Tuesday, January 29, 2013


This little peanut turns 11 months old today--hard to believe! She weighs just under 16 pounds, has two teeth, and has started crawling in the last couple weeks. Watch out, world!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Good, cheap fun

I wanted to share a couple of inexpensive activities Nathan and Natalie have enjoyed lately.

I am so glad my friend Kelly told me about bingo daubers from the Dollar Tree, which are essentially the same as the pricier dot markers. The store's color selection isn't as varied, though my mom observed that stores carry different colors. We have green, blue and purple. You can print off lots of free do-a-dot pictures--we've mostly used this site.
I also mixed up some colored rice, via an idea I saw on Pinterest. You can find the easy directions here. (She made like 28 cups of rice! I just made a couple cups, especially until I knew if the kids would enjoy playing with it.) I saw an idea in the comments to bake the rice on a low temp to speed the drying time, and that is what I did. It's fun to scoop the rice from one container to another, and the colors add a little novelty. It IS messy, though. I set out a towel underneath and that catches a lot of it, but not all!
Have you tried either of these activities? Feel free to share your own ideas for creative, inexpensive fun!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cleaning survey results, part 2

Continued from Friday's part 1 results post.

There was a wide variety of favorite cleaning products listed, and again I found the responses so interesting. If more than one person listed the same product, that is indicated in parentheses.

*microfiber mop
*baking soda and/or vinegar (9)
*Mrs. Meyers (5)
*Bon Ami (3)
*Clorox Disinfecting Wipes (4)
*Shark Steam Mop
*Norwex cloths (3)
*Pine-sol (3)
*Mr. Clean (4)
*Shaklee Basic H2 (2)
*Seventh Generation
*Old toothbrushes
 *Eco-orange and microfiber cloths
*Scrubbing Bubbles
*Dr. Bronner's castile soap
*sponges with a scrubby side
*lambswool dust wand
*Dyson vacuum (2)
*Swiffer duster

I did not count my votes in the list, but rather underlined the products that I use on a regular basis. Reading that list makes me want to try baking soda and vinegar! (Feel free to share specifics in the comments if you use them.)

The last question was the most fun to read. Who knew y'all had so much to say about cleaning?! Here are the unedited survey responses when asked if you had anything else to share. =)

*I'm only one person in a house so my answers will probably skew the data! I do make my bed everyday. :)
*The reverse of #8 is my least favoite is when I clean but the spot/area still looks bad b/c it just needs to be repainted or replaced, :( I'm trying to get more into a regular cleaning rotation
*I have 4 kids and a dog that goes in and out and in and out and....
*We have no outdoor chores so my husband does the dusting and vacuuming weekly. I'm spoiled.
*Just recently read the directions for my front-loading washing machine, looking for a way to get rid of the mildewy smell. Turns out there's a filter on the front panel with simple instructions to be done at least monthly. Who knew!?
*Now that 3 of our kids are old enough to help, we try to do a little everyday and it really keeps things cleaner and gives them ownership. So even if I miss dusting one week overall the house is clean.
*Routines are helpful Monday - sheets, towels, and vacuum Tuesday - dust and mop Wednesday bathrooms etc
*I sweep the kitchen every day.I need to mop more often than I do!
*I clean enough to keep things looking okay, but I don't do thorough cleanings very often... a pediatrician once told me that germs and dust are good for kids. They build their immunity and protect them from allergies.
*I worry too much about having the house spotless at times!
*If you have things handy, like a spray bottle of cleaner in the bathroom and kitchen ready to go, and paper towels in there, it makes it easy to clean when you see something that needs cleaning.
*not a fan... and reading this survey makes me feel like a terrible housekeeper! lol Considering hubs & I probably clean/vaccum maybe every 3rd week (oh I feel like a slob now!) We both work full time and commute to our jobs, so that has to account for something right! lol
*I read this tip in a fly lady book from the library: "Housework, even poorly done, blesses my home." I tend to put things off if I can't do things perfectly or at least the way I want to do them.
*So excited to see you doing this! I had been wondering how my cleaning habits compared to others. I have a daughter with environmental allergies and so I have become more aware of my cleaning habits.
*If you have non carpet floors you will love a Shark Steamer. LOVE.
*I never really feel 'caught up' with cleaning projects, but I love the satisfaction of doing the job right. With that said, when can I get a maid? :)
*Since having my kids, my standards on cleaning keep going down. I don't clean as often as I'd like, but keep up enough so we're healthy. I DO, however, play with my kids more which is more important than cleaning. It's taken me years to get to this point, but I'm forever grateful for the Lord teaching me this great 
*Though I sweep almost daily, I mop very infrequently...less than needs to be done! I need to get on more of a schedule for that.
*Dusting is the worst. I don't do it nearly enough…. but I would much rather dust than clean windows!!
*It's just me and my husband we have no children and we are both neat freaks so the house stays pretty clean.
*I have a 6 week rotating schedule that I follow for cleaning. some areas get cleaned weekly, whereas others are once every 6 week cycle.
*My kids are older, so things like sweeping don't have to happen as often as they used to.
*I clean my fridge out every two weeks--that's how often I grocery shop and it just makes sense to do it when the fridge is almost empty and before I add more to it.
*I love the FlyLady and try to generally follow her cleaning schedule.
*I clean my bathrooms 2x per week, but that only includes the sink/counter/mirror, and toilet. I do the showers and floors only every other week, and sometimes less if they don't look bad! You can always shut the shower curtain :) Also, with 4 females in the house, we have a LOT of hair, so that's why I have to vacuum 2-3 times per week or sometimes more!
*Sure, I'd love to share some of my cleaning with any willing volunteer! :)

Isn't this stuff fascinating?! Thanks again for taking the time to respond, and for your honesty. Speaking of honesty, if you're curious what I was referring to the other day--I am TERRIBLE at changing sheets. I change them about every 6-8 weeks, unless there is an obvious "situation." (The norm on the survey was twice a month.) Are you grossed out now? Will you still be my friend?! And don't worry--if you're ever a guest in our home--this DOES NOT apply to guest sheets. =)

When it comes to my housework schedule, for years I've completed a certain task on a certain day. This system has worked great for me. On Mondays, I wash all the towels. Tuesdays, I menu plan because that's when the sale ads come out here. On Wednesdays, I clean the bathroom. Thursdays I sweep/mop. Fridays I don't assign a certain task so that I can catch up on the week if needed. Eric vacuums on Saturdays. I dust about every other week, but that is one of my least favorite tasks because I hate moving everything! I clean the kitchen on an as-needed basis.

I concur with another commenter who said they stay on top of general cleaning, but are not the most thorough. That is one of the things that prompted this survey, as someone recently commented that I am more of a quick cleaner and not a deep scrubber. This is absolutely true--I like cleanliness but also efficiency--and it made me wonder about how others do things. Now I have 46 opinions! =)

Similarly, I have been told before that I use *unusual* cleaning products, and that is what inspired the question about your favorite products. I was intrigued to see how many of you also use more natural products. My main exception is that I do like Lysol or Clorox wipes in the bathroom, especially if sickness is involved.

This survey was fun, and I'm glad so many of you joined in! Happy house cleaning!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cleaning survey results part 1

Wow, I had no idea I'd receive so many responses to my cleaning survey! At the time of this post, 46 people had taken the survey, and I find the results fascinating. Hope you will, too!

1. How often do you clean your main bathroom?

2-3 times a week
less often than weekly
2. How often do you vacuum the main areas of your home?


2-3 times a week
less often than weekly
3. How often do you dust the main areas of your home?


daily 0.0%0
2-3 times a week 0.0%0
less often than weekly
4. How often do you sweep/mop your kitchen floor?


2-3 times a week
less often than weekly
5. How often do you clean your fridge and/or freezer?


a few times a year
less often than a few times a year
6. How often do you wash and change bed sheets?


less often than monthly
7. How often do you do detailed cleaning (baseboards, walls, etc.)?

weekly 0.0%0
less often than bi-annually


Sorry some of the formatting is wonky--it was much easier to copy and paste from the survey site. You can see that the most popular answer is highlighted. I was interested to see that in 6 of the 7 cases, I fell into the most popular answer category. (Should I keep you guessing about which one is different?! Ha!)

I'll share the responses from the "essay questions" in a separate post. Thanks so much for participating!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cleaning survey

Well, y'all, I've been thinking about my cleaning routine lately and it's made me wonder about your habits. I thought it would be fun to create a survey and have you comment on how often you do certain household tasks.

The survey is completely anonymous, so no need to fake your answers. =) I will definitely share the results next week. There are only 9 questions--and 7 are multiple choice--so this should take just a few minutes. Thanks for participating!

Click here to take survey

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nuts and bolts

Last week, Flower Patch Farmgirl linked to a post she'd done a couple years prior in which she listed out all the groceries she'd bought that week. I found it absolutely fascinating, and thought maybe there were other weirdos cool people like me who enjoy reading details like that, too?! Thus, I thought I would share what I bought this past Saturday. I typically go to the grocery store twice a week (one big trip and a smaller one), but since I'm attempting to spend half our budget this month, it's important I only go half as often!

We don't have an Aldi anywhere near here, but I'm very grateful one of stores in our town will honor competitor's prices and coupons. I've indicated if an amount was the sale price.

4 apples--$1.26 super sale (78 cents/lb.)
3 cans refried beans--$2 sale
tub of vanilla yogurt--$2.15
big block of Colby Jack cheese--$3.99
one Yoplait cup--10 cents (Score! sale and coupon)
hot dogs--99 cents
tortilla chips--$1.50 sale
small pkg of strawberry Jello--25 cents markdown (damaged box)
big jar of strawberry jam--$2.49 sale (I actually haven't bought jam in YEARS because I make homemade jam every summer, but we've been   flying through our stash now that Nathan is packing a lunch and often taking PBJ. I'm going to save the good stuff for toast/rolls, and use the storebought for sandwiches)
apple kiwi strawberry juice--$1.50 sale (Again, not something I normally buy, but this was a request from Eric, and he rarely asks me to buy specific things, so I had to oblige!)
2 boxes Kashi cereal--$2.98 total (Another score! sale and coupon)
3 gallons 1% milk--$2.58 each (Major sale price, which is why I bought 3--reg. price is $3.27)
6 bananas--$1.35
head of lettuce--88 cents
pineapple--$2.92 sale
celery--99 cents (Speaking of celery: Last fall when I was in Colorado visiting my parents, my mom informed me that she can buy celery by the individual stalk at her grocery store. I had never before seen or heard of that, and I'm curious how many of you have this option at your store?)

That's it! Grand total of $33.20. I've done two shopping trips this month, and am right on track with where I need to be with my spending. I had hoped to spend closer to $25 on the above trip to create more leeway at the end of the month, but I also wanted to be sure I could make it until at least next Saturday before needing to go back.

If you ever write out the contents of a grocery shopping trip, I'd love to see them. =) And please note that I wrote this strictly for entertainment--not to show that I'm better or worse than anyone else when it comes to grocery shopping.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pantry challenge update

As I've mentioned, my January custom for the past 4 years has been to challenge myself to use just half our normal grocery budget and donate the other half.

The first step in this process is to inventory our kitchen/freezer/pantry for stuff that needs to be used up. This is a random assortment of things we were given, great deals, and/or items that are about to expire. Here is this year's list:

*graham crackers (Bought these as a snack, and my kids decided they no longer like them. What?! I haven't made a graham cracker crust before, but that's my plan.)
*Panko bread crumbs
*raspberry syrup
*ramen (Usually have this on hand, but I bought a large case on an amazing markdown last month.)
*teriyaki sauce (Ended up with 2 open bottles--different brands, so just want to use one up)
*pineapple sauce
*bacon bits
*cinnamon roll frosting (Mmm, the possibilities!)
*onions (3 left from our garden and they need to be used before they spoil)
*butternut squash (")
*fruit dip
*cocoa truffles
*dried plums
*potato soup mix
*beer bread mix
*cranberry juice
*bran cereal
*cherry flavoring
*ranch dip mix
*donuts (I tried freezing some extra bakery donuts and it worked great--just heated them briefly in the microwave.)

(Italicized items have been used up by the writing of this post.) I also have a bin full of baby food purees I made for Naomi, and I'd like to use those up this month and start transitioning her from purees. That will clear up a lot of space in our deep freeze!

I'm almost halfway through January, and enjoying the added challenge. I always like coming up with a grocery plan that involves sales, matching ads, and coupons, but this month I have to be especially discerning in deciding what to purchase.

I haven't finalized yet where the extra money will be sent, but I'm considering a few options and will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Simple things

I wanted to share a couple things we've implemented lately to simplify my life!

1. Our kids are huge fans of Sequence for Kids. Last summer, they played a dozen times a day, often with neighbor kids. I'm thrilled they love the game, but after each round, they needed me to shuffle the cards. Not that this takes huge effort, but I was often nursing Naomi or busy in the kitchen, so my hands weren't always free. When we saw an automatic card shuffler at the local thrift store, Eric suggested we give it to Nathan for Christmas. Nathan likes using it, so that problem is solved!

2. Having two avid colorers (new word!) in the house means that we go through art supplies quickly. Colored pencils are regularly worn down to nubs, and it has been challenging to get them sharpened. We used to have one of those little plastic sharpeners, but it broke, and it didn't fit the various sizes we'd accumulated. We are conveniently located near a college campus, and I would usually wait until we had a dozen or more pencils that needed sharpening, but sometimes getting even a short distance with three kids can be very difficult. When thinking of Christmas gift ideas to share with my mom, I sent her a link to a school-style pencil sharpener we could install here at home, and she ordered it for us. I am thrilled to have this issue resolved.

3. Natalie is constantly asking which shoe goes on which foot. I'd seen a cute idea on Pinterest for putting half a heart sticker in each shoe so they match up when placed correctly. So far, so good!

Love these little changes that add up to a big difference in my days!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Joyeux Noel and a wedding

Businessy things first: The winner of Home to Harmony is Angie! Thanks to all who entered. I enjoyed reading your comments about what you've read in the past year. I think it's funny that my goal had been 24 books for the year--guess I well-surpassed it! (And thanks again to my mom for the fun gift of a book-of-the-month club!) And now a report on what we've been up to the last couple weeks . . .

We had a wonderful time with my family in Kansas City! It was technically our year (on the every-other plan) to go to Colorado, but my aunt was getting married in KC the weekend after Christmas, so we made that our destination instead. My mom and dad rented a house so the 12 of us (my 5, Monica's 5 and my parents) could stay together. It was such a treat for the cousins (and adults) to have extended time to play!

Here are some pictures from our holiday:
 Her first Christmas!
 Naomi with Aunt Monica
 Love this pic with my mom at the bridal luncheon
 This little peanut slept through the wedding and half the reception
 Our extended family posing with the bride and groom
 Waiting for the wedding to start

Our beautiful hair accessories were made by my sister-in-law, Kendra. Super cute!

I just realized in creating this post that most of the Christmas pictures are still on Monica's camera, so I may have to post a few more later.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Turning the page

I've been very reflective the last couple days, thankful to turn the page from 2012 to a new chapter. We ended the year with a couple activities that were meaningful to me.

First, we stopped by the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City on our way out of town. I had consulted their website in advance and had put together a bag of items from their wish list. Our visit was brief, but the staff was very welcoming, especially when we shared that we'd recently spent time in two RM Houses.
Second, Eric and I rang in the new year (early, ahem) with a bottle of sparkling cider that his sister, Kendra, had brought when she visited us at Mayo. For whatever reason, we'd never opened it, and I'm glad we saved it actually, as it felt appropriate to consume it on New Year's Eve.

I spent some time yesterday reading my blog posts from early 2012, and it was quite emotional for me to think back to what was going on at this time last year. That will only increase as February approaches, I'm sure. I think it's so important to look back and be reminded of God's faithfulness!

"Here I raise my Ebenezer*
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home."
"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" by Robert Robinson
*An Ebenezer is a sign of God's faithfulness, as taken from I Samuel 7:12
I am kicking off my 4th annual pantry challenge this month, and plan to post more on that soon. I also have a couple photo posts ahead with pictures from Christmas and a family wedding.

Reminder: you can enter the book giveaway through tomorrow!