Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

What are you doing with the kids this weekend?

My 10 year old son, C., is becoming more mature and independent every day.  Lately, he's been trying to prepare some very basic snacks and meals for himself.  We let him prepare cold things, like sandwiches, and use the microwave with supervision.  His latest favorite is cheese quesadillas - simply melted cheese in a folded-over tortilla.  Last weekend, he was very anxious to prepare this for his "lunch" (at 11:00 A.M., not an hour after he had eaten breakfast!).  Of course E. wanted some too, so C. started to prepare one for him as well. 

C. then announces that he is going to have to throw away the tortilla he has started preparing because it has a slight rip in it.  Of course I was aghast!  But then I remembered a story from my childhood.

"When I was your age and learning to cook, one of the first things I tried to prepare was fried eggs over easy (and I don't even like eggs!).  One day I was "practicing" cooking the eggs, and every time I broke the yolk while flipping the egg, I threw the egg out.  When Grandma found out I had wasted almost a dozen eggs, she freaked out!" 

I gave him a hug, showed him how to refold the quesadilla so the cheese wouldn't spill out of the rip, and he and E. enjoyed their snack.

So why not cook with your kids this weekend?

Image courtesy Raxxis.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


For me, there is no overstating the value of a pedicure on my state of mind. So relaxing and yet I just don't treat myself enough. 

Once last spring I was so pressed for time from running around with my son C.'s activities that I didn't even have 15 extra minutes to get a spa pedicure.

The next best thing when you don't have time to get to the salon or when it's closed is to do a home pedicure.

Assemble a little kit for this purpose.  We'll keep it simple so that you get the maximum relaxation.  You'll need a manicure kit with clippers, a buffing pad, and a pumice stone or foot file. Put some toe separators in your kit if you can (I sometimes reuse the ones from the salon); some clear and/or light colored polish, and your favorite quick dry spray or top coat.  Have some flip flops or pedicure socks (with open toes) ready for when you're done.  It would be nice to keep all of these supplies together in a pretty box or tin.

A electric or battery operated foot bath - If you don't have one of those, a deep dishpan or basin will do and sometimes I actually prefer that.

Fragrant Epsom salts - My favorite brand is Dr. Teal's, available at WalMart in 3 lb. bags for about $4.  It comes in lavender and eucalyptus spearmint fragrances. The eucalyptus spearmint is my favorite - it smells heavenly, just like you're at the spa - and is wonderful in your bath also.  Unscented salts will also do in a pinch.

Water - The temperature depends on your preference.  I like the hottest water I can stand.  I start out with tap water, then fill an old tea kettle and bring it upstairs to my boudoir so that I can refresh the water as it cools down.  Don't pour it directly on your feet!!!  In the summer you might prefer cold water or even float a few ice cubes.

Light a candle or two, preferably scented, and place close by where you can see the soothing flame.  Place a fluffy towel under your basin and have another close by to dry your feet when you are done.

You may want to do some foot maintenance before you start your soak.  I like to remove my old polish and cut and shape my nails before hand.  If you like to use a PedEgg, this is best done on dry feet.  Don't overdo it though.

Now dip your tootsies into the water...ahhhh.  Relax for as long as you want or as long as you have.  Pumice or file any rough spots just before you are ready to take your feet out of the water.

Dry your feet with your fluffy towel, then massage your feet and lower legs with lotion just like at the salon.  Swipe a little nail polish remover over your toes, and put on your toe separators or pedicure socks if you have them.

Polish your toes with a clear light colored polish to hide any mistakes.  Two coats is best if you have time to let it dry.

Finish by rubbing your feet with a rich cream, slip on your flip flops and exhale.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inspirational Wednesday

It is much better to KEEP UP than to CATCH UP.

- Sandra Felton

Image courtesy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crockpot Tuesday - Sticky Chicken

This didn't start out as a crockpot recipe, but it is one of, if not THE best, roasted chicken recipes ever! I love to share it!  It is supposed to replicate storebought rotisserie chicken, but I just think it's delicious.

I have had this recipe for a long time. Versions of it are available all over the internet but I want to be sure to credit the original authors.

According to the printout in my recipe box, written by Diane S., "this recipe was originally created by Mimi Hiller of Mimi's Cyber Kitchen, and this version was actually an adaptation written by Lynn Nelson of Busy Cooks,  It is a very popular recipe, and has been floating around the internet for a long time without the proper credits to either of these fine ladies. If you have saved this recipe to your private recipe collections, please note the original authors on your copies, and be certain to pass this information along each time you share your copy (and believe me, this recipe is
fantastic, and you will be asked for it each and every time you prepare it
for someone ;-)."

Roast Sticky Chicken

1 large chicken -- (roasting)

1 cup onion -- chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use less than this)

2 teaspoons paprika

4 teaspoons salt

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all the spices. Remove giblets from chicken, clean the cavity well and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture into the chicken, both inside and out, making sure it is evenly distributed and down deep into the skin. Place in a re-sealable plastic bag, seal and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to roast chicken, stuff cavity with onions, and place in a shallow baking pan (I prefer breast side down). Roast, uncovered, at 250 degrees F for 5 hours. (yes, 5 hours!) After the first hour, baste chicken occasionally (every half hour or so) with pan juices. (It may take awhile to have pan juices) The pan juices will start to caramelize on the bottom of pan and the chicken will turn golden brown.

If the chicken contains a pop-up thermometer, ignore it. Let chicken rest about 10 minutes before carving.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NOTES : This recipe is a great way to roast a large chicken for planned leftovers, and it is very easy to make. This freezes well.

To prepare in the crockpot, select a chicken you are sure will fit in your crock.  Follow recipe as above but do not add any liquid.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  There will be a lot of juices in the bottom of the crock which are especially delicious the next day after they have cooled and the chicken fat can be skimmed from the top.  Once your family has devoured the delicious chicken, freeze the carcass and any remaining broth for make soup (I'll provide that recipe in another post).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Organizing Websites

Here are a few of my favorite organizing websites:

1. Get Organized Now

This has to be my favorite. I believe it is really the best and most comprehensive organizing web resource I have come across. You can subscribe to a very useful weekly newsletter and get free organizing content just for subscribing. There is also a great discussion forum community.

Get Organized Now

Bonus! Monica Ricci: She's a professional organizer out of the Atlanta area who has appeared on HGTV's Mission Organization several times. I believe I came across her at the Get Organized Now website, and I just like her!

Monica's blog

Her business website: Catalyst Organizing

2.  FlyLady

The FlyLady is Marla Cilley of North Carolina. In 1999, Cilley created a Yahoo support group based on the home management principles of a book called Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise by Pam Young and Peggy Jones (1977). The group was a mentoring system geared toward housewives and Flylady sends several emails daily at intervals reminding subscribers, called FlyBabies, to get up from the computer and do various tasks around the house. The Yahoo group grew into a website in February 2001, and the email reminder service was recently moved to a separate company.

The Flylady is a bonafide phenomenon. I joined the group around 2000, right after I had my first son, when there only a few hundred members. Now there are MILLIONS of members, books, products, and several spin off industries. I still receive the emails but only read them occasionally (they repeat, and the goal is for you to eventually become FlyWashed - she even created her own language! - so that you know what to do without reading the email) and I will never unsubscribe.


3.  Messies Anonymous

Founded by The Organizer Lady, Sandra Felton, this site offers "support for Messies who struggle to control clutter and organize for order at home and work...(and)organizing help and tips to eliminate clutter and junk, organize your house, and simplify your life.  Like FlyLady, she offers support groups through Yahoo with daily coaching emails, and has written numerous books.  For some reason I get the feeling that this site is geared more toward compulsives or hoarders, but maybe that's just me.
Messies Anonymous


An oldie but a goodie.  One of the first ones I found when I started searching for organizing resources.  Includes the concept of a Household Notebook as a resource to keep all household schedules and information, complete with a wide range of printable worksheets to help get you started.  Also the home of the Houseworks Holiday Plan, a week by week preparation countdown to the end of year holidays, which has now also grown into a book, HouseWorks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This is the kid who.....

...lets the family know he has awakened from his afternoon nap by announcing:


Friday, October 23, 2009

What are you doing with the kids this weekend?

For me, the major reason to keep the home running smoothly is to provide a serene, pleasant environment for our family, and more time to spend with our children.

This weekend, we actually don't have any specific plans with the kids. But on Saturday morning, I'll be attending a meeting of a mother's organization I recently joined. The children are divided into age groups and each month, a different mom plans an activity for the entire age group. I chose January for both age groups in order to have to plan only one activity (see! always organizing!). Our groups will be taking a guided tour of a local insect museum and then going to lunch. Although it's a ways off, I'm really looking forward to it!

So why not take YOUR kids to a museum this weekend?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


As the saying goes: "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

As mothers, although it is certainly important to spend time taking care of our families and homes, it is equally important to take care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves means taking care of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. And if we can look cute doing all of that then so much the better!

On Thursdays you'll find posts about just those issues: MommyFit (finding the time and motivation to keep physically fit and healthy), MommySpirit (nurturing your state of mind), and MommyStyle (fashion and shopping, shopping, shopping!).

Let's start by talking fitness. Prior to having my children, I was a bit of a gym rat. But I have to admit, I worked out not so much for health, but for social interaction (my first gym was what some call a "meat market") and for the sake of my appearance (hey, how do you think I snagged Hubby P.?). Once I had my first son, I was (obviously) interested in getting back in shape, but I found that my workout took on a new value for me. It was a time of day when I could just focus on myself. I am capable of managing many priorities, but when I feel pulled in too many directions, I can get a bit cranky.

My post-partum work out of choice was a lot of cardio, but specifically boxing classes. Let me tell you something: boxing is a terrific workout!!! Coincidentally, the class was mostly women. The instructor had us warm up with calisthenics, then jump rope for up to 10 minutes (a LOT harder than it sounds!), and then we did speed drills punching the heavy bag or individually with the instructor holding the pads. The classes were an hour long, one evening per week and I LOVED it! They were so strenuous, I had to warm up for at least half an hour prior to class. But all that punching was a great way to get out any stresses of the day.

I attended boxing classes from six weeks post partum until I returned to work after a five month maternity leave. By the time I returned to work, I had lost all but eight pounds of my baby weight (and I gained over....a five year old). My arms were cut and my abs were strong. I can't recommend boxing classes enough.

Here's some information to help you determine if a boxing workout is right for you:

After I returned to work, I changed my exercise schedule to morning workouts. More on that in another post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inspirational Wednesday

"Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines,
practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors
in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative
weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us
to either fortune or failure."

-Jim Rohn

Monday, October 19, 2009

Crockpot Cooking

Here at NeatnessCounts we are pleased to bring you Crockpot Tuesdays. These posts will focus on meal planning, and more often than not, the value of a crockpot, or slow cooker, in simplifying your life.

There is a WEALTH of information on crockpot cooking in the library and on the internet. Crockpots are relatively inexpensive but they do require a bit of knowledge for success. Crockpot recipes are generally more successful if the crock is full, so consider this when purchasing. You might have to experiment with cooking times, ingredients, and liquid amounts (very little is needed) before you find your staple recipes.

My first crockpot when I was single (almost 20 years ago!) was probably a 1 1/2 quart model and cost me about $10. A similar model now sells on Amazon for under $14. I now have a 5 quart Rival model with a removable crock and high and low settings. I definitely recommend a removable crock. You can assemble your dish the night before and place it into the warming unit in the morning without fear of the crock cracking. You can also store your leftovers afterwards.

If I were buying one today, I would also opt for a built in, programmable timer. This will allow you more versatility in cooking which some slow cooker recipes require. Of course, if you don't have a built in timer you can always get a separate timer which you plug the appliance into and then plug into the wall. Depending on the type of timer, this can be tricky though - I will never forget the time I tried to use the first timer I bought - a contraption which needed to be set by pegs or something, and I came home to a beautiful pot of chicken cacciatore, as ice cold as I had left it that morning! I had mis-set the timer and it didn't go off. My first clue was when I hit the front door and didn't smell anything cooking! So if you decide to use a separate timer, I recommend a digital model and practice setting it over the weekend before you leave the house with your intended dinner in the crockpot!

In honor of my timer gaffe, here's my recipe to get you started!

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4


3 lbs chicken, cut up in pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 can sliced tomatoes, drained
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano (or to taste)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

(You may also substitute a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce for the tomato sauce and tomatoes - keep the tomato paste for thickness)

Place onions and peppers in bottom of crock pot.
Add chicken pieces.
Stir all the other ingredients together.
Pour over chicken.
Cook on low heat 7 to 9 hours or high heat for about 3 to 4 hours.
Serve over pasta or rice.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top 5 Organizing Books

As a working mother, there is no way that I could even begin to get out of the house in the morning without systems. When I had my first son, my control of my time spiraled out of control and my household organization followed suit. I began to voraciously read and research ways to simplify and systematize my life so that I could spend time with my family and still manage my household. Some of the top books that made such an impression on me that I keep them as part of my personal collection are:

1.  Totally Organized by Bonnie McCullough

This is the best book for beginning to design household systems. McCullough gives practical advice for how to organize your housework, home spaces, and your kids.

Bonus! Confessions of An Organized Homemaker - The Secrets of Uncluttering Your Home and Taking Care of Your Life  by Deniece Schofield

Organizing your home systems and busting clutter.

2. The Procrastinator's Handbook by Rita Emmett

Why? Because your systems won't work if you procrastinate in designing and implementing them! Emmett explains why we put off the decisions we need to make to get rid of clutter and start getting organized.

3. How to Get Organized When You Don't Have the Time - by Stephanie Culp

An excellent resource on time and schedule management.

4. Organized to Be Your Best by Susan Silver

Actually geared more toward workplace organization. Good organization in the workplace will transfer to the home, and vice versa. Silver teaches time management and goal setting, and paper and electronic file management, among other things.

5. Ready, Set, Organize! A Workbook for the Organizationally Challenged by Pipi Campbell Peterson

A comprehensive resource concentrating on time management, storage, and home office and records organization.

"And they all lived together in a little crooked house..."

I'd like to tell you a little more about myself and introduce the cast of characters you may see mentioned from time to time in the blog.

I have two wonderful boys, C., who is 10, and E. who is 3 1/2.

C. is smart, social, and very funny. His current specialty is attempting to tell jokes. Example: "Your mother is so ugly that when she tried to enter an ugly pageant, they told her, 'No professionals.'

Well, maybe you had to be there.

E. is 3 1/2 going on.....31 1/2!!! He's very dominant. I call him "the administrator". He specializes in giving directions - "Shut the door! Turn the light off! Come here!" He adores his brother and follows him fact he rarely calls C. by his first name, having renamed him, "Brutherz."

And of course, there is Hubby P. Charming Hubby P. is a great daddy and actually very hands-on. He does his fair share and more of taking care of the boys, and does all of the outside maintenance of the house.

Which leaves me in charge of most of everything else. That doesn't mean I actually DO everything else, but I'm in charge of making sure it GETS DONE.

I guess I would have to say that my family is greatly the inspiration for this blog. Once upon a time, right after C. was born, I was looking at some photographs of myself pregnant. (If you have kids, you probably know what I mean - the pictures of your growing belly you take during your first pregnancy, but never during any subsequent pregnancy!) Any way, I was about four or five months pregnant in the photo, and after I finished reflecting on how I learned what big REALLY was by the time C. was born, I noticed something in the background of the photo....something I hadn't seen for a while at that point....

It was NEATNESS and ORDER. Along with the joy of the new arrival, the accumulation of all the gifts, baby equipment, the sheer volume of paper which started flooding the house, and my recent return to work, had caused chaos to begin to take hold. When I looked from the photo to the actual corner of the room, I felt appalled. And I felt that I had to find a way to bring that sense of physical order back again.

So from that point on I became a scholar of all things organizational. I combed the internet, the library, bookstores, magazines and my own brain for solutions, both short and long-term, to make my life a bit easier. Over the next year or so I designed, revamped, or reorganized our entire household. It remains an ongoing process.

The problem? Maintenance. The boys and Hubby P. love when things are organized, but they don't care to KEEP things organized, or do it themselves. ("Mommy? when are YOU going to straighten out that closet?") So many times I have to re-boot the systems, so to speak. And if you looked in my purse right now you would certainly wonder why I am writing a blog focused on organization! But because of the way I initially organized my purse, I know it's less than 10 minutes away from the restoration of order. That's the real-life confidence I hope to pass along to any one who needs a little support in ordering their corner of the world.


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