Saturday Challenge Day Is Back!!

Good afternoon!

It’s Saturday challenge day once again! If you are new to Simplify 2013 – or if you weren’t ready to jump on board in the beginning – we are going to use our original weekly challenges for spring cleaning! Oh, I know you’re excited now! I am! But I’m weird that way, so if you’re not excited, it’s okay. But try really hard to get excited by Monday. Eat a lot of chocolate. That seems to get people excited. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

We are going to start at the beginning again. If you’re like me, you started off the new year with a bang. But just like those New Year’s diet resolutions I/you made, you may have fallen off the wagon just a little. If you haven’t, I am applauding you right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ So now we are going to get at it again.

Again, ย if you’re like me, you have another one (or two or three) of those pesky areas in your house that have gotten back to their former chaotic state after you worked on them in January. Especially if you haven’t done any “maintenance” since then. So like I said…let’s go back to the beginning.

Weekly challenge #1 encouraged (yes, encouraged!) you to walk through your house and find the one area that really bothers you the most. The top of your desk (that’s mine). The bookshelf in the living room. Your nightstand. Just some area or spot that you walk by and cringe – inwardly or outwardly – when you see it. That area is your project for next week. We’ll call it “Spring Cleaning Challenge #1.” So take a good look at it today. Don’t work on it. Just look at it. Decide why it’s bothering you. Perhaps, like me, the top of your desk is sort of invisible. Sigh. Then write down five things that need to be done to make it look the way you want it to. Then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, take a picture of it. Yes, a picture. We will appreciate your “after” picture much more if there is a “before” picture. Yes, that means we want you to share it with us. Pretty please. Next week, you’ll spend 15 minutes each day working on this space. Just 15 minutes. Set the timer. Stop when it goes off. On Friday, you should have a clean, organized space. Then you can make it pretty because pretty is even better. ๐Ÿ™‚

My desk is bothering me because the top of it is nearly invisible. I need to file things, toss things. A little dusting certainly wouldn’t hurt. So I am taking a picture of it as soon as I’m done with this post. Heavy sigh. I’ll make my list of what needs to be done and I’ll work on it starting on Monday. I might even take a picture after each day’s 15-minute cleaning session. In fact, I think that’s a great idea and you should do it, too. Then you can see your progress as the week goes along. And you’ll really see that value of the 15-minute cleaning

I really, really want you to enjoy your Easter because we are going to work on Monday! Like I said, if you haven’t participated in any challenges for whatever reason, now’s the time to get on board and get moving. By the time we’re done working through the challenges, summer will be almost upon us. And wouldn’t it be just glorious to NOT have any major cleaning projects to tackle during the summer?

Peace, love & blessings,

Lynne

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Good Friday!

Good morning on Good Friday!

It’s a beautiful but still chilly morning here in Aiken. But the azaleas are blooming and the sun is shining! God is showing us spring even if it doesn’t feel like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

So what are your plans for Easter? Do you have special ways that you celebrate the holiday? We will be going to the early service at our church, and then I am looking forward to a nice lunch out at my parents’ house. (Maybe I’ll be able to convince someone to take a walk with me afterward.) I’ll probably sit on the porch and have coffee with my mom and watch and listen to the birds. They have so many and they are very entertaining. It’s so quiet and peaceful at their place. It’s a great place to admire and appreciate God’s handiwork.

Just remember. Easter isn’t about bunnies, candy, and new dresses. All of those are nice, but they aren’t the reason we celebrate. As at Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season. At Christmas we celebrate His birth; at Easter we celebrate his resurrection. Don’t leave Him out of your holiday. He didn’t forget about you so don’t forget about Him. Take some time and count your blessings. Thank Him for the sacrifice He made for you – the ultimate blessing!

Love & blessings,

Lynne

easter

“Christianity begins where religion endswith the resurrection.”
~Herbert Booth Smith

Help! I need to cut my budget!

Good Thursday morning!

As I sit here typing the blog this morning, I am also watching my little nephew who – at the moment – is all smiles as he bounces himself up and down in the pack-and-play. (How long that lasts may determine how long this post is.)

I want to talk a little bit today about being thrifty. Now, I know that word often conjures up certain images for you. But being thrifty is not a bad thing. In light of today’s economic woes, it’s really a good thing. And I, for one, need to work on being more thrifty. Frugal. Budget-wise. Careful. Whatever you want to call it, it wouldn’t hurt any of us to be a little more conscious of where and how we spend our time and money.

(Note: Picking this back up 5 hours later.)

My family, personally, is being hit starting April 1st with a pretty significant pay cut resulting from reduced work hours for my husband. So we are going to have to do some very careful spending from here on out. I consider myself pretty frugal most of the time, though I do like my satellite TV. I could live without it, but I like it. I am planting a garden in hopes of reducing our grocery bill some. We are still trying to live off one income. With two kids in college now, it gets harder, but we have been blessed so far.

What I’d like to do is hear from you about things you do to save money. What have you found that works for you? I know we could probably all use a little help here, so let’s help one another. The grocery store takes the most of my money (besides the mortgage). Grocery prices just seem to go up and up.

So please, please share your frugal/thrifty ways with the rest of us. I, for one, could use some pointers.

Looking forward to hearing from you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lynne

 

 

Wednesday Recipe Share: Easy Southwest Chicken

I have decided that I will share recipes on Wednesdays. Some are really easy (like this one) and some are more complicated ย – but make you seem more like a chef not just the cook. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am a cookbook “junkie” and though I have reduced the number of cookbooks I have in my kitchen by a few, now I can just go online and look and look. That may or may not be a good thing. I like trying new recipes and usually throw something new at my family every couple of weeks. This one is one of my personal favorites, but I could eat Mexican/southwestern food just about every day.

Southwest Chicken – Super Easy!

(from aย Taste of Home cookbook – of which I have several)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 jar (16 oz) mild salsa
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
In slow cooker, layer three-fourths each of the corn and beans and half the salsa. Arrange the chicken over salsa; top with remaining corn, beans and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until the chicken is tender.

Shred chicken with two forks and return to slow cooker; heat through.

Serve over rice or wrapped in flour tortillas, topped with cheese and sour cream if desired. Yum!

Tuesday Tips: This One Is For the Kids

Yes, today’s tips are directed at the kiddos. All will not apply to all children due to age and ability, of course, but the sooner you get them started, the better off you and your children will be. (Note: Many of these things are completely forgotten when the teenage years hit. Not sure when they remember them again. I’ll let you know.)

Hello! I’m here today to share some things with you that – if you do them – will make your mom and dad happy. And they’ll be proud of you. Making your parents happy and proud should be one of your life’s goals. Just saying. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some of these you think you can’t do. Some of them you don’t want to do. But, trust me. Doing them will make life easier for your parents, and that will make life easier for you. True story.

1. Make your bed when you get out of it in the morning.

Yes, when your little (or big) feet hit the floor in the morning, make your bed. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we moms do appreciate a neatly-made bed. Especially if we aren’t the ones who have to make it. Your room automatically looks neater to us if the bed is made. Neat rooms make moms smile. This is a good thing.

2. Your dirty clothes go in the hamper or laundry basket.

Your dirty clothes do not belong on the bathroom floor. Or your bedroom floor. Or in the hallway. Or even near the hamper. They go IN the hamper. This is not hard. If you can get them near it, you can get them in it. If it’s not in the hamper, it might not get washed. Then on Monday morning when you absolutely have to wear your favorite jeans, you find them under the bed instead of nice and clean-smelling and folded in your drawer. So you either have to wear dirty smelly jeans – which is NOT a good thing – or you have to wear something else.

3. Your clean clothes go in the dresser drawers or in the closet.

Your clean clothes do not belong on the bed. Or on yours desk. Or on top of the dresser. Or in the closet floor. Or your bedroom floor. When your mom is kind enough to do your laundry, the least you can do is put it away. Takes less than 5 minutes. Makes mom happy. If your cleans clothes end up in the floor, they also end up dirty. See #1 above about what happens when your favorite jeans are dirty and you want to wear them.

4. Help mom in the kitchen – even if she doesn’t ask first.

Wow! This one will put a big smile on mom’s face! Ask your mom how you can help her in the kitchen. It might be setting the table for dinner. Or loading or unloading the dishwasher. It might be helping make dinner. Usually, any and all help in the kitchen is appreciated. It means we moms don’t have to spend as much time there. This also makes us happy. Happy is always good. Always.

5. If you ask for and get a pet, it is YOUR responsibility. Not Mom’s. Not Dad’s. YOURS.

Have you ever said, “Can I please have a puppy? I promise that I will feed him, walk him, play with him, clean up after him!”? If you have and you got that puppy (kitten, bird, lizard, etc.), then it is yours. YOURS. And the responsibility for taking care of him or her is YOURS. It’s not always convenient. It’s not always fun. But neither is taking care of you – especially when you were a baby – so do it anyway. YOU asked for it. YOU take care of it. Okay?

6. Get ready for the next day the night before.

The night before school, church, sports, etc., go ahead and do what you can to get ready. Make sure your homework is done and is IN your book bag. Make sure any permission slips, notes from the teacher, and things like that have been seen by Mom or Dad and signed if needed. And put IN your book bag. Help Mom by fixing (or helping fix) your lunch for the next day. Lay out the clothes you’re going to wear. Anything you can do the night before will make the morning easier. A bad, stressful morning isn’t good for anyone. Don’t be a stress-causer who makes everyone late for school because you can’t find her favorite shoes or ย lost your field trip permission slip.

7. Don’t be a whiner.

No one likes a whiner. If Mom or Dad says “no,” keep quiet! Whining and begging will only make your parents irritated. This will also make them more likely to say “no” more regularly. Don’t whine because you don’t want to do your homework. Don’t whine because you can’t go somewhere all of your friends are going (They’re not all going anyway, by the way. Some of their parents will also say “no.”). Don’t whine because you have to turn the TV off and go to bed. This is life. You have to do things you don’t want. That’s how it works. Whining won’t get you very far. Sorry.

8. Get up when you are supposed to.

The earlier you learn to set your own alarm clock and get up when it goes off, the better off you will be. If Mom or Dad says it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up. I can assure you, they’d probably rather sleep in, too. Don’t make your mom have to come in and yank the covers off. ย Or throw a glass of cold water in your face. Don’t make things harder for everyone. Don’t make everyone late because of you. Just get up. I’d hate to think that you didn’t get up on time and your mom has to make you go to school in your footie pajamas because you didn’t have time to get dressed. Just know that that’s what I’d do. ๐Ÿ™‚

9. If you have homework, do it as soon as possible after you get home.

Teachers give you homework. It’s a fact. Just do it. The sooner you do it – and do it properly and to the best of your ability – the sooner you can move on to other stuff. Make this a habit. It’s a good one! It’s important to do your homework to the best of your ability. If you have questions, ask your parents. Don’t NOT do your homework because you don’t understand the directions. Mom or Dad are pretty smart. They can usually read directions and help you with your homework. They really were once the same age as you. But remember, it’s yours. Don’t expect Mom, Dad, or your big sister to do it for you. Also, do NOT wait until Sunday night to begin work on your science fair project (or any other big project or paper) that is due on Monday. When you get an assignment for something ‘big,” start work on it right away and do a little at a time. Trust me; this will be much easier for you.

10. When your parents tell you or ask you to do something, just do it. If they tell you to stop doing something, stop.

Often, these things you are told to do called chores. Parents generally ask you or tell you to do something because they need you to do it. We’re parents. That doesn’t mean we don’t need help now and again. If we ask you to do something and you do it right away without whining or asking 4,327 times why you have to do it, it makes us happy. Happy is good. If we tell you to stop doing something, it’s usually for your own good. As in, stop jumping on the bed before you break the bed and break your arm. These things actually happen. That’s why we tell you to stop before they do. Again, not being mean. Just trying to keep you safe and protect you. Yes, teenagers. This does apply to you as well.

You do chores because you are part of the family and sharing in the chores makes the house and family run more smoothly. Think about it. Is it fair for Mom to work, do the laundry, cook the meals, walk YOUR dog, and clean YOUR room while you sit and watch TV? No. It definitely is not fair. Think about this. What if Mom and Dad sat and watched TV while you had to go to school, do the laundry, cook the meals, walk the dog, do your homework, and pack everyone’s lunches? How would that make you feel? Exactly. You are part of a family. Do your part. Sit down with Mom and Dad and decide together what you are able to do to help out around the house. Then go forth and do it. Without having to be told. Or reminded a bazillion times. I doubt you have to remind Mom a bazillion times to fix dinner. You probably don’t remind Dad a bazillion times to go to work. So don’t make them have to ask you a bazillion times to take out the trash or put your laundry away.

We parents give you chores and have things that we expect you to do. Not because we’re mean, but because one day you will have your own house (we hope!) and will need to know how to do stuff. Really. That’s why we ask. That’s why it’s important to learn to do things around the house for yourself and to be responsible for your own work (homework right now; a job later on). We want you to be kind, respectful kids. We love to hear how well-behaved you were at church or how much work you are putting into your school work or sports.

Do your best. Be your best. Your parents will thank you. And there will be lots of smiles.

~ Miss Lynne

Guest Post from Shante Butler: Kids’ Party Ideas

Kids’ Party Ideas

Spring is coming and this week I want to talk about saving money while still celebrating birthdays. I have three kids (20, 18, 16) and they were talking the other day about how much they loved their birthday celebrations growing up. We never went to Chuck-E Cheese or had big grand birthday parties, but they were still memorable.

Most of the family rules about birthdays were centered around the expense. So first I want to say that I never spent more than $100 on my kids’ birthday parties. The years that they got a party were the years they did not recieve a gift from me, and everybody had a birthday party about every other year or so. The first rule of birthday parties at my house is that you can only have eight people, including the birthday person, at the party. The reason for this is to ensure that everything we do from this point can be done as nicely and cheaply as possible.

First, pick a theme. We chose obscure themes that didn’t have a theme party plate for it yet. We did Sponge Bob and Yu-gi-oh parties long before the plates were widely available. We did a Madden football tournament party for my eldest,ย a candy themed party for my daughter, an Army party for my youngest, just to name a few. Choose a party that has a specific color theme because colored paper plates are cheaper than theme plates. Once you have a theme in mind, decorate the table and just the room the table is in with streamers, blown up balloons, and such. There are lots of pictures and websites to give you ideas on how to decorate using these items.

The next thing to talk about is the food. If the kids are having enough fun at the party, they will not really want to eat, so I always served hot dogs, potato salad, and chips at every party. I always made punch and served it in small cups with the child’s name written on it. Next thing is the cake. I suggest that instead of buying a themed cake from a grocery store or bakery, you make a 9″ circle cake or 9 by 13″ sheet cake at home, frost it, go to the store and buy miniature toys of the theme, pop them onย  top of the cake, and now you a themed cake.

Finally, the fun part: The games. The games should be theme specific. One year my youngest was obsessed with everything military so he had an Army party. I had a neighbor come over dressed in his fatigues and got the kids to do push ups, sit ups, and march around the house. They all knew Brian, but they had to “sir, no sir” him, and when they “graduated” they marched around the front lawn doing a sound off while the parents waved and cheered. It was loads of fun. All of our parties lasted for no longer than two hours and were usually between the hours of 2pm – 4pm. Why? Two hour parties insure two hours of complete fun with no lulls and the time frame was so that the kids would come to the party right after lunch.
We always did a theme-related craft at the beginning of the party to give the kids something to do while everyone is arriving. It lets the kids and the parents see that this is not going to be a “free for all, running around like a mad person” kind of party. We are organized and we are going to have fun. The craft can be something small and fun.

Please feel free to post other inexpensive party ideas. I hope to see photos of joyful birthdays. I’ll see you guys next time.

Shante Butler

It’s a good day to stay inside! (Here, anyway.)

Good Saturday morning!

Cold. Wet. Yuck. A great day to stay inside and get some rest. That’s the kind of day we have today. I have a volunteer thing from 11-2; after that my plans include a book, a cup of coffee, and a warm blanket. Just saying. It’s a lazy kind of day around here. If you are blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures, please go outside and enjoy them. Saturdays are for relaxing and enjoying life. Weekends. That means the work week has ended (unless you’re a shift worker like my hubby – his weekends come on odd days). If at all possible, let work go. Monday will be here soon enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am keeping this short and sweet today because I have to be at my designated post in about an hour and I’m not even out of my pajamas yet! Yikes!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

~ Lynne

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, everyone!

The weekend is upon us! ย It’s supposed to be cold and damp here. I just got back from my walk and I haven’t gotten rid of the chill yet. Another cup of coffee may be in order. Brrr!

What do you have planned for your weekend? My hubby is working nights this weekend, which usually means I get to do a whole lot of nothing if I want. But I’ll be busy both days this weekend which is kind of unusual for me. Our church is celebrating 20 years on Sunday and I am looking forward to that. It promises to be big and fun!

I’ll also make my menu plan for next week based on what I have on hand. Budget cuts being what they are, my grocery budget needs to be tightened. I have quite the stash in my pantry, so I’m going to see how far I can stretch it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wish me luck! I’ll have to pull out my cookbooks and get creative. That’s what I’ll be doing Saturday evening.

Starting April 1, we are going to re-visit some of our past challenges as part of spring cleaning. So get ready! If you didn’t take the challenges the first go round, I hope you will this time. There will be some new challenges as well, so if you’re caught up with the others you will still have things to do.

Hope you all have a great weekend! Stay warm! And if you’re somewhere warm already, can I come visit?

Lynne

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

Good afternoon!

Hope you all are having a good day!

Here we are almost at the end of another week. Time flies by these days, it seems. It has been a cool (cold to me), blustery couple of days here. Seems like we sprang forward with the time and our temperatures sprang the opposite direction. I don’t like it! I might whine. I am ready for flip flops. Seriously. This time last year, we were wearing flip flops by now.

I feel like my week has been hectic – though it probably hasn’t been hectic by most people’s definition of the word – and that I need a “catch up” day. Luckily for me, I can do that tomorrow. Nothing around here is particularly messy, so maybe I’m just feeling the need to clean. I’m weird that way sometimes. A clean and sparkly house makes me happy. And it’s spring. I want to rearrange furniture or something. It’s been a few months since I moved any furniture around. That doesn’t happen very often. My husband says he never knows where the bed will be at night.

So, how are we doing with this week’s challenge? Are you working the four 15-minute time periods each day to get things done? Are mornings running more smoothly at your house?ย Are you menu planning to make evenings easier? Tonight at our house is “leftover buffet” night; in other words, I’m cleaning out the fridge. ๐Ÿ™‚ How is your laundry situation? Are you keeping it under control, or is the laundry monster knocking at your door? If he is, don’t let him in! Keeping up with the laundry is a major stress-reliever. A whole weekend spent doing laundry is not.

Take a few minutes today or tomorrow to plan next week’s dinners. If you can, plan breakfasts and lunches as well. I have found (and I started planning three meals plus snacks with Weight Watchers) that when I do that, it makes the whole day run more smoothly. I have been planning dinners for a week at a time, and plan the breakfasts, lunches and snacks the night before. Try it and see if it works for you.

Enjoy what’s left of the day. I’m off to get my exercise in.

Lynne