Apricot and Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

Apricot and Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

 

 

Apricot and Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

I love any recipe that is a twofer.

A twofer is any dish that can be served just after making, and then is also fabulous later on as a LOOP (Left Over On Purpose.)

Let me introduce: Baked Oatmeal.           

The reason I love this recipe is twofer:

  1. It is a warm, nourishing breakfast to have on a Monday morning when the world feels like too much and you just need some comfort food to make the world right again.
  2. It is perfect on a Tuesday morning, straight from the fridge as an “Oatmeal Bar” which I then grab and go as I drive into town for work with my homemade latte.

See? Twofer. (That is, if your crew doesn’t eat the whole pan first. If that’s a possibility, you may want to consider making TWO pans to be assured of oatmeal bars later.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole almonds, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups dried apricots, roughly chopped           

1 cup blueberries

1 1/3 cups whole milk

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar, divided

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, divided (2 tablespoons melted, 2 tablespoons room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

 

Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease a 9 x 9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. 

Fold in the almonds, apricots and blueberries. Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, cream, honey, 1/4 cup brown sugar, egg, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and vanilla to combine. This creates a custard-like mixture that you then pour over the oats.

Cut up the rest of the butter and put that on top, along with the remaining brown sugar.

Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the oatmeal has absorbed the liquid and is golden brown on the surface.

Cool slightly before serving.

 

Let me know if you’ll be trying baked oatmeal, or if you have a favorite twofer recipe in the comments!

 

 

 

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8 Ways to Make Your Cleaning Products Last Longer

8 Ways to Make Your Cleaning Products Last Longer

 

 

Need some simple ways to make your cleaning products last longer? Here are 8 simple ways to stretch your supplies, and cut down necessary trips to the store.

 

Like many of you, I’m looking for ways to leave the house less for errands. Less time spent in grocery stores and warehouses, the better.

 

I’m trying to find ways to make not only my groceries last longer, but everything else in my house. And with us being home more, let’s just say, I’m cleaning a lot more than usual.

 

If you’re shopping less, but cleaning more, you may find yourself running out of all your cleaning products at the same time. So, if you need to make your current stash stretch until the next monthly run to the grocery store, here’s how to make your cleaning supplies last.

 

  1. Measure Your Amounts                   

Many of us have been trained to fill both dispensers in our dishwasher or fill the laundry soap cup to the brim. Now’s the time to evaluate how much detergent you really need. Read the packaging and see how much detergent is recommended for the load you’re washing. Your friend with toddlers may need to use more laundry detergent than your neighbor who is running a load of work-at-home clothes.

 

2.  Mix Your Own Sanitize              

If your cleaning cabinet is running out of products that will sanitize your home, it’s time to turn to your laundry area. Bleach and water, in the right proportions, will do wonders.

 

“Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other germ on the face of the planet,” said Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington Medical Center.

 

To create your own household cleaner, follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines:

Clean the surface with soap and warm, clean water. Rinse the area with clean water. Then sanitize with a mixture of 1 cup bleach to 5 gallons water. Let the area air dry. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to keep the bleach off your hands.

 

 

  1. Spray the Cloth, Not the Surface

Never spray cleanser directly onto the surface you’re cleaning. You’ll save cleaner and money by spraying your glass, wood, and surface cleanser directly on your cloth and then cleaning the intended surface. Many of us subscribe to the myth, the more cleanser, the cleaner it is. But using too much cleanser can actually cause build-up and require extra work to clean the surface. (No wonder we hate cleaning!)

 

    4. Use the Cloth for the Size of the Job

We’ve taken to rationing our disinfecting wipes with one simple trick: tearing them in half. Most of the cleanup jobs I’m doing right now are on the small side: wiping down door handles, disinfecting a sink, wiping down light switches. None of these require a huge cloth to do the job. Now, I tear the wipes in half and stick the leftover wipe back in the container to be used for the next job.

 

     

 

5. Use the Leftovers

We all have them. The cleaner we tried for our bathroom and didn’t love the smell of, but didn’t get rid of either. Now is the time to scour the house for any containers under bathroom sinks, in the laundry area, in the garage, or even in your basement. Where are those half-used bottles of cleaners hiding? Gather everything you have into one place, so you know exactly what you have and what you are running low on.

 

  1. Check the Label                         

Read the label on the all-purpose cleaner; you may just be using it for surface cleaning, but the label tells you that it is also a degreaser, a spot cleaner for fabric, and even a carpet cleaner. It’s time to discover the power you already have sitting in that bottle and all the ways that “multi-purpose” is really true.

 

  1. Use Concentrate as Intended

With so many products being offered as concentrates, make sure that you’re using the proper amount of cleanser, and using it correctly. Do you need to be adding water to the product before using it, or using way less than a non-concentrated product?

 

 

  1. Ask Yourself: Does this Really Need to Be Cleaned?

With most of us not going out as much as we are used to, think about the ways that you could reduce the number of items that need to be cleaned on a daily basis.

 

Do you need to wash that shirt you just wore for 45 minutes for a teleconference call?

 

How about dishes? Assign each member of your family one different colored cup each day so you are only washing one cup, per person, per day. Depending on the size of your family, that could save a half a load of dishes right there.

 

You may not be able to employ all of these tactics, but even implementing one or two can help you get to a place of extending the life of your cleaners, as well as feeling safer during this time of crisis.

 

 

 

We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

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How to Tackle That Summer Decluttering Job

How to Tackle That Summer Decluttering Job

Pool Toys and Sunglasses

Every year when that big yellow bus pulls away for the last time, school children everywhere fly home with that exhilarated feeling of freedom. It’s time to toss away the backpacks and drag out the pool floaties and other hot-weather essentials.

Summer stuff, as I call it. Outdoor grilling, beach trips, and epic water gun wars make for a huge pile in the garage (on top of last year’s cornhole game, sports equipment, and the treadmill you plan to sell).

Or the looming family reunion that sends you up into the attic, digging through boxes to find photos for the slide show you’re in charge of.

And what about all the bins of clothing you stored last year, in hopes that your growing kids (or their younger siblings) could get some wear out of shorts sets and swimsuits.

Any of these projects can make you forget just how far you’ve come, even if your living room is 90% clutter free and you’re tackling that kitchen counter daily as part of your evening routine. But before you get discouraged, we’ve got five tips to help you keep your momentum going on your decluttering journey.

Be okay where you are.

There are a lot of shame-inducing circumstances we find ourselves in surrounding our clutter. Even if we’ve been decluttering for a long time, we can discover an area that’s overrun by stuff we no longer need, or stuff that goes someplace else, like all those boxes in the attic we stuffed there “for now” (years ago).

Or, perhaps during a busy season, we let our routines go and now we’re faced with having to re-conquer areas we had worked so hard to declutter. That one dresser that you let pile up, or the bin of toys in the playroom.

Whatever the reason for your dismay, the worst thing you can do is to allow shame to pile up like clutter. Be gentle with yourself as you assess your situation and accept it. Wasting time and energy beating yourself up takes away from your ability to remedy the situation.

Remember, all you have to do is set a timer for 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in that short time. Set a timer on your phone, and then rinse and repeat the next day, and the next.

Before you know it, that area will be decluttered and feeling like new again.

Set small goals.

Instead of dreading that big job in the garage, tackle one shelf or one corner.  If we wait for a whole day to magically open up on our calendar for garage cleaning, we might see a couple different presidential administrations before it happens.

You want to choose an area that’s small enough to complete in 15 minutes. In some cases, that may be only one box, one drawer, or half of a shelf. If you have more than 15 minutes to work on it, great! Keep setting the timer until you’ve either finished that area or run out of time.

Accomplishing small goals adds up to big goals achieved. Task by task, decluttering a bit at a time will eventually lead to an entire closet or garage completely decluttered.

Remember your “why.”

Why did you want to declutter in the first place? Often there’s an event that makes a cluttery person finally decide to get rid of all their unnecessary stuff. It could be the death of a parent (and the clean-out process of that parent’s house), or it might be an embarrassing visit when someone appraised the dresser with raised eyebrows. (Ahem…Not that any of us here at Clutter Free Academy have experienced any of those things personally, mind you.)

We may have had a unique catalyst for our clutter-free journey, but one big reason for us all to keep at it is this: God created each of us for a unique purpose and getting rid of the clutter frees you up to do what He made you to do.

Celebrate your wins.

Who doesn’t love a good celebration? Looking forward to a fun moment (or three) when you accomplish a decluttering project will help you across the finish line.

If you’ve finished clearing off the game shelf and gotten rid of those Hi-Ho Cherrio and Chutes and Ladders (and your kids are in middle school), play a game your family still enjoys, maybe one you rediscover after reclaiming that space.

Or reward the kids with a trip to the pool for helping you bag up winter clothes that are too small. It doesn’t have to be a big deal—just something to mark the accomplishment.

Keep your 15-minute decluttering routines.

In the summertime, it’s easy to lose our school year routines. But the future you—the one packing next year’s school lunches and buying backpacks filled with #2 pencils will thank you for the 15 minutes you spend each day decluttering.

It may not seem like much, but your efforts add up to a big payoff.

Like Jen Babakhan says in her new book, Detoured, “All the little things you do over and over every day are seen by God. If you could watch your life like a movie on fast-forward, you would see that the dishes, laundry, books, snuggles, tantrums (by you or the children), and even the socks you pull out of the corners of the couch on a much-too-regular basis add up to a life of authenticity and love.”

Giveaway Time!

Thanks to our fabulous friends over at Harvest House, we are able to give a few of you a free copy of Detoured! 5 people will win a copy of Detoured!

And one Grand Prize winner will receive:

      • Detoured
      • Lunch Tote Bag
      • Reusable Ice Packs
      • Outdoor Blanket

Leave a comment below to be entered to win. What is the summer decluttering job on your list?

* Giveaway for US residents only.

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

It’s that time of year again! Summertime—the carefree days of pool splashing, popsicle eating and sleeping in.

At least for the kids.

Not so much for the parents, right?

Usually moms are the ones washing swimming suits, buying popsicles, and constantly wiping up puddles of water and dried grass from the floors. And what about the piles of sidewalk chalk and sandbox toys that have taken the place of backpacks and school books? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom long for that big yellow bus.

Let’s be honest. Getting the kids outside is a good thing, especially if their natural inclination is to sit around playing video games all day while eating junk food. But encouraging outdoor activity is also a lot more work than handing over the game controls.

With a little planning and prep, you can encourage your kids to go outside and create a system that will ultimately save time and energy for mom.

“Mom, I’m Hungry!”

Fueling up those hard-playing days often takes a lot of snacks. To ward off the question, “What can we eat?” you may want to consider labeled snack bins for both the pantry and the refrigerator. That way, mom-approved snacks will be ready for them to grab (and maybe even eat outside) without a lot of hassle.

When unloading groceries from the car, divvy up the snacks into appropriate bins. You may even want to label these according to house rules. (For example, when I was a kid, we were allowed one can of soda per day.) That way, when they’re hungry, they know what they can grab to eat without the same old “I told you — no more potato chips” argument.

Don’t forget to include some healthy treats for the freezer. I love these frozen ice pops, because you can feed an old favorite to your kids without guilt.

“I’m Bored!”

Fun Stations are bins filled with outdoor activities for kids based on their interests. They can easily be stored in the garage or the back patio. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and other outdoor favorites can get messy and take up the entire house, if we let it. But a big bin you can grab and set outside enables them to choose which outdoor activities to indulge in without a lot of in and out.

Other Fun Stations that you may want to separate into their own bins (to contain water or sand messes):

Water toys

Sand toys

Balls

Sports activities

And the best part? All of that outdoor fun goes back into the bin for the night, ready for another sunshiny day.

Pro parent tip: periodically replace or add fun items to keep kids interested in their Fun Station bins throughout the summer.

“I can’t find my…”

During the summertime, when kids live at the swimming pool (or play nonstop with water toys in their friends’ backyards), moms can save their sanity by keeping a day’s supply of water gear in a dedicated swimming bag. You could include toiletries, a swimming suit, cover up, sunscreen, water bottle, swim passes, sunglasses, sun hat and beach towel.

If you take your kids hiking often, you can save a lot of time by having a hiking backpack ready to go whenever you are. Include a water bottle, small first aid kit, binoculars, compass, bug spray, and sunscreen. You may even want to include a book for identifying plants or birds. Summer is a break from school, but you never stop learning, right?

“I spilled glitter! And other things you never want to hear your kids say.”

Have you banned glitter from your home? Does the thought of cleaning up one more glue mess make your heart palpitate? (I can’t be the only one!)

Summer is a great time for crafts outdoors. Create a bin with all the messy stuff that makes you sprout gray hairs whenever you see it out on your dining table. If you have a craft area designated outside, your kids can glue, glitter and paint to their heart’s content and all you need to do is supply a smock to protect their clothes. Or they can make gorgeous jewelry out of all of those maddeningly tiny beads and you won’t have to vacuum them out of the carpet.

It’s a win-win! Kids get to create staggering works of art in the great outdoors and mom has minimal mess.

Messy Marvin Strikes Again

Most of us have encountered the trail of soggy towels, goggles, and swimsuits through the house after a day at the pool. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent searching for missing items to (hopefully) load into the washing machine before they stunk of mold.

You can prevent the trail of tears (er…soggy swimming attire) by creating a hanging place for wet towels and suits. Whether it’s a bona fide clothes line in your back yard or some hooks near the entryway of your house, your kids will have a place to hang all the wet things, and you’ll save yourself time by not having to search through the house to find them.

A bin by the door for flip flops and other wet, messy shoes can prevent a lot of floor cleaning too. As a bonus, everyone will be able to get into the car at the appointed time without having to search for something to put on their feet.

Nature Calls

Spending time outside improves kids’ health and their imaginations. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for them to explore, dream and try new adventures. It gives them a chance to focus on what they were created for and seek their Creator.

In her new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature, Laurie Otsby Kehler encourages us all to seek connections with our Creator and other people. She says, “Why are we so afraid? Why do we settle for reading about, talking about, but not stepping into our own adventures of faith?” Laurie’s new book is perfect for summer reading. And with a little planning and prep for your kids, you’ll have more time to spend turning pages while sitting by the pool. And who knows? You might even have time for a water war or an outdoor finger-painting session with your little adventurers.

Comment below for the opportunity to win! We will be giving away one Grand Prize Package- A copy of This Outside Life, a Sling Backpack, compact binoculars, and a reusable water bottle. Five Runner Ups will win a copy of This Outside Life.

    

 

Kids, their Stuff, and How to Handle all of that Clutter

Kids, their Stuff, and How to Handle all of that Clutter

One of the most frequent questions we get at Clutter Free Academy is “What about my kids’ clutter?”

Conflict over clutter can damage any relationship over time, but it’s especially crucial to navigate this issue carefully with your kids, because what you teach them right now will impact their lifestyles as adults.

As parents, we want to empower our children to have the life skills they need to succeed. Here are four ways we can help our children learn how to live a clutter-free life.

Schedule short decluttering times.

Time-boxing makes decluttering bearable for anyone, young or old. As adults, we’re more likely to focus better if we only have to do it for 15 minutes. Depending on your kids’ age, set a timer and make a game of it. For example, challenge your 5-year-old to clean out one drawer in 5 minutes.

Here at Clutter Free Academy, we don’t expect anyone to spend hours at a time decluttering, much less a child. Decluttering works best in small, manageable sessions.

By the way, we need to differentiate between cleaning and decluttering. Cleaning means putting things away, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting. Decluttering means getting rid of stuff you don’t use, love, or would buy again. Both are important, but in this post, we’re focusing on decluttering.

Teach by example.

It’s been said that in raising kids, more is caught than taught. They tend to learn more from what we do than what we say.

They aren’t born knowing how to declutter. The best way to teach them is to work side-by-side with them to show them the same decluttering systems we’ve learned as adults. Make sure they have the tools they need—3 boxes, 2 bags—so that they have a system in place to declutter. Go through the steps one by one: what to give away, what to throw away, and what to put away. Any trash or recycle goes into the bags.

Have a fun celebration when you empty the contents of the boxes and bags into their rightful places. (It doesn’t have to be a big deal—a sticker, a high five, or a “Yay! You did it!” works great.

Focus on one tiny space at a time.

Trying to declutter a large space is even more overwhelming for kids than it is for adults. Choose the smallest area possible and set the timer. Even better, let them choose which area is the most problematic for them. If they already see the value of decluttering, then you’ve won half the battle.

Divide up the closet into small sections, sort one drawer at a time, go through one toy box at a time. Decluttering is a gradual process. Their space didn’t get cluttery in a day, but a consistent habit of setting a timer to declutter a small space will result in big changes.

Help them maintain their space.

To help keep things organized and tidy, teach your child routines; set times during the day when they put away toys, backpacks, clothes, and anything else out of place. Even five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening will work wonders.

To help with motivation, make a timed game out of it, for fun. They’ll be motivated even more by getting consistent rewards each week for working through their routines. Before they know it, picking up their things becomes a habit.

Lifelong Connections

When it comes to clutter, our relationship with our kids is so important. When we come alongside them and give them the tools and skills they need to create a clutter-free home, we free them up to be who God made them to be.

Parent-child dynamics are already challenging enough, especially between mothers and daughters. Reducing clutter conflict can go a long way to improve the relationship.

In their book, Mended, Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh talk about how to rebuild, restore, and reconcile the connections between mothers and daughters. One of their chapters deals with generational patterns and how hard they are to break. It takes intentionality and determination to change long-term habits and break learned clutter cycles.

                    

Giveaway!

The generous people over at Harvest House want to give some of our readers Daniel’s and McIntosh’s Mended. 5 people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:

-1 Copy of Mended

-Assorted Note Cards

-Distressed Wood Frame

-Fruit Infuser Water Bottle

Enter to win by commenting below. What sorts of rewards motivate your kids the most? Which of these tips do you plan on implementing first?