Thursday, January 30, 2014

Spinning Plates on the Verge of Greatness

Oh boy. Do you ever feel like the train has left the station, and you're running along side it trying to muster up the courage and the strength to climb on board? It's one of those stretches for me. I feel like I've got so many darn plates to spin, that I just am in awe of the pile of plates, and haven't even started spinning them. So much to do. I realize that there are two different analogies there, but that just about sums up my train of thought these days... too much going on in the head. It ends up feeling a bit fuzzy. 

Tonight is my daughter's baby shower. My other daughter, along with various friends and family members, is throwing it for her. And she was sweet and amazing enough to plan out all of the decorations and such whilst I was floating around in a boat somewhere near the Panama Canal. So, I've really only had to get my house in shape (a bigger task than I want to admit to), and plan some food. Not too big of a deal, but it's a plate that needs spinning, in order for things to work out nicely tonight. 

And there are several other plates: getting our backyard garage construction project done; and once the garage is done, cleaning out the other garage and storage unit so that we can have actual organized spaces (what a concept!); cleaning out and updating a new little rental property we just purchased (this one counts for several plates, I imagine); getting my yard put into shape after the construction has done a number on it; tearing out and filling in our pond and stream; preparing for my son's wedding luncheon in March; cleaning out every single closet and drawer in my house (you think I'm joking...); insert here about twenty more plates that I won't bore you with at this time; and, getting ready for the arrival of our second grand baby in March (at which arrival I will be a coach.... see the above graphic for my thoughts on this assignment).

So, although I know that I'm not any more busy than anyone else, sometimes things get a little crazy for a day or two. And then it all seems to fall into place, and I realize that I don't even have to spin every plate at once. In fact, things go along quite nicely if I just spin one plate, give it my all, and then once it stops spinning, set it aside and start another plate. I am very much a single-task oriented person, so I can be very satisfied being a "one-plate-spinner", all the while being quite dazzled at my husband's array of numerous plates spinning all together, and ne'er a one crashing to the ground. We get along quite nicely -- me and him -- with our different approaches to life. We are the yin to each other's yang.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January Week 4: Paper Supplies

How is your week-by-week food storage going so far? Again, don't get discouraged if you fall behind a week or two... just pick up with whatever calendar week we're currently on. You can always pick up the missed weeks later on, or next year, when they come back up in the schedule. Its just good to keep on working on whatever you can!

This week we're on January Week 4.  The items to collect and store this week are as follows:

January Week 4: Paper supplies: paper towels, paper plates, paper cups, plastic utensils, 
napkins, Kleenex, toilet paper

Store the items you will need on hand for the upcoming year. Weigh each item as to what your family would use, but keep in mind that long-term emergencies may require some different items than what you would normally use. If you don't really use paper towels, you probably won't need many rolls, but you may want to consider storing some (because they may come in handy for some emergency use). Same with paper plates, cups and utensils. 

If storing a whole year's supply of toilet paper seems overwhelming, just buy a few large packages and start with that. You can add to your stockpile later on, but get at least a few of everything in storage!

Once you're decided on amounts of each item that you'll need for the week, add them to your shopping list, and get to the store in the next day or two. Get the items home, and on the shelves and update your inventory list.

One thing that is nice, is that once you've collected these items, you don't necessarily have to rotate through them, which means next year, you wouldn't need to buy anything additional this particular week. Sometimes I will run out of something and run down to get a box of Kleenex or some napkins, or something. If I don't get around to replacing it, I know that next year, when I go through the inventory, it will show that I'm one package down from what I should have, and I'll know I need to restock on one or two of the items.

So, now we are done with January! To go back and review what January's items are, go to the "Week-by-Week Food Storage Plan" tab.

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the blogpost that featured that week's items. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trip Preparation and Packing Lists

Whew. I finally feel like I'm starting to make ground on my "to-do" list. But just barely.

I promised I'd share these lists that help me get ready for my trips.

When we were preparing for our Panama Canal Trip, I got my "trip lists" out, like I always do, and started packing and getting my ducks in a row. I thought I'd share these lists on the blog... not because they will be perfect for you to use as you get ready for your trips, but the because the concept itself works really seamlessly for packing. These are lists that I've used through the years, and I know that as long as I check everything off, there won't be anything that I forget. And it has worked trip after trip after trip. Once in a while a random thing comes up that I've never thought of before, and it gets added to the list. But they are pretty comprehensive. And since I have them on my computer, I just print them off before the trip, and they're ready. No need to try to come up with a brand new list every time and cross my fingers that I've remembered everything. These lists take the guess work out of packing.

So, first of all I have a list of things I need to do to prepare for the trip.

As you can see, the list is pretty tailor-made for my home and family, but the point is to have a list, and then add to it and tweak it as you go along. As this list goes, I don't have to try to wrack my brain to try to remember all that I need to do before we leave. It's all on the list, ready to be checked off. Sometimes I don't need to do each and every item on the list, and then I just cross it off the list, or put an "n/a" next to it.

The next list is a general packing list for each of the family members who are going on the trip. This was SO very handy when I had a full house of kids. I would just print them each off a list, and they would go to town packing for themselves. I generally put how many of each of some of the items, just to help when we're trying to figure out outfits and such. Even when just Bob and I are going on a trip, I print one off for him and one off for me. Again, takes all of the guess work out of the packing.

The next list is a more comprehensive packing list for just me. It includes many more items than just the packing list that each of the kids get. Some of the items are repeats from the above family list, but it has quite a few other things that I need to remember to bring.

And the last of the four lists is one that I give to our house-sitter. When my whole family is gone on a trip, we hire one of the neighbor kids to take care of things. When it's just Bob and I, we'll have one or two of our kids checking in and watering and such. Either way, it's helpful for them to have a list of what you are wanting them to do each day.

I block out the days when they don't need to worry about doing some of the things, so they can look at the day at the top of the list, and then see the few things that they need to check on or do for that day.

As you can see, the lists aren't fancy at all, but they serve a great purpose, and that is to free my ever-buzzing head from the worries of preparing and packing for a trip. I don't have to re-think any of it. I just automatically pull up my four lists, adjust them a bit for that specific trip, and print them off. Done. I've been using these lists for at least 15 years now, and they are tweaked a bit through the years to fit our needs, but other than that, they're the same lists, and I wouldn't even think of going on a trip without using them!

So, start putting together your lists. You can use mine as a reference, and to jog your memory as to what you need to do before you leave for your trip, and also what you need to remember to pack. Do a simple list on your computer. In fact, you don't even need to print the lists off. Just make the list on your IPad or phone, or whatever, and refer to that as you pack. (Unless you're like me, and need to have the satisfaction of crossing things off the list.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Panama Canal Trip and then back to the routine!

We are back! And since I don't normally advertise over the internet when we are leaving, you wouldn't even have missed us, but we were gone for almost two weeks! We went on a Panama Canal cruise, which was something we've always wanted to see. It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

This is the Panama Canal (Gatun Locks) as our big cruise ship is entering the locks. The little trains you see below, attach to the ship by lines, and keep the ship in the center of the canal where it belongs. There are four trains on each side of the ship.

And here are the Miraflores Locks, seen from the side. It's hard to believe those huge cruise ships can fit inside of that space, but they do!

Oh, and here's my travelling partner. I could look at this photo all the day long. In fact, think I will.

Leading up to the trip, Bob and I were at a point in our hectic lives where we were mostly just passing each other in the hallway (sometimes at a pretty good trot). We needed some time away together, and this trip was just the thing. We saw beautiful things, thawed out in the warm sun, lazed around on lounge chairs and went on hair-raising zip-lines in the jungles of Costa Rica...

Here we are before. Happy as clams.

And here is Bob, gliding along with the greatest of ease. He never really looked the slightest bit different than he would look when he's sitting in a lounge chair sipping a cool soda. His facial expressions never change. Of course, he is the consummate "calm and cool under any circumstances".

I, on the other hand, have varying levels of fear, puzzlement (as to how to get my body pointing straight instead of sideways, when coming in for a landing), and excitement.

And lest you are wondering why there should really be any fear involved, this photo may give it a little justice. Some of the zip lines are 150 feet above the jungle floor. Think of it. Doesn't it get your adrenaline going a little bit?

Near the end of the zip-lines, I did figure out how to come in straight and I may have even had a smile or two.

...We also went on walks, worked out together (remember, fatty, high-calorie cruise food -- we needed to keep some of that at bay), actually read books, and generally soaked each other up for 12 whole days. Heaven. We could have been anywhere on earth, and it wouldn't have mattered to either one of us, as long as we got to spend that uninterrupted time together. It will be just the thing to get us through the busy months ahead!

And now that we're back, I feel like I'm ready to conquer the world. Well, almost. I came back to this.

I had sworn to myself (and anyone else who would listen) that I refused to come home to any Christmas decorations that still needed to be put away. But, try as I might, I could not carve out the few hours it would take to put them all away where they go. So, it all sat on the floor of our basement just patiently waiting for me to get home. And the very morning after I got home, I rolled my sleeves up and got to work. It felt great to pack it all away, but I was reminded of my need to purge Christmas decorations, so I invited all of my kids to a Christmas garage sale next October. Done.

And with the basement all cleaned up and organized, I was in my "nesting" mode, so everywhere I've gone in my house in the past few days, I've lingered to organize. I still have oh, so much to do, but it feels so good to start seeing a little organization and order scattered here and there in our home.

In a couple of days, I'll be sharing my Trip Packing and Prep lists that help me remember to pack every last thing and also to do all that needs to be done around the house before we leave. It makes the preparation part of trips so much easier!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January Week 3: Medicines

January Week 3: Medicines: Excedrin, aspirin, Advil, Pepto Bismol, cough drops, Tums... whatever YOUR family will need as far as medications in the coming year.

For the original write-up on this week's items, click here.

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the blogpost that features that week's items. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Baby Shower Game

Since we're just a couple of months away from our second grand-baby making an appearance into the world, we're getting into full baby mode again. The new little one is due on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day!), and we don't know the gender (the suspense is killing me), but we're plunging forward with plans and excited about his/her arrival. I'm thinking it's a boy, but we'll see....

We're working on shower plans as we speak, and it made me think of a fun shower game we played just a couple of months ago.

It's simple to prepare for, and simple to play (the best kind of shower game!), and just takes a few minutes.

First of all, gather as many different kinds of baby items as you can think of. The more, the merrier. Throw some really random baby items in there to make it a little harder. Arrange them all on a tray or a wide, shallow basket so that each item can be seen.

Using card stock of your choice, cut a sheet for each of your guests. You can pre-print numbers for each item, or just leave them blank. 

At the shower, you'll walk slowly past each guest with the tray of items, and let them view it. And then place the tray out of sight from everyone. Then, pass out the papers and pens, and at your signal, let everyone write as many items as they can think of. You can tell them how many items you have, or you can just let them try to figure it out and remember as many as they can.  

Give them a certain amount of time to write as many of the items as they can (maybe three minutes or so), and then bring the tray back in and show the items one at a time. The guest who has the most correct items wins. And if they have written down items that aren't on the tray, they have to subtract points. That alleviates those smarty-pants who just randomly write down every baby item they can think of, even if they don't remember what's on the tray!

The prize could be something like a baby bottle filled with jelly-bellies or something along those lines. It's a fun game, and variations can be played for bridal showers with homemaking kinds of items.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January Week 2: Detergents and Cleansers

This week's food storage items are:

January Week 2: Detergents, bleach, cleansers, laundry detergent, dish detergent, bathroom and window cleaners

Some detergents and cleansers have expiration dates on them and some don't. Either way, I would rotate through them just to keep them fresh.

First, you will need to determine which cleansers you want to keep on your shelves. You can't believe how handy it is to have a good supply to fall back on. Decide what you use, and what you will need in the coming year. You can just keep some of the very basics, like bleach, Comet, and Lysol, or you can really take stock and get a year's supply of all of the cleansers you use in a year. I started by just storing two or three different items, but now I get most of what I'll use in a year. It's nice to pick it up in bulk at Costco, or get the items at a case lot sale (which, by the way, they have going on right now at Harmon's).

After you've determined how much you want in your storage, make a shopping list and in the next day or two, go out and pick up the items. Bring them home, get them on your shelves, and update your inventory sheets. Done. It's as easy as that. It literally only takes minutes to do this every week, and in a year's time, you will have a great stock of items that your family actually uses. This is what I love about this system. It's a rotating one, so you have very little (or no) waste along the way.

As a guideline, I've included a list below from Real Simple that includes some expiration dates for regular household items, including cleansers. I think some of the dates are on the conservative side, as I've used some of the items well after the time shown below, and they've still been fine.

Air freshener, aerosol
2 years

Antifreeze, premixed
1 to 5 years

Antifreeze, concentrate

Batteries, alkaline
7 years

Batteries, lithium
10 years

3 to 6 months

Dish detergent, liquid or powdered
1 year

Fire extinguisher, rechargeable
Service or replace every 6 years

Fire extinguisher, nonrechargeable
12 years

Laundry detergent, liquid or powdered
Unopened: 9 months to 1 year
Opened: 6 months

Metal polish (silver, copper, brass)
At least 3 years

Miracle Gro, liquid
Opened: 3 to 8 years

Miracle Gro, liquid, water-soluble

Motor oil
Unopened: 2 to 5 years
Opened: 3 months

Mr. Clean
2 years

Unopened: Up to 10 years
Opened: 2 to 5 years

Spray paint
2 to 3 years

2 years

Wood polish (Pledge)
2 years

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the blogpost that featured that week's items. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Goal Not Written is Only A Wish

Resolutions. They have been on my mind almost constantly since the beginning of this new year. I've thought about how resolutions aren't just a few hopes your write down on a piece of paper and then think only sparingly about. Resolutions are things that you RESOLVE to do. The definition of resolve is: "a firm determination to do something". And a firm determination in my eyes, is to do whatever I can to make that thing happen. So my resolutions need to be things that I actually am going to do something about. As I've been thinking about my resolutions, goals and hopes for the new year, I've seen a couple of things come past my inbox that are worth sharing.

From Beth (a dear friend who is busily serving alongside her husband in Orlando, Florida), after hearing a talk in sacrament meeting:

"I will share with you a couple of things that impressed me and made me think about my personal approach to the New Year! First, plan and prepare but be realistic.  Second, commitment -- decide then do!  Third, follow up, adjust and adjust again! Fourth, learn from the past!! and go on!!  He ended with the statement I began my letter with today: "A goal not written is only a wish". I loved his talk and wanted to be sure and share it with all of you as we approach the New Year this next week!  Keep these ideas in mind as you look forward to 2014!!"

And then, I came across this on Pinterest:

I love that. So simple, and so do-able. And regardless of your religion or beliefs, these are real resolutions that anyone can work on to become better and experience real, lasting happiness.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cleaning Hard-Water Stains on Glass

Our shower has a clear glass wall, which I love, but it does require a little upkeep. We squeegee it dry after every shower. No big deal. It takes about a minute. But somehow the shower head must drip a couple of times afterwards, or the squeegee-ing isn't getting done as thorough down at the bottom of the glass wall, or some such thing, because we were getting cloudy glass. It was down on the lower portion of it, so I didn't really think about it too much, until one day. It finally got to me, and I decided I needed to do something about it. 

See how cloudy the bottom of the glass is? You can hardly see the drain.

And it seemed to have a stale odor along with the cloudiness on the glass. So, I looked in my cupboards for a solution. I know there are all kinds of concoctions out there, but I wanted something that was safe for my marble, and safe for me to breathe whilst doing the cleaning, AND something that wasn't going to take all day long.

And then I remembered Ducky. Ducky is what we use on the boat to clean 'er up after being out on the lake.

We happened to have a bottle out in the garage, so I decided it was worth a shot. I sprayed it on half of the water spot cloudiness, and took a clean cloth and rubbed. And after just a minute or two (literally), I was left with sparkling clean glass.

This photo below shows the glass with half cleaned and half not. I draped a towel behind so the photo would show the difference.

And before I knew it, I had cleaned the entire glass wall. It was so clean!

 Such a difference, and so little elbow grease. Just a little circular rubbing, and it was all taken care of.

Time to stock up on Ducky.

And since my bottle was from our old supply, I thought I'd share what a new bottle looks like. You can get Ducky products online and at marine supply stores.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January Week 1: Christmas Supply Sales

Note: This was prematurely posted last week. Last week was supposed to be a week off (since it was theoretically the last week of December! So, if you already have finished this week, then this week will be your week off! (Yay!) We'll carry on with the second week of January on the 14th.

Since its January, its time to start my food storage rotation all over again. Last year I posted every week about a Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan that I have fine-tuned for a few years now, and I'm pretty sure I have most of the kinks worked out. The thing I really like about this particular plan is that it breaks it all down to into weekly, bite-sized pieces. I also like that you can jump in wherever you are in the year, and just start from that particular week. Its a good, "non-overwhelming" way to get started (and continue!) on your food storage!

For those who are looking at this plan for the first time, I'll give a quick over-view...

This is the sheet that I use that shows each month with four weeks listed and the items to work on each of those weeks:

The first year I implemented it, I just stocked our shelves with whatever was on the list for the week. The next year, at the beginning of each week, I checked my inventory of each item for the week, rotated if needed, tossed out expired things, and then made sure that my stock was up-to-date and consisted of the correct amounts for what our family needed.

To go along with the above week-by-week sheet, I have a corresponding inventory sheet (notice how the colors match up with the colors on the weekly schedule). It has all of the items in my food/emergency storage. This is one page of seven in my inventory sheet set:

Every year I tweak it a bit according to our needs. Our family has changed through the years from a family of four children, to teens, to now almost all married, and expecting our second grandchild. So, we've adapted through the years according to our needs. This system is easily adaptable, so that isn't a problem. I also look at other lists that come across my desk and add things that aren't yet in our emergency storage. So, the list is ever-changing, which is good. I also hate to throw food out, so I don't want to store more than I need to be storing. I try to store what we will use in the coming year (along with some long-term food storage).

I'm going to post the food storage "items for the week" on this blog so that it will remind me and maybe spark something in somebody out there in blog-land to make sure you and I both, are ready for any upcoming emergency. One thing you need to know is that items for the week are guidelines. You can decide what in that particular category you would really want to have in your food storage. For instance, in the 2nd week of January, the items are cleansers. This could be just the basics that you might want to have set aside in case of an emergency, or the full-blown array of cleansers you might use in a year's time. I decided I wanted to do a true "year's supply" for my family, so I try to keep the basic items that I will use within the year. I may or may not include stain remover, or floor cleaner. It all depends on what you want to have in your supply. You also may want to start out with the very basics and then add to the list as the years go on. (A bit easier on the pocketbook!)

The first week in January, the items are easy...

January Week 1: Watch for and buy 50% off on Christmas items, cards, paper, ribbons, etc.

Notice I've highlighted these in pink. They will correspond with the items on my inventory sheet set (7 pages) so that I can find them right away on the list, know how many I should have in storage, and then know how many I need to put on my shopping list for that week. On my inventory sheet set, I record the quantity I have, the size of the package, the expiration date, and the amount I should have in storage. There is also a place to mark off if I have enough of the item and the date that item was checked off.

Does that all make sense? Clear as mud, right? It makes perfect sense to me, but I KNOW I don't think the same way as everyone else, so it might just be a bunch of jibberish to all of you. If any of it is helpful, then its all good.

Now, for this week's items, you may or may not have an interest in stock-piling these. There are a couple of reasons I've included Christmas Items on the list. One, they are all on sale right now, and it's an excellent time to stock up for next year. Two, if you're like me, you already stock-pile them, but you have no idea how much you really have. So, next year, when you're at the store and see wrapping paper, you think to yourself, "Well, I better buy a few rolls, since I'm not really sure what I've got left from last year". This way you will KNOW that you have way too many rolls for any one household to have. In the past, I haven't included this week's items on my inventory sheet, but after actually seeing what I have stacked up in the corner of my storage closet, I decided I better put it on the inventory sheet so that I'll know what I have, and I will remember that I don't need to shop for Christmas wrapping and bags until somewhere around 2028.

If you don't want to shop for or keep track of Christmas Supplies, then you get this week off. Work on preparing a good space for your food storage items -- getting some shelves and space ready for the week to come!

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the blogpost that featured that week's items. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's at the Cabin

We had a quick, but wonderful getaway up to the cabin for the New Year's celebrations. We started arriving at the cabin on Monday, and by Tuesday, everyone was there. Words can't describe the joy that I feel when our whole little family is all together. Somehow I feel so complete and so indescribably happy. I love the fun-loving banter that goes on, as well as the hilarious laughter. And there are times when I see one of my kids (or kid-in-laws) building up one of the others -- helping them feel better about themselves or a situation. Yep. It really doesn't get much better than those times when we're all together.

And while up there, on New Year's Day, we read aloud the "Memories and Sweet Moments" from 2013.

It's funny how you sometimes forget those memories. It was pretty great to hear each of us around the table read a few of the cards. And then reminisce a little about the memory. It's a really great tradition for our family. We keep the previous years' memories in the jar on a little ring so that we can also look through those if we want.

I so love the new year and January. I love putting away all the Christmas things and gifts and such, and getting my house back to a "clean slate". Sometimes I leave tables bare for a little while, just because I love the uncluttered feeling. I also am in a "purging" state, throwing away and/or donating anything I can get my hands on. I have a secret wish to have a Desert Industries storage pod parked on my driveway for a week or two so that I can just continually march things out there without giving each item a second thought. 

I am definitely in a re-organizing mode. I have closet after closet and room after room that all need an overhaul. Can't wait to get my hands on them!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

My how time flies. But seriously. I think we all learn and grow and become a little better through our experiences throughout the years. And this year, I want to do it a little better. I want to make those things I learn "stick" better, and find ways to keep them fresh and implement them and strive to become a better person through them. Notice how I used the word "better" four times in such a short span of word space? Must mean something!

Have a great New Year's Day, and as wonderful as 2013 was, I think 2014 will be even better! (There I go again, using "better"!)