Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cooking Class

(Flannel Man grilling our steaks)

With the help of a half-priced Groupon deal, Flannel Man and I signed up for a 2-hour cooking class. We went on a Saturday to learn about grilling, but learned so much more than that!

(Grated potatos for the rosti)

We ended up creating a Zinfandel mushroom sauce for steak. We sauteed portobello mushrooms and scallions. We made a potato rosti, which I'd never even heard of before that day. We cooked spinich. We grilled steak medallions and we had a lot of fun.

(Ingredients at our work station)

The class had about 25 people in it and we all had different recipes. Everybody was chatting and comparing ingredients as we worked. Some people made pork, others spoon bread and still others made BBQ chicken and baked beans. At the very end of the class everyone got to try all of the dishes.

(Our Zinfandel sauce and potato rosti cooking on the stove)

I would encourage you guys to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. It doesn't matter if who you do it with. Take your boyfriend/husband/best friend/sibling or do it on your own. I never thought I would enjoy a class like that, but I had a blast. And I learned a lot about cooking at the same time.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Toast to the Birthday Blogger!


Happy Birthday, 2nd Blogger 'O Mine!


image by twobloggers

Packing your lunch

(Two lunches I recently packed. One has cucumber slices, grapes, carrot sticks
and a turkey sandwich. They other has hummus, carrot sticks, Babybel cheese,
pickle spears, a banana and roast beef lunch meat.)

As new homeowners Flannel Man and I have quickly realized that there are many unexpected costs that come with owning a home. A big one of those is outdoor upkeep. We have a big yard, which means we need a big mower. This was a purchase that we wanted to be able to make without sticking another big toe into the pool of debt that student loans created.

Hence, packing your lunch. We both work full-time outside of our home and so spending money on eating out becomes a common occurrence. There are many reasons for this. Packing your lunch takes time. Also, I hate sitting in the office all day with no break. Going out to lunch makes the day feel a bit shorter.

So being frugal about lunch becomes a bit trickier. I watch my co-workers occasionally dump the lunches their wives packed them because they don't want to sit in the office, but they know they have to take the empty containers home. I know, ridiculous, now they are paying for 2 lunches!

(My lunchbox)

The trick is to make sure taking your lunch isn't a chore. For me it's important to have a wide variety of foods for lunches. I don't want to eat the same thing every day. I also allow myself 2 days during the week when I can eat lunch out with co-workers. This is a big improvement from 4 to 5 lunches out and it gives you something to look forward to. It's also a lot healthier.

I use my lunch break to run errands to the post office, bank, library, etc. and eat my lunch on the go. This gives me a chance to still get out of the office and to make me feel like I'm accomplishing something that I would have had to do after work. It's a win-win for everyone.

So, if you want to start packing your lunch more frequently, know the reasons why it has been hard in the past and find ways to accommodate those hindrances. Also, it doesn't hurt to pack a special treat in your lunch so that you have something to look forward to, like a special kind of cheese or almonds, etc.

Containers from here and here.

Photos by moi.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mission: Cleaning Without Chemicals

"My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance."
- Author Unknown

Cleaning has become a booming business, but its roots are connected with just a few ingredients. Pulling the plug on all the bottles and gimmicks that swarm the supermarket aisles we can see just how easy it is to make our own versions at home. The best part about this is that our friends and family will soon learn to associate "clean" with certain essential oils, herbs, or three of those ever versatile 'basics' that are always used when cleaning. Not just the generic smell of certain products (although if you do like this smell there are herbs created naturally that they based the smell on) will fool them anymore.

" The Whys?"

  • Safer for the environment. Doing your part to help keep harmful chemicals from leaking into the environment.

  • Keeps you breathing easier. Products can expose children and adults to unnatural toxins that can lead to respiratory issues and other illnesses inside the home.

  • Saves money. Most of these ingredients are already found in your home.

  • Less packaging. Can buy the basics in bulk & reuse your spray bottle over again.

  • Peace of mind to know what's in your clean "recipes" with a few, simple ingredients. Kids can help clean or just be in the same room as you clean.

  • Can change your product to suit your tastes by choosing your own essential oils or products. There are many sooooo many variations on the different ways to clean a certain area. I based most of mine on the book Better Basics For the Home.

The "Whats"

  1. Toilet Cleaner- Spray toilet bowls with straight white distilled vinegar, sprinkle with baking soda, & scrub OR 2 teaspoons tea tree oil & two cups water (leave for thirty minutes then scrub OR just use your disinfectant spray & scrub. Man, I wish there was a way to leave out the scrubbing!

  2. Sink & Tub- Baking soda/water mix & sponge to scour OR use disinfectant spray.

  3. Disinfectant- This is tricky, because there are so many different recipes out there. I use 2 cups water, 1/4 cup vinegar, & 3 drops tea tree oil & 3 lavender. I've heard mixed reports about borax, so I have stayed clear. Yet, I will try it one day. Also, soap & water do wonders for a little dirt!

  4. Furniture Polish- 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, few drops olive oil, 3 to 5 drops of essential oils

  5. Window Cleaner- 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon soap, 2 cups water, few drops of essential oils for scent.

Air Fresheners- I love trying different ways to make a house smell inviting. Here are some different things to experiment with, besides grabbing a smell out of a can.

  • In the winter heat cloves, Cinnamon, or oranges to get a cozy Christmas smell.

  • In the summer try cutting lemons, adding them to cold water and maybe adding mint or another herb from the garden.

  • Plants are the ultimate air purifiers. Ones like English Ivy, Peace Lily, or Boston Fern are thought to be some of the best.

  • Vacuum Deodorizer- Moisten 3 cotton balls with essential oils & put them in your vacuum cleaner bag. This will freshen up the room as you clean.

  • Refrigerator- If your fridge smells try putting 2-3 pieces of white bread to absorb your unwanted nose guests, baking soda works as well.

  • If you happen to have some of the Oil Plug Ins in your home I have heard that removing the top & filling it with vegetable oil and about 30 essential oil drops will give you a natural scent to enjoy.

  • But if guests are arriving soon & you want the room to smell fresh & sassy, then put a little bit of your fav essential oil on a rag, then wipe it under the bottom of the furniture like a table, mantle, or tv stand (test first to make sure it is not making your furniture too sassy aka ruining it!)

Even if don't do all of these you should at least try one, because just one will clear the air for a healthier more simple space.

images twobloggers

Life Through Poetry

Do the Next Thing
At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
That, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration, do the next thing.
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance, be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons, do the next thing.
Author Unknown, but poem made famous by Elisabeth Elliot

Image by twobloggers

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wedding DIY: Embroidery

(An embroidery starter kit and the handkerchiefs)

This is the first in a series of posts on Wedding DIY. These do-it-yourself projects are all things I decided to create for my own wedding in October 2009.

This particular project was to embroider two handkerchiefs with a special message. One was a note to my husband-to-be (Flannel Man) and the other was for my Dad. Having never embroidered anything before I wasn't completely sure where to start. I decided to get a starter embroidery kit and chose this one, which I found on sale somewhere.

(The supplies and the blue yarn I picked)

I purchased the yarn and handkerchiefs I wanted and decided what I wanted to embroider. I wrote out a message to Flannel Man and used a quote about family for my Dad's. After reading the kit's manual I wrote the quotes on the handkerchiefs lightly with a pencil to make sure they would fit. I kept the letters in a block form to make it easier. Then I popped in a movie and started to stitch.

I gave both handkerchiefs to the guys during the rehearsal dinner and they carried them in their pockets on my wedding day. The end product was nothing perfect, but they were definitely readable and the guys seemed to appreciate them. I loved knowing that Flannel Man had that special note from me in his pocket that no one else knew about.

(My groom's handkerchief)

If you have a friend or family member who is getting married, you could always offer to do or at least help them with a DIY project of their choosing. The same is true for bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, etc. I love seeing the tiny details that others have taken time to create that make events unique.

I'd like to add that for your own wedding, you shouldn't take on any more DIY projects than you can handle. These projects should be fun, not stressful. I loved doing them because it was an excuse to learn something new and challenge myself. When you're planning a wedding you don't need to add more things to your to do list. So only take on things that are important to you. In the end the crucial thing is to be able to relax and enjoy the day.

Photos by moi.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mission: Simplifying Toys

If you had asked me what I thought about toys before my quest to learn more about the "whys" behind them, I would have said that the more the better. But that is natural right?
Kids = Piles 'o Toys.

But now after really thinking about the toys that I own and the toys that benefit my kids. I understand that Kids - Piles 'o Toys= Freedom. Sounds so cliche, I know. But it's true. I found that my toy piles had been skipped over in simplifying my home, but why? The book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne answers the questions that I think everyone needs to hear. Here are a few points paraphrased that he makes in the chapter on a child's 'environment'.

  • Toys are marketed now adays so that if the child doesn't have them, their imagination is gone. The toy is responsible for play, not the child.

  • Kids feel entitled with more. They are not able to take care of what they have, because they know there will always be something else.

  • Having lots of toys mean that none of them will truly have the child's full attention. The full potential of that toy won't be reached, because they're already on to the next thing.

  • Boredom is a gift. Children don't need piles or a certain educational toy to develop who they are. They need unstructured time for play.

  • Most children have 150 toys. If your child can't pick them up in 5 minutes they probably have too many.

  • Books also are included in the simplifying. Too many books do not equal a well educated child. When not regulated they can become a form of clutter & excess. With too many to choose from they become disposable, commercialized, and overexposed just like toys.

He also says that many parents feel surprised by this assessment of their children's things. "It's as though parents realize they're on a runaway train, but they can't believe they never noticed it speeding up. Even in the span of one or two generation, there has been a sea change, a flood of items marketed to parents for their children."

My hopes for my kids future things are this....

Play Wooden food.

A miniature tea set.

A how-to book about simple wood projects for kids.

Different size play silks.

    Nature. Rocks. Big. Little. Huge.


Hula hoops.

Set of small real tools hammer, saw, etc.

Small rolling pin.

Little wheelbarrow.


I don't want to take away the joy of them experiencing life. I want to take away the outside pressure of more, and give them the joy of living with less & finding contentment with the things they do have.

"When you act to limit what you don't want for your family, you clarify what you really do need, what is important to you. Your values clarify. Simplification is a path of self-definition for the family."- Dr. Kim Payne

What's Cooking: Parmesan Zucchini

I recently tried a recipe for Parmesan Zucchini. It was simple to make and a great addition to a light dinner. I thinly sliced a zucchini and tossed it into a skillet with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. After cooking the slices for about 10 minutes (until soft) I drizzled freshly grated parmesan on top.

I let the cheese melt and the whole thing brown just a tiny bit and then served it with salmon. I wouldn't have guessed that parmesan and zucchini would be such a great combination, but it was delicious!

(Salmon, parmesan zucchini and orange slices)

Photos by moi.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Practicing Independence

"We must support as much as possible the child's desire for activity; not wait on him, but educate him to be independent." - Maria Montessori

Having the plates and food already prepped, ready for my helpers.

It was the two year olds task to take crackers and transfer them to red plates. Next came the meat that was already pulled into pieces & she put it on top of the crackers. Some for her, & some for her brother's plate.

Meanwhile it was my four year olds job to slice the cheese. Take the pieces and place them on the crackers. Make drinks. Carry plates outside where the picnic awaits.

"A child is an eager observer and is particularly attracted by the actions of adults and wants to imitate them. In this regard an adult can have a kind of mission. He can be an inspiration for the child's actions, a kind of open book wherein a child can learn to direct his own movements."
- Maria Montessori

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kitchen Cabinet Organization

(The horrible before shot)

For some reason I could never organize my rubbermaid containers in any sort of way that made sense. So finally I saved up my swagbucks and bought two metal shelves to give me some semblance of order in my kitchen cabinets.

(After I reorganized with my new shelves)

Having all of the containers organized means I'll actually use them more. When I don't have to search for the lids I'm more likely to grab a container instead of a ziplock bag. It also gave me more room for a little lazy susan which holds my coffee grinder and French press. I love having the things I use the most within reach. It saves me time and headaches.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How Do Moms Get Their Super Powers?

By eating a nutritious breakfast of course! Want to score major baking points with a woman in your life this weekend? Be sure to try these.....

-1 Cup Brown Sugar

- 1/4 to 1/2 cup Peanut Butter

- 1 Banana

- 1/2 cup Apple Sauce or Carrot Puree

- 1 Egg

- 1 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour

-1 Tsp Baking Soda

-1 Tsp Baking Powder

-1/2 Tsp of Salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients, set aside. Blend everything else, sift in dry ingredients. Spray muffin tray or add liners. Bake for 15-18 minutes. (Makes 12, double for 24).

Here's an old Seinfeld episode to enjoy while you chow down your super muffins...........Top of the Muffin to You!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garden Markers

I first saw these vintage spoon garden markers about a year ago, but at the time I lived in a little apartment with no garden. Now that I finally have a garden I purchased four custom spoons with the names of the herbs I've planted.

I got them from etsy seller Monkeysalwayslook last night and I love them! Each spoon is different. She flattens them and then puts the name of the herb on them. They are already at home in my little herb garden.

Photos by moi.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Picture Your Memories

Most everyone has a memory box/closet/garage. Special memento's from days gone by, ticket stubs, or misc. school papers. These can be the hardest items to pare down, because of the emotional attachment. But keeping everything that has meaning to you wouldn't be the best use of your space. Try an easier way to have a visual reminder of your things without taking up any space.... with a camera. 1.) Ask yourself if your children would think this was special when they are older? If not, take a picture.

2.) Is it something that would lose pieces or fall apart if you kept it for a long period of time? If so, take a picture.

3.) If something happened to me, would someone even know why it was important to me? If not, take a picture, then with a photo program write the date & memory that goes along with the item.

4.) Is there documentation of this item? Have you done a complete home inventory of your house lately? If there was a fire or flood would you have the necessary proof/memory to recall all of your special items? If not, take a picture.

5.) Want to remember your child's reaction to their favorite artwork? How they were proud & glowing when it was finished? If so, take a picture with them and the finished masterpiece. Also, if they are in the stage where they produce a craft everyday at school, try taking your camera to school. Line them up against the wall and snap their photo with all of their goodies. A wonderful before/after memorabilia as to how they've grown through the school year.

6.) Did you go on vacation and bring back every brochure from your destination? Take a picture of the important pages, maps, and ticket stubs. That way they will be tucked in right beside your photos on your computer album, not lying around collecting dust. Same goes for sporting events & theater performances.

7.) No doubt it would be difficult to put every memory item in a scrapbook, but with digital photos it can be easy to create a photo book online through sites like Snapfish or Scrapblog. What a fun gift idea for Christmas, or any other holiday to create a book of your vacation/preschool year/or special events you attended. This way you can customize, organize, and actually enjoy your memories instead of them sitting stagnant taking up space.

Now, once you have some of your memorabilia on the computer it is important that you always remember to back up your files, or have an online service like Carbonite do this for you. That way you can rest assure that your photos will be kept safe throughout the years to come!