Organize and Declutter 2012: The Kitchen

In January I challenged myself to organize and declutter my home.  While I still have some work to do, I have finished quite a few projects on my list and am thrilled with how it has made my home run more efficiently.

Here is a tour of the kitchen which I was just able to finish up this week:






My biggest challenge in the kitchen is that I don't have a pantry.  This itty bitty cabinet that is smooshed between the stove and refrigerator was what I used as a pantry. 

There were many food items that wouldn't fit into this space so food was overflowing into several other cabinets as well.  I also had a very hard time finding things and I was constantly buying food that I already had!












The solution was to move everything to a much bigger cabinet which is above the counter.  All the food is kept in this cabinet with the exception of snacks and spices which are in the adjacent cabinet.

I found a basket to hold all the loose seasoning packets and a few other odds and ends. 








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In the tupperware cabinet I used a basket to keep all the tupperware lids under control.  Fitting the tupperware together also makes the whole cabinet look more organized and clutter-free.











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I just love these drawer organizers that I found at Walmart.  It was the perfect
solution for the tupperware cup covers that were constantly getting lost in the back of the cup cabinet.








The other organizers keep the kids' eating utensils, some measuring spoons and a few other odds and ends organized.  They fit perfectly inside the silverware drawer.











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These dollar store containers keep things organized under the sink.  I can't
believe how much space I have in that cabinet when things aren't scattered everywhere...
just one of the many benefits of organization!



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February Fun: Masking Tape Town

Have you seen the masking tape race tracks on Pinterest?  Using that idea as inspiration, I made the boys their very own masking tape town.  We used some figures and vehicles from their train set along with the Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars:




Tip:  According to Stacy from Not JUST A Housewife, painter's tape should be used on hardwood floors since it is not as sticky as masking tape.


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February Fun: Painting With Sponge Stamps



I recently wrote about using sponges to paint with toddlers and Carrie from Crafty Moms Share left a comment on that post about painting with sponge shapes.  I thought that was a really clever idea, and I just had to try it!

I was thrilled to find a package of 6 sponges at the dollar store.  I traced a design on the sponges and cut them out.  And then it was time to paint...





I squeezed a little bit of paint onto paper plates and spread it around so that the boys would be able to get an even amount of paint on the stamps.  We also used star and bird bottle top stamps to add detail to the pictures.




To finish the pictures, we added some wiggly eyes, pipe cleaner arms, foam carrot noses and a construction paper hat.



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February Fun: Paddle Balloon Game

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This week is February vacation week! I've been planning for this school break for a few weeks now and have been looking for some fun activities to do with the boys. I've got lots of activities planned and I'm hoping to share them as the we go through the week.

The idea for this Paddle Balloon game is from Pen n' Paperflowers and I'm so glad I discovered it. The smiles and laughter I heard reminds me again that children do not need fancy toys in order to have fun - all it takes is a paper plate and a paint stick!







To make the paddles, I broke a paint stick in two (or you can use a large popsicle stick) and glued it to the back of a paper plate.













Add a balloon.....













...and two little boys {or girls}.








If you are looking for a new inside activity to do during the long days of winter, you will want to give this game a try!



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Three FREE Learning Sites I Love

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I love it when my children can have fun and learn at the same time.  Both of the boys love Starfall which teaches phonics and early reading through interactive lessons, games and stories. 

There are also holiday and seasonal activities as well as activities for math, colors, songs and rhymes.  Most of the activities on the site are free, but there are some sections of the site that require a paid membership.






Handwritingworksheets.com is one of the most useful free resources that I have found on the internet.  Any text can be typed into the worksheets and printed for writing practice.  There are three handwriting styles to choose from and four worksheet style options. 

This is not only a great way for children to practice letters and numbers, but also a great resource for Bible verse memorization:



Plain handwriting practice paper can also be downloaded and printed from this site.







There are many, many free printables on Homeschool Creations, but my favorite resource on this site are the literature based printables

Jolanthe has created printable worksheets and activities to go along with some of the most popular classic children's books including The Mitten, Corduroy, The Snowy Day, Goodnight Moon, Blueberries For Sal and many more.  She also has a blog where she shares homeschool resources and information.



What are some of your favorite learning resources?

Create With Kids: Butterfly Lollipop Valentines





What you need:

Lollipops
Glue Stick
Glue Gun
Wiggly Eyes
Pipe Cleaners
Heart Stencil
Construction Paper
Embellishments {foam shapes, stickers, gems, etc.}










Using a stencil, cookie cutter or other heart-shaped object, trace hearts onto construction paper and cut out. Glue the points of the hearts together with a glue stick to make the butterfly wings.














Cut the pipe cleaners into approx. 2 - 3" peices and glue onto one side of the lollipop with a glue gun. Turn the lollipop over and glue the eyes on.











Glue the wings onto the lollipop stick with the glue gun and add embellishments, if desired.









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Meal Plan Monday - February 13

Last week's menu didn't go at all how I had planned, but I was able to try a few new recipes.  The Raspberry Breakfast Bars were delicious, but they were very sweet and I could not imagine eating them for breakfast.  We've been enjoying them for dessert after dinner.

Mini Frittatas has also become a new favorite recipe.  They were simple and delicious and I only wish I had thought of this idea first!  I added onion and green pepper to ours and next time will add a bit of shredded cheese.

For the past several years my husband and I have celebrated Valentine's Day by enjoying dinner with our family instead of eating out.  Since I love to cook, I enjoy celebrating by making his favorite foods.  Chocolate chip cookies for dessert probably seems too simple to celebrate the holiday, but of all the desserts I have made my husband over the years, they are still his favorite.  This year I will making them extra-special by making chocolate chip cookie hearts.


Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Oatmeal
Breakfast Sandwiches
English Muffins, Bananas

Toddler-Style Lunch
Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes, Applesauce
Pasta, Mixed Veggies, Raisins, Chex Mix
French Toast Sticks, Yogurt, Raisins, Cheese Stick
Cheese Quesadillas, Carrot Sticks, Apple Slices
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Chicken Stir-Fry, Salad

Tuesday: Happy Valentine's Day!
    Beef Tips with Mushrooms, Rice Pilaf, Salad, Bruschetta*
    Heart-Shaped Chocolate Chip Cookies
   
Wednesday:
     Classic Minestrone {crockpot}

Thursday:
    Slow Cooker Bacon-Wrapped Apple BBQ Chicken*, Mashed Potato, Broccoli

Friday:
    Small group potluck. - BBQ Meatballs, Cupcakes

Saturday:
    Leftovers

Sunday:
    Chef Salad


(*) Indicates new-to-us recipe

$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Organize and Declutter 2012: Make Your Own Drawer Organizer

This project wasn't on my original to-do list, but when it took me five minutes just to find the paddle attachment to the mixer, I knew I needed to get the cooking utensil drawer organized. 

I don't know how much time I have wasted pushing things around in this drawer and thinking with frustration, "I know it's in here....where is it?!?"

That's probably because it looked like this:




I have tried to organize this drawer many times, but within a few days it was always back to its old self.  I have even considered storing the cooking utensils on the counter, but I didn't want to clutter up the counter space.

After searching Pinterest and the internet, I found that the answer to this organizing problem is a drawer divider.  And since I didn't want to spend $20 to organize just one drawer, I also decided that I could make one!


How to make your own plexiglass drawer organizer:




First, I removed the drawer from the cabinet and took everything out of the drawer.  The items that I decided to keep I put back into the drawer, laying them out the way I wanted to keep them organized.

Then I measured the height and lengths of plexiglass that I would need.







You can purchase plexiglass at most hardware stores and many will even cut it for you.

I put the plexiglass pieces in the drawer and used a pen to mark a line where I needed to glue them together.

Following the lines I made, I used the glue gun to glue the plexiglass together.  To secure the plexiglass well, I glued both sides of each piece.








The result:  An organized drawer where I can quickly and easily find everything that I need!








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Meal Plan Monday On Tuesday - February 7












Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Oatmeal
Raspberry Breakfast Bars*
Overnight Butterscotch Monkey Bread
Toast, Bananas, Raisins

Toddler-Style Lunch
Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes, Applesauce
Mac & Cheese, Peas, Applesauce, Pretzels
French Toast Sticks, Yogurt, Raisins, Cheese Stick
Cheese Quesadillas, Carrot Sticks, Apple Slices
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Yearly Employee Dinner.

Tuesday:
    Spaghetti

Wednesday:
    P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps*, 30 Minute Rolls*, Mashed Potato, Corn

Thursday:
    Easy Teriyaki Chicken {crockpot}, Rice, Peas

Friday:
    Small group potluck.

Saturday:
    Breakfast for Dinner: Mini Frittatas*, Blueberry Pancakes, Bacon

Sunday:
    BLT Chicken Salad



(*) Indicates new-to-us recipe

$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Organize and Declutter 2012: The Bathroom Closet - Before and After

Let me just start by saying that I like to use coupons.  And I really like to use coupons to get free things.  I just can't pass up a free tube of toothpaste.  Or toothbrushes.  Or soap.  Or....well you get the point.  The problem is keeping all that stuff organized.

Our bathroom closet is also the linen closet and the cleaning closet.  So needless to say, this closet was a little cluttered and disorganized:



The previous owners had taken the lowest shelf out of this closet, so the first thing we did was put a new shelf in.  We also took out the 3-drawer storage unit that was storing all the toiletries.

I've learned that one of the secrets to great organizing is storage bins.  So I set out to find the perfect storage bins for the right price and found them at the dollar store.  I brought them home and made some tags for labels:




I also removed the lovely ivory wallpaper with little pink flowers that the previous owners had used to cover the shelves. 

And after some decluttering and organizing the closet now looks like this:




Total cost to organize the closet: $5
The feeling you get when things are organized: Priceless

Football Cookies And A Lesson In Patience




Since I had some experience with royal icing, I thought this project would be fairly simple.  Besides, I have been stalking faithfully reading cookie blogs and they make it look. so. easy.  Who knew that it is actually a very precise art?

First of all, you have to bake the perfect sugar cookie.  Not too brown, not too hard and perfectly smooth.  After two attempts at this basic sugar cookie recipe, I still have not mastered the perfect sugar cookie.

And then there's the icing.  It is fairly easy to mix up, the problems all started with the coloring.  I started by making the gray and I thought adding a little black would make gray, right?  It actually makes a purplish gray, but add a little green and it magically becomes gray {Google to the rescue}.  And the red.  I used so much red gel that I don't even think it's edible.  I did manage to get a very pretty shade of pink.

Thinning the icing is also a lesson in patience.  Too thin and it runs right off the cookie; too thick and you won't even be able to get it on the cookie.

But decorating the cookies took the most patience.  There is a certain process to cookie decorating that requires letting the icing dry a bit in between each color.  

Note:  Don't get impatient and touch cookies that look dry:


I tend to like to start and finish a project all in one sitting, but for someone as inexperienced as I am, cookie decorating can become an all day project. Or make that two days.

So two batches of cookies and two days later, I ended up with five cookies that were deemed photo-worthy that I don't dare eat because of the enormous amounts of food coloring that were added.

If you need to practice patience, just make cookies.




If you would like to see the experts in action, I recommend: