Monday, May 31, 2010

Saying Yes When Others Say No

This Memorial Day, we honor those who have said "yes" when it comes to serving our country.
This Messy Monday, I thought we would focus on the power of "yes."

In my post, Seven Habits of Highly Successful Housekeepers, habit number 3 is:
"Say yes when others say no."

Instead of seeing something that needs to be done and thinking “I’ll get to that later,” successful housekeepers respond, “Yes, I’ll do that right now.” This means they’re tidying up more often than the average housekeeper. Besides, most jobs rarely take as long as one thinks.

In an Intentional Living broadcast, Dr. Randy Carlson talked about the power of decisions. If we're disorganized, it really boils down to the fact that we have made a decision to be that way. We either make a decision to do something, or we make a decision not to do it. Ignoring it is really nothing more than choosing to say "No, not now."

How this translates into housekeeping is:

If I have a sink full of dirty dishes, and it looks messy, beyond all the excuses I could give, like "I'm tired," or "I'm too busy right now," or "I don't feel like it," the most basic reason is--I haven't done the dishes because I said no to doing the dishes. I chose to spend those 15-30 minutes a different way.

Despite my feelings about any particular task (and there are many I am obviously not very enthusiastic about, because they constantly get pushed to the back-burner), I can choose to put my feelings aside and just do it, or not do it.

If I have baskets of unfolded laundry and folded laundry sitting around, at the core, it is only sitting around because I made a decision to say no to putting it away. I chose to use my time differently. I could just as easily make a decision to choose to put the laundry away instead of doing something else for a half hour.

If I haven't mopped my floor in two weeks, it is because I made a decision not to. Sure, I could give lots of excuses, but again, the most basic reason is I made a choice to use my time differently.

When we make it so black-and-white, we can remove the excuses and realize it really is just a choice. Even when we are tired, or discouraged, or busy, and "don't feel like it," we can just choose to do it anyway and get it over with. Then we can make a decision to go do something we really want to do.

And that's why the people we will call "successful housekeepers" with consistently tidy homes understand that neatness comes by saying "yes" when others say no.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feeding Guests When You're Out of Money

Picture courtesy skenmy

There was so much month at the end of the money this month. Goodness! Several hundred dollars of mainly medical bills vacuumed up our funds until my husband's next payday (Friday--praise the Lord!). This major budget setback meant I absolutely could not go to the grocery store for "just a few things" (although I did pick up two gallons of milk, a bag of sugar, and some lettuce and spinach last week).

Concerning food, boy was I ever thankful for my shopping habits of buying extra when pantry staples hit rock-bottom prices. I knew my family would have plenty of food to eat, as long as I diligently and creatively cooked from scratch. What I didn't know was that we would have two extra adult mouths to feed every day, for every meal (another story for another time). This required even greater creativity, and even more cooking from scratch. If you don't have the money, you've gotta make the time.

When a pantry is properly stocked, a woman can cook up plenty even when the grocery money is gone. I remember a Little House episode where the Ingalls were out of just about everything, but that didn't stop Ma from feeding her family three square meals a day. One just has to become a bit more resourceful.

So what have we been eating?

Breakfasts consisted of:
  • pancakes, sausage patties
  • oatmeal
  • waffles, sausage links
  • blueberry muffins
  • homemade granola
  • french toast
  • homemade wheat toast
  • scrambled eggs, toast, canned mandarin oranges
  • To stretch our milk, I mixed up some dried milk and added that to the gallon. I also added a can of evaporated milk and one can of water to equal whole milk. Not sure that I would want to drink a cup of it now, but it is fine for making and using in soups.
  • Tuna noodle casserole, salad, watermelon
  • Macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables
  • Leftovers
  • Chicken tortellini soup, bread
  • Baked potato bar (with cheese, frozen veggies, bacon), salad
  • Sloppy Joes
  • (more that I can't remember right now!)
  • Turkey (bought after Thanksgiving), potatoes, carrots
  • Turkey noodle soup, bread
  • Chicken enchiladas, homemade salsa, chips and salad (my mother-in-law bought the salsa ingredients and salad when she was visiting)
  • Roast, potatoes, carrots
  • Beef stew from leftover roast
  • Beef Tips in gravy with noodles
  • Spaghetti, salad, homemade french bread
  • Parmesan pork chops, baked potatoes, green beans
  • Homemade pizza
  • Apple crisp
  • Texas sheet cake
  • Peanut butter Rice Krispies
  • No Bake cookies
  • Granola
  • fruit (fresh when we still had apples and bananas, dried and canned when we ran out of fresh)
  • Graham crackers--plain or with peanut butter
  • muffins
  • bread and butter/peanut butter
There's so many other ideas, too. As long as you have flour, some sugar/honey, a little milk and some eggs, you can make so many breakfasts and snacks: coffee cakes, muffins, pancakes, crepes, waffles, biscuits, tortillas, and more.

Potatoes were recently on sale for .98-cents for a 10 pound bag. You can do so much with potatoes: mashed; potato pancakes/patties; make your own hashbrowns; bake them; use them in casseroles, egg dishes (see my recipe for Tortilla Espanola), or soup, and on and on.

I love to buy oats in bulk, and I am feeling blessed that I stocked up. I've made not only oatmeal, but also granola, no bake cookies, and an apple crisp. You could make a meatloaf if you had a little ground beef.

At the last case lot sale, I purchased flour, evaporated milk, mandarin oranges, and some vegetables. These, too, were wise investments. I am grateful I have them on hand to get us by when we don't have money on hand!

Through a little ingenuity and, admittedly, a fair share of time in the kitchen, it is indeed possible to feed guests well even when the money's tight. Practicing hospitality is always in style no matter what is going on in the economy.  These are good habits to learn and live by!

linked to Frugal Friday and Menu Plan Monday

Homemaking Rules To Live By

Coffee Talk Thursday

Messy Monday merges with Coffee Talk Thursday this week!

Housekeeping habits sure vary from person to person and home to home. We can learn from others' good habits, and seeing bad habits reminds us what to teach our children not to do.

As I think about the housekeeping habits I want my children to abide by, it is my hope that they will help my children to someday be great roommates and super spouses.

So here's my list of "Homemaking Rules To Live By" (I'm sure I'm forgetting some):
  1. Do not put your plates, cups, and silverware in the sink, for someone to wash later. Either load stuff immediately into the dishwasher, or wash it, dry it, and put it away. Do not assume someone else will do this for you. It makes more work for someone else.
  2. After a meal, always ask if there's anything you can do to help.
  3. Always thank the cook for the meal.
  4. Clothes either go in the hamper at the end of the day, or back in a drawer or closet if they can be worn again. Do not just drop your things on the floor.
  5. If you take a hand towel off the towel bar, hang it back on the bar neatly.
  6. If you take clothes out of the dryer, do not just throw them in a heap on top of the dryer. They will wrinkle. Either lay them flat, or better yet, fold them neatly. Imagine what a pleasant surprise this will be for the person (college student, fellow renter, or even just Mom!) who finds them that way.
  7. If you use the last of the toilet paper, change the roll.
  8. Do not eat the last of anything without asking first if you may. Perhaps someone else wanted the last piece too.
  9. Be considerate with the noise level of music/TV/etc.
  10. If you notice that something around the house needs to be done, be a good servant and just go ahead and do it.
  11. Put shoes where they go...neatly. Don't just kick them off by the door.
  12. Return used items to where they belong when finished.
  13. If you make a mess, clean it.
Those are some of my biggies that I'm working on instilling in my boys. Since it's Coffee Talk Thursday, I'd love to hear yours!
Have a great day!

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    PB Baked Oatmeal

    You may already have a baked oatmeal recipe in your repertoire. It's a fairly easy and nutritious breakfast dish that is pretty easy to put together. But here's a baked oatmeal recipe with a twist: peanut butter--just a small amount, so the flavor is subtle. It comes from our church cookbook.

    PB Baked Oatmeal
    • 3 c. oats
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 c. milk
    • 1/4 c. peanut butter
    • 1/2 c. oil
    • 1/2 c. honey
    • 2 beaten eggs
    Preheat oven to 350. Combine oats, baking powder, salt, milk and peanut butter. In separate bowl, combine oil, honey, and eggs. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

    One of my friends even makes this for an after-school snack for her kids. Give it a try sometime! You'll be glad you did!

    linked to Tasty Tuesday

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Frugal Pedicures

    With the arrival of warmer weather (finally!), it is time to think about our toes. What mom is not on her feet all day long? My feet are often quite tired and sore at the end of the day. Even if you do not wear open-toe sandals, a good old fashioned pedicure always revives the spirits. But paying for a pedicure can take a bite out of the budget.

    I'm on the left, my sisters on the right, my baby in the middle

    The cheapest professional pedicure in our town still costs $25 (the local beauty school charges $17). While my sisters were visiting, I thought it would be fun to take them out for a pedicure. Unfortunately, some unexpected big bills came calling, and I didn't have the money right now to spend $75 plus tip for a fun sister-time treat.

    Yet, that did not mean we had to forgo the pedicures--just not at the salon.

    One of my friends has her cosmetology license and took us with her to the beauty supply store, where all the salon products are sold. We picked up a travel pedicure kit for $11 and a new OPI polish each at half the price they are in the salons. Then, enjoying the sunshine, nice music, and iced coffees/waters, we did our pedicures at home. We still had fun--perhaps even more fun, and saved a bunch of money.

    Being frugal does not mean missing out on fun experiences; it just means getting creative at how you can have the experience for less.

    You could even do a pedicure more frugally than we did. You can soak in a few drops of tea tree oil, or even baby wash (a suggestion from my cosmetologist-friend). Instead of buying a scrub, you can make your own out of salt. Plain old regular salt, with a bit of water to make a paste. And I'm sure we all have tons of extra lotions lying around.

    If you haven't already, I encourage you to give yourself a pedicure asap. You could even get some friends together and show them that frugal really is cool!

    Linked to Frugal Friday.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    The Grouchy Ladybug

    Photo by joka2000

    As a mom, have you ever felt like the grouchy ladybug in Eric Carle's book of the same title? I sure have lately.

    I'm realizing that my children need near constant-supervision at this stage in their little lives. I turn my back for just one instant (which as moms, we need to do. Dishes don't do themselves), and I regret it later. If it's not writing on walls, putting mascara on the couch and door, ripping dollars from their piggy banks, filling the bathroom sink and splashing the water with tsunami force, climbing on the counter for candy, or pinching/hitting/biting a brother, it's something else I could never anticipate. And it makes me grouchy.

    Feelings follow thoughts. At least that's what Dr. Laura Schlessinger told a caller today on her radio program. What this means for me as a mom is--if I am thinking about how resentful I am at my children's childish behavior and misbehavior, then I am going to feel angry and grouchy. All day long. And these feelings will probably continue to grow, as I don't see an immediate end to their antics.

    Instead of resenting that children cross the line, rather than tow the line, I need to remember that my job is to consistently teach the line. I can't expect them to automatically know that finding the car wash soap in the garage and "washing" the pavement, bicycle seats, the new easel--just about everything but the car (no rinsing either--just smearing concentrated soap all over everything) is not something they should be doing, and that green tire slime for fixing holes is not meant for finger-painting. Then once I've taught them not to do things like this, I can discipline them for crossing that line again.

    Sometimes bad days just happen. Sometimes we have less tolerance for childish misbehavior, especially when it is sustained throughout the day. That's why we are all moms in need of mercy. Thank God that He gives us grace and mercy to help us in our time of need.

    When a bad day can't be immediately transformed, may we endure patiently. May we not become irritated that we must consistently lead them into proper behavior and discipline them away from wrong behavior. Left to themselves, most children become wayward. The Proverbs talk about this, and I see it in my own home.

    I'm going to try my hardest to remember these lessons, and that my job as a mom is to provide constant leadership so my children grow into well-behaved adults. I cannot think, and then feel, like they should just know--and then do--the rights things all day long. Despite keeping this in the forefront of my thoughts, I am sure I will still have grouchy days. Just so long as the grouchy ladybug doesn't stick around for long. Tomorrow is a new day!
    Since it's Coffee Talk Thursday, I'd love to hear what helps you when you have a grouchy/exasperated day.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Messy Monday: Take Five!

    Today is my five-year old's birthday and also the last day my family from out of town is visiting. I thought I would repost a principle that has helped me so much. It allows us to break things up in bite size pieces and makes an immediate, visible difference.

    An easy and effective principle that can help us clear the clutter in our homes slowly but surely--and then keep them clean consistently--is to “take five.” My friend brainstormed this principle, and I’d love to share it with you! Each time you enter a room in your house, do five things. It’s as simple as that!

    So let’s say you head to the bathroom and you see stray items on the counter. Take five of them and put them away. If there aren’t five, put away however many there are (let’s say two—a curling iron and a hair brush), and then wipe out the sink, clean the mirror, empty the trash—whatever adds up to five things.

    From the bathroom, you enter your bedroom. Take a minute to find five quick things to do and do them. Make the bed (if you haven’t already), put your clothes hanging over the chair away, pick up the socks on the floor and put them away, throw the wet diaper on the floor beside your bed away, and put the laundry in the basket by your bed away (disclaimer: these real-life examples from my life may not necessarily reflect your experience and should be modified accordingly) :).

    As clutter starts to disappear, “taking five” in each room will get a little more intense. You can get to that deeper cleaning as you have to look harder to find five things to do. When your kitchen counter is clear and wiped down, you can get around to wiping down shelves, the inside of the microwave, the cabinets, the fridge—things that can sometimes get neglected. You can even have each of your children "take one" quick job to do and divide the work, so it gets done faster.

    So often we can walk from room to room, doing little more than what we came into that room for. The “take five” principle really reminds us to do a little more than the bare minimum, to work just a wee bit harder. It’s not that hard to do (which is great when we're busy with kids), and the results will be visible immediately!

    Take five and tell me how it works for you!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    My Husband's My Hero

    Coffee Talk Thursday

    Coffee and my husband--two of my favorite things. Today, I'd like to so something a little unusual and share with you all something a bit personal, the kind of thing perfect for a cup of coffee with friends (even if they are Internet friends) ;).

    I thought I'd share with you why my husband is my hero. I'd like you to think about why your husband is (or was at one time) your hero too. It does one's soul (and marriage) good to recapture those memories and recreate those feelings.

    This week, my husband talked to Rush Limbaugh on his radio show. I know, you either love him or hate him, but that's beside the point (speaking of beside the point...once, Justin tried listening to him on a mini-boom-box when I was in labor...with pitocin; that did not go over so well!). On Wednesday, Rush mentioned my husband's story in his morning update. I thought I'd give you the longer version.

    At 18, my husband was all set for a bright future in rodeo. He accepted a full-ride college scholarship and was excited, like any 18 year old, about all that lay ahead. His dreams fell apart in an instant when he fell off a bronc, and the horse rolled over him like a somersault, crushing his spine in a million pieces. He lay on the arena floor, dying of shock. He told me he knew he had taken his last breath. It was so hard, he knew he wouldn't be able to do it again. People rushed to pray for him, and he was life-flighted to a major hospital, where doctors were able to stabilize him and repair his spine using custom-made rods. They did not know whether he would ever regain the ability to walk.

    Knowing her son's determination, his mother brought him a pair of Nike tennis shoes.

    Justin pushed himself and not only regained the ability to walk, he also summited the highest mountain in Wyoming, Gannett Peak (our first son is named Gannet). He could be sitting around collecting disability the rest of his life, but he has such a strong work ethic and goes to work as each day, despite chronic pain and severe nerve damage, to provide for his family and feel good about himself.

    He is also one of the most giving people I've ever met. He's done so many things I admire, and he does them all with a foot of metal in his spine, yet he never complains. He sees the potential in every person and wants everyone to have an intentional vision for life: What do you want to do, what do you need to do to get there, and how can you help others? His story shows us all that no one--not even the most injured or disabled among us--should ever accept defeat.

    Your husband's story is different, but it's just as incredible to you.  Or at least it was, at one time. The years can cause us to lose sight of the magic we felt the moment we discovered that in that man, we had found our other half, our soul-mate if you will. On this Coffee Talk Thursday, may you remember it all over again. (And you can share what you so admire about your husband here too, if you'd like).

    Even if you're not married, you can still take something away from this discussion.  The Bible tells us God has good plans for our lives, that we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. He has already given us the victory. We just have to walk in it.

    Each day, we may not feel particularly victorious--after all, the days are all pretty ordinary. However, as we're faithful to do the ordinary things God lays in our path, day in and day out, we will find at the end of our lives that they were significant. God can be, will be, glorified in all things.



    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Aim Is Everything, Or Else...

    When watering plants, aim matters. Not too much water on the leaves or the sun can scorch the plants; the water should target the base of the plant so it can reach the roots--but not too much water, or the plant can rot depending on its water needs.

    As any mother of boys knows, aim matters. Improper aim can cause any (and all) of the following:
    a) a wet toilet seat cover
    b) a wet toilet seat (if not lifted when the aiming occurs), making for a real happy mom
    c) a wet floor
    d) a bathroom that bears the telltale smell of boys with aim gone wild

    I have experienced all of the above in my house. While the toilet seat cover can be washed, the seat wiped, and the floor dried, removing the lingering scent of do I say this gracefully?...#1 is a trickier matter altogether. Candles and other air fresheners can mask the scent but not remove it. I've heard that Borax can effectively remove this scent. Just mix some with warm water and scrub the floors (several times, I'm sure, will be necessary). Recently, I've also resorted to spraying my Swiffer Wet Jet to target under the toilet (where one cannot reach without removing it from the floor). My theory is that eventually this will "rinse" the area, and I can then wipe up the liquid that oozes out (yes, I really did just say that. Sorry). :)

    That is my Messy Monday tip for the day. Have you found any ideas for conquering the ill effects of improper aim? Or do you have another housekeeping tip that's helped you get it together?
    Please share by linking up or leaving a comment. If you link up, please link back to Moms In Need of Mercy somewhere in your post (it can be at the end in really tiny letters if you want). :)

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Having People Over

    Coffee Talk Thursday

    I enjoy having people over (once they get here), but the lead-up to their arrival is usually quite stressful for me. Partly, it's because I'm a perfectionist--nothing ever seems quite "ready" enough: there are always more toys to be picked up, more clutter to clear, more spots to wipe, more sweeping to be done, more vacuuming, more tidying, and on and on. If I do succeed at getting things where I want them, then I feel like I should bake something (which creates more stress and mess). The issue really is I care about the "show," the presentation of my house. I don't want guests to be uncomfortable or see the way things usually are around here for fear they will think, "Look at all that clutter. Cheryl's really doing a poor job of keeping up."

    This week, as I was talking with an older mom about this issue, she said something that really stuck with me: God is love, and He wants us to love people. A great way we can do this is by opening our homes to friends and acquaintances. I know all of this in my head, but it was helpful to be reminded that the higher priority is showing love; the lesser priority is having a spotless house. Most people, when experiencing the graciousness of hospitality and the sweetness of fellowship that accompanies it, will completely overlook clutter, unmopped floors, dishes in the sink and toys on the floor. They're so grateful to be shown the love that they will forgive (often not even notice) a less-than-perfect house.

    For those of us who are perfectionists, it can be helpful to set a limit to our cleaning before company. Set a timer for, say, one hour. When the timer goes off, we're done. Period.

    By remembering the real priority, and setting a limit when it comes to cleaning, we keep our spirits (and those of our families!) ready for company.

    How do you respond to having people over? Let's have a cup of coffee and talk about it!

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Messy Monday: First Things First

    It is amazing how quickly one can end up with a gigantic mess throughout the house, simply by deciding not to do the things one would normally do when they would normally be done. Letting discipline slide, even for a day (or part of it), is a choice that carries highly visible consequences. In my house, for example, I did not unload and reload the dishwasher yesterday. We did not pick up toys. We were fairly lax in cleaning the counter after meals and snacks.  I did not put laundry away. These seemingly insignificant acts of saying "no" when I should have said "yes" compound quickly.

    So this Messy Monday, it's messy. My work is cut out for me. I just have to say "yes" and do it. First things first means I should get to quickly as possible. I should not be here on the computer when so much is waiting for me.

    By the way, a few weeks ago, someone asked me if I had any tips on how to build discipline in one's housekeeping habits. I write about that frequently, as I am learning too. If that is your question, I encourage you to read through the Messy Monday archives and the Home Management archives as time allows.

    Have a great day, keeping first things first (whatever they may be in your life and home today!).

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Saturday Evening Blog Post: March, April 2010

    Elizabeth Esther hosts a monthly Saturday Evening Blog post the first Saturday of every month. If you have the time, you can find some good reads! You can also link up with your favorite post of the past month. Here are mine.

    Stretch Your Food Dollars and Save Time with Canned Produce

    copyright Moms In Need of Mercy

    Don’t get me wrong: nothing beats farm-fresh food. Raised in the Midwest, I earned many a dollar by picking green beans, tomatoes, and peppers at my grandparents’ farm in the summers. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is better than a bean straight off the stalk or a tomato ripe off the vine. My mouth waters just at the thought.


    Where we live now, ranches abound, but farms are few and far between. “Fresh” produce comes from—at the minimum—a state away. If I had to choose between rock-hard, “they will never ripen” peaches and a can of peaches (packed at their peak), I would choose the can hands-down, any day.

    Here’s why:

    Canned food has gotten a real bad rap in recent years. It’s been demonized as a lesser choice, only for the poorest among us. But that’s just not so.

    It can be a healthy and affordable alternative when fresh is looking less than best. Canned fruits and vegetables are picked, and packed, at their peak. They’re packed in liquid, and, well, canned – much like one cans summer harvest at home (yes, I know home canning is healthier). They’re shipped in the cans, unlike “fresh” fruit that’s picked usually very under-ripe, and hauled cross-country on semi-trucks, losing more nutrients with every mile. (Frozen produce is another good alternative).

    Canned food is also often cheaper, pound for pound. But not always. Fresh, in season, fruits and vegetables on sale are usually the best buy. But when they’re pricey or looking “yucky,” you can find a fresh version…in a can.

    My thoughts on canned food were revolutionized once and for all when nutritionist Ellyn Satter wrote in one of her books about the merits of canned food. She said that many cooks on tight budgets have been led to believe that purchasing a can or two of vegetables and fruits of the shelf is something they should be ashamed of—that when their budget improves, surely they should “upgrade” to the fresh produce department. Yet, for the reasons shared above, one need not be ashamed to fill one’s cart with canned goods. One is saving her family money and still feeding them healthfully. So grab a can with pride!

    Now before you comment, let me recap my position:

    1. Fresh is best—no doubt. But when farm-stand fresh is not available, and when “fresh” trucked in to the grocers looks less than desirable, I believe canned is a great alternative. I’ve had many a can peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, tropical fruit (with guava and papaya) that tastes more ripe than some of the fresh versions I’ve bought.

    2. You need not feel ashamed if you round out your shopping cart with some canned fruits and veggies. You can find varieties that are packed in their own juice without added sugar.

    3. As far as vegetables are concerned, you can buy the low sodium versions, if you want to. But don’t forget: we all need some sodium in our diets.

    Buying canned or frozen food helps you stretch your grocery dollars and trips to the store. You can buy enough fresh produce for a week, and then round out the rest of your meal plan with canned or frozen produce. This way, you can shop every two weeks—saving time and money.

    If you have a kitchen-shortcut or other cooking hint or recipe you'd like to share, please feel free to link up as part of our once-a-month cooking festival. As a courtesy, please link back to Moms In Need of Mercy.

    linked to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family and to Frugal Friday