Monthly Archives: August 2011

72-hour kits

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This past weekend we had lovely Irene blow through our neck of the woods. Thankfully, she didn’t wreak as much havoc here as expected and we didn’t have to evacuate. But all the excitement got me thinking about how prepared our family is, and more particularly about our 72-hour kits. We’ve only had them for the past 2 years and they could certainly use some improvement but I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned in putting them together. Keep reading…

Recycle-mania!

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A few years ago, the county I live in started up a recycling program.  There was a lot of opposition (can you believe that?!?)  mainly because people felt the local government was taking away their rights to choose whether to recycle or not.  Obviously this is a silly argument because “to recycle” or “not to recycle” is a personal choice that we all make everyday and having a local recycling system just makes that decision easier.  Now that I have my own blue recycling bin and biweekly pickup by the city, I’ve kind of become a recycling maniac.  Just ask my husband.  I’ve turned him in to a recycler as well.

Our local program doesn’t do glass, but it does just about everything else. #1-7 plastics, cardboard, paperboard, mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, wrapping paper, aluminum cans, tin/steel cans, small metal, cell phones, inkjet cartridges. They’ve also just started to do green waste recycling. They don’t do greasy pizza boxes and plastic bags but that’s ok because our local grocery store has a plastic bag recycling program and the local university has a recycling program that takes my glass and greasy pizza boxes.

So how do you get started?  It’s easy to forget about recycling if you’re not used to doing it.  Here are a few things that have helped us.

-Do a little research on what programs are available in your area.  Even if you don’t have a large city wide, curbside pickup recycling program,  there are probably drop off points for newspapers, plastics, and glass to be recycled.  Look for stores that do specialty recycling such as plastic bag recycling at grocery stores.

-Put a cardboard box or reusable bag next to your garbage can in your house.  That way, you’ll have to decide which place to throw it. We keep our garbage under the sink and I found a medium sized box that fits perfectly next to it.  You could even let your kids decorate it to get them involved in recycling.  Which leads me to my next point… 

-Teach the entire family how to recycle.  Show them common examples of what can and can’t be recycled by your local programs.  If the kids are excited about it they can help remind you.

-Make an effort to recycle where ever you go.  It may be inconvenient, but if you can’t find a recycle bin nearby, pack your recyclables back home.  Keep a reusable bag in your car or purse for just such occasions.

One of the biggest drawbacks I find is having to rinse out food containers before recycling.  The easiest way to do this is to rinse them as soon as you are finished using them.  If you wait, the food dries and cakes on and then you have to take soap and a dishcloth to them before tossing them in the recycle bin.  It might be difficult to remember to do this at first, but if you keep it up, it’ll become second nature.

If your city doesn’t have it’s own recycling program, it’s something worth petitioning your local government to get.  Serious recycling can add years of life to local landfills and reduces pollution from waste incineration.  It also gives communities a great way to generate revenue which, in turn, benefits citizens.

Americans throw away on average the equivalent of more than 30 million trees in newsprint every year.  Newsprint that could easily be recycled and reused.  Up to 80% of the contents of the average household trashcan are recyclable.  The amount of aluminum thrown away in the U.S. could rebuild the country’s entire commercial air fleet every three months.*

It’s something to think about.

Once you make recycling a part of your routine, you’ll be surprised how much more quickly your recycling bin fills up than your garbage can.  It’s easy to see the difference you are your making and boy, does it feel good.

What have  been your experiences with recycling and how do you remember to recycle?

Darn Racoons!!!

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Just look at that face.  Beady little eyes, mouth drawn up in a sneer, fangs that just scream out I want to nibble your corn!!! That’s right.  These fiece animals are corns worst enemy.  Just ask my garden.  Here is your answer.

The corn has been ravaged by the little guys.  Ok, big guys.  We were really looking forward to feasting on the corn!  Corn salads!  Corn Salsa! Corn bread! Corned Beef! Oh wait…   Anyway, I guess we know now not to plant corn in our garden next year.   The little beasts live in the dumpsters right next to the gardens.  They haven’t bothered our peppers, beets, green onions, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, or summersquash.  Guess they just love that corn.  Anyone have any ideas to eradicate them?  Aside from a shotgun, I mean.  We don’t own one.  Meanwhile, there’s no saving this summers corn. 

Any ideas what we should plant instead of corn?

Staying motivated!

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Is this you? It’s definitely me! I’m a college student with three years left to go (remember when I said I was the youngest?) and school starts this coming Monday. I’ll tell you what, the 2nd grader inside me is excited for school to start because I have always loved school, but then I remember that I’m not a 2nd grader anymore, my teachers don’t care as much about me as Mrs. McDowell did, my name isn’t taped on my desk, I don’t get free pencils and paper (or books. Gee, they can be expensive!) and then I just begin to dread school altogether.

So I thought I’d like to write today about staying motivated! At work, school, etc. Things I’ve tried, things I would like to try, things that have worked, and things that haven’t.

The absolute, number-one-best thing I’ve ever gotten good at to help myself stay on track is to write things down. In middle school, and junior high my mom would buy me a cute planner before school started and she would make me write down every single thing during my school day, and she especially wanted to know what homework I had so she could see me actually doing it. It usually looked something like this:

Math- nothing
English- nothing
Reading- nothing
PE- nothing
Science: nothing

I sometimes wonder how my poor mom dealt with me! And she checked that darn planner everyday, without fail. As I’ve gotten a little older and my grades started mattering a little more, I got a little better at writing things down and now I just hate not having a planner. I always forget things! Especially when I’ve got five classes, a calling, a job, and a husband!

So I’d say, if you don’t write things down and notice yourself forgetting things, maybe you should start!

Something else to help stay motivated (and yes, this is probably cheesey, but really important) Look for the positive things! Even if you’re at work and the positive thing is, I get to go home in 2 hours and 20 minutes, etc.

Something positive that helps me at work is, I’m getting paid for this. I’m getting paid to sit here and fold 400 10 page newsletters in half. Or, I’m learning something new going through all these class curriculum’s. I get to test my knowledge at the copier today!

Something else I like to do is: Make it fun. Sometimes if I’m working with another person (folding newsletters) we would compete to see who could fold the most in 1 minute. When I had to shred 6 boxes of junk at the beginning of my job, I would bring my iPod or sing (to myself. Yes, that’s probably a little crazy… make sure nobody you care about impressing is there). Talking to someone, trying to find a new exciting way to do an old mundane task, etc. There’s tons of things you can do!

Something important in regards to school is to recognize your progress and reward yourself! College is hard, and I think I deserve to feel good about the B- I made on a really difficult math test. Maybe the reward can be having a clean house to be proud of after an entire day’s hard work. Or a relaxing movie night after a busy school day. Also, I find it’s important (and I need to be better about this) but don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you’re a human being, and we’re not perfect!

I’m feeling a little better about school starting in a few days…

But I still need help! What do you do to stay motivated?

Menu Planning

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(Updated 5/13/13)  

Ever since my oldest was 2 (he’s now 12!), I’ve used a 4 week rotating menu plan.  The recipes in the plan I have today look nothing like the ones in that first plan, but the concept has changed very little since then.  This is definitely something that works for me!

It takes a bit of work to set this system up, but once you get all the information together and organized you will find it is easy to maintain and even change to suit your family’s evolving tastes.

First, gather 28 of your family’s favorite dinners together.  Don’t forget side dishes!

Next, create a 4-week calendar and figure out what day each meal will be on.  You can organize this any way you’d like.  For example, I like to have a different theme for each day of the week: Vegetarian Sunday, Pasta Tuesday, Fun Thursday, International Saturday.  You get the idea.  I like to experiment with new dishes, so I built that into my calendar as well.  It’s a good idea to record where to find each recipe on the calendar as well.  Most of my recipes come from Food Network Magazine so I put the series:volume and page# under the corresponding recipe.  You could also use an abbreviation of the cookbook along with the page number.  For example “The Joy of Cooking” could be JOY with the page number.

I made my calendars using my word processing software and the table function.  I chose to do it that way because I’m comfortable manipulating the tables there.  The key is to use whatever program is easy and comfortable for you.  I would love to have a downloadable, fill-in-able template for you, but I’m not that computer savvy!

Since we homeschool, I feed my kids all their meals so I’ve created calendars for breakfast and lunch (on a weekly rotation) as well.

When it comes time to go shopping, I just look at my calendars for the week, pull out the recipes I have planned and make my shopping list from them.  In the past I’ve tried to create a recipe book of my monthly plan, but I find I change it too often to make that practical.  Maybe a 3-ring binder with page protectors so I can change out the recipes when I need to.  I’ll let you know if I ever get around to it!

If you’re really ambitious you could enter all your recipes at kitchenmonki.com.  They have a cool calendar feature that will also create a shopping list for you from the recipes you enter.  It requires a lot of data entry though unless you can find your recipes on the site already.

I find that when I’m organized I feel like I have more time and patience to do the important things, like teaching my kids to cook!  I have a lot of different ways I organize my life and home, but this one is the one I’ve used the longest and changed the least over the years.  Hopefully it will work as well for you!

Do you plan your meals ahead?  What works for you?

Update: 5/12/13

Still using this system!  And I’ve changed the menus quite a bit since I wrote this post.  I thought it might be helpful to explain the process I use to update the calendars.  The calendars are stuck inside one of my cabinet doors, the one containing my cookbook collection (see the photo at the beginning of the post).  If there is a change I want to make, I’ll just pencil it in.  If it’s a big edit, I use small sticky notes.  I also put meals we are auditioning on small sticky notes; you can see them off to the side.  When the calendar is so full of edits that I can’t read it anymore, then I go to the computer, transfer the changes to my master copy, and print out a fresh calendar.  Ah, nice clean calendar, for a few days anyway!  Yeah, not very fancy but hey, it works and I use it, which is the important part anyway.  No sense in having this great organizational tool if you never use it.

Looking for more ways to organize mealtimes?  Food Network has a great app for iPad: Food Network in the Kitchen.  It has all the recipes you’d find at foodnetwork.com, plus access to your recipe box (you have to set it up on the website), how-to videos, a shopping list, and a great meal planner.  A more limited form of the app is also available for iPhone.  You can see screen shots for both here.  If you use recipes from Food Network often (and I do) you will find this app indispensable!  No, they are not paying me to say that. (I wish!)

Waste Not, Want Not: The Story of Food

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I hate throwing away food.  Just ask my husband.  I’m constantly pushing old leftovers at him in hopes that they haven’t reached toxic waste status yet.  Fortunately, he’s not too picky and his sense of smell is less than keen.   He’s a good sport.

Unfortunately, Nearly half of all food in the U.S. goes to waste and the average household loses $500 a year on uneaten produce alone!

I’ve been ingrained with the attitude of “waste not, want not” since I was a small child and now that I run my own household I’ve been actively honing my money saving and food salvaging skills.  Because lets face it.  Food is money.  And tossing that old, forgotten casserole out is like shredding dollar bills.

Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up that have helped me use my food before I lose it.

Make a shopping list.  I don’t know about you, but when I go grocery shopping without a list, my mind goes blank the minute I walk in the store and I end up buying the food I already have plenty of at home and forgetting to buy the items I needed in the first place!  Taking inventory and making a list of what you need for the next week will cut down on trips to the store and ensure that you don’t have too much of one thing.

Eat before you shop.  Numerous studies have shown that when you shop hungry you buy more.  This is definitely true for me.  What’s worse, I tend to buy more junk food or preprocessed food that I don’t need when I’m hungry.

Keep cupboards and freezer stocked with dry, canned, and frozen goods that you know you will eat.  They often have a long shelf life and can be used to enhance leftovers and make quick meals when combined with perishable food.

Preserve bulk food.  Buying in bulk is often cheaper and uses less packaging.  Just make sure if it’s perishable that you can it or freeze it properly before it goes bad.

Organize the fridge.  If something is about to expire move it to the front, middle shelf.  Put new food in the back.  This always helps me.  If I can see it, I’m much more likely to use it.

Find leftover-friendly recipes and use them!  I find that the easier and tastier the recipe,  the better.  It’s fun to see how many ways you can use a cut of beef.   I’m also a big fan of throwing old fruit in the blender with some ice to make delicious smoothies.

Compost waste.  This is a fairly simple one for those of us with some space outside, but there are also in-home compost systems that I’ve been dying to try!  I’ll let you know how it works when I get one.

Here’s one of my favorite sites that’s full of yummy recipes and good ideas:

Love Food Hate Waste

How do you fight food waste in your home?

How To Travel With Children

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DON’T! Why would you want to!? Perhaps you enjoy whining, crying, and throw up. If this is the case, by all means-take a trip around the world. Otherwise, I would advise you to STAY HOME.
Let me explain my cynicism. I happen to be in the car right now, driving home from visiting my husband’s and my family. Our drive is 8 hours long, but with 3 kids ages 1,3, and 5, it will probably feel much longer.


When I was single, I loved to travel. I loved long drives. What is there not to love? I love the freedom of the open road, good times and new places to visit. I have great memories of singing songs at the top of my lungs, being crazy with my siblings, and enjoying the view outside the window.


This changed after the 1st trip my husband and I took -hold that thought, the baby is crying- I’m back, at least one handed. Anyway, 5 months after we had our first child I had a severe case of cabin fever and longed to go on the road for a vacation of sorts. My parents had a time share at a condo 3 hours away, and it seemed a perfect opportunity. Well, to make a long story short, the drive down was the stuff of nightmares. Our daughter screamed from the moment we got in the car till the moment we staggered out of the car at our destination, minus a short increment of nursing half way through. Pretty much since then I have dreaded long car trips.
I suppose that if you have to go, I could offer a few ideas that have helped us as we trek between home and family.
Our 8 hour drive is really bearable if we can break up the drive. We have stopped at a hotel (with a swimming pool of course!) half way through the drive, and 4 hours seems just about right for everyone to stay happy.
Another thing we love to take along on our 8 hour trip is several books on tape. These are mostly fun for my husband and I, and they keep us awake. Agatha Christy we have found to be especially gripping.
Movies, movies, movies. This is probably the only time you will hear me endorse television, but it does help on long drives when the kids are stir crazy and need something to take their minds off of their aching buttocks.
Once I actually got up the gumption to make a back of the seat holder such as this. You can pack snacks, drinks, toys, and whatever else in it. This is a great website for homemade car travel toys.  If you would like to buy some, there is an endless array of magnet hangman, word puzzles, etc.  The back of the seat holder worked well and made it so I didn’t have to turn around to give the kids stuff, they could reach a lot themselves. It helped keep the car floor clear of stuff, which also helps keep parents happy. This leads me into the next point which I have found: 

If momma and daddy are happy, then everyone’s happy! I have suffered through trips (we drive this sometimes 4 times a year, there and back) where I have been dreading it and had an all around bad attitude. This transferred to everyone and things went from bad to worse.   It helps everyone if you can just find one or two things that are going right. Sometimes for me this has meant just holding on to the thought that this will end in just 3 hours and 25, 24, 23 minutes. Other times you can have a lot of fun on drives with your kids, especially as they grow older. We enjoy singing together, looking out the window, telling stories, etc. One thing I love is the time I get to talk to my husband without other distractions (if the kiddos are watching a show :)).
Well, we are nearing the end of our trip, just half an hour to go, and it’s been pretty good. So, I change my tune. It can still be fun to take the kids on the road with you. All you need to do is a little planning and prep, and remember to have fun!
Note: I have not addressed the issue of barfing.   Luckily, none of my kids get carsick. For insights on that, you’ll have to ask my sister Alberta. 😉
What sort of things do YOU do to make long car trips bearable?

Slow Cooker – Yogurt

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Slow Cooker – Yogurt

(Sorry for the late post.  Computer problems.)

No more buying expensive yogurt at the grocery store!   For the cost of a half-gallon (or less!) of milk, you can make yogurt at home that is healthier and tastier.  It does take some time, but your patience will be rewarded. Keep reading…

One of these things is not like the other…

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Hello blogging world! My name is Danica Spendlove, and I’m the youngest, and newest member of the “Nurturing Joy” sisters.  Being the newest… and youngest (and shortest) I am really not like the others. I have been married just over five months, and I currently don’t have any children.  However, I must say that, unlike the song, I DO belong even though I am very much different.  And I hope to be able to prove that in my future posts to come.

 

I enjoy reading, music, and long walks on the beach (Okay, just kidding about that last one.) I love to organize, vacuum, and wash the dishes. I like to take naps, and play the piano. But you know what I just hate more than anything?

Excersicing. See, I can’t even spell the word. E-x-e-r-c-i-s-i-n-g.

I don’t like getting sweaty, I don’t like wearing short shorts or tight shirts, I don’t want people watching me, etc. etc.

There’s a girl I work with who’s doing a full marathon in just a few weeks, my mom’s being going to Zumba every week, my husband and his friends love to play frisbee and racquetball, my Aunt has run the RAGNAR two years in a row… how does everybody do it??? 

A month and half or so ago, my aunt and uncle (the same aunt who’s run the RAGNAR) came up to Logan to ride the MS ride (Multiple Sclerosis). My mom and I watched their kids for the morning and then went to meet them at the finish line. I was so amazed and impressed watching all those cyclists ride past with big smiles on their faces after riding 100 miles!  They all had awesome bikes, fancy shorts and jerseys, sweet shoes and socks, cool water bottles and helmets… and I kept thinking, I want me some of that.

8 days later…

My new bike! I’ve even got the fancy shorts and jerseys, sweet shoes and helmet, and cool water bottles.

I still don’t really like getting sweaty, and I still don’t really like people watching me, but when I’m riding my bike (this is a shocker) it’s fun! I never thought exercising and being healthy could be fun! It always seemed like such a chore for me.

So what changed? I’m still not really sure… but here’s somethings you can do to make exercising fun:

-Find something you really enjoy, and I mean REALLY enjoy. (Ex. me and biking)

-Work out with someone you know (hopefully well enough not to get embarrassed when you sweat, or fall off your bike)

-Make a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs and SING while you work out!

-Make an exercise plan and write it down, including goals (I want to run this far by such-and-such a date… I want to lose five pounds  by this day, etc.)

-Do different things such as running, swimming, biking, walking, yoga, Zumba, etc.

-Put a smile on your face and just do it!

I’ve been riding my bike for three weeks now on a structured plan and I am just loving the way I feel about myself, and I’ve even lost a little weight too!

So tell me, what do you do to make exercising fun???

My Micro-Garden

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I love plants.  I love the way they look, the way they smell, the way they respond to light and water or the lack thereof…  Lately, I’ve become interested in home gardening.  What’s not to love about it?  You decide what you want to grow, you watch your seedlings sprout, you tend them, water them, pull the weeds around them, and eventually you see and enjoy the literal fruits of your labor.  And we all know that freshly picked produce tastes the best and is the most nutritious.  Growing your own food also eliminates the hassle and cost of going to the grocery store.  Plus, you control everything that goes on your veggies so you don’t have to worry about contamination and pesticide residue.

So what do you do if you’re like me and have no spot of ground in which to plant?

There are several options for us to choose from.  Many cities have community gardens where you can rent a garden plot for a minimal fee.  There are also a growing number of CSA groups that you can join and receive fresh produce from a local farm.  Farmers markets are also a good place to find excellent produce.

I decided to grow a micro-garden.  It’s harder than I thought.

I’ve discovered that my “green thumb” is more of a wilted brown.  My first hint should’ve been the low survival rate of my house plants.  But that was probably due to the low light conditions, right?  Besides, how hard could it be to grow herbs in your windowsill?  So I planted my seeds.  I followed all directions on the seed packets and I was so delighted when they sprouted out of the rich potting soil.  I let them grow a bit inside and then decided they needed to see the sun so I put them out on the front porch.  We had a cold snap and wind that night.  They were all dead by morning.

Undaunted, I replanted my pots.  Not wanting to repeat my mistakes, I kept the seedlings inside on the windowsill.    I made sure they stayed well watered.  A little too well watered.  I flooded the pots and the weak-rooted herbs fell over and died.

A little discouraged, I replanted.  I bought a spray bottle to spritz the young seedlings.  Now that summer was in full force I put the seedlings out on the porch.  They are growing, but it looks like a lot of the seeds just didn’t sprout this time.  I don’t know if they’ll survive the summer.

Luckily, my mother does have a green thumb.  She gave me some tomato plants that I re-potted and are now yielding delicious bite sized tomatoes.

What am I doing wrong with my herbs?