Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Dreaded Fridge...

So far we've given tips and tricks on organizing recipes, grocery lists, and closets.  Today I'm going to tackle my fridge.  For some reason the organizing fairy sprinkled some pixie dust on me and I was motivated to reorganize all my kitchen cabinets.  Let me tell you....YIKES!!!!!  I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I have pretty cabinets now and a good start to a garage sale.

I'm not going to go into how I organized each cabinet, I mainly want to focus on my fridge.  I didn't realize how much junk had gotten piled up on top of and on front of my fridge. Many pictures the girls had painted covered the doors of my fridge, mounds and mounds of art supplies in a basket much to small for them was sitting on top along with my juicer and old Valentine's day candy.  Like I told you- YIKES!  Here is what I did to make my fridge look cleaner.

1.  I took down all the old pictures my girls had colored for me and put them in a folder to save for their keepsakes.

2.  Chose a few select pictures to adorn the outside of the fridge.

3.  Put my juicer and other kitchen item in a cabinet.

4.  Sorted through the art supplies and got rid of broken crayons and supplies and put the rest away in a sliding art cart I got for my girls.

Here the before and after pics.


Maybe there were a few other things on top of my fridge I forgot to mention.

The after picture.  So much better!

This is a great 15-20 minute organizing project that can make a big impact on your kitchen!


Monday, April 29, 2013

Closets and Toys

When you have children, keeping closets and toys organized can seem very overwhelming. I thought I would share with you today a few pictures of my children's closets and what works for our family. I know I definitely have room for improvement and would love to hear your feedback.

First, let me say that I'm hesitant to post pictures of my daughter's closet, for fear that I will be accused of frivolity when it comes to the amount of clothes she has. Her closet looks ridiculous, I admit. BUT, I want to inform you that most of the clothes in her closet have been handed down to us from cousins and close family friends. While I do occasionally buy clothes for her, I usually get them at consignment shops or end-of-season sales. It's rare that I splurge on an outfit for my daughter, although I did enjoy buying a fancy party outfit for her to wear to my sister's wedding shower a month ago.
Ok, with that said, I give you the PINK closet. Ha!
Because my kids have large walk-in closets, we hang most everything. I only fold pajamas, socks, underwear, lounge pants/shorts, and leggings. 
On the left of my daughter's closet, I hang all the clothes that are still too big: Dresses for next season, seasonal/holiday tops that I've gotten really good deals on at after-holiday sales, hand-me-down dresses that are too big, etc.

In the middle section of the closet, on the top, I hang dresses and skirts that are in season and are the correct size. On the bottom rack, I hang shorts, capris, tops, and light jackets. My daughter is allowed to choose an outfit from this rack to wear each morning, and knows that she may not change clothes whenever she wishes. Occasionally I have an opinion about what she's going to wear, but most of the time I let her choose. What can I say? The girl has style. ;)

For shoe organization, I got really thrifty and cut an old shoe organizer in half. It's the perfect length to hang on this bottom rack, making it easy for my daughter to organize her shoes herself. This has been a huge improvement to her closet. 
Also, you can see that in the corner she has a basket for stuffed animals. Do you get overwhelmed with stuffed animals? She has a few that stay on her bed because she sleeps with them, but the rest stay tidy in this basket. Next to the basket is a plastic container housing all of the puzzles she likes to play with.

On the right side of the closet, we have a pink organizing shelf that came from Target. This holds books, magnet dolls in ziplock bags, and green pull-out bins for random toys.
This closet set-up is manageable for my 3 year old and helps to keep things off of the floor.

I also wanted to share with you the hair-bow organizer that I made for her. I completely stole this idea from a friend on Facebook. I already had a cork-board that I was not using, so this was perfect. I bought fabric that coordinated with the room decor. Using a staple gun, I covered the cork-board with the fabric, then added rows of ribbon to clip the hair-bows to. This project took less than 10 minutes and has been the perfect solution to organizing the hair-bows. I have this hanging on the wall next to the bathroom sink.

 Below are a few pictures of my son's closet. I hang his dress-pants and shirts on the top rack and his school/play clothes on the bottom rack. On the right side of the closet are the clothes that I've bought at end-of-season sales that are still too big. We don't get a-lot of hand-me-downs for him, since he's the oldest boy cousin, so his closet is not nearly as full.
He keeps his shoes in the bottom drawer of the built-ins inside the closet.

 In one corner of his closet we keep 2 large plastic buckets for dress-up clothes, swords, shields, weapons, etc.

On the other side of the closet he has this toy organizer we bought at Target. Oddly enough, the toys aren't EXACTLY organized, but he's able to see all of the toys and can find what he needs quickly. The rest of my children's toys belong in the game closet in our basement.

I really like the fact that my children are able to reach most of their clothes. When doing laundry, I fold or hang the clothes, then leave them in the laundry room for my kids to put away (with the exception of their dress clothes, which I hang on the top racks myself). They both know exactly where their clothes belong, whether it be hanging their play clothes or placing their pajamas, socks, underwear, etc. in the proper drawers. This is a chore that they are capable of doing and one that doesn't take too long. 
I hope this post has been helpful to you in some way. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment here on the blog or on our FB page.
~ Jennifer

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Organization: Grouping Like-items

Hi Friends!
Do ya'll have organized linen closets by now? What about your recipes, are they categorized and filed into neat binders? Have you made your monthly grocery shopping list? No? Well, not to fret. It takes time to get organized, it certainly doesn't happen over night, or with the snap of your fingers. Hopefully you HAVE been inspired to do some organizing, as it sure does help the home to run more smoothly.
Tonight I want to share a simple idea. If you haven't already done so, go through your kitchen and organize like-items together. Your measuring spoons and cups, mixing bowls, spices, etc. should all be located near your mixer, if possible. I realize that not everyone has room in their kitchen to organize these items together, but it sure does make working in the kitchen easier when the tools you need are close by.
I want to share a few pictures of the "coffee corner" in our kitchen. We have a dedicated cabinet for coffee mugs, cappuccino cups, coffee, sugar/creamer bowls, stir sticks, sweetener packets, coffee filters,  etc. All the items we use when preparing coffee for ourselves or for company, we keep in this cabinet. Want to know what's even more helpful? The coffee cabinet is located directly above our coffee maker, grinder, and espresso machine. Yes, we planned it this way. It makes coffee prep in the morning so much easier, and let's be honest, before I've had my cup o'joe, I really need things to be easy.
If you have the room to move things around in your kitchen, try this technique. It's not rocket-science, it's just working the lay-out of your kitchen to your advantage.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Linen Closet

This is one of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog, so I thought I would re-publish it since we've been talking about organization.  It's a repeat, but it's still worth the read.  Jen and I are working on your suggestions for other areas of the home you need help organizing. Stay tuned for those posts!

I thought I would start with part of my house that I look in almost every single day.  Maybe I'm a crazy, but if things are out of order it makes my blood pressure rise a little bit. Here's a great idea for reorganizing your everyday items in order to bring you a little more elegance.

This project is free- that's the best news of all!  I began by taking things out of the closet.  Why is it that you have to make an even bigger mess to make it clean again???  Anyway, I took inventory of what I could get rid of and what I need to keep and where it would be stored best.  I decided to put my stock purchases (toilet paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc..) On the top shelf where they could be plainly seen.  Okay, plainly seen by me.  All you shorter people out there may want to put it on a lower shelf.  If you take stock of what you have it saves you $$$$$.  You won't end up buying things you don't need.

Then I proceeded to refold (crazy I know) my washcloths and towels to make them look neater when they were stacked.  And amazingly, it looks good! I have a large basket on the very bottom to hold extra pillows instead of them just sitting out looking bulky.

Scroll down to see the before and after photos!

 Embarrassing I know!
 My beautiful mismatched towels
 Still mismatched, but what did you expect?

My stockpile

Here are some other tips you may want to try....
1.  Use smaller baskets labeled to hold stock purchases or even odds and ends items
2.  Stash dryer sheets between towels to give a fresh scent to your linen closet
3.  Put your prettier towels on the top shelves to give a more uniform appearance, because let's face it, we're not Martha Stewart and we don't have perfectly white fluffy towels that comprise our entire towel collection.
4.  Store sheets, blankets, and larger linens on bigger shelves.  I realized I had my big items on the tiny shelves and that's why they were falling off.
5.  Add command hooks on the inside of the door to store any hanging items.
6.  Cover shelves with pretty contact paper, or put on a fresh coat of paint.

If any of you are brave enough to tackle your linen closet, let me know how it goes.  It's free, it's quick and it will bring a little elegance to your life!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Organization: Grocery Shopping

This afternoon I thought I would discuss how I make my monthly grocery list. For several years now, I've been an "almost once-a-month-shopper". What that means is that I do one BIG grocery shopping trip per month, and fill in the gaps with a couple of smaller trips when needed. I'm not sure how anyone gets by with ONLY going to the grocery store once a month, somehow I always need something that wasn't on my list, and I have to make another trip. However, in January of this year, I revamped my grocery list method, and I have had even fewer last-minute trips to the grocery store.
Here's what I did: I began by making a list of everything in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I then categorized items by likeness.
These are the categories on my list:
Canned (Veggies)
Canned (Tomatoes/Mexican)
Paper, Cleaning, Laundry
Chips, Snacks

After sorting all of the items into the following categories, I walked the aisles of Walmart (in my mind) and listed the items under each category in the order that they would appear in the store. Yes, I'm crazy. But, this totally works for me and makes my Walmart experiences SO MUCH BETTER. 
I saved my new grocery list on my computer and have printed out several copies. I keep a fresh copy available on my kitchen counter, so that as I discover I need an item, I can circle it on my list. At the beginning of each month, instead of having to write out a long list of groceries, I simply look at my pre-made list, circle the items I need and cross out the items I don't need. This has been such a time-saver and has helped to keep me from forgetting more obscure items that I don't think about as often. I usually buy my produce at a local grocery store here, rather than Walmart, and I make a separate list for Sam's, where I purchase meat and poultry.
Here's what my list looks like.
It certainly took me a while to get this list put together, but I'm so glad I took the time to do it. Like I said, I've been using this list since the beginning of January, and it has been great. 
I would love to hear your ideas on making grocery lists/shopping easier. And, feel free to ask any questions. We'd love your feedback.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Organization: Starting in the Kitchen

Hello Readers!
It's been over a month since I've posted, yet it feels like much longer. In that time, I've been to Colorado and back, Florida and back, my hometown and back, hosted a birthday party for my son, and hosted a visiting preacher and his family for the weekend. Whew! God is good. I am humbled and thankful that I've had these opportunities over the past 4 weeks. I'm grateful for the health that I've been provided and the home I have, in which to entertain. I'm hoping to get back into my "routine" this week, and thought it was about time I posted on the blog.
This week I'm going to write a few posts about organization, mainly being organized in the kitchen and pantry. I've found that keeping my kitchen and pantry organized really helps save time and energy when I'm cooking and when I'm making my grocery lists.
Recipe organization is a must for me. I'm an avid recipe collector; I think that comes with the territory of being an avid cook. I am always trying to new recipes, improving on old "stand-bys", and collecting recipes. I have quite the collection of cookbooks, cooking magazines, recipes on my Pinterest page, and  binders filled with recipes I've printed, copied down, collected from friends, torn from magazines, etc. I have an addiction that my husband is totally fine with. He has no problem with the fact that I like to buy cookbooks, for he knows the benefit reaches far beyond the cost.
Although I've always been an avid recipe collector, I haven't always been so good at keeping my recipes organized. However, a couple of years ago I decided it was time for a change and I've been very happy with the results.
This is the section in my pantry where I keep my recipe binders and cooking magazines. I bought cardboard magazine files in the Target dollar section, SCORE!, and have my magazines organized by type. 

If my house were to catch on fire, I would have a very tough decision to make: Save the kids or save my "Favorite Recipes" binder. Haha, I kid. But, my "Favorites" is one of my most valued possessions. It contains over 100 recipes, all of which have been made in my kitchen, loved by friends and family, and I've hand-written notes on each one. Below are just a few examples of the recipes I have in my binder and the notes I write on them. I've found it's very helpful to write notes on recipes because I have multiple recipes for the same dish, and I want to remember which one I fixed and if I liked it or not. Plus, dating the recipe and including a note about who it was served to, helps to serve as a type of recipe "scrapbook". I love looking thru my recipes and reading the dates and being reminded of when I served the various dishes. 

 I have 3 main recipe binders that I put together and use. Obviously one of those is my "Favorites". It includes only recipes that I've actually made or have eaten, and would like to make again. If I've tried a recipe that I've pinned on Pinterest, and it's a "keeper", I print it out and add it to the "Favorites" as well. I have 2 other binders that include recipes I've collected that I would like to try, but haven't gotten around to yet. You can see the categories for those binders in one of the pictures above. After I make a recipe from one of those binders, I either move it to my "Favorites" or I throw it away.
The tabs on my "Favorites" binder are in this order:
This is my cookbook display in the island of my kitchen. I keep the books I use most often stacked on top of each other. I also make notes in my cookbooks. Someday I will pass these books on to my children and I hope they will enjoy reading my notes and remember how much joy I found in cooking and baking for them and for others.

So, if you're recipes are in a jumbled mess, like mine were a few years ago....I challenge you to buy some 3-ring binders and get busy organizing. Buy a package of tabbed dividers and label them however will work best for your collection. If you don't have room to keep all of your cooking magazines (and I don't keep all of mine), go through the magazines and tear out only the recipes you would like to make one day. Add those recipes to your binder and throw the rest away. De-clutter. Keep a "favorites" binder so that you can easily find that trusted recipe you want to make again.
I hope this has been helpful.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Few More Favorite Things

Happy Monday and Happy Spring Break!
Today is the first day of my son's spring break, and we've been having a good time. We started off by sleeping in a bit, pancakes for breakfast, Star Wars Angry Birds on the iPad, coloring on a huge piece of butcher paper, backyard fun, lunch, chocolate chip cookies, bath-time, and now nap-time! Whew! I thought I'd use this little break and write about a few of my favorite things.
As I mentioned in my last post, chocolate and butter make the top of my list, so it seems only right that I share with you my very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and a few of the supplies I love to use when baking cookies.
1. I LOVE having large cookie sheets to bake on. I have 4 of these baking sheets and I bought them at Sam's Club. They are perfect for cookies and can also be used for sheet cakes because they have a 1 inch lip all the way around.

2. Parchment Paper is a must-have in my kitchen! Have you tried it? There are a couple of different brands available here and I like them equally. Parchment paper helps cookies to brown evenly, but what I love most about it is that it keeps me from having to clean my cookie sheets!

3. Cookie scoops are my BFF. I use both of the scoops shown in the picture below on a frequent basis. The larger is perfect for big, fat chocolate chip cookies. The smaller is just right for, well, smaller cookies. Rocket science, right? Anyway, these scoops are from Pampered Chef, and they are great. Scooping your cookie dough helps the cookies to be uniform in size and to bake evenly.

4. I really like having a cooling rack for my cookies and cakes. This cooling rack, also from Pampered Chef, is a great kitchen tool. After allowing the cookies to set for a minute or two, I remove them to the cooling rack, then I'm ready to scoop more dough onto my parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

And, last but certainly not least, is my very favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!!!
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla (I used homemade vanilla extract, another one of my favorite things!)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup 60 % dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a metal mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together both sugars and melted butter. Add the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk and beat to combine. Mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. Add in the chocolate chips until just combined. Using your cookie scoop, drop even scoops of dough onto your cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. When I use my larger scoop, it takes every bit of 15 minutes for my cookies to bake. Remove from oven and let cookies set for 1 minute, then remove to a cooling rack. Eat and Enjoy!