Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Tidy House

Part of living the Good Life is living in a house that is homey.  I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to hominess - warmth, comfortable chairs, good lamps, fires, houseplants, the smell of something good being cooked, hospitality (ooh, more topics!) - but if the house isn't tidy, the residents trip over the comfortable chairs and the lampcords, the something good being cooked includes some unwelcome ingredients like dust and germs, and nobody wants to enjoy the hospitality.  It's chaos, not comfort.

We need to keep the place picked up.  And we need to keep it clean.  They aren't the same thing.  I suppose it's possible to live in a clean house that is cluttered; that is, it's healthy and germ-free in its essentials, but the family's possessions are strewn about and occupy all the free space.  Possible, perhaps, but hard!  To clean, each strewn item would have to be moved and replaced in its random location.  Why would anyone do that?  Better to keep the clutter down to start with, and to clean the uncluttered house.

There have been a lot of programs on TV - and self-help books - recently about helping unorganized people improve their habits.  They all seem to start in the same place: get rid of unused possessions.  Americans just have too much stuff.  I look around the room I'm in, and I see the following: several old (not antique) stand-type cigarette lighters, a plastic streetcar replica that came with a box of chocolates, 6 teapots, a nutdish/nutcracker set with nuts from last year, brochures from the Queen Mary 2, several partly-burned candles in jars, a broken clock, and a bunch of games.  I'll skip the 5 bookcases of books - books contribute to hominess as long as they're maintained neatly in bookcases.  But a lot of the other stuff can and should go.

My view of the Good Life is definitely well-endowed with nostalgia - for an era when we were not as rich and could not afford to have so much stuff.  But that aside, I find a lot of value in going through my possessions and deciding which are truly "keepers" - it forces me to decide what's important.  The rest goes to charity, so I hope the exercise is of value to someone else, too.

Keep the house tidy - and weed out the unimportant things in life.  It's important.

Home Cooked Meals

We eat out a lot.  It's a side-effect of Mom and Dad both working full-time and beyond; when quittin' time finally arrives each day, the last thing we want to do is work on dinner.  It's not a good thing to do this all the time, or even most of the time.  Restaurant meals are expensive for the value, oversized, and full of mystery commercial cooking ingredients that we might not eat if we knew what they were.  And calorie-dense.  But beyond that, I think we're missing out on something key to the Good Life.

You can't have good conversation in a restaurant.  Never mind that the waiter has been carefully trained to arrive at the worst possible moment; that's only part of it.  You're in public!  That rules out energetic ranting, revealing your innermost thoughts, and laughing until milk comes out your nose.  And if you use the time for advanced instruction in civilized behavior, the possibility exists that the people at the next table will disagree with either the style or substance of your comments, and join the discussion.

You also can't have wonderful smells wafting through your house as dinner cooks, if you eat in a restaurant.  And while some of them claim to offer comfort food of one sort or another these days, who wants their child growing up with fond memories of "meatloaf just the way Denny's used to make it"?

We need more home cooked meals.  Lots more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall - and switching to thoughts of the "Good Life"

It's snowing - big, fluffy flakes that are starting to pile up.  I guess Summer's over now - for real, this time.  The tomatoes gave up the ghost about 2 weeks ago, when the temperature dipped well into the twenties and I mistakenly thought that covering them with a tarp would be enough.  About 20 pounds of tomatoes, frozen solid and weeping on my counter, convinced me I'd been too late.  A sad sight - the more so because we never got that many ripe tomatoes during Summer proper; it just never got that hot this year. 

I want to change my focus in this blog - to thoughts on the "Good Life".  I don't mean what used to be called "Keeping up with the Joneses"; rather the opposite, in a way.  Skipping over the material possessions aspect altogether; what elements are required to make life worthwhile?   You see, I work for a living - have since I got out of school.  And nearly all that time, I've been wondering why it doesn't feel natural.  I know that a lot of women fought for the right to do what I do, and I don't want to seem ungrateful that they gave me the freedom to work, but the fact is, they seem - for me, at least - to have eliminated the freedom to stay home and make a life for my family.  As a result, we basically haven't had one, and that seems egregiously wrong to me, and kind of always has.  For some reason, I am freshly struck by these thoughts every fall; there must be something about the cooler temperatures and shorter days that make me wish that home was, well, homier.

So here are some of the things that, brainstorming, would come under the heading of a "Good Life".  I think they'll make topics or groups of topics to explore.
  • Home-cooked meals with everyone around the table
  • A tidy house
  • Comfort over high style
  • Traditions
  • Evenings at home with friends and extended family
  • Seasonal entertainment
  • Seasonality in general
  • The "Sunday roast"
  • Home canning and preserving
  • Hot apple cider and cold lemonade
  • Fireplaces with fires in them
  • And something near and dear to my heart - civilized behavior
Don't know how it will work out, but I think it's worth a start, anyway.