But I’m Not a Housewife!

Domestic Bliss, Eventually

Archive for October, 2008

Victorian Aesthetic Appreciation

So, I was blog-hopping the yesterday and I discovered this really pretty blog via Blue Castle’s blogroll.

It reminded me of a magazine that I used to love when I was somewhere between 13 and 15 years old. I bet you are having no trouble guessing what that magazine was?  

Anyway, My Romantic Home is just as beautiful as the old Victoria Magazine that I would read over and over, inhaling it’s soft, sweet fragrance and dreaming of being a grown-up with a house filled with beautiful frilly things.

An odd thing for me to do really, since I was never a girlie-girl, I hated pink, and I never did girlie things such as imagining my future wedding. And just as I do with everything, I obsessed over the few issues that my mother bought, either for my birthday, or because I begged her to, and then I forgot about the magazine for awhile. I remembered it again in college and searched for it, but couldn’t find it. I had since learned that it was discontinued, but only just recently realized that it’s been resurrected.

In my Internet search to uncover the mystery of Victoria Magazine, I discovered this post on another new favorite blog of mine Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea. (The post is dated May 09, 2007, just 4 days after my wedding!) The author’s description of why she loves the magazine perfectly explains my fascination with it as a budding woman:

If you haven’t experienced this magazine, put it on your list.  It was sumptuous! It had the most beautiful photos of antiques, roses, beautiful gardens, silver and china and linens, homes, anything to do with romantic and gracious living.  The articles and features were good, of course, but I have to admit I was addicted to the eye-candy that could be found on almost every page.  I just hope this new Victoria lives up to the standards of the old one.

It was, as is the the blog mentioned above, first rate eye candy .

Furthermore, I’m by far not the only fan of this magazine as you can see by the amount of comments in response to her post.  I do wish that my old copies weren’t lost in the chaos of my childhood home (and the covers I chose to display in this post were chosen because I recognized most of them from that time period) but I suppose I my sadness can be assuaged by the knowledge that I could purchase them at any time from EBay, if I felt I needed them badly enough.

And to the author of Blue Castle, I’ll be posting a recipe of my creamy potato, pea, and fennel casserole soon so you can see how easy it is to make the onion cream sauce.

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Friday Recap: I Really Can Cook

It’s been a long week with my new job and more regular hours than I had been working for the past few months. Today is a beautiful, bright, sunny day and I plan to spend it cleaning my house.

But first, I want to express my surprise with myself for cooking from scratch three excellent meals this past week. I’m not including recipes at this point because of time constraints, but I really must express how shocked I was to find joy in cooking this week! Joy in cooking is a component that I have been missing for several years now! But by the time I made my third meal this week, I was on a roll – rather than agonizing over every detail as I usually do, I just followed my instincts and it came out better than edible!

The first meal was a red potato and Swiss chard soup with smoked paprika. This is the second time I’ve made such a soup and I’ll make it again, so I’ll post pics and a recipe in the future. We chose to go out to eat the next day and I didn’t eat leftovers until the third day, at which point, the chard was too soggy and made me gag! I’ll have to keep that in mind. The rest of the leftovers will be tossed.

Monday night,  I made another meal from scratch – a stir fry using only what was in my fridge and cupboards (a big step for me as I often go to the store before I cook).

 

I made a marinade for the tofu using soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and a bit of rice wine vinegar. Next time, I’ll use more marinade, for longer, and leave out the vinegar.

I included tons of garlic to please my husband, onion, broccoli, carrot, and napa cabbage. I wasn’t pleased with all that cabbage, as it made the veggies a bit soggy, but my husband really liked it (that’s sometimes all that matters).

The brown rice was quite soggy, as usual, but again, my husband didn’t mind. The next day, I mixed it all together with a dash of soy sauce, sriracha hot chili sauce, and hoisin sauce and it was divine!

Tuesday night I really surprised myself and whipped up a potato, fennel, and pea casserole with onion cream sauce. I served it with my first perfect salad without bagged lettuce and a home made vinaigrette. My husband ate it with some leftover roasted chicken and I ate it with a Boca Burger – eaten with a knife and fork, no bun.

This Year I Will…Finish What I Start

I just realized I checked this book out on September 19, loved it, got really into it over some morning coffee, read thirty-six pages of it and then moved on to other things….

(I think it was wading through an unbelievable stack of mail looking for some insurance forms that made me feel overwhelmed and depressed and put me out of my “change my life” reading mood.)

Granted those things have been really big things:

  1. (I started this blog for one!)
  2. I said, “Its now or never!” and agreed to be on a panel at a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference that is coming up at the end of the month. (I’ll be the youngest, most inexperienced person on the panel, but hey, I’ve got two more weeks to get my presentation together!)
  3. I got a new part-time (very part-time) job teaching American Sign Language in a Home School program to 5 high school girls. (The girls have been without a permanent teacher since September 3rd, and are totally thrilled to have me.)

Items two and three were of the Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway  variety. Truly. I stayed awake nights worrying over both of these things and thought to myself that the benefits would far out-way any of the discomfort that would come from plowing ahead.

I mean really! I turned 30 on September 12th and it hasn’t been so bad, but it really is that, “I had better start living life!” moment.

And these things may not seem like all that much to you, dear readers. You’re probably thinking, “Duh.” But you must realize that for me, my entire life has been about feeling the fear…and never leaving my house.

I’m big on sharing success stories and here’s the truth – I went from flunking out of college and losing a scholarship and a spot in an accelerated program, to finishing my Master’s Degree in Linguistics and meeting my wonderful husband (who is a doctor of all things!). 

During my first two years of college, I was put on Lithiumand earned a total of seven Fs and a smattering of As and Bs, because I couldn’t handle a load of more than two classes at a time, but it was also too overwhelming for me to deal with the bureaucracy of dropping the classes (or even putting school on hold for a while, which is what I should have done).

And I’m proud of my successes. And my motto is, “Darn it! Life is not a race!”

And so, perhaps I was influenced by this unfinished book. In a couple of weeks I went from working not enough hours at a part-time computer job from home, to doing two very grown-up things.

And my life feels fuller.

And my kitchen is still a mess. And I honestly can’t fit into any of my teaching clothes because I have gained thirty pounds since I married my husband. But, I’m pretty happy. I love this new teaching job. I’ll survive the darn conference presentation, and little by little, my house will get cleaner.

So, tonight as I go to bed, I’m hiding the stacks of books about knitting, gardening, HTML, and whatever else I’ve got out from the library right now, and I’m gonna continue reading this book. It’s actually really good and I’d recommend it.

And finally, before I go listen to the Presidential Debate on the radio (because we don’t have TV right now) I want to thank Susan from Raisin Toast for checking out my blog and sending me a personal email (after I commented on hers). I actually think I may have stumbled upon your blog a while ago and been completely intimidated by it! (But I’m a new woman now, and I take action – such as blogging anyway!) So it means a lot to me that you enjoyed my blog. And since I have so few comments, I figured, what the heck, why not thank you right in my blog!

Things I Need to Learn

I feel guilty about the state of our tiny backyard. Perhaps I’ll post a picture of it so that my readers can give me their advice (but today:

  • my allergies are pretty bad, and
  • it’s Saturday, and
  • I start a new job on Monday, and
  • I just don’t feel like it, and
  • I would rather rest).

My husband and I have lived the student life for so many years that it is hard to get into the mindeset of taking care of a lawn. And perhaps it’s difficult because we don’t own our house. Or perhaps the guilt is simply worse since we don’t own our house.

One big problem I have is that I know nothing about plants. We have only one plant in our entire house – a Snake plant that requires virtually no care – which was bestowed upon us by my husband’s parents.

Other problems I have with lawn care:

  • I don’t really know what is a weed and what is not.
  • I actually feel guilty watering the brown patches on our lawn because I don’t want to waste water.
  • If I pull out the tangle of leafy things overtaking our lawn, I fear it will look worse!
  • I can’t bring myself to use the electric lawn mower provided for us by our landlord, because it’s too loud.
  • I don’t want to buy a push-mower because we don’t own our house.

Sigh.

But sites like this give me hope. It is one family’s answer to the problem of knowing little about nature.

The study is guide by the book Handbook of Nature Study and you can jump in and follow at any time.

I would really like to give it a try – I’ll let you know if I get around to it.

One More Thing Tonight…

Another quote from a respondent to this query on Ask MetaFilter:

Have a look at Flylady’s site. Remember, cleaning is Flylady’s life (at least professionally), so of course she’s more into it than anyone you ever met. You’re not going to want to do everything she suggests. However, she’s comfortable (as you and I are not) with an immutable truth: A reasonably tidy home requires that certain things be done periodically. You don’t have to follow her schedule, but see if you can come up with one of your own. If you can pay your bills or get yourself to a gym on a regular basis, you can do the same for laundry. (Red emphasis mine.)
posted by MollyNYC at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2006

But you see MollyNYC, I can’t manage those things! That’s precisely the problem!!!

I’ll address this more tomorrow.

The State of My Kitchen Today

 Okay, here we go. I went back and forth for quite a while about whether I could bear to actually post pictures of my dirty house. But then I read this paragraph by Rebecca Blood in The Weblog Handbook:

Weblogs Build Self-Awareness

It is impossible to write down your thoughts every day without noticing what you are thinking.

A blogger who complains weekly that she is tired of her job will begin, eventually, to enumerate the particular circumstances that make her so miserable. Writing the same thing over and over, she will confront the problems she is not addressing and be moved to make a change. Looking back, she will find a recorded, however informal, of the progress of her life.

And I realized, that’s exactly why I started this blog in the first place. To become more aware of my cleaning problem and to make changes. After all I stated in Day One that this was a self-intervention. Well interventions cause you to face your demons truthfully and to allow others to see them too. And the final reason: What do we blog readers often value about blogs? Honesty!

So here we go – My Kitchen!

Not so terrible at first sight, I think.

And now, a closer up of the sink (I’m not ready yet for full zoom). So full to the brim with dishes that we can’t even reach the faucet. The towels hanging willy-nilly from the cupboard and the oven are so not clean and fresh. That white thing is an up-turned colander in the the too-tiny dish drainer that we erroneously bought because our counter is so small. Next to it is the food processor, which doesn’t really fit in the cupboard. There are dirty pans on the stove, and you don’t even want to see the surface of it up close. I promise you.

Next, Let’s take a closer look at that little table that serves as counter space in our cute but tiny little Victorian house:

Dirty coffee cups, the paper towel roll which has no home, an empty can of soda and two empty bottles of beer. Several used coffee mugs. The Tupperware container from lunch. A bag of coffee, Nutella, peanut butter, bread, and a plate and spoon from my husbands breakfasts throughout the week. A bottle opener. Packets of soy sauce from the take-out the night before. And some dirty towels.

!!!

And in the final photo you can see our espresso machine is perched on top of the toaster oven for lack of a better place. It used to rest on those two collapsing boxes full of dishes that we have no room for that have been sitting there since we moved in because they served as counter space. On top is a wooden bread bowl that used to sit atop the toaster oven until making espresso became to difficult when the boxes started sagging.

After deciding to post these photos, I read Joy in housework? on MetaFilter. It was excellent and made me laught because that’s precisely my problem right now. I hate, dread, and fear housework. I don’t know how to do it right/well and hence, I find it incredibly overwhelming.

One of the respondents to the query posted this:

Certain behaviours can encourage more mess. Don’t put dirty crockery into the sink, it means that the sink is now mostly unavailable for other washing, and that pot you may have rinsed out now sits to the side and goes unwashed. posted by tomble at 8:00 PM on October 23, 2006

How true! Just look at my sink!

The funny thing is, I am pretty sure that I will clean up this mess tomorrow after having catalogued it in this way. I won’t clean it perfectly, but I’ll take a stab at it.

Because I Need to Learn This

Here is a list of websites for the frugal Housewife via Housewifeology (go there for the full list).

Extremely Frugal – Perusing the ideas on this blog I’m left thinking, “That’s either crazy or brilliant.” And often just, “Huh….”

I’ve paid for this twice already… – The author of this blog is my new hero. My husband and I have large school loans and small credit card loans and we’ve been drowning in them since I finished grad school and decided not to work full time. The entire reason I’m writing this blog is to shape up my life – both in the housework area and financially.

Frugalwiz: Frugal Living Blog – Some good tips on living frugally.

Frugal Village – Very attractive zine style website.

Vegetarigan Frugal Housewife – While her talk about spiritual channeling may not be for everyone, this is totally my type of blog. First of all the current post has a delicious looking recipe for “Meat” loaf with Beef-like Mushroom Gravy which I’ve been wanting to try to make at home for months. Second, she talks about knitting, another passion of mine.

Frugal Hacks – Worth visiting for the extensive blogroll and visitor’s articles.

There are many, many more, but these are ones I’ll check out again.