Friday, July 6, 2012

My Ongoing Quest for a Clean House and Well-Raised Children Continues

In an effort to include my children in the chores-and-housework process, rather than stomp my feet and throw things at them in anger over the house still being trashed and all the myriad electronic devices at my house being in use in spite of the trashed state of things, we had a family meeting last night. After some some silliness, (well, really lots of silliness- thank you teenage sons), some emotional outbursts (thank you 10-y.o. daughter...) and some actual conversation, we came up with what I hope will work for the next 7 weeks until school starts and we have to reassess the whole situation again. If it will be of any inspirational help to you in reorganizing kids' chores, here is what we decided:

Each child has been assigned a "zone"- one or two areas that they are responsible to make sure stay tidy and clean. Everyone shares the kitchen, and keeps their previous kitchen and dish assignments. The Zone Boss has the right, after a single, 5-minute proclamation (i.e. "I will be cleaning the front room in 5 minutes, please come get your stuff) to place any items left out by their siblings (anything, including laundry or favorite iPods or video games, etc.) into The Box, as it's known.

The Box is a large plastic container, in which I was placing abandoned items, which have to be ransomed out by the owners. This is an idea I found on Pinterest. Here is the blog belonging to the lady with the original idea. She is, by the way, hilarious. The ransom assignmentss are written on slips of paper in an envelope in the box, and include such things as:
  • Sweep the back porch
  • wash one window
  • give mom a hug and tell her you're sorry for leaving your things out
  • sing "Whistle While You Work" while you walk 3 laps around the yard
  • Free Pass- lucky you!
  • Write a haiku about a clean house
You get the idea. Some are silly, some are extra jobs, and a very few are freebies. Up until now, I was the only one allowed to place items in the box. So... it's about to get very interesting at my house.

I told them I very sincerely don't want to take away their electronic entertainment, their right to have friends over, their movie nights or any other privileges, but that if I come home and find the house trashed and everyone in front of a screen, that is probably what will happen.

Also, the kids are expected to do just a few other things before "playing", including reading 30-60 minutes, practicing piano, collecting eggs or feeding the cat, etc. and they still retain their Saturday chores, which no one likes, but they have to be done (bathroom stuff and vacuuming). If they actually do everything I'm asking them to, it will still only be a couple of hours, and considering they are laying around and/or playing for up to 16 hours each day, that's not too much to ask, is it?

Wish me luck... we'll see how well this new order works.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adventures in Homemaking: Apricot Jam

My funny daughter posing with the apricots pre-puree
It was a beautiful Monday morning. I went to a neighbor's house to pick apricots, stopped at another neighbor's house to pick up two boxes of apricots that were slightly over-ripe, and settled into the kitchen to make jam. 8 hours later, my back hurt, my feet hurt, and I'd been to the store twice for sugar and pectin. Sheeeeeesh. But the jam tastes yummy. And I got a TON of it.
I tried to follow a pair of recipes I found on the web, but neither of them mentioned when to add the called-for lemon juice. So I made the first two without it, then went back and and re-cooked it, adding the lemon juice afterwards and reprocessing the jars. I hope they come out okay...

The remaining batches didn't get that mistake. However, the low-sugar pectin I used for them confuddled me. (That's a word, right?) It took a while to figure out the balance of the ingredients and the cooking adjustments... but I think I got it.

In the meantime, I made a slightly cluttered kitchen into an apricot-colored and -scented disaster, had a large container full of pits, and an even larger box of not-quite-ripe apricots left waiting to ripen. I also had two large freezer bags full of non-jammed 'cots. I had run out of steam and it was time to stop cooking.

The interesting thing is recognizing that, though I've never made cooked jam before, I used to be quite comfortable in the kitchen, taking naturally to new recipes and having a lot less problems than I had that day. I guess I'm not a part-time homemaker, and I haven't done much cooking in the last year. It's fascinating, really, how fast even our talents fade when they aren't exercised. I'll be practicing more in the future, I think. I hate to lose something I enjoy so much. I miss cooking and baking for my family. It's time to get back to it. :)

In the meantime, I have jars and jars of apricot jam to get me through the winter. As long as I have english muffins to enjoy it with.
And buckets of apricots!
Meanwhile, daughter is dipping bananas in chocolate for later.
Puree in the pot. I was very overheated by the end... 

Almost there...
A bit smoother and thicker than I intended... but delicious!