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Posted on Oct 21, 2013 in How to simplify, Resources

Hundreds of Things You Can Rent (or borrow) Instead of Buying

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Widespread access to the internet has given us all the tools to search for connections beyond our community of neighbors, family and friends.  We can even borrow or share tools and expenses with others to reduce consumption and costs.  Now, instead of buying the power washer you need once a year, you can borrow it or rent it for a low price from person in your town, and you don’t even have to know them.  The “collaborative consumption” movement is changing the way we spend money, and how we define our community.  You can find almost anything.  This is more similar to checking books out of the library than buying them at a bookstore.  Of course, you depend on others and have less control over the times you can access the tool or service and its features.

This sharing economy is liberating for some.  You don’t need to own and maintain your own car if you can walk a few blocks and pick one up for a few hours to do your shopping.  You don’t have to buy and store the tools you may only need once or twice.  Even if you are traveling to a new place, you can have the things you need only when you need them.

If You Need It, You Can Find It

Need a place to stay for your vacation? Look up Airbnb, Homeaway, Vacation Rental By Owner (vrbo), Home Exchange or Couchsurfing (free!)

Need a local guide?  Try  Vayable.

While you are gone, you can have your dog stay in a home instead of a kennel:  DogVacayRoverCity Dog Share (free dog-sitting co-op)

A car?  Thy zipcar or rent from owner: GetaroundRelayRides, Just Share it.  Need to rent a car at the airport? FlightCar Need a ride somewhere? Lyft and Sidecar.  Want to share a trip? Ridester

Heading to an event, and need a parking place? ParkAtMyHouse, Parkcirca and ParkingPanda

Need to rent designer clothes or accessories? Bag Borrow or StealWearTodayGoneTomorrowRent the Runway

Tools? Tool lending library (sometimes free!),  SnapGoods, ZilokRentabilities, Rentoid

Bike, skis, snowboard? SplinsterLiquid

Motorcycle? RentmymotorcycleJust Share it

Boat?  BoatBound

Help with chores? TaskRabbitThumbtackZaarly,  TaskHero.com (helpers are veterans)

Need Administrative help? Virtual Gal Friday, Elance or oDesk

Setting up a website? oDesk

Need shared or temporary office space? Sharedesk and Regus,

Need a small job done?  try  Fiverr (every job is only 5$)

Need Some Extra Cash?

You can make extra money on most of these sites, too.

Just be sure about your insurance.  Some states, California, Oregon and Washington have laws in place to allow car sharing, but be sure of the situation where you live.

 

Photo Credit:  {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

 

 

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Posted on Oct 20, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Simplify Your Celebrations: 2-Ingredient Cooking for a party

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I don’t know about you, but when I am planning a celebration, I sometimes overdo it, and end up too stressed or tired to really enjoy myself when the guests arrive.  This time could be different!  Try these simple 2-ingredient recipes, and save time shopping and preparing.  All of these can be prepared the day before, so you can put your feet up and enjoy a glass of wine even before the guests arrive.

 

Salmon Spread

12 ounces salmon, cooked and cooled (bake or steam it, or buy it already cooked)

7 1/2 ounces Boursin or Alouette cheese spread

Mash up the salmon with a fork.  Remove any bones or bits of skin. Soften cheese in microwave for 10 seconds. Mix everything with a mixer, or by hand with a fork. Chill and serve with crackers or  sliced rustic bread.

 

Fruit Dip

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

7 ounces marshmallow cream

Combine in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a mixer. Serve cold with sliced fruit or berries.

 

Flourless Nutella Cake

4 large eggs

1 1/3 cups Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan or springform pan. Line with parchment paper (don’t skip this, especially if using a cake pan!).  In a large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on the highest setting for 6 minutes until they are three times their original volume. Microwave Nutella for 10-20 seconds to soften. In a bowl, combine the Nutella and 1/3 of the eggs. Continue folding in the eggs until combined.  Bake for 20 minutes, until just set.  Serve warm or room temperature with cocoa powder, powdered sugar or whipped cream.

 

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Posted on Oct 16, 2013 in How to simplify

Simplify your life: Get Back on Track

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We have all taken a wrong turn at some point in our life.  Sometimes, the fix is small:  You might need to reorganize your closet and streamline your morning so you can spend 15 minutes doing yoga, or choose a new route home from work that avoids the road construction so you can arrive home in a better mood.  Sometimes, the problem is big and the solution complex: You wake up one day and realize you are in so much debt that you worry about money all the time and it has sucked all the fun out of life.  Another time, you might suspect that you have chosen the wrong career.  Or, you might want to reduce stress and get into shape, but you have no time in your hectic life for your own needs.

We all struggle with getting back to our goals and deciding the best way to get there.  It’s easy to stay on the path to success when everything is going right.  You have enough sleep, time and energy.  No obstacles are in your path.  Other times, it seems that everything is working against you.  This is like learning to sail.  When the wind is going the direction you want, set your sail and go.  When the wind is against you, you have to set smaller goals, and take a zigzag path to make your destination.  Sometimes, you decide to take the less direct path anyway, just to take in the sights. Either way, you can get there.   So, how can we take stock and get back on track when we wander off?

  • Identify the problem
  • Get past the emotional response
  • Realign your priorities
  • Stay focused

Identify the problem

Sometimes this is the easy part.  Someone you trust may just come out and tell you are losing ground in your quest to reduce your stress and improve your outlook, or you might realize that you are walking in circles as you see patterns repeating themselves.  You might suddenly realize you are in the wrong in the middle of an argument, or that arguing is the problem in the first place.  Sometimes, it’s just a sneaking suspicion that the path you are on in life is not going to go anywhere you want to be.

The problem is not the outcome, but the choices that got us here.  Choices can have big, immediate consequences, but the small day-to-day choices add up as well.  So how did we get to this place?  DId we take a wrong turn, or was it many small ones?  Now we know what has to change.

Get past the emotional response

Once we identify what we want to change, frustration, regret and guilt can get in the way of making things better.  These feelings can make us want to distract ourselves, and this alone can set us back on the same, wrong path.  To let go, we have to start over.  Declare amnesty and forgive those past choices.  This will allow us to focus on getting what we want.

Realign your priorities

It is easiest to make lasting change if we can keep our values and priorities in mind.  There are lots of ways to do this.  You can keep a journal, have a reminder in your pocket, or post sticky notes all over your house.  If it is easier to take the right path than any other, you will take it more often.  If your workout gear is next to the bed and the rest of your clothes are put away, it will be easier to go on the morning run.  If you pack your lunch while you are putting away leftovers from dinner, you will have it ready to take with you in the morning.

Stay Focused

It seems that we often have the goals in mind, but the actions we take at any moment are not aligned with the goal.  We try to do too much and never quite get things done, we put the needs and priorities of others ahead of our own values.  Sometimes, we make choices so we don’t have to confront the fact that our values do not match those of people we care about.  These choices are not hard to justify, and they seem insignificant in the big picture. It is easy to get off track when we try to avoid conflict or letting others down, but the consequences of these small choices add up.  Revisiting your priorities, and refreshing your reminders can help.  Otherwise, we can repeat this process if we go off track again.  The path may zigzag, but we can get there.

 

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Posted on Oct 13, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Simplify Cooking: Dehydrator Recipes

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I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but last year, I bought a food dehydrator to try to extend the foods of summer into the fall and winter.  Many foods can be dehydrated, and if you have a small freezer like I do, you can buy fruits and vegetables in season and keep them for months before you use them.  Not everything works: watermelon, for example.  Blackberries and blueberries require a lot of preparation, but strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe are wonderful.  Squash, kale, mushrooms and spinach are fast to dry and delicious in foods.

Veggie Frittata

rehydrate in 2 c boiling water for 15 minutes:

  • 1/2 c dried zucchini
  • 1/2 c dried mushrooms

Mix in a large bowl:

  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 c shredded colby or other cheese
  • drained rehydrated veggies (save the liquid for soup)
  • 2T milk
  • 1 t dried herbs

Beat egg mixture and pour into large cast iron frying pan heated over medium heat.  Lift eggs as they cook on the bottom until most of the frittata is cooked.  Finish cooking in preheated 350 degree oven until top has browned, and the frittata is just set.

 

Lentil soup with kale for a crowd

In a large pot, add

  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 2 c soaking liquid from frittata
  • 3/4 lb brown lentils
  • 1/4 c dried onions
  • 2 carrots, chopped

Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer for 30-45 minutes, until lentils are tender.  Add:

  • 1 c shredded chicken
  • 1 t dried herbs
  • 3 c dried kale leaves

Cook an additional 10 minutes, until heated through.

 

 

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Posted on Oct 11, 2013 in How to simplify

5 Simple Steps to Simplify Your Kitchen

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Whether you live on PB&J or spend hours every day in your kitchen developing new recipes and producing gourmet meals worthy of a Michelin star, your kitchen is an important part of your life.  I love to cook when I have the ingredients, time and inspiration. But after work, I want to get in there and get something nice prepared without searching for ingredients or moving twenty things to find the right pot.  Simplifying can make all of this easier to happen with minimal time spent maintaining order.

Store things where you use them

This is the easiest way to reduce wasted time and frustration.  If you use the knifes to chop things near the sink, store them there, not next to the stove.  One exception to this rule is that food, including spices should not be stored above or next to the oven.  They should be kept in a cool spot to preserve their freshness and flavor.

Store things in locations everyone agrees to use

If you have more than one person who cooks and does dishes, then everyone should agree on where items are stored.  If there are two storage systems, you will both be searching for things all the time.  Probably while muttering about the someone’s lack of common sense.  Who needs this?

Only keep what you use

Cooking shows on TV and the county fair promote tools that will help us spend no time cooking while churning out prize-winning, healthy meals.  Infomercials tell us how we can cook anything in minutes on a modified ironing board, all while we do our nails in another room.  In 3 years, these will be clogging the shelves at the thrift store, mostly still in the box, or with a melted handle.  Unless you have enough storage for your own private gadget museum, save your money for a manicure.

Choose tools that are easy to clean

See above.  Seriously, if it needs a special tool to clean it, then it is two gadgets, not one.  If you have a special cookie press that your family uses once a year, then find a place to store it out of the way and enjoy passing down the tradition.  If it is hard to clean, you will probably think twice before taking it down from the shelf to make dinner on a random Thursday.

Simplify your food storage

One of the most annoying cabinets in your kitchen is the tupperware spot.  Things are stacked high, and it’s impossible to match the bowls with the lids.  You can simplify your life just by keeping storage that is uniform, stackable, and has interchangeable lids.  This could be matching yogurt containers or a special color-coded set.  But, if you will be storing food when it is still hot, or re-heating it in the container, it might be a good idea to use something other than plastic. One more thing:  If you bring your lunch each day (you do that, right?) having to wash all of the little containers for a special lunch box might be an obstacle as you are getting ready each morning.  Maybe a lunch bag that can be used with your co-ordinated containers would help.

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