Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Right Tools

My dad has always said that you have to have the right tool for the job.

It's true.  Otherwise it just makes the job a whole lot harder than it needs to be which leads to greater frustration.  I am learning that as I go through my house and evaluate how I normally clean things.

On Tuesday, I noticed my floors.  We have a TON of tile.  Only the family room and bedrooms have carpet.  The rest is all tile.  I have noticed that after our floors would be "mopped" socks and feet would still turn an undesirable color.  Blech!  I would wipe something up off the floor and more than a trace of dirt would come up with the towel.  Double blech!

We purchased a steam mop in the hopes that it would make cleaning the tile a little more effective (and fun).  I didn't buy any replacement pads other than what came with the mop.  That was my first mistake.  I asked our house cleaner (Yes, the dirty secret is out.  My husband has blessed me with this service ever since I was sick while expecting Miss A.  However, we are trying to wean ourselves off her services and so here I am.  I don't want to be ashamed of a gift from my husband.) to use this rather than her mop and so she did.  However, she only uses the one pad throughout the whole house.  I figured this was the culprit for the not so clean floors.

Rather than disgust you with my experiment and results lets just say that four more replacement pads are on their way and I need to figure something else out in the mean time.  ha ha ha!!

I also realized we are in a new stage of life where the floors need to be cleaned more than once a week.  I am thinking that I will do floors Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I did them today relatively fast, much to my surprise!  I think 45 minutes or less to vacuum (YAY!  Miss L is no longer freaking out about the vacuum - she just leaves the room) and mop.  That's if everything is off the floor, too.  

In the end, I also think it helps to have tools that you like to use and are fun... like a steam mop, a BlendTec, KitchenAid mixer, pretty pots & pans, etc.

What are some of your favorite tools to use around the house?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's for Dinner, Mama?

I used to plan our meals on Monday.  However, I plan our meals around the sales these days and what we have on hand.  No longer the strategy of, "Hummmm... what do I want to eat this week?"  It can become too costly that way for sure.

I don't generally think too much about breakfast and lunch.  Breakfast we basically have scrambled eggs every morning and Miss L gets usually a half avocado and some fruit with her egg.  Lunches are generally leftovers or some other creative feat.  This will probably change in the near future.

For my own interest I will try to post what we are doing for dinner each night here on Wednesday afternoon after I have gathered my sales and coupons.  It's nothing amazing but maybe you will get some ideas.

Or better yet... maybe you have ideas to share!

Friday - Pizza @ Friend's House

Saturday - Grilled Chicken with Grilled Asparagus (Dessert with Friends - Brownies!)

Sunday - Lunch at Mom & Dad C's home after church (leftovers from the week for a light dinner)

Monday - Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, Broccoli

Tuesday - Pork Loin, Asparagus, Salad

Wednesday - Breakfast for Dinner (Eggs, Bacon, Coffeecake or Pancakes)

Thursday - Green Chile Chicken or Chipotle Chicken

Alternate -  Corned Beef & Cabbage

I like to have an alternate meal in mind just in case something goes wrong or we need to move things around.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wash, Fold, Repeat

I have said it before and I will say it again,

Laundry, like sanctification, is a continual process.

It's true.  Especially if you have little people around.  Their laundry seems like the most difficult to me.  Not that their's is all that hard to clean it just seems like there is just SO much of it no matter how small the load.  It probably doesn't help that I let it pile up because they both have SO many clothes they could go awhile without washing.  It's a vicious cycle that I am trying to break!

Before we moved the chore of laundry was the easiest for me to keep up.  It also helped that I loved my new washer and dryer (I still do.)  However, since we moved and especially since Miss A arrived on the scene laundry has been hit and miss.  It's sad really.  This week has been the beginning of new habits and getting laundry back on track has been one of those things.  Granted we are only on Tuesday but it looks good so far.  We will see how I am doing come Friday.  HA!

There are times that I end up doing laundry all day.  Not really my cup of tea.  Although, if that is the place that I have worked myself into then I need to suck it up and press on to get the job done.  FlyLady has recommended that if you do a load a day you will keep Mount Washmore away.  I tried it before and it worked really well for me.  For us, it can be more than one load a day but it beats five, six, seven... or more all in one day.

Here is what our schedule looks like:

Monday - Shirts, Diapers*
Tuesday - Whites
Wednesday - Gentle, Diapers
Thursday - Kids
Friday - Sheets, Towels, Diapers
Saturday - Pants, Any Catch Up Laundry

* These are the days we wash diapers when using cloth.  It may or may not require more washings depending on how old baby is and how many diapers we have in our stash for that particular stage, etc.  But this is usually what it looks like.  Is it weird that I was WAY better at keeping up with laundry when the cloth diapers were in play?

The whole routine may look different for each person.  Shirts are usually sorted in lights and darks.  However, these mostly comprise of Husband's work shirts and generally can fit into one load.  There will come a time when I sort by color the girl's clothes but right now they go in together and only sorted by if the belong to Miss L or Miss A.  Sometimes it gets mixed but that's not a big deal at this point in time.  Obviously Friday is a big day but I would rather have the extra family time on Saturday.

What does your laundry routine look like?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zone Cleaning Rooms with Older Children

I love technology.  In a different generation I would not be able to glean from a friend's experience as she lives in New Hampshire and I haven't seen her in about six or seven years.  However, I was able to glean future wisdom from her in a virtual blink of an eye.  My dear friend read my post about learning to "fly" again and she had just posted about breaking down her children's room into zones a la FlyLady.  She has three boys and is homeschooling them all.  I love it!

You can read her original post here.

I will highlight her post below:

  • Create Zones (Closet, dresser/chests, toy shelf, bookshelf, under bed)
  • Each weekday has an assigned zone to work on.
  • Daily (besides each zone) they are responsible for making beds, clothes in proper places, and tidy floor.
  • Take a picture of a good standard of how things should look for point of reference.
  • They can have their prized possessions or some other fun thing on their dresser or desk but it cannot be in a pile and should be there neatly.
That's her post in a very short and condensed version.  I think that there are ways to teach wee ones to help out with different things and to begin their training young and make it fun.

  • Giving them their own (age appropriate) tools - peeler, duster, rag, shelf in laundry area, bowl, etc.  Those are their tools too help you in whatever task. 
  • Involving them - Miss L loves to help with putting clothes in the washing machine.  She is also all about being right by my side while doing dishes -- even if it is only for the bubble and water entertainment value.
However, I am not sure what to do about the fact that Miss L is so very afraid of the vacuum cleaner and Miss A is at the stage of not really caring.  I thought Miss L would grow out of it but we are going on a year of this fright.  We may just have to grin and bear it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My New Obsession

A couple of years ago (my friends will attest) my obsession was cloth diapers.  Loved cloth  Always wanted more or was trying to see what the next things coming out was.  We still use cloth from time to time, I love the diapers.  I am just not as freakishly-obsessed.  The industry is flooded and I am convinced they will continue to become more and more popular.  That's another post for another day.

While my husband didn't mind my cloth diaper obsession he wasn't a huge fan.  However, he is really starting to love my new obsession but loves to tease me just the same when I get really excited.

So, what is it already?


But coupons are just paper unless you can match them with really great deals.  Then they become money in your pocket.  I'll be sad when the "double-coupon" days disappear after awhile.  They always come back but shopping is just not as fun as when great sales and great coupons are in play.

I just returned from a coupon class here in Phoenix.  It was presented by Practical Saver for those of you here in Arizona.  But there are similar services available nation wide, like Coupon Sense.  Let me say that I was super opposed to using coupons because I never thought they made much of a difference.  When matched up with great sales they are budget altering!

One day I realized things needed to change.  I wasn't sure how it would change but I knew it needed to change.  Some months as I would sit down with Husband to go over finances I would realize I went over budget by $5.  No biggie, right?  But some months it would be $100 or more.  I would cry in apology and promise to get better at it.  Some months were great.  Some months I felt like I had made no progress and had actually regressed.  UGH!  I was convicted in this area of my home management.  I needed to be a better steward.  I talked with several more seasoned wives who were also mothers of quite a few more children than myself.  One told me about Practical Saver and I was at the point of trying anything at least once.  My life has been changed.  Lately we have been coming in at or under budget!!  It's becoming more like a game for me and I am sure some day it will drive my little Princesses crazy.  On the flip side, I hope they learn a lot from this so when they are managing their own homes they will know how to shop the sales.

Yes, I pay someone to do the leg work for me but with the stage in life that I am in I think it is more than justified.  It's not all that much and it has more than paid for itself.  Multiple. Times. Over.  I cannot even begin to tell you.

I am not perfect at this by any means and I am still learning.  Although, I am getting pretty good at this and find that we have plenty.  We even have a box set up for the food bank.  It is such a blessing to be able to extend our food budget to others in need.

Maybe as I move through this and learn I will share with you all what's going on behind the scene's -- since I am kind of doing this for my girls, too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Artichoke Chicken

On my birthday I made a pretty yummy meal for our family.  Husband had already taken me out for my birthday and this meal was pretty simple so don't feel too bad for me.  Plus, apparently my birthday is also National Artichoke Day.  (They have a day for everything these days.)  A couple of people have asked for it so I thought that I would post it here so I can keep track of it, too.

It's a Phase 1 qualified meal for those who are familiar with The South Beach Diet.  My husband loves artichokes so we cannot really go wrong with this one.

Artichoke Chicken

4 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2" thickness.
1 bag (approx. 16 oz) frozen small whole onions
1 can (13 3/4 oz) chicken broth or stock
1 T balsamic vinegar
Ground Black Pepper
1 package (approx. 10 oz) frozen artichoke hearts

Heat 2 T of EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes, tuning once, or until browned on both sides.  Remove chicken to large bowl.  Empty pan, carefully wipe down with paper towel.

Heat remaining 2 T oil in the skillet.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  return the chicken to the pan and add the chicken broth and vinegar, season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the artichoke hearts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender and the meat registers a temperature of 170 (juices running clear).

** If you want to use fresh small onions or artichoke hearts this may be a place where it is not so cost effective.  Plus, I have yet to figure out on my own how to just get the heart of the artichoke.  A bag of hearts here was about $3 and you cannot buy enough fresh ones for that price.

Learning to "Fly" Again

Before we moved and before Miss A was even on the radar I had started to "flutter" with the Fly Lady way of cleaning.  It just made sense to me after trying a variety of other methods.  I had been hesitant to try Fly Lady in the beginning but that is a whole other story.

While I have not been "flying" with Fly Lady for quite some time I know it's time to jump on board again.  I was looking through some of the e-mails that I still get from her and they are working on decluttering as the theme of the month.  Oh, man... I needed to see that!  I also happened to read...

"You can't clean until you get rid of the clutter."

So true!  The zone that they are working in this week is the Master Bedroom. That's where I jumped in this week.  I am getting rid of the clutter in the bedroom.  I want it to be a place of peace for me and my Husband.  There are a few things to take care of here and there but already it looks SO much better.  Even a box that has been sitting in there untouched for over nine months was sorted and thrown out!  It feels so much lighter in there!  Plus, nothing feels better than a clean pair of sheets.  YAY!!

I think that I will just declutter each room as we go along and start there.  There are a few habits that I struggle with in Fly Lady but I think I can work on that.  ha ha ha!!

I like that Fly Lady says, "You are not behind!  Just start where you are."

What a relief.  It helps me have some grace but encouraging to get going and start figuring it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It All Starts Somewhere

I have been married for (almost) five years and I am still trying to figure out what this whole homemaking thing looks like.  It seems like others have a really good grasp on it but I continue to flounder.  A move and two little ones don't always help things along with a routine.  I understand that others have more to deal with but this is where I am right now and I am okay with that.  I think the first step is grace and the the second step is kicking it into high gear.

I have been blessed with two little "future-homemakers" and I really want to be a lovely example to them so that they do not end up in the same place that I am today.  I also started this little adventure to track my own progress, learn with and from others along the way.  Maybe someday my girls can look back on this?  Who knows?  Maybe this will be utter failure.  I'm okay with that, too.

It seems like I get in a rhythm with thing and it get toppled over for some reason or another and I can never quite climb back on the wagon.  Or what worked before doesn't work now... at all.  I understand that things will need fine tuning along the way but I seem to be finding myself having to wipe the slate clean each time.

I read a post over at Raising Homemakers (I would link to it but they are having issues right now) and it talked about one of the things a homemaker should be doing is making things.  Novel idea, right?  So, I hope to undertake some of those challenges.  I am thankful that there are others that I know and love who love to make particular things and may be able to point me in the right direction.  I love that even though many of them are far away I can still pick their brains and learn from them.  Gotta love modern technology.

So, here we begin.  If you have a favorite homemaking blog that you would like to recommend... I'm all ears!