Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Standard of Living

An Old Barn on the property at Mrs. White's Vermont Estate

In a 1970's sermon by Billy Graham, he talked about the way he lived as a child.  His family lived on a large farm in the country.  There was no running water.  There was no electricity.  They had no radio or television.  I believe he said they did not even have a car.  But they had food and warmth and were loved at home.  He talked about how nearly every family lived the same way.  He mentioned that our current standard of living was getting much higher.

My own father lived on a farm. His family were sharecroppers in the rural south.  They had a simple home that his mother took care of.  Each day, she would pray with her husband and help him get up, early each morning, so he could go to work. He held down a regular job, helped the family with the farming, and was a revival preacher.  His time was focused on eternal matters, practical survival, and the love and care of his family.  They did family altar each evening before bed.  They went to church every single time the doors were open.  It was a traditional old- time family life, much like the home where Billy Graham grew up in.  This was a common type of life, at one point, in our nation's history.

In the Massachusetts neighborhood where I grew up, we had cozy homes in our suburban town.  Many of them were cottages that were built by our grandfathers.  We lived old time, traditional lives.  We were thrifty, careful in our saving and spending, and did not require much.  Now, all these years later, the wealthy crowd has come in and is buying up all the old cottages. These are mainly two-income couples with careers in the city of Boston. They want to commute out to the beautiful suburban town.  They are tearing down our grandfather's cottages and building (literally) million dollar houses in their place.  It raises the standard of living, the property taxes for all, and makes it impossible for common families to afford to purchase a home.  I am grateful we moved, some years ago, out in the country of Vermont where it is more affordable.

I often cringe when I hear someone has bought an old house and is remodeling.  I understand that homes need paint and repairs. I realize they need modern appliances and new windows and doors. But why add all the upgrades, such as marble and granite, raising the standard of living to levels that are out of reach for regular families?

There are other ways we can spend far more than we should.  At certain holidays like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, flowers are given to the sweet lady of the house.  The stores carry roses for as much as $60 or more.  Our local floral department also carries lovely bouquets of carnations for less than $5.  I have to ask. . . which flowers would you want?  I made a mistake one year.  I was offered any flowers I wanted.  I could not help craving the large $50 display of pink roses.  They were beyond my means and something I have never been able to have.  There were many alternatives, which were just as lovely - including $5 or $10 options.  But I kept looking at the pink roses. Just once, I thought, I would love to have the rich ones.  They were happily purchased for me and I took them home.  I loved them, but I would have been happier with the less expensive ones.  After the initial shock of having them on the parlour table, I started to dislike them.  What an extravagance!  The waste of money (that we could not afford to spend) is what bothered me more than anything else.  I would be just as happy with pretty daisies, lilacs from the garden, or simple carnations.  I learned my lesson.   

I know of a family, with a modest income.  They recently spent hundreds of dollars in birthday gifts for the wife.  Not long after that, they struggled financially.  They did not expect car repair bills or an extra high heating bill.  They got into trouble because they lived above their standard of living.  I suggested they set a yearly limit on gifts, to perhaps $20 to $50 for each person as a maximum.  Those gifts, carefully selected, will bring just as much happiness, while keeping funds available, at a steady pace, for the common needs that come up in life. When we figure out our means on a yearly basis, we can set our personal standards and stick with them.

In the old days, of the 1800's and early 1900's, they would define "extravagances" as trying to live in society. It was attempting to live outside of your financial means - to be something you were not.  The very wealthy were said to be the most important people. To live among them, to be invited to their social events, meant that you were moving up in life.  You had to have money to dress a certain way, to live in a fashionable house, and to eat dainty and abundantly rich food.  This cost a great deal of money.  Yet, even then, there were happy families who lived quiet lives in common villages. They did not have social ambitions. They were happiest in their humble homes and with a dedication to character, virtue, family, and a life dedicated to trust and faith in the Lord.

Our standard of living dictates what we are comfortable with in life.  For the very wealthy, who know no other way, it can be living the high life, or one of charitable service.  For the middle and lower financial classes, we live more simply.  We would not dream of spending over our means. This only brings debt, trouble, and unhappiness.  There are so many choices in our way of life, in the homes we choose, the food we buy, and the presents we give, that we can choose a simple standard of living that brings just as much happiness as those living in riches.  I will venture to say, that many who have a simple standard of living are more content in life. They are less spoiled, less selfish. 

A simple life can be such a beautiful thing.  There is a quiet grace and gentleness to a basic standard of living. There is no want. There is little need.  It is contentment beyond measure.  We have to remember that this world is not our home.  There are mansions waiting in Heaven.  We are pilgrims passing through this way, but once. Living with eternity in mind will bring the greatest happiness of all.

"Our fair morning is at hand;
the day star is near the rising,
and we are not many miles from home.

What matter, then, of ill-entertainment
 in the smoky inns of this worthless world?

We are not to stay here,
 and we shall be dearly welcome
 to Him to whom we are going."

- Samuel Rutherford, 1600's -

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Mother's Life Dedicated to God - The Mission House.

Are You a Member? - Mother's Benevolent Society.

You Can Do It! - Housekeeping with a Will.

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.  Paperback, 274 pages.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Spring Housekeeping in Winter

Our parlour with a wood pellet stove. Photo taken some years ago.

I have not been feeling well for some time.  The winter has been long and harsh and has kept me a shut-in. I have ventured outdoors only a few times since last December.  The bitter winds, below zero temperatures, and blizzard - like snowstorms have been frequent.  I have remained cozy and occupied indoors.  It has been pleasant and lovely to keep busy with the winter home arts.  But as the days wore on, I started to feel sluggish, tired, and just not right.  Even my daily exercise program was not helping me feel better.

Yesterday it was a sunny, mild day.  The early afternoon temperature was around 30 degrees.  It almost felt like spring!  While we still have 10 foot snowbanks and plenty of snow all over our property, here in Vermont, the bright sunshine and quiet air was inviting. 

I decided to open windows. I wanted to air out the rooms. Our wood stove had just gone out.  It was the perfect time to act.  Fireplaces and stoves cannot run constantly.  We have to let them go out so the ashes can be cleaned out.  The rooms are often still warm, from the lingering heat, for quite some time.  Then, when a bit of a chill begins to enter, the fires are set to blazing, once again, for our comfort.

At this hour, there was a quiet brightness to the day.  There was no wind or chill. I started opening windows.  The fresh, winter air gently filled the house.  It crept in slowly with little notice.  I started to feel my health reviving!  The house was in desperate need of fresh, clean oxygen.   This was something I should have been doing on a more regular basis.

We cannot open windows on windy, bitter days.  We cannot air out the house during a blizzard.  But between storms, and on quiet cold days, we ought to open windows for short periods of time, in order to freshen up the house.  This affects our overall health.

I started to feel so well that I wanted to clean my son's room.  (He is in his 20's and works full time.)  He is the only one of our five children still living at home.  Before he left for the afternoon, I told him I would be airing out his room and doing a little work.  He thought that was good.  Soon I opened the windows and dusted window sills.  Then I thought I would wash his bedding and surprise him by doing some of his laundry.  Normally he does his own cleaning and laundry, but I wanted to do the work on this afternoon.

I came up with organizing ideas for his clothes, straightened the sofa he has in his large room, and organized papers and bookcases.  I removed empty boxes and packaging that were waiting by the stairs to be discarded.  While the beautiful winter air crept into his room, I turned on a little lamplight and made the room look homey.  I thought of every little thing I could do for his comfort.  The entire floor was thoroughly swept, trash was removed, the bed was made with fresh bedding, and pillows were tidied and made neat.  I did this all - here a little, and there a little, throughout the afternoon, as I needed many breaks.  I also took a great deal of time to stop and visit with my husband. He was telling me stories and making me laugh.  Then we would both go back to doing our own home projects. It was like taking little tea breaks with mister.  Somehow the room seemed to clean itself! 

A chill began to invade the house. It was time to shut all the windows.  The sunny spring-like day was replaced with the reality of winter.  My husband lit the fire on the stove and our warmth and comfort returned.

Late that evening, I heard my son return home from work.  I wanted to see his reaction to the work I had done.  I pointed out some of the things I did so he could find his belongings without any trouble.  He looked at the freshly made bed, the bright, clean, organized room and was so happy.  As I started to leave the room, he quietly said, "my sweet little mother."  He was grateful and happy to be home.

This is the beginning of spring cleaning.   It has been such a precious time of keeping house.


From the Archives -

Managing Money - The Housekeeper's Budget.

Always Remember  - The House Comes First.

Home Economics - Feeding the Family.

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book -Mother's Book of Home Economics .  Paperback, 312 pages.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Winter Walk in Rural Vermont

A Winter Morning at Mrs. White's Vermont Estate.

Vermont is very cold this time of year. The temperature has often lingered well below zero. I have been staying home, much like "a shut-in," throughout this snowy month.  It has been 20 days since I went out.  My last outing was to church, almost three weeks ago.  I have been cozy indoors and waiting out the cold winter. 

The other morning, I wanted to take a little walk around the property.  It was bitterly cold, but so pretty and quiet outside.  I bundled up and took my camera with me. 

In the first picture, above, the sun had barely risen.    You can also see what looks like fog among the trees.   It is actually snow blowing up from the ground, dancing in the sunlight. It looks amazing!

I could not bear more than a few minutes of this cold and had to rush back in the house for tea and cake.  I needed to sit by our wood pellet stove and get warm!

On a recent afternoon, my husband took a few pictures.  He let me share a couple of them with you. 

Snow piled up beside the garage at Mrs. White's Vermont home. (Photo by Mr. White.)

The snowplow comes regularly here to keep our driveway clear.  The picture above shows a large snow-pile.   Our snow season often begins in October and is frequent throughout the winter months.  It tends to pile up, and usually stays (to some degree) on the ground all winter long.

Front Walkway at Mrs. White's Estate. (Photo by Mr. White.)

A recent storm has left us with over 2 feet of snow out front.  This has been sitting here for several days.  It looks beautiful!  Sometimes, we see heavy snow falling slowly and steadily throughout the day.  It reminds me of watching a snow-globe as I gaze out the window.

[Edited to update with more photographs on February 1, 2019]

My husband took some pictures of the river, which borders the back of our Estate.  I have three of those pictures to share here:

River bordering Mrs. White's property. (Photo by Mr. White.)

We have a bit of a cliff on our land where the river borders the property. It is a great protection which separates our Estate from the water.

Rushing River in Winter bordering Mrs.White's Estate. (Photo by Mr. White.)

The sound of this river is so relaxing.  It is such a peaceful sight to see.

Waterfall section of the River bordering Mrs. White's Estate. (Photo by Mr. White.)

Honestly, I could just stare at this river for hours. It is so pretty. The snowy background, on the trees and ground beside the river, is stunning. 

Thank you for taking a little winter walk with me on our property. I enjoyed visiting with you.

I hope you are staying warm and enjoying the beauty of winter!

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

What many of us crave - An Ordinary Life at Home.

Remembering the old days - Building our Homes with Little Money.

What kind of home life are you creating?  - The Cultured Society of Home.

Read Mrs. White's book on Saving Money and Inspiring Charity -Economy for the Christian Home.  Paperback, 110 pages.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Waiting out the Cold Winter Months in Vermont

Library of Congress: Winter Afternoon in Vermont, 1940.

Early this morning it was 12 below zero outside.  During the months of January and February, in northern Vermont, it is bitterly cold.  The ice stays all season long, making it a danger to walk and drive on.  We have to be cautious on our outings.

 This is the time of year when I tend to stay inside. I rarely go out,  other than to church. But this Sunday morning, when I went outside to check the temperature, it was so bitterly cold, I felt numb and clumsy.   I thought I'd better stay near the hearth at home.

There are many in our area who still venture out.  They dress warmly and are used to this kind of weather. There are also tourists who delight in visiting for the skiing season.  But for me, perhaps since I am from Massachusetts, I find it difficult to function in this biting cold.  So I stay inside.

I used to think the bitter, winter - winds off the ocean of Massachusetts, of my childhood, were unbearable.  I remember them especially starting in November.  They were brutal.  But they did not last. Not all days were windy or dreadfully freezing.  When comparing those ocean winds with a common winter day in Vermont, I would say they are equal.  But Winter in Vermont lasts far longer! My endurance tends to waver.  I stay home a great deal.

Sometimes I like to think of this season as a storm, when we hide under a covering and patiently wait out the trouble.  I keep indoors, while the frozen season slowly passes along.  I bide my time.

I often think of the Pioneers and how they weathered many storms in winter.  Perhaps they read by the fire, did their mending, baked and cooked, and did projects which cannot be done during the busy summer months.  It must have been very quiet in those homes, which did not have radio, television, or computers.  When it was impossible to venture out, they had church time at home with their own family as the congregation.   I am sure they were always surprised and welcoming when a sudden guest appeared to visit them. 

I am grateful to have company on a regular basis. My grown children are not deterred by the cold season.  They go out, work, do errands, and visit me as normal.  I also love to see my grandchildren coming inside with their snowsuits, mittens, hats, and warm coats. They are rosy - cheeked and smiling!

Just a little while ago, I went out on the back grounds of our Estate to just walk.  I know fresh air, even cold air, is essential to good health.  I saw the beauty of sunlight as it touched the snowy ground.  The clear blue sky and the pretty trees are lovely in winter.  The walk was pleasant, even if it was only 7 degrees.  I soon was back inside and grateful for a cozy house, a warm fire, and the luxury of hot chocolate.

I rarely spend any money in winter.  The heating bills consume all we have.  This is a blessing because it makes me careful. It takes away a consumer mind-set.  I have to make-do, make-it-last, and do-without. This is a good discipline in frugality.

I will spend much of these winter hours waiting out the cold as I read piles of good books, do my housekeeping, and take care of my family.

The truth is, I love this time of year.  It is a quiet respite from the seasons.  It is a time to stop and rest and just enjoy being home. It is a good time to focus on prayer and to be grateful to the Lord for all things.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

I Want to Be - The Mother Who Isn't Busy.

What Many of Us Crave - An Ordinary Life at Home.

What Would Happen? - If I Visit You At the Dinner Hour.

Read Mrs. White's book on Saving Money and Inspiring Charity -Economy for the Christian Home.  Paperback, 110 pages.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Diary of a Clean House

Flowers and Dishes at Mrs. White's home.

I have been cleaning so much the last few days, it has been fun! I wanted to share some ideas with you on how to keep a beautifully, clean house even in a humble environment.  This work of cleaning has an incredible side benefit.  It provides you with good health.  I will share a diary of the work I have been doing, along with some suggestions for your own home:

Sweeping and Washing Floors

1.  Last week, I started a new habit of sweeping and washing the bathroom and kitchen floors each Monday morning. I do this before anyone else wakes up. The house is quiet and the work goes quickly. 

Since I have been doing it at about the same time each week, I have become more efficient and the work goes fast.  It takes me about 20 minutes, including moving things out of the way (such as small carpets, kitchen stools, trash barrels, toy baskets, etc.).

I thought that would be enough exercise for me for the day, so I planned to skip my normal workout. But after I finished the floors, I thought it would be relaxing to go walk on the treadmill while the floors dried.

I listen to the Old Fashioned Revival Hour program (you can find a link to this on the sidebar of my blog) while I walk.  It includes singing from the congregation, choir, and a quartet.  It also has a brief sermon.  I find it refreshing to hear the program while I exercise.

By the time I was finished, the floors were all dried and looked wonderful. I put everything back in its place. The little plum - colored carpet went back on the floor in front of the kitchen sink.  The stools were back by the counter. The grandchildren's toy baskets were placed back under the sideboard table, and all was neat again.

The second week I did this, everything was much easier.  I had a routine in place.  I knew what it would cost me, in strength and time, to do all the work.  I also became more efficient because, as we all know, the more you do something, the more skilled you become.


2.  It was time to rest and have some refreshment.  I had tea and a homemade muffin.  After doing all that exercising and work, it was important to take a break.  I also read a book for a little while.

When we start feeling better, it is time to get back up and do some more work.  The labor of housekeeping keeps us productive, makes our home look nice, and keeps us active.

Kitchen Work

3.  I made a batch of homemade pizza.  Company arrived and I had to feed them a nice lunch.  While I did the work, I made several little pizzas for the freezer.  I cleaned the kitchen while we all visited.  I had four of my little grandchildren here and there were plenty of dishes to do.  They enjoyed apple juice, pizza, and some muffins while they were here.  They also colored and used play-dough at the table.

I have to tell you that I was surprised that I had any energy left after such a busy morning!  But truthfully, all this work (combined with good nutrition and necessary rest) keeps us healthy. 

Another Break and Thoughts on Health

4.  It was time to stop and rest again.  This is a good time for me to explain the amazing health benefit of cleaning and exercising.  My mother had diabetes.  She was not an active person because she had a very social personality. Everywhere she went, she would stop to talk to everyone. She would stand in grocery store lines and visit with the other customers. She would sit at Ladies Bible study meetings and just talk and visit. At home, she was often sitting and talking to us, or talking on the phone. Everyone loved her, but this did not provide her much opportunity to be physically active.  She would have to force herself to stop everything and just walk.  This helped regulate her blood sugar levels.  Mom was also an excellent housekeeper. She often cleaned throughout the day.  This was another way to regulate her blood sugar levels.  She never thought about this, it was just a benefit of her keeping busy.

 I have the opposite problem. I have hypoglycemia. I have always had this. I would need to eat frequent, small meals to regulate my sugar levels.  However, I notice that when I am cleaning or exercising, or just going out on errands and keeping busy in the physical sense, I do not need to eat all the time.  I feel fine!

So when we are resting too much, or watching television too much, or reading too long, we often want to keep having snacks or meals!  We eat far more food, and much more often, when we are not physically busy. 

Keeping busy will maintain your weight and your good health.  Cleaning the house is going to provide you with more energy than you ever imagined! 

Have you ever felt like you were too sick or too tired to do anything?  Try cleaning for 15 minutes and you will notice a great improvement!  You will feel better.

Doing the Laundry

5.  I recently got so tired (and lazy) that I did not bother to fold or put away the laundry after the dryer stopped. I just piled it all in the basket.  All of a sudden I had to iron our clothes for church on Sunday. I had to iron many things over the next few days. All this because of one day when I did not bother to take the time to put away our laundry.

This week, I listened for the dryer and got right up and took care of it all.   It saved me a great deal of time and worry by just doing it right away instead of putting it off.

Dusting and Vacuuming

6. It took me 15 minutes to dust and vacuum the upstairs rooms.  I used a pink feather duster for some of the furniture.  Then I used furniture polish with a rag for the end-table and hutch. I loved taking down some family photographs, and pretty things, to dust and take care of them.

I have some very old, worn -out furniture.  There are scuffs and chips and scrapes over some of it. But with a good dusting, our humble belongings looked fresh, bright, shiny, and neat!

It is amazing how powerful modern vacuum cleaners are. If you have a good one, it doesn't take long to simply go over the carpets and make the rooms look nice.

Washing Windows and Mirrors

7.  It is hard to keep windows clean in winter. I can wash them from the inside only. But someone will need to get on a ladder to do the glass on the other side for most of the house.  Regardless of the trouble, it is still important to get a glass cleaner and wipe down those windows.  This does not take long at all.  I quickly cleaned all the mirrors. I just use a store brand glass cleaner and a cleaning rag. Everything looked fresh and smelled clean.

More Company

8.  Before the day was over, I had some company drop by.  I did a little crocheting as we visited.  This was a wonderful opportunity for me to take some time for a little bit of rest.  It is refreshing to visit and just be happy in the fellowship of others.

Cleaning the Stairs

9.  After the company left, I had a brownie and some ginger-ale.  I wasn't hungry so I thought I had better do another chore to work off that treat!  I gathered together a scrub brush and a bucket of hot, soapy water and went to clean the wooden staircase, which goes to our third floor.  I cleaned each step and the sides of the wall, all the way up. I did this slowly and used an old towel to dry each one as I finished. This was hard and time consuming work.  When I was halfway finished, I felt very tired. But I kept going. I had a goal to do this work, and I wanted to finish the job. But by the last two steps I felt weary. There is a big difference between feeling tired and being genuinely weary. We will always be tired. That is life. But when you are weary, it is time to stop. That was the last chore I did for the day. My work was done.

Little Jobs of Housekeeping

10.  Throughout the day, I will dust light fixtures, wipe down light switches, or sweep the entryway.  These little jobs of cleaning the house are often done at odd times, in the middle of simply living life.

Have you ever noticed your front entry and thought it would be good to just sweep and wash it real quick? Or maybe you notice a bit of dust accumulating on picture frames.  These tiny jobs take mere minutes and can be done whenever you feel discouraged by sitting still for too long. 

We can live our lives, doing projects, taking care of the family, and doing all the basics of home-keeping.  In the midst of all this, it is wonderful to just get up and do some little bit of cleaning to brighten the home.  You will find your strength and energy soar as your house becomes neat and pretty!

More Rest Than Work

11.  I have to add one more note to this.  We are all going to have our good and bad days. We may be in pain, or terribly ill. We may be stressed or have things come up that interfere with our ability to clean.  That is normal life.  I am not trying to run a marathon here. None of us need to try to win or be the best at housekeeping.  We need peace. We need contentment. We need to enjoy our days.  Mothers need to have more periods of rest, and refreshment, than labor.  This is important to keep us gentle and sweet.

I want to be rested enough to sit on the couch and read stories to grandbabies. I cannot wear myself out so much, from hard work, that I am useless.  The point of encouraging each other to clean our houses is to make the most of our time. It is to find all those spare moments to do the little jobs which will make our homes pleasant, while strengthening our health at the same time.  This is something we can all do, even if we only begin with a few minutes of effort.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Start Fresh - The First Housekeeping Day of the Year.

Training Children - Nobody Wants to Clean a Messy House.

A Welcome for the Family - The Kitchen is Ready.

Mrs. White's special book for homemakers:"Introduction to Home Economics:  Gentle Instruction to Find Joy in Christian Homemaking." Paperback, 200 pages. 

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email.