in my obsession for seasonal home decor. I'm delighted to see that there is a whole community of homemakers on youtube that share this view.

Nothing seems to freshen the house and make it seem almost 'new' more than bringing out things that have been tucked away in cupboards and boxes, nearly forgotten for a full year. I like to sprinkle these little touches on endtables and kitchen counters; I even go so far as to hang a few different pictures. And in a record winter like the one we are currently having, where snow pack and temperatures haven't been this frigid in forty years...well, seeing a few pastel colors gives me hope that someday things will bloom again.

All of what you see below is done with items I already own; I bought nothing new. 

(Oh, and I almost forgot...I haven't posted in ages...this is an entirely new house...more posts on our adventures with that later.)

 Mixing and matching patterns on my kitchen chest freezer. I believe that I bought the little silk flower pot at Walmart for under five dollars last year; it is the only new addition that I have. Back in the 1990s, I used to snap up all the cloth placemats from Goodwill that struck my fancy. I believed that there was nothing more elegant than cloth napkins and placemats, and I used them almost daily when my kids were growing up.  Although I still use them for meals, I enjoy using them anywhere I want a bit of color. 

 A view again of our tiny retro kichen. Another placemat on our antique drop leaf table, which we figure is almost seventy years old.The painting on the wall is from an art show I did for a cafe, and featured scenes of delicious goodies. I change these out seasonally as well.

 I have two sets of nesting dolls; one blue and one red. This is the season for my blue ones. I like to twine different colored ribbons in the branch wreath on the wall, and the image framed on the wall is from the back of a Lifeway sales brochure. Although I am an artist, I must admit that I find greeting cards and other found objects to be quite charming when put in a frame. 

I believe that the birdhouse frames came from the Dollar Store, many, many years ago. What can I say?  I am old. :)

Just a touch of green downstairs in the sitting room, with some hand-made crocheted eggs tucked in. My dad made the wooden bowl.

This arrangement is in our front 'parlor'. Just a grouping of an old silver teapot I got at an antique store, a candle gift from Christmas, some Dollar Store silk flowers, an heirloom tray from hubby's grandfather, and a couple green  napkins from, you guessed it, Goodwill.  I suppose I should polish the teapot, but I have to admit I kind of like the tarnish.

Thank you so much for touring the spring version of my home. Things don't have to be expensive, new or fancy to bring a sense of warmth and prettiness.Check out what might be hiding in a drawer or storage box. You might just have some charming surprises waiting to trim your castle.