Archive for the ‘Household’ Category

It’s funny that I am simultaneously a paper girl and a fan of Paperless Home Organization

January 3, 2014 @ 11:13 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Homeschool Record-Keeping, Household, Paper & Desk

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Really really really good tips in the Mystie Winckler book Pamela Barnhill recommends here, gang. I thought I was already using Evernote & Google Calendar efficiently, but I picked up some useful new ideas (including better integrating my systems) in the book. Which is 30% off with the code in Pam’s post. So, like, under $3.

In Paperless Home Organization, Mystie Winckler leads you through the process of using digital applications to build your very own paperless system. She walks you step-by-step through how to use four free apps to digitally store the same information you would normally keep in a home management binder.

Which means if you have a smartphone, or an iPod Touch, or any tablet, then your binder no longer sits cluttering up your counter, but in your hand – at the doctor’s office, the bookstore, even at your school room table.

I’d been meaning to try Remember the Milk—my pal Ron raves about it, and he doesn’t rave lightly—and Pam’s post, and Mystie’s book, nudged me to take the plunge. Last year I relied on TeuxDeux for daily task management, but my free trial period ran out and I decided I wasn’t enough in love with it to pay for it. It’s a really gorgeous, clean layout but too hard to go back to past days. Remember the Milk isn’t quite as visually appealing (its web app, that is; on my phone it’s quite nice) but it is so much more flexible and functional. Thanks to Paperless Home Organization, I’ve now got it talking to my Gmail account (my RTM to-do list pops up in my inbox sidebar) and WOW, this is just right for the way mah brain works.

As for Evernote, I rely on it for everything. Or so I thought. Now I see all sorts of new bits of recordkeeping I can shift over there. Very pleased.

What I Really Want Is Something That Totally Sucks

September 15, 2011 @ 2:10 pm | Filed under: Home and Hearth, Household

The last time I posted a question about vacuum cleaners, I was told (privately) it wasn’t an interesting topic—but that was five years ago, and I for one am still somewhat obsessed with the question, so it’s interesting to one person, at least. :) I’ve bought two vacuums in the past ten years, and both were massive disappointments. Like the Dyson people (whose products are out of my price range), I just like things to work properly!

Here’s what I want: a lightweight vacuum cleaner/electric sweeper for hardwood floors that also works on area rugs. Basically I want a broom that sucks up the crumbs and the dust. I’ve tried the Swiffer rechargeable SweeperVac, and if it had more suction power, it would be exactly what I’m looking for. Alas, its vacuuming capability is simply not up to the challenge posed by this particular family. It pushes the Cheerios around, doesn’t inhale them.

Our Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner is supposed to work on hardwood, but it leaves a lot of crumbs behind (and yes, I’ve tried changing the bag). Besides, it’s heavy and bulky and makes me terribly crabby.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of Orecks. Their light weight is certainly appealing. But then, the Swiffer is so light you can practically twirl it like a baton. Orecks are real vacuums, though. The question is, do they suck?

Best Comment Thread Ever

August 7, 2008 @ 4:16 am | Filed under: Food, Household

People are sharing their Costco (and Sam’s) shopping lists in the comments. Care to add yours? I am learning a lot. Am also getting hungry.

Comments are off

Day in the Life

August 6, 2008 @ 7:21 pm | Filed under: Family, Food, Household

I wrote this for my daily notes blog but halfway through decided I wanted to ask the Costco question here so am sticking it here instead. Forgive the chatty blah blah and lazy writing.

Really nice day, though at the outset I thought it was going to be too busy. Turned out to be productive (in the a.m.) and mellow (in the p.m.).

Piano classes first thing. Rose was deeply troubled by a back tooth about to come out, afraid it would fall out during class and there’s no bathroom right there and what would she do?? I told her she could skip class, stick with me.

We dropped the other two off and went to the gas station to vacuum out the car. Machine took coins only. Turned out Rose had a whole purse full of quarters—saved up for buying bouncy balls at the taco shop on piano days. Hee. She helped me clean out the trash and vacuum two thirds of the car. We didn’t do the last row b/c I didn’t feel like taking out the carseats (and Rilla), and without doing that, not much point in vac’ing.

The panic alarm went off when I started the car back up. COULD NOT get it to stop. Had to call Scott at work. Wonderboy was shrieking: awful sound in his hearing aids, I imagine. Poor guy. I was too flustered to get out of the car and turn off his aids. Scott knew the trick, so whew.

Back to piano to pick up Beanie. Told Jane she could hang out & talk to her friend whose sister is in Rose’s class. That gave us an hour and a half to kill. Needed to pick up something for dinner. On impulse, I went to Costco—finally—and got a membership. Which took a while, so we didn’t have much actual shopping time. I love how the big bulk packages of chicken are sectioned into six meal-sized portions. NOW I get why all my friends buy all their meat there. Cheaper, I knew, but I thought I’d have to divide up the big packages of meat for freezing and I loathe doing that. This perforated portions thing ROCKS.

Made children happy by buying case of fruit leather, which Katie Z had served with lunch yesterday & mentioned getting at Costco. Yum.

Loved the double-seater shopping cart, too, but Rilla begged to ride in the sling anyway. Ah well.

Mean to ask local friends this, but I’ll ask it here too: what do you buy at Costco? What are the best deals? I put off joining for ages because those big warehouse stores overwhelm the bejeebers out of me.

Back to piano to pick up Jane. Home, unpacked groceries, everyone snacked for lunch. All were ready for some veg time. Uncle Jay had sent a copy of Gail Carson Levine’s Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg in the mail: a library favorite, producing much shrill excitement from the girls. Rose called dibs on first read, so that’s how she spent the next couple of hours. Jane is re-reading Oz books (because Beanie has just discovered them) and I forgot to ask what else.

Later: computer games for the girls, Blues Clues for the littles, puttering around for me.

Afternoon tidy up, nice phone call with a Virginia friend, folded laundry, read a stack of Boynton books to the boy.

Around 4:30, hit a wall of exhaustion. Asked Jane to watch the little ones for 20 minutes so I could nap. Took the nap, woke so groggy, wondered if it had been a bad idea.

Started dinner. Slam dunk tonight. Sauteed two onions, boneless chicken thighs (yay Costco), took out a couple for the kids and added some Trader Joe Cuban Mojito sauce to the rest. Found the jar in the pantry when looking for something else. Oh. My. Goodness. So incredibly tasty. Had a big loaf of rosemary bread from Costco, also smashingly good, for sopping up the pan drippings. Kids ate their chicken plain, with sliced peaches, carrots, bread. Rose set the table, made it so lovely. When I finished eating (actually got to sit through the meal, mostly—Rilla had crashed on the sofa, which is a bad thing in terms of her bedtime but made dinner easier), Rose plopped Favorite Poems Old and New in front of me and insisted I read a few. Read some new ones and then was implored by all three girls to read “the funny poem”—their old favorite, “To My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months.” They shrieked at the lines that especially fit their brother: “Where did he learn that squint?” and “Thou imp of mirth and joy” most of all.

Started the dishes, enjoying the sound of Jane practicing “The Entertainer” on piano. How I love that piano: Jane’s Steinway, her wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation when she was three years old. Very good choice, my dear. And hurrah to Mr. Rogers for inspiring a tiny little girl with awe at the sight of a “big mommy pah-no” those many years ago, when the only keyboard she knew was the little tabletop one in our apartment. No one could believe such a bitty girl really wanted a piano, but she clung to that wish for six months until everyone was convinced she meant it. What a gift she gave the whole family, choosing a piano over the VIP trip to Disney everyone expected a three-year-old to ask for. She wouldn’t even have remembered the Disney trip, but that piano blesses our family every single day, ten years later. Standing there at the sink, watching the little ones play outside the kitchen window, smiling to see how my neglected petunias have revived in the hanging basket now that we’re actually watering them, listening to Jane’s music ripple off the keys, I felt suffused with contentment.

And then finally Scott was home, and he ate standing at the stove as I knew he would, scraping the juices out of the pan with the good bread. And now he’s on kid (and dish) duty, and I’m here in the bedroom gearing up to write. And answer mail, oh my goodness. I made the stupidest flub: accidentally archived a hundred messages waiting to be answered—some from weeks ago. Have so far pored through 1600 archived emails looking for the ones I need to answer. Needles in haystacks. If I owe you a reply, please be patient. Or write me again, in case I didn’t find your needle in all that hay.

For the Commonplace Book: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

December 30, 2007 @ 9:27 am | Filed under: Beauty, Clippings, Home and Hearth, Household

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"On the route to Aigle from Ollon, where we live in Switzerland, one passes an orchard. Neatly planted rows of trees are beautifully pruned and trained to form straight aisles for fruit-picking, with a grassy carpet beneath. But the thing which causes most passersby to turn and look, and look again, slowing up the car if they are driving, is the touch of an artist indeed. Planted at the end of every row of trees is a lovely rose bush, and in midsummer these bushes are a riot of color in a variety of roses. There is just one rose bush at the end of each line, but this is enough to lift the entire work, which could be merely efficient fruit-farming, into a work of art, enjoyed by hundreds who pass each day—bringing influence into lives as well as being a subject of discussion, and bringing about, in other gardens, results of which the ‘artist’ may never know."

—The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

Works for Me Wednesday: The Peanut Butter Basket

June 27, 2007 @ 7:28 am | Filed under: Household

I think the inspiration for this little brainstorm was the book, Confessions of an Organized Housewife (which book, by the way, caused my friend Lisa to about die with laughter when she spotted it on my shelf, half hidden behind a flower vase, three hair barrettes, and an old disposable camera, while helping me pack for the move).

The author of that book talks about kitchen organization, and storing items commonly used together in one place, instead of, say, measuring cups in cabinet X and measuring spoons in drawer Y. Makes more sense to keep your measuring cups and spoons together along with the electric beaters, your favorite mixing bowl, and possibly the baking powder.

I thought that was a great idea and promptly took her advice (some six or seven years ago).

Later it occurred to me to use that grouping technique for the lunch-prep items my kids and I use almost every single day. I got a plastic basket for the pantry, and that’s where we keep the peanut butter (creamy and crunchy), honey, and a loaf of bread. It’s much easier to pull out that one basket than to have the kids rummaging through the pantry for the various items.

Hardly rocket science, but it works for us!

(And of course this is the same principle at work in my famed Personal Salad Bar.)

Works for Me Wednesday: My Personal Salad Bar

March 21, 2007 @ 9:59 am | Filed under: Food, Household

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It’s been almost two years since I had the brainstorm that dramatically improved my eating habits…for a while. A long while, a year at least. But somewhere along the line, I let the habit slip, and then I forgot all about it.

Time to start over. Here’s the idea: I keep a plastic bin full of yummy salad fixings in my refrigerator.

Boom, one-stop shopping. It’s right there at eye level on the
fridge shelf, where I can’t avoid seeing it. Big bag of prewashed
spinach sitting on top. In the bin are all the little baggies and
plastic containers that I was finding it such a burden to collect from
various points in the pantry and refrigerator. Pine nuts, sunflower
seeds, almonds, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, real bleu
cheese…mmm, just cutting-and-pasting this list from above makes me
hungry. (They don’t all make it into every salad, of course, just a
random selection. Otherwise there’d be no room for the veggies, which
are, of course, the whole point.)

Also in the bin: sliced mushrooms, diced bell peppers, chopped
carrots. OK, so it’s not a perfect system: I still have to prep the
veggies. But (another duh moment) I’m doing it once or twice a week, at
night after the kids are in bed. Then in the middle of my busy day, I
can scoop a handful of diced peppers out of a baggie and throw it on my
beeyootiful salad. I know, lots of people have thought of this before
me. I don’t claim to be innovative. Except possibly in the matter of
sticking it all in a bin together so all I have to do is pull the bin
out of the fridge and mix-and-match until I’ve got a bowlful.

You can read more about the idea in my original post, but the gist is pretty simple. During the year I was sticking with it, I really did eat a nice big salad pretty much every day because that darn bin was staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge, with the blue cheese crumbles and toasted almonds right on top. Yum.

Rachael Ray makes a quick and easy vinaigrette out of orange marmalade, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  Delish, as she says. Or try raspberry preserves in place of the marmalade: oh my goodness is that tasty. I know what I’m having for lunch.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more WFWM posts.

Heckuva Markup

March 15, 2007 @ 10:25 am | Filed under: Household

Hubby just forwarded me this Boing Boing post:


On the Freakonomics blog, Stephen Dubner (co-author of the wonderful
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything) digs into the pricing on generic drugs and finds that the main-street pharmacies mark up their offerings by 975 percent!

Even once you factor in the cost of buying a membership at Costco and
Sam’s Club, the price differences were astounding. Here are the prices
he found at Houston stores for 90 tablets of generic Prozac:

Walgreens: $117

Eckerd: $115

CVS: $115

Sam’s Club: $15

Costco: $12

Those aren’t typos. Walgreens charges $117 for a bottle of the same pills for which Costco charges $12.

Yowza! I’d be interested in seeing the differential for asthma medications (the only prescription meds we buy on a regular basis here).


Click through to Boing Boing
to get the link to the whole post quoted above, which is quite interesting.  A commentor chimes in that Costco does not require membership for pharmacy purchases. Is that correct? I don’t shop at Costco (yet) but I have always heard good things about it (including its corporate policies). I keep meaning to go check out diaper prices there. I’ve been getting them via Amazon Grocery, and with the 15% discount for subscription service, I’m paying 18 cents a diaper. I used to get Target’s store brand for 17 cents per, but the doorstep delivery is totally worth that extra penny, in my book.

Except this time I cut it too close, and the baby is wearing the last diaper in the house, yikes! We are nibbling our nails while waiting for the doorbell to ring this morning…

Cookbook Open Thread

February 26, 2007 @ 1:50 pm | Filed under: Books, Food, Household

What is your favorite cookbook? Especially in regard to making regular old weekday family dinners?

I like the Leanne Ely books—Saving Dinner, Healthy Foods, and Frantic Family Cookbook—although I’ve never been able to make the Saving Dinner plan work for us on a regular basis. Picky, picky children here. And hubby doesn’t eat beef or most kinds of cheese.

As long as we’re talking recipes, what are your favorite cooking and meal-planning websites? I had a good time playing around at the interactive Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals toy at Food Network, but there aren’t many recipes there; you have to click over here to find the archives.

This week’s edition of Carnival of the Recipes is all about slow-cooker meals, hosted by (appropriately enough) the Slow Cooker Recipes blog. I love my crock pot. Speaking of which, I have half a roasted chicken in the fridge awaiting crock-pottish inspiration…I’m envisioning some kind of chili-chicken-corn chowder, but I don’t have a recipe. Winging it in the kitchen is not my special gift, let me tell you! Time to cozy up to my pal Google…

UPDATED: Found this and this. This one looks tasty. This one too, but Rilla can’t tolerate my having cream. (Wah.) Still, between them all I think I can come up with something.

UPDATED AGAIN to add the Loveliness of Baking fair. Yum!