Saturday, February 27, 2010

Memory Verse for the week (Feb 28 - Mar 6):

But the end of all things is at hand;
therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
And above all things have fervent love for one another,
for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
I Peter 4:7-8

Spring Cleaning, Week 2 - The Kitchen:

I'm dreading this week. The fact that it took till Friday to get the little bathroom done does not bode well for the rest of the project. There is just SO much to do in a kitchen to really get it clean. I might even have to carry this room over to another week. Here it goes...

  • Wash and put away the dishes that will likely be on the counter
  • Dust the ceiling, corners and light fixture
  • Remove items from cabinets and wipe inside and out
    - Plates/cups cupboard
    - Baking goods cupboard
    - Staples cupboard
    - Spices cupboard
    - Cereal/drinks cupboard
    - Pans/Tupperware cupboard
    - Silverware/Utensil drawers
  • Sort through items, organize and replace in cupboards
  • Clean appliances
  • - Microwave
    - Toaster
    - Fridge
    - Oven/Stove-top
    - Kettle
  • Clean window space and window
  • Clear off countertops, sort through items and replace only what is necessary
  • Clear out cleaning supplies, clean cupboard and organize
  • Clear out catch-all drawer and organize
  • Pull up linoleum in strategic areas to clean underneath (thanks to a clogged washing machine that led to controlled flooding)
  • Scrub down the sink area
  • Sweep floors
  • Mop floors
  • Heave a huge sigh of relief
  • Saturday, February 20, 2010

    I wanted to share two children's books that we have come to love recently. There are not too many books that I enjoy reading over and over (and over) again to my children, but these have been around for a while and are definitely in the category of excellent books for children.

    Wild About Books by Judy Sierra is about a librarian who accidently drives her Book Mobile into the zoo. "In a flash, every beast in the zoo was stampeding to learn all about this new something called reading." Molly, the librarian, finds books to suit each animal's tastes and needs, then teaches them the proper way to handle books. The love of reading leads the animals to write their own books and eventually build their own "Zoobrary." So,

    When you visit the zoo now, you surely won't mind
    If the animals seem just a bit hard to find -
    They are snug in their niches, their nests and their nooks,
    Going wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.

    Tiddler by Julia Donaldson is another favorite. While Julia has written many wonderful children's books including The Gruffalo, I thoroughly enjoyed this story about a little fish who likes to tell tall tales. Tiddler is always late to school, and he always has an elaborate story as an excuse. One day, however, he runs into real trouble and finds himself far from home. He's lost and afraid until he hears a familiar story. By following it back from one sea creature to another, he is able to re-trace his way home again. This book is an excellent read-aloud with its lilting rhythm and the opportunity to use many different voices in the text.

    What have been your favorite children's picture books?

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Memory Verse for the week (Feb 21-27):

    Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.
    1 Samuel 12:24
    Spring Cleaning, Week 1 - The Bathroom (and Hallway Closet)

    Do to the quirky British custom of having a toilet in one room and a sink and bathtub in another, my bathroom cleaning plan might sound a little funny at times. Without further ado and in an order that will NOT be strictly adhered to, I give you THE CHECKLIST:

    1. Dust ceiling and walls of both rooms
    2. Sort through bathroom cabinet and toss excess
    3. Clean cabinet inside and out (and on top)
    4. Organize and clean both window ledges
    5. Sort through bathroom literature and recycle outdated magazines
    6. Organize and clean toiletry hanger in the shower
    7. Clean shower and tub
    8. Wash shower curtain
    9. Clean sink
    10. Clean toilet
    11. Clean ledges behind toilet and sink
    12. Wash rug
    13. Restock toilet paper in basket
    14. Replace old hand towel with a clean one
    15. Take out trash and put in new trash bags
    16. Vacuum the floors
    The more things on my list, the more I get to check off. I feel like singing the Count Dracula's counting song on Sesame Street.

    1. Take all linens out of closet
    2. Wipe down shelves
    3. Vacuum the dust bunnies out of hidden spaces
    4. Sort through linens and eliminate excess
    5. Replace everything in a sensible order
    6. Stand back and survey the work
    7. Sigh with relief - and try not to dread the work that the kitchen will require

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    I thought my husband and I came up with the word "Zenify" to refer to our de-cluttering phases that we go through, but lo and behold, it is already listed in the Urban Dictionary with exactly the same meaning:

    Zenify - v. The process by which one makes one's life less cluttered (ie more zen)

    Oh, well. I guess it wasn't all that clever, really. Even prior to making the final decision to leave China and pursue a PhD, we had started periodically sorting through different areas of the house and getting rid of excess. For us "zenifying" is fairly straight-forward: get rid of anything that is either not used or does not have sentimental/aesthetic value . A few things are allowed into the I-Might-Use-This-Some-Day category, but the mindset behind it all is not "What can I keep?", but rather "What can I do without?"

    Today begins Lent and today begins the process of zenifying my house. I thought I would start nice and easy with the space under the stairs where we keep shoes and coats. "Nice and easy", huh?! I'm glad I chose this place to start because as I went along, I kept finding more and more areas of the hallway that needed cleaning/dusting/sorting, etc... It is a good wake-up call for me to realize what I'm heading into these next 6 weeks of spring cleaning. This is part of the reason that I have chosen to only tackle one area a week. With all the interruptions and extra messes that occur in my daily life, I'll be amazed if I can check off all the boxes by each Friday.

    Speaking of Friday, I will try to get my plan for next week posted in the next couple of days. We are heading to the bathroom and hallway closet and we're going with a checklist in hand. Dust bunnies beware!

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    I've been following Simple Mom's blog for around a year or so now, and I am continually inspired by her encouragement to de-clutter our lives, externally and internally. Just recently Simple Mom has revealed a new project called Simple Living Media. This website will combine the efforts of Simple Mom and Simple Kids and add three more: Simple Bites, Simple Homeschooling and Simple Organic. As part of their launching, each of the individual sites will be offering give-aways. Of course I would love to own any one of the items they are giving away, and I'm sharing the good news both to encourage people to head over to their sites and check it out as well as, selfishly, adding my name to the pot one more time for the big prize draw. Follow the links below to read more about them:

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Lent is just about a week away and it is time for me to start getting ready. I wrote about Lent last year explaining my position and practice and then later reflected on what I learned about myself. This year I plan to observe this time period again, but with a few additions.

    My focus will be Spring Cleaning... physically, spiritually and household-ly, or to nicely alliterate: Health, Heart and Home.

    Lent starts February 17th (Ash Wednesday) and continues just over 6 weeks until Easter Sunday. My plan is still evolving, but I've come up with a few ideas that I'm excited about.

    Health - As usual, I will stop eating desserts/sweets. It seems like such a good time of year to detox the body from holiday and winter feasting to prepare for the freshness of spring. This year, however, I hope to take on another challenge. The big push here in the UK is to eat "5-A-Day". By that they mean we should strive to eat five fruit and vegetable servings in a day. The bar is not too high - juice can count as one portion. But, in all reality, I'm not sure if I actually do eat that much in a day. I want to take a week during the Lent period to focus on intentionally serving "5-A-Day" to my family and see if there is a significant change from our typical weekly diet.

    Heart - I would like to chose 6 verses for the six weeks of Lent to meditate on and memorize. I hope to focus particularly on verses that pertain to my role of homemaker. As part of this, I will post them around the house in places that I often look to help me dwell on God's truths throughout the week.

    Home - Somehow my urge to spring clean always seems to come long before spring. While technically spring cleaning should probably take place after Easter, I have decided that Lent is the perfect time to clean out the clutter and dirt from the months of being house-bound. I have a six-week plan for this as well that I will go into more detail about later. In brief, I will chose one room to focus on for each week: bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, kids bedrooms, and master bedroom. My goal will be to get rid of everything that is unnecessary and clean/organize everything else. I'm a huge fan of Simple Mom and she has many good tips for de-cluttering your life as well as a 2-week spring cleaning party that she hosted last year.

    I'm excited. I'm ready. Care to join me?

    Photo from

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    I grew up being taught that there was two ways to thicken up sauces, soups, gravies... 1) Flour and 2) Cornstarch.

    My mom always said Flour = Cold; Cornstarch = Hot. That means, you use flour at the beginning of the recipe in melted butter or sprinkled on potatoes, apples, etc. As it gets hot, it then starts to thicken the liquids. Cornstarch, on the other hand, was mixed into cold water and once the recipe was boiling, the mixture was slowly poured in. This was a general rule, not to be followed religiously.

    In the last few years, however, I have discovered a new trick that works wonderfully for thickening chili* and spaghetti sauce**: Cornflour (or Polenta or cornmeal, depending on where you are from). If your spaghetti sauce has turned out too soupy, toss in a couple tablespoons of cornmeal and it soaks the liquid right up, giving the dish a nice, thick consistency without any change in flavor.

    * aka: Chili con Carne
    ** more properly referred to as Bolognese sauce

    Photo from