Monday, April 30, 2012

Keeping Your Home

ENCOURAGEMENT:  From the Seasoned Author...

This post was inspired by another blog and a short conversation on Facebook by some young wives/mothers.  I have only read this post, so I can't say anything else about this particular blog.  This lady has a passion for cleaning, and that is great...maybe she could come to my house.  She could have a fit for herself!  :)  One thing we need to remember is the importance of doing what is right for our family rather than going by the standards or ideals of others.  Is a clean house important?  Yes.  Is a spotless house important?  ...that depends.  I am not a great housekeeper.  I had a friend once tell me that my house was "relaxed."  I was embarrassed that this particular person thought that about my house.  Once I thought about it though, I realized that we are just different.  And that is okay.  Her house looks like it could be in a magazine.  It is well decorated and very neat.  My house, well, as I look around right now, there is a stack of mail, a binder and several books stacked/strewn over the surface of the coffee table, a bottle of medication and a piece of mail on the mantle, my purse and a bag from Kmart on the fireplace insert.... you get the idea.  Oh yeah, there is dust you can see on the entertainment center.  She's right.  It is relaxed.  I'm okay with that.  Do I dust?  Do I mop the floors?  Yes.  I even occasionally wipe down door jambs and switch plates (not often and not on a schedule, like spring time or fall).  To me, here is what's important... ask your husband, if you are married, what his comfort level is when it comes to the cleanliness/tidiness of the house.  What makes him comfortable is very important.  He needs to be able to come home and relax and be comfortable.  Once you've asked him what his comfort level is, weigh the importance of how clean the house is against being the mom your children need (if you have kids).  I know there have been times in my life where I was so fixated on how the house looked that I was screeching at my children if one thing was out of place....having a few papers on the coffee table is not important compared to being a good example of love, patience, gentleness and kindness to my children.

I just want to encourage you to think about what level of cleanliness/tidiness is right for your family and your family situation.  When you see lists like the one on that particular blog, don't beat yourself up if you don't live up to that persons standard of cleanliness or spring cleaning.  Don't compare yourself with others, either by putting yourself down or by looking down at others.  Just take care of your home and family for the glory of God and you will be considered His faithful servant.

TESTIMONIAL:  From the Younger Author...

I am in the midst of what my mother is talking about.  It seems as though each added member to my family is an instrument the Lord uses to break me of perfectionism, from my Hubz all the way to my youngest child.  There was a time when I would have decorated my home in pristine modern style, everything in its place and streamlined.  Cleaning done on a weekly basis, each day having its own set of chores.  Well, finances never allowed us newlyweds to "style" our apartment.  And moves and kids have certainly flipped my love of modern style on its head.  Practicality and comfort now win, people.  :-)  And the keeping of my home? ...

There was a phase I went through when I fought as hard as I could against losing "control" of the cleanliness of my home.  Obtaining a Home Ec degree only fanned the flames.  WHAT?  I didn't clean the toilets and it's been over a week, as in 8 days?  The tub hasn't been cleaned in a week and a half?  The world is coming to an end -- where is our schedule, our sanity??  Ridiculous, right?  I know that now.  I remember while going through that battle of letting the control (freak) go that one of my dear friends told me they didn't clean the bathrooms weekly.  I was in shock.  I thought for sure that family must be "perfect" in their house keeping.  But the problem was my own perspective.  That family was just as healthy as my own -- whether the toilets were cleaned weekly or bi-weekly, tubs cleaned weekly or once a month.  It truly was eye opening and put me on the path to freedom from perfectionism.  I purposefully experimented with allowing myself to stretch the time between cleanings.  A slow start, but a good one.  (Disclaimer: This is one of those happy medium can't let it go for TOO long or you risk disease and bad stewardship of what God has given!)  I've also worked on becoming ok with others entering my home without everything perfectly in place and all clutter hidden away.  It really is not worth it to go crazy straightening if it's going to stress you, your kids, or your hubby out.  People know you live in your house... and some people are even intimidated by perfect-looking homes which means your guests won't feel comfortable.  If you have a perfectionist-control freak streak, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to how your family and guests feel in your home.  It means you are at risk of choosing to sacrifice relationships on the altar of sterile style.  Be careful.

My mom is right.   Having a home that is comfortable for your hubby and being the mom your kids need is far, FAR more important than the physical upkeep of your home.  And trust me, I am STILL working on this.  Perfectionism and love-of-routine is very hard to let go of if it's in your blood.  I still go through times of struggle, and even occasionally shed tears over the lack of routine when life just will not seem to slow down long enough for me to be in control and at least have a near-perfect home.  (Have you noticed a couple thematic elements in this post?  They are both antagonists!)  And there are times in life when life must be busy, like say for a few months back to in what's been happening for my family this year.  That's okay!  Life will reset, whether back to the old normal or you'll just discover a new normal.  There can be no constant in housekeeping.  Exhibit A: clean toilet one minute, used the next.  Exhibit B: all laundry completed, only to find clothes in hampers at bedtime.  The only constant you need for whatever "normal" you find yourself in is a fixed gaze on God's will and glory.  Keep your home for HIS glory, not your own.

As proof that I have come a VERY long way, I can testify that 2 of the four toilets in our home have lovely pink rings in them, and I honestly can not remember the last time I cleaned them.  Or the tubs.  And you should SEE the dust, especially considering all the sanding/painting that's been going on.  And the laundry?  Good thing it has its own room.  ::chants to self "It's ok.  It's ok.  It'll get clean sometime..."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Challenge to Vanity

Good heavens.  I promise we are not giving up on this blog!!  We have several posts in the making.  It's just that our "editor" has had many much things on her plate right now in many areas of life.  And blogging?  Well, it really should take a back seat to things like health, family, school, and house deadlines.  Thank you for bearing with us, and please don't give up on us as we refuse to give up on you, our readers!

I did want to do a quick post today while it's on my mind.  A while back, I walked through Ecclesiastes.  Revelation had always been my favorite book for years upon years -- but I dare say that Ecclesiastes and its impact on me may either tie or win out over Revelation.  It truly puts you in your place and gives you the RIGHT perspective on life's journey in this world.  Nothing lasts except what is done for Christ.  All but eternity is vanity.  And that includes the beauty our bodies may have.

As I was getting ready for a book study this morning, I became aware that I was thinking vain thoughts about a particular asset I think I have.  The thoughts were not intentional, nor were they a "prideful" kind of vain.  If that makes sense.  My thought was kind of a "matter of fact" thing.  But the Spirit immediately and graciously reminded me that it will not last.  And you know what happened?  I then thanked the Lord for the beauty He graciously gave me in this particular area and realized it is a privilege, not a right.  He taught me that vanity can quickly become gratitude.  I don't believe we have to think the worst of ourselves and what God has given us physically -- that's not the opposite of vanity.  The opposite of vanity is thankfulness and recognition that you are the way you are because that's how your Creator made you.  Why would you see yourself in the mirror and criticize what Almighty Creator God has done?  That isn't right, and neither is pride in how you look.  Just be thankful and quietly enjoy it while it lasts.

Challenge:  Think of something you like about the way you look or who you are.  Now thank God for being kind enough to make you the way He did!  And ask Him to help you enjoy it without being prideful or vain.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Call Me Crazy: Black Tea Tan

So, what lengths would you go to in order to please your husband if he mentions something that might look nice to him?  :-)  A few years back, my brave Hubz mentioned to me that my legs were white.  As in really white.  And he might, maybe, just prefer them to have a little more color.  I think my jaw hit the floor.  I'd never been accused of being super white before (just look at pics from my lifeguarding, have-all-the-time-in-the-world days).  I have super capacity to be tan thanks to my (albeit small) native American heritage.  But I have a husband, kids, and home now.  And that doesn't always mix with being able to get a tan.  At the time he told me that, I did buy a bottle of Jergen's self-tanning lotion.  Nope.  It made the rough spots on my ankles and below my knees orange and the tanned color was just odd.  I've tried to snag little sessions outdoors to get some Vitamin D and sun-kissed skin, but the cooler months last longer here... and I have kids.  My upper half currently has a nice bit of color to it because I worked outdoors the other day.  But my legs.  Well, they still fit the description my brave Hubz gave.  And I want to please him.

Enter: a hair-brained, crazy idea a friend saw on Pinterest.  The black tea tan.

(Tip: If you are blessed with gorgeous skin color as my dear friend in Colorado is... disregard the following!)

Supposedly, you brew 4 black tea bags in two cups of boiling water for 10-15 minutes.  Once it cools enough to be comfortable, you spray or sponge it on your freshly exfoliated skin (stay in your tub/shower!!).  With gloved hands, rub it all over in a circular motion without leaving any darker streaks.  Dab off any extra droplets (don't want to look like a zebra or leopard!) with a towel you don't mind tea stains on (I have a nice tea-colored towel, perfect!).  And allow to air dry.  You're supposed to end up with a nice touch of color on your skin.  The strength of the tea apparently changes the strength of the skincancer free, non-fake, non-spray-me-orange, CHEAP tan.  It's supposed to last 3-4 days until your skin goes through it's natural sloughing pattern.

Mm-hmm.  I tried it.  :-)  I did one leg three times which took maybe a total of 5 minutes.  Then I took a picture.  There IS a difference.  Hopefully your monitor and your eyes will be able to tell.  I even asked JG, my 6 year old son, which leg was whiter (he didn't know which leg had been "tanned") and he immediately pointed to the correct one.

I'm going to go do the other leg now.  And I'm going to do the black tea tan again after my shower tomorrow to see if I can get more color so my legs match my arms for once.  Can't wait to see if my leg color will now be more pleasing to my Hubz.  (Bonus: They won't be pasty white for a wedding this Sunday!)

Another tip was to combine a bit of coco powder with your favorite lotion to get a "glow" or "bronzed" look.  I haven't tried that, and I'm not sure I'll go that far.  You're not supposed to let your skin get wet if you do this or else it will streak as the lotion runs.

Happy all-natural tanning... if you're adventurous enough!

Ps - Can I get kuddos for having bravery to match my Hubz's?  I did post a picture of my LEGS on my blog.  :-P  I just want my readers to know it works!

Monday, April 9, 2012

All Purpose Cleaner

Dining on a Dime pg. 403

Do you feel as weird reading about a cleaning product "recipe" from a book called "Dining on a Dime" as I feel writing about it?  Just seems weird, but I'm very glad these frugal recipes are in available.  I wish I had figured out how much this costs to make, but I didn't.  I made a single batch (about a gallon), and I cleaned a bathroom with it.  I sprayed the cleaner on the sink, shower floor, and toilet and let it sit while I swept the floor.  Then I wiped it up with a wet sponge.  I did have to use a little elbow grease in the sink and on the shower floor due to some soap scum (at least I guess that's what it was).  Also, I used the green scrubby side of the sponge for the sink and shower floor.  It made the sink and faucet nice and shiny!   It also worked well on the bathroom floor.  I was happy with the way everything came out.  However, I did use it on the front of my black dishwasher and it left a white film.  I wasn't too happy about that, but then I realized it was probably from the baking soda in the recipe.  Once wiped with a wet rag, all was well.  :)  Here is the recipe:

1 gallon of water
1cup ammonia
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda

Combine all ingredients.  Put in a spray bottle to clean showers, toilets, sinks and counters.  Great for most cleaning needs.  Use all-purpose cleaner to clean your floors.  Just spray on and wipe off as you would counter tops.

I'm going to do some research and find out if I can put some essential oils in there to make it smell really nice.  Not that it smells bad at all.... it sort of has no odor.  Anyway, I just don't want to combine anything and get myself sick....did that once when I was younger.  But that, as they say, is another story!  :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pretty Efficiency

Do I know how to make cookies?  Of course.  But that's not all they teach you in four years of college-level Home Ec (despite what many people assume).  They also teach efficiency, time management, money management, and tricks of the Home Manager's trade.  I love being able to contribute to food events at our church whether showers, meals, receptions, Sunday school snacks, or whatever.  But life gets busy, and it certainly isn't practical ALL the time to try and fit in a home-baked item.  Does that mean I have to say no?  Does that mean I have to buy something from the store and plunk it on the table to say "There, I contributed"?  No to both!  So here's my little, simple trick of the trade: Buy something and just arrange it on your own dishes!  Time is valuable, sometimes more so than dollars.  And service to others is priceless as it is commanded in Scripture.  Don't put value on dollars more than time and people.  Sometimes, it's worth it to spend a bit more to be able to contribute but in a way that looks nice and blesses people.

Three specific examples of what I've done:

1) I LOVE potato salad.  But it can be time consuming.  And Safeway makes the best Southern potato salad ever!  So I have been known several times to buy Safeway's potato salad and make it pretty in one of my white bowls for baby and wedding showers.  No one knows any different because it fits right in with the pretty table decor!

2) I know that April is going to be a crazy month for my family, but I also gave Hubz "12 Pies for 12 Months" for Christmas.  That means he gets a pie even if it's a busy month for us.  When you do the cost breakdown for a lemon meringue pie, it's pennies more to just buy one and A LOT less time (and hassle...have you ever tried to make meringue perfectly? UGH!).  So I flat out bought him a bakery lemon meringue pie.  He's happy as a lark, and I saved us a couple (or more) hours of time.

3) I signed up for Sunday School snack last month -- and it happened that no one in my family went to church that day.  Thankfully, we live super close to a Safeway and even closer to another family in our church.  Thanks to a great sale, I got 100 cookies for $10.00 that morning.  Slap those cookies in a couple dishes for the "pretty" factor, deliver to said neighbor to be taken to church, and the rest of my morning was spent caring for our sick kiddos and just resting as a family.  Bonus: our Sunday school has way fewer than 100 people... so we had cookies for a week!  GOOD cookies!

Disclaimer:  If you find yourself in a financial situation in which you really shouldn't purchase something, then don't.  Family comes first, and no extraneous purchase should jeopardize your family's needs.  If you have more time and less money, then home-made goods tend to be cheaper.  But not always -- so be careful!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Healthy Eating :)

The end of January I went to a "Maximized Living" meeting that a friend invited me to attend.  It was very interesting and challenging in the area of what I eat.  I started to change the way I eat: no sugar or processed food, no bread, few grains, good healthy fats, and meats/dairy from grass fed animals.  I feel so much better and have lost about 15 or so pounds.  My mom sent me a link to a web site with recipes that  fit well with this eating plan.  I decided to try several, and the first one I tried was wonderful.  Before I forget, here is the actual blog I got the recipe.  She has a lot of recipes using real food and the Maximized Living way of eating.  I had planned to have it for lunch; but then, due to poor time management, ended up having it for dinner.  I was/am grateful that my Honey is easy to please and is happy just to have dinner on the, he really liked it as I did.  :)  Here is the recipe and a few notes on how I tweaked it just a little bit.

Black Bean Confetti Salad
Makes 4 Servings
2 15-ounce cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed
4 organic bell peppers, a mix of colors, diced
1 organic cucumber, diced
1 organic jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
1 white onion, diced
Juice of one large lime
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
A few spoonfuls of organic Greek yogurt (optional)
Mix beans, bell peppers, cucumber, jalapeno, and onion in a large bowl.  In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, sea salt, cayenne and cilantro into a vinaigrette.  Pour vinaigrette over the bean mixture, toss well to coat, and adjust seasonings to taste.  Spoon into bowl and top with spoonful of Greek yogurt.

Notes: I did not use jalapeno.  I'm sensitive to hot/spicy foods so I just used a dash of cayenne (Yes, I did use cayenne, for those of you who will be shocked). I only used 3 bell peppers because I got tired of chopping them up.  Lastly, I didn't do the greek yogurt.  I did serve it with baked pita chips for my Honey.  I was really happy there are enough leftovers for me to have lunch a couple times.