Sunday, September 30, 2012

Menu & To-Do list: Sept 30-Oct 7



Still sharing my to-do list, mostly to share how things like daily chores and projects are meshing together. Going well! As I discussed on Saturday, we made some goals for October. Notably we are focusing on finishing up the garage project this month, or at least finishing up the sorting & purging. So Mr. Moon is committing a minimum of an hour a day to the task, and we expect that to be enough for meeting our deadline. Of course, we have other projects to work on as well that simply can't wait. For example:

We have two wood piles that need tending; one for building in the fire pit, one for building a compost bin. Mr. Moon got called into work every other time we had this on the schedule, so here it is again! Hopefully it will get done this time so we can build our mighty compost system.

Mr. Moon also has some leather that needs cleaning before it becomes necessary in the cooler seasons, so that should be a fun time for him later in the week.

I'll be working on a basket of papers that needs to be sorted on our desk, writing a blog post about making mozzarella cheese and perhaps one about switching to "family cloth" or toilet cloth. I'll also be working on the disaster area that has become my jewelry "box," though everything has kind of exploded from the box. Before pictures have been taken, Pinterest has been consulted, now all I need is to find my supplies that are (I thin) hidden in the garage somewhere. More to follow on that when I finish it.

Since funds are still and even more of an issue for the foreseeable future, we're still focusing on Cheap Date Night. This week I'm actually excited to say we will be baking! Something from scratch, haven't actually decided what yet. But we will be double-dating with Mr. Alton Brown and Ms. Betty Crocker that night, and hopefully then relaxing with a yummy treat and a movie.

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But What's for Dinner?

Oh goodness, the freezers are ready to explode. We consciously decided to ignore batch cooking this week, but even better is that we managed to include something in every meal that will clear out the freezer a bit.

Breakfasts are focusing on leftovers for the hash stacker & Sunday brunch, but I've been craving beans & rice topped with eggs for a few weeks so we'll be making the beans & rice ahead of time for those days. I have homemade runny yogurt in smoothie-sized containers in the freezer, and we stocked up on organic frozen berries when they were on sale a few weeks ago, so that's set! We like to pair the smoothies with apple zucchini spice muffins we made and froze last week (or two weeks ago now?).

Lunches feature die-hard favorites: grilled cheese, quesadilla, and leftovers (this week it's seafood chowder leftovers).

Sunday: Everyone's on their own and I didn't have a meal plan for the evening. We have leftover sauteed onions and bell peppers, to which I'm going to add some pepperoni scraps, mushrooms, heat it all up and throw it over our second batch of mozzarella cheese. Mr. Moon is probably having leftover pulled pork from dinner getting bumped last night (we were supposed to have it earlier in the week but I was too sick to cook so we switched for grilled cheese and tomato soup; then it got bumped for Mum & Pops' double date night yesterday, and Mr. Moon and I just had the pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. Only enough for one left, though). [leftovers]

Monday: Sloppy Joes made from lentils and TVP has been a big hit, and we have leftovers from earlier last week that will feed at least Mum & Pops if not all of us. Rather than buying buns, we're using up some leftover hamburger buns from a party that we stuck in the freezer. [freezer; vegetarian]

Tuesday: Pineapple salmon (just open a can of chopped pineapple and pour on top of salmon, bake); steamed broccoli, and couscous--we got sick of rice with the salmon, have to change it up. [freezer; fish]

Wednesday: Split pea soup from the freezer. I'm not a fan, so I'll be cooking up a pork rib and individual frozen serving of broccoli mac & cheese. [freezer; vegetarian]

Thursday: Date night! Don't know what Mum & Pops are doing, but Mr. Moon and I will be having a special portuguese chicken dish that he makes (using chicken from the freezer), served over rice. And whatever we're baking for dessert, using up baking ingredients we have sitting around taking up space and attracting pantry moths. [freezer; backstock]

Friday: Meat-focus dinner, corned beef and colcannon. Corned beef will simmer in the crockpot all day, and for that matter the colcannon can be cooked ahead and kept warm in the crockpot for dinner on demand. [freezer; crockpot; beef]

Saturday: Good old spaghetti. Using up more backstock Prego for Mum & Pops, freezer sauce for Mr. Moon and myself. I'll be making myself some venison meatballs from my stash of deer meat my uncle gave me, and probably cut with some pork sausage for flavor. Should be plenty of thawed meat left over for my dinner Sunday night. [freezer; backstock; vegetarian; venison]

Sunday: Everybody's on their own! I'll be making a venison mushroom swiss burger. Mr. Moon will probably end up with pot pies or tamales. [freezer; meat]
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What's on the menu at your house this week? Need more ideas? I'll be linking up at orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Celebrate the Little Things

Five things we accomplished in September that are really kind of big:

  • We got on a schedule of chores, and even managed to stick to it in this very busy week. 
  • We had fun on some cheap dates, and got to spend more time with friends than we have any other time since we moved down here.
  • We pinpointed some trouble areas with the housekeeping and started making strides to combat them in a manageable way. 
  • We dove down the rabbit hole with gusto, starting on such projects are sourdough pancakes, waffles, yogurt, mozzarella, and possibly soon into sourdough bread.
  • We managed to keep the sideboard in the dining room CLEAN and clear of clutter for the better part of a month, and still going! 

It wasn't entirely intentional, but we spent the month working on building good housekeeping habits.

If October has a theme project, I think it needs to be the garage. We got behind on cleaning that out and missed both of our self-imposed deadlines, or we will because the second one is tomorrow and there won't be any more progress on it by then. We really need to get on that so that we have space for more cheap dinner dates at home, even when the 'Rents are around. Or to be able to watch movies on something other than our laptop screens. It probably should have been a priority before, but the outside and the living spaces had been priorities.

Of course, irony abounds, it's finally getting cool enough that we hope to see rain soon, which means we can get to work on our fall gardening projects. We have to re-prioritize some things, like the front rose bed that may have to wait until spring because we need to get the plans drawn up and approved by the home owner's association. I don't see that happening this month, and our new deadline for the garage is having it completely finished before Thanksgiving. That means we need to be done with the sorting and purging by Halloween.

Goals for October include:

  • Finish sorting & purging the garage,
  • Doing as little as we can get away with in the garden/yard, 
  • Keeping up on the habits we've established,
  • More exciting food projects,
  • Figure out a WORKING solution for laundry day. 

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What are you working on this month? Any big projects, or refining habits? Let's chat in the comments!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Kitchen Project: A week in pictures

I mentioned last Monday that we were doing a little project to determine where we're falling behind in the kitchen, to turn that B+ into an A+. So how did our week go?

Sunday night: Not bad! Pretty good for a Day 1. Let's see what we left out. Bag by the stove, a big dish left on the stove that should have been washed, a towel over by the toaster and a cutting board there as well. The pile of stuff to the left of the sink is a bit bad, but mostly that's empty bottles that need to get their labels soaked. Trash and compost could have been emptied. But the dishes got done and the sink was empty, and the kitchen was ready for cooking breakfast.
Monday night: Yayy! Just a couple things on the counter by the stove, and otherwise only some dishes drying. Those bottles are a Wednesday project. A+!

Tuesday night: Hmmm could have been better. A towel, some bags, half a crockpot, a basket, and some croutons that all should have been put away. BUT! The dishes are done and the stockpot is soaking so still not too bad!

Wednesday Night: GREAT JOB! This was Firebomb the kitchen day, so this is all to be expected. We have a couple cookie sheets from dinner, the produce bags are still drying over some bottles, and the one sink is soaking labels overnight. But the other dishes are done!! A+!

Thursday night (er, friday morning): Mr. Moon forgot to take a picture Thursday night, so we took one right away Friday morning. Whew! You can tell he worked that night, and we made yogurt and mozzarella cheese. Lesson learned, no starting these projects at 10pm. Evening chores start then, not new projects!! Mr. Moon cleaned this all up right away after breakfast, while I finished up the yogurt. Those produce bags take a day to dry on the outside and then get flipped inside out to dry, so they really DID need two days, not just laziness. They got put away right after this picture though.

Friday night: We forgot a picture, and didn't get to take one until after we destroyed the kitchen making brunch. It wasn't bad though, the only thing left were some big dishes that Mr. Moon washed right away Saturday morning while we waited for the waffle batter to soak. There were some dishes that didn't make it into the dishwasher for two days, but they got put in right away and we just washed an extra load of dishes.

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning: We had some guests over for making/eating dinner, so it was a late night. AND it was our last night of the challenge! So of course we forgot to take a picture. But Mr. Moon got one the next morning. You know what though? After we all finished eating, Mr. Moon and I took 5 minutes to load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters before taking our friends back to their hotel. And we fell asleep without any weight of dirty dishes hanging over our heads.

And can we take a moment to appreciate the bed being made?! And no pile of shoes & discarded socks on my aisle-way?
Just ignore the messiness of those shelves. Good talk.

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Conclusion:
  • Nights that Mr. Moon works are not good nights for big projects afterward, even if it's only a 3 hour shift. 
  • Projects need to be completed and evening chores begin at 10pm. 
  • Getting the dishwasher emptied and refilled right after breakfast is imperative to keeping a tidy kitchen.
  • Mr. Moon hates washing produce bags, and that just needs to be entirely my job.
  • While cooking we really need to be mindful of the Clean As You Go policy and get things soaking or outright clean during any downtime--not playing on our phones or watching TV. 
  • We definitely set ourselves up for success going into a really busy week. 
It was an exercise with some accountability, and I'm so glad we did it. Just taking and reviewing the pictures was helpful in reminding us what we're supposed to be doing, and getting us in the habit of remembering our evening chores. Now we may need to do a similar challenge in the bathroom... though it won't be posted here, because it won't be as exciting. 
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I hope you're getting ahead on what your projects are! What have you been working on lately?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole: Sourdough Corn Bread Waffles

Mr. Moon and I have been taking advantage of his weekends off by having a little homemade brunch, usually during or before the football game. It's been really fun! And we've starting to get the hang of it enough that we've started inviting people over.

Last week it was whole wheat sourdough pancakes with soaked grains. I got a recipe from another website but it's written really badly and difficult to read. It did, however, work well enough that I used it as a base for savory waffles this week. Since pancakes and waffles have always been difficult for me, having success in this experiment was really gratifying.

So without further ado, a recipe for Overnight Soaked Grain Sourdough Pancakes or Waffles (what a mouthful!):

The Night Before: 
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup liquid
1 cup flour

Mix together in a bowl that's at least 3x as big as you think it needs to be. Don't over mix. Cover with plastic wrap or a shower cap (I used a towel once and it was ok, but the top dried out).

In the Morning:
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar or equivalent sweetener (I used 1/2 tbsp with good results)

2 eggs (3 for waffles)
1/4 cup oil/butter of choice (I used 1 tbsp of bacon drippings)
(I added a little extra liquid for making waffles)
Seasonings and flavorings as desired

Sprinkle dry ingredients over the "sponge." Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate dish, then fold into the sponge.

Let rest for 30 minutes. This is not optional. 20 minutes is not enough. Neither is 25.

Make sure your griddle or waffle iron is thoroughly warmed up before you start scooping. These are a little denser than some pancake batters, but VERY flavorful and fantastic.

YIELD: We made pancakes with a 1/4 c scoop, and got ~12 pancakes. For Mr. Moon and myself, 3 was very filling. For the Old People, 2 was plenty. So assume that it feeds four average adults.

Customizing to taste:
First time when I made pancakes I used a sourdough starter that's been fed with a combination of white and whole grain flour, and whole wheat flour. I used the full tablespoon of sugar and thought it was too sweet.

For the waffles I made them with the starter and 2/3 cup corn flour, 1/3 cup corn meal. It was FANTASTIC! Flavored with herbs from our garden, lots of chives, salt & pepper, then tossed some chopped bacon in when we scooped into the waffle iron. I used only a drizzle of honey, and the flavorings were there but very faint--could have used a lot more than I thought! So don't be shy.

Also keep in mind that standard baking substitutions probably apply. You could totally replace the fat with a fruit puree and be fine. I'm thinking pumpkin sounds good for fall, maybe make some apple pancakes soon. Go nuts! The original recipe called for "buttermilk or water," I've used water and milk with good results. Use orange juice for the liquid, or pumpkin puree and carrot juice sounds good.

For our corn bread waffles, I made a topping of red peppers, onions, and swiss chard.
This was not enough greens (they shrunk a lot more than expected!) but I just finished this up and quickly cooked up another batch of just greens.

Top with a couple eggs and you have a most delicious breakfast. Though we thought it could ue a little something, a sauce of some kind. Cheese in the waffles, or on top of them. Maybe a country or a chicken or mushroom gravy, or just a dollop of farmer's cheese, goat cheese, something to moisten it up a little bit. And strangely, still really good with maple syrup on top!

Yum!
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Are you fiddling with any new recipes lately?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Menu: Sept 23-30 : Keeping it Simple


And I thought last week was going to be busy! Due to the nature of off-week scheduling (i,e, not Sun-Sat or Mon-Sun) and multiple short shifts, Mr. Moon has to work 6 days in a row this week with no likelihood of overtime. So it's all about SIMPLE. Thankfully, the cooler temperatures make comfort foods more enticing anyway. 

For chores this week we're just focusing on just maintaining our daily & weekly tasks, without worrying about extra projects. This will be the big test of our newfound habits. I made a point this week of writing down any pre-cooking tasks that need to be done the day before, and tomorrow I'm going to put together a prep list so we can do things like chopping onions only once. It really saves time later in the week, and it means I can ask Mum for help whenever she's feeling up to it. 

So without further ado, what's for dinner?

Breakfast is smoothies, apple spice muffins, and egg sandwiches. Beans on toast for the day after I make baked beans. 

Lunches somehow ended up being all sandwiches, so I'm going to make some pasta salad for a quick and easy lunch side. 

Dinner. As I said, it's all about comforting, simple foods that can be ready for whomever wants it, whenever they're ready to eat. 

Monday: Chicken stew with dumplings. [freezer, backstock, chicken, crockpot]

Tuesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (aioli, ciabatta roll, cilantro & caramelized onion, maybe some pickled jalapeno for Mr. Moon and myself), baked beans, chunk salad. [freezer, meat, new recipe]

Wednesday: Sloppy Joe's (made with lentils as a base instead of meat) and potato salad [freezer?, vegetarian, crockpot] I can't remember whether we have a dinner's worth of this in the freezer, if not I may make it from scratch or swap for something else vegetarian. At least I know there's split pea soup.

Thursday: Everybody's on their own. I'm going to make something with the abundance of squash. 

Friday: Salmon Chowder [freezer, fish, crockpot]

Saturday: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup [vegetarian, backstock]

Sunday: Everybody's on their own. Leftovers, or some delicious Date Night Dinner concoction. Or possibly pizza after such a long week.

How did we do on our weekly menu goals?
  • 2 vegetarian days: Check!
  • 2 freezer meals: Check! With at least one bonus day for a total of 3-4. 
  • 2 batch meals: no, but that's intentional because the freezers are PACKED to the gills.
  • 2 "On Your Own" days: Check!
  • 1 Fish Day: Check!
  • 1 salad day: Cheating, but all days have pasta salad one one day has chunk salad as a side, so Check!
  • 1 crockpot meal: Check! With 2 bonus days!
  • 1 (red) meat based dinner: Check! Technically there's two, because chicken should count for this. But at least I managed to pare it down from three (we had swedish meatballs on here too!) and chicken is more acceptable than red meat on Pops' diet, so I call it a win. Plus the chicken and dumplings will have a lot more veggies than meat. 

And all that without even knowing where I stashed my reminder card until after we were done with the menu. I'm pretty proud of us!
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What's on your menu this week? Planning on joining us at orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Date Night!

As I mentioned before, Mr. Moon and I try to do a weekly date night. We're pretty lax about what Date Night entails, sometimes it's bowling with friends, sometimes it's a movie out, and sometimes (especially when the money is tight) it's a movie in with a "fancified" dinner. As long as it's intentional, mindful, and spending time together. This week, we managed to make a really nice spread with all things we had in the house (except I ended up having to buy a loaf of french bread).

We turned the couch so it faced the TV, threw in a Blockbuster by mail DVD, and had a spread of finger foods. So much easier to eat when sitting at a coffee table! Plus I'd been wanting to do an appetizer dinner at some point.

Counter-Clockwise from Left (for reasons which will become clear):
  • Grass-fed, all-natural Painted Hills sirloin steak, cooked in olive & truffle oils with garlic, basil, oregano, and crimini salt. 
  • Bruschetta: french bread, toasted with olive oil, garlic, herbs, drizzled in balsamic vinegar that I'm too lazy to reduce, dusted with Parmesan and fresh chiffonade basil from our garden (both green and purple basil because, duh, fancy dinner).
  • Artichoke tapenade
  • "Sweet" red pepper spread that had a nice kick to it on the back end
  • Whole wheat sesame seed crackers around...
  • More bruschetta, this is set aside because it's drizzled with Raspberry balsamic, a little sweeter to go with...
  • Mango-ginger gouda for dessert
  • Spinach artichoke spread
  • Sun-dried tomato spread
Not everything on here had prices on them from whenever I bought them, but the whole meal might have cost as much as $30--including the leftovers of all the spread. But it didn't cost $30 right now, just over quite a while. For example, the bruschetta toppings we've had for ages, same with the crackers, and the meat we bought weeks ago when it was on super-sale at the local natural grocery store, Chuck's Produce. So if you count what I spent on dinner just this week... it cost $2. Now THAT is what I call a budget date night!


Of course, part of the fun of the date was cooking together. I couldn't help but notice how well we move around each other in the kitchen.It's not the first time I've noticed and appreciated this and I'm sure it won't be the last. Our old apartment had a tiny kitchen area and we got accustomed to moving around each other there, so a kitchen that's three times the size is easier, yet more difficult at the same time because everything is no longer always within reach. We've gotten used to knowing where each other is, what they're doing, what they might need, and how to help each other. In a way it reflects the rest of our relationship: splitting the work, doing the parts we each do best, anticipating each others' needs and meeting them as best we can. If that's the recipe for a solid lifetime relationship, I think ours is going to cook up quite nicely.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update: Laundry Day, Daily Chores

Do you remember how excited I was to set Laundry Day as a leisurely, TV-time activity? How we were going to PAUSE and switch laundry and FOLD while we WATCHED?
Do you remember in that post how we were getting into a nice routine with chores (do we call these daily or weekly?) on a schedule?

Let me tell you a little story about this pile of clothes... while Mr. Moon vacuums the carpets two days late.
So, the basket in front is a pile of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away. Behind it is a box of candle/decor stuff that I needed out because I'm running out of candles and we need the scrap wax bucket to make fire starters. On top of that box is a trash bag of clothes that no longer fit and need to be put into storage for the time being (until we even determine what's wrong with me, I'm not willing to give up perfectly good clothes that I might fit back into soon--but there is a date with a donation center next year if no progress has been made). Behind THAT is a quilt rack that we still call a quilt rack for lack of a better term, that DOES IN FACT have worn, rewearable clothes on it! But they have exploded all over the top of the shelves that I use as a dresser, on top of a clean sheet that I ran our of energy before folding.

That laundry we started on WEDNESDAY. Bask in my shame. 

It really was a good idea. Part of the issue is implementation. We may need a timer to remind us to check on the laundry. We found that there's no good place to put the computer to watch TV and be able to see it while folding laundry. (The computer is, at this time, the only thing available for watching entertainment in our room.) So we tried doing the wash-dry-and watch TV thing, but folding each load before we could unpause again. Neither of us could stick to that, it kept meaning we had to move the computer every few minutes, and I was having a bad day so I was barely any help to begin with--keeping Mr. Moon on task was impossible. Then we discussed folding everything during football, but I don't like folding my delicates in the living room with his parents (I don't know why, I have no problem with leaving them hanging in the laundry room for days) and I couldn't have gotten him to participate during the game anyway. Plus, no place to fold them really.

You know how I said I was going to start making the bed every day? Did you SEE the bed behind that pile of clothes? Yeah, hasn't happened. Heck, I keep forgetting to wash my face in the morning!

I don't know how to get past some of these hurdles. Honestly, getting into good habits like making my bed/washing my face/brushing my teeth/not leaving baskets of clean laundry sitting around for decades has been a list of habits I've been trying to create since... well, I remember writing some of them as improvement goals in kindergarten so what does that tell you? So I clearly haven't figured out whatever it is that helps me to remember a routine long enough to get INTO a routine. Though I do know some of that lack of routine is a coping mechanism for my OCD--if I get into routine for too long, I start to obsess over keeping it the same and don't handle interruptions well. So maybe that's entirely the issue, or maybe it's more than that.

Let's take a look at what our chore list looks like:
Everything in red is the stuff that stays every week. It doesn't include the daily list up top, which has doing the dishes at night as well as a 10-minute tidy. How have we done with it?

I'd give us a C+. B for effort.

Sweeping and mopping: has been a little iffy, but gets done eventually when one of us steps on something and ends up sweeping the whole floor while we're getting it up. D-

Bathroom cleaning: I haven't been terribly pleased with the soap/mineral build-up on the hardware in the bathtub, but everything else has been great. I have no idea how the master bathroom looks, but given the effusive thanks from the 'Rents the last couple weeks that Mr. Moon has gotten to it, I'm going to say it looks pretty good. Daily pick-ups are going pretty well, could use some more mindfulness. B+

Vacuuming under everything has been so-so. Not getting under the easy chairs as much as I would like, but the rest has been great. Saturday's hallway vacuum has happened on Sunday both of the last two, and not because there was no time Saturday. C-

Pick up Bedroom: Fail. Epic Fail. F

Firebomb Kitchen: This is the one thing we've been able to keep up really well. The kitchen is a major trigger area for me, so this surprises absolutely no one. Lost points for not getting the produce bags washed, but bonus points for laying on the floor scrubbing footboards and cabinets the week before. A+!

Pick Up Dining Room: Nope, fail, nada. Hasn't happened properly once since we implemented these chores three weeks ago. F

Trash & Recycling out to curb on trash day: We've been drastically reducing our trash output so that we could easily go to every-other week pickup. Or longer. Recycling would be great as every week. Mr. Moon hasn't been saving the newspapers I wanted saved for weed block, but I'll give him a pass on that one this time since I just reminded him again. A+!

Daily Dishes: We've been doing pretty well at this, but I think we could do better. What we really need is to get in the habit of getting the dishwasher emptied right away in the morning, so the daily dishes can get into it throughout the day--so they don't pile up at night and Mr. Moon has a chance to wash big dishes too instead of leaving them to sit. B+

In light of that B+, I'm doing a little personal contest to take pictures of our kitchen at the end of every day for a week. I'll post them next Monday to show you how we did. I know there are clearly areas which need more attention, but I feel like I'd rather get better at the things that only need a little improvement like daily dishes and the bathrooms so that THOSE things can take the minimum amount of time and then we can focus that extra energy to the bigger improvements. Of course through all this, we're still trying to get the garage set up into a lounge area, which is quickly becoming a priority. We need some more personal space.
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Want to join the kitchen project? Just take a picture of your kitchen every day right before bedtime. Post it here if you want, or to your own blog/Facebook/Twitter, or just keep it for yourself. Don't feel like cleaning anymore? Don't! Don't feel like letting that picture be your end of the day, so you decide to pick up a bit before you take it? Go for it! Maybe that will be what gets you in the habit of doing one last pick-up before bed every night. Whatever it takes, right?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Menu: Sept 16-23

SUCH! An exciting week this week. Well, ok, not so much, but I try to be upbeat as much as I can. 

Hours for Mr. Moon are still few and far between so there's a lot of work being done around the house. It feels like we're getting nowhere sometimes, because we keep getting behind on some of the chores. Still getting used to them, I guess. And I think we need a second "firebomb the kitchen" day. Or something. It just keeps getting out of hand and Mr. Moon and I feel like we're in there ALL THE TIME. The worst thing is, by having a scheduled list of chores that DO get done as often as they do, it's actually illustrated how they do need to get done as often as they're scheduled. Like sweeping the kitchen, which keeps getting missed and then done at completely inconvenient times because it NEEDS it--but never more often than scheduled. Or the bathrooms, which having been kept up on for three weeks in a row now still need cleaning when we get back to them. It's kind of a nice object lesson that having these things done on a schedule is really worth the time and effort it takes to think through a schedule and stick to it.  

As I said, such an exciting week, and we're already discussing changing this list. I am really excited to make mozzarella tomorrow though! And for us to get back to working in the garage, which we'd hoped would be done by the end of next week. NOT HAPPENING.

Oh, I made a little cheat sheet to help make updating the white board a little easier.

Isn't she a cutie? I felt silly making it, but this week it reminded me to pick a date night that I'd forgotten to schedule, to make sure we got fish on the menu, and not to overload the menu with meat like we have for the last couple weeks.
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But what's for dinner?
Monday: Plain baked chicken, slow-cooker baked beans, roasted squash, and swiss chard for me because I wanted some green in there but everyone else thought that was too much food. I'll just skimp on portion sizing to make it all nice. [Freezer; batch; meat]

Tuesday: Mr. Moon works so it's important to have something that I can do myself, and will be ready or near-ready when he gets home. Baked Potato Soup, and I'll make a rib for myself. I've found that the soups just aren't filling at the time OR keeping my blood sugar stable overnight, and I keep waking up hungry and headachy at 4-7am. This also uses up some mashed potato flakes that no one wants to eat as mashed potatoes. [backstock; batch; crockpot; vegetarian]

Wednesday: Pops will be out of town, so Mum offered to entertain herself reading or cleaning her room while we have a nice dinner and watch a movie on the big screen. With hours so minimal, spending money has been cut to nothing which means date nights are at-home deals for a while. Anyway, she's in charge of getting herself dinner, which will probably be a sandwich or a TV dinner or something. Mr. Moon and I are having steak and a bruschetta plate because we have a couple delicious-looking jars of topping (roasted red pepper, and an artichoke tapenade; I think this will need some mango ginger cheese that's been waiting for the right occasion, and I'd like to pick up some actual olive tapenade since the artichoke one is mostly artichoke and less olive). Still, except the tapenade and perhaps the bread, everything is already here. [backstock; freezer; meat]

Thursday: Mr. Moon works again, and Mum specifically requested soup, so we're doing a White bean, tomato, zucchini and basil soup that looked good somewhere. I'm going to add brats to mine, and we'll save the leftovers for pops when he comes home later in the week. And the best part is that every bit of it is stuff we have in the house, ready to go. [backstock; crockpot; vegetarian; pasta]

Friday: Fish night! Moroccan salmon with pesto pasta salad, which is most decidedly more "salad" than pasta. It's a creamy pesto sauce over gently-sauteed zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and green pepper, with a dash of penne pasta thrown in for kicks. A heaping spoonful is a good serving each of vegetable and starch. [backstock; freezer; fish; vegetarian*; pasta]
(* just for the record, the pasta salad is veg, I'm not implying the fish is)

Saturday: Ravioli (or spaghetti for me because I haven't found a good, inexpensive whole wheat ravioli). Mum is using up the prego backstock for the ravioli for everyone else, I'll use up some of my stock of freezer tomato sauce. I do try to keep pasta night to one night and if it's a side dish then keeping them away from each other, but it just didn't work out well this week. And hopefully I will have fresh homemade mozzarella to eat with it! [backstock; freezer; vegetarian; pasta]

Sunday: The 'Rents are on their own, eating leftovers or freezer meals or salad or going out. Mr. Moon and I have a haggis in the freezer we've been dying to try, so we'll have that and maybe some colcannon (with kale because Mr. Moon doesn't like cabbage), and steamed mushy carrots. The idea with these "On Your Own" nights are to give the 'rents some flexibility with having friends over and wanting to go out sometimes that wasn't in the schedule on Sunday when we plan our meals. If nothing else it gives us a day to switch things TO if we need a break and can't do something one day. It also gives Mr. Moon and I a break from cooking for everyone, and the opportunity to cook some things that aren't appealing to the 'Rents. Some days I tell him to fend for himself, sometimes we cobble things together from his food and mine like a pot luck with a pre-set menu. [freezer; meat; OYO]

So how did we do this week? Keep in mind these are the goals for Pops' dietary restrictions, so it doesn't necessarily apply to me since I sometimes have different meals or add meat to vegetarian items to for myself (and Mr. Moon if he wants meat in/with it).
  • 2 wholly-vegetarian days, though the potato soup will only have a dash of bacon so that counts as three for our purposes.
  • 5 days pulling stuff OUT of the freezer
  • 2 batch meals (the chicken is getting pulled up for lunches, the baked beans are going into the freezer; and the leftover baked potato soup will get frozen as well)
  • 2 days where the 'Rents are on their own for dinners
  • 1 Fish day
  • 0 salad days!!
  • 2 crockpot meals
  • 1 meat-based dinner
I call that a success! There are leftover salad fixings that mum says she's going to serve Pops for lunch over the next couple days, so I consider that one taken care of. Despite the fact that they asked for there to be at least one if not two salad dinners on the menu each week, we discovered that most weeks, when those days came around they wouldn't want the salad. So I declared those "On Your Own" days as days they can have salad if they want it that often, and otherwise they can have salads for lunch. Seeing as the salad days were days that Mr. Moon and I just fixed something separate anyway, since I can no longer eat lettuce (I know, see my sad face. I lived off salad for years and I miss it dearly, but I do ok with sides of chopped veggies and dressing sometimes).
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Need more menu ideas? I'll be linking up to orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday. Check it out!

What are you eating this week?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"I am not a baker": Words have power

Words have power. I do believe that what you focus on is what will come to you, whether you say those words out loud or not. It's never easy to be conscious of these thoughts, and for a person with anxiety and the resulting depression it's even more difficult. This also comes to play in a lot of religions, where naming a thing gives it power; for a non-religious example, we look to the Harry Potter books and Voldemort AKA He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

It's because of this feeling that Words Have Power that I have found it very difficult to pursue disability. It's a little soul-crushing to have to say out loud that your limitations are more than you want to admit. So I find myself living a life where day-by-day I push myself harder than I often should, try to ignore my limitations and often end up suffering for it, making people comfortable by not discussing the realities of my situation. Then one day I have to go to an interview or fill out a form detailing every struggle, every limitation, every reality and consequence of pushing myself too hard, put into words things that I usually try to shove out of my mind. But it's necessary to get the help I need to ever have hope of getting better. It's like having to hit rock bottom first with eyes wide open to it before it can get better. And every day I wonder whether it's worth it.

That's my reality, though. In the meantime, I do my best to contribute around the house as much as I can, while doing my best to be gentle with myself just the same, focusing on finding out specific diagnoses and trying various treatment plans. The times between appointments this early in the game when I feel like I'm getting nowhere, it feels pointless.

So I've committed to this time not being pointless. I've started this blog. I've started accepting the things I cannot do and focusing on what I can rather than what I can't. It helps having a partner who is understanding and loving and picks up the extra, who is perfectly willing to find a balance of partnership, to let me do what I can while he focuses on the rest. And if I can do the things with which he isn't so skilled, more's the better, a true partnership.

I've started making things at home that take little physical effort at once. The act of making a sourdough starter was a lot more therapeutic than I ever could have imagined: Short bursts of active meddling followed by a lot of waiting, downtime during which I could watch it grow and become a useful, living thing (but not if I stared at it the whole time). It's kind of how I feel about my situation right now! But it helps me be able to better visualize the fact that the downtime isn't pointless, there's activity going on in between that is making me better, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Well, now I have this sourdough starter and I've tied my success and failure to it. Possibly another thing I need to learn not to do but in the meantime, I'm determined to do something good for myself and learn to make bread. Hopefully I can figure out a way to make bread that I like both the flavor and the ingredients list!

I'm determined that I'm no longer going to say, "I am not a baker." Maybe I'll never be "a baker," but I'd like to be able to add baking to my list of cooking skills. That's what I'm focusing on right now. Won't you follow me down the rabbit hole?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keeping House: The Daily chores that keep us sane

Mr. Moon and I are getting more accustomed to daily chores. Tuesday when I woke up, it was to the sound of vacuuming in the hallway--Tuesday's assigned chore day is deep vacuuming, which means getting under the lounge chairs and the dining room table. Light vacuuming is over the weekend, and it's just the main walkways. So I woke up proud of him and pleased, definitely sets the tone for a good morning. Then I discovered that again of his own volition he had emptied, refilled and run the dishwasher, as we've gotten behind on dishes again. And to top it off, I was greeted with a clean kitchen so I could prepare us a steak and eggs breakfast.

Now tonight is just picking up our bedroom a bit, which means clearing off the desk and the shelves at the foot of the bed. Those shelves were just a few inches wider than the bed itself, which resulted in Mr. Moon rubbing a hole into the back of his work shorts by getting squished between shelves and the wall on his way by. We reorganized our closet a bit, and were able to take out the second set of shelves--which also gets the quilt rack for our worn-but-re-wearable clothes set back a little bit, and taking up even less precious bedroom space!

I know we, like so many, tend to just shove things into our room throughout the course of the day, and the next thing we know it's trashed again. Now that we've gotten the kitchen to a reasonable maintenance point, it's time to start building better habits in our bedroom. The changing of laundry day rules has already helped tremendously, now we just need to get used to it. The next rule to learn is that we can't just drop things on the desk--or the bed! We'll need to learn to start putting things away properly more often, which in this household seems to be a continuing problem. It all goes back to that cursed phrase, "For Now." I'm sure this will be a constant struggle throughout our lives, and we will need to keep reminding ourselves how to get to where we want to be.

Ideally, I'd like to start making my bed every day. Lately I've had such terrible insomnia that the covers are a complete disaster by morning. And since it's the biggest space in the room, focal point as you walk in the door, I think that keeping it clean might help us want to keep the rest of the room lean--like how my focus on keeping the kitchen counters clean has resulted in the counters being less cluttered, as well as the floor. If absolutely nothing else, perhaps making the bed in the morning will make it easier to tuck in for a nap later in the day. And if that's all it accomplishes, I'll call the new habit a win.
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Any new habits you're trying to create for yourself? Or bad habits you're trying to break?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole: Home-made yogurt

Do you ever find yourself doing one thing, and the next thing you know you've embarked on an adventure you hadn't entirely planned? That happened to be this week. 

I decided that I'd like to make my own yogurt. It's not cheaper to make my own sour cream, but yogurt! That I can make for cheaper than I can buy. I also decided that with my recent difficulty buying reasonably priced sandwich bread without sugar that tastes good to me, I'd like to try making my own. So I made a sourdough starter (but that's a topic for a different day). 

How did I make my yogurt?
I didn't like the fussiness and on-my-feet time required with some of the recipes I found for homemade yogurt. So I added "crockpot" to my recipe search, and right on top was a link to one of my favorite blogs. Oh wait, you mean the one I was reading a week ago when I decided I wanted to make my own yogurt? Oops. Thanks Google for the reminder!

So I started by putting my milk into the crockpot on low for 2 hours. Problem was I don't have a calibrated thermometer in the house (all 4 of mine have gone missing), so I had to trust my chef-trained fingers. Tested at 2 hours, and it was warm but not HOT--and 180 degrees is hot to the touch. So I went back half an hour later and was very surprised that it made such a difference. Hot to the touch, so I pulled it out. 

Problem is, by then it was after midnight and I wanted to go to bed. I didn't have an hour to wait for it to cool. Figuring that I was using 2% milk and you can make yogurt with skim (which is more watery), I figured it would be safe to put in some ice. Cooled it down within 5 minutes to the "just warm to the touch" point, so about 110 degrees. Tempered in the starter yogurt (that's where you add the warm stuff to the cool stuff to slowly raise the temp of the cool stuff, so you don't curdle eggs/milk or in this case, shock the cultures into dying). Wrapped the crock in a towel and put in the oven with the light on over night, complete with a note over the light button/oven controls that said, 

"I'm very busy right now, please do not disturb. The stovetop is free though!"

Gotta make sure no one else messes up my stuff, and that we don't burn down the house by lighting towels on fire. 

When we came back the next morning (10 hours later), the yogurt was a little watery yet, definitely yogurt but still very creamy tasting instead of soured. We put it back in for another hour and a half or so. When we pulled it out again, it looked like this! 
A nice solid mass of cultured dairy, floating in a lake of whey. It was pretty tasty too!

So I set up a station for straining it, to make thicker stuff: 
I can't find my cheesecloth, so I used one of the flour sack towels that I reserve for food prep. Laid that in a strainer for support, and put THAT in a roasting pan to catch the liquid as it drains. 

Pouring the yogurt into the system...

But then I needed to put it in the fridge for a few hours, so it could drain without continuing to culture. And I wanted it covered so nothing fell into it. And I was afraid that since the towel was wicking up whey to the corners that it would drip off the sides while left unattended. That's how I ended up with this contraption:
Pulled the corners to the top and rubber banded them together. Stuck a chopstick through the holes underneath the rubber band so it couldn't tip over. Pulled the excess towel up over the chopstick and pinned there so the yogurt couldn't seep out the sides. Hey, laugh all you want (we did!) but it worked!

6 hours later...
VERY thick yogurt, about 16 oz of it from one half-gallon of milk, and about 16 oz of whey. This was way too thick, so we actually ended up mixing some of the whey back into it, but having it this dry to scrape off the towel made it really easy!
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Now I need to figure out what to do with the whey. I saved some of the yogurt (about 1/3 cup or so) for starting the next batch, and set it aside in a different dish labeled as yogurt starter so that I can't end up without having starter for the next batch. I intend to use some of the whey as liquid in my bread/waffles/whatever, and maybe I'll add a little to the apple crisp this afternoon to give it a little tangy-ness.

Next up, sourdough starter, which you can read about tomorrow. And I'd like to start sprouting beans and soaking grains. I'm working on re-organizing the pantries that Mr. Moon and I use, seen here behind the red curtain and the one next to it with doors, though I removed that curtain because it was in my way. I'd like to get all our food into the pantry with doors so that I can use the open shelves for soaking, sprouting, and souring. Although I will leave the nice matching kitchen canisters out, since they actually look nice (in my opinion, anyway).

Oh darn, that means getting through some of my back stock of oatmeal, pinto beans, and baking supplies.

And now we see how this adventure has started to throw me down the rabbit hole into a more exciting adventure than I ever expected!
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Any fun food projects you're working on?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eats & Treats: Menu plan, Sept 9-16

Finally, no more tweaks to the white board this week! With this cold or allergy attack (who knows?) hitting me, I'm grateful for the break we had this week, not having to cook for everyone, but it seems like it was rough on Mum even if she won't quite say so. So once again we are focusing on cleaning out the freezer, good healthful meals without a whole lot of hassle, but trying some new things.

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What's on the ToDo list this week? 
We are still getting used to the daily chores being a little more structured, and catching up on some of the things that got a little out of hand. Bonus, Mr. Moon has more shifts and I have a doctor's appointment, so I scheduled a light week on projects.

Sunday, 9th: Today is a vacation day! Much deserved. Season opener for the Mariners er, Seahawks (the football guys) is on right now, and we have a date tonight with some friends going bowling. Well, Mr. Moon will be bowling, I will be watching, pointing, heckling, and laughing. 

Monday, 10th: Busy day! Grocery shopping in the morning, should be quick and easy since we only have a few things to get. The issue with sending Pops produce shopping is the random stuff that shows up that now has to be used up as it starts to rot. Mr. Moon needs to re-string the flag poles, if we have a ladder that will reach. He has an on-call shift that night, so if he's not working where he gets paid then he will be working in the garage that evening.

Tuesday, 11th: Mr. Moon works, so no projects to work on. We should have enough time to get the general chores done, dinner in the crockpot, and that's about it.

Wednesday, 12th: Firebombing the kitchen was an all-day affair last week, so I'm hesitant to schedule anything else strenuous that day since I know we have a little re-arranging to do this week. Laundry day is supposed to be sort of relaxing for us. So if we manage to finish the kitchen and the laundry and have some energy left, the garage is always a back-up project.

Thursday, 13th: Mr. Moon has work that night, and is planning on riding his bike since it's a shorter shift.

Friday, 14th: The scrap, reclaimed wood pile needs to be finished being broken down and sorted into buildable pieces and burnable pieces. He got about halfway through that last time, so hopefully he should be able to finish this time, because I REALLY want to get our new compost bins built over the weekend.

Saturday & Sunday 15-16th: Compost bins, daily chores, and if there's time & energy left, the garage.

Somewhere in all of this, my sourdough starter will be ready, and I'd like to make some bread. Or at least sourdough waffles. 
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So what's on the menu?
Breakfasts: Today was a vacation brunch, biscuits and gravy with brats and scrambled eggs. The rest of the week is all about cleaning out the fridge and freezer, so we have sausage casserole, smoothies, and waffles on the menu--waffles aren't remotely a cleaning anything out dish, just want them.

Lunches: There's a huge open jar of sauerkraut in the fridge, but Pops and I are the only ones who eat it. So my lunches this week are focusing on helping with that. Hot dogs, reubens, and of course the backups: grilled cheese and quesadillas.

Dinners:
Monday: Mum requested plain baked chicken, and we'll make two for pulling and chopping into pieces for other meals (lunches, etc.). I've found some recipes for homemade baked beans in the crockpot, so I'm going to try to make those. And Pops brought home some acorn squashes so that sounds like a meal to me! (Use up freezer stock.)

Tuesday: Mr. Moon works, mushroom barely soup in the crockpot (batch cook, freeze into servings, vegetarian). I'm going to pick up some stew beef to throw in mine, and maybe some other additions, because I won't be able to get breakfast the next morning and just the mushroom barely soup for dinner usually has me waking up starving by 8am.

Wednesday: Baked salmon, wild rice, and broccoli/cauliflower. There's a couple jars of mild morrocan seasoning in the pantry that I'd like to try, so we;ll probably make a morrocan salmon. (Use up freezer stock.)

Thursday: Mum & Pops are on their own. I've found that writing that has a higher likelihood of using up leftovers or not wasting food if they decide to go out or something, so we have two of these days each week. Mr. Moon and I will have spaghetti or broccoli mac (freezer stock), if there are no leftovers to use up.

Friday: Tortilla soup (vegetarian) in the crockpot, with some of the leftover chicken for me. This way if Mr. Moon is pooped after peeling apart pallets all afternoon, dinner will be ready whenever anyone wants it.

Saturday: Steak is on sale this week ($4.90 for local organic sirloin steaks!) so we're going to marinate some for a couple days and have a nice steak dinner. I'm so glad I ended up not stocking up in the sirloin steak on sale at the crap store last week!

Sunday: Mum's birthday is Monday (and so is my Daddy's!), so we are going out to dinner for her birthday since Mr. Moon may have to work the next day. Still not sure where we're going, but at least I know it's not the BBQ joint.
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Need more menu ideas? I'm linking up at orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday!
What's on your menu this week? Any fun projects on the to-do list, or are you getting into a new routine?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Is it cold and flu season already?

It seems like every time I try to go on vacation and especially to a Scottish festival, I get sick. One particular festival my family attended for most of my life, I would get sick. Every. Single. Year. And then we figured out it was severe allergies reacting to cottonwood and pine pollen, which are ripening every year around the same time/area that the festival is held. I can recall at least three separate years where I sounded like a tuberculosis patient throughout the weekend.

It should therefore stand to reason that I'm used to traveling while sick. And I am! I tend to pack as much and as many remedies as I think I might need, unabashedly and unashamed to do so. When I don't, I regret it.

Still, there is nothing quite like being able to curl up on your own bed or couch and nest when you're sick. Treating every sniffle and cough and achy joint with the care and comfort of a baby mama with her chicks. The last cold I had, I nested myself into the deep, cushy love seat in our den, and just waited it out. Although I can't say I "just" waited it out. I did my best to burn it out with Bourbon and Scotch (in lemon-honey tea or hot cider). I can't say that I honestly think that a sustained medium level of intoxication over three days actually helped kill off the cold virus. But I can say that I felt that cold progressing through the stages by the HOUR, I didn't end up with pneumonia for the first time in ages, and even the cough that usually lingers for weeks after was gone in another couple days. So I figure it's worth a shot if you have the chance. Worse comes to worst, at least it makes the experience a little more bearable.

This time I just don't have the opportunity. The symptoms started last night, I was up and out the door early this morning, and we are determined to get to the highland games tomorrow morning. Although if I have to cancel bowling on Sunday because I pushed myself too hard while sick, I won't exactly be surprised. In the meantime, I'm pumping fluids and drinking the childhood version of lemon-honey tea, minus the bourbon. And if we only spend a couple hours at the festival tomorrow, well, at least we got to see it!
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What do you do to get through a cold? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The ever-changing nature of decor

Growing up, we didn't have a fireplace, but we did have a secretary/china cabinet that lived in a weird nook into the hallway that had knick-knacks inside. For me, this was basically just something to collect dust and clean rather than anything I got to have fun with.

After moving out, I've always had a little area that I would decorate, no matter how cluttered the rest of the home got. It's fun to decorate things for the seasons, or just switch it up regularly. In my mind, this would be a fireplace mantle. But somehow I've only had one of those in ONE apartment. So I've made do as best I could. Our last apartment, I put a shelf above the couch about 18 inches from the ceiling, high enough that even the tallest person wouldn't hit their head on the brackets underneath while flopping down. When the room got re-arranged so that it was actually above the walkway, it was still tall enough that it was fine. I liked to use this shelf as my "mantle," decorating it for holidays and such. It was high enough that the cats didn't bother it, and it wasn't tempting to getting cluttered up with drinks or mail or the general daily clutter.
There it's decorated for Valentine's day, with the quilt rack underneath--both decorative AND functional!
My mom once came home from a work seminar, no idea what it was about but she was sharing an anecdote. She said that the lecturer was talking about spacial clutter and mental clutter. She said, "If the top of your head was flat, would you set your coffee and the mail on it? Raise your hand if the answer is yes." Of course, most everyone in the room would. She guessed that those people who said yes also had cluttered desks, crap in their purses, and cars that needed cleaning out--and of course, they all sheepishly agreed. The goal of the seminar was to help these people learn to keep that flat surface clear and ready for action. To view flat surfaces as spaces to be used, transient, not spaces to be filled constantly with things that don't move.



This stuck with me, for some reason. That combined with my training using negative space in desktop publishing combined to teach me an appreciation for clear surfaces. Places to sit the groceries to put them away, not places to leave them for days in the bags. Places to set up a cutting board and cook, not places that need to be cleaned every time I want to make a sandwich or gourmet meal. Places to decorate, to be used, not to be embarrassed by or cover with a lumpy tablecloth when you get unexpected company.

In our current situation this decoration space for me has been the sideboard. Bar. Buffet. Whatever you call it, since it's called all three interchangeably here. Unfortunately, this is also in the traffic center of the house, being in the dining room and right next to the doorway on the way to the kitchen. Every flat surface in that room gets cluttered, and moreso when Pops is in charge of clearing off the table for dinner--everything just gets shoved wherever there is space. As a result the sideboard (my preferred term) gets trashed, and the bookshelves have reportedly been cluttered with random junk for about 1 week less than they've been full of books. But that's a project for a different day.

In an effort to keep this from getting cluttered with junk, I try to keep it full-but-not-bursting with things that reasonably belong there. I put a tablecloth on it to protect it and decorate a bit. We're using it to hold our bar supplies since we don't have a bar set up in the garage yet. It has the open wine collection, which makes perfect sense being in the dining room. And I use it to hold the basket of cloth napkins in a perfectly centered area between all the places people are eating--and right on the way out of the kitchen where you can grab on on the way to your seat. I try to clean it up regularly so it doesn't get too out of hand.

I've done this a couple times now, but this time I took pictures! I seem to have perfected the balance of decor, usefulness, filled and negative space to minimize the clutter build-up, though I'm sure I'll never convince people to just drop things on any flat surface they can find. But that's ok. The key is to keep up with it so it doesn't get out of hand. That's why picking up the dining room is on the weekly chores list!

I'd started picking up on the right end, but just a couple things before I remembered to get clicky with it before continuing. Gotta have blog fodder!

From left to right, front to back when pertinent: Church tissue cover, teapot, triple stacking baskets (empty), cast iron teapot, giant Crown Royal bottle, table caddy, wine collection, candle, bar supplies (more on that later), empty space that constantly gets filled with ad papers and other such clutter, bowl for bottle caps and mini-trash to get sorted and discarded later, basket o'napkins. All on top of a dusty, crumb-y tablecloth.

Half of these things really just don't belong here! And that tablecloth really needs some quality time with the washer.

Time to start from scratch.
Isn't that better? How lovely is that sideboard?! But left like this, it would be 12 hours before it was covered in extraneous junk. Time to find that balance of positive and negative space, usefulness and decoration. And what better excuse to use the new table runner I got for half off at Value Village on Monday?
I may or may not have mentioned that my kitchen is decorated in strawberries...

Perfect fit! Score!

But this is also a great time to spruce things up. This is a cast iron teapot Mr. Moon picked up from a free box at a yard sale. See that bowl? It's for holding hot coals to keep the tea warm. How cool! But so dusty! And so full of texture that just dusting with a cloth wasn't working. Enter the toothbrush. There wasn't really any scrubbing necessary, just a light touch and it cleaned right up, see the bottom of the picture side versus the top? So easy.

In Progress... but oh noes we forgot the wine!

Lovely!
Now what do we have here? Let's get a closer look.
The left end...

This became a little tea station. Still not sure what will go in that bottom basket, but the top one held the 3-wick bowl perfectly! That nice iron teapot, all cleaned up, along with the white one with its creamer pot (though, that is actually full of splenda). A basket full of teabags, carefully arranged to display the colors that coordinate with the pops of pinky-red in the strawberries. And a lovely picture of one of Don's sets of grandparents.

The right end, by the kitchen doorway.

Of course, we have the basket of every-day napkins. That little acorn bowl is perfect for bottle caps and wine corks (the bottle/wine opener is in that drawer), and I can drop little pocket pieces that get strewn about here so they're contained but not a huge project to take care of right away. A little decorative candleholder set, still in need of tealights which are still in storage. And another set of grandparents.





The Center Bar area

This little tray I love for all sorts of things, and I wanted a place it could go to be useful without taking up storage space, but still being easy to clear off if it needed to be used. What you can't see is that it has bamboo sides and a stainless steel bottom, which I've placed a white doily on top. We have a shaker with a couple strainers and a muddler, down inside is a channel knife for garnishing. Another little shaker with a strainer lid, but the lid is missing. There's a fix for that that I found while doing this project that I'll share later. Jigger, with flask funnel. Shot glass. Tiny bottle of Bailey's that could probably go back to the liquor shelf but it's too cute! A nice stainless pitcher with wicker-wrapped handle. A couple high-ball glasses (I think that's what they're called). Aluminum teapot. Steel butter tray, with adorable tiny silverware: two tiny sporks with strawberry handles (perfect for serving olives, pickles, cherries, etc.), and a spreader knife with molded strawberries for a handle.

Oh, that shaker missing a lid?
That jigger wedges on perfectly without getting stuck!

Alright, let's step back and take a wide-view look again:
It's all black, white, and grey/steel and a little warm wood in there, lots of neutral with pops of red and green. I love the fact that there's a little usefulness and a little decoration on both sides, a little black, white, wood, grey, and red on both sides.

Now if only I had time to get through the drawers and cabinet underneath that still looks like a tornado zone... but that's a project for a different day. This day was all about big visible motivation.
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Any fun decorating going on in your house? Any areas that you like to fiddle with and switch things out all the time, for visual excitement? What are you working on this week?
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