Thursday, February 23, 2017

Week 8: The Task that is never done....

Growing up, I was in 4-H.  Most of the time I took projects for cooking and sewing, and an occasional woodworking.  I desired to have an animal, but that one never materialized.

But one year I took Laundry.


I don't really remember why I chose that direction. It could be just because I didn't want to take on another sewing project that year.

Unfortunately, the joke was on me, because now my mom fully expected me to help with laundry. I could no longer plead ignorance and put the red sock in with the whites. I was without excuse.

At the time, I most likely saw that as a big bummer and a cramp on my 'schedule.'

Today, I'm glad to have helped out with that area because it kind of came without even thinking, the necessity of my kids helping out with this chore.

 This picture has nothing to do with laundry, but as I have next to nothing for laundry pics (who does?!) so I posted a throw-back pic instead. circa 2011

As a wise friend once said, "if they can operate an Ipad, they can operate a washing machine."

 As Houseparents, we shared a washer and dryer with 7 teenagers. We kinda had to be precise on our laundry schedule or we had a long wait in line.

To make it work, I was often the one throwing it all in the machines.....and my kids got the task of separating and putting away.  Thankfully at 2,3,4 years old, it was fun, so that was able to work for a few years.
They were watching their beloved blankies get washed. It entertained them for quite awhile

Now, everyone is a bit older, and things are not as fun, so a schedule was in order.

The reason I'm following last week's laundry room cleanup with a post about laundry room schedules is because having a system in place for collecting dirty clothes and returning clean ones is a key component to keeping your washing under control.

But, a confession first: I am good at sticking with out schedule we have laid out...all except for the last step.  Why does folding and putting away seem like such a difficult task?!? It really isn't, but at the rate that I procrastinate on it, it sure seems to be.

Sticking to a laundry schedule:
Laundry baskets are put in the right spots. Not where they conveniently fit, but where the clothes are most likely to be shed. One in each bedroom and one in each bathroom. And then when it comes time to collect....

Each kid has their own day.  Well, currently the girls are together because their clothes are small enough that a whole load can be comprised of both of their things. Eventually...soon most likely, they will need to take on their own days.  They sometimes still need a prompting to get started, but most of the time, they know it's their day and they jump on it because, they know if they miss it, they may not have clean undies tomorrow.

Side note: motivation for them to get their laundry done?  They have a small wardrobe. It sometimes gets out of hand with hand-me-downs (but I'm not complaining!!) but having just enough clothes to last you a week or so will motivate you to wash them because you will need something to wear. I'm an advocate for small wardrobes....more on that in a later post.

Paul and I have our day, too. This assures that I stay on top of things. A day for clothes. And a separate day for household laundry (i.e. towels, rags, sheets).

All laundry is put away before the fun begins. I'm such a downer, I'm sure my kids will tell you, but if the laundry is all clean and ready for putting away...then ya gotta put it away before free time.  This helps keep their rooms under control a bit better.  As I'm typing this I resolve to do better on my end of things. Often the folding and putting away for the adults gets pushed off a bit longer than it should....And now that I have that counter all cleared off I've got a place to sort and fold! Cheers!

But, every family is different. Different sizes, routines, and styles. So, what I do may not work for others. So,  you can check out routines and schedules from people in all kinds of stages of life, or circumstance, to give you ideas of what might work for you as well.

These schedules can all be found on Household Management 101:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Week 7: The place for cleaning isn't always clean

I've moved out of the kitchen.

Sounds like something I should shout at the end of the day when all the supper dishes are done.  It sometimes feels like that is where I spend the majority of my time.

But I digress.

I've moved out of the kitchen and into.....the laundry room. The other place where I spend a large portion of my time...

Doors can be a blessing....and a curse. They are so nice to be able shut and not have to look at the crazy on the other side.

But they can also be a curse because you can shut it and pretend you don't know about the crazy on the other side and then you open the door and BAM. There is it.

And I'm supposed to be able to sort and fold laundry in here?

I love this little room in that it can be closed off. I love that Paul converted our old kitchen table into a long counter. I love that there is a little nook for my sewing machine and crafting assortment.

Unfortunately I can hardly do much folding or sorting on that counter and there isn't a whole lot of space to work on my sewing either.

Things that are working in this room:
The stand that Paul built. I just have to shout out that he built that for me and it has helped my back so much. Side note: yes, our washer and dryer are two different colors. That's what happens when you get in on a Black Friday deal only to find out the only reason they are so because they don't match.  Believe it or not, they work just as great as a matching pair! ;)

Baskets: I needed ones that are pretty, but also hold items for a specific purpose, not just catchalls.  So, one for cleaning rags, one for laundry items (Bleach, spot treatment, Goo-gone, etc), and one for socks without matches.  Side note: once the sock-without-matched basket fills up, I set the kids to work trying to find if any in the basket match....or if the mate is somewhere under their bed or couch. For some reason they enjoy the game. I've got them fooled for now....

Those hanging racks. I got them at IKEA a few years ago and use the ALL THE TIME.  They fold up against the wall when not in use, but can hold a decent amount of items that need to dry but can't go in the dryer.

Things that are NOT working in this room and what I did to deal with it:

I took a laundry basket and picked up everything that didn't really belong in here but landed here for one reason or another - you know, that whole close the door on it thing? After that was cleared out I evaluated what truly needed to stay (is it useful? do I use it on a regular basis?) and then organized things so that everything could be accessed with the one reach rule.

 A counter I can use! I would love to go elsewhere with those bins but currently they hold items that are accessed quite frequently:  water bottles, glass jars for homemade yogurt, and containers to pack school lunches. The three large Mason jars are individual candy jars for each kid.  It's helped cut down on the crazy amount of candy that comes into this house via holiday parties. Once the jar is filled, the remainder is given away.

 Ah, my sewing area! Plus a drying rack for dirty rags. I may be a bit over the top about it, but I loathe the smell of mildewy towels and washcloths. Once they are used, they go to this rack where they can dry until I have a load big enough to wash. I never have a problem with smelly rags because of it (victory!). Oh, and now that the spot is organized I can see my pile of mending that needs done....making this weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Week 6: When you have too many to choose from.....

You have a pork loin.

You don't know what you want to do with it.

You type it into Google or go to your favorite blog and find a recipe that sounds good.

You make said recipe and love it.

6 months later you have a pork loin.

You can't remember what that recipe was that you loved 6 months ago.

So you go to Google.....

Sounds familiar?

When we started working at Gateway and I found myself going from cooking for 4 up to cooking for 12, I found myself doing this quite often.

I hardly ever perused cookbooks, finding it easier to just type in my request and go from there.

I didn't have a tablet or smart phone to read off of so I was always printing off the recipes. These recipes found there way into a specific drawer in the Cypress House kitchen and became a large pile of unorganized recipes. Both the good...and the flops.

I don't have a picture of the drawer full of recipes, just a 2 year old Madeline in the kitchen where said drawer is at (behind her on the right, under the microwave...)

So, I started organizing, creating 3 piles:  "The Raves", the "Want to Try but haven't yet", and the "Why did I even hold on to this one?"

After that I trimmed down the recipes, slid them into clear sleeves and put them all in a binder.

I found myself using this more than anything, and so, about 4 years ago, I gave away my cookbooks (minus a few for sentimental value).

And I haven't missed them.

The 3 sentimentals. Cookbook from high school, from Gateway, and from my home church growing up.

This has been great to save so much space that would otherwise be taken up with books.

I have a binder that contains ONLY the recipes we like, so whatever we choose, we know will be a winner.

Sometime we experiment, and when we do, we go to the world wide web.  We like it? We print it off and add it to the binder.

I do have a small pile of the 'Want to Try by Haven't Yet" tucked in beside the binder, for when we are feeling adventurous.

The binder and the cookbook that helps give me creative ideas for putting veggies in just about everything.

I have found, that to make meal planning simpler, it's best to stick to about 10 go-to recipes. Sometimes the ingredients vary a bit depending on what is on hand, but the overall recipe stays the same.

I figure if someone in China can eat rice 365 days a year and be fine, I can vary 10 recipes and be OK, too.....

Our go-tos:

Pasta (change out the type and change out the sauce)
Broth-type soup
Creamy-type soup
Lentil/Beans/Rice combo

Next week, I think I am moving out of the kitchen....stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

January Lookback

Ah, January.  The first page in a story of a year.  The promise of new habits, better health, and grand horizons.

We try not to feel jaded by it all mid month.....

I love a clean slate: mornings, Mondays, New Year. The start of something new. Reboot. Do-again.

 A New Year's tradition: making homemade noodles

I don't know if anything grand will become of 2017. But, I hope that I can grow closer to my Jesus, more firmly rooted in Him, by the time 17 rolls to 18.

But this month. January.  It gave us some cold, not much snow, and even a few days that hit the 60's (what?!?) We stayed busy with Owen's basketball, Paul's basketball announcing, and an assortment of commitments that kept us hopping just about each day of the week.

 Last day of break consisted of building all of the Legos they got from grandparents

For the most part, that's OK, as long as we are doing it together, and we have a chance in the middle of it to enjoy a meal together.  Sometimes those meals were eaten in Paul's classroom, but we were together nonetheless.

January, you kept us moving.

You kept us moving with so much momentum that here we are a week into February already. So, I pause for a moment and look over the photo montage. Because well, I like to.

Most weekends were spent watching basketball of some sort. Whether it was 4th graders...

...or high-schoolers from up in the cheap-seats

I'm trying something new: each week one of the kids helps me meal plan and then helps with dinner.  Egg Drop Soup, Spaghetti , and Breakfast Sandwiches were the hits

We had one snow day that involved the kids getting all their schoolwork done through e-learning. Then we all headed out for Tacos to celebrate Hannah hitting a reading goal at school.
We celebrated Paul turning 35...

And a post-Christmas gathering with the Steffens.  The Karen/Brian gift exchange is always a highlight.

Friday night pizza in a classroom before a basketball game. Yea for Book-It! Pizzas!

There were a handful of pleasant days that we needed to get out and enjoy before the sunset.

Madeline celebrating 100 days of school. Her 100 items of choice: 100 broken crayons.

I had the opportunity to sit on a training call with one of the top leaders in my side business. Plus I got to spend a day with some of my fellow teammates. Makes me so excited for where my business is going and what I can do with the increase to fund the Great Commission.

Spirit week for Homecoming. One of the day's themes was "Salad Dressing."
Paul went as the Sneeze Guard.....

Enjoying the cold winter evenings that we can gather around the woodstove and listen to some CS Lewis and Voyage of the Dawntreader.

And finally, a night out with this guy.  We went on TWO whole dates in 2016.  My desire is to increase that significantly!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

For Madeline, because now you are 7

You've counted down to this day for about the last 6 months, even making a chart to cross off each day as it passed.

And now, finally, you are 7.

A 7-year-old full of spunk.  As the youngest, you fit that role to a tee. I don't like to put people in boxes, or label then as "such and such", but I do have to call it like I see it with this one.

You love the spotlight, dancing your way through the day, throwing out a joke to make us all laugh.  Even at a very early age you had the ability to tell a joke way beyond your years.

I try my best to not let you get away with things, but I think some days, when I'm feeling a bit vulnerable seeing my baby grow up, you may just get a little more leeway than normal.

I love that you still want to snuggle on my lap. And, although my back is starting to complain a bit more about it, you want me to carry you, too.

You have an excellent ability to read people's emotions. Often observing out loud how you think someone may be feeling (you usually read me right!)

You love to follow your big sis around, sometimes to her frustration.  But I love to see the sister-bond that is developing.

You have a heart for Jesus. Which is the best part.  Just a few weeks ago you commented in the car that you can't wait to get to heaven because then you would "get to finally see what Jesus looks like and ride on the unicorns and lions...because you know unicorns and lions have wings, Mommy!"

And although you were eagerly looking forward to being 7, you have no desire to really grow up. You sometimes get worried if you will know how to drive, you're afraid of having your own children (you'd rather adopt!), and you confessed the other day that you really hope Jesus comes back before you get too big.

For now, Madeline, treasure the days of being 7. Days where imagination still reigns, and you can still fit in your mommy's lap.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Week 5: The Fridge

If there was ever a place that needed purging, it is the refrigerator (and my closet, but that's another post....)

Despite our best efforts of using up all that is in the fridge, some things get pushed to the back, or passed over with the thought, "I'll get to that...." And suddenly it's weeks later and it's way past doing anything with it other than tossing it out.

I despise it.

Food waste.

And I'm disappointed when it happens. So, I've implemented a few things to try to keep this from happening with any frequency.

It was a good day to clean out the fridge. It was my off day from work, the kids were in school, and I had to go to the grocery so the fridge wasn't nearly as full.

I started by pulling everything out, wiping down shelves, and setting aside anything that was past it's prime.
Things that didn't make the cut:
-1/3 of a bottle of salad dressing that had expired. We didn't like it anyways.

- Bottles that had one or two squirts left but the kids had already opened a duplicate bottle so we had a lot going on that didn't need to be

- A jar of jalapeno stuffed olives. Something that was left at our house at some point that I can't remember. Paul would be the only one who would even eat them and I'm pretty sure he didn't know they were in there or they would have already been consumed.

-Celery tops that I was hoping to use. Half were brown and slimy, the other part usable. The good went into tonight dinner prep and the rest went to compost.

-A handful of BBQ packets from various fast food restaurants.  I don't like to have them around, but Paul sees them as 'free food' and they always make their way into the house.  They never get used, they just crowd up space....bye-bye.

The rest went into the fridge with a more clean, streamlined appearance....sigh...

Strategies for using up what we have and cutting down on food waste:

I said it last week, I'll say it again: Meal Plan.  It makes me take stock of what we have and use it while it's still good.

Not the best week to show you a pic of the menu board....Owen helped pick the meals...

Embrace the leftover:  when we first married I was opposed to the thought of leftover food. Why? I don't know. My mom was a stellar cook, no doubt the leftovers were grand, too. I just didn't like the idea of it. But as 20-year-old newly weds in college, we looked to save in any way possible. Leftovers helped with that.  And.....slowly but surely, I embraced the idea of leftovers. I grocery shop on Tuesdays, which means often leftover night is Monday. All leftovers are pulled out and consumed. If there are various things that don't quite make a meal in itself, we turn it into a night of Chopped.  It's fun to see what we can come up with. And it's like we created another meal for free. Score!

Zone defense:  Group things together that go together.  Leftovers have their spot, condiments, jars of jellies and similar, etc. When things are grouped it's easier to see how much of what you have on hand.  Also, I'm not sure if it's good for onions to be in the fridge, but it's always worked for me. To keep them contained and keep the skins from shedding all over the fridge, they get their own container.

Take a week off: Every once in awhile, we'll take a week where we don't go to the grocery store at all. Instead, we get creative and work with just the food we have on hand. Sure, we run out, but that's the point. Because then you look to other less-used items that need to be used up, too. Plus, it helps the grocery budget for that week!

OK, 5 weeks down....47 to go. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I'm past that, but with only posting once a week.....does that mean 21 weeks?  I've committed to sticking with it and I don't want to be a quitter.  I'm almost done with kitchen stuff...we'll see what needs tackled for next week.

Until then my Pare-down Friends!