Jan 28, 2013

Branching Out

I love it when something you've been on the prowl for what seems like forever randomly pops into your life.

Steve and I have been waiting for the perfect piece of art to hang above our bed for a long time.  It had to be serene.  It had to feature some aspect of nature.  And it had to be large.

Think five feet wide covers it?

That's exactly what this beauty is.  About five feet wide and twenty inches tall.  I found it on (which is a really fun place, if you haven't checked it out already).

Branching Out by Elementem Photography.

It's crazy how fast this bad boy arrived at our house.  Exactly two days after I ordered it, it was on our front porch.  And exactly one day after that, it was hung above our bed (thanks, honey!).

Perfect fit!

Serendipity at its finest.

Love it!

Jan 26, 2013

Cold Storage

It's a new year and as usual I have a bee in my bonnet to make my life more streamlined and organized.  After tackling the paperwork situation, I stumbled upon a picture from Pinterest that blew my mind.

via Undressed Skeleton

I loved that the entire fridge was used.  And that the produce took up a large visual chunk of space and the foods that would be worse choices (hello, cupcakes) were kind of hidden.  Seems like it would be easier to make good food choices if all of the things you should be eating were directly in your line of sight when you open your fridge.  Plus everything was contained.  No random fruits lolling around.  No runaway baggies of carrot sticks forgotten in the back corner. The other part of this photo that rocked my world was the shelf placement.  This is where being a linear-sequential kind of gal gets me in trouble.  My fridge shelves have been in the exact same arrangement since we came into possession of said fridge seven years ago.  It hadn't occurred to me that the way I arranged them in 2006 may not be working for me anymore!  Facepalm.

So I decided to do something about it.  One trip to Storables for some clear bins and about an hour later, here's the fridge arrangement I came up with.

I wanted all of our produce to be as in-your-face as possible, so we'd be more likely to grab some as a snack than something naughty.  Yes, we dedicated an entire drawer for soda.  Yes, we know it is bad for us.  We're trying to remove processed carbs from our diet, but let's face it, quitting soda is rough.  They need an 1-800 "Soda Cessation" hotline that you can call.  In the meantime, we'll take our food improvements one step at a time, thank you.  (Pass me a Sprite Zero.)  We go through a TON of salsa in this house, and we always seem to have at least one open bottle of wine, so both of those got their own spot.  Same thing goes for eggs- one carton of fresh eggs and one carton of hard-boiled.  We filter our water and keep the reservoir in the fridge, which means we're more likely to choose water as a drink because it's nice and cold.  And we left a big space open next to the water.  Steve happened to have a RockStar in there from pulling an all-nighter at work when I snapped the picture, but we thought it would be good to leave us some play in case any of these areas overflowed, or if we needed to stock up for situations like holidays or hosting parties.

The door of our fridge got a makeover, too.

Steve and I would constantly be buying condiments or dressings because we thought we were out.  In reality, we already had some but couldn't find any because what we needed was jumbled in with other random bottles and jars.  When you've got three open bottles of ranch dressing, things are out of hand.  So we consolidated all of the dressings in one shelf.  Condiments that would be appropriate for sandwiches or bratwurst got its own shelf (yes, those are four *different* types of mustard).  Toppings like horseradish, capers, and kalamata olives got their own shelf, and so did sauces that we typically use during cooking like Worcestershire, lemon juice, and teriyaki sauce.  I wish I had another small shelf that could live across from the butter.  I'd love a dedicated shelf for things like yogurt and cottage cheese, which I always have to dig for on the "small containers" shelf in our fridge.  I wonder if I can find one online...?

And since I was on a roll, I decided to organize our top freezer as well.

Aside from the bag of ice that we keep for stocking drinks in when we entertain, most of our fridge contents are produce.  We love SteamFresh veggies- they're so easy!  I like to keep frozen berries in the fridge (a cup of berries with Greek yogurt and a tablespoon or two of agave is one of my favorite not-too-bad-for-you desserts).  We also keep grab-n-go meals in there.  Currently we've got a couple packages of Stouffer's stuffed peppers and some homemade twice-baked potatoes holding down the fort.

Our freezer door was a cinch.  One shelf for frozen seafood- prawns and fillets- and one for household stuff that needs to be frozen plus my favorite summer treat- Otter Pops.  Totally takes me back to being a kid.  There's definitely more veggies and ice than protein in our freezer, but that's because we have a chest freezer out in our garage.  That's where all of our chicken breasts and thighs live, along with what's left of a quarter of grass-fed beef we split with Steve's parents last spring.

We've lived with our fridge and freezer this way for about two weeks.  Overall, this arrangement has been working really well for us so far.  It's more visually appealing   It's easier to find what you're looking for and easier to tell what you're missing.  We've actually been able to make less trips to the grocery store because we're more likely to know exactly what we have and what needs to go on the grocery list at any given time.  We're not losing any random perishables in the back corners of the fridge.  And we're finding that we do eat more produce now that it's more visible and easier to access.

Anyone have more fridge and freezer organizational tips and tricks to share?

Jan 12, 2013

File it Away

Not sure about everyone else, but New Years totally puts me in the mood to organize.  No joke.  Something about new beginnings and fresh starts makes me want to de-clutter and streamline my life.

One of those areas that always gets an organization overhaul after December 31 is the financial filing system. The box full of eight-year-old records gets sifted through for any important documents or keepsakes that we might've missed when we boxed them up all that time ago and everything that remains gets shredded and tossed.  All of my 2012 files lived in two storage boxes in our Expedit shelving right next to my head for easy access.  I pulled all of those out, condensed what needed to be saved for records and transferred them to a box in the closet.

Put it right back in the empty 2005 box, just changed the label.

As I was sifting through all things 2012, I groaned for the 627th time that the hanging files I had been using were really annoying.  They kept the lid from closing tightly, some of them had pockets inside where things would get stuck, and some of the labels didn't match anymore.  "College Records-Colleen" has been out of commission for almost four years now but I still had a hanging file for it.  What's up with that?  So I decided enough with the groaning.  It was time to switch up the way I file my records to make my life easier.

First I did one of the things I am best at in life: I made a giant list.  I put every type of utility bill, loan, and financial or confidential paper I typically save on the list to help me see if there were some areas where I could consolidate files or maybe just needed to sort them in a different way.  Sure enough, I had a lot of that.  In my old filing system, I had a folder for my school loans, one for Steve's school loans, one for our car loan, one for our credit card, one for random retail credit cards we rarely use... you get the picture.  Why have a bunch of hanging files when they could be consolidated under the heading of Credit & Loans?  So I ended up re-categorizing where I'd store some of our records, and decided that instead of hanging files, I'd use expandable files and tabbies on top to do my organizing.

Office supplies- yum.

It's so much better!  And the best part is that it fit in only one box, meaning I gained a whole cube of storage space!  So I used that to my advantage.  I put the "to be filed" box up at eye-level so I'd be more likely to put things in it and remember to file them (ha!).  I also moved my pens and scissors a little closer to me so that I could see them more easily.  And I scooted the records box more towards the middle of our desks, since I don't need access to it more than twice a month.  I am loving the final result.

Somebody needs to get on the dusting, pronto.

I can find things easily.  I can put things in easily.  And I also love that I can do this:

Need to dig through a file?  Just pull it outta the box!

I'm feeling pretty good about this organizational upgrade.  The Type A in me wonders if there's an even easier way to do it.  What's your best file organizing tip?

Jan 8, 2013

If You Can't Take The Heat

Getting out of the kitchen is exactly what most of our pots and pans did over my Christmas break.

I love the pot rack that hangs above our breakfast bar.  I know we still have to do the finishing on the ceiling patch (procrastinate much?), but otherwise that pot rack just makes me smile.  It's pretty and functional.

One unintended side effect of hanging that pot rack is that we became painfully aware of how icky our pots and pans were.  All of our cookware is either hand-me-down or a cheap-o singleton that didn't match anything else.  The stainless cookware worked fine but was mottled on the inside from improper care (I only found out about Barkeeper's Friend recently; don't judge).  Our nonstick cookware had definitely seen better days.  Most of it had seen contact with metal utensils, and all of it was falling victim to scratches and flakes.  Not to mention that they all had different handle styles, being from three different sets.  Our other problem is that we had way too much cookware.  The stuff that wouldn't fit on the pot rack lived in a stack on top of our refrigerator and rattled when we opened and closed the fridge.  It looked bad, it was bad for the cookware, and it made you a little nervous about closing the fridge door too quickly.

A motley crew.

All that to say, hooray for Costco!  Or more accurately, hooray for Christmas presents!

Santa brought us a very nice Kirkland brand set of stainless steel cookware!  They have 5-ply bases with a copper core, so they heat quickly and evenly and retain their heat well.  They're safe to 500 degrees, so we can use them in the oven as well as on the stove top.  The handles are curved nicely and stay cool enough to touch when cooking on the stove top.  They also have curved lips which makes it ridiculously easy to pour from them.  Best of all, they're gorgeous.  See?

How excited were we to donate our mis-matched set of worn-out pots and pans?  Pretty dang excited.  


Santa brought us another cookware present, too.  Steve is a big fan of cooking with cast iron.  His mom is an expert at cooking with cast iron, and Steve learned his cooking mojo from his mom, so he's been suggesting off and on for pretty much the duration of our marriage that we get a cast iron dutch oven.  Right before Christmas we wandered into the Le Creuset store at our local outlet mall and left with a severe case of sticker shock.  Santa did us one better and brought us the Kirkland brand 6-quart cast iron dutch oven.  We have heard that the Kirkland brand cast iron is comprable to Le Creuset's, and the reviews online agree.

Isn't it pretty?  This guy is going to live on our stove top full time, we think.  Steve has already cooked with it and looooves it.

My burner pans are dirty.  Keepin' it real.

Obviously Santa was very good to us this year.  Not only are these gifts making our lives healthier (no more worries about flaking teflon!), tastier (hooray for even heat!), and easier (cleaning this cookware is about a million times easier than our old stainy stuff), they are making our home more beautiful.  It's putting me in the mood to do some re-organizing in our kitchen, too.  There's always a project on the horizon, isn't there??

Jan 2, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened

People read this blog.  Truly.  (Hi Mom!)

Let me clarify.  People who aren't in my immediate family read this blog.  It cracks me up!  I see a co-worker for the first time in two months and he asks if I'm planning on tackling any major projects during an upcoming break.  I go out to lunch with a friend and she tells me that she loved my most recent blog post.

I have to say, I love it.  It's amazing to me that anyone besides myself and my husband give a hoot what dorky DIY projects happen in this house.  I get a kick out of the fact that not only do other people care, they seem to *enjoy* reading about the dorky DIY projects that happen in this house.  It's pretty neat to be able to share something that floats your boat with other people and see it float their boats, too.

A slice of in-progress heaven.

I also have to say, it terrifies me a little.  The introvert in me would rather go on imagining that these little missives I write aren't available to anyone and everyone who would care to find them.  Or about a dozen people a month that google "Martha Stewart Flagstone paint" (as of this writing, my blog shows up on the third page of results!).  My chest tightens every time I share a post on Facebook or pin a photo on Pinterest.  It's like virtual stage fright; it's hard not to feel exposed.

But something truly bizarre- and awesome!- has happened recently.  It's definitely a milestone in my life as a blogger.  One of Steve's friends wanted to list his condo for sale, but their listing agent had some cosmetic upgrades that she wanted to be completed before putting the condo on the market.  Nothing too crazy- refreshing the paint, peel and stick tiling, patching nail holes, caulking, that kind of thing.  But that friend has a very busy job and a toddler, so he was not looking forward to making time for all of these projects.  At this point our mutual friend Rachael pointed him to this blog, and he asked Steve and I if we'd come help him check off the items on his home improvement to-do list.  And he'd pay us to do it.  Whaaa??  Spoiler alert: we said yes.

This is what's crazy about blogging.  If I hadn't been pouring out my nerd-girl home-loving DIY heart for all the internets to see, then nobody except my immediate family and close friends would know that Steve and I do this kind of stuff.  And that we like it!!  And while we're certainly not experts, we've got a fair amount of experience under our belts after 17 months of upgrading our ho-hum foreclosure with our own hands (and a little help from our parents).  I just find it so fascinating that being my geeky introverted self, feverishly typing on my laptop, has helped me make connections with people that I never would have otherwise.  How's that for ironic, Alanis?

So, three cheers for blogging!  I'll keep on nerding out for all to see and pretending that no one can see.  At least I won't have to picture you all in your underwear.

PS- Happy mid-90s flashback!