Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Pleasant Paths to Contentment at Home

Image 'Little birdie Blessings'

I glanced through a freebie daily newspaper today. There was an article by a writer who had heard several women recently saying that they did not regard themselves as feminists. The writer saw it as his responsibility to point out that 'If you are not 'for' feminism, then you must be 'for' the oppression of women!

I draw the opposite conclusion. The women I know, having to go back to work after maternity leave, are heart-broken to leave their babies. They are expected to make a good wage and fulfil their 'potential' out in the workplace. The soft, nurturing, supportive, gentleness of most women's nature is 'oppressed' as they toughen up to cope in the work environments. Home-making is ridiculed and they are made to feel stupid if they enjoy feminine hobbies. So 'feminism' to me now stands for 'be ashamed of being a woman, because they are of no value. Childbearing is an inconvenience and child-rearing is best left to the state. If you can't be a masculine, aggressive, academic woman then you'd better shape up'.

Women have been fed this line for many years and this is one reason why paths to contentment at home can be strange and unfamiliar for some home-makers. I do not say these things in an arrogant or 'know-all'  or dictatorial way, but from my own experience. I have found that although my paths have often appeared very overgrown and strange, soon the way felt reassuringly familiar and I began to spot the lovely roses growing along the way!

(Little birdie blessings)

One really helpful path to take is a pretty, meandering footpath with  one or two picturesque stiles that cross little streams of water. Why the poetry? because that gives a clue to a facet of contentment at home - pace.

Pace is so important. The pace of home-living is slower, not so direct. You don't 'go get' with happy home-making! For longer than I wish to remember, most things I did around the house were accompanied by the noise of slamming cupboard doors, clattering dishes and huffing and puffing as I worked at breakneck speed to complete each task and get to sit down. Then one day, out of the blue, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me. 'You are going at the speed of the World, now I want to go at the 'speed of Love'. Well, I listened to that word. I was so surprised to find that when I slowed down (and made less noise about the place) I began to feel calm and contented. My body felt less stressed and gradually I became less 'performance-minded'. Even better, even though I slowed down, more things got done. And I was able to enjoy the process of home-making. That had never happened before and it was a complete revelation to me.

I am finding more pleasant paths to contented home-making as the years go by, and I hope to share some more with you soon. But for any ladies out there struggling with contentment, who are cupboard door slammers and speedy cleaners, try the meandering path and the 'speed of love' . I wish you well.

I would love to hear your comments, tips, or experiences ladies. Please leave a comment.

Monday, 29 October 2012

An Autumn Wander

Black Bryony climbing up the fences

Here are a few snippets of beauty, taken this afternoon in the field beside our house. Bryony is so striking, but as you might have guessed, not nice to eat.

Blackberry brambles turning red

The blackberries were everywhere this year. Millions of them. We made 32 pounds of jam but made not one dent in the numbers.

 O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Psalm 104:24

Oaks have such pretty autumn leaves

There are several old oak trees scattered around and give me a reassuring sense of history. Some are about 200 years old.

Clover flowers

In the olden days, home-makers filled their pillows with clover to make them smell sweet.

New post about pretty touches for the home, and using containers, coming soon.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thrifty plus


Every day, home-makers are discovering ways of saving money and enriching their lives in the process. That's the kind of thrift I love to learn, and I have been fortunate to pick up many tips from ladies who have generously shared their knowledge and experience with others.

I thought it would be nice to write about some more unusual ideas, maybe one or two that are not so common, that the home-maker can try and test for herself. She can find the ideas that work for her, gradually incorporating them into her routines - little habits which will make a big difference over time. So that is why I call this the 'Thrifty Plus' post. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe use the comments box below to add some of your own.

If you dissolve a little salt in hot water, you have an instant mouth wash that costs next to nothing. It has no harmful chemicals in like the commercial ones. I keep my salt in a pretty container in the bathroom cabinet to use regularly after brushing.It is also very effective for treating mouth ulcers.

Another container in the bathroom - this time with bicarbonate of soda. This is a gentle, effective shampoo. Put a spoonful of bicarb (not washing soda!) in a cup and add a little warm water. You don't want to dissolve it just mix it quickly. When you are in the shower, pour this onto the scalp and rub in gently. Then rinse the liquid through to rest of the hair. Rinse the hair well. Some people find that for the first two or three times they wash their hair with soda, the hair feels a bit greasy or looks rather dull. I really can't explain why that happens, but if you persevere, you will find that your scalp and hair feel clean and look nice.

I hope you have a lot of containers - you'll need one of vinegar next. After shampooing with the bicarb, put about a tablespoon of ordinary brown vinegar in your cup and add about half a cup of warm water to it. You may have heard that people use apple cider vinegar for a hair rinse, but cheap brown vinegar works very well and when your hair is dry you will not smell like a chip shop. Pour this over the hair. If your hair is long, you can dip the ends into the cup before you begin. Leave for a moment or two and then rinse well. I have used this method for many months and have found, surprisingly that it has calmed my itchy, sensitive scalp.

Vintage image from the Graphics fairy
Moving to the kitchen, did you know that it is not difficult to make a substantial soup from beef bones? Just put them in a large pan with some sliced root vegetables, stock and seasoning. Although there is fat on the bones, you can, if you wish, skim off much of the fat as it cools. Personally I don't bother when the weather is cold as it is more warming. If you use a pressure cooker it doesn't take too long for the meat to be falling off the bones nicely. You can free the meat that is held in by the fat and put it back into the soup/stew. A dash or two of Worcestershire or 'Daddies' type brown sauce is a good substitute for stock cubes and works out cheaper.

When making meals using ground beef (mince beef) adding a handful of lentils will bulk out the meal but not mar the flavour. Some ladies use rolled oats in the same way, but I have not yet tried this one myself. Porridge, of course is a truly frugal, healthy and satisfying start to the day and quickly made. When making porridge on the stove-top you can switch off the heat after it has come to the boil and it will carry on bubbling for a minute or two until it is ready. It still stays nice and hot.

Try thinking creatively according to the offers at the store or supermarket, or even when you are given surplus produce from neighbours gardens. If you get overripe bananas, apples, dried fruits, carrots... make a basic cake mixture and add them to it. Chop the apples fairly small, mash the bananas, grate the carrots etc. They make delicious and varied cakes that the family will love.

If you come across fresh meat or fish that is reduced for quick sale, you can snap them up and freeze them as soon as you get home.

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up Proverbs 21:20


Regularly have a review of the clothes in your wardrobe (closet) Get them all out and lay them on the bed. Nearly every time I do this, I find pretty items that I had forgotten about! How often do we forget what we have and then want to go and buy more? How many clothes stay on the hanger unworn simply because a button has come off and we procrastinate about sewing it back on. If you have lost the button, find some suitable ones in your button tin (What, you haven't got a button tin? Go and find another container right away!)

If you find shoes or clothing which fit you, but you don't like much, just get some wear out of them by wearing them around the house. Tie a nice apron over the dull dress or slip some pretty leg warmers on to make the shoes look more appealing - try out a few ideas. Sometimes you can get to like something just because you decide to wear them anyway


Like the home-makers of old, you can save fastenings, buttons, fabric, bits and pieces that can be used again. I recently made a wrap-around skirt with the waist fastening from a pair of trousers. It works well. Keep those jam jars easily to hand and remember what you have got in them. Children are fascinated with jars of buttons, and bits of lace and it gives them an opportunity to make their own items like dolls clothes or a hat for teddy.

It can be so enjoyable and satisfying to discover and practice new ways of saving the pennies.

Happy home-making ladies

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Yes you can!

Housewife Baking. Ladies Magazine 1910 (Graphics Fairy)

I love the serene expression on this lady's face, as she concentrates on lovingly preparing some home-baked goodies for her family. She takes her time because she knows the immense value of her home-making. You cannot imagine many women baking like this nowadays, as there is no time in their day.

Have you ever heard women say to you 'I hate housework', 'I can't bake, I haven't got the patience to learn' , 'My cooking never comes out right' or 'I wish I could make my home pretty, but I don't seem to have the knack - or the money!' You may have even said these things to yourself in the past, and believed them to be true. I certainly have said them and believed them. But, very often, these assertions are not true at all. Many times, we think they are true because all women seem to be saying them to each other. They believe that they are just not cut out for home-making, or they have no interest in it.

'I hate housework'
 If someone went to work for an employer, they would expect adequate and ongoing training to do that job well.They might even be provided with a mentor to support them in their learning until they were competent and confident in that new role. In order to be good at keeping the home clean and tidy, well, exactly the same applies! You cannot enjoy housework if you haven't got a clue what you are doing, or you have been trained wrongly, or you have had poor, or non-existent mentoring along the way. Another reason for an aversion to housework is that you are not aware of the home-maker's value. So How can you change to 'I love housework'?

Don't label yourself 'useless home-maker' or 'hate housework'. Train yourself gradually in the home-making arts, especially from blogs written by 'actual' home-makers themselves. They can answer your questions and support and even mentor you in some cases. Lady Lydia's instructive blog ''Home living' has lots of articles for the beginner, and to help ladies to realise the honour, privilege and value of 'keeping the home'.

I can't bake, I haven't got the patience to learn
One reason that women think that they can't bake is because they can't reproduce the look and taste of the mass-produced cakes and cookies they buy from the shops and stores. This flummoxed me for a few years. But the point is, that the mass producers try like crazy to make their goods resemble 'home-made'! They fail miserably because everything they make is uniform in every way. A real home-baked goody is created with loving hands, in small batches, each one different, unique, slightly darker, lighter, softer, crisper. That is their beauty. And the fragrance wafts around the home and makes the family feel loved before they have even swiped a still warm cookie from the cooling tray. Remember that for the occasions when things go wrong (and they will from time to time), do not throw them away, just pour over the custard sauce and no one will be any the wiser!


Bake when you have a reasonable amount of time to give to the task. Simple recipes with few ingredients are the best and can be quickly learned. Have some washing up water on hand and wash as you go. Take joy in the process, like the woman in the image above, and concentrate on what you are doing. Do not try and make something that looks like you bought it from a shop. Rejoice in it's home-made loveliness. Have some nice custard on hand if it is a little overdone or underdone, and suddenly it's a delicious pudding.

My cooking never comes out right
A major reason that cooking doesn't come out right is the fact that so many woman try and cook at the same time as texting, tweeting, trawling Facebook or chatting on the phone. It won't work! cooking is an art, not an afterthought. Also, trying too hard with your cooking, complicated recipes or perfectionism will make you feel a failure in the kitchen

 Switch off your mobile, put your house phone on answer-phone, shut down the computer. Now you can focus on cooking up something tasty and nutritious for the family. Simple meals, simple recipes. Set the table nicely. You won't be exhausted or frustrated or preoccupied as you all sit round the table and enjoy some lovingly-produced, happy memory times of family togetherness.

'I wish I could make my home pretty, but I don't seem to have the knack - or the money!
Lacking confidence in this area is very common, and it is one in which I have had difficulties myself. Another cause for feeling like this is simply because you are unfamiliar with your own home, and uncomfortable in it. Or so wound up with other things that you are hardly aware of your surroundings. A woman may see pristine-looking, expensive homes in magazines or on TV, and feel bad because she can't make her home look like that.

Spend as much time in your home as you can. Take quiet times just relaxing, enjoying a nice pot of tea, getting to know your home. wean yourself off of rushing out shopping unnecessarily (Added bonus - you will save a lot of money!) If you work outside the home, maybe you could reduce your hours so you could concentrate more, and enjoy more, your home-making. Avoid those magazines and programmes about homes of the rich and famous (By the way, they might look wonderful, but the rich and famous are rarely at home to enjoy them). Then begin by making small changes to your home. Brighten up things with an inexpensive potted plant or two. Now you are enjoying the home more, you will remember to water them. Bring some nature into the home (see my previous post) declutter your rooms so that you can enjoy the few, pretty things you do have on the little side table or welsh dresser. Find old mismatched china in the thrift shops and display them around. You will soon find your own style and without spending much money, you will begin to love the home you're in.

Happy Housework Ladies

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Home-maker makes the Christmas

Postcard of a mother and daughter (Courtesy of Graphics Fairy)

Even though we are still in the month of October, shops, stores, and supermarkets have been filling their shelves with Christmas themed merchandise. Retailers have, of course, spent millions of pounds finding ways to 'push our buttons', including making us feel poor, guilty, excited and impulsive. It's no wonder they are so successful in getting us to part with money we can ill-afford! Mothers especially want so much for their children to have a happy and memorable Christmas experience. Very often, these mothers, and women generally, find this a very stressful time of year. In fact, most men I know dread Christmas coming and try to put it out of their minds - which is why you'll see many men wandering round and round the shopping mall on Christmas Eve in a state of despair, knowing that whatever they buy for their wives or girlfriend, somehow, it will be wrong.

The home-maker will find it essential to spend a little time in advance, thinking about how she is going to make the Christmas happy and memorable for her family. Now her womanly art of thrift and resourcefulness will also play a part in her success.

I think the postcard above, illustrates what I mean about how she is the key player in creating the atmosphere and experience in the home, Christmas or otherwise. You can see an expression of love, assurance, security and contentment in the mother, Her daughter reflects back love and trust and contentment. She feels totally secure and loved and happy. What a beautiful scene. So when you think ahead, in any quiet moments you have in the home, you will begin to see a picture of your aims and goals for the family Christmas. It really is important to do this, because otherwise it is easy to be lured into the retailers aims and goals for their money-led agendas.
Here are just a few ideas and I hope you'll share some of yours too

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

1. Begin as early as possible with your planning. If you have a book about the Nativity, read the story to your children. they love repetition, so you can read it many times in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Talk about what it means to our everyday lives, and how Jesus cares for us all. At the same time, teach them Christmas carols. you can practice singing them all around the house, and sing together at the tea table especially with Daddy. What special memories they will have of these times.

2 This also has to be begun early, (so there is no feeling of rushing to get things done) Have one or two simple gift-making ideas that they can work on. This will not only bless the recipient, but will give them more satisfaction than picking out things in the stores. Photographing the children at work could be nice for them to look back on as they get older.'

3. Letting the family know in advance that this will be a simple family orientated Christmas, will relieve them of the stress and expectations of others, so they can relax. You are queen in the home sphere, so don't let wider family pressure you into doing things that are not right for your family.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

4. Avoid large selection boxes of chocolates, chocolate coins and an abundance of rich foods. Apart from the unnecessary cost, they make everyone feel nauseous, stuffed and unable to move from the sofa. Again, by planning ahead, you will be able to get together the ingredients to make your own, cheaper and better Christmas or Dundee cakes and some chocolate truffles. The best thing about this is, again, the family can share in the preparations. You don't need to make a lot of different things. Less is more!

5. Remember that you are the expert on your family Christmas, not the world. Christmas Day will be enjoyed much more if mother is not frazzled by preparing a grand meal in the kitchen all morning. We don't need, or benefit from stuffing ourselves with too much rich food. You could choose to make a simple Sunday type dinner that you all enjoy. Here in the UK, that would be something like Roast chicken or beef, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Prepare a meal that is familiar to you and you won't be fretting about it. Instead, you can enjoy the family time together. Also, by not having too many chocolates and sweets around the house, children will be happier and calmer without all that sugar! They may also have an appetite for that nice dinner.

6 For a rich family Christmas, do not forget Husbands and fathers. They may enjoy leading the carols, joining in the family games, watching a family movie etc. But it is important to schedule in some quiet reading times for the children over the holiday. Daddy can have a rest, read his paper and have a special few minutes with his lovely wife. Children need the security of knowing there is a calmness and an order in the family and to respect that.

Finally,leading up to the holidays (it's not called the run-up to Christmas for nothing) remember how easy it is to find yourself running around at a frenetic pace, just because the world does. Taking a gentler pace often give you time to think, pray and enjoy the little things in life.

Happy Planning


Friday, 19 October 2012

Making Yoghurt - Simple and thrifty

Two pints of thick, Greek Style Organic yoghurt costing approximately UK £1.10. (US $1.77) In the supermarket the price would be £2.50 or more (US $4.01) for a Kilogram. two pints is a little more than a Kilogram.

2 pints of full cream (full fat) milk. You don't have to use organic
2 tablespoons of any type of dried milk powder
2 tablespoons of Greek style yoghurt.Yoghurt pot must say LIVE or LIVE CULTURES or something like that on it ( this is only for your first batch. Then each subsequent batch you will be using 2 tablespoons from your own yoghurt from last week's batch)

You will also need a Thermos flask (Plastic, not metal) that is large enough to take 2 pints. Apart from heating up the milk, use non metal items - plastic mixing bowl, whisk, spoons etc. I don't know why this is by the way.

Whoops, only just caught it!

Put the milk in a large saucepan and bring it to the boil, as you can see in the rather steamy photo above.

Now take it straight off the heat and allow it to cool

You can see that I have a rather nice brass jam thermometer. But you don't need one. I bought this quite cheaply from ebay because I do a lot of Jam-making. If you have one, put it into the milk and wait until it reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit or 44 degrees centigrade. If you don't have a thermometer, wait until it feels like baby milk temperature, blood heat.

Now pour into a mixing bowl and add two heaped tablespoons of milk powder and two from the store bought yoghurt.

Gently whisk it in a little bit and then straight away pour it into your flask. (I didn't warm the flask before use)

Now you need to leave this for 8 hours (or overnight) and don't take the inside cap off to keep checking!

Now your yoghurt should be creamy, thick and delicious. It may be too thick to easily come out of the flask. If so, use the handle of a clean wooden spoon to loosen it a little and transfer the yoghurt into a large plastic container, like an ice-cream container with lid. Keep it in the fridge. It should last as long as shop-bought yoghurts.

Last of all remember to save two heaped tablespoons for your next batch. This is your 'starter' and you can keep making batches from batches for about 2-3months before you will have to buy another small pot of yoghurt from the shop to begin again.

If you use thinner shop bought yoghurt as your starter, that is fine too. But if you find that your home-made yoghurt is a bit runny, you can strain it through a colander in which you placed a muslin cloth. Keep the liquid as this is buttermilk. You can drink buttermilk or use it to make scones and cakes.

If anything does go wrong with your first try, do not give up. Just read the instructions over again and have another try. Soon you will get it right.

We eat a small bowlful of yoghurt, topped with home-made jam or a little stewed fruit after dinner most days and always enjoy it. Haven't tried it with honey but I expect that it would be delicious. What is your favourite way to serve it?

Growing Home

Thursday, 18 October 2012

An elegant lady

Vintage lady and child in white (courtesy of 'freeparking' Flikr)

I came across this photo, and was struck by how elegantly this lady was dressed. She doesn't appear to be on her way to a fashionable ball or society function. Her little girl (or ward) is trotting along beside her.

How I would love to wear a skirt like that, and yes, even a hat, when walking over to visit a neighbour! I can imagine the wonderful rustling sound as her skirt swishes as she walks. She must feel so feminine.

Perhaps, when she returns home, she and her daughter will put on their freshly laundered starched aprons while they make jam tarts for tea.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Thrifty Decorating. Bringing Nature Home

            Red and white roses. (Courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

My favourite subject at the moment is that of 'The Resourceful Home-maker' I think this is because, simply deciding to be resourceful seems to trigger so many ideas that one can hardly keep up with them! So often,there is no need to go shopping for mass-produced items. The alternatives can be much more enriching, more beautiful, cheaper, and mean more to the family. Resourcefulness is one of the greatest skills you can teach your children and it will stand them in good stead all of their lives - whatever the economic environment around them.

The beauty of nature is everywhere, even in the busiest city. In fact, taking the time to observe it, brings refreshment to the heart, and contentment to the soul.

  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:28-29

But why not bring some of that amazing beauty into the home?

Of course, one must be sure not to take things which belong to others, but there are so many touches of nature which can become 'pretty touches for the home' In the picture above, I collected some stunning oak leaves that had fallen from the tree, still attached to a bit of twig. Later, I will have a go at sketching them into my (very amateur) nature notebook. I would like to make a post on nature notebooks one day soon.
The busiest wife or mother could take time to pick up one or two pine cones each day on her way to the shops/store/visiting...Placed in a basket or bowl they would be so pretty

How about a bowl of shells on a small table? These are ornaments that are not only attractive, but older children can also PLAY with them. Isn't that nicer than playing with plastic toys?

When feeling out of sorts or stressed, the feel of shells, leaves, pine cones and other natural things can be very soothing.

The nice thing about nature in the home, is that each week, month or season brings new treasures to brighten the home and delight the family. House-plants too, are pretty and uplifting to use in the home. Some plants, like the Spider Plant below, keep making 'babies' and you may soon have lots to give away as gifts to family and friends!

Ash leaves and Rosehips

This posting is getting rather long, so I will just finish with a picture of the large jug (pitcher) on my windowsill, in which we placed some teasels from the field.

Happy, resourceful home-making home-makers.

I would love to hear from you. Please post your comments and ideas below.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Simple gifts from fabric scraps. Pretty basket

Fabric-edging to an old basket. You can fill with a plant, or maybe pop in some home-made cookies (biscuits as they are called in the UK), or  'hot chocolate themed items - a pretty cup from a charity/thrift store with a sachet of hot chocolate. Any other ideas ladies?

Do you look at the beautiful craft creations on talented people's blogs, and instead of feeling inspired, you feel overwhelmed or intimidated? Their creators seem to whizz up and down with their sewing machines at a rate of knots, or have whole rooms dedicated to fabrics, cutting tables and 'mood boards'.

They are 'the talented ones', and 'we' are the 'cack-handed' individuals who can't even sew in a straight line. We remember with shame the clay pots we made at school. (me). They were the only ones that were lop-sided. Or we were left-handed (me) and have to do things in the opposite direction to the righties, and we simply got confused and gave up. (me again) We may not even own a sewing-machine and wouldn't dare to use it even if we did have one! (used to be me).

If you can identify with any of the above, I hope you will join me as I use simple ideas and  simple sewing to make useful and attractive gifts. I will try and post a variety of ideas with photos which I hope you will enjoy. It is very important to bear in mind that it is OK to make mistakes as you go along. Even the most talented, creative people do this. They just don't show you! I remember a famous chef once say. 'For every recipe I create, dozens of disasters have ended up in the bin'.

Some ideas will require nothing but fabric, but I thought you might like to see one I made recently using a little basket that once had a plant in.

Begin with a basket that used to have flowers or a plant inside. You can often find them in sheds, outhouses or being thrown out from the plants section of the supermarket. 
Find a little scrap of fabric.Kind of wrap it around the rim of your basket to make sure it goes around. Add a little bit extra to the width just to be on the safe side

Fold it in half lengthwise with the right sides of the fabric together. The side you don't want people to see is facing you. Don't worry about the rough edges at the top there. It won't be seen!
Get a needle and thread and sew along just inside the rough edge. If you are left-handed you will be going the same way as the picture. Right-handers will be going in the opposite direction. Don't worry. It doesn't matter at all

When you get to the end, do the same down one side of the fabric. This will leave you with one open end

Turn the whole thing inside out, so the seam is on the inside and you have the nice side outside.

Give it a little press with the iron, then bit by bit, fold it round the basket and secure it with sewing. Fold some of the material over the edge so that when you sew, you are catching fabric both inside and outside. Just push the needle and thread through the convenient holes in the basket. The large stitches can be on the inside of the basket. You are just catching the outside with small stitches. If my instructions sound confusing, have a go and you will see more easily what I mean.

When you get to the handles,(if your basket has handles). just tuck the fabric in a bit and secure around the outside of the handle at that point. When you get to the end, tidily fold your fabric over and secure with some neat stitches.

The home-maker's small home-made gifts are more beautiful than anything that can be bought in a shop or store. However amateur they may appear to your own critical eye, they have been crafted with love. They will be treasured by the family. Every time they look at these loving creations, made especially for them, they will remember how you love and cherish them. Of course, you know that your creations cost little or nothing in money, but by your resourcefulness, your family will always feel 'rich'.

I would welcome any courteous comments and ideas, so please let me know if you enjoyed this little post. Thank you


Friday, 12 October 2012

Don't fear the winter - Keep warm for less

I knitted this poncho last year. There are many simple, knitting patterns for ponchos, capes and basic shawls to keep you warm at home.

One problem home-makers face is keeping the home and family comfortably warm now that fuel bills have risen so high. But there are many interesting ways in which you can make a difference. As always, your personal outlook on things will be very influential on how the rest of the family respond - a cheerful, can-do attitude will help them to feel secure and content even in these economic challenges. No amount of money can create this security especially for children, it is something they 'catch' from a resourceful and upbeat home-maker. I think husbands will benefit too as they appreciate your positive outlook and aren't infected by unnecessary fear.

Knitting in the evenings is a relaxing and productive pastime . I personally cannot knit while watching television so I don't feel tempted to listen to unhelpful news programmes, which is useful. Large pieces of knitting can keep your knees warm as you click away, or you can tuck a blanket over your legs. We have a large old woollen blanket which we keep beside the sofa in the autumn/winter for convenience. This is another very effective way of keeping warm. When I was a little girl, I have happy memories of lap blankets and ladies knitting socks and jumpers. It was what people did.

 Here I have threaded curtain wire over an old fleecy blanket. We hang it behind the curtains in the evenings

Closing the curtains at dusk, helps to keep in the heat that the day has produced. Look around the house or the charity/thrift shops for fleecy blankets. Very often they will have a folded over edge at one end through which you can slide through a curtain wire. Just put up a small eye on each side of the window. you can see in the picture that we didn't even need to put up 'eyes' as the wire hooks conveniently onto a screw that juts out of the main curtain rail each side.

In the daytime, we take down one side and hook them both behind the curtain on one side of the window. It is completely hidden behind the curtain

Another idea we use that helps to avoid putting on the heating, is to make up a Thermos flask of hot tea, coffee or whatever hot drink you prefer. If you make this up in the morning, you can take small drink breaks during the day. I am always surprised at how quick and effective it is in warming up the body - and very pleasant too. Eating food or drinking hot liquids are warming generally, but some foods are better than others for this. Here in the UK, we often tend towards comforting meals like 'stew and dumplings' Dumplings are made with suet and flour and water, and are them simmered on the top of the stew for the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. If anyone would like me to post a recipe, I would be happy to.

I have found from personal experience that wearing longer skirts, with a warm petticoat underneath helps to trap the warmth around your legs. Strange though it may seem, jeans feel colder. On very cold days I can wear 120 denier tights, socks AND leg-warmers to keep me warm - and nobody can see them!

Of course, keeping moving is useful too. Not lingering on the computer, but moving around the house, washing up, taking the laundry to the machine, cleaning the kitchen and so on, all warm you up - you don't necessarily have to rush around or perform aerobics . Family games, a little gardening, these are enjoyable memory-creating activities which will make you warm, and help you forget all about putting on, or turning up the heating.

I was reminded while writing this of the Proberbs 31 woman in the Bible. She was 'Not afraid of the winter',She is busy, productive and plans ahead The home-maker who plans ahead and has a cheerful heart, need not be afraid either

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.     She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates

Proverbs 31:10-31 

Summary of ideas:

Knit warm clothes such as ponchos, shawls and jumpers to wear at home (Sweaters)
Use fleeces behind the curtains in the evenings
Make a flask of hot beverage to drink through the day
Keep a warm blanket beside the sofa for the family to snuggle under
Warming, comforting meal
Keep busy around the home or wrap up and do something outside like gardening
Don't be afraid, set an optimistic example to the family.
Wear longer length skirts, petticoats underneath
Spread your warmth around the home

I'm sure there are many more great ideas out there, please leave yours.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Don't fear the winter...Budget/Meal Plan

It's easy to rustle up your own Christmas cake
'Chocolate sponge Christmas Cake' made for 2011.

You may wish to read parts one and two of this series if you have not already done so.

When you have a better idea of your monthly/weekly grocery shopping out-goings, then you'll be able to begin reducing that amount, in several ways. You might like to make a small challenge to yourself to cut your spending by a certain amount next month, using your budget book to keep you on track. But bear in mind that the goal is not to live fearfully, or deny yourself and your family (if you have one) of tasty, nutritious food. Be kind to yourself, and work gradually at making wise choices and reducing expenditure. It can be a lot of fun as you go along to see how stretching the pounds or dollars further, results in a great deal of satisfaction and a happier home.

It is quite important to your success to plan what main meals you would like to feed the family each day of the week. This is not difficult. You could just write down some family favourites on a piece of paper to begin with. Now, I know you may be tempted to get out your recipes books and plan some super-duper meals that will require a lot of hard work and complicated ingredients. But this may not be helpful or feasible and you might wear yourself out trying to create them every night.

(I have to admit that I have done this in the past. Not only was I exhausted, but often dinner was late, and I once spent ages cooking a meal only to drop it and smash the lot getting it out of the oven! My kind husband made an omelette for us so I wouldn't have to cook again.)


After my humbling disaster of dropping the dinner on the floor, my husband told me that he didn't really want fancy food. What he really wanted was 'simple meals, on time'. that was what was important to him, and I now I would recommend this, especially when wishing to reduce your grocery bills.

Here is a suggestion of what I mean: A typical winter menu plan

SUNDAY Roast pork, or roast chicken (depending of what is on offer that week)
             Roast potatoes, Vegetables (again, dependent on offers that week)
              After the meal strip the chicken of meat for tomorrow's meal.Then        
              simmer the carcase and keep the stock for tomorrow

MONDAY Chicken curry or chicken hotpot using the meat saved from yesterday.
              The stock saved from yesterday can be used in this meal, or to make a
              midweek lunch soup.

TUESDAY Savoury mince beef made with beef, tomatoes, seasoning and handful of
              lentils sprinkled in. Simmered in large pan, pasta or potatoes. Make double
              and freeze half for another day to save cooking

WEDNESDAY home-made tuna pasta, or fish pie/fried fish (depending on offers)

THURSDAY Liver and bacon in onion gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables
                 Any uneaten mashed potato can be used for cheese and potato omelette
                 or in other quick recipes

FRIDAY Jacket potatoes with simple fillings. Par cook in the microwave or pressure
            cooker before crisping up in the oven

I understand that these may seem meat heavy but you can use small amounts of meat and bulk up with fresh vegetables. It doesn't matter. This is just to show how the meals can be planned simply and that you can use to write your shopping list.
Being flexible helps, as you can see that items can be swapped according to the offers in the supermarket or shop. If you like to make desserts, use the same principle, but fresh fruit (on offer?) is all you need. You could also make your own yoghurts and top with fresh fruit for a staple dessert during the week. You could use small dessert bowls as the desserts should be just a 'taster' after a satisfying dinner.

It is a well known fact that women who go shopping with a list don't impulse buy so much. so write your list according to your menu plan and check that you have it with you before you go.

A little planning goes a long way, as many women can testify to. And now your meals and shopping are planned, you will know exactly what you're going to cook each day. One really important last consideration is to plan the time you need the food on the table. Husbands will often say how much they value to that aroma of delicious food as they walk through the door after a long day. I know myself how grumpy I can feel if I need to eat!

There a many more things a home-maker can do to stretch the pounds or dollars, including baking at home, like the home-made Christmas cake above,and I will be posting more soon.

THE NEXT POST in 'Don't fear the winter... Keeping warm. Coming soon!

I'd welcome your ideas and comments below.(Only courteous ones please) I look forward to reading them

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Future posts

Beautiful Teacup with Pansies, courtesy of The Graphics Fairy LLC

Plans for future posts

1. Simple gifts from fabric scraps - step-by-step- with pictures

2. Inexpensive touches for the home - ideas and photos

3. Sewing - simple ladies dresses, skirts, aprons, cross-stitch

4. Making Jams, yoghurt, cakes, bread, and recipes with photos

5. The welcoming home - the tea tray, vintage cloths,   pictures etc.

6. Use and advantages of the pressure cooker with photos

7. Home-maker hobbies and family activities

8. Growing fruits and vegetables in a pocket-handkerchief garden

Please let me know the ones you would be most interested in. Thank you

Don't fear the winter... First steps

This lovely vase of pink flowers is a vintage illustration by Kate Greenaway. It is from the old storybook Marigold Garden, circa 1892 (starsunflowerstudio.blogspot.co.uk)

The Womanly Art of Thrift, continued.

There are many first steps that can be taken towards learning this art, and it is a vast subject indeed. Whichever you begin with, it is important to understand that it need not be a depressing or miserable exercise by any means. It may be also be a very useful thing, to stop frequenting fearful frugal blogs, or watching gloomy news programmes as much as possible to avoid being infected by their negative outlook.

Two areas of home life in which you can begin right away, are in grocery shopping and cooking for the family. They are very rewarding and make a long term impact on the finances as well as on family health. Remember, with an enthusiastic attitude, this can be fun!

Start by finding out how much you spend each month on your grocery shopping. You DON'T  have to do any real maths, or trawl through bank statements to find this out. A pleasant way to do this is to find any kind of notebook which you will use only for this purpose. If it already has writing in it, then check there is nothing important there before tearing out the used pages. Pop on a sticky label or write 'Grocery Budget' or something similar on the front. You will use this notebook constantly, and need it to hand daily. When you see a nice picture on a piece of junk mail, cut it out and stick it to the front of your book, or draw and colour on a simple, pretty design.
At the beginning of the month, write down EVERY penny you spend on your groceries. Keep each receipt and slip them into your book. Don't be afraid, or feel guilty, you have already made a great first step. Remember to write down every purchase, including top-up shopping. At the end of the month, add up what you've written down and there you will have your total for the month. Maybe you spent £200 or $200 in total. We each have different families so there is no 'right' figure in this.

Next, divide your total into four and you'll see your weekly average. You'll now be ready to tailor your thriftiness to suit you and your family. If you've spent an average of, say, £50 or $50 per week, last month, you know to keep within that average this month. You may spend more than the £50 one week because you may buy meat that is on offer that week, or stock up on something else. But you know that next week you'll be buying slightly less to average things out.

This small step will often make you much more aware of your spending and you will be more thoughtful when confronted with the temptation to impulse buy.

 Jars of our home-made Jam. Blackberries gathered from the hedgerows. I hope to post a simple tutorial soon

I welcome all respectful comments and non-contentious comments, so please share them here.

As regards meal planning and cooking as a way of developing the art of thrift, I will be posting some ideas on those next time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Don't fear the winter...



"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread". Ps 37:25 KJV


Many families today are feeling anxious about the economic climate. They worry about rising prices of food and clothing, petrol, gas, electricity and more. When wives and mothers trawl the frugal websites, instead of their anxiety diminishing, they become more fearful as, among the useful information they glean, there is much fear-mongering and general gloom and doom to assail them. They tighten their belts with a heavy heart and daily life takes on a dark cloud of despair. 
This can result in the woman's entire family taking on her anxiety and heaviness, as she is the one who most influences the mood of her family and home. By learning and practising the womanly art of thrift, the home-maker can instead, make a truly positive difference. She can enjoy a richer, more meaningful and satisfying life. She can save money in myriad ways, while spreading a sense of peace and contentment throughout her family and home. She can learn how liberating it is to not be twitched by the clever marketing ploys of the world, designed to make people feel poor, envious, greedy, and always unsatisfied.

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Phil 4.19

In the next post, I hope to share some suggestions and tips, from my own experiences and others which may be of some encouragement to others. They may just inspire you to develop the art more deeply than myself. I would appreciate any comments which are of a helpful and up-building nature. However any comments which are offensive or contentious will be ignored.