Monday, March 2, 2015

Signs of Spring and Organizing my DVDs

I have been busy this week tackling my big spring cleaning project. In my last post I talked about my challenge to get rid of 40 bags worth of clutter in 40 days, leading up to Easter, so far the project has been going very well, and 12 very full bags have gone out the door. It is amazing what a small closet can hold! I went through and did a second look through my closet and decided to purge even more unwanted clothing, and shoes and came up with quite a bit more. Even after I packed away some of my heavier winter wear for the year, I have found my self thinking I should open up that box and rid it of a few more items. It really pays to go back through an area a couple of times, the space it clears up is invigorating, my closet is so much easier to look through now! We had a few days of rain but now our early bright spring weather is back, and it is so enjoyable. The flowers are blooming everywhere!


Every year the ornamental plum tree in my front yard puts out the most pretty pink blossoms, it has become a yearly tradition of mine to go out and take pictures of its blossoms every year.


The crocus and grape hyacinth are popping up around the base of trees, the shrubs are starting to bloom, and I even spotted a very early dandelion! With all this warm weather we've been having, I think it would be wise to get out and do some early weeding this week or we may be overrun by the end of March!


My little patch of narcissus is peeking out from under the still bare and thorny barberry, I think it looks pretty peeking out from the thorny twigs.


Last week we stopped by my mother and father-in-law's house to walk their sweet Golden Retriever, and the cows in the field behind their yard came up to say hi. There were a couple of little ones who were especially cute peaking out at us from behind their moms. There were also beautiful patches of purple crocus all through the garden. Spring has definitely arrived around here, and I am eager to get out and plant my garden! :)


I wanted to share a quick recipe here as well. Since I have been so busy with spring cleaning, as well as multiple activities with the kids, when it came time to prepare food for our most recent church brunch potluck, I needed something quick and easy. We live about twenty minutes from our church and I am not a morning person, so the prospect of getting up before dawn to prepare food was not something I was prepared to do. At the same time, I really wanted to bring something yummy to the potluck. So I came up with a very easy recipe- Bacon Brunch Tots! I got up and baked a large tray of tater tots- one of the big extra large bags, when they were cooked through and nice and crisp, I took them out of the oven, and put half of them in the bottom of an aluminum lasagna sized pan. Then I topped the first layer with shredded cheddar cheese, half of a bunch of cleaned and chopped green onions, and half a pack of chopped cooked bacon. I used a package of precooked bacon, which they sell by the bacon, because I didn't have time to cook up bacon that morning, you could cook up the bacon the night before though and have it ready to go for the morning. Then add the second half of the tots to the pan and top with more cheese, the rest of the green onions and bacon. Cover the pan with foil and return to the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese has melted. This was a yummy and quick brunch dish that I will definitely make again!


One of my funnest home organizing projects that I am currently doing this spring is organizing my DVDs. I have quite a few DVDs and most of them I want to keep, however, I was starting to run out of room for them all, and I really didn't want to buy another DVD cabinet because that would crowd the living room. So I had to come up with a way to store my growing DVD collection in the same amount of space. At first I thought I would use one of the notebook storage systems like I did years ago for my CDs, but I like to bring my DVDs with on vacation and they tend to sit out while they are being watched or I may want to lend them out and so I didn't want to get rid of the cases. I found myself wishing that all DVDs were sold in slim DVD cases, then I wondered if they sold packs of slim DVD cases, and indeed they do! I went to Amazon and bought a few 25 packs of clear slim DVD cases to get started.


The clear cases have a plastic sleeve on the cover to hold the DVD paper, but since it is a bit smaller I found it worked best when I trimmed each DVD cover by a thin slice on each side. I used my paper cutter to cut a nice clean edge, you can see from the picture above it is only like two millimeters off the front and the back edge. You can see up above in the picture of two DVD shelves, one before it was slim packed, and the other that I had switched the majority of the DVDs into slim cases. The slim packs allow you to shelf slightly more than double the DVDs in the same space! I am only transferring standard DVDs into the slim cases, any DVD that is in a special case like the pretty foil box that covers some of the Disney princess movies, or special multi-DVD sets or anniversary editions I am leaving those in their original cases. This has definitely solved my DVD storage problem, at least for the time being! With Netflix and Amazon Prime I find I don't purchase as many movies these days, but there are still those movies that I just love and really enjoy having on DVD.

This next week I have even more spring cleaning and organizing goals! I am re-configuring my office and dining room. Now that the kids are both young adults, I feel they need their own desk space in our office. Their room's are just too small for desks but they need space to study and work on their computers. Last night Gary and I cut out scaled down furniture shapes to represent desks and bookshelves and such and arranged them on a scaled down room size piece of paper until we came up with a good arrangement. So this week I will be reorganizing my bookshelves and making room for desks. I look forward to posting pictures of the finished product!

Hope everyone has a great week!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

My Decluttering and Spring Cleaning Project

We have had a few days now of beautiful sunny weather, and although it is a bit early for all of this spring weather, I am loving it! :) Whenever sunshine pours in through my windows I am motivated to get things clean and organized. This year I have some fun goals to deeply organize our home and get things more streamlined. I can't stand clutter, but at the same time I am drawn to eclectic baubles and collectibles. I also tend to be a natural at archiving family history and memorabilia. Both traits that can lead to too much clutter. My youngest child is graduating this year, and I am transitioning from a mom of kids to a busy household with young adults. So this year I wanted to honor that transition by really thinning out unimportant things to make our space easier to maintain, and not bogged down with too much stuff. Since Lent began this past Wednesday I thought it was the perfect time to start this project, instead of giving up something like sweets, which I am not really inclined to do, I decided to give up stuff. I have decided to get rid of 40 bags of clutter in 40 days.


I am off to a good start with five bags done. My sweet old dog Xena is overseeing the process, and making sure her toys are not decluttered! This won't be too easy since I did a good declutter of closets and such this past autumn, but it is surprising what you can go back and decide to get rid of after all when you really approach it with fervor. I got rid of clothes that have been in my closet for some time, they were beautiful and good quality, but either they were not my style or not my color. I am often drawn to clothes in the colors I like, but colors I may like in a home or garden aren't necessarily colors I should be wearing, so they sit in my closet, taking up room where clothes in colors I actually will wear could be.


I also recently organized my costume jewelry. I got two inexpensive hooks at the hardware store in a nice copper brown, and hubby installed them for me on the little wall space between my closet and the bookcase in our room. Below that I re-purposed an old plant stand I had to hold my little jewelry box that holds my bracelets and brooches. This way I can easily see my jewelry and it stays nice and untangled. This little five dollar project has made me very happy, I love the way I can see my jewelry when I am getting ready for the day. :)


Like I said, I am drawn to collectibles. I am trying to narrow down what I keep to the collections that are most important to me. One of my first collections ever was my kaleidoscope collection. I keep out my favorite ones on the top shelf of the bookcase in my bedroom surrounding a pretty luminary lamp I found years ago. I know I only want to keep the items that I like enough to move when I dust, that helps limit my collections to a reasonable amount. :)  This week I will be tackling my office, we need to really thin it out and make space for all of us to have a computer station, not sure how that will happen in my tiny office but I'm up for the challenge! Plus I will be going through holiday stuff, every time I try to thin out my holiday decor it is the holiday season, when I am more sentimentally attached to the items. I am hoping that by sorting them in the off season I will have a more logical frame of mind. I hope to post more about my decluttering spring project over the next month.


In other news, it is Girl Scout cookie season. The sweetest little Daisy Scout came around with her mother selling cookies. My Sarah was a Daisy Scout when she was little and it brought back great memories. So of course I bought a few boxes! The perfect little snack, cookies and milk, a nice treat for a mid spring cleaning break!

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Check out my recent post about The Great Backyard Bird Count!


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

This has been a fun weekend. We had a lot of fun celebrating Valentine's Day as a family. I also really enjoyed taking part in The Great Backyard Bird Count through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. I have wanted to do this for quite a few years, but usually remember a bit too late, this year I was on top of my bird watching, and had a camera, binoculars, and pen and paper ready to go. I have always been a fan of exploring nature, and bird watching tops my list. You can read about the backyard birds that frequent my backyard in many of my posts, such as The Backyard Birds from Autumn, I posted about this past November. Here are some of the birds that have visited during this weekend's bird count.


The first day I was bird watching there was quite a bit of fog, but with my camera fully zoomed, I was able to zoom in on some of the jays that were playing in the trees behind my yard, as well as a robin. There were plenty of my regular visitors, black capped chickadees, as well as the fully black headed little birds, similar to the black capped chickadee in size, which I thought were just another type of chickadee, but have since learned are junkos. We had a lone little finch which I could not capture a good photo of due to it being fast and very tiny. Our finch usually arrive in about a month, and then the yard will be full of them. :)


On Valentine's Day as I was waiting for everyone to be ready to leave on our outing, I looked out the window and was surprised by the cutest flock of teeny tiny birds, which I believe are bushtits. They are so teeny, and travel in such a large little group, I was quite happy to see them at the suet feeder. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos, they ate for a bit, then were on their way. I only see these little birds once or twice a year, so it was a real treat. My kids thought I was a bit nuts for my excitement over these cuties, but they are used to me getting giddy over different birds stopping by. :)

Of course I also counted up a good number of house sparrow, that live here year round, and occupy my bird houses, as well as nooks and crannies all over the neighborhood. I observe these birds the most, and I think they have such cute little characteristics.


I am lucky to live in a rural area with lots of birds, and have also made my yard inviting to birds by creating a backyard habitat friendly to birds. You can read about our Certified Backyard Habitat in this post. Watching the different birds that stop by my little yard makes me very happy. This year I hope to expand my bird watching by visiting some bird watching locations out and about, and seeing how many different birds I can spot.

If you are interested in taking part in The Great Backyard Bird Count there is still time, stop on by the website for more info through the link. Otherwise mark your calendar for next year, this was a really fun event to take part in!

 

Aside from the bird watching I had a nice Valentine's week. This sunrise one day last week seemed like the perfect pink Valentine's week sunrise there could be. The sky was stunning and vibrantly pink. 


We spent Valentine's Day at one of our favorite spots, Powell's Books! Last time we went to the Powell's location in downtown Portland, which is a really fun bookstore, but I wasn't really up for a trip into the city, so we decided to head out to the one in Beaverton, Oregon. This one is still quite a drive for us at nearly an hour away, but we took country roads most of the way and the scenery was beautiful. The Powell's in Beaverton isn't quite as big as the one in Portland, but is still huge. We all had fun exploring the books and found a few to bring home. Then after the bookstore we stopped in at Sonic Drive In, and had a yummy dinner. There are no Sonic Drive ins close to us, so we have only ever been once before, and it is still a fun and novel thing for us to do. The treats were tasty and it was a really enjoyable way to end the day. :)


So that is what we have been up to. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Baked Donuts Birthday Cake and Valentine Preview

We have had a nice start to February. Last week we had a fun little celebration. Last week was the first night of the girl's youth group meeting here at our house, and it also happened to be my son's girlfriend's little sister's 15th birthday. So I thought a fun dessert was in order for the evening. I know the birthday girl is not a huge fan of run of the mill cake, so I thought I'd do something a little different, and make a cake out of doughnuts. I have doughnut pans for making baked donuts, and wanted to incorporate a cake mix style recipe. There are plenty of great cake mix baked doughnut recipes on Pinterest, they are all pretty similar, but I felt this one had a great tutorial - Funfetti Donuts. I used this recipe to make my donut cake.


The recipe is very easy, just mix together a box of Funfetti cake mix with 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 eggs. When the batter is mixed transfer to a gallon zip lock, and cut off the corner to pipe into greased donut pans. This recipe made an even dozen. Bake at 425 F. for about 8 minutes. Let donuts sit in pan for a couple of minutes until cool, then transfer to a cooling rack. Let the donuts completely cool before glazing.


For the glaze I combined two cups of powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and with just enough milk to make it smooth, I start out with a few Tablespoons then add milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency, thin enough to glaze, but still thick enough to be a good layer of icing. I also used a little pink food coloring. I diped the top half of each donut in the glaze, then set it back on the cooling rack, topped each donut with sprinkles, and let them dry a bit. Whenever I glaze I put a sheet of wax paper below the cooling racks to catch drips and make clean up easier. When the glaze had set up, I stacked the donuts on a platter and topped the donut cake with these cute chevron birthday candles I found.


The donut cake turned out really cute, and was a fun way to celebrate. This is definitely something I will be making again, I would love to try this recipe with all of the different cake flavors too. :)


In other news, early signs of spring are all around. We have had the weirdest winter so far, fairly warm, and not too wintery at all. Still no snow this year, but we often will have late February snow days around here, so who knows we may still get a bit of snow. We had the most surprising thunder and lightening storm last night as well! The first of the bulbs have started to blossom, the little narcissus and mini iris have bloomed this week. I even had quite the shock last week when I had to kill a giant yellow jacket that had decided to wake up for spring and surprise me in the living room, not the nicest of spring surprises! I felt it was way to early to start having to deal with yellow jackets! My most favorite sign of spring are my busy backyard birds and especially with the return of this pretty thrush. He has been hopping around my yard for a couple of weeks now, he seems to really enjoy my globe spruce and is often hopping around underneath. Last week I finally was able to snap a few pictures of him. I also heard him singing very beautifully in the trees along the little waterway behind my house, I zoomed in with the camera and sure enough it was our thrush, and from far away I heard another bird answer him after each of his calls. It was really neat to hear. :)


I am looking forward to Valentine's Day this coming Saturday. I still have some fun projects in mind that I hope to do this week. In the meantime I have set out some of my valentine decorations, as well as some new goodies I have found. I found this super cute fox candy dish for only $2.00 on clearance at Walmart, he is quirky and cute and I really love that I found it. I also picked up some cute little wooden and felt signs, and faux chalkboard signs from Target's dollar bins that I think updated my Valentine decor nicely. I think the signs look cute with the Valentine gnomes I needle felted a few years back.


I am also happy with this geometric brass sculpture I found at CB2.com it looks nice with my other wood decor. I also found some fun new Washi tape for my collection, perfect for Valentine's Day crafting projects!


Thanks for stopping by, have a wonderful week ! :)

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Coffee and Coloring

In my last post I shared about our eventful January. During this busy January I have had to find some fun and easy activities to recharge with in between my fun but busy days. My daughter inspired me to try out my latest activity. A few months back my daughter found some really cute coloring books and set them next to her computer to work on during study breaks. She would set her college books aside, and turn on a fun video and color. It struck me as a fun and great way to chill out. So a couple of weeks back I ordered some color books that looked like a lot of fun.


I chose Hipster and Dapper Animals coloring books. Both of these coloring books are really nice, the paper is high quality and are working well with my gel pens and crayons. The Hipster Coloring Book is full of retro funky pictures, and the Dapper Animals are fun, smartly dressed animals to color. Both color books come with pages of design and art instruction as well as really interesting quotes to ponder while you are coloring. I have kept them out on my table with pens and crayons so I can color when the mood strikes, or when I need a little time to chill out. Definitely a new favorite activity, Amazon has a wonderful selection of really interesting coloring books, check out the link in my side bar.


Since I knew these coloring books would have some smaller designs to color in, I decided to buy some gel pens. It is crazy that I had never really tried out gel pens besides a few random ones here and there over the years. I bought a set of 48 Fiskars gel pens after reading the reviews on Amazon, and I am so happy with these pens, they work a lot better than I thought. I plan on buying a bigger set down the road, very fun to write and color with, and I am sure I will be using these for other crafts as well. I also picked up some Neon Crayolas and have my favorite twistables crayons to use as well.


While I was ordering my gel pens I decided to buy a pack of my most favorite felt tip pens as well. I was given a set of Pentel felt tip pens when I was in high school and really into art. I loved these markers and they lasted for years. I saw the same set I had, although it looked like a different package in the picture, mine was a solid mustard yellow case, and from the picture online I assumed it was all clear, but I was hoping they would still be my same favorite pens. When they arrived and I took them out of their cardboard sleeve and I was so happy to see my good old favorite mustard yellow case, as well as all the colors I remember so fondly. The markers are wonderful, the colors are great, and I am so happy to have these back in my craft supplies. They are spendy compared to run of the mill felt tip pens, but they are so worth the money, they far outlast regular felt tip pens and the color selection is great. Definitely worth investing in a set. :)

In addition to my new fun activity, I have found a new favorite beverage - Starbucks new Flat White.


I had a morning show on about a week or so ago and the hosts were trying a new coffee drink called a flat white, I was intrigued, but I haven't been into coffee much lately. I have a cup in the morning and that's usually it, aside from the occasional cappuccino. Gary, my hubby, is definitely into his coffee, and when he was picking up his drink at Starbucks last week he saw the sign for the new Flat White and decided to get one for us to try. I was really impressed with the flavor. Since then I have had a few more, and I am really enjoying this new drink. A Flat White is specially steamed milk with what are called ristretto shots of espresso, the drink has really nice micro-foam and is topped with a signature Starbucks white dot. I felt that this drink was less bitter than other coffee drinks, very smooth and flavorful. Definitely a new favorite, and one I would recommend for fellow coffee lovers to try, especially if you're a fan of the cappuccino. :)

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January News

We have been busy this January and the month has flown by. We have had an exciting start to the new year with a darling new addition to our family. Last week my sister had her precious little baby, we have all been eager and excited to meet her. I was one happy aunt when I finally got to hold her, my new little niece is a tiny little girl weighing in at only 5 lbs. 9 oz., her name is Fiona, and she is as precious as precious can be. It has been quite some time since I have held such a brand new baby and it was a treat. I am looking forward to seeing her again soon. :)


While we were waiting in the hospital for little Fiona to be born, I enjoyed hanging out with my niece and nephew, who were eager to welcome their new little sister. We had quite a bit of time to wait and I knew that it would be a good idea to pack some activities. I had fun the week before hunting through Target and finding some fun activities to pack for them. In Target's fun dollar section I found some really cute little tote bags which were about half the size of normal store tote type bags and were the perfect size. I found some simple activity kits that use the magic mess free markers, and other kits with mini coloring and sticker activities, as well as a magnetic doodle board, a couple of hot wheels, fruit snacks and a cute pack of tissues which came in handy. The kids enjoyed their bags and it definitely helped pass the time. :)


Last week we also enjoyed attending my son's girlfriend's cheer competition. The competition was an all day event and was really enjoyable. This was the first time I had ever been to watch a cheer competition, and it was fun watching all of the groups preform. The groups were all different ages, including some very young little groups, which were so cute and did really well. Our school competed near the end of the day, and did really well, their routine was great and they all did wonderfully. The whole event was exciting to watch and all of the teams were so supportive of one another it was really nice to see.


This last Sunday we went into town to visit my husband's great aunt who is very sick in the hospital. She is very dear to us and has been such a positive influence in my husband's life. We all love our Aunt Deloris and we were so happy to get to see her and pray for her.

After our visit, since we found ourselves in Portland, we decided to drive around and look at all the houses we grew up in. Of course the city has changed a great deal in the fifteen years since we moved, and it was interesting to see what had changed and what hadn't. I grew up right next door to a little convenience store, and I was surprised when I drove past and saw it still had it's original sign up. So we decided to pull in and walk through the store. Although the layout of the store has changed, and it is definitely showing its age, it was neat to see some of the original store shelves and cases from when I was a child. It was definitely a trip down memory lane. I have extremely fond memories of saving my allowance for different candy treats and snacks, as well as quarters to play the two arcade games that the store used to have back in the 80's. I had quite a fun time at this store all throughout my younger childhood. The kids thought I should for sure get a picture, so my son took a picture of me next to the candy rack, which looked just like it did when I was a kid. :)


So that's what I've been up to, definitely a full January for sure!

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Brown Sugar Bacon Caramel Sundaes


I always enjoy the start of a new year, and this first part of January has been no exception. I really enjoy getting things cleaned up post holiday and getting back into our regular schedule with a refreshed spirit. This week I have been hard at work tackling some of the organizational projects around the house and the kids and hubby have gotten back to a normal school and work schedule. Before we began our week back to the daily grind, I felt we needed one last fun little celebration to wrap up our holiday break. My son had been eager to invite all of his friends over for a day of gaming, both tabletop and video, so last Sunday we had the whole gang over. For dinner I made a fix your own taco bar, which is a family favorite. For dessert I wanted something special but different from the heavier baked treats we enjoyed at Christmas, so I made a delicious Brown Sugar Bacon Caramel Sunday that has been on my mind to make for some time now. I think it may be my new favorite treat!


To start you need to make the bacon. I always bake my bacon in the oven, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and a oven proof rack on top of the foil (I use a metal cooling rack). Lay the bacon out in a single layer on the rack in the foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400 F. until the bacon is almost fully cooked. You may want to check the bacon as it cooks and separate the pieces further apart as they shrink so they all get crispy. When the bacon is almost done, but not quite to the crispy state yet, take them out of the oven and sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar over each slice of bacon, make sure each piece has plenty of brown sugar. Then return to the oven for about five more minutes until the bacon is crispy, fully cooked and the sugar has caramelized. Really watch them at this stage they can go from perfectly done to over cooked in seconds because sugar burns fast. When they are done set them out to completely cool.


To serve scoop some vanilla ice cream into a dish, add a little dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup, break a slice of brown sugar bacon in half and put the two halves in the back of the Sunday so they can be crumbled up over the ice cream.


The bacon is best when crumbled up and sprinkled over the ice cream, you can obviously skip right to this step if you aren't worried about presentation. :) Count on one slice of bacon for each smaller Sundae and two slices if you are indulging in a larger bowl of ice cream, which you may want to do after you try this! :)


The sweet and salty bacon is so delicious alongside the vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Everyone gobbled these down, and I will definitely be making this special dessert for family nights again!



 Thanks for stopping by! :)

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