Mobirise

    



Hi! My name is May. I've been blogging since 2009.

1950s housewife to the bone.

I'm a lifelong foodie, raised in restaurant kitchens and with Sunday dinners at my grandmother's.

I homeschool my three children in Los Angeles with my husband of 17 years.

I drink tea when I knit and coffee when I do everything else.







Managing Your Children’s Activities – Part 1 (after school activities)

Kids

This is the second post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment! This post focuses on after school activities and social plans for kids in school, next week we’ll get into working on a homeschool schedule.

This installment deals with managing kid’s activities, but not in the same way that 100 other blog posts deal with it. I am a firm believer in finding and maintaining a healthy balance between my kids having active social lives and having so much going on that they get burnt out. If your kids are involved in activities almost every night of the week and you’re looking for ways to manage those nights, that’s not what this post is about. This has a lot more to do with deciding what is important and necessary and what isn’t, and most importantly, what fits your family.

I’ll start this out by saying that I have lived both extremes. I have been the mom with kids in public school and a baby in a sling across my chest running all over the city to different activities and putting dinner in the slow cooker every morning because I was hardly ever home to make it at night. I’ve also been the homeschool mom with three kids in several different activities, running them to all their classes and having long school days at home to make sure we got everything done. I’ve found a balance in the middle and I’ve learned to feel out our schedules, really listen to my kids and know them and what they actually want.

Even when kids request to be in several activities at a time, and seem to understand the commitment level involved, there’s so much more to it than that. As you probably already know if you have ever had multiple kids in multiple activities, it brings a lot of unnecessary stress and logistical nightmares to family life. On an average week, if you have two kids with activities twice a week, you either have an activity almost every week night or you have more than one activity on any given night. When does after school cool down time happen? What about homework? When does dinner happen? Is dinner a relaxing time or is it rushed or happening super late? If you have a younger child as well are they just getting carted around to all the drop offs and pick ups? Extra curriculars affect more than just the child enrolled in them.

So, what’s necessary and for who? You know your kids, the more social and overachieving they are, the more likely they are to want to get involved in activities. The more introverted and relaxed they are, the less likely. Of my three kids, two are really laid back and would rather not do multiple activities and one likes to be busier. We make this work for our family by not over scheduling the kid that wants to stay busy and not just letting the other two not do anything.

Before you fill your calendar with classes from the Y or your local community center or dance or martial arts or whatever else is going on around you, think about all the ‘other’ stuff you want to do with your kids that are hard to fit in. Teaching life skills like cooking or sewing? Family field trips to the zoo, museums, art galleries? A weekly library day? Having friends over for sleepovers where no one is being rushed out in the morning? Even just wanting to block off a time of night to really sit down and help with homework, going over the lesson and making sure you’re up to date on all your children’s assignments, permission slips and notes. Maybe there is something you want to share with your children that you are passionate about, like playing piano or working on cars. Not all of these things fit every family, but even just adding one or two of them to your family’s routine takes time! Would you rather your children be involved in another outside activity or do a weekly trip to the library, for example?

Downtime is really, really, really important. I can’t possibly stress this enough. Since I’m yet another rando on the internet telling you that downtime is important, I suggest you do a little research and see just how important it is. So try to keep that in mind too when you’re choosing what activities to put your children in and what family activities you want to do with them, they need some nights and weekends with nothing scheduled at all.

Remember that even if each kid is only doing activities twice a week (assuming they are not happening on the same day) that puts you out of the house four night a week. That’s four nights you’re not helping with homework, four nights you’re not starting dinner when you normally would, etc. Of course, one of your children may fall in love with something like my Helena fell in love with competitive dance. It was fairly short lived, just under three years, but she was ALL IN. It was expensive and time consuming and even though my husband has very little free time, he was left to pick up the spilled over duty of caring for the other two kids when I couldn’t take them with us to competitions or rehearsals. I know a lot of parents live the life of competitive dance moms, swim team moms, soccer moms, jiujitsu moms, etc, but it is all encompassing and exhausting. If your child isn’t totally in love with it, it’s ok to just take classes once a week to enjoy it without the added stress or pressure.

This school year, my kids only do structured activities part time, by choice. We have a weekly library date, we go ice skating every other week and we participate in the monthly field trips organized by our homeschool charter. We have memberships to several local museums and children’s museums, so we go on field trips there when they have special activities or when my children just want to go. We also just started an independent Girl Scout troop, and the part time activities they participate in are parkour / freerunning and painting classes. They take these classes once a quarter.

This is a far cry from three years ago, when our oldest was taking jiujitsu three days a week (two weeknights and Saturday morning) and competing in tournaments, our middle was taking dance classes almost every weeknight and every Sunday afternoon and competing in competitions with her team, and our youngest was taking one dance class a week, one library activity a week and several play group meetups a week. It. Was. Insane. Two nights a week the two oldest were both at classes at almost the same time, so the drop off / pick up was a delicate maneuver! Weekends did not belong to the family really, since jiujitsu took Saturday morning, the library took Saturday afternoon and dance took the majority of the day on Sunday. The kicker for me was that my kids were happy in these activities, and even though I was exhausted and running around every night, I didn’t want to tell them to pull back. The following year though, I suggested exactly that and they both scaled back to less classes a week and we had one weekend day free! Eventually, they moved on to other activities and then chose to part time their activities and I think everyone is a lot less frazzled.

So start by deciding how many nights you really want to commit to being out of the house with your children, and decide as a family what activities you’d like to do together. If you’re practicing Positive Discipline or doing just the family meetings, that’s a good time to do some brainstorming together. You can also decide as a family for how long you’ll commit to these choices before you reevaluate and add or remove things later. Keep in mind what you already know about your children. If you have a reader, a library day is a great addition to your week. If you have a little scientist, getting a monthly science kit subscription and doing one activity from it a week is an inexpensive and at home way to fuel a passion. Get creative, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it doesn’t have to always be out somewhere. Just having your children’s friends over to play is fun for them and depending on their ages you can set things up for them to do or they can be left to their own devices and come up with something creative.

On top of all this you have to remember your own daily responsibilities and how they come into play when filling your calendar. If you’re homeschooling and planning enrichment activities during the day, when will you do your daily chores, and get your daily load of laundry done? If your kids are in school, and these activities are all happening between school and bedtime, when will you make dinner? When will the kids have time to do their own chores, or their homework? It is a lot to think about, for sure, but once you really weigh what matters to you as a family, you can make smart choices about what to include in your schedule and what you would rather not have in your lives.

I’ll talk about using a planner in week 9, but in the meantime it is important to keep all your plans on a calendar of some kind that everyone can see. Even a plain wall calendar from the dollar store will do, it just needs to be in a central location (the kitchen is always a good idea), so everyone can see what’s going on – and use it!

No Comments

A Little Honesty For You

Domestic, Home, Kids, Marriage

I know that in a lot of ways being real and being transparent are qualities that are celebrated and even encouraged on blogs like mine but since I’ve always viewed this blog as a teaching blog, it has never really occurred to me to write a post about the other side of things. I wrote recipes or tutorials, basically. I did do a series on marriage many, many years ago that was pretty personal, and another one on making the home a welcoming place that was a little less involving but still more than a knitting pattern. I haven’t taken them down, but I haven’t linked to them in years.

A lot has changed in my life and in my family in the 8 years since I started this blog, and since then there have always been times of ongoing activity and times of extended silence. During those times of silence I wasn’t posting because there was just too much going on for me to find the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do so I could take pictures and blog about it. The reality is, I was doing all kinds of things in those times of silence, lots of things I could have blogged about but at the time I just didn’t see them as ‘blog worthy’. It seems so silly in retrospect, especially in how far I have come in communication with you guys! Instagram especially has allowed more people to reach out to me than ever did in my comments section on this blog, and this communication has really opened my eyes to how oddly uptight I am in what I post. There have been some comments and messages I’ve received in the last couple of months that really make me feel like I should be posting more of our daily stuff. There are so many Instagram posts that should just be their own blog post. A single picture or maybe two with a recipe, done! I’m learning not everything has to be a song and dance. Most of the time when I post a homeschool picture on Instagram or Facebook, I am asked about what materials we need or what we’re doing etc, all easily answered in a simple post, right? Right. So why am I just realizing this now?

Picture my life, really. There are things you know because they’re obvious about me, like having three kids and homeschooling, for example. If you’ve been around for a while, you also know that I menu plan every week and that I am a big fan of scratch cooking and baking, and you also probably know that I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to keeping the house clean. You know I love to knit, but you maybe don’t know that I regularly stay up until the wee hours of the morning knitting beside my husband on the couch while he works away on his laptop. I often pay for those late nights though, because the morning? She comes early. I still have to get up and get my husband out the door, wake the kids, feed them and get school happening for the day. Even if we end up starting late (especially if we start late) I have to get dinner happening early in the afternoon so it’s ready when school is over and that late afternoon/evening part of day rolls around. Then you know, baths and story time and cleaning and prep for the next day and a shower for myself and some down time with my husband.

It’s a lot. There are other things I find time to do, but don’t post about much or even at all because I can’t post about them with the regularity I wish I had time for. For example, I work out four times a week, and I pretty much never talk about it. Why? Well, most of my friends who work out, do so six days a week and I feel like a major slacker for not finding the time to do two more days. Even as I type this I realize how ridiculous it is, that if I can’t find time to do something two additional days a week, I should just ignore that I do it at all? Silly. So in that spirit, I’m just going to relax a bit about the rules I’ve made up for myself about this blog. I’m going to let myself post the ‘other’ stuff that happens around here that, in my mind, wasn’t blog worthy. I’m also going to let myself post a recipe with a single picture sometimes and maybe, maybe I’ll even post some failures!

Usually, at the beginning of a year, I choose a cookbook to cook through that year. Though really, I haven’t actually done this in a few years. It took me aaaages to choose a book, I wrestled between The Cook’s Book (because I love technique), Salt Lake City Chef’s Table (because I live in Salt Lake City), Oh She Glows (because sometimes I eat gluten free vegan), and Brunch at Bobby’s (because I am madly in love with everything Bobby Flay does). I have been so indecisive about it, for just a minute while on vacation in January, I decided on doing both Oh She Glows and Salt Lake City Chef’s Table. Then I started planning it out and changed my mind again. This moment, I’m leaning towards Bobby Flay.

I have been choosing a baking theme every year since 2009. Last year wasn’t my most successful year, I only baked 46 different kinds of cookies when I was aiming for at least 52. However, it was my most fun! The kids really enjoyed baking cookies with me, they’re super portable so I was bringing cookies to meetups and friend’s houses. Pretty much everyone likes cookies. So this year, I’m not changing the theme, I’m doing cookies again!

One of my old blogging rules was to not post rambles like this, but in the interest of full disclosure, it stays. Stay tuned for randomness!

No Comments

5 Steps to Keeping Your Home Clean and Organized

Chores, Domestic, Home, Kids

This is the first post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment!

Grab a coffee or make some tea and read this like we are hanging out in my kitchen. It’s a long one, it will probably be the longest in this series, but totally, totally, worth the read I promise.

This is probably the #1 complaint from pretty much everyone. No one likes living in a mess. I know you don’t need me to tell you this because you probably know, but having a messy house makes just about everything take longer. In my Facebook feed I see stories about moms taking ages to leave the house because one kid can’t find socks to wear and another has no idea where he put his library book (or whatever) and mom can’t find her keys, etc. How frustrating. I have friends that tell me they walk into a messy kitchen and decide to order in because cleaning it is such a major undertaking.

The solution to this problems is to set up routines and a handful of house rules. It will take about a month before they feel like habit to you and your family. You will absolutely 100% have to remind your kids and your spouse and even yourself of new house rules. There are going to be times when you just don’t feel like taking the 10 minutes or 30 minutes or 5 minutes or however long the task at hand will take, but I promise you that if you do it, future you will be so thankful.

We all have different houses, different living arrangements and different trouble spots, but there are some universal issues. We all need to keep some of the same things organized and easily accessible; clothes and shoes, keys, toys and school items, paperwork and our kitchen basics. There will be some specific things in my home that are not relevant to yours, and there will be some things you need to brainstorm solutions to that I have never had to think about. This is the week to do that.

If you are familiar with the Flylady system, you will see some elements of that in here, but that’s all it is, just a few little pieces. Just like you may read this, implement it in your home and tweak it to fit your own needs over the course of weeks and months and years it will become something all together different. I started with the Flylady system back in 2001 and there have been more tweaks and changes than I can even remember. Your approach will also need to be changed every time you move and every time your life changes (the addition of a baby, a job or volunteer work, etc) and that will come naturally to you once you have some kind of structure in place.

In this post, we’ll go over the 5 big things:

Routines, ‘daily’ chores, laundry, house rules and kid’s chores.

1. Create two simple and easy to manage routines, one that happens when you first get up and start your day and one for the evening. Depending on how your evenings work, this will either end with you going to bed or with you doing whatever you do to decompress at the end of the day (more on that in another post).

The concept of morning and evening routines comes (to me) from the Flylady system, but again it has been modified. With a firm evening routine you will never wake up to last night’s dishes or a child claiming to have run out of clean socks or be surprised with an appointment. With a firm morning routine you will never stand in front of the pantry at 5pm with no idea what you’re making for dinner.

Everyone’s routines will look different, but I will give you a basic idea of what mine looks like.

Every morning after I wake up, I make a cup of coffee, brush my teeth, wash my face, do a 5 minute face, get dressed, and then make more coffee. ;) I help my husband get ready for work, make our bed, wake the kids and gather all the laundry in the house and pop it in the washer. Thanks to meal planning, I have already planned breakfast (and often did all the real work the night before), so I warm that up and feed the kids. I usually make a smoothie for myself and then do a super quick (like, I’m talking 5 minutes quick) clean up of the bathrooms. I literally just clean the mirrors, wipe down the counters and wipe down the toilet. Done! I supervise the kids while they do their chores after breakfast and help them get ready for the day. They have some morning chores and some evening chores just like me. Their morning chores include making their beds, feeding the guinea pigs breakfast and cleaning up after themselves at breakfast. Around this time I move the laundry to the dryer and we start our homeschool day with our morning basket.

I like to do my evening routine between after dinner time and bedtime because I like to move on to hobbies once the kids are in bed. The evening chores the kids are responsible for begin after dinner. Our oldest clears the table, rinses dishes and stacks the dishwasher. Our daughters tidy up whatever messes have happened in their room, and tidy up the guinea pig enclosure. We prepare a bedtime snack for our guineas and play with them a little before picking up the common areas of the house. The school area is cleaned up when school is done, but we pick up anything lingering and then one of our daughters will do a very quick vacuum of the open areas in the living room (no moving furniture or anything). While they are doing those things, I give the kitchen a once over. I clear off the counter and wipe it down, I make sure the kitchen sink is empty, the table is wiped down and the sink is empty and clean. I toss that day’s dish towel in the laundry and give myself a new one. When I used sponges, I’d replace them once a week, but now that I knit them, I also put that day’s dish cloth in the laundry and give myself a new one. I also sweep and mop the kitchen floor. Around this time, my littlest one has a bath, followed by my middle having a shower. During this time, I do a light vacuum of the rest of the first floor and I check my planner and wall calendar for tomorrow’s happenings. I will go over planner details in my planner post in this series, but just a glance at your planner will keep you aware of what’s going on the next day. Establishing the habit of checking your planner every night also shows you things that are happening later in the week. Once the kids are in bed and I have read stories and tucked them in, I sweep both bathrooms and if there are any little messes, I deal with them then. Then I have a shower, remove my makeup and do any girly stuff that needs to be done. Maybe a face or hair mask, or I’ll redo or touch up my nails, things like that. From then till I go to bed, I knit, or blog, or work on videos and hang out with my husband. Sometimes we play pool or help each other with our projects or play games together.

Different lifestyles will change this list, if your kids are in public school your list will look totally different and taking the kids to school will be on it and you’ll likely have the rest of the list done after you get home. When I had a bigger house and when I had a small apartment, my list looked different. The idea isn’t to have the same routines as me. I wrote it out to show you the concept. Every evening, set up your day to be great by waking up to a clean house and everything you need and then jump into your day!

2. Identify how many days a week you can give 30-45 minutes to cleaning, and then divide your home up into that many areas. So, if you have a lot of activities on say Tuesdays and Thursdays and you like to have a family day on the weekend, that leaves 4 days a week that you have time to really clean, so you’d divide your home into 4 areas and deal with one on each of those four days.

I have written before about ‘grown up chore charts’, but essentially all you need is a list of all the tasks to be done in a certain area either laminated or in a page protector sleeve so you can cross them off as you do them. Mine have evolved over the years, and if there is interest in seeing them, I’ll post them. The purpose of them is to walk into an area of your home on the assigned day and know exactly what needs to be done. Some things don’t need to be done every time you clean that area, but they should at least be checked. I don’t wash the curtains in my daughter’s room every week, but I do check them for hair chalk or marker or whatever so if they do need to be washed, I do it.

In my current plan, I like to devote my weekends to school prep and personal projects so I do not schedule must do chores on the weekend. I have some heavy school days and some light school days, but I know for sure that once a week, I am out all day with friends on a field trip. So that leaves me 4 days a week that I really have time to devote to focused cleaning. My current home is divided into four areas; 1 – school room and living room, 2 – kitchen and bathrooms, 3 – girls’ room and the master bedroom, 4 – office and garage (& outside if necessary). I also do family paperwork on Saturdays and call it ‘desk day’. Your lists to begin with do not need t be overwhelming, they can be totally basic, the idea is just to start and add more as you get into it.

When I get into conversations about this, people cannot understand how I do large areas on the same day and fit it into a fairly short period of time. The answer, honestly, is that if you stay on top of these areas every week and you incorporate trouble areas in your morning and evening routines, they are never out of control. Take cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms for example, since I take care of daily messes every night, my kitchen and bathrooms are pretty much always clean. So on the day assigned to them I do not have any messes in the way of cleaning, all I have to do is clean.

Desk day is really just about taming the paper monster, and that is a very personal and different creature for all of us. My general suggestions are to keep a main landing area for family paperwork as it comes into your home and a more involved system elsewhere. A kitchen binder is a good start, one thing that can work in many different situations is to use page protectors in a binder, one protector for each category of paper. For example; bills, utilities, school, medical, work…). You get the mail from the box, bring it to the kitchen and open it. Envelopes and garbage papers go in the recycling and the important bits get put in the binder right away. Every week on desk day, you take your binder to your home office or closet or where ever you choose to build your filing system and file it all away. Your empty binder goes back in the kitchen and voila! You’ve tamed the paper monster!

3. Laundry! This can be partially dealt with in your daily routines and possibly even in the sectional cleaning plan you make in the previous point, but laundry is absolutely not something you can deal with ‘later’.

Personally, I do one load every day of our daily clothes, I do the sheets on the bedroom days and towels on the weekends. Every morning as part of my morning routine, I gather everything from all the bedroom hampers. Since I do this every morning, there is never more than whatever we wore the day before in the hampers, with the possible addition of some pajamas or face cloths and that sort of thing. There is never more than a load between the five of us. The washer runs while I do the rest of my morning routine and then just before I start the school day, I move it to the dryer. When we break for lunch I put it away and I don’t find it as tedious as folding and putting away an entire basket of one person’s clothes because you basically put away a single outfit and move on to the next closet.

Another thought about laundry is less about doing it and more about where your family’s clean clothes go. Most of our clothes are either hung up or in baskets. This also makes it really simple for kids to help put away laundry if that’s a task you want to delegate.

If you have a larger family, you may need to add a second load in the afternoon. You may hate this plan if you like to separate your clothes, but let’s be honest. If you’re having issues keeping up with the laundry, does it really matter if you wash your jeans with your kid’s leggings? I swear, it doesn’t. If you want to do your whites in a hot load with bleach you can modify this to have a basket in the laundry room that you put the white items into each morning until have enough for a load.

4. Set up a few simple house rules for the things that make you crazy. In most homes that’s lost keys, mail/paperwork and library books, but it could really be anything. In homes with babies that use pacifiers, keeping track of those is a big deal. I remember, I swear, and I know it can be maddening.

This is one of those details that is really going to be specific to your life and your family. For us, library books were the main issue. To solve this, we decided on a specific place for them to live and I politely reminded everyone 10,000 times. When one of the older kids was done reading a book, it went back in the basket and they could take out the next one. For my littlest who goes through several bedtime story-style books every evening, I took it upon myself to make sure she’d returned every last book she took out. Why? I did it because after a couple of weeks of this, she made sure that she returned all the books on her own!

Whatever your new house rules will be to keep things in their place, you will not only have to be diligent in enforcing them but you have to follow them as well! This is a point of contention with some parents and I’m not sure why they do not like to take some of the responsibility in this. Children learn by example, and we all learn through consistent teaching, redirection and correction. So when you have allowed your children to leave library books laying around the house for years and one day you tell them that all library books are going to be in a central location, it can’t be surprising to you if your children either forget or assume you will not follow through. So, staying consistent for a decent amount of time will show them that this is something that is important enough for you to follow through over time on. Honestly, aside from your consistency showing your children the rule matters to you, it will become habit over the course of a month or so to just continue following the rule. Seeing you following your own rules makes them more ‘real’, or at least that has been my experience.

5. Delegate age appropriate duties to the children of the house, especially for things they are usually responsible for the loss of or mess making with!

This also ties in with setting some basic house rules that would apply to them. If you’ve read my Positive Discipline series, you know I’m not a big fan of reward charts and the like, but there is nothing wrong with laminating a little chart to help them remember what is expected of them and putting stickers on each task they have accomplished, much like the way I track my own chores.

There is a difference between age appropriate chores your children can do to help within the household and chores you’ll teach them as they get older. The age appropriate chores I’m referring to are the kind of thing they can take off your to do list. I understand that toddlers and under are not going to be much help and that’s a season we all go through, but even preschoolers can do simple tasks. What duties you give them depends on their personalities, their maturity levels, and what they are physically capable of. Kids love to feel accomplished and to really help out, so never assign a child a task they can’t actually accomplish. Some examples of age appropriate chores; very little children love to help put groceries away, older grade school kids may not be able to properly make a bed, but they can absolutely take the sheets and blankets off a bed! You can also make certain chores more child friendly, like using baskets and low hanging rods for clothes so kids can help put away laundry.

They can learn more difficult chores by watching and ‘helping’ you when you do your detailed cleaning. If you make this routine, or you take children aside as they get older and specifically show them how to do certain tasks, you’ll not only be delegating more of your workload, you’ll be teaching your children important life skills. I know a lot of children are not happy about chores, and I think the way it’s gone about is the reason behind that. If chores are just a part of daily life in your family, it’s really no big deal as they get older. If chores are ever used as a punishment or the grown ups complain about them or they are put off for so long that they become overwhelming, of course kids are going to have a negative outlook on helping out.

No Comments

Week in Review

California, Kids

I haven’t done one of these in a while! We have been in California for a couple of weeks now and we’re enjoying a little break from the snow.

We had a fun week, despite the chilly, rainy days. Of course ‘chilly’ and ‘rainy’ are relative in Southern California! Haha.

On Monday, we spent most of the day doing school work, and I made a smoothie from the Oh She Glows cookbook! We ordered in Cheesecake Factory and had a lazy night.

    

Tuesday is farmer’s market day! We hit the market early in the day and then met up with our friends Erin and Maddy in the afternoon. We had a little mall date that started with Crate & Barrel’s incredibly convenient pick up service and ended with H&M. I also finished the socks I started on our trip down here!

  
  
  

On Wednesday, my dear friend Samantha drove three hours with her family to come have lunch with me – on her birthday! I made her my version of a Fab Fit Fun box and included the socks I knit! We spent the afternoon at Twinkle Twinkle Kids Cafe, easily my favorite spot to hang out with friends and kids in the South Bay!

  
  

I casted on new socks pretty much right away and set to work on those on Wednesday night (I’m still working on them now). We had some late night bonding time with our guinea pigs. They are just the sweetest little ladies and we all love them so much.

On Thursday, we met up with Erin and Maddy again for a night at Kid’s Concepts! It’s an indoor playspace similar to Twinkle, but not as fancy. You know I love the low-key fun too, so Erin and I visit this place with the kids pretty often too! We even crawled into one of the climbers for some pictures. You know, because we’re 17.

  

Friday morning, I hit the library with the kids! Richard had to print something for school and we made a little adventure out of it. This branch has become our part time library, we visit it when we are in California but actually I prefer our local library in Salt Lake.

  

We had a little coffee tasting party of some of the coffee we picked up at the farmer’s market on Tuesday! I’m working on a blog post about it for this week.

    

Then, we went to my California bestie Tami’s house with the kids for a Minecraft party with her kids. It warmed up and stopped raining, so the kids spent most of their time outside. We didn’t exchange Christmas gifts until today, whoops! Last year we sent gifts to each other, but this year we wanted to celebrate in person. She framed one of the earliest pictures of all our little kids (we have 4 little kids and and 3 teenagers between us), and this way cute cassette tape snowflake and beautiful Anthropologie earrings. She knows I am such a sucker for Anthro. I’m madly in love with everything in that store.

  

Our Friday ended with a trip to Yogurtland, which Daphne has taken to calling Gogurtland!

  

Saturday was more school and knitting and dinner at Elephant Bar! Richard ordered the lamb and reminded me just how long it’s been since I’ve made lamb. I’m a terrible Greek woman, obviously.

  

We spent all of Sunday working on school work and and videos. We still had a little left to do, but we were sooooo close to finishing!

We had originally planned to go home this past weekend, but we ended up staying another week, so we have one more week or adventures here in California before we go back. It’ll be chores and cooking and baking and Utah friends and field trips and school and SO MUCH SNOW when we get back so we’ll soak up the sunshine while we have it here!

No Comments

10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household

Chores, Domestic, Home, Kids, Marriage

I used to get the occasional email or social media message asking about how I plan my days or how I run our homeschool or how I keep my house clean. I have noticed that in the last year or so, as I have been sharing more of my life online, I am getting more messages about this subject and truthfully, it’s not a short answer. It’s not even one answer, really. There are as many answers as there are questions and I can only tell you how I deal with this stuff, it may not work as well for everyone else. I’ve been inspired to write a series on this topic, and I hope you can pull little nuggets of information from it to help you. I made a list of 10 areas, though I may have missed something feel free to let me know! I’ll cover one a week, every Thursday, starting tomorrow.

This list can seem overwhelming, so hopefully talking about one thing at a time will break it down into manageable pieces. The main thing to remember is that yes, there is a lot going on, BUT you do not need to feel overwhelmed about it all, you do not need to be constantly working. You can work on your time management to meet your goals, but having downtime mixed in there is very important. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning yourself out and not wanting to do anything for days!

1. Keeping the house clean – Taking ideas from several organizational plans, I stitched together a system that has worked for me in tiny apartments, large houses and all the living spaces in between.

2. Homeschooling, field trips, navigating the kid’s social lives – Not everyone homeschools, of course, but even if you don’t homeschool, you do likely find yourself helping with homework, teaching life skills, planning family field trips and setting up events for your kids and their friends.

3. Daily cooking and baking / meal planning – Arguably the most important, and one of the most often dismissed, part of running a household. If you ever open the pantry at 5 and have no idea what you’re making for dinner, meal planning will change your life.

4. Taking care of yourself – With so much else to do in a day, adding yourself to the list can seem unreasonable, or like another chore. Really though, once you start taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, you will feel and see the difference in your life (and believe it or not, you’ll see changes in your family as well).

5. Having a fun marriage – Not everyone who is running a household is married, or even in a partnership and I don’t want to make any assumptions here. Having said that, if you are in a relationship it can be your biggest asset or the biggest drain on your emotions. Deal with known issues or nurture an awesome relationship!

6. Having a social life – I admit that I am a natural extrovert and that I have been known to strike up conversations with random people out in the wild and make friends. I know that’s not for everyone, but there are other avenues to meet like minded friends. Just as important as making friends, once you have friends you love and care about you need to make time for them.

7. Squeezing in hobbies – I have met wonderful, dedicated wives and mothers that literally have no hobbies. In some cases they had hobbies before their families and haven’t gotten back into them, and in other situations they just never really developed any. Doing something just 100% for yourself is not a bad thing, and you don’t need to find hours every day, just carve out a little time a few days a week and after a while, you’ll be trying to carve out a little more time!

8. Caring for pets – This is a necessity, technically, the dog needs to go out, the guinea pig cage needs to be cleaned, etc. However, most of the time it’s just the bare minimum. Dogs are put outside but not taken for walks, etc. This is one of those categories children should be a part of. Not just for the help it provides, but for them as well!

9. Planner basics – My planner is the backbone of my daily organization. I’ve said before that I let my planner boss me around and that is how I deal with time management. There is a little more to it than that of course, but we’ll get into that later.

10. Downtime – Orchestrating your days to get it all done can get a little addicting, especially once you start to see what you can accomplish! Make sure you have downtime to recover from your day and be ready for tomorrow!

No Comments

2016 Advent Day 7

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

The girls woke up and looked all over for their elves with no luck! It wasn’t until a little later in the morning when one of them walked back into their room that they were discovered in the girls’ tree!

We have been getting a lot of packages in the mail for Christmas. Some from dear friends and family, but honestly most are gifts I have ordered for the kids and they always ask if there are any pre-Christmas surprises they can have early. The answer is always no, BUT, I did order them each a Christmas sweater they’d love and Lena’s came today! Hers is from Simply Nailogical, a YouTuber / Instagrammer from Canada who does nail art. The sweater says ‘Happy Holodays’, a reference to holographic nail polish and the graphics on the sweater are cats and nail painting emojis! So silly and fun and boy does she ever love it!

I accidentally posted our advent gifts to Instagram and not Facebook this afternoon, so there is a little hole in our FB advent adventure. ;) That’s ok, documenting it on the bog is where it really counts, right? I had them looking all over the house with no hints aside from being ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, it was pretty fun and they are so good about not telling each other when they find someone else’s gifts. It’s very obvious whose is whose considering their themes this year! So today, Richard got a wooden canvas block! It’s so cool, it can be used with several different mediums, and I have no idea what he’s going to end up using it for, but it’s cool. It’s 3″ x 3″ and has a spot in the back to hang it up! Helena got the second book in the Divergent series today, Insurgent. I have no doubt she will be finished this by tomorrow afternoon! Daphne got a tiny Figaro (the kitty from Pinocchio) and a mini Daisy Duck!

Our advent cookies today were meringue cookies! I love the texture of meringue cookies and thankfully our elevation in Salt Lake does not affect making them at all, but they take about an hour to properly dry in the oven which, of course, can be worked around. Today’s cookies are called Mint Meringue Wreaths, my kids all like mint but you can always leave that out if you’re not a fan. The cute picture in the cookbook had the cookies hanging from ribbons, I love it!

 

This afternoon’s advent activity is one of my favorites and I look forward to doing this with the kids every year – making marshmallows! It really seems so much harder than it actually is. Your Kitchen Aid does most of the work! You whisk a sugary mixture on the stovetop while your gelatin sets up in your mixer. Then you add the two together and let that mixer just mix and mix and mix. It’s pretty amazing what happens really. Then you just spread it out, dust it with sugar and corn starch and wait it out! Voila!

 

Coffee advent has been kicked up a notch tonight with the arrival of my teeny tiny espresso maker. It’s so cute and little, I am obsessed with it. I’ve never had one like this before. You fill the bottom chamber with water, add some coffee to the filter area just above the water and screw the (empty) top part on. Then you set it on your heat source. As the water boils in the bottom chamber, it is forced up through a pipe in the center of the device. This pushes the hot water through the coffee and out into the top chamber. So neat! I was so into it I Snapped the whole process! I made Americanos with Brazilian coffee tonight!

 

Advent is always fun, but this year it just feels even more fun!

No Comments

2016 Advent Day 6

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Homeschooling, Kids, Utah

Today was one of those perfectly perfect days that was so full of Christmas cheer we could have been a Hallmark movie. Cheesy and sweet! We kicked off our day with a trip to The Capitol Theatre to see The Nutcracker! We listened to Tchaikovsky while we got dressed up and ready to go, Daphne was dancing around the kitchen to make her dress twirl and it was just the sweetest thing. Our elves greeted us first thing in the morning in the kid’s bathroom on one of their cabinets in there. It was a busy morning with a lot primping going on, so they chose a good spot to see all the morning action!

This was our first time at the Capitol Theatre, and it was decorated for not just Christmas, but for The Nutcracker. What a perfect time to go! We went to one of the few daytime showings courtesy of our homeschooling charter. We didn’t really go ‘with’ a class, but we were technically part of the school board’s group. That afforded us access to amazing seats we may otherwise not have been able to get, and it allowed us to go in the middle of the day when the kids are at their best and not later at night when they would rather be at home in their PJs. What a great opportunity!

 
 

When the ballet was over, the girls picked a ballerina ornament from the Ballet West gift shop as a souvenir and hung it on the tree in their room. So cute!

Instead of heading straight home, we stopped at a cute French bakery a quick walk from the theatre called Eva’s Bakery. The girls got ham and butter sandwiches on crusty bread and chocolate chip cookies with hot chocolate. I chose a turkey panini with marmalade and it was perfection. We ordered some festive macaroons to go (eggnog and candy cane) and headed back home.

 
 

I hid (& the kids searched for their) advent gifts of the day when we got home. I was a little laid back about it today since we had been out all morning and everyone was curious to know what they got. Richard got 3 more copic markers, Helena got a hilarious and very silly book about zombie guinea pigs from a book series called Undead Pets, and Daphne got a tiny Daisy and a mini Belle. Helena finished her book in just a couple of hours before she passed it along to Daphne, who also got a kick out of it.

Our advent cookies were super fun today! The kids got into it and made most of them themselves. Today we made Candy Cane Cookies, and judging from the comments and messages we got about these when I posted them, it seems these cookies are an annual tradition for many families!

 

Our advent activity for today was a Christmas movie marathon and that was an easily accomplished mission! We watched Mickey’s Magical Christmas, Barbie Christmas Carol (this one is my fave), The Polar Express AND Alpha and Omega’s Howladay (which really isn’t very Christmasy at all, but Daphne insisted and it did have ‘howladay’ in the title).

We are managing the balance of festivities and school fairly well, I think. The rest of this week we have normal schoolwork and my husband’s company’s Christmas party is this weekend. Then next week we have three fun field trips planned, and one more week of regular schoolwork before Christmas break officially begins!

No Comments

2016 Advent Day 5

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

Day 5 of our advent started off as a normal school day, and we had an online class on grammar! Once we were done with school for the day, the girls and I ran a quick errand before we came home for Christmas fun. Our elves were found in the most ridiculous place today – inside the bread machine! The first thing I said when the girls showed them to me was ‘what if I wanted to make bread today?!’ Of course, the elves knew I wasn’t planning to make bread today, because the elves are smart like that. ;)

For advent gifts today, I basically hid their surprises in plain sight! I didn’t give the children any hints at all and I just put their surprises where I figured they’d end up! So Richard got a ‘shorty stick’ pencil, it’s essentially a mechanical pencil that can accommodate different sizes of lead. It’s pretty neat. I put this on his desk, slightly askew so he wouldn’t notice it immediately. Lena’s book today was the first in the Maze Runner series, she’s already read it, but just like with all her favorite series, she wanted them for her collection. I literally just put this on her bookshelf, but naturally there were enough books there to camouflage them. Daphne’s tiny Tsum Tsum was a little ornament with a space for any of her tiny Tsum Tsums! Sooooo cute! Her mini today was Piglet, and I just put her on her bedside table, with about 5 or 6 other mini Tsum Tsums so it took a minute for her to identify which was the new one.

Our advent cookies today were a hit – again! These cookies are called Double Chocolate Chewies, but the meringue is totally left out of this title! These cookies are those wonderful airy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside meringue cookies, with chocolate chips! They come together very quickly, and with the power of your Kitchen Aid they come together with very little effort. These cookies are dangerously good though. I had to pack some up to deliver to friends and get them out of my house!

 

Our advent activity today was baking cinnamon ornaments, and we ended up making a cinnamon air freshener instead! We’ll attempt it again tomorrow and I’ll take pictures and post a recipe as well.

Coffee tonight was sampling an espresso roast I had never tried before. I’m really digging these pourovers at night. Originally, I had planned for this coffee advent to be about making fancy coffee recipes, but we are really more interested in straight up coffee so I think I will focus on trying different kinds of beans and brands of roasters.

Tomorrow I am taking the girls to see The Nutcracker! They are both so excited and honestly, so am I! The main reason for our errand this afternoon was to get tights and shoes for them since when we tried on our outfits for the ballet their shoes were pinching them – it has been a while since they had to wear dress shoes! Off we went and they picked some very cute shoes, I will show them all off tomorrow night!

No Comments

2016 Advent Day 4

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

So, we’re on day 4 of our Christmas countdown, and we kicked it off with an adventure at Storybrook Play Cafe! Our day started bright and early as we got ready for a pancake breakfast with Santa and Mrs C! I really need to document the adorable Mod Cloth dress I wore to this occasion.

Such a fun time! We always love to go to events (or even just an afternoon to play) at Storybrook, but this was especially fun! They had set out a pancake buffet in their cafe with pancakes (duh), fresh fruit, maple syrup, raspberry syrup, whipped cream and juice and milk (and coffee, of course).

 

After breakfast, we headed downstairs to meet Santa and Mrs Claus! Lena and Daphne sat with them and chatted about what they had been up to so far this season, and what they were hoping for. They asked for a bike and a scooter, which was a little hilarious, because last week they were asking for a guitar and drums. Keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure! Do people do bikes at Christmas? Isn’t that more of a ‘passing gift’ summer thing? We’ll have to have a chat about that! We got some cute photos and I took a Polaroid and Mrs Claus gave the girls each a little reindeer plushie with a candy cane. Super cute. We didn’t stick around for story time, the girls were ready to head home, it was a really cute and fun event.

As soon as we got back home, the girls were off to find the elves! It took some searching, but they turned up in my Pioneer Woman cake stand eating those Pfeffernüesse cookies from yesterday!

Advent gift hunting was a little lame today. We do chores before the daily advent scavenger hunt, and chores were a little slow going today. My littles are not morning people, so even getting up early to see Santa is draining. Once they got everything on their lists done, they gave me a few minutes to hide their surprises. The twist today was, they asked for no hints, just what room their surprise was in! Richard got 3 copic sketch markers, he found their fairly quickly hidden in his monster feet slippers. Lena found today’s book after a whole lot of searching. I put it on the windowill in her room, behind the curtain, facing outside. It was kind of hilarious because after a while she was asking me to tell her if she was hot or cold and she couldn’t get how walking into the middle of her room was cold, but walking towards the wall was hot. Funny! Today, she got the first in a series called The Paladin Prophecy and just like with every book she has received in the past 3 days, she devoured almost all of it in one day. Daphne originally requested no hints, but after searching the living room for 10 minutes she asked for little hint, and then a little more haha. She eventually found her mini Pascal in her purse and her advent calendar produced a teeny, weeny tiny Dutchess cat. Sooooo cute, it’s my favorite so far.

Advent cookies today were amazing, and baked pretty much right after we got back from breakfast with the Claus’. ;) Day 4 was Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies and for the first time this week I made a substitution. Instead of using plain malted milk powder, as the recipe called for, I used chocolate malted milk powder to dress them up a little. Naturally, once they were cool I decided to go ahead and cover them in melted chocolate as per the instructions anyway, even though they clearly did not need them. They were a hit with the kids, even the one child that is not as into chocolate as the other two. The chocolate monster (aka Miss Daphne) was mad for them, so she had to be rationed. ;)

 

Our advent activity today was to bake bread, but we ended up going with buns instead. Same idea, right? I found the recipe for these scrawled on an index card in my kitchen, so who knows where it came from? Pretty standard recipe, make the dough, let it rise, punch it down, shape it, and let it rise again before baking.

 

Tonight’s coffee advent was some Ukrainian coffee I have come to love this year, called Kaba. I’m sure it’s very run of the mill in Ukraine, but for me it tastes stronger than most coffees without being overly bitter. I do love some strong, bitter coffee for sure, but sometimes I’m looking for some strong, smooth coffee and this is it. I just brewed it as a standard pour over, my new go to since I got a cute kettle a while ago.

Tomorrow is a regular school day, our first Monday in this advent countdown, hopefully the excitement of advent surprises and cookies will encourage them to get their work done and not derail them. ;)

No Comments

2016 Advent Day 3

Crafty, Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

Our third day of advent happened to be our first Saturday of advent, so it was a somewhat relaxed start. We have had two house guests for the past two weeks and one of them left this morning! Every morning he asked for 3 hard boiled eggs, I have little doubt that my muscle memory in the kitchen will have me reaching for my Dash egg cooker before I think more and realize he is not here! Tomorrow morning is actually an event for us, the girls and I are going to Storybrook for breakfast for Santa and Mrs. Clause! I can hardly wait! I admit I am excited for my outfit choice, which involves an adorable vintage-style dress from Mod Cloth and darling earrings from Polly Danger. Of course, I’ll document the adventure.

First up, as usual, were our elves. This morning they were found *in* my Santa head cookie jar, nibbling at yesterday’s advent cookies, I’m sure! They could have just asked. ;)

Advent gifts today were especially fun, I think. Richard’s was two little sets of textured, multimedia canvases, one set was 2″ x 4″ and the other set was 3″ x 3″. His clue was about setting up Chromecast, so he went straight for behind the TV and found them! Today, Lena got Matched, the first book in a three book series that I am madly in love with. When I first read them she was too young for them, so I am happy she has reached the point where she is into them. Her favorite genre right now is YA fiction about a dystopian future, so these are right up her alley Her hint asked her what she looked forward to most about our weekly family meetings, and she headed for the board games! Daphne got two of the cutest little Tsum Tsums today! Her Tsum Tsum tiny was Bambi, but it was made even cuter by the crazy small and totally adorable Santa hat headband that came with it! What?! She can put this hat on any tiny Tsum Tsum! Her mini today was Lady (from Lady and the Tramp, of course) and it’s even cuter than I thought it would be. Her hint was about the Christmas tree, and she was hidden in there. They all showed each other their scores and then scattered to use / read / play with their advent treats.

Our advent cookie experience today was something I knew we would run into eventually, and it actually happened on day 3. We made a cookie we didn’t really love. Ok, ok, full disclosure? I sort of hate it. The upside is these little balls of ground almond reminded me so much of my Thea Rika’s kourabiedes, which I honestly think are a better version of today’s cookie. Anyhoo, today’s was Ginger Pfeffernüesse, it was a flour and almond meal dough with just three eggs and spices. You pinch off pieces and roll them into balls, bake, roll the baked balls in confectioner’s sugar, let cool and roll them in confectioner’s sugar again. They were kinda spicy and not really my thing. I’m more about the chocolate and the obvious sugary cookies. However, I am sure someone will love them and thankfully most of my friends are into trying new foods. I know Erin, Jessica, Wendy and Kaelee will all be down with trying them out. These will not make it back on my to-bake list, though. We actually ended our kitchen adventures today with some edible cookie dough that Lena loves making because we knew we’d love it and the kids were not having today’s cookies.

 

Today’s advent activity was to make paper chains! Lena especially had a blast with this activity! We made chains for all three kitchen doorways and Richard remembered all the paper chain countdowns we have made over the years. I LOVE that he is 16 now and remembers fondly the silly things like that from his childhood. So fun!

 

I also mentioned yesterday that I’d post pictures of the paper snowflakes we made, so here’s one of those too!

Coffee advent tonight was a bit of a throwback for me because it was a Cafe au Lait and I literally have not made one since I was a teenager living at my parent’s house! I used the same Starbucks espresso roast I have been using this week, but I am going to invest in a frother because my froth was pathetic. The coffee itself was really good though!

I am off to bed so I can get up bright and early so my daughters and I can have breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. C in the morning!

No Comments