MODERN DAY MARTHA

Celebrating the art of making a home
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    Finding Him at home

    Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

    From yesterday’s Vespers Office:

    …that I may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and in the breaking  of bread.

    The experience of Communion is usually how I come to know Christ in the “breaking of bread”, but upon further reflection I think that I can come to know Christ at home, as I “break bread” with friends and family.  For example, I’ve learned so much about the love of God from hearing my grandfather say grace at Thanksgiving dinner.  His careful petition for the Lord’s blessings on his family is moving in it’s simplicity.

    What are experiences you have had over a meal that have helped you come to know Christ?  What are ways we can create those experiences for those who eat at our table?

    Walk like an Egyptian

    Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

    Today for our preschool adventure day we braved the local Rosicrucian museum. I say braved because we went with a passel of 3 year olds, and there were mummies involved. But for the most part the mummies went right over the kids’ heads and hopefully there won’t be any nightmares tonight.

    The reason I’m posting, though, is because of a section of the museum dedicated to home life in Ancient Egypt.  And I quote:

    Women ran the household and its industries, bore and raised children, and saw to the spiritual activities that took place in the home. Egyptians cherished their children, and much of the household ritual and magic was related to procreation. The women of ancient Egypt appreciated beauty, not only in temples and palaces, but also in the objects of everyday use.

    I’ve always had a affinity for ancient Egypt, and reading this today, I felt a deep connection to these women who lived so long ago, but who worked at the same things we do, worried about the same things (in general), and loved the same things.

    In one of the display cases they had a series of carved figures that were made to be buried with a woman when she died, portraying her different roles throughout her life. I love that thought. We all do so much, and are so many things to so many different people; sometimes we need to sit back and realize just how much we do. Preferably before we’re dead. :)

    So that’s your challenge for the day. What roles do you fill in your life? Which do you cherish? Which do you dread?  Why? Which would you carve into little figures to be buried with you?

    Beautiful

    Saturday, October 17th, 2009

    I thought we could all use a little encouragement.  This is from the Vespers Office a few days ago…

    I now place the work of the day into Your hands, trusting that You will redeem my mistakes, and transform my accomplishments into works of praise.

    Home Altar

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    Altar

    I have always had an altar in my home, even as a little girl.  Something about marking off a space as sacred appealed to a basic need in me.  I was reading at this website tonight, and was struck by this quote from the FAQ page:

    Many people are surprised when they realize that they may already have one or more altar-like spaces at home or work, in the garden or elsewhere. Think, for instance, of the fireplace mantle where one places family photos or awards or seasonal items such as fall harvest, holiday boughs and candles or spring flowers. Or consider the small cluster of family pictures and small mementos on the desks in many workplaces.  Some authors have suggested that these could be called unconscious, incipient or unintentional altars.

    What are your altars, intentional or unconscious?  How do they help make your home a temple?

    Photography Tips

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    There is this other blog that I occasionally update called MomShots.  My goal in creating MomShots was to learn how to photograph my children so that I could get professional quality results and teach other parents how to do that too, as I learned.  This October is my two year anniversary of learning photography.  I don’t claim to be a photog expert but I do know that I have learned so much in that short time frame and have transformed my photography.

    I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  I want to share with you, dear MDM readers.  These tips helped me take my photography to another level.  Maybe they will help you.  I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  You do not need a fancy camera (though it doesn’t hurt to have good tools).  You can achieve results you will love with any camera by following these simple guides.

    Tip List:

    • Get close.  Get real close.
    • Get down on their level.
    • Focus on the eyes.
    • Be aware of your background.
    • Be flexible and take lots and lots of shots.

    My first tip here about getting really close was a huge change for me.  For some reason I avoided taking close ups like they were the plaque.  I just didn’t do it.  Once I broke through my photographic mind block I really enjoyed these new shots I was getting.  You can really focus on one person and get a feel for your subject’s zest for life.
    Summer Fun

    The tip of getting down on their level was something that blew my mind.  I could not believe what a difference it made.  Suddenly my shots of my kids went from a boring “adult holding a camera” view to suddenly seeing the world at the child’s level.  If you incorporate this into your photos, you will possibly jump for joy by how much of a change this brings instantly to your shots.
    Cora at the Beach

    Focusing on the eyes is a great way to make sure that you get the attitude and expression you are looking to capture.  You don’t always have to have the eyes in the center of the frame but if they are a prominent feature and in focus, you will enjoy your results much more.  Sometimes you will get so captivated by the eyes that you will ignore all the gunk stuck to their hair and face!
    Mag_by_chair

    Being aware of your background is a huge subject that takes lots of practice and thought.  The basic idea is that you want to avoid backgrounds that are distracting or detract from your subject.  A classic example of this is to take a photo and then you realize that there are trees or sticks in the background that appear to be growing out of their head or body.  Realistically we know that nothing is growing out of our children but it can be distracting and unpleasant to look at.  Think about the background and a neutral background is not what you are going for, try something fun.
    Gar_tractor_tire72

    Taking photos of children can sometimes get frustrating because they don’t always want to do the things you would like them to do.  Children have a mind of their own and love to exercise that independence.  In order to save your sanity remember to be flexible.  Try new things and if possible make your photo shoot into a game.  The most important thing to remember is to take tons of photos.  With digital photography you can take many more shots then you might have been able to justify with film.  Don’t be afraid to take as many shots as you can.  The more shots you take, the better the odds are that you will end up with a few that you really love.

    The last bit I want to pass onto you is that once you have learned these tips feel free to expand on them.  Feel free to try new things and ways of looking at your subjects.  The old adage about rules being meant to be broken is a fun thing to apply to photography.  Let your creativity guide you and you will love your results!

    Seek Him in His Temple

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; To behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  –Psalm 27:5-6

    Olea’s honest and beautiful post about taking care of herself in the midst of new mommyhood reminded me of the scripture that says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, if you wanna follow along at home)

    I have been mulling over the idea of temples for the past few days, ever since I prayed the opening quotation in Vespers on Wednesday.  My Mormon friends have a very clear idea of what a temple is, but even they are taught that our homes can and should be a temple too.

    As we seek to make a home, what are some ways we can make it a place where God’s Spirit can be?  And why is that important?

    Who Has Time to Cook?

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

    Well, everyone and no one is the answer to the title question. I used to cook under the catch phrase, “If it doesn’t take an hour or more, it’s not cooking.”

    I say “used to” because one day I found myself holding a very small child in one arm and wondering “How am I going to chop onions now?” and breaking down in tears. And now with three small girls ruling my life and running my house, the luxury I enjoyed as an under-employed home maker–you know, spending half a day on one meal–has flown out the window and left me searching for ways to make my desire to create in the kitchen mesh with the needs of my young family. It’s a struggle.

    Let me share my vision with you. What is food? Simply, energy for your body. Every body needs basic nutrients everyday to live. What is cooking? To me, cooking is the way we transcend meeting the basic needs of our bodies and create foods that do indeed nourish our traditions and our souls as well as our bodies. What is a meal, then? Every meal is an opportunity to use food to express some aspect of ourselves to those we are feeding. Even if that person is you.

    To this respect, one doesn’t have to master the art of French cooking to be a fine cook. After I had my first child and stood in the kitchen crying about no longer being able to spend two hours on dinner I realized I had to change my idea of what cooking was. For me cooking evolved from mastering exotic cuisine (I have made my own Indian curry blends…grinding seeds and spices by hand for the authentic flavor and textures) to mastering the art of a fresh delicious fast meal. I think the disservice that food television and the lovely glossy magazines and the oh so wonderful food memoirs has done to the home cook is to make us feel like we have to spend hours over a stove or we’re not really cooking. I know that’s exactly how I felt. As working women–be it career wise or mommy wise–can’t be expected to spend as many hours in the kitchen as a professional cook does. Julia Child, as much as I respect the work she did to increase the awareness of good food to Americans, didn’t cook with kids under foot.

    I have turned back to so many home-style basics some of my culinary school classmates would chide me as hopelessly old-fashioned. But they work. And by looking to healthy short cuts and meals that can prepped during nap time then popped in an oven later on or even utilizing a slow cooker I can have a dinner on the table I’m proud to serve and still have a day to spend with my girls doing the things that matter to them.

    In terms of practicality I focus on one large meal a day. As much as I would love to bake muffins and pastries in the morning, I love how late my girls sleep in and relish my late nights with my husband. I am not waking up before six to cook. And so, breakfast is a mostly cold cereal affair. Sometimes we have oatmeal. Sometimes French toast. We do eat it together and take our time. We linger over milk and bananas and coffee instead of hot buttery croissants. It makes us happy and I know the kids are starting off with tummies full and a less stressed mom.

    Lunch is a challenge, as two to three days a week we picnic it and my girls do not eat well with the distraction of friends and fun around them.When we are at home, I serve toddler food. I make a meal in 15 minutes or less because that’s what I’ve got to work with. We have a whole lot of chicken tenders and pasta with butter. I do serve veggies we all love and I again, sit and eat a meal with them. My focus at lunch is to round out nutritional needs and make sure another good meal gets into their systems. I don’t fight or stress over lunch choices. A well stocked freezer and snack pantry is my friend for lunch.

    Dinner is hard. I know it is. But I believe it is important so I make it a goal to cook for my family every night I can. Dinner is the meal I cook for myself and my husband. Dinner is the meal I use to expand palettes. Dinner is also the meal I don’t worry about if it doesn’t get eaten because I’ve tried to meet the needs of the kids throughout the day. So I can enjoy my meal and know that one day my adventurous eater will return because I’ve properly set the stage (this is the mantra that gets me through all the ‘but I don’t like thaaaaat’ whining happening here right now).

    So let’s talk about dinner. Dinner has become the cornerstone of my day. I plan my weeks around dinner and my dinners around my weeks. I make a dinner schedule. I sit down either Friday night with a couple of my favorite cookbooks (I’ll post some titles at the end of this missive) and decide what I want to make based on the weather, how we’re feeling, what we’ve had the previous week and how busy our week is going to be. I have a white board I stick on the fridge with the meal plan written out so I don’t forget what I’m cooking. If I’m using a recipe (I don’t always) I have the cookbook and page number written next to it.

    I use the season and the weather as inspiration. I like to make sure I’m planning a variety of proteins, balancing red meat, pork, chicken and fish and at least one meatless meal throughout the week. And I do find inspiration in food magazines. I love Bon Appetit. They have a few regular features that work for me. I love the “Dinner for Four and Leftovers” which is a kid friendly meal all planned out that uses the leftovers for lunch the next day. And “Fast Easy Fresh” utilizes seasonal ingredients in recipes that take 20-45 minutes to prepare.

    I shop once and (try to) obtain everything I need for a weeks worth of cooking because nothing is more frustrating than staring at a cupboard with no clue as to it’s contents and no idea how to put them together anyway. Like any craft, having the right tools will make your project more fun.

    Food should be fun. I think we as home cooks also lose sight of that simple fact in the rush to get food to the table and the cajoling to get kids to eat or in the balancing act of cooking for one. Food is fun. We could all drink protein shakes and take vitamins and survive. Cooking transforms the cook as well as the food. It builds us up on many levels. It doesn’t have to be tricky. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done with love.

    I could go on…but maybe I’ll let you all digest this meal. I will recommend this cookbook even thought it’s out of print: The Working Stiff Cookbook

    One great feature is the “Well Stocked Pantry” page with suggestions of basics to keep around for cooking these, and many other, tasty meals. There are also very easy versions of exotic foods that use familiar ingredients and are a good place to begin the introduction of, say, curry to a three-year-old.

    Also check out A Year of Slow Cooking for slow-cooker inspiration. This is my saving grace on days when I know we’re going to be out of the house for most of the day. And honestly, nothing is better than walking into your own home and smelling dinner cooking deliciously away.

    The Year of Magical Thinking

    Saturday, September 26th, 2009

    Later after I married and had a child, I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life.  Setting the table.  Lighting the candles.  Building the fire.  Cooking.  All those souffles, all that creme caramel, all those daubes and albondigas and gumbos.  Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way.  These fragments I have shared against my ruins were the words that came to mind then.  These fragments mattered to me.  I believed in them.

    What rituals of domestic life do you find meaning in?

    Key words

    Friday, September 25th, 2009

    Slowness.

    Abundance.

    Compassion.

    Mercy.

    These are the themes that keep popping up in the books I’m reading, the shows we’re watching. I’m trying to take the lessons to heart.

    What are your key words this week/month/year?

    Psalm 25:1

    Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

    To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you…

    I lift up my soul to my God by praying the offices.  Four times a day I pause and praise and petition.  How do you lift up your soul?