Saturday, November 29, 2008
It – the post, I mean – is aimed at homemakers “of a certain age;” that is, we who have been at it awhile. As in any profession, homemakers are put in mentoring positions. Unfortunately, most older homemakers I know do the mentoring aspect poorly.
See, the thing about mentoring is to teach and provide encouragement. It is best done by example rather than by obvious posturing.
I will tell you what mentoring is not: it is not a method to provide yourself with an ego boost at the expense of your “student’s” confidence and self-esteem. Yet that is the attitude of most older homemakers I know: “I’ll show them what a real homemaker is like.” And so the good-natured sniping begins.
The reason this comes to mind is I know that this time of year young marrieds return to their parents’ home for the holiday and the holiday itself is one that spotlights homemaking skills. So it is a fertile battleground for familial tension to begin with, let alone when those in charge have an agenda.
The other reason I was inspired to write this post was a flashback memory that was triggered when I was ironing Heir 2’s shirt.* I thought back to when I was six years old and my mother was teaching me to iron, starting with my father’s handkerchiefs and working my way up to the white dress shirts he wore to work (“permanent press” was still only in the future).
I might take this moment to let you know, my mother had it going on in terms of homemaking. She absolutely loved staying home, raising us and puttering around the house. I like to think that is where I get my inspiration, even if I don’t in any way approach her mastery. She kept all the plates spinning straight and without the emotional drama that current writers tend to inflict on women of her day. She was not in the least bit frustrated or demeaned by her role.
Anyway, in terms of ironing, my mother was as good at it as anyone else. Back then, ironing required an entire day and I’m sure she was relieved when I had mastered even the most basic aspects of it
I also remember years later when permanent press had come and then was partially replaced by the preference for natural fibers. We had to go back to ironing some of the laundry. By this time I had taken up sewing my own clothes and, because I had a better concept of how cloth is woven and clothing construction, I developed a more efficient method of ironing shirts (which was a good thing, since most of the natural fiber shirts were mine…).
My mother could have pointed to her expertise and claimed that there was “a reason why we do it this way.” She could have said, “Good! You think you know so much? You do all the ironing from now on.” She could have given me a “mother knows best” look. She could have agreed to disagree and continue to do it “the right way.”
Instead, she asked me to show her how to do it.
I can’t tell you what a confidence boost that was. That I could teach my mother something after all the years of her showing me how she did things made me respect her skills even more.
It happened again a few years later. My mother was an excellent baker and taught me everything she knew. One Thanksgiving, she allowed me to make the most precious commodity of that holiday. No, not the turkey – the apple pie. Everyone waited for my mother’s apple pie. There were never “overs.”
This is what I expected: Everyone would politely eat and praise the pie, secretly wishing that, at least for Thanksgiving, she would have baked it and let me bake one some other time when having “the best” wasn’t as crucial.
I tasted it and was moderately proud of myself. I looked around the table and, as I expected, everyone praised my effort.
Then my mother turned to my father and said, “Go ahead and say it. It’s obvious. This is better than anything I’ve ever made. Jeanne, you have a real touch with a pie crust.”
I don’t know if it really was all that good. All I know is that she was willing to cede to me what was once her honor with a grace I rarely see between women, let alone mothers and daughters.
I contrast that with what I witnessed at the home of an acquaintance, whose newlywed daughter was home for a holiday (this time, I think it was around Easter). Daughter was very anxious, as she sat with us “old married women,” to be one of us; to share her domestic war stories and how she triumphed over them. Only every story she related, her mother would smile wisely and interject something to the effect of, “Well if you’d known that (insert some ancient axiom here) then you wouldn’t have had to (insert clever solution here).” Then she would look at me and smile knowingly as if to say, “Isn’t she cute, trying to be a real, grownup homemaker?”
You could practically see daughter's shoulders slump.
Is it any wonder adult children come home and resume acting like irresponsible children or don’t come home at all?
This is just one of those concepts that, I think, underlie my feeling that people have children for all the wrong reasons. Your children don’t exist to make you feel better or to give you validation. It’s up to you to provide that to them.
Funny thing is, when you do it right, you will feel better and get that validation without even trying.
*Yes, Heir 2 knows how to iron his own shirt. I also know, he would wear it wrinkled rather than actually iron it. Even in this day and age, this reflects on me since people assume that a 17-year-old does not know how to iron a shirt and, therefore, I was the lazy party. I'm sure Heir 2 knows all this. But, Future Partner of Heir 2: He can iron his own shirt.
Friday, November 28, 2008
As for today, trust me -- there is absolutely nothing worth looking at today. We traveled to Dark Garden's house for Thanksgiving and didn't get in until after midnight. This morning we no more got the dogs fed and coffee made and we were ready for a nap.
So we did. And we've spent the day dozing, reading, watching TV, dozing, eating, dozing, knitting, etc. Around 2 o'clock in the afternoon I did make an effort and put on jeans and a sweatshirt. Then it was naptime.
Needless to say, we and our surroundings reflect this and, believe me, it's not a sight you want to see.
There is absolutely no excuse for this. We did not host the holiday, we are not sick, while we ate well, our days of overdoing it are behind us.
Nope. We're just plain tired. In fact, I think I've put out quite enough effort for this post. It's time for another nap.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Heir 1 will find an ancient video game for the very first Sega system and wax poetic about, of all things, the music from it, as if that music weren't burned into my brain 12 years ago when the system appeared under the Christmas tree (it was used, even then) and played for hours on end, a practice that led to video game time rationing and probably the first chapter of the Heirs' Mommie Dearest book.
Or Heir 2 will get a song in his head which he will spontaneously and joyously break into at the most inopportune times -- say, when Dirtman is stressing the importance of the proper division of labor while cleaning up after dinner and how disappearing into the bathroom is not one of the requisite chores. While this sudden burst of melody leads to a visible rise in Dirtman's blood pressure, one can't help but have to escape into one's bedroom lest one's amused countenance add fuel to the extremely explosive and very loud fire.
So imagine my surprise when a weekday, frugal meal elicited the kind of joyful outburst more akin to Mrs. Cratchitt presenting the Christmas pudding to the small assorted Cratchitts.
When the kids were little I used to call this Who Hash, after what the Grinch took the last can of when he was stealing the Who's Christmas. Really, it's just a variation on yet another of my grandmother's Depression Era meals.
I have to admit that my grandmother's version had only two things to recommend it: it was cheap and it filled you up. In case this is enough for you, here's the recipe: ground beef, mashed potatoes, salt. Brown the beef, add salt and potatoes, flip around the skillet and there you have it.
How much beef? As much as you can spare.
How many potatoes? Depends on how many people are coming for dinner and how much they want to eat. Potatoes were really, really cheap.
My version uses the same principle, but I add a chopped onion. Instead of mashing the potatoes, I cube them (I guess just to give your teeth something to do), and I add some Worchestershire sauce and pepper. Once it's all heated through I put it into a casserole, sprinkle some cheddar on top and bake it 10 or 15 min. in a 350 degree oven. See above to amounts of ground beef and potato. Everything else is to taste.
I'm sure you'll agree that this is unremarkable and, really, I wouldn't mention it here were it not for the surprising reception it received. I was expecting sighs of boredom, reluctant compliments (Dirtman always compliments whatever I put in front of him), and one of those meals where I'm sitting alone at the table as it's cleared around me.
Instead, when Heir 1 asked what was for dinner and received the reply "Who Hash," he kept popping up from the basement -- with the dogs -- and asking, "How long 'til dinner?" When Heir 2 arrived home, his brother couldn't wait to deliver the news that there was Who Hash for dinner. There was hovering in the kitchen.
Then dinner: You'd have thought I threw a single bone to all six dogs in order to watch them fight to the death. Instead it was Dirtman and the Heirs and a casserole dish. They ate the hash and appeased themselves with the mixed vegetables.
And leftovers? A crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I will never eat those frozen, reheated ones again. I've always been ambivalent about apple dumplings because my grandmother used to make them and, with all due respect, they weren't very good. And the frozen kind --- meh. There is the mass-produced kind you get at fairs, which are good for the venue, but unremarkable otherwise.
But freshly-made with a flaky pastry (as opposed to the industrial-strength pastries of the other aforementioned dumplings)? Oh. My.
I only ate one, though. All six disappeared in a household of four. Hmmm...
Which is why there is very little dumpling photography. They didn't hang around very long.
He hasn't built up the courage to come to the suet feeder yet, so Dirtman doubts his existence. That's why I took this hideous picture through both the window and the screen. To prove I'm not seeing things..
Shut up -- I do too have a life.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Normally a cold is an almost welcome respite, an excuse to slow down, drink hot beverages and order in won ton soup. My colds don't usually last very long in terms of that overall lousy, lethargic feeling, but they do hang on in terms of how I sound. My asthma becomes very audible and my sinuses drain constantly and, while I might feel fine, I'm more than usually unpleasant to look at.
So I relax and allow nature to take it's course, which has always been my treatment since most cold remedies could not be taken with my thyroid meds.
This go-round, though, I can't afford to be all raspy and phlegmy on the off-chance that someone, somewhere might want to interview me for gainful employment -- evidently this is about as likely an event as hens requiring orthodontia, but I have to believe that it may one day happen. Also, I'm not currently on my thyroid meds.
So I purchased your basic day time cold medicine, which no longer has a decongestant in it. I hate having to go up to the pharmacist window to beg for the stuff behind the counter and then have to present my papers and sign my name like I'm some sort of junkie.
So while the meds helped my cough, muscle aches and fever, it did very little by way of clearing my sinuses. Aside from the fact that it was very uncomfortable, it also negated half the consonants when I spoke. So much for "communication skills a must."
I did the steam thing (which worked as long as I was breathing steam, but not much after that) and, of course, my usual Hall's menthol cough drops. But nothing gave me relief like what ended up being garlic soup.
It started out as a sort of poor man's chicken soup: chicken bouillon, celery, carrots, onion, thyme, parsley. Then I added five cloves of garlic. Big, honkin' cloves. And I let the whole thing simmer for a few hours. I read about doing this -- somewhere. I don't remember where, but there you have it. Five cloves of garlic.
By dinner time my sinuses were blocked solid. I couldn't tell what the soup was going to taste like. I just knew it was hot and I had a sense that there was salt in it. We had little tiny sandwiches* with it and I threw some noodles in the soup.
"It's ...good," Heir 2 said cautiously.
"It's not your usual chicken noodle soup," Dirtman commented noncommittally.
I explained about the garlic and the sinuses, noting what may have escaped their notice: I'M SICK, GUYS.
Heir 1 shrugged. "Very...garlicky. Almost..."
"Go ahead, " I encouraged.
Still everyone finished up without much fuss and as I got up from the table I would admit the hot liquid and the salt in the soup had made my throat feel better.
It wasn't until about an hour later I realized my sinuses were clear. Not just that temporary clear you get from a decongestant pill; but breath-through-your-nose clear.
Two days later and I don't have the usual residual sinus drainage that sometimes lasts weeks after I have a cold.
Of course the next day I was able to taste the soup. There was nothing chickeny about it. It was all about the garlic. I can't believe, even as stuffed up as I was, that I couldn't taste that garlic. Because...damn.
So now I'm a believer in garlic soup for a head cold. You may want to keep your distance if you hear me sniffle.
*The little tiny sandwiches are courtesy of dog people friends of ours who brought a truck load of them to this week's kennel club meeting. Knowing I have Heirs to feed, they allowed us to take home the "overs" -- which amounted to a truck load minus ten. I am forever grateful for the gift because with the utilities being so dicey and my timely contraction of the crud, meals have been touch and go in the past few days. The Heirs have, on occasion, taken one look at the situation, grabbed a bag of little tiny sandwiches, and escaped to their respective caves.
So now we have good news for him! All he has to do is wait.
The promise of moving out of the basement -- without the dogs! The dogs won't even be able to reach him! I certainly won't bother him.
It'll have running water!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Not so this morning. We woke up to a cold, dark house. After yesterday's water issue, I wasn't graciously accepting of now having "power issues."
Dirtman can never sleep through anything like this. He's got to know what's going on. So he was out of bed early offering to take care of what is first priority around here. He drove into Toms Brook for coffee (and to see what was going on -- though he won't admit that).
First, though, he did help Heir 2 clear the snow off his car (yeah, it figures. Months of warm lovely mornings. Then, the first frosty morning: no heat.) Just a skiff of snow and I'm really ticked off at Dominion Virginia for ruining the first snowfall for me -- well, actually I guess I should be ticked at the guy who skidded into the pole* that took out the power that ruined the first snowfall for me (...that lived in the house that Jack built).
As for me, I was pinned in bed by the cat.
No, I swear. At any rate, I had no intention of getting up before it was time.
The dogs had other ideas and by the time Dirtman got back I was agreeable enough (after a swig of coffee) to help feed and juggle canines -- which, while it is possible to be done by one person, really requires two. (Especially the last few days and in the weeks to come: Abby has become a woman -- i.e., she's entered her first heat. This is incidental to most of the dogs around here, except for Hokie, who we hoped would be going away to camp for the duration. But we decided against it, so the poor guy is left to pine and pace.)
We were out of power until around noon, by which time we were cold and cranky. Okay I was cold and cranky. Dirtman was, for the most part, asleep.
So I got a lot of knitting done on a very practical shawl (I'm all about practical projects lately) to cover my shoulders when I'm sitting by the window knitting in the office/diningroom. I could turn up the electric heat (at least, when it's working) or I can throw on the shawl. The shawl is cheaper. The Heirs have made me promise to wear the fingerless mitts -- they call them my "bum gloves" -- and talk with a Cockney accent while I do this.
This is not normal for me. At least I had some water saved for drinking and so we could brush our teeth. My survivalist streak is well known and I can't remember ever being so ill prepared for an emergency. All my disaster stuff is gone, though. No Coleman stove, no propane heater, no hurricane lamps.
We do, however, have plenty of dried beans (My beanage is also well known). Apparently the bankruptcy trustee had no interest in my beans.
*I'm hoping the person is okay, though. But, honestly, people take that road he was on way too fast in good weather. In icy weather? You really need to slow down. But I don't wish the person ill, only as miserable a morning as all of us in this area have had with no heat.
UPDATE: Guy said he was okay and refused to be checked out. They sent him home.
Monday, November 17, 2008
So I had to find this.
You can't appreciate this song unless you hear the Nicola Paone recording (John Boy can do it perfectly -- still, I'm sure).
I think it's a Needful Thing.
My brother John Boy will definitely remember. Dark Garden may or may not, depending on how closely he listened to the family 45 rpm collection or how loudly JB and I blasted into his ears. My kids only remember this because I used to sing it to them when they were little.
But I really can't believe someone else remembers it.
It seems I always have water issues.
You know how articles about saving water always talk about people taking water for granted? I never do. Our water situation has always been, except for the year and a half at the HWWTNTMA, tenuous.
When we lived in the House of Squalor we had a great well 650 feet down. Even in the worst of droughts, it never ran dry. The water was wonderful and ice cold. Only for some reason the pump would burn out on a regular basis. Replacing a well pump for a 650-foot well is no small matter (ask Dark Garden, who had to help Dirtman pull the well by hand the second time it happened) and usually resulted in us being Beduins for a week or so. In our last years there, it was happening once a year at an expense of over a thousand dollars a pop. No one could tell us why.
In this house, we have a cistern. At first I thought, well, at least when we run out, we call for water. We try to be very thrifty with our water usage -- but we do have teenagers. Having run out of water twice, even they have learned to cut back as much as two young men believe it's possible to cut back.
I, myself, have learned how truly invaluable the "sponge bath" can be for water conservation. My hair no longer gets washed every single day, which I can get away with now that I'm an old lady (when I was younger, my hair was an oil slick by evening).
Laundry-wise, we've...well, I've, learned that a skirt can be worn more than once before it needs to be laundered. I think I've convinced the boys that something doesn't need to be washed just because you try it on.
Well, for the third time we've run out out of water again and our water man says there is a hole in the cistern. This is, actually, an issue for our landlord, but I wonder what this means in terms of what happens in the coming weeks.
Right now there is precious little water in the cistern and what is there needs to be saved for ... um ... the bathroom. And I'm finding there is not much you can do without it. I don't want to do any major cooking because it will generate too many dirty dishes. Can't do laundry. Fortunately we have two Brita pitchers in the fridge for drinking water and a little bit of cooking.
So I've worked some on the computer and now I'm going to knit on my shawl -- now that I've finished a certain green and white scarf, which I can't block because........................
I don't have water.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Well, ya know how when you look out my back
This morning when I let the dogs out, this is all I saw.
Should I start driving?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
And that’s just the humans. The dogs know better. They hunker down and sleep.For the birds, it’s business as usual. “Oh, is it raining? Huh. Let’s eat.” Except for the Bubba the Blue Jay, who has decided he would rather be hungry than soggy.
Today is our final bankruptcy hearing. The worst is already behind us, our lawyer says. The hearing is only a formality finalizing everything. Five or ten minutes, he says, and it will be over.
Not really, though, because The Authorities were never the cause for my guilt in the first place. Oh, yeah, it’s been embarrassing for people to find out about; but that’s minor and, as the economy gets worse, people are starting to understand a little better, especially when the recession hits their own part of the economy. At first it was the subprime mortgagees who burst the housing bubble; then it was the people, like us, directly involved in the housing market; then it was the businesses incendiary to the building trade. Who is next, I wonder?
No, my demon has always been myself. I can truly look back and note what decisions led to this; but, honestly, they weren’t major decisions at the time. We had planned for an end to the glory days of the housing boom. We hadn’t planned on total, unprecedented ongoing annihilation of our market. Considering we made decisions based on our knowledge at the time and it led to disaster, how can I trust any decision I make now?
I say this by way of explaining why, when you come up to me with, say, what you think is an obvious solution to my problem, I am reticent to act. It may seem obvious to you and it’s probably obvious to me. But if it requires a decision on my part, I’m too gun-shy right now to make it.
Ironically, the time my self-esteem is at its lowest is concurrent with having to “sell” myself in the job market. I swear employers can smell desperation in my resume.
So, while I know our lawyer (who is, by the way, a very kind person) will tell us after the hearing that we can start “rebuilding our lives,” it’s like telling me to build the Taj Mahal with a kitchen spoon as my only tool.
And here's another thing I want to know: The news is full of how millions of people have lost their homes and are declaring bankruptcy. Where are they? Where have they gone? Where is their voice? Are we all just too cowed by the judgmental boors who toss us aside as ignorant materialistic trash who liked to play without paying their bills?
Or, I wonder, is the media afraid to give us voice because that voice will sound too familiar; too much like their neighbor or their cousin or themselves?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
"You got your glasses? You got your teeth?"
With a straight face, no less.
Friday, November 07, 2008
As a subcategory, I also read some international blogs, at least the English-speaking ones, which means a lot of Canadian, Brit, Australian and New Zealand blogs with a smattering of the Netherlands and Sweden.
Lately, as a form of good will, some of non-U.S. bloggers have congratulated their American readers on their new president-elect. Some have even gone so far as to "approve" of the choice which, while I understand how this might rankled in the gut of our most ardent isolationists, I have to believe means nothing more than to wish us well in our change of administration.
I certainly don't take offense at the fact that the international community has an opinion one way or the other. We are a large, powerful country and what we do matters globally.
I also don't take offense when a blog consistently about, say, sewing, takes a day off to extend glade tidings to the U.S. citizens on a very important decision that, inevitably, affects the whole world. It's their blog. It's our world.
What I do find offensive -- embarrassing, actually -- is when Americans respond to these congratulations by criticizing their own government and then bickering with other Americans on someone else's blogs.
For one thing, it has the air of Dixie Chick cowardice to it: express an opinion in "safe" place and hope it won't get back to the American fan base, thus affecting your bottom line. Natalie Maines didn't make her "ashamed the president is from Texas" statement -- in Texas.
There are plenty of blogs for Americans to duke it out over whether President-Elect Obama is good or bad for America. The only reason I can think of for doing so on a blog totally unrelated to politics or the U.S. is that it is unlikely your facts will be checked. Certainly some of the stupidest rumors get bantered about in the comments section of homemaking blogs.
Secondly, everyone wants to deliver the one coupe de grace comment when it comes to politics, causing us to come across as rude know-it-alls, the kind of reputation we already have because rude know-it-alls are the only ones who can afford to travel overseas. Most of us aren't like that at all and most of us can discuss politics without hyperbole.
I have this urge to post my own comment apologizing for the rudeness of my fellow citizens who can't seem to recognize that the polite response, if indeed any is needed, is "Thank you for your well wishes." This would, of course, only add fuel to the fire and would be followed with things like, "Oh yes, the whole world was 'polite' while Hitler killed 6 million people."
Honestly, I don't know what is going to happen. I only know that no one is going to change anyone's mind in the comments section of a blog devoted to new crockpot recipes and knitting afghans.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I guess I've run out of steam. And, of course, you know that with Dirtman around, the air is filled with the election. We were both surprisingly ambivalent as to who won, but Dirtman loves the whole process, so it's been nothing but election coverage for several days now.
And me? I've been busy trying to slap together a "business" wardrobe, shooting out a resume to anyone who will accept it and then knitting. My job hunt would be almost comical if it wasn't happening to me. I feel like I should just cut to the chase and send a cover letter like this:
Dear Sir or Madam:
Enclosed please find the sum total of my professional life. Won't you take a moment to totally reject this portion of my life? Or, better yet, just toss my submission aside and don't respond at all so I am forced to follow up with a phone call, at which point I may experience the rejection firsthand.
Thank you for your time and your negation of everything I've done professionally over the course of the past 35 years.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
No -- it's NINJOE! (Who insists that some of you will enjoy this.) He was on his way to help Caisee and her family at a Halloween party at the fire hall.
Not to be outdone by RoboChar (or Charbot -- whatever)...
...who was on his way to help Torie hand out candy. (Heir 1 has had this costume ready for over a month. He picked the components out of the trash at Food Lion -- except for one of the antennae, which we had on hand).
As for Dirtman and me -- we hung around for our one trick-or-treater -- well, one family. Then I went to bed and watched House. Yippee.
Back at the House Which We Try Not To Mention Anymore, my feeder population was phenomenal due to, I thought, our woodland surroundings. When we moved here all I saw were robins, which we'd never had at the other house, but got old real quick since that was all there was.
Gradually I began to notice more variety; but, still, nothing spectacular. Finally Dirtman put my feeder up and we garnered the typical tufted titmouse and chickadee. He put our birdbath nearby and we've been enjoying watching the tidier birds splashing around, even on the coldest mornings.
Then, this week, they started to arrive: cardinals (which we didn't have at HWWTNTMA), house finches, a blue jay ("Bubba" -- he's a real pig, but not too aggressive. Just kind of big and dumb. He never bathes.), and a downy woodpecker. Still I was a little disappointed that, in spite of keeping the finch feeder well-stocked with nyjer seeds, no gold finches.
And then this morning, I spotted him, dull olive in his seasonal plumage, but here (I did not take the picture at right). So next spring I look forward to the full range of ornithological colors. I can't tell you how happy this makes me.
I've placed an order with my father-in-law for a bluebird house. If you recall, just before decamping from the HWWTNTMA, bluebirds had finally taken up residence in the one we erected there, so we didn't move it. Unfortunately, the bank didn't have quite the same appreciation for nature and yanked down our fence and the bird house with it. I won't go into the emotional ramifications of finding this out...
Happily, though, Dirtman placed the feeder right outside the window of the room where we work, where I do my knitting and audio book listening and where I sew. So I miss very little of what goes on at the birdfeeder. Some people watch soap operas -- I watch the birds.