Just a Minute... In April

J
ust a simple reflection on April, I'm joining in with Just A Minute over at August Street.


Reading... lots of magazines, as I play catch-up... and Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks, sent to me by my dear friend, Tamy

Making... handmade pay it forward packages, yes, still. I'm about halfway done.

Watching... green bits peeking up in my flower beds, the allium are always the first to start stretching their green stems towards the sky.

Photo from Wikimedia

Listening... to birds chirping in the mornings, they are finally back for the summer.

Loving... that the sun is still shining when I leave work! and, running around town without a jacket (yes, maybe it's still a little too chilly to be doing that, yes, I do it anyway!)

Dreaming... of paint colors since we're painting the exterior of our house this summer! Yay!!! Not terribly fond of the color it is now.


Planning... a trip to Minneapolis to see Kiy, a camping trip for the second weekend in May and recipes with Becca and Jen for our first Kitchen Comforts dinner on Saturday night.

Marshmallows - First Time Camping photo by Barca

Baking... Bagels, it was an early morning and I just couldn't sleep anymore. I was having a craving for a fresh bagels. I kept it simple, a basic water bagel. So, perfectly soft, chewy and crisp all at the same time, smeared with a bit of my favorite vegetable cream cheese. I could close my eyes and imagine I was in New York for about 5 minutes.

Bagels - Out of Oven

Eating... lots of soups this month for some reason. That's usually a fall/winter thing for me. It's crisp and cool in the air, and I've had leftover ham to go through from Easter. So, last week I made a ham and bean soup, and last night I made a ham and potato soup, recipe will be posted next week on Kitchen Comforts.

Ham and Bean Soup - Close Up

Want to join in? Visit Jenaveve over at August Street

Raspberry Cordial : Childhood Book Recipes

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend baking and cooking. Never had any intention to do so, it just sort of happened. I had lemons and blueberries that needed to be used up, I woke up at 3:30 am Saturday morning and could not fall asleep again, despite my valiant efforts to sleep in, so I made bagels. However, the inspiration for this mornings quote came in the form of a sweet nectar that I finally got up the courage to make.

Raspberry Cordial

I've long been a fan of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. The writing in the books makes you feel as if you were there experiencing Prince Edward Island with Anne: the sights, smells, sounds and tastes. How could you not feel for her when for a time she loses her "bosom friend" Diana because she served Marilla's famous Current Wine instead of the Raspberry Cordial as was intended? Marilla's Raspberry Cordial and Current Wines have always fascinated me.

After thinking about it several times through the years, I actually remembered I wanted to try making Raspberry Cordial while I was at the grocery store and able to pick up what I would need. I stuck to a non-alcoholic version similar to what Anne and Diana would have had, assuming they grabbed the right bottle. I used a bit less sugar than what is called for by most recipes, but it was still plenty sweet. Oh and so delicious!

The books of Enid Blyton also hold countless treats I'd love to find recipes for sometime. Jane Brockett wrote a book of recipes for treats found in childhood books called Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, it's been on my wishlist for a while and sounds like it would be a treat to match the descriptions from stories with the treats themselves. What treats from books have always fascinated you? Anything I should try?

Raspberry Cordial
INGREDIENTS
36 oz frozen raspberries
8 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar

64 oz container
cheese cloth for straining

DIRECTIONS
Bring water, raspberries and lemon juice to boil in 6 qt stock pot.
Simmer for 45 minutes, reducing to between 4-6 cups of liquid.
Strain through cheese cloth, returning liquid to stock pot.
Puree raspberries left in the cheese cloth in a blender or mash with a wooden spoon to get most of the juice out, strain through cheese cloth, adding liquid to the pot. (Reserve berries for raspberry syrup!)
Add sugar to liquid in pot, simmering until dissolved.
Pour liquid into 64 oz container, add cold water until full, cap and shake to mix.
Keep in refrigerator.


Monday Musings {51} - Montgomery

Monday Musings Image with Lady

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
- Anne Shirley in "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery

Permanent Organizing Solutions

I
may not be the best person to write this post, because I don't have a single drawer that has fully transitioned to permanent organization solutions. If my make-shift solutions work, I don't change them. As much as I drool over gorgeously organized all matching solutions on HGTV or in magazines, I also think a lot of the items are ridiculously expensive and would rather spend my money traveling or just save it. However, if you do indeed implement a solution like cereal boxes, you will want something more permanent eventually.

I have quite a few white plastic trays by Rubbermaid that I've used in various kitchen drawers for years. I like them because it doesn't matter what size drawer they end up in I can make them work. That's not always the case if you go with an all in one tray type solution.

Your solution should be able to:
Change, grow and evolve as your needs do.
Be cleaned easily.
Work for you, it should make your life easier, not just add to existing clutter.

You can see one of the plastic modular trays that I use in this picture right at the end of the flatware tray:
Junk Drawer Organized

I use several of these trays in each drawer throughout my kitchen, bathroom and office. If you need a lot of small containers for things like safety pins, coins, buttons, erasers, matches, stamps, etc. consider tackle box organizers. I know it sounds strange, but I use a tackle box for my first aid kit, because I can have any configuration of tiny spots for band-aid's, gauze, tape, etc. The lids can be removed so it can sit open in a drawer, or you can leave the lids on, but it's an extra step to open them and annoying if you have to get into it quite often.

This tackle utility box is just $6 and you can see there are a lot of slots for dividers to slide into, so you can customize the fit your need quite easily. Don't limit yourself to a container/home goods type store when looking for permanent solutious, you'll usually find cheaper solutions at your local hardware and sporting goods stores.


If you are curious, our first aid kit is similar to this 4-drawer tackle box.

Read the whole series!
Monday: Using what you have to organize
Tuesday: My current areas organized this way
Wednesday: Pick a new area to organize - Drawers
Thursday: Laying it all out and putting it away


Organizing My Junk Drawer

Y
esterday I said I didn't think it was that bad, well it was worse than I thought!

A while back there was a project of sorts about truth in blogging started by Sweetney I believe. People were posting pictures of themselves first thing in the morning, just out of bed, before make up or showers or any primping at all. For a blog like mine, as we discuss and share homemaking and organizing and decorating this is my little bit of truth in blogging. I've never pretended to be perfect though. On my about page, I'm perfectly honest, "I'm not quite there, but I want to get there and I'll share the journey with you." So, here we go:

Before, after I lifted the top layer of papers, which consisted of recipes, so you could see the meat of it all:
Junk Drawer Before

Everything that did not belong and had to be put away elsewhere in the house:
Junk Drawer Put Away
That's a lot, I was surprised to see that much stuff was misplaced. Plus, I'll be needing those garden trimmers soon, so this was good timing.

A clean empty drawer, notice the bottom is lined with shelf liner. I do this so it's easy to wipe down and the drawer doesn't get ruined if a pen leaks or explodes. All of my drawers are lined with shelf liner or drawer liner. When clothes are involved it helps prevent snags, for those drawers I use lightly lavendar scented paper drawer liner. You can see that paper under the bits in my vanity drawer. I just adore it! I bought two boxes with a $50 gift certificate to Crabtree & Evelyn I had gotten for Christmas two years ago from my grandmother. After I cut the sheets to size I cut the remaining edges into squares and tucked them into purses and shoes and anywhere that could use a little touch of freshness.
Junk Drawer Empty

I mentioned having an extra flatware tray that I use for that drawer, but I wanted to share what I would do if I didn't have that tray. So, if I just wanted temporary containers while I was working out what I would need in the drawer long term, this is what I would do. The small glasses are a little bigger than shot glass size and one is cracked, so we don't usually use them as a set, so this is perfect. The long narrow boxes are cut from cereal boxes, two tops and two bottoms. You can't quite see it, but down the far right side I have a pair of scissors and a ruler, they don't fit in the box. So, for permanent solutions I know I would need at least one longer tray, or a bigger cereal box. I cut dividers for the small white tray in the lower left out of the same cereal boxes, to separate out the matches, stamps, lens wipes, gift cards and USB thumb drive. The coins are separated into four small black box tops. Eventually, a box outside of the junk drawer would be ideal for the batteries, or a set of rechargable batteries with a charger would be nice. The heart tin holds seed packets and cut flower food, this could obviously use a better solution.

Junk Drawer Organized With Temp Containers

Finally, this isn't what I would call permanent, since there are still areas that can improve, but this is with my flatware tray in place. You'll see it actually works quite well since there is one very long spot for my ruler and scissors. It's almost like I could have picked this out to replace the four box tops/bottoms with the additional long section need fulfilled. This is how it will stay for a little while at least.
Junk Drawer Organized

Ok, so if you organized anything, anything at all this week and want to share your before and after, link up! Please link directly to the post and not to your home page, so we can find the appropriate post easily:



Read the whole series!
Monday: Using what you have to organize
Tuesday: My current areas organized this way
Wednesday: Pick a new area to organize - Drawers
Friday: Transitioning to permanent organizing solutions


Organizing Your Drawers

A
lmost everyone has a "junk" drawer in their kitchen. So that's what I'll tackle today and tomorrow, the information applies to any type of drawer, whether it's full of clothes, kitchen gadgets or miscellaneous tidbits.

Photo from Woman's Day

Let's be realistic about this photo, do you think they found an organizer that happened to have all the perfect spots for their junk drawer? No, they found the perfect sized stuff for the container, that's why I wouldn't advocate rushing out and buying something like this.  Everyone's stuff is different, find out what you need first, then buy accordingly. 

Our junk drawers are not really full of junk, but all the miscellaneous bits and pieces that you are forever needing close at hand. Junk has such a negative connotation, surely there are better names for it. Regardless of what you call it, it seems to be the drawer that is least likely to stay organized. If you are like me, you are in and out of it at least 5 times a day, now multiply that by the number of people in your family (tots and babies excluded of course). The drawer gets a lot of use and things are constantly going in and coming out. The only way to keep it neat is to have a place for everything, otherwise everything just gets dropped in and you are forever searching for tidbits. Have you ever heard yourself saying to a family member: "I know it's in there, look harder."

I had an e-mail regarding my vanity drawer asking me if it really looks like that or did I straighten it for the photo. I didn't straighten it, it really does always look like that. However, my junk drawer while mostly organized would definitely need a straightening for a photo, the last straightening was done about 2 years ago. I actually don't think it's that bad for 2 years.

Organizing a Drawer

  1. Determine what's currently in the drawer and what needs to be in the drawer that might be elsewhere currently.
  2. Gather all the items together and sort and purge, ask yourself:
    • In some cases, what is it?
    • Do I really use or need it?
    • Is there a better place in the house for it?
  3. Separate them out to determine what your storage containers need to look like: how many and what sizes
  4. Gather up storage containers that you can use, remember I'm not advocating buying anything yet!
  5. Sort items into their containers and arrange the containers in the drawer
  6. Live with it for a while, rearrange and adjust as you add additional items or move things to other homes. This isn't possible if you run out and buy a drawer organizer right away.
  7. Consider transitioning to a permanent solution

My Junk Drawer

A few "office supplies": pens, pencils, scissors, tape, post-it's, markers, paper clips, rubber bands, etc
A few band-aid's (we have a separate first aid kit)
Matches and a long lighter for the grill
Batteries
Bag Clips
Gift Cards
Coins
Miscellaneous screws and furniture parts
Miscellaneous receipts and papers
Phone book
Coupon book

Given what I have above I need a lot of small boxes, a couple long narrow boxes and a big empty space for the phone book, papers (if they even need to stay) and coupon book. I currently use an old flatware tray in that drawer, the previous owners left theirs so I moved it over there. But I'll try to organize it with other things from around the house, the way I would if I was starting from scratch.

If you want to organize your junk drawer with me, take about 5 minutes today and gather the things that belong in your junk drawer that aren't there currently. Also, measure the depth, width and length of your drawer tonight, so you'll can find or make containers that fit your drawer. I'll include a Mr. Linky tomorrow so we can share our before and after's.

I'd like to know what else you store in your junk drawer, so tomorrow when I lay it all out and put it away, I'll be sure to have a better representation of what most families would have. Especially speak up if you have small kids, I'm sure I'm missing the little things that would come with having kids in the house 24/7.

Read the whole series!
Monday: Using what you have to organize
Tuesday: My current areas organized this way
Thursday: Laying it all out and putting it away
Friday: Transitioning to permanent organizing solutions


Using What I Have to Organize

H
ere are a few scenarios to illustrate what I mean about using what I have:

The first is an example of my vanity drawers, I don't use a jewlery box, but I have a vanity with very shallow drawers for the top 4, which works will for jewelry, safety pins, make up, and small hair accessories. To compartmentalize I use a variety of box tops and jewelry boxes, cut to size if needed. They work perfectly since lids are by default shallow. I've collected all of mine over the years, but if you let friends and family know you'd like them, I'm sure you'll have plenty in no time.

Vanity Drawer

Silver service holding my cotton balls and swabs, a bud vase holding my make-up brushes. Please excuse the white dishcloth background and reflection, silver catches everything and my bright pink shirt was terribly distracting, from both the front and mirror behind.

Silver and Brushes

The olive oil cruet I use for my dish soap on the counter, handy but not big and ugly.

Cruet - Dish Soap

A flowerpot holding decorative scissors in my office. (The scissors aren't decorative, the cuts they make are.)

Scissors

A corner of my desk, a stone kitchen shelf providing extra storage, a canning jar holding paint brushes in the far left corner, and copper flour and sugar containers holding pens, pencils and scrapbooking punches.
Containers

Just a small sampling of rooms in my home using what I have to organize the little bits that I need. We all have the little things that we need, but so easily get lost in a drawer amidst all the other little bits and pieces of life. Keeping them separated and having a spot for every little thing, even if it's just a little spot helps keep everything under control.

Have any suggestions for the spot to organize tomorrow? If not, I'm leaning towards the "junk drawer" that we all have in our kitchens. Mine could use a little reworking, but I'm open to other areas if anyone has any preferences.

Read the whole series!
Monday: Using what you have to organize
Wednesday: Pick a new area to organize - Drawers
Thursday: Laying it all out and putting it away
Friday: Transitioning to permanent organizing solutions



Using What You Have To Organize

W
hen I asked for suggestions as to what you'd like to see more of one of the requests was more organizing tips. At first I was a little reluctant to share what I do, because it's sort of a hodge-podge. However, with the economy being what it is, I'm hoping more of you are looking for solutions like mine. I don't go out and buy drawer dividers and organizers. I use what I have on hand. I do have a place for everything, everything isn't always in it's place, but it is most of the time.

While you are getting organized it doesn't make sense to go out and buy a bunch of organizing containers until you know what you have and everything has a home. Go the cheap route for a while using what's around your home until you have an idea of exactly what you have and what you need. In some cases, there is a lot to be said about having the right tool for the job, don't try replacing file folders with cardboard boxes. However, until you know how big a file drawer/box/cabinet you need, it is perfectly acceptable to store file folders in a cardboard box. Once you have all your files determined, then go looking for a file box/drawer/cabinet. Need help figuring out what to keep? Check out Managing Paperwork.

Before buying a compartmentalized container for catching clutter in your hot spots, put a basket, bowl, plate, tray or anything else you have on hand there first to start catching clutter. You want a good idea of what you are "catching" first. It doesn't make sense to get a small bowl for keys and change if most of what ends up in your container is mail and paperwork.

Likewise, it's pointless to buy a cd holder that fits 200 cd's if, after decluttering the house, pulling everything together and organizing it, you find you have 300 cd's. And, vice versa, it would pointless to buy the 500 cd holder to find you are only planning on keeping 150 cd's. Actually, forget cd holders altogether, rip your cd's to a computer, and box up the cd's and store them out of the way, under a bed for instance. (Legal disclaimer: you have to keep them if you are keeping the music. If you sell the cd you should delete the music from your hard drive.)

I hope those examples have convinced you to shop around your house for storage first, at least until you have a good idea of what you need to store. Don't forget to ask yourself do I really need it? Why buy something to store something you don't need. Plus you might find you really like your homegrown storage choices.

Photo from Real Simple

Use What You Have Organization Ideas

1) Use cream and sugar pieces from a coffee service to house cotton balls and swabs in the bathroom, use a cup to hold make-up brushes
2) Use a flower vase or a canning jar for a pencil holder in an office
3) Use an olive oil cruet as a soap dispenser at the kitchen sink
4) Use baskets, trays, bowls, or platters to corral clutter in your clutter hot spots
5) Cut and cover larger cereal boxes to house magazine collections
6) Remove labels from jars and lids to create containers for buttons, ribbons, pastas, rices, beans, hair clips, coins, or homemade seasoning blends
7) Use an ice cube tray in a junk or desk drawer to hold paper clips, screws, batteries, safety pins, coins, matches, etc.
8) Use an empty candy box liner (the type with an indent for each candy) or an ice cube tray to organize your jewelry
9) Use the bottom of cereal boxes, cracker boxes, pudding boxes, pasta boxes, as shallow drawer dividers just measure the depth of your drawer and cut the bottom of the box an 1/8" shorter. If you don't like the look of the cardboard, you can line the insides of the boxes with drawer liner or scrapbook paper.
10) Cover shoeboxes with pretty paper and use them as photo boxes or to corral items in open viewable areas, like office shelving.

Read the whole series!
Tuesday: My current areas organized this way
Wednesday: Pick a new area to organize - Drawers
Thursday: Laying it all out and putting it away
Friday: Transitioning to permanent organizing solutions

What are your ideas? Leave additional suggestions in the comments.

Also, if you have a particular problem area you'd like me to cover on Wednesday, let me know.


Monday Musings {50} - Depp

Monday Musings Image with Lady

"They stick you with those names, those labels -- 'rebel' or whatever; whatever they like to use. Because they need a label; they need a name. They need something to put the price tag on the back of."
- Johnny Depp

Monday Musings {49} - Luther

Monday Musings Image with Quill and Ink

"Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
-Martin Luther

Happy Easter!

I
hope you all have a wonderful, lovely Easter! Take care!



Friday I'm in Love {18}

O
ne of my favorite things about blogging is the community it builds. I love getting surprise e-mails with a link and a note... "I saw this and thought of you" or "You'd love this" or "I saw this, and had to share it with you." I love these e-mails! First, I get to discover amazing tidbits because of them, and second, it makes me feel blessed to have made such wonderful friends because of my little blog.

My first two tidbits come from just such e-mails. Janet, an author and blogger, found my blog through a local Grand Forks blog, see... community! Anyway, after a bit of emailing she invited me to join the local homemaker's group here in town and we got together for coffee. So, I got to meet a whole group of wonderful women, had a wonderful evening and made a cute baby blanket, all because of a comment I left on a local blog. She sent me the links to first two Etsy sellers sure I would love them and I do, so I'm sharing.

The first is the shop of Jenny Lee Fowler, she creates custom silhouettes and the ones that Janet shared are done on leaves. They are so petite, meticulously crafted and oh, so cute!


An example of her traditional silhouettes, a listing for 2 custom silhouettes mounted separately or together, buyers choice. Listing

The second, The Daily Pincushion, is a shop of nothing but pincushions. Pincushions that make you want to take up sewing just to use them, they are so cute. I'm thinking they wouldn't HAVE to be pincushions would they? Little dolly ottoman, really light paperweight, toy cake?

I just love this soft blue one with yellow flowers. Listing

This one is my favorite though, a green background with pink flowers. Listing

The last shop I want to share, Monkey Always Look, is the featured shop of the day on Etsy. So you can read the interview as well as see her quirky creations. I just love the succulents in vintage china and other household items.

This is my favorite, a gorgeous toile espresso mug potted with living rocks. I love a little toile. Listing

This is the item that caught my eye when I first went to Etsy, the structural modern feeling Zebra plant contrasted with the traditional patina and curves of the silver creamer.  Just gorgeous. Listing

Oh, and you have to go read this post from Janet, sooooo funny. I'd have told you earlier, but well you might forget about the lovely shops she sent to me and get caught up in her archives. So, you've seen the shops, so what are you waiting for, go read that post... hilarious... really. Oh, and this one's cute too, so like me... oh, you're already gone. I should be less demanding maybe.

Fire Hall Theatre - Grand Forks

A
pril afternoons are sort of dreary days, grayish, cold, slushy and dirty. Not the sort of days for wandering around downtown or building snowmen outside, but the perfect sort of days to cozy up inside a small local theatre and be entertained for a while.


Photo from CulturePulse


We recently went to Fire Hall Theatre for the first time in February. I've often seen plays there that I'd like to see, but I usually forget to check on them until they've just finished. Once, I remembered on closing night and it was already sold out. So, when I was looking for something fun to do for the Sunday after Valentine's Day, I started at Culture Pulse and quickly decided we'd be going to Fire Hall Theatre. (There was a hockey game on the 14th, we couldn't miss that!)


Photo from CulturePulse

We went to see Lucky Stiff and it was hilarious, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It seats 100, so it's not a large venue, but I think the intimacy is part of what makes it so wonderful. I realize now I need to check more often to see what's there, because they just performed Alice In Wonderland for a few weeks, which I would have loved. The next production is called Same Time Next Year and it's now on my calendar for the end of April. Luckily, hubby loves plays and musicals as much as I do, so I can drag him to just about anything and he's willing.
Lucky Stiff photo by Reeves Media & Photography

The Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre (GGFCT) was established in 1947 and is one of the 10 oldest community theatre groups in the nation. Fire Hall Theatre used to be the #1 Fire Hall in downtown Grand Forks and was converted to a theatre in 1983 providing GGFCT with a permanent home. They perform in many venues across a 20 county region covering northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Paul J. Schwartz wrote a comprehensive history of the Fire Hall Theatre available on pdf. Being that I live here I found it to be a fascinating read, others may not think so.

Looking for something to do? If you don't have a community theatre group, many high schools, universities and colleges have recitals and programs open to the public. We went to see a friend's son perform opera at NDSU in Fargo last year which was an enjoyable weekend afternoon. In Grand Forks, I'm lucky because it seems like there is always something going on if you look around a bit. We have a few theatre options, Fire Hall Theatre, Chester Fritz, Empire Arts Center, Burtness Theatre, not too mention the countless high school theatre productions and the theatres in surrounding communities. For instance, I can't wait to go to Frostfire Theatre this summer for Fiddler on the Roof in Walhalla, ND.

Monday Musings {48} - Emerson

Monday Musings Image with Lady

"Truth is beautiful within and without, forevermore."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Giveaway Winner

T
he winner of the Home Comforts package giveaway is...


Photo from Amazon

I'll have a package full of goodies heading out as soon as I have an address.



Happy April Fool's Day!

I
t's the first day of April and we're still covered in snow... Mother Nature's idea of an April Fool's prank I assume.

I logged into my gmail this morning and saw a link to their new e-mail on autopilot... I thought the second example was hilarious. Let me know if you run across any cute pranks on other sites (include the url please, and nothing NSFW!)

I was curious as to why so many vintage April Fool's Day cards and postcards were simply people holding a fish, or better yet, just a fish. So, I did some digging. In France, the victim of an April Fool's prank was called Poisson d'Avril, or April's Fish. Still not sure why there is a peppermint in the flying fishies mouth, any ideas?  Besides masking a fishy smell, though maybe that's the "reason".


I hope you all have a lovely day and don't fall victim to too many pranks.

Oh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway, that's not a joke!