Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sales on zzzzz’s

Warning: This post may make you crave a nap.

It’s January. And if you get a lot of catalogs like me…(Seriously, A LOT. Now you know why I am so adamant about Greener Living. I have to pull my own weight here at my end of the eco-system.)…you may have noticed that January is one of the best times of the year to buy bedding. January is on of the two times a year that most home & housewares retailers have a big one of these:

The other time of year that these sales appear in is August. However, in my experience with clients, August is not really a time of year that people visualize themselves using new bedding. They love the look of their new bedding in a newly decorated room, but their lives tend to be busier with outdoors activities. Summer is still cooking away in August and outdoor meals are very easy this time of year. Perhaps the lure of new bedding just sounds too warm when you still have the AC set so high?

Image courtesy of laheyblog.com

Five months later in January, most Januarys (including, finally, this January), the outside temperatures have dropped, bundling against the wind and cold has become part of our daily routine and a long winter’s nap sounds really good!

January makes people want to crawl inside their bedding a snuggle down. Is this a hibernation instinct we humans still cary with us? Or is it just the thought of a great book, cosy bedding, and a warm beverage that says comfort to us in the darkest days of the year? Mother Nature may howl outside, but if we have a thick comforter or a fluffy duvet in our favorite colors, luring us as a step toward a deep night’s sleep, we are just where we want to be.

“Le Lit” (The Bed), by Toulouse Lautrec, 1893 Image courtesy of Wikipedia

So, while I’m sure a case can be made for savvy salesmanship when people are still paying off their Christmas bills, you just can’t beat a good White Sale in January. There are deals to be had and people are in the mood to make their bedroom a priority. (But, don’t just take my word for it. The US Census reports that September and October have been the most popular birth months of the year for decades.)

Have you been browsing White Sales in catalogs at your home lately? I’ve pulled together a collection of scrumptious bedding (on sale!) on Pinterest that you can browse today. Just click on the picture below to wander over and check out  what I’ve seen and liked.

What makes up a good bed for you? Do you like a duvet and blankets? Do you swear by high thread counts? Are you a big fan of quilts? How many pillows do you like to sleep with at night? Share your preferences in a comment!

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Creamy Greek chicken

It is just starting to feel like Winter here. Coats are now mandatory when we go outside and we no longer question, “Do we really need the heat on today?”. Cold weather, mostly grey skies and early sunsets make us crave some comfort food at the end of the workday.

This is a great recipe for young children to help out with, because once you get past the ingredient prep, it is mainly variations of pouring. Like many of my recipes, this one has its origins in a magazine clipping from years ago. I’ve fiddled with the ingredients to make it ours and you can, too.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup / 180 mL water
  • 5 cups / 1175 mL  chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 lbs. / 681 grams chicken breast or tenderloin, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lb. /454 grams orzo (uncooked)
  • 1-2 palmfuls of dill weed, to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 lb. / 227 grams of crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups / 470 mL of Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • Black olives, sliced, to taste (optional topping/garnish)

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven to 400°F /200° C /Gas mark 6.

Combine your chicken stock and water…

…place them into a large pot and bring them to a slow boil. If the pot boils before you need this ingredient, later in the recipe, just lower the temperature and keep the liquid simmering on the heat.

Gather the rest of your ingredients together so we can use then in quick succession to layer our casserole.

Using a large baking dish (I’m using a 13 inch x 9 inch glass baking dish), pour all of the orzo (uncooked) into the dish.

Next layer in dill, sprinkling it somewhat evenly across the dish. It doesn’t need to be perfect, because the stock is going to move everything around when we add it in a few steps.

Side Note: You can use whatever quantity of dill you are comfortable with for this recipe. The original recipe calls for 2 palmfuls, but we found that was too much dill for us. So, I use 1 palmful, then let everyone add more dill as a garnish if they  prefer more. Here’s what 1 palmful looks like for my measurement:

Next, layer in the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Again, spread it around, but don’t worry if it is not completely even.

Then, layer in the crumbled feta cheese…

…and follow it with the layer of raw chicken pieces.

Now comes the stock that has been gently boiling, simmering on the stove. Carefully, slowly pour the entire pot of stock into the baking dish.

When you’re done, the  dish will look like this…

…and it’s ready for the oven. Bake it for 40 minutes, without any foil or cover on the dish.

When it’s done, you need to add one more layer…of cheese! Add the Parmesan cheese (I’m using 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese and 1/2 cup of grated cheese, because it’s what I had on hand.)

After you layer the cheese, let the dish sit for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt into the hot orzo. After 5 minutes, it’s time to garnish and serve:

We love the creaminess of this recipe, the savory of the dill chicken and the unexpected taste of lemon. We serve this with a simple green salad, using what ever we have in the fridge, for a simple but satisfying supper.

Other Tips

One of the great ways to make this dish your own is to play around with the olives and dill. I have made versions of this with more olives baked inside, but we thought the olives stole  away the nice bite of the lemon. Similarly, we have played with the dill quantities over the years, but now leave it the extra dill as an optional garnish/topping for each individual to choose.

This recipe also makes a great batch of freezer feasts (you can read more about those right here). After Mr. CARO and I ate dinner, we had enough food left over to make up 8 Freezer Feast to enjoy for lunch or dinner later. I love a recipe that reheats for yummy leftovers later and this one does not disappoint.

Do you have a favorite casserole that you love to make in the dark days of Winter? Feel free to leave a comment or a link to share your recipe!

More resolute in 4 easy steps

A very happy New Year to you! How is your 2012 going so far? We’re now into the second week of the New Year. How are you doing with any resolutions you may have made? It’s been estimated that 45% of adult Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year, but only 8% are ever kept. These stats lead me to the question, “How do they calculate those numbers with accuracy?”.

Image courtesy of wikipedia

I’m one of those adults who aims to evolve with the passage of the new calendar year, but I have a different method of success. I though I’d share my 4 rules for resolutions with you today, in case it could add some resolve to your goals for 2012.

(Right about now, some of you may be asking, “What does this have to do with interior design?”. Stay with me…you may end up with some interesting art for your home!)

1. List Month By Month

First, let me say that the idea of trying to predict in January what I want to have accomplished on a personal growth level in 12 months seems ridiculous. It’s kinda like when you go in for your annual check-up with your doctor and at the end of your appointment they ask if you want to schedule your appointment for the following year. As if you know exactly where you’ll be in 12 months, on a Tuesday, at 2pm.

2013? I'm still trying to remember to write "2012".

I do better with resolutions if I can plan them a month in advance. It is a well-discussed theory that it takes an average person 6 weeks to change a regular behavior. If I can commit to doing something for four weeks, I’m well on my way to completing that goal and have met a much more attainable deadline.

So, I break my annual resolutions into monthly resolutions. If I slack off of my resolutions for a few days (or a few weeks), I know that the month is still running and that I have a chance to get right back up on that horse and try again. We’re only human, after all.

2. Take Smaller Bites

On a similar note, I like to break goals down to make them more approachable. For example, I’ve set a goal for myself to read 60 books in the next year. (My great aunt, who lived to be 99, said reading kept her mind young. Who can argue with motivation like that?) I’ve broken my 60-books-for-the-year goal into a 5-books-per-month goal. Much more approachable and if I get a little ahead, I’ll really feel empowered for the next month.

Image courtesy of sapdc.org

Bite-sized resolutions means I can also tweak as I go. “Tweak” does not mean “abandon in March”. Tweak means re-order or add to the list. For example, I am lousy about remembering dentist cleanings/check-ups. I’ve actually written “Dentist” on my February resolution list to make sure I get an appointment on my schedule.

I’ve also written “Update Resolutions” in April, so I can tweak/add more Dentist-y things (among other things) to the rest of my year’s goals after I’m into the year a few months. Maybe I’ll be raising my book goal to 6 books a month. We’ll see how I’m doing.

3. Make It Public

I’m doing that right here with this post and you’re going to see my whole list in just a few more paragraphs. I’ve found that if I can speak openly about my goals, it helps me to follow through with them.

Now, I’m not suggesting you open with you resolutions at a cocktail party, but I have found that if I can explain the value of my goals to others, that conversation (and the memory of it) can be a motivator for me later. Especially if those conversations can get you some high fives from your friends and loved ones as you meet each step of your goals. Announce your progress and be proud!

Image courtesy of capetown.travel

4. Make It Art

This is where you write down your goals. Not just write them down, but put them in a place where you can look at them. Every day. (Yes, every day.) So, if you are going to look at them why not make them something you love to look at?

Type your resolutions up nicely and make them pretty art to put out in your home. Surround them with motivating pictures if you are a picture person. Mount them on beautiful paper to make a lovely print. Frame them and put them near your favorite place in your home. Embrace your goals with happy anticipation. Attitude is everything and enjoying your list is a step in the right direction.

Keeping it real, friends. This is right next to my desk.

That’s my list, typed up on a little photo-shopped print I made, then framed. It sits right over the printer and scanner by my desk, where I work every day and write these posts. Just wanted to show you that I practice what I preach. And here is a close-up of the framed list, so you can read the resolutions more easily:

Some months have more goals than others, but it all seems approachable.

Does this 4-step system work? One of my big resolutions for last year was starting a blog…and I did it! Now you know my goals for 2012. I’ll keep you posted as the year rolls along. What are some of your resolutions? Do these steps help you see your goals more easily? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. Blogs are for conversation!

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