Homekeeping Books

Its not uncommon knowledge that books can be the source of a great deal of information. It helps that I love to read — even just the act of reading. That is, if I’m eating, I want something to read. I’m happy to read the cereal box if that’s all there it. Its very nearly a compulsion. Fortunately, it doesn’t go the other way, wanting something to eat if I’m reading.

Years and years ago, I remember asking a very old friend of my mom’s (as in they had been friends a very long time) how he knew what to read and how did he find so many good books to read. We both had an interest in China and I was amazed at the number of books he’d gathered on that topic (current trends, history, culture). He showed me how he starts with one book, perhaps someone recommended or it was found somewhere, that was good and went to its foot notes/end notes/references. He would look up those books and decide what he wanted to read. Then, from one of those books, he would sort through the references to find other books. I suspect that eventually you’ll have a list of all the books on the subject.
Homekeeping books are much the same; I will sort through and search out any books referenced in a book I enjoyed and found profitable. Unfortunately, most of the books referenced by these books are old, out of print and, possibly, rare. But really, that’s where amazon.com comes in handy. sort of. I like that I can see of those who looked at this item also looked at that item. But that is depending more on the opinion of the masses rather than an educated opinion, I think. I am always open to exploring more books and I’ve always got my eyes open for other homekeeping books that would have good information.
The other down side of the homekeeping topic is that the books all pretty much say the same thing, though the pictures are different, or the context or perspective is a bit different. The trend in the United States these days seems to be personalization, so that if something isn’t speaking to your specific situation, its of no use to you. Poppycock. Its worth developing the reading skill to be able to understand what someone is actually saying because you will find in many topics, everyone is saying the same thing. They are just using different words.
Enough of that soap box, I think.
There are several homekeeping books that I have found very useful. Some I have reviewed in the past, though I plan to run through them again in this project. The old reviews can be found here (https://mamarachael.wordpress.com/book-reviews/).
Of course, now I see the books I haven’t reviewed.
Homekeeping books seem to have two different niches that different books try to fulfill. The first niche is the general reference guide for caring for your home and belongings. Home Comforts and Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook fall this niche. The second niche is the ‘how to do it’ sort of guide. These books present a method (of sorts) on how to go about keeping house. Large Family Logistics and Sink Reflections are these sorts of books. There are a lot of ebooks that will fit, for the most part, in this second niche. Finally, there are books that are a subniche, e.g. The Naturally Clean Home. She covers how to make your own cleaning solutions, which fits nicely in the reference guide niche, but doesn’t cover all the topics that the larger reference guides cover. (I want to cover web based sources in a separate post.)
If you happen to be roaring and ready to go, check your local library for any of the books I’ve mentioned. I plan to cover the reference guides, their uses and their failings, in the next post. After that, I’ll cover the how-to-go-about-homekeeping books. Then I will cover the various web based resources I’ve come across. I will NOT be exhaustive, as there is SO much out there and, yet, I have so little time.
Until next time, keep on.

Home keeping strategies: Flylady

I often spend time thinking about how I spend my time. I want to be quite intentional about my time use. And, occasionally, I think about how a woman of ages past might have gotten it all done. She didn’t have all the electronic gadgets I’ve got, like the washing machine and dryer, that save a great deal of time and effort. Add in electric lights and the internet, and I have both distractions and helps in way that she likely never even imagined.

And so I have pondered how life would be different if had to spend a whole day actually doing laundry. And grow *all* our fresh veggies. And sew *all* our clothes. I’m quite thankful I don’t have to do these things!
It has also gotten me thinking about how its likely any woman of earlier times worked on a seasonal basis. Spring and Summer were spend primarily in the garden, perhaps and sewing, knitting and the like focused on during those times when being outside wasn’t reasonable.
Of course, I’ve also given it thought about how my life should run. I realized that July, August and September are the times of the year that one *does not* want to be outside, but the rest of the year is fairly reasonable (except the occasional cold spell in January, February or March). With the right veggies, I could garden from late September to June. From late March to June and then late September to December are the garden intense months.
Feeding the family, obviously, can’t be done seasonally. Though perhaps I could plan to do the cooking heavy tasks at certain times. E.g. defrost the freezer, make freezer meals. Hmmmm…. lots of thoughts.
Sewing could be focused during those times when I just don’t want to go out, like July to September and January.
All of these thoughts lead to a project I have in mind. I am a connoisseur of home management/scheduling/organizing methods and I thought to go through all the various methods I’ve tried and what I thought of them.
First up… flylady.net!
I love flylady. Really. Even though I don’t currently use her system. I found flylady years and years ago, and thought “ugh, website too busy. not going to bother.” Then, only a few years ago, I found her again. Mom had died about 9 months before and I was ready to find help in the home management area (as in other than Mom). And I found flylady.
At the time, I needed flylady. When you sign up for her emails, you will get a lot. Most are reminders, many are testimonials, some are Marla’s own musings on life, the universe and everything. (well, not everything. or the universe. just life.) Her book, Sink Reflections, is basically a remedial study on organizing life. She makes no assumptions that you even know how to use a calendar. She preaches “Baby Steps” which is so important when trying to make changes.
After a time, I stopped getting the emails. Then I got them again. Then I got the daily digest. Now, I don’t get them any more. But my needs have changed.
Her instructions for creating a home management journal are great and I still use her format as the basis for the notebooks I put together. I am exploring a few new options, but they are all variations on a theme, really. I use her method for creating travel journals and any other I-need-to-keep-track-of-all-these-papers situations.
Flylady gave me the foundation of routines. Morning routine, evening/bedtime routine and afternoon routine. I see routines preached just about every where today, and I suspect that they have been the basic foundation of home keeping for a very long time. But some how I missed out on the idea of routines… until flylady.
I didn’t like get so many emails. At the time I was getting her emails (2007 through early 2010) there wasn’t really a way to get just the reminders and not the other emails (like testimonials and general life reflections). I needed those reminders. But I’m not good about just deleting an email I don’t need to read, so I spent a lot of time sorting through flylady emails. I suspect some of the logistics have changed… the internet has changed a fair bit. Blogs are a bigger deal now than in 2007. And flylady has been doing her thing since 1999; the internet has changed A LOT since 1999.
By 2010, I found I didn’t need the reminders. I was on my feet home keeping wise and I was ready to branch out.
She’s solid, she’s consistent. Flylady is a great place to start. And I LOVE the calendar. I still buy the calendar each year.

Why I love Saturdays

Why do you love Saturdays so much, you might ask me.  Because you aren’t going to work? Because you have the chance to create your own day by what you want to do?  Somewhat and yes.  I love Saturdays because I get to be homemaker on Saturdays; I get to putter around picking up, doing laundry, cleaning a few things, perhaps making bread and doing some sewing or knitting.

At times, I think about spreading out the various chores over the weekdays so that Saturdays will be more free for my hobbies. But by the time I get home in the evenings, get some dinner ready, eat, and clean up, its time to start the bedtime routine and head to bed. Plus, I’m often so tired that I want to do nothing but go to bed. Thus, everything gets pushed to Saturday.  I don’t bemoan this too much, as its fun to have a full day of things I enjoy (mostly) doing. [I don’t really like to vacuum or hang up laundry.]

Then, at times, I think about what it will be like after Samuel is born. I’ll be working much less, if at all (that’s still up in the air), which means more time at home. But Samuel will need lots of attention…. so I wonder. I hope to have some semblance of a routine to run from that keeps the house looking relatively nice and still giving me the time to further develop the hobbies (sewing, knitting, gardening). Ah, the big unknowns.  If only we could peek into the future and know what is coming, if only to adjust our expectations.


This morning, while brushing my teeth, our electricity went out. Again. I wonder why Oncore seems to have such trouble keeping our electricity going. It doesn’t help that all the house has is electricity. No gas, or any other options. Just electricity. Thus, a lunch of Ramen noodles was made with the help of a camp stove. 
Last week, I forget which day, the electricity went out due to rolling blackouts. That’s fine, we can handle that. But then, 15 minutes later, the electricity came on and then went off again not 5 minutes later. We headed off to school figuring Oncore knew, since they were running the rolling blackouts. When we got home later that day, we find out, via the neighbor, that the electricity had been out for 7 hours. The neighbor spent several hours trying to reach an actual person, not a recording (we’d only heard recordings for the previous 3 outages). She did, but spend much of the day on the phone trying. Seems they turned our electricity on, something blew and they didn’t know it was still out. Their reporting system didn’t report to them that we had reported an outage. It was quite the ordeal.
Today, we talked to an actual person every time we called. That was nice, but it took them 6 hours to get the electricity back on. Seems when you live outside city limits, don’t be dependent on electricity, or be ready to deal with semi-regular outages.
For those readers who living outside a city, whether true country or merely semi-rural as we are, do you often have power outages? How have you dealt with them? Just endure? Or are you otherwise prepared? I’m trying to think through if we should/ought/can deal with an outage other than candles and a camp stove.

School back in session

Well, school starts back tomorrow. I really don’t feel prepared, and I’m already feeling behind. But, I must remember that I can keep up. I did while being so tired from first trimester fatigue and that has passed. I’m feeling much more energetic, even with a shorter night’s sleep. A good friend is in town, staying with us, and we were up late talking. She is a night owl, big time, and I love a good conversation. Bad combination when I’ve got to get up early.

I’ve been keeping my sink shiny for 2 nights now. I know this isn’t much of a habit yet, but its a start. I had my week’s menu done by Sunday, grocery run done on Monday and I’ve done well with dinner’s this week so far. A good start, I think!

Not much done on the sweater, though. Gonna have to get started, and soon, if I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the month. It odd how intertwined all of life is. To have more time to knit, I’ve got to use my time at school well and get school tasks done there. Oh, the discipline required!

In other news, I got a new pillow! Its huge! I’ll get a picture up soon, I promise.

Life, School and Stuffiness

Life continues as per normal. Hubby is stressed over those last 2 papers to write. I don’t blame him at all, I’d be wound up over them, too. Especially when the class grade is based on that one paper. Previously, during the 3 weeks of crazy paper writing time, he worked well enough that the last few days weren’t all that bad. I sure hope this round works out the same. He is quite disciplined with his time, but its still hard to get yourself to work when you are tired.

Tonight, I’m feeling pretty good. Thanksgiving was great, and I had a wonderful time with all the family in. Last minute, I discovered we only had 11 forks, so I used a plastic fork. I had 12 knives, and 12 spoons… and 12 adults! Luckily, the toddler wasn’t using silverware, nor was the newborn (6 weeks — that would be my sister’s little boy). We ended up with 12 adults, a toddler, a baby and 2 not-yet-born-babies! Quite a full house. I had a ton of fun playing house all week and was feeling great by week’s end.

Then, the week back to school was very up and down. By the end of last week, I was weary and tired and still stuffy (still am, in fact), and Saturday evening I was feeling quite miserable. I began to wonder if I was coming down with another cold! But it passed and quickly, so I think it was just the stress/tired/weary effects. Today, Monday, was pretty good. In fact, I got all the current grading done this evening while watching Dr. Who (season 5). I’ve got a biology final to write, which is the big stressful thing on my plate currently — but, as a plus — finals week makes for a much easier schedule for me at school. I’m very much looking forward to it.

A little over a week ago, I thought I might have felt baby move, but I’m not sure. There have been a few times that I wondered if it was baby, my digestive track, or my imagination moving, so who knows. Next Monday, we go for the ultrasound to check anatomy (and find out gender!), and a good MD friend said that would really help me identify if its baby moving or not. He said I’d see the baby move in the ultrasound, feel it and know what I was feeling. So, here’s to hoping!

I’m off to bed, now. I’m making for early nights these days, to see if I can make it through the day with out crashing at 230 or 3 pm. Hope all out there have a good sleep tonight and find themselves refreshed in the morning!

Playing House

This week is looking like so much fun! I’m getting to play housewife, and so far, I’m loving it. The laundry is almost done, I got the back patio swept off, I cleaned out/organized the chest freezer, and cleaned out the fridge. And its not even 10 am.

As I folded some laundry earlier, I thought about how I’ll get to play housewife more often next summer and fall, and I’ll get to play mommy, too. And after getting to play mommy for a few years, I’ll get to play teacher again with a class of 1 or 2 (maybe more?). Life is looking good, even if my sinuses are still stuffy and my ears feel stobbed up.

Baby, Habits and Household

One blog that I read regularly (its in my google reader) is http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com. Today, she posted about getting her household organized and her commitment to get this done. Its a funny thing, as I’ve seen two TV shows recently about hoarders and the situations they create (neither where actually about hoarders, but the hoarders provided a plot point). And then, this morning’s sermon was over James 5:1-6 and the lure money has on us (brief reference to hoarding money and possessions given). So, it seems I’m hearing, seeing and reading about things and stuff quite a bit recently. Could just be my perception.

Anyhoo, all this discussion of things and stuff has me thinking about our household. We do pretty good and the house is C.H.A.O.S.* free most days. And I have fairly good habits to keep it that way. I tend to clean and do laundry on Saturday (or other day off), and grocery shop on Monday afternoons. Honestly, the carpet hasn’t be vacuumed in a few weeks, but by in large, these chores are kept up with. No, I don’t do it to the level of my true satisfaction, but its good enough. Good enough is the level of doneness that I give to those things that really are not all that important. Honestly, will weekly vacuumed carpet keep my relationship with Hubby good? No, it won’t. But making sure we have something reasonable to eat each evening will impact my relationship with Hubby, both by just providing for him and making sure both of our blood sugar levels are adequate for general life. So, that say, I feel okay about where my house stands on the housekeeping standards, especially while I’m working full time and growing a baby. Different times of life call for different priorities, especially when it comes to housekeeping.

There are two areas of the house that really do need some work… decluttering or organizing or just putting away stuff. First is the office closet. Its really not that bad, but when this room becomes the nursery, where is all this stuff going to go? That may be an issue to be dealt with when the room is truly converted. Second is the guest bedroom closet. This, unfortunately, has become my dumping ground for all things without a home. The room itself needs some picking up, but its not bad compared to the closet. I really need to think through these items… should they stay and just be organized? Or does it need to be thrown away or given away? Do I need to acquire some shelves to add some organization? Ah, decisions, decisions, decisions.

As for the baby front, I’m feeling pretty good. My belly has started to “pop” just a touch and one pair of beloved pants have been outgrown. But, I am in luck, a good friend blessed me with a large stash of maternity clothes, so I’m set for the next 6 months. The hard part has been finding a place for all the clothes, as I now have more maternity clothes than I had of regular clothes previously. I have more than doubled my wardrobe. My plan is to trade out regular clothes as I outgrow them for maternity clothes so that I shouldn’t need to buy a slew more hangers. Some of these clothes are just so cute! I’m excited to get to wear them. In fact, I wore some today, and the outfit is quite comfy.

I have rambled enough for today, I think, and I should get this grading done. Or take a nap. Hmmmmmm……..

*Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome — its a flylady.net word.

School has started, Life is busy

Well, as I expected posting is less now that school has started. I feel at a loss as to what to write about, even though there all sorts of little bits of news: I love my classes, school has started off quite well, I’m tired, my seedlings are HUGE, but its still too hot to plant them out in the garden, I did really good with the weekly home blessings this morning and we put together some fun stuff yesterday.

Part 1: School. 
This really is the bulk of my life these days. Luckily, I love teaching and I love figuring out how to educate my students in a way that is fun for all of us. I haven’t implemented full-blown SBG, its more a blend between a more traditional grading system and SBG. The school admin wants to better understand what the impact SBG would have on grades and parental understanding of what the grades mean. I understand that. I might not love the response to SBG, but it works for me. I’ll spend this year presented a good case for SBG.

In Logic 2 (8th grade-ish), we started reading Silent Spring. I think this might need its own blog post to describe the great time I’m having with it. We had a wonderful conversation in both classes as we read chapter 1 and part of 2. Carson paints a grim picture in chapter 1 and uses some major emotional language in chapter 2, so I tried to bring that out. We talked about what Carson is trying to convince us of, with the thought towards evaluating that claim after we’ve seen the book’s argument. I love the intelligent conversation we can have! Its amazing the change that just 2 years brings in a child’s development. The younger 2 grades, grammar 5 (5th) and grammar 6 (6th) both also went amazingly well. Last year had a rocky start, but with just one year of experience, I’m feel so much  more confident.

Part 2: Garden
The high today is 104′. ARGH!!!! When I figured out the timing for planting my seeds (so that they would be ready to plant out last week of Aug or first week of Sept), I took into account both seed packet times and how long it took in the spring. Nope — Rachael got that wrong. Sort of a “duh” moment. Early spring is chilly, chilly, even here in Central Texas, and tomatoes and peppers will take what seems like forever to sprout and grow. With this heat, they will grow wonderfully fast, which would be good, except they are outgrowing the seedling containers. The seeds all sprouted in less and a week, and now they are starting to produce little bunches of flowers (the tomatoes, at least). Well, I guess I’ll have to plant them out even in this heat and hope for the best. In the meantime, I’ve pinched off the flowers and I’ll transplant to bigger containers this afternoon. Maybe I can put off putting them out another week.

Cayenne Pepper — Still producing!

The crazy bit is that the cayenne pepper plant is still producing abundantly and I think its only getting water from the septic sprinklers — I’m not watering it. I picked 20 some odd peppers this morning, and there are more flowers. Plus, all the leaf-footed bugs are gone, I can’t find any stink bugs, and even the weeds are chilling out for now. I haven’t watered but once a week ago or so; my plan was to let stuff petter out and give the garden a rest for Aug. The neighbors down the street, who I’ve never gotten over to talk to, completely cleared out their garden at the end of July and haven’t planted it yet for the fall. (Maybe they won’t, I’ve never asked.).

On the more poopy side, I usually handle heat fairly well, but lately its been really taking it out of me. But I’m also back working more than ever before, so who knows why I’m so tired. Probably a combination? Just makes for less garden time.

Part 3: Housekeeping.
I talked about my chore schedule rearrangement a few weeks ago, here it is. For two weeks now, I’ve aimed to do the weekly home blessing on Saturday morning, along with the laundry and other sorts of chores. Its worked quite well; it gets my Saturday off to a decent start and the house is wonderfully clean for Sunday and the start of the week. I still haven’t figured out when to grocery shop (I think Thursday after school?) and menu planning is a hit and miss activity (aiming for Sunday afternoon), but things are going well for the most part.

Part 4: Fun Stuff

We know Hank likes high places, and we’ve put him on top of the TV cabinet a few times to see what he would do. We’ve discussed how to create a set of “stairs” for him to get up there on his own (and down), and went to the local hardware store to explore the creation of a PVC pipe contraption. I drew it out and we pondered what we needed and started looking at prices and figured out quick that would be $100 and up. So, nix that. Then Hubby had a wonderful idea! We got 2 simple plastic shelving units with 4 shelves each, got several pvc couplings, and put the shelves together so that the shelves alternate going up. We figure if Hank decides he’s not interested, we have plenty of places we can use a set of shelves.

Housekeeping, routines and life

Yep, I’m to more home bound topics on this post. School starts next week for me (teachers only, no students, yet) and I’m full time this year. Last year, I’d hoped to be full time, but it didn’t work out for them, and I think it was a good thing for me. I was at school all day Monday, Wednesday and Friday and for a few hours Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Despite my disappoint at not being full time, it worked well for me. I got lots done on T/Th mornings — grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands. It left my Saturday free to play and catch up.

This year, I’ll be at school 5 days a week, all day. I’m full time. For many you, you might be thinking, “yeah, normal life, what’s the big deal?”  I’ve never worked “full time” before. The closest I’ve gotten is 39.5 hours a week at the local coffee shop right after graduating from college, but before leaving for China. And I was still paid hourly with no work to take home after hours. I have finally reached true adulthood. In my mid to late 20s, I’d begun to wonder if I really counted as a true adult. Sure, I had the years of living, but I was still a student and had never held a full time/salaried job.  That I wasn’t married didn’t help any (I know marriage shouldn’t play into it, but it does sometimes). So, all that to say I finally have my first “real” full time job.

Luckily, I’m excited about what I’m going to teach, just in case you hadn’t notice from reading my blog. But I’m nervous as well. I have a lot of things I want to work on, just to be a better teacher. Teaching more means less time to spend in homekeeping.  And I’m really into homekeeping, in theory at least.

I love the idea of keeping a nice house in good condition, company ready nearly all the time. I read, and enjoy, Martha Stewart Living, I follow flylady.net and I’ve read, cover to cover, Home Comforts: The art and science of keeping house. I love this stuff. If you had a chance to look at my bookshelf, there are other books that point to my desire to read about and think about keeping house. When it comes to the practice, however, I feel like I can’t keep up. There is a voice in the back of my head (and Hubby says, it too) that says I’m not doing that bad of a job. Not getting around to vacuuming except every few weeks is not the downfall of the family… it just means the carpet isn’t as clean as I’d like.

Yes, this all has a point, I promise.

In preparation of teaching full time, I put together daily routines to practice before school starts. I’d followed Flylady’s admonition to spread out the cleaning tasks over the weekdays to keep Saturday free for “Family Fun Day”. As I’ve practiced, and as Hubby observed, I realize I’m lazy in the evenings. And when school starts, I’ll be tired. I want evenings to wind down, to chill and to get to bed at a reasonable time (which for me is 930 or 10 if I’m getting up at 6 or 630 am).  Some evenings we won’t get home till 6:00 pm as Hubby has late classes those days — doesn’t leave much time for chores and chilling. So, I’m adjusting the routines. I’m taking all those chores (vacuuming, dusting, laundry, mopping, etc) out of the evening slots and putting them all Saturday morning. It will only be an hour or two, it will be good for me to have some specific to get done to get my day started, and it opens up my evenings. (Wow, many new thoughts of random reflection about me starting a day well have overwhelmed my thought processes. Crazy how that works.) Sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out the obvious, I can be quite stubborn.

In addition, I put together a very nice control journal. I’ve been using a simple, black, 1 inch binder with a flylady sticker on the front, and its worked okay for me. I realized recently that I need to be able to take this binder with me as well as some key supplies; having it all contained together is a major bonus. I have a small box of bill paying put together (checkbook, stapler, pen, envelopes, stamps, return address labels, a few paper clips and some post-its), but I’d like something to go with the binder with pen, pencil, post-its, and other such random items. I also want a binder where lots stuff doesn’t all fall out when I put it in a bag or take it out, as it does now. I think I found something that works nicely (at least it does so far)… it has fabric elastic to pull around the corner to keep it closed, pockets in the back and these really nifty inserts. They fit in the front of the binder, under the rings and adds 2 more pockets to the front. I feel like there is no good way to fully describe it! Anyhoo, I got a pocket that fit in the rings to carry my random office supply style stuff, and stick-em-on tabs to put on the sheet protectors so I have “tabbed dividers” that actually show from between the sheet protectors. I feel pretty good about picking this thing up and taking it along. I might need to adjust what’s in it so I can put school stuff, routines and notes, in it also. Now I’m wishing my calendar book was three-hole punched so I can put that in there, too. Oh, well, can’t have everything.

I’ll post about my classroom/teaching routines when I get those figured out.  For now, here is my housekeeping/life-in-general routines (haven’t figured out a good time to go grocery shopping, though). And… think this post is long enough, now. Time to go!  I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you do to keep up with life.