Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Gentleness Challenge

I know I'm months and months behind, but right now I'm reading and trying to complete The Gentleness Challenge, from Womenlivingwell.org. I have definitely been struggling as a mother of two small children (my daughter is 4 and my baby boy is just now 10 months old), losing my patience too quickly and raising my inside voice to levels only really meant for outdoor purposes. It's only my daughter I get upset with -I look at the baby and think well he's far too little to know what the right thing to do is, so nothing he does at all phases me, and yet I am so quick to expect a 4 year old to react and behave as a responsible human being would. It doesn't make sense really, does it? She's just a baby too, and I need to remember that.

It's the times when "I'm trying to do something!", as I'll scream, that I comp,etely lose all patience and rational expectations of her. She's pulling her brother's toys from his little hands, leaving him distraught and crying on the floor while she skips around him, waving whatever it is she has taken. She is yelling at me 20 times when I've answered her the first second I heard my name. But she knows she doesn't have my full attention and so she says my name another 19 times, at which point I want to scream, I want to yell (and sometimes do) "I heard you the first time!". Then I'll fully turn to her, my eyes to hers, and ask nicely what she wanted. She'll make up something right then and ere, clearly having only yelled my name so many times to get my attention back to her from whatever it is I was doing.

If I'm on the phone to my best girlfriend who lives far away, as I try to be a few times a week, she will act up even more than usual, pulling her brother around until he cries again, carrying him from room to room, chasing after me. The noise is unbearable, and I feel my temperature rising. I inevitably shriek something and storm to the other room, apologise to my friend and try to keep talking. Se has things she needs to discuss with me and I feel torn between knowing she needs me and knowing that my daughter is desperately trying to get my attention.

This is all normal behaviour for a 4 year old child. My own mother has told me how my brother and I would always "act up" when she was on the phone when we were little. My expectations of my daughter are way too high, I've realised of late. She is a baby too, despite the fact that her vocabulary rivals my own and she knows so so very much. It is up to me to help her more, be there for her more, and model what I wan to do. She yells, for example -I wonder where she got that from. Instead of waiting for her to calm down so I can finish my phone call, I should just go to her more readily. I should gve her my eyes when she calls my name the first time, and I should start packing up blocks with her instead of insisting that she is old enough to do it herself. The Gentleness Challenge is making me rethink all the ways in which I could be more gentle. I need to soften my voice to my daughter like I do for the baby, and go to her level I instead of staying up high where I seem so unreachable. I need to be way more gentle for my daughter, to keep our love and our bond strong. It is true that our harsh words and loud tones turn our children further apart from us. They do not respond well to that. They will respond better to love and attention. Already I have seen a change - when I soften myself and instruc my daughter where before I was being too hard on her, she looks at me differently, she responds more willingly, and it makes both of us feel better.

Have you tried The Gentleness Challenge? Search it and Womenlivingwell on google and you can find the 4 weeks of the challenge.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Meal Planning and food ideas

I've been reading a lot recently and watching a lot of vlogs on meal planning and grocery shopping. It's all very interesting to me, I think because it is something that comes quite naturally to me, as I am quite the list-maker and organising freak. I see a lot of women planning their meals out of cookbooks and shopping weekly for everything all at once. But for me, being the planner that I am, I often have a good stock of things in my pantry and freezer that can create a meal easily. I keep a good stock of tinned tomatoes on hand, carrots in the fridge, potatoes in the cupboard and frozen peas that can accompany a meat meal at a moment's notice. When I plan the meals for the week, as I have been doing it without really realising until I saw that there was almost a cult following of such procedures online, I do it in my head by quickly assessing my stores and then the freezer.

I also like to plan meals that I know will be good for a day or so in the fridge, as I am fond of appreciating my culinary efforts for longer than just one meal. I rarely, if ever, make a meal that lasts for only one meal. I think it comes from being the leftovers person in our little family of four when I was growing up. My mum told me recently that she hates leftovers, and now I see that they were given always to me, not to anyone else in the house. It explains why I treasure the ability to eat a roasted meal for breakfast now when it would make others gag to smell cooked meat at 8am.

I also see the merit in cooking meals that can stretch the contents of my freezer or pantry. For example -I might have a lot of chicken in the freezer and use it for two meals that call for chicken cooked the same way, so I save time on the method and end up with a little variety. It may look as though I've worked twice as hard but the first step of the two meals was to cook chicken in a pan. I do that for a half kilo of chicken and then separate the meat to continue two separate processes. I might do this to make both a buffalo chicken dip and a chicken and tomato pasta recipe in the same space of time, then have one in the oven while the other is on the stove top.

Right now I know I have a lot of chicken in the freezer and a lot of minced beef. I have a chicken curry on the stove as I write this and am planning to eat that for tonight's meal and tomorrow's (I made double this time because Shan's 'chicken curry' spice mix is a favourite of ours and we often wish it lasted longer than it does when I make the regular quantity). I have a good stock of lasagne sheets in my pantry and a few bottles of pasta sauce, so I will make my husband's favourite lasagne when the chicken curry is finished, and I will make the lebanese kibbe (ground beef baked with bourgel and pine nuts and cinnamon) that he likes after that. Each meal that I plan is large, as my husband is terrible with time and seems to come home anywhere from 6pm to 9pm some days so gone are the days I would think dinner time was at a set time and make him steaks or chops to see them dry out waiting for him to get home. I make him curries and casserole-type meals so he can just put things into the microwave when he gets home or is hungry late at night, and as I am almost always tired after 4pm these days with a baby and small child I find that cooking at lunchtime is easiest. Then I have the rest of the day to tidy (or try to tidy, in our tiny and toy-filled space).

So while writing this I have planned my meal for the next 6 days. 3 main meals, to be eaten over 2 days each.
If you make sure that each time you go shopping you stick to a list and buy a good stock of ingredients that your family will use up regularly, you will never run out of things or need to keep running to the shops at the last minute. We only run out of fresh bread and sometimes snacks the kids go through too quickly. We never ever run out of the essentials like toilet paper or pasta or shampoo or tinned tomatoes or potatoes. List making is key. If you keep a magnetic notepad on your fridge and simply add too it as you use things up, you will never run out of anything.

This week's list of meals with ingredients is as follows:

Chicken curry - chicken breast, onion, garlic, shan curry mix, dried ginger, natural yoghurt, rice.

Lasagne - ground beef, onion, tomato pasta sauce, oregano, lasagne sheets, butter, flour, milk, cheese.

Kibbe - ground beef, bourgel, cinnamon, onion, pine nuts, bay leaf, butter, salad greens, natural yoghurt.

Of course we have extra salad greens and fresh tomatoes with our meals, and we may have leftovers for lunches or eggs with toast or quick sandwiches, but those ingredients are part of our regular food stores too. My husband has favourites he likes to eat regularly so I stick to those, as well as adding invented meals every now and then if the mood strikes me.

I hope this has been useful xx

Sunday, 6 May 2012

My New Weekly Cleaning Schedule

I have been reading a lot of other blogs and getting ideas about cleaning schedules. In particular, I credit Thankful Homemaker for the ideas that finally pushed me to create my own weekly cleaning schedule. I felt revved up after reading the advice on her pages -under her "Homemaking Binder" button at the top of her pages you will find links to her morning, evening, weekly cleaning schedules and so on.

I wanted to share my own ideas here below. I am only in the first week of putting the schedule into practice, but already I can see an improvement in the cleanliness of my home. My husband also noted how fresh it seemed, as if I'd done so much more than usual. I am unsure whether I've done more or whether just by doing the main things each day as well as 1 or 2 important large cleaning jobs it made such a difference after a couple of days. I know sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees -I get so hung up on all the little jobs here and there that I may make no large difference. But anyway, this is working really well for me. I think I may add washing to every day, not just two days a week, as with 2 small children things can pile up quite quickly.

Here is my new weekly cleaning schedule:

Full kitchen clean, including cupboard doors
Wash clothes and put away
Wipe over laundry

Full clean of bathroom
Dust living room and dressers

Wash bed sheets
De-clutter living area
Mop bedroom

Wipe out fridge -outside too
Wipe out microwave
Wash clothes and put away

Mop bathroom floor again
Mop kitchen floor again

Baking, easy day

A day of rest

Of course I am still doing the daily chores along side these (like the daily wiping under my daughter's table and the kitchen floors, the bathroom sink, and de-cluttering of the loungeroom and tidying of toys) but just by having this list set out on the fridge and being able to look at it each day a few times to make sure I am up to date on what needs to be done, has been extremely helpful. I may also develop my own morning and nightly routines as described on the Thankful Homemaker site. It is such a wonderful thing, to find a list that can help you or spur you on to achieve more in your day or feel that you are being more productive. I really like my list so far. Do you do weekly cleaning schedules or similar?

Friday, 13 April 2012

My Daily To-do List

I've been reading a lot lately about daily chore lists and homemaking binders and organisers. It goes on and on and it feeds something within me that loves to think of things to be done. I just love lists, I think that's it. I love ticking things off lists, actually. I love making the list (high point) then I love each time I get to tick something off it(other high point).

On my daily to-do lists are usually these things:
*Make beds
*Wash up dishes
*Put a load of washing on
*Hang out washing
*Cook meal for dinner/lunch
*Wipe over bathroom sink
*Clean toilet
*Bring washing in and put away
*Tidy loungeroom

That's about it for my day, but of course there and many many things that I add to it, and I may not put the washing away that day etc. Changes are often made. Yesterday, for example, I took a bag around the house and just grabbed things I didn't want anymore. I put toys in there I was keeping out of guilt but that were taking up too much space. I put old makeup products I've been saving for years, and I even threw out creams from my medicine basket that were 4 years out of date!!! Why was I keeping them? I often sort drawers in my spare time and de-clutter benches. It's constant in a household of 4, to find things that don't belong here, there and everywhere. I remember when I was single and living in this very same apartment. I had 2 items of furniture in each room and I had NO MESS. At all. My floors were always spotless. I washed dishes as I used them. It's not like that anymore!!

I think the daily list should be the basics but have room for movement. I write a new list each day. Well as long as it's that kind of day -if I feel under the weather at all I don't need a list staring me in the face telling me I didn't do enough of my tasks. It's Saturday today and I've had a pretty productive week so I'm giving myself the day off. I may put washing away at my leisure later, but that's only because I shoved it onto the floor last night so I could crawl into bed at 8:30pm. I was exhausted. We have spiders (eek!) so I can't leave anything on the floor to tempt them (*shudder).

Make a list for your day. What will you have on it?

Chores for children

I've been thinking of ways my 4 year old daughter can help more around the house. My sleep has been lessened greatly lately because the baby (8months old) has been waking very early -5:30am seemed like a sleep-in today! - so I looked at this list of chores from Purposeful Mom and realised that at 4, my daughter is already probably helping enough. I need to get her into some sort of routine though.

At 18months of age she loved nothing more than to sit on the grass beside the laundry basket and hand me the clean clothes to hang on the line. She was all for it. It was her favourite thing. She does now often sort her clothes from the rest in the washed pile, then puts them into the right places in her little cupboard. I often cringe when I look in there afterwards though, as it's not to my standard. I think mummy needs to let go of perfection in these areas though. I read once that as long as someone is helping you (especially a child or a messy husband) you should just be happy they've completed a task, no matter how differently they've done it to the way you would do it. That's got to be true. I know a lot of the time I do way more than I need to do alone just because I want things to look a certain way. I can ask my husband to wash up but I would prefer the dishes to be washed the way I want them done, and then I know the kitchen will look its best at the end as well. Gah. Perfectionism. It really does stand in the way of a lot of things for me, I'm realising.

I'm not sure how to do a chore chart for my daughter. Perhaps I'll do a small list for starters and see how she goes. She could:
*Make her bed
*Put clothes left in loungeroom back in the bedroom
*Make sure the cushions on the lounge are tidy
*Sort washing into piles
*Put her washing into the cupboard and drawers

I think those few above will do for starters. If she starts doing them regularly then a few more added in won't be a big thing. It will definitely free up more of my time if I can delegate at least some little tasks to her. I love making the house a home, and I can more than happily do the rest, but I think it is also good for kids to have things to do. They can feel as if they are achieving something and helping the family. My mum always complained that we never washed up or did anything useful as teenagers -but she hadn't taught us to be useful. I think she has my disease (or rather, I have hers) of wanting to do everything herself and then looking round and realising that no one has helped. But of course no one is going to help you if you're being some sort of cleaning and tidying maniac, you didn't ever give chores to your kids (I think we used to wipe coffee table glass, that was what she made us do. That's it!) and you don't stop to breathe and consider that it may be up to you to do the delegation.

Good, easy, regular tasks. That's how I'll start with my daughter. I'll let you know how it goes. Today she will make her bed and we'll go from there.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Inspiration from other mothers, blogs, books and vlogs

Well, that's what a new baby will do to you -I almost forgot I'd started this blog and that was only a few days ago. I shouldn't say he's a new baby, because he is 9 months old this month, but for the fact that I've probably slept a total of 2 weeks since he was born, we can say he's new, right?

I thought I would start by sharing some recent inspiration of mine for homemaking and parenting, things I've found online as well as books that I'm reading.

My bible as a new mother second time around is definitely Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall. I am currently re-reading the solids section to see which foods my baby can now eat, and I love that she has such a structured approach to parenting, eating and sleeping. With my daughter we were ANYTHING BUT structured, co-sleeping and demand feeding. I was an absolute wreck. This time I'm wreck-like but I have my baby on a sleeping schedule (he's recently began going to sleep on the floor wherever he is so he's surely in his own routine now, lol), an eating schedule and milk schedule. My daughter, on the other hand, barely ate a grain of rice before she was 1 year old. She must have tried more than that but it just seemed like she was forever on the boob and when we took her overseas to her father's family they were shoving rice and meat down her throat and I was in shock -Don't worry, she eats properly now. At least as well as a 4 year old who seems to think everything with colour is poisonous does.

I am a devout de-clutterer and my favourite thing is to read about de-cluttering, see before and after pictures of de-luttering, see makeovers of rooms and storage areas, and basically live vicariously through other people and their re-organising challenges meanwhile pumping up my own desire to re-organise and de-clutter further in my own home. Sometimes I think I want to buy all new furniture and re-vamp my life that way, but you'd be surprised at how much a little tweaking of what you've already got can change your home. We had one wall of our loungeroom that held a useless hall table (obvsiouly, our loungeroom is not a hallway) that was just taking up space and a surplus of my daughter's toys. We bought the baby a colourful rubber playmat (no, not this one, but I die to dream that I would spend $199 on a playmat and feel ok about it -it's squishy and delicious to walk on, let me tell you) and a playpen and have transformed that side of the room into a colourful baby heaven. I was so happy to put the hall table in the kitchen (I know, still no hallway) and see such a change to the room. It made my life.

My decluttering, tidying, re-organising and homemaking inspiration and readings are as follows:

Cut The Clutter, by Cynthia Townley Ewer -I've had this book for years and love just melting into the de-cluttering advice, as well as the meal-planning and sheet-folding bliss. I'm not so psycho as to actually meal plan. I do plan meals, but not with such fervour as Cynthia.

Home Rules, by Nate Berkus -Ok, so I want to marry him, and the loungeroom he made over on pages 52-53 makes me want to marry him just that little bit more. I may not always love his colour schemes (I am very much into the quiet elegance that is the (apparently) many varying shades of white and grey, I love decorating with silver next crystal pieces, and I love only pops of light green or pink), but his placement and scale of furniture is something legends are made of.

womenlivingwell.org, by Courtney
This is defintely a blog that I am IN LOVE with. Plus she has amazing youtube videos about homemaking and being a good wife. She is everything my mother (who thinks she was part of the women's movement) would cringe at but she is everything I want to be. She is just so chirpy and happy and bubbly. I can't get enough!!!

organizedlikejen is a Youtube channel that I adore. This girl seriously has some organising love, although without kids sometimes I judge her and I wonder WHY THE HELL DOESN'T SHE HAVE SOME KIDS!! -maybe she's trying to, and if so I'm sorry. But if you get into her videos you'll see what I mean. She has made organising a house into some sort of art form. She has seasonal decorations (!! I can't even get the basic decorations right sometimes) and she has really, REALLY thought about her house. And I wish it was mine, let's be honest.

This is a blog I have loved for a few years now. She is a new mum, and a keen home organiser with a talent for decorating. To be honest, if I had half her know-how of decorating I'd be doing well. I laugh often at her posts, especially this one

Candidmommy is a vlog I love on Youtube.

Shaytards are a family with a daily vlog that make family life fun. They go shopping in their vlogs too, which I LOVE.

Organized Mummy vlog /Malitose79 is a vlog that I adore and find laughs in. She has a crazy, happy personality, is very good with organising the kids' stuff and her house is the cutest!! See here.

I also read a bunch of blogs at the moment which are mostly found through Womenlivingwell.org

A couple of e-books I just downloaded are also a-mayzing. I recommend both and please note they are in the Christian Homemaking genre:

31 Days to Clean

The Challenges of a Homemaker

I hope you can find some fun inspiration in these places as I do.

Happy Easter Sunday :)

Friday, 30 March 2012

My happiest times are at home

Welcome to my new blog, The Happiest homemaker. To introduce myself I will say that my happiest times are those spent at home. I'm a homebody. A homemaker. A mother of 2 little ones. I spend my days cooking and cleaning up (and then cleaning up again), reorganising storage cupboards and shelves, tidying books and toys, planning meals and getting caught up in the lives of my children, the dreams they have and the silly games we play. I also indulge in a little Real Housewives of (insert city here) on my laptop -it's mummy's guilty pleasure and a reward for hard work done. I adore being home. I love making things nice. I wish and dream that I'll be able to fulfil this fantasy forever.

Even before I was a mother and wife I found that my happiest times were at home. As a single girl living alone in the city I was always happiest cooking for one and re-cleaning the loungeroom tiles, re-organising the furniture and making my kitchen pop by putting pretty dishes in special places. I found myself at ease at home, and little did I know that I would be a stay-at-home mother. My mother was one, having not worked fulltime since my brother and I were born some 30years ago, and both my grandmothers were stay-at-home mothers, as was the go back then. But in this day and age I find that it's almost taboo to say that you dream of this lifestyle. But I do. I always have, even without really knowing it. I always wanted to have a family and without thinking it I expected to be able to stay at home. Not all my friends are lucky enough to be in this situation; some have mortgages they need to help pay, or rent that can't be covered by one income. But I've made choices in my life that have allowed me to stay home. I'm grateful for that, for the freedom to choose. I'm grateful to God that I have the opportunity and support to be able to stay at home with my children, make my household a home, and to thrive in such an environment.

Through this blog I hope to share wisdom I have gained as a mother and homemaker, things I've read and am reading, and to share challenges I face and/or have overcome. I hope you will join me, and I hope you will share my joy at making a house a home, and a home a place where everyone can be happy. We'll talk about how to make your kitchen pop too at some stage.