Friday, July 29, 2011

Greek Home Cooking

Cara craved the smell of browning butter in the quiet kitchen. Every night that she crept past the table, her stomach yearned for food from her childhood—a time when there was plenty, when keftethes were always paired with makaronia. She remembered having meat every week. Now they were lucky to have it once a month.
She settled in a wooden chair at the meager table. Only bruised fruit waited to be eaten. Her stomach soured in the dark room. She could smell the sickly sweet fruit more than she could see it, as the moon was only a sliver tonight.
 Cara sighed. And immediately after, someone else repeated her sigh. With a quick flick of her head, her eyes found the dim outline of Mamma leaning against the door's frame.
Mamma! You scared me!” Cara started, thankful for the darkness that hid her blushed cheeks proving a guilty countenance.
Cara.” Her voice was deep and rumbling. Knowing.
What are you doing up so late?” Cara shifted in her seat.
What are you doing up so late?” Her matera repeated the question as she walked to the table and slid into a chair. 
How thin Mamma had become. It didn't suit her. She looked older and more haggered. Cara loved the plump, energetic image of Mamma from the years before.
I am hungry.” Cara spoke the truth.
The above excerpt is from my rough draft historical novel that takes place in my grandmother's Greek village during World War II. The Lampros family fled Frangista when the Nazis burned down their house. One thing that my yiayia brought to America was her family's recipes. My little yiayia cooks and cooks, even at ninety years old. An all time favorite recipe is what we've coined, “Greek Spaghetti” ("makaronia" from above; "keftethes" are Greek meatballs). It is super easy to make and an explosion of flavor. And an added bonus, my kids LOVE it! Please enjoy the following recipe, and know it originates from a little village nestled in the mountains of Greece.
Yiayia's Greek Spaghetti (Makaronia)
1 lb. of spaghetti
1 block of Athenos Original Feta Cheese (crumble it yourself, it's more moist than the pre-crumbled)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 stick of butter
2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 cup of water
1 large pinch of cinnamon

Boil spaghetti. While it's boiling, brown half a stick of butter. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water. Return to pot. Pour in browned butter, crumbled block of feta, and desired amount of parmesan...toss carefully, don't smash the feta too much. Leave lid on pot to keep warm.
Brown the rest of the butter. Meanwhile, mix water, tomato paste, and cinnamon. It should be a soupy sauce. The cinnamon is my favorite flavor in this, so be sure you can taste it in the sauce. Pour this mixture into the browned butter, stir, let simmer for 10 min. or until thickened. Pour this into the pasta and mix carefully so all pasta has sauce on it. Serve warm!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Everyday heroes

I couldn't think of a better day than Aunt Lois' birthday on July 27 to write about encouragement.

From the time I was a little girl, my earliest - and best - memories always involved Aunt Lois. My mom's older sister, Aunt Lois had the coolest toys: gobs of crayons and paints. Reams of blank computer paper and blank accounts receivable forms which she brought home in boxes from her job at the dairy, rescued from the throwaway pile. Dolls and dusty old dress-up clothes in a real wooden, mirrored wardrobe. A brand-new (ancient now, ha ha) Atari computer with Frogger and Pac-Man when my family could barely afford a TV.

Christmases were a dream creation courtesy of Aunt Lois. All seven of us cousins, all girls, counted the days until her Christmas feasts of pumpkin and cherry pies, sugar-baked ham, home-canned green beans and corn, and fresh homemade yeast rolls. Presents for all of us in the latest toy crazes, from Cabbage Patch Kids to LoLo Balls (if you remember what those were). Christmas music piped in the ancient hi-fi. A tree with lights. Surprises galore.

A photo of all of us little cousins in nightgowns and footed pajamas, piled on one armchair around her as she read us a book.

Rainbow sherbet in the summer before bed and no clean-up chores and Pop-Tarts for breakfast (TOTALLY not allowed in my healthy household) and WE COULD GET UP AND GET DRESSED WHENEVER WE WANTED TO, and didn't have to set the table!

Aunt Lois' closet, even, dazzled me with its piles of shoe boxes, endless sandals and work dresses, and all kinds of trinkets from years gone by. Which she let me paw through in curiosity, the coral and brown skirts falling together over my head like curtains.

I always though her chic, smart, and fun - and wished, quite often, that I could have her as a second mom. And maybe move in!

Aunt Lois with my son, Ethan, 2010

And yet through it all, Aunt Lois was always there, holding out open arms. For you see, Aunt Lois had no children of her own. No husband. No house of her own, even. Just the upstairs floor of my Mennonite grandfather's house. The house he built himself, from his own plans, even with an amputated right arm - the green lawn full of verdant apple and peach trees, rows of shivering corn leaves, and blackberry vines.

None of this I understood fully until I became a young woman, looking back on those radiant younger years of unfettered glee.

And little by little, like a blurred picture slipping into focus, I could see her clearly.

What most people might consider horrific spoiling (!) was, from her perspective, a gift of grace and freedom in our otherwise rather hard lives. Outside of Aunt Lois' lavish extravagance, I daily faced finacial and other troubles at home, bullying at school, cruel and humiliating teachers, snubs at church other wealthier girls, my mom and sister with life-threatening health problems, no close friends, living far from extended family, moves and bad adjustments, death of family members, and other difficulties. So many changes. So little security.

As I look back now, I realize that Aunt Lois was not wealthy at all! It hit me, when I began to understand life a bit better, that Aunt Lois was just an ordinary woman at a dairy. She battled thyroid problems that almost permanently destroyed her stomach, with no help from anyone else, and so many misdiagnoses that the disease could have killed her. She cooked for her (sometimes difficult but wonderful) father, lived in her hometown among married relatives and wagging tongues, canned peaches and hung clothes, and worshipped God quietly at the small Mennonite church where her brothers and sisters married. And she created a world for us, a softer world, a refuge from the pains and difficulties of life.

And the biggest shock of all, that has stunned me well into my adult years: AUNT LOIS NEVER GAVE WAY TO BITTERNESS, JEALOUSY, OR RESENTMENT.

If it were me, I would not receive my (married) siblings' children with such grace and so many gifts. I married at nearly 28 years old, so I know a little of what the single life is like. Instead of responding with grace, if I were in Aunt Lois' shoes I would sit stiffly to the side, bitter at God and wondering why THEY got to marry and have children while I didn't. What, does He think they're better, or something? Does He think I'd be a terrible parent or a lousy wife? Does everybody think I was washed up, or too (insert negative word here) to get married or raise a family? Well, they're certainly not going to get any of MY money. MY time. MY anything. Let them spend Christmas somewhere else!

No, Aunt Lois chose to serve with grace.

If she felt cheated, she never let on. If she heard others whispering behind her back, she never acknowledged it, shrank back in humiliation, or clambered to defend herself. If she felt lonely and childless, she wrapped her arms around us and gave us the gift of lavish love.

Even now, with Aunt Lois now well into her 60s, I look to her as one of my great heros.

Why? Because she proves that one need not be what society demands to change your world. You don't have to have children. You don't have to have a college education. You don't have to be married. You don't have to have good health. You don't even have to go on a mission trip (although it's great if you can) or serve overseas or study theology.

You simply GIVE YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST, as it is, a broken vessel - and allow Him to use you however He sees fit.

You see, not long after those golden years in Aunt Lois' house, which had become my childhood dream home, my mom passed away unexpectedly on a cold February afternoon. And the one who stepped into the void was none other than Aunt Lois.

Aunt Lois helped me put on my wedding dress and pin on the veil. Aunt Lois held my beautiful adopted baby boy and sends him birthday cards. Aunt Lois helped arrange his baby shower, sewed him a homemade tractor quilt, and passes on the news about the cute things he says and does. Aunt Lois, who got laid off from the dairy and spends most of her meager income as a nursing home schedule coordinator on medical bills, pays $30 every single month so she can call me nightly in Brazil - the only one in my entire extended family to ever do this.

The baby shower Aunt Lois created with my mom's extended family in Newport News, Virginia, in 2010.

No matter where I moved, whether as an intern in Atlanta or a college student in North Carolina or my first job in Richmond, Virginia, or my mission post in Sapporo, Japan, or with my husband to two different states in Brazil, Aunt Lois NEVER failed to send me a birthday and Christmas card.

When I needed a mom, she was there.

And GOD put here there. "For such a time as this."

Aunt Lois helping me with my wedding gown and veil.

Friend, mother, sister, daughter, or wife: God can use you in ways you never expected! Do not think your life is of little value if you have few people to call family or few skills the world appreciates. Neither think yourself of great value if you have all of these and more.

Rather ask God to USE YOU for HIS GLORY, and AT ANY COST - and submit your life to His.

And by doing this, you will have lived, and loved, and served, far greater and impacted more lives for eternity, than you could possibly imagine.

Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in Brasilia, Brazil with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and two-year-old son, Ethan. She often wondered growing up and into her teens, and then into her late 20s, if she'd ever get married! Jenny teaches ESL private classes and is the author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series (first book released in October!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why You Need Scheduled Time to Work from Home

In previous posts, I've suggested work-at-home moms have a regular, scheduled time when they work everyday, rather than leaving work time up to fate. Today we're going to examine three benefits to having a work schedule.

1. It helps you accomplish more.

If you have a regular work time, you can plan. You know you will have so many hours each day to work, which will result in a certain number of hours per week. Whether your business be sewing or photography or writing, you can plan projects and have an idea of where you'll be a week from now, if not a month or more from now. It also guarantees you'll accomplish projects. If you have two hours of your afternoon set aside for work, you'll probably find little interferes with it.

2. It helps your family adjust.

It can be hard to spending time working while your kids are in the other room otherwise entertained. However, if you work at the same time every day, your kids will become used to your schedule. They know there is a time limit. They will have mommy back in an hour or so, and they grow used to entertaining themselves while you work. I have watched this happen over the summer with my four year old. He was in preschool this winter when I had my "writing" time. He is now used to entertaining himself or watching a movie while his younger brother naps and mommy writes.

3. It helps your clients and other business contacts.

As your business grows, you will start getting clients and working with other business professionals. Those individuals need to know they can depend on you to complete your task. If your work pattern is sporadic, how does your editor know you will be able to produce that manuscript in six months? How does your client know you will finish the sewing project or painting by the end of the week, when you can't even guarantee you'll have time to work? I recently had this come up in a phone interview with a literary agent. The first question out of her mouth was, "With two kids and a husband in the ministry, when do you find time to write?" Fortunately, I was able not only to answer her question, but to estimate when I would have my next book finished as well.

Examine your work-at-home patterns Are they stable and consistent? Something your family is used to and your business associates and clients can depend on? If not, play with your schedule until you find a way to be more consistent.

Questions: Do you have a regular, scheduled work time? If so, when? Have you found certain times are better than others to work from home?

Friday, July 22, 2011

When Less truly becomes More {And Kidney Bean Curry Recipe}

"I like this kidney beans." My preschooler says over a bowl of rice and bean curry.

I look at my son's turmeric stained face and toothy grin. Did He just say he likes rice and beans? Our boring weekly staple?

"You like it?"


My preschooler shovels spoonfuls into his mouth, and when he's done, he holds up his bowl for more.

More? Doesn't he want meat?

No, I want meat. I can taste fresh beef tenderloin. My mouth waters. All of a sudden I want everything else {even my baby's puréed mangoes} over plain ol' kidney beans.

I dish another helping into my little boy's bowl and watch him eat. He hums a merry tune while his baby brother bangs a wooden spoon on his highchair. They're so content {right now}. My boys' delight in simple pleasures tugs my conscience.

When is the last time I really savored this nutritious and delicious dish like my preschooler? When is the last time I truly enjoyed today like my baby?

Over the past five years, as my hubby's slogged through grad school, I've dreamed about the day I won't have to count pennies, apply for scholarships, clip coupons, make my own toxic-free cleaners, save for months just to buy household items, or eat legumes all.the.time.

The day I kiss our student budget goodbye and embrace a better {more prosperous?} tomorrow.

But in five years of looking ahead, I've seen that tomorrow never comes. And with our family's plans to move overseas in a few years, I can't count on an improved standard of living. The truth is if I'm not content now, I won't be when the year turns over. For, when tomorrow arrives, it will be today.

When I live in the future, I miss the here. The now.

There a moments I experience grace, and it's right now over a simple lunch. Today, I choose to give thanks.

"Thank you, God, for Kidney bean curry."

My simple prayer opens my eyes. Could it be this small space, our meager funds, this nutritious dish are blessings in disguise?

Oh yes, our space is cramped, but our family is close. Our funds budget-chained, but we're too-much-stuff-it's-stressing-me-out free. Our meals are simple {healthy}, but our bodies nourished well.

Could it be God's giving us what we really need. What we truly desire? More of Him and the things that matter? Less of this world? Could it be that in simple living, less truly becomes more?

My son cleans out his bowl faster than I can count blessings. My baby grins his two-tooth smile. And for the first time in awhile, I want more kidney beans too.

Kidney Bean Curry
A Delicious & Nourishing Indian Dish

3-4 tbls. oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes (or diced)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1-2 tsp grated ginger (the more the better:))
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 heaping tsp garam masala (found in Indian grocery stores or perhaps International section of your local grocery)
2 cans kidney beans (don't drain)

Fry onions in large pot until translucent (about five minutes). Add ginger, garlic and tumeric, fry for one minute. Add tomatoes and remaining spices. Let simmer for ten minutes until oil separates from spices. Add kidney beans and salt to taste. If there isn't enough curry, add a little water. Simmer for 1/2 hour and serve with Basmati or Jasmine rice. Garnish with Cilantro.

Optional: add a variety of vegetables. I added grated carrots, and roasted red peppers. To learn how to roast a red pepper click here Sometimes I add spinach.

Note: I didn't have crushed tomatoes so I used tomato juice. This will work just fine, but to get a thick curry, it's best to use crushed tomatoes.

How has less become more in your life?

Join me on
October 21st for tips on living simply

Melanie N Brasher is a full time mama of two boys and wife to an incredible husband. She moonlights as a fiction and freelance writer, crafting stories and articles toward justice and change, and dreams of becoming a voice for the unheard. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a contributing blogger at Hoosier Ink. Though she’s an aspiring author, she’ll never quit her day job.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

 More Balls Than Most

Now That He's Gone

Stress Proof You Life

Get Published

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The 4-Hour Workweek Review

Hmmmmm. My husband really wanted me to read this book, and I think it is the kind of topic that lots of working mothers would be interested in. Obviously the title made it sound too good to be true and you know what that means...

  • The guy is inspiring, even if you don't agree with his philosophy of life, he'll make you reexamine your situation. If you're unhappy with your life rut, he might help you see your way out.
  • It's a book of ideas.
    • If you've ever wanted to start an online company, he'll give you some things to think about to keep you from simply losing money and choosing the right company idea for you. 
    • If you think you want to work from home or become self-employed in order to be with your family more, he'll help you realize that you could get stuck at home working for work sake and still not spend time with your family, and he'll give you practical ideas to keep that from happening. 
    • If you've ever wished to travel the world or climb a mountain but always think "It'll never happen until I'm too old to do so" then this will inspire you and give you some ideas on how you can accomplish these things before you are too old.
    • If you are always pressed for time, if your to-do list never gets shorter, if you work all day and get nothing done, then he'll jab at you until you see what you've been doing wrong.
  • There are tons of website links to check out, and I dog-eared a few that I think I really ought to look into right now, some I'll look into later.
  • He challenges the emptiness of the materialistic American Dream and the Workaholics
  • The author's ethics are a little shady. Though I found it funny that he knows and often provides a less shady option. For example, while he's trying to work productively, if someone comes in and interrupts to chat, he'll say, "I got a call in five minutes that I have to take, but go ahead and let me hear what you need" in order to streamline the conversation though he has no call waiting in truth. But he give you a non-white-lie option--it just takes more guts to be truthful, he says! Yes, yes it does, but it's worth it.
  • Did I mention it's too good to be true? Well, it is. As I was reading, the whole time I'm thinking--ok, so you say everyone can sell stuff online and do no work by hiring others to do it for you, but where do the "others" come from? Obviously not everyone can do this or no one would have food to eat, etc.
  • Following all the author's advice could lead to people not liking you--which is okay if you're okay with people not liking you. Some of the advice was freeing like: Choose the charities you want to work for and give to and don't listen to anyone who tells you that your charity isn't as good as their charity--work for your values and be content. But some advice like--I got A's in college by badgering the professors for an hour whenever I got a B to make sure they thought long and hard about giving me anything less than an A again--just makes him a jerk.

LOL moment: The author says something to the effect of: "I wanted to write a top-selling book, so I researched how to do it, took it to the right agent, and sold it--there you go, piece of cake." While that sentence right there made me know this guy wasn't the authority on everything, he certainly did do it. How? By catering to the masses' desires and utilizing his platform and expertise--quite smart, yes, but the hubris made me laugh all the same. He advocates life work that makes you happy, and becoming one of those quack doctors that sells alcoholic mixtures that "cure" everything and prey on people's desire to find a miracle most likely didn't bring those traveling quacks peace and happiness--and it probably won't bring you happiness either--unless you're Mr. Ferriss :) But you can't fault the guy for knowing how to market himself--and there are tips for that if you need to market yourself and your product/services in the book.

I can't say this book is a must-buy, nor am I saying it's worthless. I'm keeping my copy, the website links and some of the information I think I'll find useful, but I would advise ahead of time to "Chew up the meat and spit out the bones"--find what might help/inspire you, but ignore the get-quick-rich dream and shake your head at the young man's arrogance.

What I am glad I read this book for (basically the first half of the book):
  • I had already started to declutter my life from time-sappers, this book inspired me to do more, challenged me on the things I was still keeping around that sucked my time, gave me some practical advice on what to do with those things and made me realize that I am in charge, I can't blame my busyness on anyone but myself, so what was I going to do about it?
  • I loved the analogy that the opposite of being happy with what you are doing in life vocationally isn't sadness, but boredom. He asked his readers to think, "When you awake in the morning, what things would make you super excited to wake up knowing you were about to do or knowing you possessed?" He didn't use "happy," which is nebulous. According to his exercises, I really thought about what would make me excited to wake up everyday and I surprised myself at some of the things I wanted. Some were simple things I should add to my life to make me happy that I have no reason not to be working toward right now.
  • I loved the inspiration to really examine the fact that for the majority of people possessing things won't make you excited (no matter what advertisers say), it's what you're learning or doing for others that gets people excited and that should be your goal rather than the entrapment of materialism.
  • He encourages you to make an action plan for your dreams. My hubby and I sat and talked about our dreams, picked out our top 4, and as the author said, they aren't as expensive as you think if you plan ahead of time for it instead of saying, "Some day...." Some of our dreams didn't even cost a thing, but without them defined and given an action plan, they stay in the realm of "some day."
I'd advise people who are
  • looking about how to set up an internet store
  • soon-to-be retirees who want to know what they are going to do with all their down time
  • entrepreneurs who are drowning in busy work
  • people unhappy with life because they hate their jobs
  • and people who would like to travel or do a lot of short term mission trips
to take a look at the book for some inspiration and practical tips. Just don't get caught up believing being filthy rich on 4 hours of work a week will make you happy or is even plausible.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Book

Smart Women Protect Their Assets

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Monday, July 18, 2011


My blog for today is about encouraging. Just last week, I didn't know how I was going to blog about being encouraging when I was the one needing it so badly. I had mentioned it to a couple of other women who blog here and I know they were praying and also told me if I didn't feel like it, I could blog about something else. Up until yesterday at church, I wasn't sure I was going to blog but I got this magazine that they give out weekly called Pentecostal Evangel: Finding Strength in Scripture. On page 20, they ask people what favorite passage of Scripture they would suggest as comfort to someone in need. I knew instantly that this is what I was supposed to blog about.

Isaiah 41:10- So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.

1 Peter 5:7- Casting all your care upon Him, for he cares for you.
We don't have to hold back anything from the Lord. No matter how insignificant the need may seem or how insurmountable it may appear, He care and wants to be our answer.

Matthew 11:28- Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

We pray for immediate results. They don't always come. Difficult family matters, financial challenges, and disturbing health issues can linger. While praying and anticipating answers, we need to rest in Jesus.

Psalm 62:1- My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

1 Corinthians 13:12- Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Our thoughts shape our feelings and actions. Sometimes when we're distressed, we want to know why things are happening to us. A better question is when. At the present time, we don't and can't know everything. But someday, when all is revealed, we'll see that what's really important is that God has known all along.

Scripture has really helped me, and I hope it helps you. Nothing is too big for God, and I have much faith and am counting on God to fix and heal things in my life. I hope you seek God's face and rely on him for all your problems no matter how big or small.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Book

Sleep Codes: 101 Winning Combinations to make Your Baby Sleep

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vegetable and Fish Soup

by Melissa Jagears

I like this soup because it is fast and can easily be adapted to use leftovers.

4 fillets of fish (I generally use tilapia)
black pepper
1 T olive oil
2 cups of fresh vegetables thinly sliced (if I don't have some kind of garden leftovers, I use frozen peas and carrots)
14 oz can (OR 2 cups) vegetable or chicken broth
2 1/4 cup water (OR 2 cups if you use 2 cups broth)
leftover mashed potatoes  (I'm sure potato flakes, salt and butter would work too)
salt, saltines or parmesan

Put oil and fish in deep sided skillet or dutch oven.
Pepper to taste.
(If you have fresh veggies, chop and add to fish in skillet.)
Over medium heat, cook for 3 minutes, break fish apart into bit size pieces with spatula.
Add broth and water. (If you have frozen veggies, add now)
Bring to a boil,
Reduce heat, simmer, covered, for 3 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with fork.
Throw in mashed potatoes (the more potatoes, the creamier the broth) or throw in the amount of flakes, and butter to make about 2 servings of potatoes and stir until dissolved.
Now, I either salt to taste, or
I like to throw in parmesan to taste but hubby hates parmesan, so he crumbles in saltines if he wants more than just the salt.

About 20 minutes 4 servings.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

And the Winner...

of Anita Mellot's devotional book is Jude Urbanski. Congratulations.

Thank you to everyone who participated and showed Anita your support.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Juggling Multiple Jobs

Photo Credit Here

In addition to being a mother and a writer, I also maintain a full-time job outside of the home. By the time my commute is factored in, I spend approximately eleven hours a day away from my house…away from the mountain of work that awaits me even during my “down time.”

A typical day for me looks like this:

6:00am—Get up, get myself ready for work and my daughter ready for school

7:00am (hopefully!)—Leave the house


5:00pm-6:30pm—Pick up daughter from daycare, arrive home

6:30pm-6:45pm—Beg my husband to let us have take out ;o)

7:00pm-10:30pm—Writing, playing with daughter, housework, spending time with husband

10:30pm—Getting everyone ready for bed

I know you’re probably wondering why I felt it necessary to list out my entire schedule…it’s because I want to demonstrate that as mothers, whether we work outside the home or not, our lives are busy…jam-packed. You could probably fill the 8:30-5 gap with a thousand necessary things that you do at home.

So here are my tips for juggling several jobs without doing disservice to them all:

· Utilize To-Do Lists.

Desirea did a fabulous post here about the subject. Without my lists (and I have a separate notebook for what needs to be done around the house, at work, and with my writing), I’d be lost!

· Learn what can wait.

Not everything has to be done right this minute. Figuring out what I can procrastinate on helps free up time for something more pressing.

· Try to set boundaries for your business time.

In theory, I’m much better at this than in actual practice. But I firmly believe having a set schedule for when you do your work from home (or house work, etc.) helps keep things under control. Setting these boundaries also allows you to consciously spend more time with your family, relaxing, etc., outside of your “work” hours.

· Learn that sometimes it’s okay not to work.

Sometimes I think I must be the worst mother in the world! I let the stress of my day job and of my writing career convince me that I have to go 90 to nothing in order to get it all done. I stay up late, get up early, burning the candle at both ends to get something finished. Unfortunately, sometimes, I’ve done this to the exclusion of my family. So my biggest challenge is letting the workaholic in me take the day off. This gives me the opportunity the chance to focus on my two more important jobs: being a wife and mother.

How about you? What helps keep you sane when you’re trying to juggle a thousand things at once?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

Make More, Worry Less

Easy Money

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Way We Clean: Natural and Non-toxic.

“Cleaning” in our home means that I have three little helpers wanting to spray and wipe right alongside me. This is not always conducive to actual cleaning, but it’s what happens here with little children around! With that in mind, I want to use products that will not harm them in case in their over zealousness to help, they decide to lick their fingers, or even lick the windows…. Yes it happens. I used to use all the regular cleaning products, you know, the green stuff, the purple stuff and the strong smelling “make everything white” stuff. After a serious bought with chemical sensitivities and learning what those 8 syllable words on the ingredient panel mean, I decided to make a few changes.

Those changes happened gradually over a number of years. At first I tried leading brand name cleaners that claimed to be ‘green’ or environmentally friendly. Some of them just worked so-so, others smelled as bad as the previous cleaners I was using and I decided that they couldn’t be much better. Many ‘green’ style cleaners just didn’t cut the grime, not all cleaners are created equal I quickly found out! And other cleaners just aren’t necessary, like window cleaner. I no longer buy special window cleaner, I either use my multi-purpose cleaner or vinegar & water to wash windows. Another thing that I have found is that not all green cleaners are actually ‘safe’ for children or the environment.

From there I discovered the brand biokleen about 10 years ago. I found that biokleen brand products worked well and were fairly priced compared to others. They were available though our buying club so I could easily get them and tried to order then when on sale to stretch my budget even farther. My favorite products were biokleen oxygen bleach plus for the laundry, produce wash and the all-purpose cleaner. I still use biokleen products in my home.

My favorite multi-purpose cleaner now is Thieves Household Cleaner* which is a super concentrated product that can be diluted to the necessary strength for the job at hand. I use it on windows, floors, in the dish washer to keep it clean and fresh smelling, clothes washer, bathroom, literally everywhere! My favorite thing about Thieves is that I am not afraid of letting my children use it, even my toddler who likes to taste everything!

I use Thieves cleaner in the bathroom for surfaces and floors. To scrub the tub I mist the tub with cleaner then sprinkle with a little baking soda for a light abrasive scrubbing action. My kids love to clean the bathtub! Of all chores that a kid could pick, I’m happy to let them do this one!

The only problem area I have found that ‘green’ cleaners struggle with is the commode. Keeping the bowl sparkling white without toxic chemicals is difficult for us. My compromise thus far is to do a regular cleaning with green products and occasionally I have to use a heavy duty chemical cleaner to deep clean. I hope to find something that will do the job without adding toxicity to the waste water. If you have found something, please do share in the comments section!

In my quest to do without chemicals I struggled with a replacement for good old bleach. Some things just need that extra disinfecting action that bleach provides and it works in the laundry so well. I found food grade hydrogen peroxide to fill the empty space the bleach bottle once filled. Food Grade (35%) H2O2 is a natural whitener and I use it in the laundry, bathroom and kitchen. You must be careful with it, it is a strong oxidizer, and so you must dilute it and keep out of reach of children & pets. You should not get it on your skin undiluted; it will cause a serious burn. I never use undiluted H2O2 in the house and thus my children aren’t in danger from it. Once it is diluted, they can use it safely. I use it to wash produce & soak our lettuce in. We also use it in place of chemicals in our pool, clean water without chlorine! One gallon of Food Grade H2O2 does cost more than bleach, but you do not need to use as much since it is very strong and one gallon will last a long time. I use apx a ¼ cup in the laundry when I need to whiten or disinfect. I use 1 cup in my pool for maintenance and 2 cups to ‘shock’ it. (I have a 10 foot pool that’s apx 3 ft deep.) You can find a list of uses for FG H2O2 here.

As time goes by, I find myself making more and more of my cleaning products which by nature are better for my family, home & environment. We want a good product, that is safe (non-toxic), sustainable, and inexpensive. This only makes good sense to me. In the past I have made my own lye soap and laundry soap too. I've found that making my own lye soap is too time consuming for me at this stage in life, so it is on the back burner for a while. I do look forward to dabbling in soap-making again, I find that it is enjoyable and a creative outlet for me.

Please share your household cleaning tips in the comments section!

*Disclaimer: I am a Young Living Independent Distributor and this Secret of Thieves page is mine. I can profit by these comments. ;) However, I will not recommend a product or service that I myself do not use and trust!