October 10, 2012
I've posted here about how to clean house, periodically sharing tips I've learned. I get how frustrating this can be for many of us.
It's hard for me. Just plain hard. In fact, housekeeping can be flat out overwhelming sometimes. Especially when I'm on a deadline. I just don't see the mess, really I don't, because my head is filled with the research or the writing or the editing. I just don't SEE it. Then the deadline is met and I relax and suddenly I look around, and wow. I need a break and I'm surrounded by mess.
I hate this.
I remember reading on The Bloggess about how she suffers from mental illness and one of her red flags that she may be about to have a bad episode (here in the South, we call them a "spell"), is that her vision narrows. Like she has blinders on her eyes.
What I experience is something like that -- I'm busy, I'm buzzing along and my head is happy with thinking, and I don't register that the dishes need washing or that the porch needs sweeping. It's just not there for me.
However, living in mess is definitely real and I hate it. It's major no fun to come out of the waters of creating something good, all ready to wallow and relax, only to find that you're in a messy environment.
September 4, 2012
I'm just so darn pleased with myself it's ridiculous and no doubt sinful. So of course I'm going to write this post to share with you, Dear Reader, about my latest accomplishment. So you can be darn pleased with me too, LOL ....
Here's the thing. (Drumroll.)
And, nope, no animal was hurt or killed in the process. Which I'm sure you already took for granted if you've read this blog at all....
If you or someone you know has a problem with raccoons, then this is big news. BIG. If not, well then maybe you should just venture on over right now to I Waste So Much Time (a truly fun blog BTW).
Here's the story.
Back in July 2009, they first appeared. I wrote about the "Mysterious Guest" that had taken up residence in my garage - bigger and more powerful than a rat, smaller and less noisy than a bobcat.
June 20, 2012
Here in San Antonio, fleas are bad this year. Very bad. And it doesn't help that my next door neighbor feeds the feral cats, the wild birds, and the local raccoon family. I hate to think the number of fleas that hang out in his back yard among the sunflowers.
So, it's especially bad here at my little casa. It's very, very bad for my dogs.
I don't like giving the pups that chemical stuff: Frontline, Advantage, Program, whatever. Creeps me out to think some chemical is running through their system for three to four weeks that is toxic enough to kill bugs. Doesn't make sense to me that this doesn't harm the dog.
However, I caved in and bought some Advantage in April because one of my pups is allergic to flea bites and it was the lesser of two evils sort of decision.
It did NOTHING.
So, we fought the bugs as best we could until enough time passed that the product materials and the vet tech said it was okay to try Frontline Plus. Which we did in May. It did NOTHING.
Meanwhile, I'm vaccuuming so often that I'm thinking about making an exercise tape: Vacuum-ize Your Pounds Away! Between this, Dove dishwashing soap, and not letting the dogs roam in the yard (more walks at the park, they're not exactly upset about this), and we're winning flea battles but we're still in a war.
Every time the pups go outside, they come back with fleas. So frustrating.
June 6, 2012
|Sheep waiting for a train. Look familiar?|
I ran across the phrase "lifestyle success" somewhere recently. Can't remember where. Twitter? I googled it of course. (Is that a recognized verb yet? You know it will be if it's not already.)
Lots of different things popped up in the search results but no one theme. There's not a movement towards "lifestyle success" like there is towards "voluntary simplicity" for example.
What I found - or to be more accurate, didn't find - gave me pause. Why not? Why aren't there lots of places on the web discussing lifestyle success? Isn't that part of your decision-making?
Seems to me that in this American culture, we've all spent way too much time letting other people and other places decide for us what lifestyle success means. It's got us in lots of trouble.
What is lifestyle success?
What does it mean to you? Who are your role models for successful living? (Is it really and truly the Kardashians?)
May 28, 2012
Take a bag of frozen hash browns (1 lb., or 16 oz. size) and add them to a pot of boiling, salted water. Let them cook for around 5 minutes, then test for doneness. Done? Drain the potatoes.
Let them cool. Combine with your potato salad faves. On Memorial Day 2012, we had:
mayo - couple of big spoon spoonfuls (say, 1/3 cup)
dijon mustard - 1 Tablespoon
This stuff stirred together and then combined with the potatoes. Let this set while you chop and do other stuff, say 20 to 30 minutes.
May 21, 2012
I don't remember where I learned about putting a smidge of salt into your coffee before you brew it, but it works. It makes cheap coffee taste better. It makes any coffee taste better, actually, because it takes away the bitterness.
Nope, I'm not blowing smoke here. It's actually grounded in science and you can go read about that here, if you know or care what salt's "Na+" means and what that does to coffee.
Which is what I had this morning, as I got a bit too friendly with the salt shaker while brewing a big pot of coffee to drink while waiting for the washer repairman. (I don't own a Maytag.)
It did wake me up, though. Shock therapy.
P.S. Hat tip to Debra Bruce on Twitter -- she asked how much I use, so I went to my kitchen tool drawer and messed around with the measuring spoons. This was easy, considering I was in the front of the house on my laptop, one eye on vigilant lookout for the repair guy. Anyway, thinking that measuring spoons were better to use as a measurement than what I really do, which is shake till I see the right amount of white on the top of the brown coffee in the coffee brew basket, I figure 1/8 teaspoon per cup. Might be less.
Shake for yourself, let me know. (@rebakennedy)
March 13, 2012
These folk may not know how to cook, and they may be bummed that they have to cut back. To them, I say - hey, there's a silver lining here! There's fun in your future that you wouldn't have found if you hadn't had to start budgeting things.
Like learning all about cheap protein sources and using them in your menus. There's some major good eating here as well as some very healthy things for you and yours, which someone who's eating out a lot or buying lots of prepackaged stuff or fast food take out is going to miss.
Cheap Sources of Quality Protein
The reason that you want to know cheap sources of protein is because protein can take the biggest chunk out of your monthly food budget. Meat - beef, pork, chicken, fish - costs a lot and you buy it by the pound. To get control of your food money for the month, it's a big target.
The silver lining is while you are buying protein options to beef, pork, chicken, fish that you are also getting some very nutritious stuff. Stuff that can be lots better for you than the steak that you're not buying any more.
|Black Beans and Rice Dish | Public Domain Image|
- Eggs - 4 grams per large, fresh egg
- Quinoa - 8 grams in a serving
- Whey Protein Powder - 19 grams per 1 cup
- Milk - 10 grams in a serving of nonfat, protein fortified
- Cottage Cheese - 28 grams in 1 cup, lactose reduced
- Greek Yogurt - 16 grams in 6 oz serving (I like Chobani Vanilla Nonfat with stevia added to it)
- Beans and Rice - 9 grams in 1 cup of rice and beans combo
- Soy Products - 68 grams in 1 cup of soy nuts
- Tempeh - 31 grams in 1 cup
- Almonds 6 grams per ounce
And if you have to buy meat, then consider these two options before you go over to the Meat Department:
- Canned Tuna in Water - 39 grams in 1 cup of solid white tuna in water, drained
- Canned Mackerel - 44 grams in 1 cup of mackerel, jack, drained
- Canned Sardines - 23 grams in 1 can of sardines packed in oil, drained
Just because a food item has lots of protein in it, you're not done. Another consideration is whether or not it has all NINE essential amino acids in it, which then makes that food a "complete protein."
Of the items listed above, only the canned meat, the soy stuff, and the quinoa are complete proteins. Which doesn't mean that the others aren't great, too .. just something to consider.
And yes, you can combine things to make a complete protein. Rice and beans together, as shown above, make a complete protein. So does smearing almond butter onto toast.
Here's the Thing: This Stuff Tastes Great.
Almonds? They're great. Raw, in salads, pureed into butter. Major yum here. Red beans and rice, or what we have here in San Antonio, pintos and rice? Great stuff.
The greek yogurt is addicting, at least for me, when you add some stevia for sweetness and some pumpkin pie spice to the nonfat vanilla flavor. Better than ice cream for dessert and I am not kidding you or deceiving myself. Try it for yourself.
Quinoa? I cook this in the microwave after learning about this on a Melissa D'Arabian show and it works great. (Try her recipe which has 100 five star reviews at the time that I inserted this hyperlink for her lentil quinoa salad.) And you can buy this seed, it's not a grain, made into all sorts of pasta shapes at World Market, among other places. Elbow. Spaghetti.
You get the idea. Simple living is just filled with all these discoveries. You really do say "wow" a lot, and I'm still doing it after all these years. It's fun!
February 1, 2012
This is another book coming out of publishing houses these days where journalists attempt to provide perspective, if not answers, to why things are the way they are right now. Think Malcomb Gladwell. Think Stephen Dubner. Maybe Chris Anderson.
Here we have a journalist who has written extensively in the area of behavioral science, Winifred Gallagher, who offers her take on things. From its publisher (Penguin Press):
[i]n today's fast-paced world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the mind-boggling number of new things-whether products, ideas, or bits of data-bombarding us daily. But adapting to new circumstance is so crucial to our survival that "love of the new," or neophilia, is hardwired into our brains at the deepest levels. Navigating between our innate love of novelty and the astonishingly new world around us is the task of New: helping us adapt to, learn about, and create new things that matter, while dismissing the rest as distractions. With wit and clarity, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher takes us to the archaeological sites and neuroscience laboratories exploring our species' special affinity for novelty. ... As individuals, however, we vary in how we balance the sometimes conflicting needs to avoid risk and approach rewards. Some 15 percent of us are die-hard "neophiliacs" who are biologically predisposed to passionately pursue new experiences, and another 15 percent are "neophobes" who adamantly resist change. Most of us fall squarely in the spectrum's roomy middle range. Whether we love change, avoid change, or take the middle path, neophilia plays a crucial role in all of our lives. No matter where we sit on neophilia's continuum, New shows us how to use it more skillfully to improve our lives.... This big-picture perspective has long been missing, and New will jump-start that discussion by offering the tools we need to control our love of the new-rather than letting it control us.
If you like this sort of thing, then you'll probably like this book. It's receiving mostly good reviews (if you don't count NPR); moreover, it's got lots of fun facts and delves into all sorts of areas of interest: anthropology, archaeology, psychology, sociology, economics -- you can even find a reference to Charles Dickens here (Bleak House, which was interesting to discover since I'm reading Bleak House now).
Gallagher also provides suggestions on how to do things differently so life is better. In her lingo, she's giving guidance on how to cope with all this new so that you control it and it doesn't control you.
Again, if you read these kind of books then you'll like this one.
January 21, 2012
Here's the thing: not only is this bread vetted by WholeFoods and the American Heart Association, it tastes really good and you can actually see the seeds and nuts that are a part of the recipe.
Plus, and Dear Reader, this may sound yucky but it's the truth nevertheless: this bread goes bad quick. You can't just leave it in a bread box or setting on the counter and expect it to be just fine whenever you get around to grabbing a slice or two. No, no, no. Do that, and you're gonna find mold. That's right: mold.
Which sounds bad, but it's good. Why? Fresh food goes bad. Food with preservatives does not. Well, maybe eventually - but it will take awhile.
For example, take a slice of white bread and a slice of Milton's and place them side by side on the counter. Leave them there. Milton's will get icky pretty darn quick. Toss it. Then, keep count on how many days .... or weeks ... it takes for that other piece of bread to go bad. And it may never get mold on it; it may just dry out.
Yes, I've done this -- Milton's vs a slice of thick white store brand "Texas Toast" bread that my friend Bill likes to use for sandwiches.
The dried out white bread slice might be less icky ... but think about it. All those preservatives keep that white bread slice from getting green mold all over it, but do you want to have all those preservatives in your body? Or your kids?
Bacteria isn't bad. That's why Jamie Lee Curtis is selling you that yogurt and why you're reading more and more about probiotics.
And that's why I prefer Milton's MultiGrain and I'm thinking about contacting the company to find out where I can buy their product here in San Antonio (the search function on their web site for my zip code tells me nowhere, but I'm not giving up yet).
January 13, 2012
This week, the temperatures here in San Antonio dropped from a pleasant low 70s/high 50s range to yesterday, where the high was something like 48 and the lows got into the 20s. Which means this week was my first chance to really test out how my new Energy Saving curtains really worked.
I love them.
Not only do these things block noise, which gives me a better night’s sleep, but the heater isn’t coming on nearly as much. I haven’t got my new utility bill yet, but I know it’s going to be less – it’s that obvious.
There are negatives, of course. In the bedroom, I replaced some very pretty Battenburg Lace curtains with these babies, and the new ones are not as pretty and there’s a lot less light now. I didn’t buy full blackout curtains, but these “energy savers” do make the room lots darker.
This can be solved by a tie-back or two, so I’m not that concerned with this issue. Truth be told, at night the thicker curtains make the room much cozier for sleeping than the lace curtains did. I’m losing the beauty of the sunlight coming through the lace to get this, but right now I’m okay with it.
I’ll keep you posted on what the utility bill does this month and next month, too. I’ve been these curtains in most of the house now, so there should be a big difference.
January 10, 2012
Seems that the Kindle Daily Deal for January 10th is an offer of 80% off Kindle books for students. This works best if you have a Kindle, of course, but you don't have to have one of their e-readers to read their books (which are published in a proprietary fashion so you need an Amazon product to read an Amazon product).
You can download free software to read Kindle Books on your PC, Mac, or phone. Just visit Amazon.com. I do use Amazon for PC occasionally, it works fine.
As for the student bargains today, Amazon is also promoting its Amazon Student membership for college students. It's free. And for the first six month, members get free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime shipping benefits. Other stuff, too.
I like Amazon. Good prices, good customer service, and I tend to believe their reviews. Okay, yes. I admit, there are some reviews that seem phony for some stuff. Nothing's perfect.
January 9, 2012
I’m in the minority, I suppose: I don’t like to use a cell phone, I don’t think it’s worth the time investment to spend lots of time on apps in a smartphone, and I avoid the phone for hours at a time, in order to write. I do have one, though. And I’m always trustworthy to carry my little, old school flip phone with me when I hit the trails with the dogs or walk around the neighborhood.
Which means that all too often, I forget my phone at the house when I zip off somewhere in the car.
I know that I’m not the only one that does this. I have a friend with two small children who seems to be in search of her phone on a weekly basis, especially since her 4 year old has discovered how fun that phone can be. Doesn’t do her much good on the road if the phone is at the house, and that happens a lot.
Maybe if you have OnStar, this isn’t a big deal. Maybe not having the phone in the car isn’t a big deal to you – it’s a relief. However, for me (and for several others I know), one of the places that a phone is important is when you are away from home.
Not that I’m condoning talking on the phone in the car. I’m not. I’m pondering having a phone with you when you’re toodling around in case you’re running late, you’re lost, you’re trying to meet up with someone, or heck, you’ve got car trouble.
Tracfone in My Car - $10 Dollar Package Got Me a Lot of Bang for My Bucks
Which brings me to this great package I found at WalMart for $10 from Tracfone. That’s right: ten bucks. It’s a throwaway phone, with a charger for the outlet and the car lighter, a carrying case, and a Bluetooth so you hook up your ear to the thing if you’d like. Double minutes, unlimited. And all sorts of coupons and while I have to read this carefully, I’m thinking it’s got rollover minutes as long as you re-up before the end of your “service days.” There’s also a $10/month plan. None of this stuff is on a contract.
So, I bought one and set it up in my car. I’m not giving the number out and I’m not planning on chatting with it. However, the next time I’m driving off for the day and discover I’ve left my phone on the charger, on the desk, in my jacket pocket, etc. – well, I won’t be out and about without the security and the convenience of a cell phone in the car.
Thought you might think a good idea for you or your mom or your teenager, too.
Have a great week, Dear Reader.
January 6, 2012
Television. It can be so good or so bad, depending upon how you use it. I suppose this is true for most things, now that I think about it. One of the great things about TV for me, at least, are the cooking shows. I have truly learned how to cook from watching PBS shows like America’s Test Kitchen and other channel shows (I like Mad Hungry but I don’t follow it regularly).
However, there is one cooking show that I think stands head and shoulders above the rest, from a simplicity perspective. It delivers on a promise to feed four a complete dinner for ten bucks and with good, tasty food to boot.
What’s the big deal?
Well, the recipes don’t taste good, they taste great. And they don’t take many ingredients. (Good for time and for money.) And they are easy to put together. It’s simple living in a kitchen.
Now, you can follow the recipes online or in Melissa D’Arabian’s cookbook and that’s fine. That will get you there. There’s an added benefit of watching her TV shows, though. Maybe more than one.
In her show, where she’s cooking a $10 Dinner on the TV screen, Melissa D’Arabian adds tips and tricks that are great and that you don’t get in the books or recipes. Thinks like buy up Italian sausage when it’s on sale and freeze it. Buy milk that’s about to hit its expiration date by going to the grocery store early in the morning (she goes around nine o’clock) – if your family drinks dairy.
You get the idea, Dear Reader.
I am a big, big fan of Ten Dollar Dinners and Melissa D’Arabian and I think, Dear Reader, you might like what she’s doing, too.
January 5, 2012
Tax Problems for Americans Overseas: Expats Seeking a Simple Life Finding Complicated Mess in New Tax Laws – FATCA and FBAR
It’s beyond the scope of this blog to go into all the intricate details of the new tax legislation passed by Congress that is reeking havoc around the world for Americans living abroad. Besides, the idea of going into all the tax law details just gives me a headache, how about you Dear Reader?
However, for those of us that are living overseas already or who ponder and daydream about living in a foreign land with beautiful vistas, fresh fruit to be picked off the trees, and a cheaper cost of living (especially medical and dental care) … and I suppose for every fan of House Hunters International, there’s big stuff happening now that’s hurting American expats.
It began as an attempt to collect unpaid taxes by the federal government, where officials were concerned with fighting tax evasion. Laws were passed. Yes, they are already on the books. Now, the IRS is implementing those laws through IRS regulations and there’s the rub.
What’s going on with FATCA, FBAR, and the American Expatriate?
Okay first there are two laws involved here: the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Bank Secrecy Act. The Bank Secrecy Act requires American citizens living overseas to report their overseas bank account details each year to the Internal Revenue Service by filing Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
FATCA requires foreign banks to report account information to the U.S. government on all their American customers and if the banks don’t do this, then the federal government imposes huge fees upon these foreign banks for failing to comply. Nevermind that they aren’t American institutions and have their own set of privacy laws, financial regulations, etc.
The banks are reacting by doing things like ditching their American customers rather than mess with the whole FATCA deal. Some countries are insulted and are ignoring FATCA (like China).
Meanwhile, FBAR requirements are causing nightmare situations for expats all over the place. One good article with lots of real life stories appeared this week in The Atlantic. Entitled, “The FATCA Chronicles: Tales from China, Canada and Estonia,” this is the third in a series of articles by James Fallows discussing the expat situation and the new laws trying to thwart perceived tax evasion by the feds.
Problems include American expats who are signatories on foreign business accounts that have no American income following through them; same thing with foreign accounts held by foreign-citizen spouses; and those with dual citizenship.
For details on what this means to expats, check out GlobalTaxHelp’s FATCA and FBAR summary and follow the blog posts at US Expatriate, written by a CPA whose practice focuses on expatriate tax issues.
January 4, 2012
First things first, eggs have their critics but ignore them right now because poached eggs are a good thing to know how to cook. And poached eggs are a great thing to have in your family menu plan.
They are cheap. They are easy. And poached eggs can be used in so many ways: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Here’s the thing: they can be hard to do. Some say. I haven’t had a big problem – but I do a couple of things that help. First, I never think I am so clever at cooking that I can just dump an egg into the water. I always use a little cup to gently lower the egg into the pool. One at a time. Slowly.
Also, I don’t let the water boil … I let the water get just … about … to boiling, then the eggs go into the bath.
And, I’ve done it without vinegar. It will work if you don’t have vinegar handy. (I’ve also used rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, whatever was in the pantry, and things turned out fine. You so have a taste difference, but that’s not a bad thing.)
Here’s the deal. Eggs are cheap. Poaching means no fat to cook them. And the runny centers are KEY to how these things can spark up a salad or a sandwich.
As for sandwiches, I like a runny sandwich (wet, to coin a famous author of murder mysteries). I like to take great bread, homegrown tomatoes, thinly sliced cheese, some dijon mustard or yes some Miracle Whip or both, lotsa romaine lettuce, and get all that ready for a poached egg to set on top. Smush together. The egg oozes. It’s hot, it’s oh so good. And doesn’t cost much.
January 3, 2012
I don’t watch reality television much, but I surfed by this show yesterday – a repeat of HGTV’s Selling Spelling Manor.
Wow. Aaron Spelling’s monster mansion – Spelling Manor – has been sold by his widow and she’s moving to a Century City condo and getting rid of an amazing amount of stuff. Anyone downsizing or who has downsized can find something with which to identify here.
Admittedly, there’s much to be said that all of this is the Anti-Simplicity lifestyle. True, so true.
However, this woman has undertaken a major life change and she’s gone through all those same pangs other simplifiers have: letting go of the vase that has memories but needs to be tossed; boxing stuff for donation; giving away things that you’ve discovered in the attic stash to someone who’ll love them.
Look, this country is in a depression and we all know it even if so many are too afraid to use the word. Is it the Greater Depression? I don’t think we know yet.
However, when so many are having to scale back and scale down, maybe knowing that Aaron Spelling’s widow Candy has vacated Spelling Manor to live in a condo the size of her former attic may help them feel they are not alone.
Just don’t ask about the slabs of pink Italian onyx going into the kitchen or the private swimming pool being built on the 42nd floor.
Happy week, Dear Reader!
January 2, 2012
Dear Reader, welcome to a blog that I’ve been writing since January 2005, some years with more dedication than others. I’m hoping that I’ll keep to a better writing schedule here this year than last, fingers crossed. Did I make this as a New Year’s Resolution? Not really.
I did take the time to count my many blessings as one year passed into another, and thanked God for them. The big and the small. One of the things that I thanked God for blessing me with was this blog and the ability to write it, the simple life I’m living, and you, Dear Reader, who sometimes leave comments or sending emails to me. The internet is amazing, isn’t it? People connecting who would otherwise never meet.
I’m not Catholic. However, I do appreciate a lot about the Catholic Church and one of those things is the Catholic observance of the New Year. Here’s a discussion of how Catholic families all over the world celebrated New Year’s Day yesterday. Thought I’d share this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi, which I find particularly beautiful.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
R. Amen. —St. Francis of Assisi
God bless you and yours, Dear Reader.