Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

From my family to yours, may you have a festive,
safe, and happy holiday season!

The Cluttered House is going on a little hiatus for the holidays, but I'll be back full-force in the new year.

And get ready, because in January, I'm starting a program for cleaning, decluttering and organizing The Cluttered House, one room at a time, and I really want you to join me on this adventure! (There will be link ups and printables and stuff-- just like a proper blog!).

In fact, there are going to be a LOT of big updates to The Cluttered House blog in 2013. They won't all occur right away, but we're in the process of overhauling the look, feel and focus of the blog, and I'm very excited for the plans we're making (and this "we" is Diesel and I, not the royal we).

But for now, I'm going to spend the next two weeks gorging on sugar, spending time with my family and revelling in the holiday spirit.

See you January 6th!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Broken Hearted

Yesterday morning was a morning just like any other in our house. I was puttering around in my kitchen, writing a grocery list for our trip later in the morning and pouring over the recipes for cookies and treats I planned to bake. The boys were in the living room watching Disney Jr. I ran out to the laundry room and retrieved some freshly dried blankets from our newly installed dryer and brought them into the living room. I asked the boys if they wanted to snug-snug with the nice warm blankets, to which they replied yes. I tucked the warm blankets around them and went back to my kitchen puttering.

A few minutes later, I peeped around the tree and had to snap a picture of them.

The image of my boys all snuggled together, safe and warm, was so sweet that I went to Facebook to share it. When I logged in, the first thing I saw was a friend's status that just read "Heartbreaking." Then I noticed numerous other statuses echoing this sentiment and quickly headed to a news website to see what was happening.

And it was unimaginably horrible.

It continues to be unimaginably horrible. Twenty 6 and 7 year olds, gone. 7 women, gone. In the blink of an eye, countless lives altered forever by the act of one person. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around the senselessness of this tragedy. And it is a tragedy.

I look at Little Man, just a little younger than the majority of the victims and I cannot imagine the depth of the grief the parents of the youngest victims feel. I do not want to imagine it.

Every little thing yesterday made me think of those parents. As I buckled Little Man into his car seat, I thought of how many of the victims likely still rode to school in car seats and how their parents didn't know that was the last time they'd ever buckle their child in.

I thought of all the frustrating mornings where it is a hassle and a headache just to get the kids out the door and how sometimes after dropping them at school/childcare, I think "phew! Finally a moment of peace without any whining and crying and back-talking." And I pray that none of the victims' parents had a morning like that yesterday.

I thought of how it was the middle of Hanukkah and about a week before Christmas. A time of year full of hope and magic and peace. All that is gone for these families.

Last night as I drifted off to sleep, with Little Man snuggled up to me (he usually sleeps in his own bed, but for some reason last night he crawled in with me), I thought of the moms and dads in Newtown who were likely in a fog, staring in disbelief at the empty beds that just that morning their bright-eyed first grader rolled out of. Just that morning, their baby was alive. They ate breakfast, puttered around the kitchen, talked about plans for the weekend, the normal stuff of a Friday morning. They dropped their babies off at school. A safe place.

I think that is what resonates most with all of us. An elementary school is supposed to be a safe place, and yet yesterday it was not. I don't know where we go from here. I don't know how we go from here, but I do know that God is with those families. In times like this, God is near. God is Love.

And I think of a verse that has always comforted me:

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18.

Because right now, we are a broken hearted nation. Right now, the families of Newtown, CT are crushed in spirit. But the Lord is with them. Lifting them, holding them, guiding them as the grieve. And I believe the Lord was there to meet those 27 souls as they departed the Earth.

I pray for the families in this tragedy and will continue to pray for peace in our world.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What We Tell Our Kids About Santa

This month, I am participating in the December Blog Dare over at Bloggy Moms. Today's topic is "What we tell (or don't tell) the kids about Santa"

Little Man was not impressed
Our kids are still pretty little, so we haven't had many in-depth conversations about Santa, but we do tell our kids about him and he does come and fill their stockings on Christmas Eve and leave presents under the tree.

I like that believing in Santa adds a little more magic to my children's holiday. I was a believer in Santa for a lot longer than my peers (seriously, I was almost 11 when I found out). I remember being sad because I felt like some of that magic of Christmas was gone. The following Christmas my mom bought me Chris Van Allsburg's book The Polar Express and the book really resonated with me. I still absolutely believe in the magic of Santa and the magic of Christmas.

That being said, our main focus at Christmas is not on Santa. Thanks to Veggie Tales, Little Man knows the backstory of St. Nicholas, so that has helped us frame the conversations with him. Basically, we emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus and we give presents as a way of remembering God's amazing gift to us through Jesus. Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, was a man who really loved the Lord and as a way of showing God's love, he gave gifts to people who needed them.  Because we love God, we celebrate His son's birth by giving gifts and sharing with others like St. Nicholas did.

For me, I feel like this approach strikes a good balance between our faith and the fantastic. I don't think Santa or presents should be the focus of the holiday, but I do believe that they are important pieces and that they can be used to further emphasize the true meaning of Christmas.

The Blog Dare on Bloggy Moms

Awesome Etsy Find

I just found these vintage inspired towels on Etsy and have decided I must have them!

photo credit
This is the perfect statement for The Cluttered Kitchen!

December Blog Dare

This month, I am participating in the December Blog Dare over at Bloggy Moms.

Of course, being me, I am a day late and a dollar short! The December Blog Dare started two days ago, and I didn't get a chance to get on the internet until today. Basically, the Blog Dare gives a prompt for every day of the month and the goal is to write a post every day. What I am going to do is try to write my responses to the prompts in a way that fits well with this blog's content, when I ccan. As this blog is about trying to be frugal, green, and simple, as well as trying to be a good parent, that is what you're going to get! :)

If you have a blog, I highly recommend checking out the blog dares over at Bloggy Moms. There are some great prompts on there for if you get stuck!!

Since I am behind, I'm gonna give you my Cliff's Notes version of the first two days!

Day 1: My holiday wish
I feel a bit like Steve Martin when I try to write on this topic. Or like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. So let me start by saying "World Peace."

But really, I want to get my house in order for once and for all. I wish to suddenly be the organized and together person that I have always imagined I can be.  I mean, I have a lot of far-fetched wishes (like hitting the lotto) and altruistic wishes (no more famine), but really if I could have one thing just for me, it would be an organized home that I am capable of keeping organized. I guess the best way for this to happen would be for me to have a brain transplant, but since I like the rest of my brain, I will have to pass! :)

Day 2: When snow begins to fall...
I know I'm not home or there is a freak storm. Because I live in Orange County, CA and we aren't known for our snowy climate!!

Okay. That is Day 1 & 2. I am going to post separately for Day 3!

The Blog Dare on Bloggy Moms

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vintage Joy!

Today, I am OVER THE MOON excited!

For years, I have been drooling over O'Keefe and Merritt stoves of the 1940s & 50s. In fact, I loved them so much that when we were house hunting, we went to what was clearly  a flop-house in a VERY seedy section of a nearby town and I actually contemplated putting in an offer solely because there was an O'Keefe and Merritt in the gutted kitchen.

When we bought our circa 1957 house, which will need a kitchen remodel, I started thinking about what I would want to do with the kitchen. Then I saw my neighbor's kitchen, in which she has a restored O'Keefe and Merritt, and an idea was born! A vintage inspired kitchen-- one that fits with the style of our 1950s house, but doesn't look dated.

Naturally, I took to Pinterest and began pinning O'Keefe & Merritt stoves in my Kitchen board. About a week ago, I pinned this late 40s O'Keefe & Merritt stove, under which I wrote "I dream of having one in our remodeled kitchen!"

A few hours later I received an e-mail from a friend from my hometown who said that she saw my pin and that her parents, who now live in Southern California, had the exact O'Keefe and Merritt stove sitting in their garage and did I want her to ask what they would sell the stove to me for. I said sure, thinking they would likely ask more than we could afford, but that it didn't hurt for her to ask.

She got back to me on the Friday after Thanksgiving and said her parents said I could HAVE it if we picked it up and hauled it away, but that her grandpa said he wanted $50 for it, because that is what he paid for it when he bought it secondhand from a neighbor in the 1950s.

FIFTY Dollars. This was a steal!!!! I ran it by Diesel and he acquiesced to going to get the stove on Saturday. Friday night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I was SO excited.

We picked it up last night and it is in GREAT condition. It is missing the clock & light, but was apparently missing those when my friend's grandparents purchased it. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to find one and have it restored.

The best part is the stove is in good shape and doesn't require massive restoration! (A full restoration of a vintage stove can run $1,500-4,000) We will have to have someone come out and check that everything is working safely, but then we can go ahead and use it NOW, rather than waiting for our someday renovation!

I'm absolutely in LOVE with it.

I know this post was outside of what I normally post about, but... I saved a ton of money and I bought something secondhand, so um... that is frugal and eco-friendly, right???

**edited to add photo**

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Adventures in Pie Making

Top: Lemon Meringue & Caramel Cream Pumpkin
Bottom: Caramel Apple-Cherry & Pecan
Apparently, the universe felt the need to take me down a peg after bragging about my mad pie making skillz.

This year, I planned to make three pies. My classic Lemon Meringue, which ALWAYS gets rave reviews, and two new pie recipes I found in Better Homes & Gardens. Right there, I should've just backed the truck up and said "Um, Cluttered Mama, Better Homes & Gardens? You are out of your league, homeskillet. Let's drop the lofty 'I can bake stuff I find in BHG' pipe dream and stick with what we know!" But OOOOOH no, I had to go and say "Hey, if Gesine Bullock-Prado, of Gesine, can make Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Apple-Cherry Pie, so can I!!!" Oh yes, I had delusions of granduer this year. I was not content to make plain, old pumpkin pie and my go-to Caramel Apple pie, no, I had to go and aim for the stars.

In a nutshell, I was a pie making Icarus and the BHG recipes were the sun...

(Oh and upon hearing my pie menu for the year, my father-in-law sadly noted there was no pecan pie in the list, so being a kind daughter-in-law, I decided to try my hand at that one too).

So this is where we begin on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. With me excitedly clutching three new recipes to try.

On Tuesday afternoon, during Duckie's nap, I whipped up a double batch of my Never-Fail pie crust, and Little Man and I made our first pecan pie. It went well, except I learned that the oven in this house heats warmer on one side, than the other-- there was literally a line down the middle of the pie and one side was decidedly darker than the other. Overall, however, the pie was a success.

Heady from that success, I launched into rolling out and baking the crust shells for the remaining three pies. With the kids up and about and needing to be fed, bathed, etc. this took the remainder of the day. When Diesel came home from work at 9:30 pm (and had NOT picked up the Morello cherries from Trader Joe's, like I asked), I had a crust in the oven and was about to start making the caramel for the caramel cream portion of the Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie. D & I started chatting and I neglected to keep an eye on my pie crust.

So, of course, I burned it.

And that was the last crust of the double batch.

And I was out of Crisco.

There may have been some choice words flowing at that point. But I said to myself "Cluttered Mama, it is no worry. You can just pop out first thing in the morning and pick up the Crisco when you go to get the cherries at Trader Joe's," and I set about making caramel.

Did I mention I have NEVER made caramel?

I was trying my best to make the caramel. I stired until the sugar was all dissolved into the water and then, using all the previous knowledge I had about cooking with sugar, I kept right on stirring for the 10 minutes the recipe said it would take for my sugar-water concotion to turn into caramel.

Fun fact: if you continue stirring caramel after the water dissolves, it does not turn to caramel, but suddenly crystalizes. (You are supposed to just tilt the pan from time to time, as I learned in a late night googling of "how to make caramel").

Commence more colorful language.

At this point in the swearfest, Diesel decided it was time to go to bed (11 pm). I reread the directions to see where I went wrong and/or if I hadn't gone wrong and that this was what was supposed to happen.

"Take the caramel from the heat and immediately pour in the half-and-half; the mixture will bubble vigorously but will calm down quickly. Return to low heat and stir until the caramel dissolves into the cream."

Dissolve, eh?  I thought "okay let's just add the half and half and see what happens..." It sorta fizzled and then dissolved. I thought maybe I could salvage it. I stirred until thick. Then I added it to the egg mixture in my mixer a little too quickly and got a gelatinous yellow, vaguely scrambled egg flavored goop.

I decided maybe it was time to go to bed.

Despite having gone to bed around midnight, I sprung out of bed at 5 am (after being wakened by a teething Duckie at 4:45) and headed to my kitchen. Cleaned up, threw out the gelatinous goo, peeled 2.5 lbs of apples and made a grocery list.

7:30 am the boys and I are out the door to go to Trader Joe's. At Trader Joe's we pick up cherries and half and half. Then we pop into another grocery store for more Crisco and head home.

I successfully make my caramel filling and put the pie in the oven to bake. Things are looking up!!! That is right, I'm a master baker! What else could go wrong?

I start to make the Caramel Apple-Cherry pie and when I picked up the bag of cranberries I had purchased a few days prior, I got a whiff of fermenting fruit. "Oh NERFHERDERS!!!!" I exclaimed (true story, I try to not ACTUALLY swear when the littles are around!). Immediately I launched into damage control. My internal monologue was this:

"Maybe if I just rinse them... yeah. I'll toss them in the colander, rinse them and pick out the one or two that are rotten. Yeah, yeah. Oh shit. I sent the other bag to Little Man's school for their cranberry relish. Oh my gosh. Were THOSE fermented? Did I send fermenty cranberries to my baby's school? Am I THAT mom? Oh what must his teacher think. No, wait, I would've noticed the smell when I put them in Little Man's bucket, right? I smelled these as soon as I picked them up. I'm sure they were fine. I'm sure. Oh crap. Over half of these stupid cranberries are rotten. Son of a biscuit..."

So I schlepped the boys out to the grocery to buy cranberries (and since it was lunch time, I got the boys some fried chicken-- or "stick meat" as Little Man calls it). Got back to the house, and made pies well into the evening.

On Thanksgiving day, wouldn't you know, the dang caramel cream part of the Caramel Cream pie was all squooshy and not firm like it was supposed to be.  Everyone who tried it thought it was overpoweringly sweet. The Caramel Apple-Cherry pie came out beautifully and got so-so reviews from everyone at Thanksgiving. Pecan pie also got thumbs up from those who tried it.

And wouldn't you know, my old stand-by, the Lemon Meringue got RAVE reviews.

Moral of the story?
Don't go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to... (yeah. I just quoted TLC.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Never-Fail Pie Crust Recipe

That's right, I have a sweet Harvest Gold mixer.
You know you're jealous.

Yesterday I bragged about my mad pie-making skillz (somehow it felt like I had to add a z to that, even though it goes against every fiber in my grammar loving body). Today, I am going to give you a recipe that makes me look like a wonder in the kitchen. It is my Mammah's (pronounced Ma'am-maw) Never-Fail Pie Crust recipe, and while I make no guarantees of its never-failness*, it has yet to fail me.

I love using this pie crust recipe because as I make it, I always think of my sweet, southern Mammah and the tiny kitchen in which she would whip up the most amazing and delicious baked treats I have EVER eaten. This recipe is about as far from unprocessed as you can get, but I will NEVER stop using it, because I love it so much!

Zelma's Never-Fail Pie Crust
(makes 3 pie crusts)
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 C Crisco (I recommend Butter Flavored Crisco)
6 Tb cold water
1 whole egg, beaten
1 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider)

Mix flour & salt, blend in Crisco. Add water, egg & vinegar. Mix until all ingredients are well blended (I usually end up using my hands to mix it). Dough may seem a little sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour.

A few tips from years of making this dough.
1) Use chilled Crisco. The colder the better.
2) Separate your dough into three balls, wrap loosely with wax paper and refrigerate for 30 min. before rolling (or if you are really pressed for time, 10-15 minutes in the freezer). Cool dough is less likely to stick to your rolling pin.
3) Roll on a cool, floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin.
4) Dough can be re-rolled if necessary
5) It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap in wax paper and then with plastic wrap. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours.


*I have a sister who claims this crust always fails her, but it seems like everyone else has good luck with it, so maybe she's just got bad pie crust juju

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

Allow me to begin with a disclaimer. I grappled with whether to post this. I am a big believer in giving and it is a major tenet of my spiritual beliefs. I cannot express how important I feel it is, but I also feel it is something that should be done quietly and without fanfare. Think Sandra Bullock quietly donating to $1 million the Red Cross following Katrina, vs. Celine Dion calling a press conference to announce that she was donating to those same victims. To me, it seems that if you have to announce what you have donated/are donating, you're doing it for the wrong reason.

That being said, I want to tell you about a new tradition I started with my family last year and there was no way to explain it without discussing our giving. So it is my hope that you will take today's post as me explaining what we do in the hopes that you will be inspired to do likewise and not because I want eleventy-three gold stars of approval!

Knowing that I am an undomestic goddess, I am sure you will be utterly shocked when I tell you that I have never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. Nor do I ever plan to. I do not know how to cook a turkey, I vaguely know how to make stuffing (there is bread and celery and...seasoning?) and do not know the first thing about candying a yam. I have no desire to learn to do any of these things. I'm not kidding. One year, when my mother asked me when I planned to learn to cook a turkey, I told her I didn't. My plan is this: until they are too old to cook turkeys, I plan to enjoy the labors of my mother and mother-in-law. Then, I have four sisters and one sister-in-law. I am pretty sure one of them will figure out the turkey thing... This is my end game.

(Lest you think I just mooch off the fam for the holidays, I will tell you this, I make pie like nobody's business. A weird talent, but there it is. SO, except for the Thanksgiving when I was pregnant with Duckie and everything made me throw up, so I didn't bake and instead got Costco pies, I always show up to Thanksgiving with at LEAST three pies. I call that square, but I digress).

Last year, I had an epiphany. I don't make Thanksgiving dinner, but do have the means to do so if I choose. Why not purchase the ingredients needed for a full Thanksgiving dinner and donate it to my church's Thanksgiving food basket program? And thus, a new tradition was born.

Because I think it is important for my boys to learn to give back at an early age, I have the boys help me in selecting food products to donate and I discuss with them why we are giving food away. Last year, Little Man was adamant that we buy canned peas. This year he helped me bag apples and pick out turkeys.

At any rate, if you are lucky, like me, and don't supply a whole Thanksgiving meal for your family & friends, consider donating a meal to your local food bank or food closet this year. If you are not in that position this year, keep it in mind for next year!

Some pics from our trip to the grocer's:
Picking just the right apple

We were told the food closet needed fresh fruit for baskets

"This turkey is very heavy!"

Turkey DOWN!!!!
I told Little Man he needed to put the turkey in the cart,
but he couldn't quite lift it into the basket

Problem solving like a champ!
I'm raising a snowflake genius, I tell you!
Very proud of his turkey!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Down for the Count

Hey there!
So it has been a tough week for the Cluttereds. Diesel had a rough 2 day bout of food poisoning, the boys have had colds, the baby is teething and up all night, and then I threw my back out while loading the kids into the car. Right now, I am laying on the couch, with a heating pad, all hopped up on muscle relaxers and pain pills (I don't usually take anything stronger than ibuprofen).

I don't trust my pain pill addled brain with posting anything with more depth than this post (largely because I just set my phone--on which I am posting this-- down and forgot I was in the middle of a post.

We'll be up and running soon (I hope!) I'll be back with some more good Cluttered House stuff!

Stay well, my friends!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Pinterest-y Kind of Weekend

Hey there!

Thanks to Pinterest, I've been getting all kinds of crafty & decorate-y this weekend. Why? Because I'm avoiding this:
My office. Yeeeeeah...

In honor of my creative avoidance of clutter and disorganization, I thought I'd share some of the spectacular Pinterest-y activities I've been up to this weekend!!

Project #1
Last week I was at Hobby Lobby (we just recently got one and now it is my new favorite place on the planet. Take that Switzerland.) and I saw this awesome dry erase perpetual calendar:

I loved it. It was just what I needed. But, as you can kinda see in the photo, it was $39.99. Erm... forty bucks for a framed piece of glass with a blank calendar on it? I don't think so. I figured that someone far craftier, designier, and organizier than I had probably already created something like this and then blogged about it.

I was right!

Ye olde Pinterest lead me to A Diamond in the Stuff (yeah, she has the cutely decorated house that I keep hoping will magically appear in my house), which then lead me to Sprik Space. I picked the calendar I liked, printed at Costco, hit the Hobby Lobby, and then Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt... I give you my perpetual calendar (which for the record would be much harder to make if I lived in Brazil):

$2.99 for the 11x14 print at Costco, $4.99 for the frame at Hobby Lobby (on sale for 50% off), round up for taxes, I have a perpetual calendar for $8.50. That is a lot better than $40 And frankly, mine is cuter.

In fact, I like this so much that I think I may make 2 more for in my soon to be neat & organized office so that I can have a rotating perpetual calendar of deadlines and whatnots in there.

Side note-- I use Vis a Vis overhead projector markers instead of dry erase, because I find they smudge less than dry erase and they have a much finer point. And I have like 2 billion of them because when I was teaching I acted as the staunch Luddite, clinging to my overheads & overhead projector as all of my colleagues moved to digital formats... I don't care what you say, still love the overhead projector.

 Project #2
My upstairs bathroom is boring. We have done nothing with it other than hanging a new towel rack. Whilst all the other rooms got lovely paint jobs, the upstairs bath remains Navajo white. Navajo white walls, beige towels and a white shower curtain. In other words, it is bland. I remembered I had pinned some free printables in my Pinterest "Bathroom" board, and SHAZAM! Thanks to Over the Big Moon (and Costco and Ikea), I now have cute bathroom art!

This project was a little more costly, as it is four 8x10 photos and frames from Ikea. Each 8x10 cost $1.49 and each frame cost $4.99, so about $7 each. $7 x4= $28, Luckily, though, I had a $25 gift card for Ikea, so this project only cost me about $6.50.  Similar art projects at Hobby Lobby cost about $40 each, so I'm thinking $28 instead of $120 isn't too shabby!

Project #3
This one isn't so much a direct link to Pinterest, but I feel like it was a super Pinterest-y solution to my problem.

We finally got around to hanging our coat racks, so we now have a proper place to hang our stuff (y'know, instead of piling all the jackets, purses, etc. on the newel post).  At the old house, we had the boys' hooks located directly underneath the bigger hooks, and while that worked for the space we had, I always felt it made the coat area look much more jumbled than I wanted. Ideally, I wanted to hang the two coat racks side by side, but then the kids wouldn't be able to reach the hooks and I would be stuck hanging all their crap up. No thank you.

Then I had an epiphany. If I we hung the "grown-ups" coat rack on the landing, we could put the "kids" coat rack right next to it and they could stand on the stairs and be able to reach the coat rack.

Now, I'm pretty sure I'm a genius.

Anyhoo... that is what I have been up to. Guess I should go tackle the boxes in the office... 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Diaper Bag Organization

My diaper bag is one of the banes of my existence. I have struggled for years to keep it together and I haven't ever found the "right" system. I wanted something that was cute, practical and inexpensive.  I have a really great hand-me-down Diaper Dude's diaper bag that I love because it has a lot of little pockets on the front and it is very sturdy, but like almost all diaper bags it has that gaping big pocket that is so tough to keep organized (and diaper bag organizers are pricey!).

I have tried a lot of approaches to keep it organized and to date, the best I could come up with was using 1 gallon zipper storage bags. They were easy to grab and kept everything contained. I had one zipper bag with diapers, wipes and the changing pad in them and one with stuff to occupy the kids. Effective, but ugly.

I was contemplating how to better organize my diaper bag when I remembered that when I bought sheets for Little Man's big boy bed (Circo brand from Target, just FYI), they came in these cute little pouches that matched the sheets.  At that moment I had one of those Oprah "Ah Ha!" moments. The pouches would be perfect for cute organization.
Sheet pouches
So I set about organizing the heck out of my diaper bag. I now have the two pouches in the main compartment (with room to spare should I need to bring along changes of clothes or something of that nature) and have cleaned up/reorganized the front pouches (here come a ton of photos):
Main pouch. Yeah I P-Touch labelled the hell out of them!
The diapering pouch has room for 5 diapers, changing pad, wipes
and lotion, with PLENTY of room to spare.
The occupying pouch has two books, toys, snacks
and my travelling coloring kit (crayons and a small pad of paper in
an old Huggies travel wipes box)
The rest of the diaper bag has a pouch for my wallet/phone, a pouch for my travel first aid kit, and miscellaneous stuff.

Mini-First Aid kit, Organic foaming hand sanitizer and a baby leash 

Fresh breath, spare change, tape measure. Yup, that about sums up my life right now!
So that reorganization cost me $0.00, which TOTALLY fits our budget!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Homemade Oil-free Granola

Here at the Cluttered House, we're trying to get away from eating a ton of processed food. This is not to say we NEVER eat processed food ('cuz the boys and I totally had Costco pizza for lunch today. Don't judge me, Judgy!), but we are trying to make a more conscious effort to eat better foods.

We're running low on Cheerios, and I'm trying to not buy any more cereal, so I decided to make granola because we needed some kind of a grab & go breakfast. I cracked open Food to Live By, which is a really great organic cookbook by one of the founders of Earthbound Farms, because I had used its granola recipe before.

As I read it, though, I realized I didn't have a lot of the ingredients, and I also didn't like the idea of putting a bunch of canola oil in my granola. Sorta seemed like a lot more fat than I'd like in my breakfast.

Since I am the world's foremost culinary wizard, I decided to wing it and see what happened if I only used the recipe as a guide and started throwing stuff I had into a bowl (this plan rarely works in my favor).

And the result was a delicious, crunchy, autumnal, oil-free granola. BOOYAH!

Then I thought, I should share this with my peeps! So here it is:

Cluttered Mama's Homemade Oil-Free Autumnal Granola
4 1/2 cups (organic) rolled oats
1 1/4 cups REAL maple syrup (don't use Aunt Jemima's or any of that other crap parading around as syrup. As a one time Vermonter, I highly recommend VT maple syrup, but will admit I used Canadian. I would imagine you could also use honey or agave too. Anything sweet and sticky)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tb cinnamon
1/2 Tb nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup wheat bran (stay regular, my friends)

Preheat Oven to 325. Dump everything in a bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened.

Spray a large, rimmed cookie sheet with oil (okay, so not 100% oil-free, but you could probably not spray it and be okay)-- I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper, but this isn't necessary. I just find it helps with the transfer of the granola to the storage container at the end.

Spread granola on the cookie sheet in one even layer. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes. At that point, use a spatula to turn the granola (be careful, I ended up spilling it when I did this).

Put granola back in the oven for 15-20 minutes more (but keep an eye on it, mine burned a little around the edges).

Take it out of the oven and let it cool, then transfer to an air-tight container... if you don't eat it all up before you get to this point.

Added bonus? The cinnamon and nutmeg make your house smell like cookies. Yum.

This post was featured on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop #52.

UPDATED 11/9/12:
Little Man has renamed this "Oatmeal Cookie Cereal" and quite enjoyed it this morning! This was after his second bowl:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How Pinterest Saved Halloween

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. (Well, more LOVE-hate). I love, love, love finding new recipes and being inspired by the many "easy" projects that I see on there. I hate that Pinterest has the ability to make women (and maybe men, but I only know the female perspective) feel like they aren't "enough." But that is a whole 'nother blog topic.

Today I am praising Pinterest in ALL her glory. You see, Pinterest saved the Cluttered Family's Halloween this year.

This year, Little Man has had a rotating list of things he wanted to dress up as for Halloween. He spent most of the spring and summer saying he wanted to be an owl, which seemed like it might be an easy costume for an undomestic goddess such as myself to make with scissors and a glue gun. Just as September rolled around and I was scouring Pinterest and filling my Halloween board with easy DIY owl costumes (here, here and here), Little Man suddenly changed his mind. Throughout the month of September he wanted to be:
  • A frog
  • Dashi from the Octonauts
  • Buzz Lightyear (score! We bought this costume for $1 at a garage sale this summer)
  • Woody (see above)
  • Jessie (double score, we have his costume from last year!)
  • A white princess
  • A shark
  • A T-Rex
About 2 weeks before Halloween, he etched in stone that his costume this year would be a T-Rex. So a week before Halloween (I am a consummate procrastinator) I schlepped Little Man to the local party store where they had the PERFECT green T-Rex costume. Little Man put on the headdress and was "so EECITED" about the costume. I was not relishing spending $25 on a costume, but I'm a sucker for happy kids, so I was gonna eat it on this one (In my head I was thinking, "You better like it kiddo, cuz that is coming out of the budget for your Christmas gifts... Ho Ho Ho!").

Then tragedy struck. The body of the costume didn't fit. The store only carried it in a 2-4T and my small-for-his-age 4 year old was too tall. There were no other sizes and there was nothing I could do. Giant, genuine, tears welled up in Little Man's eyes and in a small, disappointed voice he proclaimed "I don't want a different costume. I don't even WANT a Halloween!!!"

At that moment, I knew something had to be done. Like a woman possessed, I dropped to my knees in the middle of the party store, grabbed him by the shoulders and started babbling, "How 'bout Mommy makes you a T-Rex, buddy? It will be so AWESOME! It can have a TAIL and everything? How 'bout that? I'll sew it and you can help me pick out the fabrics and stuff, okay? That sound good? Would that make Halloween okay?"

[insert sound of record needle scratching to a halt on a record here]

Uh... Cluttered Mama, did you just promise to SEW a costume??? Uhm... You DO remember that you a) don't really know how to sew, b) don't own a sewing machine, and c) it is a week before Halloween, right?!?!

This is why I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.

BUT, luckily I have Pinterest and a good friend who was willing to lend me her sewing machine.  On Pinterest found a DIY dinosaur hoodie tutorial from Me Sew Crazy and a DIY dragon tail tutorial on Tatertots & Jello and I was off to the races!

After picking out a black fleece sweatsuit and two different shades of green felt, Little Man was "eecited" for his T-Rex costume again. Halloween was saved and I was class-A sewing hero! (Just, uhm... don't look at the seams...)
(sorry about the photo quality, my camera is wonky right now)

Double bonus? Little Man also has a new dino hoodie he can wear whenever he wants.

What about you? Any recent Pinterest finds that have saved you?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy: How Prepared for an Emergency Are You?

Superstom Sandy just blasted through the eastern seaboard with a vengeance. I am extraordinarily blessed that all of my family in New York and New Jersey  weathered the storm, minus electricity, but still intact and safe. I am also thankful for the numerous friends and family in the east who were bypassed by the worst of the storm and did not see the destruction that they saw following Hurricane Irene.

This storm made me realize something: my family and I are woefully ill-prepared for an emergency situation. We live in Southern California, where we don't have hurricanes or tornadoes or blizzards like other parts of the US. And we sort of rest on our weather laurels as a result, forgetting that there is always a chance that we will have "the big one." An earthquake could easily knock out power and water for days.

And we would be screwed.

For example, FEMA recommends a 3 day supply of water for each person in the household at the tune of 1 gallon a person. That is 12 gallons of water for my family (15 gallons if we include the dog). Right now, I have one 16 oz bottle of water in our entire house.  That is right folks, 16 ounces of water. Screwed.

Because of this realization,  I went looking for some sites to help us prepare our emergency supplies. One I particularly liked is on Org Junkie. It not only talks about what to have in your home, but in your car and for your pets. Very smart. 

I also liked this article from Parents Magazine's website, because it includes things like creating an emergency communication plan for your family and writing your kids a letter for in an emergency when they are at school (and if the author's letter to her child doesn't make you get a little choked up, I am now worried that you have no soul-- or no kids, but even then... ).

When I told Diesel about our need to prepare, he said "I've been watching Revolution. What we need is guns. Lots of guns." So, I guess there is that too... But, firearms aside, he is definitely on board with us getting our act together. Funny thing is, we have a lot of the "stuff" we need, but just not in one place. In some ways, it is just a matter of us being more organized.

So, my challenge for my family, and yours if you aren't already prepared, is that by December 31st we will have amassed enough food and water for us and the dog for 3 days, created an emergency plan, and have gathered up items such as clothing, blankets, flashlights and batteries, and put them all together in our garage.

My question for you today is, are you prepared? Or will you be joining me on this challenge? What would you add to your emergency supplies that isn't on either of these lists?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homemade Magic Shell

When I was in college, every now and then the people who ran our tiny little cafeteria would surprise us by putting a couple bottles of Magic Shell next to the sporadically working soft serve ice cream machine. Nothing works a few hundred undergrads into a feeding frenzy like a bottle of Magic Shell.(Seriously, we're talking about chairs being knocked over, people falling down, tearing of hair, rending of garments...)

Frankly, I LOVE Magic Shell. Magic Shell is DELICIOUS.

But Magic Shell is also expensive, costing more than $2 for a bottle of sauce. Also, there are a lot of mystery ingredients in Magic Shell and I'm trying to avoid consuming mystery ingredients. Boo on both accounts.

One day I was having a bowl of Diesel's famous homemade ice cream (yeah, he makes ice cream too, I totally scored by marrying him) and thought "this needs Magic Shell." Alas there was none to be found. So I started tinkering with ingredients until I found just the right combination. And then I thought my life was complete--until I realized I needed to figure out how to make peanut butter Magic Shell... THEN my life was complete.

So today I am going to share this little nugget of wisdom with you. And it is SO easy.

Get a small glass bowl. I like to use my little Pyrex prep dishes.

Add a handful of chocolate chips. Then add about 1/2 Tb of coconut oil and microwave for 20 seconds at a time. (Because it is hot here, I keep my coconut oil in the fridge during the summer/fall, so it is really hard and I have to just shave bits off. Hence my rough guesstimate of the amount of coconut oil in the Magic Shell)

Mix between each microwaving until you have a good melted chocolate consistency with no lumps (photo is after first 20 seconds).

It should be a nice melty consistency!

Then scoop/pour onto the ice cream and voila! In a matter of minutes you will have a nice hardened chocolate shell!

For peanut butter Magic Shell, substitute peanut butter for the coconut oil. Peanut butter Magic Shell is actually my favorite.

Now enjoy your complete life!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Urban Homestead: A Book Review

This past week I had a few minutes to myself and finally got to finish reading The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  I was really excited to read it because the authors live in Los Angeles, which is somewhat near to where I live. Oftentimes I read books on homesteading or gardening and they are either set in a rural location or in a city where public transportation is much easier to utilize, and the like, thus rendering the books inspirational, but not applicable. With Coyne and Knutzen practically my neighbors, I felt more of a "hey, maybe I can do this in Southern California" sense than with a lot of other books on the subject.

Overall, I quite enjoyed The Urban Homestead, largely because of the friendly and honest tone with which the authors approach their audience.They manage to strike a tone that very rarely wanders into the self-aggrandizing one that other notable homesteading authors use. I never felt preached to, or that if I didn't do EVERYTHING the way they did it, I was an abject failure and a blight on the planet.

To me, the tone is casual and friendly-- almost as though I was sitting down with some urban homesteading friends over coffee. My favorite part was in the chapter on transportation where Coyne speaks about her reluctance to convert to bicycling as her primary source of transportation out of fear of the drivers around her. I think that kind of honesty helps lend credibility to them. It isn't all going to be sunshine and roses and not everything is going to work for everyone.

One of the best parts of this book was that Coyne and Knutzen focused on making changes as you are able. It largely features achievable tasks and really emphasizes taking steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, rather than presenting it as if one day you can just wake up and *poof* you're an urban homesteader with chickens and goats in the backyard and a wheat field in the front. 

That being said, there were a couple of things that I did not like about this book.  I felt that while it is a great starter guide for what is required to become an urban homesteader, it lacked a lot of in-depth information. I realize that had The Urban Homestead covered everything in-depth, it could easily have become an 800 page tome, but a bit more information in some areas would be helpful. On that same note, however, I did like that they often included the links to where to find more information on many of the topics discussed.

The other issue I had with this book was that the chapter on transportation talks about biking, but never mentions how one might go about switching to bike as primary transportation in an urban/suburban area when you have children. Yes, yes, I know I can get a trailer, but a lot of the coverage on safety talks about single riders, not rider with trailer of precious cargo. Also, the logistics change when you are trying to get around with kids and no car. A little more information on that would've been nice.

Overall, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Urban Homestead if you are at all interested in becoming more self-sufficient. I think Coyne and Knutsen have done a nice job of outlining a fair amount of information for those who are just starting out (or even just starting to toy with the idea) on a journey to becoming an urban homesteader. I know I walked away from reading the book with a giant list of ideas for around the house (including a solar heater for the bedrooms!).

You can check out more about Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen and their homesteading/self-sufficiency projects over at Root Simple.

**This is a 100% unpaid and unsponsored review of this book, in case you were wondering. In fact, I don't even own the book, but instead I checked it out of the library, thus proving I am in no way, shape, or form, in cahoots with the authors (but this information does prove that I'm frugal and awesome for supporting the local library system). If I was in cahoots with the authors, I'd be all "woo hoo... I got a free book from the authors and it is awesome!" (though I'd still give it a fair assessment anyways, so it would be more like "woo hoo... I got a free book from the authors and it just so happens that this book is MOSTLY awesome!"<-- Please read that last part as though I was Billy Crystal as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride)**

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Clean Checklist, Part 2: The Verdict

Well hello there!

You've been waiting on pins and needles to hear the follow up to Do Quick Cleaning Checklists Really Work?, I'm sure.

So here I am, 7 days later with a verdict. My verdict is yes and no. Yes, they CAN work. And yes, if you do this faithfully every day of the week, it shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to do. 

But what happens when, as happened to me this week, one night you forget that you have Bible study at 7pm and you somehow missed that you had no oil or gallon zipper bags to make the chicken nuggets you PROMISED your son for dinner, and you have to wait for your spouse to bring the needed items home before you can cook and you are literally cooking until you have to run out the door and you don't get home until 9 pm, so you (and your spouse) just do a so-so job? Or you get utterly derailed by a borderline migraine one night and just say "screw it" and leave the cleaning for the next day, so you have TWICE the work to do so it takes twice as long. Or your kids keep interrupting you and it takes almost 30 minutes just to unload effing dishwasher (kitchen cleaning is supposed to take 15 minutes, tops).

In other words, life...

Then the quick cleaning checklist can be a drag because it takes much, MUCH longer than you anticipated to finish. And you feel just a bit frustrated with yourself for not keeping up with it and for not being able to get done "on time."

My other issue is with the quick clean checklist that it doesn't incorporate deeper cleaning, which, lets face it, has to happen on a regular basis. Floors have to be mopped. Toilets have to be scrubbed. Laundry-- which isn't even ON the list-- needs to get done. What then? You're still stuck doing these things on the weekends, when you are supposed to be enjoying all your free time.

All that being said, using my quick cleaning checklist really DOES help. I loved waking up to my "fake immaculate house" every day. On the nights when all went well, I loved that it took about 45 minutes to get to the "relaxing" part of the night, rather than HOURS of my precious weekend time, so I plan to keep using the quick clean checklist. I think once I have this list a little more perfected, I'm going to try to incorporate a deeper cleaning activity into each day, so that stuff also gets done.  I'll get back to you on that.

Questions? Comments? (and for those of you who asked me about seeing a clearer copy of my checklist, I am working on trying to figure out how to post a .pdf on here. As soon as I figure it out, I'll let you know. If you really want it, e-mail me and I'll send you a copy).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Office Organization

As many of us have discovered, sometimes the chaos of home trickles into our workplace and disrupts our ability to work effectively. Sometimes our inability to organize at home translates to an inability to organize at the office. And sometimes, that lack of organization at the office can become so overwhelming that we don't even know where to start to tackle it.
I once got so overwhelmed by the clutter and paper and files on my desk that I literally swept everything off my desk and onto the floor-- where I couldn't see it-- and there it sat for quite a while until one day I realized I was sick of pawing through a pile of paper on the floor every time I needed to find something, missing deadlines because I misplaced important paperwork, and having many of my colleagues react in horror at the avalanche-esque pile of desk flotsam and jetsam that was sprawled next to my desk.

I'm sure a lot of you have felt like that a time or two, like it would just be easier to sweep  everything off your desk and pretend like the piles of paper didn't exist at all.

Ignoring piles never works long term. Trust me, I'm an expert.
The other day I was helping a good, albeit organizationally challenged, friend get her workspace in order (see photo above). The following are the tips I gave her, and I hope that these tips will also help you to create a more tranquil and organized office/workspace (and since it is Friday, you can organize your desk today before you leave the office for the weekend and have a fresh start Monday morning).
1) Assess the papers and files that have on your desk and separate them into two (temporary) piles: one pile for items you need on a regular basis and one for items you use less frequently.
2) Assess the other objects you have on your desk. Look at each object and run them through the workplace version of "Is it useful? Is it beautiful?" Do you use those items in your day to day work? Do they contribute to your productivity? Do they make you happy? If the answer is no, you need to find somewhere else for them to go.
(Sidebar: If you have one of those sets of stacking trays, move it somewhere else unless you absolutely need it and use it effectively. Most people I know--myself included-- just shove papers in there willy-nilly. In my humble opinion, the stacky trays gotta go!! If you can't get rid of your stackable tray, perhaps move it to another location in your office where it isn't likely to become cluttered with papers).
3) Get your files straight! I highly recommend a vertical, tiered, file sorter (like this) for on top of your desk. If you have one, great, if you don't, find a place where you can easily access you files without piling them (perhaps a desk drawer). Now assess the files you have in that sorter. Do they work for you? Are they all files you need easy access to on a regular basis? Do any folders need to be renamed?
After that, create file folders for items you need regular access to and set the irregular access folders in your irregular access file. Create a "for tomorrow" folder (we'll come back to this a little later).  Well labelled and easy to access files are key to office organization.
Take a few minutes to do a quick assessment of your filing cabinet, file drawers and/or credenza. Run those files through the same test you ran on your desktop files (literally, not computerally). Are there files in a filing cabinet that you should have in your desk drawer? Ones on the desk that should be in the filing cabinet? Quickly take a moment to rearrange and situate your files so that you have the best access to whatever you may need when you need it.
4) Now go through your piles and file items you use regularly into their desktop files and your irregular access pile and file them away into your file cabinet.
Ahhh... look at how lovely and organized your office is. Isn't organizing your office fun and refreshing?!?!
But wait, there is more!!!
At this point you may be thinking "Okay, this is all well and good, Cluttered Mama, but how do I keep my desk organized?"
Here are two things that I implemented in my work day which helped me stay focused and keep my office neat and organized.
First, block out the first 10 or so minutes of your workday for you to sit quietly and assess what you need to do during the work day. Go over the list you made the day before (see below) and pull out any projects you need to work on that day.
It is also important to also use that first 10 minutes to take a deep breath, say a prayer (or whatever your spiritual/centering activity is) for focus and productivity, and to switch your brain into "work" mode. Oftentimes, we arrive at our workplace harried from the act of just getting there, so it helps to take a few quiet moments to get your head in the game and get focused on shifting into work/office mode. 
Now, on the flip side, it is equally important to block out the last 15 minutes of your day. If you are anything like me, you are probably working until the very last second of your day, then looking up at the clock, realizing the time  and hurriedly closing up shop and running out the door (late), leaving your mess behind.
The way I found to combat this was to actually put this time on my Outlook calendar with a reminder that would pop up at 15 til. If you don't use outlook, put it in your google calendar or your phone or some other device that you can set to remind you that you need to start shutting down for the day. No matter what you are doing (unless it is like brain surgery or something of that nature), you need to stop what you are doing and use the last 15 minutes as such: 
5-7 minutes cleaning off your desk. That means putting away all the papers that are on your desk. Put projects that you need to work on the next day in your "for tomorrow" file. File all papers into their appropriate locations. Recycle or trash materials you no longer need.

5-7 minutes making a short to do list for the next workday. I love making lists; however, sometimes my lists would get away from me and I'd end up with an overwhelming to do list the length of a legal pad. So I started using the Pocket Docket printable from Simple Mom. I liked it because it gave me only so much space in which to write my list, it provided a space for meetings and appointments, and it allowed me a place to highlight my MITs (most important tasks). When you make your list, whether you use the Pocket Docket or not, highlight 2-3 MITs for the next day.

Now you are done and ready to go home and relax, knowing that you will be returning to an organized office in the morning. As long as you stick to this, even the messiest and most disorganized person (me) can have a neat and organized office!

Did I miss anything? What tips or tricks would you like to add?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fast, Easy, &...

I present you with a new series I'm calling "Fast, Easy &..." Tips. These tips will be little things you can easily do with little to no extra effort, but will save you time, money and/or frustration. The ellipse will be filled in with whatever adjective best fits.

Today is "Fast, Easy & Frugal"-- and by easy, I mean head-slappingly "holy crap! I should've thought of it ages ago" easy.

My boys LOVE mac & cheese. LOOOOVE it. I have yet to find a recipe for homemade, without Velveeta, mac & cheese that doesn't turn out gritty and "off" tasting, so until I do, boxed mac & cheese it is.

Don't judge me, Judgy. It is Annie's Organic Deluxe Mac & Cheese. The organic deluxe part proves I'm a mom who cares. It is ORGANIC. It is DELUXE. It shows I only want the best for my bambinos. (Don't you dare tell me "organic crap is still crap!" I will not have it!).

I digress.

The deluxe style mac & cheese comes with that sauce pouch, so you don't have to waste time mixing milk and butter into electric orange "cheese" powder, but the sauce to noodle ratio always seemed to be off. Too much cheese, too little mac. We have solved this problem, and made one pricey box of organic deluxe mac & cheese stretch by adding more plain noodles-- today it was an entire 10 oz box of whole grain animal shaped pasta. By adding more noodles, we get about twice the amount of mac & cheese per box, but don't sacrifice on taste. There is more than enough cheese coverage. And the added noodles mean the mac & cheese lasts for at least a week of little boy lunches.

And that, my friends, is my Fast, Easy & Frugal tip for the day. Enjoy!

This post is featured on The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do Quick Cleaning Checklists Work?

So I have a board on Pinterest called "Getting my S#!t Together." On this board, I collect ideas for how to better streamline my life. Specifically, I collect lists that promise me that by following them, in 30 min or less a day, I will have a sparkling clean house.

The one that I particularly liked was this one from Organizing Made Fun. I mean, how could I pass up something called "How to Have a Fake Immaculate House" ?!?! I also really liked this daily quick cleaning list from Real Simple, so I took the two, smashed them together and made my own little baby quick cleaning list.
Aww... a cute little baby list

According to my list, my nightly cleaning should only take me about 40 minutes. Tonight, after a few weeks off from using it, I decided to take my little quick cleaning checklist for a timed test drive.  Our house was a MESS. Not its normal state of kinda messy, but because cleaning had taken a backseat to other DIY projects over the weekend, it basically looked like we were living in a backpacker's hovel. For example, our kitchen looked like this:
I promise we don't live foul. That is just a few dishes sitting
on top of a giant bowl in the right-hand sink and the Crockpot
crock on the left. The stuff on the counter to the right of the sink
are clean dishes. I swear.
The rest of the house wasn't AS messy, but it rather looked like a bomb had gone off in it.

So how did my quick clean shake out?

Downstairs Bathroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 9 minutes, 35 seconds

Upstairs Bathroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 5 minutes, 8 seconds

Master Bedroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 5 minutes, 30 seconds

Living Room (including hall and stairs)
Projected: 10 minutes
Actual: 15 minutes, 27 seconds

Projected: 15 minutes
Actual: 58 minutes and 40 seconds

Grand Total
Projected: 40 minutes
Actual (rounded up): 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Holy crap! Who has time for that every day?!?!?! I put my kids to bed at 7:30... If I started cleaning right after they went to sleep, I wouldn't be done until 9pm! (true story). When would I get any of that down time that this quick cleaning process is supposed to provide me with?

My guess is that IF I were to keep this up on a daily basis, it actually WOULD take me 40 minutes or less. I say this because the rooms that weren't that messy (upstairs bathroom and master bedroom) took almost exactly the projected amount of time. I am okay with being done by a little after 8pm.

I am going to commit to trying this for a week and getting back to you, dear readers, to see if this "quick cleaning" is really as glorious as all the Pinterest people say it is. Is this the answer to keeping a house that you wouldn't be ashamed to have someone just drop in and see while providing you with ample down time?  Tune in next week when I tell you how it worked out!

Oh and my kitchen?