Blogs I Know · Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · Simply Lovely Fairs

Simply Lovely Windows

This week the Simply Lovely Fairs are featuring Simply Lovely Windows.  You can find links to many other articles about this topic at Paula’s Blog.


I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors–

Of Chambers as the Cedars–
Impregnate of Eye–
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky–

Of Visitors–the fairest
For Occupation–This–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise–

Emily Dickinson

I attended a conference for Catholic Women several years ago where there was a speaker who’s talk was about decorating a Catholic home. There were two things that I walked away with that have stuck with me ever since. The first was the question “would a visitor to your home know you are Catholic just by looking around?” and the second thought was something more vague about your kitchen sink and window being an altar.

I have to admit that my “modern woman ears” hear the words “kitchen sink” and “altar” in the same sentence and the feminists alarm bells start sounding. There is something oppressively patriarchal about the idea that your sink is some sort of altar isn’t there? How could doing the dishes have anything to do with religion unless it was in some sort of “keeping women barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen”? But then I come to my senses and realize that I really, really like that idea, mostly because I have seen it implemented so well.

My friend Michelle is a wonderful Irish-Catholic woman, mother to nine children with her first grandchild on the way. She is beautiful, a mix of wit and moxie, full of love and joy. Her kitchen window was the first time I have seen an “altar” window. Though I don’t think she would call it that. In fact she called it something like “the whole solar system in my kitchen window”  she would declare this while gesticulating expressively then go on to explain the amazing array of sun catchers and glass beads strung across the window, each one catching the light and in its own way special and little items on the sill each one with some tale.  All the planets were there each one sparkling.  Her children could tell you about them too. It had become a family story something that unified them, educational in a way and entertaining. But it was more. All creation lived in my friend’s noisy happy home. There was joy hidden in the corners and sorrows swept under the carpets and it was all there all the time. The solar system in the window was just one typical little thing. It was something that sprung organically from Michelle’s brain that became something fantastic. It served the same purpose as all our Church’s stain-glassed windows do: it beautifully illustrated Gods creation and made a tiny little kitchen into something whimsical and lovely.

When they moved and had to sell the house one of the things their realtor had told them was that the solar system had to come down. Apparently people looking to buy houses are not as interested in one if it has an eclectic collection of glass and string hanging in the window. It had too much character, was too eccentric, not really normal. Life in Michelle’s house wasn’t typical. Like so many things that God puts His hand into, it was something splendid, but certainly not marketable, and definitely not for everyone.

It takes a certain amount of insanity to be a person of faith to start with. While faith is the most logical reaction to a supernatural experience, I suspect many people are very afraid of God fearing either he is real or he is not, and deeply uncomfortable with either option. So for safety they pull the curtains shut and lock the shutters least the tiniest bit of unexpected supernatural joy slip in. I fear that many more simply feel it is best not to think about it all too much and turn on the TV and close the curtain to prevent glare on the screen. To be alive in faith is to fling the windows full open and let the sun come in and maybe even be like Pollyanna and string a few prisms across the window just for the added rainbows.

So many of my daily tasks center around the kitchen sink, all the cooking and cleaning that can become such drudgery if it is not done with a well motivated heart is often centered around the sink. Making this area lovely, having it reflect our faith to help bring our reflections back to God is a very sensible step in helping stay focused on not just doing the daily, needed tasks of living but living our vocation through those daily tasks. And that is the genius of the kitchen-window as an altar.


Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · My world · Uncategorized

Menu planning

One of my old stand-bys is my 1950, Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1st edition.  (Now, I know that Betty Crocker wasn’t a real person.. but I still find a bit of humor in thinking of the cookbook as “Betty” — my grandmother is another Betty so maybe this adds to the charm, but either way I hope you can bare my bit of madness here as I refer to her as a real person.) My tattered red friend is not the reprint, but the original with all its sexist little comments and admonitions on being an active and productive homemaker.   It is filled with good advice about work habits, entertaining, recipe short-cuts, meal planning and nutrition.  

One thing I find most useful is this book assumes nothing.  It starts from the idea that the reader is a complete homemaking ingenue and goes from there.   So it actually covers things that one would have assumed that a young woman growing up in the 30s and 40s would probably know.  Betty Crocker advises that the homemaker plan menus at least one week at a time and better to do two weeks or even a month at once, to shop only once or twice a week.  The second shopping trip should be for perishables.   She suggests keeping a “well stocked emergency shelf”  to deal with those unexpected guests or inordinately hectic days where the lady of the house is too busy for shopping and cooking.  All sensible and good advice and I think that the starting point is spot on,  nutrition.

Now, Betty Crocker, 1950, is a little behind on the scientific discoveries of today.  But, Betty and her counterparts knew full well that little Judy and Johny needed nutritionally balanced meals so they could grow up and become useful and happy adults.  In the 1950’s cookbook there is no fudging on who is responsible for seeing that happens. Mom is the “go-to” person for healthy meals, clean and tastefully decorated homes and family entertainment.  The world has changed a great deal.  The young homemaker of 1950 was held to a somewhat different set of standards but, she also wasn’t facing some of the same temptations and bad habits that we face.  In the chapter on short-cuts she mentions that in larger cities there are places where you can pick up whole meals and take them home as a modern marvel, almost experimental in their novelty.   It was 5 years before Ray Kroc would open his first McDonald’s, packaged food was almost non-existent,  the first Swanson TV dinner wouldn’t hit the store shelf for four more years.  So, while the details of what was then considered a healthy meal are dated, the principles and the application of planning and preparing are, if anything, even more relevant to today than when they were written. 

Betty Crocker quotes the “Smart Homemaker” saying, “My meals are more nutritious since I’ve been planning them ahead.  I check in advance the basic foods and the daily needs of my family.”   To get a good idea of what those basic needs are I use the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid.  It took more tweaking than I would have liked to figure out how to translate the pyramid into meals.  For some reason the geniuses at Harvard figured that spelling things out in “servings” wasn’t how people really eat.  To help out on this and to get a bit of a different angle I also looked at The UMIM Healing Foods Pyramid  which actually turned out to be more practical.  I finally got it worked out and could create a template for menus.  The raw template has “slots” for menu items that I can drop items from the different categories into to create meals.   

 I know there are many different food plans out there, with different claims to what is the most healthy way to eat.  And really, I am not going to sort that out or make any judgement for anyone else on that. Find what works for you according to your family’s tastes, your beliefs and culture and what makes sense to you.  What makes sense to me the two pyramids married with the idea of local and seasonal food and sustainable agricultural practices.   In practice we use too much red meat, I am not giving up my coffee and there are those Goldfish crackers. 

One thing that has surprised me is how much effort it really took to get to this point.  My grandmother learned menu planning in her home and while working as a cook for a ranch.  My mother has often told me how little she learned at home, her mother apparently shewed her out of the kitchen more often than not but mom did have a home economics class in high school.  My mother did the homemaker thing when I was very young then entered the work-force, never to look back and swore she wouldn’t be some 1950s housewife who’s greatest achievement was having the cleanest toilet on the block and by the time I made it to high school home economics was optional and sort of looked down on.  I came to adulthood ill-equipped to manage a family menu, much less a household and I have had to basically teach myself.  

My next menu planning article will break down into a little more detail about how you get from theory to shopping list.



Blogs I Know · Catholic Homeschooling · Fun

Like a wave or something

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai 

Frugality, it is sweeping the nation like some sort of wave or something.  I laughed when I heard this on NPR yesterday.   Featured on the  Your Money segment was Natalie McNeal, who’s blog is The Frugalista Flies: The frugal side of fabulous.  I haven’t really checked it out.  I am not, and really have no pretensions to being, “fabulous”.  Since I don’t do manicures or club-nights to start with I am not about to give them up.  But I still love the idea of the blog.   Especially for single women I think there is a lot of pressure to be “in” and to have and do all those things that everyone else is doing.

One thing Natalie said yesterday was that letting your family and friends know you are tightening the budget will help you stay on the wagon.  It is true.  In fact I will go one further and say, “Your girlfirends are probably shuddering over their Visa statements too. If you say, ‘Hey, I am cutting back on spending let’s go to the free concert in the park instead of the club this weekend?’ you might find them grateful.”

One other thing she mentioned was acountablity and how blogging about her budgetting adventures helped her stay on track.  I completely agree with that, which is one reason I started my 40 Trash Bag Challenge.  Just knowing that people who read my blog will see the progress (or lack there of) with my de-cluttering efforts is a huge incentive to keep going with it.

Autism · Faith in Action · My world · Uncategorized

Can my autistic child receive communion?

Rachel dressed for mass
Rachel all ready for mass

 The answer is a qualified yes.  From Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities


19. The eucharist is the most august sacrament, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received, and by which the Church constantly lives and grows. It is the summit and the source of all Christian worship and life, signifying and effecting the unity of the people of God, providing spiritual nourishment for the recipient, and achieving the building up of the Body of Christ. The celebration of the eucharist is the center of the entire Christian life (Canon 897).

20. Parents, those who take the place of parents, and pastors are to see to it that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the eucharist as early as possible. Pastors are to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom they judge are not sufficiently disposed (Canon 914). It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally. Pastors are encouraged to consult with parents, those who take the place of parents, diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, psychologists, religious educators, and other experts in making their judgment. If it is determined that a parishioner who is disabled is not ready to receive the sacrament, great care is to be taken in explaining the reasons for this decision. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament. The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the eucharist.

21. Eucharistic celebrations are often enhanced by the exercise of the diverse forms of ministry open to the laity. In choosing those who will be invited to use their gifts in service to the parish community, the parish pastoral staff should be mindful of extending Christ’s welcoming invitation to qualified parishioners with disabilities.

When we were looking into First Communion for Rachel we wanted two things.  We wanted to follow the teaching of the Church as hard as it can be sometimes when your child is disable there are things that won’t work for them, if it was determined that Rachel lacked sufficient understanding or was unable to receive reverently we would have accepted that and trusted that God would bless her life in other ways. But we wanted our child to be able to participate as fully as possible in the life of the Church. 

I was really sadded by the story of an eight-year-old girl who was intolerant of wheat and the way her mother decided to deal with the issue of her daughter receiving communion.  The only valid medium for the Eucharistic bread is wheat.  For those who can’t consume wheat they may receive the wine only and that is valid, every bit as much as the reception of bread alone.  What bothered me so much about the above news story was how the mother acknowledged that she knew that her daughter could receive the wine, but in her opinion an eight-year-old shouldn’t ingest any alcohol and so the entire Church would have to change the dogma of two-thousand years because she didn’t want her daughter to have a miniscule taste of wine.  “It’s not appropriate for children to drink alcohol,” she said. “Even a sip.”   The last thing I wanted to do when looking at this sacrament for my own child was to become so caught up in what I wanted that I missed what was resonable and right.  So the question of Rachel understanding that the host was not just a little snack weighed on me heavily.

There were some signs that Rachel did understand.  She had always been very caught up with food.  One cookie was never enough.  It was always surprising to me that she had never reached for or grabbed a host when I went to receive Communion.  But reason suggested that since she never had one she might not see them as food.  I was somewhat comforted by the idea that in “Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament”.  I talked to my priest, to our Diocese director of the Office for People with Disabilities and to the Lord in prayer.  But in the end it was God, through Rachel, who let us know that she understood enough to receive.

 My small bits of advice gleaned from what I have read and my own experience:

  1. As your child approaches the age typical in your parish for First Communion speak with your priest and/or the person responsible for religious instruction in your parish.  Go in with an open mind and heart and explain your child’s situation as fully and objectively as you can.   Listen to what they say and consider it thoughtfully.The vast majority of priests want to serve their parishioner and they want to serve the Church and to do both faithfully. In my experience it has actually been the more liberal priests who are the ones most likely to say that your child shouldn’t participate in the Sacraments at all.  I have heard several mothers say that they went to Fr.             and he said their child didn’t need the Eucharist (or reconcilliation).  Sometimes going back with Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities in hand is helpful.  Generally their reason for refusing is some idiotic banality about how “your child is so close to God already because their are disabled they don’t need to receive Communion.”   Don’t buy this, we all need grace.   It is one thing if your child really doesn’t understand that this is a special thing, a holy thing, and would not approach the sacrament with reverence, but not some fluffiness about not needing it.
  2. If you can not come to some agreement at the parish level don’t be afraid to go to the diocese.  I wouldn’t say just go straight to the Bishop, but if you need to you need to.
  3. When it is decided that your child is capable of receiving the Eucharist there are some wonderful resources for helping your child prepare. Meyer Johnson has communion symbols available for their products.  We used these to help create a social story for Rachel.  There are also some good books available for First Communion with colorful pictures and simple explanations.
  4. Test drive with an unconsecrated host if you think there is ANY chance that your child will spit it out or not eat it.  Reverence for the Body of Christ has to come above all else.  I know there are a few people who might think that sounds harsh, but if we don’t believe in the Eucharistic miracle what is the point?  I know personally the hurt that pulls at your heart when you realise that your child can do something because of their disability and how much worse it is with those lovely rites of passage like First Communion, but we are talking about the actual presence of Christ and the reverence that demands must trump parental sentiment.  When we were preparing Rachel for her first communion we brought home a half a dozen unconsecrated hosts and she was happy to eat it and seems to like the flat, tasteless breads.   I know that for some people with autism the texture is off-putting.  Be sure to let your priest know if a smaller bit is better.  For the rite to be valid only the smallest bit is needed so be sure to explore that option before the day if that seems appropriate. 
  5. You can also validly receive the wine alone.  The same caveat applies.  Be sure that your child won’t just spit it out, but if the bread is not working for you that could be an option to explore.  Your priest will most likely be happy to work with you on this.  Most parishes that I have been in have allowed the children to try a tiny sip of the unconsecrated wine before they experienced it in mass.  Some children really don’t like the taste and no priest wants to risk desecrating the host.
  6. If a packed First Communion mass would spell disaster for you First Communicant talk to your priest about about your child either receiving their First Communion as part of a regular mass or communion service.  Sometimes a small weekday mass works better.  Or see if your Diocese has masses for people with disabilities that might serve your families needs.


Finally, the Church wants to serve your family and your child, each individual member of the Body of Christ.  At the same time She is also trusted with safeguarding the sacraments and traditions of the Church.  Most priests, the US Bishops and Rome all echo that every being, no matter their state in life or their disability is of infinite worth, a full person of dignity and worthy of the utmost respect and they want each soul to participate in the sacramental life as much as they able to within the limits of their understanding and capabilities.


Blogs I Know · Caritas · Mary Mary and Martha

Entrusting his heart to her.

10 When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
11 Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
12 She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
Proverb 31
A few days ago I read on Dr Helen about an article written by Leslie Bennetts on MSNBC entitled “Chores for two: Why men don’t pitch in“.   The Anchoress also picked it up here and her insights are well worth reading.  About a week ago I wrote on the subject of housekeeping, and the idea of a good wife.  What I said there applies as I reflect on this newer article.  In the Good wife post I quoted Minette Marrin’s article about keeping marriages healthy, how that might reasonably mean one spouse (usually the wife) putting their career ambitions on hold and wives going back to the idea of picking up, putting out and building up their husbands.  While what Ms Bennetts says is not all that different from what Ms Marrin says in application, the difference in attitude is astounding.   Marrin’s idea of a good wife is someone who puts her husband’s and her children’s needs (both material and emotional) above her career ambitions out of love; Ms Bennetts connives to get her husband to “pitch in” more by figuratively castrating him and “insisting” that he do more around the house because that is what she feels is her due

I find it sad in Ms Bennetts article where she says what she really thinks about her husband.  I couldn’t do it justice so I will give you a long quote:

And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that I’m a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but here’s another news flash: It isn’t because he’s such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy “helps” as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests who’s really being held responsible) is simple: He doesn’t have a choice.

 From the beginning of our relationship, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to be any husband’s unpaid servant. If Jeremy wanted to be—and stay—married to me, let alone have kids, he couldn’t stick me with all the boring, mundane stuff nobody wants to do. We were going to share the work, or we were going to forget the whole deal.Unlike my first husband, who announced after our wedding that he didn’t like the way the French laundry did his shirts and he now expected me, the Wife, to wash and iron all of them, Jeremy recognized both the righteousness of the principle involved and the intransigence of the woman he’d married, and proceeded to pitch in.

I will let the reader draw their own conclusions here, but I find it sad that Leslie Bennetts decided that her husband, the father of her children, the person she shares a life and presumably a bed with, the one person in the whole world who’s opinion of her should matter most deserves to be publicly exposed like this.  He doesn’t help out because he loves her, because he is a great guy, no no… he helps out because she has found a way to whip him into it.  And now the whole world know the truth.  So much for “entrusting his heart to her.” 

I rather like Aristotle’s  “On a Good Wife“. 

Therefore not only when her husband is in prosperity and good report must she be in agreement with him, and to render him the service he wills, but also in times of adversity. If, through sickness or fault of judgement, his good fortune fails, then must she show her quality, encouraging him ever with words of cheer and yielding him obedience in all fitting ways—only let her do nothing base or unworthy. Let her refrain from all complaint, nor charge him with the wrong, but rather attribute everything of this kind to sickness or ignorance or accidental errors.

Now of course the whole work is hopelessly sexist and all that but the above passage if rendered to fit more with today’s norms has a bit of really good advice.  It is easy to be kind and loving to your husband when everything is good, when the world looks at him and smiles, when he is successful and healthy.   But sometimes men fail.  They loose their jobs, they have problems, they fall ill.  Then is when the marriage vows become a buttress against the world.  When he has tripped and needs a hand, when the world has crushed him down that is when the good wife’s character shows.  When she hides his shame from the world, when she builds him up instead of tearing him down, when she never speaks ill of him, she becomes his best friend, his help and his joy.  That is when his heart can trust in her. 

I have often found it distressing how many  women come online and drag their husbands through the dirt.  How often they complain about the minor little things he does.  How they whine about the things he doesn’t do.  Now maybe they are all sweetness and light to their husbands in real life, but I can’t imagine how heartsick these husbands would feel if they read what their wives say about them.   But it isn’t just that women do this to their husbands they encourage it.  It become at times a sisterly hobby of sharing all the dirt on their husbands.  

My own good husband would be crushed if I said half the things about him I have seen other rattle off as though they were talking about what was for dinner or how to prune roses.   It all goes back to love and motivation.  When you love someone you don’t want the world to see their faults.  People frequently tell me how great Kyle is because he does something or another.  If the neighbor told me how great he was for going shopping the last thing I would think is “nahhhh, he only does it because I bribe him or whip him into it, I am the great one.”  I wouldn’t even think “Well how come you don’t think I am great when I do all the shopping most weeks?”   When someone says something about what a great guy my husband is I think “Yeah!  He is a great guy.”  Because he is.  He doesn’t do it all, he isn’t perfect, but gosh darn it he tries and that means so much.

I can not imagine being Leslie Bennetts husband.  With the insulting things she has written about him I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he decided her over-entitled-ego was too much and left to find someone who wouldn’t verbally upbraid him for the entertainment of the world.  I will hold out the same hope for them that I did with Corinne Maier and her children.  I hope he was in on this all along. Maybe he has a strong enough ego and is secure enough in her affection to see this article out there and be fine with it.   Maybe she is hopeful that this will build up sales for her book and he encouraged the whole thing.   They will open the big royalties check together and laugh at the world as we all get up in arms about what a harpy she is.  She will look at him while they are getting ready for bed tonight and she will smile and tell him he is the best guy in the world and he will know she means it.  I feel very sorry for him if that is not the case.

Catholic Homeschooling · Mary Mary and Martha · My world


When you have a large family laundry becomes a project.  It is not a matter of tossing half the clothing you own in the washer and then taking off for the day.  When you have a large family the laundry must flow.  Or you face the horde looking at you half dressed wondering where their socks and pants are while you are frantically trying to find one clean shirt while trying to get out the door for an appointment. I have already written about our laundry containment system of multiple hampers.   Now, I will get down to the nitty-gritty of washing. 


In our laundry system the clothing is already sorted into five main groups: darks, lights, whites, bath towels and kitchen towels (which include aprons, oven-mits, napkins, and shopping bags).  Hand washables, delicates and dry-cleaning items are also sorted out.   We have enough clothing that there is still some sorting that ideally will take place at this point.  Heavy dark clothing is separated from light-weights darks and lint givers from lint collectors go in separate loads.


As the laundry is separated I check for stains again and check pockets and zippers closers.  If zippers are closed during the wash they won’t snag other clothing which can damage the zipper or the other item.  This also applies to buttons and snaps but is more important with zippers.  I remember having a conversation with someone years ago about having to check the pockets before sending things through the wash. Her take was that everyone should take things out of their own pockets (especially husbands), and of course she is correct, but considering we are living in the real world where people forget things like that I check them.  I think it is one of those cases where you can be right all you want but reality isn’t going to comply with you just because you are.  Sort of like crossing a street at the cross walk, sure the pedestrian has the right of way… but the car is going to hit you pretty hard if you don’t pay attention to it.


A bit on stains:


There are many wonderful stain removal products on the market and some good homemade alternatives.  Ohio State University has a wonderful article about laundry, including does and don’t for stain removal. 


The most important things to remember when trying to get out stains are:

  1. Timeliness – Almost all stains respond better to quick treatment and may even become impossible to get out if allowed to set
  2. Don’t get creative – most stains have well known removal techniques.
  3. Follow the directions – Both the washing directions on the garment and the product.  This includes spot testing, soaking time, water temperature, et al.
  4. Start with the least extreme option and go from there.


Before tossing something in the machine I also check to see if there is any quick mending that needs done.  Some things will get worse in the wash, loose buttons, fraying rips and will probably need mending before they are washed.  Something like a falling hem is more a judgment call they might be worse or not.




As I have mentioned we have an energy efficient large capacity front loader.   Any large family will do itself a huge service by using the most energy/water efficient machine they can afford.  When you are washing three loads a day the cost of electricity and water add up fast. 


I am really hooked on my front loader.  The clothing seems to come out cleaner, it runs faster and it is gentler than my old top-loader with agitator.  The delicate option is actually delicate enough to wash many of my hand wash items.  I haven’t been brave enough to trust my underwires to it.   A lingerie bag is nice to use in the wash and I have read about special cage like things called “bra balls” that can be used in machine washing your bras, but I haven’t tried one myself.  I actually don’t mind handwashing delicate fabrics.  Especially when I can use a nice smelling detergent, warm water and let them dry hanging in the bathroom. 


If you have never tried it you might want to look into blueing.  It really puts the sparkle back into white clothes. 




Line drying vrs the dryer.  Well, hands down line drying wins in theory.  It is energy efficient, better for your clothing, and all that is good and right.  But drying outside here in Western Oregon is problematic… considering anything hung outside after mid November is likely to be just as wet in mid March.    I have limited space indoors to dry, so it is the dryer to the rescue for the winter months.  During the summer I have gone through outdoor drying spells, but I need a better line system to make it really work.  I am researching the options and will try to get back with something sensible when I nail down the details.


For sweaters and other items that are flat dry I have a drying rack.  Actually my drying rack is broken and I am afraid I need to invest in another one.   But a folding one that comes out to do its work and then hides neatly away is perfect for our household.


Once clothing is dried I try to make sure it is folded and put away as soon possible.  I hate baskets of unfolded clothing getting all wrinkled and making it difficult for me to find the things I need.


I have for a while been considering ironing before things are put away, but have never made the switch.  We generally avoid things that need ironed.  I am awful at ironing.  For some reason I end up ironing more wrinkles in than I get out.  I use a spray starch on occasion and love the results.





Catholic Homeschooling · Mary Mary and Martha · My world

Saving money on food: the super basics

As you probably know the price of food has been on the rise.   The USDA is projecting a 5% possible rise in at home food costs.  This is of course hitting at a time where many families are already stretched as far as they can go.   So, how do you save money on food.

First off quit eating out.  Basic, simple, good for your bottom line and your waistline.  Eating out, especially eating fast food, is horrible for your family’s health.  Eating out is terrible for you and worse for your children.  High in fat, high in sugar, large portions and low nutritional value is the norm in fast food and most restaurant food.  All that together means that stopping through the drive-through or calling for pizza should be a rare treat.

Reduce the amount of prepared foodyou purchase.  Convenience foods are convenient, but they cost much more per serving and are lower in nutrition than the home-made counterpart.  With the possible exceptions of ramon noodles and cheep boxed mac-n-cheese they cost more.  But when you start looking at nutritional value added in then the cost is not offset.  Things like cookies, crackers, chips, boxed meals, TV dinners, cake mixes are more costly than the made-from scratch versions and are higher in fat, sugar and preservatives.

Control your shopping.  Use a list and shop less.  If you create a menu and a shopping list you can help avoid “quick” trips to the super markets to pick up “one or two things” that cost your family a bundle in time, gas, and those little impluse purchases that sneak into the cart.

Menu planning  is perhapes the single most cost effective measure you can impliment.  First it allows you to follow the first four points more easily and second it helps you stay within your budget while you shop.  If you know what is on the menu for the rest of the week, have the needed items purchased and in your fridge and pantry, stopping by the local fast food joint is much less of a temptation.  Menu planning also allows you to make the most of super market circular sales and coupons.  It also allows you to avoid waste.  I can’t tell you how often food has gone bad before we ate it.  With a menu plan the letuce and peppers in the bottom of the fridge will not be going bad nearly as ofter.  Left over nights can be scheduled in and they can be eaten before the left-overs become a bio hazzard.

My world

A bit of a break

Finally, I have my projects done and I can turn my attention back to home and children.   The weather forecast is not looking really great, lots of rain and somewhat chilly, so that puts plans of working on the yard and garden on slow burn.

We have a couple projects to catch up on for the children’s science and history.  We will also try to get some fun in during the next couple days.

My world

Ten minutes for a cup of coffee

I am giving myself a hair of a break this morning.  Monday and yesterday were both hectic and today promises to be stuck on a dead run from now until the kids are in bed.   I have two projects that are rolling out this week and then I am taking a few weeks off —  I think.  It isn’t uncommon for me to declare that and then run into some new work. 

Mary Mary and Martha · My world · Simplicity

Laundry – the system

I mentioned in my first article, briefly, about laundry systems.  Today I plan to expand on that a bit more.    The USDA survey on the cost of raising a child estimated that parents spend roughly $575 per child per year on clothing.  As with most things of this nature I look at that number and think, “Wow, that seems a bit high.”  But if I was buying everything for the children new, and including foot wear that seems a possible number.   No matter how you look at it clothing is an expense.  Caring for you clothing to keep it looking nicer longer makes sense on every level.   When you have a large family having a system is imperative.  I can think of nothing more frustrating that trying to get three, four or five children out the door while looking of missing socks, the favorite sweater, or the ballet tights that are hiding somewhere in the house only to be discovered under the bed and very dirty.

A long time ago I read about space planning and functionality.    It might even have been in college, but be that as it may, a large family either plans its space for functionality, luck out and creates systems naturally or it fights the chaos that lack of planning creates.  Laundry is no exception.

I view the laundry process as starting when the clothing is taken off.    Clothing coming off a person falls into about 5 categories: it is going to be worn again before it is laundered, it is going into the regular wash, it needs to be hand wash or dry cleaned, it is stained and needs treated, it is exceptionally dirty.  This is the break down of the decision point of the laundry system:

It is going to be worn again: Jackets, coats, “church clothes”, basically anything lightly worn that doesn’t need laundered gets a quick look over for any missed spots and then gets hung up and put away.

It is going into the regular wash: This is the bulk of our clothing.  These cloths go into the hamper in the room they are taken off in.  When I have fewer children (my mom’s system) the laundry was take to a central  hamper in the laundry room.  Or it got left on the floor of the bedroom or bathroom.  This can work for bigger families, but I have found it easier to have hampers in dressing areas so that young children can drop their laundry into it themselves without having to leave the room.

It needs to be hand wash or dry cleaned: These items are mostly mine to start with, they have their own small hamper in the closet in my room.  When the children are wearing something special that needs hand washed or dry cleaned I will make sure that it gets separated.

It is stained and needs treated:  The best time to catch a stain is when it happens, the next best is when it is taken off.  If something has a stain my goal is to nab it right after it is taken off, take it to the laundry room, treat it with the appropriate stain remover and sort it for washing.  Sometimes I miss this and don’t catch it until it is gone into the wash.

It is exceptionally dirty: Every mother is experienced with this one.  I cringe to remember nights where one or more child was ill and vomit covered laundry dominated my life for the day, toilet training accidents,  “Mommy we were playing farm and I got to be the PIG!” – mud covered things can not go into the wash right off.  These items don’t even get sorted.  They just get dealt with.  Sometimes a bucket soak or sink rinse is called for, other times the soak cycle on the washer is needed.  On rare occasions I have looked at something and said, “this is not worth it, I would pay the cost to replace this item rather than wash it”, and out it goes.

Step Two:

Once items make it to the laundry room they are sorted into five baskets.  There is a small basket of kitchen laundry,  the laundry room is right next to the kitchen and I dislike having the dish clothes and such in with the other laundry.  There are also four tall hamper baskets that clothing is sorted into as it comes into the laundry room.  Darks, bath towels, lights and whites (bleach-able) clothing each have their own basket.  Things that need to go through the delicate cycle go into a small basket on the top of the dryer.  In part this system developed because no one hamper was quite big enough for the job and in part because of the system I used while living in an apartment building.  Presorting the laundry makes life that much easier for me.  

While the laundry is being sorted it is given a quick check to make sure there are no missed stains, rips that would be made worse in the wash.  Pockets are checked, zippers zipped, everything is turned right side out or inside out depending on the washing instructions.   One of the nice side effects to the multi-basket system is that it is very easy to see when we are falling behind on the laundry or on a certain aspect (bath towels is the winner here).  It is also a good reality check for the clothing glut issue.  If I can’t sort all the clothing into these baskets then we have accumulated too much.

When a load is ready to be started we pull it out from the hampers.  I try to check again for stains, open closures, turned pant legs, folded socks and the like.  You might have noticed that I have a lot of redundant checking in the system.  This is an example of “the plan” vrs. “the reality”.  In the plan everyone cleans out their pockets, turns out their clothing and let’s me know if there is a stain.  In reality, pens are stuck in pockets of jeans with underwear and socks tangled in the inside out pant legs and since I may not be the one checking for these things in one particular step it make sense for me to check on all the steps rather than deal with the mess afterwards.

 coming soon… Washing, drying, ironing and all that sort of thing