The Organizing Continues – Pantry & Paints!

I love the month of January. For me, it is a time to slow down after the busyness of the holidays. It’s usually peppered with a couple of snow days which adds to the take it easy, watch movies, stay in our pj’s all day kind of mode.  And there simply is less to do at this time of year – no outdoor chores, not as many school projects and activities with the kids and no big celebrations. It’s a time that I typically catch the organizing bug and actually have the time to do it! I accomplished three organizing projects this month and each has given me a good deal of satisfaction and renewed my creativity.

The first was organizing my desk space. And, I am happy to report that in the past three weeks it has stayed organized!

The second one I tackled was my pantry closet. I don’t have a before photo but it had gotten pretty bad. So, no big earth shattering ideas here but basically I use baskets and some shallow enamelware trays to corral like items: baking items in one; breads and crackers in another; nuts, seeds and dried fruits in another, and so on.

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My canned goods are arranged in rows back to front. This makes it easy to see when I am getting low on something.  It also ensures nothing gets buried in the back.

For cereals, flours, and sugars I use large plastic rectangular containers by Click Clack that allow me to see the contents.  Because they are stackable I can make better use of the shelf space.  I’ve been using these plastic containers ever since a professional organizer came to one of our MOPS programs when my teenage daughters were just toddlers. They have served us well!

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On the floor I have an old large enamelware pot for storing dry cat food. So much more convenient and attractive than a big old bag.  The cat food stays fresher, too.

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I use a rectangular Basketville basket for storing paper towels. They fit perfectly.

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I also have two small baskets that I added “s” hooks to so that they can hang from the wire shelving … one houses extra flatware and the other one keeps straws in arm’s reach for my little guy.

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Ahhh…. it feels so good to have some organization in the kitchen again!

My last organizing project was to address our ever growing supply of leftover house paints. We probably had 30 cans or more containing varying amounts of paint and scattered throughout the house. If you’ve ever opened a can of paint after it’s been sitting around awhile, invariably there is rust around the inner rim which falls into the paint upon lifting the lid, making it unusable.  That’s because paint cans are not air tight. The best idea I could find for long lasting paint storage was to transfer the paint to mason jars.

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I covered the ping pong table with a plastic tablecloth and then gathered up every paint can we had. I opened each can and stirred up the paint. Using a $1 plastic funnel I poured each paint color into one or more mason jars. I labeled each jar with the color and finish information, along with the room that we used it in. Nothing fancy – just masking tape and a sharpie.

My 6 year old son had a blast helping with this project – he’s responsible for the happy faces on the labels and jar lids!  I know I will look at these lids years from now and smile, thinking back to the day that he excitedly stirred and poured alongside me.

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I worked on this over the course of several nights and voila – this long awaited project is now finished! The paints are altogether on a shelving unit in our basement, each properly labeled. The jars take up less than half the space of all the paint cans. Incidentally, in order to throw paint cans in the garbage they need to be completely dry inside. Adding a little kitty litter to each empty can quickly absorbs and hardens any paint residue.

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January, you’ve been a good month. I hate to see you go!

Homemade Irish Cream Recipe

Each year at Christmastime we make a few batches of Irish cream – some for gift giving and some for us to enjoy on a wintry afternoon.  This past year, however, we simply ran out of time to make it.  But last week, when I made my weekly pilgrimage to Target, I spotted these smart red glass bottles (complete with wire bale and stopper), along with these adorable slate tags in the $ Spot!

I immediately thought of the Irish cream recipe and how nice it would be to whip up a batch and give  as Valentine’s gifts to my adult valentines!

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I don’t like to rush the season and frankly wasn’t even thinking about Valentine’s Day until these bottles and tags jumped out in my path.  I am doing this post a bit early so you have time to get them before Target runs out!

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 Our homemade Irish cream is similar to commercial “Bailey’s” but creamier and fuller and much less expensive (about $5 a batch).

RECIPE:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 raw eggs

3 tablespoons chocolate syrup

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup rye whiskey (I use Seagram’s)

Put all the ingredients in a blender or mixer and blend well.  Use a funnel to transfer it to a decorative bottle if you are using it as a gift.  Keep it refrigerated and shake well before serving over ice.  Each batch makes 1 quart.

A note on raw eggs:  I buy my eggs from a local farmer where the chickens roam freely and are not given any antibiotics or hormones.   In all the years we have made this recipe, we never have had a problem.

This beverage is wonderful for sipping apres ski or while movie watching on a snowy afternoon!

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Enjoy in moderation!

New Year’s Resolution: Declutter and organize my workstation- check!

Hi there and happy new year!  It seems everyone gets the organizing bug this time of year and I am no exception!  I have so many areas of my home to tackle but the one that has bothered me the most is my desk area.  In the very busy days leading up to Christmas, I had to let certain things go – one of those things was mail and my kids’ school papers.  In fact, I didn’t open a single Christmas card until after Christmas.

My desk is situated in a little niche in our foyer.  It is super convenient as I can bounce back and forth between my desk and the kitchen where I spend most of my time.  The downside is that it is in plain view of everyone as they pass through to the rest of the house.  So, let me be real and show you how it looked on Christmas Eve when we hosted dinner for 14 …. cringe.

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And  here is how it looks today –  all organized and prettied up!

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Organizing and decluttering is overwhelming to me.  So I discipline myself to spend 1 hour on an organizing project and then walk away from it. It also helps if I have a little somethin’ new to add to the space … then I am more motivated!

So here’s the details on what I use to keep this space  functioning and attractive.

My framed bulletin board was a DIY project from a year ago.  Just a yard sale frame, some burlap and the cork from a standard bulletin board (also found at a yard sale).  I cut the cork to fit my frame, wrapped it in burlap and secured the back with staples and hot glue before inserting the whole thing into the vintage frame.  It is positioned a little off center above the desk so that it isn’t blocked from view by the computer monitor.

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My bulletin board essentially serves to inspire me.  I love Pinterest but there is something about seeing ideas that I want to try, feeling fabric swatches and viewing paint samples in real life.  The gold and white push pins are from the Nate Berkus line of office supplies at Target. The vintage XOXOXO game card banner is from our Etsy store.

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I use two wooden divided boxes to keep the desktop tidy.  One is for my address book, birthday book and a supply of various greeting cards, note paper, envelopes, address labels and stamps.  It also corrals an assortment of pens, pencils and markers.

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I love this old wooden box with the words “finish nails” etched in the wood.  It makes me smile to think of a man who cared enough to organize his nails.  No doubt he made the box himself.  I use it to keep paper clips, binder clips, sticky notes, elastic bins, pushpins and gift tags neatly corralled.

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I changed out the lamp with a new one from Target.  This was the “little somethin’ new” that I mentioned earlier to motivate me into action.  It’s the Threshold brass task lamp.  It takes up less space than the one I had before and fits my more rustic/modern style.  In the other corner of my desk I have a brass floor lamp which takes up no space on the desktop.  I found this one on clearance at Target about a year ago.

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For the inner walls, I use a three-tiered wall organizer – one bin for each child.  It was originally chrome but I sprayed it with some gold paint and then added the chalkboard name tags.

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 On the left wall, I hung some old clipboards because I like the way they look and are in easy reach when I need one.

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Under the desk things aren’t so pretty but I wanted to share that I use two large baskets from Basketville for my active files (purchased on Ebay).  One houses everything associated with the business side of my Etsy store.  The other is for the work I do with a local non-profit organization.  I love baskets because they are so versatile.  These two are about 2 feet long and 14 inches wide.  They fit nicely under the desk without interfering with the leg area.

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Ahhh.  It feels so good to walk past this space now.  I am inspired to create again and vow not to let this desktop get buried in mail and  paper which was a major creativity drain!

Incidentally, the desk is Ethan Allen, 1990’s era – hence the green paint.  I plan to give it a coat of black paint and change out the hardware to something more modern but right now I just want to enjoy my clean work space!

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Oh one more thing – the mug is from madebywallflower.com.  This was a gift from my oldest daughter two Christmases ago.  I love it!

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And now it’s on to the next organizing project … my pantry!

Debra

 

 

 

DIY Christmas Tree Collar

For the past several years, we’ve opted to use a large galvanized tub in place of a tree skirt for our Christmas tree  We would simply put the tree stand in the tub and then set the tree in the stand … tailored, easy, done. This year we managed to put the tree in the stand, add the lights and all the ornaments before giving any thought to the tub!  And there was no way I was going to talk my husband into somehow lifting the fully decked out tree with all kinds of glass ornaments and me trying to slide the tub under it … impossible.

So, I was faced with needing to come up with something to pretty up the base of the tree.  Tree skirts are nice but I find them to be fussy –  between trying to water the tree without disturbing the skirt, to cats that love to mess it up.  What I’ve been seeing a lot of this year is a “tree collar”.  Here’s two that caught my eye this week at  Home Goods:

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This metal one is similar to the look of the galvanized tub I had been using:

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Each of these were around $60.

I also really liked these wicker models from Pier One which are on sale now for about $60:

Woven Tree Collar with Ribbon | Pier 1 Imports:

Woven Tree Collar | Pier 1 Imports:

However, none of these work for a tree that is already trimmed and pretty much unmovable.  So as they say, necessity is the mother of invention…. I scoured my basement and found a very old laundry basket whose bottom was falling out and some of the wicker was broken.  Hmmm…. I asked hubby if we could knock out the bottom of the basket and then  cut out a section of one side of the basket –  creating a large enough hole that I could slip the thing around the base of the tree and the tree stand.

Using a cordless circular saw he zipped out a section in less than 5 minutes,  and transformed my falling apart basket into this:

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He “sealed” the edges of the wicker with some hot glue so that my tree collar wouldn’t easily fall apart. It was so easy to just slip it around the tree.  You can’t notice that the tree stand actually extends out the back a bit … that’s the beauty of having a tree collar with an opening in the back.

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I am pleased that we found a use for a laundry basket that was beyond usable.  And I really like the texture that my laundry basket-turned-tree collar adds to the room.

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Oh, and Sweetie agrees that it adds just the right touch to her cozy spot for catnapping.

So, scour your basement and garage for a basket that has seen better days and transform it like we did.  We’d love to see your transformation!

Debra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Cake

We posted this recipe last fall but it is soooo good I thought it was worthy of a retake!  This is my dear friend Elizabeth’s recipe.  It is so much easier than pumpkin pie!

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Ingredients:

1 (30 oz.) can pumpkin pie mix

1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2  cup melted butter

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Beat together pumpkin pie mix, evaporated milk, 3/4 cup sugar and eggs.  Pour into a greased  9 x 13 inch pan.  Sprinkle yellow cake mix powder over above and pat down lightly.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Drizzle melted butter over top.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Enjoy!

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Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Debra

 

 

Fall Decorating – Living Room and Layered Rugs

I finally have some photos to share with you of our fall living room.  This room  took awhile to pull together because  I tried several different combinations of accessories.  I brought things out of storage in my  basement, and just “played”.  This is probably my favorite pass time … moving furniture around, trying different accessories and along the way cleaning, polishing and organizing.

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For this room I was looking to do some pops of fall color but not stray too far from our mostly neutral color palate.  I started with some new plaid pillows from Target on the matching club chairs.  They are big and plump and cozy like a flannel shirt.

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On the sofa I added two new pillows – a navy and white window pane and a graphic pheasant pillow – both from Target.  But not much in the way of color pops yet …

Then I switched out a leather footstool for one that I found curbside and had stashed in our basement.  This was a piece that I intended to recover at some point.   It just so happens to be orange plaid and I thought it might work for a pop of fall color.

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I liked the leather ottoman in the photo below (also thrifted) but it has always been a little too big for the space and when I looked at the photos of the room, I noticed all the different shades of brown leather (2 chairs , the ottoman, and some old suitcases) that I had going on.

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 It really helps to look at the room through a camera lens because it reveals things that you just don’t notice otherwise.   So, out with the leather and in with orange plaid.

Between the two chairs I played around with a stack of leather suitcases and a stack of baskets, before settling on the baskets.  The baskets added some interesting texture and function as dvd storage and a  landing spot for a drink and a book.

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The large tobacco basket behind the chair has been up for awhile.  We brought this home from an antique store in South Carolina way back when.  It too has a graphic, almost “plaid” pattern.

To spread some color over to the sofa, I added one orange-ish pillow   This was a PB cover I purchased a few years back.  What can I say … I collect pillow covers!

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And then I turned my attention to the floor.  I’ve been intrigued by all the photos I’ve been seeing of layered rugs. What a neat way to add some coziness and  warmth to the floor!  Here’s a few that caught my eye on Pinterest:

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Neutrals are great but don't be afraid to pick a signature color. Interior Design by Emily Henderson:

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I want a pair of these chairs.:

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A Rug to Love!:

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Searching my basement, I pulled out this old black needlepoint rug, thrifted at some point in time.

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It’s not the perfect rug in terms of size and color, but I like it enough to live with it for awhile.  It’s got some pale pink in it that I am ignoring and when I look at the room as a whole, it seems to read as black.  I like the grid design which echoes my plaid theme and it anchors the room, too.  Plus, it makes the room feel warmer.

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But after I laid the rug down, I had to tone down the orange of the ottoman because of its proximity to the pink parts of the rug.   So, I moved the neutral throw from the arm of the chair to the ottoman.  And here’s how it looks now:

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On the opposite side of the room are my two mismatched leather chairs.

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The Eames style chair purchased from the Habitat Restore got a new throw from Target.  I like the black  white graphic design along with the fringe on this throw. And it ties to the black rug and the black piano niche.  Incidentally, the throw is on clearance now – just $6!

The log cabin quilt in the background was made by my great aunt.  It instantly brought some fall color to this side of the room.

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Finally, I refreshed the chalkboard wall piano niche with one velvet pumpkin and some gold framed yard sale artwork.

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 I like how the gold frames pop against the black wall.

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 You can read about the piano niche and why I did a black wall here and how I made the hand painted bench cover here.

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So that’s a wrap!

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Just in time to think about redecorating for Christmas!

Debra

 

Fall Decorating – Foyer/Mudroom

This week I directed my attention to our foyer/mudroom area.  We have been in this house almost two years now but so many things have taken priority.  Until lately, I haven’t been able to be really intentional with my decorating.  Intentional decorating takes a lot of thought – figuring out how to make a room really function for our needs and making it look  pretty.  I think that doing  “pretty” is easy.  But making a room functional and pretty – now that takes a whole lot of thought!

So I am going through our home, room by room, studying the flow, the light, the balance of colors and textures and considering how we all use the space – intentionally speaking that is!

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So here we are at the front door.  In this house, everyone enters from the front of the home, via either the front door or a side door, both of which open to the same space.  Hence, my foyer doubles as a mudroom.

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Both the front door and the side door are painted SW Black Bean  – a really dark brown which we like a lot.  To the left of the front door is the Pottery Barn Andover cabinet  – the only piece of furniture we purchased specifically for this house so far.

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 The cabinet is home to our CD’s, keys, batteries, charging cords, etc.  I have an assortment of nature-related books on top because they sort of relate to the pond setting of this home.  For fall, I simply added a few turkey feathers to an old green bottle and some bittersweet for a pop of orange.  The lamp shade is from Target, recently found on clearance.  I like the graphic “feather” design – well that’s what it looks like to me anyway!

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On the floor sits an old wicker basket that I found recently at the Habitat ReStore.  I’m not sure what it was intended for but I am using it to corral some of my decorating  magazines (I have a hard time parting with them, although I am getting better at purging) .  The top section is purely decorative with a few pinecones and an antler for fall.

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It’s nice to be able to grab a magazine on my way out the door to soccer practice!

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The right side of the front door (which is the left side of the side door you see in this photo) is where we hang our coats, “grab ‘n go” bags and my son’s book bag.  My husband made the rack out of some salvaged wood that was here on the property.

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 An old wire utility basket hangs off a couple of the hooks for outgoing mail and library books. This same idea could be done with any kind of basket or hanging bin.

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 The plaid jacket was something I thrifted a few years back for $1!  It makes an appearance every fall.   It’s a man’s jacket but it fits me like a glove.  And, I love how it looks just hanging out on the hook.

foyer13 You could do the same with a plaid scarf that’s been hanging out in your closet.  Lesson:  raid your wardrobe for home decor!

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 I cozied up the bench a bit with an Ikea faux sheepskin.  These are great where ever you need to soften a hard edge, add texture or just cozy up a space.  Our cats love it, too.

 The pillows are purely decorative but this was a spot where I could add a bit of fall color  – the black and white plaid pillow is by Allen Lippes for Target. I love the large scale buffalo check done on the diagonal.  The green velvet  is Pottery Barn, thrifted last week for $3!

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Under the bench, I use two old gym locker baskets – one for my little guy’s shoes, gloves, hats and soccer socks.  The other one is for his daily school papers which get purged about once a month.  I made canvas liners for the baskets to hide the clutter.  I have a third one of these baskets and I’d like to use it if only I could find what box it is in.

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So there you have it – my fall foyer and mudroom combo!

Thanks for stopping by!

Debra