If you have a clothesline, listen up! If not, then invest in one!!! Did you know that line drying your clothes not only saves quite a bit of energy costs in your utility bill, but it also prolongs the life of the fabrics in your clothing and linens? AND sunshine is a wonderful, natural whitener and brightener! To keep clothes soft when line drying, simply add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle... the scent dissipates in the air, and your laundry is naturally brightened and disinfected as well as softer!
Ask The Helpful Housewife A Question Submit your housekeeping or cooking question here, and The Helpful Housewife will post your answer on the site. All questions will be posted without names attached, unless you want your name to be added to it!
The Helpful Housewife's Routines Here are the daily routines and schedules that The Helpful Housewife follows. Use them yourself or as a starting point to create your own!
I slept in luxury last night. It felt like a four-star hotel. Minus the room service, of course. Because I was at home!
Want to sleep more soundly than you ever have before? Just do what I did yesterday!
All of the beds got stripped. I know it wasn't bedding day, but I had the urge to take advantage of the sunshine and treat my family to scrumptious sheets. I washed them in hot water (dust mites freak me out!) with Seventh Generation Lavender Eucalyptus detergent and softener, along with a tablespoon of the ECOStore USA whitening powder. I then hung them all on the clothesline, where the sunshine bleached the white even brighter and the fresh air infused with the scent of lavender in the sheets. When they were completely bone dry, I brought them in and ironed all of them, lightly spritzing them with lavender ironing water as I went. Then they all went straight onto the beds.
Everyone took warm baths before bed. I insisted! Even the hubby. All clean and fresh, and enrobed in soft clean jammies, we took to our beds.... and went to heaven! Ironed sheets are a luxury anyway, because they are so smooth and silky, but when they are permeated with fresh air and lavender? Ooh la la!!!! You fall asleep so soundly because you are taking such long slow deep breaths through your nose to smell them!
Need an easy way to use up some leftovers? I have been doing this for a couple years now, and it is such a great way to feed the kids at lunchtime, use up leftovers, and still get some good nutrition in them!
leftover mixed vegetables from dinner the night before
1 can of chicken broth (low sodium)
frozen mini turkey meatballs (or regular mini meatballs if that's what you have)
vegetable rotini (the multi-colored pasta!)
2 cups of water
Bring the broth and water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook til just about tender. Add the meatballs and the leftover veggies. Cook until the meatballs are heated through. Season to taste with garlic salt, or salt & pepper. Serves 3-4 kids!
This is a perfect lunch. Heck, it's great for adults, too! I keep the frozen mini meatballs on hand to add to different dishes so my kids can get the extra protein. I usually toss them into pasta sauce or will even serve them just by themselves with toothpicks for a power snack. And when I have leftover mixed veggies from dinner, it's easy to toss this together. I always stock the chicken broth and pasta in my pantry for easy go-to meals on days when we are running like crazy. Not much to this, and it's an easy fix from items on hand!
What on earth is VOC you ask? Volatile Organic Compound. And just because the word "organic" is in the middle, does NOT mean that it's good! Chlorine is organic. But it's very caustic and toxic. Heck, in my organic chemistry class in college, we made all kinds of concoctions! But just because any basic element is natural and organic, does not mean it's safe. Ammonia and Chlorine are two examples I can give you off the top of my head. Ammonia is used commony as a cleaner, as well as Chlorine. Both occur in nature. But if you combine them? BIG TROUBLE! Deadly fumes can kill you in even moderate amounts.
When talking about VOC's, it's usually the result of combining different elements. And when it comes to your home, it is the fumes that are being singled out. Off gassing is the problem being targeted whenever the term VOC comes up. Have you ever been in a home with new carpeting or paint? Then you are familiar with the "new paint" smell! It is the offgassing of the chemicals in the carpeting and paint. And although I don't believe anyone has died from them (I haven't gone that far in my research), many people get severe headaches and nausea from it. I know that I do!
Thankfully, today we can combat this with new products on the market. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams both make low-VOC or VOC-free paints. You can even buy a product called "Milk Paint" that is completely environmentally safe and works beautifully! Some carpet manufacturers are getting on board and have low-VOC options. Although an even better option is an environmentally friendly floor such as bamboo, cork, or other highly sustainable product. Just be sure that the glue (if needed) for installation is also non-toxic.
Even after 9 years of being in our home, we still have this problem. Our home was a new-build, and a spec home to boot. If I had any choice, we would have requested the more friendly materials, but the house was already completed when we purchased it. When we go away for a long weekend or more, the house stays closed up the entire time. When we return, it has a strange chemical smell to it. It is the offgassing of the carpets, paint, and other items like cabinets, etc.
Easy remedy? Open all the windows for a day! Fresh air does wonders! And when it becomes time to replace our flooring, or repaint, or remodel our kitchen, you can bet I will be getting the non-VOC materials to do so!
I'm sick of headaches.... aren't you? You can force the manufacturers to change by voting with your dollars. If we all buy the non-VOC or low-VOC items, and leave the others on the shelf, they will get the message and completely switch over. Isn't it about time?
The email I get in my inbox never ceases to amaze me. So many of them begin with a phrase similar to "My mother never really taught me how to keep house...." and go on to detail how they have no idea how to do even the simplest tasks or when to do them. So many emails are just pleas for help on getting started making a home!
It has become apparent to me that our current social climate is not conducive to homekeeping. With the need for more and more women to work outside of the home (a perfectly wonderful thing!), there is a lot less emphasis on learning the things that used to be second nature in bringing up the next generations. I should probably interject here and state for the record that this should NOT inherently be a female arena. Men should be learning how to take care of themselves as well, and fathers are just as important in passing along information to daughters and sons alike. But for the most part, this has been a feminine area.
I am only 35 years old. So I am part of this generation that has never been exposed to homecare lessons. We were not given the home-ec curriculum in school, as it was already being phased out in the 80's and 90's. Our parents were dual-income earners, and therefore there wasn't time at the end of a workday to fit these lessons in. As it were, they didn't have as extensive a background as their parents did! Along came the concept of the "cleaning lady". Even though there have been maids and cooks in wealthier homes across the spans of time, the idea of having someone come into your home on a weekly or biweekly basis was relatively new. And at first it was a luxury for only the most affluent. But as time went on, it became more commonplace.
Now, practically everyone I know has a cleaning service that comes on a regular basis. Hey, I'm all for it! If you can afford it, and it gives you more time for family activities, then more power to you! But shouldn't we all know the basics? What happens when the cleaning service is no longer affordable? And what about the kids that are going to be heading out on their own, with low-paying, entry level jobs who can't afford this? Shouldn't they know basic homekeeping to keep them afloat?
We have become a society of convenience. We rely on computers, cell phones, ATM's, and the like for our daily activities. There are a plethora of gadgets and gizmos on the market that promise to make things easier and faster. A microwave is no longer a status symbol; it is an expectation. And with all of these changes, homekeeping has become even more of a 'life sucker'. No one wants to spend the time on it because it takes too long, isn't "fun", and never seems to really be complete.
So now I belong to a generation that has no idea how to do even the most simple tasks. And has no ability to even schedule their day. One woman actually emailed me, asking me when she should take her shower because she had a new baby and didn't know how to even fit that into her day! My answer was simple: when the baby sleeps, jump on in and soap up! And if the baby wakes and starts crying, it will still be OK, because you'll be out in a minute anyway.
My mother did not teach me how to keep house. In fact, my mother loathed housework. Now that she is retired, she seems to like it a LITTLE more, but while I was growing up it wasn't exactly a lesson a day atmosphere. Don't get me wrong- our home was cozy and clean and we had home made dinners almost every night. But I don't recall her ever taking me aside and showing me how to do laundry or clean a toilet or vacuum. You just figured it out. I learned by osmosis, I guess. To this day, we still tease her, though, about the refrigerator experiments! Poor mom!
But when I moved into my first apartment, I fell in love with housework. Every Saturday, I would move the frig out away from the wall and scrub the floor and vacuum the condenser coils. I would polish and shine every surface, and wash every stitch of fabric. The smell of clean was something I wanted to bottle as a perfume! I don't know where this love of all things domestic came from.... perhaps it's the association with the family dinners and the cozy house we lived in as kids. Or perhaps it was the newfound sense of responsibility and excitement of having my own little abode.
But not everyone has had that same infatuation with housework that I have. Some would like to; others just want to be able to keep their heads above water and move on. And this generation is very ill prepared for homekeeping. The even scarier part? The next generation will be even worse off!
Perhaps the best way to solve this problem is to change our viewpoint of the dreaded housework into one of pleasure. Instead of looking at it as a "chore", or "timewaster", maybe it needs to be looked at as a chance to unwind and renew. I know that cleaning the shower isn't exactly glamourous, but why not focus on how it gleams when you are done? And while you are scrubbing away, it can be very calming and soothing. I think this is why I love housework so much: I tend to do my best thinking while in the middle of mucking out a mess. I am able to take that time to be reflective and meditative while still being productive. I lose myself in my thoughts, and by the time the jobs are done, my head is clear and I feel renewed. And when I come out of that state of mind, I snap back into a reality of sparkling clean and calm!
Once we change our mindset, the learning process becomes fun and easy. Then the implementation of those skills becomes enjoyable. Even rewarding.
So, please keep sending me those emails. I will continue to answer all of them. And I will never ridicule anyone for any reason. It's not anyone's fault that we don't have the tools and information we need. But we can bring society back to home base. Let's all just slow down a little, cook dinner for our families once in a while, and enjoy the fact that some things take a little more time to complete.
I have finally declared a start day for Housekeeping 101: June 7th! If it begins that Monday, it will finish just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, and your home will be ready for patriotic fun and games.
Here's how to join in the fun, and get signed up for the course....
Please send me an email to email@example.com and in the subject line, type "Summer 2010 HK101". All I need is your email address for the course. Please submit it NO LATER than Friday, June 4th. Then, beginning on Monday the 7th, you will receive a daily email with your lesson for that day. Simple as that! Each day will have a new topic/lesson for you to complete. Once you have completed all 20 of them, you will be armed and ready to care for your home. I send the emails daily, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. You get the weekends off to play and spend time doing whatever you like!
I hope you will enjoy it - the interest in this has been very high again, and I predict another record breaking enrollment. Let's have fun, and remember, this is only for enjoyment. You won't have to turn in homework or send in anything.... it's all for you to do IF YOU CHOOSE. But I have had enormous numbers of past participants tell me it was a lot of fun, and that they actually learned a lot along the way.
A while back I posted about the Bourbon Sauced Bread Pudding that I make for special occasions. It was inspired by one of my husband's work trips to New Orleans, when he tasted the "most divine, creamy, custardy bread pudding ever". He challenged me to duplicate it, and I came up with my own recipe.
Well, this past April, during our annual Spring Break Pilgrimage to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama, he was to attend a conference in New Orleans again. Smack in the middle of our vacation. This time, he brought me along while the kids stayed with Grandma & Grandpa. It was fun! Lots to see and do, and maybe some other time I'll tell you all about it. But not now...
While in the Big Easy, he took me to 'The Gumbo Shop' restaurant, just off Bourbon Street, where he had partaken of the infamous bread pudding a few years back. We each ordered the combination plate for dinner, consisting of incredibly wonderful jambalaya, red beans & rice, and shrimp creole. And for dessert? The bread pudding! I thought it was good, but still found it a little bit more cakey than mine, and the topping was simply sugary - similar to that found drizzled on a cinnamon roll. I can now say I have tried it.
The big surprise? From the guy who had waxed poetic about it? He finished his bread pudding, put down his spoon, and matter of factly stated: "Yours is still better. Hands down." HA!!!!! I've done it! I have created a bread pudding that's better than the best rated bread pudding in New Orleans!!!!!
About a year ago I posted this, but I wanted to put it out here again after a lengthy conversation I just had with my mother and a friend. I also frequently have this conversation with my husband, because at times I feel like a "kept woman" after leaving my job. I get a guilt trip over not contributing financially, and he always jumps to the other side of the fence and is very adamant that I contribute way more by staying home. No, he's not a chauvanistic neanderthal; he's just a great husband who is very supportive of me!
What is the salary of a mom/housewife worth? The figure they keep tossing out there is $120,000 per year. Not a bad figure, hey? About 4 or 5 years ago, Andy got his USAA magazine in the mail, and they had an article in there on this very same topic, and they actually estimated it at around $140,000 I think. I like that number better. I wish I could find that archive in his office!!! Counting for inflation and cost of living increases, I bet it would be more by now!
Whichever number you assign to it, it still isn't enough, but let's assume it's a fair amount. When you think about all we do to keep our households running, we just couldn't afford to be without us housewives/moms. We do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, managing of the budgets, shopping, caretaking, and more. To pay a chef, drycleaner, accountant, personal shopper, daycare, and and other professionals to do these jobs for us, we would be spending three to four times more.
Want to know the main reason why I left the engineering field when my oldest child was born? Most of my paycheck would have gone to daycare. Once we had all of our children, there was no point in going back to work. Even when I had opened my own business, I was spending over $600 per week for PART TIME daycare for 4 kids. And I still was doing all of the household management anyway. No wonder I broke down and had Molly Maids come in once a month to do a good cleaning! That was $100 well spent in my eyes! For us, it is more fiscally intelligent for me to stay home.
Moms are still undervalued today. I hate the feminist movement; I am a firm believer that you should never feel bad about the choices you make for yourself. If you want to work, great! It shouldn't be because you feel like you have some bra-burning legacy to live up to. On the other hand, if it means providing for your family, then yes, you must do it, and do it proudly! And if you do it because you simply enjoy it and it makes you sane and happy, I applaud you! On the other hand, if you want to stay home because you like the lifestyle of being at home with the kids and doing the housewife thing, I applaud that too. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty or like you aren't contributing. Because believe you me, you are. At a rate of $120,000 per year.
But for those of you who think that even though you love being home with the kids, and you love nothing more than a sparking clean home and freshly baked cookies coming out of the oven, you are just playing house and not really doing anything with your life? There truly is value in what you do. And when you can't see the emotional and spiritual value in what you do for your family some days, realize this: you are saving your family a whole bundle of money on those professionals who could be doing it for you! As my husband loves to remind me....
It's been ages since I uploaded an up-to-date schedule for the Roman family! Obviously things have changed drastically since 2006 in our household. In the last four years, our schedule changed to accommodate me owning a store, to me being back home full time; kids getting older and having new school schedules; and just plain refining it.
Here is the schedule we will be following until mid-June (the end of the school year):
I hope these documents actually embed in the blog... it's been a long time since I did this, and I can't quite remember how to do it! I am putting them out here, because when I get around to peeking at where everyone is coming from when they arrive at my blog, the majority of hits come from google searches for 'housekeeping schedules' or 'housewife routine'. Perhaps these will inspire those of you looking for information on forming your own schedule. And keep in mind, I am a very structured person. I need this type of detail. Please don't think it is a requirement for all homemakers! You need to do what works for you...
Yes, I missed Earth Day on the blog. I know! But to atone for it, here are a couple cleaning recipes for you! These are really easy on the wallet and really hard on dirt and grime. I know that it's tough sometimes in this current economy to stay green while taking care of your home and family, but you don't have to shell out for the expensive green cleaners. Simply use these cleaning products that you can whip up on your own in a matter of minutes for only pennies!
1 part white distilled vinegar
1 part water
Simply pour into an empty spray bottle and use just like the more expensive glass cleaners. Works better, in fact, and if you use a flour sack towel instead of paper towels you not only save trees, you don't have that pesky lint that is left behind by the paper!
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsps borax
Mix until the borax is dissolved, and pour into a spray bottle. Antiseptic, works great, cuts grease and grime, and safe for food surfaces, too! Use caution when pouring out the borax, though, that you don't inhale it. You can even add a drop or three of essential oil to this to give it a lovely fragrance. I happen to like lavender and geranium oils in mine!
1 part washing soda
1 part Borax
Combine in a plastic, sealable container. Use 1-2 tbsp per load in the dishwasher.
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup baking soda
Pour each into toilet bowl. Let sit for 1/2 hour, then scrub clean and flush to rinse. Sparkling!
The costs associated with these cleaners is so much less than commercial cleaners! I can buy a box of Borax for about $3.89, and a box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda for about $2.89. A gallon of white vinegar is $2.67 where I shop, and baking soda is super cheap when you buy the big box of the generic brand. I have found plastic spray bottles for .98 cents. And I use an old, large, plastic butter tub for my dishwasher detergent and have it labelled clearly under my kitchen sink.
If I total all those things up, I have about $11 invested, and these cleaners will last me forever! I have two spray bottles, and it works out to less than a penny per cleaning session with them. Even the dishwasher detergent recipe saves a ton of money. The typical box of name brand detergent can be on average $6 per box. I get four to five times as much for that same price by making my own!
I hope these little tips help you.... Your home will be sparkling and germ free without any dangerous toxins and chemicals. Open the windows once in a while, and get the fresh air moving, too, by the way!