Saturday, February 24, 2018

Keepin’ House

Dear Keepers at Home,

Last night, I was prayin’ and writing on paper. Jim was watching TV and I had out my paper, sitting on the couch. I put some housewifery ideas on paper and was prayin’ and writing down my prayers, too. I thought of the homemaking spirit and how, if it isn’t written down, it would be lost. Of course, you won’t hear about it on TV or in most churches. So unless it is hand fed to some of you, ya won’t catch it, and thank God for the many writers on the internet that write about homemaking. I love Laine’s writings and some of the other writings that you sent in lately, Michelle

Before I write further, I wanted to answer Nancy’s email about needing simple meal ideas. Nancy, you were talking about making bread. Well, you said you had a bread machine and that would be a great help with the four extra children. I would sure use it and then, maybe later on this fall, learn to make it from scratch.

I would put the children to work, too, to help with the homemaking. I used to stand our children on a chair up to the sink and have them do dishes when they were about 3 or 4. They make a mess, but they do get some dishes washed, and they learn how to help. I mean, make it safe for them and put all the sharp stuff away.

I wanted to tell you, Nancy, a few simple meal ideas. Aunt Toot had seven children and I had six, and we used to exchange meal ideas. One thing we did is we made a lot of meals with the boxed mac and cheese, especially in the summer. Just take a box of the mac and cheese, make it as usual, and add a can of mixed vegetables and a can of cream of something soup. Or just the mix and a can of soup and extra cheese. Just stir it all up and cook it until it bubbles. Toot used to put a can of already-made chill in hers with extra cheese.

Back in the old days, hot dogs were all meat and a better product than today. Also, baloney was all meat and very good. My grandmother used to fry baloney in the morning for breakfast and make fried potatoes with it. One meal I fixed a few days ago, that was old fashioned and Papa loved, went like this. I got out my big cast iron skillet and put some grease in it. Then I took a pound of hot dogs and fried them in the skillet. After they were brown, I put in my beans that I had mixed with catsup and mustard and brown sugar. (I drain the pork and beans first, and then add about a half cup of brown sugar, a squirt of mustard, and about a fourth cup of catsup. I was using 2 cans of pork and beans, drained and rinsed. I don’t leave all the goo on them.) So, anyway, after I put all this together, I laid some onions on the top and a slice of green pepper. Then I baked this all in the oven until it bubbled and was browned. It was very good and Papa ate it as leftovers. And Jim isn’t one to eat a lot of leftovers, but he loved this dish.

Now, if your family likes onions and peppers, then you could fry them up with the hot dogs when you fried them. But Jim doesn’t like to eat onions. So I just put a few, in big slices, on the tops of my casseroles to get an onion and pepper flavor. My Jim loves black pepper, the coarsely ground kind. And I get that at the Dollar Store sometimes, or I buy it at the Amish store. I put a lot of the black pepper in the beans I made.

And ya know, back in the old days, the mothers made lots of fried potatoes, often fried with onions. Just get out a big skillet and put some grease in it and start slicing potatoes in the pan. Have your flame up high and just slice more potatoes in as the others cook. After they are all browned, put a lid on them, and a bit of water, and let them simmer and get done. Kim said to just turn them once when ya think they are really crisp. Even if they all stick together. Kim is such a good cook, and that is a good tip and has helped me to get better fried potatoes. Another thing we did with fried potatoes was when they were done, we would scramble up eggs with them and fry them until they were done. It makes the potatoes go further. Or after the potatoes are fried, just lay cheese on the top, put your lid back on, and let the cheese melt.

I have a collection of cast iron skillets and bakeware, and that is all I use to cook with. Except when I make Jim’s fried eggs, I use a nonstick skillet that I use only for eggs. Jim uses my egg skillet to make popcorn in it. Mama ain’t so happy about that. But, boy, he makes the best popcorn.

Ya know, lately, I told the Lord, “What more could I give my readers than a picture of a homemaker in today’s world?” Last night, as I wrote my prayers, I said “Oh Lord, help me to be the best homemaker of all. Help me not to just make soap once in a while, but to make it all the time. To show a pattern of good works.” Not that I don’t have the money to buy soap, as I do. But I don’t want to use my liberty to cause another woman to sin. I want to be an example.

Now that I have the attention of some of you, I want to show you a true working mother … a mother in the home. I know how to do that. “But, Lord, please keep me steady and diligent in the things of God.” Every day, I think of the mothers with children that roam the streets of NYC. My kids tell me about them. “Mom, whole families are out walking around with their children.” It breaks my heart! I think, “Man, this don’t have to be.” A woman of faith would know what to do. And I don’t say that casually. I have been there.

When I first moved here in 1973, there was these huge water bugs that lived in the root cellar. They were hard to get rid of, but I got rid of them. I never see a bug in this house now. I mean, an occasional fly or some ants, but they ain’t hard to get rid of. But I used boric acid all over my house and I rarely see a bug. I have told you many times that this house was no palace when I moved into it, pregnant with our son, and Jim was here a while before he was saved. He got saved in 1979. But, ya know, if a woman has a roof over her head, and a stove to cook on, and running water, and a place to bed down her children and keep them warm and dry … then she can make a home out of anything. Why let someone kick you out of your home? I mean, some folks would rather live on the street than in a cheap apartment. And that is just plain foolishness.

In the old days, a man would buy a piece of land he thought he could work and make a living on. He barely looked at the house. Mother was to make a home out of whatever she got. A fancy house was never a top priority. I mean, what are we doing here that we think we have to have a fancy house to care for our families?

So many are poor. We have a new class of folks in our country called the working poor. It used to be, in our country, that you were poor if you didn’t work. Now we have families who work but are poor. But, ya know, the mother is so needed in the home to make a place of refuge for her family. Folks’ souls are needing to be fed and nourished. Yet Mother can do things like the mothers did in the Depression era. She can make a garden and can all of her food, like the old time mothers did … they survived, so can we. Find a cheap house to rent and fix it up yourself. I am sure the landlord would love ya for it. Make sure you have some space for a garden.

Jim and I were riding down Main Street here in our town the other day. And, right at a side yard, a mother had made a clothesline. She just took a rope and tied it between 2 small trees. I said to myself, “Oh, Lord, bless that little Mother for her ingenuity.” She did what she had to do to make a clothesline. Well, heck, I have had to do stuff like that. Makin’ do that is what it’s all about. The problem is that many mothers don’t have the guts to live poor? They would rather be at a homeless shelter. But the wise woman builds a home. And, ya know, I think it is just all about not givin’ up. Just trusting in the Lord to help ya to make a place a home for the family.

Years ago, I used to go to an Amish store … well, we still go. But I wanted to buy all the packages of dried herbs, etc. Well, all I could afford was my bread flour and basic necessities, like corn oil and oatmeal in bulk. And I would wish to have some flavored coffees and teas but, heck fire, I had six children, and I had to be sensible and buy what I needed, not what I wanted. So I prayed and the Lord taught me to grow my own herbs in my yard. He taught me to dry flowers and to make the flavored vinegars and oils. I learned to make soap and to make all the stuff I wanted to buy. Often, when I would go to an Amish store, I wanted to cry. When I would walk in, I would see all the stuff the Amish mothers put together to sell. The works of their hands would bring a holy conviction of God upon me. I would get so ashamed of myself that my hands were idle and that I had no excuse for not growing my own food and herbs for cooking and for healing. I thought, “Lord, why don’t I make my own medicine cabinet out of healing herbs?”

Ya know, back in the old days, even the mothers who didn’t have a garden usually made pickles in the summer, and jams and jellies and catsup. They would buy a bushel of cucumbers from a farmer, and some fruit to make jams and jellies. When fall came, they would buy some bushels of apples and potatoes to keep in the root cellar for the fall and winter. Mother made bread several times a week and biscuits in between. Mother did what she could to make a home. Each day, she looked over the home and decided, “Now what do I need to buy at he store and what can I make with my hands?” or “How much money can I save on the grocery bill so that I can give my husband some money back to pay bills with?”

Oh, how I would scrimp and save in August to give Jim money back out of the groceries to be able to pay our taxes in the fall. That was my job, to make food for the table and to do it wisely … it was my burden, too, to pay the taxes. I stayed hidden away unto God and listened to His voice. My family needed me at home. And even now, Jim would be lost if I went out and got a job. He loves coming home to home cooked meals and to a wife who loves him and puts his dignity first.

Yesterday, early in the morning, Jim took me to the Amish village. He gave me a roll of bills to buy stuff with. But I wanted to honor the Lord and still buy supplies to make things with. I bought Baby Rose some darling cloth hankies for 39

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