MOMMYHOOD: What the show "HOARDERS" taught me and my daughter

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I am not sure if you have seen the reality show, "HOARDERS" on A&E, but it is pretty awful and incredible, all at the same time. The show sheds light on the mental disorder called hoarding. It's when people cannot throw anything away, and as a result, make their homes pretty much uninhabitable. Its amazing (and disgusting) to see some of the squalor some of these people just live in everyday, and it doesn't even phase them. Some of these people have young children, too. I don't watch all the time, because I really can't. It is really disturbing to watch, and yet-you cannot look away once you are sucked in. But I will tell you, it has been a HUGE motivation for me to clean out closets and rooms over the past year. Its kind of funny, but my husband can attest to the bags of old baby things and clothes that have gone to charity or to other family members throughout the year. And it feels really good.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, during my holiday time off, I am doing more organizing and house projects. As I passed my daughter's room this morning, a wave of fear hit me. Am I raising a hoarder? My daughter is a collector. She collects rocks, shells, bottle caps, Bakugan, Pokemon, trading cards, bugs, webkinz and gogos. This is on top of the typical kid clutter you get with art, paper, stickers, craft supplies and books. With the new Christmas items strewn all over as well, it hit me that if she was going to continue to collect things, she needed to learn to cull, say good bye to things and also give to others less fortunate. She also needs to learn the art of organizing her collections and realize that clutter is not a nice way to live. So after breakfast, I announced our big project for the day. I motivated her with the reward of seeing her neighbor friend after we were done. I have to hand it to her, she dug right in and did little complaining. Maybe her clutter was bothering her, too.

At any rate, I informed her I had a variety of garbage bags. One for charity, a couple for the spring garage sale we are having, one for recycling, and one for garbage. I kept giving her piles to look through and gave her assignments. The first test was her paper pile of art projects, make-believe props and just scribbles and signs. She usually has a difficult time letting go of all of this. Typically when I do clean up, I sneak around and put it in the garbage without her knowing. I realized today I am not teaching her anything. She needs to learn to let go and not keep everything. I had her separate the paper into two piles, and the art she wanted to save I promised to put in a keepsake portfolio organizer my sister 'n law gave me. (this is it if you want one, too. Its helpful! I have to say, she did great. 3/4 of the paper went in recycling. This was a big move for her, and I praised her ability to make hard choices.

We then moved around the room to her toy box, her desk and went through the closet. I kept asking her if things needed to stay or go. Some things she had trouble letting go of, and that stuff I did not push because she was still making great progress in the "go" column. In the end, we had 2 1/2 bags to put in the garage sale, one bag for recycling, one for garbage and one for charity.

Her collections I helped her organize so she wasn't overrun by them. I bought a box of mason jars, and in each she had to pick her favorite rocks or shells. I labeled each jar with where the items came from and the year. She displayed them proudly AND CLEANLY on her dresser. I explained collections need to be nice and neat to be enjoyed, and I think she really got it.

She kept up with me for three hours, and I was very proud of her. I could tell she saw the clutter get under control and the good feeling she had inside to have her room nice and neat. I hope we can continue these good habits so I don't see her on A&E 15 years from now! We're going to keep at it. My little collector is always coming up with new things to collect, so I am sure this will be her challenge throughout her life. Now I am off to MY bedroom and to do some cleaning!

HOME: Organize Your Online Recipe Printouts and Add Zen Back into your Kitchen

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When I am off during the holidays, I like to get some projects that have been weighing heavily on me throughout the year DONE so we can start the new year fresh. Last night, I finally organized recipes. Not with a cutesy recipe organizer that you get for your wedding shower. I mean a lean, mean, heavy-duty organizational system for online 8 1/2 x 11 printouts, small Williams Sonoma catalog clippings, and post it notes-all in one easy-to-find place.

Our cookbook bookcase has been inundated with sheets and sheet of papers, and we did have a couple file folders filled as well. So we took an evening and went through all of them, using the following supplies and method. It was such a relief to finally get all this paper under control. If you are printing online recipes like we are, I bet you are getting overrun with letter-sized print outs as well. I urge you to try our binder method. Just open a nice Cabernet, put on an old movie and spend an evening going down "food memory lane". You'll feel better in the morning, I promise.

Tools you will need:

A three ring binder
3 ring whole punch
tabbed dividers
a pen
some blank 8 1/2 x 11 paper

First go through and organize all your recipes. Put them in piles on the floor in categories such as; appetizers, salads, one dish meals, etc. Because we had limited tabbed dividers, we double grouped sections that made sense, and just notated it on the divider page. If you have to cut some stuff or trim down clippings or copies as you go to fit nicely, do so.

Now start with your first group. Three ring punch letter-sized recipes and put behind your first tabbed divider. Take any smaller clippings or hand written notes and tape on letter-sized blank paper, then whole punch that sheet and pop it in. If one of the recipe clippings have directions on the back, just tape the top down so you can flip it up. What is nice is that now all your odd-sized recipes can have the same size as your print outs. This makes it easier to view and flip.

Continue taping, whole-punching and tabbing. Remember to notate on each divider page what section each divider is starting. If you are grouping a few under one divider page, notate that as well. And voila-chaos meets organization.

You may want to have more than one binder, too. We decided to keep our desserts in one binder, healthy, everyday meals in another, and everything else in yet another.

The final thing to do is write a title on a blank piece of paper and slip it into the cover and spine of the binder so you can easily pull it out when you need it.

Have fun! It feels good to check one more thing off the house to-do list!

RECIPE: Whole Grain, Yummy Oatmeal Cookies

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With all the eating and eating this holiday season, it is hard to stay on track with my " South Beach" approach to eating the past few weeks. In an effort to enjoy my birthday today and not succumb to cake, I made some healthy-yet-delicious oatmeal cookies. They came out wonderfully! Make a batch tonight and nibble on these when the egg-nog ice cream urge attacks.

Whole Grain, "South Beach Friendly", Delicious Oatmeal Raisin Nut Cookies

Makes about 24

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
1/4 cup granulated Splenda
® for baking
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional-I threw these in special for my birthday knowing they are cheating a little)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Cream the butter and sugars with a mixer. The butter mixture will have more texture than typical creamed sugar/butter. When the sugar looks well incorporated, add the egg and vanilla and whip more.

Using a spoon or a spatula, hand mix the oatmeal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon until well incorporated. Then add the raisins, nuts and chocolate chips and mix well.

With your hands, shape into 1 1/2 inch patties and flatten lightly with your hand. Place on a baking sheet a couple inches apart. Bake until edges begin to brown, then flip the trays in the oven (at about the 8 minute mark) and continue cooking for an additional 5-8 minutes.

When the cookies have a nice golden color, take out of the oven. Let sit on the trays to cool down for 10 minutes. Then place cookies on a cooling rack to continue cooling. Keep in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Enjoy with less guilt!

RECIPES: Infused Olive Oils make Great Gifts

Pin It A few months ago, I posted tips on what to do with extra fresh herbs from your garden. One of the wonderful things you can do is infuse olive oil. Here is the previous post: I decided to make some for my coworkers for Christmas. I bought bottles in bulk online to keep costs down, and bought gallons of oil at a European market which sells oil cheaper. It was a very affordable way to give some of my coworkers something very special for all their hard work this year. Below are the steps I took to make the oils into beautiful Christmas gifts.

I bought wide mouth mason jars, and measured how many I needed based on what the final gift bottles held. I decided to make a spicy version and an Italian version. I let them sit and steep for two weeks. Keep them out of the sun and away from heat.

After two weeks, the oil should be ready. Sterilize the gift bottles in a vat of boiling hot water, using hot tongs to pull them in and out. Let them air dry, and if water is still in them in areas, use a paper towel and a bamboo skewer to wipe down the inside of the bottles.

Using wire mesh, pour the oils from the mason jars into a large measuring cup. Then use a funnel and pour the oil from the measuring cup into each of the gift bottles. Wipe them down and cap.

Design some nice labels with your name on it. Also give instructions to use in one week. For longer shelf life, refrigerate. I also like to mention the ingredients I used for allergy alerts.

WORKPLACE: What Happened to the Golden Triangle?

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Many years ago, an amazing adman turned public speaker coach asked me if I knew the Golden Triangle rule. He explained that there are three sides to the triangle-1: Do it Fast. 2: Do it cheap. 3: Do it well. And then he looked at me and said "Pick TWO." The theory is so simple and glaringly true, I was dumbstruck. And I kept a visual of that triangle on my office door for years. My problem has always been that I always strive for "well"-even if the demands are cheap and fast. And it is probably why I have a chronic stomach condition! But the reality is if you don't have enough time or enough resources, the ability to do amazing work is very, very hard. And I put the burden on myself to try and strive for it, anyway. And that's how you get burn out.

The reason the golden triangle is in my thoughts today is that this recession has forced us to have to do all three. Period. Clients are strapped for time, and they shorten their vendor time lines as a result. Budgets have been cut everywhere so projects have to be done with very little resources. AND it has to be exceptional. Opportunities have been so few that every project you do get needs to be a "home-run" or you won't get another one your way any time soon. SO as we do more with less in our home life, we are also doing more with less in our work lives too. Less money, less staff, less time. But we have to deliver more, a lot more.

On a positive note, striving for "well" with cheap and fast has helped to hone my skills. I can think faster and ideate in short bursts of time simply out of necessity. I have learned to be thrifty with what resources I do have. My team has had to grow, stretch and learn skills that they may not have had to do if I had more resources. Wasn't it Horace who said, "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. "?

But it was also Elizabeth Hardwick who said, "Adversity is a great teacher, but this teacher makes us pay dearly for its instruction; and often the profit we derive, is not worth the price we paid. "? I can't help but wonder if when we have truly recovered from this recession, will be able to horse trade again to get more time or more money to do truly exceptional work? Or has this become the status quo for the future? Have we trained everyone in business now to expect cheap, fast and the best you can get for that as what is acceptable? Has the golden triangle dissolved into history like the 40 hour work week, faxes, letter-writing and the rotary phone? I guess time will tell.

CRAFTS: No-Sew Fleece Tie Blanket makes a Great Gift!

Pin It My daughter asked me to make her a special "sea creature" fleece tie blanket as a Christmas gift after a trip to our favorite JoAnne's Craft store. It turns out, after reading a little how-to pamphlet at the store, it is quite easy to do. I found that when I bought a "Panel" design in the fleece section. It was even easier because you did not have to do much measuring. The size is figured out for you. Just pick a back color that goes and have the cutting clerk cut the back fabric to match the size of the panel. I found a great sea creature panel that I hope my daughter will love come Christmas! This was so easy and is such a great gift, I started wondering who else I can make one for. I urge you to try it if you are not sure what to buy someone. JoAnne's has a lot of different panel designs for many interests and color schemes, great for anyone on your list. Here's how you do it:

First lay your back fabric, right side DOWN on the floor.

Now lay your front panel evenly over the top, cut off any excess so the edges are flush and even. I cut off the sides (above) because as you can see, they were "underhanging" the top.

Next, create a 4 x4 square template out of a piece of paper. Place paper on each corner of your fleece to cut 4 x 4 "notches" in each corner. This will help your corners turn out alright.

Now take that same 4 x 4 paper, and measure 1/2 inch strips in the paper. You can cut the strips or draw them, whichever you want to help you use it as a guide. This will be your guide throughout all the edges to cut 1/2 inch strips on all edges of the fleece. It will keep your strips very even and make the finished blanket look nicer.

Now with much patience and maybe with a glass of wine, cut, cut, cut all the way around! Be even and cut through both pieces of fleece.

Now, start on the side of one corner, and tie a bottom strip to it's "mate" on the top, and continue to tie off the blanket. Be very careful around the corners, the strips get confusing and you may start tying off the wrong strips to each other, so slow down around the corners. Also, do a double knot. This takes patience. I laid the blanket right on me on the couch and watched "Bourne Identity" to keep me company while I tied away. (Stay off the wine for this part- it may make it go quicker but you may mess it up if you get loopy!)

TADA! Instant, hand-crafted, affordable GREAT GIFT! Get tying!

WOMANHOOD: Pink, a new helpful online magazine

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I am quite excited about a new online magazine I just came across. Maybe it has been around a while, but I have never seen it. It seems to do a nice job of balancing career tips and business with lifestyle & fashion advice. It has great articles on building capital and running a small business. It has advice on office decor and swanky office fashion tips. They have a daily newsletter, similar to "Daily candy" that will send a daily tip to your inbox. Sign up and get in the PINK!

MOMMYHOOD: Make your own babyfood and don't spend a ton doing it.

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I was flipping though my beloved Williams Sonoma magazine the other day, with wishful sighing at all the wonderful cooking gadgets I could own if I had a kitchen the size of Sausalito, when I came across a section on making baby food. I have to admit, I "oohed" and "ahhed" over the pretty, ergonomic and handy cooking gadget (above) they were selling for making baby food, and the cute little freezer containers they had along with it-but I cringed at the price tag. So, I decided to write a little bit about making baby food and how to do it with what you already have in the house. That is how I did it before it was trendy! And you can too.

What you will need:

• A sauce pan with a steamer basket or a steamer gadget. (I used the old fashioned pot and pan approach!)
• A food processor
• Lots and lots of ice cube trays (I went to a thrift store and disinfected everything in boiling water. You could try a dollar store, too.)

• Lots of freezer storage bags
• A sharpie
• Fruits and vegetables ( I bought all organic in year #1 and my daughter was sick only once before her first birthday. I think it makes a huge difference! If you go to the trouble of nursing-why start feeding your baby chemically laden food? Just my two cents-)
• A cookbook. We really liked The Healthy Baby Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel. She cooks with subtle spices in the steamed apples and really great finger-food recipes for toddlers. I know these days there are a lot more chefs writing baby food books-so look around and read reviews.

My husband and I would pick one Sunday a month-spend two or three hours and make over a month's worth of pureed food. We would steam the fruit or vegetable (sometimes nestling a cinnamon stick and a bit of whole nutmeg in the apples-keep them whole so you could take them out easily before puree). Then, puree. Spoon the puree into ice cube trays, cover. Freeze. Label the trays if you need. Once frozen, pop them out. Store each flavor in it's own freezer bag, label and date. That's IT! Each square is a Tbsp. serving size. They defrost easily in a bowl of warm water or a few seconds in the microwave. 

I really enjoyed doing this. The money you save by making is incredible! Its greener, its not that hard, and you know exactly what is going into your baby. I can say that our daughter has always had a diverse palette and to this day a healthy eater. I  would like to think the extra effort in giving her full flavored, homemade food when she was younger helped develop her taste buds. I don't know-probably not-but I can dream!

Now, If you have the money and the space, I will admit that the beaba babycook gadget from WS is pretty cool. Here is a link to it on their site, if you want to splurge. If it will entice you to make food for your little one, then go for it! It is such a great thing to do for them. Really! Here is the link-and happy steaming!

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