Thursday, October 30, 2014

More On Home Businesses

I have been thinking about this whole Proverbs 31 controversy and there is one thing which comes to mind: Christian women are often encouraged to start a business whether they need money or not, and this money-making activity is seen as something spiritual. Other activities a lady at home can pursue  are not seen in this light. For instance, if you say that you spent several hours reading a book or watching a movie, the reaction will be totally different, even if the book/film had a Christian content.

Now some families obviously need the extra income which the wife brings and it's better if she can earn it from home, especially if the couple have small children. Other ladies have creative hobbies which they can turn into the source of income with little inconvenience. So far so good, but what if the family are wealthy? Suppose the husband is a doctor, and the wife would rather play tennis in her free time then sell stuff on the net? Does it make her a bad person/woman?

It's interesting that when men keep working long hours for the sake of making money they are  called workaholics  and criticised for neglecting their families. I've read somewhere about a woman who was on the TV explaining how she had to divorce her husband because he was always working and didn't give her enough attention. So when a man makes money for the sake of  money, it's wrong, but we praise women who do the same! Isn't it strange?

I detect a feminist double standard over here. Feminism, unfortunately, has crept into the church, too. Now Jesse Powell from Secular Patriarchy posted an article today where he points out that money and money-making is masculine:

Money is masculine. Let us remember that. Work or paid employment is masculine; work then pays us money so money by extension is masculine as well. Making money is something that men are good at and that women are not so good at; making money being a strength for men and a weakness for women. This is consistent with money being masculine or an area of male superiority.

If his theory is correct, it means that by criticising hard-working men as workaholics and encouraging women to start businesses and make money we encourage men to become more feminine and women more masculine, thus promoting androgyny which is exactly according to the spirit of this age with its emphasis on so-called equality. Definitely something to ponder over!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breakfast Ideas: Onion-Cheese Scones

The recipe serves 4.

You will need:

2c flour + 2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
30g butter, cubed
50g cheese, grated
1tsp dried parsley
1/2 of a small onion, chopped finely
1 egg, beaten
ab. 1.75 dl milk

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add butter and knead through. Stir in cheese, parsley and onion. Add milk and egg, all at once,beat till the soft dough forms, turn onto the floured surface and knead for 1-2 min. With the help of a rolling pin, form the dough into a circle ab. 1cm thick and cut into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges onto the greased and floured baking sheet, brush with milk. Bake at 230°C for 10-15 min till light brown in colour. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Look

So I added some new placemats to my collection and a vintage bottle as a candlestick:

I wasn't so sure of the colour at first, but changed my mind

The more colour the better, especially during the winter, don't you think?

So I added this wreath:

Here is a close-up:

In general, I'm content with the way my kitchen looks in the morning, it certainly cheers you up, especially when you are not a morning person, like myself.

Friday, October 24, 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 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: ` is your housekeeping that makes your home alive...´ (p.7).

Wednesday, October 22, 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...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Á Sprengisandi

This is apparently a cover of a folk song by an Icelandic composer Sigvaldi Kaldalóns.

Here is the text and English translation.

Saturday, October 18, 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.

Friday, October 17, 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). 

Wednesday, October 15, 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  live in a free society, 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.

Monday, October 13, 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.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Shabby Chic Furniture

I finally managed to persuade my husband to paint our furniture in the shabby chic style. He was busy two Saturdays (actually it wasn't that much work, but he first painted the cupboard and chairs, and later we decided that we should have a try at the dinner table as well).

Here are some of  the results:

Our cat has an annoying habit of sleeping on the dinner table. Heaven knows, I tried to teach him manners but failed miserably, and my husband finds it cute and encourages him:) Of course, since he is an outside animal, the tablecloth quickly becomes dirty:)

Here he is, a real beauty, isn't he?:) I finally got tired of washing and especially, ironing the tablecloths hence the obvious solution was to paint the table as well. I doubt he will like it so much, and if he does, it will be easier to clean as I can now just wipe the table surface:

It's too minimalistic to my taste but I guess I'll get accustomed to it. Here is a close-up of one of the chairs:

A friend who came to visit me last Thursday said that our dining area became much lighter, which had also been my objective. What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Madame Guillotine

(WARNING: contains shocking images, may scare children)

I really like how they combined fragments from both movies!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Are Housewives Boring?

Are housewives boring? Some people think they must be since they aren't doing anything productive with their life, besides washing dishes and changing diapers.

Personally I have acquaintances among both housewives and women-who-work-outside-home and whether they are interesting people or not doesn't at all depend on whether they are employed. I have yet to meet a housewife who spends the whole time talking about dirty diapers, but there are enough career women who talk about nothing but their office problems and how their colleagues are such horrible people.

If something, a housewife with school-age children has much more time to read and study and stay on top of modern politics than a mother who has to juggle her work outside home and her domestic duties. There are simply so many hours in the day, and as you get older you need more rest. That is not to say, of course, that there are no boring housewives, but I'm pretty much convinced that they still would be boring if they had jobs. If a person is narrow-minded, he won't change because his circumstances changed.

One thing people often forget nowadays is the fact that men and women are different, which means that they ought to have different functions in society and that as the result of it, they often have different interests. I have read discussions where men complained that their girlfriends weren't interested in weapons. Well, guess what? My husband isn't interested in knitting and make-up! It's normal for a mother to talk about her children and her housekeeping and it doesn't make her any more stupid than a woman who keeps talking about her power-point presentations at the office.

The truth is that most people, both men and women, don't really have very exciting jobs worth talking about all the time. The only difference between a woman employed in a day care centre where she has to change the diapers all day long, and the mother at home doing the same with her own kids, is the paycheck. And herein lies the crux of the matter: our society only respects people as long as they are "economically productive", "contribute to GDP growth" etc etc.

Never mind that the majority of women who work outside home are employed in the taxpayer-subsidized industries and hence cost us all money in the long run, they earn a paycheck which means their lives are not worthless! Never mind that those who have "a successful home business" often lose money on it and have wealthy supportive husbands who make it all possible, at least they aren't spending their time at home actually doing any housekeeping (some ladies with home businesses argued online that vaccuuming once every three weeks was a proper way to run your house).

I may be wrong, but in my opinion, what people are trying to say when they accuse housewives of being boring, is that they find home life itself boring, but it doesn't have to be! That's why the role of a homemaker is so very important, she doesn't only do the dishes and mop the floor, she creates a peaceful home atmosphere. Man makes a living, woman makes the life worth living, or so it should be.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Confessions Of A Stay-At-Home Wife

H/t to The Retro Homemaker for the link.

Here is an interesting article from Forbes about a childless housewife. The lady by the name of Karah is 37 years old and started working right after college and was at first very enthusiastic about her job in hotel administration, however, she quickly found out that hotel management is incredibly demanding. 

She met her future husband, Joel, who is several years her senior, at work and right away moved in with him, however, in her case, it worked out just fine, though it took her more than 10 years to get him to the altar, so to speak. They had to relocate several times, as Joel was advancing in his career, and finally, after they got married, Karah realised that her husband was making so much money that she didn't have to work any more:

We knew that financially, it would be feasible for me not to work; Joel would be making enough in Curaçao to support both of us. The transfer meant a better title and a raise to a low six-figure salary.

Of course, the truth is that your husband doesn't need to earn that much for you to stay home, you just need to be a good manager of family finances and stay out of debt.

Karah was also afraid that if she had a demanding job herself, there would be less time for her to spend with her husband, which is definitely a problem for too many two-income families and contributes to the divorce epidemic:

I knew his hours were going to be long—he was on the management team that was building a new hotel on the island. I knew that if I also worked at a hotel, then we’d never have time to spend with each other...

She quickly found out what women in the past knew right from the beginning: as a woman, you don't need to compete in the world of men and bring home the bacon to be happy:

I felt so grateful for the opportunities that not having a day job afforded me. I was always trying to discover the untouched spots, where none of the tourists went. Most days, I’d walk to a new beach and I’d collect sea glass, coral and driftwood. I even started making crafts with my beach finds.

She actually runs a blog about home renovations where she sells stuff but it's still not comparable to working full time outside home, of course. Despite this, she got viciously attacked in the comments for being  (you guessed it) a parasite, sponging of her husband, blah, blah. One enlightened and tolerant lady commenter even hoped that Joel was banging his secretary (she used the word assistant which I assume is the newspeak for 'secretary' these days:)

Karah also manages family finances, has more time for cooking and does lots of other things:

All the annoying job-transfer details—like shutting off utilities, scheduling movers, requesting doctor records—are easy for me to handle, which makes it a smoother transition for both of us.

I suspect that there are more women like Karah out there but they don't advertise their "alternative" lifestyle (which used to be quite normal 60 years ago) for fear of the feminist backlash. Karah very wisely points out that they are a team who work together to achieve their goals. I wish more people realised how true it is.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Results Of An Afternoon Walk

We've got some nice weather again, so last Saturday we went for a walk in the country:

And visited some farms:

Where we bought these free range eggs:

We visited an antique store where I was fortunate enough to find this tea set:

(an imitation of Royal Albert, made in Germany). Doesn't it look pretty on a cupboard shelf?

I decided to use it every day and put my old tea set away. The price was only 12.50, and as a bonus we got these pears from the lady who owned the shop:

So I decided to use them to make jam:

Here is the end result (it is delicious!):

I'm afraid my jam jars aren't glamorous, but they didn't cost me anything as I recycled them:)
Next time I'll try to write something more intellectual, so stay tuned:)