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Posts tagged ‘work’

Homemade Pretzel Bites

I was just telling some friends how busy my schedule has been lately. I am sad I haven’t been able to post much of the things on my mind but I have to stop and post about this.

While folding an endless pile of towels the other day I was also watching Undercover Boss which featured the Philly Pretzel Factory. Lets just say it was a mouth watering episode! So it got me thinking that although I am not the best cook and certainly not the best at making bread products they made it look very easy to make pretzels. I got online and found a recipe that looked simple enough for me to try making pretzel bites last night.

The dough was very easy to make using my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I let it rise like it suggested and then got my son involved (after much hand washing) with helping me roll out the dough into the long strips. After cutting them into small bite size pieces they simply are dunked into boiling water for about 30 seconds, placed on a greased cookie sheet, brushed with an egg wash mixture and heavy salt and then they are ready to bake. Of course it smelled amazing but I was pleasantly suprised at how they tasted! Mine didn’t come out looking as amazing as the photo but maybe with time I can master that too. The recipe also said you can do cinnamon and sugar instead of salt but I also think it is worth trying with butter and parmesean cheese!  The recipe also has suggestions for dipping sauces. I had honey mustard on hand but my husband made an olive oil and Italian herb sauce too.

Click here for the recipe:  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/homemade-soft-pretzel-bites/

What other spices, variations or sauces would be good on these pretzel bites?

Is Phone Etiquette too much to ask for?

Thankfully most of my friends and family are caring enough to use proper phone etiquette but I often have the unfortunate opportunity to speak with customers who could use a little schooling on what they should and should not be doing when on the phone. You would be surprised at how often these incidence happen. These calls could be uncomfortable in any situation but especially to a customer service agent speaking with a complete stranger! Here are just some of the things we are subjected to listening to:

  1. Using the Bathroom: Seriously, we can hear you! Especially when you flush! Please do your business before or after the call and if it is an emergency either ask us to hold or call us back. Just don’t take us with you!
  2. Television or Radio TOO LOUD! It is very hard to get your information when we cannot hear anything but our TV commercial going in the background. What is worse is those customers who cannot hear us either but don’t think to turn their volume down in order to hear better. I am not going to scream to compensate for your loud TV!
  3. Eating: Munching in my ear is bad enough but when you have a mouth full of food and trying to give me your contact information it is impossible to understand you!
  4. Watching Porn: Just like using the bathroom we can hear this too! Please please please take care of your personal business before calling and do not make us listen to your porn during the call. I have asked people to turn their TV down in this situation but believe me I will hang up if it doesn’t stop or I feel you are doing “anything else” during that time. GROSS!
  5. Baby Crying: When is it ever a good time to order something or call someone when your kid is screaming bloody murder? Please get them back to sleep, give them a bottle or calm them down before calling. Certainly do not hold a screaming child when you are on the phone because being that close to the phone that is all we can hear!
  6. Dogs Barking: This is basically the same as the baby crying. If your dog is trying to warn a squirrel or mail man to stay out of your yard please put them up before calling or go into another room!
  7. Gases: Oh yes. We do have ears and we can hear every fart and burp so cover the phone, put us on mute or excuse yourself for a moment please.
  8. Fighting: It’s probably not a good time to call and order a product when you’re in the middle of a fight with someone at home! We are literally the fly on the wall and know all your business now!
  9. Swearing: This can be both happy and angry customers believe it or not. Some just have incorporated swearing into their everyday vocabulary and will just let words fly when doing a normal order. Others get angry and the words start coming. Please realize you are still speaking to a human being and swearing is not acceptable. We do have the authorization to hang up on anyone swearing if we have asked them to stop and they don’t.
  10. Prank Calls: It is bad enough from the kids but as an adult grow up! Even with a few beers in you it isn’t funny to call an order line for a kitchen appliance and ask what the customer service agent is wearing. You really think we sit around in lingerie waiting to take your call? Oh and by the way, we do have Caller ID so you’re not so anonymous anymore!

I am sure the list can go on but these are the most common of the phone etiquette problems I encounter on a pretty regular basis. Just realize that although someone cannot see you they certainly can still hear what is going on. Remember our children are learning proper etiquette from us. Take care of what you can before getting on the phone or even answering a phone call with anyone to avoid an inconsiderate situation on that call!

What unpleasant things have you had to listen to while on a call?

Prescription Drugs worth possible Side Effects?

Certainly there are many conditions where the positive attributes of a drug outweigh the possible negative side effects. My thoughts today point towards times when the prescribed drug is for something more minor that certainly makes you question whether risking side effects is worth the benefits of the drug.

We see more and more commercials advertising their drugs for certain medical conditions. All are required by law to list possible side effects. Have you noticed those that seem to take more of the commercial to talk about the side effects then the actual drug and it’s benefits? Comedian Tim Hawkins does a hilarious skit of this very topic. 

Here is another great example: I just heard a commercial on the radio yesterday for Nuvigil. This is being advertised to help those with Excessive Sleepiness(ES) due to Shift Work Disorder (SWD). Yes this is an actual diagnosed disorder. In all fairness I have worked an overnight shift for almost 15 years so I can certainly understand all the symptoms of SWD since shift work often leads to sleep disorders. Our bodies natural instinct is to be sleeping not working during the night and be active and not asleep during the day. Lack of proper sleep can cause someone to lose their focus and even reduce their ability to function. There is an increased risk of accidents due to sleepiness. Many become more irritable or have reduced ability to participate socially. Sleepiness can also effect their overall job performance. Certainly there is an increased risk for worsening a previously diagnosed medical condition. There may be a benefit from this drug in extreme cases but what are the possible side effects? (this list taken directly from Nuvigil.com)

  • What are possible side effects of NUVIGIL?

    • Stop taking NUVIGIL and call your doctor or get emergency help if you get any of the following serious side effects:Common side effects of NUVIGIL are headache, nausea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. These are not all the side effects of NUVIGIL.
      • Mental (psychiatric) symptoms, including: depression, feeling anxious, sensing things that are not really there, extreme increase in activity (mania), thoughts of suicide, aggression, or other mental problems
      • Symptoms of a heart problem, including: chest pain, abnormal heart beat, and trouble breathing
    • Tell your doctor if you get any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. Talk to your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

    What should I avoid while taking NUVIGIL?

    • Do not drive a car or do other dangerous activities until you and your doctor know how NUVIGIL affects you.
    • Avoid drinking alcohol.

    What should I tell my doctor before starting NUVIGIL?

    • Tell your doctor about all of your health conditions including if you have: history of mental health problems (including psychosis), heart problems or had a heart attack, high blood pressure, liver or kidney problems, a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, or are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
    • Tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take. Women who use hormonal birth control may have a higher chance of getting pregnant, while taking and for one month after stopping NUVIGIL. Talk to your doctor about other birth control methods while taking NUVIGIL.
So let’s recap. First thing that stands out to me is the “trouble sleeping”. Does that seem weird to anyone else since the problem to begin with is a sleep disorder leading to excessive sleepiness? Certainly other possible side effects are common with most drugs like headache, nausea, dizziness, etc. The other thing that stood out to me though that is a huge red flag is mental (psychiatric) symptoms including seeing things that are not really there, aggression and thoughts of suicide. What about possible heart problems? Being unable to drive a car driving a car until you know the effects of the drug can be a problem for many as they still have work and family responsibilities. Do any of those seem like something you want to gamble with?
I truly am thankful for all the medical resources available and the continual advancements in research that improve our lives. I will say again that there are many conditions that require proper medication and in those cases the benefits surley outweigh the side effects. For those people just looking for a magic pill for all your ailments maybe a closer look at the side effects is needed. I mean seriously if you have to take another pill to help with the side effects created by the first pill is it worth it? We really do not want our children learning bad habits by taking medication for every little thing either. Do your research and look into all areas of assistance before jumping into a prescription. ALWAYS ask your doctor about the side effects and if there is something else that might be just as effective without all the possible side effects. Remember many doctors have incentives to promote certain drugs for the manufactures so make sure they are doing what is best for you, not the drug manufacturer!
What are your thoughts about the long lists of possible side effects for prescription drugs?

When did I become a Taxi Driver?

Photo Credit: buriedwithchildren.com

I hope I never stop loving my car because I really am spending more and more time in it. Along with the other hats I wear during the day my “taxi driver” hat is being worn a lot! It appears that each year my kids grow older we find additional things that require me to take them here, there and everywhere. I swear that my seat never gets cold because as soon as I get home I am right back out the door to go somewhere else. My kids are only involved in a few school activities, clubs and our church youth group. I don’t know how other parents do it whose kids are involved in many other outside activities.

I really think that car manufacturers could make a mint on the “taxi driver mom’s” if they included a kitchen and laundry room so that we could get more chores done while on the road and waiting in the car rider lines! Technology supplied us with all kinds of entertainment in our cars from radio, navigation systems and DVD systems so why not a microwave and washer? You are probably now thinking that they do make that. They are called motor homes. Believe me I have thought about it!

With gas prices rising it is a fear of mine on how these increasing trips everywhere will play out. I go through almost a whole tank of gas a week and I basically only travel within a 5 mile radius from my home during that week. We certainly want to encourage our children to participate in a variety of activities but I do worry how families can continue to afford all these trips with higher gas prices.

On the flip side I do love the time I can spend talking with my kids and connecting with them. We enjoy singing songs and talking about the day. My car has become the place to catch up with them even more than the dinner table anymore!

How many hours a day do you spend driving your kids?

Choose Your Email Name Carefully!

As a customer service phone agent I have heard all kinds of email addresses. There are however many people reluctant to provide their current email because something they thought what cute or sexy is now embarrassing to say to a complete stranger. Most people will use their name or a nick name. Some even have emails that refer to their favorite hobby like crafts, sports, books, movies, etc. Then there are those who think that “sexyman4u”,”urluvbuddy” or even “grannygrannybobanny” is a great idea until they are providing it to someone they don’t know or even worse in a professional setting such as a job application. Most customers I speak with want their confirmation email or shipping notification for their order so they feel obligated to supply an email address. Usually there is the awkward pause and then they spell it for you like you won’t notice what it is really saying but seriously…..I CAN READ! I do like the customers that own up to it and just say it with pride and have nothing to hide.

My advise is to pick an email address you feel comfortable giving to everyone. You can certainly obtain a separate email address for times you don’t want to give out your main email. Many email providers offer a way to link multiple email addresses together to receive and view them from one main email account. There are hundreds of free email services from G-mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AIM, and so many more if you search the internet.

This brings me to safety for our children. We have been trying to keep up with our children’s interest in technology and one thing we are big on is their privacy and security. When using the internet and other sites requiring email addresses it would be better to have an email name that does not have your child’s name in it. Have them pick an email address that refers to their favorite book, movie, cartoon character, stuffed animal, nick name, etc. Get them involved in personalizing a fun email name for themselves. If you are like us you may also want to have their password!

What do you think about email address names?

Fresh Bread Every Day: Easiest Recipe!

Photo Credit:artisanbreadinfive.com

I am a pro at making bricks instead of bread! My family loves homemade bread but even using a bread machine it was not always coming out the best or consistent. I also could not find a recipe that was simple enough to want to do every day. We have been trying to build a food supply and find things that we can , stock up on, store and easily make meals with. This was my dilemma because bread is one food that we felt was important to have as part of our food storage and learn to make it ourselves for times when it was necessary and not just for fun.

We had a friend at church show us an simple to make bread recipe and I couldn’t believe just how easy it is. This Artisan Bread recipe only requires 4 ingredients so anyone wanting to stock up on supplies this would be perfect to add to your food storage. You make it in a large batch and can refrigerate the remainder of the bread to use later in the week. Of course you can always do a 1/2 batch if you prefer. What is fun is you can also experiment with this bread and incorporate just about any flavor combination by adding mix in’s. I have tried Garlic Parmesan, Jalapeno Cheese, Italian Herb, Garlic & Green Onion, and 3 Cheese before but there are so many others you can try if you are creative. It can be fun to let your children help knead in the mix in’s. Although I have never tried it this recipe can be used for pizza dough, rolls and more.

Making the actual mix is also very easy so even first time bread makers can do it. The original prep is just adding and mixing. Then it will sit for about 2 hours to rise. You can then bake some of the bread at that time if you want or put the dough in the refrigerator. This does not require a bread pan but actually bakes on a flat baking sheet. If you have a stone pizza pan those work great too!  For future use during that week you simply pinch off the amount of dough you want and let it sit on the baking sheet for about 1/2 hr until it reaches room temp and it is ready to bake. You don’t even have to take the time to shape it pretty because you can literally just plop it down on the pan and bake it. Let’s be honest too, it can be pretty but it is getting cut and eaten in no time so does it really matter for most occasions? This smells amazing and I promise you will want to make more than one loaf each time.

I am posting a website here for this Artisan Bread that has the recipe, instructions and great step by step photo’s. You do not have to use the brands they list and certainly any large container with a lid will work too so just keep it simple with what you may already have!

Try this recipe and let me know what you think!

“I’m Not Tired, Can I Stay Up and Clean?”

You can’t make this up! My son actually said that to me one night this week. We have a chore chart that rotates each week and some weeks are done better than others. My son is by far the best at doing his chores without being asked and he is only 9. This week his chore was dishes and he made sure they were done! I even found the dishwasher going the other morning to my surprise because I don’t remember many dishes in the sink. Of course when I opened the dishwasher there indeed were only 4 dishes in there and it was going! Too cute! I had to explain to him later that he can load the dishwasher and wait until the end of the day when it is more full to run them.

So back to the title. After doing the dishes one night he decided to clean off the kitchen counter with the cleaning spray. He then moved to the table. Then just started cleaning things around the house like the shower doors, sinks, bathroom counters, etc. That is when we said it was bedtime and he said “I’m not tired can I stay up and clean? Oh if we could only bottle that type of enthusiasm for cleaning! I am still trying to figure out if he really was having fun cleaning or if he just thought that would allow him to stay up later.

We have tried to make our children understand the importance of work as well as the need to help around the house because they live there too. This education and experience will hopefully follow them when they leave home. Their rooms are their responsibility, however most days it looks like a bomb went off. Their idea of cleaning their room is find the closest area to shove something under or into and now that it is “out of sight” it is clean. We are still working on that!  We started with chores when they were younger and of course they were more basic but have progressed to larger responsibilities or ones they are required to do without help now that they are older. Our chore chart now consists of 3 different major chores that will rotate each week so they each get a chance to do something different weekly.

  • Laundry:  
  1. Pick up all laundry around house on floors and from baskets
  2. Sort laundry
  3. Fold laundry and help put up
  • Dishes:
  1. Pick up dirty dishes from around the house
  2. Load dishwasher
  3. Empty dishwasher
  4. Clean counters and dining table
  • Floors/Trash/Bathrooms:
  1. Clean trash from floors
  2. Sweep and spot mop floors
  3. Take out the trash
  4. Clean bathrooms once during the week

What chores do your children do around the house?

 

Homemade Can Rotators

I like to stock up on food items we use often especially when I can use coupons and find them on sale. There are many commercial can rotators available but frankly I would rather spend money on more food storage then a piece of plastic. I found several patterns online to make cardboard can rotators and after some trial and error and a little tinkering I came up with this cardboard can rotator that is literally made with just cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue! The ones I have made have held up perfect for the last 8 months. I have done 3 at the same time assembly line style and it takes about 1 ½ hours. This would be a fun project to involve your kids with for some of the easy steps. Most of that time spent is actually waiting for glue to dry! You can take a label or just write with a sharpie marker the “Name” of the product can in each rotator. Each rotator will hold approx. 15 cans like vegetables or fruit, and about 20 or more smaller cans like Campbell’s soup.

Cardboard Can Rotator:

Supplies: You can use any cardboard boxes you have but I have found those that are used and bent are harder to use. You can easily purchase a 14x14x14 box in the office section of Wal-Mart for approx. 67 cents. They are perfect to use for this project!

  • Need cut and have:                                             Also will need:
  • 2- 14×14 cardboard pieces                                   Utility (Exacto) Knife
  • 2- 7×14 cardboard pieces                                     Elmers Glue
  • 2- 5×11 cardboard pieces                                     Popsicle Sticks
  • 1- 2×7 cardboard piece                                         Ruler
  • 1- 5×7 cardboard pieces                                       Pencil
  • 1- 2×5 cardboard piece

Step 1: Take your two 14×14 pieces and lay next to each other. Using a ruler mark your “shelf” lines as follows:

Cardboard on Right:

  • #1: Starting from the top right corner measure 10 inches across the top and then draw a line 4 inches down from there. From the bottom of that 4 inch line draw a straight line up to the top right hand corner (making a triangle).
  • #2: Then on the same piece of cardboard start at the bottom left hand corner and measure across the bottom 10 inches and draw a line up 4 inches. Go back to the left hand bottom corner and measure straight up 6 inches and mark a small line. Take that small line and draw a line down to where it meets the 4 inch line you just did at the bottom.
  • #3: Then from the bottom right hand corner measure straight up 2 inches and mark a small line. Then go back to the bottom right hand corner and measure 3 inches along the bottom and mark a small line there. Draw a line between the two small marks.

Repeat this same step on the left side cardboard piece but you will change the directions you start with so you basically are making a mirror image of the right cardboard piece.

Step 2: You then will glue 2 popsicle sticks directly under each of the top two lines and then on the bottom line glue just one stick (See picture) and then set aside to dry.

Step 3: Take the 2- 7×14 inch pieces. These will be the pieces for the back panel and bottom. Take your ruler across where it measures 7 inches and mark a small line at 1 inches and another at 6 inches. Draw a straight line up from both of these lines. Score slightly with your utility knife to make it easier to fold, and then fold up the sides.You will take “one” of these 7×14 pieces and at the very top about ¼ inch down glue a popsicle stick across it (see picture below):

Step 4: Take one of the 7×14 panels and put glue on both of the turned up sides and glue the 2 14×14 panels to it and set it aside to dry (you can set a book on it to help it hold together and dry).

Step 5: Once the back panel and two side panels are dried stand them up and fold it in. Taking the other 7×14 panel put glue again on the folded up sides and place the side/back panel pieces inside of it pushing the bottom of the side panels against the folded up sides of the bottom panel. You can use chip clips to hold them together or keep pressing them together until they dry.

Step 6: Once the bottom panel is dried take the 2×7 piece and the 5×7 piece.  Repeat the steps (like you did with the 7×14 pieces) in Step 3 where you measure across 7 inches, marking the 1 inch and 6 inch with a small line, draw a line up, slightly score and then turn up the edges. Take the 2×7 piece and glue the folded up sides.  Glue across the bottom front pressing the folded sides around the edges of the side panels. Repeat this with the 5×7 piece which you will place the bottom of that piece about half way up (the bottom of that piece lines up with the line of popsicle sticks). See picture:

Step 7:  Put glue on all the tops of the popsicle sticks and just above them along the sides of the cardboard box. Taking your 2×5 piece lay it on the very bottom row of popsicle sticks where it rests on the sticks. Press down so it will glue onto the popsicle sticks. Glue all around the edges almost like your caulking the corners with the glue. Repeat this step with the next row of popsicle sticks with one of the 5×11 pieces, and then finish with the top row of popsicle sticks with the last 5×11 piece (this will also rest on the popsicle stick on the top of the back panel). Make sure you put glue around all the edges. Lay the can rotator on its side and place a heavy book on it to help press everything together.

Guess what?  Your done!

What ideas do you have for storing cans and other non perishable food items?

Make The Freezer Your Friend!

What is in your freezer? I spent years packing my freezer with prepackaged items or foods that required preparation to make a meal.  I  was completely ignorant of all my freezer could offer me.Your freezer should be your friend and a place where quick meals reside. This doesn’t have to always include the prepackaged “convenience” foods. What do I mean by that? Those are the prepackaged items you just heat and eat that are often high in calories and fat or often contain additives and preservatives we certainly could do without. My husband jokes with me sometimes that I “heated that meal really well”. For example I will do frozen chicken fried steaks that just have to be heated along with making instant potatoes, gravy from a powdered mix where you just add water and stir, and then usually a bag of frozen Steam Fresh Vegetables fixed in the microwave. So nothing is fresh and there was really nothing that I had to “prepare”. Oh it is convenient alright, but what about a real home cooked meal?

Everyone’s time is precious so making a real home-made meal can often be time-consuming and certainly not practical on busy nights. On those busy nights it is too easy to do the prepackaged warm and serve meal or even just stop by McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants. This was when the light-bulb came on that it was time to change how I utilized my freezer so that on those busy nights we can still try to have a good meal. I found that on a day I had time to cook a home-made meal that I can often make a double batch and freeze the other half. Foods like Chili, Soups, Beef Stew and even Spaghetti Sauce. You are already there doing the work so it really isn’t hard to just do a double or even triple recipe.

I found that dinners we normally will have leftover will not get eaten that week but if I freeze them we can make a new meal out of it later. For example we never eat more than half the pan of Lasagna so I freeze the other half. I can take leftover Brisket or barbeque cut into small pieces and use for baked potato toppings another day.

What other conveniences can your freezer offer? If you save leftover vegetables and meats they can be used in casseroles, soups, stews or a stir fry later. When you find chicken on sale buy it!  You can boil the chicken, shred or cube it, and freeze it to use for a variety of meals later. You can also take the broth from the boiled chicken and spoon it into muffin tins and place that into the freezer. When the broth is frozen pop them out and store in a freezer bag and these little broth “cups” give you about 1/2 cup of fresh chicken broth. You certainly can cook other meats to freeze and use later also. If you have left-over pasta store it in the freezer for soups and casseroles later. All of these things will help cut down on food prep time when making those home cooked meals.

Even more ideas?  How about storing butter and cheese? I do. We certainly stock up on meats and other items that can be frozen when on sale. This  makes it easier to cook those larger batches of meals later by already having the ingredients. We also store bottles of frozen water for emergencies. After being in a hurricane and then without power for a few weeks we found the huge need for this. When the power is out that frozen water will keep your freezer/refrigerator colder, longer.

Just make sure food is always stored in freezer safe bags or containers!  For more information about what is safe to freeze check out this awesome website:  http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp

What freezer friendly ideas do you have?