Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Weekly House Blessing

Today I want to share my "Weekly House Blessing Chart" which is a relatively new tool that I've began using earlier this summer. I wanted to give it a test run for a few weeks before sharing it, but now that it's humming along smoothly, I decided it was time.  But first, I want to share a few resources that were the inspiration behind it.

Many of you may be familiar with Fly Lady's Weekly House Blessing, which is one hour that she recommends her followers devote every Monday to "Blessing Their House" by performing various tasks. To be honest, I'm not really sure I ever completely understood the thought process behind that, but what I did like was the name, "Weekly House Blessing". Fly Lady herself says that if you are "blessing your home, you are blessing your family", but for me that is every task I perform and every day, so in the end all I really borrowed from this was the name. "Weekly House Blessing" just sounds so much nicer to me than "Weekly Chores", or even "Housekeeping". :)

But the biggest inspiration for my chart came from Heather Bruggeman of North Ridge Farm. Late last year I had the privilege of being one of the early members of her online community, Hearth and Home. Hearth & Home is comprised of weekly offerings that include articles, recipes, tutorials, videos, podcasts, and more, all based on Heather's wealth of knowledge and experience. It's the best money I've spent in a LONG time, and I highly recommend it! She's actually offering a 20% discount on the annual membership right now, but it ends tomorrow, so if you want to take advantage of that, you'll need to act fast. If not, you can also subscribe monthly, which is actually what I do, but I will tell you that she is closing membership in early July and it won't open back again until Autumn, so again, you need to act fast if you want in on the fun! But now, let me explain how Fly Lady, and Heather, inspired my Weekly House Blessing chart.

Back in January, Heather shared her "Toolkit For The New Year" with the group members, and among the tools she uses for managing her home is a "What To Clean Today Chart".  Her chart looks a little different than mine, and because it was something she shared in our online community, I won't share it. If you want to know, you'll have to join the group. :) But I was inspired by the idea of having regular tasks that are completed daily, and then specific tasks on certain days. This isn't ground breaking knowledge here, lots of women have made up similar schedules and charts over the years, but there was just something about the way that Heather presented it that I found easier to implement. Again, my chart looks a lot different than Heather's, but the idea is basically the same, and rather than naming mine the "What to Clean Today Chart", I borrowed from Fly Lady and dubbed it, "The Weekly House Blessing Chart." Fly Lady's label, Heather's Chart, the best of both worlds.

So now let's take a closer look at what I've scheduled.

❊ DAILY TASKS
You might be able to make it out right at the bottom of the chart, but there is listed the tasks that I complete every day. So far I've only missed the "specific daily tasks" a few times due to illness or because on a day like today when it's 93 degrees outside and your daughter wants to spend the day at the pool, well . . . if you're like me, you spend the day a the pool. Those tasks are;

- Make beds
- Wash dishes
- Wipe kitchen counters (after each meal)
- Sweep kitchen (after dinner)
- Wipe bathroom counters (I also clean the bathroom mirror as needed which is almost daily)
- 10 Minute Tidy (once before dinner or late afternoon, and before bed) - This one task has been a game changer!

Then there is a specific theme and specific tasks that I have assigned to each day.

❊ SUNDAY - Slow and Simple
Sunday's are a bit of an extension of my Sabbath, which is on Saturday, but it has become my planning and review day, and I am loving it! It's the perfect time to look over the upcoming week and map things out. I usually make myself a cup of tea, turn on some light jazz and set to the task. I typically do this late morning or early afternoon, and this is also when I complete my Weekly Examen, which was something I learned about a couple of years ago when I purchased a planner form Sacred Ordinary Days. There's an example of the Examen that is included with their planner, here, and this is the format I use. 

Sunday is also for self care, spiritual and physical.  I walk at least two miles six days a week beginning on Sunday, which is a change I made in June. Prior to that I would take the entire weekend off, but I found that taking two days off made it harder to be consistent and jump back in on Monday morning. By only allowing myself one day off from exercise, I've been much more successful at making sure I get it in. This is also the day that I give myself a mani-pedi, and it's a ritual I've really started looking forward to each week.

❊ MONDAY - Office Day
No, I don't have an office and being a stay-at-home wife/mother, I don't go to the office. My office, if you could even call it that, is on wheels, and while I use it daily, on Monday it's my key focus. "Office Day" simply means that this is the day I look over our budget, pay bills, plan meals for the upcoming week (which runs Wednesday - Tuesday as Wednesday is the day I go grocery shopping), and also make a list of any library books or other things I need to pick up while I am out.  To be honest, most of the tasks I complete on this day are my least favorite, but they are still necessary so I try to make it more enjoyable by setting out a pretty workspace on the table, maybe lighting a candle and turning on some music.  

This is also the day I clean the family room, which is one of the easiest rooms in the house to clean. I assigned it to Monday specifically because I knew that sometimes paperwork takes longer than you expect it to.

❊ TUESDAY - Appointment Day
I don't have many appointments right now, but when I do I try to schedule them for Tuesday's, with Wednesday, when I'm already out of the house to buy groceries, as a back-up plan. As I said, I've only been following this plan since June, and in that time I've only had one appointment that I knew about far enough ahead of time to actually schedule it, but I did make it on a Tuesday.  

Tuesday is also the day I give the kitchen a thorough cleaning, and I chose this day specifically because I knew that most months I would, at the most, probably only have one appointment and there are months I don't have any, so that leaves my average Tuesday wide open. The kitchen is the room that takes the longest to clean, so I needed a day when I knew I could devote a lot of time to it.

❊ WEDNESDAY - Market & Thrifting Day
This day is one of my favorite days of the week, which might sound strange coming from an introvert who would honestly prefer to seldom leave the house. But since I only **plan** on being out of the house once or twice a week, I try to get most of my errands done on Wednesdays. This is also the day I try to hit up a few thrift stores, though I don't even do that every week, especially in recent weeks. I have enough "thrifted" items that I need to paint and repurpose to last me for awhile, so I don't really want to add to them. But I do try to pop in at least once a month or if I have something specific I am looking for. If there are books I want from the library or books that need returned, I do that on this day, as well.

As for cleaning, since this is the day I plan to be out, I don't plan anything for this day. But, if I have a day where I get back earlier than expected, I might move on to a room that is scheduled later in the week to free up some time on another day, or, if Monday or Tuesday got interrupted, Wednesday is a good day to catch up. But to be honest, most of the time I don't worry too much about "keeping up" or beat myself up if something doesn't get done.  This chart is a "tool", not a "rule".

❊ THURSDAY - Baking and Cooking Day
On Thursdays I prep and in some cases even prepare our meals for Friday evening and Saturday, as my Sabbath begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and runs until I awake on Sunday morning. (More on that in another post). Sabbath for me, as for most people who observe it, means rest from work, and cooking is work, so I try to have as much of it done as I can ahead of time. I typically don't mind throwing something into the crock pot on Saturday morning, but even then I try to have everything prepped ahead of time. I also usually try to make a special snack or dessert to enjoy for the weekend, as well. I **try** to avoid sweets during the week and look forward to the weekend when I'm a little more relaxed with my diet.

Thursday is the day I clean my bedroom, though I do wait to change the sheets on Friday morning. I'm not really sure why, there's something about heading into my Sabbath with a clean set of sheets on the bed that makes it so much more enjoyable. Maybe it's because I tend to linger longer in bed on Saturday mornings, so I like for the sheets to be fresh and clean!

❊ FRIDAY - Blessing the Weekend!
Blessing the Weekend is another idea I picked up from Heather, which is a bit of a take on Fly Lady's Weekly House Blessing, but instead of doing it on Monday, Heather does her own version of it on Friday's. It's basically just preparing your home for a relaxed and comfortable weekend, so there's not really a set formula. You just do the things that accomplish that for you. For me, it's checking our candles ands seeing if any of them need replacing, because for whatever reason I seem to burn a lot more candles on the weekend. It's fluffing pillows, washing throw blankets to make sure they are fresh and clean, maybe laying out a few books or magazines you or others in the family may want to peruse, or even setting up a board game on the table to play Friday evening. Whatever screams "homey" and "cozy", these are the tasks I complete to "Bless the Weekend".

I also clean the bathrooms on Friday, so we go into the weekend with it fresh and sparkling. And even though I've cleaned the rest of the house throughout the week, on Friday's I do give each room just a little extra care so that everything is nice and tidy for the Sabbath.

Another thing I do on Friday's is work through the Stations of the Cross and I take a personal weekly communion.  It's very simple and straightforward and takes all of 15-20 minutes, but I like going to into the Sabbath reflecting on my Savior and with my mind and spirit set right. I have a set of cards that I made years ago and still use, but I have also used this resource. I'll share more about this in an upcoming post, how I began, if I'm Catholic (that answer is, no), and since I'm not Catholic, then why? Because I usually get these questions any time I discuss this, which is perfectly fine, I just don't want to add a chapter to this novel of a post to explain it right now.

My sabbath begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday night, in keeping with the Jewish ritual of Shabbat, however, I do extend mine until the time I awaken on Sunday morning, so it's a bit longer. My personal faith encompasses many faiths. I've borrowed from the best and made it something that for me is truly beautiful and very personal.

❊ SATURDAY - Sabbath
And Saturday is my sabbath, when I refrain from all work and indulge only in pleasure. And while the rest of my week is pretty flexible, I am rigid I would say, when it comes to my sabbath. I have, rarely but on occasion moved it to another day, typically Sunday, but I do recall once I had to bump it to Monday, but one thing is for sure, it happens every week without fail because without it, I will fail.

And there you have it.

For me, the beauty of this chart is that as long as the basic things get done, if the specific tasks are interrupted, things will still run smoothly. One room may go for a week without getting "deep cleaned", but since I touch the high traffic areas every day, I would not be embarrassed for anyone to drop in on a moment's notice. As I said, I'm very relaxed with it and if I miss a day, some weeks I don't even try to make it up. But most of the time my week plays out in such a way that I'm almost always able to get everything on this list accomplished by 3:00 p.m. on Friday, which is when I observe the Stations of the Cross and take communion, it is kind of my first "deadline", I suppose you would say, though I use the term lightly. But come 6:00 p.m. on Friday when I light the candles and Sabbath is ushered in, if there is anything that is left undone it will just have to wait until I begin again in the new week, and that is perfectly fine.  I allow for a lot of margin and a lot of grace in my schedule, and it makes for a peaceful and in my opinion, beautiful life.

If you like this chart and want one for yourself I cold make up a blank copy that you can fill in with your own tasks and schedule, so let me know in the comments if that's something you'd like to have. You can also just as easily write it out on a piece of paper or create your own on your computer using colors and graphics that you like. As I said, my chart was inspired by others, but uniquely my own, if you like it, make it authentically you!

Savoring the Summer Days,

Kim

Friday, June 18, 2021

Six Simple Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice


This Sunday June 20, is Father's Day, but this year it also happens to be the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, and one of my favorites! It's the longest day of the year with the longest period of sunlight hours, 14:44 minutes to be exact (although Saturday, June 19 boasts the same length!).  But Sunday does mark the official beginning of summer, and while autumn and winter remain my favorites, this year in particular I am really looking forward to the summer season!

The thing I've always found most interesting about the solstices is that following the summer solstice the days actually begin to shorten, and with the winter solstice they begin to lengthen.  In fact in looking online, between Sunday and the end of the month, June 30, will will have already lost almost 3 minutes of daylight. It's actually one of the reasons I enjoy keeping a phenology wheel, because it really helps you to see just how quickly the transition occurs.

Celebrating and observing the solstices is a fun activity for the family, or in my case, even alone.  In some places there are festivals and elaborate celebrations, including an annual gathering at Stonehenge, although as with last year, it has been cancelled due to covid. But, if that is something that appeals to you can watch both the sunrise and the sunset online.

- Stonehenge Summer Solstice : Sunrise

- Stonehenge Summer Solstice: Sunset

Keep in mind that Stonehenge is located in Salisbury, England and there is a 5 hour time difference, so while you may be watching a live sunrise and sunset, outside our door in the US it will either be quiet early in the morning and still dark, or late afternoon and still bright. You can also just plan to watch the sunrise and sunset right where you are!

But if you're looking for some simpler ways to celebrate the day, here are a few suggestions.

1.  Make sun tea.

2. Make a sun dial. This is a fun and educational activity to do with your kids.  I personally really like this idea and would be a lot of fun if you happen to be at the beach. I'm over here trying to figure out how I could replicate this at our apartment.

3. Make shadow art. Shadow art is another activity that your children/grandchildren might enjoy. Heck, who am I kidding, I might try to find some interesting objects and do this myself!

4. Make wildflower suncatchers. This activity could get you out in the sun for a bit, if you go on a nature walk to collect your sunflowers! I made these with my youngest one year and results were truly beautiful! Another fun idea we've done in the past is a nature mandala! You can collect leaves, pine cones and other items on your walk to make this, and it actually takes on a sun shape! Watch this video to learn how.

5. Make a lantern and go on a walk at twilight. This is hands down one of my all time favorite activities, especially to close out the first day of summer! It's symbolic at the winter solstice, too, as it symbols the return of the light, but I enjoy it equally, and maybe even more so in summer as it's not as cold! There are so many fun ways to craft a lantern, I'm just going to provide with a link to the page I searched on at Pinterest and you can choose the one that's right for you! 

- Ideas for Summer Solstice Lanterns

6. Cookout and eat dinner outdoors, or roast marshmallows over an open fire. This might be especially nice this year, and can double as your Father's Day celebration!

As you can see, if you want to observe and celebrate the solstice, it really takes very little effort to do one or two special things to mark the day! I hope a few of these ideas have inspired you, and if you use any of them or have your own traditions for celebrating the day, please leave a comment and share! I'll be observing this special day, and I'll share pictures of the things I did with you on Monday!

Soaking in the long summer days!

- Kim


Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Beginnings of a Summer To Do List

It's been several years ago now, but once upon a time I wrote out a list of things I wanted to accomplish over the summer and placed it on the front of the refrigerator.  If I recall back then I was working on redoing our office/school room and I had a lot of painting to do, among other things. Every day after I finished my regular daily housekeeping, I would choose one thing from the list and work on it, nothing mind blowing here, but I was amazed at how much I accomplished over those three months. I think, for me at least, that there are times when I know things need to be done, but if I don't have it written down somewhere visible to remind me, I will forget. The funny thing is, that was the first and last time I used that method, and when I recalled it today and remembered how much I accomplished I honestly wondered why I just didn't keep it up? But since I have a number of things that need "doing" over the next month or two, I decided to try it again.  Right now it's just written in my planner, and I may keep it there. Unlike before, I now have two rather larger magnetic calendars, one weekly and one monthly, on the front of the refrigerator, and they don't leave room for much else. But, if having it in my planner isn't "visual" enough, I might try to figure something else out. I don't have a lot on it right now because a few of these projects are pretty big and my hope is to break them up into smaller tasks, but here's what I have so far.

1. Move everything from storage into the extra bedroom in the apartment. 
Right now we are paying for a storage unit, but since neither Kate or I wanted to have to pack up and move again, we decided to make staying in this apartment affordable by cancelling our storage unit and using the third bedroom to house most of that. This is a task that I am going to begin working on in just a few weeks, making a trip several days a week to pick up a load and bring it to the apartment so it won't be such a big task all at once.

2. Switch bedrooms.
Since moving in with Kate and her current room mate, I've been in the smallest bedroom, which is fine, but at the end of July I'll be moving into the master bedroom/bath that her room mate currently occupies and my current bedroom will become our storage room and **if there's enough room**, hopefully a craft/work room for me as well.

3. Finish unpacking all of my kitchen things and get it set up properly.
When I moved in I had a LOT of nicer kitchen utensils, dishes and other odds and ends that I was reluctant to put out for everyone to use, because . . . well, some of the things I had previously allowed them to use ended up broken or missing.  I understand breaking a plate here and there, but throwing away forks, spoons, cups, even plates? I didn't want to have to replace them again, so until now I've kept my things in a separate closet and perhaps rude but necessary, haven't allowed anyone else to use them. We've also had a slight problem with people not cleaning up after themselves and leaving my pots and pans and dishes sitting with food still in them. I don't mind helping out, but I'm not their maid, either. But now that things are changing and it will just be myself, Kate and Bill, when he is home, I'm not as worried. Kate was raised to take care of things, but a bit shocking to me, apparently there are a number of 20+ young adults out there who were not.

4. Go through craft supplies, organize and/or discard.
Being in the smallest bedroom hasn't left a lot of room for me to easily access my craft supplies. They are currently all in bins under my bed. I'm hoping that this bedroom will be big enough to convert it into a storage and craft room/office for me, or there may also be room for that in the master bedroom I am moving into. It's pretty big. Either way, I'm looking forward to having my craft supplies a little more accessible.

5. Begin working on Christmas presents.
This year I am hoping to make most of our Christmas presents, and a number of decorations and I need to get started soon.

6. Go on three hikes and spend time in nature.
The picture above is from our very first camping trip when we left in the van in July of last year. It's hard to believe that was a year ago!  Bill is currently at Glacier National Park and has already been to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, which really made me jealous as it's one of my favorite mountain ranges. He's having the time of his life, and while I miss him dearly, if I'm honest . . . I'm much happier here at home! But I do miss spending time in nature and I want to be more intentional about getting out there!

That's all I have on the list so far, and while I'm sure I'll add a few more things, at least two of these are fairly big jobs, so it's plenty! So what about you? How do you keep track of projects, and do you have any goals for things you want to complete this summer?  Share in the comments, and we can cheer each other on.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Ordinary Days of Small Things
Songs Of Summer Playlist


Good Monday morning, my friends! It's birthday week here at our house, as our youngest daughter turns 22 tomorrow! The celebrations began over the weekend with time spent at the lake and the pool, followed by dinner tonight and again tomorrow night with a small group of friends. So to say we've been busy, is an understatement!

Although summer doesn't officially begin until later this month, with temperatures in the 90's over the weekend, I'd say it made a definite appearance. And while Autumn and Winter are still my favorite seasons, one thing I LOVE about summer are the endless days! The suns peaks out beginning around 5:30 in the morning here in Virginia, and seems it doesn't fully set until close to 9:30 in the evening. In almost every season by especially in summer, my favorite time of the day are the hours between 6:00 p.m. and sunset, when the long, hot days fade into twilight, the pace of the day begins to still, and the the frogs and crickets sing their songs of summer. Did you know there are playlists devoted to frogs, crickets and cicadas? Though luckily for me, as I'm sure is the case for most of us, all I need to do this time of year is open my window! And speaking of crickets, there was a recording that went viral a few years back that was slowed down to reveal a chorus of angels. I remember the first time I listened to it, I was blown away. If you aren't familiar with it or haven't heard it, you can find it here.

And while you won't find any crickets on my Songs of Summer Playlist , they are definitely a familiar chorus that ushers in the season.  Instead, I've chosen a dozen songs that immediately sweep me up in memories of long-past summer days, and I hope they'll do the same for you.

Included in this summer's playlist is;

- Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts

- Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams

- The Boy's of Summer by Don Henley

- In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry

- Summer in the City by The Lovin' Spoonful

- Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks

- Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra

- Summertime by Louis Armstrong

- Endless Summer by Richard Marx

- Saturday in the Park by Chicago

- Under the Boardwalk by The Drifter's

and finally

- Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

I listened to this a couple of times over the weekend and loved it! It's about 45 minutes long, and the perfect background music for when you're at the pool, while you're grilling in the backyard, or any time of the day, for that matter, and I hope you'll give it a listen and enjoy! The link below is to Spotify, but if you don't have Spotify, I'm considering uploading these to You Tube and sharing them there, as well, so stay tuned.

Until then, I'd love to hear what your favorite songs of summer are? Did you find any of my choices familiar, or are they others you would have added! I'm always up for an addition, so leave your favorites in the comments!

Savoring the days of summer, 

Kim

Ordinary Days of Small Things 
Songs of Summer Playlist


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Easy Summer Recipes - Barbacoa Beef


Good morning, friends! I'm arriving at this post feeling refreshed after a L-O-N-G 4 day weekend! I was blessed to visit with friends on Memorial Day, but since Kate had to work on Monday and was off yesterday, I ended up extending my leisure for yet another day. We spent a few hours at the pool, which is still way too cold to actually get in, so we just soaked up some sun and enjoyed each other's company. 

One of the reason's I was able to just sit back and relax was because I knew I didn't have to head back to make dinner, and instead threw together one of my tried and true family favorite recipes in the crock-pot, BARBACOA BEEF! If you are a fan of Chipotle, let me just tell you, this is a recipe you will make again and again! Though these days I think I actually prefer their chicken bowls (I have a recipe I'll be sharing for that soon, as well!), in the early days barbacoa was my go-to choice. I think I still prefer it if I'm ordering taco's, but since they tend to be super messy, I've become more of a throw it in a bowl type of girl! Either way, once you try this you may never hand over your hard earned cash to Chipotle again, because this stuff equals, and in my opinion beats it!

The thing I like best about these recipes is for the same cost that I can feed one person eating out, I can feed my entire family at home. Of course, depending on the size of your family, that may not be the case, but it is for us. That doesn't mean we don't EVER eat at Chipotle, it's one of Kate's favorites. But for the most part I find that if I'm going to eat out I'd prefer it to be somewhere that specializes in food that I can't make, either because I don't have the right equipment, or I've tried multiple times and failed, like . . . Japanese! But when it comes to Barbacoa, this recipe ranks supreme in my book!  And speaking of,  this is one I have at the very front of my in-progress Menu Planning/Recipe Binder under EASY DINNERS! It's perfect for summer because it cooks all day in the crock pot, no heating up the kitchen, and you can spend the day outside with your family, come in cook up some rice (all of 20 minutes!), and get your toppings, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, shredded cheese, whatever you like, while the rice is cooking, and BAM! Dinner is served! Just take a look at that goodness! It's so loaded with toppings you can't even see the rice, which is another reason I love making this at home, no skimping on the toppings! And speaking of toppings, in our family we like beans as a topping on our bowls, and nothing beats Grandma's Texas Style Pinto Beans! But in a pinch, we also often just open up a can of black beans! Easy-Peasy!

❊ BARBACOA BEEF

6 to 8 pounds boneless chuck roast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
6 chipotles in adobo with sauce
1 large white onion peeled and roughly chopped
10 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup beef or chicken broth or lager beer
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 bay leaves

Add the beef to the crock of a slow-cooker. Add the chipotles in adobo, onion, garlic, broth or beer, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, cumin, oregano, ground cloves, salt, and black pepper and bay leaves on top of the beef, stir. Turn the temperature to LOW. Cook 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH, or until the beef shreds very easily with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Use two forks to shred the meat in the sauces. To Serve: Serve the shredded Barbacoa with sauces over rice for a bowl, in corn or flour tortillas for tacos, or over tortilla chips for nachos! It's so easy and so versatile!

I hope you'll try this recipe this summer and let me know if you like it! This is one I keep at the ready with leftovers frozen and waiting in the freezer, along with the chicken, which I'll be sharing later this week! 

Until then, I pray you have a WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY, my friends! 

Savoring the summer days,
Kim