Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blogging for Books: Northern Lights Trilogy

As a part of the Blogging For Books program, I received a complementary Kindle version of the trilogy in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  There are affiliate links in this post.

The Northern Lights Trilogy by Lisa T Bergren

(beware this is a long synopsis)
Set in the late 1800's, this set of 3 Christian historical romance novels follow the lives of Norwegian immigrants as they live and learn in the land of opportunity.

The Captain's Bride - Newlyweds Elsa and Peder Ramstad set out from their small town in Norway to lead a group of fellow immigrants to new lives in Maine.  As a ship captain, Peder has plans to start his own shipyard in America along with his best friend and business partner, Karl.  However, Karl is secretly struggling with a love for his best friend's wife.  Along with them are Elsa's dear friend, Kaatje Jansen, her husband, Soren, who can't seem to keep his eyes or his affections on his own wife, and Elsa's sister Tora, a sneaky, conniving young women who manipulates people to get what she wants.

In an epic story that spans the length of the US and the depth of an ocean, Elsa and Peder learn what true fidelity and faith mean as they learn to live life together as a captain and a captain's wife.

Deep Harbor - Tora Anders is determined to get ahead in life, no matter how much she has to lie, cheat and steal to get there.  Armed with only her good looks and her charm, Tora seeks a job with entreprenuer, Trent Storm as a server in one of his restaurants.  Rising quickly in the ranks while falling in deep for her employer, Tora decides to take measures into her own hands, possibly sacrificing her career and her chance at love.

Elsa Ramstad has everything she has ever wanted - a loving husband, a beautiful family and a fulfilling life at sea.  Then tragedy strikes and she wonders if she will have the strength to go on.

Abandoned by her husband, Kaatje struggles to keep her farm afloat while trying to raise her two young daughters.  Kaatje must choose whether to accept the help of those around her or to try to do it all on her own.

The Norwegian immigrants journey farther west, to the rugged lands of the Montana and Washington Territories.  New heartaches and new help arrive as they each struggle to make their way.

Midnight Sun - Soren has been gone for 7 years and Kaatje is desperate to know if he is still alive.  Following his trail and led by guide, James Walker, Kaatje makes her way into the Interior of the wild lands of Alaska.  But will what she finds there ease her mind or leave her more confused?

Elsa has learned to live and to laugh again, but when on old friendship sparks into something more, will she have the strength to embrace it?

Tora has turned her heart over to God and has found the love of her life.  But before they can start their new life, she must finally find relief from the demons that have chased her.

In the conclusion of the Northern Light Trilogy, can Kaatje, Elsa and Tora finally find the peace and happiness that they have been searching for?

My Thoughts:

Whew!  I'm tired after writing about the plots above.  I know you must be worn out reading them.  Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed these books.  Overall they were wonderful stories.  The settings were creative and unique and the reader gets to follow the characters all over the globe.  The books flowed well together.  In fact, I had to go back and review where one book left off and another started because the three books read more like one big story.

The characters are multi-faceted.  They face real-life situations, like adultery, rape and babies born out of wedlock.  They deal with grief and homelessness.  They must make real-life choices on ethics in the workplace and whether or not to be a working parent.  I thought the author did a great job of not placating the reader and not coming up with a pat story that we had all read before.

(I feel that it's my job as a book reviewer to give you both the good and the bad in a story.  Just because I critique the book, doesn't mean that's it's not worth reading.  I am more interested in you, my reader, knowing everything there is to know about a book so you can make an informed decision on whether to read it or not.)

So, the downside to this book...it's a total soap opera.  Honestly, as I was reading it, I could see this as a show with episodes.  I could see where one episode would end with a cliffhanger and the viewer would think they knew what was going to happen.  But as soon as the show came back again, you find that the writers have taken it a different way.  It's frustrating at times to read because characters that you think will stay and become an important part of the story seem to just disappear (i.e. get written off the show).  And new characters are introduced all the time, some that play an important role and some that don't.

Probably because of that, I felt like these were very long books.  I read the Kindle version, so I didn't have page numbers, but it took me all month to read this trilogy.  I am a pretty fast reader and I felt like these were never-ending books.  (I looked it up on Amazon and the trilogy is 991 pages.)  You get to a point where you pretty much know how it's going to end.  It just takes a long while to get there.

Overall, I really liked these books.  They were entertaining and never dull.  The characters were well-rounded and develop as the story goes on, both in their personal lives and in their spiritual lives.  The story ends well, even if I was somewhat frustrated at times in getting to the ending.  If you enjoy historical fiction with a lot of romance, then these will be great reads for you.

I give these books 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Alternative Medicine: One Month Detox Diet

Dreamstime stock photo - source

Other posts in this series:
What is an alternative medicine doctor and what do they do?
What testing do you get when you choose alternative medicine?

After talking to the Osteopathic doctor, deciding to go forward with testing and getting way too much blood taken at the lab...

Finally, all my testing was done (at least all the testing they do there in the office).  Next on the agenda was talking to the Naturopathic doctor.  I really liked that doctor.  She was down to earth and she asked some great questions.  She asked about my eating habits, my sleeping habits, how much energy I had at different times during the day and how I felt at different times during the day.  She really delved deep into what a typical day was like for me.

I also learned a lot of things from her.  80% of your immune response, including your inflammatory response, comes from your gut, your digestive tract.  If there are problems in your gut, there will most likely be problems in other places in your body as well.  So for a holistic doctor, their first order of business is to get your gut in good working condition.

She also said that eating a food today could affect you 5-7 days later.  So you could eat a piece of cheese today and 5 days later have a headache.  That headache could have been caused in some way because you ate that cheese, but because the response is so delayed, you wouldn't necessarily associate those two things together.

You could also have a response to a food because you eat too much of it or you eat it too often.  For example, you could be just fine with eggs, but if you eat an egg every morning for breakfast, it could start to bother you just because you are eating it every day.

In light of all those things, they decided to put me on a very restricted diet for a month.  I am on a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, peanut-free diet.  This accomplishes two things.  First it cuts out the 4 foods that are the top allergic foods.  More people have food allergies to these 4 foods then to any other foods out there.  If my body has an allergy or an intolerance to these foods, then I am giving my gut a chance to relax and to get all of that out of its system.  Its kind of a detox for the digestive system.

Second, it gives me a baseline to go by.  Once the month goes by, I go back to the clinic and we get the results of all the tests.  Some of those tests might reveal food allergies that I didn't know I had.  But even if they don't, I can do some testing on my own.  I can add those 4 foods back in one by one and see if there is a change in the way I'm feeling.  If, after giving my gut a break for a month, I add a food back in and my gut goes crazy, then I know I'm intolerant to that food.

I'm sure the question you are wondering right now is, what in the world will I eat for a month?  That was my first question too, because I really don't like to be hungry.

My last stop of the day was to the dietitian.  She was great too - friendly, willing to answer questions and just full of knowledge.  She gave me lists of things not to eat and lists of things to substitute instead.  She also gave me ideas on where to find foods to eat.  On the list to eat is any kind of meat, vegetable or fruit.  Whew!  No fake meat for me :).

Dairy-free:  There are a few dairy alternatives out there, but they don't recommend patients replace dairy with soy products.  Instead of cow's milk, there is almond milk or coconut milk.  Instead of cow's milk cheese, there is a cheese-like alternative used for melting (a brand called Daiya) or there is cheese made from goat's milk, sheep's milk or buffalo's milk (I'd hate to be the person who had to milk a buffalo!).  My mom and I visited an Earth Fare grocery store earlier this milk and found some great tasting sheep's milk cheese.  It was crazy expensive...but it's good and for this cheese lover, it's making all my food taste, oh so much better!

Gluten-free:  Ah, there's the biggie.  Gluten is in almost everything - breads, bakery products, cereals, soups, sauces...the list goes on.  The dietitian recommended Kroger for gluten-free products.  They have a lot and they are all grouped together which is very helpful.  I found gluten-free pasta there and GF bread.  At Earth Fare, I got GF barbecue sauce and GF teriyaki sauce.  I was amazed that those things have gluten in them, but apparently wheat is a cheap filler.  Rice and potatoes are naturally GF, so I have been eating a lot of those as well.

Egg-free:  Gluten-free is hard but this is the one that really got me.  Gluten holds foods together and when you take out the gluten, you have to use something else to hold it together.  Guess what you use?  Yup, eggs.  So finding GF products that did not have eggs in them was tricky, but I did find one brand of bread that was GF and egg free.  And, surprisingly, I found one brand or frozen pizza that was GF, egg-free and dairy-free and it didn't taste too bad either.  "Vegan" is a key word to look for if you are eating egg-free and dairy-free.

Peanut-free:  No biggie.  I just can't eat peanuts or peanut butter.  I did buy sunflower seed butter to use on my GF bread or my corn cakes (turns out rice cakes are off the list - don't remember if they have gluten or eggs, but they are not on the diet).

My typical food for this month:

  • Breakfast - protein shake (tell you all about that later), piece of GF bread with real butter (that is on the diet, margarine is not)
  • Snack - GF pretzels, fruit
  • Lunch - salad with Vinaigrette salad dressing (ranch, etc, has eggs), a couple slices of lunch meat, a piece of fruit
  • Snack - corn chips and salsa or corn cake with sunflower seed butter
  • Dinner - meat with GF BBQ sauce or GF teriyaki sauce, veggie, and rice, potato or GF pasta
  • Snack - GF cereal or GF waffle
I'm happy to report I am not going hungry.  The first few days of the diet, I was very hungry, but now that I know more what I can eat, I'm doing good.

Stay tuned.  I'll tell you all about the dietary supplements they have "prescribed" for me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Gratitude Project

My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.

I'm a day late this week, but we all get grace, especially in April and May when things get crazy :).  When life does get so crazy, I like to be thankful for the mundane, everyday resources and services that we tend to take for granted.

(from Feb. 11)

  • I'm thankful for Walmart.  It's close and I can get pretty much anything I need there.
  • I'm thankful for our public library - for the free books, free books on CD and for the friendly staff.
  • I'm thankful for my bank.  The tellers recognize me and my kids, are very friendly and are always helpful.  They also supply free suckers to everyone who wants one (especially the under 5 foot crowd.)
What everyday places and services are you thankful for today?  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Testing

Dreamstime stock photo - source

I always thought that if I went to an alternative medicine practitioner, the testing they did on me would be something weird - like finding the amount of chi in my body or something.  I never thought they would be testing something normal, like hormones and food allergies.  But that's just what they did.

When I first got to the clinic in Atlanta, I went in to talk with the Osteopathic doctor.  He took a full medical history.  Now keep in mind those principles I told you about in the last post.  This doctor is looking at me holistically, meaning he looks at everything that is wrong with me, not just at abdominal pain.  So, literally, we talked about every medical condition I have had as well as all surgeries I've had and the current problems I am having.  He also did a brief exam, but he was focused more on the history than the exam.

After all that (about 45 minutes), he determined a whole bunch of tests that he wanted to run - thyroid function, adrenal function, food allergy panel, heavy metal screening, etc.  There were a lot.  In true doctor fashion, he said he had no clue how much any of that would cost me, he "just orders" them.

Then comes the fun part...they send in their financial advocate.  She tells me the whopping total for all those tests the doctor "just orders" - $11,000.  (Mouth drops open.)  Yeah, that was my response too.  But...after my insurance comes into play...and after the "special deal" they offer to their patients...the total came down to a much more reasonable amount.  Still a lot, but doable.  Because, believe me, $11,000 is NOT doable.

Tim and I talked and agreed to go ahead with the testing.  So they sent me to the lab to drain me of all my blood.  Not really, but they took over 10 vials of blood.  They kept having to retie the tourniquet tighter to keep it flowing.  I had to fast for this visit and this was about lunchtime, so I was starving and having all my blood taken out...I wasn't very nice.  You probably didn't want to be around me at that point.

Then they did this test to see what my stomach acid levels were like.  They had me swallow this capsule with a little camera-like thing on it.  They put a big box on my stomach that hung around my neck.  The box talked to the computer and to the little capsule which was measuring my stomach acid levels.  Next was the fun part.  I got to swallow a squirt of baking soda and water - tasted nasty!  Why baking soda?  As the tech told me (the tech who had a thick accent and sounded just like Count Dracula), they know the ph of baking soda so they can easily measure the ph in my stomach and see how long it takes it to bring the ph back to normal.

As if that wasn't enough, after that test was done they loaded me up with take home tests - everything from saliva tests to urine collection to stool samples (and yes, I think this is the first time in my life I have typed out the word "urine").  All those fun things get to be done at home and mailed back to a lab.  They want to use those to measure levels over time.  For instance, for the saliva test, they measure adrenal function and hormone levels over the course of a day.  Four times during the day from the time I wake up until 11 at night, I chew on a cotton plug then put it back in a test tube with the time written on it.  Then I stick all 4 tubes in an envelope and mail those back.  Some of the other tests are a lot more detailed and a lot more gross, so I won't go into detail here.  Needless to say, you need to be glad you aren't doing them.  They aren't fun.

We are hoping and praying that all of this extensive testing will give us some answers.  I have been impressed with the detail this clinic has shown.  No other doctor has ever looked at my hormone levels or my vitamin levels.  No other doctor has spent 45 minutes in the same room as me.  Yes, some of these tests are high up there on the ick scale but when we are done we should have a very detailed look at my biochemistry.  If there are things out of whack that we can fix, then maybe it will make me feel better.  That's the goal anyway.

Later I'll tell you about the diet (not for weight loss) and the nutritional supplement portion of the visit.  Stay tuned.

Did you miss the first post in this series?  You can  find it here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Week 3

I am following Money Saving Mom this month in the 30-day house cleaning challenge in an attempt to clean up my house (it really needs it).  You can follow my progress all week through Instagram (#cleanin30), Twitter (#cleanin30) or Facebook.  You can also join in the challenge fun.  Download the 31 Day House Cleaning Guide that we are following and you, too, can have a sparkling, or at least somewhat cleaner, house.

Days 13 and 14: Surface clean extra rooms and deep clean bedrooms

Once again, these chores fall on the weekend - thankfully out of the scope of the challenge.  (Do you get the feeling that I really just don't like to clean?)  Last weekend was just such a whirlwind of things - first baseball game, last minutes errands to get things we didn't know we needed for future baseball games, 2 different birthday parties for 2 different kids, and a trip to Atlanta - that there just wasn't time to clean anything.  And that's OK.  Some weekends are just like that.

Day 15:  Surface clean living room and kitchen

Since I wasn't here on Monday (appointment in Atlanta), I got to this chore later in the week after I got home.  I chose to clean the kitchen for Day 15.  I looked around to figure out what was most in need of cleaning and I saw the toaster, full of crumbs, just a fire waiting to happen (seriously, this does happen, our last toaster caught on fire because we didn't clean it out).  I unplugged it and cleaned out all the crumbs from the crumb tray and from all over the top.  Then I buffed all the fingerprints off.  Now it's pretty and shiny again.

Day 16:  Deep clean bathrooms

Yes, my bathroom needs cleaning, but that's not what I did.  I did the more urgent thing, which was switch out all my winter and summer clothes.  Since my closet is in my bathroom, I figured this counted.  

It's times like this that I realize that I have waaaaay too many clothes.  Especially too many shirts.  I take a sweater off the hanger, fold it, put a T-shirt on and hang it up...over and over and over again.  All the off-season clothes go up on the top shelf in the closet.

Oh, and this took me more than 20 minutes, in fact, I did it a little at a time over the course of 3 days.

Out with the cold stuff
In with the warm
Up on top it goes

Day 17:  Clean switch plates, door knobs, etc

With all the germs we've had in our house since January, this was a much overdue chore.  I used a Lysol wipe and cleaned door knobs, light switches, toilet flushers, cabinet pulls, the refrigerator handle, the stove handle and the dishwasher handle.  This chore went fast and was no trouble at all...I should do this one more often.

Day 18:  Clean out fridge and pantry

With the new diet that I'm on (you'll hear all about it next week), I really have to take stock of what we have and what ingredients are in those things.  And I will...next week.  Because I just don't have enough hours this week to do it.

Day 19:  Clean the car

Oh, my, yes, this really needed to be done.  I threw away trash (mostly empty snack bags and straw wrappers - gotta get on the kids about that one), brought myriads of little toys and jackets inside and put them where they belonged.  Then I dusted and cleaned the trim and washed the inside of the windows.  Julie came and helped me with the those.  I'm glad that she was willing to help, but I did have to redo some very smeary, very Windexed windows.  I did not vacuum the car.  Believe me, it still needs it.  But I didn't have the time to do that today.  Maybe it will be an extra, money-earning chore for one of the kids next week.

Kids are in the van before cleaning.
Kids are after cleaning
Front seat before
Front seat after - it doesn't really look much different, but trust me, it's cleaner.
Another week down.  I was much busier this week so I didn't get to do everything as thoroughly as I would like, but anything I do is cleaner than before, right?  Have a good weekend and happy cleaning!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A New Doctor: Naturopathic and Osteopathic Medicine

Dreamstime stock photo - source
I kind of left you guys hanging yesterday... telling you that something possibly life-changing had happened.  That wording may have been a bit overly dramatic.  I toyed with whether or not to use those words, but then   I decided to go with it, because it all feels life-changing to me.

This Monday I traveled 5 hours down to Atlanta to visit a new doctor.  As you know I've been dealing with pain in my ab muscles for a year and a half now.  I've been to beaucoups of traditional, Western, allopathic doctors.  Doctors who treat symptoms with prescriptions but don't necessarily get to the root cause of the problem.  Those doctors have been great within their specialty to try to figure out what's wrong with me. But if they can't find the cause within their set of specific organs or systems, they either pass me off to another specialist or they give me a drug to help mask the symptoms.  Now, I'm not knocking traditional medicine because those prescriptions have helped me function somewhat normally for the past year.  But I have been frustrated that everyone seems to have given up looking for a cause, essentially telling me that there is nothing else to do except live with it.  I don't give up that easily.

So I decided to go a different route.  At the suggestion and encouragement of a friend who lives in Atlanta, I traveled down there this week to visit a naturopathic doctor.  I went to the Progressive Medical Center, a clinic which has both osteopathic doctors and naturopathic doctors.

An osteopathic doctor is one that has a "D.O." after their name instead of an "M.D."  A D.O. is trained very similarly to an M.D.  They have the same rights to practice medicine and the same license to perform the full scope of medicine and surgery as a medical doctor.  And in most cases, they take the same classes in medical school as an M.D. would.  So what's the difference?  An osteopathic physician has a holistic approach to the human body.  They look at the body as a whole to see what's wrong.  And by treating the body as a whole, they hope to alleviate the specific symptoms you are experiencing.

Alright, so that's an osteopathic doctor.  What is a naturopathic doctor?  Naturopathic medicine is based on three principles - the body has the power to heal itself, disease is your body trying to remove things that are obstructing it from its normal function and disease affects the whole person.  The first principle essentially means that a naturopathic doctor tries to use natural substances (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc) to help your body return to normal function without the use of synthetic drugs.  The second principle means that when you experience something wrong in your body, it's your body's way of reacting to things being out of whack.  The third principle refers to the same holistic approach to medicine that a DO uses.  An ND is very concerned with your body's biochemistry, with getting the amounts of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals back to an optimum level in your body.  They believe that fixing that will fix most of the common ailments that people have.

OK, so all that is background for you to know what kind of clinic I visited this week.  Since this is a long post already, I'll tell you all the specifics of my visit next week.  I get to leave you hanging again. :) I have to give you a reason to keep coming back, right?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Busy, busy, busy

Poor, little neglected blog.

It's been a busy week.
Busy, very overwhelming and possibly life-changing.

I will definitely be telling you more about all that once I get some time.  I'm still playing catch up after being out of town for a few days.

That and baseball started last week.  It's 3 days a week. David loves it, but it's 3 days a week.  That's a lot.  Yeah.  Fun stuff but busy.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Barbecue Meatloaf

It's no secret that there are picky eaters in my family and I include myself on that list.  Finding something that everyone likes is sometimes hard.

When David was much younger getting him to eat any kind of meat was next to impossible.  Then we discovered the secret - barbecue sauce.  He dips everything in barbecue sauce now.  Chicken?  Yup.  Pork?  Yup.  Ground beef?  Yup.

So when I discovered this Barbecue Meatloaf recipe, I knew it would be a hit.  And it was.  And now I'm going to share this little gem of a recipe with you.  Oh and did I mention, it only has 5 ingredients and only takes 25 minutes to cook?  Yeah, that's my kind of recipe.

Barbecue Meatloaf

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, divided
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix up the beef, breadcrumbs, egg whites, pepper and 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce.  Spread it all out in a pan (I use an 8x8 pan).  Spread out the last 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce on the top.  Cook on 350-375 (depending on the pan you use) for 25 minutes.

Ways to Mix it up

  • Use 1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb ground turkey instead of using all beef.  It tastes just the same and it's healthier.
  • Use Cornflake crumbs instead of breadcrumbs or use Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs for a slightly different flavor (Cornflake crumbs are our favorites.)
  • Use teryaki sauce instead of barbecue sauce.  I may or may not have discovered this secret after starting to make this without checking first to see if we had barbecue sauce.
  • Use 1 whole egg instead of 2 egg whites.  It won't be as healthy, but if you are in a pinch and only have 1 egg in the fridge, it works just fine.
  • Use different flavors of barbecue sauce for different flavors of meatloaf.  Our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray's.
Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Week 2

I am following Money Saving Mom this month in the 30-day house cleaning challenge in an attempt to clean up my house (it really needs it).  You can follow my progress all week through Instagram (#cleanin30), Twitter (#cleanin30) or Facebook.  You can also join in the challenge fun.  Download the 31 Day House Cleaning Guide that we are following and you, too, can have a sparkling, or at least somewhat cleaner, house.

Days 6 and 7: Clean the bathrooms and clean all interior windows

Technically the 30-day cleaning challenge does not include weekends.  Money Saving Mom is only challenging us to clean throughout the week.  On the schedule, Day 6 says to clean the bathrooms.  Since we had just done that on Day 4 and since my kids clean their bathroom on the weekend as part of their regular chores anyway, I counted that one as being done.  Day 7 says to clean all the interior windows.  Somebody must be possessed if they think that chore can be done in 20 minutes.  I counted.  I have 16 windows on my house.  It would have taken me hours to clean all those.  I am so glad that chore fell on the weekend (on a Sunday, the day of rest, no less) and I don't have to feel guilty about not doing it. Shew!

Day 8:  Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house

Over the weekend, my sister, two friends from high school and myself had a girls' weekend.  We all stayed at my parents' house and played tons of card games and board games (and I got a great manicure!).  While I was there, Tim stayed home with the kids and got the house in great shape - including vacuuming all the floors!  So I woke up Monday to a clean, vacuumed house and I didn't have to do any of it.

Day 9: Surface clean bedrooms

Our rooms were pretty well straightened, but in one corner of my room there was a pile of things I was setting aside for a future yard sale as well as some things to give away.

OK, so it was really cluttered.  I boxed up all the yard sale items and put a very descriptive note on the box.

Hey, honey is better than vinegar any day, right?  I got together the items to be given away and put them in my van.  Then I put a crate of painting supplies down in the garage and Ta da! a clean corner.

I also decided this was a good day to work on a stain that's been on Julie's floor for a while.  Why did I pick that day to work on it?  Mainly because I had just bought new carpet cleaner and I wanted to see how well it worked.  This stain was in Natlie's part of the room (Julie's American Girl doll and yes, Julie decided to spell her name that way - poor child is spelling-challenged).

Isn't it cute how she has everything set up?  Maybe that will be a future blog post.  Anyway, the stain is in the bottom center of the picture.  Here it is closer up.

Lovely, huh?  So I sprayed the foamy stuff and scrubbed.  The final result?

Not perfect, but better.

Day 10:  Deep clean the living room

I was pretty tired of cleaning my this point.  So I didn't "deep" clean the living room.  We have wood floor in there so I decided to dust under the couches and piano, something I only do occasionally.  I found all sorts of goodies under the couches.

Day 11: Clean the bathrooms

Yet again...I don't normally clean the bathrooms every 4 days, so I decided instead to clean out the drawers and cabinets in the kids bathroom.  I got rid of a bunch of expired sunscreen and toothpaste and did a lot of decluttering and straightening.  Drawers 1 and 3 are now hair stuff and drawer 2 is nail stuff.  Poor David.  All the drawers are full of Julie's things and he gets nothing.  Guess he'll survive.

Julie's hair supplies all straightened up.

Day 12: Clean out closets

Um, yeah, I'm going to amend that to "closet" instead of "closets."  The blogger at Fresh and Organized must either have a much smaller home or must work a lot faster than me if she can clean out all the closets in 20 minutes.  Or maybe her closets are just cleaner....

I'm going to post the before picture today and I'll post the after picture next week.

Another busy cleaning week done.  Got any Spring Cleaning done this week?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Gratitude Project

My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.

(from Feb 5)

  • I'm thankful that I can take a nice, long, hot shower every day.
  • I'm thankful for access to healthy food and that I am well fed.
  • I'm thankful for clean drinking water that comes out of my tap every day.

It's those little things we take for granted that we need to remember to be thankful for.  What little things are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Posts to read from around the Web

 pdiaz - Dreamstime stock photo
I read blogs A LOT.

I love reading what real people write, even the mundane, seemingly trivial stuff.  I do love fiction (as you can tell on here, I'm sure), but the real words of people living in the trenches of life just resonate with me.

And when they do, I want to share it.  So I thought I'd give out a little bloggy love today and share some of the blogs that I'm reading with you.

Here are some of my favorite bloggers and some recent great posts that they have written:

  • It's Almost Naptime - Missy is a mother of 5, with her newest little one recently adopted from Ethiopia (recently, as in within the last 6 weeks). Missy always makes me laugh. "That's the kind of mother I am" is a hilarious post that will make you realize you aren't the only one with bad days.
  • Money Saving Mom - Crystal is possibly my very favorite blogger out there.  While MSM started out as only a deals/frugal living blog, it has morphed into a blog about setting goals and living a disciplined life.  Crystal just has so much wisdom to share, I learn something new every time I read her posts.  (The deals are still there too.)
  • 2Wired2Tired - Tesa is a mom of two kids that are only 14 months apart.  Her tagline says "They're wired...we're tired."  Tesa's blog is just fun to read and I feel like I know her just by reading her posts.  She shares recipes, product reviews, fun stuff to do as a family and she host a lot of giveaways.  If you want to try to win free things (like an ipad mini), her blog is the place to do it.
  • IHeartOrganizing - Because in my heart I want to be organized, Jen's blog just makes me smile (and makes me jealous) every time I read it.  With great style and, of course, great organizing tips, Jen's posts are picture-filled and fun to read.  She also features posts from several other organizing gurus as well as hosting weekly giveaways.
  • Stuff Christians Like - Last but not least, is Jon Acuff and his hilarious-but-true blog about the "churchy" world.  He is such a good blogger and writer that Dave Ramsey hired him just so he could blog full time.  If you want a good read that keeps you saying "That's so true, we are like that," check out his blog.
Hope that I could help you find some great things to read today and in the future.  There are so many blogs out there and so many things that bloggers write about that it's impossible to find all the good ones on your own.  

Do you have a blog you love?  Let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Discussion: Your Best (and Easiest) Housecleaning Tips

This month we've been talking a lot about Spring Cleaning.  That term can mean different things to different people, but I think we will all agree that

We want our houses/apartments/homes to be clean and we want to exert the least amount of effort possible to do it.

So how exactly do you do that?

I would love to know your tips and tricks to housecleaning using the least amount of energy possible.

Leave me a comment on here or on my Facebook page with your best cleaning tip.  

I'll compile them all together and post it for you next week.
There's no point in keeping great wisdom to ourselves, is there?

I'm participating in a Group Writing Project through the Problogger site.  Feel free to go check out other discussion posts as well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pinteresting Pins: Magic Eraser & a Baking Soda Trial

Time to test out more fun things I found over on Pinterest.

Shockingly enough, Pinterest is good for more than just finding yummy food.  Did you know that?
There are all sorts of great time-saving and sanity-saving tips on there.  I created a great little board called "Frugal Household Ideas."  Go, check it out.  There are lots of great (cheap) household tips that should make your life easier.

I looked over what I had pinned to see what would be most useful to me right now and this pin stuck out at me: All the uses for Magic Erasers that you didn't know about.  I always keep Magic Erasers on hand, but, I have to admit, I pretty much only use them to clean walls and trim.  I guess I never knew there were other things to clean with them (hence the pin title "all the uses for Magic Erasers that you didn't know about").

When you visit the website, you will see an incredibly long list of uses in the post, as well as 240 comments that include more uses (and a very detailed conversation about what the Magic Eraser is actually made of, in case you are interested).  Obviously, I couldn't try out every use on the list, so I picked out a few that intrigued me and went to work.

Here's my list and the results:

  • Inside the oven door - On the actual metal, it cleaned great. On the Glass? Not so much. I tried Windex Multi-Surface Cleaner and a regular sponge on the glass and it was so much better.
  • Dried paint on door hinges - The Magic Eraser did not clean this at all, not even one little smudge came off.
  • Agitator in washing machine - It's crazy that this was on the list because mine has been dirty forever and it never even crossed my mind that you could clean it!  Maybe I'm really the one who's crazy.  Anyway...this was a score!  It cleaned that agitator beautifully and so quick and easy.
  • Stained caulking around sink - It really didn't do anything for my stained caulking, but maybe it depends on the type of stain?
  • Bathtub floor - The thought behind this is that the sponge cleans with micro-abrasion (kind of like the micro-dermabrasion you can use for your skin).  It actually gets the dirt clean by taking off a tiny layer of whatever surface you are cleaning.  So those little micro thingies are supposed to get into the spaces on the rough bathtub floor and get them all clean.  Guess what?  It didn't work. AT. ALL.  But since I was in the bathtub cleaning anyway, I decided to try it out on the stubborn ring around the tub.  It worked very well.  Just scraped that sucker right off.

My last experiment was with the grout on the kitchen floor.  The Magic Eraser article claimed that it could clean grout and mine really need cleaning. So I did a little experiment.  It just so happened that I had pinned another tip about how to make your own grout cleaner. (Direct link if you don't have Pinterest.)  I decided to clean some of my floor with the homemade baking soda and water grout cleaner from that pin and some of it with the Magic Eraser to see which cleaned better.

Definitely the baking soda and water cleaned better than the Magic Eraser.  The Magic Eraser did get the grout cleaner than it was before, but not shockingly clean.

While the baking soda paste got the grout clean, it was a complete mess to use.  The directions said to "let it dwell for 10 minutes" then to "rinse clean."  I'm not really sure what it means to "let it dwell for 10 minutes" so I just let it sit there.  But the hard part?  "Rinse clean." How do you get a bunch of wet baking soda off of your kitchen floor without making a huge mess?  You just don't, that's how.  I cleaned it all with a sponge...twice.  Then I mopped...three times.  Guess what?  The floor is still gritty with baking soda.

The moral of the story is: I still haven't found a grout cleaner that I like, but, hey, if you want to clean your washing machine's agitator...the Magic Eraser is the way to go!

Have you found any great uses for the Magic Eraser?  How about grout cleaner?  Know any good ways to clean that?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Week 1

I am following Money Saving Mom this month in the 30-day house cleaning challenge in an attempt to clean up my house (it really needs it).  You can follow my progress all week through Instagram (#cleanin30), Twitter (#cleanin30) or Facebook.  You can also join in the challenge fun.  Download the 31 Day House Cleaning Guide that we are following and you, too, can have a sparkling, or at least somewhat cleaner, house.

After reading back over this, I can't believe I'm going to show these pictures on the Internet.  I'm going to loose my rock star organizing status and let you guys see how my house really looks most of the time!  Just don't think too badly of me, OK?

Day 1: Surface clean kitchen and living room

Day 1 started with Munchkin #1 throwing up in the middle of the night and all morning long.  Needless to say, surface cleaning was not high on my priority list.  Keeping up with sick person laundry and cleaning floors from where said sick person got sick, was much more urgent.  So I did Day 1 on Day 2 and it was all good.  The world didn't stop turning or anything.

I didn't have the energy to tackle both rooms in one day, so I just worked on the kitchen.  Here's how it was to begin with.  I'm almost embarrassed to show these pictures.  It was b.a.d.

Before the clean up - counter clutter galore!
I tackled the clutter, put things back where they belonged, sorted through lots of school papers and mail and, finally, got the counters cleared off. I even got the kids in on the action (what better way to spend Spring Break, right?).  They sorted through their school papers.  Anything with a clean white back gets put into the recycled printer paper pile.  All others get thrown away.

My sorting helper.
Getting to use a staple remover adds to the fun!
Then there were these:

While I love all my reusable grocery bags and my 31 totes, finding places to store them all is tricky.  Then I remembered one of my favorite tricks - command hooks on the inside of a closet door.  Ta-da!

Here's Day 1 before and after:

Before - Yikes!
After - Ah! I can see the counters again.
Day 2: Clean bathrooms

This one was much easier for me.  I had bathroom cleaning on my list anyway due to the second child in 2 weeks being sick.  Everything needed disinfecting with bleach.  I cleaned 4 sinks (I left Julie's sink for her to clean since it's one of her weekly chores), 3 toilets and 1 germy tile floor (we're talking on hands and knees with bleach wipes scrubbing all over the floor - fun times).  I decided to leave the tub and shower for another day because I like to procrastinate like that when it comes to cleaning.

I didn't take a "before" picture because, well, you can't see germs, so I thought there was no point.  But here is the "after" picture in the kids' bathroom.

Clean and germ-free, we hope.
Day 3: Surface clean bedrooms

I decided to tackle one corner in my bedroom that has been frustrating me for months.  Way back in January when we had lots of snow, Tim set up a little office area in the bedroom so he could work from home for several days.  And it never got put away.  And more stuff got added.  And I couldn't get into my closet without moving out the table every time, which was annoying.  Day 3's task was the perfect reason to clear it all up.  The task technically meant to clean all the bedrooms but the kids clean their bedrooms once a week for chore money, and I wouldn't want to take away their opportunity to earn, now would I.

Cleaning up involved listing several things on our local Facebook yard sale to get them out of the house (selling them all today - yay!), folding lots of laundry, putting wayward tools back in the tool cabinet and finally doing a Pinterest project that I will tell you all about next week.

Here's the "before" and "after" shots:

Before - I think junk just attracts more junk.
After - Yay!  There really is a floor there and I can get into my closet again.
Day 4: Surface clean an extra room

I really wanted to pick the den as my extra room, but our den is huge and it's hugely cluttered so I decided to pick one corner of my den.  Cheating?  Maybe a little bit, but if I try to clean too much and get overwhelmed then I end up just stopping.  So a little is better than nothing.

This project was a combination of my kids cleaning up the Lego/train table, Tim taking down the clothes racks I used to prepare for the consignment sale and me cleaning up where an end table used to be.

The before and after:
Before - Sigh!  So much straightening needed.
After - Maybe they can actually play Legos on the table now.
Just a thought...
Day 5: Surface clean the living room

This was a speedy cleaning day.  I'm getting ready to go relax with some high school friends for the weekend.  Luckily, the task for the day is to clean the living room and it wasn't too bad (surprising, I know).

Here's the before and after:

Before - mainly Easter basket things to put away and a few toys on the floor.
After - fresh and clean.
Now it's your turn.  Tell me which rooms you've cleaned this week.