03/23/10
Amy
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(Cooking) Grown-up Grilled Cheese Sandwich


I’ve always been fond of grilled cheese sandwiches, but as an adult, the traditional sandwich has not held the magical appeal that it once did. But then I made this recipe. It was then that I realized that the grilled cheese sandwich had just grown up.

grilledcheese

Grown-up Grilled Cheese Sandwich

1. Lightly butter one side of two pieces of thinly sliced Italian bread. (Note: Do not skimp on the bread!!! It truly makes the sandwich.)

2. On the non-buttered sides of the bread, spread 1/2 T basil pesto.

3. Put 1/4 c. Italian cheese blend on the pesto side of one piece of bread. Layer 2 thin slices of salami on top of the cheese. Then add 1/4 c. Italian cheese blend on top of the salami. Top with the second slice of bread (pesto inside).

4. Cook on a griddle over medium-low heat until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, flipping halfway through cooking.

Enjoy!!

03/20/10
Amy
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(Parenting) Concept of Time: Kids vs Parents


Kids have a very different concept of time than adults.

Adults are all about efficiency and practicality. If we do not have an urgent deadline, we manage to make it seem like there is one.  In contrast, kids find whatever is in front of them to be significantly more important than meeting any ol’ deadline. When they are asked to get into the car and buckle their seat belt, it may take them three times as long as you think is reasonable because they find a worm on the ground, an old cracker wedged between the seats, or they are simply lost in telling you a story of how their friend spilled milk on their shirt. While you may just be loading up for a morning trip to the grocery store, their childish dawdling can be frustrating.

Instead of demanding that they see life and time through your eyes, stop and take a moment to see life through your child’s eyes. Show excitement over their little worm discovery or gently move them along and help them buckle without shutting down their story-telling. Sometimes we need to acknowledge that our deadline is not really so important. In other cases, it is often possible for us to keep our kids on track for our necessary deadlines without demanding that they abandon their developmentally appropriate childhood mindsets.

When we hurry life along, we risk missing some significant moments with our children. What will you discover about life or about your child when you take a moment to see time through their eyes?

02/17/10
Amy
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(Home Management) Cleaning out the Fridge


One of the best ways to establish a new habit is to build on an existing routine.

Trash day comes on the same day every week. It is a routine. Cleaning out food from the fridge that is growing as a science project is a task that you often procrastinate doing until you can ignore it no longer.  It is a task that would be the most effective as a routine. Since trash day is a routine that has already been established for you, build on that and try to make trash day (or the day before trash day) your routine day for cleaning out the fridge. This gives you a natural weekly reminder as well as an efficient way to not stink up the garage with the old food.

*Tip – To simplify this routine even more, read my easy idea for date-labeling food.

02/16/10
Amy
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(Crafts) Play Foam


playfoam

My kids play with Play-doh…a lot. It is a creative, hands-on activity that they love and a craft that requires very little preparation from me. playfoam2However, it is messy enough of an activity that it requires a certain level of commitment and some days I’m just not up to it.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered Play Foam! It is not sticky, messy (no Play-doh crumbs!), doesn’t dry out or turn brown when colors are mixed. The substance of Play Foam reminds me of Rice Krispies treats without being sticky. The only downside is that it is harder to create detail than with Play-doh, but my kids still love it. It is a perfect 30-minute, no clean-up craft. Try it out!

*Tip – Play Foam can be purchased at most craft stores, but I have frequently found it at greatly discounted at stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.

02/12/10
Amy
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(Money Saving Tips) Paycheck-to-Paycheck


There are few things more stressful than needing to shuffle funds or worrying about your bank account going negative at the end of the month while you wait for the next paycheck to come in. Especially if you are self-employed, paychecks can often be delayed, putting great strain on the budget.

But with a just a little bit of organization and planning, you can easily eliminate this stress from your life.

Begin by setting up an additional checking account. This will be your “holding account” and it is what all of your paychecks are deposited into. Before each month begins, you and your spouse work together to determine your budget and the amount of money you need to meet that month’s expenses. On the first of the month, transfer the amount of money you determined that you need into your regular checking account. Any extra money in the holding account can then be transferred into savings. As that month progresses, your paychecks will again replenish your holding account and will wait for you there until you do your budget and transfer again at the beginning of the next month.

Gone are the days of living paycheck-to-paycheck. You will always be one month ahead.

*Tip – If you do not initially have the money to set your one-month-ahead-plan in motion, temporarily use your holding account as a savings account. Deposit your savings into that account until you accumulate one month’s worth of expenses.

02/11/10
Amy

(Just for Mom) Maximum Impact Clothing


I made an interesting self-discovery recently – I spend most of my clothing money on the wrong items! In the past, most of my money has been put towards shirts and sweaters. It is relatively easy for me to find ones that I like and feel good in without spending too much money. In contrast, I find jean-shopping, shoe-shopping, and coat-shopping to be much more time-consuming, overwhelming, and not as exciting.  The result is that I have a closet full of shirts and sweaters that I really love, but I get frustrated when I try to match them with jeans I don’t feel good in, a 10 year old coat, and jogging shoes. feb8

Yet if you think about it, I actually wear those despised items more than any shirt. And in the winter time, that 10 year old coat is what constantly covers the sweater I was so excited about.

So in light of this recent self-discovery, I have changed the way I look at clothes shopping. I now try to focus on purchasing foundational clothing items such as jeans, shoes, and coats, that I love and feel confident in and use those as the building blocks for my wardrobe. The accumulation of those items is a gradual process, but I have already been amazed at the difference it has made.

So what clothing items in your closet frequently put a damper on your otherwise chic ensemble? What clothes do you wear the most but don’t feel good in? That is where you can make the maximum impact on your wardrobe and your confidence.

02/05/10
Amy
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(Date Ideas) Q & A


A date can be romantic, fun, and refreshing. It provides a time to focus on the two of you as a couple, your dreams, your goals, your relationship.

When all of the demands of life and kids are removed, though, sometimes we can find ourselves at a sudden loss for conversation topics. What do you talk about other than kids and work?? Here is a fun way to get the conversation rolling.

Take turns asking each other random questions. What is one place you would like to work if qualifications weren’t an issue?  What is one book you want to read this year? What is your favorite outfit that I wear? Where is one place in the world that you want to visit? Tell me one thing I did this last week that made you feel really loved? What character trait do you most want to be known for? No topic is off limits. The only rule is that you cannot reask a question that you have been asked.

Conversations don’t have to be deep to be significant. By asking simple questions like these, you will be amazed at how much you learn about your spouse of so many years…and how much you laugh.

02/04/10
Amy
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(Family Activities) Treasure Box


Our lives are made up of happenings, big and small. Event the smallest events can be significant and defining.

Many events have some sort of token associated with them: bulletins, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, pictures, keys, a lock of baby’s hair, a hospital band, or a small piece of brick from the new house you built. These small tokens can hold big memories.

Designate a special box to hold these little treasures from the life of your family. At the end of the year, make it a special family event to go through your little Treasure Box and relive some of the defining moments of your year. What events were significant to your family? Where were your happiest memories? What tokens do you hope to be adding next year?

There is magic in the Treasure Box. It can turn simple tokens into priceless treasures.

box

Tip – At the end of the year, transfer your year’s treasures into a year-labeled box (see box system) and repeat.

02/03/10
Amy

(Classic Play) Hide the Thimble


My grandmother used to play a game with me that she called “Hide the Thimble”. The concept was simple – she took a thimble from her sewing desk and hid it in a specified room. The kids were then sent on the mission to find it.

Not being much of a seamstress myself, I don’t have a thimble in my house, but I play this game with my kids using other small objects. The kids pick a small toy or trinket from around the house and we take turns hiding and finding it. It is a fun and simple game (requiring very little energy output from you!) that kids love.

Tip: Younger kids can play too! Simply pick a bigger object to hide!

01/28/10
Amy
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(Organization) Manual Box


After purchasing a new electronic, assembling a new piece of baby equipment, or installing a new appliance, you are usually left with an instruction manual. After it sits on the counter for a couple of months, it is tempting to throw it away, but it is risky. When you need an instruction manual, there isn’t an easy replacement.

As a part of your box system, designate a box for the sole purpose of storing instruction manuals. It removes the manuals from “clutter” status where they are likely to get lost, damaged, or thrown away and provides you with a predictable place to look if you should need it.

manuals