Saturday, June 30, 2007

About Lillian Elinor

Lillian Elinor, age 5 months, has already risen to great heights in her career. She has been declared the fashion editor of the world wide web! She is getting ready for a new photo-shoot next week.
The reason her mother does not have comments at The Pleasant Times regarding Miss Lillian, is that she just knows she will get 50 posts saying "She's so cute!" and Mrs. Humphrey does not think that is necessary.
Miss Lillian does not have her own room, and does not even have a doll of her own, yet. We are waiting to get ideas that are just right for her. Miss Lillians feet rarely touch a surface, as she is often being held. One day we were trying to get dinner ready, and one of us said, "Who will hold the baby? What shall we do with Miss Lilllian?" We needed all hands in the kitchen. Then a novel idea came to us: we could put her down. We could put her in her bassinett!" This was a novel experience to Miss Lillian, also, who does not like put-downs, and straightway attempted to get out and get into someone's arms again!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

No Fashion Report Today

Lillian Elinor will not have a fashion report today. She is taking a nap.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Learning From Victorian Families

One of the things I discovered when I was growing up was the evidence of the Victorian past. It amazed me to thing that we are all related to the people who left us with great inventions, beautiful houses, and wonderful customs. We are so blessed to be able to take good things from different times in history, and implement them into our lives at home.

One such thing is the way their house plans and the structures that are still around. There was a house called "Folk Victorian," made for common folks that did not have much money. These smaller Victorian homes were just enough for one family to manage, and not too hard on their finances, and yet, they preserved all the same kind of function and beauty that made having a home nearly the highest goal in life.

In order to understand why Victorian homes are so enchanting I must explain a little about the house and property plans. These were not merely houses next to a sidewalk, all in a row, sold for a huge amount of money to a contractor. Homes were valued and passed down to the next generation. There was usually a story about how such homes came to be, and how they were built; many times they were wedding gifts for a wife.

Even in the folk-Victorian homes, there is something different about them from the modern tract homes. One would never be able to have access to a Victorian home by merely walking up to a door. There would first be a little picket fence or gate that would open. Then a path through a little courtyard area would lead to the front porch. Once inside the front porch, one still did not see the family until they got to the parlor. The Parlor was a room where one waited to be received or refused by the family. If they received you, and it was convenient, and you were a good friend, you might be invited to their living room, where you would be served tea.

Children's friends probably were not invited to the bedrooms, and no one went to the kitchen unless invited. In spite of this seemingly formal protocol, people of the era in America were very well socialized and did not seem to lack for company. Part of a normal routine of the well-to-do women was to take a basket to visit a woman who just had a baby, or someone who was "in low spirits" or to check on a church member who had not been there for awhile.

These seemed to be people who were very private about their personal feelings and very conscious of not wanting to offend anyone. One of the reasons they dressed the way they did, even at the beach, was in order not to be offensive to anyone. They would have never dreamed of showing off portions of the flesh or body that people have no self-consciousness in showing today. If their bodies were private, their homes were even moreso. Houses were private places where the family retreated and it was a great privilege to be invited to tea at someone's well-appointed home, where you would be expected to show good manners, or never be invited again.

Another thing about the Victorian architecture was the way they placed certain rooms to receive the light or privacy, or whatever view they wanted. Roofs were built to over-hang in such a way as to shield the rooms from the sun coming in at a certain time. Close attention was paid to the position of the house and the rooms to accommodate the weather and the sun from the north, south, east and west. A woman, for example, might have a little sitting room where she took tea at a certain hour of the day when the sun was setting and giving off beautiful hues of color, or she might have a room where the light came in perfectly through a window, over her shoulder, on to some needle work she was doing, or a book she was reading. She might have a special "secretary desk" for correspondence.

A man might have a library where he kept his globe and his collection of books and papers. Though he might be a farmer, he also had a place to pay his bills and keep his safe.

Outside, there would sometimes be a shed where gardening implements were stored. A carriage house kept the carriages neatly arranged and out of sight, sometimes with an apartment above it. Other houses on the property were created for different needs.

From what I've seen while touring Victorian homes, there seemed to be a number of good places for family members to get peace and quiet. Most of the bedrooms were upstairs, and a laundry shute was created to toss the laundry down to the wash room on one of the lower floors. They even had a cleaning system. They could sweep the floors on any level and put the dust down a dust shute that was collected in a large container below.

Many of the rooms in the Victorian homes looked like they were created specifically for a purpose: an office, a nursery for the children, a young lady's room, the master bedroom, and so forth. In building such homes, the architects combined various influences of the past in architecture, such as: Italianate, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Romanesque, and even the ornate style called "gingerbread." When you see a Victorian house, remember it was not so much the style that made it Victorian, but the date in which it was constructed, using many different styles from different eras.

The Victorians were a very inventive generation. They were always looking for a swifter way of doing things, even in the homes. During the Victorian era, the following things were discovered and invented: the sewing machine, the radio, the telephone, indoor plumbing, electric machinery, the motor car, and many of the things we used today.

While getting ideas for this article, I came across a nice site that has a free online magazine called "Victorian Magazine." You must sign up for the subscripton in order to see all the articles and art work. Here, you can read all about the houses, and the customs of the Victorians. They have authentic reprinted articles of Godey's Lady's book, a popular periodical of the time, here

and watch a video about the history of paper dolls and their purpose, here If you cannot get into these sites just sign up for the free subscription.

The photograph of theVictorian house comes from here

One way to capture the feeling that the people of that era might have had during the day, is to revive the Victorian tea party. It was a time that everyone set aside to sit and enjoy a quiet moment.

I quite enjoy knowing about the Victorians and am always grateful they left a paper trail for us to find out more about them through their photographs, their art, their literature, their letters, and their diaries. I see evidence of their existence around me, through their architecture, even at a time when their own descendents do not follow their same values in life.

Paintings from AllPosters:

"Tea Party" by Melinda Byers
"Victorian Lady I" by John O'Brien

"Victorian Home" by George Bjorkland

Victorian Life in the Home

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Pretty Room

While we are on the subject of getting control of the house and making a pleasant retreat for your loved ones, here is a pretty scene that may give some ideas. If only one area of the house is pretty, it will catch on. Just as allowing clutter to collect seems to attract more disorganization, I believe that creating a pretty spot can attract more order and beauty

Some links that inspire

Friday, June 22, 2007

For Such a Time As This

There are probably a lot of women new to full time homemaking, who did not have the advantage of mothers at home when they were little. They were not able to observe how their mothers handled many different situations that occur in home life.

One of the most common pressures of the home is the huge amount of clutter or the rooms that get over-loaded with things that need to organized and put away.

After shedding a few tears of frustration, you might try streamlining and cleaning the regular living areas of your home, as you would every day, anyway. Make sure the living area, the dining area, kitchen and bathroom are clean and presentable to the world, should anyone drop by. Then tackle the bedrooms and just make the beds. That seems to create the incentive to put away the clutter accumulated there. After regular housekeeping, and only after that has been done, tackle the bigger problems that are haunting you.

As you get organized in those bothersome areas, stop every so often and go through the main parts of the house again, to maintain those public areas that your family shares. It goes a long way to prevent confusion and panic in your mind. If you have just moved in, keep it all in one room and unload from there. Do not panic and don't be discouraged. As long as you keep your living, dining, bathroom and kitchen clean, you'll feel a sense of order and the larger problems will not weigh as heavily upon you.

Everyone is familiar with the story of Esther, in the Bible. In it is recorded her uncle's famous motivational phrase: "Who knows if you were not brought here for such a time as this." That phrase has always lifted me up, because it makes me realize that no one else is going to solve my problems. After a prayer, I have to get up and get busy. No one else will do it. If I do get help, they usually don't understand where I want things and why. Sometimes helpers create more work if they do not do it right, and so I rely on the old adage, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

All homes go through stages of life. There will be times of organization and times when your house will look like someone came in and ransacked it. When you realize that life is not supposed to go smoothly, it is easy to adjust to these challenges. You may have been created for such a time as this.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Food That Tastes Good and is Good For You, Too

I usually buy fresh sockeye salmon that comes from Copper River, Alaska. I've used all kinds of recipes, which you can find on the link below. I alter the recipes to my own taste, and always add honey on top of the salmon. I drizzle quite a bit of it on the raw salmon before cooking.

Here is my method of cooking salmon.

Put 1/4 cup of butter or olive oil in the bottem of the roasting pan or the frying pan. If you are using a small roasting pan or any oven dish, preheat the oven to 350 F or medium heat. I don't preheat the fry pan when I'm cooking this dish.

To this, add 1/4 cup of chopped, sweet onion (here, they are called Vidalia onions, from Georgia)

Sprinkle this well with Italian seasoning (basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc)

Now place the salmon, skin side UP in the pan. Cover it with a lid and let steam for about 15 minutes and then check it to see if the skin can be lifted off. If so, take a metal spatual or a wide knife, and remove the skin.

The fish is now skinless, so you can add another 1/4 cup of chopped onion, the Italian seasoning, and some salt. Drizzle honey over the top side of the fish, very thickly, til it is all covered. Cover and cook another 15 minutes until the fish is flakey and appears to be thoroughly cooked.

The honey makes a wonderful sauce, and you will find your family going back to find the pan the fish was cooked in, just to scrape the pan to get more sauce.

This salmon can be cooked in a pan on top the stove or in the oven. It always turns out delicious either way. I also like red salmon and king salmon. I think they are the ultimate best, but the sockeye salmon from Copper River is excellent.

A side dish to this is sweet peas. For my family, I always buy the best. I think the body is the best machinery we have to succeed in life and that good food was intended by God for us to eat. The frozen sweet peas are more expensive but the taste is excellent and they are not tough.

Nothing beats a baked potato with this dish, and I especially like the twice-baked potato recipe I got from a little English cookbook. After you turn off the oven, scoop out the baked potato, leaving enough hard potato around the edges of the shell to hold it firm. Then you mash all the potato you scooped out and add some sour cream and chives, and spoon it back into the shell. Sprinkle some finely grated cheese on top and put it back into the oven. There will be enough heat left to melt the cheese.

I use rice, more often, rather than potatoes, with this recipe, and prefer jasmati rice with wild rice, which I get in the bulk foods section of the grocery store. It is easy to cook, never gets mushy and smells wonderful.

After dinner a small piece of cheesecake made with real cacao is just perfect. No one is hungry afterwards and they don't all get up and go to the fridge hunting for more food.

Salmon recipes

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Adjustments To Make

(We have removed that wacky word verification for the blind and sight impaired so that they can post)

I thought it might be a timely idea to write a few things about the interruptions and adjustments a homemaker can expect in her course of work. Those who have just come home full time might tend to get discouraged when things overwhelm them or they get behind in housework.

As we have strongly emphasized many times, home making involves many different things. Do not assume you are only going to be cleaning, cooking or taking care of the house.

Throughout the course of the day, it is best to adopt a policy of flexibility while still keeping a sensible eye on the things that need to be accomplished during the day. A homemaker has to distinguish between the necesssity of the moment and the importance of keeping house. She can't let opportunities go by that would create the best memories and the most necessary things for her family.

One adjustment she may have to make is that of being tired. While a woman at work may quit when she gets home, the homemaker often works until she goes to bed. She may do an excellent job of caring for her family and the home on a given day, and the next, feels she cannot get out of bed. This is common to everyone, even if they do not have children! It should ease your mind somewhat if you know this is normal!

I am a strong believer in the value of rest. I have had tremendous challenges in the area of homemaking. Sometimes I've had jobs I didn't think would ever get done. I could imagine a junked up room still being there 20 years later, with me, having "gone missing," being found in that room and finally being laid to rest. The thought of never digging myself out of such a mess so horrified me that I took a nap! To my surprise, it revived not just my body but my mental capacity to tackle the job. I would work for awhile and then go lay down again, or read a book and have a cup of tea (today I like raspberry herbal). Then I found I could get up and work a little more. I would lay down again and then get up again, feeling better each time. I finally got that room finished and have before and after pictures to proove it.

I certainly don't want anyone to use this tactic to get out of normal duties of the home, but thought I might pass it on, because rest certainly does bring revival. It also heals illness better than medicine. I will always remember James Herriot's sheep story in "All Creatures Great and Small." After giving birth (which is another adjustment for a woman at home), the mama sheep would not get up and so the farmer thought she had a disease and wanted her put down. James gave her a potion of sleep medicine, intending for her to be put down. The sheep slept it off and then revived! She was just tired after giving birth, and when she revived, she was as good as new.

Another adjustment is after giving birth. You may get really anxious about keeping caught up on things like dishes and laundry. Again, getting up and doing a few things between rests, is a great idea. However, these days, midwives emphasize that rest for 6 weeks helps the mother heal and recover better. I certainly agree that later on it pays off.

Still another adjustment is the myriad of things that just come up. They are the visitors that drop by, the phone calls, the grocery shopping you suddenly need to do before dinner, the spilled things, the broken things, the trips you have to take. During all this you still have to keep on track with meals and cleaning and making home a wonderful place. Our foremothers knew how to do it because it was bred into them from birth, by being around their own mothers. Today's generation of dedicated homemakers often come from families without a mother at home. They read about how important it is to be home, and then they come home, not realizing what is ahead of them. They may get discouraged and think that they were better off at work.

The home gets messed up more if you are home. I'm always pulling out projects and starting things that create a mess. I'm always having someone over for tea. All this creates a bigger work load. If I were in the corporate workplace during the week, the house would be empty all day and stay clean.

Another thing that increases is the in-home expenses. If you've been out at work all day, no one uses the heat or the electricity or the water. You come home, start homeschooling and your husband wonders why the expenses are mounting. Yet while everyone goes "somewhere else" during the day, you don't notice the expenses because someone else pays for them and they are subtly taken out of your pay check: heat, water, electricity, etc.

to be continued...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Welcome Visitors

I extend a hearty welcome to all visitors of this blog today. Please tell me where you are viewing from. I am in Oregon, where I keep house, and Mrs. Alexandra is in Europe.

Ladies, we'd be thrilled if you'd also check into my daughter, Lillibeth's weblog, here

New Book Published

NOTE:  If you will write to me at to request the book, I can have it sent to you from the printer at cost (the cost of printing, at no profit to me) , which is $35.00.

People are always asking me to write a book. For the last year my parents have collaborated with me to write a book about their years in the wilderness of Alaska in the 1950's.

How did two very young people, at the ages of 19 and 23 manage to go where no man had gone before, to create a home far away from town and from their own kin?
This book explains how they first "tramped out" the land and filed a claim, and then began to build a house, using the resources of the land. "I peeled the logs and Joe put notches at the ends so that we could build the "big house," said my mother. "We didn't know what we were doing, but I was 19 and didn't know any better! We were both from pioneer stock and we were game for anything!"

During the years they homesteaded, they also had 7 children, of whom they carefully guarded, both physically and spiritually. There were many hazards of the area, including wild animals that wandered near us, and swamps and lakes that we could easily have fallen into. Yet, this story is about happiness. Be prepared for your face to ache with smiling about the dog that helped Mama get dinner, and the sticklebacks in our drinking water.

Although this is not a book about homemaking or anti-feminism, there is an underlying message not spoken here: it is about a real family doing real things, and trusting in God. It is about two people who protected each other and lived their roles and responsibilities, taking care of 7 children in the process.

For many years my mind dwelt on this story of the past, but I did not think it worth writing about because hundreds of families at that time lived the same way! It was ordinary to us! Every son or daughter of an Alaskan settler in the 1940's and 1950's, will recognize some of these stories and think, "Hey, we did that too!" or "That is exactly what happened to us!" As the culture today draws us further away from the old ways, I began to see the necessity of writing this all down.

I had consistent dreams about the homestead. I was walking down the home-road and going inside the "big house" (the log house we lived in after the cabin days), and walking up the stairs, looking out the window. I saw the fish jumping from the lake with their silver bellies glistening in the evening sun. I looked out the 7 picture windows that Daddy was so proud of. I heard the dinner bell ringing and the sounds of the children chattering as they ran along the home road to a feast of salmon and potatoes.

One day the dreams began to bother me. I wondered why, after so many years, my mind persisted in dredging up the old life that I could never go back to. I got out some pictures and began to look at them. If the dreams had made the homestead seem real, the pictures made it seem like it was just happening! They were vivid. They were alive. They were bright, even after more than 50 years.

I sat down and wrote a long letter to my parents telling them how beautiful my mother was and how handsome my father was and how happy I was that they had the courage to go to the wilderness and give us this unique life. I wrote almost 20 pages about every memory that I had while sitting there---from the lake with the "thousand sparkling diamonds," to mother's picnic basket which turned ordinary food into a gourmet feast by the time we got to the picnic clearing on our land.

I sent the letter and felt so much better because I don't know if any of us ever really thought to thank them and show appreciation for all that they did--building a house, providing warmth for us by taking turns getting up in the night to stoke the fire, and feeding us with the huge cabbages and potatoes from the garden.

Besides all this, I had never told her the impact of all the life's lessons they taught, from doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, to occupying yourself in a useful way during winter months when most people got cabin fever, had influenced my own decision to homeschool my children. I could not go back to the homestead, but I could embrace the same spirit of adventure and the "can-do" spirit that they had, whether I lived in an apartment or a suburban home.

I remembered her hot bread which we spread jam on from our berry picking days. I could just taste the wonderful, moist cake in one of the photographs. I could hear her talking to Daddy early in the morning while we children still laid in bed. I could hear the dog barking at a bear that was coming near the house and heading toward the goat shed. I felt it all as though it just happened! I marvelled at a generation that went where there was nothing, to create something, even if it was just a memory.

After sending the letter, my mother phoned me and said, "You simply MUST write a book." That was such an encouragement, and I'm happy to say that this book has added to more years to their life and more life to their years. It is a book that is good for everyone. It brings love and peace and laughter into your life, which is what we NEED more that anything today!! She said, "You made me feel like I was back home again, having all that adventure in the wilderness."

This book is one you won't be sorry to have in your family library. Already some people have purchased it just to read to their elderly parents who are shut-ins. The story is partially written by my mother and father, Joe and Lillian, and it truly draws the reader in to experience the wonder of it all.
There is only one review posted about this book, which I will share here.

"In Just Breathing the Air, Lydia Sherman has given the reader a glimpse of an incredible childhood few even in her generation could imagine and few in an older generation would have had the courage to provide. In doing so, she subtly paints a beautiful portrait of her remarkable parents. The book would be a delightful read for old and young alike, but especially for young people growing up in this age of electronic everything,fast food and loosely-connected families. " Jean M. Byars

This is a soft-cover, larger book that would look good on anyone's coffee table! It is an 8 inch by 8 inch glossy covered book with a wonderful photograph. Every other page has a photograph. I've clicked "this book is for everyone," but naturally I assume that wise parents will want to read it first before handing it over to younger children.

You can preview the pages here: Click on the icon that reads "preview this book," and you can see a few pages from the inside. You have to click the large arrow on the right to turn the pages.

We are working on a black and white edition that will reduce the price considerably, but I personally would not want a black and white copy of this book. The color of the photographs were part of our story. There is also a download available and a lower price, but nothing beats holding that beautiful book in your hands and touching the high-quality type of paper that it is printed on. Also, the print is size 14 type, which is easier on the eyes for both young and old.

This book is in the History category, but there are many other categories that apply: home, family, nature, and spiritual growth.

Please click on the back cover in this article, to see if you can get a larger view and read what is written there. It was written by my son in law.

"Just Breathing the Air" can also be accessed by clicking "Books We Like" on the links section on the left.

The cover picture shows me at age 8 with my first catch, a rainbow trout. I still think of it as one of the happiest days of my childhood. I personally did not want it on the cover, but my son in law, who did the editing for the book, thought it expressed the happiness that envelopes the entire book. I wanted the picture of the lake shown on this page (the lake with the thousand sparkling diamonds), showing my father rowing his daughters across the lake, which was just downhill from the big house, and which we looked at daily from our windows. I joke and say that we fought over the cover like Michael the Archangel fought over the body of Moses! It was a struggle for me to give up the lake picture as a cover. When my parents got the book my Dad immediately told me that the cover picture was just perfect, and was his favorite picture. So you see, dear ladies, it is good for the old to cooperate with the young when you are all headed in the same direction. They have a lot of good insight in many things!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Absolute Joy of Being Home

To bring joy to the home, it may be necessary to boot the noise-filled, demanding world, out the door and never let it come back. Move all media to the basement or to an uneasily accessible place in the house--perhaps a small corner or an unused room, can eliminate some of the stress of the world. Newspapers, magazines and radio seem to be full of doom and worry. Soon everyone is looking for signs of disease or disaster. Their hearts constrict and their breathing becomes shallow. They don't know whether to continue on with life or give up. I read on someone's blog about her media fast. At day 30, she was enjoying life more than ever and her blood pressure had become normal. She was no longer having panic attacks. She was sleeping normally and not experiencing nightmares. Her home had become her haven.

"Returning Home" by Lene Alston Casey

Adding soothing pictures that depict the values you love, of home and family, can also bring joy back into the home. Home should be so different than the rest of the world that it is like steppinging into a beatutiful dream world of peace and love. Good art certainly contributes to that atmosphere.

It may be encouraging just to experiment with one room in the house. Arrange and decorate it with the colors and furnishings that make you feel happy. It is not necessary to please everyone you know, but at the same time, it is not avisable to do something so unpleasant or garrish that your family would be put off. In doing something "good and lovely", think of rose gardens, nature, seascapes and all the beauty and color that nature provides. Very few people are repulsed by a beautiful sunset or a beautiful house. Use these colors and structures when applying beauty to your home.

"My Lady's Chamber"

Bring joy to living at home by doing the things that you really like to do there: plant a beautiful plant, have a quiet moment with your favorite herbal tea and a beautiful tea set (my current favorite is orange spice herbal tea). Make a pretty card for someone. (I make cards called "scrap cards" or "altered cards" in which I add clippings and stickers, lace or buttons, and alter the verse by covering it with another greeting. This way, cards can be made to suit the one you are sending them to.

Working at home can be more fun than you realize. Being mistress of your own home means you don't have to worry about losing your job or applying for changes or trying to get an act of Congress before you can improve it. Home is the last frontier of freedom. Let us excercise that freedom and make each home a little country, with its own culture, its own rules, and its own particular beauty.

"Flower Cottage Irish"

I take great interest in the way our forefathers lived, because they had strong families and they managed to pass on many positive things about homelife, into the next generation and the next and the next. I wonder sometimes what we will pass on in this generation: the hurried, pressured life of trying to keep up with everything and everyone, or real values of truth and

beauty and preservation of the values of marriage, home and family. What we do daily in our homes will have a great impact on society around us and on the next generation.

I was blessed with a husband who only wants me to be happy. I the color of a wall depressed me, he would say "repaint it." If I experienced too much pressure to shop for groceries, he would say "give me a list and I'll get them on my way home." If I wanted to go for a drive and look for scenery, he would say, "let's go." If I experienced difficulty in some of my homemaking responsibilities he would want to know what he could do to make it easier to me. Each member of the family, whether a husband or a child, should be willing to help the homemaker, because it will in turn help them have a beautiful and happy home.

"Country Welcome" by Carl Valente

"Welcome Home"