Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016

 

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of humans, are created, strengthened and maintained.” » Winston Churchill

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His Painting

He finally finished. I posted last week about giving him his first large canvas. It took him a bit. But he has poured his heart, soul and mind into this lovely picture.

Initially, it started with the birds. Then the shark. Followed by  the abstract idea of a brilliant red tunnel slide, jetting into the ocean. To add emotion, he created a storm.

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His painting is very thought provoking. There are multiple ways to interpret the grand design. Two simple birds, sitting on a perch, surrounded by an ocean. They’re seemingly oblivious to the danger below. With a storm kicking up, the eager predator is circling beneath….waiting to swallow them whole. And what of the tunnel? Humans sliding elegantly between both worlds.   Walking a line between eminent thrilling danger and a brilliant soulful beauty.

Again… his painting  could be interpreted in so many ways. But if you ask him….“I just like sharks and birds”.

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Simmering Chicken Marinade and a Veggie Side: All-In-One

Marinade always seems to taste better, the deeper it penetrates the food. So it stands to reason, simmering helps to permeate every little poultry pore, when it comes to chicken.

Step 1: Add chicken bits (legs, thighs, etc…), to a large pot. 

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Step 2: Add some pepper blend…

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Step 3: Toss in some turmeric…

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Step 4: How about some whole sweet peppers?

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Step 5: Maybe a touch of garlic…

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Step 6: We’re on a roll! Pop in some capers…

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Step 7: And my favorite…Apple Cider Vinegar…

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Allow the marinade to simmer, and prepare the vegetables….

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Parsnips, Sprouts and Red Onion! Mmmm…..

Simmer the veggies in a separate pot…

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After thoroughly simmering the chicken bits, drain the fluid, keeping the sweet peppers and tiny bits. Throw it all in a roaster…don’t forget to put the rack in, for proper drainage….

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Then add your simmered veggies.

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Drizzle some teriyaki ….

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Set to 350 and bake till chicken is done. (Keep a lid on the roaster, for optimum juiciness).

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And go nuts! I’m not gonna lie…this meal was fabulous!

 

 

Baking with a Convection Oven

We recently purchased a convection oven and just for the sheer blissful hell  of it, I thought I’d bake a cake…

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Yes…that’s a lovely dripping marshmallow topping…..

And here’s the steps… in pictures…..

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Calamari Wontons

Calamari Wontons: Perfect for fall days, when the beach is a thing of the past…

Using sweet, spice and a touch bitter….the taste buds simply explode.


Ingredients:


  • Calamari
  • Feta Cheese
  • Kale
  • Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Bok Choy
  • Daikon (optional)

Start by preparing the Calamari. Thaw and dice.

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And prepare the Kale,Bok Choy,  Daikon and Feta….by dicing. I find a cheese grater is fabulous for Daikon.

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Using melted butter, coat and smooth out the wonton wraps.

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Spreading out one of the wraps, add a pinch of the veggies, cheese and Calamari….

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Using the butter to seal the edges, gently fold the wonton….

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Place on an oiled cookie sheet (I prefer coconut oil)…

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Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes….

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And serve with : Parsnips, Red Onions and  Sweet Peppers

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As always, feel free to modify…

My heart lies somewhere in my veggie patch…..

What with all the lovely rain, flooding and overall wacky weather in my neck of the woods, my garden has really taken off. The only bad part is, it’s so dang hot! I really need to get on the weeds, but I fear I shall melt!

Last year, I decided to pull all my Holly bushes, among other things, and slowly make the transition to an edible lanscape.

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Of course, dill being dill…it has taken center stage along the side of the house. And the smell is fantastic!

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And of course, an herb garden would be incomplete without chamomile.

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Cabbage and green beans….and so far, the rabbits are leaving them alone….although, I’m pretty sure they’re tormenting my neighbor.

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Of course, no meal is complete without Sweet Basil!

This year, my strawberries have taken off as well! I’m pleasantly suprised! It took three years to get that plant to establish itself. But I think it’s due to the fact, I removed a shrub that was seriously bilking the sun.

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(Again, and I believe I did do a review on it, but I’m still using an HTC phone for the pictures…so…they’re washed out and rather bland. You really can’t beat the iPhone when it comes to photos in a pinch. However, for the time being I’m staying with the HTC. )

And here’s just a few more snap shots….

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Once I start harvesting (and I really can’t wait for the peas!)….I’ll have some new recipes to go along with my new edible landscape.

~ A great tea…..chamomile and mint leaves 😉

Between Legos and LOLs

HOMEFREEKIDS.COM

“What’s a conundrum?” …..”ummmm, ask your sister“.

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So my youngest turned 10 this past December. He’s in that ‘inbetween’ world. The one where fantasy begins to slowly slip away into reality. Mind you, there’s still plenty of fantasy….but not quite as much. I’d say around a 10% decrease in the past year. Functioning at a good 90% and still roaming the maze in ‘the Labyrinth’, along with Sting (yes…I’m that old), my son still clings to his childhood. And somewhere between legos and trading lols with his bff, there’s a tiny glimpse into his future…lurking…..

For quite some time, I’ve been quite aware of his ‘all boy’ psyche. Caution to the wind, shoes unlaced, to heck with the proper safety gear, ‘Mom, you’re paranoid!’, ‘this is gonna be AWESOME!’, ‘Mom…has anyone ever died skydiving with an umbrella?’, barreling full speed ahead, who really needs bones anyway? and…

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Organizing the Laundry Room

So my orders came in today  and….I love them! Since the remodel, I was a little nervous at first about the new color scheme. But I’m really liking the whole ‘spring’ thing. Lime green, teal, pink, yellow…everything spring. Sure helps take the misery out of winter.

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a Thirty-One Gifts party for my daughter, Katie. Honestly, I’m not big on purses, but I thrive on organization tools. I didn’t even know that company  had those. And lucky me…all in my colors! These are the ‘snap pockets’. They can attach to each other in a string or they can each hang separately. There’s also the tiny ‘snap bin’. That’s the circular pink one. I’m using it for belts. The kids never seem to remember to remove them, prior to dumping their clothes in the baskets for the  ‘magical laundry fairy’ to do.

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I still have quite a bit to do. I’d like to replace the laundry baskets with large totes, as well as large bins for my cleaning products. But all in all, it’s a great start. Who says the laundry room needs to be boring?! Mine is right off the kitchen. You come in the house, through the laundry room and into the kitchen….it must have color! It’s funny how the smallest room in the house, is currently keeping me the most entertained.

Once I have the totes in place, I will of course, post more pics. I also need to get some sort of hanging hooks for the steam cleaner. I’m not real thrilled about leaning it up against the new paint job. Basically, it’s a work in progress….

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And for my other daughter, I grabbed a string bag. Those seem pretty popular with the kids these days.

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Katie’s Thirty-One Page


My goal is to have the entry look similar to this:

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Now I just need someone to build me that shelving unit…if wishes were horses…..although, I may be able to find one to refurbish for next to nothing or even free…free is always better….and normally, I’m not big on spending money on ANYTHING. But let’s face it, the bags are cute and they match.

De-Cluttering Your Life

Anyone who has been in the midst of a mess, can tell you, concentration and the overall ability to multi-task goes out the window. And as the little messes pile up, the mound of junk forming Mount Everest over there in the corner, can truly harp on one’s self-esteem. Having had multiple children, lots of messes and moments of temporary insanity, I had to come up with a hobby that would both boost my ‘mommy-esteem’ and make my life generally less ‘EEK’….

 

This is where that song ‘Clean Up, Clean Up Everybody Everywhere…’, came in handy. And I don’t mean for the kids. I had to face it, the kids could  pretty much throw toys in box, but my idea of clean and they’re idea of clean…well, those were  two different things. I’d come to realize, I rather enjoyed the ‘appearance’ that ‘clean’ created, but I’d hated to whole ‘cleaning process’.

And that’s when it came to me. I stopped seeing my home as chore and began to see it as art. What can I do with this canvas? How can I create a masterpiece? And rather than collecting mass volumes of useless junk, I realized…I prefer ‘minimal’ decor. Less is More. In this way, whenever I’m bored, I just change out a few things and I’ve got a whole new canvas. My new obsession was now ‘Changing With The Seasons’ and ‘Color Schemes’….maybe one month: tea pots and the next month: abstract art. But I knew, in order to make it work, I’d needed to quickly de-clutter. And minus the basic household needs…and I MEAN BASIC….everything had to go. For over a month, the garbage men hated our guts. Piles of this and that…gone. Not playing with toys? See ya….Haven’t worn those clothes in a year? Buh Bye now….Too many useless little figurines, with no rhyme or reason? Out you go! I went completely ‘blank palette’.

Over the years, since this obsession:  with not living in a mess:  began, we’ve had many different styles and themes. We’ve had greens, reds, browns and blues. A fresh paint of coat changes the interior of a home  real quick. Then just change out a few items and viola…whole new house. This year, we’re going with blues, yellows, lime greens and pinks. We’ve kept the furniture a very neutral color and this allows for simple room make-overs, in just a few minutes.

One thing that I’ve seen folks get hung up on….is the small stuff. Filling boxes, organizing boxes, moving boxes…here’s a tip…if it’s going in a box….you probably don’t need it. Find a garbage bin! Grandpa’s old pants from God knows when….ummm…seriously, say goodbye. You’re only holding on to them for you, not future generations. Trust me….nobody wants to inherit a mess. Your kids will have their own styles, they don’t need boxes of old stuff waiting for them when they buy their new homes. Furniture…sure…maybe. If you have kids headed off to college one day or maybe to their first apartment, that old kitchen table may be of use. Otherwise…minimize. Keep TWO shelves of decorative change-out items, in the basement or garage. These are items that matter. Glassware etc…or maybe an old antique watch. No…you really don’t need to keep every single thing that used to belong to grandma. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow….but what exactly do you think will be happening to her stuff, combined with all your stuff….who are you saving it all for? Keep those things that have  special meaning only.…just because an old shirt was found in her closet, doesn’t mean it was her favorite…especially when surrounded by BOXES upon BOXES of her old shirts. She couldn’t possibly have had a special relationship with each and every one. Or every single kitchen utensil…really? Here’s the thing kids…when I’m gone, you have my permission to throw out all the stuff that has zero meaning to you….yes, you may throw out my toothbrush and my bathrobe…I have no problem with that. Just keep my heart….it’ll be there…I promise.


 

Kitchen Tips:


 

Keep the top of the fridge BARE of FOOD! Piles of half eaten bags of chips on top of the fridge… it’s not a very welcoming site. Try standing in the entrance to your kitchen…what unique items are your eyes drawn to? If the answer is ‘a whole lotta God knows what’….maybe it’s time to put some stuff away.

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Then you can show off a couple eye-catchers. Thrift Stores are great for this kind of stuff. Or  pull from those two shelves of ‘change-outs’.

 

Use the cupboards! That’s what they’re there for. If you can’t fit anymore in….that means you’ve got too much.  Or of the kitchen is small, shelving units come in handy. Unless you’re feeding an entire dorm of teenagers, you don’t need 10 frying pans laying about.

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Just keep a few items that match your color palette. One or two shelves of  ‘change out items’ in the basement or garage, is all you really need.

 

Fruit! Ahhh…bliss….If you don’t have flowers, fresh fruit and veggies make fabulous centerpieces.

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Family Room:


 

Instead of throwing those remotes, batteries,  etc… all over the place, keep only the ones you actually need. If you’ve got remotes for items you no longer own, cuz…hey… “might need’em someday”…pitch’em! Only keep what you NEED!

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Find a way to hide cords. This can be as simple as behind the furniture, to using tape, hiding them  under the carpet or using an entertainment system with doors. Also, it’s a safety issue. Have a toddler? A very chewy cat or dog? Yeah…might want to make them  ‘out of sight, out of mind’. 

 

Stand in the entrance of your home…does it look inviting? Can you spot a mess? Is it cluttered? This is the first view guests have when entering your home. Take a picture…what would you like to change?

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Coats tossed about? Hang them up. Shoes don’t belong in a pile by the door. It’s rather nerve wracking to spend the first couple minutes in someones house, just trying not to trip on a mound of shoes.

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Bedrooms:


 

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Make the beds…honestly..everyday. Keep some large toy bins in the bottom of the closet. If they haven’t played with that toy in a year and you aren’t saving for another baby, get rid of it. If it’s broke and you ARE saving for another baby…get rid of it.


 

 

 

Laundry:


 

Ahhhhh…the most boring job ever. Unless……you make it fun. Make it about the decor. Yes…laundry can be about decor. I’m actually currently in the process of redesigning my utility room.

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My plan (and I’ve already ordered a couple of things…)

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I’m going with bins that have straps…they’re easier to transport when I’m doing laundry. Since the color changes in our home, I’ve had a strong desire to play with this room. It’s often overlooked. But for us, we have to walk through it, to get in the house. So it needs to be cohesive with the kitchen.

I do a load a day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! Sometimes two. There are five of us, so it can pile up quickly.


 

Side Note: Another really nice thing about using thriftstores or garage sales….there’s no sentimental value there. So if it breaks or get’s boring, so what? It’s cheaper and the variety never ends. Most thriftstores update their stock daily. Get there early. Flea Markets and Garage Sales fall into this category as well. However, watch it with flea markets. Know your stuff. It’s easy to get ripped off. That antique, may not be an antique. So don’t overpay. Do your research.


 

Things to do :


 

Pick up the clothes, put them in the laundry baskets.

Pick up the overall clutter.

The dishes…don’t let those sit all night. They just pile up and get harder to clean.

Toilets! YES! DAILY! Especially if you have boys! Wipe off that pee!

Remove hair and anything else that may be growing in the tub.

Wipe up spills…doesn’t take long for mold to form in a bathroom.

Make the beds.

 

Clean out the pet dishes. Don’t make them drink out of dirty dishes. USE soap and CLEAN them.

Vacuum

Dust

Mop…this can go every 2-5 depending on how many kids and pets you have.

Dust the vent fans in the bathroom. I like to remove them and use a vacuum extension on the fan blades.

Baseboards…lots of icky stuff lands there.

Furnace filters….that’s an important one.

Foam, vacuum or wipe off your couch, depending on fabric or leather fabric preference.

Pull out everything and wipe down cupboard shelves. Discard what you don’t use.

Wipe off light switches and glass covers.

Wipe off doors…Ever looked at the back of your bathroom door?

Scrub tubs and showers.

Windows…ahhhh windows. We do this every spring….so not fun, but I’m always relieved when it’s done.

Mop or Steam the bathroom and kitchen floors.

Pull out the tv…see all the dust in those vents? The brush extension on the vacuum is great for that.

Pull out the fridge, stove , washer and dryer….vacuum and scrub..it can get pretty nasty under there….


 

Honestly, I could go on for ages…..the important thing is, start with what you see. Go large to small. Not the other way around. I’ve seen that fail…a person can spend hours working on a box. Clear the big stuff first. Then when you can focus, because you can now see the floor, you’ll have a better mindset to tackle one thing at a time. Maybe a closet. But don’t over think it. Remember the new hobby is ‘playing clean-up’ and building a ‘masterpiece’. Are you a Monet? A Picasso?  Or maybe a poet….Once your pages are blank…you decide the prose….so who are you going to be today?

 

Fun Thrift Store Finds

The cosmic alignment, must have been in my favor today. We recently remodeled and switched to pale greens, blues and yellows. (The red had me climbing the walls). And wonder of all wonders….green, blue and yellow, filled the thrift store shelves today. I felt like I’d just won the lottery! So with 14.78$ exactly, in my pocket….I made out like a bandit.

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These two lovely bottles, were 1.99 each. With the Pier 1 stickers, still on the bottom, I was delighted.

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Also, Pier 1, this quaint serving dish was 2.99. Heaven!

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I’m not sure who made this cozy little tea set, but I love it. And at .99 , it was a steal.

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Both the milk pot and sugar pot were .49 each. And two blue coffee mugs, also at .49.…Did I mention how much I LOVE thrift stores?!

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I intend to use this little blue pitcher, for gravy. Also, .49 !

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I actually purchased these at .10 each, last year…same thrift store.

11.50$ plus tax, and I have a fresh new kitchen. If I can bleach it, I’ll buy it. I tend to stay away from used fabric or painted wood items. But everything else, is up for grabs! I had to be careful though. I hate clutter…it’s just more to dust, so I needed to reign it in. There was so much more and in my colors, but I was seriously proud of myself for walking away. 

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At the end of the day, less is more…