I’m not a big fan of disposable stuff in general. No, it’s not some tree-hugger thing, though I’m totally fine with things I do being less wasteful or polluting.

It’s a money-saver.  I don’t use paper towels.  I have cleaning cloths made of old towels.  They’re not just cut up old towels, though.   You take an old towel, cut it in eighths. Then you sew a zig-zag stitch all around the edges to prevent fraying and sew the long ends together into a loose tube.  Depending on how you fold it, this gives you more cleaning surface per cloth, so you don’t go through as many cleaning.  I’ve preferred those for years.  They last a long time, and you can just toss them in with the regular laundry with no problem.  (I don’t use bleach or bleach-based products in cleaning.  You would have to handle them with more care in terms of laundry if you did).

But I always associated cloth napkins with formal dinners until I went to visit a friend in Portland a few years ago.   In the kitchen, there was a basket of clean, folded napkins in cheerful colors and patterns.  I remember seeing it and having to restrain myself from smacking my forehead at the casual sensibleness of cloth napkins.  You buy a set once, then you’re all good for napkins for many years.  They’re so small that it’s insignificant in terms of extra laundry and for me they wouldn’t really cost any extra to acquire.  I mean, I sew.  I’ve always got fabric lying around, so it’s not even as if it would have cost anything for me to have some.  But if you buy paper ones, you’re buying napkins about once a month or so.

I made a set of sixteen.  Since I usually do a load of darks about every two to three days (my napkins are dark burgundy), that’s more than enough.  We never really run out.

What really gets me to thinking about it, though, is how often disposable products are pushed.  The Swiffer Wet-Jet not only needs those disposable pads (well, okay, I use my cleaning cloths with mine, and just attach them with some old hair ties) and the special bottles of cleaner (and I just have a spray bottle of all purpose cleaner to squirt the floor down well), but then there’s the dispoable dusting rags, toilet wands and what have you.  This stuff is silly and wasteful.  It’s not even safer in terms of germs.  If you’re really concerned, use a disinfectant cleaner, spray the surface and let it air dry.  Do you do that? No, of course not.  So don’t be silly about germs and disposable cleaning products.

Drinking the FlyLady Kool-Aid

I think I’m developing a bit of a split personality about having drunk the Flylady Kool-aid.

On the one hand, I really do like the system quite a bit.   Between the routines, the decluttering and the missions I get in the email, the house looks nice and runs smoothly.  Anyone could walk in right at this second and I would not be embarrassed about how the house looks.

On the other hand, I’m tired of reading testimonials about how a product has changed someone’s life on a site about decluttering.  I’m sorry, but “buy more stuff” is seldom a good solution to a clutter problem, especially when clutter and hoarding problems are usually related to problems with shopping too much in the first place!

On the other hand (yes, I know, three hands.  When do I ever follow a system without adding my own twist?  Get over it)  I’m all for people creating successful small businesses.  I do have a bit of a squick at the idea that she’s selling stuff to people with clutter problems, but only a small one. I mean, the woman sells cleaning cloths, for heaven’s sake.  I might have made my own out of old towels rather than bought some, but it’s a reusable product that’s genuinely useful.

I certainly don’t tell my family Flylady loves us and wants us to have a clean house.  (Yes, some of the testimonials posts have mothers saying that they’ve said this to their children.  I find that creepy as hell). I don’t don’t follow the system exactly.  I am wearing slippers, not shoes. I don’t “bless the house”.  I dust and vacuum.  I don’t put in 15 minutes of “loving movement”.  I work out!  I certainly don’t have some picture of a Cheerful Fairy with a fishing rod and tennis shoes shaking her finger at me on some household appliance.   I look at my schedule and think, “Yep, I need to empty the dishwasher.”

Certainly if all twee nonsense works, it works.  If you need all that to get organized enough to suit yourself, you need it.  I sympathize with needing tools.  My mother, for instance, does not need a notebook or a schedule to keep the house clean. She just does it.  She doesn’t need a battle plan for something as simple and obvious as housekeeping.

And that’s where I get really weirded out.  People will write the author of the Flylady site to argue with her about her system.

Why why why?

You don’t wanna wear shoes in the house, don’t.  If your life wasn’t changed by buying a feather duster, that’s just fine.  If you like spending one day a week cleaning the house from top to bottom rather than using routines, that’s your call.  If you don’t want to worry about having a clean house at all, whose damn life is it, anyway?

You don’t need Flylady’s permission.

Though, I am unsubbing from the list because I’ve got what works for me, and I’m not that into reading commercials.

Y'all is Plural

There’s a Facebook group about the appropriate way to spell the contraction of “you all” so prevalent in the South.

The expression is y’all.  Not ya’ll.

But there’s more to it than that.  It’s also plural.

Yes, yes, I bet some of you Yankees have seen a Southerner appear to address a single person with the expression “y’all”.  But, you really didn’t.


You’re waiting in line to pay your light bill, when someone in front of you is waving a receipt angrily and is saying, “Why did you turn of my lights?  I paid y’all last week!”

The individual in question is not addressing the singular person behind the counter, but the entire company as represented by the customer service representative.   In this case, the organization is a collective group of people appropriately addressed as “you all” or “y’all.”

If you are alone and are given the farewell, “Y’all come back now, y’hear?” you’re still not being addressed as “y’all” singularly.  You’re being addressed as a representative of a group of people (most likely your family) all if whom the speaker is expressing the wish to socialize with again.

Raising Children

I  don’t like the expressions “raising children” or even “rearing children”.  It implies the end product is children.

If you’re a parent, you’re not aiming for an end product of childhood, but an end product of adulthood.  You’re not raising kids, you’re raising grownups!

I’m not trying to imply that children shouldn’t have a childhood, play, be silly, and enjoy life.  On the other hand, I think it would do most grownups I know a lot of good to play, be silly and enjoy life, too. I think that particular aspect of life is less a developmental stage and more of a part of the human condition.  Hell, I’m in my 40s and I like snowball fights, baking cookies, making up games when playing in the pool, and being absurd as much as I ever did.  Doesn’t stop me from mopping the floor when it gets dirty or doing taxes.

What I do think is that we prolong childhood way too far.

I was thinking about it this weekend when I revisited one of my favorite movies, The Lost Boys. The focal characters were mostly between the ages of 16 and 19.  Even casting aside the whole idea that they were vampires, so probably even older than that, these characters were what happens when you have people whose bodies are adults, but they’re at loose ends because they’re told that they’re children, powerless and don’t have a useful or productive place in society.  All that youthful energy had nowhere to go.  Energy that has nowhere to go more often than not goes into destructive channels.

The mother character gave completely mixed messages to her oldest son that got even stronger when you get to see some of the scenes that were cut from the final release.  Now, on the whole, I think the character was quite a good mother, but merely acting as a product of our society.  On the one hand, she wanted him to look after his younger brother when she couldn’t be there – to be a parent surrogate.  That’s an adult role.  But then she discouraged him, in some cut scenes, from contributing financially to the family in a time of need.  Sure, her reasoning was understandable.  She wanted him to continue his education!   But what she was really discouraging him from doing was stepping up to the plate as an adult and contributing to the welfare of his loved ones.

Given our social and economic structure, I’m not sure how this problem is going to be solved, but we need to and soon.  It’s been going on since the 1950s and we’re going to run ourselves into the ground if we don’t stop it.

Flying Solo

I’ve been teaching my son to cook.  Tonight he made dinner by himself from a recipe, though he did have a bit of an issue with converting the rice recipe to more servings.

Still, the meal came out tasty.

But that’s not the story I wanted to tell.

See, I’ve been doing the Flylady system for awhile in my house.  Decluttering, Zone work, routines — all that smack.  It sounds goofy, but the house looks nice, so laugh all you want.

What’s even goofier is that I have a notebook for my household routines.  It’s a checklist of chores that need to happen every morning, early evening and before bed, as well as any zone work that needs to happen.  It’s a printout of a checklist in plastic sheet protectors, so I can just use dry-erase markers to check ’em off and wipe ’em off for the next day.  Laugh it up, but at least this means I get to detailed cleaning in each room.  I’m not naturally neat, and can ignore a pig sty for a long time (just ask my mother what it was like to raise me), so anything that works is really nothing short of a miracle.

I have it for myself, to keep me on track, but it’s on the counter in the kitchen because it also has the menu plan and the recipe book I’d written as a teaching tool for my son.

Tonight, the man of the house was cleaning up after dinner, and actually went through that checklist, sweeping the floor and things I don’t think are mentally part of washing the dishes in his eyes.

I hadn’t asked him to.  In fact, I’d assumed he hadn’t, didn’t look and just went to sweep the floor when he asked me if I’d looked at the checklist.  Since I do have the notebook mostly as a self-reminder, I didn’t give it a lot of thought.  Most of the kitchen cleanup had been done.  I just made coffee for tomorrow.

No, I don’t think a control journal (that’s what Flylady calls the household notebook), is going to make the household magic, and everyone will decide to be as concerned with keeping the house clean as the DCF.  It won’t.

And it doesn’t need to.

What is cool about it for my household is that it gives clear and rather impersonal guidelines for keeping the house clean and picked up.  Instead of a person constantly reminding, there’s this list that stays there all the time. Yeah, I know I wrote it.  That’s not the point.  It’s that what needs to be done and what gets done become impersonally clear at all times.

Now I’m lucky.  I live in a household of people that like to contribute.  I can’t imagine that if it were a household where people were upset with each other and didn’t mutually care about the condition of the home, nor mutually contributing to the pleasantness of the household that a control journal would do a damn bit of good.  So no, it’s not the magic a lot of Flylady testimonials like to put out there.

But it is a good tool.

An Addition to the Cooking Manual

I added this to the little cooking manual I’m making for my son.  He has an engineer mindset, so I figure that explaining the principles behind some stuff is a good idea.

How to cook so you won’t drive yourself crazy in the process

It’s a good idea to combine complex recipes with easy ones.  Don’t make every dish in a meal time-consuming, or you’ll just drive yourself nuts.

Mise en Place

This is a French phrase that means “putting everything in its place”.  The way to cook so that you don’t drive yourself to distraction involves setting up everything, as well as having a system of putting things away and cleaning as you go.  If you’ve ever watched a professional cook, you’ll notice that s/he doesn’t approach cooking by just randomly doing things.  S/he knows in what order he needs to cook to make sure that every dish is finished at the same time.

The Mise en Place Process

  1. Check your recipes for the meal
  2. This is when you decide in what order you’ll prepare dishes.  For instance, if you make a stir fry and you can cut very quickly, you might start the rice before you start cutting up the veggies and meat for the meal.  Otherwise, you’ll start your prep work, take a break from it when you think you’ll be about 20 minutes away from finishing cooking, and go ahead and make the rice, so that it will be finished at the same time as the rest of the meal.  This step is a thinking step.

  3. Preheat the oven (if necessary)
  4. Obviously this isn’t always necessary.  Not every meal uses the oven.

  5. Make sure you have the necessary ingredients.
  6. Sometimes you can make substitutions in a dish.  Sometimes you can’t.  If you can’t, flip through the recipe book to see what we have in the kitchen that you can make.  In theory, if we’ve made a menu plan for the week, we’ll have already shopped for all the ingredients for every dish we’re going to make.

  7. Lay out any equipment you need to prepare it.
  8. Do you need knives, cutting boards or bowls to hold ingredients?  Get them out now, and lay them on the counter.

  9. Lay out the ingredients you need for the meal.
  10. This means everything – spices, meat, vegetables… Anything you need.

  11. As you finish with a dish or tool, either put it in the dishwasher, put it away, or wash and put it in the drying rack if it’s a hand-wash tool like a knife or pots.
  12. This is the “clean as you go” principle.  You’ve probably never seen a kitchen scattered with every dish in the house dirty and waiting for you at the end of a meal.  It’s nasty and overwhelming and will make you not want to cook.  If you get in the habit of putting away and cleaning up behind yourself in the process of cooking, after-dinner cleanup is no real big deal.  If you’re going to be cooking a big meal, I invite you to enjoy the wonders of a sink full of hot soapy water to make cleanup even quicker.

Also remember if you don’t clean up after yourself[1], you will die a horrible death.

Love and kisses,

Mama Noël

[1] And this includes wiping down counters and the stove.