This is not my beautiful life

A year to redefine who I am and how to embrace the rest of my life on my terms

Recipe Counter

I’m trying to cook my way out of the huge stack of recipes I’ve torn out of magazines and newspapers over the years. I’ll share along with any feedback I’ve gotten from my family and friends.

2/10/17 Sticky Asian Pork Wrap – Midwest Living Magazine recipes never disappoint. This was a tasty change of pace for our family. I think it will going into rotation.

1/28/17 I’m always on the look out for a good, quick dinner and our family likes stir fry. But there just so many things you can do with chicken before you want some variety. Tonight I tried a “Saucy Sizzle” from It was a saucy pepper steak with barbecue sauce instead of the traditional teriakyi based sauce. It was different, but not a new favorite.

1/15/17 My family loves cranberries. Just the three of us can go through five pounds of them during the cranberry season. The coffee cake was interesting. You made a cranberry brandy “sauce” that you then put in a sour cream coffee cake batter. It came from an old magazine. While good, it didn’t go into the recipe file.

1/14/17 I needed a new salad for my friend’s wild game feed. I always try to take something light and fresh to counter balance the “meatiness” of the potluck. A broccoli salad from the Penzeys catalog looked good. Any it must have been – the bowl was empty by the time I hit the buffet line!

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End of week 2

I made it to the end of week 2 and if you follow the conventional wisdom that it takes 21 days to make a new habit, I’m well on my way. I have new, sunny yellow flowers to lift the gloom of cold winter days and my counters and sink stayed unstacked and clean most of the week. My bathroom is clean and I read a few magazines to keep Magazine Mountain shrinking and I actually had time to sit down and watch some playoff football!

While I still feel somewhat guilty about all of the January “declutter” challenges that I’m not keeping up with – I decided to be happy with what I do get done. The January Cure starts with cleaning a drawer with the thought that one simple, small project can set you on the path for larger projects. I decided to tackle the kitchen junk drawer. It took well over an hour, mostly for all of the points for school and Campbell’s soup labels that had just been thrown in the drawer, but it was a huge difference and I even tested and threw out pens that didn’t work. And for me, the act of throwing something away is hard – but I did it and found it felt good. If after a few scribbles on the paper, if it didn’t work – out it went. Now when I reach in the drawer to add to the grocery or to do list – I don’t have to try three or four pens to find one that works!

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Can I cook my way out of clutter?

Part of the reason it takes me so long to get through Magazine Mountain is that there might be a recipe I need to tear out and try. But that philosophy is part of what has lead to the excessive clutter in my life. While I may get rid of the magazine, I’ve just moved paper to a new pile. And this is not the most effective way to find a recipe in a hurry. As a consequence, I often default to all I love that I can input ingredients and have a number of options in seconds, rather than spending over a half hour looking for an interesting salad recipe for a potluck (like I did yesterday). (The salad was delicious by the way and I came home with an empty bowl. That recipe moves into the vintage and well used family recipe book in the right of the photo.)

So part of my conundrum with this pile is – do I just chuck it and rely solely on my iPad and the internet for my baking and cooking? And if I do that, saving to an on-line library, doesn’t bring the joy of pulling a favorite, well worn and stained recipe out for a special meal or dessert (AKA third generation, hand written wild rice soup recipe).  I started trying to use my phone’s camera to take pictures of recipes, but then they languish and eventually get forgotten in emails and photos because they don’t get pulled down and organized. I tried scanning as well – but you have to follow through and actually organize, tag and label them. I spent some time looking for a electronic recipe organization system on line and the best I recommendation I could find was to use Evernote. Or do I spend some time and organize by subject and just have a more organized paper? But look at this pile! Isn’t my time more valuable? Can I outsource to a third party like old photographs and videos? What is the time value relationship? So while I consider these questions, I’m going to try to cook my way out of this pile. On tap for today – spicy pork stir fry for dinner and cranberry coffee cake for breakfast tomorrow. And since trying to eat better and making a commitment to breakfast is one of my goals – we’ll try 52 weeks of muffins. That should at least get rid of 52 sheets. Oops, it’s the third week of 2017 – I better get started!

Leaving work on time

My sweet spot for getting stuff crossed of my to do list at work is 4 to 6 p.m. I find the end of day quiet, the time to dig in and focus on projects and tasks. I love to cross things off my list. But staying late every night means that by the time I get home and think about supper, it means we are eating at 8 p.m. or not eating well – it’s too easy to pick up the phone and have a pizza delivered.

Number 5 of 15 Secrets of Successful People Know About Time Management is “make it home for dinner.” My goal for the next few weeks is to make it home for dinner at least twice a week. And since my sink is clean (still – week 2 – I’m on my way to a new habit), I have a 15 minute head start!

My next challenge is #7 – only look at email three times a day…but that is another day!




The End of Week 1

It’s the end of the first week of the new year. 1 down and 51 one to go. With all of the plans out there to get you motivated, it can be overwhelming. I’ve tried Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, FlyLady, 40 bags in 40 days, you name it. I can usually get about half way through before I get derailed. But each of them has it’s own valuable lesson and I’m finding that I’m building my own “plan” by picking what works for me.

My kitchen and sink seem to always be stacked. And I have always hated coming home  to a sink of dirty dishes. So this week, I’ve focused on keeping my sink empty and it and the counters clean and wiped down. And you know what, it’s worked.  I even got up early one morning after getting home very late the night before to make sure it was clean before I left for the day . And I’m really surprised how less stressful my evening work to home transition has been when I come home to a clean sink and counter. I don’t feel like I’m all ready behind the 8 ball on the To Do list and I don’t have to spend 15 to 20 minutes just getting the kitchen ready to start dinner. I realize this a no brainer to many, but in trying to be more mindful of how I feel and how to make permanent change, I’m finding that it’s small things that make the difference. Baby steps.

And as a reward, I used Apartment Therapy’s “buy flowers” suggestion. Coupled with the candle the family gave me for Xmas, my kitchen is becoming more of a oasis rather than a pain point.

PS – I love flowers and wish we had a more European mentality and availability. I really love this philosophy about why they are important in our homes and life on a daily basis.

Think of the purchase as a gift to your home. It is an enjoyable, (affordable!) little luxury but it goes beyond just that. The flowers are a visual symbol of the commitment you are making to care for your home. In the Eight Step Home Cure, Maxwell wrote: As simple as it sounds, the act of buying flowers for your home holds great significance and will heal your home on many levels.

The Clutter Culture

With the start of a new year, we are bombarded with messages about getting fit, getting rid of clutter, and making major life changes. Every day it’s another news story, magazine or newspaper article, blog post (sorry) or social media post hectoring us to make radical change with some 28 or 30 day program or “cure” – yes I’m looking at you Apartment Therapy. If these “cures” really worked to changed our habits, we wouldn’t be repeating this cycle every year.

But like a siren song – I still keep looking for that magic bullet, too. Some guide, plan or words of wisdom that speak to me and magically make me thinner, my house cleaner and my life better.

But the realization that the only way anything is going to change is for me to do the hard work and cause the change, came as I picked up another “how to declutter” book at the book store 0ver the holidays. As I thumbed through the book and – for the smallest fraction of a second considered purchasing – it dawned on me. This book about clutter wouldn’t change anything and, in reality, would add to the clutter problem in my home which would make me anxious and upset. It would be one more item in book and magazine mountain, another thing on the “to do” list. It wasn’t going to help me solve the problem, it was adding to it.

It was with that epiphany that I decided to try this “year of” blog and see if I can truly do the handwork of making lasting change in my home and life.

This is my running tally board on how many magazines I can get read and recycled from Magazine Mountain. Updated as a magazine leaves the house via recycling or passing along to another reader.

2/10/17 I’ve not been posting much in the last week because I’ve been busy reading. Three magazines went out this week and two of the new magazines that arrived, including this month’s Vanity Fair didn’t even make it into the pile! Plus I read a library book, too!

2/4/17 It doesn’t seem like we’ve had a new president for only a few weeks – it all ready seems like years. But finally getting to this look back. Again – not to the recycling pile but moving on to someone else.

1/22/17 A December 2016 Entertainment Weekly goes to recycling. I need to get into a better rhythm of reading to keep the flow moving out the door.

1/10/17 A December 2014 Entertainment Weekly goes into recycling. When my kitchen sink is clean and I actually leave work on time – I can get a magazine read and off of Magazine Mountain!

1/7/17 October 2016 In Style – very timely read. I can’t wait to see what Michelle Obama’s second act is. In pass along pile to my mom who shares my fascination with Mrs. Obama.

1/4/17 – Thanks to a hair cut appointment, this month’s Better Homes and Gardens didn’t even make it on to the pile. In and out the door in 48 hours! A record.

1/3/17 – working on a year old Entertainment Weekly…..


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Magazine Mountain

I love reading – you name it –  books, magazines, newspapers.

I’ve finally conceded on the newspaper, however, and subscribe to digital only versions of the Star Tribune and NY Times and get daily updates from the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Skimm and Des Moines Register. With a few clicks, I can see headlines or delve deeper  on the daily news, avoid the morning “news” shows and not add to my paper piles.

It’s a different story when it comes to books and magazines. I’ve never meet a Little Lending Library that I don’t stop and peruse and I always keep a book or two in my car and bike bag to leave. That bi-monthly sign outside my local library “book sale today” is a siren song. Another bag of books joins the to be read stack. Having a sports playing kid helps – I get a lot read during the sports season. Getting to the field an hour early for games and weekend tournaments let me plow through books pretty quickly and I do a good job of moving them out of the house to other readers.

Magazines are another story. I usually take a quick run through the day they arrive and then set them aside to dig into deeper. Problem is that by the time I get back to them – the fashions are out of date, pop culture has moved along and I can’t find the recipe I remember seeing. One of my goals this year is to whittle magazine mountain into a mole hill by spending that time each day I would be on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat by reading a magazine and putting it in the recycle box.

To help motivate me – I’ve decided to log my magazine reading and try to get rid of 4 to 5 magazines a week. This is truly going to be a challenge because, while I dropped a couple of subscriptions, I’ve added some new ones. And deadly ones at that – two recipe magazines – which get lots of pages torn out and added to a different paper stack. #paperpiles #numberonecauseofclutter





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Time to get beautiful things done

As I started thinking about doing this blog, I was shopping for my new 2017 paper calendar. While I still manage most of my life on my computer and phone, there’s still something about a paper calendar that helps ground me. It’s more than a calendar – it’s a notebook, to do list, coupon holder, you name it. I was so excited to find this big one (9 x 11 1/2) with pockets and stickers by Recollections at Michaels. I’ve all ready started stuffing it with my life for 2017.

As a visual person – it’s also gratifying to draw that black line through a Done item or pull that note held in by paperclip and wad it up and throw it in the trash! The goal of this blog is to make changes in my life and get that satisfaction from throwing a bad habit, a negative attitude or person, or a something that’s holding me back in the metaphorical trash. What is more vulnerable (and visual) than a blog put out for the world to see?

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