Sunday, January 31, 2010

Organization Insanity

Life around here is a constant state of chaos. It's an ongoing battle between me, the kids and their stuff. With my ADD issues, I'm usually losing. I mean, consider my last post where I was minutes away from buying something I already had because I forgot I had it! This is how I end up with so much ... junk.

I keep trying to find ways to keep up with things. I've done flylady...or at least tried. I've found that the flylady technique doesn't work well if you have ADD. The reminders represent a constant shift of focus. I don't transition well and I don't leave one activity to move on to another very well. It really represented more stress. And with the impulsiveness that leads me to purchase things I don't need, it also leads me to get rid of things I don't necessarily need to get rid of.

What has worked best is to designate a place and date and have a sufficient amount of time to start the task and finish it. Start to finish. If I finish it, I feel able to move on to the next task mentality.

Going into a room and cleaning for 5 minutes is the worst thing for me! I need time to prioritize and decide what to do. I could spend 5 minutes just deciding which part of a room to tackle.

So here are my best tips for getting things organized when you are distractable:

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish: Are you just in it to tidy? Organization? Purging?
  2. How much time do plan to dedicate?
  3. Determine the place best suited for the amount of time. Then, move to the spot you think won't take all that long. You'll end up spending more time than you planned!
  4. Get three bags: Keep, Trash, Donate
  5. Touch it once and make the decision of where to put it
  6. Don't move from the area until it's done.
  7. Take the Trash to the trash.
  8. Take the donate to your car right then and drive it to the thrift store!
  9. In the keep bag, decide best how to store the items. Do they belong in another room? Will a basket work?
  10. Put the keep items away
I know it sounds so basic. But it isn't. At least not for me. The trash bag usually makes it out to the trash. The donate bag, however, sits in the room and gets knocked over. And it stays there until I am sick of it then I move it to my van. There it remains until the back of the van is too full to have the donate items and groceries. THEN I finally get rid of it.

I've been working on my fabric stash. I consolidated a nice portion of it. But the things that were with my sewing that didn't belong there have just been moved to another spot they don't belong so I could at least finish the sewing. The good news, this time at least, is the donate pile has already been taken care of. I think D wanted the fabric out of the house before I had a chance to change my mind!

My next project is to go through the mending and seasonal clothes. I am hoping to finish that this week. After that, we go after the girls' room...again.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Scratch that...better be frugal

After my last post about building those shelves, I had actually managed to convince my husband to build them with me! I was really excited. A nice fun, couples project!

As we were driving to do some shopping today, D asked a very important question: Why did I want to build bookshelves out of MDF when I have two gorgeous Brazilian pine bookshelves sitting in the shed?

*silence*

Ummm

The answer to that would be: I forgot I had them!

Several years ago, I picked up these two beautiful bookshelves at a yard sale for $20. It was an amazing find. The only problem was the scale. With the giant entertainment center, we just didn't have the room for these bookcases. They were relegated into storage...and there they've sat for the last three years.

So, we're going to use what we have and put my pretty bookcase up in the living room and mount the TV on the wall.

I did pick up a closetmaid cubical thing at Target today for less than I would pay to make the bookshelves. Those cubies are going in our bedroom to hold my fabric.

I guess the big moral in this is make sure you go through your storage to make sure you don't have something that will work before you start on a project! I'm really glad D remembered. I am such a ditz lately. LOL

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't tell me no!

The last time someone told me I couldn't do something, as in didn't have the physical ability or talent, was almost 13 years ago. Alex was just born at 33 weeks and the NICU staff told me I couldn't breastfeed. I was pumping like crazy and wasn't getting much of anything. The nurses told me I didn't have any milk. It was very discouraging, but after they told me I couldn't (and I wasn't planning on nursing to begin with. I was going to try, but that was it) I was determined that I would breastfeed. As it turns out, I was right and they were very wrong. Not only that, I went on to successfully breastfeed all six of my children and have turned that awful first experience around for good and now help other mothers and babies!

Last night, I discovered plans to build a set of bookshelves that are Pottery Barn look alikes. Check 'em out! D told me I didn't have the ability or skills to do this. He said if I try, they won't be sturdy. He said I couldn't even put together store bought furniture. This is totally untrue. As a matter of fact, my best friend and I redid my master bedroom several years ago while D was gone on the weekend and the only thing we weren't able to do was installing the ceiling fan. The only reason the bookshelf collapsed was because my 5 ft 6, 130 lbs 12 year old decided to sit on the corner.

So, now i am bound and determined to make these shelves....without telling my husband. I do have to buy a nail gun thing, which we need anyway for when he does some other home repairs. It's an investment, right? Besides, even if I totally mess it up, we can always take the MDF and stick it on some L brackets in the closet.

I think I'm going to try to do this next week, depending on the weather. Hopefully it will stay dry.

Any tips would be appreciated!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cook Along Week 2...Roux and Mornay Sauce!

This week, we're making macaroni and cheese from scratch. It is super fast and demonstrates several basic cooking techniques. It sounds difficult because it's in french and french cooking just intimidates people.

The first thing we're going to do is make a roux. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat that is used to thicken. It's the basis for many sauces and gravies.

1. In a saucepan over medium heat 1 T butter. Meanwhile, get another pan going with some elbow macaroni. However much you want to make. Doesn't matter. Be sure to salt the water!




2. Whisk in 1 T flour and let it get thick and pasty.


And your roux is done!

Now for the fun part...turning that thickened fat and flour into something delicious!

3. Slowly whisk in warm dairy...half and half/heavy cream/milk. I've found skim milk doesn't work as well because of the absence of fat. Fat in cooking is a good thing. I used half and half.



4. Continue whisking and slowly adding milk. It will thicken up. Add a bit of salt and pepper. At this point, you now have a bechamel suace! That was EASY, wasn't it? And you've just finished one of the basic French sauces.

5. Now, we're going to transform this bechamel into a Mornay sauce by adding cheese. Cheese is also a very good thing. For this recipe, I added about a cup of Sharp Cheddar.



6. Whisk in the cheese until it's all melted.



At this point, you need to taste the sauce and decide if you like it or need to add something more. Sometimes you may want something cheesier, or you just feel like it's missing something. I like to add a squirt of dijon mustard to my mac n cheese. But on this particular day, I took inspiration from a Bacon Horseradish Mac n Cheese, so I tossed in those flavors.

About this time, your noodles should be done, too! Drain them and pour your delicious cheese sauce over the noodles.



I made extra noodles and sauce. I popped it in a freezer container and it will be ready for a quick lunch whenever I need it. If you plan to make this and freeze it, under cook the noodles. This way, when you reheat, the noodles finish cooking and you aren't left with soggy noodles.

Let's see what you made with your roux and mornay sauce!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday--Jan 25

I haven't really been avoiding the kitchen since the disaster, it just seems that way. I've been ill and very busy with the kids. So no blogging!

But this week we are going to be back with the cook along. This time we're going to make a roux and from there a mornay sauce over noodles. It's fancy mac n cheese. And I promise the noodles will be done at the same time as the sauce! It'll taste better the Yellow Death in a Blue Box that most of you are familiar with. And, since it takes the same amount of time to prepare, you really have no excuse to keep making it from a box :)

Gather your ingredents:

Cheese (cheddar, parm, white cheddar...whatever cheese you're craving)
butter
flour
half and half/cream/whole milk
noodles
salt and pepper

In other bloggy excitement, I'm ending my use up the pantry stores challenge as we've pretty much cleansed the cabinets! So it's time to rotate in a new round of food storage starting next week. I think my kids are going to be so glad not to eat a bean for a long time.

This week's Menu

Sunday: Ham, mashed potatoes, green salad
Monday: Quiche
Tuesday: Taco Rice
Wednesday: Tuna Casserole
Thursday: PAY DAY! Eat out!
Friday: kids pizza grown ups: shhhhh we're going on a date! don't tell D!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's always good to have a back up plan

If you've been on this blog for any length of time, you know I'm pretty good about my menu planning. It's one of the best ways I know to save money. But, sometimes life throws things at you and you aren't able to follow your menu plan. That's when you have to pull out your magical bag of cooking skills and throw together something quick.

Tonight was such a night. And when things go bad for me in the kitchen, it's really bad.

While I've pretty much mastered chicken stock and various soups, my personal challenge for this year is to stop buying cans of whatever. I have built up a store of dried beans and gosh darn it, I am bound and determined to figure out how to use them. They intimidate me, and not many things intimidate me in the kitchen any more.

My last two bean experiments turned out really well. I made black beans. DELICIOUS in a burrito with cumin and chili seasoned quinoa. I also knocked a chili out of the park.

Today, I planned to use my poached chicken in a white bean chicken chili. I prepared the beans according to the directions on the package. I sauteed my onions and peppers. Added my chicken, tossed in the tomatoes then the beans...And that's exactly where I went wrong.

Cooking 101 here: highly acid foods like tomatoes will seize up beans. It will prevent the moisture from entering the beans. So if you cook said beans starting at 4 p.m. thinking dinner will be done by 6...when you taste the beans at 615 and they are still rock solid, you will go in to a panic!

This is why it's good to have that poached chicken on hand. At least you don't have to prepare a new protein!

D was due home any minute and I had no dinner to serve. Not a good thing.

Leelee is always my kitchen shadow. She says she's my sous chef. While my mind is racing trying to figure out a solution, she pipes up "Is this like Top Chef where they have to come up with something quick?" Yes, my own personal quick fire challenge!

Inspiration hit me in the form of chicken biscuits and gravy! It was incredibly simple. I can make biscuits in my sleep now, thank Alton Brown goodness! So tender.

While the biscuits were baking, it was time to tackle the gravy. This is where knowing how to do a bechamel sauce comes in handy! It's a fancy term for a white sauce. Even if I don't have any other idea of what I'm serving, a nice sauce will make it all better. Except instead of using all scalded milk, I used warm chicken stock. Added salt and lots of pepper...voila! country gravy.

Dinner was gobbled up and the kids wanted seconds! And, it was probably all done in less than 20 minutes.

I'm going to try to perform life saving measures on the chili for tomorrow. If not, It's gonna be cheesey chicken and rice for tomorrow's dinner. Again, relying on that basic sauce and adding cheese. Except then it's mornay. We'll tackle sauces on the blog later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's STOCK time!

OK folks participating in the cook-along...this week we're making STOCK.

Stock is a very useful and versatile pantry staple. It's available at the store, but you can easily make it at home. One of the biggest advantages of making your own stocks (aside from it being ridiculously easy and cheap) is that you can make it free of salt or preservatives, making it a much more healthy choice.

There are three basic types of stock recipes call for: Chicken, Beef and Vegetable.

For this leg of the cook along, we're going to make a basic chicken stock.

Chicken stock is amazingly versatile. One of my favorite things to do with it is using it in place of milk when making mashed potatoes. Once when I was sick, D was making mashed potatoes with dinner and he apologized because he couldn't replicate mine! He was using milk. In fact, the last time I made buttermilk mashed potatoes, the kids refused to eat them. Another great use for stock is when cooking rice. It gives just a little boost of flavor. Also, whenever I make a sauce, to lighten it up, I use half stock and half cream. BUT, since this is cooking 101, I think making sauces is getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

So, let's get started!

When making your chicken stock, you need:

Crock pot
Water
Chicken
onions
carrots
bay leaf
salt
pepper

Now, for the chicken you have two options. First, you can use chicken bones and skin from a previously cooked chicken. Second choice, you can poach an uncooked chicken. The method is the same, it's just a matter of using bones vs uncooked chicken.

Spray your crockpot with non-stick spray.

Dice up your onions and chop the carrots. Place those along with the chicken in a crockpot and cover it all with water. Toss in a bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. I always use a large pinch of Kosher salt and several twists around of my pepper mill.

Turn the crockpot on low and let it simmer at least 4 hours.

After you've cooked your stock, strain it to get rid of large chunks and the veggies. Then chill it and allow the fat to come to the top. Skim off the fat. Store your stock in freezer bags. One great idea I recently came across was to freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then put them in to bags. That way you can grab as much or as little as you need!

So...let's see your stocks and what you do with them!

My creation will be coming tomorrow :)

Soo...what have you done?

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Feature! Cook-along!

Some gals on one of my favorite local message boards have been lamenting the fact that they can't cook. I offered to hostess a cook along and I'm going to be hosting it here on my blog.

What we're going to do is learn a cooking technique and share what we create with it. It's going to be all basics and scratch cooking.

I'm really looking forward to people participating.

We're going to cover basics like stock making, roux, and biscuits. I know this isn't typically a "cooking" blog, but I like to post recipes. So if you'd like to participate, sign up with Mr. Linky and we'll come check out your blogs!

Also if you have a cooking challenge you'd like to see us do...something you're afraid to tackle...suggest it and maybe we'll all try it, too!

baby steps

I love little babies. I love their squooshy cheeks, the dimples in their hands, their eyes...ohhh I just love babies. Probably why I have so many of them. LOL

As my children have grown, I've become in no hurry to get them through the baby stage. It is such a short period of time. So many parents spend the first year of baby's life anxious for them to walk and talk. Then, they spend the next 17 years telling them to sit down and shut up!

The only stage I'm ever anxious to get through is the terrible 2s. *shudder*

I'm really enjoying having big kids and doing things with them. But, I'm also really enjoying my last little baby. The problem is, she didn't get the memo that she's supposed to stay a baby. She thinks she's a big girl. She can throw tantrums. She says "Hi, Daddy!" And, that's the only thing she says. And, she only says it to Daddy. I've gotten one "mama." When she wants something, she smacks her lips and points. It's very cute. I mean, what baby isn't "very cute?" Every baby is!

Her birthday is in three months. And yesterday, she took steps. Not many. And only to daddy--every time he turned away to look at something else! Such a stinker! Nine months and one week old and taking steps.

A few first time moms I know are all excited and "yay, Millie!" The experienced moms are offering their condolences.

So little miss is now taking baby steps. *sob*

Monday, January 11, 2010

Confuzzled

That pretty much describes me lately. Any time after a big change in my routine, like say...a vacation...it's so hard for me to get back in to things again. I don't transition well. It's one of the more frustrating parts of ADD.

It literally takes me weeks to get in to a routine and then the kids have a holiday and it throws me all out of whack.

I haven't even managed a decent menu plan this week. How pathetic is that?

The bright side is, the laundry is almost caught up. That has to count for something!

Meanwhile, I keep telling myself I'm going to get specific things done and I don't get them done. I'm constantly distracted by everything else that needs to get done. I really wish I could be on my medication. Unfortunately, the medication I was on that was safe for nursing mamas and was very effective and helpful for me after Lizzy was born, was not so great this time around. I was having panic attacks, which is not a good thing. I couldn't even drive my car to the store without freaking out and the store is about two miles from the house. While my ADD was under control, I had so much anxiety, nothing was getting done. What kind of choice is that? Anxiety or ADD. I'll take ADD over anxiety, thank you very much! I'd rather feel like I misplaced my mind instead of feeling like I completely lost my mind and will never ever find it again!

I need to really develop a new plan of attack for things.

One thing that is helping is having a binder for important papers. I labeled page protectors: one for each person, insurance, to do lists, deal with this NOW, coupons, gift certificates

This really came in handy today, for example. D has to appear in court tomorrow seeking restitution for, among other things, the injuries he sustained back in May. I have all his doctor bills that we paid in his file! I know this seems like a big DUH for those of you who have normal brains, but for this ADD chica, knowing where the papers are AND the location of the binder is a MAJOR accomplishment. Seriously. Now, we just need good thoughts that we'll actually *see* the restitution money. The court will order it, I'm sure...just not sure if the party in question will ever have the ability to pay.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Destashin' for 2010

You'll see a new button on the side. I'm participating in a destashing challenge.

In my ongoing efforts to organize my things, I am now trying to weed down my fabric stash. It's coming out my ears. People keep giving me fabric. It's crazy. I can't say no to it either.

I think by clearing out the fabric in useful ways, it will go a long way to getting things a bit more organized.

Within the last 24 hours, I've used about a yard and a half of fabric. I know, I know...that doesn't sound like a lot, but I did make a blankie for the baby and five fleece hats! The blankie is also fleece...good quality like you'd find on a jacket. It's sooo toasty warm. If I didn't put some silky pooh binding on it, I'd totally keep it for myself. Millie isn't too interested in it, so I've been "borrowing" it all day.

I have two dresses already cut out that I'm promising myself I'm tackling tonight. Of course, I've been promising I'm tackling it for the last month. But I've got my machine out, so that's a lot more progress than I've made in awhile.

I made a massive dent in the girls' laundry, too. Leelee informed me she has too many shirts! Well, now we need to go through her clothes and figure out what we need to keep. She loves fashion, so hopefully it won't be too painful for her.

I'd love to hear the practical ways you are organizing and purging!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

I'd rather shovel rain than snow.

That's been my motto ever since spending two years in college in Idaho. I don't like snow. I don't like cold.

As much as the summers in the south are terrible, the winters are very tolerable. It's usually four to six weeks at most where it's cool. It's not enough for me to worry about winter coats for the kids. We just layer.

Occasionally, an arctic mass will move some cold air down south, but not often enough to keep things stocked.

Unfortunately, one of those arctic air masses is pushing cold air. We are having temperatures that are about 30 degrees below average. This time last year, it was 77 degrees! The record low for our city is 23 degrees. Tomorrow's predicted low is 16.

To say we're not prepared for the cold, is a bit of an understatement.

The kids each wore three coats to school today!

It's a good thing we went camping in Yellowstone this summer because we do have sleeping bags for cold temperatures.

Our biggest concern right now is the expected precipitation for Thursday. It's not that it's going to snow (there is a chance) that concerns me, it's the rain. Rain and sub-freezing temperatures mean ice. Ice on power lines mean no electricity! Our homes aren't well insulated for this sort of weather so the situation could be very very cold.

The good news (or not) is that we have a gas stove. At least we can still cook! And, I stocked up on yeast so we can bake bread and warm up the house a little bit. I just wish we had a fireplace.

Hopefully we won't be without power and heat.

People seem optimistic so far. The stores weren't completely empty of bread and milk.

So, think good, warm no ice storm thoughts for us!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday- Jan 4

Happy New Year to everyone!

I took some time off blogging with the kids home. It's a bit hard to juggle kids, blogging, the house and the holidays. As much as I love all of you, blogging isn't my top priority. ;)

With the new year, we have new family goals. I like setting goals and not resolutions. Goals are meaningful and attainable. Resolutions always get broken. It may be semantics, but often when you're making big changes in your life, it's mind over matter.

One of the biggest family goals is to be nice. Nice to each other and nice to others. It's one of those simple changes that can change the world.

Our world was also rocked by viewing the documentary Food, Inc. It is a really eye opening work. It's available on netflix for instant viewing. I am more determined to be a locavore...eating locally and making everything I can from scratch. I really can't recommend this movie enough.

So with that in mind, here's our menu for the week:

Sunday: pancakes
Monday: fake out KFC potato chicken bowls
Tuesday: Spinach Canneloni
Wednesday: Shredded Beef and Bean Burritos
Thursday: Pot Roast
Firday: Spaghetti
Saturday: homemade pizzas