Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Moved the Cat Food!

Several weeks ago we rearranged our kitchen. I put the cat food in the spot that seemed best suited for it. After about three days I realized that if I moved the food to the other side of the room is would work better in the layout of the kitchen. I moved the food and showed each cat individually where to find it. Of course for several days they would sit in the old spot and meow as though I had stopped feeding them. I realize that cats sometimes have trouble adapting to new situations. I figured it wouldn't be long before they remembered where the new food was. Well, they do remember. They eat the food where it is now, go sit in the old place, and meow and look sad. Apparently they liked it better where it used to be!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Menu Planning

Very few people I know do regular menu planning, but for me this has been a routine for quite some time. Menu planning helps in so many ways - fast meal preparation, easier grocery shopping, more food variety, better time management. Over the years I've used several different methods for planning meals. Here are a few to get you started:
  • Food Type - Think about the types of food your family eats on a regular basis and organize them into one day each week. You can do this by the main food in each meal or the ethnic variety. For example, as a vegetarian I might choose beans on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, soy meat on Wednesday, etc. The ethnic variety might be Mexican on Monday, Italian on Tuesday, Greek on Wednesday, etc. Using the Food Type planning system you don't have to plan out entire meals ahead of time - just the general outline.
  • Weekly - Planning a weekly menu is good if you go grocery shopping weekly. Plan your menu out the night before you go grocery shopping. Be specific about each day's meal and the ingredients you will need. After you plan your menu write down all the ingredients (including amounts) on a list. Look through your pantry and cross off the ingredients you already have. What remains is your grocery list.
  • By Cook - If more than one person in your house cooks dinners you can divide each week up ahead of time. Each person can plan their own meals and be prepared for the nights they will be cooking.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book Organization

Whether you have dozens of books or hundreds, the more organized you are with them the easier they are to find. I don't suggest using someone else's exact organizational system. The best thing you can do for yourself is to sit down and think about how book organization might work best in your household. Here are a few things to consider:
  • Do you have bookshelves spread throughout your home or all in one location?
  • Do you have books that you reference frequently?
  • Do you have children who can only reach books at a certain height?
  • Do you have older or treasured books you want to protect from sun or heat damage?
  • Do you have books that are too large for your regular bookshelves?
Keep the answers to those questions in your mind as you plan how to organize your books. Decide how you would like to organize your books - alphabetically, by topic, by size, by age-appropriateness, etc. Then decide which shelves you would like to hold each category. You may want to be creative with larger books (propping them next to shelves or stacking them on top.) Here's a peek into the organizational system I use for my family:
  • Books are divided into categories by topic. Various shelves around the house are assigned topics. Some are logical (such as cookbooks in the kitchen) and some are more random.
  • Categories are divided by size. This is a personal preference - I like how the books look on the shelves when they match in size.
  • Sub-categories are alphabetized by author and placed on the shelves.
  • I like to arrange series, boxed sets, and favorites on or above shelves in artful ways.
  • I have a small shelf just for older and favored books, which I keep away from any sunlit windows and heat vents.
  • "Coffee table books" or others that people might browse through are shelved where we sit with company when they visit.
  • Dictionaries and other reference books are grouped together on a shelf that is easy for everyone to access.
  • I don't pack books away. I figure if they're worth owning they're worth keeping out to read again and again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Moving Tip: Curtains

What's the last thing you pack from your old house and the first thing you want to unpack at your new house? Unless you live out of sight of your neighbors, probably the curtains. I have three handy solutions that I have used many times:
  • Pressure Rods - These are curtain rods that are spring-loaded and attach to the inside of a window frame using pressure. There's no screwing rods into the wall - all you need is a screwdriver to quickly select the rod length. These save a lot of time and are quick to both put up and take down.
  • Sheets - The tried-and-true method of using sheets as curtains is incredibly useful during a move. Simply double a sheet over a curtain rod for privacy and you're good to go until you have time to put the curtains up.
  • Display Boards - My own invention out of necessity, this works well if you have wide window ledges. Take a cardboard science display board (such as this one made by Elmer's) and set it in your window, facing you. This creates fast and easy temporary privacy, although your new neighbors may wonder why your windows all say "Elmer's!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bread Crumb Substitute

I'm not a fan of using bread crumbs while cooking or baking simply because of the lack of nutritional value. A great substitute for me has been wheat germ. It works just as well as bread crumbs and you add nutritional value to your dish. (In a pinch wheat bran works as well.) I have yet to find someone who notices a difference. I use it on top of casseroles, as breading on soy meat, and as a base for stuffing, to name a few. My favorite use by far has been mixing wheat germ with chopped mushrooms lightly cooked in olive oil to create a fabulous (and relatively healthy) quiche crust.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Frozen Homemade Breakfast

I try hard to prepare any food ahead of time than can be prepared in advance. It saves time in the long run and I feel less stressed. Here are some ideas in the way of breakfast foods:

  • Pancakes - The next time you make pancakes for your family double or triple the recipe. Cook the extra pancakes and freeze them. They're easy to pull out and heat up, either in the oven or the microwave, and they're still homemade.
  • Muffins - Muffins are easy to prepare but take time to bake. Make several batches and keep them in Ziplocks in the freezer. When you want one for breakfast take it out and microwave it for no more than 20 seconds on high. Muffins are also a great way to add wheat bran, wheat germ, or other healthy ingredients to breakfast.
  • Breakfast Burritos - These make for wonderfully filling breakfasts. Scramble tofu (I suppose you could use eggs), black beans, cheese, veggies (onions, peppers, whatever you want,) and salsa or hot sauce in a pan. Fold into tortillas and freeze. I usually wrap these in foil so I can put them directly in the oven from the freezer. Remove the foil to microwave, though!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wood Floor Cleaner

There are a variety of ideas out there for natural wood floor cleaners, but the bottom line is they all include some combination of vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Vinegar is the main cleaning ingredient, olive oil is the main polishing ingredient, and lemon juice adds that lemony good scent. I mix this in small amounts in a squirt bottle and gently mop with it after sweeping. The best part to me is that if you have small children crawling on the floor you don't have to worry about any bleach or other chemicals being left over from cleaning. You're basically cleaning your floor with a salad dressing solution and it works incredibly well!