Archive for the ‘Homekeeping’ Category

I tried this recipe tonight because it looked simple and mushrooms feel like fall to me. I am ready for fall in every way. Bring on the boots, cold weather, jackets and pumpkins. I think the key here is to not overcook the chicken. Best part: it is ready in about 30 minutes.

I paired it with some honey-glazed carrots, but it would be good with green beans, broccoli, or over egg noodles with peas.

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • about 6 chicken cutlets*
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP dried thyme leaves or 2 TBSP fresh thyme
  • 1 pound button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

1. Place flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken generously with salt & pepper and coat with flour, shaking off excess.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil and 1 TBSP butter over medium-high. Cook chicken until browned and cooked through, 3-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and loosely tent with foil.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining butter, thyme, and mushrooms. Saute until softened.

4. Turn heat up to medium-high, add wine and broth and cook, stirring until a sauce forms and thickens slightly, (about 3-5 minutes). Return chicken to pan and toss with mushrooms and sauce.

*If you don’t have cutlets, cut large chicken breasts in half horizontally through the middle, leaving two thinner cuts. Trim to a smaller size if needed.



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Don’t have a heart attack or anything. I know this blog has been seriously neglected lately and this is day one of beginning to remedy that problem. Although it is still frigid here in Utah, I know Spring has sprung elsewhere. Don’t let that stop you from making this soup! Although it is a hearty soup, suitable for the coldest winter evening, it has a fresh flavor that make it just as appropriate for a light spring supper — especially if paired with a green salad, but it is just as good paired with a thick slice of bread topped with butter and honey. Besides, what else are you going to do with all that leftover Easter ham?

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped medium onion
  • 4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) green split peas
  •  2 cups diced leftover ham
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a  large, heavy pot with a lid, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, carrots,  and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add broth, split peas, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and partially cover; simmer until peas are soft, 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Once peas are softened and carrots are cooked through, use a potato masher to gently mash the peas to the desired consistency. (I like the texture of the soup when it is not too finely processed. If you prefer a smoother texture, you can use an immersion blender or remove half of the soup to a blender to puree.)
  4.  Add ham cubes, and simmer until heated through. If necessary, thin with water. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
If you still have leftover ham, dice it up, seal it in a freezer bag in 2-cup portions, and freeze for future use.  If you have ham on hand, this soup comes together quickly with staples from the pantry.
Added bonus: split peas are very high in iron, protein, and fiber and relatively low in calories!

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Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss creating harmony in the home. I’ve been struggling with this problem off and on for a couple of months and have found that there are definitely things that help foster a more loving environment in my home.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have been given guidelines to follow that help to bring our family closer together and to invite the Spirit of God into our home. These guidelines include praying together as a family as well as individually, studying the scriptures, and holding Family Home Evening once a week. When I am striving to live by these guidelines my home is noticeably more harmonious than when I am not. These practices also create opportunities for my husband and I to share our morals and values with our children. Praying together as a family helps our children to develop a sense of gratitude as they give thanks for their blessings. Prayer also helps develop them to selflessness as they pray for the needs of others.  Although many of the ideas below are based on these principles, you need not be a member of my faith — or of any faith —  to employ them.

1. Center Yourself : Try to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier than you usually do and take this time to meditate, study scriptures, pray, or to read something uplifting and inspiring.  I find that when I am able to do this, I can face the day in a calmer, happier, and more peaceful way. It’s so much better than getting up and walking directly into the chaos of the morning.

2. Stick to a Routine: As much as possible, stick to the same routine each day. Do homework, eat dinner, and start getting ready for bed at a consistent time each day. When kids know what to expect each day, they will become more able to anticipate what needs to happen next and take steps to help out

3. Spend Time Together: Aside from family dinners, it is important to take time each week to enjoy each other’s company. This can take the form of a formal Family Night, or can be as simple and spontaneous as a Saturday outing to the park. Either way, it is important to interact with your kids in different settings. Let them know you enjoy spending time with them doing a variety of things — get to know them better and let them see that there is more to Mom & Dad than they expected.  Bonus: in my experience a change of pace puts the kibosh on sibling rivalry better than anything else. If you have more than one child, try to schedule occasional one-on-one time between each parent and each child. Sometimes they just need to have you all to themselves.

4. Take Time to Teach: It’s important to let your children know what you expect from them and why. Share your ideals with them, and try to model good conversational skills. Model good listening behavior and guide them in conflict resolution. When they have the tools to work it out on their own, there will be less tattling and more cooperation.

5. Spot Good Behavior: When you see your kids being especially helpful, kind, or mature, point it out immediately and complement them on it. Then, bring it up again later in the week — saying, for example “I was so proud of how your helped your sister clean up her room the other day. It really made me happy to see that you are learning to be so thoughtful.” Kids respond to positive reinforcement and it’s nice for them to hear what they have done well.

What tips or strategies do you employ to maintain a sense of peace and harmony in your home? I would love to hear some new ideas!

Happy Valentine’s Day! May your home be filled with laughter, happiness, love, and kindness!

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We have a lot of books in our home. With that comes a problem, however. If not kept in check books can creep off of shelves and wind up in every room in every imaginable place: stacked on top of tables and counters, hiding under beds, peeking out from behind dressers, littering the floor, and consequently, getting damaged in the process. I dream of having a dedicated library in our home. One room that is lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves and furnished with oversized leather chairs, perfect for curling up in for a nice read. Maybe a sturdy table for homework purposes. Sadly, it remains a dream and so I am left with the dilemma of how to go about organizing the hundreds (thousands?) of books in our home.

I was thinking about this the other day, and realized that there are a lot of different ways to organize books and that, rather than adopt a single method, I’ve chosen a smattering that work for me and employed them in different places throughout the house. Not every method works in every instance. I’ve even implemented a system on my Kindle to keep things organized and accessible. Here are some of the different methods I use for organizing my books:

Color: The main bookshelves in my house are in the living room. These are filled mostly with books we bought to read for enjoyment. There is also some poetry mixed in there, from my days as an English major. These bookshelves, for about a year now, have been organized by color. I really enjoy having my books arranged this way. It’s somewhat unusual,  it’s  visually pleasing to look at, and I have discovered that I remember books by their cover art and can actually find what I’m looking for more quickly this way.  Both of my sisters have since adopted the organize-by-color method as well. If you like bookshelves to look uniform and tidy, this is a good place to start. You can even go more extreme, and turn the books spine-in for a subtle, monochromatic look, but obviously, it will be more difficult to locate a specific book with this method unless there is some other system of organization in place.

Subject: My husband and I have a lot of diverse interests from crochet and beekeeping to photography and art history. If we have more than one or two books on a specific subject, I tend to group them by subject on dedicated shelves. For example, my husband keeps all of his art, photography, and design books on shelves in his studio area. I keep all cookbooks together as well as books on yoga, crochet, beekeeping, home organization, and parenting casually grouped by subject on a large built-in bookshelf in my bedroom. Having the cookbooks there is mildly inconvenient, and I would encourage you to store cookbooks in the kitchen whenever possible. Religious books and manuals are stored together in another location.

Size: Try though I might, I have not yet found a better means of organizing the kid’s books. Right now we have a dedicated bookshelf for this in our son’s room and plan to add one to our daughter’s shared room. There is a fair amount of spillover onto the toy shelves, but I hope to eliminate this when I add another bookshelf. The shelf we currently use is small with only 3 shelves and the books are organized by size for the simple fact that it makes them neater as well as easier for children to put away. Since there are only 3 shelves, I can even tell at a glance what shelf each book belongs on. Large picture books are on the bottom, medium-sized on the middle shelf, and smaller books go mostly on the top. I say mostly, because the top shelf is really the only shelf that has another designation — all top shelf books are easy readers and early chapter books. This keeps them slightly more out of reach of the baby and also makes it easy for my two readers to find something that they might enjoy.

Type: I specify “type” because we do have a lot of books sorted this way such as my the easy reader books mentioned above, my husband’s old sketch books, photo albums, and my embarrassingly large comic book collection.

Tips for Tidy Shelves:

  • Don’t be afraid to try something different. Books don’t always have to be lined up neatly from left to right. Try running them from right to left or laying them on their sides and stacking them vertically. I also like to lay a book or two sideways in the space on top of traditionally arranged books. If they aren’t level, rearrange the base slightly, putting books of equal heights at the front and end of the section you want to stack on top of.
  • Mix things up. Mix in stacks of books with regularly shelved books. Add small, interesting objects to the top of stacks or in spaces at the end of a shelf to act as bookends. I have a few old, heavy cameras and some oddly-shaped vases that I do this with.
  • Store outside the shelf. Books look nice mixed in with decorative elements around the room. Stack a few to give a lamp more lift or to elevate a candlestick. If you have spare dresser space, consider lining up some books spine-up in a drawer.
  • Library books need homes too. Since it can be difficult to track them down when it is time to return them, I like to give library books a dedicated space. Our current library issued re-usable tote bags to our kids when they got their own library cards, so lately we’ve just been using these. They hang on the doorknob of the bedrooms with the books inside. Before that, we used a large basket tucked in a corner of the living room. Either way, it’s easier when you give library books a home of their own and let your kids know that they must be returned there each evening.
  • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. It’s a good idea to go through bookshelves once a year or so and get rid of books you no longer use or know you won’t read again. You can donate books to hospitals, shelters, prisons, or goodwill. Used book shops will pay decent money for some items — it is always worth taking in a box full of books for the proprietor to sort through. They are also great sellers at yard sales. Another option is using old books for craft projects. I’ve seen some amazing things from wreaths, to simple book-folding wall art, to mobiles and purses.  I’ll leave you with this lovely inspiration:

If you have any tips for organizing, storing, or crafting with books, please share in the comments section!

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Product Love: SOS Cleaning Pads

This product is an oldie, but goodie, as they say. Beloved by my mother and grandmother SOS pads have remained virtually unchanged since they first hit the market in 1917. Since it is an older product, a lot of modern home-keepers may be unaware of this kitchen lifesaver, so I thought they deserved a spotlight. They are basically small pads of steel wool infused with a foaming soap and they are scrubbing dynamos. They are perfect for baked-on messes that won’t soak away. I find myself using them frequently as of late, since my less-than-stellar dishwasher often leaves stuff behind on my dishes that won’t come off easily until I dampen an SOS pad and rub lightly. The pads are quite large, and since they are made of steel, are prone to rusting if left wet on the side of the sink. I solve this problem by cutting each pad into halves or even quarters as needed with a pair of kitchen shears. My mom swears by wrapping used pads in foil and tossing it in the freezer to prevent rusting.

Music Love: Florence & the Machine

I’m digging Florence & the Machine lately. The dreamy vocals and catchy melodies are  heavily atmospheric and often have a dark edge to the lyrics, yet somehow leave you feeling strangely buoyed up .  The “Florence” of Florence & the Machine is Florence Welsh, an English songbird with a powerhouse voice. Her video for “Cosmic Love” is beautiful and haunting. If you want something a little more upbeat, give “Dog Days are Over” a listen. Or, for sheer rock-n-roll that will make you get up and dance, try “Kiss with a Fist” — the videos are great too.  Either way, you won’t be disappointed. And by all means, let me know what you think or let me know what music you are loving lately.

Yoga Love: Virabhadrasana I  (Warrior Pose)

photo courtesy of http://www.yogajournal.com

Warrior pose is strongly grounding pose that strengthens your legs, shoulders, arms, and back, challenges your balance, and stretches your  hip flexors. To move into Warrior 1, start out in Tadasana, inhale deeply. As you begin to exhale, place your hands on your hips and  step your left foot back 3-4 feet, turning the toes of your back foot forward at a 45-degree angle. Your front toes should point straight ahead. Make sure that your weight is centered evenly on both feet and the the front leg is bent in a deep lunge, bringing the thigh bone as close to parallel with the floor as you are able.

Glance down at your front knee and make sure that it is not rolling inward, but that it is staying stacked directly above your ankle. Also check to make sure that in your lunge, the knee is not extending past the ankle joint. If it is, this will put undue pressure on your kneecap and could lead to a knee injury. Correct this by widening your stance. Next, draw your attention to your back foot and press down with the outer edge of your foot.

Next, check your hip alignment. Both hips should be facing squarely forward and even with one another. With hands still on hips, pull the right hip (or left hip, if the left foot is forward) back gently until it aligns with the left. Another good way to tell if your hips are squared is to visualize which way your belly button is pointing. It should be pointing straight ahead rather than diagonally off to one side. If you are having difficulty squaring the hips, try stepping the front foot over to the right an inch or two. (Or to the left when the left foot is forward,)

Finally, inhale deeply as you fully extend your arms and raise them above your head, alongside your ears. Take a moment to make sure your shoulders are not coming up to the ears. If they are, relax the shoulders and draw the shoulder blades downward. Extend strongly through the arms all the way through the fingertips. If you find that raising the arms creates tension in the neck and shoulders, feel free to modify the pose by returning the hands to the hips. Yoga should be a  means of releasing tension in the body, never creating it.

Hold Warrior 1 for 5-6 full breaths. When you are ready to come out of the pose, return the hands to the hips on an exhalation. As you inhale, step the back foot forward to meet the other. Repeat on the opposite side. End your micro-session by adjusting your alignment in Tadasana and taking several deep breaths, ending with a final exhalation through the mouth, like a sigh.

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A long time ago, in what seems like another life, my husband and I lived together in newly-wedded bliss in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. Every Thursday night, I would try to get home about an hour earlier than usual and I would quickly clean the entire apartment from floor to ceiling. I did this to get a jump-start on the weekend and so that I could come home to gleaming serenity on Friday night. No chores, no obligations.

Fast-forward 10 years. I mentioned earlier that I do whole-house cleaning on Fridays…which I have done for years since having kids. However, a couple weeks ago, everything changed. I made lunch plans with an old friend that I haven’t seen for over a year. Since we both have young children, she offered (generously) to bring lunch to me…here…at my house…on a Friday. Since my Fridays are typically spent looking a mess and scrubbing floors, I decided that — just this once — I would clean the entire house on Thursday, which, if you remember from the same earlier post, also involves laundry. It seemed like an insurmountable task when I woke up Thursday morning, but by the end of the day, I was feeling great. I felt even greater the next morning, when, kids off to school, I surveyed my domain. All I had to do was make beds and do the breakfast dishes — a task which took approximately 15 minutes at most. You can see where this is heading, right?

Today, again, I decided to do the laundry and cleaning all in one day and leave my Friday wide open. It’s a really, really, good feeling. Trust me. So today, if you are up to it, why not clean the house from top to bottom? Or do it tomorrow if you can’t manage it today. I have a system that works for me. Here it is:

Night before: Do a whole-house pick-up. Just pick up all the stuff that is not where it belongs and put it away. Then you can start fresh in the morning.

Morning Work: Pick up any stray items that are out, gather up all the laundry, and quickly make the beds.

Clean the Kitchen: Load and start the dishwasher, run a sink full of hot, soapy water. Wipe down all the kitchen surfaces, including wiping underneath things and wiping down appliances. Empty the water and while the sink is wet, scrub out the sink. If you need glass cleaner for any appliances, also do any windows and mirrors that need cleaning.

Floors: Sweep the kitchen floor and while you are at it, shake out any rugs and sweep bathroom floors and any other hard floors in your home. Next mop all the floors, starting with the kitchen, ending with the bathrooms. While floors are drying, vacuum all carpeted areas in your home.

Dust: Usually I just dust as I vacuum. My favorite dusting tool is an old sock. I cut the toes off, slip it on my arm like a sleeve, with it covering my hand. Give it a few sprays of dusting spray. (I like Method Good for Wood — it works well and smells fantastic) Then i just flip it up over my hand to vacuum and flip it back down to dust each room before leaving. Or you can go back and dust afterward, but you will just be re-tracing your steps.

Bathrooms: Since the mirrors & floors are already done, just clean the toilet, tub, and sink. I always hated cleaning bathrooms until I timed myself and realized it only takes about 5 minutes per bathroom. Cinchy.

Fold Laundry: While all this other cleaning is going on, I’ve been staying on top of the laundry, putting “easy” things away as soon as they come out of the dryer and piling the rest on the dining room table. (By “easy” things I mean towels, dish towels, hanging clothes, and jeans.) With the housework done, I like to turn on the TV, pour myself a Diet Dr. Pepper and fold away.

That’s it! It wasn’t so bad, right? If you have cleaning tips to share or any questions/comments, I welcome them! Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by…I’m starting to feel all alone here!

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As promised, I’m posting here part two of Organize your Time, Simplify your Life.  Part one can be found here.

A large part of this comes from what I learned at my time at Franklin Covey, specifically from a FC seminar entitled “What Matters Most.” The theory behind it is simply that if we take time to schedule the things that matter most to us, the rest will fall into place. It brings to mind an object lesson I once saw demonstrated:

A jar is filled partially with sand that represents all of our obligations in life — work, housekeeping, errands, etc. Included in this are all the unplanned responsibilities, wasted time, extra work, things that take longer than we expected, etc. Then, there are several large rocks that represent the things we wish we had time for. Things that often get pushed aside because we just can’t fit them in. Things like family time, reading, exercise, hobbies, continued education, as well as things like dreams, goals, and value-driven things like daily meditation, scripture study, prayer.

Try as you might, you cannot make the rocks fit into the jar that is already more than half-full of sand. However, if you place the rocks in FIRST, all the sand will pour nicely into place and fill the gaps. The point of the object lesson is that you need to prioritize what is important to you and make the time to do those things. Otherwise, your time is taken up by the mundane, the unimportant, and the ordinary.

In order to change the way your manage your time and your life, you need to begin by asking yourself: What matters most? You need to identify your “first things”.

What are the first things in your life? What things in life do I value? Think in general terms, such as family, health, spirituality, intellect, etc. One good way to answer those questions is by asking other questions: “What are my roles/responsibilities in life?”  “Who are the people I care about?”  “What are my personal goals?

When you identify your roles, values, and goals in your life and plan your tasks and schedule your time in a way that is consistent with these,  you will be happier, less stressed, and find yourself with more time to focus on what matters most to you including time for recreation and renewal.

Roles: Each of us has many different roles in life, and with each role comes a set of responsibilities and probably a whole litany of ideas of ways you can better fulfill that role. For example, I am a wife, a mother, a yoga teacher, a blogger. (Keep in mind that the roles your list can be roles you would LIKE to have (marathon runner?) or more abstract roles such as that of a confident woman.) For each of those roles, I might choose to set goals in order to better meet what I perceive as the responsibilities and/or expectations for myself in filling that role. That’s ultimately what goals are — a means of becoming better at some aspect of a particular role you play in life.

Values: Before moving on to goals, take a few moments to examine your roles in life. Remember the question about what your value in life?  What are the values associated with each role? For example, next to the role Yoga Teacher, I might write “Value: Health”. This serves as a reminder that this role and its associated goal(s) is something that matters to you. Something that is very much part of your “big picture” in life, and gives those associated goals solid meaning and importance.

Goals: Once you have identified your roles, you no doubt started thinking of how you can do each one better than you already are. Start again with a question: What do I want to accomplish? Be brief, the time for specifics comes later. Next ask yourself two more questions: Why do I want to do it? and How will I do it? Understanding WHY you want to do something can offer you valuable insight that may help you accomplish your goal more readily and maintain the motivation to do so. Finally, when addressing how you plan to reach a goal, break it down into manageable, measurable steps, and set deadlines for when you want to have each step accomplished.

Schedule: With list of roles, goals,  Set aside scheduled time to work on goals each day, week, or month according to your plan.

For another great article on setting and achieving your goals, go HERE.

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