6 Steps to Building an Awesome Salad

My capsule menu for the summer includes lots of salads. I use this simple salad planning system to keep our meals feeling new and fresh each time.

Step 1: Choose your theme.

Mexican, Asian, Greek, Italian, etc.


Greek-seasoned ground turkey, cucumber dressing, Greek olives, Feta cheese

Step 2: Choose your protein, season appropriately and choose your dressing.

It’s all in the seasoning!  By seasoning your meat (Chicken, Beef, Ground Meat, Fish, Sea Food) according to your chosen theme, you give each salad its own unique flavor and it feel like you are eating a new salad each night!

Some protein choices (hard boiled eggs, shrimp, crab) may not need to (or you may not want to) season.  Then your variety in flavors comes from your choice of dressing.


Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad

Step 3: Choose your grain (optional).

One way to make salads into a full meal and to fill up hungry bellies, is to add a grain as a base for your salad.  Choose a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, barley or organic corn chips or add a side of whole grain sour dough bread.

Step 4: Choose your leafy green.

There are many great choices for the “salad” part of your salad.  Spinach, cabbage (multiple colors), romaine, spring mix, kale…by changing up your leafy green you also keep salads new!


Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps

Step 5: Choose your toppings.

A wide variety of toppings make (and keep) salads fun.  Seeds and nuts, a variety of cheeses, lots of fresh veggies, fruit (dried or fresh) and things like olives, pickles, mushrooms and beans add substance and flavor to enhance your chosen salad’s theme.

Step 6: Prepare all ingredients, but keep things separate!

This step is important to keep everyone in the family happy!  Everyone has at least a few foods that “are not their favorites”.  Keeping all the salad ingredients separate means that everyone can custom make a salad that they LOVE!  It also means that any leftover ingredients can be easily used for another meal (prep once, eat twice!).

Build and enjoy your salad!

6 step salads

So far so good with our summer of salads!  My kids (even the picky one) have discovered that tuna salad is good…and so is romaine lettuce!

Could your family enjoy a summer of salad?


Summer Capsule Menu

Even though we are a home school family, our summers look quite a bit different than the rest of the year does for us.  We spend much more time outside, we are away from home more and Tony’s work schedule changes.

I love how having a capsule menu helps me to keep real food meals on the table for my family, day in and day out, without much thought and effort.  But during the summer, I want a change.  Lighter meals filled with all of summer’s fresh produce.  I want salads instead of soup.  And I don’t want to use my oven!

Here is my school year capsule menu if you are interested.

I have some unique challenges as I plan meals for my family (and I’m sure you do too!).  My husband needs to be nightshade-free and my children can be rather picky; they are more willing to try new things if they can be tried separately.  I also often pack meals for my family to eat someplace other than at home.


Chicken Ranch Wraps…I like to pack meals separately, then I can personalize sides to match preferences.

Rather than scheduling specific meals to specific days, I’ve listed meals according to categories.  Doing it this way gives me more flexibility to cook according to what I have on hand and according to what our daily plans are.


Asian Cabbage Salad with Chicken (this is yummy but would be even prettier with tomatoes and colored peppers!)

Here is my Summer Capsule Menu if you are interested.

Do you have a favorite summer salad that is hearty enough for a full meal?  What are your favorite summer meals? Please share!

Stock Your Natural Remedies Cabinet

Summer involves lots of activity and lots of activity will inevitably lead to a few bumps and bruises, scrapes and the occasional run it with a natural pest (mosquito, poison ivy). Being prepared to prevent when possible and treat easily and naturally reduces stress and makes life easier.

Please Note: This is not to be taken as medical advice. I am sharing what we do for our family. Hopefully, this will prompt you to make a plan for your family for various possible needs. Doing your research, planning and preparing now will make your summer run more smoothly and be more fun!

Natural Remedies for Summer

Here are a few things I keep on hand year-round to keep us healthy and deal with minor illness and injury:

Healthy food and healthy movement makes for a healthy body. Even while on “vacation” choose to keep the sugar and refined carbohydrates low and to eat lots of fruit and veggies. Even when we eat like this, our bodies can still benefit from some basic supplements. We take a homemade herbal multivitamin year-round and try to eat lots of probiotic rich foods (like kefir, yogurt, kombucha and fermented veggies). There are many good multi-vitamins you can buy (or make). Do your research and choose the best one for your family.

I keep homeopathic Arnica Montana on hand for all sorts of major and minor trauma. It is great for bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes as well as for sore muscles and headaches.

I keep a few rice packs in the freezer at all times. These can be as easy as a sock filled with uncooked rice, tied off and put into the freezer or you can also find nicely sewn squares at craft sales and online. This is my favorite form of “ice pack” it easily molds to various body parts and has no hard edges to add to the hurt, but it is also cold enough to get the job done but not so cold that you have to worry about freezing skin and then don’t melt into a puddle and cause a mess! These are magic with kids, so easy and reusable!

I keep bandages on hand in a couple of sizes and shapes, but the basic size works well for most things. I like to keep the plain flesh colored ones for adults as well as “fun” ones for the kids. (I buy my fun bandages from the dollar store, only $1/box!) My kids would use these fun bandages for all sorts of non-necessary boo-boos so we have made the rule that blood has to be present in order to need a bandage!

Instead of an antibiotic cream on cuts and scrapes, I use extra virgin coconut oil. It keeps the wound moist, which promotes healing, and extra virgin coconut oil is naturally anti-bacteria and anti-fungal.

For cuts and scrapes that are larger than a regular bandage can handle, I use non-stick gauze pads and vet wrap. A non-stick gauze pad covered in coconut oil will protect the wound and provide a barrier to infection, securing the gauze pad is easier, sturdier and more comfortable with vet wrap than with tape. Vet wrap can be found at most farm supply stores in a large variety of bright colors (or ordered here). It is the same stuff that can be found at most drug stores in a flesh colored hue but at about two to three times less in price! Vet wrap sticks to itself but not to skin and while wrapping it around the injury may look a bit beyond necessary, it holds the gauze pad securely in place (even while swimming). I was a summer camp nurse and used vet wrap all the time! It kept even minor scrapes and cuts free of dirt and sand while playing rough and tumble games and while swimming. Remember to change the bandage after wet or dirty activities. 3M NextCare waterproof bandages are truly waterproof and very sturdy when correctly applied to clean, dry skin (to correctly apply them so that they are waterproof and last can take a bit of practice…). They are a bit expensive (as far as bandages go) but depending on the situation are very worth the price!

Aloe Vera Gel with added lavender essential oil is my favorite skin soother! It is great for dry skin, sun burn and rashes of various kinds. Use a 100% pure aloe vera gel and a high quality essential oil. (Plant Therapy is my preferred essential oil brand but there are many other high quality options.) I also like to keep diluted lavender essential oil handy in a roll-on bottle. It works good to roll onto any little bump, bruise or rash. My youngest even likes to use it for mosquito bites! It is extremely safe and kids can put it on themselves which they like!).

Sniffle Stopper essential oil blend (from Plant Therapy’s KidSafe line) is great for helping kids to breath easier and sleep well when dealing with summer colds or allergies. I just put a couple of drops on a rag and set the rag on their night stand. You can also use an essential oil diffuser or apply it to the chest or back when properly diluted.

Where we live in Minnesota, some form of bug repellent is almost a necessity at certain times of day and in certain locations. The mosquitoes can make being outdoors almost unbearable during parts of the summer and in the evenings. I prefer the most natural option possible and have had good results with a lemon eucalyptus repellent (Repel Brand or Cutter Brand can be found at most stores). There are also small companies that make truly natural insect repellent (MadeOn and Earthley are a couple that I may try this summer).  If you make your own with essential oils, place your essential oils in a carrier oil (like almond or coconut oil)or turn it into a lotion bar with shea butter and bee’s wax and then apply.  This will keep it from evaporating quickly and “wearing off” like the essential oils do in a base of witch hazel. 

Ticks and Lyme Disease is always a concern since we live in a Lyme-indemic area.  I’ve done a whole post how we have treated Lyme Disease in the past and what we are doing to prevent future infections.

Living “up north” and spending more than six months of the year without adequate sunlight on our skin to make vitamin D, I avoid using sun block whenever possible. Eating a diet full of healthy fats will make your skin naturally more resistant to sun burn. However, if I know that we will be in full sun for over and hour during peek times (10am-2pm) I choose to use a natural sun block on the areas that are the most likely to burn (face and ears, shoulders and upper chest and back). I’ve used and liked the sunblock from Tropical Sands for many summers.  Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has an awesome and very comprehensive safe sunscreen guide

I keep Bentonite clay on hand year-round and use it daily in my tooth powder and face powder but it is absolutely amazing  in dealing with summer pest bites and stings. It stops mosquito and fly bites from itching and bee or wasp stings from hurting within a matter of minutes. You can make a paste simply be adding water to the dry powder until it reaches your desired consistency or you can buy a pre-made paste which is easy to use and carry with you.

Another thing we always keep on hand (but hope we don’t have to use) is homeopathic poison ivy/oak tablets. Avoiding exposure to poison ivy is the best, but sometimes it happens. Using these tablets as directed (a few times a day) for a couple days completely dries up the rash and greatly reduces the itching! 

What are your favorite natural remedies for summer?



Creating Your Summer “Bucket List”

How is it going as you prepare for a summer of fun, relaxation, experiences and relationships?  As spring gets busy (it is super busy around here), revisit your summer mission statement and keep at it; just do the next thing.

This week we are going to create our “bucket list” for this coming summer.  A “bucket list” is a list of things you want to do or experience.


Start by making a list of all the things you want to do or experience this summer.  You can make separate lists for yourself and for your family if that is easier.  To start with, just make a list of whatever comes to mind.  Be sure to include simple, easy things like:

  • run through the sprinkle
  • eat a cherry popsicle
  • take a nap in a hammock

As well as things that require a bit more planning, preparation and expense like:

  • visit the zoo
  • go to the beach
  • July 4th fireworks
  • go camping
  • go to the county fair


There are probably more things on your list than you will be able to accomplish in one summer.  As a family (or with your spouse) look at the things on your list that involve more time, planning, preparation and expense.  Choose the ones that will fit into your family’s available time and budget without causing added stress.  Now schedule them in and make the necessary reservations and time-sensitive preparations.

After you have finished that, take a second look at the items you decided wouldn’t work for your summer or budget.  Is there something similar that you could on a smaller scale?

Example: If you wanted to go camping for the weekend but don’t have the time or equipment, could you set up a tent and sleep in the yard for the night? This involves much less time and preparation, is still a fun and memorable experience and leaves an easy escape for a sudden thunderstorm!

Now, make a list of the fun, little, everyday things and post it somewhere you will see it often.  This will help you remember to take the little bit of extra time and preparation to make these things happen (like adding cherry popsicles to the grocery list).

As you plan activities keep in mind the necessary down-time needed by members of your family.  My family needs quiet alone time pretty much every day (it is a central part of our daily routine).  We also cannot handle being away from home (even for a few hours) every day and running errands and getting groceries “counts” as an activity away from home.  Therefore I know that we can plan no more than two or three out of the house activities each week.  However, sometimes I can add an extra activity onto something that has to be done, like stopping to play at the park after getting groceries or going to get ice cream after church.  I know that adding nature-oriented, low people and short activities works well for my family (of mostly introverts and highly sensitive people).


Remember that clear communication is very helpful in making your summer run smoothly.  The night before, or each morning, talk with your family (spouse and kids) about what will be happening that day.  Remind each person about his/her specific responsibilities (daily cleaning habits, educational pursuits, etc).  This lets everyone know what to expect and what is expected.  You can leave some things as a surprise (like a trip to the ice cream shop after dinner or a stop at the park after the library).  I prefer to use the word surprise rather than the word secret.  A surprise is always something good (make sure to keep this true) but to some people a secret is not always a good thing.

Summer is coming quickly!  Are you getting excited?

What are some of the big and little things on your bucket list?


Developing a Daily Routine

My mission for this summer is to refresh myself and my family with meaningful experiences that grow our relationships with each other.

I hope you are making progress on developing a daily and weekly cleaning routine (and getting your kids involved).  Hopefully, you are also finding some things to get rid of in order to make your cleaning tasks easier!


A pile of stuff to get rid of — less stuff = less cleaning!

Today, we’re going to talk about developing a daily routine.  Having a daily routine gives security and predictability to our days.  We like knowing what to expect as the day progresses.  A comfortable flow to the day is also relaxing, (if you keep it simple!)

Think about your family’s current daily routine.

What things do you want to keep for the summer?  What things do you want to change?  What things do you want to alter to better fir the relaxed atmosphere of summer?  Make a list of the things you want to or need to keep in your summer routine:

Example: breakfast, chore time, lunch, free time, quiet rest time, supper, snacks, bath time, reading together, etc.


Free play time is a necessary part of our daily routine.

If you are a very scheduled and “type A” person, you will need to adjust your focus from a scheduled, time-oriented view of life to a routine-oriented mindset.  Think of your daily routine as a bunch of things done in a particular order, not necessarily at a particular time.  The only things I try to keep at fairly regular times each day are meals and snacks.

Here is an example of or daily routine:

  • 7:30 am breakfast
  • Chore time
  • Education time/free time/special activity
  • 10:00 am snack
  • 12:30am lunch
  • Reading together
  • Quiet rest time
  • Free time/special activity
  • 3:00pm snack
  • 6:00pm supper
  • Free time/special activity (usually at home)
  • Bath/shower
  • Reading together
  • Bedtime

You may need to come up with a couple of different daily routines.  If you work outside of the home, it may work best for you to plan daily routine for work days and for non-work days.  If your weekdays and weekends look very different, you may need to make a routine for weekdays and another for weekends.  Generally, one main daily routine can easily be adapted to fit the needs of another day.

You know your family and how much down-time your family needs.

This will determine what a special activity look like for your family and how often your family can handle these special activities.  For my family, we can handle no more than one special activity each day.  I also know that we can’t handle spending some time away from home each day of the week.  This determines how I choose and plan activities for my family.

As you think through the things you want to include in your daily routine, remember to plan time for the things that are important to you.  Do you want to keep your kids (or yourself) learning this summer?  Look for a fun class in your area or online, choose some books you want to read together or some science experiments you want to do. Do you have a morning routine for yourself?  Summer is a great time to try on — my morning routine is essential to getting me ready for the rest of my day!

I highly suggest limiting screen time activities and being very choosy about what you allow.  Set a timer and make it a “reward” for after necessary tasks (daily cleaning habits, reading or educational activities).  There will be plenty of time and opportunities to spend time in front of screens when the weather turns cold and nasty!


This is what screen time looks like when the battery on the computer runs low. 🙂

What things are you making time for in your daily routine?



Preparing to Take a Vacation From Cleaning (Sort of!)

If you are going away from home for a week of vacation you can pretty much let daily chores and laundry slide.  But for an entire summer you can’t.  Bummer, I know!  However, you can minimize the chores you need to do for the entire summer!


The first thing you need to determine is what cleaning necessities are for you and for your family.  What things need to get done each day or each week to keep you home clean enough for you to happily function day in and day out.

Note: If you do not have any idea where to start with this and/or you have no chores that regularly get done each day/week and you feel as if your home is always a disaster, check out the blog, podcast or book from A Slob Comes Clean.  She has great advice and help for those who have little to no daily cleaning habits and need more help in this area.

And one of her e-books is in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle on sale through May 1, 2017!

Example: Make beds, bathroom cleaning, sweep/vacuum, laundry, dust, quick tidy, yard work or gardening, groceries/errands.

Next, time yourself doing each chore individually.  Only one chore at a time.  Only that specific chore.  Write down the chore and the time it takes.  Do this for each individual chore.  Do this for a couple of days (or a week if you are an over-acheiver).  Now, add up the time you spend each day in basic cleaning tasks.  I’ll bet the average for each day is about 30 minutes.

Example: I can quick clean our bathroom in 5 minutes.  Doing the dishes after a meal takes me 5-10 minutes.  Folding/putting away one load of laundry takes 5-7 minutes.  Vacuuming our main living areas takes 5-10 minutes.

Determine if there are any of these chores you can delegate to other family members.  Can your children help with the cleaning?  The laundry? The food prep or dishes?  I firmly believe that children, even young children, can and should help out around the house.  It can be a struggle to motivate and encourage excellence in these areas but an important step to train our children in life skills.  Begin training hen now to help this summer with the motivation that when summer come you all can have more time for fun and activities together!  Getting the whole family involved is preparing for a vacation summer will help them look forward to and appreciate the summer even more.

From now on practice doing these daily and weekly minimal cleaning chores.  They will soon become a habit for everyone involved and the time it takes to do each chore will probably lessen.  One reason it is easy to keep a vacation resort cabin clean is because it starts clean and maintenance cleaning is easy because there is little clutter to move around or put away in order to clean!

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has great resources to help you de-clutter your home and develop simple cleaning systems that work for YOU!

The thing about a system is that what works for me may not work for you and what works for me today may not work for me tomorrow.  That is why I love having lots of resources to reference.  I now that I will find something that works today and I know that I will be able to find something will work for later.    Check out the resources included in just the organizing and home section:

  • 14 Days to Opening Your Front Door to Guests by Dana White ($7.99)

  • 2017-2018 Yearly Personal Planner by Jolanthe Erb ($4.99)

  • Bullet Journaling for Book Lovers by Anne Bogel ($15.00)

  • Clean Mama’s Just One Page Kit by Becky Rapinchuk ($7.00)

  • Clutterfree with Kids: Change Your Thinking. Discover New Habits. Free Your Home. by Joshua Becker ($5.99)

  • Command Center 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Command Center that WORKS for Your Family by Meredith LeRoy ($5.00)

  • Creating Success At Home: Your Guide to Redefining Home, Conquering Clutter, Taking Back Time, Boosting Your Energy and Overcoming Decorating Fears by Sharon Hines ($3.99)

  • Family Chore System & Planner by Mandi Ehman ($17.00)

  • Life Your Way Complete Printables Download Pack by Mandi Ehman ($7.00)

  • Minimize the Mess: A Mother’s Guide to Simplifying the Home by Rachel Kratz ($2.99)

  • Overwhelm to Order: The Ultimate Homemaking Binder by Rachel Norman ($9.99)

  • Revive 30-Day Challenge by Jessica Fisher ($27.00)

  • Speed Clean the Deep Clean: A Collection of Time-Saving Cleaning Tutorials and Tips for Busy Moms by Katelyn Fagan ($4.99)

  • Sweet Life Planner: Vanilla Edition by Laura Smith ($35.00)

  • The Mindset of Organization: Take Back Your Home One Phase at a Time by Lisa Woodruff ($8.99)

  • The Paperless Home: How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Life by Abby Lawson ($32.00)

  • The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Hack Guide by Amy Bellgardt ($9.99)

  • Your Intentional Holiday: Heart & Home Planner by Victoria Osborn ($10.00)

These resources alone are worth well over the cost of the bundle…And there are ELEVEN other sections as well as special bonuses!

Check out the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle  and order HERE!

Going on Vacation at Home

Tony works at a resort.  He interacts with vacationers on a daily basis.  Occasionally we have been blessed to experience this same kind of resort vacation.  It has greatly influenced how I think about planning my life in order to experience a bit of this vacation lifestyle daily:

Have you ever spent a week of vacation at a cabin or resort?  Someplace where maybe a few activities were planned, but the majority of the time was open for play and relaxation.  A week of vacation like this can help us understand how to structure and manage our homes for the summer to create this environment of peace, calm and fun.

What is it about these types of places and vacations that makes them so wonderfully fun and relaxing?

I believe there are three main reasons why this type of vacation is both fun AND relaxing:

  1. It provides all the comforts of home.
  2. There is a simplicity to the daily schedules, routines and responsibilities.
  3. There is plenty of free time for fun and relaxation

All the Comforts of Home

When we think about the comforts of home, we think about a place to just be.  There is space for privacy and space for togetherness.  We have bedrooms with doors that close and that (should) provide a peaceful, calm environment for sleep.  There is indoor plumbing; this is not roughing it!  Daily hygiene is easy and personal habits can be kept without added effort.  (Now, I like camping and roughing it but that is a different type of vacation…one I do not want to experience for the entire summer!)

There is a kitchen.  There is no formality, schedule constraints or the cost of restaurants.  Meals are easy to prepare because we adopt a celebration mindset by embracing a few more convenience foods and easy recipes.  Since the schedule is relaxed, the time for food preparation is enjoyed and embraced rather than rushed.


Larger bathtub than at home!

Simplicity of Daily Schedules, Routines and Responsibilities

We are able to adopt a simplified daily schedule and routine.  Daily life begins to fall into a rhythm of time alone. time together, meals and fun.  The daily responsibilities of cleaning are greatly reduced .  Because it started really clean, it is easy to maintain this level of cleanliness.   Cleaning tasks take less time because there is less stuff to put away before cleaning can happen.


Reading is an important part of our daily routine.

Plenty of Time for Fun and Relaxation

Finally, because the responsibilities of life have been minimized and simplified, there is plenty of time left over for other things.  There is time to be bored.  There is time to think and reflect.  There is time to be creative.  There is time for deep conversations and focus on relationships.  There is time to play and just have fun.  There is not an expectation to be productive, therefore there is no guilt for choosing to use your time in ways that are fun and relaxing but not productive (in the generally used sense of the word).


Time for new activities.

When you are away from the normal daily schedule and responsibilities you adopt, almost without thinking about it, a daily routine similar to what you experience every day, but simplified.  Meals and snacks tend to happen at fairly standard times and other things fall into a kind of routine

I hope this concrete example of a resort vacation helps you to think through more fully what you want for your summer.  Keep working on a mission statement for your summer. (See this post for more information).

Care to share?  Please comment below and/or share on Instagram (#summermissionstatement @turn2thesimple).

Next week we will work on the dreaded spring cleaning and de-cluttering (in a simplified, easy way) and developing a daily routine!