Author Archives: breannadrew

Resolutions, Beginnings and Ends

Standard

Its safe to say that on many accounts 2011 was a less than stellar year. This seems to be the general consensus among most of the people I know from friends to family – finances sucked, stress sucked and health problems with close family members gave the entire year a rather dreary character. I entered 2012 without any big hurrah however, because none of those problems can I leave in the past. My aunt’s cancer isn’t going anywhere, working 16 hour days hasn’t magically made more money appear and those along with lots of other small things means that stress is probably here to stay a while longer as well. While I’d like to be an optimist, the realist in me knows that this is going to be a year of hard work, with much love and support among my family.

And so I have resigned myself to dedicating this year to work. I’ve never had an issue with work ethic, my issues are always more around finding time to play. Normally my new years resolutions have to do with making time for myself to have coffee with friends, or play cello, or do yoga. But this year I’m giving up – if I really wanted to do those things I would do them – screw being well balanced this year… I’m just going to bunker down and spend 2012 working on improving my finances, my studies and my family life.

The Resolutions:

1) By the end of the year the house will be organized

I’m loosely following the plan laid out my mysimplerlife.com for an organizational calendar. Yesterday, I took my first step towards this by roughly organizing my tupperware drawer (I couldn’t find any matching lids when it was time to put away the leftovers).

2) I will close the cabinet doors

This is one of my totally lazy tendencies – our cabinets don’t have spring hinges and so if you open them, they just stay open until you intentionally close them. It looks horrid but I’m usually going a mile a minute and don’t realize I’ve left them open until I hit my head on the corner of one 10 minutes later. It seems like a tiny little thing but makes a big impact and drives me insane.

3) The finances will be done monthly

Every year I say it and so far… hasn’t happened. I’m looking at 4 months of data entry next week so I can get taxes done because I didn’t keep up on it last year. I’ve downloaded the apps for both business and personal finance, I make like 80% of the purchases in the household and the other 20% are really predictable so I’m not sure why I can’t seem to just get myself to do the accounting as it happens and then reconcile monthly like a good little worker bee. Regardless of the reason for the failures in the past – this year I will rock the financial scene.

I feel like I should add something in there about family and education but I made a lot of progress getting both of those in good places last year and I’m happy with them both for now. I’m sure there will be little things to do along the way but for the most part I really enjoy the time and quality of time I spend with my family. And my method of studying became very organized and intentional last year – I’m hoping it can just continue this year as a followup to the relative success it provided.

UpCycled Fudge Sauce

Standard

So I made a total of 9 different types of fudge this xmas. Its the first time I’ve ever made fudge, I tend to do things until I can do them really well. Of the 9 trays only 5 actually set up and worked, so my friends and family all received peanut butter chocolate, chocolate, pomegranate, funfetti, and orange. I was left with gloopy trays filled with oreo, chocolate peppermint, lemon and pumpkin fudge.

My first thought was that there must be a way to recover fudge that didn’t set all the way, there were actually a few articles about how to fix bad fudge – I headed in and failed miserably at this. Essentially I think the theory may work for recipes in which the last stage of the recipe is to heat to the soft-ball stage, BUT when the recipe heats first and then adds in a bunch of stuff (like marshmallow fluff) after removing the heat – its impossible to go backwards.

I poured my melty fudge into mason jars and let them sit for a couple days while I consulted my elders (Nana) on what to do to with the mess, I just couldn’t bring myself to waste THAT much sugar, chocolate, etc… Nana’s suggestion was to make ice cream toppings.

Today I attacked the chocolate peppermint while the kids napped. I adapted a recipe for syrup from the Ball website to get processing time and heated the fudge to boiling to mimic the same temp/conditions of the recipe. To get the correct consistency  for the fudge sauce I added about 3/4 cup of soymilk and very slowly heated the mixture to try to make the whole thing more smooth and allow the peppermint chunks time to melt.

I extended the processing time from 10 to more like 15min just to make sure there was time for all of the air to escape from the jars. To my good fortune the last of the jars came out of the pot JUST as the kids woke up and all of the lids popped within 30 seconds.To finish it all off I added cute little labels to the jars and packed them neatly away until I can deliver them to friends and family (there is no way we can eat 8 jars of hot fudge anytime soon). I’m going to wait on the others for now, I’m still a little unsure if I want to can them up or just use them as icing on a bunt cake or something, I’m sure I’ll come up with a practical use for them in the next couple of weeks.

The BIG Plan

Standard

A few days ago I came across this awesome calendar on MySimplerLife.Com – its a full year worth of organizational tasks. After reading through it I’m totally psyched to work on my own modified version of this calendar/process. The biggest changes I’m going to make will be that Saturdays become DIY day – so anything which is to be made for the next weeks tasks or needs to be fixed from the last week can be addressed. Other modifications have to do with the fact that in total I can only spend like 5-10min each day on house stuff so its gotta be really quick tasks.

In preparation for my new years plan I’ve made sure the house is mostly clean. There are still a number of small problem areas – mostly spaces that just don’t work. No matter how often I clean them up they just collect stuff over and over again. My hope is that this whole organizational process will help get those areas into functional parts of our household. You can see below that while the floors may be clean the house is still kinda messy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some things are seemingly simple, like the dresser tops – while others are totally insane, like the unfinished trash/broom closet. And then there’s the laundry room, I think fire may be the only solution for that one…

In the next few days I’m going to do some checking around for storage that I know is needed – like more bookshelves on craigslist and freecycle. But even without it I’m sure I can make temporary due by just labeling boxes and it might even motivate me to put more into the give away box then I otherwise would have.

 

Holiday Wrap-Up

Standard

So the craziness of the holiday season is coming to a close, and while the tree still gets a few more days to occupy precious floor space in the living room, most of the holiday stuff has already been put away. Each year as the season approaches I swear that I’ll be more organized, that I’ll have everything purchased and wrapped ahead of time, that I won’t spend all day cooking and cleaning and that THIS year I’ll get cards mailed out. Likewise each year as I recover the house from under the piles of crumpled paper and candy bits I swear that I’m going to take the time to put things away correctly so its not quite so crazy next year. While I don’t really see any hope in sight of the pre-season activities getting any better, my post season has gone pretty well.

Wrapping supplies

My Wrapping Box

For the past few months I’ve been saving toilet paper rolls in our craft area (also known as the chair in the corner). Wasn’t sure quite what they were for yet but just felt compelled to create a little stash of them for some project that I knew would appear. As it turns out, I was saving them to store all of my wrapping ribbons. About 2 hours on Monday were spent sorting through the papers to be recycled/wrapping to be saved in an attempt to organize the wrapping. I think it worked out pretty well – and would not have taken nearly so long if there hadn’t been a toddler balloon fight in the background.

I just coiled the longer ribbons around the tubes and then secured with either a piece of tape or a rubber band (depending on the type of ribbon) and then separated the different coils by a rubber band in between to create even spacing. Then inside each of the toilet paper tubes I stuffed a bow of some sort in a complementary color. For all the shorter pieces of ribbon I created a long tube and wrapped all of them on a single tube/roll – in order to distinguish that these cannot be used for normal sized presents and are meant for tiny gifts or for bows. Nothing is quite so annoying as when you grab ribbon, have it almost all the way around your present and realize that its just a bit too short – argh!!!! The last bit of organization I attempted was taking all of the scraps of curling ribbon and making cute little curly bows out of them, one less thing in the trash and a little less work for next year.

For about 3-4 years now I’ve been using brown paper to wrap all of my xmas gifts. My hope is that a few years down the line I’ll be free of all of the printed papers and gift bags and my wrapping station can just consist of packing paper, a few boxes, tissue paper and lots of pretty ribbon.

You Must Remove the Head…

Standard

One of my favorite business phrases comes from David Gammel, it deals with the concept that ideas live and breathe as soon as we start working on them and putting resources into them. But that they also die and unfortunately some turn into Sacred Zombie Cows!

I think its the visual as much as anything that attracts me to the phrase, regardless, the idea that projects can become half-ton, four legged,  resource sucking zombies is an important one to think about. They key ofcourse to the concept of the sacred zombie cow is the sacred part. Its not just that the project/idea is dead, that happens all the time. We start something, it fails, we move on. But then there are those few ideas that just don’t go away after they have died, instead we keep feeding them, keeping them warm, even talking to them oblivious to the fact that they are zombies.

Recently I was reminded of the zombie cow while listening to NPR discuss yet more issues that are being had with the musical, Spiderman. Now, I’m not one to keep up on entertainment news so I actually thought this musical had come run its course and already left again. As it turns out, the thing hasn’t even started and doesn’t plan to do so for weeks or months longer. Listening to the  commentary on the many plights of this musical no phrase rang more true than, “Kill the sacred zombie cow.”

A quick search reveals pages and pages articles written about the failure of this show prior to its even opening. From injuries, to bad reviews, to a new plan that involves significant changes to the cast and script, it is obvious to almost everyone that this project has been killed, many times over. The fact that this dead project continues to drain resources from its supporters, who refuse to acknowledge its death, is what makes it a perfect example of a zombie cow.

As is the case with all zombies, Sacred Zombie Cows, do eventually perish as well. The worse case scenario is when a zombie cow is so sacred that no one ever shoots it in the head and it eventually eats the brains of every person in its path. An example of this would be fossil fuel consumption. Thankfully most zombies aren’t nearly that sacred and at some point it becomes clear to all that they are dead and the proper actions are taken.

The struggle is to identify zombie cows before they have the chance to take anyone else or any other living ideas/projects with them. While this may seem simple it can be considerably more difficult than you would think.

So, Have you killed your sacred zombie cow today?