Friday, April 30, 2010

Gardening Binder

I have a hard time keeping the various rules of different plants straight. When do they grow? How much sun do they need? So I decided to cut the seed packages apart and create a binder with all of the different plants' information.

I have separate sections for vegetables and flowers. It's already been helpful in reminding me how frequently I should water each plant. It also helps me keep track of what is an annual and what's a perennial, so I'll know what to expect next year.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kids Springtime Lanterns

We decided our house needed a little extra punch of color for Spring, and hunted for a fun craft to incorporate into our cheerful mood. These paper lanterns fit perfectly into our decorative disposition!


  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • One plain piece of construction paper & then different colorful pieces

1.) Fold the paper in half, longways.

2.) Cut the paper into strips, being careful not to cut the paper all the way through. Look at those mad cutting skills!!

3.) Open folded paper. Cut long colorful strips of paper-enough to weave all the way across.

4.) Admire work. Have adult tell you how you are so stinkin' good at weaving! If you are four years old, ask adult what "weaving" means.

5.) Fold paper together, into lantern shape.
6.) Tape
7.) Add last long colorful piece to top to make a handle.

8.) Hang lanterns from kitchen table with friend bird--hatched from recycled CD's & lots of glue.

9.) Proudly gaze at your new additions, and then swiftly run outside to swing in the warm Spring breeze!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Upside Down Tomato Plants

I've been seeing a lot of tomato planters that hang the vines upside down recently. They make the whole process so simple because you don't have to worry about slugs and other such creatures destroying the fruit of your labor before you can get to it. Flannel Man and I got the version seen above, which allows you to plant and herb garden on the top portion of the planter.

After putting it together I added 4 tomato plants and top soil. The bottom section is filled with sand to give it a solid base. It's made of a similar material as a garbage can, which isn't pretty, but it is durable.

We put the planter just outside of our back door, by our porch. In the herb garden I planted cilantro, green onions, dill and thyme. Those are a few of the spices we use the most while cooking. I also planted an aloe plant in the center. I'm constantly burning myself on hot pans and oven racks and keeping an aloe plant nearby has become a necessity.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garbage Disposal + Plunger

Last night sometime before getting dinner started, and after lunch my kitchen's plumbing had a major meltdown. I'm pretty sure it was the carrot peelings that looked something like party streamers going down the drain that morning. The garbage disposal was spinning, but nothing was going down, including the water. After finding the reset button & fiddling with the special tool, I was sure that I was going to have make a call. But I had one last hope before shelling out $75 plus..........the Google search.

Which led me to this website. Seriously, there are a hundred testimonials of using a plunger to unclog the sink. These people don't lie. So, there's me going to town on my sink, plunging like a mad woman. And guess what. It worked like a charm! Therefore, today I am thankful for plungers and very heavy duty soap to clean up after said plunger! :)


Monday, April 26, 2010

The "Real" World

This topic has been stirring in my head for days. It has to do with the "whys" of parenting. I don't know how to properly write about this topic, because I have so many ideas and I'm not quite settled on my approach to tackling them all.

I want to give you some insight into what has been streaming on the channels of my mind....Beginning with their amount of choices.

They have quite a bit of stuff. More than I do. More than my husband. How do a four and two year old have so many belongings? Some I have bought, some were presents. Why? I bought them toys, because I wanted to be a good mom. Says who? People around me and the tv image, says that if I love my kids I will buy them things to illustrate that physically. Do they play with them all? No, they certainly do not play with them all. Not even half. Do they take care of them? No, I do. I tell them to pick them up and I have to constantly monitor their clean up. Do I like having extra work? Ummm, not a chance.

In summary I now know that I have things in my house that I don't love, things that aren't being taken care of, and that are causing me extra work. Now that I have come to the conclusion that I do not need/want/love these things in my house what to do?

Get rid of them. This thought absolutely blew me away. I argued with myself. You spent money on these toys, what will the kids say, and what will they do all day?

I laugh now at these statements, because they are born out of ignorance. Just because I once spent money on something doesn't mean it will always align with my views in the future. The kids don't really care (older kids might have), because anything he/she truly loves will be kept. Plus, they have the best toy with them always, their imagination. What will they do all day? Well, since they didn't really "play" with their toys to begin with this is a non-issue. But for the sake of argument (with myself) I have a completely different strategy to help them through their days. Things that will help them grow, not only as a person, but create character.... or maybe just let them be bored and see what happens.

I have been reading the blog, The Lazy Organizer, and she has pointed to some fantastic resources and ideas that she is implementing with her own children. One of the resources is a speech given on the topic of raising children for their heavenly home. I LOVE this speech. It is wonderful and gives me such motivation. No matter what is said around me I know that this is the right path for our family. Why? Because I feel at peace with simplicity, education, religion, and true culture. I want to learn how to be different. The world has forgotten about classical music, art, nature, and reading. The few things that have had an impact on countless men and women over the ages (and are mostly free). I want to rediscover the magic of those things in our home.

As I take my son to preschool, all I see in every hallway are licenced characters smiling or glaring (if you are a super hero) from backpacks. I would say that 90% of the children there are endorsing some kind of character from their book bags, which do not even hold books yet!! Children, as a consumer, are a huge market now. This website shines the light on the subject. They report that children are easy to target because they are a captive audience most of the time, by watching an average of 25,000 to 40,000 commercials a year. Which then in turn equals about $130- 670 billion dollars in parental purchases which the children (12 and under) influence directly!

I, of which have been one of those parents influenced. Let me say that I don't think all Disney movies are bad, they just have their place and time. Just like all junk food isn't evil. It just needn't be around everyday. I want our home to be one of limited choices/moderation, with a focus on the "real". Real entertainment, cooking, chores/work, and relationships. I have a lot more research to do on this subject, and hope to learn as much as possible through books, blogs, but mostly by just experiencing it with them. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Clean out your closets

(Clothes on my bed, pre-elimination)

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" (and the fact that I couldn't even remember all of the clothes I own) this past weekend I decided I needed to clean out my closets. With the help of my fellow blogger I dove in and put almost everything I owned on my bed. From there we split things into categories and started eliminating.

Now I'd like to say, for the record, that I'm not a big shopper and 99% of what I own comes from the sale racks at Old Navy, Goodwill or Target. I tend to wear the same sort of clothing for years, jeans, cardigans, etc. But apparently, if you don't clean out your closets frequently, you end up with a LOT of stuff.

I would suggest that if you tackle your own closets you do it when you have enough time and when you have a friend you trust who can honestly tell you, "You never wear that and you won't miss it." We worked on mine for about 3 hours and then I finished up the next day.

(Not even half of the hangers)

Before putting anything back in the closet we compared each item to the other items in the category. Yes, I like that white button-up shirt, but I already have 2 others in the keep pile. This process continued with shirts, pants, PJs, dresses, shoes, etc. I also got rid of a ton of hangers.

The hardest items for me to part with were ones that I had purchased on trips. I had a hoodie from Scotland, a couple of shirts from Ireland and my favorite pair of jeans from London. All of these items ended up in the "get-rid-of" pile because they didn't fit, were stained or had holes.

(One side of my closet, post-elimination)

My cleaned out closet actually had enough room for me to see what I was looking for without having to move everything around. It's amazing how much stuff you accumulate over the years. It makes me feel both blessed and wasteful.

In the end I had SIX huge black garbage bags and two smaller garbage bags filled with clothes, shoes, purses and a few other odds and ends. I took one box of items (books, CDs and DVDs) to Half Priced Books and received $38.50 and I took a small bag to Plato's Closet and received $3.90. The rest went to Goodwill and hopefully someone else will enjoy the items.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Wants

I can't help but sometimes get the case of the "I Wants". What do you do when you have the urge to splurge?

Write it down. Get it out of your head and onto a paper. Let the stuff sit there in ink before it comes into your home.

    Then you can.....

  • Wait for Birthdays/Holidays

  • Find Alternatives

  • Let Wants go to Needs

  • See a Sale?

  • Seek out thrift shops/Goodwill

  • Ask Friends to Borrow Theirs

  • Decide you don't really need it after all

Some of these things will be sitting there for a very long time and I'm ok with that. As long as the decision to have these things have been thought out one way or the other it will ultimately help simplify life.

Do you have a grown up wish lists?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Top 10 Organizing Products for your Closet

In the Midwest right now not only are the seasons changing, but so are the clothes in peoples closets. I have tried to compile the best organizing products to make this years 'season swap' go easier.

The garment bag is a must have if you have a wedding dress or any kind of formal attire that would like to keep protected. Off season jackets and coats might be a good option for storage too. Moths, fabric yellowing, and wear and tear are some of the dangers that clothes face if not in some kind of covering.
Adjustable wooden drawer dividers are a wonderful way to make you feel like you have built-ins for your drawers. These have unlimited uses for t-shirts, pj's or shorts. The best thing about this product is that you don't have to fold things, and they are still contained & look organized!

Over the door hanging hooks are good for just about anything accessory wise such as hats, scarves, or extra clothes you just don't want to hang up at that moment.

These expandable drawer dividers are the best for your underwear/sock drawer. They take the searching out of putting away clothes and getting dressed in the mornings. Every item has a specific home and lets you get the most of every undergarment you own.

As far as shoe organizers I would recommend an over the door organizer. It keeps shoes off the floor, keeps pairs together, and makes it easy to see what you have.

Canvas bins with lids are my favorite. Most don't come with lids which I don't understand. But these will keep out the dust, let the items inside breathe, and don't contain plastic. It's a win win for everyone!

A stool close by, or in the closet is a must because it allows you to think "up" in your closet. Most people don't utilize the space between their shelves and ceiling, because the space is hard to reach. Having a stool makes the space easy to reach and easy to access.

At-A-Glance Closet Organizers are not essential at all, but for the person that has trouble setting boundaries for their clothing it is a nice tool.

I looked for these Closet Shelf Dividers at the local store and could not find them. So, I don't know about how well they work on your shelves, but I could imagine the possibilities for their uses. Not only for towels, sweaters, or other clothing, but maybe in your pantry to separate your can goods and such.

For kids closets this is amazing! Double Closet Rods allow them to not only to hang up their clothing, but get dressed without pulling a stool up to reach their clothing! This maximizes the ultimate amount of space up and down while keep the floor free!
Hope this gives you some ideas for making the best use of your space this season!

(All pictures are from

Friday, April 16, 2010

On the mend

Mending always sounded like such a menial task to me. It’s one that I associated with elderly ladies with nothing else to do. I also thought it would be hard. Instead, I’ve found that I’m perfectly capable of mending simple holes and replacing runaway buttons.

I’ve found that the most important thing is to have all of your tools in one location. I found this little sewing kit marked 75% off at a fabric store and snatched it up. For a couple bucks I now have a central location for all things sewing related. I can take a favorite pair of PJ pants, one of Flannel Man’s flannel shirts and one of my button-up work shirts (sans a button) and fix all of them while watching Cary Grant speed talk Rosalind Russell back into love in His Girl Friday.

In the matter of an hour or so I've given each of these items at least one more year of life. In doing so I've put off the need to buy more stuff.

P.S. Most of my thread came from a little box I bought at Goodwill. I found the wooden cigar box for a buck and then got it home and realized it was filled with a rainbow of thread spools!

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


"After enlightenment, the laundry."
- Zen Proverb

During the winter months I hung the laundry to dry in our tiny space upstairs above the washing machine. But now springtime has come and my shirts whispered to me, "Wiiiind" and my capris said, "Breezeee Pllleazzze". I wasn't going to listen to their fanciful wishes till I awoke to find crafty crowlike birds building their nests in the dryer vent outlet. Since the dryer is now completely out of the question I obliged my 100% cotton friends, promising to let them go outside. But where? I don't have any kind of drying contraption in my backyard. Not even a wooden portable type to carry out. Surveying my options I have a garden, a grill, and a swing set.

This is about the time when the crow flew over me and dropped a large twig on my head, causing me to suddenly have a laundry epiphany........Of course, I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner! The swing sets monkey bars are a perfect area to put hangers on to dry!

Now, what are the benefits of hanging clothes out to dry, instead of having a machine do the work for you?

  • Your clothes will smell fresh.
  • Saves your clothes. The dryer lint isn't hiding in your pockets... that is fabric coming off your clothes little by little. Sometimes I wonder how I have any clothing at all when I open up the dryer and see the layers of lint!
  • Dryer sheets will be a thing of the past. Clothes create static cling when tumbling around together in the machine. One less item to need from the store.
  • Hanging your clothes inside out on the line will prevent colored items from fading, but whites will actually become whiter from the sunshine.
  • You are saving money. You will skip using all that electricty from the dryer, and get some exercise in the process.
  • If you are wary of your clothes feeling like a paper dolls, just put them in the dryer for a quick fluff afterwards. Also, be sure to shake out your clothes before you hang them outside to get the wrinkles away. That will also make them dry faster.

So, I now have a useful space to let my clothes fulfill their drying dreams while giving my kids space to monkey around. The best of both worlds. Being green and saving money more times than not means thinking "outside" of what you don't have, and being creative about what you do.

I would love to know, do you ever take your clothes outside for a breath of fresh air? (And also how do you get rid of unwelcome birds in your home??)

What's Cooking: Ham and Asparagus Risotto

I've never attempted anything related to a risotto before, but when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

The preparation was easy, but the cooking took forever! You slowly add the broth to the pan a little at a time. Once I finally had all of the ingredient in the skillet, we still had to cook it for another half and hour or so.

In the end we ended up covering the pan and letting it sit for awhile. Flannel Man and I took turns stirring it to make sure it didn't burn, but rice takes so long to fully cook.

Final verdict: The recipe tasted great when it was done. We added a little hot sauce to kick up the heat level, but even without it the flavor was great. But it's definitely not a quick meal.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mission: Organize Your Beauty Routine

What does your beauty routine look like in the mornings? Is it a struggle to find just what you need that day? Or is your process streamlined? Here is a peek into my morning ritual.....

The first thing was truly parring down my makeup collection to the things that I use everyday. The rest was put into a box in the closet with the "night-time" makeup like fake eyelashes, eyeliner, and fancier eyeshadow. I was then able to choose a container to hold all my other products.
This bin is made out of the material of a tent. It easily wipes down if there is a mess and I don't have to worry about water spilling on it from the sink. Adding a white container that comes from a plain set at the store and an old makeup bag everything is contained. Lotion and makeup remover go into the black bag. Add a mirror to the bin and you have a portable beauty "shelf".

Everyday I take out the bin from underneath the sink and use it on the counter. I usually blow dry my hair right after I do my makeup. So for me it makes sense to just leave the hairdryer on top of the makeup container, thrown right in. Easy clean up and no extra storage needed!

For hair accessories I needed to find something that had lots of little storage areas. This one is perfect for under a sink or in a shelf. On top of this sits a simple wire raised shelf. This storage container hold my hair products and headbands.

Adding the ever useful 3M hooks to the side of the sink door makes use of wasted space by hanging hairbrushes!

And there it is. A way to keep your bathroom and self put together, and ready for the day ahead!

(Hot pink organizer optional :) )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Expiration Dates for Beauty Products

Real Simple recently gave a complete list of the expiration dates for beauty products here. I'm always suspicious of these lists. I wonder if that's really how long they last or if it's just a ploy to get consumers to buy more make-up. The fact that it was in Real Simple makes me trust it a bit more.

I think I have mascara tubes that date back to high school. In fact I'm pretty sure I have items that are past their alleged expiration date in almost all of these categories. How frequently do you all replace your make-up?

REAL SIMPLE's suggested expiration dates:

Anti-aging and acne treatments: Three months to a year. Antioxidants are easily oxidized, so be on the lookout for any changes in color.

Body lotion: Two to three years, particularly if it’s in a pump container.

Shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel: About three years.

Bath oil: One year.

Sunscreen: Check the package for an expiration date.

Mascara and liquid eyeliner: Three to four months. Make sure you’re diligent about replacing these items to prevent contamination and infections.

Eye and lip pencils: Three to five years. Sharpen them before each use as a way to preserve them and keep them clean.

Lipstick and lip gloss: Two to three years.

Foundation: About two years. Most bottles are designed to last that long. And if you don’t use it, chances are you didn’t love it to begin with.

Perfume: About two years. To get more mileage out of a perfume, resist the temptation to display a pretty bottle on your vanity. Instead, stash it away in a cool, dark place.

Nail polish: One year.

Hairstyling products: Three to five years. Most are alcohol-based, which helps preserve the formula.

Bar soap: Up to three years.

Shaving cream: About two years.

Deodorant: Up to two years.

Photo by moi.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tacos Made Easy

My most turned to dinner when there is nothing on the menu is tacos. I almost always have the fixings on hand and it is quick. Here are two different pictures of taco night at our house.
Repurposing a dinner party plate, the clean up is a breeze. Everything from the lettuce to salsa is easily served in a single chips and dip tray! Another plate for the soft tacos and your dinner is complete.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pottery Wheel

(Me working on the wheel)

Since the first time I wrapped my hands around a spinning lump of clay, I was in love. In high school I couldn't get enough wheel time in my pottery classes. I had to buy extra clay, in addition to what the school provided, because I went through it too quickly.

After high school I had a few opportunities to use pottery wheels. Occasionally I could buy an hour of time at an art studio, but I missed the continuous availability I had gotten used to in school. I'd always thought that one day I might be able to afford a little used wheel, but it seemed like a pipe dream.

(My wheel, stool, sponges and a bit of clay)

Then Flannel Man surprised me with my very own wheel for Christmas this year. To put it mildly, I was shocked. Now that we have a house and not a tiny apartment, I can use our garage to work in.

(The wheel and all it's pieces hidden in the garage on Christmas morning)

There's something so soothing about the moment when a wobbly mound of clay becomes centered on the wheel. It's like the whole world just clicks and everything is in synch. I've been having so much fun getting up to my elbows in clay. It's so relaxing and it reminded me how important it is to hang on to hobbies that you love. And even more importantly, to hang on to people who support you in doing the things that you love.

Photos by moi and Flannel Man

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Simplify for Spring

:: Refreshed. Rejuvenated. New Mindset. New Goals::

The New Year is an unofficial time that one organizes what new objects they have accumulated over the winter months. Just as Springtime is the unofficial time to get your home into a simpler mindset. Reducing pounds of clutter you might have added to the weight of your house over the colder months inside. You are starting anew this season. Cleaning the dust out, painting, and washing blankets or windows are some of the ways to help your home feel refreshed this season (of your life). But the real spring cleaning comes from the INSIDE, out into your home.

Clearing out clutter is a mentally challenging task. It is not easy in the least. How hard it is to get past the holding onto of material things! (Matt 6:19-21) The worst part for me is the I might need it someday syndrome. I see myself as a creative person and if I hold onto it long enough I feel that I usually do use it. But in the meantime I anguish over keeping that object. That stationary, nonliving/talking object affects my emotions!

( We unloaded 7 full bags to Goodwill yesterday)

Feng Shui is a Chinese practice that is rooted in energy. Believing that each home has positive and negative elements. That your environment should be in alignment with nature and the flow of energy. While I don't believe in the practice of feng shui I completely understand the philosophical principles that the idea is based. I firmly believe that every object(s) has an emotion that it produces in your body. So, instead of saying something is filled with positive and negative energy you could simply say "emotions".

For example, you have a messy pantry. Things are in disarray because you have no idea what the space holds, dust has collected, and you have plastic bags thrown in from previous shopping trips. You cringe or hold your breath just opening the door dreading to venture in. But that icky feeling doesn't just stop when you have the door closed. But because your pantry is also located next to the door you leave by each day, you are walking passed it multiple times. So now, even when you aren't opening the door you feel the "energy" or emotion drained out of you. Your brain is thinking things like " I'm a failure because it's so cluttered", embarrassed that someone else might see it, or stressed because it is one more thing on your never ending list. Even if you don't think these things specifically, your body feels them.

This is the idea of emotions and clutter playing a part in your everyday life.

So, my project around the house for the last few days was to....
  • TOUCH. Seriously, go around and clean every object. Touch it. Fondle it! :)
  • You could ask yourself the basic organizing questions of ..
  • Do I use this?
  • Do I love it?
  • Why am I keep it?
  • But the issue of the heart is ....
  • Does it fall in line or aid in my current GOALS?
  • And what EMOTION does it produce in me?
  • Giving myself permission to declutter- Nothing is off-limits

My current vision or goal for my home is for there to be less plastic and fluff, and more bringing nature inside. I want more flowers, natural fabrics, and wooden toys in our spaces. Quality not quantity, to stop holding on to something just to have it for some day, and becoming truly content with what God has entrusted me. Less is definitely going to be the new more in our home! :) So with this outlook I can now go throughout my home and see what does and doesn't align with my spring decluttering.

Now that you have set goals for yourself on the inside, your home will become a reflection of your priorities this Spring.

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness. "

Henry David Thoreau