Today I would like you to meet the invented amalgamated housewife or Tiah for short (pronounced Tee-a), she is not real of course, I invented her and I'll explain the amalgamated part later but I wanted you to meet her, for you might recognize yourself in the descriptions. This is a kind of reality check blog post because Tiah can pop over to my house sometimes and is often on my mind, she is someone I have to ask to leave. Does she ever visit you? I bet she does, especially when you are blogging!
Anyway, Tiah invited us to go and visit her home and not wanting to offend I agreed and RSVPed to her hand made, exquisite invitation card. We park the van in the driveway - no skateboards or bikes parked out front of course but Tiah does have children in case you are wondering! Tiah's home has a white picket fence, a rose covered pergola and a veranda - I haven't even stepped inside and already I am gushing. Tiah decorates her veranda for whatever season we happen to be in. It's all so lovely. I take five minutes admiring the potted colour, door wreaths and antique urns standing sentinel on either side of the wooden door which she painted herself, a fetching shade of ruby.
I finally ring the polished brass doorbell and Tiah comes to the door. She is as manicured as her green lawn, as neat as the rows of cottage flowers in the front beds and doesn't realize it but her front door matches her lipstick! Tiah has never experienced a bad hair day (February was so humid I christened it bad hair month!) She invites us in and we try not to gasp, it is all so lovely, the type of home that real estate agents describe as immaculate. Her tiled floors sparkle, the wooden floor area glows, it has such a lovely patina. The chandelier is just breathtaking - we have to take a breath and stop ourselves from saying 'Wow'!
Tiah invites us to sit on the sofa, soft cashmere throws are folded neatly on the arm (I have throws, they are not cashmere which is probably a good thing as they tend to be used to make tents and playhouses) and a hand stitched quilt in coordinating colours is draped gracefully over the back. You comment about the lovely quilt and Tiah tells us it is took just a couple of weeks but she was very happy with how it turned out. You decide not to share about the quilt you have been working on for the past two years!
Tiah was expecting us and is so organized and well prepared, she pops on her 50's vintage apron and excuses herself to go and take the freshly baked cranberry muffins out of the oven - so that was the delicious aroma! You love Tiah's kitchen - it is rustic farmhouse chic combined with Parisienne style. Tiah herself limewashed the cabinets. Her modern stainless steel stove shows not a finger mark (I think they should be called 'mark more' steel rather than stain less !) and she is not embarrassed to open the door of her new side by side stainless fridge/ freezer which matches the oven of course and all the other appliances apart from the Kitchen Aid mixer - she had to have the red one to match the lipstick!
A glimpse of my pantry - it is not 'pantry perfection', it is quite impractical but I do the best with what I have and try to keep it clean, well organized and well stocked.
Have I told you Tiah is an excellent cook. She makes everything from scratch. The vegetables artfully arranged in her copper bowl all come from her organic kitchen garden, her potager. The fruit is from their orchard. She bakes her own bread using freshly milled flour (OK I know I'm guilty of this - just had to pop it in!) Her cook books are pristine, neatly arranged in a special compartment in the kitchen island. Jaime and Nigella fight for position but the domestic goddess wins every time. Tiah opens her pantry to find the icing sugar to dust over the muffins. No rummaging around in this pantry - everything is in glass jars, labeled, standing to attention. You will not find half opened packets of flax meal, old spices or items past their expiration date. It is just pantry perfection!
After enjoying the cranberry muffins served with fragrant herbal tea in vintage china tea cups on a tray bedecked with a crocheted lace mat and tiny rosebud in a vase. Tiah takes us on a guided tour of her home. We are such sticky beaks we cannot turn down this offer. We see her living room, a picture of elegance, a polished piano is home to silver plated photo frames of sepia toned photographs of distinguished ancestors and beautifully posed family portraits - dad and all the boys in crisp white shirts and linen pants.
Quilts feature throughout Tiah's home. They hang over stair rails and are stacked in armoires and of course every member of the family has their own quilt folded neatly across the foot of their bed. Tiah made every quilt, she is such a talented sewer. She even has a room set aside for crafting. The shelves are stacked in an orderly fashion with colourful fabrics, trims and ribbons. The sewing machine is ready for action and Tiah knows how to make full use of all the embroidery functions.
Tiah also scrapbooks, knits and crochets. She is even a talented laundress.
Her linen cupboard is scented with lavender. Some linen is even tied up in ribbon. The organic cotton sheets are folded in sets even the elasticated bottom sheet. (So someone mastered this skill - I tried to follow Martha's instructions but gave up and stuffed the sheet into its pillowcase - oh well it keeps the set together I suppose!) Tiah's washing line is pegged out perfection. Snowy white pillowcases flap in the breeze. Wooden clothes pegs all stay in the hand sewn peg bag and no child forgets to bring it in when it rains!
Oh there is so much more I could show you in Tiah's home - I did use the bathroom and it was so lovely to have hand made goats milk soap (did I tell you Tiah also kept goats!) and embroidered towels to use but it is time to go now. We have stayed far too long but Tiah is such a gracious hostess. We thank her so much for having us and stroll back along the garden path to my van - I would call it a people mover but let's face it, it's a van, stereotypical of the homeschool family (ever see that funny video clip on You Tube?)
I never introduced you to Tia's sisters, the invented amalgamated mother or the invented amalgamated homeschool mother and you did not get to meet her children. Never mind, maybe next time but as you do realize Tia and her sisters are not real. She is my invention and my amalgamation - the amalgamation of all those skills, talents and wonderful creative qualities that all the blogs that I visit display. I do appreciate and love to see all the evidence of so many talented homemakers so vividly portrayed but I am guilty of sometimes amalgamating all that talent and turning it into desire. Not just saying 'I wish I could do that' but going away and striving to do it and falling short. Trying to do it all, wearing myself out and blaming myself - feeling guilty because I do not make my own soap or knit my own dishcloths. That my white tiled floors do not always sparkle unless the children have spilled glitter again and that my towels are not fluffy - sometimes they are just down right stiff due to the lack of wind - I cannot get my pillowcases to flap, maybe a flutter but definitely not a flap!
Please note, I did not say any of these things were wrong or that dreaming was not allowed! I love verandas and I dream of a rose covered pergola. I love to see the creative ways in which different homemakers decorate their verandas. At Christmas time a hand made garland is to be found at my front entrance. I don't have a wooden front door but if I did I would probably paint it red or maybe aqua blue. But I don't have a veranda, just an uneven brick paver patio and at the moment it's renovation season (it's a very long season too!) and my patio is decorated with bags of concrete, a wheelbarrow, shovels, spades, levels and half a hundred other tools! I'm learning to be a patient renovator, I am thankful that I have a husband who is always busy working with his hands to make improvements to our home but I have to be careful that I do not become irritated or inpatient, renovations can be a messy business and having the children put away the tools when they have been left out intentionally because my husband is hoping to do some more landscaping work when he arrives home from work is not helpful to him. I should have checked first but I just wanted a tidy patio after seeing that wonderful front porch on someone's blog.
There were a number of things from Tiah's home that you will find in my home and there were features that I do truly admire in homes such as well organized pantries. I have a white tiled floor which is mopped every day but I also have children who forget to wipe their feet or realize too late that they have a leech attached to their toe until they spot the trail of blood through the house! (we are having leeches in plague proportions at the moment, anyone else experiencing this?!) We have a piano, not always polished and not often played but a lovely place to display the sepia toned photographs but as of yet there is no professionally posed family portrait -I would have to persuade the husband to dress in a white shirt, in fact I don't even think he owns a white shirt! Oh one day I know one of my children will learn to play the piano but none have really expressed an interest, one daughter has said 'maybe' but she would have to give up her Mandarin lessons for us to afford the piano lesson. In her eyes, Mandarin is the best, piano would be nice but she would not give up Mandarin for piano, for Asian culture is her passion, not music.
I mentioned being guilty of the bread making. Tiah made her own bread from freshly milled flour. Yes, that's one aspect of me. Making bread was one of the skills I chose to learn because it would bring so many health and financial benefits to my family. I chose the best for us but never want others to feel guilty because they buy bread from the store. There are some good breads appearing on the shelves now as consumers demand bread without artificial additives. Yes, the principal that is working for me is 'Choose the BEST and leave the REST'. The best is what works out to be most beneficial for your family.
There are so many skills I would love to learn but not enough hours in my day. I would love to make my own soap (and candles) but as I have young children who love to be around when I am making things and soap making involves a few risky processes I have decided 'not yet' - maybe when the children are older I will give soap making a go. For now, I can buy beautiful handmade soap at my farmer's markets, there are quite a number of locals making and selling their own soap. By purchasing their soap I am supporting local enterprises and I am happy to do so.
Quilts were quite the decorating feature in Tiah's home. I love quilts, a reminder of our colonial past, of the pursuits of pioneers, such a womanly art, homespun, hand made, injecting colour and warmth into a home. I just love them but I have never made one but maybe one day I will try my hand. I even have two quilts made by neighbour given to me waiting to be finished, one needs to be bound, the other is a half finished project that will give me a head start but not just yet. So the lesson here is don't be afraid to learn something new just don't take on too much. Weigh up the costs, effort, time involved, the location - do you have to leave the home on a regular basis? Do you need to go to classes or can you teach yourself from blog tutorials or better still can a friend call round to show you the ropes? Will this new pursuit benefit the whole family? Will it save you money or cost you money? Don't procrastinate - you say you don't have time but maybe you could sacrifice a few television shows but if you know this is going to overwhelm you right now, don't be afraid to say no and file it away for the future. 'One day I WILL learn to'.... and don't forget it's never too late. My auntie is in her eighties and is taking on technology - learning how use email and surf the net. It means she can stay in touch with family and receive photographs which she is thrilled to receive so soon!
I once visited the home of a lady who was a talented quilter. Her home was just beautiful and also operated as a bed and breakfast. Her quilts were in every room and even colour coordinated with the flower beds outside the windows - I still remember the blueberry room! She was such a lovely Christian lady, a very talented homemaker and I made the assumption that she had been quilting for many years. Then she told us (because I just had to ask, I was in awe!) that she did not take up quilting until all of her children had left home. Now she had the time to learn how to and this was her main creative pursuit. Until this time she had stitched together the home and family rather than pieces of fabric. I left inspired and hopeful. I understood I did not need to do all those creative pursuits at once or be accomplished in every home art. Choose the best, leave the rest and save some for later in life. It is something to look forward to, I can prepare by reading books and being inspired at blogs but the actual pursuit is for another season in my life.
My not so perfect patio. The birds, two budgies and a cockatiel have been moved outside for disturbing the peace- just look at where the cat has decided to rest. And which male left the petrol container there?
So let's give ourselves permission to choose the best (for us) and leave the rest and not be embarrassed to admit that life is not about the pursuit of perfection. Be aware that images and words can draw us in to this scenario and tempt us to take on too much, for words can be evocative, descriptions such as 'gracious host', 'sweet scented soap', 'snowy white linen.' I have accepted my linen will never be pure white, maybe antique white but never snowy, thanks to the tannin from gum leaves in the rain water - our beautiful trees come at a price. Did you recognize some of yourself in Tiah? Maybe your version of Tiah is different to mine because we are different and have different tastes and aspirations, though I must ask why so many gals choose the red Kitchen Aid mixer - I would love to own one but funds do not allow and a wooden spoon and mixing bowl is just fine at the moment! I can still make cakes without one but I am not resentful of those who own one. Another key - contentment not resentment!
I may never own a Kitchen Aid mixer, have my home feature in an interior's mag, be nominated for the beautiful blog awards or master quilting. I have to be content and accept that maybe I never will. I do choose to be dedicated to the upkeep of my home (there is no excuse for laziness) without obsessing and I choose to be faithful with the talents and passions that God has given me, sharing my ideas, passions and aspirations with others, especially at Christmas time. I am happy to open up my home to others too . If you visit just watch out for skateboards and bikes on the driveway when you pull up and I have warned you about the leeches! I decorate for Christmas but not the other seasons. I may even make you cranberry muffins dusted with icing sugar and take you on a tour of my garden, don't mind the weeds. I will probably apologize for them anyway because they are always with me in this kind of climate. It's a never ending task!
I will be happy to show you how I make my silk flower wreaths and when I visit you I will admire your latest quilt. And as for Tiah- don't expect to be invited back again, she's still recovering from the last time we called over!
With Love and Joy,