On refreshing

I mentioned a few days ago I am currently reading the book, The Fringe Hours.

I’ll admit, at first I was mildly skeptical. It just seem so selfish of me to try and carve out more time for just me. I’m already pretty good at that.

But as I keep reading, I’m beginning to understand the heart of what she is saying. In order to have more to pour out on others, or even just enough, we have to be taking care of ourselves, spiritually, physically, and mentally.

So here’s the thing. I’m usually pretty good at carving out quiet time first thing in the morning for just me and God. And I’m usually pretty good at taking care of myself – you know eating properly and exercising (although I could probably eat a little less chocolate. Just keeping it real!).

But when it comes to how I spend the rest of my down time, I’ve realized that the things I am doing are more draining than life-giving.

I love to craft. I really do. A few months ago, I grabbed my hot glue gun, some sticks, and a couple of old votive holders and made the cutest little rustic candle holders ever to grace my piano top. It took me maybe a half an hour, but it rejuvenated me for days. I still smile when I look at them.

As a rule, however, I tend to spend my extra moments wasting time online, or playing the most annoying solitaire game on my iPad (I say annoying now because I am stuck on a level. When I’m winning, it’s not so annoying). Too much of this leaves me feeling drained and empty and unable to cope with daily stresses. Like a three year old melting down because yes, his big brother really does have to go to school and can’t stay home and play trains.

It’s causing me to step back and really evaluate how I am using my fringe hours. I usually avoid dragging out my scrapbook albums or my knitting or the book I am reading because I dread the interruptions, or I feel like I won’t get enough done to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

But I think I need to do just that. Not to selfishly wile away hours while neglecting my family or leaving chores undone. But to spend even just a few moments refreshing my spirit in ways that are meaningful to me.

I forget that sometimes those little things can be every bit as spiritual, because God created us with the desire to do them.

(instant)joy: Easy Beef Dip

One of the hardest things I’ve encountered as a wife and mom is finding easy to prepare meals that everyone likes that are healthy and do not come in hot dog form.

And if I ever find one, I will share it with you. *grin*

But I have come pretty close! Allow me to share this incredibly easy, practically instant recipe I found that has become a family favourite.

(Please excuse the lack of photos today – as soon as I’m done posting this, I’m off to get it ready for us for supper tonight. I didn’t think you needed a picture of a raw hunk of beef!)

What you need:

  • slow cooker
  • beef roast appropriate to the size of your family (if you want, you could make a big one and freeze half for later)
  • dry french onion soup mix – one package
  • box beef broth (I use no sodium to make up for the french onion soup mix)
  • optional can of beef consomme (I use it if I remember to pick it up, but I don’t really miss it if I don’t)
  • water
  • buns (toasted if desired)

What you do:

  • Place roast in slow cooker 7 to 8 hours before you plan on eating supper. It can be totally frozen.
  • Pour in beef broth, beef consomme (if using), and french onion soup mix. Add enough water to cover the roast half way.
  • Cook on low for 7 hours. Turn off your slow cooker and let stand for half an hour.
  • Pull the roast apart with two forks – it should easily fall apart.
  • Strain out the onions and save the broth for au jus dipping sauce.
  • Pile beef on buns, serve with au jus on the side, along with your favourite side dishes (we love homemade fries and/or fresh veggies).

See?  Easy peasy. I love that I can throw this together in just a few minutes and go about my day while our supper is cooking. Plus, the house smells yummy all afternoon. I love that.

What is your favourite easy supper to serve your family?

Bacon Honey-Mustard Chicken Nachos

First of all, above all else, I am NOT a food blogger. I can’t even pretend to be.

But seriously? These nachos totally told me to write an entire post about them. I kid you not.

I was perusing Pinterest for meal planning inspiration today, specifically for chicken dishes. I saw this yummy looking dish while on Six Sisters’ Stuff, and knew immediately I had to try it.

I was only a wee bit disappointed when I realized it wasn’t a nacho dish. For some reason, when I saw the photo, I started craving nachos. Maybe it’s all that gooey, yummy cheese. And bacon.

I heart cheese. And bacon.

So, I thought, why not make it my own recipe and turn it into Bacon Honey-Mustard Chicken Nachos!

I altered this recipe only slightly, so all credit goes to Six Sisters’ Stuff. Like I said. Not a food blogger.

1. Season 3 to 4 chicken breasts with seasoning salt (mine is MSG-free) and brown 3 to 5 minutes per side in a tablespoon(ish) of hot oil in a frying pan. (I like to flatten mine first so they’re fairly uniform in thickness. Plus, it’s a great way to get out any pent up aggression after being cooped up in the house for 10 days during the coldest Christmas break ever.) Place in a baking dish.

Clearly I am also not a food photographer. Tastes better than it looks!

2. Mix up 1/4 cup mustard, 1/3 cup of honey, 2 tbsp of plain, non-fat yogurt (Greek is best – it’s so thick and creamy!), 1/2 tbsp onion powder. Pour over chicken breasts and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 mins, or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, cook up 6 pieces of bacon via your favourite method. I prefer grilling mine on my new Griddler, or on a broiling rack in the oven so all the fat more or less drains away. But you can fry yours if you prefer. Make sure your bacon is nice and crispy because you want to crumble it up later.

Let’s see that bacon again. Yum.
It helps if you have a 22 month old sneaking cheese while you work.

4. Grate 2 cups of cheddar/colby cheese. (I like to use a mixture of Old Cheddar and Mozzarella.) Set aside.

5. After chicken is done in the oven, let it cool for a few minutes and then chop or shred it up. (I’m a shred kind of gal. Also, I only ended up using one of the chicken breasts for us, you could use more if you prefer meatier nachos. My hubby loves sandwiches, so we just set aside the rest for him. Come to think of it, you could totally take some chicken, some bacon, put it on a toasted bun, top it with some cheese, lettuce and tomato… yum. Or be healthy and make a salad with greens, tomatoes, and more bacon. Bacon can so be healthy!)

6. Place a whole bunch of nachos in a baking dish (that’s an actual measurement. I learned it in Home Ec.) and top with the chicken, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese. Bake at 450F until the cheese melts and is bubbly. (You probably could do this step under the broiler, but I never do because I, um, tend to burn my food under the broiler. And set ovens on fire.)

7. Serve with your favourite nacho sides and enjoy!

They’ve got a bit of a sweet tang to balance out the smokey savory of the bacon. I can’t wait to finish them off!

Thank you, Six Sisters’ for the inspiration!

7 Tips For Creating Your Personalized Cleaning Routine

Ahhhh.

I am reveling in some much needed peace and quiet right now. The older kiddos have been at school all day, the toddler is napping, and even though my hubs is home today thanks to that darn windchill and our car not starting (it’s minus 50 Celsius with the windchill in Saskatchewan today. Don’t even try to imagine how cold that is!), I’ve actually had a few moments all to myself.

I took a nap. It was lovely.

Of course, I did manage to get my house back to rights beforehand. What is it about six people being home for two weeks straight during the coldest Christmas holiday ever that makes housework futile? Oh, wait. I think I just answered my question!

Just before Christmas, I nailed down a cleaning routine that actually works for me. I’ve tried to conform to other cleaning schedules for years, and I just haven’t been able to make it work. But then I wised up and decided to just do it my way. And it worked! My house is actually (usually) clean again!

I know I’m not alone, so here are my tips to help you make your own cleaning schedule – one that you will actually do!

1. Commit to making your home a haven.  No amount of planning is going to help if you aren’t first committed to following through with it. I personally believe that God has called me to be home for this season not just to look after our kids, but to also create a place that is safe and inviting for them to return to at the end of their day. A place they want to be in. But I didn’t always feel this way – I could really resent having to do housework if I let myself! Having this change in my attitude has really helped me look at keeping our home as a daily gift for my family. And for me, too.

2. Make a list of all the things you want done daily. Then weekly. Then monthly. And finally seasonally. If you know you aren’t going to dust every single day, then don’t put it on your daily list!

3. Divide your weekly list into daily tasks. We have seven days in a week to get all our work done, so let’s use them! Determine if you are an all or nothing kind of gal, who likes to get all those weekly chores done in one big cleaning spree, or if you’d rather spread them out throughout the week. Decide which days you will do your weekly tasks, and try to group similar items together. For instance, I take Mondays to wash floors and dust, Tuesdays to deep clean the bathrooms, Wednesdays to clean the kitchen, Thursdays to tackle the living room/family room, and Fridays to do all my banking, meal planning, etc.

4. Divide your monthly list into weekly tasks. Each month has at least four weeks, so plan what monthly chores you will do in week one, week two, week three, and week four. Again, group similar items together. And keep your list for each week small, three to four jobs maximum!

5. Determine which months you will do your seasonal jobs, like cleaning the oven, flipping mattresses, etc. Write them in your calendar.

6. Find a system for keeping track of your chores that works for you. Some people (myself included) have a household binder with their sheets inserted into page protectors. Others like to schedule them into Google calendar or their smartphones. I’m sure if you look hard enough, you could probably even find an app for that! As techy as I am, when it comes to my to-do lists, I still prefer pen and paper. Especially if I can cross something off. That’s so satisfying!

7. Enlist your kids’ help. And your spouse’s. Whenever and wherever. Enough said.

The first few weeks are always a lot more work when you first start out, but once you get through them, your house will seem to clean itself. Or at least the work will get done that much sooner!

What tips do you have for making cleaning routines easier?

 

A handy dandy laundry tip

Here’s the thing. I do laundry because I have to. So when I go shopping, I try really, really hard to stay away from things that require extra care, like hand-washing. Or ironing. I think I may dislike ironing more than the actual laundry.

But sometimes a girl sees the cutest little top or the most comfy linen pants and all that cuteness trumps the self-imposed laundry rules. Am I right?

The part I find the toughest about hand-washing is the wringing out. Sure, you can use a towel, but that just makes more laundry. Ugh!

Awhile ago, I had an epiphany while using my new salad spinner.

Oh, yes, I’m going there.

Why not use the spinner to wring my shirt out? And you know what? It worked like a charm!

(This probably works best if you have a spinner that sits inside a bowl that will collect the water for you, unlike the cheap one I had in my university days. That one would have had water everywhere.)

I actually do the soaking in the container as well. Once the soaking is done, dump the water, and spin the spinner. It may take a few turns to get all the water wrung out, and I do find that heavier fabrics require me to squeeze a the excess water out by hand afterward. But it still works wonderfully!

So there you go. Easiest laundry tip ever.

Linking up with Inspire Me Monday and Works For Me Wednesday.

I feel like Mary Quite Contrary

I feel the need to preface this post with the statement “I am not a gardener.”

My green thumb is pretty black. I have lost the war to multitudes of gophers, moles, mice, birds, and unknown bugs. The fact I have a plant in my kitchen that has somehow managed to survive six years of neglect is no small miracle, let me tell you.

But I love planting things and watching them grow. It gives me no small thrill when my perennials actually come back in the Spring, despite my ignorance. Maybe my thumb is a little greener than I realized.

I have a flower bed in our front yard that I usually fill with hardy annuals that a busy mama can’t do much harm to. Not to mention that can handle being trampled by toddler feet. But after the third neighbor in a row moved in next door displaying a gift for landscaping I hold in awe, I decided to tackle my garden with an actual plan this year.

Which is funny, because I’m usually a planner. Why have I not thought to do this before?

Because I don’t have any idea what I am doing, I used the power of Google and Pinterest to help me. And you know what I discovered? bhg.com (Home of Better Homes and Gardens) has a nifty little planner that not only helps you figure out the best plants to put in based on your climate and the area your garden is in, it even plots them out for you.

Sometimes, I just love the Internet.

While some of the plants they suggested weren’t available where I live (thank you long winters short summers climate), I did manage to pick up some pretty perennials to plant in my shady flower bed. And I love how finished it is beginning to look by my front door now! (I totally forgot to take a photo on the weekend, and when I went to do it this morning, the sun was directly behind me and all you could see was my crazy-haven’t-done-my-hair-yet shadow. I thought I’d spare you that image.)

Now let’s pretend the horrible weed garden in my backyard is really filled with wild flowers and grasses native to my area and call it a day.

I’m curious – are you a gardener? What are your favourite resources to use? Or are you just naturally gifted and if you are, can you please come landscape my yard for me?