Sunday, September 16, 2012

Granola Gold

My husband's cousin, who lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has started a fantastic snack company called Granola Gold.  Her goal, when she started the company, was to make a healthy, fun snack that people could feel good about eating.  Her & my husband's maternal grandmother used to own a candy-making business.  Grandma used to tell all of her grandchildren, when baking or making something special, buy the best ingredients you can afford.

Diane showing off two of her blends, First Tracks and (my personal favorite) Sailor's Blend.  She has done well at local farmer's markets and Ace At The Curve, in Steamboat Springs.  And the local press has noticed as well "Steamboat Woman Practices Cereal Entrepreneurship"

The different blends appeal to all tastes, including a nut-free variety called Sunshine Express.  Diane plans more nut-free blends this winter.  Personally, I can't wait to see what she whips up next!

Now you're asking yourself, "How do I get some of this deliciousness?"  Easy, go to Granola Gold's website and place your order! You can also find out the latest news on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Home Organization 101: The Kitchen (Part 2)

The kitchen project that I started back in July is progressing well.  The kitchen cupboards have had a good chuck out of stale, out-of-date, and unwanted products.  Some months ago, I had moved my spice cupboard contents from a little cupboard to the right of our stove, to the upper pantry cupboard.  The then spice cupboard, has been converted to my tea cupboard.

However all those little spice bottles & tins have floated around for months.  They never seem to be easily accessible when I want them.  Or it never fails, what I want is pushed to the back.  As a vertically challenged person, I need a footstool to reach the higher shelves.  Now I have the spices & herbs culled into three trays:

My husband is still making fun of me for sorting them alphabetically, but when it comes time to pull out something, I can easily pull out one tray instead of half the cupboard! And if you don't have to pull everything out, it means you don't have to put everything away.  Anything that makes kitchen clean-up easier can't be bad at all!  As for the other items that are in this cupboard, they are only things we need or use.  I will exercise more restraint when at a kitchen shop or a grocery store.  Unless it is an ingredient for something I know I will be making, it will be staying put!

Years ago, I went to a Tupperware party at a friend's house.  At the time, they were offering a special on their Modular Mate storage system.  Wanting to help my friend, I purchased one.  It was a selection of sizes.  I've always liked using them, as they seal beautifully and keep the contents nice & fresh.  When this project came up, I invested in some more containers.  The Modular Mates combined with my Brother label maker are a wicked combination and instantly jazz up the cupboards. 

When we bought this house thirteen years ago, the kitchen was 1970's U-G-L-Y!  Not to mention it was not an efficiently laid out room.  Our kitchen was designed by us through Home Depot.  My cupboards below are wonderfully roomy....too roomy.  They became catch-alls for everything.  At times, and yes I am saying this out loud, I would open a cupboard door, shove something in, and close the door quickly before anything fell out.  Two cupboards in particular, one that housed plastic storage containers and the other contained baking dishes, were places of dread.  To try to find something was always a nightmare.  The cupboards are adequately tall, but don't offer enough flat storage space.  I had seen other people's cupboards where there was a roll out shelf and wanted something similar.  My husband was tasked with measuring cupboards and finding suitable options to make these cupboards more useful.  He came up with the following items (well, similar to these):

It's funny how something so simple, can make one so happy.  It's a pleasure to go into these cupboards now, either to put something away or pull something out.  Ever since he installed them, I randomly say to my husband, "Thank you for my kitchen cupboards!"  He's probably sick of hearing it, but it's just wonderful!!!!!  The contents were culled and a number of housewares were also donated to Big Brother Big Sister.
  I kept the plastic storage containers for leftovers that could be easily stacked inside one another.  Some things will be moved to the bar area of our basement.  The previous owner had intended it to be a recreation room and built a huge bar area.  My goal for the fall, beside throwing out most of the basement contents, is to turn that area into a functioning storage area for the things we need, but not every day.

These cupboards were so bad, that I couldn't bring myself to take Before pictures of them, but I am happy to share the After shots with you!

This is my lower pantry cabinet.  The slide out chrome drawers are one of the best inventions....EVER!  No more lost food.  No more having to empty the cabinet to get the one thing that ended up in the back.

My "Tupperware" cupboard.  It's not perfect, that top shelf still needs some love.  However, until I get my pantry / kitchenware area of my basement in better shape, a lot of things like serving dishes that we don't use that often must live here.

These are the baking dishes I use only a couple times a week.  But again, having this pull out rack makes life so much easier for finding something and putting it away--now if I could just train the 12-year-old who empties the dishwasher to actually put these items away.  I know, I know, baby steps!

This is the same cupboard.  There is a little narrow space that is good for the tall skinny things that I had jammed all into one cabinet, next to the stove.  It was always a tug of war with a cookie sheet or the griddle.  Now, notsomuch!

Kitchen Table - Before a/k/a The Dumping Ground
Kitchen Table - After - We ate there for the first time in ages! 

Tea Cupboard - Before

Tea Cupboard - After

The before and after shots really aren't all that different.  All that I got rid of was Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, there were about 5 tins of the stuff.  People who know I love tea, tend to give me Earl Grey because I think they think it's a quintessential tea.  And it is.  Hard as I have tried, I just don't care for bergamot, the main flavor of Earl Grey and so out it went!  But tea is a topic for another day.

My kitchen still needs some work.  It's getting there though.  I have a few more cupboards and drawers to empty out, wipe clean and then replace the contents.  But nothing all that exciting that warrants a blog entry.

Hope my kitchen Home Organization 101 has been helpful to you!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

An Organized Life

Every morning, I get up, fix a cup of tea (a cuppa) and sit at my computer to enjoy it.  My web browser is set up to open a number of tabs of the important (to me) websites.  Of course, there are tabs for my email and Facebook, and those are the first two I typically go to.  Then there are news, world and local, my calendar, Pinterest (a story for another day) and then there is the blog section.

One of my favorite morning reads is A Bowl Full of Lemons, a fabulous blog about organizing.  From the moment I discovered it, I wanted to organize my entire house.  What is great about this blog, is the owner not only shares her organization ideas, but offers readers a chance to link their own accomplishments to her site.  I've written about how she inspired my hall closet makeover in this post "The Dreaded STUFF".  In that one I didn't take any before pictures, but I have been trying to do that ever since.

ABFoL is challenging it's readers to a "Home Organization 101" over the course of 14 weeks.  Week 1 began yesterday focusing on The Kitchen.  I should divulge that I did not do any of this over the course of this weekend.  I started The Kitchen in July.  There is still areas that need attention, but I thought I would share the tip of the iceberg so-to-speak.

 Drawer 1 - Before

Drawer 2 - Before

Junk drawers.  Mine were typical, non-functioning, I-might-need-this-sometime-but-don't-know-when drawers.  Just as I was starting this project, a postcard came in the mail for the Big Brother Big Sister organization.  They were collecting homegoods to sell in their retail store that funds their programs.  Conveniently they were having a pick-up date at the end of July.  I found a box and started the purge.  Some of it was just junk, but some of it, could be utilized elsewhere.  Bonus!

Drawer 1 - After

Drawer 2 - After

The binder in the "Drawer 2 - After" photo is also a great organizational tool.  I will be the first person to admit that I have a cookbook and recipe problem. I love to collect them.  You know how it goes, "Oh, that looks good.  I'll have to try it sometime."  Then I never do anything with said cookbook or recipe.  Guilty as charged.  I'm also sick of eating the same old things all the time.  I'm sick of trying to come up with dinner, or going to the market more than a couple times a week.  

As a result, back in June, I made the conscious decision to make planned menus for my family.  It was easier said, than done.  I pulled out my binders that contained recipes that I have printed and saved, and at least organized into categories.  and I chose a couple of cookbooks.  The next step was to find a blank calendar for 2012.  But that didn't take it far enough, I wanted something that would help me make a shopping list.  My iPad & iPhone are two of the best pieces of technology I've ever owned, so I found a program called Meal Board.  It has taken a bit of effort of inputting recipes and ingredients, but it makes for an on-the-go grocery list when I'm out.  Below are a few screen captures from Meal Board's website.  It's a very easy program to use and you can sync it between the iPad & iPhone with the touch of a button.

Meal Board app iPad & iPhone Interfaces

 Recipe card & grocery list that generates from the recipe cards

The other thing is I print a calendar that gets posted on the family bulletin board.  No longer must I answer the question, "What's for dinner?"  They are all trained now to look at the calendar!  A small piece of my sanity was restored by that simple task.  The calendar will tell me where I can find the recipe, be it on a certain page of a cookbook, my Main Binders (where ALL the untried recipes are kept), my Favorite Binder (the one in the drawer) or my Recipe Basket.  Ultimately my goal is to print them out to go in the Favorite Binder or my Recipe Basket.  The front of the Favorite Binder also has the months calendars that have transpired since I started this phase of my organization project.  As I go forward, I can look back and remember what were out and out favorites that my family would want repeated more often.

I'll show the rest of the kitchen reorganization in my next entry.  Cheers!