Lentil Rice

This is a recipe that really works for me!  I developed it when I was on maternity leave and wanted hot lunches and needed plenty of nutritious calories for breastfeeding, but I was distracted by the baby and often literally had my hands full.  It takes a while to cook, but it can be left unsupervised for most of that time, and if you need to turn it off for a while and then finish cooking it later that’s not a problem.  It reheats well, so after putting in the effort to make a big vat of it, you’ll have lots of quick meals available!  You can even freeze it to eat a month or two later.  The vegetable-cutting-up can be done in advance, or you can use frozen veggiesLentils and rice are cheap and shelf-stable, easy to keep on hand all the time.  All the cooking water is absorbed by the food, so you don’t pour off any nutrients. Read more…

New discount grocery store in Pittsburgh!

UPDATE: At the beginning of 2011, Market Outlet moved one block southeast to 1700 Penn Avenue.  It now carries a few types of fresh produce, some frozen foods, and the weird brands of soda mentioned below.

Market Outlet has opened in the Strip District basement formerly occupied by KML, on Smallman Street just east of the Sixteenth Street Bridge.  It is a very similar type of store: groceries and such that are surplus from supermarkets, at prices ranging from incredibly low to about what you’d pay in the supermarket.  (As with most bargain shopping, you have to have a sense of what things normally cost to know whether it’s a bargain or not.)  A lot of things are strange brands you never saw before, which just adds to the fun, in my opinion! Read more…

A Four-year-old’s Treasures

Nicholas loves stuff.  He’s constantly collecting things that he wants to keep.  I get frustrated with how little he uses most of this stuff and how much it’s underfoot or visually cluttering our house.  But last night I noticed a little box of his treasures that he’d left on the dining table before going to bed, and I was charmed by this collection of little things he thought were worth keeping. Read more…

Thoughts on Birth-month Research

New research on why people born in winter are less successful suggests that it may have nothing to do with birth timing.  They found that winter babies are more likely to have young, less educated, single mothers–and all of those things are known to be correlated with lower academic and economic success.  This makes me think about several things:

First of all, it’s good to know that my December-born son doesn’t have the deck stacked against him because of his timing.

It’s exciting to see this explanation for a skew I’d noticed in some data at work.  Read more…

How Credit Cards Work for Me

One of the good things about this economic depression is that it seems to be getting a larger number of people to put some real thought and effort into living within their means.  I’ve been reading a lot of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject and finding that, although most of the tips are things I already do, they are mostly good ideas.  There’s one tip I keep seeing, though, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me: Destroy all your credit cards and make your purchases with cash only. The theory is that this prevents you from spending money you don’t have.  Now, it’s possible that there are people whose minds work so differently from mine that they really cannot understand that a credit card is not free money but only a way of delaying the actual transfer of money from yourself to the seller, so they truly can’t function responsibly with anything other than cold hard cash.  But I doubt that most people really have that problem.

Here’s what works for me, and has worked for me without fail for the entire 15 years I have had credit cards, and I bet it will work for you, too! Read more…

Great Chapter Books for Kids!

It’s Works-for-Me Wednesday! We started reading chapter books to our son when he was 2 years 9 months old.  Two years later, they’re an important part of his daily life.  I read to him every day on the bus going to and from preschool, almost always from chapter books because they’re more convenient: more story for the weight, less frequent decisions about what to read, and more interesting for me!  He also chooses chapter books for some of the other times Daniel or I read to him, like at bedtime.

Chapter books encourage a longer attention span than picture books and help to develop long-term memory (because you have to remember what was happening in the story in between reading sessions).  Because there are fewer pictures or none at all, the child has to use his imagination to picture the scenes.  The vocabulary tends to be more advanced than picture books. Read more…

Excerpts from the Crime & Incident Report

The following items appeared in the “Crime & Incident Report” column of my university’s newspaper, mostly during my time as a student there–the last one is from my brief stint working there.  It was an interesting campus environment . . . and whoever compiled these reports had a knack for writing them with just the right combination of informativeness and mystery.

September 14, 1991:  Simple Assault, 12:52 a.m.  A student, who was delivering toilet paper and Comet to a resident assistant, was informed there was a student in the building who might be a victim of alcohol poisoning.  In an attempt to assess the victim’s condition, he was assaulted.  He said his assaulter did not want to be assessed and repeatedly threw him on the bed.  The drunken person was later determined to be okay. Read more…

7 Ways to Eat Less Meat

Reducing the meat in your diet can save money, reduce environmental impact, improve your health, and reduce the calories per meal.  (Obviously, all these things are affected by what you eat instead of meat!)  You don’t have to become a total vegetarian to experience the benefits of eating less meat.  Here are some tips for adjusting your habits:

1. Try new kinds of meals. If you’re accustomed to a standard dinner format requiring a chunk of meat, a starchy food, and a vegetable, then it’s hard to imagine a vegetarian diet–what would you put in place of the meat??  I think this is the reason so many people who quit (or cut back on) eating meat wind up eating too many carbs and not enough protein, or eating heavily-processed soy fake meats every day, neither of which is very healthy.  So, instead of just replacing the meat in your standard meals, try some different approaches, like Read more…

The Difference Between 16 and 36

Overall, I was a pretty sensible teenager, and there aren’t a lot of things I roll my eyes about when I think back on my adolescence.  However, the other day I saw a television commercial to which I would have reacted very differently 20 years ago.

The ad: Here’s a new soda pop!  It is lavender!  The flavor has a name that does not evoke any fruit or other food occuring in nature!  No calories!  Look at these excited, trendy people drinking it!

My reaction at 16: What a pretty color!  I wonder what it tastes like?  I guess I’ll try it sometime . . . but it’s diet. . . .  Well, I bet Jenny would split one with me, and I’ll drink it with food.  [Artificial sweeteners give me an unpleasant metabolic reaction.]  Ooh, it’s purple!!

My reaction at 36: No calories, no nutrients . . . so it’s a bottle of nothing for $2?!  No thanks!  I’d rather drink lemonade and buy some more purple clothes at Goodwill.

Hmm, I guess I have matured!

Making Pants into Shorts

This week’s Works-for-Me Wednesday is a special edition for organizing tips, so I’m linking to my old articles about the rule of One Thing and Three Things and how to organize your Girl Scout troop records, as well as posting this new article that isn’t an organizing tip but works for me!

This past spring, my four-year-old son wore through the knees of seven pairs of pants by playing crawling games at the playground.  I was annoyed by the damage that made these pants unsuitable to wear in the fall (if he hadn’t gotten too tall for them by then) or to pass on to younger kids.

Then I realized that Nicholas was low on shorts for this summer.  I could cut off his pants above the holes, hem them, and turn them into shorts!

It’s a simple project, but here’s a quick set of instructions for anyone who missed out on learning basic sewing skills: Read more…

The Path at the End of the Road

I wanted to be an architect.

From the moment I first learned what architects do, when I was about ten years old, I knew that’s what I wanted to be: a person who designs buildings that make people comfortable and happy.  Right away, I started reading architecture books and magazines.  I was fascinated by floorplans (and other drawings too, but especially plans) and began drawing my own.

This clear career goal motivated many of my decisions in junior high and high school: Read more…