Sushi and Speedblogging

I think the only way to get out of this writing slump I’m in is to get back to writing whatever’s on the top of my head.

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{Here I’m tempted to insert some sort of apology but watch me resist!}

Here’s the girls’ and my dinner from tonight.

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Of course I’m being snarky and reverse-snobbish because it’s like the worst-looking food photography ever.  But I enjoyed it–just discovered I can get a bunch of freshly-made sushi rolls from a local restaurant for under $10.  The girls didn’t want to try it.  Their loss. (They got cheese roll-ups, black olives, tortilla chips and cheese dip.)  I can’t tell you how much self-control it took to leave half 8/18ths of the rolls for Pat.

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Just realized that paragraph made it sound like all I had for dinner was 10 California rolls.

Not.

That absolutely is not the case.

In other news, I let a Kirby saleswoman into the house yesterday.  I’m a sucker for offers of a free floor-cleaning.  Two awkward hours later, I resisted the sales pitch and my floors were a lot cleaner.  It convinced me I should get a new vacuum cleaner.  I’m just not going to spend four figures on it.  . . . I used to get all optimistic whenever I saw a cleaning product demonstration.  “Maybe if I just get the right product, I’ll do more cleaning.”  Fortunately, I learned my lesson with the $100 Norwex mop, leaving me wiser and prepared when the $3,000 wonder-vac came to my door.

Also, the girls and I had a nice playground outing this afternoon.  The weather is lovely today.

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Have a lovely Wednesday evening.  The work week is halfway over!

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Adventures in Bad Housekeeping

Battling bugs, swilling juice, and my Ashlee Simpson moment

1.

I graduated first in my law school class.

I’ve spent the past week trying to outwit a bunch of fruit flies.

And failing.

I’m not sorry about the path I’ve chosen in life.

But some days are better than others.

Fruit Fly Death Trap

Photo credit

2.

I made fruit fly traps using the old cone-of-paper-in-a-jar-of-vinegar method.

I’d see them fly down into the cone but somehow the little buggers kept coming out.

Finally  it occurred to me that I didn’t tape all the way along the edge of the paper, leaving a gap they could fly out of.  Seriously, this took me about 5 days to figure out.

In the meantime, I tried out the saran-wrap-stretched-across-the-jar-with-holes-poked-through method.

One evening, I stood transfixed watching a fruit fly sniff its way across the Saran wrap and–blip!–nosedive through one of the toothpick holes, never to fly out again.

It was the best part of my week.

3.

We also found moths in our pantry and (yet again) in the coat closet.

I’m supposed to take all the canisters of grains and flour and dry goods and stick them in the freezer to kill off the eggs.

And I had shelled out a lot of money to buy a bunch of nifty, matching canisters.  I know plastic causes cancer and whatnot, but I chose cancer over bugs.

Turns out, I get cancer and bugs.

4. 

(Mild to moderate TMI ahead)

Speaking of bugs, I’m trying to beat a UTI with unsweetened, 100% cranberry juice.  I’ve downed about 80 ounces of the stuff in the last 48 hours.

I think it’s getting better.

My one big victory over bugs so far, and even then it’s really too close to call.

5. 

The fruit flies haven’t made it to my room yet, but if they do they’ll keep me up all night.

With their sneezing.

My bedroom is coated in dust.

Our whole house is dusty, but especially my bedroom.

I religiously change the air filters; I’ve vacuumed all the intake and outtake vents; we’ve had the ducts cleaned.  We had the furnace replaced recently.

Still, the dust keeps coming.  I can dust the top of my armoire and a thick coat will reappear in two weeks.

6.

It’s affecting my self-esteem because the two most dusty areas in the house are the kitchen/dining area

and my bedroom.

I spend the majority of my time in those areas, by far.

And you know what dust is right?

Mostly skin cells.

What’s wrong with me?  I am some sort of super-skin-shedding freak?

So I have an Ashlee Simpson moment whenever I enter my bedroom.

Ashlee simpson pieces of me gif

7. So that’s my life; how’s yours?

Linking up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes.

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Choosing Calm Over Clutter {Guest Post from Mary}

The pictures of Mary’s home on her blog, Atelier, always take my breath away.  So peaceful!  So calm.  So uncluttered.  I asked her to share her secrets, and here they are:

Laura was so kind to ask me to write a little something about homemaking, particularly in the area of keeping things streamlined and low on clutter.

Before I really begin, I want to preface this little post with one very important point: Your clutter doesn’t bother me. Don’t be afraid that I would be a judgy mcjudgerson if you invited me over. Only my clutter bothers me, and here’s why.  My clutter taunts me, “Did you remember to pay that bill that was due on the 21st? Or was it the 15th? Does Veronica have dress shoes for Easter? She should fit in Hanna’s old ones, but where are they?! She must need new shoes. Where is that 50% off coupon that expires on Saturday? You need to put away the laundry. Good luck getting it into that stuffed dresser.”

You get my drift. My clutter stresses me out. It darkly forebodes of important things lost or forgotten or unaccomplished. So that’s why I make an effort to keep things tidy and clutter to a minimum. I don’t succeed completely – complete success is a chimera – but any bit of effort bears rewards. So allons-y with some tips.

First, believe that a solution exists. This may be hard to swallow if you have lots of kids in a smallish space, or even just one adult in a small place. It’s easy to fall into that trap of “I just need a bigger house” or “If I only had more money…” But don’t give in; you’re a smart cookie, and you can make things better.

Second, think creatively for solutions, and realize that the best solutions are practical ones that make keeping clutter down easy. This involves knowing yourself. Do you prefer doing a bit everyday, or are you more of a once a week tidier/cleaner? Will you really hang the coats in the inconvenient closet down the hall, or does it just make sense to put some hooks up near the door? That question leads to the next suggestion.

Make a concerted effort to give everything a “place.” Picking up the day’s mess is so much easier if every toy, piece of clothing, dish has somewhere to go. I find that I fold and put away laundry with less reluctance if I know there is room for it in the drawer. The kids do better keeping their rooms tidy (still a work in progress, though) if there is a spot for the blocks, and another for books.

If you are having a hard time finding a spot, ask yourself if you maybe have more than enough of something. Some of my kitchen cupboards are bursting at the seams, and over the weekend my husband just took out some plastic cups we never use, and said, “I’m getting rid of these.” And I was so relieved. Why didn’t I do that? Because each time I did dishes I focused on the short-term task of making it work rather than finding a longer term solution. Free yourself from some of your regular tidying quandaries by asking the question, “Is keeping these extra items worth the stress they cause me?”

As a person who has lived a fairly strict budget for most of my life, I find that I sometimes balk at getting rid of stuff. What if I need it in a few months, and it’s gone?! There are a couple of ways around this issue. The first is to realize that having too much can be the same as not having enough. If you save every pair of shoes for your kids (can you tell that shoes are a thing for me and my four kids?), even the worn out ones, it can make keeping track of all of the sizes and seasons impossible.  All of a sudden it’s winter and your child’s feet have grown a whole size in a few weeks, and you think you have boots that will fit them, but you’re not really sure…. so you buy more boots. Did saving all those shoes really save money? Nope.

Another method to use if you have a difficult time letting things go is to put the items aside. Place them in a bag destined for Goodwill and put it in a closet or the basement. And wait. Not only is it super convenient to have a place (see above) for unwanted items right away, this practice lessens the finality of the decision. When the bag is full, review its contents. Odds are you will feel more detached from the items and confident that letting them go is the right call.

Keeping the clutter down is an acute and ongoing challenge for most in this age of junk mail and cheap goods.  Throw kids and budget restraints into that mix, and things get even more difficult. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, get excited! With a little elbow grease and some creative thinking, big changes are possible!

 

Mary is  a 31-year-old wife, mother, writer, blogger, and personal stylist. Atelier is a lifestyle and fashion blog where she writes about style and wardrobe, movies, makeup, food (and drink), books, life and love.

The Truth About Washing Your Washing Machine

Hint: Everything you’ve seen on Pinterest is a lie.

Washing your top loader

After buying our home, hubby and I bought a new, high-efficiency front-load washing machine.  I did all my research and chose one that was rated a “best buy” by Consumer Reports.  I’m really into researching and overthinking things, especially things that cost several hundred dollars.

Fast forward five years, and the inside of our washing machine, looked like this:

rubber seal gasket mildew

No joke.  That’s my actual washing machine.  Those are my clothes in there.

Gross!

Millennial homemaker that I am, I first looked for solutions on Pinterest.  There are appealing pins floating around, describing how to keep a front-loader clean with vinegar.

People seem to have a magical thinking complex with vinegar.  Like all you have to do is rinse something out with vinegar and all your dreams will come true.

Not the case.

If you read the articles attached to these pin, most explains how you actually need to do a whole lot of scrubbing before you get to the vinegar rinse part.  Rinsing alone won’t cut it, except to maintain an already-clean washer.

Even rinsing and scrubbing got me nowhere with my front-loader.  It was too far gone.

So, emboldened by the many encouraging comments on this past post, I bought a good old-fashioned, l water-guzzling, 12 year-old Maytag top-loader for $75 from Craigslist.  The seller assured us it worked great for him; he was just replacing it with a high-efficiency front-loader (oh, the irony).

I wanted to make a really fresh start with this new-to-me washer, so I searched for advice on cleaning your top-loader.    This post looked promising:

The formula was familiar: soak and rinse with bleach, soak and rinse with vinegar, do a little cosmetic wiping around the edges.  Boom!  Clean.

Well . . .

The first time I filled up the tank I noticed a bunch of flaky chunks of disgustitude floating around.  I’m too genteel to say what it looked like except that it brought to mind the stomach flu and another porcelain appliance that fills with water.

Gross.

I went through the bleach cycle and then filled the tank up again with water for a vinegar soak.  Again, floating disgustitude.  Repeat 2-3 more times: no change.

And here’s where the how-to (finally) begins:

Cleaning your washer takes more than vinegar.  It takes guns.

These guns, plus an old toothbrush:

Cleaning the top load washing machine with a toothbrush.

We My husband took the whole thing apart and this is what we found:

Ew!

Ew!

Ew!

So, bless his heart, he scrubbed every nook and cranny.  We filled up the tank again and–finally!–no more flakes.

What would have been interesting would have been to put it back together without scrubbing, use one of those washing machine cleaning solutions, and then take it back apart and see the difference (if any).

 I’m doubtful it would do much good against that many years worth of gunk.

The guy who sold us the washer said it worked fine, and for various reasons we’re inclined to believe him.  We’re thinking that the crud had been stuck in place for years and got loosened during the bumpy transport to our house and down our basement steps.

Most old washers, obviously, do not deposit flakes of disgustitude on clothes, at least not enough to notice.  But the disgustitude is probably still there in hiding.  So I plan to use an occasional vinegar rinse, or maybe the washing machine cleaner stuff, for maintenance.

But from time to time, I’ll have to call in the big guns.

And for now, we’re enjoying having truly clean clothes for the first time in years.

Dirt, Dust, Grime, Failure, and Profligacy {7QT}

— 1 —

I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the dirtiness of my house.  Everywhere I turn there’s a grimy countertop, a sticky floor.  I’m often inspired by tips and plans like this:

Thing is, by the time I’ve made meals, cleaned up after meals, changed diapers, wiped butts, and maybe done a load of laundry (maybe . . if I’m lucky), the day is over.  I suppose I have some time in the evening between the time the girls are in bed and I got to bed but (a) by then I’m tired and (b) . . .

— 2 —

I waste too much time on the internet!  Mainly reading blogs!  If you’re reading this and if you have a blog, it’s all your fault!  I’m reading your blog when I should be productive, or sleeping.

— 3 —

Really, though, it’s my fault.  That whole New Year’s Resolution of mine?  This is how that’s been going:

— 4 —

In other news, I felt a bit guilty/ rebellious because Pat and I didn’t sell raffle tickets for Girl 1’s school fundraising event a few weeks ago.  Once we got to the event, though, Mr. Badas* Tightwad got a few glasses of wine into him and became Mr. Moneypants of Generosity.  He bid on and won a two-night getaway for us.  (My participation could perhaps be termed “encouragement” but by no means reached the level of “egging him on.”  Of course.)

Later we pondered just how we would fit this spontaneous act of generosity into our budget and which spending category we would cut back on to compensate.  I blurted out, “Groceries,”  while Pat simultaneously said, “Clothes.”

Looks like my Style and the SAHM series for the rest of the year is about to become “101 Ways to Wear a Barrel.”

(No, actually, I have a guest post coming up soon that I am excited to share.)

— 5 —

We thought about it more and realized that we have some money budgeted for charity that we haven’t earmarked for any specific cause.  The money we spent at the auction goes 100% to our daughter’s school, which is a wonderful, worthwhile, non-profit organization.  So we could fit it in our budget that way.  At the same time, it doesn’t seem quite right to enjoy a two night getaway and call it all a charitable donation.  What do you think?

— 6 —

My sister, Martha, had her baby!!  He is sweet and perfect and his name is Sebastian.   I am so excited and happy for Martha and her husband Jacob.  Their baby boy is my kids’ first cousin on my side and my parents’ first grandson.

I won’t spoil Martha’s birth story, but I think I’m allowed to say that she was in labor for a total of, maybe, two hours.

— 7 —

**TMI Alert**

To say I’m extremely jealous of Martha’s natural birthing talent is putting it lightly. She got to  6 cm without any real contractions.  It took me, on the other hand, a full day of labor to get to 6 cm with Girl 1 (maybe not hard labor but still labor), and about eight hours with Girl 2.  And I had hours and hours left to go.  Have you heard of the condition called “incompetent cervix“?  I have the opposite problem.  My cervix doesn’t give up without a fight.

I don’t know much about Freudian psychology, but I can guess what it says about my personality that I am cervical retentive.  ;-P

For more happy thoughts, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes: More Books

For my quick takes this week, here are some short reviews on books I’ve read lately.  Please forgive the uneven font size.  ‘Can’t figure out how to fix it.

— 1 —

The Spear by Louis DeWohl:

This panoramic novel of the last days of Christ ranges from the palaces of imperial Rome to the strife-torn hills of Judea-where the conflict of love and betrayal, revenge and redemption, reaches a mighty climax in the drama of the Crucifixion. For this is the full story of the world’s most dramatic execution, as it affected one of its least-known participants-the man who hurled his spear into Christ on the Cross.

This book gives a lot of insight into the political and sectarian circumstances surrounding Jesus’ life.  Fictionalized but (I think) historically plausible.  A real page turner.

— 2 —

Biting the Dust: The Joys of Housework by Margaret Horsfield:

 Horsfield, a reporter for BBC, CBC, the Guardian and the Independent, uses her journalistic skills to investigate not only how, but why, we clean. Using historical, literary, psychological and personal sources, she traces the long and tangled evolution. . . . In the late 19th century, the germ theory of disease scared women onto a new plane of anxiety about the cleanliness of their households. With the introduction of soap around the same time, the media turned method to madness by establishing standards of cleanliness that were suffocating, imprisoning and impossible to live up to. Bringing her subject up to the present, Horsfield blames people like Martha Stewart for perpetuating a kind of “domestic pornography” that encourages women to fight a losing battle by creating yet another impossible, media-fueled ideal. Horsfield couldn’t take a more ordinary subject and make it more interesting.

This book came to mind when I attended recentsales parties for Arbonne cosmetics and Norwex house-cleaning products.  I’m sure these products are fine in themselves.  I do question their marketing messages, which rely on vague but alarming statements about the dangers of “chemicals.”

In centuries past, people believed that sickness was caused by bad air, hence the old warning against letting in the night air.  Those notions went by the wayside as germ theory developed.  Later on, triclosan was added to anything and everything.  Now we realize that killing any and all germs and bacteria isn’t such a good idea.

I wonder, then: are “chemicals” just the current boogeymen that we’ll laugh at decades later.  Surely, some are bad for you.  Dousing the earth in DDT in the mid-20th century turned out to be not such a hot idea.  But some chemicals are naturally occurring.  Some are harmless.  Many are harmful only in small quantities.  I’m certainly no expert.  But do we think about these nuances before paying a pretty penny for products claiming to be “green” or “chemical-free?”

— 3 —

Splendors of the Rosary: A Celebration of the Mysteries of The Rosary through Art and Meditation, from Magnificat Press.  A really beautiful collection of artwork and meditations for each mystery of the Rosary.  I imagine this would be great for older children; it certainly is for adults.  (Gift from my mom–thanks Mom!)

— 4 —

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith:

. . . tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”–and the heart of the reader–in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

Beautifully written.  Sad, but ends on a hopeful note.  Hard to believe it was out of print for many years.

What is it about these coming-of-age, first-love stories that leave me a mushy, sentimental mess? It’s like this:

True ‘dat.

— 5 —

Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin:

Immaculée shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 when she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days! In this captivating and inspiring book, Immaculée shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding—through our darkest hours.

It took me a while to get to this.  It’s rare that I wake up in the morning thinking, “What I really want to do today is read about genocide.”  But this book isn’t really about genocide, although of course that’s the central event.  The book is about hope, forgiveness, and God’s miraculous sparing of the author’s life.

It’s interesting to read how specific the author’s hope is, as opposed to a cautious, “I’m sure God will work everything out somehow.”  It’s inspiring and yet, is this bordering a bit on the “name it and claim it” prosperity Gospel line of thought?  Also interesting is this book’s description of the powerful role of the media in furthering the Rwandan genocide.

— 6 —

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?  Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

Okay, I actually haven’t read all of this.  I got a used copy from Paperback swap.  Turns out the book is mainly a discussion of various “strengths” but you have to take an online test to see what your individual strengths are.  Each copy of the book has a unique code that only can be used once.  Because I got my copy used, the code doesn’t work any more.  Bummer.  The introduction does have some interesting ideas about the benefits of building on our individual strengths rather than focusing on our weaknesses.

Just reading the introduction, though, got me thinking: what about strength-based parenting?  How can I help my children develop their unique strengths and avoid fixating on overcoming their weaknesses?  Does anyone know any good books on this subject?

— 7 —

Speaking of children, my four-year old girl has been loving these ballet books lately:

Happy reading!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!