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Remember Ruthless?  Due to family vacations and a lot of hectic days, the grand unveiling of my “new” mud room/laundry room/pantry has been delayed.  I hope to be able to show Before and After pictures here next week.

It’s been harder than I thought it would be to be ruthless getting rid of things.  While I was able to let go of so many unneeded items, the attachment I have for things I’ve stored to use “someday” has surprised me.  Especially in a big box (ok, several boxes) marked “craft supplies.”  Empty milk cartons and soda bottles, egg cartons and toilet paper rolls, bottle caps and scraps of paper – all things I’ve saved since my son started to color. 

However, I realized that these bulky items I’ve saved (some for over a year now) are in ready supply in our house.  And I can recycle most of these items – or better yet, donate them to the Children’s Museum for their immediate crafting needs! 

Clearing out the spaces those boxes took up has been very freeing, and I realized that I didn’t need to save every egg carton that I emptied – another empty one will be coming soon if I’d like to use it in a craft project.

What are you holding on to that you can let go?  As I said in my first post about this – if you feel like you must keep any items for “someday,” pack them into a box and put them in the attic.  If you haven’t used them in a year, you can let them go for good!

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pureeing avocado in my food mill!

pureeing avocado in my food mill!

I purchased a food mill recently to help make baby food… and it has quickly become my favorite kitchen gadget!

The key thing for me was finding a way to make baby food that was quiet.  My oldest son has hated the sound of a blender since the day he was born – and I did not enjoy having to wait until he was asleep to puree anything. 

Enter the food mill: silent and very efficient!  I have pureed avocado and sweet potato it in for my youngest, and it is a whiz at making mashed potatoes and applesauce for the rest of us!  There are apparently many more uses for it as well – sauces, soups, jams, butters… I can’t wait to try them all!

I had never seen a food mill before I started having children, and now I can’t live with out it.  How about you – what’s your current favorite kitchen gadget?  Or can you share any wonderful food mill recipes that I can try out?  I love finding new gadgets and trying new recipes, so thank you for sharing!

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I made this spinach and artichoke dip recently for a baby shower, and I was reminded again how easy this was to make!  It’s also delicious… I think it’s the reason I was invited to many parties after college (“We’re having a party!  Can you come and bring your dip?”).

Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 1-10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (press all water out of spinach as well)
  • 2-14 oz. cans of quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese

If desired, chop quartered artichoke hearts into smaller pieces.  Combine all ingredients and spread into a baking pan (9×9 inch square or 11×7 inch pan- 13×9 inch pan will work in a pinch; just reduce cooking time).  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until edges are brown.  Serve with crackers or veggies, and enjoy!

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  • Ants really won’t walk across an area sprayed by white vinegar (per me and my recent ant-infestation experience).
  • Nothing fights ants better than an angry man wielding a vacuum cleaner and a can of ant spray (per me and the same experience).
  • You are supposed to get your lawn mower’s blades sharpened once a year (per my Dad).
  • If you have no grass, it really doesn’t matter how often you get your lawn mower’s blades sharpened (per my husband).
  • In the summer, it only takes one day for laundry sitting in the washer to get smelly (per me, again a recent experience).
  • A long wash with color-safe bleach will take away any mildew smells your clothes may have due to sitting a day (or more) in the washer (per me).
  • Not all children’s markers are “washable.”  Make sure you read the label well before you buy a pack of markers for your 2 year old (per me – does anyone have any good tricks for getting black marker off of khakis?).
  • If you step into quicksand, it won’t suck you down. However, your movements will cause you to dig yourself deeper into it. With quicksand, the more you struggle in it the faster you will sink. If you just relax, your body will float in it because your body is less dense than the quicksand (per How Stuff Works – I just thought this was interesting and reassuring to know).

Just some things I’ve learned lately, and I thought I’d share with you!

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I never thought much about planning out my projects until I had children and my projects started piling up. Even when I worked outside the home, I did whatever I wanted to do or needed to do when it needed to be done. If that involved staying late at the office, so be it. At home, if I was working on a craft project and I wanted to continue working on it, I’d stay up late.  I was responsible for myself and didn’t have to concern myself with how my projects impacted others.

Enter the children – my time is no longer my own. Even after their bedtime, my time is consumed with dishes and laundry, menu planning and clutter reduction.  My craft projects have piled up alarmingly. Sewing projects — such as the curtains I promised for a friend, the curtains for my son’s room, all the mending that even my extended family brings to me — knitting projects (don’t even get me started on all the knitted things I was going to make for my youngest before he was born), crochet projects, paper cutting, home improvements… you name it and it’s probably a project waiting in the wings for me to find some time. I love doing all of these things, though, so I willingly take on new projects.

A knitter whose blog I read regularly has a wonderful method for planning her Christmas gift knitting. She has an experienced knitter who is familiar with her knitting speed and ability plan out her projects for her. Granted, she writes about knitting for a living and knitting is basically her job. But even with all of her experience, speed, and the time she is able to devote to knitting, she still needs some structure to get her projects done.

I am still working on a solution for my own projects. I don’t think I could have someone else schedule my projects, but I’ve assigned priorities to them so I know what to work on first. Otherwise, I’d work on the most fun and keep neglecting the others (those poor curtains). I do throw some fun, quick-finish projects in the mix, too – that helps me enjoy what I’m doing and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

When I do get some time to work on my projects, my priority system helps me so much. Things keep getting added to my to-do list, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. I keep plugging away at my high-priority projects – while I enjoy them, the fact that they have to be done brings out the procrastinator in me. But they’re getting done now. And I’ll keep adding new projects, knowing that they will get done!

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I like to keep a clean, organized house. It’s a trait I inherited from my mom. In fact, I became a professional organizer because I like to organize so much. However, I have a confession to make…

Should you ever visit my house, please, please, please do not look into my laundry room. There is nothing clean or organized about it. In fact, it is a source of much pain in my house. There is so much mess in there, I have gated it off so my 2 year old cannot “enhance” the mess. The pain literally comes from the dozens of times I stub my toe each day stepping over the gate (did I mention my pantry is also in my laundry room?).

The sounds of disgust my poor husband makes as he tries to locate something in that mess are also quite painful. While the toe pain has not pushed me to change my ways in the laundry room, the sighs and cursing that follow my husband’s entrance into the room have.

So this is my new mantra: I must be ruthless.

The laundry room is the dumping ground for everything that doesn’t have a home yet – the piles of stuff that I’ll handle “later.” No more. I must be ruthless – if I can’t think of a home for something right away, it has to go. If it has been sitting in a pile in the laundry room for any amount of time without me needing it, it has to go. If I think I may need it “someday,” I’m boxing it up and putting it in the attic. If I haven’t gone up to the attic to get it down within the next year or so, it’s going.

In being ruthless, I’m realizing a dream. I’ve always wanted a mudroom in my home, and now with a 2 year old loving the outdoors, I need one. Moving several thing around in the laundry room will allow room for a bench with shoe storage right inside the back door to our home. Plus, I’ll be able to take down the gate to the laundry room, allowing my children free access to the room without fear of bodily harm.

It’s been a lot of fun being ruthless. We’re giving a lot of things away, packing things up, and returning things to where they belong. You should see the space it’s cleared up! It’s such a freeing feeling… I wish I had done this a long time ago!

I challenge you to be ruthless. Whether it’s a room in your house, a junk drawer, or even your over-crowded schedule, be ruthless with the things that do not belong there. Be ruthless with me – and be amazed at what happens!

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I am always trying to find more time in my day.  While I can typically get everything done that I need to do, it’s the things that I want to do that are hard to squeeze in during my day.  I’ve recently tried these tips for saving time, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the time I can enjoy at the end of each day.

  • Don’t procrastinate.  The dishes will only be harder to clean once the food has been sitting on them for a couple hours.  This one has been hard for me, as I’m a procrastinator by nature.  But by washing the bowls and spoons, etc., that I used to prepare our meal while the meal is cooking, I cut down on the time I spend washing dishes after dinner.  And washing the dinner dishes when we get up from the table instead of just before bedtime is fast and easy; plus I don’t spend the rest of the evening dreading the stack of dishes in the sink.
  • Put things in their proper place as soon as you are done handling it.  Don’t start a pile – you’ll only waste time looking through it if you need something, and the extra time you’ll need to sort everything out when you do put everything away you could use to read Domestic Betty!  Institute a no-pile plan: when you handle something (anything!), put it away!  Getting laundry out of the dryer?  Don’t throw it onto the loveseat and walk away.  You’ve touched it – now fold it and put everything away.  The mail?  Don’t pile it up; open everything as soon as you bring it in the house, recycle your junk mail, file what is needed, and put your bills in whatever bill paying system you use.
  • Know what you have on hand.  This will save you time and money: you won’t waste time rummaging around in your pantry or running to the store for things you already have (a money drain, too).
  • Prepare ahead of time.  This is essential if you have kids.  Don’t wait until you need to be walking out the door to stock your diaperbag or the kids’ lunches.  I’ve even started cleaning out my diaperbag when I get home from an outing – it lightens my load of anything collected through the day, and I can restock diapers or emergency snacks at that time.  Then, when we need to head out the next time, I can just grab the bag and the kids and walk out the door.
  • Set a timer.  For chores, for naptimes, for TV time, for anything!  My children’s naptimes are precious times for me… I get to do what I need or want to do in relative peace.  I typically set a timer for 15 minutes and quickly do whatever cleaning I can do in that time.  It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes!  Then I have the rest of naptime to enjoy for myself.  Otherwise, I might just putz and procrastinate while trying to clean – not really getting anything done, but not enjoying myself either.  And naps… if I lay down for a short nap, without a timer (or alarm), it could easily turn into a 2 hour nap.  While I might enjoy a 2 hour nap, I typically have things that need to get done during that time so I can enjoy myself later in the day.

These are just a couple of many different ways to squeeze a couple minutes of time here and there throughout your day so you can kick back at the end of the day and do… whatever you want.  Even slipping into bed a bit early to get a full night’s sleep! 

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I have never been one to exercise. OK, let me rephrase that: while I have made exercise a priority at times in my life, I have never, ever enjoyed it. Never. And I never thought I would enjoy it. As a mom, one of the things I’ve learned (the hard way) is never say never. Yep, once again, I’m eating my words.

I recently had my second baby, and after gaining unspeakable amounts of weight, I’ve decided to reclaim my body. I know dieting can only do so much. But when in the world does a mom of two kids under the age of three get a chance to exercise?

I started with the resources at my gym. The child-care provided there seemed like a blessing – until my two year-old decided to cry like his life was ending each time I left him there. I was called out of three different exercise classes before I figured out that wasn’t the best solution for us.

Then I saw a flyer posted for a stroller class that the gym was organizing. It has been a perfect fit for us – both of the boys get to come with me as the class strolls through a neighborhood that adjoins the gym. And “strolling” is an understatement; I have never exercised so hard in my life!

Soon after the class started, my husband and I made a pact: each morning, we both get up at 6:00am. One of us goes to the gym, and the other gets some quiet time to himself with one rule: no falling back asleep. (That wouldn’t be fair to the one who was working out.)

But I discovered something last week – over a month after all of this started. I would go to the gym at 6:00am even if my husband fell back asleep – heck, even if he rolled over right away and fell back asleep. It feels so good to get to the gym early; I get to workout, and if I get there early enough, I get to take a shower – uninterrupted – before heading home to feed my 5 month-old.

Not only does getting to the gym early feel good, the workouts themselves feel amazing. Maybe not while I’m in the middle of pushing myself just a little farther – but getting to the end of the workout and knowing how good I am going to feel the rest of the day is awesome. I have never felt like that before in my life. I finally understand what everyone says about how good exercising feels.

So what happened? What changed? Why did all the previous “episodes” of exercising not create the same feeling of excitement in me? I have several different theories I continue to ponder. Regardless of “why”, things have changed and I’m so glad I tried exercise again.

We’ll be talking more about scheduling in the weeks to come. I wanted to address exercising now because it’s so fresh to me… but we’ll come back and talk more about this. In the meantime, I’d love to know what your obstacles are regarding exercise. What are your challenges to fitting it in to your day? If you don’t have any problem finding the time or motivation to exercise, what have you found works for you?

Are you having problems with motivating yourself to schedule exercise into your day? Has your experience been like mine – not enjoyable in the least? We all know how good exercise of any kind is for us – we just need to be able to stick with something that works for us.

I want to encourage you not to give up. You may need to play with your schedule many times to try to fit it in to a time that works for you. The time can be very important – while morning exercise sessions have never worked for me in the past (not to mention never being enjoyable), right now, it is the best thing for me and my schedule. And you may discover that you’ve changed, that what you used to dread now has become a delight.

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