Working From Home

Working From Home

Like most Americans, you may find yourself in a new office – your home. While many dream of working from home with all the benefits, it can be a big transition, especially when it is abruptly forced upon us. Use these tips and ideas to help you get settled in and maintain productivity and your sanity. Middle and high schoolers will also benefit from these tips to get their classwork done.

  • Get up at the same time you would if you were going into the office. While it’s so tempting to sleep in, starting your workday like any other is important to get in the right mindset. If you want to cheat a little, set your alarm later by as much time as your commute would have taken.
  • Get dressed and ready. Again, it’s so tempting to stay in your PJs all day, but doing so can affect your mood as well as your productivity level. Dress comfortably though – it’s casual Friday every day now!
  • Make an office space. If you don’t have a dedicated room to be your office, set up in a corner of your kitchen, a guest bedroom, or at the little-used dining room table. Having a work area will help keep your mind focused and hopefully keep out many distractions. Moving from the couch to the bed to the floor might seem like a good idea, but if you have a comfortable spot, claim it for work! Keep your notepad, pens, paper files, and other office supplies there so you’re not constantly getting up to find things.
  • Avoid the temptation to do household chores during your workday. That pile of laundry or dishes in the sink will seem more interesting than the spreadsheet you’ve got to get to your boss, but they’re not. If you were at the office, you would deal with them later; same thing goes in this situation. If you do want to put in a load of laundry, do it on your lunch break and then it will be ready to fold when your workday is done.
  • Since kids are out of school, there are even more distractions in the house. If your spouse is also working from home, consider dividing up the day into three- or four-hour increments and alternate work with homeschooling and caregiving.
  • Working from home can seem lonely, especially if you’re used to the buzz of a cubical office and water-cooler chatter. Connect with coworkers on the phone and video calls, check in verbally with your boss/subordinates daily, and send text or instant messages to keep the communication flowing.
  • Stay out of the pantry and fridge. Take regular breaks for meals and snacks, but don’t put that bag of chips beside your laptop. You could even pack a lunch in the morning and grab it out of the fridge at lunchtime.
  • Take advantage of this working from home lifestyle by enjoying a walk around your neighborhood at lunch, a cuddle with your baby mid-afternoon, and the reduced-stress of not having to commute.

Working from home has so many benefits, you may find you really enjoy it. Stay on top of your projects and continue to be professional in your interactions with coworkers, clients and vendors. Who knows, you might get to work from home when the world returns to normal!

Easy No-Knead Bread

Easy No-Knead Bread

What better way to spend your extra free time than trying out a new recipe? Bread is one of those items we all dream of making, but usually seems too complicated or time-consuming. The perfect compromise: this easy no-knead recipe- besides rise time, it only takes a little over an hour to make!

 Ingredients

 –   3 cups flour

  1 ¾ teaspoon coarse grain sea salt

  ½ teaspoon active dry yeast (or instant yeast)

  1 ½ cups warm water (roughly 110 degrees °F)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Pour in the warm water- at 110 degrees- and stir with a wooden spoon* until combined. The dough should be sticky. *Using a wooden spoon rather than a metal spoon is important as to not kill the yeast.*
  2. Then, cover the dough bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rise at room temperature for 6-15 hours, ideally overnight.
  3. Once the dough has risen and you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Lightly flour your hands, and prepare a workspace with flour. Scoop dough out and onto the floured surface. Shape it into a ball and sprinkle flour on top. 
  5. Then, place the dough ball on parchment paper and lightly cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Using a dutch oven or cast iron pot, place the empty pot with the lid on in the preheated oven for roughly 30 minutes, in order to heat up.
  7. Once the pot is hot, remove it from the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from on top of the dough ball, and lift the parchment paper along with the dough ball up and into the pot. Cover with the lid and place it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
  8. After time has passed, remove the lid from the pot and leave it to bake uncovered for another 12-15 minutes. Then, remove from the pot and allow the bread to rest on a wire cooling rack.
  9. Store bread on the counter for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months. Enjoy!

 

We hope you find success with this easy bake bread recipe and enjoy many baked goods and new recipes over these next few weeks!

Sheet Pan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sheet Pan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Try out this fun twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie! When the batter is baked in a sheet pan, it makes it easy to cut bite size cookie bars to have throughout the week! The sheet pan method allows for an even bake and helps you achieve that perfect gooey, golden brown texture.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter- room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips + 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13×18 sheet pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together the butter and sugars for 2 minutes, until it is smooth.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
  4. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt over the wet mixture and mix together until just incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  5. Add a bag of chocolate chips in, and lightly stir in with a wooden spoon until incorporated. The dough will be very thick.
  6. Spread the thick cookie dough mixture evenly by dropping spoonfuls onto the baking sheet and spreading it out with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the mini chips on top of the dough.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  8. Cut into individual squares, serve and store!
How Your Windows Affect Your Life

How Your Windows Affect Your Life

Yes, you read that headline right – your windows really do affect your life! Here’s how…

The windows in your home are most likely covered with some type of blind, shutter, or curtain. Many reasons exist for covering windows, such as letting natural light in or keeping it out, temperature control, and aesthetics in decorating. But, did you know that your windows and their coverings (or lack thereof) could be playing a big part in how you function in your daily life?

You’ve probably heard that the average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Your bedroom windows could be affecting the length of time you sleep as well as the quality of your sleep. Our bodies rest best in almost total darkness. When the eyes do not sense the presence of light, the pineal gland in your brain produces melatonin, the sleep hormone. If your windows are letting in outside light – even moonlight on a full-moon night, this could interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest. 

If you work the night shift, having blackout blinds to block daylight so you can sleep sounds reasonable, but even for people who sleep when it’s dark, consider just how dark it actually is in your bedroom. Hanging blackout shades or curtains outside the window frame also help prevent any light from peeking in through the cracks. Another added benefit of blackout curtains? They can reduce noise due to their built-in insulation.

Now let’s talk about light. In the morning, open your window coverings first thing when you get up. Letting in the morning sun awakens your brain and helps you get the day off to a good start. If possible, go outside for 10 or 15 minutes and let the sun shine on your face. Or, eat breakfast by an open window on the east side of your house. Sunlight signals your brain to produce serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused. It also gives you the Vitamin D that so many of us are lacking.

When you are well-rested, calm, and happy, you are better able to handle the daily stresses of life – parenting, work, relationships, social situations, etc. Pay attention to your windows to make the most out of every day!

Crispy Waffle Iron French Toast

Crispy Waffle Iron French Toast

Can’t decide what to have for breakfast? With a mashup recipe like waffle iron french toast, you can get the best of both of these classic breakfast dishes! When combining the rich flavors of french toast with the crispy edges of a waffle, this recipe is sure to become a weekend favorite.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 pieces of brioche bread (sliced)

Directions

  1. Preheat your waffle iron and spray with a cooking spray 
  2. Whisk together your milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt until combined. 
  3. Dip your bread slices into the egg mixture one at a time, making sure to coat both sides evenly. Use a slotted spatula to allow the excess mixture to drip back into the mixing bowl.
  4. Place the dipped bread slices onto a rimmed baking sheet and let it sit until the mixture soaks in, about 2 minutes.
  5. Now, place your slices of dipped bread in the preheated waffle iron. Close the lid gently without forcing it down. Cook until golden brown- about 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat with all your slices

There you have it! A quick, easy way to create wonderfully crispy french toast with minimal cleanup… what’s better than that?

It’s Rodeo Time!

It’s Rodeo Time!

The annual spectacle that is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo kicks off very soon! Are you rodeo ready? Since 1938, the Houston Rodeo has taken over our city every spring, and for the past 82 years, has brought joy, fun, and amusement to residents and visitors alike. Here are a few key facts, tips, and tricks to make the most of this rodeo season.

Get ready for the cook-off, trail rides and parade – all key events leading up to the start of the actual rodeo. This year, the downtown parade is on February 29 and runs along Walker, Travis, Bell, Louisiana, and Lamar Streets. Get there early and park in any of the Theater District parking lots. The Rodeo Parade is celebrating surpassing over $500 million in scholarships to local students by having former scholarship recipients serve as grand marshals.

The Rodeo Bar-B-Que cook-off runs February 27-29 and is the perfect place to sample the most delectable southern food in the world. Top chefs participate by invitation only and put their reputations to the test. Try out the food and enjoy the carnival at this pre-rodeo event.

Trail rides begin soon and with 12 different routes all leading to downtown Houston, you’re sure to cross paths with at least one of them. Check out the maps and schedules as this is one uniquely Texan activity that you’ll be sure to remember – covered wagons pulled by horses and donkeys traveling down some of the busiest streets all in good Rodeo fun.

The Rodeo itself runs March 3 – 22 at NRG Stadium downtown. Nightly rodeo events and contests, such as calf roping, barrel races, and mutton bustin’ precede some of the biggest acts in music today. Arrive early and stop by the wine garden, play at the carnival, get a deep-fried Oreo, and watch the rodeo events. Then, marvel at the music as you dance alongside your new best friends in a packed stadium. Acts such as Gwen Stefani, Willie Nelson, and Lizzo (variety, anyone?!) will make it a night to remember!

For more information and to get tickets, visit RodeoHouston.com.