Seven Tips for Keeping the House a Little Bit Cleaner

Because to say I am actually keeping it clean would an overstatement.

I am not naturally inclined to be clean or organized (and while I’m at it I’m not much for home decor either) but we love to host and I recently realized that one of the ways I could make our guests feel comfortable was to give them a clean place to sit down.

Before I go into the gory details, I’ll add an interesting piece of Liturgical calendar history.  Did you know that lent is traditionally a time for house cleaning?

I’m not sure if it is reflective of a deeper spiritual reality or if the timing just happened to coincide with spring cleaning or it may be because on the Thursday night before Easter the alters across the world are stripped and cleaned before everything is replaced for the celebration on Easter Sunday. In any case it is the time of year for cleaning so here are my tips:

 

Seven Tips for Keeping the House a Little Bit Cleaner:

 

1.  Clean up as you go.

Sounds simple, feels impossible. I mainly apply this one to the kitchen. I have no dishwasher and detest the clean up of a messy kitchen after a relaxing meal.  My goal is to have every pan washed and the counters wiped before we sit down to eat. Then after dinner there are just a few plates and a serving piece or two.  I often utilize the low setting on my oven to keep dinner warm while I finish washing up, sometimes the food is a little cold but with practice I’ve gotten to where I can usually serve a  warm meal in a clean kitchen and it feels great.

I have tried and failed so far at getting my daughter to clean up as she goes. Her daily games are one unending activity that really does involve all of her stuff at the same time.  When I have the energy, spending five or ten minutes at night helping her (lets face it, it is easier to have her dad distract her with a story so I can clean up her stuff and don’t have to argue with her about how she is still using that and that there is no way that those paper scraps can go in the trash) get her toys put away, it really does pay off.

 

2.  Clean up after meals.

Unoriginal I know.  In the past I would get the dinner dishes washed and stop there.  Now after a meal (or at least after the last meal of the day) I wash the dishes and wipe the counters (this is easy if you have gotten the hang of step #1) but I also wipe the stove, and table, sweep the floor and on a good night run around with a rag and wipe up any splatters off the floor (I haven’t actually mopped in years).

We all have some point that we have decided is an adequate stopping point, for some it is just getting the dishes off the table, for others it is into the sink, for some it is  washed, dried and put away. Adjusting my “stopping point” to include all of these other tasks pushed me to get the kitchen truly cleaned up for the evening.  I find the space much more enjoyable than ever before.

 

3.  Clean for company and have company often.

I have tried a million different routines and schedules with plans of cleaning bathrooms on Monday, dusting on Tuesday blah blah blah, none of them ever stuck.

The only time I’m motivated to clean is when we have company coming. I know that most of my company doesn’t care if my toilets are scrubbed or my silver is polished (that’s a joke, I don’t have silver and if I did I doubt I’d polish it). And in theory I want to keep the house clean for my family even if we don’t have guests. But for me knowing that guests will be arriving soon tips the scales and I stop finding excuses not to clean. Plus I’ve usually cleared some time in the afternoon when we are expecting company so I seize the opportunity.  We have diner guests nearly every week, in those extra minutes before they arrive I dust and vacuum and even scrub toilets and honestly this is the cleanest my house has ever been.

 

4.  Everything needs a place.

I am not good at organization. When we moved into this house I stood around stuffing things into my kitchen cabinets and then taking them out again for a day before I finally asked my husband to help me.  He had it done in a few hours.

I have learned that whatever doesn’t have a place will end up making a pile of junk on my counter. I started paying attention to what was causing my clutter, old receipts, mail that needed to be dealt with, mementos I didn’t want to part with and then I painstakingly found a designated place for this stuff, now I have no excuse.

 

5.  Aim for empty surfaces.

It is easy for me to let clutter accumulate and I it still happens when I’m in the middle of a project. But my goal is to have our tables, and counters cleared off. Sure I still have the microwave and the fruit basket but it’s not okay to let other odds and ends accumulate there. When my standard is an empty counter  I deal with clutter early on rather than let piles accumulate.

How to keep the House a Little Cleaner. Liturgy of Life.

6.  Invest in storage systems.

I have only recently been okay with spending $14 for a silly metal rack to hold my pans. It still pains me to spend the money but I have found that it is worth it. I have a rack to hold my baking sheets and other small shelves to divide up my cabinet space as well as lots of baskets and bins for things in the closet.  The upfront cost of these always feels too much but the enjoyment of not having to dig through a pile of baking sheets makes it totally worth it, helps me to stay organized and gives me more functional space.

 

7.  Keep cleaning supplies handy. 

I have hanging baskets on the inside of my sink cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom here I keep a roll of paper towels (and cloth rags, I try to minimize my use of paper towels but for glass and occasional nastiness I do use one) and a cleaning spray (usually homemade but at least something non-toxic). This means in two minutes while my daughter is in the bath I can wipe down the bathroom sink and even the toilet. It’s no deep clean but it does keep the space looking tidy.

 

This is totally an area where I am still learning and trying to develop good habits. What works for you?

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast.

I would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us to share your thoughts on our latest book. You can also Like Liturgy of Life on facebook, join our facebook discussion group or subscribe for a weekly update and special emails.

 

For some more quick takes check out thisaintthelyceum.org for a line a line up.

Thanks for being here.

Erica

 

7 Vegetarian Recipes for Simple Meals During Lent.

Pleased to be linking up with the 7 Quick Take Weekend Crew at thisaintlyceum.com

 

Growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church lent meant fasting.  Unlike most of the Western Church the Eastern Orthodox have  standardized dietary practices. As a kid it felt rigid but as I grew I  came to appreciate the experience of being truly part of a church body. We fasted and feasted together and it was a beautiful thing.

We are Anglicans now where fasting is much more loosely defined and changes for our family from year to year. This lent we wanted to do something to simplify our diet as a family.  Among other things we decided to give up eating meat for the season (making exceptions for Sundays and other special times out with friends or family).  The goal of this is to focus on our human weakness and Christ’s suffering as we spend more time in prayer, and while I hope this is being accomplished I have to say I’ve also enjoyed trying out some new vegetarian recipes that normally don’t make it into the rotation.  Here are a few favorites.

 

1.Vegetable Stock:

Easy as can be though not much of a meal on its own it makes a great base to soups, rice and other dishes.

Vegetable stock

 

2.Lentil Soup:

A personal favorite which always reminds me of lent as a kid, this recipe has great flavor. I skipped the “ancient grains” and just used some Italian Seasoning.

lentil soup

3.Black Bean Burgers:

I always want to like these a little more than I do but still not a bad option for a vegetarian main course. This recipe is courtesy of the Pioneer Woman, seriously all of her recipes are so good.

black bean burger

4.Hummus:

I’ve been making this recipe for years. It is a great one to have around for snacking and meals or to pull out as a quick appetizer for guests. If I have time I go to the trouble of shelling the beans but you don’t have to.  Honestly I don’t know that mine is better than store bought, the taste is about the same but it feels good to make it myself and friends always seem to be impressed by it though it doesn’t require much more than a can of beans and a food processor.

hummus

 

5. Spring Rolls:

This was a total impulse buy. I was passing through the Asian food section and saw these rice paper wrappers and had to give it a try. I still need to work on my technique but they made for a fun and unusual dinner.

spring roll

 

6. Falafel:

As a college student in Cleveland on Saturday morning we would take the train over to the West Side Market, a giant indoor farmers market of sorts, after looking at all the delicious food we couldn’t afford or store since we lived in dorms we would end our outing with a famous falafel sandwich. I’ll admit mine didn’t even come close but still they made a reasonable dinner. I had an easier time shaping them into little flattened patties rather than balls. I served them on a plate with a salad and some other veggies.

falafel

7. Miso Soup:

I’ve been experimenting with Miso a lot lately. It is amazing how much flavor it has and so far it seems to be good on almost everything.  I just bought some seaweed to add to the next batch I do. I haven’t followed this recipe exactly. Instead I find that adding miso to either broth or water along with some ginger and a few splashes of liquid amino has nice flavor. I then add some thin slices of whatever veggies I have and make some rice noodles or just plain old rice to fill us up.

miso soup

Bonus: 8. Bean and Cheese Enchilada:

We’ve found that eating vegetarian for a few weeks has pushed us towards a more international style of cooking and I didn’t want to leave Mexico out. This time around I used canned sauce but cooked the  black beans and refried them myself. Next time I think I’ll also try making my own sauce too.

 

What special things are you doing for lent?

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast.

I would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us to share your thoughts on our latest book. You can also Like Liturgy of Life on facebook, join our facebook discussion group  or subscribe for a weekly update and special emails.

Thanks for being here.

Erica

 

 


Lent and the Preschooler

Our family has been moving fast these last few weeks and I have to confess it feels very unlenten.  Thankfully we are reading Let Us Keep the Feast, in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group which has given me a few ideas of how to adapt the traditional celebrations to my current situation which is trying to mother a preschooler in the midst of a chaotic schedule.

I’ve attempted two simple activities and so far have been fairly successful.

photo 3

1. Lent Paper Chain

This took all of 15 minutes to assemble. I cut paper into strips, one for each day of lent (46 strips) and in the color of purple which is the traditional color of lent.  Together we thought of different people to pray for and wrote a name on each strip and then made them into a chain. Each day my daughter tears off one piece of paper. It helps her to mark the days of lent and gives us someone special to pray for each day.

 

2. Bowl of Beans.

This took all of 10 seconds to assemble. I got this idea from my friend Shannon (check out her lent post for some more great ideas). I took a bowl and placed it on a plate and then dumped a bag of black eyed peas on the plate (you could use whatever you have in the pantry). Whenever we think of something we are grateful for we say it out loud and then put a bean in the bowl. It is a simple way to keep our minds focused on gratitude.  Then on Easter morning all the beans will magically transform into Jelly Beans. Exciting right?

 

I’d love to hear how are you keeping your family finding ways to celebrate the season of lent?

 

Thanks for being here.

Erica

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast. I would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book. You can also Like Liturgy of Life on facebook, join our facebook discussion group or subscribe for a weekly update and special emails.

 

 

 


Vegetable Stock and Easing Into Lent

Vegetable Stock Recipe and Lent, a Look at Liturgical living. Liturgy of Life.

We haven’t stopped running since before Christmas and it is already a scorching  90 degrees in the Rio Grande Valley.  The fact that we are a week into Lent seems impossible, I’m not getting any cues from my life my world that say, “it is time to slow down,” and making space for quiet meditation is the last thing I have time for.

But I suppose this is part of why we have Liturgical seasons. I may never stop hurrying and the seasons in south Texas may always feel out of sync with the rest of the country. Maybe a few times a year I need to be told to how feel because otherwise I would  continue to race tripping over my own numb legs.

 

This week in the Liturgy of Life Reading group we read a chapter about Lent, in Let us Keep the Feast.  This book offers a refreshing look at the ancient traditions  that we have in the Liturgical seasons and is helpful whether this is all new to you or if you have been doing it your whole life.

 

Lent also echoes the larger truth of the Christian life: that there are times when we will experience hardship and suffering, spiritual winters, and extended darkness. It enlivens us to the harder realities of lifelong faithfulness- that there will be times of absence, doubt, unfulfilled hunger, and unmet spiritual longing- and trains us to follow Christ in times of darkness.

In giving ourselves to a season of less, we learn that our personal comforts have little to do with greater love of Christ. We, like most of God’s creatures, are seasonal and should know that some seasons are harsher than others. There are different lessons to be learned, different habits to be employed in winter than in summer. This is as true in our spiritual lives as in  our gardens or the forests. Lent serves as a time to employ disciplines of self-denial and grow strong in them, rather than weakening ourselves in our constant pursuit of ease and joy. Lent assures us that joy will come later, and it will surely come.

 

One of the most common Lenten practices is a fast. For me growing up this meant giving up rich foods like meats.   So I thought  we would kicked off Lent this year by making a big pot of vegetable stock.  Here ya go.

 

I roughly followed this recipe. But made some changes based on what I had and the quantity I wanted to make.

Vegetable Stock:

Vegetable Stock Recipe and Lent, a Look at Liturgical living. Liturgy of Life.

Ingredients:

These proportions are for 4 quarts of water, but can easily be increased or decreased

Vegetables: 2 Onions (skin on), 10 stalks of celery, 2 carrots (always peeled), 1 head of garlic (skin on),  and 6 parsley sprigs are a must. Then consider mushrooms, fennel bulb and others you may like. All washed and cut into halves.

Seasoning: 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, one bay leaf and then other herbs which you enjoy.

2 Tablespoons of olive oil or your favorite.

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot and add onions, saute until softened, a few minutes and then add other vegetables. Saute another few minutes.
  2. Add water and bring to a boil. Then simmer for about 2 hours.
  3. Strain and discard vegetables.
  4. Let liquid cool and store in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months. You can also transfer into a pressure canner while still hot and follow the directions to can it and store it in the pantry.

Enjoy as a base for soups and stews during Lent and throughout the year.

 

 

This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast. I would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book. You can also Like Liturgy of Life on facebook, join our facebook discussion group  or subscribe for a weekly update and special emails.

 

Thanks for being here.

Erica