How to Cut a Melon

Thursday, May 30

There are a few different ways to cut melons. Your typical, standard, large slices method is probably my favorite. A delicious sliced piece of juicy canteloupe (lightly salted) takes me right back to my childhood summer days, eating out on the back porch with my ten other dark-haired, lightly tanned, freckle-faced cousins. Juice dripping off our chins, swinging our bare feet over the edge and skimming our toes in the grass. Today, though, I'm talking about the way you "chop" a canteloupe or honeydew to allow for some easy storage and quick snacking in the fridge. We've already talked about how you find the perfect melon here, so now let's get on to the slicing and dicing. 

Everyday Simple | How to Cut a Melon


First, take your chosen melon and slice off the very ends. 

Slice off the Ends

Then, taking a sharp knife, start slicing off the edges. Be sure to get as close to the edge as possible! You don't want to slice away any juicy, sweet goodness by cutting in too thick. 

Cut off the Rind
Cut off Rind from all Edges

Once all the edges have been taken off, slice your melon in half. 

Slice Melon in Half

Scoop out all of the insides with a spoon, like you would a pumpkin. 

Scoop out Insides

Then, slice the melon into long, even pieces, down the whole side. 

Slice Melon

Go back and slice the melon again, this time against the slices you've already made. 

Slice Melon Again

And voila! Perfectly delicious, amazingly sweet canteloupe pieces just ready and begging to be plucked out of the fridge for some easy snacking. Enjoy your summer goodness! 

Everyday Simple | How to Slice a Melon

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Picking the Perfect Melon

Wednesday, May 29

Grocery stores have started rolling in the summer fruits, my friends. The cherries, the watermelon, the mangoes... oh the deliciousness of them all. I especially get excited for the melons - there's nothing I love more than a good cantaloupe or honeydew.

I'll admit, though, that I've never really had a rhyme or reason to picking out a good melon. I'd just grab the closest one I could reach. Grab it and take it home and cross my fingers that it would be a good one. Most of the time, I'd luck out and get a pretty darn delicious one. But every now and then I'd always manage to pick up a dud - one that tasted like nothing but water. Absolutely zero flavor to it. After coming across a particularly not-so-good cantaloupe the other day (so disappointing), I finally decided to educate myself on what a good melon should look/feel/smell like.

I'm just going into cantaloupes and honeydew melons today. Maybe we'll talk watermelons later. Although I feel like those are easier to pick out.

Everyday Simple | Picking the Perfect Melon
CANTALOUPE
First, look for color. You want a cantaloupe that is golden all the way around. If it's green, it's not ripe. Put it back, or take it home and let it ripen on the counter to a golden yellow before you cut it open. 

Check the stem end. It should be an "innie," not an "outie."

Gently press the stem end. If it slightly gives way with little pressure, it's ready. If you can't push it in at all, it's under ripe. If it gives way too fast and too deep, it's over ripe. 

Smell it. The best way to really tell how ripe a cantaloupe is by smelling it. It will smell like a cantaloupe. Smell the "flowering" end (the end opposite the stem end). If there's no smell, there probably won't be a good flavor to it. If it smells sour, put it back. A cantaloupe should give off that musky cantaloupe scent (fun tip: they're actually commonly referred to as "musk melons").

Stem End of a Cantaloupe - Look for an Innie
Smell the Flowering End of a Cantaloupe


HONEYDEW
Again, look for color. You want a very creamy, beige/yellow color. Don't get one that still looks green.

Feel the skin. You want to find one that has a waxy feel to it.

Just like the cantaloupe, gently press one end. You want a slight give with little pressure.

Smell it! If it smells delicious like a honeydew, chances are it's going to be delicious. If there is no smell, or if it smells too ripe, put it back.

When you're choosing the perfect melon, don't forget - if it's bruised or mushy in some parts, put it back. Make sure to choose one one that feels heavy for its size. You'll up your odds of bringing home a delicious, sweet, perfect melon every time.

Honeydew Melons - Picking the Perfect Melon


I'm happy to say that these tips have worked for me! After our dud of a cantaloupe, we went back to the store and used these tips to pick out another one, and this time it was spot on. Delicious, sweet, delightful cantaloupe goodness.

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Road Trips | Escaping the Boredom

Tuesday, May 28

source via Kate Spade's 2010 spring ad campaign

Over the past 6 years, Danny and I have done a lot of road tripping together. We've taken the shorter 5-hour drive stints to LA, Las Vegas, and Zion's National Park; we've crossed Nevada and it's never ending desert a hundred times for the 12-hour trek to Danny's hometown in California; we've driven up and down the lower half of the eastern coast; and we've even made the 30+ hour trek all the way from Georgia to Utah a few days after we were married (second time I've made that trip myself). 

With summer approaching, I'm getting that itch for a nice road trip. A chance to hop in the car and just drive. Leave the city and the jobs and the worries behind for a few days. See a few new sights, drive through a few new towns, and experience life somewhere else in the country. The excitement of leaving to go somewhere, anywhere, is always enough to keep me going that first hour or so. Then, depending on how long it's going to take to get to that somewhere-anywhere place, the boredom starts setting in. That "how on earth am I going to just sit in one place and stare out a window for the next 10+ hours and not go crazy" feeling. Oh, I always bring a book. And a journal. And there's music. Sometimes a video on my iPod. But come on - we've all dealt with that ridiculous boredom that bears down on us after so many hours of sitting in the same spot and seeing the exact same thing out your window for miles and miles on end (I'm looking at you, Nevada). 



So what do you do when the boredom gets too much? How do you stave-off the road trip boredom? Here are my top 3 favorite ways to enjoying the car trip as much as the end destination:

Audio Books
We discovered our love for audio books the day I took my last final for college. Tired, hungry, and exhausted from a week's worth of exams, we made a quick stop at a Cracker Barrel that bordered the interstate we'd be on for the next 11 hours. As we were perusing their little store that leads into the restaurant, we found a stack of rental audio books. Meaning, we could rent them for as long as we'd be on the road, then return them as soon as we got back into town. We found the first few Percy Jackson books and decided, hey - why not? Let me tell you, those books saved our lives that trip. We just sat there, listened, laughed at a few voice-acting moments (ok, a lot of them), and had a great time. Those books kept us awake and alert until 4am when we finally pulled into the hotel our family was staying at. Ever since then, we've rarely taken a road trip without an audio book at our side. I don't know what they do to us, but the time passes like magic. The next road trip we take we'll be starting up book 5 of the Harry Potter series. I'd forgotten how much we love us some good ol' J.K.

Taking Pit Stops
As long as we're not in a hurry, I love dragging out a road trip and taking pit stops. Finding that town's hidden little Ma and Pa restaurant on the side of the road that only locals frequent; discovering a hiking trail that leads up to one pretty incredible view; walking down a new city's Main St; exploring a town's version of a River Walk. Pit stops where you step outside your car and get a tiny glimpse of what it'd be like to live in that part of the country... in that little town, down that little neighborhood, on that side of the street. One thing I've learned, from living on the East Coast, moving to the West Coast, and traveling almost everywhere in between, is that everyone loves where they live. Everyone's proud of where they come from. Pit stops are a chance to see what's to love about that place you've stopped in. A chance to step out of your world and experience someone else's for a bit. 

Writing
I always bring my journal with me, every time I'm leaving home for a few days. I'll write in the car, on a plane, in a tent, or even on a boathouse somewhere out on the middle of a lake. I like to remember the things I noticed, the way I felt, the new things experienced. My typical journal is a small account of the everyday - what I did, what I thought, etc. But I also like to jot down story notes in a notebook. One day, I'd like to publish some sort of story. Imagination is fantastic, but there's nothing like the inspiration that comes from traveling and the new ideas, feelings, and thoughts that tend to accompany it. 


There are other things that I love to do during a road trip. Talking is always my favorite. Danny and I like to imagine where we'll end up living in the next few years after we leave Arizona, where we might settle down, how many kids we'll have, what they'll be like, where we could travel if we could go anywhere, etc. Traveling with a group of people, sing-a-longs and games are always top of the list. And eating... eating is my absolute favorite. Nothing like road trip snacks, yum.

So, friends - what do you do to stave off the boredom of a long road trip? How do you pass the time? 

ps: The last two photos are from singer-songwriter Orba Square's road trip tour across the US; it's a visual diary scroll of photos, thoughts, people, and places. Well worth a look. Check it out here (and enjoy some pretty great music at the same time).

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Shredding Personal Documents | Where to Go for Shredding Services

Monday, May 20

Back in March, I decided to do some spring cleaning in our office. After sorting through and organizing our bookshelves, closet, and desk, I was left with several hefty binders full of documents and papers that still needed to be cleaned out. Even though we're pretty much paperless now, we had a ton of old documents, receipts, pay stubs, etc. stashed and filed away. After going through everything and deciding what we needed to keep and what we need to toss, we were left with this:

Everyday Simple - Shredding Personal Documents
Two gigantic piles of paper, every bit of which could be thrown away. In comparison, the pile of things we needed to keep was tiny; everything important now fits nicely in one small accordion file folder. It's so much better than having six huge notebooks stuffed with paper.

For a while, this pile of paper just sat in a bag in our office closet. A lot of it contained personal information and needed to be shredded, but we didn't have our own shredder at home. And then I read this blog post from IHeart Organizing where Jen mentioned that she took her papers somewhere to have them shredded. And a light went off. Of course there would be stores that would have shredding services! After a quick Google search, I found out that most home office stores - like Staples and Office Depot - offer shredding services for a small fee. 

Staples is closest to us, so that's where we decided to go. According to their website, any Staples with a Copy & Print Location will offer shredding services. We called ahead and were told that they charge by the pound (79 cents/lb of paper). We went through our two big piles of "to-be-shredded" paper and pulled out anything that didn't have personal information in it. That was tossed into our regular recycling bin at home. The rest we hauled to Staples. 

Staples

After weighing our bag at the store, we came in around 8 lbs, which cost us about $6.50. Not bad for the huge stack that we had.

Everyday Simple - Shredding Paper Services at Staples

The biggest thing I was worried about was how secure the whole process would be. Identity theft isn't exactly my favorite thing in the world. But - good news! The process is entirely secure. The employees take your paper and put it into an already-locked trash bin that they can't get into. And they do it right in front of you so you can see for yourself that all of the paper goes into the bin.

Locked Shredding Paper Bin
Shredding Paper at Home Office Stores
Shredding Paper
Staples partners with a secure shredding company to perform their shredding services. This company will come in during regularly scheduled times to shred all of the paper in the bin. The offices I've worked in have partnered with similar companies to shred documents and materials, so I'm pretty confident in the privacy and security offered with this method. 

So - handy tip in case you've got a bunch of paper you need to have shredded and you are short one personal shredder at home! I was this close to throwing a bonfire... I'd get rid of the paper and have a party all at the same time. It was a win-win scenario in my mind.

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Packing List

Friday, May 17

Knock Knock - Pack This list pad

Let's add another post to our May traveling series! Today I wanted to talk about packing lists. When I was younger, my best friend and niece (who is my same age. I have a big family, and my mom and older sister were pregnant at the same time. Father of the Bride, anyone?) came down to stay with me for a few weeks. Her mother (my sister) had sent her with a list of everything she packed so she could check it off and make sure she hadn't left anything when it was time to go home. Even back then, little youngster though I was, I was remember wanting to immediately be that organized and write down my own packing list.

Although today I don't make my own personalized list of every item I pack, what I do like to have is a generalized list of everything that I need to pack. This is because I will always - always - forget to pack something if it's not written down. It's just what happens. I'll have to buy something at the store when we land, then lug it back home and add it to the growing collection of "things I already have but had to buy again because I forgot it" pile. Though I do always make sure to bring my bathing suit even if there isn't the slightest promise of a pool because, without fail, the one time I don't bring it will be the one time a hot tub/pool/natural water spring/or whatever is nearby. I've tested this theory - it's never failed. No bathing suit = everyone goes swimming but you. 

Back to lists! I found this pad at World Market and I've used it every single time we've left for vacation:

Knock Knock - Pack This pad from World Market

It's from Knock Knock, so if you can't find it at your local World Market, you can purchase it online. My "What to Eat" pad is from the same company and I love them both. Underneath the BASICS tab, right at the very top of the packing list on the far right, I've added a few items personalized items that aren't included, but other than that this baby has it covered. It even has a checkbox for sleeping mask!! At the end of our trip, I quickly scan through the list to make sure I've got everything I packed, and I almost (almost) never leave anything at the hotel. 

What do you do when it comes time to pack for a trip? I like to throw in enough shirts and pants to get me through the week, but I know a few people who pack specific outfits - including accessories. Do you make a list of everything you need, or are you confident you'll remember it all? Have anything you always make sure to pack, no matter where you're going? Like I said - for me, it's always a bathing suit. And my Rainbows. I never leave home without them.

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3 Green Smoothie Recipes

Thursday, May 16

Everyday Simple | 3 Tasty Green Smoothie Recipes
I've become a little obsessed with smoothies. I have one almost every morning with breakfast. They're great for getting those servings of fruits and vegetables that you might otherwise miss out on during the day. I've had fun experimenting with different concotions - and I'll be the first to admit that not all of them have turned out tasty. But here are 3 recipes that I love, and bonus - they are ones that the husband has approved of. He's a little less inclined to drink something with blended up spinach in it. 

ps: I don't have exact measurements for you (sorry). I just throw stuff in the blender until it looks like enough. I've gotten pretty talented at it; I can fill one of our cups up to the very brim with the very last drop, or fill two mason jars for me and the husband without having any extra left over. 

And one more thing: The best smoothie tip I could give you is to use frozen spinach cubes and frozen banana slices (see post here). My smoothies always come out cold, thick, and perfect. If I use too many fresh ingredients, the smoothie turns out frothy and I gag trying to get it down. Adding ice cubes isn't my cup of tea, either - they never seem to bring out the right consistency. But using my frozen spinach and frozen bananas works like a charm every-single-time.

From left to right:

Blackberry + Raspberry Smoothie
Handful of blackberries
Half a handful of raspberries
Frozen banana slices, about 3/4 of a whole banana
One frozen spinach cube (or a handful of fresh spinach)
Almond milk
Splash of pineapple juice

Apple + Pineapple Smoothie
1 whole apple, sliced and cored
Handful of pineapple chunks
Frozen banana slices, about 3/4 of a whole banana
One frozen spinach cube (or a handful of fresh spinach)
Orange juice
Splash of pineapple juice

Strawberry + Kiwi Smoothie
Handul of fresh strawberries (4 or 5)
1 kiwi, peeled
1/2 of an avocado
Frozen banana slices, about 3/4 of a whole banana
Almond milk
(I didn't add spinach to this one, but feel free to plop in a frozen cube)

*I used the new A Beautiful Mess app to create the picture above.  

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