2014 - The Year of Changes...

Well.................long time no see..........
Like I promised, I am going to try SUPER hard to write more this year because so many of you have told me how you want me to keep writing. And, as my wonderful aunt told me, I need to write for ME, not for anyone else, and so I thought about that for awhile and decided I really do enjoy writing these blog posts, its just time consuming and sometimes I would rather watch Numb3rs or paint and sometimes I just have to clean or make dinner or wash dishes. You know how much I wash dishes? I feel like with two people, there wouldn't be that many dishes, but we have TONS!
As far as what to expect this coming year from me.. eh, I don't know. I'll for sure finish up my Ukarumpa tours, and follow with a Yemli tour, and hopefully teach you some more Tok Pisin and Malei. Also, we took a FABULOUS trip to Peru and I will definitely tell you more about that. If you saw the pictures on Facebook, don't worry, there will be more!

I'll also keep you updated with my cooking experiments, triumphs, and failures, and of course, whatever new thing I am pouring myself into at the time being.
One of my biggest endeavors for 2014 is to go completely green/homemade/clean in as many household products as I can - for example, using vinegar and water as a window cleaner rather than Windex, and baking soda and vinegar as a toilet bowl cleaner rather than the harsh cleaners you buy. I have a list of 52 substitutions for everything from soap to house cleaners to makeup and more. Each week, I will make and use whatever new substitution I have for that week, and continue to use all the past ones from the weeks before. So this week is laundry detergent. I'm going pretty simple, using washing soda, borax, and liquid castile soap. For now, I'm using a store bough castile soap, but in two weeks, I'll be making my own. That will be interesting..
Some of the other things I have on my list are deodorant, body scrub, perfume, mascara, wood polish, and bees wax candles.
I also have started the BeachBody workout Insanity. Yep - its pretty insane. I'm on Day 7 today and just finished my workout. After only a week of working out every day (besides yesterday which was my day off) I can already tell how much more in shape i am. I am not completely sure I'm seeing the results, but I can feel them in just how much longer I can keep going and how i can keep up with the insane people in the video. The first day I did the workout, the warm up was enough to make me want to quit, but I'm not!

I also am intent upon being more organized this year, and keeping the house cleaner and a healthier environment. I was reading a couple weeks ago about how all the terrible bacteria and mold and other bad stuff attaches to the dust sitting all over in our house and that by  breathing that in every day, you can actually just get sick because of that! I always thought dusting was just for visual purposes, but nope! It has a reason! So, I have a weekly cleaning schedule I am KEEPING to!
I also am continuing to plan all our meals ahead - that saves money but also helps me be able to prepare in advance for each meal. To help me keep all that and the fifty million other things organized, I made myself a house management binder.

I put a lot of time into the layout and information I wanted to put into my binder. I ended up doing a notes page right at the front so i can jot down notes to myself or to Michael if I need to tell him something. Then I have a "Dates to Remember" page that I downloaded from here. Then I made a whole calender for 2014 so I can easily keep track of appointments and such.

Then I have a day calendar and a to do list, all downloaded from that same website. Next, I have my "Cleaning House" section that I based off of the checklist here. I LOVE this list and it really helps me stay on top of my daily cleaning.

 I followed that with my monthly menu planner and then more in depth weekly menu and food prep planner. I also have a shopping list beside it so I can write down grocery items as I need them.

One of the ways I am going to try and save money and reduce waste is to cook with ramekins. I went to our local thrift store and found LOADS of ramekins of all different sizes. I ended up getting about 6 sets for under 20 dollars. Many of them looked brand new, too.
I will be cooking in the ramekins, but also cooking in my normal pots and pans and then transferring to the ramekins. In this way, I can visualize three servings - one for Michael, one for me, and one for his lunch the next day. In that way, we won't end up with leftovers or at least very few. I thought a lot about how I could make sure we both were eating enough if what the ramekin held wasn't enough to fill us up - so each night I'm going to serve the main entree in the ramekin, but we'll also have a salad and some form of vegetable or fruit. If we're still hungry after that, its not hard to make extra veggies or fruit.
My first attempt at the ramekin dinner was on Tuesday night. I made wild rice which I boiled in chicken broth, and served it with garlic cheddar chicken which is SUPER delicious! You can find the recipe here. It's so easy and Michael LOVES it - which makes me love it even more! Its not the healthiest, but it works. I also served it with a fresh salad and made my own raspberry soda. I used carbonated water and squished a few thawed raspberries from the freezer through a strainer and added a couple drops of stevia extract.

 So delicious and so easy! It made for a great, mostly healthy meal.

 Ok - back to my binder.

Then I just have a huge section of recipes. I put my main recipes for gluten free bread and granola that I use all the time in front, and I followed those with recipes for green cleaning and makeup substitutes.
I thought a lot about what I would use to write with in the binder - should I use a pen or pencil and reprint everything each month or use lined paper and write everything out or page protectors and dry erase markers? The problem with dry erase is that if I close the binder, all my writing could get erased, so I decided to go with wet erase markers. I LOOOVE them and am so happy I decided to use them rather than anything else. I put everything in a plastic page protector, and so I can write directly on the page through the plastic. When the week is finished, I just wet a paper towel and clean it all off. SO easy!

Another thing I'm going to work on this year is my long list of crafts. There are so many painting ideas I have shoved into my brain and I never give myself time to just paint and do crafty stuff. So, in addition to useful things, like crocheted dish scrubbers and re-useable unpaper towels, (I got the idea from this blog and directions from here) I also want to spend more time in my art room painting and following through with the ideas swirling around in my head.
To start the year off with a bang, I made Christmas ornaments out of my wedding bouquet. I decided that just sitting in the basement in a paper bag was so sad and boring that I had to do something! I originally got the idea from a friend on Facebook. Anyways - I absolutely LOVE how they turned out, and now every year, we can decorate our Christmas tree and house with my wedding flowers and remember that special day. 

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, I am still working with my adorable nanny families! Unfortunately, I had to make a tough decision and step away from working with Smiles. Working full time meant not keeping the house clean and organized and getting stressed out and maybe triggering some lymes disease flare ups or even malaria flare ups - so I had to make a super tough decision, but I know it was the right one. I'll be working with Smiles until Mama can find a new nanny to take my place.
As far as the four musketeers (Spidey, Minnie, Duckie, and Caveman) - well, they are still as crazy as ever, but now instead of just the three, there's four. Definitely a new challenge, but one I am SO excited to take!
As far as what else this new year will bring - only God knows, but I am excited to jump on His roller coaster with my husband leading the way and see where He brings us!