Friday, July 31, 2009

Cleaning Buddies

You know those nights. The kids are in bed, there's laundry, dishes, and housework to be done and you're just too tired and unmotivated to do it. For me, I always find my way to the internet. Anyone else fall into that trap?

Tonight my friend and I did something that worked for us, so I thought I'd share. We talked at about 9pm tonight and agreed to call each other back in a half hour. We told each other exactly what we were going to clean during those 30 minutes, and then reported back to each other. It worked so well we did another half hour.

Tonight I went from having absolutely zero motivation to do anything to accomplishing quite a bit. I did two loads of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, loaded the dishwasher, tidied and wiped down my kitchen countertops, swept and mopped my floors, vaccuumed my baseboards, and cleaned off my desk. Not bad for an hour, huh?

So you can't have my cleaning buddy because she's mine, but if this sounds like something that would work for you, find one of your own! Call someone who can motivate you, and tell them to check back with you in a half hour. Then give them your list of 2-3 things you're going to work on and get going! The embarrassment of telling someone you just spent the half hour on Facebook instead of accomplishing what you wanted to do just may be incentive enough to get you cleaning! Have fun!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Organized Pantry

Before we bought this house this past May, I never had a real pantry that I had room to organize the way I wanted to. I always tell people that the pantry is what sold me the house. While that's mostly a joke, it definitely has some truth to it! This pantry is very large, about 6 feet x 9 feet. So far, there is only shelving on 2 of the walls, but I could easily put up shelving on the other wall if I needed/wanted to.

It's taken me a few weeks to figure out the best way to organize it. I just re-did it again, for the second time since moving in, last week. I'm happier with it this way than I was before, but I'm still not sure it's *quite* right. Even so, I thought I'd share my method so far.

Here's the view of the whole pantry from the laundry room

To your right when you first walk in the pantry there is a little nook area. I decided that was the perfect spot for the trash can, and then I had my husband install a utility bar where I keep my ironing board, broom and our aprons. I also store my vacuum and mop right there. The steam cleaner isn't usually there (it's normally in the garage), but I had to use it the other day and need to use it again, so it's staying for now.

The top shelf on the back wall is where I keep all the non-food items -- toilet paper, paper plates, napkins, etc. I put them on the top because they're not things I need every day. Plus, I'm short, and I didn't those types of things taking up space on the shelves I could reach. The next shelf down is for all my baking supplies. The plastic tubs with yellow lids we just got at Sam's Club last week, and I'm in love. They're all labeled -- the first one is all-purpose flour, then bread flour, then granulated sugar, then brown sugar. You can see another large one on the bottom right of the picture. That one will be filled with pancake mix (so all I have to do is mix the wet ingredients when we want pancakes -- huge time saver!) once I get a chance to fill the darn thing. The next shelf down is for all the cereals and bread. I debated putting it up higher so it was out of the kids' way, but then I realized I want them to learn to be a little self-sufficient (i.e. be able to pour their own cereal in the morning so I can sleep in!). The bottom shelf is for all the heavier bulk items, like large bags of flour, potatoes, onions, etc. I originally had those items on the top shelf, but it was kind of a pain (literally!) trying to get a heavy bag of flour down, so I decided the bottom shelf would be best.

Moving on to the right. The top on this side we have reserved for all the snack foods -- soda, granola bars, Ritz, etc. I even have to keep the apples up there, otherwise my kids will eat them all in one sitting. The next shelf is for pastas and rice. That tall container is labeled for spaghetti noodles, the one next to it is for egg noodles, then the container to the far right is for jasmine rice. On that container, I also taped the directions for cooking the rice right below the label. The next shelf down is for all my canned products -- fruits, then beans, then soups, then veggies, tomato products, then ethnic stuff (like refried beans, diced green chilies, coconut milk, etc).

This is just a continuation of that same shelf. At the top on the right is where I keep the litter box scooper (obviously that's not something I want the kids to play with!) and the bulk bag of cat food. Next to the rice on the second shelf is where I keep all the oils and vinegars. Then on the next shelf there's the continuation of the cans. The very bottom is for the kitty litter. The container you can barely see on the bottom right is where I store cat food (it's a pour container I can use to refill their feeder so I don't have to open the huge bag all the time).

So that's that! Did I bore you to death? ;) I think the fact that I'm excited to show off my pantry proves that I'm an organizing freak-of-nature! lol.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Homemade Baby Food

Making your own baby food is really not as hard as it sounds. I discovered the art of making homemade baby food after buying jar baby food for my twins for about a month. They were big eaters, so the cost of buying jar upon jar of food was getting a bit ridiculous. I decided to look into making my own and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was and how good it made me feel as a Mom. I'm now am on my third baby and have made all of his food thus far. He's been a huge eater as well, so I feel good knowing that I've saved us a little money by taking the time to make my own. Not only that, but I think the food tastes better and has higher nutritional value.

The best website out there (in my opinion), that will walk you through every step and detail is:

They've got instructions on how to make and freeze your food, details on what's appropriate for each stage/age, recipes for all kinds of baby and toddler finger foods, and much more. I am particular fond of the Sweet Potato Fries in the Baby Finger Foods section of the website.

For any Mom's out there that have thought about trying to do it, I say go for it! There is a bit of a learning curve the first couple of times you do it, but after you get the hang of it it's really slick. Give it a try and have fun!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I know we've already had two chicken recipes, but this is too good not to share. This recipe is courtesy of my friend Brooke, who served it on my first night visiting her in Texas. I believe we each had two burritos, then put some over chips for nachos, then proceeded to eat it straight with our forks. It's that good.

4-6 chicken breasts
1 jar salsa (any kind)
1-2 c. brown sugar (I use 2 c.)

Throw it all in the crockpot and let cook. Shortly before serving, take the chicken out and shred it, then throw it back in to let it soak up the juices.

My favorite way to eat this is wrapped in a tortilla with sour cream and cheese (no veggies to distract from the deliciousness). But it's also good over nachos, with sour cream and guacamole. My much-healthier friend Rachelle also claims it's good over salads, but I'll just trust her on that one.

I serve this often and get asked for the recipe every single time. I know you think you've had this if you've had chicken and salsa in the crockpot, but trust me it's much, much better with the brown sugar.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crockpot Balsamic Chicken

This is my husband's favorite crockpot recipe! It is classy, simple and really tasty. I promise I'll post more unique Crockpot recipes in days to come!

Crockpot Balsamic Chicken

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Halves – approx. 1.5 to 2 lbs.

½ C. Olive Oil

½ - 1 C. Balsamic Vinegar – depending on how tangy you like the recipe

1 large can of diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

3-4 cloves of garlic minced or pressed

2 t. crushed dry oregano

Combine all ingredients in Crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and serve chicken and sauce over rice or angel hair pasta. The consistency and taste of the sauce is sweet and tangy like an Italian barbeque sauce.

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Chicken Lime Tostada Recipe

We love this recipe in our family. It's super easy to make, tastes out of this world and makes enough to have leftovers the next night. It's a light and summery type of recipe too, with very little cooking required (perfect for hot days). I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Salad/Chicken Mix
3 cups chicken, shredded (You can use canned white chicken for a time saver and it still tastes delicious)
4 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 small carrot, shredded/grated
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Combine 1st 4 ingredients together in a large bowl and toss w/ Lime Dressing (below). Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Lime Dressing
2 TB fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp grated lime peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil

Now assemble your tostadas with your favorite Mexican food toppings.

I layer mine as follows:

  • Crunchy Tostada Shell (cook per the instructions on the box - I put a picture below of what these look like at the store, sometimes they can be hard to find)

  • Refried Beans (I warm mine up in the microwave for a minute or two)

  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese

  • Salad/Chicken Mixture from above

  • Sour Cream

  • Guacamole or fresh cut avocados

  • Salsa (if you have time, make your own pico de gallo)

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Catching Up!

Do you ever feel like you can't keep up? Like you're always a step behind? That's how June has been for me. I've been running around like crazy and it seems we're home long enough to make a big mess, but not to clean it up!? get things back in order I like to set my timer. I'll pick a room and set the timer for 10, 20 or 30 minutes (depending on the severity of the situation! :) ) and get busy. I'm able to make each room look "company ready" in a short period of time, even if I have to put the deep cleaning off for a day or two! This trick helps me to stay on top of the house when life gets really busy! And it helps me maintain my sanity! I really hate it when the house is a mess! So...Ready...Set...GO!!

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