Using Online Time Wisely: How to streamline your online activities

We all live busy lives, and spending time online probably isn't at the top of our priority list. However, if we're not careful, it's easy to spend more time browsing the internet than doing things that are high on our priority list.

Here are some of the ways I streamline my online time to get the most accomplished and have more time for my family and other duties!

1. Have a plan before you get online.

Know why you're getting online, and what you plan to accomplish. It's helpful to me when I have a list of things to do online before I even turn on the computer. For example, "Check email, reply to Sarah's email, type up apple crisp recipe, and check the weather." Then when I am online I do only those things, and start a new list for next time I'm online.

Even if you don't want to go to the effort of making up a detailed list, at least have a mental list of what you want to read or do. I know if I just get online and start reading blogs or googling things, I could spend so much time on those things that I don't get anything else accomplished!

2. Do important business online before leisure reading.

This one is really important, and I've learned it first hand. ;) If I have an important email to write, work to do on this website, or need to find some information on something, I make myself finish those important things before I allow myself to start reading blogs or emailing my friends. Often, this means that I run out of computer time before I've gotten to email my friends, and before I've commented on everyone's excellent articles or thoughts in their blogs.

That can make me sad, but it's really a matter of picking and choosing and realising that I can't do everything! I used to always, without fail, read all of my friends' blogs and journals (and even blogs of people I didn't know hardly anything about!) FIRST, before writing in my own journal. As a result, I only updated my journal a couple times a week, and I very rarely found the time to write articles or deeper thought-provoking entries. I realised that I must write before I read, or I will always be too tired to write, and I love writing!

I've also learned this: Don't start chatting with friends unless you really have nothing else you need to get done online. I love to chat with friends, but I rarely even start up my chat client, because I know I could spend hours just chatting!

3. Utilize things like RSS feeds, friends' pages, or update emails.

It takes time to visit a large number of websites each day. And it's a waste of time when you browse from blog to blog, hoping for new updates when there are none. Thankfully, there are some great tools out there which can allow you to access blogs or websites of your choice via only one program.

Feed Reader is a downloadable program that allows you to download updates from your selected websites and read them offline, much like reading your email through Outlook.

Bloglines is an online program that will allow you to make a list of your favorite blogs (or websites with RSS feeds, like ours!) and view their updates through a single browser window. It's amazingly quick to sign up for, too!

If you're blogging through a website that has a network of other bloggers from their site, you may be able to take advantage of adding users to a group of "friends" and view all of their blog updates on a single page through that link.

Various online forums, message boards, and blogging programs also have a feature where you can receive notification emails when someone has replied to a comment or post you have made. Enabling this feature can save you the hassle of going back and looking for replies, while ensuring that you aren't missing replies to your comments or posts!

4. Limit what you read on a daily basis.

Decide who your closest friends are, and what websites are the most edifying and beneficial to you, and limit yourself to a certain number of blogs or websites that you visit daily. Once a week, or even once a month, visiting other blogs or websites outside of your "core"  will allow you to continue benefitting from them without taking too much time. As much as I might like to be friends with everyone, leave comments in everyone's blogs, and get to know lots of great, Godly moms and ladies, it's just not possible to be good friends with everyone.

5. Have a time limit.

If it helps, you can even set a timer. There is a seemingly endless supply of great Christian blogs and literature online, and there will always be another link you could follow, or another website you could explore. You have to stop somewhere! Having a time limit ensures that you won't accidentally spend more time browsing online than you truly want to.

6. Have some basic guidelines.

Some of my guidelines about using the computer (online or offline) include only using it when the children are asleep, and (at night) only after I've finished all my work for the night.

Too many times I would get online as soon as the children went to bed, thinking that I would "just check email real quick" and didn't stop browsing or reading until near midnight. I would walk downstairs and realise that the dinner dishes had never been done and the house was trashed. Of course, by then I was tired (why else would I have gotten off the computer?!) and didn't feel like cleaning. Getting up the next morning to a messy house, with dishes needing to be washed before breakfast, isn't a recipe for a relaxing and peaceful day. I knew I had to do things differently, and so now my rule is that I just don't even turn on the computer until the day's work is done.

October 1, 2006 -- Easy Chuck Roast with Gravy

Easy Chuck Roast with Gravy recipe  This week's "Recipe of the Week" is one I'm especially excited about sharing! My mom has made this Easy Chuck Roast and Gravy recipe for years, and it's always enjoyed. It has a wonderful flavor, too delicious to describe very well. You can vary the amount of seasonings you use (it only calls for 4 different seasonings) depending on how strong you like your roast.

This recipe is probably one of the easiest recipes I have! It takes me about 5 minutes to sprinkle seasonings on both sides of the roast and add a little water and soy sauce to the pan. Bring it to a boil, and simmer for about 4 hours (or longer!). And that's it! It's so tasty, too!

The juices leftover in the pan make a fantastic gravy for on your roast, and all you have to do is thicken it as desired. This roast goes great with plain mashed potatoes (and gravy, of course!), rice, egg noodles, etc.

This Easy Chuck Roast is a family favorite, and we hope you like it, too!

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New poll, new recipes, new haircut... oh wait, no new haircut! lol ;)

I posted a new poll that had been on my mind: What is your preferred drinking water? I always find poll results to be so fascinating! If you've missed any of our previous polls (we've had quite a few by now!) they can all be found here.

I also just added a new recipe for Frijoles De Olla ("Beans in a Pot"). These are kind of like refried beans, but not all mashed. They are sooooo good! I like to put sour cream and feta cheese on mine. Yum! I've really been enjoying experimenting with dried beans, especially because they are so cheap! I also wasn't raised on beans, so it's new and exciting to me!

A few days ago, I made some homemade baked beans. I didn't follow the recipe though... first, I cooked some navy beans and some pinto beans. Then I used those in the recipe instead of the canned kidney and butter beans. Butter beans are at least $0.49 per can, and kidney beans are at least $0.33 (I think, anyway), so using canned beans can really add up... when you want to make a huge batch and use lots of beans. ;)

Anyway, the baked beans were really really good with the navy and pinto beans! Yum! They're almost all gone... Joshua took the last of them in his lunch today.

Well, I'm thinking about heading to bed. Next week (hopefully!) I plan to start posting a menu each Monday. Does that interest anyone, or are menus just boring? I think my menu page needs something more to it... and posting weekly just might work!

Luscombe's visit

Lunas and Luscombes

Leif and Tanya, along with their four children, live in Canada. They stopped at our home during a recent trip to the U.S. We had such a great time with them! I have known Tanya for a year or so, but we had never met in person or talked on the phone. It was pleasant to discover that our families' beliefs and lifestyles were quite similar (moreso than we expected!). Their children were well-behaved, and they were very polite guests. Tanya is a sweet lady, and I could readily see Yeshua shining through her speech and actions. We didn't want them to leave! ;) Here is a partial group photo (I am missing) we took before they left our place. Joshua is holding Eliyahu, and Tanya is holding Benjamin. The children (left to right) are Sarah, Rebecca, Nathaniel, and Yehoshua (holding Rebecca's hand). Leif is standing beside Tanya.

Tammy (with Eliyahu) and Tanya (with Benjamin)

Here are Tanya and I holding our babies. I had to stand on my tiptoes for this photo so I wouldn't look like a midget. ;) Leif, Tanya, and their children are all quite tall compared to us! :D

Nathaniel and Yehoshua

Nathaniel (3.5) and Yehoshua played together some. However, I think most of the time, Yehoshua was running around in circles, trying to play with everyone all at once! :D

Benjamin and Yehoshua

Poor baby Benjamin didn't feel well during their second day at our house. Nothing would console him, but here is Yehoshua lying down beside him and patting his back in an effort to help him feel better. :D

Eliyahu and Benjamin

Eliyahu (8 months) and Benjamin (almost 12 months) played ate together, too. ;)

A living room full of children! :D

This was the perpetual state of our living room! But we wouldn't have had it any other way! Nathaniel had set up a "store" in one corner, and Yehoshua used a small wagon to cart building blocks across the room to where the girls were building towers... what fun!!

We all had a grand time. The Luscombes arrived on a Tuesday evening, and I proceeded to serve them homemade tostadas, which didn't taste quite how I'd planned. ;) We stayed up until about 11 pm talking, and then went to bed. (The children went to bed earlier though!)

The next morning, we got up about 8 and had some Italian Scrambled Eggs (with toast). I love Italian Scrambled Eggs, but haven't taken a photo yet... eventually I will and then you'll get the recipe ;).

We spent the morning chatting together, and then had a lunch of stuffed shells, garlic bread, and some peas. In the afternoon, we took naps and then went for a walk down to a park to play. The children enjoyed that, especially! :D

We walked back home and had some of Tammy's Easy Pizza for dinner. After the children went to bed, Leif, Tanya, and I stayed up for a bit listening to some of my favorite music CDs on their laptop. It was a treat for me, since my CD player is broken, to get to listen to some of my music, and also a joy to get to share some of my favorite CDs with others who have similar tastes in music.

Here are links to some of my favorites (you can listen to sound clips at these websites!)

Night Heron Consort

Liberty

Appalachian Journey

Lewis and Clark Soundtrack

The Fiddle Concerto

I love music! Anyway, we went to sleep and then the next morning, we had scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and bagels for breakfast. And then, after talking for a while longer, they had to leave! Our house seemed so quiet and empty! We hope they come back soon. :)

Frugal Fridays: Mop re-fills

This week's Frugal Fridays tip is about making your own "free" mop re-fills in place of the costly disposable ones you can purchase.

When Joshua and I got married, one of our wedding gifts was a Chlorox Ready Mop set. That was something I never would have purchased for myself (especially since the kit cost about $25 back then; now Wal-mart has them for about $15). However, I figured I'd give it a try, and I'm so glad I did! It's such a handy tool and I use it constantly. The one that was given to us was used at least once a week for about 4 years before it finally wore out. (Yes, they're made of plastic. :P)

Well, I enjoyed using my new-fangled mop but it only came with 8 cleaning pads and one bottle of cleaning solution. To purchase re-fills of that stuff just wasn't an option... I wasn't going to pay 50 cents (or more!) every time I wanted to mop my floor!

I tried using a regular-sized washcloth in place of the cleaning pad, and it worked wonderfully! I use an all-cotton wash cloth, and I dampen it with tap water before putting it on the mop (so it doesn't need to soak up so much cleaner right at first). After I'm done mopping, I rinse out the cloth, hang it somewhere to dry, and launder it with my whites/dishrags/etc. And if I want to get a clean cloth halfway through mopping... I can! Because they're "free"!

The owners manual said (of course) that one MUST use their cleaning solution, but I decided it was well-worth a try at making my own. So, I took some floor cleaner* and water and re-filled the bottle of cleaner. It worked just as well as their "special" cleaner, and is so much cheaper. I used my own cleaning solution in my mop for over 4 years, and then the handle of the mop broke (i.e. the cleaner I was using in it didn't ruin it)! :)

So, that's my frugal tip! Be sure to visit Biblical Womanhood for more great frugal tips!

*You might laugh, but before we got married, I was given about a gallon of "Professional floor cleaner" which was supposed to be diluted 128:1. I have used from that same bottle and it's still over half-full.

Blueberries + Cheesecake = Yum!

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars recipe Here's a dessert that Joshua made this summer: Blueberry Cheesecake Bars! Joshua loves cheesecake; in fact, it's been months since I've made a cheesecake, because Joshua loves making them. He's our "cheesecake expert", and he sure knows how to make some great cheesecakes! Joshua has done a lot of research about different kinds and methods of cheesecake and really knows what he's doing. :)

Grocery Savings How-To! (From Crystal)

My friend Crystal is posting in her blog about how she manages to save 50% to 75% on her groceries by using cupons, sales, and rebates! I'm so impressed! She already has Secrets to supermarket savings -- Parts One and Two posted on her blog!

I usually get things on sale, and I occasionally get some free-with-rebate items (yay!), but saving big-time with coupons isn't something I've done very often. I'm so glad Crystal is sharing her experience in this with people like me!! :D

New poll: Do you taste-test your cooking?

After writing my recent Cooking Tips article, wherein I talked about sampling foods before serving them, I had the idea for the latest poll question: Do you sample foods when you're cooking? You get 5 choices, and no one can see what you voted, so you can be completely honest ;).

Welcome to guest chef Amy Faber!

Easy Three-Cheese Enchiladas recipe

I am excited to introduce today's guest chef, Amy Faber! Amy is the youngest sibling in my family, and she already knows how to cook some delicious foods! Here are three of her classic picks: Easy Three-Cheese Enchiladas, Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Homemade Puppy Chow! When Amy's cooking, there's a good chance that one of these recipes is in use! ;) Read all about Amy and her recipes!

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Guest Chef volunteer form: fixed!

I just discovered that there had been a problem with the form for volunteering to be a guest chef! I must have been the one who set it up and forgot to put in some pertinent information to allow it to work!

I solved the problem (thanks to Jessica, who alerted me to it!), and now I'm left wondering... who else volunteered to be a featured guest chef and thought I was just ignoring them?! If you want to be a featured guest chef, please let me know! :D

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