Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Good to Be Home

First of all let me apologize for not posting much last week. My husband had to go out of town on business Friday through Monday so I went to my mom's house Thursday through Monday. I didn't have great Internet access and was pretty busy taking care of the boys and spent time with my mom and grandma.

That being said, it's so good to be home. While I like going places and visiting family and friends, I am always happy to be back home. I love being in my own bed at night (especially with my husband), I love sitting in my chair, I love having my food and drinks, I love having my computer and Internet, but overall, I love having my normal routine.

When we go somewhere I try my best to stick to our routine, but it doesn't always work. Luke tends to sleep a little less, eats a little more junk, and gets a lot of extras, so when we get home we have to get back on our nap and bedtime routines, eat better, and cut back on the treats.

With a newborn, it's hard enough to get them on a schedule, but when you travel, they get off. It's rough. Nathan got up at least 2 times each night which was rough since he had been going from 11:00pm until morning and I had to feed him without Lee being there. Naps were a little harder even though I brought his swing. I am hoping to get him back to sleeping good again.

I am hoping that this week we can get back into our normal routine, including me blogging a few times.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chores for Children

Since I am a full-time homemaker, I do a majority of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry, but Lee and I do think it is good to teach children responsibility and how being a part of a family is about helping each other out. So, we make Luke do chores. Lee and I have talked about chores and allowance a lot and have come up with one conclusion for our family, our kids should help out because they are a part of the family, not just for financial gain. As they get older and understand the concept of money more and can do more (ie mow the grass, wash the car, babysit their younger siblings), we will evaluate giving them an allowance then. But in general, we are going to stick to the "You are a part of this family and that means we all help out."

Luke's chores have changed over the years and will continue to change as he gets older, but I thought that I would share what his chores are right now. He is 5 years old.

Luke's Chores:

1) Make bed each morning - We started teaching him to make his bed and have encouraged him for every attempt. I know some of us tend to be perfectionists and figure if we do it, it will look better. Trust me, if you let them do it enough, it will get better and better. My goal isn't perfection, but progression. As Luke has gotten better, he gets more and more proud of himself.

2) Remove sheets, pillowcase, comforter, and blankets and bring to laundry room once a week and bring them back to your room when mommy is done laundering them (he doesn't put them back on because he hasn't quite learned the motor skills to do the fitted sheet)

3) Bring down hamper and sort into the bins when mommy asks you to - He has a lightweight hamper with handles that he collects his laundry in. A couple times a week I have him bring it to the sorted bins and have him sort them (socks and undies in the "whites" bin, khaki pants in the "khakis" bin, church shirts in the "nice shirts" bin, and the rest in the "Luke" bin). This helps me a lot because I go to one place to get the laundry.

4) Help with laundry - Sometimes I will have him help me with laundry. In addition to collecting his sheets and sorting his clothes into bins, I will give him an empty basket and have him collect a pile of clothes and bring them to the laundry room. Yes, I could do this all by myself, but I think it's good that he pitches in sometimes. He enjoys putting the clothes in the washer and dryer anyways.

5) Clean up toys - I refuse to clean up toys. We taught him very early on (as in 6-9 months old - we would pick up the toys in his hands and put them in the basket) how to do that. My theory is, "If you make the mess, you clean it up." We clean up toys before we leave the house, before nap, and before bed.

6) Set the table - I pull the plates, napkins, and silverware out and he takes it to the table and sets it out. He will also put salt, pepper, butter, and other condiments on the table.

7) Clear the table - He has to at least take his own dishes over, but a lot of the time he will help Lee clear the table while I wash the dishes.

8) Help mommy - Little things come up and when I ask him to do them he is expected to do it cheerfully.

I don't think our children's lives should be boring or excessively chore laden, but I do think they should learn to help out. I think this is a good start.

Please share what chores your children do (include ages) as well as your method of encouraging them to do it. I love hearing other ideas.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cook for a Month Plan

If you are like me, you struggle with meal planning. I always have. Even with couponing, I have never been a great meal planner. I used to just buy whatever looked good at the store and then try to figure out what to make from it or think, "I want spaghetti," and go get everything I needed that day and spend a lot of money.

Once I started couponing, I learned to stockpile. Stockpiling means that you get a good amount of things in your pantry (rice, pastas, sauces, marinades) and freezer (chicken, beef, pork) when they are a great deal and/or you have coupons. Then I would figure out what we wanted based on what we had. If I wanted spaghetti then, I would grab pasta that I bought for pennies, sauce that I bought for under $1.00, and ground beef that I bought for under $3.00. Then I would just need a pepper and an onion (unless I had chopped and frozen it when it was a great deal) from the store. Easier and way less expensive.

When I was pregnant with the twins I was concerned I would go on bedrest and either way would need simple meals when they were born and we were busy, so I freezer cooked 6 months of meals at the halfway point. It worked great because we could just pull what we wanted as we needed it.

Well now that I am almost done with those meals, I tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. I toyed with the idea of freezer cooking in bulk again, but thought that I would be spending too much one month and then not much subsequent months. Plus it was a ton of work and I don't have 4 days to do that again without too many distractions. I thought it would be wise to make a monthly meal plan and then figure out ways to save time and money.

Here is what I came up with:

I made a list of 16 of our favorite "tried-and-true" recipes:
1) Spaghetti
2) Spaghetti and Meatballs
3) Baked Ziti
4) Chicken Parmesan
5) Meatloaf (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
6) Salisbury Steak (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
7) Pot Roast (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
8) Honey Baked Pork Chops (Fresh one night and leftovers the next)
9) Chicken Barley
10) Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight
11) Chicken Pot Pie
12) Chicken Stuffing Pie
13) Italian Balsamic Chicken
14) Maple Glazed Chicken
15) Buffalo Chicken Tenders
16) Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

That would mean I would cook 5 meals a week which is perfect because we go out to eat one night and eat at church one night.

I grouped them by type and put 4 recipes into each category:
"Big Meal" – Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Pot Roast, Honey Baked Pork Chops
"Leftovers" – Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Pot Roast, Honey Baked Pork Chops
"Italian" – Spaghetti, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Baked Ziti, Chicken Parmesan
"Creamy Chicken" – Chicken Barley, Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Stuffing Pie
"Healthy Chicken" – Italian Balsamic Chicken, Maple Glazed Chicken, Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

Then I figured out what night would be what category. I took into account days that I had more time, days that I had less time, what night would be good for leftovers, etc.

Here's what I came up with:
Sunday – "Big Meal" Night (This works well because I have more time and help on Sundays, plus it sounds right to have a Sunday Supper)
Monday – "Leftover" Night (This works well because Monday is usually a crazy day recovering from the weekend)
Tuesday – "Creamy Chicken" Night
Wednesday – Church Night (No cooking)
Thursday – "Italian" Night
Friday – Go out to Eat Night (No cooking)
Saturday – "Healthy Chicken" Night (This works well because we go out to eat on Fridays and we don't tend to eat as good when we eat out)

I also came up with side dishes that would go well with the dishes.

I then plugged the meals into a chart trying to not have similar recipes close together.

Here's what I came up with:

SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

THURSDAY

SATURDAY

Pot Roast (Beef Roast, Potatoes, Carrots,

& Onions)

Pot Roast Leftovers

Chicken

Pot Pie

Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Italian Balsamic Chicken, Rice, & Veggies

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Peas, & Corn

Meatloaf Leftovers

Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight

Baked Ziti & Garlic Bread

Maple Glazed Chicken, Rice, & Veggies

Honey Baked

Pork Chops, Baked Potatoes,

& Veggies

Honey Baked Pork Chops Leftovers

Chicken Stuffing Pie & Green Beans

Spaghetti & Meatballs & Garlic Bread

Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Rice, & Veggies

Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Peas, & Corn

Salisbury Steak Leftovers

Chicken Barley

Chicken Parmesan & Garlic Bread

Ginger Chicken

Stir Fry

& Rice


 

I then made a monthly shopping list:

Meat:
5 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
9 lbs chicken
2 lbs (10 pieces) pork chops
Pot roast

Dairy:
2 bags mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
Butter

Frozen:
Canned/frozen veggies
1lb frozen mixed veggies

Produce:
Head of garlic
4 onions
2 peppers

Condiments:
1 jar beef gravy
Ketchup
Franks Red Hot sauce
Stir fry sauce
Soy sauce
Cider vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Honey
Dijon mustard
Syrup

Spices/Baking Needs:
Rolled oats
Olive oil
Ground ginger
Spices for Maple Glazed Chicken
Spices for Italian Balsamic Chicken
Spices for Honey Baked Pork Chops

Rice/Pasta:
4 jars pasta sauce
2 lbs pasta
½ lb egg noodles
Barley
Various rices
2 boxes stuffing mix
Bread crumbs

Soup (Mixes):
4 jars cream of chicken soup
2 pkg onion soup mix
Chicken broth

I then made a weekly grocery list (fresh items) for each week of the month (for the dinners):
Week 1 – potatoes, carrots, onion
Week 2 – potatoes
Week 3 – potatoes
Week 4 – potatoes, carrots, onion, stir fry veggies

Then I came up with what I would freezer prep or cook:
Spaghetti – Make spaghetti sauce and freeze
Spaghetti and Meatballs – Make meatballs and sauce and freeze
Baked Ziti – Prep Baked Ziti and freeze (freeze mozzarella cheese along with it)
Chicken Parmesan – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Meatloaf – Prep Meatloaf and freeze
Salisbury Steak – Prep Salisbury Steak and freeze
Pot Roast – cut fat off and freeze roast
Honey Baked Pork Chops – marinate and freeze
Chicken Barley – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze
Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze
Chicken Pot Pie – prep Chicken Pot Pie (minus topping) and freeze
Chicken Stuffing Pie – prep Chicken Stuffing Pie (minus topping) and freeze
Italian Balsamic Chicken – marinate and freeze
Maple Glazed Chicken – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Buffalo Chicken Tenders – cut fat off and cut up 1 pound chicken tenders and freeze
Ginger Chicken Stir Fry – cut fat off and dice 1 pound chicken and freeze

My goal is to go once a month to get everything I need and freezer cook/prep everything. Then each night I will just have to cook for 30 minutes or less. I am hoping to spend $100.00 or less on the stuff for dinners. I coupon a lot of those items frequently and keep my pantry stocked. That would be $5.00 a meal which is usually my goal.

If you are interested in this method and the recipes, please email me at Ashley-webber@hotmail.com and I will send you the printer friendly format of this post and the recipes in a Word document that is easily printable. When I do this, I will blog about it including pictures. I hope you enjoyed.

I would love to hear how you meal plan (monthly, weekly, 2 times a month, daily and shop, daily from stockpile, don't at all).

The Winner Is....

The Winner of the 10,000 hits Giveaway is....



Stephanie Hipp!!!
Congrats Stephanie!!! Please email me your address to ashley-webber@hotmail.com as well as what store you would like your gift card to. I can do Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Kroger, Lowes Food, Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, or Amazon. Thanks!
PS Thanks to all the people who read and/or follow the blog.
PSS Thanks Luke for doing the drawing for me. ;)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

7 Week Meal Plan

Some of you know that I did a huge freezer cooking session when I was pregnant with the twins in June (at 17 1/2 weeks pregnant). I made roughly 6 months worth of meals and my freezer was stocked. Well we didn't eat it exactly like I had planned since we ate out some (even heating up or making sides became too much at the end) and then had meals brought to us for 6 weeks after the delivery. Then it was the holidays. Well I figured out we had 7 weeks worth of meals (including having some leftovers, eating out one night, and going to church for dinner one night).

I came up with a list so that we wouldn't repeat the same meal before having all of them. It ended up working out great. I am looking forward to having 7 weeks of meals that require very little work. It will help our budget, give me more time at night with the kids, and clear out our freezer.

I am working on my plan for after that. I think I am really going to try to meal plan. I am finding that it might make life easier since I have more on my plate now and will continue to as we homeschool and God willing have more children. As always I will be sharing with my readers.

I would love to hear your tips on meal planning aas that is something I am still working on.

Target Baby Deals

People always say, "Babies are so expensive. The formula, the diapers, the wipes, the baby food." I used to think that as well until I learned the art of couponing. The cool thing is that you can get coupons and check vouchers for all brands of formula. You just sign up and they send you free samples at first and then monthly coupons and check vouchers. It's really neat. The best part is that you can use coupons and checks together. Even better, if you get a Target coupon you can "stack" coupons and check vouchers for crazy savings.

So today I grouped my Target coupons with my manufacturer coupons and check vouchers and went stockpiling.

I got a total of 800oz formula (like once it is mixed with water - roughly a month's supply - roughly 4cents per ounce - roughly $1.00 a day), 31 diapers, 500 wipes, and a giant bottle of J&J baby wash:

All of that would have cost $144.57.
I had $40.25 in coupon savings.
I had $50.00 in check vouchers.
It cost $54.32 (saved 62%).

The best part was that I had a gift card for the entire amount because we had to return diapers he already outgrew. So it was all free. YAY!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade "Bisquick" Mix

So I wanted to make Chicken Pot Pie tonight. Well "make" might not be the right word as I had it prepped in my freezer so I just had to make the topping and bake it. I didn't have Bisquick and I am not about to go out to the store with two kids for one item, so I decided to make it from scratch. I found a recipe and figured I would give it a try.

Here is the recipe:

Homemade Bisquick Mix

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp shortening

Directions:

Mix until crumbly (I used a pastry cutter).


For my recipe, I used the 2 cups of "Bisquick" mix (what the recipe above yielded), 1 cup of milk, and 2 eggs. Here's what it looked like:

It wasn't just as good as it normally is, it was better. I will definitely be using this mix in lieu of Bisquick since it was cheaper and had less additives and turned out tastier. Hope you enjoy!

Finer Things

I just saw a great post on a blog that I read. It was called "Finer Things." It wasn't referencing classic literature or fancy meals or china and crystal, it was talking about the things in life that may seem small but really make life great. I am going to attempt to write a list of 100 (like the lady on her blog did). I challenge you to do the same thing. The other day I read a quote that said, "Enjoy the little things in life for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big
things,"
by Robert Brault.

  1. The smell of a baby
  2. The smell and feel of warm, clean laundry
  3. The smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies
  4. The smell of my husband
  5. My husband's arms around me while I sleep
  6. The laughter of my son
  7. A good, crisp apple in Fall
  8. The smell of Fall air
  9. Sleeping late
  10. Going to bed early
  11. Rocking a baby on your chest
  12. Grandma Reid's homemade vegetable soup on a cold (especially rainy) day
  13. Our decorated CHRISTmas tree
  14. Hymns on Sunday morning (or any day of the week)
  15. A nice hot shower
  16. Fun mail (like letters or cards from loved ones)
  17. The look of satisfaction on my son's face when he does something great
  18. Hearing children pray or talk about Jesus
  19. A brand new Bible
  20. A brand new book (I love that smell)
  21. Finding a good deal
  22. Sparkling cider toast on New Year's Eve
  23. Kissing my husband on New Year's Eve (or any day)
  24. My sons' smile
  25. Hearing "momma"
  26. Hearing "I love you"
  27. Snow
  28. The excitement on CHRISTmas Eve and Day
  29. The new car smell
  30. When dinner is ready the second Lee walks in the door
  31. Saturday morning breakfast
  32. Movie theater popcorn
  33. Ice cream in the summer at Sunni Sky's
  34. Snuggling under a blanket with loved ones
  35. Going to the Farmer's Market in the summer
  36. Picking fresh strawberries
  37. Going to the pumpkin patch
  38. Hayrides in the Fall
  39. That feeling in your stomach on an amusement park ride
  40. A nice back rub (or any massage)
  41. The way your hair feels after a hair cut (all fresh and perfect – for a few minutes at least)
  42. Grass under your feet in the summer
  43. The first time you get in the pool in the summer
  44. Looking at the ocean and feeling God's majesty
  45. Looking at the mountains and feeling God's majesty
  46. Blaring music in the car and driving down the highway (especially with the windows down)
  47. Date nights (whether they are in PJs on the couch with a movie or out to a nice dinner)
  48. Watching kids enjoy their first birthday cake
  49. Blowing out candles and making a wish on your birthday
  50. The way New Year feels (like a fresh start)
  51. Opening a present
  52. When someone helps you bring your groceries to the car
  53. The smile of a stranger
  54. A home-cooked meal brought to you in a time of need
  55. A phone call when you need it
  56. When your husband picks up pizza and doesn't make you cook
  57. Shopping at Lifeway Christian store by myself
  58. When all the laundry is caught up and the baskets are empty
  59. Fresh sheets on the bed
  60. Staying in a hotel and having someone else make the bed and straighten up behind you
  61. The way the floor looks right after it's swept or vacuumed
  62. Holding hands with my husband
  63. Hugs
  64. A good piece of pie (cherry or apple please)
  65. Staying in PJs all day
  66. Having just enough space to fit stuff
  67. A sleeping baby/child
  68. Willow Tree figurines
  69. Vera Bradley bags
  70. Watching home movies and/or looking at photo albums/scrapbooks
  71. Making a scrapbook
  72. Telling stories about the past and laughing
  73. Surprising someone (or being surprised)
  74. Coloring with kids
  75. Playing with playdoh with kids
  76. Baking all day
  77. Cooking a meal and everyone loving it (especially when they get 2nds or 3rds even)
  78. Sweet tea from Bojangles
  79. When people remember I don't like ice in my drinks
  80. Treating someone to a meal
  81. Writing a note to someone
  82. CHRISTmas photo cards (I love seeing pictures of people's family)
  83. Going to the park in the Spring
  84. Getting a project done
  85. Marking things off a to-do list
  86. Great upbeat music during a workout
  87. Being done with a workout ;)
  88. When Luke makes me a picture or card
  89. When Lee handwrites me a note
  90. Going on vacation
  91. When Lee is off work for 2 weeks at CHRISTmas
  92. Hot cocoa in the winter
  93. Trying a new recipe and it being a success
  94. Tickle fights
  95. Running through the sprinkler
  96. Sledding
  97. Finding an old friend on Facebook
  98. When Lee says "How can I help you?"
  99. Purple
  100. Butterflies

YAY! I did it. Can't wait to see yours. Email me at Ashley-webber@hotmail.com if you do it and feel like sharing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

10,000 Hits Giveaway

In roughly 100 more hits, Organized Homemaking will have 10,000 hits. That is so cool to me. So I am going to do a giveaway. The prize will be a gift card to the grocery/drug store of the winner's choosing. :)

You can enter a myriad of ways:
1) Leave a comment on this post of what you like about Organized Homemaking.
2) Post about it on your blog or Facebook and leave a comment on this post saying that you did.
3) Start following the blog and post saying you did (you can also comment if you are already a follower).
4) Get a friend to start following the blog and post saying you did (have the friend comment as well so they can enter).
5) Get a friend to comment that they checked out the blog (have them mention you and you will be entered as well).

So you can enter up to 3 times for yourself and as many times as a friend follows or checks out the blog. Good luck!!!

PS The giveaway ends midnight Sunday night. That's 3 days to enter and have your friends enter for you/themselves as well.

Putting Babies/Kids on a Schedule/Routine

Let me preface by saying, I understand that there are a million ways to parent and not everyone agrees on every method (hence the reason there are so many). I also know that what works for one parent/family/baby/situation doesn't always work for another parent/family/baby/situation. All of that being said, everyone knows how much I love organization and schedules/routines, so naturally I try my best to schedule/routinize my babies/children.

I am a huge proponent for the method presented in the Growing Kids God's Way series (AKA Baby Wise/Toddler Wise/Preschool Wise). Basically they use parent directed feeding (PDF). It doesn't mean that you have to absolutely stick to a strict routine, but it helps you organize your baby/child's day so that they are fed, played with, have their hygiene needs met, get adequate sleep, and grow and develop properly. You use your parental instincts and listen to your child, but generally speaking you direct their day/life.

It starts when they are born. You make sure that they get a good feeding (which is difficult at first), change their diaper, and put them to sleep (most babies are already asleep). You wake them every 3 hours (give or take 30 minutes) and repeat the cycle. They generally eat 8 times a day. As they develop more and are more alert, you make sure that they get a good feeding, change their diaper, play with them for about 30 minutes (give or take), and put them to sleep (watch for sleepy cues - rubbing eyes, fingers in mouth, fussy). You gradually change to a 4 hour routine and they start sleeping through the night. As they get older, you drop naps, add food, and do different things, but the premise is that you aim to have a consistent routine each day (especially for waking up, going to bed, naps, meals, bathtimes, outings, specific playtimes, etc).

We have followed all of the books in the series with Luke and he has done so great. He generally knows what to expect each day and it really helps him. We are following it with Nathan and given that he was 5 weeks early and I didn't start the method until almost 2 months old, he is doing great. He is sleeping 7-8 hours each night and generally goes 3 hours between daytime feedings.

Here is what his schedule looks like (in case anyone wants to see):

Roughly 8:00am - Wakes up, eats bottle, gets diaper changed, plays
Roughly 9:00am - Goes down for a nap
Roughly 11:00am - Wakes up, eats bottle, gets diaper changed, plays
Roughly 12:00pm - Goes down for a nap
Roughly 2:00pm - Wakes up, eats bottle, gets diaper changed, plays
Roughly 3:00pm - Goes down for a nap
Roughly 5:00pm - Wakes up, eats bottle, gets diaper changed, plays
Roughly 6:00pm - Goes down for a nap
Roughly 8:00pm - Wakes up, eats bottle, gets bath, gets in sleep clothes, gets rocked
Roughly 9:00pm - Goes to bed
Roughly 11:00pm - Wakes up (we wake him up), gets diaper changed, eats bottle, gets rocked
Roughly 11:30pm - Goes to bed (for the night)
If he wakes at night, he just eats a bottle and goes right back to sleep

We let him nap in his swing during the day. After his bath, he gets put in his sleep clothes (onesie and sleep sack/gown), gets rocked, and gets put in his crib to sleep. After his last feeding of the night, he gets swaddled and put in his crib. I think these specific things help him to know day versus night and when he is supposed to sleep longer.

Of course if he wakes early (30 minutes or less), I give him a few minutes and see if he goes back to sleep, but if he doesn't, I will go ahead and feed him. If he wakes up sooner than 30 minutes early, I give him some time to cry and go back to sleep. I never let him cry more than 15 minutes. I figure he might be hungry if he wakes up. Babies go through growth spurts or could need a diaper change/burp or just some comfort. That's the part that is pure parenting - knowing (or attempting to find out) what your child needs.

You don't just blindly follow the schedule and not understand your child. I think that's why GKGW/BW has gotten negative feedback at times. People assume you have to just make a strict schedule and follow it no matter what making your child miserable all day. I don't recommend following any book or method unless it works for you. You are the parent and you should do what you think is right and what works for you. This has just worked for us and I wanted to share. I have countless friends who it has worked for as well. Hope that has helped.

In case you want to know Luke's schedule, here it is:
Roughly 7:30am - Wakes up, eats breakfast, gets dressed
Roughly 8:00am - Plays while I feed Nathan, plays with Nathan
Roughly 9:00am - Plays, does art, etc
Roughly 11:00pm - Plays while I feed Nathan, plays with Nathan
Roughly 12:00pm - Eats lunch, homeschools
Roughly 2:00pm - Plays while I feed Nathan, plays with Nathan
Roughly 3:00pm - Goes down for a nap (yes, my 5 year old still naps everyday)
Roughly 5:30pm - Wakes up, plays with Nathan
Roughly 7:00pm - Eats dinner, plays with daddy
Roughly 8:30pm - Gets ready for bed (cleans up toys, takes a bath, PJs, teeth, books, prayers)
Roughly 9:30pm - Bedtime

Prepping Ahead for Dinner

Let me preface by saying that I don't do this everyday, but when I can, I go ahead and lay out the stuff that I can during the day for that night's dinner. Now that I have a baby to feed every 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours, I am usually pretty busy right before I cook dinner, so I do this to save myself the time of getting everything out so I just have to focus on making dinner really quick.

Today I laid out:
Dinner plates, napkins, and silverware (Luke sets the table which helps me out)
A pan lined with foil to bake the pork chops in
The honey baked pork chops (thawing out in the white bowl)
My pampered chef microwave cooker (I LOVE THAT THING!) and can opener for the canned peas & corn
A measuring cup for the water as well as a pot for the wild rice

PS I am really looking forward to dinner tonight. I love this recipe.

Changing Sheets

I cannot tell you how many times I would go to change the sheets and launder them and forget about them in the laundry machines or get them done and forget to put them back on the bed. Then at bedtime, when we were already exhausted, we would have to put new sheets on the bed. It was quite frustrating.

So now I have two sets of sheets (or more for babies) for each bed. When I take one set off to wash, I put the clean set on the bed and make the bed before I even start laundering the dirty set. When that set is done (no rush really), I just fold it and put it away for the next time I change sheets.

I have found this to be really helpful and to make our home more peaceful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lunch

Even though I am a big planner, I am not super good at planning meals. Like I've said before, I don't like to think too far ahead and know what I am going to eat because I get bored of the meal I plan and want something different. I don't really know why I am like that, I just am. I am the same way when it comes to lunch.

So here's what I do for lunches:

I keep a ton of different things on hand:
Bread - loaf bread, sometimes english muffins or pita bread
Deli meats - turkey, ham, roast beef
Cheeses - sliced and string
Fruits - apples, bananas, clementines, grapes, pineapple
Eggs - hardboiled (for egg salad)
Canned tuna and chicken (for tuna and chicken salad)
Hummus
Baby carrots and ranch dressing
Yogurts
Canned soups (or homemade)
Crackers (for the hummus or tuna/chicken salad)
Chips or pretzels or salty, crunchy things
Peanut butter and jelly
Mac n cheese
Condiments - mayo, mustard, vinegar (for the egg salad)

Each day I make:
Some sort of sandwich (PB&J, grilled chesse, deli meat and cheese) OR hummus and chicken/tuna salad and crackers
Some sort of fruit
Sometimes we have soup
Yogurt or string cheese
Chips/pretzels/crackers
Sometimes a little treat

Sometimes I eat dinner leftovers if we have them and they sound good.
Sometimes we have mac n cheese and fruit.

We just throw together whatever sounds good each day.

What do you do for lunches? Do you have great "brown bag" options?

Stoplight Spaghetti Sauce

I love spaghetti (and all Italian food)! I think I love spaghetti so much because it is a great freezer meal, tastes awesome when eaten leftover, and most people like it. This is one recipe that I love because it is full of good, healthy stuff. I call it "Stoplight Spaghetti Sauce" because it has red, yellow, and green peppers. It is so healthy because it has tri-colored peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, and crushed tomatoes. I use olive oil to saute everything in and lean ground beef or turkey to save fat and calories.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
Salt & pepper
28-32 oz crushed tomatoes
Sage, oregano, & garlic salt
Red, yellow, & green peppers, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1lb ground beef or turkey
1 jar regular spaghetti sauce (not pictured)

Directions:

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

Add carrots and salt & pepper and cook until carrots are tender.

Add crushed tomatoes and sage, oregano, & garlic salt and simmer on low.

Saute onions and peppers in olive oil until tender.

Add to sauce.

Saute ground beef or turkey and add to sauce.

Add jar of spaghetti sauce.
Simmer sauce at least an hour.
Serve over your favorite pasta. I prefer whole-wheat rotini.
To Freeze:
Let sauce cool completely. Put in a freezer container or bag and put in fridge until cold. Put in freezer. When you are ready to eat, just thaw and heat and serve over pasta.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Making Little Things Special

I love making holidays, events, and birthdays special. I can still remember my mom making heart shaped waffles for me on my birthday (my birthday is the day before Valentine's). I hope and pray my kids will one day look back and remember the special things we did for them on their birthdays and holidays.

My son, Luke, turned 5 this past weekend (yes I can't believe it). He loves pancakes (and all breakfast foods a lot). So I made pancakes using the recipe I shared earlier this week. I then took a cookie cutter in the shape of a 5 (I have cookie cutters for all holidays/seasons and the alphabet and numbers) and made him special pancakes. He loved them. Here they are:

It doesn't have to be something elaborate. This only took me an extra couple of minutes, but it was worth it to see his face.

Teaching Our Children About Thank You Notes

I think that thank you notes are so important. When someone gives you a gift or does something nice for you like bring a meal when you have a baby, I think it is so nice to send a thank you note. They don't have to be long drawn out paragraphs, just a couple of sentences. They don't have to be super deep, just something simple to say "Thanks."

I think it is really important to teach our children to write thank you notes. This year since Luke can write, I decided to have him help me. I pulled out some handwriting sheets and had him put the person's (or in this case persons') name(s) at the top and sign his name at the bottom. Then I filled in the message. As he gets older, he will be writing the notes all by himself.

The ironic thing is that our weekly Bible verse is "be thankful" (Colossians 3:15). It was nice to have a tangible way to teach him what thankfulness is and how to show it.

Here is one of the thank you notes we wrote:

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I used the create your own muffin recipe and made apple cinnamon muffins this morning.

Here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 apple

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk dry in a medium bowl.
Whisk wet in a large bowl.
Add dry to wet and whisk (if too dry add a little more milk).
Peel and dice apple.
Add apple to muffin mix and stir.
Spray muffin tin with cooking spray (or use muffin cups).
Using 1/3 measuring cup to evenly spoon muffin mix into 12 muffin cup tin.
Bake for 15-20 minutes (until done throughout).
Enjoy! :)

Tips:
If you want these yummy muffins and are short on time in the morning, you could make them the night before and heat them in the microwave.
If you want these yummy muffins and are short on time in the morning, you can lay out everything you need - muffin tin, two mixing bowls, measuring spoons (tsp, 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup), measuring cup, whisk, chopping board, peeler, knife, dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg), and vegetable oil.
Set the table the night before - plates, napkins, and cups.

Create an Oatmeal Packet

Those individual oatmeal packets are great on a busy morning. Oatmeal is so healthy and satisfying. Those packets can be expensive unless they are on sale and you have a coupon. Here is a very inexpensive way to make your own oatmeal packets. I love it because it is easy and the options are endless with oatmeal.

CREATE AN OATMEAL PACKET

Ingredients:
2 cups quick-cooking oats, unpowdered
1 cup quick-cooking oats, powdered
Salt
8 plastic sandwich bags

Directions:
Put 1 cup of the oats into a food processor and powder.
Put ¼ cup unpowdered oats, 2 Tbsp powdered oats, and little bit of salt into each bag.
Store in an airtight container.

To Serve:
Empty packet into a bowl.
Add ¾ cup boiling water.
Stir and let stand for 2 minutes.

Options:
Apple Cinnamon – 1 Tbsp sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp chopped dried apple
Sweetened – 1 Tbsp sugar
Cinnamon Spice – 1 Tbsp sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg
Raisins and Brown Sugar – 1 Tbsp brown sugar and 1 Tbsp raisins
Fruit and Cream – 1 Tbsp dry milk and 2 Tbsp dried fruit (or fresh after cooking)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Create a Muffin

This is an awesome recipe because you can make a million (well maybe not a million, but a lot) of combinations. I love recipes like that because you can mix and match and come up with a ton of variations.

CREATE A MUFFIN

Ingredients:

Grain – 2 - 2 ½ cups white flour
(May substitute 1 cup with oatmeal, cornmeal, wheat flour, rye flour, or flake cereal)

Milk – 1 cup milk
(May substitute fruit juice for all or part)

Fat – ¼ cup vegetable oil or 4 Tbsp melted butter

Egg – 1 egg

Sweetener – 2 Tbsp – ½ cup sugar or ¾ cup brown sugar or ½ cup honey or molasses (Decrease milk to ¾ cup with honey or molasses)

Baking Powder – 2 tsp
(If using whole grains 3 tsp)

Salt – ½ tsp

Optional (Additional) Ingredients:
(Can use up to 1 ½ cups total – if using more than 1 cup wet, decrease milk to ½ cup)

Dry Additions –
Nuts, raisins

Moist Additions –
Blueberries, chopped apple

Wet Additions –
Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed/cooked sweet potato, mashed banana

Spices –
Any that will compliment additions (ie 1 tsp cinnamon with ¼ tsp nutmeg)

Jellies or Jams –
1 tsp in between halves of muffins (fill half, jelly, fill rest)

Topping –
Cinnamon sugar, chopped nuts, oatmeal

Non Sweet Combinations –
½ cup shredded cheese, 3 strips cooked crumbled bacon, 2 Tbsp grated onion,
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Directions:
Fill greased or lined muffin tins 2/3 full.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Pancakes and Waffles

I know a lot of people love instant pancake and waffle mix but I have always found it to be too tough. I decided to search the internet for a good recipe. I tried this one and it is a hit. It makes the fluffiest pancakes. It's really easy and for waffles you just add an extra tablespoon of oil.

Pancakes and Waffles

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp oil (4 Tbsp for waffles)
1 1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Directions:
In a bigger bowl whisk egg, milk, and oil.
In another bowl whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
Mix until combined (don't overmix).

Pancake Cooking Directions:
Heat griddle to 350.
Spray cooking spray.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour onto griddle.
Cook on one side until it bubbles.
Flip and cook until done.

Waffle Cooking Directions:
Heat waffle iron.
Spray cooking spray.
Using 1/3 cup measuring cup, pour onto iron.
Cook until done.

Enjoy! :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

French Toast

My husband loves french toast. He orders it everytime we go to a breakfast place. I found the perfect recipe and it is so yummy and really easy.

Ingredients:
Thick white bread
Eggs
Milk
Vanilla
Cinnamon sugar

The ratio is for every 2 slices of bread use 1 egg, 1/4 cup milk, a splash of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon sugar. If you do that, you will have just enough mixture to soak the french toast.

Directions:
Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon sugar (makes sure it is really well mixed - no egg clumps).
Heat the griddle to 350.
Rub the griddle down with butter (or spray with cooking spray).
Soak each piece of bread and let excess fall off.
Cook on each side until brown.
Serve with powdered sugar and syrup.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And the Winner Is...

ERIN!!!

Erin, congrats on being the winner of the random drawing.

I went to a random number generator online and 1 was the number it drew.

You have won "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time."

Please e-mail me at ashley-webber@hotmail.com with your mailing address so I can get the book to you ASAP. I know you are going to love it.

Thank you to everyone for your awesome feedback. I thoroughly enjoy writing this blog and my prayer is that it helps others. You guys are awesome!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Organized Bottle Cleaning and Making

One of my big tasks that I get to do each day is pump, store milk, make bottles, feed bottles, and wash bottles. I was pumping every time Nathan would have eaten but I have cut down to 3 times a day now. I am eventually going to stop altogether, but for now I am getting enough to put 2 oz in each bottle (he takes roughly 4-5 oz in total).

Here is how I do it:

I only wash and make bottles once a day so as I use bottles and pumping supplies, I rinse them and put them in the left side of my sink.


I scrub them down with dish soap and a bottle brush and put them in the right side of the sink (I put a stopper in to make sure the nipples don't go down the drain.


I rinse them and put them on the bottle drying racks.

I put the milk in a measuring cup (so I can wash the pump bottles).

I line up all the empty bottles to fill with breastmilk.

I fill all of the bottles with 2oz each.

Here's what they look like when I am done. I then put 2 in the mini fridge in our room (for middle of the night feedings) and the rest in the main fridge in the kitchen.

When it is time to make a bottle, I have water and formula on the counter.

I add the water and formula.

Feeding time :)

I know it seems like a lot of work pumping, storing, making bottles, feeding bottles, and washing bottles, but it is worth it to give Nathan every ounce of my milk that I can for as long as I can.

Organized Homeschooling

I know that homeschooling doesn't really fall under the umbrella of homemaking, but it is one of the things that I am passionate about and takes up my day. I thought that I would do a post about how I homeschool (organized, of course).

Luke is almost 5 years old. I have been officially homeschooling (as in using worksheets) since he was about 4 years old. Before that he learned through living. This year (his last year before starting kindergarten) we are following Sonlight curriculum. We do the CORE P4/5 which covers history, science, language arts, social studies, and learning skills. We read a ton of books including the Bible everyday. It's awesome curriculum. I love it because it is all set up and organized for 36 weeks of curriculum which is what is required down the road. We also do Handwriting Without Tears K, Horizons Math K, and Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.

Since I am the type of person who has to have everything organized, I sit down for a few hours and put all of my curriculum together and make a nice chart to follow. I find that if I do it all at once I get through the stress and then I just pull what I need each day. I know when it becomes more intense, I will probably have to do my lesson planning by quarter or month or week even, but for now, I just do it once for the year.

Here is our homeschool spot in the bonus room:

My awesome mother-in-law gave us this great table and chairs to use. It's perfect because the table has a leaf to make it bigger or smaller and 4 chairs. Right now it is pushed against the wall to give the kids more play room, but down the road we might pull it out as God-willing we have more kids to homeschool. That is my precious son, Luke.

This is our bulletin board:

We use this to post what we are working on for the week. The top left is our number of the week (eventually that will be our letter of the week). The top right is where we put Luke's picture of the day's Bible story. That was the Tower of Babel. The bottom right is where our Bible verse for the week as well as Luke's picture of it goes. In the middle we have a compilation sheet (we just finished our short vowel sounds so he made a nice picture of them). In the bottom left is our basic schedule. Above that is the letter of the day (we are reviewing sounds letters make to prep for reading). I can't possibly put all of his work up there, so we pick the main stuff. His math and learning skills worksheets go in a pile on the shelf.

This is one of my shelves for homeschool materials (this holds our current curriculum):

It has all the books from Sonlight as well as our Horizons, HWT, and OPGTTR stuff. The shelf below it holds our daily folders and Sonlight binder.

Here are our daily folders:

We have five folders (one for each day of the week). On each folder I have a rundown of what we do on that designated day (ie Monday is CORE P4/5 and Reading, Tuesday is CORE P4/5, Handwriting, and Math). In the folders I have all the worksheets (math, handwriting, and learning skills) we will use on that day for the whole year (I paperclip them by category so they are easy to pull from).

Here is what the table looks like before we start:

I lay out the Sonlight binder, our daily folder (today we are doing two days since I have a medical test tomorrow), blank paper for drawing, markers and crayons, and our Sonlight books.

Here is my Sonlight binder:

It tells us what books (stories) we are reading, what learning worksheets we are doing, as well as our Bible verse and song for the week. It also has creative ideas to expand our learning.

Here is Luke coloring a picture of the Bible story we just read (Abraham):

Here is Luke doing a learning skills worksheet (coloring in the lines):

Here is Luke doing a math worksheet:

The reason I am a homemaker isn't to keep my house clean or meals on the table every night. The real reason is so I can be with my children everyday raising them to be Godly people who have strong morals and teach them as well. I love homeschooling. I hope you have enjoyed a peek into how we homeschool.

Folding Laundry

As you know I love to save time in anything that I am doing. When it comes to folding laundry, I have found a few tricks to getting it done even faster.

Tip #1 - Pull it out ASAP when it is done drying to avoid ironing/wrinkled clothes.

Tip #2 - Sort it into piles of similar items (ie put all the full-sized towels in a pile, all the hand towels in a pile, and all the washclothes in a pile). Then fold each mini pile. Your brain works faster when it does the same thing over and over plus you are folding the items into one pile instead of looking for the spot to put it.

Tip #3 - Have a basket for each room. As you fold clothes, put them in the appropriate basket. That way you can just take that basket to the right room.

Tip #4 - Have other people help you ;)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Things Are Crazy

Sometimes you have crazy days, or weeks, or even months. Having just come off a twin pregnancy, dealing with the loss of my baby, and having a newborn, my life has been unpredictable, emotional, and at times, down right depressing hindering my motivation to do much of anything.

I had people in and out of my house for 6 weeks taking over my usual tasks which I was super thankful for, but it made me quite dependent and then the people were gone and I had to figure out how to do it all on my own again. Then we had Thanksgiving, all of the CHRISTmas stuff, CHRISTmas, and New Year's.

I finally feel like we are settling into our new life with two children. It's tough accepting that I don't have Alexis, but I am learning to accept it a little more each day. There are days when I get so sad and depressed that I just can't function minus taking care of the kids. I think that is normal.

I have decided that instead of pressuring myself to have the perfect house and schedule, that I am going to just focus on getting a few things accomplished each day. Here are those things:

1) Take care of Luke and Nathan - Feed them, play with them, relax with them, take care of their personal hygiene needs.

2) Homeschool Luke - It only takes 30-45 minutes a day, so if I get behind we can just double up one day. Before it would upset me if we didn't do it every day, but now I realize that some days it's just not the right day.

3) Cook dinner - My goal is to cook every night (minus church night and eating out night).

4) Do some laundry - My goal is to keep the laundry caught up doing roughly a load or two each day.

5) Straighten up frequently used spaces - Den, kitchen, master bed, homeschool space.

6) Keep the kitchen cleaned and useable - Wash dishes, load/unload dishwasher, wipe counters/table, and sweep.

7) Wash bottles/pump supplies - I just rinse all the stuff during the day and then wash it all one time a day.

8) Pump 3x a day - I have decided that being attached to my pump 7 times a day is ridiculous and made me more depressed. I'd rather spend that time with my family. So now I am pumping in the morning, before bed, and once during the day. I know my milk supply won't be as good, but I am fine with doing some formula to supplement.

9) Make bottles - I make 7-8 bottles one time a day. I put 2oz of pumped breastmilk in them and put them in the fridge. When we need one, we add 2oz water and a scoop of formula.

10) Relax, rest, sleep, and spend time with Lee - Downtime is essential to functioning. Lee does the last feeding of the night (around 11 or 12) and then I do the middle of the night feeding. It helps me get more sleep.

I know that it helps me to have things to accomplish each day in order to feel better but putting too much pressure on myself can stress me out. I don't want to have extra stress while I have Nathan and am still grieving my loss of Alexis. I am thankful that God has taught me so much through all of this.

What are your must-dos for each day?

Cleaning the Powder Room

I started a series a long time ago on how to clean each individual room. I am going to pick that back up now and hope to keep it up until each room is done.

Today's room is the powder room or the bathroom that guests use when they come over. In this case I am going to assume it just has a sink, toilet, and mirror.

Here is how I detail clean my guest bathroom:

Step #1 - I take everything off of the surfaces (toilet paper rolls, tissue box, soap dispenser, etc).

Step #2 - I put toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet (that way it starts working while I clean other things).

Step #3 - I spray bathroom (or all purpose) cleaner all over the sink and toilet.

Step #4 - I use the toilet bowl brush to scrub the toilet bowl and surrounding areas.

Step #5 - I take a sponge and scrub the sink and toilet until it is sparkling.

Step #6 - I use glass cleaner and a paper towel and clean the mirror. I take the somewhat used paper towels and wipe dry the sink and toilet to make it useable and look even cleaner.

Step #7 - I refill everything (soap, tissues, toilet paper, etc) and change the hand towel.

Step #8 - I empty the trash.

Step #9 - I sweep and vacuum the floor.

Step #10 - I mop the floor.

Cleaning the powder room is really important because this is where people will be using the bathroom when the visit your home. I like to keep an eye on this room throughout the week and if I notice it looks dirty, I will run a Lysol wipe on the sink and toilet and use some glass cleaner and paper towels to clean the mirror. I also like to empty the trash as needed (especially if I know people are coming over). I like to keep it fully stocked and even like to keep feminine hygiene products in there in case a guest needs it.

I would love to hear how you clean your powder room.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Can't Believe It's Been a Year (Giveaway)

I can't believe it's been a year since I started Organized Homemaking. Like I always say, it took me years to become a great homemaker. When I first got married I lacked a lot of domestic skills. Lee had to teach me to separate loads of laundry (yes in college I threw it all in one load - luckily it was cold water). I couldn't cook to save my life (unless you count the microwave/reheating foods). I was horrible with money (well it was more that I had never lived on my own so I didn't pay bills or have a credit card or know how to follow a budget). I didn't have any clue how to coupon or save money (in fact I didn't know anything about couponing until a year and a half ago). I could clean really well since that was my job growing up and I was a great organizer, but otherwise I was domestically challenged.

I wanted so desperately to be a great homemaker, but my meatloaves were always mushy, our clothes were always wrinkled (if they even got done), I couldn't balance the checkbook, and I had no clue how to meal plan and grocery shop in a money-saving way.

After years of reading books and blogs, combing through cookbooks to find simple yet tasty recipes, and many trials and errors, I finally learned how to be an organized homemaker. Like I've said before, I am no June Cleaver or Martha Stewart, but I manage to keep an organized and generally clean home, have a simple yet yummy dinner most nights of the week, keep up with the ever expanding loads of laundry, and utilize coupons to save a load of money on our groceries.

I decided to start a blog because it is my heart that wives and mothers who are struggling to be the homemakers they so desire have a place to get simple ideas that they can easily implement and see big changes quickly. I wanted to share tried-and-true recipes for simple and delicious meals so that families could sit down and have a nice meal and conversation each night. I wanted to share simple couponing, meal planning, and grocery shopping techniques to cut down on time, money, and stress. I wanted to share tips on how to organize, clean, and do laundry without all the headache of wondering, "Where do I begin?" I wanted to share budgeting and bill paying tips to cut down on financial stress. Overall, I just wanted to share all of the wonderful things I have learned through all of my own failures and successes.

I hope and pray that this blog has positively impacted my followers and/or readers.

All of that being said, I would love to hear how my readers have enjoyed the blog and what you guys like and want to see this year. So if you leave a comment filling out this survey, you will be entered in a drawing to win the book, "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time" by Donna Otto.

http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Getting-More-Done-Less/dp/0736917152

Name (or a fake name if you are worried about security)?
Do you follow and/or read the blog?
How did you hear about the blog?
When did you start reading the blog?
How often do you check the blog?
What is your favorite thing about the blog (in general)?
What is your favorite thing about the blog (specifically - ie couponing, cleaning scheduling, etc)?
What is/are some thing(s) that you have learned from the blog and implemented in your home and what has/have been the result(s)?
What would you like to see more of on the blog this year?

Thanks so much for reading the blog. It is a real joy to me to be able to share it with you. I appreciate all of the love and support I have been shown from my readers. Y'all are the best!

Ashley

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Washing Dishes

I'll admit that I let my dishes pile up sometimes. It's not really that I mean to, but if the dishwasher doesn't get unloaded there isn't a place to put them, and when I am in a rush, I just start the pile. For some reason once there are a few dishes, in no time there is a massive pile.

When that happens, I have a system that helps me get them washed in no time:

First I start by unloading the dishwasher (which is the culprit behind the piles of dishes).

Then I load up glasses and cups because they usually just need a quick rinse and can be put in the dishwasher.

Then I load up any pretty clean (as in don't need to be scrubbed) dishes and utensils into the dishwasher.

Then I pull out any "deep scrub" needing things (pots, pans, really gross dishes) and put them to the side to do last.

Then I quick rinse and sponge off semi-dirty dishes and load those into the dishwasher.

Then I scrub the dirty dishes and put them into the dishwasher.

Lastly I scrub pots and pans and any other bigger things that don't go into the dishwasher.

I take the sponge and some dish soap and scrub the sink really well and wipe down around the sink.

I like to do easy things first because it makes me motivated to keep going since it quickly makes the pile not seem like a mountain.

Of course the best way to do dishes is to rinse and load as used, but in the real world that doesn't happen all the time, right? ;)

How do you "like" to do dishes?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maximizing Family Time

As per request, I am going to do a post devoted to maximizing family time. This is a great topic for me because I am all about family time. Aside from the Lord, family is top priority to Lee and myself. We are all about quantity time and quality time with our family.

How To Prioritize Family Time -

#1 - Don't Over-Commit to Things

In this busy day and age there are a million things you and your family can do from church activities to school activities to sports to social get togethers to hanging out with other friends. It's not that these things are bad, but if you aren't careful, you could all be going in 100 different directions all the time and not have time for just your family.

Lee and I make it a priority to really think about what we are doing with our time and commitments to make sure we get time as a family unit. That means we aren't excessively involved in our church (we do go every Sunday morning to worship and most Wednesday nights for the meal and classes, but we don't do choir, extra Bible studies, or too many other get togethers that pull us away from each other extra times).

We don't sign up for activities all the time. We like spending time with friends and extended family, but we don't do it excessively.

We will let the kids do activities as they get older, but not excessively. I am not sure what the rule will be yet, but we will look at each thing and the commitment level (ie how much time it takes each week) and decide if it is fruitful enough for the commitment it takes. Of course our children will do church things, sports, and activities, just not every single day of the week. And when possible, I want things to still be family time or at least more than one person in the family going (ie all of us go and cheer for Luke's sporting event or Lee and Nathan go to cub scouts together). That way we aren't split up all the time.

#2 - Have Dinner Together [Almost] Every Night

I have read a ton of parenting books and gotten tons of tips on how to have a successful family unit and one of the biggest things I have seen is how important family dinner is. We try to have dinner as a family every night. I know this isn't possible for everyone but since I stay home full-time, we only have to work around Lee's work schedule. I try to have dinner ready when he gets home so that we can all sit down and enjoy a meal together.

I know that life is going to get busier as the kids get older, but I really want to try to have family dinner every night (at least most nights), so we can all stay on the same page and know what is going on in each other's lives. It doesn't matter if it's a fancy meal, hamburger helper, take out on paper plates, or at a restaurant, family dinner is just everyone being together enjoying a meal and conversation.

On that note, we try to keep family dinner positive. We don't talk about Lee's work (unless it is good stuff) or the misbehavior of the kids all day or bad things that are going on. We try to have fun and enjoy that time together.

#3 - Spend Time Together Playing Each Night (Or at least most nights)

Again I know that isn't always possible for everyone, but Lee and I try to spend time playing with the kids after dinner each night. If you can't do every night, plan nights when you can. Designate at least one night a week for "family night." It is easier now to have this time together and I know it will get a little harder as the kids get older (especially teenagers), but I think setting aside time to play and have fun as a family is important.

I read that as your kids get older you should designate one night for "family night". No friends over, no dates, everyone is there. The book said Sunday night worked for their family because they had gone to church and usually had a lower key day and it was a school night so kids weren't going out with friends/on dates and there usually weren't activities on Sundays. I think whatever works for your family is best.

#4 - Plan Special Outings

We aren't big on going to movies since most of the movies that come out are too violent and/or sexually explicite and it costs a lot, but if there is a good family movie worth seeing, we plan it as an event. For instance, we went to see Toy Story 3 as a family this summer. When we go, we go all out. We get popcorn, candy, and drinks and just have a blast. We don't focus on the cost, we just enjoy the outing.

Same with vacations or special events like the fair. We plan ahead financially and really enjoy ourselves. I look at is as a memory making thing and I want our kids to have lots of great memories of their childhood.

Fun Family Time Ideas -

Go to the movies - Like I said above, when you hear of a great family movie coming out, go and make an experience out of it.

Go to the movies at home - Put on a great movie, snuggle on the couch with blankets and loved ones, pop popcorn, have snacks, and have fun.

Go bowling, mini golfing, or skating - It is so fun to have some healthy competition and do something that isn't just sitting.

Go out for ice cream - Lee and I love to take the kids to our favorite ice cream shop, Sunni Sky's, in the summer and sit outside and have homemade ice cream.

Make homemade ice cream - Get an ice cream machine and make your own ice cream. It's really fun to try new flavors or buy all the toppings for sundaes.

Make homemade pizza - Make (or buy) individual pizza crusts and get all the toppings prepped (I like to put them in individual bowls like a pizza parlor). Everyone rolls out their crust, adds their sauce, cheese, and toppings, and gets to enjoy their favorite pizza.

Go to the park and play (parents too!) - We love to take lunch to the park and play. Lee and I are big kids at heart and have just as much fun going on the slides and swings and playing with the kids and the kids love it.

Have a tickle fight - We love to do tickle fights. Just make sure you go potty first ;).

Go paint pottery - I love to paint pottery. I am not an artist, but there is something so fun about getting a piece of pottery and just painting it and enjoying it for years to come.

Go to the zoo/museums - Lots of places put out coupons (sometimes buy 1, get 1 free). It is so fun to walk around learning about things together.

Wash the vehicles - Put on bathing suits and wash vehicles. Mom and Dad wash the big ones and let the kids wash their bikes/trikes (or let them help with the big vehicles).

Water gun/balloon fight - Again, put on bathing suits and get water guns/balloons and have a fight in the backyard.

Pillow fight - Grab some pillows and have a great pillow fight. Set some boundaries and have fun.

Play sports in the backyard - We love to play baseball or toss the football in the backyard.

Decorate cookies - Make (or buy) cookie dough and icing and use cookie cutters and sprinkles and decorate cookies.

Volunteer - Go to a shelter and serve food, build a house for Habitat for Humanity, etc.

There are millions of things you can do with your family. Some take time, money, or a bigger commitment than others, but the main thing is that your heart is for your family and that they are your priority. I hope these ideas have gotten your juices flowing. I would love to hear how you make family time a priority and what you do with your family.

Grandma Reid's Homemade Veggie Soup

There is nothing better on a cold (especially rainy or snowy) day than a hot bowl of homemade soup. I love soup!!! This is one of my favorites because my Grandma Reid makes it and it is chock full of good veggies. Of course no one makes it like she does, but I can't get her to make it for me all the time. ;)

I like to make a big pot, eat about 1/3 (by myself) for a week for lunches and put the rest into 2 big tupperware containers and freeze it for later. If your whole family likes vegetable soup, you might want to freeze half and eat the other half for a couple of meals. I love to eat a grilled cheese with it (it's yummy dipped in it).

GRANDMA REID’S VEGGIE SOUP

Ingredients:
A few potatoes, peeled and diced
1 - 2 onions, chopped
½ - 1 head cabbage, chopped
2 - 3 carrots, diced
2 cans green beans
1 can corn
1 can peas
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste

Directions:
Combine potatoes, onion(s), cabbage, and carrots in a big pot.
Cover with water.
Cook on medium heat until softened.
Add green beans, corn, peas, and tomatoes.
Cook about 30 minutes.
Add tomato paste to thicken.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It Never Hurts to Ask

Lee and I went to take my van to get an oil change today. I always collect oil change coupons and try to only get it done when we have a good coupon. Well there is a new Firestone near our house and they send out $15 off coupons which are pretty good. I needed an inspection this month so we waited until today to go do both. Yes I like to save myself time. ;) Well the coupon expired 12/31/10. :(

I figured we could just ask if they would still honor it. I knew the worst thing they could say was "no". Well they said "yes" and we still saved the money. The thing is these stores/shops want your consistent business (hence why they send the coupons). We would have paid the $15 if we had to, but since they were so nice about it, they will be #1 on our list to get oil changes in the future.

So, it never hurts to ask. :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Trouble Spot

So no matter how organized I am, I always have a trouble spot that seems to pop up here and there. The trouble spot is a place that clutter just seems to accumulate.

For our family that spot is the cedar chest behind our couch in the living room. It is in the walkway to our kitchen and for some reason clutter just seems to find a home there and likes to stay for a while.

Mail, magazines, books, receipts, coupon inserts, paperwork, arts and crafts, homeschool papers, and other random things just seem to end up there. I need to work on keeping it clutter free since all of our family's board games are in there and I hate to have to move stuff to get to the game or say no when Luke asks to play one. I am going to really work on keeping it clutter free.

What is your trouble spot?

What are your plans to keep it clutter free?

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!! It's hard to believe that we have started another new year. Last year was probably the craziest year I've ever had. I am hoping that this year might be a little calmer. We aren't planning anything big since we just had Nathan a few months ago and have settled into our house pretty good, but I know that anything can happen.

I started the blog almost one year ago and I feel like it has gone pretty good. I hope to continue writing it on a regular basis as I really enjoy sharing things I have learned along my journey of homemaking.

What I want to know from you guys is:

1) What do you want to see on the blog?

2) What do you like most on the blog?

3) Is there anything I could improve on?

I would really love some feedback because I write this for the readers and want to share things I know you guys want to hear about. Please feel free to comment or email (ashley-webber@hotmail.com). Thanks!!!