Set Yourself Up For Success Part 4 The Little Things

This process we’ve been working through usually includes some questions along the line of “How?”. How do I organize? How do I set up?

I’d love to be able to say “Do this and this and this. Print this. Label that. Plug in this and you are all set!” but I can’t. Well, actually I suppose I could but that would be doing both of us a a disservice.

Why? Because One Size Does Not Fit All.

What works for me, might not work for you and what you need may not be in my tool kit to offer.

What I can do, however, is offer a few suggestions.

My goal for Meal Planning is to be able to create a variety of meals without a lot of fuss or preparation or cost. I don’t have a lot of mouths to feed and I don’t always need to have a lot of things ready to go at the last minute. But that’s me; you might need to be a lot more organized.

What I found for myself was that creating a system that would keep the recipes I needed on a regular basis handy saved a lot of time. I could add recipes as I input them into my regular meal rotation or remove them when they were no longer something I wanted to make.

This could be a 3 ring binder that was broken down into meal type (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) or by main ingredient (chicken, beef or vegan) or by process (roast, slow cook, quick). This is a flexible system that could evolve into multiple binders depending upon your need (Main dishes in one, sides in another, desserts in a third, etc.)

You could use a journal format. I’ve seen some astoundingly useful bullet journals. You could invest in some recipe management software. The options are as varied as the number of potential users.

The thing to remember is that you don’t need to make it more complicated than it needs to be. If you don’t need to plan for certain meals, don’t. If you need to be more detailed, add that into your process. The idea is to be a help to your daily life, not a time consuming hurdle that keeps you from actually living your life.

I like the idea of an app for my phone or tablet, but reality for me is that I dislike the need to refresh the screen, or keep it clean while cooking. I do, however, keep my pantry list on my iPod. The app I use allows me to use bar code scanners to add items to my list, which makes keeping track of specific brand items a breeze, while also being able to manually input items where I just need a reminder (popcorn rather than Brand Name Popcorn, for example).

A few years back I discovered that Julia Child kept a notebook in her kitchen with reminders for various tasks and recipes. The Julia Child who created wonderful collections of recipes had a notebook?! (Note: “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” is still available. Check it out.)

Turns out, it is a wonderful idea.

There are some things we don’t do often enough to encourage our brains to recall without prompting. How often do you create a white sauce? Would a reminder of the timing of boiling eggs be handy? Where’s that recipes for… ?

When I bought my new stove a few years ago, there were enough differences between what was on the new one from on the old, that I found keeping the Owner’s Manual handy important. That could be added to a 3 ring binder kept nearby in the kitchen. Same could be said for any appliance that isn’t in daily use.

Last year we talked about creating a family recipe collection or cookbook. By organizing your kitchen and your recipes, you are well on the way to doing just that.

Yeah, it is a bit of a surprise to think about, isn’t it? 🙂

You now have the bare bones of how to set up a system to keep track of your pantry, collect recipes and plan for meals.

Try it out for a few weeks and see how it impacts your time, your budget and your meals. Don’t be afraid to tweak it to make it work better for you – you are the one in control, after all.

Food For Thought

I recently discovered “Farmhouse Vernacular” on YouTube and have become a devoted follower.

The description of the channel reads: “An adventure in to renovating and recreating historic interiors in a thoughtful, respectful, and budget friendly manner.”

Paige and her husband bought a 1905 farmhouse and have been renovating it themselves. As both are trained engineers, their process is interesting and exciting.

Theirs is a thoughtful approach to what they deem to be the lifetime home. They are incorporating thought not only to the historical aspect of renovation, but looking forward to how they can live in the house as they age and have potential physical limitations.

The channel is well presented, provides great information, not to mention humor, and is a different approach to home DIY.

Their most recent project in the house is the kitchen. Personally, I’m loving the approach they are taking and am looking forward to the results.


Setting Up For Success Part Three

I’ve been craving something I haven’t had in a while. What comes to mind is a luscious cheesy pasta combination with wonderful flavor and Comfort Food embedded into the title.

I found myself browsing recipes and searching grocery ads and fretting and fussing until it hit me. I already have what I’ve been craving and it is in my freezer.

Insert Head Slap moment here. 🙂

If you have been following along on this series, and I sincerely hope you have, you will have inventoried your pantry, reviewed your food list or if you have no food list, you’ve prepared one.

Why a “Food List”?

Many of us tend to operate on a simple basis of routine. Monday is Slow Cooker Meal, Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday might be pasta, Thursday is left overs and Friday is eating out…or in depending. You get my drift.

We all get terribly bored with what we are eating, but few ever really stop to consider (a) what we are eating and (b) what we like to eat. Toss in a diet (ugh) food list and you get a better idea of the upheaval of the zen like rhythm of our eating life.

By preparing a Food List, you not only see what you like, but you also get an opportunity to build multiple meals out of the foods you like.

Like chicken? Have you baked, roasted, oven fried, boiled, poached, or sauteed it? Do you use it in casseroles, soups, as taco filling, for fajitas, or as an addition to other foods just because? Have you batch cooked chicken and stored in in the freezer for when you need it?

I hear a few “Ah ha!”s out there.

I try to keep broccoli in my freezer. I love it, it is easy to prepare and very versatile. I also have a fondness (okay, love) for cheese tortellini that can become an obsession depending upon mood. Put the two together and … enjoy. Also, if you get down to basics, cheese tortellini is just a different version of mac and cheese. Think about it.

I also try to keep several types of dried pasta on hand along with cheese (I’m sensing a pattern here…) and a sauce or two. Tomato sauce and I have begun to have issues and I have found myself not reaching for it as much. In years past, however, it was a favorite – and inexpensive – menu item. Spaghetti and garlic bread, anyone?

I love getting large amounts of meats, cooking it up or splitting it off and freezing for later use. I put flats of boneless chicken into the slow cooker or the oven and let it cook until done, moist, tender and useful for lots of things. Ground meats can be separated into patties, browned some with various seasonings, packaged and frozen for further use. I’ve heard some folks buy turkeys in off season, cook and debone the meat for freezing. Not sure I’m up to that, but the frugal in me likes the idea.

I rarely buy fresh fruit or veg because I’m notorious for not eating it fast enough. However, give me frozen and I’m a happy camper. It is inexpensive, processed at peak of flavor and takes up little space.

By having these items in my pantry, I can put together quick and easy meals with little hassle. If I choose, I can go further and put together dump meals that can be packaged, frozen and put into the slow cooker when I want rather than have to run around gathering ingredients at the last minute.

This all begins with knowing what you like to eat, what you will, or will not, give up, and how much effort and space you have to put into the process.

My suggestion for you this week it to collect all the recipes your family likes and put them in one place. Note the ingredients you need for them – this will be put on a pantry need list. You don’t need to make a huge project of this; it can be done as you put together your weekly menu or shopping list.

In fact, this could be a project that might go for a while because food changes over the seasons. You might be thinking apple crisp today, totally forgetting strawberries or peach pie or salad greens that won’t be available for a few months yet.

As you collect your recipes, if you aren’t already doing so, create a menu that will incorporate these items and save it.

As you repeat the process every week, biweekly, monthly, whatever, you will be creating a Meal Plan that will be usable all year round. You will have a collection of recipes that your family loves that will be easy to maintain.

Queue Head Slap Moment. 🙂

Have a great week – let me know how this process is working for you.

Project Bucket List

Or should that read “Bucket List Project”?

A friend and I were chatting the other day and I mentioned I have enough crafting supplies to keep me occupied for at least the next year or so. Sadly. 🙂

New catalogs are coming, new stuff is being released. You know the drill.

For those who are thinking ahead, however, it might be a good time to look at merchandise that is being discontinued and/or is on sale. You can get a head start on next year’s cards, tags, pages, sewing, decorating, etc.

The sad part of this is with the usual holiday gift buying insanity, there is less in the bank (or on the plastic) to devote to craft items/ideas. Unless, of course, you planned ahead on that, too.

For myself, I’m looking at some smaller projects.

A few years ago, I lucked out and bought a well loved, but no longer needed buffet that is the perfect height and size for my TV. Sadly, as often happens when one is not prepared, when I put the buffet in the right place and started to put the TV on it, I had to grab the first thing I could get my hands on to put under the TV so it wouldn’t scratch the buffet.

As I look at it now, I am seeing the beginnings of an idea for a table runner type project that might have pockets on the ends for remote controls. (That way they don’t get up and hide…)

Maybe I could include the pocket into the design for the blocks at the ends of the runner? Since the TV actually covers a bit of space in the middle, it makes little sense to make blocks that no one will see.

Will have to consider that further.

I have had two Accuquilt dies on my desk for at least a month now. One is the original Bow Tie Block designed by Alex Anderson and the other is the original multipurpose die that was part of the accessories with the Go! cutter. Both make 4 inch blocks.

Every once in a while I pull them out and look at the enclosed patterns (always included with Accuquilt dies) thinking about possibilities.

As the year winds down, I am less inclined to think big. I’m contemplating smaller, more manageable projects that can be finished quickly. That way I feel like I’ve accomplished something, right?

Tell me what you have on your Project Bucket List. Maybe we can share notes?

Taking A Breather

There’s magic in the air!

Or, I’m still sick…

Honestly, I finally (!) captured the October Whatever Is Going Around that I’d managed to avoid in the past couple of years. Not real sure it is the accomplishment that sounds like, but <shrug> here we are.

I’ve been careful with medication and allowing myself to not over do anything. Like I have a choice. 😉 What this means is I’m pretty much at the whim of my sleeping patterns. Yeah, lots of Up At 2 a.m. nights. Whoopee.

Enough. This, too, shall pass.

To those who have been following along – Thank You! It has been thrilling (and a bit satisfying) to see the traffic and the “Likes” that you’ve left.

I hope that our odd ball conversations have given you food for thought and, maybe, helped you a little bit.

I have been thinking about this blog about how I started out with the <cough> intention of going one way, but seemingly ended up going in another.

I wanted to provide a comfortable series of articles about all sorts of things – and I still do – but I am also wondering if you, my readers, find certain topics that I’ve talked about more interesting or if you have something you’d like me to talk more about. Please send me an email and let me know.

One thing I have noticed lately is an increased inclination to engage in something – anything – that has pretty much been back burnered for the past few years. I’m not really sure why that is, but I am wanting to play in my kitchen more, get back to quilting, indulge in some videos and music.

I know that I tend to operate in cycles, but do you have that going on in your life, too?

I am slowly (!) catching up on missed episodes of favorite programming and looking forward to diving into Disney+. I put a lot of my normal streaming services on hold because, honestly, I’d seen all I was interested in and wasn’t using them. Why spend the $?

To me, that is the Huge Plus about streaming. I do not have to be paying for things I don’t want just to have access to what I do want…hopefully.

I’m discovering new (to me) channels and content providers that are interesting. It remains to be seen how long I shall keep up with them.

You Do You

As we embark on the Holiday Season, I want to encourage you to Do You. For many of us, this is uncharted territory and not entirely comfortable. That is okay. No one is saying that you toss all the old traditions out the door.

I would like to encourage you to try something different this year. Maybe a different type of decoration or a new side dish.

Is there a project you are interested in? I’m thinking about the conversation that was started months ago regarding creating a personal cookbook. As we embark on 2020, maybe this is the opportunity to take that on one chapter a month?

Food for thought, right?

In any event, take some time to enjoy the moment. 2019 has not been the best of years for many people, but it is almost over and we have an opportunity for a Fresh Start.

Let me know your thoughts – I look forward to hearing from you!

Tackling UFOs

R U Stuck Creatively?

In the crafting world “UFO” means Unfinished Objects. Usually a quilt or large project that has been left to sit for various reasons.

In the rest of the world, I think UFO refers to those things on a seemingly unending To Do List that never seem to get done.

I’m guilty of this. Big (or maybe not so big) projects that I really need to do simply to answer a question or two, let alone resolve a cleaning issue. Cleaning out and inventorying my pantry, for example.

I can have a better handle on meal planning when I know what I have on hand and what I need to purchase.

Recharge your creative batteries!

I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest hurdles to moving forward with Change is tackling the left overs and clearing the decks.

There are always the general day-to-day things that we do simply to keep moving; food, dishes, laundry, trash, etc. But even within those tasks are tasks that keep being pushed to the “I’ll do it later” stack.

More than just clearing the decks, however, tackling UFOs opens up space to be creative. It gets rid of those things that are preventing you from trying new things.

Lots of us get stuck in the rut of “I can’t start anything new until I finish all my pending stuff.” or some such.

Could this be considered self-sabotage?

Can’t start the New Eating Plan until all the old food is eaten.

Can’t start the New Craft Project until all the old projects are done.

Can’t find a New Series to Watch until I’ve caught up with all the old ones.

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks away from home recovering from surgery. As such, my regular TV schedule was put by the wayside and I lost momentum with several series. Turns out, I had the opportunity to catch up, but didn’t.

Recently, for various reasons, my TV viewing schedule has been put on the sidelines, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to keep up.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know how dedicated I can be to those few shows I keep up with. This change has been unsettling and interesting.

I’ve spent time focusing on classes, checking out new videographers, exploring topics I had previously had only a passing interest in.

As a result of this, I’ve rekindled an interest in a craft I’d put aside and am now contemplating tackling again. I gathered new material to use when I’m ready. I’ve added information that I can use later.

By clearing out my “I have to do this” list, I made room for the “I might want to do this” list.

To put it another way, by cleaning out the closet, I’ve made room for new things.

If you are stuck, in whatever version of “creativity” you prefer, maybe you need to consider that not all projects left unfinished need to be “finished” and that you can give yourself permission to either hand them off or leave them be and go on to the next.

Keep It Simple

How to Keep Your Interest Without Becoming Overwhelmed

I love the excitement of finding some thing new that I want to try or read or watch or… Well, you get the idea. 🙂

The problem is, life has a way of interrupting the excitement and sometimes I lose track of that Wonderful Whatever to the point where I forget what made me excited about it in the first place.

I love history, films, music, TV, books, and loads of other things.

My crafting is pretty simple – I’ve been known to put a project down for years (really) only to pick it up and finally finish it. That is one reason my crafting has to be simple. Complicated projects could be sidelined for so long as to be unfinishable.

I love to crochet, but I do it so infrequently I have to relearn every single time. Really.

I’m also the person who jumps in a few yards ahead of where I probably should start.

I started my first quilting projects not by sewing simple squares together, but sewing hand cut half hexagons and triangles.

I dare add that my foray into sewing was a (thankfully) brief project for Home Economics class in High School that didn’t exactly work out. <cough>

Back to the quilting, while jumping into the middle, if not the deep end, of the pool might not be the best idea ever, I did learn a lot. And I gained quite a few tools. And fabric.

My card making is, deliberately, not high end. I have loads of paper, tools, embellishments, etc., and I enjoy the process, but I am still learning.

I love to cook and bake, but as I’m only feeding me, my major creativity tends to be … tampered a bit. I like being able to wear a smaller size than I used to. 🙂

What I love about watching DIY and How To videos is not just the fascination with the various projects but the rekindling of excitement for a process.

If you are hesitant about starting a new project, or if yourself stuck might I suggest a thought?

Start small.

You may want to dive in and create the most amazing 15 layer wedding cake that you can see in your imagination, but if you have little to no actual baking experience…maybe that might be a project best done in future.

I find scratch baking easy and enjoyable, but that’s me. I also know my limitations. While 15 layers could be a showstopper, I might actually start out with 2 just to see how the recipe works and if I need to do a bit of tweaking.

Those triangles and half hexagons I mentioned will soon be re-cut into new, smaller, shapes that I can use for other blocks in other projects.

Odd note about one of those fabric lines; by the time I finished cutting all those half hexagons I was mortally sick of the fabric. Sad, but true. When I pulled it out of the drawer recently, however, I found I loved it once again. The colors are beautiful, the patterns lovely and I was excited to think about how I would use it.

These days I’m less inclined (let alone interested) in making a full sized quilt and more interested in table runners, mug rugs and the like.

If you need to regain your excitement for anything, start slow, revisit what caught your attention and take smaller steps. Build on what you learn so when you face those 15 layers of cake with buttercream frosting it won’t be such a huge undertaking.

Life really is more about the journey rather than the destination. Take the time to enjoy the trip.