Archive for September, 2009

09/21/09
Amy

(Organization) The Box System


My heart for this blog is to present ideas, inspiration points, and attainable applications that you can integrate into your life one concept at a time. Most systems, however wonderful, cannot be maintained long term simply because change happens. We move into a new phase of life, our needs change, and our children grow older. In light of that, I strive to write about ideas that are not system-based. Instead, you can combine them, tweak them, and arrange them in a way that works for your life; ultimately creating your own systems.

All that being said, there are a few ideas that I write about here that I do consider to be foundational systems. Know that if I present and then build on a system concept, that I believe it can be integrated into almost anybody’s life at any point in time. They create order and stability and, even more importantly, are systems that can change and grow with your life.

img_4192The Box System is one of them. It is a concept that is simple, expandable, maintainable, and can dramatically simplify your life. It revolutionized my own home management and organization.

To begin, go to a store, such as Target or Wal-Mart, that has consistent lines of storage containers. (Note: Discount stores are much more likely to vary their lines over the years.) Choose the line of boxes that you would like to use in your home. The cheaper lines work just as well! The key is consistency. This allows for easy stacking and the look of a professional organizer (even if the boxes were only a couple of dollars each!). As you grow your storage system, you will come to learn the box sizes that you use the most. My personal favorite is the 12 quart size, but I also use a lot of the 6 and 20 quart or an occasional larger size.

Use these boxes to organize your closets, toiletries, office supplies, and especially the toys in your home. If, for example, you are organizing toys, you can have a box for play food, one for blocks or puzzles, toy tools, Legos or action figures. The more that you can contain in boxes, the less cluttered your house will become. Even things like hair clippers and attachments, magnets, cookie cutters, thank you notes and other cards, miscellaneous cables or cords, and your collection of old letters can at last find a defined and easy-to-locate home in the Box System.

After you have filled your boxes, stack them in your closets, under beds or on bookshelves. The clear boxes allow you to be able to quickly scan and locate a particular box and picking up becomes a much more defined chore. If a particular set of items begins to outgrow its box, simply transfer the set to a larger box and reuse the smaller one for something else.

Clutter is less about individual items, and more about their placement (or lack thereof). You will be amazed at the peace that a few boxes can introduce into your home.

Note: The Box System can be introduced into your home very gradually. Just purchase a box or two each time you are at the store. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to create an overnight organizational makeover. Let it happen one box at a time. A few months from now, you will be amazed at the difference.


Amy
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“Not Me”Monday


We all have those days…or weeks. “Not Me” Monday was created by MckMama to give us an outlet to laugh at our own imperfections. Will you join me? When you are done here, you can head over to her blog and read about what everyone else has “not” been doing.

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It was not me that purchased facial cleanser this week for the first time in…years. I would never consider bar soap in the shower every morning to be adequate.

It certainly is not me that has a breast pump sitting in my kitchen cabinet with all of the glass and dinnerware. It couldn’t have been me that stashed it there in a mad-rush clean-up weeks ago. That’s just gross. And if I had put it there, I would have at least removed it by now.

img_4664I am always very careful about how I manage my time and I am not an obsessive deal-hunter. Therefore, it was not me that spent gobs of time doing price comparisons on books, only to realize that I was looking at ultimate price differences of only a couple of dollars.

And once again, logic always prevails with me. So it was not me that spent an entire evening baking when my husband was out, only to end up with a counter full of baked goods that I ate none of.

And last, but not least, it was not me that grew desperate to give my kids outside time after a week of rain. I would never let my kids use the garage as a playground. It is filthy in there and I would be setting myself up for major child washing.

What did you not do this week?

09/20/09
Amy
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Park Adventures


One of my favorites times on our trip was this particular trip to the park. All six kids were together and the time slipped away…

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with squeals of laughter,

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little boys hanging on monkey bars,

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babies on the swings,

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and imaginary adventures.

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So much of childhood is simply being a kid with other kids.

09/19/09
Amy
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Two Babies


My sister and I have babies who are three weeks apart. These little ones have brought us so much joy! Having the babies together was nothing less than a perfectly-timed gift from God. They gave us such a wonderful reason to smile!

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Until this trip that we just returned from, our families had not seen each other since last fall; far too long when you have fast-growing babies. It feels as if we just blinked and now they are walking, babbling, exploring little one year olds.

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Despite their beautifully different personalities, the babies got along so well! It was amazing to watch how much they learned from each other and how entertained they were by each others presence.

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Our hearts were so full as we watched them together…

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They even posed beautifully for our ever-ready cameras!

(Well, Kaelynn is actually trying here to remove his hand from her highchair.)

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Aren’t they precious??

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I have yet to find anything in creation more beautiful than babies.


Amy

(Cooking) Blueberry Buckle


Our family has chosen to do a reduced-gluten diet at home so a lot of my baking is done with a gluten-free (wheat-free) flour mix. I determined early on, though, to not let that choice restrict our enjoyment of eating and have strived to convert many of our favorite traditional dishes to a gluten-free variety.

This original Blueberry Buckle recipe is a treat that a good friend of mine makes and that my family has fallen in love with. Here is the original recipe and the converted gluten free recipe. The directions are the same for each combination. Which ever one you choose, I know you won’t be disappointed!

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Blueberry Buckle
1/2 c. oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 c. blueberries

Topping:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter

Blueberry Buckle Gluten Free
1/2 c. oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
*1 1/2 c. gluten free flour mix
1 T baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. xanthan gum
2/3 c. milk
2 c. blueberries

Topping:
1/2 c. sugar
*1/2 c. gluten free flour mix
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter

*Gluten free flour mix: 6 c. brown rice flour, 2 c. potato starch, 1 c. tapioca starch

Directions:

Cream oil and sugar, then add the egg. Combine dry ingredients and add to oil and sugar mix alternately with the milk. Spread into a greased 9″ square pan. Top with blueberries. Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over the blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

09/18/09
Amy

(Home Management) Buy One Ahead


There are few things more frustrating than not having an item on hand when you need it. Whether you run out of toilet paper or are lacking a can of tomato sauce to finish making supper, stress is introduced into your life. And when situations like this are repeated throughout your week, it creates the feeling of being perpetually behind.

With a simple tweak in how you manage your purchases, this particular stress can be easily removed from your life.

Transition to buying one ahead for your non-perishable foods, baking ingredients, and toiletries. As soon as you open a new bottle of shampoo, laundry detergent, a bag of flour, or a bottle of ketchup, add it to your shopping list. This removes the stress of discovering you are out of an item when you need it and extra trips to the store, as well as providing yourself with the opportunity to purchase the product when it is on sale. You end up saving money while making no change in lifestyle. The only thing that is removed is stress.

And all you have to do is buy one ahead.

*Tip – Don’t expect yourself to make this transition overnight. Begin to build your one-ahead-supply by buying a second item when you see a sale and ease into this home management technique one purchase at a time. It won’t be long before you see this habit integrated into your everyday life.

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09/16/09
Amy
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(Parenting) Teaching Moments


During one of my college Psychology courses, one of my professors had the class do a simple exercise. She told us to not think about a blue elephant for one minute. I failed miserably. In my genuine attempt to not think about this hideous blue elephant, I must have thought about it 10 times. My focus was on eliminating the behavior. The students who had a much higher success rate, used the replacement strategy and focused on what they could do. They thought about a pink elephant or a green elephant with yellow polka dots.

There have been many times since that day where I have referenced and applied this strategy in my life.

img_45242If you have more than one child, you’ve had moments where you see the younger child act out in a way that they learned from their older sibling. However, when that action it is directed at them, the older sibling is appalled. We try to relate the concept back to their own life and actions, but the words usually don’t appear to make a significant impact.

When we give behavior examples like this to our older children, they typically focus on what the child is supposed to not do. Don’t hit. Don’t grab. Don’t yell. Simply encouraging the child to eliminate a behavior does not usually present a call to action, thus increasing the probability that they will revert back to the action that they already know how to do.

The next time you watch one of these exchanges happen between your children, try a new strategy. After addressing the younger child’s behavior, turn to the older child and present them with a call to action. You can do this by describing how the younger child at least partially learned this behavior by watching others and that we need to work together to teach the younger child a positive way of acting and relating. This empowers them with a way to act when they are frustrated with their siblings as well as teaches them the significance of their own actions. Pass the baton and turn a teaching moment into a teaching moment.

09/15/09
Amy

(Crafts) Ink Pad Alternative


markersInk pads are one of the craft supply staples that many of us keep in our stash. If you are like me, though, you dread getting it out. Whether it is used for stamping, making hand prints, or fingerprint art, there is risk for messes, stains, and a lot of time spent on cleanup.

Try using washable markers as a simple, effective, and easy-to-clean-up alternative. Use them to color the bottom of stamps or the inside of hands for making hand prints. They allow you to be more precise, involve less mess, and wash off so easily. At the same time, they present multiple color options without added expense. Kids love it and you will too!


Amy

(Healthy Living) Aluminum Free Baking Powder


img_3944 When I think of baking powder, I think of yummy home-baked goods. Pancakes, muffins, waffles, coffee cakes…the list goes on!

Many of the common brands of baking powder are single-acting and contain aluminum. In recent years, there has been a lot of research examining whether or not aluminum contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and other diseases. Research is still not conclusive, but there are points of concern that are being examined such as elevated levels of aluminum found in the brain cells of many Alzheimer patients.

In our day-to-day life, our bodies are frequently in contact with products that contain aluminum. Deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams and other bath and body products, water, and baking powder are a few examples. The baking powder, though, is an easy place to begin reducing the aluminum put into your body. It is a simple and cheap change to make. An added benefit is that when the aluminum is removed from baking powder, so is the bitter and metallic taste that baking powder is often known for.  So not only will your baked goods be healthier for you, but they will also taste better!

*Baking Tip – Look for “Double-Acting” baking powder to give your baked goods an added boost of fluffiness. Double-acting simply means that the leavening properties of the baking powder are released twice: when it comes in contact with liquids and then again with heat. This is especially important in gluten-free baking.

09/14/09
Amy
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(Deep Cleaning) Kitchen Counter Pile


There is a pile in everyone’s kitchen. You know, the one where mail is thrown, receipts from $1 purchases accumulate, and notes from img_3940school, last month’s magazines, kids’ artwork, and “I’ll get to that right after…” items are put. Most of us have more than one of these piles throughout our house, but there is invariably one on the kitchen counter.

Take some time this week to sort through and clear away that pile. Remind yourself of the counter space that lies underneath. I promise it is there!