Archive | January 2013

The Myths About Working from Home (No, I Don’t Wear Fuzzy Slippers)

By Karen Hendricks

It’s always interesting to see the reactions of others when they learn that I work from home. They usually have a picture in their heads that falls into one of the following categories:

  • “Awesome! I’m so happy for you.” (These people truly “get it” and are usually friends who are moms too.)
  • “Really? That’s great. What do you do all day?” (These people think I just own a home office for the fun of it.)
  • Oh, how nice—that sounds comfy.” (These people doubt that I am actually doing WORK. They probably think I wear fuzzy slippers all day. Sigh. I wish…)
Fuzzy Slippers

In the market for fuzzy slippers? These are called “Shagilicious” by Patricia Green. Credit: Zappos.com.

The fact is…

More and more Americans are working from home.  According to the latest numbers from the US Census Bureau, about 13.4 million Americans worked from home at least one day a week in 2010, an increase of about 1.6 million from 2000. That accounts for almost 10% of the entire U.S. workforce.

Home-based benefits

For me, working from home has provided a multitude of benefits. I feel very blessed to do what I love and love what I do. Owning my own business, a communications firm, has its share of challenges but the benefits are plentiful:

  • Zero commuting! No driving, no gas money required, no parking costs or hassles, no wear and tear on the car except for appointments. You have more time to spend on work and there’s no loss of time from commuting.
  • The ability to set your terms and limits. In terms of a workload, I try to stay between 30-40 hours per week. Owning your own business also means you can choose clients and projects. Not that I say “no” that often, but if a project or client doesn’t resonate with me or doesn’t represent something I believe in, I have the ability to “pass” and say “thanks for thinking of me, but no.” I enjoy maintaining a variety of clients who challenge my work skills on several levels, involving a mix of marketing, PR, and freelance writing, with a dash of photography.
  • Being motivated has its rewards. Freelance work, especially freelance writing, relies heavily on skills like creativity and perseverance. Working for yourself can provide a great sense of satisfaction when freelance assignments are accepted by editors and magazines for example.
  • All the comforts of your home office. It’s a wonderful feeling to be “at home” and at ease while you work. And you don’t have the temptation of co-workers bringing calorie-rich doughnuts or muffins into work. (But you can do that all by yourself if you wish!)
  • Few interruptions. I find that my work flows better without the frequent interruptions experienced in a typical office setting. This is most beneficial for writing!
  • Flexibility in scheduling. I try to pace myself in order to power through my work projects Monday through Thursday so that I can give myself every Friday off. It doesn’t work every week, but it’s a great feeling when it does. Friday serves as my “back-up day” to finish projects, make calls, or tie up loose ends. If I can complete my work by noontime on Friday, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Family flexibility. Being able to schedule around my children’s sporting events, doctor appointments, etc, is simply invaluable. Being at home when my children arrive home from school is also a bonus.

It’s not all fun and games

Working from home isn’t for everyone, however, and there are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Maintain a structure to your day. It’s helpful to set “work hours” for yourself and then stick to them. Be disciplined.
  • That being said, build small breaks into your day or else you’ll burn out. Reward yourself with several small breaks, just 5 or 10 minutes to take a short walk outside, make a personal phone call, or grab a healthy snack. These pockets of time can also be very helpful with household chores such as throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine or popping dinner into the oven. Switching gears and taking breaks is reinvigorating, especially when you incorporate physical activity. Make sure you don’t “forget” to return to work.
  • Set goals for yourself. Set daily goals every morning and weekly goals every Monday. Check them frequently to make sure you’re on task.
  • Ask for family support. During your work hours, make sure your family knows your primary focus is on your work. (Would it be wrong to tell your kids to only interrupt in the case of a fire? Hmmmm…)
  • Define your work area. Make is as functional and professional as possible so that it helps you set the tone for productive workdays.
  • This is the big one: casual vs. professional attire. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you should wear sweatpants or fuzzy slippers. It’s great to have the option to dress casually, but this might impact your work performance (just as the tip above advises you to create an environment conducive to productive workdays). Be comfortable but not too casual. Now… where did I put my fuzzy slippers…. under my desk? Just kidding. 😉

Are you self-employed? Do you work from home? Please pass along your tips and strategies too!

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Take a SNOW DAY!

By Mary Ann Filler

Do you have the winter blues?  My advice is to take a snow day with your entire family!

Growing up, winter was one of my favorite seasons.  I remember major winter snowstorms.  At times it snowed so much that it covered the fence in our yard.  Our dog was delighted as he could walk up one side of the snow bank and down the other to get out.  My brother and I would stay outside, as much as humanly possible, playing in the snow, building forts and having snowball fights with the neighbor kids.  Our youth group went sledding at a nearby park where toboggans set the course for a speedy trip down the hill on our sleds.  There was nothing better than waking up to a school closing on a snowy winter day!

As I grew older, my love for winter began to dwindle.  Somewhere along the line, I began to dread winter.  Sure, I enjoyed a brief visit outside with my boys on the occasions that we got snow.   And, I’ll have to admit, the snow pictures I have taken of the boys over the years are the cutest shots ever!!

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OH…the snowsuits!

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Crinkled Nose and Chapped Lips…PRICELESS!!

…But, January and February (for me) were months to be dreaded.

Then, one year for Christmas, the boys received gift cards to our local ski resort.  The giver’s intent was for us to use the gift towards snow tubing (aka sliding down a snowy slope on an inner tube) since none of us were skiers.  That winter we had a beautiful snowfall on March 16.  The next day, Saint Patrick’s Day, we headed up to the ski resort, and I discovered a way to begin enjoying winter once again.

Snow tubing requires absolutely no experience but delivers big on fun!  This may sound funny to those who are “seasoned” skiers, but I thought that in order to go snow tubing there had to be natural snow on the ground.  Once we got there, we discovered another world!  As long as the temperatures cooperate, the ski resort can actually make snow.  I wish I had pictures of that first snow tubing adventure (camera batteries were dead).  It was certainly a memorable day for all!

After that first outing, it occurred to me that the reason that I stopped enjoying winter was that I was hibernating during the winter months.  I wasn’t outside enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air.  The next year, I learned to ski and the boys learned to snowboard.   We made time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the season!

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Ski Liberty!

I’ll be honest with you, skiing can be an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to be.   If you are new to skiing and snowboarding the “learn to” packages can’t be beat!  They allow you to try the sport without spending a lot of money.  Click here for SkiPA, a website that addresses the beginner skier.

Do you have a 4th or 5th grader?  College student?

Also from SkiPA:  “How about skiing or boarding for FREE this winter? Well here’s your chance! Your Pennsylvania 4th & 5th Grade Snowpass booklet offers you the privilege of skiing and boarding 21 Pennsylvania Ski Resorts for FREE this winter – Take mom or dad with you for the thrill of a lifetime – an experience you will never forget.”  Click here for more info on this great offer.

Our local ski resort, Ski Liberty, offers College Days on Wednesdays.   For $35 the student with a valid college ID can ski for 4 hours including rental equipment AND lessons if needed.

Look for the snowpack… as in packages:

There are also deals to be had on snow tubing packages–click here for an example from Ski Liberty.

And February 21 is our resort’s local appreciation day!  “All residents of Fairfield, Gettysburg, Orrtanna, Cashtown, Carroll Valley, and Emmitsburg, MD are eligible for this special discount! Must bring valid photo ID to show proof of residence. Liberty is open for skiing & snowboarding from 9am to 10pm, and from 4pm to 10pm for snow tubing on Community Appreciation Day.” For more info, click here.

The bottom line is that you can find less expensive ways to enjoy the slopes.  Search on-line for the slope closest to you, and look on their website to find the best times to visit.  Many slopes even have webcams so that you can see the conditions ahead of time.  Here is our local resort’s link for their webcams. 

Get in gear…

If your winter boots aren’t up to date, many snow tubing venues actually rent boots!  Also, don’t forget to check the consignment and thrift shops to outfit the kids (this is a great tip whether you’re planning on skiing or not;-).  In addition, if you discover that you would like to purchase ski or snowboarding equipment for yourself or the kids, the fall is a great time to buy second-hand equipment at local ski swaps.

Finally, If you’re lucky enough to have natural snow, get some inexpensive sleds or even inner tubes and hit a local hill. Even though the boys have learned to snowboard, they still enjoy sledding with friends!

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Sledding with the Toppers…luckily there’s a hill right behind our home;-)

How does your family celebrate winter?  Feel free to share your tips for family skiing, snow tubing, and other ways of enjoying the winter season, below.

“Write Away: How to Journal”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  T.S. Eliot, Poet

Have you ever been really upset and wanted to “get something off your chest”–without actually telling somebody? Or been confused about which decision to make or direction to turn in your life? Perhaps you have simply wanted to record a special time, or capture a moment you witnessed, preserving it in your mind forever.

All of these reasons and more are why some people choose to keep a journal. Others may feel they don’t have the time or inclination, or believe they aren’t a “good writer.” However, it really only takes just a few moments to journal and the best part is there is no experience required!

If you have ever considered putting your thoughts to paper, there are many ways to journal. There are also several components to this process – which is not really a process at all; it is indeed an easy-going and relaxed activity.

~          ~          ~

About 15 years ago while living in Tallahassee, Florida, I saw a ‘Life Stories’ workshop for women offered. Since I am a writer I was curious, and the description sounded intriguing, so I signed up. To my surprise, I found that women who were not writers or didn’t necessarily find writing interesting had also come!

The workshop was offered by Katya Taylor who had a Master of Education and simply liked to journal and write. She also knew how to inspire and teach others to do it. Her workshop was amazing, as well as remarkably inspirational and healing. She encouraged us to share her methods and spread the word, so to speak, and about 3 years ago I developed a course curriculum for a writing workshop using Katya’s teachings as a beginning point.

The most important thing I learned from these workshops is that everyone’s story is important and worth sharing. At the beginning of the workshop Katya said, “Every time a person dies, a library burns.” I couldn’t agree more, so here are some basic journaling concepts to keep in mind when you think about putting your pen to paper – and preserving your library and life!

Write Away!

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”  J.K. Rowling, Author

1)In the beginning…

I know this famous author scrawled the beginnings of her Harry Potter series books on napkins. And, I encourage always being ready to jot down a spur-of-the-moment idea. However, you may wish to keep these more “stable” items handy:

+Notebook (for jotting down anything you’d like to remember)

+Writing Journal (make it special – one you will want to open again)

+Pencils and Pens (for writing – and illustrating!)

*Now that I have shared this suggestion, it is your turn to get jumpstarted on your way to journaling. So take a moment to gather at least one writing implement and find one small notebook, notepad, or journal you can stash in your purse or bag.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are.” E.E. Cummings, Poet and Painter

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

2) Writing tools, spaces, and time

The place where you write generally does not matter but should be somewhere you are comfortable, and where you can focus and write undisturbed. The time of day you choose to write may vary. Sometimes, you will get a brainstorm unexpectedly and want to write wherever you are – hence, the use of a napkin!

Journals come in many forms, as well as shapes and sizes.

*Your Turn: Look around your house to identify the place where you can write without interruption. Also, as much as possible (I’m thinking especially about anyone else who has a 3 year old at home!) determine a general time when you can write. Is that in the evening, when everyone else has gone to sleep as it is for me? Or are you an early riser who sneaks out of bed before everyone else begins stirring? Can you snatch a few moments in the middle of your day? Finally, choose where you will record your writing – now you have a good excuse to visit that cute little book and gift shop in town!

Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats before you and no crowds shout your name.”  Robert Louis Stevenson, Novelist/Poet/Essayist

3) Jump-Starting Your Writing

Most writing comes from memories and experiences. We can “jump-start” our writing by re-connecting with those times through pictures, objects, imagery, our 5 senses, and phrases (what Katya called “Seeds”). Many times Seeds generate writing from a part of our life – our writing is just a ‘tidbit’ from a bigger picture that can eventually become a Narrative.

There are many ways to begin a journal entry. Keeping lists is a good start.

*One running list I keep is of phrases and famous quotations I come across and like. I use them to inspire my writing and thoughts. My latest favorite quote is: “The best way out is always through.”  Robert Frost

*Your Turn: Start a timer for one minute. On any sheet of paper, list as many ideas you can come up with to finish the list phrase I love to

Next, choose one item from your list to expand and write upon for 5 minutes.

If you have something on your mind (and even if you don’t), try writing from a ‘seed phrase.’ It is a little like a sentence starter from which many of us wrote essays in school. These are really just “writing prompts” and brainstorming! A few examples:

  • Once I found…
  • I remember a room…
  • Looking back I…
  • On a sunny day I like to…
  • A favorite garment…

*Your Turn: Pick one Seed from the list above and write for 5 minutes uninterrupted. See what you come up with!

You are now on your way to journaling! In part 2 of this series, I will provide you with several easy ways to get inspired to expand your writing further.

In the meantime, please share your experiences with any of the above activities and I will be happy to incorporate them into the next blog ~ Happy writing!

Coping with the Empty(ing) Nest Inquire Within

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Image by Stephane D’Alu, via Wikimedia Commons

By Chris Little

As mothers who have stepped “off the merry go round,” we’ve made the deliberate decision to set aside a hard-core career for a while so that we could spend more time with our young families. I stopped working full-time right after my first child was born, and while I’ll admit that sometimes I miss having a career to impress people with at parties, I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to spend so much time getting to know my two kids, and that I’ve been able to make sure my family has a calm, well-ordered home—at least some of the time! I think it’s been good for them, and it’s certainly been good for me.

But now my son is 18 and a senior in high school—he’ll head off to college this fall. My daughter, at 15 and a sophomore, isn’t far behind. These days they’re in after-school sports and other activities—typically they don’t get home before 5:30 p.m. The kids just aren’t around as much as they used to be, and I know that over the next few years I’ll see them even less!

So I’m adjusting to the fact that my career as a stay-home mom is drawing to an end, and just as a company man facing retirement naturally takes stock of his past and his future, I’m finding that I’m doing a lot of thinking about who I am and who I’ll be when the kids are fully out of the house. I wonder how other moms have managed this same transition. How do you go about stepping into this next phase of your life?

To find out, I gave my friend Rose Maturo a call—she’s a counselor with a practice not far from here. “I would compare it to a midlife crisis,” she told me. “For a stay-home mom, it’s been all about the kids, but now you have reshape your identity.”

Makes sense, right? We’ve loved being home with the kids, but stepping away from our careers can mean stepping away from our more independent selves, the people we are apart from our roles as parent and spouse. So when the kids, who’ve been so central to our lives and identities, pack up and leave for college, we can be left feeling a bit adrift.

“It’s a process of redefining yourself and your life,” Rose said. “In some cases, it’s getting to know yourself again, your likes and dislikes and dreams and hopes and wishes.”

But how to go about doing all that redefining and rediscovering? “It’s a journey inward,” Rose told me. “Journaling is really helpful because when you get past all the day-to-day stuff you can get to a deeper level with yourself. The same is true with meditation and reflection, anything from taking a walk to doing something on an artistic level.”

Rose suggested a few books that can also help along the journey:

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
What Color is Your Parachute, by Richard N. Bolles
Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life, by Gail Sheehy

But even more important than reading is talking, Rose told me. Talk with your friends about your feelings, talk with your spouse (who may have strong feelings of his own as the kids move on). But just as importantly, talk with your kids. “The relationship with your kids isn’t going to end,” she said. “A lot of moms think ‘my kids don’t need me anymore.’ But they do, it’s just in a different way. You can’t stop being a mom. And keeping in touch with your kids and keeping interested in their lives can ease the transition.”

A caveat: While many women embrace the freedom and opportunities this new phase of life presents, Rose warns that it’s not unheard of for women to fall into depression as the kids leave home. So certainly, if you find yourself stuck in a dark place, talk with someone about getting help.

But for most of us, this can be an exciting (though sometimes bittersweet) phase of life. I like the idea of taking some time to redefine myself and my life as I move into these empty(ing)-nest years and prepare for a less child-focused existence. In my next post I’ll explore another strategy: Expanding your circle of concern to include your community through volunteer work!

In the meantime, how are you going about preparing for “retirement,” that is, your life after kids-at-home?

Working Mothers Unite, Look at the Positives

By Jen Ashenfelter

Some decisions are based on a want. Do I want to be a stay-at-home or a working mother? Sometimes there’s no choice in the matter—maybe going to work is a financial need. I’ve experienced all three.

I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother so I stopped working after my first son was born. Eventually our financial situation changed, so I needed to be a working mother. For many years I really enjoyed my job in real estate—until it started consuming the time I wanted to give my family. A career in real estate cost me more than I was making; once again, I made the decision to get off the merry-go-round and be a stay-at-home mother. I loved it—time for the kids, the household and myself—to sip coffee or have lunch with friends, read books, attend a class and take on some freelance writing projects.

My days at home weren't quite as glamorous and dramatic as those of the Real Housewives of NJ, so I got a second job.

My days at home weren’t quite as dramatic and well-paying as those of the Real Housewives of NJ, so I got a different job.

However, I figured my days of living like one of the Housewives were quickly nearing the final episode, especially since I was not getting compensated for this reality show where “getting nickeled and dimed” actually costs Jacksons and Bens in this economy. With college tuition looming large over the horizon, going back to work was part of my long-range plan but the bank account couldn’t wait that long.Whether you want to work or you need to work, well, it’s still work. However, there are advantages to being a working mother. Here’s my spin on what can be gained—besides money in the checking account—from being a working mother.

It’s my paid vacation

I didn’t want to leave my toddler and infant every other weekend when I started working at the real estate office. I didn’t want to be away several nights a week when I worked at the tax preparation office from January through April. As fun as those jobs ended up being, they were a need and not a want. There were plenty of responsibilities in the job descriptions but there were also no diapers, no endless questions, no bickering, no whining and no SpongeBob! All that and a paycheck too—put your hands in the air and give me woot woot?! There’s no downside when you look at the bright side. Discover the positives when you have to work and create some fun.

Dust off the jewelry and heels

Being at home with two boys left little opportunity to dress up, but I’m still a girl at heart. Wearing sweatpants and sneakers are comfortable and convenient for kicking around the house, but some days I was a prime target for a style ambush where obnoxious TV hosts go through your closet and drawers and heave every piece of clothing you own into a giant garbage bag. I’m all for casual, cozy clothing, but I have a new appreciation for business attire. Buy a new outfit and blow the dust off the jewelry and heels, then add some mascara and lip gloss—the feeling is amazing!

Break the OCD housecleaning habit

My name is Jennifer. I’m a clean freak. What’s that on the floor…why are there crumbs on the counter? I don’t care what your house looks like; I care what my house looks like…a lot. If that makes me a little OCD, then I guess I’m guilty as charged. However, I’m learning to deal with my obsession, but only because I have to! Sadly, I don’t have as much free time to dust and scrub and vacuum anymore. So to all you clean-home haters, forgive me. I’m a changed woman and I want to be a part of your club.

Give the kids something to do

Ok, I’m not completely cured of my clean-house obsession. Isn’t that why we have children so that eventually they can take over all the chores? (No need to call Social Services—my two are definitely old enough…and it’s about time too.) The boys are learning that their clean clothes and a bathroom that doesn’t feel like a public restroom don’t just happen. There’s just not enough time in my day to do it all. Working has made me realize that they live here too and the free ride is over. This working woman may not be awarded Mother-of-the-Year for making the boys do more housework, but some day my daughters-in-law will thank me.

When I'm belting out a tune, this is what I see looking through my windshield.

When I’m belting out a tune, this is what I see looking through my windshield.

In the car, you are a ROCK STAR           

Whether it is five minutes or one hour, embrace the commute. The time and space belong to you! It could be the quietest time of your day or the loudest. Personally, I prefer the daily rock concert. I don’t sing in the shower—someone in the house might hear me, and I’m fairly sure my American Idol audition would produce goose bumps—more of the fear-inducing than the awe-inspiring kind. But in the car—with the speakers thumping—I am Kelly Clarkson…no, Carrie Underwood…wait, a little Jennifer Hudson. Ok, in reality maybe more like William Hung, but it’s my moment on the stage. Rock on!

And more important, surround yourself with really smart and creative people

What’s the saying…too much of a good thing is too much…or something like that? It’s true! Most days I enjoyed being at home with my boys. I loved watching them play and learn and grow. It was fun for them but not always fun for me. It was all about Legos and Matchbox cars and tool sets and playing in the dirt—don’t get me wrong, they are all very cool things. But some days I longed for a mountain of Barbie dolls with fabulous outfits and little shoes. Or I wanted to just sit and read a book. Try reading any Harry Potter book at 5 minute intervals with 10,000 interruptions—not going to happen. Let’s just say that exercising my mind, finding adult conversation, and keeping my writing skills fresh were challenging at times.

Now that the boys are in school, working part time allows me to concentrate on learning and growing too. Never stop learning. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with people who are smarter and more creative than you, but who are encouraging and patient. Don’t feel intimidated. It feels great being part of a team, to be working with people who are really passionate about what they do, and accomplishing positive things every day. Our children receive our wisdom, guidance and encouragement to learn and grow. Even as adults, why can we not give that to ourselves?

If you’re a working mother, what do you feel you’ve gained by going to work? How do you make your time at work fun and rewarding?  

 

Hate to Cook? Me too!

By Ruth Topper

Does the thought of putting a meal on the table create stress for you?  Well – me too.  Cooking has never been one of my favorite activities.  In fact, I would rate my personal satisfaction of cooking pretty low on a scale of 1 to 10.  I would trade off doing lots of dishes – including pots & pans – every night in lieu of cooking.   In fact, while dating my husband, Gary,  I told him straight up that if he was looking for someone who would put a meal on the table every night for him – then he wasn’t looking at the right girl.  (Fortunately he must have seen other qualities and stuck with me)!

I felt added pressure when I stepped off the full time Merry-Go-Round after the birth of my daughter more than 15 years ago.  Gary was always home from work before me, so for more than 7 years of marriage, he had dinner already started by the time I got home.  Now that I was a “stay at home” mom I felt the pressure to start making dinner every night.  I certainly couldn’t be home all day with the kids and then have him come home & make dinner.   So – I made Gary write down (for the first time) the recipes for some of our favorite meals.  Slowly I started to put together a repertoire of a few dishes I could make on my own.  Although to get to that place – I can’t tell you the number of times I called him at work that first year to clarify instructions to make a particular dish.

So why is cooking such a chore to me (and maybe you)?  Here are some of my theories:

1.  Deciding what to make each day for dinner.  There are so many options to consider and what is an option that everyone, including all the kids, will eat?  Is it relatively healthy?  If your family is anything like mine there are many times that you can’t sit down together for a meal due to sports & activities.  What do you make that won’t seem like a “leftover” three hours later?

2.    Figuring out the timing of all the components (meat, potato, vegetable, etc.) of the meal  so that everything is hot & ready at the same time.    This is truly a science that I have yet to figure out!  All I can say is don’t ever put me in charge of Thanksgiving Dinner!  At my house – I go run the “Turkey Trot” early on Thanksgiving morning while Gary makes the filling & stuffs the turkey!  I’m very good at making the rolls the day before and jumping in at the last minute to help put the various items in serving dishes and/or to stir the gravy – but do not put me in charge of making sure everything is done at the same time!

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“Spices to taste?” What does that mean?! Help!

3.   Measurements for ingredients included in a main dish recipe are often not precise.   Let’s take soup as an example.  Gary is a “Soup Nazi.”   I see him pulling spices out of the cupboard & just sprinkling a little of this & a little of that into the pot or adding vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. without even thinking about measuring them out!  How in the green earth does this “mish mash” end up tasting so good?   We recently purchased a quart jar containing “Seven Bean Soup”  from  our church.  The jar contains a variety of dry beans and the recipe to make the soup.  The last “ingredient” on the recipe is “spices to taste.”  How is someone, like me, ever to figure out what these “spices to taste” are!

In spite of my great dislike for cooking I do manage a few times a week to put something edible on the table for my family.  I learned early on that you need to develop a few “go to” recipes that just don’t fail for you.  One of these recipes in our family is meatloaf.  It is a comfort food, something that everyone likes, warms up nicely or is great the next day cold in a sandwich too.

Meatloaf:
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 egg
¾ cup of milk
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ Tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt

Topping:
½ cup catsup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon mustard

Mix all ingredients together – except  the topping.  Place in a shallow baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  Drain any grease off meatloaf.  Add topping and bake an additional 10 minutes.   Enjoy!

Mmmmm... Meatloaf

Mmmmm… Meatloaf

So – are you challenged in the kitchen (like me) or is cooking something you love to do?  We would love to hear from any of you who have “survival” tips?  Do you have any favorite, easy meals that are your stand-bys?  Please share!

Pinterest Paradise

By Karen Hendricks

Has the Pinterest craze hit you yet? If you haven’t yet discovered this virtual bulletin board yet, let me tell you–it can be a mom’s best friend. But if you haven’t heard, there is a warning to heed: Pinterest can be slightly addicting so proceed with caution!

The best thing about Pinterest is if you’re in need of inspiration, this is the place to find it. The downside is sometimes you get so wrapped up in all the inspiration, that you forget to actually DO and MAKE some of the projects and recipes and ideas that you find on Pinterest!

Before Pinterest came into my life, I was forever tearing out magazine articles, clipping recipes, jotting down ideas from The Today Show, putting bookmarks in my gazillion cookbooks, etc. (I still do some of that!) Now, where did I put all those great ideas?

The beauty of Pinterest is I can bookmark in cyberspace and not lose or misplace a single idea–it’s all in my account. Viola! And believe it or not I have tried quite a few recipes and put quite a few ideas into action as a result of Pinterest. I’m going to share some of my highlights with you…

Homemade laundry detergent - wish the scent came through your computer!

Homemade laundry detergent – wish the scent came through your computer!

One of my favorite discoveries, and probably the most practical, is a recipe for laundry detergent. I whipped up this concoction in early November and I still have a great supply here in mid-January. I have not bought laundry detergent since, and with a family of five that is an amazing feat! All told, the ingredients cost between $20 and $25 so I feel as though I’m saving a lot of money as the net result. Ordinarily I spend between $10 and $20 a month on detergent. The homemade detergent works great–that’s the best part. The only thing I did differently was instead of using the 1 to 2 tablespoons per load as recommended, I generally use 2 to 3 just because my washer has an extra large cycle.

I’ve tried quite a few new recipes as a result of Pinterest and two of our family favorites have been spinach cheese balls and Nutella cupcakes. The spinach cheese balls served as the perfect appetizer several times over the holidays. And I have to give my daughter Katie credit–she’s the one who discovered and baked the Nutella cupcakes. YUM.

Spinach Cheese Balls, Photo Credit: BettyCrocker.com

Spinach Cheese Balls, Photo Credit: BettyCrocker.com

Nutella Cupcakes, Photo Credit: Shine.Yahoo.com

Nutella Cupcakes, Photo Credit: Shine.Yahoo.com

For Christmas gifts, I made each of my three children customized dry erase boards using colorful paint samples and poster frames from Michael’s craft store. The blocks of color make it especially handy for them to write to do lists. I customized their colors to coordinate with their rooms. I think they were all amazed to see that mom has a touch of creativity! It was actually a pretty low-cost project, considering the paint samples were free. The only cost was the frame plus the investment of my time. And the end result is priceless–helping my children stay organized. What a lifesaver.

Colorful paint chips + frames = artful dry erase boards for calendars and to-do lists

Colorful paint chips + frames = artful dry erase boards for calendars and to-do lists

My daughter Katie's board is already in use

Already in use!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My beautiful sis-in-law Dawn, wearing her infinity scarf

My beautiful sis-in-law Dawn, wearing her infinity scarf

I also discovered an easy sewing project–how to make an infinity scarf. I actually made seven as Christmas gifts, until my sewing machine broke down… I guess it wasn’t used to all that activity.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish by having a few more minutes of free time in your day. By maintaining a 40-hour workweek–and not spiraling into the 60+ hour range–I feel as though I have the ability to think clearer, plan ahead and have time to BREATHE. Every Mom needs time for herself, “off the merry-go-round,” in order to be the best Mom she can possibly be to her family. And if that personal time is spent on Pinterest, I’d call that paradise!

For more information on all the projects featured in this post, click here for the NEW Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest page! We look forward to adding many more inspiring and helpful pins. Hope to see you on Pinterest—be sure to follow us!