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Posted on Jul 31, 2013 in Inspiration, My Journey

What if it were gone?

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I had an experience the other day with some dishes.  I bought them on impulse several years ago while shopping for a wedding gift.  They were beautiful handmade recycled glass plates that somehow looked like they were formed from ice crystals .  They were very large dinner plates. They were discontinued, and clearance priced because there was an odd number.  I bought all three.

I reasoned that I needed some serving dishes, and that they were beautiful and inexpensive.  Why not?  I learned why when I got home.  They took up a lot of space in the cabinet, they had to be stacked by themselves because they did not sit flat on each other, and they were heavy!  I continued to use them for a long time despite their inconvenience.  They did a fair job as serving dishes, and they did look nice.

Until last week.  I was getting ready to have some friends over for dinner, and they broke.  Each of them broke in half when something heavy was put on the stack.  How did I feel?  Guilty?  Sad? Angry?  No, I felt relieved. I was putting up with those dishes because they were there. I was happy to have an excuse to throw them away!

This seems like a good test for whether you want to keep something or  pitch it out:  How would you feel if it broke right now?  Would you scour Ebay until you found another one just like it, or would you just go on and use another item in the cabinet?

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Photo credits: jules:stonesoupKristian Thøgersen

 

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Posted on Jul 29, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

4 Ways Simplifying my Life Improved my Allergies

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It seems that everyone in my family has always had allergies, but I didn’t until well into my adult years.  Unfortunately, this change came with some severe health consequences.  While my special doctors were prescribing medication after medication, I took advantage of an insurance benefit I had at the time.  Who knew that 3 hour meeting with a nurse practitioner that specialized in “chronic health challenges” would change the way I looked at my life?  Well, she probably did.  Soon after that meeting, the benefit was discontinued, so I consider myself very fortunate to have met her.  My doctors confirmed everything she told me, but never volunteered any of this information!  This may not apply to you, but most of it helped me.

 

I am allergic to my bed

I have an allergy to dust mites, which live in my bedding, carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture.  She encouraged me to remove as much of these items from my home as possible.  She also told me that I could reduce the number of dust mites in my home with a few simple actions.

  • Dust mite covers on my box springs, mattress, pillows and comforter.  You can find these in any big box or department store that carries bed linens, but they can be expensive.  I use this mail order site that has low prices ( I am not affiliated with any company, and did not get any compensation for this post!)
  • Vacuum every week with a vacuum that has HEPA filtered bags
  • Wash bed sheets and pillow cases weekly in very hot water
  • Dust often with cloths that hold onto the dust (try these)

I really resisted these actions, but within 48 hours of doing them, my breathing improved significantly.

 

Dust in the house is the enemy

I was just beginning my simplification journey, so I incorporated several of these over the next 10 or so years.

  • Get rid of most of my upholstered furniture
  • Replace carpeting with wood floors
  • Remove most decorative objects, rugs, pillows and curtains
  • Keep clothes in the closet clean and dust-free

I thought these things would make my house cold and harsh, but it hasn’t.  I still have my grandmother’s chair, and now have some leather and wood furniture.  I have plantation shutters to control light and privacy.  I have wide open areas with no furniture or decorations.

Many chemicals just make things worse

At first I hired someone to do the cleaning in my home to avoid the dust and chemicals, but now I am able to do it myself.

  • Squeegee the shower after every use, to reduce the frequency of cleaning soap scum and mildew.
  • Clean with less harsh chemicals like white vinegar, salt  and baking soda
  • Use a steam floor cleaner for routine cleaning

One more thing

I have had a neti pot recommended by several people, and it does help.  I have never been able to get used to this.  If you use it, be careful not to get hurt.

 

I still have allergies to dust and pollen, among other things.  I still see my doctors, and take some medications.  Having fewer possessions, and simper ones where possible has allowed me to regain much of my respiratory health with fewer prescriptions, as well as reducing the amount of time I spend cleaning.

 

Photo credit: Listener42

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Posted on Jul 28, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Simplify Your Cooking: Two-ingredient Recipes

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We are having a very strange weekend in the middle of a hot summer.  This morning’s walk was cold and sunny, followed by rain for several hours.  Perfect time for some adventures in cooking.  I had two potluck parties already this week, so I have lots of leftovers and garden veggies  for meals.  Today, we tested several recipes from a Buzzfeed article about two-ingredient recipes.  It seemed too good to be true to make cooking this simple!

These recipes are meant to be really easy to make with items you have around the house.  Several of them use self-rising flour, which is flour containing added baking soda and baking powder, so it has the leavening already included.  I have included a recipe for it at the end, in case you don’t buy it, you can keep some around anyway.  All of the photos were taken on my phone in my small kitchen, which explains the shadows and lack of focus.  There seems to be a theme of all of the recipes coming out too wet.  This might be due to the rainy day here, but make sure to adjust for your own situation.

Here are the results:

Ice cream bread

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1 ½ c self rising flour and one pint of ice cream.  Mix and bake at 350 degrees for around 40 minutes in greased and floured loaf pan.

This was very easy to make, and came out just as described.   I used two mini loaf pans so I could give away some of the bread.  One batch, made with vanilla ice cream came out tasting sort of like pancakes.  It was not very sweet, but when I toasted it, the sweetness came out better.  I would either toast these, or eat them when they are still warm as a base for strawberry shortcake.  It even made an OK tiny sandwich with leftover BBQ pork.

I made a second batch with butter pecan ice cream, and added some pecans on top.  This version would make a great base for coffee cake with a crumble topping.

This recipe tastes really similar to a scone.  In the future, I might add some chopped dried fruit, chocolate chips or chopped nuts, and cook them as scones.

The bread does not keep well, so eat it fast.

 

Biscuits 

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3 c. self rising flour and 1 1/2 c. buttermilk.  Mix and drop by tablespoons into a round cake pan.  Bake 450 degrees around 20 minute.

These tasted a lot like biscuits, but were not as light or flaky as when you make them with butter or Crisco.  The recipe called for optional sugar and butter.  I made a batch with half honey-flavored greek yogurt and half milk for the liquid.  They tasted great if you like your biscuits with butter and honey like I do.  Eat them while they are hot.  I tried re-heating one for 10 seconds in the microwave later in the day and it was OK.

Flax crackers

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2 overripe bananas, mashed with 1c whole flax seeds.  Spread out on greased cookie sheet and bake 350 degrees around 15 minutes.

These were flat-out delicious.  I tried cooking them on a Silpat, and I recommend to do this because they really stick.  I tried making them in a muffin tin so they would be perfectly round, but it was hard to get them thin enough.  If you made them thin in a muffin tin, you would not be able to get them out in one piece.  Remove them from the pan when they are a bit warm to make it easier.  Flax seeds don’t break down in your body, so these would not have much health benefit.  They might work with ground flax seeds.

Banana-oat cookies

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These are very similar to the crackers to make.  Mash two bananas, and mix with about 1 c. quick oats.  Drop 1T sized cookies, and bake at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes.

These were chewy and tasty.  The recipe made 18 cookies, but I might make them again  as larger breakfast bars.  I made a batch with 2T cocoa nibs (my new favorite snack–how did I not know about these?) added.  This made the cookie very chocolate-y.  I will make these many times.

 

No-bake energy bars

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Soak 1c dates with water (to the one cup mark) for 1 hour, and process in the food processor until smooth.  Add quick oats until the date mix forms a ball in the bowl.  For me, this took around 1 c of oats.  Sprinkle with some more oats, and press into a loaf pan.  Chill for several hours.  Cut into bars, coated with oats, if desired.

I could not get these to solidify enough to cut them.  Maybe if you add more oats when mixing, it would be easier.  I put them in the freezer for about an hour, and got one to work for the photo, but they might work better as balls.  Don’t think of these as cookies.  They are candy.

I don’t eat a lot of dates, and they were not easy to find.  I expected to see them in the bulk foods section, but I finally found some in small boxes near the raisins.

 

Macaroon cookies 

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These were also easy to make.  Mix 3oz of shredded, unsweetened coconut with ¾ can of sweetened condensed milk.  Drop 1 T  sized piles of the mix onto a cookie sheet.  Brown the tops in a broiler for 30 sec to 2 min.

The cooking part is just for the surface, and it is a lot like toasting marshmallows.  It smells like them, too.  I used less condensed milk, and they were still pretty gooey, so you might want to add a bit more coconut to make them hold together better.  These were amazing. Why are they so expensive in the store? I’ll never buy them in the bakery again.

 

Pizza crust

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Mix 1 c self rising flour with 1 c greek yogurt.  Knead 5-8 minutes, stretch and roll into pizza shape, add topping and bake 450 degrees.

The big difference between this and he biscuits seems to be the kneading.  The dough soaked up at least another half cup of flour in the kneading stage, and seemed pretty wet still.  It rose a lot while cooking, but came out fairly crisp.  It was not as chewy as yeast-raised pizza crust, but held the ingredients.  I might use this if I had to make a quick pizza, and could not go get ready-made pizza dough from the grocery store down the street.

 

 

These I have made before:

Pumpkin spice muffins:  This comes out more like a brownie than a regular muffin, but tastes great.

Lemon Mousse:  I have made this before with whipped cream and lemon curd and it was very sweet.  With Cool Whip, it might put you into shock.

Palmiers:  This works because making the puff pastry is the hard part.  This recipe is a lot like those famous cheese twists people make for cocktail parties, just substitute parmesan cheese for the sugar.  Very easy to make.

Soda can cupcakes:  I have made a sheetcake with 7up and cake mix.  It was very fluffy and light, but the cut side was very stale in the morning.  Cupcakes sound like they would be better the next day.

Easy Italian chicken:  Italian salad dressing as a marinade.  It works every time.

Peanut butter banana ice cream:  I have made banana ice cream many times before, and have a recipe for a chocolate version.  I like it when you first make it better than freezing it.  More like soft serve, and less intense banana flavor.

 

 Self-rising flour

Mix together in a bowl:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

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Posted on Jul 26, 2013 in Inspiration, My Journey

5 Things I Wish I knew

5 Things I wish I knew when I was 5

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          1. Most of what I got in trouble for is what I love about myself now.
          2. Being cute is not the most important thing.
          3. Cooties are real.
          4. Clowns will never be funny.
          5. Dust bunnies are the scariest thing under the bed.

5 Things I wish I knew when I was 15

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          1. There is  no such thing as a permanent record.
          2. I looked great.  Even without sleep
          3. Confiding in the dog was a great choice.
          4. High school is not real life.
          5. Those boys are never really going to grow up.

5 Things I wish I knew when I was 25

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          1. I looked great. Even with that haircut.
          2. My feet would pay me back for those cute shoes forever.
          3. Other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.
          4. Brides don’t really think you will wear that $300 dress again.
          5. Sometimes, it’s better to be nice to yourself than to others.

Photo credit: bagsgroovevauvaujDevaun

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Posted on Jul 24, 2013 in Inspiration, My Journey

Pay yourself forward

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I was reading an article the other day about a chain of people who paid for the person behind them in line for coffee in Massachusetts.  I love these stories about people who do a small good deed for a stranger, and inspire a whole group to do the same.  Where I come from, we did this with bridge tolls, and I know from experience the sneaky joy of peeking in the rear view mirror to catch a look at someone’s face as you make their day.

I have a confession to make.  I do this for myself several times a week.  As I go through my evening activities, if I have some time, I finish a task I had planned for the morning.  I like to choose my outfit and pack lunch before I go to bed every night, too.  At work, when I make my to-do list for the next day, I sometimes do one small thing from it before I leave for the day.  Then I walk out the door knowing that when I sit down at my desk in the morning, at least one thing will be done before I even make a cup coffee.

It’s almost as fun as doing it for someone else.

 

Photo credit: Ian Sane

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