How About a Bit of “Maximumism?”

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Starting in the low 400’s!  Yay.  For just a bit more you can get windows and doors.  And never forget the marble countertops.  Friends of ours got a deal on a  house because it had lovely blue Corian counters, which aren’t “in”.

I recently visited a favorite decorating blog post, and was disappointed.  The author, a lovely and talented Christian lady, was touting, “What’s in for Fall 2018!!!!”  And everything was white.  And grey.  And there was that teeny bit of “color” as proof of bravery.

Why not be brave and actually go with your heart?  Please, I must believe that I’m not the only one with a red heart.  I must believe there are red-blooded women out there, whose homes minister to their red-blooded family members, and to Hades with what’s “in”.

Pray to God it will soon be out, and as forsaken as most other decorating mysteries of the past.  Really, we once put fluorescent lighting in our kitchens to illuminate brown ovens?  Really, we now prefer stark white, encoldened (I made that word up) by gray.

Perhaps I should say we prefer gray “further silenced” by grey-white.

Gray.  Grey.  White.  Off white.  Off.  When can we get off this chilling, unwelcoming, stark, minimalism.

What’s minimal here is coziness, warmth, hospitality, jollity, personality, uniqueness, honesty, quirkiness, heart’s treasures.  

I have changed my entire kitchen because of the colors on a Susan Bright calendar, and once because of an April Connell dish towel.  To my delight, and isn’t that the point?

Why must we delight in being like everyone else, and therefore really like no one?  Why worship at the altar of what’s “in” rather than seeking to find and express what’s “in” our own hearts?

There’s a falseness, a facade, in preferring pressed wood furniture that won’t make it twenty years, over a family heirloom mahogany table (I have a friend who gave such a table to charity because her daughters had no use for it).

We choose to make social “statements” rather than personal, and in so doing, say nothing at all.  We are not mindless parts of a group, or a generation.  We are each unique in all the world, in all the history of the world, and our homes should reflect who we are, not which group with which we share birthdates, or fad to which we’re enslaved.

So, how about we go to a bit of “maximumism” (yes, I made that word up, too).  Why not maximize our own personal joy in our surroundings by making our homes uniquely, radically, and positively ours.

Are we cold and soulless, unwelcoming and robotic?  No, we are human!  We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Word of God tells us.  “Knit together in our mother’s wombs, known by God before the foundation of the world.”  Talk about “maximumism”!

Welcome to our very own homes, and welcome to everyone who enters herein.

 

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!

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’.

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).