Friday, December 31, 2010

Overcoming Overhostessing 101

Yay! I think I have finally kicked an old habit: overhostessing!

What is it?
Overhostessing might not be a real word, but I'll bet you know what I mean by it. In the January issue of Victoria magazine, a bed & breakfast owner used and explained the word. It refers to putting too much effort into any aspect of welcoming/preparing for guests in a way that results in making someone (whether the guest or the hostess) uncomfortable.

As a word-loving person, I was vastly relieved to see this term in explained in print, and a little relieved that I must not be the only person who has experienced this.

Here's my problem:
I am guilty of being an overly fussy and formal hostess, making too many things overly fancy or creating an atmosphere that is so staged it ends up feeling less than hospitable. I will say, though, that it has only ever been with the very best of intentions!

Today I hostessed a morning playdate for some neighbors, and it went better than any visit I've ever had. This was the first time I'd had this family over; they have been so welcoming to us and had us over earlier this week. I really really really am excited about nurturing a potential friendship with this other mother - we seem to have so much in common, more than simply having daughters the same age, too. I wanted to begin to solidify our acquaintance a bit by opening our home to them and reciprocate their hospitality.

The difference this time, while not overhostessing:

What did I do differently? I still had a clean house, I still offered tea, I still offered a little snack of lovely Christmas cookies.
  • However, this time I made sure a few little things were askew so there was a comfortable lived-in-yet-squeaky-clean vibe.
  • Instead of having the teapot, etc., already laid out in formal tea-house style, I brought things out casually after we decided that tea would be a good idea.
  • And rather than giving in to my overhostessing tendencies and set out a gorgeous (and intimidating) mini dessert buffet of beautifully arranged cookies and candies, I served homemade cutout cookies from the storage tin and one other kind of cookie from a decorative plate.
  • Also, I made use of some pretty Christmas paper napkins instead of using our usual cloth napkins. For some reason that I do not understand, certain people respond with great discomfort to cloth napkins. I have even had guests become so uncomfortable once realizing that the napkins were cloth and not paper that they put the napkin down and only used their hand to catch crumbs from then on. (I find this an appalling shame, nevertheless, my goal in offering hospitality is to serve others and make them comfortable, not give them a course in etiquette).
I found that these small but significant differences made me feel more natural (even though naturally I am more formal than this!). Does anyone else have any similar experiences to this? I would love to read about how others have overcome or prevented overhostessing.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Over at the lovely blog entitled The Pleasant Times, Mrs. Humphrey is hostessing a Snowflake Event. What a charming idea, and how very festive!

I have created a flurry of sugar cookie snowflakes and decorated our dining room wall sconce as my contribution to Snowflake Week.

Although I grew up in our grand nation's northeastern-most state of Maine, where winter seems to last for more than half the year, I still have yet to go on a sleigh ride. Suspending these faux snowflakes makes me think of this! In the coming years I will plot and plan and figure out how to make this happen - as we now live in the southwest where palm trees and sunshine reign, we will not be seeing any snow this winter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our First St. Nicholas Day

Hello everyone! How does your family handle St. Nicholas/Santa Claus? I am really curious about the different ways families within the church choose to handle this.

I myself grew up in a household where we simply didn't do Santa. Period. Christmas was Only About Jesus' Birthday, and my mother would exclaim how she couldn't understand all the parents who were "lying to their children about Santa!" Our family celebrated with a nativity play, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, gift giving, caroling around the piano and dessert on Christmas Eve night. The timing of this party was a family tradition passed down from my conservative Dutch immigrant great grandparents, who also did not do Santa. So there's no room for Santa with a schedule like that: if you are opening gifts the night before Christmas, there's no confusion about where these gifts came from. They came from your family. Ahem.

My husband, who comes from a different denomination within Protestant Christianity than my parents, had a different sort of Christmas than we did. They did Santa: their stockings were from him. And only little girls and boys who were asleep when Santa visited got the privilege of receiving gifts from him. My husband Jeff has fond and happy memories surrounding his anticipation of Santa's visit and the wonder of opening gifts from him.

When we got engaged back in 2007 and were doing marriage prep workbooks, really it was just Santa and one other minor theological point that caused us pause. Hm....can we find a middle ground on the role of Santa within our family's celebration of Christmas? or should we call off the wedding? Needless to say, we decided it was something we could somehow work out!

This is our first Advent/Yuletide season where our attitude/mention of St. Nick begins to matter, as our daughter is 19 months and absorbs our every word eagerly.

Ach, what's a mother to do?

In one of my favorite books, Mrs. Sharp's Traditions, the author comes close to addressing this issue in a constructive way. Here's what she says:

For parents who feel frustrated by the fact that Santa Claus's visit inevitably overshadows their religious observance of the birth of Christ, a visit from St Nicholas can help tremendously....a celebration of St. Nicholas Day can satisfy a deep desire in children to believe in a benevolent and generous gift giver who rewards the good.....Mrs. Sharp's children have been taught that it is St. Nicholas who inspires us to prepare our Christmas gifts for others. (Mrs. Sharp's Traditions p 232)

And she suggests that on December 6 the family celebrate St. Nicholas Day. In typical Mrs. Sharp fashion she has a rather elaborate plan for what that might look like, involving setting out carrots or hay for his horses the night before. The morning of Dec. 6 the children find Christmassy goodies, chocolate gold coins and "one longed-for gift from each child's wish list"(232).

I like this idea, yet it leaves me with some misgivings, too, because once again it seems like a parent would be, as my mother would put it "lying to their children!" I pause. I mull this over and see how I can work with this general celebratory plan and yet replace the lies with truths and fun.

As our Elena is only 19 months old I wanted to
-establish a nice little tradition for December 6 of each Advent season
-keep things Simple
-honor God and tell the truth
-introduce St. Nicholas as a person who loved God.

So, feeling excited and very much like a Mommy-Christmas-Elf-with-a-Plan, I bought and wrapped gifts for each of us and put them in a Jolly St. Nick gift bag which I whisked out after our scripture reading at the end of dinner. And all I said was something like:

"This is St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas was a person who loved God. Maybe he looked like this (I pointed to the portly fellow in red on the bag). Here are gifts for us!"

How's that for simple? Ha ha! I just had to skip over any kind of insinuation that the gifts were from St. Nicholas, because that does not sit well with me.

We all opened our simple festive gifts - we each got a nutcracker! Even my dear husband Jeffrey was pleased with his. Little Elena held hers and waved at it, saying "Hi. Hi." over and over. When Jeff moved the lever thing to make it look like the nutcracker was talking to her she was really impressed!

And Elena also received a sheet of window decals of a nativity scene, just to keep the focus where it should be, you know?

Phew. So that was our very first St. Nicholas Day, and I hope that over the years I'll grow more comfortable with some sort of fun plan to make it even more interesting than that.

Please, does anyone have any ideas on how to deal with the whole Santa issue in a positive way, even if it is on a day that is not Christmas? I am eager to hear of different ways to do this.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unexpected answer to prayer

We know, of course, that our Father in Heaven always answers prayer in one way or another, eventually. So I knew that an answer would come. I just didn't expect things to play out quite like this:

One night about a month ago in my evening prayers I asked that God would please guide and direct my husband and I to a good obstetrician and a ritzy, natural-childbirth friendly hospital. We are brand new to the area, so we needed to find these two important things. Are you with me? Hang on!

The very next morning at 5, I woke up with a terrible pain in my upper back, and then began having great difficulty breathing. It was unlike anything I'd ever been through. My husband took me to the emergency room of a large hospital nearby and I was seen nearly right away - they don't keep pregnant ladies who are having trouble breathing waiting, hallelujah!

Within 2 hours they diagnosed me with pneumonia, gave me medication that helped me breathe and made the pain lessen greatly, and told me that I'd need to stay there in the maternity ward for a while. How very shocking all of this was to me; I'm living in the warm American southwest, am typically in the pink of health, and hadn't even had a cold or anything before this. Meanwhile, all the nurses, doctors and staff were incredibly nurturing and professional.

My accomodations were in a private birthing suite which included a nice bathroom and a great view of the city! Not that views are that important, but wow. My daughter and husband were able to stay with me at any time, and the nurses were wonderful to them, too. Jeff and I joked that I was really getting quite a full tour of this place.

Earlier in the week I'd called about scheduling a tour of the hospital's maternity ward - I like to see a place before I give birth there, ha ha - and they were actually booked until January 15. No kidding. So I was thinking that this hospital was probably just going to be eliminated from my list, because I needed to choose a doctor before them. But, then all this happened and I got my own private tour anyway!

The first day of my stay I was really in rough shape, and I was incredibly relieved to have a staff looking after me. I could hardly hobble across the room, and needed help wheeling my IV stand, and help opening and closing the bathroom door: it was like getting a taste of what a feeble elderly person must go through daily. All throughout that day, though, the nurses and doctors were like angels of mercy. I thought of our role as homemakers and how we are called upon to do all sorts of things within the home, sometimes serving as helpers to the ill.

Pneumonia calls for even more than (most) homemakers can offer, though. So I was really grateful for the care I was given at that lovely, shiny, ritzy, clean hospital.

And toward the end of my stay there I was able to sort of interview two of the nurses I'd gotten to know. I asked them all my questions about what it is like to labor there, and I really liked the answers they gave! One of the nurses also recommended a good OB practice (she called them "the sweetest men in the world" - - how's that for a glowing review?).

So, the end of the story is that I'm all better now, and that my husband and I were adequately impressed by that hospital and I'll be giving birth there in March. And we really like my new OB. (Now that I am giving birth for a second time I'm much more comfortable asking questions and getting on the same page as my doctor, which is a big relief. I have no idea why I was so shy with my questions when I was pregnant with Elena, I'm not usually shy.)

Yay! God cares about the details of our lives, and is so faithful with providing for our needs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

He Knows Things

Isn't it comforting that our Lord knows everything? even things that haven't happened yet? I was reminded of his sovereignty again today when I read a mention of the Relevant blogger conference.

Let me back up slightly - earlier this year I began this blog with the hope to connect with other homemakers online, and I also wanted to attend the Relevant conference. Now, the conference is for Christian homemakers who blog. When I first found out about the conference, I was a Christian homemaker who did not blog. But, when I saw that the only thing standing between me and being able to go to such a conference was the project of starting a blog, I pretty much immediately started this one!

The Relevant conference was to take place outside of Hershey, PA, super close to our home (generally speaking). Some of my favorite bloggers were going to be there! Yippee!

So, one thing led to another and I was unable to register after all. I was disappointed, but I decided to keep blogging and just keep my chin up.

I forgot all about the conference as the year progressed - and blogging has taken a backseat, too, as I've been swamped with move-related activities and what felt like a bazillion relatives who came to visit before we moved.

And now, Ta Da! we have speedily relocated to the American Southwest. God, being God and knowing everything, knew that I'd be 3,000 miles away from Hershey, PA during the conference. Really, when I prayed to be able to go to the Relevant conference and He gently answered "No", He was saving me a lot of trouble. If I'd been able to register, I wouldn't have been able to attend, as it was held during the week that my family and I traveled across the country.

So, now my husband and I are in corporate housing temporarily as we scour our new city for a suitable and homey new hearthside. We feel like old hands at house-hunting, as this is our 3rd move in 3 years! Thus far we have been in town for 3 days, during which time we've scouted neighborhoods, possibly found a place to live, and most likely found a church home (with wonderful programming for young families, tra-la!). All is well at our hearthside. How are things at your hearthsides, friends?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Milestone, The Stork, and other thoughts

Hi! A whole bunch of new things seem to be going on in our household.

Little Elena is suddenly interested in walking, which is wonderful. Still holding on tight to our hands she toddles along proudly...and then will suddenly get distracted or lose interest and scramble to all fours to speed along in her old crawl. All in good time! At nearly 17 months of age she is a slooow starter, but we knew eventually she'd feel like walking. It warms my heart to hear those tiny pitter pats coming down the hallway! And someday soon I'll hear those pitter pats independent of my husband's encouraging words to her (as right now she doesn't walk on her own yet).

As I like to phrase it, the stork is going to pay us a visit next March! I am expecting our next baby to arrive around March 13, yippee! We are so incredibly blessed and thankful to our Creator for this new addition to our family. This is such a wonderful gift and we do not take this blessing for granted.

Honestly this feels like such an embarrassment of riches to me; I am well acquainted with women of many ages who do not yet have the families they long for, or who were unable to have the families for whom they had hoped. So I carry this child and the other child on my hip with a great sense of joy, gratefulness and responsibility.

By the way, I so admire the mothers who find time to keep up with their blogs despite beautifully mothering 1, 2, 3 or 4 or 5 or more children! I am also baffled and intimidated by this, but oh so impressed. How do they do it?

Courtney at Women Living Well has 2 children.

Monica at The Homespun Heart has 3 children.

Kristy at The Homemaker's Cottage has 4 children.

Joy at Graceful Words has 5 children.

Ann at Holy Experience has 6 children.

The above blogs are some of my favorites - I think they are all very different from each other but the spirit in which they are written is similar. The authors are Christian women who are committed to honoring God through their lives and most especially in their homes. Homes are important, as you know, and as the homes go, so the nation goes. Wifehood and homemaking are continually underestimated by most people....but not on those blogs or this one!

A little voice is crying out and reminding me that nap time is over! I must trot and wave farewell for today. Until next time, friends!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grocery list strategies

I truly feel called to be a homemaker, and I do my best to do a good job at it. There are 2 tasks within homemaking, however, that are out to get me.

1. Cleaning the shower

2. Planning meals

Now, I loooove to cook. Really. And I'm pretty good at it. So its a mystery to me why I am stopped in my tracks when it comes time to plan out the next 2 weeks of meals.

The Printed Checklist
Yet, aha! I have found a good, workable solution: I have a template style grocery list to help jog my memory and speed myself along as I write the list. In other words, I have assessed our most-often required grocery items and printed them out in an organized list. It is organized by the sections of our favorite grocery store so that while I'm zooming around the store I have a list that works with me, not against me. (Backtracking in the store uses up a lot of time, trust me, I was a green bride once, way back 3 years ago, ha ha).

A section entitled Meals This Week
And, on the list (see lower right hand corner of photo) I have a space in which I jot down the recipe titles that I have planned on the family menu. So, for example, if we're in produce and my husband asks "Hmm, why are we looking for beets?" instead of drawing a complete blank and having no answer for him, I can simply refer to my notes and tell him. *smile*

It is a helpful guideline for me! It helps me remember things.
The menu is totally not etched in stone - its a guideline for myself as I decide when to cook what, when to defrost what, and how to sort/separate meat into the freezer, and how to align meals so as to put leftovers to good use. And, it helps me remember why on earth those beets are in the vegetable drawer.

Further help with meal planning: clippings, envelope, bulletin board!
I have such a hard time planning meals that I have invented a little system for myself. After the groceries are put away, I take the grocery list and clip off the Meals This Week section. I pin it up on the kitchen bulletin board. When I'm finished with that list, I file it in an envelope which is pinned to the bulletin board in my kitchen. Then, when it is inevitably time to sit down and plan out the upcoming 2 week menu, I refer to the old "Meals This Week" clippings from that envelope to get ideas. That way I'm not reinventing the wheel each time I write a grocery list.

As a new bride I slaved over recipe books, wondering what we'd both like to eat, writing out grocery lists containing very little order (or ordered by each recipe, which was a disaster of a system!), and then sometimes I'd come home and forget which recipe book a planned dish came from, anyway. And why did I buy Swiss chard?

My husband and I departed for our honeymoon trip 1 day after our wedding. He peered into my suitcase with surprise, and noticed several cookbooks that I was taking with me. Always the gentleman, he paused and told me gently:

"Heather? Where we are going, you won't have to cook."

To which I replied: "Oh, I know. I'm just getting ready to do some recipe planning on the plane so that I'll have our first week's menu all planned and the grocery list ready to go when we get home." *smile*

Silently, he nodded and thought this over. And that was all he said about that.

Find a system that floats your boat!
All that being said, this isn't the only way to do things. I like it and it works for me, but I am always on the lookout for other methods that work for other homemakers. I hope you have a great system that serves you well, and I would love to hear all about it.

Anyone have any fabulous plans they'd like to share? Happy homemaking!

Note: Take a little trip over to Raising Homemakers to view a great link-up with lots of other homemaking blogs - you'll find plenty of great homemaking tips and encouragement in this noble calling. :o)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drying Herbs

On the far left, notice how a charming toddler has had a grand time helping Mommy by sorting herbs under the dining room table. Sweet girl!

This is just fine with me - one of my hopes for our children is that they will be at home with plants and gardening. I've been gardening since I could walk - and I remember how proud I was at age 5, watering my very own plot of flowers next to my playhouse.

All summer I've been tending basil, parsely, thyme and rosemary, clipping sprigs and stringing them up to dry. The picture below shows our basement stairwell, which I've made into a drying emporium!

Our gardening is all in containers this year, as we are in an apartment. We got the idea to use horse troughs for our gardening containers, and my husband installed the self-irrigating water system which was explained in a Mary Jane's Farm magazine from fall 2009. It is working extremely well and we're glad we've done it.

I don't have a ton of experience with drying herbs - last year I dried thyme and oregano, but not with great results. How do I know when the herb is completely dry and really safe to store? Does anyone have advice on this? Part of the problem I ran into with the oregano was mold growing in the leaves after I had (unbeknownst to myself at the time) stored it prematurely. I thought it was dry, but I was wrong.

Practice makes better, so I'm giving it another go this harvest season. Happy gardening!

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Oh, honey!" Sweet domestic views.

My eyes are tearing up over the sheer cuteness of this little domestic scene.

There can be such beauty in the ordinary things!

I am such a blessed wife and mother, this sight is a dream come true for me.

My husband's ancient golf shoes next to our daughter's teeny little mary janes are so darling. In all the hubbub of daily chores and to-do lists, I am really trying to enjoy the sweet domestic views all around.

Does this happen to you? It seems that when our family is in public, often older folks will come up and talk to us and say things like: "Don't blink! Enjoy these days because soon they'll be over."

Because I am a stay at home wife and mother by choice and am with our child absolutely every waking moment, these commands from strangers can be hard to handle sometimes. However, it really isn't bad advice, its just that it is advice I'm already taking. Mothers, unite! Let's all take this advice until so many of us are doing it that nobody will have to dole out such advice ever again! :o)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Painting my Childhood Dollhouse, Part 1

Welcome to the Special Projects Department of our hearth side! Today during the quiet time of my daughter's afternoon nap I worked on my old dollhouse.

In 1981 my paternal grandfather made this for me in Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA. During my childhood I played with this 3 room townhouse often, and it seems I was also a bit rough on it! While cleaning it and priming it I found some toddler graffiti and lots of fingerprints! At some point in time, as you can see in the photos, the tip-top piece of the house front actually fell off and became missing, and some window frame pieces are missing as well.

I would like to paint this house a nice pale cheerful yellow, with either pale blue or maybe forest green shutters. Today I taped off the windows and the wooden roof and chimney, then took it outside and primed it with white paint to prepare it for the color.

The house is far more brittle than I had thought it would be and after working with it today I've decided that I can't pass this dollhouse along to our Elena until she is maybe 4 or 5, depending on whether she is a careful sort of girl or not. Although I was given the house when I was 2, it was stronger and in better shape then.

Do any of you have dollhouse memories? What is a good age for giving a little girl a dollhouse?

I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Sweet Surprise in the Mailbox!


My dear friend Melissa embroidered two adorable matching tea towels and mailed them to me as a surprise. Talk about a wonderful trip to the mailbox! Thank you, sweet friend! I am so grateful for these treasures, and for our friendship, which I also treasure very much.

Little Elena thinks these tea towels work great for peek-a-boo! I am very impressed by the fine workmanship of the needlework, look at that!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mending a Pop-Up Book

Book mending is a little mentioned, yet ever so handy skill for any homemaker to have!

Farmer Fred is a favorite of a certain 1 year old I know. I actually have taken it upon myself to hide this book now and then, so that we don't spend all day reading it!

Recently Farmer Fred and his barnyard animals suffered some wounds from Hurricane Elena, who got a bit overexcited and did quite a bit of damage. So, I got out the Scotch tape and did a lot of mending, thinking to myself yet again how interdisciplinary homemaking is.

In the incredibly exhaustive encyclopedia of homemaking skills entitled Home Comforts, author Cheryl Mendelson covers book mending with great aplomb. However, she doesn't say anything about pop up books! (I'm grinning as I write this, please don't think that I actually looked it up before I got out the Scotch tape.) Its a great book and every homemaker should have access to it.

But I don't think my 1 year old should have open access to Farmer Fred. I will be keeping this book out of reach and I will be chaperoning her time with him from now on. *smile*

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saying Yes to Sewing

As a little girl, I remember saying:
"I want to learn how to sew."
"No you don't," replied my mother.
"I want to learn how to sew."
"No you don't," announced my grandmother.
They told me to spend my time other ways, to "save time and trouble" buying ready made items. They did not understand. Their particular response to my wish to learn this skill was both baffling and irksome to me. "'No, you don't'?" I thought rebelliously, "Yes, I do!"
Now that its 2010, I'm 30 and have my own little girl. Goodness knows if she'll want to learn to sew...though she is interested in everything I do, so I wouldn't be surprised. But! I am determined to create a sewing-friendly environment for us. When I embroider, I hand her my smallest embroidery hoop to hold so she can feel included. And earlier this week when I popped over to my sewing machine to mend a diaper cover, I sat her in my lap so she could watch. Look at the glee in her face!
Does anyone have more ideas which I could put into practice as I continue to craft a welcoming household attitude to sewing?
Over at Raising Homemakers, which is a wonderful resource for others who are interested in such things, be sure to peruse August 18th's link-up! You might find some kindred spirits who are also striving to manage a godly household (maybe even one that is sewing friendly!).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Telling Our Stories: Family Heritage

Six generations of women from my maternal line grace the pages of this photo album! My daughter, me, my mother, my grandmother, then her mother (my great grandmother), and then her mother (my great great grandmother) are all pictured in this red leather album.

Six! these generations span from my great great grandmother, who was born in 1861 Holland, to my daughter, born in 2009 Ohio.

The mother-daughter poses throughout the album are at times strikingly similar: the way my Great Grandma Mary held her baby - my Gramma Greta, is nearly identical to the way grownup and married new mommy Gramma Greta held my (infant) mother in the photos. There are photos of both my Gramma Greta as a girl on her bicycle in 1930s Illinois and my mother on her bicycle in 1950s California. There are Sunday best photos, mothers-with-new-baby photos, a few pool photos, working in the garden photos, and children wearing costume photos. Right now my one year old daughter is quite impressed with the ones of "Gramma Moie" (my mother) as a tiny girl proudly holding not one, but two well cared for dollies!

Every morning, bright and early and sometimes bleary eyed, my little Elena and I come into the living room and she motions to look at a few big books that are carefully kept out of her reach: she wants to see her baby book, our wedding photo book, and lately she's been especially keen to see the red 6 generation album. It is amazing the way she requests it so often, and the way she really pauses to study the photos. I point things out, I explain a little here and there -- I want to respect her interest and respect the ladies in our family line by passing along what I know about them. But I am careful not to be heavy handed with these little requested tutorials, after all, she is only 15 months old and I wouldn't want to overburden her.

This past January my Gramma died and went to be with Jesus in Heaven. She was prepared for crossing Jordan, as her own faith was strong. Her mother was a Christian too, and so was her mother. The fathers and husbands in this particular line of mine were, from what I know and from the sounds of histories I cringe to recall, very possibly not such godly men. Yet in spite of these troubles, I think with admiration of these Christian women who kept passing along their knowledge of Christ's love and salvation to the next generation. (Note: accepting or rejecting Christ is a personal decision; we don't "inherit" salvation from our family. However, I'm pointing out how each generation has a huge influence on the next.)

I feel like I really knew my Gramma well, and getting to know her is one of the big treats of my life. Being kind of a history nerd as well as an adoring granddaughter, I was sure to ask a lot of questions over the years, and jot down a lot of recipes that I wanted to preserve, and most importantly spend a lot of time with her when I could. My Gramma was somewhat reserved and didn't relish talking about the past ("It's over!" she'd announce, and busily tend to the task at hand). But we took lots of walks together, and played lots of games, and played music together on our instruments. Most especially, we kept up a rapid and faithful correspondence for years: about 15 years in earnest, right up until last November, when it seemed she didn't have the heart to write, or too much to write about, and I was swamped with baby care and a move. We had a good visit in December, though, and she was able to meet her great grand-daughter Elena for the first and only time.

For me, the 6 generation photo album is a wonderful way to introduce Elena to our family history. She gets a kick out the photos of herself at the end of it, and as she grows up I hope it will click for her: she is part of this line of women, and she can be proud of the ladies in her family line.

In our evening prayers, I have begun to pray each night that God will bless Elena and help her to teach the next generation to love Him. It is such a troubled world, I figure she and her children will need all the prayers they can get, so I should start now. Gosh, is that a negative thing to say?

Preserving family heritage and passing along the stories of our families, whether it be through photos, heirlooms, genealogies, saved correspondences or music, is another branch of homemaking that we really should embrace. A homemaker's work is never done - and our tasks are sometimes very sweet. I'm realizing all of this now, and feel like praying for the future generation is a way of preserving family heritage that I'd never thought about until recently.

What do you think, readers? What are some of your ideas for preserving family stories and teaching little ones about the past?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Being Ladylike

Why not create an exhibit of sorts to both beautify your home and emphasize certain important ideas? I was reading in a lovely old book called The Christian Family about the symbols in our home. For example, putting up scripture and tasteful crosses and items of beauty will inspire and instruct those who view them.

I pondered this, and decided to put up a display in the nursery that might make an impression on our little Elena. The theme of the display is Little Girls in Dresses Doing Interesting Things. And, I believe that the clothes we wear are important, too. As my husband and I believe that girls should dress like girls and boys should dress like boys, I wear a skirt or a dress nearly every day, and Elena wears a dress, a skirt, or a feminine romper every day. (Babies' rompers are soooo sweet!)

So, I'm hoping that these lovely images are making a good impression on Elena. I don't think its ever really too early to begin making this kind of an impression on children. You may have noticed me mention before the fact that homemaking is interdisciplinary; that is, we homemakers undertake tasks of many many sorts. Well, here's an example of that! What category of homemaking is this? Gender studies? Art appreciation? Regardless, please enjoy our little exhibit from the nursery, which is otherwise entitled, Being Ladylike.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Evening Prayer

This evening my husband, our daughter Elena (15 months old) and I gathered at her crib for her bedtime prayer. Jeff held her in his arms and put his hand on her little head, I stood with each of my hands on each of them. Right after Jeff began to pray I felt Elena's tiny hand rest on my head! I nearly teared up!
Because of my husband's work schedule, 5 nights a week I am the one who prays with Elena at bedtime. During the 2 nights a week that we are both there for these prayers, our togetherness seems to make it all the more meaningful.
I love the above illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith; doesn't it strike a chord in you, too? Prayer binds us together and binds us to our God - may our hearts and households be full of prayer.
It is my goal to help create a household in which our children know that my husband and I love God, we love each other, we love them, and that God loves us all. I'm always trying to keep this goal in the front of my mind, both because it is important, and because I'm not entirely sure I have a handle on how to make this happen. So, it is something that I pray about. Much good has come from these prayers; it seems that there is nearly always some way to demonstrate each of those loves as we live out each day. We are not perfect. I do not have all the answers. But I wanted to share this painting with you, dear readers, as well as tonight's sweet little prayer time scene by the crib.
How does your family make prayer a part of household life? Please feel very welcome to comment on what works for you, as I hope to foster some dialogue on this and learn from you all.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Anne and Diana Topsy Turvy Doll

Topsy-turvy dolls are simply delightful; I've been working on this one for a while now and have just finished it this week.

Here is a fanciful version of Anne dressed as the Lady of Chalotte! This style is reminiscent of neither the 1880s or the Lady of Chalotte's time - it is simply a dressy and imaginative Playing Dress Up sort of outfit that a dramatic girl might dream up.
And, of course, on the right hand side is Diana. The bodice of this high-waisted gown is cream colored lace and doesn't show up very well in the photo.
I've made this doll as a Christmas gift for my daughter, and also to earn my expert level (!) Safe Toys badge in the Mary Jane's Farm Farmgirl Sisterhood merit badge program.
To learn more about Anne of Green Gables Fashion Week, visit Ashley at Bramblewood Fashion.
To learn more about Mary Jane's Farm, visit MaryJane's Farm.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Plum Puffs at Teatime

This is another entry for Anne of Green Gables Fashion Week founded by Bramblewood Fashion.
I had a new friend over for tea yesterday afternoon, which was the perfect excuse to try out the Plum Puffs recipe from the Anne of Green Gables Treasury. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup water
3 T butter
1/2 cup flour
1 t white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plum jam
1/2 cup cream cheese (optional)
confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease baking sheet.
2. In large saucepan, heat water and butter until boiling. When butter has melted, turn heat to low, and add flour and sugar all at once and mix them in thoroughly with wooden spoon. Beat mixture over low heat until it leaves the sides of the pan -- about 1 minute or less.
3. Remove pan from heat. Add one egg, beat until smooth. Add next egg, beat until smooth.
4. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. They should be one inch around and will double in size as they bake.
5. Bake 15-2 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, turn heat off. Close oven door. With a toothpick, poke a tiny hole in each to allow steam out. Return the puffs to off-but-warm oven for 5 minutes. Remove and cool on rack. When cool, gently split puffs in 1/2 and fill each with a spoonful of jam and or cream cheese.
6. Arrange on a serving tray and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar if you like.
This recipe makes 2-3 dozen puffs.

I thought this recipe was much simpler in practice than it first appears! And it is not an overly sweet teatime treat at all, so at a future tea if I need a recipe to offset a bunch of sweeter confections, this would round things out quite elegantly. Anne and Diana would approve!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Anne of Green Gables Fashion Week!

When I was in kindergarten in 1985, Anne of Green Gables the film was on PBS and I got to see it with my family for the first time. I was enraptured. As soon as I was able to handle chapter books I voraciously read not only Anne of Green Gables, but the whole series. And then I read most of the other L.M. Montgomery books, too, which are also fabulous - full of interesting, thought-provoking characters, universal themes and domestic beauty.

A few years later, when The Sequel came out, I remember how overcome with awe and happiness I was. Another Anne film? Could there be anything more welcome to a little girl? Oh, that was pure joy. More Anne! More dresses! More Anne-saves-the-day-moments!

As a little girl and now as a lady, I love lots of things about Anne: the way she sees the world a little differently from the crowd, the way she finds the good in people, the way she embraces adventure, and yes, the way she dresses. The books are also very specific about another of her qualities: she is an excellent cook! Film is so captivating; it captures so much of the story's essence, yet I still return to the pages of the books again and again, soaking in the wordiness and the details that film is obliged to leave out. One of the books calls Anne a "sower of sunshine", in people's lives, and it has been my prayer over the years to be this in the lives of others. It seems like a good aspiration.

One of the first deep impressions the story of Anne left on me is how determined she was to have a "bosom friend". I remember in elementary school keeping an eye out for a friend like that. Doesn't everybody? If there's a Diana in my life, she didn't really come along until college.

Our family took a road trip to Prince Edward Island one summer, and we rented a cottage on a large acreage. The lady who ran the place encouraged us to explore the extensive grounds, which thrilled me to no end! I think I was 13 or 14, old enough to go off on my own, and I wandered long and far, finding all sorts of Anne-ish nooks and crannies. The fields rolled and the forests seemed quaintly full of literary charm. For me it was like walking into the books, smelling what Anne smelled, seeing what Anne saw, exploring where Anne explored. We also visited Green Gables and Silver Bush (of the Pat series, also by Montgomery), and had raspberry cordial at a tea room. Over in Charlottetown we attended Anne of Green Gables the musical, which is just splendid if you are a young Anne crazed girl and love musicals, which I was and did.

During my years as a single young lady I felt very differently about Anne than I do right now. Now I am happily married to a man every bit as much of a catch as Gilbert. But back when I was waiting for him to come along, I was really lonesome. Even though I was doing all the things single Christian young ladies are supposed to do, I felt very - - oh, let's call it the "Adam alone in the Garden of Eden" feeling. You know what I mean? Lonely. Needing a Gilbert, you know. During those days, Anne really reeeeally bothered me. What was she thinking? Gilbert was there the whole time. He pursued her in a gentlemanly way and clearly was prepared to marry her and she kept him waiting. What is with that? Harumph. As you can see, it still gets my goat. However, it is no longer a touchy subject for me, since my Gilbert did come along and I did not keep him waiting. I said "Yes." as soon as he got down on one knee, held up the little jewel box and asked me to marry him. Five weeks later, we got married, surrounded by friends and family who threw rice at us as we marched out of the church! (also very Anne-ish, that rice throwing tradition).

Recently a good friend of mine got married, and I was tickled pink about a number of things about her sweetly, simply elegant church wedding: 1. Her groom is every bit as much a catch as Gilbert, 2. She walked down the aisle on her father's arm while a pianist played one of the themes from Anne of Green Gables! (the effect was beautiful.) 3. For her "something borrowed" she wore the veil that I wore at my wedding. This was such a sentimental thing for me - it seemed Victorian and meaningful and altogether special, rather like something that would happen in an Anne book: two friends passing along a bridal veil like that.

Does anyone else have any wonderful Anne memories?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adventures in Ironing...I mean, Adventures in Odyssey!

Ironing is one of those tasks that I have a tendency to let pile up if I don't have some sort of system or motivation to complete. Until I got married I had no idea ironing was important to men. So, you ladies-in-waiting/single gals, this is a skill to master. Not that I've truly mastered it yet. Anyway, here is my latest Grand Idea for passing the time while ironing:

I listen to Adventures in Odyssey online while I iron! To tune in to these well-written, fast-paced, family-friendly, God-honoring radio drams, visit and click on "On the Radio".

My sister and I have been fans of Adventures in Odyssey since about 1989. It is a continuing story about a fun community of people in a town called Odyssey - however, the stories make sense in whatever order you hear them, so don't fret about being out of the loop.

Let me know what you think, as I am perhaps their biggest fan, as those of you who know me are aware. :o) Does anyone else know about Odyssey?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Cathedral in Time / Getting Ready to be "Sunday Heather"

"Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God."

Sundays, if a homemaker is not careful, can easily begin to seem a lot like all the other days of the week. Except for the fact that there's church in the morning, I mean. I have a lot to learn about keeping the day of rest separate from the rest of the week, I am no expert. No siree, in fact, I have a lot of questions about how to spend the day in a way that honors God.

Wise counsel over the years of my studies has led me to believe that the admonition to "do no work" does not equal "do nothing". I believe resting can mean recreating - doing something that revives us from our labors. However, I repeat, I am no expert.

I love the phrase by Abraham Joshua Heschel calling the sabbath day a "cathedral in time". Each week as Sunday approaches I try -- and often fail, but I keep on trying -- to take measures to prepare for the day. With planning and effort, I can make room for Sunday to be a day with more rest in it than if I did not prepare. In fact, in our house I am known as "Sunday Heather" on Sundays, because on Sundays I rest a lot. I move slowly, I don't start projects, I take longer to do things. Here's what this homemaker does to get ready for Sunday:

  • By Saturday night, have the kitchen counter cleared and the dishwasher empty.

This means that on Sunday, there will be a place for me to simply stow dirty dishes away in the washer instead of dealing with them or with clean dishes that would need to be put away.

  • By Saturday night, have the dining table set for Sunday's after church lunch. Sometimes, if I'm exhausted, I go for the rock-bottom goal of simply having the table clear and ready for setting before the meal. Other times, when I'm feeling like a rock star homemaker, it means that I have a special tablecloth out and candlesticks ready for lighting, places set and serving spoons out. This creates an anticipatory feeling in the living/dining area of our home: not in a show-off way I hope, but in an ushering-in-the-sabbath kind of way. Having the table set the day before also means that on Sunday that's one less thing for the homemaker to even think about/make time for means there is resting time in place of doing time before the meal.

  • By Saturday night, I try very hard to have laundry finished so that on Sunday I will definitely not need to do laundry. For me, this makes Sunday stand out against the other days of the week, because I do laundry pretty much every day except Sunday. In our household we use cloth diapers on little Elena, so having laundry completed for Sundays means that I have a niiiiice stack of clean cloth diapers stacked on the changing table, yahoo!

Note: this does not always happen. Sometimes I blow it, and instead of a restfully prepared stack of snowy white diapers, they are in a heap in the dryer down the hall, and I have to deal with that on Sunday instead of luxuriating in a calm, lovely, prepared stack.

  • By Saturday night, I glance around the closet that my husband and I share and make sure that he has some ironed dress shirts to choose from for the morning service. Sunday mornings are a terrible time to have to iron.

  • Because of our particular recycling situation, which is too uninteresting to explain, trust me, I pack our cardboard recyclables into my husband's car trunk before he leaves for work on Saturday afternoon. (He works Tues-Sat.) That way, we can dump them at the recycling place after church. Oops, is this work? Hmmm. :o) Sigh.

  • And, I try to pack the diaper bag the night before, too. This includes a small cloth bag full of quiet tiny toys to keep Elena occupied throughout the whole service. Once I forgot this detail, and I hope I never forget it again!

  • Before bed on Saturday I pull out whatever I'm defrosting for our main course on Sunday.

That way, when we wake up on Sunday, a lot of the details are taken care of and we aren't starting the day completely from scratch.

Is this perfect? No, often we are still pulling out the garage a few minutes late. Is this the only way to do this? No. In fact, I would really appreciate hearing anyone else's ideas for preparing for Sundays. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodness at Aunt Ruthie's Sugarpie Farmhouse!

Oh, I just love visiting Aunt Ruthie's. Ruthann Winans' blog, called Aunt Ruthie's Sugarpie Farmhouse, will make you feel like a favorite niece being welcomed into your favorite aunt's gracious kitchen, where a pie cools on the windowsill and the kettle quietly whistles on the hearth. The air is filled with the aroma of all your favorite foods, and you can hear Aunt Ruthie singing hymns as she merrily sweeps or washes dishes or tends the fire.

Happy sigh.

I want to spread the word: Aunt Ruthie has just written a new e-book called Watermelon and Fireflies: 51 Farm Fresh Ideas for Celebrating the Good Ol' Summertime. It is packed with recipes and household tips and fun family ideas, all explained in Aunt Ruthie's contagiously cheery writing style and decorated with her collection of vintage graphics.

You can learn more about this by clicking here.

Also, she has invented a free-to-join sisterhood called the Sugarpie Sisterhood. Joining gives one access to forums full of other sisters: homemakers! Hoorah.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Household Guestbook

The road to a friend's house is never too long.

That saying always makes me think of the S. family, a family whom I greatly admire for their big-hearted hospitality and cozy home. Their house is a huge distance from everywhere, completely inconvenient to find, and nearly hidden in a posh wooded neighborhood of coastal New England. Yet, their household is like a people magnet! Their guest book is always stuffed to the gills with names. They must know some secret of how to attract crowds of fun, wonderful people, because I've been to more gatherings there than I can shake a stick at....appropriately, the S. family gave my husband and I a guestbook as part of their wedding gift to us in 2007.

I've been shyly collecting guest signatures in this book, and it is sweet to sit and admire the names and comments that guests leave. This book will serve as a nice record of the friends and family who visited us over the years.

Two days ago, however, the guestbook served me in an entirely new way. And feel free to chuckle at me, dear reader, when you discover how it did so. One of my new neighbors, whom I had met by way of delivering a big smile, a welcome, and a mini loaf of banana bread in January, came over for supper. For the life of me, I could not recall her name. To my shame, she remembered mine, as well as my daughter's! Gosh.

The visit went beautifully, we all had a grand time. And at the end of the visit I pulled out the guestbook and asked if she would do us the honor of signing it. (You see where I'm going with this?). She was thrilled to sign, and wrote her name very clearly, along with a happy comment.

So, now I know her name, yippee! Yet another use for guestbooks. I really think that if more people knew about the joys of guestbooks, more households would have them. Tee hee.

Your friend,

More Like Mitford, or, Learning to be Neighborly

Some of my favorite books include the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Reading them is so comforting, and I often think that our world needs more people like the characters in those books: namely, people who make the time to be good neighbors.

I've got a lot to learn about being a good neighbor. But, here are some ways that I've been trying to live out the golden rule and help build community in our little neighborhood:

a) As I push the stroller on neighborhood walks, I smile and wave at anyone we happen to see outside. This small polite gesture - if done casually and not overdone -- seems to work wonders. People mowing their lawns wave back, dog walkers come over and introduce themselves, the rare porch sitter nods and waves.

b) I've welcomed new neighbors with hand-delivered baked goods, and introduced myself that way. Its been a great way to help new people feel welcome. Also, when I deliver it I let them know that I'm a homemaker; I specify that I am at home during the day in case they would ever need anything. Usually people are surprised by this. To me its a neat and hospitable way to let others know that full time homemaking exists, as well as to offer help if needed.

c) "Babies open many doors" my grandmother told me once. What she meant by this of course, is that most people sort of melt when they are near a clean, happy, well dressed, sweet smelling little baby. In the past months I have learned that this is entirely true, and the result is that waaaay more people stop and chat with my husband and I now that we tote around baby Elena. She imitates, as babies do, so now she waves to everyone she sees and is friendly just like I am.

These ways of being friendly have led to the establishment of all of my neighborhood acquaintances. Are these elaborate schemes, or complicated practices? No, they are not. I'm not pretending that these are new ideas, or even overly clever ones. But, these are simple ways to spread friendliness and neighborliness!

Monica over at The Homespun Heart has done some sweet and hospitable neighborliness projects over the years. Her blog is one of my favorite, maybe you would like it, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Glamorizing Modesty

How about simply calling our campaign Glamorizing Modesty?

It may not have a lot of zip, this title, so let's call it a working title and I'll keep thinking about improving it. Sounds like a plan.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This Campaign Needs an Inspiring Name, any ideas?

"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.
There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.
There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.
We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith;
We have enough greed; we need more goodness;
we have enough vanity; we need more virtue.
We have enough popularity, we need more purity." --Margaret D. Nadauld

Over the weekend our little family attended something delightful called the Farm Animal Frolic at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. Baby Elena, who currently seems really interested in animals, especially sheep, got to pet all sorts of baby farm animals. It was an afternoon of good memories and sweet scenes as I watched my husband hold my daughter, surrounded by early summer sunshine.

The afternoon was briefly interrupted by a scene that I won't go into in depth: I will just say that near the bunnies, a mother kneeling near her child was being greatly betrayed by her incredibly low-rise jeans. I was appalled, and was haunted by the rude display of flesh for hours afterward.

During that moment or two when I noticed the problem, I really didn't know what to do. Should I let her know? How should I phrase it to her? Surely she could sense all that exposed skin, couldn't she? Other than this fashion faux pas she didn't appear to be the usual candidate for trying to shock anyone, she was otherwise very average in her mid-thirties motherly appearance. I was very frustrated. All I ended up actually doing about it was warning my dear husband to look in the other direction, and our family left the scene calmly to visit the lambs instead.

Throughout the remainder of the day I struggled from time to time with that question - - what should our response as ladies be to the women in our midst who are immodest, whether by their own honest mistake or their own intention? I've been in that situation before and also did not know what to do, and ended up doing nothing.

What is the compassionate response? What is the ladylike response?

I have no idea, still, about what the conversation should look like. Something tells me it needs to be non-judgemental and kind if it is to make any kind of positive impact, however, beyond that I'm not getting any ideas.

The next day, we were at the grocery store as a family, and in the produce department my husband quietly pointed out to me a young lady about my age who was wearing a very pretty, modest, casual day-dress. It was one of those everyday kind of dresses that is super cute, yet knit jersey and probably not dressy/respectful enough for church, but perfect for looking cute at home or out and about. Oh, dear, I need to learn to post photos so I can find an example on the web and pin it up here. "See? that's your kind of dress, Heather, and it is modest!" he whispered. (He knew how down I was feeling about the widespread immodesty in our culture.)

Anyway, I had noticed her, too, and had been relieved and heartened to see this.

Then, I had an idea!!!

What if, instead of dwelling on my unanswerable question of what to say to the immodest, I help promote modesty by finding some quiet, polite, positive way to compliment those ladies among us who are dressing modestly? To me, that sounds like a plan!

So, the next lady I saw in an outfit that filled that bill (and I must say, it was only about 2 minutes later in the bread department, hooray), I just naturally told,

"Oh, what a great skirt," with a polite smile. I was careful not to be overzealous. She beamed back and gave me a big "Thanks!"

Phew. That felt like such an easy exchange when compared to the scary low rise jeans incident of the day before.

Will you join me in my campaign to promote modest dress? My intention in this article is not to gossip or cast judgement, it is to launch something positive.

Could that something positive be a new habit or two?
1. a habit of dressing in a ladylike (i.e. feminine and skin-covering) manner, and of
2.providing quiet compliments to others who do so too,

thus positively reinforcing ladylike dress.

This leaves us back at the title: this campaign requires an inspiring and non-war-like name. Any ideas?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

This is super!

3-4 lbs apples
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon molasses
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
splash of lemon juice, more to taste

1. Peel, core and quarter apples.
2. Put all ingredients into a large pot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. For chunky sauce, use a potato masher or fork to mash the cooked apples. For smooth, run it through the food mill or blender.
4. Serve hot or chilled. Freezes well for up to a year.

This makes about about 5 or 6 cups of sauce, depending on your apples and how they cook down, and depending, of course, on whether you use 3 or 4 pounds of apples.

I found a variation of this recipe in the June-July 2010 issue of my favorite magazine, MaryJane's Farm. And by the way, our baby is nuts over this applesauce! I have a fondness for it myself, though next time I will use a little less cinnamon.

On our walk the day after I made this applesauce I toted along the apple peels and cores and found a spot in the woods to pitch them. The deer around here look so skinny, I thought I'd help provide someone a little snack.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Daily Life: an account of this homemaker's Thursday

What does a day in the life of a homemaker look like? As you might be able to tell from my poems and high ideals about homemaking, I have a romanticized notion of our calling. However, do not fear for me, reader! This romance is tempered by the practical doings of daily life, an account of which is listed below.

A sweet friend of mine asked me yesterday how I spend my days as a homemaker. So, at the end of the day I jotted down how my hours had sped past. Here we go:

4am - I woke up and decided that I really needed to nurse the baby. So, I quietly went into the nursery for a short nursing session and then went back to sleep.

7:30am - Baby E. awoke and made sweet happy cooing sounds in her crib until I came and greeted her. She smiled up at me and offered me her doll and a soft bunny....then I noticed that her cloth diaper was at the other end of her crib, and that she was sitting happily in a puddle...So, I put on a smile and a stiff upper lip, gave her a big "Good morning!" and a hug.

Began to put a new diaper on her, and started a load of laundry which included 1/2 a bag of dirty diapers, her wet sheet, blanket and mattress cover. I used homemade laundry soap that I learned how to make a few years ago on Crystal Paine's blog. Recovered her mattress with another sheet. Set aside her cloth doll -which was also wet - for hand-washing. I just made that doll for her and I don't want the washing machine to be rough on it.

Since the day seemed warm already and promised to only get more hot, I dressed Elena in a cute sleeveless seersucker dress and bloomers. I made a simple breakfast for Elena and I : scrambled eggs and sliced banana.

We spent some time outside on the deck while it was still partly shady out there. I brought out a baby quilt for us to sit on, a few board books, a toy, and let her play and crawl and explore out there. I watered some of the plants and harvested the dried rose petals off our bush, intending to make them into potpourri for Grandma Neuharth's Christmas present. We read the two little books and went inside. Changed E's diaper. Tidied the nursery. Emptied the washing machine, and set aside the mattress cover to be dried outside, while I stuck the diapers in the dryer. (I try to be energy-conscious with what I do, but the dryer is a weakness of mine). Brought the big drying rack outside to the deck and hung the mattress cover.

9am - Baby Elena went down for her morning nap. My husband got up. He works second shift, so his hours are not really aligned with mine as far as sleep. I have a rip-roaring head cold and did not feel like doing anything but sitting, so Jeff and I watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting. While it was on I harvested parsley and rosemary from potted plants and tied them up for drying. Found a good spot on the wall of the basement staircase for pinning up the strings of herbs: it will be dark and cool for them there, which are good conditions for drying.
Then I put away clean clothes.
Cleaned all the toilets and sinks in the house. Emptied bathroom wastebaskets. Put fresh linens in our bathroom.
Prepared Jeff's new baseball pennant for hanging in his office.
Did a hand washing session with 3 baby dresses, one doll dress and one cloth doll, then set them outside on the drying rack after taking down the newly-dry mattress cover from the rack.

12 noon: From the partly opened nursery door, I watched Elena play in her crib for a minute before I walked inside: she hugged her orange bunny, talked to it, made it hop, and lay contentedly on her side while she babbled to herself. Eventually she noticed me. I greeted her, then changed her diaper. Nursed.

Brought Elena downstairs and she visited with Jeff and I for a while before i got her lunch prepared and fed her solids. I prepared side dishes for the meal that Jeff and I were to share, and Jeff grilled the main course, which I had defrosted and plated up for him to take out to the grill. Ate lunch with Jeff.

Jeff read aloud from our daily Bible readings.

I made Jeff's evening lunch and packed it in his work bag. Looked after Elena as she crawled around and I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher.

Brought E. upstairs to the nursery to play while I restocked the stack of clean diapers and put her clean clothes away. She listened to her Jesus songs and reveled in being able to play around her toy box: being able to prop herself up and reach into the toy box is still a new thing for her and the excitement hasn't worn off yet.

I rotated her mattress and re-covered it with the now clean mattress cover and the clean sheets. Then we both were called downstairs by Jeff who was on his way out the door for work. We waved goodbye to him, then walked to the mailbox.

Came inside out of the heat. Elena played merrily on the quilt on the living room floor with the Wal-Mart flier that we got in the mail. She liked the dog pictured on the cover. I stayed with her and taught her that dogs say Ruff! Ruff! She proudly imitated. We played together for a while.

Took meat out of the freezer to defrost for tomorrow's midday meal. Another diaper change.

Afternoon nap for Elena. During that time, I repaired a toy, had some tea and composed a blog entry, then read posts on about 2 other blogs. This all took about 1 hour.

4pm. Elena woke up. Nursed. Elena played. Took E. outside for a 1 mile walk. Made some dinner. Gave E. a bath and put her in a nightgown and overnight cloth diaper. We began to quiet down for the night.

I read to Elena and put her to bed by 7:30pm, nursing again beforehand.

I rested on our bed for a little while. Then got up and began making homemade applesauce. While I peeled and sliced a few pounds of apples, I listed to a half hour radio show called Adventures in Odyssey over on the Focus on the Family website.

While the applesauce simmered I aired the house and wrote this account of the day. Watered the outdoor and indoor plants. Cleaned up the kitchen. Emptied clean dishes from the dishwasher -- again! what would I do without the dishwasher?!

10pm nursed Elena while she slept (this tanks her up for the night and she typically sleeps all the way through until 6am, which is great).

Then I wearily prepared for bed and turned out my light.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Giveaway! at The Modest Mom

The Modest Mom is offering a free skirt to the winner of Saturday's random drawing. Sign up by commenting beneath the post at The Modest Mom creates custom skirts for expectant mothers and regular skirts, too.

While you sign up, take a look at the new and improved website for Promoting Beautiful Womanhood/Ladies Against Feminism. It is really an encouraging site.

An Unexpected Visitor

Last Thursday morning at about 8:45, our doorbell rang.

Startled, I sped to the front door to answer; and as I had just put our daughter down for her morning nap, my arms were uncharacteristically empty. Through the window I could see that our caller was not a delivery man, as I'd assumed it would be, but it was a new acquaintance of mine. It was my neighbor's mother, a small gracious lady from central Asia who has been staying next door for about six months. During these special months she has been household support to her daughter, who has just given birth to their firstborn.

I opened the door and smiled, a bit embarrassed that she'd caught me in my robe and slippers. Certainly I am not accustomed to receiving guests while in nightclothes. I welcomed her and motioned for her to come in -- fully expecting her to see that I was not prepared and excuse herself until a more convenient time. However, she came right in and thanked me, and as is their custom, immediately took off her shoes. And as she did so I saw that she was close to tears and very much needed a friend.

How could I be a friend to her? We don't speak the same first language, and we didn't have either of our usual translators with us this time, and we didn't have my dear baby daughter nearby to serve as a sort of common-ground conversation piece....and I was in my robe! But, I just took a deep breath and ushered her into the living room, glad it was in great shape and silently thanking all the Lady Lydia posts I'd read about keeping things ready for guests *see* Quickly I whisked out a box of tissues and tried my best to be a lady (despite my robe!)

This dear woman really just needed a hug and a listening ear. She didn't stay very long, and it didn't seem to matter too much that we didn't always understand one another's exact words due to our language barrier. From what I understood, she was simply overwhelmed by her impending departure; it would be difficult to leave her daughter and son-in-law and only grandchild. These are universal concerns, there is nothing in that emotion that is unique to her culture, nothing in my culture that prevents me from understanding. My heart was heavy for her, and I think she saw the comprehension on my face.

After she left, I held our guestbook - which I'd had her sign - and thought about what had happened. It was a small thing. Yet, I was glad to learn that this acquaintance of mine counted me as a friend, and that our home appealed to her as a place where she would be welcomed at quarter to nine in the morning for a little cry and some kind words.

Hospitality: that word crosses my mind all the time, it is a goal of mine, something I want to offer people and so often I don't know how to make it happen. It intimidates me and I end up being too formal or - perhaps worse, I postpone asking someone over for tea or lunch or a visit, and instead I wait for circumstances to be ideal. I glanced up at the foyer wall to a cross stitch sampler I made. It reads Friends and Neighbors Welcome. How much more authentic that early morning visit was than so many of my other attempts at hostessing hospitable gatherings!

When the pastor prayed at our wedding in 2007, he blessed the marriage with a prayer that included these lines:

"Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

This line especially came to mind as I mulled over the visit that morning: it seemed like our home had been deemed a haven of blessing and peace. I also remembered how the girls at one of my bridal showers had all surrounded me and prayed that our home would be a haven, as well.

I really would like our home to be a haven every day - for my own little family and for those who visit us. It seemed to me that any home can only be a true haven by God's help and our cooperation. What do you think? How do you authentically prepare your homes for guests? Not just the outward trappings of being prepared, which are of course necessary and important, but what is it about the haven-like homes you have visited that makes them havens?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The great rivers, and the mighty homemakers.

"Homes are the springs among the hills,
whose many streamlets, uniting,
form the great rivers
the community,
the nation,
the Church.

If the Springs run low,
the rivers waste.

If they pour our bounteous currents,
the rivers are full.

If the Springs are pure,
the rivers are clear like crystal;

If they are foul, the rivers are defiled."

--from Homemaking, by J.R. Miller

This quote has become an important inspiration for me as I live out my days. It is written out carefully and framed, and hangs on our foyer wall. All day as I go about my business of homemaking: caring for baby Elena, being a helpmeet to Jeff, toting things up and down the stairs, preparing fresh linens and laundry and food and dishes and striving to maintain a restful atmosphere in our household, I'm constantly passing by that frame. I keep an eye on it and let it remind me of God's purpose for the home.

I know only two other homemakers of my generation, and they live in states faaaaar away from me. Specifically, they are in Massachusetts and Alabama, and I am in Pennsylvania. Part of the reason I'm founding this homemaking blog is to have a way to connect with other homemakers; there are lots and lots of homemakers who share the above vision - I just haven't met them in person yet! However, I have visited many of their blogs and am incredibly encouraged by their presence on the web: via homemaking blogs I've read about homemakers in
South Carolina,
and elsewhere.

It would be great to get together for tea or a sewing bee or something! But in the meantime, it is encouraging to at least be aware of one another's presence, sharing inspirations, swapping recipes, craft ideas, child rearing advice, book titles, stories and so on. Hello out there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Honored Guests at Tea

Yesterday our household was honored to recieve two visitors from afar. I suppose that makes them sound like the Magi! Not so. It makes me so happy when they are able to visit us, as they are so special to me: these two guests are my maternal grandfather's first cousin and her husband...and to both shorten and sweeten that distant-sounding explanation of relationship, we have recently decided to classify ourselves with the following titles: Great Aunt Kathleen and Great Uncle Walter, and they refer to me as their niece. These designations are far cozier than before, when we didn't really call one another anything. Interesting how names and titles succeed in making people dearer to each other.

Another part of the reason I was so excited and honored to have my Great Aunt and Great Uncle over is because we all have so much in common. We are really kindred spirits, my Aunt and I. It doesn't seem to make a whit of difference that she was born in the 1920s and I was born in 1979 -- we really may as well be sisters. We're both readers, Christians, interested in American history and our family history, we're both quietly anti-feminism, we laugh at the same things, and simply enjoy our visits and our intermittent letter correspondence.

My Great Uncle is a real hero in my opinion, as he is one of the most gentlemanly husbands I've ever met, and he is a World War II veteran. They were passing through our neck of the woods on their way back from a visit to the World War II memorial in DC. I was fairly overwhelmed, inwardly, at the significance and the great honor it is to ahve a veteran of WWII over for tea! I hold such great respect for the work that generation of Americans did. It was good to hear their report/impression of the monument, as their good opinion of it seems to matter. The monument was created to honor him and his fellow veterans, after all. My Uncle Walter and Aunt Kathleen said the monument seemed very triumphant and respectful, and everything it ought to be. This was good news! Also, they approved of its location in relation to the other monuments and buildings of the capital. (I haven't been to DC since 2000, which was before this was complete, so I was especially curious about things). Its off in a wooded area near the Lincoln memorial. And of course, we all smiled at one another and nodded approvingly, it is always good to be in the vicinity of Lincoln!

My honored guests and I enjoyed our short time together greatly: they gave gifts to my daughter, she smiled and was sweet to them in her baby way and happily let them each hold her. I think instinctively she knows how wonderful they are, even though she's only 12 months old. I shyly brought out my last several sewing projects to show Aunt Kathleen, who finds joy in looking at such things. And I showed Uncle Walter the gardening project that my husband and I have undertaken, and he was very impressed. All too soon the tea was over and my relatives had to be on their way. We waved from the driveway and sighed after their vehicle turned the corner. If only we lived closer!

Thoughts on Housewifery Skills and the Art of Homemaking

"It is the province of the Housewife to be of chaste thoughts, stout courage, patient, untyred, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good Neighborhood, wise in discourse but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortable in her counsels, and generally skillful in the worthy knowledges which belong to her vocation."
--Advice to the Housewife, 1787 The Complete American Housewife

I love this quote! It both makes me chuckle and it causes me to try harder at my job of homemaker. Whoever first said this really had a handle on the interdisciplinary nature of our role as homemakers. So, chin up, everyone, and let us put our shoulders to the wheel as we soldier on with our important work of keeping our households running.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Small, but Mighty

My husband said something so reassuring to me during our lunch today. We were just talking about this and that, and he posed the question of why on Earth that television show called "Kings" didn't last longer than a season. Although it was set in the present day, it contained strong biblical parallels to the story of Saul and David, and was suspenseful, beautifully crafted, well acted and extremely well written.

"I don't know." I answered. "But I'm not the one to ask. I feel like I don't fit into any demographic, anywhere. No one seems to like what I like. " I paused, knowing that I sounded kind of whiny, but I wasn't whining, really, and he knew that.
I thought some more.

"Except on the homemaking blogs! I pretty much fit in with that group!"
"That's right," he agreed - not that he frequents homemaking blogs, "Your homemaker group is small but mighty."

Small but mighty. I really am comforted by that.
"Our goal, after all, is to take over the world, you know," I explained with a chuckle, and then more seriously mused, "With households that honor God, and that send little Christian God-followers into the world."