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Just read in Money magazine that the more television you watch, the more you spend. A sociologist at Boston College found that every hour of television we watch in a week, we spend roughly $200 a year. So if I average 14 hours a week (two hours a day is pretty reasonable, right?), I’m spending an extra $2800 (in addition to the outrageous amount I’m already paying for satellite).

Money, always good for a laugh, suggests that if you can’t turn off your TV completely, at least change the channel. “No one ever looked at the PBS anchor and said, ‘I’ve got to get a blazer like that!'”

Inspired by a tasty dinner prepared in Jon & Amanda‘s kitchen and the ensuing conversation. Thanks, friends.

My favorite gadgets I don’t own yet:

  • Pasta extruder (the aforementioned)
  • Burr grinder (if I could find one that was reasonably priced and smaller than a breadbox)
  • Citrus juicer (I’m tired of picking out the seeds)

Even in manners. Just one more thing from The Rituals of Dinner

“In many cultures, two people do not feel they can talk in a friendly way with each other unless they have first eaten together … A corresponding attitude is that which makes it impossible for a desert Arab who has once eaten salt with a man ever to treat him thereafter as an enemy. It is as though reconciliation must never be needed,  because it has taken place already; enmity has been overcome in advance.”

I’ve been known to pick up an eclectic assortment of library books.

ritualsExhibit A:
The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners by Margaret Visser

What I’ve learned:
“The Latin word for a hearth or fireplace is focus. [Sorry for not learning that in 10th grade, Mrs. Sullivan.] … The French word for  a household is a foyer, literally, a ‘hearth.'”

“[In many cultures, both ancient and modern,] if a woman decides to stop cooking for her man, or if he refuses to be fed by her or insists on cooking for himself, the breakdown is an outward signal of a serious failure in their relationship … In Assam, south of Tibet, if a family member is furious enough to refrain from eating with the household for a whole twenty-four hours, the dissension is extremely grave. If he then decides to cook separately, he is taking an irreversible step; it must be followed by his building a new house and by a splitting up of lands and property. This is a terrible rite of rejection called ‘the throwing away of the cooking pots.'”

“In some African societies … [the husband’s] avoiding the food in any particular wife’s dish is a deep insult, ritually suggesting that he suspects her of trying to poison him.”

Mikey and I don’t fight a lot, and it is largely because we set clear expectations. We learned early in our dating relationship that unmet expectations are often the result of uncommunicated expectations. The solution is easy – say what’s on your mind. It seems too simple, and almost cliche for how often it’s discussed, but I vote we keep harping on it until everyone understands.

Take housework, for example. For more than five years, we have maintained a division of labor in the house that keeps things running ever so smoothly.

Beth
cook
clean bathrooms
laundry
dust/vacuum
sweep/mop

Mike
clean kitchen (occasionally shared)
finances/pay bills
maintain cars
cut grass

When you need help with “your” thing, you ask for it. Easy as that. Done – no fighting about “that’s not my job!”

  • Get over my college-student-like aversion to putting holes in walls and hang some family photos around the house
  • Paint the canvas Mike gave me for my birthday and place it in an unassuming place so as not to draw attention to my heretofore un-utilized artistic non-skills
  • Thumb through every back issue of Southern Living currently stored in boxes upstairs and start a filing cabinet with neatly organized ideas for gardens, decorating, and travel
  • Complete the scrapbook I began two years ago commemorating my parents’ trip to Maine and get over the fact that I’m embarrassed it’s taken me so long
  • Write at least two chapters for my book

I’ll save you the suspense:

Home.

No matter where I am, I eventually want to go home. I crave home. It’s where I’m most comfortable. It truly is, and please pardon the cliche, where my heart is. The thought of it can sometimes take me to tears. It is deeply, deeply good. front-door

It’s an ethereal thing, home. On one level, it’s wherever Mike is. But then, after about eight days in Italy, even having him with me, I was ready to come home. It’s not just my house, though. Right now, I’m about five hours beyond leaving my parents’ house, which I also consider home. On the comfortableness scale, my own house and that of my parents rate equally. Carroll County is home to me in a way that I’m not sure anywhere else will ever be.

Like all things that are deeply good, the root of this lies in my eternal home. I think of my grandmother, who spent the last part of her life in a nursing home telling my mom that she wanted to go “home.” Knowing she couldn’t live by herself anymore, mom realized she wanted to go where my grandfather was – home – Heaven. That’s the heart of home.

dsc02100_crop

I'll put the bow on top later.

Last night Mike and I built a fire, poured a glass of Beaujolais (two, actually), started the Charlie Brown Christmas music, decorated the tree, and then just sat and looked at it all. We thought about doing it on Monday, but realized we’d be doing it with Monday Night Football in the background. Hardly the tradition we were looking to create. Doing it this way made the whole thing much more of an experience – one that we’re looking forward to creating again next year.

The first couple of Christmases we spent together were spent trying to figure out whose family traditions we were going to go by. Once we decided to make our own, the holidays became significantly easier and a lot more fun.

I’m as big a fan of Christmas as anybody, but I fear that Thanksgiving gets inadvertently tossed by the wayside in anticipation of Christmas. In an effort to remedy the situation and bring much-deserved respect back to this esteemed holiday, I propose the following.

  • Find a family in need (If you work for a church, this should not be difficult. Likepilgrim-hatswise if you attend a church. If you do neither, just pick one and call them to ask for recommendations.). Someone who has recently lost a job, someone with an illness or injury in the family, a recently-divorced single parent, or someone with a home that’s been foreclosed on are all good places to start. Contact that family and find out what needs they have that you can meet. If they need food, provide it. If they need a job, make it your job to help find one. Just do what you’d do if it were your own family.
  • Buy some solid-color cloth napkins for everyone at your Thanksgiving table, along with paint pens or non-toxic permanent markers. At the beginning of your feast, have everyone write one or two Thankful For items on the napkin. Wash and re-use these same napkins for many Turkey Days to come, adding new items every year. (Can also be done with a plain tablecloth.)
  • Tell service workers you encounter that you’re thankful for the work they do, and really mean it – people like teachers, mail carriers, law enforcement, and nurses. This might also be accompanied by an inexpensive gift like cookies, a handwritten note, or a scarf.
  • Spend time thinking (alone or with your immediate family) about things you are not thankful for right now, and consider the ways in which they might be repositioned. Remember I Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” There is something to be thankful for in every situation.
Always up for more suggestions.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make marriage incredibly fun.

First thing on Saturday morning, Mike quietly walked upstairs, climbed into the attic, and brought down my two 4′ tall wooden pilgrims, William and Anna. He and I made them about five years ago and I think they’re my favorite holiday decorations (perhaps tied with my seven Christmas trees). He always brings them out as soon as possible following Halloween, and every year it thrills me to no end.

It’s kind of a microcosm of the things that make our marriage work: He knows how much I love having them out. He remembers to do it every single year. And I really don’t enjoy getting into the attic, so he does it for me.