Category Archives: homemaking

Shopping, cooking, and singing.

This week I’ve been blessed to have several days when I was able to stay home all day. I have a big sorting-and-organizing project upstairs, figuring out how to use my new closets and cabinets, and deciding what things to throw out because I begrudge them the space. But I didn’t end up spending much time on that.

One day I was on the prosphora baking team at church…

… and since that got me out of the house in the morning, I just kept going and did a lot of grocery shopping in the afternoon, five stores. First I went to the Thai market, where it’s fun to see what exotic snacks and goodies they have in stock. Often it’s a mochi type of treat that I try out, and this time I found these, chewy with a black sesame paste filling.

I enjoyed them very much, but the ingredients label made me resolve to make my own mochi again, at home. I already have mochi flour (mochiko) that I also buy at the Thai market. My friend Elsie brought me a mochi cookbook from Hawaii one time and I have been wanting to try out some more recipes from it again.

I bought Asian yams, green onions, and several pounds of ginger root at that market. It was time to make a big batch of ginger broth.

As I drove around to the other less interesting stores I listened to music in the car. Gordon Bok was singing one of his sailor songs, and though I am not a sailor I love to hear him sing about anything, his voice is so rich; it is a feast for my ears. Here he is in a sample I found: Sailor’s Prayer by Gordon Bok

It was 90 degrees that afternoon when I brought home my bags of groceries, and it would be hotter still the next day, when I had to wait at least until the evening to cook, so that the heat could go out the windows when we open them at sundown. It was supposed to be cooler the following day. I did start my ginger broth and roast a couple of pans of onions that evening — oh, and two pans of Brussels sprouts.

The next day, which was this morning, I thought I would just bottle up the broth and put it in the freezer, and get on with my sorting project. But one thing led to another…. I needed to wash the big pots and my breakfast dishes, of course. The cooked ginger went into the food processor, because I can’t bear to throw it out, but always use it to make puddings or breads. I decided to make bread with my ginger paste right then, so I found a recipe for zucchini bread to work from, and substituted ginger for zucchini.

The roofers were working in the morning, and they finished by early afternoon. It is such a weight off my mind to have a new roof, my whole body felt lighter and ready for more work. The bread went into the oven and I washed more dishes, and Aaron came to work on my garage project. I was happy to send him home with a loaf of bread, because I’m realizing that I like cooking too much for one person. When I start cooking I just do not want to stop.

The weather really cooled off today, so I am hopeful that my sweet peas will grow longer stems again for a week or two before they expire from heat. I had to hunt down shorter vases and bottles to put them in the last few days. This one color is my favorite this year, and I was able to make a whole little bouquet of them, which will be my closing image here, as I’ve cleaned up the kitchen for the last time and am going up to bed. Good night!

Turtling with rugs and flowers.

As I was ironing some springtime trousers in the morning room, my eye caught the color on the orchid nearby. It’s blooming! Sometime in the last months I’d moved this long-ignored plant into my new space, and started giving it a little water more regularly. The response is heartening.

What I did to the neglected orchid was never conceived as a task to write on a list. It was just one of those many little things that we do, when we are “puttering” about our homes. Small tasks add up to make an increasingly homey space.

Only recently I found these rugs that seemed just perfect for my morning room that I hope will also be a sewing room. One of the reasons they appealed was that the turtle had not long before become an important symbol for me, after I heard a woman about my age speak about the practice of moving forward, no matter how slowly, when one is feeling overwhelmed by decisions and tasks. She said we must “keep turtling.” I had never heard “turtle” used as a verb before, but immediately I began to feel an affinity with those creatures, and to think of them as elegant and wise.

It seems there are other slangy meanings for to turtle, and one of them, “To defensively hide in one’s shell,”  has long been part of my survival toolkit. Ideally, I like to enact both meanings, as on the days when I get to stay home all day and get homey things done.

Bright Monday afternoon I truly lazed about the garden, quite worn out from the festivities and staying up late many nights for Holy Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday services. Then there was Pascha itself, when many of us didn’t get to bed until 4:00 a.m. I was pretty loopy, and really happy about many things, including the sunny day. I think you could say that I turtled, too, because I phoned my sister, and also invited a neighbor over to sit a while. I moved forward in catching up with people I love.

In the picture below of the orange helianthemum, you can see in the distance a box of panettone and a jar of lemon curd. I was having friends for dinner and took those items out of the freezer kind of late, so I was defrosting them in the sun.

As we enter the last day of Bright Week, I wanted to be sure to show you these garden beauties that show their understanding hearts by their uplifted and shining faces.

Days and bags full of children.

Last week I laid out these sleeping bags in my new guest room, for the use of my grandchildren whom I was expecting along with their parents, flying in from Colorado.

Night after night I’ve started a little blog report on the fun we’ve been having, but night after night I’ve had to crash before I could complete a paragraph. This afternoon has been a little pause, wherein I drank tea and will try again.

One of the first tasks I set the children to was shelling my Painted Lady beans. They were fascinated with how the giant speckled beans fell out of their crisp pods with the slightest squeeze and crunch from their small hands. After we had disposed of the pods, and the remaining several pounds of beans were sitting in a stainless steel bowl on the table, with children and adults frequently stopping by to run our fingers through the sea of them, each of the kids asked if they might have a bean to keep, and I completely understand why. They are so smooth and large, it’s nice to have one in a pocket as a friendly pet.

The weather has been br-r-r-r-cold, and a week of rain is in the forecast, but has twice been pushed into the future. One non-rainy morning we took advantage of that delay and drove out to the coast, while my town lay under a disheartening blanket of fog. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant day for a picnic and even playing games in the surf.

I pulled my Seanna doll out of my backpack to show Clara, three years old. This is the doll that I’d found washed up on the beach last winter.

Several gifts of the to-be-opened-early sort have arrived from Aunt Kate, such as a reindeer ring toss game, and a fir scented candle. We dutifully and gleefully opened them!

It has been much easier to make progress on decorating, now that my elf helpers have arrived. I’ve begun to realize that in this era, Christmas decorations have to go up gradually. When there were seven of us in the old days, we’d do the tree and everything in one day and evening, and take it down similarly. But now, with just me to care and to do it, that style and method does not fit. I bought several strings of led lights this year and I plan to keep them up at least until February.

There are dozens and dozens of dolls and stuffies in my house, and Clara is making sure that they are all taken into her care and concern. She lets me know every time one or a group of them is going upstairs to bed, and when they wake up again; also, whatever names she might have given them. I guess it’s always nice to know one more woman who likes to talk about babies! A large teddy bear has been bedded down near the woodstove for a couple of days, and when I walk past and see him out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly think he is a sleeping toddler.

The children spent hours doing cut and paste one afternoon, and Brodie made this starry paper box. The family brought several of their own essential toys and books, of course, such as the best Tin Tin books for Dad to read to the boys. I’ve been reading the same Letters from Father Christmas to them that I read last year to Pippin’s children.

Soldier and Joy and all will be with me through Christmas Day, which means more good times, and scenes to illustrate my happy days. Most or all of the children take a stuffie into their sleeping bags with them each night; Clara may have several bears, rabbits and sheep at the bottom of hers by now.

I made a big pot of chili using a cup of the Painted Ladies we’d shelled, plus all of the jarful I brought home from shelling  with Cathy a year ago, and lots of vegetables. It was fantastic; the fat beans came out creamy yummy.

And I asked the children to pose with their personal beans as a remembrance.

Moving toward civilization.

Today was my house blessing of Theophany. I was glad it had been delayed a few weeks after the feast on January 6th, because I wanted to put the house in order beforehand, especially the construction/storage areas that were still in process until a few weeks ago.

So as I was getting things spiffed up for today’s event, I thought, this is the time to share a few carefully chosen images, for those — maybe only a very few? — of my readers who are interested in the indoor physical landscape of my days.

My total remodeling project is not done, but nothing stops me now from living fully in my three new rooms — that is, once I unpack and figure out how to arrange things. I’ve bought a few pieces of furniture and have taken a carload of stuff to the thrift stores, but there is still a lot of processing and figuring out to do. I ordered a cozy armchair that won’t be here until about Pascha (May), and I can’t finalize the arrangement of the morning/sewing room until I get that.

Above is a photo of the morning room from a year ago, and there are lots of Before and In-Process pictures in a post aptly named: Hodgepodge. I don’t intend to show any of the remaining hodgepodge or mess. Instead, I picked out a few tidier scenes or items to focus on.

Above, you can see through the doorway at left into my bedroom. My goddaughter Mary’s father A. made the cabinet doors for me and trimmed out everything. It was so heartening to have someone who was enthusiastic about doing the work and even communicated with me about it! Not to mention the beauty of the result. He had no part in the work that I complain about farther down.

I’m sure I’ll be rearranging sewing things again and again, but for now, I have all my fabric and projects in the cabinets in the proper room. I did remove five boxes full of fabric from my stash, which I will give away, but I kept all of my Waldorf doll supplies. And all of the luscious fabric I brought home from India.

The cluttered environment has disturbed me inwardly, I always knew that, but when I managed to open up floor space and dresser tops, and whittle down the mass of unpacked boxes to take up less and less space in corners… why, I felt like a new person, becoming civilized! It was very calming.

At right is an unfinished area of my bedroom, which had to get repaired after pulling out an old built-in cabinet. There was a nail still sticking out so I put up this hanging I found in a box, that I made eons ago. I still have a lot of painting to do (I should say, for someone to do) in my room, and a few other rooms of the house.

The new bathroom is pleasantly boring in beiges and white, tile and granite. I wanted it that way so I could have colorful towels and shower curtain. That storage cabinet at left I found at Home Depot and bought another one for the master bath.

I have so many interesting little tables that I am fond of for various reasons. This one is a hundred years old at least, and used to live at my husband’s family’s summer cabin. I have never known it as the patio table it was obviously designed to be; it always sits along a wall as a shelf, and its known to be wobbly on its own. But I will probably keep on keeping it, at least while I am in a big house.

My closet got refurbished, and I added a little dressing table to replace what got lost when the two rooms were linked by a door in that spot. It was so long between the time I made decisions and the completion of those shelves, I don’t remember how I ended up with melamine, which is really cheap. So I bought a piece of plastic to put on the dressing table top, to protect it from getting wrecked. The next picture shows the view from the bathroom.

On the dressing table right now I have a Valentine’s Day card I gave to my husband a really long time ago; and an icon of St. Porphyrios.

This is the one bank of drawers I have in the closet. Because it has nice drawer pulls it looks upscale and makes the closet feel fancy — until I want to open the bottom drawer, which as you can see sits right on the floor. So that doesn’t work very well. The shelving units didn’t fit nicely in the crooked old closet space and there are shims and gaps everywhere. Like a 1-2″ space at the ceiling, big enough to collect dust and spiders, but too small to store anything — except for our entire vinyl collection! Maybe I will find some other belongings that are conveniently short and flat, that need storing.

I have oh so many paintings, pictures and other beloved items that eventually I will find new places for, on the walls of several rooms, after the painting and furniture arranging are complete. I’ll leave you with one that I had forgotten about, a little Peruvian farm scene made in Peru, a style of tapestry that was sold in a local shop in a past era. One more thing I am looking forward to incorporating in my newly civilized, homey decor.

“It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can.”

-G.K. Chesterton