Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yummy recipes for that autumn harvest of zucchini, basil, tomatoes and squash

I had to take a break from Operation Simplify and Purge to purge my garden and fridge of some of the garden goodies before they start to spoil. It is that time of year again when the zucchini are plentiful and the tomatoes abundant. Now what to do with them?

One thing I discovered the past weeks was Caprese salad. I was at a play date where the hostess made a great dip from chopped tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella. The flavors combined were so fantastic that I could not get enough and asked for the recipe. A few days later, a friend brought a salad to my house comprised of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella... again, it was fantastic. Those 3 ingredients are so simple, but just work so well when you add a little salt, pepper and olive oil. It was only as I was researching the recipes that I discovered that these were variations of a Caprese salad (which is now my new favorite food!) Anyhow, this is my take that I came up with...

Insalata Caprese Bruschetta

2 large red or yellow tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, drained, sliced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf favorite italian bread, sliced

• I whisked the vinegar and oil in a large bowl. I then added tomatoes, basil and mozzarella and let set. As that was sitting, I put bread slices in a 350 degree oven for 3-4 minutes (right on the rack) I did not brush the bread with olive oil before toasting, as the basil mixture adds a lot of moisture and flavor after.
• I then removed the toast and added my basil mixture on top and put back in the oven for minute or 2 to melt the mozzarella slightly. It is sooo delicious with a dab of salt and fresh cracked pepper on top.

Now, to use those tomatoes...
Fresh Garden Salsa
2 tomatoes chopped
1/2 red onion chopped (I chop really fine)
2 green onions
3 garlic cloves minced (add more to taste- I use A LOT of garlic)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro chopped
3 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice

This is easy, just chop all ingredients, mix and throw in a jar. It will refrigerate well for 3 days and contains way less sodium than store bought (and tastes way better!)

Although I have not tried it yet, a friend that is an amazing cook, gave me this recipe for my zucchini stash:

Zippy Zucchini
4 zucchinis, thinly sliced
1 cup buttermilk baking mix
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 eggs, beaten
2-4 tbsp minced garlic
Optional: splash of Tabasco

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
• In a medium size mixing bowl combine zucchini, buttermilk baking mix, onion, parmesan cheese, salt, oil, eggs. Spread lightly into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

An absolute favorite in the autumn for me is butternut squash soup. This is the recipe I use. (And don't forget the cinnamon croutons!)

All of your autumn harvest will mix fantastic with pasta, and this recipe is delicious for that.

Don't forget my favorite zucchini bread recipe.

I hope you are having as much fun cooking as I am, although this ridiculous 90 degree weather is keeping the kitchen way too hot for comfort.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Operation Simplify & Purge: Day 4

No, I did not fall off the purging bandwagon... but the weather here in New England had been insanely gorgeous, which means simply throwing the laptop to the wayside and heading to the mountain for a hike or to the lake for some rays.

Without further ado... day 4...

... it was a mini clothes purge (no, the clothes are not mini- the purge was!) As I said, the weather here is literally in the 80's... unusual for late summer in NH, which pushes back my normal autumnal clothes switcheroo of summer to fall. But I did do a quick pick through to find 53 items that were ill fitting, stained or... oh... simply hideous. Throw in a couple of pair of shoes, a couple baby blankets and Boppy (*sniffle* *sniffle*- slow, painful elimination of baby paraphenalia from this house) and I had a quick 53 items ready to go out the front door.

Again, easy peasy. Also, since I have started, I have not been bringing anything new into the house (Well, ok, I could not pass up a couple of pair of cute jeans that C and Kelly both were purging from their own homes... I know they are out to sabotage me!)

Today's total: 53
Total purge: 323

I think I am on the way to 500!

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris

See day 1 here.
See day 2 here.
See day 3 here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simplify and Purge: Day 3

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness."
-Henry David Thoreau

This whole experiment has gone above and beyond my expectations.It is so much easier than I could have imagined... and I have received so much unsolicited support and positive reinforcement along the way. It makes my accomplishments more fulfilling when I know it is encouraging others as well.

Not only is it astounding to me the amount of useless 'stuff' I am able to whisk away so easily, but also, in my small group of friends, how much they can do away with so quickly. If we can eliminate hundreds of items in between just a few people in a day or two... exactly how much unnecessary, useless... crap are we purchasing, wasting resources, and then holding on to for no apparent reason???

I mean Kelly got rid of 63 things, Kameron- 73 from her bathroom alone, Liz- 29 things from her bathroom, C. got rid of countless clothes, shoes, toys, etc... And then discussions began... on Twitter, on Facebook, through texts, in REAL life *gasp*! I saw phrases like "liberating", "great feeling", "It feels great to get rid of things I never use and are mucking up the functionality of the stuff I do." (Sorry, Kam, it was too perfect not to use!)" It feels so much better!"

Anyhow... back to ME:

81 books, 56 random things from playroom, 31 pieces of linens! 168 items today!!! (and a huge trip ready for Goodwill!)

My friend Carolyn was the catalyst for the books. Its one of those areas of the house I never touch. It seems somehow sacrilegious to get rid of books. I feel guilty even thinking of it... but why? I have no idea. And then Carolyn mentioned in passing that she needed to go through books to purge since she had no idea why she kept them... some to make her look smarter, some for some sort of obligation. As we discussed, I couldn't help but think I had no real reason for holding onto a majority of books outside of some unknown romantic ideal. We do have some books that we will read again, some books we use a reference, some with personal inscriptions that have special meaning... and of course, the kids books all get passed down and reread many times. But the majority... useless dust collectors.

The catalyst for my linen purge was Lora. I completely forgot to open my linen closet when I did the bathroom... and then she made comment of her penchant for hoarding top sheets. That's right! Every time I am digging through 56 different sheets to find one simple set after someone has peed the bed at 1 in the morning, I am cursing, "I can literally only have one set of sheets on each bed at a time. Why do I have 4 sets per bed???"

And now? I do not. I have one on each bed, one backup for washing and, ok, it's New England, so one flannel set for the icy months. But, I did away with about 20 pillowcases! Why???

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
-Henry David Thoreau

Purged today:168 items
Total purge: 270

See Day 1
See Day 2

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simplify and Purge: Day 2

Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it. ~Robert Brault

Day 2 of my simplicity purge went as well as day one. It took me about 15 minutes to run through my kitchen and get rid of 80 items!!!

In today's purge I took a hint from Zen Habits:

"Don’t let your possessions own you. If you hold on to possessions because you feel it would be wasteful to get rid of them, they are controlling you. They are dictating your life, rather than you creating the life you want, living how you want to live. Let go of possessions and be free — living otherwise would be the true waste."

I used 3 basic criteria:
• Have I used it in 6 months?
• Do I (or anyone in the family) need it?
• Do I love it and when I see it does it bring me happiness?

In answering these questions, it made it very simple to eliminate so many things. I tackled my pantry full of useless dishware (seriously, 6 chargers? We are not a charger type of family... throw some pretty napkins on the place settings and call that fancy.) We have 6 laptops in the house and not just 1, but 2 that do not even work... Goodbye. I had 2 complete dish sets. Why the hell do I need to keep a complete dish set in a cabinet collecting dust?

I also eliminated projects that I have held on to for months (years) determined that I would get to them some day. Well, in letting go of them, I am also letting go of the stress that comes with looking at a pile of "to-do's" and somehow feeling incomplete and inadequate.

In just 2 days, I am already feeling so accomplished and more at ease. 5 more days and I think I will go well beyond my 200 item goal.

Purged today: 80 items
Grand total: 102 items

See Day 1 here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Operation Simplify & Purge: Day 1

I came across a New York Times article the other day, via a friend, on living simply... extremely simply. As in living with just 100 personal items! In my journey to live simply, I am still far from that end, but the article did make me realize that I have stalled on my simplification journey over this summer.

And so I start anew... Although I can not yet whittle my belongings down to 100, I thought maybe I could cut 100 items from my possession. I started yesterday. In my venture to either eliminate Earth unfriendly items from my health and beauty regime, I have ended up with a lot of extra, unused bottle of... stuff. So, I headed to my bathrooms and weeded through the cupboards and closets. Within 5 minutes, I had 22 items to dispose of...
I had items that were either far from acceptable in the Cosmetics Database for safety, outdated (like chest rub from 2003!) or I just don't need/use. Wow, 5 minutes and 22 items eliminated from my life. How easy is that? 22 items less to have to search through, dust, rearrange, etc. It felt so good to throw them in the trash/ recycle them. (There was nothing that I was able to donate in this stuff- but in future purges, I will be headed straight to Goodwill.)

So, with the 22 items in 5 minutes, I figured I have to up my goal- I will be purging 200 items in the next 7 days.

Next up: the kitchen and pantry area. Anyone care to join me on this journey?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I might have to flash Yo Gabba Gabba

When I first moved to NH from Maine, I was only 20 and I did not know a soul. My first real friend was... let's call him Bob. We quickly became the best of friends... going to concerts, museums, shopping, eating out all the time, bar hopping... fantastic times for my early 20's.

And then a couple of years later, I met Colby and we started dating. I told him right up front that Bob and I were the very best of friends and that he could not be jealous or we wouldn't work out. He assured me that he was not at all jealous... "since he is gay, Michele."

"No he's not."

"Yes... he IS."


"Michele... you guys go shopping... to shows... to gay bars with drag shows..."

"Yeah! He's awesome!"

"Yes... he is... and gay."

Long story short, Bob took me out to dinner not long after and came out of the closet to me. Soon after he met the love of his life. Unfortunate geographic circumstances and life in general had us lose touch for a while.

Thanks to the modern marvel we call Facebook, we have come back in touch. Bob has been blessed to adopt 2 gorgeous daughters that I am very excited to meet. As we have planned to meet up for a playdate with all of our girls, he asked me if I'd like to go to a Yo Gabba Gabba live performance coming up here in NH.

As years without cable will do to you, I am completely out of touch with any crazy animated children's television drivel. So, I did what any red blooded American would and I YouTubed it. What the hell is this???

I responded back to him that I would go... but I would not like it one bit, and furthermore, it was 100% confirmed... he WAS gay.

As the visions of meeting up with my former fun times cohort to watch insipid singing-dancing-furry-Rock-Mun-Plex-Foofa-Toodee-Brobee's wandered around my mind, I thought, "What the hell happened? When did my life take this screeching u-turn from spring breaks, Tijuana, mindless mall shopping for endless clothes with my gay bestie... to getting excited to watch Dora's birthday bash with our air popped pop corn on the couch under my quilt Grandma knitted????"

Where did my 20's go? I hope I can find them because my 30's aren't far behind.

Maybe I will have to flash Yo Gagga Gabba my boobies to liven things up a little? Bob won't mind.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My bikini-clad, crafty self and why you love me!

Wow, just when I am the worst blogger ever (enjoying this ridiculous New England summer weather and never posting!) I get a windfall of internet loving from my most favorite people.

I don't remember how or why, but Gonzo Mama was one of the first woman I started stalking on the internet... she's a mom, she's actually interesting (unlike my personal pennings) and she's funny as hell (most likely since she's a real writer. Again, unlike myself.) I mean, her book is titled Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House- she's fantastic.

And, this crazy kick ass Mama features me on her blog!

The best crafty blog ever... Tip Junkie... features my photo block tutorial!!! I have to say that Laurie at Tip Junkie is my favorite crafty-roundup lady. That is my go-to when I need me some gifted, imaginative, inventive, skillful, talented funky ideas... oh wait... i was talking about my blocks there for a second... back to Tip Junkie... you really should follow her because I get many of my fun ideas from her!

On a completely unrelated note... because I can and you can't tell me not to... and I may not post again for another week... if your child is starting kindergarten this year... this is the cutest idea EVER!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best Droid Apps for a Busy Momma

I have had my Motorola Droid for about 3 months now and have discovered many apps which have made it easier and much more useful for me. Someone close to me recently got the Droid and was commenting how hard it is to figure out... so I thought I would share with her (and the world) my new found knowledge.

First off- I downloaded Apps Organizer (Free). I quickly discovered as I was downloading apps, that I was filling my main screen, or having to open up the apps menu and search through the plethora of apps I had. The organizer lets you subcategorize your apps on your 'desktop' similar to how you might on your computer desktop. So, my main screen looks like this: So, for instance, the 'Social" folder you see contains my Facebook, Twitroid, Messaging and AIM apps. My 'Multimedia' folder contains my different camera apps, my photo gallery, my Last.fm app, my music, my NPR podcasts, my YouTube, etc...) This arranges all my apps in a much more accessible and user friendly manner.

Speaking of AIM (free)- I do not chat on AIM, but it is the best app I found to download to access your Facebook chatting option (the standard Facebook app will not let you chat.) If you download the AIM app, it will sync up your Facebook contacts and let you chat with your Facebook friends.

My best organizing app for my mom duties is Astrid (free). This app allows you to put tasks in with priorities and the ability to have alerts on the phone when the task is due. When I am out and about and remember, "I need to make a doctors appointment for child X," or "I need to buy a birthday card for Auntie Y", I can quickly input the task into Astrid and let it remind me to complete it at a later time. Like so:
My favorite camera app to add effects to the Droid camera is FxCamera (free). It allows me to take photos like this:

It's really fun to play with, but be aware that all of the effect camera apps I have played with take the pictures at a very low resolution. Although the raw Motorola Droid photos are amazing and a phenomenal resolution: these camera apps will only be a good enough resolution for an online upload- not printing.

My newest app id the Goto unlock app ($2.99). This makes your screen look like this when it's locked: It is very handy because you would typically have to unlock your phone and then go to your email app or text messaging app to check for your new emails or texts. With this app you see exactly where you new alerts are (see the little #1 on my email folder- I would slide the unlock right to that and it would automatically open my email.) It simply saves a few strokes to get to your newest alerts.

And, just for the fun of it...

I love the Shazam (free) app. If you hear a song on the radio (or at a party, in a store) that you like and want to know the name of or who the artist is, you simply hold the phone up to hear the music, and within a few seconds, it tells you all of the info and gives you the option to purchase for download! We LOVE to play with it, and it is very accurate.

If you have any other apps that are essential, I'd love to hear about them!

UPDATE: I saw this blogger who has a great post on some Droid apps for toddlers. I am reluctant about my kids using my phone, but if you are game, check out her list.

Another update from my anonymous comments: "My husband and I use the OurGroceries app, I make a list for the grocery store, Target, Homedepot etc. And if either one of us happens to be shopping there, we can pick up an item from the list. It syncs automatically so that if I purchase an item and cross it off on the list, it's gone and no duplications!"

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Ariana couldn't sleep the other night so I let her stay up with me and watch some Discovery survival show that depicted the story of a woman who suffered for days after falling off a cliff while hiking. The poor woman was bleeding internally, dehydrated, slowly starving to death over a three day period. Finally, on the last day, her dog finally went all Lassie and decided to go for help and she was saved. Happy ending.

So, after watching the whole show, which Ariana seemed very enthralled with, she turned to me mouth agape and said, "I just can't believe that guy videotaped her for 3 days and didn't even try to help her."

It took me a minute and then I had to burst into laughter.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Citar: Happy Birthday Baby

“We've had bad luck with children; they've all grown up”
-Christopher Morley

I love babies... especially mine... which is why I had three before my husband stopped me. And this baby is my last. Every milestone makes my heart ache because she is supposed to stay my little angel... yet she still learned to walk... and talk... and laugh... and tattle on her sisters... I can't seem to stop it. And yesterday, she turned 2. I really can't call her a baby any longer, although I will. She will always be my baby. I will continue to cuddle and snuggle her, nestle in that soft baby neck, run my fingers through her silky baby hair, kiss those pudgy baby toes, tell her incessantly how much I love her just to here her utter, "I la loo" back to me.

Happy birthday baby Acadia Skye.

Go visit Tabitha for more Sunday Citar.