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Archive for February, 2012

Each week I share my weekly menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. Having a plan, even if it changes over the course of the week, helps keep late afternoon chaos low, maintains a well-fed crew and keeps food bills and food waste low.

I used to use to change my menu board for each meal. Now I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on it I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Note: Meals are subject to change at the chef’s discretion or whim.

We have a lot of chicken to use up this week, so it appears three times on the menu. Fortunately, that won’t be a problem for our crew 🙂

Monday
Chicken Noodle Soup, French Bread

Tuesday
Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce and Peas

Wednesday
Carbonara, Steamed Broccoli and Garlic Bread

Thursday
Baked Salmon, Steamed Rice, Carrots and Corn

Friday
Chicken Pot Pie, Homemade Chips (Fries), Peas (This is a recipe from Jo at Simply Being Mum. I’m really excited to try this…brings back memories of pot pies in Ireland.)

Saturday
Chicken Kievs, Steamed Rice, Green Beans

Sunday
Beef Casserole, Irish Brown Soda Bread

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Today I’m taking a break from the regular Monday Musings post.

Being President’s Day here in the States, James is home from work today so our family is laying low after spending the weekend out of town celebrating a friend’s birthday. Usually I have my Monday post completed over the weekend, but because we were out of town I didn’t do my usual weekend routine, so no finished Musings post today.

I did get my menu plan finalized for the week, because eating is essential. Also, with the children all home for mid-winter break this week, it is vital that I am not scratching my head come 4pm trying to figure our what to feed everyone 🙂

I do know there are a few of you out there who have been enjoying the Fromm series of musings (thanks for the feedback), which so far has included Discipline and Concentration. Our regular Monday Musings will return next week with Patience and the Art of Loving.

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I thought I would share my weekily menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. I used to use to change my menu board for each meal. Now I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on it I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Monday
Choice of: Massaman Curry or Japanese Curry, Steamed Rice, Broccoli and Cauliflower

Tuesday
Chicken Supreme, Steamed Rice, Baby Peas

Wednesday
Sausage Marinara w/Pasta and Parmesan, Green Beans

Thursday
Tortellini Meatball Soup, Garlic Bread

Friday
Fish a la Foil (Salmon), Steamed Rice, Carrots and Corn

Saturday
Baked Ham, Buttered Boiled Potatoes, Baby Peas, Boiled Cabbage and Carrots (that was a lot of bs and cs, wasn’t it? :))

Sunday
Breaded Chicken and Sunday Veggies (Roast and Mashed Potatoes, Baby Peas and Brussel Sprouts)

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I’m rediscovering the joy of having completely uninterrupted time to think. Now, before anyone points out how I was planning to do less of that this year, hear me out!

I’ve realized that, in order to best function on a day to day basis with a large family and a large household to run, I need time alone to think, plan, strategize and decompress my brain.

My day to day interactions and responsibilities sometimes leave me feeling so over-stimulated that I find it hard to connect two coherent thoughts. In fact sometimes I struggle to even create two coherent thoughts. (I’m thinking about times spent at the stove preparing the evening meal.)

From the very first weekend in January I have been carving out a few hours to look back over my week, tie up the loose ends, then look to the week ahead, and indulge in a little planning to make life with the collective run as smoothly as possible.

Oh, and yes, I did say a few hours!

I have managed to fit in about 5 solid hours, give or take, to engage in my thinking time. The only way to get this is to physically leave the house. I pack up my backpack with the tools of my household manager’s trade and head to some local coffee shop with wifi, Oregon chai and good eats. (It takes a lot to fuel the planning body.)

What are my tools?
Laptop
Scanner
Camera
Family Manual
Schedule Book
Finance Folder
Check book
Document Pouch
Electronics Pouch (with all needed wires)
Stapler
My favorite black pen
Pencil
Highlighter
Book and/or magazine

What do I do with my tools?
Before I leave home I do two things:

Step 1: I update Quicken.

Step 2: Download the latest digital statements

When I’m out,  I have developed a little routine that helps me stay on top of our family logistics (oh, how I love routines!!!).

Step 3: Wrap up finances for the previous week

Manually process receipts and spending

Update digital spreadsheet for bills

Update digital spreadsheet for discretionary spending

Update digital spreadsheet for breakdown of mortgage payments

Assign categories to the individual items in the Quicken register.

Just for fun: I tally what food I bought on my detailed shopping lists.

This transitions me out of the previous week and into the week ahead.

Step 4: Schedule Book

I check what’s coming up the next week and see if there are any emails I need to send to confirm plans. I jot down a reminder of phone calls I need to make.

Step 5: Family Manual

I look at my menu plan for the week ahead and adjust based on any changes that have occurred in my schedule. There’s no point in going ahead with a meal that requires a little extra time and care if we have to fit in a last minute medical or dental appointment or a school concert that has been rescheduled yet again.

I determine what items, if any, I need to buy to make the meals (usually produce or other perishable items) and make my shopping list.

Step 6: Blog Plan

I keep a monthly calendar in my family manual so that I can jot down ideas of posts I’d like to write. So far that has been working and I’m so glad to be posting a bit more regularly again.

Step 7: Photos and Scrapbooking

My goal is to be able to sort through photos taken the previous week, and delete and edit as needed. This would be a great time saver when I actually have time to do some scrapbooking. Given that I do all my scrapbooking digitally, having the photos sorted and ready to go will make it so much easier to complete scrapbooking pages.

I know it seems like I cover a lot with steps 1-6 above, but I have managed to get to the photos step a couple of times. This is great progress, given that I have only been following this routine for the last 6 weeks. There was a lot of fine tuning these first weeks to make these steps efficient and not so time consuming. It is working!

My ideal is that steps 1-5 will only take up a small portion of my thinking time and that eventually I will be able to work more on my blog plan, photos and scrapbooking. Of course the grand dream is that I will eventually have time for Step 8.

Step 8: Leisurely Read

Okay, so at the moment this is the dream: I can see myself having about an hour of quiet time sipping tea and reading whatever I feel like reading in the moment.  Hence I bring a novel and a magazine. I am optimistic that eventually I will have my systems down and will have some time alone to read before I return home from my little weekly break away . It will happen. I can see it in my future. Baby steps, baby steps, all the way to Step 8 🙂

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I am currently creating a cookbook containing all our family’s favorite breakfasts and baked goods. My goal is to give a copy of the book to each of my children when they eventually leave home and move out into the world. There is nothing like favorite childhood food to comfort you as an adult. As I create a new entry for this cookbook I will post the recipe here to share with you all. I hope you will enjoy it too 🙂

(FYI, I create the pages using my digital scrapbooking software StoryBook Creator 4 by Creative Memories.)

**********

Another recipe page completed. This one is a special family favorite so I made it as a Valentine’s Day dessert for after dinner tonight. This meant I could complete the page with photos taken this evening.

There are close up images of the recipe just below the cookbook page image, so be sure to scroll down if you’d like to easily read the recipe itself.

Previous Recipe Pages:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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I thought I would share my weekily menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. I used to use to change my menu board for each meal. Now I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on it I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Monday
Spaghetti Carbonara, Steamed Broccoli and Garlic Bread

Tuesday
Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Baby Peas

Wednesday
Chicken Cordon Bleu, Steamed Rice and Green Beans

Thursday
Beef Casserole and Irish Brown Soda Bread

Friday
Crab cakes, Shrimp & Vegetable Fried Rice

Saturday
We’ll be celebrating a friends birthday and I might make chili. It tastes good and is easy to make large quantities for a crowd.

Sunday
Orange Chicken, Steamed Rice and Stir Fry Veggies

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“That concentration is a necessary condition for the mastery of an art is hardly necessary to prove. Anyone who ever tried to learn an art knows this. Yet, even more than self-discipline, concentration is rare on our culture.” – Erich Fromm

Last week I wrote how Fromm described three requirements to achieve mastery of any art: discipline, concentration and patience. I looked at discipline in more detail last week, particularly in relation to how I am trying this year to engage in more action than analysis.

This week I will focus on concentration which, according to Fromm, is the most difficult of the three requirements to practice in our culture. Given that Fromm wrote The Art of Loving in the 1950’s I wonder what would be his assessment of the difficulty of concentrating in today’s world?

Fromm discusses how our culture leads to “an unconcentrated and diffuse mode of life”, where we try do many things at once. Our machines are designed for quickness, which certainly has economic value, but these values are now determining our human values. As a result, we think we lose something (that is, time) when we don’t do things quickly; yet we don’t know what to do with the time we gain (except kill it).

The most important step in learning concentration is learning to be alone with oneself, without reading, listening to the radio, smoking, or drinking or any other of the things that draw our awareness from just being still. For Fromm, this ability to be alone with oneself is an important condition for the ability to love. Basically, we cannot concentrate on another if we don’t have the ability to concentrate.

When we are alone, doing nothing, we can become restless, fidgety or anxious. We can talk ourselves into rationalizing why we shouldn’t go on trying to be alone doing nothing, that it’s silly or a waste of time. We can start thinking about our plans for later, or problems we’re having or any number of things rather than just emptying our minds.

It’s probably no surprise that the solution Fromm recommends is just to keep practicing. He suggests engaging in a few simple breathing exercises for about 20 minutes each morning and evening to improve our ability to empty our minds.

Interestingly after years of yoga and studying psychology and the world’s religions, with a particular emphasis on Buddhism, Fromm’s recommendations remind me of various meditation methods originating from the spiritual practices of Eastern cultures that are now finding increasing popularity here in the West.

It comforts me to know that this isn’t rocket science. People the world over have been trying for millennia to clear their minds of all the stuff that gets in the way of them living lives in which they feel at ease with the world around them. Whether we care to describe it as feeling empty, at ease, calm, happy, content or at one with the universe, learning to concentrate seems doable. It may not be easy but it seems doable.

There was even a time when I did it! I exercised regularly, whether yoga or long distance walking, and felt more at ease in my body and mind. I made time to sit and practice breathing and even emptying my mind (oh, my ever busy mind!).

Somehow in the last few years I let it all lapse. I stopped engaging in the behaviors that truly helped me to feel good and, as result, made me more loving and engaged with those around me: time alone doing nothing, time alone thinking and/or planning, time reading quietly, walking, yoga.

I think I’ve discovered why I adopted my motto this year: I miss those behaviors that helped to truly add to my happiness. I don’t walk or do yoga anymore, my reading has decreased over the last year and a half and I could probably count on one hand how many times I was completely alone last year. Of those few times alone, how many of them involved me feeling I could completely put my responsibilities out of my mind: Zero!

I have been over-stimulated and underactive for a few years now. But there is hope. Change is afoot. I can feel the difference already. It all started when I left the collective at the end of last year. It feels soooo good and, I realize now, it has involved a lot of patience!

Stay tuned to Monday Musings because there will be more on this next week when I look at Patience: the final requirement for mastery of the Art of Loving.

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