Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

1917 Home Economics

I love to read old books on family and homelife. These make me feel a connection to history in a way that books full of "important historical dates" and political accounts never do.

I've recently been scanning through this 1917 homemaking guide. The chapter on money management is particularly interesting. Apparently, in 1917, $1040 per year (or $20 per week) was considered "the lowest living income affording any comfort." This income was sufficient to maintain a small home or acceptable apartment in the city for the average family.

The guide gives the example of a basic budget, and lays forth the percentage of income that should be reserved for each expense category. My biggest surprise was the instructions that 43% if the average income should be given to food! That percentage is twice as high as the percentage given for rent, of 20%. In my experience today, we rarely exceed 8-10% of our income used for both food and household necessities, and we could do better (I'm working on it!:o). Just goes to show how much food has decreased in price in the past 90 years. Granted, there are only two of us in this household, so that does make some difference. But I still don't know any families today--even large ones--who spend almost half of their income on food!

So rent and food made up 63% of the 1917 income. What was the remaining 37% spent on?

Fuel and light: 5%
Clothing: 10%
Insurance: 4%
Recreation: 2%
Sundries: 16%

(The guide also mentions that families may want to give a portion of their income away, save and invest money, or may have expenses that vary between families such as "carfare" for the "man in the suburbs".)

What simplicity. I don't see credit card payments, car payments, or any other type of debt mentioned. This was in the days when a mortgage was generally the only personal debt incurred. And the homemaking guide makes it sound as though homeownership was a luxury, whereas it was common for many families to rent.

Many middle class men were content to ride on public cars rather than owning their own vehicle. A mere 2% (40 cents per week for the example income) was to be spent on recreation, so I suppose they got by just fine with simple amusements. No flat-screen televisions, netflix, nice restaurants on a regular basis, etc.!

This quote is telling about perceived standards of living in 1917: "in the [household] of large income, it is possible to buy sufficient food to nourish thoroughly every member of the family; to provide a shelter that gives each person enough room to sleep and eat and live comfortably, to buy clothes enough to keep the body warm; to secure an education for the children beyond the compulsory age of fourteen; and to have enough money for recreation." (emphasis mine)

My great-grandparents started out married life in the late '20s / early '30s in small apartments where kitchens and bathrooms were shared between several families. They felt lucky to have their own place at all, as many young couples during that time had to live in the homes of family members when they were just starting out.

How much we can learn from our ancestors about living simply and contentedly!

Thanks to Ladies Against Feminism for providing me with a link to "The Home and its Management".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What am I? we bought our doggy "Peaches" last spring out of the back of a truck in the Sam's parking lot. We never thought we would've considered such a thing because you don't know what you're getting that way...but she REALLY wanted to come home with us and we couldn't resist. Besides, the couple selling the puppies seemed very friendly and we trusted them.

Until we got her home and discovered that she had mange (eew!) . And then we never received the paperwork on her that the seller had promised. (It went like this: "Are these puppies certified?" "Oh, yes! We have paperwork on all of them! They are registered full-bred Lhasa Apsos!" And then...after we'd already committed and paid... "Just write your address down here and we'll mail the paperwork..." Uh-huh.) And then when the phone number they'd given us stopped working, well...

So I guess we shouldn't be surprised that after growing up, Peaches doesn't look exactly like a full-bred Lhasa Apso. When my uncle--who has a Lhasa--recently saw pictures of her, he said "I don't know what she is, but she's not pure Lhasa!" Lhasa Apsos have long flowing "hair" that you have to cut. Peaches is about 8 months old and I've never cut her remains very short around her face and legs. The fur on her body is a bit longer, but nothing like a Lhasa. Also, Lhasas have rather stubby "snouts", unlike Peaches'.

We do think that Peaches is probably part Lhasa, because she has the characteristic coloring, the large black nose, and is close to the right size. She also has some of the personality traits of a Lhasa. Does anybody who knows about dog breeds have any suggestions as to what else she might be???

This is a full-bred Lhasa Apso:

And this is Peaches (these were taken a few months ago, so she's probably grown a bit since then. Her coat is a bit longer...probably a couple of inches on her body, but her face- and leg-fur remains almost this short. She's somewhere in the 15-20lb range.):

Friday, October 20, 2006

On doing without (and making do!)

What are some things that you have learned to do without in order to be able to stay home? More importantly, how have you made up for the lack of them?

Here are just a few things of the things I've done to help our budget:

Haircuts: Ever since we married I have cut my husband's hair...and it looks professional if I do say so:o) I grew up watching my mom cut my dad's hair, so I guess I picked it up. If your husband is brave enough to let you try this, you could learn by paying very close attention the next couple of times your husband goes to the barber.

More difficult (and I don't necessarily recommend this!), I have actually cut my own hair for the past few years. I was disatisfied with the haircuts I was receiving from the $12-13 place, and I didn't want to pay $40+ to go somewhere nicer. Cutting my own hair takes an hour or two (but then so does visiting a typical salon), however I have somehow managed without too much disaster and have been able to keep my money! I very much need a haircut right now and am trying to decide whether to go to a stylist or not. Guess it depends on how adventuresome I want to continue to be:o)

Doing without a large clothing budget: For many years, I hardly bought any new clothes and shoes. We just didn't have the money! During the past couple of months I have finally been restocking our closets a bit due to necessity (there comes a point where buying clothes actually becomes a NEED rather than a desire if you want to look presentable in society!). But I have been trying to find creative ways to use the least amount of money for the largest impact. Here are a few ideas that have been working for me:

Buy well-made Basics!!! Focus on finding a few good neutral-type bottom pieces that can be worn with all types of tops. I am willing to spend a little bit more on some good bottom pieces that will be worn over and over again. For instance, I recently bought this denim skirt at Ross (originally $90) for $35. Generally, I wouldn't pay $35 at Ross for a skirt! But I loved this one, it was well-made, and I knew I would be wearing it over and over and over again with just about any top. This is the kind of item it makes sense to spend a little more on to get true quality.

Salvage old stuff: I just bought some extra-long tank tops on sale to layer under other tops and sweaters. I am now able to wear some tops again that I had stopped wearing either because they shrunk up a bit too short, or they were too short to begin with. (Remember about five years ago when it was hard to find a top that was long enough? I hate those can't sit down or bend over in them! I really love these super-long shirts available now!:o)

Trendiness: I don't often buy trendy clothes...I don't have the money to blow on items that will look hopelessly outdated by next year! However, to update a classic basic wardrobe a bit and throw in just a bit of fun, I've bought a few pieces of inexpensive beaded jewelry, colorful headscarfs, etc. at sales/discount stores that look more "up-to-date". I have fun wearing them...and combined with classic pieces, they don't look cheapy or trashy.

Doing without a car: Our second car broke and wasn't worth the money to fix it, so we are currently doing with one vehicle. I won't say it doesn't bother me. I really do miss having a car always at my disposal! However I have learned that I can survive without one. I'm learning to adjust and be flexible. My husband uses his car during the day, so I don't have the option of dropping him off at the office and using the car while he's at work. However, he is able to set his own schedule to some extent, so I am usually able to get the car for grocery shopping and errands early in the morning if I need it (in that case he will just leave a little later). Also, he is sometimes home for various lengths of time in the afternoon filling out reports or doing computer work, and I am sometimes able to run out then. Creativity and willingness to adjust makes doing without bearable!

Please share!

Also, see more "Frugal Friday" ideas at Biblical Womanhood

Homemade all-purpose cleaner: conquer the vinegar smell!

In my last post, I wrote about using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as cleaners. The main downside of vinegar is the unpleasant smell. I have learned to tolerate it for the many other benefits of vinegar, relying on the fact that the smell will dissipate within minutes. (My sister has informed me that I am banned from using my cleaner when she visits!:o)

Well...I now have a solution! Yesterday, I put together the following ingredients on the assurance that the resulting cleaner would smell "beautifully fresh":

All-Purpose Surface Cleaner

2 cups (500 ml) white vinegar
1 cup (250 ml) water
20-30 drops eucalyptus oil

Pour ingredients into spray bottle, then shake well. Spray and wipe like other sprays...there is no need to rinse.

-from "Home Hints & Tips" by Rosamond Richardson

I am very impressed! Vinegar spray smells about 100 times better with the oil added! No need to assault your nose when you clean the natural way:o)

This basic cleaner, according to the book, "removes grease and dirt, smells beautifully fresh, is cheap and nontoxic, and will keep indefinitely. Use it on stainless-steel sinks and draining boards, tiled and wooden surfaces, and plastic finishes." (When cleaning heavily soiled areas, especially kitchen surfaces that have come in contact with contaminants such as raw meat, it would be best to use the vinegar / hydrogen peroxide combo described in my last post.)

A note about eucalyptus oil: This is an essential oil which also has disinfectant properties. It can be found at health food/vitamin stores or websites. I bought a small .5 oz. bottle at a vitamin store for about $4, initially fearing that it wouldn't last me very long. However, after adding 20 drops to my spray, there is still most of the bottle remaining. I believe this little bottle will last me several bottles-worth of spray...still providing a huge cost savings over regular store-bought cleaners. (Eucalytus oil is potent and should be kept out of reach of children in it's undiluted state. )

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cheap and Excellent Non-toxic Cleaners

Update: This week, Walgreens has 16oz. bottles of hydrogen peroxide at 2 / $1.00. They have some great deals on other things I need too, so I will making a little excursion to the Walgreens across the street from our neighborhood. (I'm spoiled...I have both a Walgreens and a CVS about a 60-second drive away from doing a lot more shopping at these places now that I have become aware of the great deals available at these two stores!:o)

I also wanted to pass on Mrs. B's caution that hydrogen peroxide DOES bleach things out if you're not careful. I've not had any trouble with that so far, but you'll probably want to spot test first before you use it all over your colored countertop, and be careful around your clothes!

Note: This may be old news to many, but it was very helpful information for a relatively new homemaker such as myself:o)

For a long time, I wasn't sure what type of cleaner I should use on kitchen surfaces that would come into contact with food (as in when kneading bread on the counter-top) or that would be safe to use on the floor around pets (or children, for those of you who have them!). I didn't like the idea of harsh or toxic chemicals for these purposes. I also wanted something cheap, because with a dog running around (who has only recently been fully house-trained) I go through cleaner like crazy:op

After doing some research, I discovered the excellence of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide:

The best way to sanitize kitchen food preparation surfaces such as countertops and wood cutting boards is to use the following vinegar and hydrogen peroxide germ-killing combo:

Using a spray bottle, apply undiluted apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to the kitchen surface to be cleaned.

Then immediately spray the same area with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (available in all drugstores) from another spray bottle.

Wipe the area clean or rinse with water. According to Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, it does not matter weather you spray the vinegar before or after the hydrogen peroxide, the effect is the same, it kills virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. Coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food preparation surfaces.

She also found that using both sprays was 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than chlorine bleach and all other commercially available kitchen cleaners.

The vinegar / hydrogen peroxide sprays also work well to clean meats, fruits and vegetables of disease-causing germs.

You can buy a huge jug of vinegar at the store for little more than a dollar. Hydrogen peroxide is inexpensive as well. I purchased some nice large spray bottles at Sams (a package containing six bottles was about $5, I believe).

The vinegar/hydrogen peroxide combo is great for when you need strong disinfectant properties, as in the kitchen. For our wood floors, I use just the vinegar, diluted half-and-half with water. I mop with this vinegar solution and it's worked wonderfully! It also works great to clean up doggie messes, because it's very good at eliminating odor.

One other great vinegar feature: When my drinking glasses become spotty (hard water stains), I spray them with my vinegar spray and they clean right up!

Though vinegar doesn't smell particularly nice when first sprayed, the unpleasant smell doesn't last very long. I've learned to tolerate it. How can I not, when it works so well and is so wonderfully inexpensive?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I love deals!

Recently I've been getting back into organizational mode: not just with the house, but with many other aspects of our life, including budgeting and money management. Crystal has been partially responsible for inspiring me to revisit our shopping budget this past week or two, with her recent Supermarket Savings series!

I'd dipped my toes into couponing several months ago and decided that it didn't work (since I don't buy very many processed/convenience items, which seemed to be the bulk of the coupons); however, I've now considered how many non-food items we buy that might be "coupon-able". Also, I like the ideas Crystal presented of getting deals on things we might not necessarily use, but could give away or sell.

Last weekend I bought a paper, and that's currently the extent of my coupon collection! But I still managed to get a few deals I was excited about, due to some nice sales:

Kohls has been having a bunch of good sales lately for some reason. I found several clothing items Micah and I both needed from %40-%80 off regular prices: $60 Adidas sneakers for $30; $20 long tank tops (for layering under some of my other tops that feel a bit too short) for $4 apiece, pants for Micah at almost half-price, etc.

At CVS pharmacy, I took advantage of buy-0ne-get-0ne free deals for laundry detergent and loreal lipstick, for which I also had a coupon for $2.oo off (so I got $16-worth of lipstick for $6). I'd like to start buying items at CVS that generate Extra Care Bucks. You can read about this in Crystal's recent posts (She has about nine different posts in the series), or find general information on the CVS website.

As usual, I tried to base my weekly menu largely on the sale items listed on my grocery store flyer, but without many coupons to use, I didn't spend much less than usual there this week. I'm still working on some good ways to bring grocery expenditures down, without sacrificing health and quality.

I LOVE getting deals! Anybody have any recent deal successes to share?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book Suggestions?

My mom, Diane, is looking for advice regarding good womens' Bible Study materials:

A dear neighbor and I were talking yesterday about the privilege of being homemakers and the blessing of having husbands that enthusiastically support our efforts at home. Also, how society in general does little to encourage women who have chosen mothering and homemaking as their full-time career. My friend expressed an interest in pursuing further study on the spiritual / Biblical growth of women in such a position. Although I've read some great books on the topic in the past, I haven't perused the bookshelves recently to see what is available...

I would love to hear from you any input on what you consider the very best book for encouraging women in their role as: believer, wife, mother, friend...all from a strong / solid Biblical world view. (Preferably using alot of scripture throughout the book-or a Bible study that focuses on women) Thanks so much!!

If any of you have suggestions, she would love to hear them. (As would I and many others, I'm sure!) Thanks so much!