My favorite time-saving strategies

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With four children and an extremely busy life day to day, time is my most precious commodity. There are only 24 hours in a day, which is never enough. So we have to make choices. There are no right or wrong ones, just those that work for us at this season of our lives.

Here are some tactics I use to prioritize the important things and save time:

1. I rarely take or make phone calls. Whenever it comes to customer service or doctor’s appointments, I try to handle things through apps or websites. I am so introverted that talking to strangers throws me off for a long time after I actually finish the call – I forget what I was doing earlier and have to spend a few minutes collecting my thoughts. I don’t even always take calls from friends or family if I’m having a busy day.

2. I clean what is dirty and leave what is not. Housework is never-ending and I simply have to prioritize. Clothes are usually worn more than once. Towels and bedding are used for as long as they are tolerably clean before being changed. I do three loads, sometimes four, per week with a family of six. I do my best to sweep, mop and dust, but my priority is the “gross factor” things: toilets, showers, bathtubs, sinks, kitchen counters and stovetop.

3. Meals are simple and as healthy as I can make them. Dinner is most often soup, pasta with tomato sauce and grated cheese, a crustless quiche, or a salad and eggs in some form. If at all possible, I prefer to have only one pot, meal or mixing bowl to clean. I don’t usually freeze meals in advance, but I do like to make a big batch and eat the leftovers for next day’s lunch.

4. I make it a priority to get rid of as much clutter as I can or, better yet, never let it cross the threshold of my home. It’s a little easier said than done, because I live with a hoarder who can’t pass a dump without salvaging something that might be useful someday, someway. But yes, decluttering saves a bunch of time because you have less stuff to clean, sort, and organize.

5. I minimize outside commitments that would involve me herding the childremn there and back several times a week. We have one afternoon a week when we go to the library and, along the way, hang out with friends. I try my best to arrange any errands for the same day. My eldest daughter attends piano lessons, which she is able to do independently of me. Otherwise, I refuse to commit to regular extracurricular activities. The way I see it, there’s nothing that can’t wait until my children are old enough to go there and back themselves.

Day to day

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First crop of tomatoes from the garden. Plenty more to come.

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Fresh mulberries from a nearby tree – these are seriously good, and there are so many of them I made jam this week.

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The older girls with newly braided hair.

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Israel, planning to make many wonderful things with these discarded boards you see in the picture.

I hope your summer started off with just the right vibes! Enjoy the season.

Little gifts

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I’m not a big fan of prickly pears, but I do love the large, bright flowers. A tiny short-lived miracle that one just has to enjoy while it lasts.

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Another piece of beauty from one of our afternoon walks: this little ladybug on a flower. My children always enjoy letting these little guys crawl over their hands and fingers until they inevitably fly away.

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A pile of fresh, juicy lemons from the very generous tree of our lovely neighbor, Jocelyn. Just think of all the jugs of refreshing lemonade we can make from these.

We’ve had a terrible heat wave yesterday and today and I’m extremely thankful for the blessing of air conditioning, because otherwise I literally don’t know how we would be able to breathe. The outdoors were such a furnace that I felt my eyes start to water from the heat as soon as I walked out to water my poor plants. I hope you’re enjoying pleasanter weather, wherever you are.

Basic Lip Balm: two ingredient recipe

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I ran out of lip balm a few cold and windy days ago, and rather than venturing out in this weather, I thought I’d try making my own.

Most lip balm recipes call for beeswax, which I thought I didn’t have on hand, but then I discovered some fragments of a broken beeswax sheet while I was clearing out a drawer (Pesach, here we come! ). Perfect!

Other than the beeswax, the only ingredient you will need is oil – I used olive, but coconut, jojoba or another nourishing oil would work just as well.

The proportions are approximately 1 part beeswax to 6 parts oil. You can decrease the amount of beeswax a little if you live in a cold climate and would like your lip balm to be softer.

Mix the oil and beeswax in a small pot over a very low flame, or better yet, place your small pot into a larger pot filled with boiling water and stir. The beeswax will melt very quickly.

Optional: at this point you can add some essential oils. I added a drop of mint and rosemary for a refreshing herbal scent.

Pour the mixture into containers and allow to set. That’s it! A few minutes of work, and you have a healthy, natural balm that’s great for your lips and other extra dry areas such as elbows and heels. It can even be used as a diaper cream.

PS: in case you are wondering about the hole in the middle of the lip balm jar, I suspect it had set this way because I popped it into the refrigerator to speed up the process.

Along with homemade soap, a cute little jar of this lip balm would make a fantastic gift for whomever you might want to pamper.

And it rained, and rained, and rained

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For the past couple of days, it has been cold, dreary, windy and rainy, and we’ve been shut inside, doing our best to spend our time productively and pleasantly indoors. I started some seeds, did some baking, and went on with my crocheting projects. The little poncho/capelet is coming along nicely.

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I’ve also ordered some yak wool blend, and I’m excited to try it – I’ve never worked with yak wool before, but it sure feels very pleasant to the touch.

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A batch of super simple granola bars, thrown together in 5 minutes, out of the oven in 15 – a healthy snack to keep up our energy in the afternoon.

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A kitty who found the coziest spot on a cold morning. Behind, you can see our crafty center, where we keep all our art supplies, paper, glue, modeling clay, etc.

I look forward to sunny days and puttering around the garden, but in the meantime, there’s so much to be grateful for – for instance, the fact that we repaired the roof and the air conditioning before this last cold and rainy spell.

Clutter: the perennial problem

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A few short months after we were married, I already saw the clutter beginning to accumulate. It has the most sinister ways to creep in. Old newspapers and bills, empty plastic bags, a few items that were lovingly given to us, but are of little use… it takes a time to sort through it all!

In addition, I soon discovered a slight difference of attitudes between my husband and myself when it comes to stuff. I see anything that isn’t useful or beautiful as superfluous, and will gladly throw or give it away. My husband will stick to anything he thinks we might ever use, someday, somehow In a house with very little storage space, this usually means piles of clutter.

Here’s what happened one night shortly after we were married. My husband came from work, holding two unrecognizable metal objects in his hands.

“Aren’t they nice?”  he asked enthusiastically.
“What are these?”
“Well, I don’t actually know. But aren’t they cool?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. I have a creative and resourceful husband who can take what others would label as “junk”, make a few tweaks here and there, and produce excellent and useful items. Our very first living room table was found abandoned on the curb, and restored just a few days before our wedding.

Most of our furniture was either found and repaired, or we got it used. It saved us a good deal of money, and is very useful. However, we also have much (too much, in my opinion) stuff that gathers dust on our shelves, taking up limited storage space. Not that I think having more storage space is a solution! Rather, it tempts you to hoard more and more stuff if you have such a tendency.

All our house moves were seen by me as opportunities to get rid of unnecessary clutter. Moving is the perfect time to do that, because you are forced to go through all your things and decide what is important enough to be wrapped, put into a box, and taken with you to your new home. Often, you will find things you even forgot you had – and ironically, even though you hadn’t used them for years and didn’t miss them at all, once you see them you are unable to say goodbye.

There is a certain box that has been sitting with us, unpacked, through two house moves. I figure that if we could live without thinking about its contents for four years, we aren’t likely to ever need it. My husband begs to differ. I have learned to let some things slide, however.

I think that once in a while, I will just pretend we are moving again, and simply let go. Let go of unnecessary items and simplify our life. It feels good.

First projects around the new place

In between unpacking, rearranging and painting, we are finally able to poke our noses out a bit and start getting a feel of what we can do around the place. I’m still majorly bummed out about all the concrete, but somewhat comforted by the empty plot the town council allowed us to use.

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The fish tank. Gambusia fish for mosquito control were close to the top of our priority list, so here they are, thriving despite the humble look of their habitat. The tank looks somewhat weather beaten, but I intend to camouflage it with potted plants all around until we can work out something better.

Some garden photos. There is a bunch of plants waiting to be replanted, and a few others already in their permanent place. The soil here is very heavy clay with a strong tendency to retain water, so we’re adjusting our plans accordingly.

I look forward to posting more updates of our work on making this place homey and inviting.