100 Days to a Happy Housewife 57: I quit


Yep, I'm giving it up.

100 Days to a Happy Housewife has been a great project, and I really wanted to finish it out. But I'm not actually having the summer I expected to have when I started. I thought I was going to be home all summer. As it turns out, between work and play, I'm going to be gone more than I'm here over the course of the next eight weeks. Add to that a work schedule that has taken a turn for the completely insane (we're talking 70+ hours/week insanity), and I just don't see any more valuable posting happening if I have to do projects and take pictures to make it happen.

So, I'm admitting defeat. I am, perhaps unsurprisingly, a truly lousy housewife. Hopefully I've re-integrated the blogging habit enough to at least get a few posts a week up for the rest of the summer, keeping you all abreast of my travel adventures. Thanks for reading!


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Thrift Share Monday

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Yay! Thrift Share Monday!

I actually went a bit outside my comfort zone this weekend and visited a bunch of new stores. Unfortunately, they were almost uniformly terrible, and the bulk of my great finds came, as always, from Unique. I did buy some glassware at smaller shops, though.

My favorite finds:

From Unique, a great coffee table book about Georgia O'Keefe (it includes her art and her letters, which is really fascinating) and a cool blue glass pitcher. I thought the pitcher was mid-century to begin with, but I think it's probably actually Ikea or similar. I believe both items were $4.94.

Also from Unique, a trio of graphic black-and-white print tops. The lefthand one is an empire cotton tank top from H&M, the middle is a great sort of floaty top with an asymetrical neckline from Loft, and the righthand is a basic kind of sleeveless top by I think Izod. I'm really into these sorts of prints right now. These were, I think, $3.99 each.

This trio is from two small thrift stores in Falls Church, Joseph's Closet and...something else. I absolutely love the hand blown amber glass pitcher, and I paid $12 for it, which is a lot for me. Mark says the bulb-bottomed amber glass vase looks 70s, but I don't care, because I love the shape and it was $5. The pottery vase is sadly mass-produced and not handmade, but Mark loves it, and it was only $3.

I can't resist the napkins! This set of 4 new ones was $2.99 at Unique.

My most practical find of the weekend, which I forgot to photograph, was a new in package set of four small, square white porcelain cereal bowls for $5. I've been looking for some small cereal bowls--we have only huge ones--and these are perfect.


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100 Days to a Happy Housewife 50: Halfway

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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgWow, I'm at the halfway point! Makes me feel particularly bad for the neglect this project has suffered in the last ten days or so. I haven't lost my commitment, just my drive. I've been almost completely un-blogging. My reader attests to that--505 unread entries. Guess I should make those a priority this weekend.

I am still thinking of how to fill out the last half of my commitment here. I know I need to get back to the, you know, cleaning, much as I am avoiding it. I haven't done my bedroom or my office, the latter of which is a bit of an embarrassment. I haven't even attempted a daily cleaning routine. And there are some more specific projects, such a taking up the apparently lost housewifely art of the table garden, that I really want to try. Plus, I have more and more political thoughts stemming from this project, and (at the risk of major audience alienation), I need to get to those. I've also got a few book reviews I want to share with you all, and some posts for other blogs.

Which all to say I'm still here, and I haven't abandoned ship. Stick with me, there's more Happy Housewife to come.


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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI thought this post was going to be about the Happy Housewife as a Happy Hostess--lots of tips from Martha about throwing a party, and some fun anecdotes about the party we threw this weekend. And I may still write that post, but in reality, actual party preparations brought up a whole other post.

For the first time since starting this project, I got a hint of the kind of resentment I imagine could be par for the course for women who live this lifestyle permanently. It turned out, due to a combination of Mark's work commitments, Mark's underestimation of how much work is involved in throwing a party, and my inability to say no before I got really angry, that the bulk of the pre-party preparations fell to me. I spent nearly a whole day (six plus hours) driving around, hitting a total of 8 stores (which, given how long it takes to get anywhere out here, is a lot), buying party supplies. I ran to the butcher, the hardware store, the beer and wine store, multiple grocery stores. And, by the end of the day, I was very, very angry.

It wasn't just that I felt I was being left with the majority of the preparations for a party that wasn't my idea in the first place--that was irritating, but dealable. My major resentment came from the fact that my taking charge of all of the party prep was expected. It wasn't something that was discussed or agreed upon, it fell on me by default. From what I've seen, this isn't something many women would find to be unusual. In my life, it is unusual, so I noticed, and I chafed.

In my situation, this expectation was just plain ridiculous. I may be doing this project, and I may be home all day, but I'm not a housewife. I work more than full-time. I bring home more than 50% off the bacon. Taking charge of this kind of thing is not in my contract. For me, then, this was just an oversight, a mistake. I don't expect it will happen again. But the experience brought something up that I've been thinking a lot about--how does this type of thing work for women who do take on full-time homemaker roles? Would this type of resentment be a factor? Would it be warranted?

Please weigh in. I wouldn't wish how mad I was about this on anybody--and I assume that those of you who have relationships with more separated household roles have a way to deal with this kind of thing, or else you'd hate each other. So fill me in?


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Thrift Share Monday

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I haven't given up on 100 Days to a Happy Housewife--in fact, I'll have a post tomorrow detailing just why I've been absent for a few days--but for today, I just want to share my weekend thrifting finds. I actually didn't do much thrifting--just popped into my favorite store on my way back from Dim Sum yesterday, but I came out with a few things, so I thought I'd share.

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The teal cami with the fancy trim is by Bamboo Traders, a company I'd never heard of before, but it's cute and long enough, so yay. The black one is a workout top from Lucy, something I can never have enough of. They were $4.99 each. The scarf has no labels on it, and I think it's poly-blend rather than silk, but I just love the pattern and color so much I had to buy it for $3.99. Look for it in a future Happy Houswife post, for sure.

How about you? Any great thrift finds this weekend?


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100 Days to a Happy Housewife 41: Flowers


Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgFor whatever reason, I grew up thinking that buying flowers was self-indulgent and wasteful. It was only appropriate if someone died, and slightly suspect even then.

As an adult, I am ridiculously pro-flower. I buy flowers with nearly every grocery trip. I usually don't spent much, and having them around improves my quality of life to an extent I would never have expected. So that's my Happy Housewife thought today--no matter what else you have going on, if you can swing it, buy yourself some flowers.

Mine are peonies.


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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI'm afraid I don't have anything to share with you today beyond party planning stress. I'm afraid I am not a natural hostess.

Anyway, tomorrow is errand/shopping day, and I just made my list, so I thought I'd show you that.


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100 Days to a Happy Housewife 39: Carrot cake

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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI don't know what's up with me and baking recently, but I got that itch again today. I don't even particularly like carrot cake, but I realized I had carrots and cream cheese in the fridge, so I decided to go for it.

I looked at some recipes online, and decided on recipe found in a discussion thread on Cooking Light.

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 pound carrots -- coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pecan halves -- toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 package cream cheese -- (8 oz.) softened
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine -- softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar. sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Make cake: Heat oven to 350 degree F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan (or grease a 10-inch round cake pan; line bottom with wax paper; grease paper). Combine raisins and bourbon in small bowl; set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves in bowl.
  3. Beat granulated sugar and oil in large mixer bowl at medium speed, until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping side and bottom of bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in dry ingredients just until combined. Drain raisins through sieve; discard bourbon. Add raisins, carrots, and pecans. At medium speed, beat 5 minutes more until batter is well blended. Pour into prepared pan; bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  4. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes; remove side of pan. Cool completely. (For cake pan, run a knife around side of pan. Invert cake onto rack; remove pan and wax paper.) Transfer to serving plate.
  5. Make frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter in large mixer bowl until smooth. Beat in confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. Spread over top of cake.
Makes 12 servings. Nutritional facts per serving: calories: 610 , total fat: 36g , saturated fat: 9.5g , cholesterol: 67mg , sodium: 388mg , carbohydrate: 69g , protein: 6g

I made a few changes, based on what we had--I substituted dried blueberries for raisins, then added a tablespoon of molasses with the sugar (since many carrot cake recipes called for brown sugar, which we don't have right now) and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla. I also used baby carrots processed in the food processor, because of the lazy. I also used a square cake pan, because that's what I had handy. Finally, I didn't drain the bourbon off the berries--I just threw it all in.

Going into the oven, it looked like this. Which reminded me why I don't like carrot cake batter. Ew.

When it came out and cooled, I made the frosting as described. The lemon juice is remarkably nice in it, and it's not overly sweet, which is nice. The finished product isn't lovely--I'm not a cake decorator--but it is pretty good.


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Thrift Share Monday


Woohoo! I finally got it together to participate in Thrift Share Monday!

I didn't actually find anything spectacular, or spectacularly cheap, this week, but nevertheless, I will share my finds:

These three pairs of shorts are all for me. The blue ones are Adidas sports shorts, the other two are destructed Bermudas from Ann Taylor and dark wash Bermudas from Izod. I believe they were $4.99 each and they all fit! Since I'm so in love with Bermudas right now, I was happy to find them.

This dress didn't photograph well, but it's really cute on. It's by Alfani and I think it was $6.49.

This is a super cute faux wrap shirt from Ann Taylor. It's not right for this season, but I'll definitely wear it in the fall. It was $4.99.

This was my most fun find! A clearly handmade metal rooster sculpture. It's name is B.B. and it now lives among our plants.

I have no idea what my plan is for this wooden box, but it just seemed so handy. It was $1.91.

This is a set of Vera napkins. I love Vera napkins. Mark hates them, so we don't actually use them, but I keep collecting them anyway. They were $3.49 for four, and I don't think they've ever been used.

This was Mark's gift--a little kit to make three small wooden boats. He's enraptured with it. I think it was $.59 or something.

Like I said, nothing extraordinary, but a good day's thrifting. Hopefully I'll have something more interesting to share next week.


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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgAs we're hosting a party next weekend, it's likely that all of this week's post will have something to do with our preparations. Today, preparing means cleaning. Mark and I have been working on the whole main level of our house, but I specifically set out to do a deep-clean of our "formal" living room, since I hadn't yet hit that room on my 100 Days to a Happy Housewife schedule.

I am not going to bore you with the suggested steps to cleaning a living room, since I already went over those on Day 18. Instead, I'll just tell you what I did.

The room I started out with wasn't terribly dirty (with the exception of the cover for the couch, which was a filthy dog hair mess). It was, however, a bit cluttered and very dusty. I started with high dusting--ceilings and corners and stuff, and pulled the couch out from the window and dusted and washed the window. From there, I removed bric brac and books and dusted and cleaned all the furniture--the couch, the coffee table, the bar, two chairs, two bookshelves, and the fireplace mantle. This was pretty time consuming, just as far as taking everything down cleaning the surface, cleaning the stuff, and reorganizing it. When that was all done, Mark vacuumed the floor. I replaced the couch cover with a freshly laundered one and gave it a good spray down with my fabric refresher spray (it's Ata's favorite spot to lounge, so it doesn't smell great).

When all was cleaned, Mark and I rearranged the furniture. We try to avoid rearranging furniture as much as possible, because it's one of those things that always ends up with us arguing. We don't argue much in general, but furniture rearrangement brings out the worst in us, I guess. We have very different ideas of what is attractive and functional.

After a few missteps, we arrived at a furniture arrangement that suited us at least slightly better. (The big issue is the couch not quite fitting in the cut-out alcove in front of the window, so it sticks out into the room.) Then, of course, things had to be re-dusted and books returned to shelves and all that. The whole process ended up taking nearly two hours.

I am pretty happy with the results:

For today's adventures in cleaning, I'm wearing Smith's American denim Bermuda shorts (Marshall's), an orange and white cotton peasant top (Banana Republic Outlet), a handmade and gifted apron, and a vintage silk scarf (Ebay).


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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI grew up seeing my mom cooking with cast iron pans. She had a twelve-inch skillet, two eight-inch skillets, a small (four-inch, maybe? single scrambled egg size) skillet, and a Dutch oven with a lid. They were (and still are) her primary pans, and I believe she is at least their second generation and possibly their third generation user.

There weren't a whole lot of "rules" for cast iron in our house. Mom used the big skillet to make spaghetti sauce. We used soap and scrubby sponges to wash them when they needed it. Apparently they are so old and well-seasoned there really isn't much of anything you can do to keep them from keeping their black glass finish, so rubbing off the seasoning wasn't ever something we worried about. It wasn't until I started living with Mark that I realized that cast iron cookery and cleaning has rules, and is a subject of much contention.

Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeepingsuggests the following method for cleaning a cast iron skillet:

Wash with a dishcloth using very mild soap and water. Don't scrape with any sharp objects; you may gouge off the coating. Don't use anything that might leave scratches on the surface, as food tends to stick in them. Use salt for scouring. Never drip dry; always dry with a cloth. If you care for them in this manner, they will last forever.

To season a new pan, the same source suggests these steps:

  1. First wash your pan very thoroughly with a mild dishwashing liquid. Rinse and dry completely with a dishcloth. You must never let your cast-iron cookware drain dry; that is inviting rust!

  2. Now, grease the inside with lard. Rub the grease in. Lightly grease the outside of the pan also. Wipe away any surplus. Do the same for the lid, if it has one.

  3. Place it in a slow oven (250 to 275 degrees) and let it "season" (bake) for 8 to 10 hours, or overnight.

  4. Do not put the lid on while treating it--you'd need crowbar to pry it open again.

  5. Let your pan cool naturally. It is now ready for use.

  6. You can apply a second coat if you'd like. Just repeat the process. If the first coat is spotty and bare, a second or third application will take care of that. Since there is now no exposed metal, your beans or stews can be left in your cast-iron cookware with no fear or rust or metallic taste.
Your seasoned pans will get sealed "coal black" with use, and that's what they are supposed to do. Don't use cast-iron pans for food high in acid content or at a temperature higher than 350 degrees, or the pan may crack. Don't leave a pan on high heat with no liquid in it. First it will get red hot, then it will crack in two.

The suggestions given in the Good Housekeeping Complete Household Handbook are similar. Rather than salt, Good Housekeeping suggests using baking soda as a scouring agent. The only surprising difference, though, is that Good Housekeeping suggests you can get a good season in only a couple of hours!

The Better Homes & Gardens book Making a Home as even fewer instructions, saying only that cast iron must be hand-washed and dried completely, and to season it regularly with vegetable oil. The recommended seasoning time? 20 minutes.

Finally, Martha Stewart weighs in on the care and seasoning of cast iron:

Cast iron needs careful treatment to prevent rust. The porous surface is partly sealed by factory grinding and polishing, but cast-iron pans need to be seasoned before first use and periodically thereafter. Seasoning seals the surface, preventing rust as well as the transfer of metallic tastes to food. To season, rub well on all surfaces with vegetable oil and place the pain in a 300 degree oven for one hour. Let the pan cool, then wipe away excess oil. To clean a seasoned pan, wipe with only hot water and a sponge or soft cloth. Never use detergent, which strips cast iron of its seasoned surface. If you have burned food in a cast-iron pan, boil a little salt and white vinegar in it, then dry it on top of the stove over a low flame, or scrub with coarse salt and a cloth. Wipe immediately with a clean cloth, then brush the interior of the pan with another thin coating of vegetable oil to preserve the seasoning. Wipe gently before storing in a dry place; stack by layering paper towels (or paper plates) between pans to prevent scratching. Leave off any lids to prevent mustiness and moisture buildup. If storing a cast-iron pan for any length of time, consider it first with food-grade mineral oil instead of vegetable oil, which will turn rancid.

We don't actually have any cast iron that needs to be cleaned or seasoned currently, so there won't be pictorial evidence of my doing in this post, but I do most of the dishes in our house, including the cast iron, so I use this skill set at least a couple of times a week. Like Martha suggest, we forgo the use of soap on our cast iron (since Mark's collection is neither so old nor so well-seasoned as my mom's), washing with just a sponge and hot water. If something needs to be scrubbed off, I use coarse salt, and it works like a charm. For seasoning, they get an oil rubdown (usually olive oil, just because that's what we most often cook with) and some time in a low oven--more than 20 minutes, but less than 2 hours, probably. Our cast iron is all hand-me-down, so it came with some seasoning, and it has slowly built but a better skin as it gets used. And we store the pans with paper towels between them to prevent scratches and soak up extra oil.

Do you use cast iron? Did you grow up that way, or is it is vintage or retro cooking thing for you? What do you most often make in your cast iron cookware? Do you take care of it any differently than suggested by my books, or differently than we do? Weigh in!

(And thanks to Abi for the post idea!)


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Thrift Share Monday


button2.jpgI've been meaning to post about this, to tell you all about it, and to remind myself. One of my favorite bloggers, Apron Thrift Girl, has been hosting a ring called "Thrift Share Monday" for several months now. She and other thrifting bloggers share their weekend finds every Monday. It's totally worth checking out, and, if you are a thrifting blogger, participating in. I am going to try to start this Monday (assuming I thrift something this weekend). I'll put the button over on my sidebar to remind all of us!

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100 Days to a Happy Housewife 34: Sick of it


Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgWell, today we find out the answer to one of the first questions I had (and commentors also had) about this project: how long is it going to take to get sick of it?

Answer: 34 days. I am officially tired of Happy Housewifing. Honestly, I'm surprised to have made it this far doing something so unlike my natural instincts.

Which isn't to say I am about to quit--I said 100 days, and I'm doing 100 days. I'm just kind of having a Happy Housewife midlife crisis. I need new direction, new ideas. I have a list of posts I haven't made yet (i.e. rooms or items I haven't cleaned yet), but none of them are inspiring me. I realize that sounds spoiled--your typical homemaker isn't "inspired" to do her work every day, she just does it. But because I am not your typical homemaker, and this project is a few steps removed from the reality of my life, I do have to stay interested, at least to some degree.

So hit me with your ideas. If you know me, is there something it would greatly amuse you to see me take on? If you know housekeeping, is there something vital I'm missing that I should have addressed by 1/3 of the way through my 100 days? Is there just something you have an extra special fondness for? Give me your ideas! Keep me going!


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100 Days to a Happy Housewife 33: Scones


Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI love scones. Really, even bad ones thrill me to bits. So I've long wanted a perfect recipe for them. I've tried several, including some very fussy ones, and nothing has every turned out quite right.

Until now.

A week or so ago, an online friend of mine pointed me towards this chocolate chip scone recipe on Vanilla Icing. It looked simple, so I was skeptical, but I made it.

It's them. The perfect scones.

Now, I did make a couple of changes, just based on preference. I substituted buttermilk for the milk (because I had it around and needed to use it up). I also omitted the chocolate chips, since Mark and I both prefer fruit scones, and used a lemon's worth of zest and a good handful each of dried blueberries and dried cranberries instead.

They're so freaking good. So good, in fact, that I made them again tonight. But this time, Mark took pictures.

Today's apron is the Classic Flair for Cooking Hostess Apron from Great Goods. It's worn over a decidedly non-vintage cotton cami and wide legged cargo pants, both from The Gap.

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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgIn Austin, Mark and I lived in a house we truly loved. We were spoiled that way. Moving into the house where we live now, it has taken me months to even care to try to make it my own--I knew it wasn't going to be great like our place in Austin, so I kinda just didn't care.

Since spring has sprung, though, things have been a bit different. Probably because I experienced real winter for the first time, spring has been really amazing. And the better the weather, the move I've loved being outside. I may not love the inside of this house, but I adore the deck and yard.

Given that, and given that we're planning on hosting a largish outdoor party in a couple of weeks, Mark and I decided to take this weekend and re-make our "outdoor living space." We've been working on it a bit here and there for a month or so, mostly in terms of planting a ton of herbs and flowers in pots, but this was to be our final push, with more planting, re-making the furniture we already had, and buying some new things.

So this is how we spent the weekend:

On Saturday, we hit Cost Plus World Market, where we bought a bench, a chair, a set of nesting tables, and a mess of cushions and pillows. We also went to a hardware store, where we picked up paint and spray paint. When we got home, Mark put the furniture we'd purchased together while I got started on spray painting the wrought-iron set I showed you the other day.

On Sunday, I did some more shopping. I picked up fabric and foam to finish the wrought-iron chair seats, more spray paint, and a whole mess of plants (four roses, two hydrangeas, and a butterfly bush). While I was out, Mark broke out the orbital sander and started sanding our existing table, bench, and chairs. This set has been amazing. We bought it at Ikea last year when when we were staging our house in Austin to sell. At $150, we didn't even know if it would hold up well enough to be worth taking with us when we moved, but it still looked great, so we did. Then we used it all last fall, left it out under the snow all winter, and have been using it since. The structure is still solid. The finish, however, had seen way better days (we never even sealed it). So we decided to paint it, which we began when I got home.

Turns out painting furniture made of slats is a pretty big pain in the ass--each piece has six sides, you know? Took lots of coats with small brushes, and I gave myself the mother of all blisters.

We also finished the wrought-iron set project, which I already told you about.

Yesterday, we finished it all up. More paint on the furniture, plants in the ground. By last evening, when we sat down to tear into our brisket (a concurrent project), we were finished. But it was dark and about to rain, supposedly (it didn't), so I waited until today to put everything in place and take pictures.

Behold! Our outdoor living space!

I love the changes. It is bright and happy and beautiful out there, and the new furniture and re-done old furniture works great together, and with the plants. I don't think I'm ever going to want to be inside again.


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