Blog

Bullet Journal

I just filled up my first bullet journal.  This is my brand new Bullet Journal.  I love it.

Alright folks, I am gonna be honest here.  I am not a neat person.  I am not an artist.  I don’t have neat handwriting.  This may be upsetting to you.  It was quite upsetting to me at first.  Now, I don’t care.  The thing motivates me, and I enjoy it.  Yes, I’m a geek and I don’t care.  I have added some journaling and scrapbooking that feeds my creative needs, but it doesn’t look like the bullet journals I see on pinterest.  That’s ok.  I’m putting it here so that you can see that it motivates me to clean my house, and how it has helped me to adopt new habits.

Here’s the Index.  Nothing fancy, just your basic index.

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I follow the traditional Monthly Spread.  I did not include it here, because it has all my personal info.  After my Monthly Spread, I have a meal planning spread.  I did a vertical dutch door, so that I could see my busy days, and plan meals accordingly.  I have a grocery list on the right hand side.  I shop at multiple stores, so I code each store with the first letter.  IMG_2235

Next up is my Daily Tasks.  This seems cheesy, but I find it extremely motivating for those things that you just forget to do.  If I’m trying to adopt a new habit, I put it on here.  This is how I started making my bed every day.  It’s not working for exercise yet, but I have faith.  It got me making my bed, cleaning my bathroom, doing my dishes, and laundry every day.  That’s pretty darn good.  Maybe I need to add a reward for exercising…

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Next up, is hours worked.  I talked about how guilty I feel now that I am a homemaker.  So, I track my hours here.IMG_2240

Next up, is Mood Tracking.  I find that I have quite blue moods in the winter.  I am tracking my moods so that I can see that they cycle, and when I’m in a blue mood, I’ll be able to see that the good moods will come back around.IMG_2241Next up is weekly chores.  This is the stuff I’d like to do every week.  It’s just like the daily chores, but it’s weekly.

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Next up are my monthly chores.  This is the part I struggle with the most.  I follow FlyLady’s system.  I am a perfectionist, and this means that I attempt to deep clean my whole house every month.  It’s too much for me.  I gave up.

The thing is, she doesn’t actually clean her whole house every month.  She just does a few things in each zone every month.  This didn’t work for me either.  I was spreading my time out over the whole house.  No one room ever got clean.  The whole house went from disaster to cluttered.  It’s a good start, but room is “neat”.

I dialed way back.  I am going to keep the downstairs neat on a weekly basis.  I’m going to  deep clean the downstairs monthly.  I am going to work towards getting myself to deep clean my bedroom, and the children to deep clean their own rooms.  IMG_2238

Next up is annual cleaning.  I’d like to get on a schedule where I am purging my entire house once a year.  I probably should do it more often, but I’m building new habits here, and I’ve got a lifetime of bad habits.

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After that, it’s daily logs and collections.  Again, it’s too personal for me to share.  But, I do try to log everything.  It helps me to see what I am actually accomplishing and what I am not.  If the data is there, I can’t lie to myself.  How do you stay motivated?

Mason Jar Salads

I don’t know about you, but I really struggle to get my leafy greens. I keep buying giant tubs of organic spring mix or baby spinach, but they just rot in the fridge.  Sure, I drink my share of green smoothies, and I like them, but “they” say you’re not supposed to drink your calories.

But every time I’d pack a salad for lunch, it would get soggy.  And then I discovered Mason Jar Salads!  These are the best!

Step by Step Mason Jar Salad Preparation

 

  1. Into a clean, wide mouth, quart sized mason jar, add 2 tablespoons of your favorite dressing.
  2. Now, it’s time for the secret ingredient.  Add one sliced mini-cucumber, and a handful of cherry tomatoes.  These veggies are sturdy enough to sit in dressing for a few days without getting soggy, and they create a barrier to keep your leafy greens dry.
  3. Add your protein.  I like to add a hard boiled egg and some leftover meat from a previous meal.  You could also use lunch meat.
  4. Add your greens!
  5. Close it up.
  6. When you are ready to eat, just dump it into a bowl and voila.

 

Knitting

In August 2015, I went out to dinner with a group of women.  We usually get together once a month for dinner and catch up on all sorts of things.  Some of us are work colleagues.  Some are relatives.  Some are friends.  It’s a great opportunity to get together and share life’s joys and challenges.

One of the women pulled out a little bag and started knitting.  She was making socks.  This was fascinating to me.  I had learned how to knit and purl as a child, but had never made anything, thinking that it was for big projects like sweaters.  Or boring projects like scarves.  But socks!  This was a project I could do.  A small project that I could take anywhere.  This was brilliant!

 

It turns out our local yarn shop has clubs, and she was part of sock club.  The store owner picks 4 sock patterns for the year.  When you sign up for the club, you get a little project bag, and each quarter, you get yarn and a pattern.

I was so excited that I went to the yarn store the very next day that it was open.  The owner would not let me sign up for sock club.  I did convince her to let me sign up for fingerless glove club.

The shop also has a knitting circle that meets a few times a week.  As a homemaker, this was a great opportunity to get out of the house and meet some women.  I attended every week.  This was very dangerous!  I saw so many beautiful projects that others were working on.  The shop had knit alongs as well.  Of course I wanted to make everything!

I was curious about fair isle, and lace.  I wanted to make socks and shawls.  I needed a project on big needles.  I needed a project that was challenging.  I needed an easy project to work on while watching tv.  So of course I always had 5 projects going at once and joined 2 clubs this year and a knit along.

I’ve slowed down now.  The newness has worn off.  I have fallen behind in shawl club and sock club.  I won’t be joining any clubs next year.  That’s ok.  I won’t stop knitting.  I have found a rhythm.  I don’t need the clubs.  I know that I will make socks in summer.  shawls in fall.  Sweaters in winter.  I’ll join knit alongs that look interesting.

If you are looking for something to keep your hands busy while you watch tv, or something to challenge your mind or creativity, or a handmade gift for someone, or a new social outlet, check out your local yarn shop.  I’ve also found a knitting circle at my library, that I attend during the summer.

Guilt and Hours Worked

We are nearing the end of winter.  This is the time of year when I notice that I am sitting on the couch for 2 hours a day feeding the fire and knitting.

I have a split shift.  I get the kids up and and out the door.  I get the daily chores done, and then I have a dead-time, before the kids get home at 3.  During this dead-time, I find myself feeling guilty.

Should I feel guilty?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe I am actually getting 8 hours of work a day, just split differently.  Maybe I am only getting 4 hours a day, but I got 12 hours a day back in July.  Maybe I am just lazy and I’m spending all my time on the couch.  The only way to know is to track it and find out.  Only then will I have the faith that the busy times will come again.  And even if they don’t, I still deserve this rest from the past busy times that I have a record of.

The only way to know if I am doing my required tasks is to track them.  The only way to know if I have put in enough hours, is to track it.  So I started tracking my minimum required daily tasks, and my hours worked.  Now, I can go back and look at what I have and have not done, instead of “feeling” guilty.  I often think I have done more or less than I actually have.  Now, I will know if I am doing enough every day.  I will know if I have earned some rest.

 

 

Seasonal Life

Homemaking is different from having a 9-5 job.  When I had a 9-5 job, I never felt guilty when I was vegging on the couch.  I didn’t think I was good at separating work and home, because I brought all my work worries home.  But the truth is, I was very good at separating work from home.  Work was in a separate place.  I wasn’t doing work at home.  I wasn’t slacking off at work.

When I quit my job, my work became my home.   I don’t have a physical boundary anymore.  I started my homemaking journey in the summer.  The kids were home, the days were long.  I had a lot of energy and few interruptions.  I was up before 8.  I was cooking and cleaning and taking the kids places until 8 at night.  Every day was a 12 hour day.

Then came fall.  I officially quit my job.  The kids were back to school, and I was excited about all the house projects I could do.  I was decluttering, and painting rooms and creating cleaning schedules, and volunteering for scouts.  This kept me in those 12 hour days right through the holidays.

Then came winter.  The days were darker.  Shorter.  It was cold outside.  All I wanted to do was sit by the fire and knit.  I felt immense guilt.  I mean, my husband was at work all day. He was working, and here I was sitting on the couch.  Furthermore, it’s not like my house was neat or clean.  I couldn’t keep up with the laundry, or the dishes, or the cooking.  I put in maybe a 3 hour day.

Of course, I figure spring will rejuvenate me.  I’ll do spring cleaning.  I’ll have energy from all the sunlight.  It’ll be warm outside, I’ll do yard work.  I’ll take walks and ride my bike.

But the energy comes later than I’d like.  Spring starts in March doesn’t it?  Yet, for me the energy doesn’t come until April or May.

So what’s the point of all this?  Homemaking is not a 9-5 job.  You don’t get 4 weeks vacation.  You don’t get weekends off.  It’s not a 40 hour work week.  It’s seasonal.  There’s a rhythm.  It’s ok that I’m sitting on the couch for 2 hours a day for the entire month of February, because I will be cooking, and cleaning, and carting kids around for 12 hours a day in July.

 

How I plan Meals for the week

I only discovered the joy of meal planning after I quit my day job. When I was working, I had trouble sticking to a meal plan. I never knew how tired I would be when I got home. I never knew what I’d be in the mood to eat. Now that I am home, I have a basic Weekly Plan, which helps me which days are busy. Using my Basic Weekly Plan, I created a meal plan theme. 

  • Monday – Weekly Cleaning Day – Roast
  • Tuesday – Paperwork Day – Soup
  • Wednesday – Free Day – Casserole 
  • Thursday – Project Day – Freezer Meal
  • Friday – Errand Day – Fish
  • Saturday – Family Day – Delivery 
  • Sunday – Rest Day – Leftovers 

Let me go over the pieces for you.

Roast

I like to cook a roast at the beginning of the week, to make the rest of the week easier. On Weekly cleaning day, I should be doing 4 hours of cleaning.  I can set up a beef roast in the crockpot in the morning, and it will be done by dinner time. Chicken is easy enough for me to setup in the late afternoon and then I just pop it in the oven for an hour or so. This coming week, I’m going to have my husband fry a turkey. He can set it up when he gets home from work, and in an hour, it is ready to eat. 

Soup

I use my leftover meat from the roast to make soup. If there’s any vegetables leftover, I add these too. Soup could be ready in as little as half an hour. 

Casserole

If I cook a big enough roast, I have enough leftover meat for a casserole. If not, I use canned meat.  If I need rice, I cook it in the rice cooker. This is very easy for my free day, when I am not in the mood to cook. 

Freezer Meal

When I have leftover soup, I freeze it. If I am making chili or spaghetti sauce, I double it and freeze the extra. Once in a while, I do a freezer cooking binge. I keep chicken nuggets in the freezer. This is great after I am physically or mentally exhausted from working on a project all day. 

Fish

I try to have fish on Friday, to remind myself to eat it. I think it is healthy. It is also fairly easy to throw some fish in to broil, and steam some broccoli in the microwave. It’s quick when I don’t have energy after running errands all day. 

Delivery 

We have friends over once a week.  It is usually on Saturday. There are 13 of us, including some picky kids, so we order delivery.  

Leftovers 

There’s usually enough leftovers from delivery, so that I don’t have to cook on Sunday. 

How I Got Back into Reading

I used to read.  I would never call myself a booklover, but I used to read for fun.  I read one book at a time, because that is what you are supposed to do.   And that is what killed my reading.

At the time, I was reading a classic.  I didn’t like it.  I was hardly ever in the mood to read it.  I didn’t allow myself to read anything else at the same time.  So I just stopped reading.

Fast forward, it’s been 2 decades.  And sure, I’ve read books here and there, but I don’t read every day.  It’s hard to find books that draw me in.  It’s hard to find time to read with all my commitments.

But now, I’m finally getting back into it.  And how am I doing it?  Booktube and Book Hauls.

I just recently discovered Booktube.  I am so far behind.  But apparently, there are these people who read books and talk about them on Youtube.  They read a TON of books.  I could never read that many books.  And they talk about them.  And they love them all.  And now I want to read them, ALL.

So, while I’m watching Youtube, I look up my library’s online catalog and request all the books I see.  And then the library calls me to come pick up the pile o’books I requested.  And while I am there, I wander around and pick up 3 more, because the cover looks cool.

But here’s where the magic happens.  When I get home, I read a chapter from each book.  They all seem ok so far.  The next day, I read another chapter from each.  And boom.  I’m sucked into one of them.  I’ve read 70 pages.

After reading a chapter, I’ve determined that each book is worth continuing.  One has risen to the top.  I will probably focus on that one.  I’ll continue to read 30 pages a day.  Theres another one that is due back at the library in a week.  So, I will read 10 pages a day in that.  There’s one that is based on a tv show I watched, so I’ll skim it.  The rest will probably fall to the bottom.  I’ll keep renewing them, but I probably won’t finish them before I return them.

I’ll keep note of how I feel about the books.  Next trip to the library, I’ll haul another pile.  I’ll keep going back, taking ones I’ve gotten before.  Taking new ones.  Allowing one to rise to the top.  Hopefully, I will have a list of at least 12 finished books at the end of the year.  Even if I have 40 unfinished books, I will have finished more books than last year.  And even if I only skim some books, I’ll get the gist.  When it comes to nonfiction, I hope that If I get the gist of 20 different books, with 20 different author’s viewpoints, I will get more out of it than just reading one book from one author cover to cover.

What about you?  How do you read?  One book at a time?  Multiple books at once?  Are they all for fun?  Different formats?  Different genres?

 

How I Discovered Journaling… Again

My latest discovery is journaling.

This is actually a rediscovery for me.  I started my first journal when I was about 9 years old.  Initially I used  cheap diaries from the 5 and 10.  You know, the ones with a page per day.

I continued through college with inexpensive notebooks.

When I got a “real job”, I bought a few leather journals and several specialized journals.

Shortly after I got married, I stopped writing in my journals.  I document our family life in Apple phonebooks, but it’s not the same.  I have not written my impressions of married life.  I have not captured my memories of my children as babies.  I did not write through my struggles with my miscarriage, or the death of my best friend.  I will not be able to look back at my thoughts and feelings later in life.  And I have not had the peace, reflection, and self discovery that journaling brings.  I’m really bummed that I don’t have any journals from the last decade.

I can either be bummed and miss out on another decade of insights and memories, or  I can start a journalling practice.  Here’s what my journal practice looks like:

  • Morning Pages.  I hope to develop a habit of writing 3 pages while I drink my coffee in the morning.  I am using an inexpensive notebook in A5 or composition size for this.
  • Bullet Journal.  I’m using Ryder’s original minimalist style to write lists in a small pocket notebook.  I am using this to log events and perhaps a one sentence reflection or memory from my day.
  • Clutter catcher.  I’ve seen several people use this approach for travel journals or art journals.  I capture all my receipts, coupons, pamphlets in my bullet journal.  I washi tape them to a page.  If I’m feeling ambitious I can write a sentence or two about my experiences.  Bigger things like kids artwork will go into my A5/composition notebook.
  • Blog.  Yup.  My blog is a form of journal.  I’m capturing all my thoughts and sharing them with you all.
  • Phonebooks.  I’m still documenting my family life with phonebooks.  I give them to my parents and my in-laws for christmas each year, as a gift from the children.  I include an intro page that hits the highlights of important events throughout the year.  The past couple years, I have even been including a page with cute things the kids have said.
  • Prompts.  I’m including some writing exercises from a book I’m reading.  I’m considering including a page for doodling prompts and handwriting prompts.

Do you journal?  What kind of book do you use for your journal?  What do your journal entries look like?

 

5 Steps to Reduce the Grocery Budget 

One of the tools that my husband and I used to determine what our finances would look like if I stayed home was the Discover card website. A few months ago, we sat down to review the finances to see if we were on track. 

I noticed that I was spending $600 each month on groceries. That did not include meat. We buy our beef and pork from local farms, and Discover was not categorizing them as grocery stores.   I decided that I wanted to bring my grocery budget down to $400 a month. This was somewhat arbitrary, but I recall that my mom used to spend $100 each week when I was a kid. 

Now, I’m spending about $70 each week. Here are some ofthe tools I discovered along the way.

1. Pricebook 

The first thing I learned was to watch prices. I started a spreadsheet on my phone and started keeping track of prices. I found that while the prices in my grocery store were low, there was another grocery store that was even lower. So, I switched. 

2. Couponing

I read up on couponing. I discovered extreme couponing. People were getting stuff for free. I thought maybe I could do that.     It is possible. If you can find a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon and that thing goes on sale, you can get stuff for free. I learned that if you are going to get stuff for free, I needed to do a few things. 

  • Buy newspapers
  • Shop at multiple stores 
  • Study the circular 

I did these things. I spent 3 hours making my grocery list. I spent 3 hours driving all over town. I wasn’t getting anything for free. I actually feel like I was spending more money. I felt like if I had a coupon, I had to buy the product. I felt like I had to get every deal or I was missing out. I also realized that they never had coupons for fish or produce. This really was not working with my diet. What works for me:

  • Use a website that matches up coupons with Target and Whole Foods
  • Print online coupons 
  • Round out my shopping with generic brands from Aldi 

3. Meal Planning 

The thought here is that if you know what to cook each night, you won’t be tempted to go out for dinner or run to the store for missing ingredients. 

4. Leftovers 

I learned how to reduce waste by using leftovers. I hate eating the same exact thing all week, but I do like the convenience of leftovers. Here’s some tricks that work for me:

  • Cook a Roast at the beginning of the week with extra vegetables. 
  • Use meat for sandwiches
  • Make a casserole with the extra vegetables and some leftover meat from the roast
  • Make broth from the bones. 
  • Make a soup from leftover meat and vegetables 
  • Make palao from the soup. (Cook rice in the soup instead of using water)
  • Have a “fresh” meal between the casserole and the soup. 
  • Eat leftovers for lunch 
  • Freeze the leftovers for later 

5. Shopping for and from the Pantry 

This is about getting food for the lowest price that that I can. Instead of planning meals around what I feel like eating and then buying those ingredients, I look at what I have on hand and make something from those ingredients.  I buy things when they are on sale in a volume large enough to stock my pantry. I use what I have in the pantry. My budget is not super tight. If I need something that’s not in my pantry, I buy one of the item, and I buy the generic. 

The Basic Weekly Plan

Have you heard of the Basic Weekly Plan (BWP)?  I learned about it back in my working days, when I was trying to keep my house clean and work 35 hours a week. I learned about the Basic Weekly Plan from flylady. You can see her BWP here: http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/control-journal/step-11/

The Jobs

The BWP is a way to group like tasks onto one day.  There are 3 major categories for housework:

  • Errands
  • Paperwork 
  • Cleaning

The idea is that if you combine all your errands into one day, you can save time and money. If I go to the post office, the library, and the grocery store are all in one day it is a total of 30 minutes driving time. If I go to each one on a different day, that’s an hour and a half of driving time. This saves money because I’m using less gas. 

The second part of the idea is batch processing.  By doing all my cleaning or all my paperwork at once, I can focus on that type of job and do it efficiently. I’m not shifting gears or getting interrupted. 

The third part is peace of mind. If I get a bill in the mail, I can just stick it in my paperwork pile and I know it will get done on the next paperwork day. I can’t or don’t want to deal with it immediately, it won’t be forgotten. This is great for the procrastinator in me. 

The Fun Part

Since I am so efficient, there’s room for fun!  You can add a date night, a family day, a day just for you. 

My Basic Weekly Plan

Sunday: Meal Plan and coupon

Monday: Shopping Day

Tuesday: Girl Scouts 

Wednesday: Knitting Circle and School Volunteering

Thursday: Cleaning and Ironing

Friday: Date Day and Project Day

Saturday: Family Day