Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Never Get Behind on Dishes and Laundry Again!

Image from scoutiegirl.com

Twenty-five years ago when I was a young mother, housewife, and homeschooler, I had trouble getting all of my work done every day--while teaching a young son to read, keeping a curious preschooler out of everything, taking care of a toddler, nursing a baby, etc. Truly the statement "the days are long but the years are short" was never more real to me.

I had problems that many people who are "self employed" have--plus the added "benefits" of having a lot of littles around making messes and needing seemingly-constant attention. (I really do think they are benefits--but when a man is self-employed, he usually doesn't have to take care of a home, feed a crew, and provide constant care and supervision to little kids! He just, well, works!)

The greatest problem that those of us who are self employed and/or homeschoolers and/or housewives with littles is that of prioritizing. The second greatest is motivation. Why clean this up when it is just going to become a mess again in thirty minutes? Why fix a hot meal....three hours later, I will need to start another hot meal!

I have found many ways to get the motivation needed to make it through those days of many littles and lots of homeschooling needs--but that would take a book to explain, so for today, I would like to address the concept of prioritizing.

When I had little kids, I loved creating systems--toy storage systems, closet organization, bookshelf perfection. These were things, however, that should not have been high on the priority list. The priority list needed to include daily work, like dishes, laundry, meal preps, child cleansing, reading lessons, and unit studies. Not systems!

My husband would come home at the end of the work day, and I would take him by the hand and lead him through the house, making a path through clean laundry, unbathed children in pj's, and stacks of dishes, to show him the toy shelves with all of the toys sorted into baby wipe containers with picture labels on each shelf so that the kids could put the toys onto the right shelves. It didn't even dawn on me that I should have done dishes and laundry BEFORE doing those amazing toy shelves.

After he saw my prize-winning shelves, Ray would roll up his sleeves (literally) and dig in to help bail me out from my day of misplaced priorities. We would get the dishes and laundry done; he would call me "closet lady" --and then we would often repeat the cycle again in a few days. 

As we added more children to our home (and more kids in school), it became obvious that I could not continue to put contact paper on every box that came in the house and hand make labels with bright magic markers. Something had to give--and it was then that I came up with the solution to all of our laundry and dish (and trash!) problems:

Treat laundry, dishes, and trash just like brushing my teeth. I brush my teeth at least twice a day (sometimes three or four if I eat something spicy or I am going out in the evening). And I began doing the same with dishes, laundry, and trash. 

We still adhere to the below schedule twenty-five years later--though I have seldom done this daily work once the two oldest children could handle these tasks, about ages ten and seven--the youngest child or two of the family who can handle the work has always done the daily tasks (so that we more, um, accomplished kids and parents can do harder jobs, like cooking, shopping, cleaning out freezers, weekly bathroom cleaning, discipling teens, mentoring young adults, teaching fractions, organizing closets (!), etc.).

                    TWICE A DAY LAUNDRY, DISHES, and TRASH TASKS

Bedtime: (1) Run the dishes from the evening in the dishwasher
 (2) Put laundry from earlier in the dryer ("fold ups" only; we have always done hang ups in the moment, moving it before it spins out and hanging it up when it is nearly dry so that we don't have to iron)
3) Start another load in the washer before sleeping

Morning: (1) Unload dishwasher and put away any big dishes that were drying on the counter after last night's dinner
(2) Fold and put away laundry in the dryer
(3) Move washer load from washer to dryer and dry it
(4) Gather trash all over the house in the big bag out of the kitchen trash can and take it all out; replace bag

Noontime: (1) Do second load of laundry in dryer (fold and put away)
(2) Start tonight's first load of laundry in washer
(3) Load dishes from breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cooking and run dishwasher

Evening chores: (1) Unload daytime dishes
(2) Load dinner and dinner prep dishes
(3) Bag kitchen trash again and take it out (we only gather from everywhere else once a day, in the morning)

This assumes chore sessions are in place. Even if you do not have good chore sessions right now, you can start with a five minute session before or after each meal and get laundry and dishes done then (even if it is just you doing them). Four five minute sessions can keep everything up if you have a dishwasher. (Note that we do a load or two of "hang ups" in another chore session in addition to that twice-daily laundry schedule. "Hang up" laundry is a weekly chore, separate from the daily laundry.)

When I didn't have a dishwasher, I still kept this same routine, but I just kept hot sudsy water in the sink all day (reviving it as needed) and washed dishes and put them in the drying rack as I had them, definitely at least after each meal, but I (or a child) would often run out and wash a sinkful here and there.

Doesn't TWICE A DAY for each chore (fully done--trash, laundry, and dishes) and twenty total minutes of work a day sound completely doable??? It is! You can do this!

Twice a day--just like brushing your teeth!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Baking Rice

My grad-student daughter from Illinois, my fifteen year old son, and I spent half a day this week cooking with my daughter who is expecting her first baby (our first grandchild) in four weeks. I have done freezer cooking for twenty-two years, so the girls just naturally do these types of cooking and food preps as well.

In three hours, five of us did fifty meals! That is twice as many as I normally would do in that time with that many people working simply because I was splitting the meals between Cami and me--so we averaged four servings per meal (instead of the normal eight servings that my meals now make). She took the smaller ones (see picture above) while I took the bigger ones. So in essence, we did twenty-five entrees that fed three and twenty-five entrees that fed six to eight.

The details of how to freezer cook are definitely for another time (and I am looking into doing a podcast about it for those who have been asking a lot), but I did want to document the fact that I cooked rice in the oven for the first time, and it turned out wonderful!

One of the entrees we were making is called "meatball stroganoff over rice." We had long-grain brown rice, but my daughter forgot to bring her rice cooker, and mine is well, buried or lost or something. (I've been decluttering and getting rid of things and putting things I don't use as often in tubs, and, well, I lost the rice cooker.)

Normally, when I do freezer cooking (usually once a week I do four to ten entrees for the freezer during one of my twice-weekly (or thrice-weekly) Kitchen Sessions), I start things immediately that take a while. One of those early tasks would be to put a lot of rice in the rice cooker for this stroganoff dish. I couldn't put it in the microwave because that would tie up the micro too long, and I didn't want to cook it on the stove because it would also be tied up--plus, I hate watching rice on the stove top while I am freezer cooking. It is a pain and just another thing to think about when I am crazy busy in the kitchen.

I remember a friend telling me that another mutual friend cooks her rice in the oven, so I Googled it and discovered that it looked as simple as the rice cooker or micro method (both of which I love and yield perfect rice imho).

I will put the link below from about.com for detailed instructions, but I skimmed the recipe and did what I always do: did four times as much as the recipe said while not really doing what the instructions say--and hoped for the best!

In a nutshell, I put four cups of rice and eight cups of hot water in a jelly roll pan (huge "cookie sheet" type of pan with great sides--mine take up my entire oven, like the size of two 9x13's or so). I did this twice. Turned the oven on 375, covered the two pans tightly with foil, and forgot about the them for forty-five minutes or so. Then I pulled them out, removed the foil, and had perfect rice. It didn't take up my micro or stove top; I didn't have to stir or watch or add more water, etc. It was that simple.

Note that the instructions say that you need to boil the water first, add butter, etc., but I literally did what I wrote above. Easy peasy.  If I were doing it again, I would use broth. I always cook my rice in broth, but for some reason I forgot this time.

Anyway, we pulled the rice pans out of the oven and dipped the rice into the bottom of our foil pans, placed our meatballs all over the rice, then coated the meatballs with our stroganoff gravy. And they looked delicious!

Here is the official instructions from about.com: