Friday Favorites: New Stuff I’ve Loved (and maybe you will, too)

Post-it-notice: I have neither been paid by, nor approached by any of the following companies, publishers, or people, about the services, reading material, resources, or products listed here. I’m sharing things that I have recently discovered and found helpful and cool for me and mine. That’s all. No sponsorship, no free stuff, no pats on the back. Though I sure wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to provide me a cup of coffee and a jacuzzi tub.


Call it link love, or go all a-la Julie Andrews and belt out a resounding chorus of “My Favorite Things.” Here are my Friday Favorites: things that have been helpful to my life and work and family.

1. This book: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman.

I am a sucker for organization and productivity advice, but I’m picky on what I read because all that reading time just sucks from my um, productivity. This book, available at our fabulous local library, is a quick and easy read. I’ve never been much of a goal-setter, but this might turn me around. Just maybe.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, productivity

Also, the things Bregman says about how we manage ourselves during our day just make some good sense. He uses some GTD principles, which work for me, and other tips, like taking breaks, and setting a timer to go off once an hour during the day – to check ourselves on how well we’re staying focused.

Of course there are lots of little distractions kids around here, so around-the-house productivity has to be managed in the context of parenthood. It’s not like the kids are on board with this. Whenever you’re feeling like you haven’t accomplished much, try this.

2. Poem-mobiles by J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, and Jeremy Holmes

It’s an especially brilliant creation when a children’s book is as fun for parents to read as it is for children to hear. This picture book, also found at the library, has the kind of illustrations you can look at again and again to find new details, and from back to bumper it’s a real treat to read aloud.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, parenting

Go Jurassic Park(ing) with a car that runs on fossil fuel.

Read all about the fierce, fiery Dragonwagon. Over and over and over again.

I mean, it’s like the authors and illustrator knew precisely how to sell a book to a book-loving mom in a house full of book-loving, car-crashing boys: fun poems, fabulous artwork, and all about vehicles. Really, we could ask for nothing more.

3. My Simpler Life site

This blog by Beth Dargis is all about creating a saner, simpler life. Sometimes, advice to make things simpler ends up being quite complicated. Not so with advice and resources from Ms. Dargis. I most appreciate:

* Her weekly newsletter that contains short, sweet, and helpful ideas to make home (and life in general) a bit easier.

* Her Declutter Calendar, available for downloading. It is the perfect tool to view on a computer desktop, or print out each month for a place on the fridge. Each day contains one task to work through that help me clean out stray bits from all the parts of my home. There are days when I don’t get to it, but I just jump right back in when I do. Simple, just as it should be.

Do you have some Friday Favorites? What things have you found recently, that you just love? 


It’s a Good, Good Friday

Good Friday: one of three days that bring remembrance for the salvation of all mankind. A lifetime came before the three days, where Christ walked, and talked, and told. And gave instructions and lived the example. The example of how we can live out those three days in our every day.

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While Christ was on the cross, he was forgiving, at that very moment, the very people who were crucifying Him, hurting Him, yelling insults at Him, and unbelieving Him.

Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34

Do we forgive others quickly? Do we love Jesus by showing His love to others, whether they love Jesus or not? Do we demonstrate kindness by sharing, giving, helping? Do we love by showing restraint? 

(For our kids: Do I share my Legos? Do I come to the aid of the kids in school other kids are teasing?)

Do I demonstrate examples of love and service to my children in the way I speak to them, respond to them?

“A godly live should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim.” (Ed Stetzer, with Christianity Today)Have I shared the love of Christ with those around me, and told them of the hope we have in Christ? I Peter 3:15

The criminal on the cross believed in Christ, rather than in his works. He humbled himself, and knew in that instant that he was undeserving of Christ’s mercy.

Yet he received it. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Do we believe that we come to Christ by His saving grace alone, brought forth from the Father through the death of His Son?

Jesus committed his spirit to the Lord.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:36

Can we commit our spirits, daily, to God? Will we take up our cross every morning? Our exhaustion, our marriages, our jobs, our parenthood, our discontent, our unhealth? Matthew 16:24

We can. Because He loved us first. And because He rose, and because He is Hope and Love.

Easter is upon us.


All Bible scriptures from the New International Version (NIV)



Two-Story Tips: Managing a Household on Two Levels

rhonda franz two-story tipsA two-story house sometimes means double the duty, unless you’re managing the up and down of space effectively. I can’t say I manage everything well, but here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to our family’s constant use of a staircase.

1. Simplify socks by keeping them on the lower level. This might sound like an odd tip, but if your family is like ours, we don’t always wear socks (or shoes) around the house. Since socks don’t need to be put on until you’re headed out the door, on the way to that door is the best place to keep them. Packaged socks come in a size range, and you might be able to get away with a kid or two wearing socks from one package (or maybe this is just easier because I have all boys).

We’ve got a handful of white socks and a handful of black socks, and we keep all the socks downstairs with the shoes. When it’s time to load up the car, there is no running upstairs to the bedroom, so we’ve cut out one transition in the Time to Load Up the Car fiasco.

2. Go with a wireless printer. Print much? Yeah, you need one. This advice may soon be out of date, as I suspect all printers will be wireless in a few years. You do still have to go and actually retrieve the documents yourself. Better yet, train  your kids to do that. Works well in our home.

3. Buy two of some things. Staplers, rulers, packages of Band-Aids, mailing envelopes, stamp packages: you’re going to need these upstairs and down. Also, two laundry baskets, unless you’re particularly adept at getting laundry put away, right away. I’m so not.

4. Make spaces on each level for home management. Have a place to tuck dirty laundry downstairs, in addition to hampers in rooms. We use a pull-out container (designed to be a wastebasket) inside of our kitchen island as a hamper. So, if kids come in with muddy clothes, those go in that hamper, which, conveniently, sits right next to the washing machine.

5. What goes up, must come down (and vice versa). Two home offices is a bit much to ask for, and I can’t use a separate daily planner/To Do list, so I’m constantly carrying my planner, plus a couple of notebooks, and whatever book I have a bookmark in up and down stairs. I find it works best if I keep a small bag that hangs on the banister, and I can carry everything from one level to another.

6. Keep a few cleaning supplies on both floors. It’s the same thing you would do with a stash of diapers and wipes when your children are babies. Simple counter sprays, toilet cleaner, cleaning rags, rubber gloves. You’ll be much more motivated to keep things spiffied up if supplies are within reach. (No, not really, it will just save you some steps and frustration). Don’t forget two containers of laundry spray for pre-treating spots.

7. Keep a couple of decorative, functional baskets on the steps as your catch-all. Use these containers for things that need to go up or down, and then make it a habit to clean out items and take them up or down as you go. Each family member should collect their own things to put back in the proper place.

That cool stairway photo, courtesy of 4seasons and, because the stairs in my house aren’t at all this clutter-free.

Review: Brazi Bites Cheese Bread Snacks

I was given the opportunity to sample a few packages of Brazi Bites, a cheese bread snack in the form of bread balls. Um, yum. Cheese bread, known in Brazil as Pão de Queijo, is a popular treat in South America. (Little known fact: I’ve been to Brazil).

Brazi Bites is bringing north a little bit of the taste from way south of the border.

Rhonda Franz Brazi Bites review

There’s cheese in these. Who doesn’t want that?


The Ingredients

I was expecting a list of ingredients with unpronounceable names. Turns out, not only can I pronounce every ingredient, I know what each one is, and I have most of them in my kitchen. Even recipes for Brazilian cheese bread call for these ingredients – and in my book, that is a win. Bonus: Brazi Bites are a gluten-free food! These snacks do contain the allergens milk and eggs.

This cheese bread comes in three flavors: Original, Bacon, and Fire-Roasted Jalapeño.

The Prep

Easy-peasy. Put them on a pan, stick them in the oven, and 20 minutes later you have some nice bread bites to munch on. I stored them in a quart-size bag in the refrigerator (the packaging comes with a zip closure), and warmed up a few in the microwave.

The Ease

There is no mess to these convenient, finger-food snacks. You could set out a bowl on your counter and let the family grab a few when they walk by.

The Taste

These cheese bread balls aren’t bursting with flavor, but it was enough to keep me grabbing them for a nice snack throughout the day. The Jalapeño flavored Brazi Bites contain just the right measure of spicy (kids might not be in to that).


Ideas for using Brazi Bites in your family:

  • As an after-school snack: plain, or dipped in marinara/pasta sauce
  • As a side dish to pasta or pizza
  • Pop a couple in your child’s lunch. My kids ate ‘em up.
  • On a breakfast plate (especially the bacon flavor) along with a couple of eggs.
  • As a complement to a salad or soup.

And those are only an introduction to the scrumptious ideas Brazi Bites has for gluten-free mini sandwiches and party appetizers.

Look for Brazi Bites in the freezer section of Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, and Fred Meyer stores.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Brazi Bites for sending me their cheese bread, free of charge. What I’ve written here is my honest opinion. Now, I think I’ll go have a few more.