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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Communication Station: Entryway

Since I seem to be on a mini-makeover thing this month, I decided that I really wanted to streamline and organize all of our cell phones, mail organizers, chargers etc.  So I thought I’d create a ‘communication station’ by the back door. 
We have an antique icebox that has a place of honor by the back door.  The compartments hold all sorts of things.  There are places to stash mittens, scarves, and the dog leash.  Because it’s a heavy metal unit, it also holds magnets and keeps the keys on the side. 
On the downside – the magnets also mean that it tends to get cluttery with papers held onto it by magnets.  The top of the icebox also tends to collect a lot of junk. It needs some help. 
1.    I’m putting two wooden dishes on the top of the icebox.  One is fairly good sized and round.  It will hold whatever comes out of my husband’s pockets.  He has that man-habit of emptying his pockets when he comes in the door.  The other is a long narrow dish with three dividers.  I think it was sold for serving appetizers or nuts or something. We’ve used it for parties, but not so much that we’ll miss it.  It can hold whatever else needs corralling.
2.    I’m putting the rattan basket that I use for recycling paper UNDER the icebox.  The icebox stands on legs and is fairly far off of the floor.  The space underneath currently amasses an assortment of boots, shoes, slippers and dog toys (no, Ginger, those are not all the same thing!!)  I’m thinking that by having the recycling bin right there by the door, the junk mail, newspapers etc can be corralled right away.  I’m also hoping that by being close to the door, they’ll go OUT the door more quickly.   Being underneath will keep it from being the eyesore that it currently is.
3.    We keep a portable shredder on top of a rectangular antique flour canister.  I’m thinking that can go on the floor beside the icebox.  I’m really serious about junk mail not invading the house.  I want it confined to the entry area.  This way we can shred and toss right at the door. 
4.    I’m going to hang a small magnetic basket on the far side of the icebox.  I’m not thrilled about how this will look, so I want it out of sight for the most part.  I’m looking for a simple plastic basket.  The kind that holds whiteboard markers and erasers where I work.  I’ll run the charger cords for the phones through the bottom and then the cell phones will have a charging home right by the door.  No more mad dashes up to the bedroom for a forgotten cell phone sitting on the dock on the nightstand.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shower Power

Some days I really long for a tub – you know, the old fashioned kind where you can sink down up to your chin without your knees popping out.  I crave a soak. 
Unfortunately, craving is all I’ll be doing.  We have a shower stall – a nice one, but a shower stall.  No tub.  No soaks. 
But I’m determined to make this a relaxing oasis for us.  Even if I can’t have a bubble bath, I’m going to relax, enjoy and be restored.  So I was jazzed about finding some ideas for making this happen.
1.    Towel warmers;  I grew up in an old Victorian house with radiators.  It was kind of a family habit that we draped our bath towels and our clothing over the radiator before stepping into the tub or shower.  I got accustomed to toasty warm towels.  Boy was it a shock when I moved out of my parents house and into more modern digs and had to endure cold towels.  I bought our first towel warmer off the clearance aisle at Marshalls about 6 or 7 years ago.  We’ll never go back. 
2.    A textured bathmat:  I saw one at Marshalls the other day that looks like stones in the garden, but I wasn’t too sure how that would feel underfoot.  There are quite a number that are made with reflexology in mind however.  I’m not liking the price tags all that much, but I’m loving the idea.  I have to figure out how I’m going to manage this one.
3.    Shower Bombs:  This didn’t sound so good on first hearing.  Apparently they make the equivalent of fizzy bath cubes in the form of shower bombs.  Its supposed to release a mist with relaxing aromas as the water from the shower hits it.  I ordered a package of Shower Fizzers from
4.    A New Shower Head:  I bought one of the shower heads that are supposed to feel like rain.  Its huge compared to my old shower head.  My husband has promised to install it this weekend, so we’ll see.  At the very least, its new and shiny.  And as long as the water pressure is still good coming out of the shower head, there’s no downside for us.  And maybe, just maybe we’ll love, love, love the rain feel of the shower.  Sounds like a tropical resort, doesn’t it?
5.    Essential Oils:  My yoga teacher suggested this one.  She dabs a bit of essential oil around the edges of the showerhead before a shower.  I tried it last night – and its wonderful.  I dabbed a few drops of lavender oil and spread it all along the outer edge of the shower head (the old one) before my bedtime shower.  As the hot water splashed out of the showerhead, the scent from the oil wafted all over the place.  Love it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Baskets in the Fridge

I was kind of taken aback -- I didn't expect so many comments and questions about my baskets in the fridge as a part of my mini-makeover of my kitchen.  I thought everybody used baskets in the fridge and I was late to the party.  I guess not.
Putting baskets in my fridge is the single best fridge organization trick I've ever learned.  Its quick, cheap and easy.  And it makes the fridge super organized and easy to work with.
I bought a handful (I think 4-5) of these baskets --- they fit on the shelves in my fridge perfectly.  Each basket takes up the lion's share of half a shelf.
I designate each basket with a purpose.  One holds leftovers, one holds snacks and goodies.  Another one holds yogurt and breakfast stuff.  Whatever suits your needs as a family.
Everything that belongs in that basket goes in that basket and STAYS in that basket.  It makes it easy for me to know what needs to be replenished (or absolutely DOESN'T need restocking -- there is nothing worse than coming home with a ton of yogurt and discovering that no one has eaten the yogurt that is already in the fridge because it got pushed to the back of the shelf and forgotten about)  I can see at a quick glance what we have enough of -- and what we need.
Everyone else in the house can see at a quick glance what is available for eating (without having to locate me and ask me personally).  If its in the snack/munchie basket -- go ahead and munch.  If its in the leftover basket -- its available for lunch.  Eat it.
Packing lunches in the morning becomes easier and more streamlined with my baskets too.  I just grab a whole basket -- take it to the counter and start packing.  Everything I need is right there handy.  When I'm done, the basket goes back in the fridge -- no muss, no fuss.
I seriously LOVE my fridge baskets ---

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tax Organization: Give Away

Doing the drudge tasks is something that cannot be avoided for those of us without "help".  I don't have a personal organizer, nanny, chef, housekeeper, chauffeur, butler or any other staff.  I have to do it myself.  But making it organized and pretty sure makes the chores go down easier.  Mary Poppins was surely onto someone with that spoonful of sugar idea.....
So here's my spoonful of sugar for this week --- I have to begin collecting the documents I will need to do my taxes (psst --- so do you!!)
First off, I sat down with my beloved TurboTax from last year and make a list of every single piece of information that silly program will ask me for during the course of preparing my tax return.  I typed it all out in a WORD document using the check-box option in bullets.
Then I make folders and stuck them into a cute little expanding file.  I'll clip the checklist on the front (not shown in the photo -- too much information, I think) and check things off as they arrive and I put them in my file.
Its cute enough to sit out on the desk and not annoy me --- which means that I'll actually put the documents in the file quickly rather than lose them in the piles of mail and other stuff.  That alone will help make my taxes go more quickly.
I'll also know as soon as I have everything --- which means I can start my taxes as early as possible -- and get my  measly little refund as quickly as possible too.  I like that.
Now, since I've decided to get a little more serious with this blog this year --- and since one of my strategies for getting more serious is to do some giveaways --- You benefit.
I've made up one extra Tax Organizer (the photo has mine -- tipped open so you can see PLUS one to give away --- that one could be yours)  It has the expanding organizer, all of the folders, a set of blank labels (yours wouldn't be the same as mine anyway) and a generic checklist (mine is super personal for our situation).
Leave me a comment  on this post to enter.    I'll draw one name using the random integer generator to pick a winner.  Make sure you leave me a way to contact you if you win!!
Give Away Ends Thursday 1/28 at 4:00 my time.
Best of luck!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Christmas Comes to an End

We had our final hurrah for the Christmas season this weekend.  I know, its late, but its tradition.  The Christmas decorations around here stay up until Martin Luther King Day.  (We both have the day off and can do the work of un-decorating the house and get it all done and cleaned up at once.)
So -- MLK weekend is traditionally the last holiday party at our house.  Always with the same friends -- and its always wonderful.  There was snow on the ground, a fire in the fireplace, and laughter throughout the house.  We rocked the Christmas CD collection one last time.  And we ate and talked and ate some more.
I wasn't feeling all that energetic (been fighting off some kind of respiratory thing) -- so I wanted a menu that was festive, simple, and that I could make in stages throughout the day.  Thank you Pioneer Woman!!  Seriously -- this lady ROCKS.
I used her Pork Loin menu here --- I even made the homemade cranberry sauce (I may never eat canned again!!)  This was the most amazing cranberry sauce I have ever tasted (and I made it myself!!).  The second part of the recipe -- where you take the cranberry sauce and jazz it up more --- I could have skipped.  I didn't skip it -- I made it..... but truly the cranberry sauce itself was so amazing, that the jazzed up version just paled.
So -- here was my lazy cooking plan (with a couple of menu adjustments from Pioneer Woman's menu)
Saturday --- make an Apple Pie --- these are seriously easy --- I got the apples from the orchard down the road (yep, they still had apples --- Got to love them -- I sent my husband to the shop.  He tells them "My wife is making an apple pie".  They pack a bag for him with a mix of apples perfect for pie.  All I do is peel and assemble the pie --- Easy, peasy)
Sunday after church --- make the mashed potatoes --- I used Pioneer Woman's recipe to the T.  Then I piled them all into my crockpot, set it to warm and left it sitting on the counter until dinner time.  I made the Cranberry Sauce at the same time.  Let it sit in a glass dish -- with the measure pulled out that I needed for the jazzed up sauce.
Took a nap (I told you I didn't feel like myself)
Around 2:00 Threw some greens and other veggies in the salad bowl and set it in the fridge.  Salad -- done.
Around 4:00 --- cranked up the Christmas music --- started the Pork Loin.  Mixed up a batch of popover batter (another tradition for this party) and let it sit on the counter.  Pork Loin and Popovers went into the oven together --- my pork loin took a lot longer than Pioneer Woman's --- that was good, because it worked out perfectly with the popovers.  Yay.
Around 4:30 (by now all of the guests are in the door and the wine is flowing)  Zapped some spinach in the microwave while we ate a salad.  Dinner is served.
Mine didn't look as pretty as Pioneer Woman's ---- but it tasted pretty darn good.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kitchen Mini-Makeover

I don’t have the time or the money for a full kitchen makeover – but I’d love one!! (that was just in case any fairy godmothers were listening!!)
So – I’m going to do a fake-over – I’m going to spruce up my kitchen on a budget of $50.  Here’s my plan:
1.    Completely clear the countertops --- Most of the stuff just isn’t going back.  It will need to find another home --- in my home or at the Goodwill Store – but not on my countertop!!.  Once they’re cleared, I’m sure they’ll need a good cleaning – and then the gleam will look and feel terrific.
2.    Clean up the sink area --- this is something I learned from the FlyLady.  Shine your sink!!  I need to get rid of the old, moldy Brillo pad, the skanky sponge, and the nasty, drippy soap dispenser that I don’t use because it leaks (which is how it became nasty and drippy in the first place)  I need new sponges (I want the cute ones with the colors and the patterns. I saw some striped ones at the Odd Lot store that I adore) I’ll look for a new soap dispenser at Home Goods (I abhor the ugly plastic bottles that dish soap comes in)
3.    Sweep the floor, mop the floor and put down new throw rugs.  Some of mine are looking a little sad (especially the one Ginger has been pulling at the edges of --- silly dog).  Although the kitchen is blue and yellow (very French Country), I’m thinking that a splash of Cranberry Red might brighten it up for the long cold winter (not to mention not showing the slushy, muddy boot prints and paw-prints all winter). 
4.    Clean out the fridge and put in new baskets and a new can dispenser.  Seriously, these are the best fridge tricks I ever learned.  I keep the seltzer cans in a rolling can dispenser (we’re not real soda or beer drinkers – but seltzer – that’s a different story).  And I keep plastic baskets on the lower shelves.  Each basket contains a different category of item.  There’s a salad basket – with all of the bags of pre-washed lettuce, baby carrots, bottles of salad dressing, and other veggies for salads. Want to make a salad?  Just pull out the basket and you’re ready to go.  There’s a condiment basket – it corrals all of the odd bottles of ketchup, mayo, mustard etc that seem to wander around the fridge and get in the way.  All of the various fruit juices go in another basket for easy grab-and-go in the morning.  Right now I need new baskets (or a serious trip through the dishwasher for the ones I have!)