Sunday, January 31, 2010

One More Day Of Heavy Cleaning

Today is my last official day of full-time cleaning before I start work tomorrow. And by 'start work', I mean 'actively spend a large portion of the day focusing on writing and Heritage Makers at home in an attempt to make money'.

Upstairs is looking pretty good. Downstairs is in deep peril of not being finished. The laundry/craft room, for instance, hasn't been touched at all. Cleaning out the downstairs closet left A LOT of messy boxes all over the (formerly fairly clean) bar area and family room, and I'm still sorting through the debris. I'd LIKE to have those areas completed by the end of the day, but I've also made peace with it if they're not, because I built time into my work schedule for both maintenance cleaning AND 15 minutes of continued decluttering every day for the areas I didn't finish. It's a small time slot, sure, but as I know from formerly following flylady (don't you love alliteration? I do!), 15 minutes a day can add up to real results sooner than you'd think.

original image by Anne Taintor

So that's my plan. Is there an area of my house you'd like to see? Either to see what kind of progress I've made or to see if I accomplished my goal downstairs? Ask in the comments today and I will check in at 9pm CST... whichever area has the most votes will be photographed and posted tonight.

As a reminder, 'areas' of my house are:

dining room
upstairs bathroom
kids' room
master bedroom
bar area
family room
downstairs closet
downstairs bathroom
laundry/craft room

I suggest you don't ask about the laundry/craft room again simply because you'll get the exact same pictures I posted last time. Seriously, it doesn't look different AT ALL. (Also, I won't be touching my garage until after the laundry/craft room, but since I don't think I've posted pictures of it, if you want to see it, that's your call.)

Anything else is fair game!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cooking With Kids

Try it some time. They're delicious!

No, no; I jest. I've never tried children. ("It's a cookbook! A COOKBOOK!")

I HAVE, however, had children assist me with cooking - many times. I've mentioned before on this blog how much my kids like to help me in the kitchen; my daughter in particular. They've been doing it since they were able to pull themselves up on the kitchen stool, and truth be told they're still wee little bits - at 5 and 3 years of age, cooking with my kids is often a challenge. They can't do many of the tasks yet - chopping, dicing, touching raw meat, measuring, pouring correctly, stirring anything that requires precision or actual WORK, putting things in the oven, taking things out of the oven, slaving over a hot stove - yeah. There's not much they CAN do safely or accurately yet. Even the tasks they ARE able to accomplish - pouring in certain ingredients, light stirring - often result in spills, slops, dumps, and extra things (dish soap, anyone?) being added when my back is turned. Cooking with kids is often a supremely frustrating experience.

"helping" me bake the lamb cake last Easter (ages 4 and 2). They could still both share the stool. Barely.

Despite the added hassle, I believe it is a very valuable experience for them. Of supreme importance in their young lives, even. And that is why I keep doing it. That is why I set that damn stool up in my tiny, tiny kitchen over and over, knowing full well I'm going to trip over it 50 times, every time they come running in and squeal "Mommy! Are you cooking? I want to cook with you!" Here are just some of the benefits of cooking with your kids:

1) They learn, from an early age, that food is not 'magic' in that it does not appear out of nowhere. This is an invaluable learning experience - teaching them about the individual ingredients you're using, where they come from, how they got to you, and how they change as you combine them with each other IS a sort of magic.

2) Being able to cook for themselves is a valuable life skill. Have you ever dated someone who lived on take-out or macaroni and cheese and PB&J's? Would you rather date that person or the one that can whip up a mean lasagna and garlic cheese bread on the fly? My kids will never have to rely on other people to cook for them, or rely on bland processed foods as dietary staples.

3) Kids want nothing more than to spend time with you (at least, when they're young). Cooking together will build lifelong memories of good times with Mom (or Dad) in the kitchen. I still look back fondly at Sunday "pancake" mornings with my Daddy. Create cooking rituals with your kids. You won't regret it.

4) Kids are naturally curious and creative. Cooking gives them an outlet and allows them to explore their passions, safely, with your supervision.

5) When you have to make dinner, and you're the only adult home, it's much easier to involve your kids than to send them off to watch TV or entertain themselves... it might make your job a little harder, but they're WITH YOU and not off, say, pouring water into the computer. (My son actually did that. He doesn't have a computer anymore.)

There are other reasons too, that's just what I came up with off the top of my head. I just think that food created with love and laughter tastes better. There are times when I am in a hurry, or I'm making a precise dish, and the kids are underfoot and I get frustrated, and I kick them out. It's true. I'm not perfect. (You're shocked, I know.) But more often than not, I include them. And I try to make it a positive, fun experience. And more often than not, I find that not only are they having fun... I am having fun too.

Today Oksana and I cooked dinner. It was a "take things in the house, combine them in some fashion, hope it tastes good" dinner (another valuable thing to teach them; you don't always have to follow a recipe to create something fantastic. Cooking is all about experimentation, and often it's more forgiving than you'd think!). We combined chicken, mushrooms, bacon, feta cheese, garlic, and some liquids (cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, butter) and baked them all together. (It was delish, but I'm not posting the recipe yet because it needs a little tweaking.) She helped me wash the mushrooms, put them in the pan after I sliced them, and sprinkled the feta cheese. She ate her first raw mushroom (ANOTHER reason to include them - exposure to new foods, AND they're more likely to try them and get excited about it if they helped create the dish).

As we were getting started, shortly after she climbed up on the stool, she asked me what we were making and I told her what I was thinking about doing. "Doesn't that sound yummy?" I asked her.
"Yeah!" she exclaimed. "I love cooking with you, Mommy! I'm gonna do dis when I have babies. An' I'm gonna make dis, dis chicken and mushrooms and bacon, when I'm a growed-up."

And THAT is why I cook with my kids.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Almost Here...

So, a (group) great idea (actually a couple of great ideas combined) last night has lead me to being ridiculously overexcited, once again, about launching a new blog and I want to zOMG GET STARTED RIGHT AWAY! But I want to really be COMMITTED to the new blogs I launch (as well as my blogs currently in existence), and as such I am waiting until February to get them going. It's only a week away but boy howdy is it ever hard when you're overexcited!

In other news... February is only a week away?? Holy chips! I thought about my cleaning goals last night and have come to accept that I'm not likely to reach them. I was overambitious. I always am. The good news is that I know I can get the 'house' clean (the laundry/craft room is, sadly, a room I sort of don't even consider part of the 'house' since we don't use it hardly at all, and haven't for years). I am reasonably certain I can even make good headway in the laundry/craft room. I do not think I'm going to get to the garage. Not only is it a NIGHTMARE out there, worse even than the laundry/craft room... I only have a week to get the rest of this stuff taken care of, AND it's JANUARY. In CHICAGO. And my garage is OUTSIDE. (And detached, which makes it even colder.) I'm not saying I'm going to ignore it completely... but I won't be heartbroken if I don't hit my self-imposed time limit either. I'm not giving up, mind you! But I know it's going to be rough. Especially since I have a PTA newsletter to write and publish, some work to do on the family reunion I'm planning this year, and we're having a play date this Saturday, then going out with friends, so pretty much all of Saturday is lost.

I need to take a little time to think about how I'm going to schedule my days once February starts. I need to make time for my maintenance cleaning... I will need to make a little time for further decluttering of the laundry/craft area and garage (I may adopt the Flylady technique of '15 minutes decluttering a day'... slow and steady)... I want to make time for Heritage Makers, for writing (blogs AND my novel), and for spending time with the kids / family. That may not sound like a lot of things, but I can easily spend a LOT of time on any ONE of those items. Scheduling and time management has always been tricky for me.

It's almost February! Be on the alert for some exciting new things from me in the coming weeks :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Craft Room? More Like CRAP Room!

I knew when I opened myself up to scrutiny that some things would be painful. But I promised full disclosure, I did! I also knew that when I invited you to ask me to see some of my rooms, inevitably the ONE room I hate/fear the most, the one room that is going to be most difficult for me, the one room that I haven't even attempted to tackle in years - THAT would be the room you'd most want to see.

My laundry / craft room is the room that, assuming I stick to my schedule today, I will start tackling tomorrow. This room fills me with anxiety not only because it is so full of stuff that the task is daunting, but also because I have a real phobia about spiders, and i KNOW there are some lurking in there. Of course the weekend is over after today, which means my husband is back to work tomorrow, which means I am all alone during the days. No one to help me battle this complete and irrational terror. It's going to be really hard, and people, I've only given myself three days to complete this room. This will require Herculean effort and strength of will on my part. So, feel free to ask me again mid-week to see this room, and we'll see where I'm at.

In the meantime, here it is. Photo AND video.

When you first walk in, you can see the washer and dryer. We've talked about moving them over to the far right wall and making a better working area for the laundry, but then my 'craft' area would be here, and I just don't know which is better for me yet. I guess cleaning out the room is the first step, then finishing it off, and then we can figure out placement of everything.

To your left, we have: water heater. Furnace. Cat litter box and food area. Fridge/freezer we haven't opened for a long time. White shelving units that have been piled up with crap. Laundry sorting bins.

I have a dream of maybe making this my 'disaster preparedness' storage area, for extra food and supplies, so we will be ready to face the Zombie Armageddon when it comes.

To the right, we have my 'craft' area. There's a desk in there, somewhere. And lots of craft supplies. In boxes and bags. There's also a whole lot of... crap. I don't even know what's in half of these boxes. This stuff piled up during many 'hide that shit, people are coming over!' cleaning marathons over the years, until it pretty much got full, and then we've just... left it.

More of that crap to the right, and another shelving unit that's full of crap.

And if the pictures weren't enough... here's a video tour for you to, erm, enjoy.

Like I said, feel free to ask me about this room mid-week, or a week from now. Hopefully the situation in here will be VASTLY improved.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Do You Want To See?

So I've been thinking about offering up an extra 'feature' (heh) on my blog. I'm still struggling with disorganization, but lately I've been treating 'getting the house organized' as a full time job (more or less), and I've set a lot of self-imposed deadlines that will, if followed, ultimately get me to a clean and organized home by the end of the month.

We've come pretty far. I'm actually, at this moment, on track and on schedule. Tomorrow's tasks are going to be a little dicey, time wise, but I'll give it my best effort.

At any rate, in the interest of complete disclosure, and as an additional incentive to clean my house and KEEP it clean... I'm inviting you all to be drop-in guests, anytime, as it were. Anytime you feel like it, drop in on my latest post and ask me to see a certain room / area of my house. When I get the comment, I will comply with a picture and/or video post of said area WITHOUT CHANGING THE CONDITION OF SAID AREA FIRST. Hopefully it'll give me a little incentive to keep up with the work I've done and to finish getting everything organized too! And if it's been a while and you've been wondering 'hey, did she ever finish that laundry room?' (NO) or 'hey, I wonder if they can finally use their downstairs bathroom?' (YES) - just ask!

So here are the 'areas' of my house. Some have been tackled, some are in progress, some haven't been touched in months, maybe years.

Dining Room
Upstairs Hall / Pantry
Upstairs Bathroom
Master Bedroom
Kids' Bedroom
Stairwell / Back Entry
Bar Area
Family Room
Downstairs Bathroom
Laundry /Craft Room

Tonight I invite you all to vote on which area you'd most like to see, and I will post it in the morning once we're all up and moving (so probably lunchtime. We're not exactly morning people.).

And in the future, feel free to comment spontaneously and say "Hey, show me your ____ (room, people!)".

Friday, January 22, 2010

storage solutions

It's "show us your..." day over at Saucy Dwellings, and today it's saucy storage solutions! How coincidental; I've just been working on storage solutions for my home myself. I don't know if these exactly qualify as 'saucy' but this is what I posted in the comments on their blog:

Storage and organization is a HUGE issue for me, I'm terrible at it. I'm in the process of trying to give my home an organizational overhaul right now, actually. We're a family of four in a small 2-bedroom ranch house, AND I'm a packrat (*cough* slight hoarder *cough*) so I really need creative storage solutions. Here's a few things I've come up with so far.

I like things that have dual purposes, so that's what I'm really trying to look for when I pick storage containers.

My bedroom:
This is my bedside table. It's an old school desk I had when I was a kid; you can still see remnants of the Pac-Man and Flintstones stickers I used to 'decorate' it long ago! I repurposed it to be a nightstand / jewelery / dressing table. My jewelery box and a few larger accessories are perfect for displaying on top...

... and all those little boxes and large pieces fit perfectly inside, yet I still have enough room to peer in and find what I'm looking for. Though I may get some dividers in the future (I just set this up two days ago, heh.)

Kids' Bedroom:
Stuffed animals are the bane of my existence, I swear! but the kids are really attached to them. This old shelving unit (that previously housed a big stereo system and CD's for us) ended up being perfect for the critters, which previously lived in my children's beds. Which meant my kids were sleeping ON animals all the time, and it was really immensely difficult to change the sheets.
I also went out last weekend and bought a bunch of those plastic Sterilite stackable drawers at Target, because we were overrun with toys. There's another 'unit' just like this on the other side of the room. They're colorful and sturdy, perfect for kid-stuff storage. They're also a pretty good size, and only $8 a piece! I used my labelmaker, labeled each drawer with a category of toy... and so far, the kids have been REALLY good about keeping their room picked up (they are 3 and 5). I've also found that they are PLAYING with their toys a lot more, and they seem to have a lot more fun when they can find the toys they want. They've thanked me no less than ten times in the past week for doing this. I guess cleaning really IS a good thing! LOL As a bonus, I get to store stuff on top of these 'units' that I don't want my kids playing with quite yet.

Our Dining Room / Entryway:
Unfortunately our front door comes right into the dining room. No foyer, no mudroom, nowhere convenient to put hooks or coatracks or anything. Enter my grandmother's cedar chest.

Not only is it nice and deep and perfect for holding all our winter gear, it also provides extra seating for the room AND it's the perfect place for the kids to sit and put on boots / shoes.

It actually has some really gorgeous copper 'buckles' but they are currently being stored in my closet because I don't believe they'd outlast my kids and dogs, heh.

And so that's it. I'm still doing some major overhauling of the house, things are looking good, and I've been trying to work up to a post about all the work I've been doing. Unfortunately I'm also on a tight (self-imposed) schedule so I haven't exactly made the time to sit here and update in a while. (But expect more house posts in the near future!)

ALSO-also, we just got a new camera and I'm still trying to figure out how to take good pictures with it. And the self-imposed tight schedule hasn't afforded me a whole lot of time to read up on it OR play around with it.

Tonight is Oksana's preschool 'winterfest' program; you know, the thing all preschoolers do around the holidays (or not, this year, since they wanted to be PC I guess) where they get together and sing cute songs and all we parents go and ooh and aah at our little stars and starlets? Yeah, that. Wish me luck that I will have mastered the camera enough to get some decent pictures tonight!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Death Spasm Party

I don't often videoblog, largely because I tend to be much better at writing stories than relaying them orally. However, my friend Melly videotaped me telling this story that I LOVE when we were at the Golden Nugget the other day. So I stole the video from her and am uploading it for your viewing pleasure. Prepare to be horrified at the terrible state in which I let myself leave the house.

This story took place in the summer of 2003. For a long time we referred to it as the Jackopede of DOOOOOM story, so named due to the Michael Jackson Thriller-esque dance moves that Caitlin and I would bust out whenever we tried to explain the frantic spasms of the millipede. I was seated during this performance of the story, so there was less frantic spasming on my part; let's just title it Kristi And Caitlin VS The Thousand-Legger.

And just because I can... here's a photo of Caitlin re-enacting the Jackopede Dance of DOOOOM a few months after the original event took place.

The smackdown took place in that very living room, just a few feet from where Caitlin is standing. Back in my Apartment of Solitude, the only apartment that was MINE ALL MINE (even though I had three different friends pass through as short term 'roommates' throughout the time I lived there, and it was wonderful to have their company for as long as they wanted to stay!). God I miss that place sometimes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Onions Don't Make My Girl Cry!

Me: chops onions for dinner.
Oksana: "Mommy are you making dinner? Let me see! Let me see!"* drags chair in from the dining room so she can stand by the counter; climbs up to put her face right by the onions.
Me: "Honey, back up a bit. These onions are going to make you cry."
Oksana: "what? what you say?"
Me: "I said, the onions will make you cry. They do that."
Oksana: incredulously: "onions? Make you cry?" Oksana rubs her eyes. "No they won't!"
Me: "Yes, baby, they do. Well, they make your eyes water anyway." Oksana rubs her eyes again, at the same time shaking her head 'no' like I'm totally making this up in some elaborate plot to get her out from underfoot. "They have a chemical in them that is released into the air when you chop them, and it irritates your eyes and makes you cry."
Oksana shakes her head and rubs her eyes again. I can see from the side that they're getting pretty red.
Oksana: "uh uh! They DO NOT!"**
Me: "OK baby. Whatever you say."

She's NOT crying. Not one little bit. :P

*This is a common occurrence in our home. Both kids like to help cook but Oksana is FASCINATED by it. I can't even make a sandwich without her dragging in a chair or stool from some other room of the house so she can watch and ask a million questions about the process. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this kid became a master chef.

** Yes, she's in the F-YOU three's stage.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things Kids Do When No One Is Watching

My five year old son, Drake, got a hold of Photobooth on my Mac the other day when I wasn't around. Here's one of the videos he took of himself. Clearly I am not schooling my children properly in the horror genre - someone needs to tell this kid that zombies eat brains, not ghosts. :)

I love this kid!

happy new year :)


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