Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

The babes’ dresser drawers

When I was a kid, I had organized drawers. Undies were neatly folded, socks were matched and organized, pants and shirts neatly folded. I thought that’s just how all drawers were. And then I went to a friend’s house and saw that her drawers were helter skelter. I remember thinking how cool it would be to have to dig around my drawer to find the mate to another sock. So I went home and immediately did a fruit basket upset on my undies and sock drawer. I felt like the coolest cat around! This lasted for a few days. And then my mom saw my drawer and she came unglued.

Mom: What in the world happened to your drawer!!!
Me: Uh, I thought it would be fun to have it like Sally.
Mom: No senorita! Ven aca y arregla esto! (Translation: I don’t think so, missy. Come and clean this up right away!)

So that was the end of that. Now that I have four little humans of my own, and I’m trying desperately to reinstate a modicum of order into our household, I can see where my mom was coming from. Every week, I wash the laundry and neatly fold everything (although I’m sure my mom would contest my use of the adjective “neatly”), putting it in neat piles by child (to make it easier for DH to put away). Every week, I discover that the drawers are a total disaster, with things just thrown in there (likely because the babes helped to put their clothing away), and my folding was all for naught. I decided that part of the problem was that the drawers were this cavern with no real way to separate the different items. A few little bins from The Dollar Tree and about 15 minutes later, order was restored.

junkie drawer

undies drawer

Each child has their own color, that way there is no mistaking, and they feel special. We’ll see how long it lasts, but so far, everyone seems to like their little bins.

The other thing that I organized in their room was their stuffed animals. They all have a little menagerie that ends up getting kicked all over their room and just creating havoc. When you have 3 kids sharing a small bedroom, even the smallest mess can seem enormous. So another trip to The Dollar Tree and another 5 minutes, and their animals were corralled! Hooray!

stuffed animals

Total cost: $12
Total time: 20 minutes

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Schedules

After getting two relatively easy organizational projects under my belt, it was time to tackle the biggie . . . . setting up a schedule. I’ve been struggling to have a semblance of schedule for the past year or more . . no dice. It’s hard to smoothly run a household when noone knows what is going on. I was grouchy, so then the babes were even crazier than normal, and nothing got done and it was just mayhem. So, come hell or high water, we were going to get on a schedule. In the interest of having a successful schedule, I enlisted the babes to give ideas on what should be on the schedule. They are still very impressionable, so in the end, the schedule was really full of my ideas, but they felt like they had a part =)

I found some teaching poster boards at the Dollar Tree that were perfect for filling in the schedule. I divided it up so that each person in the family had their own column. Then, we just filled in the info and popped it up on the fridge. We’ve been doing the schedule for about a week now, and it seems to be working pretty well. We have yet to be “on time” for everything. But the goal wasn’t to be totally rigid with the schedule. It was more of a motivation to get the babes moving and to keep us (DH and I) from whiling our time away doing foolishness. So in the morning, the most hectic part of the day, it’s easy to say, “We are going to miss playtime before school is we don’t hurry, guys!” And when there’s something they don’t want to do, I can blame it on the schedule, “Well, the schedule says snack time isn’t until 3! So we have to do what the schedule says.” I’m not really sure if the babes have noticed a difference, but I feel like there’s a wee bit more order. There are still some large blank spots in my schedule as I haven’t totally decided how to divvy up my time. I’m sort of waiting for the baby to get on a more predictable nap schedule, which should be happening here in the next few weeks. I’m also needing to sit down and sort out all of my home-making responsibilities (bread-making, cleaning, laundry, general cooking, paying bills, etc.) and then assign them to particular days and pop them into the schedule. But that’s an organizational task for another day.

daily schedule

As I mentioned, the morning is the most hectic. Half of the time, it would be 10am and noone had gotten their hair brushed, or their beds were still a disaster, or sometimes they were still in their pajamas! So we created a little morning routine poster to put up in their room. I printed off some clip art and then let them color them in. Once that was done, I helped the older two glue them onto the poster and then they wrote in each step (with spelling help from me). It’s a great poster, because the two babes that aren’t reading yet can identify the next step based on the picture, and the 5 year can read what the next step is. So far, so good. They come out from their rooms ready for the day, we didn’t have to constantly nag at them and they are building independence. Win-win in my book!

morning routine

We worked on one more poster this week. It doesn’t have anything to do with schedules, but it is part of process, so I’m dumping it into this post. Handwashing. My 5 year old has really wonderful handwashing technique because I spent lots of time teaching him how to do it. After babies #2 and 3 came along, well, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t spend as much time teaching. The 2 and 4 year olds generally hear, “Go wash your hands, guys.” This is a totally unreasonable expectation given that I haven’t really spent much time teaching them the proper steps. My solution? A handwashing poster. Again, I printed some clip art and had the babes color them in. We then glued them to the poster and I wrote in the directions. Since it was going to go in the bathroom (AKA – splash central), we covered it with clear contact paper, then taped it up on the mirror. The 2 and 4 year olds really love the posters. They are always telling me, “Mommy! I followed the sign and my hands are CLEAN!” The big victory with the 5 year old is that he is now wiping down the counter after he is done. Hooray for no more messes on the counter!

handwashing chart

All in all, this was a productive week in organizational land!

Total time: 2 hours
Total cost: $1

Hats, gloves and scarves

When I lived on my own, organizing my winter gear was no big deal. I had a nice coat rack mounted on the wall and I’d just fill it up. When DH and I got married, it was still easy peasy. With each addition to the family, the organization has gotten more and more tricky. For the past few years, I’ve been keeping the babes’ hats and gloves in a bagsket, similar to the ones I used to organize the toys. The coats got hung in the coat closet. This year, I got tired of having to hang up and take down three sets of coats and scarves, so I put up a row of Command hooks for the babes to hang up their own stuff. That has been working like a charm. They even hung their hats and scarves there.
hats, scarves before

All was well, until Christmas day, when they were showered with all manner of hats and scarves thanks to the crocheting prowess of my mom. Now what was I going to do with all of the hats? They were ending up all over the house, which was making me nuts! My solution, little bags. I decided against the bagskets as they are a big time intensive and time is at an extreme premium around here. Instead, I went with this tutorial from A Ditchin’ Time Quilts. I used all of the same measurements, but made the box deeper and the hanging handle shorter. I managed to crank these out in about an hour and a half. And that was with the babes helping by sewing on their machines. I rearranged the placement of the command hooks, hung and stuffed the baskets, and got this:

hats, scarves after

It’s not a “Trading Spaces” worthy transformation, but it’s definitely so much better. For one, the babes love them. I think this is partly because they helped to make them, and partly because they chose the fabric (which is why it doesn’t all necessarily match). For two, they are completely functional. Even the 2 year old can get down his basket and decide which hat he wants to wear. It’s a think of beauty, really!

ETA: I forgot to add the time and money spent!

Total time: 2 hours
Total cost: free

Kitchen utensils

I’m realizing that this whole “organize something every week and blog about it” thing is going to be trickier than I thought. Last year, finding new things wasn’t terribly difficult, especially when those new things were food. Regardless of how busy I get, we still have to eat, so it was easy to find time to fit that in. Now, I have to do all of the normal stuff AND find time to organize and THEN blog! Eeep! I guess the goal IS to be more organized, so maybe it’ll get easier as the year goes by?

Anyway, I got the organization bee in my bonnet one morning when I came out to my kitchen workstation/desk area and looked at the mayhem that is my refrigerators and I got to cleaning. The inside wasn’t the problem. It was the outside. There were magnets all over the place, pictures strewn everywhere, alphabet letters here thither and yon and just random papers. It was bothering me, so I fixed it, right then and there. All of the pics went on one fridge. All of the left over magnets and letters when on the other fridge. When the babes came in, I let them know that the letters fridge was theirs to play with . . . they weren’t to touch the stuff on the other fridge. Now, don’t go thinking it was this massive transformation. It’s still a somewhat cluttered refridgerator, but at least the clutter is controlled and I feel less crazed about it.

After that got organized, I decided to move to the kitchen utensils drawer. You know, the one that holds the little things like measuring spoons, whisks, peelers, spatulas, garlic presses, etc. I was forever “losing” things in there. I’d look in the drawer . . .not there. I’d check the dish drainer .. . . not there. I’d ask around . . .”I don’t know!” I’d check the drawer again. . .. I’d find “it” hiding under some other thing. It really made for inefficiency while cooking. My idea was to get little organizer boxes so that I could divide things up. The babes and I found a few general boxes and then got a silverware tray. The 2yo and I placed everything in the boxes, only to find that once organized, all of the boxes didn’t actually fit into the drawer. Whoops! Back to square one.

The silverware drawer doesn’t have an actual silverware tray. Rather, each type of utensil is in it’s own little divider box. Yep, you guessed it. I scavenged the divider boxes for my utensils and moved the silverware tray over to the silverware. Suddenly, everything worked and I ended up with TWO organized drawers for the price of one! Huzzah! This would be a useless post without pics. Here they are!

The utensils drawer
utensils before

utensils after

The silverware drawer
silverware after

I also went ahead and did a quick organization of the “coverings” drawer. The drawer with the aluminum foil, plastic wrap, etc. It had been all crazy with the boxes jammed in there and nothing fitting correctly. Amazingly, once I took 30 seconds to dejumblify the drawer, everything fit! Ah, everything in it’s place.

wraps after

Now the trick is going to be to get the rest of the family on board. A few days after organizing the last drawer, I saw DH just throw a snack back in there. The 2yo was also standing there so I said, “Tell daddy, ‘No daddy, don’t just dump it in! It goes here!'” Yeah, I’m a wee bit passive aggressive! 😀

Total time: 30 minutes
Total cost: $27 (So, I’m definitely going to need to cut waaayyyy back on the total cost. Otherwise, we’ll go broke this year! Fortunately, I’m crafty, and there’s a Dollar Tree with all sorts of organizational goodies!

365 days later

Uh, okay, I THOUGHT this post had been published . . . apparently not! Maybe the Habits and Impatience post will make more sense after reading this one?

One year ago today, I posted my first “this is what I learned today” post. I really intended to post something new every day. That didn’t happen. Sometimes I had to post several days’ worth of learning in one day. Other times several days would pass without me learning a single thing. But I still think I managed to learn/try 365 new things given that there were a good number of days where I learned/tried 2-3 new things. One thing I did discover is that learning didn’t just happen. Sometimes I would just randomly bump into some interesting information or learn something new. But, most of the time, I had to go in search. The easiest place to find new information is in the kitchen. This year my family and I have tried countless new recipes. I’d say that about 1/3 of them were amazing, 1/3 were mediocre and 1/3 were awful. I still enjoyed trying out all of the recipes, even the flops. As a result, I’ve gained a vast amount of kitchen knowledge such that I’m pretty comfortable saying that I know my way around a kitchen. If you asked me for specific things that I learned, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. But, I do now that I can whip up something for dinner out of seemingly nothing, and I’ve gotten quite good at finding substitutions last minute!

Overall, I’m glad I embarked on this journey. If nothing else, it has gotten me to keep my eyes open for new information and experiences. If I keep that up from now until the end, I’ll have gained a vast amount of knowledge that I otherwise may not have encountered. In my book, that’s a win.

So where do I go from here? I had thought about saying farewell and inviting you to follow me on my other blog, A Diva Moment, something you are still welcome to do. But, I’ve decided to continue blogging here with a slightly different goal. Rather than learning something new each day, I’m going to try and organize my life and household a little bit each week. Notice, I said week and not day. This past year has taught me that expecting myself to do something every day is unreasonable. I’m thinking a week is much more reasonable. Anyway, so each week, I’ll be popping in and sharing the little things that I’ve done to eliminate the chaos in our household. I hope you’ll stay with me as I start this new journey!

Habits and Impatience

There’s a saying that goes: Old habits die hard. This year I’ve created the habit of paying attention to what new information I am exposed to on a daily basis. Now that I’m not blogging about said new information, I’m finding it hard to turn that switch off in my brain. Over the past few days, I find myself learning things, like another way to peel garlic, and another recipe for stew and, and, and. Every time, I think, “Oh, I need to remember this to put up on the blog.” And then I say, “Self, you aren’t blogging about that anymore!” I’m guessing it’ll be a good month before the “I need to blog about this” switch is disabled. I am hoping, however, that I’ll still remain aware of new information. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily learned more this year than in previous years, I was just much more aware of the learning. This is an important distinction. Being aware of learning means that the chances of the information staying in my head are greatly increased. That is a good thing!

My brain has been all sorts of busy the past few days. Partly because I’m still consciously thinking about learning, but also because I keep seeing all kinds of things around the house that could use organization. I have a problem, I like instant gratification. If I get a bee in my bonnet, I need to deal with it right away. I see so many disorganized things in my life and around my house and I want to fix them RIGHT NOW! That’s really not at all practical for several reasons. 1) Apparently, mayhem and disorganization run rampant around here. 2) Fixing and changing everything at once would be too dramatic and I’m sure my family would balk. 3) Many of the things that need organizing are giant projects that just can’t be done right now. So, I’m making a list of all the things I see around the house and little by little, I’ll get to them this year. Here’s a sneak peek at my list:

making a daily schedule
helping the babes find a good morning and evening routine
paying bills on a schedule
make a menu-planning system
make a cleaning-the-house system
organizing the appliance manuals
spice organization
laundry room organization
filing organization

I’m going to be busy this year! My goal is to have a more organized life, which I think will lead to a happier family life. This isn’t to say that our family life is horrid, it’s just woefully disorganized. Every time we add another member to the family, I notice the disorganization more and more. This is the year that I make a turn-around. Finding ways to take my home-making to the next level is my main goal for the year.

Being a perfectionist and generally organized (I was very organized until I had kids and became a homemaker!), I have lots of ideas to help me create order out of the chaos. But I won’t be doing this alone. I have a friend who is also on a quest to organize her home-making. Her new blog, Home, Made by Carmona is full of beautiful pictures and really great ideas. I would be remiss if I didn’t give her a shoutout and thank her for inspiring me to embark on my own organizational journey. I’m looking forward to the changes, and trying to keep my impatient self at bay. I did abate the impatience by organizing several drawers in my kitchen . .. but that’s for another blog post!

Day 364 & 365 – December 30 & 31

Well, I’ve arrived at the final post of the year!

Dec 30 – I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were replaying their most popular stories of 2012. When I tuned in, they were talking about the fungal meningitis outbreak from October 2012. While listening to the story, I learned about compounding pharmacies. Well, I didn’t learn what they were, I had to go check wikipedia. I did learn that they existed. Just in case you, like me, have never heard of compounding pharmacies, here’s a quick definition. Compounding pharmacies create their own products to meet the needs of their patients. This may mean taking out a non-essential component that the patient is allergic to, changing the form from solid to liqud or to get the exact dosage needed for that particular patient. It could be as simple as adding flavor to a medication, or more complicated. As I understand it, not all pharmacies are compounding pharmacies.

In any case, this particular pharmacy created a liquid formulation of a medication and it ended up having mold in it. This is generally not a good thing, and especially when it’s going to be injected deep into your back. Several of the people affected were interviewed for the story, and they mentioned that now their confidence in the healthcare system was shattered. I could go into a discussion of how utterly broken our healthcare system is, but the point here really is just to share my new knowledge and not my tangentially related personal opinions. 😉

Dec 31 – I wanted to make something special to eat on New Year’s Day and also for New Year’s Eve. I had bookmared a recipe in my bread cookbook for Snow Ring Holiday Bread. The recipe makes two loaves of bread that are to be cooked in a bundt pan. I only had one bundt pan, so I used a tube pan. I think the tube pan I have (which I got from an estate sale), is defective. Everytime I put batter in it, it drips out the bottom. To combat that problem, I placed foil paper in the bottom and then added the insert. The helped with the drippage, but I still ended up with a nice, gooey mixture in the bottom of my oven. The bread is sort of like monkey bread in that you place balls of dough all around the pan and the gooey topping goes in the pan both before and after the dough. The bread that baked in the tube pan didn’t bake as completely and the resulting bread was more chewy.
tube pan snow ring

The bread in the bundt pan turned out beautifully and it was very yummy!
bundt pan snow ring
I was going to make a dark chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top, but the bread disappeared too quickly! I guess that means that the family approved! And on that note, the year comes to a close.

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