The Value of Housework

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Housework is probably not on many people’s lists of favorite things to do. I tend to get frustrated over having to put aside the more interesting or even spiritual pursuits in order to dust or do laundry. But I do value housework. I don’t get excited about the need to dust, but once I get started, I enjoy the clean surfaces. I like the results of picking up, sweeping, doing laundry, washing dishes, even if I am not fond of the process. But even the process can be lightened up with listening to an audiobook, podcast, or music, or conversation while working with someone.

I’m embarrassed to confess this, but, believe it or not, when my husband and I were first married, I often wouldn’t do dishes until we ran out of clean silverware. We didn’t have a dishwasher, and I was a part-time student with two part-time jobs and the adjustments of being newly married. Plus both my jobs involved cleaning – a person’s home and five banks (my husband and I did the banks together – nice job for students because it could be done any time the bank was closed), so by the time I got to my own home, well, who wanted to clean then? But that meant that washing dishes, plus everything else I didn’t get to, took up a big chunk of time on Saturdays. I eventually learned it’s easier (and more sanitary and less disgusting) to clean in smaller doses as I went along, especially once I had children and no longer had big chunks of time to do anything.

I’ve been in homes where housework wasn’t valued – where I would have been afraid to eat or use the bathroom, where bugs crawled all over everything. I’ve been in hotels where there was pink stuff growing in the corners of the shower and the bedding looked questionable. I’ve been in restaurants with a waitress that acted like she could care less about serving and food that was under or over-cooked or unidentifiable. I’ve even gotten food poisoning from restaurant food. It makes such a difference when people care.

I just finished reading and reviewing True Woman 201: Interior Design by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss yesterday, and one of the chapters I most appreciated dealt with work. Before discussing “keeping the home,” they couched the discussion in the greater spiritual principles that work is good, that we work because we’re made in God’s image and He works, that Jesus did humble physical labor longer than He worked as an itinerant evangelist and teacher. In the course of that chapter the authors quoted a couple of feminists of the past concerning housework:

“Women’s work within the home gives her no autonomy; it is not directly useful to society, it does not open out on the future, it produces nothing” (Simone de Beauvoir).

“Women who adjust as housewives, who grow up wanting to be just a housewife, are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps … they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit” (Betty Friedan).

Wow – pretty strong stuff. It made me wonder – did they live in a pigsty, then? Or did they hire housekeepers but devalue them as “lesser” specimens of womanhood? Or did they value housework if someone was paid for it but not if women did it in their own homes? Reminds me of the G. K. Chesterton quote, “[Feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

I decided to list all the advantages I could think of for housework:

1. Sanitation. I have been in homes where there were roaches crawling over caked-on food on counters and appliances and toilet seats and sinks were black. Bleah.

2. Sense of peacefulness. When things are chaotic in the house, it’s hard to relax. But when everything is in order with my surroundings, my mind and heart feel more orderly.

3. Not being embarrassed if someone comes by unexpectedly, or not having to do a major overhaul before having people over. There may be shoes off by the couch or a newspaper or glass on the end table, but there’s an overall sense of order and cleanliness.

4. Saves time. Staying on top of things is much easier than having to do major clean-ups.

5. Being able to find things rather than having them get lost in the shuffle or buried.

6. Save money. Things last longer when they’re taken care of, plus you avoid purchasing things that you forgot you had.

7. Releases you to be creative in other areas. For some of us its hard to be creative in a mess.

8. Multitasking – with some chores you can listen to music or a podcast or an audiobook while your hands are busy with something else.

9. Almost instant gratification. You can see the dish pile diminishing and the dust disappearing.

10. Sense of accomplishment. I’ve been thinking over this post for a few days, and just this morning while listening to Robinson Crusoe heard this passage, in which he brings supplies into a cave. “At first this was a confused heap of goods, which, as they lay in no order, so they took up all my place; I had no room to turn myself.” Then he tells how he arranged things, made furniture, fixed a place to hang his gun, etc., then “so that, had my cave been to be seen, it looked like a general magazine of all necessary things; and had everything so ready at my hand, that it was a great pleasure to me to see all my goods in such order.”

Of course one can go too far and make everyone feel like they can never relax for fear of getting something dirty or out of place. You want a place where everyone is comfortable, not a museum. I knew of one women who did all sorts of things around the house that she thought a good wife was supposed to do only to find that those things didn’t really matter to her husband: he’d rather be greeted by an attentive, peaceful wife than neglected by one who was in a constant frenzy over the house. It’s good to confer together over these things. Some people don’t mind a little dust as long as clutter is picked up. We all have things that “bug” us or make the room feel unclean, but then have other things we can live with, at least for a while.

And we don’t have to go all Disney princess, singing “Whistle While You Work” while bluebirds tie bows in our hair.

And there are seasons and moments of life when housework takes a back seat (when a young child is in the house, when there is a “teachable moment” with a child or an opportunity to sit and play with him for a moment, when a husband wants you to do something or go somewhere with him and leave the dishes for now, when a friend needs a listening ear, when you’re tired, etc.).

And it is ok to pay someone to clean your house: it’s not a sin if you don’t do it all yourself. Even the Proverbs 31 lady had help. I’ve known elderly or working women to hire household help  for various tasks or people to hire help for special occasions. By the way, if you’re a mom, it’s perfectly ok and even a good thing to have your children do household tasks. It’s good for them to learn to pitch in, to learn the value of work, to value keeping things clean and orderly, to train in that way for their own homes and jobs. We always had the attitude that kids doing work wasn’t just “helping Mom,” but rather instilling in them that we all pull together as a family to get things done (more on children and chores here).

But the point is that housework is valuable and does provide meaningful service, for ourselves, for our families, for guests.

Of course,  the feminists quoted probably didn’t have any problem with a woman swishing a broom occasionally: what they particularly disliked was the idea of a woman being a full-time homemaker. I’m glad for many of the choices available to women today, but one of them is being a fill-time homemaker (I realize that not everyone who wants to be at home can be). I prefer the term homemaker to housewife, because I am not married to my house: I am creating a home. In a sense every woman is a homemaker, because every woman has a home, whether she’s single or married, has children or does not, works outside the home or does not. And as someone who has been a homemaker for 36 years, full-time for 32, I can tell you it isn’t a mind-numbing, useless existence. It can be as creative as you make it.

Some years ago I wrote Encouragement for Homemakers, and want to pull a couple of quotes from there:

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.”
~Dorothy Patterson

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.
~Helen Keller

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.
~ Martin Luther

And I’ll add this one just discovered in the True Woman book:

“The reason we give priority to managing household responsibilities is not that vacuuming, dusting, or cooking are intrinsically valuable or satisfying tasks. It’s that we want to create a peaceful, orderly, welcoming environment conducive to nurturing and growing disciples for the kingdom of God” (p. 154).

So take heart as you go through your home bringing order out of chaos: your work is both valuable and meaningful. And perhaps be inspired by this:

The Blue Bowl

All day long I did the little things,
The little things that do not show;
I brought the kindling for the fire,
I set the candles in a row,
I filled a bowl with marigolds—
The shallow bowl you love the best—
And made the house a pleasant place
Where weariness may take its rest.

The hours sped on, my eager feet
Could not keep pace with my desire.
So much to do! So little time!
I could not let my body tire.
Yet when the coming of the night
Blotted the garden from my sight,
And on the narrow graveled walks
Between the guarding flower stalks
I heard your step, I was not through
With services I meant for you.

You came into the quiet room
That glowed enchanted with the bloom
Of yellow flame. I saw your face;
Illumined by the firelit space,
Slowly grow still and comforted—
“It’s good to be at home,” you said.

~ Blanch Bane Kuder

See also:

Encouragement for Homemakers, which, incidentally, contains my favorite ever comment from my husband.
Happy Housewife Day!
I confess: I don’t really like to cook.
A Real Home.
Wanting things to be “perfect.”
A Homemaking Meme.
Another homemaking meme.
A prayer for home.
Two views of housework.
Meditations for daily tasks.
Thy list be done.
The Value of Homemakers.

(Sharing With Inspire Me Monday)

A new gadget!

One evening while my husband perused some of the “deal of the day” sites he follows while I was making dinner, he asked me if I wanted a new sewing machine.

No, I replied. My little faithful, uncomplicated Kenmore had served me well for 30+ years now, and I figured I’d just keep using it until it gave out. Besides, those newfangled computerized ones would probably require a significant learning curve to become comfortable with, whereas I knew my Kenmore so well I could operate it almost without thinking.

But he began to read some of the features of the one on sale, and the more he read, the more attractive it sounded. And, I began to reason, when my machine does give out, there might not be a deal like this readily available. So I said, “Sure, if you want to get it for me.” 🙂 So he did.

It arrived last Saturday, and thankfully he was here to help me get it out of the box and figure out some of the diagrams to get started with it.

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This photograph with the light on isn’t as good, but you can see the screen display:

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Some of the basics like threading it and the bobbin were a little hard to figure out: some of the specialty stitches were easy, and I had fun playing with those a bit.

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It will take a while to feel “at home” with it, but that should come with use. It’s supposed to have an automatic needle threader which I haven’t figure out yet but which should come in really handy: I keep a little magnifying glass in the desk drawer for help with threading now. One feature I really like is that there is a little push button on the side that opens a little drawer for all the extra presser feet, bobbins, etc., thus freeing up crowded drawer space.

And, as an added bonus, the sewing machine cover I made for my old sewing machine last year came out a bit too big for it, but – you guessed it, it fits this one nicely. It’s a bit snug, but it still covers it.

As I moved my old sewing machine and began gathering all its attachments, I felt like I should give it a hug for all its good work through the years and pat it and tell it what a good job it has done. But when I feel sentimental about appliances, this video comes to mind:

So even though I am a little intimidated at figuring out things with the new machine, I am looking forward to it as well, and I am thankful for my husband’s love and generosity.

Finished Projects!

Some of you who have been here for a while may remember some years ago my showing this fabric that I had gotten for curtains and asking advice about them.

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I am ashamed to say how many years that has been, but it was before we moved to this house {blush}. Thankfully the family room here had the same number of windows similarly sized.

My biggest holdup in any kind of project is deciding what to do. My inspiration for using toile and check came from seeing the combination at a friend’s house years ago. I knew I wanted a valance that used both but had trouble deciding how to do it: toile on top, check on top, which pattern to use, trim or not, etc. After thinking about it every which way I possibly could, I finally decided on what I was inclined to do in the first place.

First I’ll show you the valances that were here when we moved in:

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old valance

BEFORE: Old valance

I apologize for the lighting in all of these. It was an overcast day, and even with all the lights on I couldn’t get the lighting right, then my phone camera kept wanting to focus on the window. These valances were all right – in fact, up close they had a lot of nice detail. But it was lost there on the window, and the beige valance on beige walls was pretty blah.

So this is what I came up with for the new valances:

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

IMG_0008(1)Eventually I want to make curtain panels as well. But I need to make a date with my husband to hang the rods for that. 🙂 This was a good stropping place for now.

I used this McCall pattern. I gave some thought to just adding a strip of the toile to the bottom of the check fabric rather than making the double valance that was called for, and in some ways I wish I had: even though these were attached, it was like making four valances rather than two. I did lengthen them a couple of inches from what the pattern specified.

When my dear husband was helping me hang them, he asked if I had ever thought about making them professionally. I thought to myself, “Oh, my dear, if you only knew….” I make way too many mistakes to sew professionally. I tend to do the dumbest things when I sew. For instance: the pattern called for a 1/2 inch seem. So instead of placing the fabric to the left of the 5/8″ guide mark on my machine, I placed it to the right, and then thought that seemed like an awfully wide seam allowance that was just going to be cut off. Then I realized my mistake, thankfully before I had gotten too far. There is a pretty major mistake with the lining on one, but since it was the lining and not in front and not obvious, I left it. But I did know what to watch for when I made the second one.

Seam ripper

I won’t bore you with all the flaws, but there are plenty. Thankfully they came out looking relatively well for all that.

At one point I wished I had the buffalo check that’s so popular these days, but since I already had this on hand, I felt like I should use it instead. But then, I told myself, if the buffalo check is trendy now, it might not be a few years from now, and the regular toile and check combo is fairly classic. Yet when I got these done I thought they looked more country-ish, which I am trying to get away from, rather than classic. But I am telling myself that’s just my imagination and they do look classic. 🙂

I also wanted to make a couple of pillows, mainly to tie the room together but also because I have a couple of old ones that are about ready to be retired. I got the idea for this one from here as well as instructions for making an envelope pillow.

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I really liked doing an envelope cover rather than stuffing  a pillow! I went back and forth with whether or not I liked this as much as I thought I would, but it does accomplish its purpose in tying the room together, I think.

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I also made the front and back for another one, based on this one seen on Pinterest (I found the other one originally on Pinterest as well). I was originally going to add lace like that one has, but decided I liked this design:

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I’m trying to decide whether I want to put cording around the edges or not. I’m going to see what Hobby Lobby has and then decide from there. But it shouldn’t take to long to finish up either way.

I love the trim, which I learned is called gimp, and thought it would be the easiest part to deal with, but I found it’s a little hard to keep in place – it kept wanting to pull over while I was sewing. And I did learn not to stretch it while sewing! I did that in a couple of places on one pillow, which made the fabric look a little puckered, but thankfully it evened out with pressing.

There’s one more I’d like to do, as well as the longer curtain panels, but this is a good stopping place for a week or so. My oldest son is coming in this weekend, and a very special grandson is having his first birthday next week, so I need to turn my attention to other pursuits just now. 🙂 With trying to get these done I haven’t been to visit you all like I normally would, and I hope to catch up soon.

Camouflaging Dirt

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Years ago when my youngest was still a baby and we were moving to another state, a house we looked at had all white cabinets, flooring, and appliances in the kitchen. I thought to myself, “This will never work with three boys.” But that is the house we ended up buying, and a funny thing happened. Because everything was white. I noticed streaks and smudges right away and cleaned them up as I noticed them. That kitchen was probably cleaner than any of my kitchens with darker floors and wooden cabinets mainly because I don’t notice dirt and smears against the wood as easily as against white. I was shocked recently to open a wooden cabinet door and notice when the light hit it just right that it was covered in dust that I had been totally unaware of. Sometimes I think I have dusted the wooden end tables or swept the parquet floor thoroughly — until the sunlight comes through the windows at just the right angle, and then I see spots I missed.

We used to have stovetops that had metal (aluminum, I think) removable burner pans that would catch all the gunk and spills, which would then get encrusted and hardened with the heat from cooking. I tried to keep on top of the spills, but eventually I had to do something with the burner pans. When I could find cheap replacements, I’d just buy those and toss the old ones. When the replacements got too expensive, I came across a tip to put the burner pans in a big pan of water with some baking soda, bring it to a boil, and then just let them sit in the hot water for a while. Somehow that did make them easier to clean even the caked-on stuff. But it was tedious. My stovetop now is totally while and doesn’t have removable burner pans, so, because the spills are more obvious, I clean them as I go and rarely have to do a major cleaning there.

Sometimes when we’re looking for furniture, appliances, or flooring, we want something that doesn’t show dirt. I still think that way in some areas. I wouldn’t want a totally black or white car: the black shows up pollen and dust, the white shows up everything else.

But I’ve come to prefer white in a kitchen, partially because it makes the room lighter, brighter, and more open and airy, but also because I like to be able to see and keep on top of the dirty stuff rather than wonder what I am going to discover with a closer look.

One church we were in had flooring in the kitchen/fellowship area that looked dirty all the time. It wasn’t unclean: it was just that the color and pattern made it look grimy. Recently we went looking for flooring for our bathroom, which came with carpeting, which is gross in a bathroom. A lot of the vinyl flooring we looked at had the same feature: a swirly pattern looked to me like smudges, and dots looked like something had spilled that needed to be cleaned up. I guess the designers figured that’s one way to hide dirtiness: camouflage it so it always looks dirty anyway.

And then sometimes we can’t see dirt when our eyesight fails. I was cleaning a windowsill recently and thought I was done until I put on my reading glasses, and then the windowsill didn’t look very clean at all. One of the signs of my mother-in-law’s aging was that she didn’t see things that weren’t clean. She had always been very industrious, but the older she got, the more we found areas that were sticky or covered in dog hair that she would have clean if she had realized, but she just didn’t see it.

I’ve often thought, when I see sunlight showing up the dust I missed, that I should probably dust or sweep at that time of day so I can see better and do a better job in that light. I’ve also thought that it was a good analogy of the need to shine the light of God’s Word on my life. Everything may look okay to me, but my spiritual sight may need adjustment. My human dimness may have camouflaged an unkind thought as justifiable or missed a selfish motive. And I need to compare myself not to my fellow creatures with their own smudges, but to the blazing holiness of the Son of God. Why would we do that when none of us can come close at all, when we look so shabby and dingy in that light? Because that’s the best way to see what needs to be taken care of. And instead of fearing to come to that light, we can have confidence that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we can have assurance that we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

One of our sons, when he was very little, used to have a hard time admitting he had done anything wrong. Often we took him to Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (I John 1:8a). As long as we cover, camouflage, excuse, or miss seeing our sins, faults, and flaws, we’re stuck with them. But if we see, acknowledge, confess our sins to the Lord and forsake them, He will cleanse us.

Sometimes when we discover a mess we had missed, we can be discouraged at the work needed to clean it up. Sometimes when I start to clean one area, I notice five others that need work, and it can be discouraging. But spiritually, Jesus has done all the work. He took all of our sin and all of God’s wrath towards it on Himself on the cross. When we believe on Him, our sinfulness is exchanged for His righteousness. Though we still have to battle sin in this life, we can be cleansed, and in heaven we’re given white robes, the Bible says. I sometimes joke that I can’t wear white til I get to heaven because of my propensity to spill or brush against something messy and end up with a spotted garment. What a joy it will be in that day to have sin totally removed so it can’t touch us any more. But what a joy in our day that though our “sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Around the house

I got a few gift cards for Christmas and enjoyed spending a couple of them earlier this week. One was to Amazon, and I splurged on a couple of books, one of them the annotated Pioneer Girl book, which contains the autobiographical manuscript Laura Ingalls Wilder which was the basis for the Little House books. I don’t usually spend so much on a book, but doing so with a gift card seems justifiable. 🙂 Unfortunately they were out of stock, and I don’t know if I’ll receive it in time to read for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge next month, but I’ll enjoy it whenever it gets here.

The other gift card was for Hobby Lobby. I had a couple of spaces around the house I had been wanting to decorate, so I set off to see what I could find. This is what I came back with:

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Everything was on sale except the XO picture, and I had a 40%off coupon for that. The item to the right is a shadow box. I wasn’t in the market for one, but I really liked it when I saw it. It was half price and the only one of its kind that was in good shape: otherwise I probably would have waited and thought about it for a while. I do have a place I am planning to put it once I decide what to put in it.

The XO picture I bought primarily for the frame – no offense to the artist. 🙂 One day as I was folding clothes in the laundry room, I thought the space over the washer needed something. I don’t want to put a lot of time and money into decorating that particular room, but I want it to look pleasant as I spend so much time in there. Then at the first of the year when I was transferring all the important dates from last year’s calendar to this year’s, I saw a calendar page that would be perfect for that room. Its size wouldn’t fit a conventional frame, so I’ve been looking around for a frame that would work, and this one looked like it would.

It was a little more tedious to take the backing off the frame than I had anticipated, but eventually I got it done. The calendar page had to be cut down a little, but most of it fit:

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The calendar, by the way, is a 2014 one called Living Faith by Joy Hall. Her art is new to me, but I love it and really enjoyed this calendar last year. I’m glad to be able to keep a piece of it out to enjoy year round.

I was originally going to put it on this same wall but further down above the washer. But it just seemed like it would look better down with the other things I had there.

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The Precious Moments cross stitch was done by one of my sisters some years ago and says “Loads of Love.” I confess that’s not how I usually feel about laundry, but it’s a reminder to me. 🙂 The piece underneath is wooden and says, “Everything comes out in the wash.” I got it years ago from a catalog. The framed calendar page says, “Clothe yourselves with kindness,” Colossians 3:12, and is another reminder I frequently need.

I was pleased with how it all turned out.

The smaller square piece in the top photo says “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear.” I put that in an empty spot on top of my desk:

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The flower arrangement was another Hobby Lobby purchase from years ago and has been there with the candle holders (currently without candles) for some time. The little angel was in a dish garden that my mom had sent me way back in college. The little pedestal I got at a thrift store and just put up with the Faith piece yesterday. I’d had it for a while but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it – it just seems to fit there now. I’ll probably put something else on it besides that leafy stem, but I just grabbed what was at hand.

Unfortunately that side of the desk doesn’t match the other…

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…but the utilitarian stuff doesn’t fit into the cabinets and it needs to be nearby.

This little alcove is off the dining area, and this is my main view from where I sit at the table, so I’m happy to spruce it up a little.

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I don’t usually get bunny things, but I do like pink roses, and this was just too cute, not very expensive in the first place, and on sale. I put it on a table that sits just past the front door.

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Everything on this table was a gift except the flower arrangement, which I got at a thrift store, and the little bunny. I started to wait to put the bunny out til Easter – but I like it too much. 🙂

So there you have a peek into my newest decorations. It was a fun time shopping for them and then setting them out. And I still have $12 left on my Hobby Lobby gift card! 🙂

Finished Project: Sewing Machine Cover

Whew! I don’t think I have ever been away from the blog this long before. My oldest son, Jeremy, was here all last week and my husband was off as well. Jason and Mittu and Timothy came over a number of times as well as Mittu’s mother, who was also in town visiting for a few days. Jesse’s girlfriend also came over a couple of times to meet the rest of the family. Between visiting, a few outings, keeping up with groceries and cooking, and then after everyone left recuperating, catching up on laundry, running errands, and more grocery shopping – well, you can see why I haven’t been around much lately. 🙂 It was a wonderful time, though – I’ll probably say more about it on my weekly Friday’s Fave Five.

My sewing/craft room doubles as a guest room. Jeremy would be staying there this visit, and though the room has been a continual work in progress ever since we lived here, I pretty much have it about like I want it with just a couple more touches to finish. One project I’ve been wanting to get to for some months was to make a new cover for my sewing machine. My old one was red (which I don’t care for or use in my decorating any more), Holly Hobbie (which I got over a long time ago), and looked like something had been spilled on it. It was about 30 years old, so I felt a new one was overdue.

Old Sewing Machine Cover

Old Sewing Machine Cover

I’ve been looking up ideas online for some time and gathered them into a Pinterest board for Sewing Machine Covers. Deciding what to do is the hardest, usually longest part of any project for me. This one was my main inspiration, but I didn’t want to do it exactly like that (and I couldn’t get to the original post about it – all I had was the photo).

I finally came up with a plan and got it in my head that I wanted to get it done before Jeremy came – not that he would notice or care about it, but you know how someone coming over is the impetus to get some things done. I didn’t get it completely finished before he got here, but it was far enough along that I could toss it over the sewing machine. I just finished it, or as much as I am going to do with it for now, this morning.

I knew I wanted a sewing machine on front, and this mug rug gave me the idea to add some sewing accessories. I was going to try to just wing it drawing the shapes I wanted, and then decided that the couple of dollars for that pattern as well as this one for the sewing machine would be money well spent. I enlarged the sewing machine pattern by 150% on my printer, but the other pieces are the same size as the pattern except that I cut the pincushion down a bit.

I had never appliqued before, except for one vague memory of an attempt at trying to use the satin stitch on my machine and having thread pile up in a lump at the beginning. So I don’t know why I decided to try to do that on a project like this that needed so much of it, and on a deadline. Glutton for punishment, I guess. 🙂 I did use Wonder Under to fuse the pieces on, but needed to cover the outside edges in stitching so they wouldn’t ravel. Much of the satin stitch actually came out looking like a zigzag stitch. You do have to help guide/push the fabric through while sewing, and it’s hard to get a feel for how much to do that without the stitches spacing too far apart. That really bugged me until one of the patterns I was looking at this morning said a zigzag stitch could be used – so I can just pretend I meant it to be that way. 🙂 It wasn’t until the last item I stitched that it began to look more like a satin/applique stitch.

Anyway – here it is:

photo 2

I was going to put a ruffle at the bottom out of the same fabric that I used for the sewing machine applique – but I didn’t leave myself enough room. That is one of my favorite fabrics – it’s from a maternity dress I made during my first pregnancy. 🙂 You can’t really find those shades of pink and blue together on fabric much these days.

I used a fabric that was already quilted for the base because I didn’t want to have to deal with quilting the background fabric (sorry Wendy — maybe next time. 🙂 Wendy is an expert at free-motion quilting on the machine and has been encouraging me to try it).

This was the last item I appliqued where it was just starting to look like I knew what I was doing.

photo 3(1)

No, I’m not going to show you a close-up of the zig-zaggy ones! 🙂 Though you can see a bit of it to the right of the pin cushion there.

It might’ve helped to use a slightly wider stitch to be more sure of catching the fabric edge, but some of the pieces were so small I didn’t want the outline stitching to take up too much of it. There were a couple of places I strayed off the path a bit, especially with some of the pinks that were lighter and harder to see. At some point it occurred to me that I could use a washable fabric marking pen to outline where I needed to stitch on those hard-to-see places.

I’ve thought about adding some stitching like that in this piece to kind of tie everything together. I may also come back at some point and embroider some pins in the pin cushion. I was originally going to do another design on the back so I could change it around as desired – but I got to a point where I just felt like I needed to get it done. It’s usable now, and I can think about the other touches and add them later if I decide I want to.

It’s not perfect – but I like it, and it is much better than what I had.

Here’s my little sewing corner:

photo 4(1)

No, my desk isn’t usually that clean, and yes, I did clear it off just for the picture. 🙂

It was nice to get behind the sewing machine again and especially nice to get a project done that has been on my mind for ages.

My Favorite Cookie Recipes

I think I have posted most of these before, but recently I wished I had them all in one place to link to and decided to gather them together when I had time. So here they are:

Pudding Chip Cookies

I can’t remember whether I discovered these on a pudding mix package or had them at a friend’s house, but I love the flavor the pudding adds to it.

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pkg. (4 serving size) instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 pkg (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine butter, sugars, pudding mix, and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs. Mix flour with baking soda. and gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chips. Drop from teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes (mine usually take 10-12 minutes). I used to add chocolate chunks or miniature Hershey’s kisses just for something different, but I haven’t been able to find those lately.

Cookies

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I kind of adapted this when I was trying to find a recipe that came close to the peanut butter cookies at the Great American Cookie Company place at the mall. This is basically a peanut butter cookie recipe I found in a magazine, but it’s not mashed down with a fork and it has peanut butter chips added. Because I love chocolate and peanut butter together, I also added chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. margarine, softened
1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. or more semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup or more peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 375. Mix flour and baking soda. Beat margarine and peanut butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well-blended. On low speed or by hand gradually add flour mixture. Beat just until blended. Add chips and mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until browned. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute before removing to cool completely.

Choco-Peanut Butter Dreams

I first saw these in a magazine, probably in an ad for one of the ingredients. From the first try I loved them. I often make them in the fall.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar — firmly packed
1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned) — uncooked
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 teaspoons vegetable shortening
1/3 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Beat together brown sugar, peanut butter and butter, until light and fluffy. Blend in water, egg and vanilla; add combined dry ingredients; mix well. Shape dough into 1″ balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; flatten to 1/4″ thickenss with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire rack, cook completely.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate pieces and vegetable shortening; stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Top each cookie with 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate; sprinkle with chopped nuts (if desired). Cool until set.

Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 dozen.

CIMG3227

I think I generally do these as drop cookies and skip the rolling into balls and flattening step, but the rolling and flattening would probably make them look more uniform if that is important to you. I like them without the peanuts on top.

Quick Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

These are a pared-down version of the originals but taste every bit as good. My daughter-in-law got this recipe in one of her classes. They’re great for a quick treat, and for those with gluten sensitivities, they’re flourless. We don’t always have Hershey’s kisses on hand so I sometimes just mix chocolate chips in the dough.

1 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
Hershey’s Kisses

Thoroughly mix together peanut butter, sugar, and egg. Drop by teaspoonful or roll into 1 inch balls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10-11 minutes, until slightly browned. Immediately place an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each cookie and press down. Let sit on pan for a minute or two, then remove from pan. Let cool before storing. Makes 24-26.

Peanut butter kiss cookies

Congo Bars

I don’t know why they’re called that, and in trying to find a recipe to link to, I found all kinds of variations! But this one is pretty simple plus makes more than the usual 9 x 13 pan. Great for when you need to take cookies somewhere but want to leave some home for the family as well.

1/2 cup margarine
2 3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups flour
1 to 2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt margarine and combine with brown sugar.Add eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Spread mixture into a greased 11 x 15″ pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25minutes. Makes 2 dozen, depending on how you cut them. Chopped nuts can be added if desired.

Congo bars

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I am just going to share Annette’s photo and link to her recipe since there is where I found these. I love snickerdoodles but don’t like all the forming into balls and rolling them in sugar and cinnamon. When I saw them as bar cookies on Annette’s blog, I knew I had to try them, and now they’re a family favorite, plus I like to take them to church fellowships and meals that I make for others.

snickerdoodle bars

Gingerbread Teddy Bears

I got this recipe way back in college when the Home Economics Department at my college was having a Christmas Open House. I don’t make them every year because all of that ball-rolling is a little tedious, especially if you’re doubling the recipe. But they’re fun to make (especially if you have helpers) and they taste great. I wasn’t a great fan of gingerbread cookies before these, but I like that these are soft and chewy rather than hard and crisp.

1 c. butter or margarine
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. dark corn syrup, light corn syrup, or molasses
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Miniature semi-sweet chocolate pieces
Decorator icing (optional)

In a saucepan combine butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat til butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large mixing bowl and cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, soda, and cloves. Add egg and vanilla to butter mixture and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat til well mixed. Divide the dough in half; cover and chill at least two hours or overnight.

To make each teddy bear, shape dough into about a 1-inch ball for the body, one 3/4-inch ball for the head, and six 1/2-inch balls for the arms, legs, and ears. On ungreased cookie sheet, place the 1-inch ball and flatten slightly. Place 3/4-inch ball next to (touching) the “body” for the head. then do the same for the arms and legs. Place two 1/2-inch balls above the head for ears. If desired you can pinch off just a teeny bit of dough for a nose, or use miniature chocolate chip. Use miniature chocolate chips for the eyes and either a navel on the belly or 3 “buttons”. Bake at 350^ for 8-10 minutes or until done. Carefully remove and cool.

If desired, pipe on smile, bow tie or vest or other decorations with decorator icing (1/2 c. sifted powder sugar and approximately 2 tsp. milk, blended to piping consistency, tinted with 1-2 drops food coloring). Makes 20-23.

I do make a few others here and there, but these I make most often. Usually I end up with less than the recipe says it will make,  I think because I tend to make them bigger than intended, but I put what the original recipes said they’d yield.

Enjoy! Let me know if you make any of these and what you think.