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Cooking up strategies to save time
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Though I have been retired from teaching for almost 13 years, I still work part time. I stay busy, and I sometimes wonder how I ever got anything done while I worked full time, especially when I had children at home.

I’m sure I got more done in less time when I was younger simply because I had more stamina. I still try to do the same things around my house and in my yard that I used to do, but these activities now take longer. I have to stop and rest more frequently.

But I think I also managed then, and, now to get things done because I try (I stress the word try) to be organized.

When teaching, I would get into the car to drive to school and list in my mind while I was driving what had to be done that day at school.

When I got into the car to come home, I reversed the process and began thinking about what had to be done when I got home.

I tried to run errands while I was en route from one place to another.

I am a big fan of written lists in my old age, but even making mental lists helps me stay on track. Lately, though, I find I can go to the grocery store with a list and still come home and realize that I didn’t buy one thing on that list. I told you I try, not that I was always successful.)

I also try to be economical in my chores around the house. I don’t mean in the money sense; I mean in the amount of time and energy I devote to a task.

I am the master of the 30-minute dinner and do like to multitask (though multitasking is proving to be something I’m not able to do as well as I grow older.

Last week my husband brought home fresh squash from the garden and asked if I would pan-fry it for dinner. I said I would, but that it would be about 20 minutes before I could start because I was in the middle of doing something.
I know I said I like to multitask, but I cannot compose something on the computer in the bedroom and cook squash in the kitchen at the same time.

I have discovered, much to the detriment of my pots and pans, that it is not a good thing to put something on a burner to cook and then run to check something on the computer.

I get lost in what I am doing on the siren computer, and by the time the smoke wafts all the way to the back bedroom, that pan is a goner.

He said "fine." I finished what I was doing and went into the kitchen to cook dinner and that squash.

When I got there, I discovered that my husband had decided to be helpful.

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate his help. But sometimes I can’t follow his train of thought.

He had gotten a vegetable peeler and peeled the squash.

Then he had gotten out a cutting board, a knife, the mandolin slicer (his purchase, not mine; he is the one enamored with kitchen gadgets) and a large plastic bowl that he had filled with water.

He placed the partially sliced squash in the bowl.

Again, I appreciated his help. But he had used five things that would need to be washed to accomplish his task. I could have accomplished the task with two — the knife and cutting board.

I know my solution would not meet with the approval of many chefs on the cooking shows he watches. But it would have gotten the job done a lot more economically.

When in the kitchen, he uses the biggest pot or bowl he can find. I use the smallest one that I believe will do the job. I’m not saying I am right and he is wrong.

Sometimes the bowl I pick isn’t large enough. Sometimes the food he is preparing is lost inside the large bowl.

What I am saying is that we have diverging philosophies when it comes to cooking, and I just cannot fathom his thought process.

I am sure he feels the same way about me.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at