Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Room To Breathe

You know how things get cluttered up around you and you feel like the walls are closing in? And then you clean things out and once again you feel as though you have room to breathe?

Well, closets aren't the only area that can get cluttered! During this first month of the new year, I've discovered a few changes that are helping to make my days run a bit more smoothly and giving me a little room to breathe.

  • Daily schedule. On New Year's Day, I quickly scrawled a new basic daily schedule on some scrap paper while at a friend's house watching a football game. Bright and early the next morning, I began to implement it. It's been 4 weeks now and I'm still following it and have experienced tremendous freedom from such a simple plan. On a typical day, I can get the basic household stuff accomplished without feeling like I'm letting everything else go. In a nutshell, what I'm doing is focusing on what needs to be done rather on all that could be done.
  • Rest. I've established a daily rest time for myself. If I worked at a 'real job' outside the home, I would get a lunch break. What I do is set aside 30 minutes once the littles are down for naps and I've cleaned up the lunch and breakfast dishes. I set the timer so I don't oversleep and then settle in on the couch and close my eyes. Sometimes I doze off, sometimes not. When the timer dings, I get up and go on to the next thing. Some may like to read, use the computer or craft during this time. That is certainly fine although I've found that I really need the complete mental break. My husband has noticed the difference this short break has made on my mental/emotional state and energy level for the rest of the afternoon. I am an introvert and the quiet time does wonders for me! God created rest and we would do well to make time to pause during our busy days. 
  • Computer time. I've cut way back on the time I spend at the computer. It's amazing how much more productive I can be! And I'm much more focused on what I'm doing online when I set limits on my computer time. I've reduced the number of blogs I read daily--down to 10-15 of my very favorites--and then I catch up on others when I have time here and there. My mind feels less cluttered-- a very positive thing! Blogs, emails and Facebook will still be there when I get to my computer time for the day--they aren't going anywhere!
  • Delegating. This is something new I'm having to learn. I've never been a good delegator. It's easier for me to do things myself than ask someone else to do it! But it's necessary, especially for this season. One reason is that I simply cannot do it all. Another is that I don't want to do it all--I want to be able to sit down in the evenings sometimes and watch TV or do something fun and not be working all the time. My husband is completely on board with this and is more than happy to help out when he knows what needs to be done. He's been doing most of the grocery shopping for me (I make the lists). We've also moved cleaning chores to every evening right after the kids I babysit leave for the day. We set aside 30 minutes to do some daily chores(sweeping/vacuuming, etc.) plus clean one room each day and then work together on it. With both of us working quickly--we set the timer to keep us on track--we're usually done in about 15 minutes.
  • Outside/extra activities. I hate saying 'no' to people. But even more than that, I hate saying 'yes' and immediately wishing I'd said 'no'. I've been saying 'no' more lately and so far it hasn't killed me. Instead, it's given me the license to spend time on what I truly believe is best. I'm not saying that I shouldn't ever do anything extra or do things that I don't want to do as there certainly is a time and place for that. But just because something is a good thing or a great cause, doesn't mean that I absolutely need to be involved. Asking God what He wants and listening to the Holy Spirit is key to balance in this area.
 I've found that these simple things are really helping me and hope it's helpful in some way to you as well!


    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Freezer Cooking: Doing What I Can

    If you've been reading here any length of time, you know how much I love freezer cooking! There's just not much better than having the freezer full of food ready to eat!

    Lately, I haven't been able to block out a day or even a morning or afternoon to devote solely to freezer cooking, although I would like to do that soon. And Saturdays are usually booked.

    So instead of doing a freezer cooking session, I do the next best thing--Doing what I can.

    If I'm cooking rice, I'll bake two pans instead of one and freeze the extras in 2-cup portions. This makes sense since I'm using the oven anyways; might as well fill it up!

    Occasionally, I'll double whatever we're having for supper and freeze half. Although, I do like having leftovers for lunch the next day, too!

    A large pot of soup is more than one meal for the two of us, so I'll freeze a quart jar or two for later.

    I like to cook extra meat and freeze it for later!

    I chop extra celery and keep it in a freezer bag.

    I bought a 5 pound block of cheese at Sam's Club a few weeks ago. We prefer buying blocks of cheese and shredding it ourselves for taste and better melting. Pre-shredded cheese almost always has extra additives too that we prefer to avoid. And blocks of cheese are usually less expensive. Anyways, sometimes I'll shred a big block and freeze it all. But I haven't had time for that lately so I've been trying to shred an extra cup or two to freeze in 1 cup portions every time I get some out to shred for a meal.

    Doing what I can and doing a little at a time saves me time in the long run!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Menu Plan Monday and Brown Rice Stuffing Recipe





    Last week we tried a Brown Rice Stuffing recipe that was super delicious! I baked it in a casserole dish with chicken pieces on top. The stuffing turned out extra moist. Definitely a keeper! One thing we do miss eating since we changed the way we eat is stuffing--especially Stovetop! Brown Rice Stuffing would be a great addition to a holiday meal. The recipe is below.

    **For weight loss and general health, we eat a diet low in grains but higher in protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit.  For the most part, we avoid wheat, corn, refined sugar, starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes and most processed foods. It is a work in progress--our diet isn't always perfect and we are far from eating all organic but we have both lost a good bit of weight since changing to eating this way in March of 2011 and we feel great! And for the record, we do eat a lot of brown rice and eggs and we're ok with that!**

    This week's menu:  


    Breakfast

    • Scrambled eggs, turkey sausage links (2x)
    • Scrambled eggs, chicken (1x)
    • Scrambled eggs (3x)
    • Egg muffins with ham or bacon (1x)
    Lunch 
    • Vegetable soup. A recipe I got from FlyLady years ago and make often! Makes a big pot and serves us for 4-5 meals!
    • Spinach salad with leftover Israeli Spice Chicken.
    • Leftovers (2x).
    • Spinach salad with eggs, ham and cheese.
    • Packed lunch.
    Snacks


    Supper--planning for 5 this week.
    • Chicken drumsticks rubbed with Israeli Spice Rub and baked like this, homemade cream of broccoli soup
    • Ham (crockpot if it fits, otherwise baked in oven), sauteed green beans with mushrooms and bacon
    • Hot dogs (nitrate-free), coleslaw, sweet potato fries
    • Breadless ham and cheese melts (we're making this up as we go, folks!), steamed broccoli
    • Leftovers-probably ham.

    What's on your menu this week? 

    Brown Rice Stuffing
    Adapted from  At Home In The Kitchen--Mennonite, Hutterite and Amish-Style Cooking.

    1/4 cup butter
    1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    1/3 cup chopped celery
    2/3 cup sliced mushrooms-- I used Baby Bellas.
    Handful of chopped dried cranberries--optional

    3 cups cooked brown rice
    1 teaspoon parsley flakes
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Melt butter in skillet; add onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook and stir until onion is tender. Add cranberries. Combine with cooked rice. Stir in parsley and salt.

    I spread this in a 9 x 13 pan with raw chicken pieces on top and baked at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Stuffing can also be baked separately in a casserole dish for the same time and temperature.



    **This post is part of Menu Plan Monday!

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Egg Muffins

    My muffin pans have been feeling a bit neglected since we don't eat muffins and cupcakes anymore! So I'm coming up with other ways to use them.

    I created these egg muffins one day when I needed a really quick portable lunch. And I had just gotten a bunch of eggs seriously marked down in price!

    Egg Muffins

    Ingredients:
    eggs--one per muffin
    shredded cheese, cooked bacon or sausage, finely chopped veggies (one, two or all--you choose)
    salt and pepper
    parsley--optional

    Instructions:
    Grease muffin tins. Place some  shredded cheese and meat, if using, in bottom of each tin. Pour one beaten egg into each tin. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley.

    Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Egg muffins will puff up really nice in oven and sink down some once removed.

    Let cool slightly and run knife carefully around each muffin to remove to plate.

    **Leftovers heat up nicely in the microwave so I make double what we'll need and save the extras for the next day!

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Resourceful Drawer Pulls

    A department store bag brought home from a Christmas gift exchange sported the cheeriest red and white braided cord handles.

    I knew I wanted to cut them off and use them for something--maybe gift wrap. Then my husband suggested that they would make nice drawer pulls for the hutch.

    We cut each handle in half and they ended up being just right for four drawer pulls. 

    I can't tell you how long I've put off buying cord to make pulls for these drawers. But I'm glad I never got around to it. This is much cuter and it makes me smile to be resourceful with something that would've otherwise been thrown away!

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    A Bin Of Organizing Posts

    The fresh start of January always gives me the urge to organize! Reading posts around the web about the very same thing confirms that I'm not the only one. And chances are that you too, are purging, decluttering and organizing your own homes this month!





    In light of this, I've gathered a few of my favorite organizing posts to share with you today.

    Organize or Declutter?
    Tips For Organizing A Small Home
    Kitchen Cabinet Clean-Up
    How To Find Another Closet
    Organizing Scrap Fabrics 
    Organizing The Junk Drawer
    Organizing The Pantry

    And if you're struggling to get started, may I suggest that you pick one small area to begin? For example, a shelf or cabinet that's been bothering you. Gather a garbage bag for trash, a box or laundry basket for things that belong elsewhere and another box for items to give away. Set your timer for 15 minutes. In that time work quickly, doing what you can in that space. When time is up, stop. Put items  away that belong elsewhere. If the donate box is full, load in the car to drop off the next time you're out. Otherwise, set it out of the way. Commit to work 15 minutes on that area every day until it's done. Then choose another area and do the same thing. Before long, you'll be able to see a difference!

    Friday, January 06, 2012

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    Bacon-Wrapped Eggs


    Or as Joy Of Cooking refers to them, Eggs Baked In Bacon Rings.

    My friend Amy told me about these bacon-wrapped eggs from Joy of Cooking. We've enjoyed them several times since!

    I got some nitrate/nitrite free bacon ends and pieces from Trader Joe's for $2.99/pound. The ends and pieces are thicker and a lot meatier than the regular strips from the store but they are odd-shaped and sized. So they don't wrap around the sides of the muffin tin as perfectly as regular bacon.  We don't mind as it still tastes delicious!

    Bacon-Wrapped Eggs

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

    Saute or broil lightly:
     Strips of bacon

    Grease the bottoms of muffin pans. Lines sides with bacon. Place in each muffin tin:
    1 tablespoon chili sauce--we use a few drops of Tabasco in each.

    Drop into it:
    1 egg

    Pour over the egg:
    1 teaspoon melted butter

    Sprinkle with:
    Salt and paprika

    Bake about 10 minutes or until eggs are set. Let set for a minute and then gently remove them to plates, serving on toast and garnishing with parsley, if desired.

    Enjoy!


    FYI- If by chance you're looking to purchase your own copy of Joy Of Cooking, which I highly recommend, I suggest that you purchase an older edition rather than a new one. They do vary a little and I think the recipes are better in the older! Mine is a 1980.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    Dear Cookies


    Dear Cookies,




    I've really enjoyed your December visit. You are very tasty. I'd forgotten how addictive you can be. Your sugary goodness lured me in right after breakfast, for dessert after every meal and in between.  And you had me convinced that every time I caught a glimpse of you, I needed a handful of your yumminess. Which of course, I did. Happily!






    Well, the party's over. It's not you, it's me. I love you, I really really do. But I really like being able to fit in my pants. And there is a beach trip coming up later this year.

    We can still be friends though and I can't wait for your visit next year!

    Sincerely,
    Mary Ann