In pursuit of a simple, fabulous, imperfect life at home.

Yummy Chocolate Strawberry Smoothies

Served with a handful of nuts, this 5 ingredient smoothie makes a simple and delicious breakfast or snack.  And it's kid friendly, except that it is so yummy that your kids will probably start telling important people like Sunday School teachers and Grandma that you give them milkshakes for breakfast!

Chocolate Strawberry Smoothies
(makes 2 servings) 

In a Blender, combine:
  • 1 over-ripe banana (the browner and sweeter, the better)
  • 1 heaping cup of frozen strawberries
  •  1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of milk
Blend until smooth and enjoy. If you try it, let me know what you think!

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The Ultimate Homemaking eBook Sale (97 books for less than 30 bucks!)

*This sale is now closed*

Okay, I don't normally write promotional posts like this. In fact, when news of this Ultimate Homemaking Ebook Bundle first started appearing in my email, I ignored it.  But when I realized what a great deal this is, and that the bundle includes many eBooks I've been wanting to read anyways, I changed my mind!  It really is an amazing deal.

Basically, this week only, you can buy 97 eBooks by popular, respected bloggers for only 29.97 

That's, like,  31 cents a book!

Here are a few of the eBooks in the bundle I am most excited to sit on my porch and read while the kids romp and play in the yard.  (You can find the full list of eBooks available in this bundle by clicking here.)

Easy Peasy Chores by Alina Joy @ The Good Old Days Farm (regularly $17.99) As much as I like to  plan and organize, our family actually doesn't have a chore system right now.  I can't wait to try this one out!

20-Minute Meals by Leigh Ann @ Intentional by Grace (regularly $4.99)~ Who doesn't need some quick and simple meals ideas!?

Simple Blogging: Less Computer Time, Better Blogging by Rachel @ Small Notebook (regularly $8.00) ~ I love Rachel's blog and I just know I'll love her book to.  She has a way of reminding you of what really matters without getting preachy or bossy.  I can't wait to learn how to make better use of what little blogging time I have.

 Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert by Erin @ The Humbled Homemaker (regularly $9.95)~ I am already a lover of cloth diapers, but I've heard that this eBook has a lot of great tips for newbies and cloth diaper veterans alike!  I can't wait to read it.

Six reasons to buy this ebook bundle today:
  1. Even if you only ever read a handful of the books, you are still saving money off their regular prices!
  2. You are supporting a bunch of funny, smart, talented and lovely bloggers.
  3. You will discover some bloggers you didn't know you loved!
  4. eBooks save paper and take up no room on a shelf!
  5.  Did I mention that there are 140$ worth of bonuses and discounts included in the purchase? (Click here to see everything included in the bundle, the bonuses are listed near the bottom of the page)
  6.  I am an affiliate, meaning I receive a commission if you buy the bundle through the links on my site.  So not only are you supporting those great bloggers who wrote the books and getting a ton of great reading material for a great price, you are also supporting this blog!  (Full disclosure: I'll likely spend the money on something teal.)

If you are confused (like, if you don't know what an eBook is or what to do with it....) you can find answers to some frequently asked question here.  You can find a list of everything included in the bundle and the fine print here.

This super deal is only available until May 4th.  Click the link to purchase the Ultimate Homemaking eBook Bundle today!  *the sale is now closed*

(and thanks for reading my little sales pitch!)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...(meaning I'm going to go write today's actual blog post: Chocolate Strawberry Smoothies!) 

DIY Reusable Produce Bags

I meant to post this on Monday for Earth Day, but life happens, right?  (Besides, every day is a good day to become better caretakers of this precious earth we enjoy!) 

Most of us by now have a decent stash of cloth grocery bags for packing up our groceries at the check-out, but still rely on the plastic produce bags for small fruits and veggies.

These easy homemade reusable produce bags are a simple way to reduce the amount of trash your family generates.  I made 8 bags in less than an hour using 4 dollars worth of fabric, and have been using them steadily since last summer!

I purchased 1 metre (a little more than a yard) of sheer fabric.  Sheer curtain fabric is often much wider than ordinary fabric, so 1 metre was more than enough to make 8 produce bags.  You could also recycle an old set of sheer curtains for this project!

Step one: Cut a square of sheer fabric that is approximately 22 by 16 inches.

Step 2: Fold one edge in and stitch to make a casing for the drawstring.

Step 3: Fold in half and stitch the side and bottom closed.  Be careful to stitch only up to the bottom of the casing you just made.  You want to be able to get your drawstring in later!

Step 4: Zig-zag stitch around the bottom and side that you just sewed to prevent fraying.

Step 5: Turn the bag right-side-out and use a safety pin to push a piece of  ribbon or string (I used scrap pieces of bias tape) through the casing and tie the ends together.

Done!  Wasn't that easy?  Now for the hard part: remembering to take them with you in to the grocery store!

Frequently asked Questions:

Can I wash my Reusable Produce Bags?  I occasionally wash mine and they have held up fine.

Will cashiers and other customers give me strange looks for bringing my own produce bags? Maybe. I've personally never received any negative comments, although a few people have made positive remarks about them! (And a few people have even told me that I have inspired them to make some of their own!)

What if I really really really cannot sew?  Well, this would be a great simple project to learn on, but if you really aren't up to the challenge you can buy reusable produce bags from amazon or etsy.  (But really, you can do it...I believe in you!)

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please consider following me on twitter, liking me on facebook, or signing up for my RSS feed.

Weekend Graces #7: Assemble A S'mores Basket

Weekend Graces is a (sorta) weekly challenge to find simple ways to bless your family this weekend.  They are small things that speak volumes of love. My own family has been so blessed by these small acts.

This week's Weekend Grace is to assemble a s'mores basket. I filled a basket with graham crackers, marshmallows, three different types of chocolate, and some moist towelettes for cleaning sticky fingers!

Spring seems to have finally sprung where I live and what better way to celebrate the start of lovely weather than by cooking marshmallows around the backyard fire pit? (Here's hoping the weather cooperates with us!)

If you don't have a fire pit... you could still make a happy little basket to bless your family.  Maybe you could fill it with small bottles of bubbles, a pack of sparklers, candy necklaces, a new frisbee....anything that will get your family excited to spend some time outdoors together this weekend!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Have a fabulous Weekend!

A Simple Guide to Composting for Beginners

Composting for beginners

Aside from creating nutrient dense soil for your yard and garden, composting also helps to detoxify the soil, protect land from erosion and, of course, diverts food waste from a landfill where it won't have the necessary conditions to decompose properly.

I love compost.  Just the either day I brought a bag of pineapple peelings home from a friend's house because she didn't have a compost pile and I couldn't bear to throw the scraps in the garbage. Seriously. The fact that I can turn kitchen waste into nutrient dense soil for my garden  appeals to my trash-to-treasure heart.

It's also a great way to teach our kids about our planet's beautiful systems of regeneration!

What you need in order to start composting:

Composting is easy and you really only need two things to begin:
1. A place to put the scraps when you are in your kitchen.  You can buy fancy lidded compost pails, but those aren't necessary and are generally far too small for a family.  We use a white kitchen trash pail and we fill it nearly every day.  It doesn't need a lid, because it doesn't stink, because we dump it outside every evening. We keep it next to our garbage pail under the kitchen sink.

2. A place to dump the compost in your yard.  This could be as simple as a ring made out of chicken wire, or as complicated as a store bought tumbling barrel composter. We have a three bin system made out of scrap lumber and hardware mesh.  At any given time one bin holds fresh compostables, one has compost in them making, and one has finished or nearly finished compost.  Whenever we empty out the finished compost we start using that bin for our fresh compostables so that the other two bins can finish breaking down. 

(I built my compost bin with my own two hands and my hubby's power tools while he was at work one day several years ago.  I built it using the plans from a book called "Crockett's Victory garden", but it is similar to this tutorial here.)

What you can compost:
Aside from fruit and vegetable scraps, here are some of the other things we compost:
  • coffee grinds and tea bags
  • egg shells
  • stale bread
  • floor sweepings and the contents of my vacuum canister
  • dryer lint
  •  leftover porridge or rice that didn't get eaten
  • little paper cupcake cups
  • nail clippings and hair trimmings
  • facial tissues
  • the occasional half eaten pickle found under the sofa (true story) 
  • paper bags, when I have one that would otherwise be recycled (I like to line the bottom of my can with them!)
  • Lawn and garden clippings
Basically anything except meat or bones. I never, ever, ever compost meat because it can cause a whole host of problems like slow decomposition, pests, and maggots. If there were maggots in my compost I would cry.

What about all this talk of nitrogen rich materials and carbon rich materials? 

Some books and websites are going to stress you out with all sorts of talk about nitrogen rich materials (such as vegetable scraps) and carbon rich materials (such as leaves and newspaper) but it is really as simple as this: if the pile smells bad or is slimy, add some carbon.  Give the whole thing a little turn with a pitchfork every now and then. Easy, right?  

Does it stink?

Compost shouldn't smell unpleasant. Occasionally it smells a bit sweet and citrus-y, but generally it just smells like fresh lovely garden dirt! If it stinks, add leaves, newspapers, or torn up cardboard.

To Recap:
  • Take your kitchen compost out to the compost heap often.  Because composting is great, but not if it's happening under your kitchen sink.
  • Don't put meat in your compost. 
  • If it smells, add carbonaceous material. 
  • Relax, this is something nature has been doing for pretty much forever without your'll do fine.
Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

How to Make Pesto (and Ten Tasty Ways to Use it!)

Homemade Pesto is so easy and delicious and versatile.  You can change up the ingredients and amounts to suit your taste and it brings a fresh summer-y taste to almost any dish.

Start by toasting:
  • 1/4 cup of slivered almonds or pine nuts (traditionally pesto uses pine nuts, but we prefer it with almonds)
*to toast nuts, just put them in a pot or pan over medium high heat, giving them a little shake or stir every 20 seconds or so, until they become fragrant and golden in spots. 

In a food processor, combine:
  • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves.  
  • 3 cloves of garlic (if you aren't a mega lover of garlic, use less!)
  • your 1/4 cup of toasted nuts
  • A large pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Process until everything is chopped, scraping down the sides of the food processor bowl as necessary and taking special care to make sure that there are no large chunks of garlic.

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
Process until combined.

That's it!  If you want a thinner texture you can blend in some warm water too.

10 Ways to Enjoy your fresh homemade Pesto:

1) As sauce on BBQ pizza (oh my goodness it is good)
2) Mix with chopped cooked chicken and diced bell peppers for a yummy pesto chicken salad.  Serve in homemade pita pockets.
3) Mix with pureed cooked white beans to make an awesome dip for corn chips!
4) Add a spoonful while beating eggs with milk to make delicious scrambled eggs.
5) Spread on corn on the cob.
6) Serve a spoonful on top of grilled meats.
7) Spread on subs or sandwiches.
8) Stir into homemade soups.
9)  Coat raw baby spinach with it for a simple yummy side dish.
10) On Pasta, silly!

A note about freezing Pesto: Here is the way you are supposed to do it:  Omit the Parmesan.  Put the pesto in a container with a thin layer of oil on top to keep it fresh and freeze.  Add cheese before serving.  How I do it:  Just freeze it in small zip top bags. Parmesan and all. Easy Peasy.

Simple Pesto Recipe

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking. 

10 Things to Do When Motherhood is Stressing You Out

Help for exhausted moms

I don't have it all together, I promise.  Some days I want to savour every moment because I know that the days are long but the years are short and before I know it my six little children will be all grown up.  Other days I just want to survive until my husband comes through the door with a take-out rotisserie chicken and bagged salad for dinner. Motherhood is a beautiful, messy, terrifying, exhausting, glorious and heart-wrenching calling that requires more from us than we ever knew we had.  And we wouldn't trade it for the world, would we?

Here are a few of the ways I pause to breathe deep and remind myself why I chose to raise this sticky fingered army in the first place.

1. Sit down on the floor and let the little ones climb all over you.  Cuddle, tickle, colour in a princess colouring book, breathe deep and relax. 

2. Light a candle (out of reach of little hands) and give thanks.

3. Take a picture of the mess and maybe the little hands making it.  Somehow it's easier to see the beauty and life in the mess through the lens of a camera.

4. Go outside barefoot.  (Weather permitting.)  Just being in the backyard with your bare feet in the grass while kids run and play around you is refreshing to the soul.

5. Cry.

6. Remove something from your to-do list.  Be it a mental or actual list, something can go.

7. Remind yourself that your parents didn't have it all together (really, I promise they didn't) and you turned out fine (we've all had some bumps along the road, but they don't make us who we are.)  Show yourself some grace. 

8. Resolve not to speak when you are angry.  Don't make any major decisions when you are frustrated.  Make tea instead.

9. Turn off the computer.  It's tempting to tune out and browse facebook or pinterest,, but when I turn off the computer and focus more on my kids I am always glad that I did. (and so are they!)

10. Plan a break.  A few weeks ago hubby and I were both feeling overwhelmed and it only took a quiet hour in a book store and a couple vanilla lattes to leave us refreshed and ready to dive back in to our crazy loud busy life.

May you be blessed today in the midst of the chaos with the certainly that it is exactly where you are meant to be.

A Million Great Uses For Binder Clips

Okay, so maybe they isn't a full million uses for binder clips here, but a million sounded a lot better than 50-ish. I love binder clips, they are an organizational workhorse, a true multitasker!  I keep a stash of colourful ones for organizing every room of the house.  Here are (nearly) a million uses for binder clips around the home.
In the kitchen...

  • Use them to close half-used bags of frozen veggies

In the dining room...

  • Use them to attach labels to the foods on a buffet.

In the Bathroom...

In the closet...

In the office...

  • Clip one to a desk or nightstand to keep USB cables handy. 
  •  Use it to add a pen holder to practically anything.

  • Turn the cover of any binder into a clipboard

In your crafty space:
  • Keep ribbon and notions rolled up and stored tidily.  

In Your Purse....
  • Clip coupons you plan to use to your grocery list.
  •  Use a binder clip to keep money in your wallet separate from other funds when necessary.  I do this when my kids have birthday money that's been given to them and I don't want to accidentally spend it or when I have to remember to give money to somebody.
  • Clip a pen to an inside pocket so you can always find it

More Ideas...
What did I miss?  Do you have a favourite way to use binder clips around the house?

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

Weekend Graces #6: Bake Cookies

The whole point of these little Weekend Graces is that they are small things.  These aren't new and fabulous, pinterest-worthy ideas.  They are the little things that speak love in the midst of ordinary life.  They are reminders to slow down and serve the people we love most in simple, lovely ways.

Our home needed that this week.  It has been a busy week.  A frustrating week.  A tired week.  We needed to celebrate a little bit.

I became aware of just how much my family needed this today as I pulled the cookies from the oven and one by one my kids started to ask questions like "who's coming over?" and "who are those for?"

In the busyness of life I somehow forgot to bake cookies just for them.

So this week's Weekend Grace is to bake cookies.  Or something else simple that your family loves.  Not because somebody is coming over or because you promised to bake something for a potluck, but just because.

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Cream together:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
Beat in:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
 Then add
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups of chopped white chocolate
Mix until combined.  Roll into balls and place on cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes until cracked on top and slightly browned on the bottom.  Let cool for a minute or two before transferring to cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Happy Weekend!

12 Things (The Oh-My-Goodness-I-Have-a-Craft-Room Edition!)

If you are new here, 12 Things is this thing I do every once in a while where I share links I like and questions I have and updates on what's going on around our house. It's a chance to get to know each other a little better, so please do take a moment to comment and say "hi!"

1. As you may have guessed by the title of this post, we've made some progress on my craft room.  It's slowly coming together, mostly with paint and furnishings we already had or scored second hand for nearly free.  I love this sort of organic decorating, where a room isn't planned out or "designed" but just comes together slowly as pieces are required and found and incorporated.

2.  A friend introduced me to these Cooking With Clara videos on Youtube.  Have you seen them?  It's this sweet old grandmotherly lady cooking depression era meals and talking about what it was like to live through the great depression. Hubby and I like to watch them together.

3.  Our sofas are old and broken so we are ripping them apart and re-building them into a brand new (sorta) sectional.  Right now our living room is in shambles with pieces of sofa and fabric and foam, but in the end it is going to be so worth it.  And shockingly it's not going to be teal. (Well, not entirely.)  In fact, you can see my inspiration photo here.  (Eeek!)

4. I am part of a great women's bible study and we are working through this book I like it a lot, and not just because I get to spend four delightful hours with a fabulous group of women every second Thursday!

5. When I'm done that study I want to round up a group of people to study this one at my house.   I just love Shane Claiborne, in a he-makes-me-want-to-sell-everything-and-give-it-to-the-poor sort of way.

6. This Honest Toddler blog is hilarious, in a slightly painful sort of way if you currently have a toddler unraveling your toilet paper on the living room floor.

7. We are nearly done reading all of the way through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House Series and I don't know what to read next.  Any mamas out there have good chapter book suggestions for me to read to my 3,5 and 6 year old?

8. I love this Dear Mom on the iPhone post from 4littlefergusons. It seems to have started a bit of a controversy around blogland as people think the author, Tonya, was trying to shame and discourage people. But I think if you take it for what it is (a reminder to let how we spend our time reflect our priorities and to make sure our kids know that they are immensely more important than our smart phones or any media that can so easily steal our attention) then I think it's a reminder I definitely need.  It stung a little, in a good way.

9. I hosted an apron sewing party.  We sewed simplified versions of this pattern and ate chocolate and bounced babies and talked for hours.  It was lovely.  I'm already brainstorming my next excuse for a ladies night in.

10. I love this Hierarchy of Cleaning chart from Small Notebook.  When I have people coming over and too much to do and feel like I'm just running around like a chicken with its head cut off it gives me a place to start.

11. I've been making this Garlic Rice Pilaf at least once a week and the whole family enjoys it.  I increase the garlic to a whole head (we love garlic!) and I add some toasted sliced almonds at the end.

12. We've been playing outside a lot and enjoying the (somewhat) spring-like weather.  We had our first picnic of the year last week and my kids are excavating parts of the back yard in search of rocks to "sell" in a little "store" under the porch.  So if I'm not blogging much it's because I'm out back buying rocks from a three year old and eating lunch in the wet grass.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please consider following me on twitter, liking me on facebook, or signing up for my RSS feed.
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