Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Motherhood and Feminism

I'm taking a break from my staying home series. I will get back to it soon, but for today I wanted to ponder something else.

I recently got a copy of The Way Home by Mary Pride. While I have found it a great encouragement and confirmation that choosing to be a wife and mother is my calling at this stage of my life. I waited a long time to be blessed with this stage, living until the age of 35 as a single woman.

It also has got me thinking at the same time. It has focused much of my previously rambling thoughts about how much our lives and culture are shaped and influenced. Even amongst those who claim the name of Jesus Christ, and who give voice to seeking to live according to God's will there seems to be more of this world than of God influencing life choices.

Before I go further I will openly admit that I am NOT perfect. I haven't got it all figured it. Part of the reason I am writing this post is because I am working on this in my own mind and life right now. Most of my time and energy is poured into my children, as it should be with little ones, and this blog is my creative outlet that helps to keep me from being totally absorbed by the world of toddlers and babies. It is also the creative outlet that prevents me from talking the ears off my wonderful husband every night because I need to express to process.

The Way Home looks at how feminism has undermined biblical womanhood. It doesn't surprise me either. I can remember the conversation I had with the career advisor when I was a teenager. I was asked the question of what I wanted to do when I grew up. My answer did not compute. I said that I wanted to get married and have children. I was asked several times and I always gave the same answer. I was told each time that I must want to be something else, as just being a wife and a mother was such a waste of my talents and abilities. This was about the same time as Mary Pride's book was first published.

I didn't really understand what feminism was back then. All I knew was that what I really wanted to do with my life was to be a wife and a mother. I had always known that was what I wanted to do, what I was created to do. I guess that is part of the reason why I could never make up my mind what kind of career to have. Even after college once I entered the working world I could never settle down to one particular profession. So every few years I would try something new. Yet everything I did do helped to prepare me for the job I will have for the rest of my life. No matter what else happens I will be my husband's wife and my children's mother.

I feel so blessed to be in the position I am in. It was not so long ago that I was trying to accept that I may never be a mother to my own children. As I type this I have two incredible little boys asleep in their cribs for nap time.

Still I come back to how far even the Church has strayed from God's plan for families. Every time people find out that we want more children they act surprised. We already have two, isn't that enough. And this is from the very people we worship beside on Sunday mornings. When people find out that I stay home and we choose to live on a single income we are told that we are very lucky. We are not lucky at all, nor are we wealthy. We have chosen to live without many things that others think are necessities so we can live on a single income. We sacrifice the good so we can have the best, God's best.

God's Word says plainly that wives are to look after the home and bear children, yet even conservative Christian radio stations air programing that assumes wives are also working in full-time jobs outside the home. When couples are preparing for marriage it is not shocking to hear them be advised to wait a few years after marriage before starting a family. They "need" to get to know each other for a few years before they add children, or they "need" to save for a home, or establish their careers, or, or, or. Even in the face of biblical counsel that a newly married couple be freed from civic responsibility in their first year of marriage for the very purpose of starting a family together.

There are also those who say that we cannot teach that wives should stay home, because there are those families who cannot survive financially unless they have two incomes. Until less than a year ago on paper we could not afford for me to stay home, yet we have survived and even flourished on our single income. Living by faith will not always make sense on paper, but it will work in practice when our trust is on the Creator of the Universe.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know that there is an easy solution to combat compromise. All I know is that God has made clear His will in His Word. We each have to choose day by day and moment by moment to either obey or disobey. I will admit there are moments when I long to rebel and do my own thing, but somehow I come back to the point of obedience in the long run.

I know that obedience is rarely politically correct these days. Our secular culture is so very far away from obedience to God's Word. I know even most Christians will wonder away by compromising with the secular world. Yet there is something so incredible waiting for us. When we wonder and stray God is still waiting with open arms to welcome us back to that path of obedience. He is ready to forgive us when we come before Him with repentance. He desires to show us the way that may be more difficult but that is also more blessed.

I willingly turn my back on the philosophies of feminism, and secular humanism. I don't think either have done me any real favors. How I respond to those who are my sisters in faith but who openly embrace these things I am still working through. Maybe one day people will once again cherish the role of wife and mother, as they did before feminism tainted our culture. Maybe one day this will not be a difficult and misunderstood road to walk along. Until then I will continue to whole heartedly embrace my role, and pray more will join in this blessed and joyful life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Staying Home, Part 3 - Food 101

Aiden learning to make a healthy version of Chocolate Cake
If you haven't read Part 1 or 2 of this series you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In this post I am going to focus on cooking and eating at home. I love to cook and create tasty meals for my family. I am blessed to have had a Mum who let us help her in the kitchen from a young age. She was not much of a cook when she first got married and was still learning while raising us. She had a tight budget and few of the luxuries of today, but she managed not only to feed us good healthy meals, she also managed to raise 3 children to be really good cooks themselves.

Sadly I meet a lot of people who cannot say the same thing. Too many women I talk to about the home will confess that they can barely put a meal together, never mind make healthy nutritious food from scratch. Feeding their families is a chore they would rather avoid, so avoid they do. Instead of simple but delicious food cooked at home they resort to take out, frozen convenience foods and the most expensive of them all, eating out. Many of these same women also confess to a longing to be homemakers, but cannot afford to give up paid employment. It is to these women (who are sadly too many in number) that I dedicate this particular post.

If you can find a way to control the spending on food life on a single income becomes a lot more possible. Glean what information is useful to you and your circumstances and let the rest be. Below are some of the things that have made living on a single income while still enjoying good food possible for our family.

Set a budget

This may seem simple, and in many ways it is. You might be surprised at how much money you will save just by setting a budget for food/groceries and then sticking to it. We currently have a monthly budget, but there were times it was fortnightly, as that is how often my darling husband gets paid. Once the budget is spent then no more trips to the store until the next allotment comes around. Now that we have children to consider we make extra effort to not run out of budget for the essentials like milk or eggs.

Eating Out

Make eating out and take out food a special treat. Try not to allow for weekly trips to restaurants as it will encourage too much overspending. There are ways to have easy to prepare meals if you are at work all day without having to go out to eat. In our 8 Week Menu Plan we have one night designated for eating out or take out food. We are in the process of expending to 10 or even 12 weeks, but we will still only have one night for this treat.


Become a copy cat

Learn how to make your favorite restaurant meals at home. I have found Allrecipes.com a great resource for new recipes. Then there is always a Google search for the recipe of a particular dish. The Internet is full of people ready to share recipes they have made or found that taste just like that dish you always have to have at your favorite restaurant.

Quality

This is a big one in our home. My husband and I both enjoy really good food, and really good food starts with really good ingredients. There are many areas in our life where we are willing to cut corners, but quality of food is not one of them. We both would rather have less quantity lying around our pantry in favor of better quality. It will also help remove the temptation to eat out more if the food at home tastes really good.





Buy the best quality ingredients your budget will allow for. It really does make a difference to the taste. Growing up in Scotland meant that grass fed and finished meat was just ordinary meat. It took me a while to realize that one of the reasons beef and chicken both tasted so different to me was because they were corn fed. We are slowly switching one food item at a time to a better, healthier variety. We recently switched our beef to grass fed and finished. We can only afford to do this by purchasing half a cow at a time, as the cost per lb is significantly less when bought in bulk. My next target will be butter from grass fed sources only. I haven't even began my research yet, but I will try to find a local source before I resort to imported Irish or Danish butter.

This is a process with a lot of learning along the way. Probably the easiest way to start is by choosing organic produce. Start with those items that are most important to you. We use a lot of potatoes and onions, and these are also 2 of the worst vegetables for absorbing chemicals from the soil. As a result we made these our top priority for switching to organic. Next we focused on "The Dirty Dozen" that we use most frequently. Once Aiden started drinking regular milk we also made sure to only buy organic milk. I would like to switch to raw organic milk, but have not yet found a source.



Water

If you live in an area like ours then you probably don't drink the water that comes from the faucet in the kitchen sink. Our water quality is so bad we don't even use the ice maker in our freezer for making ice. When I first arrived in 2008 my darling husband was using bottled purified water for cooking and drinking. This quickly became prohibitively expensive when there were 2 of us. We decided to make the switch to filtered water. We did not want an expensive plumbed in filtration system, nor did we have that kind of money to spend. Neither did we like the idea of the plastic jug filters that required regular replacement filters and could only filter small amounts at a time. We knew there had to be a solution and we set ourselves a budget of $250 to find it. After a lot of searching online we found The Berkey Water Filter. It comes in various sizes. The filter elements are cleanable and the tank is stainless steel. Once of the sizes was priced at exactly $250 and came with free shipping. We have been using our Berkey for over 3 years and we have cleaned the filter elements twice in that time. It still works really well and the water tastes great. One of my favorite aspects to this particular filter system is that is leaves the essential healthy minerals in the water. After the initial cost it has cost us nothing and provides enough filtered water every day for both drinking and cooking.

Spend money to save money

It may seem counter-intuative that to save money by cooking at home it is wise to invest some money on good quality key kitchen items. I highly recommend investing in a few really good quality stainless steel pots, a cast iron skillet, a slow cooker and a few good baking dishes. These items are important to me because while I like to cook I don't particularly relish the cleaning. Having good quality pots makes clean up easier. Easier clean up means you are more likely to actually cook food at home. It is important to remember that this does not have to happen overnight. Use what you have and slowly replace with better quality as you can afford to.

Our most recent purchase was a stand mixer. I have wanted one of this particular brand for many years. When I first arrived we could not afford one. So I waited. After almost four years it is finally in my kitchen. Now as someone who likes to cook and bake it is not going to change what I make, but it certainly takes a lot of the elbow grease out of bread making for me.

That woman's touch!

Try to make your kitchen a beautiful and cheerful place. This doesn't have to cost much. Decluttering the counters and adding a favorite picture or photo collection can work wonders. Personally I made sure this was the room our CD player/radio was placed in. I enjoy singing while I cook, so having a source of music is important for my kitchen. More meals will be cooked at home IF you enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

Grocery Lists

We have found that keeping a running grocery list is really useful. We try to avoid going to the store for 1 or 2 items. To combat that temptation we keep a running list. When either of us notices that we are getting low on a particular item we add it to the list. By adding before we run out we are able to wait until a scheduled trip to the store before replenishing our supply. Our scheduled trips are staggered between the 3 stores we regularly use, with each one scheduled once a month. We also have a scheduled milk and produce store trip once a week that Rob will do on his way home from work. By having a list AND staying out of the stores we avoid the temptation to spend more money on items we don't actually need.

Make ahead

When you are cooking, make extra and freeze it for later. Rob prefers freshly cooked food and would rather take left overs the next day for lunch. However I have found that freezing side dishes works well for us. I do this with stuffed potatoes, mac'n'cheese, cooked rice, mashed potatoes, soup and stock. I'll cover instructions for these in another post dealing specifically with cooking from scratch.

Have fun

The most important part of cooking and eating at home, for me, is to have fun. If being in your kitchen and preparing meals feels like a drudgery then you won't do it. If you have fun while you work, and enjoy what you do, you'll begin to look forward to meal preparations. As I already mentioned I like to sing while I cook. I will also dance to the music if I'm in a particularly playful mood, or if Aiden needs entertaining at the same time. He finds my silly dancing quite amusing and will watch and giggle while I work.

If you have made it this far you might be feeling a big overwhelmed. I never intend for these posts to get so long, but that is usually how they turn out. I'll leave the details of how to cook from scratch for the next post. Meanwhile I hope you can start to enjoy your kitchen and make it a place where you have fun and create wonderful food for the whole family.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bread, one of the simple pleasures of life.

This is only a kind of break in my staying home series, as home made bread is actually a big money saver for us. I've loved to bake my own bread for a long time. Once I moved Stateside it became essential to bake my own bread as I found all the commercial breads too sweet for my palate. These recipes are for 2 loaves. I usually double the recipe then split into 3 loaves as I use 2lb loaf tins. I will then slice up 2 loaves and pop them in the freezer while we enjoy the fresh one. This way at our current useage I only bake bread about once a week. However as the boys grow, and their appetites with them I know it won't be long before all the bread is eaten fresh.

I should also probably mention that this freshly baked bread will not keep like the commercial breads do. In the hot humid climate of South Florida we will start seeing mold after a few days if the bread is left at room temperature. It will also start to go stale after only a few days too. This is normal. Home made bread doesn't have all the preservatives that you will find in commercial breads. Bread is not meant to stay fresh for more than a day or two.

So here are my 2 favourite bread recipes.

Sandwich Bread

2 cups warm water
drizzle of honey
1 1/2 tablespoons dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
5 cups flour (I like 3 cups bread flour & 2 cups wholewheat)

Dissolve the honey in the water. Add yeast & mix. Leave for 10-15 minutes (until it starts to froth)
Add the salt & oil.
Gradually work in the flour. Keep working until it forms a smooth dough. Leave to rise for about an hour.
Knock back the dough and knead for a few minutes.
Divide in 2 and place in loaf pans. Leave to rise for about 30 minutes.
Bake at 350f for 30 minutes and cool on a wire rack.


Whole Wheat Bread

drizzle of honey
1/3 cup of oil
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
6-7 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve the honey in the water. Add 2 cups flour and the yeast & mix. Leave for 10-15 minutes (until it starts to froth)
Add the salt, gluten & oil.
Gradually work in the rest of the flour. Keep working until it forms a smooth dough.(about 7-10 minutes)
Divide in 2 and place in loaf pans. Leave to rise until double in size, (about an hour.)
Bake at 350f for 30 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Once the bread has cooled, cut and enjoy.

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Baby Mordecai

Our blessed first baby, Mordecai, gone to heaven on July 23, 2009 at 13 weeks gestation.

You will never be forgotten by us.