Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fifteen Minute Friday Night

One of the Fly Lady's mantras is you can do anything for 15 minutes. Tonight, I put it into practice while baking some of my Schwan's Monster Mania Cookies. The cookies are supposed to bake for 19-20 minutes, but I burnt them the first time I believe due to the fact that I used the small, upper over of my double range oven – very close quarters. So I figured I'd try 15 minutes and I set the timer. Then it hit me:

I should spend those 15 minutes cleaning out my freezer since some stuff fell out (not for the first time) when I went to find the cookies.

It's not very easy to tell the difference between the before and after pictures, but believe you me, it's there. Like items are grouped together, the interior has been wiped down and I tossed out some leftover smoothies - FYI, they don't defrost well.

So even though it's kind of a lame thing to do on a Friday night, it's one thing off my usually ever-growing To Do list, which is definitely a (baby) step in the right direction.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CHAOS Central

So I mentioned the fact that I just started following FlyLady.net to try and help me get a handle on the condition of my home. I'm an admitted victim of CHAOS, her term for Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. It is so true and I was reminded of it again today when I unexpectedly dropped in on my friend, Sylvia.

She had no idea Ian and I were stopping by because her phone went right to voice mail and that red blinking light didn't pique her interest enough to listen to the message. A normal person probably wouldn't have just charged on over there anyway, but I felt pretty sure she'd be home.

What astounded me when we get there, though, was how clean her house was – and she's recovering from 2 knee replacement surgeries.

She's not the only person I know who keeps a house like this. I just have no idea in the world how she/they does/do it. They may as well be speaking another language that's how foreign the whole concept is to me.

That isn't to say I don't aspire to be like that, I just have no idea how. Hopefully, that will all soon change.

To demonstrate how I'm the polar opposite of Sylvia and others like her, I'll relay this story from last week. It was my turn to host the monthly Girls' Night and I was serving pumpkin soup, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I made the soup the day before (good thing, because it took me 3 hours just to get the meat out of the pumpkins) and really felt like I was cleaning as I went the day of when making the other items. And really, it doesn't sound like I was making all that much.

But when my friends started to arrive, my kitchen was a complete and total disaster. I should have taken a picture of it...

I could tell my friend, Suzi, was having a hard time wrapping her head around how it even got that way. She was just dying to figure out a way to get it all under control. I felt bad for her, and me. Why am I like this? What can I do to change it? Here's hoping the answers come quickly because I am seriously getting overwhelmed and stressed out by the way things currently are.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mashed Faux-tatoes

Tonight's dinner was revolving around meatloaf again. I'd bought enough ingredients a week ago for a double batch, finally remembered to fire up the second batch on Saturday and froze most of it, but kept two mini loaves out. Ate the first one Sunday and figured I'd make the second tonight.

Long story long, my philosophy has always been: what's a meatloaf without mashed potatoes? Sadly, we were about to find out. Used the last of my taters on Sunday and forgot that I meant to hit the weekly farm sale up at the church Monday afternoon.

What I did remember is that I'd heard somewhere you could mash cauliflower and it taste almost like the real thing. As luck would have it, we had a head in the crisper, so I figured I'd give it a try. I'd always wanted to. After reading a bunch of different recipes, I decided to just wing it using some of the ingredients I'd read and see what happened.

I started out by steaming the cauliflower until tender. After draining, I returned the florets to the hot pot, added a few slices of butter and creamed with a hand mixer. Right away, I knew this little experiment was not going to turn out anything like real mashed potatoes, but I was committed, so carried on. I added a little milk, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, about an ounce of cream cheese and shredded parm.

The end product was a'right. After thinking about it, I decided I didn't like the taste of the parm. Rick said he thought that was the only thing really giving it flavor. He also said it was very different, but not bad, just different. Ian ate it, so I guess that says something positive.

I suppose if I ever make it again, I may try the Ruby Tuesday recipe that's floating around the internet. Not sure if it's the real deal, nor have I ever had theirs, that I know of, but it seems to get high praise. And I'd try to mashing it all up in the food processor as some recipes suggested to see if I could get a smoother consistency. Anyone else out there ever tried making mashed cauliflower? If so, what did you think?

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Sink Is Officially Shiny

After about 5 hours in the works (including about a 2 hour hiatus for an exercise class and lunch), my sink is officially shiny, the first order of business for a person who's making the commitment to join the Fly Lady in a quest for cleanliness, order and peace of mind. So I guess this makes me an official FlyBaby (someone who aspires to be as awesomely clean and organized as the Fly Lady herself).

Please follow the link above for more detailed instructions, but basically, shining your sink entails filling up one side at a time with hot water (which seemed like a collosal waste of water, but you supposedly only need to do this once), adding a cup of bleach (don't pour it in while the sink is filling up like I did; the closer the water level gets to the rim, the more splashing occurs) and letting it sit for an hour.

Fly Lady says you can use tongs to get the stopper out – did not come close to working for me – or manually remove some of the water so you can stick your gloved hand in to pull the plug. Once the water is drained, rinse well. If you have a stainless steel sink like mine, she recommends scrubbing it down with a scouring pad, then rinsing well.

Everybody then uses Ajax or Comet or something similar to clean out the sink next. From my own personal experience, I'd suggest finishing the bleach portion of the exercise on both sides before moving to the next step on either side. Trust me on this.

After the scouring, rinse thoroughly. Be sure to clean other areas of the sink at this time, too, like the faucet, around the basin, etc. Once all that's rinsed off, spray the tub(s) of your sink with Windex or some similar glass cleaner to shine it up. I'm the type that needs super explicit instructions at every step of the way, which aren't always available, so I imagine it's okay to spray it on top of the water that's leftover from the rinsing (though I'd really love to know for sure, Fly Lady).

The final step is drying your sink out, which you're also supposed to do every time you use your sink. You're supposed to keep a clean dishtowel handy every day for this express purpose. Seems kind of silly, but it sure does look nice. I hope I keep it up because I could see how this one simple thing could help keep you motivated throughout the house.

According to the Fly Lady, you should shine your sink every night before you go to bed as part of your nighttime routine. As I mentioned earlier, you don't need to do the whole fill the sink with water and bleach, scour, scrub, etc. My impression is you just spray it with windex and dry it after you've gotten all your dish washing and drying done. That way, a shiny clean sink greets you in the morning and gets your day off to a good start. What I'm not sure of is whether or not you wipe the window cleaner off with the same towel you dry the water with. Details, people, I need 'em.

Anyway, by looking at my before and after pix, you have to admit, it is quite the dramatic effect. The real test will be to see if we can (all) keep it that way.

Fast Food, For Your Freezer

I'd never heard of Schwan's until my friend, Kimbie, sent an email letting a bunch of her gal pals know that the home delivery food service company was offering a free $9.99 meal to new customers. (My apologies to my other gal pals to whom I failed to forward this message – didn't cross my mind, I'm afraid.)

As I'm not one to pass up a free meal, and I have a penchant for trying new things, not to mention a deep-seated pleasure in spending my sweetie's hard-earned money, I decided to give it a try. Based on suggestions from other gals in Kimbie's group, I opted for the Tamales, though I didn't stop there.

Why not try some other things, I reasoned. Delivery was no cost, and I had that $10 that I'd saved to spend. So I also ordered Fiesta Lime Chicken, which we had tonight, and Monster Mania frozen cookie dough.

After a few botched delivery attempts/miscommunication between parties, our food finally arrived about two weeks ago, about 6 weeks after placing my initial order. (Schwan's delivers to your area on the same day every two weeks.)

Upon checking out the goods, I was disappointed in the size of the tamales portion, though rereading the description just now, I see they tell you up front there are only 6 in the bag, and supposedly you can feed 6 people on those. That remains to be seen, but I'll let you know.

We fired up some of the Monster cookies right away, and they were, as expected, tasty. Unfortunately, I think they got overcooked in the top part of my double range oven. I always defer to that smaller area for time/energy/money savings, but I'm starting to think it's not the best place for the more delicate items I prepare.

Tonight, I made the Lime Chicken. It was tasty but, in my opinion, too small a serving. Even though it was advertised as a 2-person meal, I still think there could have been more food to share and it was kind of short on chicken. We'll see what happens with those Tamales, but as of now, I'm not too sold on the concept.

In spite of the delivery issues, the customer service has been great. And the food has been good. But the items are a little pricey for the amount you get. I know I have to consider the fact that it's all delivered straight to my door, but I feel like, with a little more effort, I get more value out of a Dream Dinners type of establishment. I'll probably wait for the next big offer before trying it again.

Anyone else ever used it? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Finally Did It

After years of actively avoiding it, I finally signed up for FlyLady.net today. My BFF, Angie, told me about her a long time ago but, quite frankly, I was afraid to. I'd heard it was a lot of work and a real commitment. Not exactly up my alley. But with the state of affairs around my house of late, and the fact I've started to itch all over my body (related? possibly...), I decided it was time to check it out.

Basically, it's a free 'service' that is designed to help you overcome CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and live a happier, neater life.

What really got me was this little intro on the home page: "Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don't know where to start? Don't worry friend, we've been there, too."

Hallelujah, sounds like home-making salvation is waiting for me in the form of Fly Lady, a woman by the name of Marla Cilley who hails from the great state of North Carolina.

So far, I've spent a couple of hours today trolling around the site and checking out all the wares she's hawking (there's probably at least $100 worth of stuff I'm ready to buy right now) rather than actually getting any real cleaning done, like I had planned. So technically, I've regressed since joining. But I have faith that tomorrow will indeed be another, more successful, day. I at least hope to shine my sink, which is the first step in learning how to FLY (finally love yourself - catchy, eh?).

Ultimately, I pray that, in the coming weeks, I'll have made some progress and be able to testify to you about this wonderful program. Don't worry, this won't turn into the daily Fly Lady blog; that idea's already been taken. But I do hope that I find it's something that can work for me and maybe, you, too. Wish me luck.