Thursday, January 19, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean: Week 2- The Pantry

Some of yall might remember (it's been a while) when I tried to participate in the 34 Weeks of Clean challenge hosted by my friend Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays.  I didn't start at the beginning and kinda jumped in the middle but never really stayed with it (although, I DID manage to clean up my spices and keep them that way for the last two years because of it.. haha).    Well, Michele has started the challenge once again and I get to start from the beginning.. YEAH!!!

The timing on this was perfect for me as we're probably going to be moving in the next few months.  I wish I could say we were moving to another base but alas, it will just be to another house in the same neighborhood on the same base.  However, they are in the process of refurbishing the housing and will need to us move to a newly refurbished house so that they can begin the process on this one. So eliminating the clutter and getting things cleaned up will help with that.  ( I also mention this because, as we move through the house, if there are pictures with stacks of clothes or boxes, it's because we're sorting through stuff to donate, ect..)

If you'll notice, however - I am jumping in here at Week 2.. I promise I'm not cheating or skipping.. Week one was to clean and put away all the Christmas items - which we had already done, sealed the boxed and put in our garage. However, there's spiders and other critters in the garage, so I don't like to go in there, so I am NOT going in there just to take a photo of a couple of boxes.. LOL (Sorry Michele)..

So here I am jumping in with week 2..  and if you're at all interested in joining up and jumping in as well, I invite you to do so.. Just click on the button which will take you over to Family, Faith and Friday's webpage and you can link up with us.

 photo cleanbutton_zpsnlzebjbs.png

This week, we were assigned the pantry area.

One of the not so great things about military housing is that they really don't think out the functionality of the cabinets, ect when they design them - they just throw some low cost cabinets in and you make due with what you have.   Because of this, the cabinet that I assume is suppose to be the pantry has turned into an appliance storage and a cabinet on the far side of the kitchen is our pantry.  It's not ideal, but as the cabinet can barely hold two can goods deep, it doesn't hold a crock pot or a bread machine and there's not enough counter space to keep it out so it is what it is.. lol

Here's what probably was suppose to be the pantry
And here's what we actually use for a food pantry

Now, to be honest, we don't use a lot of canned goods..  I usually keep a few cans of black beans and diced tomatoes, some tomato paste and stuff like that but outside of that, I rarely use canned goods.  I also tend to shop for a week at time, which means we don't keep tons of food on hand (I mean, come on, look at my pantry space!!!)..   When we get to the freezer and fridge, we'll have a different discussion, because I cook most of our food fresh or frozen fresh. However, I'll be honest, it's been a while since I've gone through the pantry, since most of the time what I'm using is on the front of the cabinet.  So it was time to start pulling everything out so I could wipe down the counters and start sorting things out.. 

Yeah, the shelves and walls of the cabinet definitely needed some wiping down.   After getting the crud out, I gave each shelve a few squirts of LA Awesome and wiped them all down until they were sparkling and started the process of checking expiration dates and trashing anything questionable. 

I had to laugh that had three cans of Oceanspray Cranberry sauce - all three expired from 2014, 2015 and 2016..  Again, we don't use can goods often and my husband makes fresh cranberry sauce each year for Thanksgiving.  However, almost every year Operation Homefront passes out Thanksgiving bags to military members which have food items to help out with holiday meals and they always have a can of cranberry sauce.. Really wish I had donated these to the food bank or something when I got them rather than tossing them out when they were of no good to anyone. 

I was SOOOO glad that we kept this box of Lipton's tea so that we could make some tea.... Oh wait.. IT'S EMPTY!!!   I guess the last person to make tea couldn't be bothered to toss the empty box into the trash can that is exactly one foot away from the cabinet.. LOL  I don't even want to know how long this empty box has been there, since I keep tea in another cabinet.. LOL 

Also glad someone saved these twenty or so popcorn kernels.. I mean, I doubt whomever put this back in the cabinet just couldn't have fit these last few kernels in the pot when they were popping popcorn last.. So thoughtful of them to leave some for the next person ;)

Overall, I really didn't have a whole lot of wasted foods.. Outside the three cans of cranberry sauce, I also found four cans of can goods that were expired, two boxes of brown sugar that was rock hard that I went ahead and tossed, a bag of nuts left over from two Christmas's ago, a bag of pancake mix that a friend gave us probably five years ago (it expired in 2012) when they moved off base and the popcorn and empty Lipton's box.  We also had a couple of bottles of alcohol that poured out - a 12 year bottle of Dewalt's scotch (do NOT buy 12 year old Scotch - YUCK!!) and a bottle of Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon that I have NO idea where it came from.  

So, granted, it's not a HUGE difference, but it is more organized..   Charles said cleaning it out and rearranging it seemed to open up more space, I don't know about that but at least it's clean inside and when it's time to move to the new house, I can quickly just put everything in a box and transfer it quickly to the new house (which I'm sure will have the same stupid cabinet configuration).. 

The next day, it was time to attack the other "pantry".. It was my hopes to maybe find a way to eliminate some of the stuff in this cabinet and even find better places to store some of this stuff.. The car cleaning stuff, for example, needs to find a new home in the garage where it's easily accessible when he's outside cleaning the car. Why it ever ended up in my kitchen, I have no idea.. Not only did it take up a large portion of the pantry space, but it also took up the entire top of the fridge.. LOL (You'd think we have a high dollar sports car but no, we only have a lil SUV.. I can only imagine the collection we will have when my husband finally buys his sports car in May). 

Sooooo, I boxed all the car cleaning stuff into a plastic container and handed it over to my husband..  I honestly have NO idea where he put it.. And I'm sure it didn't end up in the garage but is probably on top of my dryer or something.. But it's out of my pantry at least!!  

Here's starting to empty out the shelves and get them vacuumed and wiped down with some LA Awesome..  Remember when I was talking about cheap material?? This entire unit is partical Wood /Pedboard and is glued to the wall.. lol 

And since my husband said I was "husband-shaming" him by showing all the car cleaning stuff,  have to be fair and post my own picture of shame..

I call this photograph "I Have A Drinking Problem"..  Yup, it's true.. I can't help it..  All of these boxes are tea bags.. Lots and lots of tea bags of all sorts of warm tea goodness..   I have teas for any mood I might be in.. Can I just say, I love tea???

But, lets face it. That many tea boxes take up A LOT of room..  Room that could be used for other things.. And why the heck I didn't think to do this before today, I have no idea but the stroke of genius came over me and I figured out that I have a drawer that I don't use for anything other than to keep the spindle for my food processor in.. The draw isn't wide enough to do anything else with except maybe dish rags and I have another area for those... Soooooooooo....

And above that drawer is a cabinet that is the same width as this drawer. I typically use it for my boxes of checkbooks and odd stuff like that.. And I had a plastic container that honestly, was too cloudy looking to put food in anymore. So that turned out to be the perfect place for the K-cups for my Keurig.

I love my husband, but it's time to husband shame him again..  The other day, I bought him some cereal. Now, I know he hid this box in the pantry in order to hide it from the kids.. But he obviously took it out of the pantry to pour himself a bowl of cereal, right?? I don't think he poured the bowl of cereal wihle the box stayed in the pantry.. Sooooo, WHY ooooh WHY did I find THIS in the pantry???

YUP, It's EMPTY!!!

So after some more thinking about why the heck were things organized the way they were, I decided to do some more changes.. One thing that always  bugged the heck out of me was the fact the cabinets we kept our plates and cups in, while conveinent to the stove and counters for meal preps, stunk otherwise.. In order to unload the dishwasher, we had to put the plates on the counter or stove, load the dishwasher with the dirty dishes, then close the dishwasher to access the cabinet. It was also a hard reach for me in all honest and many times I have to use a step stool to get to the plates.. Again, why I never thought to put them in the pantry before (maybe because it had ALL of my husband's car cleaning supplies in it??) but as I eliminated stuff, I realized there was more than enough space for the dishes.. So the first two shelves are now for plates, bowls, cups and baking stuff.. 

BTW, see this roasting pan??  My husband and I searched high and low for this roasting pan on Thanksgiving to roast our turkey in..   Since Charles takes care of the turkey, this is his thing and I guess he put it up last year. I checked all the places I could think of where I might have put it, all the logical spots such as where I keep bakeware and pots..  Guess where it was?? Hidden behind all those car cleaning supplies ;) 

Since we have a zoo full of pets, I have to have a designated area for pet supplies.. Foods, substrates, bird feeders, ect.. So the Third shelf is now the dedicated pet shelf..

I ended up throwing a few broken appliances away, such as my old bread machine that was falling apart.. I hated parting with it, it was a wedding gift when I married my first husband 22 years ago and it lasted longer than the marriage did but the motor was getting worn out and the bottom was busted.. Charles bought me a new one last Christmas so it was time to part with it.  I also tossed our old Tassimo coffee maker - also a wedding present from my current in-laws when Charlie and I married.. It stopped working a while back and we bought a Keurig but I just never tossed it..RIP My old friends.. You served me well..

So for a few hours of time, I have both a clean food pantry as well as a re-established kitchen pantry.. I tossed a few extra pounds of unneeded appliances and trash, expired food and a bunch of old Scentsy stuff that I definately didn't need anymore..  and about 10 egg cartons that I was saving for Homeschool projects that just have yet to happen and probably never will.. (watch me need them next week lol)

OOOh, and in case anyone's wondering.. I did do some cleaning of the top cabinet above the pantry, but I can only reach so high with it, even standing on a stool. The top shelf is impossible, but I did get the bottom reorganized and decluttered as well ;)

Can't wait to see what Michele has planned for us on Week 3 ;)  Bring it on!!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A is for Air Force (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

It's time for another start to the "Blogging through the Alphabet".  This time, Annette at A Net in Time and Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool are co-hosting and since it JUST started, there're more than enough time for you to hop in on the fun..

A Net In Time Schooling

Rather than just coming up with random posts to write for each letter, I thought t would be kind of fun to find a way to write about topics that will help the reader learn a bit more about our family.  Maybe it will be about homeschooling, maybe it will be about our just a typical day in our life but each week will be bit of a window into our lives as a family.

For the letter A, I decided to go with the Air Force.  The Air Force has been a VERY important part of our lives as a family for the last 7 years.

Our Air Force Story began in 2006. I was working at a respiratory therapist and had been working to support our little family for our first 5 years together. Originally living in Texas, I began taking contracts with hospitals for three months at a time through agencies. Because we were never anyplace for longer than a few months, Charles wasn't able to work. When Garrett was born, Charles became a Stay At Home Dad while I continues to work.  When I got pregnant with Ashleigh, we decided to stay at the hospital I was currently at and let us settle down for a while. Charles continues to stay at home with the kids while I worked the night shift, but he was getting pretty restless.  A hard worker to begin with, he wanted to start contributing to the family financially plus learn a career.   In 2010, Garrett was 3, Ashleigh had just turned 2, Alyssa was 10 and Charles was just 25 when he swore in and loaded up on a bus from Lansing, Michigan to head to San Antonio, Texas for Basic Training.

Charles swears in before leaving for Basic Training
A Very Tiny Garrett before his Dad left for Basic Training

Charles getting on the bus from Lansing, Michigan to head for San Antonio Texas.  Look how young he was!!!

The Kids at Dad's Basic Training Graduation 

 In the years that have following that decision, we have seen so many changes in our lives..  We've watched Charles go from a slick sleeved Private graduating basic training to a Staff Sgt in only a few years.  We had a huge cross county move from Michigan to California where we have been since 2011.  The kids have learned to accept sonic booms and sand storms as they've grown from barely walking and talking to amazing kids. Alyssa has gone from 6th grade to about to graduate high school this year.

Our house since 2011 - We've seen three sets of neighbors move in and out next to us but we're still here years later.

How Charles and the kids looked when we first moved to Edwards AFB in 2011. 

Charles being awarded Staff Sgt. 

Serving as a member of the Blue Eagles Honor Guard
Last summer saw Charles re-enlist for another 6 year contract with the Air Force.  His plan is to retire from the service after 20 years and then maybe get a civilian job with a company such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin.  

We don't know where the Air Force will take us - we may be here for another 6 years or we may find ourselves in Alaska or Nevada or Virginia.  We will never know if one day, Charles will check his email and find out that it is time to start packing and it's time to move.   I look forward to any opportunity that is sent our way, but for now, the Air Force has made it possible for me to stay home, educate the kids and take them to some pretty amazing places like Yosemite and Sequoia National Forest.  We've had bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, hawks, vultures and hummingbirds visit our yard for us to observe and we've seen some amazing aircraft fly over our home.

So for us, A is for Air Force.. And it will always be a very important aspect of our lives.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Middle (Five Minute Friday)

I'm so happy to see that even with the New Year, the Five Minute Friday linkup is still going.  (Now if I can just find someone starting up the 52 Lists for this year, I'll be happy)..   If your not familiar with the Five Minute Friday linkup, it's hosted by Kate at the blog Heading Home. Each week, Kate invites other bloggers to reflect and write for five minutes on a word for that week.

If your interested in joining up, by all means, click on the graphic below and join in the fun.

This week, the word given was "Middle"..  My five minutes starts NOW!!

The word middle makes me think of a number of things, but the one thing that comes to mind is "Middle Aged", which is where I am now.   And when I look back on my life and where I am in it, I realize that it went faster than I think it should have and I really didn't accomplish nearly the amount of things I wanted to achieve before I reached this point in my life.

It hasn't been all bad, for sure.  But I had dreams of accomplishing huge things, flying airplanes and making a comfortable living for myself and fill a passport with foreign travel.  Even now, we struggle from time to time, living paycheck to paycheck.. We only have the one car (hopefully we will finally have two in a few months), on paycheck, we live in government owned housing (We're military living on base LOL) ..  One would think we would have at least bought a house by now! LOL

But, it's okay, because, it's called "Middle Aged" for a reason. It means there's still time for me to achieve things - I could go to school tomorrow and start studying to become a doctor.. I could get my pilots license and soar high above the earth..  I still have time to travel to Scotland and Ireland  And eventually, Charles will be out of the military and we will have a home of our own or maybe we'll buy one of those "little houses" that we can pull behind a pickup truck and have a new view every day.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reaching the Finish Line

For most people, new year always comes along with a list of resolutions, some new and some old.  I personally don't make resolutions.. Resolutions are something you make with the mindset that it's something you have already failed at, and will most likely fail at again.  I just don't want to enter a new year with the mindset that I have already failed and will probably continue to fail and wait til the next year to try again.  It just seems like a vicious cycle that we do to ourselves that breaks our confidence and puts us in the mindset of "oh, well".

Instead, I set bite sized goals that  know I can accomplish and build off of those goals.  Recently I read something that I really liked and that stuck with me : "There's always another goal hiding behind the one that you're chasing".   The reason I like that so much is that regardless how small my current goal may be, I've got to clear it to see the next one which will be bigger..

My first small goal this year is to get off my butt and exercise..  I think this is one of those resolutions everyone goes for on January 1st and by January 10th, the only thing they are lifting is the tv remote. Instead, I say "I'm going to make time to go to the gym three days a week".. Now, okay, just because I made time doesn't mean I'm doing it, I know.. But what usually happens is I tell my husband that "I'm going to go run in an hour" and in an hour, my husband will ask if I"m still going to go run and then I'm kinda obligated.. Hey, whatever works, right??

One of the goals I am hoping to achieve this year is to be able to run my first 5K and complete it.. I know exactly which one I wish to run - the Reindeer run here on base in December. I have an entire year to work towards accomplishing this goal.  As someone who ran track and field nearly 35 years ago and haven't tried to run since, this is something that will probably take me the entire year to achieve.  I've been researching how exactly I think I can accomplish this considering my current fitness level. I've got the treadmill, I've got shoes and I've got at least a small bit of determination..

But that's still the far off goal.. If I work only towards that goal, then I'm going to fail.. I can promise you,  if I start this year with the only goal of running a 5K, that come December, I will be sitting on the couch watching Hallmark holiday movies rather than running the Reindeer run.  Instead, I break it down to small goals. My first goal was to stay on the treadmill for a full 20 minutes, even if it was just a walking pace.  Check!!  Once that was accomplished, I went for walking a full mile, regardless of how long it took.. Check!!   Then it was I want to get through at least three of these "hills" (20 seconds of running/40 seconds of walking)..  Check!!!   The goal I accomplished last night was to complete all six "Hills" and the first one minute sprint..   My next goal will be do to complete the six hills and 2 sprints..

Basically, build off the previous goal by adding just enough to grow from it but not set the bar so high I can't achieve it.

Now, you're probably reading this and saying "When did this become a fitness blog??  I thought this is a homeschooling blog?".. And you would be right and there's a point to this, I promise.

The point is, the same technique can be used in any aspect of life - ESPECIALLY homeschooling.

Homeschooling can be extremely intimidating, difficult and stressful - like running that 5K. If you've never run a race and don't know how to pace yourself, you're going to burn out before the finish line is ever in view.  I've been there - one of those mom's crying to her husband saying "Did I make the wrong decision? Should I have put them in public school?"..  Some of us go into homeschooling at the starting line at Kindergarten and instead of that 5K, we realize we jumped into a full marathon and the finish line is graduating high school and we wonder why we're feeling out of our element.

It's all about those little goals to get to the ones that are hiding..  Whether you're breaking it down into what you can accomplish with your student in a grade level, a month, a week or even just getting through a day or a particular assignment, find the small goals and earn the small victories with your child as you accomplish them and then find the next goal hidden behind the first.  Celebrate those small victories - they are indeed victories, and look towards the next victory instead of setting yourself up with defeat because not everything went the way you think it should have.. It's amazing to me how one small set back can ruin the entire day, even after all the accomplishments achieved prior to that.  Celebrate the things you and your students did achieve.

Our typical day has plenty of setbacks.  My youngest is a jabberjaw and never shuts up while Garrett plays with his hands and fidgets - A LOT!!   I don't set a unrealistic goal of expecting them to sit still, stay quiet and listen to our lessons because I know that's never going to happen.. To even expect it sets us up for failure straight from the starting line.  Our finish line isn't to complete a grade on time by the end of the school year.  Instead the finish line is each lesson.  Then we line up for the next starting line, start the next lesson and work towards that finish line. When the day is over, that's another goal and another finish line.. Then we start it over the next day, and the next day.. Come Friday, we do the same thing but that final finish line of the week looms in the distance - to complete all lessons for the week.  But before we read THAT finish line, that means we had 45 goals we accomplished each before that - 9 each day.. That's 45 opportunities to celebrate!!!   By the end of the month, that's 180 celebrations!!     Maybe you had a bad day that day, they only accomplished 5 goals rather than 7?  That's still 5 reasons to celebrate rather than to declare the entire day a loss..

Stop running that marathon and putting yourself through hell trying to get to that final finish line!!  Make those small goals and celebrate those smaller victories with your child and then find the next goal hiding behind it..  Remember the story of the Rabbit and the Tortoise - slow and steady wins the race - you will have well rounded students with a quality education if you set your mind to the goal - but rather than burning yourself out, set those smaller goals to help you get there.

See ya at the finish line!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Bobcats (Wordless Wednesday)

The Bobcats

I often have some pretty amazing wildlife that just comes to visit my home, whether it be furred or feathered.   Last weekend, we had a family of bobcats (mom and two babies) who decided to take refuge in our back yard.

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