a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More on Juggling Our Responsibilities

Continuing with yesterday's post. . .it is next to impossible to keep all of our "balls" going.

We must strive for balance in our
struggle to juggle all we have to do.

           Illustration by Dilleen Marsh to accompany E. Jeffrey Hill's article  "Finding Harmony as we     Struggle to Juggle"  - Ensign magazine, February 2012,  page 12-13

We all know we need to slow down. This is a no-brainer!

Most, if not all, of us, whether in a family, as a couple, or as an individual need to slow down or at least reorder our lives.

But HOW?

I don't have the answers but I do have suggestions  or thoughts.  Several of my posts have addressed this subject and it's importance to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  I feel it is so important that I will continue to post on this topic periodically.

But WHY?
In our efforts to care for our families and our myriad responsibilities we forget to care for ourselves. Plus, this causes the truly important things in life get pushed aside because of our busyness and tiredness. I address this to moms but it's a problem for dads also. We are all too busy. We are assailed on all sides by stuff and the need to have the latest or greatest. Our lives are very stressful.

In Hill's article he said "There is no one formula for creating greater harmony in our lives, but we can each do specific things to experience greater joy, including engaging in rejuvenating activities, setting aside time to be with our families, and focusing on our Savior."

In no specific order:

STUFF - The more we have the more it seems we want (and think we need). We work longer and harder to buy stuff. Along with the obvious monetary issues, stuff takes more time to care for, tinker with, find a place to store. . . . Stop and think about this for a moment: Does the stuff that we think we need to make and keep us happy, really make us happy or cause frustration and stress? Do we have time to take time to play with it? Did it/does it take money/time away from more important things--or more valuable things?

I love Trent Hamm's 20/80 theory from his blog The Simple Dollar. Basically it is...we use, wear, play with, listen to, read, or live in only about 20 percent of what we actually have.

"The practice of thrift is not outdated. We must discipline ourselves to live within our incomes even if it means going without or making do. The wise person can distinguish. . .between basic needs and extravagant wants. Some find budgeting extremely painful, but I promise you, it is never fatal."
                                                                                                 Marvin J. Ashton

EXPECTATIONS - We tend to compare ourselves -- when we are feeling at our worse -- to others when they are at their best.

"Some mothers seem to have the capacity and energy to make their children's clothes, bake, give piano lessons, go to meetings, teach Sunday School, attend parent-teacher association meetings, and so on. Other mothers look upon such women as models and feel inadequate, depressed, and think they are failures when they make comparisons.

"Do not allow yourselves to be made to feel inadequate or frustrated because you cannot do everything others seem to be accomplishing. Rather, each should assess her own situation, her own energy, and her own talents, and then choose the best way to mold her family into a team---a unit that works together and supports each other. Only you and your Father in Heaven know your needs, strengths, and desires. Around this knowledge your personal course must be charted and your choices made."
                                                                                                            Marvin J. Ashton

ENERGY and RENEWAL - When our kids were still at home and our lives were hectic, my physician told me that it was extremely important to include physical activities to balance out our mental activities.

Track your productive times of day and your "slower" times and plan your schedule around them as much as possible.

"Busy schedules and/or long work hours often leave us feeling tired and worn out. . . We can increase our energy by participating in activities that renew us. . .frequent physical exercise increases our stamina and often gives us a boost throughout the day. . .Peaceful music can soothe the soul. . .Talking with a friend can be energizing. . .A short nap is often invigorating. . .Having a few minutes alone in quiet can rejuvenate the mind."                                                                                  E. Jeffrey Hill

SIMPLIFY - Often we try to help or please others beyond our personal stamina, causing us to neglect things that are most important. We need to learn to say "No" at times -- both to our own wants and the wants of others.

Eliminating extra and unnecessary stuff simplifies house work. Cooking twice the amount at once, and freezing the extra for another meal saves energy---yours and your appliances. Dovetailing activities whenever possible saves time.

"A couple that goes on a walk together can get needed exercise, talk about their children, share ideas, express their affection, brain-storm solutions and be rejuvenated. This one activity is of great value because it can contribute to so  many facets of life.

"Stay out of debt. . .spend less than you earn, learn to save, honor financial obligations, and teach children sound financial principles."
                                                                                            E. Jeffrey Hill

PRIORITIZE - Our families are our most prized possessions.  Quality time does not reign high over quantity time, despite what we are led to believe. In our busy lives time for family togetherness and individual one-on-one time just doesn't happen. We must make it happen --- make sure it happens. It is too easy to get caught up in the thick of thin things!

We strengthen our families when we spend time together without distractions. A blaring TV does not bind a family. Nor does it focus children's values on things of importance and/or eternal worth. Eating together, and sharing with one another during this time, working and playing together, taking a few minutes to talk to each child individually at their bedtimes ---- these are the things that strengthen bonds.

We need to make our Lord and Savior a priority in our lives and the lives of our children. He is the answer, and has the answer, to all of needs. We only have to sincerely seek and ask.

In St. John Chapter 14 Jesus tells us He is the way, the truth, and the life: that to see Him is to see the Father. In verse 27 He continues:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Great blessings, contentment and peace will be ours and our families when we learn to balance our lives and our responsibilities----when we set aside good things for "good-er" things. The things that will matter most in the long run.

It is not easy but it is possible to simplify our complicated lives.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Keeping All Your Balls in the Air

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls.

The balls are work, family, health, friends and integrity. 

And you are keeping all of them in the air.

But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

The other four balls --- family, health, friends, and integrity are made of glass. If you drop one of these it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.

And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.

                                  Excerpt from Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, page 20, by James Patterson.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Score Big with 5 Edible Super "Bowls"

Yes! You can even eat the dishes!

Has the Super Bowl become a nation-wide holiday?

The Super Bowl is fast approaching. Football watching is a national pastime. With all the hype for the Super Bowl you'd think it was a national holiday!

Each fall season is also pigskin season. It's that time of year when the days get shorter and the football season seems to last longer and longer.

I long for there to be more hours in a day. I yearn for occasional time-outs. I wish five minutes in my daily life could be as long as the final five minutes of any football game.

About the time we say enough to the on-going games, it is time for the bowl games to begin. I can remember my dad watching the four big bowl games on New Year's Day when I was young---Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Rose.

There were so many bowl games 30 years ago that a Kansas City, Missouri radio station, not wanting to be left out,  sponsored their own---The Cereal Bowl. And, since then, the number of bowls has probably tripled!!!

Snacking While Watching Football is Certainly a National Pastime!
The best bowl of all
holds a treat of some kind!
Whether you have had your fill of the sport or not, 
here are some bowls you can fill --- and then consume --- 
while watching the Big Game or any game or. . .any time.

1. Bread Bowls

  • Hollow out the centers of hard or sour dough rolls                                                                  a few hours before serving. 
  • Leave them on the counter so they can dry out a little. 
  • When ready to serve, heat up a thick soup or chili of your choice and ladle into the bread bowls.

You can butter the chunks of bread you scooped out of the rolls, toast them in the oven, crumble them, and garnish the soup if desired. Or, you can just serve them on the side.

2. Dip Bowls

  • Hollow out a loaf of pumpernickel bread, leaving a one-to-two inch shell.
  • Just before serving, place bread bowl on a large platter and fill the cavity with your favorite ranch-style dip.
  • Tear the bread into chunks and place them on the platter around the bowl---along with carrot and celery sticks and other vegetables pieces.
You can use pumpernickel rolls to make individual servings if you prefer.

3. Chocolate Bowls
  • Placed fluted cupcake papers into muffin pans. Melt real chocolate chips or almond bark squares, or a combination, over very low heat or in a microwave, until melted and smooth.
  • Brush melted chocolate on inside of the fluted cups. When chocolate hardens you can add another layer if necessary to build up the sides to desired thickness.
  • Refrigerate until serving time.
  • Peel paper from chocolate cup and spoon ice cream, pudding or any filling of your choice into the bowls.
Instant coconut pudding with a little added grated orange peel is a great combination.

4. Bag Bowls

This next one, from a Northern California restaurant, is a bit Martha Stewart-ish. You use small square-bottomed paper sacks (I finally found them in a hardware store, that sells nails in bulk).  Prepare as above. The restaurant serves soft ice cream and thick malts in them. 

They take a lot more time than the "cupcake" bowls but they are unique, fun and --- they hold more!

5. Meringue Bowls

The following light and crunchy bowls lend themselves to a wide variety of fillings, including ice cream, puddings, whipped cream concoctions and fruit medleys. 

To make approximately eight bowls:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup white sugar

Heat oven to 275 degrees. Cover baking sheet with heavy brown paper (the inside of a grocery sack works great) or parchment paper. 

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar, a little at a time. Continue beating until very stiff. Drop spoonfuls of the thick meringue a few inches apart on the paper. Shape bowls with back of a spoon. Bake for 60 minutes. Turn oven off, do not open door, and leave in the oven until completely cool. 

With spatula, carefully remove from paper. Fill just before serving.

These are my kind of teams!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What If . . . ? Simple ways to outfox a would-be intruder

Any deterrent, even if it is only going to slow the perpetrator down just a couple of seconds, is often all it takes for him to pass up your home in favor of an easier mark! 

They can't take a chance on the possibility that the dog may be just around the corner of the house---or in the house. . .or to speculate on whether you actually have a security system or not.

Post a "Beware of Dog" sign.

Posting a sign might be enough to give them pause (pardon the pun). If not a beware of. . . sign, then buy "This house protected by a security alarm" stickers and place on doors and windows.


Buy a huge dog dish, paint a mean sounding name on it (like Killer or Bruiser or Terminator), beat the dish up to make it look used, and throw it in the back yard.  Or, put it next to a length of heavy chain fastened to a sturdy tree or pole near your front door.

If  the above ideas aren't your thing, what about planting "stickery" bushes under your windows?
We have beautiful and thorny rose bushes along the front and a big- but-painful yucca along the side.
(All were planted before we even realized the additional "benefits!")

Deadbolt locks are a great deterrent. Especially if you actually lock them!  And, if you actually do have a dog and you have a doggy door in your door be sure to have your lock(s) high enough above the doggy door that a long-armed person cannot just reach in and up and turn the locks. I speak type from experience (fortunately it was a friendly relative but...)

and, when you are away from home----even in daylight!

! park your car as close to the entrance as possible, in a well-lit area, and always lock your car !

! be alert and aware of your surroundings and always have your keys at the ready !

! when you return to your parked car, approach it so you can see underneath the car before entering and also check the front seat as well as the back seat before getting in !

! keep a "Call Police" banner in your car !

! if accosted, yell "FIRE" instead of help to attract attention !

Simple things may make a huge difference.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Homemade Dish-Washer/Dish-Washing Soap, and More--Simple, Cheap and Effective!

A continuation of Friday's post on making your own cleaning supplies --- and watching the seemingly insignificant savings add up. . . significantly.

Several months ago I read an Extension Service's article addressing the ineffectiveness of dishwasher detergents since new laws went into effect regulating the ingredients.  

To me, the most amazing part of the article was when the Extension Service gave recipe options to use UNTIL the detergents had been REFORMULATED TO ONCE AGAIN BE EFFECTIVE!!!

Why, if the simple options worked as well as they claimed, would you switch back to expensive commercial products?

Friday, I used excerpts from Trent Hamm's The Simple Dollar blog on homemade laundry soap. Today I will continue with his other homemade products which use basically the same ingredients.

Again, since Trent gives permission to use his information, I give you his own words:

Dish-washing soap +
"Just simply mix together one cup of borax and one cup of baking soda or washing soda in a tub. If you wish, you can add a small bit of OxyClean to the batch or a small bit of store-purchased dish washing detergent – you need one or the other to act as the active detergent ingredient if you’re washing any dishes that are fairly dirty. All you need is a tablespoon or two of this stuff (depending on the size of your dishwasher) to get things fairly clean.

If you want to replace the “finishing” liquid (Jet Dry, for example), just use a tablespoon of vinegar. There’s no smell – just shine on your dishes.

There’s a theme worth noticing here. Between the two recipes (Friday's laundry and Monday's dish soap) we’re using borax, baking soda, washing soda, OxyClean, a bar of soap, and vinegar. I also keep some club soda These ingredients together manage to clean laundry thoroughly and clean dishes thoroughly.

If you carry that thought out to its logical conclusion, these ingredients can pretty much clean anything in your home thoroughly.

For example, when I’m cleaning windows, I fill up a spray bottle with one part vinegar to two parts water, with perhaps a tiny amount of another cleaning agent (whether it’s dish soap, borax, or something else). I stir it thoroughly, then head to the windows.

Hand Dish-Washing
If I’m washing dishes by hand, I make a bit of paste out of borax, washing soda, and water, then just use a tiny amount of this on a sponge to clean almost any dish I have.

Carpet Stain Remover
If I’m facing a carpet stain, I put some baking soda on the spot (a teaspoon or two), spread it thoroughly into the spot, then pour a couple teaspoons of vinegar on top. There’s a fair amount of foam, which I then scrub into the spot.

Clothing Stain Remover
If there’s a dark stain on clothing and I see it immediately, I put some club soda on it. 

If I have any acne (I often did in my twenties, but haven’t had any in a while), I make a paste out of baking soda and water and put it right on the spot before I go to bed.

Heck, if I want to whiten my teeth at home, I brush with baking soda and then use a bit of vinegar while brushing. 

If my stomach feels out of whack, I usually put a bit of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it (I usually burp like a madman for a while, but my stomach feels better).

I could keep listing things, but the truth is that most home cleaning tasks and even other simple things can be handled with some combination of the ingredients listed above. 

The best part? Those ingredients are cheap. I can get a giant bag of baking soda or a jug of vinegar at my local warehouse club for a very low price. Even things like borax and washing soda are pretty inexpensive at my local Fareway.

Why use a product with a brand name and an expensive price when homemade mixtures like these will do the job?"

Now it's back to Simply, Gail:
Even if you are not interested in making these/using these items on a regular basis, please consider buying the ingredients to store away for a "What If . . .?" time when there is the need. 

The above is from The Simple Dollar blog  and Trent Hamm's book "365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money"  Keep up the good work Trent, and thanks for allowing your readers/fellow bloggers to share.