Posted in cleaning, family, food, organizing, planning, Tips and Tricks

Work Smart, Not Hard

This was a lot of work.  It was a labor of love. Nothing good comes without some hard work.  If you ask my granddaughter or daycare kiddos, this playset is VERY good!  They are delighted.  This is going to bring hours of happiness and memories.

swing set collage

Work is a good thing!  A good work ethic is something to be admired, rewarded and something we strive for in our place of employment and at home.  God made us to need to work.  We would be very unfulfilled without work.  God worked!  God worked for 6 days when he made the earth and then He rested.  Do I think He needed to rest? Nope.  Not at all.  God made us in His image so I believe He was simply showing us how to pattern our lives.   We need to have a balance in our lives between work, rest and play.

work smart

Work doesn’t stop when you clock out.  It just changes form. There is no getting around the fact that there is work involved in a clean house.  Good habits and routines will drastically reduce the amount of housekeeping that has to be done, but let’s face it, the vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing toilets still have to happen.

I am going to share some tips with you to help you work smart, not hard, to get that work done and still have time for rest and play.

 

team

Enlist help. Like my husband did with the swing set, get the family to help you Kids, even little ones can help.  The bigger ones definitely should help! Your children need to learn to work. It’s a life skill they will appreciate learning! (Eventually!) They need to learn how rewarding a “job well done” is.  How nice it feels to have a clean room and how proud you feel of your home when it is clean.  I, personally, don’t feel that rewards or allowance for doing household chores is beneficial.  I don’t get paid to clean my house.  The reward comes from feeling good about the job you did.  Teach them to take the time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

 

fun

2. Make it fun.  Whether it is just you or the whole family involved in cleaning, make it fun! Make it a good time rather than drudgery.  If you hate it, your family will pick up on that.  Why would they want to help do something that is clearly a terrible thing?  Fake it till you make it if you have to! Put on some music dance with the broom, sing loud and silly!  Do whatever it takes to make it fun.

When my kids were elementary school age,  we made it a game.  I wrote every chore that needed to be done on an index card. I broke the chores down into very specific things.  “Clean upstairs bathroom tub”,  “Clean downstairs bathroom toilet”, “Mop kitchen”, etc.  The index cards were placed upside down on the kitchen table and mixed up.  A bell was in the middle of the table.  We all gathered around the table.  I would ring the bell and start a stopwatch.  We all grabbed a card and ran to do the chore on our card as fast as possible.  When the chore was done it was placed in a discard pile, you got to ring the bell and then grab another card. It was wild and hilarious! I am sure we looked ridiculous running like crazy people through the house, breathless,  tripping over the vacuum, running into each other, the bell ringing loudly and often.  The person with the last card got to make crazy noise with the bell and stop the stopwatch.  Housekeeping got done in generally less than twenty minutes! Crazy, right?  And it was FUN!  It may not have been done perfectly but it was done, everyone was happy and we could go spend our day doing something really fun and come back to a clean house.

calendar

3. Break it up.  Everyone’s life looks a little different.  For some doing a housekeeping game on Saturday morning with the family will work.  Now that my kids are adults, I have the housekeeping responsibilities myself.  I do not want to spend my Saturday cleaning all alone.  I choose to break up my chores and do one or two each day before or after work.  The things that may take longer I do on days that I usually have more time or more energy. Most things really don’t take all that long.  It always remains the same so I always know what day I am doing what.  Monday is laundry and vacuuming, Tuesday is bathroom day.  I clean the toilet, the tub and take out the trash and wash the bath towels. Wednesday is sweeping and mopping the house and menu planning.  Thursday is the kitchen and some miscellaneous things. I take Fridays to do anything I may not have been able to get done during the week or just take the day off!  That is just an example. You know your life and how that might look for you.

pays

4. Do It Weekly.  Don’t procrastinate and wait until you stick to the kitchen floor and the tub has a nasty ring around it.  Do it while it still looks clean!  It is so easy to clean a fairly clean tub in comparison to the full aerobic work out to clean a yucky one.  It is house “keeping”  rather than the house “cleaning”.   The goal is to maintain, not struggle to clean what is already dirty.  This saves a major amount of time!

hard work

We had some AMAZING Chicken Gyros the other night!  I love Gyros and love the traditional lamb, but these were a great switch and super light. Perfect for a summer evening on the patio with a wine spritzer and family to share it with.

Speaking of wine spritzers, if you haven’t had these, you should! YUM!

spritzers

Barefoot Refresh. Delish!

Here is the link to the Chicken Gyros.  We grilled them outside instead of baking in the oven.  Was fantastic!

Go check out a Bitchin’ Kitchen!

Chicken Gyros

Chicken Gyro

 

Please check out the program I use for all my recipes and menu planning!  I couldn’t do life without it!

Cook’n is an amazing tool!

Memories being made right here…..

brooklyn cutie

 

 

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Posted in cleaning, family, organizing, Tips and Tricks

Less is Best!

We went camping last weekend!!  Yes, it rained and possibly snowed just a bit.  It was cold and wet, but we went camping!! I am just a little excited that the camping season is upon us.  At least for us crazy diehards, it is.  We did go to our State Park where we had electric hookups.  We didn’t go all survivor style or anything.  We just needed to get away for a couple of nights and have some nature therapy.

camping

I love the fresh air, the dirt, the grass, the trees and walks in the rain and roasting marshmallows.  Most of all I love the memories we are making.  Memories are what holds families together.  Memories will be what’s left when we are gone.

puddles

I want to give my family a clean, organized home that is a comforting safe place to be and leave them memories that will live on long after I am gone.  I know that sounds like having your cake and eating it too!  How do you have time to make memories if you are keeping a clean and organized home?

I know for me, personally, I had a tough time trying to balance cleaning and laundry and cooking with spending time with my kids.  I loved reading to them and baking with them and working on schoolwork together,  but it was hard to do when I had so much that had to be done!  I knew that there had to be a better way.

I have spent years developing that “way”!  Thinking it out and perfecting my system.  I wish I could have had my ducks in a row when my kids were really young.  I hope they knew I was trying! It is my goal and passion to pass what I have learned on to you!

Breaking down household chores into little bits and doing those little bits each day, establishing habits that are seemingly effortless, and eliminating excess, creates what is the “Self Cleaning House”.

Eliminating things that create clutter helps to cut down your workload and keeps your house tidy.  More is NOT better.  Less is best! For example, I HATE dusting!  The best way I avoid doing this job is simple.  I just don’t have things that need to be dusted.  I am a minimalist when it comes to knickknacks and decorations.  Having very few “things” makes a room look more open, less cluttered and just simply beautiful.  It makes it easier to tidy up and much easier to do the dreaded dusting.  Less “stuff”, even if its pretty “stuff” gives the illusion of a much more tidy home.

 

dust

We get used to seeing our stuff.  It becomes like furniture.  It’s just there.  Even if we don’t like it, it just sits there and pretty soon we don’t see it anymore!  Do yourself a huge favor this week and take a close look around.  Walk into your home and pretend you are a guest.  Look at everything with fresh eyes.  What do you see?  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  What looks out-of-place or outdated or just blah…?  Then gather all those things up and take them immediately to your local St. Vincent’s or another thrift store you choose to support.  Don’t stick them in the garage or closet just creating more junk to clean around.  Be rid of the stuff!!   Just say NO to stuff!

Dusting a flat surface takes very little time.  I still don’t enjoy it but at least it doesn’t take long.  Less time doing housework equals more time with your family and more memory making!  Get rid of some stuff and go do something you love!

 

Posted in cleaning, family, food, organizing, planning, Tips and Tricks

Tips for Trips

We had a super busy weekend.  Granddaughter Brooklyn had an Ice Skating Competition in Montana.  It was a great excuse to have a weekend away!  Sometimes you really need a three-day weekend to recharge.  We got to stay in a pretty nice hotel, go swimming in the pool, sit in the hot tub and enjoy some good food as well as watch some amazing skaters!

Brooklyn did great!  We are so very proud of her.  Her dedication really shows.  She is going to need a whole closet for her medals soon! She was pretty wiped out on the trip home.  She worked hard!

Since we were in Missoula, we had to stop at Wheat Montana Farms & Bakery.  I use their flour and oat cereal exclusively for my bread, baking, and granola.  It’s great stuff!!  I can’t purchase it in fifty-pound bags locally so whenever we are anywhere near Missoula we stop in and buy it there.

flour

It had been quite a while since I had been away for a weekend but my inner checklist for what to do before leaving kicked in.  Doing these few simple things before leaving not only gives you peace of mind while you are away but makes coming back so much easier!

*The day before you leave be sure you are caught up on laundry.  You are going to have plenty when you get back.

*Plan what you are going to have for dinner the day you get back.  You will have just spent money all weekend going out and the last thing you want to do is spend more money on pizza your first night home.

*The day you leave run the dishwasher and empty it. Don’t leave any dishes in the sink.

*Make sure there is nothing in the washer or the dyer.  If there are clothes in the washer they will get sour and if there are clothes in the dryer they will be wrinkled.

*Tidy up and make the beds.

*Make sure the animals are taken care of.

*Close the blinds and turn down the thermostat.

*Turn off the lights, leaving one on.

*Lock the doors.  Make sure someone else has a key in case of emergency.

I went through all these things before leaving for the long weekend.  Our cats are used to us being away for a couple days a week in the summers and they are usually fine.  This time, however, they must have been playing around the bathroom door while we were gone.  One of the cats got shut in the bathroom.  I don’t know how long he was in there but he sure let us hear about it when we got home!  I still think his sister had something to do with it.  Pretty sure I saw her grinning.  I wouldn’t put it past her!

See what I mean?  Evil looking, isn’t she?! Don’t let her fool you, she is straight up crazy!

I am going to leave you with my whole wheat bread recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Be sure to take a long weekend and recharge your batteries soon too!

Click here to get the awesome program I use for recipes and meal planning!
Wheat Bread

Serves:
14Yield:
1 loaf

Ingredients:

1 cup Wheat Montana All-purpose white flour
1 cup Wheat Montana Prairie Gold whole wheat flour
1/4 cup multi-grain cereal or super grain blend of choice
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup raw organic flax seed
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup organic sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup instant potato flakes (NOT potato pearls)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons instant dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
butter for brushing on top

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Put warm water, butter, and vinegar in bread machine pan. Dump in dry ingredient on top. Start bread machine on “Dough” cycle. When done kneading and rising, work the dough a bit to get out air bubbles, shape into a loaf and put into greased/sprayed loaf pan. Heat oven to 375* and let the loaf rise to about double. Bake for 27 minutes, turn pan around and bake for 3 more minutes. Remove from oven and brush with butter. Let cool for 5 minutes and then turn out of loaf pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting. Store in a ziplock bag.

Cook’n is a next generation recipe app that makes it fun and easy to share favorite recipes.

Click here to get Cook’n (it’s free!)

Cook’n is a next generation recipe app that makes it fun and easy to share favorite recipes.

Click here to get Cook’n (it’s free!)

Bread / Breads

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Posted in cleaning, food, organizing

Cheat Code for Life

I did some fun studying this week.  Yes, I said fun.  I am weird like that.  I love studying and learning new things or learning more about something I am interested in.  I am fascinated by how our brains work, always have been. This week I dove into something I have studied a bit about before but wanted to learn more so I could share it with you!

study

The dictionary defines a Habit as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until is has become almost involuntary.  It is a simple form of learning.  An automatic response acquired as a result of repetition. A habit does not require conscious attention.

We use habits every day.  Every moment of every day!  Good habits as well as bad habits. When was the last time you had to remember to breathe, or even how to tie your shoes?  You just do it without thinking.  It is a habit.  I have a terrible habit of clenching my jaw.  I have absolutely no idea I am doing it until my jaw hurts.  It has become such a habit, a bad one, that it is unconscious.

My Self Cleaning House plan revolves around habits.  Doing the same simple things, the same simple way, every single day until it becomes such habit that it seems your house cleans itself.  It does not require conscious attention anymore.  Sound good?!

In order to set that in motion, I think it is important to learn a bit more about habits and your brain and how you can control the habits you want to make or break.  Lifehack right here!!!

brain with background

I am not the least bit nerdy or “science-y” so bear with me as I explain what I have learned about habit formation in my own words.

There are three different types of habits.

Motor habits: physical actions, posture, walking, standing, tying shoes, muscle memory type things.

Intellectual habits: psychological, observation, logical thinking, reasoning, common sense.

Character habits: related to emotion and feelings, trusting, honesty, friendliness, time management, work ethic, cleanliness, charitable, sympathetic.

Ok, that is sort of interesting but how do we form new habits or break old ones? How does this relate at all to having a self-cleaning house?

A habit, good or bad, can be broken down into three parts.

  1. The cue
  2. The behavior
  3. The reward

Knowing that your brain works this way is almost like having a cheat code for life!

The cue.  Let’s use something we all do, brushing our teeth.  We get up, stumble to the bathroom and stand in front of the sink.  That is our cue.  We can do this still half asleep and usually do.

The behavior.  We grab the toothbrush and toothpaste and start brushing.  Our muscle memory even takes over here because we all know we brush our teeth the same way, every single time.   Just ask your dentist.

The reward.  Ahhhhhh… nothing like having fresh breath once again as you begin to feel human and slightly awake.  A clean mouth is a wonderful feeling!

So in order to form a habit to begin to make a self-cleaning house we need to decide first of all what habit we want to cultivate.  Let’s say cleaning your bathroom each morning.  That is the behavior you want.  The cue would be what you do just before this habit should be done. We are going to “attach” this new habit to an existing one making it far easier to achieve.   In my case that would be finishing up my make up and washing my hands.  As soon as I dry my hands I put my makeup under the sink and grab my cleaner.  I take that hand towel and cleaner and give the mirror a swipe if it needs it, wipe down the sinks and countertops and get the toilet seat too.  Toss the towel in the laundry.  I just timed myself.  I didn’t hurry and I cleaned the entire mirror.  I have a large bathroom with two sinks.  It took me 80 seconds. My smaller bathroom took 50 seconds!

The reward is a clean bathroom.  Ok, I know it’s not like that great feeling when  you brush your teeth or win an Olympic medal, but take the time to admire how great it looks!  We usually don’t follow through with making habits because the reward isn’t great enough or instant.  So pat yourself on the back, smile and know that you are one of few who are going to work this morning with a clean latrine! Anyone that stops by can use the potty without fear of the creepy crawling gunk and wash in a toothpaste drool free sink.  You know what? Even if no one stops by, I get to use a clean fresh bathroom and so does my family.  To me, that is pretty much an Olympic medal, or at least as close as I am going to get!

So, to recap.

Cue: Washing hands

Behavior in response or attached to that cue: Cleaning  the bathroom in under 80 seconds

Reward: Olympic medal! Ok, it just feels that way.  You have a beautiful clean bathroom to be proud of.

If you continue this ritual every day, yes, everyday, no weekends off, no “I don’t feel like it” days, no “it’s not fair I always have to do it” days, and no “I am in a hurry” days. (Remember the 80 Seconds?)  you WILL develop a habit so strong and ingrained you couldn’t stop if you wanted to.

Some quick tips to make you more successful!

  1. START! Be determined.   As I always told my kids, “There is no try, Only do or do not.”   I may or may not have made my kids hate Yoda.
  2. Keep it up! Be consistent without interruption. Excuses will kill a habit formation instantly.
  3. Have a positive environment.  Help yourself to be successful.  If you are cutting out junk food, having a cupboard of it will not be helpful.  You know yourself best.  How can you help yourself?  Write yourself notes to stick on your mirror to remind you, Stay away from people who aren’t contributing to your success at your goal, etc.
  4. Don’t quit!  Even when you think you have established a habit, don’t stop.
  5. Enjoy it!  It is so important to take time to enjoy what you have accomplished by your new habit so the positive is reinforced in your brain and it will want to continue to practice the habit.

I hope you enjoyed that little study session!  Now here is one of my family’s all-time favorites! Can you tell we like soup in the winter?!

pork cider stew3

Pork Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Serves:
6

Ingredients:

2 pounds pork cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion chopped
4 stalks celery chopped
1 cup baby carrot chopped
1 bulb fennel, thickly sliced and then chopped
1 apple cored and chopped
1 cup apple cider plus more if needed
4 cups chicken stock plus more if needed
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
Dumplings:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk- yes, WHOLE milk
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place the pork on a plate and sprinkle with flour, then gently toss to coat. Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add one-third of the pork and cook, turning occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until brown all over. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat in 2 more batches with remaining pork.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, fennel and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes. Add the pork, apple and cider and bring to the boil. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and 1 T of the chopped sage and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Bake, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until pork is tender. Bake for a further 30 minutes (IF necessary!) or until pork is tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from oven and place on stove. Add 1-2 more cups of chicken broth/cider to create enough liquid to cook dumplings. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Heat over medium high heat.

For the Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture and the sage leaves into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.
Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.

Don’t forget to check out my all time favorite recipe and meal planning program here!

Source: taste.com.au

Cook’n is a next generation recipe app that makes it fun and easy to share favorite recipes.

Click here to get Cook’n (it’s free!)

Cook’n is a next generation recipe app that makes it fun and easy to share favorite recipes.

Click here to get Cook’n (it’s free!)

Soup / Soup


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Posted in cleaning, organizing, planning

A system that works

I love paper.  I love index cards. I love all things office supply.  Office Max practically makes me giddy!  I remember as a kid in grade school wanting to be the one chosen by the teacher to go to the paper room for her.  It smelled so good in there and all that fresh clean paper! I know, weird kid, huh?

I am a hands on, actual pen and paper person when it comes to lists and calendars.  It’s nice to have on my phone or computer but I really need to have it physically written as well.  For years I have had my housework organized on index cards.   It has worked well for me and still does.  I still have the chores on index cards that I made for my kids when they were young.  They have memories of those cards, I want to say fond memories but I can’t be sure of that!  Although they have said I can’t get rid of them.

I keep my box of index cards on my kitchen counter.  I have a cat.  Actually I have two cats, but one is quite mischievous.   I woke the other morning to find my entire box of  index cards scattered on the kitchen floor.  I was extremely irritated but took a deep breath and decided to use this as an opportunity to be re inspired and  reorganized.

chore box

My husband bought me new index cards, not just plain old white ones but colored ones!  He said he thought I might enjoy color coding them.   I think he knows me pretty well!  I have been sorting and writing new cards and trying to come up with a new system all morning between loads of laundry and changing diapers and I think I have come up with a pretty good plan!

* Daily Chores                                                                                                                                         * Chores that are done on specific days of the week                                                                       * Chores that only need to be done once or twice a year, broken down by rooms

finished chore box

It’s not perfect, it doesn’t look perfect, but it works for me.  Whatever you do, should work for you.  Whether it is just a sticky note on your mirror reminding you to make your bed or a full spread sheet with every possible household duty listed, make sure it is working for you.  We are all different.  If it is overwhelming you, it’s not  working.  Simplify.  If  lists are your jam then get some fun note paper for that.   If you are weird like me, try color coded index cards.  Don’t get bogged down with the details.  Just have a system that works so you can spend less time playing “catch up” on housework and more time just playing!

Now…… which one of these terrors is to blame?

kitties