Saturday, June 19, 2010

Striving For Simplicity: Things I Do to Simplify

Simplifying has been a long process for us; and for me as the mom, in particular. This society we live in has so many gadgets and items, supposedly designed to streamline our time, but I often wonder what exactly they really do. Seems to me, that some of the "quick" fixes, really just complicate it all.

For instance.


Obviously, we do have a boatload of people living here, and so we have a party any given day of the week, but we really strive to stop, celebrate and honor the birthday person - because they are treasures to us!!

We do the breakfast in bed, with their favorite treats. We decorate the eating area of the kitchen with streamers and balloons and their chair with a special sign we made just for them......Dw and I take the birthday person to lunch alone. {They love, love, love that.} Then at night they get to pick what we have for dinner as a family. Dessert is their choice as well. Most often they choose the ice cream cake we make. Sometimes they choose the pie I shared with picture and recipe here.

The thing about the ice cream cake. It's easy to make. It's waaaay cheaper then store bought. If I had to do a store bought I would have to drive to the Baskin Robbins or Coldstone, get everyone out, hike us all in, hmmm and haaah, gasp at the price, haul everyone back to the car, drive to the bank, haul everyone into the bank, wait our turn, see the loan officer about re-mortgaging the house, and then drive back to the ice cream shoppe, haul everyone back in {dragging the money from the bank in a giant wagon} and pick out the ice cream cake and go home. Okay, slight exaggeration, but really....those ice cream cakes are supposed to ease our loads....but do they really?

Instead we have a Family Recipe for Hot Fudge sauce. It's yummy {ask Bill & Lynsay from China, they've had it!}. The recipe makes a good size batch. There is almost always some in the fridge. All I have to do is ask the birthday boy/girl what flavor ice cream they want. When I am grocery shopping prior to their birthday I make sure I have the ice cream. We most often buy Breyer's because it's as close to natural as we can get....with milk, cream, sugar, eggs...{I really hate buying anything if I don't know how to pronounce the ingredients listed}.
It is made with a graham cracker crust or cookie crust {their choice}...and yes, we make the crust from scratch too.

Anyway, we have fun making the ice cream cake freezes makes a boatload...and I just use the hot fudge that is in the fridge from whatever batch we last made. To me it is simple to make something like this for birthdays rather than stop and buy something that half the time tastes like preservatives and chemicals and costs an arm and a leg. blahk

As far as parties for birthdays...I am wracking my brain, but Emma is about to turn 17....and I think she has had 3 kid parties. One was her surprise 16th when we were living in the rental last year. Graham has had one or two. Liberty same. Isaiah had one, but it was really just adult friends coming to celebrate with us.

We have found with our kids. at least, that kid parties are highly over-rated. Over the years we have seen some of the kids that came complain about the games, complain about the food and in general have lousey attitudes. Surprisingly, our kids have pretty much decided it's just way more fun celebrating with our family than having a kid party. Besides, our kids do not need more toys. They have some "toys" and really, it's good. I have seen parents spend a boatload of money to "rent" a place for a party....that's just so complicated to me and just not where we want to spend our money. We would rather keep it simple.

When we have had kid parties, they are in our home, often include a pinata or treasure hunt, games, cake and ice cream and sometimes a light lunch.

Many of you have written and asked about our meals, so here goes:

Every day I give my kids two choices for dinner.

Take it.


Leave it.

With millions of people starving around the world, we began when the oldest were babies to instill thankfulness and gratefulness. So we have some basic thoughts on meals:

1. If you show up in the kitchen and say something like: "Oh no! That again?" Then your dinner plate is put away and we see you in the morning for breakfast, where you will be served the same dinner you missed the previous night. Surprisingly {or not} there are no complaints about dinner. I have seen many kids who control meal time with their ungrateful, complaining attitudes. Shame on mom and dad. Millions of people are starving around the world and here we are complaining! They know this rule well and there are no second chances.

2. You will eat the vegetables. Period. Or you will head for bed, immediately and find those same vegetables on your plate for breakfast. Again, this is not a place where we see complaints. We are firm believers that "live" food is the best for you and although we do not eat only "live" food, what we serve, we all will eat.

We primarily drink water. Sodas are a huge treat, probably served about once a month or two. It is cheaper not to drink soda, besides it is so much better for us. We do occasionally have juices, but they also are a treat. Milk is with cereal for breakfast. Glasses of milk sometimes during the day. We are preparing to get goats and we will be drinking goat milk before long, Lord willing. We used to have someone who shared their goat milk with us when we pastored in Virginia. We would make goat milk ice cream and it was yummy. I hope to make cheeses, as well as ice cream!

We do not eat much meat. In fact a few years ago someone said they were going to share steaks with us and our kids said, "What's a steak?" {haha} We prefer beans for our protein and eat lots of them, as well as cheese. We do eat chicken some. If we eat beef, some would probably consider our portions more of a flavoring I suppose. For instance, I make a huge pot of homemade spaghetti and use about one and a half pounds of meat. The pot lasts us for about 3 really that 1-1/2 lbs of meat goes a long way. I put tons of grated zuchinni and onions and even sometimes things like cooked oatmeal even goes is yummy! This, I'm sure helps us cut our grocery bills.

Instead of lots of cleaning products I pretty much use bleach and baking soda and vinegar. The bleach for cleaning toilets {a pinch in a toilet bowl helps to scrub it up great.} Baking soda is abrasive and not harsh. Baking soda cleans sinks and tubs. We mop with vinegar and water. I do like Murphy Oil soap and on occasion buy that. I used to love the smell so much as a kid that I wanted to drink it {I know, what a weirdo}. So sometimes we clean wood cabinets with Murphy's and I still love the smell. We clean windows with vinegar and water. It works great and the windows looks wonderful and again, no harsh chemicals. Having auto-immune disorders I found that strong chemical cleaner smells really bug me so I minimize our products to basically these three.

Baking soda, bleach, and vinegar are three of the least expensive things you can buy in the grocery store. Using these basic products to clean saves money and utilizes natural products.

It was kind of weird to me to write about what cleaning products we use and what we is merely our journey to Simplicity....if you rent the Hyatt for your kid's birthdays - go for it {In fact invite us cause it sounds like fun!} These are just a few of the ways we cut costs at our Place Called Simplicity to have more to give away and keep life simple...
I thought if you guys are interested I will post the recipe for the Ice Cream Pie and our "famous" Hot Fudge Sauce....maybe Tuesday?? Whatcha think?? It's not easy to post the Hot Fudge recipe cause I made it up years ago and it's one of those, "Ummm, a little of this and a bunch of that...." so I'm gonna' have to put a bit of effort into writing it out....and for the moment, my beloved is beckoning me to come it on the porch with him....and I just can't refuse that....while we sip ice water and watch the littles play.....simply enjoying our summer.... =)

Who Can Post A Link?

If you want to link up I am asking that you become a "friend" if you aren't already {by 'friend' I mean you are following along at A Place Called Simplicity and your little picture is under the "follower" portion on the sidebar.} If you have not been a friend before, then today would be a great day to join in with all the friends here. If you wonder why I require you to be a "friend" {aka follower}....well I dunno...I guess cause if someone just wants to link a Striving for Simplicity post, but they don't want to call themselves a friend, then it can almost just feel like they are merely "using" our family blog {cause no doubt you will have many people visit your blog who never have before just by linking up}. Just imagine this: You have planned and worked hard and are having a party for your friends and random people happen to be driving down the street and see a bunch of people walking up to your home and decide they want to just come too and walk in to your house, eat your food and leave and don't say anything to you....and you never saw them before in your life!! Hope that makes sense - at least I'm sure it does to all of my friends.

You Must Link Up With a Permalink...

Post the permalink from your blog below. A permalink is the URL to a specific blog post. In other words, each blog post has an address and the permalink is the street number and the avenue. For example, my blog address is

But the permalink to this post is:

To post a permalink, I simply published the post, then went right back and opened my blog, clicked on the post title "Striving for Simplicity" and waited for that page to load, immediately the address for just this post popped up in the address bar. I then copied the address in the address bar. I then went back into the post by editing it and pasting in the address to the post. Also, on your blog you must link back here to this blog and that your post is part of Striving for Simplicity at A Place Called Simplicity.......


If you do not use a permalink, I will be forced to delete your link, and I really don't want to do that. But often people read this post days and weeks and sometimes even months after the fact. If they want to read your link and you have merely linked to your blog, then they have no clue where your Striving For Simplicity post is. So please be certain to use a permalink when adding your link....Thank you for understanding!

23 Simply Sweet Words:

  1. can't wait for the recipes!

    i love your thoughts on meal time and especially veggies. i don't have picky kids, but i do have one who shuns peas. imagine how they would look each with its own litle compartment nestled in her waffle!! ha!

    thanks for your thoughts, and again, am praying for this transition for you. {{{hugs}}}

  2. You say it almost as well as Thoreau. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Can I be a friend even though I don't have a blog?

  3. Great tips. I would love to see the recipes, but totally understand the bit of this dilemma.
    We did our daughter's first birthday big. But she is our first and I felt entitled. Did her second big in size but not cost simply because it would be the last with family (moved out of state the next month). After two big parties I am done with big parties and am grateful that I'll have no reason to do it up big next birthday.

  4. I would ♥ to have your recipes!!! Can't wait till Tuesday!!

    Love you guys!

  5. I am so excited at the thought of recipes!! :) And I love what you do with meals...our choices are take it or leave it, too! We are trying to work on healthier more natural food choices, though!

    And as for children think birthday parties are just family! We have never had a large party, but I decorate the dining room and they get their choice of meals...and they love it! And I love it on my pocket book!

    I LOVE these simplicity posts!! :)

  6. When I have a little more time I will comment more and do a post of my own. Maybe tonight. Love it.

    Just wanted to share one little thing: I too clean our toilets wiht a bit of bleach. But I saw on a natural cleaning tips show once that it helps to add a drop or two of dish soap since the bleach needs that to loosen the dirt. Works great and there's something about seeing some bubbles in the toilet that makes me feel like its cleaner or something.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  7. i LOVE the meal time ideas...THANKS SO MUCH b/c with us soon becoming parents when we get the call, I want to incorporate those tips for our meal time too! Thanks!

  8. First, anything involving ice cream and/or chocolate MUST be shared. :P

    Secondly, I think I said this before, but I love getting these tips and storing them in the back of my head for when I have my own house/family. The cleaning tips are great, especially since I have very sensitive nose (plus I love the smell of vinegar. hehe). :)

    Personally, coming from a family with just 2 kids, I've had a birthday party almost every year of my life and our "joke" at my house is seeing if I can make it through a birthday/birthday party without crying. haha. I just get so stressed out about everyone having a good time. So, I'm thinking my kids might end up with very different birthdays than I ever had, as much as I truly appreciate everything my mom did to try to make my birthdays great.

    And, I've written a novel, yet again. Sorry! :)

  9. Oh, I love to peak inside your life *giggle* :-)
    I'm so with you on instilling "respect" and "gratefulness" when it comes to food. But your post encourages me to be even a bit meaner with my kids. They don't complain much, really, but sometimes they still do. I wish mine would like beans, though....
    I'm curious though, and that may be to personal to share - what do you budget for groceries for your family?

  10. Oooooh, yes, please do share your Fudge recipe!!! :) :) actually, there's one receipe I've been wanting to ask... it's Emma's Cinnamon Rolls which you showed previously, they looked delish! (please, Emma? :)

    I also use vinegar to wash floor, toilet, etc... great product, no chemicals :) In fact I have a squirt bottle that I put in 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water, and use it to wipe toilet seat and floor (with toilet paper) and flush it so it's always clean that way.

    Also, squirt it on my mouth guard and leave it to dry... it's wonderful for removing odors.

    Thanks for sharing the tips about the food and parties, agree with you, simplify is the way to go :)

  11. I would LOVE the ice cream pie recipe! I will make it for my daughter the next time we visit.

    Are you my mother? WOW ... how wonderful that someone does what my mother did and I in turn did also. The only time there was soda in my house was when someone was sick - and they were the only ones that got it. Mother bought ginger-ale. When Sprite (or 7-up) was introduced on the market I would get a sprite with a scoop of lime sherbert in it. That was the 'magic' medicine and always worked. I used that with my children. The vinegar and water was/is used but the one point we did/do was use newspaper to wipe the solution off. (recycling in the '50's). Murphy's - yep, that too. The house had knotty pine walls - forgot the real name - and once a year I had the job of cleaning them. The worsed was the food. If I didn't eat my supper I would also have it for breakfast. The difference being, it was 'sealed' in waxed paper and put in the frig. There was not a microwave (50's) so it was cold and gross. We also NEVER had a TV. We went to the neighbor's house and watched Lawrence Welk on Saturday night. We did have a baby grand piano and a pump organ. There were also 7 sets of encyclopedias ... only the 'hard' ones, no World Book. Many were specific in nature. I never had a birthday party as we were always at a university during the summer so mother could further her degrees. I remember one summer I picked wild strawberries and we had strawberry shortcake for my birthday. (made with biscuits)Mother was a teacher, divorced from my father, with my brother and grandma also in the home.

    I am glad that I am/was not the only person that was raised in a 'simple' lifestyle. I never thought of it that way, until you pointed it out today. Your lifestyle will greatly influence your children's adulthood, for the better. Kudo's to you!!!!

  12. LOVE IT! I too have tried to simplify and de-clutter life. Living on the East coast made me realize how fast people can drive themselves (right into a ditch!) There is so much pressure to "do" and "be," in the world, and the busier it gets, the more we endeavor to push it out.

    I love especially that you have the kid's birthday's as a special day, rather than a humongous party. As a family, we generally let the kids pick an activity they'd like to do (we only have the 3 now!) and we'll go do that. Or, they can pick to have dinner out. I like your breakfast in bed, with decorations on their chair and lunch alone. I think we will incorporate that. Celebrating the child is so important to us too. Now...Evan will have a party this year. Our parties are basically family parties and are always lots of fun.

    I too would LOVE your ice cream cake recipe! I wouldn't mind having some bean recipes as well.

  13. Againn I agree with you my dear. We also use the same claning "products"....But I do buy COMET quite often, I love the smell of that ;)

  14. Thank you! I love these posts! Exactly what we strive for here in our home.

    I can't wait to have your ice cream pie recipe!!

    Love you! Praying for our healing! May it be manifested quickly!!

    Love and prayers,
    Holly in OKC

  15. We're on the same page with the kids overrated. I LOVE your idea of lunch with just mom & dad! Our oldest is turning 20 this Thursday, so she'll be the 1st to try out the new birthday tradition. Thanks!! (Also I can't wait for your recipes. We'll make that for her birthday this week.) I must confess that we've fallen for the Baskin Robbins/mortgage your house ice cream cakes as of late:)

  16. I love the veggies for breakfast if they refuse at dinner idea! I was never a kid who didn't eat veggies but have nannied several over the years. Wish I had thought of the breakfast thing back then!

    Oh and please post the fudge sauce recipe. I've been looking for a good one. Also, do you can a lot? I've really gotten into it over the last year or so. I don't care much for canned veggies but love jams, pie fillings and tomato sauce. Its so nice to eat my own goodies mid winter.

  17. I'd love to hear your recipe for hot fudge sauce. Our family has a recipe for ice cream cake (a bit different but the middle of the cake calls for hot fudge so that would a wonderful addition!). ;)

    We used to have a picky eater but he's outgrown it (with quite a bit of help). I'm not to the point you are at (I think what you do is awesome) but I do say (at first whine) you can eat it or go to bed and join us again for breakfast. Usually that stops the whining.

    Thanks for sharing again!

  18. I agree that birthday parties are overdone. Kid birthday parties are NEVER a given in our house. The few that we have had have been on the cheap, cheap, cheap=but FUN. My two favorites were: For my daughter's 10th birthday, we had the girls come in bathrobes and I hired (for very little money) two teenage babysitters of ours to come do the girls hair and nails. We had the girls that were waiting make hair ties out of leftover ribbon and ponytail holders. The girls loved it. Total cost=around $60.00 for 12 girls (and that includes food!) For my sons, the best parties have all been semi-organized games outside. This year my 11 year-old and his friend spent a day making up obstacle courses, home-run derby rules, making treasure hunt clues and filling water balloons for my 7 year-old's party. I made a brownie and we had shaved ice slushies. The boys had a blast and were worn out when they left! Total cost for 9 boys = less than $20.00!

    Absolutely love your Simplify posts! Thanks for sharing.

  19. I'm always interested in cleaners without chemicals. I think we need to start taking that route! Thank you for sharing! :)

    Our birthday parties are very much the same. :) My kids are still young (2 and 4), but we have the best time with our family coming over! I had very few friend parties growing up, instead I'd invite maybe one or two friends to my family party. Just us, at home, good food, cake and ice cream, and laughter. Love it. :)

    Please do share the recipe! We make our own cakes because my littlest one is gluten intolerant, so I'm always interested in new recipes! I have a couple good friends who can transfer any recipe to the gluten free version (yay! :P), so I'm excited!

  20. Linn,

    I laughed out loud when I read the two choices you give for dinner....LOVE IT! Also, thank you for sharing about the birthdays. We too, have been doing birthdays for Isaiah and Noah the same way but recently stated wondering if the were depriving them when hearing about what others would do for their kids. Thanks for the reminder that we do not need to nor should mortgage the farm to pay for the circus for a day!


  21. i'm enjoying these! and i would love some of your recipes!
    we do immediate family birthdays only, too...almost
    just how you've described. it is great!

  22. Love the SIMPLE ideas! I keep a spray bottle of 2 cups water, 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 tsp. lavender oil under the sink and use it all over the house! I've used if for a little under a year and the smell of lavender and vinegar has become my favorite!


  23. These are all great ideas!

    I would love the ice cream cake recipe. My soon to be 4 year old really wants an ice cream cake for her birthday, but we definitely can't buy it at a store because of her sister's allergies.


It's always good to hear from bloggy friends. Bless you.