Wednesday, February 23, 2011

De-Cluttering, One Step at a Time

It happened so gradually, so subtly. It crept up on us like a quiet ninja. It grew silently like moss on a stump. And then one day, quite unexpectedly, I tripped over something just trying to get from one end of the room to the other. And just like that, the scales fell from our eyes. My husband and I looked around us. We were shocked. We were confused. We. Were. Terrified. We had somehow found ourselves surrounded by piles and piles and piles... of crap. Junk. Sheer and utter clutter. How it had accumulated so significantly right under our very noses will remain a mystery to us. All we knew in that moment, was that we had to act. We had to take drastic measures before we, too, became buried and lost in a sea of clutter. 

So starting this past weekend, we have been working our way through the apartment. Our goal: get rid of as much stuff as possible, and properly organize what remains. It was overwhelming at first. I think anytime you start a project as huge as "de-cluttering your home," it can be daunting. Where to begin? How to begin? Will this project ever end? Will it ever start?! To answer these pressing questions, I fell back onto the wisdom, the genius, the HORSE-SENSE of a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin, who taught us the best way to tackle a giant problem... is to take baby steps. 

So that's what we've been doing. One small project at a time. So far, we have taken four bags of clothing to Goodwill, one huge box of books to Half-Price Books, one large box of DVDs and CDs to a secondhand movie store, and about six full garbage bags to the dumpster. 

It feels so, so good to be simplifying our lives and organizing our living space. My goal is to never let it get that bad again! How's your living space looking these days? Could you use a day or two to de-clutter and organize your place? If so, go for it! You will feel so much better. One thing I can say is that messes do not get better on their own - only worse. 

Lastly, I'm curious, is anybody out there any good at maintaining a simple, organized, clutter-free home? How do you do it? Any practical advice to keeping up with it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vegetarian Mediterranean Pasta

This is one of those meals that just comes together so easily, and will really satisfy you. This particular recipe was intended to serve two, just my husband and I, but it was easier in the end to make a bigger amount, which can easily feed four. Needless to say, the leftovers tasted amazing for lunch the next day!
With Lent right around the corner, this is a great vegetarian dish to have on hand. It's simple, delicious, and filling!

1 box box of whole grain pasta (12-14 ounces)
1 pint roasted grape tomatoes
1 six ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained - reserve liquid
1/2 cup olives (black or kalamata)
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese
2-3 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fresh chopped basil or basil paste
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, for seasoning
grated parmesan cheese, to taste

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta (feel free to use whatever you like best - penne, linguini, rotini, etc.) until al dente. Drain, reserving about a cup of pasta water. Return pasta to pot, off the heat.
Meanwhile, start heating your oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Once that is warm, work in the tomato paste. It will take a minute or so to come to life. Once you can smell the tomato scent pretty well, add the onion and saute until almost tender. Add the garlic. Once the garlic become fragrant to you, season with salt and pepper, and add the basil. Kick the heat up to medium-high and add marinating liquid from artichoke jar, and stir for 2-3 minutes.
Turn the heat off, and stir in the artichokes (chopped smaller if you desire), olives, and tomatoes. Stir in the pasta, working it all together. If it starts to become a bit stiff, slowly add only as much of your reserved pasta liquid as is necessary to loosen it up. The starch in the water will also help the ingredients stick to the pasta nicely. Stir in feta cheese and some more fresh ground pepper.
When you serve the pasta, top it off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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Roasted Garlic, Roasted Tomatoes

I use these ingredients fairly often, so I figured I'd make a quick instruction page for roasting these two beauties. Enjoy them again and again!

Roasted Garlic:
1 head of garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the tips of the garlic head, so that the cloves are exposed. Brush olive oil over the exposed cloves until well saturated. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap the garlic up in foil and roast for about 40-45 minutes. The cloves should be soft when pressed with a fork, but still moist.
Why roast garlic? More importantly, why NOT roast garlic?? It is creamy, mellow, sweet, nutty, and spreadable! You can use it in pasta dishes, spread it directly onto bread, or make some delicious compound butter, by mashing two or three heads of garlic into a stick of softened butter. Harden it back up in the fridge and use it to make garlic bread or stir into mashed potatoes. Amazing.

Roasted Tomatoes:
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
ground thyme

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Put a layer of parchment paper or foil onto a baking sheet to prevent any juice that leaks from burning your pan. Lay tomatoes onto the baking sheet, pour the olive oil over them evenly. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Roast for about 20 minutes in the oven.
Roasting enhances the tomatoes' flavor, and gives them a fun texture. Rocky isn't a huge tomato fan, but he really enjoys roasted tomatoes - they taste great in tons of different recipes! Toss them into a pasta or pasta salad. Use these as the base for your salsa or bruschetta in place of fresh, for a nice twist. Put 'em on a pizza! Go crazy with them - they're delicious.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Small Successes Thursday!


So far this week, I have:

1. Other than to watch a movie with the hubby last night, I haven't turned on the TV once this whole week! It feels SO great to not be a slaaaave to the tube.

2. I made a commitment to my best friend, Jaime, for a spiritual revamp, where we send each other a prayer every day. So far, so good!

3. I finally, finally, started to sort through the crazy clutter black hole of a room that is Gemma's room! Closet is looking way better, now onto storing away her last clothing size and filling her drawers with her current size!

Planned Parenthood: A Threat to Humanity

I recently went to in order to see how they are presenting themselves, and how they cover the topic of abortion on their website. They have a whole list of "services" that they provide. I followed the link for Pregnancy. They state that when you face an unplanned pregnancy, you have three options: abortion, adoption, and parenting. (hm, wonder why they list the option in that specific order?) Anyway, I continued reading, and I came to this paragraph:

Family planning clinics, like your local Planned Parenthood health center, have specially trained staff who can talk with you about all of your options. But beware of so-called "crisis pregnancy centers". These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They often don't give women all their options. They have a history of scaring women into not having abortions. Absolutely no one should pressure you or trick you into making a decision you're not comfortable with.

Let's take a close look at that last line there:
Absolutely no one should pressure you or trick you into making a decision you're not comfortable with.
And now let's take a close look at this video featuring footage from a 
Planned Parenthood facility in Appleton, Wisconsin:

Alright, so Planned Parenthood preaches that "no one should pressure you." However, the abortionist in the video, Dr. P said something interesting. What was that he said? Oh yea:
Dr. P: "But you don't want to wait, because the sooner you do an abortion, the quicker and easier it is." 
Wait, what did he say?
Dr. P: "But you don't want to wait"

No pressure there at all, huh?

Now, there was a second part to that line on their site. Planned Parenthood preaches that "no one should... trick you."
However, I seem to remember the nurse giving 'Sara,' the girl in the video,  a rather large amount of incorrect and misleading information, including:
Sara: "Does it have a heartbeat?"
PP Nurse: "Heart tones are at 7 weeks. heart beat is when the fetus is active in the uterus - can survive - which is about 17 or 18 weeks."

FACT: "The heart begins beating 3 weeks and 1 day following fertilization."

The clear fact here is that Planned Parenthood is without a doubt tricking women into choosing abortion for their babies by LYING to them about fetal development and HIDING true scientific evidence from them. They are so motivated to get women to have abortions that they will do or say anything they have to in order to achieve that goal, even discouraging them from seeking out pregnancy centers that do provide accurate and complete information about fetal development, adoption services, and the process and effects of the various forms of abortion that abortion clinics offer. 

Planned Parenthood's motives are almost comically transparent when you click on the link on their site which describes  "crisis pregnancy centers" as they call them. Some things they have to say about pregnancy centers are:
- These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They have a history of giving women wrong, biased information to scare them into not having abortions.
- These centers may try to frighten you with misleading films and pictures to keep you from choosing abortion
- These centers may lie to you about the medical and emotional effects of abortion.
- These centers may not give you complete and correct information about all your options abortion, adoption, and parenting. 

Seems to me they are pretty concerned that these women may be talked out of an abortion if they seek help elsewhere. My husband works for a pregnancy center, and I can tell you that the counselors at his center give full and complete information to the young woman, and will honestly answer her questions. So when she asks if her fetus has a heartbeat at ten weeks, they will answer "Yes, and it has had a heartbeat for almost seven weeks now."
When I see how blatantly corrupt and dishonest Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are, it enrages me. These people do not want to help women, they want to make money, simple as that. The fact of the matter is, as Christians, as Catholics, as human beings, Planned Parenthood is our enemy. And we must treat them as our enemy at all times. What do I mean by that? Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies.
This is why it is so important not to demonize the young girl or woman who had the abortion, because she was GREATLY misled by the PP staff, and is a victim herself. It is so important to pray for her conversion, to realize the reality of what she did, and to ask God for forgiveness for it. It is so important to pray unceasingly for the conversion of the higher-ups at Planned Parenthood. These people were at some point brain-washed themselves, and are continuing to brainwash every staff member they train, and every woman that walks through their doors.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Weekend

I've just had a few thoughts floating around my mind as we head into Valentine's Day weekend. I know the day is not really until Monday, but I figure, most people will be celebrating it this weekend.

First of all, to all the haters and naysayers who despise Valentine's Day on the sole basis that "it's just a stupid day Hallmark invented to make money" or "I/We don't need just one day out of the year to say we love each other, we do that every day", I say, knock the hate people. Where's the love?? If you don't want to support Hallmark, don't. I'll be making my husband a homemade, from-the-heart Valentine card this year. And of course couples show each other love every day (or they surely should!), but honestly, and maybe this is just me, but I relish in any little reason to get dressed up and have a nice date night, ya know? Who's with me on this? 

Ahhh, wedding memories :)

Now, do I measure the level of my husband's love for me on how perfectly he crafts our Valentine's date? No. Do I place the worth of our love on what a beautiful gift he buys me for Valentine's? No. Will I love him just as much if he even (gasp!) forgets all about Valentine's Day and does nothing whatsoever to celebrate it? Of course. But will I totally enjoy an evening where I get to play dress up, feel belly butterflies, and toast my husband to the amazing love we share? Absolutely. Is that such a crime? I think not.

So am I excited for Valentine's Day? Sure am. From what little Rocky has told me, we're actually celebrating part 1 of our date tonight! All I know is I was told to dress pretty, and we're going out. And yes, we will be bringing Gemma! I had someone question me in this. They hinted that maybe we wouldn't be able to feel as romantic with her around. I couldn't disagree more. When I look over at our beautiful baby, I am filled with love for my husband. We, with God, created that child out of our love, and seeing her fills my heart with love and romance! Also, we can't leave her out of the celebrations this weekend, because she will be having her half-birthday on Sunday!! :)

One last thing to leave you with. This was a very cute article for all you married ladies out there! Happy Valentine's everyone! Hope you're feelin' the love!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wine and Cheese Night

For a few months now, Rocky and I have been loving watching travel shows and documentaries. We especially love the France shows, mostly because we are fascinated by the food culture there. We have seen and read that, in general, when it comes to mealtime in France, there is noooo rush. Dinner can last for several hours! Not to say that they are gorging themselves for hours on end, but rather, slowly sampling what the table has to offer, focusing much more on conversation than food. Given the conversations and delicious wines, it's no wonder why they take so long!
Obviously, our culture is very different, because let's face it, we don't usually have time to sit around eating for hours and hours. But maybe you could at least enjoy yourselves and stretch dinner out to about an hour. So Rocky and I thought we'd give this a whirl. Then we thought, well we don't necessarily want to serve food that is meant to be eaten very warm because then you just can't eat for an hour, it'll get cold! Our solution was to enjoy some lovely wine and cheese. A very popular option in France, and now in the Rhoades house! 

Alright, now I can hardly call this a "recipe" but it is certainly one of our favorites, so I had to share. And there are enough comments to make on it that I can make it into a food post. SO. Here goes.

3-4 different types of cheese, amount varying on how many people are eating
1-2 different meats
1 French baguette
1 bottle of wine
balsamic vinegar

If you like, pop your baguette into a very low oven (250 is fine) directly onto the rack. You'll just warm it as you prepare the rest. If you don't mind room temp bread, that's fine too!
Take your cheeses and cut them into small slices or cubes. Do the same with your meats. Arrange these onto a plate or nice looking cutting board.
Pop open your wine, pour it and let it breathe.
Pour some oil (usually olive oil) into a dipping saucer and then pour the balsamic vinegar into that.
Take the bread out (should be warm by now), and slice it up.
Bring it all to the table and you're ready to feast! Enjoy!

This was smoked salmon night. DELICIOUS!

This is the best part of this meal. You could do it every single week and it could be different every single week. Play around with the cheeses. Have some different tasting options. Have some soft cheeses, like brie and gruyere. Have some hard cheeses like smoked gouda or smoked provolone. Have some buttery cheese like havarti. Nutty cheeses like cheddar. Seriously people, the possibilities are endless!!

The meats. We began these nights with your classic cured meats, like pepperoni and various different salamis. Most recently, we served a spicy smoked salmon. To die for. 

The wine. It truly is needless to say the possibilities are endless here, because that's obvious. This is allll about preference. But don't be afraid to try something new too, you may surprise yourself! I'd recommend a red wine though, because of the nature of the meal to last for awhile, drinking a room temp wine makes it hassle-free. But if you are truly a lover of chilled wine, just pop the bottle into a bucket of ice and bring it to the table with you! One last thing I'll say is if you're drinking a wine you've had before, and therefore now how strong it is, try your best to match your cheeses to the level of strength. I'm by no means an expert in this area. 
All I know is we once had a very strong tasting wine - delicious but strong - and it overpowered our cheeses, as in, we could barely taste them because of the effect the wine had on our tongues. It would be like eating a jalapeno and then a bite of, I don't know, baked potato afterwards. I'm telling you, that potato would be flavorless after the jalapeno got done wreaking havoc on your taste buds. The point I'm trying to make is, just match the wine to the cheese to the best of your ability!

Also, you can vary the dipping oil for your bread. Some people won't want to dip at all, but for us dip-aholics, you can play around here. Roast some garlic, and put it into the bottom of the saucer, then pour some olive oil over that. Can't tell you how delicious that is! Try a raspberry vinaigrette in place of balsamic. As always, try different things... have fun!

Lastly, you can definitely mix it up with the bread as well, although we haven't. We usually just stick to the classic French baguette. Why? It's the one stable thing about the meal. Oh, and it's DELICIOUS! 

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