Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rad Homemaking Part II: productivity.


"We started leaving the home to go to work in order to support the home. We have been doing this for so long that we have forgotten the purpose for which we sold ourselves in the first place." 
 -William Copperwaite


"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." 
-Ellen Goodman


"But the reform that applies itself to the household must not be partial...it must correct the whole system of our social living. It must come with plain living and high thinking; it must break up caste, and put domestic service on another foundation...Give us wealth, and the home shall exist. But that is a very imperfect and inglorious solution of the problem, and therefore no solution. Few have wealth, but all must have a home." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

{Read part I of Rad Homemaking here}

I will begin today's post with this full disclosure: I am currently sitting in my dirty house, wearing a half wet-swimsuit that is beginning to hint a distinctive, mildew stench while eating Oreos and milk. And, my children are watching television.

The thoughts I'm sharing today are on productivity and homemaking (really Rae, really?), and are largely aimed towards MYSELF as I sort through this adopted identity and journey. I'm sharing what I love. Hopefully it doesn't come across as know-it-all or preachy. Because, heaven knows, I know...well...practically nothing. Except that the new limited addition lemon Oreos are DA BOMB.

oKAY.

Where was I?

Oh yes, homemaking.

So. The Radical Homemaking book I suggested? I really didn't love the entire thing, but because of chapter 3, I would recommend the book over and over and over. Chapter 3 is WHERE IT'S AT. A short, thorough, accurate story of the evolution of a homemaker. Seriously, so informative and good and I kinda just want to type it all out but instead will refrain because nobody cares about this stuff like I do. I will give a super brief run-down on the information that has magnificently impacted my perspective on how to proceed as a homemaker.

Housewife was a term that showed up on the scene in the middle ages. Housewives were commonly married to husbands. The word husband comes from hus, the older spelling of house, and bonded, as in one who is bonded to a house. Am I the only one who finds that interesting? Yes.

Anyways. Pre-Industrial Revolution, both men and women largely derived their livings from their homes and farms. They both engaged in work that required enormous strength and stamina. Home was not a separate entity to be supported by outside means, it was the means. Once the Industrial Revolution came along, men left to work in factories and women and girls mostly kept up the heavy domestic work that was required to keep a household running. Over time, technology exponentially increases and more and more tools are created that alleviate the burden of the most difficult housework and sustenance. But these tools cost money. In order to afford all the gadgets, the newest material possessions that claim to provide an optimal, comfortable home, more and more people began leaving home in order to afford home. Add to this economic restructuring the prominent second wave feminists (think Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir) who vehemently disparaged domesticity, stripped it of all its meaning, and questioned the intelligence of any woman working within the home with writings like:

"Woman's work within the home is not directly useful to society,

 produces nothing. 

The housewife is subordinate, secondary, parasitic." - (The Second Sex, 1949)

and suddenly women, in mass droves, began exiting the home as well. Cuz who wants to be viewed as the town dummy, the parasite

The ramifications of this mass exodus are enormous, and society has been shaped by these revolutions ever since (in some ways for the better AND in many ways for the worse. Much, much worse).

 The American household, within no more than a century, shifts from a place that primarily identified as a place of production to one of pure consumption.

The author, from that point, gives her two cents on how to correct what she believes is an overly-consumptive, extractive, purchase! purchase! purchase! spend! spend! spend! consume! consume! consume! economy. 

And I have to say, the author's description of the consumer driven household really struck a nerve with me. I have begun reflecting more and assessing my role as a homemaker. I don't want to spend my life simply shopping and spending the income Tyler brings in. I don't want to just be an endless, bottomless pit of consumer driven lust for material possessions. I don't want our marriage to be nothing more than two individuals serving entirely separate economic functions, one acting as the primary "producer" while the other acts as the primary "consumer".

I want the creation of our home to be a major team effort. Living on one income requires a lot of team effort. On the one hand, there is no way around it: we need a certain level of liquid, cash, exchangeable income. On the other, we need wise investments, saving strategies, long term goals, and quality of family life. We have discussed and divided up these responsibilities in ways that we feel best fit our personalities and strengths (and weaknesses).


My great-grandpa passed along this economic advice to my Dad, who in turn has frequently recited it to me:

Remember, Production creates Prosperity.

I have adapted this saying into my homemaking. In this sphere, I think of it along the lines of "Being productive creates abundance ". And to me, the word abundance doesn't mean you have accumulated or made more things necessarily. Instead, it means you have more meaning in that which you already have or are in the process of creating. Abundance is the best word. It is better than happy. To me, it connotes fullness and joy

A day well spent is one that has been productive and made me feel more abundant.

The most amazing homemakers I have ever met, women who I stand in serious awe of, are also some of the most productive, frugal, thoughtful, hard-working, creative individuals. Their skill set is remarkable. Their incomes are modest, but their lives are full of meaning.

I am trying to begin each day by asking myself what I plan on producing that day? 
On any given day the answer will vary.
It could be any of the following, maybe:

I produced order. (i.e., cleaning and organizing our day to day functions)
I produced educated children. (working with the girls on reading a few classics or math activities or music)
I produced savings. (consolidated errands into one day to save gas, or traded babysitting with a friend so Tyler and I can have a date night Friday without paying a babysitter, or I cooked meals from scratch instead of purchasing expensive take-out or convenience food, or I read a book on living better on less money)
I produced friendships.  (gathering with other homemakers to swap ideas and hang out)
I produced goals. (worked on our personal budget and bills)
I produced childcare. (saves a lot on daycare!)
I produced health. (took the kids for a walk/hike, went swimming, meal planned around health and affordability)
I produced fun. (took children to the park to play)
I produced perspective. (watching my children at park playing, I love watching them run around carefree. So glad I'm HERE for this.)
I produced beauty. (re-purposed old garage sale chairs with spray paint)
etc.
etc.
etc.



This shift in paradigm has made all the difference in how I approach homemaking. And frankly, the list is endless: there are so many ways that a household can become more productive and less consumptive. I'm engaged happily in this good work.

I am inspired when I realize that the ultimate goal of a rad homemaker is not to consume but to contribute.


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Next time, I am going to interview one of my favorite homemakers, and ask her how she lives her life productively. Stay tuned!



Monday, July 29, 2013

Meal Planning Mondays: Good Morning.


For as long as I can remember, I have NOT been a morning person. My mother confirms this when she tells the story of how I, as a small toddler, would come shuffling out of my room in the early morning and bark alternately one of two demands: "Pancakes." or "Life."{the cereal}

Simple enough. Give me food and don't talk to me could sufficiently sum up my sentiment toward the entire waking up process each day. Imagine my surprise when I married a total morning person. It's like he wakes actually thinking absurd things like life is worth living and it will be a good day and other such 5am oxymoronic nonsense. 

Our paths would cross in the bathroom, where we would find ourselves vying for sink space as we prepared for the day. He, naked and dancing and pulling all sorts of outlandishly husband-like shenanigans, and I, angry with humanity and existence, attempting to steadily apply mascara. He even says sweet, detestably kind things like I love you babe and Good Morning. I didn't even know how to respond to this. It was like he was speaking a different language. Cheerful morning language. Consequently, I had no choice but to remind him repeatedly, through angry stares and stink eye, that I prefer the only language I am fluent in before the hours of 8am: silence. He, sensing the serious nature of such a stern request, would splash me with sink water or give me a wedgie.



So naturally, given this anti-morning trait, it made total sense that I would have four children. I'm going to issue an unsolicited favor and graciously remind any pre-parents of what nobody bothered to remind me: children wake early. Children wake with energy. Children wake with noise.

A good night's sleep actually makes me forget I even have children, so imagine my shock and horror when every morning I am startled awake by all of these bouncing people, jumping up and down on my cozy sanctuary, squealing and speaking all sorts of indistinguishable morning language.

Good Morning Mommy!

Mommmmmy!

I wuv you! I hungry Mommy!


It's like a swirling vortex, full of blinding light and outlines of cherubic, cheerful faces. I reach out like Hellen Keller through the blur of it all and begin patting their faces, counting the features.

What is going on?!!!

Why are there are SO. MANY. of. you.?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



So yeah, I'm trying to get a handle on this. It's beginning to make me feel slightly inadequate that Lily must bear the mantle of breaking it to me each morning: you are a mother with four children. Maybe it's time you start acting like one?



I have begun setting my alarm for one hour earlier than my children's usual waking hour. This way, I can get ready for the day and do all the cursing and spewing of hatred my heart desires in the privacy of my bathroom. By the time my children wake up, I am a semi-civilized human being ready for loves and kisses and (hopefully) patience. We work much better through the morning this way. In fact, as much as I hate to admit it: the success or failure of any given day is directly linked to whether or not I woke up before them and got all the bad energy flushed out of my system.

It is especially vital because we've discovered it is London who takes after her mother. Both of us waking at the same time can be a clash of the titans, a real nightmare. But, if I've done the proper prep work, I can respond to her angry stares and whines with empathy.

And pancakes.


.....................................................................................

This is a great recipe for hearty, nutritious pancakes. Made with oat flour (I just put whole oats in the vitamix and blend until it is flour, but you can purchase oat flour at the store as well). I avoid the nutrient starved white flour that makes me feel like my kids aren't eating anything healthy.


Ingredients
  • 1¾ cup freshly ground oat flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat griddle or pan.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Lightly spray your hot griddle with cooking spray.
  4. Use a ¼ measuring cup to scoop the pancake batter onto the griddle.
  5. Cook until set.

.............................................................................

Other meal links for the week:
(all tested and approved!)

{a GREAT meal to try a vegan's potential with tofu. Seriously yum. The linked recipe has a picture that is a little wonky. I promise the flavors are delicious if you like spicy, thai flavors.}




{had these last night. SO GOOD}


...............................................................................

Good Morning!

Happy Meal Planning!









Saturday, July 27, 2013

Secret Gardens and such.


We were greeted by a morning of clouds and cooler temperatures. The humidity was pretty sketch but I still decided to venture out for the day.




We headed into Redlands to a current favorite spot near the library.


I played around the with the camera and snapped shots of the lovely homes.
I am figuring that if i take enough pictures of such homes in these younger years, The Secret will magically plop one right square in my lap before I reach retirement.


I've decided that will be my method. Obsess until you possess i guess. Oh you know you that had a nice ring to it. 















Have I mentioned how much I love our old library? 






The BEST part of which are the gated gardens you must enter through the library halls to get to.


I told the girls it is the secret garden where fairies reside.

Lily responded: "Mom, seriously, did you know I'm SEVEN YEARS OLD?"

oKAY.


Then she looked up and around and retracted:
"Wait a minute...I think you're right."

I graciously whispered, "Yep...get used to it, kid."



They spent a good chunk of time wandering in and out, swapping books, searching leaves, and enjoying the plentiful shade.




I love that Lily is reading AND simultaneously aware of Emerson. That is the warmest part of sibling-hood I've witnessed thus far.

The two oldest brawl like equals on many occasions, and Ellie Jane is beginning to join the mix as her immunity to peer law diminishes with age. But, there is always an unspoken caring and stewardship that manifests like stepping stones down from oldest to youngest. And it ripples back up, vice versa, as Lily undoubtedly enjoys a certain level of admiration and celebrity status as eldest of the pack.



I really enjoyed the day with my favorite girls.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rad homemaking Part I: by definition.





A year ago I picked up the book Radical Homemaking. Mostly because its title was catchy and I thought, a modern book with the word 'homemaking' in the the title? That's rad. waaaa waaaaah.

If you think about it, the term homemaking is antiquated in many ways. It's like a cute, trite term associated with images of robotic, oppressed women with aprons in the 1950's. It's most definitely NOT considered any sort of viable profession or title to identify yourself primarily with. Just look around and see what your average high school graduate describes as an aspiration or interest: I'll just go ahead and issue the spoiler alert! now and guarantee that homemaking will NOT be on their list.

 So really, as the author points out: deciding to be homemaker, to really claim that title, in today's culture?...

is a radical choice.

I'm not going to do a play by play book review, but I highly recommend reading it. There were parts I loved and parts I found lacking but overall, it was extremely educational and eye-opening for me. I feel like it was a great, outside of the norm, motivator for me to take my domestic skills more seriously.

Personally, I have always held homemaking with a certain level of reverence and respect. I can definitely say almost every positive vibe I felt towards domestic endeavors came from my faith tradition, a faith that places an extremely high value on home life and family interaction and regularly emphasizes its supremely sacred nature. Although we are encouraged to be actively engaged in education, career building, and productive citizenship, men and women are regularly instructed that no outside success can compensate for failure inside the home and the most important work you will ever engage in will be within the walls of your home. These ideas have always been at the core of my life's assumptions: home and family are the roots of humanity. If the tree of life is to be strong and healthy, it must start here.

But because this book is entirely secular and coming from a non-religious, rigorously academic author whose career trajectory was in full swing, I immensely enjoyed her new, alternative perspective. I believe that all roads to truth converge at some point, and the message of her book echoed my own strong sentiment regarding this subject which is summed up by declaring that:

As a society, we desperately need Homemakers.

But what IS homemaking? It's become such a loaded term. Fraught with gender assumptions, dissected by feminism, and generally avoided by the media other than to create caricatures worth laughing at, I found it important to start at the root and define the term for myself.

So, I asked myself: What is it that I am doing here? Hmmm...I'm not technically engaged in a standard profession that brings in regular income to our house. I'm also raising children. So I believe by that description I would be known by the title Stay-at-Home Mom.

But that is a lame title.

In fact, I hate that title.

Stay implies....well, staying. Stagnation. Passivity. Am I simply standing on the front step every morning waving Goodbye husband! Enjoy all that productivity and progression, I'm going to just STAY here with the kids. 

???!!!

What a STUPID, INSUFFICIENT description.

That is NOT what I do.

And I'll be damned if I write that title  in another "occupation" description box for the rest of my life.

I mean, come on! I create spaces, I raise the future of humanity, I direct thoughts, I mold belief systems, I determine schedules, I establish order, I shape character, I teach lessons, I engage with emotion, I cultivate awareness, I embrace the limited time I have to be present, I nourish my children, I nurture my husband, I support my community, I participate in education, I seek knowledge, I represent the trust and security my children seek, I regulate what good and negative influences enter our environment, I pay time and attention to the details of family life, I serve others, I practice patience, I fail a lot, I succeed {sometimes}magnificently.

And yes, I may manifest as the undercurrent, the underpaid, and the unrecognized. The job is hard but its effect is mighty. So, I'm not exactly "stay"ing anywhere.

They say it is the hand who rocks the cradle who rules nations? You betta believe it.

So no more stay-at-home-mommy for me.

I am a homeMAKER.

And proud of it.


"For national and social disasters, 
for moral and financial evils, 
the cure begins in the household."

-Julia M. Wright, The Complete Home, 1879






Monday, July 22, 2013

Meal Planning Mondays: to bake, to bake, a chocolate cake.


In order to assure survival, I am convinced that every woman needs the following weapons in her arsenal:

#1 a good bra (one, in my case, that actually makes it appear as if one has breasts to begin with)
#2 a solid female friend who is not above the occasional shameful session of petty gossip and snickering
#3 the perfect, entirely from scratch, we-aren't-messing-around-here, chocolate cake recipe




My ideal kind of lazy weekend afternoon would be the omission of wearing item #1, while combining items #2 & #3. 
Because nothing says screw expectations like a bra-less binge on a dense, rich, dark chocolate cake. Drown it all in 100% full fledged fat you better believe it I make no apologies whole gosh damn milk. 





Mmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmmm.

Ladies, you've arrived.



The Bra-less Chocolate Cake Recipe

for the cake:

  1. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark Brand)
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup boiling hot water
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment.
Frost cake with chocolate buttercream frosting:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup butter, softened
1/2-3/4 cup baking cocoa powdered (dependent on how chocolately you like your frosting)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 cup milk

Mix the first three ingredients with an electric mixer on slow. Gradually add in small amounts of milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. (* You can also add more sugar, but I prefer my frosting taste on the buttery side!)

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and when you're thoroughly overdosed on chocolate and feeling compelled to button up such naughty behavior, here are a few additional link ideas for your meal planning
 (we've tried them all and approve):

(plug: vegan night, gluten free!)




(really yummy. but after you cook the sausage completely I recommend only cooking in the slow cooker for 4 hours-ish. Our tortellini was way too mushy)