Thursday, 29 November 2012

Responsible Single: Learn to Cook

I'm tapping into another essential skill for single women, especially those aspiring to marry and have a family.  Learn to cook.  Learn to cook food that doesn't come out of a package.  And learn to do it without your mom having to tell you what to make or how.

Again, I've been privileged to learn to cook and bake under the guidance of a mom and older sister.  I started cooking because I wanted to, not because I had to.  And you know what?  If you don't take the first steps to learn, your mother might not force it on you, and you may end up striking out on your own with next to no abilities in the kitchen.

I can't lay out for you my 10 Steps to Becoming a Great Cook.  I don't have them.  I learned how to cook by doing and I'm still learning.  I learned by helping in the kitchen, doing the menial jobs I did not enjoy and still don't. (Does anyone else get annoyed with shredding cheese?)  Slowly I learned how to make meals on my own.  I learned to bake cookies, muffins, and cakes on my own.  And after some coaching I learned how to make bread by hand on my own.  I also learned over time that sometimes Mom knows better than the recipe, and sometimes common sense rules over the recipe.

Again, take advantage of the people in your home who can teach you and be patient to allow yourself to be taught.  If you have never cooked in your life, and you pull out a new recipe and head to the kitchen alone hoping to impress the family, halfway through you will likely be in tears, want to abandon the whole meal, and never want to cook again.  I remember instances where I have tried to impress and burned the blueberry muffins or ended up with a very dense loaf of bread.   Allow yourself be to taught.  Also, learn how to use the equipment right and safely.  Something like a pressure cooker can be a great tool, but if you don't know how to use it, you could really hurt yourself.

Something else I want to touch on is meal planning.  Cooking is half the job.  Serious.  No, actually a fraction.  Washing the dishes takes up half on its own.  Whatever.  The hardest part of cooking is often knowing what to cook.  To the amateur, this is difficult to comprehend.  It's something I used to not be able to understand.  Now I do.  Cooking isn't that hard, but planning meals that go according to everyone's tastes, preferences that day, ingredients you have on hand, and taking a budget into consideration is hard.  Especially when you have to do it an hour before supper and the pressure is on.

When I meal plan (which, to be honest, I haven't done much lately), I don't plan every detail of all three meals each day.  Rather, I will sit down and brainstorm a few meals to cook for dinner and make a grocery list accordingly.  I keep it flexible.  We keep breakfast simple, and lunches are usually comprised of leftovers or other things we can make quickly.  Not only does meal planning take the pressure off for each day, but it allows you to shop wisely and not go to the store every day for that one ingredient you don't have. You can incorporate variety into your menu (using different meats, flavours, side dishes, vegetables, etc.), and keep things financially balanced.  You may like pasta, but if you're making it every day of the week, or all your meals have a lot of expensive ingredients, you'll start running into problems. 

Having just written this, I feel like I'm trying to write advice for married women.  Please don't take it that way.  I have simply shared things I have learned, what I would encourage and why.  Cooking and meal planning is a skill that will greatly benefit you at home with your parents, or as a wife and mom.  You can help take a lot of work off your mom's shoulders and bless your family with great food.  I highly recommend that all young women learn to do it well.

Next Post: Get a Job!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Responsible Single: Manage a Household

I'm going to start my Responsible Single series with tackling a couple of the obvious topics, not only for being a responsible single, but also for preparation for marriage.  First off, managing a household.  Now I'm not saying you have to strike out on your own, rent an apartment and learn to manage YOUR household, although you may do that.  I'm sure it would be a great experience in many aspects.  You can learn to manage a household even while you're living at home with your parents.

I've been blessed to grow up in a home where my mom has taught me a lot of things.  Thanks to her, I know how to cook, clean, do laundry, make beds, wash piles of dishes and the like.  No, I don't do all the household tasks on my own, but I'm capable of doing so. (I will avoid ironing and sewing at all costs though.)  You can also learn to keep the yard neat and tidy.

These are not difficult tasks, but it's good to learn not only to do them, but to do them efficiently.  A few years ago I took up the task of babysitting a toddler while both parents were working, and often while he napped, I helped them out by doing some house cleaning.  When I started, it took me about an hour and a half just to clean the bathroom.  But after some practice and learning to plan and do it well, I was able to clean the bathroom thoroughly in at least half the time.  I also had a similar experience when I helped clean my church.  Learn to do tasks thoroughly and efficiently, and it comes only with practice.

Not having lived on my own, the best real life practice I've gotten of managing a household are the few times my mom went away for a trip and all family members left at home relied on me.  This has happened during times where I have been working part time, at times sick, and at times asked to babysit for half a day when I already was extremely busy.  I learned how much is actually involved when the family relies on me for everything, and I also learned what I'm actually capable of accomplishing in one day.  On top of that, I learned to really appreciate all Mom does.

I would encourage you to learn how to manage a home while you still have someone alongside to teach you.  You probably know of someone who has gone off to college or left home not knowing how to do anything.  It's a very difficult transition for them.  Let that not be the case for you.

Next Post: Learn to Cook

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Responsible Single: Introduction

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post on being a responsible single.  I didn't publish it however for a few reasons.  In the last few weeks I have thought about turning it into a series that would be more effective and now I'm doing just that.  This is the introduction, and since I'm afraid my thoughts may be easily misinterpreted, I want to clarify what this is and isn't.

In the church today, there are many different opinions about what a woman's role is.  Some churches have no problem with women pursuing post-secondary education, a career, having a family later in later and committing their children to be raised and taught mostly by other people.  Others believe that a woman's place is strictly in the home, serving her husband and raising and teaching her children herself.  Whatever pattern is adopted by churches, whether verbally or quietly, really affects the way young women spend their single years.

I think young women in the church often face a lot of confusion and lack direction during their single years.  Many desire to get married and have a family and follow Pattern B, but they don't know when that will happen and they are unsure how to spend the in-between time after they have finished their secondary education.  Unfortunately what ends up happening is that girls spend their time idle, discontent, lacking responsibility, waiting for the day they're swept away by a man and have a home of their own, and I don't see this to be healthy.

Many Christians like to talk about the "Proverbs 31 Woman".  I hear a lot of single girls express a desire to be like this woman.  But I believe some very important points are overlooked at times.  The woman described in the chapter is an industrious entrepreneur who makes informed financial decisions and her husband trusts in her completely with their living.  He knows he is never going to suffer lack with her running their home (Pr. 31:11). She is not an idle woman, but works hard with willing hands (Pr. 31:13,27).  She takes care of her household, feeding and clothing them, and reaches out to the poor (Pr. 31:15,20-22). She considers a field and buys it (Pr. 31:16).  She produces and sells her own merchandise (Pr. 31:1824).  Her children and husband praise her (Pr. 31:28,29).  Yes, she's a keeper of the home, but that is certainly not all she does.  She's a capable, intelligent, financially responsible woman who uses her skills and talents to run her own business in addition to her home.

If this is what we as young women aspire to be, how do we work towards that?  How do we be fruitful while we wait, so that one day each of us can be that kind of woman?

What I desire to do in this series is not tell you what a godly woman, or a "Proverbs 31 Woman" should look like today.  I don't want to tell you how you're supposed to live.  What I want to do is share with you some things I have done and am doing during my single years to take responsibility for myself and that I would encourage others to do.  I admit there are some things I haven't done well and some things I would do differently if I had another chance, so I likely won't go deeply into those issues.  I'll leave it to others to speak to those issues.

I will devote each blog post to a separate topic.  My hope is that you will take these as practical suggestions and encouragement.  I also recognize that there may be some negative sides to some of the suggestions I have, and I hope I can address those honestly and look at both sides with fairness.  In the end, even if you don't agree with all my thoughts, my hope is that you would be inspired to make the most of their single years, be active and intentional about it, and have an increased amount of responsibility.

Next Post: Manage a Household