November 25, 2010

A kids craft with grown-up appeal

I like to do crafts with my children.  But when we are done, our creations often get put away in a drawer or a box because, honestly, construction paper doesn't pair very well with my decor.

But if you use scrapbook paper, simple children's crafts can take on a whole new appeal.   Like this simple chain my girls and I made and hung in their room with leftover scraps of pretty red ribbon.

You can't really see it in the picture, but we used glitter on the edges of each strip of paper, because I'm insane and apparently have way too much spare time on my hands.  If you want to keep your sanity and not have to clean glitter off your floor and couch and drinking glasses and face for the next 3 weeks, skip the glitter.

Anyhow, I like how it turned out. It's simple.  It's lovely. And we did it together.

Why not make a pretty paper chain with your kids this Christmas?

November 24, 2010

Junk Drawer 101

I'm sure you have one.  You might not call it a junk drawer; It might even be a basket, or the bottom two thirds of your linen closet.  It is probably filled with hair elastics, a thank you card you've been meaning to mail, cherry lip balm, and some unidentifiable little doo-dad you found on the floor years ago and you just know that if you throw it out you will discover the very next day what it was for and just how very important it was.

I'm a big fan of controlled chaos.  I don't organize, sort and make perfect every nook of my home. I just implement strategies to control the chaos.  Most of the time that means baskets. And pretty little bowls. And in this case, a muffin tin too!

So, how do we control the junk drawer chaos?

1.  Make it pretty.  I find it so much easier to keep things neat and tidy if the space is pretty.  I used shelf paper and some pretty bowls to make my junk drawer a happy space.  Pretty labels would be a nice addition too!

2. Don't put something in the junk drawer if it has a home somewhere else.  That means that if you have a place where hair elastics or band-aids or batteries are supposed to go, go put them there, not in the junk drawer.
This is actually an important tip for efficient homemaking.  When you put something in the  wrong place just for now you are choosing to put that item away twice: once in the wrong place and once in the right place.  And in the mean time, it is still kind of in the way.  Just put things away in the right place the first time! (I'm currently trying to learn this...but that is not what my bedroom floor would tell you.)
 3. This last point is partially in jest.  Partially.  Here it is: don't tell your husband and kids that it is the 'junk drawer'. If you hope to control the chaos, the last thing you need is 2 or 4 or 10 people trying to shove everything that meets their definition of junk in one drawer!  Call it the top drawer (if it's at the top) or the bottom drawer (if it's at the bottom) or  mom's drawer.  That should keep it from collecting screws and Lego pieces and a receipt from 2005 that your husband isn't sure whether to throw out or not. Or maybe not.

My absolute favorite part of my junk drawer is this little muffin tin.  Isn't that the cutest way to store paperclips?


Today I'm participating in We're Organized Wednesdays over at Decorate and Organize Everything.  Head over there to find all sorts of clever organizing ideas.

Tell me, what does your junk drawer look like?

November 20, 2010

3 Things I Love...


Every weekend I want to take the opportunity to share with you some of the best ideas, recipes and products I've found on the Internet to bless a homemaker's heart and home.  Many of these things are not new, but they are new to me and I hope you will like them as much as I do!

 For starters, there is this recipe for pineapple upside down cake.  This recipe quickly became a favorite in our home, and pretty much everybody who has visited our house in the past 2 months has been served this for dessert. I double the cake recipe, but not the topping and make it in my 12-inch cast iron skillet.  We serve it with either whipped cream or ice cream, but whipped cream is by far superior.  I know you will love this recipe!

Next is this monogram wreath!  I love monograms and would absolutely love to make this wreath, but my last name starts with "O" which in case you haven't noticed is kind of just a circle, which, in case you haven't noticed, is the conventional shape for a wreath.... kind of defeating the purpose of the monogram wreath.

And here is an amazing tip for freezing ground beef.  Seriously, this blew my mind.

That's it for today.  Have a great weekend everybody!

November 19, 2010

Tips for a Clean and Tidy Fridge

A clean refrigerator makes me smile.   I love to open a clean, well organized, fresh smelling fridge.  Don't you?

There are few things quite as disgusting as a fridge so messy that things get lost in the back and start turning into penicillin.

And unlike other jobs we do around our home, such as washing laundry or making the bathroom sink sparkle, this is a job that actually stays done for more than 2.3 seconds.  Which, for me at least, makes it a pretty satisfying task.

Here are some tips to help you have a fridge that makes you smile.



  CLEANING
  • Choose a cleaning solution:  There are countless things you could use to clean your fridge, and what you choose will depend on the state of your fridge.  Here are the guidelines I use.
    • If there is mold, I use warm water with a little bit of bleach
    • If there is stuck on ickyness, I use warm water with a mild dish soap
    • If the fridge is pretty clean but could just use a wiping out and freshening, i use warm water mixed with some baking soda.
  • Remove all the food from your fridge and put the highly perishable things like meat and milk in a cooler while you clean.  Less perishable things like fruits and veggies will be fine on the counter.
  • Starting at the top and working down, wipe all surfaces with the cleaning solution of your choice. Then rinse using fresh warm water.  Dry with a rag.   
  • Don't forget to clean the rubber gasket around the door too.

ORGANIZING
  • Check the dates on items as you put them back in your fridge. Throw out anything that is past it's prime.
  • Put like foods together on the same shelf.
  • The conventional wisdom is to put raw meats at the bottom of your fridge so that they can't contaminate other foods.  I'm not in the habit of putting messy dripping chunks of poorly packaged raw meat in my fridge, so I don't really see the value of this.  If you get it, feel free to explain it to me.  In the meantime, my meat goes in the deli drawer.  
  • Line your produce drawers with paper towels to help keep them clean longer. 
  • Baskets are great problem solvers!
    • My kids tend to push and shove and  impale each other in the mornings trying to get their preferred flavor of yogurt.  So I've taken the yogurt containers out of that cardboard sleeve that always ends up empty at the back of my fridge taking up space and snapped them apart into individual cups and placed them in a basket.  Problem solved.
    • Do you get the same sandwich ingredients out every day to assemble packed lunches? Why not pile those things in a basket?!
    • Do you often serve garden salads with a choice of dressings?  Place all your salad dressings in an attractive basket with a handle so you can place the whole thing on the table at dinner time and put them all away with one trip to the fridge when you're done!
  • If you turned off or unplugged your fridge while cleaning it, don't forget to turn it back on when you're done!  If I had a carton of spoiled cream for every time I've forgotten that....

FINALLY 

  • Put half a slightly squeezed lemon or lime in a polka dot bowl to keep everything smelling fresh.  (okay, it doesn't have to be a polka dot bowl...but it's better if it is!)    

  •  Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive description of how to care for your fridge.  Please read your manual.

Do you have any great tips or ideas I missed?

November 17, 2010

A Stress-Free Christmas?

(Note:If you are the kind of person who seems to glide through life with little or no stress and worry, this article isn't really for you.  But if you've ever nearly had a panic attack over lumpy gravy, please keep reading...)

I've seen it on the cover of all my favourite magazines: Have a Stress-Free Christmas, Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining, Stress-Free Gift Guides for Every Budget.

And it has left me wondering: when did stress-free become our main objective?

Are we so stretched as a society, so exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed that our primary goal for Christmas is that it be without stress?

Or have we just accepted that as a goal because the magazines we trust tell us to and it seems like a good thing?

Maybe a little bit of both?

Here's the thing:  If you normally experience stress while making a normal weeknight dinner with just your own children at your feet, then you are probably going to be stressed when you're preparing a holiday feast with half a dozen extra children to trip over....no matter how much you've planned ahead and simplified the menu.

If you find the mall to be a stressful place on a rainy Saturday in May you are going to find it stressful on the second Saturday in December. Guaranteed.

Add in some less than ideal family situations, a tighter than usual budget, and some miserable weather outside and stress seems kinda unavoidable.

And is that really such a bad thing?

Christmas for me is a month and a half of excitement, personal reflection, sparkly things shedding sparkles on my floor, hot chocolate and stress.

Am i suggesting that you should just give up on trying to keep Christmas simple and fill your calender with more excitement than any family could possibly cram into one holiday? And allow yourself to become so harried that you spend most of advent barking at your children?  All in the name of a perfect Christmas?  Of course I'm not!  If you've been reading my blog you know that I like for things to be simple, lovely, and authentic.  What I am suggesting is that we should look at what we want most out of this Christmas season and pursue that.  I'm pretty certain that stress-free isn't really at the top of very many lists.

This Christmas I want to be intentional about creating community among the people I love most. I want to bless the people who bless me everyday.  I want to show love to some friends and neighbors I've failed to really connect with over the year.  I want to cook and clean and wrap and give and sing and pray with the miracle of a sinless child born to bear the weight of my own sin at the forefront of my mind.  Avoiding stress? That is way down the list.

And you know what?  Knowing what you REALLY want to get and give this Christmas season (hint: I'm not talking about stuff here) probably will remove some of the stress.  But if it doesn't?  That's okay too.


Let me know what you think in the comments below.  I love reading what you ladies have to say!

November 16, 2010

Easy Go-To Meals For Crazy Days

Recently we talked about meal planning.  I think that meal planning helps me to keep everyday life uncomplicated.  But there are days  I find myself standing exhausted in the kitchen with three crying babies, looking back on a day full of potty accident, tantrums, telemarketers and crayon art on the walls. In these moments the idea of making a beautiful quiche with the handmade crust and a side salad seems about as appealing as stabbing myself in the eye with the crayon I've confiscated from the children.

Do you have days like this?

When it fits in our budget, these are the days we order pizza.  Or Chinese food. Or get one of those precooked chickens from the grocery stores food-to-go section.

But sometimes take out isn't an option.  So if you sometimes have days like this, I want to encourage you to make a list of a few meals you almost always have the necessary ingredients for that are super-duper easy.

Here are mine:

  • Grilled Cheese served with whatever cut up raw fruit or veggies I happen to have.
  • BLT's (Especially in the late summer when there are tomatoes in the garden)
  • Breakfast for dinner.  Bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast.  Or pancakes.
  • Grilled chicken Caesar salad
  • This Chicken Divan recipe.

So, tell me, what are your easy go-to meals for those crazy days?

November 15, 2010

How to Clean your Microwave

By my estimation, about 16% of you are right now thinking I'm supposed to clean the microwave?

And most of the other 84% are thinking Didn't I just clean the microwave last summer?  Is it time to clean it again already?

Yes, you should probably clean your microwave.  And you should probably clean it every week...or maybe every two weeks if you don't use it very much.

But fret not: even if you haven't cleaned your microwave since approximately one hundred and fifty seven leftover spaghetti reheats ago, I can help!  ( No, I won't clean your microwave for you.  Or your fridge. Or your oven.  I will however reorganize your closets in exchange for a bag of chocolate covered almonds and a subscription to Style at Home magazine.)

How to clean you microwave in 4 easy steps:

1) Put 1 cup of vinegar in a glass microwaveable bowl and microwave it on high until it's boiling and has covered the walls of the microwave in vinegary condensation.  (this takes about 5 minutes in mine)
Let sit 3 minutes.
2) Carefully remove the bowl of vinegar. With a cloth or paper towel, wipe the surfaces clean.  If there are some really stuck on messes, use a scrubby suitable for non-stick cookware.
3) clean the turntable in warm soapy dish water.  Dry and put back.
4)Wipe down the outside of your microwave with a damp cloth.

Wasn't that easy?  Since you are going to have a cup of warm vinegar when you are done, sprinkle some baking soda down your kitchen drain while heating the vinegar and then (carefully!) pour the warm vinegar down the drain.  Bye-bye sinky stinkies!

(Note: consult your microwave's manual for any special instructions.  It may, for example, have a grease filter that needs to be cleaned.  So read the manual.  Seriously.)

November 12, 2010

Super Thrifty Shelf Makeover


It's a shelf, It's a hutch, It's superman!

Okay....it's not superman.  But it is almost as awesome.

I wanted a hutch.  Mostly because The Nester has one and i kinda want everything The Nester has. (contentment Kelly, contentment....)

But the closest thing i had to a hutch was this shelf.  I got it at Ikea a few years ago in the 'as-is' section. (for those who don't know, that is their clearance section).  This shelf was 50% off because there was an itty bitty scratch on the bottom of the bottom shelf!

I started off just calling this shelf "the hutch" but my husband kept insisting that calling it a hutch doesn't actually make it one....  spoil sport.

So I picked up some cabinets doors at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for 5 bucks!
I had my husband buy and cut a piece of plywood for the back.

I primed the shelf and doors and back and then painted them with my own paint concoction made by mixing paint remnants i found in the basement. (um...it is probably in my best legal interest to ask you not to try this at home, or do it at your own risk, or something like that. Because one of you will probably go crazy and mix oil and latex paint and then add nail polish or something and when you die from the fumes or noxious gases or implosion that takes place, i want it to be very clear that this is not my fault.)

Next we added some free hinges salvaged from a kitchen reno my husband has been working on.  And we used some little pieces of trim salvaged from that same reno to make a little ledge to hold plates.

What is behind the doors you ask?

TOYS!


I haven't added any knobs to the doors yet because I'm not sure what exactly I want.  I'm also thinking I'll paint the insides of the doors with chalkboard paint so that when they are open the kids have a little spot to draw.  Although I'm 92% sure that will result in my youngest child consuming chalk.


I like it.  And so do the kids. And since I already owned the shelf and paint and hinges, this project cost me a total of about 18 bucks.

Hey, before you go, i want to show you one more thing.  Check this out:


Only 2 days old and it already has crayon on it.  Yup, this piece of furniture is going to fit right in around here....

I've linked up to Frugal Friday at the Shabby Nest today, so head over there to find more super-thrifty almost-as-awesome-as-superman ideas.

November 11, 2010

10 ways to NOT make your home a haven

ha'ven noun. a place of shelter and safety; refuge; asylum.
1) Obsess over magazine covers. You probably feel that it's not good to obsess over trying to look like the airbrushed celebrities on certain magazine covers.  How is it any better to spend your life trying to make your home look like the homes on the covers of your favorite decor magazine?

2) Worry about your stuff. Don't own anything that is going to keep you awake at night worrying about it.  Use your stuff, don't let it use you.

3) Be trendy.  You can never keep up.  By the time you buy everything that is trendy right now, the trends have changed.  Surround yourself with things you love.  Only buy into the trends that suit you, your family, and your style.

4) Forget to rest and enjoy it.  Sometimes I feel like our home is just this place where we sleep and clean.  Be intentional about taking time to read in your favorite chair, or play a game with your kids around the coffee table.

5) Refuse to invite people over and share your home with them.  Stop waiting until your house is clean enough, or pretty enough or big enough.  Don't wait until you have time; make time.  When we invite people into our homes, we are inviting them into friendship with us.

6) Put tasks off until you have time to do them perfectly. This is the mystery by which perfectionists can sometimes have messy homes.  Are you putting off cleaning your pantry until you can get some more canisters and some pretty labels and maybe a new door?  Just do what needs to be done today.

7) Expect your family to change to meet your home's needs. Your home needs to change to meet your families needs, not the other way around.  Your husband may never ever stop throwing his dirty work socks on the floor. Either get used to it, or put a laundry hamper where the socks most often land.

8) Choose discontentment.  Contentment is a choice.  If you find yourself saying "once i have a new area rug, I'll be happy with this room" or "when I organize that closet my bedroom will finally be perfect!"  you've fallen into a trap that will never let you be happy with what you've got. Thank God for everything he has given you.  And enjoy what you have.

9) Go into debt.  Debt hurts.  It gnaws away at you and causes stress and tension.  Don't spend today what you may not have tomorrow. If you are already in debt, stop.  Start spending only cash, and paying into your debt regularly.  Watching that number go down every month brings a lot of peace. 

10) Nag your husband.  Your home will never be a haven if your husband dreads coming into it.  He is the God-given leader of your home and family; endeavor to treat him accordingly.

I think the ones I've struggled with the most are #1 and #10.  What about you?  What is getting in the way of your home truly being a haven?

November 9, 2010

Giving Thanks

The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—  that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.   Titus 2:3-5
Do you have a Titus 2 woman in your life?  A wise woman of God who encourages you to be the wife and mother God desires you to be?

I do. She married my brother.

My beautiful sister (in-law)

Today (in)courage is asking their readers to write about something they are grateful for.  I am so very grateful for my sister-in-law.  I wish you could all have her in your life, encouraging you and giving you wise counsel and making you laugh.

She serves her family with joy and grace. She is authentic and funny. 

When I decided to get married in a hurry on a very inconvenient day, she was my selfless, supportive, and beautiful maid of honor.

When I felt torn between two options: going back to college or starting a family, she tenderly helped me to see the real longings of my heart.

When I call her in a panic, asking how to make a particular meal or how to tell if my ground beef had gone bad or whether or not I should be concerned about the unusual color of my infants diaper contents, she patiently instructs and encourages me.

Every time I read Proverbs 31, I am reminded of her.

She makes time for me.  She loves me. And I thank God for her.




Do you have somebody in your life like my that?  Tell us about her in the comments below!  And visit (in)courage for more stories of gratitude.

November 8, 2010

8 Ways to Banish Visual Clutter from our Homes

My sofa table while I repaint. Cluttered. Ick.
I had a great post about organization planned for today that I was really excited about, but my half painted living room and the chaos that ensues when redecorating with three little ones at your feet has left me overwhelmed and under-motivated.  So plans change.

Today's post is about visual clutter.  I dislike clutter, but i like well lived in rooms. The pursuit of that balance has me constantly tweaking my vignettes, purging my closets, and taking boxes of things to the local second hand store. 

I love the process of making our home more beautiful, more functional and more meaningful.

Visual clutter isn't always actual clutter, it's anything that keeps your eye from resting.  Visual clutter makes a room feel messy even when it's tidy.  I have nightmares about clutter.

 Here are some common sources of visual clutter and some possible solutions:

1) Accent walls are very chic, but they do create some visual clutter.
Solution: Accent walls immediately attract the eye, so choose carefully.  Pick a simple wall that deserves the attention it's going to get (fireplace walls are often a great place for an accent wall) and then decorate it very simply.  Avoid painting accent colors on walls with doors or lots of furniture against them, or that are particularly asymmetrical.

2) Many different wood tones or colors in your solid furnishings.
Solution: This is tricky if you, like me, have collected your furniture at various thrift stores and yard sales and discount stores.  If your sofa table and coffee table and end tables and book shelves are all different colors, consider painting just a couple of the pieces to match one another.  It will pull the room together and create some cohesiveness among your mismatched furnishing.

3)Things stored on the floor.  
Solution: free up as much floor space as possible. Find a tidy place to keep any non-furnishings that regularly reside on the floor.  Install hooks for things like backpacks and purses.

4) Wires.  My nemesis.  
Solution: Tuck them out of view as much as you can.  There are some simple products on the market to help you hide your electronic wires.  Consider running wires along the baseboards where they are less noticeable.

5) Small stuff on top of cabinets and bookshelves.
Solution:  Use the top of your bookshelves and kitchen cabinets to display large items.  Keep it to 3 items per bookshelf top.  Clean off your cabinet tops entirely and see if you like it.  If you prefer it with items displayed, try adding back a few like objects on top of every second or third cabinet.

6) Many things on the counter tops.
 Solution: Store any small appliances that you don't use almost every day in the cabinets.  This may include things like a bread maker, food processor, or blender.

7) Prints of the same scale.
Solution: Go ahead and mix prints, but try not to have two large bold prints or two very small intricate prints in the same room.

8) Actual Clutter.  Duh?
Solution: Purge.  If you can't store all of your stuff in a way that is tidy and attractive, you have too much stuff. Stash little items in pretty baskets or bins.

These tips are meant to help create a more serene environment to enjoy with your loved ones. Don't obey decorating 'rules' just for the sake of obeying the rules.  If one of these tips doesn't work for you, ignore it.  Sometimes our lives are going to involve clutter.  Love the life you live in your home, not the home itself.

I want to know, how do you feel about clutter?

November 6, 2010

Use It or Lose It...

As we passed the time at a farmers market one spring morning, a friend told me a tragic story.

Her beautiful table linens,
the ones passed down from her great grandmother,
the ones with beautiful intricate designs and embroidery,
the ones that where just to good to use....

...were eaten by mice.


The linens she had gently washed and pressed and folded and then placed safely in a drawer, each one separated by a piece of parchment paper....

 ...Destroyed.  Garbage.  Gone.
Friends, use your good stuff:  the antique silverware, the irreplaceable china, and yes, great grandmas linens.
My friend was saddened to see her linens destroyed.  Of course she was, they represented something important to her.  But the only difference between when she had those linens and now is that now she's got a drawer freed up to fill with things she will actually use.

Be it  mice, or fire, or a dinner guest dropping it on the floor, one day you will be separated from all of your beautiful things. Accept this. Say good bye to all of those beautiful things.  And then truly appreciate their beauty as you use them to serve the people you love most.

Once you have already said good-bye, when that trying-to-be-helpful dinner guest drops a supposedly priceless heirloom and the whole room comes to a standstill and everyone turns to look and see how you are going to respond... you can smile.  And tell them you knew that would happen eventually.  No harm done, except for maybe a couple tears shed in the kitchen while the coffee brews.

When my friend told me her story of the linens, I started to wonder if maybe the things we own, no matter how sentimental, are completely meaningless until we have used them to serve somebody else. Use your beautiful things.  Use them to serve the people in your life who are truly priceless.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {Matthew 6:19-21}

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment below or share this article with your friends!

November 5, 2010

Weekly Menu Planning That Works (for me!)

It's 4:52.

You've got a crying kid on your hip and two more at your feet. 

You're tired, you're hungry, and you're standing with the fridge open wondering how you are going to make a meal for five out of half a head of broccoli and some pepperoni.

Or does this just happen to me?

I've tried many many times to make menu plans.  But it's hard.  I don't want to be regimented and scheduled in my cooking, i want to have the freedom to experiment and follow my whims.  But standing with the fridge open, forty minutes to dinnertime, with no idea what I'm going to make does not sound much like freedom, does it?


What i need is a menu planning method with two seemingly contradictory elements:
1) Scheduling. Meals are planned ahead. I can make a concise grocery list knowing exactly what i will need.
2) Flexibility. I can rely on what is on sale or available at my farmers market.  And i don't have to eat the same seven dinners every week.


A few months ago i figured out a solution that works.  for me.  I hope it works for you too.

For each day of the week there is a type of food.  Not a specific recipe, but a general theme for dinner.  Some days of the week are more specific than others.  All of them are based around our sometimes hectic lives.  Let me show you what I mean!

Sunday:  A roast.  Beef, chicken, whatever. In the slow cooker.  When we get home from church.  Often shared with friends.
Monday:  We have to rush out the door and we don't even all get to eat together, so i keep it simple.  Pasta.  Probably spaghetti.  Maybe lasagna.
Tuesday: Not as hectic.  Time to really cook.  I make a soup or stew using stock or leftover meat from Sunday.  And i bake bread.  Tuesdays are pretty awesome around here.
Wednesday: Casserole. And maybe a salad.
Thursday: Pie!  Sort of.  Chicken Pot pie or shepherds pie, or quiche.  Depending on what's cheap.
Friday: Pizza!  Normally homemade, but not always.
Saturday:  Mexican.  Something with ground beef and spices and probably tortillas (and anything floating around my fridge that needs to get used up!).  It's a busy day, it needs a simple meal.

So here's what i love about this technique:
1) I have my options right in front of me. Every Saturday when I make my grocery list I don't have to deal with that grocery-list writer's-block that somehow causes me to be unable to think of a single meal except the one we ate last night.
2) It takes into consideration our busy lives, so i don't have to.  When i sit down to make my list i don't need to think "i need something simple for Monday, Thursday and Saturday..." because that is already accounted for.
3) It's my plan, I can change it if I want to. I can swap menus mid week.  If I'm having a really crazy Tuesday I can just switch it with the Wednesdays meal without feeling like a complete failure.  Or if I'm having people over on Saturday but I don't really want to feed them tacos, I'll just switch with another day.
4) We don't eat the exact same meals every week.  And there is room for trying new recipes.
5) My grocery shopping is (finally) pretty efficient. I almost never have to call my husband during the day to ask him to bring home potatoes.  Or cheese.  Or Chinese take out. 

Now that I've convinced you, here is how you can make a similar plan for your meals.  Go get a sheet of paper.  I'll wait...


Still waiting...


C'mon, we don't have all day...


Ready?  Okay.

Step One: Write down every day of the week.  Beside each day, write down any obligation you have on that day.  Anything that makes dinner more hectic.  Like ballet or soccer or whatever.  If you find you are especially tired on Mondays or stressed out on Wednesdays, write that stuff down too.

Step Two:  Choose some meals, or a type of meal, that would work for each day, keeping in mind the stuff you've written about that day.

Step Three:  If you are super-duper organized, you could even have the necessary ingredients written under each option.  That way, when you make your grocery list and choose your meals for this week, you don't need to look up each recipe!

Note: I don't plan breakfast and lunch.  I tried that once.  By day three I was a frustrated crying wreck.  Don't make a plan so specific that it can be completely obliterated by some left over mac and cheese.
Talk to me.  How do you plan your meals?

November 4, 2010

Simple Solutions for UGLY Stuff

Scouring pads. Wires. Various electronic doo-dads. Cleaning products. Most of the items my husband brought into the marriage. A home is full of ugly stuff.

(Hey sweetie, if you're reading this, I was just joking about that last one... your stuff isn't really all that ugly.  Besides, I donated it all years ago.)

If i had tons and tons of money I would just boy-cott every company that makes ugly stuff.  Surely there has to be a company out there selling oven cleaner in a pretty can?  Preferably in teal?  I'll buy anything teal.

But alas I do not have tons and tons of money.  So instead I've found pretty ways to hide the ugly stuff .  Here are some of my favorites:

 I love this little bowl that I use as a soap dish at my kitchen sink.  I also put little scouring pads and other scrubby things in there when i have them.  (Note to self: get more scouring pads)



I bought this decanter at a thrift store for 3 dollars.  It holds my bubble bath.  Pouring your bubbles out of a glass decanter is soooo luxurious. (even if it is kids bubble gum scented bubble bath from a giant "value size" jug)



I keep all my first aid supplies and extra cosmetics in baskets on the top shelf of my linen closet.  I made chalkboard labels for the baskets and tied them on with ribbon.


  
More baskets!  I love baskets.  One of these holds the uglies of all uglies: batteries and computer wires.




See that little polka-dot bowl?  It's hiding bathroom uglies like tweezers and nail clippers.  My sweet husband abhors the color yellow and has banned it from most of my home decorating, but will apparently permit it in the form of small doses of polka-dotty goodness.





Why not leave a comment below and let me know what uglies you're hiding!?

November 3, 2010

Real Life Shoe Storage

I like home decorating magazines.  A lot.  Sometimes i get sucked into their fantasy world.  A world where grand plans to place matching mom and daughter rain boots side by side under a rustic country bench actually happen each and every time we step through the door.  A world where snow boots never get mucky, work boots never get covered in drywall dust, and the shoes you mowed the lawn in never turn that awful yellowish green colour.

But I don't actually live in that world.

So here is my plan for storing shoes that doesn't require that I have only beautiful shoes and a family that is willing to line them up from smallest to biggest and colour coded. every. single. day.

STEP ONE:  Put all your dress shoes in your bedroom closets
a) You probably pick your dress shoes out when you are getting dressed anyways, not when you're rushing out the door.
b) It keeps them safely away from the mucky boots and stinky gym shoes in your entry way.
c) You can line them up, color code them, sort them by sparkly-ness...do whatever you want because they will probably stay like that.
Tip: Don't put them on the floor of your closets.  Only entry closets can have stuff on the floor.  I just made that rule up just now, but trust me. Putting stuff on the floor of the closet is like stuffing stuff under the bed:  you start with good intentions.  I'm just going to put these few items there.  Neatly of course.  And before long it is a dark abyss of stuff and spiders and doom.

STEP TWO: Get a big basket. Or a shelf.  Or an old toy bin.  Something big.  Throw all the rest of the shoes in it.   This is kinda like the heaping pile of shoes you're hiding in your closet right now.  Except it's controlled chaos.  (Were you expecting something more complicated?  Sorry.  That's not how I roll.)


STEP THREE: Have a mat too.
Because a) you don't want to throw wet shoes on top of dry ones
and b) your guests aren't going to want to throw their shoes in the basket.
 

Tell me, how do you keep shoes looking neat and tidy at your house?

November 2, 2010

Seven Chores Young Children Can Do

My husband grew up in a family where chores were expected.  He is patient, wise and hardworking.

 I never did chores, and I was a bossy spoiled little brat.  (I've grown up a little bit, but not a lot.)

Am I saying that we are a reliable case study, thereby proving that children who are taught to do age appropriate chores turn out to be more responsible? with a good work ethic? and ruggedly handsome?  Yes, yes I am.

Here is a list of seven chores that my daughters, ages 4 and 2-and-a-half, are expected to do. 

1) Make their bed.  Every morning.  I don't expect perfection, but their sheets need to be pulled up and their pillows and dolls and stuffed animals all need to be piled on neatly.

2) Pick up their toys. I have baskets on a shelf in the living room in which their toys are storedThere is a separate shelf for books.  If your going to expect your toddler to be able to put their toys away, keep it simple.

3) Put their dirty clothes in the hamper. I need to remind them.  Often.  But that is part of training our children.   You can either tell them a billion times when they are four or you can tell them ten billion times when they are fourteen.

4) Set the table. Start by having them lay out serviettes for each family member and move up from there.  My kids fight over who gets to set the table.

5) Sort laundry.  Kids love this.

6) Put their own laundry away.  This is by far my favorite.  I don't even fold the clothes. I just make a pile of laundry for each child and then hand it to them. They fold it and put it away.  They adore this chore.  My four year old is very careful to fold things nicely and stack things carefully in the right drawer.  My younger daughter is a little less precise, but most of her clothes end up in the right drawers.

7) Wipe up their own spills. I keep a bunch of bar-mop towels in a drawer in the kitchen.  If the kids spill their juice, they know that they are expected to get a towel and clean it up.

A few notes about teaching your children to do chores:
  • You have to actually teach them to do the chores.  Don't just tell them to go make their bed and expect them to know what that means.
  • Be a good example.  Your children will be much more apt to make their beds if they've seen mommy make her bed!
  • Don't expect perfection. After all, they are just kids!
  • Do expect them to do their best. Teach your children to take their responsibilities seriously.
  • Don't be tempted to do everything for your kids just because you can do it faster and better. Your priority is to train up your child, not to have a perfectly ordered sock drawer.

So, tell me....what have i missed?

November 1, 2010

Prayer and the Art of Oven Cleaning

I used to hate cleaning my oven.

Every year around this time, i clean my oven in preparation for all the baking and entertaining that I'll be doing over the next few months. (Yes, i only clean my oven once a year - don't judge me!)

Last night i covered the heating elements and light and oven thermometer with tinfoil and sprayed the oven with that toxic, nasty, heavy duty earth-killing oven cleaner stuff, put the door back on and went to bed.
This morning I woke up with the intent of making pie for a neighbor who's done some nice things for us, and then remembered...


Drat, I've got to clean the oven.

So I set to work. And while cleaning, i was thinking about all the ways i get to serve my family and friends with this oven. As i wiped mucky paper towel after mucky paper towel, i began to pray for all the loved ones who will pass through this house over the holidays. I prayed for my friends. My family. Strangers we hardly know but hope to know better. I prayed for community, fellowship, rest. I prayed that God would come and be at the dinner table with us, each time we sit down together...and not just that he would BE there, but that He would show himself to us, that we would be acutely aware of God's presence in our home, our lives and each other.

Today, i loved cleaning my oven. I embraced this opportunity to not only prepare my oven for service, but to prepare my heart too.

Maybe now I'll clean my oven twice a year.

But probably not.
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