Sunday, May 21, 2017

The (Unexpected) Ritual of My Daily Do List

True Confession: I have a complicated history with To Do lists.

I have tried all kinds.

I've used pre-designed To Do lists. They didn't fit my fluid, artsy, distractible personality.

I've custom-designed countless To Do templates on my computer over the years. They would always get lost and neglected in a notebook somewhere.

I've used excellent apps like ToodleDo and gTasks for years. I like their alarms and the ability to categorize, prioritize, and reschedule tasks. And gTasks pulls in events from Google Calendar, which is cool. But I found myself resisting and then ignoring them. 

But now... I've got something that actually works for me.

It's uniquely mine. It evolved over a period of months. Its focus and line items reflect what is important to me, which I described in Seven Gifts and Visions and Values.

Here's the story.

Like I said, I have been using gTasks for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide a lasting record of what I actually did on a certain day.

So in February, I gradually embraced the habit of sitting down each night (see The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven) to write down what I had done: an "I Already Did It" list. It gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I realized later that it was a kind of bullet journal, a technique that has become quite popular recently.

Well, then I decided to start jotting (at the bottom of my "Did It" list) a short list of things I needed to remember for the next day. Which, when I thought about it, is a kind of To Do list.  So then I decided to flip this, and start the page with the list of what I needed to do the next day at the top. Then I could check it off as I actually did the things, adding whatever else I did that day at the bottom.

And then I decided that I needed a daily habit tracker to make sure I was doing certain things every day. For example, as a diabetic, I need to exercise, keep a food log, take my medicine, and check my glucose levels. Before bed, I need to shut down the house for the night, as well as do some self-care tasks.

I didn't want to handwrite those every day, so I decided to take another crack at creating a To Do template.

I wanted something that gave me flexibility with certain tasks like organizing. I wanted to be reminded to organize something every day, but then be able to write down exactly what I was organizing.

I wanted space to write down stuff that didn't fit into a regular category.

I wanted my list in basic chronological order, to give a sort of sequence to the routines/rituals I have embraced for morning and evening.

So I created a hybrid form: part habit tracker, part task reminder, part free-form journal. I tried it out. I tweaked it. I tried it some more. I tweaked it some more. I'm using it every day, and I'm sure I'll tweak it even more as my needs change.

The thing is, I got in the habit of working with a list every evening and morning and sporadically throughout the day. That's what made it work, even before I had the list itself fully functional. It works because I love it, and I want to do it, and it makes me happy to be more productive, and I'm on a roll that I don't want to stop.

Ta da! Here it is!

Here is a filled-in list for Wednesday, when I was home most of the day, had pretty good energy, and was able to get a lot of different things done. My daughter was sick for a few days, so I didn't need to home school her. Thursday (when I was a little sick and very tired, but still able to get some low key stuff done) and Friday (when I was driving all over town with various teenagers from one event or appointment to the next) were quite different from Wednesday, but all three days were directed and curated by the same flexible Daily Do List format. Works for me!

A few other notes...
  • I put these Daily Do forms in the front section of my notebook, not behind a tabbed divider. I leave the notebook open on the desk I use for my morning and evening planning ritual. I have a Food Log and space for Health Notes on the back side.
  • I keep my glucose monitor, hand weights, medicines, Bible, and other necessary materials within easy reach of the same desk, so I can do them and then record them.
  • I have other custom designed forms in various tabbed sections of the same notebook. I glean information from these for filling out the Daily Do forms. For example, I have a list of home projects I want to complete in the near future. I can look at that and decide when to schedule them.
  • I do not usually bring my notebook or my Daily Do page on errands. I don't want to risk loss or damage. If necessary, I will snap a photo of the current page on my phone for reference while I'm gone. Or I will enter an errand sequence or short shopping list in a simple note on my phone. If I must bring paper along, I put it on a pretty clipboard.
  • It's a fun game for me to see how well I can check it all off. I might even put a snazzy star by something that was a substantial project completed. Yay me! I circle the checkoff boxes of key items that must be done. Or I put an arrow by a task I am postponing until another day, or an X through it if I'm not going to do it at all.
  • It still use my Clock and Calendar apps on my phone, with alarms to remind me of events, appointments, pill times, wake up times, and bedtime. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so this is a must. It's also necessary since I don't have my notebook with me all the time when I'm out and about. I also like that I can enter a location in the Calendar app, and then access Google Maps directly from that.
  • I don't feel like I have to do something in every category every day.
  • I print a week's worth at a time, so if I know I want to do something on a particular day in the near future, I can go ahead and jot it in.
  • When I'm done with one day's page, I move it to the back of the section, so the next day is on top.
  • I designed all of my forms in Google Docs. I imported the check box bullet. I use the columns function to fit more on the page. 
  • The AirPrint feature doesn't work from my laptop, but I have both the Docs app and AirPrint on my phone so I can print forms without taking my laptop into the room where the printer is.
  • What is "Laundry Landing" in my evening section, pray tell? Glad you asked! That'll be in an upcoming blog post.
Here's another post that might help!

You can do it!

Grace and peace,


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven

Welcome to the newest installment of the My Blue Haven series. My Blue Haven is my affectionate name for my bedroom, which has undergone multiple transformations over the past few years as I have found out more of what works for my fluid, poetic, ADD personality.

I have completely rearranged and reorganized the room since I wrote Strength in My Blue Haven back in January. It may be hard to believe, but I now have three desks in my room, and I use them all for different things.

My Original Desk

You may have seen this desk on the blog before. Still the central spot for my office supplies, it also has its own library hutch on top. I mainly use this one for doing logistical work and on-line writing with my laptop computer. The books are food for my soul. And the art? I try to add little crafty touches here and there. I painted that wall shelf to the right, and the vintage chair to the left. I hand-mixed the colors so the chair and shelf would match the room and each other.
On this wall shelf, I display dainty things that my loved ones and I have collected from our travels. Always a little beauty for the eyes and soul.
I bought this frosted glass jar at a craft store and added the blue with a permanent marker. It holds miscellaneous small items on my desk.

My Morning and Evening Desk

This is where I start and end my day, sitting with my notebooks every morning and evening. I'll have to write about that in a separate post, but this daily ritual has been transformative, not only for my emotional health but for my productivity. 

The bottom ledge says, "Fill your soul with all good things and let the beauty pour forth."  Those are the words I live by in My Blue Haven.

I crafted the blue desk by sanding, dyeing, and wood burning a 2' x 3' pine board, and mounting it on the base from this smaller rolling table that can be adjusted to tilt or raise at the turn of a knob. You can see that whole process here: First Attempts at Furniture Restoration

I moved the chair from across the room to improve the traffic flow. It's the most comfortable spot for reading, journaling, chatting, and just sitting to relax. Later, I brought in the wooden bench and organizer that is on top of it. The bench, which had been in our front hall, serves as a divider to create a cozy nook, as well as a place to keep vital daily supplies (like my glucose monitor and purse) close at hand. I'll write more on the logistics of this area later, too.

My original reason for making the table bigger was so that I could open both my thinking/writing notebook and my new large print study Bible side to side. 

I also use this blue table for tidy artwork, like drawing and calligraphy.

My Art Desk

I am an artist at heart. I don't sell my work (yet, but maybe in the future?), but I love to create for myself and my loved ones. I don't want to mess up my blue desk with paint, dye, or glue, so I cleared out a corner (moved my elliptical exercise machine to another room) and brought in a small white laminate desk. I use the tri-fold display board to protect the wall and a piece of foam board to protect the desktop. When the foam board gets messy enough, I replace it with a new one. I buy them at the dollar store and always keep a few on hand. When I'm not doing artwork, I put away all the supplies and the foam board. 

Where do I store my supplies? I have a huge bookcase that is my pride-and-joy organizing project! Most of my art supplies had been stuffed in a spare dresser in my walk-in closet. The drawers were so crammed that I could barely open them. It was all a muddled mess, so I decided on drastic action. First, I moved hundreds of books from this bookcase to sell, give away, or store elsewhere. I bought bins at the dollar store and filled them with art supplies that I had sorted into categories. Wood burning. Wood dyeing. Furniture restoration. Acrylic and gouache painting. Chalk pastels. Art markers for sketching and calligraphy. Laces and trims. Crochet. Stencils. Tie dye. Scrapbooking. And, when I get around to learning it, stained glass from the supplies I inherited from my artistic mother. I also have art and craft instruction books, as well as travel books for creative inspiration, on one of the lower shelves. 

So that's the story of the three desks (and the shelves that love them) that call forth the "art and soul" of My Blue Haven. I'll just leave you now with these.

Other My Blue Haven posts:

Strength in My Blue Haven
A Big Makeover for My Blue Haven
Spring Cleaning and Creating in My Blue Haven
My Blue Haven for the New Year
My Blue Haven
More Beauty for My Blue Haven

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Strength in My Blue Haven (One Word)

"So what is your word for 2017? Inquiring minds want to know."

My sister Barb asked me this via FB message a few weeks ago. I hadn't thought about a "one word" for the new year yet, so we joked around a bit about it. Bacon?

Then she wrote, "I've had 'Great is Thy Faithfulness' running through my head this morning and I'm stuck on one word. I guess I could just Google the lyrics. I've got 'something for today and bright hope for tomorrow.'"

That was a no-brainer fill-in-the-blank question for me since I used to sing the hymn as a lullaby for my children and still sing it to myself. 

I replied with the missing word: "Strength. That's my 2017 word. Thank you."

So I had my word, but why did she want to know it?

A felted bowl. She was making me a felted bowl for Christmas, and wanted to know what words to embroider onto it. So, STRENGTH for today and bright HOPE for tomorrow. (It's a reversible bowl.) I should note here that my sister is pretty much housebound with chronic migraines (pretty much every day for a decade). She tenaciously knits through the pain.

And there it is now, on my desk.

Do you see it there on the shelf above my computer?

So that was the start of my "one word" for the year.

Here's what came next:

I've had the frame for a while. Yesterday I decided to look up eleven Scripture verses about strength and print them out on blue paper in a pretty font. Here's one.

Next? A step stool. I've been learning how to use a wood burning tool (made a bunch of Christmas presents!), and I finally found the right kind of wood dyes. I bought the stool and more dye colors and other cool stuff with a Michael's Crafts gift card that three of my adult children gave me for Christmas. 

I bought the electric sander at Walmart today for less than $15. It made the stool much smoother than I could have done by hand, and much faster. Easier on the arthritis, too. Speaking of power tools, last month I bought a cordless screwdriver and drill combo to fix stuff around the house. I'm learning bit by bit, strengthening my practical skills and my confidence!

This is an electric wood burning tool from Jo-Ann Crafts. I stenciled the letters in pencil first.

The stool is actually more of a deep turquoise color. I couldn't get the shade to come out right in the photo.

I store the wood dyes along with my paints and brushes (that my kids may NOT borrow!) in a flip top box in my closet. I have a whole stash of art and craft supplies in there!

My other big creative endeavor this past month was creating photo calendars on-line with Snapfish to give to some of my family members. It even has all of the birth dates and anniversaries printed in it. The theme? I took an amazing eleven day trip to Switzerland and France with of my daughters in October. We went to Geneva, Lauterbrunnen in the Alps, and Paris! I chose several photos for each page.

This is one of my Geneva pages.

While in Geneva, I had wanted to buy a Huguenot cross in honor of my French Protestant refugee ancestors, Andre and Suzanne Lamoureux. They showed great spiritual strength through their compassion and courage as they smuggled persecuted Huguenots out of France. I found some of the crosses at the Reformation museum in Geneva, but they didn't take the debit card I had on hand that day. Another adult daughter ordered this cloisonne one for my Christmas present instead. I love it! It didn't come with a chain, so I'm using white ribbon from my craft supply stash. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the source of spiritual strength.

I bought the wood cube with prayers in French at Basilique de Sacré-Cœur in Paris. There's a prayer on each of the six sides. Here's one on strength... 

According to the translation on my phone, it means, "Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may keep what is holy." Such a lovely prayer for my strength quest!

My eleven year old daughter made this encouraging sign for my Christmas present.

It's right next to my dish of word stones on a book shelf. Yes, I have a STRENGTH stone. And it's blue. Of course.

One of my goals is to build physical strength. I don't know how I could have done so much walking and climbing in Europe if I hadn't worked out on the elliptical machine I got for free from a neighbor. I should have done it much more often! Now I need to get back in the groove again. (The curtain is actually a flat sheet from the turquoise sheet sets I finally found at Walmart to match the comforter.)

And spiritual strength. I need a core of courage and fortitude. I haven't exactly been ultra faithful at daily Bible reading lately. So here's what I'm doing to get back on track there. 

I chose a plan to read through the New Testament this year, and put the bookmarks in my Bible. Each night, I am putting my Bible on this small tilting desk in front of my recliner, opened to the passage for the next morning. I also put a journal there for my study notes or verses I want to copy. And I put a small "to do" list pad there. I'll get to that in a minute.

Verses on strength in my journal from several days ago...

Here's my To Do list page. Yes, I still use the gTasks app on my phone, and it beeps at me at strategic times. However, I find that I also need a hand written list of top priority tasks specific to just that day.

I have two new devotional books. One is Savor, a daily book by Shauna Niequist, and the other is Earth Psalms, a weekly photographic book by Francine Rivers.

I opened to the first devotional in Earth Psalms, and what did I see? That lovely old phrase: "Great is his faithfulness"!

God is faithful. He makes me bold and gives me strength in my soul.

Strength in my blue haven, and wherever else I go.

I know this has been a really LONG blog post, but I've got some related links (some of them from my other blogs) to share!

Blue Haven:
Europe Travel Photos:
For the Spirit:
Happy New Year, friends!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Here are all of the verses from my STRENGTH frame.

The joy of the Lord  is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

The Lord my God is my strength and my song. Isaiah 12:2

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

In quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  Psalm 84:5

The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in him and he helps me. Psalm 28:7

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16

May the Lord encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wild and Free: My Rambling Introduction to a New Study Group

Dear friends,

On a Sunday morning over a week ago, I sang in the hymns and worship choruses in church and felt uplifted and refreshed in my spirit. An hour later, I stood in my kitchen trembling with PTSD. I had only been looking for something healthy to eat when a cluster of memories whispered to me, suddenly triggering sadness for the past and fear of the future.

My first impulsive thought was to find a box of donuts and eat every one of them. But I didn't. I had no donuts. I didn't even have any chocolate. And anyway, I knew that sugar would be an ineffective escape from anxiety. Instead, I needed a way to fully face and then safely process my feelings. So first I ate a little chicken salad on whole wheat and tried to breathe. I managed to pull myself together a little for the moment.

Driving my son to his friend's house a little later, the overwhelming feelings welled up again into quiet tears. My son turned to me with a questioning look, laid a warm hand on my arm, and offered words of comfort before we arrived. 

Alone again in my van, I sobbed. I could not go home just yet. Mama needed some time to herself to clear her head. Mama had a Barnes & Noble coupon. Mama was going to the bookstore.


I'm flying to Switzerland and France with one of my adult daughters soon (she's a grad student presenting a paper at a mental health conference), so my first stop in Barnes & Noble was the travel section. I already had tourist guide books, but I picked out a tiny French phrase book to help me on my adventures. The very thought of our upcoming trip brought joy to my heart.

Then I wandered around the Christian inspiration section and browsed through several books. Maybe one could help me focus my thoughts and soothe my soul. This one here looked interesting, right where I was at in life. I could have bought it then, but didn't. I wanted to keep looking. At least I snapped a picture of it on the floor for future reference. (You can click on the title below to see my affiliate link at Christian Book Distributors.)

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She Is Both Too Much and Not Enough by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

Next I went to the bargain section and found another cheaper book to buy on the same general topic as Wild and Free. Reading that one later at home, I wasn't impressed. I knew I should have spent the extra money and bought Wild and Free instead. More on this later! Stick with me to the end here, OK?

My final stop in the bookstore was the huge magazine section that had hundreds of different titles. I decided to try a little personality experiment. I walked around and took note of what appealed to me. Sports? No way. Cars? Guns? Fishing? Nope. Fashion? Celebrities? Nah. Gourmet cooking? Not so much. These just aren't me. 

Who am I?

I am a Christian. A mother of 10. A nurturer. A reflective thinker. A blogger. A poet. A longtime home school mom. An artist. A nature photographer. A beauty lover. A home creator. A penny pincher. A peacemaker. An advocate/activist for women's and children's justice issues. An adventurous soul. A wanna be world traveler. Don't box me in. I'm WILD AND FREE. That's all part of how God wired me. 

So what magazines there reflected these facets of who I am? These are a few of the dozen I actually picked up to look through.

Artful Blogging: I blog. I love art. I try to make my online space attractive with pretty photos. Yet words and ideas are the main focus of my blogs. I put it back, along with another one on blogging as a business. Maybe in the future. Not now.

Home: Why yes, I love my home. You probably know from reading this blog that I'm always puttering around trying to make my house prettier and more practical. Yet this magazine was full of complicated projects that didn't interest me and that I would never get around to doing. I put it back too, along with some other homey magazines. 

Womankind: Hmmm. I love being a woman. I want to see women empowered for life in the real world. This one had an intellectual flavor and featured women around the globe. I figured it could be very enlightening for me to broaden my perspective. I nearly bought it. I looked at the price tag. I put it back. 

Hey, most of these magazines are pretty expensive. For $10-$20, I'd usually just buy a book instead. 

I did buy this one magazine - life:beautiful. I've read a few issues of it before. It's Christian. It's pretty. It's got a variety of articles on inspiration, health, recipes, home decorating, crafts, and community service ideas. And it's only $5. I brought it home and enjoyed it. I'll pass it along to a friend when I'm done with it. Let's spread the joy, eh?

After over an hour at the bookstore nourishing and tending my soul, I had settled back into peacefulness and hope, unshackled from my sadness and fear. My mind was stimulated to think of bolder solutions. I could breathe and think and embrace my life again.

But this story isn't over. It isn't just about me. 

It's about all of us women.

It's about being WILD AND FREE.

I mentioned the book to my oldest daughter, a busy working mother of four. She decided to order it for my birthday. It arrived last night, and I snatched it from the mailbox just as I was leaving to take a teen to a sports physical. I flipped through it in the doctor's office and read several pages that night at home. Yep, right up my alley. I could really use this book in this season of my weird life.

On a whim, I posted a photo and synopsis of it on Facebook. 

On a whim, a local friend suggested getting some ladies together at her house for a study group on it. 

Then another friend across the country wanted in on the fun, so on another whim, I mentioned the possibility of an online study in a private Facebook group. A friend who had moved to Japan then quickly jumped on board.

A day later, we now have eight members of the group with more still considering the opportunity. We're in the "getting to know you" stage now, and we'll start our actual study on September 24 when everyone has their book.

These are precious Christian women who, like me, have often been made to feel like they are both too much and not enough. Most of them don't know each other at all. We're each in unique circumstances, but each of us has perspective, comfort, and good cheer to offer to one another. We want to be set free from unrealistic expectations and legalistic assumptions that Christian women so often face. We want to move beyond the hurtful memories and hindering habits that hold us back. We want to venture into the vast wildness of our faith, to be bold enough to step forth into all that God has for us as his liberated and empowered daughters. 

This isn't about me. It's not even about us as a group. It's about being all that God has called us to be so we can reach out with healed hearts and healing hands to a world that is hurting like never before. Blessed to be a blessing.

I can't wait!

~~~ Virginia

P.S. We still have room for a few more women to join our group. If you are interested, message me on Facebook

Related posts:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

What's Working in My Kitchen

Do you get frustrated in the kitchen? I sure do! I hope this post gives you some ideas and resources to make your time in the kitchen a little more pleasant and productive. I'd like to share some items that I've been using (which I am not selling and in no way profit from sharing) and strategies that are keeping me a bit more sane.

That's my youngest daughter up there, happily helping out in the kitchen. I'm glad somebody does this without being asked! She's home schooled, so she has a bit more time than the other four kids who live at home. My teens are so busy with high school and middle school that they tend to ignore the mess and wait for someone else to clean it up. I had them taking turns unloading the dishes and taking out trash, but here is what's working so much better. I have to pick one or two teens up after ROTC competition team activities each weekday afternoon. In exchange for the ride, the deal is they have to do a kitchen chore right away when we get home. While they don't always get it done (sometimes they walk straight to bed and crash) they are doing chores more promptly and cheerfully. I have the same deal if they miss the bus and need an early morning ride. Works for me!

This same youngest daughter loves to cook, and we work well together in the kitchen. She often makes me breakfast, lunch, or snacks just to be nice. Every time we're in a store with a home goods section, she wants to check if they have Kitchenaid mixers. She's obsessed with them, even though it's not likely I'll ever buy one!

Even though I'm not in the market for a Kitchenaid, I try to keep my eye out for products that will make it more effective and efficient to work in my kitchen. After she ogled the mixers at Sam's, we saw this.

But instead I decided to buy this. I stocked it with disposable dishes, napkins, bottled water and tea, powdered drink packets, popcorn packets, and other things I like handy. More paper plates and cups means less dishes!

I thought of buying a matching dark paper towel holder but decided to be content with this one we've had for a while. I found the paper towels at Walmart and stocked up. BLISS is the name of our home school so I snapped up a bunch.

I like little things, too. These bag lock clips from Publix (less than $2 per package) are a perfect alternative to frustrating twist ties on bread bags.

My bread is in a large white wire basket on the counter, just behind the bin that holds reusable water bottles and smoothie mixing cups. I can also slip the bread bag locks onto the wire basket when they aren't in use.

This counter was completely different just a week or so ago. I moved the little shelf from the counter where I put that big three tier rack thingy.

I had a four slice toaster but it took a lot of room. There are less kids at home making toast now, so I figured the smaller one at the left would be fine. 

I also had a much larger electric skillet which I used nearly every day since some of the burners on our old stove don't work. Unfortunately, the glass lid suddenly shattered with a loud pop when I was making bacon. Boo for lost bacon! Since the skillet also took a lot of room, I decided to buy this smaller one, which cost half as much. (The brand is Bella. It was $20 at Walmart.) Ironically, I later found an extra lid for the big one when I was cleaning our storage room. So now we have both. I keep the big one in a cupboard now. The new one slides nicely under this wood shelf.

This area is now also our smoothie making center. The small blender can puree frozen fruit for the kids. I don't have a large blender anymore. I have bought several in the past few years but the blender jar has always broken. It either falls out of a full sink, gets crushed in a full sink, or gets knocked off of a full counter. So there's that. No more. They have to make do with that little blender with the plastic cup.

I found the three plastic storage canisters at Dollar General for about $3 each. The key is that you don't take the lids off to get food out since they flip open. One of my big frustrations is kids getting out food containers, losing the lid, and putting it away wide open. Ick. As it is, I have to save extra peanut butter lids and milk jug caps for when we lose the current ones. Anyway, I love love love these canisters. One has stevia sweetener, another has chocolate protein drink powder, and the other has peanut butter powder. The pink cup/lid below is about $6 at Walmart. I can use it to shake up my protein powder with almond milk and/or regular milk without using a blender.

I actually like these blue cups better. I bought two of these at Publix for about $2.50 each. They are smaller, which is a better serving size for me, and they fit in the dishwasher better. This is also a great size for tucking in a purse for traveling, so I've already packed one away for a trip I'm taking next month. I don't want to risk it getting lost before then.

What I love about both kinds of cups is that they are so easy to clean. No place for yuck to hide in the cup or the lid!

Contrast this to a squirt style bottle lid I just threw away today. EWWW!

I bought this one a while back but have never ever used it. It has a juicing section to make fruit infused water. I thought it was cool but I just haven't been motivated to try it. And it gets in the way. It's going in my giveaway pile along with a bunch of other kitchen clutter that wasn't "sparking joy" in my soul. I guess you could say this is one thing that's not working in my kitchen. Oh well.

We've been using Anchor Hocking glass bowls with lids for months. I bought three sets which each have four different sizes of bowls. Then I threw out most of my plastic Rubbermaid storage containers. The glass bowls can go in the refrigerator, microwave, and oven, which means I use less dishes with leftovers since I can take it right out of the fridge and heat it up. I can also see what's in them, so I'm more likely to use leftovers before they go bad. These are definitely keepers in my kitchen!

I bought this wood spice shelf with steps at Walmart to replace a lazy Susan carousel.

Last week, I bought several mini green kitchen accessories. The grater is only a few inches high, perfect for shredding just a little cheese for a single serving without dirtying up a big grater. (We don't actually grate cheese often. I buy shredded cheese in bags.) The measuring spoon is adjustable. One spoon, many sizes!

Look at these little rubber tipped tongs compared to the big ones! They take a lot less room, which is good because I often keep them on the shelf by the toaster for getting toast out without burning fingers.

I've had this big red food chopper tool for months. You can use it to break up ground meat while it's cooking, as well as mash up soft fruits and veggies into small pieces. But compare the thickness of the blades with the little green one I just got at Bed Bath and Beyond. The smaller one does a better job because the blades have more of a thin chisel edge. And it takes less room in my utensil jar.

I also got green spatulas and a small rubberized whisk to match! Cute, yes?

My kitchen is dark green with a butterfly theme. This is what I had on the back of the stove last week.

But now it's almost autumn! While I'm not switching over the decor for the entire kitchen, I am adding in a few touches for the season.

This is my new stove decor. The little pumpkin is a salt shaker from Cracker Barrel. The pilgrim figurines are flat on the back, so they stand nicely against the stove back splash.

I brought out the autumn hot pads and dish towels, too. They go in a basket on the microwave.

Since we don't usually use the right hand stove burners, I put this rack here for drying dishes. We can move it as necessary.

Parchment paper on cookie sheets saves washing time and prolongs the life of the pans.

Another basket on the microwave holds scissors, kitchen shears, tape, a dry erase marker, sticky notepad, and other things I might need to open, fasten, or label food packages.   

My kids like to eat baked potatoes for snacks but they always go rotten if we leave them in the cupboard. I tucked a big bowl of raw potatoes in between the microwave and sink so they're easy to wash and bake, without getting in the way on my other counters.

This basket holds measuring cups for baking, as well as our vintage crank hand mixer.

While I was editing the photo above, I realized there was a dirty item in the bin that isn't even a baking cup. So I went through the basket and sorted out what didn't belong.

This is one of the items I found misplaced in the baking cup bin. It's a small crinkle cut chopper that I bought recently. I haven't even used it yet!

One of the biggest hassles in my kitchen is the sink. My kids tend to pile the dishes on top - that is, if they even make it that far. I regularly have to round up dishes from other rooms, checking in the couch cushions for silverware, under beds for cups... Either way, look at the crime scene I found this afternoon! Yuck! How can I even get to the faucet to wash my hands or rinse off a dish?

I dutifully set out to rinse and stack the dishes in preparation for loading the dishwasher. But...

While rinsing, I discovered that my sink drain was clogged. Neither side would drain. If I ran the disposal, the water from the left side would back up into the right side along with a bunch of drain crud. Then the right side water level would go back down, but only because it was draining back into the left side again. Blech! I took all of the dishes out and stacked them on the stove. Then I bailed out the dirty water with a big cup into my utility bucket that I use when I do tie dye. 

Then I reached for a bottle of Drano Max Gel. I used the whole thing as recommended for the worst clogs. I took about a half hour for the clog to clear. Next I had to scrub down the sink to get rid of all of the stinky dishwater residue.

Then I finished rinsing and loading the dishes. Ah!

Another problem we have is that the sponges and dish brushes get buried in the sink because the kids don't put them back where they belong. I just bought a new clean set of green brushes for dishes and popped them into a pretty canister. The detergent, dish soap and hand soap have their own plastic tray. The sponges have a little dish.

I don't want the dish brushes and sponges to get mixed up with the sink cleaning brushes because the latter get quite germy. So I bought blue brushes for cleaning and put them in a well labeled plastic flower pot on the opposite side of the sink, along with disinfectant cleaning wipes and powdered scrub cleaner. Now if everyone can just remember which to use!

Coming down the home stretch here. Long blog post, eh?

I was presenting a Homeschool Hangout morning retreat for a bunch of ladies with two friends recently. Jennifer's session was on homemaking. After some introductory inspiration, she asked each of us to share the one chore that gives us most trouble, and she would tell us her best tips for that area. 

My trouble spot? I have a hard time getting motivated to make dinner every night for a few reasons. It's hard to work in the kitchen when it's messy. My kids are busy and it's a challenge to get all of us to the table at the same time. I do a lot of chauffeuring near dinner time, and I'm usually tired at the end of the day. I could never find the ingredients I needed. And isn't it easier to pick up a rotisserie chicken or frozen convenience foods at Sam's Club, a pizza at 7-Eleven, or a bag of Wendy's burgers? (True confession time!)

As I was thinking about this later, I realized I just need to make my kitchen work for me no matter what it takes and no matter who is helping me. If I personally clean and tidy the kitchen every day, they are more likely to keep it that way. It's too easy to dump more mess on top of an existing mess, especially if you can't even get to the sink faucet because it's so piled with dishes. Am I right? That's why I've been looking for all of these ways that I've shared to make kitchen life easier.

The evening after the morning meeting, I was finally ready to tackle my two freezers with newfound enthusiasm and determination. I have a big freezer drawer at the bottom of my kitchen refrigerator. (Which, by the way, I hate. I much prefer a regular freezer door at the top of the fridge. The drawer is a pain in the butt. Understatement, there.) I also have a chest freezer in our storage room. Everything was all mixed up in both of them. I took some time to think it through before I did anything. After I formulated my strategy, I took everything out of both freezers, and cleaned them out. I found a lot of unrecognizable food to throw away. This process also meant de-icing the chest freezer. My 13 year old son saw me leaning into the freezer to do this, and grabbed the spatula from me to finish the job himself. Kudos to him! There is hope in the universe!

I determined that the kitchen freezer should be for food the kids need to grab for a quick meal or a snack. In the left bin, I stashed lunch items like burritos, pocket sandwiches, microwave dinners, pierogies, single serve chow mein noodle & veggie packets, etc. In the right bin, I put breakfast foods like sausage links, waffles, and bags of fruit for smoothies. Weeks later, this freezer is still organized!

The storage room freezer is all mine! This is the dinner prep freezer. This is where I stash frozen vegetables, skillet dinner kits, raw meat, and meat that I've cooked and divvied up into gallon size bags for quick prep later. Yes, this freezer is also still nicely organized with very little effort weeks after I cleaned it out. I'm delighted! I can find what I want! And I'm making dinner more often!

Just two more pictures, and these are actually not in the kitchen. Instead, they are of things that used to be in the kitchen but were taking too much room.

Since our cupboards are full of other food, I used to store plastic cereal containers on top of the refrigerator. However, my youngest daughter couldn't reach them and she's the most frequent cereal eater. So I set up a cereal bar on a shelf in the dining room right next to the kitchen counter. I also put the kid vitamins there and the extra protein drink powder there.

The china cabinet, which I bought at a thrift store last year, holds all of our company dishes down below. This is the hutch on top. I just put my apple basket decor up for the autumn season. Isn't it lovely? This is also where all of my cookbooks go since there is no room in the kitchen. I always wished there was space above my kitchen cabinets for baskets and plants because they look so pretty there in other kitchens I've seen. My kitchen cabinets go to the ceiling, but now at least I have one place to get the same effect!

That's it for my kitchen (and dining room) this time, but here are some related posts with more ideas and information!

What's working in YOUR kitchen? Do tell!

God bless!
Virginia Knowles