Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Invented Amalgamated Housewife

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!

I have a pergola but no roses climb over. Don't look up - we have cobwebs!

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!

My 'kitchen aid'!

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,


Enchanted Moments said...

Dear Ann,
I think alot of mums battle with these thoughts...but you seem to have it in tow. It is easy to see what others have and it may be more spendid and fantastic than what is in yours or my home, but at what cost....?
We do the best we can, with the love and the skills we have to be the best mothers, wives, friends and role models we can be to our children..xx
A lovely read, enjoy your day, and keep doing all you are doing.........and I will too..Suzanne.x

Niki Jones said...

What a great post, Ann.
So true. I have little of Tiah too, but mostly I am just a Mum trying to keep on top of the washing & cook healthy meals most of the time.
I guess the best thing about blogs is we can weed out the untidy, messy, scary, frustrating bits & add the nice, healthy, homely bits.
My "Tiah" shows up in my perfectly folded washing & a whole huge room for crafting & drawing & reading for the kids, not that I could show you a picture, because then I would have to admit that its chaos & I need a full week in there to find the desk.Ha.
Great post, Niki x
P.s. How is the beautiful boy?
Thanks for your input for my B'day dilemma.

SF said...

Haha, you made me smile with this post Ann. :) Very clever. I am sure we can all relate to this - but I am thankful to have learned over the years that often perfection in some areas means neglect in others, especially when we have young children! I have yet to meet someone who has "everything" sorted out. I try to take one day at a time, and just try to be content with what I achieve! And remember those years ahead when I hopefully have more time to learn some of those skills I crave to learn. :) xo

Fruitful Harvest said...

Hi Ann~

What a fun post~
We are all so hard on ourselves when it comes to hospitality. We don't want others to think poorly of us....sometimes trying hard to hide when we are in need of help. We are in fear of judgement. It is freeing to know that others have stuggles too. When we put on "masks" it can be totally and utterly exasting!

Great post~ I pray you are all doing well!

Love and Blessings,

PS I do love a good smelling goat soap~ LOL

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

Awesome inspirational post Ann.
Your thoughts outloud often ground me and make me stop and say..."All is okay"...
I am so highly guilty of the juggling too too too many balls and Whilst I can and mange to do so quite well It is'nt making me content but resentful that I am busy alot.
So my new found quote/mantra will be "Choose the best,Leave the rest"
So tonight I choose an early night to bed and ironing til whenever!!! *wink**

Anonymous said...

Great post. Sometimes I get frustrated because I am not like Tiah (I would say I am a little - mmm Yes I do have a red kitchen-aid :-) and I chose the colour because it really suited my country style kitchen). Just recently we visited a friend in her lovely large home (mines small) and I was a teeny bit envious but I am at a place where I am content and I know contentment with Godliness is great gain. I am thankful my family are helping me making our home a lovely place for us and to be hospitable when we are able. Sometimes the people who seem to be like Tiah have other issues in life they need to deal with - I suppose we all do to some extent. Kind Regards, Angela
ps. funny about those kitchen-aids - I have two sisters (one overseas) and they also both have red kitchen-aids, and we did not know for a while that we each had one.

myletterstoemily said...

oh dear! next time she invites you over,
you better tell her you are MUCH to busy
and happy to be bothered by her! :)

you can choose: a perfect house or. . .
a happy house.

it's lovely to see which you have chosen.


Anonymous said...

What a beautifully creative and frighteningly accurate post! How many of us mothers have fallen into that blogger-envy trap?

I love your perspective and have been forced by the reality and blessing of homeschooling a large family to adopt a similar one myself. It is so liberating to know that God has a unique plan for my family so I no longer have to attempt to be a cookie-cutter version of anyone.

Elinor said...

Great post Ann...it is good to read a real post on what goes on in a person's life. Sometimes I wonder how anyone gets things done - they seem to cook, clean, sew, create gifts, home school their children and then blog about them... I think as a Mum I tend to put too emphasis on getting everything done - and stress too much when it doesnt happen. It's so silly to worry what someone else will think if they pop over to your house and heaven forbid there are dishes in the sink, clothes to be folded on the counter and the table is covered with school books. Anyway over the last week - I have been taking a step back and asking God His opinion on how I should do things around here... much better. big grin!
thanks for sharing
ps. I do own a lovely apron though

Molly Betsy @ Star Cottage said...

Loved this post. And so true. I prefer it when poeple are real. I hope I never come across as perfect on my blog. I try to talk about my failings and shortcomings as well as my hobbies/talents, wich are few. I like your mantra of take the best and leave the rest. I think life is about discovery and trying out things to see if it suits your or if you like doing it. I have made my own laundry soap, baked my own bread, cooked many meals from scratch and made quilts and clothing for myself and my children and made curtains and scrapbooked and lots of other things, but never all @ once. After all I am only one person, and above all my purpose here on earth is to Honor God and Be the mother and wife He made me to be. Not the woman I think will impress others.
And it is funny about the red Kitchen aid mixers, it seems so many people have them. My mother got me one for my wedding and she actually apologized for getting the Red instead of the White one I had wanted, but it was cheaper and @ the time she couldn't find White. In the big sceam of things none of this stuff matters. And @ the end of the day who do you answer to, God or Blogland?
Again, Great post. It's so good to think about these things ;)

Deb said...

I had a giggle at this post and I have a little of Tiah in me too. I think we all dream a little of the perfect house but then again I am happy with what I have. The thought of all those things sound so nice and homely.
there are lots of things I would like to learn to do...and I will one day.
A great post

Chris said...

I've been confronting Tiah a lot lately, and telling her to get on with her own life. I'm only one person and there's only so much perfection, this perfectionist can take, LOL! ;)

It's fun and refreshing to be honest. I mean, Tiah's still a great chick and all, but my own home needs more of me.

By the way, I baked a flap-jack when I was attempting to bake bread last night. I wanted the high domed, crisp and golden loaf but I got flat, dense flap-jack again, LOL. Oh well, I still liked the taste and put it down to practice.

Isn't that what we teach our children to do when they miss the mark? ;)


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