Pantry Help – Organize Those Bulk Herbs and Spices


I love my herbs and spices. One of the biggest perks of living near the City is that you can get bulk herbs and spices very cheap. (See last week’s post bulk spices on the Since Your Last Visit page.)

But a cute little spice rack will not do for keeping them organized. These bulk containers were wreaking havoc with my pantry shelves. So I came up with a handy DIY solution.

Over-the-door shoe organizer to the rescue!


I labeled all the lids of my spice containers with a permanent marker and filled up all those pockets. 


I love the results. My favorite herbs and spices within easy reach and I don’t have to shuffle through my shelves looking for them anymore. Hooray for organization!

Sewing curtains

I finally got around to making curtains for two of our bedrooms after 1.5 years of living here. 

I made a border and tie backs for our son’s room.


I made two curtain panels for our bedroom and repurposed some old curtains from a previous apartment for the center panel. 


It’s to finally get some of these things done. It’s starting to feel like home. ūüôā

Life the last year….

I haven’t posted anything this past year. Life happened.

Home

We bought a house and moved.

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And we had a baby.

So, I’m hoping to get back to posting things now that life is feeling a little more like normal again. I’ve made some changes to the blog, so keep your eyes open and watch for more posts to come.

Seasonal Decorating: Fall – pumpkins, leaves and scarecrows…

Pretty fall leaves in a basket.

Pretty fall leaves in a basket.

Fall is probably my favorite time to decorate for. I’m not sure why. I just love all the orange, red, and yellow. The pumpkins, leaves and scarecrows are quaint and I get excited as summer winds down and I can anticipate the crispness in the air that brings on fall. Here’s how we decorated for fall this year. It changes every year. I put some decorations in one place one year and in new place another year. I try to buy one new item on clearance at the end of every season so that we add to or decoration stash little by little.

 

 

Our fall twinkle lights. Made with orange halloween lights with paper leaves twisty tied on.

Our fall twinkle lights. Made with orange halloween lights with paper leaves twisty tied on.

 

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Window decals.

Window decals.

 

Pretty candle holders.

Pretty candle holders.

 

Cute scarecrows.

Cute scarecrows.

 

More cute scarecrows...

More cute scarecrows…

 

Our newest window scarecrow.

Our newest window scarecrow.

 

Isn't this little face cute peeking over my plant leaves.

Isn’t this little face cute peeking over my plant leaves?

Leafy Twinkle Lights for Fall

Fall is coming. Time to get ready. It’s my favorite season to decorate for.¬†Pumpkins, colored leaves, orange and red and yellow. I just love it. Here’s how to make your¬†own leafy twinkle lights with clearance fall and Halloween items.

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First, watch for a set of orange Christmas lights on clearance after Haloween (if you didn’t do this last year, then go find some now). Next,¬†buy a set of paper leaves. Grab a set of all those twisty ties that are hiding in your kitchen drawer that you never use on your trash bags and color them black with a magic marker (see photo above).

 

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Poke a black twisty tie through the base of each paper leaf. Then twist them around your orange Christmas light strand in even increments (photo above).

 

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Hang it up and you have your own custom Leafy Twinkle Lights. A nice addition to your fall decor. The kids might enjoy helping you make it too.

 

Seasonal Decorating: Easter

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It’s almost Easter. We barely got our Easter decorations up in time. ¬†It was still cold until this last week so it didn’t seem quite right to be decorating for Easter/spring when it was still 30 degrees outside. But, it warmed up last week so the decorations are up now. And the nice thing about Easter decor is that it easily transitions in to spring. Here’s what we have up this year:

 

A white gauze babywearing wrap used as a garland for colored Christmas lights with a white cord.

A white gauze babywearing wrap used as a garland for colored Christmas lights with a white cord.

 

Easter eggs dangle from the lights. I used Christmas ribbon and poked it through the holes in the eggs to make loops to hang them from.

Easter eggs dangle from the lights. I used colored Christmas ribbon and poked it through the holes in the tops of the eggs to make loops to hang them from.

 

Lilies that I had from somewhere clipped on to a ribbon graces the entertainment center.

Lilies that I had from some time in the past clipped on to a ribbon graces the entertainment center.

 

Easter egg window clings from the .99 cent store.

Easter egg window clings from the .99 cent store.

 

The Valentine wreath (a wire frame wrapped with a scarf) becomes the Easter wreath with clip of a flower. I'll switch it to a spring wreath later by adding a yellow ribbon.

The Valentine wreath (a wire frame wrapped with a scarf) becomes the Easter wreath with clip of a flower. I’ll switch it to a spring wreath later by adding a yellow ribbon twisted around the frame.

 

Our scarecrow Rosie, gets a new hat and flower.

Our scarecrow Rosie, gets a new hat and flower.

 

Rosie's Easter basket with a few flowers and Easter eggs mixed in.

Rosie’s Easter basket with a few flowers and Easter eggs mixed in.

 

An Easter tree - the hall plant decorated with the rest of the hanging Easter eggs.

An Easter tree – the hall plant decorated with the rest of the hanging Easter eggs.

 

Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

 

Product Update: Cotton-lined dish washing gloves

So, see my post below to read about the virtues of these wonderful dish washing gloves. Just wanted to let you know that 3 months later I’m still using the same pair of gloves! I’m shocked and amazed at the quality of these gloves. I’ve never had a pair of rubber gloves last so long and I’ve never liked a pair as well as I like these. Usually after a month at the most mine have holes and I’m throwing them out. And these get heavy use. On most days I use them 2-3¬†times a day. They are wonderful and you should all order some. Use my¬†Amazon link¬†and I’ll get a few pennies for your purchase. Wash away…..

Original Post:

41ZtqK26hQL._SY300_I usually don’t post about products but have any of you used these? Casabella Premium Water Stop ¬†Latex Gloves¬†(affiliate link – see my Disclosures page). I just discovered them and they are working wonders for the eczema on my hands that flares up periodically with the use of irritants like dish soap and hot water. But, what’s a city girl to do? The dishes have to be done. NYC apartment = no dishwasher. I can’t make the kids do the dishes yet. And the regular latex gloves from the store irritate my hands just as bad as dish soap with all those powdery linings. Well, guess what? These are wonderful! They have a “cotton flocking” which means that tiny cotton fibers have been adhered to the interior of the glove. Now, I will warn you that when I first got these and opened them up my first thought was, “These aren’t lined with cotton.” You see, I was expecting a cotton fabric lining and that is not what it is. It feels like a soft, less rubbery glove on the inside. I wasn’t sure that it was what I wanted but decided to try them out. I have been using them for around 3 weeks now and let me tell you the are well worth the $7 price tag. The lining (though not what I expected) doesn’t irritate my hands, they fit well and don’t slip and they have yet to crack or get a hole which is something that I can’t say for the gloves I used to buy at the grocery store. I’m sure they will wear out eventually but right now I am very happy and will definitely order more. They have definitely made dish washing a much happier chore at my house.

¬†Note: These are latex, so if you have a latex allergy I would avoid them since I don’t know that the cotton flocked lining would protect your skin sufficiently.¬†

Shhh! My Surprising Secret for Keeping my Kitchen Clean

140204_0003Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. (Well, actually do… share this post and improve my blog traffic.) But, I’ve been finding it easier to keep my kitchen clean. It took me a while to figure out why. We moved in the fall and it seemed like in the new kitchen it’s easier to keep clean than the old one. This really didn’t make sense. The new kitchen is smaller, has fewer cabinets and storage places and less counter space. So, why would it be easier to keep clean? It took me a couple of months to figure out but it finally hit me.

When we moved, we removed some conveniences from our life. Now it seems counter-intuitive that removing conveniences would make something easier, but that’s what happened. Let me tell you the story.

When we moved we threw out our microwave. This decision was made mostly due to a lack of space in the new kitchen. The fact that half the buttons were broken had something to do with it too. And I know that it is better for us to eat food heated on the stove, but that’s another topic. So, we moved and began settling into the new place without a microwave. After a month or so I was noticing that it seemed easier to keep this kitchen clean. Why would that be? A couple of months went by and it finally dawned on me. The reason (partly) is because I no longer had the microwave to rely on.

I realized that before in my spacious kitchen where counter and cabinet space was abundant, that I often relied on the microwave for reheating food, and usually on paper plates too. When we moved we gave up both the microwave and paper plates. Since then it’s been easier to keep the kitchen clean because I end up doing it in short spurts here and there throughout the day. Before, I would let myself fall back on using the microwave and paper plates and then go about putting out the next “fire” (solving arguments, changing diapers, cleaning up spills, etc…. you know everyday life). I would move the kitchen to the bottom of my “To-Do” list because I didn’t have to do it right then. I could get to it later. When the next meal came along and I still hadn’t gotten around to cleaning the kitchen, I would fall back on the paper plates and microwave. The cycle would continue and we would end up with stacks of dishes and no clean silverware in the drawer. So, I would end up washing just enough forks and spoons to get us through that meal and then I’d have to deal with all again at the next meal. The kitchen was a monster and something that I could never get on top of.

Now, without having the conveniences at my fingertips, I have to wash the pans because there is no hot food if I don’t. And it’s easier to wash a drainer full of dishes in the morning and then another one while I cook dinner. Cleaning the kitchen is not the dreaded chore anymore. It feels smaller and easier.

Now, lest anyone have the mistaken impression that I am against ever having a microwave or against ever using paper plates – I am not. But, I’ve realized that removing those things from my life has ended up being a blessing in disguise. It’s taken away a crutch and made me keep on top of things that I otherwise would let slide. Not having the microwave and not keeping paper plates around forces me to keep up better cleaning habits in my kitchen.

2.13.14 005And lest anyone also have the mistaken impression that my kitchen is now always clean here’s a picture just to prove it. It’s not always clean. We’re busy and I still let the kitchen work slide when more pressing things like 3 kids and homeschooling takes over my day. But, it’s no longer the dreaded chore that it used to be for which I am thankful.

DIY Olive Oil Hand Soap and Dish Soap

140128_0012This is easy peasy for all of you who aren’t brave enough (like me) to undertake the daunting process of making your own soap from scratch.

With this recipe you can customize your blends, and add your own essential oils for scent and disinfecting purposes.

We avoid all the natural soaps and all the store bought soaps because members of our family react to the coconut oil in almost every natural soap and have very sensitive skin which reacts to the mainstream soap brands. So, once you take out coconut oil as a base ingredient and all the main soap brands and all their irritating ingredients, then you aren’t left with much except coming up with your own homemade soap. However, the process of making my own soap from scratch is a bridge too far for me right now. I’ll make lots of things from scratch (as you can tell from the recipes on this blog), but cooking fats and handling lye with littles around just makes me too nervous. Maybe I’ll try it one day, but right now, soap is one project that I don’t have the time, energy or ambition for. So, this is the way you do it without having to make it from scratch yourself. And I just found out that it has a name. I’ve been making soap this way for the past several months and didn’t know what it was called until recently. It’s a process called “re-batching.” Basically, you’re taking an existing bar or leftover pieces of soap and remake it.

For our purposes, we will be turning a bar of soap into liquid hand soap and dishwashing soap.

Now, if you research DIY soap recipes online, you will find that almost all of them call for liquid castille soap. Now aside from the fact that most of those contain coconut oil as part of the base for the soap – which rules them out for me – the other factor that has driven me to develop this recipe is the expense. Even if buying castille soap is cheaper than buying regular dish soap at the store, liquid castille soaps are expensive and basically, I’m just not willing to pay that much money for them.

So, here’s what I do instead.¬†Note: This recipe is very easily customized to meet your needs so change the ingredients to suit your purpose.

Basic DIY Liquid Hand Soap:
Start with 1 bar of 
Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap¬†(affiliate link, see Disclosures Page). Amazon charges $3.99 per bar for this (you can find 8 oz. bars even cheaper other places online), and you’re only grating 1/2 cup of shavings which is a very minimal amount. So, this recipe will cost you probably less a quarter per batch. To make the soap, start with a cheese grater. Grate enough shavings to loosely fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Don’t use the largest shredder but the next size down. Dump the shavings into a small glass bowl. Add your favorite essential oils for fragrance and disinfecting. To decide which oils you want to use, click here¬†for a list of essential oils and their properties. Then add 1 cup of distilled water. (You could use tap water if you’ll use the soap up quickly, but if you don’t use it up fast enough you may find bacteria or mold growing in your soap and have to throw the rest of the batch out). Let the mixture sit overnight. The water will soften the soap shavings and in the morning you will have a lovely, scented liquid soap. Stir the soap and pour it ¬†into an old soap dispenser and you’re done. This recipe will make enough soap to fill a 10 oz. soap dispenser. If you’re not sure what oil blends to use, my favorite for hand soap are geranium/cedarwood or lemon/lavender. If you want to make a moisturizing soap, add 1 teaspoon of your favorite oil (olive oil, almond oil, etc.) to the bottle and shake well. Note: Over time the soap may begin to solidify or coagulate in places so that it looks like there are things floating around in your soap bottle. This is normal and the nature rebatched olive oil soap. If this happens you can just vigorously shake your bottle to remix it. If it doesn’t mix all the way, you can either use it as it is (which is what I usually do). Or if you bothers you, pour your soap into a sauce pan and gently heat it on low (do not boil) and stir until it is all recombined. When it has cooled a little bit pour it back into your soap dispenser.

DIY Liquid Dish Soap:
Follow the recipe above, except only add 3/4 cup of distilled water to the 1/2 cup soap shavings. This will make a more concentrated soap. If using distilled water, feel free to double and triple the batch so that you don’t have to make it as often. The best oils for dishwashing purposes are citrus blends – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, tangerine. I would suggest using lemon as the main oil as it has wonderful disinfecting and solvent/grease cutting properties, and then adding some other citrus oils based on what scents you prefer (be creative and come up with your own combinations). Probably 12-15 drops of oil total is sufficient for a small batch of this recipe. If you double or triple the recipe, adjust the essential oil amounts accordingly. I should warn you that you won’t see any bubbles in your dishwater when using this soap. Olive oil soap is a very low sudsing soap and hardly makes any bubbles. It will still work fine though. It’s just not what we are used to.

DIY Foaming Mosturizing Hand Soap:
Follow the recipe for the basic hand soap above. Add about a 1/4 cup of the end product to a foaming soap dispenser and fill with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the soap dispenser to make a moisturizing blend. Keep in mind that olive oil soap doesn’t foam much. So, I use it for one of my bathrooms, but don’t expect typical results in a foaming dispenser. If you want the typical foam then I suggest using this foaming hand soap recipe.

This basic recipe will work with any bar soap that you like and works well for you skin. Feel free to try it with something other than olive oil soap. The moisture content and sudsing may be different with another bar soap, but try it out. It will save you money and if you use a soap with minimal ingredients it will be better for your skin too.

Seasonal Decorating: Valentine’s Day

140204_0006I love decorating my house for the various seasons and holidays throughout the year. There is Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. Everyone decorates for those. But, I’ve always enjoyed putting up decorations all year long – spring, summer, the Fourth of July, fall (which is probably my favorite), Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, winter, and now we are at Valentine’s Day.

Having kids makes this all the more fun because they enjoy it just as much as I do. And we’ve come up with some pretty fun ideas together along way. Scroll down to see some of our Valentine’s decorations this year. You can come up with some pretty cheap and easy ideas with some simple items from the dollar store that you can reuse year after year.

Valentine's wreath on our door made from a scarf wrapped on a round frame.

Valentine’s wreath on our door made from a scarf from the .99 Cent store wrapped on a round metal ¬†frame (it’s actually a frame for advent candles) picked up from the curb.

A mini-Christmas tree decorated with paper hearts cut from a gift bag.

A mini-Christmas tree decorated with paper hearts cut from a gift bag.

Valentine's garland made with red Christmas lights wrapped around one of my babywearing wraps.

Valentine’s garland made with red Christmas lights wrapped around one of my babywearing wraps.

Sticky hearts from the .99 Cent store in the window - It's Valentine's Day NYC!

Sticky hearts from the .99 Cent store in the window – It’s Valentine’s Day NYC!

Meet Rosie. She's our scarecrow that we got on clearance two years. She sits in the hall outside our door. We decided that we liked her so much that we keep her out all year long and dress her up for each holiday/season. The kids say hi and bye to her each day.

Meet Rosie. She’s our scarecrow that we got on clearance two years ago. She sits in the hall outside our door. We decided that we liked her so much that now we keep her up all year long and dress her up for each season and holiday (watch for more pictures of her in the future). See – even she has a bag of Valentine’s for you.

Felt hearts hanging in the plant.

Felt hearts hanging in the plant.

Rosie's Valentine.

Rosie’s Valentine.

Isn't Rosie cute. She's a good friend.

Isn’t Rosie cute. She’s a good friend.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Cotton-lined dish washing gloves


41ZtqK26hQL._SY300_I usually don’t post about products but have any of you used these? Casabella Premium Water Stop ¬†Latex Gloves¬†(affiliate link – see my Disclosures page). I just discovered them and they are working wonders for the eczema on my hands that flares up periodically with the use of irritants like dish soap and hot water. But, what’s a city girl to do? The dishes have to be done. NYC apartment = no dishwasher. I can’t make the kids do the dishes yet. And the regular latex gloves from the store irritate my hands just as bad as dish soap with all those powdery linings. Well, guess what? These are wonderful! They have a “cotton flocking” which means that tiny cotton fibers have been adhered to the interior of the glove. Now, I will warn you that when I first got these and opened them up my first thought was, “These aren’t lined with cotton.” You see, I was expecting a cotton fabric lining and that is not what it is. It feels like a soft, less rubbery glove on the inside. I wasn’t sure that it was what I wanted but decided to try them out. I have been using them for around 3 weeks now and let me tell you the are well worth the $7 price tag. The lining (though not what I expected) doesn’t irritate my hands, they fit well and don’t slip and they have yet to crack or get a hole which is something that I can’t say for the gloves I used to buy at the grocery store. I’m sure they will wear out eventually but right now I am very happy and will definitely order more. They have definitely made dish washing a much happier chore at my house.

¬†Note: These are latex, so if you have a latex allergy I would avoid them since I don’t know that the cotton flocked lining would protect your skin sufficiently.¬†

Decorate for Fall – Leafy Twinkle Lights

I love decorating for Fall. I don’t know why. It’s just fun. Pumpkins, colored leaves, orange and red and yellow. Here’s how we made our own leafy twinkle lights with clearance fall and Halloween items.¬†

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First, watch for a set of orange Christmas lights on clearance after Haloween. Then buy a set of paper leaves. Grab a set of all those twisty ties that are hiding in your kitchen drawer that you never use on your trash bags and color them black with a magic marker (see photo above).

 

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Poke a black twisty tie through the base of each paper leaf. Then twist them around your orange Christmas light strand in even increments (photo above).

 

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Hang it up and you have your own custom Leafy Twinkle Lights. A nice addition to your fall decor. The kids might enjoy helping you make it too.