I love it when I come across tips or ideas that can make my life better. I am always on the scout for ideas that make daily tasks, faster, easier, more effective or more enjoyable.

Here are some old standbys and a few newbies:

  • Use Lazy Susan’s in unexpected places. Put one on a shelf in your refrigerator to hold containers of yogurt or condiments. You can easily chose what you want with a simple spin. They work well in pantries and under sinks in the kitchen or bathroom. They are fabulous for keeping your spices accessible and they are great for corralling over-the-counter medicines on a high shelf in a hall closet.
  • Use old socks to dust your reasonably reachable ceiling fans. You can hold the blades in place with one hand while dusting with the other. When I use this method it seem that less dust winds up on the floor than when I use a regular feather duster. Do wear a scarf to protect your hair.
  • Space and budget permitting, keep a set of cleaning supplies in each bathroom. You (or those to whom you delegate) will save time and be able to clean as soon as the space needs it.
  • To prevent coffee grounds from getting into your freshly brewed pot of Joe, use two filters, but place the second filter on top of the coffee grounds. I saw this tip on Amazon.com when I was searching for a new coffee maker. This is a great tip. It really works and it also makes clean up a lot easier.
  • Label the shelves in your hall closet so you and family members know where things go. I have a shelf for cleaning supplies, towels, queen sheets, twin sheets, etc.
  • Use your calendar to remember to change the filters in your HVAC system. You can use the date of your birthday as the designated change day for each month. Record the activity in your planner or PDA just like you would schedule a regular appointment.
  • Spray your super dirty everyday dishes with a squirt of Formula 409 when you finish eating. I find that this multi-purpose cleaner is safe and helps to make sure the highly soiled plates get clean without a ton of scrubbing.
  • Use an attractive mirror to increase light at the end of a long hallway. Even a small mirror will draw the eye through the space by providing reflective light and a pretty focal point.

  • See-through over-the-door shoe pockets are great in a hall closet for holding hats, gloves, small toys, a deck of cards, a first aid kit, and of course, shoes.
  • Inexpensive ceramic pots reduce visual clutter by corralling bath and beauty supplies on a bathroom counter top or vanity area.

    Ceramic "flower" pots from Ikea

  • Position a few flashlights strategically throughout your home to be ready for the next power outage. I keep one in the drawer of my nightstand. Each kiddo has one in his or her room. There is one in the drawer under my oven, because the one in the kitchen “junk” drawer often does a Houdini impression.
  • Keep a box of “baby wipes” on hand even if you don’t have a baby. They are great for cleaning a small spills or stain from clothing, without leaving residue. They are also great for keeping germs on doorknobs, telephones, light switches, drawer handles at bay, with a quick swipe.
  • A bamboo garden ladder makes a great towel rack in a tight space. My younger son kept bumping into the contemporary metal rack in a small bathroom and it eventually came out of the wall. After two different attempts to reattach the rack without long-term success, I cried uncle and used the bamboo ladder. Even if it falls down, no dry wall spackling will be required.

  • My personal favorite, I use the timer or alarm on my cell phone to remind me to do the next task at hand. I set the timer for 15 minutes of Facebook time. When I hear the ring-a-ding-ding, I stop surfing the net and do the next scheduled thing. The alarm comes in handy at work to remind me to leave the office to pick up my daughter from school on time. It is very helpful for the times when I need to be engrossed in a project and afraid that losing track of time will cause problems on the back-end. In the past, it has helped me make a graceful exit if a colleague arrived in my office to chat at a moment when I needed to transition to another activity.

Hopefully some of these will be helpful to you. And of course, I’d love to hear (and share) the things that work for you.

Happy Super Bowl Week,

Home-ista Kelly

Kelly in Indianapolis, 13 days before Superbowl 46...

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“Are you really going to make mommy bake cookies with you tonight?” I said. “You promised,” said Koah, my persistent five-year old with a memory of steel. “It’s almost 7 o’clock, which is way too late to start making cookies. We’ve got to get ready for school tomorrow.” She looked at me with hope mixed with resolve. “You promised.”

It was Monday January 16, 2012 the day we celebrate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had taken vacation time to be at home with our kids. When the day was young, I did promise to make celebration cookies. But, that was before I was before I knew that my husband would need to have me follow him to take his vehicle for a repair and that kiddo #2 would need to have his glasses replaced after losing them at a wrestling meet and that kiddo #1 would need some “supervision” to complete a writing assignment that I thought was already done. At this point in the evening, I really didn’t feel like making cookies.

But Psalm 15:4 was in my head from the daily Bible passage and it including this phrase in the New Living Translation, (the godly) keep their promises even when it hurts.

I took a deep breath, then got the ingredients out and told Koah to wash her hands. She was thrilled. She began to select several small shakers of colored sprinkles from the cookie decorating stash. We made the dough, using two-thirds all-purpose and one-third oat flour. (It makes me feel better about eating sugar cookies if whole grain is included.) We rolled and cut out the cookies. They are baked, cooled and decorated. Working side-by-side, smiling, laughing, enjoying each other and even the process we are finished after an hour. Koah chose two of the cookies she decorated and drank a small cup of milk. I decided to leave the kitchen in the state of cookie production mess, and got her cleaned up and into bed. While the teenager finished his assignment at the desk nearby, I worked on the kitchen. It was late – but I still ate a couple of cookies with milk myself. They are probably the best tasting cookies we have ever made.

Several days later, the true lesson begins to emerge, as I see a message on my computer about deleting computer cookies. According to wisegeek.com, “a computer cookie is a small text file which contains a unique ID tag, that placed on your computer by a website.” As I understand it, cookie technology allows users to keep track of information entered at a site for future reference. For example, if you submit a registration form, the site associates the information you filled in, with you, as you travel through the site’s pages. If there were no cookie file, every time you clicked on a different page in the site, the site would lose the information that is attached to you, forcing you to re-enter it.

Interesting. Maybe… the making of “sugar cookies” gave me a vehicle to leave some “positive memory cookies” on the hard drive of my daughter’s heart. Hmmm. How amazing that God can use something so simple as an evening spent, baking, laughing, talking, and sharing to potentially reinforce important things that I want her to know.

Like: 1. Mom loves Koah. I like to spend time with her, even though the many demands on my time sometimes keep me from doing what I set out to do.

And 2. To the best of my ability, mom wants to be a “promise-keeper.” If I say it, for the most part, you can trust it.

So… from today on I will try to remember that small things can really be big things in disguise. And now that I have this new analogy, I want to intentionally deposit positive relationship cookies into my friends and loved ones… along with the sugar variety.

Koah & Kyler Making Cookies at CHRISTmas

Our Cookie Recipe (It is based upon Sugar Cookie Cutouts, from Better Homes and Gardens, New Cook Book, 1989.)

Ingredients

1/3 cup Butter

1/3 cup Crisco shortening

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Oat Flour (We typically use Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour)

1 Egg

¾ cup Sugar

1 Tablespoon Milk

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Cream the butter and shortening with an electric mixer for one minute. To this add the sugar, half of the flour, baking powder, the egg, salt and the milk. Mix again until the ingredients are combined, and you have a loose batter. Add the vanilla and then mix in the balance of the flour. Shape the dough into a flat disk. Chill in the refrigerator wrapped in waxed paper for at least 15 minutes. If you have time, chill for a few hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll out half of the dough to a depth of 1/8 or ¼ inch. Use floured cutters or a knife to make cookies that are about the same size, so they will cook evenly. Bake cookies on an ungreased baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, or till the edges are lightly browned and the centers are firm. Cool on a clean brown paper bags, or a baking rack if you have one.

Decorate with icing made from powdered sugar mixed with milk until it is the consistency that you want for spreading or piping. We add a bit of fresh lemon juice for great flavor and use plastic condiment bottles (from Walmart) to make designs. And we usually sprinkle with nonpareils for added bling.

Kyler making swirls with a condiment bottle

We hope you will enjoy, Home-ista Kelly

Another Home-ista…

January 13, 2012

I haven’t known Debbie Warwick for a long time, but I like her a lot. We are kindred spirits. She too is a home-ista.

We first met back in 2007 at a Sherwin Williams paint store. She was shopping for her newly built, painted lady Victorian style home. I was trying to confirm the paint color for the Wilson Tribe’s attic construction project. We struck up a conversation and discovered that both our families were new to the community of Mason, OH and we both had sons in the 5th grade who were transitioning to public school from Christian schools. We exchanged business cards and planned to introduce the boys. Ironically, we didn’t see each other again until our sons were playing on the same football team. By the grace of God, Kyler and Seth had become friends at school, even though their moms were so busy with other pressing needs – that we never introduced them.

Deb is an interior design student at Sinclair College and I asked her if she would share some of the things she’s done in her own home. She said yes and we set a date for me to visit.

Upon my arrival, Debbie led me to the open plan great room, kitchen and dining area. It was readily apparent why she and her husband Randy had chosen this site for their family home. Outside of two large windows was a scenic wooded park and the view included a large attractive stream. It was early spring and the trees were still waking up from winter. The sight really shows off God’s handiwork and has got to enhance the day-to-day activities of cooking, dining, studying and relaxing.

A tall stone fireplace was in between these two windows. Debbie said this spot was one of her favorites places to spend time with her family or to just have a quiet moment. A bar-height counter is situated across from the fireplace where the four kiddos ages 19 to 11 can eat a meal or just hang out together. The kitchen is well appointed and allows those who are preparing the meal to look out into the larger room. How cool is that?

When I speak with fellow home-istas about their dwellings I always listen for things that I can reapply. The Warwick home is great example of style combined with graciousness and warmth. Here are some concepts that you might put to use in your abode…

I mentioned the beautiful windows. They have deep wells that create a place to sit. She used colorful pillows on these “seats” to make them more comfortable for lounging and to add a little blast of color. The result is a beneficial semi-private space within a larger room.

If your home doesn’t have this feature, like mine doesn’t, you can reapply by placing a bench (or toy box) that is close to the width of the window, parallel to the window. Add a few pillows or a soft throw blanket and it can become a cozy little haven for reading or reflection.

  • Debbie’s great room is generous in size. She had the wise insight to purchase furniture that can be rearranged to meet the changing needs of her family. She demonstrated this right before my very eyes. When I first arrived she had two leather club chairs sitting in front of the fireplace, ski-lodge style. The dining room table and chairs were on the far end of the room. Within ten minutes she flip-flopped the layout and positioned the dining table and chairs in front of the fireplace and the club chairs and matching ottoman went to the far end of the room, creating a great conversation place or spot for the siblings or Debbie’s mom to play board games.

In our homes we might reapply this concept by moving furniture and accessories within a room from one spot to another to meet different needs or to just make the space more attractive. Instead of having a sofa table sit behind a sofa, which is against a wall, place the sofa table behind a loveseat that is open to the adjoining room. It can then act as somewhat of a room divider.

We can also move items from one room to a different room altogether. For example, I recently moved a tall storage shelf that had been in my daughter’s room, down to the living room. This unique pyramid shaped metal shelf went from corralling toys and games, to being a handsome display for books and collectibles.

You can enhance the appearance or function of your home by repositioning side tables, sideboards, chairs, lamps, artwork, storage baskets, candle holders, plants, pillows, etc., from one location to another.

Lastly, I noticed that Debbie’s color scheme on the entire first floor was anchored in warm buttery tans and taupes that were complimentary from room to room. These hues work well with the scenic views that bring the ever changing outdoors into the space. Her approach of having a color pallet that is in harmony from one room to the next, makes it easier to move things from one place to another to increase interest without creating visual discord.

By wisdom a house is built,

and through understanding it is established;

by knowledge its rooms are filled

with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures.

Proverbs 24:3-4 are two of my favorite Bible verses. They reminds us that we can learn (from God directly in His word and by prayer and from other people) how to pull together a beautiful and well functioning home.

If anyone else has ideas and tips they want to share, please let me know. I’d love to interview other home-istas to hear about the things you are learning and doing in your homes as a way to inspire, teach and encourage myself and others.

Grace & Peace,

Home-ista Kelly

The Power of Habit

January 8, 2012

Anne Howard was my great-grandmother, on my mom’s side. She was a constant fixture in my life from the day I was born. I loved to spend time at the home she inherited from my great aunt and uncle. She was kind, loving, generous and disciplined. On Mondays, she did the laundry. On Tuesdays she did the ironing, using that old fashioned type of starch that that she mixed up by hand. She believed in ironing the bed sheets, washing the dishes immediately after eating, and the weekly dusting of what knots, that never had an opportunity to accumulate any dust. At night, she said her prayers on her knees along side her twin bed. And no matter how many times I tried to interrupt her with “Granny! Granny what are you doing?” from the bed beside hers, she never wavered in her petitions until she was finished conversing with God. The fact that she was ignoring me, when she was attentive and adoring at any other time, told me how important God was to her.

My great-grandmother consistently demonstrated the power of habit. She would have never called it that. She would have used some old southern saying like…  A whistling woman and a crowing hen never comes to a very good end. But in today’s vernacular Anne Howard personally benefited from and often blessed others by using the power of good habit.

On many fronts, I too, am a creature of habit. I always wash my face and brush my teeth before going to bed. Like Granny, I usually clean (or supervise the cleaning) of the kitchen immediately after dinner. I read my Bible first thing in the morning as I enjoy a strong cup of coffee. (Parenthetically, I had wanted to do this for years, because I knew there would be great benefit in hearing from God before listening to the voices of others, or even myself. And it wasn’t until 1999, when I paired my reading time with my already well-established habit of early morning coffee, that I was able to do it consistently.)

Morning Coffee & Time with God

On the negative habit side, I rarely leave enough room between appointments and activities to get from one place to the next without being uncomfortably close to late. And even when I am staying in the same location, I don’t leave enough time between activities to file or properly put away the documents that I’ve been using – so I stack papers. And this creates physical and metal clutter.

As I think about the upcoming year, I want to increase the power of good habit in my life, while minimizing detrimental habits and their harmful results.

Maybe you feel the same. What positive habit(s) can you nurture to be more effective or even have more joy? What less than helpful habit, can you change to improve your home life?

Maybe our catch phrase can be “Foster the Power,”

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. My other enabler for reading the Bible daily is The One Year Bible by Tynedale House. It is set up with  a labelled reading for each day of the year. In each day you get a section from the Old Testament, the New Testament, A Psalm and a selection from Proverbs. This was especially helpful because I treated parts of the Bible like bad neighborhoods in the past. I just didn’t go there. But I was wrong and I have benefited in a life changing way by reading the entirety of the Scriptures. I’ve seen connections between the Old and New Testament that I might have never seen, if I had not been reading this Bible format. Get more information at amazon.com. Look up the Daily Bible, Tyndale.