Monday, July 31, 2017

Floor Cleaning Discovery

I hate my kitchen flooring.  That is no secret.  It is Armstrong Congoleum, and it simulates grouted tile, but it has tons of tiny grooves and lots of texture in  it.  In other words, it is a dirt and stain magnet.  I hate it.  It's designed to be a hard wearing, dirt hiding floor. It isn't. I love that it isn't actual tile and grout (the only thing I hate worse - grout is impossible to keep nice!) but it shows the dirt horribly, and it is so hard to clean with all those microscopic crevices. Gosh, how I wish I had good old fashioned linoleum! That nice, smooth surface you could actually mop clean! Whatever happened to it? Now, if you want a smooth surface, it's wood that requires special care and isn't always great for rooms like the kitchen, where water and liquids abound.  Sigh....

Anyway, I have tried EVERYTHING to clean this stinkin' floor.  I've used every floor cleaner on the market.  Every soap, detergent, mop, device.  You name it.  Nothing got it clean.  I've bought the expensive steam mops, the Hoover Floor Mate (don't bother -it's junk), and have even used a bristle brush on my hands and knees.  NOTHING worked. I even called the flooring manufacturer.  Know what they told me?  Use the Swiffer Wet Jet! Yeah, right....  I gave it a go.  What a joke! It didn't even get the surface dirt!  It works great on my hallway where there's wood flooring, but it's a smooth surface that doesn't have little craters filled with maple syrup and bread crumbs.  Thanks for that, kids. 

So today I had enough.  I filled a bucket with hot water and a generous amount of Borax and stirred it in to dissolve.  Borax is pretty basic in ph (as in alkaline).  It will cut even the worst grease and dirt in other yucky jobs, so I thought, why not give it a go?  I added in a few drops of dish detergent and about a 1/4 cup of ammonia.  And....

PRAISE THE LORD! Wanna see the difference between Borax and Swiffer Wet Jet?  Here's the photo:


P7010222


On the left is where I simply wiped over it with the Borax solution with a rag.  To the right is where I was almost breaking the darn Swiffer Wet Jet apparatus by pushing down so hard and scrubbing with all my might when I mopped earlier in the day.  You have to click on the photo to open it in a larger view to really appreciate it.  I wish I were an actual photographer who could take a decent photo to really appreciate it.  I was so excited, I kept right on going.  I put on my daughter's volleyball knee pads and grabbed a scrub brush for good measure.  I finally have a clean floor!

So the old school, cheaper version won out.  I am going to save so much money on cleaning products from now on! As it is, I use baking soda and vinegar for most of my cleaning, along with a few products from some Eco lines to supplement for laundry.  But I always have Borax on hand as a laundry booster and a toilet cleaner/dishwasher detergent ingredient.  So yay! Win-win for me! For the daily clean up, I will continue to use my Shark Pocket Steam Mop.  It does great for that job, but eventually I will need to get the ground in dirt out of the crevices again.  And this cleaning solution, scrub brush and some knee pads will do the trick!  But I still hate this flooring.... 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Packing List and Tips for Summer Camp

FYI- This post contains affiliate links for some of the items mentioned.
If you click on something here and make a purchase, I do make a teeny-tiny commission for
referring you.  It's how I keep this blog running (and send my kids to summer camp!).

Summer camp is a rite of passage.  Every kid who goes to a summer camp, comes back older and wiser (or so they think!) with memories they will share with their own children someday.  It's learning to survive without Mom or Dad being at their beck and call to amuse them when they are 'bored'.  It's building new friendships face-to-face instead through the chat feature on a video game.  It's learning to pick up after themselves for a few days with a faint hope that they'll learn to appreciate all that is done for them at home....  Can you tell I'm ready for the kids to go?  All kidding aside, summer camps are great for social skill development, learning independence, and boosting self esteem in kids.  It's an experience that just can't be recreated anywhere, no matter how many times we set up a tent in the backyard, make s'mores over the fire pit, and tie dye t-shirts with them. 

Of course, the idea of sending the kids to camp is easily converted to the reality of sending them; a few clicks of a mouse or dropping a form in the mail can get them registered for any camp you could imagine.  But once they are signed up and the date draws near?  This is when it gets to be a little bit more, well lets just say, involved.

Packing their child's gear can bring a parent to tears.  I've been there.  I've had cold sweats, nausea, and migraines trying to remember if I sent everything they need with them.  A rain drop falls - did I pack a raincoat or umbrella?  Little Billy will catch pneumonia!  A mosquito lands on my arm - I didn't send  calamine lotion!!!! That bug spray isn't strong enough, and Sweet Suzie is going to scratch herself raw!  Yeah, the freak-outs that only a mother away from her baby can have.  But I've learned a few things over the years.  The biggest lesson I've grasped is that they are tougher than we give them credit for.  They could be in a monsoon, and they aren't going to put on that raingear anyway.  They're going to go jump in the mud puddles and have contests to see who can get the wettest and the dirtiest.  And if I forgot to pack the rain gear, they really don't care.

But this list is meant for your peace of mind.  Even if your child never even changes their clothes while they are at camp, at least you can feel good about sending them with what they may need.  The list is for an average week (for example, a Sunday through Saturday range) at a summer sleepaway camp.  The items listed here will make sure they are prepared for any situation without over packing.  You can even download a printable version for easy reference!

Luggage and bedding
TOILETRIES
SUGGESTED CLOTHING
  • 6 changes of underwear
  • 6 pair of socks
  • 2 pair shoes
  • 3 pair shorts
  • 2 pair blue jeans/pants
  • Heavy sweater, sweatshirt or jacket
  • 6 shirts (1 or 2 long sleeved)
SUGGESTED Gear
OPTIONAL ITEMS
  • Camera and film
  • Writing & Reading Material for downtime
  • Stamped, addressed envelopes
  • T-shirt for tie-dyeing
  • 4-6 clothespins to hang wet towels
  • Water bottle
LAUNDRY

Laundry facilities are generally not available to campers.   But if you have a child that understands how to hand-wash something if needed, you can pack a small zip lock bag with a tablespoon or so of powdered laundry detergent…
packing tips
Ideally, the duffle bag will be large enough to hold everything!  If it is, put the sleeping bag in the bottom end first. Everything else will fit beside it at the top end.  If it isn’t large enough, simply put the sleeping bag, pillow, and any other blankets into a large size heavy duty plastic bag.  When you get to camp, simply fold up the plastic bag and save it for packing up to head home!  That sleeping bag is going to be dirty, trust me. 
Place the toiletries, shoes, and bath towels into the bag first.  On top of this layer, add the pajamas and clothing, including socks and underwear.  The next layer will be the beach towel, swimsuit, and sandals.  Most camps require campers to take a swim test for assessing their abilities in the water.  And that swim test is usually the first camp activity!  Having what they need accessible at the top of the duffle bag saves them from dumping everything out right away, and gets them on their way.  On top of everything, place the pillow and blanket, and zip it shut.  (Skip this if you are employing the trash bag method.)  You’ll be pulling out the bedding first to set up the bunk, so it may as well be right there! 
If the duffle bag has exterior pockets, this is where you would pack the laundry bag.  It’s going to get lost within their clothing if you don’t separate it out.  They’re kids.  It’s how they function…..
The daypack or backpack is what holds all of the extra gear, such as the flashlight, sunscreen, bug spray, and all of those goodies.  Your child can carry that separately from the duffle bag, and if they have a way to hang it from the end of their bunk, it keeps all of that fun stuff organized in one convenient spot!
You have now efficiently and expertly packed your child for a week away.  All in one bag.  Minimalistic.  Organized.  Including everything they absolutely need.  Their return home will be much different, with all of the wet and dirty items smashed into the bag in a random mess.  Most likely, it won’t all fit, because they are not yet engineers.  But they survived the week because you had them start off on the right foot! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Easy, Five-Minute Dinner






This little gem has saved me from the dreaded 'what's for dinner' conundrum countless times!  Even though I try to keep my home stocked, managed, and running smoothly, there are still times when I just haven't had a chance to prep dinner for the day.  Things come up, kids throw you a curveball (through the living room window), relatives pop by.....  you never know if your plan for the day is going to be lost to the wayside because life is happening around you!  And that's OK - it's nice to be able to go with the flow and enjoy what life brings you.

I came up with this recipe years and years ago in a frantic moment.  I took what I had in the frig and just threw it together to see what happened!  Luckily, I happened to make a few notes of what I did, and this frequent menu option was born.  I make this every couple of weeks at least.  It is literally the world's easiest dinner.  And once you've made it, you've already got it memorized, so it's great for those nights when you are standing in the kitchen with no idea what to cook!  If you're like most people, you have a bag or two of frozen vegetables in the freezer and the fixings for at least a basic salad in the crisper.  Maybe toss a potato or three in the oven while this cooks, and serve baked potatoes as a side.  It's easy to make this a complete and nutritious meal without a lot of fuss.



Printable Recipe Found Here

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Laundry Made Easier





Do you sometimes feel like you need a PhD in order to get the laundry done?  Generally, tossing your colors in one load, whites in another, and using warm water and detergent for both seems like the catch-all for doing the wash.  Until you come across that one item that you're not sure what to do with!  Clothes, bedding, towels, curtains... all of them are a substantial financial investment and you want to make sure that you are caring for them in the best way possible to make them last.  And we've all been there, when we've laundered a favorite top or cute pair of shorts, and suddenly we are now the proud owners of something small enough for Barbie (or Ken) to wear or it's a funky tie-dye of original print or color and bleach spots! 

Today, I am bringing back the laundry charts that I first brought you back in May, 2006.  These are going to be pretty easy to use!  Each symbol is shown with a description of what it means.  Once you know what the symbols on your labels stand for, you now have the information you need to properly launder the item!

Simply download and print the charts, and keep them in your laundry room for reference any time you need to decode your care labels!  I keep mine taped inside the door of the cabinet above my laundry sink, so I always have them and they can't wander off.  I even have a postcard size printed and stuck to the side of my washer with a magnet. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-V9-cCykMaSTWU0UU5qMURaNGM/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-V9-cCykMaSV2FNaVZndzFjOE0/view?usp=sharing



For more great laundry tips, go to cleaning101.com and browse their site.  Lots of good stuff there...

Monday, July 24, 2017

How A Planner Can Help Your Domestic Life

 
This post contains affiliate links. 
 
It's Monday, so it's time to get organized for the week! 
 
How many of you use a planner or journal of some sort every single day to keep your schedule and tasks under control?  Surprisingly, not many!  The journaling world is exploding right now, with all types of supplies, ideas, and even social media accounts dedicated to it.  And yes, that means a lot of us are joining in the fun!  But I haven't seen many examples of a true daily plan.  And none of them for someone who is trying to manage a home!  As always, it should go without saying, I am NOT simply representing the stay-at-home-mom/housewife.  I am including women who also have a full time career outside of the home, and even the men who are tackling the role of home manager.  So many of us have a planner of some sort and it gets used to track meetings, projects, deadlines, appointments, and all of those typical events we would keep track of for work.  And we throw in the dentist appointments and soccer games for the kids just to make sure that we don't schedule something for work in that slot!  But do you ever make a note of what laundry needs to be done?  Chances are, at some point, you're about to walk out the door for a soccer game and realize that the uniform isn't clean!  It's not that you are a terrible parent - it just got lost in the shuffle of everyday life, and let's face it, if we don't write something down we tend to forget about it!
 
Have you stopped to consider a system for everyday tasks?  Would you like to see what it could do for you? This doesn't have to be a time consuming, artistic endeavor (unless you want it to be!), and it can be as simple as a small spiral bound notebook or a full-blown planning system that you can buy all kinds of forms and pages for, or even fully digital using a planning app.  For now, let's just take a look at a very simple way of doing this.  And perhaps get the uniform washed for the next game!
 
 
The photo above shows my current planner/journal collection.  I am a bit fanatic about keeping lists and schedules, and I don't expect anyone to try and keep multiple volumes!  But each of these has a separate purpose.  The metallic notebook at the top left is for a weekly re-cap of fun events and memories to keep; the top center is an art journal that I sketch and create watercolors in of all the places I travel to; the top right Franklin Covey planner is the one I use for organizing all of my blog activities; the yellow 'Geek' notebook is what I carry in my bag for writing down longer notes and ideas so I don't forget them; the center right spiral bound notebook is the one I keep in my nightstand to make quick notes of things that pop into my head before I fall asleep; the Field Notes notebook is another that I carry in my bag for those one to two sentence notes that I make when I'm away from the house and then later transfer into either my daily planner or my work planner.
 
In the center?  That is my holy grail.  That is my daily bullet journal, or bujo as they call it in the journaling universe! This is my lifeline to make sure that I get through my day organized and productive.  Each time I check off a task or appointment in here, not only do I see progress being made on projects around the house, it also gives me a wonderful sense of accomplishment!  I feel like a better mother, wife, and homemaker knowing that I am getting everything done!
 
http://amzn.to/2eIkVc7
 
This little lifesaver is a Moleskine Classic Dotted Notebook.  I have used several different notebooks over the years, and this one is really working well for me right now!  I can customize it however I like with the dot-grid pattern.  In the past, I had always used lined notebooks, but when I switched to this style I found a new freedom to use my planner in ways not possible before.  I can create little tables, checklists, trackers, and more simply by 'connecting the dots'!  I also use a Sharpie Pen to write in it; it doesn't smear and there is very little bleed-through.
 


This is how it looked for this past weekend.  My layouts have really evolved over the years, and I think this is the one I am going to stick with for a long time.  I am going to walk you through a condensed version of how I set it up, so you can get a good idea of how this works for me!
 
Most people begin their bullet journal with an index.  This is basically a table of contents, showing the entry and corresponding page number.  Honestly, that's too intensive for me.  I rarely ever go back to refer to an old entry.  And if I really do need to?  This isn't that large of a volume that I can't just flip through a few pages!  I began mine with a master list of monthly tasks.  I refer to it at the beginning of the month when I am starting my new layout for that month.  I use it to make sure that I include those tasks in my to-do lists throughout the coming month, and check them off the list on the day that I did them.  It keeps this list clean and what it is intended for: regular things to pencil in each month.  So far this has worked very well for me!
 


Since August is almost upon us, it's the perfect opportunity to create my August pages as an example for you!  Once I have reached the end of a month, I will often use a page or two just to jot down anything that might work better, goals accomplished, highlights from that month, or even a doodle just to make sure that I start the new month with a 2 page spread.  And I always start with my daily trackers.  You don't have to use daily trackers - this is simply a personal choice for me.  Sometimes I think it's a bit over-the-top, and other days I am happy I do it.  I have gained a lot of insight into my health by using them, and it's making the management of my migraines and multiple sclerosis much easier!  I'm sharing my trackers with you, one set completed for June, and one set in progress for July, so that you get an idea of what a tracker is.  A new, blank set will be created on the the two pages following the month of July.....
 

 
 
After the daily tracking pages, I create my 'monthly spread'.  This is the master calendar for the month.  I don't include blogging or social media items on this calendar; this is only for household or family related items.  Since I spend set hours each day as my work time, I keep all of the other calendar items in the work planner.  That way it doesn't cloud the really important things in my everyday life!  As an example, here are the June and July "monthlies".  I'm still adding things to the July calendar as they come up - there's still a week to go!
 


The June calendar is decorated for a little bit of whimsy.  I had fully intended to embellish the monthly calendar every time I created one, but it fell by the wayside this month.  And I think I like the minimalistic look!  Maybe I will add some simple botanical line drawings with black ink, just to dress it up.  We'll see!  In the meantime, I have begun filling in the new August spread:
 

 
I've already added items to the calendar that I know are coming up.  I'm sticking with this layout because it really works for me; I like being able to see the entire month in advance, and viewing it as a traditional calendar is the easiest way for my brain to process it.  Some people create it as a numbered list, bullet list, or only a week at a time.  You do whatever works for you!
 
Once the month is laid out, I move on to the daily entries.  Here are the first two days of August:
 

 
 
I like to keep it simple, but still be able to track everything that needs to be accomplished on that day.  For example, I always have two main lists.  Under the "TODAY" heading, I note down anything that I want to make sure I get to and any appointments/time scheduled for that day.  Under the "CHORES" heading, I list out the household tasks that need to be done.  As you can see, I already have a few entries in these two columns.  I know that with four children and three cats, I need to clean the kitchen and the litterboxes everyday.  I also need to vacuum everyday, and dust every other day because of those same children and pets!  On Tuesdays, the bedrooms get cleaned.  And I do laundry.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Under the laundry entry, though, I will add some sub-notes.  I'll add bullet points for what laundry needs to be done.  The everyday laundry is always going to be one load containing the kids' clothes from the previous day.  If I don't follow this system, the backlog would be so overwhelming!  There are just too many of them!  But I may add a note to do a load of kids' bath towels, or all of the kitchen linens, or a sanitizing cycle of all of the cleaning rags.... I also make a note each day to workout (seeing it crossed off makes me feel so good!) and to work on my sky scarf (I knit a row each day that matches the color of the sky that day). 
 
 
You can see that I have also added some graphics at the bottom of the pages.  In the little cloud, I record the weather for the day - high and low temperatures, and a little drawing of a sun, raindrops, or cloud - to keep track of what the sky looked like in case I don't get a chance to knit my row for my sky scarf project!  I include boxes to fill in as I drink water throughout the day or after I take my medications/vitamins.  This is just to remind me to get my 8 glasses a day and to stay healthy!  I also record how many steps I took, and what the dinner menu is for that evening.  These are things that I find important to keep track of.  You may have entirely different priorities, and that is just fine!
 
I hope this little peek into my daily planner helps to give you an idea of how it can help to plan your own way to domestic success.  For more ideas, try searching Pinterest or Instagram using the terms bujo, bullet journal, planner, and such.  You can find some amazing examples of layouts and uses for planners there! I do this all the time for inspiration in my own!
 
 


 

For Tea (or any time you need a cookie)

Lavender Tea Cookies

1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender flowers
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lavender Frosting (recipe below)

In a mortar, grind lavender flowers with the pestle. In a medium bowl, cream together ground lavender flowers, butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Add flour and salt; mix until combined (dough should be soft but not sticky.) Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough approximately 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. When cool, frost with Lavender Frosting.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.


Lavender Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender flowers
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

In a small plastic bag, combine powdered sugar and dried lavender flowers. Let
stand at least 1 day before using.

When ready to use, sift the mixture into a medium-size bowl; discarding lavender flowers.   Add milk and corn syrup, mixing well. NOTE: Additional powdered sugar or milk may need to be added (enought milk to make frosting easy to spread). Spread on cooled cookies.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Dessert

Here's a recipe I first posted on April 17, 2006. It is definitely warmer now in July, but it still sounds delicious even if I have to turn on the oven. Another thought? Serve it with French vanilla bean ice cream to cool you off!


******************

APPLE-BLUEBERRY CUSTARD PIE

For a fruity spring dessert when the evenings are still a little chilly, bake up this lovely creation.  It is perfect for a family gathering or for when friends come by for coffee...

APPLE-BLUEBERRY CUSTARD PIE
3 c Rome apples (4 med-lg apples), peeled and sliced
1 c blueberries
1 1/2 c skim milk
1 1/2 c egg substitute
2 egg whites
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a deep-dish 10-inch non-stick pie pan with cooking spray.  Arrange apple slices and blueberries evenly in pan.  Combine milk, egg substitute and slightly beaten egg whites in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to milk mixture and beat with a whisk.  Spread batter over apples and blueberries.  Bake one hour until crust forms and pie tests done (toothpick inserted will come out clean.).  Serves eight

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

 
 
 
My mind is blank.  It looks just like the notebook page in this photo.  I think I may have
sprained my brain.  I overworked it the past few days, and now it doesn't want to do anything.
Is there a CTRL-ALT-DELETE fix for your mental circuits? 
 
It's true: prior planning does prevent poor performance.  I know this.  Yet I threw caution to the wind.  Did I have a contingency plan for recovering 11+ years of web pages and blog entries? No.  Am I paying the price?  Yes.  Have I learned my lesson?  ABSOLUTELY!
 
The better question is:  why do I need to share this information with you?  There is a very easy answer to that!  It dawned on me through this whole frustrating process  that I have never once written a post on planning!  Just as I should have planned for this technology headache as a real possibility, we should all have a plan for how to tackle our domesticated lives.  I do this every single day.  I have a bullet journal that I keep track of my entire life in.  Right down to listing if I need to scoop a litterbox -- because even though my nose can tell me it's time to do it, I am one of those people who still needs it on the to-do list.  Because when I cross it off, it gives me such a rush!  That sense of accomplishment just flows through me like I just climbed Everest!
 
To finally put an end to my mental strain, and to these ridiculous posts I've been writing to update you on the occurrence of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, I have come up with a plan.
And I think it's a pretty good one! 
 
STEP I:
 
This is going to be the beginning of the new site format.  I'm letting go of the past - even though there were some fabulous tips and tricks that are still relevant now - because I can always write it again.  I'm going to simply move forward rather than try to rebuild Rome. 
 
STEP II:
 
I am going to begin including posts on how to plan your domestic life!  I did this in a roundabout way in the past by providing downloadable checklists and cleaning schedules that you could print and mark up to your hearts' content.  But that is too simplistic.  How do you utilize those in your day to day life?  How do you make it work for you?  So, I will be helping you along, with photos of my  own planner that I use, to give you a basic starting point.  Of course, it goes without saying, you can make it your own.  Set up your planner however you like!  My goal is simply to get you using one, whether paper or electronic, to help you maintain your sanity and get that same feeling of accomplishment every single day. 
 
But we start on Monday.  I have to plan how to start!