The Enchanted Home is Authentic, Artistic, and Sometimes Even Boasts the Best-Ever Molasses Cookies

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We forgive people who decorate in colors we abhor, with “style” we can’t fathom, using cat-clawed and dog-scratched furniture, if their homes are authentic.  If we have to hide a smile at some of the wild colors, particularly those in hues of sunshine, we will overlook what we consider a decided lack of taste and sophistication.

Conversely, walls of flawless beige, trimmed in pristine white, surrounding us and brand new-looking sofas set just so before “modern” décor atop ice-cold coffee tables make us wonder, “Is this a home or a statement?”

Does your house scream your lack of identity, thereby stealing your guests’ senses of identity as well, or does your house say “I’m OK, You’re OK. I didn’t invite you here to impress you, I invited you here because I value you enough to open my home, and therefore my heart.”

An authentic home has heart—it’s owner’s. An unauthentic home hides its heart behind its façade. It’s sad enough that we sometimes feel we must wear the façade in public, but at home we must take off the mask.

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Does that mustard yellow throw your grandma made embarrass you? That’s a good reason to put it on the couch, front and center. Do you have a secret love for that hideous orange ottoman from the 50’s, and does it match absolutely nothing else in your living room? Go with it and add a bouquet of flowers with a bit of that same orange. You’ve shown yourself and your guests just a little bit of your heart. And you’ve given them art.

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But what will your guests think, especially the world travelers with such cool stuff? They’re on their way. You look around, asking yourself What does this look like to other people.

Dirty for starters. You can wash those awful smears off the patio doors, or make molasses cookies and put on a bright and crazy shirt. You guessed it. If this guest is a mom, she’ll either feel greatly relieved that other people have nasty doors, too, or she’ll feel superior because hers are clean. Let her feel superior. Authentic people make those kinds of sacrifices. Just be sure your cookies are better than hers. Just kidding. Sort of.

How to make great molasses cookies? Use the recipe on the molasses jar, only double (I did say double) the molasses and the spices and the salt. Also use real butter and/or coconut oil instead of shortening. Then make them awesome with lots of raisins and walnuts. For even better results (and healthier cookies) use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour, instead of the standard bleached white flour, and last of all, use a non-GMO organic sweetener. I like organic light brown sugar by Wholesome. Also, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it, I like a little vanilla flavoring in my molasses cookies. But I think it’s safe to say they’re wonderful without vanilla.

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P.S.  These aren’t actually my cookies.  I’ll post them when I make them – closer to Christmas!

yellow castle picP.P.S.  This isn’t actually my house, but I’ll definitely post it if I get it for Christmas!

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The “Art” of Home Education

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“What should I do with him today?” Hannah asked this morning, regarding her babysitting charge.  “I’ll think on that,” I said, knowing Hannah was talking as much to herself as to me, and would as usual come up with something on her own.

Still, I pondered her question because I said I would, and then later called her.  “I know what you can do.  Google a recipe for finger paints, then let him do something like the horse Seth did with finger paints when he was about that age.”

“Oh, God,” Seth moaned in the background (he now thinks that marvelous painting is awful).  “Thanks, Mom, that’s what I’ll do!” was Hannah’s more gratifying response.

It doesn’t matter what Seth thinks about that painting, or that he doesn’t understand why his dragon water color has a place of honor (more on that place later) or that Benjamin wishes heartily that I take down his crayon drawing of his battle horse, “Ready”, or that Hannah disagrees entirely with my assessment that her quilt horse pencil drawing is pure joy (I even have candles to match it).  Rebekah’s most prized artwork (in my view) is her picture of me (I have a crown on my head and a hugely smiling, bright red mouth and am wearing a low-necked turquoise dress), and she’s the only child who never complains about it being on the wall for all the world to see.

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Yes, there was plenty of art that never made the frame, never graced our walls, some of it long gone, others in folders stored away.  And I do have artwork that was done by “professionals”.  But none of it has ever elicited the interest, the smiles, even the joy brought by the works of my children.  ‘Real” art has never made John say, as he did about Seth’s 4-year-old finger-painted horse, “Don’t ever take that down.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.”  Me, too.  Even now.

Hannah, in entertaining her charge last week, sculpted a cat for me, as he created for his mom.  Hannah wrapped her creation carefully in toilet paper, sat down beside me on the couch when she got home, and said, “I know you are the one person who will appreciate this.”  She unwrapped the cat, and just as she knew I would be, I was delighted.  The cat (not named yet, am waiting to get to know him/her) sits in a place of honor on my dresser.

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As to Seth’s dragon painting’s place of honor, it sits in front of the TV, effectively hiding the hideous thing from view.  TV can be the greatest enemy of creativity, of family life, of art appreciation.

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In all our travels the kids have never been allowed to watch movies or play video games rather than enjoying the scenery (they can read if they like).  Nature’s art speaks to our hearts whether we’re on the Oregon coast or at the highest spot we can climb to in Rocky Mountain National Park, or amid the Sugar Maples during Fall in the Ozarks, or on a desolate stretch of desert highway.  Appreciation and understanding of God, that’s what art can give us.  Real art.  Art from the heart.

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Exhortation of creativity is one of the hallmarks of good home education.  Good home education produces children who are highly individual, and yet uniquely qualified to contribute to the greater good. Such as in creating artworks that are also mementos.  Such as taking the time to ponder what will bring joy to the heart of a child when babysitting.

A little child will lead you.  When Seth first tried to draw dragons, I bought a little book entitled, “How to Draw a Dragon” (or something like that).  When Rebekah wasn’t all that keen on drawing, I bought books on how to draw horses (she was very keen on horses).  Hannah’s interest in water colors was fueled by a local water color class.  For Benjamin, I simply kept plenty of pencils, pens, and paper on hand, as his art was mostly props for his writing.  If he was creating a battle scene, he would go outside, build a city, enact the battle with the wooden sword and shield John made one year for his birthday, come back inside and sketch out further details, and return to his writing (fantastic writing by the way).  My small contribution was making a hauberk, helping John with the finishing touches on the shield, and saying, “Absolutely!!!” when John asked if I thought he should add a battle axe to the weaponry.

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Home education, done in love’s rhythms and graces, can make learning an enchantment of  color and light and joy.  An art, in other words.

Authenticity at Home

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What is an authentic home?  In looking at the definition of authentic below (see the end of the post), we can deduce that, in a word, an authentic home is real.  Does your home feel authentic to you?  Are you comfortable in it, and does it offer comfort to others?

I am reminded of a purchase I made yesterday.  In a shabby chic sort of store, I searched for something to catch my eye, something to speak to my heart.  I wanted something that would slightly alter and enhance my home.

Mostly I saw things that wouldn’t stand alone.  They were attractive in their settings, but not something I really wanted at home (well, there was that framed picture that said, “Eat Cake for Breakfast” but I don’t care for art that tells me what to do). And then I saw it:  a red vintage umbrella.  The handle was wooden, it worked beautifully, it was red, and it was raining outside.  Yay! I had almost bought an umbrella a few weeks ago, but it was . . . well, let’s just say it was not Made in America (it broke when I opened it).  It was “cheaper” than the red umbrella in every way, and had I bought it, way more expensive.

I chose the authentic umbrella, just as I choose an authentic home.  Any time I can substitute wood for plastic, fresh for canned, a walk in the woods for floor exercises, my child singing in the shower for radio music, denim for polyester, shoe laces for Velcro, viewing the currently running Jan Brett art exhibit in Fort Collins vs. an intelligence-insulting matinee, lounging in a home-crocheted afghan on a second-hand leather couch rather than wrapping up in, and sitting on, new micro-fiber monstrosities, cotton diapers to replace paper/plastic sweat wrappers, homemade biscuits dripping with butter instead of Styrofoam with a stingy (thank God) bit of margarine . . .

You’re thinking this all sounds like too much work, and too time consuming?  What are you doing that’s more important, more satisfying, than authenticating your home, your life, your soul?

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Syllabification: au·then·tic

Pronunciation: /ôˈTHen(t)ik/

(abbreviation: auth.)

Definition of authentic in English:

adjective

1Of undisputed origin; genuine: the letter is now accepted as an authentic documentauthentic 14th-century furniture

More example sentences

  • He is in no doubt that the document is an authentic copy of the original.
  • In recent years, Disney’s park designers have filled the place with what look like real antiques, genuine artifacts, authentic junk.
  • A letter should have been sent to confirm that the references were genuine and authentic,’ he said.

Synonyms

1.1Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original: the restaurant serves authentic Italian mealsevery detail of the movie was totally authentic

More example sentences

  • These hotels and restaurants did all they could to recreate all that is authentic in traditional Kerala cuisine.
  • The restaurant ensures that Mangalorean cuisine is made and served in its traditional and authentic form.
  • The crowd then made their way back to the High Cross Inn where they celebrated St Patrick s Day with traditional music including authentic bag pipe playing.

1.2Based on facts; accurate or reliable: an authentic depiction of the situation

More example sentences

  • The written word persuasively conveys the authentic ring of reliable authority in a way the recollected spoken word does not.
  • It’s based upon an authentic story that happened in the ’20s and ’30s.
  • Earlier an unnamed assistant editor had emphasised ‘the need for publishing absolutely accurate and authentic information’.

Synonyms

1.3(In existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.

Example sentences

  • Hence, he argues that the appropriate mode for authentic human existence is the personal.
  • For Heidegger, authentic existence begins from self-understanding.
  • As such, for Heidegger, an authentic existence requires as its precondition a radical and not received experience of the past.

2 Music (Of a church mode) comprising the notes lying between the principal note or final and the note an octave higher. Compare with plagal.

Origin

Late Middle English: via Old French from late Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos ‘principal, genuine’.

Home Comforts

Room in a historical Bohemian village

Whether or not you homeschool, your children are watching and learning your attitude about homemaking.  If you’re like most moms, things get a bit messy at times, especially in our minds!  We need a bit of decluttering, a little refurbishing, direction, and refreshment.  I give you the beyond-anything book, Home Comforts.

Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, is one of my two favorite books on making home a haven (the other is Alexandra Stoddard’s Creating a Beautiful Home). Cheryl (she is a friend even though we’ve never met) has done her homework. A former attorney, she’s very diligent and disciplined, and has the intelligence required to make a good job of homemaking.

As this book is over 800 pages long, and covers anything and everything you can think of, I can’t begin to do it justice here. But as an example here’s a quote from the chapter on home cooking: “Good meals at home satisfy emotional hunger as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way.”

Cheryl goes on to discuss how and why not to use cookbooks–I am vindicated! I believe a recipe is only someone else’s creation, certainly nothing written in stone. Of course, if Julia Child wrote it I will pay attention. But someone telling me to make pumpkin cake without salt, or that you don’t need all those walnuts in your oatmeal raisin cookies? I don’t think so.

As usual, I am loving the sound of my own horn tooting, and it’s time to get back to the marvelous book at hand. Home Comforts covers anything and everything you might ever want to know about homemaking.  You will be sorry when you’ve turned the last page, and if you’re like me, determined to read it again.

And to share it with others, especially family.

Do you want to excel at the high and highly rewarding calling of homemaking?  This book, so aptly named, will inspire and gladden your heart, and perhaps best of all, it will convince you that what you do at home truly matters.

Done! by Don Aslett

 

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Done! by Don Aslett is excellent.  Usually, with non-fiction I scan the table of contents for something worthwhile, take much of even the choicest subjects, then scan and glean.  Gleaning is the art of checking the author’s views against real wisdom (God’s opinion) and against personal experience, and seeing if there is anything worthwhile leftover.

In Done! I have found a treasure, start to finish–no need for gleaning.  Rather, there is a need to buy the book (giving my current overdue copy back to the library), read it again, and make it required reading for my kids, beginning with Chapter 8–The Magic of Early.

Don Aslett turns a lot of conventional “wisdom” on its head in this book, speaking from a wealth of experience and success in all areas of his life.  Done! is fun, entertaining, easy to read, and inspiring.  What more could you ask?

House vs. Home

A house is a place to shelter for the night.  It warms the body, but not the soul.

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A home is a place of refuge, restoration, rest, relaxation, and replenishment.

Do you ever wish someone would come in to your house while you’re gone and clean it, organize it, and best of all, decorate so it feels welcoming when you open the door?

Well, here’s the bad news and the good news.  You’re it.  Yes,  that’s a ton of work and you may feel a little learning-disabled in this area, but the satisfaction gained from cleaning and organizing and making your house a home, a nest, is beyond measure.

Put on some motivational music (Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll should get you going, or Phil Driscoll’s Soldier will work if it’s a real battle you’re facing) and get started.

Put a load of laundry on (if you don’t have a washer begin by gathering up the laundry and putting it by the front door in preparation for a trip to the laundromat) and put the dishes in the dishwasher and/or in the sink to soak as you go on to the next thing.  Now clean the bathroom(s) and then break for fun.  No, I don’t mean bon bons and a TV show (NO daytime TV in a place of refuge).  I mean a break for some decorating.

Rearrange some furniture and hang pictures in places they’ve never been.  Use things in ways you haven’t before.  Maybe even use an entire room in a new way.  Try a different spread on your bed, especially if the one you have is one of those “in-style” atrocities so many of us have, in some fit of insanity, mistakenly purchased (there is a demon grouping in Hell responsible solely for the design of ugly home furnishings).

Now, back to work.  After things are picked up, clean the floors, dust, and wash the baseboards.  Did I say this would be easy?  Anyway, I haven’t said anything about washing windows and screens or cleaning the utility room, have I?  There’s no rest for the best, and as the HOME keeper, you’re the best.

What about your horrid closets and the mess under the kitchen sink?

That’s for another day, a day you need extra therapy.  That’s right.  There’s not a shrink on earth who can clear your mind like a cleaned out and organized closet.

So, now it’s looking lots better, you’re feeling lots better, and the house is feeling more like a home.  What else can you do?

Cook something that smells delicious (bread is always good), or simply put some vanilla and cinnamon in a pan of water and put it in the oven on low heat.  Open the windows and let in the light.  Put out stacks of books that won’t impress anyone with your amazing intellectual tastes.  Include colorful and fun books, crayons and coloring books, easy puzzles, joke books, and especially beautiful children’s picture books.  Don’t have any?  Yay!  You get to go to the library.  Not now!  When you’re finished, or next week, whichever comes first.

Put on beautiful music and be sure there are throws, quilts or blankets on the couches and chairs.  Decorate with Monopoly, Clue, Pictionary and other forgotten board games.  Set one up on an end table, ready for play.

And now, it’s time for tea.  While the water’s heating, go take a quick shower and put on something comfy.  It’s time for a nice cuppa and a not-particularly-memorable but quite easy-to-read book.

If you’re still feeling a little blue after all this (not really likely) change the tea to hot chocolate.  Stir up some raw sugar (or use honey and add after mixture is warm) with a little salt and some cocoa.  Add milk, cream, half-n-half, powdered milk, or evaporated milk (or any combination thereof), vanilla flavoring and/or almond flavoring and heat until almost boiling, stirring often.

Serve in just the right mug with extremely well-buttered toast and don’t even think about calories.  If you think you could use more protein after all that work, go for it – get a second cup of hot chocolate.

P.S.  A little cornstarch will turn this into chocolate pudding – get a recipe – don’t cook like I do with a wing and prayer.

Beware the Beige Blahs

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Do you try and try to brighten and cheer your house, but never seem to get that ah-hah! you’re hoping for?  Perhaps the problem is nothing more than that showroom floor look – the one with the fear of color, fear of originality, and celebration of nonentity.

People actually believe their houses will sell faster if the walls are beige (or worse, still sporting the dugout look – dirt in color).  And if they happen to buy a house whose walls (probably beige) need a new coat of paint, they re-paint them beige, “in case we decide to sell.”

What?  You are living here right now.  Today.  Make it yours!  Make it beautiful!

Then there are those “experts” who advise painting everything white (looks like primer, now ready for real paint) and add “splashes” of color.  Not soothing, not relaxing, not your idea.

Of course, if this is what you truly like, and you get a brilliant white and the splashes are authentic (maybe framed children’s artwork, or your own) you are on to something.  Namely, a home that is, you guessed it, authentic. 

We all like to see other people’s houses, and hope to get a glimpse of who they really are.  But when we see beige, and everything looks as though we’re in a decorating magazine (and not one of the good ones) or on a showroom floor, it’s as if they’re hiding something – themselves!

When we moved into our house the walls were the color of diaper contents when the baby has acute diarrhea, and the trim was stained dark, dark brown.  I painted the walls a golden apricot which actually glows like the sun in the evenings and mornings.  I then began the search for trim color.  After much ado, I settled on blackberry, which is a deep, dark purple.  This color combination went perfectly with this house, and with me, where I was at that time.

Now that I’m considering repainting I may put a bright cream on the trim, or perhaps a brilliant white, and leave the apricot.  Or paint the walls a light-infused pale yellow-green with the brilliant white trim.  Maybe I’ll paint my cabinets a deep moss green and the walls white and the trim whatever seems right.

Whatever I do will horrify a few people, and please most people.  Best of all, it will be MY choice, unhindered by the Made-in-CheapoLand décor offerings in the decorating aisles at the superstores, and uninfluenced by what’s “in” right now.

Your house is your house, my house is my house.  Amen (so let it be so).