My friend just made a worm bin!

My blogging friend posted this and I think this is awesome. I love making my own dirt with an indoor Naturemill and can’t wait to try add “worming” to my DA projects! Thank you!

Learn about nutrition with me!

I know.. this is KINDA unrelated…

But I have terrible, unloved city dirt (filled with glass…) and am trying to grow my own veggies. 

So in an effort to enrich my soil – and subsequently the carrots and beets I just planted and next years goodies – and then my own nutrition, I just made a DIY worm bin.

If you’re interested check how to here!

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The 12 Dynamic Laws of Domestic Administration

Whether you are an SDA (Single Domestic Adminsitrator) or a PDA (Partnered Domestic Administrator), managing a household tends to follow some basic tenets or laws. My DA laws are dynamic. According to Merriam – Webster, dynamic is marked by usual and continuous productive activity and change. I don’t know about you, but my DA duties are continually changing in scope and practice!  And who really wants to partake in unproductive activities? So here are my 12 Dynamic Laws of Domestic Administration.

1. Just like exercise equipment, you aren’t going to use the expensive electric ice cream maker if you have it covered with books, magazines and other clutter.

2. Creating meals from leftovers sometimes begets more leftovers. Embrace the creativity.

3. Even though we live in a land of plenty, it’s really NOT okay to waste food.

4. Self-interest is an acceptable core value as long as you put away some of the savings and give to others. Which leads us to:

Give to Grow.  Share and Care.  Create Compassionate Connections.

5. Just like trying to lose weight, the only way to know where your money goes is to log your expenses every day.

6. The only way to know how long it takes to do a task is to actually measure it. Really, your mind is not THAT good at estimating time.

7. Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to occasionally treat yourself with a special splurge.

8. The best way to take care of others is not to be a burden to others.  Manage yourself first.

9. Be honest with yourself. Do you really need five kinds of cheeses in the cheese bin at one time?

10. Domestic Administration is a job. Take a rest – exercise – sleep – and refresh your mind for the next spreadsheet and “to do” list.

11. Patience. Small wins.  Perseverance.  A better mousetrap.  All lead to a few nickels, dimes and quarters over a day.  A couple of dollars a day X 365  > $500.

12. Be green. Try at least. Do you really think the earth is going to last for your great-great grandchildren in 2100 at the rate we are using it up?

Thanks for stopping by and joining the DA Community!

The 5Ss of Cleaning a Refrigerator

Our 5s Fridge. A Work in Progress.

Fridges get cluttered. I’m not sure how five jars of mustard, four types of pickles, three containers of leftover beans and things I can’t take a picture of or describe get misplaced in the bowels of this appliance but they do and the clutter gets out of control. And basically, what you don’t see, you don’t use.

I have been focused on better food management after clearing out my parents’ two freezers and a fridge before moving my dad to an assisted living facility several years ago. One of the freezers was frozen shut and had to thaw out for about two weeks. Even then the door would not open with a crowbar. Somehow my husband and brother in law got it open and it was worth the effort. We found a bit of money wrapped in foil entitled “bacon.” Interesting choice of words.

Back to my fridge. I personally like to use some of the Performance Improvement techniques I learned in healthcare. For this, the 5 Ss of Lean work best: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

Sort – Combine, keep, share, or throw away. Have that deep discussion with yourself on if you are really ever going to use the Raspberry Swirl dessert topping ever again.

Straighten – This is the Mary Poppins mantra. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Reassign spaces and areas in your fridge above and beyond fruit in the fruit drawer and butter in the side shelf.  If you are really detailed, create a fridge map or just list what should be where. We tend to keep breads (in Houston bread molds if you leave it out) and leftovers on the bottom shelf. It’s the go-to shelf first for lunches at home.

Shine – Wipe out the fridge. Clean every item before you put it back in the fridge. Every time you take something out of the fridge or put something in, take a few extra seconds to tidy and clean.

Standardize – Work practices for the first three Ss should be standardized. As an SDA (Single DA), you can create your own standards. A PDA (Partnered DA) may need to “inservice” the significant other and collaborate on this fourth S and the fifth S below.

Sustain – Let’s face it. This is the hard S. The fridge gremlin comes in during the night and will start messing with your design. To Sustain, you are continuously assessing the results of your work. You are looking for improvements to sustain a clean, less-cluttered, functional fridge.

My five tips for Sustaining:

1) Schedule in a monthly-or bi-monthly cleaning day on your household management calendar (HMC). I know you have one!

2) Inventory your fridge and freezer and date when you do so. I thought I inventoried a lot but the data showed only twice a year. I’ve sinced upped it to quarterly and put it on the HMC.

3) Create a par level for foods you use regularly such as eggs, milk, cheese, bread, etc.

4) Keep an ongoing list of foods you need to use up quickly such as leftovers or fruits with short shelf lifes like strawberries. Keep the list on the front of your fridge so you can mentally review possible “ingredients” for a leftover meal. Don’t rely on a container with refried black beans to emotionally entice you to eat it up. I noticed a significant reduction in our grocery list in doing this one action.

5) Take a moment to create a sense of contentment for being efficient, cost-conscious and an excellent DA!

Happy Cleaning!

Let’s Talk Peaches

I love peaches but I think they are the most challenging of fruits to select and ripen.  You never know what you are going to get once they ripen. You can be anticipating perfect peaches for a pie and you may just wind up with a pile of tasteless mush.

I’ve learned just to stay away from the slightly green ones which I am sure some expert would disagree with me on. I like cling-free peaches just because they are easier to split and slice. Your peach, your choice.

Peach and Potato Partnership

I know the literature says put in a closed bag with an apples but apples aren’t exactly cheap. Unless it’s those sad apples in the store that have been in their own storage for the last six months.  I just hate to buy one fruit to ripen another. And then you have to remind yourself to buy an apple to ripen a peach or put it on the list.

How to improvise?  I spied a small red potato in the kitchen and thought I would try that. I seem to always have small “c” red potatoes so no extra purchase there. The ethylene charts indicate potatoes are slow emitters but I thought I would try them anyway.

It worked. After 3 days, my hard, yellow peaches turned into perfectly tender, yellow-red globes of lush.  The peel came off in nice thin layers opening up to a beautiful yellow, slick, juicy fruit.  Perfect, perfect, perfect.

I keep the same potato in the bag for weeks. Perhaps the ethylene collects in the bag. Not sure.  Regardless, I have used this technique all summer. It won’t correct a mealy peach. A mealy peach is a mealy peach and it happens in the “conditioning process.”

Let me know how this works for you!  Share your comment below!

Donation Day! Non-cash donation management

Today is non-cash donation day. Once a month.  Only.  OK, maybe one or two more extra times during the year but no more than 14 donations dates for the year. I went to this method after entering almost 30 donation entries into TaxAct several years ago and having to assess thrift store estimates for over 800 items.  I thought I was going to pull my hair out having to sit and enter all those individual donation entries with the date, organization, address, thrift store estimate, and other details for 30 date points with six different organizations.

Data management is not my strong suit for a prolonged period but I can maintain a certain level of self-control over numbers in small chunks of time. Key word – small. Less than 30 minutes if possible. I had to streamline this process so during our tax prep time in early Spring, when we are already ISed, (Itemized-Stressed), I can perform more of a final quality check rather than total data entry for a year. Image

The Process

1)      Identify the organizations you prefer to contribute to. I use four and keep their addresses in a Word document to cut/paste later into TaxAct. I stayed with as it provided a level of efficiency for me. Pickup dates are all managed via email. No phone calls to track me down. The two organizations that participate through a rotation process are Houston Achievement Place and Texas Paralyzed Veterans – local orgs so that meet another requirement. I have two others that I use as well.

2)      Search the web for the most current Donation Value Guide. If you are using a tax service, your tax service may have an autocalculator for clients.

3)      Create a log sheet and an Excel spreadsheet with the date, organization, number of items, item description and thrift store estimate.

4)      Identify the frequency of donations and create a “setup” area in your garage, bedroom, closet, etc. If you don’t have the space, at least identify the donations through your normal decluttering process and list the item and location of it in your house on the hard copy log sheet below.

5)      Ideally, as you are spot decluttering, add your item description and thrift store estimate to the hard copy donation log sheet.  We do have a “setup” area, so I tend to collect things in the area and the day before or morning of the pickup, complete the log sheet. It’s more efficient for me to do it all at one time – a similar type of mental task all at one time instead of entering as I go. The setup area may shift, things may get moved, etc.

Time requirement – approximately 30 minutes to log, box, and move to the porch.  Time varies based on the number of items and how organized the “setup” area stays over the 30 days.

6)      Once I have the donation receipt, I enter all the thrift store estimates into the spreadsheet to autosum.

Time requirement – maximum 5 minutes.

7)      Mark the hard copy donation sheet as entered. File with the other monthly donations. Done with prelim work!

8)      During you tax prep time, enter the 12 – 14 donations into your tax program or give your spreadsheet and organization info to your accountant.  Time Requirement – 30 minutes. Done!

Total time estimate for the year:  8.66 hours/year based on 14 donations times per year.

Ta- dah! Back flips and handsprings are now indicated. And continuous monitoring to improve the process.

Storing Strawberries

I love strawberries. Not the gigantic cloned, red, white and green ones we usually get in stores that look like they represent someone else’s national flag. You know the ones I am talking about that when you slice them they are actually hollow on the inside. What’s up with that? I prefer, as I am sure you do, the small to medium sized, beautiful glossy, all-over ruby fruits sprinkled with little brown seeds, with no hint of white, off white, cream, sand or alabaster near their crowns or green variations near their tips. Yes, I will splurge on organic if the price is right for this fruit.

So how to keep them lovely for several days so you can enjoy a daily pleasure moment of real, juicy strawberries?

I did some research. Keep the moisture out. Remove the mold spores. Store flat. One website said to wash with a vinegar solution and allow to dry. Results for me? A slight vinegar taste. Perhaps my percentages were off but I wasn’t wild and crazy about vinegar on my fruit anyway. So I did some experimenting and these options seem to work consistently over the last month with different strawberry purchases:

1) Prepare a solution of one tablespoon lemon juice (out of a bottle) and 1 cup cold water.

2) Place strawberries in a colander. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the berries to coat. I suppose you could make a larger quantity of solution and dip them. Whatever you choose.

3) Rinse and let air dry flat on some paper towels. You could use a hairdryer on very, very low heat or cool to expedite the process just be careful on too much heat. I do use a hairdryer on mushrooms after washing to keep them from soaking up too much water and it works marvelously. Beats trying to dry them with a cotton towel and much quicker.

4) If at all possible, store flat in one layer. If not, place back in the store container with a paper towel lining and use strawberries first from the bottom of the container.

Yes it seems like a lot of work. Time it though. Prep time and work time isn’t more than 10 minutes and you have a lot less chance of losing yummy natural goodness and worse, from a DA perspective, wasting money by wasting food, which is a real no-no in the DA world.

Keep me posted!

Breaking the JIC

As I was sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor early this morning, I realized as hard as my husband and I try, we still collect things – more importantly multiples of things. Things purchased because it was a BOGO offer so we have two bottles of Club Soda and two bottles of Tonic water lined up against the floor of the refrigerator. (they really do need to be moved to the garage for storage but that’s for another sharing…) Things we have collected or outgrown like the 2.5 sets of 5# weights. Yes, I am up to 8 lb weights and hopefully will be graduating to 10 lbs soon, but keeping the 5s, just in case….. Six individual casseroles for those six individual crepe servings I will probably never make for a dinner party but, just in case….

I only have two arms…what’s up with this?

My husband and I chose to stay in our 1465 square foot, 1952 year model house (it’s 70 years old!) rather than move into a larger house. Over the last five years we have done some minor upgrades to the windows, kitchen and landscaping but no additional square footage. We are empty nesters and thought a lot about whether to graduate to a different house, maybe one with a third bedroom but the reality is, when we have company, we use just the one extra bedroom. We have our long-term retirement goals which do include a slightly larger house but at this point, we are committed to making a house that is 70% the size of the average single family home in 2009 work for us. So we have to manage “collections” and stuff. And we have to develop good decision making skills on the “just in case” (JIC) collections.

What helps me break through the JIC is to ask myself the following steps and process questions:

1) Have you used these items in the last two years? If not, list all the reasons why you have not used the item.

2) How many opportunities have you had in the last two years to use these items and forgot to use or chose not to use?

3) What is the probability to use these items in the next year (smaller time frame)?

4) Is the probability an pre-contemplated active choice  or an opportunity by chance or luck? (Probability may vary. For the weights, because we are getting a little older, there may be a probability we get sick and have to rebuild upper body strength so it may be good idea to keep one set. For the the casseroles though, lower probability unless I make an active choice to use.)

5) Is the space allocated for the item adequate?

6) If you give away or donate, is it cost-prohibitive to replace?

7) If you give away or donate, can you improvise with another item?

8) If you give away or donate, will you REALLY be negatively harmed in some manner (emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc.)?

9) How much pleasure would you feel if someone else got use out of the item?

10) What is the final space value and probability to keep?

Low -1 Medium -2 High – 3 Very High -4 Total Value Scores Highest Possible Score Probability of Keeping
Probability of Use 2 2.00
Level of Importance to your lifestyle 2 2.00
Final Score 4.00 8 50%

Start small. Focus on the items scoring 50% or less. As you build courage and resilience, and yes, it does take courage and resilience, move to 75%.

Au Revoir, Good bye and Auf Wiedersehen weights and casseroles!