Jun 11, 2024

Weekly Roundup: Nagi's New Cookbook, New Kind of Laundry Detergent, Helpful Tips

Oops! I forgot to post yesterday, in my excitement to have my son home from his first year of college! College summer vacation being longer than high school summer vacation, I get to have him for a whole three months before he heads back to school. I hope your summer is off to a great start too!  (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

My favorite food blogger, Nagi Maehashi of RecipeTin Eats, has a new cookbook coming out in October! You can preorder Tonight* for $35 right now - I did, because I want to support Nagi, but also because I regularly make her recipes and I'm super excited that the new book is full of fast and easy recipes (as opposed to her first cookbook, Dinner,* which runs the gamut from fast and easy to long and complicated). 

As I mentioned, my son is home from college ... along with all of his stuff. One of the things he brought home is laundry detergent, which reminded me I've never mentioned it before. I'd never heard of laundry detergent sheets until I was reading advice on what to take to college - they were recommended in lieu of liquid detergent or pods. I'm happy to report that they worked well for my son. We tried Earth Breeze,* which seems to be the most popular brand, but ended up preferring CLEARALIF* due to cost and packaging.

If you live in California and have student loan debt, you may be able to get help from the state.

Tips for managing intrusive thoughts.

One of my kids accidentally bought an Audible book on Amazon, so I got to show him how to request a refund and thought I'd share the info in case it's helpful. I've done it myself for Kindle books I've accidentally purchased. As long as you haven't downloaded/started the books, just go to your digital orders* page to find the order number, then use the chat function to get request a refund (go the help page,* click "something else," then "I need more help"). 

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

Jun 3, 2024

Weekly Roundup: Crisis Care, Free College Counseling, Easy Dinner Recipe

My kids are still in school (less than two weeks left!), so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that's going on - and I'm looking forward to the slower pace of summer vacation. If you're already in that groove, I envy you! Meanwhile, I skipped last week's roundup because of the holiday (and busy-ness of life), but it's back this week! (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

How to get help if you or someone you know needs help for a mental health, substance-use or suicidal crisis.

In case anyone is curious about the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions that struck down affirmative action, Inside Higher Ed has an article about the resulting essay question that asks students how race has affected their lives.

If you know a high-achieving, low-income high school junior (i.e., rising senior), they can apply for free college counseling from The Matchlighters Scholars Program. (They can use volunteer counselors too!)

This week's easy dinner recipe is Salt & Lavender's Marry Me Chicken, which was super good and going into our regular rotation. I doubled the recipe because my teenager ate a full recipe pretty much by himself (which I knew he would).

The Kitchn picked Smitten Kitchen's Blueberry Muffins as the best recipe, and while I haven't tried the other recipes, I've been making SK's muffins for about 10 years and they're delicious.

The Kitchn also breaks down the different cuts of pork, which is helpful if you need/want to make a substitution.

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

May 20, 2024

Weekly Roundup: 2 Mysteries + 1 Novel Recommendation, Helping Small Businesses, and Another Freezer Meal

I just got back from a trip up north to visit some family members I haven't seen in a while. My parents came too, and we took a quick trip to Yosemite National Park to see the sequioas at Mariposa Grove. My feet are still a little sore from all the walking we had to do (the shuttles weren't running), but it was fabulous! I hope you have a great week! (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

I just raced through the The Book Retreat Mysteries* by Ellery Adams - it's that rare cozy mystery series that has an actual end. It was a somewhat unsatisfying ending (and I would love to discuss it with someone who's also read the series), but it definitely wrapped the main storyline up in a way that made sense for the protagonist.

Since the Book Retreat series is partly about books, it led me to a novel I thoroughly enjoyed, How to Find Love in a Bookshop* by Veronica Henry. It's a sweet story without being saccharin.

I also finished Jennifer Lynn Barnes's The Naturals series.* It's a Young Adult adult series with four compelling thrillers. (There's also a novella set after the series that I haven't yet read.)

If you plan to go to Yosemite National Park this year, here's a comprehensive Reddit post on all the different ways you can get in (reservations are required on some days, and this post was extremely helpful). 

A local restaurant owner shared where their revenue goes, making the case that the best thing you can do for small local businesses is to pay in cash. I've heard this in the context of farmers at the farmers market too, and try to do my part, at least with the smaller vendors.

Because I was out of town last week, I don't have a quick dinner recipe to share, but I do plan to add to my freezer meal stash this week with Baked Italian Meatballs. I like to freeze the meatballs raw; then I'll bake them from frozen and serve them as meatball heroes with some jarred Rao's marinara.*

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

May 14, 2024

Weekly Roundup: An Audiobook Rec, A Decluttering Tip, 529 Plan Tips

If you're a mom, I hope you had a very happy Mother's Day yesterday! If Mother's Day is fraught for you, I'm so very sorry and I hope you know that you're not alone. I had a couple of rough ones when I had fertility issues, and the day can be difficult for my friends who've lost their mothers. I'm glad you were able to get through it, and I hope this roundup is helpful. (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

  • I tend to read fiction and listen to nonfiction, and the audiobook I'm listening to now is called More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament* by Lindsay and Lexie Kite. I can't recommend this book enough to any woman who has struggled with body image issues (which is probably most of us!). 

  • I like this idea of taking away 10 things to declutter (and get the whole family involved).

  • When I mentioned One Simple Wish last week, I didn't realize that May is Foster Care Awareness Month. That makes it the perfect time to head over and grant a wish, if you're able.

  • Here are some tips about 529 plans you might not already know.

  • I recently used up all of my freezer meals, since I haven't been adding to them (a downside of making quick and easy meals is that they aren't designed for bulk and freeze-ability). But I love having ready-to-go meals in the freezer, so I'm looking to restock over the next few weeks. I'll start with RecipeTin Eats' Slow Cooker Carnitas, which can be used in tacos, nachos, enchiladas and even sliders. I plan to make 1.5 times the recipe (using a 6-pound roast) for extra leftovers to freeze. If you're into freezer meals, check out my Freezer Meals Pinterest board for ideas.

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

May 6, 2024

Weekly Roundup: Cozy Mysteries, Volunteer from Home, Menu Planning

I've been enjoying watching the NBA playoffs with my husband and son. In the last couple of years, our son has come to love the NBA and can talk in-depth about stats and strategy in ways I didn't even know existed. I don't share his love of the sport, but I do love spending time with him so any chance I get, I'll watch with him. So you know where to find me when there's a game on! (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

  • I just finished two mystery series that I greatly enjoyed: Wrexford & Sloane* by Andrea Penrose and Lady Julia Grey* by Deanna Raybourn.

  • If you or your child are looking for a way to do some volunteering from home, here are two ideas: 1) Zooniverse, which is a site that lets you contribute to difference research projects; and 2) Operation Gratitude, which has multiple ways to volunteer. If your child needs documented community service hours, Operation Gratitude will give hours if you follow their instructions. My sons have made hats for them using these round plastic looms* and YouTube tutorials like this one.

  • I finally started menu planning again, because even with insurance my surgery was costly, and I want to save money. When I plan ahead, even if I don't feel like cooking, knowing that the ingredients are already in the kitchen is usually enough to make me cook anyway. Plus as mentioned previously, I've been focusing on meals that are particularly easy to prepare. This old post from 2013 still applies when it comes to how menu planning saves us money.

  • This week's easy dinner recipe is Creamy Tuscan Shrimp and Orzo. It's a one-pot meal that I'll make again, although I think it could use it a bit more flavor (maybe some fresh basil at the end) and more than 5 ounces of spinach.

  • One of my favorite charities to donate to is One Simple Wish, which supports children and adults who are or have been in the foster care system. It's easy to grant a wish for things like clothes for summer camp, a cozy blanket, etc. There are also opportunities to support college students, send students abroad, and more.

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

Apr 29, 2024

Weekly Roundup: Book Thoughts, Cheap Ben & Jerry's, and Food Thoughts

One of the best things to come out of the pandemic was the new ways we use technology, but I have three webinars to attend on my calendar this week, which feels like too much. I've got nothing like that scheduled the following the week so I suppose it balances out. Mostly, it makes me realize that I want in-person contact too, so I need to reach out to my friends and see if anyone wants to meet up soon. Am I the only one who feels this way? In the meantime, here's what caught my attention this past week (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

  • I'm on the last book in the Finlay Donovan series,* which is less mystery and more suspense than my usual reads. I really like the novels, but the thing is, they make me so uncomfortable because the protagonist gets into such absurd situations that I can't see how she'll get out of them (although at least once or twice each book, I find myself laughing out loud). In fact, the situations are so absurd that I should lose all respect for her for getting into them and lose interest in the books, except that the stories are crafted so well that I can't blame her for what happens. So, I highly recommend the series ... but don't blame me if the stories make you uncomfortable too. And if you have a series that you feel this way about, please let me know about it!

  • Speaking of reading - For the last few years, I've read over 100 books each year, so the library is my friend. Which is why I was horrified to learn that libraries have to pay more for digital books compared to physical books, and compared to the regular consumer like you and me. It's particularly upsetting because the libraries are just purchasing a license - they don't actually own the ebooks, they only get to lend them out for a few years and then have to pay again to continue lending them out.

  • If you're a Ralphs/Kroger shopper and like Ben & Jerry's ice cream, there's a fantastic deal that I happened to stumble upon - if you buy 5 pints and clip the coupon that makes them $2.99 each, you'll pay just $1.99 per pint after the $5 Catalina coupon that should print at the register. Kroger Krazy has all the details, including how much you'll get back if you buy fewer than 5 pints. 

  • This week, I learned that you should put warm food in the fridge for maximum food safety. It turns out the lesson from my childhood that doing so would spoil the other food in the fridge has been outdated by new technology in refrigeration.

  • This week's easy recipe is Pork Chops in a Creamy Mustard Sauce. Super easy, and the sauce was delicious. In fact, I might double the sauce ingredients the next time I make this to ensure there's plenty to pour on veggies too. (Unlike last week's recipe, I didn't make any changes.)

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!

Apr 22, 2024

Weekly Roundup: Young Adult Power of Attorney, Graduate from College Debt-Free, Pollo ai Peperoni

I don't know if some schools have a late spring break, but I saw lots of kids while shopping this morning, and when I texted my cousin to wish her happy birthday, she mentioned that she's in Paris with her son for his soccer camp. So color me green, because I'm super envious (she didn't actually say she was in Paris, she just texted a photo of the Eiffel Tower and said she was on her way to dinner 😂). For those of us stuck at home, here's this week's roundup (I've marked affiliate/referral links with a *, which means I may make a little bit of money if you make a purchase or sign up using that link - thank you!):

  • If you have a child who recently became an adult, or a child heading off to college, you'll definitely want to make sure you have them fill out a power of attorney so you can help them if they become incapacitated. I used MamaBear's forms to get my son's power of attorney before he headed off to college - the "Young Adult" package includes a Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPAA release, Financial Power of Attorney, and FERPA. I've read too many stories about parents who couldn't get access to their child's health information when they were rushed to the hospital while they're away at college (HIPAA) or information from the college itself (FERPA). So a POA was important to me, knowing that if the unthinkable happened, I wouldn't have to fight for the right to get info or make decisions on my son's behalf. MamaBear has given me a referral code so you can get 20% off the Young Adult Power of Attorney Package - just use this link.*

  • Money Saving Mom offers some good ideas on how to graduate from college debt-free (if you're having a tough time financially, it's worth searching for and reading her old posts on when her husband was in law school for inspiration on living very frugally - like rice and beans every night frugal). I've also shared some info and tips on sending your kids to college without taking out loans, as well as a review of a great book called Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents.*

  • This week's easy recipe of the week is Pollo Ai Peperoni. It was a hit and is going into my regular rotation, but I made lots of modifications, starting with the quantity. Since I wanted lots of leftovers, I used 3 pounds of chicken, which I cut into bite-size pieces (I knew that would be more appealing to my family than whole thighs), and cooked the pieces in four batches in my Lodge Dutch Oven.* I doubled the quantity of bell peppers and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces (and the quantity could easily have been tripled), and minced the garlic instead of just crushing them. On the advice in the comments, I cooked the garlic and bell pepper after the chicken, reduced the vinegar to 1/4 cup, and increased the quantity of white wine. I would have gone for a full cup, but I only had 3/4 cup of white wine, so I supplemented with some chicken broth. I also stirred in a tablespoon of butter at the end, off the heat, to add some silkiness to the sauce. It's pretty much a one-pot meal, although I roasted some cauliflower in the air fryer to go with it. I particularly like that you can do all the prep ahead of time, i.e., cutting the chicken and peppers, so you don't have to stand at the stove for a long time all at once.

  • Since local honey might to help reduce environmental allergies, I like to buy honey at the farmers market, and I did so last week. But I was a bit stymied because there were several different kinds, so I was happy to come across this article explaining 6 popular types of honey. Next time, I'm going to try the orange blossom honey.

  • In case you've ever thought about converting old photos to digital: In addition to the old family films and slides I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I returned from visiting my parents with a bunch of old photos. I noticed that DVD Your Memories, the service I used to convert the film and slides to digital, also converts photos and that they do so by hand. That made me curious, so I did some research and it turns out that manually putting photos one by one onto a flatbed scanner does in fact produce the best results. There are faster ways, but the photo quality will be reduced. So I've decided that if my best options are to scan the photos myself on my HP all-in-one* or pay 69 cents per photo to have them scanned (albeit with slightly better results), I'll scan a few photos a day, and when I'm done, I'll multiply the number of photos I've scanned by $0.69 and use the money to treat myself to something! 😂😂

Please let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the roundup. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly email newsletter!