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Friday, January 2, 2015

Kitchen Organization 101

Today I got up to my elbows in organizing the kitchen! What may appear as a simple task to some, is a daunting task to me! I am so happy with the result!
I found an acrylic bread-keeper with humidity control knob to keep bread fresh. I scrubbed the toaster, counter, fruit-basket cookie jar (where we keep sugar), and the Keebler Elves cookie jar (tea bags).

Next, I spent time on the spice cupboard. I thought, "Here are these little bottles, taking up 'floor space' in their shelf in the cabinet, and there's all this 'air space' above them. Surely there's a way to stack these puppies in a tier system so they can be organized!" Sure enough, I found a three-tier rack stacker thingy...score!
Bottom shelf, spices all standing in a three-tiered shelf from Target. Shelf #2 has a lazy-susan holding oil, vinegar, pam, etc. plus a couple of the larger spice containers (garlic powder, onion flakes).

While I was busy cleaning the cabinets, I also cleaned the Keurig coffee maker. I have the big one. I found this awesome video here (click here>>) How to Clean a Keurig

I spent about $35.00 but then returned about $13.00 on two items I did not use. I went to Target, Ross and Marshall's.

Here is a picture of all the goodies I found today. The brown rack is the three-tiered rack I used for the spices. It's funny how when living disorganized we end up with duplicates of things. I was able to condense two bottles of red wine vinegar and also two containers of cayenne pepper. I also discovered the peppercorn had spilled in the cabinet!

The next cabinet that required some TLC was the plate cabinet...which is shared with the pills and vitamins. This corner rack for the plates is the most impressive thing!! I use assorted plates. I have a few old vintage plates. And a few from a set we got at Montgomery Wards (remember that store?!)...and a few stoneware plates I picked up at the Victor Valley Rescue Mission Thrift Store. The entire stack is very heavy, and now with this three tier system I can easily grab the one I want.

I really like the three-stack storage unit for organizing Mark's medicine. The top unit has dividers, and the second and third are free-form.

Over the past few days, I have been working on the pantry. I like to use deep, rectangle Tupperware containers to store thing. I have envelopes of things, like gravy mix and onion soup mix in one. I also have sauces, salad dressing, and b-b-q sauces in another.
It is not cedar lined or filled with home-canned garden goodies, but it is now a nicely organized and inventoried pantry!
I previously stored potatoes under the sink, but...there's a leak (a whole 'nother story) so now I keep them on the bottom shelf of the pantry in the blue crate/tub from Target which was laying around not being used. The paper grocery bags are next to the potatoes. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Ever Enchiladas

 Today Mark and I made enchiladas. The sauce recipe is a family favorite from Aunt Rena, Mark's dad's sister. Both Dad and Aunt Rena have passed on now, and this recipe makes me think of them.

Aunt Rena's Enchilada Sauce
To make the sauce, start with two cups boiling water. While the water is coming up to boil, put 1/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup chili powder and 1 teaspoon salt into a mason jar with a lid. It needs to be big enough to add 2 cups cold water to these ingredients. Shake this all together, then whisk it into the boiling water. Stir just a couple of minutes on a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir once in a while, and then turn off the heat. It will thicken.
Assembly Line
Next comes the assembly line. This is a two person job. Mark fried up some corn tortillas and placed paper towels in between on a plate. The grated cheese, ground beef (drained well) and the sauce get their own plate, too. Chopped onions can go in a bowl. Take a tortilla and run in through the sauce, both sides. Then build the tortilla...beef, cheese and onions. Place this in the dish and the Tortilla Holder (that's me!) needs to hold it while the masterpiece is created.

 We make a few without onions for the Anti-Onion family members.
The remaining sauce and leftover cheese gets poured all over the top. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1st, 2014 - Let's Get Moving!

Winter Exercise Options in the High Desert  

Does the mere mention of exercise stop you in your tracks? Does the thought of working out intimidate you? Afraid of going to the gym because you think everyone in the High Desert is looking at you? You are not alone, especially in the High Desert, where the weather can be very unpredictable. Now that February is here and real winter weather is upon us, it is even more difficult to get outdoors and move your body. The month of February is historically 14 degrees cooler than January in the High Desert, as reported on Exercise during extreme weather changes can certainly become a challenge, especially if you are new to a regular exercise program. There are many successful ways to sneak in some exercises, without even realizing you are doing it!

The Sneaky-Exercise List

·         Walk more! Park your car far from the entrance. This saves gas and time, since circling the parking lot for a closer spot only wastes time and gasoline. The sneaky part? You won’t even realize you are exercising, simply by walking a little further to get to the entrance.

·         Stretch more! While sitting at a task, such as blogging on High Desert Bloggers, set a timer for 30 minutes to stand up and stretch. This is an ergonomic trick to rest your eyes, and while you are standing, reach for the sky like your life depends on it! Inhale deeply while you raise your hands, then slowly exhale while you bring your arms back down.

·         Dress to impress! Put your work-out clothes on, even if you are not planning on working out. This little trick will tell your mind that your body is ready to move. Put on your walking shoes, your running sneakers, or your hiking boots. Subconsciously, your mind will think, “I might as well work up a sweat since I have my work-out clothes on.”

·         Make a date with an exercise buddy (or two or three)! Being accountable to someone else is an excellent way to stick to a new routine. For the beginner, working-out with a buddy will make sure you will make the time to build in exercise. Coming up with new (believable) excuses to cancel will soon run out. Your exercise buddy will hold you to your promise, and you won’t want to let them down. After all, it is for your own good, and good for your buddy!

·         Get technical! During the cold winter months, you don’t have to go outside to work-out. There are many options to work-out indoors, for example, use the Wii Sport game, or a similar game-system program. Visit and search for “online workout fitness programs” and get moving! Only 20 minutes a day, five days a week, will be a great start to improving your health.    

The first step is the worst – just get started! Don’t make unreasonable expectations for yourself, and just keep going. The benefits are immeasurable! For instance, you will be sleeping better, and feeling better. Little by little, you will have more endurance, for those times when you need to climb a flight of stairs unexpectedly. By exercising and moving more, you will start to consider your caloric intake, also. The nice thing is that the more you move, then you can eat what you want, within reason. The more you move, the more calories you burn, the more you can eat what you want.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rate This Training Video

Please take a moment to watch this video. Please leave me a comment about it. Common-sense tells me that a Fortune 500 corporation would spend energy and resources on enhancing software and improving their training, so that employees would not need to "click" randomly, instead of making a disresptful video such as this. What do you think?

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

Sitting in the Lazy-Boy recliner, I’m surrounded by my youngest son’s drum-kit, which is presently taking up the living room. This kit is the one item he purchased for himself when he graduated from high school in 2012. Troy is a magnificent trumpet-player, but he is starting to navigate his way around the drums. He has rhythm, and can keep the beat, which is much more than I can say for myself! Believe, me, I’ve tried. I enjoyed listening to Troy and Travis jamming together this week, Travis on guitar and Troy on the drums. There have been some impromptu, unscripted sessions of blues/rock from these talented young men, and a few others, in our home. This week both of them are home since Troy is on winter break from college, and Travis has five days off from work.

On Saturday, December 28th, Troy leaves for ten days overseas. He is travelling with the Riverside City College Marching Tigers, and will be performing at the London New Year’s Day Parade 2014, and also at the Calabata de Reyes Parade on January 5th in Madrid, Spain. This is a trip of a lifetime, and since seeing the itinerary this week, I really wish I was going! I am very glad for Troy to have this opportunity!

I realized recently there will be three of the cousins overseas at the same time when Troy goes to London. My niece Lacy was here for a month, and she and her husband returned home to Germany last Monday, December 16th. The next day, my niece Jenna left for Saipan for three months, studying biology. And Troy leaves this coming weekend. I am thrilled for each of them, because of their adventurous spirit they can travel to new places and experience other cultures, making memories to last a lifetime.

As for myself, I am on the brink of something new, and different, and possibly going back to something I’ve done before. Time will tell, and in just a few weeks I will know the answer, at which time I can be specific. But for now I need to remain ambiguous and mysterious. Let me just say, the past 16 years have been challenging in regards to how I earn a paycheck, but I have no regrets. Sometimes, taking a step backwards is moving forward, and sometimes it is time to act on faith, rather than just say it. Sometimes, reduction equates to healthy living. Sometimes, enough is enough. Sometimes, my own expectations keep me enslaved to what I think I must do, rather than releasing myself from such unreasonable expectations and living a life which is free and balanced. There is a photo my brother Fredee posted on his facebook page recently, which sums up what I am trying to say. Why? Because of what happens next. This little girl on the swing is going to jump off that swing any minute, and she is going to land on her feet. This little girl in the read cap is me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

OCTOBER 26, 2013







Sunday, September 29, 2013

This painting by Johannes Vermeer was my inspiration for an assignment in my Creative Writing class. I hope you will enjoy this short story. 
An Excercise in Imagination ~ The Milkmaid

     Anna wondered about her father’s illness, and hoped for signs of improvement as she made her way back to the pantry for more bread. The cedar-lined cupboards were revealing more empty space as the inventory was depleted. One thing she could always count on was the comforting aroma of the pantry, even if the resources were low.  It had been two weeks since the last time the neighbors stopped by to check on them, bringing fresh fruit and bread. Anna was preoccupied in these thoughts while she prepared an afternoon snack for her father, his favorite of fresh milk, bread and jam.

     Anna began her day early in the morning when the rooster crowed, before sun-up, as she knew the best time to milk Bessie was in the morning. Pulling on her mud boots, she glopped across the wet grass and through the mud to get to the barn, where Bessie waited for her. The light of the oil-lamp barely glowed, but soon Anna knew the sun would illuminate the farmland and stream through the spaces between the slats of wood on the side of the old barn.

     Before her father got sick, he worked from daylight until dark, maintaining the farm in a standard which he was re-known for in the community. He cared for all the animals, including the milk-cow, Bessie, the two horses and a menagerie of pigs, goats and chickens. The sheep had all died out from the pox, which miraculously skipped the goats. Harold had been a sheep farmer all his life, but when he lost the sheep he made the difficult decision to retire from sheep-farming. While this meant less physical labor for him and Anna, he also knew it meant a sharp decline in the income and resources. He had faith that they would make it.         
     While Anna did not mind milking the cow, her favorite place to be was in the kitchen, which was just off the mud-room after entering the house from the back door. The construction of the home was thick brick-and-mortar, built by Anna’s mother’s family over one hundred years ago. The kitchen was a comforting place where she spent many hours baking bread, jams and canning fruits and vegetables from the prosperous garden she and her father planted every spring.

     The family had willed the home to Anna after her mother died in the horrible accident that no one could have predicted. It was a stormy night, and the wind howled for hours. It was February and the stove would barely stay lit because of the wind. Just when they thought it was over, the wind diminished, and then the rain started, soft and gentle at first, but it rained for four days straight. Anna’s father, Harold, insisted upon taking care of the animals himself and refused help offered to him from his wife, Trudy. After-all, she had a little one to care for, as Anna was just a toddler. On the fifth day, Trudy woke up before Harold and sneaked out to the barn to feed the animals and clean out the barn. She was able to get to Bessie and milk her engorged udder. The two buckets of fresh, steamy milk would be a welcome addition to the cold, damp kitchen, Trudy thought as she hurried toward the house.

     The first lightning strike came while she was making her way from the barn to the house, hands full with the buckets, and she ran to take shelter next to the outhouse. Harold heard the crack of thunder that accompanied the lightning and he ran to the barn in search of his wife. The baby Anna was still asleep in her cradle which Harold’s father made, carved from one block of the oak tree in the back of the farm. The tree the cradle was made from suffered a lightning strike over twenty years ago. Not only was Harold’s father also a sheep-farmer, like Harold, but a wood-worker too. His handiwork was visible throughout the home, with tables, chairs, and the cradle.

     Harold’s focus was on finding Trudy, but she was not in the barn. He searched in the hay loft, and in each of the animal pens. Knowing how Trudy cared for the horses, Harold thought she might have gone to them to comfort them from the storm which was raging all around them. When he did not find her in the barn, he headed toward the barn door, and at the same time he first felt, and then heard the crack of lightning, instantly deafening him momentarily. Instantly he knew, he could feel Trudy had been struck. He broke into a speed of running he never knew he had within him, and found Trudy lying on the ground between the outhouse and the back door of their home. The family home they shared as husband and wife for ten years, when finally summer before last they were blessed with a child, their little Anna. Now, standing beside his wife’s limp body, he was startled by the sounds of Anna. “Dada, Dada!” she cried over and over again. He picked up Trudy’s body and ran to his daughter. Harold knew what he had to do.

     The funeral service was a quiet event, with only the neighbors coming to stand by as Harold laid his wife’s body to rest. Anna can barely remember that day, and relies on her father for the memories of her mother. Standing at the window in the kitchen now, fifteen years later, Anna was thankful that her father is such a good man, both a mother and father to her. True, she had to share the heavy work-load that the farm required, but it only helped her stay physically fit. Her upper-body strength came from driving the plow-horses in the spring for the garden. Her legs were good and sturdy because of the miles of walking she did around the farm to mend the fences. But her classic beauty and silky-smooth skin she inherited from her mother. Anna was happy to be born a milk-maid.

     Lost in thought, Anna did not hear the rapping at the door until it grew louder and more frequent. She laid aside the tray of snacks for her father and, wiping her hands on her apron, went to the front door. “Doctor Abels, so nice to see you. Please come in.” The young doctor explained that Dr. Berg was away and sent him to call on Harold. Anna escorted the doctor to her father’s room, and left the two men to visit. Twenty minutes later Dr. Abels returned to the hallway between the bedroom and the kitchen. “Anna,” he said, “I have some news to tell you. May we sit down?” Anna ushered him into the living room, bringing with them a tray of tea and fresh, warm rolls with butter and honey. Anna could not read the expression on Dr. Abels’
face. She had only seen him a couple of times before, but always with Dr. Brinkerhoff. Anna set the tray down, and they each took a seat. “Anna, you father…is not getting better. There will not be much time left before the cancer takes over his whole body. I am so very sorry.” Anna felt like one of the bricks from the wall of the house had just landed on her chest. Stunned, her face ashen-white, she stared straight ahead. If ever she prayed for strength, it was now. She and her father had endured so much and came through the hard times, but now this she had to face alone. “Anna,” said the kind, young, doctor, “If there is anything you need, I am here for you.” He understood the look of shock on her face, and then poured her some tea. Neither of them touched the rolls.

     Two precious, short weeks is all Anna had with her father before his body succumbed to the disease. But Anna was thankful for those sweet memories they made in his final days. The neighbors came and helped Anna with the farm chores so she could have time with Harold. The milk-maid’s father passed away peacefully in his sleep. At Dr. Abels’ final house-call before Harold’s death, he assured Anna the funeral arrangements had all been taken care of by the community. The other farmer’s saw to it that the expenses were covered. Their only last concern was what was to become of the farmer’s daughter, the milk-maid. The community talked to Dr. Abels, but he had already thought of that. He just hoped the idea would be reciprocated.

     One month after the funeral they had their first date, a picnic along the river. Anna packed strawberry jam, fresh rolls, dried fish and a quart of cold milk. The young doctor did not mind whatever was in the picnic basket, he was just glad to spend time with Anna, now eighteen. In all his twenty-two years he had never been so drawn to another soul the way he was drawn to Anna. He would find out today if she felt the same. Anna realized she did not know this young, handsome doctor’s name. “Doctor, you know so much about me and my father, but I do not even know your first name. What is it?” He replied, “Gustaaf. Please call me Gus.” Anna realized now this was the same Gustaaf Abels who she has a crush on when she was just a school girl, and he came to the farm looking for work to put himself through medical school. Her father, although kind to the job-seeker, could not afford to employ him, but he had remained interested in the farm. He inquired with the other farmers in the community before Harold’s illness, and learned of the milk-maid. It was at this moment that Anna fell in love with the man, the doctor, Gustaaf Abels ~ and they lived happily ever after.
                                                            The End.