lessons i’ve learned from living with my grandma

I’ve been living with my grandparents for almost three months now. Daily life with these two full-of-life octogenarians has been such a gift. My grandparents are insightful, intelligent, kind, hard-working, and often hilarious people. And their love for each other warms my spirit.

I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to my grandma. Here is a woman who graduated from college, earned a Master’s degree in Education while working full-time as a teacher, and also raised four children — often by herself, as my grandpap traveled a lot for his job. She grew up during the Great Depression and WWII and learned from her mother how to live with the utmost frugality. She is the matriarch of our family, always going out of her way to make sure her children and grandchildren are happy and well-fed and comfortable. She talks to her sister every day, keeps up with a wide network of friends, and volunteers her time through various organizations. I’m so proud of the woman she is, and proud to be her granddaughter.

My mom and my grandparents.

My mom and my grandparents.

I thought it would be fun to share some lessons, large and small, that I’ve learned from living with my grandma these past few months. {I’m sure there will be more posts to come on the subject!}

1. Love is more powerfully shown through actions than through words. My grandma isn’t one to say “I love you” all that often. She says she can’t really remember her parents ever telling her they loved her, but she always knew they loved her because of their loving actions. My grandma is always doing kind things for the people she cares about. Yes, I believe it is important to tell the people you love how much you love them, but even more important is backing up those words with loving actions. Without caring gestures and acts of love, the words “I love you” lose their meaning.

2. Always bring a jacket. You never know when the weather’s going to turn, and you don’t want to be cold.

3. Always bring a snack. You don’t want to be hungry. Just stick a granola bar in your purse, at the very least.

4. Get to the show early to get a good seat. My grandma is always the first person at the movie theater, picking the best seat in the house. Often she’ll change her mind two or three times before she finds the seat she wants.

5. The freezer is your friend. My grandma hates wasting food. All leftovers are refrigerated. If she thinks we won’t eat them in time, she’ll put them in the freezer for later. Bread, cakes, cookies, pies — everything can be frozen and resurrected later. The woman wastes nothing. It’s amazing.

6. If you don’t know what to make for dinner, raid your fridge and make soup. You can’t go wrong with a pot of chicken stock and cut-up veggies.

7. Take a walk every day. Every morning, even when her hip is a little sore, she puts on her tennis shoes and goes for a walk around the neighborhood. Even just fifteen or twenty minutes of exercise makes a difference. My grandma also believes in getting your exercise in early, before the craziness of the day sets in.

8. When the weather’s nice, sit outside. If the sun in shining and the breeze isn’t too cold, you can bet you’ll find my grandma outside on the patio, relaxing in her lounge chair, reading the paper or talking to her sister or enjoying an afternoon nap. 

9. Sometimes people are yo-yo heads. Forgive them. My grandma’s favorite term for someone who disappoints is a “yo-yo head.” According to her, we’re all yo-yo heads sometimes. That’s why we have to be patient with each other.

10. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t met yet. My grandma is the Queen of Small-Talk, the friendliest person I’ve ever known. She talks to everyone — people waiting behind her at the post office, the barista at Starbucks, the person sitting the next seat over on BART. All the grocery store checkers know her by name. To me, sometimes the world can seem lonely or disconnected, everyone staring at their tiny phone screens or listening to their iPods. But my grandma reminds me every day that the world is a friendly place if you make the effort to be friendly yourself.
me and gma

Question of the morning:

  • What lessons have you learned from your parents or grandparents?

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: delicious recipes to re-use your leftovers

Today I’m linking up again with Tammy’s Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays!

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A couple weeks ago, I posted a tip about making the most of your oven time by cooking meat or veggies to use later in the week. {I often bake chicken to use in later dishes.}

This week, I’m sharing some recipes to use up leftovers. I really dislike wasting food, and re-using your leftovers in new recipes is a great way to save food and money!

  • Leftover mashed potatoes? Fry them up into potato pancakes.
  • Leftover oatmeal? Make these delicious, super-moist oatmeal cookies.
  • Leftover veggies? Add them to pasta or a casserole.
  • Leftover fish? Make baked fish cakes.
  • Leftover chicken? Add it to a leafy green salad, or mix in some mayo, mustard, raisins and almonds to make chicken salad.
  • Leftover quinoa or rice? Dump it in a pot of soup to make the meal heartier.
  • Leftover French or sourdough bread? Tear it up into chunks and bake cinnamon french toast.

This is another terrific post about creative ways to reuse leftovers: http://www.findananny.net/blog/27-blogs-sharing-creative-ways-to-reuse-your-leftovers/

Does anyone else repurpose leftover food into new dishes? I’d love to hear your recipes in the comments below!

saving money & time by utilizing my freezer

One of my goals for this year is to put at least 10% of each paycheck into my savings. I’ve always been a saver — I was the kid who saved up my Chuck E. Cheese ticket winnings visit after visit to eventually spend on the coveted 1,000-Ticket Big Prize — but in the grown-up world saving isn’t always that easy. As a grad student, there are months it seems downright impossible to put aside any of my small paycheck for savings. Yet I know how important it is to save for the future, and I know how fortunate I am to have a job — after all, even a small paycheck is better than no paycheck.

With that mindset — that even small savings deposits are better than no savings! — I am aiming to discover little ways to save money throughout my daily living. Since I hate wasting food, I’ve gotten in the habit of buying small amounts of produce every week — even produce I really like and eat often — because I don’t want anything to go bad and go to waste. Sometimes this caused me to lose out on good weekly deals because, though I knew I would use up a lot of that specific fruit or vegetable, I wasn’t sure if I would eat it quickly enough. This also lead to some situations where it felt like I was racing against the clock to eat up all of the peaches or blackberries or celery before it went bad and into the trash.

freezing produce

Then I came across this post from my blogging buddy Andrea at Simple Organized Living about how she cuts up and freezes her fruits and veggies {and lots of other goodies, too!} … and it really inspired me! It seems so obvious, but it had never occurred to me that I could freeze my fruits and veggies and use them later. It was like a light-bulb went on in my brain!

Serendipitously, this week at the grocery store, they were having a great sale on bell peppers, something I use often in my cooking. Normally I would have bought one, maybe two, and made sure to use them up in dishes this week. But now I knew exactly what to do to take full advantage of the sale: use my freezer!

I bought half a dozen bell peppers, used two in recipes this week just like I normally would have, and then took a few extra minutes to chop up the rest. Then all I had to do was put them into ziplock baggies and into the freezer!

bell peppers

I used one small bag per bell pepper, because typically my recipes use one bell pepper at a time. An extra bonus is that cooking with these frozen veggies will be easier than ever because the chopping is already done! Surprisingly, it seemed much faster to get in the zone and chop up four bell peppers in one go than it does chopping them up one at a time.

And I felt so proud putting these babies into the freezer. I pictured a harried, midterm version of my Future Self, hungry and desperate to get dinner on the table, and I thought, “This is my gift to you, Future Self.  You’re welcome!”

Do any of you use your freezer to stock up on produce? I’d love to hear your money-saving tips!

homemade festive christmas chain

Good morning! Hope your transition from the long holiday weekend back into your regular routine wasn’t too painful yesterday. I had a nice time seeing my students again and hearing about their Thanksgiving breaks. I can’t believe we only have two more weeks left of the semester!

Christmas is in full swing here in my little apartment. Today I’m excited to share an easy, super inexpensive, and wonderfully festive holiday craft with you.

Remember those colorful paper chains you used to make in elementary school to decorate the classroom or count down to holidays or special events? In my family we used to make them as count-downs until Christmas or our birthdays and tear off one strip each day … it was so exciting to watch the chain gradually get smaller and smaller as the big day approached!

We also used to make chains with red and green construction paper to decorate our stair bannisters. The only problem with using paper is it isn’t very durable. We would make them again and again year after year, which was fun in its own way {especially as kids} but it isn’t very environmentally friendly or time-friendly — there are so many other craft and decorating projects I want to try rather than doing the same one year after year!

After some brainstorming, I came up with an idea: what about using using green and red felt instead of construction paper?

TA-DA! A homemade festive Christmas chain that will last from year to year. The best part? It costs less than $3.00 to make!

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • scissors
  • stapler & staples
  • red & green felt — I used 5 sheets of each color {got them at Michael’s for $0.29 each}

Directions:

1. Cut the felt into strips about 1 inch wide.

2. Bring one strip of felt together into a loop and staple the ends to each other.

3. Take a strip of the alternate color and loop it through, stapling its ends together to make another loop.

4. Continue the process until your chain reaches your desired length.

Then display them around your house! These are great hung around the walls and draped over a mantel. I don’t have a mantel in my apartment, so I draped mine over the top of my bookcase where my stockings are hanging.

And that’s it! Hope you enjoy this festive Christmas craft.

Have a great day!
-Dallas

ecomom’s “green” friday sale

Just a quick post to let you know about a really great sale one of my favorite “green” living sites is having this week …

Ecomom.com is a site designed for moms who want to buy healthy, organic, nontoxic products for their home and family. They have everything from organic baby food to non-BPA reuseable water bottles to natural products for your home. I especially like their organic hair products and natural home cleaning supplies. You don’t have to be a mom to find great products on their site that can make your daily routine healthier for your body, and for our planet!

Until November 25, they’re offering:

  • $20 off orders of $50-$99
  • $40 off orders of $100-$199
  • $80 off orders of $200+

This might also be a great way to stock up on some early Christmas gifts!

Here’s the website again: www.ecomom.com. Happy shopping!