Living Simply

 
We all want to look "in style" and "put together" but we don't want to spend lots of money and time to do it.  We want to look "in style" but not "too trendy".  Here a are a few suggestions:

Take a close look at your current wardrobe:
     What do you wear a lot?
     What do you feel looks good on you?
     What general "style" do your favorite clothes have?
     What is your lifestyle -- what kind of clothes do you need?

Get rid of anything that doesn't fit, that you don't like to wear, or that you don't think you look good in.

Focus on stocking your closet with things that coordinate (mix-and-match) well.  Stick to classic styles and colors.  Make sure that you have something appropriate for every occasion -- funerals, weddings, job interviews, work, everyday, etc.

Make sure that you have the "extras" that you need to go everything -- underthings (the "right" bra), nylons, socks, shoes, belts, purses, jewelry.  Remember, you are going for basic/classic and multi-tasking.

Next, fill in your wadrobe with inexpensive extras -- trendy shirts, jewelry, purses.  These things you will be replacing every year or more -- make sure they are inexpensive and that you won't feel bad getting rid of them when they wear out (which they will do sooner since they are made more cheaply) or go out of style.

 
 
We all want rooms in our home to be beautiful and pleasant to look at.  And with all the options out there, this can become a daunting task.  Here are a few tips to help:

1. Begin by choosing a "neutral" color as your main color.  It doesn't have to be a "traditionaly" neautral color (brown, white, gray, black) but a color that you really love and that you want to live with for a long time.  I really like the warmth of chocolate brown but obviously I can't paint all my walls chocolate brown, so I found the color I really liked on a paint card and choose one several shades lighter.  This is my base color -- my walls and furniture are one of the shades of this color on the paint card.  Now, if I left it like this it would all match but would be a bit boring, because I like color!  I chose colors I loved as accent colors for things like curtains, throw blankets, pillows, etc. that are inexpensive to replace should I want a new look or simply to change looks by season or by holiday.

2. Save bold paint colors for bathrooms and bedrooms.   Non-public areas are the best for bold paint colors because if you tire of them they can be changed without the expense of having to change multiple rooms also. 

3. Incorporate live plants into your rooms.  Plants bring warmth and life to rooms.  Choose ones that are easy to grow needing minimal care (unless you really enjoy taking care of house plants, then choose whatever you want!). 

4. Choose furniture that is comfortable and durable for daily use.  We have young children, so everything has to be washable, cleanable, and durable.  We also don't have much money to spend so we have found most of our furniture at yard sales and thrift stores.  Choose pieces you love -- it doesn't have to match perfectly and it can be painted/refinished/recovered to create a unified look.

5. Consider how you use a room to determine how to decorate it.  Furnish and decorate a room according to how you use it -- not according to how the architect designed the room to be use (not what it is "called").  During my teenage years I spent quite a bit of time at one of my youth leader's homes.  Her kitchen had an area designed to be used as a dining area and her home had a separate dining room.  Her family used the separate dining room or the kitchen island to eat at and rarely used the table in the "eat-in" area of the kitchen.  So, she got rid of that table and moved in a couple of comfy chairs -- a new family hang-out area!  It became a favorite place in the home for the family (and the youth students) to hang out in...something about being near/in the kitchen...

6. Provide plenty of storeage for the things you want to keep handy.  Things like bookshelves, baskets, small dressers, tables with drawers, coffee tables with storeage, trunks, etc. work great for providing storeage and as well as places to display photos and mementos.

7. Choose accesories carefully.  I hate "dustables" -- things that sit around as decoration with no useful purpose besides needing to be dusted.  So, I choose things I really love to display -- things that I love enough to dust!  Mostly this is pictures of my family, quilts made by my mother-in-law, plants, etc.  Remember: too many accesories leave a cluttered look.  You need free space on table tops and level surfaces to achieve an uncluttered look.

 
 
This is my favorite banana bread recipe -- nice and moist but not "mushy" like some I've tried.
Alas, I rarely get to make it because we eat SO MANY bananas at our house that we rarely ever have any "past their prime" to use for bread!  I'll have to start buying "old" ones just for bread!

Mix together:
3 mashed bananas
1 egg
3/4 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/4 c. melted coconut oil
Add:
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

Mix well. Pour into one loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.
This recipe easily doubles to make two loaves.  Loaves also freeze well for later use!
 
 
To declutter and organize your home is everyones goal, but rarely does it happen.  It feels like an overwhelming project that can never be accomplished.  We urge you to take the time.  It will greatly reduce the stress in your life to have an organized and clutter-free home.  We were forced to do this when we moved into a 670 square foot, one bedroom house -- with a toddler!  Now we are living in this same house with a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old!  Here are some of our tips to help you with this project (and to prevent the re-acculmulation of stuff):

1. Don't let the seeming enormity of the task overwhelm you.  Take it 15 minutes at a time.  Take 15 minutes to tackle one closet or one cupboard or one drawer.  Even organizing one small thing will feel like a great accomplishment and will motivate you to tackle the next project.

2. Anything you don't use on a daily (or near daily) basis consider getting rid of.  Or at the very least re-assigning it to another location that is out of the way and not taking up prime real estate in your drawer, closet, or cupboard.

3. "A place for everything, and everthing in its place."  If you organize according to this and continue to live according to this principle, your home will become clutter-free and organized AND will stay that way!

4. Instigate the no-net-gain rule for most things.  Once your home is clutter free and organized you want to keep it this way.  This means returning things to "their place" and not accumulating things you don't have room for -- things that don't have a place!  Your clothes closet and dresser drawers is a good place to start.  Most of us have many clothes that we do not regularly wear and we tend to keep accumulating more.  Edit your wardrobe to what you wear often and to what you need to keep on hand for special occasions (weddings, funerals, holidays, etc) and get rid of the rest.  Each time you get something new consider getting rid of something you already own -- preferably a shirt for a shirt, pants for pants, etc.  Give your extra clothes to a friend, put them in a consignment shop, or give them to a thrift store.  This is also a good rule for those of you who tend to accumulate kitchen gadgets -- if you use it often, keep it; if you don't, get rid of it!

 
 
Oh, I love muffins!  Especially hearty ones!  They are great for breakfast or an easy take-along snack.  This recipie is great because it works with whatever you have on hand.

Mix together:
1 c. oatmeal and 1 c. yogurt (or milk)
Let sit for 20 minutes (I've skipped this part and it works fine)
Add:
2 c. total pureed harvest produce (apples, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, etc.)
     - I usually use 1 c. apples (or applesauce) and 1 c. pumpkin or sweet potatoes
1/2 c. melted coconut oil (or butter)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
Mix well and add:
3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Spoon into greased muffin pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Makes 24 muffins.  Muffins freeze well for later use -- if they last that long!
 
 
Since going nightshade-free I've been looking for new recipies to replace old favorites. 
So, this is our new "spaghetti recipie".

Saute 1/2 c. chopped onion with 1/4 c. butter (you could probably use coconut oil too)
Add: 1 1b beef (or venison) -- stew meat or ground
Salt to taste
Cook on low until meat is cooked (or you can use pre-cooked meat and then skip this step)
Add: 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (1 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour)
Stir and heat until it begins to thicken
Boil whole wheat pasta according to package directions, drain and toss with olive oil (to prevent it from sticking together)
Stir 3/4 c. sour cream or yogurt into meat mixture, heat until hot.
Add: 1-2 cloves minced garlic right before you serve (to preserve the benefits of raw garlic)

Serve meat mixture over pasta.  It is great sprinkled with parmasean cheese!
 
 
These are so good!  We eat them at least once a week!

Put in a large mixing bowl:
4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp.  baking powder
Mix well and add:
1/4 c. oil (extra virgin olive oil, melted butter or melted coconut oil)
Mix well and add:
1 1/4 c. water
Mix well and continue to mix/knead with hands unil all the flour is mixed in and you have a nice dough.  Let dough rest for at least 15 minutes (cover with a towel if letting sit longer)
Divide dough into "large golf ball sized balls" and roll thin -- the thinner the better.
Cook on a hot skillet on the stove top about 1 minute on each side.

Makes about sixteen 10-12 inch tortillas.

These freeze well for future use!
 
 
Check out the Whole Foods for the Holidays progressive dinner -- Breads -- this week at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa for more great bread recipies!

Rosemary Bread (for the bread machine, sort of)
Add to the bread machine in this order:
1 3/4 c. water
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp. sucanat (sugar)
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
4 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
4 tsp. vital wheat gluton (optional)
2 tsp. yeast

Use the "dough" setting on your bread machine to mix up the dough (or mix up the dough however you usually mix up bread dough).  Divide dough into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans to rise.  Let rise until doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

So easy, so good, a bit special for the holidays!
 
 
I'm always looking for great tasting, frugal meatless meal ideas.  Here is one that I use often and we really enjoy!

2 c. prepared black beans (soaked and cooked or use one 15oz can black beans)
Use a potato masher or your food processor to make "bean paste"
Spread bean paste onto tortilas (homemade whole wheat tortillas are great!)
Sprinkle with shredded cheese (we like colby jack)
Place another tortilla on top
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted
Cut into quarters and serve!
We top with Ranch dressing and spinach (also really good with salsa if your not nighshade free)
 
 
The holidays are fast approaching and I'm beginning to see bags of cranberries for sale in the grocery store!  I love making this cranberry relish recipie throughout the holidays -- it always reminds me of wonderful meals of celebration with family and friends.  And it's SO easy, especially if you use a food processor!

1 pound fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
   - put the cranberries in the freezer until frozen, they will be easier to chop.
1 large apple, coarsely chopped
    - I like using Granny Smith apples because of the tart taste and the green peel looks great!
1 large orange, coarsley chopped,  including half the peel
    - Peel the orange and chop it, then chop half the peel (you can use more peel if you want,  
      some people think using the whole peel is too bitter)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Mix it all together.  Add 1/2 - 1 cup sugar (sucanat) to taste.
Can be served immediately but tastes even better the second day!