Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Decluttering Your Medicine Cabinet - Proper Storage and Disposal of Medications

The following article in USA Today by Liz Szabo explains the danger of improper drug storage and disposal - very helpful when you declutter your medicine cabinet. As foster parents, we are required to keep all medications in a locked location - not a bad idea for any home with children!

"Old or expired medications do more than clutter the bathroom. They can fall into the wrong hands — or even local drinking water.

One in nine kids abuse prescription pain relievers, says Sandra Schneider of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Meds also pose a risk to babies and toddlers, says Lara McKenzie of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Nearly 10,000 small children accidentally swallowed opiate painkillers between 2003 and 2006, says a report in Annals of Emergency Medicine. A single dose of some heart medications or pain pills can kill a child, Schneider says.

Medications kill more people than any other source of poisoning, says the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Some, such as the antibiotic tetracycline, can degrade into a toxic form over time, Schneider says.

Medications flushed down the toilet can end up in drinking water, says Jeanie Jaramillo of the Texas Panhandle Poison Center in Amarillo, which has held drug "take-back" programs for years. Water treatment plants typically can't filter out medications, she says.

People who don't live near a drop-off site should throw them out only after taking precautions. The Food and Drug Administration recommends these steps:
•Take meds out of their original packaging and put them in a container that can be tightly sealed, such as a coffee can.
•Mix them with coffee grounds, kitty litter or anything that makes them undesirable.
•Scratch out identifying information on the original package.

The FDA recommends flushing only a handful of particularly risky medications — such as narcotic pain patches — when drug take-back programs aren't available. A list of these is at fda.gov. People with medication safety concerns can call a local poison control center at 800-222-1222."

Note: Take Back programs have ceased at this time of writing. 

More on medicines:

What Every Medicine Cabinet Needs

National Preparedness Month - Emergency Kit #4 - First Aid Kit

Get Organizing Month - Decluttering Your Bathroom Storage


Monday, November 29, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 9 - Guard Your Health

With so much going around these days, it makes you think twice about shopping and socializing! But there are other health issues to think about during the holiday season. It’s very easy to abuse your health during the holiday season – parties, rich food, a busier schedule, and less time for exercise. Here are a few suggestions for maintaining your health:

- Don't go to a party hungry. Eat something before you go so you're not ravenous. Think ahead of time about the amount of food you will eat. Just a taste of those tasty morsels is usually enough to satisfy your palette. No need for excess eating or drinking!

- Don't give up your workout. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. As your schedule gets more hectic, make sure to guard your exercise time. Eliminate something less important if you must eliminate something.

- Don’t neglect your sleep – you’ll be irritable and less able than usual to deal with stress. Research shows that your emotions will rollercoaster and your logic powers will suffer without sleep.

- Make sure your family members are getting enough sleep, too. Try to keep normal bedtimes and naptimes.

- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds after or while you are attending an event to get rid of those germs passed around by shaking hands, hugging and kissing. Carry some hand sanitizer with you, but it’s not as effective as soap and water.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go through the holiday season without gaining weight, getting sick, being stressed-out, and feeling grouchy? It’s possible, but you’ll need to be very intentional in order to do it! It’s worth the effort, though!

More on reducing Christmas stress:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 1 - Expectations

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar


Friday, November 26, 2010

Maximizing Time - What To Do While Waiting

Life is a hurry-up-and-wait game, isn't it? We wait in carpool lanes, appointments, traffic, for our children's lessons or sports to conclude, etc. Why not make the most of it? Every scrap of time you can use while waiting means you'll have more time later!

Here are a few ideas:
- Listen to a recorded book. Even when traffic is irritating or there is road construction, it goes by so much more pleasantly when you have something to engage your mind.
- Carry a nail file to do touch ups while sitting at lights, and other times you're waiting.
- Write thank you notes, birthday cards, etc.
- Make a quick phone call (not while driving!).
- Plan menus.
- Work on a grocery list or to do list.
- Pick up the trash in the car.
- Clean out your purse, wallet, or briefcase.
- Read a book. Sometimes I bring a pleasure book if I think I'm going to be waiting long. It keeps me from being as irritated by the wait.
- Take a magazine from home you've been wanting to read. Tear out the pages you want to keep. (I did this once in a doctor's office and one of my foster daughters thought I was ripping up the doctor's magazines. LOL!)
- Listen to some calming music if you need that, or some upbeat music if that's what you need. 
- Do some mending.
- Catch up on emails or social networks.

If you have kids in the car:
- Use the time to catch up on each other's day. To promote conversation, avoid using questions that have yes and no answers.
- Play a game like 20 questions, I Spy, or something similar to pass the time.
- Pop in a recorded book geared toward your child's age. 
- Listen to some music your child enjoys. Sing along!
- Have a book of five-minute mysteries you can read to your child.
- Have a "car book" - a book you read together while waiting in the car.
- Have a stocked activity box or bag for your child to enjoy while waiting.
- Carry non-messy snacks in the car to get through the "grumpy, hungry" stage.

We only get 24 hours in each day - let's stretch it!

More on maximizing time:

How to Buy Some Extra Time

10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time

Increasing Efficiency

Three Steps to Time Management

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a blessed day! It's a wonderful day to think about all those things for which we're thankful. 

I'm so thankful for the parents I have - what a great heritage they have given me! I'm grateful for my husband who loves me unconditionally and is always so encouraging. Our daughters and son-in-law are amazing and such gifts. Our foster daughters, our family and friends are truly blessings, too. None of us perfect, but so thankful for those in my life!

I wouldn't trade the journey my life has taken for anything - not always easy or fun, but I grow. I'm thankful most of all for the faith journey I've traveled, giving me meaning and purpose in life. 

What are you thankful for today? No matter how difficult life is, we can always find reasons to be thankful. I hope you have time to ponder your blessings.



What's In Your Clutter?

I saw this article in the UK Express. Doesn't it make you want to search through your clutter for hidden treasure?


"AN 18th century Chinese vase found buried in a pile of clutter at a house clearance stunned the antiques world last night after fetching a record £51.6million at auction. 

The 16-inch tall Qianlong dynasty porcelain ornament smashed all expectations, selling to a Chinese buyer for more than 50 times its original estimate.

A middle-aged brother and sister, who wish to remain anonymous, stumbled upon the elaborately decorated piece as they cleared out their former family home in the north-west London suburb of Pinner following the death of their parents.   

It was taken to Bainbridge’s auction house in Ruislip, Middlesex, where it was estimated to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2 million. However, yesterday it smashed the record for any piece of Chinese artwork sold at auction, going under the hammer for £43million, with auctioneers’ fees taking the price to £51.6million. 

It is not known how the vase found its way to the London suburbs, but since the news of the find broke the small auction house has been inundated with queries from all over the world. 

Helen Porter, of Bainbridge’s, said: “We are absolutely stunned. This must be one of the most important Chinese vases to be offered for sale this century. Our previous highest sale was £100,000 for a Ming enamel piece a couple of years ago. 

'It came from an ordinary house clearance. We’re just a very typical local auction house so, as you can imagine, it was something of a surprise.' 

Experts believe the vase, in near enough perfect condition, was fired in the imperial kilns in the 1740s and would have been part of a collection that was kept in the Chinese royal palace."

More on benefiting from decluttering:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 8 - Give Memories, Not Clutter

It seems that our country is drowning in clutter! Our kids have so many toys, their rooms are overflowing. We have to rent storage units to hold our excess stuff. 

This Christmas and throughout the year, consider giving memories instead of clutter. Give experiences! I've talked about some of these before, but they are worth repeating. :)

One year my parents were visiting us at Christmas when we lived in the DC area. Their gift from us: tickets for them to take our daughters to the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center.

For one daughter's 16th birthday, we took her and her boyfriend (now husband) to see Stomp! in lieu of having a party. For our other daughter's birthday one year, we went to the play Little Women (one of her favorite books) followed by high tea, reminiscent of our time living in Kenya.

I have a dear friend who has four boys. Each time one graduates from high school, he gets to pick where in the country the family will go for vacation that year. 

For my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, all four of us siblings typed out a tribute to them, framed them in gold frames, and presented them on a family vacation.

This year we celebrated their 60th and my brother created a video incorporating interviews he had done with mom and dad as well as photos throughout their lives. It was just a family affair - the four siblings and our children. We siblings each toasted my parents - what a wonderful memory and special time together! 

Speaking of my parents, once when our girls stayed with them, my mom walked them around the neighborhood telling them about our neighbors who lived there when I was growing up. It included a trip to Midway Grocery, a tiny little grocery store where I and my siblings would go to buy candy. They still have fond memories of that experience!

When we lived in Kenya, my gift to the guys on our team was a dozen cookies every month for a year. Even though they were material objects, they didn't stay around long enough to create clutter!

When we visited one of our daughters this year, we decided to choose one five-star restaurant rather than several average places to eat. It made a fun and delicious memory! 

Considering what your loved one or friend likes is the key. Here are some other ideas:

- If it is expensive, you may be able to team up with others. If Uncle Jim wants to celebrate his 80th birthday by sky diving or going for a hot-air balloon ride, have family members chip in. 

- Share the experience. Accompany your friends or family to the event to make a joint memory.

- Give your time. Bring lunch over to auntie's and spend a couple of hours with her. Or babysit for a young mom who needs some time out of the house. 

Your gift experiences don't need to cost a lot. The only limit is your creativity!

More on no-clutter gifts:

A Last-Minute Clutterless Gift Idea - BookSwim

Easy Decadent Fudge Recipe

Destressing Christmas, Part 11 - Meaningful Gifts with No Clutter


Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recycle Those Fall Pumpkins into Good Eats!

It makes me somewhat sad to see jack-o-lanterns turning black inside after they've been carved. I know lots of fun was had carving them and decorating with them, but think of the wasted pumpkin that could have been used for tantalizing recipes! 

No, I don't feel that strongly about it, but I do like to use my pumpkins. We give our foster daughters a choice as to whether they'd like to carve or color their pumpkins with markers. Markers are a nice alternative for those who don't like the slimy insides.

Last weekend I cut a couple of the small pumpkins and baked them. You can also microwave or steam them. Take out the seeds and scrape the slimy parts. Cover the pumpkin pieces with foil if you're going to bake them. It will take 1-2 hours at 350 degrees, depending on how big and thick your pieces are.

Check the pumpkin with a knife - when it can easily slide into the pumpkin, you know it's soft. When it has cooled, scrape out the meat with a spoon and puree it in your blender. 

I freeze what I'm not going to use immediately into two-cup servings, as that is what most of my recipes require. I place a quart-size freezer bag in a tall drinking glass and open the edges over the lip of the glass. This serves as a third hand, holding the bag while filling it. When filled, I flatten the bag so it's easy to store in the freezer.

Here are my favorite pumpkin recipes:

1. Side dish. Serve warmed pumpkin with brown sugar as an interesting side dish.

2. Roasted pumpkin seeds. Rinse the slime off the pumpkin seeds in a colander. Take a paper towel and rub it through the seeds to remove some of the moisture. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the pan, preferably one layer thick. Salt and stir gently. Bake at 400 degrees until light brown and crisp (about 15-20 minutes), flipping seeds over halfway through. 

3. Pumpkin bread. Makes two loaves. From Three Steps to Planning Dinner.

3 1/2 c. flour                  3 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt                    1 c. oil (I use 1/2 c. oil. and 1/2 c.
1 t. nutmeg                        nonfat plain yogurt or applesauce)
2 t. cinnamon                 4 eggs
2 t. soda                         2 c. pumpkin
2/3 c. water

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl.  Add sugar.  Combine oil, eggs, pumpkin and water and add to dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into two loaf pans sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 325 for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Variation:  Sometimes I will substitute bananas or other fruit for the pumpkin and leave out the nutmeg and cinnamon.

4. Curried Pumpkin Soup (the numbers in parentheses represent 2, 4, and 6 servings respectively). From Hassle Free Dinners.

Onion (1/6, 1/3, 1/2 c.)
Minced garlic (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 t.)
Curry powder (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 t.)
Butter (1, 2, 3 t.)
Pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 c.)
Nutmeg (1/8, 1/4, 3/8 t.)
Sugar (1/16, 1/8, 3/16 t.)
Bay leaf (1/2, 1, 1 1/2)
Vegetable or chicken broth (1, 2, 3 c.)
Milk (3/4, 1 1/2, 2 1/4 c.)
Cornstarch (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 T.)

- Preheat skillet to medium high.  Chop onion.  Saute onion, garlic and curry powder in butter until onion is tender. 
- Add pumpkin, nutmeg, sugar, and bay leaf.  Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.  Take out bay leaf.  Stir in 2/3 of the milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes.  In another bowl, stir together remaining milk and cornstarch until dissolved; then add it to the soup.
- Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Cook a couple more minutes. 

- I doubled this recipe recently and put half in the freezer for Christmas. 

More on cooking:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Getting the Most Bang Out of Your Produce Buck

Planning Ahead for Dinner


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving

As far as I know, I will be the only one cooking for our Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not sure which of our four foster daughters will be here, if any. One of our daughters will be here, but she'll be traveling. So, I need to plan ahead so I'm not exhausted on Thanksgiving!

I've already done my major shopping - turkey, dressing, potatoes, sandwich stuff for turkey sandwiches, etc. We'll be having a broccoli casserole which uses cooked broccoli. So I'll cook some broccoli some time before Thanksgiving, making enough extra for the casserole. I'll make up the casserole and put it in the fridge.

I may make some homemade cornbread stuffing in addition to the boxed kind, so I'll plan to make some cornbread to go along with the chili I'm making next Wednesday. 

I'm not a whiz at gravy, so I have canned gravy. I'll also make giblet gravy ahead of time. I usually make mashed potatoes with red skin potatoes so I don't have to peel them. If everyone is okay with it, I'll make them garlic mashed potatoes.

I'll also make what our family calls cranberry fluff. I can make most of it on Wednesday and add the final ingredients on Thursday. And I'll just bake some sweet potatoes as things are baking on Thursday - nothing fancy, just plain baked sweet potatoes. 

Hmmm ... pies. Guess I'll make a pecan and a pumpkin. I'll use Betty Crocker's refrigerated pie crusts, which taste like homemade, so that will make it easy.

Rolls? Do we really need those with all the starch in the meal? If so, I'll use the frozen kind that just need to thaw and bake - I have some in the freezer. 

As the time gets closer, I'll figure out how many days it will take to thaw the turkey, and how long it will need to cook. I always cook mine in an oven bag, which reduces cooking time significantly. I'll allow for the turkey to be ready about an hour before we eat so it can sit for a bit before being carved.

That will give me time to cook the other side dishes. I'll make a list of when each item needs to go into the oven. I'll also figure out which dishes will go in which serving pieces. 

So, hopefully, by planning ahead, Thanksgiving Day will be as stress-free as possible. I'm sure whoever is here will give me a hand. 

If you're worried about hosting Thanksgiving, plan it out ahead of time, cook or prepare as much as you can early, let others help by bringing something or by helping you cook, simplify as much as you can, and enjoy your day!

More on holiday meals:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Organizing Holiday Meals with Safety in Mind

Three Steps to Planning Dinner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Efficient Leaf Raking

This is the week the city is coming by to collect our leaves from the curb. If you live in a warmer climate where the leaves don't change, you're missing out!!

My husband and I have a few days off as foster parents, which has mixed blessings. We have a break, but unfortunately, we didn't manage to fit leaf raking into our schedule while our four foster daughters were at home, so the leaf raking falls to us!

Today and the rest of the week has a forecast of rain, so last night was our chance. My husband made quick work of it, even though we have a very large yard. He started on the outside edges of the yard and mowed in circles with the mower blowing toward the middle of the yard. Not only did he give the lawn its final cut for the year, but all the leaves were blown toward the middle of yard.

He and I then raked the leaves onto a tarp, folded it up burrito-style so the leaves wouldn't fall out, and dragged it to the curb. Thankfully, a hurricane-type wind had already blown most of the leaves away in our front yard, so all that was left was our back and side yards. 

Instead of breaking your back with hours of raking, try my husband's method of circling the leaves. So efficient!

More on getting organized for winter:

Using Your Snow Shovel Year Round - Another Gardening Tip

Getting Organized for Winter - Trees and Gutters

Getting Organized for Winter - Your Garage


Monday, November 15, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 7 - Christmas Card Tips

I got a little more Christmas shopping done over the weekend. I have all the stocking stuffers I'll put in our foster daughters' stockings during the month of December - one each day until Christmas. And I had a great time speaking on Decluttering at the Kent Free Library - great audience! Now on to our topic for today ...

Sending out Christmas cards can seem like an overwhelming and costly task. Here are some ways to make it more doable.

- Send out digital Christmas cards or letters to as many people as possible. I know this offends some, but at least your message gets out. I like sending and receiving letters - catching up with our friends. When I receive a Christmas card with only a signature, I know my friends are alive, but that's about all!

You can email your letters or you can use an email service. I use iContact to send out emails for my business, and it allows me to divide my contacts into different groups, one being my Christmas card list.

If you have a blog, you can post your Christmas letter on your blog, too. If you want to get fancy, you could make a video Christmas greeting and put the link on your social networks. 

- If you write a Christmas letter, make it no longer than one side of a page. It's cheaper to print and most people won't read more than that. It forces you to be economical with your words! 

- Use your TV time or traveling time (if you're the passenger!) to address Christmas cards. You're doubling your time while enjoying yourself, too!

- Get the family involved. Your family members can help fold, stuff, seal, and stamp your cards and letters.

- In January, update your snail mail Christmas card list as you sort through your Christmas cards. Then you're set when it comes time to send out your cards.

However you do Christmas cards, your friends and family will love to hear from you! 

More on reducing Christmas stress:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 4 - Organizing Your Cleaning and Decorating


Friday, November 12, 2010

Clutter and the Brain - Dr. Peter Whybrow

On Monday, November 8, NBC Nightly News ran a feature with Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and physician-in-chief of UCLA's Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Whybrow discussed how our accumulation of clutter begins in the brain and why simplifying energizes us. Interesting!

More on clutter and the brain:

How Sleep Helps Keep Your Brain Organized

Clutter in Your House or Office Means Clutter in Your Mind

The Psychology Behind Hoarding

Three Steps to Decluttering

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Organizing According to Your Right- or Left-Brain Dominance

The following is an excerpt from an article that Vali G. Heist, professional organizer, wrote for the Reading Eagle. It's about how being right-brained or left-brained affects how we organize.

Organizing for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Styles for Conquering Clutter, Mastering Time, and Reaching Your Goals"Knowing your brain dominance can be the key to understanding why organizing comes easy or is a challenge for you. How you approach organizing your home, your time and your life is determined by which side of your brain you favor. Organizing for the Creative Person by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping explains right-brain styles for conquering clutter in your home, and it can be a great reference tool for left-brain types as well.

If you are left-brain dominant, an organized home is essential; there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. If things get messy you don't get overwhelmed; you just break it down into smaller parts and clean it up because dealing in detail is not a problem for you. In fact, you enjoy the tasks associated with organizing because they make sense and you simply focus on one task at a time. Finally, you easily discard something that isn't being used and tend not to be emotional about your stuff.

Right-brain dominant people are creative, focus on the big-picture and actually have a need for clutter. If you are right-brain dominant, neatness is too sterile and causes you discomfort. You like to make little nests so you can surround yourself with stuff even though it may look messy to someone else. You tend to be emotional about your stuff, and you find it difficult to let go of your belongings. You usually know where everything is, but when you can't find your keys or bills get paid late, that's when you feel a need to change your surroundings.

Even though people use both sides of their brains simultaneously, they naturally depend on one hemisphere of their brains more than the other because they prefer to live, act, think, and organize a certain way. However, it is important to recognize the benefits of all of your brain's capabilities in order to become a balanced thinker. To find out which side of the brain you favor, take a quick assessment offered by The Art Institute of Vancouver.

Knowing which side of the brain you favor can open up a whole new world of possibilities of how to structure and organize your home and your life. That knowledge helps you to recognize what is comfortable for you and what is not when you organize your home or your time, and why some tasks are easy and others are a struggle. Finally, you can start to forgive yourself (and your loved ones!) because you understand why you do what you do.

Finally, if you are right-brain, organizing may not come naturally for you, but that doesn't mean it is impossible."

More on organizing according to personality:

How Personality Style Affects Organizing - Introversion/Extraversion

How Personality Style Affects Organizing - Sensing/Intuition

How Personality Style Affects Organizing - Thinking/Feeling

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

myHomework iPhone App Helps Students Get Organized

I found the following description of the myHomework iPhone app on Calling All Geeks, and I thought it might be useful to you and/or your kids. The grammar is a bit lacking, but you get the idea:

"Here is an awesome application for students for iPhone to keep your assignments, class schedules, tests, projects, homework and lot more organized. So now students can keep all their to-do lists handy.

The interface is user-friendly and have nice notebook like design and colorful too which is going to attract students for sure. There are lots of useful feature but the good part is that it is very easy to access these features.
MyHomeworkapp MyHomeWork iPhone App for Students to Get Organized
The application launch with very colorful design which includes sticky-notes and colorful tabs for homework in yellow, classes in green and info/preferences in blue. Late assignment will be marked in red, upcoming task in orange and upcoming task in blue which makes you classify your task properly.

You can also prioritize the tasks with different colors. You can also add the details like day, time, class title, teacher, due date, room etc. You can also share your schedules, course with your friends via emails.

MyHomework1 MyHomeWork iPhone App for Students to Get Organized 
This tool is for all the students or parents who want to keep track of their kid’s assignments, schedule and classes. The application is free to download and compatible with Mac, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later. So no more noting down your plans on paper, get techy with MyHomeWork App."

More on homework:

Getting Organized for School 2010: Homework

100 Free and Essential Web Tools for the College Bound

Getting Organized for School - Study Shows Flashcards Help Improve Memory


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Decluttering Seminar

Just a reminder to local friends - I'll be giving a seminar on decluttering on Saturday, November 13 from 3-4:30 pm at the Kent Free Library in Kent, OH. There is no need to pre-register. Hope to see you there!

More on decluttering:
Three Steps to Decluttering
Three Steps to Downsizing to a Smaller Residence

Getting a Jump on Christmas Cookies

Last night our foster daughters wanted to make chocolate chip cookie dough and eat it. I know it's not all that healthy, but hopefully they won't get sick. We didn't get to it last night, so we'll probably try it today. 

My deal with them: they can have the equivalent of three cookies each and we'll freeze the rest of the dough for Christmas cookies. And my Christmas baking will have begun! Here's a post from the past on Christmas cookies:

I've done Christmas cookies in various ways over the years. Sometimes I've made them as we've needed them or wanted them. But two of my favorite ways to get a jump start on cookies are:

1. My friend Pam and I came up with a great way to get a jump on Christmas cookies. We originally set aside a day in December to make Christmas cookies all day, split them and stock our freezers. But that was pretty exhausting.

2. Then one year, we couldn't find a date in December, and that changed our Christmas cookie baking from then on. We decided to get together in November and just make the dough, freeze it in small batches, and cook as needed. It's so easy to just thaw a small amount, form into cookies, and bake! All the work and mess is over with and you have fresh baked cookies in a jiffy when you need them.

Plus we got to spend the day together!
I miss it. Now that we live in Ohio and she lives in Maryland, it doesn't quite work! I need to mention that we did this when our children were in college or on their own. If making memories with your children is part of the equation, you may want to disregard our "mass production" mindset! :)

If you need to find a cookie recipe, my daughter Sara sent me a list (Cookies, Cookies, Cookies) of every possible cookie recipe known to man.

More on cookies:
How Coffee Filters Can Help You Declutter Holiday Baking
Making it a Priority to Create Memories

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

We had a fun time with our mystery night on Friday night! A lot of laughter! If you haven't tried a unique dinner, give it a shot! On to our post today ...

I'm not exactly sure how Thanksgiving or Christmas is going to look for us this year. We are supposed to be here and host those holidays for our foster girls, but each of our four girls has family they might visit. One of our daughters is coming for Thanksgiving and both will be here for Christmas. So it will be interesting to see what mix we end up with. 

Here are some thoughts about holiday meals:

- Determine which special holiday meals you’ll be preparing. Will you be hosting any parties?

- Decide what you will serve for each special meal or party. Make a list for each event. Make sure to have a balance of protein, starch, something green and something red/orange/yellow. Try to avoid a lot of last-minute or time-consuming recipes. (By the way, keep your list in front of you until after your meal. Have you every looked in the fridge after a meal and realize you forgot to serve something!?! I have! LOL!)

- Do you have enough dinnerware, glasses, silverware, linens, and serving pieces?

- Are there some items you could prepare in advance - breads, desserts, cornbread for cornbread stuffing, etc.? Plan when you will cook some of these recipes and write it on your schedule, so you can space them out and avoid last-minute stress.

- If you are having guests, take them up on their offers to bring something!

- For each week during the holidays, plan your menus and make a shopping list. Try to go shopping only once a week to save those time-costly trips back to the grocery store. During such a busy time, try to piggy-back from one meal to another. Cook a roast, and use the leftovers for beef stroganoff, for example. Plan simple regular meals during the holiday season to reduce your stress level.

- Have some easy-to-prepare foods on hand if you have a disaster day: frozen ravioli, ingredients for wraps, and frozen chicken tenderloins, for example.

- Have some ideas in mind for using leftover turkey: chow mein, stir fry, pasta salads, etc. Use leftover ham in soups or pasta salads. Freeze extra turkey or ham in meal-size portions for a time when you are not weary of these meats.

Even though it takes time to plan your holiday meals and your regular meals, you’ll save yourself time and stress by organizing your menus. You won’t be making last-minute trips to the grocery store, you won’t forget ingredients, and you’ll have what you need.

You’ll be able to welcome your guests or have a special meal for your family without stressing! What a refreshing way to celebrate!

What are your favorite holiday recipes?

Leftover ideas:

Dinner in 10 - Chicken with Cranberry/Mandarin Sauce
Getting the Maximum Mileage out of Your Veggies
Cook It Once, Serve It Twice
Three Steps to Planning Dinner 
Hassle Free Dinners

Friday, November 5, 2010

Planning Your Weekend

Each Friday I look on Ohio.com for entertainment ideas. It lists what's going on in the area - both free and otherwise. I then make four lists of options I think are worth doing  - one for each girl. The girls vote, then I tally the results and plan the weekend.

On the list I include things to do out, things to do at home, exercise, crafts, games, etc. Since we're getting close to Christmas, I'm including some things they can make for their friends and family - jewelry, food, lip balm, pillows, etc.

I keep a list on my computer of places to go around here, crafts to do, exercise options, etc., so when I'm brain dead I can refer to the list and come up with some ideas.  

In addition, I came across 100 Things To Do During a Money Free Weekend over at Simple Dollar - another source of creative ideas. 

Scour your area for resources that list local activities and events. If I hadn't looked on Ohio.com, we would have missed the Duct Tape Parade and Festival where all the floats were made with duct tape - so fun and creative!! Or we wouldn't know that Akron Art Museum offers free admission each first Sunday of the month - a request from one of our girls this weekend.

Tonight I think we're going to have a Mystery Night - a unique dinner topped off with an episode of the new Sherlock Holmes series on PBS that we recorded. 

More creative ideas:

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Indoor Decathlon

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Water Spoons

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Treasure Hunt Dinner

Three Steps to Planning Your Child's Parties

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Help for Moms with ADD

I found the following review this morning on Strollerderby.

The review is written by a mom with ADD about a book written by a mom with ADD. Katherine Ellison spent a year researching and writing after being diagnosed with ADD at the same time her son was diagnosed with it. The result - Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention
"Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Ellison has trouble paying attention. She’s impulsive, hot-tempered and disorganized. She’s also brilliant, creative and often inspired.

So when her son was diagnosed with ADD, she looked into the diagnoses for herself. Yes, her psychiatrist said, that would be you.

Knowing she and her son both had ADD was only half the battle: Katherine still struggled with what to do about it. So she did what she knows best: she wrote about it. She spent a year paying attention to attention: in herself, in her son, in their relationship.

She researched treatments, from medications to meditation. She took notes. She bared her own soul about what it was like to live with this disorder – and to parent through it.

The result is Buzz, a recently published memoir about her year of paying attention.

I’m the kind of mom who gets up from a game to fetch her child a glass of water and forgets, by the time she’s arrived in the kitchen, why she’s there. I’ll start unloading the dishwasher or making a snack and ten minutes later an exasperated kid yells, “Mommy! Can I have my water yet?”

So when I had a chance to review Buzz, I pretty much had to leap at it.

Given my own challenges with attention, it’s maybe not shocking that I haven’t read this book cover to cover yet. Not only does Ellison have a lot to say on the subject, but she’s nailed the emotional challenges of being an ADD mom perfectly.

The rattling monologue; the sudden lapse in attention; the hot temper you struggle to control; the dizzy feeling when you get overstimulated and the whole world spins for a few minutes.

The book is a rich blend of memoir and research, detailing everything from the history of impulsive behavior to experimental modern treatments. Not that I skipped to the back and read the appendices when my mind wandered in the middle of chapter three or anything.

Katherine’s insightful, personal writing offers two things I’ve been yearning for as an ADHD mom: that huge sense of relief that comes from knowing I’m not alone, and a treasure trove of solidly researched information and advice on how to handle parenting with my brain chemistry. This book is a gift to parents with ADD. I suspect I’ll be handing copies of it out like candy at Christmastime."

More on ADD:

Help for Parents of Disorganized, Inattentive and Forgetful Kids

Organizing the ADD Household

ADHD Organization - Time and Energy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Organizing Your Travel Data

I don't travel a lot, but when I do, I usually save my travel itinerary emails in a folder called "itineraries." However, I may change my ways. I just discovered Tripit

Instead of having to search through emails looking for confirmations for airline, hotel and car rentals, Tripit stores your details in one place - confirmation numbers, flight times, hotel addresses. All you do is forward your confirmation email to Tripit. 

This free service also includes apps so you can have your itinerary at your fingertips - on your phone, calendar, etc. And you can easily inform your friends, family and coworkers of your travel plans.

If you upgrade to Tripit Pro for $49 a year, you get extra features such as alerts for flight delays, cancellations, or gate changes. You can send travel status updates to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles so others can stay in touch. In addition, there are several other perks available to you with the upgrade. 

Whether you travel a lot or a little, this service can keep your travel details organized and available, reducing your stress!

More on travel:

Peace-of-Mind Vacation Check List - What to Do Before You Leave

Lists for Repeated Activities

Redeeming Your Travel Time

Three Steps to Time Management for the Office


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just Because You've Decluttered Doesn't Mean It's Going to Stay That Way

Happy election day! After voting, I'm going to take our four foster daughters shopping for their monthly clothing allowance since they are out of school. Instant insanity!?! Hopefully it will be a fun time together. :) On to our post for today ...

Decluttering is a huge job well done! But unless you have a system in place to maintain your clutter-free area, it will soon be piled up with clutter again. Here are a few suggestions:

First of all, make sure everything has a place. Not having a place for everything is the easiest way to accumulate clutter.

Next, make a deal with yourself not to drop things when you come in the door. Even though you're tired, take the extra five minutes to put things away. 

Third, don't procrastinate: putting away laundry, emptying and/or filling the dishwasher, sorting the mail, etc. These jobs left undone create clutter in a hurry.

Fourth, make a sweep through the house before you go to bed. Mornings are so much more pleasant when they start clutter-free!

Next, ask others in your family to adopt the previous habits.

And finally, evaluate. Even with the previous steps in place, are there areas that are still tripping you up? Figure out what the problem is and come up with a solution. 

More on clutter:

The #1 Cure for Accumulating Clutter

Starting Small with Clutter

How to Avoid a Clutter Explosion When You Walk in the Door

Three Steps to Decluttering

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar

I officially started my Christmas shopping yesterday on Halloween by picking up a few stocking stuffers. Starting December 1, I put a little wrapped gift in our foster daughters' stockings each day until Christmas. Kind of an Advent thing. We did it with our own daughters and have continued it. They love this tradition! :) On to our post on scheduling ...

Have you ever found yourself flitting about from one holiday event to another, just because your were invited, or it seemed like a nice thing to do? Unless you plan out your holiday calendar, you may find yourself tossed about by everyone else’s agendas, priorities and events. By determining what is important to you and your family, you will be able to make sure your family's high-priority events get top-billing on your schedule.

Sit down as a family and talk about what each individual wants to have included in the holiday schedule – decorating, special outside events, baking, making gifts, reading stories, watching movies together, shopping, sending Christmas cards, hosting a party – whatever says celebration to each one.

At the same time, discuss all the holiday events from school, sports teams, church, work, friends and family. Which ones do your family members want to attend? Prioritize them, if necessary.

Take your list and schedule in those activities your family wants to include in their holiday celebration. Evaluate: Are your scheduled events going to allow everyone to get enough sleep and rest? If not, rethink things.

Create margins and boundaries. Know your own limitations as well as those of your family members. Make sure to schedule in some “breather dates” into your calendar so you don’t over-schedule. If someone invites you to do something else, you can honestly say you have something already scheduled – it’s true! Even if it's staying home and watching Christmas movies in your PJs with the fam!

Making a plan and writing it on your calendar reduces stress – it’s on paper for you and the family to see and anticipate. In addition, you are being intentional about how you are spending your holiday season and doing those things that are important and meaningful to you and your family. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

What do you like to include in your Christmas calendar?

More on reducing Christmas stress:
Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 1 - Expectations
Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends
Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 3 - Smart Gift Giving