30 September 2011


Welcome to another Five Minute Friday, courtesy of Gypsy Mama.  A chance to pour out our hearts without worrying our heads.  No editing, no over thinking.  Just writing.

Today's Topic?  Friends


It's the best and worst part of living all over the world, for a few years at a time.  Every move makes me start all over again.  Sometimes I find them easily, and other times I have to search in the corners of my new life.  Sometimes I make them because of a single thread binding us, which snaps when geography separates us.  They aren't real, they don't last.

The ones that do, are the ones that have more than a thread.  The common ground keeps growing with every time we get together, every moment we share.

Those I count as my friends.

They are scattered all over this planet.  Their backgrounds are as diverse as a double rainbow, their value just as high, and my finding them just as rare.

Geography does not matter, nor does time between visits and chats.  They know as well as I that when we finally meet again, no time will have passed between us.

You know who you are.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be your friend, and you mine.  Thank you.


How wonderful and difficult it was for me to put into words how I perceive my friends.  Thank you to Gypsy Mama for choosing this topic.  There are a ton of others linking up today, so head on over and read the beautiful writing of many talented bloggers.

**Just a reminder, I will be taking a break from Five Minute Friday for the month of October in order to focus on

It starts tomorrow!  Come back and check it out.

29 September 2011

Confessions of a Mediocre Mother

We don't really use sunscreen.  I mean, if we are going to the beach or park for the whole day, I slather it on faces and arms and ears.  But not daily.  And my kids don't wear SPF clothing, with the exception of swim shirts for days at the beach.

For years we've heard about all the dangers of the sun, but some studies show evidence that moderate sun exposure can outweigh the risks of skin cancer (see this 2008 study).

I've never been all that great about using sun screen, but we also try to stagger our sun times with rest in the shade, and we pay attention for any warning signs of sunburn.

Here's why I do this:  I can absolutely tell a difference in the behavior of my children when their sun exposure decreases (by sun, I include cloudy days also).  Sun has vitamin D, and most experts will agree it is the best source of this vitamin.  When my Bigs both had jaundice as newborns, their doctors told me to take them out in the sun for 15-30 minutes at a time.  Interesting recommendation if the sun is nothing but evil.

Sunscreen blocks harmful rays, but it also blocks vitamin D absorption. My kids are happier with that vitamin D, so I let them get it.

Many people will argue that nutrition plays a more important role in sun protection than any sunscreen or sunblock. Here is a great blog post about it, and even Fox News recently reported foods that help protect you from the sun.

If you still want sunscreen (we still use it for extended periods in the sun), I encourage you to check out the skin deep database for safer alternatives to chemical sunscreens.  This is an excellent resource for many household, health, and beauty products, as it is an independent group that researches the toxicity of ingredients in thousands of items we keep in our homes.  You can search for a specific product to learn its safety level, or you can browse by category to shop for a safe product for your family.

As the summer's rays give way to the short and sweet days of fall, remember that your ability to absorb that vitamin D will decrease with the shortened hours of sunlight.  Take advantage of the sun while you can, and feel your spirits rise.

Oh, and be sure to head over to Sorta Crunchy for this and other great Green Resource posts...tons of great ideas all packed into one place.

28 September 2011

Come Visit Me

I'm over at A Drop In The Bucket for our new weekly challenge series.  I'm the lucky lady who gets to present a challenge to Jen...head on over to see what I wrote.

27 September 2011

The Practically Perfect Parrot

We like to make things here.  I don't consider these things to be crafts, because these things aren't made just to make them.  They have a useful purpose.  Homemade things (speaking of...have you heard about 31 Days to Homemade?  Starting right here in October.  Part of the 31 Days link party. Stay tuned).

So, when the Halloween party we are attending decided on the theme of Disney, my homemade brain started cranking away.  We decided as a family to do Mary Poppins.  I will be Mary, the Little will be Jane the girl, and the Bigs and Dad will be chimney sweeps.

Not too daunting, but I needed a little help for a couple things.  Specifically, a parrot shaped handle on my umbrella.

Fortunately, the internet is my close friend.  I found this recipe for cornstarch clay via Pinterest.  It took literally 5 minutes to whip up, with only water, salt, and cornstarch.
The clay looks like mashed potatoes when
you are mixing it

two eager helpers
From there, we turned a craft project into Halloween costume design.  I enlisted the two Bigs to mold the clay around the end of the umbrella.  Then while I formed and attached a beak, they rolled out two eyeballs.

painted parrot

It's practically perfect in every way!
We let it dry for a couple days and then painted it with some acrylic paint.  I read that if you use watercolors you might have to dry the clay in the oven again, but we did not need to with the acrylic paints.

If you ask me, this project is good enough to call done.  I think the best part is the googly eyes, because the two Bigs each made and attached one.  Parrots can be cross-eyed, too, don't you think?

And here's the thing.  It's not really perfect, I just like to imitate Mary herself when I say that phrase.  That's the charm.  It was made with 6 and 8 year old hands, hands that are proud they were a part of our costume design and creating.

As with every Tuesday, I'm linking up with A Bowl Full of Lemons for One Project At A Time Tuesday.
Head on over and see what other people are working on this week.

26 September 2011


I can feel my crunchiness clawing its way to the top again.  Things were insanely busy, and I squashed it for a while, but it's still there, begging to be heard.  Sometimes even I think I'm a little nuts, but here I am admitting all my quirks anyway.

So I've been trying to repurpose just about everything before it heads to the trash.  
A few examples?  

I reuse cereal bags to hold a wedge of cheese or some rice cakes.

I cut the elastic band out of an old pair of pajamas, saved the elastic in my sewing kit, and turned the fabric into rags.

We're turning old (homemade) costumes into new (homemade) costumes with a little cutting, sewing, and fabric dye.  More on that later.

And even the Little gets in on the act.  She recently wandered into the laundry area and emerged with this hat of sorts from a scrap of long underwear I was cutting into rags.  I tied the knot at the top, and she wore it all day.  I should probably mention that we didn't leave the house.

And as long as we're talking about repurposing and costumes and stuff like that, let me remind you that

is coming...October is almost here.  Stay tuned.

23 September 2011


Hooray for Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday - five minutes of unedited writing, no worries of if it's perfect or not, because it's just what's in our hearts.

Today we're writing about Growing.  Ready?


Stop growing, I say.  I'm going to put a book on your head and not let you go to school and get any smarter, I tease.  It's only half true.  I can't stop the growing, and I don't like that.  But, then again, with their growth comes mine.

Because the person I was eight years ago, before I became a mother, is not a person I want to be any more. That person was too selfish, too unaware of the world happening every day.  That person let time run like a faucet.

This person that I've grown into doesn't do that any more.  This person stops her five minutes of writing for a kiss from my beautiful daughter, because there will be a time when she won't ask for kisses anymore.

This person still has a lot of growing to do,
but this person knows that with their growth comes mine.  Because each new discovery of theirs will accompany insight into who these children of mine are becoming.  And I want to see who they turn out to be.  I want to see them grow, and I want to see the person I am growing up to be.

It is bittersweet, this inevitable growth.  But it is also inevitable, so I embrace it and hold it and pull it out and look at it every once in a while, so I can see how far we've all come.


I love looking at the beautiful words others' have also written.  Why don't you head over to Gypsy Mama and see for yourself?  I'm #85, and #80, Redemption's Beauty, states

"But growing is saying goodbye to what was and looking forward to what will be."  Beautiful, don't you think?

The entry before mine, #84, is from To Make a Rhyme, wrote a touching poem about growing up.  Go check it out.

22 September 2011

Share Your Solutions!

I am thrilled to begin linking up with SortaCrunchy and gang for their new series where we can share our resources for living more frugally, simply, green-ly, and naturally.

This is one of my favorite blogs, and a huge part of my journey to blogging on my own.  So head on over to see what Megan is up to, and while you are there visit some other bloggers' links to their own solutions for clean eating, cleaning, and living.



Husband was once honored to be invited to participate in a memorial ceremony for Colonel Peterson, an American officer commanding a fighter group in England during World War II.  He was very well respected, and it was devastating to his men when he was shot down while flying on a mission from the UK to Germany. He crashed into Goedereede, a small town in the Netherlands near the coast.

A private organization called WO2GO concerns itself with preserving the history of the events of that time period, including erecting memorials and holding ceremonies honoring heroic acts during the war years of 1940-1945.  Colonel Peterson was just such a man.  I was also able to attend the ceremony, and it really hit home how much the war impacted the Netherlands.

Well, duh, I knew that already.

It impacted everyone.  But the Dutch people were literally on the front lines, and have destroyed buildings and memorial sites to prove it.  I've even been told it's the reason most of traditional Dutch cooking is a lost art(I've been assured there was such a thing many years ago).

And yet, people here are more than industrious, they are pragmatic.  They adapt and keep going.  They develop their own rhythm, which is often quite unique from other places in Europe I've visited.

I'm no historian, but even I have caught a tiny glimpse of how life in the Netherlands has changed since that time.

And yet, to quote some famous band, Time Keeps on Slipping, Into the Future....

I'm linking with Tales From Windmills Fields today, so if expat life is interesting to you, hop on over and check it out.

21 September 2011

A Drop into the Chaos

I'm happy to welcome my friend Jen to my blog today.  She writes a great blog called A Drop in the Bucket.  We met shortly after we both moved to the Netherlands, and we've discovered we share a lot of the same values, likes, dislikes, and humor. She is going to introduce a new feature we've created, in order to build on each others' strengths and grow in ways we couldn't alone.  I'm happy to call her friend, even though she's moving to Scotland next month.  Boo hoo!  But at least I'll have a cool place to visit.


Well, hello there Control the Chaos Readers.  My name is Jen.

I have a feeling you might be wondering “What are you doing here Jen?”

Well, let me tell you.  Tracey and I are IRL {in real life} friends who have met by a pure stroke of luck because we both found ourselves in the Netherlands, and more specifically, at the same Mums & Toddlers meeting.

I am a stay at home mom with two little ones (a two and half year old and almost eight month old).  In a former life I was a marketing gal, a project manager of sorts.  I guess I am still a project manager.  Just not exactly managing the same sort of projects.

Tracey and I are two moms who have the same goals.  We both want to live life fully and in the moment. Making life simple so that we can spend more time focusing on our little ones, and our husbands.

At my online home, A Drop in the Bucket, I spend my time chronicling how I am trying to live in the moment, by crossing items off of my bucket list.  Slowly, but surely.

I am so honored that on a few Wednesdays a month, Tracey is going to share her space with me.  We are going to challenge each other to live life to the fullest.

Shucks, I think Tracey already does that, but she is going to let me present her with some challenges anyway!  Isn’t she the best?

So check back in a few weeks… can’t wait to see what the first challenge is!


There you have it.  Keep tuning in to see how we are going to challenge each other.  I think I'll be the first to hand out a challenge, but we'll be sure to keep you updated.  And in the meantime, go visit Jen at A Drop in the Bucket.  She has a natural blogging talent, as you will soon see.  Thanks, Jen.

20 September 2011

ONE PROJECT AT A TIME - The Urge to Purge

ahh, feel the calm
I can't deal with a lot of stuff.  It just makes me…AAAGGGGHHHHH.  I organize to calm down, but every once in a while too much stuff just creeps its way into the house and I have to get rid of it.

total chaos!
I'm quite familiar with the donation sections of our local thrift stores.  I'm familiar with the buying section too, but that doesn't exactly fit with the topic.  Every couple of months I load up the car and make a donation.  It somehow corresponds with changing seasons, but I'm not sure if that is a coincidence or not.

Here's the dilemma:  my oldest son, Big#1, is a pack rat.  He cannot part with anything.  To him, getting rid of one of his possessions is like amputating a part of him.  I don't understand it at all.

I've tried getting rid of things when he is not around, but he still mourns for stuffed animals he can no longer find (he's a very sensitive soul).  Since that was a major fail, I now involve him in the organization and purging process.  But even this has proved difficult.  He seizes up and becomes very emotional when faced with a decision about choosing what to keep and what to purge.

I seriously have no idea what to do.  We've tried discussing how much God has blessed us and that we want to share with others who don't have as much, we've discussed that we're making room for new things, but nothing works.

HELP!  What do I do?  I understand that the need to purge is mostly my deal, but we still only have limited space, so he needs to be able to part with a few things to keep things under control.

I am completely at a loss on this one, and I beg you, faithful readers to help.  He is only eight, but eight year olds are capable of accumulating a lot of stuff.  I don't want to break the spirit that causes him to want to hold on to everything, but I need him to understand the difference between keeping sentimental items and hoarding a piece of junk mail addressed to his mother (but I could make something with the envelope!).  

the latest donation
So, for now, a purge of too small clothing pieces, an old bicycle, and some household items.  I guess we'll tackle the Bigs' bedroom another day.

As with every Tuesday, I'm linking up with A Bowl Full of Lemons for her One Project At a Time Tuesday.  Go check it out.

19 September 2011

FUNDAY MONDAY - Organization Heaven

More Favorite Things
Blogs and Websites I Love

photo courtesy of I Heart Organizing

In my real life, I find organization solutions using what we already have, and it works, but it's not always pretty.  But in my fantasy life, I have matching containers in a variety of sizes fitting perfectly on my shelves and in my cupboards, and all uniformly labeled with my label maker.

So when I found this blog via pinterest, I swore I wasn't going to tell my husband, because he already thinks I'm a little OCD with the whole organizing thing.  But, it was too good not to share on my own blog, and he is of course one of my loyal readers.  Hi, husband!  But then I thought maybe he could look at the link and realize how unorganized I truly am, or at least how much more organized I could be if I followed my obsession every moment, or if I hadn't learned to relax a little.

And then just this morning I stumbled across this pantry, and my heart went pitter patter.  Sad, I know.  

But seriously, how wonderfully organized are these people's spaces?  Thank you, I Heart Organizing and The Perfect Pantry for sharing your organization know-how.


Someday...in the meantime, here are some more places to find organization eye candy:

16 September 2011


Happy Friday - time for another Five Minutes of pure unedited writing, courtesy of Gypsy Mama.  Today's topic?  Joy.  Once again, perfectly fitting for me and my life right now.


You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same.

(Chris Tomlin, Indescribable.  You can listen and read the lyrics here -**added after the 5 minutes**)

You are amazing God.

A couple weeks ago I went to a funeral.  It was a man who went to our church - his wife and grown daughter and grandsons do also.  The death was sudden and unexpected.  It was full of sadness.

It was the most joyful funeral I have ever attended.  We sang all of his favorite songs during the worship time, and through the tears joined together as a congregation to praise God for the life he led and for calling him home.  It was a testimony to all the visitors, all the people who don't know that kind of joy.

It was very difficult.  And very beautiful.  Because of the joy.  The joy that never wavered, not even once, from the hearts of his family and friends.  It made me think of my own family, my sick grandfather and my husband's sick grandmother.  It made me understand the depths of joy - how far reaching it is.

I feel sadness.  But I choose joy.  Because my joy comes from somewhere beyond my emotions.  I have to reach for it, but it is there.  Waiting.  Born from Love.  It is my joy, and it will not cease.


Thank you, Gypsy Mama, for your own inspiring post.  Hop over and check out what others have to say about joy.

15 September 2011

Introducing: 31 Days

There are some seriously talented bloggers out there.  It's intimidating to me, with no writing talent, no true expertise in any one thing, and, well, limited creativity.

But it's also inspiring.  Finally, I feel like I'm headed somewhere with this blog thing.  My purpose has always been clear:  to keep the chaos under control so I can spend my time on important things, rather than just urgent ones.  (Read:  simplify life so we can enjoy each other)

But my blog entries sometimes wander all over the place.  I think I'm headed in the right direction, but I need practice and a goal.  Well, I found one.

In October, I'm linking up with a group of bloggers for a 31 day party.  I've chosen my topic, and every day, for the whole month, I'm going to blog about it.  I think it's a fantastic idea, and hopefully I'll have enough to say to fill every single day.

Are you ready for my topic?  Here it is:

31 Days to Home Made

This will include the whys and hows of spending less, making more, and enjoying all the steps along the way.  From food to kid stuff to decorations, it will all find its way here.

Hopefully it will be as interesting to you as it is to me.

Hop on over to My 3 Boybarians to read all about it and see what other people will be writing about.

14 September 2011


My grandmother was here visiting while I was making applesauce, and as she watched me put the peels and slices into the compost bucket, she said, and I quote, "Why are you throwing away all of those peels and cores?"

And I said, "Umm.  I don't know.  What should I do with them?"

And she said, "Make apple jelly. [silly]" She didn't really say "silly", she merely implied it in her tone of voice.

And I said, "How do you do that?"

And she said, "I don't know."

But, oh the beauty of the interwebz.  A few minutes later, I had found a recipe online that was given my grandmother's full approval, and away we went.

I'm posting the original link here, in case you want to double check my accuracy.

But you can follow the recipe in full below:

Apple Core and Peeling Jelly
By UnknownChef86
Added September 13, 2004 | Recipe #99636
Jams and preserves Jellies Condiments, etc. More

Total Time:
Prep Time: Cook Time:

40 mins
10 mins 30 mins

Yield: 1 batch Units: US | Metric 15 -20 medium tart apples, peelings and cores from
6 cups water (for cooking cores and peels)
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box dry pectin
9 cups sugar
1 -2 drop red food coloring (or 1 drop each of yellow and blue food coloring) (optional)   (I DID NOT ADD FOOD COLORING)

  1. 1  Cook peelings and cores in 6 cups water for 20-30 minutes.

  2. 2  Strain through prepared cheesecloth or jelly bag.

  3. 3  Add water as needed, to strained juice, to obtain 7 cups liquid.

  4. 4  Add pectin (whisk works well) and bring to a rapid boil.

  5. 5  Add sugar, boil hard for 1 minute.

  6. 6  Note:If desired,food coloring can be added to juice for color.

    A couple of notes:  I did not add food coloring, but it naturally turned a lovely apple-y shade.  I also didn't have cheesecloth and just used a colander. This worked but required me to pour the liquid back through a strainer because a few chunks leaked through.  I have heard you can use a clean white pillowcase or sheet, but I didn't have one to try.  And finally, pectin can be a tad tricky.  It's important to keep the liquid measurements as exact as possible so the jelly will set.  Don't worry if it's liquid-y for a while...the heat will keep it from setting, but it should turn to jelly consistency when it is completely cooled.  Once again, I don't have canning equipment, so I poured into clean jars and put in the freezer.  The website that featured this recipe had a few comments that the jelly didn't set, but mine set beautifully as soon as it cooled.

    This is a pretty easy project to try, especially because it makes use of fruit pieces that would have just ended up in the compost or trash.  Good luck, friends.

    PS On a completely different note, I am also making an appearance today on A Drop in the Bucket as a guest blogger.  Hop on over and check it out.

13 September 2011


From tree to tummy

We went apple and pear picking the other day and ended up with 15KG of fruit.  That's a lot of apples and pears. They will keep for a while, but even in a month we couldn't eat all of these apples.  I have a few different plans for these apples, but our first project was to make applesauce.  I know store bought applesauce is relatively cheap, and most of you can even find sugar free applesauce (not an option here in NL).  But the taste difference between store bought and home made applesauce is significant, and it's worth a try at home.  I resisted for a long time, but my kids always prefer my applesauce, so I'll continue to make it as long as I have room in my freezer.

The hardest part about making applesauce is slicing and peeling the apples.  For reals.  If you have one of those fancy pants apple corer/peeler things, then you really have no excuse.  But even without one, all you need is a little time.  And before you throw all those peels and cores away, stick around for tomorrow's post on another super easy cooking project.  Look at me, a regular domestic goddess.

Ok, now for the nitty gritty:

1.  Peel and slice apples.  Any amount is fine - just depends how much you have on hand and how much you want to make.

2.  Cover with water.

3.  Simmer on stove.  You know they are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork.

4.  Drain water.  You can always add some back in if you think it's too thick.

5.  Puree.  I use an immersion blender, but you could just use a potato masher if you would like chunky applesauce, or a blender if you want it uber-smooth.

6.  Sprinkle with cinnamon (optional).

I don't can, so I store mine in the freezer.  It keeps beautifully and tastes super fresh.  I also combined apples and pears in the same batch; they cook in about the same amount of time, and it adds a subtle flavor difference.  You could use just pears if you would rather.

That's it!  Easy peasy, right?  Have fun, and make sure to stop back tomorrow to find out what to do with that pile of peels and cores.

 I'm linking up with A Bowl Full of Lemons for her project Tuesday.  Come on over and check out all the great things people have been doing.

12 September 2011


**I promise you I wrote this post before I even knew the topic of last week's Five Minute Friday.  Funny how these things work out, isn't it?**

This is real life

Last week, I was walking from the living room to the office area and I accidentally kicked the potty chair.  And it had pee in it.  From I don't know when.

Yesterday I went to the freezer in the garage to get something.  I was annoyed that I only had one hand to reach in, and I looked down and realized I was still holding a potty chair full of pee.  I don't know how long I had been carrying it around.

Life with toddlers is full of pee.  This is real life.

09 September 2011


Friday!  Woot woot!  Hurray for all things weekend.  Time for another Five Minute Friday, courtesy of Gypsy Mama.  Five minutes of writing from the heart, not the head.

Today's topic:  In Real Life.


In my dreams everything is under control.  In my fantasies my home and family are picture perfect.  Even when speaking out loud, everything fits into the neat compartments that are my life.

In real life, I wish it were so, but it's not.  In real life toddlers color on my ottoman with a ball point pen.  In real life my husband's 3 day business trip turns into 5, and I'm left telling the kiddos that daddy isn't coming home today after all.  In real life I only understand about 20% of what people say to me, because I live in a country whose native language is Dutch, not English.  In real life I sometimes get a glimpse of what it's like to be illiterate, because I also don't read Dutch very well.

But in real life laughter peels through all three floors of our home.  In real life my husband hurries back from his delayed business trip, bursts through the door, hugs me and kisses the kids, and says, "it's good to be home.  This is where I want to be."  In real life, we have an adventure every time we step out of our door, and it's usually a great one.  Or at least a good story to share later.

In real life, we are making real memories.  Real life is messy. Real life doesn't fit into neat compartments.  But a good story doesn't either, and in real life, we're writing our real story.


I hope your real life is writing a great story, one that you will tell for years to come.  Be sure to check out others' posts at Gypsy Mama - it's fun to see the diverse writing that happens when you write from your soul.  I'm #23, and I'm sure there will be more to come.  I enjoyed the blog before mine, Strawberry Roan.  She makes an excellent case for real life being better than fiction.

Have a great weekend!

08 September 2011


Linking up again with Tales From Windmill Fields to talk more about living in a foreign country.

Here's the topic for this week:  list 5 things your country doesn't have and you wish they did and 5 things they do have and you wish they didn't.

5 things NL doesn't have that I wish they did:

1.  Good breakfast restaurants.  
Actually, that's something I missed when we lived in Japan too.  American breakfasts.  Yum.
2.  Warm summers.
I really like it here.  But not for the weather.  I want heat and humidity.  None of that to be found here.
3.  Screens on windows.
Since there's no air conditioning, everyone has their doors and windows open.  But why no screens?  I bought a venus flytrap - seriously - as a way to combat the bugs in the house, so it's not like the NL is a blessed bug-free land.  
4.  Closets.
I like closets.  I like hiding all of our stuff.  Wardrobes are not the same.
5.  Mexican food.
No need to elaborate, especially if you have ever lived close to Mexico and now try to get your fix at Las Salinas in Veldhoven.  No offense to Las Salinas; we like it there, but only because we understand that it's not really Mexican food.

5 things NL does have that I wish they didn't:
1.  Frikandel.
2. Lots of traffic laws.
Who ever heard of yielding to the right?  
first week of september - rainy and cold
3. Unpredictable weather.
The only thing you can predict is that you have no idea when you leave your house if/when you'll need a jacket, umbrella, or boots.
4. French fries.
Only because they're pretty good, and I should eat less of them.
5. Incorrect stereotypes.
I actually really like it here, overall, and I think that some of the stereotypes are a caricature of what life is actually like.

If you are here from Windmill Fields, welcome.  Have a look around, and come visit again.  And if you are just here on your own, head on over to take a look at others' posts.  Have a great NL weekend!  If things stay the way they are, looks like we'll be apple picking in the rain...

07 September 2011


To-Do's Make the World Go Round

I like to organize.  I like to be organized.  It's getting harder with 3 children, but it's still my motivation for keeping things simple.  

If I were a gambler I would put money on the fact that one secret every organized person shares is that they all stay on top of things with a functional to-do list.

I cannot be without mine.  I visit it every day, at least twice.  It keeps me productive and moving forward. It allows me to multitask, and it maintains my sanity.

The format is unimportant, but the key word is functional.  I currently use Google calendar along with an app for my iPhone called Calengoo, which is a syncing app that has offline capabilities.  I am considering a switch to Cozi but am not sure yet if I like it enough to switch everything over.

But like I said, the details are unimportant.  A paper calendar can work too.  I like the computer format, so that's what I use.  I just make sure I follow a few rules:

1. Details, details, details.  Every step of every task goes on my list.  I have been known to write something on my list just so I can cross it off.  The sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing what has been done is critical for me to keep from being overwhelmed.  Often I write the end goal on top and put the step by step items underneath.  Then I get to cross off an extra item when all the "sub-items" are done.

2.  Make friends.  My list and I are on intimate terms.  I visit it at least every morning and every evening, and often in between too.  I must know what is on my list in order to know what to do next.

3.  Avoid arbitrary deadlines.  When I used to just pick a random date for something to be done, the deadline came and went without notice.  But having no deadlines didn't work for me either.  Obviously, if something has a concrete deadline, I mark the due date on the calendar.  But otherwise I simply try to...

4. Break it down.  Every morning when I visit my to-do list, I move 3-4 items from the master list into my calendar.  I avoid being overwhelmed by choosing the few most important things that must be done every day, and placing them on a smaller list for that day.  My current calendar system automatically puts to-do items on the top of the appointment schedule for the day they are due.  So while I don't pick arbitrary deadlines, I do move a deadline to "today" if I have deemed it a priority for that day.  If I accomplish all of those items and then some, bonus.  If I don't get everything done, I reevaluate the undone item's importance and either move it to the next day or just put it back on the master list.  And speaking of not getting everything done, my last rule is...

5. Know when to put it away.  We can all get caught up in the Tyranny of the Urgent, but then we miss out on the Important.  Like tea parties and book reading and family wrestling matches.  The To-Do will always be there tomorrow.

One last thing - I am dangerously addicted to Post-It Notes.  I love them.  But unless I limit my usage, I stop noticing their existence.  So, I use them only for an urgent item that must be done asap, and I stick it to my computer, telephone, or whatever item I need to complete the task.  The point is, whatever method you use, make sure you don't overuse.  Believe me, it is all too easy to simply tune out all the visual input from having lists everywhere, especially when you get overwhelmed and feel paralyzed.

This is what works for me - have any tips to make my system more efficient?

06 September 2011

Deck The Walls

I got a project done this week - woo hoo!  And it wasn't laundry, cooking, cleaning, or lunch-packing related (although I do all that too).

Today was an icky NL day, and the Little needed some entertainment.  So I busted out my creativity hat, and here's what I got:

We have spray on stucco-type stuff on our walls.  And boy oh boy is it textured.  I've drawn blood scraping my hand against it.  It is no fun to paint, and nothing sticks to it.  Oh, and it's also concrete underneath, so no nails either.  Never mind the fact that it belongs to our landlord, although that has never stopped me in the past from painting walls or hanging pictures.

When we first moved in, all of the walls were a dingy white.  The first thing we did was paint the Little's room, because, well, her walls were the worst.  And she's a girl.  But the spray on stucco stuff made it very difficult to get an even coat, and it bothers me.  But I sure didn't want to paint again.  Not until I have to paint it white when we move out, anyway.

So, I hung fabric.  It is super easy.  And let me tell you, if I say it's super easy, you can rest assured that most anyone with a pulse can pull this off.  After all, the 2-year-old was even getting the hang of it.

Here's what you need:  cutie fabric, water, starch, a towel

You can either choose fabric that has printed shapes to cut out (like the animal faces), or you can just use a print you like and make your own shapes (like the K and the clouds).  I have used spray starch in the past, but today I used corn starch from a box and water.  If you use spray starch, you don't need water, but it's a little more of a pain to spray enough at a time.

Here's what you do:
1. cut out fabric shapes
2. spray starch onto fabric piece or dip into starch/water solution
3.  squeeze some out
4.  flatten onto wall
5.  dab with towel if needed

That's it!  This project took under an hour with the Little "helping."  It makes a bit of a mess on the wall or floor, depending on your helpers, but it's very easy to wipe up.  Once dry, the fabric can be easily removed and leaves no glue or residue.  It can be wetted with the solution and rehung if desired.  The animal faces were left over from the Bigs' room a couple years ago.  They've moved on to more mature toys (read:  legos, Star Wars, and fast cars), so the animals were bequeathed to the Little.

I plan to make a farm scene on the wall with the clouds, and maybe a wild animal area/savanna on the wall with the giraffes.

But that's going to require more creativity and time than I had today, so it will have to wait.