The Legend of the Book of Yum

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When I went away to university it was the first time I had been away from home. I wasn’t sure what to expect: would I love the freedom? Would I totally freak out? Either way I knew that I was going to be really homesick.

My solution was The Book of Yum and it started out as kind of a joke between my university friends and I.

In anticipation of missing my mom’s cooking, I painstakingly wrote out some of our family’s favorite recipes in a small black binder, organized using homemade construction paper dividers. Also included were some helpful cooking hints for myself on how to make the basics; for example, tips on making rice nice and fluffy, and how to make your basic white sauce. I was reluctant to call it a recipe binder because it felt more like a compendium of my mother’s advice, and a piece of my family’s culinary history. So I called it “The Book of Yum”, made some dorky labels for it and took it to college with me.

Anyone who has had roommates knows that it’s hard to keep a secret from them, so it didn’t take long before people started to take note of the little binder I was always toting into the kitchen with me. Maybe it was the colorful labels, or the fact that no one I knew had completed a similar project.

Mostly I think The Book of Yum caught people’s attention because I was one of the few people in my group of friends that could actually cook. And bake.

This was the start of a whole new college culinary adventure. While a lot of kids were out partying you could often find me at home with my roommates attempting to develop a garnish for fish, bake a pie from scratch, or experiment with a foreign food. (Ok, maybe I found some time for partying too.)

In some ways, it was my college years that fostered my love of cooking and food. I tried every kind of food, in every kind of restaurant in town and I always had a hungry mouth nearby willing to try whatever it was I was making that day. It was a time of firsts: my first pastry dough, my first experiment with phyllo, and my first roast.

It was also during these years that I discovered how cooking for others felt like a gift more to myself than a gift for them. Nothing gave me more pleasure than watching my friends enjoy something I had created and nothing made me appreciate food more than the act of making it myself.

More than anything, though, The Book of Yum was a way for me to honor my family; both my love for them and the traditions that we build and maintain.

I still have it too, even though it’s expanded to accommodate my expanded culinary horizons. Even though that little black binder has transformed, it still opens a floodgate of sense memories as soon as I lift the cover. No matter how successful I end up being in my writing career, I’ll still consider one of my favorite books that I’ve written.

You may not know it, but you’ve read part of The Book of Yum too! If you were looking at it now, you’d recognize these Chocolate Brownies, these Butterscotch Brownies, these Banana Muffins, these Chocolate Banana Cookies, these Sugar Cookies, these Maple Syrup Muffins, this Apple Pie and this Zucchini Bread. I hope you enjoyed them as much as my family and friends have!

KBwB-BFlower-50I’d love to hear about your own recipe collection. Which childhood recipes do you still include in your repertoire? Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below. I’d love to try one out!

I try out a new recipe every two weeks or so and blog about the results, so if you need even more baking inspiration, you can find the complete list in alphabetical order here.

 

It Ain’t Easy Cleaning Green

“How do you find the time?”

“Doesn’t it cost more?”

“Why would you be bothered?”

These are some of the questions I get asked about my (mostly) eco-friendly cleaning routine. Some people seem surprised that this is important to me which puzzles me, because I can’t understand why taking care of our environment isn’t important to all of us.

Don’t worry- I’m not here as an ecological warrior, but as a blogger obsessed with trying to make her life more efficient and productive. I can tell you with confidence that making my cleaning routine greener has not been a waste of time or effort-if anything, it’s streamlined things even more.

Of course, sticking to a regular cleaning routine helps me avoid crazy deep cleaning sessions that in the long run saves me time and cuts down on the amount of cleaning products I use. That translates into more me-time, and more moolah in my pocket. Researching the best ways to clean has also spared me the extra time and effort I would have normally put into tackling the same spot over and over again.

Cutting down on the number of products that I use around my home has also saved me time, effort and money. You honestly don’t need twelve different cleansers for each individual room. Believe me, your cupboards will thank you too.

Making the switch to more eco-friendly cleaning materials has been pretty painless as well. In fact, I even make some myself. Some people may think making your own cleaning products is a drag, but you’d be surprised as how a few simple ingredients can go a long way. The few extra minutes it takes to mix up some new supplies is a trade-off for the money it saves you, plus it rids your home of nasty-smelling, potentially hazardous chemicals.

I still use paper towels to help out with the really heavy duty messes (keep in mind, I have a dog!) but I love using my reusable cloths and rags for all of my other cleaning needs. My mop heads are reusable as well, so everything gets dumped in the machine for a heavy-duty wash, separate from all of my clothes and nicer household items. They come out fresh and clean without me having to lift a finger (other than pushing some buttons).

But honestly? One of the greenest practices I’ve embraced is learning to live with the dirt a little bit. I always have people and dogs coming in and out of my place so over time I’ve come to accept the fact that it’s fruitless to expect the house to be perfect all of the time. I would end up spending all of my free time cleaning my home instead of enjoying it, and my time with guests would be ruined by my constant cleaning.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t clean your house, but lowering your expectations from hospital-clean to mostly clean saves you time, money, electricity and effort. Dare I say it? It also might make you a little bit happier.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the ways you’ve adopted an eco-friendly approach to your cleaning routine? Let’s care for our houses and environments by sharing our tips with each other in the comment box below. Or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may include your thoughts in a future post!

The approach of spring has got me in the mood to chat about all things housecleaning all week long. If you’re feeling the same way, may I suggest this post, this post, this post, and this post for more ideas on how to refresh your home in time for the new season. If you’re feeling ambitious, click here or here on ways to get your household more organized.

 

Spring Cleaning for Superstars

If you’re reading this, I bet you like spring cleaning. I suspect that you’re interested in productivity and organizing just as much as I am, and if I’m right you’re here not because you don’t know how to clean, organize or be productive. You’re here because you want to do better.

Well, eager beavers: this one’s for you. There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful household tasks that often get neglected until they become a problem. A spring cleaning (or any seasonal cleaning routine for that matter) offers the opportunity to catch up on all those nasty little loose ends that we somehow miss.

You get a gold star if you’ve done any of the following:

  • Use a barely-damp microfiber cloth to wipe down light bulbs in ceiling or wall fixtures, and on your table and floor lamps. Keep your bulbs dust-free can actually improve the quality of light in your home.
  • Everyone’s favorite blue-and-yellow furniture store recommends tightening any screws and making adjustments to furniture once a year to prolong the life of your pieces and ensure your safety.
  • Toilet tanks need loving too: just strap on some gloves, grab a cloth or a sponge and give the inside a quick wipe to check for rust, mildew or calcium deposits. (All no-nos.)
  • Check electrical cords for dirt, grit, dust and any potential frays and tears. Just make sure everything’s unplugged before wiping extra-dirty cords down with a barely damp cloth (rubbing alcohol swabs or wipes are also good for particularly grimy areas).
  • Coffee grinders need a little bit of extra attention to keep things in tip-top shape. Pamper yours by cleaning the coffee grit out of the grinding mechanism, and off of any blades. (Again, please check that you’ve unplugged everything first.)
  • I always feel extra good about a spring clean if I’ve vacuumed and scrubbed the closet floor.
  • Keep shower heads and faucets flowing freely by filling a plastic baggie with white vinegar and using a rubber band to secure the bag around the faucet. Leave to soak and simply remove the baggie when done. Let the hot water run to clear away any residue.
  • Use spring cleaning time as an excuse to go over any home or appliance warranties, insurance policies or manuals to check for recommended service dates, etc.
  • Check batteries and service dates on all smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, alarms and extinguishers.
  • I run the risk of sounding like a Monica here, but when was the last time you cleaned your vacuum cleaner? Or any of your other cleaning appliances or tools for that matter?

If you’ve done any or all of these tasks, then you’re a spring cleaning superstar! And remember, a true spring clean doesn’t stop at your indoor space- it extends to the exterior of your home as well! Use the nice weather as an excuse to address any necessary home maintenance issues and then mosey on over here for some tips on how to get your gardens and patios ready for spring.

I can feel a change in the air already and the days are getting lighter. Oh, I’m sorry, that was just your awesome spring cleaning super power shining like the sun down from the sky!

KBwB-BFlower-50Congratulations! You’re a spring cleaning superstar. If you’re still feeling motivated to get things done, I’ve got more ideas on how to decorate and organize your household here, and more ideas about organizing your life here.

Still feel like you need to brush up on the basics? I’ve got some tips here on how to have the best spring clean ever, and here on how to develop a kick-butt cleaning routine of your own.