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We are two best friends (15 years and counting) working to support each other in our goals of simplifying our lives, becoming more organized, and making our living areas homes for our families. While our lifestyles are different and more than 800 miles away from each other, we have similar goals for our families and our families' futures.  Since we've been best friends for so long, we know what types of things work for each other and how to encourage each other to reach our goals. In October 2012, we began issuing each other daily challenges to simplify our living areas and make them homes for our families. We use this journal to document our progress, inspiration and tips we discover as we become home makers. We hope that what we are learning and our experiences will help others who read this journal on their own personal journeys.
♥ ML and MJ 

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MJs State of the Home Address - March 2013

I'm so sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth. I go through these spells where I try to keep too many plates spinning in my life and something that I really want to do (like this wonderful journal) falls away. I am hoping to be able to start keeping up with things a little better, but we'll see.



I've done very little to keep up with making a home as of late. I go in and out of keeping my sink shiny. I do bits and pieces when I can't take anymore. I know I would just feel better if I could keep things up, but it's just so hard most days (not an excuse, just a fact).



I did work on my office and got a corner cleaned out for our desk and bookshelf. Still working on decluttering the rest of the room and figuring out how to store gifts we've purchased in advance.



I have been doing well in my new recipe goal for the year so far. I've tried 12 new recipes and hope to get to share reviews on those with you soon!
As the posted date gives away, this entry is going up more than a little bit late.

Before the holidays, I felt really proud of how many home tasks I was accomplishing. It felt good to check so many things off my list on a regular basis. When I first started out, I was amazed at how much I was able to accomplish and my ability to stay motivated. It felt a little surreal.

Then, like the best of intentions, that motivation started waning a bit. I figured it was to be expected with the holidays and travel plans nearing.

We went out of town for two weeks. It was wonderful to be around family and friends, and the time I spent there made me very happy. I was blessed to spend even more days there than we had planned. 

Then we got back. The mess was waiting for me. What I didn't find was my limitless will to tackle it, or really any will at all. I was disappointed that though I had put a good amount of effort and time into making our home better, it still was too cluttered and messy for my husband and I to enjoy it or even really feel comfortable in. To add to that, like most people, there was an adjustment period coming back from vacation. A bit of a grieving period from having so many people I love nearby and then being so far away from them again.

I stopped doing my nightly routine. The dishes piled up. The bathroom counter lost its shine. I skipped writing a state of the home address because there was no room to room update. The update was: everything is still a mess. The End.

I missed having a clean bathroom counter and an empty sink. The benefits that came from doing the nightly routine. I missed the satisfaction I felt from taking steps to make our home better for us. Yet I had a hard time making myself do anything about it. I am a hard worker when it involves other people (jobs, schools), but when it involves myself, I don't have the same gusto. In short,  I'm a better friend (worker, etc.) to other people than I am to myself. So what remains surprising to me is how well I did in the first place. (I credit having my BFF, MJ, to be accountable to for a lot of it.)

But slowly, for a little under two weeks, I've started doing things here and there again. I'm starting to find some motivation to tackle the ever present duty of keeping a home in order. Feeling a little bit more confident that when next (this) month's report comes there will be in fact more to report.

I considered skipping this month's report all together, but I felt it was important to document each stage of the process for me. Nothing is always pretty or as productive as we hope it to be. But what matters is that we continue to take steps to move ourselves forward.

And even baby steps count.
I've been reading Roni's blogs for a long time, but this is the first of the recipes I've tried off of her recipe website Green Lite Bites. The recipe is super easy, which is great for a breakfast food. These delicious little cups are the perfect combination of hearty and sweet for an on-the-go breakfast. The mini chocolate chips makes them feel like a treat in the morning, which I always find a great start to any day. 

Print Recipe

Banana Oatmeal Cups with Chocolate Chips

Source: greenlitebites.com

Course: Breakfast

Serves: 15

Ingredients

  • 3 mashed bananas the more ripe the better!
  • 1 cup vanilla Almond milk you could use skim but you may want to add a little sweetener
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Baking powder
  • 3 cups (240g) Old Fashion, or Rolled Oats,,
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp (42g) mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients except the chocolate chips together, and let sit while you prepare the muffin pans.
  3. Spray a muffin pan and/or liners with with non-stick spray.
  4. Stir the chocolate chips into the oatmeal batter.
  5. Divide batter into 15 muffin cups. They should be just about filled.
  6. Bake 20-30 minutes, you’ll see the edges just starting to brown and they will be firm to the touch.
  7. The muffins may stick when hot but are removed easily when cooled for a bit.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 115


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2013 Goals for the Home

I don't make resolutions each year, but I do like to have goals that I work toward and make my focus for decisions I make during the year. I'm not too hard on myself if all of them don't come to fruition, but instead focus on the goals I do accomplish each year

* Continue with my nightly routine
* Declutter "The Abyss" to a useable point
* Try at least 52 new recipes
* Invite guests over for dinner at least 5 times
* Complete (the bulk of) Christmas shopping/wrapping/decorating by December 1st

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Our State Of The Home Address is a time each month where we reflect on the efforts that we've made in the past month and the results that has had in our home. It's also a time where we look to the upcoming month and goals we would like to work toward.

The beginning two and half weeks of the month of November contrasted sharply with the last two weeks of the month for me.

At the beginning of the month, I was completing all my challenges almost perfectly and completing the night routine every week night. It made the Perfectionist part of my brain very happy to be doing so well, and it was nice to feel so accomplished. I started feeling better about the state our home was in, and I had hope that I'd be able to make my goal of putting up Christmas decorations. Since it is our first married Christmas and Christmas is a very special holiday to me, it made me very happy to think about decorating.

Then Thanksgiving happened. The week of Thanksgiving I had plans 6 days out of 7, and I was out of the house for almost the entire day most of those days. I appreciated MJ being supportive of my busy schedule and encouraging me to focus on the night routine and be okay if the other challenges and cleaning didn't get done. I let challenges pass. I did the night routine some nights that week but not all of them. I lost my own mental "perfect" status that I had been enjoying.

After the holidays, I had a hard time getting back on track. Maybe it was the break in rhythm. Maybe it was that my calendar check list (I turn my challenges/cleaning tasks/personal to do's a different color when I complete them) was no longer perfectly pink. But for whatever reason since that point, I've been completing some challenges but not all of them. The cleaning schedule went by without almost any of the items done last week. The night routine has been hit or miss. Not surprisingly, I can tell a difference in the apartment.

That said I realize that I've accomplished more than I'm quick to give myself credit for. I am very thankful that MJ got me on Google Calendar because it helps me see all the work I've done and progress that I've made. It is nice to have another yardstick, so to speak, when I feel like my apartment isn't necessarily reflecting that to me. I looked at last week, and I completed 16 challenges and 3 of the weekly cleaning tasks. I've completed about 14 challenges this week already and 2 cleaning tasks. I've completed the nightly routine 2 out of 3 nights. The one night I didn't, I still made the hubby his lunch.

I still have a long way to go before any of the areas in our apartment are about 15 minutes from company ready, which is my ultimate goal.

Also to review, since I mention it a few times in this post, my current nightly routine is to set a timer and spend 15 minutes with these tasks in basically this order:
* prepare hubby's lunch (currently all he has been asking for is for me to make one sandwich)
* wash dishes
* wipe down kitchen sink/counter
* tidy bathroom counter and wipe the counter and sink down (I skip this if it still looks clean from the night before)
* decide on clothes for the next day (I don't always do this, depending on what I'm doing the next day. But I'm working on making it more of a habit.)
* clean other areas if there is still time left

Living Room
I've been focusing most of my cleaning related challenges on the living room. This was MJ's suggestion after I felt like I wasn't really making progress with any room after bouncing around from one room to another every day. My husband and I both picked the living room as the place we preferred to be cleaned first. I'm glad MJ suggested focusing on one room because I do feel better about the progress I've made in the living room. I also don't feel like the other rooms look that different from when I was spending more time on them. I feel like cleaning for 15 minutes in any room is usually just picking up from the day and then a little bit more than that, so it doesn't lead to a big difference when you are starting with a big mess.
Even with focusing on one specific area, I feel like the living room is still a wreck and that I'd be very embarrassed to have company. It isn't very motivating to observe after all the time I've spent trying to get it in better shape. I decided this past Monday to make cleaning the living room for 45 minutes a challenge every week day. That said, I've only completed that challenge once in the last three days. (Tuesday I had to help out family with babysitting unexpectedly, and I went to an evening meditation practice. I still completed several challenges, so I feel okay about that. But today I was home, so I should have worked on it.)
I did move three boxes and two large items in a storage unit a few days ago. My hubby told me that he felt a difference in our apartment, so that was very nice to hear. Unfortunately, I still don't feel like it is a good idea to decorate for Christmas when we still have stuff everywhere. I don't feel like we'd really be able to enjoy the decorations with everything else going on in the room, so it doesn't seem like it is worth the effort and time right now. We don't have the space for a (real) Christmas tree, which is one of my favorite parts about Christmas. So that is a bit of a disappointment, but it is keeping with my general goal of making choices that best support our family at the time.

My goal for the next few weeks is to continue focusing on the living room and work on it for at least 45 minutes 4 times a week. I hope in a month that it will be 15 minutes from company ready.

Kitchen and Bathroom
Feeling pretty good about these areas considering where our apartment is at right now. I feel like the nightly routine really goes a long way with helping me feel positive about how they look. Just tidying and wiping down the kitchen sink and counters and the bathroom counter makes me feel a lot better about how these areas looks. I feel like it wouldn't need a whole lot of extra work to be passable if company came over. If I complete the nightly routine regularly, I even have been able to skip the bathroom counter on occasion and clean other areas (like wiping down the outside of the cabinets or trashcan for example). It is always a little bit exciting when one area has stayed clean, and I have the extra time to focus on cleaning something else. I also enjoy having an empty or almost empty sink when I complete the nightly routine.

Bedroom
Since the bedroom isn't part of my nightly routine and I have chosen to focus all my current efforts on the living room, no progress has been made in the bedroom. It is still a wreck. I did manage to clean (or re-clean, I can't remember) the area in the front of the bed so we aren't stepping on things when we get out of bed, so that is nice. I am currently not planning on focusing on it next month, as I still want to get the living room in a good place first. I have been enjoying having some extra room in the closest after pulling out clothes to take Goodwill. I'm also still implementing the backwards hanger system to show which clothes are getting worn and which aren't, which I find interesting.

Christmas
I really enjoyed MJ's challenge of having all major gifts purchased by December 1st.
It felt really good to have almost all of our gifts purchased by that date, and I've enjoyed not feeling stressed or rushed to get presents this month. We didn't get all our gifts purchased, but I got almost all the gifts for "my side" purchased over a week before the deadline as well as many for "his side"!
The hubby and I went shopping that last week and finished up with most of the gifts for his side. I feel very accomplished that we got gifts for about 20 people by December 1st!
A couple of the gifts we simply couldn't purchase by December 1st. For instance, he is going to order a video game for his friend in New York and have it shipped there, so he wanted to wait until it was closer to Christmas. I'm planning on buying a movie gift card for my dad, and the theater by him isn't in Texas. So I have to wait until I go up there to visit for the holidays.

I still need to buy something for one person that I just recently found out for certain that we are exchanging gifts. I do have some ideas, so I hope to be finished with that in the next few days.
I would like to make a few things if I have time. It would really just be extra gifts, so it is nice not having the pressure of not having a gift if I don't finish them.

We really only have one person that we have struggled with and still have no idea what to get for. She asked me to go shopping with her on Friday, so I'm hoping third time is the charm (went shopping with her twice in the last few weeks) and I can finally get an idea for a present for her!
I do feel like the last two weeks have flown by, and next year I hope to make wrapping presents a goal that I get completed by this time. Having decorations up will almost be a goal for next year.
I do feel great about the progress we've made this year with gifts though! :)

State of the Home Address - December 2012

Our State Of The Home Address is a time each month where we reflect on the efforts that we've made in the past month and the results that has had in our home. It's also a time where we look to the upcoming month and goals we would like to work toward.

Nothing like a month of illness and the holiday season to humble your attempts at change. I've had a rough month and had a hard time keeping to my routines. Been here and there with helping my house become a home and while I don't think I've totally let everything drop, I definitely haven't made the progress I hoped to. 

Main Living Areas (Kitchen, Bathroom and Living Room)
Feeling pretty good about these areas as of late. They are still cluttery in some ways and very lived in, but for the most part I feel like these areas are about 15 minutes from company ready. I haven't made it to tidying the living room at the end of the day, but still hope to include that in most days in the future. 

Bedroom
Have decluttered some more clothes, but still feel like I have too many to comfortably fit in my wardrobe space. Did some decluttering on my side table and knowing where certain items are now has been helpful. Still have a long way to go, considering I feel like my half of our tiny bedroom is still very crowded.

The Abyss
Actually made pretty good progress on this one morning. Still need a lot of decluttering, but I can actually find some things in there, which is nice. I need to get photos printed for our photo frames and have the hubby hang them, which will get rid of one area of clutter. Hoping to sell my digital SLR camera which will get rid of another little pile. Another pile is gifts that I've purchased. Getting the Christmas ones wrapped will help, but I need to figure out the best way to store gifts that will be for other times in the year. Still need to majorly declutter the desk area and get rid of the desk that is currently in there. 

Other
Christmas preparation has gone better this year and I had all major gifts purchased by Dec 1st. However, I still feel like the holiday is jumping up way too soon on me. Hoping to get a better handle on things next year, but struggling to know what I need to change next year to make things better. 

Laundry has not made it as part of my daily routine yet either. I've tried a couple of times, but laundry always seems to mentally thwart me. There are so many steps along the way that I find frustrating and easy to forget. I know the end goal (kept up laundry) is worth it though. 

I have a pile of decluttered items on my futon for a friend. This does not help the appearance of that area. Next time I need to make and execute a plan for getting rid of the items within a week of decluttering. 
I recently made these chimichangas for our dinner the other night, with some adjustments. The Hubby is allergic to tomato, so we skipped the salsa and I traded green onions for sweet onion. I thought they were just a slight bit too much cumin flavor for my preference but the Hubby really liked them. I added a little queso with some Velveeta and spare onion (I think it would be great with a Velveeta/Rotel queso as well) to top it off. The leftovers reheated well, however when microwaved they have no signs of the crispiness of the first serving.
2012-12-03 19.07.56

Verdict? Will definitely make again! 

Print Recipe

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Source: www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Mexican

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chicken chopped or shredded
  • 1 cup your favorite salsa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves crushed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • diced tomato garnish
  • sour cream garnish
  • guacamole garnish
  • salsa garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix chicken, salsa, cumin, oregano, cheese and onions. Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla.
  3. Fold opposite sides over filling. Roll up from bottom and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.
  4. Brush with melted butter. Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
  5. Garnish with desired toppings and serve with salsa on the side.


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Recipe: J Family Chili

When I was in college, my communications professor once gave an illustration of how definitions of the same word can be drastically different for people by going around our classroom and asking what chili was to us. The answers varied from white chicken chili to tomato based meat and beans to my Hubby-to-be's rather complicated answer compile it yourself options of rice, noodles and chili meat. The Hubby's family has a great deal of various food allergies, so meals are a little more complicated for them than most people. The Hubby himself is allergic to beans, rice and tomato so chili is not something that we had ever made for ourselves until just recently. After feeling determined one day, I was able to find this recipe on AllRecipes for a chili that was not tomato based or dependent on beans. A month or so ago we made a pot from the recipe and, while it was very good, the stew meat made it feel more like a roast that was chili flavored than what I would call chili. The Hubby and I tried the recipe this time around with ground turkey (we typically opt for turkey over beef in these type of recipes, but I'm sure beef would work just as well) and I think it is going to be a perfect version of chili for our family. I hope your family likes it as well! 

♥mj

Print Recipe

J Family Chili

Inspired from: AllRecipes' Real Texas Chili

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 40 Min

Cook Time: 2 Hr

Total Time: 2 Hr 40 Min

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 box elbow macaroni
  • Shredded cheddar cheese optional

Directions

  1. Cook turkey in pot.
  2. When fully cooked, drain as much grease as possible.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the garlic.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin and flour.
  5. Sprinkle over the meat and stir until evenly coated.
  6. Crumble the oregano over the meat and pour in 1 1/2 cans of the broth.
  7. Add the salt and ground black pepper, stir together well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer, partially covered for about 90 minutes.
  8. Pour in remaining broth and simmer 30 minutes more.
  9. Cool, cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend.
  10. Serve over cooked elbow macaroni.

Amount Per Serving
Estimated Calories: 626


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How to Boil Eggs

(This tip originated in my life by Flylady. Link to her tip on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150554508145252)

This is the best way to boil eggs in my opinion. The part you need to keep an eye on is pretty quick, there's no trying to figure out just the right time to take them off the heat, no cracking the eggs as you try to place them in the boiling water. 

Step One: 
Place your eggs in your pot and cover them with water. 
2012-11-21 17.54.42
Bring to a boil. 
2012-11-21 18.04.33
Turn off heat and cover pot. Set timer for 20 minutes.
2012-11-21 18.05.04
When your 20 minutes are up you should have wonderfully boiled eggs! They are usually still rather hot so I let them cool before putting them the fridge. 

These eggs are waiting in the fridge to soon become deviled eggs, one of my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner!

♥mj

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