vrijdag 24 oktober 2014

The Importance Of Good Housekeeping

Your home is a mess and so is your life. I forgot where I first read the phrase, probably at Darla Shine's site, but I remember thinking how true it was. Unfortunately, nowadays many people don't seem to realise the importance of having a clean and well-organised home.

For instance, Cheryl Mendelson in her book Home Comforts writes about the sad state of American housekeeping and points out that "These deficiencies...can have serious effects on health. The decline of home cooking and regular home meals...coincide with skyrocketing rates of obesity...Allergy and asthma rates...are exacerbated by modern housekeeping practises. Those who live in disorderly and untended homes suffer higher accident rates. Inadequate cleanliness in the kitchen poses the danger of foodborne illness. Germs and mold...can cause infections and allergies." (H.C., p.8. Scribner, 2005).

While she is correct in identifying the problem and praising the diligent housewives of the past eras, Mrs Mendelson stops short of proposing a logical solution of restoring the old system and suggests instead that housekeeping tasks are divided between various households members, which is probably better than when the house is totally neglected, but certainly inferior to the situation when there is one person who is in charge of the household and generally responsible for the state of affairs at home.

When Home Comforts was first published in the end of the 1990s, it was probably too politically incorrect to suggest the return to the traditional division of labour, but 15 years later things have changed and there is an abundance of sites supporting people (chiefly women, of course) who choose to stay home. However, the accents have changed subtly. We talk, as I just did, about stay-at-homes, whether they are a stay-at-home mom or even in some situations, a stay-at-home wife. It has become sort of accepted choice for some women to stay home, as long as they don't designate themselves as housewives, apparently.

Well, you will ask me, what's the difference? The point is, you can stay home and do little to no housekeeping. You can even spend as little time at home as possible, being engaged in various activities, volunteering, ministries and such. Christians are hardly better in this regard as they promote the work-at-home model when the wife is engaged in home businesses the whole day long, and this purely economic activity is seen as something spiritual. This, and she can homeschool (which is positive in itself), however, the necessity of creating a cosy and orderly home is seldom stressed at all.

If one tries to question it, out comes the (in)famous Proverbs 31 lady with her supposedly business activities. It's noteworthy that there were also some things which this lady didn't do. Her energy was directed to her own household and not that of someone else. It was her husband, not herself who was known in the gates discussing politics with the elders of the land. She obviously wasn't engaged in any social causes, and didn't spend her time trying to change the world. She gave to the poor and needy but the Scriptures don't mention her going on mission trips to the foreign lands. She helped those around her, her actual neighbours.

She also looked well to the ways of her household and spent most of her time at home. It's hardly a secret that one of the tenets of feminism was rebellion against traditional female domestic duties. Again, to quote Cheryl Mendelson: "Feminist historians...have complained that the 1950s woman foolishly wasted on superfluous "work" the time she saved by using technological innovations. In calling the work superfluous, they devalue the goals of that era's housewives..." (p. 13).

"Advertisements and television programs offer degraded images of household work and workers...It is scarcely surprising...that so many people imagine housekeeping to be boring, frustrating, repetitive, unintelligent drudgery. I cannot agree (In fact, having...practised law...I can assure you that it is actually lawyers who are most familiar with the experience of unintelligent drudgery)." (p.10).

Well, I don't agree, either! I haven't practised law but I used to teach university and it had a great deal of repetitive drudgery, too! I think every sort of job has it drudgery element. Mrs Mendelson compares the declining middle class domestic standards (including the shipment of young children to daycare) with the life of the industrial poor a hundred years ago. The truth is that material possessions aren't what makes one middle class (or, at least, it's not the only thing that counts). If your house looks like that of Daisy and Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances on any given day, you aren't really middle class, despite having a TV set in every room of the house and going on vacation three times a year.

When speaking of a  well-ordered household, I don't mean to say that it always will be ideally clean, or that people should be afraid to let a crumb fall to the ground while eating a cookie or that children shouldn't be allowed to have friends over because they make a mess (there are families like that), however, a house should be well organised with the minimum cleanliness standards met. It means that the lady of the house will have to devote at least some time to domestic chores every day. The rewards, however, are great. As Mrs Mendelson rightly notes: `...it is your housekeeping that makes your home alive...´ (p.7).

woensdag 22 oktober 2014

Women:Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice Or...?

The evil females of European folklore.

Whatever the refined Victorian gentlemen thought about their ladies as "angels in the home" surely wasn't based on the traditional European folk culture which often had something unpleasant to say about women. Take, for instance, this song, based on the story of one sister killing the other and stealing her fiance. When the bard who had found the body came to the wedding feast and touched the lute, the wicked sister fell dead.

Apparently, in some European countries, such as Iceland, there was an extreme shortage of men, which led to only 47% of all women being married which could explain the attitudes demonstrated above. This shortage wasn't restricted only to mortal women, though, but also to the realm of elves, as shown by an Icelandic story about a guy who went to visit his mother and ended up dead after having refused to marry an elvish maiden (here is an instrumental version).

BTW, one of the versions of the appearance of elves states that they were unwashed and poorly treated children of Eve whom she tried to hide from God. Icelanders really had few illusions about mother's love being a universal virtue as is clearly demonstrated by one of their creepiest folk songs called Modir min i kvi kvi about a farmer's help who brought her illegitimate child to the forest to die wrapped in her best dress. When later she was complaining that she had nothing to wear for a dancing party, her daughter's ghost came and offered her her rags, driving the unlucky woman mad.

Of course, in Germanic folklore there were also Brünhild and Kriemhild who caused a lot of warriors to die because they couldn't settle peacefully the question of whose husband was more important, and the wife of Gunarr in Saga of Njall who was said to be born to be a curse for men and many others. So, I'm not so sure about sugar and spice, after all...

maandag 20 oktober 2014

Á Sprengisandi

Contrary to the title on YouTube, it's not a folk song, it was written by an Icelandic composer Sigvaldi Kaldalóns.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2014

Living On One Income In The 1950s

Both conservatives and liberals spread misinformation about life in the 1950s. For the modern liberals, 1950s are the ultimate Dark Age of patriarchal oppression, while for conservatives they are the Golden Age of the family.

In fact, they were neither, but that's not what I wanted to talk about today. I'd like to address one particular myth about this time period, which is particularly persistent among those who declare themselves anti-feminist. They will often say something about the importance of the traditional family and how in general, they think that women ought to be housewives, but unfortunately, nowadays it's impossible, unlike in that Golden Age of the family, 1950s, when all men earned enormous paychecks etc etc. Well, you know the type.

It's true that in the 1950s more married women stayed home than nowadays, but did it really happen because people were so much wealthier than now? Let's look at some of the popular TV shows of that time, like I Love Lucy, for instance. Ricky and Lucy are supposed to be an example of a typical middle class family where the wife stay home. In the beginning of the show, they are a childless couple living in an apartment which consists of a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom. In Season 2 when they finally get a baby, they continue for some time to live in the same apartment, later they move to an apartment with 2 bedrooms.

It's only in the last couple of seasons when Ricky has been to Hollywood and became internationally famous, that they finally buy their dream house in the suburbs. The first three seasons they don't own a car. It's true, they have a TV set, a washing machine, a fridge (without a freezer at first) and a vacuum cleaner, and they can afford to eat out and Lucy always wastes money on clothes, but they aren't shown going on expensive vacations, unless Ricky has to travel for work. Their friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel, have even lower living standards.

Now in 1955 there was another popular TV show called Honeymooners which featured two working class couples, Ralph and Alice Kramden and Ed and Trixie Norton. Ralph is a bus driver, Ed is a sewer worker, and they both earn the same amount of money - 62 dollars a week. Both women are homemakers. When I watched a first couple of episodes, I kept wondering why they always showed Kramdens' kitchen and never their living room, like in I Love Lucy. Then I understood - their kitchen was also their living room. Their whole apartment consisted of living/kitchen + a bedroom and a bathroom. The same was true for Nortons.

It goes without saying that neither of them owned a car. Alice Kramden also had no washing machine or vacuum cleaner, and in the very first episode she insisted her husband bought them a TV set and complained about their electric bill amounting to 39 cent a month or something similar. Nortons had a better furniture and a TV set because they bought stuff on credit.

I hope by now you have guessed why I'm telling you all this: our living standards have changed dramatically and that's one of the reasons so many married women work. I knew a couple in real life who raised their four children in a 4 room flat, which was later sold as a "starter" apartment and there is a single man living in it now. A newly-wed couple naturally expects to be able to buy a semi-detached in a nice neighbourhood with a big garden. Or is it natural?

I said above  the rising standards of living demand that wives keep on working after marriage and this is reason number one. Reason number two is that our whole perspective on family has changed. Nowadays a wife of a man like Ralph Kamden would be accused of "not contributing to the family income" and shamed into working. People feel they are entitled to two cars, luxurious vacations, regularly eating out, having houses much bigger than they really need and owning lots of expensive gadgets (half of which they don't use). Kamdens didn't have a phone in their apartment. Nowadays, every child in the family is supposed to have a mobile.

1950s were closer to the "Golden Age" of the family not because people were so much wealthier than now, but because they thought that family was important. We find stuff important. That's all.

vrijdag 17 oktober 2014

A New Link

My friend has been to London recently and brought a couple of magazines about interior decorating. I especially liked the one called Your Home. I have been thinking about subscribing to it, and in the meanwhile visited their website:

Your Home - Expert decorating tips and practical advice

I added it permanently to my feeds, but since it's not a blog, it'll always be below all the other links under the site featuring free knitting patterns. You may want to give it a look, as it also has information about gardening, seasonal recipes and DIY projects!

(P.S. I'm not paid to advertise it, I simply happen to like it). 

woensdag 15 oktober 2014

Should (Christian) Women Try To Save The World?

I'd like to draw your attention to the latest post by Lydia Sherman on the role of Christian women within the home. They say great minds always think alike:) This very topic has been on my mind lately. I think it's rather silly to expect traditional Christian housewives to go out and start slaying dragons. Someone needs to stay home and keep the home fires burning.

I notice that a lot of women nowadays are very restless and seem to be unable to simply stay home and enjoy life. They must be out and about, and preferably have a cause to fight for. Now it's not always bad to be passionate about something, however, a lot of ladies get obsessed with saving the world to such a degree that they have little or no energy to devote to simple domestic life. In fact, it's universally seen as boring, compared to saving orphans somewhere in a far-away country or similar enterprises.

In the times past, the women who devoted themselves to these activities were nuns and they stayed in those countries their whole life. Even though I'm a Protestant myself, I see the positive side of such a model. A single lady who has dedicated herself to her religion and serving others can do a lot of good, however, the wives and mothers already have their own ministry and place of serving others - their own families and people around them, relatives and friends.

Housewives who simply choose to stay home, tend to their family and mind their own business are sometimes made to feel guilty for "not participating in society". Creating a peaceful home life, managing family finances, cooking healthy meals, taking care of your husband, bearing and raising children to be productive citizens IS participating in society. And anyway, since we don't live in North Korea, I would say that a person has every right to be a hermit if he chooses to.

BTW, someone who is a Cristian should be aware of the power and importance of the prayer. Praying is something which can perfectly well be done at home, so the housewife can try and make the world a better place without even leaving her house! Titus 2 gives clear instructions to (married) Christian women and being a social justice warrior is not one of them.

maandag 13 oktober 2014

Two Easy Recipes With Shrimp

It's been some time since I posted a recipe, so here comes:

Eastern Shrimp With Spinach Dish

For 2 persons, you will need:

250g frozen shrimp
olive oil
450 g frozen spinach
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
chili sauce, to taste
1dl coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Fry shrimp in oil for a couple of minutes, add 4 dl water and cook on low for ab. 20 min. Take shrimp out, and drain the liquid into a bowl. In the same skillet or wok, fry onion in oil for 1-2 min together with bell pepper, add garlic, then spinach and the shrimp bouillon plus the chili sauce to taste, when the mixture boils add the coconut milk and simmer till spinach is ready, add shrimp, salt and pepper and cook together for 2-3 min. Serve over rice or, as I did, over spaghetti.

South American Shrimp Soup

Serves 4. Here is what you need:

olive oil
50g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 jar ( 450g) chopped tomatoes
1 big red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 big potatoes, peeled and cubed
300g Mexican vegetable mix, frozen
3-4 TBSP rice
salt and pepper to taste
2 fillets (100g each) of Alaska pollock, frozen
1 egg
250g shrimp, frozen
cheese cubes, to taste

In a deep pan, fry onion and bell pepper in the mixture of oil and butter for a couple of minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, potatoes, mixed vegetables, rice, salt and pepper, stir and add ab. 1.5 lt water, bring to the boil, cover and cook for 15 min. Add frozen fish, cook for another 10 min. Break the fish fillets into small pieces with a fork, add the shrimp and the egg, stir and cook till ready (ab. 5 min). Serve with cheese cubes.