U is for Underwear

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I learned this trick from a resourceful college roommate – if you have 30 pairs of underwear, you need only do your laundry once a month.

Well, I don’t take it quite that far, but having a good two week’s worth in the drawer can make life a lot easier. After all, if a kid is looking for a pair of jeans to wear to school, you can always respond, “Take one out of the dirty laundry.” But you’d have to be pretty desperate to do the same thing if they’re hunting for clean underwear.

I stock up on socks for the same reason. I think the socks in our house would disintegrate if they had to endure two consecutive days of wear. We generate some pretty disheartening laundry at our place. I’ve often compared it to toxic waste.

(And one more laundry-reducing trick, for the more devious among you – you know those towels that get thrown in the wash after one use? Pull ’em out, let them dry, fold them, and return them to the bathroom. No one will ever know the difference.)

Read the series at A is for About

T is for To-Go (and 300)

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It’s the bane of every sports parent – the 6:00 game/practice/class that makes it virtually impossible to feed people on a normal schedule. At those times, the lure of the golden arches and its equally unhealthy brethren can loom pretty large.

Well, I decided to compromise on those nights where a family meal is not in the cards. Yes, we eat in the car. But we eat what I was going to serve them anyway.

Granted, this is not my preferred way to deliver the evening meal. But there are nights I just have to admit that I cannot feed my family in one room, at the table, and still get where we have to go.

On these nights, I send my kids to the car where they buckle up, and then I hand them a plate full of food to eat on the way.

It’s not beautiful, but some nights it’s the best I can do. And at least I’m not super-sizing anything.

(Oh, and the 300? Turns out this is my 300th post. Sounds impressive until I realize how long I’ve been blogging and do the math.)

Tomorrow…U is for Underwear

Read the series at A is for About

S is for Stash (of Cash)

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Well, it’s not a lot of cash. It’s just enough to keep me from ending up in a pickle.

Mornings at our house are often a mad dash. Although I’m usually careful to gather my things the night before, I live in almost unreasonable fear that I will leave the house some morning without my wallet. And that I won’t realize it until the end of the day when, once again in a mad rush, I will find I’m unable to exit the  parking garage at work.

Well, everyone has some paranoia or other. This is mine. To combat it, I tuck a twenty dollar bill in a safe location, where it will not be pilfered by my children, for just such an emergency.

It’s not much, but I’ll take my peace of mind where I can get it.

Tomorrow…T is for To-Go (no, not that kind of to-go)

Read the series at A is for About

R is for Routine

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A disclaimer – building a routine is not one of my strong points. That is why, as the #AtoZChallenge has gone on, my posts seem to be getting later and later in the day.

But that does not mean I can’t promote the concept of routine. It makes life a lot easier, if you can establish (and keep to) one.

Here are some of the routines I routinely start, abandon, start and abandon again:

  • Work out on Sundays and go to the grocery store on the way home. There is nothing that makes you feel as virtuous as starting the week with some exercise out of the way, and a full refrigerator.
  • Cook for 2-3 nights at a time. It really isn’t much more effort to cook 3 meals than it is to cook one, especially if you can double up.
  • Wash all the laundry on Saturday, and fold it all on Sunday. (If you are a regular reader, you’ll know why I have trouble with this one.)
  • Go through all the kids’ clothing twice a year, once for each of the two seasons in Minnesota (winter and road construction) and pull out the items that no longer fit. Actually, I’m pretty good about keeping to this one. It helps to have room to put the laundry away.
  • Turn the mattress 1/4 turn on each of the following: winter solstice, vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox. Good about this one, too, mostly because my husband is a stickler for this one. (It’s his only routine. He changes the oil in the cars on the same schedule.)
  • Write and prep all my A to Z posts on Sunday and schedule them for publication. Yep, not doing this right now.

Tomorrow…S is for…well, I don’t know yet, I’m off my routine. Any ideas?

Read the series at A is for About

O is for Oven Timer

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If there was no such thing as food poisoning, and I could leave food in my oven all day, I would cook every meal using my oven timer.

Since reality intervenes, I cook only selected items using my oven timer, but when it works, it works really well. If you have the wherewithal to prepare a large casserole of some sort in advance, you can pop that baby in the oven on your way out to the little league game, and a steaming, hot dinner will be waiting for you on your return.

As a bonus, it gives you a pat answer to the inevitable question, “Can I have money for a hot dog?” You can smile sweetly and say, “I have dinner in the oven,” when what you want to say is, “Another hot dog? Seriously, how many darned hot dogs can you guys eat in a season?”

There are a few things you can leave in the oven all day, if you are a roasted-vegetable sort of person. Cut a squash in half, clean it, and place the two halves face down on a cookie sheet. They can sit all day and fire up for the evening meal. So can any number of winter vegetables – turnips, beets, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts. And of course, potatoes. But you still have to pull something else together to go with them.

What I really want is to be able to have the whole meal waiting for me when I return from work. That would require an appliance that is a refrigerator all day, and then becomes an oven just in time for dinner. Surely with our advanced technological know-how someone could come up with one of those.

Tomorrow…P is for Posture

Read the series at A is for About

N is for Nuts

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One of the benefits, for me, of life at the office is I don’t eat as much – I pack my lunch and there isn’t much opportunity to eat outside the boundaries. However, I do occasionally require a snack. My favorite – raw, mixed nuts. Mine come from Trader Joe’s and include brazils, almonds, cashews, pecans, and hazelnuts.

Now, before you start admonishing me that they’re fattening, let me point out that they are also filling. You don’t have to eat a lot in one sitting, although it’s certainly possible. And they’re full of protein and healthful qualities.

One thing of note – I seem to have a sensitivity to some nuts, particularly cashews, when they’re roasted. The raw nuts pose no such problem for me.

(Of course, I have no medical basis for this observation, so don’t run out and eat a bunch of raw nuts if you are courting disaster!)

Tomorrow…O is for Oven Timer

Read the series at A is for About

M is for Mashed Potatoes

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I am of the “cook once, eat (at least twice)” school of cuisine. One of my favorite double-up foods is mashed potatoes, and here’s my favorite way to use them.

Potato Leek Soup

What you need:

  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced thin – white parts only!
  • TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of white wine (only 1/4 cup is for the recipe – the rest you drink while you’re cooking)
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer mine low- or no-added salt)
  • Somewhere between 1 and 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes

What you do next:

Leeks can be gritty, especially if you buy organics, so here’s how I deal with mine: Slice them first, then rinse them under cold water. Soak them briefly if you have to.

Next, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the leeks. Sauté them at a low heat for ten minutes or so until they are softened, but not browning. Next, add 1 cup of the stock and simmer them for 25 minutes at a very low heat, stirring occasionally.

Then add everything else, and blend the soup – I use a hand blender for mine.

That’s it! I serve this instead of rice or potatoes with a meal, but it could be the main event if you wanted. You could even add some fun stuff – chives, cheese, bacon or diced ham – but I usually like mine as is.

Enjoy!

Tomorrow…N is for Nuts

Read the series at A is for About

L is for Lavender Oil

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Lavender oil is a marvelous substance, good for all kinds of things. True, if you use it often you might start imagining yourself in a drafty English cottage, but that seems like a small price to pay. Here are some of the uses I’ve found for lavender oil:

  • Can’t sleep? Dab a little on the pillow.
  • Kids can’t sleep? Dab a drop or two on a favorite stuffed animal, or tuck a tissue with a few drops on it next to them in the bed. (This puts my kids out in minutes, even now that they’re teens.)
  • Stressful day? Put a few drops in the bath.
  • Clothes sit in the washer a little too long? Put a few drops on a washcloth and throw the whole lot in the dryer.
  • Muscle aches and pains? Rub a few drops into the sore muscle.
  • Musty basement? It’ll freshen that up too.

I’ve also used it in homemade cleaning solution, and in bug spray to cut the smell of the citronella. Here are some other great ideas from a site I particularly like, Veriditas Botanicals.

It’s just an all-around handy thing to have. Anyone else using it? More ideas welcome!

Tomorrow…M is for Mashed Potatoes

 Read the series at A is for About

K is for Kale Chips

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I happen to love kale – cooked, raw, roasted, you name it. But even better, my kids like it, especially when it’s served up as kale chips. Why is this a survival tip? Because if on those busy days, when you’re putting some crappy, less-than-healthy food on the table out of necessity because you are a) late; b) on your way to a baseball practice; c) desperate; or d) all of the above, you can assure yourself that you’ve served one food with some redeeming qualities.

And they’re easy. Here’s the recipe.

  • Preheat your oven to 220 degrees.
  • Wash and pat dry one bunch of kale. Any kind will do, but I like to use the Lacinato (or Dino) kale because the curly kale can be a little like choking down a hairball if it gets too crispy.
  • Slice lengthwise to remove the stems, then slice across so you get pieces that are roughly chip-sized.
  • Toss them in olive oil – I usually find that somewhere between 1 and 2 TBSP of olive oil will work depending on how large the head of kale is.
  • Spread them out on a cookie sheet – you may need two. If you can keep them to one layer, they cook faster.
  • Sprinkle on a little sea salt.
  • Put them in the oven for 25 minutes, then check them to see if they’re crispy. The water content of kale seems to vary a lot, and I often have to put them in for another 10 minutes or so. If I want them crispier after that, I just turn the oven off and let them sit in there as it cools.

That’s it. Then you serve them up. And just for the record, it’s not just my kids who seem to like them – I even get requests for “those green things” from the friends who visit!

Tomorrow…L is for Lavendar Oil

 Read the series at A is for About

J is for Just in Time

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I have to credit the blogger at Momsanity for this one – I had “just” about run out of ideas for blogging on J when she suggested Just, as in Just a Mom…but I’m amending it to Just in Time – which is what I am since it is 11:00 p.m. and I’m barely going to stay on schedule for Blogging A to Z.

It has made me realize just how often I am Just in Time – for the dentist, for the start of the movie, for the carpool pick-up. I’m not early. I’m not late. I’m Just in Time.

I imagine some might call me disorganized. I say no. No one told the Japanese automakers they were disorganized when they followed JIT inventory principles. They were called EFFICIENT. They were called COST EFFECTIVE. We were told they produced QUALITY output.

So why should I show up even a minute early? In that minute, I can throw in another load of laundry.

On Monday…K is for Kale

 Read the series at A is for About