Beautiful Mess

I donned one of my favorite t-shirts (from a Sarah Hart ♥ concert) to get ready for our beauty detox.

So, I was thinking, we took a look under the sink, made some tough choices, and invested some time and money to clean up our act with regard to household cleaners.  We have more work to do, but be sure to take a moment to celebrate your progress.  Next time you reach for a product to tidy up after a meal, smile and thank yourself.  You probably don’t do that enough in all areas of life!

Beauty products are a little more fun than cleaning products so let’s take a look at those…

Well even though they are a little more fun, we still have to plop down under another sink.  This time the bathroom sink.  But, before we do that, we have a little homework to do.  Remember I am a teacher ; )

1.  Make a list of all your current body and beauty products.

Consider cleansing, moisturizing and cosmetics.  This list will help you throughout the process.

My body care list looks like this:

  • body soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, tooth paste, deodorant, lotion

My facial care/cosmetics list looks like this:

  • cleanser, scrub, masks, makeup remover, moisturizer, eye cream, concealer, blush, highlighter, eye brow pencil, mascara, eye liner,  lipstick, and hair spray.

2.  Now back under the sink for some more label reading.

If you are like me, you have amassed quite a collection of half-used, might-use and used-to-use beauty products.  Remember our work here is two-fold: detoxify and simplify.

  • Start by discarding older products.  We tend to keep products longer than safely recommended, so now is a good time to toss.
  • Look at the labels of the products you are keeping.  Refer to the 15 Toxic Trespasser list.  some key words to look for are parabens, phthalates and even fragrance. I am going to be honest, I went cold turkey and tossed all my body soaps, lotions, toners, perfumes and hair products.  You don’t have to do that, but at least know what you are working with.

3.  Cleansing

  • For me soap was where I could make the greatest impact for the whole family.  I found a wonderful, locally made goat’s milk soap, Tasha’s Own at the farmer’s market.   I replaced all of our body wash and hand soaps with it. It was a little inconvenient at first to go from pump to bar but worth it.  I even went to the farm and met the goats.  Tots adorbs!  (Not necessary.  I am just like that!)  Unfortunately my local source (that sounds sketchy) moved a few hours away.  I still stock up during the summer when I get to their new farmer’s market.  I also found the soap on Etsy here. They’re running a sale!
  • My friend Meghan, brought me this loofah from her garden!  As you can imagine, I am totally on board with this natural exfoliator.  And, I can’t wait to grow them/it (?) in my garden.  This loofah has been in my shower for weeks, like lots of weeks. It is completely in tact and as clean as the day I got it.  Again, can’t improve on nature, so why try?
  • When I can’t get the Tasha’s Own goat’s milk soap I use Shea Moisture bars.  I actually cut them in half since they are so big and put half in the kids bathroom.
  • For hand soap, if we are having guests, I like to use Everyone Hand Soap. It’s expensive but it is a large pump and it lasts.
  • And look at these cute little travel sticks of GM soap!  I didn’t get them from the same farm but I love them.  I’ll try them on my next trip and let you know how it goes. My Hummel is even impressed.
  • Anti-bacterial hand soaps or hand sanitizers are not something we need.  They are usually a toxic soup and many reports indicate that we are all killing the good bacteria with the bad.
  • If you got the Branch Basic’s kit they include a hand soap pump.  I bought an extra one.
  • I use the goat’s milk soap for my facial cleansing too.  If you aren’t ready to do that, I like Origins White Tea and Beauty Counter cleansers  (This is an amazing company with products I love.  The drawback for me is the cost.  Worth it if it fits your budget), or consider a Norwex facial cloth and warm water or a small amount of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap
  • Lastly, I’ve read that soap and water of any kind is harsh on skin.  I am on the nifty side of 50 so I am interested in retaining moisture. I use these Shea Moisture makeup remover wipes most nights before bed and that’s it.

 

4.  Moisturizing

  • You are probably all on the coconut oil bandwagon and I am right there with you. But, I have to be honest, it’s not the easiest product to use.  It sort of clumps and flakes. The same with the shea butter I love.
  • My friend Lisa turned me on to Shea Moisture products and I can’t say enough about the effectiveness and commitment to being a natural product.
  • I was soooooo excited when I found a recipe for whipped body butter that used my two faves: shea butter and coconut oil, and it combined them into a silky easy to absorb lotion.  You can find it here on The Hippy Homemaker blog. Two modifications:  I didn’t use mango butter (just more shea) or arrow root.  It turned out great.  Here are some photos from the process.  I just put the end result back into my shea butter container and  two small mason jars.  This is a keeper!  I even put some into a small container on my vanity and use it for facial moisturizing, eye makeup removal and an eye cream.  Now that’s a detoxing and simplifying that was worth the time in preparation.

Let’s take a look at our original list.  We’ve substituted and condensed. Detoxify and Simplify. Job Well Done!!  Next time we will either get back to those plastics and laundry detergent or we can work on the rest of our body care and facial care/cosmetics.  You guys decide.  Let me know what you would like to tackle next, down in the comment section.  Until then, thanks for stopping by for this important work.

Pax,

Kristin

body care :

  • body soap, hand soap, body lotion, exfoliator, shampoo, conditioner, shaving lotion, tooth paste, deodorant

facial care/cosmetics:

  • cleanser, make up remover, moisturizer, eye cream, concealer, highlighter, blush, eye brow pencil, mascara, eye liner,  lipstick, hair spray.

 

 

 

10 (20) Item Wardrobe-Core Set 3

Oh look, it’s another tunic dress!

Mustard Skinny Jeans-Old Navy (Would never normally choose mustard anything but they look great with denim and (surprisingly) my Knox Rose Tunic dress)

Blue Floral Blouse-Loft

Denim Tunic Dress-Old Navy

Navy cardigan-Loft

Paisley Scarf-Gift

Next time we will look at my entire capsule wardrobe, and break it down, so you can see all the components together and consider your options.

 

Grab a box! Let’s start the detox

I have a picture of my people at the top of this post because that is my motivation for a healthier household today and every day.

Are you ready?  Let’s get started! The three tools you need are: A garbage bag (because we are going to get rid of our past mistakes), a box (because there will be some keepers-maybe just until we replace) and the 15 Toxic Trespassers Sheet from Women’s Voices for The Earth (to reference along the way).

The 15 T T Sheet is a list of some of the most concerning and prevalent chemicals found in household products.  We are going to use this sheet to analyze the labels on the products we use daily.

Let’s get under that kitchen sink: Plop yourself down and take a look at some labels.  I keep dishwashing liquid, dishwashing detergent, extra spray cleaner and a soft scrub cleaner under there.  Three of these items I already make myself.

But oh my!  Anything that looks this…unnatural, can’t be good.  You are probably thinking,  You make many of your  household cleaners and you saw fit to buy those? Remember, we are not judging.  But, I would have to agree with you.  That is why I need this Detox Reboot and I need you to help me!  

So, no ingredients listed on package.  But my internet search resulted in a Proctor & Gamble safety data sheet for these Cascade Fresh Scent Actionpacs that listed this among several other ingredient warnings.

IF INHALED: Remove to fresh air and keep at rest in a position comfortable for breathing. Call a physician or poison control center immediately.

You have probably also read about children mistakenly eating these because of their enticing shape and color.

These have to go!

It is important to note here that Proctor & Gamble is one of the first companies to (by 2019) pledge to list all ingredients including fragrance components on it’s cleaning products.

Here’s the thing friends:  we could spend months sifting through information (a lot of it contradictory) trying to determine what is “safe” and what isn’t.  I’ve decided that I want “less chemical/more natural” in my house. So moving forward my mantra will be:

If I can make it or purchase a natural alternative, I will.

Do you have those 4 same items under your sink?  Do you want to replace any of them? No worries, I’ve got you covered, and it couldn’t be easier.  Can I tell you a little story first?  If not, just skip ahead.  No hard feelings.

My daughter decided to compare the effectiveness of spray cleaners for her science fair project 5 years ago.  She taped off two sections on the counter and we proceeded to touch, place raw foods (including meat) and basically contaminate them.  She first tested the bacteria levels.  Needless to say they were high.  She then cleaned one section with a store-bought cleaner with bleach and the other with our vinegar and water solution.  I had used the VW solution for a while when she did this, so I was definitely sweating the results.

Drumroll please: After cleaning, the store-bought cleaner side still contained a startling amount of bacteria.  The vinegar and water side contained almost no traces of bacteria.

This was a middle school science fair project, not The CSI lab, but still!  That is one product I have since used consistently throughout my house including on all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.  And here is more good news.  These products are cheaper to make then their store-bought counterparts.

So, if nothing else, consider replacing your all-purpose cleaner with a simple solution of 1 part water to one part white distilled vinegar.

I notice they make “cleaning vinegar”.  I’ve never used it.  I just use the inexpensive household kind.  If you don’t like the smell, add the essential oil of your choice, but the vinegar smell dissipates quickly.

I’ve read that you shouldn’t use vinegar on granite countertops, but I’ve been doing it for years now and notice no difference in the look and feel of the granite.  If you’re concerned about this, you may want to use a Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) solution.  The basic ratio is 2 cups water to 1/8 cup liquid soap.

Friends, I am pumped (pun intended!)  These are the recipes I have used for years with the exception of the dishwasher tablets.  That’s a new one but so far so good! I’ll keep all my how-to videos on the Laterblessed Youtube channel for reference.

 

Here is another alternative to store-bought dishwashing detergent.

My friend and canning buddy, Debbie Lou, shared this great article with an infographic of several homemade cleaning recipes.  Thanks DL!

If you are interested in making a change but don’t want to make your products, you still have good options.

One semi-do-it-yourself product is the Branch Basics cleaning kit.  I purchased it years ago and was happy with the results.  They had to make some changes to their product and took it off the market for a period of time.  They just relaunched with a new formulation.  They offer different kits but basically it is the base soap that you use to make a cleaning solution and hand soap.  The bottles and dispensers in the kit show you exactly how to measure.

Norwex products are excellent but I use their cloths, not necessarily their cleaners.  The cloth is kind of the point with Norwex.

I  love Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap for a myriad of uses, including body wash.  We’ll talk more about that in the body care and beauty post.

I also recommend Mrs. Meyer’s or Seventh Generation products.

We are well on our way to a whole house detox and I’m feeling better already.  I hope you are too!  In the next post we will consider our plastic usage in the kitchen, discuss safer alternatives and then venture into the laundry room. As we continue, consider keeping the products you are sticking with in the box.  That way, when we are done, you can see exactly what you still have (all in one place) and what could still be changed out.

If you have a natural kitchen cleaning product that you like or a recipe that you’ve tried, please share!  Or, just let me know how you are feeling about these first steps. I’d love to hear from you.

Pax,

Kristin

 

 

Are you Ready to be an Actionista?

The purpose of this blog is to connect with other (wiser than me) women, who are also attempting to live their best (not perfect, not one size fits all) life, and share the journey. I am a planner.  Perhaps you’ve noticed.  So, the concept of living intentionally is affirming for me.  I can say, “See, I told you we needed a plan!”  The plan part I’ve got.  It’s the actual purpose, I’m still working on.  Oh, I get “The” purpose (at least for me). First Corinthians has that covered. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

But, how do we simplify living intentionally and infuse it into our daily lives? How do we shift our focus back to the important relationships in our lives rather than the functions of the day?

For me the key is the simplify part.  That is why I’m hell-bent on decluttering every aspect of my life. When daily life and routines are simplified, then the mind can rest and the heart can be free to be more generous.  Does that make sense?  Marie Kondo could not have sold millions of books across the globe if she hadn’t struck a chord with so many.

So, we’ll talk about technology, shoes, pantries, photo storage and free time.  But let’s start with the idea of detoxing and what it means in our homes and habits.  I hope we can agree that it is one of the essential simplification processes that will help our state of body and mind.

Ten years ago, I read a book (Mr. Man finds reading to be a very dangerous habit for me ; ) about the health impacts of bioaccumulation, also referred to as “body burden”.  Fancy words to describe the layering of toxins in our bodies, too great for our natural detox system to handle.  Our bodies are amazing and they filter toxins in a variety of ways.  They are equipped to handle a reasonable level of toxins.  They are not equipped to handle the enormous amount of man-made chemicals entering our systems through the soap, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, makeup, we put on our skin…..or the chemicals we inhale while cleaning our homes or doing something crazy like sitting on the couch or laying our head on our pillow….or the chemicals we ingest when we eat processed food.  Shall I continue?  I think you get the point.

So, I read some more.  What struck me about each study I read, was that the two main issues, as a result of personal bioaccumulation were hormone disruption with relation to infertility and carcinogens linked to breast cancer.  Well let’s see, I spent the better part of my twenties and thirties being treated for infertility issues and my mother is a breast cancer survivor.  Fast forward 8 years to when I am diagnosed with breast cancer and go through significant genetic testing to learn that I do not carry a gene for breast cancer. It is my belief that environmental factors adversely impacted my health and still do. As these toxins are linked to many more issues that just these two.

Now, I am part of what I like to call the “P” generation.  I grew up with polyester, pesticides, petroleum-based products, perfume, plastics and processed foods. To summarize: The Poison generation.  Nobody set out to poison America, but just watch the movie, The Human Experiment, and you will see that once some folks realized they were, they didn’t see fit to stop. I can’t completely reverse my own body burden, but I can absolutely do better for my children. I am not a doctor, a scientist, a researcher, or a dietician.  I AM a woman, wife, mother and a reader. Here was my initial take-away.

Um, this all just makes sense.  Why overload our systems with toxins they can’t handle?

So let’s talk solutions.  I initially attacked the issue in three steps:

  • read labels and purge
  • read/confer (regarding replacement)
  • make/replace
  • repeat  

I did this in three areas:

  • cleaning/home care,
  • personal care/beauty
  • food

I do enjoy a good forward-slash, don’t I?

Lately, I’ve noticed some bad habits resuming (I act as if I have no control over my habits.  Oy vey!) and less than natural products sneaking back into my home. (Are you picturing a bottle of Lysol hiding under my porch waiting for a chance to get into my house?) .  So as I “reboot the detox”, I will share my process, tips, products and resources.  Then, I would love to hear your detox success stories or issues.

To avoid, information overload, I will break it into multiple posts. So if you would like to join me, we can do this one step at a time. Trust me, no judging here.  Any step to detoxify your home or habits is a victory for you and your family.

*To get you pumped and ready to take your personal environment back, consider reading (Click the Actionista button) about one of the amazing women highlighted by Women’s Voices for the Environment, for their work to make our world safer. Then take a look at your calendar and intentionally set some time aside in the near future to make a positive change in your life.

 

WVE is an outstanding organization whose mission is to amplify women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities.

Toxic Free Future is also a great organization established to help ignite change.

*If you are ready to be your own Actionista, and you are a DIY’er, here is a list of some of the ingredients I will be using to make natural homemade products.  You probably have the most important ones in your pantry right now. I get almost all of my products locally from the grocery store or I order from Amazon.  I will make all these products on a regular basis, so I have all the ingredients.  It may seem like a lot but it is far more economical (and safer-that’s the point) than purchasing commercial products.  If you aren’t all in yet, I highly recommend at least making the spray cleaner. There are other (non homemade) options that I will share too, so don’t panic.  Lots more specifics to come!

Green Cleaning Product Shopping List:

Wonderful Whipped Body Lotion:

Cleaning:

All Purpose Spray Cleaner:  white vinegar, spray bottle, essential oils (optional-lavender or lemon)

Soft Scrub:  baking soda, liquid Castile soap, vegetable glycerin(works as a preservative)

Dishwashing Soap: Borax, soap flakes or grated Castile bar soap, essential oil of choice (optional)

Laundry Detergent: Borax or baking soda, soap flakes or grated Castile bar soap, washing soda

Dishwashing Detergent: Borax, washing soda, citric acid, kosher salt

Beauty:

Body Lotion: Pure unrefined Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Carrier Oil (almond or grape seed work great)

Many of you are probably way ahead of me, so I look forward to hearing from you along the way!

Pax,

Kristin

 

Let’s Talk Accessories

Isn’t this an adorable way to store bracelets?!  It came up on my HGTV feed so I made a trip to the local thrift shop in search of teacups and saucers.  I’m a bracelet gal and here’s why. For years I tried to coordinate earrings, necklaces and bracelets, like you all do so well.  I just ended up looking like an 80’s Avon catalog ad. Super matchy, matchy.  Not super stylish.

I admire baubles on everyone else.  Like those of you (Hi Ann) who can wear the fabulous oversized necklace, own it and coordinate it flawlessly with other accessories.  Or those of you (and Hello Winnie) with the fun earrings that perfectly “go with” not “match” your outfit(my favorite advice/quote of Stacy London from What not to Wear).  Sister Janice and the scarves….don’t get me started! Let’s face it, all my friends and family, rock the accessory game that eludes me.

So, one day I decided to focus on one of the lesser intimidating accessories.  I chose bracelets.  They make that great sound when you wear multiples and I almost always wear multiples. You can go full gypsy and make it work! More is…more.  I did learn early on that the best way to wear multiples is to find a unifying element and then vary the other elements.  I may wear all metals but I’ll wear a variety including gold, silver and rose gold.  Yes, you can mix your metals!

I am also fortunate to have talented friends and family members that keep me in handmade bracelets!  My sister likes to use vintage costume jewelry pieces and glass or stone beads to make beautiful one of a kind bracelets.  My friend Meghan makes lovely bangles out of the sea glass she collects on her beach walks. And I’m waiting for my friend Lisa to finish her master’s degree so she can get back to making me unique vintage-style jewelry….priorities friend!

Here are some of my winter faves (I have different warm weather  faves):

The other accessory I want to talk about is the scarf.  I was so flummoxed by them that I actually asked my sister for one with a personal tutorial on how to wear it, for Christmas.  She obliged and now I am a convert. She often has a scarf casually (but perfectly) draped around her neck.  When I tried in the past (even using online tutorials) the results were anything but flattering.  They looked like I slept in them. One of my male friends even asked, “Is that a life-vest?”  Insert laughing emoji here.

Alas, here are a few tips from sis, if you are scarf shy like I WAS…

  • It’s all in the fabric.  You want a nice draping fabric that’s not too heavy or too light.
  • A looong rectangle is your easiest shape.
  • Avoid the infinity scarf if you want to minimize fullness.
  • A fabric that is printed on both sides is best.  If not just fold it in half width-wise before you start to tie.
  • Don’t get hung up on matching colors perfectly.  A scarf should complement what you’re wearing.
  • Bust out a print to add some interest.

Click on the photos/Gifs below and you will be scarf tying in a “Gif”y! My favorite is The Pretzel!

Oh and here is my take on the teacups!

So what is your favorite accessory and why?  Have any tips for me?

What’s for dinner? Simple steps to help you rock that question.

Our household consists of two working parents and two active kids.  Sound familiar?  Years ago Mr. Man and I made a commitment to dinner.  Well, that sounds….interesting.  We decided that no matter how busy our lives get, every evening our family will gather around the table, give thanks to God and share a home-cooked meal. Here is a little further reading (if you are interested) on why we made this commitment.

We realized pretty quick that it wasn’t just going to happen because we wanted it to.  There had to be a plan or at least some thought put into how we could make this a reality.

If you are doubting, consider: we have evening commitments, we don’t have an unlimited budget, we are tired after a day of work, and our kids are over-scheduled.

This wasn’t a linear process, but I am not going to share our epic fails. Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Trust me they occurred. I am going to share what worked/s for us.  It may be tempting to just consider one step, not the whole process.  I think you will be more satisfied though, if you set aside an hour when you are ready to go through the steps.  One hour dedicated to saving you lots of time, frustration and stress in the long run, is an hour well spent.

Step 1:  Consider the time at which you are going to try to eat dinner each day. 

This may be the hardest part.  During basketball season we eat earlier.  During baseball later.  Sometimes we just have a window of time we shoot for.  When the kids were younger it was easy. Don’t get hung up on the exact time, just make a schedule you can shoot for, and consider this daily worry tackled.

Time tip:  try to eat at the earliest possible time.  There are many health reasons for this, but it also frees up your evening, so you don’t feel like you’re making dinner, cleaning up and heading to bed.  That sounds like drudgery.

Our House: 6:00-ish on M, T, Th, F, S 4:30-ish on W and 5:00-ish on Sunday

Step 2:  Consider your weekly grocery budget.

We have a budget.  We didn’t always and life was much more stressful then.  I’ll talk more about budgeting in an upcoming post, but consider tracking what you spend on groceries for a month.  Then consider if that is working for you, or if you could be a little more economical.  Found money is fun money!  My mantra here is You control your money, so it doesn’t control you.

Budget Tip:  Use the weekly grocery flyer front page to plan your menu.  Getting a discount on your proteins is a great way to save money.

Our house: $900 a month (450$ every 2 weeks)

Step 3:  Consider how much time you have to prepare a meal (based on your planned dinner time)

Do you enjoy time spent cooking or do you just want to get to the meal at the end?  Either is just fine, but it will impact how long you want to spend on preparation.

Our House: 30-45 minutes.  We have leftovers one night a week and we do homemade pizza one night.  Oh look, we only plan for 5 nights a week.  Sometimes we even go out to eat.

Step 4:  Consider how much time you have/would like to spend on menu planning, list making and shopping.

Some of you are thinking, “I don’t want to spend any time on this.  That is why I’m reading this! Sheesh!”  But, stay with me, as this is where the magic happens!  If you consider how much time you now spend making a shopping list (or roaming aimlessly through the grocery store), traveling to and from the grocery store, as well as how much time you spend trying to figure out what’s for dinner and then in preparation, I bet it is way more than it will be, when you start using a routine.

Our House: Weekly Menu Planning 30-45 minutes on the weekend, List Making 0 minutes (what?? Girl, you lyin’!), Grocery Shopping 10 minutes-1 hour.

Step 5: Choose the resources that you have access to and that appeal to your lifestyle and budget.  There are more than you know!

Ooh, this is the fun part.  Resources include cookbooks (we collect em’), menu planning services, menu services, meal/prep delivery services, grocery shopping and delivery services.

Cookbooks-Seriously, do you have some?  Then dust ’em off and start using them.  Select meals based on the pretty pictures.  Use the index!  Pick a book and plan from that book for the week.

Menu services– Two that we tried and liked are The Six O’clock Scramble and Sweet Peas Meals. These services deliver (right to your inbox) at the least 5 to seven dinner meal recipe options weekly.

We used Scramble for years.  Membership ranges from $35 for three months to $150 for 2 years. There is also a 14 day free trial option.  I can say without hesitation that the recipes are delicious (all reviewed and kid friendly), simple-30 minutes or less, healthy (all nutrition info is given) and economical. You choose the meals for the week that appeal to you, and it provides a grocery list. Awesome sauce!

Sweet Peas Meals-This is a newer service that is much “fancier” and a little more challenging to navigate.  The cost is $15.99 to $10.99 a month (with free month options).  They provide dinners, snacks, breakfast and even cocktail recipes. They are not under 30 minutes and the nutritional information is minimal, but I found most to have a healthy focus.  They are beautiful meal options for people who enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

Menu Planning Services-My current jam! Cue glorious music here.  I love this service!  Plan To Eat is the one we use. It costs $39 a year. Here’s what they offer:  A web-based platform to plan your menu.  Simple really.  The key is that it allows you to curate (sorry for the overused word of 2016) recipes that you rely on and drop them into your menu.  We actually browse our cookbooks (usually using a different one each week), then go online to find the recipes we’ve selected and add them to our plan. Obviously once they are in there you use them again. You could plan for a whole month if you wanted to!  It then, and here’s the best part, provides a list based on  the time period you select.  It’s easy to use and has a has an app for your phone, so you don’t even have to print out anything if you don’t want to.

Meal Ingredient Delivery Services-There are several of these currently available.  They provide you with all the ingredients, perfectly portioned for tasty and healthy meals. When we were experiencing a health (injury) crisis in our family, my wonderful co-workers provided us with this service from Hello Fresh for several meals. It was a perfect gift/service and we were so grateful. We just opened the box and cooked a great meal at a time when none of us had the energy to do much else.

Online Grocery Ordering and Curbside Pick-up-The store we shopped at most frequently does not offer this service, so I am trying another. This is a planner’s dream.  Here’s why:  You already have a list so it’s quick to order.  You won’t be tempted by extraneous items (because you are not entering the store) and you just got 90 minutes back in your week.  Some charge a fee while others are free.  You can certainly order groceries and have them delivered to your home as well.

Our House:

  1. 30 minutes-Using one or two cookbooks for inspiration, we select 5 meals.
  2. 15 minutes-We either search for or enter them in Plan To Eat (or select from our established database in PTE).  We schedule the meals by placing them on the PTE calendar.  We add items for lunches and breakfasts as needed.  We select the week time-frame and “print” the list. I delete items we already have.
  3. 30 minutes-I then open up my grocery app and shop for the ingredients.  I schedule a time for pick up.  We usually do it right after church on Sunday.*
  4. 15 minutes-Pick up the groceries curbside and then…um…that’s it.  We are ready for the week.

Go ahead, ask me, “What’s for dinner?”

*If Mr. Man would prefer to shop at his favorite store which doesn’t offer this service yet, he goes Sunday afternoon and it takes about an hour including travel.  Also, my friend Amy gave me the great idea to just order paper products online monthly from a “super store”. So, we don’t add those to our weekly grocery list.  Those items are paper towels, napkins, toilet tissue, Kleenex tissues, all-natural hand soap and dishwashing detergent.

 

Journals, Calendars and Planners, Oh My!

It seems like a good time of the year to talk about how we keep track of all we have to do in our busy lives.  I am a paper/pencil gal at heart.  As a librarian, I love books, actual books.  I am fascinated with bindings, fonts and paper.  So, my love for journals is just an extension of my paper passion.  Mr. Man finds my journal collection odd.  I don’t know why he thinks collecting empty books is….wrong.

With all that being said, I am happy to use technology tools that help make life easier.  Mr. Man, my 17-year-old and I are all linked by the same Google calendar.  What a lifesaver.  The teen’s work schedule, Mr. Man’s evening meetings, little guy’s sports’ practices and my book club meetings are all in one place for all of us to see. We are all iPhone users but I like the look and layout of the Google tool.  The “Schedule” view is, dare I say, fun.

From my early days as a teacher, a plan book has always been essential, but its format has morphed. Years ago I carried a pocket calendar, a large professional plan book and had a family calendar (loved the bestselling Sandra Boynton Mom Calendar with stickers!) on my fridge.

Multiple calendars worked as well as you would imagine.  I never had the right calendar in front of me at the right time.  Also, I need more than a calendar.  I still need a life “plan book”.  I still crave those little squares and a month at a glance.  I need a place for long-range planning, list making and goal setting.  I also need something that is inspiring.

I’ve tried so many commercial planners.  I tried the Nourished Planner last year. It has a  meal planning/foodie focus.  I’ve tried the faith focused Catholic Planner, inspiring for sure. A dear friend turned me on to the Day Designer (beautiful and ideal for all my needs).  All of them worked well for their intended purpose, as long as I used them faithfully at the start of my day and reflected with them at the end.  In other words I needed to establish a habit.  In order to do that I personally needed something a little more….creative.

That’s when I discovered the Bullet Journal.  It bills itself as “The analog system for the digital age”. Ryder Carroll explains how he developed the system to cope with his own ADHD. It is a dynamic system that evolves as you determine your needs. Carroll hopes the system will “declutter your mind, cultivate your curiosity and help you to remain focused.”I definitely think he’s on to something.

You can see the basic premise and actually get started with 4 minute video here on the BuJo Website.  That’s what I did and I was sold.  If you would like to dive a little deeper check out Ryder Carroll’s Tedx Talk here (I did that too).

Next, I discovered the Bullet Journal (or BuJo) community.  Thousands of folks just like you and me (OK so much more creative than me) sharing their journaling/list-making/habit tracking/goal setting hearts out!  Google Bullet Journal Images and you will be blown away with the creative efforts of people putting their own spin on the basic premise.

You can keep it as simple or as creative as you like, but the components and the system are intentionally streamlined. I purchased a Moleskin dotted/grid journal. Over the Christmas holiday I sat down with a cup of tea, my favorite pens and pencils (I love pens and pencils too) and set up the basic components that I use. It was  quick and felt good to do.  Oh and I got these stencils for teen daughter as she uses the system as well.  Totally unnecessary but fun!

So, if you are searching for a new “system” or just curious, take a look.  It really can make a daily chore, a little more joyful.

Before I go though, I want to share a little bit about the other journals/calendars in my life. First, there is the Shutterfly calendar that my sister does for the family each year.  Here it is hanging next to my desk (with the adorable bag/laptop case that daughter got me for Christmas). She fills it with photos of the kids and the year’s adventures.  She does it for the grandmothers too, and makes each one unique to the receiver.  It is my favorite gift to open because I can’t wait to see what photos she included.  I’ve kept each and have a series of family scrapbooks, that I didn’t have to make.  What a treasure.

Another important calendar/planner I have is my Christmas planner.  I picked this up at a craft show a couple of years ago and love how it helps me keep Holiday plans straight.  It is just a composition book inside but decorated beautifully on the outside.  It has 4 categories:

  • Cards- I keep track of where I ordered my cards from and how many I ordered.
  • Gifts-In “Gifts” I make a list of each friend and family member and note what I purchased or made for them.    I budget for all parts of the holiday and this keeps me on track.
  • Recipes-In “Recipes” I like to note what special recipes I made for celebrations or baked goods I made to gift.
  • Traditions-In the traditions section I note who visited that year, which mass we attended, and what The Elf was up to.  It’s funny how you think you will remember that kind of thing at the time it’s happening, but for me, not so much.
This adorable photo of my babies was taken by my friend and photographer Kristin @ksphoto on FB . She’s journaled our family through the years through her beautiful photography.

The last are my “button journals”.  I always wanted to have a shelf full of personal journals (actually fill all those empty ones I’ve collected) but every time I started it seemed  I just couldn’t find my voice.  Then one day (after my second child was born) I read about a woman who journaled to her children.  So, I purchased a journal for each and started keeping a traditional diaries for them .  I say traditional because I write about the day, what’s going on in the world or something special I want them to remember or experience through my eyes.  Don’t be super impressed as I only do this once a month, sometimes once every couple of months.  It has accumulated into something of a snapshot journal that I look forward to sharing with my children when the time is right.  My daughter turns 18 soon and asked if she gets her “button journal” then.  I am not sure….I might have some catching up to do.

Do you journal?  How do you keep track of events?  What planner do you use?  I would love to hear about your journal journey.

Pax,

Kristin

PS-Just wanted you all to know that I am not affiliated with any of the specific products (I do use and like ’em) on the blog, but I am an affiliate link with Amazon.

 

The Baking Station

Before I get to the details of my baking station, I need to make this disclaimer.  I am the primary baker in the family, not the primary cook.  My husband (Mr. Man from this point forward) and I decided a long time ago  that we needed to divide and conquer when it came to running our household.  We are both full-time professionals working outside the home, and in order for our home to run in a way that makes us happy, we need to share the load.

It just so happens that Mr. Man enjoys cooking and is good at it.  Win, win! Meal planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning tasks are done by both of us, with him doing the majority of the meal preparation.

I will have a future post on meal planning and preparation as we have researched and tried a variety of “systems” and have found one that works great for us at this time.  Needless to say we thrive on a plan.  The thought of coming home and having to decide what’s for dinner, is a proposition to which neither of us is open.

Now back to me.  I mean baking.

When we renovated our kitchen years ago, we cut a window into our living room and set up a small breakfast bar.  This really opened up the space and is great for entertaining and just living.  I can see the TV from my baking station, which is actually nice, considering we don’t have cable and I watch very little TV. But, I do love to put a cooking/baking show on for inspiration. Currently I am into Baking with Anna Olson on Amazon Prime.

The baking station encompasses two functional spaces for me: the counter and above and the lower drawers/cabinet area.  The station is located next to the refrigerator so it requires minimal travel.  That is the purpose behind all the stations in my kitchen.  I know we all need to get our steps in so we can enjoy our baked goods, but that is counter intuitive to time efficiency.

I’ve set my photos to black and white for most of this post, because it is a little overwhelming from a learner perspective.

Let’s take a look at the top first.

Here you see the counter top vignette that includes the following:

    • measuring cup and bowls from Pioneer Woman (love the colors although you can’t see them here)
    • two tall containers which hold whisks (large, small and flat), spatulas (large, medium, small and skull & crossbones)  S & C is my son’s.  If you want your kids to cook, get them their own tools.  They will love it and feel very grown up. You can’t see my latest and GREATEST “container” well in the collage so here you go.

  • My sister got it for me from a wonderful west coast craftswoman who makes “Designer Objects from Vintage Books”.  I know, right? She can be found on Facebook @theupcycledbookshop. Love it!
  • Cake plate and nested mixing bowls include my favorite Pyrex yellow bowl.  Mr. Man insists it was handed down from his family.  I insist it was from mine.  Either way:  favorite family heirloom.  After I bake, I put the goodies on the cake plate and pull out my clear glass dome to keep them fresh.
  • Hanging on the wall above are two flour sifters.

To the left of the space I have my spice rack and flour canisters. The vintage canisters are from Ebay.

They seal nicely and open easily. I have a plastic bag in each which feels more sanitary to me but goes against my “avoid all plastics in the kitchen rule” so, hmm. I have flour, white sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar in them. I picked up the spice rack shelf at variety store and love it.  It keeps everything I need at eye level.  It includes:

 

  • salt
  • cream of tartar
  • organic and homemade vanilla
  • vanilla beans
  • lavender
  • cinnamon (I love Pensey spices.  These were a gift…a great gift for a baker)
  • cardamom
  • ginger
  • nutmeg

So the top of the station contains most of what I need, but not all.

Now let’s take a look at the cabinets and drawers.

The three large drawers are brilliant and I love them.  When we remodeled, large drawers seemed to be all the rage for kitchens.  I was skeptical but am now a convert. Three of the photos above show the contents.  Other than the top drawer they mostly contain extra supplies or unique baking ingredients.

Starting at the top again.  The top drawer contains:

  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • biscuit and donut cutters
  • icing tips
  • small ingredient bowls
  • pastry blender

I’ve used a variety of utensil dividers.  One is black-coated metal.  Another is bamboo.  Others are just plastic bins.  One drawback to drawers is that they do get dirty from ingredients dropping in every time you open them.  Think flour shower.  So, it is critical that you have dividers that allow you to lift multiple items out at a time, in order to wipe out the drawers.

The second drawer contains:

  • extracts
  • extra spices
  • cooking spray
  • glass measuring cups
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa

The third drawer contains some heavier items:

  • coconut oil
  • extra flour (keep bulk in freezer) and sugar
  • stand mixer attachments

The right cabinet has my favorite “luxury”: a pop-up stand mixer shelf.  It isn’t automatic, but pulling it up and locking it into place means I don’t have to lug that large appliance from below. Yay for me!  I own a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. It has been sent back for adjustments and repairs twice.  I use it often.  I would love a larger one with an apron on the bowl, but then it wouldn’t fit in that cabinet, so I will muddle through.

In the left cabinet are my baking pans, cake circles and cooling racks, stored vertically (life changing).

One item that I use often but is stored in the pantry is my pastry board. It is a Fantes 28X22 available here .  This one looks good too.It has a lip that keeps it stable on the counter and a backboard that keeps it neat.  We love it and use it for pastry and pasta. Mr. Man learned to make pierogies from his grandmother so when our new Cook’s Country cookbook had a recipe, we were inspired to pull out the board.  The result was a tender cheese and potato filled dumpling, perfect comfort food during this winter blizzard.

I hope this post helps you to consider how to best use your space.  Do you have a baking station?  Are you a completely clear counter person?  What are your favorite baking resources?  I would love to know.  We collect cookbooks so I will post more about how we use and organize them in the meal planning post.

I may wait a while to do my “Real Food” post as my baking goes against most of the real food rules.  But, we’ll talk and I’ll let you decide.

Pax,

Kristin

Winter Ten (20) Item Wardrobe Core Set 2

Tunics are popular this season, but I like mine to be a modest length.  I rarely wear them without leggings, tights or jeans. I wear a tall black boot with the navy tunic dress and wine leggings. I also pair all these outfits with the short grey boots.

Core Items

Boden Navy Tunic Dress-I love Boden for dresses

Rose Floral Tunic Dress-Target

Grey Breton Striped Tunic Dress-Loft

Wine Leggins-Old Navy

My floral scarf is Kate Spade that I received from my sister for Christmas.

Mother always knows best. So why does it take us so long to figure that out?

Earlier this year I decided to enter my local newspaper’s baking contest.  The theme was pie.  Every year I follow the competition with serious envy.  I enjoy baking as a hobby and am fairly successful most of the time.  But, my success is measured by my family’s happiness with the results.  They are a pretty easy crowd to please.

Here’s why.

I follow Michael Pollan’s premise that in order to cut down on processed foods, you can eat sweets as long as you make them.  Challenge accepted! He’s probably not willing to whip up a dark chocolate layer cake on a random Tuesday after work, but I am!

I digress.

My mother has always baked a great pie, specifically cherry pie.  It’s her thing.  (I am still looking for my thing….you know, that thing where people say, “Have you tried Kristin’s _____________?  It’s the best!”)  So, I chose the cherry pie category in which to compete.

Now this was 2017, so in my digital age wisdom I thought I need to put my spin on cherry pie.  The fact that my mom has produced a no-fail crust for probably 60 years did not phase me.  The fact that she only used water packed cherries (canned pie filling never entered her kitchen), and kept it simple to enhance the true flavor of the cherry, pish-posh. I could do better! The fact that I had used her recipe to make dozens of delicious pies in the past, somehow seemed irrelevant.

I made a lot (A LOT) of different crusts, trying something new each time.  I attempted to “enhance” the natural flavor of the cherry with a variety of different flavors….’cuz that’s always a good idea…perfecting nature.

I’m guessing that you see where this is going.

So I arrive at the contest not knowing what to expect.  This was in fact my first rodeo!  The pie in the picture was my entry.  The crust and filling recipe a combination of some of those I tried. I was proud of how it looked but had no idea how it tasted.

There were a lot of contestants, but a lot of categories.  So that’s good, right? Chatting with other contestants  while waiting for the judging to begin, I learned that there were very few first time cowboys. Let me cut to the chase, as I am sure you are on the edge of your seat.

Good news, I won honorable mention (not everyone got one of these snazzy pot holders) and a professional chef said that my pie looked perfect.  He said it was the only one that had the correct coloration of crust.

That is where the good news ends.  Trust me when I say that the feedback given to me to help me improve as a baker, was less than complimentary. It was brutal.

So here is the lesson.  Don’t try to improve on perfection.  Experts come in all shapes and sizes (85 year old mom’s being one of them). Trust your mom.  Oh, and could someone please tell my daughter that?

Now, I can’t leave you with nothing but sage advice today so how about a few recipes.  The first is my mom’s cherry pie recipe.  It’s the one with the pot holder.  It’s a keeper, but you already know that.

The second is a recipe for Cherry Pie Bars that I found on The Country Cook. I needed something to use up the leftover cans of pie filling I had in my pantry.  Don’t tell my Mom!

Soon, I’ll take you on a tour of the baking “station” in my kitchen.  Prior to setting it up (during a renovation) I planned it to be efficient and fun.  It’s evolved slightly with use, but it is still my favorite place to try out recipes (old and new ; ).

 

Pax,

Kristin