A Walk in the Park

Last year we would return from picking up my daughter from school, and I made her sit at the kitchen table and immediately get homework done. In order for her to sit I would keep feeding her. Not only did this mean she ate two suppers, she also hated homework. She had no time to play.

This year I told her we were going to explore all of the parks (playgrounds) in our area. We’ve driven even 10 minutes to get to some of these parks, but that’s not so bad. Both of my kids play for 20-30 minutes and then we head home. Being me, I’ve kept a list of what parks we have visited and what dates.

We look forward to it every afternoon. I get to watch them while getting steps. I call it “Park Circling” in my head, well, now I’ve typed it and you can make fun of me for it.

My birthday present from my folks was a Garmin Vivofit. (Think FitBit). I set my watch for “walk” when we arrive at the playground then I just keep moving. Usually it looks a lot like laps. But I ran track in high school, so walking in a circle isn’t that bad. I usually walk the border of whatever playground we are on, staying on the soft fall-able ground cover. It’s better on my knees than a sidewalk. In 20 minutes at a park I can walk over a little over a mile. I keep moving unless my kids need assistance, but I’m usually able to keep a steady pace even while watching the kids.

How about you? How do you get in exercise in creative ways?

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Tangled Backseat

These are the grossest pictures I will ever post. You’re about to see the backseat of my car. This is actually after picking up. Sad. I have to post them though because my genius husband and I figured out how to tidy the DVD cords on the backseat. 


Yep our kids have portable DVD players on our headrests. We often go on multi-hour car rides and these puppies help them be excellent in the car. 


But the cords keep getting roughed up. We’re on our second and third set. We need to secure them. 

There’s a 3m for that!


Menards seems to have the widest selection of command strips. These are even rounded!!

We also bought black zip ties to tidy even more. Menards has them with electrical. 


Just one 3m on each seat back. 


And one on each side of the center console. 


I zip tied the bundle of extra power cord with enough slack to be able to adjust the seats. 




A few more zip ties just to keep the cords together and trimmed and it looks gorgeous!  Well, except for the fingerprints all over the DVD players and the general stains of the backseat (see blog title).
Disclaimer… After taking serious abuse during vacation, two clips popped off and one broke. They are not meant to take a direct hit, or several while cramming stuff in the backseat. 

Splinter Kit

I’m sorting through the mess that is my homemade first aid kit. 

A good kit should be accessible and I’m sure there’s stuff that needs to be pitched in the depths of this bin. 

I was keeping “like” things in plastic bags. If you’ve ever put anti itch instead of anti bacterial cream on a boo boo you’ll separate things too. 

My favorite invention is our splinter kit. Truth be told, our magnifying glass is blurry and never used, so the only things we need are the tweezers and needles. It’s so nice when someone has a splinter to not hunt for tweezers in the cosmetic bag and a needle in the sewing kit. 

After dumping or relocating some things I’m left with a much neater first aid kit. 

Lots of trash…  I’m not sure about expiration dates on medicine. I’m guessing it’s a potency thing rather than a spoiling, but when one is labeled 2012, it’s time.  Well, way past time. 

Unloading vs. Loading

Loading the dishwasher is enjoyable, maybe especially for those of us who went years without one, because of the challenge to arrange things in the best way to get clean and to stuff it to the max.  I’ll rearrange it over and over as I fill it just to get it all in there.  If there’s something just won’t fit, I may leave it for the next load rather than handwash it.  I’m that person.  Lazy?  Yeah, that shoe fits.

Unloading is another matter.

It shouldn’t be.  The dishes are clean, the work has been done, but somehow I feel less enthusiastic about putting it all away.  Laundry can be like that, (love to wash; hate to fold?) but once I got efficient about my folding and putting away I do it expeditiously.  Woo!  Making word-of-the-day proud.

So, I’ve been working on a system to make unloading the dishwasher, which is a chore, less of a chore.  I amuse myself that I’ve found what goads my laziness or at least my procrastination to do something about the full-clean dishwasher.  It’s the back-tracking that bugs me.  I don’t like opening this cabinet to put this dish in, then a different cabinet to put away that dish, then lo and behold there’s another dish to go in the previous cabinet.  As exercise though, I’m sure it increases my steps.

When you move houses, it’s most efficient to load a large moving truck with everything, drive it to your location and unload it even if you’re moving down the block.  I need to pile the dishes once, in a single location, and then put them away.  Is that why loading the dishwasher is easier as most dirty dishes are in a single location, already in the sink or on the counter?  I’m making it a habit to unload the entire dishwasher in drip-efficient order onto the nearest clean counter, then moving a whole stack to their destination.  No more two plates at a time.

First, I need to unload the sink-side drain of all dishes that were drying from the previous dishwasher load and anything that had to be washed by hand.  I need the drain empty so I can air-dry this current load.

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My silverware is on the door itself, not everyone’s is.  This is my step one, but if yours is on the bottom rack I would suggest making this your first unload in the bottom rack.  I try to load my silverware heads up to get clean and to be able to put them away without having to turn them.  I can do it in one trip with loaded fistfuls.   Anything else in the silverware holder that is not silverware then gets put away or put in the drying rack.

Then the bottom rack.  Why?  Because the top rack often contains plastics which retain water drops.  If you pull out the top rack, that water will drip on the bottom dry dishes.  (When this happens you can hear my disappointed “NOOOOOO!” from space.  Seriously, it’s just water, but it feels like failure.)  I have been unloading the bottom rack entirely and stacking the plates, bowls, etc into groups to be put away.  Just like unloading a laundry basket into piles by a garment’s destination.

Then I unload the top rack, which is mostly wet and goes straight into the sink-side drain to finish air drying, but the dry items join the queue on the counter.  Finally, I close the dishwasher and put everything on the counter away in the fewest trips possible.   Or sometimes I load it anew from the dirty dish piles on the counter and in the sink, and then close it and then put dishes away.  Truth.

If this seems like waaaay too much thought put in to unloading a dishwasher, you’re absolutely right.  Over-thinking it… also a shoe sized “Maria.”  Maybe simply being grateful to have clean dishes I get to put away is enough to get the job done.  Finish strong friends!!

Making Caroline Ingalls Proud

I’ve started reading the Little House series to my 6 year old.  We’re now in Farmer Boy and she loves them as much as I did as a kid.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura mentions her mom’s weekly housekeeping schedule.

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It includes a washing day (I do a load of laundry pretty much every day, but I don’t have to fill a washtub with creek water), an ironing day (no thanks!), a mending day (this one I should incorporate), a day to churn, a day to rest, and a baking day.  Baking day sounded awesome, so I’ve declared Tuesday as baking day!  The most delicious day of the week.

When the flour, etc. is already out making multiple baked items is less of a chore.  My husband feels the same way about frying things.  “The oil is hot, what else should we deep fry…”

My freezer needs to have space to store for baking day.  I learned by listening to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast that baked items go stale at the same rate if you store on the counter or if you stir in the fridge.  What preserves freshness best is the freezer, as long as you wrap things properly.  Most things need two layers of plastic wrap and a freezer bag or aluminum foil.  Sliced frozen bread is great to go straight into the toaster.  A lot of bread will thaw on the counter from frozen in 30 minutes to an hour.  Then I noticed my microwave has a bread defrost button.  Does everyone know about this frozen bread thing but me?!

The first baking day I made a pie and froze it and also New York bagels, biscuits and blueberry muffins.  I wrapped the cooled muffins individually (after being short a couple) in two layers of plastic wrap then into a freezer bag .  Defrosting them in the microwave means every morning we could have warm blueberry muffins.  The next week I made ultimate cinnamon buns, double chocolate banana bread, baked ham and jalapeno empanadas, and more bagels (because we ate them all).  Last week I only made chocolate croissants.  These take the entirety of your baking day with all the resting in the fridge they need.  Worth it.  Oh so worth it.

Or course Ma didn’t often have the luxury of chocolate and white sugar and berries out of season and, and, and…  She and all those like her were wonder women at making things work.  But I think she’d be proud to know she influenced one modern-age woman to bake crazy delicious things for her family and friends on a designated day I SO look forward to.  And I get to bring my husband home from work with a text like this…

img_6737How about you?  Would a designated day encourage you to bake from scratch?  Do you store baked goods in the freezer and you’ve been sitting on this trick without telling me?!

Outfit Options or Lack Thereof

I stock my daughters drawers the same way I do everyone’s in our home, newly folded clothes to the back of the drawer to rotate them.  So it should be easy enough to just grab the first item in the drawer and put it on.  But, she likes some choices, and I learned she likes to see an outfit laid out, not separate pieces.  Plus, some tops just go better with specific bottoms.img_6722

So, I check my weather app for the week’s forecast and create 5 outfits on Sunday and hang them on hangers.  I try to use one hanger for each day, but tutus are simply hung beside a day’s hanger.

Jeans and shorts I hang on a hanger with a shirt using a belt loop…img_6720

or a tag if there isn’t a loop…img_6721

I fold leggings directly on the hanger. img_6719

Now there’s 5 outfits for 5 days and she has some choice (I often hold up two hangers, “This one or this one”), but not so many choices that it will keep her from getting ready and getting out the door in time for school.  I’m a big advocate for a lack of options.

How about you?  Do you lay out clothes for the next day or do you do it for someone in your family?

Marriage Savers

Marriage saving may be false advertising as nothing can save a marriage like Jesus, but as we’re coming up on our 10 year anniversary, we have found there are some helpful tools (like actual objects) that have either kept an argument from happening or solved a problem that was leading to grudgy (not a word but it should be) feelings.

Our first compromise… A toaster oven/conventional toaster combo.  When registering for our wedding we realized how differently we were raised.  He grew up with a toaster that springs, I was raised with a toaster oven.  Worlds apart, I know.  If this is you, there’s a product for that.

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My arguments for choosing a toaster oven was sandwich melts and butter storage.  (In our family, we put butter on a plate and kept it in the toaster oven for safe keeping.  I later learned that my mom did this because her butter dish broke and something about mice? )  Funny how the way things were when you were a kid creates a belief system for “the way this is supposed to be done” even when it wasn’t a preference of your parents but just a problem solver at a specific time with specific circumstances.   It’ll be great when my kids register for their wedding and they scan long handled tongs to reach things up high.  “Because that’s what you do.”  Ha!

Back to the toaster… We used our compromise happily until it broke then got a cheap pop up toaster.  I really didn’t make sandwich melts anymore and I started using a butter dish… and storing it in the fridge so it doesn’t go rancid.

My in-laws gave us these and actually called them “marriage savers.”

Are you a toothpaste tube squeezer who doesn’t mind if you’re pushing product toward or away from the opening or do you thoughtfully and wastelessly squeeze toward the spout?  Most likely you’re one and your spouse is the other and you need these cheap little plastic pinchers to appease the waste-conscious one.  We should all practice tooth hygiene grudge-free.

Do you wake up your spouse in the middle of the night when your fitted sheet comes off the corner of your mattress so you can pull it back down?  I Googled something like “fitted sheet suspenders” and I found these bad boys and got them for my husband’s birthday as the “Something you Need” present.  It was sure hard to wait until his birthday to give this gift.  These may be my new go-to wedding gift.

Finally, I do this to extension cords…img_6738Some may call it braided but it really is hand crocheted in a simple chain.  All you do is pull the ends and it comes right out if it’s crocheted right and if it is pulled correctly, but it drives my husband crazy.  He just winds cords in a loop, but that can make a knot really easily.  We nearly had to have his and hers extension cords.  Recently he bought this hand cranking spool to store our extension cord.

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I don’t intend to product promote with this blog, but these are my current marriage savers, and I want to hear yours too!  If you can think of a tool that you use to avoid petty arguments please share it; far better to have a list of marriage savers than deal breakers.