Thursday, January 31, 2008

Those Croutons that Called to Me: the Recipe

Incredibly Imprecise Measures:

about a whole loaf herbal foccacia type bread
about 3/4 of a stick of butter
Sunny Paris herb blend from Penzey's Spices (or salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs)

Cube the bread into the size of croutons you like.
Let it dry uncovered overnight.
Prehead oven to 350.
Spray a cookie sheet (with enough of an edge or lip that the croutons won't go flying off the sheet) with Pam-type stuff.
Melt the butter. Put the cubes of bread in a bowl and pour the butter over them. Sprinkle with Sunny Paris blend. Stir.
Put the croutons on the cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes. Stir.
Bake for another 10. If you like the crouton's level of crispiness, remove them from the oven. If you want them a little crispier, leave them in for a few more minutes.
Let them cool before putting them in ziploc bags.

Thursday Status Report -- and Croutons

It's been a week since Cathy was here. I have not taken the house to any new levels of organization (I have not sorted through one single box) but I have maintained it for an entire week. This is unprecedented. (I remember 18 months ago I kept the house neat and tidy for a month, but it's been slowly going downhill ever since...until Cathy rescued me.)

I even had awful back pain on Monday and Tuesday, but I persevered and I even mopped downstairs yesterday, and upstairs today. I scrubbed the kitchen counters with Soft Scrub, and cleaned all the bathrooms. And....I.....kinda....enjoyed it! This is bizarre! I haven't enjoyed housekeeping for a year or two; it's just been so discouraging and a constant reminder of my failings. Cathy's catching us up helped so much. Now that I've experienced the cleanliness for a week, I really want to keep it that way.

And now for something completely different:
This week I learned that I cannot have croutons in the house. My husband bought some fabulous herb bread that needed to be used up quickly (it was on the clearance cart), so we made croutons. The croutons sat in a ziploc bag and called to me. "We'd be lovely on your salad. We'd be lovely in a bowl with cashews while you read Jeeves and Wooster. Why don't you snack on just one....or five....while you make dinner?" I had to shut them up, and there was only one way to do so....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Favorite Product of the Week: the ShMop

I am not a mopping expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I mopped my floors tonight and I must say that I love this mop:

The mop head is a big flat rectangle, and there are big washcloths with elastic around the edges that go over the big rectangle. It's really like scrubbing your floor with a big washcloth, except you don't have to get down on your hands and knees! And it's so big (but lightweight) that the job goes very quickly.

I buy Mrs. Meyers cleaning products from, so when I mop downstairs it smells like lemon verbena, and when I mop upstairs it smells like lavender. I find this far more pleasant than PineSol.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Book Review

I've been reading fiction by Adrian Plass lately, but right now I'm reading his non-fiction book, Jesus, Safe, Tender, Extreme. Adrian Plass writes with admirable gentleness and honesty about his own struggles as well as the issues he sees in the church today. I think if Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) were British and thirty years older, he would write a very similar book. I have found Jesus, Safe, Tender, Extreme to be both comforting and challenging.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A New System

It's time to figure out how to maintain this level of organization and cleanliness. So today I made file cards with my daily and weekly chores. I did this several years ago, and I made the mistake of making all the monthly chores and yearly chores and making it all very complicated and labor-intensive and depressing. This time I kept it very simple. And each day I'll divide them into "Morning", "After Lunch", and "After Dinner." I made chore cards for the two older kids too.

I've tried a weekly list in the past, but I think I'll like the cards better. Every day I begin anew without yesterday's undone list staring at me.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What a Difference!

Last Saturday morning I stumbled down the stairs in a fog of failure and discouragement over how terrible our home looked.

I came stairs to see an uncluttered livingroom, an empty sink, and a clean table. What a difference this makes in my attitude and my outlook on life in general!

Praise God for Cathy!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Funny

Today my husband and I went out for brunch. It was a multi-purpose date, with a car repair and a chiropractor visit thrown in. We had good food but I was alternately distracted and amused by a Woman in Yellow at the next table. I would have thought a yellow baseball cap would be enough sunnyness in one's attire, but she was also wearing a yellow hoodie and a yellow shirt. Not soft pastel yellow, but the extreme color one associates with a large feathered friend on children's televsion. I kept expecting Ernie to pop in to invite her to play Hide 'n Seek with him. On a chair near her was a yellow purse that at first seemed fun and funky, covered with silver studs....until the light shifted a little and I saw that the silver studs were actually rhinestones. This whimsical ensemble was completed by bright pink lipstick.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Professional Help

Today Cathy brought professional help -- a lady who cleans houses for a living! I learned several things from her:
How do I clean the top of my stove? Oven Cleaner! (Duh! but I had no idea. Spray it on, wait 20 minutes, wipe it off)
How do I clean the spots on the shower door? Lime Away!
And the stains in the kitchen sink? Gone, thanks to Soft Scrub.

The kids had fun because the housekeeper lady brought her little boy with her. He speaks only Spanish, so the kids could practice all those words they learn on Dora the Explorer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Learning about Laundry

Cathy came back today. We tackled the upstairs. Lots of loads of laundry. And lots of decluttering in the bedroom (why do I neglect that room?).

I learned some things about drying clothes. When Cathy puts things in the dryer, she shakes them out so that sleeves dry throroughly and socks don't hide inside them. She said it helps them dry more quickly than throwing them all in together in one big heap. She also cleans the lint screen after every single load.

And then.....when the clothes are dry, she folds them as she puts them in the laundry basket! I can see that this works better than my method. I toss everything in the basket and dump it on the bed. Of course I get interrupted and then when I'm ready for bed I remember the laundry and transfer it back to the basket....where I may remember it's clean or I may not.

I am absolutely exhausted. Because Cathy has been here, I've missed my afternoon nap two days in a row.

Cathy's Vacuum

Cathy has this vacuum and she's been using it all over my house. She said she bought it 4 years ago and it's still working well. Considering that the price at is under 50 bucks, and we've gone through 4 cheap vacuums in the last 2 years, I'm impressed.

But I notice 2 things when Cathy vacuums. She empties the bin (it's bagless) after vacuuming half a room. She also removes the filter often, shaking out, and sometimes rinsing it. After rinsing it, she wraps it in a towel to squeeze the water out, getting it ready for immediate use again.
I can see that I have not done the necessary routine maintenance on my vacuums.
Meanwhile, we've ordered an air filter from Oreck that comes with a free vacuum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Cathy was here for five hours today. She vacuumed the downstairs soooo throroughly; I always vacuum by pushing the vacuum over every portion of the floor at least once. I think she covered every inch of the floor at least 5 times. She moved the furniture and vacuumed under it (I never do that!). She took the hose off the vacuum and did all the corners (something else I never do). I cleared off the kitchen counters and put dining room clutter in boxes around the edges of the room.

Cathy also did several loads of laundry. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

My back is sore tonight. I'm relaxing with more Adrian Plass...

Monday, January 21, 2008


My husband had the day off. Early this morning the phone rang and it was Cathy from church -- one of the friends I had e-mailed, asking for prayer. She wants to help! She is coming tomorrow with her vacuum cleaner! This is especially fabulous because my cold has returned and I feel so foggy and brainless!

My husband did a lot today, putting away the Christmas tree and sorting out his clothes and just being helpful and sweet. I went shopping for a organizational supplies.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Have a Plan Now

I made a long list of my burdens and gave them to the Lord (again) this morning. While I was praying, a plan came to mind: we will take a week off school and just clean house, one room at a time this week. I have a long history of planning big cleaning projects one day and waking up sick the next day, so I e-mailed several friends and asked them to pray. I only e-mailed a few friends who are far away and a few nearby friends who are too busy to respond as if this is a plea for help --- it isn't. It's just a plea for prayer.

Here is one paragraph from the e-mail:

I need your prayers. Housekeeping fills me with guilt for my failure,
sending me into discouragement that sends me to an extra nap which keeps me from
housekeeping. It's a vicious cycle. Pray that I am sensible, not doing more in a
day than is physically sensible for me and my weak back. Pray that I will be
gentle with The Princess Who Doesn't Want to Do Anything and The
Princess In a Daydream Who Doesn't Hear Mama, and The LittlestPrincess Who Says "I Help" but isn't Tall Enough to Do Much.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Completely Overwhelmed

As I was making coffee this morning, my husband went online and reserved a UHaul to pick up the chilren's beds. So much for the long bath and prayer session.

I was not at all prepared to have anyone enter our home, but the generous friends who gave us the beds helped to carry them in. And they brought their vacuum cleaner. And they vacuumed our kids rooms and saw the cheerios in their closets. And they walked through our living room (Christmas tree still up) and didn't mention the general feeling of a disaster area.

I was so extremely embarrassed, but more than that I was completely overwhelmed by how much there was to be embarrassed by. I have never been SuperHousewife who dusts every two days and vacuums every morning, and to be sick and or stressed for much of the last month and a half has really left my home in shambles.

When the friends left and my husband took our oldest to church this evening, I finally got that long bath and prayer. I gave all my burdens to the Lord, but I keep picking them up and worrying about them. Thankfully this is Britcom night on PBS, so I can escape across the Atlantic for awhile.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I've lost almost 3 weeks!

Moving the bookcase was a very bad idea. I spent as much of the next 2 weeks in bed as possible (3 kids 6 and under don't let Mom stay in bed too much!). This week we all had colds, my head has been too foggy to focus on much more than homeschool and sleep.

Today the fog cleared a little and I was appalled at the disaster area my home as become! What a mess! I tried to straighten up a bit, we were going to receive hand-me-down beds for the children tomorrow, but my friend's truck is not available to accomplish the move of the beds. I was too exhausted to keep straightening up without the threat of People Seeing the House, so I laid on the couch tonight and watched Jeeves and Wooster with my husband. Nothing like a little British comedy to help one ignore one's troubles. Tomorrow I have planned a long bath with A Mother's Rule of Life, followed by a bit of "Lord, I Can't Handle This" prayer.

I don't know how I'll ever get the house into order. The vacuum has been broken for 2 weeks, the floors haven't been mopped in 2 months, the playroom is a disaster, the bathrooms need a good scrubbling, and there's just STUFF everywhere. I don't know where to start. I am overwhelmed, but I'm going to read a little Adrian Plass, and drift off to sleep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Addicts Anonymous

Hello, my name is Georgetta and I am a bookaholic.

I love to buy books. I love to order books at Amazon,,, abebooks, etc. I tried to stop buying books for one of my husband's pay periods and I was not successful. I am praying about giving up book buying for Lent; this would be rather drastic for me (I would keep my wishlist on paperbackswap though), but it would be helpful to our budget.

So, in preparation for this, I ordered a book about Lent (Small Surrenders). I didn't want to spent $3 on shipping at, so I ordered from Amazon...of course buying 2 books instead of one so that I could get the free shipping at the $25 purchase. So, I spent an extra $8 to save $3.

Does anyone else want to join Book Addicts Anonymous? (Isn't BAA a great acronym?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recipe: healing bath salts

6 drops essential oil or essential oil blend
about a tablespoon almond oil
about 1/3 cup epsom salts

Stir the ingredients together. Run a bath. Soak for a few moments and then add the salt mixture. (Don't add it while the water is running, or the oil won't disburse, it will just float on top of the water.) Enjoy the aromatherapy! The salts are great for aches and pains, and they may help you sleep well after your bath, too.

Note: a little oil will float on top of the water. That's ok. It will softly coat your skin when you exit the bath (nice for eczema-prone skin). In my experience, this recipe makes the oils disburse more than when I don't use the salts.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Greek Layered Dip

2 8 oz tubs of hummus (we used one original and one sundried tomato basil)
5 leaves of dark red leaf lettuce, chopped
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained
6 oz. kalamata olives (be sure they are the pits-removed variety)
8 oz feta cheese
6 big basil leaves
6 or 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
pita chips

Mix the two tubs of hummus and spread in a square 8x8 dish.
Sprinkle the lettuce over the hummus.
Mix the garbanzo beans and the olives, and put them on top of the lettuce.
Mix the feta and basil (you could do this an hour ahead of time to let the basil flavor blend into the feta). Sprinkle it over the garbanzo beans.
Arrange the tomato halves in neat rows across the dip. Serve with pita chips.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Taco Soup with Black Beans

1/2 pound sausage
1/2 pound hamburger
1 tablespoon baking chocolate (trust me)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper -- ground
1 large white onion -- chopped
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
14 ounces diced tomatoes (sometimes I double this)
14 ounces black beans, canned (sometimes I double this)
1 1/2 cups beef broth, reduced salt
1 tablespoon buttermilk powder (or a packet of dry ranch dressing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces sour cream
1 avocado
1/2 cup cheddar cheese -- shredded
2 tablespoons cilantro -- fresh (optional)

Brown the sausage and hamburger, adding the chocolate, cumin, and chipotle pepper when it's about half browned, then adding the onion for the last few minutes.

Place sausage, hamburger, onion, tomatoes, beans, broth, buttermilk powder, and salt in crockpot. Cook on high for two hours or on low for four hours. Garnish individual bowls with sour cream, sliced avocado, cilantro (optional) and grated cheese.

Some people like to put tortilla chips on top, but we feel there are enough carbs in here already!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Avacado Cannellini Salad

This is so easy, and so delicious.
Two cans of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
2 avocadoes (or 1 large)
diced roma tomatoes (2 or 3)
diced green onions (1 or 2)
any italian herbs (basil, oregano, chives, etc)
salt & pepper

Toss these in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.

Optional: serve with Italian herb croutons on top.For a southwest variation, I use one can of black beans, and one can of cannellini.