Archive | April 2012

Laundry Help: Getting Stains Out

Around our house stains are a way of life. So know how to get them out without using too many harsh chemicals is a must. So here are some tips for getting stains out of your clothes:

#1. Everyday Stains – Make your own Oxy-Clean spray. This is a huge money saver and can be used to take out almost any stain.  If you made your our laundry soap you should have the washing soda on hand. Mix 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Dissolve 1/2 cups of washing soda in the water/peroxide mix. Put it in a spray bottle and fill with water. I re-used my Oxy Clean spray bottle and my label maker to put the recipe right on the bottle so I don’t have to look it up every time I make a new batch.  This is super on organic (food, mud, grass, etc) stains.

#2. Sweat Stains – As summer approached, sweat stains become more common. First be sure to avoid heat! Don’t wash in hot water and don’t dry your item. Here are several ways to remove under-arm sweat stains

  • Make a paste of 4 tbsp. baking soda mixed with water. This should be thick and spreadable. Use a stiff nylon laundry brush to scrub the paste into the stain. Let it sit for 1 hour. Wash in cold water and line dry to make sure the stain is gone. Repeat if needed.
  •  Oxy-Clean pray you made in #1. That will take out lighter stains.
  • White vinegar or vodka may also take the stain out.
  • Soaking in hydrogen peroxide for 15-30 minutes will also break down a sweat stain.
  • Cascade brand dishwasher powder scrubbed into the stain may also remove it.

#3. Grease – Grease stains can be exceptionally difficult to get out of clothes.

  • Put 1-2 drops of Dawn brand dishwashing liquid directly onto the stain. Let it sit for 15 minutes to overnight and then wash. Line dry to make sure the stain has come out and repeat if needed.
  • Vinegar naturally cuts grease. Try soaking the grease stained fabric in vinegar. But be careful! White vinegar can take color out and cider vinegar can dye fabric. Always test on an inconspicuous area.
  • Lava brand soap is made to cut heavy grease and grim in the shop and it will work to remove grease stains on durable fabric. Do not use this on delicate fabrics.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and let it sit so that the baking soda absorbs the grease.

#4. Grass Stains – The best thing to remove grass stains will be the Oxy Clean mix you made in #1. If you use detergent ERA or any color-safe bleach will also cut these stains. Rinse well with cold water and line dry to make sure the stain has been removed.

#5. Ink or Dry Erase Marker – These stains are common for businessmen, teachers, and students. The trick here is alcohol and blotting. Never rub as it will spread the stain. Saturate the stain with rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or hand sanitizer. With a towel under the stain, take a second towel and blot the stain. Repeat (sometimes many, many times) to remove the stain. At the end you can also use a stiff laundry brush on sturdy fabric to help lift the stain.

TIP – Keep a dry-erase marker with a magnet on your washing machine. As people bring in stained clothes, write down the item and the stain so that stains don’t get missed or set in through drying.

Saturday Project: Curtain Embelishments

We have had a lot of “stock” curtains in our homes over the years. They can be picked up at Target or Wal-Mart for a reasonable price and often you can get tabs or grommets that look cool. But I always want to have things that look different from other people. A great way to personalize your decor is to take stock curtains and add embellishments. Here are some ideas:

Buttons – Sew buttons on tabs, edges, or in a pattern on curtains

Ribbon trim – Using iron-on fusing, attach ribbon to the edges or bottom of a curtain

Color or pattern band at the bottom – Sew a fabric band to the bottom of curtains

Color or pattern band at the middle (where curtain panels meet) – Sew a fabric “stripe” where curtains meet

Paint – using fabric paint, add stripes or a pattern to solid curtains.

Organizing Your Bills

In this week’s poll you said you wanted more information about finances, so here goes!

Paying bills is one of the least favorite things anyone has to do. Who likes sending money out of their checking account?! But it is a necessary part of life. And, like a lot of things, without proper organization it can be more work and cost you more money that it should. Here are some tips to organizing your bills.

#1. Get an organizer. You don’t have to invest in a specific bill paying organizer, but I recommend getting something to sort and organized all your bills. Some people use a small file box, others an expandable folder, some a desktop organizer. I recommend the Bill Organizer by Crown Financial Services. It does the job well in a small space. But the organizer isn’t as important as simply having one place where all the bills go.

#2.  By Due Date or Category? Most bill paying organizers come with options to organize by category (house, car, insurance, utilities, etc) or by due date. I am a fan of organizing by due date because this way you don’t have to remember when a bill is due and what category you put it in. As you get paid, you can sit down and pay the bills that are due between that day and your next pay period. Over the years I have tried and taught both systems and by due date is my (and others) overwhelming favorite.

#3. Pay on time! This may sound like a no-brainer, but it isn’t always, especially in this economy where many of us have to make hard decisions about where to spend our money. But do everything you can to pay your bills on time and avoid late fees, penalties, and interest. Be sure to allow time for mailing or online payments to be sent so that your payment arrives before the due date.  If you cannot pay the full amount due, send something and contact the company to work out payment options.

#4. Record payment. When you pay a bill, record on the stub when you made the payment and how much you sent. If you mailed a check, record the check number. If you sent the payment online through your bank’s bill-pay website or the company’s website, record confirmation numbers. Keep all this information until you get the next bill that shows your payment was received and properly applied. I simply shred the old bill when the new statement arrives and I file it.

#5. Balance your checkbook! Yes, this is not specifically about your bills, but it will help you with them. By keep track of your checking account, you will know right away if a payment wasn’t received. You will also avoid costly overdraft fees because a bill was paid and you didn’t have it covered in your account. For more on this see Balancing Your Checkbook.

Week of 4/30 Menus

I am starting something new. From now on there will just be one menu post per week. No sense in posting twice we I can put breakfast and dinner on the same post.

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 4/30 Grocery list

Breakfast   Menu: Dinner Menu:
M: Eggs & Toast M:   Chicken Noodles – in the slow cooker combine 2-3 large pieces of chicken, carrots, celery, garlic & onion. Cover with chicken stock and cook on high 4-6 hours. Serve over egg noodles.
T: Orange Muffins T:   Bacon Mac & Cheese, green beans – make your favorite mac & cheese (ours is 1 lb pasta, 2 cups velveeta, 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup cream) Put in baking dish and cover with bread crumbs and bacon. Broil for 2-4 minutes until topping is crunchy.
W: Egg Bake – combine eggs and your favorite omelette ingredients and bake in a muffin tin. W:   Pork Chops, rice, salad
Th: Whole Wheat Pancakes Th:   Mini corn dogs , peas – Cut hot dogs into fourths. Make this corn bread recipe. Fill muffin tin 2/3 full and put a piece of hot dog in it.
F: Banana Muffins – pour into muffin tins and reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes F:   Chicken Marsala, potatoes, salad – in slow cooker place 2-3 pieces of chicken, mushrooms (sliced), 1 bottle of Marsala wine, 2 cups chicken stock and season to taste. Thicken with a roux and serve over mashed potatoes.
S: Bulls Eyes S:   Hamburgers & veggie sticks
S: Lemon Scones – also works great with orange! S:   Creamy chicken pasta – Saute 2-3 pieces of chicken (we do a whole chicken in the slow cooker each week for stock and meat) with broccoli and mushrooms. Mix 1/2 c. cream cheese with 1 c. italian dressing. Toss over pasta.

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #15

Just about the time I was really feeling settled in Taipei, change was on the horizon. I had a volunteer position at our church that suited my skills (media director). I had friends and a Bible study. I knew where to get things we needed at reasonable prices. I was pretty happy

But Husband’s work situation was getting really stressful. The fact that he was being required to teach classes that weren’t in his contract meant that he was bringing home large amounts of papers to be graded every night. In Taiwan they over-grade everything! He was required to have 5-10 graded items per day for some of the classes. So we spent nights grading workbooks, homework, tests (sometimes 3 a week for each class period), penmanship, science notebooks, and all kinds of things that neither of us had ever heard of taking a grade on.

Since accepting the position in Taipei, we turned down several offers from schools within the Department of Defense EducationActivity (schools on military bases in the US and around the world). We kept saying that we were under contract and would see it through. But as things at Husband’s school got increasingly more stressful, we got an email from a school at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, just 15 minutes from one of our favorite vacation spots. After exchanging several emails with the principal, Husband went forward with the interview, all the while saying he was under contract for the current year. At the same time he continued to try to address the situation at the Taipei school though the proper channels, with no luck.

After a very short interview process, he was offered a position to start as soon as possible. We prayed. None of us really wanted to leave Taiwan but his work situation there was far from what was promised. About the same time we started this interview process we saw our main ministry opportunities come to and end. Was God really sending us to North Carolina? We pray more and brought in trusted family and friends to pray with us. After assessing the situation from all angles we believe that God was sending us to North Carolina and Husband accepted the job at Camp Lejeune. He resigned his position in Taipei, which ended badly with threats to hold us in the country if we didn’t pay them a 2 month salary fee for leaving, even though they broke the contract. We hated leaving Taiwan and he hated leaving his students but we had complete peace about the situation and knew this was the right move for us.

So for the second time in 15 months (and just 4 months after our move to Taipei) we began the process of selling everything we owned and packing our lives into 10 suitcases without any clue as to where we would live. If anyone wants to know how to pack and move quickly, talk to me. We did a two-week move to Taiwan and ten days after Husband accepted the position in the US and resigned from the Taipei school, we flew out of Taiwan. Life was officially crazy!                                                                                                                                                                One of our last pictures in Taiwan…tea

Habits of Highly Organized People

I have always been a basically organized adult (my mom may tell you a different story about my teen years, but I was about the only kid in 90s high school who carried a day planner). But through all my organization habits and research I have come to know that there are some basic habits that organized people have.

#1. Write EVERYTHING down. Face it, you won’t remember it. So write it down. Or in this age, put it in your smartphone (I can’t remember the last time I actually made a list on paper). But no matter how you record it, take time to make a record of anything you want to remember.

#2. A place for everything, and everything in its place. This may seem trite, but it is true. Make a place for everything to be put away and then put things away when you are finished with them and teach your kids to do the same. This will eliminate the need for a large “clean up” and generally keep your home looking tidy.

#3. Purge regularly. Every season we get rid of clothes and toys that no longer work for us. Every birthday and holiday we get rid of one toy for every new toy someone gets. Four times a year we go through kitchen items and get rid of anything we don’t use regularly. Bonus – you can sell these unused items and make cash to pay down debt, take a vacation, or buy something you really will use.

#4.Keep a master calendar. Don’t have a different calendar for home, work, kids etc. Keep everything on one master calendar. Record everything (see #1). Check out my post for tips on making a Family Calendar. We use Google calendar to sync Husband’s and my calendars and then record the important events that relate to the family on the calendar in our kitchen. This makes sure everyone knows what is going on. Plus, by only maintaining one master calendar, you always know what time is free and what is already scheduled and you don’t over-book.

#5. Keep a on-going To-Do list. There’s an app for that. Every smartphone has tools for To-Do lists or Tasks. Outlook and various Mac programs have task lists. Use them. Put everything from reoccurring bills to chores to when the library books are due in your task list. Keep track of phone calls you need to make or emails you need to send in your task list. Set reminders for anything that has a deadline. Bonus – crossing something off your list gives you added satisfaction (science has proven there is an endorphin rush when we cross things off our lists!).

#6. File, File, File. This goes with #2. Everything has a place, including your files. Don’t make stacks of mail or bills. Open it, and file it properly. Set aside a specific time each day or week (schedule it with #4) to file things. This can mean putting paper files into folders, scanning documents into online storage, or downloading pictures off your camera or phone into their designated place on your computer or external storage. Whatever the case, take the time to file properly and regularly. This will keep things from piling up.

#7. Keep flat surfaces clear. Flat surfaces (tables, counters, dresser tops) can become a mess of things that belong someplace else (bills & mail, toys, laundry, computers). Follow #2. But in addition to that, keep all your flat surfaces clear and free of clutter (including knickknacks). This will keep your home looking tidy and neat, even if it isn’t freshly cleaned.

#8. Never leave a room empty-handed. No matter how strenuously you follow these rules, the fact is that there will likely always be something out-of-place that needs to be picked up. Before you set out of a room, do a scan and see if there is anything that should be taken to the room you are headed and then take it and put it away. This little trick adds only second to your exit of a room, but will save you from the dreaded whole-house tidy-up.

What The Organized Wife Is Not

We have spent a lot of time over the last months talking about things that The Organized Wife is. But today I want to talk about what The Organized Wife is not.

#1. Perfect – I am not perfect. My family isn’t perfect. My house isn’t perfect. Things get left out. Rooms get dusty. Laundry is NEVER finished. People yell. There are days when no one (me included) wants to do schoolwork. Having an organized household and being a capable wife does not, under any circumstances, mean you will be perfect or that you should compare yourself to an unattainable standard of perfection. Allow grace to reign in your home. Give and receive it. Allow it of yourself.

#2. Rigid – Be flexible! Yes, routines are important, especially for kids, to keeping an organized home. But do not let your schedules and lists cause you to miss out on important, fun, spontaneous things. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Don’t tie yourself down to a schedule, school plan,  or cleaning routine and miss opportunities for spontaneous family interactions. Some of the best memories, conversation, and true learning happen when we scrap the “plans” or routine and just go do something fun together – for an afternoon, a weekend, or even longer. And one of the best skills you can pass on to your kids is how to cope with changes, interruptions, and distractions as these are a part of life.

#3. A Gourmet Chef – Cooking for a family can be a daunting task. But you do not have to be a gourmet chef to put healthy, tasty meals on the table. Learn to follow recipes and ask friends to share their favorites. Try new things and be okay with yourself and your value if they fail or no one likes them. Offer a variety of foods and dishes but be honest about your crowd. Kids probably would rather have hot dogs and carrot sticks to rack of lamb or steak tartare. Start simple and work your way to more complex meals. If your currently cook 5 nights a week, go for 7. Try adding one new recipe to your options each month. Keep a list of things that people liked and options for those meals.

Remember to let grace reign in your home, and that includes with yourself! Don’t waste time trying to be perfect, but take time to learn to do better today than you did yesterday!

Saturday Project: Hanging Bag

I can always use a little more storage – a place to hang things I use regularly but that tend to get lost in other places. This project is great for that! While designed for clothespins, this actually works well for many items. And bonus – it can be done with towels, outgrown clothes, or re-purposed jeans! I am doing one with a flap to hang some flatware I have (that doesn’t have its own case) in the pantry. I am also making several for our large closet that does not have adequate storage for shoes (flip-flops and such) and other small daily items.  And I think one is in order for the linen closets as well, to hold extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, and shampoos. The possibilities for this bag are endless!

Here are the easy instructions to make this great hanging bag!

Week of 4/23 Dinner Menu

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 4/23 Grocery list

Dinner Menu:
M: Chicken Fricassee – in the slow cooker, combine chicken, mushrooms, 1/2 bottle of white wine, and cover with chicken stock. Season to taste. Cook on high for 6 hours. To thicken before serving make a roux and add liquid from slow cooker. We serve with a salad and over biscuits.
T: Beef Burgundy – in slow cooker combine stew meat, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms (cubed). Cover with 1 bottle burgundy wine, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce,  and the rest stock. Season to taste. Cook on high for 6 hours. Make a roux and add liquid from slow cooker to thicken sauce. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
W: Hamburgers and Veggie sticks
Th: Pizza (we substitute whole wheat flour)
F: Hot Dogs and veggie sticks
S: Meatball Subs – make meatballs or buy frozen. In slow cooker, place meatballs, 2 cans crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, oregano, 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce, and 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Sweeten sauce with a little sugar as needed. Cook on high for 6 hours. Serve on baguettes or your favorite subbread with provolone cheese and veggie sticks on the side.
S: Taco Cups – fill muffin tins with a wonton wrap and your favorite taco stuff. Bake at 350 until wraps are brown & crispy. Top with lettuce and sour cream and enjoy!