Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State's Moral Compass

The recent events at Penn State have infuriated me. While I usually write about cooking and cleaning, I feel that as a mother and a human being, this subject deserves some attention. Joe Paterno has played himself as the "moral compass" of Penn state, and while he may have been a great coach, he clearly is lacking as a human being, and his indifference directly contributed to a multitude of boys being sodomized at the hands of one of his coaches.
This story is sickening from the beginning, but what really put me over the edge were the riots that took place near the Penn St campus last night upon students learning that Paterno had been fired. I was infuriated when Old "Joepa" decided that he would resign at the season's end, as if the decision were up to him. I'm sorry, who exactly do you think you are? Do you think, Joe Paterno, that you are so far above the law that a University would actually play by your rules in regards to when you leave the institution? I guess you did, since you have done it before. But this was not about football. This is about the fact that you not only employed and ignored a pedophile, but that you still thought that you were above the law in this regard. How dare you. The last time I checked, when people refer to a "moral compass", it does not read "Right, Wrong, or Protect Joe Paterno". Unfortunately, it seems that the latter is what the students and staff at Penn St. follow. Well let me tell you something, Joe. The mothers of America do not care how many football games you have won, how many players you have influenced, or how many lives you have changed. We care about the lives you tossed aside by your indifference and callous disregard. You knew, and you did essentially nothing. How dare you. You deserve to go out not in a blaze of glory, but in a veil of shame. Your years of coaching mean nothing if you are not the kind of person who would protect innocent children from a predator. In fact, instead of protecting the victims, you protected the predator and made damn sure that his actions didn't ruin your own precious reputation.

In regards the the riots last night at Penn St: It seems that the football program is not the only problem at Penn St, it is the level of education. To see misguided students tossing over a TV van, breaking windows and getting hit with pepper spray hints at a lack of discipline and education that is clearly campus wide, not solely confined to the football field. Perhaps these students do not have children, and cannot fathom the pain that would come with having your son raped by a dirty old man, only to have it covered up. Their ignorance only shows that they clearly care more about a football program than actual people.

As to Mike McQueary, who reported what he saw to Joe Paterno. Let me tell you something: When you see an 11 year old boy being RAPED by a dirty old man, you don't walk away and call your daddy and then Joe Paterno. You rip the old man off of him and beat the shit out of him. Then you call 911. If, god forbid anyone ever did this to my son, I would pray that if anyone saw it they would protect him, not some stupid university football coach. I also pray that when my son becomes a man, he would defend the child who was being sodomized, not some football coach.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Developing Recipes and Learning to Cook

It is hard for me to believe that just six years ago, I had no idea how to cook. There were two things I could make: toast and ice cubes. When I got married, I figured I needed to learn, fast. So learn I did, by watching The Food Network endlessly and buying cookbooks. Like so many new cooks, I followed each recipe to the letter, since I didn't trust myself enough to make deviations. I believe this is a great way to learn, getting the basics down and following somebody else's rules until you get a good grasp on how ingredients work together (or not), and not making adjustments until you are more confident in the kitchen. Eventually, I was able to make changes that suited me, and even came up with a few recipes of my own.
I have always admired those who are able to write cookbooks, since I only have a few recipes in my repertoire that have been created solely by little old me. Despite the fact that I consider myself an intermediate to advanced cook, creating recipes intimidates me.
Then came the Real Women of Philadelphia contest. It is a recipe contest from Philadelphia Cream Cheese, with a weekly theme, time and ingredient restriction, and a 500.00 prize. I can almost picture that copper kitchenaid stand mixer in my pretty little hands. When I looked it up, something amazing happened - I started thinking about actually composing recipes of my own, and since I had been given an ingredient limit, a theme (appetizer, side dish, etc.), and a deadline, I was able to come up with some ideas. Now I cannot wait to come up with more! Because there are guidelines to get me started, I have gained so much confidence in myself and my ability to create recipes.
Here is one recipe that didn't make it into the contest, since I made it, photographed it, and ate it before I realized that I didn't put the package of Philadelphia cream cheese in the picture. I had every intention of re-making it, but life got in the way. It may not be healthy, but it tastes so good I had to share!

Creamy bacon cauliflower bake
One head of cauliflower, cut into chunks
4 oz bacon or pancetta, diced
2 Tbs flour
1 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
8oz (one brick) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbs olive oil
2 oz shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre- heat oven to 375
In large pot, boil water and cook cauliflower for about 5 minutes. In addition to the regular cauliflower, I bought a few colorful purple and orange baby cauliflower heads to add to the presentation. When cooked, drain and set aside.
While cauliflower is cooking, render the bacon or pancetta over low to medium heat until crispy (about ten minutes). Remove bacon with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the fat in the pan.
Stir the flour into the hot bacon fat, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add milk, and let it come to a bubble, stirring occasionally.
Stir in room temperature cream cheese and nutmeg, cook until it is melted and incorporated.
Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese,salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate.

Grease a medium sized baking dish with the olive oil (or cooking spray if you prefer), and place the cauliflower in it. Top with the cream sauce and shredded gruyere cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes and serve.

Here's a money saving tip: Go to the deli counter for the pancetta and gruyere cheese. You can get the exact amount you need for so much less than if you buy it pre-packaged. I prefer Boar's head brand, but that's just me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fall Is The New Spring

Halloween is 8 weeks away.
Crazy, isn't it? That means that my favorite time of year, autumn, is almost here! I love the summer, but there is something magical about fall. It makes you want to put on sweaters, cook, bake, go apple picking and snuggle at home with your family. Fall is not just a prelude to the holiday season, it is a season of family time and being thankful. Each year I eagerly await September 1st, since that is when I allow myself to start breaking out the fall decor I put around my house. I love garlands made of fall leaves, pumpkins, all of it. I am such a dork when it comes to this stuff. Having my home feel comfortable and warm with the rich colors is so wonderful when the crisp days of fall come around. And by crisp, I mean 90 degrees instead of 100. I live in Vegas, so sometimes I have to pretend.

Right now is the perfect time to get down and dirty with some "fall cleaning". Sure, we all do spring cleaning, but I think now is the time to really focus on it. After all, soon our homes will be bustling with holiday activity and we won't have time during the hectic weeks before Christmas to tend to our homes as much as we would like. It is also a great time to de-clutter and bless some charities with the things we no longer love, before the influx of new goodies comes our way in December. If you do a deep clean now, you will be ready for spot cleaning in the coming months. So that is what I have been up to, from the baseboards to the backyard.
Here is a handy list to help you get started now, before it is too late and we are all in the chaotic holiday spirit:

Change the batteries in smoke/carbon monoxide detectors
Clean the gutters of leaves and debris
Trim down plants to get them ready for winter
Clean the windows and sills
Deep clean carpets
Organize the pantry
Change air filters
Put away summer pool toys
Change the light bulbs outside (better now than when it is cold out).
Hang heavier winter curtains that help insulate the house.

Well that should get all of us started! It may seem tedious, but it is so much easier to do these things now rather than wait until things get crazy in November and December.
Let's get cleaning!! Otherwise, if you are like me, it will be January 1st before any of it gets done.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Nectarine Tart, Part Two: Rising from the ashes.

If at first you don't succeed...

The time had come. June was here, the sun was shining, nectarines were in full supply. My son, still scarred from the original experiment, kept saying "mommy, now you can make your nectarine tart!". Does he know what a tart is? No, but he was trying his best to be supportive. Round two, tart, it's just you and me, and only one of us is going to prevail.
After the oven was cleaned of all remaining beans and tart dough, I was ready to roll. On a side note, it is never a bad idea to clean your oven, as a dirty one will generally yield poor results to whatever you are cooking/baking. You wouldn't want your tart or pie smelling like burnt mozzarella from the pizza that overflowed the week before. Also, my pizza stone lives in the bottom of my oven, never to be removed, as it aids in the cooking of pastries, bread, and everything else imaginable. Just leave it in there.

This time, I started off by buying the nectarines first. Note to self: Perhaps I should try that with all of my recipes, gathering the essential ingredients to make sure they are available before buying the hardware. I also did a quick search to find the best tart dough recipe, and came across a wonderful blog with an equally wonderful tart dough recipe - The Smitten Kitchen. It was going to work this time, I could feel it! The beauty of this tart dough is that it is creamy and easy to work with, as well as impossibly simple to make. It also does not involve pie weights (or beans as I use), so there was no risk of having to once again fish in the bottom of the oven with tweezers in search of lost beans. I was sold.
On to the nectarines, which needed to be sliced super thin and formed into roses. While the slicing wasn't a problem, the forming into roses was even more labor intensive than I prefer, and I could not get them to stay together. Realizing that this could take hours, I took the cheap way out and decided to do one rose in the center and fan the rest of the slices into a large flower.

I filled the tart with a chambord mixture per the recipe, and popped it into the oven, to be greeted 40 minutes later by this beauty:
Note: if you do a quick search of this tart, you will find many bloggers who have tried it, I will tell you it is a pain, but it is so worth it.

The Nectarine Tart Disaster (a two part series)

Part One, The Disaster
Those who know me know that I tend to gravitate towards labor intensive recipes. There is something that draws me in to spending hours composing appetizers and desserts that have that "wow" factor and make people wonder "how did she do that?" Self serving? Perhaps, but I show love through food, and let's face it: love and life can be labor intensive. Needless to say, when I was perusing the be all end all of baking, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and came across a recipe for a nectarine tart in which the nectarine slices were made into multiple roses, I thought "Yahtzee!" I waited for the perfect occasion to make this massively impressive dessert, and settled on Easter Sunday. This set into motion a sequence of events that while comical, were disastrous.

Having never made a tart before (and of course, wanting to start with the most difficult one I could find), I had no tart pan. I did; however, have a gift card to Williams-Sonoma with $11.00 left on it, more than enough for a shiny new addition to my kitchen. When I failed to locate said gift card (as clutter abounds in my house), I should have taken it as a sign and given up. Undeterred, I pressed on, and on Good Friday I made my pilgrimage to W.S. to buy the pan with my own money, since the gift card never appeared.
While checking out, the friendly clerk asked what I would be making, and I told her of the tart, at which point she innocently asked "Where are you going to find the nectarines?" Well, this thought hadn't occurred to me. Although it was only April, I was certain I had seen nectarines in the stores only a few weeks prior. Sign #2, walk away while you are still ahead. Signs be damned, off I went with my four year old in tow to the grocery store.

No nectarines. No nectarines anywhere. "Yes", the produce manager told me, "we had them a few weeks ago, but they were of poor quality so we are waiting until they are in season". My mind raced, still bent on making this stupid tart as I was now referring to it. I had also made a cake as a backup, but I wanted this tart! I searched, eagerly, desperate for a substitute fruit that could be made into roses and came across pears. $15.00 worth of pears later, I headed home.

I made the tart dough, which, by the way, is quite different than a pie dough, and set it in the fridge for the requisite 2 hours as the recipe called for. I put the boy to bed and took the dough out, oven preheated and ready to go, and unwrapped it. Disaster. Working with the dough was akin to a child trying to make a sandcastle out of dry sand. It was a crumbly useless waste of time and money sand dough. So I turned to old faithful, the red plaid cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens for a new tart dough recipe, began the process again, chilled for another 2 hours (at this point it was around midnight the Saturday before Easter, thank heavens I had baked a nice cake as back-up). This one worked, so I began the blind baking process, using dried beans as my pie weights. I was on my way! The tart shell was baking, I was happy, and when it was done I gleefully went to remove it from the oven. Note to new bakers: tart pans have two pieces, a removable bottom and the side part. It is a good idea to place the tart pan on a sheet pan while baking, since it is incredibly difficult to lift a two piece piping hot pan from the oven. Let me tell you what will happen from unfortunate personal experience. The bottom will raise, breaking the crust, the beans will spill all over your oven, and if you are really lucky, like I am, you will burn the inside of your wrist in two symmetrical places, one from the bottom and one from the side part. The tart will fall to the bottom, sides, and door of your oven, beans jumping ship every step of the way, until all you have to show for it are scars and a messy oven. Yes, this is precisely what happened to me. In fact, just this week, a couple of months later, I was asked "Did you have carpal tunnel surgery?" "no, that's from the nectarine tart". Sad. I also had the joy of dismantling the oven to find the lost beans that had fallen (with tweezers, mind you, for the ones in hard to reach places) some of which had been incinerated, and cleaning the whole thing out. I gave up the dream at this point, but only temporarily. I already had my eye on June, when nectarines would be plentiful and I could try again.

Part two of the nectarine tart disaster is Here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I wish I had thought of this sooner...

I have a couple of household tips to share with you today, but I must start by saying that we are having glorious weather here, and it is so nice to sit here with the windows open while I write, a cold beer, and a sleeping (or almost sleeping) child tucked safely into bed. Here in Vegas we get about two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall when we can actually have the windows open, so you have to jump at the chance to air the house out.

Now down to the homekeeping tips. I was washing dishes today and had a rare stroke of genius. I pre-wash every dish within an inch of it's life before loading it into the dishwasher. I am sure this is not completely necessary, but I use the dishwasher as the final sanitation process of dishes. (No, I would prefer not to hear your comments about wasting water, out here if you even water your rock landscaping on the wrong day the water police come after you, so if I want to use water in the privacy of my home leave me alone). More often than I care to admit, the dishes do not get done right after dinner, which means that there are dried bits on the silverware (especially the fork tongs) that need to be soaked off before I can wash them. By more often, I mean every night, which is a habit I would like to change, but I digress...

So today I discovered a small tip that made my life much easier. I removed the silverware basket from the dishwasher, loaded it up, and soaked the whole thing. Then, when the rest of the dishes were in the diswasher, I could just spray it down and plop it in the machine. It saved me so much time compared to washing each piece individually! It's the little things in life that bring so much joy.

The next tip is a small office in the kitchen. I have yet to find a desk I love, so I have devoted a space in the kitchen to an office space, and I try to make use of every square inch. The insides of the cabinet doors have been turned into valuable workhorses, and here is how I did it. I mounted a couple of cork strips using command adhesive so as not to damage them, and that is where I put those annoying scraps of paper that otherwise would have no home, the mail key, and other random things. Also, my mom just gave me a pack of these post it pockets that are amazing! They use post it adhesive, so they won't damage the walls or cabinets, and they are great for stashing receipts, recipes, coupons, or anything else that is in standby mode waiting for it's permanent home. They were giving them away at the last NASCAR race, but you can buy them at staples:

Here is the inside of the cabinet

Making every inch in your home count leads to a more organized home, and since I am "clutter challenged", I'll take all the help I can get!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Not Vain Enough

VAIN adj \ˈvān\
having or showing undue or excessive pride in one's appearance or achievements

I have decided that I am not "vain" enough. While vanity is often regarded as a negative trait, perhaps even a personality flaw, I have come to notice that the same can be said of a lack of vanity. Think about it: if you have or show an "excessive pride in one's appearance", it gives the impression that you actually care enough about your appearance to pay attention to it.
If this is sounding a bit confusing, let me provide you with a story that led me to think that I am perhaps not vain enough, and what I intend to do about it. About a month or so ago, I was watching "Holly's World", a reality show starring Holly Madison of former "Girls Next Door" fame. She was celebrating her birthday, and being a big Holly fan, I was surprised to realize that I never knew she was my age. "Look at her" I said to my husband. "What about her?" "She's MY age", I replied. "And she looks amazing!!". Now my husband, who is honest to a fault, not one to pump me up just for the sake of pumping me up, had just the right response, not some "you look beautiful just the way you are" BS response. He looked at me, slightly puzzled, and said "Um...yeah...It takes EFFORT to look that way".
And he was right. It does take effort, effort that I have not been willing to put forth. I am inherently lazy, it takes every ounce of energy I have simply to wash my face before bed. I look older than I am, while I am thin I am so out of shape I can barely make it up a flight of stairs, and I regularly proclaim how "haggard" I am.
Despite what anyone may say, how you look on the outside does indeed affect how you feel on the inside. It would be lovely if we all actually believed that what is inside is all that matters, but it doesn't. Who doesn't feel special when they put on a new dress, or when your face is glowing, or you have a new pair of shoes on? I'm not sure I want to look like a Real Housewife, but I do admire the amount of time they spend on themselves. So I am doing something about it. I don't want to use "I'm haggard, I have a 4 year old" as an excuse to be lazy anymore. I want to look great, spend more time on my appearance, and feel great about it.
I have joined an overpriced luxury gym that opens next month. I specifically chose this gym because I like things that are shiny and new, and I like to go where pretty people are. I could have joined the gym around the corner where it would be a drudgery, but the overpriced gym will be an experience - for heaven's sake, you can even get botox there. So if going to the fancy gym is what it takes to get me to go, get healthy, stay fit for my son who would appreciate it if I could actually play with him without getting winded, all the while getting a much better body, I'll do it. Vanity is not necessarily a bad thing, and I think that quite a few of us could use a good dose of it. My husband is right. If you want to take pride in your appearance, you have to work at it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It's recipe Wednesday! This is something new I am trying - posting a new recipe every Wednesday. The first recipe is for spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie. I love cooking, and I am particularly fond of making appetizers. I love them in any shape or form. After trying numerous recipes for spanakopita, I devised my own, which is a blend of several different recipes. I am pretty sure it is not authentic Greek food, so I am offering my apologies to my Greek friends in advance. I do know that while labor intensive and time consuming, this appetizer never fails to be a huge hit with my friends.
Here are the ingredients, this recipe will make about 60 triangles:
2 (12 oz) packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 package phyllo dough, thawed

To begin, take the thawed spinach (frozen spinach is really the way to go on this one), squeeze out all of the water by ringing it out in a clean kitchen towel, and set aside. Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium high heat until translucent (8-12 minutes). Add the garlic, and saute for about 60 seconds. If you burn the garlic, you will need to start over, so keep an eye on it and when it is fragrant, dump in the spinach. Break up the spinach and cook over medium heat for a minute or so, adding salt and pepper as desired. A word of caution - be careful with the salt, as the cheese you will add later will add saltiness to the dish. Stir in the lemon zest and turn off the heat. Set the pan aside to cool.
Once the spinach mixture has cooled, bust out the phyllo dough. I thaw mine in the fridge overnight. When purchasing, I use Athens brand, it is in the freezer section near the frozen pies and ice cream. I have tried store brands, and they just don't work.
Phyllo is very delicate and can be difficult to work with. The most important thing is to work quickly. I also take the plastic wrap it comes in and lay it on top of the sheets covered with a damp tea towel while I am working to keep it from drying out.
Take the cooled spinach and to it add the feta, Parmesan, eggs, and ricotta. Mix well until the feta is incorporated evenly into the spinach.
Lay out one sheet of phyllo, brush with the melted butter, and lay another sheet on top of it. Cut the sheet into thirds, place a half tablespoon of filling at the end of each third, and begin folding. There is no easy way of describing this, so I had my husband video tape it:

I set out a sheet tray lined with parchment or foil, and as I work I lay the triangles on it. At this point you can either bake them right away, or freeze them. I freeze them on a single layer on a sheet tray (or cookie sheet), then toss them into freezer bags for later use. When you are ready, take the frozen triangles and bake them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until golden. If you are cooking them as you make them, they will take 10-15 minutes. I find that they are at their best when served room temperature, which makes them an easy appetizer to serve at parties. You can cook them ahead of time and set them out, and then use your oven for more time sensitive appetizers. This is one recipe you should definitely try, and don't get discouraged if they aren't perfect the first time - it takes some practice, but these savory spinach pies are worth it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dollar Section Fixer-Uppers

I shall begin by saying that the dollar section in Target is like crack to me. Resistance is futile, even if I manage to stroll on by at the beginning of my shopping trip, it inevitably sucks me in when I am getting ready to check out. Such deals! Such clutter and junk! But I love it, and sometimes there are some really super finds.
The last time I was there I saw some golden opportunities, items I knew I could fix up and use for storage in my craft room. I had been pricing magazine holders for a while, and lo and behold there they were in the dollar section. They may be cardboard, but that is good enough for me, after all, that's usually what the expensive ones are made of anyway (the ones Target sells are around 10.00 a piece for the cardboard "pretty" ones), and it's not like I'm using them to hold weights or anything. There were also some little bins for Valentine's day, that were begging to be made over for my craft room. How could I let them down?
So these are two projects for you, and they are surprisingly simple and inexpensive.
These are the bins before:

My initial idea was to cover them in beige fabric, then embellish it. After days of mod podge induced delusions of grandeur, I ripped the fabric off and almost gave up on the whole stupid thing. So, I took the easy way out: spray adhesive and scrapbook paper. Ahh, life is so much easier with those two items, and the job flied by. I simply made a template, cut out the pieces, sprayed and stuck. Super easy, and when it dried I added some ribbon and a tag holder. Some of the ribbon went on a little crooked, but I am trying to ignore it. Here is the finished product:

The second project was the magazine holders, which started out looking like this:

And ended up looking like this, using the same spray and stick technique. I found some great paper on sale at Michaels for 29 cents a sheet, the tag holders are 2.99 for 3, which I used a 40% coupon for, so all told these cost about 2.00 a piece. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Sorry about the picture quality, I probably should have waited until daylight to take the pictures, but I couldn't resist sharing!
I hope you try these dollar section projects, there will be more to come.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Well Organized Pantry

I organized my pantry this week, and decided that this would be a good time to provide some tips on keeping this, an essential hub of the home tidy and neat. I like tasks like organizing a pantry because in my disorganized world, it is something that is relatively easy to accomplish and maintain. I, for one, struggle daily with maintaining order in my home, but I am trying to stick to the wise words of my sister who once told me to pick a small task and do it to completion. Completion. What a wonderful word, one that I do not accomplish very often. This is where projects like the pantry come into play. You see, a pantry is one, enclosed space. When it is done, it is done, and no matter how cluttered or ugly your pantry is, when you are organizing it, you can still see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is much easier to say "today, I will organize the pantry" than to say "today, I am going to get this house organized." After I organized the pantry, I felt elated that I had completed a task, which gave me the energy and incentive to accomplish other small tasks. The beauty in a well organized pantry is that once the initial purge/re-organization is complete, it is actually quite easy to keep it that way. Another thing I like, since I tend to organize then destroy.
As a matter of fact, organize then destroy pretty much sums up my world, and I am sure I am not alone in this.
So in the spirit of taking baby steps to organize my home, I'll share the first babystep, which for me was the pantry.
The first step is to take everything, and I do indeed mean everything out of the pantry. This is essential, as the clear shelves will give you clear direction.
Now wipe down the shelves and line them if you desire (I think it goes without saying that mine were already lined LOL).
Once you get everything out, check all of the expiration dates on your products, and toss anything that is expired or that you have no intentions of using. When I remove everything, I sort it on my table and countertops by category; pasta and grains, breakfast items, baking supplies, ziploc bags and such. This was the biggest pain of the project, yet I forged ahead (after taking a break and considering scrapping the whole thing).
After sorting and tossing, it was time to re-package. I love jars and containers, and I try to put most of my goods into glass canning jars. They are inexpensive and sold in cases of 12. You can even find them at your local grocery store. I like transferring things to jars because I think they keep food fresh, you avoid things like spilled bags of rice on your shelves, and because I will do whatever it takes to keep ants away (I have a fear - yes, a real fear of ants). I also love jars because they make the ordinary look lovely. In our last house, we had no pantry. No pantry at all, so I purchased a pine shelving unit and made an exposed pantry. Well, when your pantry is exposed for the world to see, you want things to look nice and jars are the answer for that.

Now that you have put everything into nice containers, it is time to re-stock. I use inexpensive shelf risers for canned goods, and turn all of the labels forward facing, with the cans grouped by type (tomato products, soup, etc.) As I was doing this I kind of felt like the husband in "Sleeping With The Enemy", but it does look nice!
I grouped breakfast items together, then baking, cat items, etc.

So now the pantry is complete, and it is easy to keep it that way. A little corner of my world that is organized, even when the rest of it might be chaos. The best advice I can offer is that when you take everything out and start to feel that overwhelmed, panicked feeling, keep going. The entire thing took less than an hour, and the sense of accomplishment is well worth it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Craft Rooms Are Not For Kids

This week, I have been working on getting my craft room in order. This is turning out to be quite the task, since I am indecisive while at the same time quite particular about how things should look. While unpacking my supplies and trying to get things organized, I have once again been exposed to the brutal and annoying truth: craft rooms are not for kids. Now, I love crafting with my son. I also hate it. For example, the other day I let him use some of my acrylic paints to make pictures. It was a wonderful time, he loved it, and I loved watching him be creative. Since that day, he wants to paint every day, which is not always possible, added to the fact that his idea of painting has evolved into squeezing out ungodly amounts of paint and making a mess.
If I had been smart, I would have hidden the real paint, letting him live in ignorant bliss that watercolors were the be all end all of painting. How much easier my life would have been this week if only I had concealed the real paint.
My loving husband, who is in full support of my craft room dreams, says "this is mama's sanctuary - you stay out",and bought me a lock today, so I can keep the little one out. While I am thrilled to have a lock, it is self control I need. I let this happen, and I need to fix it. I want to do creative things with my son, but I need to realize the construction paper is for him, while the $1.00 a sheet scrapbook paper is mine. So I guess the lock is the answer. If I can keep the boy out of the room, I don't have to feel guilty about hoarding the good stuff for myself.
This may seem, to the casual observer, as nothing more than a discipline issue. And to that observer, you would be correct. But the lack of discipline is not with my son, it is with me. I love to watch him create, so I let him go through my stuff. My mistake, but I assure you it won't happen again.
Now to start my next craft project. What is it? Well, friends, it's a sign for the craft room. Can you guess what it is going to say?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shelf Liner, How Do I love Thee...

Apparently enough to start blogging again!
We have moved quite a bit in the past few years, and through every move I have one hard and fast rule: Nothing goes on a shelf or in a drawer until said shelf/drawer is lined.
Every time we move, the first thing I do is line the shelves. I don't mean the old contact paper sticky shelf liner, I use liner that is non adhesive. As a bacteria freak, the thought of putting my drinking glasses and towels on shelves that someone has used before me gives me the creeps, even after I have sanitized them. In new houses, I still line the shelves, since I also like the easy clean up and streamlined appearance.
The benefits of lining the shelves are many, these are the reasons I do it:
Sanitation - You never know what somebody before you did to the shelves or cupboards, and I am not willing to risk it, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Really, do you want to set your stuff down in a bathroom that somebody else has used for who knows what?
Protection: Shelf liner offers some degree of protection for the shelves and cupboards, making cleanup easier and offering some insurance against under the sink floods and water damage. When you move out, the shelves are in the exact condition you found them in, with no crumbs or dings.
This is particularly helpful if you are renting.
It also helps protect your glassware and crystal from chips and dings by cushioning the shelf. This, in and of itself is reason enough to line, at least in my opinion.

Unfortunately, if you have a lot of cabinet space, it will take a lot of liner, and it can get expensive quickly. So I recommend doing it in stages. One roll of liner does not go very far. Lowe's sells jumbo rolls, available in white or beige, which I have found to be the most economical choice.

Cutting your shelf liner is a pain in the butt, the cuts almost never come off straight, then when you lay it in the drawer it inevitably veers off course and looks sloppy. I dealt with drunken shelf liner for years until I wised up and decided to use my quilting tools to get straight cuts. If you quilt or sew, you probably already have a rotary cutter and mat around the house.
If you don't, you can still use scissors; however, if you are lining every shelf and drawer in your house, I would invest in a rotary cutter and mat. You can get both for around twenty bucks, and it will save you quite a bit of aggravation.
This is the shelf liner I use, it comes in two different sizes:

I use a rotary cutter, available at craft stores or even Wal-Mart. A note to quilters, I save this blade for cutting shelf liner or other things, as it dulls the blade quickly and will no longer give you a clean cut on fabric.
Measure your drawer or shelf, lay it down on the mat and cut. The rotary cutter is like an exacto knife on a wheel, it is effortless to use and when paired with a ruler to guide it makes a perfectly straight cut.

Lay it in the drawer or shelf, and you are done! It makes everything look clean and tidy.
Here I have used it in my kitchen, don't mind the overlap in the back of the cupboard, some trimming is too time consuming for me, since I have 5,000 cabinets in the house I am living in (finally, real storage!! I love it!)

Even my junk drawer looks classy! (For now, LOL.)

I could go on for days about the wonders of shelf liner, but that would bore you all. Now go forth and line those shelves!