Monday, December 5, 2016

Menu plan for the week of December 5

This week, we're hosting a very special guest on Monday and Tuesday.  My friend is letting us borrow her not-quite 6 month old daughter for a couple of days while she and her husband take the other four kids for some much needed family time at a waterpark.  Yeah, you read that right.  Five kids, two of whom are under two years of age.  Uffda.  And now you know why this get-away is much needed.  As you can imagine, what with all of my kiddos being boys, I'm not quite sure what we'll do with another girl in the house, but I'm sure we'll manage :)

As a result of our houseguest, supper on Monday and Tuesday will be low-key.  I've been informed that our guest likes to be fussy and wants to be held constantly starting around 5 p.m., so the boys have a choice: hold the baby, or get their own supper.  I'm interested to see what they choose.

I'm also taking a page from my sis' playbook this week because I picked up my Zaycon bacon over the weekend.  It comes frozen and vacuum sealed in 3 lb packages, so when my sis plans bacon meals, she plans three in a row to use up a whole package.  Of course, if the boys decide not to hold the baby, I'm not sure where that will leave us as far as bacon usage goes...

Here's what's on the menu this week:
Source
Supper:

Other:



Monday, November 28, 2016

Menu plan for the week of November 28

Hi everybody!  How was your weekend?

And ... that's about all the chit-chat I've got in me today.  On to the menu:

Supper:

  • Fundraising dinner
  • Beef stroganoff, corn, applesauce
  • Chicken & wild rice soup, rolls
  • Hot beef sandwiches, rolls, carrots
  • Pizza, salad
  • Nachos, taco toppings, guacamole
  • BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, green beans

Other:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Menu plan for the week of November 21

For a couple of weeks now, Hubby has been saying, "we should make cookies," at least once a day.  And by "we," he means "you," as in me.  I guess I'm just not feeling the cookie-making vibe these days.  In any case, he got desperate enough last week to actually make cookies himself. And now he's back to saying, "we should make cookies" again.  I don't know.  It might happen this week.  Or not.  I'm not anticipating feeling like making cookies.

I love cookie monster, and he showed up on milk billboards in the late 90s looking a little something like this:

Do you remember?  I made Hubby buy me a shirt with this image on it after I gave birth to my first kiddo.  Because I did have milk.  Just not cookies.  Maybe I need to get my cookie monster got milk shirt out.  Maybe that'll stir up my cookie-making mojo.

Thanksgiving is this week.  You know, the holiday where we show how thankful we are by eating as much as we possibly can until we can't really move.  I debated whether to even post this week's menu plan, as focused as everyone is on just one meal this week, but then I decided, aw heck, I don't want to disappoint my fans.  And we still gotta eat the other 6 days this week.  We may not have to eat after that, though.  I'll get back to you.  Maybe.

Here ya go:

  • Grilled chicken burgers, buns, carrots, chips, mandarin oranges
  • Beef stroganoff, corn, bread
  • Clean out the fridge day (which is kind of silly to do on Wednesday, since I do my grocery shopping on Tuesday...)
  • Roast turkey with sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, oven roasted brussels sprouts, corn, green bean casserole, applesauce
  • Sausage and white bean soup, bread
  • Nachos with taco toppings and guacamole
  • Pizza, salad
Other/Dessert:
  • Taco bean soup
  • Granola
  • Greek yogurt
  • Brownie pecan pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Muffins
  • Turkey stock

Monday, November 14, 2016

Menu plan for the week of November 14

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
Source

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mopping the walls

I mopped my walls the other day.

I know.  That's up there on the crazy scale right next to vacuuming a stove, which I have also done, because ramen exists, and which I should have mentioned last week (the stove vacuuming part, not the ramen part).

If you're sitting there thinking, "this Scarlet woman is a little loony," you are correct.  If you are sitting there thinking, "this must be a cleaning hack," you are also correct.

This easy wall cleaning hack comes to us courtesy of Life Should Cost Less.

Source
Here's the hack:
  1. Working from top to bottom and left to right, lightly mist the wall with your cleaning product of choice.  Just make sure it's safe for your paint or wall covering.
  2. Mop the wall, using a fair amount of pressure.
  3. (this is my addition) If necessary, use a magic eraser to remove any remaining scuffs.
  4. Enjoy the clean walls that you just achieved with minimal effort.
So I mopped my walls.  I was actually pretty surprised that this hack worked--shocked, even, as I watched those marks disappear.  You see, this is the reason I needed to mop my walls.  You think you have fingerprints and smudges on your walls?  Well, I live with an American Ninja Warrior in training.  He sweats on those walls.  At least it's a useful skill--that boy changed a light bulb for us the other day.

I don't have a fancy mop with washable covers like Sarah (although I totally think I should get one, because it would be so much more fun than my sponge mop--more sanitary, too), so I just used my mangy old sponge mop.  I also did not want to bother with a spray bottle, so I used a bucket for my cleaning solution.  Yup.  This totally worked to remove all of the hand (and foot) prints and a lot of the smudges.  Any smudges that were left after I went over the wall with the mop were easily removed by a magic eraser.

And mopping was a heckofalot faster than my previous wall cleaning method, which involved a step stool, a bucket of cleaning solution, a scrubby sponge, some rags, two children and a mama, and a whole lot of elbow grease.  Finished my hallway in about 10 minutes, as opposed to the 2 hours or so it took the last time I cleaned those walls.

Ready to try for yourself?  Here's what you need:




Let me know how it works for you!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Menu plan for the week of November 7

Hey y'all.  It's November.  November happened.  But in our neck of the woods (maybe in yours, too?), it has been unseasonably warm.  We had highs in the 60s, and we even kissed the 70s, last week.  I am not complaining, oh no.  It's just weird to think, "it's November," when it's so warm out.  Every now and then, it sneaks up on me, and catches me unaware.  I need to keep reminding myself that it's November, in the same way that I had to keep reminding myself, when we were in Hawaii many moons ago, that we were in the U.S. and it was January.

November used to be such a dismal time for me.  It was so gray, and everything was dead, and it was cold and dark, and there wasn't even any snow to pretty things up.  November was so desolate.  Not this year.

How is your November going?  I'm really looking forward to spending time with family later in the month, but again, it just seems so wrong that it's still so warm.  No worries.  I know the cold is coming.

On to the menu!  Let's start with dessert first this time, and see if anyone notices, shall we?

Dessert/Lunch/Other:

  • Chocolate peanut butter mini pies
  • Chocolate chip zucchini muffins
  • Cinnamon swirl bagels (these are so, so yummydelicious!  You have got to try making your own bagels)
  • Taco bean soup x2 (One of these days, I'll have to update y'all on how this recipe has evolved over the years... This soup is pretty much all I eat.  I eat it for lunch every day, and sometimes for snacks.  I've also been eating it for breakfast, and for supper when we're having something I don't like.  I'm trying to get stocked up, instead of running out of soup before I run out of week, but it sure would be nice if I had a larger pot!)
  • Creamy chicken wild rice soup
  • Egg roll in a bowl (because I still haven't made this!  And it'll provide a nice change from soup for a day or two)
    Source
Supper:
Source

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Container Concept

I don't know, maybe you've heard of this.  It's certainly not a new or revolutionary concept.  I was formally introduced to it in the spring (Scarlet, meet container concept...), when I took a free organizing video course, and I've been reminded of it recently while listening to the A Slob Comes Clean podcast.

The container concept goes like this: when trying to decide how many of a type of item one can have or keep, one should put it/them in an appropriately sized container.  Whatever fits can be kept.  Whatever doesn't fit should be gotten rid of (or not brought into the house).  It's a way of corralling, but also a way of prioritizing.  If you can only keep what fits, you are for darned sure going to make sure your favorites go in the container first.

A container could be an actual container, like a basket, box, or bag (I personally prefer rigid containers), or the container could be a closet, one shelf in a closet, one drawer in a dresser, or one room in a house.  My "starter" freezer is the perfect example of a container.  If it needs to be kept frozen, and it doesn't fit in my freezer, I can't have it (well, until winter, when we can use the great outdoors as our freezer...)

I do want to point out that you don't have to go out and buy containers, necessarily.  Most of my containers are either cardboard boxes, or food containers of odd sizes that I can't have in my kitchen anymore because all of my containers need to be stackable (it's a rule--which is also a helpful organizing tool).  I don't think I've bought a container yet, specifically for the purpose of applying this concept.

I love this idea  from Erin Spain to upcycle an ugly box into a pretty container
Now, I'm sure there are some of you who are sitting there like, well, duh.  Of course you can only have as much of something as you have space for.  But there are people among us who, while they might understand this on some level, they still don't seem to quite "get" it.  We want to have more, or we got a great deal and stocked up, so we get a bigger container.  Or we don't have a clearly defined container in the first place.  There are people, and I'm one of them, who need to be told these things.  And just in case you're one of them, I'm telling you now.  Container Concept.

It's all part of streamlining life to make our possessions easier to manage.  Just like with money, we have a finite amount of space, and it's important to make wise decisions about how to use that space.  It is hard to keep a space organized if it's overflowing with all kinds of everything, and organized clutter is still just clutter.

So I've been applying the container concept to various collections of stuff in my life.  For instance, we have so many water bottles.  So.  Many.  We have water bottles for hiking, water bottles for biking, water bottles for kayaking, water bottles for sports, insulated water bottles, even a special water bottle for car trips, which is actually broken, but I cannot get rid of it, because even broken it is useful (to some of us).  And we need them all accessible at all times.

You might think I'm being facetious.  I am not.  We really do need them all to be easily accessible at all times, because at any moment, any one of us might be called upon to hike or bike or road trip or sport.

And you know the thing about water bottles?  They multiply.  At least at our house, they do.  They seem especially attracted to Hubby, for some reason.  They're always following him home.

We used to keep them in one of our kitchen cupboards.  And they were always falling over, and the whole thing was a mess.  The children, who are nominally responsible for putting clean dishes away, would open the cupboard door, chuck the water bottle in, and then slam the door shut before anything could fall out.  But due to the need to keep them accessible, I couldn't put the water bottles anywhere else.

So I put them in a box.  In the cupboard.  And I informed the other people who live here that they are welcome to collect as many water bottles as they want.  As long as they fit in this box.
This is my favorite water bottle.
I kind of wish I had the quart size.
It's such an easy thing to do, once I realize that it applies to whatever situation I find myself facing--it's not quite a habit yet.  I don't know about the other people who live here, but I am certainly much happier, having applied the container concept to our water bottle infestation.  I do think Hubby might be hoarding some water bottles our closet, though...

Your turn: Are you one of the lucky people sitting there going, duh, of course?  Or are you like me?  Take a look around your spaces.  To what collection of items can you apply this concept?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stove-top cleaning hacks

Hello again.  I promised you some cleaning hacks, so here you go!  Today's theme is stove cleaning hacks.

So first, I have to apologize to those of you who have electric stoves, 'cause these first couple tips won't necessarily apply to you.  Well, maybe the second one if you have the traditional heating coils instead of a glass or ceramic top.  And of course, glass tops are so easy to clean you don't really need hacks, right?  Right?  But stay tuned, because there's a third tip that will work for electric stoves, too!

So first up, to clean the burner grates on a gas stove, remove them, and place them in a plastic bag along with 1/4 - 1/2 c of ammonia.  Seal up the bag and leave them overnight or longer.  I've heard placing them in the sun helps (because it's the fumes from the ammonia that do the work).  When time's up, remove the grates from the bag and wipe them clean.  Yes, it really is that easy!  I've heard this method works on oven racks as well (use a large garbage bag for oven racks).

Source
So, the burner grates weren't really my problem.  Mine are pretty slick, so they clean up pretty well with soapy water.  My problem was the wells of the burners.  You know, the depression that catches the potato water when the pot boils over?  That's the one.  I have spent years scrubbing at those things, to no avail.  I'd pretty much given up hope of them ever coming clean, until I saw this tip from the V spot.

Again, pour 1/4-1/2 cup of ammonia into the drip pans/wells of the burners, and cover the whole thing with plastic wrap to seal in the vapors.  Let it sit for 12-24 hours, then wipe clean.  Or scrub clean.  Or...well...scrub clean...enough.  Vivienne used Press'n Seal Glad Wrap, but I just used regular old plastic wrap--I just made sure to press it down along all the edges.  And it worked!  Just like Vivienne, mine's not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than it was before.

Source
OK, now you electric stove owners can tune back in.  

Next I cleaned the filters on our exhaust fan.  It had never occurred to me to clean those suckers, but when you think about everything that goes on on a stove, it makes sense that they might get a bit gunky.  I used this method from One Good Thing by Jillee.  Basically, you stick the filters in some boiling water to which you've added baking soda.  I don't think the baking soda is even strictly necessary, since it's mostly grease on the filter, and everything that isn't grease is glued in place by grease, so just the hot water ought to do it.  If you don't have a pot big enough to submerge your filter, do one half, then turn it over and do the other.  Scrub with a stiff brush, if you must, but I didn't find that to be necessary.  

And did it work?  Well, the first time Hubby turned on the stove hood exhaust fan after I had cleaned the filters, he said, "whoa!  What happened?  This thing really sucks!"  By which he meant that the fan was doing its job, sucking up and exhausting cooking vapors.  So yes, it worked, and the difference was noticeable.

Source
  That's all for now.  More cleaning hacks coming up next week!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Menu plan for the week of October 31

Hi, everybody.  November this week.  That means...well, it means that November is happening this week.  Aaaaannnnd...that's all I've got.

In other news, I made Monster Munch the other day.  It was pretty good.

Monster Munch from Plain Chicken

Wow.  I guess I'm not feeling very chatty today.  On to the meals.

Supper:

Lunch/other:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Really Bad Girls of the Bible: A Review


In Really Bad Girls of the Bible: More Lessons from Less-Than-Perfect Women, author Liz Curtis Higgs explores in-depth, the stories of eight bad girls from the Bible, including the Medium of En Dor, Bathsheba, and Tamar.  

Each of the eight chapters begins with a fictional, contemporary take on the story, followed by a verse by verse exploration of the story from the Bible, and finally a section on what we can learn from this particular bad girl.  The book also includes an introduction, a conclusion, discussion questions, and a chapter by chapter study guide.

I really enjoyed Ms. Higgs' conversational style.  The book was very easy to read--I felt like Ms. Higgs and I were chatting over coffee.  I also appreciated the in-depth look at some Biblical women that I'd never heard of.  Their stories help me better understand the overarching story of the Scriptures.  The fictional, contemporary introductions to the bad girls were very effective at drawing me in and peaking my interest.

Bottom line: this easy-to-read book would be an excellent choice for a women's Bible study, and will deepen your understanding of the Bible by providing vivid portraits of eight women in the Bible.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Let's see how y'all like Wednesday menu plans

I was not home on Sunday, which is when I usually write my weekly menu plan post, or Monday, which is when I usually publish my weekly menu plan post.  And then Tuesday got the better of me (it was very Monday-esque).  So here we are on Wednesday, and I'm sharing my family's menu plan.

I'm using up the last of the zucchini this week, finally.  And by last of the zucchini, I mean the last of the zucchini that I haven't yet frozen.  See, here's the problem with freezing zucchini.  Zucchini is so prolific that, by the time one navigates through the fresh zucchini season, one is typically all zucchini-ed out.

I mean, I made bread, and muffins, and noodles, and soup, and meatballs, and pizza crust.  I put zucchini in spaghetti sauce.  I skewered and grilled it.  I, and my family, ate a lot of zucchini this summer, but we still couldn't keep up with production.  So I froze the extra.  I have nineteen two cup portions of shredded zucchini in my freezer (maybe more?  I kind of lost count), which, you know, doesn't sound like a lot.  If we make muffins once a week, it'll only last about four months.

But we are not going to be making zucchini muffins once a week.  Because I have been making zucchini muffins once a week for the past four months.  I am done with zucchini.  Bring on the pumpkin, the bananas, the apples.  By the time I am ready to eat zucchini again, it is likely that there will be fresh zucchini available from my garden.

Anyway, due to the amount of zucchini already in my freezer, I am determined to use this one fresh.  Here we go!

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Lunch/Dessert/Other:
One more thing.  I know the reason y'all love my menu posts is because I give you ideas and recipe links.  Well.  My friend Laura has put together a meal planning service called Simple Meals where she not only gives you ideas and recipes, but she gives you grocery lists and task sheets as well.  Every week.  For less than $1 per week.  That means you don't have to think at all if you don't want to!  



Meals fall into the categories of no thaw night, crockpot night, made ahead night, no trouble night, build it yourself night, and savor it night, with one night left free for leftovers, eating out, or preparing a family favorite.

Not sure what I'm talking about?  Click here to see a sample weekly menu.

Want to sign up or learn more?  Click here for a coupon code good for $10 off a yearly subscription (this is my referral link, which means if you sign up through this link, I will get a commission at no extra charge to you).  You'll also get over $60 worth of bonuses.

Don't worry--I'll still be posting menu plans every week (ish), but this is another great, low-cost option to save you time, money, and brain-power.  And I'm pretty sure Laura will be more consistent than me...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cleaning hacks

One of my goals this school year...

Ha!  I say that as if I have more than one.  Goal that is.  It just sounds better than "my goal this school year".  Because honestly, who has this as their one and only goal in life?  Huh?  This girl, that's who.  Pathetic.  But at least I have a goal.  Anyway...

One of my goals this school year is to take back the house from entropy.  It's not that my house is excessively dirty or anything, but a certain...shall we say...deficiency...in my house cleaning technique (Ha! again.  As if I have a house cleaning technique...) has come to light.  At 11 years, this is the longest Hubby and I have lived in one location.  We lived in our previous homes for less than two years, four years, and six years.  And it turns out that dust and dirt and gunk and such don't really have a chance to build up all that much in less than two years, four years (without kids), and even in six years (with itty bitty kids), even if one has deficiencies in one's house cleaning technique.  But eleven?  Yup.  It's catching up with me.  So I'm taking it back, this year.

I started with a four week rotating schedule.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who needs a schedule to tell her what to clean when.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Please?  No?  Alllllrightythen, back to the post.

Kitchen, dusting, and vacuuming, along with laundry, are addressed on Mondays.  Wednesdays the bathrooms and laundry room get attention, along with the hard floors.  Friday is reserved for paper, calendar, and money.  It's a rotating schedule because different aspects are emphasized each week (and yes, I know this schedule does not cover everything, but it's a good start).

Know what I've found out?  Yes!  Cleaning is never ending.

And, it gets easier to clean the more often I do it.

Who knew?

Well, I guess I kind of knew, in theory, but apparently I didn't actually believe it, because I fought myself, hard, over this schedule thing (still do, some most days).  But here's the thing.  When you clean the seams of your glass-doored shower for the first time ever in eleven years, they're gonna be pretty gross.  And it's gonna take a bit of time and effort (and a toothbrush) to get them clean.  In fact, you might not even be able to get them clean all in one session.  But, listen.  There is no way they're gonna get that dirty and gross again in four weeks.  So when that job comes up again, you can do it faster and better than the last time.

Image source
Know what else I've found out?  Cleaning hacks, you know, the ones all over the internet?  Those things work.  Like, actually work.  I have been having so much fun with cleaning hacks, that I'm going to start sharing them with y'all.  Because I want you to have fun, too.  It's all about serving the public, friends.

So look for cleaning hack posts starting next week, and, in the meantime, I will try to remember to take before photos...

Happy cleaning, y'all!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Menu plan for the week of October 17

Y'all!  I am so tired!  I have heard that in general people are most tired during October.  Or maybe it was that people sleep the most in October.  It has something to do with the change in light and change in melatonin production.  Or something like that.  Unfortunately, in my case, it is not melatonin that is to blame, or at least not entirely.  I can't sleep.  Ugh.  I hate that.  And much the same way that people who don't have trouble getting to sleep can't understand those of us who do (you're tired?  Just go to sleep.  What do you mean you're too tired to go to sleep?  Just, you know, fall asleep.  As if), I don't understand how people can just...fall asleep.  At will.  I wish that was me.

So I find myself, at 7:30 p.m., so tired that I wish to go to bed.  Right then.  And the other people who live here are incredulous.  You're going to bed?  Right now?  Yes, yes I am.  Because I can't really hold my eyes open anymore.  They're slits, these eyes of mine, because they want to be closed but they need to be open.  I am going to bed.  But I'm not going to sleep because I can't.  Therefore, I will be walking around like a zombie again tomorrow, and my eyes will want to close even earlier.

I'm not sure how to get myself out of this pattern, but something's got to change soon, or I'll be going to bed as soon as I get up in the morning.

But you didn't come to hear about my sleep issues--you want to know about the food.  So here you go:

Supper:
Other:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pray

There's something I've been praying about.  It's a something far away from me.  It's a something that I want to help.  I want to be there.  I want to support, listen, run errands, make meals, clean, keep company, inspire, encourage.  It feels like a crisis.  I want to get in there and do something.

I was talking to a friend about it, about how hard it is to be far away, how hard it is to not be able to do anything except pray.

My friend got this funny look on her face, and I knew immediately what she was thinking.

What more important thing can we humans do besides tap into the power of the living God?  What more helpful thing can we do than to knock at the throne room door until God moves?  Praying isn't just the only thing I can do, it is the most important thing I can do.

(There's a video here--if you're reading via email, you'll have to click through to the post to view the video)

Ah, but in my human-ness, I want to be in control.  Me.  How ridiculous is that, in the face of the truth--that God is God and I am not?  For some reason, doing something, giving me the illusion of being in control, makes me feel more secure than surrendering to the reality that God is in control.  As if I, imperfect and flawed and human, could ever make more of an impact than the Ruler of the universe.  

Creator God, forgive me my presumptions.  Forgive me for losing sight of your sovereignty, for looking inward instead of out, toward you.  Lord, I humbly ask you to move, and I thank and praise you that the victory is already yours.
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