Spring Cleaning & Crock Pot Cooking

Starting spring cleaning today…bathrooms are getting deep cleaned. Yay! (Yuck!) The bathroom is my least favorite room to clean so I’m getting it out of the way first.

Since I’ll be busy, this is going in the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker today.

Slow-Cooker Bacon-Ranch Chicken and Pasta
Source: www.bettycrocker.com
Cook 6 hr 10 min
Total 6 hr 10 min
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb chicken breasts
6 slices bacon cooked and diced
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup water
8 oz spaghetti cooked

Directions

1 Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; place chicken breasts in cooker.
2 In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Pour over top of chicken.
3 Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 hours or on High heat setting 3 to 4 hours.
4 When about 15 minutes are left, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.
5 Just before serving, shred chicken with 2 forks, and toss creamy chicken mixture with cooked spaghetti.

Hello! What’s up? Plus…Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin/Chops

Howdy!

Long time, no post…I know. I wax experiencing technical difficulties. I think I have it figured out now.

Today, I have two Crock Pots going using the recipe below. I have a tenderloin in one and chops in the other. One is for us and one is to share.

Here’s the recipe:

FYI:  I LOVE my Crock-Pot Slow Cookers! 

  • 3-4 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1⁄2 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 cup white wine
  • 1⁄4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup water

Pour water into bottom of slow cooker. Place tenderloin in cooker; lay sliced onions on top. Mix together remaining ingredients in bowl and pour over meat. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
To be served tonight with mashed potatoes, sautéed zucchini and yellow squash, and yeast rolls. 
The house is smelling good!

I also got my sheets washed and out on the clothesline this morning. I love the smell of freshly air-dried sheets! ❤️ Unfortunately, they didn’t get completely dry before the thunder started, but hopefully they were out there long enough to get the good smell!


And right now, I’m doing some front porch sittin’ while it’s not quite as hot as it has been this week. 


(Pardon those knees!)

But my time is about up because I’ve got to get the rest of supper cooked so it can be delivered.

Y’all have a great evening! 

Lynne 

Planning, Laundry, Menus

Happy Friday!
We are going to do some challenges next week – one small one each day. Yay!

For today (and/or tomorrow, wash everyone’s sheets and give everyone in your family some nice fresh sheets to fall asleep on tonight. (Plus, we’re getting this one out of the way before next week.)

If you can hang them on the clothesline, all the better. One of my favorite smells is clothesline-fresh sheets. Ahh!

Also, if you aren’t a meal planner, plan three easy meals for dinners next week. Here’s what’s on my plan:

Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday: Tacos, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice

Wednesday: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches, Steak Fries

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Baked Potato and Salad “Bars”

Saturday: BBQ Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Roasted Veggies

I’ll post links to these recipes in the comments when I get home to my computer. (I’m on the road right now. Not driving!)

Y’all have a great weekend! Get those sheets washed! 🙂

Lynne 

Good morning!

Good morning, friends!

Hope you have a great Monday and a blessed week! 

Decluttering and getting ready for a yard sale are on my agenda this week. What are your plans?

Lynne 

   
 

Kids’ Room Cleaning Challenge

Revisiting one of the first cleaning/decluttering/organizing posts on the blog. 🙂

Kids’ Room Cleaning Challenge

Legos. Barbie’s shoes. Matchbox cars. Hair bows. Blocks. Trucks. Books. Stuffed animals. If you’ve had your child call to you in the night, gone running into his or her room, and stepped on any or all of the above, you know that kids’ rooms can be messy. For whatever reason – and we probably don’t even know ourselves- we give our kids toy after toy after toy. And we let others do the same. We even invite them to our children’s birthday parties so that even more toys come into the house. Inevitably, some or most – or even all of them – end up in the floor. Usually there is a perfectly good toy box just sitting there empty. (My kids used to put themselves in the toy box, but not necessarily their toys.) Or maybe you have the perfect organizing system for those toys, yet they are still in the floor, under the bed, in the living room, under the kitchen sink…kids’ toys wind up in some strange places.

Let’s face it. Our kids are kids. And while you can (and should) train them to clean up after themselves and put their toys away, most of them just have too stinking many things and not enough understanding (because they are too young) of the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” The main problem is probably not the kids. It’s us. Sigh. We are the ones who let the “Toys R Us” store come into our homes. And seriously, there are not enough hours in the day for them to play with them all. If yours are like mine, they had their favorites. The ones they actually played with. I worked and organized and cleaned on a regular basis, only to have all the other crap thrown on the floor in search of the toy they actually wanted. Eventually, I realized that some of it (a LOT of it) had to go. Away.I actually had a huge yard sale and let other people take those toys to their houses. Hey, let them step on Barbie shoes and those bazillion stuffed toys. (By the way, a Ziploc bag filled with “Happy Meal” toys is a fast seller. Fast!)

So you need to decide how much is enough. Just enough. Depending on the age of your children, you may or may not want to give them a say in this. If they are very young, clean it out and keep only the things they really play with. Put a strict policy into place regarding the number of toys allowed in from now on. Stick to it. A policy is no good if you don’t follow it. If you find things languishing in the bottom of the toy box that haven’t seen the light of day in months and months, they need to go. (NOTE: Once it’s gone, your child will immediately need that toy. Need. Immediately. Do not give in. They forgot about it for months. They’ll forget about it again. Do NOT go out and buy a replacement. Really. Do not.)

So here is what you need to get your kids’ rooms organized. You probably have them in some form or another on hand. Be creative. Try to use stuff you have before you go out and buy something. Reuse and repurpose when possible.

clothes hangers

baskets of various shapes and sizes

toy box or bins for storing toys

small (not tall) book shelf

clothes hamper

wall shelves and/or hooks (high enough that they can’t be reached)

a hook on the back of the door or closet door for PJ’s to be hung up

boxes or bags labeled “donate,” “toss,” and “keep” (Put them in another room. This will be your “staging” area.)

It is important to note now that cleaning out a child’s room is often a covert operation. The things that are leaving the house often need to be removed quickly, quietly, and under the cover of darkness.

The first and most difficult task will be sorting through the toys and getting rid of things that you KNOW your child or children never, ever play with. It is often best to remove these toys from the room and the house when the kid isn’t present. If little Susie sees a pink stuffed rabbit that is covered with the dust and lint from the bottom of the toy box…it willsuddenly be her most “favoritest” one ever, she loves it beyond words and must sleep with it every night. She will tug at your heartstrings, shed some crocodile tears, and manipulate you right into keeping the pink bunny. She’ll sleep with it for a night or two and then bunny will end up under the bed, behind the couch…somewhere it won’t be missed until the next time you try and throw it out. If your kids are older, you can work with them to eliminate toys they no longer play with or have outgrown. Taking them to a children’s shelter or donating them to charity helps them feel better about it. A little. The goal is to not have more toys than you have storage. Duh. Once they’ve been sorted and you have gathered the ones that need to go, GET THEM OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Immediately. Quickly. Faster than a speeding bullet. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Do not put them where they can be seen, or someone will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE something in those bags. (Note: While sorting, keep in mind that it doesn’t always matter who gave the toy to your child. If you let that matter, either you or the child will be emotionally attached to every single toy in the room. That being said, both of my kids have a special stuffed animal given by a grandma that we have kept. My son’s sits in his closet; my daughter’s still sits on her bed.)

Obviously, the toy sorting will probably take a while. A long while if your toy stash is huge. So get a laundry basket and fill it with toys. Take the basket into the room where the donate/keep/toss bags or boxes are located. Spend your 15 minutes going through that basket. Repeat daily until all toys have been sorted into those three categories. (Remove or hide the “donate” box every day so the munchkins can’t see it or get into it. Anything in the “trash” category should be, well, tossed into the trash daily. Do not return the “keep” ones to the room until the other tasks have been completed. Set up a temporary play area for the kiddos in the meantime. Otherwise, you may sort the same toys over and over and over. Several people have suggested keeping the “donate” stuff for a specified period of time….6 weeks, 6 months, whatever. If no one has asked for or looked for a toy that’s in there within the specified time, off to Goodwill or Salvation Army or wherever you have decided to donate them. Pronto!

I’ll include books as part of toys. (Y’all know by now that both Teresa and I are book addicts. We should probably attend meetings in a church basement somewhere.) I read to both my kids from the day they came home from the hospital. They always had a lot of books. A basket of well-loved books by the bedside is great. You know you tend to read the same ones over and over and over…sometimes in the same night! If you can get a small bookshelf to hold the children’s books, that is great! Small in that it doesn’t provide a tall climbing opportunity for the little ones. I had a climber. I speak from experience.

NOTE: I kept books that the kids loved, loved, loved. I fully intend to read them to my grandchildren someday. Most are stored away but a few now sit on the bookshelf in my living room. 🙂

Second on the list is the clothes. Again, this is an area where we tend to “overbuy” or let others do it for us. If the child has outgrown clothes and you have a younger one that will wear them at some point, put them in a box and label it: who the clothes will pass to and the size. Store the box away in the attic, an extra closet..somewhere it won’t be in the way until it’s needed. If you don’t have another child that will wear the clothes, try passing them on to someone who needs them…a friend, a church clothes closet, a children’s shelter, etc.

Note: If you have a couple of special outfits that you really, really want to save, put them in a box that will safely store them or display them on by hanging them on a hook (instant decor!). I have a shelf in my bedroom with hooks on it. On it hang my “coming home from the hospital” dress as well as those of both of my kids, and their first church outfit. I kept a couple of dresses that my daughter loved when she was younger that I’ll hopefully pass on to a granddaughter one day.

Then hang up what needs to be hung up. Fold and put away what needs to be put away in a dresser. Little shoes store well in cute baskets on closet floors, as do socks and tights. Hair bows are cute in a basket on the dresser. Don’t keep more clothes than the child will wear or that you want to wash. Remember: you’ll be doing the laundry. A small laundry hamper in the closet, bedroom or kids’ bathroom is also a must in my book. Teach them early that dirty clothes go IN the hamper not NEAR the hamper.

Up next, the art work.

If your child has a lot of art projects, you have a few options.

1. Take pictures of them and let the child have a photo album of his or her work.

2. Frame a few pictures. Makes great artwork – for their room and any other – and costs very little.

3. Designate a certain amount of shelf space (in their room or in your living room or kitchen) for clay or other non-paper projects. Let them sit there for a certain amount of time (be specific about the time) then either take a picture and add it to the album, store it with your “sentimentals,” or dispose of it. Replace with the next “set” of art objects.

4. Use the coasters, trivets, etc. They serve a purpose and it makes your kids happy, so why not use them?

5. Sort through it and keep the “good” stuff. I have a box labeled “sentimentals” that has the Valentine’s and Mother’s Day cards and such in it. I like to look through it sometimes and smile and cry. It’s a mother’s prerogative, right?

Once all the sorting has been done, it’s time to pull the room together.

Here are things I kept in bins or baskets. If you have room under the bed, there are plastic storage bins that fit so nicely under there.

art supplies: crayons, coloring books, paper, etc. (anything that doesn’t require supervision to use) It’s probably best not to store markers or paint in the kids’ room. Just saying.

a few (very, very few) stuffed animals

books

puzzles

Legos

Barbie & her stuff (Limit her stuff or she will take over! If it doesn’t fit in the box, it must go.)

Dress-up clothes (You might want to keep the play makeup somewhere else.)

Storing things like Legos and Barbie & her stuff in bins or baskets keeps all of the like things “corralled” in one place. You definitely don’t want Legos and Barbie stuff in the toy box. It will fall to the bottom requiring all the stuff on top to be thrown hither and yon in search of Barbie’s pink shoe or the red Lego man. Experience talking again here.

Put the books on the shelf where little hands can reach them. Larger dolls can sit on a shelf as well. Baskets with toys and books are attractive and functional, so put them where they can be seen. Put the toys to be kept that are not intended for bins or baskets in the toy box. Make the bed. Allow 1-2 stuffed animals to sit on the bed. Hang the artwork. Put photos in frames and put on the wall or on wall shelves. If there’s room, a child-size table is a great addition to a kids’ room so that they can do art and put puzzles together and not do it in your living room or at your kitchen table.

Once the room is tidy and neat, spend 15 minutes after dinner or before bedtime – with your child if they are old enough – every day putting things back in their place. Lay out the next day’s outfit. When it’s bedtime, let them choose a book from the basket or shelf and snuggle up and read to them. Kiss them goodnight and look around and breathe a sigh of contentment because the clutter is gone.

And don’t forget to put that book back where it belongs before you leave the room!

Lynne

P.S. The rooms of teenagers are a completely different story. Sometimes it’s best to just close the door and back away carefully.

Happy Sunday!

Good morning!

As I drank my coffee this morning, I did my early morning devotional. This is what I learned.

God is beautiful. He created beauty: beaches, mountains, sunrises, sunsets, clouds…all of it. He is beauty and he created beauty for us to enjoy.

He also created each of us to be creative in some way – to be beautifiers. God is also a God of order. So when we created beautiful, organized, peaceful sanctuaries in our homes, it is God-honoring if it’s not done in a prideful way. Our home and our lives should point to God, not to self.

This really spoke to my little organizing heart. When I beautify my home, I do it so that it’s a place to come home to and feel comfort and love. When I organize, I do it so that there’s less stress and frustration – and thus, more joy.

I just wanted to share that with all of you. Maybe it will speak to you as well as we spend time “together” organizing and beautifying our homes.

I pray that you have a joy-filled, peaceful and relaxing day.

Lynne

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Clearing Out and Keeping Up with Your Refrigerator

Good morning, all!

Okay…how many of you have a man (or male child) who opens the refrigerator to “look” for something that he declares immediately is not in there? I have two such creatures in my house. Here’s a typical conversation about the fridge.

Male: “Where’s the mayonnaise?”

Me: “On the door.”

Male: “No it’s not.”

Me: “Yes, it is.”

Male: “Well, I don’t see it.”

Me: “Bottom shelf, left corner, behind the mustard.”

Male: “Oh.”

Me: “Just where it always is. Always.”

(Insert heavy sign and eye roll here. And apologies to any man who may be reading this and who – bless him – doesn’t have this problem.)

Naturally, a person who can’t find the mayonnaise right where it always is isn’t necessarily going to put it back there. I have labeled shelves that no one can read. How? How can this be?

When I was trying to decide what to do for today’s tips, Teresa suggested that I address the fridge

When I was trying to decide what to address this week, a friend suggested the refrigerator. The quickly messed up and disorganized refrigerator. And since it makes since because we organized our pantries last week (didn’t we?), that’s what I’m going to do. At my house, the fridge can get messy pretty darn quick. So I have learned that I have to straighten it out weekly; any longer than that and it becomes a serious challenge instead of a 15-minute fix.

That being said, this is what I TRY to do every week/month to keep the fridge under control.

1. Tend to the leftovers.

If you have leftovers that freeze well, freeze them in single-serve portions. For example, when I make lasagna, we eat it for dinner once and the once as leftovers. Then I take the rest and cut it into serving size portions and freeze them individually. That way I can pull one out for my hubby’s lunch or have a quick dinner solution when I need it. Just don’t leave them in there long enough to grow mold. Please. Do not conduct your own science experiments. Unless you’re a homeschooler because we homeschoolers have to do what we have to do. 🙂

2. Have a designated place/shelf for leftovers.

In order to make tip #1 easier, have a designated location in the fridge for leftovers. I have a shelf where I store all my leftovers. Then I only have to clean off one shelf when I’m ready to toss or freeze the leftovers. When you toss them, wipe off the shelf and you’re ready for the next week. 🙂 We have a weekly “Leftover Buffet” for dinner on Thursdays. Any leftovers remaining by Monday get tossed. That’s the day before trash pick up day so it clears my fridge and doesn’t invite critters to visit the garbage can during the week.

3. At least once a month, go through the bottles and assorted jars and toss those that are out-of-date.

This isn’t hard, but it takes a little time. Just pick a day (again, I’d suggest the day before trash pick-up if possible) and go through all the jars, bottles, etc. on the refrigerator door or hiding behind the milk carton. Check the dates. If anything is out of date, into the trash or down the garbage disposal it goes. Please recycle when you can! It will take a little longer to sort through these things, but let’s take care of our planet here.

4. Organize your refrigerator into “zones.

Keep healthy snacks and foods front and center. I find this is an especially important thing to do. If there’s chocolate cake in front of the grapes, am I really going to move it and choose the grapes? Umm….probably not. 🙂 But maybe that’s just me. I have found that I eat better and make wiser choices when healthy foods are “in my face” when I open the refrigerator door. I also keep a “collection” of water bottles chilled and easy to reach so that I choose them instead of sweet tea. If you have specific things for your little ones that you don’t mind them reaching into the fridge to get, put them together in one particular area so that they can get to them easily.

Keep track of what’s in your produce bins. It’s best – my my opinion – to only buy produce that you know you’ll use within the week. If not, you (ahem…I) forget what’s in there and when I check the drawer, the produce no longer resembles what you (I) brought home from the store. And it’s squishy. And smelly. And then you have to take out the crisper drawers to clean them and it becomes a big deal. Ugh. So don’t do that, okay? This is personal experience I’m sharing here.

5. Wipe up spills immediately.

If you spill something in the fridge, wipe it clean right away. Do not let it sit. Things tend to get sticky or drip down to the shelves below. This is especially true of soda, sweet tea, juices, and jellies. Sticky things become sticker if left alone. And then you have to scrub. And scrub. That’s no fun. Of course, cleaning spills isn’t fun anyway,  but a big sticky mess…well, that’s really not fun.

And periodically – once month would probably be ideal, but maybe not realistic – take empty the shelves, take them out, wash them in warm soapy water, dry and return them. Do the same for door shelves and the veggie/crisper bins.

Now…if you’re fridge is a HUGE mess and is so full that you can barely see the light that comes on when you open the door, you need to do a major cleaning. That means taking EVERYTHING out and putting it in a cooler. Remove and clean all the shelves. Determine your zones. Only put back into the fridge the things that are fresh and usable. If your fridge is empty after this cleaning, please start your weekly maintenance as soon as you have put things in there. And don’t let it happen again! 🙂

Note: Don’t let items be pushed against the vents in the back of the fridge. It makes it less energy efficient. A stuffed to the gills (or vents) fridge is not good for anyone.

Okay…that’s it. Once it’s clean, it’s really not hard to keep clean. However, a clean fridge does not ensure that a male person will be able to find the mayonnaise. Even if it’s the only thing in the fridge. Just saying.

Have a BLESSED day!

Lynne

P.S. Now that the pantry and fridge are organized, I’ll be back to my “room by room” challenge next week. So I’m “shopping” in my house to see what I want in the entryway.

 

 

 

 

The Pantry Project 2.0

The Pantry Project. It’s really a weekly challenge but the word “project” sounds better with “pantry” so there you go. 🙂 I worked on this on Saturday. Probably spent about an hour total because it wasn’t too far gone so I didn’t have to take everything out this time. ~ Lynne

My pantry. I love it. I hate it. Sometimes at the same time. It’s pretty big and roomy. But one of these days I’m going to add the shelving I really want. There’s too much wasted space in there. Also, it is not close to my stove so I also (at my daughter’s urging) have a cabinet that IS next to the stove where I store things that are used more frequently. Once I figured out what I wanted next to the stove, I went to work on the rest.

If your pantry is a disorganized mess, you can do something about it. Now, I usually issue weekly challenges that require about 15 minutes a day to complete. When I work on my pantry, I usually just set aside an hour (it has taken longer – depends on how long I let it go) and get it all done at one time. If yours is just a little disorderly, you might only need 15 minutes to straighten it out. In my experience. how messy your pantry gets is directly related to how many people have access to it. If no one besides me ever went in there, it would remain nice and neat. That’s not going to happen so it’s gets messy. (Insert heavy sigh here.)

Unfortunately, step #1 in the pantry project is to clear it out. Yep, clear it all out. So you need a table top or counter top available to hold everything. When you’re taking things out of the pantry, go ahead and group like things together on the table. It will make organization easier when it all goes back in.

If in the clearing out of your pantry, you come across any of the following, please do not return them to the pantry. Discard or donate as appropriate, but don’t give them valuable space in your pantry.

  • Foods whose expiration dates have passed (Beans from 2010 – out!)
  • Kitchen appliances that haven’t seen the light of day since you put them in the pantry – especially if they’re still in the box or were a wedding gift that you didn’t register for.
  • Serving dishes that you never, ever use. Ever.

When you start to return things to the pantry, group like things together. Baskets or bins can be good for this. I have baskets for baking products (chocolate chips, brown sugar, etc.), chips, bottled items (cooking wine, oil). Dollar store canisters hold oats, rice and the like.

IMG_7253

 

Cabinet beside microwave/oven area

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  • Top shelf: aluminum pans, paper products, sodas, cake pans
  • Shelf 2: oats, rice, flour, griddle/panini press
  • Shelf #3: bins with snacks, basket with baking products, bread, cereal
  • Shelf #4: paper products, snacks, chips, bottled items

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Door shelf: large spice containers, broths, tea, coffee

So here is my sage advice for your pantry project. If you don’t have time to take everything out and devote an hour or so to this project or if you can work on your pantry shelf-by-shelf, then 15 minutes a day will be a good time frame and you should be able to knock it out in a few days. If you do like I did and just make a big mess of it, getting all done at one time may be the best idea. Just be sure you have that time to dedicate to it. You don’t want to take everything out of there and then leave it for days on end on the kitchen table. Well, I hope you don’t want to do that.

Either way, once it’s done and arranged to your liking, take the 15 minutes each week when you are putting away groceries to do a little “maintenance.” Put things where they go. Label the shelves/baskets/bins if you need to – or just want to. If I had taken the time when I got home from the grocery store even though I was tired, I wouldn’t have had a mess to clean up. Sigh. Lesson learned.

Happy cleaning!

Lynne