Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Five Great Kitchen Ideas

It's summer, you're cooking up all the home-grown goodies, and your kitchen isn't functioning to it's highest organizational capacity? Take the time to clean things out, get organized, and set little projects for yourself while you have the energy, daylight, and motivation!!

Here are just a few of our ideas around the kitchen that have made our life a little easier and our budget a lot smaller.

1. Spice drawer. Spices take up room, it's as simple as that. And we didn't' have a lot of drawer space, but we had a low shelf and packed all the spices in a large, short-walled box when we moved into this house. I hate to say it, but they're still in that box. Ideally, I'll build a drawer for that cabinet, but for now, the box slides in and out nicely and all our spices fit in neatly, standing up. However, standing up, I couldn't' see what spices we had, nor did we have a system of where they were. In some cases I thought we'd been out of, say, Cumin, and I'd bought another! An organizer's nightmare!

So one day we slid the box out onto the table and spent 20 short minutes labeling the lids of them all (1 of 2 and 2 of 2 if applicable), and put them back in according to usage. Baking spices, left side. Meat spices, front and center. While a drawer with dividing shelves on a lazy susan or roller would make this idea even better, right now simply labeling them in this box works great for us!

2. Meat day. That sounds funny just writing it, but one thing that really cuts down our budget is shopping on the right day. Wednesday is THE day at Safeway for meat; it's discounted 20-40%, and it moves quick. So we get there early, buy up about $50 worth of meat, break it down into 2-serving portions, wrap it up, and freeze. We do this about once a month, and it works great for us. When the freezer starts looking slim, we go. I know many of you frugal Fannies do stuff like this, and while many of you know you should, you still don't... we've even got Craig's dad's help- he's famous for calling Craig to say, "OMG, Brisket's 60% off, get down here!")

3. Frozen goodness. Another thing we put in our freezer is old fruit for smoothies. Brown bananas, mushy berries, or bruised and mushy apples- I cut up the apples and bag them with the berries, bananas go in whole in their skin. Pull them out when you're looking for a quick snack, put in some ice, (soy)milk or ice cream, honey, and maybe some flax or protein powder, and yum, breaky on the go.

4. Design accents. Last post I discussed renovation ideas and the backsplash accent tiles and cabinet handles we're adding to our kitchen to freshen it up. If you can't afford to replace the cabinets or counter, you can do something small to create a little change. Our two rows of red tile on the wall against the counter cost only $100 or so, and add some excellent color to your kitchen. Along with the fauxwood floors we're putting in, the new cabinet handles and new "sandstone" paint, our kitchen looks like we spent $5000 on it when in reality it was close to $500, Pergo and all.

5. Veg organizer. I don't know about you but when I pull out that veg drawer and there are 6 plastic bags, loose onions and garlic, and all their skin floating around, my hand recoils with an "ew." I don't know why I never thought of this before last year, but we joined a veggie co-op and were getting veg by the boxload every week, so my veg drawer got out of control. Instead of putting everything in it's own bag that I couldn't find quickly if my life depended on it, I put in a couple of old bowls for the onion and garlic for starters. Their skin drives me insane, it reminds me of an old man's exfoliation or scabs. Sorry, but it does. So putting them in a bowl at least kept the old man containted. Then I took everything out of the bags and separated them, the root veggies that could go in our veg storage box did, the fruit-like items went in the bottom drawer, and the top drawer was suddenly organized!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Solstice Ideas

Summer Solstice (6/21, Sunday) is the longest day of the year, when the Earth's axis is most inclined towards the Sun, and marks the first day of the Summer season, and the day the Sun goes into the sign of Cancer. Solstice celebrations date back to ancient times, from the Druid's Alban Heruin's crop-ripening rituals to Native American's celebrations of the sun.

Start your day by getting up before the sun rise and watch the colors ripen, visualizing your world to do the same as you manifest abundance, success, and security from this day forw

This Solstice day is also a new moon... a good day for new beginnings, planting new seeds, and starting new projects. Transplant your starters if you haven't already, and give your garden some general love by wedding, tilling, mulching, or spreading compost out for your plants on this day.

For those of you with long hair, the new moon is also a great day to cut your hair because when the moon ebbs, roots turn inward, as does the energy of the stalk. Same goes with transplanting on this day... both activities encourage strong growth from the roots.

General rituals on this day are good for success, happiness, strength, identity, wealth, fertility, adolescents and young adults, career and travel. Get up with the sun, pick some herbs, light candles, burn orange or other sunny essential oils or incense, and bring bright flowers into the home to help boost your energy, motivation, and longevity for the coming months.

Sunday I'm taking a set of girls into the woods for a ladies' hike, and we'll be doing a mediation on planting the seed of manifestation and intention. I hope you join in by doing something special for yourself too! Make this day a special day for yourself by rejuvenating your powerful goddess (or god) energy under this intense sun; she won't be this strong for another 365 days, use it!

Sunrise, Steamboat, December 21 Winter Solstice, 7:24 am
The sun will rise on Sunday at 4:46 am

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Home Renovation Ideas

Our recent home renovations have reminded me of some wonderful ideas we've had around the house, not only for our every day living, but a couple even made the renovations go easier!

We're doing quite the interior job-floors, paint, doors, molding, and blinds- but don't have an exterior space like a garage or storage shed to get furniture and belongings out of the way while we work. So we're working several rooms at a time, and using one main one for storage. When we finished the living room hardwood and started bringing out the chairs, table, and TV stand, we immediately put "sliders" on the bottom and WOW, what a difference... for BOTH of us.

1. Sliders: Sliders are little felt tabs with sticky backs that you adhere to the feet of your furniture so they don't scratch the hardwood. But what we found was not only were they protecting our floors, they were a form of accessibility! Now sliding the furniture around (even the 150 lb tv stand) were a breeze for Craig, who used to ram up against things in his wheelchair to move them. Not good for the furniture, that's for sure!

Speaking of the TV stand, the task of breaking it down and setting it back up loomed over me for days, and we hoped to just slide the stand out of the way to lay the floor, and then slide it back. Our builder said no, it's got to be out of the room for him, so I sat down with a roll of masking tape and a pen and went to work. Although I'm pretty savvy around the AV system, I figured labeling it all would just make it go that much quicker for me, and I was right. We have 6 components in addition to the TV and 5 speakers to plug in, so I was looking at at least 40 ends of cords and speaker wire to contend with.

2. Labeling. Labeling is a no brain-er when it comes to moving; i.e. you label the boxes by room so they get to the right place immediately. When I labeled the av cords and it took about 5 extra minutes when I pulled them out (include component and plug name: stereo-cd1 or tv-satellite line out) made set up a total of 15 minutes as opposed to 30 (or 45 if I screwed something up)!

We had a limited budget for our renovation as you always do, and had to think about how we were going to tie in color to the new rooms without buying new accessories. We made some inexpensive decisions that will really help the room.

3. Tieing in colors. Paint and stain are easy, you've already got them, made the choice for that color in the room, and likely have plenty of it leftover. You can repaint old tables and chairs, or just their legs; you can use stain to accent plain clay flower pots with stripes or solids; and if you're really dedicated, use the curtain material for accent pillows. We've sanded and refinished a 3-shelf metal and wood-plank plant stand in the deck stain for instance, as well as switched our existing art work around so the bluer pieces are in Craig's blue office, as well as getting some new artwork cheaply framed at the "unframer," which is about 1/5th the cost of typical mat & glass framing. We've also picked out small red 2" accent tiles that we'll build a backsplash of in the kitchen to tie in our reds from the kitchen towels, plates, and accessories. And we aren't replacing the cabinets, but new handles will make it look like we did!

Stay tuned this month for more kitchen ideas and a DIY gift that will tame the mane!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Travel ideas and more...

Today we're on our way to Miami for the No Barriers Festival and it reminded me to share the many travel ideas we've gathered along the way! Our travels take us far and wide, and some of these ideas make us feel like we're not that far from home.

1. Lists. If you're an organizer, think about making "packing lists" based on the type of trip (we have business, vacation, and camping lists). We were forever scribbling on Post-Its before our trips and forgetting something every time, when I finally realized I could write a master list that we could add to any time and save sheet after sheet of yellow sticky paper. To take it one green step further, print out the lists and laminate them, then cross off what you've packed with a grease pencil and clean it off when you're done! Make one for every family member so they're in charge of their own belongings and forgotten items!

2. Drier Sheets. My favorite trick for the suitcase and keeping clothes fresh, I usually bring 6 or more fresh dryer sheets so that if I do laundry along the way, the clean clothes will stay fresh too and I have a dryer sheet to use as well! When I pack, I layer the sheets between 2-3 articles of clothing, either folded or in the garment bag, to combat that musky suitcase smell. I also put a sachet of lavender in the bag for those nights I might not be able to sleep and it doubles as a scenter for the clothes, too.

3. Shower Caps for dirty shoes. This one's great for muddy trips, camping, places where shoes aren't allowed or other instances that will require protection of some item (either dirty, wet, or scratchable) either for or from your other packed goods.

4. Empty Duffel Bag. This is an old standby you may have forgotten about... When we're going somewhere far where we know we'll bring home presents (great idea for fall trips and Christmas preparation!), we stuff a duffel bag in the suitcase pocket so we're not scrambling to fit everything within weight limit for our existing bags, or pay extra for shipping.

5. The Gifts. Along these lines of buying ahead for xmas, think of gifts that are unique and pretty inexpensive to the area such as a local specialty like pecans, marmite, or Spanish olives; the local sports team for your sports fans; or indigenous stones set in local styled jewelry for the ladies in your life.

6. Printed mailing labels. This one might sound funny in this day and age of technology, but everyone still loves postcards- our friend sends one from Hawaii every time he goes, although we're pretty sure he's just rubbing it in... However, when I don't have room in my bag for the address book and I'm leaving my US-only smartphone in the car at the airport (with relief!) then this idea RULES for me. Depending on how long you're gone or how many cities or sites you are visiting, print 1-3 labels for mom, grandma, sister, and BFF so when you see the perfect postcard for them, you just peel and go!

7. Copies of Passport & ID. This is a must; make sure you keep them in a different place than your actual copies or give them to the hotel or local contact to keep in case of emergency.