Over-stuffed Pantry!

I got home from Costco yesterday with a good haul and when I opened the pantry door I realized there was no room for what I bought. Well, that’s not entirely correct– there was room but things were so disorganized and shoved in there that I couldn’t put anything away. So it was time to pull it all out and put it back.

My pantry isn’t a separate room, (that would be awesome!) its several cupboards in my kitchen.

BEFORE:

messy pantry

This is my “staples” pantry. Ahh! Disorganized mess. Canned things spread across all shelves, stuff put in sideways!

snack pantry mess

This is the snack pantry before. I keep snacks for the kids in here and quick fix meal items in here. Unfortunately there are things in here that don’t belong. Some are stale, expired, etc.

AFTER:

organized pantry

All sorted out! Canned goods are sorted by type and lined up neat and tidy! There is actual space left on the shelves!

What? Oh, were you expecting color coordinated baskets with tons of labels? Nope. That’s not what this blog is about. I’m all about “home and garden for REAL people”.

I took over the upper cabinet next to the oven for more space. I like to keep basic canned goods like beans and tomatoes on hand and I’m planning on doing more canning of my own this summer. I also moved things into smaller containers and sorted out things that were expired. Happily, there were only a few expired items. I hate throwing out food. Snack cupboard looks about the same (but is organized) so no photo.

And then there’s this: My baking cupboard

I still have this to tackle!

I still have this to tackle! Flour goes in that big container. Yes, I have two 10 lb bags of sugar open. That’s what happens when you get disorganized!

I have a 25 pound bag of flour that needs to be divided up into containers. I also have sprinkles, cookie cutters and other decorating items in yet another cupboard that need to be organized and moved over with the baking stuff.

One of the best things about periodically reorganizing the pantry is reminding myself of exactly what I have. I now have ideas for all of next weeks meals without needing to go to the store again!

Remember that they don’t have to look perfect, with matching containers and color coding. Just get it organized so you know what’s in there! So, have I inspired you to tackle your pantry or cupboards? Let me know in the comments – I love to hear from you!

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Weekly Menu Board Craft

This is a very simple weekly menu dry erase board made from a picture frame and a printed piece of paper.

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I saw something like this at my friend Kate’s house and thought it would be a big help for my meal planning.

I’m already using eMeals to plan my dinners for a week or more at a time. This board helps me plan which meals I’m going to cook each night and spacing them for leftover nights in between. If you are not familiar with eMeals, they are a meal planning service that provides a weekly menu with recipes and shopping lists. It’s inexpensive – about $5 a month and saves me a ton of time and money on planning and cooking dinners for our family. (I’m an affiliate, so if you decide to purchase a plan I will get a 25% commission if you use this link eMeals Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families.)

My husband enjoys being able to look at the menu board and see what’s for dinner. I like it because I can look ahead to determine when to move meat from the freezer to the fridge to defrost. And when I’m wondering how old some leftovers are, I just look back to see what day I made it!

Materials:

  • 8 x 10″ frame with glass. I got this one at Target for about $4
  • Decorative cardstock or stationary, or plain paper with your own graphic printed in a light color
  • Dry Erase Mini Markers

Method:

  • Print the days of the week on the paper. If you will be planning more than one week make two columns.
  • I’ve added a second column with the dry erase markers, but when I change the paper out to something spring-like I will change it to two columns of days.
  • Place in the kitchen counter or hang out-of-the-way.
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I placed mine near our kitchen command center (the phone, notepad and mail holder) it’s out-of-the-way but still in the kitchen area.

minnie mouse birthday party cupcakes

Minnie Mouse Cupcakes

Audrey told me six months in advance that she wanted a Minnie Mouse party for her fourth birthday. That was an easy request and one that I was sure I could find lots of fun ideas for. I went to my source for fun crafty ideas – Pinterest! I found several cute Minnie and Mickey tiered cakes and some adorable cupcakes. See my For Audrey Pinterest Board for what I found and other girlie pins.

found on pinterest Minnie Mouse cupcakes

Inspiration Photo found on Pinterest

I decided to make these cupcakes. The original pin was taken from Facebook and was not properly pinned so it did not go back to the original source.

Looking at the photo, it appears to be of some professionally made cupcakes. I say that because of the special box they are in and the perfect little bows which appear to be made of sugar.

I figured they would be easy to duplicate, and not nearly as time-consuming as making a layered cake with fondant. We had just returned from our trip to Disneyland three days before the party and I didn’t have time for a huge production like Sean’s Angry Birds cake and cupcakes!

Here is how I made the Minnie Mouse Cupcakes:

  • 2 boxes of chocolate cake mix
  • 2 containers vanilla frosting
  • 48 red with white polka dots paper cupcake pan liners
  • 2 packages original Oreo cookies (some left over)
  • 2 snack bags mini Oreo cookies (some left over)
  • Piping bag with star tip to cover cake, a petal tip (narrow tear-drop shaped opening) to make the bow
  • Food coloring for bows (red or pink). Gel color works best.

Steps

  1. Bake the cupcakes according to the directions on the box. If you know me, you know I would have preferred to make the cak from scratch. I just didn’t have the time to do that and all the decorating, so I went with the boxed stuff. It was fine.
  2. Level the tops of the cupcakes with a serrated knife.
  3. Cover the cupcakes by applying frosting with the star tip. Reserve a small amount of frosting to color for the bows.
  4. Sort small Oreos and discard/set aside any that are broken. Place one large Oreo and two small Oreos for the mouse head.
  5. Mix reserved frosting with food coloring until desired tint is reached. Place in clean piping bag with petal tip.
  6. Pipe on bows. I started in the center, moving out and then over to make a loop on one side, then the other.
  7. For Mickey Mouse cupcakes skip steps 5 & 6 (no bows).

Additional Photos

Leveling cupcakes was necessary to make the mouse design look right.

 

First few cupcakes. I left a few without bows for the boys coming to the party – they had Mickey cupcakes!

minnie mouse cupcakes

Up close of the finished cupcakes. They are not as perfect as the inspiration photo, but Audrey LOVED them, so that’s all that matters!

clean soot from fireplace bricks

Cleaning Soot Off Fireplace Bricks

clean soot from fireplace bricks

Before we installed our new fireplace insert I needed to clean the bricks. I was a little nervous about this task. I wondered what would be the best way to clean the bricks without harming them. I searched the internet for suggestions. Options ranged from soap and water to ammonia, oven cleaner, TSP and even harsher chemicals.

I opted for the least noxious and easiest method – soap and warm water.  I put about a 1/4 cup of Dawn dish soap in a bucket and filled it with hot tap water. I purchased a stiff bristled brush at Target just for this job – one that was comfortable to hold with stiff nylon bristles. I gathered up a few old towels and set to work.

I was amazed at how well this worked! I didn’t have to scrub hard. I just worked one small area at a time (2-4 bricks) scrubbing the bricks and grout and wiping any bubbles away with the towel. It only took about 30 minutes to do all around the fireplace opening. What a difference!

If you want to try this I recommend cleaning out any ash before beginning. Water plus ashes makes a terrible mess! Also, it’s a good idea to test a small area to make sure the bricks can take the scrubbing and be gentle. Bricks may seem hard, but they are porous and they (and the grout) can become brittle over time.

how to clean soot off bricks from @lesserhomes

Before (left half) and After!

DIY Foaming Dish and Hand Soaps

This is a pretty simple concept, but if you like using foaming soaps this can help you save some money! You can make your own foaming soap for dishes or hand washing using regular soap and water. Just dilute and use a foaming pump container.

I used to buy the Dawn Direct Foam soap, but it’s expensive, almost the same price as a regular bottle of dawn soap. I now make my own! I could probably make 15-20 bottles of the foaming soap out of the one big bottle of Dawn.

foaming dish soap

If you have a Dawn Direct Foam pump use that, otherwise you can use a foaming hand soap container. This is an empty SoftSoap pump with the label removed.

foaming dawn dish soap

Add a little regular dish soap to the container. I use about 3/4 inch in the hand soap container.

foaming dish soap

Add water slowly so you don’t cause too many bubbles. Replace the cap and shake to mix. If the mix is too thin or too thick you can play around with it until you get the soap consistency you like.

  • The same thing can be done very easily for hand soap. Just refill your foaming hand soap containers with 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of clear liquid hand soap.
  • I use the cheap store brand clear hand soap and it works great. The creamy type of liquid soaps don’t dilute as well as the clear types, so keep that in mind if you want to try this.
  • The pumps on the hand soap containers do get worn out after a lot of use. With all the money I’ve saved, I don’t mind buying one new bottle of SoftSoap every six months. Especially when I can find cute seasonal designs on clearance at Target!

Wood Burning Fireplace Insert

We love our new house, but after spending the first winter here freezing and paying big bucks for electricity to run the heater, it was time to find a better solution.  We did try burning fires in our regular masonry fireplace. It was fun to do but not efficient as a heat vogelzang wood burning fireplace insertsource. Most of the heat just went up the chimney.

Paul checked with the one and only fireplace shop in town. Their estimate was around $5,000 for the insert, chimney liner and installation. Whoa, way out of our budget. I checked with the two shops down where my family lives. They were more reasonable, around $2,500 – $4,000 all together. I also started checking the internet.

I found Northline Express a company based in Michigan selling all types of wood stoves and fireplace inserts online. I found two wood burning fireplace inserts that seemed to fit our needs and were budget friendly at around $1000 for the stove, surround, and blower.

We decided to go with the Vogelzang Colonial insert. It has a 30 day in-home trial period with free return shipping, so if we aren’t happy with it for any reason we

 

can send it back. I was able to get the insert, plus the chimney liner kit for around $1300 total. I called to place my order and the woman who helped me was very nice and knowledgeable.  Paul and my father-in-law were able to install the insert and chimney liner in one day. I am so pleased with how it look and how it works!

Just so you know – I’m not getting compensated in any way for this post. I just really got a great deal on my stove and wanted to share. What a relief to have this latest home improvement project done and know that we will not freeze our behinds off again this winter!

 

Pinterest in Action: Reusable Swiffer Duster

swiffer duster sewing projectWhen I saw the pin for a washable, reusable head for a Swiffer duster handle I put it to the top of my To Try List. I like the convenience of the handle on the Swiffer dusters and the kids think it’s fun to use them.  The trouble is that the refills cost more than I really want to spend on something that gets thrown away.

I figured it was worth a shot to try making one. Are you thinking polka-dots with black cats is an interesting choice of fabric? Yeah,  well I had a pair of flannel pajama pants that were too big last winter. The top fit, but the pants were comically big and roomy. I recently lost 35 pounds making the pants feel even more ridiculous so I cut them up!

Here is the link to the original blog post by Sew Much Ado I found on Pinterest. It has all the step by step photos, dimensions and instructions.

Here’s my project:

 

swiffer duster sewing project

You need a Swiffer Duster handle and some flannel fabric.

swiffer duster sewing project

Next step is to put the layers together and sew down the middle.

swiffer duster project

Mark the sides of the handle. This will be sewn down. If I was doing this project again I would also sew along the end to keep the handle from sliding all the way through.

swiffer duster sewing project

I have a different Swiffer handle than the one from the Pinterest pin, so mine looks a little different.

swiffer sewing project

Now it’s starting to look like something!

All that’s left is to cut into strips and wash. It came out of the dryer fluffy and ready to go.

This was a very fun little project to do. It didn’t take much time and since I used old flannel it didn’t cost me anything. The duster works well–not quite as well as the disposable Swiffer heads, but plenty good enough for me. The kids love using the handle duster and that means less dusting for Mommy! The only thing I would change is sewing across the top so that the handle wouldn’t slide all the way through. (My handle is different from the one used in the tutorial.) All in all, I consider this a Pinterest Success!