Monday, July 31, 2017

DIY & Budgeting...What it means to me to be a Homemaker...

I had a really good week this week. I love a week where I really feel like I've contributed to the home in a big way, don't you? It really vindicates our traditional family position, and silences the critics.
The conundrum of being a Stay At Home Mum
I've found that being a stay-at-home Mum draws criticism from a few fronts. Just occasionally, not often. I've been called a Kept Woman (not my capitals!), a Stepford Wife (not really a flattering term either), and accused of not living in the real world. Ahem. What about the 20+ years I spent living in the 'real world' as a single parent with three sons, one with a severe disability, working and studying at the same time? That's pretty darned real, folks.
What about those times when I had to negotiate payment plans for our utilities bill because having two teenaged sons, a tweenaged niece and an out of work brother in the house meant our telephone and electricity useage was off the scale, and I was the only income earning person in the household? Or the times when I only had $25 a week for a number of weeks, to feed us all? Even going back thirty years, that wasn't a lot of money to feed six people. Then there was that time when my 15 year old car blew a head gasket, and I couldn't afford to have it fixed, and had to be up at 4am to get to work by 8am, and didn't arrive home till 8pm? I did that for several months before I'd saved enough for the repairs. Character building stuff ;-)
I've had my tough financial times. I learned from them. They did not kill me. As the saying goes, they made me stronger....or at least fearless. I know, even to this day, that tough financial times pass. You get through them. You keep body and soul together, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you keep on keeping on. You name a platitude. I've lived!
That said, things have changed for me in the last 20 something years. I met a lovely man. He adopted my disabled son. My older boys were teens by then, and didn't need 'adopting', but they think of him fondly, and refer to us as 'The Parents', thus making my husband 'The Dad' by osmosis.
My Man and I agreed from the outset that he would indeed be The Man, and I would keep the home fires burning. We both knew where our strengths lay. He was a whiz at earning the money, and I was a Homemaker raised by two generations of Homemakers.
After two decades of doing it tough on my own, this was a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. It's worked for us. If it's not your cup of tea, that's fine too. I've done the whole Career Girl thing, and frankly, it wasn't what it was cracked up to be either. I loved it at the time, but I had to. I was on my own. There was only me to earn the money to keep a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. It was hard splitting myself in half to be Money Earner, and Mum, when there was no Dad.
If you however, find it enormously rewarding and fulfilling, then I respect that too. I liked being a Career Girl for a while. I learned enormously from the experience of those years. I learned too, from working in the Events, Health Care, Media, Retail, and Food Service industries. Many of those lessons, are things that I have successfully carried over into my home life. No experience or education, is ever wasted :)
Finding your passion
I thought I was doing well as a Career Girl, but funnily enough, through being the best Homemaker that I can be, I've really found my passion. Blogging, running menu planning and grocery shopping workshops, and writing for a money saving website, have been just some of the great pleasures born of being a Career Homemaker. Sometimes it's worth trusting that there's a world out there beyond 'paid work'.
I love the challenge of baking a cake to rival a bought one, of creating candles to gift that smell as glorious as the ones with a $65 price tag, of having my family sit down to a restaurant worthy meal. These things bring me joy. I've always loved cooking and crafts of all kinds, and finding a way to craft a beautiful gift without the sensational price tag, has always been a special pleasure.

The Best of Both Worlds
The lessons of two different lifestyles, one the Working Mum, the other the Stay At Home version, have led to a surprising revelation.

I can generate greater financial value by treating Homemaking as a career choice, than by working in an outside paid role.


And not because I didn't have a successful career life. I did. In fact, there are many lessons I learned in my corporate life, that have translated well to my home life. Skills like time management, controlling budgets and rosters, menu planning and costing, and even dealing with the difficult people, are all skills I learned as a Career girl, that have been invaluable in my home life. These skills have enhanced my homemaking potential beyond what I ever believed possible.

What skills do you have, or have you had, in your Corporate existence, that serve you well in your home life?

Practice makes Perfect-ish 
Of course, I value the heirloom skills I learned at my Nannas and Mothers knee, as much as any of my tertiary or corporate skills, now that I have time to utilise them.
I remember the first celebration cake I made without my Mums help. Mum and Nanna were fabulous cake bakers and decorators, and contributed a cake to many a wedding, 21st and Christening. The first few cakes I made without their input, well...let's just say, there was room for improvement *wink*. I didn't let that defeat me though. I kept trying. I read. I bought magazines and borrowed books from the library. I practised. I failed. I tried again. I got better at Cake-ing.
Over time, I improved my skills in many DIY areas. But it took time. Years in some cases. I've tried my hand at embroidery, sewing, knitting, crochet, card making, candle making, scrapbooking, tie-dyeing, watercolour painting, and dozens of other gift creation or life enhancement skills. I got better at some things like cake decorating, embroidery, sewing and candle making, and never really got the hang of others. But this too, showed me where my strengths lay, and gave me the skills and confidence to create beautiful items that people might pay big money for. You can do it too. 
You. Just. Keep. Practising.
In just the last year, I've perfected my Bullion Rose embroidery. These are also known as Grub Roses, and I have Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting to thank for the simple tip of using a Straw Needle for these. Perfection had escaped me for many years for the simple reason that I was using the wrong type of needle!
Obsessed with roses as I am, I only recently found the time to teach myself how to paint Swoosh Roses. I'd admired these for a long, long time, and had no idea how simple they are to replicate until now...

Find the things you love. Learn how to replicate them. You too, may be pleasantly surprised at how simple they are to craft.
My Insourcing Efforts for the Week
This week, my Homemaking, or rather Insourcing efforts, as I prefer to call them these days, led me to stocking my cupboard plentifully, embellishing my home beautifully, and feeding my family abundantly.
I said yes to an offer of home grown oranges and mandarins.
I said yes to baking a historically correct (lol!) Dolly Varden cake. Just because I rather fancied it's pretty pastel colours. A true Dolly Varden cake is nothing to do with dolls. It's fashioned on a character in a Charles Dickens novel, and has to do with the colours and embellishments on the cake, being similar to the frothy dresses worn by that character :)
I said yes to attempting to paint some of the little roses I'd admired for many years, and discovered that they were so easy, it's ridiculous!

I added lace to some manilla tags I'd painted with those same roses, and added them to my gift wrapping stash.

I shopped at a local thrift store that I haunt from time to time. While there, I found this table lamp, similar to one I'd been admiring online for $265. I had found the shantung shade weeks ago for just $15 (brand new and still in the packaging), and knew that if I were patient, the lamp base would find it's way to me. And it did. For just $35. Patience rewarded.

My efforts to find linen in the colour I wanted had been thwarted by the current trend towards minimalism. Likewise Mattress Ticking for cushion covers in tones I admired, had been scarce on the ground. I was specifically looking for the fine striped mattress ticking, not the more trendy variegated stripes in differing widths. But here I found it. Brand new, still in the packaging, in the form of a duvet cover. Fabric is fabric is fabric. Smoky blues and lemon tones, roses one side, traditional looking mattress ticking the other. And more than enough in a duvet cover for cushions and napery. $10 for what ends up being several generous metres. Thankyou Universe.

A vintage colander (strainer), was to be had for around the $20 mark, to add to my French style pot hanger in my new kitchen, and how could I say no to a pretty vintage, blue and white mixing bowl, embellished with roses AND mattress ticking style stripes, to add to my pantry for just $4?

A picture in a magazine of a sliding kitchen pantry drawer like my own, holding a wicker basket piled high with green apples, fired my imagination...
...leading to this purchase for just $2...

...scrubbed clean, it's going to be a feast for the eyes piled high with green apples. I love the feeling of sheer abundance that these elements lend to my home, and green apples and a thrifted wicker basket cost me less than $5...
I've  always thought that fruit piled into baskets and bowls makes the home feel plentiful :)

Finally, I snipped a whole roll of white lace trim, left over from costume making a few years ago, into shorter lengths for gift tags. Being a craft junkie sometimes means having just the right bits and pieces ready to go, to entice you to get going on a productive crafting session!
Being a Homemaker generated a retail value this week, of...
5 kgs oranges gifted....value $15
4 kgs mandarins gifted....value $12
Dolly Varden cake...$10 spent...value $55
Gifts (dolls and cushions) and tags generated...$6 spent...value $165
Lamp base purchase...$50 spent....value $265
Fabric for napery and cushions sourced at $10...value $100
Kitchenware sourced at $24...value $90
Basket paid $2...value $65
Lace trimmed for use $0 spent....value $10
Total value generated by me this week $747
Less Total spent $102
My value in the home this week $645.
And that's conservative, not taking into consideration all that I do each and every day in making meals, acting as counsellor, beauty therapist, shoulder to cry on, and motivator. Of course there's keeping my family well presented and well nourished, cleaning, gardening, washing the dog, gardening, and meal preparation. All of that is worth something too!
I'm worth my weight in gold. Honestly.
What did you do this week that added to your families' enjoyment of life?


  1. Mimi, I really enjoy reading your positive posts. Looking at homemaking as insourcing is just spot on! Great idea to salvage the bits of ribbon trim for your crafts. I need to practice that thinking more often.

    1. Dear Stacey, thankyou! I'm so pleased they resonate with you. It really does make a difference to have the mindset that the role of Homemaker is a 'real' job. Mimi xxx

  2. I have one of those baskets sitting in the garage but Jeeves likes his apples in the fridge . looks like you had a very productive week xx

    1. Dear Annie, how are you? Happy Anniversary to you and Jeeves for the other day! I can't eat cold fruit. It seems wrong to Each to their own :) Mimi xxx

  3. What a delightful post, dear Mimi! Your fearless creativity never ceases to inspire me!

    Yes, the work we do at home is absolutely huge! I did some baking this week (gluten free), investment cooking, and thrift shopping where I found a lovely blouse suitable for work and leisure, a brand new pair of sandals that fit perfectly, and a brand new dvd for my son's birthday. Those three items combined cost just over ten dollars. It takes the same amount of time to shop second hand as it does to shop in the fancy, expensive stores. And I save so much! (Plus it's fun!)

    Love your swoosh roses, so pretty! Keep sparkling!!

    Love, Teresa

    1. Dear Teresa, thankyou! I am overdue for a visit to you, so will pop over shortly. I love that you see things through the same 'lens' as I do. Thrift stores? Yes! Baking? Of course! You are a darling to visit. Mimi xxx

  4. Dear Mimi,
    I am sure I can generate more in the home than out of it. I would have to have a very high wage by the time tax was taken out to even equal up but then I would NOT BE in our home. I couldnt help my daughter and Grand daughters like I do and I cant imagine a different life now really I just cherish being at home so much. I used to get a lot of negativity as surely I was wasting my time and talents while raising my girls. Society doesnt place much worth in children... The comments about school holidays were the worst.... no one around me wanted their children home from school where as we loved school holidays and cherished them. I know you felt this way. Over time I have become less and less interested in what the world thinks... and now my Mum gets it. Her friends say to her wouldnt she like to be travelling in Europe etc.... Mum says she works full tim in the home, any spare second she helps her granddaughter with her great granddaughters... she would far rather be a big influence on their lives while she can. This is where her treasure is. At her age she doesnt care what any of them think!
    I adore your basket for the apples.... while we are messing up the whole kitchen due to the floors I have decided to completely re arrange everything... and to make it much more efficient for cooking than it is. Baskets will be a big part!
    The last few weeks I have had good insourcing totals! I am very happy. Each week is a new challenge! With love

    1. Dear Annabel, you always get fired up on this topic, as do I. It's a funny attitude out there, isn't it. Children are the most worthwhile investment of all, not things. But sadly, society doesn't always see that until things go awry. Yes, we loved holidays. Yes we see our retirement being close to home, as has your Mum. Yes, I love travel, and will travel, but not for the extended periods of time that you imagine retirees do. I wouldn't want to be away from my family for that long. It's only now at my age, when I still see my Nannas example in all that I do, that I appreciate the power of a grandparent active in their grandchildrens lives. What a revelation! Your Mum is one wise lady. I'm with her. I hope your kitchen renovation is coming along. It's hard to not have a working kitchen when the kitchen is the hub of the home! Have a lovely week. You've been going great guns. You should be so proud! Love, Mimi xxx

  5. Well they do say what doesn't kill us will make us stronger. I don't envy you the tough years and your past 20 years are a reward for being a real trooper. I would have blown my own gasket at the same time as the car if I was going through what you had to go through.
    I work part time and love it and spend my home time at home in my element. My op shopping today produced the purchase of a brand new pair of ARA shoes - retail $200 for $5.00. The op shop lady wanted to charge me $4 but I offered that she keep the change from my $5 note. So many components of my work outfits are op shop purchases and so many of the compliments I receive on my clothing are directed at the op shop purchases.
    I also find that people love giving away excess produce. I am thrilled by the gesture of neighbours or workmates who think that I am worthy to receive their excess.
    Love your lamp and basket - great thrify finds.
    Janiebabe x

    1. Dear Janie, well I'm still standing as they say! It's funny, but there were many good times amongst that financial struggle. I studied whilst on my long bus trip to and from work. My sons welcomed me home with dinner on the table. I had the house to myself when I arose in the mornings. I appreciated my weekends like never before. At least I had a good job. Certainly my Glass Half Full mentality took a beating sometimes, but I always got there in the end. I don't know ARA shoes. I'll have to check them out, but gosh, what a bargain! I think the uniqueness of so many op shop bargains is what makes them so eye catching. I get the same oompliments on my op shop buys. I love your comments. You're always kind and supportive. Mimi xxx

  6. We learn so many things in our lives... so many lessons learned.... being thankful is a HUGE one. I personally think it is helpful for EVERY person to go through financial struggles, at some time in their life.... it's not easy or fun, but the lessons learned are so valuable. :)

  7. Beautiful gift cards to have ready in the stash, Mimi. That doona cover was an awesome find - much cheaper than the equivalent yardage of fabric.

  8. Thank you Mimi, needed this today. I'm feeling frustrated by people's comments to me lately about what I will do with myself as my children get older ( oldest is nine, youngest is three!). Ummm... I'm doing it. And in truth, not always brilliantly. There are days that it's baked beans on toast for dinner because my day didn't quite go to plan. And days where my house is chaos (like today!), and needs some serious attention. But today my children needed my attention more, so the house will have to be sorted tomorrow. I truly don't think my family would benefit at the moment if I returned to paid work. Any financial benefit would I suspect be offset by the extra stress on all of us. But I wish I didn't feel like I have to justify that. I know I don't really, but regular comments are hard to ignore.

    I really enjoy reading about your experiences, both when you were a single mum and as a full time homemaker. And thank you for the encouragement and reminder of how valuable what we do in the home is.

    Jen in NZ

  9. Thank you for sharing your experiences and accomplishments here! I am also starting to realize how rich our life can be as I spend time creatively working at home.

  10. What a delightful post!!

    I have always been a stay-at-home-homemaker. I graduated from college and was married that fall. And it has been perfect for us.

    It was never "questioned," until ours became an empty nest. Then! Came the questions! What do you DO, all day??? -chuckle- But I have managed to enjoy life, without rocketing around, from this activity to that activity. Thank you very much. ,-)

    Again, thank you for this post, my Dear!

    Happy Lughnasa!!!
    Luna Crone

  11. I've never understood the attitude toward a parent staying home. I say 'parent' because my BIL was the SAH and he got all kinds of grief. But lemme tell you, this guy could plan and cook for a great birthday party!! My SIL loved it. They made their decision simply based on who had the greater income potential.

    My position as a SAHM with no kids was like waving a red cape at a herd of charging bulls! Throw in a smaller home, one car, and simple living and it was open target on me! I've been thoroughly beat up over our decision, including from family. My husband and I have always ignored them and gone right on doing it our way! He tells me that he loves the "magic drawers that always have clean clothes", his work outfits paired up for quick mornings, a tidy and peaceful house, & most of all, a happy wife. :) I worked FT when we got married so he certainly knows the difference. We both wholeheartedly agree that life is much more pleasant for both of us with me at home. Even though we now have a larger home and two cars, we're still simple. And truth be told, I'd love it if a genie would shrink my home to half its size lol!!! I'd like a much smaller home again! That's a discussion in the works....

  12. Dear mimi, what a wonderful inspiring post ! I'm 40 , divorced (praying for an other husband!!) and actually want to be a stay at home mother. I have no children. I yearn to cook wonderful delicious meals for my husband and children. To welcome him with a hot home cooked meal. This is why society has it so wrong. Whilst women can and do work just as hard as men, its our blood to be nurturers and carers. And what a wonderful job you did juggling it all ! Stay at home mums I salute you. a unpaid job that perhaps is the most important !
    Love sonia

  13. Dear Mimi, thankyou for sharing the journey of your life with us , and supporting SAHM's. I have no way had the extremes you have been through , but have had my own, and like many have had the questions about what on earth on do with all my time. Well they can come spend a day with me like today!Apart for my usual basic daily chores I made scones, worked on my bread starter feeding and rising and so on as this is a work in patience for me at the moment , but at last tonight we had small loaves of fruit bread for toasting.So a good improvement on my last two trys.IN between I made gingerbread men my grandson(5) requested yesterday I make for today, that was fiddly work for me.But he's happy and gone home with 8 adult hand sized gingerbread men.I had a quick lunch then crumbed chicken tenders, and chopped vege for dinner before going to pick up g/son and bringing him back for afternoon tea. He was delighted with the gingerbread men beaming ear to ear.He was such a chatterbox today lol. Then it was time to pick up his sister (4) but Hubby came home early and did that pickup for me, so I could start dinner earlier.Fed us all dinner , cleaned up, bathed kids and washed hair,then a simple dessert , before dropping them to their mums (she works late some nights).I sat down at 8pm and here I am flopped but too full to go to bed after eating my fruitbread toasted and trialled ;-)
    Sorry that was a bit of an essay ....
    Your cakes look wonderful! and love that idea with the basket and green apples, and your new kitchen.
    Lovely to read everyone else's post too , thank you everyone,Love Maria xxx

  14. I so enjoy your posts and always feel so motivated to do more. We are celebrating our new year in about a month's time and I've decided that I'm making all my gifts by hand and wrapping them in great style. We're a big family and I think everyone will be there so planning and starting now is essential :-)

  15. Due to a disability, I am a stay-at-home wife, while my sweetheart is a working wife. Since working wife is a teacher, she has breaks from school so we do fun things together as well as working on our home we purchased almost 2 years ago.

    Working wife makes the amount of money we need to live and have quite a bit left over for savings. I, as stay-at-home wife, have some great skills, too. For example, I like to do research, so I apply that to find the things we need and purchase them online. I like to decorate, so after we both paint, I will figure out what goes where, what we need and try to find it. {Looking for rugs are making me a little crazy! It's too bad there aren't any make-your-own-rug stores! lol} We both care for the yard. I get the ride-y mower, and she does the fine tuning with a walk-behind mower, the line trimmer and the edger. Together, we get the job done.

    This is all to say, that we need to find our niches...what we can and do well. If it isn't within our own house, we look elsewhere. For example, I have a phobia, along with my disability, that prevents me from cleaning the house, and it isn't fair that my wife has to come home to do it. So, we hired someone to do it. It's best to spend the money and have the job done than for either of us to agonize over it.

    What works for us will absolutely not work for everyone, but for everyone, there are solutions. Be creative.

  16. There will always be critics of whatever lifestyle choices we make. But while they are criticising, we can just get on doing what we do that works for us. We are all such unique expressions of life.

    Mimi I wonder if I am the only one of your readers that finds myself making the stars whirl on your blog?

  17. Dear Mimi, I am so glad you have found my blog again and linked this Fabulous post at the party. This post spoke to my heart and I hope that many others get to read it. I have chosen your post to
    Feature this week on my Happy Homemaker Monday post. Thanks for sharing this and joining the Fabulous Party.


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx