Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Crazy About Pumpkins

Did you know that:

  • One cup of mashed pumpkin contains about 245% vitamin A, 19% of vitamin C and 8% Iron
  • Pumpkins originally were grown in Central America
  • The US produces more than 1 billion pumpkins per year
  • Pumpkins are considered a fruit
  • Pumpkin pie Is America's second favorite, (Apple wins first place although my husband would disagree.) 

These facts (And some more) brought to you courtesy of Real Simple 
Read More here:

Since its the time of year for everything Pumpkin, I thought that for today's blog post I would just gather a sampling of Pumpkin Links for you to enjoy. Feel free to add some more in the comments area below.

Pumpkin (Sweet): 

Pumpkin Pie (Paula Deen)

Pumpkin (Savory):

Savory Pumpkin Recipes (Food and Wine)

Pumpkin for Beauty:

Pumpkins (for Fun):

Too Many Pumpkins (Children's Book)

*Please feel free to add your own favorite pumpkin links below! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Coffee Lovers' Quick Links

Stock Photo: Parisienne Coffee Shop 

Although the specific origins of National Coffee Day are unknown, today, not too many coffee lovers seem to care when or how it got started,only that it did!

I, personally am not a coffee drinker. I do love the smell of coffee-and that is where my love stops. I am definitely a Tea (that's my mom's English roots coming out) Chai & Cocoa kind of person, but I am surrounded with coffee lovers on all sides!

So this morning, I've compiled a quick short list of links for all my Java Loving family, friends & other folk, so you can feed your caffeine fix while I sip my Classic Earl Gray with a touch of wildflower honey!


Coffee Quotes

FREE Coffee: Where & How

Affogato (Gelato Dessert) Recipe

Coffee Review: The World's Leading Coffee Guide

History Kitchen: History of Coffee

Coffee and Health: The Research (Mayo Clinic)

15 Easy Coffee Drinks

7 Reasons to Consider Quitting Coffee

Iced Coffee: How-To

How to Make French Press Coffee

Cappuccino in a Jar

Brownie Streusal Coffee Cake

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Espresso Bread

Best Biscotti recipes (for dunking in your coffee)

Barista Magazine (online)

Artisan Style Biscotti

DIY: Coffee Bean Body Scrub Recipe

The World's largest Coffee Cup

Coffee Heartbeat T-Shirt

Retro Tin Coffee Sign (If you're not shaking you need another cup)

(Please feel free to add your favorite coffee links in the comments area!)

Monday, September 28, 2015

3 Easy Steps to Stress-Free Closet Space

For a year, every time my daughter and I went shopping, I would find the bag of brand new clothes hanging on her doorknob because she could not find room for it.

When I would suggest that she had too many clothes and should lighten the load a bit, she would laugh hysterically, "as if there was such a thing as having too many clothes".

What I found was that in reality, she was in fact overwhelmed with, yes, too many clothes. I suggested that she get rid of/donate one piece of clothing for each one she bought. She tried that approach for a little while, but needed much more help, as her closet is on the smaller side. She told me she just didn't know how to begin.

I hear this a lot from clients, who just don't know how to begin organizing their clothes, or that they feel guilty getting rid of perfectly good clothing, with tags still on them, after they have bought pieces on impulse or "on sale" and then don't ever wear it.

In order to make room for what we really want/love/need, we work on our closets twice a year: Once in September and then again in March. We set aside several hours for this task and try to make it as fun as possible: playing music, making popcorn and trying on and "modeling" items as necessary.

I have helped my daughter get her closet and drawers back together in the same way I help my clients, by using these 3 easy steps:

1- Be willing to be ruthlessly truthful:

You know that you will NEVER wear the chartreuse angora sweater, with the satin bows and the floppy lace collar that your Aunt Helen gave you for Christmas last year, and that you will most likely never fit back into the dress you wore to the High School homecoming dance. Don't feel guilty about giving them away-either donating to the needy, (or a local theater company) or hosting a clothing swap and trading with friends. Be honest: if you don't like it or don't need it or have not worn it in over a year, then its taking up space in your closet, and keeping you from having things you really need or want. So just give it away!

The worst part about closet organizing is the decisions that need to be made about what to keep and what NOT to keep. My method is to set up 3 boxes: one for "Give-Away" (Doesn't fit, don't like, somewhat outdated.) One for "Throw Away" (torn, stained or grossly outdated) and "Undecided" (for those items you will most likely keep or are just not sure yet.) Look at each piece, one at a time, and then it goes in one of the boxes. When finished looking at all the pieces, go through the "Undecided" box once more and narrow down only the practical useful items that will be the ones you keep. Throw away the items you don't want, and pack up the "Give Away" items to donate or set aside for a clothing swap. (Sentimental Items can be packed away as keepsakes, but be very selective about what you hang on to or you will just be hoarding junk in boxes rather than your closet.)

2-Make a List-Check it Twice:

Don't overbuy! Remember, we want your closet to hold only those things you need or love. It is important to make an inventory of what you have, what you need and what you have way too much of. This will help you be less impulsive, and deliberately plan what to buy so you don't have items hanging in your closet next year with tags still on them.

Its absolutely okay to shop sales, but don't buy an item just because its on sale. Purchase it if it goes with something in your closet already. Be specific on your list as far as what items are needed, in what colors/sizes, etc. Build on what you have, and see what you need to build your professional and casual outfits. Buy pieces that can be paired with several others you already have. Don't forget to include underwear, socks, hosiery, shoes, belts and pajamas on your list.

3-Update your Closet Equipment for efficient organizing:

While you are making your clothing list, be sure to see what you might need in the way of closet equipment: Plastic or wood hangers? Over the door hooks? Clear or decorative storage boxes? Shoe racks? Look at your closet, how its layed out, take measurements and decide how you want to organize all of your stuff when you put it back in. Buy only what you need to keep your items organized and visible "at a glance". When you place the items back in your closet, organize and group them in the way that makes sense to you: business attire on one side, casual clothes on the other; tops together and shirts and pants together, etc. I had one client who grouped according to color-her closet looked like a beautiful rainbow!

The final result: guilt-free, clutter-free, lighter closets, filled with the clothes and accessories that you ABSOLUTELY love wearing!

Now that you have cleaned your closet, What is the one piece of clothing you cannot do without? Tell us in the comments below!

*Need help with your fall closet organizing? Contact Barbara to schedule a complimentary consultation:


Friday, September 25, 2015

Learning from Failure

Photo: Stress Free Spaces 
Yesterday my (almost 16 year old) daughter came up to me in the kitchen as I was making dinner, and said "Mom-you were right. AGAIN!"

Perplexed, I asked her what she meant.

She was referring to a (somewhat emotional) conversation we had last week about taking the things other people say and do personally. She told me that after thinking about it, she realized that she was doing that in a particular situation, and would make more of an effort to stop.

I told her I was proud of her for her self-reflection and for being willing to learn from her mistake.

She asked me how I became "so smart". I laughed.

My response to her was that I am so smart, because of all the times I've been so stupid.

I don't have mystical powers, and I am not especially brilliant, but I have made many, many mistakes in my life. I have failed at more things than I care to talk about. I have quit jobs, projects and people in anger and frustration way too many times to even count. But, the one thing that makes me get back up again and continue on, is that I have always been willing to self-reflect, evaluate and look at the situation as feedback, because that is all mistakes and failure really are-feedback. All I can do, or any of us can do, is look at our results, and we did not get the result we wanted, evaluate why and try to do better next time.

Too many times we are afraid of failure, afraid of mistakes, and afraid of looking foolish or dumb, and refuse to look at what we could be doing better. We try so hard to protect our kids from failing and from making mistakes - to the point where we give out trophies and rewards not for exceptional effort, but for just showing up. We do them (and ourselves) a great dis-service by doing this. We are taking away their opportunity to get that sometimes awful, painful, feedback, and really learn something, about life and about themselves, and be exceptional rather than "average".

I tell my daughter all the time: "Once is a mistake, twice is a reminder but the third time its a choice." My hope is that she continues to not take the things people say or do personally and that she is always willing to look at her mistakes as feedback, and embrace those opportunities for improvement. I hope that because I am willing to let her fail sometimes, she will us that feedback to be better prepared to make better choices for herself and her future.

Then, she will be is as "smart" as me.

“Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.”

― William Faulkner (born September 25, 1897)

Further Reading:

The Science of Failure: Why Highly Successful People Crave Mistakes

Accepting Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

Failure is Good (When you learn From Mistakes)

We Recommend:

Sun Tzu for Women: 
The art of War for 
Winning in Business


Thursday, September 24, 2015

5 Home Remedies for Winter

I love this time of year-the vibrant foliage colors, the crisp air & cooler temperatures, football games, bonfires and the opportunity to bake more (it helps keep the house warm and fills it with the most delicious scents!)

The one thing that is a challenge for some families this time of year is keeping kids healthy as they go back to school and are cooped up in tight quarters (classrooms) with no fresh air circulating. My daughter has told me that about half of her classmates are already sick with some sort of upper/lower respiratory infection, and we have not yet begun the heavier part of the cold and flu season. 

One thing that bothers me about this time of year, is the obsessive people chasing me down in pharmacies, malls and even the farmer's market to ask: "have you gotten your flu shot? Its free!" As if that isn't bad enough, when I politely reply "no thank you" they act shocked, appalled and speak loudly so all nearby can hear, (as if to shame me) "YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN/ARE B NOT GETTING YOUR FLU SHOT?!" 

(to which I like to reply)


Now while I realize that for some the flu is no laughing matter, and can be dangerous, and they say that getting the shot does not give you the flu, I have experienced differently. For me, I have chosen to not get the shot, ever since the 1990's when a job required I get it and 10 days later I got the flu and missed 2 weeks of work (and have never gotten it again since, in spite of not having received the flu shot. Anecdotal evidence that I will swear by until I experience different.)

My grandmother (Philomena) grew up on a farm in Stowe, Pennsylvania, the oldest girl of 11 kids. She had several natural remedies for colds and flu, passed down to her from her mother and grandmother. The most common remedy, was that she used to make us kids eat scallions dipped in olive oil as a cold/flu remedy. I was never sure why it worked, but it did! (Maybe because we were so afraid of having to eat a plate of scallions - and of smelling like a scallion for a week-that we were 'scared well'!) 

Below are of my grandmother's best "Go To" Winter remedies, and some explanation as to why they work:

1- Scallions: (Spring Onions) - These grow abundantly on most people's front lawns. They contain anti-oxidants similar to those found in opnions and garlic, and have been deemed to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, which is most likely why they were so effective in knocking out our childhood colds. In addition, they are rich in Vitamin A, K , B and a variety of minerals

Chop them up in salads, soups, stir fry or eat them raw, à la Grandmom- dipped in a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

2-Garlic: Garlic has been recognized for thousands of years for its medicinal properties as well as its culinary uses. My grandmother told stories of her brother who was a medic in WWI, who claimed to have dodged the horrific influenza pandemic of 1918 by keeping a clove of garlic tucked in his cheek at all times. This versatile root herb contains phyto-nutrients which have proven beneficial against coronary artery diseases, infections and cancers. Compounds found in garlic have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. Garlic is one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium and vitamin C, which is most likely why it protected my Uncle Paul from illness. So eat up! 

Its best used raw by slicing and letting sit for a few minutes. For a sore throat, place 2 sliced garlic cloves in a glass and add 1 tsp. salt. Fill some hot water. Gargle 3x day until symptoms improve. (If they don't improve after 3-4 days-get yourself to a doc!) 

To roast Garlic: 

Preheat oven to 375°. Take 2 whole heads of garlic and slice off a small portion of the bulb top so that individual bulbs are exposed. Place in a small ceramic dish and drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil. Cover dish tightly with lid or foil. Place in oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, basting bulbs with oil half way through cooking. Bulbs will be semi-translucent and golden when done roasting. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, uncovered. Remove individual bulbs by gently squeezing at the bottom, so they slide out of their skin. Use immediately mashed in butter (for garlic bread), potatoes, squash, soups or other dishes, or store in oil in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Strain skin out of remaining infused oil and place (oil) in a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. This infused oil can be used for cooking or salad dressing. 

3-Honey:  Awareness of the healing qualities of honey date back to the ancient Greek and Roman times. Honey is a natural moisturizer, and has been shown to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which is why my grandmother used it as a cough/sore throat remedy. 1-2 tablespoons usually does the trick. If you take the honey with 500 mg of Vitamin C, it has been known to ward off a full blown cold. (Be aware that it is not recommended to give honey to children under the age of 3!) 

In modern science, honey has been applied in the field of chronic wound management, which reminds me of a personal story. When I was about 9 my dad was involved in an accident which resulted in him severing off the top portion of his third finger, as he was helping our neighbor move an upright freezer out of bilco doors. The appliance shifted and the 2x4's they were using slipped, catching his finger between the pavement and the wood. Instinctively he pulled his hand back, and when he did, the top part of his finger, including a piece of the bone, remained under the freezer. 

In the chaos, A nurse who lived across the street, (thankfully) retrieved my father's finger tip from under the freezer, wrapped it in a wet towel coated with honey, which she placed in a plastic bag and handed to my mother before we went to the hospital. Doctors were able to successfully re-attach this piece-and the surgeon remarked to my mother later that the nurse's quick thinking and swift action was the key to the success. The honey kept the piece hydrated and slowed bacterial growth, in spite of the traumatic injury. (Although my dad's finger looks a bit shorter than it should, he has full use of it to this day.)

4 - Lemons: Are the smallest among citrus fruits, yet contains more nutrients than other larger citrus fruits. Lemons are very low on the glycemic index and contain Citric acid, a natural preservative, which aids in smooth and efficient digestion, and actually helps prevent and dissolve kidney stones. Anti-inflammatory and rich in vitamin-C, A, B, minerals and antioxidants, adding lemons to the diet can help strengthen resistance against colds, flu and other infections. My grandmother always had lemons (and limes) artfully arranged in bowls. She used it liberally in cooking and explained to us kids that growing up on a farm, salt, vinegar and lemon juice was often used in preserving vegetables and other foods. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice into a glass of water, or make an infusion of lemon water and keep in a in a pitcher in the refrigerator. 

Mix together 3-4 TBS olive oil, 1-2 TBS fresh lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper for a simple & delicious dressing for salads and vegetables. 

For an excellent Cold Remedy: Juice 1/2 lemon into a mug and drop in the juiced rind (Be sure to clean the lemon well first using these tips.) Add hot or boiling water and steep for 3 minutes. Add 1 tsp of organic honey and stir. Breathing in the steam will help clear and moisten inflamed nasal passages and drinking this beverage 2-3 times a day will help ward off and lessen the severity of sinus, cold and flu infections.

5- Chicken Soup: My Grandmother's Chicken Soup would have to be my very favorite remedy. In recent years, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really does have medicinal value. While scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact key ingredient, they do agree that its the combination of ingredients that makes for a medicinal concoction. In addition, we know what science does not have to tell us: that no special ingredient can ever compare to a grandmother's love for helping us to feel better!

Further Reading:

The Science of Chicken Soup

The only 3 Chicken Soup Recipes you will Ever Need!

We recommend:

Rachel Ray Terra Cotta 
Garlic Roaster

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Raspberry Walnut Vinegar

I fell in love with flavored vinegar a long time ago. I have always enjoyed experimenting with flavor combinations and varieties of foods and vinegar is no exception.

One year, I made so much of it that I had to start giving it away as gifts. Word spread, and then people I worked with were coming up to me and handing me money to make it. Had I had the proper kitchen, frame of mind, and the ability to spot trends, I would have been way ahead of the curve by now!

Flavored or infused vinegar is a sensory experience all in itself: a versatile condiment, and can be used in most recipes that calls for plain vinegar. It adds zest and excitement to marinades, meats and fish and unique flavors to dressings, salads, pastas and vegetables.

Flavored vinegars are by far the easiest and safest condiment to make. Due to the high acid content of vinegar, it does not usually support the growth of bacteria, and have a longer shelf life than oil, as long as safe food handling techniques are followed.

I've posted a sample recipe below from my forthcoming book, Infused: Oils, Vinegars, Butters & Spreads, 45 Easy Recipes". We hope to have the final draft copy completed by the end of the week, and then editing is scheduled to start next week. Projected release date is October 20, 2015, (Just in Time for the Holidays!)

Stay tuned for release and purchase details!

Raspberry Walnut Vinegar 

2 cups balsamic or champagne vinegar

1/2 cup fresh raspberries, crushed slightly

1/2 cup walnuts or black walnuts, toasted and coarsly chopped

1/2 lemon rind, yellow zest only, cut into strips

Lightly toast walnuts in a small, dry fry pan, over medium-low heat, heating until fragrant, shaking pan often so the nuts don't burn or darken in color. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly.

Place berries & zest in a sterilized wide-mouthed glass jar. Coarsly chopped cooled nuts and place into jar.

Heat vinegar to just below boiling point (190 F); pour over ingredients.

Wipe rim and cap tightly. Place in cool dark place for three to four days. Strain into a clean sterilized jar or bottle, discarding fruit, nuts and lemon rind. Add a fresh lemon rind and a few berries if desired and seal.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Excellent on salads and yogurt parfaits.

*You can substitute strawberries, blueberries or black-berries in this recipe, or a combination of all varieties.
Coming Soon!

To contact Barbara regarding book release or other questions, please e-mail


Monday, September 21, 2015

How to Properly Clean Fresh Vegetables

PHOTO: Mother Earth News
I had a different post planned for today-but this one is taking priority. I have interrupted my book writing to post this. Please forgive my rant but...
I was doing some research for my book-and I have lost count of how many times I have seen the advice to clean your fruits, herbs and vegetables with a bleach solution!
No. NO. and NOOOO!! 
I realize we have a collective germ-phobia and want our food to be "safe" to eat, and I don't know who started this "soak your food in bleach" idea, but please, Do NOT soak ANY food in bleach solution! Fruits, vegetables and herbs are extremely absorbent and will ABSORB whatever you are using to clean it!
Bleach is an excellent disinfectant for hard surfaces, such as counter tops, tile grout and toilets. But people, bleach is toxic if ingested!  It has no place and is not recommended in food preparation other than cleaning your counters, sinks and possibly your cutting boards before and after use.
Sodium hypochlorite is the chemical commonly found in bleach. It is a caustic substance which, when diluted, can cause stomach and bowel irritation. It causes immediate cell damage upon exposure, and can cause damage to the skin, esophagus, stomach, intestines, blood vessels, blood cells, heart, nervous system and other internal tissues if ingested.
"Oh-but you only use a little tiny bit" you say. Well, how do we know what effect that the little tiny bit, ingested over and over again, for years and years has on your internal organs? Is there any reputable scientific data on this? Why would one use a caustic chemical to clean the pesticides, wax, dirt and bacteria from your vegetables (Especially organic ones?) when there are much safer and effective alternatives?
My friends, here's what you can do instead of ingesting poisonous chemicals: Wash your herbs, fruits and vegetables in plain warm running water and rub or brush the skin surface as you clean it. 
Water is a universal solvent and works all on its own. You can use cider vinegar or lemon or lime juice if you need extra assurance - or just cut or peel the skin off completely - but PLEASE do NOT use soap, bleach or any other detergent, which is not designed for consumption! Warm (or even cool) running water is all you need.
'But what about this fancy ABC Company fruit and vegetable wash?' 
Not necessary! While they may claim to kill more bacteria than water, remember, they are also trying to sell a product-a product developed and marketed based on our fear of germs and dirty food.  
[Note that a recent study from the University of Maine has shown that tap water does the best job at cleaning produce. ]
In fact, when produce is rinsed thoroughly under running tap water, 98 percent of bacteria is removed. 
If you are still not convinced, you can make a safe homemade produce wash by mixing one part cider or white vinegar (or lemon juice) with three parts water. Note that vinegar or lemon juice may change the texture or taste of produce, (and bleach will really change the taste) so rinse well in running water after using. This solution will also remove wax from the fruit/vegetable skin surface.
'I've heard Grapeseed extract kills bacteria and fungus-can I use that to clean my veggies?'
My research has found that while some studies indicate that grape seed extract can be used as an anti- fungal, other studies have shown that additives to the extract such as triclosan, can be the reason for those results, and do not recommend Grapeseed Extract for food preparation use. Read more about questionable  studies and properties of Grape seed Extract here
Remember that your chance of getting a food-borne illness is actually very small. Taking precautions such as rinsing your produce right before use, and cutting away bruises or blemishes decreases that chance even more, but there’s no need for produce washes that could actually be leaving behind a residue- and especially no need for soaking or spraying in bleach solutions, in order to keep you and your family safe. 

Further Reading:

Please feel free to add any comments, links or other suggestions in the comments area below.

Contact Barbara:

The Only 3 Chicken Soup Recipes You Will Ever Need

Photo: happyhousewifery,com 
Today is a Chicken Soup Kind of day. 

I've had my office door opened as I work, and a breeze just drifted right in that said "Chicken Soup!" So I stopped right in the middle of writing to put a (very large) pot on the stove, as my mom and grandmother never did teach me the art of cooking in small batches!

While the batch I made today was rich and incorporated some produce that needed to get used up, I have 3 "go to" recipes for chicken soup, ranging from the very simple to the more complex that I would like to pass on to my wonderful readers today.

There is something nostalgic, grounding and satisfying about chicken soup. No matter how you make it-in vats or single servings, I think we all can agree that coming home and opening your door to the aroma of a fresh pot of soup on the stove, does wonders after a long day.

Use these recipes as is or as starters to experiment with your own versions.

Star Soup:

As a young child I caught many colds and infections, one being strep throat.
Photo: Pastina

My mother would make me some simple chicken broth with Star Pastina to nurse me back to health. ("Pastina" literally means "little pasta".)

Mom simply heated to boiling 2, 16 oz cans of Campbell Chicken Broth, and added 1/2 cup star pastina. Cook this about 2 minutes and you're done. She would shake a bit of dried parsley and grated Romano cheese on top for color.

My late mother in law made a similar soup - only she used 2, 32 oz boxes of Gardella's Ravioli Company, (Vineland NJ) rather than pastina. Heat broth to boiling and add tortellini. They are cooked when they start to float to the top. Add some shredded romano cheese, a twist of freshly ground pepper and enjoy!
Stock Photo: Tortellini
Swanson broth, and a pound of cheese tortellini from

One of my daughter's favorite memories is of her Nonnie making Tortelini soup for her. Mmmm...mmmm. GOOD!

Grandmom's Chicken Ceci Soup:

Ceci (chay-zhee) are Chickpeas- and this rustic soup starts with a home-made broth, that is definitely worth the effort, but you may use canned broth in a pinch, to save some time.

To make the broth:
Place 8-12 cups cold water in a large stock pot. Add 2 lbs (skin removed) chicken parts, with bones. (I prefer thighs and breasts, but any combination will work.) Add: 2 ribs celery chopped, 2 small onions chopped, 1 small clove garlic sliced in half lengthwise, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/4 tsp tri-colored peppercorns, 1 TBS salt and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 1 -2 hours until the chicken is no longer pink. Allow to cool. Remove chicken and set aside for soup or refrigerate for leter. Strain broth into another pot, or into smaller containers for storage. Keeps up to a month in refrigerator or a year in freezer.

To make the Soup:
In a 3 quart soup pot or Dutch Oven, saute 1/2 chopped onion in 2 Tbs olive oil. Add 1/2 cup sliced carrots and a small clove of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise. Saute vegetables about 5 minutes, on low heat, taking care to not burn them. Add 2, 16 oz cans of (drained) chickpeas (ceci) and briefly stir to blend. Add 8 cups of chicken broth, and a dash of ground oregano & rosemary. Simmer on medium for 15 minutes until carrots are tender. Add 3 cups Ditalini (tube) pasta and cook until tender.
Stock Photo: Ditalini

Finish by adding the shredded chicken (reserved from making the broth), a dash of black pepper, a sprinkle of sliced green onions and a shake of grated cheese. Enjoy with plenty of Italian rolls with butter.

(I realize a 'dash' and a 'shake' are vague measurements-I would guess each would amount to about 1/16 of a teaspoon? but please go by your own taste. My mother and grandmother never measured-they just created! I tend to cook in much the same manner, using what ingredients I have on hand, and substituting when the mood strikes me, being guided by taste and mood rather than exact quantities.)

Barb's Chicken Vegetable Soup:

(A versatile recipe that can be adjusted to what you have on hand. This combination is what is on my stove right now.)

In a 3 quart soup pot place one small chopped yellow onion, a small chopped bell pepper, a small rib of chopped celery, 5-6 carrots peeled and chopped, 2 cloves garlic sliced in half lengthwise, a small zucchini chopped, and 3 TBS olive oil. Stir and saute vegetables until aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add 2 quarts of broth (homemade as in above recipe or canned) 1 TBS salt and bring to boiling.

Lower to a simmer and cook about 20-30 minutes adding 3-4 chopped plum tomatoes during the last 10 minutes. Add shredded cooked chicken (and egg noodles if desired) and mix well. Serve with warm Garlic bread.

(A variation of this recipe is to use wild rice in place of egg noodles. I prefer wild rice and my husband prefers egg noodles. What I do, is boil the rice (2 cups) or noodles (1/2 bag) separately and allow everyone to add into their soup what they prefer. )

Do you ahve a favorite Chicken soup recipe? Please share it with us below!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Random Things I Find on My Dining Room Table

PHOTO: Barbara Gini

This would make a great Discussion Topic: 'Random things I find on my dining room table.' GO!

Ok. Confession time: Although I make an effort to keep this area clear from "stuff, THIS is what my dining table looks like most of the week. 

We come into the house here, and things just wind up on this nice big, sturdy table.

The random items dujour are: colorful fall place mats, dishes, condiments, half a bag of pretzels, lip gloss, a phone charger, curling ribbon, tape, grocery list & coupons, receipts, a cordless phone, my daughter's lunch money, keys, a book, a used envelope with a "To Do" list written on it, 2 glass candy jars (new) , a lid to a different glass candy jar, and a bow and arrow. (Yes-one of the ways I know hunting season is approaching is that I find bows and arrows in very odd places!)

Quick: what's on your dining room table right now? Don't clean it up. Just list it below!

How do you combat clutter in your common areas? (Or do you just leave it hoping it will evaporate!? :)

Discuss in the comments below!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Setting the Day's Tone

PHOTO: Barbara Gini 
I believe that how you spend your first half hour after you wake up sets the mood for the rest of the day.

Some people like to exercise, some spend it walking the dog, making breakfast and getting kids off to school, and others begin their day by reading.

I am lucky, having an office right in my home, so my morning "commute" is usually a quick, 8 second walk to the other end of the house. 

In that first half hour, after my daughter goes to school and my husband goes to work, and the house is quiet, I love to ease into my day by watching the amazing sunrises from my office window while I go over my schedule, do some writing and drink my morning tea.

I want you to try paying attention to those first 30 minutes of your day, and how they set the tone for the rest of it. Try consciously using that time to improve your outlook, get organized and improve productivity.

How do you get yourself motivated in the morning? Please tell us in the comments area below!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Simple Things: Birthdays

PHOTO: Barbara Gini
Eclectic Domestics
Birthday surprises don't have to be elaborate. Sometimes its the simple things that delight so much!

My daughter came up with a simple and colorful way to surprise her friend for his 16th birthday: She filled his room with these gorgeous helium ‪balloons!

She enlisted the help of her friend's mom, and yours-truly.

The birthday boy's aunt was taking him out for a bit, so we had a short window of time to get things in place.

We purchased a small helium tank with 50 balloons and ribbon from BJ's Wholesale club. 
Delicious Chocolate cake!

While we were there we picked up candles and a delicious chocolate cake that looked like this: 

We raced to the house-and were greeted by "Binx", the very happy dog. We set up our equipment and then had some trouble opening up the valve to fill the balloons, but we prevailed.

The happy dog kept barking and attacking the balloons each time we tried to fill one-the sound of helium filling up the balloons drove him nuts! So we had to banish him temporarily from the room.

With my daughter filling and tying the balloons, and me putting ribbon on, we managed to fill the balloons, set them up in her friend's room, fill out the card, let the dog out and give him a treat in under 45 minutes!

My daughter's friend was so surprised when he came home, and found the cake on the table-but even more surprised when he opened the door to his room and found the balloons! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ashamed of Having a Housekeeper? Don't Be!

Let's face it, none of us can do it all.

That is the simple reason why you shouldn't be ashamed to hire a housekeeper.

Everyone's situation is different-and people hire help for many reasons: If you or your children have health or mobility limitations, you may need overall help on an ongoing basis.

If both spouses work outside of the home-or if you are a single parent, you may need some extra help because you come home exhausted each night.

If you are single-and travel a lot for your work, it may be a welcome change to have your home nice and clean when you come home from a business trip.

Or maybe you just hate to / are not good at keeping a house.

Whatever the reason, when you hire a housekeeper, you are not only purchasing a clean, organized home, but you are buying back your lost time: time with family, kids and to do those things you don't get to do.

American women spend, on average, about 23 hours weekly doing cleaning tasks. That is almost 100 hours a month, and more than 1,000 hours a year. Hours and days, weeks and months you can never get back.

Ask yourself what you would do with all that time if you could reclaim it - and what is all of that lost time worth to you?

Most housekeeping services offer affordable packages and 'a la carte' services for any situation and budget.

If you are on a budget, negotiate with your cleaning service or independent housekeeper to just have your kitchens and bathrooms cleaned, OR just the bedrooms cleaned and the linens washed. Even these "touch up" services can be a huge help and give you back lost hours.

Your cleaning service or housekeeper should also offer add-on services such as helping with vacation homes every spring and fall, food shopping and meal preparation services. If these are services you are interested in, and your housekeeper currently does not offer them, negotiate to have these services, or any others that fit your lifestyle, *added on.

*(Be sure to ask if the housekeeper's liability insurance or your homeowner's insurance covers those services in case of an accident.)

The one thing that we all have in common is the value we place on our time. So don't ever be ashamed to pay for help with your housekeeping tasks, especially "When Time is not on Your Side".

To contact Barbara for a complimentary consultation, please call 215-257-3193, weekdays, 8:30 AM-4PM, EST.

To learn more about us visit our website: 


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Your Kitchen: Germ Central

Your kitchen is the heart of your home-the place where everyone gathers during a party. The place where you prepare meals, do homework, solve problems, laugh and sometimes cry.

But did you know that your kitchen is also a germ hot spot?

Yes. YOUR kitchen!

Your sink, stove, faucets, microwave, coffee maker, counter tops and even the refrigerator are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. In fact, your kitchen has more places for germs to grow than your bathroom. Pathogenic organisms such as E. Coli, Listeria, Salmonella, yeast and mold have the power to make you, your family and your guests ill if you don't look in the right places and stay on top of it.

Here are the 6 areas you should start with:

  • Your Hands: OK. Technically not a part of the kitchen, but the single most important thing you can do to minimize risk of a food borne illness is wash your hands before, after and as you are preparing food! In the restaurant industry, 89% of the cases where food was contaminated was due to improper or non-existent hand washing by food workers. It only takes a minute-so just do it!
  • Your Cutting Boards: in a study done by the National Sanitation Organization, almost 20% of the cutting boards tested had coliform bacteria on their surfaces. (The presence of E.Coli indicates fecal contamination.) To eliminate this threat, experts recommend using separate cutting boards-one for produce and another for meat and poultry. Wash boards immediately after use, in HOT soapy water. (As an extra safety measure, I wash or toss my dish sponge after washing the boards, and then place boards in the dishwasher after hand-washing.)
  • Your Dish Sponges: According to a NSF study, about 3/4 of all kitchen sponges and dishcloths also contained coliform bacteria. Experts suggest placing sponges in microwave on High for about 30 seconds, and replacing dish cloths daily. Laundering dishcloths in hot water and bleach will kill bacteria, but be sure they are completely dry (on clothesline or dryer) before folding and placing back in drawer. 
  • Your Counter tops: About 1/3 of counter tops harbor E.Coli, Salmonella, mold and yeast. If you wipe your counters down with a 3 day old sponge or cloth that has not been sanitized or washed, you are spreading germs rather than eliminating them. Disposable wipes with bleach are the best bet for sanitizing your counter tops before and after use.
  • Your Sink: About half of the sinks tested in the NSF study were contaminated. Be sure to sanitize and dry your sink daily, and after rinsing off poultry or red meat. If you happen to drop any food in the sink, toss it to be on the safe side.
  • Your Can opener: Salmonella,Yeast and Mold will grow rapidly on the blade, which comes in direct contact with food. Place in dishwasher and inspect before placing back in drawer to be sure there is no residual moisture and that all food particles have been removed from the back of the cutting blade.
Other areas to watch include:

Kitchen Towels-use one for dishes and one for hands
Dish Drying Rack - opt for an absorbent towel or a washable drying mat. Be sure to replace and launder the mat daily, and allow counter top to dry completely between dish-washing.
Dishwasher- remove and clean debris (monthly) from filter,then pour one cup of white vinegar into the dishwasher and run on "Heavy" cycle. When finished, pour 1/2 cup baking soda in bottom & leave it until you run the next dish load.
Refrigerator Drawers- Store produce above meats, and wipe/sanitize spills and rotting fruit/vegetable residue immediately
Food Processors, Mixers & Blenders - be sure to disassemble completely and wash ALL parts-including rubber gaskets-and allow to dry before re-assembling and putting away. 
Food storage Containers: wash and dry thoroughly, especially grooves and gaskets, to prevent yeast and mold growth and rapid food spoilage.
Coffee Pot: remove used filters immediately, and wash water reservoir according to manufacturer's instructions. A Good cleaning with white vinegar will remove internal residue. 

If you currently have a housekeeper, be sure that they are following proper cleaning guidelines in your kitchen, and are NOT using the same cloths and sponges used for cleaning the bathroom and the other areas of your home.

To schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our expert housekeepers, contact Barbara at 215-257-3193 or visit

May We Recommend:

Microfiber Dish Drying Mat

The Original-Dish Drying Mat

Disinfecting Wipes - 2 pack

Naturally Non-Toxic Cutting Board Soap

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Importance of Creating

I love the process of creating: writing, painting, organizing, cooking, educating, designing...there is just something exciting and exhilarating about the entire process of self-expression and the journey of the unknown, pushing my own boundaries in the shadow of uncertainty.

Creating is the one thing we do that indicates we are truly alive.

But as much as I enjoy creating, I also look at the other side of the coin: Destroying. 

I feel that destroying is equally as important, although most of us do not "enjoy" destroying in any way.

Now don't misunderstand me. I am not talking about malicious destruction of a person's reputation, physical body or personal property out of anger or hatred, but the deliberate, thoughtful act of breaking down or eliminating a person, place, thing or memory from your life, because it no longer serves your best interest to keep hanging on to it. It has become "clutter" and is causing you and your environment to stagnate. 

The entire purpose of destroying something, is so that you have room to create something new.

All the the things we have, what we see, hear, and the people we know, are what helps to shape our attitudes as well as our immediate environment. When the environment gets stagnant and 'polluted' with too much stuff we don't need, its time to clean it up. 

So, clean up/destroy those piles of old papers and bills that are either paid or have been in collection. (Keep a single copy only and make a point to pay it ASAP!) 

Donate or toss the old, outdated clothing. (You know - the ones hanging in the back of your closet.) 

Give those kitchen appliances you don't use to friends, family or Salvation Army. If you have not needed them in the last year, you probably won't ever need them.

Your desk? When was the last time you saw the top surface of it? Find a place for the random items, and only keep what is necessary on the top. 

Let go of old hurts, and apologize to those whom you have hurt. 

Change the things you can-and accept the things you can't. 

Say goodbye to dead end careers, and the people who continue to hurt you. You do not need them anymore. Commit to find work and people who challenge you and support your growth.

Turn off the TV and the cell phone and take a walk. Clear your head and think about what you want
to create- in your home, your office, in your life and in the lives of those you love. Keep that in the front of your mind and only keep those people and things that support that vision. 

I look at life like this: a constant cycle of destroying and creating and destroying again, so you can create something even better. Its the way we keep ourselves engaged and motivated, and reminded of what is truly important to us.

What and how are you creating today?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015



Sangria is a typical beverage from Spain and Portugal. It normally consists of red wine, (sangria meaning "blood") assorted chopped fruit, and sometimes a small amount of brandy.

I've seen tons of recipes using all types of wine and fruit combinations, but what about those who cannot or don't want to drink alcohol? (Such as the Mom-to-be at a recent baby Shower we attended?)

The solution is the Eclectic Domestic's (soon to be) world famous, "Non-Gria". We made about 3 gallons of it this past Labor day-it was colorful, refreshing and delicious! The longer it sits, the more intense the flavor.

Here is the recipe: (A downloadable recipe will be available on our website soon!)

Non-Gria:  (makes about 3 gallons)

1 Standard size bottle Cran-Raspberry Juice
1 Standard size bottle White Grape Juice
1 Standard size bottle apple juice
Juice of 2 whole lemons OR 2 cups lemonade (from a mix)
2 lemons sliced- with peel
2 limes sliced-with peel
2 naval oranges halved and sliced-with peel
1 sweet apple-cored and sliced-skin on
1 tart apple cored and sliced-skin on
2 peaches pitted and sliced-skin on
1 Pear cored and sliced-skin on
2-3 cups fresh or frozen berries-any variety
2-3 cups fresh or canned pineapple (with juice) cut into bite sized chunks
1 liter orange or pineapple soda

1- Wash, pit, core and slice fruit, except berries. Place in a large container (I used a stainless steel stock pot)

2- Add all juices to fruit (NOT the soda) and gently stir to blend. Add 1/2 the berries to pot and place in refrigerator preferably overnight, but no less than 3 hours.

3-In a separate round plastic container or cake pan, place reserved berries and pour orange soda over so that container is 3/4 filled to the top. Plcae in freezer so that it is level. Freeze solid.

4-When ready to serve, scoop juice and fruit mixture in a punch bowl. Remove frozen soda ring from freezer and pop out of its container. (You may need to run under warm water for a moment to release it.) Place the frozen ring in the punch bowl to keep Non-Gria cold. (AS the soda ring melts it will not dilute the juices.)

Serve in wide mouth glasses, so the beverage and fruit can be enjoyed.


You can add some honey to the juice mixture before chilling if you like a sweeter taste

Freeze soda and berries in cube trays to add to glasses or pitchers if you are not using a punch bowl.

To make an alcoholic version, replace orange soda with orange juice, and replace white grape juice with a (liter) bottle of wine.

Garnish with a stick of cinnamon (fall and winter) or a sprig of basil or spearmint (spring and summer) if desired.

Enjoy! :)