Monday, January 28, 2013

30 day cleaning schedule

My weekends are booked for the next four weeks because of work and family get-togethers, so my blog and my house will probably suffer a little until I get more free time again.

I haven't had much time (or success) in the kitchen the past few weeks, but I've been meaning to tell you about my attempts to keep my house clean when I'm super busy.

A couple weeks ago, I met my sister for lunch, and she complained to me that she usually spends her Saturdays cleaning, a chore that both her and I aren't too fond of.

I used to spend my Saturdays cleaning, too.  But I hated it.  I like to spend my weekends checking out events around central Iowa.  (It seems like there's always something fun to do around Des Moines/Ames on the weekends.)  Plus, I like to use the weekends as "catch-up" days for squeezing in a couple longer workouts, bike rides or runs.

Back in October, I started seeing cleaning schedules on Pinterest.  After a little online searching, I decided to give this 30-day cleaning schedule a try. Cleaning the house in 20 minutes a day? That sounded doable to me. 

At first, it seemed like I was cleaning way more than I'm used to.  I usually only cleaned the bathrooms once a week, not twice every 10 days, for example.  And I wasn't used to doing anything but sitting in front of the TV after I finished washing dishes in the evening.  But after a couple months, I got into the habit of cleaning every night after work.  Some of the tasks on the list take longer than 20 minutes, but most take less. I do watch less TV at night now, but that's probably a good thing!

I have to say, my house has never looked cleaner!  It's certainly not perfect (my husband is very messy!), but  the bathrooms and living rooms look way cleaner.  I replaced a few of the daily tasks to accommodate my needs.  For example, we don't have a linen closet (our old house only has two closets!), so I just replaced that day with "cleaning the laundry area/basement," which is something I typically neglected.

Now I don't always do everything on the list each month.  Sometimes, I'm so busy on the weekends that I get out of my evening cleaning routine and don't complete my task for the day.  So I'll either skip that day on the schedule, or do two tasks the next day.

So there's my secret to keeping my house somewhat cleaner.  I still don't love cleaning; my dream is to someday hire a maid to do the work!  Do you have any tips for keeping your house clean?  Are you a weekend or weekday cleaner?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Garden seed 2013

Yep, I bought garden seed already.  I get so excited when those seed catalogs arrive in the mail!  I'm happy to see that seed companies are offering more seeds for container growing.  Last year, I had great luck with the plants I grew in pots.  I'm planning to grow more container plants this summer, although I'm a little worried that the drought might lead to water-use restrictions in my town.  Container plants need to be watered at least once a day in the summer heat.  But I'm hoping for the best and that the drought will end this spring.

I would like to grow more flowers this year.  I saw dwarf sunflowers at the Iowa State Fair's Master Gardeners' plot, and I want to try to grow them at home.

Burpee Seed Co. is offering sweet corn for container gardening this year!  I've always wanted to grow sweet corn, but don't have the space.  I can't wait to see if these seeds will actually grow!

Something else I've always wanted to try, a dwarf melon variety that you can grow in a pot.  I might actually plant these in my little garden rather than a pot.  I would love to grow melons in my backyard!

And one more from Burpee, a new winter squash variety for container gardening.

And then after visiting the White House kitchen garden last fall, I've been wanting to grow scarlett runner beans.  I don't think these are edible, but the purple-flowered vines gave the White House kitchen garden a beautiful "cottage garden" look.  So I'm going to try these at home, maybe with a teepee-shaped trellis.

The rest of the garden seed that I like to grow -- like marigolds and zinnias -- I'll wait to buy until spring, when they're a little cheaper.  I'm willing to pay full price, and shipping, when it's a seed variety that's difficult to find locally.

Have you bought your 2013 garden seed yet?  What are you looking forward to growing this year?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Iced lemon bread (baked with Truvia)

I always look forward to getting the new issue of Hy-Vee Seasons magazine.  I enjoy learning a little bit more about how the foods I shop for at Hy-Vee end up at the stores.  The latest issue features a terrific article on different types of citrus fruits.  I loved the look of the iced lemon bread recipe in the magazine, so I decided to give it a try.

At the last minute, I decided to replace the sugar in the bread with Truvia baking blend.  I usually don't use sugar substitutes, but I bought the Truvia baking blend on the suggestion of a Hy-Vee dietician, who gave a presentation on healthy holiday recipes at our workplace last month.  She likes the Truvia sweetener because it comes from a natural source (the stevia plant). I found the Truvia in the Health Market aisle of Hy-Vee.

This was my first attempt at baking with the Truvia, and the bread turned out great.  I actually forgot that I used the Truvia until my husband complimented me on this recipe.  The top of the bread was nice and brown when I pulled it out of the oven. However, I only used the Truvia in the bread batter; I stuck with regular sugar to make the glaze and icing.  I assume the Truvia works best in cookies, bars, quick breads and muffins.  I wouldn't use it for making frostings, pie crusts, candies, etc.

Sorry that these photos aren't the best.  I was more interested in eating this bread, then taking pictures of it!

Have you ever baked with sugar substitutes?  I'm going to be experimenting more with the Truvia baking blend now that I've had such good results with it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snowshoe hike

Last month, I bought my first pair of snowshoes the day before the biggest blizzard of the winter (so far).  I've mostly been trying them out by walking in circles around my yard -- and I don't have a very big yard!  So I went on the Internet to see if I could find good places to snowshoe in central Iowa.  I discovered that the Boone County Conservation board was hosting a snowshoe hike nearby at Don Williams Lake north of Ogden.  So on a whim, I decided to check it out.

I was nervous about going, because I was afraid I'd be the only adult who showed up for the hike.  But I was very pleasantly surprised to find that more than 30 people were in attendance, and I was actually one of the younger people at the event.  I discovered it's a great exercise for all ages.

 The conservation board had snowshoes for those who didn't have their own.  Almost everyone used a pair of trekking poles as well, but I decided to go pole-less, which turned out to be a good decision because it left my hands free to take photos.

Here's the conservation specialist giving some advice on how to wear the snowshoes.  Not sure if you can tell in this photo, but her baby daughter was strapped to her chest.  She led the snowshoe hike while carrying her daughter! How cool is that?!

When we started the hike, we had to walk down a couple steep hills. That was probably the hardest part, because you're walking like a duck with the large snowshoes strapped to your feet.  The secret is to dig your toes into the snow, because the snowshoes have "grippers" at the toes for walking on ice, etc.

After a little downhill hiking, we walked out on the ice-covered lake.  I wasn't expecting to go "ice-shoeing," and I was little nervous about walking out on the ice.  But it was so much fun!  And the conservation specialist told us not to worry; the ice was plenty thick after nearly two weeks of below freezing temperatures.   (The ice isn't safe right now, however, after the warm spell we've had. So I don't recommend trying this now.)

We walked right down the center of the lake.  We could see tracks in the snow from the other critters that have been walking on the lake.

Every once and awhile, we'd see a bare patch of ice on the lake.  You could see that the ice was very clear and thick.

We ended up hiking for about an hour.  We spent a lot of time snowshoeing through the woods as well as walking on the lake.  At the end, we could help ourselves to hot chocolate at the lodge.

It was an amazing day, and I'm so happy that I decided to go on this snowshoe hike before the snow melted.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Broccoli salad

My husband and I haven't given up on our efforts to eat more vegetables. We enjoy a good broccoli salad, but I always felt a little bad about serving it, especially because of all the sugar in the church cookbook recipes I've found.  So I was happy to discover this slightly healthier version of broccoli salad from Our Best Bites.  

Yes, the recipe still has bacon in it! But it also has a lot less sugar.  I've tweaked the recipe a bit for my taste; I add raisins instead of dried cranberries, skip the sunflower seeds and broccoli slaw; and use honey mustard instead of coarse-grain, because that's what we have in our fridge.

I find that I like broccoli more if I cut it up into small pieces, and trim the stems off a little.

And here's the finished broccoli salad. Not so pretty in this close-up photo, but it's very good.

Give this salad a try if you have "non-broccoli" eaters in your house.  I bet the bacon will win them over!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Backyard bird feeders

One my husband's new hobbies (and I'm not kidding when I say he finds a new hobby every week) is feeding our backyard birds.  He bought a couple bird feeders at the local Orscheln farm store, which we discovered had quite a large selection of bird feeders and seed mixes.

My husband also built his own bird feeder, one that would also be accessible to squirrels, because he enjoys watching the squirrels just as much as the birds! He placed his wooden feeder on top of our burn barrel, which is currently sitting under our big evergreen trees.

It took a couple days before the birds got the courage to come to the feeders.  But once they found it, we've seen all kinds of birds.  The cardinals were the first to arrive.  We've also seen chickadees and woodpeckers. And the squirrels have been at the feeders, too.  We call it squirrel TV, because watching the squirrels is more fun than watching TV!

A fuzzy picture of the cardinal that lives in our backyard.
My husband says the birds really seem to like the black sunflower seeds.  I heard a DNR wildlife specialist on the radio a couple weeks ago who also recommended black sunflower seeds, because the birds really like the fat in their winter diets.  It's really fun to see all the birds in our backyard, especially now when the snow is on the ground.

Do you feed birds in the winter?  What types of birds have you seen in your yard?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Baked doughnuts

My husband usually doesn't pay attention when I drop "hints" for Christmas gifts, but this year, he listened and gave me a doughnut pan.  And it's a better quality pan than I would have bought myself!  It's a commercial-grade aluminum pan, which he found online.

I've tried out a couple baked doughnut recipes, including this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  The recipes were OK, but I'm still looking for "the one" that will become my favorite.

Do you make baked doughnuts at home?  Do you have a favorite recipe?  I'm looking for any suggestions.  Thanks!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Goals for 2013

The cardinal was back and perched in our trees yesterday.  I'll take that as a good sign for things to come in 2013!

I find it useful to write down my goals for the next year in this little blog of mine, so I can look back and compare what I've actually accomplished. To be honest, I haven't come up with one good, solid resolution this year, but there are a few little things I would like to focus on in the coming year.

Personal goals:
  • Watch my spending
  • Practice kindness
  • Spend more time with family
  • Run and/or bike a big race (like the Drake Relays road races)

Garden goals:
  • Continue trying to grow new container garden plants
  • Plant more flowers for a cutting garden

Household goals:
  • Paint all the bedrooms in the house
  • Remodel the downstairs bathroom
  • Try out a new healthy recipe once a week

Some of these goals are more ambitious than others. I'd say the most important are the personal goals. I would love to focus more on family and my home in 2013, and I need to practice kindness -- to strangers, acquaintances and loved ones -- because we all need a little boost now and then.

What are your goals for 2013? Do you prefer setting big goals or small ones?

Related Posts with Thumbnails