Monday, February 13, 2012

A Surprising Kitchen Essential

You know what I keep in my kitchen drawer?

I am perfectly fine with a messy kitchen utensil drawer.

A balloon. Any guesses why? A balloon makes THE absolute best jar opener. Have a stuck jar lid? Grab a balloon, use it to grasp the lid, and turn. Simple, cheap, easy, and works every time! Before I discovered the balloon I would use a rubber band for this--and it worked. But it took a little time to get it wrapped around the lid properly, and you had to have a size that worked. Then one day I couldn't find a rubber band in my junk drawer and spotted a balloon. A balloon works even better!

So go go find a balloon and toss it in your kitchen drawer. I promise it will come in handy. And it will be a great conversation starter when you've got someone helping you out in the kitchen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Repurposed Toy Packaging

I LOVE Melissa & Doug toys. They are simple, well made, and classic. My daughters received two fabulous toys for Christmas this year: a magnetic doll (you can see in action here) and pet lacing boards. Each toy was packaged in a sturdy wooden divided tray covered in clear plastic. I ran into a problem after my girls started playing with the toys. Everything fit nicely in the trays, but it would all fall out so easily...especially in my (clears throat here) "storage" area. One day I got tired of picking up the pieces that kept falling out, so I decided to throw each of the toys into a plastic Ziploc bag.  I looked at the empty trays and thought, "What a waste!" And then I realized the trays would be perfect for my bathroom drawers. Cleaning up my bathroom drawers is one of my organizing goals for the year. I've never used divided trays in the drawers, but I know they can be a great way to keep drawers neat and tidy over time. I'm looking forward to using these as a way to give them a try as a storage solution! I will be sure to post an update when the drawers are finished.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm Featured at Ask Anna Today!

This is an exciting day for me. I'm being featured over at Ask Anna. It's a post I wrote about removing grease stains from clothing. I swear grease finds me. Whether I'm cooking, washing dishes, eating, or attempting to keep my kids' greasy fingers off of me, it finds me. When I have a huge pregnant belly, it's exponentially worse. I remember the last time I was pregnant my already meager wardrobe of maternity clothes dwindled all too quickly, with me chucking spotted shirts weekly. I'm just relieved to have found this solution and want to share it with you. If you're not familiar with Anna's blog, it's an awesome resource for all things cleaning. If you have a problem, Anna has a solution, or she will find one for you. Now go check it out!

And if you're coming here from Ask Anna, welcome! Take a look around. I'm a messy girl who blogs about cleaning, organizing, and what's happening in my life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Revive a Fuzzy Sofa

Back in August we bought a new sofa. "Sofa" may be an understatement, as it's a 9-piece sectional that runs the length of two entire walls of our living room. We struggled to decide whether to get leather or fabric. We've got young kids and dogs. We had a durable leather sofa that lasted us many years, but we've also has a leather love seat ruined within the first month thanks to dog toenails. In the end, we decided on this huge fabric sectional, with the understanding that it probably won't last forever. We get it. But within the first month or so of enjoying our new couch, we noticed a few of the cushions were getting a little fuzzy, for lack of a better word. It didn't take long to figure out the cause:

It was our dogs, of course. Specifically, it was the little spinning ritual they do before they lie down. Here's what the cushion looked like before the damage (it's actually the vertical cushion for comparison).

And here's what the cushion looks like with the damage from the dogs. Not something you want to see a month after you shell out a fair amount of cash for new furniture.

Since noticing the damage, we attempt to keep the sofa cushions covered with blankets during the day. It's not a perfect solution, as the girls will often use the blankets to keep warm or build a fort. And the blankets inevitably end up on the floor, making the room look even more cluttered than it already is. And, of course, the damage had already been done. Once I noticed the cushions were beginning to resemble a worn sweater, I knew I had to give my Sweater Stone a try. I bought my Sweater Stone several years ago at Faribault Woolen Mill*. It has worked wonders to spruce up my tired fuzzy, pilly sweaters over the years. I put the stone to work on the cushion (it literally took less than a minute) and saw great results. 

Here's the after photo. Drum roll please..................

It's not back to it's original condition, but it's much, much better. The damage is no longer the first thing you notice when you look at the sofa. Even knowing it's history. 

And here's the floor after using the Sweater Stone. 

The Sweater Stone. I can't imagine a cheaper, easier, and better way to revive my fuzzy sofa (and sweaters)!

*I have no idea if they still sell the Sweater Stone.

**This is not a paid advertisement--just a great solution I wanted to share with you!

January Reads

Near the beginning of each month, I will be posting what I read in the previous month and a brief description of the book and my thoughts. I don't do lengthily summaries, you can find those anywhere and I encourage you to do so if you're interested. I will be brief, and probably a little vague.

1. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
A young girl and her family is arrested by French police in the 1942 Vel d'Hiv roundup, and her brother's survival depends on her. A journalist writing about the 60th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv uncovers a family secret that connects her to the young girl. This is a wonderful page-turning read full of heartache. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

2. Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
High school sweethearts move from rags to riches through hard work but find their marriage has suffered. Husband has near-death experience and decides to turn their world upside down. Wife must confront her own feelings and what that means. I had really high hopes for this book, but I ended up disappointed. Call it cliche, but it was hard to sympathize with this wealthy couple, and I didn't really like the wife all that well. I think the real story would be what happens after the book ends, but in the end, the author doesn't explore the deeper issues that were present throughout the rest of the book. The writing is pretty solid, however, and the characters were well fleshed out. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

3. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
A mysterious man and his loyal supporters rescue Frances aristocrats during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. The beautiful Marguerite is thrust into the action in an effort to save her beloved brother. I picked up this classic in the Target bargain aisle based on this little excerpt on the back of the book: 
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That deemed elusive Pimpernel?"
I knew nothing about the book and know no one else personally who has read it. I don't know if it's because I had little expectations or if I was just in the right frame of mind, but I loved it! I couldn't wait to read it each night. It was like a Jane Austen Adventure story. Which sounds bizarre but clearly worked for me. I would absolutely love to see a modern movie version of this book. I've attempted to watch there version available on Netflix, but it's a huge bust.  I can't get past the first five minutes. I give the book 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

4. Bossypants by Tina Fey
A memoir by Saturday Night Live alum and 30-Rock writer/producer/star Tina Fey. I would call this "memoir light." I feel like we get some fun stories, hilarious self-depricating humor, and teases of celebrity dish. I'm pretty sure if I became famous and wrote a memoir it would be like this one. There's probably some juicy stuff that's been left out (as any self-respecting mother and currently employed Hollywood-type would do). But there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, so I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

I keep my Bible on the nightstand and try to read from it most nights. I'm amazed over and over again the the depth of teaching, hope, and wisdom and the beauty of the language found in the Bible. It continues to blow my mind. I like that.

Those are my January reads. I've mentioned it before, but I'm a member of Goodreads. It's a free site where you can track what you've read, rate books, review books, read reviews from others (including me!). I find it much easier to find new reading material now. As is evident by the growing pile of books in my to-read pile! If you belong to Goodreads or decide to join, you can find me (and friend me) by clicking the Goodreads link on the right side of this blog.

Have you read anything good lately?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Random Friday

1. It's finally starting to resemble winter here in Minnesota (although it was 46!? degrees here on Tuesday), and my daughters decided to dress up their magnetic doll for the cold weather. I thought they did pretty well considering the wardrobe consists only of ballet costumes. My daughter got very concerned when she realized we didn't have any mittens for the doll. I suggested shoes, which she thought was a brilliant idea. Now if it's ever so cold here that I need to start wearing shoes on my hands and face and flowers in my hair to keep me warm, it might be time to consider a move...or at least a wardrobe update*.

2. I made these no-bake chocolate chip granola bars this week.  They were easy to throw together and turned out pretty good. I made all kinds of changes (subbed bran flakes for rice cereal and added coconut, cinnamon, and pecans) trying to get them to resemble my favorite cookie dough and found I needed to refrigerate them for a good long time before I could get them to set up like bars (our first taste we ate from bowls with spoons). I was happy with my first attempt at making granola bars. I'm still not a fan of honey though, so I think I'll try out a different recipe next time.  

3. My three-year-old loves to talk about God and asks me all kinds of questions. One morning this week:

(In response to her sister's roar) Oh no! A lion! Mom, call God. 
Mom will you ask God to pick up our house so we can dig for dinosaur bones under it?
Mom, does God have good hearing?

*After last Friday's Random, you'll be happy to know I did by a new stocking hat at Target this week. It's not fancy, but it is pink and it was only $1.40.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Organizing Goals 2012 - #9 A Chore Chart (For Me)

This is the final entry for my storage/organization/cleaning goals, plans, and progress for 2012. The first post in the series can be found here.

9. A Chore Chart (For Me): A while back I jokingly mentioned that I need a chore chart for myself. A little gold-star motivation. I've never had a daily (or even weekly) cleaning schedule--I'm more of a clean before company kind of gal-- but I think I need to change that this year. I've seen some great examples of cleaning schedules on Pinterest, and my friend Bethany shared her weekly cleaning schedule recently. I like the idea of having a few things that need to be done every day and then divvying up the rest of the cleaning throughout the week. I always feel like maintenance is nearly impossible in my house between the dogs and the kids and the husband and the unpredictable work schedule, but I think I need to really give it a good effort this year. I always feel so much better when my house is clean. I hate that the messy state of my house is always in the back of my mind. And I've been catching myself a lot lately wanting to invite different people over at the last minute and feeling like I just can't do it. I don't want to be like that! I know my house will never be immaculate, but I do know I can do better. And I'm a sucker for crossing things off a list, so a laminated chore chart may just do the trick!