Friday, August 16, 2013

The Baking Cupboard

I think this may have to be my personal motto:

So if you couldn't figure it out from the huge sign above, I love to bake!  Sometimes its just throwing together some muffins with 2 year old B and other times its spending some extra time trying out new recipes or working on making my own recipes (stay tuned for my personal Snickerdoodle recipe in the fall).  My favorite thing to do is make chocolate chip cookie dough and keep it in the fridge (its good in there for about a week).  Just before I take the kids back to bed I put a couple of cookies in the oven so that when I emerge into the relaxing quiet hours of the night I can enjoy a nice gooey, warm, delicious chocolate chip cookie.

I could go on and on about baking, but what this post is really about is my baking cupboard.  I keep almost all of my baking supplies in one cupboard so that they are easy to find and use.  I use the cupboard that is conveniently located just above the mixer so I can have everything in one place.

Here's a view of the baking area in the kitchen:

And here is the baking cupboard in all its organized glory:

The picture is pretty straightforward, but if you keep reading on, I'll give a rundown of all those exciting organizational details shelf by shelf...

The cookie cutters didn't fit into the baking cupboard, so I organized them into tubs and put them in the cupboard on the other side of the microwave - still within reach of the baking area, of course! :)

Before I got started, I made a list of how I would like to organize the baking items:
- tub for cookie cutters (separated into categories)
- piping bag, tops, food coloring, etc. in bin
- dry and wet measuring items together
- mixing bowls
- gasket jar for cupcake liners
- plastic tubs for flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and brown sugar
- see through containers for sprinkles

Then I took everything out of the cupboard (I'll spare you the picture of that disaster) and then started putting it all back in the cupboard in its new tubs and containers.  Keeping all of my baking items organized has actually saved me quite a bit of time and money because I'm not searching for things and I'm not buying double of what I already have.

And that's it - the wonderful baking cupboard!!

On second thought, I think this might be my more specific personal motto:

Want to know what I used to help me organize?  I ended up purchasing all of the organizing containers from Storables.

Jar for cupcake liners:
click here for where to buy online

Containers for sprinkles:
click here for where to buy online

Containers for flour, sugar, etc.
click here for where to buy online

Bins for holding wet & dry measuring, food coloring, and sprinkles containers:
click here for where to buy online

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cleaning Schedule

I like my house to be clean... right!  Unfortunately, like most people, I don't like doing what I need to do to get my house clean.  I used to avoid cleaning until the weekend and then spend a whole day sweating and madly cleaning the house, but that plan hasn't been working for me.  2 of my friends had good cleaning systems so I thought them over...

1 friend cleans on Thursday evenings so that her house is clean for the weekend.  Oh, and she enjoys drinking a bottle of wine while doing so.  Sounds fantastic!!  She admits, though, that she sometimes can't find things the next day that she has put away due to the excess wine consumption while cleaning. :)

The other friend has a daily system.  Take out the garbages on this day, clean the bathrooms on a different day, etc.  This system sounded like something I could wrap my head around so for the past 9 months or so I've been cleaning this way.  Now I don't always get to my cleaning chores for the day and if that is the case then I push them to the next day and everything gets bumped, but I've found that by doing this it only takes me about 20 - 30 minutes to clean daily and I am actually getting to everything every week.

Here is my cleaning schedule along with my fantasy of what I would like to get done and the reality of what actually gets done...

Sunday - Kitchen and Dining Room
Fantasy - vacuum dining room, dust dining room blinds, clean dining room table, vacuum and mop kitchen floor, clean all kitchen countertops and stove, wipe down fridge

Reality - vacuum dining room, clean dining room table, vacuum kitchen, wipe down kitchen countertops with antibacterial all-purpose cleaner, and do a quick vacuum of the living room and entry way

Monday - Kids Rooms, Hallway, Guest Bathroom
Fantasy - put away toys and books, dust kids rooms, vacuum and mop floors (because M still spits up and out of her crib so the floor in her room is covered in white spots), clean bathroom well (toilets, tub, sink, and floor get a scrub down)

Reality: put away toys and books and vacuum kids rooms and hallway, vacuum bathroom and clean well every other week - unless we have company and then I will clean the bathroom (your welcome guests!)

Tuesday - No Cleaning Day!

Wednesday - Living Room and Entry Way
Fantasy - put away toys, dust, vacuum couch and area rug and floors, vacuum hairs and dirt that cling to the bench

Reality - pick up toys, vacuum floors and bench, dust when I have some extra time (so not very often!), and do a quick vacuum of the kitchen and dining room

Thursday - No Cleaning Day!

Friday - Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom
Fantasy - dust, vacuum, clean bathroom well (sink, tub, toilet, and floor get a scrub down)

Reality - vacuum floors and clean master bathroom well every other week

Saturday - Stairs and Downstairs
Fantasy - vacuum and mop stairs, organize and vacuum playroom, vacuum laundry room, clean bathroom

Reality - sweep stairs every other week and vacuum once a month (we don't eat down there and the dog doesn't go downstairs so it really doesn't get that dirty anyway), and when it drives me crazy I will clean the downstairs bathroom but Nick is the only one to use it so I figure if he doesn't care if its dirty then I'm not going to worry about it

I do what I can to keep the house as clean as possible without devoting ALL of my time to cleaning.  There are areas that need improvement in the cleaning routine, but right now it is working for me and I've come to accept the fact that things are going to be a bit dusty and the bathroom isn't perfectly clean all of the time, but as a friend said to me once, I'd rather be spending time with my child than cleaning so things aren't going to get done like they used to (thanks Erica).

*I would like to add that none of these pictures are from my actual house... just dreaming!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Packing Plans

Just a warning, this is a long post, but there are lots of pictures if you just want to scan. :)

2 things just happened... 1, Nick, the girls, and I went to San Diego for a little vacation and 2, before going on the trip, I decided to take on a challenge.  I came across an article titled How to Pack 20 Outfits in One Carry On.  It intrigued me because just like pretty much every other person out there, I always pack waaay too much because I never know what I am going to want to wear.  For this trip, though, I followed the guidelines of the article pretty closely by packing only a few items of clothing that could all be matched together in different ways.  This way I could come up with various outfits using the few clothes that I brought.

I followed the amount of each item of clothing to bring, but I didn't follow the exact items the article suggested because of where I was going and what we would be doing.  It's not like I needed a pair of black trousers and a button front blouse on a trip to a warm climate city where I would be chasing kids at SeaWorld and playing at the beach!  Check out what the article said to bring here and then check out what I did...

*Side note: Some of the items of clothing in the pictures are items that look like the clothing that I brought.  Not every picture is an exact match of the clothes, but I tried to find pictures of things that looked very similar to what I brought.

Color Palette:

  • The article says to pick a color palette and I've read in other articles that this helps reduce the amount of shoes, accessories, etc. that you will need to pack and then you can also throw neutral colored clothes in with your theme.  I didn't pick a color palette ahead of packing, but after looking at my clothes, I realized that I actually did have a color theme...

Plane Ride:

  • I wore a skirt for 2 reasons: 1, it was a hot day in Seattle and San Diego and 2, it was my way of bringing a skirt in case I wanted one to wear instead of the maxi dress that I decided to pack as a "Bottoms" item (see Bottoms below).
  • Instead of packing the Outer Layer cardigan, I brought it with me on the plane in case I got chilly  and so I would have more room in my suitcase (also see Outer Layer below).
  • I always wear flip flops now on plane rides to avoid the hassle of taking off shoes while also trying to get everything up on the scanning belt and then back into the carry on bags, etc., etc.

SD plane ride

Bottoms (4 items):
  • khaki shorts
  • army green shorts
  • jeans - the article says to bring dark jeans, but I knew that if I wanted to dress nice, I could wear the maxi dress, so I opted for the comfy jeans (I never ended up wearing the jeans)
  • dress - the article says to bring a skirt, but I kind of wanted to bring a maxi dress so I decided to wear a skirt on the plane, just in case I ended up wanting one

SD bottoms part 2

Tops (4 items):

  • polka dot blouse
  • navy tank
  • gray tshirt
  • white tank

SD tops

Shoes (the article says to bring 3, but I just packed 2) and Accessories (3):

  • brown sandals
  • brown flip flops - I've had these for years, they are my favorite, my staple, and I go nowhere without them!
  • scarf
  • jewelry
  • belt
SD shoes and accessories

Outer Layers (2)
  • I wore the white cardigan on the plane for one less item to pack.
  • I brought a hoody in case I got cold at night in the hotel room.

Bags (the article says 2, but I didn't pack any extra)
  • Only brought my tote as a carry on.  I had no need for extra bags on this trip.

The article says that every bottom should match every top.  I didn't quite meet that requirement, but I was close enough.  Here is an example of how my khaki shorts matched every top and the possible outfits that could be put together:

SD khaki shorts outfits

Of course, I also had to brings things for the beach (bikini, shorts, tank) and personal items (underwear, bras, white tanks, etc.) that are a given, but don't go on the list.

So that was my plan.  Here are the outfits I ended up putting together...

SD day 1
SD day 2
SD day 3
SD day 4
SD day 5

I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure if I'd run out of clothes.  1 year old M peed on me at SeaWorld so that shirt was out for the rest of the trip (luckily it was hot so the pee dried quickly!), but other than that, I was able to repeat clothes because nothing got too dirty or stinky. :) Nick even forgot to wear deodorant to SeaWorld and he surprisingly didn't stink by the end of the day - he's going to just love that I posted that!

Also, I had so much room in my suitcase!!  I couldn't believe all the extra space in there... I didn't have to sit on my suitcase in order to zip it up this time!  AND... I wore jewelry!  I never wear jewelry, but since I was following the article and it said to bring jewelry, I brought it... so since it was in my suitcase I decided to wear it!!

Do you think you could pack like this?  It was actually kind of fun putting the clothes and outfits together!!

P.S. My favorite part of this trip... my little traveler that insisted on lugging her suitcase around both the Seattle and San Diego airports...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

1 Year Old M

Yep, that's right, baby M is now 1 year old M!  To be perfectly honest, I was kind of looking forward to baby M turning 1.  She has been somewhat of a tough baby... an all I want is momma and I want her to hold me ALL of the time and I only want to drink milk from mom kind of baby.   This would be fine if I didn't also have a 2 year old and work and you know, need to go to the bathroom every once in awhile.

As the weeks approached the big 1 year birthday, though, I felt less and less that I wanted her to be 1 and wanted more and more to keep her as baby M.  She is so sweet and loving and she gives THE best hugs and snuggles - the nuzzle her head into your neck and wrap her arms tightly around me kind of snuggles!  And really, can you blame her for just wanting to be hugged?!  I get the feeling though that even as 1 year old M, she will always be a super loving and cuddly little one.

I threw a family party for her at our family beach house.  I gave the party a bird theme since she was our early bird by 3 weeks.
Baby M at our family beach house when she was just 2 weeks old and 1 year old M at her party.
Here's a look at what I did for the party...

1. Bubbles and Water Fun (for a hot hot day)

2. Adorable and Unnecessary Party Hat (from Etsy)

3. Bird's Nest Cupcakes
I combined a couple of recipes for these.  I got the idea for the cupcakes from here, but instead of their recipe for the cupcakes and frosting, I made chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes from here.  Since I'm more of a chocolate lover, I made dark chocolate cupcakes instead of the white cupcakes from the recipe.  Some of the cupcakes had coconut on top and some I left plain for those folks that aren't coconut fans.  Oh and those cupcake labels came free with the party hat... aren't they adorable!

1 year old M's cupcake didn't have any coconut, but I added some sprinkles to make it look pretty.  She ate the cookie dough in the middle, but wasn't so sure about the cupcake and frosting.  She signaled all done pretty quickly.  On the other hand, 2 year old B loved her cupcake!

4. Paint Bird Houses
As I was walking through Michael's, I came across these cute little wooden bird houses, so I bought a bunch of them and some paint and had the kids paint bird houses for a fun activity.  2 year old B was the funniest... she was the last to stop painting and she insisted on using every color in the paint container on just one side of the roof.  It took all night to dry!

5. Party Favor - Bird Seed Wreaths (click here to learn how to make them)
These were so easy to make!  2 year old B helped me stir everything (I had to do the final stir to make sure it was all mixed well).  Then she got her hands nice and messy by putting the mixture into the mini angel food cake pan.
It was a super fun kid activity and we'll probably make them again just for us to hang in our yard this summer!  One little tip... you will need to put them out soon after making them.  I had a few extra left over from the party that were in plastic bags for about a week and when I took one out to hang outside, mold had grown all over it.  The birds weren't too interested in eating it then.

The party was a whirlwind, but so fun!  It was made extra special by our family and friends that came to celebrate 1 year old M's big day!
Happy birthday sweet girl!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Minimalist May

I'm a little behind with my blog posts.  May has turned out to be a busy month and I usually work on posts during nap time, but I haven't been home for nap time lately so the typing has been on pause for the month.

Although it's been a busy month, I gave the month a kind of non-busy theme: Minimalist May.  Here's why...

At the end of April Nick and I took a look at how much money we had spent so far this year, and it was a lot - A LOT!  We had to buy a new oven and pay for plumbing repairs (multiple times) and refloor the downstairs, etc., etc.  The list went on and on and our credit card bill went up and up.

At about the same time, we got on this health food kick and started looking at how much sugar we are consuming, and it was... can you guess was I'm going to say.. A LOT!  We have dessert every night, yes, every.single.night.  And I drink mochas a few times a week... okay, maybe more than a few times depending on the week.  And during the winter we'd have hot chocolate while the girls napped or enjoy an after lunch cookie.  I'm not kidding, we eat a ton of sweets at my house!

So, we decided to go all in (or maybe all out?) for May.  I gave us the Minimalist May theme to keep us going and we set goals for money and sugar consumption.  Here was the plan:

1. Make a maximum goal for our credit card.
2. Keep a spending journal.
3. No buying clothes (for any of us)... umm, so difficult!
4. No more Starbucks paninis for lunch (I love them, but they are about $6 for a flimsy sandwich so I was okay with saying goodbye to those).
5. Only eat out once a week for dinner, which means cooking at home 5 to 6 nights a week depending on if we have dinner at my parent's house or not.
6. Stick to the American Heart Associations reccomendations for added sugar consumption (maximum 25 grams of sugar per day for women and 37 grams of sugar per day for men).
7. No more than 3 mochas a week. :(

Here's how it turned out:


  • We were able to hold the credit card bill to our goal - whoo hoo!
  • The spending journal helped because it forced me to really pay attention to what I was buying and how much I was really spending.
  • I did buy two pair of shoes for 2 year old B, but they were needed and I bought them on sale at Fred Meyer.
  • I ended up getting 1 panini at Starbucks, but sometimes when you're trying to get out the door in time and you are starving and your little one falls asleep in the car, you need to buy a panini for lunch on the road.
  • We stuck to eating at home most of the week and made an effort to cook meals with ingredients that we already had to avoid spending too much at the store.
  • We did eat out once when Nick took me out for a Mother's Day date and we both ended up ordering the most expensive items on the menu... oops (not really), but Nick has the Passport card from work and one of those meals ended up being free because of the card, so we reasoned that it was okay to each choose the most expensive meals on the menu - sure!
  • We did not go minimalist for a BBQ we hosted at our family beach house, but it was so worth it to see these kids having so much fun together:


  • Stayed within my 3 mochas a week rule - it wasn't easy and I REALLY resisted temptation!
  • If I had a mocha then I didn't have any dessert that night.
  • I discovered that I really could go a whole day with no sweets - what?!
  • We had a slight setback one night... and weekend... and went a little sugar crazy when I made sugar cookies with cookie dough frosting from my new favorite cookbook:
I'm pretty happy with the way Minimalist May turned out.  I'm going to keep up with the limited sugar intake and also keep going with the spending journal so that I can keep track of how many times I click "place your order" because it's so easy just to click that button and not realize how much you are actually buying... do you hear me fellow Amazon shoppers?

What are some ways you keep track of your spending or how do you make sure you stay within a budget?  Does anyone else feel like they need to cut back on the sugar too?  25 grams a day for a woman is not that much!  That's like just a cookie and a half!