A-Z Homemaking Meme

Back in the early days of blogging, someone would frequently start what they called a meme of interesting questions, tag their friends, and pass it around. It was a fun way to interact and get to know each other, but for whatever reason, they kind of fell by the wayside over time. But someone has started (or resurrected?) a new one that Susanne tagged me for, and I’m happy to participate.

Aprons – Y/N If Y what does your favorite look like?

I rarely wear aprons. I just don’t think to get it out. Around the house I often wear denim dresses, which show remarkably little staining. Recently I’ve gotten a couple of lighter-colored summer dresses, and I have started wearing an apron with them if I am cooking something messy (like spaghetti). The one I have been using is leftover from the days when Jim’s mom ate regular food at the table but was not always coordinated feeding herself – we used an apron rather than a bib for her, thinking she might feel a little humiliated about a bib. It’s just a plain denim one.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake?

Cookies! I am not so good at cakes and haven’t tried yeast breads since early marriage, though quick breads turn out ok.

Clothesline – Y/N

Nope. I like the smell of clothes hung to dry outside, and we used to have a clothesline, but after developing allergies and battling not only pollen but bird poop and inadvertently bringing in bugs with the clean clothes, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Donuts – Have you ever made them?

Only the quickie cheating kind where you take canned biscuits and poke a hole in the middle and then fry them and frost or sprinkle, and haven’t done that in ages.

Everyday – One homemaking thing you do everyday?

There are always dishes to wash even if we’ve eaten out.

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?

Just got one this year and LOVE it and don’t know how I lived without one.

Garbage Disposal – Y/N

Yes. This is our first house to have one.

Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?

These days, the Internet. It’s so easy to look up what to substitute for something you’re out of or how to get out a certain stain or whatever. I used to keep files of tips taken from magazines, but nowadays it would take longer to find what I need there than just looking it up online. I had various homemaking books in early marriage but can’t remember what they were.

Ironing – Love it or hate it?

Neither extreme but closer to hate than love. 🙂

Junk drawer- Y/N – Where is it?

I was thinking I had more than one, but most of them actually do have a purpose and are designated for certain things even if other things are in there. The one main one is in the kitchen.

Kitchen – Color and decorating scheme?

This kitchen doesn’t have any wall space, so I don’t have any decorations on the wall there. Here is a picture I took of it before we moved in (it is not quite camera-ready right now. 🙂

The counter tops and part of the back-splash are grey. What decorations I do have in there have pink and blue accents, as do my dishes. This is my favorite little corner, though the little pitcher has flowers in it now.

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I also like to have little things on the kitchen windowsill and change then out according to the season.

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I like pretty decorations just for their prettiness, but I especially like the ones with meaning. The little Boyd’s Bear figurine is a grandmother and grandson with a cookie they’ve just made, given to me on Mother’s Day (my first one as a grandmother). The clear rectangle Jesse gave me last Christmas. It has a laser-etched group of hummingbirds inside, and I love when the light shines the colors into the sink. The little stick-on birdfeeder and hummingbird feeder on the outside are new additions.

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?

Completion. 🙂 I can’t say I enjoy most homemaking tasks in themselves, but once I get started I’m fine, especially if I put on some music or an audiobook. I do love setting things to rights and bringing the chaos back into order and I love the feeling when the kitchen is cleaned up or the bathrooms have just been done, etc. If we’re talking about more than just cleaning, decorating is my favorite part of making a house into a home.

Mop – Y/N

I use a Swiffer Wet Jet. Love not having to deal with a bucket of water.

Nylons – Wash by hand or in washing machine?

I never wear nylons any more, even with dresses. Most people here don’t. If I were going somewhere really super-formal, maybe I would then, and I’d wash them by hand.

Oven – Do you use the window to check on things or do you open the door?

Most often the door, though I know heat is lost that way. Occasionally the window.

Pizza – What do you put on yours?

Most often sausage and peperoni. I love a meaty pizza, and a couple of local restaurants have pizzas with four or five kinds of meat on them, which I love.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?

Read, spend some time on the computer or my phone apps, nap.

Recipe Card Box – Y/N

No. I have cookbooks and notebooks. I do have an old file box I need to clean out.

Style of house

The house itself is a ranch. Other than that there’s not much I can think of to describe the style of the house itself. If the question means decorating, I’ve often described it as being between country and Victorian. I’d like to get further away from the “country” look, and I don’t like the fussiness of Victorian, so I don’t know exactly how I’d describe my decorating style now. I used to get a magazine called Romantic Homes whose style I really liked, and I’ve incorporated some of what I saw there over the years.

Tablecloth and napkins – Y/N

Pretty much only on holidays, maybe on special occasions if I think of it. For regular everyday meals we use paper napkins.

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?

It is fairly organized just now since we recently had a leak under there and had to clean everything out in order for it to be worked on.

Vacuum – How many times per week?

I am ashamed to say not even once a week (blush!) We have more hardwood floors than carpet, and most of the carpet doesn’t show anything, though I should vacuum more just for the sake of dust.

Wash – How many loads per week?

About 8, not including my mother-in-law’s stuff.

X’s – Do you make a daily to-do list and check it off as you do things?

Not daily but usually weekly unless it is a super-busy day, and I love to cross things off. As Susanne said, if I end up doing something I didn’t have on the list, I do sometimes write it down after the fact just for the pleasure of crossing it off.

Yard – Y/N – Who does what?

My husband and youngest son do all of the yard work. I water the flowers (unless my husband beats me to it) and cut or pinch off the dead blooms.

Zzz’s – What is the last homemaking task you do for the day before you go to bed?

Usually gather up any evening snack dishes and take them to the sink. If the dishwasher was nearly full at dinner, sometimes I’ll go ahead and put the evening cups and such in and start it before going to bed.

That was fun! Thanks for tagging me, Susanne! I’ll tag Dianna, Monica, Becka, and Ann. Please don’t feel obligated – I won’t be offended if you don’t like to do this type of thing. Not knowing if people would be interested is the one thing that keeps me from tagging more people, but if anyone reading would like to do this, let me know and I’ll come read your answers.

The Value of Homemakers

cooking2I didn’t know, until I saw a link at Bobbi’s, that an article was going viral called I Look Down on Young Women With Husband and Kids and I’m Not Sorry by someone writing under the name of Amy Glass.

“Amy” starts out provocatively by saying, “Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit. Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?”

She goes on to say that “If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?” that when a woman “stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing” it “is the path of least resistance,” that “women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments,” that “Men don’t care to ‘manage a household.’ They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are ‘important’” that “Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”

I’ve been thinking about this article for several days and trying to decide how to respond to it.

I could respond to the irony that in a society whose watchword is tolerance someone would manifest such intolerance, not to mention arrogance, towards another person’s differing life choices.

I could share the value of service to others. If you’ve ever lamented walking into a hotel room that has mold in the shower stall or stained sheets, or sat down at a restaurant with dirty silverware on the table or a waitress who couldn’t care less about getting your order to you correctly and in a timely manner, you’ve shown that you value good service. No matter what a company’s reputation or net worth is, if “the little” things aren’t taken care of, customers turn away. In that sense, the maid, the cook, the person at the front desk, etc., are all as important as the CEO. If we value such service in business, why should we despise it at home? G. K. Chesterton is quoted as saying, “Feminism is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

Even the Lord Jesus demonstrated the value of “lowly” service when He took on the role of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet.

I could point out just how much work a homemaker does. The division of labor varies from household to household, but most homemakers’ tasks include all or most of the following: planning meals, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the rest of the kitchen (refrigerator, microwave, stovetop, etc.), sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning toilets and showers, mirrors, dusting, shopping for groceries, clothes, and household items, making appointments and reminding family members of them, washing, drying, and sometimes ironing clothes, taking some to and from the dry cleaners, organizing and maintaining household goods, and decorating. Investopia in January of 2012 estimated the worth of a homemaker’s services at above $96,000 per year. And, if one has children, all of the above increases and includes wiping noses and bottoms, teaching and training children and all that that involves, chauffeuring them to all the places they need to go, keeping on top of schedules and needs, etc.

If someone wants to hire a maid or cook, or eat out all the time so they don’t have to cook or wash dishes, that’s their prerogative, and that’s fine. But if someone wants to do these things in her own home for her own family, she should not be thought of as stupid, lazy, or in any way less of a human being.

I could answer Ms. Glass by sharing my own experience. As I was growing up, my mom was at home for long stretches and then worked outside the home for a while at intervals. When she worked, we had various babysitting situations, from someone coming to our home, to our being cared for in someone else’s home, to daycare (the worst, in my opinion, though my more gregarious sisters didn’t mind it as much). There was just nothing like mom at home.

When my husband and I were first married, I worked outside the home, and when I worked full time, we both worked on making dinner and washing dishes and other household chores. I don’t remember accomplishing much else in those days except work, dinner, kitchen clean-up, and laundry.

When I had my own children, I wanted more than anything else to stay at home with them. Not only did I want to be the one to teach and train them, but I didn’t want to miss out on their first smiles, first words, first steps, and time spent with them every day. When they went to school, I wanted to be the one to pick them up and hear all about their day and help them with their homework.

The Bible doesn’t say all women should get married or that no married woman should work outside the home, nor does it delineate who should take out the garbage, but it does say that older women should teach younger women “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5) and that it is good for young women to “marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (I Timothy 5:13-14). Our own household has fallen into more or less traditional roles. My husband doesn’t mind pitching in with household duties if need be, but he works 50-60 hours a week, so I don’t expect him to. I try to make home as peaceful a place as possible for him to come home to, something I couldn’t do if I was out working, too.

Some years ago I contracted transverse myelitis and couldn’t do much of anything on my own for the first few weeks. If I had ever had any doubts about my value as a homemaker before, they were put to rest then, as I saw the pressure my husband was under to try to work plus do everything that needed to be done at home.

Personally I have loved my life as a homemaker, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve even been able to engage in a certain number of creative outlets and volunteer efforts, something I could not have done if I had been working full time.

I would say to Ms. Glass that homemakers and doctors each invest themselves in the lives of other people. It doesn’t matter what level that investment takes or how many people’s lives are involved. If the next generation is valuable, then the people who teach and train those children are valuable.

I could also share with Ms. Glass voices other than my own:

Homekeeping is a fine art. It grasps with one hand beauty, with the other utility; it has its harmonies like music and its order like the stars in their courses. Miriam Lukken in Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

We have our own small square of life on this planet, and it’s our choice to do with it what we will. We can bring order and beauty to that place we have been given. We can touch the people who come within our sphere of influence with love and care and comfort. ~ Claire Cloninger

The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. ~ Thomas Moore

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.” ~ Dorothy Patterson

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night. She may have to get up night after night to take care of a sick child, and yet must by day continue to do all her household duties well; and if the family means are scant she must usually enjoy even her rare holidays taking her whole brood of children with her. The birth pangs make all men the debtors of all women. Above all our sympathy and regard are due to the struggling wives among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, and whom he so loved and trusted; for the lives of these women are often led on the lonely heights of quiet, self-sacrificing heroism. ~ Teddy Roosevelt, 1905

But housekeeping is fun……It is one job where you enjoy the results right along as you work. You may work all day washing and ironing, but at night you have the delicious feeling of sunny clean sheets and airy pillows to lie on. If you clean, you sit down at nightfall with the house shining and faintly smelling of wax, all yours to enjoy right then and there. And if you cook—that creation you lift from the oven goes right to the table. ~ Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living. ~ Dione Lucas

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. ~ Craig Claiborne

Great thoughts go best with common duties. Whatever therefore may be your office regard it as a fragment in an immeasurable ministry of love. ~ Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, b. 1825

The human being who lives only for himself finally reaps nothing but unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies. Don’t put off the joy derivable from doing helpful, kindly things for others. ~ B.C. Forbes

The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Order and beauty are contagious. So are disorder and ugliness. I want my house to reflect the peace and order of heaven. T. Sparrow

The job of keeping a home is an honorable one. There is a difference between a housekeeper and a homekeeper. A hired housekeeper will keep the home clean and do the duties as expected of her employer, but a homekeeper does the duties in her home from her heart. She does it out of love for her family. She looks upon her duties as the most important job in all the world. It takes a lot of patience, skill, commitment and love to be a keeper of your home. Be faithful; in due time, your familoy will rise up and call you blessed. I am honored to be the keeper of my home. ~ Mrs. Martha Greene, from Treasury of Vintage Homekeeping Skills

In these notes, I have endeavored to impart knowledge necessary for keeping a neat, well-ordered home. But beyond that, I wish for you to understand the larger issues of homekeeping — creating an environment in which all family members grow and thrive, a place where each member may evolve to the full extent our Creator intended. ~ Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

The sheer Quantity of time I’ve spent on these endeavors is astronomical. People making doesn’t happen overnight or just in the evenings and on weekends. To those who say it’s only quality that counts, I suggest trying the quality time approach with the garden. As anyone who’s ever had one knows, a garden requires a lot of work. What counts is being there, through thick and thin. Nobody, and I mean nobody can pay someone to do what only a mother will do for free. ; You can’t buy that kind of nurturing, protection, and interaction on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis. ~ Debra Evans, Heart and Home

Seen from the outside, housework can look like a Sisyphean task that gives you no sense of reward or completion. Yet housekeeping actually offers more opportunities for savoring achievement than almost any other work I can think of. Each of its regular routines brings satisfaction when completed. These routines echo the rhythm of life, and the housekeeping rhythm is the rhythm of the body. You get satisfaction not only from the sense of order, cleanliness, freshness, peace and plenty restored, but from the knowledge that you yourself and those you care about are going to enjoy these benefits. ~Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House 

I would hope that some of these thoughts would be enough to convince Ms. Glass of the value of homemakers and the right for women to exercise their freedom of choice in such an occupation. But there will always be Amy Glasses in the world, some who have said much worse. Whether or not some women denigrate the role and worth of homemakers, I hope that these words encourage you who are reading who have chosen that path.

See also:

Wanting things to be “perfect.”

I confess: I don’t really like to cook.

A Real Home.

A Homemaking Meme.

Another homemaking meme.

A prayer for home.

Two views of housework.

Meditations for daily tasks.

Thy list be done.

The Blue Bowl.

Wanting Things To Be Perfect

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You know how it is when company’s coming. Though you always want to keep your house to a certain level of cleanliness, and you do esteem your family members above everyone else, there is just something about having company that sets off a housecleaning frenzy.

I learned long ago that I can’t usually get everything done that I’d like to do before company comes, so I’ve learned how to prioritize and hit the most important things first. If I have enough warning, sometimes I can get some of those long overdue household projects done as well.

But no matter how much I do, it seems there is always something I miss. One time a friend of my son and daughter-in-law’s was in town visiting them, and I invited them all over for dinner one night. I was rejoicing in getting just about everything done that I wanted to before they came. Dinner was not quite ready when they got here (because I decided I needed to vacuum my room before I started dinner, even though it was unlikely she would go in there. It had been needing it anyway and it was a relief of mind to get it done). They offered to help and set the table, but dinner was just a matter of waiting on things to cook through. While they waited, our guest played some different hymns. It rejoiced my heart to hear the piano at home again: no one had played in months since we let Jesse drop out of lessons. We enjoyed a nice time of fellowship later with dinner.

The next day, I was picking up some things in the living room when I noticed some scattered debris on the piano next to the keys. “What in the world…?” I thought. I had just dusted it the day before. As I drew closer to inspect it, I saw it was needles from the Christmas tree. From last December. On my piano in May. We had had the cover over the piano keys closed for so long, I didn’t even think to open it to dust under there. And there it was for our guest to discover!

That reminded me of another time in early married years when we wanted to have the youth group over after church one Sunday night. We had furiously cleaned the day before until everything was gleaming. As the young people came in and then started singing, my eyes strayed behind them to the bookcase, on top of which was the can of dusting spray, on top of which was the dustrag, which happened to be an old pair of my husband’s underwear with the distinctive waistband showing. I was mortified, but I couldn’t do anything about it: if I went toward it to remove it, all eyes would see and notice it then. So I just left it and hoped no one saw it. If they did, they were too polite to say so. I couldn’t do anything but laugh about it afterward, since there was no way to correct it.

I’ve had what sometimes seems like more than my share of laughable, imperfect cooking experiences from disastrous cakes to green gravy to volcanic teriyaki.

I was reading a book on hospitality once where the author wrote about having a bit of time to relax, so she sat on the sofa and read the newspaper. Then someone came to the door, and when she answered it she saw it was an acquaintance who had dropped by unexpectedly. The author was embarrassed that things weren’t “picked up,” but invited her guest in anyway. When the guest saw the scattered newspapers, she smiled and said something like, “Now we can be friends.” When people are “perfect,” we can’t quite relate to them and they can even seem unapproachable. But when we see they have the same struggles we do, then they are more genuine to us and we can interact with them more comfortably.

Years ago when I first joined the Transverse Myelitis Internet Club, I wanted to be a good testimony there. It’s frowned upon to use such a forum as a “bully pulpit,” and I didn’t want to do that, anyway. But I did want to honestly relate how God helped me and I wanted to be a light for Him there while gaining information and support. Because of that, I tried to keep my posts upbeat and hopeful. Some months later another Christian lady joined, and I was blessed by how honest she was about her struggles. She wasn’t morose or complaining, but she shared her everyday struggles as well as her faith. I e-mailed her privately about how refreshing her posts were, and she wrote back that it wouldn’t pay to hide her struggles. By sharing that she struggled with the same things everyone else did, she was more genuine and had more of an open door with them.

In the chapter “Women of Like Passions” from her book Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot wrote of a woman at a conference who had asked to speak to her, but was hesitant to “bother” her and was a little afraid of her. Elisabeth agreed to speak with her and tried to reassure her, and later the leader of the conference told Elisabeth that the woman had told her, “Oh, it wasn’t bad after all! I walked in–I was shaking. I looked into her eyes, and I knew that she, too, had suffered. Then she gave me this beautiful smile. When I saw that huge space between her front teeth, I said to myself, ‘it’s OK–she’s not perfect!’”

Then in the same chapter she wrote of a time when her daughter, Valerie, was speaking, lost her place in her notes, and after a long, awkward time span of not being able to find it again, did the best she could ad-libbing the rest. She was nearly in tears as she finished, but afterward one person told her it was the best class so far and another thanked her for what she had said that helped her. Later she told her mother, “I couldn’t understand why this had happened. I had prepared faithfully, done the best I could. But then I remembered a prayer I’d prayed that week (Walt told me it was a ridiculous prayer!)–asking the Lord to make those women know that I’m just an ordinary woman like the rest of them and I need His help. I guess this was His answer, don’t you think?”

We need to let go of perfectionism. Who are we trying to fool, anyway? We so want for things to be “just right” when we have company or have an event. And that’s a worthy desire. It shows care for the guests and care for one’s home and surroundings. I’ve been in places where there was no such care, and they were uncomfortable places to be! We shouldn’t be slovenly or careless, but we don’t need to beat ourselves up when things aren’t “perfect” even when we’ve done our best. It helps to just laugh at ourselves (with others, if they’re aware), learn from the situation (next time I will lift the piano key cover and dust under there, and put cleaning supplies away!), and, for serious offenses, go to Jesus for cleansing and restoration. Even though He is perfect, He is approachable because He bore our sin and its punishment so that we could be forgiven. We can never be perfect on our own, but by His grace we can be washed white as snow, pure and spotless.

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (help, aid) them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:16-18.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16.

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Revised from the archives.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Related posts:

A Perfect Christmas.
Perfect Peace.
Imperfect Families.

Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

HomemakingEven though I’ve been discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club, I wanted to write an overall review to have one post to refer back to when discussing the book. Too, I thought perhaps some who weren’t interested in reading the weekly chapter summaries might enjoy perusing one smaller review.

The basic theme of the book could be summarized in this quote from it:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation” (p. 109).

As a teen I struggled with whether the desire to look “pretty” and dress nicely was a fleshly one, and as a young woman I had the same struggles in regard to wanting an attractive home. Was it a waste of the resources God gave me to use them in such a way, or would it be in better keeping with Christian character to buy bargain basement items, no matter whether they suited me? Were decorative items wasteful and selfish or an enhancement?

It helped me greatly to realize that God could have made the world simply functional, but he made it beautiful as well. Another help was realizing that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed in “coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple,” the finest in her day.

I read Edith’s book as some point during this time, and I remember feeling so relieved that my natural inclinations were okay. She discusses the principles above, and the principle of balance: we have to keep our artistic desires within the context of our finances, our season of life, our responsibilities to our families and our calling in life at any given point. It’s possible to go overboard. Yet within those contexts, God gives us great freedom of self-expression which in turn can be used to glorify Himself and draw others to Him.

She discusses in turn (these are all linked to my discussions of each chapter):

The First Artist (God’s creativity)
What Is Hidden Art?
Music
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Interior Decoration
Gardens and Gardening
Flower Arrangements
Food
Writing
Drama
Creative Recreation
Clothing
Integration (of different races, ages, cultures, etc.)
Environment (the type we create in our homes or with our personalities)

She does concede that in some cases we may only be able to cultivate an appreciation for some of these areas rather than a talent in them, and she acknowledges that probably no one can incorporate all of them at once, but she makes a strong case for each one and brings out a variety of ways to employ them in our homes.

The book isn’t flawless: some of its examples and illustrations are a bit dated (it was originally published in 1971), sometimes Edith can get just a touch preachy, sometimes she goes on and on with examples when we’ve gotten the point already. But overall it is great encouragement and inspiration to employ creativity. I enjoyed perusing the book again.

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club: Chapter 14; Environment

tea_table(Graphics courtesy of Julia Bettencourt)

We’re discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris.

The last chapter of the book is “Environment,” and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it at first. Edith had promoted involvement in nature and decried the “plasticness” of her era earlier in the book, so I assumed this chapter would be along those lines. But I suppose that would have been a bit redundant since she had already discussed those things, and I was delighted to find she was referring instead to the environment each of us creates through our personalities, outlook, etc., as well as how we keep and decorate our homes. Perhaps some would understand this better as an aura, though not in the New Age sense of the word.

I marked many long paragraphs in the book that would be too much to reproduce here, so let me see if I can pick out a few of the key thoughts.

We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us. The effect on them is something they cannot avoid. We should have thoughtfulness concerning our responsibility in this area. We should be artists in doing something about the environment we are creating – artists before God, of course. We have His help because we are artists in this sense, in the hands of the Holy Spirit; for if we are Christians, He is dwelling in us, and we can ask for His power to help us.

Here in this life, a Christian should be an environment which is helpful to the people with whom he lives. This is not just a matter of dress and tidiness but also of character and spiritual life. It is worth considering what sort of an “art form” we are. What sort of an environment do we drag in with us? How do we affect other people in their attitudes toward that which we are supposed to represent? (p. 212).

“We are either being what the Holy Spirit would have us be, or we are hindering His work in us and through us. As God created the world, He was creating an environment for man which, we are told, was ‘good.’…It was a good environment before sin entered to spoil it. But Christians, who are restored to relationship and fellowship with God, should ask that they might be an environment that is conducive to others wanting to come to God (p. 212).

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

I was just thinking today, not for the first time, that I get frustrated at sentimental prose which seems to indicate that one can either have a clean house or spend quality time with kids, and of course the more godly person chooses time with kids. But does it have to be either/or? Sure, there are times we get too task-oriented and have to remind ourselves that people are more important than to-do lists. But I think one of the best ways to avoid this dichotomy to to integrate fun and family time into work. I appreciate that in the Little House on the Prairie series, and though I’m not a big proponent of Amish culture, I do like that both in the home and the community people pitch in together to work. In that way children learn the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, learning new skills as they grow up, and fellowshipping with others at the same time. My mother-in-law was a great example of this: until she started to decline, she always had a cheerful industriousness about her, and I appreciate that that rubbed off on her youngest son. I’m afraid I let my own negative attitude about work rub off on my children, but on the other hand I think they do have pleasant memories of working on projects with their dad in particular.

One of Edith’s examples in the book is that of roommates and how the slovenly habits of one affect first the mood and then the motivation of the other. As Edith said in some of the quotes above, our “environment” can either lift someone up or drag them down.

It goes without saying, too, that ‘The Environment’, which is you should be an environment which speaks of the wonder of the Creator who made you (p. 213).

I want to thank Cindy for hosting this book club. I gleaned much, much more out of the book by just reading a chapter a week, writing up thoughts about it, seeing what others had to say and pondering sometimes different perspectives or emphases, and then thinking about it all through the week before the next chapter, than I would have just plowing through on my own. I am thinking that this extended working through a non-fiction book is a much better way or retaining what I read.

This has been at least my second time through the book – I may have read it more times than that, but I can’t remember. I’ve enjoyed going back over it once again.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Chapter 8: Food

Chapter 8 of The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, which we’re discussing a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris, is about food.

Once again Edith emphasizes that in this area as in all others, we have to balance time, money, energy, and priorities, and there will be times when food has to take a back seat to other things going on. But God has created a variety of foods that are both nutritious and beautiful to look at and has given us the taste buds, sense of smell, and eyes to enjoy them. She has some interesting observations on the manna that God provided the Israelites with during their travels in the wilderness, and notes that God could have made all food like that – nutritious compact packets – but that was just temporary “traveling food,” and for all the rest of time He’s allowed a great variety to enjoy.

Food is a major aspect of hospitality, and she emphasizes that the people Jesus said to include are not just old friends or people we’re trying to impress, but also “the least of these.”

I have to admit that I am relieved that this chapter is not what I thought it was going to be. I remember learning how to make radish roses in a high school Home Ec. class and thinking it was such a waste. She is not talking about providing extravagant meals or elaborate garnishes, but enjoying simple food prepared and offered with the simple artistry of a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Although my husband appreciates the effort behind a nice meal, I think he would much rather have something simple and peaceful than something that takes hours and wears and stresses me out.

On the other hand, Edith describes a tramp coming to her door to ask for food, and instead of reluctantly thrusting whatever was at hand out the door at him, she made him a tasty and nice-looking sandwich and soup on a tray complete with flowers. Those little touches and efforts can convey, “You matter, and I care.”

Food cannot take care of spiritual, psychological and emotional problems, but the feeling of being loved and cared for, the actual comfort of the beauty and flavour of food, the increase of blood sugar and physical well-being, help one to go on during the next hours better equipped to meet the problems (p. 124).

One of the most well-known quotes about Edith herself, though I don’t know the source, is “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons!”

I confessed some years ago that I don’t really like to cook a lot of the time, but I like to eat, and they sort of go together. 🙂 I recognize that it is a ministry to my family and part of my job description, and once I get going I’m ok with it. I just usually dislike having to stop whatever else I am involved in to go make dinner, but we all have to do things like that. I’m sure my husband doesn’t feel like going to work every day, either, but thankfully he does.

In discussing the last chapters, I’ve showed pictures of things I am pleased with: this time I am going to show you some of my epic fails, because I have had more of those in cooking than anything else. Enjoy. 🙂

Failure

One day I posted just this picture with the title “This is how my day has been going.” That was supposed to be for a ladies’ function at church the same night, so I had to come up with a plan B. I did dig the rest of the cake out of the pan, put it on the platter, covered it with glaze, and we enjoyed it as a family. It did taste good even if it didn’t look so good!

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These were supposed to be little Muppet-looking cupcakes, but the runny green icing made them look like baby swamp monsters.

Cake decorating has never been my forte, but I used to be able to spell.

And then there was the green gravy. One day years ago I was trying to make gravy that wasn’t turning as brown as I wanted it to. I had heard somewhere that mixing red and green make brown, so I added a few drops of red and green food coloring into the gravy. It turned green, and no amount of added red food coloring drops would change it to any other color. That time, instead of crying into my gravy, I started laughing hysterically until my husband came to see what was going on. But I couldn’t eat it. The strange greenish color was revolting. (I rarely make gravy, but these days I eat it whatever color it ends up being.)

And then there was the time I reached for the cinnamon instead of the chili powder for chili mac. That turned out….interestingly. And the time I accidentally grabbed baking soda instead of corn starch for teriyaki – that made it foam like a science fair volcano. I scooped out the foam and tried to rectify it, but it was still so salty that we were drinking fluids all evening to counterbalance the extra sodium in our systems, and my husband can’t eat my teriyaki to this day.

Thankfully I’ve had more successes than failures, and though I’m not the best cook in the world, my family likes it enough to keep coming back for more, and we appear to be relatively healthy. 🙂

Some other cooking-related posts here that you might enjoy:
Cakes Are My Culinary Waterloo.
Cooking style.
Cooking experiences.
Food flashbacks.
Encouragement for Homemakers.

Two projects done

I finally got a couple of projects done in the sewing/craft room I had been wanting to do for some time.

For a little background first, my original sewing room in our old house looked like this:

Old sewing room

It had been Jason’s room, so, he had chosen the wall color, and I loved the way my pink and white stuff looked against it. When we moved to our new house, all of the walls were beige. They were in fine condition (and we were tired!), so we didn’t want to paint, plus it was a much smaller room, and I thought darker colored walls would make it look even smaller and cave-like. But I liked the color combination of dark blue, pink, and white, and decided to try to incorporate them in the new sewing room.

Last year we got this futon, and I bought the throw somewhere online:

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It hasn’t been easy finding that color combination, though, in fabrics.

Pretty much from the first time I saw this idea on Pinterest of using a fitted sheet for a no-sew curtain, I was fairly sure that’s what I wanted to do. The hard thing was deciding on fabric. I couldn’t find any sheets I wanted to use for it, so I figured I’d just buy a length of fabric and put elastic at both ends (the elastic helps it pouf). At first I thought I’d go for something pink and rosy, but just couldn’t decide. Then I thought maybe I could mimic the futon, darker blue with a pink design. I looked for darker blue fabric with roses on it in multitudes of places – to no avail. One day after I finally decided on storage containers for the closet, I went out to the shed to retrieve some fabric I had stored there, and was thrilled to find a piece of blue with pink roses on it that I had forgotten about. The blue wasn’t quite as dark as what I’d had in mind, but when I laid the fabric on the futon, I saw the blues matched almost perfectly. The length wasn’t quite as long as a twin sheet, but it was long enough. I hemmed up each end and then threaded a length of elastic through it, and voila:

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I keep fidgeting with it, trying to decide if the ribbons are straight and evenly spaced, but overall I am pleased. I think it would look better on a rod-type curtain rod rather than the regular curved one. There is enough ribbon left for bows but I haven’t decided whether I want them – I don’t want it to look too “sweet” or juvenile.

The other project was a bulletin board. We had had one in my mother-in-law’s room at one place, but during one move we just never got it back up, and at her current place there is no room for it. It was faded and scratched up, but I thought I could paint it and cover it with fabric.

Once again indecision was my biggest enemy in trying to decide whether to paint the wood pink or white and what kind of fabric to use. I finally decided on white for a frame, and after finding the fabric for the curtains, decided to go with dark blue with just a little bit of a pattern on it.

I forgot to take a “before” picture, but here is a “during” – I had painted the back and sides and was getting ready to start the front:

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I had seen an idea at Mary Beth’s for covering a bulletin board with fabric and using a butter knife to tuck it in around the edge. That worked great.

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I had originally wanted to criss-cross some ribbons over it (like this), but decided it was small enough and the fabric was tight enough across it that it should be ok. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case – when I raised it up, the fabric started to move a bit. So it’s just pinned up there for now til I decide what to do. I know a thin layer of glue, like a glue stick, would probably keep it on, but I don’t know how it would work for pinning through. (I should have looked up Mary Beth’s tutorial again before I started – I see she used hot glue around the edges.)

I also found a rose applique that had been sitting in my sewing desk drawer for years and thought that would be a nice crowning touch, so I glued it on.

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So here is that corner of the room updated:

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I’m almost ready to show you the whole room – still have a few things to do. 🙂

One of my next projects needs to be a new sewing machine cover: the red here doesn’t go with the pink and blue, and it is stained and old-looking. New decisions to make….

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 7: Flower Arrangements

It’s Week 7 of  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris where we’re discussing Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking a chapter at a time.

Chapter 7 focuses on flower arrangements, and Edith reiterates that one need not become an “expert” or go to great expense or study to incorporate the principals she discusses. She mainly discusses centerpieces, arguing that at the table there “should be something to bring realization, a warmth of knowing that someone has taken thought and put some originality into preparing the place where food and conversation are going to be shared” (p. 100).

She argues that this should be done even when it is just the family at table or when one is alone, that it shouldn’t wait for “company.” “There is a ‘togetherness’ in sharing a prepared table that even very small children feel, although they cannot express it verbally. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s only the children,’ when you are alone with children for a meal, it is important to say the opposite to yourself. ‘I wonder what the children would enjoy most.'” (p. 104).

And centerpieces don’t even have to be flowers: she lists several suggestions using shells, mirror, candles, etc.

I have to admit that although I agree with what she says, we have never used centerpieces at the dining table. There just isn’t room. When passing food around at dinner, I think everyone here would rather be able to do so easily without having to work around something decorative in the middle. Our usual “centerpiece” is a cute napkin holder and the salt and pepper shakers. I do like to use nice tablecloths on holidays, but most of the time we use the table all through the day for other purposes, and I don’t want to have to keep moving a centerpiece in and out of the way.

But I do have artificial flower arrangements in several rooms and think they are a great way to add color and brightness. I have a couple of “wall pockets” for the front door where I can toss in a few seasonal flowers.

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Roses and Hydrangea door ornament

And I like to get fresh flowers every now and then, especially in winter when there is nothing much growing and I long for some color and beauty. But even a few flowers from something outside in a vase on the windowsill is a nice touch.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

One good point she makes is that people tend to send an overabundance of flowers when a person is in the hospital, but then nothing during a long recuperation, so she suggests sending one simple flower or arrangement (not big expensive florist’s concoctions) each week or so to cheer the convalescent.

One of my favorite quotes so far in the book which could be a theme for the whole book is this:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation” (p. 109).

Although I don’t do centerpieces at home, I’ve enjoyed trying to come up with something unusual for our annual Ladies’ Luncheons for several years in our former church, and I thought you might enjoy seeing some of those. I looked for something unusual for two reasons: for one, I am not that skilled at flower arranging. Years ago a friend who had a florist shop in her home taught me how to do bud vases and corsages and hired me when she was super-busy, but I could never manage bigger arrangements. She could toss something together in 15 minutes that look gorgeous, and I could get the major flowers in ok, but agonized over filling it in. It took me forever and never looked right. The second reason was just that I liked to do something different each year rather than a water bowl with floating candles or flowers in it every single year. So, here are a few things we came up with:

The theme of this one was “A Perfect Heart” from Psalm 101:2b: “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” The favors around the centerpiece had that verse as well as a little house with a heart on the front door, and the centerpiece was a covered cardboard box made to look like a house with a potted petunia in the center.

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I don’t remember the exact name for the theme for this one, but the program centered around a one-woman interpretation of one of my all-time favorite books, Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose. We chose the rose, of course, because the author’s last name is Rose, and gold because of the overarching theme of faith in her life (I Peter 1:7: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”) One of my favorite things about this one was the gold curlicues – they had been red and we spray painted them gold.

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The theme of this one was ““The Heart of the Matter” from I Peter 3:3-4: “Whose adorning…let it be the hidden man of the heart.” The hearts were cut from scrapbooking paper: thankfully I had little punches for those shapes, so we didn’t have to cut them by hand.

Dresses

These were the centerpieces in progress for the theme “The Well-Dressed Woman from Ephesians 4:21-24: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” I did go back later and cover the Styrofoam with Spanish moss and little paper flowers.

Those are all the ones I have pictures of in the computer: the other photos are in shoeboxes I need to do something with some time. But one of my favorites was on the theme of patterns from Titus 2:7, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works,” and on each table we had a different craft and patterns: a bowl of yarn balls and knitting needles with crochet and knitting patterns in one, a few dress patterns and piece of fabric on another, etc. For another, the theme was “A Woman’s Adornment,” from I Peter 3:3-4, and we borrowed vanity trays from the ladies at church and set them with sets of gloves (also borrowed), little buttons that looked like brooches (from Michael’s), and little bottles that were meant to look like perfume bottles (I had originally wanted perfume atomizers, but they were hard to find and expensive) and a single rose.

I almost didn’t include these since they are churchy and not homey, but thought they might be useful in sharing some ideas that aren’t always “traditional” centerpieces. One of my Pinterest boards is Table settings – I like the simplest ones best. I might add some of them in to the Hidden Art of Homemaking Board.

More discussions on this chapter can be found here.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Gardens and Gardening

It’s Week 6 of  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris where we’re discussing Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking a chapter at a time.

Chapter 6 discusses “Gardens and Gardening,” and Edith applies some of the same principles as in other chapters, that people don’t necessarily need to become experts, get a degree, start a farm, etc., to participate and benefit by doing a little gardening, but they can start small, as she did with what we would call now container gardening, or with a small space of land. She lists many of the benefits of gardening (exercise, contributing to rather than taking from the environment, the pleasure and anticipation of planting something and watching it grow, etc.) and a few of the many Biblical allusions to planting.

And while I understand and agree with all of that, I have to confess, I am no gardener. My husband had a garden for a few years, but it was a battle royal to keep bugs from destroying it, and at certain times of the year it was more pressure that relaxation to keep up with it. I have not been able to spend more than a very few minutes on my knees since TM, even with a pad, so I am not keen to go start a garden myself. I have thought of starting some squash growing in a container or two, since often what I find in the store is so sad-looking, and have also thought of growing some herbs. I’d have to figure out better ways of battling the bugs – I cringe at spraying pesticides over something I am going to eat.

I do a little better with ornamental plants. Somehow both at our former house and this one, rose bushes have flourished despite me, not because of me. I think some of my first plants were hanging baskets, just the basic petunias, impatiens, and begonias. Last year I tried verbena for the first time, and this year some blue lobelia and pink Gerber daisies. At our last home there was a purple hydrangea bush that I just loved and wanted one here: the one I planted last year is putting forth buds (I can’t remember what color I bought, though. 🙂 Either pink or blue, as they didn’t have purple, but I think the color of the bloom primarily depends on the soil, anyway. I’m excited to see how they turn out). I do want to plant some bulbs some time for early spring blooms.

With this chapter, as well, as the others, if we have little or no experience at all in the given topic, we can start out small, learn as we go, and expand. I do enjoy walking around the plant sections at stores and seeing what kinds of things are there and wondering how I can incorporate them.

I do love how flowers can brighten up the area. We had none right next to this house, and I’ve enjoyed planting some since we’ve been here (oddly, the previous owner planted daffodils and a few other things behind the shed and in an area of the back yard that can’t be seen from the windows. Haven’t figured that out yet.)

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Patio flowers

This one came with this variety of plants all together: all I had to do was transplant it into this container. It has filled out nicely.

Planter

One of the spiritual parallels I’ve learned most with the small experiences I’ve had with plants is that of John 15:2b: “every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The few that I have worked with need to be cut back sometimes. If they’re just let go, they may continue to grow to an extent but will look scraggly and sick or may even stop growing altogether. Cutting back – pruning or “deadheading” the spent flowers and even sometimes cutting back what looks like perfectly good growth – makes the plant, full, lush, bushy, healthy, ad produces many more flowers. This is one of the most comforting truths concerning suffering and loss: we may not know why God took a certain person or thing or closed a certain door, and there are many Biblical reasons for suffering, but one is this: we will grow spiritually in ways we would not have without that “pruning.”

More discussion on this chapter can be found here.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 5: Interior Decoration

It’s Week 5 of  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris where we’re discussing Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking a chapter at a time.

Chapter 5 is about Interior Decoration, and I have to say I think this might be the chapter I feel most at home in so far, because Edith talks about decorating one’s living space, whether a “dream home” or a boarding house room, not with the latest decorating fads for a magazine-worthy decor, but with originality and personality. She says our “spot” should not only express something of ourselves to visitors but should also be a place that is satisfying and feels “at home” to us. She advises the reader not to wait for certain funds or the ideal home (some of my frustrations along those lines are here) or even for marriage, but to start right where we are with personal touches to our space, and as she has said in previous chapters, ideas beget ideas, creativity begets more creativity.

She shares some personal examples that may be beyond the scope of what many of us can or want to do, but they’re good for sparking ideas. Some are time-honored traditions, like making quilts or rugs from scraps, or restoring old furniture rather than buying new. We did some of this when we were first married, transforming a storage barrel used in college into a side table with a long tablecloth over it. Once when the kids wanted a tree house, and new lumber was prohibitively expensive, my husband found some used wooden palettes and took the boards apart, sanded them down and made a great tree house. That was one of the things I hated leaving behind when we moved.

After last week’s chapter about drawing and sketching, I began to wonder why she didn’t include crafts or home arts, like embroidery, quilting, etc., but she mentions them here.

There is nothing inherently wrong with buying new furniture and decorations, and we’ve done a good bit of that as well, but the goal should be to make it homey and express one’s own tastes and personality.

We do need to keep in mind the other people with whom we live. I don’t believe in stripping the place bare when young children are in the house, but that’s probably not the time for antique vases. I have decidedly feminine tastes in decorating, but living with all males, I’ve tried to have the family room, at least, more neutral. My husband has said that if he lived alone he probably wouldn’t think to decorate, but he does appreciate the homeyness decorations add. He usually leaves the decorating choices up to me, but we do major furniture shopping together and consult on paint colors, etc.

We need to keep in mind, too, that “this world is not our [ultimate] home,” that we’re to lay up treasures in heaven rather than earth, that here on earth moth doth corrupt and thieves can break through and steal, and we’re not to set out hearts too much on “things.” And sometimes “we are to be willing to sacrifice in the area of material things as well as in all other areas, to put first the things of God, to put first His use of our time, or money, and our talents” (p. 79). I was reminded of that just yesterday morning with this post about a time of loss. Isobel Kuhn tells of a time early in her marriage when they were ministering to a poor  tribe whose manners were decidedly different from her own. She was pleased with her nesting and her newlywed “things,” but then one of the women blew her nose into her hands and then wiped them on the new couch, and a mother held her baby away from her while the baby urinated on the new rug. Those things weren’t done to express hostility toward Isobel – it’s just the way things were done there. She had to struggle to not let her precious “things” take precedence in her heart over the needs of the people she was working with, and she learned to be very practical with her possessions. The Goforths lost everything four different times in their lives. After the last time, “when, in the privacy of their own room, the ‘weaker vessel’ broke down and wept bitter, rebellious tears, Goforth sought to comfort her by saying, ‘My dear, after all, they’re only things and the Word says, ‘Take joyfully the spoiling of your goods!’ Cheer up, we’ll get along somehow.’” He wasn’t being calloused: he had a generally faith-filled, buoyant spirit, while his wife had…one rather more like my own. We need to hold all of God’s material gifts to us loosely, remembering they are ultimately His and He has promised to supply all we need.

But even within those parameters, He often allows for some expression of personality and creativity in our living spaces.

I shared a tour of my house here, but I thought I might share just a couple of those expressions of personality here.

This one has a story behind it:

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I collected Boyd’s Bears figurines for a while, and this is a small figurine of a flower basket with a teeny little bear hiding in it. I kept it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink for a while. One day I found this little dinosaur next to it, put there by one of the boys when they were younger. I don’t know if the dinosaur was supposed to be after the flowers or the bear. 🙂 Or maybe the boys were just adding to the decorations. But I’ve always loved this as a picture of living with boys, and now I keep these together in a little curio cabinet.

Of course, living with boys, sometimes the “decorating” gets a little out of hand…

Life with boys

I mentioned Boyd’s Bear figurines – I posted some of my collection here. I just love their little faces and the details of them. There is only room for so many, though, before they become just a blur of too many to keep track of, but I tried to get my collection to reflect my interests – there is one holding the music to an Irish folks song, one reading a book, a couple cooking, several “Mom” and “couple” ones. Most were given to me by my husband or Mom.

Another of my favorites is a needlepoint piece I did when expecting my first son. My youngest still had it up in his room until his twelfth birthday, when we took it down so he wouldn’t get teased about it. That was kind of sad – an official turning from little boyhood.

Needlework bears

You can’t really tell from the picture, but there are different types of stitching in different places and the little cookies are raised rather than flat.

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This is one I am hanging on to. I don’t know if I will hand it off to a grandchild (if any of their parents want it) or keep it for a playroom here.

A few years ago I realized that I had done a lot of cross stitch through the years that I had given away for gifts, but didn’t have much that I had done for my own home. I wanted to do a few pieces both to express my own personality and maybe to hand down to progeny. Of course, my tastes are more feminine, as I said, and having all boys, I don’t know if they’d be interested in any of these just because their mom made them, and daughters-in-law will have their own tastes. I hope when I am gone that they will keep some things like this for grandchildren – I often wish I had something personal from my grandparents. But at any rate, these are a couple of my favorites:

Our only investment in “real art” was a set of prints by Paula Vaughan, a gift to me from my husband, who knew how much I liked them. But I have also framed cards and pages from calendars.

I did have one class in Home Furnishings in college, where we learned a bit about elements of art and principles of design, but I am far, far from expert in it. I never did get to go on and take the next class, Interior Decorating, which I would have loved, I think. Sometimes I watch decorating shows and “get” what the designers are saying, sometimes I have no idea. 🙂 I don’t always agree with what they do, but I sometimes enjoy listening to their reasons. But though some of these principles and elements are helpful (i.e., wondering why something looks “wrong” with the end table next to the couch and then realizing that it’s because the lamp there is way too small in proportion to the rest of the furniture), overall what’s most important is what Edith stresses: making a place homey, comfortable, and an expression of your own creativity and personality.

More discussion on this chapter is here.

This post will be also linked to Women Living Well.