Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rearranging my cabinets

Yesterday, I was baking my son's birthday cake for his party (which was today) so I needed to find ingredients that I don't use very often. That required me to get into an awkward cabinet. It is a cabinet in the corner of the kitchen, but it's not what I consider a corner cabinet. It's door isn't angled. Instead, the cabinet is super deep. It is very hard to get to anything at the back of the cabinet. I'd heard the tip about using a lazy susan in cabinets and gave it a try. It has worked out very well.

Here is what I saw when I opened the cabinet yesterday.
Having the lazy susan in the cabinet allows me to see what is in the back without having to take a bunch of stuff out. I don't remember what I was looking for, but I was looking a little more thoroughly than I normally do. (The stuff I use most often is the closest to the door.) I looked a little more closely and this is what I saw:
(I had to use the flash to really show what was in there.) If you look closely you can see the top of a box in the very back. That box is not on the lazy susan so I did not know what it was. I pulled everything out and this is what I found:
I must have bought the powdered milk for a recipe--which I must not have ever made because the box was unopened. The jar is marked for making your own salad dressing, which I have never done. I would never have looked for the powdered milk back there. So, if I needed it for another recipe, I would have bought more. I would have looked there for the jar but we received it as a wedding or shower gift (11 years ago) and have never used it so I probably would have never even looked for it.

When I put the stuff back there I guess I thought it was the best use of space because it is stuff I hardly ever (or never) use. Now I see that I might as well say good-bye to anything I put behind the lazy susan because I won't see it for a long while. I decided to make a small change to see if I could make it work a little better.

Here is what I did:
It is a very small change. I pushed the lazy susan back farther and brought the powdered milk up front.

The lazy susan turned just fine and I was still able to get what I needed off of it so I decided to check the top shelf.

Here is what I saw:
Looks pretty good. The lazy susan works great up here.

Here is what I couldn't see:
These items were behind the lazy susan. The oil and vinegar thing is another wedding/shower gift that has never been used. I have no idea why the matches were back there. My husband was looking for matches last fall when he was having issues with the grill and we couldn't find any (because I hid them.) Obviously not a good place for them because I would never (and didn't) look back there for them. The box contains cupcake liners, decorative icing, and Wilton icing color. Guess what I bought yesterday morning before I baked the cake?
Wilton black icing color. (It worked out because I ended up using what I already had in addition to what I bought, but still.)

So, I moved that lazy susan back also.
Not much of a difference as far as how the lazy susan works, but a big difference as far as how effectively the space gets used.

Now that I am looking at the pictures I am not so sure I am going to like having to reach inside the cabinet to get to the items on the lazy susans. I know I tested them yesterday but we will see if I still like it when I am actually in the middle of cooking. Even if I don't like them so far back and decide to move them toward the front, I am still better off not having anything behind them.

I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday and Org Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing (for both the using of the lazy susans as well as moving them so far back in this corner.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shaklee tip

Recently I mentioned my relatively new interest in Shaklee cleaning products. I am still planning on writing a post about my experience with Basic H2, Basic G, and Scour Off. I am also awaiting a shipment of Shaklee laundry products and will include those as well. I'm not ready to do that yet but I do have a Shaklee tip I want to share.

The Shaklee products I use come in concentrated liquid formulas. You buy a jug of the concentrate and then put it in a spray bottle with water. You combine a relatively small amount of the product to a much larger amount of water. For Basic G (I think) it is 16 ounces of water to 1/2 teaspoon of Basic G. At first I used a regular measuring spoon to measure the product and used a funnel to make sure it got in the small mouth of the spray bottle. I quickly became frustated with that because when I would measure the product it usually spilled out of the measuring spoon.

I came up with two solutions to remedy that:

Sometimes I use the medicine syringes and spoons I use when my kids need medicine. They were sitting in the utensil drawer rarely getting used.

I have also used a tiny measuring cup I have that measures teaspoons & tablespoons. The Shaklee spray bottles don't have measurements on the outside. So, I measure my water in my 2 cup measuring cup and pour the product into that. From there I use the funnel to pour it into the spray bottle.

Both of these solutions have worked great for me.

I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shaklee-free membership

I plan on writing a post on my experience with Shaklee in the future. I am not ready to do that today but I did want to write about a special Shaklee is offering that expires tomorrow. Shaklee is offering free membership with $30 purchase. I learned about Shaklee earlier this year and had a great experience with Scour Off. I also use Basic H2 and Basic G for my general cleaning. I purchased some laundry products today and got my free membership, which gives me 15% off future purchases (I think forever.)

If you were considering trying Shaklee or considering joining, the time to do it is now. I have not priced it out, it does not look to be cheaper than what I can get at Target but I wanted to try it anyway. I might as well buy it when I can get the free membership so I will get 15% off anything I buy in the future.

I buy my Shaklee through Toni at A Bowl Full of Lemons and she offers free shipping on your first purchase. Also, check out the Earth Day special. It offers some products I already had but if you are new to Shaklee it might be a good set of products to start with.

Roadside Assistance

Last week I was running some errands alone. I came to a stoplight at the end of an exit ramp and there was a man holding a sign requesting money. Actually, he was selling chocolate bars. His sign said he was down on his luck, was laid off, evicted, had a wife and two kids, and needed money for food and hotel. I am never sure what to do in those situations.

I don't know where I first heard the advice but I understood that you should not give money to people asking like that because it was likely they were lying and were going to use money for drugs or alcohol. Maybe that was a naïve or immature way to look at things but, for years that is what I did. I would sit in my car and ignore them. I never felt good about that. Once, though, I did roll down my window and give someone a $20 and when he smiled he looked mentally disabled. I really think he was one of those people with mental health issues that ends up homeless. That was years ago and I still am not sure if I did the right thing.

After that, I decided the advice I heard previously was right and I went back to not giving people in those situations money. That is pretty easy where I live. We very rarely see someone on the side of the road asking for money. I live in a suburban area just outside of a mid-sized midwestern city. I could go years without seeing that again. We do have a major league baseball team and if we go to a game, we are likely to either see someone asking for money or at least a homeless person.

As I said, I am not sure what to do.

Then there was the guy when we were in Chicago (in September 2009) who said he needed $20 to get his car out of something, we could come with him, his wife and kids were with the car. We were skeptical at the time that it was a scam but gave it to him anyway. After that trip I either heard about that scam or one similar. It only takes once for me to feel taken advantage of to turn me off from helping. It's like the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

A couple things have happend recently that have again made me question again how I handle that situation.

First, I was in the UPS store making copies last year. As I was waiting to pay, an older gentleman left the store and the cashier said how sad it was and that he was homeless. I made some kind of sad face and said "Awww." and finished what I was doing. I didn't know what to do. There was another man in the store. I didn't hear exactly what his job was but it had something to do with an organization that could help the man. As I was getting into my van I saw them talking. I was glad the man got help. I wished I would've helped but I don't know what I should have done. Maybe buy him lunch? Would that have been insulting for me to offer? He wasn't even asking for anything.

Then, last summer my husband and I went to Miami for our anniversary. We were in an outdoor mall walking around with a ton of other people. The walkway was packed. There was a man in a wheelchair with no legs wheeling himself around asking for money. He was very unkempt, dirty hair and clothes and didn't really seem to be all there, though I didn't smell alcohol. Everyone just maneuvered around him. Including me and my husband. I felt horrible. Again, didn't know what to do. It was very possible he was scamming everyone and using his injury to make a profit. But it was also possible he was not.

I thought about those (and other encounters like that) and wondered what I would say if my kids asked why we weren't helping. I actually remember seeing someone at a different stoplight not terribly long ago and thinking, I hope the kids don't see him because I was afraid of that question. I try to teach them it is important to help others. They put part of their allowance aside for giving. Yet, we aren't helping someone right in front of us asking for help.

I decided that I was going to help when someone needed help. I would rather help someone who didn't need it than not help someone who really did. I would feel much better about myself and think it is a better lesson for my kids.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Stand up for what's right, even if you are standing alone." It doesn't exactly go with this situation but it is similar when everyone else is driving or walking by. It is just easier to pass the person by when everyone else is.

My first test was shortly after our trip. It was a blazing hot day and there was someone by the side of the road (I said we don't have that many encounters but I sure have a lot to talk about.) I didn't see him until right as I was going through the light and I couldn't stop. I turned into the CVS parking lot and bought a couple bottles of water and circled back around. By the time I got there, he was gone.

Back to the person on the side of the road the other day. I gave him some money (I think I had a five, a few ones, and a twenty or two--which was all also my grocery money-- so I gave him the five and ones.) When I handed it to him he said he didn't have enough candy bars. I told him I didn't want any and he said, "Thank you, I hope it comes back to you a thousand times." (Me, too.)

The other night, we went downtown to the ballgame. As we were heading to our van there was a man sitting with a sign and a cup soliciting money. I saw him long before we got to him. I got a couple dollars out of my pocket and was going to put it in his cup. As I got closer, I could see him more clearly. He was totally out of it, bloodshot eyes, staring straight ahead. I didn't give him the money.

I thought I knew what I was going to do. I thought giving money to everyone would be the best course of action. Giving the money to the guy selling candy bars felt like the right thing to do, especially since I saw no one else stop or offer money. I would not have felt right giving the money to the guy the other night. I guess I will have to look at each situation uniquely.

This is one of those situations where if someone would just tell me the right thing to do, I would do it. Instead it is up to me (as an adult and the parent) to decide for myself and I am not sure I made the right decision.

I am such an idiot!!

I just realized I left a gallon of milk in my van all night. And it was organic. So, that's six bucks down the drain. I hate that. Problems like that happen when my plans get derailed and I am not sure how to avoid those kinds of problems.

Last night I was supposed to go see my cousin's new baby. I was out running a different errand and found out the new mom wasn't allowed visitors because her blood pressure was too high. That meant I had some time to run to the grocery store.

I picked up a few things and headed home. I decided to run since I was going to be home early and my husband had already planned to doing bath and bedtime by himself. As I was running, I realized I never took the groceries in and there was ice cream in one of the bags! I picked up my pace, got the two bags out of the van, and put the ice cream in the freezer. For some reason, I didn't put away the rest of the groceries (which isn't like me.)

This morning I started to empty the bags and realized the bacon was left out overnight. I ran to my iPad and found enough people saying that cured bacon in an unopened package would be fine left out. I thought, "Whew, I almost wasted $4." Then, as I was making breakfast I saw the milk was low and thought, I should have gotten milk last night, wait, I did get milk last night. I went to the van and there it was, a full gallon of organic milk. Noooooooo!

I make mistakes all the time, no big deal. That's how we learn. I think I hate money mistakes most of all because I try to be so frugal. It will take quite a few coupons to make up for the $6 I just wasted. So, to make this not a complete, unnecessary loss, I am telling myself it is a lesson. I'm not sure what to do about the leaving the groceries in the van while I ran. Maybe on quick errands like that I should put the groceries right behind my seat instead of the way back? Maybe just be more aware when I run to the grocery store in the midst of other errands? I think the big lesson is

Always put away all groceries as soon as I take them in the house.

Maybe had I done that I would have realized that I left the milk in the back of the van and gotten it out before it was too late.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doing the dishes

I'm guessing I'm like most moms when I say I spend a lot of time doing dishes. Since I am home during the day I do breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack dishes Every. Single. Day. I remember early on in my journey through motherhood thinking, "How many years of my life am I going to spend doing dishes?" Before I had my daughter I didn't really cook so when I started making family meals it was a huge change for me.

I have made peace with the fact that I must do dishes every day. I have lightened my load a bit by handing over the task of emptying the dishwasher to my children (most of the time.) Still, I spend so much time with my hands underwater I have this patch of eczema on my thumb I can't quite get rid of. Luckily, I have a dishwasher. I can't imagine not having one. I think I would really despise doing the dishes if I had to wash every dish by hand.

I have refined my technique a bit over the years. I have my special way of loading the dishwasher (don't you?) and while I would like to reload it my way when my husband puts the dishes in, I don't. (Really, if he could learn to do it my way, that'd be great. I'll keep dreaming.) I no longer put our expensive knives and wooden spoons in the dishwasher and will not put any new pots or pans in.

There is one easy tip that I learned from a friend that I am so happy to have found. (My friend doesn't even know. I just saw her do it one day and was like, duh!) For years I have used those dishwashing wands you fill with dishwashing liquid. I have not found one I am crazy about. Some don't let enough soap out, others always have a big spot where the soap is coming through.

My friend had her bottle of dishwashing liquid out and poured it directly on her sponge. Lightbulb. I didn't want my ugly bottle of dishwashing liquid out all the time but I knew I could work with that. Here is what I do:

I initially used Dawn foaming dishwashing liquid. In my effort to be more green I looked for an alternative. The Dawn may not have had harmful ingredients but when I found a Method dishwashing liquid with a pump I knew that was what I wanted to use. Plus, with the pump (both the Dawn and Method have pumps) I didn't have to keep picking up and putting down the bottle. Love it.

None of that addressed the issue of leaving the ugly bottle out. If you look closely in the picture you will notice that you can't see the bottle. What you see is an apron made for dishwasher bottles for this reason. Normally, I am not this cutsie. I would not have looked for something to go on the front of the bottle. I had this because (I am embarrassed to admit) I bought this off ebay thinking it was a full sized apron. Looking at it now, I am even questioning my judgement on that. Floral is not my style, I am much more a solid color girl. I can't remember exactly how it happened but my guess is that it was super cheap. (Shocking, I bought something super cheap and was disappointed by it. Will I never learn?)

That's it. Super simple but not something I came up with on my own. Though, I feel like I should have.

I am linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting back to it

I have had a busy, busy last few weeks. I've had several Girl Scout events (some I had to plan), extra kids at my house, softball practices and games, and my husband was busy at school with end of the year concerts and rehearsals, so I didn't have much help.

When I get busy like that a few things happen. My housework starts to fall off, fewer and fewer meals are planned or cooked, and I have less time for me. (This last part means less blogging. That was obvious last week because I had so few posts. It's not that I didn't have anything to write about, I have several posts half-written in my head.)

Things should slow down a bit now. Girls Scouts is pretty much over for the year. My husband's schedule opens up considerably. Schools is almost over, which means I will have less kids at my house.

I am ready to get back to it. Get back to cleaning, organizing, and taking care of my house. Get back to menu planning and cooking for my family. Get back to blogging!!

Things should gradually open up for me. I still have extra kids for a couple more weeks but after that freedom. (Just kidding. Sort of.) I hope to blog a lot this summer and make some additions to the blog. (Like adding my yearly cleaning calendar.)

Plus, I need to blog to keep me accountable for all the things I am trying to do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Screen time & my kids

I have a love/hate relationship when it come to tv and my kids.

I hate that if they could choose one thing to do, they may very well pick watch tv. I hate that I have to constantly monitor how much they watch. I hate that when they are watching tv they can barely be interrupted, even though they are almost watching a show they have seen before.

I love that if I really need to get something done, I can turn on the tv and know I won't be bothered until what they are watching is over.

We have one rule that we do not waiver from. The tv does not get turned on before school. Most days my daughter doesn't watch it after school either. In the afternoons my son watches some tv after lunch while I am getting things done around the house and while the two little ones I watch are napping. If I am not careful before I know it he will have had three hours of straight tv time.

While my kids mostly want to watch tv they do occasionally play games on pbs kids or on the iPad. Lately, when I would tell my son no more tv he would want to play on the iPad or computer. So, I introduced the concept of screen time and began to limit it. I decided four shows would be enough. That is a little under two hours. As I write it it sounds like a lot, but I've always been honest on this blog and that is honestly what I allow.

I wanted to come up with something that would help the kids see how much time they used and how much time they had left. I also wanted them to be able to keep track themselves. I know there are probably a ton of crafty ideas out there. I didn't have time to look for them. I wanted something quick. I figured I could come up with something better this summer if I need to.

This is what I did.
I took blue painter's tape and stuck it to the wall mounted file holder I have for each kid. I made a straight line marked with 15 minute intervals. After 60 minutes I started back at 15. At each 30 & 60 interval I also wrote what number show that would equal. (30 minutes would be 1 show, 60 minutes is 2 shows) I did it that way because that is usually how my kids watch tv. Instead of tracking their exact minutes it is based on shows. They do sometimes play games on the computer or iPad, that's why I also included the minutes. I used a little person shaped clip I already had that moves to show elapsed time.
It didn't take very much time to do but the second went even faster than the first. For the second I just placed the new piece of tape over the completed piece (see above.) I used a bookmark that was handy (I didn't even have to go get my ruler) to draw the line. Then, I marked the intervals by drawing a line on the new tape right under where the original marks were on the first piece.
As always, more practical than pretty.

It has worked great. It's amazing how quickly kids take to something like this. The first or second day my son walked over to his and moved the little guy on his own.

I am linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My husband is clueless.

I have refrained from writing a Marriage Monday post for a while because I didn't want this blog to become all about complaining about my husband. After my post yesterday and the comments I received, as well as discussions I have had with my friends, today is the day to get back to it.

First, I want to say. I love my husband very, very much. He is a great person. We are struggling, though. I want us to be better but I don't feel like he cares enough to do anything about it. So, getting my thoughts out is therapeutic for me and I think would be helpful for other women to see they are not alone.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I think some of us moms would be better off if there wasn't a day called "Mother's Day" because it just leads to disappointment. I know I am not the only one. Read the comments from yesterday's post. Plus, I have been talking to friends and it was no different for any of them. Are men really that clueless?

So, a couple weeks ago I told my husband not to spend a lot of money on me for Mother's Day. I wanted to get this Clarisonic face scrubber thing. It's expensive and I would otherwise not get it for myself. I figured I would get it for Mother's Day using my Discover points.

From my husband, I got nothing.

We did go out to breakfast (that's a treat for us.) As the day wore on I knew what happened. I said don't spend a lot of money, he heard don't get me anything. That's not what I said. Even if it was what I said, I didn't say do nothing for me. I didn't say spend no time or effort on me.

I am pretty low maintenance. I don't expect jewelry or something expensive. He could've said he would vacuum for me (see yesterday's post.) He could've asked what needed to be done around the house. Nope. I would've been happy with something that had to do with the kids. Have them paint a bowl or record their voices on a keychain. Help them make something for me. I really would be easy to please. But, many of those things require thinking ahead. That doesn't usually happen (another reason I feel like he doesn't care.)

After we put the kids to bed I told my husband, "I didn't say get me nothing, I said not to spend a lot of money." and headed to the bedroom. He came in and said, "I thought you said not to get you anything." I repeated myself. He went back to watching tv. That was it. No apology. No discussion. Really, that's it? You screw up Mother's Day and that's it.

Then, he slept on the couch. Didn't come tell me, just made himself comfy. I don't know what he was thinking. Did he think he was giving me some space? I think he was hiding.

Nothing like laying in my bed alone trying not to cry on Mother's Day.

I don't get it. How can he be so clueless? It just shows how little he knows me. We have been married almost 11 years. How does he not know me better?

All this happened after a big fight we had on Saturday. (Maybe I will write about that next week?) Perfect timing.

I have a lot more to say, I just can't do it right now.

More to come...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Typical Mother's Day

Hmm, no one in my house thinks it's odd I am vacuuming on Mother's Day. The seven year old and the four year old I can cut some slack. The other adult that resides in this house I can not.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New use for old thing--my baking soda sprinkler

In an effort to encourage being green, Jen at i heart organizing challenged her readers to repurpose something they already have and use it in a new way. Instead of buying something new, use what you have at home.

Here is what I came up with:
A baking soda sprinkler.

This is kind of double green. I used an old parmesan cheese canister to hold the baking soda I use to clean with.

In an effort to be greener I have started trying to use more natural cleaning products. I read over and over how awesome baking soda is for cleaning. I've tried it and so far, so good. Initially, I was lugging around a giant bag of baking soda when I was cleaning but knew I needed something else. Since I usually sprinkle the baking soda I thought this was my best option.

It is, as always, more practical than pretty.

I am linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April declutter & cleaning update

April was a big month for me for decluttering. A Bowl Full of Lemons recently held a weekly challenge about purging, so that is where it all started. Then, i heart organizing declared April as a month to purge and that kept me going. Here is how I did...

I started in the kitchen and purged (you can also see a post about it here)
salad spinner
seven expired cans of food
two food packets
Foreman grill
chip & dip dish
plastic bowl
paper plate holders
tea kettle
cookie jar
scent warmer thingy
lots miscellaneous items

From the master bedroom I purged (another post here)
at least...
four pair of pants
three shirts
five sweaters
three pair of shoes

From my daughter's room
two backpacks

From the office
4 Sesame street puzzles
1 Tinkerbell puzzle

From the basement
these two baskets (those were hard, I love baskets)

From the master bathroom (I haven't even written this post yet)
hair bands
yucky, old products
make up bag

Here is what I set out for the donation pick up:

This almost did me in:

Can you see who was peeking out at me? It is Ariel. Ariel was my daughter's favorite princess (and probably still is) but she is kind of over princesses now. It was hard enough to put the backpack in the donate pile as it was. Then, I saw this and almost took her back out.

I still want to get rid of a lot more this summer but I was pretty proud of myself for this much.

Now, to my April jobs.

As I was thinking about writing this post I was fully prepared to say I did none of my April jobs. Then, I looked at my April jobs calendar and saw that early in the month I had done several of the jobs. Also, the ones that are left are no big deal and I will easily be able to add those to May (or June:)

Hall bathroom-
door (yes)
light (yes)
baseboards (yes)

Master bathroom-
door (no)
vanity (no)
lights (no)
baseboards (no)

Lower bathroom-
light (yes)
picture (yes)
mirror (no)

Kids rooms-
headboard and footboard (no)
window (boy-yes, girl-no)
window sill (boy-yes, girl-no)

Ceiling fans-
family room (yes)
kitchen (yes)
dining area (yes)
master bedroom (yes)
office (no)

Not too bad considering I don't feel like I did anything this last week or two. I'm not exactly sure what the deal was. I guess it wasn't any one thing. Just lots of little things together.

I'm linking up to A Slob Comes Clean's April declutter update and i heart organizing.