Tuesday, May 15, 2018

How to quickly update your spice drawer space

Tools of the trade.  Every job has some, and as a mama, I consider my kitchen to be my professional tool box.  I like to keep things streamlined, in working order, minimal yet highly functional.  I toss out cookbooks I no longer use, I donate gadgets that take up space and can be done the old fashioned way with a good knife (looking at you garlic press) and like to make life as easy as possible by buying pre-made, short-cut helping items for maximum efficiency, and I keep it tidy.  ALWAYS. 

The other day I was cooking, and I opened my spice drawer.  It was mostly fine... but it had also gotten un-alphabetized (I blame my family who love to do this to me as a regular prank) and a bit messy.  There were old spices that needed to be tossed out or replaced and it occurred to me that with a few moments of organizing I could really make this shine.  A quick search on Amazon and I had an inexpensive set of squared off spice jars that all matched, complete with chalk labels and a funnel... plus a white paint pen.  (I wanted the squared off ones to keep them in place!) (Here is your shopping link.) 

In about fifteen minutes, I had the entire drawer emptied, spices decanted, labelled and lined up, ready to go back in.  What I loved about this project, is that it's an instant transformation.  I don't like things that take all day and this one is a quick project.

 Here is the before...
 And the after. (I even made space for some seldom used items in a small container!)
I love that a white sharpie, paint pen (not chalk pen) doesn't easily wipe off but with some soapy water and scrubbing, it can be changed if need be.  I love the cohesiveness and do think that we all work better when our supplies are tidy and organized.  How do you store your spices?

I find myself buying only what we need, rather than huge containers at bargain stores, so that it stays fresh!  It's awfully easy to accumulate and buy big, but often that creates waste. This project really made me think about what spices I actually use on a regular basis and I was surprised by how many I never use.  I do keep a little herb garden right off the kitchen so I veer toward fresh whenever I am able.  I am hoping this post encourages you to think about how your function and figure out the best ways to make the most of your time, by making your kitchen efficient.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Tips for creating a great cheese tray

 We are freshly back from a sweet week in San Francisco.  We had a lovely time as a family and even better, it was a reward trip for my husband, for his work achievements last year.  It was a delight to celebrate him and get to bring the kiddos along too! (I shared a bunch of photos on Instagram @lemonademakinmama if you click on my San Francisco stories tab!)  Once we returned late Thursday night, I knew I'd be hitting the grocery store first thing on Friday, as we had nothing in the house to eat.  I was playing catch up all day Friday and by dinner time, I still didn't have a plan.

Not to worry, this simple cheese tray is almost always our answer when there isn't anything in the oven!  With two of us being gluten free, eating at home is normally our go-to but it's got to be quick! What our family likes about this, is that 1) it's super fast to put together.  The longest prep work is slicing things and start to finish, this took me about fifteen minutes while sweet Ava chatted me up on the other side of the island, occasionally stealing a bite or two...  2) We like that it's actually very filling and low carb (unless you're like my kids who add heaps of crackers to their plates. Not pictured. Ha!) 3) It is so pretty that it makes even an ordinary evening feel like a party. 4) We generally have plenty of cheeses on hand, as well as nuts, meats and other nibbles to pull out and throw together.
 I was fairly tired and yet this gave me such a boost, from it's pretty presentation to easy preparation, that I thought I'd share the little tips and tricks I use each time I create one of these (which is very often in our household.)

 My "family tip" for this... cut your meats small, then roll or bunch them to make them stretch.  I tend to purchase a variety pack from Trader Joe's or have a salami on hand.  Slice thinly, quarter cuts, and such.  It really does make a difference in the budget!

When preparing this, I begin with meats and then add cubes of various cheeses.  I used Cotswold, smoked gouda, some Stilton and a truffle brie (all from Trader Joe's.) I normally use about half a wedge of cheese, and store the rest for another time. I then begin to fill in the remaining areas with nuts, veggies, olives or tapenade, and fruits.  I use whatever we have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and so each one we serve is different.  Sometimes I add jams if we're serving brie, or dried fruits rather than fresh.  I pull out small bowls and use those for tiny items like blueberries and the yummy thai spiced cashews (Trader Joe's). (Keeping a variety of small serving bowls on hand is really helpful and though they are all different, they look great when pulled together, because they are the same color.)

I also like to use things in different ways when serving tableside.  In the photo above, you can see that I'm using a favorite candle holder, for wood picks.  It's both pretty and functional.  Of course I always add at least one candle for some twinkle too... (below.)

 I've noticed that if I keep all my cloth napkins washed, pressed if needed and folded, ready to go... we use them a lot more.  Being organized and prepared makes for simple (and stress-less) hosting.  I'm also a big supporter of the white dishes campaign. They work for everyday to fancy occasions, and everything in between.
 I like to slice some radish, endive and leave a few leafy stems for pretty presentation.
 I love this tip.  Quickly peel or wash a label off before opening a jar, if you plan on using the ingredient directly from the jar.  It is much prettier.

I went a bit crazy with the soft evening light and the happy colors of our food and took way too many pics.  We sat down and enjoyed it thoroughly and it was gone all too quickly.  Then it was back to real life, as vacation time came to a close! 

So tell me, have you got any tips to add to this in comments? (Please say yes!  What helps you prepare and serve something quickly when you're tired?) (I'm just cheating and trying to come up with more ideas for the week ahead. Ha!)


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A pretty artwork DIY for around ten dollars

It all started a few weeks ago, while wandering my favorite antique shop.  They had a huge basket with rolled up poster prints and I spied the dandelion one.  Dandelions will always make me think of my mama.  She LOVES them.  (And yes, this could be, because we used to pick all the dandelions from the yard and proudly bring them inside as though they were the best roses and she was a queen.) She always put them into pretty vases and thanked us profusely.  Now, my brother and I are adults and she still professes a love for these cheery golden weed/flowers.  Regardless, I loved this print and it kind of gave me heart flutters.  I especially loved the price, at five dollars.  I went back a couple of weeks later after thinking about where I might like to hang it and claimed my copy.

But then how to frame it... it was a bit of an odd size so I decided to use wood slats and twine.  Then it occurred to me that you might like to do this in your home as well, being such an inexpensive artwork idea so I thought I'd share the basics of how to do this with you today...

 Firstly, ignore my terrible looking hot glue gun.  It's old and tired.  Like me, on a Monday before coffee. (grin.)

You'll want a couple of eye hooks like I have in my hand, some wooden slats that are just a tad bit wider than your print, (I found mine at JoAnns for just a few dollars a piece), a hot glue gun and some twine to hang it. If you have things like twine or eye hooks on hand, it's an even less expensive project! Overall, this is a very simple project and I didn't snap a during photo because... hot glue gun... many burns and concentration.  (I'm a bad blogger, what can I say.) (ha!) 

What you'll basically be doing, is sandwiching the top and bottom edges of your poster, between the wood pieces, using a thin layer of hot glue.  Then you'll be screwing the eye hooks in and...hang and done. I found that starting with the bottom piece of wood when gluing, and then lining the top piece of wood over that makes it tidy and even.  Just work from the middle out, on either side and keep it level. (Which is much easier to do when you place a dot of glue in the center and start from that point.)

(Tip. I often press the wood around/over the places I want the hooks to go in, before gluing, to make a bit of an impression of where I will want them to go later.  Once glued to the poster, there is a small space in each slat of wood, where the hooks can easily then screw in.)

(If using eyehooks is too much, you can also just tie the twine around the ends and hang that way, totally skipping the hooks.  If you go with that look, you can skip another step and glue the wood slat to the front only, rather than front and back.  So simple!)
 You can see that it splits it just a bit, if you don't use a lot of glue, so more glue may be needed in these spots if the gap is too large.  (This was fine for my project.)
 Once hung, it makes a really fun and inexpensive art that can be changed out easily.

 The nice thing about this project, is that it can be done with any poster type prints.  You can also hang the wood slats only from the top if you prefer the way that looks. (Mine was rolled and needed some weight at the bottom so I did both the top and bottom.) 

Can you think of any rooms or spaces in your home, where a project like this might be a welcome addition?  Isn't it fun updating your home on a dime? 


Monday, April 23, 2018

Creating a pretty & functional entryway

Happy Monday dear ones.  I do believe that painting my laundry room linoleum was a catalyst project for many others.  That happens, with happy projects though, doesn't it?  (If you missed the laundry room post, do pop over and check it out, here.)

Today, I am sharing what I've recently done to streamline and pretty-up our entry space, while keeping it functional.  I think we can probably all agree, that shoes and shoe storage are such common issues for each of us.  I know in our home, we have four adult-sized people and we all have many pairs of shoes to manage.  As a mom, I've tried really hard, even from babyhood, to keep kid shoes at minimum!  (That is more than half the battle.) I can remember pouring over websites when they were in elementary school, hunting for ONE pair of shoes that would work for my children for nearly any event and buying them each a pair.  Not only did that save us money, it made my life so much easier. I mean yes, there was the occasional, "I can't find my shoes MOM!!" moment. But that happens with ten pairs of shoes too, ya know? (Dare I say, happens more often?) (Somehow they were always located... and it was rare, because the shoes always had a designated place and there was only the one pair to manage, after all.)

Anyway, moving on to adult sized kids... The laundry room had become a dumping ground as of late.  Once painted, I refused to let them use it for shoe storage and pushed everyone back to using the hallway system. As an organized person, I'm working to teach my kids that if they have more than two pairs of shoes here, it's probably time for a quick trip to closets with the extras anyway. This habit will help them manage their own households one day, which is really the entire point. I find that if I give them extra space for more shoes, they take it, so logically, giving them less space means less shoes.  Guess what? This actually works, with only a tiny bit of gentle re-training on the subject.  Once I reminded them that the Ikea shoe storage cubby was where our shoes were going from now on, I noticed that shoes started being stored back in there, and extras were getting put away.  Yipee!

Most organization comes from Mama training and saying, "Oh, could you do this instead please?" anyway, right alongside keeping "things" at a manageable amount. It's up to use to lead the charge and keep home a haven.

 One thing my boys were doing that was driving me a bit bonkers, was bringing shoes into the kitchen to put on so they could sit down.  Sometimes a certain teen boy who runs... was also bringing in mud chunks and track turf so I evaluated the entry way and decided it needed some tweaking.  I ran out and hunted for an inexpensive thrifted chair and brought home this beauty, above.  (You can see the before at the bottom of this post... I painted it with leftover dark gray chalk paint from the laundry floor project.)  It has been such a huge hit, that I'm not sure why didn't add a place for them to sit years ago.

No matter how much space you do or don't have for a designated entry space, you can almost always add tiny seating, a few hooks on the wall, and a storage basket someplace for odds and ends.  Add some cheery artwork or framed photos and you've got a welcoming space.  It doesn't have to be expensive or massive in size. It certainly isn't about that... it's about determining your family's needs and solving those problems.  For us, installing a long runner-type rug was key.  It's pattern is forgiving, easily vacuumed an really delineates this space for guests and such.  (It was also a long-ago Ikea purchase.)
 I also added a tray that is a perfect spot for a pair of sunnies now that the garden is calling. (Because pretty is important too.)
This overhead cubby system was a great purchase several years ago and the slide-out baskets work well for the hidden storage of small cluttery-type things like hats, sunscreen, gloves and such.  I use a chalk label tag (I believe I found a pack of three at Michaels, years ago) and tied them on with string. They are easy to quickly change for seasons.

*This cubby system was purchased years ago on Amazon, here. 
*The baskets were purchased at Marshall's. (If you do this, make sure and jot down the cubby dimensions before you head out.)
These Ikea shoe drawers tip out and believe it or not, they hold two pairs of men's size 12-13 shoes! Since I have two of those men-sized shoe wearers in this house, it was a great find.

This is the Hemnes shoe cabinet, (found here) and I switched out the knobs for something rather pretty, below. (I believe we found them at Marshall's and that's a great spot to find affordable knob packs!)

Here is the thrifted chair, before... I painted it using my leftover, Valspar chalky finish paint in "Opera gown" and really loved how the feminine lines of the chair paired with the masculine color of the paint.  At first I tried white and it was just too "sweet."

Now our entry way is the whole package... a pretty and functional spot for all.  Especially the boys.  And mama's happy because it's tidy and streamlined... you know what they say. If mama's happy..... (wink... true!) Do you have a great entry way that functions well for your family or is yours in need of a few tweaks?  What have you found to work the best for your family's needs?  I'd love to  hear from you in comments.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Current color palette

 Hello dear ones.  Another quick mini-post to wind down the week! (I'm kind of digging these when I haven't got much to say but want to say hello!)  I realized that it's been a while since I walked through and snapped some recent home pics so I thought I'd do that...  then once I had uploaded them I realized that I'm surrounded by the same colors. Gray, blue, green and white... plus lots of pretty wood tones and both faux and real plant life.  (I'll probably kill all the live ones which is why I'm intermixing some faux!)

I'm just showcasing some sweet spots and little tweaks I'm loving, in case you needed any spring inspiration for creating a soothing color palette within your home.  Our small space is fairly open concept, and a designer once advised me to keep the colors all fairly similar with nothing too jarring.  I've followed that advice for years and the result has always been quite pleasing.

Above, I just added some sweet tweaks in the laundry room today...  I tossed a couple fiddle leaf fig faux branches into an old bucket I had in the garage, added a cute bowl with clothes pins and some detergent in a canister. After painting the floor, I keep this room open all the time, and I love seeing the cute transformation in here. (If you missed the floor post, do check it out, here.)

 In the windowsill I created a tiny herb garden.  (My goal... use these herbs at least twice in cooking, before they either die, or I replant them outside. Ha!)
 I am pretty proud that I grew a tiny, baby plant from the big giant one I have somehow been keeping alive.  All I did was clip some foliage and left it in a vase with water until they sprouted little roots... then I potted them!
 More blues and grays...

I recently simplified this space and I love the gray, white and blue here.  I also like having blank cubbies.  (We keep all of our home movies and wii games in those binders.  Makes for a lovely, soothing organized resource.)
 I'm aiming for another baby plant from these clippings.  Pretty soon I'll be giving one away to all of my friends!  (Actually that's a great idea.)
 Another faux plant sprig, "potted" in some rocks I had in the garage.  It's a lovely- no-kill option for the poor lighting in this office space.

Well as you can see, I really do love this color palette.  What colors speak to you?  I think once you know, you can build your home d├ęcor around them and create a restful haven for yourself and your loved ones, quite easily.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Continued... more to say on wardrobe matters...

I got asked a great question on my previous post, and thought it would be a lovely mini post topic, while we're on the subject of downsizing wardrobes.  The question, was asked by Shannon.  She writes, "What do you clean house/work in the year/do projects in? All I can imagine is a 50's housewife out in her peddle pushers & pearls but know that's not really the case. I feel like I can manage a smaller "nice" wardrobe but the bulk of my SAHM day demands things less...structured for lack of a better word....how have you approached this?" 

When it comes to household duties, I definitely have some thoughts.  Firstly, after reading the Madame Chic books, my attitudes about how I presented myself to... even just my own self...  significantly changed.  I won't get into what all the author shares, as you can read them yourself, but I definitely had to stop and consider why I dressed well sometimes, as opposed to why I might have chosen to stay in somewhat sloppy items for some of those stay at home mom days.  It honestly changed my mindset. I try to look polished now, no matter the occasion. Polished for me, might vary from a polished look on another and that's why her books were so helpful. (You can check out her books and then decide for yourself how you feel about the way you dress when you're not going to see another soul all day, but I would bet you might think differently when you read some of her insights.) 

1) My children are older now, but I do think I would have changed a LOT of my wardrobe choices and routine, when they were smaller, had I know then, what I know now. I wouldn't have allowed myself those yoga pants days (months... years) and I would have pulled myself together at least enough to assemble a set of two or three nice, flattering, easy-care tops with a streamlined looking pair or two, of dark wash jeans and worn them in rotation all week long.  That would have worked just as well as the yoga pants with the holes but I certainly would have felt much better about greeting the delivery man at the front door or those friends who unexpectedly dropped in.  Know what I mean?  I had a ton of clothes back then because I was saving them for a special occasion or keeping them for "just in case." (Again, the books hit on this really well. You're a special enough occasion to dress well and reap the feel-good benefits from that all day.)

2) Practically speaking, if I know it's going to be a day of doing chores that will include things like heavy cleaners, I often opt to add that in to my morning workout routine, and wear those clothes until the chores are finished.  I get that done, and then get myself ready for the day. (I do keep an old pair of jeans and a tee that I can get paint on if need-be, but they don't get worn for anything else.) But regular daily chores such as kitchen counter wiping, floor sweeping and laundry don't warrant a sloppy maid-outfit.  You can do those low key chores just as well in a casual dress or jeans and blouse that you've been wearing all day long. (Maybe...dare I say, better? Look good... feel good... feel good... work good.) 

3) One tip I loved from the Madame Chic books, was apron wearing.  I pretty much throw on an apron every evening when making dinner, so as to keep my tops as stain-free as possible. This works really well and I haven't had anything stained or ruined beyond repair at this point, over the past couple of years of doing this.

4) I do own about four really cute, polished looking athletic sweatshirts.  (See above, for me in a quick phone snap, wearing my very favorite one. I have two in this color family but this is my most non-polished one, being branded boldly with PUMA. I don't love that exactly, but I do love the color and fit.)  I don't include things like sweatshirts into my "ten-item" wardrobe because they are more or less just all year items that I keep in my workout drawer.  Mostly for working out, walks around the neighborhood or track meets. That said, I am VERY selective about my sweatshirts.  They must be always clean, good quality items and though I don't wear them daily, they are polished enough (no fading, rips, holes, stains or fraying) that I sometimes wear them out and about.  I have two with cute cowl necks and a fitted silhouette (LL Bean from years ago) and they look really cute with jeans and ballet flats. (Also, don't laugh at me, but I often also wear them with pearl or diamond stud earrings and I almost always wear a silk camisole under all my sweatshirts when wearing them for non-workout times, because it makes me feel good about myself to have that swishy fabric against my skin.  I guess the point is, even a casual look can be polished enough to make you feel pulled together.) (And P.S. If you have a stretched out, stained, ripped, threadbare, or bad looking sweatshirt that you'd never run errands in if you knew you'd see someone you knew... that's your cue to THROW.IT.OUT.) 

5) Lastly, remember your basics.  Black tees... gray tees... white tees.  Things like that are great to pull on when a nice blouse or top won't do.  They are year-round items every woman should stock up on and have on hand and so versatile.    

And also, totally unrelated... I decisively chopped my hair last week. I was losing quite a bit of hair and the ends were all whispy so I cut about four inches right off the bottom in a nice, blunt cut.  I am loving this length. It's so much easier to manage! Anyway...  I hope you enjoyed this very long post answer to one single question.  Happy wardrobe managing! And if you missed my previous post, on my spring wardrobe review, you can click here. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

My Spring ten item wardrobe review

Many of you may remember, that I got a hold of the Madame Chic books, by Jennifer L Scott a few years ago.  They changed my thinking, and thus my life and now it's all different and wonderful and I'm here to share my spring ten-item wardrobe today.  Now if you're just hearing about all this for the first time and going, "Wait... does this girl actually only have ten items of clothing?" You may want to  backtrack and read this post from last summer. 

I counted up my spring items and I've actually got right around ten core pieces, a couple of work-only dresses (so not sure they count) plus my basics, (think tanks, camisoles, tees) extras (think jackets, blazers, cardigans) and special occasion wear (black tie floor length dress, cocktail dress). (A couple of the items I'm sharing are possibly going away for various reasons (pants that keep falling down and a dress that stretches out with wear) but I'm including them here for now with an * at the end.) I've made a list below, so that you can see them all, laid out in black and white and I'll share sources where I am able. (I LOVE Ann Taylor. Quality, style, fit...  I think I could own one of everything if I wasn't a minimalist.)
1. Ruffled tank blouse (will be added to my summer wardrobe) -Ann Taylor
2. Striped flutter sleeve tee (will be added to my summer wardrobe) -Ann Taylor
3. White button down blouse - Amazon
4. Tie-front, stripe tunic -Ann Taylor (My current favorite with black leggings)
5. Easy stripe, button down oxford
6. & 7. Gray & fuchsia  blouses (several years old, bought at same time, same style)
8. Blush blouse- Consignment
+(Two jewel-toned, cardigan sweaters, for light, spring layering.  Part of my all-season supply of extras.)

9. Calvin Klein Skinnies
10. Olive Moto leggings * (keep falling down, looking for replacement.)
11. Black skinny pants

Everyday Dresses: 
Denim dress* (It seems to stretch with wear, so I'm debating on keeping it long term.)
Navy Travex, Dress -Eddie Bauer (I had a gray one that went up into the winter bin- LOVE this shirt dress! It's lightweight, travels beautifully and the sleeves roll so it's very versatile)
Printed cotton surplice dress -Boden (I adore this dress.  I've had it for a few years now, and it just works with everything.)

Work Attire:(Not shown as I seldom wear these, being borderline unemployed.)
Navy shirt dress- short sleeves.
Gray sleeveless belted sheath dress
Favorite Rothy's shoes... I've got the gray pointed toe and these rounded leopard flats.  I pair these shoes with just about every item in my closet. (And sweet bonus... you can get $20 off your next pair using this shopping link) (Or paste this into your browser); https://www.talkable.com/x/R29RMh

If you're considering downsizing a bulging closet... I can't encourage you enough to put the time in and GO FOR IT!!  Where I once had a closet bulging with clothing I didn't wear and an ongoing love for shopping that I wished I didn't seem to have, I now have only a few, favorite items to care for, choose from, and manage.  I love going into my closet and seeing only minimal items that fit, flatter and make me feel good to wear.  I don't have a ton of choices, so I was able to invest in a few quality items when I did make a purchase. It took a couple of years to get to this point, but everything is simpler with this clothing system in place.  I keep a fall/winter bin and a summer bin on my closet shelves when not in those seasons.  I am organized and streamlined which make my days better.  I don't purchase clothing at random anymore. Instead, I shop only if I need to replace, or fill any wardrobe gaps or holes if an item is soiled beyond repair or worn out.  I

love that! It changed my life, and that's the truth.