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Leftover Rice

White rice is one of those things that’s just never quite the same leftover. I love white rice and we generally eat it at least once a week, often more frequently than that. We have a rice cooker, and it’s a fuss free,  inexpensive, and gluten free starch. It also goes with just about anything.

But what to do with the leftovers? Of course, you can just have “leftover night” and pull all the leftovers out of the fridge for everyone to pick something to microwave. I do my fair share of that.

But if you want to take it up a notch, or if you just don’t like microwaved leftover rice, here’s a few ideas you might not have thought of.

Fried rice

Fried rice is a staple at Chinese restaurants, but it’s not too hard to make something similar at home. You just need to saute some carrots and onions, maybe some peas, in oil until they are well cooked. Add the right seasonings–I like pepper, garlic, and ginger– lots of soy sauce and a little sugar, and some finely chopped meat. Then you throw your leftover rice in, stir till it’s warm, and voila! A quick one-dish meal.

Rice pudding

Rice pudding is a surprisingly delicious dessert that uses basic staples and is pretty hard to mess up. And it’s a fantastic way to use leftover rice. If you turn your leftover rice into rice pudding, you can serve it in wine glasses at a nice dinner party and no one will ever guess that it’s Wednesday night’s supper leftovers. (Yes, I have done this.)

Here’s the recipe I generally use.

Rice casserole

There’s a lot of nice rice casserole recipes, but the general idea behind them is that you take some meat, some veggies, some sauce and some leftover rice, mix it together or layer it into a baking pan, sprinkle cheese over it, and bake it till it’s hot and the cheese is getting golden. It’s a great way to use leftover meat and vegetables too.

Chicken salsa rice casserole is one of my favorites.

(incidentally, this makes a fabulous freezer meal.)

For this, you chop up some cooked chicken meat and layer it in a pan lasagna-style with leftover rice, cheese, and a sauce made of half salsa and half sour cream. Top with more cheese and bake. It is fast and easy and very satisfying. Don’t skimp on the sauce if you want it to be moist and delicious.

Eat it with bananas

I know, it probably sounds weird. The first time I ever heard of this was when my eighth grade teacher said it was good. My classmates and I, being typical middle schoolers, mostly looked at her like she’d suggested we all grow extra heads. But about fifteen years later, I suddenly decided to try it. And it was as good as she said.

Here’s what you do. Put some leftover rice in a bowl. Peel a banana and mash it up in there with a fork. Now you have a banana rice mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon over it, pour some milk in, and eat it like a cheaper, healthier version of cold cereal. I enjoy it occasionally as a bedtime snack.

I am sure I have only scratched the surface of what can be done with leftover rice. Do you have any favorite ideas?

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Invisible Storage

I’m a big fan of minimalism and decluttering. I love empty floor space and blank walls, and I agonize over gift choices because I don’t want to give a friend anything that will just become clutter. I even have trouble buying things that I actually want, just because they are things… And things take up space.

But as it turns out, life, and especially family life, requires stuff. Lots of stuff. Things you really do need to keep around, like winter blankets during the summer, clothes that your kids will grow into, the supplies for your hobby (for me that means lots and lots of fabric and thread and ribbon), your kid’s toys and books, and the books your kid will want to read when he’s older….
Maybe your house comes equipped with plenty of closets, attics, and cabinets for all your storage needs. If it does, then lucky you!
If not, here’s a few ideas for hiding storage around your home so that you can keep the things you need without having piles of stuff laying around your living room, or piles of cardboard boxes permanently stacked in your bedroom.

Storage beds

There’s a few different ways of using your bed to hide storage. The most basic (and ugly) method is just to tuck those cardboard boxes or plastic totes under the bed. If you have a bed skirt, no one ever needs to know that under it you have sizes 3 months to 3 years boys’ clothes, three totes of fabric, and your entire set of oil painting supplies.
If you want to take it up a notch (and not have to slither around on your stomach next time your kid outgrows a size of clothes) there are under-bed drawers on wheels that work well on hard floors. When you want something, you just roll the drawer out and get it. It’s like a Captain’s bed, but not built in. Though built in storage beds are pretty cool too!

If you have a thick carpet in your bedroom, or a very small space so that your bed has to be against the wall, pull out drawers are not your best option. Then what you really need is a set up where instead of a box spring, you have a hinged box under your mattress. You can buy them ready made, or it can be a fun DIY project too. My husband and I made one for a twin bed and it’s been really nice. It gives you quite a bit of storage space, and it’s pretty easy to access.

Living room storage

Marie Kondo says that everything should have a place. And that place should be as near to where it will be used as possible. And some things get used in the living room. I like having a few extra blankets, some toys, and some books hiding in my living room. (Sadly, they are more likely to end up all over the floor than neatly tucked away, but knowing that there is actually a place for them to live at least makes me feel better.)
Bookshelves full of books are fine in almost any room, but it can be harder to find places for things like blankets, toys and games–things that will be used in the living room.

Here’s a couple of ideas for hiding your storage in plain sight.

Under the sofa

Sofas often have a few inches of concealed space underneath which has a habit of swallowing your kid’s shoes and toys and the book you were reading a moment ago. A way you can take advantage of that space would be to get some shallow plastic totes and put toys or games in them. Then all you have to do is shove them underneath and the sofa’s skirt covers it up.
Of course, not all sofas have skirts, so sometimes you have to get more creative.

Multi-purpose furniture

One of my all time favorite pieces of furniture is the storage ottoman. It looks just like any other footstool or ottoman, but you can store things inside it. Some of the really cool ones double as a coffee or end table as well.
I did once hear someone suggest string stacks of emergency canned food in your living room with a board on top instead of a coffee table, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If you must prep for an apocalypse, I suggest the basement. Dead storage–storage of things that are accessed only rarely–has no place in your living room.
Other concealed storage options for the living room include end tables with cabinets or drawers in them. But try to only keep living room things in the living room.

Storage spaces

When looking for more storage space, though, the first place to look is in the places that are designed for storing things: closets, pantries, attics, cabinets, etc.
So before deciding that you need to get a bed with drawers, or replace a favorite piece of furniture with a more versatile one, why not first see if you’re storing things that have outlived their usefulness, and then, once you’ve decided what needs to stay, examine your closets and cabinets to see if the storage space you already have is actually used efficiently?

Often closets have a lot of wasted space near the ceiling. It’s a pain to get to, but if you’re storing something you don’t need to get at very often, but will most likely need again–for me, that would be newborn size baby clothes–that’s okay. Installing an extra shelf up high in a closet will often make the closet much more useful.
Cabinets are sometimes the same way. Adding a shelf will increase the surface area on which you can set things.
You can make drawers much more efficient by putting in dividers, or just changing the way you stack things.
I adopted something similar to the Marie Kondo method of folding shirts, and discovered that I could fit twice as many shirts in a drawer if I stored them vertically instead of stacking them on top of each other. An added benefit of this is that you can see at a glance what you have, instead of having to look under things. (It is also a fantastic way of packing a suitcase. I packed this way for a week-long summer camp and kept my suitcase in perfect order the whole week with almost no effort.)

Even if your house has very little official storage space, you can usually find ways to store the things you really need to keep around–if you use a little creativity.

Do you have a favorite method?

Some amazing storage methods:

These are affiliate links and I get a commission for qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.

Captain’s bed: Pricey, but so wonderful


A lift bed. Also a great idea. It’s amazing how much you can fit under a bed.


Storage ottomans are a great place to put extra throw pillows and blankets, not to mention kid’s toys.

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Three Ways to Become More Tactful

(This is the fourth article in our series on the feminine virtues. For the introduction and the other articles, click here.)

Tact is an often overlooked virtue, but one which is absolutely vital for success as a woman. It is perhaps the most feminine of all the virtues. It makes life easier, and it makes everyone around you happier and more confident.

So what is it? Merriam Webster defines it as “a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense.” This is an excellent definition because it does a good job of expressing both the challenge and the beauty of this quality. It is challenging because it requires intelligence and observation skills equal to Sherlock Holmes’s. And it is beautiful because it leads to good relations with all you meet.

Tact can make everything flow smoothly, help everyone get along and everyone get what they want as much as possible. At its best it is courtesy and consideration motivated by love. At its worst, the skill of tact will make you much better at manipulating people for your own ends. Whatever your motives, read on.

Examples of Tact in Action

In the Odyssey, Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, is left at home while he wanders, trying to return to her. He has been gone for twenty years, and many assume that he is dead. So there are piles of men wanting to marry Penelope. She is the queen of Ithaca, and to be her husband would be a step up in the world. Now in Greek society, women had very little power, so with her husband gone and apparently dead, Penelope is left in a vulnerable position. On the one hand, she is being pressured to marry one of the many suitors who are competing for her. On the other hand, all the suitors are losers, and she has no desire to replace Odysseus who—let’s face it—is pretty darn awesome.

In her vulnerable situation, she cannot simply tell all the suitors to get lost and that she’d rather die than marry any of them. So she comes up with a tactful answer. She has to finish the funeral shroud for her father-in-law. She then weaves it every day, and unravels it each night, and thus drags out the task for years. This way she protects herself and her household by not angering the suitors too much, and succeeds in waiting for her husband as she wants to.

Another example of tact which is a little closer to home is a stay-at-home mom who wants her husband to fix something that broke in the house. A tactful wife might wait till after her husband has eaten supper and is relaxed, rather than springing the bad news on him as soon as he walks into the house tired from work. Or a mother correcting a child’s bad behavior in private rather than in front of his friends.

So, how can you up your tact game?

Observe, then Appreciate

In his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes that “Appreciation is one of the most powerful tools in the world. People will rarely work at their maximum potential under criticism, but honest appreciation brings out their best. Appreciation, though, is not simple flattery, it must be sincere, meaningful and with love.”

How does this apply to real life? Well, if you have a person you are having trouble getting along with, at work, at home, at school, or anywhere, take your next opportunity to observe them closely. This is where your Sherlock Holmes skills come in handy. Try to find something admirable about them. It could be anything—the way they comb their hair, the way they smile, the way they do their work. Almost everyone has some good quality that you can admire.

Next, once you find their admirable quality, tell them about it. “Hey, I like the way you comb your hair. It looks great.” “I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the way you always double check your work.” “Your got that floor really clean when you mopped it.” It doesn’t matter how trivial it is. Comment favorably on their behavior. It will—for all but the most ornery of people—almost definitely result in them doing more of the admired behavior, and, with any luck, they will feel more confident and therefore do other good things too.

What’s in it for You.

Next time you try to get someone to do something—whether it’s trying to get your boss to go ahead with your suggestion, getting your mom to let you watch another show, or getting your kids to clean their room, listen to yourself and see how you ask. Often we are so focused on why WE want something to happen that we completely forget how it seems to other people.

If you want to be effective at getting other people to do things, and like doing them—we can usually find some way of getting our kids to do stuff but it’s not always fun—you need to figure out what’s in it for them and present that first. Now, this has to be done rather subtly sometimes. Not everyone likes being told what they want. A little bit of mental role-play will often give you a clue how to present a question to someone else. Find out what they want, and then explain how your suggestion will help them get it.

This can get kind of complicated when you are doing it with your children. You don’t want to bribe your children with things that they want, like toys and movies and candy. Instead you will want to play to your children’s desires to be treated as a grown-up, and to feel confident and accomplished. But your children are pretty smart and probably won’t respond to “I will think of you as a big responsible and smart person if your room was clean.” It would probably work better to tie privileges to duties as a regular system and to treat your (older) children as responsible humans who can choose to either have their privileges or not.

Let the Other Person Feel Like It Is Their Idea

This is possibly the most powerful technique, and also the most difficult to apply. Has anyone ever tried to convince you to change your mind about something? It’s hard to accept someone else’s idea instead of yours. People just plain like to be right. We all want to feel like we are the smartest person around. And whoever you are trying to convince is no different. But sometimes a person is absolutely sure he is right, but is not so sure what exactly he thinks. This is when this strategy will be your best friend.

If you idea is any good, you can usually persuade someone else that he thought of it himself by simply suggesting it, step by step, and pretending that it was their idea. Not that you lie and say that it was their idea. You simply point out how your idea fits in with their suggestions, and assume, (out loud) that they must have thought of it themselves. It works like a charm.

Now I am not recommending that you go around manipulating people for your own ends. But there are times when you have to get other people to do things, or tell people bad news, or ask people for help. In all of these cases, tact is a fantastic asset to any woman’s toolkit. It makes your life much more enjoyable, and used properly, makes the lives of those we meet more pleasant.

More resources to help you develop tact skills: (These are affiliate links.)

Probably the most famous self-help book ever written, Dale Carnegie’s book is an easy read and can change your life. He explains each of his techniques simply and uses lots of stories to illustrate his points.

Written a few decades ago, this book seems a bit dated in parts but the general idea remains valid today. This is a book about how to have fun as a wife, and how to keep your husband happy and get what you need from him. I enjoyed it a lot.

Yes, I know, I recommend this book a lot. But that’s because I think it’s really good and it can change your life, even if you aren’t married, just by the realization that people need to be loved differently.

(I am running a giveaway for this book. Sign up for email updates to enter.)

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Super Simple Nursing Top Fix

If any of you are breastfeeding moms, you know how challenging it can be to find tops for nursing. Sometimes it feels like the only options are either to never leave your room, or to wear baggy tee shirts all the time that you can pull up for access.

Fortunately, as breastfeeding becomes more widespread, there are more and more specially designed nursing tops made. They have various systems that give access without requiring you to pull your shirt up. A lot of them are really cute, too. Here’s a few links to lovely nursing tops you can buy.

This one comes if a wide variety of colors, is under $30, and has great reviews. I think it looks pretty nice too. (Click on the picture to go to Amazon and see what it looks like when being worn normally.)

This hoodie is great for if you want a more casual look. I like the charcoal gray here, but you can find other colors, too. It also has good reviews. Under $25.

I like the cute styling on this one, and it looks like access is very easy and fuss-free. Under $20.

Here’s one with a pattern if you’re more into patterns. It is a cool summery fabric. Under $25.

Now, as cool as all these tops are, you just had a baby, so there’s medical bills and other new expenses, and you probably can’t afford a whole new wardrobe, sadly.

But don’t worry. There’s still hope for you. You are not doomed to baggy tee-shirts for the next six months. There’s a quick easy way to turn any low enough v-neck shirt into a nursing top that will give you easy access.

This would be a perfect top to do this with. And isn’t it a lovely color? (Under $20)

Nursing Top Tutorial

Now, you could just wear this shirt and pull it down to give you access for your baby or your pump, but then half your chest would be bare, and I’m just not comfortable with that. (Besides, now that it’s definitely fall, it’s getting a bit chilly for low-necklines.)

Before I had my baby, I often wore shirts of this sort with a tank underneath to give a bit more coverage, but this became inconvenient when I started nursing. So here’s the super simple solution I came up with:

You will need:

  • A relatively tight, stretchy tee shirt with a neckline you like.
  • A pair of scissors
  • A safety pin, marker, or piece of chalk.

Step 1: Put on your shirt and mark two inches below your bust.

Step 2: Take it off, and cut the bottom half off where you marked it. ready to make your nursing top

Step 3: Cut off the sleeves. Make sure to leave about half an inch of sleeve beyond the shoulder seam.

your nursing top is almost ready

And that’s it! You could hem it, if you wanted to, but it’s not necessary as knit fabrics don’t fray and no one will ever know.

Here’s a couple pictures of what it looks like done. You’d never guess it was for nursing, and I can tell you from experience that it’s super easy to use.

Hope this helps you make your wardrobe more functional.

As a bonus of this project, you can make a cute little baby skirt from the part of your shirt you cut off. (I don’t usually put my daughter in black, but we had to go to a funeral.)

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Classy Alternatives for Halloween

It’s getting to be the season where some of your neighbor’s yards have probably sprouted zombie graveyards, skeletons, ghosts, cauldrons, or other potentially frightening things. Sometimes you see something really cool, like one of my neighbors this year has a homemade spider web in their tree. I’m not sure how they did it, but it’s pretty cool. And then there’s the other yards, where there’s just too much going on… Zombies, witches, ghosts, spiders, bats scary pumpkins… Sometimes less really is more.

Now, there are a lot of different attitudes toward Halloween. When I was a kid my parents weren’t fans of the holiday, so we would turn off all the lights and pretend we weren’t home so the kids wouldn’t stop and ask for candy. (I remember once a kid did stop, and my parents did actually give him candy, so it wasn’t that they were mean or anything.)

This last year, I and my husband actually wanted to hand out candy because we thought we might meet the neighborhood kids that way, but all they would say was “trick-or-treat” and be on their way. But that’s another story.

Anyway, while there’s a lot of ideas about Halloween, as a woman with a sense of beauty among her many fabulous qualities, have you ever wondered if there were any alternatives to horror movies, haunted houses, and zombies in the yard for late October enjoyment?

Catholics have had “All Saints parties” for decades, where the kids get to dress up as saints, and yes, get candy… but that’s just one option. (By the way, if you think dressing as saints sounds boring, you should see the Saint George costumes. You get armor and a sword.)

Here’s a few alternative fun and maybe even scary things to do around this season, which will actually help you develop your skills and virtues.

Try Out an Escape Room

Escape rooms have become very popular lately. If you’ve never done one, the basic idea is that you, and a group of friends get locked in a room, usually for an hour, and you have to get out before the timer goes off. Escaping from the room is quite challenging though, as there are puzzles and riddles and clues that you have to sort out to figure out how to unlock the door. There is a story to go with it, to explain why you are there and to give you a little background and provides the theme of the room and clues.

While escape rooms can sometimes be pricey, costing perhaps the same amount as a trip to an amusement park, they are a lot of fun. It’s also great exercise in cooperation, creativity, and tenacity. It can be a good bonding experience to do with friends or family, and is a great choice for bachelorette parties.

Host a Murder Mystery Party

There are murder mystery kits available either for free download, or in a boxed set. They can be for as few as 7 people or as many as 200.

There are a few different kinds of murder parties. Some, like this one, are played over dinner in rounds, and others are fully interactive, but all of them involve playing parts, asking questions, and trying to solve the crime. In the interactive versions, you have to wander around and find people and solve problems, all while either trying to discover the murderer, or if you are the murderer, trying to conceal your identity. This website offers some family friendly options, has practical suggestions to help you run them, and explains how they work.

If you’re really ambitious you could even write your own, but you’d probably want to try at least one out first.

Decorate Your House

There are classy ways to decorate your house. Just putting pumpkins on the doorstep is always a classy (and easy) way of bringing a little color to your yard. Some people like to put a collection of pumpkins and orange mums for a very elegant and low effort Halloween look.

Fall leaf wreaths are also elegant. You can make a wreath from a coat hanger using fall leaf decorations from a craft store, or dollar tree, or a garland like this if you want to make a couple. It would be a great craft to do with kids too. You can also use the garland over your front door for a more impressive look.

Host a Costume Party

Dressing up is always fun, and with a little creativity you can usually throw a costume together for just a few dollars, so it doesn’t have to be a very expensive activity. Your party can be all girls, couples, or random. You can even do it with just family, and see how creative everyone can get with what’s already laying around in the house. As a kid I spent many happy hours with family members writing, directing, and performing skits, and designing and constructing the costumes for them. I remember cutting up the fake fur lining from an old coat, and turning it into a wolf mask for some skit we were performing.

My cousin and I hosted costume party several years later, and we didn’t have enough drinks, so we and a few friends went to the grocery store. The other customers were a bit surprised to see Zorro and his wife, a Norse princess, a lady from the Civil War era, and Maria Von Trapp all wandering the aisles together. If you don’t want to see zombies or other sickening creatures at your party, it is simple enough mention on the invitation that costumes must not be gory or gross.

Making and wearing costumes will help you and your children develop virtues like patience, resourcefulness, and social confidence. Working on costumes as a family or team effort will also help develop skills like cooperation and problem-solving.