• Organization of Magazine Clippings Using Binders

    This is a post about what to do with all the recipes or ideas that you may have collected from magazines over the years.  People talk about how magazines have gone by the wayside with the advent of e-readers, etc. but magazines will never go away for me.  I love them for when I just want to completely shut my brain down, turn away from electricity, and relax on the couch, at the beach, or in the bath.  There are times it’s just not practical to hold an electronic device or when you want to give your eyes a break from glowing rectangles.  Seeing magazines arrive at my house in the mail amid the junk mail and bills is really exciting and the tactile sensation of turning the pages satisfies me.

    I can’t stand when old magazines pile up though because I can’t stand clutter and love organization, so this post is an idea about what I do with all the goodies like recipes, decorating, make-up or hair looks, fashion, etc. found inside them.  I never could quite figure out what to do with all these tidbits, but then I got the idea from my sister to put everything in to 3-ring binders.  She does this with her recipes.

    To organize everything, I created four different binders and divided them in to the following categories: 1) Recipes, 2) Beauty 3) Exercise and Spiritual  (e.g. meditation ideas and peace of mind ideas) and 4) Decorating and Fashion.  I insert each magazine item in to a document protector sleeve. Then I file it in its appropriate binder.  I group like things together and put a file divider in between the main categories.  For example, in my Recipes binder I have a section for entrees, breakfast, appetizers, desserts, drinks, party planning, etc.  In my Beauty binder, I have sections for kitchen beautician, hair, make-up and nail art, etc.

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    Now that I have a place for them, when I flip through catalogs, I earmark the pages of interest.  When I’ve gone through the entire magazine, I put the magazine in to a holder in the same closet that has all my filing stuff.  When the holder fills up, I spend an hour or two to go through them.  I tear each page out that I’ve earmarked and file them in to the binders. I usually do this when Chief selects a movie with lots of guns and car chases and I’m not particularly interested in watching but am trying to be social. When I’m finished tearing out the relevant pages, I either recycle the magazines or bring them with me to my nail salon, gym, or car wash or somewhere else that is happy to accept reading material.

    The reason I like this system is that it keeps the house free of clutter and has all of the stuff I found interesting quickly available.  I also really like the books for inspiration.  If I can’t think of anything to cook, or ideas on how to dress once the seasons change, or a hair or make-up look to try, I can pull out my binder and flip through it.  It’s kind of a soothing activity.  I also really like retaining all the things I read about for doing stuff like my Kitchen Beautician recipes.  It reminds me of what works well together and if I have something in the kitchen or harvested from the garden that I need to use up, I can get ideas about what to concoct with it in my binders.

    As I said, this is a really simple little life hack but one that brings me a lot of peace and happiness!

  • Chicken Stock (Broth) Recipe

    I consider stock made from animal bones to be a panacea of good health.  I hadn’t always recognized their value.  I was introduced to the culinary concept by Chief and then got really in to learning about the health benefits.  Stock is also known by the term broth. While the two are essentially one in the same, stock is generally used to refer to a liquid made from boiling down bone, while broth is made from boiling down bones that still have a significant amount of meat on them.  Also, stock is a term that is sometimes used more in restaurants with a prescribed recipe whereas broth might be more scraps from whatever is available at home and will be slightly different every time.

    Stocks are really simple to do but they are full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that many people are lacking in our modern diet.  In our throwaway, removed-from-the-process lifestyle, making stocks has kind of gone by the wayside.   Ancient  cultures, conversely, were very resourceful in using up every part of the animal, understanding that not only were bones not meant to be discarded, but that is where some of the most vital nutrients of the animal were contained including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, gelatin, glucosamine-chondroitin and electrolytes.  The gelatin is an additional source of protein to the diet and is thought to help keep bones healthy while the glucosamine – chondroitin helps keep joints healthy.  Joints can sometimes be troubled as a result of over-training or arthritis.

    Besides the resourcefulness and health benefits, there is also the excitement of contributing to your confidence and pride as a cook by preparing your own stocks.  There is an irreplaceable, rich depth to homemade stock and it imparts a delicious flavor to everything you cook that requires stock in the recipe.

    Cooking it also makes a house smell comforting, and I love making our kitchen a space of experimentation and tradition.

    Stocks are a really important component for keeping you and your family healthy.  Broths are very easily digested so work well for supplying nutrients in the system when the body doesn’t have much energy to supply to digestion, like during times of illnesses or for the elderly or with anyone having digestion problems.  The liquid and electrolytes are also really good during times of dehydration during recovery or during times of over-exertion.

    Because stock is generally made out of any leftovers it is very inexpensive.  You can buy the leftover parts from the butchering process at a low cost or you can simply use  the carcasses you’d normally discard, like the remains of a roast chicken.  Using up these bits means that is an extremely frugal way to cook. Often times we’ll ask for some chicken backs at the meat counter and he gladly gives them away to us for a very low price.

    I’m going to put the recipe for chicken stock here because I think that is the one that’s easiest to do as a beginner, but know that you can follow the same general outline for broths of beef, lamb, etc.  Some of the red meats require roasting (about 40 minutes at 350 degrees F) before they are transferred to the stockpot.

    Equipment
    A large stockpot
    A strainer
    A slotted spoon

    Ingredients

    • 1 whole free range chicken or 2-3 pounds of chicken parts (bones, backs, gizzards, etc.)
    • 2 Tbsps vinegar
    • 4 quarts (one gallon) of cold, filtered water
    • 1 large onion, quartered
    • 2-3 carrots (coarsely chopped)
    • 3 celery stalks (coarsely chopped)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • Other vegetable odds and ends you may have on hand

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    Basic Instructions

    Cut the chicken up in to several large pieces if using a whole chicken.  Put it in your stockpot with vinegar, onion, carrots and celery.  Let stand for about 30 minutes to an hour before turning on the burner and bringing to a boil.  Doing so helps to extract some of the vitamins and minerals with the vinegar.  Once it begins to boil, remove the scum that comes to the top.  It is important to do this step so that you can get rid of the stuff we don’t want and to help ensure clarity of the stock.  This is best done with a metal slotted spoon or a small mesh sieve.  Once all the scum has boiled off, reduce heat to a very low heat, cover and leave for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.  You want the water to be turning over to some extent but want to keep the heat as low as possible – not quite to a simmer.  You really won’t need to do much during this time so don’t be daunted by the long process.  It’s really nice to do when you’re around home on the weekends, etc. and makes the house smell lovely.

    The longer you simmer it, the more rich and flavorful the broth will be.  Note that the broth will not be salted until it is ready to be used so keep that in mind when testing the flavor as you go.  When you are finished, remove the bones or carcass with a slotted spoon.  After deliberating for the last year, we finally invested in a stock strainer and Chief is in such a state of joy over it now!  It really is quite handy.  If there is a fair bit of meat left on the bone, remove it to use for things like curry, chili, chicken salads, or enchiladas.  We recently used it as the meat for Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), yum.  The skin or soft small bones can also be given to your dog or cat who will be very happy about the treat!  Larger bones can splinter so don’t feed those to animals.

    Strain the stock and put it in containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer.  We have made the mistake of putting it in glass containers that weren’t made for freezing and cracked them so be sure to get specially designed ones.  It also works well to just put them in Ziploc bags and freezing them that way.  Use larger gallon sizes if you are going to be making soups and smaller Ziploc bags for the times you just need a cup or so.

     

     

     

  • Cat Got Your Tongue, Girl?

    I don’t know why I have no words sometimes.  I really wish I did.  Instead I sit there squirming in awkwardness, wishing everyone were more comfortable with fewer words.  The words I like tend to be printed where they are parceled out and the length of the communication is finite.  The words that come to me via my ears are fraught with how I am going to answer them.  I think slowly so I know I won’t answer what my real answer is, what my thoughtful answer is.

    Or if I say something, I’m afraid it is going to be flung out in to a new world, where everyone can say, “Oh, so you mean…” or use it against me like, “But you said…” Well, maybe I said because I wasn’t ready for it and I had to fill the air with something, anything before my silence was taken as agreement with the talker.  I am not allowed to express my thoughts if I stay quiet.  It bothers me though that the thoughts had to be prematurely expressed when they were ephemeral and unformed, coiled with potential energy but no kinetic energy.

    If you are a person who is constantly talking, it might be hard to imagine what it is like, how physically exhausting it is, to focus on a conversation that your own train of thought is not on board with.  It is a constant bifurcation, of swimming upstream to get back in to the right braid of the river.

    I have struggled with this language issue all my life.  It’s one of the reasons I love being alone, or being with someone who is patient in their words.  I like being around someone who is not going to verbally yank on my leash when I’ve found something interesting to sniff.

    I have been reading an interesting book about language that had a message I didn’t expect.  It is called Language and the Pursuit of Happiness by Chalmers Brothers.  The book promises to allow you to have peacefulness and productivity by using a tool you didn’t know you had.  As you may have guessed based on the title of the book, this tool is language.

    I expected the book would  be about using language as a tool to make us feel a certain way about our thoughts.  For example, I have used the tactic of “power words” I learned when I read Anthony Robbin’s  Awaken the Giant Within .  The way this works is when I am feeling sullen, exhausted or overwhelmed I sometimes smile and tell people I am “introspective” or “stimulated” when they ask how I am because using positive words allows me to color my situation.  It’s similar to the idea by Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project who says that acting the way you want to feel is one of the keys to happiness, instead of it being the other way around.

    I originally bought Language and the Pursuit of Happiness because I thought it would build on this positivity tactic. The message was different than what I expected though.  It was as follows: language is generative.

    Language is generative.

    Wow.  How simple and obvious but I never actually thought about it!  Until you express an idea or a fact, it may as well have not existed for the listener.  For example, “I want a divorce” or “You have received a promotion.”  Did those things exist before they were spoken?  Yes, they did but someone had to say the words to you in order for it to be so.  And then the whole world changes.

    Coming to this simple conclusion has really helped me speak up when I need to.  I have been complacent far too many times because of my fear of speaking up.   But speaking creates possibilities.  It generates outcomes.  Staying quiet is shutting doors.

    If something is bothering me at work, no one will probably know until I tell him or her.  If I am appreciative of something Chief is doing for me, he will probably never know until I tell him.   If I have an idea about something being discussed in a meeting, no one else will get to hear it until I speak up.

    I might be wrong and I might be put on the spot.  I think that is what used to stop me but I have finally decided that the risk is worth it.

    I actually heard a really interesting broadcast on BBC the other day.  I wish I could find the resource for it because I wasn’t paying attention until something caught my ear.   A female economy modeler was speaking and the interviewer was asking her why so few women go in to her field.  The interviewee, who was also a professor, speculated on the answer.  She noted that very few women would ask questions in the classes she taught.  She said that she herself used to be afraid to speak up earlier in her career for fear of saying something wrong and maybe it was this fear of being “wrong” in front of others that prevented women from choosing this career path.

    She said that often times she would have the exact same question or comment in her head that a male counterpart would ask a little bit later and then she would kick herself for not speaking up.  I have been noticing this a lot about myself lately and have realized I need to work harder about not really caring what people think.  I might say something wrong.  I might express something controversial that I don’t really care to argue about (either because I want more information before I have the argument or I don’t feel like being attacked and putting up a stand) but staying quiet can be a greater risk.  I might honestly ask a stupid question but at least if it’s something burning in my head, I have expressed it.  And that is what language is intended to do.

    Around Chief, and my close friends and family, I don’t have a problem speaking up, but I know that in the world at large it is something I need to continue to work on.  I know being quiet is part of who I am but I also know that part of being successful means speaking up at the right time.

  • Packing a Toiletry Bag – with Video and List

    I travel a lot and if I don’t have my toiletry bag all ready to go, it only adds to the stress of trying to get everything done and get out of town.  To counteract that, I keep my toiletry bag fully packed and stocked and separate from my everyday routine.  It costs a little bit more up front, but the hassle it saves later is really valuable.

    I have two kits for travel.  One is my liquids which all have to be less than 3 ounces and fit in a quart-sized plastic bag and the other kit has all my other stuff.  Inside the second kit, I keep a pouch with all my make-up brushes and other long, skinny things like eyeliners, mascara, concealer and lipstick.  I have the contents of each listed below where I give the nitty gritty and a packing list PDF at the end if you don’t want the details.

    Liquids
    – Shampoo and conditioner.  If you don’t already have travel-size containers, Pureology or Aveda make great shampoos and conditioners in travel sizes.  Aveda sends free samples with shipping which are nice for travel too.
    – Facial Cleanser – Aveda and Eminence Organic make great travel sizes.  Lately I’ve been doing the oil cleansing method so I just bring a small bottle of oil.
    – Moisturizer.  Consider asking Sephora for a sample and try a fancy new one in a small size at no cost!  Any time I need something from Sephora, I mail order it because then I get the samples (and I have a mall phobia, shudder).
    Dr Bronner’s Soap.  This can do duty as cleanser, shaving cream, clothing detergent, or shampoo.  If all else fails, bring this one thing!
    – Lotion.  I never trust the nasty scented stuff in hotels.  I’ll often mix a fragrance free organic one with vanilla oil.
    – Sunscreen (Bring a lotion with sunscreen to further limit products.)  I also love this Colorscience powder SPF and keep it in my purse to apply to my face.  I can also apply it to Chief to protect his face as he sits patiently and curious onlookers giggle as he begins to sparkle like a teenage vampire.
    – Eye drops – this is a lifesaver after traveling!
    Morrocanoil Hair Oil This stuff is great for keeping hair silky without adding weight.  You may also want to get a travel-sized container of whatever mousse or finishing product you use.  Pure argan oil works great too and can double as night eye cream, as pomade for hair, or can be added to your cleansing oil.
    – Travel size perfume.  Ask at Sephora or a department store for your favorite scent. The vanilla oil below can also work as a subtle perfume.
    Vanilla oil in jojoba oil (for moisturizing, eye cream, perfume, taming flyaways or frizzies and eye-makeup removal) or to add to your cleansing oil.
    – Toothpaste.  Chief recently discovered you could refill the small tubes by “kissing” the big tube to it.
    Coconut oil.  I have lately been packing it in to a small glass jar I had leftover.  It works great for the beach (for body or for putting in your hair and braiding), moisturizing (instead of lotion), or as a personal lubricant.
    – Egyptian Magic Skin Cream in a small container.  I just scoop some out of the regular full-size jar and put it in a travel container.  This stuff is amazing for a night cream and can be smeared over the whole face to moisturize eyes and lips as well.  It also works as a pomade or body moisturizer.

    Other items:
    – Baby powder or dry shampoo.  I like to keep the powder I make in a brush with a refillable base.
    – Venus razor with cartridge.  No shaving cream is needed.
    Smile’s PRID Drawing Salve.  This stuff is great for scrapes or surprise blemishes.  It’s antibacterial.
    – C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve.  This can be used for a unisex lip balm, for chapped faces, for a dewy glow, or for eye make-up removal.  I talk about using it on the eyes in this post.
    Ceramic Velcro rollers.  I assume wherever I’m traveling will have a hair dryer.  If not, go natural or twist hair in small sections and pin up with bobby pins until it dries.
    – Brush.  I was extravagant and made this purchase about 6 years ago, assuming I will have it forever.
    – Small wide-tooth comb for wet hair
    – Rubber bands and bobby pins.  These can be lifesavers when hair is wacky from traveling.
    – Toothbrush
    – Floss
    – Deodorant.  I really like the LaVanilla mini deodorant trio while I’m still perfecting my homemade deodorant recipe.
    Body brushBody brushing really helps to invigorate you after a travel and helps fight off some of the infections that can result from lack of sleep or germs in the airplane.
    – Empty spray bottle.  You can fill this with water later and a couple drops of essential oil to get wrinkles/smells out of clothes, hydrate your face, or spritz flowers for macro shots!

    Make-up
    – Beauty Balm for moisturizing, light coverage, and sun protection.  I really like Stila tinted moisturizer and Origins VitaZing cream and have recently been introduced to an obscure brand called Elisha Coy that has an SPF of 30.
    – Double-duty foundation/powder.  I have been using Clinique’s  Superpowderfor literally 20 years.
    – Stain for lips and cheeks.  Sephora brand and Benefit make good ones.  There are probably some great ones on the market I haven’t tried.  Lipgloss or lipstick can also work as blush.
    – Eye shadow palette including neutrals and dark/smoky colors and one bright color if you like.  I had a palette made up at MAC that includes my tried and true favorite colors: Vanilla (for highlighting or sweeping across the whole eyelid), Shroom (for the crease) Black Tied (for smoky eyes or liner) and Atlantic Blue (blue wakes up a tired eye and makes the whites look more white).  I also travel with this Coastal Scents palette (it’s very affordable and has a wide range of colors).
    – Blush (if stain won’t work for you).  Nars Orgasm is a great color that works on almost everyone.
    – Mascara.  I religiously use MAC’s Zoomlash in black.
    – Black eyeliner.  Rimming the inner part of the lower lids is an easy way to glam it up.
    – Concealer.  I love MAC’s Moisturecover.  It draws in and maintains moisture which is key if you’ve been traveling by air or partying at night!
    – Any other lipstick or gloss.  I try to bring my favorite red, pink, and neutral.
    – Make-up brushes.  MAC makes good travel sets but they are only available around the holidays generally.  You can find them at Cosmetics Company Stores at outlet malls in the off-season.  I would recommend the following brushes: Powder brush, blush brush, eye shadow brush, eyebrow brush, blending brush and eyeliner brush.  For a more in-depth tutorial on these, see my blog post on make-up brushes and the tutorial video.

    This list looks like a lot but it is all really compact.  You’ll see on the attached PDF that is is not a lot when broken down without the detail.  I almost never check a bag (carry-on only packing) and it always fits on my person.

    That’s the details that I have also chatted about in this YouTube Video, but I have also made a link to a simple packing list that you can print and/or modify:

    Toiletry Bag Packing List

  • Don’t Complain

    “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.” ~Maya Angelou

    Though this quote is really simple, I feel it’s one of the important rules of life.  I found it a few years ago and have been a much happier person since applying it to my life.  It can apply to anything from the very everyday, like my office situation, or to things as serious as a relationship or illness.

    A simple example is my office situation at work.  Yes, I’ve been waiting to write about this for awhile because I usually wait until any bitterness or angriness about a situation has passed so I don’t write in a bitching or whining tone but I think I’ve resolved at least one part of this equation that is bothering me.

    When I moved to my new group for a temporary assignment a couple years ago that I was really excited about, they told me that the floor was packed and that I would not get a window office.  I’m sure lots of you work in windowless spaces but at the office I’m in, 98% of the other scientists at my seniority have a window office, so it’s something I had an expectation for.  It just wasn’t possible, so I sucked it up and went it to my office and put my head down.

    The temporary assignment turned in to a permanent one and the window offices still weren’t available to me.  I would leave work every day with my eyes burning from the fluorescence, feeling upset and angry and in pain.  It was pain of both a pride sting and physical pain from sitting in that horrible little office.  I used to feel inspired to write poetry every morning when I watched the sun rise out my window.  I’m a big fan of watching weather.  Annoying noises around me seemed to be amplified because I didn’t have visual stimulation.  I was constantly complaining about my situation.  One day I went and asked my boss one final time if the offices weren’t really going to be available to me.  It became clear that there was nothing they could do.  It wasn’t from my lack of trying, I assure you.

    Once I realized my office was not going to be moved, I realized I need to change something so that I wouldn’t leave work feeling so physically poor and emotionally down, full of complaints.

    I went out and bought two lamps along with a sunshine simulator lamp for people that have SAD and turned off the overhead fluorescent lights for good.  I brought in a favorite piece of artwork that Chief had never really liked anyway.  I got three plants and an aromatherapy diffuser.  I brought in a glowing salt crystal lamp and completely cleaned up and tidied my office.  All of a sudden, the space was transformed and all my colleagues were stopping by to take pictures and video and to just stop and sit in my office and take it all in.  They said they wanted to make it the clubhouse of the floor.

    So I still pine for a window office again – it sounds like one will become available right as my maternity leave starts as luck would have it, but I did something about my situation and am much happier and actually look forward to being in my space.

    This can apply to so many situations.  Complaining is exhausting for yourself and the people around you.  Change your situation if it makes you complain.  If it truly can’t be changed, change your attitude and make peace with it.  This could apply to anything from relationships to living situations to goals to economic situations to family situations.

  • Revitalizing Epsom Salt and Ginger Lime Body Scrub

    This is an amazing scrub to do when you have tired or achy muscles.  Sore muscles could be from over-exertion in physical activities or because of flu-like sicknesses.  The magnesium helps to soothe the aches and the ginger warms muscles and relieves muscle pain.  The vitamin C from the lime will help act as a mild fruit acid to smooth the skin.

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    In a microwave-proof container, combine the following:

    • 1/3 cup Epsom salt
    • 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped ginger
    • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil (jojoba, almond, or olive oil would work too)
    • Juice of half a lime
    • 2 drops each of lime and ginger essential oil (optional)

    Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, heat the mixture in the microwave at 15-second intervals until it becomes very warm but not hot.

    Take the mixture in to the shower and apply to wet or dry skin in a gentle circular motion or with exfoliating gloves.  Applying to dry skin will result in a more intense exfoliation.  Rinse and pat skin dry.

    If you don’t have any Epsom salt on hand, sea salt could be a good substitute.

  • Oktoberfest Bangers & Mash Recipe

    So official Oktoberfest has passed but it’s still October so I’m posting up this Oktoberfest dinner idea.  It’s always a good standby during the chilly winter months that are nearly upon us in the Northern Hemisphere.

    One frustration I have with cookbooks is that they rarely give an idea for a meal.  Often they contain just a recipe for one part of a meal.  Then I have a hard time deciding what the sides should be.  Bangers and mash is a hearty, healthy, and simple classic dish and it’s one that is easy to please most people with (including kids).  There are different variations but I like to serve mine as sausage and mashed potatoes (the bangers and mash part) along with sauerkraut and Dijon mustard.  One way that I like to add nutrition is by substituting some of the potatoes with some combination of parsnip, turnip, and/or cauliflower.  I also like to add in caramelized onions with the potatoes.

    To make the “mash” boil up equal parts potatoes and vegetables (I love cauliflower).  For five servings, I will usually use 3 small peeled and sliced potatoes and an equivalent volume of peeled, coarsely chopped vegetables.  If you’re going to go through the trouble, it’s nice to make a big batch that can be frozen and re-used later.   Put the potatoes and vegetables in a pot with a teaspoon or so of salt, cover with water, bring to a boil and let cook 15-20 minutes or until fork-tender.   I usually err on the side of overboiling during this step so that I have an easier time mashing later. This meal can sometimes be monochrome, so one way to counter that is to use Peruvian purple potatoes or purple cauliflower.  Once the potatoes and vegetables are fork-tender, drain the mixture.  Using either an electric hand mixer or manual masher, mash the mixture with some butter (3 Tbsp) and some milk or cream (not quite ¼ cup).  If you want to keep it vegan, use olive oil (decrease amount) and oat milk.  Add a generous amount of salt and pepper.  I also love to fold in caramelized onions for extra flavor.

    While the mash is cooking, either grill or sauté the sausage.  If you are going to grill it, slice it after it has been prepared and if you are going to sauté it, cut it up before hand.  I like to cut the sausage at a 45° angle to the length to make each piece a little longer and improve the presentation.  Kielbasa works great for this.  Often times for my portion, I will use the Tofurkey kielbasa.  It’s not fooling anyone, but it’s something I can feel better about consuming.  Our friend brought us some kielbasa-style venison sausage from a hunt he went on, and that’s wonderful too.  Try and find sausages that have not been preserved with nitrates.  There is a wonderful store in Houston called Revival Market that raises sustainable, humanely raised pigs if you are local and are going to eat “real” sausage.  They also have great American mustard that works well with this meal.

    I have a recipe for sauerkraut in a previous post, but if you’re not in to playing around with that, just buy some good refrigerated sauerkraut.  If you prefer your sauerkraut warmed, warm it in a pan while the rest is cooking.  I like to top it with caraway seeds.  A lot of people turn their nose up at sauerkraut, but I encourage you to try it again.  It’s one of those things like pickles that you might eventually start craving.  The cabbage from which it’s made is so healthy.  Cabbage is part of a family of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, etc.  It is chock-full of disease fighting phytochemicals, vitamins (including vitamin C), and fiber.  The slightly sulfurous smell all these vegetables have in common is because they contain sulforaphane.  Studies have suggested that this phytochemical can help reduce the risk of cancer.  It does so by stimulating enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they wreak havoc on cells.  I talk more about the benefits of fermented food in general in the post on sauerkraut.

    Serve the sausage and mashies on a plate, along with some sauerkraut and Dijon mustard.

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    This is a great fall meal, especially served with a nice pint of Oktoberfest beer.  Yum!

  • Travel: Carry-On Only Packing with Video

    There are many reasons that I try to travel with just a carry-on bag when flying.  They are listed below:

    Why??

    • Resourcefulness. I love any opportunity to have a MacGyver moment of my own.  Isn’t that what travel is all about…relying on just your wits and a small bag like Indiana Jones?  It’s about the experience, not the stuff.  People always need far less than they imagine they do and it’s nice not to be carrying around all that extra baggage (literally and figuratively).
    • Self-reliance.  You’re not at the mercy of others. You alone are responsible for your luggage and don’t have to rely on others to help you lift and hoist, etc.  There are no problems with airlines if your bag is lost.
    • Flexibility.  How many times have you realized you could have caught an earlier flight or changed your travel plans only to be stymied by having to wait for your bag to come on a different flight? I also love that there is no waiting at baggage claim after your flight lands.  This can sometimes add 30 to 40 minutes to a trip.  This is a big deal for me because I take a lot of quick jaunts.
    • Smart and efficient.  You don’t waste time worrying about which outfit to wear.  And It’s my view that light packers make a good impression.  Would you rather pick someone up that is lugging around a giant suitcase of crap or someone who is tidy and thoughtful about their packing?  I guess I’m just kind of an asshole that way.  It reminds me of a a study on the impression businesswomen make in relation to their handbag.  If she had to dig and waste time trying to find something, she was thought of as inept and disorganized.  I feel like it’s the same way with packing.

    Here are a few guidelines that I’ve realized on countless trips (I seem to fly about once a month):

    Simple Guidelines

    • It might be a little colder than you expect.  Keep yourself warm.  Bring a versatile garment (jacket) to keep you warm every day.
    • You don’t need as many pairs of shoes as you think you do.
    • If you’re going to overpack on something, do it on first layer shirts and underpants.  It’s always nice to have a fresh one of each of these things.
    • Bring something that is comfortable but can also be dressed up.  I have many times found myself wishing I wasn’t wearing something that was so obviously “traveling” clothes.  Americans seem to be particularly guilty of this.  Go on, you très continental globetrotter *said with a French accent*– play the part.
    • Accessories can go far.  Especially if they do double duty to protect you against weather or give you a way to cover up messed up or dirty hair, like a hat, scarf or head scarf.
    • You don’t need as many pairs of trousers/bottoms as you think you do.
    • Advice from my friend, Sarah, when I told her I could never decide what to pack.  “Really?  I always just bring all my very favorite things!”  Very sound advice!  After all, this is when pictures are going to be taken.
    • Often times you might want to shop or buy something that reminds you of a place so err on the light side and use this as an excuse to buy something local if you didn’t pack enough.  This works especially well with jewelry when you don’t have much space in your luggage.

    Suitcase

    If you know which airline you’re traveling on, check the limitations for carry-on baggage size.  I have two suitcases that I love (and show in my video) that easily fit in most overhead bins.  There is a 17” Brookstone hard case that is really light and maneuvers easily and a great Osprey Meridian convertible wheeled suitcase I have that works really well for doing a tour or “backpacking” type trips.

    How to Pack

    Please see my YouTube video for a more detailed description of these ideas.

    Depending on the type of trip I’m doing, I will pack one of two ways.  If it’s a trip where I’m going to be moving around a lot between hotels, houses, and/or it’s more a tour type trip, I will pack everything in plastic bags as described in my  video.  This method of packing groups all like things together.  That way when you want to find the thing you’re looking for, you can grab it out of a bag and then stuff everything back in without messing it all up.  It’s great if you’re not really able to unpack on your trip.

    If I’m going to be set up somewhere for a while and can kind of unpack, I will just skip the plastic bags.  In both cases, I will roll up all my clothes to save space.  I always bring a small bottle of detergent (shampoo or Dr. Bronner’s soap work fine too). That way I know I can do a quick wash in the sink and an overnight air dry if something is desperate for a wash.

    When I pack, I sort of do it from a body scan approach.  I pack the necessary shoes – usually one pair that can be dressed up, one simple flat that is comfortable that can go with jeans, shorts, or a dress (sometimes the same as my one that can be dressed up) and one pair that is athletic.  For women, I love the Patagonia Maha Breathe to do triple duty if it won’t be cold.  Then I make sure I have the necessary socks.  I usually only need a few pairs of trousers/skirts no matter how long the trips is. Then underpants.  Again, splurge here. Then short sleeve, tanks and shirts.  This again is where I splurge if I’m not going to stay somewhere people will be doing loads of laundry.  A dress or two.  Something warm for the plane.  A jacket.  Then accessories.  Maybe a scarf or belt and a couple pieces of jewelry that travel well and that you wouldn’t be devastated if you lost.  I try to stick with one color family on a trip so everything goes together, including jewelry.

    I cover packing for toiletries in another post.

  • Finding the Good in the Bad

    We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. ~Abraham Lincoln

    The other day as it turned from warm sunny and beautiful to windy, Chief and I found ourselves complaining that it was now too breezy to grill our dinner outside.  We set aside our plans for a barbecue and a bike ride with a resigned sigh and went out for dinner.  The next day, the wind dissipated and so we went out to grill our original meal, finding it still and muggy and hot.  As we started preparing everything, we realized the mosquitoes were out.  If only we had some wind to keep them away!

    We have pretty much stopped using our air conditioning and heating, the Houston climate sometimes verging on freezing and often verging on hot, but never enough that you can’t stand it.  It doesn’t make sense to blast air in to our old and energy inefficient house.  All  last winter I ran around covered in three layers and down slippers, occasionally a hat, piling on blankets to go to bed.  I dreamed of the summer days when I could again walk around feeling warm, taking cold baths and wearing hot yoga shorts and a bralette around the house.  Well, those days arrived and guess what?  I once again found myself longing for those days we spent snuggling under the covers and making hearty stews.

    All of this has caused me to reflect on how we feel about life in general.  Sometimes we long for something to be how it used to be, or to look forward to the way things will be without appreciating all the things about the present moment.

    When it’s windy, it keeps the bugs away.  When it’s raining, it’s good for the garden and plants and gives us an excuse to not feel guilty about curling up with a book or movie.  When it’s cold, it gives us a chance to put together cute outfits and make a fire and snuggle up with loved ones.  When it’s warm, we can leave the house without worrying about a chill. When it’s humid, it keeps our skin plump and hydrated.  When it’s dry we can cruise on foot or bicycle without becoming covered in sweat.  When it’s sunny, we can soak up the vitamin D and watch the solar-powered rainbow maker.  When it’s cloudy, it gives us a cozy feeling.

    What if instead of assessing what’s wrong with today, we appreciated what this weather or circumstance was bringing to our life?  I am trying to be thankful for the things that may seem like annoyances or deterrents and appreciate them for what they are providing instead of focusing on what they are preventing.  Like weather, life always changes.

    A windy (but bug free!) hike in Big Bend National Park

    A windy (but bug free!) hike in Big Bend National Park

  • Hot autumn thunder
    Makes moon melt tickle my face;
    Harvest wild dreams.

    a haiku, by Emily Ness