Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or How to Make Your Sock Drawer Look Like Mine!

I’ve just finished reading a book, I have to write about. Even as I made notes and underlined and laughed while reading it, I thought, “I can’t wait to blog about this….”

I need to qualify all that I’m about to write by saying, this woman is nuts. But it’s a good nuts. Pretty much every chapter had me shaking my head and muttering, “What a lunatic,” but I said it with a smile on my face. I adore this woman and her ideas. I just wouldn’t ever want to live with her.

The book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s been all over the news lately. It’s a small book that’s selling like hot cakes.

Most of us are enamored with the idea of organizing our stuff, but this book goes beyond that. It preaches that you get rid of huge amounts of your belongings – anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

I loved this concept that we should only wear clothing that sparks joy for us and we should only keep things in our home that spark joy in our lives. Sure, there’s the stuff you need that maybe doesn’t spark a lot of joy – a spatula, the paper-towel holder, the sheets for the guest room bed – but it’s something to strive for. My teenage daughter has a ladle on her Amazon wishlist that is shaped like the Lochness monster. She loves it. It sparks joy. Maybe it will grace her kitchen someday. She also has a tea infuser that looks like a shark swimming around your cup as it makes your tea. My kid definitely gets the sparks joy concept.

I’ve been trying in recent years not to bring anything in to my house that I don’t really love. No furniture to serve a purpose – it needs to be something that makes me happy.

Our living room is large, there’s room in there for lots of furniture, but currently there is only a couch (it sparks a tiny flicker of joy only because my mom recovered it for me and I remember that fun weekend, but it’s filthy and it’s days are numbered, but it’s the only real seating left in the room, so there it is.), a coffee table (which does spark some joy because Nick refinished it and it’s functional, simple, and pretty), and the dog’s recliner (an ugly, worn out, hand-me-down recliner that our incredibly untrainable dog sleeps on most nights – we hold on to it so that she won’t get on the other furniture.). I know we need some seating, but I’ve yet to find anything I can afford that even remotely sparks joy.

We moved the screened porch furniture in for the winter, so for now there’s lots of seats, but as soon as it warms up that room will be barren again. No matter – I’m not buying anything until I find the furniture that speaks to me. Kondo backs me up on this and I love her for it.

When it comes to clothing, Kondo spends almost half the book on her system.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Fabo-licious New Recipes

Sorry, I can’t stay away. I know I said I wouldn’t be blogging very often on this site, but it’s only been a week or so and I’m already back! Not writing has turned out to be more stressful than writing. So this is just a quick fix.

I have to share with you two new recipes I’ve developed this week that are total yum, relatively healthy, and super easy.


The first is a recipe for Whole Wheat Flaxseed Oyster Crackers. That’s a terrible name, so let’s call them Healthy Oyster Crackers That Also Make a Great Snack. Okay, not much better. You can name them whatever you want. 

Healthy Crackers In Need of a Name

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
¼ cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 Tablespoons butter (cut into small pieces)
2/3 cup warm water

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

First, Let Me Explain.....

Maybe you’ve wondered why I haven’t written as much lately (or maybe you haven’t noticed). Here is my litany of excuses and my plan for this blog moving forward.

Excuse Number One: I signed a book deal for my womens fiction so I am finally writing for real. This is a good thing. Truly. I am following my arrow. The awesome people at StoryPlant are making it happen!

Excuse Number Two: There’s only so many times you can write about starting seedlings, which is what I’d planned to write about this week. The thing is – I’ve written about starting seedlings before and before that and then I wrote about seed starting mediums. So instead of wasting my time and yours, check out those links. That said, I will probably never run out of things to say that have to do with a Kid Friendly Organic Life. And just in case you’re wondering, here’s one of my Sophie's Choice seedlings  coming along:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Save LOTS of Money and Bring a Little Summer to Your Winter!

This is your two minute warning, or actually, your four month warning.

It’s time to start the petunias!

Okay, maybe you're not concerned. Maybe, like I’ve been told by at least one reader, you skip the garden posts on this blog. Fine. I take no offense. Really. I’ll just pick up my trusty trowel and slink away.

But for the rest of you – aren’t you itching for a little summer? Or more importantly, do you spend much too much money on annuals each summer? Have you ever purchased happy little seed packets of annual flowers, only to be disappointed when all they produce is leaves and die before a proper bloom can happen?

We are such suckers for a pretty picture. I gave up on the seeds years ago and started buying flats of annuals instead. It ate at me, though, because they cost a fortune and I am nothing if not a skin-flint. Yet I could never resist, especially the wave petunias.

Petunias are happy flowers, and better yet, they’re resilient. The perfect flower for the easily distracted gardener. They can look nearly dead one day, but a little splash of water and they offer a dozen more trumpet-blooms within hours.

They’re worth the price tag, right? Maybe. But what if you didn’t have to pay it? What if you could grow wave petunias from seeds? Instead of paying $5-8 for one wave petunia, what if you could pay $1.75 for eight? You can. But you need to get started.

 There’s really only one trick to growing your own gorgeous wave petunias from inexpensive seeds, like mine….

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Wonders of Tumeric (or How I Fooled My Family)

Tumeric is everywhere. I can’t get away from it.

My mother-in-law was here visiting for two weeks and she told me how she takes it daily for her arthritis. I took a pottery class last week and the teacher said the same thing. I can’t open a magazine without seeing mention of it and many of the blogs and websites I follow fall over themselves to fawn over it.

To be honest, turmeric is new to me. I hadn’t heard of it until it started turning up in processed food as a natural coloring to replaced artificial colors. It’s bright mustard yellow. I could sort of remember seeing it in Indian food recipes. I’m not a big fan of Indian food, so the tiny little jar of turmeric I found in the back of my cupboard was from the original set of herbs I got at a wedding shower 20 years ago. I opened it and sniffed, but it smelled like the plastic jar it was in.

So I stopped by one of my favorite sources for spices (Park Street Pantry) and bought a fresh jar in a glass container. 
But what do I do with it? And what’s so great about it?

Tumeric is a tropical plant. It grows from root cuttings, not seeds and takes 250 days to harvest! It won’t stand for temperatures below 65 degrees, so that leaves out New Freedom, PA so I guess there will be no forthcoming post How-to-grow-your-own-tumeric-and-make-a-million (It’s the top selling herbal supplement as of press time).

Tumeric is closely related to ginger. In fact, it’s taste is described as “peppery, warm, and bitter” while it’s scent is similar to ginger. When I open the lid of my little jar, I smell Indian restaurants.

I searched in vain for a recipe for dish that my little finicky family might enjoy and finally opted for simply sprinkling it in recipes we already eat. You don’t even notice the taste. During our Super Bowl Commercial viewing party, I made this dip which was scrumptious with carrots, lightly steamed green beans, pretzels, cheese sticks, and tortilla chips.

Yummo Mustard Dip 

¾ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon agave nectar
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (less if you can’t handle the heat!)
1 teaspoon turmeric

Mix ingredients together and serve with pretty much anything!

Next I slipped a teaspoon in to the mac n cheese and although the color was shocking yellow, no one noticed anything odd (except me, I was certain I could taste it and had to work very hard on my nope-it-wasn’t-me face). 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recipe Organization - Dream or Reality? (or Something More?)

For many years I’ve had a dream.

It’s not an earth-changing dream or even a technically difficult dream. It certainly isn’t an impossible dream.

I’ve dreamed of organizing all my recipes. (Sorry if you were expecting something more exciting, this being the time of year we dedicate much writing and even an entire day of school to the man who had the most famous dream, does make my dream seem sub-par.)

I took a stab at this dream a few years back. I rounded up all the recipes torn from magazines and scattered willy-nilly throughout my house. I trimmed them neatly and taped them to notebook paper (see below, okay, maybe they aren't so neatly trimmed), and put them in notebooks.
The problem was that there were so many and the notebooks quickly became unorganized. Sorting the recipes and putting them in the notebooks in a sensible order became too big of a task. 

Where do you put zucchini bread? Vegetables? Bread? Dessert? The process was rife with too many tiny decisions that left me creating new piles of “Recipes that don’t belong anywhere but I don’t want to lose.”

Other piles grew from there – “Recipes I must try,” “Healthy recipes the kids probably won’t eat,” “Recipes to try for the blog,” and “Recipes to make for book club.”

The notebooks themselves were full to bursting already and any attempts at opening them to insert a new recipe generally led to much bigger disasters when pages slipped out of the overtaxed rings. Sometimes I’d carefully re-order the pages and squeeze them back into the binder but most of the time I just put the loose pages in a new pile called, “To be re-filed.”