Handy Hacks

Hack: clever or quick fix; finesse something for use in a new way–or a way to save yourself time, effort and or money.

**A huge time saving tip–brown several pounds of ground beef at once. After much trial and error, here’s the best way–put your still wrapped still frozen directly from the deep freeze beef in your crock pot; as much as will fit. Cook it on low until it’s soft enough to unwrap. Mush it around with your spoon, and cook on low for several hours until browned (My crockpot has automatic shut off so I set mine to cook overnight for 8 hours). Suck out the grease with a turkey baster and spoon in two cup increments into freezer bags. Freeze FLAT.

If you are ever running late for dinner, it takes about two minutes to defrost these. Awesome–and not much work to begin with.

**Reuse single serve applesauce containers as paint pots

**Save on paper towels by using yesterday’s newspaper or newsprint to clean windows and mirrors. The newspaper especially will keep from streaking much better than paper towels.

It’s also fun for the kids.

**Reuse a cinnamon shaker for toothpick storage. One shake and one toothpick pops out.

This also works amazingly well for toddler entertainment.

**Vinyl gutters can be re-purposed for easy access, front facing bookshelves.

**Another use for your pet kennel: Baby Jail.

**For thousands of abso-smurf-ly terrific parent related hacks, let me direct you to a clever little site called: Parent Hacks

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You Know Your Home is Organized When…

  • …the clutter is under control, the stuff is subdued, the kids know where things should go.
  • …a basic weekly schedule is in place for chores, schoolwork, shopping and other family activities.
  • …household routines are predictable so family members know what to expect most of the time.
  • …important household and home-school items can be easily located and are kept in a dedicated storage area.
  • …important information and papers are readily accessible.
  • …incoming information is quickly handled with temporary and permanent files.
  • …meals are on the table in a timely fashion.
  • …children are ready for bed at a reasonable hour.
  • …you are in bed at a not-too-unreasonable hour.
  • …you have 15-30 minutes for tea in the afternoon. 🙂

This is from Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I thought this list was particularly telling in regards to what one should expect from oneself.

And I highly recommend this book. It’s jam packed with encouragement, books, resources, information, ideas, and ideals along with whole hearted support (pun intended). It helps you see where you can do better in your realm of keeper of the home, and challenges you to do better. I can’t even begin to list all the benefit I got from this book so do yourself a favor, read it, and see for yourself.

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Apron Fancy

I like aprons. As my bloggy friend Kim says, “For quite a while I’ve been wearing an apron in the kitchen. It makes me feel like I’m a real grown up. (Yes, apparently I need props for this.) When the kids come home from school and I’m wearing my apron, I’m more likely to feel like making them a snack. When guests arrive for dinner, I like having one on because it gives the illusion I’ve been slaving over the stove – just for them. I’m a professional wife and mom, and frankly, an apron just helps me feel like it.”

But the aprons I have are kind of frumpy–even if they are vintage.

So look what I bought today!

That’s from sassyaprons on Etsy. I can’t wait to open that package…

And Aviana is now stylin’ too. I got brave and used my sewing machine. I made a pattern out of newspaper. It’s serviceable, free (material I already had on hand), and quite sassy. I need to do a lot of fixin’ on it, (like I tried to use magnets as a neck clasp which I wouldn’t recommend, and I need to fix the pocket, and I actually sewed one of the scallops on the hem straight–sodon’t look too closely). Nevertheless, I pronounce it a successful first attempt.

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What a wonderful day I had yesterday. Not to brag or anything…

Aviana and Brielle have been semi sick and cranky for almost a week. We all have had some sort of eye infections. Sunday night it seemed like I didn’t get to sleep until almost 4 a.m. because one or the other of them would cry out in her sleep or worse, fully awaken. It’s also hard to relax because of Baby C’s acrobatics and the fact that Kevin is such a heat pump, and sometimes a girl just needs space and no one breathing on her.

So yesterday…my dear mother-in-law had the day off and came over around eleven and picked up both my kiddlets. And kept them until after five!

I seriously considered lying in bed all day reading, but I decided to be productive instead.

I purged and organized the girls’ toys. I had just had bins, though labeled, with a bunch of toys in them. Some of the toys were junky, and invariably it seemed like they would just dump the entire bin on the floor, maybe play with one thing, and leave the mess. We always cleaned up before bedtime, but what an odorous task! I took a tip or two from Montessori thinking and put their toy shelves in order. I want them to be able to find what they want easily, and most especially be able to put it away!

I got all the books out of Kevin’s music room and got them organized and put away in the book nook.

I got some butterflies and maps hung that had been lying around waiting for attention for ages. (Maps? –total cost $3. D.ollar Tree: I love you. Butterflies-o.riental trading co)

I cleaned and vacuumed the entire upstairs. This is a task, I’m partially chagrined to admit, that only gets done every couple of months.

I got my scrap room organized finally. I couldn’t even see the counter before because creativity doesn’t lend itself to order. Then inspired by all the tidiness (and by that time, my back really hurt), I made 20 cards. They are all about the same, but it was a great way to use up a bunch of little pieces of paper. I scrap lifted the idea from a H.allmark card.

I made pork stir fry for dinner (and can I just say, rutabaga goes really well in stir fry).

And after bed time since Kevin had band practice I was still alone, I got started on the scrapbook baby calendar project I want to make for Baby C. The plan is to have the picture part of the calendar all made, so all I have to do each month is add some pictures for him. (We haven’t decided on a name yet…) Then I’ll record his milestones or whatever action is taking place on the date part. I got the 12×12 calendars at the Dollar Spot at Tar.get, originally to make a year in review calendar for the grandmas’ Christmas presents, but that never materialized.

It’s amazing how much I can get done without “help”.

That’s probably enough productivity to last a while.

If you need me, I’ll be on the couch with my feet up eating bon-bons (or graham crackers with frosting, ‘cuz that’s more like the girl I am).

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I have garden envy

I’m reading an awesome book right now about creating children’s space out of doors. I so wish I had the time, money and inclination to have a stream ending in a waterfall to a small one foot deep pond in my backyard replete with all varieties of plants and small woodland creatures.

Oh, the fantasies I live.

Instead I let my kids dig in the mud in the bare spots in the yard.

And call it educational. 🙂

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Gardening. Sigh.

Today in MOPS we had a speaker come talk about gardening;Tips and tricks and whatnot. It got me all ready for spring, which is a bit peculiar, considering I could hardly see driving to town this morning with all the snow, the roads were 90% ice covered, I haven’t seen anything green outside for ages and ages, and we all still have to wear layers indoors and out.

I had to go to a gardening catalogue online when I got home and make my wish list. Butterfly bushes, Bradford pears, weeping cherries, a bargain perennial garden, plants that love the sun, plants that love the shade, blueberries…sigh. I even want to put in a water garden and a patio this spring.

And then I remember how my attempts at gardening have turned out the past five summers I’ve attempted.

And how my master gardener mother-in-law just shakes her head at me and surreptitiously comes over to weed.

And how my dad takes pity on me and gives me some of the fruit of his labors.

And how I always end up at the Farmer’s Market (me- a farmer’s wife) buying vegetables to freeze.

I try to be realistic, but there is just something about planting and seeing it grow (at least until the crabgrass takes over) that makes me feel close to God, and so productive and housewife-y and farmwife-y.

Below is a recycled post from last May.

Gardening, and what it is to me

My veggies wilt and sigh

and my flowers always die

But with trowel in hand

I take a stand

and every year I try

Looking at “Birds and Blooms”

Leads to flowers that are doomed

Because unfortunately I forget

Water is an important little bit

Thus dry are my plants’ tombs

Backyard Living” I religously read

I carefully choose every seed

From poppies to daisies,

I make myself crazy,

Because then I forget to weed

So even though I’m bummed

and I feel pretty dumb

I’ll have to lay my hoe up on the shelf

and reluctantly resign myself

To the fact I don’t have a green thumb

I did have some successes this past year. Aviana and I planted some Mexican sunflowers down by our sign, and some of them grew. Also, I managed to keep alive 1/2 of my mums, and the pussy willows I planted were growing in the fall as well. I think some of the daisies survived. We grew some delicious tomatoes in the whiskey barrel.

And the carrot top Aviana and I have growing in the windowsill is looking very good!

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Today in MOPS we heard an absolutely dynamic speaker. I was truly impressed. I had not really looked forward to this meeting, because she was talking about organizing.

Last year, we had had a speaker come and talk about organizing, and she had a thinly veiled “I’m so much better than you” air about her that really got under my skin.

By nature, I’m a messy. I know however, that I function so much better and feel so much more at peace with my environment when things are tidy and in their place. It’s a constant battle for me to go against what I’d rather do –play and be lazy, and make myself do what I know I need. Plus with Kevin not seeming to care or notice that much and the girls the ages they are, simply maintaining some tidiness and organization is always an uphill (up Mt. Kilimanjaro) climb!

I perked up right away when this speaker said that her God given temperament is sanguine, just like me. (If you’re curious as to which you are, here is a quick totally not scientific test you can take which will give you a good idea and which has the strengths and weaknesses of all four temperaments on the right side) She has had to work for the last ten years on changing her style in order to be more organized. Further more, she was FUNNY! Always a huge plus for me, I immediately wanted to organize and purge my house from top to bottom.

Being around my friends also energizes me, so upon arriving home, while Aviana was sleeping, I got rid of a lot of duplicates from my drawers, and made labels for this drawer so everything will have a “home” (label maker :gift from DH)

organized the girl’s drawer, and tossed some mismatched stuff
likewise the plastic ware drawer
got all the clothes folded. (They are still on the dining room table, but hey baby steps, people, baby steps) Those baskets were all full of clean unfolded clothes and the rack so full of hanging clothes I don’t think it would have held another thing.
got out eleven pounds of ground beef to thaw with the intention of browning it all tomorrow, which will save me a lot of time in the long run when I’m preparing dinner
and cleaned out and wiped out the fridge (actually, I did this yesterday, but it seems appropriate to include it today)

But before you start worshiping the dirty lineoleum on which I tread, (Or thinking I’m a few eggs short of a dozen) I still had a mess on the counter

and the floor!
Then while Kevin took the girls upstairs, I made dinner and finished cleaning the kitchen.

All in all, a good start!

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I’m happy to brag about report all the ambition I’ve displayed today.

*I scrubbed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

Partly this was because it hasn’t been done for so long that the stickiness wouldn’t be removed by a mop unless it had a blowtorch apparatus, and partly because my mop is falling apart (which is partly why it hasn’t been done in so long. The other reason I put it off is it seems so pointless–a scant 6 hours later: cereal, crackers, spaghetti, cheese, mud, grass, dead flies, water, lemonade, juice, cantaloupe, grapes and a fit throwing small child have all made their way onto, and been painstakingly removed from, my sparkling linoleum.)

*I vacuumed the entire downstairs.

*I made all our beds.

*I organized all the toys in the girls’ room.

*I got all the preschool stuff off of the dining room table, and put away in an orderly fashion. (I award myself extra points for the orderly fashion)

*I got all the random junk cleared off the kitchen table and put away. (Again, extra points)

*I made a yummy lunch for two friends who were here to scrap and Kevin and me.
>Baked Spaghetti
>Creamy Grape Salad
>Carrot & Apple Slaw

*I did a layout in our wedding scrapbook, leaving me only two or three to complete before it’s entirely done!

*After my friends left, Aviana wanted to do some “messy preschool” so I set her up fingerpainting with corn syrup and food coloring. Extra points are awarded for keeping the baby out of it, off the table, and not getting too irritated by her incessant cry/whine when she couldn’t demolish everything as was her dream.

*And then I took them outside to play, which is a big deal for me, since my allergies seem to always insist I stay an indoor girl.

Kevin had a nice treat for Miss A too: They went fishing, just the two of them. I was so excited for her!

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