Monthly Archives: February 2013

Seeing the Beauty

Seeing the Beauty

Taking care of our stuff often leaves little opportunity for spotting our beautiful moments.

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February 28, 2013 · 1:12 pm

Finding Time to Cook

This post originally appeared on Families.com

When life gets busy, cooking at home is usually one of the first things to go. It is tough to find the time to cook, when there is work, school, kids activities, etc., isn’t it? Eating out becomes the normal thing to do. Unfortunately, eating out can be both expensive and unhealthy, especially if it is continued over time. Because of these two facts, effort must be made to do most of the cooking at home. So where do we find the time to cook?

Track the Time Commitment

Eating out can actually take more time than you think, unless you are on an all-drive-thru diet. The next time you do eat out, track the time it takes, from the moment you get in the car to the moment your meal is actually served. You might be surprised. If it takes more than 15 minutes total (oh, and add in the travel time back to your home), then you may actually be spending more time eating out than you would cooking at home since there are a plethora of recipes out there that require only 15 minutes or less.

Get the Kids Involved

Many hands make light work, so get the whole family involved in preparing the meal. It will give you all a chance to be together, too, reinforcing family bonds. Give each member of the family at least one task, even if it is just pouring frozen vegetables into a dish before microwaving.

Use Simple Ingredients and Recipes

You don’t have to create an entire gourmet meal every time you cook at home. A simple casserole, a pasta dish, burgers…it’s all good. Just try to get the food groups in and you’ll be fine. Simple ingredients and recipes can make for quick easy meals.

Do Prep Work Whenever

The next time you are on the phone for an extended time, use a headset or place it on speaker phone and go and do some dinner prep. Chop vegetables during TV commercials. Add some marinade to frozen chicken and place it in the fridge while you are waiting for your tea to steep.

The point is to do prep work in pieces, whenever you have time. Then when it is time to make the actual meal, there will be less to do, and you won’t have missed those bits of time that you spent on the prep work.

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Filed under Saving Money

You Don’t Have to Be Irish to be a Leprechaun

This blog post was crafted for Elfster.com, and featured in the “wish fulfillment” blog.

irishEveryone should be a leprechaun at least once in their life.

Leprechauns are cute. They are clever. And they are, well, let’s face it, rich. Do you know what a pot of gold is worth today? At $900 per ounce, I figure that even a smallish leprechaun who wants a mobile pot of gold that he can carry from rainbow’s end to rainbow’s end would be worth at least $350,000. That would be tax free. Even now, Obama may even be considering a new economic plan called “Operation Lucky Charms.” But, you didn’t find out about it here.

Many famous people have aspired to be leprechauns. If you were anywhere near New York City in the late 1970s to the late 1980s, you may remember the city’s Mayor, Ed Koch who marched in every parade and declared himself to be of the proper heritage that the day called for. He became Puerto Rican, Italian, African-American, Chinese and Irish. I really think his favorite parade was on St. Patrick’s Day. Underneath that Kelly green scarf and fisherman’s sweater was a heart of gold and a pot of green. Or maybe it was the other way around. No matter, the Irish-Jewish brogue brought tears of joy to many eyes, proud we were of our diverse city.

Today in a culture that celebrates ethnic pride, why not take advantage of the great multicultural opportunity and be proud of the traditions that others bring? Even if you aren’t a leprechaun or even Irish, you can celebrate and take ownership of this proud heritage that brought us the gift of gab, Tammany Hall, corned beef and cabbage, and RainDance. Oh, and the color green. Before the Irish came to America, everyone here had to make do with puce.

In truth, positive Irish contributions to American culture include special success and innovation in the fields of journalism, sports and entertainment. The “fighting spirit” of many Irish Americans, as well as their gift with words has contributed tremendously to the greatness of this country. What better way to acknowledge our own American heritage than by celebrating one of the many cultures that helped to shape it? Our first president was Irish (George Washington, in case you forgot). Other famous Irish-Americans include Gene Kelly, Henry Ford, Georgia O’Keeffe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and of course Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York.

So why not dust off that tie with the clover all over it or that pair of green acid washed jeans hanging in the back of your closet. See, it is okay to admit you always wanted to be a leprechaun.

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Filed under Funny Stuff

My Morning in Photos: The “Is It Spring Yet?” Edition

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Gather the Positive

Gather the Positive

Throughout today, gather only positive words of the future and cast off the negative ones of the past, which do nothing but threaten to drown you.

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February 25, 2013 · 9:31 am

Bread Machine Recipes: Dinner Rolls

file000153779528These are by far the absolutely best bread machine rolls that I have tried. I make them often, at least once or twice a week, and they go quickly in my home. In fact, I’ve had to make extra batches of these rolls and send them home with guests. My eldest child is now an expert at forming them.

Sometimes I make 12 dinner rolls. Other times I form the dough into only eight rolls and use them for sandwiches or burgers.

The rolls are so easy to make, because you use a bread maker to form the dough and put it through the first rise. The recipe has the added goodness of powdered milk, which gives it a smooth texture as well as the bonus of calcium.

And now, on to the recipe!

Bread Machine Rolls

Add the following ingredients to your bread machine in the order that is recommended by the machine’s manufacturer.

1 cup of whole wheat flour

2 cups of bread flour (or eliminate the whole wheat and just go with 3 cups of bread flour)

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup powdered (dry) milk

1 cup of warm water (microwave the water for 50 seconds or run the tap until it is warm)

2 tablespoon of softened butter

2-1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast (or one packet)

Select the dough cycle on your machine and press start. Check the machine after five minutes to ensure that you have a nice rounded ball of dough. Add water or flour one tablespoon at a time if needed. Make sure not to over do any additions, or your rolls will suffer.

When the dough cycle is done, gently punch down the dough by kneading. Form the rolls. I vary the size. You can make 12 small dinner rolls or eight or nine sandwich or burger rolls.

Lightly spray cookie sheets and then place the rolls on the sheets. Allow the rolls to rise for about 40 minutes. One great way to do this is to place the sheets in a cold oven with a pan full of very hot water. The water will keep the rolls warm and moist as they rise.

When the rolls are done rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush a light coating of egg white and water on the tops of the rolls to give them some shine, if you like, although this step isn’t necessary. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.

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Filed under Recipes

TVP Saves Money

save moneySince it is Friday, I thought it would be a good time to share a money-saving tip about using TVP. We often get tired of cooking by Friday and want something quick and easy for dinner.

TVP, or texturized vegetable protein is quick to cook, full of protein and very cheap. Often used as a meat substitute, TVP can extend many meals, providing nutrition for very little money.  TVP comes dried, so it lasts practically forever. You can purchase it at your local natural food store or even a chain such as Whole Foods. You can get it in a non-GMO version, which basically means that it hasn’t been genetically modified, as so many of our plant and vegetable products usually are.

Tonight, I’m putting my money (or should I save savings) where my mouth is and using some TVP to make healthy, vegetarian and really cheap Sloppy Joes. Since I am also making homemade buns thanks to my bread machine, the meal is literally costing us less than $5 to feed our family of five, and that includes a can of ready-made Sloppy Joe sauce and some frozen veggies on the side.

What is your favorite ingredient to use to save money?

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Banish the Aspirations

file0001885192404Aspirational Objects are things that don’t serve an immediate purpose, but usually remind us what we aspire to do and to be. Sometimes these objects can be inspirational, such as a beautiful photograph that reminds us to seek out simplicity and calm. Most of the time, though, these aspirational objects serve only to make us feel guilty or inadequate, such as the three pairs of size 4 pair of pants we will never wear again, the tiny but expensive jar of truffle oil for a gourmet meal we haven’t gotten around to cooking, or the stacks of woodworking magazines for the home improvement projects that never happened.

These are the “someday” things. “Someday I’ll (fill in the blank).” If the someday ever does come to pass, won’t it be more of a delight to go out and find objects that fit your new reality instead of making do with something that might not fit?

While there is nothing wrong with aspiring to something better, something different, why not invest our focus on the lives we are living now, and own with objects that speak to us, serve a purpose or add value in our lives? Being surrounded by reminders of what we have failed to accomplish or decided didn’t work for us gives us negativity, not freedom.

My challenge for us all today (and I hope that you will join me), is to banish at least one aspirational object from your home and your life. If you take the challenge, please comment on your accomplishment!

 

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Filed under Minimalism

Another One Bites the Dust Clutter List

IMG_1999Well. Whew. Another full car load of stuff for the thrift store, plus an almost-full garbage bag ready to go. I’ve been ruthless, ruthless I tell you. After being guided by two of my new favorite people: Peter Walsh and Joshua Becker, something really clicked, and our home is slowly transforming into a freeing space that we can love.  (Aside from their obvious talents, I’ve found both Walsh and Becker to be really nice guys.)

We still need furniture, having inherited a miss-matched collection. At midlife, with three kids, we are looking forward to a future where we stop treating our home as if it were our first rental out of college. Better to do without than to do with wrong. Letting go leaves the hand open to accept the worthwhile.

As you can see below, the list is getting long, which is both a source of pride and embarrassment. If this much stuff needed to be de-cluttered… I know I am not alone. Tell me I am not alone.

Here is my updated de-cluttering list. The items in bold are the newest accomplishments.

  • One section of the basement
  • Kids’ school paperwork
  • Old Word Processor (a whole project since it had data on it)
  • Hope Chest–emptied and ready for donation
  • Right food pantry
  • Second box of photos
  • Paperwork (10 minutes)
  • Inherited sewing notions
  • First Aid
  • One box of old photos
  • Sweaters
  • Towels
  • Sweatshirts
  • Underwear drawer
  • Make up and toiletries
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Recipe magazines
  • Baskets
  • Rags (Ugh, why was I keeping so many–was I worried about a shortage?)
  • One kitchen cabinet
  • Cookie sheets, muffin pans and platters
  • Pens and Pencils (Until I went around the house and actually gathered them all up, I had no idea how many we had! A bunch went in the trash and a bag full of nice ones were donated to my son’s kindergarten teacher, who will have enough writing instruments to last until said son is in college.)
  • One kitchen drawer (Goodbye chip clips. I sent them to a new friend I met online who was in dire need of some.)
  • More books! (The recent purging and a prompt from organizing guru, Peter Walsh, has made me brave enough to get rid of another large box of books.)
  • The Junk Drawer!!!
  • 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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Watching Your Children Soar

Watching Your Children Soar

My daughter and a friend reaching new heights.

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February 19, 2013 · 2:39 pm