Tag Archives: simple living

A Simple Christmas Workshop

cinnamon ornamentsA couple of years ago, I put together a short online workshop on how to simplify your holiday celebrations.  I thought for those of you who may have missed it, you might want the opportunity to work your way through the simple thoughtful practices.

You can find Day One at the following link:

A Simple Christmas Workshop – Day One

I hope you find these exercises helpful.

~Debi

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Musing on Vacuums


file000428351951The first electric vacuum cleaner was simply a pillowcase attached to an electric blower. It wasn’t developed to simplify the life of the housewife, but to ease the dust allergy of a hotel janitor.

I can’t even begin to imagine how badly beating dusty carpets over the back fence would’ve aggravated asthma and allergies. With all our family’s allergies, I feel lucky to live now during the days of efficient vacuums and air filters.

I remember helping Grandma beat the throw rugs outside on sunny days, but my main carpet cleaning memories involved the monstrous vacuum my grandmother had hiding in her hall closet. It was so noisy, it scared me. It was almost as scary as the haunted freezer in the basement. On a side note, if you’re getting the idea I was an anxious child, you’re probably not far off the mark. While I don’t think appliances caused my childhood anxieties about monsters, they certainly didn’t help ease those concerns with all their loud noises.

I’ve gotten over my fears of appliances, but even as an adult, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with my vacuum. It seems like the vacuum cleaners in my life have had a tendency to pick up what they shouldn’t. Pennies, buttons, needles, long strings. Inevitably the motor burns out (with a horrible smell) due to something solid being sucked into the housing that shouldn’t, or the roller stops spinning due to hair and yarn coiled endlessly around it. There’s nothing quite so lovely as the fresh smell of friction-burnt human hair mixed with the scent of burning rubber as the belt once again wears out.

Somewhere along the line, I guess someone forgot tell me that the roller needs to be cleared of long hair and strings regularly. Or I forgot to read the instructions. Either way, I’ve burned out more than my share of vacuum cleaners over the years.

Recently, I was given a brand new vacuum without bags, a stronger dust filter, and an easier turning capacity (which is nice but not something that ever really bothered me about the older models).  Its best feature is that it has non-stop suction that doesn’t quit even when the dustbin is full.

So far, so good. It’s been six months. And I haven’t killed it yet.

~Debi

Musing on Freezers


vintage ice box MGD©I can remember standing in my great-grandmother’s kitchen and looking into her ice box. Yes, she had an old-fashioned ice box, complete with regular deliveries from the iceman. The Iceman continued to “cometh” into many homes well into the 1960’s when electric refrigerators and freezers finally made the ice box and its daily deliveryman obsolete.

My great-grandmother’s ice box was a beautiful piece of furniture. It was lined with metal throughout the inside of its thick walls. The main thing I remember coming out of the icebox was the glass milk bottle, complete with little cardboard cover over its opening. My great-grandfather used to take swigs directly from the milk bottle when his wife was out of the room, winking at me to show he trusted me to keep his “secret” from my great-grandma.

At my other grandparents’ house, they had a large deep freeze in the dark recesses of the back of their basement. The kitchen refrigerator only had a tiny freezer compartment, just large enough for holding two metal trays of ice cubes. Anything else to be kept frozen was kept in the deep freeze.

Certain that the dark basement with its gigantic noisy freezer was haunted, I was always terrified to be sent to the deep freeze to retrieve the box of ice cream. Even though being sent to get the treat meant I could have my choice of flavors, it was still my least favorite duty when visiting Grandma. I don’t think anyone in the family ever fully understood I was truly terrified of the basement. Especially of the freezer.

Oh, the imagination of childhood. It isn’t all rainbows and fairies. Sometimes it consists of haunted freezers and demons hiding in dark corners. I was so excited when Grandma finally bought a new refrigerator for the kitchen that had enough space to store the ice cream. No more trips alone down the steep stairway into the belly of the house’s basement. This was one time when the siren call of new-and-better Consumer Culture was a good thing, at least to my tiny childhood self.

Back at my house, my parents were young and somewhat “hip” and usually the first on our street to get the latest and greatest appliances. For example, we were the first house on the block to have color television. We were also the first to have a full-size refrigerator/freezer.

My clearest memory of our freezer was my mom making frozen treats from orange juice or lemonade. Whenever the neighborhood kids and I heard the tell-tale music of the ice cream truck, I was told by my mom that it was the signal for me to come in the house and get one of Mom’s homemade popsicles. At the time, I didn’t realize it was my mom’s way of saving money. It was much cheaper to make frozen treats with juice than to purchase the individual ice pops each day from the ice cream truck. My friends were jealous. Mom’s juice pops were better than any blue or purple freezer-burned offering from the truck. It wasn’t long before my mom had a line of children at the backdoor asking if they could give her their ice cream money for a juice popsicle. She let them keep their change and gave out popsicles freely.

My mom’s nickname in the neighborhood became The Popsicle Lady.  I miss the Popsicle Lady.

~Debi

Using Up Leftovers


Excerpted and adapted with permission from The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book by Deborah Taylor-Hough (Simple Pleasures Press, 2015).


Lfrgigieftovers. We all have them, don’t we? But what do we do with them? I don’t really like keeping them in my refrigerator until a science project on mold develops, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to use leftovers for without driving the family crazy. I don’t care to hear another chorus of that all-too-familiar song, “What?! Meatloaf… AGAIN?!” 

Probably the most important step with leftovers is making sure to keep them safe. We’re not really saving any money on our family budget if that frugal dinner of leftovers sends everyone to the hospital with food poisoning! To keep leftovers safe, cover and refrigerate within two hours of a meal, freeze to keep more than three days, and thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator. 

I try to plan one meal each week to use up leftovers. Often it’s during a lunchtime with just the kids and I, but sometimes there’s enough food to feed the entire family. A complete meal of food that’s been “found” in the refrigerator is like getting an extra meal each week for free. 

It’s a good idea to try and change the way the leftover is served from one meal to the next. Rather than serving leftover fried chicken, you could take the meat off the bone and prepare cold chicken sandwiches for a change of pace. 

Suggestions for Using Leftovers

  • Bread (loaf ends, slices starting to dry).  Use in bread pudding, French toast, meat loaf extender, croutons, stuffing, bread crumbs

  • Egg (hard-cooked).  Use in casseroles, salads, sandwiches.

  • Fruit (fresh, canned or frozen).  Use in smoothies, milk shakes, gelatin desserts, cobblers, fruit bread, muffins, jam, freezer pops.

  • Meat, poultry, or fish (cooked).  Use in soups, stew, salad, quiche, enchiladas, stir fry, sandwiches, pot pies.

  • Potatoes (cooked).  Use in meat pies, salads, soups, stew.

  • Rice or pasta (cooked).  Use in casseroles, soups.

  • Vegetables (cooked).  Use in casseroles, quiche, salads, soups, sprinkled over a baked potato, in pot pies.

Pancakes, French toast, or waffles can just be popped into a sealed bag in your freezer. When you have enough assorted breakfast leftovers to make a meal, each person can have a variety of different items. To reheat, toast in the toaster on the Pastry setting.

Coffee and tea can be frozen in ice cube trays, then transfer the frozen coffee/tea cubes to plastic freezer bags. These work well for iced coffee or tea, and won’t dilute the drink when the cubes melt.

Syrup drained from canned fruits can be mixed with a bit of milk and made into creamy freezer pops for a refreshing hot-weather treat. The leftover fruit syrup can also be frozen into cubes and used in cold summertime drinks.

If you make a lot of pie crusts, put the scraps into a plastic freezer bag. After collecting scraps for awhile, you’ll have enough for an extra crust. 

Party Tray 

One of the things our family does regularly with leftovers is to prepare a meal we call “Party Tray.” I’ll take all the collected leftovers out of the refrigerator and freezer, reheat them, and then divide the food items among our plates. Everyone gets a little dab of this and a little dab of that – maybe only a bite or two of each item, but after the plate is filled with bits and pieces from past meals, it takes on the look of a plate from a party buffet line. I usually add some sliced cheese and crackers, plus a few cut-up fresh veggies, to complete the party theme. 

My kids love this Party Tray meal idea. I hesitated for a long time to serve Party Tray to my husband, but one Saturday I just threw together a Party Tray meal for lunch. I was so surprised — my husband thought it was a great idea and wanted to know why I didn’t do this when he was around. So Party Tray has became a regular event, enjoyed by the whole family.  

Soup and Bread Night 

One night each week we have a Soup and Bread night. I’ll either bake a loaf of fresh bread, a bunch of hearty rolls, or a big pan of cornbread. I keep a covered bucket in the freezer for storing assorted leftovers (meats, vegetables, rice, beans, etc.) to make soup. One woman told me she drew a lady’s face on the soup bucket and called the lady the Freezer Fairy. Her children could hardly wait to feed their leftovers to the Freezer Fairy. 

Each week, they were excited to see what delicious soup she was going to make for their family (by the way, the Freezer Fairy’s magic doesn’t work well on fish, so don’t add leftover fish to your soup bucket in the freezer). 

Happy frugal eating!

~Debi

 


61ghrkhptflThis post is excerpted and adapted with permission from the book, The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book by Deborah Taylor-Hough, available in both paperback and Kindle ebook formats.  You’ll find more handy hints and simple ideas on topics such as frugal family entertainment, organizing your summer, avoiding mosquito bites, simplified party planning, and lots more!


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12 Tips to Keep Your Summertime Organized


by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Excerpted and adapted with permission from The Original Simple Mom’s Ideas Book (Simple Pleasures Press, 2015).


7d317b55917e0dfaa9f33a4325f0d16dJust because life is a bit more relaxed during the lazy days of summer doesn’t change the fact that we still need to know where things are and keep them handy.

Here are some simple tips to keep your summertime activities and supplies running smoothly: Continue reading