Simple Living

Information, recipes and resources for health and home, body and spirit.


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The One That Affects Us All

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Today I am immensely saddened by the loss of an amazing man – Robin Williams.  Not only a man of immeasurable talent but immeasurable heart as well.  As a co-founder of Comic Relief, he, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal brought the topic of homelessness into everyone’s consciousness as well as their living rooms.  He was a donor and spokesman for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and spent countless hours with American troops.

Robin Williams crossed many lines in his comedy and his acting, the biggest one to me was the line making stars untouchable.  Robin was the first celebrity that you could picture being at the parent-teacher conferences, at the grocery store or even in your home.  He was the guy that no matter if you agreed with his politics, you would love the opportunity to sit down and have a beer or a cup of coffee with him and just talk.  He was an anybody and an everybody and everything in between.

He not only appealed to our children but to the children in all of  us, letting us know it was okay to just have fun every once in a while. His movies made me cry like no other… The Fisher King was the first one to really put its hooks into me and not let go.  While I’ve been a fan of his ever since his walk on role on Happy Days and his subsequent spin-off of Mork & Mindy making him a household name, The Fisher King was the one that showed me not only the depth of his acting but forced me to see the depth of my own feelings as well.

I don’t think that there’s a single person who watched Dead Poet’s Society who didn’t wish they’d had a teacher like his Mr. Keating or reminded us of our own Mr. Keating.  More importantly he inspired us to be Mr Keating.  That’s really what it’s about isn’t it.  Touching someone with your passion?  That’s what he did, both as himself and as the many characters he portrayed on-screen.

Unfortunately, depression does not discriminate.  It doesn’t matter race, creed, color, age, size of your bank account or the number of accolades on your shelf.  It leaves you alone and in pain.  For those of us who have wrestled those demons, we know what he was going through.. yet something else that he has managed to share with us as well.  Like I said, he was an anybody and an everybody… and anybody can suffer depression and everyone knows someone who has… whether they realize it or not.

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So please, if you’re struggling with depression.. tell people.  Let them know.  Don’t worry that they’ll judge you, what matters is that they know you deal with this horrible burden and that you might need help.  We all need help in that wrestling match and its okay to seek help.  Remember, if you’ve made it this far you’ve got a 100% success rate in battling depression.

To Robin Williams’ family, I wish to offer you my sincerest condolences.  Your loss and pain is the greatest of all.  Suicide not only leaves a trail of grief, but a trail of guilt in its wake as well.   Please know that there was nothing that you could have done.  This was a battle that only he could fight and unfortunately he lost to a formidable foe.  I hope he has found the peace he was so desperately needing and I hope you find it as well.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

 

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
The arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


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BBQ Shrimp and Mango Salad

BBQ Shrimp n Mango salad

This was so simple, it literally took a total of 15 minutes including the prep.  It doesn’t get any easier.  So delicious and you can add or incorporate anything your imagination allows.  You’ll find that I’m a cook that doesn’t follow a lot of recipes, I follow flavors and ideas so even as I write this to share with you, I’m thinking of what I can do next time (add bacon).

 

This was a perfect summer dinner for 2 but is easily multiplied for guests.  It doesn’t heat the house, not heavy but yet very satisfying.

 

Perfect for that night when you really don’t want to cook because it is put together in the same or less time than a frozen pizza or {gasp} hot dogs and a box of mac & cheese and is so much healthier!

 

This would also be a great dinner for company because you’re not spending time in the kitchen while everyone else gets to hang out with a glass of wine.

BBQ Shrimp Salad Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp bacon fat or extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 – 12 oz bag of large shrimp, uncooked, with shells and tails off

  • Fresh spinach

  • 1 ripe mango, diced

  • 1 ripe avocado, diced

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin

  • 2 oz barbecue sauce, homemade or your favorite bottle**

  • 3-4 oz water, chicken stock or white wine

** This recipe will be gluten free if you need it to be just by watching your BBQ sauce label or making your own.

Shrimp saute

Over medium high heat in a non-stick saute pan, add the bacon fat.  Once it’s hot, add the shrimp.

Toss or stir with a wood spoon to keep from sticking and to cook evenly.

Salad prep

Plate your spinach and as you prep the onion, avocado and mango put them on top of the spinach.

Shrimp add BBQ

Add your BBQ sauce and toss to coat

Shrimp in BBQ

Add your liquid and let it cook for another 2 minutes to cook out any liquor and reduce slightly.  It will be nice and thick.  Divide the shrimp between the two plates, making sure to use a spatula to get every last drop of that sauce out of the pan and drizzle over the shrimp.

Serve and enjoy!  And you thought I was joking when I said this was easy!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  Tell me what you think!

Maggie


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Make Ahead French Toast Casserole

 

I absolutely love French toast, but it’s not practical when cooking for one or for a crowd. Here’s the tasty solution you’ve been looking for!

 

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The “technical” term for this dish is a strata, so if you decide to surf for more recipes that’s the term you want to look for.  There are as many variations as your imagination can come up with.

There are a few things I really love about this dish.  One is that it’s easy to put together.  The other is that it can be made ahead.  Perfect for gatherings with sleep over guests or holiday breakfasts because you can make it the day before and stick it in the fridge, then just put it in the oven when you wake up.  

This is also great for “breakfast for dinner” item since you can just make it ahead and pop it in the oven when you get home from work.  By the time you’re settled in and caught up, dinner is ready!

The other bonus is cooking for one.  Remember that you don’t have to live alone to want to cook in single portions.  This makes for a great traveling breakfast to eat at the office, for the kids to fix themselves when you want to sleep in, etc.

For the strata that you’re seeing here, I used:

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, cooked & crumbled (mild, spicy, maple – your choice)
  • 1 medium apple, diced
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries
  • 6 seedless, crusty rolls, cubed (these were the size of kaiser rolls)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1-1/2 c milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

 

 

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What you’re seeing is a one pound roll of breakfast sausage that I cooked up, then tossed in diced apples and craisins.  Blueberries are a wonderful addition as well.  Again, the sky’s the limit!

 

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I got a beautiful bag of crusty rolls that were marked down (frugal!)  French toast is always better with sturdier breads or stale bread. When I made this for Thanksgiving breakfast I found a couple of beautiful sourdough loaves that were just wonderful.  

I love this dish for holidays.  You do so much cooking on the holiday that it’s not a good day to skip breakfast but you don’t want to cook anymore than you have to.  I made this the night before, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  When we got up that morning, I put it in the oven and started my prep.  By the time breakfast was ready, it was time for a break anyway!

 

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If you’ve never had fresh ground nutmeg, you’re truly missing a treat.  What you’re seeing is a whole nutmeg.  They last pretty much forever and only don’t lose potency when they’re kept whole.  What you buy pre-ground at the store, isn’t nearly as flavorful or aromatic as fresh.  If you’re interested in getting one, Amazon has got a great selection to choose from.

 

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After I cubed the bread, I tossed it in with the sausage/fruit mixture.  In the blender I put the eggs, milk and everything else.  You’ll want to have soapy water in the sink to wash your hands when you’re done, truly the best way to mix this is with two hands so you can toss it well without mashing the bread.

You’ll want to mix/toss this a couple of times while letting it rest a few minutes in between so that the egg mixture can be completely absorbed by the bread.

 

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I used a 13×9″ glass baking pan and sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray before putting the mixture into the pan.  Then I gave it a quick spritz over the top and gave it a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before baking it at 350°F for an hour.

 

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Once it was completely cooled, I cut it into 12 pieces and put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet so that they weren’t touching.  Once they were firm and I knew they wouldn’t stick together, I put them all in a Ziploc bag and back in the freezer.   When I want a piece for breakfast, I take one out and put it in the microwave for a few minutes.

Everyone’s microwave is different, so play around with the times to see what works best in yours.  When you figure it out, write it on the bag.  If you find you’re getting hard spots when you reheat it, you can prevent that by putting a cup of water in the microwave along with the slice of casserole that you’re reheating.

As I said, your only limit is your imagination.  The only “rule” for a strata is the egg/milk mixture, the bread and how it’s baked.  You can make it sweet or savory.  Consider things like ham, swiss and spinach or bacon, turkey, broccoli and cheddar cheese.

Remember that you can make this as frugal as you want also!  This is a great use for leftover veggies or fruits, leftover meats, etc. along with bread store and mark down rack finds!

And don’t forget, it takes virtually the same time to make two as it does one.  So make two and have one for dinner and portion the other one for easy meals on the go!

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe when you try it and let me know what variations you come up with so please post a comment!
{{{hugs}}}

Maggie


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Thanks for Reading

Grr Arg

 

I have reached my one year anniversary as a blogger and it’s been a really great year.  I’ve moved out-of-state to my new home at Creekside manner and I’ve loved the friends I’ve made both in person and online.

For those of you who haven’t been following me long, my health issues have been getting worse and so I’m having to pick and choose what and where I spend my energy.  This blog posts to my domain, Tumblr, Google+, Facebook and Twitter and I have additional posts going out through the day on Facebook and Twitter.

While my blog is my voice, it has not turned into a financial resource that I’d hoped it would become.  I will continue to write and post occasionally but I will be cutting my Facebook and Twitter feeds down to new posts only.  It is my hope that I can then work on other projects and to supplement the dwindling income from my “day job” due to my waning health.  I aspire to eventually be able to publish a book, as well as a cookbook, sell a few articles and possibly a few paintings and will chronicle it here as I go along.

I thank you all for your support and staying with me.  I look forward to sharing future posts and reading your comments as time goes on, and as always…

 

{{{hugs}}}

 

Maggie


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All Natural Wasp Remover

As most of you who follow me know, I have COPD which is why I’m so passionate about non-chemical ways to do things. Fumes are not my friend.  My sister was a severe asthmatic from birth so we’ve always been mindful about toxins and fumes.

Then today in my email I found a link for a DIY Wasp Remover and I followed it to a YouTube video and I’ve got to say… GENIOUS!

As soon as I go grocery shopping again I will get a big brown paper bag (another great reason to go to Aldi) so I can put this on the front porch where we’ve been getting wasps!

It’s frugal, it’s non-toxic, you don’t have to worry about kids and pets being around chemicals; and you don’t have to worry about getting stung while trying to spray a can of poison!  And no worries about asthma attacks or COPD exacerbation either!

 

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie


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Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop to Drink

“It’s easier to get free wi-fi than it is to get free water and people act like there’s nothing wrong with the world”. – Fidel Littlelight
Homeless - bottle of wather

Rick Wood gives food and water to a homeless man near his tent under an overpass near downtown Birmingham, Saturday, March 29, 2014. (abc3340.com)

Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store.  I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢.  That’s a heck of a margin huh?  

In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not.  Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by).  They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless.  Where do you get a drink of water?

I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree.  Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.

Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents.  My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping.  When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry.  When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him.  He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.

Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign.  There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark  – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water.  It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.

I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2.  While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help.  Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars? 

It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man.  Thanks for listening.  

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

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