Friday, September 29, 2006

Symbols of home

The little sentiments of home cannot be measured with money or with market value. The pictures and the objects owned by our mothers and our families may be meaningless to the world, but hold great status in our hearts.

Take for example, the symbols of home life in the 19th century. The Victorians often would present newlyweds with things like birdcages or ivy, to decorate their homes. The birdcages were objects to emphasise the love of home. A proverb says, "As a bird that wanders from his nest, is a man who leaves his home." Birdcages were reminiscent of the protection of the home.

Ivy was often given to new brides to plant around the doorway of the house. Ivy was symbollic of loyalty and everlasting stability. If you are familiar with ivy growing near a house, you might know how hard it is to get rid of it when it begins to cover the house and take over, so it is a plant that stays with you always and is difficult to destroy.

Paintings of old home places that the grandparents used to live in, may have been given, to add beauty to the walls, but also to add sentiment for days gone by. Some people say it is not good to be too reminded of the past, but perhaps this is where some of our problems lie. We remember only the bad things, and not the good things. Paintings of our homeplaces remind us that the things that were good back then, are also good for us today: a home to come to, a place of our own, a family with its own humor and personal ways of communicating, and certain values our fathers held dear. Other things that might have been given would have been hand made quilts and blankets, or herbs for the garden, such as rosemary and sage. These things were much appreciated because, like ivy, they seemed to be everlasting
and even though they clipped off pieces for cooking, the plant had a continuous yield.

In making home "homey" it is important not to buy in too much to modern decorators. If there is something you like, use it and display it and enjoy it, and don't worry too much about it matching or being in the right style. Most children growing up in a homeplace do not remember the perfect decorating, but that the objects in it had a purpose and a meaning. My own homeplace must have looked like gypsies lived there but although I travelled far and wide, I never saw anything I liked better than my own home. Children like what they are around the most, so creating symbols of home can be very useful, especially if you move around often. These things can be placed around your next dwelling, and the next and the next, so that the family will always feel the comfort and reassurance of being at home.

Paintings by Dennis Patrick Lewan, sold here

(at this point, we don't have comments, due to time limitations, but emails arewelcome (

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Two Stephen Darbyshire paintings here show beautiful views from windows. No matter if you live in an apartment or a house; in the country or in town, windows are very important. Consider making a private view of your own with hedges, birdhouses and birdpaths, pathways and seating areas. Little "views" outside a window, even if it is just a flower box, are so restful to the eyes and calming to the blood pressure.It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is why it is so important to have meaningful pictures in the home.

During Victorian times, artists sometimes painted stories into their pictures. You could guess what was happening by looking at the things in the painting. Here, you can just imagine a woman pausing for a moment to catch her breath and reflect on the beauties of the earth. I hope you all have wonderful views and if you don't, that you will create them.

In case one does not have a window and/or a beautiful view one can be created using fabrics, which are curtains at $39.75 a pair with a beautiful view portrayed on them.

There is "English Garden" T71A, "Woodland Crossing", T71B, "Island Retreat", T71C, "Tuscan Life Vineyard" T71D, "Cottage Garden" T71E, "Desert Garden", T71F, "Park Avenue" T71G, "French Cafe"' T71H, and "Bamboo Beach", T71I and all are available at the window art section at
There are also wall murals and wallpapers that create views, available from various places.

If you do not have a view, it is even more important to go sight-seeing and look at views. It reminds me of my father, who would take us on Sunday drives on the way home from church, where we could see a view from afar off. Looking at scenery seems to be one of the lost arts of childhood, which we need to revive.

I've temporarily halted comments because, as much as I don't want to admit it, my house is a wreck and I am running behind in just about everything. Comments tend to make me want to sit and "talk" instead of doing urgent things. However, emails are welcome:

Breakfast Burrito

When cereals and commercial breads began to make their way onto the shelves of grocery stores, hearty high-protein breakfasts that would "stick to your ribs" as they used to say, fell by the way. Men would go to work filled only with a muffin or a cinnamon roll or some kind of toaster tart, and then become tired and irritable before the morning was over. Here is a recipe that may not require much shopping, as it can include things from the garden.

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup bottled chunky salsa
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray or cooking oil
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese or shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
4 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
Bottled chunky salsa (optional)
(This recipe from )

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Homemade Soup and Crackers

(Here are recipes for soup and crackers. I found that you could eliminate the bouillon cubes and the tomato paste and it would taste just fine. No need for the hot pepper sauce, either, so almost everything can come from the produce stand or garden.)

3 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/2 of a 6-ounce can (1/3 cup) tomato paste
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro or basil
2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon sugar
Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
Snipped fresh cilantro or basil (optional)

1. If desired, seed the tomatoes. In a large saucepan combine tomatoes, water, onion, celery, tomato paste, the 2 tablespoons cilantro, bouillon granules, sugar, and hot pepper sauce. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until celery and onion are very tender. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
2. Place half of the tomato mixture in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Return all to the saucepan; heat through. If desired, garnish with additional cilantro.
3. Makes 4 servings (4 cups)
4. Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup: Prepare as above, except after blending, cover and chill soup for up to 24 hours. If desired, top chilled soup with dairy sour cream.

Soda Crackers
4 c flour 1 ts baking powder 3/4 c shortening 1 1/3 c milk salt to taste
Mix flour, baking powder and shortening; add milk an blend well. Form a ball of dough and cut into four pieces. Roll dough out very thin. Cut with a cookie cutter or the top of a glass (wet the glass first). Place on cookie sheet. Prick with a fork 4-5 times and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 375 degrees 8 to 10 minutes or until golden (watch crackers carefully so they don't burn).


Serve soup in bowls that are set on plates, and then on placemats, for an appealing setting.
Homemade soups and crackers are best eaten right away and do not taste as good as leftovers, so just make enough to eat at the particular meal. Soup can be stored in the fridge and will last maybe another day, but fresh food ought to be eaten fresh, when possible. Crackers can be stored in airtight containers, in the refrigerator, but are best eaten within a day or two.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting By Without Buying

The comments we have gotten have stimulated a lot of thoughts about how homemakers used to "make it" and yet devote themselves to the home, while their husbands sought employment.

If you are new at home and feeling confused about making ends meet, you will be surprised at what you do not have to buy, erstwhile making life at home quite beautiful. Eventually when you can afford it, you may want to spend more money, but while you are trying to limit your spending, here are some ideas.

The things that are most pressing, financially are the rent or house payments, utilities, and car expenses and food. There are ways to reduce the cost of all of these.

Find a creative real estate agent who really is an enthusiastic possibility thinker, and ask them to turn your rent money into house payments. By the time you have paid rent for many years, you could have been using that money to make house payments and build up equity, which is a great investment. When you pay rent, you are pouring money into someone else's investment, and you cannot re-sell and get your money back. People who own houses will be much more secure than people who rent.

Fuel is another problem. Natural gas was supposed to be so great and so inexpensive that every American could have it. What we are finding out is that it is costing sometimes more than $200.00 a month for heat and the other things that require propane. You can use less of this if you will use space-heaters, which are small enough to move from room to room, and sometimes cost less than $50.00 at discount department stores like Wal-Mart and ShopCo. If you have no choice but to use this fuel, find ways on the web of making it more efficient. Some people claim that although they pay a big price for it, they are still shivering and not satisfied with the results.

If you go back to the old fashioned way of shutting off lights and turning off radios, computers and other machinery, you can cut back quite a bit on the electric bill. When we were young, we were shown the meter on the outside of the house and told that every time we left a light on, the meter would run, and add up more money that we would have to pay.

Car expenses can be a big drain on the homemaker's budget. If you are really hurting, you can reduce the expenses by sharing a car. In marriage, two can live as cheaply as one, if they do not insist on having two of everything. Instead of cutting back on the amount of expense to run a car, couples sometimes just think they have to bring in extra income. You can actually have money in savings if you cut down on your vehicles. The combined cost of registration and fuel and repairs (flat tires, engine problems, etc), can really be as high as house payments. I am not suggesting that everyone give up their second car, but only if you are really going under and cannot find a way of paying it and feel you will have to go back to work in order to get it. Most full time homemakers eventually do have vehicles, so do not worry that you will never have one.

If you are really under stress financially, it makes sense to sell of things that you are not using. Also, you can give up the newspaper delivery, which can cost sometimes over $100.00 a year. Who needs all that bad news, anyway? Some of it is not even fit to read. There are many alternative newspapers that cost much less, and no one ever went without information just because they didn't get a newspaper. Word of mouth is actually faster than the news these days, anyway.

Magazine subscriptions can be limited only to those that are really helpful to you, and for the new homemakers, I would suggest a good homemaking magazine that really cares about helping women cut down on expenses and prospers. I have saved favorite magazines from days that I had a subscription, and over the years, have enjoyed recycling them. Each month I get out that month's two or three magazines from my collection, and put them out on the coffee table. It is enormously entertaining to see them again, and after a year, they seem like new.

Food is another expense that is overwhelming, so let me give you a good tip here that will help you tremendously: Shop the outer perimeters of the grocery store where the fresh things are, and fix the highest quality food you can.

Live food, or food as close to its natural form as possible, is much more beneficial to your body than processed foods. Processed foods are foods that have been altered by putting them through a process and adding things to them. Live food will give you the optimism and sense of well-being that you need to balance your body and your mind and function well at home. Yes, a bunch of grapes can be high priced, but it is a lot cheaper than being sick. If you feel you just have to make a pie, buy fresh apples for it.

If you cannot always get fresh brocoli, your next best choice is frozen. Sometimes the frozen is even better than the fresh, as it is frozen when it is fresh, and the fresh produce does sit in the store a few days. However, in general, it is better to eat the produce than to eat out of cans. The food inside of cans and packages is dead, and the produce is still live. Choose the firmest and nicest smelling fruit you can find. If it makes your mouth water when you get near it, it is probably pretty good.

Produce combined with dried grocery items such as rice and beans and whole grains, makes very good meals. Buying fresh may seem expensive, but if you eat fresh, you will find you don't have cravings for the expensive junk foods that are available. People complain about the cost of fresh produce, and that salad items are so high, but think nothing of paying five dollars for a bag of chips, which does not have the life-giving nutrients they need.

Someone asked me about vitamins and all I have to say about it is this: Be careful that you don't substitute vitamins for good eating. In order to sell some nutritional products, advertisers will often say that the apples and pears and brocoli and carrots in the grocery store are inferior and you would have to eat 20 pounds a day to get the vitamins your really need. People then buy the vitamins and then avoid the fresh food, buying instead the chips and the pop. Pop is hard on the kidneys and chips and snacks will stuff up your body and make you tired and lethargic. It is still better to eat the fresh produce, even it if it comes from the grocery store. And fresh is better than frozen; frozen better than dried; dried better than canned.

Type in "frugal homemaking" and find ways to avoid shelling out money. If you can possibly live without it and not perish, then do so. When ever I have to pull in tightly and not spend, I find great inspiration thinking of the pioneer women, and my own mother, who didn't have all the niceties of life, and yet lived beautifully, from their own resourcefulness. Though they were poor, they left behind wonderful creative hand work such as doilies and quilts. They knew what was beautiful and would not spend money on anything that was not worthwhile. .

Buying pretty things is a lot of fun, and ordering them is great, but if you want to cut down on expenses, try sending a package of things you don't want, to a friend, and getting the friend to send a package to you. It is a lot of fun and gives you something to look forward to when you might formerly have used shopping as entertainment.

We don't need a lot of clothing if we are staying home. I have one pair of boots to wear outside, and a pair of shoes for indoors, and another pair for church and going out in public if I need them. I have two skirts for winter and two jackets, with two blouses. I have several summer cotton dresses that I sewed myself, and something made of sturdy fabric for working outside. I do not have closet space for many clothes, so I wear them out and then get new ones.

Lots of people recommend going to yard sales. They are a lot of fun and get you out of the house. Children love them, because sometimes there are things for 25c and under a dollar, even a dime. Most yard sales now have a box of things for free, and just before they are going to pack up everything and close, they may give away some things. While you may not want to hang on to the items forever, you can get some things that will tide you over temporarily. Besides that, the shabby look is considered quite upscale these days, so you need not feel inferior about having some of the more worn items. Even worn curtains, when washed and ironed, are quite charming. Sheets are often sold because the owners got tired of them and upscaled their collection. You can dye old sheets and have a lot of fun using them to make things for your home, even without sewing.

No one starts out "on top" and most people have stories to tell of how things were when they were just beginning to establish their home. If we all started out with new things, we wouldn't have stories to tell.

You don't have to buy all those expensive cleaners, or even cough syrups. Recipes for these can be found online, by typing in "homemade (whatever)" and it is actually very satisfying to make a few things. They aren't as caustic as comercial things and don't wear out the clothes as fast.

Even in your tightest stage, financially, you will be glad you invested in retirement funds and other investments. Find one that you only have to put a little bit in --say 25 to 50 dollars a month, and go from there. It will be worth the sacrifice.

Practice not spending. When you see something, think of ways you could substitute. I've been to the grocery stoe and when I saw the price on something, I would think, "Hmmm...I think I could find a way to make my own crackers this week. (yes, there are cracker recipes)." Those crackers become a family favorite that you are "known" for, years later.

You are probably wondering just how much work this all is and who has time for such things, but when you take into consideration how much time it takes to go to work and come back home, you will see it is actually less effort than going to work, and is more fulfilling.

Lastly, there is the old fashioned way of bringing in more money with what you have. I just recently heard that you could make $50.00 for a bucket of pine cones that were not opened, if you cared to do the work. This is excellent activity for children, and can teach them a lot. Some companies buy these so that they can plant tree farms, or send them to other places that order them. If your husband is under a lot of stress, and you still want to make money, choose something that would interfere the least with your home life. In other words, not pet sitting or day care or typing for other people. Do things that do not interrupt the routine of the home; something almost unnoticeable.

Depression era quote:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.

Remember that although everything is only a dollar at the dollar store, if you don't spend it, you can have it, and a dollar saved, is a dollar earned.

The husband has to cooperate, too. He cannot go on buying all the "toys" he wants and he will have to do his share to cut down on expenses, whether it be finding work closer to home, taking homemade lunches, and not buying the latest cool shirt or jacket on the market. Our purpose in life is not spending and living it up, but to work together for the ultimate good.

There are lots of blogs out there with great ideas that you can tap into, and lots of great sites.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Peace in the Home

We will always be threatened with turmoil, but the homemaker can shield the home from unrest and worry, simply by putting into place a few beautiful rituals. One is the arranging of flowers, and another is the setting of the table. Still another can be the placement of a decorative pillow on a just-made bed, and the unwrapping of a new bar of soap in the bathroom. Reading a good book at night, and eating wholesome food, surrounding yourself in soothing music, or having productive conversation with family and friends, seem to keep a relaxed and safe feeling in the home. Some people have found that a media "fast" for a number of days has helped them tremendously in getting mental balance in their lives. Getting out of debt, and learning to be resourceful to have what we need, can reduce the pressure on the mind. These days, there is enough to be worried about, without adding pressure by bringing problems on ourselves, so the house is a perfect place to escape. The woman at home is a tremendous influence on the mood and destiny of the family. It would take volumes to explain why this is so. If she only knew the power that she has to influence the family and the nation, more women would be putting their energy into making the house a home.

Sunday Tea Time by Stephen Darbyshire

Friday, September 08, 2006

Quilts in the Home

These quilts are from , where you can order online or get a paper catalog for your home. The catalog is a delight to look at and full of other little tidbits besides their beautiful, homey merchandise.

Quilts don't have to be left in the blanket trunk or the linen closet, or buried beneath other blankets on the bed. They can now be used in any part of the hosue to give it a bit of color and a feeling of history. Originally, some quilts were made with old scraps of clothing, as a frugal way of using up every available piece of material.

A sleeve can be attached with self-stick velcro to the back of a quilt, and a curtain rod run through it for hanging on a dining room wall. They can be laid gently across the back of a couch or draped on the top of a piano, to display the beautiful colors. Some people use them as table cloths for afternoon tea parties, but put clear plastic over them to protect them. It does not seem to damage them to leave them under the clear plastic--the heavier grade--for awhile. Small, pieced quilts can also be used for curtain toppers, or runners for coffee tables and mantel tops.

Another way to display quilts if you have any and don't know where to put them, is folded up and stacked in an open shelf. Just be sure they are re-folded a different way every now and then, to avoid permanent creases or wearing or being faded by the light in only one area.

You don't have to be an expert quilter to make a quilt. Just get out your sewing machine and start putting leftover pieces together, joining them in a sturdy one-fourth inch seam, using a mark on the bed of your sewing machine, as a guide. Hand-sewing pieces together can be a quiet evening activity. Sewing one square to another every day of the month will yield thirty squares that may be a nice quilt top that you can call your own. While it is nice to have the art form all figured out and the colors coordinated, most people agree that a quilt made by the hands of a relative or a friend, is precious, no matter how it looks. Some people would rather have a quilt than money in the bank or jewels in a chest.

Throughout the world, quilts take on different forms. The Welsh quilts of the previous centuries were not pieced. They were made with huge yardages of cloth which were just sewn to a padding and a backing, stitching a design with the thread. Hawaiian quilts are usually only two contrasting colors such as blue and white and take on a floral look. Quilts in India are bright an colorful and sometimes have bits of sparkly gold threads in them.

It is a pity that so many of the mothers and grandmothers of today had to spend so many hours away from home working, and did not have the time to make such quilts that could be handed down to the next generation.

This is one more reason to try to stay out of debt and protect a woman's privilege of being at home, seeing to the welfare of the family and the house. In the end, most children would rather have a quilt that their mothers made them. I heard a lady who ran a daycare for 20 years say that the children always wanted their mothers and always wanted to be home. They did not want to be there.

The parents loaded them with toys and gifts, but the children always told the daycare lady that they would rather their mothers stay home and sew and cook and just be with them.

Quilts certainly represent a lot of time spent by the creators. Children love looking at the tiny little prints in each square, no matter if it is color coordinated or properly themed. A simple quilt can be made in a weekend, using large squares of fabric and a sewing machine. Even a one-foot square quilt is a charming addition for a lamp to set on or to use as a placemat.

If you didn't have quilts in your family and feel you've missed out on something, you can always purchase them somewhere. There are people who make quilts especially to sell, and many new quilts available at craft fairs. Baby quilts are especially popular and do not have to be used in baby beds, but make great lap quilts and warm blankets to wrap your shoulders in on cool days.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quilts, Tablecloths and Lace

I don't know a lot about the history of crochet, or lace or table cloths. Someone once told me that it would be better to use them, than to have them sit in boxes and trunks, where they sometimes collect rust spots and deterioriate. I have found this to be true, but I know there are now good methods for storing such things in order to preserve them. If I had known more about it, I would have saved a lot of pieces of crochet that were eaten by moths or torn.

I have seen quilts with little pieces of old crochet. It is a good way to preserve some of the item, at least, if you can't save the entire thing. The lady who posted about her aunt's house burning down, made a good point. It is better to get out these things and enjoy them, if possible. They can also be framed.

Lace curtains allow the light to come in, while still preserving privacy.Lace shawls allow some air to circulate, without making you feel cold. Lace and crochet seem to have never lost their charm.

I like the contrast that crochet doilies and lace provide in a house. Against wood, it softens the feeling of a room. Doilies were used as protection for hard wood surfaces, and that may account for the fact that there is still so much of the Victorian furniture available. There was a trend from the 60's on, not to use them, which was interesting, since the furniture at that time was incredibly expensive. One lady I knew had a designer come and do her new home. Not one doily or piece of lace fabric or table cloth was out on anything, because it didn't go with the new furniture of the time, yet she paid quite a price for the furniture.

Homesteaders generally did not use these niceties, but their furniture, made from logs, was much more hardy and did not require protection. It could take the wear and tear just fine.

We have temporarily closed comments, but you are welcome to email.

Kristy writes this about quilts; Hi,As a quilter I just wanted to share that if you must store quilts, I have found it best to store them in white or old cotton pillow cases. This way they can still breath (plastic might trap in moisture to allow a mildew smell), are dust free, don’t unfold, store neatly, and by using an old or white pillow case there is no color transfer (don’t ask how I know this last one). The pillow case also protects one quilt from others as often dark colors are used and a little moisture can allow color to run.Not sure if you were looking for info on this after today’s post, but thought I would send it on.I have noticed that hand made quilts are becoming extremely popular not only for bedding, but also as wall hangings, pillows, throw quilts, and table accents or even cloths! A baby quilt with extensive quilting might sell for $150.00, much more if there is an intricate pattern such as a white on white, but a baby quilt can often be made for about $30 in materials.Just some odd tidbits to go with today’s column...Kristy

She's right about storing them in plastic--DON'T. I've see this first hand. It makes the quilts get rust stains on them, particularly in the folded areas.


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