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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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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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

Avoid Food Waste in Your Home

This article originally appeared on efoodsDirect

by Mary Ann Romans

Most Americans waste 25 to 30 percent of their food. Yup, that is the percentage of once-edible food that winds up in the trash instead of feeding the family. Knowing how to use up everything you have and avoid food waste can make a difference in your home in so many ways.

First of all, avoiding food waste will save you money, since your food budget will be smaller. You will spend 25 percent less on your groceries. Second, having the mindset, the strategies, and the tools to avoid food waste in good times will leave you better prepared in lean times or times of emergency. Every member of your household should know the importance of being a good steward of your food.

Put the following practices in place in your home, to help you avoid food waste.

Do Regular Pantry Checks

Every few months, take items out of your pantry and check their expiration or best by dates. It is a good idea to rotate food, but let’s face it, during busy days, we don’t always do this. Depending on your stockpile, pantry checks should take you less than 15 minutes. Put regular pantry checks on your calendar, or knock out this chore during a long phone call or while dinner is cooking.

Get Creative with Ingredients

After your pantry check, you will probably have a group of items that are getting a little “long in the tooth.” Place these items up front in your pantry or even on the countertop to remind you to use them. Then get creative and find ways of using them up. Many vegetables or beans can be thrown into soup or casseroles, for example. A half-eaten peach can be cut up, mixed with a little sugar and butter and microwaved for a desert treat. A half-cup of apple sauce can be used as a substitute for oil in muffins.

Purchase Extended-Life Food

One way to avoid food waste is to purchase meals and ingredients with a long shelf life. It is easy to not waste food when it will stay fresh and ready for consuming even after fifteen or twenty years. Just make sure that whatever you choose to buy is both sealed well and high in nutrition.

Practice Meal Planning and Portion Control

Whenever you buy food (or grow it), make sure that you have a plan in mind for using the food before it can go bad. For example, if you see some nice heads of broccoli, ask yourself how will you prepare them? Will they be a side dish, a broccoli cheese soup, or part of a casserole that week? Having a plan means it is less likely for food to go to waste.

At the same time, practice good portion control. This is especially important when you have children. Only serve them what they can eat at one time. This way, any unused food can be saved for another meal or snack instead of being scraped off of the dinner plate and into the trash.

Challenge your family to waste no food this month. Use your family calendar to mark off the days when there has been no food waste. See how far you can get and award a prize, such as a fun family outing when you hit a certain number of days. Pretty soon, avoiding food waste will be second nature.

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Interesting Objects

Some interesting things that I have found while de-cluttering our home:

My 80s Name Plate Necklace

My 80s Name Plate Necklace

 

Magnetic poetry

Magnetic poetry

 

C-3PO

C-3PO

What is the most interesting thing that you’ve found around your home lately?

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Let Your Library Reduce Your Clutter

IMG_2013We love our local library. Not only does it help us save money, but it also reduces our clutter. How? By providing us with education, entertainment, things for the home, and so much more, thus reducing the pile we have in our house.

Here are some of the areas in our home where clutter has been reduced, thanks to our local library. You may be surprised by how many different areas of our home we are able to keep clutter free just by having a library card.

I strongly suggest that if you check out your local library, especially if you haven’t been there in a while. Chances are there are plenty of opportunities you will enjoy.

Kids Craft Supplies

Our local library provides our children with many different opportunities for creative crafts. Often we can just drop in during a particular time period and do the craft together with supplies that are already laid out. Other times, the craft is directed by an instructor. Either way, the kids have some creative fun, and I don’t have to purchase and keep mounds of craft supplies in my home.

Magazines

For a while, magazines were one of the major sources of clutter in our home. We use them for entertainment, research and knowledge. Plus, we like trying some of the new recipes that we find. It was always hard to recycle magazines, since I worried that I might miss something.

Our library now offers popular magazines in a digital format, free to download. There is no limit to the number of current issue magazines that we can view–the library makes all of the most popular ones available, as well as some trade magazines, so we always have access.

Plus, if we really want to read paper versions, we can spend a few moments at the physical library reading current issues or borrow older issues and take them home.

Entertainment or Media Center

Video Games

We used to save money by purchasing used video games, but we still wound up with quite a collection that cluttered up our living room. The library has helped us eliminate that clutter by offering video games for our home system. The kids can check out a new video game for an entire week at a time. The games also come with any extra controllers or special devices that are needed to play them, so we don’t have to worry about having to buy and store a special board to do some virtual skiing, for example.

DVDs

Thanks to the library, we can check out new movies any time we want. There is a good selection of DVDs available that can be borrowed from one to three weeks, depending on the popularity of a particular title. This eliminated our previous practice of purchasing whatever new family movie became available. Now, we only purchase a movie if we’ve checked it out more than five times. We get to watch new movies all of the time, without having to commit to the space to keep them all organized.

While most libraries offer DVDs for free, some do charge a nominal fee for this service.

CDs

Need a new CD for the car or just to listen to at home? While the library may have been the last place you would think of for new music, the truth is that it is a wealth of a resource, especially for children’s music, world music and popular tunes.

Bookshelves

This month alone, I saved at least three feet of bookshelf space in my home simply by avoiding book impulse buys and checking the books out at the library instead. Thanks to our library’s online access, I can “order” new books and have them waiting for me to pick up for free. When I am done reading, there are more wonderful books to be had. Since my family consists of avid readers who tend to bump into walls because we have our noses in our books all of the time, the clutter reduction is significant. Thanks to the library, boxes and boxes of books have left our home and given us a lot more space.

What about rare books or less popular ones that may not be available at your library branch? Request them through intra-library loan.

Reference Library

We often kept certain books around for reference, such as cookbooks and home repair books. While we still have a few of these, most of the time, we can simply check out the library when we need to learn or be reminded of something. Physical reference books can be viewed or check out of course, but our library also has a number of online references that we are allowed to access. The library offers solid and reliable reference material. Reference books tend to be large, so it is nice to not have to find permanent space in our home for them.

Toys and Games

Our local library offers a number of board games that can be played with while in the library, including both the classics and some new favorites. It also sponsors different toy and game events from Lego building for kids to card games for seniors. Not only can this reduce the need for tons of toys and games in the home, but it can also offer social benefits, as well.

Some libraries also allow toys and games to be check out of the library for a number of weeks, so you can take them home to enjoy.

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