Helping around the house

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posted by Dharm


There is nothing quite as infuriating as a Helpless Woman. Actually there is. There's nothing worse than a Helpless Man!   It's quite typical, especially in Asian Cultures, for the man to be absolutely helpless in the kitchen. Some can't even boil water.   Can't may not be the right word because surely Anyone can boil water. The fact of the matter is that some men simply Won't. But far, far worse than a man who is helpless in the kitchen is a man that is well... just plain helpless! Believe me, these men DO exist.


Most women expect their men to be able to do simple fix-its and repairs around the house. Of course, its an added bonus if he helps out in the kitchen as well as with the household chores. Fair call I say.

By the same token, it's very gratifying when a woman is able to do simple fix-its around the house without having to depend on the man. You know, just simple things like checking the fuse before moaning that the toaster is broken; knowing the difference between a Power Failure and an ELCB trip; being able to change the washer on a leaky faucet; Being able to use the measuring tape to check the 'footprint' for the new sofa. If all this sounds Greek to you, then it's time you 'Googled' some of these terms to equip yourself!

You see, just like some women find men that cook to be extremely sexy, there is something to be said for women who know their way around tools and can do fix-its at home by themselves. Even better is a woman who can confidently say "There's a noise coming from the rear wheel, I think it may be the bearing."

Very Hot! See? And you thought that it was only lingerie that got our motors running.

My wife, unfortunately, doesn't know the difference between a plier and a wire cutter. Neither does she know what an adjustable spanner looks like. But she has learnt what an Allen-key is (also known as a hex key)! She IS trying to learn though and in the meantime has some very nice lingerie...

So, where is all this leading? To the kids of course! You see, it's all about exposure. Just like I want to ensure that my children are knowledgeable in the kitchen and food department, I also take pains to get them involved in helping me with little fix-it jobs at home. Nothing like bringing up kids that are all-rounders!!

Just recently, we decided that my daughter needed a bookshelf for her room. So, rather than just doing it myself, I made it into a little fun project!

Firstly, the kids and I measured the 'footprint' for where the bookshelf would go in my daughters room. We then sat down and perused the Ikea catalogue to see what options there were in shelving.

On the weekend we took a trip to Ikea where my daughter decided what bookshelf she wanted in terms of colour and height. My son, of course, added his 'expert' opinion. They couldn't wait to get home to help me assemble the bookshelf. See, exposure isn't enough. You need to get the kids involved as well. It would have been easier for me to tell them to go downstairs and sit with Mummy while I fixed the bookshelf myself. Easier sure, but hardly as much fun. This way, I not only get to spend precious "Daddy Time" with my kids but I get to teach them about working with their hands, the different kinds of tools and their uses, how to read plans and instructions and about using the tools safely and correctly.


The kids in turn take great pride in knowing that they helped to assemble their own bookshelf. You'd also be amazed at how much better care they take of it. And the way they tell everyone about how they fixed the bookshelf, you'd wonder who was actually helping whom!


And remember, the next time the man in your life is busy fixing something and calls out to you to please give him a hand by fetching a screwdriver, surprise him with "Would you be needing a Philips or a Flathead?" Better yet, show him that you can fix it yourself - preferably while wearing lingerie....



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This Post was written by Dharm from Dad ~ Baker & Chef



Meatball "rice bomb" lunch

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Posted by Biggie @ Lunch in a Box

Bento lunches don't have to be filled with a multitude of different dishes in order to be appealing; focus on packing a balance of food groups and contrasting natural colors in your meal and you'll find that a simple lunch can be just as attractive and satisfying as an ornate one.

Meatball rice bomb bento lunch for preschooler


Rice bomb close-up
This lunch revisits the meatball-stuffed onigiri rice "bombs" that I packed in an adult lunch last year after spying them in a Japanese-language onigiri cookbook. Making them is pretty straightforward: with your hands or ball-shaped onigiri mold (photo below), cover a meatball with warm short- or medium-grain rice, then completely cover that with moistened scraps of nori seaweed. I used pre-made teriyaki meatballs that I picked up at Costco and seasoned Korean seaweed for flavor, but regular Japanese nori is easier to work with and keeps its shape better afterwards as it's less delicate.

Meatball onigiri lunchContents of preschooler lunch: Onigiri rice "bombs" stuffed with teriyaki pineapple chicken meatballs (my favorite, Aidells brand), grape tomatoes and steamed bell pepper with Korean barbecue sauce. I keep a bottle of Korean barbecue sauce in my fridge to quickly flavor any number of protein or vegetable dishes; having a few premade sauces on hand (store-bought or homemade, any of your favorite flavors) is an easy way to speed up your lunch prep.

Rice ball moldMorning prep time: 10 minutes, using leftover refrigerated rice, store-bought meatballs, and leftover bell pepper. In the morning I microwaved the rice to restore its soft texture so I could work with it, and microwaved the meatballs to kill off any surface bacteria (see my Daily Tiffin post on packed lunch food safety). I made these without the molds above, wetting my hands when I put the pieces of seaweed on in order to get them to stick. Honestly, it was just too much effort to dig the mold out from under my stove -- I need to revisit my bento gear organization system to make the larger accessories more accessible.

Packing: Initially I just plopped the rice bombs down into the plain, unlined box, but they looked sad and lonely with the bare box bottom staring back up at me. So I grabbed a piece of lettuce from the refrigerator and lined the box with it for some nice color contrast (I'm guilty of unnecessary garnish here -- my son totally ignored the lettuce). Much better. The bell pepper went into a hard plastic food cup (yellow, to amplify the yellow of the bell pepper), and the grape tomatoes acted as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch in transit. The lunch is packed in one 350ml box from a Lock & Lock lunch set.

Verdict: A qualified thumbs up. My three-year-old ate both of the rice bombs at preschool, and the rest afterwards as a snack. His preschool teacher said that the he had a little trouble eating the rice bombs as they were a little crumbly; this was my fault as I'd let the rice sit too long in the rice cooker before refrigerating it, and it dried out a little. For best results, either use fresh rice or be sure to freeze/refrigerate your leftover rice soon after cooking it, while it's still at its most moist.



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This Post was written by Biggie from Lunch in a Box.

Dreams, Sweet Dreams…

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Posted by Abby

Well, we’re less than one month into the New Year and despite a long and lazy Christmas break I’m already starting to feel the first shadows of tiredness. Which is just not acceptable – it’s a new year and I have big plans! I need to be fighting fit and full of energy!

if, like me, you’re already losing your lustre, commit to making some of the changes suggested below and reap the rewards…


Create a wind-down-into-relaxation routine
Separating work and home life is important, especially if you tend to blur the boundaries. Start by managing your working day. My promise to myself is never to extend the day at both ends - going in early and leaving late is a quick way to wear yourself out. i also ensure that I only bring home as many papers as I can deal with during my commute and dealing with work phone calls or emails from home is a big no-no.

Once you get home, create a routine that leads you into your evening. For me that involves heading into the kitchen to make a delicious supper, with favourite music playing, and an idea of what time i need to be in bed.

If you suffer from insomnia, an extended routine that takes you into your bedtime can be important. Decide how you want to signal it’s time for sleep. Perhaps have a bath using relaxing essential oils such as lavender. Or spend some extra time winding down – perhaps read for short while, listen to some peaceful music or meditate, imagining your body relaxing and becoming sleepy just before you turn off the light.

Finally, it always amazes me how much clutter and junk people allow to build up in their bedrooms. For me, my bedroom is a sanctuary. i want it to be clean, tidy, and relaxing with a luxurious feel. Take the time to make your bedroom into a relaxing and special place.

Watch what you eat and drink
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, avoid stimulants. Caffeine is number one enemy for a lot of us – it can take 10 hours for your body to excrete any caffeine you consume, so consider cutting down on chocolate, tea, coffee and other caffeinated food and drink. I avoid it as much as possible in the evening. Other stimulants such as alcohol and drugs will also affect your ability to sleep, even if they help knock you out for a few hours when you first fall asleep, and controlling your intake will have a big impact.

When thinking about what to eat, avoid rich protein-filled foods which your body will have to work hard to digest. Instead, choose carbohydrate-rich foods. Focussing on foods rich in vitamin B6, magnesium and tryptophan will help balance your mood and encourage feeling so drowsiness.

Good sources of these foods include milk, green vegetables, whole foods, nuts and seeds, eggs, turkey and chicken. Add starchy carbohydrates such as noodles, rice, bread and pasta.

Herbal teas, such as camomile and verbena will help you relax if something, such as a soothing mug of hot milk, is not what you fancy. If you suffer from indigestion, try peppermint tea.

Healthy body, sleepy body
Sorting out your stress levels has a huge impact on your ability to relax and sleep well. Getting your home:work balance sorted out is a good first step. The obvious next step is exercise as regular exercise helps to reduce stress-hormone levels.

Exercise is not something I’m any sort of expert on so I suggest you start tuning into tartelette’s fabulously motivational and informative posts and decide what steps you’re going to take to a fitter, healthier and more energetic you…



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This Post was written by abby from eat the right stuff.



What To Give Your Man For Valentine's Day

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Posted by Meeta K

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One question many women find themselves asking as Valentine's Day draws near is what they should be buying for the man in their life.

This gets even harder if the relationship is slightly new, since then you are not only on the hunt for a gift he'll like, but you also want to find something that isn't 'too much' considering what point your relationship is at.

Here are some ideas that you might be able to put to good use.

A CD Made By You

Rather than going out and purchasing a CD from the store, compile a mixed CD with either bands he's said he liked, or music you've encountered when you two have been together.

This is more thoughtful than simply buying one from the store and as such, will help provide more meaning behind the gift.

Tickets To His Favourite Team's Sports Game

Topping most guys' favourite things to do is attend their team's sports games. Getting him tickets to this, whether you choose to go along too or give him two to take a friend, shows that you are paying attention to his interests and that you aren't going to try and force him away from his sports.

This is something a lot of men fear about getting into a relationship, so by showing him you are alright with watching sports with him or letting him attend games, it'll help relax these nerves of his.

Coupon's For A 'Home Cooked Meal'

For a creative idea, create your own coupons that entitle him to one 'home cooked meal'. This is a good way to have a nice romantic night inside and to also show him that you are capable of cooking.

This is a characteristic that most men value in a woman, so it's something you want to show off. Plus, it shows more thought and effort than simply taking him out to eat at his favorite restaurant.

For The More Advanced Relationship

A Panty-Gram

If you're really in the mood to try and spice things up, send him a panty-gram! Place two or three pairs of new panties in a box and sent this to him as a gift. It'll give him a taste of what you're intending later in the night (something all men will love).

A Weekend Getaway

Getting your boyfriend or husband a weekend getaway is a great way to kill stress and help rekindle your love for each other.

Keep in mind that if a limited budget is something you're working with, you don't necessarily have to travel out of your city, just book a room for two in a cabin or hotel near where you live. This will still give you alone time together, which is the whole point of the trip.

An Engraved Message

When the thought of an engraved gift comes to mind, usually it's always women's presents people think about. This does not need to be the case.

Consider purchasing a really classy watch, belt clip, or cufflink and have a special message written on it. Then, every time he goes to put it on, he'll think of you.

It just takes a regularly simple gift, one step further.

A Gym Membership

Finally, another gift you could consider getting the man in your life is a membership to a gym. You do need to be careful with this gift in particular since it could send a message you don't quite intend to send, but as long as you know he already has a vested interest in working out, then it shouldn't really be a problem. If he's never worked out before though, you do need to watch because he may take it to mean you think he is getting overweight, which, just as women, men can get sensitive about too.

So, don't let Valentine's Day scare you when it comes to gift giving. As long as you take into account what stage of your relationship you are in and what type of hobbies or interests your partner has, you should easily be able to pick up a creative gift that will show him how much you care.


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This Post was contributed by Vicky from Got A Crush

Meat? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Meat!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Posted by Glenna


Often for my lunchbox, and dinner at home too, I end up with a vegetarian form of whatever I make my husband for dinner. This meal is one of my favorites and will appear more often both at home and at work: Mushroom Ragout over Creamy Polenta, Brussels Sprouts blanched in vegetarian broth, large Spanish Green Olives, and Medjool dates and Orange slices for dessert.

Mushrooms are one of my favorite vegetables. I love their full rich earthy taste savored along with the brightness of green vegetables. They're the meat of the garden group so that's what makes them such a hearty anchor for this meal. When I made this meal, I found that it was easy to adapt it to my meat-eating husband by dropping a chicken breast into the mushroom ragout after I'd pulled my own portion out, while I myself didn't miss the chicken at all. I love polenta and it's rich taste from my youth. The Italians say polenta, my southern roots say corn meal mush. No matter. It all comes out beautifully in the wash.

And as for Brussels Sprouts? I thought I hated them. I've thought I hated them for all but this last year of my 42 years, but you know what? What I've found is that I do like Brussels Sprouts IF they're not gussied up. Add a bunch of butter and bacon or walnuts and orange and they take on a bitterness I don't like, BUT, if I simply blanch them in a little vegetable broth I could eat my weight in them. Who knew? Well I do now and enjoy them often.
Mushroom Ragout
Recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse
8 oz. Mushrooms (I had white buttons on hand), washed and quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup red wine (I had cabernet handy)
1/2 tsp dried thyme Salt and Pepper to taste

Over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil. Add mushrooms and saute until browned and aromatic. Add wine, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until wine is reduced by half.

Polenta
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali
4 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat water and salt until boiling. Drizzle in polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until all polenta is incorporated and mixture begins to thicken. Switch to a wooden spoon, pull off heat and continue to stir until thick as paste.
Brussels Sprouts, Like Revenge: Served Cold
Recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse

1 quart water
1 Tbsp vegetarian boullion
2 cups cleaned and quartered Brussels Sprouts
Bring water and boullion to a boil. Drop in sprouts for one minute. Drain in collander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Salt and Pepper to taste. Chill before serving.





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This Post was written by Glenna from A Fridge Full of Food...and nothing to eat.


Oh Bananas!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Posted by Amanda at Little Foodies

If you have any overly ripe bananas lurking around, then make these.





Pure and simple, a natural smoothie made with overly ripe bananas, ice and milk blitzed in a blender (the bananas were totally black). The four glasses you see above were made with 3 medium size bananas, 10 cubes of ice and just over 2 glasses of milk. If you haven't used enough milk to fill each glass, add more milk to each glass and stir.
Note: A stick/immersion blender also works if you have the ingredients in a jug or bowl deep enough to catch all the splatters!

Aidan Brooks suggested making these as an alternative use for ripe bananas. This was after I'd posted a very sweet banana and toffee (dulce de leche) quick bread on my personal blog. I always think of cake when I see ripe bananas but these were a much healthier alternative and seriously delicious.

You could add other fruits, yogurt or any number of other things. But if Aidan suggests something my children sit up and listen so banana smoothies it was.

Aidan Brooks is the real deal, a passionate young British trainee chef, currently working in a Michelin starred restaurant in Barcelona. He also writes on the Guardain blog Word of Mouth sometimes and he's definitely one to watch for the future! (You heard it here first, though those who have been following Aidan for a while know this already).



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This Post was written by Amanda from Little Foodies

Be As Strong As Your Resolutions

Friday, January 18, 2008

Posted by Helene


On January 2nd, I stood on the sideline, watching other trainers rubbing their hands at the thought of so many people putting their New Year's resolutions into practice by hiring a Personal Trainer. I was actually shaking my hand at that particular trainers/trainees dance. Why? Because I don’t believe in NY resolutions, I believe in lifestyle changes and life adjustments. When January rolls around, people come to me to sign up for training and although I may take a paycheck cut by waiting before signing them up, I give them pointers for the first couple of weeks and if they still follow them after that time then I agree to be their trainer. Why? That way I know that we will both have a better time training and a more long-term relationship. Here are some of the “adjustments” I share with them:

- Develop an action plan for every goal: Instead of saying “I am going to eat better”, start by learning about good nutrients, ways to adapt recipes for with lower fat, lower sugar substitutions. Focus on a few things each day like more vegetables, more calcium, less sodas, etc…
- Start a journal:Write in it not what you did not do right but what you can do better next time. Highlight the positives like: “had a salad instead of fries”, “took the stairs instead of the elevators”.
- Avoid saboteurs and negative people/situations:
Share your goals with positive people and stay away from people who tempt you too often away from your resolutions out of jealousy or envy. Find a goal buddy: chances are some of your co-workers and many of your friends share the same aspirations this time of year.
- Everything is a choice:
Before you make a choice you know is bad, food or exercise related, ask yourself if it will really work for you or help you in the long run.
- At work fitness:
Plan your meals and your snack at home: you will find tons of great ideas for lunch boxes here that will help you stay clear of the vending machines or the bad/only choices at the cafeteria
Organize sports team among your co-workers and have weekly or bi-monthly softball or volleyball games. You can also organize a riding or walking group that can meet either before work or on the weekends.
Replace your work chair by a stability ball so you can work on your posture and your abs without even thinking about it.
- Take advantage of your workplace wellness programs:
More and more work places have gym rooms available for their employees. Don’t be intimidated by there alone, chances are you are not alone, ask your friends at work if they would like to start the day by a good 30 minute session on the treadmill or a few sets of crunches
More and more corporations have set up free or reduced price membership plans with gyms in their area and now is the best time to take advantage of them.
- Take charge:Call the gyms around you and see if they offer corporate discounted rates. Present the idea to your boss or have one of the gym consultant present it to him/her. It’s a win-win situation: you get to workout for less and healthier/happier employees mean better productivity.
-Enroll the kids:
Having a difficult time even making it to a gym, let alone hire a trainer? Make it a daily goal to get the kids out for a little walk around the block or a game of Frisbee. The goal is not to be perfect at it, but to have fun moving. They will get some fresh air, and you will get to move around while spending some quality time with them.

My best advice though is that when your willpower start to fail is to communicate with your closest supporters: tell your mate, roommate, kids the good the bad and the ugly. Ask for help and never hesitate to offer your guidance, experience, being a mentor or having someone else look up to you for advice is a sure way to keep on track!





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This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette


Make your own sushi kit

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Posted by Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)


It’s the middle of winter here in New England. It’s cold. Frosty-drippy-nose cold. There’s snow on the ground. And today is my birthday.

I should be craving something warm, or something gooey like a wonderful risotto, or something chocolate, but all I want is a big plate of sushi.

Vegetable sushi, with some spicy wasabi sauce.

And a candle on top.


Kids of all ages -- including our six-year-old granddaughter -- love making sushi, especially when you reassure them that the word sushi does not mean raw fish. Sushi is the rice, flavored with a bit of sweetening, that holds everything together.

In my pantry I always have the necessary components for maki sushi: Nishiki rice (a medium-grain rice that’s often sold as “sushi rice”), and nori (flat, square sheets of seaweed). They’re easy to find these days in regular grocery stores as well as Asian markets. Both rice and nori will keep almost indefinitely in the cupboard.

Once I discovered how easy it is to make basic sushi rolls, I set out to teach my Family Cooking Group (kids ages 12-15, each with a parent or grandparent) how to do it. We had a great time experimenting with many variations on the filling: raw and cooked vegetables, sliced omelets and bacon, even peanut butter and jelly -- though that one was a bit messy, as you can imagine!


Of course, as I got into sushi, I needed (okay… I wanted) all the right tools, so I could make sushi quickly and easily with whatever I happened to have in the pantry. In no time I’d collected a sushi-oki (a wooden straight-sided bowl for cooling and mixing the sushi rice – lovely, though a wooden salad bowl makes a fine substitute), a bunch of bamboo sushi mats (no substitute for these, although they are inexpensive, often only a dollar or two), rice paddles, and a sushi press for making beautiful squares.

I needed a way to store all of these goodies, so off I went to the local craft store, where I found the perfect thing: a stacking plastic box with interlocking levels. Yes, you’re right, it’s just like a tiffin!

Within each level there are moveable dividers, so you can make compartments custom-sized for your crafting bits – or sushi supplies. The bottom box holds the sushi-oki. In the top, I store sushi mats, rice paddles, the sushi press, and several dumpling crimpers for making potstickers. Occasionally I’ll throw some packages of nori in, too, as well as some small paper fans for cooling the sushi rice.


The plastic craft box keeps everything free of dust. Be sure to wash and dry your wood and bamboo sushi tools carefully and thoroughly before you pack them in the box. Add a few packets of silica gel, recycled from the nori packages, in each level, to keep everything dry and free of mold.

A handle on top makes it easy to carry, in case you want to take your sushi-making skills on the road. My own sushi box has made the trip to several parties.

With your own sushi kit in the pantry, you’ll be ready whenever the craving strikes.

Even if it’s not your birthday.



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This Post was written by Lydia from The Perfect Pantry

The Simple Life

Posted by Meeta K


"Be the change that you want to see in the world".-Mahatma Gandhi

Have you ever woken up and felt exhausted just thinking of the long day ahead? For many of us, our lives are a three-ring circus, balancing work and family, hobbies and social commitments, trying to keep up with the relentless pace of life in the twenty-first century. In the face of this reality, certain trends are pointing in the other direction. They can be described by a variety of words- voluntary simplicity, downsizing, downshifting and simple living. Each of these terms means different things to different people, and I find that I have started to make some positive changes in my own life by thinking of what these terms mean for me.

The concept of voluntary simplicity or downsizing is not about depriving oneself. In fact, it is the very opposite. To many people, it symbolizes the ability to work less and live more. To spend less time doing things you *have* to do and more time doing things you *want* to do. I find this concept to be a very powerful one. We live in an age where people are often defined by their occupation, the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the books they read. We feel obliged to do and buy certain things in order to conform to what is expected of us. To me, voluntary simplicity is about liberation; giving yourself the freedom to make your own choices about what you keep in your life and what you want to throw out. It means spending some time to identify what brings me joy, determining what my own priorities in life are, and what other things are there just for the sake of tradition or because "everyone else has it/is doing it". Downsizing is something that people often do at retirement age. But if you can do live a simpler and less stressful life in your younger years, why should that be a bad thing?

Simplicity can be achieved in the simplest and most mundane choices, and can extend to hard-core simplicity, such as taking the decision to get rid of one's cars and phones. Here is an example of a *very* simple choice that did make my life unexpectedly easier: In our previous home in another city, we needed to stock up on some glasses. We bought a set of red wine glasses and white wine glasses. Then realized that we needed champagne flutes for those special occasions and beer mugs and juice glasses as well. Pretty much our home was overflowing with glassware of all shapes and sizes. Plus, when friends came over, I spent all my time making sure that the dog's wagging tail did not knock down delicate stemmed glasses set on the coffee table (he managed to destroy most of them anyway). When we moved to St. Louis, I had had enough of the doggone glassware. We bought a set of what are called "European wine glasses" (no stems!). I use the same glasses for serving everything- water, juice, smoothies, wine and champagne. That's that. I have a lot more space, lot less worry and believe it or not, not having the right glassware for the right drink has not destroyed our social life. To anyone who is appalled because I did not serve the right drink in the right glass, all I can say is that there are bigger things in this world worth getting appalled about. I now have given myself permission to cut out anything from my life that is stressing me out and adding to unnecessary work. I don't buy anything that is high-maintenance. No clothes that need dry cleaning. We read newspapers online and don't have to deal with the mountains of newsprint (with more fliers and ads than actual news). I stopped subscribing to magazines and buying books- I just get them from the library and don't have to worry about storing them. I own just one pair of formal shoes and one good handbag, and wear them everywhere. This might be unthinkable for most people but I love the way it takes me 30 seconds to dress up.

For those looking for ways to simplify their own lives, there are many blogs, books and websites that offer good advice. I have come across a little book called "Simplify Your Life" by Elaine St. James that gives 100 suggestions for doing so: everything from "reduce the clutter in your life" to "clean up your relationships". But mostly, simplification requires some introspection, asking oneself the hard questions, "What am I really trying to get out of life?"

Simplifying one's life also has the desirable side-effect of less waste, less materialism and less consumerism, all contributing to a better planet. If we want a world that is more in touch with itself, we truly must start with our own lives.




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This post was contributed by Nupur from One Hot Stove



Tiffin Tuesday - Happy Egg

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits





A breakfast/snack box - since I have started training Aikido I also started feeling hungry in the morning!

In the middle is a happy egg weebl, then there are two pieces of bellpepper filled with caponata (from Nupur's recipe) and decorated with fresh herbs, then there are some grapes, two dates, two physalis, bell pepper sticks, and the last of the tiny cheese tarts (see below). They were cute, but expensive, since I ended up not liking one of three...
The bread is extra so it doesn't get soggy. It's a ready-baked baguette roll from the freezer.
That should last me a bit...





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This Post was written by jokergirl from WereRabbits.



Girls are Mean

Friday, January 11, 2008

Posted by Manisha Pandit

Shocked? Dismayed? Aghast? I certainly was when the Principal of a local middle school opened his welcome speech to parents of new 6th grade students with this statement. He attributed most of the problems in middle school to girl cliques. Boys can be mean, too, he said, but the emotional manipulation that drives girl cliques not only creates serious issues between girls themselves and between girls and boys, but also pits boys against other boys. This was two years ago. I shook my head and filed it away for future research.

Unfortunately, I had to dig it up again within a few months when my sensitive then-3rd grader spent half hour crying her eyes out every day on her return from school. Yes, girls are mean and they start very young. It is easy to deal with in-your-face bullying but it’s not always easy to deal with subtle and sophisticated signals that are sent out by girl cliques. The movie, Mean Girls, may have been about girl cliques in high schools, but take it from me that girls encounter them much earlier – in the first few years of being in elementary school.

It starts small: through loose cliques, deliberate exclusions and a lot of hurt feelings. Some children make it unscathed because they are oblivious to the games being played by their friends. Sensitive children, on the other hand, bear the hardest brunt of this phenomenon; largely because they are sitting ducks for emerging Queen Bees as they hone their skills.


Queen Bee? Yes! The term is no longer just used to describe the clichéd over-aggressive soccer Mom but it is also used to describe one of the roles that a child may assume in a clique. According to Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, there are seven roles that a girl may assume. These roles are not set in stone and one girl may lose her position to another as they play mind games with one another. As a parent, it helps to examine these seven roles to get a basic understanding of how to deal with the emotional baggage that starts accumulating and slowly chipping away at the self-esteem of your child.

  1. The Queen Bee: Through a combination of charisma, force, money, looks, will and manipulation, this girl reigns supreme over the other girls and weakens their friendships with others, thereby strengthening her own power and influence.
  2. The Side Kick: She notices everything about the Queen Bee, because she wants to be her. She will do everything the Queen Bee says. The Queen Bee, as her best friend, makes her feel popular and included.
  3. The Floater: She has friends in different groups and can move freely among them. She has influence over other girls but doesn't use it to make them feel bad.
  4. The Torn Bystander: She's constantly conflicted about doing the right thing and her allegiance to the clique. As a result, she's the one most likely to be caught in the middle of a conflict between two girls or two groups of girls.
  5. The Pleaser/Wannabe/Messenger: She will do anything to be in the good graces of the Queen Bee and the Sidekick. When two powerful girls, or two powerful groups of girls, are in a fight, she is the go-between. However, the other girls eventually turn on her as well. She'll enthusiastically back them up no matter what. She can't tell the difference between what she wants and what the group wants.
  6. The Banker: Girls trust her when she pumps them for information because it doesn't seem like gossip; instead, she does it in an innocent, "I'm trying to be your friend" way. This is the girl who sneaks under adult radar all the time because she can appear so cute and harmless.
  7. The Target: She's the victim, set up by the other girls to be humiliated, made fun of, excluded. She can be part of a clique or outside the clique. Either way, she feels isolated and alone.
I found this list both daunting and depressing, especially when used to describe elementary school kids. I then chanced upon an article on Scholastic's web site called Coping with Cliques by Ann Matturro Gault. She writes:
Research conducted by professors John Coie of Duke University and Ken Dodge at Vanderbilt University established five types of kids: popular, accepted, rejected, controversial, and neglected. Although these distinctions begin to emerge in 3rd grade, they really take hold in 4th:
  • Popular kids are socially skilled, academically strong, and well rounded. Everyone wants to be their friend.
  • Accepted kids are where the majority of children fit in. They are liked by their peers and do well academically.
  • Rejected children are openly disliked and tend to be aggressive. They lack social skills and often have academic and family problems (e.g. divorce, alcoholism, and depression). School bullies come from this group.
  • Controversial kids are liked by some but intensely disliked by others. They bring out divisiveness. As adolescents they engage in risky behavior — girls tend to be sexually active earlier; boys get into trouble with vandalism and truancy.
  • Neglected kids aren't liked or disliked. They fade into the background and have little social impact. They are, in a sense, invisible. Kids in this category tend to be academically high-achieving, but socially withdrawn. The more socially skilled have one or two friends, but are just as likely to be loners.

Where, in this matrix, did my child fit in? I had to figure out how an amiable and congenial little girl could suddenly be reduced to an inconsolable heap of tears. Was I in denial? That perhaps my child was not as proficient as I thought she was when it came to social skills? That she might be provoking the kind of behavior that made her feel excluded and neglected? I had to find out.

I talked with as many parents as I could. All of them resorted to marching into the Principal’s office to scream "bullying." In some of the cases, it stopped but in most cases, it resulted in more exclusion. It also did not help prepare the child to deal with more of the same behavior. I knew then that I had to approach this from another angle especially since I knew that the maturity level of my own child went from truly naïve to extremely logical, depending on the situation. I think it is also important to state that she was not being physically harmed. Her self-esteem and self-confidence, however, had dipped to an abysmal low.

While I could not ride the bus to observe children's behavior en route to school and back, I volunteered as a chaperone on just about every field trip where I rode the bus or I drove about five children to the destination. In addition to this, I volunteered in the school so that I could watch and experience the dynamics at play within the classroom and especially on the playground. My research was rather unscientific and I was very careful to play the role of an unbiased observer, difficult as it was.

This confirmed several things: I knew my child as well as I thought I did and that I was not in denial. It also told me that if we worked on building her self-esteem and her self-confidence back to where it was by focusing on her strengths and recognizing her weaknesses, she would be back to her normal springy humorous and happy self.

The first thing we did, as a family, was to reiterate that she was loved for who she was. That was all we did for weeks until she was ready to absorb more inputs. Then, we focused on her strengths. She reveled in this extra attention and started excelling academically, which is where her strengths lie. Her teachers started noticing her ability to think clearly and reason logically, and began challenging her in the classroom whenever they could. Soon, she was in demand as a project partner or elected to be the leader for a group project. There was new respect for her in the classroom but the problems on the playground and in the school bus persisted. However, the difference was that we were better equipped to deal with them now.

We impressed upon her that she had to make different choices when it came to the playground. So, instead of trying to do what the other kids did, she focused on what she enjoyed and wanted to get better at. She chose to take her jump rope to school and started practicing her jump rope moves by herself. It upset me to learn that she was playing alone but it was heartening to know that she was not staying in at recess. Soon, she had several other girls jumping rope with her. They had good-natured competitions and slowly, the jump rope games morphed into other games on the playground. She extrapolated this experience to the ride home on the school bus and it, too, became a non-issue. By the end of 3rd Grade, she had carved a niche for herself and she was far more comfortable with who she was and where she wanted to be. The mean girls did not matter anymore.

This is not to say that everything is perfect and hunky-dory now but things are a lot better. She has learned that she cannot change or control other kids' behavior but she can control her own responses. She walks away to protect herself from getting hurt. Other times, she confronts the other girls with what she thinks they are trying to do. It does not always go down well but they leave her alone. A curious fallout of this is that her 'services' are now frequently sought as an arbitrator in playground quarrels because of her ability to reason and be fair. She also knows her bounds and mitigates volatile situations by handing them over to the teacher-in-charge.

She has always been 'different' – in temperament, intellectual ability, ethnicity, and she is also strongly influenced by our values at home that, in many cases, are diametrically opposite to that of the community we live in. She now perceives all this as her strengths instead of something that sets her apart. With improved self-esteem and self-confidence, she is better equipped to deal with the meanness that seems to emanate spontaneously from other girls.

This is our story. Our methods may not work for everyone, as every child is unique as are their particular situations. The bottom-line though is that girls are indeed mean. What has worked for us consistently is keeping the communication channels open at all times. We encourage our child to confide in us. We do not talk down to her; instead we talk to her and discuss her feelings, whatever they may be. We focus on her strengths, acknowledge her weaknesses, and work toward all-round character development. She knows she has a strong support system at home and that helps her get through her day in the world outside. She is also her happy self again.

Have you had a similar experience? Do you have thoughts to share about girl cliques? I would love to hear from other parents with insights on how to deal effectively with meanness on the playground and in school.



Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Manisha of Indian Food Rocks.

Introducing Manisha!

Posted by Meeta K

So, finally I get to introduce to you the last person to join our team. Over the last few months we got a few new members to join us on the team and we've been slowly introducing you to them. Today we have the pleasure to introduce you to the final one in our current newbie group.

Manisha! We all know her from her fantastic blog Indian Food Rocks and her creative photographs. But the best thing would be to let Manisha describe Manisha!

Manisha is an Internet Strategist who believes in the benefits of slowing down, which is, in essence, anti-thesis to the world of instant gratification that we currently live in. Her food blog, Indian Food Rocks, is about her personal journey through life, spiced by Indian food and anecdotes. Apart from food and being online all the time, her obsessions include gazing at the Rockies, hiking and biking whenever she can, photography, knitting and crocheting, and figuring out the next change she can implement in her life-style to help save the Earth. Manisha is currently grappling with the challenges that go hand in hand with raising a moderately gifted child.

Check out Manisha's first post due out soon!




Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.



Tiffin Tuesday - Pizza Day

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt



The bentos I pack are for a very hungry husband, so they have to be nutritious, not about calorie-counting. If you are like me, you have a pizza night every now and then, preparing homemade pizza (I have to admit, sometimes I use a ciabatta baking mix for the dough). The perfect time to plan ahead for your next lunch box! Prepare a little more dough, have your favorite toppings at hand, and get prepared. My hubby has the opportunity to reheat part of his lunch in a microwave/taoster oven, but cold pizza is a nice treat, too :-) Think pizza crackers... and go wild with the toppings!

Pizza is such a comfort food and satisfying, and it does also go well in a bento - for this Mr. Bento-style lunchbox I chose a glass of the size of the tuna can as a cutter. You can cut off the lid and bottom of a tuna can or whatever fits your bento. Make sure you choose the cutter a tad smaller than the box because the dough will rise inevitably.



The topping is simply tomato paste (of course you can use your basic pizza sauce, but tomato paste gets less soggy), Italian herb blend and your extras of choice - here it is salami and mushrooms and tuna/capers, plus a little mozzarella cheese. You can prebake these miniature pizzas until the cheese just melts, and then freeze them on a tray, pack into bags when frozen. Warm them in a toaster oven right before packing your lunch box, or use yesterdays leftovers.

The menu is rounded out by a fresh zucchini salad with homemade Caesar dressing - prep time, including grating, about 2 minutes, if you make the dressing the day before - and in this case, an apple, a few walnuts, two cookies and some chocolates.

Happy Pizza night day!



Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Petra from FoodFreak

A New Year with or without resolutions

Monday, January 07, 2008

Posted by Amanda at Little Foodies


Happy New Year to all of our lovely readers. We hope you have a truly wonderful 2008.

As it's the New Year no doubt lots of people will have made New Years resolutions. I used to make them without fail every single year but by mid January I'd usually failed in most, if not all of them. I wonder how many of you have made resolutions this year, if you'll keep them and for how long. I find it fascinating.

There are the usual resolutions that so many people make, including...

Lose weight
Get fit, start an exercise regime, get healthy
Quit a bad habit like smoking, or drinking to excess, biting your nails?
Get ahead, change jobs, get a promotion
Go on holiday
Move house
Spend more time with loved ones
Learn something new, do a course, get some training
Get organized
Spend less money or get out of debt

I've heard so many resolutions from people over the years. Some weird and wonderful, some sad, like the friend who announced just after midnight that she'd be getting a divorce that year, at her instigation. I've also heard some totally awesome ones, inspiring and inspirational including raising money for charities, training for and running a marathon, taking a year out with the family to go traveling for a year, .

So if you're in the camp that makes resolutions, I hope you manage to stick to them and if you didn't but you still want to make changes in your life then perhaps try and change things gradually. Give yourself smaller goals that are more realistic to attain.

Don't be too hard on yourself - January is a hard time to start making major changes, especially if you live in the Northern Hemisphere when it's cold and we all need a bit of comfort.

Maybe it's best to try and make changes, incorporating the good and positive things as an ongoing process throughout the year, and not try to suddenly change everything immediately just because it is the start of a new year.

For me personally, I gave up making resolutions for a few years, but this year with a spinal injury I decided that I needed to make some changes in my life. I thought the New Year was as good a time as any to begin making these changes. I'm going to get my back better and then as soon as it is, work on my core strength so that it stays okay. I've heard pilates is good? This way hopefully avoiding surgery. I'm also going to lose weight, I call it 'the baby weight', which is ridiculous as my youngest will be four this year, however I didn't carry any excess weight until I had children so to me it's 'the baby weight'. Not fair to keep blaming them so time to do something about it and I'm sure it can all be incorporated into my lifestyle changes which are all going to help my back. I'm not going to be too hard on myself, things take time and if any changes are to be lifelong changes they will take time to implement and time to become a habit.

Happy New Near everybody. I wish you all an awesome 2008!

News:
We'd like you all to help us welcome a few new members to our ever growing team. We are totally excited to have Petra of the fantastic FoodFreak join our Tiffin Tuesday series. Petra creates a few gorgeous looking bento boxes and lunch boxes, filled with health goodness.

Here's Petra:
I used to work the IT business, but now I am a freelance writer,
cookbook author and novelist, living in Hamburg, Germany.
I am a foodie, as reflected in my blog Foodfreak, active in the slowfood movement, and I have a passion for Asian cuisines as well as
local ingredients. Two years ago I started packing bento boxes for my husband to provide him with fresh, healthy and nutritious foods, and this has turned into a passion for bentos, too. I learned that bentos are widely unknown in Germany. When I find the time, I love to paint, take photographs or stroll across one of the various markets of my hometown


Another person who will be adding plenty of exciting healthy posts to our blog is VeggieGirl from the very interesting vegan blog VeggieGirl. She will be writing about a vegan lifestyle and giving all of us a few tips.

Here is VeggieGirl:

I am a nineteen-year-old, health-conscious vegan who has a passion for nutrition, cooking (especially baking!), food photography, animals, traveling, fitness, and writing (I'm a journalism major). On my blog, entitled VeggieGirl, I frequently post about my latest cooking & baking adventures, family get-togethers, and other topics.

Look forward to their posts coming soon.



Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Amanda from Little Foodies