Archive | April 2014

See You at the Clothesline

Image courtesy of cjansuebsri /

Image courtesy of cjansuebsri /

By Karen Hendricks

Happy Earth Day!

Recycling, renovating, refurbishing, converting… all of these words remind me of DIY projects that help us find new uses for old items. Whether the idea is to save money, to be more conscious of the environment, or to be creative, I love hearing earth-friendly tips from other families.

So today in the spirit of Earth Day, I’m going to share one of my favorite earth-friendly, but very old-fashioned, DIY ideas: hanging laundry out to dry on a clothesline.

This might not sound all that exciting or revolutionary to you… but stay with me. I promise, there are many perks! I encourage you to rediscover this old technique… because it will renew your spirit.

Everything old is new again

Somewhere ingrained in me, is the old-fashioned poem about household chores that my great-grandmother used to follow:

Monday, Wash Day
Tuesday, Ironing Day
Wednesday, Sewing Day
Thursday, Market Day
Friday, Cleaning Day
Saturday, Baking Day
Sunday, Day of Rest

If your family is like mine, weekends are full of activities including sports, which means that Mondays are great candidates for laundry days. I do not like having stinky sports uniforms hanging out in the laundry room for very long. At some point over the weekend, I normally remind my kids to collect all of their laundry from the hidden recesses of their room, bring it to the laundry room and sort it out. (This also helps with the never-ending chore, “cleaning their room.”) I can’t say that I follow this old-fashioned poem’s advice on the remaining days of the week, although Fridays are definitely cleaning days at our house as well.


Image courtesy of artur84 /

Monday: A clean slate

Ok, so Monday morning rolls around and I honestly look forward to beginning my week with a “clean slate” and doing at least one, sometimes three or four, loads of laundry. Currently, I work from home, so it’s easy for me to incorporate this into my routine. But even when I worked full-time, outside the home, I looked forward to this Monday morning ritual and did a load of laundry before heading out the door.

If you don’t already have a clothesline, it’s a fairly simple DIY project to install one. I love the idea that a light breeze and sunshine can work magic on a load of laundry. It’s recycling at its best!

Benefits of “hang time”

So what are the benefits to hanging laundry outdoors?

  • Starting the day outside in the early morning sunshine
  • Time spent thinking about the day and week ahead
  • A peaceful start to the day
  • Light exercise
  • Saving money by not running the dryer
  • Freshly scented sheets and laundry
  • Time in the afternoon spent taking the laundry down is also a perfect time to “recharge” outdoors
  • Morning or afternoon–I often have a cup of coffee nearby!

A few additional tips:

  • I never hang towels outside—even if I use fabric softener, they get too stiff if hung outside.The dryer leaves them soft and fluffy and that’s the way we like them. Don’t mess with a good thing. The same goes for socks in my opinion. Besides, I don’t have the patience to hang the gazillion socks that go through our laundry every week. LOL
  • If the temperature isn’t forecasted to go above 60 degrees, then it’s too chilly, in my book, to either enjoy the time outdoors or to adequately dry the laundry.
  • How does the saying go? Don’t air your personal laundry in public? My family appreciates the fact that I do not hang any personal items on the washline. 🙂

It sounds simple, I know, but my Monday mornings at the clothesline have become a cherished routine. Now that spring is here, this is one chore that I’m ready to plug back into my schedule!

How about you? What are some of your favorite earth-friendly tips? Time or money-saving tricks? Ways to renew your spirit?

Monday morning in New York City, circa 1900, public domain. How incredible is this photo?!

Monday morning in New York City, circa 1900, public domain. How incredible is this photo?!


Family Favorite: Frittata

Photo Credit: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

Photo Credit: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

By Karen Hendricks

Wishing all of our Off the Merry-Go-Round friends a blessed (early) Easter! Hope you enjoy lots of precious family time this weekend, where family meals are bound to take center stage.

And what would Easter be without traditional Easter eggs, ham, springtime salads, carrot cake, and of course chocolate from the Easter Bunny. 🙂

One of my family’s favorite recipes of all time works well for Easter brunch, or really anytime of year. “Frittata” is a super-fun word to say (fruh-ta-ta), but if you’re scared by it… don’t be. A frittata is basically an Italian version of an omelet. Baked in the oven, it’s a delicious version of an egg casserole. I stumbled upon it in a recipe book at least 15 years ago, and cannot remember which one at this point. Besides being delicious, this frittata recipe is very easy to adapt and modify based upon whatever ingredients you have on hand. Not only is it perfect for a special brunch, but it’s also a wonderful substantial and healthy dinner option. My family loves to switch things up and have “breakfast for dinner” at least once a month–how about you?

Frittata: This recently-made pan featured ham, spinach, red pepper and broccoli. Cheese sprinkled on top gives it a gorgeous browned top.

Frittata: This recently-made pan featured ham, spinach, red pepper and broccoli. Cheese sprinkled on top gives it a gorgeous browned top.

Favorite Frittata:

  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 c frozen hash brown potatoes (or 2 large potatoes, diced)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 c frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice (broccoli, sugar snap peas, red/green pepper, spinach, kale, etc.)
  • 1 c shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or Swiss work well – your choice)
  • 1 c ham, cubed or chopped (great way to use leftover ham)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, mayonnaise and milk in a greased 2-qt baking dish. Add hash browns, ham and all vegetables; season with salt and cracked black pepper; mix until well blended. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is set and top is browned.

Note: I double this recipe and make (2) 2-qt dishes for my family of 5 if making frittata for dinner. We usually have just a few servings left-over, which are often coveted as breakfast options the next morning (the early bird gets the worm…).

Ideas for side dishes: Biscuits, Italian bread, fresh fruit salad.


Outdoor Weather Calls For A Beautiful Outdoor Area

Summer is about two months away, and many of us are dreaming of warm, sunny weather after an especially long winter. Today we welcome guest blogger Naomi Shaw to bring a breath of fresh air, sunshine and outdoor design inspiration from her home in California.

By Naomi Shaw 

Sometimes all you need to revamp your home is a feature added to your outdoor area. Whether it’s your front yard, backyard or a little art studio in the back, the following ideas can make any outside space a wonderful, enjoyable place to spend time, especially with friends and family.

Image Courtesy of Acutech

Image Courtesy of Acutech

Cedar Bar

One of the most useful pieces for a gorgeous and fully functional outdoor area is a simple bar. You’ll need a large, flat surface where you can prepare and serve food and drinks for your outdoor guests. You’ll also need some storage space for your outdoor serving dishes, utensils, and other preparation tools.

  • You can build this DIY bar with a little craftsmanship and patience. Here’s an informative step-by-step list from Home at Home, a great resource for homeowners, on how to build a cedar bar all by yourself.

Fold-Down Picnic Table

Similar to the nostalgic murphy bed, this picnic table can be stored against an outdoor wall in your backyard.

  • Simply buy a picnic table and construct a DIY wall mount. Check out these basic picnic table designs from instructables, a site for creating just about anything on your own.
  • You can raise the table when your kids want a space to play, and lower it down quickly and easily for hosting guests or enjoying time with the fam.

Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor fireplaces, whether they’re built into your patio or set up like a bonfire, are wonderful places for people to gather. Once the sun dips below the horizon and evening settles in, guests will likely congregate around the warming flames so the conversations can continue, instead of simply leaving because it’s too chilly.

Image Courtesy of Ethanol Fireplace Pros

Image Courtesy of Ethanol Fireplace Pros

  • Use an environmentally friendly ethanol fireplace, which does not release carbon dioxide into the air as would basic wood and flames.
  • Ethanol fireplaces are easily started and shut off, unlike having to light a flame and hope that it will catch.
  • This type of fireplace does not have to be permanently mounted, if you’re looking for something you can move around the yard.

Outdoor Shower

Nothing feels more outdoorsy and refreshing than showering outside. Whether you’re home from the beach and want to wash off all the sand or you just need a breath of fresh air, having an outdoor shower is a great idea for any backyard.

Image Courtesy

Image Courtesy

Backyard Party Shed

Whether it’s a potting shed or a party shed, a fun place outside of the house to spend time and share stories will make any backyard a great place to be.

  • This DIY renovated shed from ReDesigning Sarah, an inspirational home and family blog, shows just one way you can revamp a lowly box into a lively party destination.
  • If a party shed is not your thing, consider renovating a small shack as a reading room or an art studio. Sometimes all you need to “get away” is a walk outside to your studio.

Even just choosing one of these fun projects will turn your backyard space into your own beautiful space you can show off to friends, family, and party guests. Hang out in a party shed, relax by the fireplace, or have delicious meal on your fold-down picnic table.

Have you added one of these features to your yard? Thinking about diving into one of these projects? Feel free to leave a comment below and share your ideas and tips!

Naomi Shaw is a writer from Southern California. She loves to write about home decor and recently has been remodeling her backyard with her husband and even getting her three boys involved. She is hoping it is all done and set for some summer BBQ’s this year. 

Grafting Onto Your Family Tree

No matter how "rooted" your family tree is in blood ties --  there is always room to grow lush, beautiful branches that sprout from true friendships! Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

No matter how “rooted” your family tree is in blood ties — there is always room to grow lush, beautiful branches that sprout from true friendships! Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

*In collaboration with Chris Little

When I think about family trees, my mind naturally drifts to how different so many families look than they did in the generations of our parents and grandparents. The “faces” of families today are much more diverse – for reasons such as interracial marriage and building a family through adoption. Nowadays, a family is often comprised of different skin colors, ethnicities and cultures.

As I think about this concept further, I also consider what – or should I say who, really makes up a family tree. Is it biological members of a family – those with only true blood ties to the family line? Or, can a family unit be more than that? I wonder too … if family is also supposed to be about love for one other, and about taking care of one other, and about respecting one other – then what if that is not happening with certain so-called “family members.” Then, are they your family? And then further … are the special people in your life who “make up for” those sour relationships – who do love, care for and respect you, are they your family?

In other words, is a family bound by blood … or love?

I will be very bold and say that I do not consider every person in my blood-related family to be my family. There are a few members in my family who do not exhibit the traits I consider to be worthy of family; and therefore I avoid them as much as I can, and certainly do not let them know much about my life nor infringe upon it. Yes, I feel they are that toxic.

Aside from this, our son is adopted. If I thought that family was only about blood ties, I could not possibly have become his mother. In my opinion, a family is less about blood ties and more about a culture. The term culture encompasses ethnicity, racial identity, family structure, economic level, language, and religious and political beliefs – all of which profoundly influence a person’s development and relationship to the world, from birth and childhood on. And, therefore, also how they integrate into a family and take part in that family unit. So in my mind – and in my world, family is built by choice. The “family tree,” therefore, is not so much about where the trunk of the tree first took seed, or how the roots took hold in the ground – rather about the many thick branches and lush leaves that grew from that initial form.

It is so very difficult for me to understand how others cannot see beyond how a child comes into a family and simply acknowledge that it is a true blessing that the child is there. Perhaps, though, that is because I have experienced the love of those family members in my life with whom I share not one ounce of blood. When I look back on my childhood, I see clearly how in many ways those special people were more of a family to me in the true meaning and experience of the word than many of my “blood” relatives. Just as some people remark that they “don’t see race” (I laugh heartily when Stephen Colbert humorously states this on his television show) as a factor in how they interact with people from ethnicities other than their own, I don’t see how inherited physical and personality traits such as daddy’s eye color, mommy’s nose, and grandpa’s sense of humor are at all relevant in how a family lives and loves together.

The credit for my point of view on this subject really must go to my amazing mother. Unknowingly, she is the one who taught me about the beauty of building a family through adoption. My mother was an “only child” and since she grew up without siblings, she built her family through friends with whom she became close over the years. Therefore, my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side of the family were introduced into my life from those friendship bonds. And guess what? I was none the wiser. There was no talk of how “Aunt So-and-So isn’t my ‘real’ aunt,” nor lengthy explanations and justifications as to why “Mr. and Mrs. X” became my grandparents. I did not find this at all unusual – it just was.

My mother's dear friend who became my aunt holds my son when he was a baby.

My mother’s dear friend, who became my aunt, holds my son when he was a baby.

As an example, there were two wonderful married couples who were very good friends of both my parents, and who then became my aunts and uncles – Don and Louise, who were my godparents and have both since passed away; and Bob and Nancy, who continue to be such a delightful presence in my family’s life.

Two sets of other “relatives” in particular influenced my life in some very profound ways. I can tell you that I have definitely “inherited” my Aunt Mary Alice’s flair for entertaining masses of people in my home without breaking a sweat. Her grace and class, and the way her home made an open, welcoming haven for traveling family and friends no matter what else she had going on in her life, astounds me even to this day. She also imparted to me the importance of moisturizing one’s entire body with lotion daily – clearly a beauty regiment necessity!

I remember my mother once remarked to me about Mary Alice saying, “She saved my life,” as her eyes welled up with tears. You see, Mary and her husband, Bob, had become more than just my mother’s dear friends – they became her family when she had none. It is amazing to me how anyone upon hearing this story could continue to think that a blood tie alone to another person makes them family in the true meaning of the word!

A couple of years toward the end of my Aunt Mary’s life, I had the pleasure of flying to Colorado from time to time where my aunt and uncle lived. My dear Aunt Mary had been very ill for some time, and along with her physical ailments, had begun to show early signs of dementia. Although my Uncle Bob had weekly help in his home and was able to take breaks from caring for my aunt round the clock, I wanted to be present during this difficult time for them both whenever I could. I wanted to help too. I wanted to give something back – no matter how small, to the people who are forever bound to me through love. To my family.

As I stayed present with my Aunt Mary while Uncle Bob played cards with his friends and went to the movies; as I helped to feed and dress her; as I looked into her eyes and smiled; I was overcome with emotion. These people had become my true family and I was so much closer to them than many of those who share inherited traits with me. When my aunt passed away, my heart broke in places I didn’t know it could – I had lost a big piece of it.

I had a similar experience growing up with my grandmother and grandfather. Both of my parents’ fathers had died before I was born, and my paternal grandmother passed away after having seen me only once when I was just an infant. My maternal grandmother battled cancer throughout my childhood and passed away when I was in the ninth grade. So the grandparents I refer to were not the biological parents of either my mom or my dad – they were actually our neighbors.

When my mother returned to work after raising us, she turned to a retired woman in the neighborhood who babysat regularly for help with our afterschool care. To our family however, Edna and her husband, Septimus, became so much more – they became our grandmom and grandpop. I cannot put into words what a special part of my life they became, sharing everything from school days to birthdays. Septimus passed away when I was a freshman in college and when my beloved grandmother passed away in 2001, I felt as though a piece of my life had died too. I assure you that in all the years I was blessed to have her in my life, her homemade cookies, cakes and pies tasted no less delicious; and her presence in my life was no less special, because we were not related by blood.

My "family tree" continues ... my dear friend Alice has now become an aunt to my son!

My “family tree” branches out … my dear friend Alice has now become an aunt to my son!

Now the same need for family must be fulfilled for my son. He too is an only child, and my husband and I are not close with all of our immediate family members. So we are forming a family for him – growing and adding branches to our tree trunk. We have looked outside of our family members for those special relationships of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My best friends and their families have been very present in my son’s life. In fact, my son calls them aunts, uncles and cousins; and just as I did growing up, doesn’t seem to think anything of it. For they are the ones who make the effort to stay in touch across the miles, to send my son special gifts, to visit or host us when we visit them. They are the ones who support us in raising him, uplift us when we experience life’s challenges, and celebrate when we share our joys. They are our family and we treasure them!

The expression, “Blood is thicker than water,” is a misrepresentation of family life. It simply is not true. Although it is sad to say, when you go through a really difficult time in your life, you may well find that those still standing by your side at the end may not be your blood relatives!

In my blog, “Blood is Thicker Than Water and Other Misrepresentations of Family Life,” I share a story which illustrates further my thoughts about true family

My husband and I had been following the Camelot television series and during one episode, Arthur spoke to a man who was afraid of losing his daughter if she ever discovered that he was not her biological father. When Arthur spoke, my husband and I just looked at each other and smiled – finally, a script writer who truly “gets” adoption, who truly understands that families can be built by choice as well. To the man, Arthur said, “It’s not blood that ties you together; it’s the memories you share. Everything you taught her, everything you gave up for her – it’s your love, that’s what flows through her.”

Enough said!

Do you have a special person who has become family even though they are not related by blood? Are there people in your life you consider family members just as much as your biological relatives – and whom you would add to your family tree? Our OTMGR community would be interested to hear your story about those treasured relationships!