August 29, 2012

The Value of a Busy Schedule

They say we shouldn't over schedule our children, and I admit that we do.  Combine boy scouts, church youth group, dance, cross country, piano lessons, honors and AP classes, orthodontis and dermatology appointments with 3 children and let's see who spontaneously combusts first:  one of the kids or me. Or the van for that matter.

But there is a plus side to this craziness, for me anyway. Because the busier I am, the more efficient and productive I am. Yes, I am one of those people.  Give me all day and I will spend it on the computer, reading a book, napping, or any combination of the three.

With two of my boys running cross country this year (we have never had to deal with school sports before this), dinner has to be PLANNED. The thing I've been trying to do all summer has now become a NECESSITY.

So, after the kiddos left for their first day of school (thank goodness it was a full day), I did NOT go back to bed - although it was, oh, so tempting. Instead I:

  • Planned the week's menu
  • CLEANED THE REFRIGERATOR - and not just cleaned out the stuff in there, but washed the shelves and drawers too
  • Shopped at two stores
  • Unloaded everything
  • Put away everything
  • Emptied the dishwasher
  • Started a load of laundry
  • Started tonight's chicken marinating
  • Burned and subsequently ate - my lunch
Now I will take about an hour and a half break and then shower, whip up some chocolate chip cookie batter, cut up some apples for a snack for my returning kiddos, make dinner, drive the boys back to the school, drive my daughter to church for youth group, pick up the boys from school, drive back to the church, drive everyone home, bake the cookies, eat cookies, and fall into bed exhausted.

August 28, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday August 27

Check out Sandra's blog for more Happy Homemaker Monday posts!

It has been a busy couple of weeks and today was no exception.  It is actually Tuesday already, but I still wanted to contribute this week!

The Weather
Still beautiful here in New England.  Today was about 86 degrees - hot in the sun but a nice clear, cool breeze and the evenings are perfect.  We can use some rain though.

On My Reading Pile
Still working on The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson.  It is very interesting but full of information and characters that it takes some concentration.

The New Testament - I am actually going to make it!  I am on Revelations 13.

There is more on my Kindle and others I haven't finished, but now that summer vacation is over, I do not know how much I will be able to read.

On My TV
No change there, still haven't gotten to last week's Netflix movies.  Did I say we we've been busy?

On My Menu
This is getting embarrassing...  

Tuesday - children's choice for the last supper - baked ziti and salad
Wednesday - Okay, you have to understand, my schedule has become insane.  Just read my to do list below.
Thursday - Oldest son's birthday.  His choice.  But what is it?  Don't know yet.
Friday - I give up.

On My To Do List
This is the last day of summer vacation for my crew.  DCF is coming in the morning to interview me and collect paperwork to license my husband and I for Foster care.  Our son is already placed in our home, but the process is not completed.  Today I had to write up autobiographies for me and my husband and our three children.  Then I have to run to the high school to get edline registration codes for our foster son and find out if his social worker turned in the rest of the paperwork.  Then I have to go to the natural food store and the warehouse store and the grocery store.  Then I have to make dinner.  Then I have to drive back to the high school (did I mention that it is not in my town?) to bring my son and f. son to cross country practice.  Then I have to come home and finish/eat dinner.  Then I have to drive back to the high school to pick them up.  Then I have to try and get everyone organized and ready for the first day of school and in bed at a decent hour.  Their bus comes at 6:25.

What I am Creating
Working on my seminary class.

Homemaking Tip
Family meetings!  With the start of school this week and the crazy schedules, we held a meeting while we sat around the dinner table Sunday night (one of the only nights we are all there at the same time), discussing the time demands of the family, who needs to be where and when, what our expectations are, and if anybody needs anything or has any gripes or concerns.  It's most beneficial if we do this every Sunday so we can plan for the coming week.

From the Camera
Nothing this week.

Bible Verse
Nothing at the moment, but I will state that I love John's writings in the New Testament, even Revelations!

On My Prayer List
My family (especially my kids), my seminary students, and fellow seminary teachers.

Have a good week everyone!

August 20, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday August 20

Stop by Sandra's blog to see the rest of Happy Homemaker Monday.

The Weather
What a beautiful day!!! Right now it is 71 degrees with 63% humidity and sunny. Not great weather for swimming, but perfect for everything else.

On My Reading Pile
The New Testament - spent my Sunday reading through the rest of Paul's letters, so now I am on James
A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton - finished that this past week, a little depressing but good
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje - saw the movie a long time ago and do not remember it. This was for sale for 10 cents at my local library
The Notebook of Lost Things by Megan Staffel
and on my Kindle (which I cannot find at the moment)...The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson (this is really interesting - have to find my kindle - I suspect my daughter has it)

On My TV
Have "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "The Song of Lunch" from Netflix

On the Menu for This Week
Monday - chicken sausage and peppers with pasta, spinach salad
Tuesday - probably dinner out - it is back to school shopping day
Wednesday - grilled chicken and veggies
Thursday - grilled pork chops
Friday -
Saturday -
Sunday -
*There will be more to Thursday's menu, I just don't have it figured out yet!

On My To Do List
A lot. Today I have a meeting with the guidance, my foster son, and his social worker to register him for school, then a tour for him and my son who will both be freshmen. An appointment for my oldest child with a new therapist. School supply shopping, and perhaps shoe shopping (both boys want to participate in Cross Country, which means two pairs of running shoes - this is going to be an expensive year), and purchasing The Hunger Games! Cleaning three piles of animal guts off of my deck, along with dried blood. Thanks Kitty. Oh, and grocery shopping. Oh, and perhaps a piano lesson. That is just today...

What I am Creating
Will be working on my seminary class lessons. Seminary is a scripture study program for the high school students in our church. We meet before school every day. Our class runs from 5:45 to 6:35 am. And I am the teacher. We start the day after Labor Day.

Homemaking Tips
Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your kids to take to school? (That's all my youngest will eat.) Spread the peanut butter on both pieces of bread, it will keep the jelly from soaking into the bread and making the sandwich mushy.

Looking Around the House
My oldest is at a friend's house, my daughter is still in bed, the two freshmen boys are outside under the deck shooting air soft guns, at least I think that is what the noise is. There is a soft, refreshing breeze blowing on me from my open sliding glass door. There is no sound from a running air conditioner or fan - no need! And I do not hear the washing machine, which means I need to put my sheets in the dryer.

I guess that was more listening around the house than looking!

From the Camera
nothing new

On My Prayer List
My kids and my dad. He has lung cancer and just found out that the tumors are growing again. Chemo is too rough on him because he has numerous other health issues, and the cancer is terminal, so he will have to make the decision weather to endure chemo or let it go. Right now he does not think he will take the chemo.

From the Bible
I read so much yesterday that I cannot find the one I wanted to share.

Have a great week everyone!

August 17, 2012

Honey Grilled Chicken Breasts

photo source

This recipe comes from Spark People and was pretty tasty.


1/4 C orange juice (this called for fresh, I used Florida's Natural that comes in a carton)
3 T honey
2 T fresh lemon juice (I did use fresh this time)
2 T soy sauce (I used low sodium because of my water retention issues)
1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger (I used 1/8 t ground ginger)
1 T minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (threw in some ground pepper only)

stir above ingredients together and marinate 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Grill until done

What I liked:

I am not going to lie, it is an adjustment to get used to the lack of salt, but this recipe was tasty even without it.  Of course there was some sodium provided by the soy sauce; as I posted earlier, even low sodium soy sauce is loaded with sodium.

Because there is no oil in this marinade, there was no flare up on the grill, and the chicken browned nicely.

Enough juice came off the chicken that it helped flavor the rice that I served with it.

About the rice and getting used to low/no sodium:

I thought I would beat salt at it's own game. I sauteed a mixture of brown and white rice in a teaspoon of olive oil with some very finely chopped onion (to fool my kid). Then I poured in the water and shredded a carrot and threw that in, covered and cooked for 35 minutes.  Blah, it was tasteless.  But then I got used to it, and kind of mixed my zucchini in with it. And it was passable.

See here is the thing. I have two more weeks on my diuretic, and then I have to see if I can control the water retention on my own with diet. Now I do not think that I took in a ridiculous amount of sodium before, at least not compared to everyone I know. So I suspect that my body is a bit inefficient at filtering the sodium. And I suspect that I will have to be pretty strict to be able to stay off medication. So I would rather not add sodium to foods and learn to live without it and let my taste buds adjust.

I am also a simple kind of gal. A very busy simple kind of gal. There is so much swimming around in my head at any given moment that I don't need any more crammed in there kind of gal. I bought one DASH diet cookbook, but I need SIMPLE EASY NO MORE THAN 5 INGREDIENTS kind of recipes. So, if I can learn to enjoy a plain rice, perhaps cooked with a vegetable or two thrown in, I will be very happy.

So I am not dismissing my rice recipe. Perhaps it is me that needs to be adjusted.

August 16, 2012

Update, Yes, I am Still Here

So how is the DASH diet going, I have no idea. Not there yet. I am, however, trying to make small adjustments as I go. I just haven't had the energy/drive/enthusiasm to fully research and jump right in. But I am working on it, really. I've downloaded a DASH diet cookbook on my Kindle, which I have been perusing. I even bought the ingredients for a couple of recipes, although I haven't made them yet. I've had my special cereal a couple of times, but today was chocolate chip pancakes. Don't yell. This morning all three of my kids were home, my daughter had been asking for them, and, well, it is a special summer treat. So I keep telling myself (and my doctor) that once school starts in two weeks it will be easier to get into it.

But all is not lost, in the meantime, I went for a follow up on my blood work and (girly) test results, and am happy with everything. Plus, I lost 5 pounds in water weight!  Yipee! I can tell because my ankles have become shapely. And yesterday my husband and I took our newly 16 year old daughter and her friend to NYC to see CHICAGO (a very naughty but very funny show) - my first Broadway show ever! And it was so expensive that it will probably be my last! Will be sticking to the travel versions that come to our local theater, and even they are expensive. But, MY POINT IS, we walked from Grand Central Station (which is beautiful, btw) to the Ambassador Theater - about 14 city blocks, with a heavy backpack and an umbrella, because it poured. Let me tell you, walking in Manhattan, in the rain, with an umbrella, among ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE, who walk really fast, playing dodge-the-umbrella, was quite an adventure, and quite a workout for me. But I did it, and did not even need to take Advil when I got home. This would have been much, much, harder on me if I was still carrying all of that water.

ANYWAY, the whole point of this post, is to share with you something that I think will help inspire me to become more DASHing. It is a post on pantry organization from The Social Home (which I found through The Passionate Penny Pincher). Anyway, what is more inspiring to an organizing junkie like myself than a pantry full of clear containers holding lots of healthy grains and herbs and spices? (Go to her site to see - I do not want to steal her pictures.) My pantry is fairly organized, but there is always stuff that sits in the back and is ignored. Organizing is always a great way to start fresh and also to find great things you already had but forgotten. I've already gone through some of my spices and thrown out the mixes that had salt as one of their first ingredients, but there is more to do.

So that is that. I really appreciate coming across a post that inspires me to do something that is good for me. Tonight I am going to try a healthy chicken recipe. Will share if it's a hit.

August 9, 2012

Being Green, or Just Cheap

I like to think that I am environmentally minded, but I'm also selfish. I am more motivated to conserve if it means I am saving money too. When it comes to housecleaning, I like convenience, shortcuts, ease. There are certain products on the market that I have purchased because of those qualities, but they are expensive, and I have since found less expensive and more earth friendly substitutions that I will share two with you now.

The spray as you go mop with the disposable pads? Well, I have one of these, and probably paid about $40 at my warehouse store with all of the cleaner and pads that come with it.  But you can get a new one for around $20.  But then you have to buy replacement cleaner and pads. And, those empty plastic cleaner bottles have to be recycled and if you are not good about it then they wind up in the landfill along with the used pads.

Well I was tired of paying lots of money for the refills, especially the cleaner.  Then I found this at Walmart:

It is an O-Cedar Pro-Mist Cleaning System (kind of a fancy name for a mop).  It does everything that the other one does, except that

  1. You manually pump the cleaner out by pulling the trigger on the handle* instead of pushing a button and it does not use batteries that need to be replaced and put in a landfill.
  2. You use your own cleaning solution - just remove the plastic container and fill it mostly with water and add no more than two teaspoons of cleaning solution, if you want it. No empty bottles for the landfill.
  3. Use the microfiber pad that comes with it, wash it, and reuse it. No used pads for the landfill.
This mop costs about $20, and if you want a second pad it costs about $8. But there are no cleaner refills to buy, and no disposable pads to buy (I think they do have disposable pads to buy if you really want, but you don't have to), and nothing to throw away.

*I am arthritic but I can squeeze the trigger over and over with no problem.

My second hint, which I may have discussed before, is the use of rags instead of paper towels.

 I have purchased paper towels twice in 3-4 years. That's all. I bought a package of white terrycloth rags from the auto department at my warehouse store for the price of a large package of paper towels. I have been using them for the 3-4 years since I gave up paper towels.  I keep a drawer in my kitchen full of them and use them to dry off produce after I've washed it, sop up spills, everything I used paper towels for. If it is a really messy job, like wiping up grease, I use a piece of newspaper.

That's it!  Two ways that I have saved money and helped the environment without sacrificing convenience.

August 6, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday Aug 5th

The Weather
Highs are in the 80's today, but the humidity level is 49%, which is wonderful.  We had a lots of humidity over the weekend and it was miserable.  We do not have central air conditioning and our measly window unit could not keep up.

On My Reading Pile
Finished The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch.  This has been my favorite read so far this summer.  It is not for everyone, though, as it has gruesome violence in it. I am not one for violence, but I think the way it was portrayed made it possible for me to handle.

Read The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault.  This was the author's debut novel. My local library was selling it for a quarter.  I really enjoyed it, it was worth the $0.25 investment, but not one I would read again, so I will be passing it on.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  This is a book my daughter started reading in English last year, but they ran out of time and did not finish.  We finally got it from the library so she could complete it, which she did, and she highly recommends it, so it is next.

On My TV
The remake of "Footloose" from Netflix.
Watched "Harry Potter" 7B last night.  We are avid Harry Potter fans in this house.  We have two copies of every book, plus a digital copy, and every movie.  We have read and watched each several times.  After watching the last movie, I want to start reading all of the books again.  JK Rowling is a magnificent writer. She is funny, interesting, and the end of each of her chapters leaves you wanting to go on to the next.

On the Menu for This Week
I don't know!  I have to look through the DASH diet for suggestions and figure it out. Am trying to change my eating due to a high blood pressure reading at the doctors last week.  Hopefully it will be a lot of grilled lean meats and fruits and veggies.  Will share when I come up with some good recipes.

On My To Do List
It's a long one.  Dermatologist appointment for my daughter tomorrow. Mammogram for me on Friday. Vacuuming and mopping floors, menu planning and grocery shopping, the usual housework items. I also have a stack of paperwork to register our foster son for high school that I cannot fill out without his social worker.  DCF is his legal guardian, so it gets pretty complicated.  I will also be spending this week trying to get my computer back in order. It was infected with a virus so after trying a few things, I reset it to its factory settings and now have to update and reinstall a bunch of stuff.  Oh, and I got up at 5 am to bring three boy scouts to camp for 6 am.

What I am Creating
Between reading up on the DASH diet, coming up with healthy recipes, and filling out the high school paperwork, that's all I have time for!

Homemaking Tip
A strawberry huller works great to remove pieces of eggshell from a cracked egg.  You can also use it to remove the white squiggly things from the yoke.  You need the kind with the rounded tips, like this one:

Looking Around the House
The sun is shining on the deck outside my window. My daughter is sitting on the couch workin on her AP Psych summer work. Other than that, it is quiet. The house is a bit of a mess, with this paperwork piled on my kitchen table, and having a picnic here on Saturday, the floors need to be cleaned. But, it is calm and peaceful, and I am enjoying it.

From the Camera
I no longer have my files on my computer, so this will have to wait.

On My Prayer List
always my kids, my huband

Bible Verse
Romans 1:16:  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: For it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believeth"