A Working Mom’s Laundry Routine (and why Thursdays are so important!)

Sometimes we plan for a new habit and struggle to have the self discipline to accomplish it.  For instance, we may need to get up earlier and decide to start setting our alarm for 15 earlier than usual.  Sometimes though we stumble upon a new habit and routine and it just works.  My laundry schedule is kind of like that for me.

As a working mom, most of my housecleaning and laundry chores have to be completed on the weekend.  It stinks but that’s just the reality of it.  I’ll tackle a few easy tasks during the week along with the regular sweeping, dishes, etc but the big things have to wait until the weekend.  The thing is that I’d rather spend quality time with my family on the weekend instead of washing clothes for 2 straight days.  Obviously this is a problem.

Please know that I’m far from a neat freak.  I don’t mop my floors often enough and I have a bad habit of leaving my shoes out for days.  Laundry, (while I don’t love it) I don’t mind it so much as long as I have a plan and feel a sense of accomplishment when its done.   Over the last few months I realized I’ve fallen into a rhythm/routine of doing laundry that has helped tremendously. There are a few specific things I’ve started doing that are helping this working mama not be completely overwhelmed when I’m doing the laundry.

Plan and Prep

So Thursdays.  A few months ago I realized that if I started prepping on Thursday for my weekend cleaning/laundry I’m in a much better frame of mind to get it accomplished.  So on Thursday afternoon, I pull out all the laundry I want to wash over the weekend and separate it into laundry baskets. If I have a line of laundry baskets staring me in the face on Friday morning, I’m much more likely to get a jump start on the task at hand. I also make a weekend to do list before I leave work on Fridays for all the work and home tasks that I need to get done.

My five year old adds her favorite two blankies to the laundry basket every.single.Saturday. 🙂

Order matters

Unless there’s some gigantic stain or mess that requires my immediate attention, I will almost always wash clothes in the same particular order- towels/kitchen linens, kid clothes, my clothes, Bobby’s clothes, and sheets.  There is a very simple reason for this- I start with the easiest and save the ones I don’t like for the end.  Towels and the girls’ clothes are fast and easy to wash, fold, and put away.  I finish those baskets and I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

Note:  I despise washing sheets.  Well, actually, I despise FOLDING sheets.  So I wait until I can’t put it off anymore.  That probably means something bad about my character, but I’ll  worry about that another day.

If I’ve prepped my laundry on Thursday, I will usually start with towels/kitchen linens on Friday morning or afternoon.  I plug through the rest of it in between whatever activities our family has going on that particular weekend.

Decide When to Stop

This is the hardest one for me.  Because I don’t have time during the week, I fight this urge to do ALL the laundry before Sunday night.  I can assure you this is a bad idea.  When I pull out my weekend laundry on Thursday, that’s ALL the laundry I’m doing that weekend.  If I get some unexpected time over the weekend, then I might try to wash the clothes we wore over the weekend, but that’s a rare event.  If I try to have everything clean, I’ll get frustrated and end up with a bunch of clean laundry sitting on my couch until Wednesday.  Since the girls pick out their clothes for the entire week on Sunday, there’s usually no need to wash anything of theirs until the next weekend. (And the grownups have enough clothes to make it through a week too). 🙂

Now if someone has some fantastic weekend cleaning schedule please let me know! (Or a robot that can pick up the shoes I leave behind- my husband would be eternally grateful!)

Sausage Freezer Breakfasts

*Note:  This post contains affiliate links*

A few months ago, I read this post over at The Lazy Genius Collective, one of my favorites blogs.  It really made me think about the how, the what, and the why I feed my people what I do in the mornings.  Now, let me issue this disclaimer:  we do NOT sit down for a hot breakfast every day.  I’m way too lazy for that.

What I do have, however, is face to face time with my kids while they eat.  They eat and we chat while I pack lunches, eat my breakfast, and get them ready to walk out the door.  (Because my husband is AWESOME and takes them to school most mornings, this is our time before they head out)

But I’m lazy.  And I like to sleep.  Which can make breakfast a problem if I want my kids to eat at home and not eat Cheerios off the floor every day.

Freezer breakfasts are one of the things that keeps our mornings on schedule and helps me maintain some sanity during the week.  During the school year, I try to keep a decent amount of frozen breakfast items available for school mornings.  On any given school morning, my family generally has the choice of:

  • Pancakes/Waffles
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Cereal/Toast
  • Yogurt/Fruit
  • Sausage Muffins
  • Breakfast burrito pouches
  • Muffins (homemade or from a mix- already cooked and frozen)
  • Store bought freezer breakfast items…(I may or may not have a soft spot in my heart for Jimmy Dean pancakes on a stick- don’t judge!)

I had let my breakfast stash get pretty low recently so I used my unexpected snow days the other week to stock up on two of our favorites breakfast items- sausage muffins and breakfast burritos.  I grabbed two pounds of sausage from the grocery store but the rest of the ingredients were straight from my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Speaking of breakfast burritos, let me jump on my tortilla soapbox for a moment.

I do NOT like frozen burritos.  By the time I nuke them in the microwave to get the inside warm, the tortilla itself is tough and disgusting.  I had always avoided making burritos for the freezer for this reason.  On a random Pinterest search one day, I came across the idea of freezing only the filling and I gave it a shot soon after.  Game changed, people.  Seriously.

Now I only freeze the filling for my burritos and we LOVE eating them for breakfast.

Another breakfast favorite of ours are sausage muffins.  They’re already cooked when frozen and can be warmed up in under of a minute.

So….onto my freezer breakfast cooking session……

I started by browning and draining two pounds of sausage.

Tip: When draining meat, put it in a strainer on top of a bowl. So much less messy and awkward!  Thanks to my fine motor issues from my MS, I have difficulty handling a large skillet when I need to drain or move food from one place to another.  This little hack helps me out so much!

While the sausage cooled, I washed and diced about 7 potatoes.  I boiled them until they were soft and then put them on a baking sheet to cool.  I also scrambled about 8 eggs (roughly one per packet of filling).  Be sure not to overcook the eggs because they’ll also cook a little bit more when you microwave them later. Add a pound (or roughly two cups cooked) of cooked sausage to the potatoes with the eggs in a separate container.  Let it all cool and add seasonings (salt, pepper, etc) to mixture as your tastes prefer.

(Peppers and onions would also be a great addition to the potato mixture, but the people I feed wouldn’t be so happy about that so I leave that out.)

 

While the burrito mixture is cooling, I moved on to my sausage muffins.  This is so simple that it should be a crime.  Really.

Take a pound of the cooked sausage, four beaten eggs, a cup of Bisquick baking mix, and a cup of cheddar cheese and mix it together.  Fill a greased muffin tin with the mixture and cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The End.

See, I told you it was easy!

While my sausage muffins were cooking, I packaged up my burrito pouches.  I added a spoonful of the potato/sausage mixture to a sandwich bag, put a some of the scrambled eggs on top and topped it with a handful of cheese.  I also roll over the top of the bag so the mixture would freeze in a block shape.

My goal was to package the burritos before the timer went off for the sausage muffins and I even had time to clean up the kitchen before taking them out to cool!  Start to finish, I had both of these recipes ready for the freezer in about an hour.

Both recipes are also incredibly easy to reheat.  The burrito filling needs to be removed from the bag and warmed in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and then added to a warm tortilla. (My husband’s burrito secret is to put a tortilla on top of the filling for the last 20 seconds or so in the microwave.)  We also usually add extra cheese and taco sauce to ours. The sausage muffins take around 45 seconds-1 minute to warm depending on the number of them that you’re reheating.

Hopefully, this inspires you to create some freezer breakfast items for your family!  I promise it’s well worth the time and effort on those weekday mornings!

How my 1960’s Green Carpet is Teaching Me Contentment

We bought our brick ranch home about 5 years ago. Great neighborhood, great location, and we scored a pretty sweet deal on the asking price. When the inspector came before closing, he said he’d rarely seen a house so well maintained. We knew it was solid house in great condition. Except it had been well maintained since 1965.

Enter the green carpet.

The plush, thick, high end, meticulously maintained GREEN CARPET.   That’s in the living room and two bedrooms.

Y’all, it’s the bane of my existence. I have no words to accurately describe my dislike of my 1960’s green carpet. I’m not sure why the carpet bothers me more than the yellow tile in the bathroom or the Brady Bunch-like intercom boxes (for real, they’re in every room!) but it does.

So why don’t we just replace it?

We’ve committed to keeping it until we’ve saved enough to replace it with the type of flooring we want long term.  Replacing the carpet with hardwood could also require us replacing the flooring in several other rooms (so they’ll all match) and it would be an expensive and lengthy renovation.  So, the green carpet lives to see another day.  Truthfully, it’s probably going to live to see a WHOLE lot of days….

Anyway, so how does my disdain for the carpet teach me contentment?  

Because of this.

And this.

And this.

As I looked through the pictures I’ve stored online the other day, I realized how many moments the green carpet has been the backdrop for.

Because of the age of carpet (and it’s color), I don’t worry if it gets played on.

Or eaten on.

Or- ahem- anything else that young children might do to carpet.

So, in that way, my green carpet chills me out as a mom.  It doesn’t look anywhere as nice as it did on the day we moved but you know what?  We’ve lived on it!  It’s seen farm toys (because it’s perfect for a pretend horse pasture), playroom sleepovers (because it’s soft and comfy), and tons of family TV/movie nights.

Do I still want new carpet or hardwood?  Ummm…..yes a million times over!

Is it worth going into tons of debt over?  No.  Nada. No way.

Is it something I should apologize over every time someone comes in my house?  No- because you’re probably secretly glad I don’t care when you kid spills something on it! 🙂

My carpet is just one little aspect of my life where I feel like the Lord is teaching me patience and contentment.  To wait on Him, to not wish my kids’ childhoods away, and to be diligent with the resources he’s provided.

What are YOU learning to be content about?

A tale of meatloaf and leftover chicken

This past weekend, I was pretty much out of commission. Other than a Saturday morning trip to urgent care, I pretty much kept myself and my nasty sinus infection contained in the house. My sweet husband cooked and cleaned on Saturday and even cooked another meal of tenderloin from our post- Christmas stash.

By Sunday morning, I was feeling better but not feeling like cooking a big meal yet. In the freezer I found a bag of four mini meat loaves (meatloaf frozen in a muffin tin but uncooked) and four bone-in chicken thighs. Neither was enough for a full meal but I figured we could piece meal (pun intended) together enough for a decent lunch for the four of us. (Even though I really just wanted to text my husband and have him bring home takeout after church!)

*Note:  This post contains affiliate links.*

But I resisted the temptation for takeout and pulled out my trusty Instant Pot.

Seriously, I love this thing! I threw the four completely frozen chicken thighs (because I am not feeling well enough to plan ahead) in with a couple of cups of water and cooked on high pressure for 25 minutes. While it was cooking, I took the four muffin tins meatloaves and put them in a greased muffin tin and cooked at 350 degrees for roughly 30 minutes (until cooked through).

So back to my chicken- when it finished in the instant pot, I took it out, shredded it, and added my favorite BBQ sauce and warmed it up in the oven with my meatloaf.

So what did we end up eating for lunch this past Sunday? The shredded chicken was added to slider buns (also from the freezer) for mini BBQ sandwiches for my husband and myself and the girls ate meatloaf with leftover mashed potatoes from the previous night’s tenderloin dinner. Add in some leftover side dishes from the fridge, chips, and fruit and you’ve got yourself a meal!

While it was far from a gourmet meal, it was frugal, from the freezer, and easy to prepare. As I head into this last week or so of my freezer challenge, our meals are going to get a bit more “random” and require more creativity on my part. But when I use my extra grocery money to restock my freezer, it’ll totally be worth it!

Freezer Pancakes

*Contains affiliate links*

We had a couple of inches of snow last week and in the south that means one thing- multiple days out of school! (I know you Northerners probably think that’s crazy but alas, it’s true.) So I used my unexpected days out of work to stock my freezer with several easy breakfast foods.

My first (and easiest) freezer food was simply extra pancakes from today’s breakfast. Use whatever pancake recipe you want, double or triple your recipe, and freeze it.

After we ate breakfast and all the extra pancakes had cooled, I put them in a single layer on my favorite baking sheet and flash froze them for about an hour.

After they were frozen just enough, I put them in a gallon sized bag and labeled it. Again, you whatever recipe you want (I usually just make Bisquick pancakes). When you’re ready to eat them, take whatever amount of pancakes you want and reheat in a toaster or microwave.

I also freeze waffles the same way. The key is just to flash freeze them so they won’t stick together when you take them out of the bag. Freezer pancakes are definitely one of our favorite ways to eat a hot breakfast in a hurry,

What are your favorite easy breakfasts?

The MS Chronicles: Cognitive Issues and Multiple Sclerosis

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago, my worst fear was not being able to walk.  I imagined a life of mobility issues, walking canes, and wheelchairs.

The starting line for my first ever Walk MS event

I never expected having to avoid hot summer day or ration my energy to make it through a day. To the pre-diagnosis me, multiple sclerosis was completely a gross motor issue.  Over the years I’ve learned that’s far from real life with this disease.   I’ve learned that if you talk to five people with MS, they’ll have five completely different stories and sets of symptoms. Thankfully, my MS is mild at this point and the chances are high that I’ll continue to live a full and reasonably active life,  for which I’m immensely grateful for.  Even in the past ten years, treatments for MS have become much better and I’m optimistic that will continue.

The symptoms of MS I didn’t expect to deal with were the cognitive impairments that come along with it.   On a daily basis I battle symptoms like forgetfulness, difficulty finding my words when speaking, and my processing speed. I’m a natural planner with very strong Type A personality tendencies.  Those personality traits have been useful as I navigate the cognitive issues that have come along with my disease. 

The good news is that over the years I’ve also developed a couple of strategies that allow me to function both at work and at home without too many issues.

Strategy 1:  WRITE it DOWN!  

There is no way I could live without writing things down.  I need reminders for even the most automated tasks.  (Yet another reason for me to use my bullet journal!)  I write to-do lists for home and work along with making digital and written reminders for phone calls I need to make, emails I need to send, or even questions I need to ask my husband when he gets home.

Crossing the finish line at my first Walk MS with my daughter and husband- a moment I won’t ever forget!

Strategy 2: Give yourself wait time

As a teacher, “wait time” is an important task when we ask a student a question.  Basically, it’s the idea that we don’t demand a response from a student immediately but give them time to process.

It’s also something I have to give myself, especially when someone asks ME a question.  For example, let’s say my husband asks me what time we need to leave to get to a certain event or a student asks me a question about a reading passage.  While that sounds like a simple question to answer (and I probably know the answer), many times my brain simply will not have the words to answer immediately.  It seems like forever but if I simply stop, look at him in the face (or even close my eyes for a second) and process what he’s asking me I can formulate a accurate answer.  Many times those cognitive issues become worse when I get overwhelmed or overstimulated so whatever I can do to calm myself and not get frustrated is always helpful.

Strategy 3:  Give grace (to yourself and those around you)

My forgetfulness is frustrating to me.  It’s also frustrating to those around me.  Give yourself grace when you might use the wrong words and embarrass yourself.  Give grace to those who may get annoyed with you when you do forget something or can’t remember their name. It’s going to happen.  But tomorrow will be a new day.  And new days should always be celebrated!

My Favorite Things- January 2018

January has been a crazy month in our house!  Between sickness and weather school closures/delays, we haven’t had two weeks that were “normal”.  Even in the middle of all the crazy, there have definitely been some things that have kept us happy and sane.  Here’s some current products/apps/random things that I’m loving right now and that are keeping the Ravenscrafts going!

None of these are sponsored (they’re all things I use and love on a weekly basis), but there are some affiliate links below that I may earn a small commission from.

Chick Fil A One App:   

I have a CFA problem. It’s a real addiction.  In fact, I got in my car the other day and this is where Google Maps was predicting I was going.  Note:  I was NOT going there.  Promise.

I’ve loved Chick Fil A for years but right now their app is what’s keeping me coming back so frequently.  I’m earning free treats for ordering and paying from the app AND it reminds me to use my calendar rewards.  And they’re thoughtful, polite, and they bring my food to my table while my kids play.  Win.Win.Win.

Aluminum baking sheets:  A few months ago, I replaced all my cookie sheets with these baking sheets.  I can do everything from roast chicken to bake cookies on these bad boys.

Side story- my mom makes some incredible sausage balls that I frequently will ask her to make for me to take to different occasions where I need an appetizer.  She loved my baking sheets so much that’d she’d make the sausage balls, freeze them, and then come to my house to cook them.  

The pans themselves are great but I also have one of these cooking mats for each pan.  It helps with cleanup and is perfect for baking cookies.

Weighted Blanket:

I got a weighted blanket for Christmas and it has been just as great as I hoped for!  I have some fairly significant nerve pain in my arms and legs and the weighted blanket has helped out so much!  As a special ed teacher, this is something I’ve used many times with children with autism but I’d recently also been reading about the benefits for those with multiple sclerosis.  It’s something I’d also recommend for those with restless legs or anxiety.  While they’re certainly not inexpensive, they’re so worth it!

Pork Tenderloin: My in-laws made A LOT of canned pork tenderloin for Christmas gifts and Bobby and I received not only some canned tenderloin but several bags of sliced frozen pork tenderloin.  Breaded tenderloin sandwiches are one of Bobby’s favorite foods and are much more common at mid-western restaurants.  We breaded and fried our first package of tenderloin from the freezer and it was great!  We’re excited to try out different cooking methods with the remaining tenderloin as we keep going on our freezer and pantry challenge!

Boogie Boards:

I mentioned these boogie boards the other week but I really can’t say enough great things about them.  We were out at a restaurant and my girls were drawing on them and even the waitress couldn’t get over how great they were! (And the girls were thrilled to show her how they worked!) 🙂

They’re not a tablet but a LCD screen e-writer with a stylus that erases with the touch of a button.  I also bought my girls a neoprene sleeve and an extra stylus, and I’m happy that I did.  While I originally bought them for our Christmas road trip, the boards have stayed in my purse and are being used on a daily basis.

That’s all my favorite things for today-what do you use and love right now?

My 31 Cent Breadsticks

A couple of week ago I scored this discounted French bread at Walmart. Not a thing wrong with it except it was expiring the next day. So I grabbed a few loaves and put them in my freezer. Even at full price, Walmart’s French bread is always a good deal at $1 (and they’ll even slice it for you). I usually pretty much always have at least a few loaves on hand.

Tonight I used the French bread to make some cheesy garlic breadsticks. Here’s my cast of characters:

The whole process is easy as pie- mix room temperature butter, some garlic powder, and shredded cheese together until soft. Then spread on the sliced bread. (I usually cut mine in fourths).

You’ll notice there’s no measurements for the garlic, cheese, and butter. That’s all personal preference on how cheesy and much garlic taste you’d prefer. I tend to put a pretty large amount of all ingredients. I never want to end a meal wishing I had put more butter and cheese in something. 🙂

Depending on how brown I want the bread, I’ll either bake at 350 or broil it. Tonight I’m cooking it with my lasagna so I went for 350 until sufficiently melted. Yummy!

Freezer Challenge Update #2

For the last few days, we’ve been focused on eating exclusively from the pantry and freezer stash.  While I definitely got off to a rough start with it, we’ve eaten at home the last two nights. Here’s the scoop on what’s been on our table the last few days.

Thursday- Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Y’all- this was SO good!  My in-laws made a huge batch of canned tenderloin as Christmas gifts and we scored some canned tenderloin as well as several bags of sliced frozen tenderloin.  We thawed a package of the sliced tenderloin, breaded it with flour and egg, fried in a cast iron skillet, and made gravy with the drippings.  And when I saw we,  I mean my husband because he is the official gravy maker in our house.  I have zero skill in this area.  ZERO.

Friday- Taco Soup with chicken

This recipe used up the last of my cooked and shredded chicken (which was the oldest food in the freezer and needed to be used up).  What I love about this recipe is that’s it’s a “dump in the slow cooker and forget about it” recipe.  I just put the ingredients below into my slow cooker this morning and didn’t think about it again until dinner time. Win!

Not pictured: packet of ranch dressing seasonings.

Slowly but surely we’re plugging through our freezer stash.  My goal is to eat dinner next week using only freezer and pantry items and buy as few lunch and breakfast items as possible.  That should free up a decent amount of my grocery budget to restock the freezer over the next few weeks.  I have about 8 possible meal ideas ready for next week- hopefully I’ll stay on track this time! 🙂

Eat from the Freezer Challenge Update #1

*This post contains affiliate links*

The other day, I posted about all the food I found in my freezer and how many meals I could make from it.  And that night I stuck with the plan and made a really yummy beef vegetable soup using this soup mix (which we LOVE!).

And THEN we ate out for two nights in a row. #fail

At the dentist office after school. While our trip to the dentist was fine, her attitude was shared by us all. Hence, going to Chick Fil A. Because it’s our happy place.

Obviously, I can’t seem to commit to this whole “eat from the freezer” thing for more than 24 hours.  Maybe it’s just because it’s January and I’m still trying to find my post-Christmas break teacher mojo or maybe it’s because our school schedule was all wonky this week, or maybe I’m just lazy.  Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of all three.

So, I’m on a quest for some accountability.  Like I mentioned before, I don’t assign meals to certain days of the week during the off season.  Football season meal planning is a whole different beast for another day.  Right now in my bullet journal, I have 8 different meals that I can easily make this week from what’s in my freezer.  I pick one either the night before or that morning and thaw any needed ingredients.

Obviously, we eat very simple “meat and potatoes” meals and they can all be prepared quickly after I get home from work.

Tonight’s “eat from the freezer” meal was supposed to be a baked chicken alfredo, salad, and French bread. We ending up eating out tonight because we ran later than expected after visiting with my sweet grandpa after school so my husband offered to meet us at one of our favorite pizza places (major husband points!)

Instead of making it for dinner tonight, I decided to go ahead and make the chicken Alfredo (since the chicken was already thawed) and portion into lunch sized containers for the rest of the week.

My recipe for the chicken alfredo is basically the same as this link, but I didn’t make my own alfredo sauce.

*Note: I cook large amounts of chicken, shred it, and put into two cup freezer portions.*

This recipe is also very freezer friendly.  I didn’t freeze any today because I don’t like to cook, thaw, and then refreeze meat. However, if I did freeze this, I’d put it in a foil pan like this one, cover in several layers of foil, label with the food and date, and throw that thing in the deep freezer!

My goal for the next few weeks is to post every few days about what we’re eating from the pantry and freezer and how well I’m staying on track.  Hopefully, this will also encourage you to meal plan and maybe even have a freezer/pantry challenge of your own!

(And hopefully keep me out of Chick FilA!)