29 October 2010



Lots of families don't like to cook on Friday nights, and we are with that majority.  There's something about making it through another week that makes me want to forget the fact that I have to provide food for my children to eat (nevermind husband).  

So we try to coincide leftovers with Friday nights, as I'm sure many of you do.  But it doesn't always happen, mainly because a lot of our leftovers get used in lunches.

So we invented FFY.  Any guesses?


Friday nights are often FFY.  Most anything goes on FFY nights, but the kids still have to get the ok before they can eat something.  It's either that or let them rot their teeth out with spoonfuls of sugar poured directly into their mouths.  Just because I'm forgetting about dinner doesn't mean I have to completely neglect the kids.

And for the toddler who can't yet truly fend for herself - although she tries very hard to do so - a tray of finger foods that she can help herself to.  Toddlers were made for grazing with those tiny tummies but huge desire to feed themselves.  

Some nights we do partial FFY, with me putting out food for everyone, not just the toddler.  But other nights it's all out "if you can find it, you can eat it, just get it yourself."  You can imagine the type of week that precedes that dinner.

26 October 2010

Coming Home

Speaking of survival mode, another of the things that fell off my radar last week was blogging.  It just didn't happen.  But now that I've survived the week and we had a nice relaxing vacation in France, I'm ready to roll.

Isn't coming home nice?  We had a fantastic time in France, but it was just nice to walk into my own house, and it will be great to sleep in my own bed at night.

One of the things that made it nice was that it was CLEAN.  And picked up.  And there are fresh towels in the bathroom, and fresh sheets on the bed waiting for me to climb into them.

I belong to the school of thought that the extra time and stress are worth it to have a nice clean house to come home to.  It's hard enough to be motivated to walk in and take care of the suitcase of dirty laundry, but to have that plus dishes in the sink and stuff all over floor is just downright overwhelming.  And when it gets overwhelming, doesn't it just make you want to give up?

Despite this, there are times when there is no time to clean everything before we leave.  In that case, I deploy the priority rules.  I use priority rules a lot, from vacation cleaning to company is coming cleaning to family is visiting for a week cleaning.  It works like this:

1.  Pick up the floor
2.  Make the beds
3.  Do the dishes (at least leave the dishwasher running so they're clean when we get home)
4.  Clean the toilets
5.  Clean the rest of the bathroom
6.  Change towels
7.  Change sheets (preferably before completing #2)
8.  Sweep floor
9.  Mop
10. Kitchen stocked (depending on length of trip, this may or may not include perishables)

This is my vacation priority rule list, and basically the numbers just change for other things like visitors, company, etc.  Sometimes a special job needs to be inserted, but you get the idea.  For this last vacation, I only made it through #7, but that's pretty good considering the week I had before we left.

It was so nice to walk through the door feeling stress-free, chaos-free, and peace-ful.  It reminded me why I love coming home.

18 October 2010


Survival Mode

I don't know how fun this is, but you have to write about your reality.  Here's mine:

Do you ever look at your upcoming calendar, compare it to your time available, and say, "How did this happen?"  That is where I am this week.

We're new here, we don't really know anybody, and yet somehow my entire week is booked solid.  It's actually more like 10 days.  Nope, not just popular, but wouldn't that be nice?  Maybe in junior high...

But I digress.  My point of my ramblings is that when things get this chaotic in my life, I resort to survival mode.  The first thing to go is usually the cleaning, although that relaxes me, so I often keep a little in so I don't go crazy.  The next thing is the cooking.  We move to dinners I have previously frozen, simple bread and cheese kind of stuff, or even Fend For Yourself.  Gone are the awesome healthy quinoa and spinach superfoods.  Noodles and cheese it is.  Then I divide up what needs to happen on each day and how long those chores will take.  I create my to-do list from there and take it one at a time.  Or 10 minutes at a time if I have to.

Here's my week:
Sunday:  put together a traditional breakfast for kid#2's school breakfast on Monday, run (training for a race), work on Halloween costumes, carve pumpkins
Monday:  bake breakfast for said school function, speak to kid#1's class about my job (not Mommy of the Century, which I do 24/7, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, because that is apparently the interesting one), bake 3 loaves of bread for upcoming potluck and for dinner tonight (yet to determine what will go with that bread)
Tuesday:  Potluck, bake 2 more loaves of bread for coffee with the neighbors (Dutch tradition for new people on a street to invite the neighbors over for coffee), finish Halloween costumes
Wednesday:  Volunteer at school for Halloween party, visit gymnastics class for kid#1
Thursday:  Bake more bread for more neighbors' coffee
Friday:  No school (enough said, right?), pack

This is on top of regular stuff like lunch making, cooking, and taking care of a toddler and two other kiddos, and somehow I need to run at least a few days.  But one at a time, right?

Because, at the end of this week...we're going to Paris.

15 October 2010

Mommy's Time Out

It's 8:30 AM and I am sitting on the couch in my pajamas, doing nothing but surfing the internet and reading blogs.  8:30 AM!!!

Usually I am running by now.  Literally.  I have a race coming up in a couple months, so after the boys go to school my toddler and I hit the streets.

But, today my toddler decided to wake up too early, and by the time the other kids left she was ready for a nap.

So, I'm taking a time out.  And it feels great.

This does not come naturally to me.  I am a mover, not a sitter.  Most days I don't sit down until dinner.  And then after dinner I keep going until the jobs are done.

But yesterday was a particularly rough day.  Thank you to my husband for helping to make it less rough.  You are amazing.

So after I took out the trash (in my pajamas), I grabbed my coffee and sat down.  This is what will get me through the rest of today.  I plan to sit here until K wakes up, however long that will be.  It needs to happen, no matter what other pressing matters are filling my schedule.

14 October 2010

The Cleaning Closet

My cleaning cupboard used to be filled with 2/3 empty bottles of toilet cleaner, window cleaner, kitchen cleaner, tile cleaner, wood cleaner, bathtub cleaner, etc, etc, etc.  I would buy a new bottle when the first got low (because how could we ever survive without cleaners), then forget about the first bottle, and so on.  Then I had an epiphany.  Why were all those cleaners necessary?

In an effort to simplify and detoxify our home, I started making my own.

Here they are:

I can do pretty much any job with these.  The books pictured have been very helpful for recipes and tips, and were under $10 each.  There are also all kinds of websites which offer cleaning recipes too.  I tend to visit  www.thriftyfun.com and www.creativehomemaking.com, but there are many places you can look if you do a google search.

Here is a summary of what I use for different jobs:

Vinegar:  great all purpose cleaner, kills mildew

Baking soda:  good for areas that need a mild abrasive, such as sinks and bathtubs

Borax:  perfect for laundry and keeping toilets clean

Tea Tree Oil:  a natural disinfectant, I add a few drops to my kitchen and bathroom cleaners

Essential Oils:  used to add a fresh clean smell - not necessary, but cuts the vinegar smell if that tends to bother you

I used to be bothered by the smell of the vinegar, but now I associate it with fresh and clean.  I add citrus essential oils as well.

I also make my own laundry detergent using Borax, washing soda, and Fels Naptha soap.  My recipe is a 2:1 ratio (1cup Borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup grated soap).  I use the powder version because it's so simple to make, but you can also use these same ingredients to make a liquid version on the stovetop.  I might have to switch to that because apparently European washers don't like American powder detergent.  I don't know if home made detergent counts, so we'll see.

I used to make dishwasher detergent, but I found it to not work as well as store bought brands, and the cost of the ingredients didn't save me much money.

We don't have much precious wood in our home, but I use a dab of olive oil on a rag to polish what we do have.

Simple, right?  Chaos free, right?  And oh so easy.  Give it a try, it's worth it for the ease, safety if you have young children, and cost effectiveness.

12 October 2010

Just One More Thing...

Sometimes late at night when I get to organizing, I can't stop.  I just have to do one more thing, and then one more thing after that.  It's especially difficult right now with our house only partially unpacked.  But at some point I have to be smart and realize that it's ok to leave things unfinished, especially when I have an early morning and three kids to take care of.

My project this evening was our office area.  I mentioned before that we like to use standing work spaces.  But the difficulty is finding the ideal way to make a functional but attractive work area.

This is what we came up with, and this is my organization of it so far.  We needed a piece to act as a room divider, both because the dining room was way too big to just be a dining room, and because while we are standing we like to be facing out rather than a wall.

Obviously, the printer cannot be housed here, but we have always connected the printer wirelessly and placed it in a remote location.  We are still working on power source solutions...I think we're going to place a surge protector on a shelf and route the cord through the bookshelf and out the bottom.

We use the top for working, and our two laptops hide on the two top shelves when they aren't needed.  Right now I'm in the process of prioritizing what office supplies need to be most accessible, and balancing that with how to keep the toddler from helping herself to the scissors.

What do you think?  Will it work?  I hope so, because I am really excited about it.  Man, sometimes even I think my giddiness over organization stuff is pretty lame.

10 October 2010


bread dough and marinara sauce

Hooray for Domesticity

As I've gotten older and now have a family, I've come to care more about the things that come into our home.  This includes cleaning products, food, entertainment, etc.  And I've come to the conclusion that simpler is better.

Of course, simpler is also more complicated.  I would like to just buy convenient everything, hire people to do my stuff, and forget it.  EXCEPT...

More specifics on this later, but basically, if I can't pronounce it, it's not real food.  I'm not judging the convenience food buyer...we all do what we have to do.  But it's a decision that we as a family made, and we're sticking to it.  However, because of that, I make stuff from scratch.  It takes time and planning.  And recipes.

I HAVE A TODDLER.  And she gets into everything, of course.  We're at the learning limits stage.  I don't want to constantly worry that she is going to somehow get into the hazardous chemical cabinet that is our cleaning supplies.  So I make my own.  It takes time and planning.  And empty spray bottles.

I AM NOT CURRENTLY WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME.  So there's not really a good reason why I can't do this stuff myself.

But the best reason of all:

MY KIDDOS DON'T LIKE THE "CONVENIENT" STUFF.  Since we were moving, I was buying a lot more easy meal kinds of things.  Two nights in a row, my boys didn't like what we were eating (tomato soup and spaghetti, respectively), because it was too sweet.  They prefer the soup and sauce I make.  And the bread.

I am not Mrs. Sally Homemaker.  I like to work outside the home, and I hope to work here a little.  And we still buy our fair share of yummy processed foods, so don't peg me for a hypocrite.  But since I've made the decision to spend time making sauces and cleaners and breads from scratch, it's working out for us.  I feel good about the things my kids eat, I don't worry about them ingesting poison, and I make our own convenience foods.

So, let's hear it for getting old and domestic.  Hip, hip, hooray!

06 October 2010



I would be in utter bliss if everything just stayed where I put it.  But that wouldn't be any fun at all, would it?  If that happened, legos would never become guns defending us against the lions in the jungle/back garden, bouncy balls wouldn't get to play hide and seek, and two very active boys wouldn't get to spontaneously shed their socks to run barefoot in the grass.

Hence the upstairs box.  Things I run across go into the box, and we as a family empty the box when we go upstairs.  I've heard other people say they have a box for each family member, but right now we just use one big one.  So far it's working, and I don't really have a place for 5 different boxes, but we may move to that system in the future.

Another reason this works for us is that we live in a three story house, and while I like to reap the benefits of a built-in stairmaster, I don't have the time or energy to run up all those narrow European stairs hundreds of times a day.

The Upstairs Box.  It's practical, efficient, and it works for me.

04 October 2010


What was supposed to be a 7 week wait for internet at our new house turned out to be less than 7 days.  Yipee!

And...we have a house and all of our stuff.  Yipee!

And...just as I expected, we have more space than we know what to do with.  Yipee!

Perspective.  It's all about perspective.  I'll be posting some pictures soon of the ingenious and super efficient kitchen.  And of solutions to no closets.  And of how to divide a huge room into two distinct spaces without sacrificing aesthetics, view, or wasting space.  We'll see how this all goes.   Any suggestions?

For now, my days are spent opening boxes and deciding on the general destination of each item I encounter.  Sometimes that means directly into the "Get Rid Of" box.  Yup.  As expected (again), I have come across some things that make me scratch my head wondering why I ever kept them.  Those things aren't even getting a chance to live here, because if I don't sort through them now while I am physically touching them, they will somehow disappear into the general population, and will likely get moved with us again.  So, once the fate of the item has been decided, its location must be determined.  Some will say touch each thing only once.  But I tend to go with the staging mentality.  I cannot immediately process where everything will go, especially with no real closets.  If it's not something obvious like kids clothing, I merely move it to its correct floor and group it with like items.  Later, when I am able, I will come back to it and find a specific location.  This method helps to keep me from being overwhelmed with a gigantic box of randomness.

Another method to my madness is to focus on one or two rooms.  Again, this means moving things more than once.  I am currently working on my boys' room, and when I began I couldn't even walk into the room.  So, I moved some things out into the extra room and started from scratch.  It made the process much more manageable.

When the movers first came, I had the paralyzing feeling of claustrophobia, and I once again wondered how we would ever emerge from the chaos.  But it's only been a few days and I've seen real progress, which is the best motivation around.