Cooking and Cleaning, Oh My!
Wednesday I cleaned the house. Seriously. I’ve never been a neat-freak, more an advocate of “controlled clutter”… but the other day, I organized and weeded through toy bins and closets, dug everything out from under rust ruffles, vacuumed behind furniture, and even tackled the mess in my art studio. I was very pleased with the outcome, and with myself for being committed enough to accomplish it… I wanted Joe to come home that night, and be shocked speechless. haha
The children obviously had a different agenda, and did their best to thwart my efforts …but I enlisted Mia’s help in sorting good toys from broken ones, and distracted her later with a bath. Jake was content to investigate all the new places; he loves to chase the vacuum around, and was thrilled to watch Mommy slide the couch across the carpet.
Keeping the floors clean requires a daily vacuuming, minimum. On a typical day, I’ll vacuum 2-3 times… usually after meals. I caught myself, cursing under my breath as I picked up stray cookie crumbs by hand (since I’d just put away the machine)… it dawned on me – I have truly become my mother. I realized that my jokes regarding her super-gluing plates under our chins, seemed at once logical and actually feasible.
Or how about those cone collars they use for dogs? They would also catch crumbs, right?
My surprise obsession with housework comes on the heels of another newfound love: cooking. I used to hate cooking!
A difficult admission coming from a self-described baking addict, whose work resume reads like a restaurant menu.
I’ve always love to bake goodies, especially cakes, but aside from an occasional lasagna or grilled T-bone steak, my idea of a relaxing dinner did not include standing over a boiling pot, “stirring constantly for 15 minutes”.
However, in the recent months since Jacob’s birth (and my departure from full-time work), we had some frank discussions of our finances… a subject that always paints unhealthy worry-wrinkles on Joe’s otherwise placid forehead.
Sometimes, I lighten the mood by asking: When does the ‘For Richer’ part kick in?”
With many of my friends embracing the “green” lifestyle, and I myself dabbling in alternative living with my handmade soap and shampoo addiction, I decided to take their longstanding advice. Ditch the boxed dinners and cook from scratch!
Don’t get me wrong, I do know how to cook… despite what my ex-husband may tell you. Don’t listen to him. It was sheer laziness that prompted me to reach for those TV dinners, not lack of ability.
I decided to look at cooking as a new adventure to experiment with… like my shampoo adventure… except this time, I could still eat my mistakes. Well.. most of them. Okay, so shoot me, I didn’t remember to cut the grissle off the turkey pieces before adding them to my pot pie. Just spit them out! Sheesh.
It intrigued me that a few stable ingredients: milk, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, (meat of choice), and a few spices… can create so many different dishes. I stocked up on everything from corn meal to active yeast, and my grocery bill was noticeably lighter. I started with dishes that were already familiar, and expanded from there – Googling all my favorite dinners to find the best homemade alternative. I never realized you can make pancakes from corn meal! Okay, so my first attempt at scratch pancakes literally scratched me, as they leaped off the skillet to attack my jugular. Other recipes came out perfectly the first time, and I’m actually in love with my own flour and honey biscuits.
Joe invested in more plastic storage containers, because I was trying a couple different recipes each day, and the leftovers were getting out of control. When he mentioned the need for a bigger freezer, I decided to rein in my enthusiasm and actually reheat my pre-cooked concoctions. So, the microwave wasn’t retired entirely… and it still remains my favorite way to boil water and melt butter. Even though my family will probably die in 50 years from the radiation cancer.
A good friend of mine, who lives 3 states away, purchases her eggs and goat’s milk from a local farm, and insists that making her own butter and cheese from scratch is “the best way to go”. I haven’t developed that level of commitment yet. Baby steps.
So what caused this shift in attitude… from one domestically impaired “trophy wife” into a full-fledged Donna Reed in training?
One part: maturity:
Sure, I’ve felt a change in myself since giving birth to Mia, and creating this nurturing family that we have. My previous daughter was born during a time of insecurity, when my life lacked focus. Not knowing the direction I wanted to take, or how I “fit into the scheme of things”, I wasn’t ready to settle down and face the responsibility of parenthood. I wasn’t feeling maternal or matrimonial at the time; I felt trapped and stifled in a tiny room without doors and one narrow window.
Fast forward several years later, I met a man who helped to establish a relationship built on respect and admiration, but most importantly, the freedom to just be myself and be loved unconditionally. For the first time EVER… I felt love without pressure, expectations, or standards to meet.
Loving him in return is so ridiculously easy, that my choice to commit myself and grow our family didn’t seem like I was limiting myself, rather the world was our oyster. Pass the pearls, please.
Five Parts: work-ethic:
I’ve always been a workaholic, and when I wasn’t conceiving an excuse to squeeze in some Over-Time, I was investing countless off-the-clock hours fretting, planning, and even dreaming about my day job. More like nightmares – that a plague of locusts would ransack the store, devouring all the food off the shelves, and we would have nothing in the backroom to replenish our inventory …except Gatorade and Frosted Flakes.
When I relinquished my position, that pent-up energy had to be absorbed elsewhere… hence, my new promotion and “job title”.
I’m officially Mrs. Donna Reed-Teach: efficient housekeeper, darling cook, and doting mother. hehe
Now my obsessive nature is channeled into vacuuming the carpets multiple times per day, keeping the laundry baskets emptied, the bellies full, and the house organized. I stopped myself from labeling kitchen items, because I’d be too tempted to create “Savings” signs for them, and I don’t stripe my bath towels according to color either…. yet….
I should give each child a shopping cart, however, so they can pick up after themselves.
Sometimes I fail in my endeavor for perfection, such as the morning I forgot to wash Joe’s favorite pair of slacks, and he grudgingly picked them out of the discarded hamper. But when I asked him, in a serious moment, if he had any regrets about marrying me and having a family – he answered “Not at all. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And best of all, I believed him.
But for now, I must end this post, because the carpet needs some extra TLC…
and the corn pancakes have escaped from their cage and are climbing the curtains… again.