Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Today was the final day of the four days of celebrations that have been held here in England to honour our Queen's Diamond Jubilee. On 2nd June 1952, the coronation of our Queen, Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth 2nd, was held, and this year marked 60 years of her reign. The only other Queen in English history who has celebrated such a long reign is Queen Victoria. There has been a service of thanksgiving from St. Paul's Cathedral in London today, followed by a carriage procession. These were televised, so we caught a few of the highlights, but did not spend all day watching the TV as we had other things that we wished to do with our day off (today and yesterday have been bank holidays in England to mark the celebrations). While we watched and listened I must admit, we did all feel very proud of our Queen and Country! I did like to see all the lovely outfits that the Queen has worn over the weekend too - very beautiful and elegant, although nothing like the ones that her predecessor Queen Victoria wore! You can see some of the most famous outfits worn by different members of the Royal Family if you visit Sandringham, their country home in Suffolk, and of course also in the famous Victoria & Albert museum in London, where you can see clothes that Queen Victoria wore along with many other beautiful artefacts.
To mark the celebrations in our own home, we decided to eat a tea in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, so I cooked a meal that was a little different than what we are use to eating for our evening meal today. Rather than have a traditional "high tea" as many people have chosen to do, we decided to have something else, because we enjoyed a special tea like this not long ago when we celebrated our wedding anniversary back in May. So instead I had a look through all my recipe books, and decided to create a meal based on the sort of food that people would have eaten back in 1952!
For our main course we had this ...
Savoury bread-and-butter pudding! This is a post-war recipe from my "Post War Kitchen" cookbook. In 1952 rationing was still prevalent and fancy ingredients scarce, so basic recipes like this one were very popular. I followed it with a few tweaks to make it a little more exciting to our more modern taste-buds. If you would like to have a go at copying this recipe, it is very simple - really the same as the stratas that I often make if I want a dish I can prepare ahead of time. And yes it was delicious - in fact even nicer than I was expecting - the cheesy topping made the crust of the bread very crisp and tasty, and it was beautifully light and fluffy underneath - almost like a rather fancy soufflee - which I imagine is how it was intended to be.
You will need one loaf of 2 - 3 day old bread - I used a cheese and onion monkey bread loaf that I got at the supermarket on Saturday, but any bread will do - though be warned, don't try to make this using prepackaged "sliced" bread - it will turn into a cotton-wool like mush if you do and be horrible. You need real bread with a proper crust - but it doesn't need to be fresh - in fact you can add any bits of bread you may have that need eating up, along with bits of bacon or ham if you have any, added to the other ingredients, which makes this a very frugal recipe indeed!
Also you will need ...
1 pint milk (full fat is better - but it will work if you prefer to use half-fat or semi skimmed. I used half-fat as this is all we ever buy)
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
about 3 oz grated cheese
salt and pepper
Start preparing this dish for your evening meal the morning before you intend to eat it.
1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole or roasting pan. Cut the bread into thick slices and then into diamonds (I didn't have to do this with the monkey bread, which is like a ring of joined-together rolls. Instead I sliced each roll section in half). Arrange the bread slices in the pan.
2. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl and break in the egg (more modern strata recipes usually ask for more eggs than this. I was worried this would be thin and runny when it cooked, but it wasn't - no one noticed the lack of eggs. In war-time of course, powdered egg would have been used but I didn't fancy being that authentic!). Beat milk and egg together and add seasonings to taste.
3. Cut the onion and pepper into small cubes and sprinkle over the bread, then pour over the milk and egg mixture.
4. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the top.
5. Now place in the fridge, and leave to chill for several hours.
6. Remove from the fridge to come to room temperature (about 45 minutes, in our chilly kitchen) before baking, which will take about 40 minutes at 180 degrees in a fan assisted oven. If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover with some foil for the last 10 minutes or so).
I served this with taties (potatoes roasted in their jackets) and green vegetables, as it would have been eaten 60 years ago, and some English mustard as a condiment (which really did complement the flavours - another time I will try adding a little to the actual dish).
To follow, we had raspberry crumble and custard! Another traditional, frugal English dish - and the custard was made, just as it would have been back then, with old-fashion custard powder! In fact, this isn't a deviation from what I normally do - I always make custard this way. It takes a little longer than mixing a ready-made sachet or buying a can and warming it up, but it is much more economical and I like how you can make as much or as little as you need. I'm sorry there's no picture of that. It took a bit of trouble to get the laptop set up and I did not want our meal to be served cold. To make the crumble I simply made a topping from all-purpose flour, muscovado sugar and butter, and sprinkled it over 2 packs of defrosted frozen raspberries (back in 1952 of course, these would have been picked straight from the bushes, but it isn't quite ripening time here in chilly England just yet, though we did have some fresh raspberries to eat this weekend - not enough for a crumble, though). I don't bother to stew the raspberries before using them for a crumble if they have been frozen - as they defrost they produce plenty of juice, and I don't even add any sugar to them - the topping is sweet enough as it is. Of course, you don't have to serve crumble with custard - ice cream is nice too, or a little cream (which is what I had as I am personally not a great fan of custard). Some members of the family had custard and cream, but I won't tell which ones!
This was the prayer that was said this morning in St. Paul's Cathedral at the service of thanksgiving for our Queen. We felt it would be very fitting if Papa Bear used it as our grace this evening, so this is what he said ... perhaps you might like to say this prayer today, too?
God of time and eternity, whose Son reigns as servant, not master;
We give you thanks and praise that you have blessed this Nation, the Realms and Territories with Elizabeth, our beloved and glorious Queen.
In this year of Jubilee, grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace as she continues in faithful obedience to you, her Lord and God,
And in devoted service to her lands and peoples, and those of the Commonwealth, now and all the days of her life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Monday, 4 June 2012
I decided to use the beautiful new tea set that Papa Bear gave me when we celebrated our wedding anniversary - exactly a month ago today. Isn't it pretty? Today seemed like the perfect day for enjoying a cup of tea together - we're sure our Queen, celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, would approve! I love having an opportunity to use my pretty china - Papa Bear says I have so many sets now that I will soon be able to use a different one for each month of the year! I do have quite a few, it's true, but not quite as many as twelve! My most precious set is the one that we were given for our actual wedding day - it is beautifully old-fashion with a pretty, delicate pattern of ribbons and pink flowers, but as it is discontinued now, I only use it on very special occasions. But, do you know, I love this rose-patterned set just as much - it is so sweet, just like my very precious husband, who gave it to me!
Although the tradition of tea-drinking is often associated with English culture, it has its origins in China, and is drunk all around the world in different guises. The word "tea" derives from the Chinese - "cha", and in our own mother tongue, it is called "chai". But wherever and whatever it is called, tea is a very popular drink indeed!
What we call "tea" is actually a meal - our evening meal, which we eat at about 5 - 6 pm. The tradition of calling the evening meal "tea" is an English one - and derives from the Victorian tradition of "afternoon" or "high" tea - a meal of baked goods such as scones, cake and small sandwiches, and often bread toasted over the fire, served in the middle of the afternoon. This might then have been followed by a heavier meal later in the evening called "dinner" (which is what we call our lunchtime meal, just to confuse everyone who is not from North East England) and then possibly a second, much lighter meal consisting perhaps of bread-and-butter or other simple, plain foods, called "supper", and eaten before bedtime. We occasionally have a "supper" of more tea, and some biscuits (plain cookies) before we go to bed, but we don't often need this nowadays - in our modern world of mechanical conveniences, we don't burn enough energy to need so many calories each day, and three meals are plenty for most of us. However, that's not to say that we can't enjoy a proper old-fashioned tea, on a special occasion like our Queen's Diamond Jubilee!
Of course, tea can be drunk at other times of day apart from in the afternoon! In England, tea is most commonly drunk in the morning with our breakfast (it is still more popular than coffee - and in our home is drunk exclusively as none of us really ever drinks coffee) and I will then also make a big flask of strong tea for Papa Bear to take to work with him, which he can drink whenever he has a break, along with something like a piece of shortcake or a muffin, which I will have made during the weekend for him to take to work to enjoy with his tea (he is one of the lucky few who still does use up enough energy each day to need the additional calories of snacks like this). He especially likes shortcake, and I shall share the recipe for that with you soon. But today, I want to share with you how a cup of tea should be made - properly!
Of course, you will need some proper tea, to begin with ... not teabags, and not herb tea either - both of which are delicious too, but on this occasion you need real proper loose leaf tea - like this brand which we always have as our regular tea (we prefer the taste of this to teabags, though I'll agree, it is a little more messy to wash up!). The little clip on the left-hand side of the packet is actually a clothes peg with a ladybird on it!
This is how tea-making is explained in my wonderful vintage copy of the "Good Housekeeping" Home Encyclopaedia, published in 1952! I love this huge volume of home hints and recipes, which Papa Bear and the cubs gave to me one birthday. It is a huge black-and white illustrated "manual" which would have been treasured by every eager new wife who recieved a copy - and as it was published exactly 60 years ago, I thought it would be fun to share the instructions for making that very English of beverages - tea - on this very special day in our country's history.
From the encyclopaedia ...
1. Make sure the teapot is clean inside.
2. Boil freshly drawn water (soft water makes darker tea, but many people do not consider the flavour is so good as that of tea made with hard water).
3. Heat the teapot thoroughly, preferably by filling it up to the top with boiling water.
4. Empty the pot and add the tea. The quantity varies according to the type and blend - more is required with China tea than with Indian, for example; an average amount is 2 teaspoons of tea to 3/4 pint water (note - I use one teaspoon per person, plus an extra one for the pot).
5. Take the hot teapot to the kettle and pour the boiling water onto the leaves, then cover the pot to keep it warm. The tea should be made as soon as the water boils; water that has boiled for some time is "flat" and spoils the flavour of the tea.
6. Allow the inufsion to stand for 3 minutes in the case of ordinary Indian teas and 5 - 6 minutes for China or high-grade Indian tea, stirring it once, if desired.
The encyclopaedia also gives instructions for the serving of the tea ...
Keep the tea hot in an insulated pot or by using a tea-cosy. Sugar and milk or lemon are served with it, according to taste. If milk is required it is usually placed in the cup first, the tea being poured in afterwards. Lemon is usually served with China or high-grade teas; it should be wiped and cut into thin slices.
I love the scent of Earl Grey tea and lemon, but I dislike the taste of it, for to me it seems to have a very metallic taste and as it is not served with milk I find it quite bitter to drink. But it smells so beautiful - of balmy summer afternoons sat in the shade in a garden full of roses and honeysuckle - that sometimes I buy a box just so that I can brew some and enjoy the scent! (Fortunately Little Bear likes the taste, so it doesn't get wasted).
If you love the idea of a traditional English tea, then Emilie Barnes's book "If Teacups Could Talk", is a wonderful inspiration! I love the illustrations in this book, and there are lots of great ideas and recipes included as well as Scriptural references and anecdotes, that make this a book that warms my heart just as much as a cup of hot tea on a cold day - you can buy it on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk - both new and used.
Now, it's time for another cup of tea, I think!
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
(Romans 8: 12-17).
Saturday, 2 June 2012
I have had a lovely peaceful time today. Little Bear has been out at her job in the town, and Papa Bear and Cubby have been out fishing! So I had a whole day by myself to do as I pleased ... well, after I had finished my chores, anyways! I didn't have too much to do today, it being Saturday, so after I was done, I decided to get on with a couple of things that I have had planned for a while now. The first of these I hope to share with you in more detail when it is printed out. I have got it nearly ready, but Papa Bear is going to have a look at it and see if he can get the pictures all lined up for me. For a while now I have been thinking how nice it would be to have in print some of the lovely free e-books and pamphlets that you can get on the internet nowadays. But I wanted to go one step further, and not just print it out, but illustrate it too, using some of the beautiful images that I have seen but can't share here on the blog because they are not for public use. So I picked out some of my favourites, and this afternoon I sat down and spent 2 hours illustrating this pamplet. If you follow the link there you will find a wealth of Christian reading! When it was done and all ready for Papa Bear to finish off for me, I was so pleased with how it looked. I shall enjoy reading this when I am having my quiet times in the evenings.
I also set to work and made a whole big platterful of these - cookie dough truffles. I wasn't planning to - but I have had a big pot of my home made granola cooking in one of my slow cookers today, and I knew that the delicious sweet smell of baking which would greet my familys' noses when they came home tired and hungry from their busy days, would be very dissapointing for them unless there was something yummy for them too! Cookie dough truffles are a real treat - they are very, very moreish, and full of things we shouldn't be eating too often - so I don't make them very frequently for that reason! They are probably my most asked-for treat however, and I did not want to make actual cookies, as it has been warm here recently (though not for much longer, the Jubilee celebrations are set to be rained upon for the next couple of days - but then, what could be more English, than celebrating in the rain!) so they would not be so welcome as a chilled treat, which these are. I must confess, if you follow the link to the recipe, that my cookie dough truffles look nothing like the ones in the picture! For one thing they are rough, not smooth (I use real dark chocolate to coat them, not cake covering as the recipe suggests, as we think it tastes much nicer) and for another, they are much larger! I shan't admit just how few I make, out of the recipe - certainly nothing like the 5 1/2 dozen suggested! My family adores them so I knew they would be delighted to be greeted with them - and they were! Not quite all of them have been eaten just yet - but quite a few!
One of the other things I did, which I really enjoyed, was looking through those 2 magazines that you can see pictured above. I've been thinking recently about our Queen and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations that are taking place here in England this long weekend, and I was minded of these 2 "My Home" magazines that Grandmama Bear gave me, quite some time ago now, and which I have kept, as they are a wonderful archive of life in times gone by. One of them is dated 1947, and the other is from 1942. Scanning through them is such a revelation - how our world has changed since then! I love the advertisements in the back of them, many for items that we can still buy in England today - Dettol disinfectant, Oxo stock cubes, TCP antiseptic ointment, Bovril beef extract (used as a drink - it is quite nice, but very salty. I keep a jar to use as a seasoning in dishes such as shepherd's pie or beef casserole), Chivers jellies, and Wright's Coal Tar bar soap (which you can still buy in our supermarket, and which smells very strongly of disinfectant)! There are some adverts too for things that thankfully, you can't buy any more too! "Dr. Niblett's Vital Renewer" is marketed as a "nerve sedative" - it doesn't say what is in it, but I can't imagine it would do anyone any good, and "Eno's Fruit Salt" sounds disgusting, but it's supposed to be taken every moring for "everyday fitness and health"! They represent an era which is sadly now gone - when women stayed at home to raise their children and care for their homes, and men worked hard to support the family - and bravely defended their country when it was at war. People fulfilled their God-given roles, and were happy to do so - almost half of all people in England in the 1940's were regular churchgoers, compared with only 10 percent now (source).
Here are some pictures of the insides of the magazines ... apologies as usual for the poor quality of the images - but I did manage to get the words the right way around this time!
Adverts for all kinds of things including "Dairy Junket" which was a kind of milk jelly. "Parozone" is a brand of bleach still available in supermarkets today.
I like the book which has been written by "Lady Troubridge" (a regular writer for the magazine) on "Etiquette And Entertaining" - a forgotten art these days, when sitting around the TV eating a takeaway pizza is considered to be good hospitality!
"Everywhere these days the housewife strives to simplify matters to save time, fuel and labour. A fireside electric point is a special blessing. Then with a kettle of streamline design like the "Creda" which boils very quickly, tea is no bother at all. Everything is attractively set out on trolley or tray, the filled kettle just needs the turning on of the switch when you are ready. In a few minutes the water boils, the tea is made, neither electricity or time is wasted. Another point about this kettle is its safety device which cuts off the current if you are called away and the kettle should boil dry".
Imagine being able to appreciate something in this way, that we nowadays take so much for granted that we do not give it a second thought! Just before I started writing this post, I had in fact made myself a cup of tea - by boiling our electric kettle, and it didn't occur to me at all to be grateful that I have the facilities and provision to be able to do this, whenever I feel like it, without any trouble at all. How lucky we are!
The magazines also feature lots of cookery and crafting projects - but these are presented from a practical viewpoint, rather than as pleasurable passtimes as we enjoy them today. Suggestions are made for frugal ways to make your clothes go further - making a little girl's dress out of one she has outgrown, and using mackintosh fabric to create skirts or jackets. In the 1940's it was assumed that all women could use a sewing machine, knit and cook from scratch. No one needed to be taught these skills - they were handed down from mother to daughter. Without them, life would have been very difficult indeed, especially during wartime, when food and clothes were rationed.
Here's an example of a knitting pattern for a woman's short-sleeve cardigan. Knitting wool was also rationed, so short sleeves would have been popular because they used less wool! Doesn't the lady in the picture look elegant? I might have a go at knitting this cardigan - or the wee bolero which is featured in the other magazine.
The sweet dishes in the picture on the left look fancy, but they are made out of simple, easily obtained ingredients like semolina, golden syrup and custard powder, and the servings would have been smaller than we are use to today. The right-hand picture shows a study or sitting room - with the caption "The Home You Hope To Have Sometime".
What I especially like about these magazines is their focus on the role of their female readers as homemakers - wives and mothers with a calling to care for their families and make the most of a very difficult situation. Even though they were living in extremely challenging circumstances, women in the 1940's still managed to look elegant and feminine, to create clean, orderly and beautiful homes with very limited resources, and to provide wholesome nourishing meals and a caring environment - from very little at all. In the priveliged world of today, it seems so tragic that we are not still able to achive this now. The priorities and goals of society today seem to be so distorted now - so far removed from God's plan for us, and from the teachings of Scripture. There is only one way in which we can change - by seeking the guidance of our Father God, and understanding His teaching - by embracing this, and seeking to become His servants, heartfully pursuing a life which honours Him and which fulfills our true goals. In the "My Home" magazines there is a regular article entitled "My Scrapbook", which is described as "A word That Gave You Courage, A few Lines Of Verse That Express Beautifully A Remembered Joy Or Sorrow - Flowers Of Thought We Gather For This Page". Here are two examples that I especially liked -
"Thou has given so much to us, give one thing more, a grateful heart, for Christ's Sake" - George Herbert.
"It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, truth is so;
That howso'er I stray and range
Whate'er I do Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip, Thou dost not fall" - Arthur Hugh Clough
Today my "flower of thought" shall be that, just as this sweet wee verse says, even if the world around me is changing - so rapidly it seems, that none of us truly seem able to keep up - one thing will always remain constant in our lives - our Saviour, His love for us, and the beautiful gift of Salvation that awaits us.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. (Hebrews 13: 8).
Friday, 1 June 2012
For today's Frugal Friday, I thought I would share this very frugal and healthy dish with you, which we eat often in the summer months, sometimes just as it is, and sometimes with a salad. Although it could be eaten as an evening meal quite easily (perhaps with salad and some bread, or garlic bread if you prefer this), we usually eat it for our dinner (lunch). This is what we ate today, as we were all at home!
Now this is not proper pasta primavera, which has asparagus peas and broad beans in it (though indeed you could use these, though it will then not be as cheap to make). The idea behind this frugal meal (and why we often eat it for our dinner on Fridays) is that it is a very good dish for using up all the odds and ends of fresh vegetables that are hiding in the fridge! We do our supermarket shop on Saturdays, so Friday is the day for eating up any leftovers before the fridge gets refilled.
In Italian primavera means "springtime", so this dish normally has a mixture of fresh vegetables in it, and a tomato sauce. In fact it isn't strictly an Italian dish - apparently it originated in New York! Whatever it's source, we think it is delicious, and it is also very nutritious.
Today I made this as follows, using just what I happened to have in the fridge ...
1 onion, finely chopped
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
4 sticks celery, chopped
about 12 large tomatoes, quartered
2 courgettes (zucchini), chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 graffiti aubergine (purple and white striped - if you can find one, do buy it, they are so pretty!), chopped
3 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Italian herb mix
1 teaspoon garlic paste (or you could use the same amount of chopped fresh garlic - in which case add with the other vegetables)
A bag (I go by 2 large handfulls for Little Bear and myself, and 3 for the menfolk, which is pretty much a whole bag) of dried pasta of your choice.
1. Start as always by sauteeing the onion for a few minutes until soft in a large saucepan to which you have a well fitting lid.
2. Add the rest of the vegetables (I tend to chop the harder ones, like the celery, smaller than the softer ones, so that they all cook at the same time). Add chopped garlic too if you are using it at this stage. Sautee until for a few minutes, until tender, but not soft (you want a wee bit of crunch left, to contrast with the softness of the pasta). To stop them browning, add a little salt - this draws moisture out of the vegetables so that they simmer more slowly.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings, and bring to a gentle bubbling. Then turn down the heat and put on the lid of the pan.
4. Allow to simmer at a low heat for about 40 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, remove the lid to reduce down a little.
5. At this point also put your pasta on to boil in another pan (I don't have 2 really large pans so I cook my pasta earlier, and keep it in the refrigerator in a plastic container with a drop or two of cold water, and then just reheat in the microwave for a few minutes when we are ready to eat it).
6. When the sauce is nicely reduced down and the pasta is soft, drain the water from the pasta leaving just a very little water, about a tablespoonfull, in the pan with it, then add the sauce to the pasta (the remaining water will loosen up the sauce a tiny bit and help it stick to the pasta). Stir well, and serve.
Although this tastes best when it is hot, it is also quite delicious cold, eaten like a salad. You really can add any vegetables you like to it - I sometimes add mushrooms, as well, or even sweetcorn. It is good with a little parmesan sprinkled on top as you serve it, or even (as Cubby and Little Bear like it ... ) with grated cheddar!
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Link for this image here.
Aren't the lyrics of this Victorian hymn, originally written in Norwegian, just beautiful? Almost like a prayer, as so many hymns are (or taken from passages of Scripture). I intend one day to write this out in calligraphy script and illustrate it myself, as I would like to have it framed and hung on the wall! It would also make a beautiful gift for a young couple on their wedding day (the tune to the hymn is rather somber to have it sung, at least, we thought so, for a wedding ceremony). But just to read and keep in my heart it is lovely.
O blessèd home where man and wife
Together lead a godly life
By deeds their faith confessing!
There many a happy day is spent,
There Jesus gladly will consent
To tarry with His blessing.
If they have given Him their heart,
The place of honor set apart
For Him each night and morrow,
Then He the storms of life will calm,
Will bring for every wound a balm,
And change to joy their sorrow.
And if their home be dark and drear,
The cruse be empty, hunger near,
All hope within them dying,
Let them despair not in distress;
Lo, Christ is there the bread to bless,
The fragments multiplying.
O Lord, we come before Thy face;
In every home bestow Thy grace
On children, father, mother,
Relieve their wants, their burdens ease,
Let them together dwell in peace
And love to one another.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Despite the heat today, Little Bear and I have been doing the ironing. We put on the radio and listened to Andre Rieu as we ironed and it was great fun! One of us sorted, folded and put away while the other one ironed and then we switched over. Our work was done in no time, and we were almost sorry when we had finished and had to put the iron away until Friday!
Ironing is one of my favourite chores! In fact I think I would go so far as to say that I don't actually think of it as a chore, but a pleasure. It is not just that it is one of the most satisfying household tasks that a homekeeper can work on - you get wonderful results every time, with very little effort or skill required - but also that it is so lovely to work with the clean, sweetly scented clothes (and lavender water, which I put into the iron before I start). I especially like ironing our bedclothes for this reason - everything is so pretty and fresh, and I love to see it all crisply ironed and folded, ready to be put away! In an hour or two you can transform into neatness a heap of creased and rumpled garments with really not much trouble at all, and yet somehow it always makes me feel so efficient! Having my family in nicely ironed clothes is important to me. Even when we were living in very poor and impoverished accommodation (one room with two small babies), I always made certain to iron everything. I would be minded of a passage in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (I think it might be the one most well known of all - "Little House On The Prairie") in which even though the family are travelling in a bow-top wagon with all their possessions piled inside it, Ma still finds a way to launder their clothes - and iron them, using the front seat of the wagon as an ironing board! That was always an inspiration to me to make sure I found a way to keep our clothes looking nice, too.
One of the garments which I find myself ironing most frequently of all is shirts. Papa Bear and Cubby Bear wear at least five shirts a week (on the other days they may wear sports shirts that do not need ironing), and frequently Little Bear or I will have worn a blouse too, which needs to be ironed in the same way as a man's shirt. Therefore over the years, I have ironed a great many shirts indeed, and I am happy to share what I have learned with readers who may not, through age or circumstance, have quite as many years of experience as I do! Yes, I know that ironing doesn't really come under the same workbox label as creative activities such as knitting or sewing, but for both these skills, it is important that you are also able to iron efficiently, so that your finished garments and other items look professional and neat, and to my mind it is a skill that any crafter, whatever your chosen interest is, may find useful to accomplish - even if you don't have a family to iron for, or you happen to care little for neatly pressed clothes!
I must admit that not all the credit can be given to me! I learned to iron by watching my mother, and Little Bear has learned through watching me using the same technique that I am sure my grandmother and greatgrandmother probably used too. It's a bit of a fiddle, I'll agree - I certainly wouldn't advise a beginner in the art of ironing to start with a shirt - but it is a skill worth knowing! At the very least, you will have a happy husband if you can iron a shirt properly - and a beautiful looking wardrobe, too! So I must thank my mam, Grandmama Bear for handing down her skills to me - and to my daughter, too, who irons her brother's shirts to perfection now.
Start by making sure that you have the right equipment though. An iron doesn't need to cost much - ours didn't, and has lasted for years even so - but I would recommend one that has a steam facility. Most clothes (though not some - silk for example should never be steam ironed) are easier to iron if they are damp, and a steam iron takes out all the bother of having to spray them as you go. I do sometimes spray items that have got really deep creases in them, if they have hung out on the line too long and got really dry before I brought them in, but some irons also have a spray facility built in with the steam function, so have a look at the different models before you buy. If you have a large family to iron for, these little extras may well be very handy indeed.
Also make sure that your ironing board is the right height. Over the years I've ironed on tables, floors, kitchen worktops and even a folded towel on a bed (which was not very successful!) but I must admit I do like my ironing board! It is height-adjustable, which makes work much easier. Ironing is less hard work if the ironing board is below waist height, so that you are able to lean over and put more of your own body weight into the work, so unless you have back troubles, you may find that you will get through your ironing quicker if you lower the board a notch or two. I didn't realise this until recently, quite by accident when I set the ironing board up incorrectly without really watching what I was doing, and then found it was stuck and I couldn't adjust it back up to the right height (which was in fact much too high for me). Rather than wait for Papa Bear to come home from work and adjust it for me, I got to work anyway, and was amazed by how much eaiser it was using the board set at the much lower setting! Now I always use it this way and find my work much less tiring. Try it and see - you will be very surprised, I promise!
Now for your shirt ...
Check in the label of the garment to ensure you will be setting the iron to the correct temperature. I tend to iron shirts after synthetics, but before jeans or bedding, and use the iron on its hottest, or nearly hottest setting, because most of Papa and Cubby Bear's shirts are made of thick brushed cotton, and not polycotton which needs ironing on a lower setting. Denim shirts need a hotter setting still. If unsure, set the iron lower than you want, and if it doesn't make quick work of smoothing out the creases, raise the setting a notch or two and try again. It is worth being cautious - if you use too high a setting you will scorch the fabric and there is really no way to remedy this apart from sewing a patch over the scorched place if this is possible without spoiling the look of the garment. We've all done it - but I've learned over the years to proceed with caution!
Ensure the soleplate of your iron is clean (if you've previously scorched a garment, it may not be ... so do look! You can clean scorches off by very gently scrubbing the soleplate with a scourer (a plastic one is better than a metal one) dipped in a little fabric conditioner.
Start with the shirt inside out, unbuttoned (don't forget cuffs), and iron all the double thickness parts first (apart from the collar). I like to do the seams down the front and then the cuffs. It is a bit tricky to navigate around the buttons, but if you look closely at the soleplate of your iron, you will see a small ridge all around the edge which is there especially to make it easier to iron around buttons!
When ironing cuffs (and collar), iron from the inside edge to the outer, smoothing them so that the fabric isn't rucked at all. Sometimes it helps just to dab the edges with the tip of the iron.
Turn the shirt the right way around now, and hold it with the back facing you. Fold it just below where the seam of the yoke is (about 6 inches from the collar on a man's shirt) so that the yoke is uppermost. Now lay the shirt on the board with the fold at the edge, and iron just the folded part (not to the fold, or you will get a big line beneath the seam of the yoke, which you don't want).
Iron the collar band on both sides next.
Then iron the collar itself, smoothing the creases inwards towards the collar band, then finally giving one stroke of the iron in the opposite direction.
Now iron the sleeves by stretching it out, smoothing the underarm seam so that the fabric lies evenly on either side (if you don't do this, then you will end up with a line along one side of the sleeve, where the seam didn't quite lie flat). Iron the sleeve double thickness from shoulder to cuff, then turn over and repeat. I do iron a crease into the top (upperarm) edge of a sleeve because Papa Bear likes them done this way but some men prefer not to have this so if you are an eager new wife, do check that you are doing it the way your husband likes! Or ask his mother - Cubby Bear is going to expect a wife who knows how to iron creases into his shirt sleeves! If the menfolk in your life do not want a crease along the upper arm of their shirts, then bring the iron just within the edge of the fabric to avoid the crease appearing. Repeat on the other side.
Iron the body of the shirt starting with the back, then both fronts.
Lay the shirt face up on the ironing board so that the pleats or darts in the back lie as they would when it was being worn, then iron these into place.
Repeat on the front of the shirt, if there is tailoring here too (on most labouring work shirts, of the sort Papa Bear wears, there is no extra tailoring on the front as the shirt is designed to be worn over other clothes and therefore is cut big anyway).
Finally button the shirt over a hanger, or if it is going to be stored or put in a case for travelling, fold it by laying it face down on the ironing board, folding the side seams back to the centre back and lying the sleeves along the folded edges. Then turn up the cuffs into the sleeves, and turn the base of the shirt up into the body about 6 inches or so, then fold again in half. This will result in a neatly folded shirt that should not need ironing again when unfolded.
I like to think that each and every shirt I have ironed for Papa Bear and Cubby has been infused, along with the beautful lavender water, by a veil of my love that will embrace them all day long when they put the shirt on! Fanciful maybe, but a lovely thought for me!
Happy ironing everyone!
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Yesteday I wrote about the sweet fragrance of grace. Today in Tuesday's Time To, I thought I would carry on this theme, and write about scents!
Our sense of smell is a very important gift. There are too many different scents in the world to be able to number - and our ability to distinguish between them allows us to make many different inferences and choices. Scent is also an important aspect of our emotional make-up too. Scents can be part of memories; they can tell us whether we are with someone (or something) familiar. They can bring us great pleasure - and we are happy to spend a lot of money on scents that make us feel wonderful too! Scents can be complicated too ... think of the scent of cinnamon rolls or spice cookies baking, and how it makes you feel - that mixture of cosiness, nostalgia, excitement and peace, which is the combination of all the different remembered feelings we have about Christmas, or feeling good when we were young. They can arouse more than just one feeling, and some scents have many different layers to them too. Perfumes are designed with different "notes" that develop over the time that the wearer has it on, and it will smell different at different times of day as a result.
Without any sense of smell, it would be harder to determine if food was safe to eat or not - and it certainly helps to enhance our sense of appetite too. It's a unique gift as well because everyone's sense of smell is slightly different, and what smells great to one person might not smell so good to another. When I was expecting Cubby Bear, my pregnancy cravings were not for food, as they had been with Little Bear (for broccoli and red delicious apples - not on the same plate!). With Cubby, my cravings were for the smell of washing powder! I would sit on the floor by our washing machine with Little Bear, holding the box of washing powder in my lap and sniffing it! I found it absolutely irresistible! When Cubby was born of course, the craving went away, and though I do still like the scent of washing powder, I dont' need to sit and sniff the box any more! I don't know what Little Bear thought as she sat in her wee cradleseat and watched me! To this day she adores broccoli and red apples, but I can't say I've noticed Cubby having any srong leanings towards the scent of washing powder! Anyway, here are my Tuesday's Time To thoughts on fragrance ...
A Time To Plant ...
The scent of plants is very evocative. There are so many gorgeous ones it's hard to know where to begin. Growing up on the borders of North East England and Scotland, one of my favourite plant scents is that of bracken. It has a beautiful, woody aroma which instantly transports me to some of my most loved places in England, and makes me think of the rough, craggy hills that were just beyond the boundaries of the farm where I lived. I loved walking up through the huge jagged rocks, to where water would fall between them, clear and icy cold. All along the path the bracken would grow, and it would form a soft blanket on the ground beneath my feet in Autumn. I miss that landscape now - we live in a much flatter part of England - but I know the crags and fells are still there for me, whenever we go to visit our family that still lives there.
A Time To Heal ...
There are so many healing scents! Many herbs, such as peppermint, chamomile, raspberry leaf and licquorice, are beautifully scented and used in natural medicine. I like the aroma of olbas oil, a mixture of essential oils that we use as an inhalant and decongestant when we have colds or sinusitis. And I also love the scent of clove oil which use to be used for toothache - but which I now add a drop of to my duster when I am doing housework. It lends a fresh, clean aroma to the room as I work. People often say that they don't like the scent of disinfectant because it reminds them of hospitals, but I have to say that neither do I dislike the scent of disinfectant, and nor does it remind me of hospitals, in which I have spent more than my fair share of time over the years! I actually quite like the scent of disinfectant!
A Time To Laugh ...
I also like scents that lift my heart and make me smile and feel happy. In the 1990's, Elizabeth Arden brought out a perfume called "Sunflowers", which came packaged in a bright yellow box.
One day when Papa Bear came home from work, he presented me with a bag from a fancy department store in town, and inside it was a cute wee yellow jumper dress for Little Bear, matching yellow dungaree shorts for Cubby, and a bottle of the "Sunflowers" perfume for me! I can remember feeling so happy and loved when I took out the gifts my sweet husband had bought me! And do you know, that perfume smelled of summer! The yellow clothes were perfect for that perfume - we were all three of us bathed in sunshine every time we wore our gifts - and Papa Bear's smile when he saw us was enough to make all our hearts warm!
A Time To Embrace ...
Who can resist snuggling their new baby! I am certain that there's absolutely nothing else in the world that smells quite as precious as a newborn baby and which can make us feel quite as warm and nurturing and loving. When our children were babies, I loved just drinking in their gorgeous aroma. I can't even begin to describe it - just that it was the most perfect scent in all the world! Whenever I held anyone else's baby, they did not smell to me quite so lovely as my own children did! Just scrumptious! Of course, husbands smell delicious too in quite another way! When Papa Bear and I were first married I use to buy him aftershave as a gift on birthdays and at Christmas - but do you know, I love his "real" smell just as much as the aftershave! And even our birds, who I love but don't adore like I do my family - well, their feathers smell gorgeous too - warm and sweet.
A Time To Keep ...
As I say above, scent is a very important element in evoking memory. Some of my happiest memories are aroused by scent - not just the smell of bracken, but many others too - the smell of the dairy cows that were raised on the farm, which is not unpleasant at all, but a wonderful earthy, grassy aroma - the smell of hay - the scent of putty or woodshavings when my dad was doing repairs around the farm buildings - even the rough aroma of the tobacco that the other farm hands smoked in their pipes. All these aromas are of my childhood. At different times of year, there were different scents - the smell of warm tarmac in summer when we played hopscotch and skipping outside, then the wonderful piny scent of Christmas trees in winter! There was the smell of the hyacinths that my mam grew in pots on the windowsill in spring, and in Autumn, wonderful smells of preserving and baking in preparation for the colder months. All my childhood memories are stored in different scents - and I'm sure most other people's are too - just have a think about it now and see what you can remember!
A Time To Sew ...
Now I wonder if you thought "there can't be any scent associated with sewing"? He he! Well there is one! It's a scent I absolutely adore, too. The smell of my sewing machine, when it has been running all afternoon. It's a sort of engine smell, a bit like a steam engine but not anything like as powerful, which is probably caused by the motor getting hot as I use it. I can't describe why I like this smell, but I do - it's the same sort of smell as that of the ink used on printed glossy magazines and brochures, which I also like! He he! What's your strangest favourite scent?
A Time To Speak ...
Of course, scents speak for us. A gift of perfume says "I love you". The aroma of baking bread or cookies says "I care", and the warm fragrance of a roast dinner or casserole says "welcome home". Freshly squeezed orange juice tells my family "rise and shine!" and clean bedlinen says "sweet dreams". Making our homes smell lovely is another way in which we can give a powerful message to our families and to all those who visits our homes, that says, I am taking my role as a homemaker seriously - I want to please God and make my family feel happy and loved - and I'm going to embrace every sense in so doing. It's easy to start thinking of ways we can achieve this - just a few scented candles, or a vase of freesias will lend a sweet fragrance to your home, and make everyone who enters it feel glad to be there.
A Time To Love ...
Roses are of course the bloom that speaks of love - and their scent does too. It is a dream and hope of Papa Bear and I that one day we will again have a garden of our very own, where maybe we can plant some roses of our own. My favourite sort of roses are the big, soft, double-petalled ones that come in every shade, from the palest shell pink to the deepest crimson, with every colour inbetween. Grandmama Bear has some wonderful roses in her garden, some of which are very ancient species, and one in particular is the most beautiful delicate creamy pink colour, almost a soft creamy-coffee, and it has the deepest, loveliest scent, like all other roses distilled into one. I may not yet be able to enjoy such beautiful gifts as a garden of roses of my own - but I do have beautiful bubble baths that are scented almost as delightfully, every evening - thanks to my sweet Papa Bear!
A Time For Peace ...
There can only be one scent for me that makes me think of peace - and which stills my heart whenever I feel restless or anxious - and that is the scent of lavender. It's one of my very favourite scents of all, always calming - in fact I've discovered that a few drops of lavender essential oil on our pillows at bedtime ensure we all get a good night's sleep! When I feel a migraine coming on, I massage a little lavender oil into my temples, and I also use it to scent the water in my steam iron, so that all our laundry smells gorgeous too.
The world is full of so many wonderful things that our Father God has provided us with! I thank Him today for giving us five senses with which to enjoy His beautiful world - and for so many scents to delight us with!
Monday, 28 May 2012
We had such a lovely service at Church yesterday. Although our Church is not all that far from where we live (in a busy town), it is a small, pretty, very ancient building that looks as if it had been picked up from a wee village hamlet in the countryside and set down again in the centre of town, like a toy in a game of make-believe. Somehow it seems cruel to have such a pretty building set against a backdrop of ugly modern concrete structures such as malls, car parks and tower blocks. But step through the gates and you are transported somewhere else entirely. It is surrounded by a high flint wall, and within the Churchyard are several very old cherry blossom trees that form a canopy above you in the sky. The grounds are planted with pretty bulbs and flowers for every season - snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells, violets and wallflowers, michelmas daisies, gladioli and aconites, and the lawns are stippled all summer long with hundreds of daisies. It is all so beautiful and tranquil, and within it is beautiful too! Almost unchanged through the centuries. Through the stained glass windows you can see the blossom trees outside and it is especially lovely to see the turning of the seasons represented in the changing appearance of those trees, framed by the coloured glass windows. Yesterday they were heavy with frilly pink blossoms, that barely moved in the warm still air. Oh I did enjoy being there in the cool gloom of the Church. We had some lovely hymns yesterday too - the one that I shared yesterday (Come Down O Love Divine) was another of the hymns that Papa Bear and I had at our wedding service!
When we got home my mind was buisy with the words from our second Scripture reading - which I also posted yesterday - Galatians 5: 16-26. I kept especially in my heart the words of verses 22 - 23 -
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance ..."
It has been so warm here the last few days, that I felt it was particularly fitting that we should have had this reminder of how our Father God wishes us to conduct ourselves! Hot weather can lead to frayed tempers, and sometimes we need to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that losing our tempers is not Godly behaviour - even when the temperature is rising, and everyone around us seems to be in a bad mood! Remembering these precious verses has helped me to keep cool and calm these last couple of days!
As I lay in my lovely rose fragranced bath yesterday evening, with soft vanilla scented tealights flickering at my toes, I thought again of these words, and of how important it is that I keep hold of God's commands, even when (in fact, particularly when) I don't naturally feel like I want to! It's easy to endeavour to conduct ourselves in a way that glorifies God when life is treating us kindly, and we have no worries or concerns to weigh us down. But it's equally important that we remember to carry on glorifying Him when times get tough. Only that way can we be a true example to others - a beacon for Him in a world of darkness. The beautiful scents of my lovely bath creme and the tealights that my sweet husband has given me, also served to remind me of another very important passage of Scripture - one which I really love, and which I feel is one of the most important of all, as a guide to our conduct. Here we see that we have a very high calling indeed, as God's children - we are to imitate Christ. In so doing, we will become a sweet fragrance to the Lord - expressing the beautiful scent of grace to all those around us. Ephesians 5: 1-33 ...
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband". (Ephesians 5: 1-33).
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to commit this whole Chapter of Scripture to memory, to use as a blueprint for our every action? Papa Bear and I plan to do just this, over the next few weeks. And in so doing, I also hope to give this passage some deeper consideration which I intend to share here, on the blog. I may not be perfect (I know I am far from!) but I can strive to be better - my best - for the sake of my Salvation. And so can anyone! All we have to do, to start with, is open our hearts to the words of our Saviour. And then, work hard to ensure that in all that we do, we are as sweet and beautiful in our demeanour, as our Father God created us to be.
Sunday, 27 May 2012
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another". (Galatians 5: 16-26)
Saturday, 26 May 2012
Source for this image here.
"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works". (1 Timothy 2: 9 - 10).
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works". (1 Timothy 2: 9 - 10).
What beautiful warm weather we are enjoying here at the moment! There is a slight breeze which makes it perfect for being outside - so that is what we have done today! We visited Grandmama Bear and enjoyed sitting in her pretty garden, and then we walked into the town so that we could do a little shopping there. While we were there, we went into one of the big department stores to get something for Little Bear, and afterwards, she and I looked at all the different scented toiletries on display in that store. There were some really beautiful ones - all very attractively packaged with lovely botanical drawings of the plants and flowers they were scented with. Imagine how delighted we were when Papa Bear offered to buy us some! We chose rose scented bath creme and talc to match - and oh, they are just delicious! Little Bear and I are very much looking forwards to enjoying them when we have our baths this evening. Thank you Papa Bear! You do spoil us! He spoiled himself and Cubby Bear too, by buying them a new piece of kit for when they go fishing next weekend, so we were all very happy indeed when we returned home!
One of the nice things about the warm weather is being able to wear some of my pretty cotton dresses and skirts again after having spent the last few months in my darker, heavier garments. Mind though, I like them too - and by September I shall be looking forwards to wearing them again as well - but by now I am well ready to leave them in the wardrobe and wear my lighter clothes instead! Most of my dresses and skirts come from thrift stores. I did use to make a lot of clothes (mostly for myself and Little Bear - shirts for the menfolk are not so easy to do, as the tailoring needs to be very accurate, though I did - and still do - knit for them) and I do plan to make some more - Papa Bear picked out some pretty dress patterns and fabric for me not long ago, but at the moment the vast majority of my wardrobe consists of manufactured clothes, though not bought necessarily from the store on the label.
I have 3 new dresses to wear this summer - and 2 of these are in fact new. Papa Bear bought them a couple of months ago, but it hasn't been warm enough until now to wear them! Today I am wearing one of them, which is dark blue with a pink, turquoise, yellow and white floral pattern on it. It has short sleeves and a sweetheart neckline trimmed with blue ric-rac. I like it very much - and it feels lovely and fresh when I wear it! Papa Bear likes it too! I love to feel pretty and feminine in my dresses, and can't imagine feeling the same way in a pair of jeans or shorts - but it isn't that way for every woman. At this time of year, you can see people dressed in just about anything - some even look as if they are wearing nothing but their underthings, and girls far younger than Little Bear seem quite content to walk around in public dressed this way without any concern for the image they are projecting to other people. It frightens me that as a society we have become so careless about the way we look - and that no one seems to think that it matters very much. But does it?
"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
It does matter very much how we dress. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is saying in the passage above that we must honour God with our bodies. This means outside, as well as in - we must take care of ourselves physically, and what better way to demonstrate this, than by paying attention to our appearance? Of course, I am not talking about vanity here - but about dressing modestly and appropriately, in a way that does not tempt or encourage impure thoughts by others and which also demonstrates our willingness to reflect the Holiness of the Spirit that dwells within us. If we dress in a way that honours God, then we make ourselves a visible witness to others - and that's why it's important that we do care about how we look - it is part of our duty as God's servants - and it's also our duty, as wives and mothers, to ensure that we demonstrate our understanding and willingness to conform to this, that we might serve as a role model to our daughters (Titus 2: 3-5).
But oh, how difficult it can be! It seems to me as if there are two main ways in which we women fail to honour God through our appearance. Firstly, by dressing in an impure and immodest way, revealing the shapes of our bodies and our flesh through our clothes, and secondly, by failing to give enough attention to our appearance, so that we look sloppy, or frumpy, and unattractive. I've posted previously about the need for us to dress modestly, so that we honour our Father God - and our husbands too. Today I am going to write about the need to pay attention to our appearance and dress attractively - for these very same reasons.
There are several factors that contribute to us allowing ourselves to lose the way when it comes to our appearance. When our children are young, it is so difficult to find the time to set aside to consider our own needs. We prioritise the needs of our family first, instead, and we get relegated - like my winter clothes at the back of the wardrobe - so that we're forgotten about! There always seems to be something more important to be concerned with instead of how we look - and finding enough time to spend getting our hair straight, applying a little make-up - even ironing our clothes and putting together an outfit that matches - seem like impossible goals when there are so many other more immediate pressures. But it should not be this way. I know this is how it could easily have been for me - but somehow, there was some wee flicker of motivation that burned deep within me - partly love for our Father God, and partly love for my husband - that made me want to make sure that each and every day, I presented myself to him anew as a gift - the same gift that he had taken ownership of, on our wedding day. That way, I knew (though I didn't even think it consciously) I would be honoring him - and therefore, God. So I worked hard to make this possible. It wasn't always easy, but knowing how much he appreciated my efforts gave me enough motivation to keep at it.
These are some of the things that I've found have helped when you are short of time - and probably energy too - to give attention to yourself.
Keep it simple - it is much easier to put together attractive outfits if you only have a small base wardrobe to choose from - in a few colours that all complement each other. Over the years that you put together your wardrobe you'll know which colours work best for you (I suit pastels and softer colours rather than very deep or bright colours). Use these as your basis for most outfits, and vary the details, such as scarves, jewellery or shoes. If you stick to a basic pallette of colours that you like, these will become "your" colours, and everyone you know will come to associate you with them - which will mean that whenever you are given clothing as a gift, you know it will suit you!
Always do your hair - even if you really don't feel like it, I promise that it will make you feel one hundred times better, if you do. If it is really troubling you to find the motivation to do this, why not try buying yourself a new hair trimming, or a different style? Even a simple plastic or fabric hairband worn with clean, well brushed hair, will look lovely, and like you have taken some care with your appearance. I find keeping a small handbag-sized hairbrush available with me means that I can tidy up my hair when I'm at home as often as I like just with a few quick brushes, so it always means I'm reasonably well groomed! Keep a few pretty hair clips or other trimmings in a place that's easy to get to, and then you can dress up your hair in minutes whenever you need to.
Jewellery - yes, we are not to wear too much (1 Peter 3: 3-4), but a little (especially if it something your husband gave you) will also make you look as if you have spent time on yourself. Again, if you are really short on time, only make available a few items, and rotate these - or do as I do, and mainly wear gold, which I don't actually ever remove, even for bed. A pretty, dainty watch, bracelet or chain may be all you want to wear - but this will be enough! Or have some signature items that you always wear, as I do - you'll probably find that your family may then contribute to your collection quite unexpectedly, when you have a special birthday or anniversary!
Make-up - likewise, we mustn't paint ourselves so we look like pantomime dames! But a little lip gloss and some mascara take a few seconds to apply, and do make all the difference. I'm quite pale, so I always make sure to have a little blusher on, even if nothing else. My whole make-up routine doesn't take very long at all, and I always wear the same make-up as I have a very pared-down make-up bag, but I make a point to wear some, every day. At the very least just a dab of lipstick!
Talking of routines, having a grooming routine really helps to buy you some time to devote to yourself. I know (because I felt this way, and still do, sometimes) that it's easy to feel that it is somehow wrong to concentrate on yourself, when your family's needs are more important. But I promise that if you do give yourself some time, you will feel so much better for it, that your family will benefit from this positively too - so see it as time invested in you for them, and that way it will be a little easier. I tend to set out my clothes for the next day the evening before - just as I am going to bed (Papa Bear also does this too as it saves him time in the mornings). I may need to check the weather forecast first! But if my outfit is ready to put on when I get up in the morning, it makes me feel as if I am organised already, before my day has really even started! I do everything in the same order - which means that if I get interrupted, then I know exactly where to pick up from and what else still needs to be done. I've always been in the habit of rising before the rest of the family, and this time to myself is really valuable. I know it's difficult - and I only succeed in this by going to bed very early, but it means that I feel as if I am starting off the day on the right foot, and therefore my mind is calm and my heart is happy as I begin my day.
The evenings may be a better time for you to buy yourself some time, and this is when you can take the opportunity to really pamper yourself. Once your children are in bed asleep (I can't stress highly enough how their routines are as important as yours - if you don't have schedules for your children, then you will never be able to organise yourself - this is the first thing we wives need to think about, when we are planning our days!) then you can use the evening to pamper yourself and set aside some time to do some nice things like painting your toenails, giving yourself a facial, having a workout, or even just, as I plan to do tonight, a wonderful long bath with some gorgeously scented toiletries!
These things will certainly make you feel better about yourself. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day is all you need, and if you combine this with generally trying to eat sensibly and getting some exercise each day, you will certainly be investing in your wellbeing in a way that benefits the whole family. Having said that, we do feel that it's important not to make an idol of your health. It's just as damaging to your body and spirit to be too concerned with food and fitness, as it is to not care at all. As a family, we try to have a wholesome attitude to our diet and health. We don't obsess over it, and aren't interested in cranky diet plans or food elimination regimes. We also believe that our physical fitness should be incidental, and come from our everyday activities, rather than setting aside time to go to the gym. For example, we walked into the town today - it took us 45 minutes, so that was our workout today!
There is another reason that some women struggle with dressing themselves in a way that honours God. It can seem that the alternative to dressing in a worldy and immodest way is to dress like a frump - but that really isn't the case. Some dear women seem to hesitate over wearing only long dresses and skirts because they fear that they will look less attractive to their husbands than they do in tight jeans or miniskirts. I can confirm wholeheartedly that this isn't the case - Papa Bear certainly prefers to see me in my dresses and skirts! But there are some things that you can do, if this is a concern of yours, to ensure you don't go down the "sack" route!
Women come in every shape and size - and we are all beautiful, as God's children. But we do all look much better if we wear clothes that fit us well. I'm very tiny - so it's extremely easy for me to look frumpy! Clothes that are too large look just as unbecoming as those that are too tight. Don't be ashamed to buy clothes in the right size for you. If like me you find this quite difficult, for whatever reason, then this is a good motivation to sew your own! You can make them just the right size for your personal body shape and they will look great because they are personally tailored to fit only you! Bigger women may tend to look better in larger prints than smaller women, but I don't see why any of us should have to wear dull clothes with few patterns or textures. Be led by what your husband likes - Papa Bear prefers my clothes to be generally in pastel florals or denims, so that is what I wear. But your husband might have quite different ideas! It's lovely to shop for clothes together - so if you aren't really sure what suits you, seek his opinion - you can be sure it will be right!
I also try to put my outfits together so everything matches (shoes, jewellery, handbags etc). The exception to this is headcoverings. My headscarves are all block plain colours - this isn't for cultural reasons, but just what Papa Bear prefers, and certainly I think this looks smarter than having a patterned dress on, and a headscarf in a different design. That way it looks as if I've paid a little more attention to my outfit (though in fact since a lot of my clothes are of a similar colour, it takes far less effort than you might think!).
If your husband permits, wear shoes with heels, such as court shoes or wedge heels. These will automatically make you look smarter, whatever you are wearing. I generally tend to although I have to be careful, with my arthritic hip, just because I do feel they finish an outfit and make it look nicely put together. There are so many different styles around - wedge heels are very comfortable, and you instantly feel smarter and more feminine when you put them on! I can manage to wear these without causing too much trouble to my arthritis. You don't need to have lots of pairs of shoes - although in truth these days, shoes are inexpensive and so it's possible to have several in styles and colours that flatter you as well as being practical.
It's fun to start thinking about how we can focus on making ourselves into visible witnesses for our faith - dressed to honour God and our husbands, as His servants and as Helpmeets. Of course, it isn't just about clothes however. The world wants us to put our bodies on show in a way which degrades and defrauds, and which does not celebrate our true femininity. The world says that what is on the surface is all that matters - God says that it is what is in our hearts that is most important. And when our hearts are right with Him - when we are acting through Godly motivations rather than worldly ones, our countenances will reveal this.
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10: 22-24)
Our beauty will not be skin-deep, but will be expressed outwardly, from within our hearts. This is our true apparel - our faith. We have a responsibility to work on this, so that our inward purity is reflected externally - for it is our duty. If our appearance leads other people to react to us in ways that are negative or immoral, then we are at fault. We are God's servants, and we must obey God, rather than men (Acts 5: 29), and that means dressing modestly but attractively, in a way that reflects His glory - in all its beauty and purity. After all, to do so is to clothe ourselves with the most beautiful garment of all -
"Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price". (1 Peter 3: 3-4).
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price". (1 Peter 3: 3-4).