Monday, April 29, 2013

Turning lemons into lemon aids...

I am such a huge fan of organic cleaning.  I like to know the cleaner I use to detox my home doesn't intoxicate my children or my husband - not to mention my dog:)

Coffe is my drink of choice today.  What?  You were expecting lemonade? 

I buy a lot of all natural cleaners.  I love Shaklee brands of cleaners.  I don't think Basic h2 can be beat for everyday cleaning. I love it!  

But sometimes, I admit, I miss that fresh lemon scent of those toxic store-bought cleaners.  Lemon is so refreshing - especially in the spring.

What makes lemon such a powerful cleaner?  The high acid content allows the fruit to work as a powerful antibacterial sanitizer that combats household bacteria.  Amazing, huh?

Because lemons are highly acidic the juice can cut through and loosen mineral deposits on cookware, sink faucets, and drains.  To give it more oomph, dip a cut lemon in salt to work as an abrasive cleanser.

Instead of scrubbing shower tiles, doors and fixtures with abrasive, toxic lemon scented cleaners, juice a few lemons and pour contents in a spray bottle.  The citric acid will break down hard water deposits and soap scum.  The antibacterial properties will sanitize the space.  Be sure to wipe down with cool, fresh water.

Looking for an easy all purpose lemon-scented cleaner?  Try this recipe:

1 lemon peel (make lemonade with the naked lemon)
1 mason jar
1 cup white vinegar

Peel one lemon, fill mason jar, fill jar with one cup of vinegar.  Shake, rattle and roll.  Let set for about a week or so, shaking every day, or when you think about it.  When it's more citrusy than stinky, it's ready.  

When you're ready to clean windows, bathrooms, toilets, floors, or laundry, your white vinegar solution will have a fresh lemon oil scent!  Just mix one part of lemon vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle and you're ready to go.

Next time you have a fresh lemon in the fridge and a bottle of white vinegar in the pantry, give it a try.  

Don't forget to let me know how you like it!

Only By His Grace,


Friday, April 26, 2013

You already have the know-how...

Do you ever find yourself envying those moms who have their meals planned out for the month, keep corresponding grocery lists, and know dinner is in the crock pot on the very busiest night of the week?

Tonight I'm drinking pure, clear, cold water.  It does a body good!

There used to be a show on The Food Network by Robin Miller called Quick Fix meals.  Robin is a nutritionist, food editor, cook book author and she inspired me.  Robin is a pro at taking three meal menus and turning them into a full week of meals.  Her tagline for the show was "Life is crazy, dinner doesn't have to be."  

Robin would take one meal, prep it on the weekend and turn it into two more meals throughout the week.  For instance:

Night one:  Roasted chicken, cilantro rice, black beans and corn muffins

Night two:  Take 1 cup of the left over chicken and 1 cup of the leftover rice, add in some tomatoes and cheese and a tortilla and you have chicken tacos. (using two of the ingredients she prepped from the first dinner.)

Night three: Take left over roast chicken, left over tomatoes and cheese, add in a pizza crust, some sliced onions, a little bbq sauce and a few jalepenos and you have a bbq chicken pizza.

Three easy weeknight meals spun from one major meal.  
I still incorporate the lessons I learned from watching her show in my busy crazy mixed up life.  In fact, she taught me that a slow cooker or crock pot meal is not confined to cool weather seasons.  I now use my slow cooker at least twice a week.

Sound like a lot of trouble?  Think you don't have time to plan and prepare all those meals?  You already have the information!  You already have the plan.  You've already done the work.

How? Here's how:  Start keeping your grocery lists for a month.  Compile them in a file or folder or drawer.  Keep a calendar for a month or two and write down what you made for dinner each night.  Keep track of what you're already doing!  

After a month is over, look for common themes.  How many different meals did you make with chicken?  How many meals called for fresh diced tomatoes? How many times did you use beef tips, or roast?  How many recipes called for diced carrots?

Once you find common themes, you can begin to save time and energy by planning ahead.  Combine meals in weeks where you can use the same item more than once.  If you are using diced carrots for two meals, chop them all at once, save them in separate containers. If you're making a roast on Sunday, plan to make vegetable beef soup or beef stew on Wednesday to use those left overs.  

One more tip, when you make soup, stew, chili, or spaghetti sauce, make a double batch and freeze half.  It's ready when you are, and it's a quick fix when you're running a few minutes behind schedule!

It's hard to complain about left overs when they come dressed in a pretty new bonnet!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Maximum Efficiency...

It occurs to me how much time I spend in my kitchen.  I'm not sure it's always been this way, but rather a more recent trend.  By recent I mean in the last five or six years. 

Today I'm having ice water, again.  I'm trying to hydrate my body for maximum efficiency. Which brings me back to kitchen efficiency.

Our first apartment had a large kitchen, an eat in kitchen as it were.  Rather large in that it had a dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, double farm sink and the eat in area was large enough to house a table and 6 chairs.  I was 19 years old and didn't spend a lot of time in my kitchen, neither cooking, nor cleaning it.

Our first house had a small galley kitchen.  You literally couldn't walk through if the dishwasher door was open.  I didn't spend a lot of time in it, either.  It was a hallway between our dining area and the laundry room, but more than that, I did minimal cooking, and a small amount of cleaning.

Our second house had a larger kitchen.  I had one child, aged four and another on the way.  I spent more time in the kitchen, both cleaning and cooking.  I loved my kitchen.  It was decorated in a coffee house theme and I loved the feeling I had in that room.

Present day - our third house.  It has a rather large kitchen (by my standards) and it opens to the breakfast area and more importantly into the great room.  I can be in the kitchen but still feel like I'm with my family.

However, if my kitchen didn't work efficiently, I couldn't be efficient working there.  Here are a few tips you might want to consider whether you're setting up your first kitchen or whether you've lived in your house for 20 years.

1 - Silverware.  I find it's most efficient to place your silverware in an upper drawer near the dishwasher or sink.  It's all about easy clean up and easy storage after a meal.  If you have to walk across the room to store your silverware, then... maybe it's not the most efficient placement.

2 - Everyday glassware and dinnerware.  Again, near the dishwasher is the most efficient placement for cleaning up.  I like to use the opposite side of the dishwasher.  For instance, if your dishwasher is to the left of your sink, place your dish ware in an upper cabinet to the right of your sink.  If your dishwasher is to the right of your sink, then placement could be to the left.   However, if your kitchen is not set up in the standard triangle, then dish ware might be more efficient near the stove for serving up meals efficiently.  Whichever placement you choose, think it through.  Which is more effective for your family.

3 - Open storage is a classy option if you have decorative dishes.  If you consider removing a cabinet door or two for the look of open shelving, remember that keeping this area tidy is key!  Also, think about contrasts in color.  If you dishes are all white, think of a dark color for the inside or back of the cabinet shelves.  If your dishware is a bright color, then a more subtle color or neutral would be a nice contrast. Either way, keep things simple and keep it neat.

4 - Decorative items can be displayed nicely above a refrigerator.  If you don't like the idea of displaying items directly on top of the appliance, try removing the cabinet doors above the refrigerator.  Add a wine rack, display cookbooks, or even decorative bowls.  This tends to be dead space or used for infrequently accessed items, so turn this wasted space into a focal point instead.

5- Pots and pans should be stored in the most logical place - beside the stove.  I like to stack my skillets and sauce pans like nesting bowls.  Lids are stored vertically in a display rack designed for plate display, and two stock pots are stored, with their lids and steamer inserts together, on a small shelf inside this cabinet.  

6 - Rubbermaid or Tupperware items are easily stored in a deep drawer if you have the space.  However, I also find it just as efficient to store them in a lower cabinet.  I keep my square dishes together, stacked, my round dishes together, stacked, and my rectangular dishes together stacked.  Lids are stored inside the rectangular dishes in the back of the cabinet.  All lids are stored upright on end inside one large container and I can find them when I need them according to the size and shape dish I'm using.  However, I love the idea of storing them all in a dish drainer under the sink, as well.

Whether you're moving, reorganizing or just cleaning out some old clutter, I find it's sometimes a great inspiration to buy a new utensil now and then.  Try a new spatula, whisk, or turner.  Having to put these new items in with the old is often enough motivation to clear out the whole drawer.

How is your kitchen organized?  Do you have what you need when you need it?  Is there room for improvement?

Only By His Grace,


Monday, April 22, 2013

Hand-washing secrets to clean dishes...

If you're old enough you remember washing dishes by hand. Long before the dish-washer became a household appliance parents relied on child-labor to get those dishes sparkly clean, women suffered from "dish-pan hands" and cleaning up after the evening meal was usually all the evening's entertainment you were going to get.

I'm having some hot organic cinnamon tea.  What are you sipping?

There are times when you have to rely on hand washing dishes; your mother's china, a stubborn pot or pan, crystal glassware... all these items benefit from a good hand-washing.

Here's how you can be sure you're doing the job efficiently and effectively.  Otherwise, it's just a waste of time - and who has time to waste these days?

1 - Line your sink with a rubber or plastic mat.  This will save your sink from dents and scratches, but will save your plates and glassware from breaks and chips.

2 - Use a dish drainer!  Your dishes will dry quickly and spot free in little time.  If you don't want to purchase the matching drainer, use a towel-lined cookie sheet.  It will contain all the water more efficiently than a mat and you can store it easily with your other bakeware.  

3 - Wash with hot water!  Hot water kills germs and will dry your dishes virtually spot free.  

4 - Soak starchy items with cool water.  Warm water makes starchy foods gummy - causing them to stick.  Items like dried on eggs can be easily removed by filling the pan with warm water and putting the pan back on the burner.  Move forward as if you were deglazing a pan.  All the eggs will scrape right off.

5 - Hand dry silverware and glasses.  Even if these items have been left to air dry in the dish drainer giving them a quick "dry" with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth will give them a little extra polish and shine!

6 - Use a good quality dish washing detergent.  My favorite is Shaklee Dish Wash Concentrate or Mrs. Meyer's.  Both all natural, both really good for your skin!

Next time you're bored or the kids need a good lesson in house-keeping, let them wash dishes the old fashioned way.  It's a good life-lesson for them and you'll have more time to check FaceBook , I mean balance your check book!

Only By His Grace,


Friday, April 19, 2013

Under the sofa cushions...

Most everyone knows I get a rush from cleaning my house.  Some say it's a sickness, but I can live with that :)

Today feels like an iced tea kind of day, but instead I'm chugging water; cool and refreshing.

I recently got an email in my inbox from Martha Stewart.  No, not a personal email, silly.  I signed up for her email newsletters.  Whether personal or mass marketed, the email was in reference to vacuuming upholstery.  Specifically, sofa cushions.  Whether or not you enjoy vacuuming your sofa, there has to be an easier way that this!

It occurred to me that this topic should be a no brainer.  But I guess not because the email went into specifics around the importance and how-to's of vacuuming your sofa -- and under it's cushions.

Now, granted, I like to vacuum my sofa as much as the next guy.  And yes, I see the reasons around it: removing dust mites, removing pet hair, removing stray goldfish crackers, etc, etc.  But I don't think it should rise to the standard of a weekly task.  I save weekly tasks for more important matters, like ironing my socks! (kidding!)  However, if you are so inclined, go for it!  

Let me introduce you to my handy-dandy Dyson vacuum!  I love my vacuum!  I love the roller-ball.  I love the maneuverability. I love the attachments.  I love the wind tunnel.  I really, truly love my vacuum and the work it does for me. If you're in the market for a new vacuum, I highly recommend a Dyson ball.  Check the sales, ask for gift cards if your birthday is coming.  You won't be disappointed.  (Disclaimer - this is not an advertisement.)

When it comes to upholstery, this is my best friend! I can run it along the upholstered upper cushions, sides, arms and back of my sofa and chairs.  It has a lint-brush like strip that grabs up all those bits and pieces that would otherwise go unnoticed. 

As far as procedure goes, first vacuum the top of the cushions, the back, the arms, and front and back.  

Next, lift those cushions and vacuum up any remaining 
bits that hide in the recesses beneath.  Word to the wise: take the money and run!

If you've been reading this blog for very long at all, you'll see that this post is a little tongue-in-cheek.  I'm not sure how important vacuuming those sofa cushions really is - although I do it about once or twice a year, generally during spring and fall cleaning.

I just thought it was funny to receive an entire email based on the specifics of vacuuming sofa cushions.  So funny, in fact, I wrote an entire blog post around it!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strawberries and Herbs...

Nothing says spring to me more than fresh fruits and veggies.  Given the wooded area behind our suburban home and the friendly neighborhood critters that abide therein, it is nigh near impossible to grown anything out back other than a healthy patch of crab grass and a fence row full of poison ivy.  

I'm enjoying a glass of cranberry juice today.  What are you sipping?

It is that time of year again when the hubs and I start to think about clearing the landscape, trimming the hedges and laying new mulch.  Last summer I painted our shutters and front door a lovely shade of glossy black.  Therefore, this year, we have decided against pine bark mulch, pine needle mulch or hardwood chips.  We've decided on black mulch!  I'm very excited.  It will look lovely when we eventually get to it :)

While we were at the home supply warehouse today, I decided to put a little action to some inspiration.  See, I've been reading about growing strawberries.  Seems strawberries do not have to be cultivated in raised rows neatly tilled and professionally plowed.  They do not require a seasoned farmer to tend them - although I might sport a farmer's tan before it's all over and done.

I am very much excited about our little strawberry and herb garden that I will plant on our back deck.  Here's what I picked up.  I'll keep you posted as I go along...

Two new cedar planter boxes; drainage included.

Six strawberry plants 

Two rosemary plants

And hopefully when it's all complete, we'll have strawberries and herbs enough
to last us through the summer.

Have you ever planted fruits or herbs in a planter box?  How did it go for you?  I'd love to know!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, April 15, 2013

The things I don't know about toothpaste...

Well, I must admit to you that I am always learning something new. Some of the things I learn are interesting, at best. Then there are things I learn that are truly spectacular.

I'm having a little water with lemon today.

One item we all purchase at the grocery is toothpaste. We might buy different brands, buy in bulk, be brand loyal... or not... but we all buy toothpaste.

Here are some of the fascinating things I've recently learned about toothpaste.

  1. Toothpaste will get crayons off walls.  Obviously you want a white toothpaste - not a red gel :)
  2. Toothpaste will clean fingernails.  If your nails tend to yellow from manicure products, a little whitening toothpaste scrub will brighten them back up.
  3. Toothpaste will polish jewelry.  A dab of toothpaste and a toothbrush can add the shine back to dull jewelry.  Don’t use on pearls - but diamonds will shine like new after a quick scrub a dub.
  4. Toothpaste will remove scratches from DVD’s and CD’s.  Put a little toothpaste on a soft clean towel and gently buff away the scratch.  You want to use a non-abrasive toothpaste, and not rub too hard, but it will remove surface scratches.
  5. Solid white (no added gel) whitening toothpaste will help remove perspiration stains from white shirts.  Just rub in a dime-sized amount, rub it in unit it's distributed evenly and nearly absorbed, then launder as usual.
  6. Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I love a project...

I love a good project.  In fact, I'll try anything once simply because I want to say, "I tried that once."

As I write this note to you I'm having a cranberry/orange juice mixer... yummo!  It's 1 part Cranberry Juice, 1 part orange juice and crushed ice.  Mmmmmm.

I have been hearing a lot of my friends talk about laundry detergent, as of late.  Home made laundry detergent to be more specific.

To be completely honest, I haven't been terribly interested because I assumed it would be ...
     ...too time consuming
     ...too expensive
     ...too wasteful
     ...a waste of my time
     ...completely absurd

Last week I was reading an article about what all goes into laundry detergent.  It's really not that complex a subject, let me tell you. That article reminded me of all my susie-homemaker friends who have been telling me about homemade laundry detergent.

So, I found the most common recipe, asked a couple friends their recipe and decided to give it a go.

Here's what I used:

1 glass canister.....$7.99
1 box 20 Mule Team Borax....$4.49
1 box Arm & Hammer Washing Soda....$2.89
1 bar Ivory soap....$.79    &    1 cheese grater.....$1.00

Here's what I did:
First, I grated a bar of Ivory bar soap into my glass canister. I chose Ivory because it's 99.9% pure and I know my family does not have any skin allergies to this product. I used the whole bar.  Information says this is what does the actual cleaning.

Second, I poured in 1 cup of Borax Detergent Booster.  I just poured it right on top of the grated Ivory soap.

Thirdly, I added 1 cup of Arm & Hammer washing soda.  I also chose this product for it's all natural qualities. I just poured it right on top of the other two ingredients.

Finally, I took my tiny spatula and stirred it all up. 

That's it.  That's the whole recipe; the whole process.
Now, because I purchased enough bar soap to make a quadruple batch, I grated the other three bars of Ivory soap and added in the Borax and Arm & Hammer, and again, I mixed.

Then the test of all tests.  The laundry.  Now, I know I'm a bad blogger, but I failed to take photos.  But let me share with you a few of my results.

First, I have a high efficiency washer, so I only have to use 1 TBS of this super duper homemade wonder.  My clothes came out so clean.  My son had spaghetti on his ecru shirt - his BRAND NEW shirt, I might add.  And all the stains came out - without pre-treating.

And bonus, of all bonuses, my clothes rinse clean...that means NO fabric softener is needed.  I just throw them right into the dryer and presto-chango, they're dry.  

The very last thing I love about all of this is the price.  You can see from my list above that the cost for the whole recipe is approximately $9.50 without the canister.  Now, I have enough of the washing soda and Borax to make a couple more recipes, but I ran out of soap.  But because I only use 1 TBS of this detergent I figured it's going to cost me $0.17 per load.  Can you believe that? $0.17 per load!!!! 

I'm sold on this project.  In fact, I would recommend you give it a try... see what you think... then drop me a line and tell me about your experience!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, April 8, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...

Do you recycle?  Have you ever considered all we throw away each week?  How much of it goes into the landfills and the dumps?  How much our cost of living goes up each time we have to repurchase that bottle of household cleaner simply because of packaging costs?  

Today I'm drinking ice water from my favorite BPA free glass.  24 oz of pure refreshment!

Two years ago we purchased new carpet for our home.  When I called the trash company for details on disposal, the friendly customer service lady pulled the classic upsell.  
She: "I see you aren't signed up for recycling."  
Me:  "No, ma'am.  I'm not."
She:  "We can provide you recycling containers and weekly pick up for $5.25 each month."
Me:  "Wait! What?  $5.25 a week?"
She:  "No ma'am.  $5.25 a month."

Now, inside my head I'm thinking... I don't have to sort my items and then haul them to the fire department each week? (sometimes twice a week.)

Me:  "Yes ma'am. Sign me up!" They even let me use my own containers!

Do you know what happened?  As I started paying closer and closer attention to the items I threw away, I realized how much of our weekly purchases can be recycled.  

We went from a HUGE trash container overflowing with garbage destined for the dump - to having 4 recycle bins full of recyclable materials.  We pull out the recycle bins each Monday.  Trash night is Wednesday.  Usually there is only 1 bag of trash in our container, now.

In fact, last week, we traded our Ginormous trash container with a neighbor's smaller container.  Still is WAY more than we need.  But it's a win-win.  They get the larger container to fill, and we get more space in our garage :)

In the words of the great Phil Robertson, 
"Happy. Happy. Happy!"

Only By His Grace,


Friday, April 5, 2013

What's next?

It's early and I awoke with an enormous list of to-dos running through my head.  

Speaking of my head, I'm so congested I dreamed that I ran all the way home from my office only to realize that I'd left my car...and turned around and ran all the way back.  A total of approximately 25 miles.  Oh, on the way I ran into a Cheetah. I tried to warn a passerby but was informed it was only a neighbor's expensive exotic pet.  Strange, huh?  But that's what head congestion gets you, I suppose.

This morning I'm drinking my delicious hot coffee...with French Vanilla Creamer.  The wonderfully restful sound of auto racing fills the room as my husband catches up on some DVR'd moments :) Ahhh.... bliss!

How do you react when you wake up with your to-do list in your waking thoughts?  Read the following excerpt and then I'll give you my own plan of attack!  

     We are addicted to next. When we read our inbox, we're always thinking 
     about the next mail. When we browse the web, we are calibrated to scan 
     quickly, skim often, and barely register what we see. It's neither good nor  
     bad. But it definitely is.

     A woman three days ago said, "I don't like Twitter. I can't keep up." I said, 
     "You don't have to keep up. It's a stream. Dip in. Say hi. Read what you want. 
     But we think we have to keep up. 

    I bet there are many domestic battles that come with smartphone use. You've 
    been "caught" looking at your phone before when it wasn't exactly 
    appropriate. Right? Was it important? No. It was a way to fill a void.
    Put the phone down. Close the lid. Do real work. Unplug.
    The inbox is the perfect delivery system of other people's priorities. Close it.
    Schedule times to read it. Make sure the boss and the significant other 
    (sometimes, these are the same person) have a way to reach you, and shut  
    out everything else. Until it's time to do otherwise.
    I've come to notice that when I keep my body moving regularly (even   
    including small 5 minute stretch and walkabout breaks every 20 or so 
    minutes), my thoughts and my focus are better. Why? Because sitting for 
    unmoving hours in front of your screen is not especially healthy, nor helpful 
    to your brainpower. If 20 minutes is too fast, try 40. But move. Much more 
    often. And stretch your eyes, too.
    The more you work from a plan, the more you will accomplish. Yes,   
    spontaneity is important. But if you haven't handled all your tasks, you have  
    no time to be spontaneous. And that's where your peace about your list sneaks   
    out and gets a sandwich while you're looking around for what you were 
    supposed to be doing next. More planning, more space in your world for a 
    better work-life harmony.
~Chris Brogan~

I realize that not every method for dealing with to do tasks works for every person.  Here's the method that works for me: I like to be very strategic, mindful if you will, about which items take precedent over another. Which items I can postpone, and which items I can delegate.  There are even times (although rare) when I determine a task to be ignorable.  

However, they all start in the same head.  Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming in to do tasks.  I'm sure you feel that way from time to time.

In fact, one fellow employee asked me last week to help him overhaul his to do list. Much like the excerpt above, he feels like he can't keep up, and is overrun with distractions.  

Even on days when I'm home from the office, I still feel this way.  There is SO MUCH TO DO!   This morning I woke up with my to-do list running amuck in my head.  It's own virtual Disney Land...

Here's my plan of attack:  Are you ready?  Grab a pencil and a notepad.  You'll need it.

1.  Dump everything in your head out onto paper!  Get it out of your head and on paper.  Then you can SEE your entire list and it ceases to fill up the crevices in your mind.

2.  Ask yourself three questions:  (1) Is this task time sensitive?  If yes, determine if it's a task that needs to be accomplished immediately or if it can be postponed to a later day.  (2) Is this task a priority for someone else? Meaning, is someone waiting for me to accomplish this before they can move on their task list?  (3) How long has this item been on my todo list?  What is keeping me from making a decision or moving on this task?  Really evaluate your answers!  

3.  Once you've analysed your task list, make a "To Do Today" list.  Prioritize your list and set your mind to accomplish the most important task.  Is it taxes?  Is it laundry?  Are you in need of new running shoes? Do you need to schedule a Dr. visit?  

This week I have family in town.  My sisters and I will be cleaning out some stuff from my dad's house.  Not only is this a time-sensitive task, but it's an emotionally charged task as well.  On top of that, our office is hosting a 4 day class - one for which I'm support person.  That means, instead of working my normal 3-day week, I have to be there all four days.  Oh, we also have friends in from out of town.  We want to spend time with them, as well.  Yes, and then we leave for a week of vacation.  When we return, my husband leaves for a business conference for a week. 

All the laundry must be done in time.  This is priority.  School projects still must be completed and documented.
School field trips must be attended - with correct uniforms, I must add.
Every day homework must be completed, checked and corrected.
Work must be accomplished. Groceries must be purchased. Relaxation must be attained.
Oh yes, and because I'm a little neurotic, my house has to be cleaned BEFORE we leave for vacation.  If it isn't in order, I feel unsettled the entire time we're gone.  

The more I think about it, the more I realize that our to-do list is a lot like head congestion!  The more we try to get rid of it, the more irritating it can become.  We can begin to feel as if we're spinning our wheels.  How do we get unstuck?  We get traction!  Throw a little gravel down and get moving?

What's your to-do-list gravel?  It's picking one thing... one thing that will get you motivated and moving and do it.  Give it 10 minutes.  Grab a highlighter and mark it off.  Once you get moving you'll gain momentum.  Give it your best effort.  You'll only get out what you put in!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

When a necessity becomes a pleasure...

Everyone knows by now that our refrigerator died about a month ago.  The timing was bad, to say the least.  My dad passed away on a Monday, family was in town, people were staying at our house, life was beyond hectic, I was well passed exhaustion, stress levels were high and the refrigerator died.

But sometimes blessings come in the least expected ways.

I'm sitting by the fire, having a wonderfully delicious cup of hot coffee... What are you drinking?

The Tuesday following dad's death was a warm day for early March in these parts.  It was near 50 degrees and sunny.  The kids had been outside playing on the trampoline.  I was sitting with my husband on the sofa enjoying a hot cup of chai tea latte.

We looked outside and it was snowing.  Not flurrying, not a few flakes, it was like a blizzard.  My husband said, "How is it snowing when it's almost 50 degrees?"  Before it was over, the deck was covered in snow, we had a thin layer of ice on the trees and it was COLD.

That night the refrigerator went out - in a big way!  It was dead, Jim!  It was nearly 11:00 p.m., Lovey hopped in the car and drove into the night for ice.  We filled the cooler and for the next week, we were able to keep all our groceries safe in a cooler on the deck outside the back door - sitting on a layer of snow and ice.  It was a freak snowstorm that came just at the right moment we needed it to!

The weekend came and we went out to purchase new appliances.

Here's what we chose:
A slate colored refrigerator with stainless steel accents.  Bottom freezer, French doors.  Man does this baby have LOTS of room.

This freezer is so large I plan to empty out my chest freezer in the basement and unplug it.  No need to run them both 1/2 full!

Even after a trip to the grocery this baby is only 1/2 full.  I have plenty of room for left overs now!  Yay!

My oven was also on the fritz - would go from 250 - 500 within a minute or two...there was no regulation to it...  you could put a pizza in for 30 minutes, still have it mostly frozen and within 2 minutes the smoke detectors would be blaring because it was burnt - NO KIDDING!

This oven matches the refrigerator.  It's slate colored, as well.  It has 5 burners and a rapid boil feature.  

I am happy to say my cooking has improved, the fam is eating well again and our left-overs are easily spotted and eaten in record time!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, April 1, 2013

A truly Happy Meal.

Sometimes I am surprised and amazed at the little things in life that bring so much joy. May I share a little story?  

I'm having peach flavored Propel zero.  What are you drinking?

Right after my dad passed away, my husband and I were on our way to the church where his memorial would be held.  We were meeting other family members, were running a few minutes behind, and still hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch - remember the refrigerator AND stove were on the fritz...  So we ran through McDonalds.  

I wasn't feeling very hungry - I hadn't been eating very much - had already lost 7 pounds in 3 days and my loving husband was worried.  So he ran through the drive through - I said, "I'll just have the chicken nugget happy meal. But get the toy for a boy and Austin can have it."

When he ordered, he specifically said he wanted a girl toy.  As we drove around I asked, "why did you get a girl toy?"  To which he replied, "It's a happy meal, I thought you could use a present."

A smile crept over my face at the sweetness and silliness of that thought.  How long had it been since a simple happy meal toy brought me joy?  And what a simple thing for it to bring me joy in the middle of such deep sorrow and loss.

But the amazing part hadn't even happened yet.  Everyone knows I love shoes!  I do!  I love shoes... ballet flats, stilettos, cowboy boots, suede moccasins... no matter.  I love shoes.

As I opened my happy meal, my toy was the best surprise of all.
The irony is, yes, it's a Barbie toy, but my first initial is B - and pink is one of my very favorite colors...

My husband and I laughed and laughed... I even shot a quick email to all my friends, "Lovey wanted me to feel better he bought me shoes!"

This little happy meal toy is hanging in my office, now.  It was the sweetest moment, the sweetest thought, and the sweetest think to happen to me on a day when my heart was broken...

Only By His Grace,


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