Archives for March 2014

Teens and job interview success

Teens and Job Interview Success

Okay, folks, I’ve got some questions for you this fine morning!  This spring several of our teens will be job-hunting.  Along with basic job interview hints like making eye contact, being on time, speaking respectfully, and dressing appropriately, John and I would like our kids to be prepared to answer some of the most common interview questions that bosses ask.  Here are some of the questions I’ve come across while reading about this on the internet.

  • How has your background influenced what you are today?
  • How do you define success?
  • What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve overcome?
  • How do you deal with deadlines?
  • Tell me something about yourself.
  • Why are you leaving your old job?
  • Why would you be good for our company?
  • Where would you like to be five years from now?

But I’m sure there are lots more questions that could come up. What questions have you been asked in a job interview?  Or, if you’ve been in the position of interviewing others, what questions do you like to ask?  And if you’ve got any tips for increasing job interview success, would you share those hints as well?

I’m planning to gather together the kids and have them take turns answering these questions so that they will have more of an idea of what to say when the time comes.  I might even videotape them so they can see if they need to improve their tone or eye contact or facial expressions.  They’ll probably hate it, but I’m hoping it will help them be more prepared– and more competitive– in this difficult job market.  Thank you in advance for your help with this project!

Also of interest

Contentedness and decluttering

My decluttering project After a winter of much busy-ness on my part, the other day my youngest daughters and I plowed through a ridiculous amount of chaos in their bedroom.   I don’t care how often you tell a kid to clean their room, there’s just nothing like mom sitting there in the chaos with you to inspire real actual deep cleaning. Half a day of work produced ten kitchen trash bags of giveaways/throw-aways, AND a whole fresh level of bedroom happiness in my girlies.

That lovely space-finding success inspired me to do more.  I decided to once again aim to give away/throw away 40 bags in 40 days– you can find the details of that challenge here on Clover Lane.  I think I’ve blogged about it before.  Today I went through my side of the closet and came up with another bag full of giveaways, and when the teenagers wake up this morning, they will each be handed a bag and asked to fill it. I’ll peek through what they decide to toss just in case something might be useful for a younger one, but the vast majority of the time, we miss giveaways not ONE bit.

It is amazing how much bigger a space can feel when you just get rid of what’s cluttering it.  I honestly breathe a little deeper and feel a greater sense of peace walking into a clean space. It’s such a simple way to rejuvenate a space that maybe is feeling tired or full or overwhelming. And it’s such  a simple way to find greater contentment with what you have.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.One of the places I’ll be working today is in our library.  Some books I’ll donate or offer to our adult kids.  Others I’ll list on paperback swap, so I can let the younger kids pick some new books.  I’m thinking it’d be nice to have a shelf or two in the library empty enough to display something pretty.  Do you have any decluttering projects in mind for your house?


Movie Giveaway: Against the Wild

The winner of The Perfect Score is commenter #5, Ticia.  Send me your address, Ticia, and I will get that book headed your direction.


Today I have yet another giveaway.  It is for a family movie called Against The Wild.  You can see the trailer here on youtube.  Our family watched it together and to be honest, my older teens didn’t find it riveting material– I think it’s geared more toward the elementary age group.  But it is  safe movie to watch with the whole family, and the dog is just beautiful.  (Of course I’m biased there– we have an Alaskan Malamute too.)

If you’d like to enter to win a copy of the movie, comment below and tell me about the best family movie you’ve watched lately.  I’m always eager to hear family movie recommendations.  Most recently (after reading the book to the younger girls) we watched ‘City of Ember’ again, and really enjoyed it.  I’ll select a winner of the video on Friday.  And if you’re interested in buying a copy of this movie, it is on sale at Wal-Mart.

Molly’s 10-Minute Chicken


Menu planning doesn't have to be complicated

Folks who haven’t done menu planning before sometimes assume it has to be this big complicated thing. Here’s how it most commonly looks at my house– a simple list of meals in a spiral notebook. (If I’d known I was going to show this list to you, I’d probably have written more neatly.  🙂 ) I start by listing all the meals that I can make with what I already have in the house.  Then I think about meals for which I already have most of the ingredients.  I want to use what I already have, and keep that grocery store list to a minimum.

As I plan, I list all the ingredients that I still need to buy down the other side of the page. This picture shows just the start of that list, on the left.  I ended up adding more items, but the list still was not huge.  I also think about extra cooking projects I’d like to do, such a baking bread or making cookies, and about items that I have lots of and would like to consciously use more of in the next couple weeks.  For example, I have lots of canned tomatoes in the pantry still, as well as some frozen veggies that I’d like use up before the summer.

Many of the recipes listed above can be found here on my blog– check out my recipe index for details.  And today I’ve got one more really easy recipe to add to that list.  It’s from my friend Molly who found it a website called Paleo Leap, and is so easy that you can literally get it into the oven in ten minutes flat.  It takes an hour to cook from that point, but hooray for 10 minute prep, right?  Even better, it is a recipe that everyone in my family loves, which is kinda unusual.  We’ve made it at least 4 times since Molly shared it three weeks ago.  Below shows my tweaks. Go to the Paleo Leap website to see the original.

Mollys 10-Minute Chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 5-6 servings

Mollys 10-Minute Chicken


  • 3 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 10 chicken drumsticks


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine garlic, chilli powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper as well as the olive oil or coconut oil. Dump in the chicken and mix well to ensure all the meat is evenly coated with the seasonings. (I slid back the chicken skin and got some seasoning under the skin, then pulled the skin back over the leg.)
  3. Place the drumsticks on a large baking sheet with space in between each to prevent overlap. Cook for about 1 hour, until the chicken is well cooked, turning the pieces once during the cooking process. (I don't turn the chicken and it is still wonderful.)
  4. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes if you wish, along with a nice big salad.




I can’t tell you how much I love this song.


When darkness clouds the day
When we are afraid
You are there

When trouble closes in
Its hard to trust again
You are there

And we fix our eyes on You
Our hope is found in You

You are Glorious, Almighty
Infinite and Holy
Gracious, Full of Mercy
Love without an end
Magnificent God, Magnificent God

Our hearts are full of wonder
Captured by Your beauty
Falling on our knees we worship You alone
Magnificent God, We bow before all You are

Gathered in this place to glorify Your Name
You are here

Your Presence is revealed as hearts are being healed
You are here

And we lift our eyes to You
Our hope is found in You

Book giveaway: The Perfect Score

The other day I shared some SAT essay ideas, and then forgot to mention the thing that got me thinking about the SAT in the first place– a book that I was recently offered for review.  It’s called The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT.

It’s the story of a mom who wanted to help her son do better on the SAT, and in the process of figuring out the secrets of the test, she herself took the SAT seven times.  NO way I’d like to do that, but I was very intrigued with her story and the things she learned on the way, both about the test itself, and about what worked and what didn’t work to motivate her teens to prepare for the test.  The book is an interesting combination of memoir and how-to. As I read, I sticky-noted resources that I want to remember, and also found myself sticky-noting funny sentences and interesting observations she made along the way.

If you’d like to own a copy of this book, comment below and tell me either about your experience taking the SAT– do you remember it?– or about why this book sounds interesting to you.  I’ll pick a winner early next week.

When you’ve cooked it a hundred times

Pork and Veggie Stir-Fry

In the last few weeks while talking with mommas about the juggling act that is motherhood, inevitably some of the talk is about the stress involved in cooking, especially when lots of people really don’t enjoy cooking.  There’s nothing like uncertainty about your skill level to take the fun out of something. But when it comes to cooking, just being familiar with various cooking tasks will lead to much greater enjoyment of your time in the kitchen.  My friend Daniel Koontz wrote on his blog this week that he thinks a big key to comfort in the kitchen is having half a dozen or so recipes that you’ve cooked often enough that you can just about produce them on auto-pilot. I completely agree with his theory.  Not everyone will end up absolutely adoring their time in the kitchen, but just moving from dread to comfort is a huge improvement.

When you’re deciding on recipes that you’d like to get good at, here are some tips for picking ones that worth your time:

  • The recipe should be one that all or most of your family enjoys.
  • It should feature affordable, easy-to-find ingredients.
  • It should take 30 minutes or less to complete.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve made so many times that I could probably do them while sleep-walking:

How about you?  What are some of your favorite quick meals?




Frugality this week


Whenever I read a frugality post from The Prudent Homemaker, it always gets me thinking about what I’ve done lately. I enjoy surrounding myself (virtually or IRL) with folks who encourage me toward wise stewardship. Here’s my list for last week. I’d love to hear yours in comments below.

  • I bought 20 pounds of chicken legs and thighs in 10-lb bags that had been reduced from 79 cents/lb to 53 cents/lb. I brought them home, cooked and deboned the meat, then froze it in meal size portions.  I should be able to get 4 generous meals from about $11 of chicken.
  • I happily accepted two kitchen garbage bags of fresh broccoli from my sister and brother in law who were up from California for a visit and brought us some of their excess.  I used some immediately, and blanched and froze the rest for later.  And the garbage bags that the broccoli arrived in?  I used them again.
  • I accompanied my daughter to a large baby consignment sale in our area — it was half price day– and found a dozen or so items of clothing and three pairs of shoes (mostly for our youngest daughter) for a grand total of $37.  One really nice air of khaki pants fit (and pleased) my 18yo daughter and only cost $1.25.  Big win.
  • I served 20+ people a Sunday dinner of broccoli-chicken enchiladas using the above-mentioned very affordable ingredients.
  • My daughters went to a birthday party and gave their friend several rainbow loom bracelets along with another item from my gift stash.
  • I bought my son an xbox game for his birthday from the local video-game store, used, with a one-year guarantee for half the cost of the game new on amazon.  Extra bonus:  it was my son who suggested buying the game used.Hooray for passing frugality on to the next generation!

Victories at your house lately?  Share them here so we can encourage each other!


Looking for a good chicken recipe?  Try one of these:



with you
I am tired
I am broken
Unsure at every turn
Though You told me where to go
I lost the road
Been a while since I have heard You
And doubts are creeping in
How can I continue walking on my own?

I need to know you’re here
With me

Cause I become a desperate soul
When Your unfailing love feels far
I need to know You won’t let go
Through it all
You can have my broken heart
Everything that’s left in me
And I will surrender
Surrender, surrender

Your promises feel distant
Though I’ve followed them this far
What is there left to hold on to
When You’re gone?
And it’s hard to keep on breathing
As the question tears my heart
What if I am left to fight this on my own?

I need to know you’re here
With me

Cause I become a desperate soul
When Your unfailing love feels far
I need to know You won’t let go
Through it all
You can have my broken heart
Everything that’s left in me
And I will surrender
Surrender, surrender

I’ve seen the way You love me
I’ve heard the things You say
I’ve felt the way You held me in Your arms

Your love is overwhelming

so that I will remember

My girl
She comes out into the kitchen in the morning in tired black leggings a touch too small and a black long sleeve shirt a lot too large and my first reaction is puzzlement, then a grumpy wondering why she’d chose to wear THAT this morning. This child has a quirky/adorable sense of style and LOVES clothes, usually the brighter the better. And the truth is, I love to see cute clothes on my kids every bit as much as I enjoy wearing cute things myself, so when they look scruffy, it kinda bothers me.

But somehow the moment moves forward, until a bit later, thinking of errand-running later in the day, I ask her to put on a cuter shirt ‘instead of all that black’. And she complies, a little huffy, but silent. And still that little niggling thought is at the back of my mind, wondering about all the black.

But again the day sweeps me forward — reading, chemistry, math, laundry, cooking– until lunchtime where she mopes over her food. I ask her what’s up and she doesn’t tell me and pokes at her food some more. Finally I tell her sternly to eat her five bites of mac and cheese and get it over with. And after lunch when she growls at me or a sister, or maybe both of us, I ask her to rest on the couch near me til she gets her head together.

Then I reconsider and pull her, stiff and long-legged and cranky onto my lap, where she suddenly melts into my lap like that’s where she needed to be all along, and all of a sudden she says, “Did you know I had the most horrible dream last night?”

And she launches into a story of her Ethiopian dad dying, and her being in America not able to help him, and it all being so very sad that she couldn’t bear it. “That’s why I wore all black today,” she said.

And suddenly I am awash in sadness at her bearing those sad thoughts alone without telling me. And I wish she’d just SAID at the beginning of the day what was bugging her, for crying out loud. Clueless mommas like me need HELP with this kind of thing, after all. But mostly I am repentant of my busy-ness, and my not-asking-ness, for ignoring my own instinct about my kid.

And here in my arms, long legs or not, I see how little she is and how very much she still needs her momma to look her in the eyes and snuggle her in close and ask her how she’s doing today. And tomorrow. And every day.

And I write this so that I will remember. Today. And tomorrow. And every day.
(story shared with my daughter’s permission)