Thursday, March 6, 2008

HOPE. Tiny Gestures Make a Difference

Philanthropists, and the Bible, too - tell us that when we perform some random act of kindness it shouldn't be discussed, as it may be perceived as insincere. However, for the sake of hoping to inspire - I'll tell you about something that happened today so that perhaps you, too, will reflect and follow through the next time you have an ambivalent thought about helping someone.

This morning I stopped at a convenient store with my two children and got a cup of coffee and a snack. There were three homeless people standing outside, one of whom had apparently just enough change to purchase a donut and was allowed to stand inside the store long enough to eat it, and I could tell he was eating it slowly to buy himself some time for warmth.

I'll be honest and tell you I used to have mixed emotions about the homeless. I think many of us do, but don't tell others. There's the wondering - does this person have a substance abuse problem, or did they do something to "cause" their homelessness? Are they lazy, and didn't try hard enough to get work before they were in the predicament? It's easy for us to say that to ourselves. Until now, aside from a few quarters in a hat here and there - I'd never considered helping anyone out other than what the church would ask for while I was there. I would say to myself, "oh, they'll probably spend it on booze and cigarettes anyway".

As I've gotten older I've learned to not pass judgment. Lately, I've been feeling much differently. When I see someone that appears to be homeless, I have an internal struggle about whether or not I should do something. I realize that there are a number of factors that would cause one to lose the roof over their head, and it probably wasn't one isolated issue. Many are mentally ill. Some may have been abused. And others, well - could have been someone just like me or my husband, someone that worked hard all his life, but then something happened. Maybe he lost his job or something, and just couldn't make it.

Particularly in this time in our economy, my family has felt the stress of financial burden. Perhaps this is why I felt compelled to do something spontaneous. Having children changes us, too. We become less self-centered. More empathetic. Maybe, on some subconscious level - I may have thought "what if that ever happened to me". What a horror it would be, with small children.

I sat in the car with my children and coffee in my nice warm SUV and watched the eldest of them, the one that had been standing inside with the donut. I'm not sure why I singled him out - except that intuitively I felt he looked the most sincere. He was older, too, and had a kind face. I guess I rationalized that the younger two might have more fight left in them and could still work given the opportunity so they'd be okay.

After a few minutes, I decided that it was time for me to quit thinking about it and just do something. All I had left on me was a $20 bill, because I don't carry much cash (as most of us don't). But I thought, If I don't do this now - I won't do it. I said to the kids, "Mama will be right back" and got out of the car (he was just a few feet in front of us). The strangest emotions overcame me. It was a mixture of fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, and peace. He was only a few feet from my car, but I was worrying, what will I say to him? What if he wasn't homeless? Was I making an assumption based on his clothing that was incorrect? How embarrassing that could be. But I mustered up courage, and this is what came out:

"Excuse me, sir. I don't want to insult you. Do you have any money for yourself"?

He replied, "No". I nervously handed him my meager $20. "I said, please take this and get something for yourself". That's all I could get out. He said quietly,"thank you", without looking at me. Feeling a little awkward, I hurried back into the car. As I buckled my seatbelt, he was putting the $20 in a small front-pocket mesh wallet he had, and he looked up at me - right in the eyes, with a small wave, and a really grateful look in his eye - and this time he said thank you in a much more meaningful manner. It occurred to me at that moment that he must have felt as awkward as I did - having to take a $20 bill from a younger woman who could have been his daughter so he could eat. Men are born with pride, so to have to swallow it daily must be awful.

As I pulled away, my eyes welled up with tears. I felt peaceful, and so sad at the same time, I guess because I wished it could have been more, and for the guilt of having more than he. I struggled to compose myself so I could explain to my 3-1/2 year old what had just taken place. It seemed important for me to tell my children that not everyone has comfort like we do.

Three hours later as I type this I still am feeling melancholy. I certainly haven't done anything particularly special. Then again, maybe I did. Because if you are thinking to yourself "what difference will $5, $10 or $20 do in the big scheme of this man's life"? This is the answer: this man will have food for a week on that measly $20. And, if there is another person that comes along and does that in another few weeks - he will eat for another month. If 12 of us did it - he will exist for another year.. And then maybe, just maybe - something will come along and change for him - like a job, a person that can offer him more.
Most of all, with our measly few dollars - he has HOPE.

Moms, it have been one of our fathers. It could have been our husband. Our brother. Or worst ever - in thirty years - our child. That man had a mommy once too, I'm sure. So I implore you. If you are hesitating the next time - bite the bullet and just do it. Get past your self-consciousness and make that gesture, with whatever small thing you can do. Even if its $5. Its enough.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Excessiveness Found Irritating to this Mommy!

Today's blog is really a rant. I'm not a big complainer, but there is something sticking in my craw lately.

My husband is in the construction business. We specialize in custom homes. While I don't like to bite off the hand that feeds me - I find the excessiveness in this country a bit nauseating.

Perhaps it's my values. While I appreciate nice things, and consider myself to have good taste - it seems that our country has gotten out of hand with what is "necessary" to have a new home. My mother was a product of the Great Depression, so her appreciation for what we have has probably rubbed off on me some.

My husband and I are accustomed to seeing places and people that have "more" than us. We work in homes in excess of 10,000 square feet on occasion (and that's another thing, who needs all those rooms?) But the past couple of years, while the economy is sliding down a slippery slope - people are still installing complete home theaters in their 8,000 sq. foot basements, crown moulding that is carved and 2 feet high, and futuristic keypads that have buttons for all sections of your home to be lit in the exact path you wish as you enter the garage (or you can push a remote button in your car a block away for this). Hey, I know this is cool. But is this really necessary?

And here's the one that gets me the most. Since I dabble in gourmet and provide recipes for a website (among other culinary adventures), I am in the kitchen every day for at least an hour, actively COOKING. While I agree, everyone should have a nice big kitchen if you can afford it, because that's where everyone loves to be. However, I find that a majority of people with larger homes are spending ridiculous amounts of money on features like sub-zero refrigerators, double ovens that are professional grade, and drawers for spices they've never even heard of. I can count at least five people I know that have kitchens such as these, and three of them specialize in carry-out food and reservations.

I want to know who told these people they needed to have this stuff. These are things that real cooks can use - but then again, real cooks don't need them. Maybe I'm bitter, or a bit envious. But I know one thing for sure.

This afternoon, I'll be putting my Ham & Cheese Souffle Omelet (click here for the recipe) to roast into my still-well-functioning oven from 1989 with a broken door. I'm just happy that it's self-cleaning.

Busy parents: don't forget to stop at the One-Stop-Mommy-Shop for family fun, home inspirations & free recipes!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unexpected Guest? 3 Minutes to a Cleaner House (& Really Clean in 15)!

We all want to be proud of our homes. But it never fails. The one day you have every toy in the house on the floor, kids half-dressed, you didn't put makeup on, dishes are piled to the ceiling, and laundry half-folded on the living room couch-you get the phone call. It's your friend that lives an hour away and hasn't seen you since the 2nd baby was born.

"Hi! I'm in the area, and I'd love to say hi and see the kids. I have a little gift for the baby. Can I stop by? I won't keep you too long..."

You can't say no, it just wouldn't be right. Sure, you could come up with some feeble excuse about how you're just running out. But then another 6 months might go by. Instead, try this:
"Great! I'd love to see you, just give me fifteen minutes to freshen up".

You can do this! I'm going to show you how. I guarantee your house will look and smell REALLY CLEAN in 15 minutes or less, you'll be proud of it - and you won't look like you just did it. I swear! Set a timer and test it yourself. Just make sure you have the following on hand at all times, and if you're wearing a sweater, take it off so you don't break a sweat and look like you ran a marathon before they arrive.

Now, here's what you're going to do. Before you begin, determine a visual path that your guest is most likely to see, and close off any other areas: bedrooms, 2nd bathrooms, garage doors, basement doors. For most of us, the path of vision is the front hall, powder room, kitchen, living room, family room, dining room, and hall stairway. Plan on moving as fast as you can, and set a timer between each task so you don't get sidetracked (and then feel unprepared when your guest arrives). My stove timer works perfectly. IMPORTANT: Do this in the order written! There's a reason for it all.

3 MINUTES - Clear the path's floors & tables
except for the kitchen counter (we'll do that in the next step). Formerly in the home design business, I learned that a clean floor and cleared tables gives the illusion of a cleaner house, even if it's not. That's why we're doing this first. Take your collapsible basket, and run through the rooms in your determined path; picking up EVERYTHING you see on floors & tables. Toys, books, dirty socks, papers, doggy bones, bath towels, magazines, remote controls, whatever. Do this as fast as you can.

Put the filled basket in the attached garage, a bedroom closet, or a basement (whatever's closest and not likely to be seen). If there's clean laundry on the furniture or tables, use your second basket for this (don't mix chewed up doggy bones and dirty socks from the floor with your clean clothes).

4 MINUTES - Swiffer the path with a dry orange scented cloth, using the vacuum feature at the same time (or if you have carpet - vacuum, using some orange carpet-fresh product). While you're Swiffering, carry a damp cotton rag with you to spot clean any really obnoxious dirt spots. This will accomplish two things: pick up debris, pet hair or dust, and it will make the house smell better, quickly. Stay on task and stick to the 4 minutes - you not halfway done yet.

6 MINUTES - Kitchen attack:
  • Empty your kitchen garbage and put a new liner in it. If the house smells bad, that's all your guest will notice - no matter how clean the floors are. To save time, stick the garbage bag in the garage for now (or just outside the back door). If you have a cat litter, you'd better do that, too - but move quickly, I didn't include it in the timing (add 1 minute).
  • Empty sinks & counters. Throw every visible dish into one of the following: dishwasher, oven, or dryer. DO NOT spend time organizing right now. This is a trick I learned from a realtor (there is nothing more depressing than a kitchen full of dirty dishes)! Just don't forget they're in there when you go to preheat the oven next time. Quickly spray your kitchen sink with bleach cleaner (like Lysol with bleach). Don't clean it, just let the spray sit on there and do its work a bit while you move on. Many of us have white or light-colored sinks- this stuff will knock out the stains in three minutes.
  • Everything else into one container (preferably a decorative basket) at the furthest end of the counter, or hidden in a cabinet or closet. Exeption: food. Just stick the food in the fridge or a nearby cabinet (not the cabinet with glasses, in case you need to offer a drink). Otherwise, it includes phone chargers, bills, clean dishes, snack boxes, pens, sunglasses, calculators, etc. I keep a large basket on one end of the counter to put everything for this occasion. The trick is to keep it as empty as possible at other times so it doesn't build up!
  • Wipe down the counters, stove, faucet and kitchen table with disinfectant wipes. Then go back and rinse out your sink so it doesn't smell like bleach when your guest arrives. It will be clean enough by now.
You're almost done! The worst is behind you. Now, put the Swiffer away and grab your windex, wipes, and paper towels:

2 MINUTES - Bathroom Swipe.

  • Start with the toilet. Use your disinfectant wipes and do the rim, the bottom of the basin, the underside of the seat, and the back behind the seat. Then use your wipes to do a quick clean just around the floor of the toilet, and along the perimeter of anywhere you see hair (how many times have you sat on someone else's pot and examined the hair and dust in the corners across from you)?
  • Spray bleach cleaner along the top of the bowl of the toilet if it's particulary yucky (didn't add this into the time, so it'll take another 30 secs). Let it do its work for a few minutes while you finish the rest of the bath. If your kids' potty is in there, you might want to temporarily move it to the other bathroom if you think it's smelling (one less thing to clean right now).
  • Using your windex and paper towels, clean the mirror above the sink (splatters), the faucet (a shiny faucet always looks like the cleaning lady's been there) and the counter or sink rim.
  • Take the little trash can out on your way and dump it into the one in the kitchen (less likely to be smelly and you won't waste time walking all the way to the garage). Bring the windex and paper towels out with you too. Oh, and if you used the bleach cleaner, flush it now so it doesn't smell strong like bleach for your guest.

YOU'RE DONE! Your house is officially "CLEAN". Now, as long as the doorbell hasn't rung, here's some finishing touches:
  • Put all the cleaning stuff away, quickly.
  • Brush your hair, and either put it neatly in a pony, or stick a fun mommy-cap on.
  • Put on lipstick, mascara, and brush your face with bronzer. Even if you don't wear makeup, this bronzer is one thing that will always make you look great and one jar will last you a year (I'm not kidding, I've been using it for years)! Original Indian Earth Makeup Powder - 5 Gram Jar

If you still have time left:

Straighten pillows. Light a smelly candle. Place a silk arrangement on the kitchen table - I like this one: Foglia Bouquet Red - Roses with Green Hydrangea Blossoms
Replace your powder room and kitchen towels with fresh ones. Brew a pot of coffee. Reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate and freshen your breath at the same time (good antioxidants and still a treat). You deserve it! These look cool out on a candy dish for your guests, too:

Look around, and smile. You surely must feel better with a clean house. The best side effect of this last-minute "cleaning": after your guests leave, you'll still be feeling good about how the house looks great. So when you go to retrieve the hidden basket and the dishes out of the oven - you'll be motivated to put everything in it's proper place. The last thing you'll want to do is put the clutter back!

And P.S. : for all my friends reading this, you'd better not be peeking in my oven when I'm not looking :) !

Friday, February 15, 2008


Hey Moms & Dads, if you haven't checked out this new squidoo lens, click here & take a look:

This is a great reference to readily available red wines for everyday drinking & eating - and if you have a wine habit, you know it can be an expensive one. The author (me)! will be updating this periodically as new wines become available and as the palate experiments. This will not just be me and my opinion, but the opinion of my husband and friends as well - several tastes are better than one! Anyone wanting to share their picks of favorite wines under 9? Add them to the lens! We're always looking for new ones. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Don't forget to hit for a great recipe to make with your glass of wine!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Months, even years of interrupted sleepless nights - cause us to do things we never would have done before our children arrived. Here are a few of my confessions - can you relate? I'd like to hear about yours! Take the poll at the right sidebar, or shoot me some blog comments below!

1. Your child's sleeplessness, on more than one occasion, has qualified as a symptom requiring Benadryl.

2. You don't remember the skin color of your legs underneath all the hair.

3. You've brought your kids out in public with the same clothes on they wore the night or the day before.

4. You're latest hairdo is a ponytail and a baseball cap - and you're convinced this is perfectly chic.

5. You've played "possum" (pretended to be asleep) more than once when your hubby attempted advances on you in bed at night.

BUSY MOMS, I can help you get it together with easy recipes, quick solutions for the household stuff, and easy, fun activities to do with your kids - visit the ONE-STOP-MOMMY-SHOP - it's totally free.