Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cold Snowy Chicago January Weather

This Long Snowy Chicago January is Giving Me Cabin Fever

It’s the last day of January, and I already have cabin fever. Normally the winter weather doesn’t really get to me until early March, and I then I start to dream and plan my summer garden. This year my cabin fever started way too early. I don’t usually let the weather stop me from keeping to my normal schedule and doing my normal activities. I am blaming it on the extreme weather that Chicago has experienced for the entire month of January 2014.  

After all, I come from sturdy stock … I used to work outside on the ramp at O’Hare for over 15 years, for goodness sakes. While we have experienced extreme low temperatures a few times this past month, we haven’t broken the record. I vividly remember experiencing that record low temp of -24 (without the windchill) on January 20, 1985 … it was my first day working at O’Hare! I remember thinking to myself, “what in the world was I thinking?? I had a nice, warm, comfy desk job at a travel agency on Michigan Avenue”. Of course, I survived and have great stories to tell from that day. It was a great job, with great travel benefits. I have many wonderful memories of this time … it was the perfect job for me during my single days 🙂

According to the Chicago Weather Center Blog, we haven’t broken the record for snowfall this month either, but our 33.5 inches takes 3rd place in the record book. The blizzard in January of 1979 gave that month a total of 40.4 inches to take 2nd place. I remember making a lot of $$$ shoveling people out that winter 🙂 The 1st place Chicago snowfall record is from 1918 with 42.5 inches … wow!

They are predicting more snow for tomorrow, so it appears February will be more of the same, yippee! Oh well … I’ll have to figure out someway to keep myself amused in my nice, warm cozy “cabin” for a while longer. Don’t be surprised if I have a really big garden this spring 🙂

Tell me some of the things you do while spending these cold and snowy days at home …

Homemade Chicken Soup

Homemade Soup Keeps You Warm on a Cold Winter Day

There’s nothing like a big bowl of steamy, hot, homemade soup. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. One of my goals is to learn how to make some of my favorite soups. I’m a beginner when it comes to making homemade soup. I have a list of my favorites that I want to learn how to make.

  • Chicken Soup
  • Vegetable Beef
  • Broccoli Cheddar
  • Split Pea
  • Loaded Baked Potato
  • Navy Bean
  • Taco Soup
  • Creamy Pumpkin
  • Chicken Enchilada

I am pleased with my Chicken soup skills … I’ve made it successfully several times. I can’t decide which to try next … it’s between Broccoli Cheddar and Loaded Baked Potato… I’ve been checking out Pinterest for some healthy recipes 🙂

I recently read an article in Midwest Living magazine that intrigued me. It was about throwing a casual Soup Exchange party. Most of us have been to Cookie Exchange parties, usually around the Christmas holidays. This is the same type concept, except it promotes healthy recipes. I thought it might be a fun idea to have one in the midst of this record breaking Chicagoland winter.

So basically, you make your pot of soup at home, and then bring it to the party in quart size containers … one for each guest. So if 6 people are coming, they each bring 6 quarts of their soup with 6 copies of their recipe. One quart of each recipe is warmed up and shared at the party, and each guest goes home with 5 different quarts of soup to put in their freezer. I would suggest noting on the recipe if it freezes well or not. I’ve heard that cream based soups aren’t really freezer friendly. The hostess can provide a bread & cracker assortment and beverages, or make that potluck and assign each guest with something to bring. Enjoy a warm & cozy winter evening with good friends and good food … sounds wonderful to me 🙂

Have you ever been to this kind of party? Do you think you’d enjoy it? What kind of soup would you bring? Leave a comment & share your favorite recipe …

My Perpetual Calendar

Journaling With A Perpetual Calendar

I’ve always wanted to keep a diary. When January 1st rolled around on the calendar, I would make a resolution to document my days. I always had the best of intentions, but after only a few weeks it faded into the background of my busy days.

One of the gifts I received when my first child was born was a “Baby’s First Year” calendar. It had little stickers to place on the days he reached milestones, as well as ones to note doctor appointments, etc. I really enjoyed having a separate place to record all his “firsts”. When my daughter was born a few years later, I purchased another one to save all her important dates too. I found myself referring back to my son’s calendar, remembering going through all the same developmental stages with him.

Then I decided to use my regular wall calendar in the same way … without the cute stickers. I put everything on that calendar, combining the whole family’s schedules. As the kids grew older, my calendar pages really filled up with all their activities and school schedules.

I have saved all these calendars. Over the years, usually during the week between Christmas and New Years, I have gotten into the habit of paging through these old calendars. I usually go through and write birthdays on my new calendar at this time. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific event, other times I’m looking through them to be reminded of old memories and reminisce.

This year, I’ve decided to try to combine my hope of keeping a journal with documenting events on my calendar. While browsing on Pinterest, I came across the idea of a perpetual calendar. Each day of the year has it’s own card. Each daily card would have several years worth of events that happened on that date. The idea being that I would write a quick sentence or two about my day on each card. Then the next year, I’d write my short journal entry on the same card as the last year. Over time, I would be able to look back over many years, all documented on the same card for that date. I’m hoping that since it’s only a sentence or two, I won’t feel overwhelmed by trying to come up with profound thoughts while staring at a blank page in my journal. Some days will have exciting entries, some days will be boring … but they all add up to life 🙂

Fully Stocked Pantry

Polar Vortex, Round Two – Do You Have A Fully Stocked Freezer and Pantry ??

Well, it’s another freezing cold day in the Chicagoland area. They are calling it the second wave of the Polar Vortex we experienced a couple of weeks ago. Although it’s not as extreme as the harsh sub-zero wind chill temperatures we had on January 6th, it’s still frigid. They were also saying that we have already had more snow accumulation than the yearly average and its only January … there’s still a lot of winter left.

I went to Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon to pick up a few things. It was really crowded … all the checkout lines were full. It kinda felt like Christmas shopping dejavue. While I was waiting in line, I overheard some people commenting on having to stock up on groceries so they wouldn’t have to go out in the extreme weather that was coming.

I looked in my cart … fish food, razors, shampoo and printer paper. No last minute food items were there, because I try to always have my pantry and freezer stocked. I’ve always been this way. I think I must have learned it from my Grandma (who raised me). I’m not totally sure, but I do remember her saying something to the effect of “ TP is not something you ever want to run out of “ … haha … and I totally agree with her 🙂

I like to have the replacement item on a shelf somewhere, ready and waiting … be it TP or shampoo. My motto is “Its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”.

I can’t afford to just go out and buy enough food to fully stock the freezer and pantry, so I’ve come up with a couple of ideas that have worked for me:

  • I try to take advantage of BOGO (buy one, get one free) sales. It’s even better for my budget if I can use coupons 🙂
  • Shopping in bulk at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club has helped me build up a back-up supply.
  • When I cook dinner, I try to make a double batch of the recipe, and then freeze half of it for a future meal.

I consider my family to be truly blessed that we are able to have plenty of food to eat. Knowing my pantry and freezer are full gives me peace of mind knowing that if the weather is extreme, or if we get sick, no one has to run out to the store.

I hope my ideas and tips are helpful to you … I’d love to hear some of your thoughts 🙂 

LOVE AND OTHER SUBJECTS ~ A Book Review

For every woman who wonders if she chose the right career

Carolyn Jenkins strives for two things–to be the greatest teacher ever and to find true love. She’s as skilled at both as an infant trying to eat with a fork. Carolyn’s suburban upbringing and genuine compassion for people who don’t fit effortlessly into society are no match for weapon-wielding, struggling students, drug-using colleagues, and a wicked principal.

Meanwhile, her budding relationship with a mystery man is thwarted by his gaggle of eccentric sisters. Carolyn depends on her friends to get her through the hard times, but with poverty-stricken children at her feet and a wealthy man at her side, she must define who she is.

The reality of life after college can be daunting, the road to full-fledged adulthood long and unscripted. Can Carolyn take control and craft the existence she always wanted?

 

My Thoughts:

Carolyn Jenkins is a character I can relate to … she leads a real life with everyday routine as well as highs and lows. She has her ideals and dreams, yet she has to deal with reality.

Personally, I was more drawn into the “Other Subjects” of the storyline than the “Love” portion.

I was interested in her passion of learning how to be effective in this inner city school while coming from a suburban background. I liked how the author addressed the interracial relationships between the roommates and the students. I feel Carolyn showed her true calling as a teacher in finding techniques that fit her student’s needs instead of just following the prescribed one size fits all approach.

I also liked hearing the witty, sometimes hilarious, “dialogue” in her head as she worked through issues and eventually matured in her personal relationships with her roommates, her parents and her boyfriends.

Buy the book from……. Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Barnes and Noble

About the Author

A Language Arts Coach with a Ph.D. in Reading Education, Kathleen lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Kathleen has also written Love and Other Subjects, award winning After the Fog and her debut novel, The Last Letter, garnered multiple awards in 2011.  The author’s stories have also appeared in several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Follow the Author

Website,  Facebook,  Twitter,  Pinterest  Goodreads



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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

NOW FOR THE AUTHOR’S GIVEAWAY !!

 

 

 

 

THREE Lucky Winners will each receive a $15 Amazon Giftcard,

 

courtesy of author of Love and other subjects, Kathleen Shoop

 

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Filing Cabinet Tips

Getting Organized ~ Tips For Keeping Your Filing Cabinet Organized

I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda glad the Holidays are over. Don’t get me wrong … I LOVE the Holiday season, but I’m the kind of person who does better having a routine. Part of me likes being in “vacation mode” ~ but the other part of me longs to get back to my routine / schedule 🙂

January is the perfect time to take a good look at your files. In the first couple of weeks of January, I like to purge and get my files organized. It’s a new year, and the perfect time to update your file cabinet.

I usually sort through and file my paperwork once a month, but I skipped November and December. You know how it is … decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, going to all those holiday parties … so I spent a few hours last week trying to get caught up 🙂

First I updated my household management file box. I purged all of 2012 papers, then moved all of my 2013 files into the last year folder to make way for this year. For a more thorough explanation of my filing system, you can check out my previous blog post here. I then had quite a large stack of 2012 documents to shred.

Then I had to take my own advice, and get my paper clutter back under control. In just those couple of months, my paperwork and junk mail really piled up.

Now I have a fairly full recycle bin (lots of holiday sale papers). Unfortunately, I was only able get partially through my shred pile because my shredder died … so I’m on the lookout for a great sale price on a new one.

Are you making progress on getting your paper clutter under control ? Share your tips and techniques with us 🙂

photo by: mrmanc
Tracy Helps You Top 5 Blog Posts 2013

Tracy Helps You’s Top 5 Blog Posts 2013

Tracy Helps You was founded in the spring of 2013. It has been a year of learning for me, and I feel that I’ve had quite a successful first year of business. I’d like to thank everyone who reads my Blog … I truly appreciate it 🙂

I also would like to thank Kris at www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com & Angie at www.manylittleblessings.com for hosting List It Tuesday.

Here are my Top 5 Posts …

  1. Getting Organized – Paper Clutter
  2. Lending A Helping Hand
  3. I am so Excited, Another To-Do List Item Checked Off !!
  4. Getting Organized – Tips For Filing Your Important Documents and Paper Work
  5. Getting Organized – Garage Storage