Thursday, March 29, 2012

14 days to a sneeze free home: Pollen, cleaning, and allergies

Have you been sneezing your way through spring?  Have you awakened each morning to thick, yellow blankets of pollen?  For some, spring is allergy season, just as fall's ragweed period is the time others sniffle.

Because the winter of 2011/2012 was so mild, spring of 2012 has already
seen early high pollen counts. Here in Nashville, we've had blooming trees and green grass for many weeks now.

Here's what's happening with pollen in the Nashville area today

Tree pollen count for 03/29/12:
Very High
Most active tree pollen types:
  • Cedar
  • Maple
  • Pine
I can feel the high counts in stuffy sinuses and achy joints.

According to an article on
An allergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance (called an allergen) that causes the body's defense system (the immune system) to overreact when defending itself.
Normally, the immune system would only react if a harmful substance, such as bacteria, attacks the body. For people with allergies, their immune system is working too hard, and it reacts even when relatively harmless substances, such as pollen, are present. The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to life threatening situations.
Allergens can stimulate an immune response when you breathe in or touch the allergen, or by ingestion of food or beverage, or from injections of medication.
Common allergic reactions include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma, food allergies, pet dander allergies, and reactions to the venom of stinging insects, such as wasps and bees.
 One of the best ways to deal with pollen is to give your house and other surroundings, such as a car or office, extra cleaning attention. Unfortunately, if you are suffering an allergic reaction, this may be the time when you least feel like exerting yourself to clean.  However, if you can push through without further endangering your health, it's worth the effort.   
Remember, it's not always the pollen that you can visibly see that causes allergies, though it can be. However, we want to clean away visible pollen, as it can build up in unsightly layers and attract dust and smaller pollens that could be your true allergy triggers.  In the process of cleaning, we hope that we will clean away even the tiniest of particles. 

So, despite the fact that my next 15 days are packed to the gills with activities, I'm embarking on a plan to create a more allergen free environment.  If you'd like to follow along, just take the steps each day that I do.  Otherwise, create your own cleaning plan.
Here are my goals for Day I:
1)  Brush the dog thoroughly.  House pets who go outside for short breaks or in- and- outdoor pets track in allergens.  
2)  Brush hair or wash it thoroughly.   Human hair attracts dust and pollen and allergens, just as pet hair can.  A good idea when cleaning is to cover your hair with a cloth or scarf to prevent it from collecting dust.  It's also wise to keep hair clean and neatly brushed.  Too much brushing can be harmful to the hair, so don't overdo.  Just clean it out.
3) Wash brushes and combs.
4)  15 minutes de-junking.  Junk, clutter, even valuable objects that you don't want or use anymore all collect dust, pollen, and allergens.
5)  Wipe windshield of car and mirrors to make sure that they are free of pollen buildup.  Pollen buildup on the glass surfaces of your car can interfere with your driving vision.
Bonus:  Dry wipe the walls and ceilings of your bedroom, along with any ceiling fans.  You can even use a long swiffer pole and a swiffer dust cloth for this.   
Any other cleaning you have already accomplished or planned for the day.    


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games?

Are my husband and I the only ones struggling with the teen-on-teen violence in the Hunger Games books and movie?  To be honest, I've not seen the movie nor read the books.  I've merely seen the movie trailer and have also talked with some preteens/young teens who are interested in the Hunger Games.  I hear that it does have a positive ending in which the main character comes to decry violence of any kind.

However, my understanding is that, along the way,  teens are placed in a situation where they must be killed or be killed.    Is that wise mental food to be serving teens given the fact that we've seen some horrendous acts of school violence by troubled children/teens/young adults in the past few decades, as well as seeing teen lives taken by gang violence?  On the other hand, am I a hypocrite to be bothered by this, as I have watched movies in which adults are killed?  Saving Private Ryan, for example, showed war in all its ugliness, but I did view it. 

Where does all of this fit with Phil. 4:4-8's admonition to guard the things we think about?I think we are naive if we don't understand that the things we choose to read and watch do affect us on some level.     

What about you?  Have you read the books or seen the movie?  If you have, what did you think?  If you have, are you eager to or reluctant to see what it's all about?  Will you let your preteens and teens see or read this series?

I wasn't interested in the Twilight series, either.  I heard an interesting point on a radio show.  The original Dracula by Bram Stoker was clearly portrayed as evil and unappealing, while the vampire characters in Twilight are portrayed as being tragically romantic -- and tragic romance is irresistible to many a young girl.  Having neither read the original Dracula or the Twilight books, I can't speak to that with certainty.  But, I did find that thought to be interesting.

What say you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Father of the Bride House

Have you read the February/March issue of HGTV Magazine?  A friend was kind enough to send an issue over for me to peruse while I had a bought with a cold.  I was delighted to read an article about a young couple who live in the house in which the Father of the Bride and its sequel were filmed.  I'm a sucker for white siding and climbing roses, as well as for the two movies (and the originals with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor). 

The house is located in Pasadena, CA.   They told their realtor that they were looking for a house like the one in the movie and were surprised to find that they were able to buy the actual one.   Read the article to learn about the upsides and downsides to living in such a famous dwelling.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brown and peach....

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently had our bathroom tiled.  With the tile I chose, I envisioned going toward an old world scheme or possibly blue/tan, as I am crazy about blue right now.  I ended up with peach and brown, though.   I chose a spiced beige paint which ended up looking like blush peach, and I just sort of rolled with things from there.  I'm pretty happy with the results, as it is a warm and inviting space, and it's masculine enough for my husband and feminine enough for me.  With just a little tweaking in the bedroom, I can extend the theme throughout by using blue/peach/cream or very light brown touches.  I'll show photos soon.

Today, I looked up decorating in peach and brown and found these articles and images:

Peach and brown bathroom    

Brown and peach gallery

Here are two rooms from the gallery above that blend brown or cream and peach well: 

How about you. What color schemes do you favor?


Monday, March 12, 2012

Are you sentimentally attached to clutter?

I need a 12 step program for people who are sentimentally attached to clutter.  That's one of my biggest bugaboos in my quest for a streamlined home.  Yet, I am determined to overcome this mindset.

I closed out my father's house last year after he moved into assisted living.  So, I have stuff that he kept from WWII, from my grandfather's cattle farm, from my late aunt, and from my late mother, as well as things that people have given to me or that remind me of my children's childhood or that dear hubby and I acquired at some meaningful occasion. 

Since girlhood, I have been a sentimental clutterer.  I kept a bulletin board in my room on which I pinned movie tickets from dates or outings with friends, corsages that dried nearly to dust, and, once, the string of a hot air balloon  which I kept until it had almost no more air left in it.  Those things are long gone, but I have the new equivalent.

Of course, some sentimental treasures are worth keeping.  I still have my husband's letters from when we were engaged, and he went to another city to begin his work, while I waited behind until we married.   I also have cards and letters he has given me through the years.  Those are staying put.  I also do have some antiques that I will keep.

Sentimentality toward clutter can come in a number of ways:

1)  Sometimes, people hold on to objects that even have negative responses associated with them. 
2)  Sometimes, people hang on to objects out of guilt.  For example, if someone gives you something, you may feel obligated to keep it.  Perhaps, you never wanted it in the first place.  Perhaps, you once did, but it no longer fits your home.
3)  Sometimes, people hold onto objects because they associate them with happy times and people whom they love. 

None of the above is necessarily right or wrong.  However, if clutter like this does get in the way of your lifestyle or becomes a burden, it's time to whittle it down.  For the sentimental person, deciding what to keep and what to throw can create a little anxiety.  It's best to remember that, in the end, it's only stuff, and it is not equivalent to people, memories, or our personal identity.

(Don't forget to leave a comment on by April 10th to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of my historical novel, "A Tree Firmly Planted".   


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mmm Mmm good and oh so simple...

This little bite that I just had for lunch is so simple that it doesn't belong in my recipe section.  But, it's tasty!

I simply take a large tomato basil tortilla (yummy), sprinkle it with shredded cheese, fold it in half, and either toast it in the oven or zap it for a few seconds in the microwave, just long enough for the cheese to melt.  The oven is better; the microwave is quicker.  Of course, there are any number of things you could add to tweak this:  olives, sour cream, pizza sauce, meat, etc.  But, it's the tomato basil wrap that's the key.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Bathroom redo, part deux...

Taking all suggestions for the following:

We have double sinks in a white counter, which I really like. There is one large mirror across the counter and a strip of Hollywood lights across the top. Those Hollywood lights were out of style even when the house was built, so I'm not sure why those were used. I'm sure that they are inexpensive. I'd like to take down the Hollywood strip and find something else.

So, to reiterate, I will have a cameo floor tile with spiced beige paint. I'm traditional/old world/romantic in taste, but also want to consider my husband's masculine sensibilities.

I'd love your ideas!

It's softly raining and a little dark -- prime napping weather!! I'd love right now to be snoozing like this little kitten princess, but have much to do.

I've just completed the hair raising process (for me) of selecting floor tile and pain for Doc Brilliant's and my master bathroom. We tend to stick with choices for a long time, so re-doing in a short time if I don't like it is not an option.

When in doubt, go neutral. Sounds easy, right? But, if you're like me, that opens up a whole new set of questions: cool neutrals? warm neutrals? What if I like these neutrals for Doc Brilliant's and my master bathroom, but really would rather use slightly different neutrals in another part of the house? And, how does all this fit with existing fixtures?

I ended up with a tile called cameo which has speckles of various neutrals in it, but overall is sort of a camel. I decided on spiced beige paint for the walls. I'll post a photo when my bathroom redo is done.

I think one way I can ensure continuity is to use the same white trim throughout the house.

Doc Brilliant likes warm tones, so I hope that this bathroom will feel warm and cozy for him. There's enough of my froufrou in all the other rooms to lighten my heart.

Of course, color is not the only consideration. There is the material and texture of the tile, as well as the value and the cost to think about.

And, the thing is, that no matter what colors you use, nothing looks good until your house is sparkling. So, off to do some chores in that line.

While I'm cleaning, you all are welcome to leave any tips for me on choosing such things as tile, paint, etc. What have your experiences been? What are your favorite products? What have been your experiences with different kinds of floor tile?

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Proverbs 31 woman has been held up as an example by both sides of "The Mommy Wars". When I was a child, she was considered to be the supreme example of the woman who makes home and family her career. After all, her activities are centered in her household, and her home is the base of her operation. People saw her as a wife and mother who happened to bring in extra money.

In the eighties, many began to point out that the worthy woman is a businesswoman. She evaluates and buys a field. She plants a vineyard out of her own earnings. She makes and sells linen garments. She makes and sells sashes. Many saw her as a professional who happened to have a husband and a family.

So, which is she, the hard working stay-at-home wife and mother or the equally hard working wife who holds down a full-time outside job?

I don't claim that I have the definitive answer, but here are some thoughts. The description of the worthy woman is timeless. However, as to detail, it was obviously given to us before the Industrial Revolution. For the better part of our world's history, most people lived in an agrarian economy. While men may have led, most husbands and wives worked closely together in or near the home. Most people were farmers or herders. Some operated small businesses, many of which were located in or very near the home. Some were religious or political leaders.

Some men were in the military. Some were merchants who did travel long distances to purchase goods and to sell them along trade routes. These were two of the few enterprises that might take a man away from his home for long periods of time.

Neither men nor women were likely to leave the home in the morning, work a full day, and come home in the evening. Until the Industrial Revolution, this was not a common pattern. Even in the early days of the U.S., peoples' lives were generally centered close to home, with exceptions being a man who was a soldier, sailor, or circuit minister.

We still see vestiges of home centered life and business today. We've all known couples who operated small businesses together or families in which one member was a professional and another ran the professional's business side. Likewise, if you are familiar with life on a family farm, you know that is a whole-family enterprise.

Two of my cousins' wives live in the same small town, and they bought and planted a small field of bell peppers, most of which they sold. This was not their main work, and it did not take them away from their homes. It did provide supplemental income and some personal satisfaction for the two.

I often think of these women when I read that the Proverbs 31 woman considered a field, bought it, and planted a vineyard. I also think about the fact that grapes provided needed liquid and calories, as well as wine to drink and wine for medicine. This was important in a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern semi-arid culture in the days before refrigeration. The worthy woman could make great use of her grapes in her own household, as well as sell grapes or wine for added income.

The worthy woman also sewed. Sewing, too, would have been an essential skill for any woman of the day. There were no fashion runways, department stores, box stores, boutiques, malls, mail order clothes, fabric mills, or clothing manufacturers. What fabric there was had to be hand-loomed of homespun and hand dyed fibers. If you count the time it takes to grow flax or for sheep to produce wool enough to shave, plus the time to spin thread and turn it into fabric and then to hand-sew it, you can see that the production of even one garment might take a year or more. Thus, it behooved the manager of a large household to know how to perform these steps. If she could also sell her handiwork to merchants, who could then sell it to others, she could again make some supplemental income.

The work of a skilled seamstress must have been highly valued in her world. Again, while this work might require her to be out and about a bit, it did not take her away from her family for very long at a time. Much of it could be done in the home or on the family land, where she would be available to her husband and to her children.

Though we do see some examples of this lifestyle in our culture today, the Industrial Revolution brought about more of an urban, corporate, industrialized society. As the society transformed from being largely agrarian to largely based on manufacture and commerce, the daily life of the family changed as well. There developed a pattern of leaving the home sphere for a long day of work in a factory or a business and coming back home only when that work was over. Home became more of a place to eat, sleep, and recover from work, rather than the base of the family's occupation and lifestyle.

In the early days of the manufacturing age, men, women, and children were employed in mills, mining, and factories, and the entire family might go off in different directions for work each early morning. More people moved from farms or small towns to large cities to find employment in factories or corporations, a process that started in the 1700's, but became more rapid in the first half of the 20th century. Child labor laws eventually corrected the abuse of pushing children into crowded factories to work, at least in 1st world economies. However, the prevailing pattern of work became one in an individual leaves the home in the morning, goes off to a workplace, and comes home only at night.

With the exception of WWII, the pattern in the first six decades of the 20th century was that the man would go off to a job in the morning, while the woman stayed at home to manage the household and to care for children. In the late 70's and eighties, women entered this modern workplace, as well. Thus, the process of rearing children was largely shifted to school and daycare, with children being at home with families only in the evenings and on weekends.

Today's Information Revolution may be slightly reversing the trend of going out of the home to a corporate or manufacturing job. Now, many are able to work from home via computers and the Internet. Many new ways have opened up for women (and for men) to market their skills from home. Some are able to carve new niches in this information based economy and to find work they truly enjoy doing using their home as a base. Moreover, today's corporate workplace is more flexible than it was in the 19th and 20th centuries, allowing people to move in and out of corporate careers.

Likewise, some, for various reasons, some families consciously choose to reinvent the pre-industrial home or farm centered business lifestyle. In the 1960's, people often did this as a reaction to materialism, for they felt that the society which had its roots in the Industrial Revolution had become a materialistic one. Many also felt that modern society also separated people from nature and had also damaged the ecology. Others in recent decades have chosen this lifestyle because they do feel it is best for the family.

For my part, I do aim to life a home centered lifestyle and to earn supplemental income using my home as my base. My husband and I have chosen to live in smaller homes and to drive our cars for many years and to make other little sacrifices in order for me to be a manager of our home and to care for our children. I have also been available to help care for members of our extended family who were ill. At times, I have taken on part-time work or freelance work, though. My husband has also based his career decisions based on what is best to God's kingdom and for our family, even though that meant he made some personal career sacrifices.

There is nothing inherently wrong or right about any of the aforementioned societies: agrarian, industrial, or information based. There have been pluses and minuses connected with each of these ways of life. God's word transcends all temporary circumstances and cultures. It gives us the supreme wisdom by which to live our lives no matter what our culture dictates the ideal should be. Likewise, human needs transcend all cultures. No matter what our particular cultural condition might be, there is always need in a family for a wife and mother who looks well to the ways of her household. What that might look like may vary some from era to era, but the underlying need does not.

All of that brings us back to our question. Is the worthy woman of Proverbs 31 one who takes a full time job outside the home and leaves her children to childcare outside the home? I personally don't see her as a person whose main occupation takes her away from her household for long, long hours in a day.

So, does she fit our stereotypical image of the 50's suburban housewife? Is she June Cleaver or Betty Crocker? Not really. Her life is more richly layered than our (perhaps, mistaken) impressions of that era's woman.

Can a woman imitate the Proverbs 31 woman's attention to her marriage and family and also have a full time career outside of the home? I don't think that I could, and I've known many women who floundered trying to "do it all". However, I have known some outstanding women who have managed wonderful, godly homes and have also managed wonderful full time careers at the same time. It would be a mistake to turn Proverbs 31, especially by itself and not in context of the whole Bible, into a rule about whether or not all women should or should not have full time occupations outside of their household.

Who is the worthy woman, then? In my view, she is a woman with great reverence for the Lord. Indeed, we are told that her reverence for the Lord and her fruitful life are more important than how she looks. Her spiritual clothing is strength and dignity; her physical clothing is pretty and well-made, but she is not preoccupied with fashion or adornment. She has honed skills that build her family, and some of these skills are marketable, as well. She is a blessing to her husband and children, and her husband can trust, that because of her skill and effort, all is well in their household. She manages and increases her family's resources. She is wise and kind, and she instructs her children and servants wisely. She opens her heart and her arms to those outside of her family who are in need. She watches over the affairs of her household, and she is in the home enough to know what is going on there, what is needed, and what is progressing well. She neglects nothing that has to do with her family's welfare. She loves her home and her family and finds joy in her labors for them.

I think any Godly woman would love to imitate this woman's faith and to experience the fruitful outcome of a life like this woman's. I hope that we approach these verses about worthy woman for what we can learn from her and not stamp on to her what we wish her to be. I think we do best to understand the heart and principles involved in this passage and ask ourselves what it is that the is Lord trying to teach through this lovely description. I hope we avoid tagging her with our cultural baggage and that we use scripture, and not cultural norms, as the guide for our lives.

There are many scriptures, including Proverbs 31, that show us how to order our lives. The scriptures also build our faith that if we seek the Lord and his righteousness first, he will take care of us.

As the last decades of the modern and postmodern society bump against the early decades of the information age, our cultural work patterns are zigzagging. Many daughters of 60's style feminists rejected the way their mothers pursued careers and have left the corporate world or academia to come home. Now, some of their own daughters are likewise pursuing home and family as a career, while others are in corporate or professional careers or academia, like their grandmothers were. Still others are pursuing an indie business lifestyle, which allows them to work from home and to combine work and family. Rather than swinging along with cultural trends, we each need to pray, study, and form deep convictions about what pleases the Lord and builds the family.

No matter how I might put into practice what I see in the Proverbs 31 woman, I hesitate to wave her around as a symbol in some culture war. She is so much more than that!


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Look for my historical novel coming soon to a Kindle or a store near you! A Tree Firmly Planted
is the story of how three young woman navigate such issues as faith, slavery, prejudice, new love, marriage, and parenthood, all while living on a battlefield. While it is fiction, it is interwoven with many true incidents that happened in Maury County, Tennessee during the
Civil War. My mother's kin have lived in middle Tennessee since pioneer days, so some of the historical events are part of our family lore.

This is book one of A Tennssee Trilogy.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Questions that make you say "Hmm..."

I read an interesting discussion on the BlogHer main site today about questions that people ask of acquaintances or even strangers. A blogger noted that women are often asked questions about when they are going to start a family or when they are going to have a next child. She pointed out that many women suffer from infertility or have lost children. In such cases, questions like those can be very painful.

Others commented that these questions go both ways. Women with large families are asked questions such as, "Don't you know what causes that?" or "Are you trying to be like the Duggars?"

My single friends tell me that they don't care for a boatload of questions along the lines of "Have you found that someone yet?" or "Do you see marriage in your future?"

Once, many years ago, I visited a town where I had once lived. From the window of my hostess' home, I saw an acquaintance. She looked as if she were six months along. She carried her hand protectively over her stomach much as most of us do when we are pregnant. I wondered why I hadn't heard the news through mutual friends, but I was thrilled for her nonetheless. So, I ran out to congratulate her.

I'm sure that you've already guessed why I'm telling this story. My friend was not pregnant! She was merely carrying some extra weight. I felt horrible. I felt just as horrible when the tables were turned and someone asked me the same question in the same circumstances!

I'm sure that's not the only time I have opened my mouth and inserted my foot. Don't you think that we all mean well when we ask such questions? I think we all want to connect on a heart level with the people we encounter. Since marriage and family are close to our own hearts, we naturally turn to that subject for conversational material.

Nonetheless, I have learned the hard way that it's all to easy to wound someone with an ill-considered question or an offhand comment. I love this prayer from Psalm 141:3 "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."

Jesus draws people in instantly. He knows just what is in a person's heart and what questions will open their minds to God. To me, his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is a wonderful example of this. Of course, Jesus is both sinless and has perfect love and wisdom. If I, with my limited insight, wish to ask wise questions, I need to stay prayerful! Otherwise, I tend to open my mouth and insert my foot -- which isn't a pleasant mouthful.

How about you? Have you been wounded by a thoughtless question? When you first meet someone, what do you say or ask in order to get to know them?