Monday, April 05, 2010

More Obvious Tips for Not-Very-Good Homemakers

This is part two in my series of obvious tips. The tips are, as you will see, so obvious that they are not worth mentioning to average homemakers. But for the not-very-good homemakers such as myself--Revolutionary! Please see the comment section of part one where there are some really wonderful suggestions. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Baby carrots make any meal healthier.
  • Wipes. Every room. Every time.
  • Throw away clutter--I do this with my kids' toys and it feels good.
  • Hire a cleaning lady. Hello? This is the mother of all obvious tips. Yes. Yes. And yes. I have a cleaning lady and I am not rich. In fact, I've had one off and on since we first bought a house 10 years ago. You may not choose to spend your money this way but I do. It helps me, my house, my kids, and my marriage immeasurably. PS There's still a lot to do and kids can still learn to work.
I think the comment section may turn out to be the most valuable part of these posts. And the most validating part of it is Twitter where people are telling me they made pigs in a blanket and it made them happy. Am I the opposite of Martha Stewart? Do I really want this to be my legacy. . . . Have you tasted a pig in a blanket? Of course I want this to be my legacy! So here are some more tips. I hope they are helpful. And if you are a very good homemaker, don't patronize me.
  • Never make side dishes. I never make more than one thing for dinner--it's true. I don't make side dishes. I make only one-pot meals like soups, pasta, chicken and bean-type things or stuff that goes with rice. I'm not saying it's the best way to live but it is certainly a way to live. I do have two recipes for side dishes in case you ever have to take one to a dinner. (See below.)
  • A new thing I have started doing is not separating my kids' clothes when I do their laundry. It saves a lot of time and hassle. Nothing bad happens. Try it.
  • Don't always sign up for PTA or room mother. You don't have to. No one knows and no one cares. There can only be one room mother per class. It doesn't have to be you. I help out in a significant way every other year or so in each of my kids' classes or schools. I have 4 kids--you do the math. I'm not known as a superstar around the school but I don't care. It's enough. And when I was doing more and felt like I had to help with every treat and party in all their classes it just made me mad and vengeful. I can't live like that.
  • If you do get caught in an awkward situation where you feel like one of those jerky/judgy moms is giving you a hard time be vague and make it sound like you're doing something else in a different grade or a different school that conflicts with whatever she's giving you a hard time about. She won't call you on it.
Sample Conversation: Jerky/Judgy: So what are you taking to the ___ party in ____'s class today?
You: I haven't had time to think about it yet! (You could stop here. Or keep going.) The book fair at [Jr. High, pre school, a nearby charter school, etc] has been going all week.

(This is probably true. There is always a book fair going on somewhere. And you aren't lying and saying that you are actually working at the book fair. It could be--as it is in my case--that the mere existence of a book fair somewhere wears you out or precludes you in someway from taking treats to a party. Then ask her what she is taking--that's what she wants to talk about anyway. Then go to the gas station to get a drink while your cleaning lady cleans your house. Yes--I do this and I don't feel lazy or guilty. Remember, I'm a not very good homemaker. Should a paraplegic feel lazy or guilty about using a wheel chair?)

  • Always have eggs, olive oil, and some kind of cheese."Olive oil? Isn't that for fancy dishes?" I don't know. But everything "easy" or "quick" that you see on Food Network starts with it. Get some.
  • In that same vein, don't ask 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6-year-olds what they want to do, eat, have, make, or be. Of course they want to ride the Polar Express, get a new Easter dress, make and decorate sugar cookies, do a gift exchange with all their cousins, sleep in a tent, and have a party. They aren't reasonable and have no idea how much things cost or the toll it takes on you. DO NOT ASK THEM. You're going to need some bargaining chips when your kids can babysit, do dishes, and mow the lawn. Let voicing their opinion be a privilege they earn.
  • Don't forget about music. A not-very-good homemaker easily gets depressed or feels overwhelmed. I actually forgot about music for about 3 years when I started having babies. I'm glad I remembered it because it helps. It really does help cheer me up when I'm down or bored or doing a chore I hate or just sitting there playing with toys with my kids and it's not exactly that fun. Listening to music I like makes anything tolerable and even pleasant.
And here are two recipes for side dishes you can make when someone asks you to bring a vegetable to dinner. Of course, the easiest thing is a green salad. But usually they say "salad" if they mean salad.

Vegetable #1: Mark's Carrots
Steam a bunch of carrots (like 5 pounds?) You can use baby carrots or if you are more competent you can slice whole carrots diagonally with a mandolin. I actually have a mandolin. If you don't know what I'm talking about--DON'T PANIC. Forget I even mentioned the mandolin. If you don't know how to steam just boil them. It will work. Let them sit.

Melt 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter and cook some chopped up ginger (you peel it first) and garlic in the butter on lowish heat. It can't brown. DON'T LET IT BROWN.

Add a cup of brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. This makes a glaze for the carrots so put the carrots in it and stir it around. There. You've made a big batch of carrots with ginger in it so it seems more gourmet than just taking a bag of raw baby carrots (see tip above). It's a passable side dish to take to a dinner at someone's house.

Vegetable #2: Josh's Creamed Corn
Warm up a 20 oz bag of frozen corn in a pot on the stove with a cup of heavy cream for about 5 minutes. Then add 3 T butter and 2 T of flour. Stir it up. Put in a teaspoon each of sugar and salt and 1/2 tsp of Accent. If you don't have Accent it's OK because Accent is MSG--tasty, tasty MSG. If you don't know what Accent or MSG is DON'T PANIC. It doesn't matter. Forget I even mentioned MSG. Pour it into a rectangular casserole dish and top it with Parmesan cheese. Put it under the broiler until it browns. Don't burn it. Voila! Creamed corn that tastes good and can be taken to a dinner without shame.

You might be thinking, "She has a maid and owns a mandolin? Where does she get off acting like a not-very-good homemaker!" Well, I hope you do think I'm better than not-very-good. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm sitting here on my bed unshowered in my pjs at 10:30 am, weekend dishes undone, breakfast for kids unmade, with a bag of garbage on one side and a bag of candy on the other side and a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos on the nightstand. You can think what you want. But mostly, share your obvious tips.


  1. I love you.

    Here's another side dish. Dump carrots, quartered onions, garlic, peeled sweet potatoes and cut squash (not peeled) into a 9x13 pan, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for one hour. Beta-carotene Supreme.

  2. Here's an etiquette question for you (because I've been wondering what you would do in this situation)...

    I was at a book warehouse sale (sort of like a book fair on steroids where I just get to shop!) with my SIL. I ran into my stepdad's ex-wife. I introduced them and then kept going, explaining my relationship with each woman. HOLD ON - what is my relationship with my step father's ex-wife? There shouldn't necessarily be one, right? In this case I think I would have been better off to just stop.

    What would you have done?

  3. Kacy, I think yours is the only blog that can pretty much guarantee an actual LOL every time.

    Thanks. I am not a very good housekeeper so I need all the tips I can get. I just plan all engagements at OTHER people's houses.

  4. Staci, You are right to ask me as I have steps and exes in my family, too. Here's what I would do: Look away before they make eye contact and pretend I don't see them. It's always the right thing to do.

  5. I do the wipes thing. My question - do you spend the day before your housekeeper comes cleaning up clutter? Because if I had a housekeeper come, she would have a heart attack from the clutter.

  6. Anonymous11:17 AM

    I wish potato chips would work as a bring-along vegetable to any dinner party. Maybe if I brought some baby carrots, too. :)

  7. huge fan of the wipes. once i knelt down to wipe something up off the kitchen floor with a clorox wipe, and then i thought "ah, what the heck" and ended up doing the whole floor with wipes.

  8. Here is one I have used:
    Leave the vacuum out. Then, when someone comes over unannounced, put your hand on the vacuum while you are talking. It looks like "I was cleaning when you came over unannounced! Because I am always cleaning!"

  9. I want to be you when I grow up!
    You can make mini pigs in a blanket, they work for an appetizer or a side dish! (hot dogs cut in fourths, crescent rolls cut in half). Nothing is more versatile!
    Uh, can I have the "go the the gas station and get a drink" quote done in vinyl for my wall? Just wanna make sure you aren't copyrighting it or anything! :)

  10. Wait!
    You do the laundry for your kids?
    I think that qualifies to throw you out of your own club.
    If a child is baptized he/she is accountable for his/her own laundry.

  11. Ha Ha, glad I'm not the only one with exes and steps and even step exes in the family. Avoiding eye contact is definitely the best policy!

    Ya Len- LOVE the vacuum idea!!!

    My question about the cleaning lady: What exactly do you have her do and how often? I have thought about this and really think that if I had someone come over and just do my floors once a month my life would be so much better!

    Love these tips!

  12. I used to always say I would turn tricks if I couldn't afford a cleaning lady. And then my husband lost his job. Turns out I'd rather just have a dirty house than have sex with strangers. But I did have to think about that one.

    I cannot find a cheap cleaning lady here! Where do you get those housekeepers like in the olden days where they'd clean your house, make dinner and watch the kids id you needed to go out. Because that's pretty much my dream.

  13. I always use baby wipes to clean spills on my carpets, they work better than proper cleaners and are always on hand!

    I lost music for a while when I had babies too, but I rediscovered it and I can now confirm it is actually impossible for me to wash dishes or cook without music on.

    I shall definately be using La Yen's tip!

  14. Kacy, I love the tip about how to deal with jerky/judgy moms. My daughter is only 2 and I'm already having anxiety about dealing with rude moms someday when she's in kindergarten.
    I've been a big fan (but silent) of your blog for a while and I think you are hilarious.

  15. Another super easy side dish recipe. Buy a bag of fresh, already cut up, broccoli. (Costco has this and it is inexpensive) Put broccoli on on a cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil over all of it and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. (We love Santa Maria seasoning)I toss it all around, with my hands, to make sure everything gets some oil and seasoning on them. Roast them in the 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. It is delicious. You can also do this with fresh green beans, baby carrots, and potatoes.

  16. heres a similar side dish like the one above.
    It's called
    'crash potatoes'.
    Find it on the Pioneer Woman website.
    I'd provide a link, but I'm of the Not-Very-Good-Homemaker ilk.

  17. I am so thrilled that our beloved cream corn recipe made your blog. The obvious side benefit of this side dish is that all your friends and/or family will get really fat and then you can judge them, which is always nice.

    Your tips rule. Amy and I want a housekeeper. We just have never bit the bullet. We should do it.

  18. Along the de-clutter vein: when I'm trying, I give/throw away three thing from every room once a month (or more if I'm feeling strong ;) I was surprised how much I have that's unnecessary. Or never gets used. (okay SURPRISED isn't accurate. How about saddened by my tendency to hoard?)
    and I for about a year I've had a cleaning person 1-2/month to save my family, my marriage and my sanity. We budget it in right under FOOD. Seriously.

  19. Here's a tip in the same vein as a housekeeper: if you are feeling overwhelmed with mounds of laundry, pack them up, put them in your car, drive them to a laundry place, and pay to have the laundry washed and folded for you. It's not cheap, but every now and then it's nice to get a little extra laundry help. Love the tips!

  20. I must have read these tips in the womb because I've already got it down. One tip I might add is to not serve vegetables at all with dinner in the name of preparing kids for school. I've seen their "vegetables" - I may as well count Cold Stone as protein.

  21. Along the Hoarders and Vinyl line, here is one Formerly Phread and I came up with to Vinylize over the Mantle:

    "365 days without finding a dead cat carcass."

    It really puts things in perspective.

  22. Just so I don't feel bad about never serving veggies, I ALWAYS have V8 Fusion on hand. Have that as a drink with your dinner and you have a full serving of fruit and veggies!

    Ya know those cans of compressed air to clean your computer? They make great instant dusters on other stuff as well.

  23. Your tips are awesome.

    I'm a huge fan of "buy a salad from the deli and put it in your own adorable bowl before you take it to the party." It has worked so many times for me. Costco saves my "I can't even make a green salad" trash.

    Also, I strip my 20 month old twins down before I feed them every meal. Cuts my laundry by a third! Then I just throw them in the sink or the bath and squirt them off afterwards. Messiest kids on the planet. And I got 2 of them.

    Also, if you have twins... milk it. You can get out of anything by complaining about how difficult your twins are to take places. That's probably why more people are having twins--'cause they don't want to do stuff and twins are a brilliant excuse.

  24. I am going to make those carrots. Yum.
    Also, roasted vegetables is so much easier than I thought. Very few steps and it looks harder than it is. Cut vegetables, drizzle w/ olive oil and sea salt, roast in the oven. Easy.

    By not separating your kids' laundry, does that mean not separate into different colors or not separate by kid?

    I have also employed La Yen's vacuum trick. It's been very handy.

  25. We don't sort socks by child, but you know that. I match them, fold them, and then they all go into a big bin in the mudroom. Kids are responsible for choosing an appropriate-size pair when they get dressed. It doesn't always work, but usually it does.

  26. Mmmm, drink from the gas station....

  27. I tolerate laundry mountain much better since I have lowered my standards. First, the teenagers are in charge of their own laundry. I don't care if they do it or not and I make my eyes do soft focus when I look at them so I can't really tell if their stuff is gross or not. It is their baby.
    For everyone else I have totally stopped folding underwear, socks, and jammies. That was probably the part I hated the most, now I just toss underwear and pjs in the drawers and leave socks in a basket in the family room (I put it in my room if people are coming over). I still feel okay about everything because the clothes are clean and they smell good.

  28. Flamin' Hot Cheetos rock as do beverages from the gas station. Nachos anyone?

  29. My hint: get a cute apron - maybe several cute aprons. A woman in an apron looks competent and official - and efficient.

    Phoebe taught me that "it's all about presentation" which it is. Which is also why I have slavishly followed the old dictum that says, "Set the table - everyone will relax thinking that dinner is on its way."

    It works in our household.

  30. Look, I can't cook and I'm the first to admit that, so my next comment should probably be disqualified or I should find a blogger writing a series on tips for "LOUSY homemakers", but I have always been of the opinion that a big bag of potato chips qualified as a "side dish" . At least that's what I always get assigned to bring to family functions. Hey wait a minute, it's all becoming more clear now......

  31. I can lurk no longer... I laughed so hard today reading this post! Can I still visit your blog if I hate pigs in a blanket? Ugh... the thought makes me shudder. One thing I re-discovered almost 10 years ago was reading a good book. Now I have 4 kids too, so time to sit and read is a luxury, but I get my fix through audiobooks. Can't. Live. Without. Them. Seriously!

  32. You need to share your music mixes with the world, because it's your gift as a mother and as a human being. I have to turn on music when I start making dinner, and crack open a drink, or I'll start crying.

    Your position on side dishes has changed my life.

  33. thank goodness for you and your n.v.g. homemaking validation.

  34. I forget about music far too often. I only remember I HAVE an ipod when I'm once a month.

    One of my friends is a SAHM of four, two of which are in school. She puts the other two in daycare once day/week. It's the day she does all her errands, sets up Dr. appointments, helps at school, or just reads a book. I think it is a fabulous idea, but haven't been able to rationalize it...yet.

    #1 side dish at my house: frozen corn (but MUST be white, yummy kind). Cook it. Add some lemon juice, cayenne, salt, pepper, and butter. Shake it all up . Serve.

  35. I like you Kacy. You're alright.

    Here's my tip for all of us not-so-good-homemakers.

    While gathering dirty laundy off the floor, grab a pair of the girls leggings, or a T-shirt that's not clean enough to wear again, but NOT nasty (ie -the one your husband played basketball in) and dust off your chest of drawers or the picture frames before throwing it into the hamper.

    There you go.
    That's the kind of homemaker I am.

  36. robyn...i TOTALLY dust with dirty-ish clothes! i will now stop feeling bad about it. and kacy, i love that you don't make sides for dinner because my mom never did and i don't either. it's more work and takes up room that should be reserved for dessert....or flaming-hot cheetos.

  37. My contribution tot he no-sides meals for those that feel guilty (sometimes) about the lack of veggies their kids eat: blenderize some squash/broccoli/carrot/random veggie in the house and throw it in your soup/sauce/casserole/meatloaf/whatever. Rarely can it be seen, much less tasted and you feel supremely smart for getting the kids to eat veggies without complaining.

    Loving the tips Kacy.

  38. Anonymous12:49 AM

    This is a comment on your *last* tips post that I was about to leave there but then thought you'd see it sooner here. (I haven't read this one yet. But I will. But probably not until tomorrow because I should go to bed because I'm getting my hair cut in the morning and I need to be alert to make sure the hairdresser doesn't decide to shave my head or something.)
    "There may come a day when you have to take a meal to an old person." LOL! My mom used to make rice pudding for my brother who was the only one of us that liked it. My husband is *always* trying to find quicker ways to make various types of cooked puddings and they never set up right. But he keeps trying.

    I'm trying to think whether I have any good tips. Oh, I know: Make one meal out of a $5 Costco rotisserie chicken, then pick off the remaining meat (yeah, I know, that part's no fun. So leave it on if you're that lazy) and throw the rest in the crock pot overnight for stock. The next day, strain it and add the rest of the meat and some chopped vegetables for chicken soup. Two meals for $5 plus some veggies!

  39. Anonymous1:21 AM

    Okay so I did actually read this and all the comments and my haircut is going to be a disaster but that's okay, because I'll be a better homemaker.

    I *always* forget music unless I am sewing (and then I remember to put on the soundtrack to The Sound of Music which makes me cry). Oh, I also sometimes remember music when I'm doing chores with the kids, and they guilt me into letting them choose the music, and we end up listening to the Trogdor song or Moosebutter or, worst, Ren and Stimpy. (Yes, we have music from Ren and Stimpy. It's part of my mom's legacy.)

    I actually get a lot of mileage out of offering my little ones choices--but I only give two choices, both of them acceptable to me. My 6-year-old is onto me but will still go for the lesser of two evils: for example if she says she wants to watch TV, I'll say, "No, but you can eat lunch or take a nap." She'll yell at me about how she doesn't want to do either, so I'll say I'm choosing for her and it's going to be a nap, and she'll yell that I'm a mean mom but, "FINE, I'll have lunch then." It doesn't sound like a very pleasant exchange when I write it out like that (and I really SHOULD be sleeping rather than leaving self-incriminating comments) but it does usually focus their energy and allow them to feel a *little bit* of autonomy.

  40. Anonymous9:25 AM

    I love you. That's all. Oh yeah and Caillou is retarded.

  41. There IS much to do before the cleaning lady comes. It is still worth it and wonderful. But there are days when I have done NOTHING and she takes care of everything, even clutter. I don't think I could always get away with it, but every now and then she knows I have a crisis. I love her. She comes once a week and cleans, dusts, vacuums, does the bathrooms, and seems to deep clean certain areas according to her own time line. She's my old neighbor and she approached me about cleaning my house when I was moving because she wanted to start a cleaning business.She has about 3 women who work with her and they finish my house in 3 hours. I think every 2 weeks is enough, but you will find that cleaners like coming every week and will sometimes give you a deal if you agree to weekly because your house stays cleaner--it's less work for them. Does that make sense? E-mail me for her number if you are interested and local!

  42. My 12 year old does his own laundry. The rest put their own laundry away. When I say not to sort I mean not to sort by person or color. And I certainly wouldn't sort by person of color. Full integration!

  43. I understand about offering toddlers choices in day to day settings and setting up false dichotomies has helped me win many battles and stave off tantrums. Just don't ask if they want to have a pony or a magician at their birthday party. Or feel bound by some crazy expectation they have about decorating eggs.

  44. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Well yes, Amen to that. (Except somehow I keep letting my kids talk me into custom Halloween costumes, even though I hate sewing costumes. So I guess I do need to hear this preached.)

  45. Wellllllllll.........Sometimes we make exceptions on Halloween. Because Halloween is really important.

  46. "And I certainly wouldn't sort by person of color."

    This blog post and the comments for it made my day.

    La Yen with the vacuum?! That's my favorite trick! Mine is ALWAYS in my entryway.

  47. I've been letting strangers make my meals lately. There doesn't seem to be any sort of time for cooking during softball season so take-out it is. I spend my 'cleaning-lady money' on that.

    Sometimes I'll get ambitious and make quesadillas...but that doesn't really happen anymore either.

  48. Sometimes I'll make kids boxed mac and cheese for dinner and make my own, real dinner after they've gone to bed. I get real food (usually a salad) and they get to eat orange death (with baby carrots.)

    So that old adage of a mom telling her kids that she's not a short-order cook? Don't fix two meals for your kids, fix two meals FOR YOU.

    I, too, dust with the nearest laundry-destined item.

    My husband is fond of paying children one Skittle per household task they perform. Made your bed? One Skittle. All the toys put away? One Skittle. A pack of Skittles is usually cheaper than a cleaning lady for getting clutter picked up.

  49. My husband has been trying for years to get me to make side dishes. He says it's not a complete meal without them and that his MOTHER always did. Yes, he pulled the 'my mom' card.

    I'm telling him other people don't do side dishes either.

  50. I found your blog through design mom and it has been SOOOOO magical reading through these obvious tips!!! I have these friends who seem to do it all and I am always feeling bad or at least secretive about my shortcuts! But I won't anymore! Thanks.

  51. Laughed so hard through this post and all the comments that I ALMOST.WET.MY.PANTS.

    THAT is how awesome you are...

    and THAT is a whole'nother cleaning issue altogether isn't it?...

    p.s. I always thought you had to be rich to have a cleaning person...what does the average cleaning service charge?


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