Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How Barb Keeps House

Barb first got my attention as a homemaker when she volunteered to bring a plate of Christmas cookies to a little gathering of ladies.  It was a real old-fashioned cookie plate, with at least 6 different kinds of cookies, some exquisite and some straightforward, all delicious.  Barb told me she likes to bake half-batches ahead of the Christmas season so she can keep the cookies in the freezer to pull out for occasions where a cookie plate is called for.

I was impressed with her efficiency, enjoyment of the season, and baking.  I probed deeper, betting that here was a homemaker that I could learn from.

We each had a little Lenten rose from Barb's yard at our place setting.
Barb invited me and Phoebe to her lovely home for lunch and let me write things down and snap some photos, all while we handled a busy toddler.  Barb is an experienced daycare and preschool teacher, as well as a mother and grandmother, so she knew how to wrangle Phoebe.

Some highlights of our conversation and my notes:

1. Barb enjoys homemaking, which is why she's still doing it all instead of taking shortcuts that I think are typical of retired women I know.  Not only did Barb's mom enjoy entertaining and flowers, but she was willing to share her enjoyment and let Barb do some of the cooking for company as early as 13.  

2. Barb writes out menus a week at a time before she goes grocery shopping. She hopes to save money and not waste food.  In fact, she writes down every penny she spends in order to keep track of where her money goes; she's been doing it for years, in fact, and compiling the information each month.  Her husband tallies it year by year.  

3.  Clutter is Barb's cleaning priority because she feels better when things are in place and she can find things easily.  However, she also wants her family to feel good about coming home and being themselves, so she prioritized happy kids over a perfectly clean and tidy house.  Barb doesn't have a schedule for cleaning, although she said she likes to clean towards the end of the week and laughingly told me not to look behind doors where she had stashed clutter in advance of my visit. 
Creative kitchen storage.

4. Barb relies on her big freezer a lot.  She always cooks full recipes even though she and her husband are the only ones at home, freezing the extra for times of sickness, hosting guests, or for Sunday dinner. When she was working long hours and parents would complain about not knowing what was for supper and not having time to cook, she would tell them how she filled up her slow cooker before she went to bed and then in the morning, put the food in the fridge to be heated up for supper.
Clever to add the decorative towel over the regular handtowel.

5.  Barb loves trying new recipes, probably 1 or 2 a week, and is grateful for a husband who enjoys her experiments.  She's attracted to quick and easy recipes that don't require her to buy specialty ingredients.  In the winter, she makes soup at least once a week and in the summer, main dish salads.  

6.  Barb has four raised beds where she grows vegetables.  She freezes and cans a lot of food, keeping track of the total yields for two years at a time inside her cupboard door.  

Homemaking is a deeply layered set of skills, is it not?  Barb keeps her house running efficiently and graciously, and I'm so glad I had the chance to ask her about it, to try to deconstruct the skills that she's built up over the years and takes for granted. 

I encourage you, dear readers, to seek out the experts among us - not necessarily the professionals with the degrees to prove it - the competent people whose skills you admire and ask them:  how do you do this?  Why do you do this?  You'll probably get farther than I did without a toddler and her exigencies. 


Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned from your friend Barb. I'm always curious about how people manage their homes, but not because I'm nosy. I know there is something to learn from most women, especially the seasoned homemakers. How nice it was that she invited you over and shared her wisdom with you in such a friendly manner.

Rhonda said...

I really liked this post.

Becky said...

Barb sounds lovely. I agree, we need to share our tips for homemaking, which is a deeply layered set of skills. And this post reminds me, I need to get back into the habit of keeping a list of what's in the freezers so I use it up. Sounds like a good weekend project!

Anonymous said...

I read your blog most days but rarely post. So here goes - I loved the tips. I need to get back to making soup on a regular basis. I,too, use the insides of my two upper cabinet doors. I found a contact paper like product at Home Depot that is like chalkboard. I can write on it with chalk and absolutely love it. It was in the wallpaper section. I'm not sure why I was looking there one day, but I'm glad I found it. Love being able to jot down favorite recipes without having the clutter of bits of paper.
A friend's mom had the best idea. She had a huge window behind her kitchen sink. Each half of the window had a roller blind. When the blind was pulled down, you could read a neatly printed recipe. One for her biscuits and one for her cobbler recipe. She explained that she used one or the other almost daily and just got tired of pulling out the recipe each day.
Thought I'd share. Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC

Alica said...

I could learn so much from Barb! Sounds like she does it like I wish I did it! Thanks for this post! We "younger" women can learn so much from the older ones! That's what I love so much about inter-generational mixes!

jenny_o said...

I so enjoyed this post! Even at my age, I enjoy hearing about how other people manage their homes.