el's rabbit trails, family life, Homemaking stuff, Kitchen tips, Life hacks

Friday Frivolities 14: Getting it done.

This week was a productive one, which I needed. Getting onto a regular schedule where things get done -at least the way I am used to getting them done- has been a challenge since the we enrolled in a program to supplement our home school curriculum. The interruption from Hurricane Irma was also a derailing factor.

The school workload, particularly for our 11-year-old, is much heavier this year,  requiring more one on one time with her. It’s been a great experience so far, and we are getting acquainted with some phenomenal families, but it’s still an adjustment. In particular, being out of the house twice a week requires better time usage at home.

As I was contemplating these things I ran across a book in -where else?- our local library. The book is The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the age of Information Overload.

I wasn’t 100 pages in when I was inspired to reorganize spaces in our house which were long overdue for an overhaul. The less time I spend looking for things that should be easy to find, the easier it is to stay on task. I got the master bath done this week, overhauled the schedules to accommodate our new commitments, and reorganized the pantry.

Ignore the microwave popcorn…

With two spaces down, and at least 5 to go before month’s end, I’ve only scratched the surface, but it’s under way. Next up are the baking cabinets, storage container cabinet, and linen closet. This, even though I just did the linen closet a few weeks ago. Funny, that.

We’re still on our Whole 30 reset, which went uninterrupted because we miraculously never lost power during Hurricane Irma. For some reason, this past week I got a real hankering for some mozzarella, which is of course off limits on Whole 30. So I made a vegan, fake substitute from this recipe I found at The Minimalist Baler. The food crowd in our house is a tough crowd, and everyone gave the “cheese” a thumbs up for mouth feel and close enough flavor. I am very proud. I didn’t think to take pictures.

The general idea here is to get a lot of things under way in time to switch to holiday shopping at the beginning of October. We’ll see how it goes, but evry small hurdle instills confidence for the next one, so I think things are well in hand.

I certainly hope so, since I am considering adding yet another iron to the fire, a freelance gig that, should it work out, will be another ball to juggle but it’ll be an enjoyable one.

And I may be able to pick up my reading pace as an added bonus.

Have a great weekend!



Common sense, Life hacks, real living in a virtual world, Uncategorized

Friday Frivolities 11: Proper focus edition.

I was thinking about modern life, and how to enjoy our novel conveniences and creature comforts without internalizing the worst traits modernity opens the door to.

For example, being healthy and fit is good. Health is not a frivolous pursuit. Being obsessed with health and fitness to the point of obsession, however, reduces it to vanity and creates a frivolous pursuit of perfection at the expense of dealing with weightier matters Hearthie dropped a few links in the comments sextion recently which brought this to the forefront of my thinking.

The Dreamstress offered two posts exploring the shifts in what was considered the “ideal figure” in generations past. You can take a look at those here and here. As I read through them, looking at the advertisements and pictures, it struck me that most every one of the body types offered as ideal were within striking distance of most of women simply through eating moderate amounts of real, fresh, food, and eschewing junk food. In addition, by just avoiding a sedentary life; not sitting around all the time.

Today’s ideal however, is out of reach for most normal men and women without copious amounts gym time and usually cutting out whole food groups (cookies are not a food group). In other words, it requires that we spend a lot of time thinking about things that we wouldn’t have had to think about so much in a different time and place.That’s not an indictment of any person’s chosen path to good health. After all I’m starting a Whole 80 myself this month. I am just as modern as the next person, but it still strikes me more and more recently.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the culture of distraction. It started as I read Magistra’s posts (here and here) on the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport. That book is on its way to my house as I type. I hope. I also picked up The Organized Mind during my recent library trip. I guess it’s obvious that clarity of mind is on my list of things to discover and/or recapture.

In the meantime, Hearthie shared this video with me which -in about 20 minutes- offers a Cliff’s notes version of Deep Work with strategies we can start today:

Have a great weekend!

Common sense, healthy living, Life hacks

Moderation- in moderation- is better than extremes.

I was reading Hearth’s Unified Field Theory: Food this morning and it was s reminder to me of why moderation -in moderation- is best. She is about to embark on one of my favorite dietary resets (the Whole30) and so writes a bit about her philosophy of food and health.

I don’t think that the ideal involves us making food an idol, either.   And I’m not even saying everything in moderation – I think differently.  I think we should have feasts, and special times to enjoy the most wonderful flavors and sensory experiences that we can conjure up.   But I believe that we should SHARE those experiences so that we enjoy them for a moment, and then that moment is over.

Bad food is like wearing weights.  You don’t want to burden yourself with the bad stuff on the regular, you don’t want to eat party food on the daily.  On the day to day, you want to eat good food that makes you feel incredible, that makes you feel strong and smart and clear and light.

Whatever that prescription is for you, that’s what you should eat.   And you should drink lots of clean water, avoid other chemicals as you can, put clean things on your skin and hair – do as much good for yourself as you can.

I like this approach, as it mirrors my own approach to health and fitness. The older I get, the more I recognize the inherent problem with conflating what works for me into a bedrock principle which everyone else must follow. I’m referring to practical matters here, rather than issues of morality and faith.

There are actually lots of Biblical examples to confirm my understanding of this idea, and I have resolved to one day compile them all since this seems to be such a terribly difficult thing for most Christians to process and internalize. It won’t be today though, as I am thinking more about the practical application of the snippet I posted from hearth’s post.

She is right that there are times when moderation in “all things” needs to be set aside, although these times are to be the exception rather than the rule. Daily feasts necessarily diminish the significance of a feast in the first place. I suspect this is why we see so much dissatisfaction, snark, and general disdain surrounding times and seasons that once were universally considered times of great joy.

When the Elder Brother’s* father killed the fatted calf for his reclaimed son, it was noteworthy because it was not something they did every day, even though the father with his wealth, certainly might have been able to enjoy a fated calf more than once in a great while. This is one of the ways we approach certain foods in our house.

Because the craving for a sweet, fatty treat is pretty easily sated in our culture (we have 4 Publix supermarkets within 10 minutes of our home), we have resolved that unless we want it enough to get in the kitchen and prepare it ourselves from scratch, we don’t really want it. With a few exceptions, this easily limits cookies, cakes or pies to a weekend treat, usually Sundays.

This is easily transferred to just about anything, not just sweets. Fried chicken, french fries (which need to be cut, then soaked in ice water, and deep fried twice to get the fast food effect), or any number of foods that would require a fair amount of time and effort to prepare at home.

Imagine if everyone had this limitation (like many of our grandparents did!). We’ve taken this approach with a lot of foods over the years and it dramatically increases the propensity to just grab a banana when we get hungry.  And then, when we get around to baking a treat, we enjoy it all the more.

Moderation in most things -in moderation- is a good rule of thumb.

*This parable has been forever transformed in my mind to the Story of the Elder Brother, rather than the parable of the Prodigal Son, and this is why.




healthy living, Life hacks, Uncategorized

Life Hacks #2: home gym circuit

Note: If you’re a person who decorates with a lot of knick knacks or don’t have at least one room in your house with a lot of space, this may not work.

We have considered joining a gym several times over the years. There are several near our home and a couple of them would be easy to join without breaking the bank. The problem is that our life and schedule doesn’t offer the consistency I prefer to be able to get to the gym every day. I went to a really great boot camp workout group that meets once a week, but it was far and once again our schedule interfered with my ability to continue going.

However, we have a lot of exercise equipment in our house, and it occurred to me recently that we could do a rough approximation of what we did at the boot camp workout right here at home.

What we (my 3 big girls and I) did was set up 6 stations in various spaces of the front living room, which is tastefully but pretty sparsely decorated. The stations were:

  • Battle ropes (use husband’s 100lb dumbbells as anchor)
  • Abs
  • Squats
  • Jumping jacks
  • Biceps
  • Triceps

Each station was set up with two sets of dumbbells or kettle bells to accommodate various strength levels. There’s a mat set up in the abdominals corner. Everyone starts at a different station, and you go around the room from one to the other until you’ve done 3 full circuits. It takes about 30 minutes, and we’re done by 6:30 AM.

If you don’t have the space (backyard or patio can work, too) or the equipment, it just might be easier to go to the gym. I just don’t have room in my life for that at the moment.

Homemaking stuff, Kitchen tips, Life hacks

Life Hacks #1

There are a lot of things I wish I would have figured out sooner that save time and money. Thankfully, the Benevolent Dictator is always one step ahead of me on things like that, but I’m a quick study and have learned a few things of my own along the way.  Today I have three life-enhancing things that I have found many people don’t know.

Before you replace it, call the manufacturer.

Irons, blow dryers, hand mixers, kitchen faucets, food processor parts and even paint are things that we have either gotten replaced brand new from the manufacturer (if we couldn’t wait) or gotten reimbursement for our purchase price (in other situations such as the paint).

In Home Depot last week, my husband encountered a woman in the store looking for a Moen faucet to replace the one she had that broke. He asked her if she had called Moen, and she didn’t understand why she would do that. Well, almost all Moen faucets have a lifetime warranty. It breaks, you call them, they send you a brand new express mail one free of charge. She had no idea and her faucet was functioning enough that she could wait the three days for the new one.

Oh, the same thing goes for Fitbits. They send you a new one no questions asked if yours break. My SIL had replaced 3 before we learned and told her to stop wasting her money.

Sometimes it’s smarter to buy used.

In our breakfast nook, there was a cute little round dinette table with a glass table and 4 chairs. It was probably time for a new look in there anyway, but to nudge me along into shopping for a table, our 8-year-old broke the glass.

After a couple of weeks of the occasional trudging into furniture stores as we passed them, I settled on a set at Kane’s Furniture and was all set to stop by there on Sunday to buy it and have it delivered to the house.  I need to make a relevant parenthetical detour:

I have something of a *thing* about withholding as many dollars as possible from the consumerist machine. One of the reasons I love online classified sites for everything from homeschool materials to exercise equipment is that each one of those purchases denies the state more sales taxes and the junk consumer good market more dollars. There is only so much one can do in the context of suburban life, but I do what I can, to my husband’s amusements.

So, I was all set to bite the bullet and replace the dining set when my husband was in bed surfing Craiglist, and on the feed popped up a nice looking dining set for $250. It was very similar to the one I was about to buy, so we texted the guy and asked to see it. He agreed and not only was it in excellent condition, but his table was solid wood and much sturdier than the table I was about to spend $599 for:

Excuse the paper towel. I’m shooting this out on the lunch break.

And look! Same chairs:


That was a coup.

Waffle irons are good for more than just waffles:

I really enjoy freshly made hashed brown but in order for me to get them to that perfect crispness, I have to cook them in small batches. For 7 people, that can take longer than I feel like spending on breakfast some mornings. On Saturday, our oldest daughter suggested that we try doing it this way, which wold yield two servings per batch. It worked!


These were very good.

Well, those are my three life hacks from the past week. I also planted several herbs in the holes of painted cinderblocks but until I yield something we can eat using that idea, it doesn’t qualify as worthy of passing on. We’ll see.

Feel free to share any tricks and tips you use that can make life easier.


family life, Life hacks

You make time for those you prioritize.

After hearing the Benevolent Dictator recount the lament of his friend’s vexation that his spoiled college-aged daughter often ignores his phone calls (unless she wants something), I was motivated to remind my own girls of something. It’s one of those common sense things that we all tend to lie to ourselves -and to others- about to some degree, and it’s this:

We make time for the people whose company, time, and opinions we enjoy or value.

Barring rare exceptions, this is simply and unequivocally true.It doesn’t matter how much we say we love someone, or how fervently we proclaim how much they mean to us, the proof of that is revealed in how willing we are to make room for them in our lives.

This seems to be a revelation in 2017, as so many young people brush off interactions and visits with parents, grandparents, and other family members under the guise of “busyness”. These self-same people have endless time to chat with friends from school and work; or at the very least, shoot them a text message. That they don’t understand that this behavior is a revelation of their relational priorities is the conundrum of the day for me.

I have a niece like this as well, so while I can’t appreciate the feeling of having my child ignore my attempts to connect, I do know on a much less emotional level, how annoying this can be. I wasn’t the best at keeping in touch with my grandparents as a teenager, so I get that this is often just part of that age. However, with the now ubiquitous cell phone perpetually glued to the hands of just about anyone under the age of 35, there is really no excuse for a child not to answer the calls of their parents or grandparents.

I’ll take it a step further, even. Our oldest daughter has a standing reservation to chat with her grandmother every Wednesday at 4:30 PM. She almost never misses that date because she set an alarm on her phone to ensure that she doesn’t forget.When she has to miss it, she calls to let her grandmother know that she will be busy and they talk later in the week.

I had such a set up for my aunt a while back -once a month that was- but when I switched phones I never set up the new reminder. With exceptions for holidays, her birthday, and what would be her wedding anniversaries, I usually forget to call her for about 6 weeks at a time. I will set a reminder on my phone to rekindle that habit.

In the unlikely event that you do happen to be so busy that you simply can’t answer a call from your mother or father, or your life is so jam packed you forget to call, make good use of your cell phone and set a reminder to call the people without whom you wouldn’t have life and health. Or friends.

Your willingness to do at least that much is a concrete example for yourself and your family that they are a priority in your life. Remember:

You make time for those you prioritize.



Common sense, healthy living, Homemaking stuff, Life hacks, Uncategorized

Work what works for you.

When I first discovered Christian housewife blogs, there was a lot of stuff our there that seemed to promise that if you just follow the right system, your home would run like a well-oiled machine. There were homemaking binders and systems for sale from just about every one. Even after more than 15 years as a housewife, I still felt inept and wanted to be a productive and orderly wife. The kind God would approve of.

Those ideas spoke to me because there are few things I like more than a good list or supposedly fool proof system. Spontanaiety or flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me. For the sake of balance, God decided to marry me up with a spontaneous guy who occasionally enjoys flying by the seat of his pants. Who says He doesn’t have a sense of humor? Nevertheless, the binders and rigid checklist system didn’t work, not even for me. Our life and schedule simply won’t support extreme rigidity, even when the Benevolent Dictator is not here.

A few years into the homemaking binder craze, there seemed to be something of a backlash against the very idea of the perfectly organized homemaker with her binder which made everything go off without a hitch. In fact, there was a saying floating around: Just do the next thing. Some Chrisitan women were so disgusted by the idea of home run like a professional office job that they began to compare homemaking binders to the law, as described in Galatians 3: They might help as a short term solution for the new homemaker. They can serve as a tutor to help work out some of the kinks, but at some point, we should be doing what we should without rigidity and lists. Some even suggested that the need for lists necessarily defined those who use them as lazy and inept. And so, as much as I hate to admit it,  I bought into the idea that the need for tutors marked me as a spiritually immature homemaker, and committed to staying busy, and trusting that everything would get done.

That didn’t work for me either, and I found myself back to the lists. Even if things go a bit awry from time to time, there is no denying that in our home,  a lot more gets done when I have a list to check off than when I do not. Rigid schedules and homemaking binders aren’t really my thing, but I at least need a loose framework to keep me moving in the right direction. In other words, I didn’t fit neatly into any of the Godly housewife boxes and needed to find what worked for me, my family, and our household.

First up was homeschool, which demands a schedule of some sort if our children were to receive anything resembling an adequate education. And should the county decide to randomly audit me, it can only help to have one. The schedule I have below is detailed, with plenty of time built in to make adjustments as needed for errands, appointments, and outside commitments, which are a requirement in this family. Staying locked inside with only ourselves and our books for company, scrubbing and cleaning in the interim to work our way into a picture perfect place of godliness? My benevolent dictator isn’t having that anyway.


I found this year that one area which I thought I had conquered was not conquered at all. When February 2016 began, I was in the best shape I had been in since I last gave birth 8 years prior. I was about 10 pounds overweight, but I was running, lifting, eating squeaky clean and full of energy, and had been for the better part of a year. A sudden, major and unexpected loss set me off track and by the beginning of February of this year, I had put on 10 more pounds. In a year.

I know my father would want me to follow through and finish the quest for good health that I had begun. He hated the idea of not following through on something.  But quite frankly, I didn’t know how to get back executing what I know. Therefore I made a list, that lays on the countertop, and gets checked off as reminders of the things I want to do to recapture optimal health rather than get caught up on avoiding and thinking about what I can’t have. This is what works for me.


For laundry, I need a schedule. I need to conquer it in bite-sized pieces so that I don’t have what I have on occasion: several loads of washed, dried, unfolded laundry.  And so:


When I have the time to do more than just clean whatever room I am in for the 20 or 30 minutes I have free to do it, I like the lists provided by housewife how-tos. I pull up one of the lists and simply go down it in order for as many minutes as I have to devote to the task at hand.

There are lots of other areas that I might be better served in by making lists or keeping a binder or doing any number of things to keep me doing the “next thing”, but loose roadmap with room for detours and the ability to be of use to someone else rather than a slave to my schedule is what works best for us.

If it hasn’t become apparent yet, learning to live within the reality of my own life and limitations has highlighted for me how important it is for each of us, under the direction of our own husbands, and considering the needs of our own families, to do what works best for us. I am of course referring to practical matters of daily living.

Living as a Christian wife and mother does not mean subscribing mindlessly or slavishly to the dictates of anyone else’s understanding of what it means to be a “godly wife”, “godly woman”, or righteous person. We are called to unity, not uniformity.

You’d be surprised how much you can get done even without living in a way which would get you nominated for the Oppression Olympics. You can have a clean [enough] house, good enough food., educated kids, a godly life, a satisfied man, and still go out for coffee with a friend a couple of times a month. We found our groove, without all the guilt I’d get following the commandments of tose who don’t know anything about me and mine.

Work what works for you.

*All the lists shown are partial and not in their entirety, although none are a mile long.