Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Savor a Moment

BSP3 5

To tell you the truth, I’m sick of food. I've been sick of it. Sick of thinking about it, sick of making it, sick of cleaning up after it. While I would love for someone else to cook all my meals I can’t see past their actions, the team, the hustle, to simply savor things – not as often as I would like anyway. Food can be, in a word, exhausting.

While I was at my food bloggers 'retreat' this weekend, a white shirt clad woman, hair pulled back in a sensible but clean ponytail, holding a plastic bowl filled with salad, said “excuse me”. She brushed by me and, too-humbly, said “thank you,” then went about her work of refilling and refreshing a salad on the buffet. In that tenth of a second, that moment I was her again. I was industrial-kitchen hustling, sore feet, service to the core, seen and not heard, make it pretty, make it perfect, make it full and ample, longing for a moment to run away and cool off in the walk-in again. The food fell away, it was her I noticed from there on out, it was the movement, the work. The work. So, much work.

Food is work. It is exhausting toil, hard lessons learned and time spent doing everything but the eating – for farmers, producers, cooks and clean-up crews. For parents with budgets. For you. But it is is also fun, and quiet – it is community and pride, tradition and solace.

BSP3 1

All the same, here I was in a room full of people passionate about food – cameras at the ready, soaking up the tastes, smells, and community around them. “Are you seeing it,” I thought “Did you see her, the woman with the salad?” Maybe. Probably not. Can we ever really see all that has gone into a single dish? From the soil through to the scent, the migrant hand plucking peaches in scorching sunlight on through to the worker tending the kiln reducing wood into charcoal – all for the simple sweetness of a grilled peach, topped with whipped cream. Milking machines, cows in fields (one would hope), dairy truck drivers, hair nets and FDA testers. Sweating cooks impervious to heat after long years of standing over the fire, flipping peaches.


Jars - Terrain

We all stand over the fire in our own way though. From the exhausted parents scraping together something resembling a balanced meal for their kids at the end of the day, to the girl in the grocery, post-dating a check for a case of dollar-a-box ramen noodles, hoping to make it to months end. We all bear the brunt of the fire – and we all have a flame within us.

Mugs - Terrain

But here’s the thing. There is that moment. The moment when time stops. When the first strawberry of the season erupts with flavor in your mouth. The slow bite of a watermelon, the texture like a million natural pop-rocks screaming “wow!” at your tastebuds. The moment when ganache turns from a topping to a smooth silken layer of chocolate, sliding across your tongue. It all disappears then – yes, every person whose work went into that moment, every calloused hand and scalded arm, it all falls away. That is what I love about great food – it calls you back into the moment no matter how hard we try to fight it, no matter how far away we want to be.

That moment moves within us – it turns into community. “Did you taste the cupcake?” “Who made the chocolate cookie with the caramel inside it?” “What smells so good?” Alone, together – it doesn’t matter. All that exhaustion, colludes in a million magical moments, all across the world, every single day, making meaning, conversations and memories.

BSP3 2

Did I come away from the Big Summer Potluck with a remarkable memory of all the food? Not necessarily (though it was outstanding). I came away with the lessons that my heart needed to hear and the space that the community gathered around a table afforded me. Sometimes what you need isn’t the sustenance but the nourishment of spirit.

Each of us left with our own lessons, our own affirmations. Mine were confirmations and encouragements. I knew I wouldn’t be like everyone else there (for one, I don’t have a blog that is solely food related), and I was ok with that – in the end I took strength from my difference because it reminded me that we are all the same, that we all share common experiences. This is a truth that I hold dear, and yet one I have to be constantly reminded about.

I asked the woman with salad refill if she was hot, if she wouldn’t love a break in the walk-in. She laughed and said she used to hide in the ice cream at another job.

I talked to another woman about how meal planning services work for me, because I don’t have time to do everything all the time. She agreed and shared a funny story about food failures.

I spoke about how holding too tight to our best work hurts our ability to grow beyond it – and it moved someone who needed to hear those words.

I met someone I greatly admired and she told me, bluntly, to move forward – that my voice was valuable, that the person I want to be is someone the world needs.

Laughter, agreement, confirmation, encouragement, community – all because of food. Yes, it is exhausting, but the effort is worth it. The value is greater than the work. The moments matter.

For me, today, I’m choosing to stand in the fire and embrace the warmth. I’m choosing to take a moment and enjoy the way an egg slides from the lip of a pan as an omelet takes form instead of thinking about the dishes. I’m choosing to stand into the space of the person I know I am becoming. No more running away into the walk-in, this fire is mine and I choose to let it light the path or burn the clearings as needed. I'll take the scars and the sparks - the journey is worth the exhaustion, and there will always be a hand to hold if we are willing to reach out.

Thank you to the special souls who fanned the flames this weekend. Your honesty, empathy, and sharing of experience were (are) appreciated.


Note: For you long-time readers, you should know, things will be changing a bit around here and I'll be moving to a new space in the coming months. No big deal - I'll let you know and you can still come here, it will direct you where to go. You'll see, it'll be fun!


And thank you to my mom for running around to all my favorite restaurants and inspirational places in a very short time period. It was fun being us again.

Photos are a combo of the conference and the much lauded and loved Terrain at Styers. I know how the blogosphere loves their Terrain!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Healing Path

For American readers the news that a shooter has taken the lives of at least 12 people and injured 38 more in a movie theater last last night/early this morning will be well known by now. My social media sites have been a flurry of questions and comments: What happened? How can this happen? What is wrong with people? I can't make sense of senseless violence. What can I do? Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. 

Perhaps some of you have noticed, perhaps not, that I choose to take time before responding to tragedy and trauma. I want my message to be consistent and I want it absolutely clear. In my mind, and in my opinion there is only one way to resolve, deal with, process and heal from tragedy: with love and compassion. 

Violence does not heal violence. Hatred does not resolve hatred. Only with true compassion and love can we make our lives, the lives of those around us, and our impact on the world better.

So what does that really mean? Well, for me it means fostering tolerance in the face of hateful words or opinions and allowing myself to look past the language into the wounded hearts of those that say them, disagreeing with respect, and compassionately, patiently, without malice or sharp words, helping to shine light on a path of peace and kindness towards others. It means pausing before reacting. It means breathing. It means taking a moment to move to a place of gratitude and tolerance before I address things. Do I always succeed? No, of course not. But I have been that person who has said hurtful things with a wounded heart and a bruised ego, who has hurt people with a quick temper or biting words. I have also been that person who was crying out for love from beyond those words. I like to think I have changed and I like to think every day I am tiny bit better. I would like to think that about everyone - but as we well know, there are people whose cries go unheard, whose pain is too deep, whose minds are too tortured. 

And so it goes. Innocents hurt, families torn apart, hearts crushed. On and on. 

We cannot fix the world - not a single individual one of us, but we can be a light. We can be forces of change. We can inspire others simply by living lives that are true, full, passionate, loving and kind. We can ignore all the rules and chase the passion that brings us the most joy and leave in our wake a sea of people touched by positivity, inspiration, honesty, integrity, compassion and love. We can create unseen changes in other people every single day and create a ripple effect of positive change. 

What do we do when faced with incredible tragedy? We allow ourselves to feel that intense sadness. We respect and honor our need to be confused and lost. We pause and spend true moments, real time, sending out deeply felt empathy to people we've never met through prayer, through meditation, through thoughts, and then we expand. We grow. We give thanks for everything that is in direct opposition to the negativity we were just bombarded with - we embrace life, value it, savor it, thank our god(s), our universe, our air for it and we grow. 

Hear me loud and clear or this: We do not, DO NOT allow ourselves to lose hope. We do not allow ourselves to be crushed beyond repair. We do not give up.

I speak from a place of strong, earnest, deeply felt imploring: Do not allow the pain of other people, their brash and horrible lashing out, to make you lose hope. I did. I allowed the events of September 11th to unravel me, to kill my dreams, to make me cower in a dark place. I wish I had been better equipped to handle what happened, but I wasn't. I lost years of my life not being the person I want(ed) to be. I am just now starting to recognize and feel a fire inside me that is fierce and passionate and headed directly in pursuit of my joy - a feeling I felt without exception before that dark day.

You must never allow to pain of others to make you lose hope - be filled with love and compassion to the best of your ability and move forward.

Where is forward? I hope for you, as well as for me it is a place of unequivocal joy. Forward is a place where we take small steps, tiny little nothing actions in the direction of our passions. Forward is a place where people's opinions, judgements, and naysaying falls away, irrelevant, because your singular focus is so deeply embued with and fueled by love, that negativity is just a obstacle that wastes time you are not willing to give up. 

Let tragedy bring you pain but then let it push you forward into a life that is filled to the brim with honesty, passion, compassion, big dreams and bigger chasing of dreams, and love. Be the opposite of the darkness.

For those of you crying out for something positive today here is what I did, read, and watched that helped me in regaining my compassion and love:

I took the whole morning off and cuddled my daughter. We ate ripe, juicy peaches and perfectly grilled cheese sandwiches, bathed, giggled and read books. It reminded me of my favorite poem, yet again, for the second time in that past week or so:

FROM BLOSSOMS

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

- Li-Young Lee
Found here and many other places online.


I watched this and reminded myself that I want to be the person fully soaking in the moment, not texting messages to friends or trying to capture the fleeting beauty. (Thanks for the reminder Barb)



I soaked this up (thanks to my husband):




I read this:

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – Dalai Lama XIV

and this:

“There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.'
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.” – Dalai Lama XIV

and this:

"At the end of the day, love and compassion will win." – Terry Waite

If you came here today from a place of sadness I wish you peace. If you came here from a place of joy, I wish you growth and passion. If you came here from a place of fear, anger, pain or hurt I want you know to know there is love in the world for you, there is compassion and there is joy for you. I give you that as best as I can. Be peace, my friends.

Here is what I want you to do today: embrace joy, practice compassion, and love fully. Be peace, be peace, be peace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Birth of a New Season: Spring Babies!

Kids_BabyGoats

Kids! They are always ruining the best laid plans...in the best way!

Woke this morning to the 8th consecutive hottest day in March in Chicago with a high expected in the 80s, feeling like summer on the very first day of spring. Took my daughter to school and saw Erica on the way home - "The babies are here!" she shouted as she walked by my fence on the way to the farm. "They were born last night," and with a wave she was on her way.

GoatSleepingBaby

I had intended to do a ton of work, play catchup and get ahead. No, the babies are here! A quick trip into the house, grabbed my camera and soon I was headed in the same direction. The babies are finally here! The baby goats that we thought were due two weeks ago! Gretta's babies!

MomKisses2

Any excuse to go to the farm will do, really. New babies are the best excuse possible though. I opened the door gently, saying hello to the sweet brown mouse who lives nearby, and greeted Kazoo, the mama. Nestled nearby were three little balls of the softest curls, one apricot, one light brown, and one white. The white one is biggest, and a playful little scamp – I've secretly named him Scamp.

Nursing

When they nurse they wag their tails like mad, delighted to be near mom, to be eating, to be safe. It is the most intimate and wonderful moment - and reminded me of the many moments I spent with my own sweet girl, cooing while she ate.

TheGoodMom

Kazoo is a good mom. She's gentle and talkative but scolds when needed - and trust me, Scamp needed a scolding.

Playing

All in all I can't think of a better way to greet spring - beautiful weather, new babies, fresh air and eager flowers poking their heads up through the ground

MomKisses

Hello spring! Hello babies!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Recipe: 40 Clove Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken, or the Best Darn Garlic Spread Ever!

40CloveRoastedGarlicLemonChickenHead

Ages ago when my husband and I lived in the city we took some cooking classes together. Well, kind of. The cooking classes were his Christmas present but he was kind enough to use a little of the gift card to take me to a few classes as well.

One of the classes we took was French inspired - Mussels with Tomatoes, Tarragon, White Wine and Cream, 40 Clove Garlic Chicken, a Celery Root Purée, and of course, Crème Brûlée. Everything was wonderful. Except the chicken. It was boring. Really boring. How could something with 40 cloves of garlic be anything but amazing?

RoastedGarlicBefore

The other day I came across our recipes from class. 40 Clove Garlic Chicken still makes my heart skip a beat and yet inside I know the sad truth: boring. I couldn't take it anymore. I hard to revise this recipe to be, well, at least something approaching the genius that the name implies.

GarlicBeforeRoastingWithSpices

Changes? About a million, give or take. First off, I roasted a whole chicken and skipped braising one that has been cut into eight pieces. Second, I've roasted the garlic first. Why? Because I am obsessed with roasted garlic lately, that's why. Plus, roasting softens the garlic and turns it into a buttery, sink-right-into-the-meat taste explosion. Or seriously, just skip the chicken and slather this on everything in sight, I kid you not.

RoastedGarlic

Then I added lemon to brighten the flavor. Garlic on its own is lovely but it needs a friend to help it present itself as the powerhouse we all know and love. Finally, I cranked up the spices and puréed the whole thing...and this is where it all went so right it was wrong.

40CloveGarlicPuree2

Nothing should taste as good as this garlic purée. Nothing. If you are smart you won't tell anyone about this recipe, you'll make the purée and then you'll slather it all over an entire loaf of bread and eat it all by yourself, every single one of those 40 cloves of garlic. Or you could just use a spoon, which I did. I have no shame.

40CloveChickenBefore

If, though, you made the unfortunate decision to tell your family about the meal you could add the purée to your chicken, working it under the skin and slathering it all over the bird, and roast until a crispy golden perfection.

40CloveGarlicPuree

Then steal the bird, run away and eat it all with an entire loaf of bread. Or, again, just put the spread on anything you can locate within an arms reach.

What?

40CloveRoastedGarlicLemonChicken

My husband's reaction: "This is the best chicken I've ever had!" then he asked me to make it again and put it on "every vegetable we get in our CSA all summer long." I have to agree. Obviously, this could go one of two ways - you could use it for the best darn garlic bread/peas/carrots/mushrooms/celeriac/random vegetable ever, or you can use it on a chicken. Vegetarian, carnivore. Potato...oooh, it would be good on that too...

Ingredients
4-5 heads of garlic
2 oz or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 smaller lemons)
Approx 3/4 - 1 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt + extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper + extra for seasoning
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence + extra for seasoning (or use Italian Seasoning if you must, you know, I'm flexible)
1 3.5-4 lb Roaster chicken
1-2 cups Chicken stock, white wine, or beer (not porter/stout)
2-4 red potatoes (optional)

For Purée: 

Preheat oven to 400°F

With a sharp knife cut about 1/4" off the top of the garlic cloves.

Place garlic heads, cut side up, in a smaller baking dish.

Then, if you are crazy, like I am, fish out the cut off garlic bits and add those to your baking dish as well. Just remember to remove them half-way through baking or you'll have deep fried garlic cloves. I use a slotted spoon or spider for this purpose.

Pour oil over the garlic into the dish until about 1/4" deep (about 3/4 - 1 cup)

Sprinkle a few grinds of salt, pepper and a few pinches of Herbs de Provence over the garlic.

Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Once the garlic is semi translucent and soft remove from the oven and let cool, in the pan.

Once the garlic is cool enough for you to handle go ahead and slide all the softened cloves out and into a food processor or bowl. You can use a small knife, spoon or utensil to remove the garlic if you like - I just use my hands. Keep the remaining skins/shells though - you'll see why.

Add the oil the garlic was roasted in, lemon juice, salt, pepper and herbs to the food processor. Reserve the spent lemons. You may reduce the oil by half or more if you like to make a thicker purée - I recommend this for vegetables, spreads and such - more oil is better for the chicken to keep the meat juicy and moist but otherwise reduce the oil and start with less when processing.

Purée until a smooth, buttery paste-like consistency. If you don't have a food processor just mash with a fork or potato masher until as smooth as your prefer.

Run away and eat. Or use for your bread...or chicken.

For Chicken:

Preheat oven to 375°F

Rinse and pat your chicken dry. Loosen the skin at the back of the breast and fill the cavity between the breast and the skin with the garlic purée. Be generous.

Place the spent lemons inside the chicken cavity. Truss your chicken then slather with the remaining purée. Don't know how to truss a chicken? That's ok. This corny joke teller will show you how. Humor always helps, in my book.

Instead of using another pan I like to slice red potatoes in half then place the flat side down in the roasting pan from the garlic. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes and there you have it, a roasting tray. Add a few of the remaining garlic skins (because there is still a bit of garlic in there) around the chicken and pour your chosen liquid about half way up the potatoes - I like to use one of my husband's Octoberfest style homebrews.

Roast chicken for 45 minutes. Turn heat up to 425°F and roast another 20-30 minutes until the thickest part of the breast is 170°F. If the bird is browning more than your like cover with foil and continue to roast. Enjoy the red potatoes flavored with the cooking liquid as a side and add in something lovely and green for a complete meal.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tutorial: Pot O' Gold Presents: Money (or Message) Soap Gift Tutorial

MoneySoap_Final

Super easy, super fast and a fun take on the boring ol', but very appreciated money gift, money soap is the way to go for a difficult gift. A smart friend will use the soap as intended, until their reward, but there are those who might carve away at the best laid plans - just be warned. Delayed gratification isn't everyone's bag, so be it.

Every year we try to find a fun and creative way to give my nephews the same gift: money. We've done puzzles and traps, and this past Christmas we did soap. I had seen money soap before but at $12 + shippping for about $2 worth of soap and no telling how much money was within, well, it wasn't the right option for us. I knew that since the soap was clear it must be glycerin soap, which is easy enough to get and often available as a "natural" bar soap. Luckily, glycerin soap is very gentle as well, so recipients don't have to worry about skin irritations. Making our own money soap meant we were in control of how much money was within and appropriate labeling.

Perhaps you don't have anyone to give a gift to for St. Patrick's day but the pot of gold reference was too much for me to resist. Just tuck this idea in your memory for later graduations, birthdays, and the like.

What you'll need:
Glycerin Soap - clear or any color you like. My local store started carrying clear one week after this project! Gah!
Money or a waterproofed note/message (try a thin lamination on any note you like)
Drill and longer, straight drill bit. I used a 3/8" bit (tapered bits won't work for this application)
Label paper or adhesive and paper

MoneySoap_Measure

If the soap is shrink wrapped, start by taking off any labels you can. I removed the back label only, since I would be covering up the front one anyway - this way the recipient can clearly see there is something in the soap. You can remove all the packaging if you like, but I kept it on to keep the soap "clean" in handling.

Next roll up your money or note as tightly as possible. Measure it against your bit to make sure your drill bit is long enough.

MoneySoap_Mark
Position the rolled up money/note where you would like to go in the soap and make a small mark where it ends - this will serve as your guide when drilling and indicate where to stop drilling. I used a chalk marker, you could also use a dry erase marker, same idea.

MoneySoap_Drill

Take your drill and drill directly into the soap (through the wrapping if it is still there). I found it easiest to drill downward. Stop at your mark.

MoneySoap_MoneyIn

Slide your rolled money or note into the drilled out hole as far as you can.

MoneySoap_Sealing

Your drill bit will have some soap remnant on it. Remove these and place them over the hole in the soap where you drilled. Using your fingers gently push the extra soap down into the hole - since glycerin soap is so malleable it easily melts with your body heat and will fill the hole much like a wood compound or putty.

MoneySoap_Sealing2

If you have any mess just run quickly under water and scrub off - a little water may get under the label or packaging but it will dry out provided there is not a ton.

Make a fun label - joke about "good clean fun", "money laundering" or "cleaning out your bank account". Maybe make the scent "freshly laundered money", whatever you like and whatever fits your recipient best! Trace the shape of your soap onto your label and cut out that shape. Affix the label to your soap, or if you are using paper use and adhesive to attach (I used Spray 77). Done!

Have good clean fun with this project!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Decorating and Maintaining: A Seasonal Wreath of Repurposed Materials and Wood Butter (with a label download)

Playing a little catch up here! We've been busy - not so much so that it is a huge stress but enough so that it is a distraction. Our little one is in school most mornings now, which leaves the dog ever more excited about the possibility of a long, solitary walk when I arrive home to work. We've been quite social as well, a nice change of pace and a comfortable one as well since everything has been within walking distance.

WoodButterApply
 Slathered in Wood Butter - keep reading!

One of our recent forays was a "Bacon Party", which really was just an excuse to give our "Book Club" that never has a book nor discusses it, some meaning again. There were bacon-wrapped jalapeños, bacon chocolate chip-peanut butter cookies, piles of candied bacon, bacon vodkas, and a whole other slew of things I can't remember. Honestly, I couldn't even eat that much and I am still way overloaded by the thought of bacon - a perfect cure for cravings.

With the help of a few great websites (thanks Barb!) and a local game/hunting store (where I found my curing salts, go figure) I was able to cure my own bacon painlessly and quickly. I tried three types and brought them to the party with a vegetarian accompaniment on the side: a plain maple-brown sugar (candied and served with fresh, hot Beignets*), a Maple Bourbon (served with a cranberry, pie spiced sour cream dip), and a Jalapeño Tequila (served with a fresh guacamole). It was a smash and the Jalapeño Tequila was the first to go - the guys loved the subtle but building heat. Thankfully, we have plenty more dried jalapeño left from last year's garden. Christmas presents, anyone?

*Note: I make these beignets with butter instead of shortening with great success. They are divine!

WoodButter_Before
 Before - an older spoon and a newer rolling pin (from Herriott Grace - a favorite Christmas gift!)

While we were at the Bacon Party I passed along a gift to a dear friend who I so respect and have been continually inspired by, Erica. Erica is smart, grounded, and graciously humble - someday, maybe soon, she'll be a hands-in-the dirt farmer on her own property but for now she teaches others how to love and steward the beautiful world around us. I knew Erica's birthday was coming and I wanted to give her something that wasn't wasteful, that respected resources and encouraged her to love what she already has...I choose Wood Butter. Thankfully, it was the right choice, and Erica used it to condition her husband's homemade cutting boards (he's crazy talented).

WoodButter_After
 After Wood Butter application

Wood butter is a super simple, easy to make, cream-like concoction you can put on your wooden cooking utensils to treat, protect, and polish them. Since I make mine with food-grade oils and beeswax you can feel safe using it on spoons, cutting boards and the like. You may have also heard Wood Butter referred to as Spoon Oil and it has been kicking around the internet for a while - I think Wood Butter fits better and I have to admit to some revisions in my recipe. You see, I am very allergic to mineral oil, and most recipes call for mineral oil, so I substitute with olive or grapeseed oils. That said, if you choose to do this you must be diligent to dispose of anything that might smell off or rancid, as a rancid rubbed spoon is difficult to salvage. I also like my Wood Butter a bit more soft and smooth so I use a 5:1 ratio of oil to beeswax instead of a 4:1 ration recommended most places. It is easy enough to make and play around with so have a go at it!

WoodButter_TagsDownload
Click the image or the link below to download and print these labels

For your gift giving ease I'm making a download of the labels I made for Erica's gift available here. Just print, clip, and in my case I punched a hole and tied on with twine. I prefer the wide-mouth, more shallow jars for this job - like these, not the ones pictures, but almost anything will work and old jam jars would be lovely and repurposed!

EggWreath3
Fun for outside

Finally, this past week I popped together a quick seasonal wreath. I saw a big bag of old plastic Easter eggs at a resale shop and passed them by. That night I realized how I could reuse them and I couldn't get back there fast enough. While I'm not normally one for pastel, plastic wreaths, the opportunity was right there and I knew it would be a festive reuse.

EggWreath2
Almost done - a last layer of smaller eggs covers up the hoop nicely!

To make the wreath inexpensive, as well as give it a backbone I choose an embroidery hoop. Not only do you get two wreath bases out of one hoop, it is also a compostable and more earth-friendly option. About 15 minutes and some hot glue later here I was left nearly done - just one final layer of smaller eggs to cover up the showing backbone.

A run to the store and a few more eggs to finish the piece and here is the finished product. Total cost? $3.95.

EggWreath1
Fun for inside!

Don't want an egg wreath? That's ok - I have another super fun idea coming your way with a download in the not too distant future! So hold on to those Easter eggs , there will be a any-ol-holiday you want reuse coming down the pipeline.

Hope you are enjoying some of the same glorious weather we've been having. It's hard to get any work done but so lovely! Perhaps you are making some useful re-purposed crafts as well?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

3 Super Simple Organizing Tricks

A few quick and easy organizing tricks for you today. Maybe you already use similar techniques, maybe these will be new but if you have other great ideas be sure to share them as well!






First up - remote controls. Ick. Remote controls always seems to find a way of laying about all over the place and making a perfectly neat and tidy room look just a bit messy. We tried a universal remote once to no avail - it simply wasn't universal enough and at least one extra remote was needed to control the TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. What a mess!

RemoteStorage1
This is my Craigslist victory piece de resistance

We store our TV in a large armoire, but this trick could work just fine in another application (on the back of the TV perhaps, on a shelf, whatever works for you).

RemoteStorage2
Why yes, we do have a furry beast in the house. Why?

First, decide where you can hang your remotes in a way that will be inconspicuous and useful. On the back of each remote place a piece of velcro. I choose to put the soft side on the remote so it wouldn't pull on clothing when it is in your lap. I also used a heavier load-holding stronger velcro because one of our remotes is really heavy.

RemoteStorage4

Put the companion disc (or square, whatever shape you use) piece to the velcro wherever you wish to hang your remotes. For us the inside of the door to the armoire is perfect - it doesn't touch the TV when closed, slides next to the TV when open and is high enough little hands can't reach.






We recently had to get a new microwave (over a year ago is recently, right? Right.) Inside the microwave was a rack. A totally useless rack. This rack doesn't make any sense. But as a drying rack it is pure genius.

DryingRack

When placed across our sink the rack overlaps enough to hold it in place. Skinny enough to fit just about anywhere it can be stored very easily - I can't say the same about our actual "dish drying rack".The very best application for the over the sink rack though is for stemware. Ever other rack I've ever used either left a puddle in the bowl of the glass or condensation inside - this though? Spotless. No film, no condensation.

Don't have a microwave rack? Try a cookie cooling rack!



SpicesStorage1

I have a lot of loose spices that don't have any need to live in a jar - and shouldn't anyway. Mustard for example, because I love to make and can homemade mustard - but it has no reason to be in a designated spice container. I like using mini loaf pans to hold my spare spices and organize other ones.

SpicesStorage2

The mini loaf pans are great for holding related items as well - in this case some of my various extracts and individual tea bags. Easy to grab, easy to find and easy to put back in an organized manner.

What are some of your favorite double duty or super smart organizing tricks?