Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I walk with my friend Robin three times a week, and one morning I was telling her about them, because at the time she was working cleaning out RVs at a dealership. I believe the next time I saw her I gave her one. She tried it...and also loved it.
They do still require a bit of elbow grease wherever there's some deep scrubbing, but that's nothing new; lots of cleansers and rags and such still take elbow grease and reward us with a still-stained, still-dull and grimy surface. But the Magic Eraser (and all its cheap imitations) will work not only to get the surface dirt but to pull that seemingly permanent layer of grime off and get back down to the original surface. It might not be able to restore the surface to new condition, but at least to really clean. I've used it in my fiberglass shower and bathtub stall; on painted walls; on shoes; and on my kitchen floor. I didn't even really realize how ugly my kitchen floor had gotten until I used it! It's about 18 years old, definitely worn, has some gouges, but at least it is back to its original creamy white instead of the dull brownish-gray-covered white that it had been before. Then I used acrylic floor cleaning & coating stuff and caught the clean surface as it was, before any dirty footprints scampered over it.
In my shower stall, it had never (since we'd moved in as the second owners) been shiny; I'd scrubbed and scrubbed and tried various cleaners, none of which really got it down to the original surface, but when I used the Magic Eraser (or actually the cheaper store-brand version), it was suddenly beautiful, without all that much work.
I can't think of any cleaning supply that I would speak so glowingly about. There are some I like a lot, but this one is an outstanding sanity saver and I will try to keep them on hand at all times.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I have seen these types of articles before that tell that the kitchen sponge is the most germy place in the house, worse than a toilet. Well, I think our house may be better than average in this regard, because I don't use sponges, and I use probably about 5 dish cloths per day...they pile up in my sink, and then I put them in a bowl so they don't drip, to take them to the laundry room on a frequent basis. But I do remember visiting a friend's house when my Tim was pretty new, in other words about 10 1/2 years ago, and I needed to wipe his face. My friend had a lot of kids of her own and was busy when I asked her where I might find a clean washcloth--and she just told me there was a dishrag in the sink. The dishrag I found was slippery and smelled horribly sour, even without putting it to my face. I rinsed it out to the best of my ability and thought that it would either kill my son or improve his immunity. It's always what I think of when I see these articles. And here's an idea I have never heard in any housekeeping book or article: my mom has always put cellulose sponges in her bleach-white washes, and dried them in the dryer. I know, you'll think that's not possible, that they'd fall apart, but they didn't. They shrink down and get hard, but once they're wet they're good as new (unless they're old, and then they're good as old). We rarely had to buy new sponges, but I know they were generally clean!
The "Germ Zapper" article asks whether you rinse your cutting board between uses, rather than washing it. I have a huge collection of those flexible plastic cutting boards, which are very cheap and durable, some of which I cut in half for smaller cutting jobs. If I cut meat, I will toss that "board" in the sink to be put in the dishwasher. As long as it's all vegetables, I will cut over and over again, and if I cut onions first, I consider whether onion juice will contaminate the flavor of vegetables after that. It's nothing to wash them in the dishwasher and bring out another that is clean. If you can't put your cutting board in the dishwasher, at least spray or wipe it with bleach! Get it clean so it doesn't fester with germs. I remember being at another friend's house who actually had a mildewy stain in the middle of her board. Ick! How they lived through that I don't know! (And believe it or not, I don't go around to friends' houses trying to find where their grossest form of housekeeping blindness lurks. I guarantee you, within feet of my front door you can find a few of mine!) In addition to putting your cutting boards into the dishwasher, put your dish brushes in there too. It may not get everything out of them, but it at least improves them, and sanitizes them some.
The next area they speak of is bedding--which is one where I probably do poorly, even though I know better, by not putting airtight cases around our mattresses, box springs and pillows. They say to wash sheets once per week, too...sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. We all have areas for improvement!
Another area where I actually hadn't thought to improve, was to occasionally disinfect the soles of our shoes, for obvious reasons, and the floor mats and entry way flooring where our shoes first make contact in the house; also the outsides of our purses, because of places such as restroom floors where they sometimes are parked.
The next is those things our hands hold: electronic equipment such as cell phones, keyboards, and remotes; doorknobs, cupboard door pulls, etc. They're said to be really bad. (In fact, after composing most of this, I went and cleaned our entry way floor, and picked up the shoes and took them to the bathroom to scrub the soles--and it was a wake-up call! I'm sure there was stuff there I didn't want on my floor, even aside from everyday soil! The tennis shoe soles they make today seem custom-made to pick up as much dirt as possible and retain it.)
In addition to these areas of cleaning, because of an episode of Mythbusters on television, I know that our toothbrushes are prime targets for germs as well--either from other toothbrushes, or from just the general splash and air circulation factor in the bathroom. So since I am too chintzy to throw out seemingly good toothbrushes on a frequent basis, I take them and put them under my hot water dispenser--which is nearly boiling (not my regular hot water tap, which isn't hot enough). You could also boil the water in the kettle and soak them in a mug--dividing each person's into a different mug. This may shorten the life of the bristles, but at least they'd be clean bristles. You could additionally dip them each in Listerine afterward, in a little bowl or cup.
I love, and at the same time hate, to think how many germs I have killed--even in my little bit that I did tonight. I love it because these places are cleaner, and I hate to think how much dirt was already lurking. How sick we could have become! God is gracious to us.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Glorifying God or dishonoring God
Organized or disorganized
Beautiful or disheveled
Design or chaos
Functional or frustrating
Minimal or stuffed
Coordinated or eclectic
Pride or shame
I suppose there might be many other motivations that could be added to the list; these are the possibilities that come to my mind. Some are limited by the time, money, or room we have available. Some rely on our design sense, or our knack for organizing, or the needs of our family. We aren't called to do more than we are able; we honor God when we do it all to His glory, doing what is needed and useful first and focusing on the less important parts last.
As far as method goes, I generally try to do the "worst first"--that which is in most terrible need of attention. There is another "philosophy" that I've become vaguely aware of, and which as I googled to find it, found a poem from which Elisabeth Elliot derived it. Her teaching was to go and do the next thing when she didn't know what else to do. The poem, which I google-found on a very commendable blog called Oversight of Souls, was as follows, and quoted from Elliot's book The Shaping of a Christian Family (pg.178-179):
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration:
“DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Thrust them with Jesus, doe the nexte thynge.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, doe the nexte thynge
Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, doe the nexte thynge.
So I believe that Elisabeth Elliot found it helpful when widowhood left her at wit's end--when perhaps all you can do is "the next thing." I find it a simple thing in my housekeeping, as there is never any lack to do, to do the next thing that presents itself as obvious, needful, at hand, or urgent, and when these are done, there are still the things that are less so--but finding what to do usually doesn't require a lot of thought! It presents itself readily as "the next thing." So might any of the more difficult things in life, at difficult times, be simplified if we take each thing step by step. All of life, when it seems overwhelming as a whole, might be easier to swallow according to that simple advice.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
1. Don't get loyal to brand names or stores. Buy whatever product at whatever store that is least expensive--taking into account how long a drive it is, and how many other things that store has that you need at an affordable price.
2. Make all your errands when you're on the way somewhere else. Try to arrange as many of your errands in the same area as possible so you aren't spending most of your time and gas money on driving between stores. If you need something once you're already home, have your husband bring it home on the way home from work, if possible.
3. Make it a priority to learn the usual good sale prices of the products you tend to need.
4. Buy produce "in season"--that time of year when it's growing most plentifully. It's got the best price and best flavor and texture if you buy at the right time of year.
5. Learn how to choose your produce--I worked in a produce market in my early 20's and learned that there are many things to watch for, such as pick broccoli when it's a little purple and quite firm, preferably still showing signs of having been packed in ice; pick cantaloupe when the blossom end gives a little to thumb pressure.
6. Learn what items give you the best nutrition for the money--head lettuce is practically no nutrition at all, but romaine is excellent, spinach is better, mustard greens and swiss chard are some of the best. But they still have to appeal to your family!
7. Buy according to unit pricing as long as the size of the item is workable for your family. Unit pricing is that smaller price listing on the shelf label that tells the price in smaller units, such as price per ounce, per sheet, per individual item in the package. If the price per unit is smaller, the price of that item is best if your family can use it in a timely way. If they can't, if you can share or split it with someone, if it saves you enough money it still may be worth buying, but be careful.
8. I've always bought laundry soap in the huge buckets that are just white powder, even though they recommend another type for my washer...once I did have trouble caused by it not dissolving, but only once. The cheapest detergent always works, though I do use pre-spray that I make for myself out of liquid laundry soap, ammonia, vinegar, and water.
9. Learn to use less-expensive resources for cleaning rather than the "big gun" commercial methods if possible. Vinegar, ammonia, bleach, soda and the like all have some amazing utility around the house. You can find household uses for them by googling online.
10. Go with a list, use coupons, avoid the parts of the store that are most tempting for you.
11. Make meals with less meat than you normally might. Learn recipes that use beans, brown rice, split peas, and lentils, slowly introducing them to your family so their tastes can be developed for these foods.
12. Grow some of the fruit and vegetables that you are most likely to eat.
13. When you find a good sale price on something that you use regularly, buy more of it than you need at the moment.
14. If buying ready-made fast-food dinners is a temptation for you, stock your freezer with a few ready-made frozen dinners. Then start making two of each freezable dinner that you make, and freeze one while serving the other. Pretty soon fast-food dinners will be a memory.
15. Don't eat out any more often than necessary! It costs a lot more than eating at home, takes more time, is less nutritious and higher fat, and I don't feel that the family togetherness is as great in public as it is at home.
On the other hand: No matter how frugal you are, be clever but don't let it make you chintzy. Don't refuse to tip a person who deserves a tip or cheat people of what should be theirs because you want to keep the money--it isn't a good enough reason to short another person.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
So after almost everything else was done, I resignedly started the horrible process of removing everything (it's a huge freezer and I had it packed full) and then trying to get all the ice to melt. Well, finally we ran out of time and really had to get going on our trip. I stuffed everything back in even though only about half of the ice was removed. I thought this would get us through the week and I could deal with the rest of it later.
Well, it was not to be. When we got back, it had frosted back up, all the way to the point where the door had propped itself open and could not be shut. I'm not sure exactly how this happened, unless I actually didn't shut the door as well as I thought. We even had some boxes that I was in the habit of propping against it as a safeguard, but they weren't sufficient. I think there's some principle of having all that wet ice cooling down and refreezing that may have made it so bad.
Anyway, we had to throw almost all of the food out. I did salvage some blueberries that were still embedded in ice, and not much else. It was a big loss but also almost a freeing relief when we decided not to continue using the freezer. It's one less thing to be bad at managing! The bigger the freezer, the better the steward you must be in order not to lose half of the food at the back, less-reachable and less-visible areas. I was not very good at this.
Now I'm finding I buy less groceries. I can only fill our fridge and limited freezer at the side of it, and for the three of us, I think it may be nearly perfect. The biggest I might go is that when we replace this refrigerator (soon; there are signs of wear), we might put it in the garage for some light-duty beverage holding etc. and the freezer would turn into my surplus freezer for fruit and whatnot. Still, it would be such a lot better than trying to manage that huge box freezer! So less is more, or more is less, or something like that.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Our family occasionally eats fast food, but most of our meals are at home. Still, when I consider the nutrition of our homemade food, I go through peaks and valleys in the nutritional effort of making it healthy. I think overall that I do pretty well; however I still have a weight problem, but I think that it is primarily due to insufficient exercise. There are a number of nutritional components that we have paid attention to for years, and a few that we have added as a result of Katie's nutrition class. I thought I would enumerate these here so that if you wanted you could implement them for your family's good health.
1. Look for low-fat and high-fiber recipes. Look at the nutritional assessments of the recipes you find. If the fat content is 9 grams per serving or less, I consider that to be low-fat. The higher the fiber, the better. Fiber binds up fat before it is absorbed into the bloodstream and helps keep a person feel full for longer.I rarely serve a recipe that is listed to have over 15 grams of fat per serving.
2. Add any vegetables you can that are suitable to the recipe. I found a recipe that had ham, pineapple, and brown sugar. This would be too sweet and too low in nutrients, but not so bad if one adds bell pepper, onion, celery, and carrots. If you can add canned beans, drained, to a recipe, that will add a great deal of fiber--I find many Mexican recipes are receptive to black beans, which take on seasonings nicely. I also look for any opportunity to add parsley to a recipe. It is very high in minerals and other nutrients. Adding vegetables also minimizes the opportunity for fat and salt to prevail per serving, and raises the fiber content.
3. Avoid too much use of beef or pork and include more recipes that call for chicken. Beef and pork fat is nastier than chicken fat; it is more solid at a lower temperature, and therefore more harmful. Beef and pork are also very likely to have a lot more fat within the muscle than chicken does. If you skin the chicken (best before cooking, but flavor is improved if you wait until after cooking) that helps lower the fat a great deal as well.
4. Skim or blot the fat before serving. First of all, I remove fat from the pan after browning the meat, pouring it out or blotting it with a paper towel. I don't brown meat and vegetables together, because I don't want to coat the vegetables with meat fat; I brown the vegetables in canola oil or cook them in water. Sometimes I even rinse the browned meat under water, but that will reduce flavor somewhat. You can use a paper towel and squeeze the fat out of ground beef or pork. Fat tends to rise to the top, especially after a dish is simmered and/or refrigerated. You can skim it from liquid using a ladle or spoon, or a thin layer of floating fat will stick to a lettuce leaf which you can rinse off in hot water a few times in the sink. If you simmer a meaty dish and see fat pooling in areas, it is a good opportunity to take a spoon and remove the fat. I throw the fat if significant into the wastebasket because when it hardens in the drain it will clog it (but it's better in the drain than in your arteries!). If I serve a casserole or pizza coated with cheese, I take a napkin or paper towel and blot it until very little comes off. It's amazing how much there is; cheese is a very fatty food!
5. Avoid using too much cheese. I still probably use too much, but I try these days to use it more for flavor than for a main source of protein or filler. I don't make main dishes calling for cream cheese, and if I use a recipe of any sort calling for cream cheese, I use Neufchatel. I don't find that it has any distinguishable difference except in fat content. For main dishes, you may get a satisfactory similar effect by adding sour cream (which you can get in reduced fat form). I don't find that no-fat hard cheese substitutes are acceptable; you need a saw to cut them when they have melted.
6. Use non-fat milk (also known as skim or fat-free). I started drinking it at age 7, when my dad had his first heart attack. Even though 2% sounds like only a little bit of fat, somehow this 2% is a major misnomer. In an 8-oz. serving, 2% has 5 grams of fat! Non-fat has none. The 2% has 120 cal.; non-fat has 90. Non-fat has 9 grams protein; 2% has only 8. You can easily wean yourself off higher fat milk by mixing it more and more with non-fat.
7. Lately, we have started to avoid high-fructose corn syrup. Katie learned that the liver turns it directly to fat. And we discover it's in almost all prepared food! Pop, jam, canned fruit, gel fruit snacks, barbecue sauce, peanut butter, yogurt. But there are often alternatives that don't have it; still you may have to do some searching.
8. Don't think that other forms of sugar are healthier than white. They're no different, not even honey. Your saliva immediately breaks sugars down; that's why honey is no longer sticky when your saliva hits it.
9. Mix extra egg whites in when using eggs. Or when baking, substitute two egg whites for every whole egg. The fat and therefore extreme cholesterol is in the yolks, and you won't miss the density of flavor if you start with one egg white and add more of them as you get used to it. And while we're here, brown eggs have no inherent advantage in nutrition over white eggs; the shell color makes no impact.
10. Replace some of the oil with applesauce or pureed prunes in baked goods. You can find low-fat cookbooks that specialize in this at the library, or experiment around with some of your recipes. Start with a little and gradually increase the substitution each time until you maximize its good effect.
11. Serve oats whenever possible; add flax seed to oatmeal for breakfast and to some baked goods. Oats are high in soluble fiber and are beneficial for reducing cholesterol; flax seed reduces cholesterol and is high in fiber. This is another opportunity for experimentation. I make our meatloaf and meatballs using oatmeal rather than crushed crackers or bread crumbs.
12. Use whole-grain breads and flours, brown rice, and wild rice rather than white. These have much advantage over the white refined versions, in that the most nutritious elements are still there. They are higher in fiber, b vitamins, minerals; they are more filling, too as they're more slowly digested. Don't expect that "enriched" flour replaces it all--it doesn't.
13. Buy the lower-fat versions of ice cream rather than the full-fat version. In doing so you can eat twice as much! Just kidding. After a while you become used to the lower-fat type and they become more appealing than the high-fat version.
These are the things that come to mind. I might think of others later! I hope you find all these things helpful. Enjoy and eat in good health, and with thanks to God for His abundant provision of all this beautiful variety to which we have access. Is He not good, and are we not greatly blessed?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
It wasn't financially easy, but it hadn't been easy before, either. At that time, I was paying $250 per month in daycare. That sounds cheap by today's standards and I think it was fairly cheap then but not cheap like it would be now, and not cheap to me even then! I was earning about $9 per hour at Boeing after 4 years there when I quit. As one example of how desperately broke we were, we used only cloth diapers rather than disposable to save money, the wash-your-own kind, even though I was working. By the time I paid daycare, the cost of driving to work, higher car insurance, higher income tax, the various conveniences I no doubt purchased for the sake of sanity, the birthday presents and occasional bought lunches because of office festivities, the cost of dressing up, and with the inability to shop for sale prices with the remaining time I had, I didn't have much to spare by the end of the month anyway. At the time I quit I had more exact numbers than I have now, and I estimated that I earned about $80 per month by the time I paid for the expenses of working.
These days most women who work probably earn more than I did; but they are no doubt paying more for daycare unless they have a kindly friend or relative doing it as a favor. (I remember one woman at Boeing who paid more in daycare than she earned, because she had two boys; she said the daycare people could do a better job of raising her kids than she could.) If a woman has more than one child I would like to challenge her to show how it could possibly be financially smarter to work than to stay at home.
For that matter, there is the matter of stress and sanity. My health was at a low ebb by the time I quit; I had allergies that were ever-increasing in spite of taking shots, and I was constantly exhausted. My home was in dreadful disarray for lack of time and energy, and I had no significant time to spend one-on-one with Gary or Katie by the time I'd made dinner and had cleaning still to do.
I read an article that is entitled, US Mothers Deserve $134,121 in Salary. (If you are interested, go there! It will try to quantify the value of the work you do at home; in fact, if you work, it doesn't discount the value of that.) While it offered the role of daycare teacher as one facet of a mom's workday, the role comparable to homeschool teacher wasn't provided, such as private tutor or private school teacher, for which I could probably claim higher pay. It also assumed that the husband does the yard work (Gary does mow the lawn but the rest is mine), and doesn't say anything about home repairs. Well, between painting, working on plumbing and electrical and so forth, that's a whole additional category that is mine! The categories it offers are housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver (chauffer sounds a little higher pay and is more like the custom-applied driving of a mom, rather than a corporate van driver), CEO and psychologist; in previous years it also included nurse. Now I don't consider myself a CEO or a psychologist (though I do try to use verses from God's word for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training; give practical aspects regarding behavior; and also apply discipline where needed)."Laundry machine operator" and "janitor" each seem so specific a segment of my time that they ought to be included in housekeeping. Many functions I do are those of a nurse. What about personal shopper, too? The list is hardly comprehensive or perfect. Still, anything in the realm of $134,000 brings a smile to my face. Mom's presence in the home counts for a lot!
And yet, the money value on paper doesn't account for all of it. What about just the comfort that a mom's presence at home provides? The fact that a child has a parent always ready to be at home with him if he's sick, or to help make a car for the Grand Prix? Not only that but the accountability for his behavior after school. I mention that because out of about 17 kids on our street, most of them have mothers who are still at work when they come home from school, and who don't make it home until 5:30 if by then. These parents have no idea of the things their children do while they're gone. A child needs someone to account to, someone who will be his mentor, his confidante, his defender...the value of a mom's presence is impossible to quantify in dollars, but according to what I experienced and what I read in that article, a mother's value is definitely highest at home.
I keep it stocked out of a long-ingrained habit, buying groceries on sale, with coupons, and we eat well for a minimum of money. Grocery shopping is serious business for me; to get the best price on food is my way of making a good investment, because I can readily save about a third of the regular amount by being careful. My mom had six kids and kept lots of food on hand; I probably outdo her. But we went out fairly often as a family, whereas our family does so far less. We usually eat at home, except once in a while at Costco or a quick dollar-menu fast food item here and there. Being homeschoolers we are home most of the time.
This is something that for the most part doesn't seem strange to me; I prefer eating at home. Once in a while, though, I realize how unusual it must be, such as when a friend of my son came to stay for a few days and was astounded at the quantity of dishes we had in the dishwasher. (I sometimes think a second dishwasher would be a good thing.) I run it once or twice per day and it's always stuffed. And then Katie who took a Nutrition course at the community college comes home with statistics about how few times the average American family eats together at home, or how often they eat fast food; then there is an appalling ad for KFC chicken that makes take-out food as if it were an "at home family meal" and though I like KFC well enough, I realize all the more how much we are blessed. We get to eat home-made food together most nights of the week, except when Katie is working, and then three of us are here!
It's a blessing in terms of family togetherness, in finances, in nutrition, in efficiency. I love it so much more than when we eat out! I would so rather make the meal than have it made for me; in fact, I was thinking the other night that just as Eric Liddell, the Gold Medal runner and missionary to China (whose Olympic feat was the subject of the movie Chariots of Fire) said, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure," the same is true of my cooking. I feel that I am fulfilling a good part of God's purpose for me: to provide for my family (and perhaps guests or a family in sickness); even though it may not evangelize the lost too well unless I feed an unbelieving family, it still might glorify God in His provision for His own. (That is, if it tastes good.) I doubt I'll ever get a gold medal for it though.
I used to feel guilty about the abundance of groceries I keep on hand, feeling maybe it wasn't good stewardship; when I go visit people they don't seem to keep as much food around and it's so much tidier. But if they go out more, or don't cook from scratch as much, then it stands to reason they wouldn't need as much. I don't feel guilty about it like I used to. Sometimes it goes to waste; but not so much of the time. It's good not to have to go to the store every day, or go out to eat. It's God's blessing on our family to have an abundance and to be equipped for that good work.
"I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food." Psalm 132:15