Monthly Archives: January 2013

Power Outage and the Important Things in Life

file00051154666This morning, we woke up to no power. This is a frequent occurrence in the woods, where high wind and heavy rain can take out a power line in a snap. We are used to it. It can last for a few hours to a few days.

My husband hooked up the generator before he left for work, so I could have my off-line laptop (for end-of-the-month writing deadlines) and coffee (also for end-of-the-month writing deadlines). Well, he also hooked up the heat and the refrigerator.

Because we have well-water, no electricity also means no water, which is why our basement crawl space is stacked with cases of bottled water and bottles of hand sanitizer. There are also a few gallons of stored water for flushing–you know, the important things. We learned the first year in this house that it is easier to store milk jugs full of non-potable water than to take a bucket down to the creek in the middle of a rain storm, snow storm, hurricane, invasion of stupid drunk people hitting trees in the middle of the night.  I refuse to let the yellow mellow.

The power (and the Internet) did come back on eventually, and I got my first over-the-phone lesson in undocking the generator. That husband of mine is trying to turn me into a country woman, which is funny, since he comes from New Jersey. I opted to leave alone, the open wires connecting the furnace to the house power. I figure crispy mama would not be a good view for the kids to come home to after school.

 

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Work at Home Mom

Work at Home Mom

To keep a little one occupied while you work, set up a small desk in your office. Keep your child busy creating his or her own office space. A small piece of card stock can be folded in half to create a name plate, a tin can covered in white paper can be turned into a decorated pencil holder, business cards can be designed, etc. Your child will feel important, and you can get your work done!

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January 30, 2013 · 10:21 am

The Amish Give Me Corn Muffins

AmishThe sugar is running low. The organic flour is gone. So are the raisins. So what does this have to do with the Amish and muffins? Let me explain.

We travel a bit more than an hour from our home in Pennsylvania to Lancaster, Pa. It has a big Amish community and several other interesting things, such as major outlets. Tucked down a long winding road, past a farm is a little natural food store run by an Amish family. (If you know the secret password, you can also purchase raw milk next door from a little Amish girl.)

We visit the store three times a year to stock up on organic bulk ingredients, including the flour, sugar and raisins. We also stock up on corn meal, however, I haven’t been using it as often. Since I like my ingredients to be fresh, I’ll need to use up most of what corn meal remains.

So, this morning, in the chaos of getting second-born child out the door for school, I decided to make two batches of corn bread for the freezer. Yes, I’m an idiot. I almost got cough syrup in the batter, and left my daughter’s excuse note in my recipe book, but I need the kid-free afternoons for freelance work, so baking in the morning usually works for me.

Since the oven was hot anyway, I also made a pan of brownies which will not be going into the freezer. 

 

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Keeping the Clutter in Check

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Once you do a major de-clutter (or even a minor one), how do you keep the clutter in check? It is tough, since the stuff really does seem to reproduce itself, or should I say breed. I don’t remember ever buying that sock with the toes. Mutant DNA.

There is no way around it. Regular maintenance needs to be done. Clutter has to be busted before it can fully establish itself. That means that you have to scope out your spaces and conquer. For example, just now I looked away and when I looked back, a coffee cup had popped, mysteriously, on to my bedroom dresser. Ack.

What the coffee cup must come to realize, though, is now that the surface of that dresser has been cleared, it stands out like a sore thumb, um white mug. Just ask the small tube of hand creme that tried to infiltrate the flat surface of the kitchen pantry yesterday. Eventually, our stuff will get the message that clutter is not tolerated. Especially when certain items watch other certain items wind up in the trash or leave the house in donation boxes.

I’ve been a little lazy under the weather in the last few days, and the kids are battling one virus after another, so I’m having to push though with the clutter busting challenges. Still making good progress, though.

Here is my updated clutter busting list.

  • Master Bedroom Bedding (I even sewed a button on to our comforter cover–a bit of mental clutter solved)
  • Kids Puzzles and Workbooks (I somehow missed this when I did the toys earlier in the week)
  • Socks (All five of us plus the bag of single socks)
  • Utensils
  • Belts
  • Some photos (This will be a long project)
  • Children’s closets (3)
  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

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New Meaning for the Term “Crunchy Mama”

Found on Facebook.

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January 28, 2013 · 7:07 am

Bread Machine Recipes: Cinnamon Rolls

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Did I mention that I love my bread machine? Nah, I bet I never did. Anyway, I LOVE my bread machine, because it helps me provide all sorts of yummy bread things.

One of the kids’ favorite things to ever come out of the bread machine is the cinnamon roll recipe. I have to confess that I have been known to sneak one or two for snacks well after breakfast is done.

The nice thing about this bread machine recipe is that it makes two pans of cinnamon rolls. We generally eat one pan over the course of a day or two and freeze the other for a quick breakfast that feels special. While the recipe feels decadent, I estimate it to cost somewhere around $1.25 to make. Not bad at all.

Here is the recipe.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Dough:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 egg, lightly beaten plus 2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

5 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Filling:

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1-1/3 cup brown sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Icing:

1 quick “gluggy” of milk–about 5-6 tablespoons

1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. The dough ingredients go in the bread machine in whichever order your machine recommends (usually wet first, then dry then yeast).
  2. While the dough is in the bread machine, mix up the filling.
  3. After the dough cycle is finished, roll the dough into a large, long  rectangle on your counter. I usually make a long snake shape, place it on the counter lengthwise, and then roll it up and back. If the dough is hard to work with, let it rest for five minutes.
  4. Spread the dough with the melted butter and then the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  5. Roll up the dough.
  6. Using a sharp knife, and cut the dough into rolls and place them cinnamon side up (cut ends) in two greased round cake pans.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until they are nicely browned. Spread the icing on the rolls while they are hot. You can also freeze and reheat these rolls, which I often do!

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Snowy Woods

What it looks like out there this afternoon. The background roaring noise is the creek.

The snow was coming down fast, so we parked the car at the top of the driveway (else we will never get it out). While waiting for my kindergartener (coming home on the school bus), I drew a smiley face on the windshield. He saw it and giggled. Score one for mom!

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January 25, 2013 · 4:36 pm

Update to Clutter Busting

under the kitchen sink

Proof that we have too much stuff: finding something that you didn’t know you even had. For me, it was an enamel pasta pot, a little basket (tucked into the pot), and a thermos. You may be wondering… How the heck can you lose a pot? It was tucked under the kitchen sink, probably since the time we moved to this house almost six years ago.

Bonus reward: We have been wanting a thermos for the kids lunches but were reluctant to purchase one.  Hmm, I wonder if I do enough organizing a pizza stone will magically appear somewhere. Yeah, probably not.

I am determined to make progress, with your help. Here is a list of my clutter busting accomplishments this week, so far. The new accomplishments, since I last posted Clutter Busting, appear in bold.

How have you been doing in your de-cluttering efforts?

  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

I also want to get back into the habit of practicing small kindnesses each day. Because I’m mostly isolated at home this week, the recipients were mainly school bus drivers and neighbors. Fortunately, that still got me through the week.

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Could Your Clutter Be Putting You at Risk?

A piece I wrote for Families.com

ClutterDon’t let your clutter control your life or your finances. Taking some time to de-clutter your home can not only be more freeing, but it could possible reduce your risk of going into debt. Here is why.

Clutter Can Be Overwhelming

When clutter gets out of control, you can quickly become overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed means that you will have less focus and energy to live your life. Studies have shown that too much clutter may even contribute to depression.

With less focus and energy for work and life, plus possible “retail therapy” to lift the spirits, debt could quickly get out of control.

Quick Tip: To address your current clutter without becoming overwhelmed, spend just ten to 15 minutes a day on one particular area at a time, such as the kitchen counter, your child’s closet or your magazines. Document your accomplishments in a journal, by taking photos or online through a blog or forum to keep you motivated.

Buying More Space for Clutter

The more stuff that you own, the more space that it needs to live. Having extra stuff means that you might be led to purchase a larger home or pay a monthly fee for a storage facility.

Quick Tip: Avoid storing items for “someday.” You may find that you spend more to store the items that it would cost to replace them. Challenge yourself to live with less.

Clutter Breeds Clutter

People with well-organized generally spend less money for two strong reasons. The first is that they are purposeful about what they will bring into their homes, since they don’t want the clutter to spoil the comfort of a clean home. The second is that they are used to living with what they have and don’t need the latest and greatest to be happy.

Quick Tip: Once you have an area de-cluttered and organized, let us say your bookshelves, vow to keep that area well. Don’t bring home any additional books unless you part with an equal number to make space for the new arrivals. Chances are that you’ll choose not to make the new purchases after all.

Clutter Makes You Lose Things

An excess of stuff is hard to organize. That means that with clutter, you’ll probably wind up having to repurchase items that you can’t find. Anyone with six pairs of kitchen scissors knows what I mean. An even scarier risk is that you will become subject to late fees and penalties or enter serious financial trouble because you can’t locate important bills or financial notifications. You may even lose checks or gift cards in the clutter.

Quick Tip: Give things that are important or used often a place of honor, so that they become highly visible. For example, you might place all of your gift cards in a pretty box somewhere near the front door, so you can grab them on your way out to shopping.

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It’s a Good Day

It's a Good Day

…to stop and watch the birds

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January 24, 2013 · 10:05 am