A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Another Year Bites the Dust

The year 2011 has been full of ups and downs. My sister got married to a great guy, connecting our family with a phenomenal family. That was most definitely an up. My mom died on December 17th, leaving a big void. That was most definitely a down. I left my weekend job in June (up), but the resulting loss of income has strained my finances to the breaking point (down). I’m looking forward with anticipation to 2012. Let’s see what the Universe has in store for us this time around!

In the interest of self-betterment, I have developed a list of goals for 2012. The word “resolution” grates on my nerves, as it suggests that there was something wrong with me to begin with. Since we all are constantly learning and changing, I don’t think it’s the word to use. So here is my list of goals for 2012.

1. Spend More Time with Family and Friends

This sort of speaks for itself. 2011 hammered home the fact that family and friends are of paramount importance to me. To that end, I would like to spend more face-to-face time with the important people in my life. Not Facebook time, not texting time, real time. I would like to visit with my sister at least once a month. I would like to visit my Dad twice this year. I would like to take my daughter out for dinner once a month. I would like to have a date with my husband every month. It could be as simple as curling up on the couch, watching a movie while munching on popcorn. But we have to do SOMETHING together.

I am also in the early stages of planning a road trip this summer to visit family and friends around the country. From elementary and high school friends scattered around the country, to my Dad in New Mexico and cousins in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio, I want to see them all. It will be great fun to sit down and share a meal and lively conversation. There are a lot of really interesting people in my life and they add a vibrancy that I appreciate. Life is short. What am I waiting for?

2. Create a Reasonable Budget

Money is always an issue for me. Working as a teacher’s aide, I bring home about $100 a week after taxes. That’s not a whole lot of disposable income. My husband contributes to our household account once a month, but it always seems like the money is all gone a good week before the month ends. I am going to sit down today and figure out a way to economize on groceries, which is a HUGE chunk of our monthly expenses. I know it’s all in the planning, so I’ll create weekly menus. I used to do that. Then I got all cocky and started buying $3.99 half pints of fresh raspberries. I also need to remember the phone bills, the Netflix account (which I’ve already cancelled half of), birthday presents, etc. There’s a way to do this; I just have to write it all down and stick to it.

3. Get in Better Shape

On 11/11/11, I began a weight loss journey that has me feeling GREAT. I started doing a workout from Team BeachBody, and eating healthful meals. There’s also a nutritional shake that I am drinking, although I’ve had to cancel autodelivery of that, due to finances (see #2). I’ll use my shake supply until I run out. So far, I’ve lost 12 pounds and nearly 12 inches, which is GREAT!

The challenge is now to continue on the journey while staying within a reasonable budget. I have two workout DVDs, so I’m set on exercise. I also have a yoga workout series on VHS that I use. I can always strap on my beat up old sneakers and go for a walk or stack wood or rake leaves. Lots of opportunities to stay active, which was the missing component in my life. The food part – no problem. Plus, my good friend Jolie has motivated me to stay the course. Her perseverance and enthusiasm are inspiring.

#4. Stay Ahead of the Dust

Ugh. Cleaning. I hate it. Always have. There’s something so incredibly distasteful about cleaning. The end product is WONDERFUL. I love being able to see through the windows and walk around the house in my bare feet without stepping on grit that came from unknown locations. I’ve long maintained that gravity is stronger in our house than almost anywhere on the planet. Everything winds up on the floor. Dirt, dust, pencils, papers, rubber bands, plastic bags, clothing, plant matter all mysteriously leap to their doom in this house. I bet there’s some convergence of cosmic energy right below our foundation that causes this phenomenon.

Whatever the cause, I vow to stay abreast of cleaning. That means a schedule must be created. Mondays will be floor day, Tuesdays –  laundry, Wednesdays – bathrooms, etc. I think that’s really the only way to get it done, since maid service is not in the budget.

#5. Live an Adventurous Life

I love adventure. From traveling to new places, to learning new skills and trying new foods, I love it. This year I would like to dip my toes back into adventure. My road trip – perhaps solo – will be one. Rick has an art show in Florence, Italy in March. I might go with him. That’s another. I want to develop a new income stream. Many people have said I should cater parties. That’s a possibility – I was a food vendor at one event this past year and loved the experience. That would be another adventure. I would love to sit in on a session of Congress when I’m in Washington, DC. I would like to learn to scuba dive. I want to eat poutine and fois gras in Montreal. Teach myself to make tofu and corn my own beef. Go on a kayak trip in the Adirondacks. Climb a mountain – a real one. Go zip-lining somewhere. Start writing a book. Attend sacred ceremonies in religions I have only a nodding familiarity with (Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, etc.). There’s so much to do and learn and experience. It’s well past time to get moving.

So, those are my five big goals for 2012. There are other, smaller goals (like trying one new recipe a week, going through the bookshelves and weeding out all those books I “had” to have, etc.), but if next year ends and I’ve accomplished these five things, it will have been a smashing success.

I wish you all a wonderfully healthy and happy 2012. Blessings and light for the new year. So mote it be.

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Spices, Spices Everywhere!

Today was Snow Day #8, to which I offer a hearty “Ugh!”

Today was also the day I FINALLY got motivated to clean out my spice cabinet and reorganize it. I’ve been saying since last summer that I was going to, because I wasn’t quite sure what was up there anymore, nor could I say how old anything was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I found was a surprisingly fresh collection of interesting things. Several jars were obviously ancient – the dust on the top of the caps was fossilized. Out they went. I also had several duplicate jars, so I weeded out the older jars. Into the trash they went. However, most of what I found was less than a year old, which was a nice surprise. After washing down the shelves and the turntables, I set to alphabetizing everything. I know, I know, anal retentive, right? I’m actually not; I’m hopelessly disorganized!  My once-in-a-blue-moon organizing jags like this are the only way I can find things when I need them. (Believe it or not, the non-fiction section of our library is set up in Dewey Decimal order, and the fiction alpha by author. Same reason.)

After a good solid hour’s work, here’s what I am left with:

Herbs and Spices

Achiote; ajwain seed; allspice – ground and whole; asafetida; amchur powder; basil – Italian and Thai; bay leaf; caraway seed; cardamom – ground and green and black pods; celery seed; charnushka; chervil; chili powder; cilantro; cinnamon – sticks and ground; cloves – whole and ground; coriander – seed and ground; cream of tartar (not really a spice, but it’s up there anyway); cumin – seed and ground; curry powder (hot); dill – seed and weed; epazote; fennel seed; fenugreek – seed and ground; fines herbes; galangal (ground); ginger – ground, crystallized and dried slices; juniper berries; kala jeera; mace; marjoram – leaf and ground; mint; mustard powder; mustard seed – black and yellow; nutmeg (ground); oregano – Turkish, Mexican and Greek leaf and Mexican ground; onion flakes; paprika – sweet and smoked; parsley; peppers (ground) – cayenne, chipotle and pasilla; poppy seed; pepper (ground) – white and black, peppercorns – black and 4-pepper mix; poultry seasoning; rosemary; saffron; sage; salt – iodized, crystal sea, black and smoked; sesame seeds – white and black; star anise; sumac (ground); tamarind; tarragon; thyme – leaf and ground; turmeric.

 

 

 

 

 

Herb and Spice Blends and Mixes

Before you write to me and correct me, I already know that the poultry seasoning and curry powder in the first list are blends. They usually wind up mixed with something else in my cooking – the following list is mostly stand-alone blends.

Balti; Bavarian; BBQ 3000 rub; Belen Blast; Cajun blend; Chinese 5-spice; Crab seafood boil; Dill blend; Emeril’s Essence; Garam Masala; Greek; Italian sausage; Mulling spices; Old Bay; Polish sausage; Rogan Josh; Sate; Seasoned salt; Spike Original; Tandoori; Turkish; Vindaloo; Zatar.

Other Neat Stuff

I also found dried chiles – Sanaam, Piquin, Chipotle, Guajillo, Ancho and New Mexican. YUM! Then there was the assortment of liquid seasonings like liquid smoke, tamari/soy, oils (sesame, olive, mustard, chile), vinegars (balsamic, white balsamic, rice wine, red wine, tarragon, apple cider and white), mirin, worcestershire, rose water and various extracts. There are also fish sauce, horseradish, spice pastes and the like in the fridge.

I think maybe I should retool my menu for the rest of the week. There’s an awful lot to play with now. Following are photos of some of the more unusual things in my newly clean cabinet.

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Ajwain Seed – A member of the parsley family, it’s flavor is similar to (but stronger than) thyme. Used in Indian and East African cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cardamom pods (green and black, also shown with seeds from the pods) – Both pods are broken open and used in Indian cooking. Often toasted before cooking, the aroma is sweet. It’s a member of the ginger family.

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Charnushka (aka nigella) – This tiny black seed from a member of the buttercup family, charnushka is found on Jewish rye bread and is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It has a vaguely oregano flavor and NO smell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fenugreek seed – This seed is vaguely rhombus-shaped and is the main scent component of curry powder. By itself, it has a nutty flavor, especially when toasted in a skillet before being ground or added to a dish. Used in Indian cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kala Jeera – This seed from a member of the parsley family has a flowery, slightly licorice smell. When toasted in a little oil, it changes to a nutty aroma and taste. Used in Indian cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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