Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homekeeping Inspiration

A quote from this book I picked up at the library sums up my homekeeping philosophy better than anything I've ever read:

"It is of the utmost importance... to make home attractive, not merely to a stranger, but to all the family. Order and neatness in all the domestic arrangements will, of course, conduce largely to this end. No dwelling can have the air of comfort, and cheerfulness, and thrift, without this essential condition." 
(The Farmer's Almanac, 1876)

How much time do people in your house spend searching for misplaced items, or digging through a piles to find what they are looking for? Does clutter in your living space prevent you from relaxing and enjoying your leisure time? Have you ever scrambled to neaten up the house in anticipation of a guest's when your family has lived with the mess all week? Your family deserves to live in a pleasant environment and should work together to achieve it.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not neat by nature, but I have learned that it's worth the effort to make sure there's "a place for everything, with everything in its place." And I'm not bragging on my homemaking abilities. My husband is an excellent cleaner and organizer, and my daughter was taught early on how to contribute. As a result, neatness and order dramatically reduce stress in our household. 

I'm not suggesting that your housekeeping habits have to be perfect. Just keep your home in a way that makes your family the happiest. Beauty and comfort are certainly important contributors to our well-being. And organization helps life run smoothly, creating a calming and soothing atmosphere in which your family can thrive and prosper.

Would you say that the degree of attractiveness, neatness and organization at home affects your state of mind?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Meal Planning Doesn't Work

If you still find it hard to accept that the only way you're ever going to really lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you expend (I know I do), you may want to just stop reading now. Because I'm going to explain why A Year of Meal Planning was over after just a couple of months. 

I've learned that while you do have to buy groceries (which I was already doing a decent job of) and think about a week ahead (which I was also doing fairly well) to put wholesome meals on your family's table and lunchboxes, an overflowing pantry and a list of planned meals a mile long still won't guarantee success. 

So what, then, do you have to do to get your family fed?:  
  1. Think ahead about what meals you'll need to prepare for the week and shop accordingly.
  2. Cook (or prepare) and assemble them into meals. If you've stocked your freezer casseroles, as a lot of "planners" advocate, remember that you can't eat them frozen, so allow time to thaw and reheat.
That's it. You can do all the elaborate planning you want, but unless you plan to cook (and actually do it), your family will be eating restaurant food or carry-out pizza, despite your best intentions.

No amount of meal planning works if you don't cook! 

Others posts in the series (which are only useful in conjunction with the act of cooking): 

New Year's Resolution Update

A balanced, nutritious (and often even delicious) dinner has made it to our table most nights so far this year. Of course, a few poorly scheduled days and evenings have resulted in a few unexpected pizzas, but overall we have done very well. Our grocery expenditures are within budget and our restaurant spending is now under control and in a reasonable range.

In summary, though 2013: A Year of Meal Planning only made it a few posts into the new year, I think "planning to cook" is here to stay!

How are your resolutions going?   

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ever Seen a Bat Up Close?

This little bat has lived behind our shutter for the last several Springs and Summers. Unfortunately, we disturbed his nap yesterday as we were doing some exterior maintenance.

He hung there and stared at us for a moment before flying away and landing in the grass, where I took the top photo. After taking some time to get his bearings in the daylight, he left (presumably to find a new, safer place to hang out for the rest of the day). 

I had never had an opportunity to see a bat up close with its wings spread! It's amazing how they fold all that up and squeeze into a tight, dark spot (upside down) for a nap. 

We also have many bluebirds flying around, and there seems to be nesting activity in at least two of our bird bottles, so we hope to have more bird bottle babies this year.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pineapple Chicken Salad

Spring makes me want to eat chicken salad sandwiches!

My Mom used to make her chicken salad with just mayo and a little chopped celery. I liked chicken salad back then.

But I've loved chicken salad since I learned to make it this way. Bright and cheerful are not adjectives normally used in food writing, but they describe this fruity chicken salad perfectly!

Cheerful Chicken Salad

Desired amount of chopped chicken breast (I use the kind in a can)
Mayonnaise or salad dressing (I use Miracle Whip Light, Hellman's, or Duke's)
Chopped walnuts
Chopped celery 
Canned pineapple chunks
Garlic salt or other desired seasonings

1. If using canned chicken, drain completely, then use the can lid to press out as much more liquid as possible. 
2. Place chicken in a bowl and stir in enough of your chosen dressing to moisten and bond the chicken together.
3. Stir in as much or as little chopped celery as your family likes. 
4. Stir in as many chopped walnuts as desired.
5. Drain the canned pineapple, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible with your hands. (This is important! If you don't, there will be too much liquid in your chicken salad.) Mix in the pineappple chunks.
6. Season with garic salt or other desired seasonings you wish.
7. Chill before serving.

My favorite way to eat this chicken salad is on wheat toast with a lettuce leaf, but it's also elegant and delicious served atop a fresh green salad. The restaurant where I picked up this recipe used to serve it that way, with a huge banana-nut muffin on the side! Yum.

By the way, my second favorite chicken salad, served at the first "ladies' luncheon" I ever attended, was made with Hellman's mayonnaise, chopped celery, and green grape halves! Also extremely simple, fresh and delicate.

What's in your favorite chicken salad?  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Can Peeps Drive?

I saw the idea for these adorable race-car Peeps at Everything Holiday on Facebook.  (I really wanted to direct you to their actual photo, which was way cuter than mine, and instructions, which were way better than mine, but I can't find it again!) 

All you do is cut a slot (a serrated knife works best) in the Twinkie-style snack cake for the bunny Peep and pretzel-twist steering wheel. Glue them in with a dab of icing and stick on marshmallow halves for wheels. These little guys are going to school for Madeline and her friends to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday. One "Twinkie", 2 marshmallows, a Peep and a pretzel per eight grader = 12 students falling asleep after lunch!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Finally Spring?

This beautiful, balmy 60 degree Saturday makes me want to believe our long-awaited Spring has finally arrived! But here's what is looked like driving up our road Thursday afternoon:

Six inches of snow on April 4? Really?

Nothin's dumber than a Hummer?  

Not in our neck of the woods. Even in April!