Books, Reflections

Little is Much

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Turkey day approaches. In some ways I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the rush of the holiday season.

Then at other times I just want to tuck into a good book and forget about things for an hour or so. One book out of 10 in my book stack is the Lark Rise to Candleford series, by Flora Thompson.

It is a book that follows the life of a young girl who lives in a tiny hamlet (or village) in England called Lark Rise. Her community is very poor but oddly very happy. It is set in the late 1800s, one of my favorite time periods. Early on in the book I came across one of those quotes that I read over and over.

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“People were poorer and had not the comforts, amusements, or knowledge we have to-day; but they were happier. Which seems to suggest that happiness depends more upon the state of mind-and body perhaps-than upon circumstances and events.”

from Lark Rise, chapter 3, by Flora Thompson

I finished the book a few days ago and it ended with a description of harvest days and feasts. The hard work and sweat and subsequent festivity and joviality.

The scene put me in mind of another feast day, of a story told long ago.

There was a kingdom where dwelled a wealthy King and his grown son, the Prince. The Prince was to be married, to have a wedding feast and the invitations were sent. But those invited responded with scorn and violence. And so the King, enraged, did away with the violent men.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (From Matthew 22:1-10)

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I’ve always pictured this as a beautiful scene. Full of warmth and cheer and happiness. Everybody is there. Young, old, rich, poor, outcasts, knights in shining armor. Everybody. All were there. All were invited in.

And its always put me a little in mind of Thanksgiving.

The goodness, the plenty, the laying aside of differences just to be together and be happy and grateful for the blessing of harvest, and most importantly for the blessing of family.

And at the banquet scene, who was most blessed? The King was The Giver of blessings. And I imagine those who felt least deserving were most blessed. For they had nothing to recommend them to attend the feast of a King. They had little. But little was much.

This story speaks of God’s gift of salvation and grace. It is a gift of much to one who has little. Once upon a time, as a young girl that person was me.

And as I’ve gone through life I’ve seen this beautiful pattern. The times I’ve had less have been the times I’ve had more. Less in the material world. Less comfort maybe. But more room for cheer and love in my heart.

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Life gets simple. And when life is simple, it forces you to look within.

Looking in to see what you value most when you have little.

A simpler life, a shorter budget, it is a gift. So enjoy it. Enjoy your life amidst the harships. The scrimping and saving. The wondering. Enjoy your family and friends, one of life’s purest and greatest gifts. May you be blessed. And well stuffed with stuffing!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to my readers here in the U.S. 🙂

~Rachel

Yes I know it’s early yet to be saying Happy Thanksgiving but if I don’t say it now I’m liable to forget! Mom brain 😛

Motherhood

Havoc in My World, Peace in My Heart

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If I was a superhero, I’m pretty sure my name would be Mother Mahem. Oh wait…yeah that’s my reality already.

I’ve been feeling the pull to write about this for a week or so. People seem to like the moments of vulnerability and honesty that comes with sharing the everyday moments and struggles of motherhood.

I’ve got one for you. Actually I’ve got several. Ok I actually have way more but I can’t remember them all, and maybe that’s a good thing.

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Do you ever have a moment, a day when your kid does something and it just breaks your heart? Sometimes these things just happen and I’m like “Why?? Why me? Why this?” And I’m mad and sad all in one.

This happened to me one morning. And I get it. Out of all the things that are going on in the world, this is small. But small things can seem big at the time.

I woke up to discover a mess. It was partly my fault for accidentally leaving my sewing things out. They were all in my sewing bag but not put away. An obvious temptation. Especially tempting, apparently, were my sewing scissors.

And so a certain someone took the liberty of refashioning a few things about the house.

My daughter’s quilt (in progress project) I was able to fix. Thank goodness.

However, this

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One of the “doors” to our t.v. stand.

This was done for. As you can see, it looked a bit trashy. So instead of wallowing in despair (tempting) I decided to fix it.

I had some fabric scraps that matched just right. So I cut, sewed and ironed, pinned and sewed some more.

 

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I used a modified blanket stitch to attach the fabric.
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Finished product. Now for the fun of re-attaching the door!

And how did I manage to complete this with two little munchkins running around? I sat them down with a mountain of playdough.

They “played”, a word here which is loosely correlated to playing and tightly correlated to throwing it all over the floor. But hey, I finished my project 🙂

That’s what motherhood is all about. We take the messes, the difficult things along with all things bright and beautiful. We get through it. With our sanity intact? Doubtful. But maybe just maybe as we learn to let things go and repair what we can we can restore a measure of it unto our hearts 🙂

A toast. To motherhood. May your moments of mayhem be short and give way to deep breaths of peace.

God bless.

~Rachel

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Books, Lessons In Literature

5 Things Meg March Taught Me About Being a Wife & Mother {from author Louisa May Alcott}

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Honestly speaking…I don’t like Meg. I love Alcott’s Little Women. But I’ve always had a fondness for Jo. She seems more likeable for her blunders and awkwardness. Meg is kindof…prim, proud and careful about everything. Perhaps being the eldest such things were ingrained in her mind.

But even though Meg is not my favorite I was in for a shock when I began part 2. When I read chapters 28 and 38 I thought, “My goodness. Our stories are remarkably alike.”

Join me as I thumbed through these much loved pages to find 5 common, yet unique pieces of advice that Louisa May Alcott has hidden within this most beloved novel.

5 Things Meg (March) Brooke Taught Me About Being a Wife and Mother

 

Cook What They Love

At the beginning of her marriage, Meg struggled with cooking. She made too much, or made too little and didn’t know quite what to make.

“She was too tired, sometimes even to smile, John grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare.”

Little Women, Chapter 28

It took Meg awhile to find what worked for her family and how much was just enough. She had to budget wisely.

 

On Saying “I’m sorry”.

One of my most favorite parts of Little Women is when Meg decides to can currants. She attempts to make currant jelly (with currants harvested from her own garden no less!) with disastrous results.

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Meg is distraught. And even more so when her husband comes home from work with a friend to stay to supper! Everything is a mess. Meg can’t understand why her husband John could think she could make supper in her sorry state. John doesn’t understand why his wife can’t just put forth a bit of effort and make them a small supper.

And then he appears to laugh at Meg for getting caught up in her failed jelly. This proves more than she can take and she declines to make supper.

Long story short, she remembers her mother’s words of advice and everything is made right when she makes up her mind that

“(She) will be the first to say, ‘Forgive me, John’.”

 

How To Live Within Your Means

It was Meg’s job to “keep the books”. She dutifully kept track of every penny she spent. Meg could be frugal when she had mind to be. But sometimes it got to her.

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Meg was often in the company of Sallie Moffat. She was a good friend but a rich one. Meg on the other hand was not rich and felt it. She was not envious but merely hated being pitied.

Because of this she bought “trifles” here and there until the trifles increased to the point of a length of not-so-trifling silk fabric.

It was $50 then. Hard to figure what that translates to today with inflation and whatnot. But apparently it was worth as much as a man’s new winter coat.

Because that’s exactly what her husband denied himself because of Meg’s frivolous purchase. In the end, Meg sets all things right. Sells the silk to Sallie, buys her man his coat. Peace restored and wisdom gleaned.

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The Babies and the Beloved

The question of affection is a common issue. One I have struggled with many a time. It can be so hard making sure everyone gets your time, your love.

Meg found this out too.

She made her twins, Demi and Daisy, her world. She didn’t cook (they hired an Irish lady for that) and she was always in the nursery. When the babies stopped teething, stopped needing her so much, then she turned to her husband.

But he was not there. He was at a friend’s house. An environment that was welcoming, friendly and most importantly not lonely.

John had not given up on his wife, he had waited 6 months for things to change. But because of Meg’s decision be a solo parent, she and John were drifting apart.

The solution? With Marmee’s advice, Meg was determined to 1) ask for her husband’s help with the kids 2) make time for John in the evenings and chat about his interests and 3) start going out more with John on dates!

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On Taking Care of Yourself & Accepting Help

How easy it is to not do these things. And how quickly it can destroy you. Self-care and the occasional help are vitally important as a mother. All people need this. We are not solo beings but creatures who need people. Need community, support and advice. We need each other.

Meg here relies a lot on her mother. She gives advice and is a seemingly bottomless pit of motherly wisdom. She reminds Meg that Hannah is ready and waiting to be a help with the kids.

I want to say, “Duh Meg of course you need help girl! You’ve got twin babies!” But I know it takes a lot of reminders for me to get it too.

Pockets of alone time, girl time, excercise time even grocery shopping time (haha); these are all times that are necessary for a good mom to become a healthier, stronger and even better one.

 

Conclusion

Meg is a good girl, really. She’s smart and gentle and giving. She still seems a bit too perfect to me but I loved looking at all the issues we have in common. I wonder if Alcott knew that 149 years later, people would still identify with and greatly adore her little book?

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: The Homemade Housewife

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Introduction

This e-book was written and published this May by Mrs. Kate Singh. Because I loved it and found it to be a valuable resource I wanted to post a review on my blog. I will share a summary, things I loved, a small critique, and little tidbits from my favorite chapters.

Summary

This book is a marvelous collection of thrifty tips and wholesome advice. The chapters cover topics like decorating, cleaning, self-care for the mama, urban farming, parenting resources, homeschooling and ideas for free fun.

About the Author

Kate Singh writes both motivational and fictional books to inspire and entertain. She currently resides in California with her family.

Visit the author’s blog here.

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Review

What I Loved…

The reasons I really enjoyed this e-book are similar to the reasons I loved 2 other books of Kate’s. (I read The Lazy and Cheap Housewife and The Funky and Frugal Housewife previously.) From the first, I saw that this book was relatable. Kate is honest about the fact that she is no Martha Stewart and doesn’t want to be. I breathed a sigh of relief. Me too.

I loved her encouraging tone that was coupled with her unique and fun style. I love things that have a different slant and this book definitely falls into that category.

But what I loved most? Her books are built around this tiny seed of an idea. This belief that I could live a full and happy life while practicing frugality. This intrigued me.

Not So Much…

I can only think of two areas for constructive criticism. They are minor things but I feel that 1) a bit less repetition and 2) a bit more organization would improve readability. The repetition increased the length of the book, which was 3,368 pages on my kindle. I loved the huge collection of all things thrifty but there was quite a bit to go through. The chapters and headings were good but sometimes there were parts that were hard to follow because of a change of topic.

My Favorite Chapters

My favorites were chapters 6 (care for the mama) and 8 (about gardening). But I also enjoyed parts of chapters 3 (food), 5 (cleaning), 9 (kids) and 10 (free fun). This book is a compilation of tips from all of Kate’s previous books so some things I had read already. But regardless of this and the fact that I’ve been practicing frugal living for 5+ years I still found quite a few new things to put into practice.

Chapter 6 is mostly about self care, which I found to be so relevant and helpful. Kate titled this chapter “Beauty for the Lady of the House and Ways to Avoid Burn Out”. There are many helpful ideas about exercise, primping, investment in hobbies, me-time breaks and ways to make homemaking easier.

I loved reading about boredom busters and ways to reduce burnout. There were ideas for staying emotionally and physically healthy and many ways to improve one’s image with little cash.

The part about self-love and pride went straight to my heart as I remembered that yes, I can still dress up and look nice even though I don’t go much of anywhere. This quote also spoke to me:

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All things gardening was covered in chapter 8. I found this particularly helpful as I had just planted my garden when I read this book in early June. I loved the tips about where to find free gardening supplies, re-growing plants and how to make compost without fancy equipment. I love gardening and saving money in this area makes me so happy. I’m learning how to get the most of my plants by dividing and regrowing them. It’s a lot of fun 🙂

And here are a few things I loved about chapters 3, 5, 9 and 10.

Chapter 3 is all about food and the kitchen. I made a mental note of the snacking tips, ways to make meals healthier and reminders of cheap and healthy ingredients. I was suprised to learn I could save money on cat food without compromising too much on quality.

Chapter 5 pertains to cleaning. It’s a challenge for me to make cleaning fun but Kate inspired me anew. I was (and am still) going through a decluttering process here at home. Kate had a lot to say about this and helped me to see it as an easier job instead of a never endingly difficult one.

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Chapter 9 reminded me of what kids really need for health and happiness. There is a lot in this chapter. Minimalist baby care and food, homeschooling help, fun kids activities, preschool ideas, help establishing a first aide kit, preventative care and ways to make birthday parties cheap and fun are all included here. Sometimes I forget how little kids really need. How much they love simple things. And how I’m killing it as a mother even though most of the time I don’t see it. 

Lastly, chapter 10 was full of great suggestions for places to go and have fun without spending much $. There were so many activities…some that we do now (like the library) and others that I hadn’t thought about in awhile (such as a picnic at the park). Some of these ideas are for the family and others are more geared towards just the mama.

Conclusion

This book is full of so much goodness. It was motivating and encouraging to read. An excellent resource for any homemaker practicing or seeking out ideas for frugal living 🙂

Check out The Homemade Housewife along with Kate’s other helpful books here. All of her books are $0.99, which I love!

~Rachel