Friday, March 27, 2015

Art Friday: Richard Macneil

Art Friday: Richard Macneil

Some brightly coloured paintings to cheer up your day.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A brief history of women and work

In the middle of the 1800s, 42% of American women and 25% of British women were in paid employment. By the end of the 19th century, 50% of Dutch women were in the work force.

We have an imagine of women in the past at home caring for their families living in a tranquil environment. Life was anything but for the majority of the population, they were working out of necessity, men and women. It was the differences between food on the table and starvation . . . or the Workhouse. 

We can thank the myth to the literature of the day and the artists who have painted beautifully dressed women gliding about at home. These of course were the middle to upper class women and even at home, they had maids to do most of the work and nannies to care for the children. Life was leisure, something unknown to 100's of 1,000s of women. 

Throughout history women have moved in and out of paid labour, however, I am probably the first generation (Generation X) to make this decision according to my wishes and not the men in power. I use the word men as they have decided if women were allow to work or not, not women themselves. Sadly in past centuries, cutting women off from paid work has had detrimental consequences, especially for widows and spinsters. 

Most households during the Victorian era drew income from a number of sources, with many women and juveniles adding to wage earning even if their employment was usually more intermittent and low-paid than that of adult males. Even though the male breadwinner's wage was increasingly regarded as the ideal and even the norm, in practice many households were dependent upon female earnings, especially those households run by widows.

Family budgets from the Victorian era suggest that around 30-40 per cent of women from working class families contributed significantly to household incomes. Probably something similar to today.

Whilst literature (or perhaps more accurately propaganda) wanted to show women as "Angels of the Home", sadly for many women, especially widows and spinsters, it was anything but. These women,  including widowed middle class women were rarely women of leisure. Many carried on their husband businesses after their deaths, many were governesses, nannies or worked in trade such as dressmaking, book-keeping or office work.  Domestic service of all kinds was the single largest employer of women . . . 40% of female occupations stated in the census of 1851. As factories grew, more women became labourers and worked in the factories, women in places like Wales could be found in the mines. In rural areas, they worked along side their husbands on the farm. 

We often think of women in past eras as delicate and weak, in fact, they were strong women, probably much stronger than women today. We often think of women in the past having afternoon naps and feeling unwell (just think of Jane Austen books). For these working women, that wasn't an option . . . taking rest was for women of leisure, those in upper-class families. 

Like today, these women also had to care for their homes and their families. Older children helped their mother to care for the younger children, younger children went off to school during the day (only the wealthy could afford home-tutors) and when they reached 12ish, they too started to work and earn an income which was much needed by the family. Many of these women worked very long hours and came home exhausted (work life was far harder in 1850 compared to 2014) and many women (and children) worked in dangerous conditions as work health and safety was unheard of. Illness, disability and even death was an every-day possibility. 

Another change to working life was the move from almost all men working at home in home-based businesses to working away from home in larger businesses owned by someone else (i.e. a factory). In 1800 in New York, less than 5% of men had a workplace outside the house; by 1820, it was 25%, and by 1840, it was 70%. For centuries men worked at home and beside them was their wife working in equal partnership. These new practices also saw women leave the home to work in factories, workshops, shops or in domestic service. Homes that had once been the centre of activity as a place of work, became a private sphere as a place of family and child-rearing, but that is another story for another time.

The Victorian's were very good at creating myths that we still look back on today. They wanted to create the imagine of peace and contentment, good health and harmony. The new industrialists even commissioned paintings of happy mothers and children wearing crisp white outfits looking beautiful and feminine because it was in such stark contrast to reality - the life of the factory. Just watch the BBC mini-series "North and South" from the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell to see what life must have been like for the poor in Industrial Britain. Life was tough and hard and the smell and hunger must have been unimaginable at times. 

Many women today work in paid labour, just as they have in the past. However, mum is now working in much improved and safer conditions, her hours are shorter, she is earning more, someone is concerned about her rights in the workplace, her children are far better cared for and she has far more time at home. At least if women need to work today, they are in a much better environment.

Whilst it isn't perfect for mum to work with younger children, we can be thankful that women now have a choice - she can work or stay at home and if she does need to work, she can choose between full-time and part-time employment.  Many workplaces now have flexible hours that are perfect for mothers with school aged children. If she is a single mother as a result of widowhood or divorce, the government will support her until she can gets back on her feet. It is important to look at the reality of the past and not the glossy myth that has been created.  Life was not rosy for many women and women have worked for centuries and many have managed home and work just as many women do today. Women are able to do this, it can be difficult, but, as in the past, it isn't impossible. 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Random Tuesday #12

~ Icecream ~

What is your favourite flavoured ice-cream?

I love caramel with chocolate coated almonds with fresh strawberries


Monday, March 23, 2015

Room by room: Laundry

The Laundry

What is your laundry like?

Mine is a small, tiny, shoe box size unattractive space that I don't really like but it does it's job and as someone said on my Facebook page "it could be worse" and that is so true.  Even though my laundry has many faults, I have tried to make it look as attractive as possible. The walls are bright yellow (to add cheerfulness) and I have added some art to the walls. On the door leading to the laundry I have added a sign to make it a little more "fun"!! It is a work in progress and with some time and money, it could be improved.

My laundry doesn't look like any of the pictures below - these look like fabulous laundries but I am unlikely to ever have one like this. But whilst I will never have one like these, they do contain some very good ideas that I could use for my tiny space. 

We all need a place to wash clothes, however not everyone has a laundry. My friend Cathy has her front loading washing machine/drier in her kitchen underneath her central counter. Others have their's in a cupboard, sometimes in the hallway. Others have a room separate from the house. Mine is near the back door, just off the kitchen.

The laundry is a place for washing clothes. I have a washing machine and a dead clothes drier. The latter is about to be ditched and not replaced as we hardly ever use it. I have a sink where I do hand washing and I still use my son's nappy bucket - now 27 years old and going strong.

I do not iron in my laundry as I simply don't have the space. The dirty washing is in a basket in the bathroom. My laundry is also used for hanging coats and storing all sorts of oddments that my husband brings inside from the shed! There are many uses for the laundry depending on space. But regardless of its many uses, it can be an attractive space.

So how can you brighten up a boring room without spending big dollars:

  • Paint the walls with bright paint or wallpaper to make it cheery
  • All fun posters, signs, murals, whimsical artwork or wall decals
  • Find brightly coloured baskets
  • Find some interesting glass jars for storage
  • Add some interesting tiles
  • Pretty curtains always lift a room
  • Interesting shelving and hooks
  • Give it a theme, i.e. beach theme
Here are some other ideas to brighten up the space. I particularly like the "lost sock" idea as it adds some fun to the room. 

If I don't do the laundry today, 
I'm gonna have to buy new clothes tomorrow. 

(Anna Paquin)

And to be honest, I am not complaining about my small space - it is WAY better than the days of laundries done like this!!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Room by room: The pantry

Room by Room: The pantry

Poet Emily Dickinson would write poetry whilst sitting in her pantry. Her cousin Louise Norcorss wrote:

  "I know (she) wrote most emphatic things in the pantry, so cool, so quiet, whilst she skimmed the milk"

The pantry in my childhood home was big enough for my mother to iron in it! It was the coolest room in the house on a hot summers day. It was also the room that the carcass of the cow would be hung before my dad cut it up for freezing and it was where the milk was separated.

Lots of things can happen in pantries!

This is a fabulous pantry, I would love one like this!! Its not mine, my pantry is not a room, just a series of cupboard and baskets.

We all have different places to store food, some small, some large and some in many different locations. 

I don't own a pantry as such, my food is stored in a variety of places. Whilst a pantry or larder would be wonderful to have, my home just doesn't have the room to fit one and so I have come up with alternatives and made do with what I have. It works for me!

The important factor about having a place to store food is that we don't have to spend half our lives at the grocery store buying food. A pantry is an ideal place to keep the excess canned, bottled and dry goods that we need for our home cooking.

Mrs Elizabeth Ellet wrote in 1857
 "Let there be a place for every article, and when not in use let every article be inits place"

Pantries have been around for a very long time, whilst a little different to modern day pantries, they still served the same purpose, a place to storing food. However with the growth of processed foods and easy access to the supermarket, by the 1950's pantries were on their way out. Women no longer needed to store as much food as they use too, as they could just pop down to the local supermarket and buy what they needed.  When my house was built 40 years ago, pantries were not common in homes, however today most new homes have a walk-in pantry of some description. In fact many modern homes have very large pantries that not only store food, but large appliances etc..

So what should you keep in the pantry?

This is likely to vary from household to household, my pantry includes:

  • Grains and legumes (flours, rolled oats, lentils, bulgur, pearl barley, pastas and rice, couscous etc..)
  • Sugar (white, brown, caster, coconut)
  • Oils (olive, sunflower, veg, coconut)
  • Vinegars
  • Dried beans
  • Spreads (vegemite, peanut butter etc), honey, homemade jams, maple syrup
  • Cans (beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, coconut milk, baked beans, tuna etc)
  • Nuts
  • Sauces (soya, oyster, tomato, Worcestershire,  etc...)
  • Spices and herbs (lots!)
  • Seeds, such as sunflower and pumpkin
  • Chocolate (various sorts)
  • Condiments (pickles, mint sauce, mayonnaise, mustard etc)
  • Curry pastes
  • Onions, potatoes, lemons, limes etc.
  • Long life milk/cream
  • Stock

The purpose of my pantry is to avoid the supermarket during the week - so when I run out of something I always buy two or three packets (i.e. pasta) so I have plenty of spare!

If you don't have a pantry - an old fashion dresser is a great option (which is what I use) or this cupboard is a clever idea. Picking one up second hand makes it an inexpensive addition to the kitchen. Places like Ikea sell every possible option for storage from baskets to shelving to containers. Places like Pinterest are full of pantry ideas for small to large kitchens. Find what works for you and start to stock.  If you don't have much of a pantry, start by adding one or two items each time you do the shopping, e.g. buy several packets of rice or beans. Look out for what is on sale as this will help with the cost.

And don't forget to clean out your pantry at regular intervals, it is amazing what is hiding at the back trying hard not to be found!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Random Tuesday #11

~ Elephant ~

Did you know that elephants grieve?

Elephants grieve when one of their own dies or they visit their ancestors burial sites. This is understandable considering they can survive up to 70 years and live in very tight knit communities. The females of the herd are known to grieve at the death of a baby or still born.

So just imagine how these majestic creatures must feel when humans treat them so badly.

Whilst we can't understand what goes on inside an elephants mind, it would be arrogant to assume that humans are the only ones with emotions. Just look at a cat with his or her own or a lost dog when finally found. Animals certainly show emotions, perhaps not the same as humans but they do feel something.



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