Blogging, Advertising and Disclosure Policies

There are no pretty pictures in this post... No tips... It's a rant of sorts, a pet peeve of mine and a strongly worded opinion. If you just want the pretty pictures of it all, go ahead and skip this post. There are lots of pretty pictures here

I see more and more blogs with the same standard disclosure policy, but what it boils down to is... "We get paid by sponsors to write about products and we won't always let you know when we're getting paid for a review." You know what, I have a problem with that. Just because it's being disclosed doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of ethical gray area. If a blogger is blogging to make some money on the side, that's fine, but let readers know what on the blog amounts to an ad and what doesn't.

My disclosure policy: If at some point, any point, I get paid to write about a product in the way of free product to review or monetary compensation. You will know that I am compensated for that review and how. You will get a 100% honest review of my likes and dislikes and whether I'd have acquired the product myself without being paid. Rest assured that everything I feature is what I love, like, covet... So, if someone wants to send me a cookbook to review, or a new Dell XPS Laptop, go right ahead. If you want to send me a laptop other than Dell, please reconsider sending me a Dell... pretty please.

I'm getting rid of Entrecard, I'm going to let the ads currently scheduled run through, then I'm dropping it. Why? It takes too much time to be worth it and lately I've noticed most blogs wanting to advertise are unrelated and/or falling into the ethical gray area mentioned above. I screen all the advertisers because I feel that this is my blog and what is on my blog should reflect a blog that I would visit. I don't want to send you to blogs that don't feel similarly. I've found a few wonderful blogs through Entrecard, and I know a few have found me through Entrecard. Without Entrecard I'd have never gotten to know Laura who's the featured blogger of the week, so it's not all bad. I believe Tara and a few others found me through there as well. It's just that the time commitment is too high. I'd rather be catching up on your blogs or finding new Etsy shops to spend money at feature.

If I've mentioned a commercial product or Etsy artist or another blog, it's NOT because I've been paid to. It's because I genuinely use them, covet them or would purchase the item myself. For instance, I featured Blaze Danielle and later bought the print Cozy Trio, and I featured Meese by Little Bit Funky then went and bought him for myself a few weeks later.

One nice thing that came out of Entrecard is the Featured Blogger of the Week. I will continue to feature a blogger a week as long as I have bloggers to feature. For now, I have plenty! Thank you so much to all the bloggers that have agreed to be featured so far, I've enjoyed getting to know more about you!

I'm done with my soap box for now. So, how do you feel about this? Am I way off base? I would like to eventually earn some residual money from my blog, but not at the expense of compromising the content and my principles.
I did add a few more google ads, but I haven't been entirely happy with the content they display on each post. Several are right on, but some are stuck on "making money from blogging" type content, as long as it is somewhat blogging/homemaking related I'll keep them. I'll leave them for now, but PLEASE let me know if they ever display anything completely inappropriate! Also, we'll have a fun giveaway when/if I get my first check. Don't hold your breath, I'm sure it will be a while.

In/Out Policy

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Now that you've successfully decluttered, and have made a plan for all the sell/donate items, let's talk about future purchases. The best way to keep from accumulating is to establish an in/out policy. If something comes in to the house, a like item must leave it. If you buy a new blouse, donate an older one. If you buy a new tv, donate an older one. If you get a new toy for your child, donate an older one. Clutter has a way of taking over if we let it. Why let it?

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Me Time, Date Night, Free Time

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

We've done a LOT of work this month. Especially if you've been following right along with me. However, now our homes are ready for fall, and the winter holidays. Now that everything is planned, decluttered, organized, cleaned, and decorated, it's time to relax and enjoy. Right now I want you to grab your calendar. Go ahead and pick 1 day a week and schedule an hour of "Me Time" on that day. That's your time to be selfish and pamper yourself however you desire. Now, schedule a date night each week. Mine is always on Friday night, but yours can be any night. Date night could be a date with a hubby, significant other, friend, parent, child anyone that you want to spend a little more time with in your life. Last, I want you to schedule an hour of free time once a week. There are always unexpected things that pop-up that you don't account for. This free time is intended to be flexible, so you can take care of those things without stressing yourself out because you have no time. If you are lucky, nothing will pop up and you can use it as family time or additional me time.

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Butter Bell - Homemaking Tips

I hate trying to spread cold butter on bread, but have always been concerned about the hygiene of just leaving a stick on the counter. Until I got a butter bell I'd just deal with the cold butter.

A friend of mine, Margaret, first introduced me to butter bells and I love mine. She was getting a few for Christmas presents for her family and I had never heard of them before, so of course had to ask. I immediately ordered 1 for myself and 1 each for my mother and mother-in-law. I have the White Classic Crock Butter Bell from

A butter bell uses water to create an airtight seal, so I use cold filtered water and replace it each morning. I can have soft butter and don't have to worry about the hygiene aspect anymore.


What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

You've been collecting items all month long in a Sell/Donate bin, or perhaps multiple bins. Now is the time to address these bins. Make a plan now. You don't want to find yourself storing stuff you no longer want. It's counterproductive. Space is valuable, why waste it.

If you have any higher dollar items that you want to sell, I would suggest e-bay. At garage sales all you can do is hope that the right buyer hits your sale that day. If you want you can use e-bay to determine what it will probably sell for, then put it on your garage sale for that price. If it doesn't sell, then put it on e-bay. It's worth selling an item at a slightly lower price at a garage sale to avoid the hassles of writing a description, taking pictures, listing it and shipping it.

For items that you are going to donate, make sure they are in good shape and clean. Call your favorite local charity that takes donations and find out what items they accept. Everything else can be given away via freecycle.

Get it all out of the house, you don't want to store it, or dust it, or have to look at it again in 3 months when you can't remember what's in there.

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Project You Love

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Now that the house and outdoors are at their prettiest, it's time to do something you love. In my case, we're remodeling our downstairs bathroom right now and I'm going to spend a little time picking out the tile and accessories. I'll share pics once hubby agrees with one of my choices.

What project do you have on your list for the fall?

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Monday Musings {23} - Rush

"If you choose not to choose, you still have made a choice."
-Rush "Free Will"

Blogger of the Week : Laura

Laura of That Grrl, Word Grrls and Doodle Week is the blogger of the week. Read all about her and then go visit her blogs and say hi!

Tell me a bit about your blogs:
Word Grrls which is about writing and publishing on the Internet and Doodle Week which is for anyone who thinks they can't draw or for those who can to show us what they can do. Mainly for those who think they can't draw but really wish they could. I'd like to see more people trying it and realizing they really can draw if they stick to it for awhile. There is always someone who thinks what you have drawn is great, even when you don't feel that way about it yourself.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I'm babysitting my sister's 3 kids today and skipped breakfast. I often skip breakfast and just have a coffee when I get something on the go later in the day. My favourite thing to do for breakfast is go out somewhere and let someone else get splashed by the bacon cooking.

What is your favorite childhood book? I just found "We Have Always Lived In The Castle" by Shirley Jackson again. It is a book which haunted me, the story of those two sisters living in a huge house with all that hanging over their heads. Did she or didn't she? I gave the book I found to my nephew who is about the same age I was when I read it for the second time.

What is your favorite work of art? I'm not someone who spends a lot of time looking at art or poetry. But Mona Lisa comes to mind because of the small smile and the mystery behind it. I don't think I'd really call it a favourite. I've seen hand sewn quilts I feel in love with. I was in awe of ASCII art when I was new online and then with the help of Joan I began to make some of that myself. I really admire people who can draw whole murals of castles and dragons and cityscapes. There is so much art, a painting is just tip of the iceberg.

What is your all time favorite quote? "The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." - Eden Phillpotts.

What's your favorite super secret website?
Adventure Quest and/ or Kingdom of Loathing - I really like role playing web games.

What is your favorite and least favorite chore? Anything called a chore isn't my favourite. I like sewing though and mending is ok. My least favourite is everything else.

What makes your house uniquely your home? It isn't my home. It's been a long time since I had a home of my own. Briefly I had a small basement apartment in the city, right downtown. It was nice coming home to that while it lasted. I think what made it uniquely my own was just being able to do the housework when I wanted to and in my own way. I get tired of having to do what others want, as they like it, when they want it.

Will you share a favorite recipe? My favourite recipe is for icebox cookies. I make them each Christmas. No recipe. I just add red and green candied cherries, non-salted peanuts and some ginger to the regular recipes. You wrap them in was paper as logs which you freeze and then chop into slices and bake when you want them.

What first sparked your interest in writing? I started writing when I was able to print. My Mother kept a journal and I started doing the same. Not much to read in those really early ones, but I still have them. I like to blog now cause I feel I can babble away about anything and someone, some where is listening to me. Even if I never meet any of them. I like feeling I am heard. It helps I grew up as the oldest of 4 kids and I'm just used to explaining things to people. I have never out grown the feeling of trying to teach the world.

What homemade project are you most proud of? Home made bread from scratch. I am most proud of the first time I did it all myself when I was newly married. I just like knowing I can do it and have it turn out great.

What got you interested in doodling? I always wanted to draw. I took art in grade nine but felt I was no one cause everyone else seemed to be drawing so much better than I was. Everything I could see so clearly in my head came out as a muddle on paper. I got discouraged and stopped trying. Later, several years later, I began making ASCII art which is creating a picture out of the standard keyboard characters. Once I started that and liked what I was able to do I began making sketches of other things I wanted to do as ASCII art when I got home again from where ever I was out. At some point I drew a rabbit from an ad at a store. My husband said it was really good. So I did a little drawing again, just for myself. Several more years later I was nearly run down by a car in an intersection when I had the crossing light to walk. I came home and illustrated the whole thing, using a stick figure as myself. I had a lot of feedback about the drawing from bloggers I was talking with then. So I began drawing an illustration to go with each of my blog posts then. All stick figure women. I don't illustrate as much any more. But we did start Doodle Week.

Barbara here:
I took the liberty of grabbing one of my favorite doodles to showcase, she has a lot of them and you can see them all on Flickr:

Now that you've read all about Laura, go on over to any of her blogs and say hi, if you haven't yet!   That Grrl, Word Grrls and Doodle Week

Decorating for Fall: Outdoors

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Southern Living

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

Isn't this just gorgeous? While I'm sure we'd all love to have an outdoor fireplace, many of the ideas presented work well for any home. The idea is to create a cozy atmosphere. The mums and pumpkins tucked into the corners by the patio furniture add a bit of color and fall foliage. And even if we can't have a roaring fire, anyone can add a few candles to their outdoor spaces. The warm, but bright color of the wreath adds a lovely contrast that nicely coordinates with the doors. Flower boxes which once overflowed with gorgeous pinks can be planted with mums and hardier fall flowers or nestled with pumpkins and wheat sheafs, branches and berries. Have you ever stuffed a scarecrow for your front lawn? It could be a fun project to do with children.

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Decorating for Fall: Bathrooms

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Southern Living

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

I actually think bathrooms like kitchens are one of the easiest rooms for adding a touch of fall.

10 Autumn Ideas for the Bathroom Under $10
1. Hollow out a small pumpkin, fill with wet floral foam and use as a vase for a floral arrangement on the counter.
2. Use Autumn scented handmade soaps
3. Add scented candles like Ginger Pumpkin votives
4. Add in some neutral texture with Natural Bath Sponges
5. Line a small basket with fall leaves and fill with pinecones, nuts and other small fall ephemera
6. Change out your shower curtain hooks
7. Add a coordinating fall colored hand towel
8. Wash a still pliable yellow, gold or red leaf gently with soap and water, place in the center of a cream ceramic soap dish. Secure leaf with a hot glue dot or scrapbooking glue dot, and use soap dish.
9. Add a cozy bath rug to the floor to take the chill off in the cooler mornings.
10. What's your favorite autumn decorating tip for the bathroom?

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Autumn Recipe & Tablescape Exchange

Heidi over at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly is hosting an Autumn Recipe & Tablescape Exchange. She shared her own beautiful tablescape and a recipe for a Pumpkin Banana Tart that sounds delicious. There is a list of everyone participating. Head on over and take a look through all the tablescapes and Autumn recipes. Decide to share your own? Let me know in the comments and I'll come take a look.

My china is Southern Vista by Lenox, it's cream with blue, pink and gold floral accents. It doesn't lend itself well to autumn placesettings. Remember how I professed my love for white mini-pumpkins, they work well with the many blues in my home.

For dinner... I just love the mini salt and pepper shakers my mother found for me. They go so well with my china and I have enough for each place setting.

And my dessert place setting:
Dessert PlaceSetting

It wouldn't feel quite like autumn without warm drinks, typical choices are cocoa and cider, but two of my favorites are Glögg and Hot Buttered Rum.

Glögg is a Swedish drink often associated with cold winter evenings around the holiday season. However, I think it's perfect as the air becomes cool and crisp. Glögg can be made non-alcoholic by using a grape or currant juice in place of the wine. Hot Buttered Rum is delicious as per the directions, however I've also used the butter mixture over hot apple cider for a non-alcoholic version that is delicious.

Orange peel from 1 orange
3 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp diced ginger root (large bits)
10 whole cardamom seeds
10 whole cloves
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 bottle of sweet red wine

Day 1:
Scrape as much pith as possible from the orange peel (I use a grapefruit spoon, it works well)
Place orange peel and all spices in cheesecloth and form a satchel
Add spice satchel to water and bring to a boil
Remove from heat, cover and let stand 8 to 12 hours
Day 2:
Remove spice satchel from the water.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the water and bring to a boil.
Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
Add the bottle of wine, heat until steaming. Do not bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and serve.
Traditionally, this is served with bits of blanched almonds and raisins in each glass.

Hot Buttered Rum
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (16 ounce) package confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 pound light brown sugar, packed
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened

In a large bowl cream the butter and the sugars together until smooth. Add the softened ice cream and mix until creamy.
Transfer this to a freezer container with a tight fitting lid.
This mixture can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.

To Serve:
Place a heaping 2 tablespoons of the frozen mix in a glass or coffee mug.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (Captain Morgan's!).
Pour over the mix 6 ounces of boiling water and stir until the mixture is melted.
Sprinkle top with cinnamon or nutmeg and serve forth!

Cross-posted to Kitchen Comforts.

Decorating for Fall: Extra Rooms

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Coastal Living
First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

This office brings a touch of fall to the office year round. The pumpkin color on the walls is so cozy. However, even if the walls were a cream and the pumpkin color was brought in simply in pillows it would still feel cozy. I can't imagine many people would paint walls season by season, however if you love autumn and earth tones, why not decorate a room in your home to give you that feeling year round. An office, a studio, a kids playroom, they are all good candidates for a seasonal decor. The rooms are usually tucked away from the public areas of the home and would lend themselves well to a little special autumn treatment.

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20 Little Things to Treasure in Autumn

Melissa over at The Inspired Room is inspiring women all over the blogosphere to share their favorite 20 things about Autumn. It all started with this post at Beautifully Imperfect, and since this fits in so beautifully with all we've been trying to accomplish this month, I decided to share my own list.

20 Little Things to Treasure in Autumn

  1. Snuggling in bed with crisp sheets and down comforters
  2. The crackling blaze of a lit fireplace
  3. Slipping feet into soft slippers to keep them warm
  4. Sunlight filtering through trees of gold and red
  5. Fingers keeping warm wrapped around a steaming mug
  6. Early mornings dripping with dew
  7. Crisp, clear nights bundled up watching the skies
  8. Your breath visible and hanging in the air
  9. Flannel pajamas, cozy throws and a good book
  10. Bundled up in fall jackets, scarves and gloves while burning leaves
  11. Buttermilk Pecan Pie
  12. Hot Buttered Rum, Hot Cocoa, Hot Apple Cider or Hot Toddies
  13. Soup tureens filled with warm stews and soups
  14. Hot homemade chili sprinkled with shredded cheddar
  15. Apple Butter simmering on the stove (Recipe)
  16. The scents of cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg
  17. Brandied, Candied Sweet Potatoes
  18. Caramel Apples coated with nuts from Widman's
  19. Apple, Pumpkin, Pecan, and Rhubarb Pies with French Vanilla Ice Cream
  20. Spoon bread or cornbread slathered with butter or drizzled with natural honey
  21. Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds lightly salted

Decorating for Fall: Bedroom

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Adriana Throw by Ralph Lauren
First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

I don't tend to add much to the bedroom. When fall comes and the nights get cooler I pull out the down comforter and an extra throw, but I don't add any other touches to the room. I do love this vignette though, the chair draped with a throw, books in arms reach and a teapot, cup and saucer close by feels so cozy. I'm thinking of recreating something similar in my bedroom. Maybe with a mug of cocoa instead of an actual teapot, cup and saucer though.

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Decorating for Fall: Living Areas

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Brooke Giannetti of Giannetti Architecture & Interiors via Desire to Inspire
First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

Fall doesn't have to mean "fall colors". Oranges, yellows, golds, reds, rusts, browns... these colors are synonymous with fall.

However, this room is all neutrals, yet still feels like fall. The natural materials in the basket and the shells and the weathered feel of the table add to the feeling, yet they'd look perfectly at home in the spring. It's the little touches like the cable knit throws tucked into the couches readily available for cuddling on a crisp autumn day and the crackling fire in the fireplace that make this feel like fall.

If "fall colors" aren't your thing, add your touches in neutrals... white gourds and pumpkins, cream knit throws, white candles. Colors like wheat, oatmeal, cream work with almost any decor and can easily transition between seasons.

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Decorating for Fall: Dining Room and Entry

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Fall Dining Room

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part!

Entry - Fall

For the entry I keep it simple, just a wreath and a copper pot full of eucalyptus brances by the front door. However, for the dining table I love coming up with centerpieces for our dining table.

This bouquet is going on the dinette table:
Kitchen Flowers

Last year I posted my favorite centerpiece options for Thanksgiving, they all apply for fall as well.

I did something similar to this last year:

I'm going to do something similar to this this year:

I just need a few more white gourds. I bought a bunch of mini-pumpkins the other day, but I need more.

Aren't they cute?
Mini Pumpkins

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Decorating for Fall : Kitchen

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Fall Kitchen

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, then we organized, this week we're going to go through and decorate. Decorating is the fun part, and how apropos that we start decorating for fall on the first day of fall.

Fall and spring are my favorite seasons. Spring brings the flowers and green life after a long cold winter, so it is always welcome. However, I love the crispness of fall: cool breezes, crackling fires with cocoa or cider, the changing colors of the leaves and their crunch beneath my feet. I typically associate a lot of fall with smells, particularly cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and apple. What better place to incorporate those smells than in the kitchen?

Top Ten Tips for Bringing Fall to Your Kitchen
1) Simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks on your stovetop in a tea kettle.
2) Add autumn color dishtowels to your kitchen rotation.
3) Add a bouquet of autumn flowers to a small vase on your counter.
4) In an oven safe casserole dish put 2 cups water, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp vanilla. Turn your oven on as low as it will go, let it come up to temperature. Turn it off and crack the oven door.
5) I love candles, but they can get awfully expensive if you burn a lot of them. So I buy a few expensive votives with a heavenly scent and then cheap large vanilla candles from a discount store. I'll nestle 1 or 2 votives in with a larger display of the vanilla candles, and the votives give enough scent without buying larger expensive versions of the scent. I use vanilla because it's usually complimentary, but you can do this with unscented candles as well.
6) Bring your copper molds out for display or use them to hold candles, candies, cookies, flowers or other items on your counter.
7) Use pliable yellow and/or red leaves and wrap them around the inside of a clear bowl, put a single layer of cranberries inside the first bowl, nest a clear bowl on top of the cranberries, fill space between bowls with cranberries, use to hold baked fall goodies. Pumpkin Cookies!
8) Wrap raffia around a canister to hold a leaf tag in place. Use a gold or fall color sharpie to write contents on the leaf. This is really cute on flour, sugar and coffee containers.
9) Have kids make fall leaf collages to hang on your refrigerator.
10) What are your favorite tips?

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Monday Musings {22} - Keller

"Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves."

-Helen Keller

Blogger of the Week : Sandra

Sandra of Diary of a Stay At Home Mom, Full Bellies, Happy Kids! and Reading Nook is the blogger of the week.  Read all about her below, then head on over to her blogs and say hi!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Cinnamon Roll Toast

What is your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book would have to be The Strawberry Girl by Helen Upshall, I first read it when I was about 15 or 16 years old but the story stuck with me since then. I think because it follows the struggles of a young girl trying to find the truth of her parentage, it was very well written and I absolutely loved the main character..

What is your favorite work of art?
I'm a huge Thomas Kinkade fan and I have a love for cottages so his Gallery of Cottage paintings are my favorites, but if I had to pick just one, it would probably be the Foxglove Cottage.

What is your all time favorite quote?
I'm beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all - Laura Ingalls Wilder

What's your favorite super secret website?
It would have to be Cath Kidston, I don't even know how to describe how much I love this site. I literally spend hours just browsing through and marveling at all the beautiful items.

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
My favorite is ironing, always has been, I could sit in the kitchen for hours ironing loads of laundry and just be as happy as can be. Least favorite would be putting away laundry....UGH UGH UGH.....I drag myself around the house with the laundry basket in tow and complain and whine the whole time. LOL

What makes your house uniquely your home?
The memories. Being a military family we are constantly on the move so we never get to plant roots anywhere, we don't get to watch the same tree blossom and grow for years, it's always a different house in a different state. So for us, it's the memories and the personal belongings we have plus an enormous amount of love that makes my house uniquely mine.

Will you share a favorite recipe?
Absolutely, I love cooking so this one is easy:

Orange Cake
Honey Mustard Chicken Fingers
Portuguese Beans

What first sparked your interest in cooking?
My greatgrandmother and the love she had for cooking. I remember being 4 or 5 years old and sitting on the kitchen floor playing with toy pots and pans while she fixed dinner for the whole family. She put so much love into the meals she made and I had the best of memories from childhood. That made me want to be just like her and as I grew older the love for cooking intensified, I love the fact that if I want to eat something, I can make it, I don't have to go out to a restaurant.

What homemade project are you most proud of?
Oh boy that's a tough one, I've made a few things that I am proud of, I guess if I had to pick it would be my library tote bag, I've had many people ask me where I got it and comment that they like it.

What's your favorite hobby, and what got you interested in it?
Sewing definitely and the interest came from my grandmother who is a seamstress. She used to have a little sewing shop/boutique and I remember spending many days with her watching her sew and make clothes for the store. She also made a lot of wedding dresses and brides maids gowns too. Watching her is what first sparked the interest in me, but then realizing myself that I can take a simple yard of fabric and turn it into an article of clothing or a pillow or something for the house is just amazing.

Routines with Kids: Kid's Fun Day

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


Just as it's important for kids to have chores and routines so they know what's expected of them and to keep their day's running smoothly, it's important that they have FUN! They are kids, encourage them to be kids. Let every family member pick what they want to do for 2 hours each week as a family. They might pick board games or a movie or a picnic. If you want you can specify a monthly not to exceed dollar amount to go with it to help build up a bunch of options.

$10 could cover:
a movie rental and popcorn for a movie night
a frisbee, sandwich fixings and juice for a picnic
a board game
a deck of cards
a puzzle
ingredients for homemade pizza night
packets of seeds to plant their favorite vegetables or fruit
squirt guns
an inflatable kids pool

There are plenty of free options:
going to the park
go for a walk
go look at the pet store
mad libs
put on a play of their favorite story
telling stories each taking a turn making up the next line
have a camp out in the living room, using a sheet for a tent

If parents set the example of being able to have fun with just a little imagination, children will learn by example.

Do you have any other ideas?

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Submitted to

Organize the Outdoor Areas

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

It's time to start doing fall prep to get beds ready for next spring. I'll be planting tulip bulbs, and putting down grass seed around a few trees. I'm bringing in the cushions off of my patio furniture, it's been too cold to use it in the last couple of weeks. We have a couple of chairs that we use for firepits, so if there are a few decent nights left, we'll be using those.

What are you working on?

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Routines with Kids: Allowances and Chores

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


Allowances... A word that inspires much debate among parenting experts. I'm not expert so I thought it would be helpful to provide some resources that might help you make up your mind as to how you prefer to handle it.

PTA recommendations on - this article most closely agrees with what I'll discuss below

I'm sure if you've read my posts over the last week you have a pretty good idea of my viewpoint. The debate centers around two arguments:
1) Allowance shouldn't be tied to chores, because chores are a responsibility as a member of the family
2) Allowance should be tied to chores, so children can learn the value of a dollar and to work for their goals.

I agree with both standpoints. What? As I've been mentioning, there are two types of chores. The first are those that are expected as members of the household, picking up after themselves, and basic every day chores....

Unloading and loading the dishwasher, setting the table, doing a load of laundry, folding laundry if they are younger, dusting or vacuuming, basic home upkeep type chores. Tie this to household priveleges, watching tv, computer time, game time, etc. They don't contribute to household upkeep, they don't get to enjoy the fun aspects of the household.

However, allowance should be tied to chores, for the reasons mentioned above. They learn the value of a dollar and how to work for what they want. Yes, mowing the lawn or washing the car or weeding are all part of helping maintain the household, but they are needed less often and are great chores to tie to earning an allowance. Rather than an allowance being a given, make at least part of it earned. A job jar can help with this, allowing you to monitor the jobs that are needed and available to be done for additional allowance.

How do you handle allowance?

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Organize the Bathrooms and Laundry Room

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

I'm going to spend some time clearing out my medicine cabinet, throwing away everything that is expired, and making a list of what needs to be replaced. I am going to be expanding my Perpetual Pantry to include these items. I'm also going to go through my linen closet, it needs a little sprucing up.

What are you working on?

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Routines with Kids: Creating a Job Jar

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


Do you have a job jar? There are two kinds of chores, those that are expected as members of the family, and the extra chores that they can do for extra spending money or an allowance. Using a job jar is a fun way to handle all those extra chores and allow you to control what options are available each week. Color coding is an easy way to handle at a glance what the chore is worth. I have different colored slips of paper for approximate time.

White : 10 minutes
Vacuum a room, including edges
Sweep the back porch

Yellow: 30 minutes
Mow the yard
Weed the front/back yard

Blue: 45 minutes
Clean the car, inside and out

So, a slip of paper can be chosen based on the amount of time available, add dollars to be earned for that chore to the slip as well. When they are younger you may want to work with a point system instead of dollars and let them turn in points towards books or games or something else. After time you can allow them to turn in their points for items or money, eventually switching it over to money entirely as they learn the value of money.

To encourage chores to be done, it works better to pay out immediately. If they want something or they want to go out that evening and need money for a movie, they know what they have to do to earn it. You both benefit.

Rotate the slips out based on what needs to be done that week.

A job jar can be just that, a jar, a vase, a basket, or anything else you have handy. If you want a fun project to do with the kids if you have little ones is let them each decorate their own canning jar for their job jar.

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Organize the Extra Rooms

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

My extra room is my office and my bookshelves have fallen into disarray! They desparately need to be organized, and there isn't enough room for all of the books. I need to cull my magazines and the old trade paperbacks that I'll never read again. I've been thinking of letting them into the wild via Bookcrossing.

What are you working on?

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Routines with Kids: Daily Routine

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


Just like we have routines, children need routines. If they do the same thing every morning, and when they get home from school or daycare things will go much smoother. To make the mornings easier decide what the pain points are and address them in the evenings.

Have a young child that insists on picking their clothes, however inappropriate they may be for the occassion or weather? Put together outfits at the beginning of the week, let your child choose which to wear each day. They can pick any outfit, but it has to be the entire outfit together. Give them one day to wear whatever they want and smile when the purple polka dot shirt, orange striped skirt, blue socks and red shoes come out of the closet.

Have a child that just can't wake up in the morning? Move their bedtime up in the evenings and give them an alarm clock and set it across the room so they can't hit snooze.

Have a child that can never decide what they want to take for lunch? Let them pick out their snack for the week at the grocery store, and prep lunches the night before to eliminate the discussion.

Taking care of a few things in the evenings will help make the mornings go smoother.

To make your evenings a little easier, start it a little earlier. When they get home from school or daycare, allow for 30 minutes or so of downtime, whatever they want to do. However, after that, they should get their homework done and their chores. If evenings are so swamped that there isn't enough time to get everything done in a reasonable amount of time, consider cutting back the after school activities.

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Organize the Bedroom

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

I have two areas that need work in the bedroom, my closet and my makeup vanity. I did my nightstand a few weeks ago. It's time to swap out summer clothes for fall/winter clothes. I have some wool and leather items, so I'll inspect them carefully as I take them out of storage. If needed I'll take them to the dry cleaners. Polish winter shoes and boots.

In the fall and winter, I tend to darker colors for my lips and nails, so I'll take stock of what I have, and discard any that is too old and make note of any colors that I might need to pick up.

What are you working on?

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Routines with Kids: Consequences and Rewards

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


So, what do you do if your children know what is expected of them and they choose not to do their chores? The key here is the word choose. There are always occassions like Finals, Midterms, large Projects being due that deserve a break for a week. First, is the complexity of the chore reasonable for their age? How about the number of chores?

There are 2 kinds of chores, those that are expected as a member of the household, and those that are extra done for allowance or extra money. Obviously if extra chores aren't done then there is no monetary gain. However, what about the chores expected of them as household members, picking up after themselves, making their bed, etc.

Rewards and Consequences go hand in hand. There should be some reward for getting their chores done, maybe 10 minutes of tv or game time earned for each chore done, with a bit extra if it's done every day all week. The consequence of not doing that chore is losing those rewards. Obviously, the rewards need to match the age of your child. But it should never be time alone with mom or dad. That should be something they get every week regardless, and not something in danger of being lost.

How do you handle the rewards and consequences of chores?

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Organize the Living Areas

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Family Room

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

The living areas are in pretty good shape for me, just the Music/Movie/Magazine area needs work. So I'll be organizing that area. I had already ripped all my CD's to a computer a while ago and packed up most of them and put them in the basement. I still have a few left to pack up and the movies, well that's just a mess.

What are you working on?

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Routines with Kids: Chore Chart

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?


Chore charts help kids know what is expected of them and show them what they've accomplished, and what's left to be done.

Younger children might have chores like "Make your bed", "Pick up your toys", "Put away your clothes". As they get a little older add a household chore or two like "Help Dust" or "Set the table".

For children who can't read yet, use pictures for the chore chart. Find some old magazines, or free clip art online and let them cut out pictures for their chore chart. When it's ready and the glue has dried slip it in a sheet protector sleeve that will work with a dry erase marker. As they do each chore each day, mark them of with a check mark, smiley face or star.

Chore charts work for older children as well, they know what is expected. It also takes pressure off of you as a parent, when they want to do something fun when their chores are done, rather than asking them about each thing, you just ask them if their chores are done. They can look at the list themselves, it teaches them responsibility.

Chore charts should be kept fairly simple, you can download some nice free ones at

Updated: DLTK has some great printables for kids, and they even guide you through creating chore charts with some of your kids favorite characters. Start your chore chart here!

Exmples of black/white for your child to color, and full color chore charts.

And a February one in Dora, all images are available in color or black and white:

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Organize the Dining Room and Entry

What's the Homemaking September ShapeUp! all about?

Dining Room

First we decluttered, then we cleaned, this week we're going to go through and organize. There is no way to organize the entire house in a week, unless it's a tiny house. So, let's just pick our biggest pet peeves and do those.

I am currently just fine in my dining room, but my coat closet by the garage entry drives me crazy. Everything is crammed in, and it's full of shoes even though I have a shoe organizer in the bedroom. So I'm going to sort out the shoes, putting away the ones that aren't worn as often. I'll sort through the coats, and the baskets of gloves and scarvs, and get it in shape for the fall and winter.

What's your pet peeve in your dining room or entry?

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Blogger of the Week : Kiy

I started the Blogger of the Week a few weeks ago and the featured blogger this week is Kiy, read all about her and then go visit her at Rocking Chairs and a Tricycle and Kiy's Recipe Box and say hi!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Coffee with coffee creamer, 2 bags of Equal. At least one cup, two if Emi allows. Sunday morning special breakfast: this week it was French toast, blueberries from the farmers market and sausages!

What is your favorite childhood book?
Oh books. I love talking books! I fell in love with The Boxcar Children at an early age, also, oddly enough biographies of famous and not-so-famous people during the early days of America.

But first and foremost: I had emergency appendix surgery when I was in elementary school (grade 4 or 5 I think). While there my mom brought me a stack of books (I've always been a reader). A new (to me) author that she brought was Phyllis A. Whitney (her books for younger readers). My favorite book, and what started my love for Japan, is Secret of the Samurai Sword.

What is your favorite work of art?
I don't really think I have one. I love and adore art, especially watercolors and pen/ink (which, a hundred years ago were my favorite mediums to work in). I like unknown artists the best, not really into the 'big' names. I like to be surrounded by art and it's important to me to have it in our home. Right now, my favorite is hanging in our family room. I have no idea who the artist is, my mom and I found this painting at an arts and craft fair in 2001 and both fell in love with it. We both now own this in different sizes and views. I love the colors, the way it makes me feel. The umbrellas and walking along in the park. Feels like a lazy Sunday afternoon to me. Best day/time of day ever.

What is your all time favorite quote?
You are never given a wish without also being give the power to make it come true. ~ Richard Bach
I have this quote taped to my computer monitor, and have had since January 2005, when we officially started our paper chase for Emi. This quote, many times, gave me the ummph to keep going. To badger yet another bureaucrat, tackle another piece of paper, whatever was needed at the time to get the paper chase done and get us that much closer to our baby girl. Those days, it was one slow step at a time. But I knew she was my wish, my wish to be a mama, and that if the wish was there in my heart, I had the power to accomplish whatever I needed to. (That quote is also featured on my blog, I love it that much.)

What's your favorite super secret website?
I don't really have one. I love travel and am forever reading websites on travel to various places. Anything from going back to the Grand Canyon to one of the Disney parks to Asia to ... anywhere. So I tend to start with something in mind and end up all over the world (and what a wonderful way to travel!). Some fav's:

What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
Least fav: cleaning house. Seriously, just about anything else I'd rather do but a full-out cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, decluttering, bathrooms, etc) is something I dread and put off as long as possible.
Fav: Is that possible? Then it's not a chore, right? I guess I would have to choose loading the dishwasher. While I really dislike cleaning, I love clean (heh). So just loading the dishwasher and making my kitchen clean and tidy makes me feel like my house is 'mostly clean. I feel the same way about making the beds and putting everything away. You may not be able to eat off the floors but on the surface the house is neat and tidy. Some days (heck, most days!) that's as good as it gets.

What makes your house uniquely your home?
You know, I’m really not sure. I guess I would have to say all the cross-stitch that I display, both that I’ve done and that were gifts from my mom. I treasure those pieces from her, as I know that each stitch is made with love, the project picked out, the material, the floss (yarns, threads), chosen with me in mind. That’s why I also stitch gifts, it brings the person you are stitching for so close. Sometimes for months, depending on the intricacy of the pattern.
I try to put something special in every room. Sometimes it’s a stitched piece, sometimes it’s a little figurine, sometimes a tiny flower in a pretty little vase. Something unexpected is so fun! I love and adore color and love to splash that around also. I haven’t done as much in this house as I’ve done in others. I need to find the time (and the energy!) to do more and make it our home.

Will you share a favorite recipe?
I don’t think I really have an absolute favorite, but this is one I really love. Mainly, as it brings back some wonderful memories. I found this while living in Japan, hanging out on the Cooking Light bulletin board. I made it our first Thanksgiving while living there (yes, with a turkey). We invited all the single sailors we could find for a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Many were new to the Navy and very new to being stationed overseas. I know it was hard, being so far from home so we were trying to give them a little taste of home. It was a pretty nice day and a memory I will carry with me forever.

Whole chicken (a small one-- what are they, like 3½ pounds?)
Approx 1½ teaspoon dried thyme
Approx 1 tablespoon garlic, pressed
Approx 1 tablespoon cider or malt vinegar
Dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well)
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 325°. Clean chicken and remove giblets.
Hack chicken all over with the tip of a sharp chef's knife to make gashes. (Invariably I find the music to the shower scene in Psycho running through my mind, thus the name, Psycho Chicken-- and lest you think I am thoroughly deranged, this manner of slash and season is actually very common in Cuban cooking.)
In a small bowl, mix together thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar, and slather liberally on chicken, taking care that mixture gets into slits in the meat. Place chicken on rack in roasting pan (if you don't have a rack, no biggie-- throw the thing directly into the pan) and roast about 2 hours until golden and fragrant, basting every twenty or thirty minutes with a splash of wine and any juices in the pan. Your house will smell wonderful.
Now this is the crucial part, which will make or break the entire dish: If this is cooked properly, your chicken should be running with wonderful juices as you carve. Dredge each slice of carved meat in those juices before placing on platter-- the juices are loaded with garlic and herb flavor.
This was a seat-of-the-pants kind of recipe on my part where you throw in a little of this, a little of that, splash wine on it and cook it till the juices run clear. After doing it a couple of times, I gathered it took two hours, so that's what I wrote. Obviously, if the chicken is bigger or if someone's oven runs hot or cold, the cooking time is going to vary. Rest assured Anthony Perkins will not be showing up on your doorstep with a butcher knife if you don't adhere exactly to what I wrote.
As to the hacking... well, how was your day? Need a little stress reliever? There's your chicken. And if you REALLY want to hack it the way I do, here's how: Glance around furtively to make sure no one is watching, hear the music from the shower scene in your head, cut loose and ham it up. You've done it enough when you start feeling really silly. Or when your husband walks in and starts laughing hysterically.
PUH-leeze don't worry about this chicken. (Other than the convection oven part, maybe) It is an extraordinarily forgiving recipe. Now get out there and hack!

What first sparked your interest in cooking?
I think it was when we were living in Virginia. We had a couple of apartments/houses that actually had room to cook. I was working odd times, so had the time to cook and putter. I found that I really loved it, and it helped having a hubby who embraced being my guinea pig. My grandmother was a recipe collector, and I knew that growing up but sadly, it’s not something that we shared together. Later on, we talked a bit about recipes now and again. I now own her entire recipe collection. Someday I want to sit down and really delve into those boxes.

What homemade project are you most proud of?
A couple of cross-stitch projects, of course. I have done some other things (sewing and painting) but those projects are still packed away in boxes that may get uncovered in the next year, or ten.
The first is a joint project my mom and I worked on, the game Monopoly. She lives in Michigan and at the time we were still living in Virginia. I was so excited to complete this piece and have it framed. The framer used a kind of Plexiglas so we can actually play it!
The next is for my very good friend Mary. I stitched it the year that she and her husband moved from Japan back to the States. That was a hard move for both of us, and it’s been made even harder with the fact that we are living on two different coasts now. We are lucky to see each other once a year and both of us hope to someday, once again, live in the same city. When I choose the project it looked like it would be a quick stitch, and while fun it was not at all quick. It ended up being the most challenging piece I’ve ever stitched and I am quite proud of it.

What got you interested in stitching?
My mom has stitched for years and years. She tried to get me interested when I was (much) younger, but it didn’t happen. Once I was out on my own, around 1983-84 I started stitching but just small, easy pieces here and there. It wasn’t until I was married that I really embraced stitching and it became a passion. It also became something that my mom and I could share, and we talk about it constantly. We have gone on a couple stitching retreats, shop hopped throughout various states and gone to classes where one or both of us had to fly to get to. We have been to Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Washington, Virginia, Illinois, and Maryland. We are in the planning stages of yet another shop hop (hopping from store to store, visiting, shopping, gabbing, seeing what’s new and fun). We are taking Emi with us … her first cross-stitch adventure!
Some of my favorite pieces include the ones pictured above. Also, a very special piece my mom stitched for Jeff and I, celebrating our very first Christmas together. It is always the first anything that is hung or displayed in our new home, and it continues to be my most favorite stitched piece ever. (Heart & Hand, 1993)
The next piece is a chart that I purchased in 1998, and kept until I stitched it in 2004. Just looking at it made me think that this is exactly how I would feel to be a mom, so gloriously happy. I knew I wanted to stitch it for our first child. At that time, who would know it would be another seven years until it happened. The summer of 2004 was when we officially started looking into adoption agencies, although we didn’t start the paperwork until January of 2005 as it took that long to find someone who could and would work with us while living overseas. (She Loves Me, House-Mouse Designs, 2004)

Now that you've read all about Kiy, go on over to her blog and say hi, if you haven't yet!