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Monday, June 19, 2017

My Kitchen Adventures - Efficiency in the Kitchen

As a single parent for 30+ years, I've learned a few things that help streamline chores -- especially in the kitchen! I will share some of these tips; maybe they will help you too!

My favorite place inside the house is the kitchen -- I have days where I spend practically the whole day there! While it's true that everyone has different priorities and goals in life, I believe the kitchen to be a source of nourishment, fellowship, and health! A clean kitchen= a healthy family!

Some families have a 'one-cooks, another-cleans policy'. While that sounds great, it just doesn't work very well in single-parent homes with very small children. Cooking and cleaning never end, and can be quite stressful for parents.

I must admit, I was a 'stressed-out-to-the-point-of-tears' mom for years. The cooking, cleaning, and messes never end (especially with small children)! So the kitchen wasn't always my favorite room! I was overwhelmed when dishes stacked up to the point of rendering the sink useless, or when there was absolutely no clean surface anywhere and it took an hour to clean before beginning to cook! I had forgotten to use a tactic I learned growing up in a large family.

I grew up in a family of seven: three girls, two boys, and two parents. I learned at an early age to "clean as you go.” Although we had a dishwasher, it was only used to sterilize canning jars!

Clean As You Go (CAYG) can be used in all areas of a home. But, here are the critical components for this tactic to work in the kitchen:

1) Empty the dishwasher as soon as it's done

2) Place dirty dishes in as they are used

3) Reserve one side of the sink for rinsing, soaking dishes, or using the disposal (if you have one) and the other side for hand-wash items

4) Always wipe counters when you finish prepping or serving

Starting with a clean kitchen is like painting on a clean canvas. 
I can start my creation right away, 
so we get to eat sooner!

While prepping ingredients, place used utensils and cutting boards in the sink for washing – we hand-wash our knives and reserve a specific cutting board for meats and a different one for fruits, veggies, and bread to avoid cross-contamination.
Then, while waiting for something to cook, boil, or marinate, I hand-wash the larger prep utensils (bowls, boards, etc) and knives, wipe down counters, throw away any packaging and place compostables in their bin. This takes only a few minutes!

With most cooking there is some non-active time, when the food is cooking on the stove or in the oven, I look for things that can be done during that downtime. Also, any oven-baked foods, especially meats, taste better after a resting period. Use this time for a quick tidying. Next, pull out dishes, eating utensils, etc. Voilá! You are ready to eat!
Now, when you have small children everything is a bit challenging! However, I learned to include mine in the kitchen -- so I could exercise "damage-control" and teach them prepping, cooking and cleaning routines!
There are many tasks a child can do with adult supervision or assistance and studies have shown that children who help with meal prep will eat better. They learn that meal prep takes time – while cutting up veggies, let them eat a few. They also learn the proper way to cook so that one day they will be a good cook too!

I had one child who was an avid explorer with a very short attention span...he wanted to try everything and became an excellent helper! I learned to invite him to do quick and specific chores, dividing bigger tasks into one-step-at-a-time tasks. (This technique works well for parents too!)
We all live in the same house. Teaching children the CAYG concept can be a good stress-reducer. Also, teamwork gives us quality time together and lightens the workload. When children learn the concept of "we all live here" they come to understand that everyone shares in the responsibilities and sees themselves as important contributors instead of little "mess-makers."

As the parent, we guide them
according to their individual
abilities and temperaments.

Some of my newest Comfort Dolls, the perfect size for little ones.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Challenge of Availability

In these past four years I have lived in seven different cities and utilized four different public transportation systems. My biggest challenge has always been availability: how far does the transportation cover, how often transportation arrives, and how far do I need to walk to reach transportation options.

For instance, some communities have a city transportation system – usually just local buses. This is fine if you work close to home and have shopping and friends nearby. However, other communities have a regional system, including train options, that expands to many neighboring cities. Various transit systems either limit or expand my work, shopping, and social choices. I have experience with both these transportation designs.

Consider this…

1) How far are you willing to walk?
2) Is your answer different for work than for shopping or socializing?
3) Does your answer change if you only need transportation one-way or if you have a different option for returning home?
4) Is your answer based on a measure of time or a measure of distance?

Now, compare your answers with study results of how far Americans are willing to walk to reach public transportation? Although Americans are not famous for their desire to walk farther than necessary, one study have found that:

For walking duration, the mean and median values were 14.9 and 10 minutes. About 65% of walking trips were more than 0.25 miles, and about 18% of walking trips were more than 1 mile. Large variations were found among various purposes for both distance and duration. The distances and durations of walking for recreation were substantially longer than those for other purposes. People with lower versus higher household income walked longer distances for work but shorter distances for recreation.1
Another availability factor to consider is the number of transfers needed to reach the destination. Each transfer requires waiting for another bus/train to arrive. 

How long would you be willing to wait between transfers?

Frequently I will weigh the length of the wait versus the time needed to walk from the transfer location to my destination. 
Depending upon the weather, I usually consider walking if my wait time will be longer than 10-15 minutes.
Many factors come into play when considering public transit options. Tons of research has been conducted on factors such as Population Density, Mixed Land Usage, and Urban design. Other factors studied are Income, Gender, and Age. 

My adventures have brought me to a community that is generally very walkable, especially near the city center. I’m optimistic about the coming expansions in the availability of the local transit system here, which makes this challenge a bit easier!

   *** For someone who enjoys statistics and tables, this site has more updated and extensive information:

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Car-free Adventure Continues

As I approach the fourth year anniversary of My Car-free Adventure, I'm reflecting on what makes this a satisfying adventure for me, and what challenges I face. I have moved a few times since beginning this adventure, and with each move I discover new challenges and satisfactions in My Car-free Adventure!
In this series I will discuss each item on my list and how these have impacted my life and decision to continue Car-free.

What Makes Car-free Living Enjoyable?

1. Natural exercise -- walking can ease depression and other physical disorders, walking also burns calories and lets me eat foods I enjoy.

2. Living more economically -- no car payment, repair costs, gas prices, insurance, paying         for and finding parking.

3. Attention to surroundings -- interaction with people, beautiful scenery, local shops

4. Personal time to think -- our lives are so busy, sometimes we need some downtime.

What Are the Challenges to Car-free Living?

1. Public transportation availability -- wait times, convenience of stops

2. Shopping -- buying large/heavy items can be a challenge

3. Weather -- be prepared, pay attention to forecasting and bring what you may need

4. Stigma -- some people assume you don't have a drivers license, or it was revoked, etc

Natural Exercise

I often say, "Our bodies are designed for movement." Regardless of individual belief about the beginnings of creation, we can agree with science that our bodies function better when we move...walking, running, swimming, playing sports...all can have a positive effect on a person's physical and mental health.
For example, in 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) released these recommendations regarding the effects of movement versus a sedentary lifestyle:

Most health professionals are also in agreement that walking 10,000 steps a day (approximately 5 miles) is the ideal goal to set for improving health and reducing the health risks caused by inactivity. According to the WorldHealthOrganization (WHO), 60 to 85% of the population worldwide does not engage in enough activity. Making physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.¹        
Further, as reported in Scientific American, an Australian study found:

One in 10 U.S. adults suffers from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women are 70% more likely to be depressed at some point in their lives than men,according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Women who averaged 150 minutes of moderate exercise (golf, tennis, aerobics classes, swimming, or line-dancing) or 200 minutes of walking every week had more energy, socialized more, felt better emotionally, and weren't as limited by their depression when researchers followed up after three years.²
As one of these women who live with Major Depression, I know how inhibiting depression can be on my desire to do things, even beneficial activities. So, what can a person do? According to SriniPillay, MD, and published in Harvard Health Publications on March 26, 2016:
When you are too exhausted to use thought control strategies such as focusing on the positive, or looking at the situation from another angle, movement can come to the rescue. By working out, going on a meditative walk by yourself, or going for a synchronized walk with someone, you may gain access to a “back door” to the mental changes that you desire without having to “psych yourself” into feeling better.³

After a long winter of ice, snow and uncleared sidewalks, I am happily embracing spring.
Now, it’s time to take my dog for a walk!