Tag Archives: Homemaking

The SAHM Gig

18 Jul

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for awhile, and indeed I had intended to last month, but then I realized I had only been home with the baby two weeks—the length of time I’m usually home with her during Christmas vacation. I really felt like I needed to give it some more time before I could really weigh in on the SAHM gig.

The first week was bliss. I didn’t stick to the work schedule I had created (more on that later) and simply overdosed on time with Isobel. It was lovely, but I got nothing done, and what I did manage to accomplish, I did so inefficiently. Efficiency, I’ve learned, isn’t just a workforce trait: it’s necessary when you work at home with a toddler underfoot as well.

The second week was Anthony’s vacation. What remnants of the schedule we did stick to went out the window when we took off for San Jose and did massive amounts of yard work. The week after that shall be known as The Week of the Tantrum. That was a hard week, and it seemed that the days were one long sobbing and/or screaming fit from Isobel. But we got through it and I learned more about it and now when I see one starting, I have a better idea of what to do or not do, and to accept it when it comes.

Some time after that, our whole family took turns getting really sick with the nasty summer cold that’s been making the rounds. Yay. Yet throughout the vacations and the tantrums and the illnesses, a pattern began to emerge. I had a weekly schedule all picked out but a daily schedule developed, and that is what I lean on when times get tough.

OUR SCHEDULE

This isn’t always how things unfold, but when a day is going well, it’s pretty close to it. This schedule allows for everything to get done and for Isobel and I to have the time we need. The times I’m listing are approximate, mostly to show you about how long we devote to activities, but nap time is sort of sacred around here, and we keep it as close to 2:00 as possible, meaning the day goes smoothly if we stay on this track. I keep things like fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers and turkey or chicken on hand for mini-meals when the stretch between my mealtimes is too long.

This isn’t to say that we are perfect, nor that we get everything done. On the contrary, there’s so much to do that usually something’s gotta give: maybe I don’t eat as well as I should, or the laundry adds up, or I don’t get a shower that day. Mostly it’s my Etsy shop that has born the brunt of this, as I have easily a hundred items stashed away that I need to upload. At best, once I get caught up on some project that need tending and some things that I let go while I was working, I can stick to this schedule and bathe at the same time. A girl’s gotta dream.

So far, our days look something like this:

6:00-7:00 Get up; usually after six but before seven.

7:00-8:30 We do our morning chores, get ourselves dressed and ready, and we eat.

(8:00ish While Isobel plays, I drink my coffee and enjoy between 15-20 minutes of internet time, when I check into twitter, answer my mail, and post the link for whatever post I have up that day.)

8:30-12:00 After that we have our morning stretch: from about 8:30 until noon we tackle whatever is going on that day. This is the chunk of the day when useful and/or fun things happen. What we do here also depends on what day of the week it is.

12:00-1:00 At noon we have lunch, and sometimes start dinner (depending on the menu for that night).

1:00-2:00 We have an hour to play before nap time. If it’s under 95 degrees, we go outside.

2:00-3:30 Nap time! While she sleeps, I work out and edit photos.

4:00-5:00 After nap time, Isobel gets a bit of TV time while I clean up the day’s mess and start dinner.

5:00-5:30 I cook while Isobel plays nearby.

5:30-6:00 After Anthony gets home, we eat.

6:00-6:30 When dinner is done, Anthony and I clean the kitchen while Isobel begs incessantly to go outside.

6:30-8:00 Usually we go outside and generally have family time until about 8:00 pm when we come inside and begin our night time routine. Sometimes we stay in and clean, watch a movie, hang out, or run errands.

8:00-9:00 After the last story is read it’s usually 9:00 and I catch up on my blogroll or instagram from my phone while waiting for Isobel to sleep. Then I get ready for bed, fall asleep, and the whole thing starts over the next day.

DAILY PROJECTS

During that large 8:30-12:00 stretch, I focus on one of these projects:

* I devote one day a week to the house and various household projects, usually including meal planning, cleaning out the fridge and the pantry, organization and improvement projects, shopping, and errands.

Aside: One thing I don’t do a lot of on this day (or any other day) is cleaning. I take care of the chores such as the dishes, some laundry, maybe a quick toilet scrub down or a general pick-up, but as a rule I don’t dust, mop or sweep or do actual cleaning while I am home with the baby. Taking care of her, focusing on my business, and picking up after ourselves are enough. The deep-cleaning happens on weekends and after work, times when Anthony is around to help. He is completely supportive of cleaning together, and it’s important for me that Isobel sees cleaning modeled in a partnership, and not as “woman’s work.”

* I devote two days a week to my business. I get the bulk of my blogging done, I edit photos, I sell photos to Getty, I work on photography for clients, and I upload to Etsy. (So far Etsy has gotten the shaft, but I hope to clear up more time for uploading items in the near future.) My mom or Anthony’s Grandma helps with Isobel during this time.

* The remaining four days of the week are days that I do specific activities with Isobel: swimming, play dates, the water park, visiting family, going to the playground, and just generally having adventures. Two of these days usually fall on the weekends, so Anthony is included, or friends and family that normally work on the weekdays. On Wednesdays we like to have play dates with Kingston, and although we don’t always have an elaborate trip to the zoo, they always find ways to entertain each other. Friday we see baby Abby and go to the Farmer’s Market. I of course spend quality time with Isobel on the remaining three days, but our focus is the tasks that need to get done.

As you can see from this schedule, we are limited to doing things in the morning as lunch and nap time get in the way of the afternoon, and then once she wakes up I’m starting on dinner, but fortunately we’ve been able to find classes and activities and people up for doing stuff in our time frame.

OUR NECESSITIES

I have learned (sadly, the hard way more than a few times) not to leave the house this summer without these:

Hello Kitty Water Bottle: when it’s this hot, water’s a necessity even if we’re just going to the store. It closes tightly so I can throw it in my purse without worrying about leaks, but Isobel can sip out of the straw from her car seat without making a mess.

Cloth Napkins: for wiping the never-ending snotty nose, cleaning up after food related incidents, or wiping off hands that have been playing in the dirt.

Snacks: usually granola bars but sometimes cheese. Purse granola has rescued so many a doomed shopping trip by now that I’m nominating it for sainthood.

Diaper bag and the umbrella stroller: they pretty much live in my trunk at this point.

FUN THINGS

These are some of the really fun things we’ve been focusing on this summer.

Gardening – along with the pergola we have planted a sunflower, marigolds, poppies, onions, pumpkins and butternut squash. All of this with the help of our good friend Jake! Additionally I’ve been growing succulents forever and just started an herb garden.

Dress up – at any given moment, we are all wearing necklaces or some other form of dress-up garment. Even Zorro.

Cooking, both pretend (her) and for reals (me) – necessary on my part—good thing I enjoy it.

Play dates with friends – we’ve had a lot of fun with Kingston and Victoria especially.

Thrifting – Mostly fun for me, but Isobel loves a chance to discover new treasures.

Playing with Grandparents – she loves visiting their houses.

Swimming lessons and the kiddie pool – and painting, obviously.

Cleaning out clutter – fun for me, naturally, but Isobel loves it, too because she gets to play with things she’s never seen before.

Farmer’s Market – I push Isobel around in the stroller while she shouts MORE FRUIT! MORE FRUIT!, usually in Spanish.) I’m going to be so sad when this closes for the season.

THE FUTURE

This is how things are right now, and I know it’s subject to change. Summer will end at some point, the Farmer’s Market and fruit stands will close, and the water park will be shut down. Our long days painting in the backyard will be over. And yet that is okay because I feel like we haven’t been taking advantage of all the things I could be doing with Isobel: toddler story time at the library will start back up in September, and there’s tumbling classes, arts and crafts sessions, Mommy and Me. I want to eventually join the Moms’ Club. Our days are so full already; we don’t have to do it all. But it’s nice to have options.

The best thing about staying home, and the most surprising, is how much closer Isobel and I have become. I am so much more patient with her because I understand her more fully. I know how certain moods will play out and the impetus for some of her seemingly mysterious mood swings. I didn’t expect our relationship would change once I stayed home, but it really has. Each day we know each other better and I bask in our closeness. It’s strange, because as mother and daughter, I didn’t think we could get closer, but we have.

It’s not all sweetness and light, and every day has frustrations and challenges. I don’t expect this to change as she gets older, either. Sometimes I don’t get a break from her for days, and I’m slowly acclimating to that. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but we are having a great time.

A very good friend of mine was worried I’d regret my decision once the summer started. I can easily say not at all. I am so happy with my decision, even if I am not happy every moment I am at home. I was not happy when I had the cold and still had to watch the baby, nor was I happy when she was throwing her epic tantrums. I was really unhappy in that moment. But I am happy with my decision, and I still have moments of just being totally blissed-out. It’s not easy, nor do I have lots of time that’s not already scheduled, but I am so very happy.

Advertisements

A Year of Planning Meals

25 May

It’s been over a year since I posted about my commitment to menu planning and family dinners and I wanted to post an update. In my Life List I wanted to be able to successfully plan and cook family meals for an entire year. I’d like to be able to do that, but I’ve been thinking about it. Say I do it. What next? Do I stop? I realized my ultimate goal wasn’t to be able to do it for a year. It was to be able to do it. Forever. For always. For realsies.

Not that I had to always do it. I just wanted the option. To be able to do it, if I so chose.

Our life circumstances have changed dramatically since I first wrote about this. Anthony’s (fortunately) down to one job now and has graduated school so he’s around pretty much every evening that doesn’t involve D&D. Isobel is older and doesn’t need constant attention (just, you know, near constant attention). These things have helped the family dinner situation dramatically. We eat at the table together every night that we can, even if we’re eating pizza or takeout. I love that we get to do that.

I’ve been consumed with finishing my job at the library and I haven’t done much menu planning. I’m really just trying to get through the last month of this with my sanity in tact. I’ve given up on menu planning for the most part. I’m not going to have any more time when I’m home–I don’t have any illusions about that–but since I’ll be home menu planning will be more of a priority for me. I’ve already made an outline of our daily schedule for when I do stay home, and I’ve devoted lots of that time to the making of, eating, and cleaning up after food.

One thing I’ve noticed that really helps me stay inspired is scrolling through the food blog section of my blog roll daily. I don’t always have time to read, but I find that even if I just scroll through it I get inspiration and motivation and it really helps me cook more. One look at my browser history and you’ll find it’s full of porn–food porn.

Isobel has become very involved in our kitchen life and she likes to help by “washing the dishes” (read: getting enough water everywhere to fill a small pool), “feeding the cats” (read: filling one of their bowls with scoop after scoop of food until it’s overflowing, while simultaneously not letting the cats actually eat anything),  and “cooking” (read: standing next to us on a small stool, eating the ingredients and watching us cook).

She’s even beginning to take note of our food preferences and habits. A couple weeks ago when I was sick and laying on the couch in abject misery she patted me on the arm and said, “Poor Mama. Mama sick.” She then went to the pantry and gathered up my tin of coffee and some emergenC packets and piled them on my lap.

Isobel is also honing her palate. Sometimes she rejects food for no apparent reason. The other day she decided she didn’t want to eat the half a banana she had asked for just a few minutes ago. Anthony ate it in front of her, to her absolute horror, and as he did she shrieked, with ever-rising pitch of disgust, “ew ew ew ew EW EW EW EW EW YUCK YUCK YUCKY! GARBAGE! GARBAGE! GARBAGE!”

How many times does she have to tell you, banana? When she said that you were garbage she meant that you were garbage.

Right now Isobel’s favorite thing to eat is cooked chicken. She still has days where she’s just not that interested in solid food. She’ll ask for a bottle and when I suggest something to eat instead she’ll say, “No Mama, I’m full.” The girl really loves meat in any form, but chicken is her number one favorite, so I like to always keep some around to tempt her. If anyone has ideas for using up vast amounts of leftover cooked chicken, I’d love to hear it. Isobel will eat it day after day, but Mama needs variety.

Meal Planning Apps

3 Jun

This post is the second in a series about iPhone apps I use and enjoy. This is less about being on the cutting edge of technology and more the equivalent of peeking in someone else’s medicine cabinet. Electronic voyeuristic curiosity! I’d love to hear what food-related apps you enjoy in the comments.


Shroomies Produce Guide – I have no idea why this is called ‘shroomies’ but it does make me giggle. This app really isn’t as necessary as it claims but I love it none the less. It is supposed to help you choose produce that’s in season but really, you probably don’t need help with that. If you can use your valuable looking skills to see what the store is offering a lot of cheaply then you know what’s in season.

Shroomies does offer the valuable service in the form of providing nutritional information, seasonality (when will asparagus be cheap again?!), how to store and how long to keep it, preparation advice and almost 200 photos and descriptions of all sorts of produce. Have you ever read a recipe and thought, what the heck is kohlrabi? Look it up! I love browsing the photos for inspiration, but I’m weird like that.

RelishI’ve sung Relish’s praises before and I’ll do it again: the iPhone app lets me peruse my weekly shopping list and view the recipe right from my phone, no printouts necessary. You have to have a subscription to Relish’s menu service for this to be useful, however.

Everyday Food – I sort of hate to give Martha even more of my money when she has so much already, but there’s something to be said for not having to leaf through stacks of magazines to find a recipe.

Mise En PlaceI’ve mentioned this app before also and while it over complicates the week night dinner I can’t wait to use this for a big party or holiday such as Thanksgiving. It lets you schedule all the tasks that need to be accomplished for a big meal and can help you figure out what you need to do well in advance. My organization-loving heart swelled when I found this.

Epicurious – The same benefits of the recipe website in handheld form.

Grocery Gadget – I’ve mentioned this app before, too, but when I find something awesome I like to share. Angela originally found this app and I’m so glad she told me about it. It handles far more than just your grocery list and has all sorts of handy features, such as online editing, list sharing so other members of your household have access to them, and full control over list organization. It’s the priciest app I’ve ever purchased but, for me at least, it’s been so worth it.

The Toy Chest

6 May

Isobel is a lucky girl. Even before she was born she owned more toys that we know what to do with. It didn’t help things that as soon as I found out I was pregnant I let myself go a little crazy in the second-hand toy-purchasing department.

I didn’t know then if our little Peanut was a boy or a girl yet, but this awesome dollhouse was just five dollars. Five dollars! I figured if we had a boy who wasn’t into it I could give it to my cousin. And hey, the cats sure like it.

My friends have been more than generous to Isobel also. The day she was born my friends Stef and Dave were at the Zoo in LA and they bought her a stuffed gorilla we named Gogo. She loves that thing. Melynda was waiting till the day she was born to go to Build-A-Bear where she made her a unicorn named Unico 2 (Melynda owns the original Unico). I swear that unicorn is as big as she is. It’s so funny to see her carry it around the house.

The Waltons bought her this gorgeous ruby-red tricycle. I swear I had the same one when I was little.

And who could forget the baby showers! My coworkers were so generous.

Isobel was a much-anticipated baby.

Aside from thrift stores or yard sales we haven’t purchased any toys for Isobel–not for Christmas or her birthday. She has so many toys–a Mount Everest of toys! A Giant Pacific Floating Garbage Patch of Toys! An Asteroid Belt of Toys!

We couldn’t justify buying her more toys when she was way more interested in playing with a tooth brush.

And it was all so neat before she was born.

One of the things we’ve been doing is to organize her living room toys in a chest found at a thrift store for six dollars. It works well, holds a lot of stuff, and is stable enough that the lid does not slam down very easily.

Isobel loves digging around in her toy chest for toys and I like that everything isn’t all over the living room all the time. I like that some of it is out of sight. It all about the illusion of control, I guess. The latches on the outside of the trunk are also fun to play with and now that she’s more mobile she likes to sit on top of it, too.

I highly recommend scouring thrift stores for toy chests like this. We’ve actually gotten several compliments on it while closed–no one realized it was full of toys! And it was totally within our budget.

A couple things to keep in mind while looking for any sort of chest or case or even luggage while thrifting: always always always open it. Make sure you know about the lining or the condition of the inside first. It might be grosser than you’re willing or able to deal with. I got lucky with this chest. The particle board isn’t lovely to look at but it’s clean and stain-free. I was able to wipe out most the dust with a damp cloth then gave the whole thing a once-over with some mild disinfectant. If I had the time and money I would have lined the inside with some pretty contact paper. I might get around to it one day but it’s not high on my priority list.

Another thing you have to be really careful of when thrifting is The Weird Smell. Now anything that’s been closed up for any amount of time is going to smell off or stale or musty. It’s the overpoweringness of The Weird Smell that will tip you off. It will be strong and lingering. Trust me that no amount of washing or airing out will eliminate The Weird Smell and you’re going to end up resenting the piece, however lovely, for it’s scent. Pass it up.

Aside from this chest and the shelves in her bedroom we don’t have a system for toy storage and that’s really starting to worry me. I don’t like using bins. I know there are some that are not so horrible to look at but I think they are overall messy-looking.

I’d love to hear from other parents out there about your methods or toy storage and organizations. What do you do to keep it all under control? How do your toy storage-systems work?

Alphabet Magnets

5 May

Isobel’s new favorite thing is magnets. She loves the fact that she can set something on a vertical surface and it stays there all by itself.

Once she expressed extreme frustration at trying to make a piece of paper stick to a door. Every time it slid to the ground she shrieked with rage. I’m not sure why she thought that would work, but you could tell that when paper dropped down she felt betrayed by gravity.

I’ve noticed that Isobel tends to get very angry when Things Don’t Go According To Plan. Gee, I wonder who she gets that from?

Anthony went on a quest to Target for alphabet refrigerator magnets and searched the store in vain. He was going to make a trek to the next town over but I found some at the grocery store. The colors are kind of garish and awful but they get the job done. They stick magically to the fridge every time. Isobel loves them.

Things that make Isobel laugh:
-Watching me brush my teeth
-Hiding behind furniture
-Seeing the cats play
-Attempting to put her bottle into our mouth
-Giving raspberries
-Sometimes she’ll spontaneously laugh at nothing at all

Dinner with a little help from my friends

28 Apr

I received an abundance of wonderful ideas for getting dinner on the table every night in the comments of my previous post. I wanted to gather them all, organize them, and present them here because 1. I’m a librarian; it’s what I do and 2. I’m hoping this will help some other poor soul who, like me, turns to the internet when they are fed up with making dinner. See the comments in the original post here.

GREAT MINDS

I noticed some themes that came up over and over again in the comments. Roasting a whole chicken, for example, then using the leftovers throughout the week, reinventing it or adding it to salads. Using the carcass for stock. Basically, you know an idea is sound when several people in different circumstances come up with it. Buying a whole chicken is much more economical than buying the bird piecemeal. Using the whole thing is healthy, saves time and money, and, in my opinion, respects the bird. Erin suggested roasting it using Belinda’s Kafka method which I tried awhile back. It worked out beautifully, even though I roasted the bird upside down. Elizabeth pointed out that if you didn’t want to go to the trouble of roasting the bird yourself, buying a rotisserie option from the grocery store couldn’t be easier.

Planning, shopping, and prep work were recommended across the board. I can’t manage to get dinner on the table without some sort of preliminary thought and neither can other people, it seems. I can’t tell you how reassuring this is. Julie’s comment about doing the shopping and the meal prep together as quality time spent with loved ones really opened my eyes. Instead of viewing that time as a chore I need to realize that is quality time spent with my husband, plus it’s a healthy habit to introduce to my daughter. Time spent together, plus the mindset of making healthy food for our bodies, is a vital lesson that as a parent I need to pass on. I couldn’t agree with her more.

A stocked pantry is essential. Fortunately, I developed a pretty kickass pantry in my childless days. It’s taken ten years but my pantry rocks and I can say from experience that a well-stocked pantry can save many and evening. Dingey had the wonderful suggestion of stocking up on bulk grains at Co-ops and to have a variety of spices and condiments on hand. Cooking for yourself is only worth it if you like what you make so investing in flavor makes perfect sense. Peter thinks a well stocked pantry goes a long way towards improvising meals on the fly, and I agree with him. April recommends keeping these items on hand: pasta sauces, cheese, prepped veggies, salad dressings and marinades.

Don’t forget your freezer as an extension of your pantry! Julie sometimes makes extra of something to freeze when she knows her routine might get interrupted and Erin buys organic chickens when they are on sale and freezes them to make her purchase last.

The crock pot is a friend of both April and Bonnie. April makes soups in hers once a week and Bonnie likes that she can prep her meals the night before and set them up in the crock pot in the morning. Erin loves Kalua pork from the crock pot that can usually stretch to fit more than one meal. I’ve heard you can roast a chicken in one but I’ve yet to try it.

RESOURCES

Peter suggested this link that I absolutely love. It’s great for meal inspiration.

Elizabeth recommends Bon Appetite’s website particularly their Fast Easy Fresh column.

Erin suggested two blogs and and I must say that I highly recommend simply recipes as well.

Several cookbooks have been recommended and as someone who has a soft spot for cookbooks, I could not be more pleased. Bonnie recommended “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and I have heard so much about this cookbook that it’s already on my wish list. Elizabeth highly spoke of “Jamie’s Dinners” for its foundational recipes particularly. Dingey suggests “The Flavor Bible” for learning about how flavors complement each other and I think I’m going to put this on reserve at the library immediately. Bonnie recommends a collection of books available in Canada that I might have to search for in the states called “Jean Pare’s Company’s Coming.”

SUNDRY TIPS, TRICKS, AND COOKING ADVICE

April

  1. Grill up burgers on the weekend to have on hand for lunch during the week
  2. Make casseroles on the weekend to round out your week’s meals
  3. Take a pack of chicken and marinate each piece in a different marinade
  4. Prep and marinate vegetables on the weekend. During the week lay them on the grill or sauté them on the stove.
  5. Save the dishes that have a bigger time commitment for the weekend.

Julie

  1. Shop and cook together on the weekends for quality time
  2. Keep healthy snacks on hand for grazers and frequent eaters
  3. Make your meals to double-duty by reinventing leftovers
  4. Make extra to freeze as back up
  5. Create meals assembly-line style to breakup the workload.

Peter

  1. Improv meals from a well stocked pantry

Omar

  1. Prep your vegetables
  2. use your gas grill to create fast, flavorful dinners

Erin

  1. Stock up on expensive, organic chicken when on sale and freeze
  2. Use frozen pizza dough to create fabulous, healthy, inexpensive gourmet pizza
  3. Roast a chicken to last a couple meals
  4. Use your crock pot to get multiple meals from one meal’s work

Elizabeth

  1. Roast chicken goes far. Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is a good value.
  2. Frittata and other egg dishes is a quick way to get a lot of healthy protein inexpensively
  3. Keep good-quality sausage in the freezer for lots of meal options
  4. Learn the basics of foundation recipes

Dingey

  1. Stock up to keep stuff on hand for improved meals
  2. Stock up in bulk to save money
  3. Make grain salads ahead of time – they last, are healthy, and filling
  4. Learn to pair your flavors

Bonnie

  1. Prepping the night before with the crock pot turns into something delicious the next day
  2. Keep track of recipes you’d like to try and ingredients you’ll need
  3. Have a stash of recipes that you can go to when you need something fast
  4. Stir fries are delicious and healthy
  5. Frozen pizza dough only needs toppings and you have a delicious pie for the oven

There you have it, folks, a wealth of information on how to answer the one inevitable question in life: what’s for dinner?  I think we just might have the answer.

Life List Goal: Master a Working Menu for a Year

26 Apr

Why is getting dinner on the table every night such a giant pain in the ass?

When you are a kid your nightly burden is homework. When you are an adult your nightly burden is trying to figure out what to have for dinner.

It’s my goal to set up a meal planning system that works for me, that is as uncomplicated as possible, and that gets dinner on the table on a regular basis. I have tried lots of different meal planning systems but nothing has worked consistently. I want to make homemade dinners and meal planning a lifelong habit.

Pre-baby I was getting pretty good at putting dinner on the table every night by the seat of my pants. Ta-da! Another delicious meal half-assedly pulled from the fridge at a moment’s notice!

Having a baby changes that, of course, and besides, it was not a very reliable system to begin with. Isobel is quite mobile now and with that blessing comes a curse: she can move around and entertain herself now, which is great, but what does she choose do with this mobility? She follows me around the kitchen, demanding me to be held, while I’m frying bacon or boiling pasta or tending to some other baby-unfriendly activity. Any dinner requiring preparation more complicated than reheating leftovers requires Anthony to watch her while she follows me around wailing. We’re still working on this.

It takes a lot of effort to make dinner happen every night. The act of cooking itself is the culmination of many preparatory steps involving grocery shopping, advance prep work, and the most dreaded step of all – actually deciding what to have for dinner. The goal for dinner is this:

–         It has to be tasty and appealing

–         It has to be affordable

–         It has to be (mostly) healthy

–         It has to be prepared in about a half hour (weeknights)

I have been using some iphone apps to help me. My bestie turned me on to Grocery Gadget, and it is worth the ten bucks or whatever I paid for it. I love that you can assign aisles to items, that it saves items so you make lists faster, and that you can modify your lists online and send them to those that share your account. I’ve had issues with adding amounts to things but that’s probably because I didn’t take the time to read the instructions or watch the tutorials.

I’ve been playing around with Mise en Place to organize the tasks associated with each meal (raise your hand if you’ve ever forgotten to marinate the steak!) but it’s more complicated than useful for day to day meal prep.

I use relish to plan two to three meals a week. When I first heard about it I hoped it would become my meal-planning, list-making savior. It hasn’t, but I still find the service to be valuable and well-worth the $7 a month subscription fee.  Subscribers also have access to the free iphone app, which is great. I can look up a recipe stoveside if I want and cook from it right there without printing the recipe. Nice!

My meal planning process is still a work in progress. What I want to know is, how do you make dinner happen? Do you share the cooking or planning duties? Do you plan at all? What do you eat most often? Do you have any hints or tricks? Please share and help me make dinner less of a pain in the ass!

menu

(*It should be noted that none of these apps or relish has paid me to talk about their product.)

Thrifted Find: Small Vases

24 Apr

My latest thrift store addiction is seriously inexpensive little glass jars and vases. Festooned with flowers and greenery and sprinkled liberally on a table, they are cheap gorgeousness readily available to any thrift store shopper. I stole this idea directly from Nigella Lawson, and since discovering it, I’ve not looked back.

But when you do have the good food and good people together, adding flowers sure doesn’t hurt. I started gathering small glass jars and vases on my trips to thrift stores and totally love the way they look all scattered on a table. They look good all by themselves or grouped together.

Sometimes I like to fill all of them with flowers and instead of piling them on the table I scatter them throughout the house: bathroom, kitchen windowsill, entry table. It’s a lovely, unexpected bit of freshness and color and always makes me smile.

It’s taken me awhile to collect all of these. I always stop by the glasswares section of any thrift store to see what they have in terms of little glass bottles and jars.

These little vases are also the perfect size for displaying the flowers a loved one picked for you while out on a walk.

(Thanks, Sis!)

(Sorry, neighbors!)