Streamlining Your Kitchen: Summer Edition

This week Kendra and I are sharing how we streamline our kitchens for the summer, making it as simple as possible for us to squeeze every moment out of this carefree season that we can.

Where we live, summer comes early. The thermometer has already topped 100 degrees. The tomatoes are starting to ripen on the vines in our backyard. Berries are available for picking at local farms. And, like nectar from Heaven, white nectarines are available at the Farmer’s Market.

When it starts to heat up outside, my brain shuts off. I just don’t seem to function as well. Part of me is just worn out from a long year of go-go-go. The other part of me, well, the other part of me is worn out, too!

In order to really take advantage of this wonderful summer season, I simplify the work in the kitchen. I want to have time and energy to say YES! and enjoy a game of Phase 10 or run through the sprinklers outside with the kids.

DIY BREAKFASTS

With the sun rising earlier and earlier, my young ones wake earlier and earlier, despite my attempts to keep their room dark. When they wake at 6am there is no way I can make them wait until 7:30 to eat breakfast. This is when I pull out some pre-sliced fruit or a breakfast cookie or muffin**, occasionally a small bowl of dry cereal for them to eat to tide them over until we have second breakfast a little later. We keep these items in easy reach so the three year old can help himself once he's given permission, which gives me a few more minutes to clear my mind before going into full mommy mode.  **We do some batch baking every couple weeks in the summer to avoid heating up the house frequently.

Our main breakfast this summer will be prepared by our seven year old son, who I've been training for the last six months to make breakfast on his own. He's become quite proficient at pancakes, scrambled eggs, smoothies, oatmeal, and toast. This allows me time to get the little ones up for the day, change diapers, get a load of laundry started, whatever I might need to do. Sometimes it means I just sit outside and enjoy a cool morning with my cup of coffee. A while back I came to the conclusion that I need to take care of myself so I can take care of my family and delegating breakfast duty was one of the ways I deal with that.

QUICK LUNCHES

Summertime brings lots of opportunities to take impromptu trips - to the pool, to a friend's house, on a road trip. With a family our size, we don't travel without having food packed! Having lunches planned that are easy to pack up and go makes it that much easier for us to pack up and go! Things like ham and cheese tortilla roll-ups; the ever-popular PB&J; cheese and crackers; hummus and veggie sticks; fresh fruit; cheese slices; raw nuts. Nothing fancy, but definitely filling. Sometimes it's just so hot by noon we'll make smoothies. Again.

You'll notice that these are all things that my children can take care of on their own. We have a designated lunch helper, but any of my older kids could put together lunch for us to take on the road. It might have some interesting combinations, but we'll have something to eat!

BIG SALADS

When it's hot outside is when I'm the most tempted to want to go out to eat. The idea of cooking anything that will introduce heat into my house just makes me wilt. This is why we eat a lot of fresh, hearty salads in the summer.  It's a great way for us to eat lots of fresh veggies and keep the house cool(er) at the same time!

On Wednesday I'm going to show you the basic formula that I use for making salads (and that I'm teaching my kids to use), but for now here are a few of our tried and true favorite salad recipes:


Roasted Beets with Feta - I add several  big handful of fresh spinach to this to make it a main dish salad. I know beets aren't a favorite of everyone, but my family loves this! You can roast the beets on the barbecue.

Asian Chicken Salad - This is one of those salads that you can do whatever you want to it. It's really the dressing that makes it tasty. My kids love the crunchy noodles :) I often add cucumber because I like the extra crunch.

BLT Salad - Bacon. Need I say more?

How do you keep things simple in the kitchen during the summer? Tell us in the comments below!

That Picture Of My Kitchen

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of my kitchen on the Preschoolers and Peace Facebook page.

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 It was taken in the middle of the afternoon, on one of those days when I had been working hard to say yes to my kids more than I said no. This meant that my 10 year old daughter made scones for her piano teacher RIGHT BEFORE WE LEFT. They were literally steaming when we got into the car. And the mess they created was left on the counter.

 It meant that the mess from lunch was still on the counter because I had said yes to sitting down with one of my other children and filling up her love tank with conversation, instead of cleaning up the kitchen.

 It also meant that the groceries were still on the counter, the dishes were still in the sink, and the piles of stuff were still piled. You have piles, too, right?

 I didn't post it to say Woe is me, look at my kitchen with all the mess. This is what I wrote:

 Blow up this picture really big. I want you to really see the mess. Notice the nibbled pear, the grocery bags, the avocado peels, the dirty dishes, the scones left on the stove to cool. This is a day when I tried to say yes to my kids more than I said no. When we choose to do one thing, it means we say no to something else. Relationships are more important than all clean, all the time. It's okay.

 And the response was enormous. Lots of ladies saying thank you for being honest; thank you for being real; what a relief to know I'm not the only one; and some expressed relief at knowing that it really was okay.

 I'm writing today to reiterate that IT IS OKAY. It is okay if your home doesn't look magazine perfect all the time. Or ever. It is okay if you choose to sit down to rest in the afternoon sometimes, instead of cleaning the kitchen. It is okay.

 I also want to encourage you moms with all littles. This is what my kitchen looked like before I went to bed:

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 You know what the beautiful thing about this picture is? My three big kids did most of the cleaning up. They are ages 10, 8, and 6. When those same kids were 4, 2, and infant, my kitchen rarely looked like that. I was happy to just get them all fed and dressed (often in pajamas!) every day with relatively clean bottoms. I had priorities and a sparkling kitchen was not one of them. Sleep was very high on the list. If that is the season you are in, IT IS OKAY.

 Your relationship with your children and your husband is always going to be more important than the state of your kitchen counters.

-Michele