One Bag Nation

Archive for July 2008

Isn’t simple food delicious? Things like pasta with butter and cheese, baked potatoes, roast chicken. . .not “gourmet” or fancy, just good to eat. A few years ago, a well-known local chef put a wedge of iceberg lettuce, served with homemade bleu cheese dressing on his menu – no fancy greens! – and mmmm, so good!

For dinner last night I made a pan of simple vegetables, the kind of dish my British immigrant grandmother used to make. A regular side dish in her home was boiled carrots – scrubbed, not peeled, that would be wasteful – dressed with melted butter, salt and pepper.

Last night, when I took that first bite of sweet carrot and silky butter, I was transported back to Grandma’s kitchen table, where simple, humble food was served – and none of us had heard of balsamic vinegar or sun-dried tomatoes!

Don’t get me wrong; I love balsamic and lots of other specialty ingredients, but that taste of carrot was pure nostalgia – for both the food itself and for simpler times.

If you’d like to try to make the dish, here’s how I do it: Fill a 12″ straight-sided sauce pan (you could use a Dutch Oven or stockpot too) with about 1-1/2″ of water and bring to a boil. Toss in 12oz. mixed green and yellow beans (I get these at Trader Joe’s), and a couple of handfuls of baby carrots (or trimmed carrots). Cook for THREE minutes (on high heat); turn off burner and drain immediately. Return pan to burner (I have an electric oven so the burner stays hot for a while); add 1T (or more, we try to go low-fat) of butter to the pan, and swirl around until melted. You may have to take the pan off the heat if the butter gets too hot, depends on your stove. Add vegetables back into the pan, toss to coat with the butter, season with salt and pepper, toss again and serve.

We ate the entire panful last night, or I’d be munching on leftovers as I write!


Today Dustin Wax at posted about Productivity Myths that can hold you back.

For example, Myth #4: Productivity Means More Work

I’m with Dustin on this one: to me, the beauty of being truly productive is that you get more time for fun and relaxation, not that you try to cram more work into less time.

While it’s true that I may have the World’s Longest To Do List, if I have a really focused and productive day, I give myself a pat on the back and pick up my knitting, read a book, hang out with family and friends, go to bed early, etc.

I don’t hurry over to my list, eagerly looking for more stuff to do!

What do you think? Is being productive an end in itself for you, or does being productive spur you on to do more? Do you feel that fear of having to do more work stops you from becoming more productive?

Call me a slacker, but this resistance to being productive never occurred to me! And check out the article; it offers some other interesting ideas.

I always wear dish gloves when I wash the dishes. Invariably, the right one – and it’s always the right – gets a hole or a tear and fills with water while I’m working.

Kind of defeats the purpose of the gloves.

So here’s what happens once I’ve tossed the torn glove: I can’t bring myself to throw the other one away! I know this would probably make many tidy, clutter-free people nuts, but I feel compelled to keep the left because . . . what if, someday, I tear a left-handed glove?? Wouldn’t it be so satisfying to have a spare?

It’s a “waste not, want not” kind of thing that I got from my New Englander dad. He would never have thrown that glove out; he’d probably find some clever use for it in his workshop or out in the garden.

I haven’t gone that far, but I do, at this very moment, have one lonely lefty sitting in my cupboard, just waiting and hoping for the day when it can come to the rescue!

I figure that in the scheme of things, a couple of dishgloves won’t get in the way of my quest for order, serenity and peace of mind . . . what about you? Do you indulge in any similar quirks?

I was having a tough afternoon, just one of those days where my anxiety was getting the better of me. I’m noticing that this happens more often on the weekends, and I think it’s because we don’t have a routine. I’m a planner and it’s hard for me to relax, so weekends can be challenging.

Anway – and this sounds silly now – I was getting all in a tizzy about my To Do list. Not what was on it, but how to organize it. I don’t want to tell you how many systems I’ve tried for getting my task lists organized . . . let’s just say my system is still “evolving”!

I feel more urgency about getting this together now that I have a new job. I bought a new calendar/day planner thinking it would help – when will I learn? – but now I’m having second thoughts about it. My Three Most (hah, I typed Moist!) Important Things system is going pretty well, but I have to keep a master list somewhere, and this is what’s tripping me up. I’m trying to manage household, personal, work, serenity project and blogging tasks all in one place, and maybe that’s not going to work.

So how do you keep track of your tasks?

Do you make long lists? Do you organize them by category, role, or context, a la Mr. Allen? Do you look at them? Do you do what’s on them?

I would love to know what works for you!

PS How did I snap out of my funk? By getting on the treadmill – works like a charm!

I always have a few books going at the same time. I love to read good fiction, but it seems that I’m reading more and more self-improvement and self help books the last few years – and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

In any case, here’s what’s on my bedside shelf at the moment:

Delivered from Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD: this is a book about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I started to think I might be suffering from ADD, until I found the next book. One piece of advice that is appropriate for everyone: find work you love.

Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher: another good book from Barbara Sher, who writes about career and life satisfaction. This one is about a group of folks she calls “scanners”; people who don’t discover one true path in life or work because they have so many interests and passions that call to them – that’s me for sure!

Leaven of Malice, by Robertson Davies: a wonderful, funny satire about the clash of big egos in a small Canadian town.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid: I’m reading this one for my book group. It’s about a Pakistani man who is on the fast track to achieving the American Dream when 9-11 changes everything.

Coach Yourself to Success, by Talane Miedaner: I don’t love everything about this book, but there are one or two chapters that were thought-provoking and interesting.

It’s All Too Much, by Peter Walsh: I have to confess I’m not reading this word-for-word, but as far as I can tell, Peter Walsh is helping to popularize the idea that decluttering is about more than getting rid of stuff and getting organized; he acknowledges the emotional issues that go along with clutter and urges readers to envision the life they’d like to have – good stuff.

Elminate Chaos, by Laura Leist: Laura is more about getting organized than delving into emotional stuff, but her book has helped me tackle some of my messiest problems.

The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift: I’m always reading a cookbook, and this is my latest favorite. It’s friendly and easy to read and the recipe for brined shrimp is incredible!

I would love to hear what you all are reading these days. Beach fiction? Self-help? Sci-Fi? War and Peace?? Let me know!


I was working merrily along today, feeling great that I would easily complete the three remaining tasks on my Most Important Things list. In fact, I planned to get ahead of the game, and not just package up my brother’s gift, but actually mail it – in time for his birthday!

But no, it was not to be . . .

After what must have been an hour trying to use Click-n-Ship for the mailing label, I ultimately got the following error message:

“We have experienced an unexpected condition”

What?? My condition was completely expected: I was ready to scream!!

Instead, I took some deep breaths and tried one or two more times, then I finally gave up and and just put on the usual handwritten label. Tomorrow I’ll take the box and stand in line at the post office – there are certainly worse fates! – but when the promise of efficiency through technology lets us down, it’s so maddening!

On a happier note, I get to start tomorrow fresh, with six new Most Important Things for the day, and high hopes of getting them all done!

PS Tonight I realized that I had put a book into the package that I wanted to finish before I sent it on . . .good thing I couldn’t get the box mailed or I would never know how the story ended!