Living A Simplified Life!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Down and Dirty

You like that title? Well, we are gonna get down and dirty today because it is about time to think about planting a garden. If not in the ground, at least in either raised beds or containers, but it is that time of year! With today's economy being what it is and the price of groceries and other goods on the increase, in my humble opinion we need to be putting in a backyard garden to help defray some of those costs.

Nothing tastes so good as a sun warmed ripe tomato fresh from the garden, just washed, cut open and sprinkled with a little salt! Or the crisp click of green beans being snapped and put into a pot of boiling water! Or how about that juicy homegrown watermelon or honeydew/muskmelon that you have watched emerge from a seed to become this beautiful vegetable or fruit? Or the joy of going out and plucking some mint leaves for your ice tea or basil or rosemary to go into that salad or to flavor the meal you are going to put on the table.

I personally love potatoes and sweet potatoes so I will be adding those to my list of things I want in my garden. I can make an entire meal out of a potato or a sweet potato!

Start thinking now about all the wonderful fruits and vegetables that you can grow in your area and in your back yard. Get the ground prepared and augmented with some good compost and ready to dirty those knees and hands and plant that garden.

You really don't need a lot of room. There are now hanging planters where you can grow strawberries and tomatoes upside down. You can plant potatoes in a bale of straw or even a circle made out of chicken wire and layered with straw and dirt inside it. or even an old feed bag if you are so inclined.

You can do raised beds and grow anything that you want which is great for older folks who might not be able to bend all the way down to ground level.

I will be posting some links to help you with ideas of different types of gardening that you might like to try as well as some companies that offer good heirloom seeds that will produce good old fashioned food!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bring in the Sunshine

Today we are going to tackle something really easy, we are going to get all the windows cleaned on the inside of your house. Okay, you can go ahead and use the Windex if you wish, but personally, I prefer the good old vinegar and water method. For some reason this really seems to clean better for me to get all the nose prints from kitty cats off the window. I like to use either white vinegar or cider vinegar mixed half and half with water in a spray bottle and then wipe them dry and shiny with paper towels or best of all newspaper. I don't know what it is about the print in newspaper that seems to work so well but it sure does. No streaks when I'm done!

Now if it is a nice warm day, you might also like to do the outside windows as well but at least get the inside ones done. Also if you have screens on the outside windows, and you don't want to have to remove them, a lot of people like to hook up their hose and use some of the new Windex power spray for outside (or similar product) I do have to admit that I have never tried it, so can't give you a testimonial as to how well it works.

Speaking of sunshine, are your jonquils/daffodils in bloom yet? Mine are here in Oklahoma. What a wonderful site it is to see all those pretty yellow flowers blowing in the breeze. I am going to go get a vase or two and snip some flowers and bring them inside. Nothing like fresh flowers to cheer you up and cheer up your home.

While you are at it, if the weather is nice, why not open up the windows and let some fresh air blow through your house? It's been closed up for months now with all the cold winter weather and could use some good fresh air!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Laundry Room Woes

Okay, today let's hit the laundry room, another one of those dreaded rooms we hate to tackle. That's okay, we almost have all the hard stuff out of the way! Hopefully this should take you no more than an hour tops to get straightened up.

Let's check the inside of the washer first thing. Is there a soap buildup residue where you put your soap in? This is common for those of you who use powdered detergent. Let's get this out of there. Next, lets check and see what the inside of the tub drum looks like. If you have cats and/or dogs, it is quite possible that you are going to find their hair along the agitator blades (top loader) or the ridges (front loader) and around the door opening of your washer. Wipe all this out with a damp rag.

Go grab a load of laundry to do while we tend to the rest of the work to be done. Got that load started? Good, now lets just wipe down the outside of the washer with either that spray bottle filled with white vinegar and water, or a mild soap solution.

My laundry room tends to be a catch all for everything! One of these days I hope to be able to build a lot of shelves and a counter top in here since it is a large room. I would love to make the upper cabinets as my food pantry and storage place for large items like my crockpots, the huge soup pot, punch bowl (which I seldom use) the various sizes of flower vases that I keep for arrangements around the house.

In the meantime, I do have some shelving units out there, that need some straightening up. There are usually some tools left out that I need to put back into my tool chest. Oh yeah, I do have one of those and I get laughed at when I am asked what I would like for Christmas or my birthday or Mother's Day and I usually will respond with " I could use a new Phillips screwdriver or a few containers filled with different sizes of nails."

Do you have a slew of those plastic bags that you carry your groceries home in? I have some, not as many as I used to because I am changing over to the "green grocery" cloth bags. I use these bags inside my small trash cans throughout the house to keep the insides of the can clean. I corral all of them by sticking them inside a large paper bag grocery sack. If you get more than that sack full, throw them away or better yet, return them to your grocer because many of them have a recycle bin in their stores. So much better really than having them go into the landfills.

Sweep and mop the floor and you are done and so should be that load of laundry you threw in to do!

Now you can take a quick tour through the house and do any general pick up that needs to be done, run the vacuum cleaner if need be, do a quick mop up of the kitchen floor and bathroom floor (since you already have mop water made up) and make the bed if you forgot to do that.

Our week is half over and by now the house should be coming into pretty organized shape. Once it is, the maintaining it will be easy. We will go into some deep cleaning projects to start on shortly, but right now, my main objective was to get you started on just making things more organized and looking better in general.

We women often feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do. There are many of you who work outside the home, I used to so I know exactly how you can feel like you don't have time to do anything but barely hang on and maintain at times.

So please, do what you can and what you feel comfortable with. Don't feel like you have to be superwoman and 100% perfect all the time in your home. My mom's favorite saying was that a house needed to be messy enough to look lived in. The joy and happiness that you bring to your family by just being Mom and being there for them is not measured by having everything in it's place all the time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tackling the Kitchen

Okay, it's Tuesday and no more procrastination!

Let's get up and get that bed made, the coffee brewed and take a quick look at the bathroom and see if it needs a quick touch up. Usually the bathroom and the kitchen are the two rooms in my house that get the messiest and of course need to be more hygienically clean than any other rooms in the house, unless you have people with lots of allergies, asthma or other breathing difficulties.

After you've gotten some breakfast and that cup of coffee, check to see if perhaps you need to get a load of laundry started and if so, throw it in while we get ready to tackle some deep cleaning.

How long has it been since you've really cleaned out that refrigerator? Lets empty everything out, make a pan of hot water and detergent or vinegar (my personal preference) and wash down everything.... walls, shelves, vegetable bins and the freezer. Now you can start putting things back in, stacking things neatly in your freezer, and organize the foods in the refrigerator section. I am sure you are going to find some things in there that you are sure are some sort of science experiment! Organize the vegetable bins. Now wipe down the top outside and all the sides and the door. If you really feel energetic, pull the unit out from the wall, unplug it for a few minutes, grab the vacuum cleaner and clean the coils off and the floor where the refrigerator sits.

Guess what? You just finished the worst part of cleaning your kitchen! Everything else is going to be a breeze. Now preheat your oven to 200 degrees and then turn it off. Now take a bowl of vinegar (white distilled) and set it inside the oven. Now if you are fortunate enough to have a self cleaning oven, just set it to self-clean and let it do it's thing. Take off all the burners, burner drip pans, and rings and set them in the sink with hot sudsy water. While these are soaking, wash down the top of your stove and the front again using a solution of white distilled vinegar and water, a half and half mixture in a spray bottle is wonderful for this.

In my kitchen, the sections where my dishes, glasses and coffee mugs don't get messed up. So I never have to worry about straightening them up but I do need to work on the section where I keep all the pots and pans and baking dishes. So down on my knees I go to dig into the bottom shelves and straighten out this area. This is also the area where I am a pack rat...I have this horrible problem throwing out every empty plastic margarine container, empty large peanut butter jar, and "hodge podge" of glass jars. Now this would not be so bad, if I always remembered to match up covers to containers, but some how I end up with more of one or the other. Now is the time to grab that trash can and be ready to pitch! If you can't match a lid to a bottom.... pitch it! If you can't think of at least 2 other uses where you can use more than 1 size of each item you have saved..... keep one and ditch the rest! You know you buy the same things over and over again most of the time, it isn't as if you won't have more in 2-4 months!

Nest your pots and frying pans and put them up towards the front of the cupboard because you use them often. Why kill your back stretching and stooping every single day to retrieve them out of the back of the cabinet? Hopefully you will have enough room up close to the front to put your favorite casserole dishes and baking dishes. You may have forgotten to utilize the drawer in the bottom of your stove, if you have, you can move things like cookie sheets and bread pans over there, or perhaps you would rather put your pots and frying pans in there if the drawer is deep enough and that is more convenient for you. While you have everything out of these shelves, go ahead and spray them down with your vinegar and water mixture and wipe them out.

By now, the burner drip pans and rings of the stove should have soaked enough that most of any burned on accumulations will come off quickly with a soft scrubbie. If not, then it is time to get out the steel wool pad and apply some elbow grease. After letting everything dry, put the stove back together. Now is the time to wipe down the interior of your oven if it wasn't the self-cleaning model. The warmth and the vinegar solution should have loosened everything sufficiently to make this easy.

By now that load of laundry is ready to go out to the dryer, so get up off the floor and stretch your back really well before you head out to get that tansferred over. You deserve a break and a good stretch!

Now check to see the condition that your pantry supplies are in. Do you have half packages of the same thing in there? are your spices just thrown in there every which way? Cans of everythin all mixed together? Take everything out and put it on the counter. What I like to do is as I take it out of the cabinet, I put like items together on the counter, so that when I am ready to put them all back in, they are already organized.

For my spices, I have two plastic baskets and I sit all my spices in those baskets. When I am cooking, I can just grab the entire little basket out and find what I need and return it to the basket after using it and then into the cupboard. My counter space is at a premium (my kitchen is not that large) so the less I have on the countertop sitting out the better. I also have glass jars that I store rice, beans, spagetti noodles, sugar, macarroni shells, and macarroni noodles in. Those sit on the first shelf above the counter top where I can reach them easily. The shelves are tall enough that I can stack my vegetables two cans high and I keep them together by type.

Take a quick look at your cabinets where you keep your dishes and glassware. Chances are they are fine. If not, it shouldn't take but a minute or two to straighten them up.

I have two drawers where I keep odd sized utinsels that I use for cooking. One drawer has knives in it and I have them in plastic baskets also rather than just thrown loosely in the drawer.
There are some odd ball things in that drawer also, like a tea strainer, potato peeler, and two types of can openers and wooden spoons. The other drawer has all the spatulas, the whip, potato masher, baster tubes, and meat thermometer in it. the drawer between has my silverware and there is a plastic insert to keep everything neat and tidy in that drawer. On the other side of the sink, over by the refrigerator is a drawer with all the kitchen wash rags, new sponges, scuffy pads and dishtowels. And then the preverbial "junk drawer". This has a conglomeration of things in it that I need to throw out! No longer do I use the room plug-in deodorizers, so why do I have like 15 of them in there? The package of picture hanging nails that need to be returned to the tool box but I was too lazy to put back into it's proper place? Good heavens, there is that extention cord that I have been searching for the last month! So see, I'm not perfect and you don't need to be either but if we start making this cleaning part of our routine at least once a month, then we won't be searching for things. Now that everything is straightened up, you should be able to take just a section of this at a time, look inside a cupboard or a drawer and see if it needs a quick straightening up. Now the refrigerator and the stove, you can do general maintenance cleaning on weekly, but at least once a month do what we did today, take everything apart and clean it well. Now you have a spic and span kitchen and you will feel confident coming in to cook every day because everything will be in it's place.

Now I do have some items on my counter top and you probably do also. Your toaster, take and open up the bottom (after you've disconnected it from the wall) and go shake the crumbs out over the trash can and wipe down the counter under where it sits, wipe down the top and sides. My microwave, be sure the top is cleared off of all clutter (we have a tendancy to plunk things down there) wipe down the outside, the inside walls and the rotating plate and underneath it for spills. The coffee pot, wipe down the outside. Now if you have finished that pot of coffee that you made, why not rinse out the basket well of grinds and then make a mixture of half and half water and vinegar (some people prefer to use all white vinegar with no water) and run it through your pot to clean out all the accumulated oils. After running the vinegar though, you will want to run another full setting of water through to get all the vinegar out. Clean out the pot itself, you can use that spray bottle of vinegar and water to clean it up so it shines like new also, being sure to rinse thoroughly.

Monday Cleanup Time

I don't know about anyone else, but Monday is not the day for me to start any new projects. I have too much to pickup and clean up from the weekend. So what I do is use this as my general "pick it up" make it presentable day!

I'm one of these people who at least have to have a cup of coffee under my belt before I function. So first order of business is start the coffee pot. I sit down with a "To Do" list while enjoying that cup of coffee and then off to work I go.

Throw a load of clothes into the washer. While it is washing, I go ahead and change out the kitty litter boxes for my feline roommates and then change the cage so Bradley is content and happy. There is nothing worse than a cranky parrot!

I grab the broom, dust pan and dust mop and get the floor cleaned up. I don't have carpets so it goes quickly.

Grab the mop bucket and cleaner and mop all my floors.

By now that first load of clothes is ready to switch to the dryer and if i have another load, which I usually do, pop it into the washer.

By now, all the floors are dry and I can venture into the bathroom and give it a quick once over, cleaning the sink, mirror, tub and toilet.

Time to run in and make the bed and pick up any odds and ends that need to be put back in place in the bedroom. Sometimes I don't always hang up things or put things away, so now is the time to get that done.

By now, I should have a good many things checked off my "To Do" list and the first load of clothes should be ready to come out of the dryer, be folded and put away and the second load taken out of the washer and moved to the dryer.

I usually can accomplish all this well before noon, or at least by noon, depending on what time I got up.

One room in my house really gets a lot of clutter in it and that is my home office. I do so many things in there and it somehow always ends up being the one place that really needs deep cleaning at least twice a month. Since once I start on the office, I find myself spending a lot of time getting things organized in there, I will go ahead and start something in the crockpot for dinner and usually start a loaf of homemade bread in my breadmaker (it takes about 3 hrs to cook) and those will all be about done by the time I have finished working in the office.

Goulash sounds good and I can make enough to last several days which is great because I don't like to do a lot of cooking. The simpler it is the more I like it! I will make a section here in the blog for the recipes I like to use, since others like quick easy meals also. Be sure to let me know how you like them.

Once the office is picked up, then I can grab that second load of laundry and get it folded.

Now I should be able to spend a couple hours working here at the computer before I take a dinner break and then I can come back later on and work in here some more, either finish putting away all the paperwork I generated while working on genealogy or other things.

By tomorrow I should be ready to tackle the kitchen, for a good major clean up, toss out day. Come back and join me for some ideas that might help you to do the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Organizing the Children's Rooms

Okay, I know this isn't your most favorite rooms to get organized, but lets not procrastinate, lets get the hard places out of the way first! You will really feel like you have accomplished something if you do.

Lets start with the older children first. Have each of them go to their rooms and find 5 things that are in good condition that they are willing to give away to someone less fortunate then they are. Put these in a box to be taken to a homeless shelter, a women's shelter, a hospital, etc. Be sure it is a place where you children can go with you so they can see the smiles on the faces of the other children when they receive their wonderful gifts.

Chances are, the things that have been left out on the floor, the dresser tops, etc are the things that your children play with the most. So that is a given that those things will stay.

Take a look inside their toy boxes, what is down at the bottom of the toy box? Those will most likely be the items they seldom play with. Take a box and box up at least 1/3 of their toy box. You are going to label this with their name and the date and place it up in the attic or out in the garage. You might want to make an inventory of the contents as you do this. That way, if you have more than one box, you will know where to locate things. As time passes, they may ask about a certain item and you can go retrieve it easily. My rule of thumb is leave them boxed for at least 3 months. Then you can rotate out the boxes, putting the things into storage that they now have out and bring out one of the stored boxes. This helps them appreciate what they have and things tend to stay fresh and inviting to play with.

Now you can work with the remaining items and get them into the toy box and up on shelves easily. When you are ready to rotate out toys, from the stored boxes, be sure to take 5 items from the things that are presently out to be given away. You are starting a good pattern of teaching your children to share with others.

Go through their closets and check for clothes that are too small. If there isn't someone in the family to pass them down to, either take them to a resale store if they are in good condition and you can get a few dollars out of them, take them to the shelters for someone less fortunate, or give them away, perhaps through But whatever you do, don't just leave them sit in their closet if not being used.

Check their shoes, shirts, sweaters, jackets. Same thing, if too small and wearable, pass them down in the family or give them to someone who can use them. Otherwise pitch them.

Have the children help you straighten their bookshelves and go through any books that they feel they would like to give away.

They can help you empty the wastepaper basket, pick up any scraps of paper that are laying around (my grandson's are savers of gum wrappers for some reason) and get those picked up also.

Check the dresser drawers, are they old enough to fold underwear, and pair up socks? If so put them to work and let them help you.

Dust down the surfaces of dressers and desks.

Chances are you are going to have to break this into several 15 minute cleaning sessions, that's okay, just do 15 minutes at a time and go do something else in between time. You don't have to finish it all at once.

You will be surprised at how your children will enjoy having a neat and tidy room, be sure to give them lots of praise on how great it looks and how much you appreciated their help getting it tidy.

With some luck, the hard part is done for awhile. Plan on doing the "closet search" for outgrown clothes every 3 months when you rotate out their toys. Other than that, they should be able to go in and pick up their room every day in 15 minutes or less. Clothes put up, toys off the floor and where they belong and trash can emptied.

Be sure to let them know that this is an expected routine for them to do every day. To pick up their room. IF they don't, you can impose rules such as what is left out gets taken by a parent and put up. If you want it back, you will need to do additional chores to earn the item back. My daughter's have found that this works great with my grandchildren and they started this when they were 3 yrs old!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lets Get Organized

My house is only 1250 sq ft and although it sounds pretty spacious the rooms are not well designed. So consequently, I buy furniture that does dual purpose. I try to get things that can store other things inside. Even after living here for many years, I am still a work in progress when it comes to getting organized. I can so easily gather clutter because I always think I will come across a way that I can recycle something or use something in a new way.

One of the hardest things to do about getting organized, is the getting started! I don't know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed by the thought of tackling it all. Then I take a deep breath and remember that it didn't get this way in a day and I am not going to get it undone in a day! So take one room at a time. This will be your project room, where you will start doing all the deep cleaning first. Now I know you are saying " but I have children to pick up after and regular household chores to do every day as well." Well, here is the great part, you are going to start to learn how to do things in 15 minute segments of time. We are going to start with the easiest room in the house, the bathroom and the linen closet.

So lets get started by planning to begin this project room this coming Saturday. You are actually going to get your week started on Friday night by making sure you get all the dishes washed and the kitchen picked up, ready to face Saturday morning. After you breakfast out of the way and either the dishes washed or into the dishwasher and the kids busy playing or on a project, you are ready to hit the bathroom.

If you are the usual family, all your toothbrushes are sitting out on the vanity countertop in some type of open container. PITCH THEM ALL! If the container can sit inside your medicine cabinet, fine keep it, after you have washed it very well with soap and water and bleach. This is a breeding ground for bacteria! Did you know that the spray that comes out of your toilet, even though you may not be aware of it, goes all over the surfaces in your bathroom. Therefore it is one reason you need to really clean well in there and keep toothbrushes off the counters, use liquid soap in a container on the vanity top and bar soap (if you use it) in the tub behind a closed shower curtain.

I like to use a squirt bottle filled 1/2 and 1/2 with water and vinegar or water and bleach to clean my counter tops, faucets, the outside of the toilet, and all of the tub and tiles.

Look inside of your medicine cabinet. Are there medications and sharp razors and possibly scissors or clippers that need to be corralled? Find closed containers that you can put the medicines in one and the other sharp objects into the other. Put them up high on the top shelf where little hands can't get them. Wipe down the inside of the medicine cabinet.

Has it been 15 minutes yet? You can always get an egg timer or an alarm clock and set it if you are worried about going over the time limit. Because that is all the time we are going to spend on this if you have reached your time limit.

Now I want you to use the same principle with the other chores that you need to do today. Only 15 minutes to pick up each room, make a bed, throw clothes into the washer or dryer and then 15 minutes to fold them. If you aren't done with it, that's fine, go on to the next chore that needs to be done.

By now you should be ready to fix lunch, take time to sit down and relax and enjoy. After lunch, get the children to either take a nap (if they are still young enough) or get an older sibling that is old enough to supervise, or Dad, to play with them or take them out in the yard to play for a bit.

Now you are going to go back to the bathroom and tackle the linen closet. You are going to put towels and wash cloths down on a shelf where it is easy for little ones to get them out by them self. The linens for older siblings or adults can be higher.
Now take sheets , and take the fitted bottom sheet that has been folded already and place it inside the final fold of the flat top sheet. That way when you go to change a bed, you have both sheets there together and they will come out as one unit. If you have matching pillow cases that go with that set, fold them inside also. You will want to label your shelves with the sizes of the sheets so that they can go into the correct stack. If you have special bedding for each bedroom, you might want to label with the name of the child that those sheets belong to. Not only will it be helpful if someone else is putting laundry away, but it also makes the child feel special too!
I would suggest putting blankets in plastic bags for summer storeage and putting them up on the top shelf of their bedroom closets.

Now get out the windex and clean the window glass and the mirrors. Get out the mop bucket and clean the floor. You are done! Chances are you were able to get it all done in 30 minutes total by doing it in 15 minute sections of time! If you didn't, that's okay too, just set aside another 15 minutes after dinner, or after you got the children into bed and finish up. But my guess is that it is done and you have one room totally clean and organized, ready to greet you the next morning. Now that the hard work is done, your daily cleaning of this room will be minimal. A quick swish here and a swipe there and you are good to go!

Next, we are going to tackle the children's bedrooms...... one at a time..... and they are going to help you! If they are two or older, they are able to do some things and it is going to surprise you.

Now go rest!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kay's Country Cottage


First of all I would like to thank the House Plan Shop for giving me permission to use this house plan as a logo on my website. I love to look at different house plans and fell in love with this one! It seems no matter how many I look at, I always end up coming back to this one as my "dream home." So hopefully, someday, I will be able to have "my dream home" built. You may visit their website by clicking here.

Are you anxious to try some new recipes? Are you trying to get your home and your life organized ? Do you have parenting questions? Thinking about adding a garden this year and not sure what all to plant or how much to plant?

Perhaps you have been thinking about taking up a new hobby or craft, such as knitting, painting, crochet, or genealogy research, but were not sure where to start to find out information about it. Well, you have come to the right place. We can share ideas together on some or all of these topic or other topics as they come up.

I want to make this an interactive blog where we can learn and grow from each others experience and training. I am looking forward to hearing from those who wish to participate.