Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Anything Goes

By popular demand, I'm reposting this as a separate entry:

So now you all won't have to dig through the old posts to listen to it:)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homemade Muesli

You will need per portion:
1c milk
9 tbsp rolled oats
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp shredded coconut
mixed dried fruit to taste, cut

Mix all the ingredients together, cover and let stand overight. When you wake up, breakfast is ready and it doesn't need cooking.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Homemaking Is A Matter Of Conviction, Part2

Seeing that my previous post on this topic has attracted a lot of attention, I decided to write a sequel. Since it's raining I can't use my coffee break to sit outside reading a trashy novel anyway, so I could just as well do something productive instead:)

In her book "Fascinating Womanhood" Helen Andelin has a chapter called "The Feminine Role vs. The Working Wife", in which she discusses a number of situations where the wife may be justified in working. Those situations include husbands being disabled and compelling financial emergencies. That's about how I see it, too.

A sudden loss of income due to unemployment or sickness/disability can happen to anyone, but that's not your typical, everyday situation for many two-income couples. A lot of wives who work do it "to ease the pinch", as Mrs Andelin puts it, or to afford luxuries. That's what she says on the issue: "You may not have enough money to cover expenses. There are too many things you need and can't seek employment, perhaps with your husband's approval. The problem with getting a job is that it's not worth the price you pay...Instead of going to work, cut expenses: Move to a less expensive home, sell one clothes at second-hand shops, and in other ways be thrifty." (p.284, Bantam Books, 1992).

Whatever your level of income is, if you don't manage your finances well, you still may end up in debt. I'm not talking about mortgages or students' loans, but about consumer/credit card debts. It's very easy to overspend, and it doesn't have to be a huge sum at first, but if you overdraw your account every month just for a small sum of money, by the end of the year you will be in a serious trouble.

Another reason so many women work is the desire for luxuries. To quote FW again: "You may work for...the latest household equipment, new furniture...a better house, or better clothes. Your husband may encourage you to work to satisfy his taste for luxuries - a boat, swimming pool, or cabin in the mountains. Or you may want greater advantages for your children...Justified as these desires may seem, the sacrifice is too great. It's better to trim the luxuries." (idem).

It's interesting that it's often people with high income who complain about life being so expensive that they both have to work. It seems that a bus driver can afford for his wife to stay home, but a surgeon can't.

The way to financial success is the good money management. To quote Helen Andelin again: "If  your husband's income is low, you can be the key figure in the financial success of your family, being in a position to make him or break him. Families with low incomes sometimes live in more comfort than those with more, due to the skill of money management." (F.W., p.146, Bantam Books, 1992).

I think that it sums it all up quite nicely. Women used to be proud of their ability to stretch their husbands'  paychecks as far as they could and men used to be proud to be the breadwinners. I'm sure that this way of life is still possible for most people if they only would give it a try.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homemaking Is A Matter Of Conviction

Homemaking is a matter of conviction to me. Contrary to what some people imagine about housewives being lazy rich women, our family is not wealthy, we are just average. The few luxuries which we enjoy we can only afford by the strict control of our overall spending.

During our marriage we have experienced financial problems and we have been in debt. Last time it happened I became determined that I would never let it happen again and it didn't, due to strict budgeting which I started practicing.

We solved our financial problems without me having to search for work outside home, not even part-time. We just learned to become more responsible and not to try to keep up with the Joneses. That's what the problem is with the folks nowadays, they are going above their means to try and compete with the people way above their league.

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry when I read discussions on the net where in all seriousness people declare that it was OK for a factory worker in the year 1900 to let his wife stay home with his six kids, because life had been so much cheaper, while now an educated professional simply can't afford a stay-at-home wife. I can't comprehend that someone can really be so stupid as to believe that this factory worker of more than hundred years ago had it easier than we do now.

Of course, the said factory worker didn't aspire to live in a villa, he didn't borrow 40.000 by the bank to buy a new car whenever he felt like it, he didn't consider it a necessity to go on vacation abroad three times a year and above all, he didn't think that by sending his wife to work outside home for the minimum wage he would acquire equal social standing with the company director (because of his wife being now a career woman and stuff, you know).

Don't you all find it strange that in poor countries there are less women working outside home that in the much more prosperous Western countries? I do. You see, it all simply depends on your value system. For me, having a traditional family and obeying God's commands for women is more important than driving a Mercedes and going on ski vacation every year.

In this life we all have a choice and we should accept the consequences of our choices. Nobody can have it all together, outside of a small selected circle of the very rich. Something will always have to give. There is no point in complaining about the times we live in or even worse, waiting for the government to fix things. If you are convicted about something, try to live according to your convictions. Where is the will, there is way.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Traditional Family Roles

One of my favourite posts by Lady Lydia is this: Women At Home Save Men's Lives. Whether you agree with her nutritional advice or not, is not the point - the post stresses the importance of women staying home to take care of their family. Purely from the practical point of view, the traditional division of labour makes sense, as it allows the family to operate in a more efficient way.

Small children and babies need a lot of attention, but even when there are no small children in the family, someone still has to do the necessary shopping, cook the meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, vaccuumclean etc etc. It's not for nothing that the wealthy career women hire full-time housekeepers and live in maids, because someone still has to run the house. It doesn't magically run itself.

Helen Andelin has a chapter on masculine and feminine roles in her book "Fascinating Womanhood", where she points out that these roles are of divine origin and that the woman "must nurture her young and run the household, to free her husband to function as the provider." (p.100, Bantam Books, 1992). She also points out that the division of labour works better than equality.

Contrary to what some people will say, a housewife is neither her husband's slave nor his oppressor. Her role is equally important to that of her husband, but different. Working in her own household, for the benefit of her family, doesn't make her dumb, either. In fact, home is the place where she can develop her talents. If you have some spare time, after your housework is accomplished, there is so much to do! You can read books, learn foreign languages, play some musical instrument, draw, sew, knit and crochet and so on and so forth. I think it was Tasha Tudor, who made a remark that the housewife can read Shakespeare while stirring jam - or listen to some classical music:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meal Planning

Today I want to write about meal planning. The tradition in my country is to cook only one meal a day, as opposed to,  for instance, Frenchwomen who usually eat warm twice a day. It hasn't always been like this, though, and I sometimes serve warm lunches instead of sandwiches, and make cereal for breakfast, though my main consideration is always what to cook for dinner.

Whether you serve your meals hot or cold, there are still certain guidelines for what constitutes a real meal. Cheryl Mendelson writes at length on the topic in her book "Home Comforts", which I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about housekeeping. That's what she says, among other things: "Walk into almost any home or restaurant in this or any other Western country and you will observe that, with surprisingly few exceptions, what people consider a real meal is a triad comprising - at a minimum - one "meat" or other protein food, one starchy food, and one or more fruits or vegetables, depending on which meal it is." (Home Comforts, ed. of 2005, p. 49.)

She later gives examples of what is protein food (that would be various sorts of meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products); starchy foods (foods consisting of grains or potatoes); fruits and vegetables, and points out that some vegetables can be used as a meat substitute because they contain more protein, for instance beans.

A 1950s cookbook which I encountered somewhere on the net, gave the following suggestions for basic meals: a minimal breakfast would consist of fruit, cereal with milk and bread and butter, lunch would include the main dish, vegetables, bread and butter and some fruit, and for dinner one should serve meat and potatoes, green or yellow vegetables, raw vegetables in the form of salad, bread and butter, and fruit. For abundant meals you should add egg or meat for breakfast, some form of dessert for lunch, appetizer and/or soup + dessert for dinner.

I'm not sure if people really used to eat like this in the 1950s but it seems rather excessive to me. For breakfast, we always eat fruit, but it would be either cereal with milk; or bread with butter and jam and a glass of milk. Lunch usually consists of sandwiches with cheese, meat, or egg and some raw vegetables. For dinner I practically always omit soup or appetizer, though on weekends we have some sort of the cocktail hour, and though I nearly always try to serve some sort of dessert, we seldom eat bread and butter at dinner.

I'd like to point out that a healthy diet is one with much variation in it, and that even with an eye on economising one shouldn't try to substitute protein foods with starchy ones. We need proteins, especially of the animal variety as they contain more essential amino acids than plant variety proteins, except for soy beans, which may present health problems of their own . A well-balanced diet will contain both plant and animal protein.  (Please keep in mind that I'm not a nutritionist and am just trying to provide some basic information. If you'd like to know more about which foods are healthier for you, please conduct your own research.)

Cheryl Mendelson further suggests learning to cook without using cookbooks which means that one has to learn some basic cooking techniques, and I second that. It's surely fun to try some new and complicated recipes now and then, but there are few housewives who can afford to spend the whole day experimenting in the kitchen, as they will have other things to attend to during the day besides cooking.

Mrs Mendelson's other advice is to be prepared to cook meals "off the shelf" if necessary and she gives an approximate list of foods which can be stored at home. It's interesting that just yesterday a commenter posted the link to a blog by the lady who due to her husband's loss of income, had for several months to feed her family using her pantry supplies (she has also menu suggestions on her site).

I, too have some foods stored at home, though by no means so much as the lady mentioned above (but then we don't have a garage to keep our supplies in:)), and will use it when we run out of something and there is no time to go to the store. It's also convenient when the money on your food budget is low for this week, or when you fall sick. There were days when I was unable to do my daily shopping due to illness and we survived on eating our supplies for a couple of days:)

The last thing I'd like to mention is that if you want to save money it makes sense to build your menues around foods which come on sale. Every time I get flyers from the major supermarkets I look what's on sale this week and plan my menu for the week accordingly. Though I like experimenting in the kitchen, I usually leave exotic recipes with expensive ingredients for special occasions. Well, I hope the above was helpful. Have a nice Lord's Day!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Chivalry

Chivalry seems to be a hot topic nowadays, since it's being discussed on blog after blog. People tend to get quite agitated, and the discussions often deteriorate in a sort of a flame war with (mostly) women accusing men of not living up to a chivalrous ideal, while men defend themselves by saying that (most) modern women don't deserve any special consideration at all.

 Further, a lot of commenters seem to be confused about what exactly does the word "chivalry" mean. When asked to give an example of chivalrous behaviour, they will usually point to Titanic with men surrendering their seats in life boats to the ladies, or start talking about opening the doors for women and the like.

Obviously, it's impossible to discuss something without first agreeing on the definition so I again turned to my 1992 Longman and that's what it said: chivalry 1 (in the Middle Ages) the beliefs or practices of noble soldiers (knights) as a group 2 the qualities (such as bravery, honour, generosity, and kindness to the weak and poor) which this system aimed at developing

Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary of 1996 defines chivalry in the following way: 1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor and dexterity in arms. 2. the rules and customs of medieval knighthood. 3. the medieval system or institution of knighthood. 4. a group of knights. 5. gallant warriors or gentlemen: fair ladies and noble chivalry. 

The first thing which we can deduct from these definitions is that chivalry is something which pertains to men (warriors and gentlemen) so while it's possible for a woman to perform a noble deed, it would be wrong to call her behaviour chivalrous.

The second point is that chivalry as such was an honour code which was not specifically about women, but rather about how a warrior should behave. In one of my previous posts  I touched on this topic by linking to the Knights' Code Of Chivalry , which I now want to quote in full:

To fear God and maintain His Church
To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
To protect the weak and defenceless
To give succour to widows and orphans
To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
To live by honour and for glory
To despise pecuniary reward
To fight for the welfare of all
To obey those placed in authority
To guard the honour of fellow knights
To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
To keep faith
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
To respect the honour of women
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
Never to turn the back upon a foe

As you can see, women are only specifically mentioned once. The chivalrous ideal was not about opening doors for ladies, but about behaving honourably and doing your duty to God and Fatherland. Since it was an ideal enforced by upper class men on upper class men, it's logical that not everybody subscribed to it, and that  every epoch had its fair amount of cowards, cheats and scoundrels.

This takes me to my next point. When a certain ideal is upheld in society it doesn't mean that 100% of the population will subscribe to it and live according to it. The ideal for women in the 1950s was a domestic goddess and yet many married women worked. The modern ideal is an empowered career woman and yet I know plenty of housewives. It doesn't mean, however, that we should have no ideals or standards at all, only that we should be realistic in our expectations of our fellow men.

 As society became more democratic in Victorian times, the chivalrous ideal spread through the middle and lower classes which probably led to the Titanic phenomenon. Medieval times are too far removed from us anyway to try and copy them, so when people talk about chivalry they mostly mean the Victorian ideal of it, hence the Titanic reference. However, is it realistic to expect that this ideal of men voluntarily sacrificing their lives for women could be upheld in our society?

To answer it we should first decide why men were expected to sacrifice for women. Is it because women were considered to be more deserving or more valuable? No, it was because women by law, custom and tradition were considered weaker and the original knight code mentioned protecting the weak and defenceless. Some conservatives seem to have forgotten it, but feminists never do hence their incessant shrieking about benevolent sexism.

Nowadays we live in the times when the law and custom say that women are equals of men. They have equal political rights. If they marry they are not considered legally to be under their husband's authority. They can join the army. Movie after movie portrays them besting the men at every endeavour. They are more often shown with a machine gun in their hands than with a baby. It's obvious for everyone that in such  moral climate it's utterly nonsensical to expect men as a whole to subscribe to the idea of sacrificing their lives for random women.

We can't have it both ways. Either women are equal to men, or they are fragile beings in need of male protection in which case they should surrender their political rights and equality before the law. This said, since I personally don't believe in equality I think that the chivalrous ideal is a noble one and individual men could still subscribe to it, but it is unrealistic to expect that an egalitarian society as a whole will.

The last point which I'd like to make is that chivalry was/is a moral code specifically for men and it was enforced by men. Women can't force men to become chivalrous, but they can inspire them. That's what Helen Andelin says about it in Fascinating Womanhood: "Men only feel a sense of duty to protect women who need their masculine care and protection...To awaken chivalry we must return to femininity. We must stop doing the masculine things and become the gentle, tender, dependent women we were designed to be, women who need masculine care and protection. When we do, men will delight in offering their chivalry." (P. 133, Bantam Books, 1992.)

I say amen to that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

...And Something To Wear

Last week I finally finished my skirt. Here is how it looks on me:

It's the first time in my life that I made a skirt or any item of clothing with a zipper, my previous attempts at sewing all included back ties and elastic waists. The success made me rather ambitious, so that I'm planning to try this one for my next project:

I have already found some nice fabric at the market and hope to start working at it next week.

I'd also like to draw your attention to a very interesting site called Hearth And Home which has lots of great Victorian recipes adjusted for modern times (thanks, Shaolin!). It also has links to old housekeeping books.

In other news, I finally read all articles in Delicious and chose the recipes I'm going to try. The magazine had a hilarious article about some Danish guys who experiment with eating insects, wood chips and pine tree needles. They have been trying to promote the wholesomeness of such diet (containing only local ingredients!) to the broad Danish public, but rather unsuccessfully, though I'm told you can order desserts with live ants on them in the most expensive restaurant of Denmark (a mental note: never to go there!).

On the other hand, if the economic crisis continues, may be we all finally discover the health benefits of eating pine needles, who knows!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Spring has finally arrived so now it's time for the spring cleaning! We started last week, and now the guest bedroom is nearly done (I still have to steam clean the carpet). This week I'm planning to do the attic and the terrace. Vaccuuming, washing the windows in and outside and planting some colourful flowers. Now that I have help, I finally hope to be able to put that house of ours in order. It's simply amazing how much clutter you get through the years!

If you have never done the spring cleaning before, may be you should try it once. It's a good chance to get rid of unnecessary things and to deep clean the entire house including the areas normally overlooked, such as the attic, the garage and the like. Just choose one room to start and go through it, cleaning and decluttering all the cupboards, washing the windows and the curtains, waxing the furniture and the floors (if necessary) etc etc.

 A good idea is to make a list of everything what needs to be done around the house, then as each task is finished you cross it off the list. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. I usually use a business type organizer for this sort of thing. The problem with spring sleaning is that it takes a lot of time and interferes with regular household chores, so it could be helpful to designate a special day for it, and try to clean and organise one room each week. Of course, it will take you several weeks to clean the whole house in this manner, but it makes spring cleaning less onerous.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:

Spring Cleaning 101 by Darla Shine

a video on how to create a spring cleaning checklist

an article on how to make a list of housekeeping chores

I hope it was helpful! Happy Spring Cleaning!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Housewife Economy

Living on one income can be pretty challenging sometimes, especially when you are surrounded by a consumerist culture. Luckily, there are always ways to save money along the way. An old proverb says, a penny saved is a penny earned, and I agree. Though a housewife doesn't directly participate in earning money, she will often participate in barter economy, one of the advantages of which is the fact that you are not paying any tax on services and goods exchanged.

Through the years, a lot of hand-me-down things have passed through my house. Some of them I used myself, some were passed further to somebody who I knew needed them. For instance, for a long time I didn't have to buy teacups, because I got a nice set from a friend, free of charge.

I use second-hand stores to buy books and sometimes clothes and have collected quite a library. Of course, I also buy new books, mostly through the internet, because I want to order certain titles, but if I have nothing to read at the moment, and don't particularly care what book it should be, I just visit the nearest second-hand shop and return with a novel for 50 cents. If I don't like it, I through it away or give it to someone else. There is even a second-hand book store in the neighbouring city which allows you to bring back the books bought there and you get paid 25 cent for each.

To watch films, I often use YouTube or internet, which costs me basically nothing since I have an unlimited access and pay per month. I prefer watching old films anyway, as they have at least some morals in them and portray male-female relationships more realistically, and they are seldom shown on the TV, unless you pay for extra channels, so that YouTube is quite a way out. I also got a lot of DVDs as presents through the years and gave mine which I wasn't interested in any more away.

I know someone who shared housework with a friend. Once in a certain time they would come together and clean the house of one of them, and next time it would be the house of the other one. There is always something which you can exchange for something else.

Now you may say that you never got anything for free from anyone in your whole life and it may be true. In this situation, why not start doing it yourself? It's now time for the spring cleaning. While you are busy decluttering, look for things which you don't need, but which are still in good condition and offer them to a neighbour, friend or relative or donate to the charity shop. Remember what goes around, comes around. When you start sharing with people, you'll always get something in return.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Searching For A Husband

Did you know that Helen Andelin, the author of "The Fascinating Womanhood", also wrote a corresponding book for young women called "The Fascinating Girl" in which she teaches them how to find a good husband? Some parts of the book are simply lessons from the FW adujsted to suit single women, but Part 3 of the book Strategy With Men gives young ladies advice on that all-important knowledge of winning men.

"The Fascinating Girl" gives some common sense advice which is, unfortunately, largely forgotten nowadays. For instance, take the Introduction. On p.7 Mrs Andelin writes: "In our society a woman has the full responsibility of finding a husband and father for her children in the few short years she is considered desirable" (emphasis mine).

Sounds quite politically incorrect, doesn't it, and yet it is the truth. The older a woman becomes the more difficult it is to find a husband. Of course, there are all sorts of exceptions, and plenty of women get married in their thirties and even forties, but the fact remains that men generally prefer younger women. It's not a hate-fact, it's just a fact.

In Chapter 21 Choosing A Mate, Mrs Andelin points out that choosing your marriage partner is "the most important decision you will make in your life" (p.183), as this man "will be your companion for a lifetime and the father of your children." (idem). That's again something which often gets overlooked nowadays.

Since (some) character traits are genetically determined, by choosing your husband you choose your children. That thrilling bad boy with anger issues  who can't hold down a job and has drug addiction problems may sound very exciting, but he will probably make a lousy father. Even worse, the children will probably inherit his negative character traits.

It's interesting that we invest so much time and effort into preparing our daughters for careers, but not for marriage. They are taught to spend the best years of their lives  achieving professional success, and to assume that marriage will just happen somewhere along the line. Let me tell you something: a good marriage doesn't just happen. If you want to attract a quality mate, you will have to do something for it.

Women in the times past used to know it, but not so now. If you read Daily Mail, you'll remember all these articles by 40-something ladies lamenting the fact that after having a really fabulous life well into the late thirties, they were finally ready to settle down but found out there were no men lining up to marry them any more. Those women were not less beautiful or accomplished than average, but they lacked understanding. They bought the feminist lie of having it all together hook, line and sinker and paid for it.

We keep hearing that marriage is in crisis. Well, of course it is. One of the reasons for it is that marriage is simply not taken seriously any more. I believe that things won't improve until we return to the idea of marriage being a woman's career as Mrs Andelin calls it in FW and start raising girls accordingly. Of course, boys should be taught the proper attitude to marriage, too, but it's a separate topic, which I feel, would be better adressed by a man.

I prefer to keep my blog posts short and readable so I'll stop here, but in future I'm planning to write a series of posts on choosing a husband. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 8, 2013

La Traviata And Some Links

Below are some interesting links for you:

Thinking Housewife reflects on the passing of Edith Schaeffer and her homemaking books

and on the death of Margaret Thatcher

Happy Housewife shares how Fascinating Womanhood helped her in her marriage

Occidental Traditionalist has some interesting statistics on birth, divorce, marriage and religion in Europe

Folks at Orthosphere discuss legalising ILA

and Patrick Buchanan shares his thoughts about the situation on Cyprus

Please keep in mind that my linking to certain sites/blogs doesn't mean that I agree with everything posted there, just that I find certain articles to be of interest.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Outdoors Season Has Finally Begun!

Unbelievable! After all this cold the temperature  finally rose high enough for us to be able to sit on our terrace and enjoy a bit of sun and self-baked cupcakes with a nice cup of coffee.

Some time ago my husband was actually mocking my cupcakes. He said they are never just as beautiful as those featured in the advertisments. My pride was hurt and I immediately set out to prove him wrong, and baked those delicious cupcakes, using a recipe from an American magazine called The Taste Of Home:

Well, I guess dear husband was right after all...Mine don't look just as beautiful as those featured in the magazine, and I had to change the recipe slightly, but let me tell you,  they still tasted great! Yesterday we ate the last ones so now I'll have to bake something else. Here is the recipe I used (a simplified version for the cupcake-decoration challenged):

For the batter you use

3/4c soft butter
1c sugar
1tsp vanilla
1tsp grated lime peel
1 1/2c flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt
2/3c buttermilk

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lime peel. Combine flour, baking poweder, soda and salt, add to the mixture alternately with buttermilk. Line muffin pan or cups with paper and fill 3/4 full. Bake at 350*F for 20 till 25 min. Cool, remove from the pan and cool completely. Decorate with lemon curd which I made using lime instead of lemon. You will need:

3tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp sugar
3tbsp lime juice
4 1/2 tsp butter
1 beaten egg
1tsp grated lime peel

In a saucepan cook sugar, lime juice and butter together until smooth, stirring regularly. Stir some amount into egg, return all to the pan. Stirring constantly, bring to a gentle boil, cook 2 minutes longer, stir in the lime peel. Cook several more minutes, till the mixture starts thickening, taking care it doesn't burn. When it's thick enough, remove from fire, cover and chill for 1 1/2 hour and use to decorate the cupcakes. You can also remove the mixture from fire after 2 first  minutes of cooking, in which case it will be more liquid, and use the curd to fill the cupcakes, then you can frost them with a frosting of your choice. Lime can be substituted with lemons.

I'd also like to point your attention to a link graciously shared by one of the commenters, to an antique pattern library. Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Is Marriage?

Much has been said on the topic of marriage and divorce and all sorts of theories are put forward as to why the divorce rates keep increasing. The problem is a complex one and it's impossible to make a comprehensive analysis of it in a short blog post. There are legal, economical and cultural factors contributing to it. The legal system as it is now, makes divorce easy to get and doesn't punish the party guilty of breaking the marriage contract (marriage contract??? what the heck is that?).

It brings us to the problem of the chicken and the egg. What was first? Did the changes of the marital laws encourage people to divorce more, or did the changing attitudes of people towards marriage cause the change of the law? If we look at the 19th century, the laws still supported the traditional marriage as we know it, and divorce was difficult to get, however it seems that a lot of people were not happy with it.

We see the examples in the literature of the period. Take Jane Eyre. Though the novel is very popular still, I have never liked it. I always found it subversive. Though it doesn't openly come in favour of divorce, yet the reader can't fail to sympathise with the sufferings of the poor Mr Rochester and Jane who love each other so much and yet the cruel laws don't allow their happiness. Of course, the traditional wedding vows included that part about in sickness and in health and till death do us part but the novel informs us that Mr Rochester was duped into marriage by his family so the wedding vows didn't count. Or something to the point.

He even goes so far as to tell Jane that if she went mad, of course, he would stay with her and nurse her, because you see, it would be very different than with his first wife...The novel doesn't openly say that it's OK to break a solemn vow given before God and men. Instead it appeals to our emotions. Jane and Mr Rochester love each other soo much! Don't they deserve happiness? It's cruel to deny it to them. Society should change to accomodate the hard cases, like theirs, because every human being deserves to be happy!

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Just look where this attitude has brought us today. I believe that the mess we have nowadays can be directly traced to Victorian attitudes about the meaning of marriage. You see, before the 19th century people used to view marriage as an institution which existed to provide men with the legitimate offspring and women with the roof above their head. There was very little romance about it. You may not believe it, but just like it currently happens in Islamic countries, the family often chose spouses for their children.

We see the same system in the Bible, both Old and New Testament. Now I'm not going to defend the system of arranged marriages, though it hardly could work worse than the mess we have now, and I don't want to defend gold-digging, when the woman marries a man purely for money. However, our current system, based entirely on romantic feelings doesn't seem to work that great, does it?

The change started creeping in during the 18th century. For instance, in Friedrich Schiller's famous play Intrigue And Love the main conflict is between a scheming father who is trying to push his romantically inclined son into marriage based purely on financial interest and the son, who is determined to marry the wife of his own choice, even though he is an aristocrat while she is a commoner.

Father does everything possible to separate them and manages to get the son to believe that his sweetheart was unfaithful which ends in tragedy as the young man poisons the girl. Before she dies, she tells him the truth. In the end, when the young man is arrested and taken away (presumably to be executed for murder) he openly denounces his father.

This father-son conflict spilled over into the next century and gradually everybody got accustomed to the idea that marriage should be based entirely on romantic feelings and not on such low considerations as can my future husband hold down a job? or will this girl be a faithful wife and a good mother of my children? In the 19th century they still called it romance while nowadays it all boils down to do I find him/her hawt?

It's pretty obvious that you can't build a family on such a flimsy foundation. While we don't necessarily have to return to the Middle Ages, the modern attitudes about marriage have to go if we want to have stronger families. The fight against divorce starts by choosing a spouse properly, but also by understanding that marriage is not about being happy all the time or experiencing some powerful emotions or being for ever in love (as opposed to actually loving someone).

Marriage is an institution which gives financial security to the woman so that she can, in turn, devote herself to creating the safe haven for her husband and children. It's being together for better for worse, till death do us part. If you disagree with this idea, it's probably better that you don't marry at all.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

American Cheesecake

My husband insisted on my baking it and I obliged:) It turned out great, better than the previous time, may be because I slightly changed the recipe. Since I couldn't find it online, I'm submitting my own version of the American Cheesecake:

1 1/3 c flour
1 1/4c sugar
1tsp baking powder
200g cold butter, cubed
4 eggs
2 pkg vanilla sugar
juice of 1 lemon
500g quark
round baking pan d 24cm, greased

Knead the flour, half the amount of sugar, butter, 1 egg, baking powder and 1 package vanilla sugar into soft dough. Roll it out and cover the baking pan with it. There should be an edge of about 2 cm.
Break the remaining eggs separating the yolk from the egg white. Mix the yolks with the rest of sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon juice and quark.
Whip the egg whites till stiff and carefully add to the yolks mixture. Transfer it to the pan and bake at 200*C for about 50 min. Serve cold.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Kipling

I grew up with Kipling. When I was a little girl, my mother used to read to me Just So Stories and Jungle Book. When I became older, I discovered for myself his poetry, and I still can remember the impression which was produced on my young mind by  Danny Deever and Tomlinson . There are many poems of his which I like, but there is one which seems to be very fitting to describe our current situation. It's called The Gods Of The Copybook Headings and I'd like to quote it in its entirety:

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

If you have difficulty in understanding its meaning, the video below may be rather helpful, as it presents a modernised version of it: