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

Simply Lovely Spring 2008: The Splendor of Spring

Calling all you brilliant Simply Lovely writers out there!

This week I will be hosting the next “Simply Lovely Fair”   the topic is “Simply Lovely Picnics”. 

I will put off posting submissiongs until Saturday  the 31st  to give more people a chance to get their submissions to me. 

If you can leave your link in the comments or you can email them to me.

Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · Simplicity

Laundry part three

Francisco De Zurbar


This is the third of the laundry series parts one and two are:
Simply Lovely Laundry

Laundry – The System



Washing, drying, ironing and all that sort of thing

This article is a continuation of my other laundry articles: Simply Lovely Laundry and Laundry – The System.

In those articles I explained that the root struggles of laundry in our household.  Large families generate more laundry, but we had complicated our problem by having an excess of clothing and linens.  To solve this problem I created a lists of clothing for our family and lists of linens, towels and other washables.  By eliminating and limiting the amount of clothing we own I simplify the laundry. 

To manage dirty clothes we have hampers in dressing areas that are sorted into hampers in the laundry room before they are washed.  We have five baskets, four tall ones and one small one.  The tall baskets sort the laundry into whites, light colors, heavy/dark colors and towels.  The small basket holds the kitchen towels.  This makes it easy to keep the loads sorted and to see what needs washed “right now”.   Even the little kids can handle this sort of sorting system. 

The machines: we invested in the most energy efficient and high capacity washer and dryer we could afford.  Not a matching set,  because we found that often one item of a set was rated far higher than they other, so they don’t match but after doing the research on the models available to us and within our budget we ended up with what we have.  When we bought our first energy efficient washer I noticed a real drop in our electric bill.  I think it paid for itself in less than two years.  I am not going to recommend a particular brand here because by the time you read this something else will be better, but we have Whirlpool washer and Kenmore dryer.  If you are in the market for replacing your washer or dryer do the research to find an energy efficient, quality machine. 

Each of our tall baskets hold about one and a half loads of laundry.  To keep absolutely on top of the laundry I do two to three loads of laundry a day.  At one point I would be behind if I wasn’t doing three loads a day.    But I instituted some common sense practices that helped me greatly.

Hang up bath towels after they are used.  Towels used to dry off a clean body can in fact be used again.  The same goes with the pool towel.  As long as it is clean hang it up and let it dry, use it again.  Here is the math.  I put 10 bath towels in a load.  If each person uses a bath towel one a day and we go swimming twice a week that is 63 towels a week and 6.5 loads of laundry.  If each person hangs up their towel and uses it twice it cuts that in half.  

Change bedding all on the same day: I find it easier to have one, big, linen washing day then to have sheets dribbling in with the regular laundry.

Rules for lovely daughters:  You will not change your clothing three times a day not even twice.  If you are playing dress up you will put your clothing back on when you are done.  Yes, that means the same clothing  you had on before.  You will not eat, drink or do arts and crafts in your dress up clothing (exceptions may be made for tea parties).  

Rules for dashing sons: Please do not roll in mud, dirt or dirty leaves.  Do not throw mud, dirt or anything else at your siblings.  Do not hose down the dog in order to play “sprinkler” dog.  I don’t care that you were playing farm and got to be the pig, the mud rule still applies.  If you start getting hot bring your jacket or sweatshirt inside, please don’t leave it outdoors, drop it in the dirt or mud or put it on the dog.

Rules for all children: If you dig through your drawer to find a favorite item put everything back, in no circumstances should you leave clothing on the floor.  Hang up your bath towel and wash cloth.  Wear an apron when cooking and a craft smock for painting.  Use your napkin not your pants or shirt.  Use a tissue not your sleeve. 

I follow the manufacture’s instructions with my front loader and use the recommended detergent.  Some people don’t and their laundry comes out fine and their machines don’t appear to suffer.  Some people swear by certain brands, some buy whatever is cheapest, some people go for the environmentally sounder option and some people I know make their own.  I have no strong opinion on any of it.   If it gets your clothing clean and doesn’t break the budget isn’t that really what matters?

Hand wash: There is a surprising number of hand wash detergents.  Perfume companies sometimes make laundry soap in your favorite scents. 

This is a big one for me this summer:  Dryer vs. Clothes line.  Living in the wet Northwest there really isn’t much of an option for hanging laundry outside from about October to May, but during the summer months we have enough good weather to make outside drying a possibility.  If you check this calculator  you can see how much it would save to dry clothes on the line.  For me it is about $22 a month.  Considering that line and two packs of pins will run you about $12 that isn’t a bad deal. 

My daughter Hannah loves the outdoor line.  On sunny days we hang the clothes out and then forget about them for awhile.  I have considered purchasing an umbrella line, but I haven’t cost proven it to myself yet.


I really try to avoid ironing as much as possible.  Kyle does a very good job with ironing his own clothes for work. 


Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · My world

Menu Planning Part 2

In the early 1960’s my mother sat in a home economics classroom thumbing through her “Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook” like so many young women her age.  It was the colorful 3rd edition, the reprint of the trusty classic.  She kept that old book, in fact she still owns it.  When I was a girl I used it to learn to make bread and cookies and read through it.  For years I had wondered why housekeeping was so difficult for me and then it dawned on my sometimes thick skull,  I had no idea what I was doing. As I mentioned in my last menu planning article I didn’t learn the skills I needed to have to run a home a my mother’s knee.  I actually had to learn many of the most important things later and on my own which has been rather daunting and something I am still working on.   One thing I did that helped me was to purchase my own “Betty” from e-bay.  I had love my mother’s old edition.  When I left home my mother bought me the 6th edition, which had been sadly gutted to fit the “modern woman’s” needs.  So I eventually bought the older edition for myself. 

It was then that I started to see how much I was really creating extra work for myself simply by running my household so inefficiently.  Menu planning was one of the first things that I set my mind to fixing.  I started by just listing the meals my family likes and randomly fitting them into meals over the course of a few weeks.  This was far better than nothing, but still had a ways to go.  Kyle and I used the South Beach Diet.  Its menu plan covers everything from breakfast to desert and I found this to be even more helpful.  So I carried it farther.  I have used my Betty Crocker cookbook and two nutritional sites to help me develop my new menu plan templates you can read about the process behind that here.  

For my family and our nutritional needs this is the basic outline I use:

·     Vegetables:  at least 5 servings per day
·     Fruit:  2-4 servings per day
·     Whole grains: 4-11 servings per day
·     Legumes: 1-3 servings per day
·     Soy: 2-4 servings per week
·     Oils, nuts, seeds, olives: 3-9 servings a day
·     Dairy: 1-3 servings a day
·     Eggs: 1 per day
·     Fish 2-4 servings per week, with at least 2 being omega-3 rich or having omega-3 in something else
·     meat 1-3 servings per week


That is the goal.  Each day we have three meals and two snacks to fill.

·     Breakfast
·     morning snack
·     lunch
·     tea
·     dinner


So over a week it looks like this :








Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit Fruit
oils Dairy  Dairy Dairy Eggs Eggs  Eggs
Dairy Eggs Eggs Eggs Dairy Dairy Dairy
Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack
Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable vegetable
  Dairy oils Dairy oils Dairy  
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit
Legumes oils Legumes oils Legumes Legumes oils
oils   oils   oils oils  
Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
oils Legumes oils   Dairy oils Dairy
Dairy   Dairy        
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit
Oils Legumes meat Legumes Meat Dairy Legumes
Dairy oils oils oils oils oils oils
meat Dairy Dairy Dairy Dairy Fish Dairy
  Fish         Chicken or Fish

Whole grain at every meal, work soy into the menu at least two or three times.

This menu template covers the basics of good nutrition as I see it.  You might disagree or have some other important idea to work in.   But this more about practice than theory.   No matter what theory drives your menu plan at some point the theory has to work in practice.  Pretty much how I got the template was to list out what needed to be served, how many times per day or week then distributed the amounts over the day and week.   Any nutritional plan will lend itself to this method, though some will require more work than others.  

I list out my families favorite dishes and then place them into the menu.  Note that for vegetables the amount is unlimited the daily minimum is 5 serving.  A bean and vegetable soup for lunch with a whole grain roll with olive oil to dip and a piece of fruit will cover a legume, vegetable, whole grain, oil and fruit slot.  With that in mind it is easier to get all those servings in than it might at first seem.  Two vegetable servings can be covered as easily as having salad and steamed broccoli at the meal.  Peanut butter and celery or cauliflower bits with hummus for a snack fill both the slots for the tea-time snack.   I also don’t get overly stressed out about breaking the menu a little bit.  A slice of Canadian bacon at breakfast a couple times a week, a slice of lunch meat to make a veggie-turkey roll-up or even hot-dogs on a Saturday night is not something I worry about.  The menu plan is to serve me and my family with nutrition in mind, not become something rigid and painful.

All that said there is more to eating than vitamins and calories.  The Smart Homemaker of my Betty Crocker cookbook, of course she realizes that good nutrition is the cornerstone happy family meals, but she also knows that it takes more than just the “right” foods.  She stressed that our menus should be Appropriate to our situation, Be appetizing in appearance, be satisfying and that we should be mindful of cost.  To this list I personally add seasonal, local and as sustainable as possible.

Appropriate: Each family is different.  I am home during the day and this allows me to devote more time to meal preparation than some families.  We have a larger family, small children, we homeschool and we live in the city and we don’t have any allergies or food sensitivities.   If any of these things changed our meals might look different.

Menu planning has to also be appropriate to my brain.  For me it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel each week.  I am a thinking junkie, in fact I can over think just about anything as all my friends and anyone who has read this blog can attest to. I like to weigh every possibility and find out all the facts and making a commitment to a decision gets me a little nervous.  Consequently I can burn a lot of time making choices.  Knowing this about myself I realize that every time I can remove deliberation out of the process I am saving myself a lot of time.  Set menu plans are a good thing for me, going through a stack of cookbooks and searching online for new recipes each week is going to take me too much time.  It is much better for me to use set menus.


Appearance:  Betty’s advice is to prepare, serve and present each meal attractively.  Plan ahead so that you serve a variety of colors an textures.  This adds both nutritional value and visual appeal to the meal.   Take the time to eat together, use the good china more frequently, set the table for dinner.   I was listening to a discussion on food several months ago, it may have been Michael Pollen who was speaking about how food has become less satisfying us, and part of the decline in that is how we have made eating so utilitarian.  It requires a certain time commitment to serve  a lovely meal at an attractive table for the whole family, but it is worth it for so many reason.

 Satisfaction:  This section could have been called “prepare with care” and it is closely related to the suggestions of appearance.  Well seasoned, carefully prepared food in variety is more satisfying.  I remember having read the little poem as a girl:

Something soft and something crisp
Should always go together,
And something hot with something cold
No matter what the weather;
Something bland needs the complement
Of something with tang and nip.
Follow these rules and all your meals
Will have taste appeal and zip.

  It really does make sense and isn’t as complicated as it seems, warm bread, a crispy salad and a well seasoned soup makes a perfect meal that follows the above suggestions to the letter.   Macaroni and cheese with peach slices and cooked carrots lacks variety in color and texture.  I served this once and my children, who usually are not the type to protest about any of those menu choices all looked at me sort of funny and complained:  “Everything is orange, mom”  caught off guard I had to come up with a quick reply, “ummm, yes, it is ‘Orange lunch’ today”.  They thought that was cool and happily ate it, but it does illustrate the point:  Even my little ones prefer a little variety of color and texture on the plate.

Wine: I know some people dislike wine or have some sort of objection to it.  We have wine, usually red, several times a week with dinner.  It is inline with most of the healthy eating plans I have seen and both my husband and I enjoy a glass with our evening meal.  It is a highly satisfying touch to the table for us.  As the children reach their teen years they are allowed a bit of their own on occasion and we are comfortable with this.  I have one acquaintance who drinks a small amount of red wine, for health reasons, but only when her children can’t see.  I suspect this sort of secretive behavior sets a worse example than pouring a glass at dinner would, but to each their own.

Technique: Cooking well make preparing your family meal more fun for you and more satisfying for everyone.  If you are new to cooking or haven’t had much success in the kitchen I highly recommend taking the time to learn basic kitchen techniques.  Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here for the Food” is one of my favorites; there are websites that illustrate basic techniques and possibly even classes through your local college or home extension office.  Don’t be afraid to try something new from time to time.  I try to work one new recipe every two weeks or so.  Food in addition to being prepared to be satisfying can be very satisfying to prepare.

Cost: Food costs have gone up rather sharply lately and there are many places where you can cut family food budget.  Menu planning just by itself will help you save money.  You can plan ahead what to eat, you can stock your pantry when things are on-sale, take advantage of seasonal food, coupons and “loss leader sales”, you can shop at bulk and discount stores and you can basically eat better for less.  You might want to try cooking ahead or freezer cooking in order to save even more.  But the biggest differences for us are cutting out what I call “Oh, crap, dinners”  — those times when it is 5pm and I have no idea what to cook and nothing quick in the house to prepare which results in a last minute trip to the store or drive through.  When I am on top of my menu planning we aren’t making last minute trips to the store (saving time, gas and not purchasing impulse items) and we aren’t resorting to fast food and eating out which are both budget and diet busters.

Appropriateness, appearance, satisfaction, nutrition and cost are Betty Crocker’s list of important menu planning considerations.  But a lot has changed since the 1950s.  We are more aware of the impact our actions as a society have on our health and the environment in which we live. The University of Michigan Integrative Medicine’s Healing Foods Pyramid states that it emphasizes (among other things) “Support of a healthful environment”  the way in which our food is grown, the amount of pesticides, hormones and fertilizers all affect the health-value of our food and health of the land it is grown on.  Supporting local farm families in turn supports our communities economically.  All these things matter when put together.  While I am certainly not militant about being organic or “green” I view these ideas as personal lifestyle choices and I offer them up for consideration.

Seasonal, local and sustainable: Eating food that is in season locally allows you to take advantage of what is available in your farmer’s market and in local u-pick and small farms near you.  You might even be able to grow some of your own vegetables and seasoning.  Herbs are especially easy to go and require no more space then a window box or small platter; salad greens, radishes, green onions require very little more and tomatoes will happily grow in a large patio pot.   Learning to freeze, can, dry and/or pickle is a great way to save money, support local your local economy and avoid pesticides and other unwanted chemicals.   You might even be lucky enough to be able to purchase eggs, meat and dairy from small operations.   A side of beef in the freezer can provide meat for a year.  For items beyond your local market keep an eye open for fair-trade options to help ensure that more of the profit goes to those who actually produce the product.  Consider researching the possibilities available to you, you might find yourself happily surprised at the variety and quality. 

On a seriously Catholic note, you might also, when possible try top purchase from religious orders. The Anchoress has been raving about her sponsor “Mystic Monk Coffee“.   Many orders have some sort of food items they sell.  Hopefully I will be able to work up a list soon.  If you know of one please send me a link.

I will be continuing this series.  Next in the works is an article on Pantry and Shopping Lists and I will start posting completed menus later next week. 


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.