And the Winner is…..

…Grammy Ruth!!

Congratulations!!

Ruth — please choose your favorite of the three books pictured here…and it will be on its way to you shortly.

To all the participants: you are all winners regardless if you’re getting a book out of the deal or not! Doesn’t it feel great to have the house just a little bit cleaner?? Hooray!

Now bring on those Christmas decorations!!

Final Post Before I Draw a Winner!

All weekend, despite being very, very sick himself, Jay has done the dishes, picked up the toys, run loads of laundry, carried children around, etc etc in an effort to make certain I don’t injure my back any further. He’s also played nursemaid to me: bugging me about my Ibuprofen dosages, taking issue with my poor posture a thousand times a day, and applying heating pads/icy hot wraps as needed to help me. Very sweet.

As if that weren’t enough, he also took it upon himself to continue my cleanup efforts – what a guy!. Toward that end he tackled four horrific junk drawers in the kitchen, my messy desk, and the top of his own dresser (which was also not looking so pretty).  He might have spent some time ribbing me about all the long-lost household goods he discovered on these little adventures. And we might have thrown away about 80 pounds of trash after he culled through everything.  But either way, it’s progress, don’t you agree?

I don’t have before pictures of everything to show you, but the desk looked like this:

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and afterward:

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The drawers all resembled this:

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And after some careful attention from Jay and his young assistant,

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they merely store phone books and office supplies once more, and look a whole lot like this:

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So, many, many thanks, Jay for entering my Cleanup Contest.

Readers, for some reason, he doesn’t feel a need to be entered into the drawing for an organizational book of his choice.  Ah well, all the better chance for one of you to win!

Remember…….There’s only one day left!! I will randomly draw a winner at 8pm CST, tomorrow.  Get those cleanups done, and leave me a comment so I can put your name in the hat!

Nana’s Pot Roast

As soon as I returned home after giving birth to Abigail, my mother arrived in town to stay with us for a few days. She was a great help and comfort to us: she cooked, cleaned, did whatever needed doing for us two sleep-deprived new parents — one of whom (you’ll have to guess which) was suffering from the agony of a broken tailbone — who were dealing with a tongue-tied, jaundiced baby, that had serious challenges learning to nurse. Yes, it was a glorious time! (Actually it was wonderful in so many ways, and yet, like many things that enrich our feeble existence, it was challenging too!).

One of the meals I remember Mom cooking for us was her delicious pot roast. Today I put the same pot roast into my crock pot, to hopefully be ready for supper tonight after we return from two basketball games. I’d like to share her recipe with you here – the secret ingredient according to Jay is that horseradish. I think next time I cook this I will add double the amount called for here. What do you think, Mom?? Please chime in if I’ve omitted anything important!

Pot Roast

1 4-5 lb roast, either chuck or rump (I used the rump since it was the same price as chuck)

5-ish small-medium sized potatoes, washed, cut into large chunks

1-ish cup of baby carrots

1 large onion, cut into large chunks

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

2 Tbs oil

1 5.5oz jar refrigerated horseradish (You can use more, it gives a subtle flavor in this amount)

1-ish cup red wine

salt/pepper to taste

parsley or other spices to taste

Heat oil in skillet large enough to hold just the meat.

Rub that roast with about half the jar of horseradish, salt and pepper to taste. Brown roast in oil, till crusty and browned on the edges. While it browns, prepare your vegetables.

In bottom of large crockpot, place carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic.

Remove roast from pan, cut into smaller pieces if needed in order to fit into crockpot. Place roast atop vegetables.

Pour cup of wine over all. Rub remainder of horseradish atop meat, add salt, pepper or any other spices ( I like parsley) to taste.

Cook in crock on high for at least two hours, reduce heat to low and cook up to 8 hours more. If you like, serve meat and vegetables with juices.

I prefer to add some flour and Kitchen Bouquet into your crockpot or a saucepan, and whisk the juices into a lovely gravy.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine and a fresh salad!

Little Glitch

Well, readers, I had it all planned for you – my latest cleaning conquest to encourage you in your own Cleanout efforts. My “before” pictures were done, and I had an entry written in my head more or less. And then…my back went out. (Again, not that you need to know.) The truth is, I’ve been having pretty chronic lower back pain on and off for several weeks now, but it would appear that my cleaning frenzy has done nothing to help matters; if anything I am worse. Absolutely shocking, I know.

Given my current state – inability to bend down, lean over, or do pretty much anything a SAHM worth her salt should be able to do, it’s been less than a productive day. All I can do is grunt loudly and gesture wildly at objects for the children to pick up and put away. This didn’t seem a good system use while executing on a major cleanup project, so I am truly sorry to say….

I got nothin’ for ya. So sorry, faithful readers.

However, I will share with you that after Jonathan’s basketball practice, the kids and I managed a drive-by ogling at George and Laura’s new digs. It will probably surprise all of you to learn they did not choose our lovely ‘hood as their future residence – too bad, I’d have brought over my famous bundt cake to welcome them and everything.

Well, I truly hope that some of you have accomplished more in your homes than I did in my own today. Remember, I will be drawing a winner (completely at random) on Monday. So finish up those cleanouts, and leave me a comment so you have a chance at that giveaway!!

And Now For Something a Little Different…

As of today we’re halfway through our Cleanup Challenge, so I wanted to take a little break from the messy house pictures and share some more solid food for thought with you instead.

I was reading my friend Kristi’s blog awhile back and was quite struck by a post she wrote on Expectations. I loved what she had to say, and I think her words will likely ring home with more people than just me.  Kristi has graciously agreed to my posting her thoughts here, but when you have a chance I highly recommend a stop over at Gently Led to enjoy some of her other musings.

A confession: when people don’t meet my expectations, I tend to blame them, not my own expectations. I think they could do better than this, if only they tried harder, or if they were more spiritual. (Condemning, aren’t I?) Not that I explicitly think this, but it seems to be my underlying belief. Why else would I be frustrated at them for not doing or being what I want them to do or be?

Probably the only person I don’t usually have unreasonable — i.e. often unmet — expectations of is my son. He is 22 months old. I expect a toddler to sometimes cry, have a low level of frustration tolerance, and to demand a lot of attention. And most of the time, he is lots of fun. Why, I wonder, is it so easy for me to love him and not condemn him, and so hard with other people?

Jesus’ response to the poor widow giving money at the temple offering box shows me the problem with my expectations. After “many rich people put in large sums,” the widow gave “two small copper coins, which make a penny” (Mark 12:41, 42). Jesus said to his disciples, “this woman has put in more than all these who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v. 43, 44).

How convicting. Jesus knows what spiritual and emotional riches other people have; I don’t. Where I see — and privately condemn — someone’s meager contribution, Jesus sees a heartfelt self-sacrifice.

I’ve always thought it sounded trite and unsatisfying when someone says about people who let them down, “Well, they did the best they could.” Perhaps this is just another way of saying that — but lately I’ve found it helpful, when I’m disappointed with someone’s behavior, to think, “Maybe this is their two cents.” 

~Kristi, of Gently Led, September, 2008

As we are in the midst of the holidays, when we all likely be getting together with family and friends to celebrate in one form or another, our expectations of those we love can come to the forefront of interactions. Sometimes these expectations can be good and right, but oftentimes I think we are the most critical of those who are closest to us, and hold expectations of them that are neither charitable nor healthy. I have seen firsthand the damage and hurt caused by unfair expectations. Not surprisingly, I have been the one harboring the unfair expectations more often than I’d like to admit.

I appreciate Kristi’s reminder to me and all of us about viewing others through Christ’s eyes. If we were to keep this at the forefront of our interactions with family and friends this holiday, how much more grace-filled our Christmas would be! Thanks Kristi, for sharing your two cents.

Day 3 of the Christmas Cleanup Challenge

Ok, I admit it: after several days of a cleaning frenzy (on top of all other regularly scheduled programming around here, plus a sleepless night with a croupy three year-old thrown in for fun!), I am TIRED! But….also encouraged. I am learning a lot as I cull through, purge, and put back together various areas in our home.  Thanks for your comments, those of you who’ve popped in to say hello, I look forward to seeing the progress you are making in your own homes this week!!

Since I didn’t have as much energy or time today to devote to massive cleaning out, I limited myself to fixing up the games cabinet. We have a great set of built-ins in our living room, the whole bottom of which are shelves that are perfectly sized for games and puzzles. This morning the area looked like this:

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You can’t see minute details in the photo, but believe me when I tell you that behind that mess of boxes was a little army of lost game pieces, dice, cards, and puzzle pieces — all of them crying out at once, to be put back in their proper box!

Well, after some hard work with a couple of my Junior Cleanup Trainees we managed this:

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A definite improvement, yes?? Games closets will always get a little messy with tiny kids in the house, but here’s hoping we can maintain order behind these doors just a little better from here on out!

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Goodnight, Everyone!

Day 2 of the Christmas Cleanup Challenge

Ok, all you rabid blog fans out there, just waiting for some sign of today’s cleanup conquest…I’m back!

First, I want to share a small clean out I did, which netted a lot of paper for the recycling bin out back, in addition to helping our front living area/school room function better.

If you are like me, your stack of magazines and catalogs can quickly grow to mammoth proportions, even if you are picky about what you keep. So, after culling through a TON of these, I moved the periodicals into a smaller basket:

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and voila! I had a wonderfully large basket all freed up. Into it went our many, many library books, and they fit beautifully, with room to spare. Now isn’t that nice?? Some folks prefer to bookend their sofa with tables to hold lamps, a drink, etc; we just throw baskets on the floor everywhere.

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One thing which will help you in your house if you use the library a ton: have a rule that when a book is finished, or not in use, or whatever, that its natural home is in the library basket. Or on the library shelf, whatever you have in your house that works best for you. By keeping the library book “home” in a common area, you leave it available to all the members of the family. Not only does this encourage constant use of the books, since it serves as a visual reminder. But having our basket system has also saved me many a headache by preventing those frantic searches for lost library books!!

Ok, now to get onto the big stuff. Today I tackled a dark and forboding place in our home: the closet of Abigail.  It was so cramped and crowded in there folks, that I got a little freaked out just contemplating cleaning it out – I think I may have minor claustrophobia issues.

Now, I must disclaim: it is NOT really Abigail’s fault that it is in such a state. Ok, it’s partly her fault, but more mine. Since she has her own room, and a fairly sizeable (for this house) closet all to herself, we have used it for storage of more than just her things. All my sewing paraphernalia as well as gift wrapping supplies need to fit in here, for instance.  And lately, it’s just been a good place to toss anything for which we had no other storage spot. So, here is what the closet looked like yesterday (those of you who are squeamish may need to avert your eyes):

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And now today, after a LOT of hard work…it’s not going to win any awards on Rate My Space, but it looks SO much better.  For one thing, my little girl can actually walk inside it now without fear of being lost in there!!

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And pore through her clothes to make very important wardrobe decisions!!

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Even give a little karaoke concert, if she has a mind to!

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As part of this cleanup effort, I revamped my system for storing wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue, etc. Down here is my wonderful Sams’ find today:

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Rubbermaid containers to hold gift wrap supplies: rolls sit at the bottom, ribbon and tissue lie in trays which are inset a bit higher, perfect!! Everything fit beautifully…..well, everything except my stash of gift bags, which I’d love some advice on.

Do any of you have a nice, neat way of organizing your gift bags? What do you keep them in? Please share!! I threw away a BUNCH of sad-looking, rather outdated ones today, but still have a pretty healthy collection I need to store!

Day 1 of the Christmas Cleanup Challenge

I promised I’d check in with all of you about my own progress on the great Christmas Cleanup. After I cleaned out the fridge yesterday, I took a little time to scour the insides of our rather offensive-smelling trashcan, incidentally the very same one that Walker and Missy own, which obviously makes me totally cool!

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Aside: if you haven’t ever read Missy’s blog, head on over there and have yourself some fun. I always love seeing what she has to say. While I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting her in person, her husband Walker was a college friend of mine and Pete’s at Texas A&M, her brother-in-law a roommate of my youngest brother’s a few years later, her Grandma-in-law a favorite fellow church member of Jay’s while he was a student at Rice. So many connections over so many years, it’s practically like we’re related, even though we’ve never met. Well, sort of.

Anyhoo….

Yes, the trashcan is now very, very clean and fresh-smelling. Almost clean enough to eat out of. But we won’t try that.

Then today, I spent some time tackling my tiniest set of junk drawers, the three atop my dresser. Here is how they looked before:

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I know, I know, SHAMEFUL mess!!  And after:

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Please note I did not merely stack the mess somewhere else. Everything inside was either thrown out, or put away in a proper place, and the remains are organized as best as this pathetic organizer could. If the drawers look messy to you, well, please just withhold comments.

The far left drawer holds only the 4 ID bracelets my babies wore in the hospital plus a lock of hair from each one’s first haircut. Middle drawer is full (but not stuffed!) with all those extra buttons and bits of thread/wool we get for clothing when we purchase it. Do any of my wise readers have a strict way of organizing those button and thready-things?? Let me know!!

When it was all said and done, I even had one drawer on the far right which is empty, how ’bout that? Extra space, whoopieeeeeee!

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Alright Friends, well that’s all I’ve got for you today. Check in tomorrow for another cleanup of some random area at House of Horne. I look forward to seeing what messes my readers might be tackling at their own homes as they prepare for the holidays!

Christmas Cleanup Challenge + GIVEAWAY!!

Upon arriving home today from Thanksgiving festivities in Austin, I opened my fridge and was overcome by how unbelievably disgusting it was inside. You know what I’m talking about – leftovers that have been leftover for so long we aren’t sure we even want to open the container they are in, let alone ponder eating the contents. Maple syrup, mustard, ketchup, and other assorted condiments which have literally become glued to the door shelves, because they haven’t been wiped down in so very long. Crisper drawers full of odd bits of vegetation: leaves of parsley, bits of carrot, a soft apple or two. And shelves, drawers, walls, every surface inside in just a total mess, needing a serious wipe-down and shining.

We’ve all been there. Or at least that is what I am telling myself in order to feel better about my utter neglect of the fridge the past couple months. Please humor me if your fridge is always clean and sparkling with nary a spill or scrap of outdated food inside.

Well, during the long afternoon that it took me to cull through, clean out, empty, remove and wash every shelf and drawer in addition to scouring every square inch of the inside of my sad fridge before reloading it, I had lots of time to think about things. Not surprisingly, my mind turned to other spots in my home which I am none too proud of; places that need a touch of organization, cleanup, attention.  A couple of my closets are looking pretty sad, I have so many “junk” drawers, I feel shameful admitting the number to anyone, and my “pantry” (more like a large cabinet) is a wreck.  Now, I do not think it is wise to dwell too much on our perceived failings and thereby travel down a dangerous path of self-loathing and discontentment. But perhaps if one can keep it to contemplating certain short-comings in an effort to do things a little better, it is not time poorly spent.

For me, after thinking through several significant messes that I really need to attend to, it seems appropriate to take time before I get those Christmas decorations up, to tackle some real problem spots in our home. So, in the spirit of taking dominion (this is a favorite phrase of Jay’s!) of some areas around here that need some serious attention, I thought I’d try to make it fun, and see how many of my faithful readers would care to join me in a little pre-Christmas de-cluttering and cleanup – maybe, just maybe some of you have some places in your house that are wanting your attention too!

Sooooooooooooo…….If you care to get a handle on some problem areas of your own, please join me this week in my very first pre-Christmas Cleanup Challenge! I am even going to sweeten the deal by offering a giveaway to one of the lucky participants – call it an early Christmas present from me.

Here are the rules for the Giveaway:

1.  If you have some spots in your own home that need some cleaning up, then for heaven’s sake, stop reading blogs (lol!) and get to it!! Clear out, clean up, organize, make it shine!! Take pictures of your space both before and after if you can, to help you see just how much progress you have made!

2.  Then leave me a comment with either a link to your own blog entry chronicling your cleanup conquest, or if you don’t have a site of your own, just leave a note about your particular area you spent time making pretty again. You can comment once for every cleanup, and the more comments you leave, the more entries you put into the contest.

3.   I will randomly draw one winner next Monday, December 8th.  The winner will receive ONE of these books, their choice:

Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

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12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom, by Lane P. Jordan

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Organizing Plain and Simple, by Donna Smallin

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Until that time, to cheer you on, I plan to post pics and accounts of my efforts here at House of Horne to tame the mess. I hope some of you will join in with me! Here is my “after” photo of the fridge – I didn’t think to take a before picture. It may not be the newest refrigerator – check out the blue duct tape holding the meat ‘n’ cheese drawer together! – but at least now it’s a whole heck of a lot cleaner!

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Updated to add:

Contest participants so far:

Missy from “It’s Almost Naptime”

Jamison from “The Bloggertons”

Grammy Ruth

Kristi from “Gently Led”

Peggy from “The Hutchinson House”

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