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Posted on Sep 22, 2013 in How to simplify, Menus and Recipes

Leaves of Green

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This is a very unusual week.  Normally, I cook all of my meals for the week on the weekend, but this week is special. Someone else is preparing my meals.  I love to cook but I also love to learn how other people cook.

This weekend, I learned someone (besides me) makes salads out of herbs.  If you have an herb garden, or can get them at a farmer’s market, herbs can be a great addition as greens in a salad.  Basil, dill, parsley and cilantro are great with baby greens or lettuce.  If you have to buy them at the grocery store, choose the less expensive parsley or cilantro.  If you choose dill or basil, make the salad right before eating it, because the leaves are easily bruised, and will darken as they sit.  The herbs bring a lot of flavor, so the salad will not need much dressing, and simple is better on this one.

This is a salad that I make in the summer when it is too hot to cook.  I like to eat it in pita bread, stuffed in tomatoes, or all by itself in a bowl.

Summer Salmon Salad

1 large bunch early dill weed (no flowers), chopped

1 bunch parsley, chopped  (I like the curly parsley for this because it is less dense when chopped)

1 can salmon with skin and large bones removed, mashed

juice and zest of large lemon

Mix greens, zest and salmon until salmon is distributed evenly. Pour lemon juice and lightly mix again.  This is also good with 2-3 T of olive oil, but this is optional.

photo credit: Ylva Turkey
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Posted on Sep 20, 2013 in How to simplify

8 Ways NOT to Handle Stress

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Slack off on Sleep

When you’re stressed it can be harder to fall asleep, harder to stay asleep and harder to wake up in the morning.  But if you keep you keep regular sleep hours, and some kind of going-to-sleep routine,  this will be minimized.  No matter how tired you are, if you sit still, eat food out of the vending machine and drink coffee all day, you will have a harder time getting to sleep.

Slack off on Exercise

When you have a lot on your mind, or an insane schedule with deadlines looming, it’s easy to substitute your exercise time for work –or sleep.  But exercise is one of the most effective ways to help improve you sleep and reduce the impact of stress.

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If work is causing the stress, you might be tempted to just buckle down for good and hope that it’s over soon.  This only works for short-term projects.  If other things are causing the stress, you might work to escape.  This will not work at all.  Get out of there once in a while and do something else you enjoy.

Drink or Take Drugs

These don’t work for stress.  Also, they cause other problems and can interfere with sleep.

Eat Crazy Things on a Crazy Schedule

This doesn’t work either, although it is also tempting.  Too bad, though. Donuts.

Hold it All Inside

It will eat it’s way out somehow.  You don’t want to see how that happens.  Try talking with a trusted friend.  Sometimes you will get a shoulder to cry on.  Sometimes, if you choose the right friend, you will get a new perspective and leave some of that stress behind.

Veg Out In Front of Screens

This time would be better spent sleeping or exercising.  Or even working.  Spending even 15 minutes a day out in nature is an effective way of reducing the impact of stress on your body.  Maybe a few minutes of kitten videos (why?), but one Candy Crush game and, you may be there for hours.

Expose Yourself to Unnecessary Irritation

Seriously.  Don’t do this if you don’t have to.  Even driving in rush hour traffic can set you off when you are stressed out.  Don’t choose this time to discuss your neighbor’s shrubs or your kids’ messy rooms, either.  The stress will jet-propel your words.  This is not the right time.  This might be the right time to wear earphones on the train, and listen to relaxing music.

Photo credit: fredcamino
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Posted on Sep 18, 2013 in My Journey

Finished is Beautiful

I have been working on a big writing project lately, that has taken up most of my work hours, and a lot of my “leisure time” too.  For me, there is a low point in projects like this, when I have lost the excitement of a new challenge, problems are appearing everywhere, and the end is not yet in sight.  This moment is horrible.

It’s easy to say that we should have to have faith in moments like this, but all I can pull together sometimes is just determination to get something finished. I just reached that goal.  It is not perfect, but it is finished.  In the next few hours, I can look for small things to tweak while my collaborators review it. Then we can let it go.

Looking back, maybe that moment is important to let go of the perfect vision we start with, and get something finished.

And finished is beautiful.

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Posted on Sep 16, 2013 in How to simplify

Shopping Therapy: Big Box Stores

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Shopping at a big box store can save you money, but shopping there can cause problems, too.  You know the stores, the ones where everything is larger than life, and free food is offered at the end of every aisle?  There are a few things I buy there to save some money: roasted chickens for dinner and peanut butter for my dog, for example.  In the past, I have been lured by the sheer size and low price to buy times that are just too big for my household: 8 pounds of pasta, and huge containers of pasta sauces, for example.  More recently, I follow some guidelines that have saved me from these “bargain” traps.

Shop with a friend

I like to shop with people who shop like I do.  They have a list, get in, get what they need, and get out.  If we find something off our lists, we have feedback on the wisdom of the choice.  If we agree that the bargain is just too good to pass up, we can share it.  Perfect.

Be prepared with comparison prices

Some prices in these stores are not bargains.  In fact, you could buy a huge amount of expensive pens.  If you know how much laundry detergent (and other common purchases) cost at other stores for regular and sale prices, you can avoid paying more and being stuck storing 50 of them.

Bring a calculator

This is the perfect place to practice your math skills. You can calculate the per-unit cost, to make comparison shopping easier. The labels often include a unit price, but if you’re like me, you don’t buy chicken breast by the ounce or millimeter.

Be realistic about what your family will use

A huge bag of broccoli is not a bargain if you throw half of it away before you eat it.  If you have a large freezer, great. Just be sure to freeze it as soon as you get home so you don’t forget. If the item is new, or if it has a variety of flavors, make sure will be eaten. I’m not crazy about blueberry yogurt, so I never buy it in combo packs. Why do these always have blueberry?

Shop the edges, and not on weekends

You are less likely to make impulse purchases if you spend less time in the store, and if you stay where the household staples are, on the outside aisles. There are some bargains to be found on the perimeter as well.  Prices ending in a 9 are regular prices. If they end in a 0 or 8, they are clearance. Check the price anyway to be sure it is a bargain, though!

 

 

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Posted on Sep 15, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Time crunch menu

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Things have been hectic this week, and are shaping up to be the same in the coming week.  Aside from keeping up with my walks and trying to get enough sleep, I have been trying to save time wherever I can.  I didn’t shop at all this week, relying on last week’s leftovers and a few things from my pantry.

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So what did I use up from my pantry this week?  I made a big batch of veggie pasta with artichoke hearts and roasted grape tomatoes. The tomatoes were starting to look a bit old, so roasting them under the heating element while I cooked the chicken made them a delicious addition. This dish used up pasta and sauce as well as (some of the) artichoke hearts.  This will be boring by the end of the week, but I think I will survive.

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I baked the rest of the artichoke hearts into a veggie frittata for breakfasts.

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I made a big batch of 2-ingredient breakfast bars with mashed bananas and quick oats as well.  This time I added some granola, so they had a bit of crunch, and I used up the granola.  This will save time at breakfast all week.

Have a happy week!

 

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