Saturday, March 7, 2020

Saving My Sanity Right Now

Curbside pick-up!

I don't know about you, but routine grocery shopping has never been something I love to do.  I say routine, because, I did love grocery shopping with my dear husband when grocery shopping dates were a thing.  We used to go to Trader Joe and Costco while the kids were at youth activities at church.  Those were the days!  Now, well, shopping is my sole job and I prefer to be as quick as possible.  Enter curbside pickup!

First, you put a fun little app on your phone to build your list as you go.  All I have to do is notice that I am running low on an item, quickly grab my phone and add it to my list.  I don't have to spend time thinking about what we need.  As the week goes along, I see my bill rising.  Sometimes the growing total prompts me to take off an item or two to keep under budget.  It's rather useful as a budgeting tool.  I have also taken my app out when shopping at another store to compare prices. 

Once my list is finished, I reserve my time slot and wait for my grocery fairies to go to work for me.  There are a few things I usually like to pick out myself, so I still go to another smaller store to get those things, fresh produce and meat on sale.  But that trip is quick and usually a few days later so I can also pick up anything that we may be low on at the moment or is a better deal at that store.  I am usually out and about anyway so I can make this an easy stop. 

At the appointed hour, I hop into my van, drive 7 minutes to the big box store and wait for the nice, friendly people to load me up.  I actually cannot imagine walking around a big grocery store gathering all this stuff all by myself!  I used to do that with 3 kids???  Another perk is that sometimes my darling husband will stop and pick up the groceries for me on his way home.  I do not like to use this option very often because I would rather have him home as soon as possible, but it is a good plan B. 

So, that's my current sanity saver!  Do you use grocery pickup?  Do you have anything saving your sanity right now? 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Let's Talk About Routines

Hello friends!  Like a lot of homemakers, I have been all over the place with routines in my 25 years of being home.  Probably like most people, I go for spurts and then life happens and I get off track.  When I first found Fly Lady, back in the days of homeschooling littles, I thought my life was set!! I had found my guru!! I remember printing out routines each week with a grid labeled Monday through Sunday.  Nothing would make me happier than checking those boxes off.  And I think along the way I learned to be more organized. 

Flash forward to this past year, again with littles and a house that needs my attention.  (Just an aside here, this stage of life is hard.  As moms, we labor to raise our babies, teaching them to do chores alongside us, and they grow up and become a vital part of the housekeeping team, but then they leave you but said chores do not go away! So here I am with work to do and fewer hands to do the work.) 

It came to my attention a few months ago that dear Fly Lady now has a free smartphone app. Glory be!  All her routines in one place and I can add my own for customization!  Plus I can check them off as I go, a win. 

Right now, my goal is to have my morning routine done before babies arrive between 8 and 8:15AM.  It goes better if I get up at 5:30, but I have not mastered that yet. 

Morning Routine
  • Make bed
  • Ride bike 20-30 minutes
  • Get dressed to shoes (includes a shower, teeth, etc...) 
  • Eat breakfast
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Start a load of laundry
  • Kitty box #1
  • Cat bowls changed 
  • Swish & swipe bathroom(s)
  • Powder room reboot
  • Adjust thermostat
  • Talk to my precious mom
Then, I try to get my afternoon routine done by the end of naptime, usually 3PM. 

Afternoon Routine
  • What's for dinner?
  • What can I do now to make dinner easier later? (Lazy Genius question)
  • Drink your water ( my cue to refill my water bottle)
  • Reboot laundry
  • Fold clothes
  • Homeschool paperwork/emails 
  • Sweep kitchen
  • Be a reader!
I am usually pretty good at getting both morning and afternoon routines done, but my after-dinner routine suffers at times, depending on if there is an after-dinner activity or a dreadful attack of apathy occurs. My future self depends on this routine happening, but so far it is the hardest to make happen. 

After Dinner/Before Bed Routine
  • Check calendar and forecast
  • Hot spot clean up (dining room table is usually the worst offender)
  • Shine your sink
  • Vacuum living room, set up for babies (I do this in the morning a lot.) 
  • Personal hygiene
  • Go to bed at a decent hour
  • Kitty box #2
  • Put away laundry
  • Bible

I am blessed to have Mondays off to get errands run, appointments made, groceries bought and my house blessed.  The key to Fly Lady's weekly home blessing is to do the middles!  Set your timer for 15 minutes and quickly go through each item.  It does take me longer than an hour but I do not mind.  Fly Lady also breaks the house into 5 zones and there are lists to do in each zone as well as weekly missions.  I am hit or miss on those.  She suggests a daily 15 minute decluttering, but I try to at least do a weekly one.  This summer I plan to do a daily one in the garage.  I need to purge in there but it is too cold right now. 

My Weekly Home Blessing
  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Mop
  • Windows/sliding glass door
  • Trash/recycling
  • Tend to plants (water, fertilize) 
  • Change sheets
  • Change bath towels
  • Save the veggies (My own reminder)
  • Declutter in this week's zone 
How about you?  Do you have routines?  Do you wing it?  I'd love to know.  :) 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Five Things Making Me Happy This Week

Let's just jump in, shall we?

1.  FaceTime!
Regularly we have FaceTime calls with Grace and I love it. Valentine's Day, we set my phone in her spot at the table and talked away as we enjoyed our meal.  It really is almost like she is with us. This is the best gift she could give me!  We frequently text, but nothing compares to seeing her smile and hearing her melodious voice.
Pretending I have a woodstove. 

2.  My Fly Lady routines.
This might be a whole other post soon.  I just can't say enough about how having good routines will get you through the day that ends up successful.  I have 3 routines, morning, afternoon and after dinner.  They are essential! More soon.
Valentine's Day gift!

3.  My Instant Pot!
I know.  I can't say enough about my IP.  Just this week I have made soup, yogurt, chicken stock, and cheesecake.  It would have been more but when I am making yogurt it is tied up for 9 hours plus time in the refrigerator, so I had to use my oven and my cast iron dutch oven this week, too.  Haha.  My 6 quart IP is on loan to a friend who is enjoying it so much that if she can fit 2 racks of ribs in it she will keep it.  Otherwise, she will buy herself an 8 quart.  I have enjoyed helping her overcome her fears of the pressure cooker and see her soar this week!
Trevor hard at work. 

4.  My Kindle.
I am reading again.  I am out of my drought!!  Currently, I am reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  So far it is a pretty good book with an interesting plot.  One of my Fly Lady routines in the afternoon is "Be a reader."  I decided that if I was indeed a reader, the way to read was to set aside some of naptime for reading a chapter as well as other things I need to get done without babies.  It has been working!
Tea after an arduous snowy carpool. 

5.  My stationary bike.
Another routine that is serving me well is getting on my stationary bike every workday morning.  Moving wakes me up at the early hour of 5:45.  For a couple of weeks, I was either sick or nursing a sore knee so I was so happy to be back up to over 50 miles this week. I do not take it for granted being able to ride. 

So there you have the 5 things that are making me happy this week. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Visiting Grace

Yesterday, Trevor and I made the one hour, 15-minute drive to see our dear Grace at her university.  She was eager to see us, although it had only been a couple weeks.  I love that!

She wanted to get off campus so we took her to the mall so she could spend Christmas money on a new dress and matching sweater.  Then we had lunch.  Dorm food is good but she enjoyed the change.  What she really wanted was my food. Next time I will have to make that happen.  They do have a dorm kitchen I could use.  That would be a lot of fun to do together. 

After lunch, we cheated and I drove us to a parking space in a central location, another way to spoil her as she is used to walking 5 miles a day now.  We walked to the student center and I treated us to BIG Starbucks drinks, more spoiling, ha.  We hung out and chatted until it was time to walk over to the school's amazing art museum. 

She was so excited to give us a tour before the actual tour by a docent that happens each Saturday.  Grace has spent hours at the museum sketching.  It has an impressive collection on two floors, 10,000 objects!  The building itself is art.  It was built in the 1930s and has been restored, just a delight!

The guided tour was very interesting.  I always learn a lot on museum tours.  This one focused on the funerary art of all things!  Side note:  does it concern anyone else that we have taken these objects from their original location, from their original purpose, to mark the grave of a person.  I mean, what if a thousand years from now people from Italy come here and take our grave markers back to their museums?  Oh well.

After the tour, we headed back to her dorm to visit with her sweet roommate, play Uno, and relax until it was time for yet more food.  Again I drove us to the dining hall of choice.  Another little note here, Grace's dorm is the farthest away from the center of campus and it does not have a dining hall.  They are building a dining hall nearby but it is not open yet.  She has to walk quite far to eat. 

Her roommate joined us.  We enjoyed a little more conversation and food and then it was time to drop them off at the dorm and head home.  I do not love driving that far in the dark but it could not be helped.  Only three weeks until her spring break!!! 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Good-bye January, Hello February!

I am not going to lie, winter is not my favorite season.  I used to think it was the cold, but now I think it revolves around lack of light.  Winter is the season of darkness!  Thankfully, I have learned to endure and even thrive.  So it is with a happy heart that I bid farewell to January!  February is here!  I am one month closer to spring.  Rejoice!

One of my favorite podcasts is The Next Right Thing Podcast with Emily P. Freeman.  She sends out a newsletter as well.  Emily has the great practice of looking back and reflecting on her past month in order to move forward into the next.  Here are her 3 questions for January and my attempt to answer them as well.  

1. What was my most life-giving yes in January?
2. What was my most life-giving no in January?
3. What's one thing I want to leave behind moving into February?
What was my most life-giving yes in January?  I think it has to be saying yes to Fly Lady again.  Installing her app and actually making a promise to myself to do the daily routines has given me life.  Last week I fell sick.  The babies had a cold, I was doomed.  Yet, my simple and life-giving routines kept me moving forward.  Last Monday, my hardest physically speaking, I literally just did one thing, checked it off and sat down until I could do the next thing.  I got through my whole routines that day and my whole world felt better.  To borrow a phrase from Gretchen Rubin, "Outer order equals inner calm."  I did not get the whole house clean last week, but I did get to what mattered most. My family even remarked at how well we ate while I was sick, thank you Instant Pot! 
What was my most life-giving no in January?  I struggle saying no.  When I know that I have to or should say no, it can even wake me up at night, especially if I really care about the person I need to say no to.  In January I had to say no to a couple future babysitting dates to a precious family member.  I knew that it was possible to do the work but I would be dreading it for weeks and then the actual dates would come and I would be overwhelmed with 3 babies, all one-year-old.  I hated to say no but after I did, I knew I had just saved my sanity!  I wish I could do it all, but I can't.  Know your limits! 
What's one thing I want to leave behind moving into February?  I felt a great deal of despair while I was sick the last 10 days.  Despair on top of wintery blues is what I want to leave behind.  I tend to catastrophize when I am sick, even with a cold.  I wonder at how people with real sicknesses manage to cope?  I start to think about changing careers, changing locations, wishing I could stop the world and hide until I was well.  See?  Ha!  And then I start to feel better and the sun shines and I am feeling like living my life again.  I know I will get sick again, that is life.  I want to move into February without all the weight of those feelings.  They are past.  February is a new start.  I am healthy again.  Time to look for ways to enjoy this season that I am in.  
And there we have January!   

Friday, January 24, 2020


Long ago in the blogging world of old, the group of us would all fill in how we were doing "currently."  My friend Jane popped up with hers last week, so I am joining in the fun for old time's sake.  😀

We saw the middle 40's today!  Tomorrow we are expecting to accumulate snow.  This has been an odd winter for us with warmer weather and no snow.  I do not mind so much.  It is cloudy so it doesn't feel as warm as a sunny day in the 40's would. 

I am feeling a bit stiff today.  I have increased my stationary bike milage to 50 miles a week and I am feeling it in my legs today.  Plus carrying toddlers up the stairs to naps and rebooting the laundry a couple times, my legs are telling me to take a rest tomorrow.  I love my bike though.  It helps me wake up at 5:40 AM each weekday!

My standard uniform for baby duty is dark yoga pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a zippered sweater jacket, my comfy clogs.  I have to be able to get on the floor to play, so comfort is a must.  Plus, I get noses wiped on me and little mouths chewing on me all day long. 

The Price is Right with my husband.  Ever since the hospital, we have watched almost every day!  It is weird, I know.  It is nostalgic, I guess.  Don't judge me.  Haha. 

Listening to:
The dishwasher going for the second time today and I am so thankful. 

Besides watching TV and writing this post, I am relaxing after a long 4 days of baby duty.  So my answer is trying not to do anything at the moment. 

I just finished my first book of the year today, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.  Now I am not saying to rush out and get this book.  It is a non-fiction title written by a sarcastic, worldly bookseller.  The reason I read it was because I have a habit of reading books about books.  I am not sure why I read them.   I am usually disappointed.  This one was interesting because it explained the plight of the independent bookseller and how Amazon has wrecked their business.  That is why I kept reading. 

Well, I made a really good meal today, even after having the babies!  Thanks to my Instant Pot, I made chicken breasts in gravy, mashed potatoes, and a blend of vegetables.  Tomorrow I will make yogurt. I should make soup, too. 

Not sure if I am actively planning much at the moment.  I have a graduation party to plan for in June.  I am doing a little gathering of photos at the moment and thinking about what I need to be doing to make it not so hard all at once.  I have the venue secured and the date.  I need to get a photographer for senior pictures this spring.  And I can't forget to order the cap and gown soon.  May will be here before I know it. 

Working on:
I am working on getting more consistent with the housework. Three weeks ago I started using the Fly Lady app.  I have been a follower of her for many, many years.  Lately, I had been slacking off, just doing what had to be done to keep up with appearances.  Hahaha.  I love how her system is "start where you are."  If I don't get to it this week, it will cycle back soon enough.  The advantage of her app is that I can check off things each day.  Since I have been using her app, I can say that I am getting more done and things look better.  I also have a motto that I adopted and that is, "If I see it needs to be done, do it now!"  So hard! 

Ha!  I am lucky to be reading books, my only hobby at the moment. 

I am thinking about too many things!  There is the looming graduation, adding a new baby this fall, praying I don't get the sick baby's cold, will it snow tomorrow, where will Trevor decide to go to college in the fall... am I going to lose my mind when he goes!!! 

Like many people, I am loving Walmart pick up!!  I cannot live without it.  I do walk through another store for fresh vegetables and meat on sale but that is quick and painless now. 

Jeff's feeling better and getting stronger.  It is a gift!  Life is a gift.

I am so grateful that my Jeff is feeling better.  I am over the moon happy and grateful that Grace is doing so well at her school, making friends, learning a lot.  We got to have her home over the recent long weekend. I am so thankful that I have meaningful work to do.  I am thankful that Trevor has gotten over a stomach bug and no one else got it. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Instant Pot Update

Sally asked if I love my new Instant Pot?  So I thought it would be a good time for an update.  I will tell you straight out that I do love my IP but I will not tell you to run out and get one.  If your old tried and true slow cooker stops working, I would have you think long and hard about getting an IP to replace it, however.  And to tell a little secret, I actually am on my second IP!  My dear mom got me a bigger (8 quart) one with a yogurt button for Christmas and I gave her my first one.

What do I love most about my IP?  It is so versatile.  It does what it says it will do!  I kind of doubted one machine could do so much.  I was a resister, against the fad kind of a person.  Now I am on the bus!  Haha.

I have never had juicier "roasted" chicken!  Never.  It falls off the bone in just 30 minutes of cooking.  (Insert asterisk here.  When they say it is 30 minutes that doesn't count the time to reach high pressure nor the time for release.)  But still, it is more consistent and pretty easy.

I love making rice in it.  I hated to make brown rice and we can't eat white, so I would make it sporadically.  The first time I made brown rice in the IP I thought I had done something wrong because it was so fluffy.  And it is done so much faster than on the stovetop*.  No more stovetop for me!

I love yogurt.  I debated about making it.  I used to make it on the stovetop and then let it do its thing in the warm oven, then strain it in the fridge taking up valuable space.  I gave up thinking it was easier to buy it.  Well, let me tell you about my Cold Start Yogurt!  I literally dump in the milk, stir in my starter, press a button and 8 hours later I have the thickest yogurt that doesn't need strained.  I am making my 3rd batch as I write this.  Now, I do have to say I thought I knew it all and I made my first batch with regular ultrapasteurized milk.  It was soupy and some people like it that way.  Then I went back to my yogurt guru and watched her videos about why you need to use the ultrafiltered and ultrapasteurized milk.  Now it is just perfect.

Cheesecake!!!  If you had told me that I would be raving about cheesecake from a pressure cooker, I would have thought you were crazy.  But here I am raving.  I have made 2 of the best cheesecakes of my entire life.  In fact, I am making one this weekend by request for my husband's birthday cake.  And it won't take me very long! Wow.  I did buy a smaller spring-form pan for this purpose, highly worth it.

Spaghetti!!  I am not a huge spaghetti fan, but I tell you what, my IP makes THE BEST spaghetti I have ever had and if I had it for this one reason alone, it would be worth it.  You can make it all in one pot and it is done in less time than it used to take me to heat up the big water pot for the pasta, let alone browning the meat.  The recipe I have is pretty informal and I found it searching the Facebook group that I belong to. 

Melanie Brown's IP Spaghetti

Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for toppings (optional)
Olive oil (for browning)
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/2-1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (dried herbs)
2 cups water (divided)
1 24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce (we like tomato and basil, get whatever kind you like).
10-11 oz of spaghetti

1. Put IP on SAUTÉ. Once it reads HOT, brown the beef and onion. Season lightly with salt, pepper, add the garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Once browned hit CANCEL.
2. Dissolve the kosher salt into the 2 cups of warm water.
3. Add 1/4 cup of the water and deglaze the pan. Get as much of the brown stuff off the bottom (sometimes I use red wine to do this part instead of the water).
4. Pour 1/2 of what’s leftover from the water on top of the beef mixture (please don’t make me do the math, just pour what looks like 1/2 of what’s left).
5. Snap the spaghetti in half and lay across the top of the beef and water.
6. Press down a bit on the spaghetti to immerse as much as possible. Don’t stir.
7. Pour the jar of spaghetti sauce over the top.
8. Pour what’s left of the water into the jar and swish around. Get all the good stuff left behind, and pour that on top. Gently press down, but don’t stir and mix the pot.
9. Set the Instant Pot on PRESSURE cook (and make sure the vent is closed).
10. Set the time for 1/2 of what the spaghetti directions call for. I use thin spaghetti, so it’s 4-5 minutes for me.
11. Once the Instant Pot beeps that it’s done, do a quick release. Open up and stir around.
12. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if desired

Eggs!  The first thing I made in my IP was hard-boiled eggs.  Now, they didn't cook in a flash, but the best part was that the shells practically fell off.  My guys love egg salad and deviled eggs.  They are more likely to get them now.  Lots of people have their favorite method.  I did the 4-4-5 method .

And it still makes a decent slow cooker.  I have heard some criticism about its slow cooker function because the heat comes from the bottom and is not wrapped around like the Crockpot.  I have made my favorite chicken stock and chili without any differences.  It even goes to keep warm when the time is done.  I call that a win.  I did buy the slow cooker lid with the vent.  I use it for making yogurt, too.

When it comes down to it, does anyone really need an Instant Pot?  No, it is just another tool.  But if you enjoy learning something new, finding new inspiration for feeding your family, making progress and feeling successful, it might just be for you!  I do highly recommend joining an IP group on Facebook if you do get one.  That is where I have found helpful inspiration and support.  Or find a good friend who loves hers!  It can be intimidating to just turn it on that first time.