Saturday, October 19, 2013

I don't know what happened.

While I will freely admit that I am doing everything in my power to procrastinate on making my daughter's Halloween costume, I don't think even THAT can explain what happened today.  Maybe it's because I thought my laptop was dead (turns out it wasn't, thank goodness!) and I wasn't sure what to do with myself.  Maybe it's Nony's fault (I started listening to her podcasts yesterday).  Maybe my body was overtaken by aliens.

At any rate, I woke up EARLY this morning.  Way too early for a Saturday.  Like, 5:45 or something silly like that (which would be sleeping in if it were a weekday - my hubby had to work today, and he usually works Monday - Friday, so maybe my brain was confused).  Got up, made my coffee, and sat down at the computer to do my usual Swagbucks routine.  

Went to get my second cup of coffee and realized that the dishwasher was still full from last night's running (on the weekdays hubby usually empties it but he had to leave an hour earlier than his usual, so he didn't take the time today).  So, I unloaded it.  Then, after breakfast I put the breakfast dishes in it (turns out this is a pattern that would continue ALL DAY LONG - what the heck?). 

I sat down at the computer again and decided I didn't want to be there.  So I went in the bedroom and folded a load of laundry.  Then I did another one.  Then I went to put some towels away and realized the first aid box from last night's decluttering session was still on the kitchen table.  So I put it away.  And cleared a little bit off the bathroom counter and put it away too. 

Then I looked at a big pile of stuff that has been sitting on my bedroom floor for goodness knows how long, preventing me from fully closing my closet door.  So I went through that.  Turned out most of it was stuff needing to be donated.  Then I pulled down the bin of winter hats/gloves/scarves/misc. stuff off my closet shelf and went through that.  Gave my girl the elbow-length fingerless gloves I think I wore to junior prom (!) and a silk scarf for dress-up, and much of the rest also went in the donation pile.  Pulled a few things out of my closet that I know I'll never wear again and added those to the pile too.

Then I remembered that I wanted to start carefully weeding out some of my daughter's board books that she was never really into.  So while she was busy watching My Little Pony, I snuck in and snagged five of them.  Added to the donate pile.  Then I sent her out to her shoe bin to pull out all the shoes that are too small for her (kids' feet DO stop growing so fast someday, right?).  Donate, donate, donate.

Wrote down all that donation material for our tax records and, by 10:30, I had already filled two big black trash bags and one box with items to donate. 

Took a break, and then started tackling the laundry - washing, drying, folding - seven or so loads, several of which were already washed and just waiting to be folded.  As I folded, I sorted out more clothes that were either too big for me or too small for my daughter, and added them to the pile. 

Then I went grocery shopping.

THEN I decided I'd better get off my tush and start working on my daughter's Halloween costume.  I suppose if I sewed more often I'd get faster at pinning and cutting, wouldn't I?  Got two pieces cut out but I have to go to the fabric store to get a fabric pen before I can cut out the other four.......

Made dinner, and put the prep dishes in the dishwasher as I went.  Finished eating and washed out the pan.  The dishwasher is ready to be run at bedtime.  Did a couple more loads of laundry, folding as I went.

VERY productive day.  I have no idea where it came from!

Purging Purging Purging

I'm happy to report that I stuck to my purging plan for FOUR WHOLE DAYS!!!  That might be a record for me.  During that time, I donated/tossed/recycled

  • 10 books
  • 8 magazines
  • a canning jar wrench
  • a candy thermometer
  • two meat thermometers
  • the "stick blender" attachment for my hand mixer that never actually worked
  • 2 oil bottle spouts
  • 2 paring knives
  • a tea ball
  • a grease mop
  • a pair of outgrown child's shoes
  • 12 documents (scanned and shredded)

Not a bad start, right?  And, then life happened.  Why I decided to start this little change the week of our biggest event of the year at work I'm not sure, but I had to work late two nights in a row, so I stopped, and then I forgot to start again. 

So yesterday, 10 days later, I decided to take on a couple of boxes while I sat at watched Ghost Hunters (because I can no longer just sit and WATCH Ghost Hunters, I have to be doing something else too, so I'm not sure why I bother).  I snagged a box that has been sitting in my living room for, oh, I don't know, four or five years, maybe.  Figured if I haven't needed whatever was in it in all that time, well, it could probably go.

From that box, I managed to eliminate:
  • 11 picture frames
  • 2 decorative oil lamps
  • 2 crystal penguins
  • teacup and saucer set
And then I went into our bathroom closet and pulled out the "First Aid and Medications" box which hadn't been opened, well, in a really long time.  From that, I purged 15 expired medications and two children's thermometers.  

I've also started flipping through one or two magazines each morning while I drink my coffee.  Hopefully this means that in six months or so, my giant basket of magazines will no longer exist.

So I think my activities last night may have completely made up for my little break there.  Onward and upward! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I needed a punch recipe this weekend.  This happens once or twice a year, and each time I need one I think "how did I make it last time?  Something to do with pineapple and orange juice, right?  And then I scour the internet for one that looks good.

I ended up making this one (a riff on a recipe I found), and it was delicious.  I froze orange juice in plastic tubs to make the ice blocks, so it wouldn't dilute the way plain ice would.

This recipe exactly fills my punch bowl.

1 2-liter bottle ginger ale
1 64-ounch bottle pineapple orange juice
1 can passion/orange juice concentrate, undiluted

Mix well and serve.  Delicious and refreshing!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Got Swag?

Disclaimer - contains referral links

Swagbucks bills itself as "the web's premier rewards site", and as far as I'm concerned, they're right.  I've done MyPoints.  I've done multiple survey sites.  And Swagbucks is, by far, the most consistent, easy way I've found to get rewards.  I've been a member for over four years and, in that time (usually with little to no effort on my part), I've received over 80 free $5 gift cards. 

How it works:  You earn points, called Swagbucks, for doing things online - watching videos, doing internet searches, completing surveys and special tasks, looking at offers, etc.  Then you can take those Swagbucks and cash them in for gift cards, merchandise, "Swagstakes" (sweepstakes entries purchased with Swagbucks), etc.  I'm a purist - I stick to the $5 Amazon gift cards.  Without trying, I can get one a month.  If I make a little effort, I can get one a week.  I mainly use them to feed my Kindle habit.  I have a serious Kindle habit, LOL.

Want to sign up?  Here's my referral link:

How I do it:

First, I get a point (aka Swagbuck) a day just for having their toolbar installed.  I use it for all my searches.  When you use their search tool (which, last I heard, was powered by Bing and Google), you will be randomly awarded Swagbucks.  I get between nine and 40 Swagbucks a day from searching.  I rarely go to a website without searching for the name first (for example, instead of typing in the Facebook URL in the address line I search for "Facebook" and click through that way).  It's an extra step but it only takes a second. 

Second, I answer their daily poll, found on their home page.  I get another point for this.  Then, I do their "No Obligation Special Offers" (aka NOSO), also on the home page.  I just click through them all for two quick points.

I also run videos.  I spend a lot of time on my computer, reading through blogs, pinning things, etc.  During these times, I have my internet open on two screens - one is running Swagbucks TV, the other is for whatever I'm doing online.  For every 10 videos I watch, I get three Swagbucks. As I type this, I'm watching the "Uzoo" channel, which has tons of interesting videos about animals. 

On my iPod Touch, I run Swagbucks Mobile.  You can do just about anything on this that you can do on the regular Swagbucks site, but I mostly use it for videos.  On the mobile app, you get two points for every five videos, but on this you do have to go through ads also.  I like to turn on the music channel and use it as my background music at work. 

My last regular way to earn is through "encrave" activities.  You can find these through the little blue "e" button on the Swagbucks Toolbar.  These are a series of videos and articles that you can look at to earn bucks.  Some take as little as a minute, others might take three or four.  You get between one and three for each activity.  I've found some really interesting things there - clips from TedTalks, interviews with popular chefs, information about different health-related topics, news, etc.  These are quick and easy ways to earn a few bucks.

I also try to get referrals.  When a new user signs up using your referral link (here's mine again!, Swagbucks will credit you with a match for their first 1,000 points.  That's 2+ Amazon gift cards right there, folks! 

Swagbucks also offers points for online shopping at certain retailers, as well as points for redeeming manufacturers coupons for groceries and such.  I sometimes do these, if they're things I would be doing anyway. 

Things I don't do unless I'm desperate for points?  Surveys, special offers, and most of their activities.  I have found that surveys take too long for the rewards I get (they'll give you a point if you don't qualify, but often you are five or more minutes into the survey before you find out you're not qualified).  Special offers that don't require a credit card or a lot of personal information are few and far between, so I skip those, though if there's something I'd be doing anyway, I certainly take advantage of it, because you can rack up a lot of points that way.  I haven't explored their "Activities" section fully, but from what I've seen, it's similar to Mechanical Turk and more work than I want to do for the points I would get. So I skip it.

Each day they give you a daily goal (today mine is 90), and if you reach that goal, they give you a 10% bonus for that day at the end of the month.  The more consecutive days you rack up (starting with seven in a row), you get an extra bonus, up to 300 if you meet their goal every day of the month.  I aim for 50 - 100 Swagbucks a day.  It takes 450 Swagbucks to earn an Amazon gift card.  They have tons of other options as well - Target and Starbucks are two others I've contemplated if I ever reach the five Amazon cards per month limit. 

So what are you waiting for?  The rewards are waiting - and they couldn't be easier to obtain!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Five a Day

I'm going to come right out and say the five little words I never thought would leave my lips (fingers?):  my clutter is annoying me. 

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to suddenly turn into a neat freak overnight, but I do feel the need to do SOMETHING.  Lately my kid can't even lay on the couch with her head in my lap because there's only room for one butt on the couch (mine).  I need to make her Halloween costume but there's no room on the kitchen table to lay out fabric.  We did clean a bit before we went on vacation, so it's not as bad as it used to be, but still...

This isn't the first time this has happened, and from time to time I step up my efforts.  But now we're kicking around the idea of moving to a better school district before our daughter starts kindergarten next year, so I'm thinking I should get myself in the moving mindset, even if that doesn't happen.  So I'm coming up with a plan to clear things out little by little, one thing at a time.  Yesterday I cleaned off most of the kitchen table (and will finish today because I HAVE to start on that sparkly purple superhero costume!) and my hubby cleaned the kitchen.  I also somehow found room in the pantry for the 40 pints of applesauce I canned last month. 

I also went through my bookshelf and picked out seven books to donate to the library.  Let's face it.  If it's not on my Kindle , I'm not going to read it.  Lately, I read a paper book once a year, when we're camping.  Otherwise I rarely have time to just sit and read a book.  I read in bed at night in the dark, and the Kindle with the light just makes things so much easier. 

So here's my plan.  Every day I'm going to get rid of five things, either to donate or pass on to a friend or just throw in the garbage or recycle.  If it's paper, it'll be five inches (wow, that's a lot of paper - so maybe one inch of paper and four things?).  And I'm going to stay on top of the mail (that seems to be how my table gets cluttered up so fast!).

I'll be reporting back here from time to time so check back to see my progress!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Chicken and Broccoli Skillet Casserole

Whipped this little number up when I got home late from work tonight.  Helped that I had frozen cooked rice on hand (I always try to make extra and freeze it in two-cup portions). 

Oh, but first, I have to give a little "squeeeee!" about my new toy!  Well, new in that I just used it for the first time today, even though I bought it about six months ago.  It's a microwave steam cooker.  This is the one I bought.  Chopped up my broccoli, threw it in the microwave for three minutes, and voila!  Perfectly steamed.  Microwave steam cooker - where have you been all my life???  I see lots of microwave steaming in my future - I wonder if I could cook rice in this thing???

Anyway, as I was saying, I got home late and hubby didn't want pizza for dinner for the third night in a row, so I knew I had to come up with SOMETHING.  I didn't menu plan this week - I'm flying by the seat of my pants.  I stocked up on chicken at Costco over the weekend, so I threw this together.  
2 T. olive oil
12 oz. chicken tenderloin
1 tsp. season salt
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped cooked broccoli
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup chicken broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup (we like Pacific Natural Foods)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (I used provolone and parmesan tonight - cheddar would be better)

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the chicken in the olive oil (sprinkle one side with the season salt).  After the first side is browned and you turn it over, add onions.  Once chicken is cooked through (about four minutes on each side), cut into bite-size pieces and return to the skillet (I cut it up right in the pan with my spatula). 

Add all remaining ingredients except cheese.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Serve immediately. 

Simple, quick, and tasty!