1.28.2010

Kitchen Re-organizing: Seeking Sanity Out of Chaos

I embarked on the hefty project the other day of purging and reorganizing our kitchen. Having lived in our home for almost nine years, our kitchen cabinets and drawers had accumulated quite a lot of, ahem, stuff.

Years ago when we moved in, I put a lot of thought of how we would use the kitchen and tried to organize the cabinets based on that. For example, pots and pans near the stove, glasses near the fridge, everyday plates near the dishwasher, etc. Over the years not only has our family changed (we now have a little person that is capable of helping with kitchen tasks), we got more, and more, ahem, stuff.

What spurred this recent overhaul? Well, I bought a new dutch oven (because apparently I must have everything Pioneer Woman uses in her kitchen) and it was left to sit on the stove top because there was no cabinet space.

My first tasks were finding empty boxes, buying big trash bags and taking every cotton pickin' thing out of the cabinets. Could someone please tell me why we had 600 plastic sport bottles, cups and old coffee mugs? Do you think I could jam one more spoon or spatula in the wire basket on the counter? Nope. Getting to the things you use most frequently should be easy, not a challenge--and certainly not life-threatening (or sanity straining).

Things that were too used or just plain junk went in the trash bags. Everything in fair condition went into boxes for Goodwill.

I kept telling myself that if I wasn't using it, then it was outta here. Why on earth was I hanging on to duplicate pots, pans, casserole dishes, plastic ware, serving bowls, and utensils I never used? Do you think I have enough plastic ware, huh, do ya? Mercy me! Oh, and yes, those are boom-zoom mugs from the Friends heyday, circa what, 1995?

Purging freed up SOOooo much useful space!! How tired was I of digging through a drawer to find a measuring spoon under miscellaneous tools? Very. Now I have one drawer devoted to baking tools,

and another one for measuring stuff.

Look how calmly the casserole dishes, plastic ware, an a few miscellaneous dishes are resting on their shelves. They have space, they can breathe, they won't fall on my foot every time I open the doors.

Mixing bowls, larger measuring cups, cutting boards, our toaster and crock pot are much happier now that other junk is no longer cramping their style. Serving bowls, a forgotten blender and a bundt cake pan are in the back since I don't use them very often.

Now that the duplicate pots and pans that I wasn't using are history, Baby Blue has a drawer all to herself.
I also filled the other drawers on the island (where our stove top is) with the pots I do use. Doing that freed up a shelf for a new purpose, which is one of my favorite changes...This roll-out shelf is right beside our dishwasher. I shamelessly copied The Nester's brilliant idea of moving her everyday dishes so they are more accessible to the littles. Our Fiestaware used to be crammed in a high cabinet that was too small for the sheer volume of Fiesta that we have. Annelise, Little Miss Independent, would climb up on the counter to get what she needed and I would always cringe because 1.)she was on the counter and b.) it was just asking for a dropped dish. Or child.
I told her I moved the dishes so she could reach them better and so she could help unload the dishwasher. She was thrilled! She's six, what can I say? I think I need to tweak the shelf a little because right now it's a bit too heavy for her to pull out by herself. Certainly don't want to impede child labor or anything.
Next, I cleaned out our junk drawer, which was, 99% home-grown, Grade J junk. Take-out menus, coupons, 500 to-go ketchup and sauce packets, packets of to-go silverware...oh, and my labeler. What a disgrace! Everything except the labeler, some markers and a couple of menus were tossed in the trash so that the junk drawer became this...

A place for foil, plastic wrap and baggies!! I have moaned for years about wanting a drawer for this stuff instead of it being stacked in our pantry, but I never did anything about it. I know. Doing this also freed up a much needed shelf in our pantry. Hooray!
I can't believe how happy those two drawers make me now. Do you think I need to get out more?
Oh, I almost forgot, another shelf area was cleared out for our new white dishes. This makes me giddy as well.
Four boxes were dropped off at Goodwill and two big bags went to the curb.

Just to let you know that perfection does not reign (ha!) in our home, the cabinet under the sink still needs attention. I plan to use plastic baskets to create some semblance of order under there.

I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to be free from all of that STUFF. Well, yes I can, it feels FABULOUS (jumps up and down and spontaneously busts out a herky). I think I have some kind of organizing high going on because I keep tip-toeing back in there to peek inside all of the cabinets and stand there grinning from ear to ear.
Now I'm moving on to the pantry...while the organizing endorphins are still coursing through my veins.

1.27.2010

In Pursuit of Cuteness and Usefulness {thanks to my sewing machine}

One day last week I was struck with waves of guilt over the sheer quantity of paper napkins we use in our home for meals and school lunches. When I was putting laundry away I discovered a stack of plain white washcloths I had bought ages ago and were not being used. I know.

I had the bright idea of embellishing them, you know, just a tad, and letting Annelise use them for her school lunches. Who says you can't be cute and help save planet Earth at the same time?

A large part of Tuesday was spent bringing my bright idea to fruition.

First, I cut shapes out of scrap fabric (from the ruffle apron project '08) finally settling on hearts because they made me happy. I toyed with ribbon but cast that idea aside once the thought of ruffles popped into my brain.

This was a complete winging it type of project. No measuring, few pins, and a mantra of these are only napkins, these are only napkins.

Next, it was time to sew, sew, sew.

It would not be a Holly winging-it project if I didn't realize the better way to make ruffles until, oh...washcloth four or so. The first ruffle was a simple pinking sheared hem, the next few ruffles had a hem and you can see the wrong side of the fabric, FINALLY I realized I should fold the long strip in half and then gather it. No hem and no wrong sides showing. Yessir, I'm a little slow sometimes. Oh well.

Without further ado, here is the finished pile of washcloth napkins.

Hmm, over the top much?

Scott thought they were just this side of ridiculous, but Annelise was thrilled with my efforts.

That makes my heart soar and forget my ache-y-break-y back from hunching over the Singer most of the day.

Will they be the talk of the lunchroom? We shall see.

1.25.2010

When All Else Fails, At Least I Have a List

So I sat here for a good while with the cursor blinking, mocking me just a little, as I waited for clever inspiration to begin this post.

And it never came.

So I am falling back on my true-blue standby, my faithful friend: the list.

*Annelise was invited to a school friend's birthday party Sunday afternoon. Whee.


*Annelise looks like she's on drugs in this picture, but I promise she is not. Just prone to cheesy fake smiles lately.

*I still think birthday parties on Sunday afternoons should be illegal.

*This one though was at a bouncy place and there was no booze, so, YAY!

*Yes, Annelise's present is wrapped in what I think turned out to be Christmas paper. Pity.

*During the party I chatted with other moms and became obsessed with this woman's outfit:

*Is it not flat out DARLING? I love the dress, leggings, ballet flats and the gorgeous scarf. She was so layered and accessorized and so carefree and CUTE.

*I may have stalked her a bit.

*There was quite a contingent of trendy moms with similar looks.

*I felt rather schlumpy in my jeans and shirt. Pity.

*Today turned out to be a full day, but in a good way. So, YAY!

*I have big plans to start cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and reorganizing over the next few days.

*I'm actually looking forward to this mammoth task!

*I can't believe I just typed that.

*Any tips?

*Yesterday at church someone made a comment about how much Annelise has grown.

*They then proceeded to ask something along the lines of when were we going to go get another one.

*Kind of teasing, I guess.

*We've certainly been asked that before (and will again I'm sure) and even heard very similar phrasing of that particular comment.

*But that day it bugged me.

*I know they had good intentions, but it's still stewing around in my brain and kind of ticking me off.

*Like it's such an easy process (international adoption) and it's something we can just do on our way to the grocery store.

*As if.

*I know that a snarky (to me) adoption comment is probably strange to include in this random list of birthday parties, mom stalking and kitchen organization.

*But that's all I've got.

1.23.2010

Do...do, do,do, de, da, da, da...

(What? Don't you like The Police?)

I love it when I actually follow through with something, even something simple. Nine times out of ten I will either talk myself out of whatever the idea is or I will fizzle out halfway through and cast said idea/project to the curb.

One of my goals this year (as it always should be) is to not only be full of intention, but also full of action, both in large and small ways. I think the first way to work on this is to get out of my head, stop over-thinking every.little.thing and just get busy doing. I can't allow myself to be paralyzed into inaction by seeking perfection or feeling overwhelmed.

Case in point:

I was already planning on fixing taco salad for supper Friday evening. Friday morning I started thinking about how nice it would be to invite friends over and just make a bigger taco salad.

I thought how nice it would be for the adults to have a chance to chat while the littles have a chance to play.

I thought about how I truly want to entertain more in our home, in simple ways (not just birthday parties or holidays).

I thought about how spontaneous should not be a dirty word.

I thought about how it was short notice, but I made a few phone calls anyway.

I thought about the Lego City village, etc. taking up the whole left side of our dining table. I packed it up.

I thought about how nice it would be to make some sort of stunningly creative centerpiece or tablescape by 6:00pm.

I got over it.

I thought about dusting.

I didn't.

I thought about making a dessert and enjoyed perusing Pioneer Woman's cookbook for just the right one.

A quick trip to the grocery store, a husband and 6YO setting the table, Helga/Brigitte whirring away, meat cooking on the stove...friends arriving...it all came together easily.

We enjoyed a fun evening with good friends over a simple meal. And PW's sinful Mocha Brownies. Oh. My. Goodness.

Perfect.

(I'm so glad I followed through!)

1.22.2010

Five for Friday

It's been a little while since I've written a Five for Friday post (at least I think it has). Sometimes topical (possibly pseudo-topical, but still) type posts jump to the forefront of my brain and I forget the joy of daily documenting. It's the ordinary, somewhat mundane-okay, insert vocabulary word for the day: quotidian-tasks that make up the majority of our lives (at least mine) and why shouldn't I blog about them? Slap-slap to self.

Well, okay then, let's get started, shall we?

1. Monday was a particularly nice Martin Luther King Day. Not that we did anything particularly MLK related, of course. However, Annelise informed me that they read a book about Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement in class the Friday before and we talked about it a little bit here and there over the weekend, so that should count for a kernel of something.

We ended up spending most of the morning at a friend's house for bible study for the moms/giant muddy play date for the kids, which was at times quite hilarious. Annelise had to strip in the laundry room once we got home and take a 1:30 pm spontaneous shower. We ate lunch while watching Little House On the Prairie together and then later went to dance. Well, she went to dance, I got to sit in the waiting room with The Bling Moms* that talk too loudly for their own good and the good of others, namely me.

And yet. Still. It was a nice day all around.

*I have named them The Bling Moms because of their propensity to wear rhinestone studded pseudo-workout wear, carry ginormous signature handbags and talk too much about how they indulge their children. Or plastic surgery. Oh no, I'm not bitter, not me.

2. I am continuously surprised with moments of sudden awareness of my being a parent, the whole making responsible decisions for little people thing. I mean, I know that I am a parent, of course, but sometimes the reality of it hits me, like hey, grow up, you're a mom and all. Do you ever feel that way? Am I the only one? (please say no)

For instance, this week Annelise had her regular pediatric dentist appointment. On a side note, going to see the dentist is WAY cooler now than when I was a kid. There is a whole play room with toys and video games the kids can play in while the parents talk to the dentist, etc. that Annelise LOVES. Anyway. The dentist told me Annelise has gotten one of her adult molars in and proceeded to tell me about the virtues of sealants.

Sealants? Huh? Of these, I do not know.

I stood there for a minute taking it all in and then it hit me that I had to make a decision about my child's dental health right that very minute because I am a parent after all. Gulp. So, I did what I do best, I put it off until all four molars come in and they can do it all in one fell sealant swoop, which may be by her next regular visit. Whew! That was a close call, I almost had to make a big decision. The good news is that our insurance covers 100%. Sweet.

3. After the UP atmosphere at the dentist (AKA the play room), a visit to the library, some play time outside with parachuting soldiers (from the dentist's treasure box), dinner and some homework that became a little frustrating (they had to draw 22 stars for part of their homework, Annelise tried her way, I tried to teach her my way and Scott tried his way. Needless frustrations mounted for all of us.

After her bath, we sat down for our little devotional. We have been reading from 100 Bible Stories and Five Minute Devotions for Children most nights, the highlight being Annelise practices reading aloud from the bible story book.

However, this night, someone-I'm not naming any names, but she might be 6 years old with long brown hair-copped a 'tude. I H-A-T-E hate sassy/disrespectful tones of voice. I am not implying by any means that I don't have a *tone* in my own voice sometimes, because I do. I know that my own struggles (failures?) with *tone* can be influencing our resident little person's *tone* of voice.

And yet. Still.

Her display of tone and attitude earned her an immediate trip to bed without passing go and without collecting $200 (which is what my mom used to say to me). There were tears. Later, when Scott went to check on her she still had the tone and 'tude. Soon there were more tears and an exclamation of, "I don't know! The Devil just gets to me!!"

What do you say to that? Me too sweetie.

4. Did you know I started a new project? I'd be tickled pink if you clicked over and checked it out! {{Smooches}} I love the idea of documenting a little something each day (or at least most of them). Fingers crossed I stick with it and not fizzle out by April. Have you done something like this before?

5. In the spirit of true disclosure I will confess that we caved and went to our favorite Tex-Mex place for fajitas earlier this week. So The Revolution took a little time-out, at least for one meal.

You know what though? The chips and salsa and chicken fajitas were curl your toes good and ever so worth it.

Hope your weekend is fabberific!! (Thought I'd try to coin a new phrase. Is it working?)

Do you ever have sudden moments of awareness that you are a parent? Am I normal?
How do you handle sassy/disrespectful/attitude? If you tell me your children are always angels I will laugh in your face.

1.20.2010

Wanna Play Peek-a-Boo?

Apparently I'm game, at least when it comes to my hair.

Huh? Whatcha talkin' 'bout Willis?

I babbled to my magic hair fairy (aka my stylist) about how I wanted something edgy and fun with a little more brown, but not too much because I knew I'd get bored with that in a jiffy.

So she told me about the peek-a-boo trend.

And I said sure.

And now I must share the results of a whim with all y'all. Although I guess I can just say y'all.

Here's a peek at the the left side of my new do:

And a boo at the right side (though this lighting makes it look darker than it really is, at least that's what I'm telling myself):
See, the bold highlights are under the brown, so they kind of play peek-a-boo when the wind blows your hair. Get it?
Here's one more, the very last one, pinky swear, of the full effect:

I'm walking around with a nursery game of a hair do. Sweet.

And yes, those are clothes draped across our bathtub, including but not limited to, my swimsuit. From this summer. Shut up.

So, whaddya think? Is it edgy or a little ridiculous? Or both? I think I like it, but am still in the insecure-getting-used-to-the-new-phase.

1.18.2010

Can You Believe?

Can you believe I have not had coffee/sugar/bread/fast food & assorted junk and, this hurts my heart, chips and salsa for a week?

Can you believe I have exercised (though not run--yet) 4 out of 7 days? (Hey, a girl's gotta start somewhere.)

Can you believe I have not had *crashes* and as many witchy mood swings?

Can you believe I have not had a headache since Wednesday?

Can you believe I have not done ANY night time snacking?

Can you believe I left the salad croutons in my bowl and did not sample a single one at lunch yesterday? And ignored a honey-buttered flaky croissant?

Can you believe I have followed the plan pretty much to a T so far?

Can you believe (based on the above, and especially #1) I have held it together and not ended up on the news?
Here's to starting week two of The Revolution!!

1.14.2010

You Say You Want a Revolution...

You say you got a real solution...Well you know...We'd all love to see the plan.

First, I am dusting these guys off and putting them back to work with regular exercise and even some running. Gasp!

(Are you sitting down? Good.) I am cutting out coffee and switching to herbal tea. Um, y'all...this one is huge. Caffeine apparently throws your ability to regulate insulin all out of whack, so I have to let it go.

Drinking LOTS of water.

Following an eating plan that was recommended to me by bloggy friend Jillian. It's based on food combining/timing and eliminating Funky Foods (like all processed foods, bad carbs, including sugar, white flour, potatoes, etc.) What is that sound you hear? Helga/Brigitte is weeping. You do eat lots of protein and vegetables (look, I bought a Chinese eggplant--oh my!) and can have certain dairy products.
And you can still have fruit (except bananas because of the high sugar content, so these are for Annelise). Though the plan recommends only eating fruit in the morning so your body has time to burn off the sugar.

Scott and I are both doing our best to follow this plan as closely as we can. I realize how out of whack our eating has been, with waaaay too much bread, sweets, and various junk. I hope this new regime will help me to feel better (been waaaay too blah-ish for a long time), have more energy and, oh, yeah, lose the loaf of bread residing around my mid-section (I can no longer in good conscience refer to it as a muffin top).
I think these first few days or even weeks will be the hardest. Not having coffee left me prone on the bed with a doozy of a migraine yesterday. I hope once my body detoxes from all the gunk I will not suffer as many headaches. Fingers crossed.
I'll keep you posted as the Revolution progresses.
Let's let the Beatles sing us on out, "Don't you know it's gonna be all right, all right, all right."

1.12.2010

Bus Driver, Move That Bus!!

Except not this bus, this is the shuttle bus, driven by a friendly man I'll call Bob, that takes you to the entrance of this...

Ty and his fabulous designer friends are in town this week to build a home, along with hundreds of blue-shirted volunteers, for a family that lost their home in Hurricane Ike in 2008.
My shadow and I were a tad disappointed that Ty and his fabulous designer buddies were not out and about the site at 11:45ish Monday morning. No worries though, there was PLENTY of work going on without them.
The word on the street is that this is going to be the biggest home EHM has ever built*. The family has 13 children, many of whom have special needs.
It was interesting to watch all the hard hats scurry around, the large trucks hauling this and that hither and tither and the imposing crane lift large sections of the wall or roof.

Here I am in front of the action. Please pardon my pack mule-esque-ness with my purse, camera bag and coat draped across ever so delicately.
Along with the shuttle service, they set up a nice spectator area, complete with free water and cookies and port-o-potties (the fancy kind with a sink). (Yes, I am easily impressed.)
The other word on the street is that Ty will be there Wednesday and the big reveal will take place some time Thursday afternoon.
My shadow and I just might have to make a return visit so we can say hi to Ty. And of course, scream, "Bus driver...move that bus!!" with the masses.

*The episode is supposed to air in March and it's for the Beach family who lives in Kemah.

Do you watch Extreme Home Makeover? (Or at least the beginning and the reveal like we do?)

1.08.2010

Well, Helloooo Gorgeous...

I think I shall call you Helga since you are so strong and such a disciplined, no-nonsense worker. However, since you are so sleek and beautiful*, perhaps I should call you Brigitte.

So far you have helped me bake chocolate chip cookies and two loaves of whole wheat bread with grace and ease.

I love you from the very bottom of my carb addicted heart. Or stomach.

Life in the kitchen will never be the same.

**********
Of course there is a story of how you came to join our family (get used to this Helga/Brigitte, there is always a story). Scott surprised me with your sister first. When I saw the box sitting on the counter I squealed with delight, hugged Scott (there may even have been a smooch) and ripped open the tape, all the while listening to him regale me with the details of his trip to Williams-Sonoma and how this particular model was marked down, like, way $100 down. By this time I was peering down into the box with a sick feeling churning in my tummy.

There was a gash across the glorious green apple top. It was not discreet, it was bold.

Scott was so very proud of himself, and I was too. I hated to point out a flaw, yet I couldn't stop myself either (remember how hard it is to be me sometimes). He came over to look at the scrape, admitting that it was hard to ignore. It had been the display model and he had asked them to box it up without looking at it. I tried to decide if I could live with the scar and savor the financial savings.

For about a minute.

What followed were frantic phone calls to four (out of a possible six) other Williams-Sonoma stores in the Houston area (Dallas/Ft. Worth was next) and a trip across town (by sweet Scott) after the kind saleslady assured me they had one in pristine condition, in a box , still at the discounted price (hooray!!) and they would hold it for us. Well, for him. The exchange was made and you (Helga/Brigitte) joined our family a few hours later.

I carefully unloaded you and placed you in a place of honor on the counter. I praised your beauty and your ability. As I walked by you over the next few days, I would pause and exclaim "Isn't it (she) beautiful?"--enough so that Annelise begged me to stop.

I knew though that my bloggy friends would understand my possibly misplaced affection.

Sshhh...just between us, isn't she beautiful???

1.06.2010

Intention Schmention

I originally planned to write a post waxing philosophical over the past year, the changes over the last ten years and the start of a new decade. Or maybe the new decade starts next year if you like to nitpick numbers. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm fine looking at it either way.

I even purposefully took this photo of me looking back as we were moving forward (don't worry, Scott was driving) and wearing my mammoth ruffly scarf all at the same time, with just that type of post in mind.

Yet now in the harsh light of day, I'm just not feeling the waxing-philosophical-decade-review- mojo. You are ever so welcome.

I am ready to look forward instead. I am anxious to see what this new year--and this new decade--will hold for me and my family. Instead of writing out a long list of goals or resolutions for the whole year I want to try something a little different for 2010. I need tangible, short term reminders to help keep me focused, so a list for say, three or four months at a time might work better for me than a long list tucked away in my journal. Just sayin'. Most of what I wrote last year can just be scooted over to this year...so, YAY! I'm all done with goal planning. Whew! That was easier then I thought.

Something else that I hope will keep me focused will be my one little word for the year. For over two years I had intentions of choosing a word, spending time hemming and hawing about which word would be just right and then eventually forgetting about the whole thing.

That is so NOT happening this year, not in twenty-ten, my friend.

After much reflection, list making, dictionary searching, naval gazing (EW!), much pestering and annoying of Scott, combined with a not-so-healthy dose of waffling, I am 84.6% sure I have chosen my word. If I don't change my mind, I'll reveal it very soon. (It's okay if you just want to reach out and slap me. I know. It's just a word. Pick one and move on, right? It's so hard to be me sometimes.)

Poor little word, I have already heaped unattainable expectations upon its head, haven't I?

1.04.2010

It's Four Days Into Twenty-Ten and...

I don't know about you, but my little brain is busily musing over the possibilities for this brand, spankin' new year. The gift of a clean slate, a fresh start, another beginning is truly delightful. And a bit anxiety inducing at the same time. In short order I want to: make the most of this new beginning, refresh some goals, implement some changes and most importantly NOT fizzle out by mid-March. Or earlier. Ahem.
As of today, our Christmas paraphernalia is finally packed away (although the tubs are waiting patiently to be returned to the attic and I'm trying really hard not to glare at them). Annelise has returned to school and Scott has returned to work. Order and routine are slowly being re-established, which is a good thing. Once I get my thoughts together in a somewhat coherent manner (as if!) I'll be back with a little reflection on the past year, my hopes for twenty-ten (okay, I've used twenty-ten twice--well, thrice--in one post and am so over it--will it become as annoying as 24/7???), an exciting new addition to the family and the big reveal of my word for the new year. Once I select it, of course (the good news is, I have narrowed it down to four possibilities, so...GO ME).
(Even though it's a new year, I am still a fan of parentheticals.)
To tide you over, I'll leave you with a few scenes from our little New-Year-Day-Two trip to the country to visit Scott's sister Karen, brother-in-law, Bill, and brother Ron.


It was a little slice of heaven topped off by s'mores. In a word: perfect.
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