Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to clean a ceiling fan

Yes, I'm going to blog about something I said I would never blog But this is too good to pass up. I'm really not a good cleaner, but messy-ness does tend to bother me more than it used to. And now with our house up for sale I notice much more every little dust mite and grass blade that makes its way into the house. About a week ago I noticed our ceiling fans were sporting a good amount of dust (and I even purchased the ones with "dust armor" much for that). So in fear that a potential buyer would be turned off by the dust rhinos on the fan, I decided to use a cleaning tip I found on I've broken it down into 6 easy steps, with step #2 being the most important if you like to clean as much as I do.

1. Locate an old pillowcase.

2. Hand pillowcase to someone else.

3. Instruct them to put the case over the fan blade, then wipe the fan blade from center to end, keeping all of the dust in the pillowcase. Ask them to repeat until all the blades are clean.

4. Watch as they carry out your instructions.

5. Throw pillowcase in laundry basket.

Step #2, the most important. Especially if that someone is taller than you.
6. Enjoy clean fan.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How I made $3000 yesterday

It's been hot. Really hot. And apparently the heat removes all of my common sense when it comes to money. As in during a hot, uncomfortable moment I'd probably pay $100 for a Popsicle that was half eaten. And yesterday was one of those days. I started thinking about our van and the lack of rear air. As the driver it doesn't affect me. I can generally always have a cool flow of air blowing right on me, only to look back at my two little ones who are hot, hot, hot. And the extreme heat had me ready to throw out all debt free-ness to get some wheels that provided everyone with air conditioning. (And while we were at it, a few other luxuries as well). 

Then I grabbed a bit of common sense (only a nibble) and looked at vehicles online that we could pay cash for if traded in our vehicle. Best case scenario, we would have had to pay about $3000 for the upgrade. I was ready to take money out or savings and buy, buy, buy...knowing nothing of the history of the vehicle. And as you know from yesterday's post, we are trying to save up cash to move. So I was totally torn. I could easily justify the spending. Luckily the little voice in my head (along with texts from my husband) reminded me we had other goals in mind and needed to find another solution.

Instead of going for the newer vehicle, I went to our local StuffMart and got two clip on auto fans to blow on the kids. Yes, if there was any doubt before as to our redneck status, I think this makes it official.

$24 cooling system

The kids think they are awesome. And by practicing restraint I made $3000.

Think how easy it would have been for me to go test drive, finance, and drive away a brand new vehicle. Probably less time consuming than buying and opening our debt free cooling system. That is one of the sad parts about our debt culture. It takes almost no time or thought to suddenly find yourself in chains.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

House lust

I've spent the last few weeks oogling local houses for sale. Why? I don't know. Maybe boredom. Maybe indigestion. Definitely some kind of restlessness. Our home really is the perfect home for us right now...with two exceptions. The first is a total first world problem...we'd really like a second bathroom. I know the few generations before us lived with one bathroom, and it wasn't that many generations ago that outhouses and the like were the norm. But I would enjoy being able to use the biffy without a little one deciding they need to use it at the exact same time. Again, I know it's totally a problem of an affluent world. A matter of convenience, not necessity.
Maybe we'll just add a bathroom...

The other issue is the street we live on. When people find out where we live they have one of two responses. Response one: "Oh, the street with no stop signs so you can drive fast." (Sidenote, there are also no sidewalks but lots of pedestrian traffic). Response two: "You live WHERE??" Apparently our neighborhood doesn't have the best reputation. I can honestly say we haven't experienced any "problems", but with a large number of rental units in the area the neighbors can change quickly.

So I think I've let issue #2 get to me way too much. Like I said, we've had no problems, but we also feel the desire to move to a less busy street. And, if I'm honest, a more aesthetically pleasing area. When we bought this house apparently we ignored the #1 rule of real estate...location, location, location.

Our home in 2008. Isn't she cute?

For about two weeks we've been looking at houses. And we have two main things on our list: a second bathroom and a better location. But then as we began to look at home the unspoken expectations came with it: a nice kitchen, a big backyard, a sunroom, plenty of space for all of us to do our own thing...and then I realize how much the conspicuous consumption of our culture has influenced our wants and needs. The average size of family home has grown along with the number of amenities...and so many of them feel like needs. We NEED a bathroom and bedroom for each person. We NEED a three car attached garage. We NEED ample green space outside. We NEED...the only real need is a roof over our head, locks on the door, and a decent heating and cooling system. Everything else falls into want. And trust me, I fall prey to being consumed by a lot of wants.

Even though we know most of our desire to move falls into the "want" category, we decided to put our house up for sale. If it sells, great. We have several houses in mind that would be within our price range (don't worry, we aren't going McMansion just because we are debt free in all other areas). All of them meet our primary objectives...a safer neighborhood and a second potty. Many of them even meet many of our wants. If our house doesn't sell, we really are content to stay here and are blessed beyond measure regardless of where we live. Above all we want a home that is safe and loving for our kids, open and inviting for guests, and a place to make memories. I know all of the important things have a lot more to do with the hearts of the people in the house and not the contents within the four walls or the name of the street outside.

Blessed beyond measure

Last night the four of us were snuggling on the couch watching some cartoon. I had a gloriously content moment of "this is all I need".

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kitchen intimidation

The kitchen. Some people love to spend hours and hours in the kitchen creating culinary delights (and messes). For others, the kitchen is a place of necessary drudgery and nothing more. I fall somewhere in between. I don't mind cooking and baking and at times even enjoy it. But I do not, repeat DO NOT like to spend a large amount of time in the kitchen everyday. That starts to feel like culinary bondage. A large kitchen session once or twice a week (especially if it ends with some great food)? Count me in.

As I was attempting to feed the family only non-processed foods that also involved large amounts of time in the kitchen making bread, muffins, preparing meat, and cutting veggies. It made me realize just how much processed bread-like products we consume in massive quantities: bread, tortillas, muffins, crackers, poptarts, cereals, get the idea. And like I said before, homemade bread is an experience all in itself. A slice of freshly baked bread with a little butter or jam (or both) brings a joy that store bought bread will never come close to matching. But even with a bread machine (my BFF for a few weeks), it takes time. Time most of us either don't have or it's not how we prefer to spend our hours.

One blog that I've loved consulting is "100 days of real food" by Lisa Leake. She makes all kinds of crazy things from scratch, including poptarts. While I've been inspired by her, I've also felt overwhelmed. If you read about all her kitchen time and emphasis on everything being unprocessed it frankly is a little hard to measure up. Recently she kept track of her time in the kitchen: Long story short, she spends lots of time. 2.5-3 hours a day. And as she admits, she loves it and the quality of food is worth it. But I know for me not only is that not often practical. I also don't enjoy that much time in the kitchen.

So here's the question: do you have to be able to spend lots of time in the kitchen to eat healthy? Well, yes and no. Depends on what you want to eat. Most fruits take little or no time to prep. Same with many raw veggies. It's a matter of finding quick prep, healthy foods. Also making foods in larger quantities when you are in the kitchen and using the leftovers later. Summer is a perfect time to eat healthy and save time in the kitchen. Grilling meats and veggies takes very little time compared to making your own poptarts.

As for me, I'll stick mainly with the quicker prep whole foods...eggs, fruits, veggies, cooking meat in bulk and freezing, and grilling. When I do feel the whim to prepare some bread or muffins or other longer prep recipes in the kitchen, I'll try to make in bulk and freeze so future meals can be quick as well. Even when I have the time, I don't want to spend that much time in the kitchen (there, I said it). And I'll do my best not to be intimidated by the men and women who find joy spending hours in the kitchen making things I've never dreamed possible.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reflecitons on whole food month

July 1. Welcome back coffee creamer. And diet soda. And poptarts (for the kids).

Did we make it the whole month...well, not 100%, but we really did eat whole foods 80% of the time, which is actually quite an accomplishment when you really look at all that we consider "food", but it's actually a highly processed food like substance (some of which I love dearly). A few thoughts I have after our experiment:

1. Store bought bread is simply a way to eat the toppings. Homemade bread is an experience all its own. Yes, I made my own bread...several times. And after a few so-so loaves I found a recipe I really liked and didn't take much time. But for now we are going back to store bought bread...mainly because we are trying to sell our house so the extra mess and equipment is a bit too much.

2. Eating healthier generally takes more time...prepping veggies, fruits, and other parts of a meal takes longer than opening a bag of chips or fruit snacks. And for the nutritional and taste benefit, the time is worth it. But I do empathize with busy families that have a hard time finding the time to prepare meals from whole foods. My best advice is to find nutritional whole food recipes and preparation techniques that are quick and tasty. Set aside an hour once a week to wash and cut fruits and veggies for quick use.

3. All or nothing thinking is my enemy. I talked about this in my last post, but it is still true. The last two days of the month were again highly processed food days due to poor planning on my part. I felt discouraged and thought I may as well throw up my hands and go stock up on fruit snacks, corn dogs, and oreos. It would be easier. But then my five year old said "mom, I want to eat mostly healthy foods so I can be healthy for kindergarten." Success. We've emphasized healthy foods while also not demonizing foods that are not nutritious. They are sometime foods. Special treats. But they are not evil. I think often when a person adopts a certain dietary plan based on nutrition, moral beliefs, or other reason they start to demonize certain foods...judging others who eat that food or associating guilt with the forbidden food. For me, forbidding certain kinds of foods only makes me want them more and furthers the distorted relationship I have with food.

So where are we going from here? I'm still going to try to keep a majority of our foods unprocessed, but I'm also not going to feel guilty when the kids eat a poptart. But highly processed foods with little nutritional value are going to be reserved for special occassions. Fruit snacks...I'm sorry to tell you that you will only be invited on long car rides and won't be available for daily consumption. Real fruit, you can stay. Cereal Sunday night...sugary cereals will be replaced with Kashi and oatmeal a majority of the time.