House Cleaning Ideas

Spring time is right around the corner and with it we often find a fresh urge to do some house cleaning, but what about the other times of the year? What are ways we can work to maintain some sense of order in our homes amidst the everyday happenings? This is the question that we have asked ourselves and have had fun collaborating on. Every home will look different but we find it helpful to read new ideas/suggestions that encourage our thinking as we work to create homes that bring glory to God. So, here are some of our joint ideas for ways to keep our homes cleaner on a daily basis… not just at spring time!

Start with the simple things. Cleaning up a cluttered counter, living room, or bedroom, can feel overwhelming, but having a strategy for how you go about it can be helpful. One way to do this is to deal first with those things that you know exactly where they go. For example: if it is a dirty dish, put it in the sink to wash. If it is a spice or seasoning left from out after preparing last night’s meal, put it on the spice rack. If it is a random pen or pad of paper, put it in the junk drawer. Tackling the straightforward tasks in a job first helps the job feel much less overwhelming!

Have a set time of day to do a quick pick up.. Things often get scattered around the house during the day, so having an established time to pick up can be really helpful. For example, I have found  nap-time to be a good time for this: not only does nap-time remind me that it is now time to pick up, but it is also helpful to not have a toddler undoing my work! Or, if your child is old enough to help pick up, a quick pick-up could be right before nap-time starts.  

Set the timer when doing laundry. This helps remind you when to change out the washer and dryer.

Have someone over for a meal. Knowing that company is coming is a great motivation to at least do a quick pick up in the living room and dining room, if not also a quick touch-up in the bathroom!

Wash the dishes after each meal. I used to dread doing the dishes. However, what I’ve realized is that I don’t actually hate doing dishes. What I hate is washing dishes that have been sitting for two days with hardened food or cold liquid in them, etc. If I can get to our dishes immediately following each meal I save myself a lot of work in the long run by not having to scrub and chisel away at dishes that otherwise would have cleaned off easily.

Set a house cleaning schedule. Good habits are often formed through routine. With little ones underfoot I find that keeping a simple house cleaning schedule for each day helps me in maintaining our house throughout the week. The schedule can be broken up by rooms (Monday-kitchen, Tuesday-bathrooms, Wednesday-bedrooms, etc.) or by chores (Monday-laundry, Tuesday-vacuum/toilets/mirrors, Wednesday-bills, etc.). If I miss a day, I know that I need to save a day later in the week to make sure it gets done. This really helps to avoid those panic moments of finding out someone has run out of clean underwear or wondering when was the last time I paid the bills?  

Minimize belongings. Often when it feels like I can’t stay on top of the cleaning it’s actually a sign that I need to declutter our house. Throw things out that aren’t getting much use, rotate kids toys between the closet and attic, donate clothes I rarely wear, etc. If you really want to dive hard core into decluttering you could do a decluttering challenge that a friend of mine tried. The challenge was to throw out the same amount of items for each corresponding day of the month. So declutter 1 item on the 1st, 2 items on the 2nd, etc., etc., etc. By the end of one month you will have thrown out around 500 items. 

Work to clean up a mess before starting another one. This is especially helpful with the kids. I get out of the habit of reinforcing this with them and by nap time our house looks like a tornado has just passed through. It doesn’t take long to stop and clean up the blocks, before we can move on to pulling out the crayons/coloring books, etc., but it sure can save Mommy a lot of stress.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and focus on one room. See how much you can get done in that amount of time.

Multitask during bath time. Our kids take baths several times a week. While they play, I clean our bathroom! I really appreciate a clean bathroom. Doing it this way, our bathroom stays pretty clean all the time and it’s a multitasking win!

Have the kids help. Tell them “We are going to do____________ (dishes, laundry, dust) first, then we can ____________(pull out the legos, read books, etc). Give them a chore that is all their own and make it fun. Give them things to put away and see how fast they can run back to you for another task. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. Our preschooler loves rolling up the vacuum cord. Yeah, it’s not perfect but it gets the job done. She has fun and she is learning at the same time. When they help, praise them. One of our daughters chores is to fold the small towels. She does a great job and beams when I tell her “That is a great fold!”

Make a game out of cleaning up.
For toddlers – “I spy an elephant, a truck and a ball. Who can find them and put them in the bin first?”
For older kids- Work in teams to complete separate lists of chores. First team done gets a prize.

 

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Helping Sunday Mornings Be Less Stressful

I sat in our minivan, finally heading down the driveway, a furrow across my brow, frustration in my heart, stress in my mind and exasperation in my voice.

This is NOT how I wanted my Sunday morning to begin….

It’s SUNDAY, we are going to Church….

My heart should be prepared for  worship and fellowship.

But it’s irritated and frazzled.

Why?

Most of all it is my sinful heart that gives into frustration and anger.

Partly it is my lack of planning.

Partly it is my lack of communication with my husband who so desires to help but can’t read the mental to-do-list that floats in my brain.

If I was a betting woman I would have bet cold hard cash that this would be the scenario every single Sunday. Week after week this went on.

I wanted it to change!

After taking it to God and talking it through with Jeremiah here are some things that help calm my heart on Sunday mornings and make the day run more smoothly.

1. Pray

– When I am intentional about communing with God in prayer about Sunday morning the night before and during the morning preparation my heart is in a much better condition to deal with all the curve balls and pressing responsibilities.

– Ask God for wisdom! He promises to give it (James 1). Ask Him, that if it would be His will He would take the reins and help things to fall in place but if not that He would give you the right heart attitude to face them and deal with them wisely.

2. Set yourself up for success Saturday night

-If I take the time to set out our kids clothes then my husband is beyond willing to take the responsibilities of getting them all dressed for church.

– Set out my clothes. Taking a few minutes to choose what I’m going to wear to church saves time and eliminates indecisiveness for the next morning!

-Clean my kitchen that night. Cleaning my kitchen after each meal is not a strong point for me but a cluttery kitchen frazzles me so much when I am under pressure. Taking time to straighten up our kitchen Saturday evening makes Sunday mornings that much nicer.

3. Keep Sunday breakfast simple

-If we could just fast all day Sunday that would help a lot! Ok, ok, so I used to make a nice breakfast every Sunday morning: pancakes, french toast, eggs, or hash browns. Breakfast food is some of my favorite but when I chose to keep Sunday breakfast simple it was a big help to keep things rolling towards getting out the door on time! And when I mean simple…I mean we eat the same thing every Sunday – granola and milk or yogurt. Not only is it already made but my husband also now knows what we will always be eating and he can get the kids going without even having to ask.

4. Plan ahead for Sunday lunch

– I noticed that I was a lot less stressed if I knew we had a fellowship meal at church or knew we were eating lunch with friends. Along with my cluttery kitchen, not knowing what we are going to eat for lunch frazzled me. We are all tired and hungry when we reach home after church and not knowing what we were eating or having to take another 40 minutes to get a meal on the table boiled in the back of my brain before we even left for church. Having a meal in the crock pot or planning to eat quick quesadillas is huge in making the day less overwhelming.

5. Make lists

-You can label me a “list person” and it won’t bother me at all! Lists save the day on Sundays. I always have a list of what needs to be done before we can leave the house and a list of everything we need to take, from the baby’s binky, to Bibles, to offering, or to a side dish for a group meal.

  • I hope these tips can help make Sundays less stressful and more worshipful for you and your family! If you have any ideas or tips PLEASE leave them in the comments below!
  • Pray, plan and be peaceful on your Sunday morning!
  • – Rachel

 

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Applesauce Cinnamon Ornaments

Last year I was able to make these fun applesauce cinnamon ornaments at our local Moms group. Literally the only ingredients in these ornaments is applesauce and cinnamon.

I know, it sounds weird, but it works!

You do need lots of cinnamon.

LOTS of cinnamon.

The recipe is simple. Just mix together in a large bowl:
1 portion Cinnamon
1 portion Applesauce

In other words, use a 1:1 ratio of cinnamon and applesauce. Believe it or not, this combination of applesauce and cinnamon turns into a dough that can be rolled out and cut like sugar cookies! Use cinnamon as flour on the table surface to keep the dough from sticking.

At the Moms of Hot Springs gathering, there were 6-8 ladies who made ornaments. Between all of us, we used 2 large jars of applesauce and about 2 1/2 large Tones Cinnamon containers. There was plenty of dough for everyone to make at least a baking-sheet worth of ornaments.

If you’re wanting to make a small batch for just your family, you might want to start with only one or two cups each of applesauce and cinnamon.

Once the dough is rolled out to the desired thickness, use cookie cutters or get creative and make your own shapes to personalize them. Since it was Talitha’s first Christmas when I made these, I made a couple simple circles with her handprint and the year on them. They turned out super cute–I just love how tiny her hand looks!

After cutting the shapes, make a hole for the ribbon. The easiest way to do this is with a straw—just poke it into the dough, and ta-DAH! You’ve got a perfect hole, waiting for a ribbon!

Place the ornaments on an ungreased cookie sheet.

To dry the ornaments, you have two options:

1. You can let these simply air-dry for several days, turning them over every day to help with the drying process.

2. You can bake them at 200 degrees for 2 hours.

I air-dried mine, but I hear that baking these ornaments will make the house smell quite yummy!

And yes, these fun ornaments are quite durable and hardy! One of the ladies at our moms’ get-together said she and her husband made these ornaments the first year they were married–and they still hang them on their Christmas tree, six years later!

I hope you have as much fun with these as I did!

~Angie

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Favorite Christmas Recipes

It is once again that time of the year when we get together with family or friends to celebrate Christ’s birth! Here are some of our favorite recipes that put a smile on our face and remind us that, while Christmas is ultimately about celebrating the birth of the Savior, it is also a time to share love and joy with each other around the table.

Cranberry Crescent Rolls
Makes 24 Rolls

A homemade crescent roll is amazing in itself. Add warm cranberry filling and it is over the top yummy! ~Rachel

Bread Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup butter/margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115*)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
7-8 cups flour
1 can whole cranberry sauce

Glaze:
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Instructions:
In saucepan, heat milk,butter,sugar and salt until bubbles appear around the edge.

Stir well. Cool (95-100*F)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast with warm water. Let stand 5-10 minutes.

Beat yeast mixture and egg into milk mixture at low speed. Beat in half of the flour at low speed until smooth. Mix in remaining flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Mix on low for 2 minutes. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide into 4 balls; roll each ball into a 12-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Scoop about 1 Tablespoon of cranberry sauce onto each rectangle. Starting with the wide end, roll up each wedge. Place on greased backing sheet. Curve ends to form crescent.

Cover loosely with a cloth; let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400* F. Brush crescents with glaze and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

 

Broccoli Supreme
6 Servings

My grandmother made this dish and it has always been my favorite way to eat broccoli. ~Rachel

Ingredients:
24 ounces broccoli
2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 teaspoon onion, finely diced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup butter/margarine, melted
½ cup bread crumbs
1 cup cheese, grated

Instructions:
Cook broccoli until crisp tender. Put in 9×9 baking dish.

Combine eggs, cottage cheese, onion, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Pour over broccoli.

Combine butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over broccoli mixture.

Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes. Top with grated cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes.

 

Christmas Veggie Pizza
Makes Two Christmas Trees; 8 serving each.

This recipe makes for a fun appetizer at a Christmas party or can be used as an addition to any meal. ~Chrystal

Ingredients:
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent rolls or 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped assorted vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, carrot, cucumber and/or green onions)
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Instructions:

Heat oven to 375*F. Remove dough from cans; do not unroll.

Cut 16 slices from each can. Lay into the shape of two trees (or Christmas wreath!)

Bake one tree 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute; carefully loosen and slide onto cooling rack to cool.

Bake and cool second tree. Place each tree on serving platter.

In small bowl, mix cream cheese, ranch dressing and garlic powder; blend until smooth. Spread mixture over both trees.

Decorate trees with assorted vegetable pieces and cheese.

Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, pull apart slices of tree.

 

Pistachio Mallow Salad

I am reminded of my Grandmother Bixby who was known for making these types of desserts. This Pistachio Fluff is especially yummy and has my family fighting over the leftovers. ~ Chrystal 

Ingredients:
1-16 ounce carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1-3.4 ounce package instant pistachio pudding mix 6 to 7 drops green food coloring, optional
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1-20 ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup pistachios or walnuts, chopped
Additional whipped topping, optional

Instructions:
In a large bowl, combine whipped topping, pudding mix and food coloring if desired.

Fold in the marshmallows and pineapple. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, top with additional whipped topping if desired, sprinkle with nuts.

 

Christmas Cheese Ball
Makes 1 Cheese Ball

This is the only kind of cheese ball we ever made for Christmas. The crushed pineapple gives it a unique twist that most cheese balls don’t have. ~Angie

Ingredients:
2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup crushed pineapple, well-drained (get as much moisture out of the pineapple as possible)
2 teaspoons onion, minced
2 teaspoons sweet red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1/2 – 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients, except for the nuts.

Shape into a ball and pat on the nuts.

Chill and serve with crackers.

 

Caramel Popcorn

Having been raised in Brazil where Christmas popcorn was unavailable to buy in the stores, we always made this homemade version of caramel popcorn. Make a big batch–this stuff is addicting! ~Angie

Ingredients:
7 quarts popped popcorn (about 1 3/4 cups raw popcorn)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda

Instructions:
Mix together the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in soda.

Immediately pour over popped popcorn.

Dump the caramel-covered popcorn onto 2 ungreased baking pans (with sides)

Bake at 250*F for about 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. As it bakes, the popcorn will get drier and crunchier.

Note: Make sure all popcorn is popped by the time the caramel sauce is ready. The sauce hardens quickly and it will be hard to adequately coat the popcorn if it isn’t immediately poured over the popcorn.

 

We hope you have many opportunities this Christmas season to welcome people into your home to praise God for His Incarnation and worship Him together around your table! 

 

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Mommy Hold Me

 

You’re just trying to get a few things done around the house and of course this is the moment that your child has decided to make you his favorite person.

He’s following you around, wanting to be with you, asking for a snack and clinging to you like a third appendage. You try to give him something new to play with; something that you’ve been keeping hidden for such a time as this. You get him happily settled before returning to the kitchen.

Just as you roll up your sleeves you hear a little voice below you and feel a tug on your leg. “Mommy, hold me.”

You didn’t even know he could move that fast, but there he is, looking up at you with those adoring eyes. He’s managed to lose interest in a $15 birthday present in exchange for time with his favorite person. How are you ever going to get anything done?

We’ve all be there.

Then one day it hit me. Why was I spending so much time and energy trying to keep him occupied when he could be “helping” me with some of my projects and having fun at the same time.

Needing to do dishes? Not a problem. I filled my sink with soapy water, scraped the dry bubbles off the top, gave them to my son in a bowl with a spoon and bam…instant entertainment. He spent tons of time sitting on my counter, stirring bubbles around and “making applesauce.” It was great sensory play for him and I was getting my dishes done! Win, win.

Needing to make a salad? No big deal. I found that at 18 months my son could tear lettuce leaves up and throw them into a bowl. He also liked putting the croutons on at the end (and of course he sampled a few just to make sure they were good.) He could do the same thing with cabbage when I made stir-fry, etc.

Chopping vegetables? Let him collect them and put them in the pot for me. Picking up individual pieces kept him occupied for a looong time.

Needing to do laundry? My son loved collecting dirty things and throwing them into the baskets. And when it came time to switch the laundry over I’d put the wet laundry on the open dryer door and he’d have fun pushing it into the machine all by himself.

Needing to write a thank-you card or a letter of encouragement to someone? I gave my son a coloring book, markers and crayons and while he happily colored I flopped onto my belly next to him and wrote my card using the same markers. In his mind we were doing one of his favorite things together. In my
mind, I was seeing a big fat check mark on my to do list. (Even bigger bonus points if I could include his colored picture into that note of encouragement for someone.)

Needing to get my floor cleaned? Why not put a wet cloth on that Swiffer he was already pushing around and let him clean while he played? I could even take out the middle piece of the handle and make it perfect for his size.

See what I mean? A whole new world opened up for me when I realized that my son could take part in my own every day tasks. And the best part was that it also enabled us to spend time together; learning, creating and laughing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not super mom. Some days I have no creative ideas about how to involve him in what I’m doing and that’s when the high chair, a snack and “Curious George” on a screen become my best friends. And sometimes…that’s ok too.

~ Chrystal

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