Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winter Squash Prep/Cooking Tips


I love winter squash! I don't like trying to make it edible. I don't like how long it takes to cook it in the oven. I don't like peeling it. I don't like cutting it.

Tip for cutting:
Squash is easier to cut when it's been nuked in the microwave for 5-10 minutes depending on it's size. Before you microwave it, pierce it with a fork a few times. The downside to this method is that you have to wait until it cools to cut it. The upside is that when you are ready to bake it, it will take less time.

Tip for peeling, cutting, and cooking all at once!:
My most favorite way to cook squash is in a pressure cooker. Here's a helpful link for pressure cooking squash: http://missvickie.com/howto/veggies/wintersquashtypes.htm
You can plop the whole thing in (if it will fit) without having to do any cutting or piercing. Once the pressure cooker gets up to pressure, it takes 6-8 minutes to cook (again, depends on the size). It takes even less time to cook it if you cut it into chunks if that's your thing. Once the squash cooks for the recommended amount of time, run the cooker under cold water to release the pressure. Remove the lid, allow to cool to the point where you can touch it without burning yourself. Remove the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds and use in your favorite recipe.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Time to Wash Your Smelly Washing Machine?

Ever since we moved into our home, the washing machine had a funky mildew smell. I wasn't sure how to get rid of it, so I just shut the lid on it, and forgot about it. Then, last week when I had a cold and noticed that despite my congestion, I could still smell the unpleasant odor while I was doing laundry, I had to see if there was something I could do. I came across a recipe for cleaning top-loading dishwashers: 2 cups cascade (I just used my no-name brand stuff) and 2 cups of bleach. You just set your washer to wash at full capacity with hot water and pour in the dishwasher detergent and bleach. Let the washer agitate for a few minutes and then stop it and let it soak for 15+mins. Then let the washer finish the cycle.

I went ahead and tried this bit of washing advice on my machine. I also did a nice wipe down of all the areas of the machine that I could get to (crevices in between the tub and lid). I can now breath again, and no longer smell that funky smell when I do the laundry! Yippee!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Museum Day This Saturday!


This Saturday you can get into many museums around the country for F-R-E-E! All you have to do is go to http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/venue.html and print off a Museum Day admission card. Use this website to locate museums near you that will be participating in the free event, sponsored by the Smithsonian magazine. No excuses. Go get some culture.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Egg Substitute You Already Have


We all run out of eggs. When this happens, I get irritated and then resort to putting whatever I was mixing up in the fridge and wait until I go grocery shopping to finish it. But then I figured, "Vegans live without them. There has got to be a relatively natural substitute." Enter Google. Apparently there are quite a few options to the egg issue. Here are some helpful links on egg substitutes.

Substitutes included, pureed fruit, cornstarch, vinegar, and flaxseed, to name a few. I may just try this for fun, even if I have eggs! From what I read, it looks like it would take some experience to know which substitute will have the desired effect. So, there's definitely a learning curve, but I think it would be beneficial to know how to cook edible foods without eggs.

Update April 25, 2011: In making some chocolate chip oatmeal muffins, I noticed half way through the recipe that I was completely out of eggs. I only needed one. I tried mashing up about 1/2 to 3/4 of a banana and used that instead. I figured the muffins might taste a bit banana-y, but they did not. Not only that, but they turned out great. They were nice and plump, not flat, and no one eating them could tell any difference. So, for muffins, a bit of banana works great.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hundred Pushups Update



Well, it's been over six weeks since I started the One Hundred Pushups training program... I said I'd follow up on it. Here I am. I have not completed the program yet. I think it will take me another six weeks. Serious. When I started the program I could do 10 consecutive pushups. Six weeks later I can do 35 consecutive pushups. Improvement? Sure. But, I was really hoping it'd take six weeks to do 100. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Silly me for thinking I could go from 10 to 100 in six weeks!

The program is not for the faint of heart. You really have to push yourself. There are times when I think I can NOT do another pushup, but I surprise myself and push up one last one-- then I crumple on the floor. I have had to repeat a couple of weeks so far (and think I'll be repeating a few more before I finish). I can say that I have noticed more tone in my arms, as well as more upper body strength... so this program is doing some good.

I'm going to stick to the program for the rest of the year... I hope by then I will have been able to achieve the 100. If I can't, I'm going to seriously consider moving on to a different exercise routine for upper body. I hope I don't have to be a quitter. If you are interested in watching my pushups progress in detail, follow me on twitter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

How it started:

"It was an idea born in 1995 on an Albany, Oregon, YMCA racquetball court. Baur, 54, and his friend Mark 'Cap'n Slappy'Summers, 46, began unleashing insults at one another, as pirates might.

'We just grew up in a time and place where we saw the wrong movies, read the wrong books,' Baur said from his current home in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Putting their deep-thinking noggins together, the two decided the world needed in on this, too.

hey selected September 19, simply because Summers had recently divorced, it was his ex-wife's birthday, and he figured 'the date was stuck in my head, and I wasn't going to do anything with it anymore.'

But it wasn't until humorist Dave Barry caught wind of the idea and threw his support behind it in a September 2002 Miami Herald column that this rickety ship took sail."

see: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/09/18/talk.like.a.pirate/index.html



Learn to talk like a pirate:


Also check out this website for more pirate talk: http://www.pirateglossary.com/

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kids Cold and Cough Remedy

With the recent scares about children's over the counter cold/cough medicines, I opted to avoid them as much as possible. So, when it's cold/cough season, and the kids wake up saying their throats hurt, we make this quick drink. It does a wonderful job of clearing congestion, especially if we treat it early. Take caution, honey should not be given to children younger than a year old.

Warm Honey Lemon Drink
1 cup warm water (I heat in the microwave)
1-2 T of lemon juice (fresh or from concentrate)
1 T of honey

Stir and serve warm.

A dose of Honey
I also like to give my kids a teaspoon or so of honey before bed when they have a cough. Read up on it here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carving a Pepper Like a Pumpkin


I'm not sure exactly how this started, but once years back I was cutting up a green bell pepper for dinner and for some reason decided to carve a quick Jack-o-lantern face on him. My then 2 year old son loved it. He still won't eat peppers, but it's become a strange ritual now, to give the pepper a face before we cut him up and eat him.


Aside from strange meal preparation habits, I thought pepper carving would be a fun activity for younger kids not quite ready to carve a big, hard pumpkin. Of course, an orange bell pepper would contribute best to the pumpkin look. It would make a lovely Halloween party center piece as well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soothe Teething With Cucumbers


I came on the idea completely on accident. We have so many cucumbers from our garden this year, plus we have all the cucumbers that people give away because they have so many. I started slicing them up (even with the skin) and handing them to my twins at meal time because I found that it bought me some extra time to prepare their food. The babies are working on getting their teeth in, so they can't really bite the cucumber slices yet, but it gives them something to do, and they stay quiet. They don't get at all frustrated about not being able to actually eat it. I dare say it is a comfort for their teething gums. And why not? They make cooling cucumber teething gel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Find Sears Appliance Owners Manuals

So, I'm doing a Google search to find an owners manual for my clothes dryer that came with the house when we bought it. The search didn't bring up helpful results within the first couple of pages. As I looked more carefully, it turns out that Sears does a lousy job of making these owners manuals readily available. So, I'll make it simple.

Here is the web site for Sears appliance owners manuals: http://www.managemyhome.com/

If you've got a Bissel, Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag, Kitchenaid, Frigidaire, Bosch, Samsung, Craftsman, LG... chances are, you can find the owners manual from the above website. You can download them for free or call and have it shipped to you. I'm guessing that will cost you. I haven't tried, though.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paper Airplane Time

Fall is a great time to make and fly paper airplanes. Here is a fun video on how to make an award winning paper airplane.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Google Maps Monopoly Game


Google continues in its quest to take over the world-- And no one is going to know it because we'll all be playing Google Monopoly City Streets in our own virtual world. I'm not into online games, but if you are, this is huge. On September 9 Google and Hasbro have teamed up to start a major online game of Monopoly where you can "buy" any city street and play with anyone in the world, with Google Maps as your game board. It's a serious time waster, but I can see how this might be fun... and addictive to those who think they have the time.

Read more:
http://mashable.com/2009/09/07/monopoly-google-maps/
http://monopolycitystreets.com/

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Allergy Relief With A DIY Yourself Nasal Rinse

It took me about 3 years to notice that I had seasonal allergies and then 6 more to manage them effectively. For me, congestion is the worst part of allergies. I used to get so congested that I couldn't sleep at night because I couldn't breath! I had read about saline rinses and had tried them a couple of times, but gave up on them because it just seemed wrong to shoot stuff up my nose. If only I would have persevered, I'd have found relief sooner.

Now, one can take over the counter decongestants, but they have side effects. I usually take a knock off of 24 Claritin for my itchy throat and watery eyes. But for congestion, I have succumbed to the nasal rinse and can now sing its praises!

About.com actually has a pretty decent article about using nasal rinses. So, if you are intrigued, check it out.

The key that I have found to using saline rinses is to be consistent with it to keep congestion at bay. I usually have to do it once in the morning and once at night when I'm really congested and only once a day when it's not so bad.

Best thing about nasal rinses is that they cost next to nothing when you make them yourself. It's also great that they are pretty natural compared to a decongestant in pill form. The worst thing about nasal rinses is the learning curve in figuring out how to do them. But, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

To make a saline nasal rinse, mix the following in a clean container:

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt (such as pickling or canning salt)
  • Pinch of baking soda (to prevent burning – can increase the amount as needed)
  • 1 cup of warm water (filtered or previously boiled water)
I use a syringe to rinse out my nasal passages. Lovely topic, no?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spa Chemicals That Won't Break the Bank

I wish I would have stumbled across this about $500 ago. We bought a home two year ago that came with a very nice Jacuzzi spa. Learning to deal with spa chemistry had a slight learning curve, but wasn't too hard. I use bromine as the sanitizer and a mineral stick as well to help save a bit on bromine. It's worked fine, but the thing that really irritates me is all the money I have been shelling out for spa/hot tub chemicals.

I happened upon this website a few weeks ago about using what is called the BBB Method for pool and spa care. BBB, Bleach, Baking soda, & Borax. Bleach is the sanitizer, Baking soda increases the PH and Borax adjusts the alkalinity. I am very interested in giving this a shot. Right now, I want to use up the chemicals I currently have. We usually drain the hot tub during the winter... so it probably won't be until next spring before I try the BBB Method on my spa. I'm sure there will be a learning curve with this too, but cheaper chemicals makes it very appealing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Twitter Primer for Twits


I'm relatively new to Twitter and as simple as tweets are, Twitter itself has proven to be rather complex. I didn't even know where to begin my studying up. Here is a nice twitter guide book from Mashable.com. You'll learn what it's all about, how to use it, and even get answers to commonly asked questions. I even learned what these # are! Hashtags. Check out Mashable's Twitter Guide Book.