Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mission: Organization

My mom was never super organized. In fact, when I was growing up, she was one of the worst housekeepers around. Thankfully, she's much better now and has a very lovely home.

Even though she didn't teach me the best housekeeping skills, I definitely don't need a visit from Kim and Aggie! I'm in more need of someone to just organize me!

Still, I did carry away from my youth one very important skill...Meal Planning. I am always amazed at how many people don't plan meals ahead of time. This is a completely foreign concept to me. It is not only a great time saver (no standing in the pantry going "what shall we cook today?") but is incredibly economical. This is key with the way food prices are running.

We also use up our left overs! In our house, we call it recycling food. We are encouraged to recycle everything else. It makes perfect sense to recycle foods not eaten in one more for use in another.

I try hard not to get our family in to a food rut, but we do have some food routines. Friday and Saturday nights are usually pasta and spaghetti. D isn't usually home those nights and he hates both those foods. If something comes up at the last minute and I'm pressed for time, I've been known to pull out the pancake mix and we'll do the old breakfast for dinner. The kids love it.

Every two weeks, I head to the big warehouse store and purchase meat. Ten pounds of chicken thighs and 7 pounds of extra-lean ground beef. I sometimes spice it up by purchasing a giant bag of meatballs or some pre-breaded flash frozen chicken. I also pick up milk, eggs, 10 lbs of apples, 10 lbs of potatoes, sometimes oranges or other fruits and veggies we may need in large quantities. This may not be practical for some, but we do go through massive amounts of fresh fruits and veggies each week.

When I sit down to meal plan, I pull out the weekly sales flyer from our neighborhood store and see what the loss leaders are. I then look through all my cookbooks and see what type of dinners we can create with what's on sale. If there's a super good deal at the store, I will stock up. This allows me to pull from my pantry later on. I write down my menu on a list and every single ingredient I'm missing on another list.

Now some people enjoy making grocery shopping a game. I found that it wasn't worth it. I do not buy pre-packaged foods and cook mainly from scratch. This really helps to cut down on my food costs and is much healthier as I control how much extra "stuff" is in my food.

This whole process takes about 20 minutes a week. Not too bad. It's what allows me to feed my family of 7 for under $100 a week. I used to be able to feed us for about $70 a week, but Alex has this bottomless pit of a stomach lately so I'm having to adjust my purchasing volume to account for him becoming a "growing boy."

More grocery tips to come later this week!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fifteen minutes of fame

Years and years ago, I used up five minutes of my fifteen. I was interning with a local newspaper and one of my stories got picked up on the AP wire. This was a pretty big deal. My story was very long. I went to Seattle for a visit and found my little story reduced to three paragraphs buried in the dark recesses of "interesting news from outside the area." But there it was in the Seattle PI.

I'm now enjoying another five minutes.

I just got a letter in the mail from a woman in Hawaii who saw one of my kitchen oopses that turned into a yummy in Rachael Ray's magazine and wanted my recipe! I can't believe someone was interested enough in a cookie recipe to google me and the snail mail a letter! Absolutely insane!

I am pretty sure the recipe is this one. It's been awhile. My big oops? I started the cookies and realized I was completely out of milk. I did have eggnog ice cream, and used that instead. They were extremely creamy. But, this is a pretty excellent cookie recipe anyway!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pantry Raid

Confession: When I said I was going to organize my pantry, that really only meant I was going to make it look pretty. It had nothing to do with purging.

Confession: When I did get around to purging the cabinets, I was surprised to find two bottles of grenadine and only three expired boxes in my food storage. I also found the mystery container...

They mystery can was a 10 lb can of something. It looked a lot like what my TVP is stored in, but I labeled all my TVP. This wasn't labeled so I only had one choice...break it open. I looked at it and it was dehydrated something. The only thing I could think to do was boil water and figure it out.

Apparently, I picked up a can of dehydrated refried beans. I probably adopted it in to my home from someone who was moving. Regardless, rehydrated refried beans don't taste any worse than traditional refried beans, especially when you mix them with cheese, tomatoes, green chilies, tortillas and TVP chicken.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lead Balloon

Leelee's appointment didn't go so well and neither did my housekeeping today.

We did manage to make it to the 8:30 a.m. appointment on time. This is a miracle in itself since I tend to run 10 minutes late to everything. We discussed with the dentist the plan. I reminded everyone she was latex allergic. Kari pitched a fit because she wasn't going to the dentist. Strange child enjoys being poked and prodded. The littles and I went out to the waiting room and about 5 minutes later, out walks Leelee. She freaked out at the needle. This makes dentist #4 or are we up to #5 that can't handle the child freaking out.

Looking on the bright side, I'm glad they are willing to stop work and not traumatize her. The bad side, it's taken so long and so many dentists to get this cavity fixed it has now abscessed and needs to come out.

The dr referred us to a place he felt would be good for her but alas, they only take medicaid! Well, we don't have medicaid thank you very much, which means I now have to go out of network to a pediatric dentist since we've pretty much exhausted all the decent dentists in town.

She has an appointment tomorrow afternoon for take #6 of the great cavity drama.

After that we hit Costco where I restrained myself and did not buy the 7 dozen eggs for $4.90 even tho it was an incredibly good deal. Surely I can use that many eggs! It would only take about a month and more space in my fridge than I can spare... I also splurged on strawberries ... 4 lbs for $6! They are the best juiciest strawberries I have had in years. I think between all of us, we've eaten about 2 lbs already.

Meanwhile, nothing got done around the house. I even stooped to ordering pizza for dinner. After dinner, I sewed. Oh yes, after the day from you-know-where, I indulged my creative side and sewed!

And yes, like a good girl, I picked up the living room and did the dishes before I blogged. So there :P

Monday, April 21, 2008

News from the land of boredom

There's nothing really profound to report here aside from the fact I've gotten in to a routine that really seems to be working for me. I've made it work for an entire week, even with having everyone home over the weekend!

That means the first 7 days to making this in to a habit are under my belt!

Tomorrow will be a real challenge because it will be the first day I will have an event right in the middle of my cleaning/organizing time. I am going to be interested in seeing how I respond to this disruption. Leelee has a dentist appointment and will be home from school all day. I am expecting her to be rather clingy since she's probably having a tooth pulled.

I am hoping to get most of my work for tomorrow morning done before bed tonight. We'll see how that goes.

Other worries for tomorrow is that we will be walking in to a minefield at the dentist office. Leelee is allergic to latex and dentist offices, doctor offices and hospitals are full of latex. I am very apprehensive about this. Terrified that we are going to have to use her epi-pen.

It's just rather scary to know that such a routine visit could be fatal if someone ignores the big sticker on her chart that says "LATEX ALLERGY." This isn't just an unlikely fear. Last summer she had to make an ER visit and we told the admit nurse and everyone else who came in to her room she was latex allergic...and in comes a nurse ready to treat her wearing latex gloves. It's incredibly frustrating.

So tomorrow will hopefully be very non-eventful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We have a winner!

Or at least honorable mention. I'm very proud of Leelee for her science fair project. She worked hard and it showed.

I also made a cute bag for her for school today. Her bag broke and with just 4 1/2 weeks left of school I didn't want to buy one. Sort of like how I'm making the kids tough it out with their shoes, too. No sense in spending the money on shoes they aren't going to be wearing in the fall when school is almost out.

On the bright side, I finally did something with the pair of jeans I've been hanging on to for at least a year. Slowly but surely I'm decluttering my sewing stash.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's not rocket science

Not much to post on the last couple of days. I overcame a big fear and went to the dentist yesterday. Had two fillings done. I'm glad that is over! It's amazing that I can give birth to babies without medications, but I'm a total chicken when it comes to getting my teeth worked on.

The other thing occupying my time is helping Leelee with her science fair project. She has this crush on Alton Brown so wanted to do a food science related project. She picked "Why do Onions Make You Cry." This means I've spent a lot of time crying lately as we experimented.

I found this wiki article on onions very interesting. Apparently, the ancient Egyptians worshiped onions. Scientists have also managed to genetically alter an onion to make a no-cry version. I'm not big on the genetic modifications so I'll probably skip this onion when it hits the stores.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Road Trip!

The open road is calling. We have a family reunion this summer in Portland, Ore. Even with gas prices so high, it's still cheaper to drive than fly. And, amazing as it sounds, all of that time in a van with five children is vastly more appealing than several hours on a plane with them.

I do not enjoy air travel. I've flown twice since 9/11. Once to move here and once for my sister's wedding. And, I can't even remember the last time I flew before that. Maybe once back in college. A 757 crashed a few miles from my home when I was in high school and that sort of thing up close and personal, sort of sticks with you. Flying is still supposed to be safer than driving but I'm wondering how many of those flew with this many children.

It may be safer, but is it saner? That's the big question. At least on the road, we can stop and let the kids run.On the plane, we're stuck...for six hours.

Then there's the cost factor. Flying for our family will also include a car rental once we get to our destination. Flying will cost us around $4000. Driving, round trip can be done for under $1500.

I'm obsessively pouring over maps trying to decide which route to take. We have one leg of the trip that's a definite. We're heading straight north to the land of the mega coaster. That's right, we're going to Cedar Point! Everyone is extremely excited.

I had a very traumatic childhood, I think. I lived in Denver when a man died on a roller coaster. A relative was also stuck at the top of a roller coaster at the same park when it got stuck and everyone had to be rescued. D said he's going to get me on a coaster yet. The last time I was on a coaster was in '86 in Canada.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oh the irony

After harping on my oldest to be sure to take his medication every morning, I've managed to misplace mine. Yes, it's true, the mama with ADD can't remember where she set down her bottle of pills. I know it's in the kitchen some place and it's not like there's a huge area to hide. I'm just a total space case without them and *nothing* is getting done.

I did manage to pull together the laundry. Found some 30 year old fabric, too. I've only had it for 10 years. I inherited it from my mother-in-law who had all intentions of making curtains with it for her oldest daughter. Her oldest daughter now has three children and is in her 30s.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who sets out to start projects and never finishes.

I'm also amazed that this entry started as a lament about my missing medication and ended up about sewing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And money was paid to figure this out...

Husbands create 7 more hours of housework each week

Progress

I made a huge amount of decluttering progress today and it's just barely lunch time! Yay me! I attacked the girls' room with a garbage bag and the oldest one at school and the baby down for a nap. It's amazing how much you can get done with just one child completely preoccupied by something other that what you are doing--even better when the child isn't getting in to trouble.

In preparation for the upcoming yard sale, I've found a few links that might prove helpful to others. One thing I do not like about yard saling here is the sales begin at the butt crack of dawn because by noon, it's really too hot to be out.

Yardsale Queen

Clear Clutter with a Yard Sale
15 tips for a Successful Yard Sale
How to Have a Yard Sale
Garage Sale Professional blog

Monday, April 7, 2008

I came, I sewed, I procrastinated

I think the title says it all. In my effort to finish projects in order to organize my sewing items and decrease the amount of fabric in my stash (yeah yeah that's it, D is sure to believe that) I needed to sew today. First order of business was to finish The Rose dress that has been sitting on top of my sewing pile for a good two weeks. I also have a pair of knicker pants for Leelee that are half way done. I've never done a zipper in a fly before and I think that's why I keep putting it off. Also cut out is one more of that dreaded "Recycled" dress that i've tried three times now and haven't had complete success. I'm getting closer.

Oh and lest we forget, I have a stack of projects to do for people who are actually paying me with something other than hugs and kisses.

Confession: I'd rather be sewing than cleaning my house, folding laundry and cleaning out closets.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Let them eat cake!

Sunday night is one of the few nights we actually have dessert. On the menu tonight was an yummy orange cake with chocolate frosting.

Orange Cake with Chocolate Frosting

1 pkg Orange Cake mix
3 eggs
1 1/3 C water
1/3 C oil

Chocolate Frosting from a can.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, plus another 50 degrees because the oven is off. Grab two round cake pans from the cabinet. Put back the other pans that fall out. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. The box instructions advise flouring the pan. Debate whether or not the step is actually necessary. Go ahead and try the flour since the flour is already sitting on the counter from the last time you made cookies.

Dig into the lower cabinet to find a metal mixing bowl. Replace everything that has fallen out in the process. Open cabinet again and remove the mixer. In the mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix, oil and water.

Retrieve eggs from the refrigerator. Replace everything the toddler has grabbed out of the fridge in the 15 seconds it was open. Quickly run to the eggs to prevent toddler from breaking them open. Add eggs to mixing bowl.

Beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes. Question why you really spend the time to do this but then remember something about egg proteins bonding together and making things more fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Tell children who are now begging for the beaters to wait just a gosh darn minute. Hand off goopy beaters and scraper to children.

Bake cake in oven for 30 minutes.

Begin cleaning up mess. Feel relief that the children are busy developing some sort of raw food illness from licking the batter with raw eggs and are out of your way so you can clean.

Sit down for 15 minutes. Breathe.

Ask older child to play blocker for the toddler so you can get the hot cake out of the oven. Wait for the cake to cool.

Meanwhile, make dinner. Remove toddler from the kitchen table. Toss potatoes in a pot with water and boil. Remove toddler from the kitchen table. Toddler is now completely naked. Get toddler dressed. Put chicken in the oven. Remove toddler from the kitchen table. Toddler is again completely naked. Chase toddler into her room sister's room. Grab toddler who tries to hit you in the face with the beater you let her have earlier. Take beater away and pull out more clothes. Turn back to see toddler is now climbing the bunk beds. Put the beater down and rescue toddler. Find duct tape and affix it to her clothing as you dress her so she can no longer strip.

Set table for dinner. Realize you need to wash laundry for school uniforms. Do laundry.

Return to kitchen. Drain potatoes. Dig through the cabinets and realize you have no stock to make mashed potatoes and must use milk. (trust me, stock is much better for flavor than milk!). Prepare to mash potatoes but realize you can't find the other beater. Retrace steps to find it where you left it in the bedroom.

Call family to table. Eat dinner in relative peace.

Cake is now cool. Try to remove from pan and realize the flour didn't really help and it's coming out in pieces. Apply frosting on bottom layer. Add top layer. Apply frosting on top and sides. Fill big gaping hole on side with frosting so the cake will stop falling apart.

Decide you might want to blog about this. Grab the camera which is sitting right on the counter where you've been looking for it for three days. Turn camera on. Watch the "battery empty" message appear. Try again. and again. and again. Hear husband and children demand cake already. Slice it up. Add ice cream. Hear the silence of full mouths.

collapse in exhaustion from trying to bake and frost a cake.

Triumphant

Made it over to our storage unit yesterday and began clearing it out. We've made the decision, and this is big, to prepare like we are going to be moving soon. I've always found that moving helps me organize and declutter.

We got rid of a lot of things and are preparing for a garage sale! I must remember the yard sale isn't so much to make money as it is to clear things out.

Meanwhile, I have to crack down on the UFOs...that is Unfinished Fabric Objects. I think I have four or five of them, including a pair of pants, three dresses and i'm sure others. But thanks to a new challenge from Sparklepower I'll be doing a sew along! Gotta finish these up! Keep checking in here for my crafting/sewing updates. And be sure to check out her blog for some great tutorial links!

Friday, April 4, 2008

A slave to routines

Confession: Until today, I didn't realize that over the last two weeks, I had gotten into a great rhythm. As soon as I took the children to school, I'd come home and fix breakfast for those of us left at home. Next, I'd sit down and blog and in the process, outline my goals for the day. This has proved so very helpful.

After blogging and checking a few emails and favorite message boards, I'd clean up the kitchen, do the laundry, tidy the living room, and then sew or do one of my dreaded tasks like floors or organizing one of the black holes.

So what upset the balance today?

That would be my husband who was home all day! Right now, he's completely useless with the bum ankle. He couldn't even really take the little girls into the backyard to play.

I was surprised to find how much just having him upset the precarious balance of my day.

What didn't get done? Laundry, tidying the living room, the bathroom.

The only reason the kitchen was picked up was because *someone* and it wasn't me, wanted pancakes and the good skillet was dirty. I And, I can't just clean one dish without cleaning up the rest of the kitchen.

I also managed to get mock-ups of a client's project done. And, I gathered up 15 pages worth of insurance information to fax. I suppose the day wasn't a complete waste. I just really felt out of sorts because my routine was disrupted.

My routine was so disrupted I only managed to take my medicine once today and this just made me even more scattered.

One plus, dinner was a hit. No pictures. D thinks I'm nuts to take pictures of our food.

Simple and Tasty Ham

several pieces of ham/turkey ham or ham steak...one per person
1/4 C water
1/4 C honey mustard (I used 1/4 C dijon mustard and 2 T honey)
1/4 green onions
1/2 C sour cream

mix water and mustard together in small bowl. heat skillet over medium heat and add ham. Pour mustard sauce on ham. Heat ham through. In another small bowl, mix together green onions and sour cream. Once ham is heated, stir sour cream sauce in to skillet. Cook 1 min. Serve.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Threes

Bad things are supposed to happen in threes, right?

This must mean D's ankle injuries are done. A student fell on to his ankle during lunch. I had to pick him up from work and take him to the doctor. He's basically on his *third* sprain on this ankle since the end of February.

No more injuries! We're done!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Insanity

Today, I have really got to crack down on things. I did well with my plan yesterday until the kids got home. My house is always neat and tidy until they get home. As soon as they walk through the door, it goes downhill.

I'm not really even sure how it happens. I see the shoes and backpacks in the living room. They are instructed to put them away. Usually they do. But I somehow end up with all sorts of papers scattered everywhere! And dishes! I do not know how the dishes end up in the living room when people aren't allowed to eat there! It's like a wormhole exists between the kitchen and living room sucking dishes right out from the sink into the middle of the floor. That's what my children would have me believe because we know they would never ever sneak food into the living room...at least food that needed plates!

Yesterday, Alex should have learned a very good lesson about putting things away. He left out grape jelly. He didn't shut the baby gate to the kitchen. baby + grape jelly + sewing machine is not a combination you want to have happen. It was an awful mess. I had him clean it up.

But, Alex, like me, also has ADD so things have to happen several times for things to sink in. After dinner he was still hungry and made himself one of those big cans of chunky soup. Like a moth drawn to a flame, he was mesmerized by the game DH was playing on the computer and didn't shut the baby gate. baby + big bowl of soup.

Einstein said insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

I'm not sure which one of us is insane. The child for leaving things in the baby's reach, leaving the gate open and not expecting her to get in to it. Or is it me? Expecting the kids to remember to put things away and shut the gate?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Perpetual Toddler

I was watching my 17 month old go from activity to activity one morning. She could not sit still. Any new and exciting thing that crossed her path, she'd chase after it. She is very easily redirected in to different tasks. However, when something really grabs her attention, it's a complete meltdown to get her away. Sounds pretty normal, right?

I realized that ADD is a bit like being stuck at 17 months old. Every little thing is an interesting distraction that needs investigation. And once something really gets your attention, it takes an act of congress to bring you out.

I see the same behavior in my 11 yo with ADHD. Only, it's not nearly as cute and I can't walk over and pick him up and move him to another activity. Well, I could, but I'd probably throw my back out.

I just wish I had the energy that goes with being 17 months old!