Goals and Challenges

The idea of having New Year’s resolutions has always evaded me. Perhaps it’s because, in my wild youth, I actually tried making them and failed miserably. But I think, more than my failure at keeping resolutions in the past, it’s that the very premise of resolutions made at the beginning of the year seems destined to create failure. Instead, I’ve decided to come up with a list of goals and challenges.

Goals and Challenges

“But,” you say, “Goals and challenges are the same things as resolutions!”

Nay, nay! Resolutions are like Damocles’ sword dangling over your head. If you don’t keep them you feel that you’ve let yourself (and possibly all of humanity if you have really grandiose resolutions) down. Goals and challenges are things that you can achieve or not achieve without the humiliation of failed resolutions.

Here’s what I mean: I resolve to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year and only lose 19 pounds (or gain 3). I’ve failed. But if I set a goal of 20 pounds, and challenge myself to come as close to it as I can and lose 19 pounds I’m a total rock star!

So this year I’ve set a few goals and I’m challenging myself to meeting as many of them as possible in the way closest to the goal as possible. See? Goals and challenges, people! No failure. I can meet my goals by percentages.

My goals for the year, in no particular order, are:

Spend time reading the Bible and praying each day. It’s so easy to let ourselves forget that we need God more than we need anything else. As a result of my busy life I often let time with God get pushed down on the “To Do” list.

Goals and challenges

Learn to sew: napkins, easy curtains, and a very simple top for myself.

Goals and challenges

Make one meatless meal per week. This may not seem like much of a challenge but I feel about me the way Ron Swanson feels about meat –

Help build the ducks’ cabin – This will necessitate me sitting outside asking endless questions and telling Mr. C and Pete how to do things that I don’t know how to do while they’re actually doing things. It will also require that I demand a far bigger and more complex cabin than the ducks need and probably installing a small lake in the side yard.

Goals and challenges

Restore the front flower beds

Goals and challenges

Some of my Goals and Challenges will have to wait until summer…

Make and can cherry salsa. I have cherry salsa in the past and everyone loved it. This is an important part of my goals and challenges for the year. I want to can enough to have plenty for the family and some jars I can give as gifts.

Can enough tomato sauce for one year. Ideally I will be able to can enough for the kids as well. Last season was the Attack of the Killer Tomato Sauce!

Organize the junk room (yes, I have one) so looks less like an episode of “Hoarders” and can be a second bedroom for the grand kids’ visits. They’re getting too big to sleep in the same room and it’s the perfect reason to get rid of all the stuff we don’t need or use.

Goals and challenges

Bake once a week. It doesn’t matter if it’s some kind of bread or cakes, pies, or cookies. I need to start baking regularly again. Due to my health I’ve slacked off but, if I plan and don’t give myself excuses, I know I can do it!

Goals and challenges Yes, I baked this. If you believe that I have an investment opportunity for you!

Finally; Grow this blog. I’m so grateful for those of you who read The Comfortable Coop regularly. And I’d love to reach even more people. My dream is to have a blog that really helps people in many of the areas with which all homemakers sometimes struggle. And this is a goals and challenges area you can help me. Please tell me what you like and don’t like about The Comfortable Coop. Be honest! This blog is for you and your suggestions are invaluable to me. I thank you in advance!

So there you have my simple Goals and Challenges! I’ll check off things if as they are completed.

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Cleaning Part 1 – Ways to Make Your Home Smell Great

I first posted this last (early) spring. When our homes are closed up due to cold weather we need to do something to freshen them. Since winter came back this year I thought it would be a good time to post it again! And if you have ways that you use to freshen up your home I’d love to hear them! Meanwhile, please enjoy Cleaning Part 1 – Ways to Make Your Home Smell Great!

Easy ways to make you home smell great!

— Continue reading

Should I Keep These Items in the Bathroom?

Although you keep many things in the bathroom for the sake of convenience after reading this post ask yourself, “Should I keep these things in the bathroom?”

 

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  • Jewelry – If you keep any of your jewelry in the bathroom you may want to move it to another room pronto. Inexpensive jewelry’s fastenings may rust and real silver will tarnish more quickly when kept in the humid environment of the bathroom. If you don’t have room on your dresser to keep a jewelry box try putting it on a shelf in the closet. When you get dressed your jewelry is right there.
  • Makeup – Your makeup will degrade in the heat and humidity present in the bathroom. Even if you’re not spending a fortune on makeup you don’t want to have to replace it unnecessarily. Keep your makeup in a cool, dry spot instead of the bathroom. If you have a linen closet just outside the bathroom try keeping makeup there. Another option is a dresser drawer.
  • Makeup Brushes – Bacteria is spread in the air just by flushing the toilet. The humid bathroom helps it thrive on your makeup brushes. And mold can grow on them even if kept in a drawer. Your best bet is to keep them in the bedroom. I use the zipper bags that sheet sets are packaged in to keep my makeup brushes and makeup together in a drawer right outside the bathroom.
  • Perfume – Even if you don’t expose your perfume to direct sunlight, the high temperatures that spike in the bathroom can cause your perfume to smell rancid. Your fragrances can actually go sour in the bath. Keep your perfume out of direct sunlight in a spot with a relatively stable temperature. A small box kept on the dresser or in a drawer will keep your perfume out of sunlight and all together so you can easily choose which fragrance you’ll wear.
  • Birth Control pills, condoms, and other medications – Rising and falling heat and humidity can cause your birth control and even over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and cold medications to become less potent. Condoms can degrade due to the heat and humidity. All medication and birth control should be kept in a cool, dry place. I have a “medicine cupboard” in the kitchen. It’s the farthest from both the stove and refrigerator. Another spot might be in a dresser drawer or closet.
  • Razor blades – Metal razor blades are subject to oxidation and rusting just like any other metal. Either seal them in an airtight bag or store them outside the bathroom.
  • Toothbrushes – This is the one thing we probably use the most of all items stored in the bathroom and the one thing you really don’t want to expose to the bathroom air! Bacteria from a flushing toilet can drift through the air as an invisible mist and settle on your toothbrush. If you keep the toothbrush in a cover you may promote bacterial growth even more because the brush never fully dries out. Flushing with the toilet lid down won’t prevent the bacterial mist from drifting. It may seem odd but it’s best not to store your toothbrush in the bathroom at all!

 

 

 

Alternative Ways to Stay Cool

Being fat has taught me two things; I can’t sink, which I learned in Virginia Beach and I cannot tolerate heat. Of course hot flashes don’t help matters but just the regular summer heat is overwhelming for me. Until this year I’d work in my garden and play with the dogs for an hour or so then retreat to the comfort of my 70° home. But this year our central air isn’t working. Neither is the furnace but, frankly, that doesn’t concern me. It’s spring and the forecast for the rest of the week is temperatures in the mid-80’s. I will not fare well in this.

Summer frequently brings power outages as people run air conditioners and fans trying to alleviate the heat. It’s logical. Heat can be deadly. In 1995 over 700 deaths in Chicago were directly attributed to a severe heatwave that hit the city. In California in 2006 655 people lost their lives during a two-week heat wave. The CDC states an average of 675 people die from heat-related illnesses each year in the United States. This makes heat one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in America.

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Hyperthermia and heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke and death. I once experienced heatstroke requiring an ambulance to be called and EMT’s to treat the condition. It was not an event I’d like to replicate.

 

If your power goes out or you have no air conditioning and the heat becomes too much to handle, here are some alternative ways to stay cool.

For millennia people have lived in nice, cool caves. Since I don’t live in an area where there are any caves I’m going to go back to the things my mama and Nana used. If the heat became too oppressive they’d retreat to the basement. The temperature in basements is usually significantly lower than the first floor.

If your basement isn’t furnished just take a chair and a book and hang out until you feel cooler and ready to face the world above again.

Mama would hang wet sheets at the doors and windows when it got oppressively hot. They breezes would evaporate the water and cool the house. Some folks even sleep with wet sheets. They dip the sheets in cold water and wring them out so they’re just damp. As the air evaporates all night the people stay cool.

When I was growing up and the summer days got too hot to handle all the ladies would draw the curtains. Keeping the sun out helped keep some of the heat out of the houses. They’d do this early in the morning while the houses were still relatively cool. As soon as it began to cool down in the evening, they’d throw open windows and doors to let in the cool evening air.

Another thing Mama always said to do when it got too hot was to head to the swimming hole. She meant get in the pool and it was wise advice. Swimming is a great way to cool off. And don’t dry yourself when you get out of the water. Let it evaporate on your skin, helping to keep you cool longer. Stretching out in the shade after swimming will let the water evaporate even more slowly. If you don’t have a swimming hole or pool try a kiddie pool. The plastic pools for toddlers can be very refreshing if you sit in one in the shade. Or try a cool shower.

I’ve been hosing off the dogs in the yard and letting them drip dry. For myself and my husband I’ve got misting bottles to help keep cool. While hosing off the dogs takes a bit of effort it’s no trouble at all to spray our face and arms with a cool mist from the bottles.

During the summer most of the moms would either serve some kind of cold dish or barbecue on hot days. Both cooking and eating hot foods can make you feel even hotter.

They’d also put off dinner until it had begun to cool off a bit. No one really feels much like eating when it’s hot.

I remember sleeping on sheets in the living room with the windows and door open in summer. The number of windows and the front door allowed a lot more cool night air to reach us. If at all possible, don’t sleep on a second floor or in a room with only one window.

Even better were the nights we slept outside! Sleeping outdoors gives you the maximum exposure to the cool night air. Try camping out in a tent. You’ll stay cooler and your kids will love it.

Our neighbor, Mrs. Hooks, used to wet a bandanna and wear it on her head as she took care of her flowers. Keeping your head cool will help you feel cool all over.

Although Mrs. Hooks used to garden even during the hottest part of the day most of the ladies kept to the old saying, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” They’d do outdoor work early in the morning or in the evening.

In the movie “Steel Magnolias” Shirley McClaine’s character Ouiser says, “Because I’m an old Southern woman and we’re supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t know why, I don’t make the rules!” I agree with her in that I believe all old women should wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. You don’t have to wear a funny looking one but wearing a hat will help keep you cool.

And the clothes don’t have to be ugly but clothing in the heat should be thin and loose-fitting. The dog days are not the time to wear clothing that doesn’t breathe or is tight. You want air to circulate through it.

If you try or have used any of these or if you have additional ideas on staying cool I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Respect Yourself as a Homemaker

If you are a stay-at-home mom and homemaker you’ve no doubt heard, too many times, the question, “Do you work or just stay home?” People seem to think that, unless you get a paycheck, you don’t work. There’s no job that takes more time with fewer material rewards and no other job that can be as rewarding emotionally and spiritually than being a homemaker. So while others may not, it’s important that you respect yourself as a homemaker.

As a full-time homemaker you have qualities you may not realize. Let me help you recognize some of your strengths.

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You are intelligent. You’re probably managing the finances or at least making the decisions about purchasing cleaning materials, cooking supplies, food, and health and hygiene items. You are primarily responsible for raising the children. It’s your observation, creativity, and problem-solving that keeps your home running smoothly. You are the systems manager, facilities manager, financial manager, and scheduling manager. I could go on but you get the idea.

You are resourceful and imaginative. You are the one who provides, even if not monetarily, the basic needs of your family. You ensure the nutrition of your family, keep them and their clothing clean, and provide comfort. You even manage most of the leisure time activities. You plan vacations from destination to what each person must pack. And you do all this while keeping an eye on the finances.

You self-manage. Not only do you manage the family’s life but you manage yourself. It’s your ability to control your own feelings, physical and mental health, and emotions that allow your family and home to function smoothly.

You are determined. No matter what the issue, you will find a way. You don’t give up because things are rough or you’re tired. Most homemakers don’t stop even when they’re sick. You decide the goals for your family life and you tirelessly pursue them.

You are enthusiastic. You are interested in the activities of being a good homemaker and work with enthusiasm to become more skillful. This doesn’t mean you love scrubbing toilets but you do everything for your family and home with gusto and pride. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Family members become fired up about the things that you are enthusiastic about.

You are adaptable. The life of a homemaker means you are able to adjust to ever-changing situations. It may be as small as a change of schedules during the week or as major as adapting to a completely new lifestyle but you are able to acclimate. You deal with altered financial situations, medical emergencies, and even deaths and keep your family moving forward.

You are understanding and empathetic. You recognize the individual needs of your family and those around you. You can relate to people in a crisis. Because of your empathy and understanding you can solve problems efficiently and maintain healthy relationships.

You have good judgement skills. Being a homemaker means you have to solve problems, be fair to each member of your family, and make sound decisions for everything relating to the running of your home. You analyze problems, and use imagination and common sense to run your home from children’s issues to dealing with repairmen.

You are imaginative. You can anticipate problems and solve them before they occur. You create action plans and come up with ideas to keep things on track. You use your imagination for everything from choosing paint color to creating delicious, inexpensive meals.

You have the ability to communicate. You can explain your ideas, reasoning, and solutions to problems clearly and effectively. Your communication skills help build strong bonds between family members. Through your aptitude for communication you provide guidance and encouragement.

You exercise self-control. In times of great stress you are the one who is calm. In an emergency or a death you are the one who can handle the necessary details. Your self-control is an example to your family. You don’t allow your temper to get the best of you. You show self-control when you go to bed early because of a busy day ahead or when you take time to exercise to maintain your physical health.

Even if some people don’t realize your value to your family, friends, and society, remember you are a remarkable woman. Never forget to respect yourself as a homemaker!

How to Deal With Unexpected Guests

When I was young, oh those many…many…many years ago I loved the idea of people just dropping by for an evening or a weekend. It was so exciting! My house was always clean and I always had baked goods to offer them.

Then there were the middle years when my idea of how to behave when guests dropped in unannounced was to hide in a corner hidden from doors and any windows these rude interlopers might peer through. In my farmhouse there was a full bathroom right off the mudroom. I once ended up showering in there just to kill time while an unwanted visitor figured out that, although my car was there, no one was going to open the door. Keep in mind that, during that period of my life I might well have just come in from the barn, covered in things I didn’t want to show off.

Now I can deal with unexpected guests in a far more dignified way. You, too, can handle sudden, uninvited guests without have to resort to feigned illness or spending the afternoon in a cupboard under the sink.

First, of course, is that you should already have a cleaning schedule that prevents your house from looking like the health department is on the way to slap a “Not Fit for Human Habitation” sticker on the front door. If things are generally tidy you don’t have to frantically sprint from room to room as the guests are walking to the door. If your house isn’t guest-ready, follow these steps.

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  1. Get help – If you’re not alone or not alone with people too tiny to be of any help, drag the rest of the family into the battle. Get them to straighten, do a quick dusting, and a pretty good cleaning the bathroom if necessary. If your guests have informed you’ll they’ll be spending the night, be sure that someone checks the guest bedroom to be sure it’s ready. If you have a toddler, make it a game for him to put his toys in the toy box. Promise a reward if he does it all by himself. Bribery is not a bad parenting move when you are trying to speed clean. You can even offer bribes to older kids and your husband. I once told my sons I’d buy them cars if they’d zip through and clean before guests arrived. Don’t feel obligated to actually but the cars. Vacuum and dust quickly and put magazines, remotes, and other odds and ends in their place. 
  2. Don’t waste time – Some rooms are more important than others. If your guests are only going to be there for a matter of hours don’t worry about the guest bedroom. Clean the bathroom they’ll use and any other areas of the house you’ll corral them. If the kitchen is a total disaster, make sure the family room is clean and refuse any help in the kitchen. If your kitchen, like mine, is open to the rooms guests will be using feel free to hide everything you can if the kitchen is a wreck.  If this means dirty dishes get stored in the oven until the guests leave, so be it. It’s not YOUR fault they showed up! Put everything you can in its place, wipe down all the counters and table. Spraying a citrusy air freshener will make the room smell clean. And remember to take the dishes out of the oven before preheating. Remember, you’re not doing a deep cleaning of any room. You want it presentable, not surgical suite sterile. 
  3. Make a good first impression – Remove hazards from the entryway. In my house this means gathering the 210 dog bones and toys from the entry and living room. They’re not only a tripping hazard but the boys are likely to toss them at unsuspecting visitors as an invitation to play. If you’ve never been hit by a chunk of cow femur traveling at 35 mph, trust me. You don’t want to greet guests that way. Get rid of shoes, toys, and anything else that would make a bad, or painful, first impression. 
  4. Clean the bathroom they’ll use. I know I mentioned that earlier but it’s worth repeating. A clean bathroom leaves a great impression. Make sure the toilet and sink are sparkling. Wipe the counters and hang a fresh hand towel. Replace the old, tired looking bar of soap with a fresh bar or even one of those little guest soaps you’ve been hoarding for seven years. Empty the wastebasket. Put a fresh roll of toilet paper on the holder. Your guests may be funny about touching the roll that’s be used. 
  5. Always keep refrigerated cookies in the house. Not only will the guests love having freshly baked cookies but baking them fills the house with that wonderful smell. If it’s summer and you have a garden, cut some fresh flowers and put them in living or family room. If you don’t have a garden and your neighbor does…well…I’ll leave that up to you.

Once the guests have arrived you may find yourself in the position of having to feed them. In my house, not even repairmen get to leave without eating at least a treat of some kind. And, if guests will be staying for more than baked goods, you should have an easy-to-make recipe to turn to. Search your recipes well beforehand and pick one that won’t require you to spend all your time in the kitchen. Don’t decide to experiment with a new recipe and don’t make anything that requires several years of training in France to create. Keep ingredients on hand to make your go-to recipe just in case.  

Preparing for unexpected overnight guests can be particularly trying. It’s much easier if you have a guest room that you can keep tidy. A quick dusting and vacuuming and some fresh bedding are all it takes. For the forgetful guest who doesn’t have a toothbrush or paste, has forgotten a comb/brush, or personal hygiene items, I keep a supply on hand. I’ve collected bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotions, little bars of soap, travel size tubes of toothpaste, and even packets of NSAIDs from hotels for years. When I’m putting the finishing touch on the guest bedroom I place a little basket with these items on the dresser.

Most importantly, remember that your guests will soon forget if things aren’t spotless but they’ll remember a gracious hostess and a wonderful visit for years.

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