Category Archives: Organization
I’m at the next step in my process to clean out my recipe collection, so that no one turns me in as a guest on “Hoarders”. You can catch up and read about the first two steps of this process in these posts:
- Part 1: Where I look at the whole problem and admit I must change
- Part 2: How I clean out and re-format the bulk of my loose recipes
Today, I’m showing you how I’m going to store my re-prioritized recipes. I chose an upgraded 3-ring binder format because my husband and I like:
- Keeping the recipe pages clean and splatter protected
- Keeping the recipes printed large enough to be legible
- Keeping the recipes tidy on one shelf in our kitchen
- Keeping the recipes easy to find within their storage
So, I’m making some pretty, custom and oh-so-affordable binders to store my recipes nicely. This is an easy project and I took pictures as I worked on it this past weekend to show the steps. Just keeping it real for you, friends. This project can be done in very little time and is quite satisfying when you are done.
To start the process, I bought a set of clean, 3-ring binders. I chose binders with those clear pockets on the exterior so I can decorate the covers inexpensively, while still keeping them highly wipeable. I also chose binders that were all variations on the color blue, because I like blue and it looks nice in my kitchen. I already know these binders are all going to sit next to each other on a shelf, so why not make a personal choice of a happy color?
In full disclosure, I did grab these binders from several different stores. I noticed that most stores only carried one or two versions of any color. I wanted more variety, especially knowing each binder would have a different topic. So, as I ran my regular errands around town, I used Target, Staples and Wal-mart to find my colors and stay within my budget.
Next, I popped into several art supply stores to pick up some pretty scrapbook papers to use in the binder cover pocket. Again, I just built this into my errands and grabbed what I like. I am not a scrapbook creator, but I am happy to reap the rewards of the many cheerful and bright papers that are now available for scrapbooking fans. I chose kitchen-themed papers, to keep the binders looking united and fun. Of course, you can choose whatever you like for your home and personalize it for just a couple of bucks. I caught a sale and the papers I chose were under $5 total. Very budget friendly!
I’m matching my fancy-schmancy papers to each binder to make a collection of related-looking finished books. I may switch these papers around with the binders as I make each one. I’m not sure about that aqua binder on the far right in the picture below. A little too bright next to the others, I think.
As for subject titles, each binder will have its own general topic. For example, I’ll make a binder called “Appetizers and Beverages”. This binder will hold the few remaining cut-and-pasted recipes, so I know the look I’m going for with each finished dish. (I was discussing this dilemma in this post.) I’ll probably sort the recipes further, somewhat, inside the binder, but not too much. I really want the freedom to just put the recipes in and know that they are there without creating a time-consuming index or page number system.
Back to the work: To cut the papers to fit each binder cover, I measured the cover pockets individually. You may question why I would go to the effort to do this when I regular 8.5×11 sheet of paper fits easily. However, I want my binder covers to use as much of the pretty scrapbook paper that I can fit into each pocket, while also keeping it reasonable to get the paper down in those pockets with a snug fit.
You can see above that I didn’t measure the entire pocket width, I cheated in about 1/8th of an inch on each side to give myself some paper sliding room. Again, these are all different binders made by different companies, so each measurement was a little different. I also measured the binder spines for paper inserts, so I can have a nicely finished edge facing out of my kitchen cookbook shelf. But, first things first, cutting the paper to fit:
I used my trusty little Fiskars paper trimmer to make even cuts. I bought this paper trimmer years ago, for a wedding stationery project. It has been so handy over the years since, for such a myriad of projects, I can’t remember how I lived without it before. It’s not big or flashy, and every now and then I need to replace the little cutting blade slide (which is very affordable to do), but it gets the job done and it stores very easily. I’m not plugging this product for profit or perks, by the way, just sharing what I actually find useful in real life.
Now that my papers are all cut, I’m typing up little cover labels for each binder. I’m just using plain old Microsoft word to choose an interesting font and then adjust the ink color to go with the related scrapbook paper. Because I have my binder spine measurements, I’m also making a little spine label for each cookbook binder. These may seem small to fit down into the binder, but it is worth it when it’s all done. Cut and glue the labels to the cut scrapbook paper…
….then slide the paper covers into place.
I also like to put a little roll of tape behind the cover binder, just to keep the paper from shifting around as it get used.
To get those narrow binder spines down into the covers, I have two tips for you:
1. Lay your binder open flat, cover side up, before you try to put the spine paper. This allows the plastic spine pocket to have as much “give” as possible as you slide the paper further down.
2. Use a chopstick to act as a guide when you slide the spine paper in place. You’ll never get your finger down where you need it to be in that little pocket, so don’t kill yourself trying. Take a deep breath and just work slowly, little by little, to ease that paper down where you need it to be. It may get a little wrinkled as you go, mine did, but you can work it all out with patience.
Oh, and for those binders that do need some internal sorting, I’m just going to use an extra sheet of colored card stock in a sheet protector to provide a guide. Nothing fancy or expensive and still very practical to keep clean. Here’s an example:
Here’s how great the end result of a bunch of new binders can look:
Nice, huh? I said I was gonna seriously downsize those recipes and I meant it. There are now only four small binders, instead of eight very over-stuffed ones, and all of these new, clean binders are just reasonably full. This means I have plenty of recipes (no need to go looking for more), but that I have a small amount of room if we do find a few new favorites to add to our lives. Progress! These final topics for my binders and why I chose them:
- Favorite Recipes: All of our favorites entrees and any not-so-common special side dishes we love, just tossed together in one place (at last!)
- Vegetables: We love to try new ways to mix up our vegetable varieties at meals, we also strive to have a decent amount of vegetarian entree recipes to mix into our diet for better health
- Sweets: Desserts in every form, including smoothies, cakes, pies, cookies, breads, candy and some interesting fruit recipes
- Appetizers & Beverages: This is mainly party fare/special occasion food with great pictures and suggestions for serving
All in all, I like the way these binders turned out and it made the cleaning out, sorting and typing parts of this saga seem more attainable. I can see where the truly loved recipes will go and as I get there, the paper organization is in place for immediate use. I can’t say that all the typing will get done as fast as these binders were put together, but I’ll get there eventually. The typing is happening and I think I am now ready to address another aspect of this project….
…all of the loose recipes I still have stashed for “later”. But that is a part of this saga for another day.
Can you see how this custom binder cover would make a great gift idea? You could use it to build a cookbook of favorite recipes for almost any occasion. You could also use it to build a custom recipe book as a group-sourced gift for an individual, such as a bride or new graduate. Each contributor simply completes a typed up recipe page and all of the pages are combined into the binder as a group gift. The customized cover would just make the cookbook all the more special. It’s an affordable gift, but very personal. Just a thought!
Now tell me what you think of this project. I really want to hear your opinions. Am I a little too obsessive in my organization? Do you like the way the binders turned out? What would you do differently? Any tips for the next part of this recipe saga (all those loose recipes)? Blogs are for conversation, so leave a comment!
I’m back with a progress update on my efforts to downsize my recipe
hoarding collection. I’m actually really good at organizing things. Events, closets, information, home design, travel plans…but recipes, as a subject, seem to be my Achilles heel. I see potential in way too many of them and it has gotten out of hand in my kitchen.
This series of posts is my attempt to document my progress as I clean out. When I last left off with part 1 of this organization problem, I had accomplished two things:
- Admitting I had a problem
- Trying to figure out how to clean out the mess I had made
Those might not seem like huge steps forwards, but these warm seasonable evenings are when I start to really scout out new recipes to play with over the summer. Something new in cuisine type, something different in ingredients and or something more experimental in technique for me. All of these concepts lead to more recipe clipping when I find something interesting.
So, I decided to empty all of the recipes out of the eight (yes, eight) binders of clippings I had created over the first couple of years of marriage, years ago. These are all of the pages I had left:
Well, not exactly. This is what was left after I cleaned out all the pages I didn’t want. And, in fact, this does not include the “Chicken & Beef” binder that is stilled used so regularly. Let me back up.
First, I pulled all of the pages out of (almost) every binder. And as I did that, I tossed or cleaned and saved-for-later-recycling all of the salvageable sheet protectors. I would hate to spend more money on sheet protectors if I can just give them good cleaning and save my pennies. That’s just how I roll.
Next, I sorted out duplicates of recipes. This was a bigger problem than I expected. Apparently, there were periods of my life where I needed to own every variation of Potato & Leek Soup, Lemon Muffin, Ham Salad and Deviled Egg recipe. I know this because those recipes, among others, were noticeable themes spread across many pages within their sections of the binders. Clearly, I was thorough.
After I had finished the duplicates purge, I started crossing off things I know we will never make. You can see that in the picture above. These might be perfectly lovely recipes, but if I already make something similar, I’m good. I also crossed off things that sounded delicious, but might require a Master Class with Martha Stewart to actually make in my home. Frankly, I think life is too short for that scenario. (On many levels.)
As I tossed things, I did keep recipes that I had made notes on, like this one:
My mother always makes a similar Buckeye bar for my husband because she knows he loves them. She likes to make them as her special treat for him and I have never actually gotten the recipe from her. (This is probably better for our waistlines anyway, really. Since we only enjoy them on special occasions, they disappear quite quickly.) I had stumbled across this recipe that I had meant to ask Mom about and there it was, hiding 37 pages back in the binder. I kept this type of notated recipe, along with others we had made and liked, because that had been the original point of these binders.
The last step of the binder page tossing was having Mr. CARO help make a ruling on the remaining recipes, which you saw in that stacked photo above. He is always an enthusiastic co-chef in the kitchen, so I was worried he would actually enable me to keep more recipes than I need. However, he was really great at browsing the ingredients and thinking about when in the year we would most likely enjoy the recipes. It was great to get a second opinion.
Does this sound overcomplicated to do this kind of sorting for a bunch of recipe clippings? It may be. But Mr. CARO and I love to do the grocery shopping together, because when we do, we feel like we have a better connection to what we cook together. We also make our evening meals about conversation over the table, which helps us appreciate our food, eat slower and connect more at the end of our busy days. This may not work for everyone, but we love it.
While Mr.CARO was helping me pitch recipes, we got to the dessert and appetizers binder sections. Many of these recipes have very important visual references for how the food is served, like the trifle you see pictured above. (I love making trifles in the summer.) We may need to keep some of these pictures to show how the dishes come together, but I’m still trying to figure out how to show the pictures in a tidy, manageable fashion. (To be determined…)
The issue we did solve is how to store all the recipes we are keeping. We’re upgrading the binders concept. After much discussion, Mr. CARO made a great case for how easy it to use a sheet protected recipe both in the binder and clipped to the hood over our stove. He liked that he didn’t have to worry about spills and that we could add our own notes easily, as we need to.
I liked that I can flip through the binder pages quickly to find something specific. I have never been able to work with the tiny recipe cards our grandmothers and great grandmothers used. Case in point, pictured below is a family recipe given to by my Great Aunt Millie. (You can read more about one of her great life philosophies in this post.)
I had originally typed this recipe so I could read it without squinting while I was cooking. (Tiny, delicate handwriting from the ‘1950’s + steamy kitchen = much re-reading.) However, as you can see, this one recipe takes up a whole sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 paper this way. Either we would need to tack on a separate kitchen library for our recipe binders or I would have to make these pages more manageable. This is the new version of this typed recipes format:
Doesn’t that look much more approachable? It feels that way to us, too. This does mean that I’ll have to type out all of my remaining recipes into this simple format. However, I don’t mind doing this, because it also make it easier to share my recipes. If you ask me for a recipe, I can just print or email you a copy. Plus, you’ll probably get a bonus recipe of whatever is printed on the page with it.
I’m not under any delusions about this method. All of this typing will definitely take some time, but I can work on it over the summer, little by little. It will be so worth it when I am done. So personalized and so functional. That’s kinda the feeling I want with all of these family and favorite recipes anyway. Better to savor what you love and respect it by taking care of it.
I also have plenty more to do on this project in the meantime, like make new binders. In fact, that is what is coming up next week: Making happy, handy, affordable binders to work in your kitchen. I’ll be taking pictures as I make mine this weekend and I will show you how to do it, too! Here’s a little preview:
Now I’d like to hear about your recipe experiences. Does this project make you think about your own recipe system? How do you store your absolute favorite recipes? How do you share your recipes with friends? Have you ever discovered you had a stockpile of similar recipe themes? Dish with me in a comment!
This is my salad spinner, at home, in my kitchen.
It is the inspiration for this post. I have been meaning to write about my salad spinner for a while because it is rather popular in my house. Mr. CARO looooves using it. As in “Honey, it’s not a lawn mower. You only need to pull the string once.” (I sometimes think he is trying to get it to take off like a helicopter.) Friends and family members have asked more about this salad spinner when they have seen it in action.
I have to admit, I have given several of these salad spinners away as gifts. Christmas, house-warming, weddings. It has fit as an appropriate gift for many occasions. I, myself, never wanted to own a salad spinner until I saw this one. But when I did see it. I WANTED it.
I never liked salad spinners before because they were all giant, lined bowls that took up a big footprint wherever I could have put them. And it’s not like you can store a lot in them when they are put away because the lid makes it cumbersome.
My salad spinner does this:
I love kitchen tools that work hard and store small. I have between a small and medium-sized kitchen, so I don’t have a ton of extra cabinet/pantry space in my kitchen. (Does anyone out there have “extra” kitchen cabinets?) When something can get the job done really well AND store nicely with other things, I am interested immediately.
Besides my friends and family, I’ve found many clients who also appreciate a great space saver in the kitchen. Sometimes because they don’t cook much and need more cabinet space for pantry items, sometimes because they like to cook a lot and need a way to fit more tools/gadgets together in an already packed area, and sometimes because they don’t have a huge amount space to begin with, so they have to make every inch of storage count. Do you fit in any of those categories?
Since I love my salad spinner, I’ve payed close attention to other items I’ve seen pop up recently that offer similar storing options. Who can’t use more storage space in their kitchens? So, today’s post is a fun list of fabulous kitchen tools that collapse down into smaller, more storage-friendly shapes. Whether you rent or own, these are practical items for real life.
Oh, and I’ve linked all the pictures below directly to their shopping sources to make purchasing easy. Just in case you need one for your kitchen, or a wedding present, or a hostess gift…you get the idea. Just click on the picture to link to the item. Here we go!
You knew I was going to start with this one. You can use the outer bowl as a nice separate serving bowl, which makes it a double-duty tool. For $23, I love the reasonable price on this spinner, too. I don’t understand why some spinner models are close to $50 for what is really a couple of plastic bowls.
Okay, technically, you can use the interior salad spinner bowl above as a colander for fruit and veg. However, if you are going to be draining something hot, like pasta or boiled potatoes, I always chose metal surfaces over plastic. The silicone in this bowl, (like most silicone tools) can withstand temps up to 500 degrees. This little baby also comes in a variety of fun colors to choose from, several different sizes and features a handy metal loop for those of you who like to hang your pots and pans.
BAKING / COOLING RACK
This is the thing you stack lots of sheets of cookies on when you are prepping them to bake or taking them out of the oven to cool. This thing is perfect for kitchens with next to zero counter space. (Any NYC peeps reading this post? I got your back.) The rack folds so flat you can slid it into storage like a tray. 20 bucks. Genius.
BAKED GOODS STORAGE/CARRIERS
Where are you going to put all those delicious baked goods after you have used your awesome, foldable cooling rack? Well, if you are taking them to an event, you have several handy choices based on the type of goodies you’ve made. There is a carrier for layer cakes and cupcakes, pictured above. There is another version of this carrier which can carry two 9-inch pies (or up to 24 deviled eggs)…
…and even a third version of this product for sheet cakes. (That reminds me, I have to share my favorite sheet cake recipe with you this summer. Yummmmm.)
FYI: If these storage carriers cause you to bake more sweets in your kitchen, I am NOT responsible. I have a similar disclaimer on my Brownie Pie recipe for a good reason. Don’t send me emails about needing to buy larger jeans. I’m probably already at the store trying on new pairs, myself.
Every kitchen has some items that won’t go in the dishwasher. If your kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, or at least a non-human one, you may love this item even more. At only $20, this dish drainer can even adjust to fit over different-sized sinks. I like that it includes a silverware divider and can be collapsed small enough to run it through your dishwasher when you need to…uh, again, the non-human kind of dishwasher.
Like the over-the-sink drainer above, this cutting board adjusts to the perfect size you need. The bonus feature is that it includes a fancy-schmancy collapsible colander bowl, so you don’t lose any of those delicious strawberries into the sink or drain while you are hulling them. (Oh, the humanity.)
This 3 quart mixing bowl is by the same company that makes the salad spinner and the dish drainer above. Clearly, they have built upon a great product line. They also carry a large collapsible tub and a nice set of 3 prep bowls that include lids. Amazon has a deal where you can buy all three for items as a set for $40.
I’ll admit it. I’m not a huge fan of box graters. I love eating cheese, but I am not fond of working so hard to shave a big block of it down. Mr. CARO is the cheese-grating czar at our house and he has the manly biceps to prove it. However, this foldable option looks much less intimidating to me. And I know it exactly where it would fit better in our cabinets, rather than the one we have now that always seems to be right in my way every time I’m looking for something else.
MEASURING CUPS & SPOONS
No more trying to nest all those little spoons and cups in the right order in the drawer! Just toss them all in there and let the lay flat. Wish I had thought of this idea and gotten the patent. At this rate, if you go get all of the items on this list, you may actually end up with an “extra” kitchen cabinet.
Finally, someone came up with a smaller version of a stirring tool that always gets tangled in every drawer. The colored ring on the handle of this beater slides down to close up the loose tongs so they don’t splay out or snag while being stored. Like so:
As you can see, this tool is also available is in several fun colors. I like that is made of silicon, so it can work in both stainless and non-stick cookware. I can always use extra drawer space. Now if only someone would make a collapsible potato masher…
Okay, this item doesn’t collapse, per se, but it is worth mentioning for its savvy design. It would make a great wedding or bridal shower gift. It allows you to store an included set of cookie cutters within the pin itself. For more experienced bakers, you can fill the pin with ice cubes to keep your dough from getting to warm while you’re rolling it out. So smart.
I saw this little beauty advertised in Real Simple magazine last month and had to include it. It stands at 20 inches tall when assembled. All seven of these separate tiers stack down into the base for storage. How great is this for easy entertaining in your home? I may have to put this on my list for Santa this year, then I can serve him cookies on it next Christmas Eve.
So, that is my long-ish list of what I’ve found out there. Pardon me for being a tiny bit ramble-y in this post, but when I find a great organizational solution (or 15), I like to share it. Now I want to hear from you.
What kitchen tool still needs to be re-created in a collapsible form? Can you think of something? Is there an item that I missed out there on the market when I made up the list for this post? What is the most awkward kitchen tool you wrangle onto a shelf or into a drawer?
At least leave a comment so I know I’m not the only one out here with overflowing kitchen shelves. Dish with me!
It’s time for another post in the “5 Things” series. These posts list 5 things that I love to use in clients homes. They can be handy things, decorative things and/or organizational things. I list them here because I know that they are tried and true with my clients and that they may work for you, too. Consider this a industry-secret whisper from a designer out in the trenches. (You can see more posts from this series, along with other organizational tips, right here.)
Today’s list is full of things I like to put in client nurseries. You may be thinking that nurseries generally have such specific themes that I couldn’t possibly choose 5 things for every nursery, but I have. The secret is all of these items can be customized or are already neutral enough to use in any room. Let’s get started…
This may seem like a pretty decorative item, but the genius of a crib skirt is that it can provide all sorts of extra storage. When the baby is an infant, you can stockpile diapers in bulk under the crib at its high mattress setting. When the child is a little older, you can place storage tubs under the crib to organize larger, grow-into-them clothes.
When the child is a toddler, if your crib turns into a toddler bed (and so many do these days), that under the crib space can become the perfect corral for all of those activity sets that take up so much floor space. Farm sets with menageries, large wheeled toys and any musical foobahs you don’t want to tread on with your bare feet at night. You know the kind of thing I mean. Just slide them right under the crib skirt and the nursery is tidied in the blink of an eye. You might even get your little one to help you clean up, since the storage space is right at their level.
Crib skirts are available in all sorts of styles these days. They are not all traditional and ruffle-y like the one pictured above. You can find crib skirts in all sorts of patterns and designs, which makes them easy to customize to any nursery’s theme or color plan. You can even find crib skirts designed to fit the clean, simple lines of a more modern crib, like this one…
I’m delighted that there has been such an upswing in crib skirt popularity in recent years. I have yet to meet a parent who looks around their child’s room and says, “You know what I have too much of in here? Storage space.”
Okay, this may seem like a no-brainer. Every parent-to-be anticipates spending some quality time sitting on the nursery floor with their child. Who wouldn’t think of some sort of rug as a practical solution? However, I’m not talking about any old kind of area rug. I’m talking about a kind of rug that can take a beating and still good look over the next 5 years, without costing you a fortune. After all, you still have college to plan for, right?
Whether a nursery needs a neutral, traditional pattern (like the rug shown above), or a colorful, younger palette (like the rug shown below), I always choose Indoor/Outdoor rugs for nurseries.
Every single time.
I embrace the “Indoor” part of the rug’s type that makes it soft on tiny bare feet and knees (and parent’s bums) as they play and explore. If a nursery is already carpeted when I arrive on the job, I still throw one of these war horses into service for the parents. It’s the “Outdoor” part of this rug’s name that makes it a weapon against chaos.
Two words: Diaper blowout.
Need two more words? Projectile vomiting. And let us not forget the food, craft supplies and other childhood detritus that can get ground into your flooring and carpet. Your nice, expensive, pre-baby, wall-to-wall carpet or flooring. On its very worst day, you can haul this rug outside and hose that puppy down. Let it dry and it is as good as new.
You may have noticed by now that I think about the parent’s needs first in any nursery. It’s true, but don’t get me wrong. I want the room to be as beautiful as the new baby about to move in there. I take great joy in finding just the right mix of personal and adorable items for the new room. However, if the nursery leaves Momma or Daddy worn out from all the upkeep, I am not doing my job properly. At the end of the day, my clients are the parents, the caretakers of the room.
Most nurseries need some form of bookcase early on, to hold all sorts of thing collected before the baby arrives. Toys, baby gear, mementoes, you name it, tend to get organized and stacked very neatly at the beginning. After the baby arrives, the jumble of items in play often mean that books are harder to put away or keep handy when parents need them. I am a big fan of books, myself, so like to include book racks in addition to shelves. Here is one of my favorites:
The beauty of a book rack is that a parent can put books into it with one hand. Whether they are reading a story while holding their baby or doing a big room sweep of toy clean up, books can get safely (respectfully) dropped into place without being jammed in with other toys. One of my clients used a dedicated book rack to help keep track of all of her children’s library books, without having to search everywhere. Smart Momma!
I also have discovered another source for a great book rack via some innovative DIYers on the internet. (I wish I could say I thought of this one myself, but credit should be given where it is due. I certainly use this idea for my clients now!) Ikea offers a lovely little birch spice rack, called the BEKVÄM, for a mere $4. Some clever parents out there saw the similarities between that spice rack and the more traditional book rack pictured above. You can add a Ikea book rack system, like this one, anywhere that you have a little extra wall space for only $12:
This is a concept I use in every nursery. It is a simple concept that can be reused in many different ways as a child grows up. Not all new parents have dedicated furniture suites for their new children, so this concept can be particularly helpful in smaller nurseries or even in master bedrooms that host the baby when it is very young. I like to use vertical storage in a closet as a place to catch clothing, diapers, blankets, special soft toys and whatever else a parent needs to find quickly, without having to dig through a drawer or bin. Here is one of my favorite products:
This is a hanging shelf is from the Ikea SKUBB line of organizers. They currently come in white, black or this vivid purple. I love them because they are affordable. The example pictured above is only $8. Because they are made of a sturdy nylon material, they can also be cleaned easily. As your child grows older, this 5 shelf hanger can become a place where they lay out their school clothes in advance, to avoid the morning rush.
Another great place for vertical storage is the back of a bedroom or closet door. By capitalizing on a place that is often forgotten to store small items (creams, sunglasses, hats, shoes, etc.) and regularly used large items (favorite toys, blankets, extra diapers), tidying a child’s room and leaving the house can become much easier and faster. I like the clean design of this back-of-the-door storage (by Real Simple for Bed Bath and Beyond) because a child can get access to their own things at the bottom of the door when they are old enough to help.
Sleepy parents should not have to struggle to see what time it is when they are up with a late night feeding. While cute nursery wall clocks can be found almost everywhere, I always suggest something smaller and easier on the parent’s eyes when they are waiting for their babies to drift back into Neverland. Despite all the varieties available, my two favorite, go-to clocks for nurseries come from LL Bean. The first one is the classic Moon Beam clock…
…which has an easy-to-read dial face and on/off switch for the backlit setting. It also comes in several colors (easy top match to any nursery color plan) and has an alarm setting that include waking to a gentle light, a bell or both. Charming!
My other favorite LL Bean clock is the 1931 Big Ben model, which also comes in several colors and features and easy-to-read face.
Like the Moon Beam clock above, this clock has easy alarm settings and has an on/off setting for the backlighting of the face. I should mention that these clocks are a little more expensive than say a plastic digital clock from Wal-mart. However, the quality of these clocks is excellent and they can eventually become a child’s first alarm clock when they reach school age.
So there is my list of 5 Things that work in every nursery! I didn’t set out to have a favorites list like this, but when I find something that really works well I want to give that extra practical assistance to every set of parents who ask for my design help.
Now I’d like to hear from all of the parents out there who are reading this post. What do you think of my list? Do you have a favorite nursery item you can’t live without? What is the best tip you ever got about organizing your child’s room. Jump on in, parents, and share your experience in a comment!
I’m Cathryn Olson and I’m a Recipe-aholic. (Is that a real word? It should be.)
They say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. However, in my experience, with this particular issue, it just means you find more shelving to load up. I have way too many cookbooks and recipes. WAY. TOO. MANY.
To be fair, I LOVE to cook. Not everyone does, but I like discovering new ways to put flavors together and trying foods from different cultures. And sometimes I like telling myself I will try the most difficult cuisines on the planets if I could just find the right cookbook to make them easier for me. (We’ll re-visit this vicious cycle later.)
To also give credit where credit is due, my husband (Mr. CARO) now loves to cook, too. I did not find him this way when we started dating. He did cook for himself, which was refreshing to find in a guy, but it was mainly salads and what I call the classic “Bachelor Boil”. Boil pasta, boil sauce, boil soup, boil eggs… (Ladies, can I get a witness?) However, the man was game to try new any recipe and what more can you ask for in a recipe
enabler partner? Mr. CARO is an excellent cook.
So, when we got married I started collecting recipes in a much more purposeful way. I scanned magazines, I searched online, I actually read many of the older cookbooks my mom had offloaded onto me in an effort to diminish her own recipe stockpiling tendencies. (See, nature and nurture. This really isn’t my fault.) As I collected , clipped and printed recipes that sounded good, I decided to paste them all onto card stock and put them in sheet protectors, in three-ring binders. Sounds logical and organized, right? I was very efficient at this. In five years, I had 8 full 2-inch binders. EIGHT.
These binders were so full I had to dig every time I wanted to find a recipe that A) we had already tried and B) that we liked. This was my recipe for a What’s-for-dinner nightmare. So I stopped gluing, because clearly the binders weren’t working so well and I didn’t want to spend more money on more of them when I didn’t have the shelf space for them either.
Did I mention that I had three more shelves of regular cookbooks? Yeah. There has to be a support group for this somewhere. A support group that never serves snacks so nobody can ask for a recipe. I asked my
own support group Facebook friends what they did to keep their recipes organized. They made me feel really normal. Especially my childhood friend who admitted to laminating ALL of her recipes. (You know who you are and I love you for that answer!)
So that’s where the idea for this post series came from…paper hoarding in my kitchen. Is this problem solved? Noooooooo. But I’m working on it and have found some real solutions. I thought I would document my progress since I realized that this is a more common problem than I had originally thought. I also thought that by documenting my progress on the blog I could publicly shame myself into staying on task. (Bonus!) I’ll be blogging this project in real-time, so I can keep my solutions honest.
The one thing that I can tell you I have done so far is donate a whole bunch of the really old cookbooks that my mom and I never used to my local library. I’m still not sure if this was a good deal for the library, but they took the books anyway. If you happen to find yourself in the Main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, there are several shelves in the cookbook section that warrant some sort of “donated by” plaque with my name on it. And if you are seeking complicated ways to display 1960’s tuna casseroles or 1920’s ingredients you would never bring in your house let alone eat, it may be your lucky day!
There is much more to this saga and I’ll share more with you on my progress next week. In the meantime, how do you store recipes in your kitchen? Do you keep old cookbooks that you may never use? Have you ever lost a favorite recipe? Don’t leave me hanging out here, friends! Share your stories!
This time of year is a very busy time in my work with clients. Because the holidays are approaching, many of my clients need their projects completed in time to entertain family and friends. My work load at this time of year makes keeping myself organized at home for our holidays more than the usual challenge it is.
With the holidays approaching, the last thing I want is extra last minute trips to the grocery store for forgotten items. This post is about a solution I came up with to fight my own holiday food planning scatter-brained-ness. (Is that a word? It is now.) It looks like this:
Truth be told, a few years ago I had to really search for a favorite old family Christmas recipe. I thought I had lost it and couldn’t remember where I had put it away, very safely, the year before. I eventually found it, but I decided I never wanted to go through that again. For the next year, I needed a new plan.
So, I bought myself a small three-ring binder with a plastic cover, so I could wipe it clean easily. I bought some cheery scrapbook paper to slide into the cover and spine, to help me distinguish this cookbook binder easily when I need it. I labeled the spine and the cover clearly and then started my holiday recipe gleaning.
To protect each recipe, I filled the binder with plastic sheet protectors. I am normally relatively tidy when I cook, but at the holidays, when there are so many dishes and so much conversation going on at once, spills happen.
(Okay, those clear sheet protectors don’t photograph well, but you know what I’m talking about.) Next, I pulled out all of our favorite holiday recipes for the closest approaching holiday of the year, which was Thanksgiving. Then, I typed them up, little by little, over a couple of nights in front of the tv. (Martha Stewart really doesn’t live here.)
After they were all typed, they became the first pages in the new recipe binder. When I got to the next holiday, I just worked on the next batch of recipes. One month after another, I put them in the binder in the order of the year. Here’s a look at a page from December:
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around next year, my holiday recipe book was done. Not only do I now know where these recipes are stored, but my husband does, too, and can we can tag team organizing the grocery lists much more easily. It is also nice to have clean, printable versions of favorite family recipes to share with other family members and friends.
While I was making these pages, I also added in a couple of helpful cheat sheets, like this one from Real Simple:
No more digging around for random tips and slips of paper when we plan or while we cook. I glued my favorite holiday cheat sheets onto a pieces of cardstock and they all get stored together for their holiday between the relevant pages.
That’s my little system for sanity through any holiday cooking extravaganza. I can’t tell you how nice it is to never have to dig around for those recipes every year. Do you have a special way to store your favorite recipes? Have ever lost a favorite recipe? How many recipes do you cook up at your biggest holidays? Share your stories in a comment!
Looking for more home organizational ideas? You can see my running list of them right here, including one of my other favorite cookbooks. Looking for more recipes? Here’s the link to everyone I’ve posted so far.
I thought of the subject of this post months ago, but I decided I would save it until we were into the cooler Fall months. As the summer months pasted, I thought of more and more topics to include in this post. So, now that it is time to write this post, I can’t decide what category this post should fit into on this blog. My choices seem to be between:
- Design Vocabulary
- Food topics
So, I have decided that the answer is: Yes. All of them. We’re talking about spice today. Just like any good spice that can be used in multiple dishes, this subject is a part of many larger topics.
In the 16th century, finding islands with exotic spices was the Space Race of it’s day for sea-faring European countries. Massive fortunes were made or lost on the success or failure of a trading company’s ability to get its ships around the world and home again with a full cargo of spices to sell.
City states like Venice and countries like Portugal and Holland invested heavily in ships and trading ports designed to get spices back to their own European markets. Spices were in high demand to give flavor to foods and to work as preservatives in kitchens from every class of the European population.
Because it took so much work to bring the spices to the European markets from far away places, often a distance of over 6,000 miles, spices were expensive. With the experience gained from these arduous journeys, spice merchants quickly learned how to ensure that their precious cargo arrived as fresh as possible. No one wanted to pay for an expensive spice expedition and have the product arrive stale months later.
What the spice merchants learned is that heat and light are the most dangerous enemies of any spice. Whether it was an common black pepper or and elusive cinnamon, exposure to heat and light dried all of the flavor out of them. As a consequence, spice ships were large, with deep, dark holds for hundreds of thousands of pound of spice that were undisturbed on the return voyages.
Spice merchants around the world also needed to keep their merchandise fresh as they sold it to customers. We can see a common solution to the light and heat problem, on a shopkeepers display scale, in this example:
This spice chest, or apothecary chest, is from Asia, where spices were used for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Each drawer contained the spice label on the drawer’s front and was kept behind a store keeper’s counter to keep the costly spices protected.
Have you ever thrown away an old bottle of spice, well past its “use by” date? It always makes me rather mad at myself when I have to do it. In 16th century homes across Europe and, eventually, the New World, caddies and mini spice cabinets where carved to store these luxurious pantry items safe and functional for as long as they could be kept. These could be ornate and crafted by high-profile cabinet makers, like this Regency-style spice cabinet:
or they could be simple and functional in a classic way, like this Shaker-style spice box:
With the progresses in ceramics technology, canisters were eventually developed to keep storage functional (no light or heat!) yet still be decorative for the display of such luxury items. Here’s an example of a common spice canister shape:
With the development of refrigeration techniques in the 19th century, spice demand dropped significantly. There were no longer needed for food preservations, but primarily food flavor. As transportation systems advanced, the lengthy travel routes to obtain the spices also became obsolete, causing a sharp drop in prices.
However, the two old enemies of spice are still around, yet we seem to have forgotten about them. Exposure to light and heat can cut the flavor and effectiveness of spices in your recipes by half their natural lifespan. That means your spices could only be good for 3 months if you are storing them in your kitchen like this:
Or some variation of this:
As a person who loves to cook, I hate to see this kind of waste in a kitchen. As a designer, I want to get the word out to help clients and blog readers to remember the wisdom those spice merchants learned all those years ago.
There are so many great, affordable spice storage options available today that keep our spices handy yet still protected. Here are just a few examples from online retailers:
The round parts of that Oxo organizer are turntables, to make it easier to browse your spices. Nice design!
Wanna see my solution for my own kitchen. (I practice what I preach, my friends!) I use the high cabinets above our sink for spice and baking supply storage. Mr. CARO and I are both rather tall, so we can reach these shelves easily.
I bought several bins and broke down my most commonly used spices into four sections of the alphabet to label the bins. The best part is, these bins weren’t designed to be spice containers at all. They were designed to be locker bins for high school students. I found them on clearance for $1 each after the back-to-school season years ago.
I love that these bins are easy to clean and I can tell at a glance if I am out of something. All I have do is label the tops of the bottles and toss them in their bins, although nowadays, many bottles already come labeled.
While we’re on the subject, and this was one of my points of inspiration for this post, there are a lot of custom cabinetry option returning to popularity again in new kitchens. Cooking fans have some beautiful and creative solution options that those spice merchants of old would be envious of…
FYI: All of our cooking oils and vinegars like a cool, dark place for storage, too. They last longer and keep from going rancid it you store them with the same care that you store your spices.
I am a big fan of this design of built-in spice storage:
But whatever you may choose to do with a built-in spice rack, DON’T do this:
Right by the oven?! Heat!!!!
Also, avoid putting a built-in spice rack by your dishwasher, which also generates a lot of heat on its side panels. Better to put your pretty and practical spice rack somewhere else in the cabinetry line up. Like this example I recently snapped in Home Depot:
…and now you don’t. Beautiful, practical and functional.
Have you ever thought about how you store spices in your kitchen? How many bottles of spice do you use regularly use in your home? (Just guesstimate.) Do you cringe, like I do, when you have to throw away a wasted spice? Anyone out there have a creative way to store spices in their pantry? Share your spicy-ness in a comment!
This is a recipe post. And it isn’t.
There are no food ingredients specified in this post, but it is a recipe for saving money and improving your health. It can also help you organize your kitchen to be more functional at mealtimes. Whether you live alone, have roommates, a spouse or even a large family, this post can help you improve your meals.
It starts here:
We’re at the grocery store, picking up the three, very affordable tools we need for this project. They are:
Generic grocery-store-brand plastic food storage tubs in a small size. Generic is always better because they are easy to replace as needed at the least amount of cost. Look for good sales, like you see in the picture above, and stock up on them. (Always recycle these responsibly when you need to buy new ones!)
Freezer-proof masking tape. It looks like regular masking tape but this tape’s adhesive is designed to stand up to cold temperatures. Most grocery stores have this if you look for it, as does Target and Wal-mart. One roll will last you a long time.
A fine-tip black Sharpie or other permanent marker. This works great on the freezer tape and is easy to write with and read clearly later.
Have you figured out what we are doing with these items? We are our upgrading “leftovers” to the 21st century. They must be practical to store, easy to create and enjoyable to use. Based on conversations I’ve had with clients, many people have not been taught how to manage leftovers to work for them. This is my method and it has saved us THOUSANDS of dollars every year.
The most important thing strategy for using leftovers well is your attitude. It is easy to thing of them as “leftover food”. It is a meal that you are repeating, but have little surprise to look forward to regarding how it will taste.
Here’s how you change that: think of leftovers as “leftover money”. According to MSN.com:
$9 will generally cover a decent lunch most workdays. If you buy, rather than pack, a lunch five days a week for one year, you shell out about $2,340 a year.”
Let me just reiterate that for you: $2, 340 A YEAR!
Would you mind having another serving of last week’s casserole if it meant that you would use one day’s worth of your ” leftover lunch money” to see a movie this weekend? What larger purchase could you afford faster if you were willing to put some daily “leftover money” toward it? How much could you build your savings? This is a tried-and-true method of saving money.
We only have two people in our household, but we never cook for quantities less than 4 servings. This mean automatic leftovers get created with no additional planning required from us.
Here are my tools:
We use the “snack size” containers for our leftovers, for several reasons. We never waste a small part of a meal in the back of the fridge because we forgot to use it up. Snack-sized tubs help our leftovers go farther. More leftovers mean less work later and bigger savings now.
This size also gives us automatic portion control, which is a real health concern in most American restaurants and homes. We supplement the small portions of our leftover lunches with one or two servings of fresh fruits or vegetables. For example, Mr. CARO will take one of these tubs and some carrot sticks for lunch and an apple for a later snack in his workday.
Here is an example of how we do this in our home. In the picture below, you can see some leftover rice and cranberry pilaf. I have also cut up and mixed in the leftover herbed chicken breasts to make re-heating the meal easy.
This one pot of leftovers yielded 5 yummy freezer feasts to be used for lunches days or weeks later.
All we have to do is label these tubbies using the freezer tape and fine-tip Sharpie. Each tubbie gets the name of the dish and the date it was put in the freezer.
Just a side note: We NEVER re-heat these freezer feasts in their plastic tubs. We always pop the frozen meals out of the plastic ware and heat them in a microwave-safe dish. This way we avoid risking any unhealthy heated-plastic toxins becoming part of our meal.
We also supplement our automatic leftovers. Once or twice a month, we make one easy and/or favorite meal for direct storage in the freezer. Pictured below is 1 pound of beef mixed with 1 pound of fusilli pasta, leftover homemade marinara sauce and some grated Parmesan cheese. The dish only took about 20 minutes to make and made 8 lunches.
All of these feasts stack nicely in our freezer. This is another reason to always buy square shaped food tubs, so you maximize your freezer space and your freezer’s energy efficiency.
We fill a whole shelf of our freezer with these feasts and every day we can choose exactly what we are in the mood to eat. All these feast are ready to go at a moment’s notice, which makes it that much more easy to get out of the door in the morning or make an easy dinner after a long day of work.
Do you use your leftovers effectively as later meals? A little organization goes a long way! What is the yummiest dish you would like to have as “leftovers”? Do you have a “freezer feast” that makes your co-workers hungry when you re-heat it for lunch? Leave a comment and dish!Hint Hint: There is a free giveaway related to this very post coming later this week! You don’t want to miss it so be sure to check back and enter to win!
Whenever I design a room for a client, I include any closets in that room in the design. After all, is a room really functional if the closet doesn’t work properly? No one likes a closet that is heaped with belongings, even if it is in a beautiful room. Organizing a closet can even be the finishing touch on a room that really makes the client feel like they have a fresh start in their new room.
How is your coat closet looking these days? Do your hangers come in and out easily? Can you find your gloves when you need them? Do you have to stand on your head to get something out of the dark corners in the back? These are the same questions I ask my clients, because so many people wrestle with this part of their home.
With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top 5 things I like to put in clients’ coat closets. They are simple, very affordable things that can make your life and your closet space easier to manage. Home owners and renters alike should make full use of closet spaces in their home and these 5 things can upgrade your coat closet in just a day.
Most people don’t think of painting the insides of their closets, but it can make a huge different in how the closet space is used. When you look in your closet, the paint reminds you that this space is important, too, and that can inspire you, and your family, to keep it more organized on a daily basis. This really does work! Plus the closet then feels part of a finished room, not just the place you don’t want your guests to look when they are visiting.
The key to using paint is to choose a semi-gloss paint finish of a light color that you like. You can use leftover paint from another home project or choose a new color that picks up on a color in the larger room outside the closet. The semi-gloss paint is easy to wipe down when the walls get shoe/boot marks on them. The light color helps fight the darkness of far corners and the back of the floor.
I have lived in a lot of homes with oddly shaped closets. I seem to have a knack for living in older homes with closets featuring dark corners and dark floors. In my own quest for a practical light addition, I stumbled upon a great product. (You can click on the picture below to go directly to the Amazon retail page for this product.) Remember, I don’t get paid or perked for any product I mention or recommend on this blog.
I have this LED light in my own home and install it in almost every client’s home that I work in. It is that good. It has four directional lights that you can focus to hit on areas where you need the most light. The light has a two levels of brightness. It mounts easily to the wall and runs on 2 batteries. Because it is an LED light, the batteries last for a long time. All of this for only $13.
Coats are heavier than most of the rest of our clothes, yet many people try to use rather lightweight hangers to store them. This can actually cause some bad wear on your coats in the shoulders. Using thinner hangers can also be less space compatible for moving coats in and out from other hanging coats. I always buy these hangers for my clients. (The picture below is linked.)
I love these hangers because they are made out of sturdy wood and have a natural curve to mimic your shoulders, which helps keep any coat on the hanger. They are strong enough to hold long heavy coats, light enough to lift easily from the closet rod and are very difficult to tangle together. The 8-pack you see pictured above is only $4.
We all have little things we need to keep in our coat closets and it is often these little items that can drive us crazy when we are searching for them. Whether it is your child’s lost gloves, your car keys or any imaginable sports gear, when you need those items, you need them NOW. Ever been stared down by your dog while you do the digging for their leash? You know what I mean.
Enter the $13 solution (now on sale and linked to the above picture). This mesh fabric overdoor storage rack is designed to hold 24 pairs of shoes. But you and I can already see that it can also hold scarves, action figures, bike gloves, sunglasses, spare house keys, pet toys, flashlights, umbrellas… Well, I’m sure you can make your own list.
The fact that you can see into these pockets means less time digging into them individually. The mesh is easily washed and line-dried. You can also assign lower pockets to smaller children so they can…wait for it…practice putting away their own things. If that isn’t worth $13, I don’t know what is.
This last item is something I use in conjunction with the overdoor hangers. Sometimes you need a good container to hold things together on a closet shelf or stack neatly on the closet floor. The plastic cubes (linked to the picture below) are great for off-season outdoor clothing and you can see through them easily to find what you are looking for when you need it.
I love that these cubes can be zipped closed to keep out dust and keep them from overflowing, spilling items onto the floor. They have great handles and a soft, flexible form, making them easy to pack. They come in 5 different sizes, and they start at just $8 each. Are they durable? I have had all of mine since the ’90’s and they are still going strong.
Could your closet use some of my favorite 5 things for a quick weekend make-over? What do you find you are tripping over when you open your coat closet door? What are other areas of the home you would like to see featured in this “5 Things” post series? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list of areas to cover in future posts.
Would you like to see more of my tips for organizing your home? You can see all of them so far by clicking right here.
Today’s post is a follow-up to the green-clean-up-your-pet’s-accidents post I shared with you last week. I love pets and I keep a list of great sources from my pet-owning clients to share with others. My tip for today is for dog and puppy owners, which make up the majority of pets I see in the homes I visit. This tip may also work for kitties, but I leave that up to the cat owners to decide if it works for them.
I have used today’s tip myself with several dogs and three (yes, three) litters of puppies. This tip does work for canines. And in fact it is designed to curb your canine’s canines. This tip works to solve this problem:
Have you ever had this problem in your home? Puppies love to chew when they are trying to get rid of their baby teeth. Older dogs might develop a taste for a certain piece of furniture or shoes and return to it whenever they are tempted by the smell. So, when we employ this deterrent in our home, we must also remember to conquer the smell, just like last week’s post.
Our Secret Weapon
Didn’t see that coming, did you? I bet most of you already have some variety of hairspray in your home already. Here’s how you use it:
Just spray the area of chewing temptation lightly with hairspray and let it dry. I’m using the legs of a wicker chair, which was like catnip for our dogs. You can use this on any wood furniture piece or leather shoes (not fabric shoes). It will not hurt the finish of your wood furniture or leather.
When you are done needing it, when your puppy has grown up or your dog has learned not to chew the vulnerable item, you can just wipe the hairspray away with a damp cloth. (I use the eco-friendly cloths I discuss in this post.)
You can also leave the hairspray on indefinitely if you are worried about protecting your items forever.
How It Works
The alcohol in the hairspray is a natural odor absorber. It is a great way to disguise the natural scent of the tempting item. In addition, many hairsprays have artificial scent in them to smell fruity, floral or feminine for the human customers. These scents take care of the older dogs tempted by the items natural scent. You may need to top of the layer of hairspray every now and then to protect it from…”repeat offenders”.
The way the hairspray works for puppies is even simpler. Puppies are looking for anything they can wrap their gums around, just like human babies love teething rings. If you were teething, would like to get the taste of hairspray all over the inside of your mouth? Neither do puppies. Just be prepared to top off the layer of spray on the “targeted” items because puppies have a slower learning curve about taste than older dogs.
Easy solution, right? And you probably already have the “secret weapon” in your home. Okay, one last thing to share with you…
It is no secret that I am a big fan of our National Parks Service, which you can read more about in this post. I learned something new about the NPS just last week and I had to share since it involves these three little cuties:
The National Parks Service raises a litter of sled dog puppies every year at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. This years litter of pups are named Koven, Carpe and Tatum. You are paying a tiny, itty-bitty portion of their care through your tax dollars going to the NPS. So, in a sense, these are partly YOUR puppies.
Your puppies have grown up a lot since that above picture. Now they frolic and play, greet their keepers when it is mealtime and take naps in a big furry pile of sibling-hood. How do I know all this? I check on them, almost every day, and you can, too.
Just click on the still picture below and it will take you (past a ridiculously long web address) to the NPS Sled Dog Puppies Kennel Webcam. The camera refreshes the image approximately every 18 seconds.
Remember that Alaska is 4 hours behind Eastern Time, which makes it even easier to watch them during the day and in the early evening. Two days ago, the pups woke up to their first major snowfall and they were so excited!
What does all this puppy-cam stuff have to do with interior design? Well, the point of great design is great living. Pets are a great reminder that sometimes the smallest things can bring beauty and joy into our lives and homes. Even if they slop their drinking water all over the floor and carelessly leave paw prints in their wake. Few people ever welcome us home the way our pets do.
What is the silliest thing you pet ever chewed up or destroyed? My puppy got into a sewing box and unwound every spool of thread by chasing them all over the upstairs. She certainly had a good time but she also managed to tie her own legs together. When we came home, it was really hard to be mad at her since we found her stuck at the top of the stairs trussed like a turkey, quietly whimpering.
Got a good pet story of your own? Share it in a comment!