November already! This last month flew by. October was hot and cold, windy and sunny, and busy busy busy! This month I’ll be shopping for Christmas gifts (I hate the post-Thanksgiving crowds), stocking up my freezer, and transitioning to a new position at work. I’m not sure I’ll have time for too many projects but I will try my hardest to do what I can.
Source: Pickle Lady Farm
Last month I managed to tackle my closet, finish sorting through my clothing, do some restocking, and I’m working on eating the last of my frozen summer goods. The month ahead theoretically will also have a day trip and my first 5K race. I can’t wait to share some details! Here are this month’s Get Organized Now checklist items designed to keep me on track.
- November 1: Have a fall cleanup day. Rake and sweep up all that debris. This is especially helpful considering the superstorm that some people are getting. You might want to bump this item down the list till all the wind in your area has passed.
- November 4: Falling back means changing clocks and batteries. I also suggest using that extra hour for more sleep but if you insist on waking early, make yourself a warm breakfast.
- November 6: Go vote! Do it! I highly suggest between 10 AM and noon or from 2-4 PM if you can. You’ll make my life easier if you do since I’ll be fixing voting equipment that day.
- November 8: Time to plan your Thanksgiving meal. Call any hosts for meals you’ll be attending to confirm what to bring and how many to serve. Write down your ingredients, how long your dish will take to prepare and shop your sale ads. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite dishes that week in case you need any ideas.
- November 18: Clean out any purses or bags. Include envelopes for receipts and coupons. Cut any coupons you need to get ready for Thanksgiving meal shopping or some fun on Black Friday.
- November 22: Write down 10 things you are thankful for. You don’t need to share it but use the day to reflect.
It’s been a busy fall at my house. I’ve been finishing the final weeks on my work’s big project and soon I’ll be moving on to a new office and new responsibilities. My husband and I took a big trip to Europe. I finally finished the Couch to 5K program and I have 2 races lined up.
That hasn’t stopped me from having some fun either. I went with some friends and family to my old high school’s Homecoming football game. My littlest brother still goes to school there and it was a big anniversary for me as well. I was most excited to see the marching band. I’m a former member and my little brother (that’s him on the 45 yard line playing the sax) has won several championships at competitions this year. I’m a proud big sister. As a bonus, the football team pulled out a win as well.
I’ve been dressing the house up for fall too. Some pumpkins and some coleus plants add a nice seasonal look with purples and oranges. I have a yellow wreath I use each year. This year I paired it with an owl hanging I found at Michaels. I love the bottlecap eyes…and the fact that it was on clearance.
Here’s a glance at the garden as of 2 weeks ago. Since then we had a tornado warning that knocked down leaves and now a frost warning that froze everything up. The garden barely survived the horrible summer. Remember how gorgeous it looked back in May? I had a hydrangea die, one just barely survived. All the dwarf rhododendron died before the end of June. We planned to replace them with more boxwoods but after a boxelder bug invasion I’m not so sure now. The regular rhododendron made it till July but then they died too. The azalea survived. My husband had bought some geraniums and added them and they thrived as did our coleus plants. We’ll definitely be trying to makeover this garden again next year. I’d like to imagine this year was just a freaky year of drought but I need a low-maintenance plan that can survive drought, massive rains, hail, winds, and me.
For my October table, I wanted to use complementary colors. I know a blue and orange table isn’t traditional for October but I loved how rustic it felt. I was able to shop my house for this project, using my blue willow china and blue cobalt glasses. The matching cobalt wine bottles are from some riesling I drank and the pumpkin votive holders are from Pier1. They match last month’s design. The flowers in the basket were actually a gift holder my husband gave me years back that comes in handy every year.
The only new item I bought for the table were the mini pumpkins. I wanted to buy some napkins but I had the hardest time finding some matching blue napkins. Has anyone seen some deep blue napkins that might match my blue willow or blue cobalt? I’d love to find some before the next time I use them all on the table again.
How was your month of October?Pin It
I’ll admit that sometimes in life, I can go a little overboard. I mentioned before that I had some eggs to use up before I left town for my vacation and the apple bread just didn’t cut it. I decided this would be the perfect time for me to get ready for Christmas. That’s right, back on September 12 I decided to bake 11 dozen cookies for Christmas. I made 6 dozen chocolate chip ones (recipe coming soon!) and 5 dozen of today’s recipe, M&M cookies.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I did in fact bake 11 dozen cookies and packed them away in 3 separate containers. One container was eaten in the week before my trip. It held 2 dozen cookies. The other 9 dozen were split between 2 more containers and one is still safely tucked away for Christmas. The other has been eaten in the month since I returned. This is how I roll. I bake a bunch of cookies, eat most of them and save a couple dozen for Christmas. Over the next few months I’ll stock it with some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread and sugar cookies (undecorated), and some double chocolate chip ones. The ones I don’t eat by Christmas become a January snack, though to be honest I’m usually cookied-out by then.
I store my cookies for up to 3 months in an airtight stackable container already cooked. I just pull them out about 90 minutes before I eat them and they’re perfect.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups shortening
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tablespoons vanilla
- 6 Tablespoons water
- 5 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
- 10 oz mini M&Ms
- Cream together the sugars and the shortening. Blend in the eggs, vanilla, and water.
- In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients and gradually add them to your wet ingredients.
- Gently stir in your mini M&Ms (regular will work as well) and bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes.
So before my big trip, I planned out some outfits so I would be able to pack as minimally as possible. I wanted to followup on that post to let you know how successful I was. First up, I didn’t end up doing laundry on board the cruise ship. I used my cruise credit for drinks and cupcakes. I’m a glutton, deal with it.
The only difference that made was I needed to double up on a few tanks for layering and bring the full amount of underwear to last me the trip. When I got around to packing it all, I realized I had more than enough space. I was pleased because my plan was to bring home souvenirs so I was more than set. Just to be safe, I weighed my luggage and the heaviest bag was 32 lbs, so I had well over 10 lbs of “souvenir space” to work with. Perfect!
Here you can see me in my green capris and blue striped shirt in Park Guell (Barcelona), my green capris and tan top in Toulon, and in jeans and a white top in Amalfi.
I ended up swapping some outfits around, like after a freak rain storm soaked my outfit in Monaco; that outfit needed some time for the pieces to dry so I just swapped what day I wore things. Same thing with my landing day, I ended up not changing until dinner. I was able to do that because I chose to pack 3 additional pieces over what I listed in my planning post. I brought a dinner sundress for my time in Barcelona (since I didn’t want to wear the same thing I wore to the beach or to hike) and I brought one casual outfit, some sweats and a t-shirt. That was a great choice since I just lounged on our room’s balcony for much of the time. I wanted to be cozy on those crisp Mediterranean mornings. Since I did that, there was an entire outfit I never ended up wearing. I had overpacked!
Some of my most versatile pieces were my denim shirt, my khaki skirt, and my pink and green capris. You can see me wearing these pieces in (clockwise from top left) Nice, Trevi Fountain in Rome, Pisa (that’s the Leaning Tower behind me), and on board my cruise ship the last night playing mini golf.
I always felt comfortable in my pieces (always pack clothes you’ve worn several times before!) and I never stood out in my pieces. I chose colors on a same color palette to maximize mixing and matching–lots of browns, blues, greens, pinks/reds, and whites. Before packing, look at what colors highlight your closet and try to choose 3 or so favorites with 1 or 2 neutrals.
Remember my centerpiece from September with all those apples? The centerpiece sat on my table for most of the month but I headed out of town on the 19th so I hated to let the apples go to waste. On top of that, I had some eggs that would go bad while I was out of town so I figured doing some baking with the apples was a good way to use some up. I wanted a recipe that I could stick in the freezer and eat when I came back home too. Luckily, apple bread was the perfect solution.
This recipe makes two disposable loaf pans of apple bread. To freeze it, bake the apple bread and let it cool completely. Let it cool another hour more, just to be safe. Place the entire loaf pan into a gallon sized freezer bag and remove all the air you can. Place the bags into the freezer flat and store for up to a month. If you want to store these longer, remove them from the loaf pans and wrap in plastic wrap before putting them in the freezer bag.
Coming back from vacation I had virtually no food I could cook left in my house. I had been up for about 20 hours before crashing at night and the next morning I didn’t want to be eating cereal without milk so the apple bread was a welcome treat. To thaw, just leave out on the counter overnight and it will be perfect in the morning.
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 Tablespoon almond extract
- 2 cups skinless diced apples (about 2 apples)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
- Beat together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, and almond extract.
- Slowly add in your dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed.
- Add in your diced apples and chopped walnuts.
- Pour batter into two greased loaf pans and bake at 1 hour for 350 degrees.
Do you by chance remember my messiest closet ever? I don’t blame you if you don’t. I posted about that renovation back in May with a goal of being done in June. To be fair, I was 95% of the way done in June. I just had two tricky parts, one I eventually found a solution for and one that is still ongoing. To recap, this is the closet before.
I know, it is like a room on Hoarders.
I started off by doing just as I planned. I painted the door to match the trim in my house. I had planned to buy a door organizer from Home Depot but when I arrived in my car I realized the organizer would probably not fit in my car. I could borrow my mom’s van but I’d remembered seeing a smaller organizer at Target. Enter the ClosetMaid 8-Tier Adjustable Door Rack. (You might also want its buddy, some hollow door anchors that I ended up having to run back to Home Depot for). I then used that door organizer to put all my cleaning supplies in it. I’m still working on reducing how many containers I’m using but as I run out I’ll be replacing with more multi-purpose products.
Next up was emptying the closet, patching, priming, and painting. I had no clue that my crooked house had a closet with walls that sloped in random directions. I ended up spending nearly a week just on patching and sanding to try to make the walls straight.
In an effort to keep costs low, my husband and I thought we should reuse the original shelves and just hang them with two boards. In the photo above you can see the new boards attached to the wall while the white stripes represent how the shelves used to be hung. Wonder why they had a back shelf hanger? Those crooked walls. Apparently the walls were crooked even when they built the house so they just made small shelves and used an extra-wide shelf rack to accommodate their mistakes and laziness. So by being cheap/lazy, we ended up with the same issue. We had to create one more shelf hanger but luckily our entire basement is full of scrap wood so we still saved on cash.
The new shelves were much less obtrusive than the old ones and we painted them the same paint color as the walls to help them blend in. The paint color is a mistint from Home Depot. My local Home Depot seems to only have orange and forest green no matter when I go but this was one in West County so let’s call this right place, right time.
Now it was time to put everything back and get it all off my dining room table. I used some Closetmaid cubes to add some color and hide all the messy things. More on them in a minute. I bought an iron and ironing board holder from Walmart. Those cool things on the back wall are all from my Ikea trip last November. I have two Rationell Variera that are made to dispense plastic bags but I use them to hold towels and washcloths and they work like a dream. The bar and hooks are all part of Ikea’s Bygel rail system. I installed two of these. (Locals- Ikea will be coming to Kansas City in 2014)
To make things even more organized I spent about $2 on small wooden tags from Michaels. I spray-painted them with chalkboard paint and used them to label those Closetmaid cubes. The basket above holds all my extra lightbulbs, 3m strips, and candles. I have another one for seasonal gear like gloves and bags, and the third basket holds my extra cleaning items like vacuum bags or my shoe shining kit. Everything is labeled so I don’t need the products out in the open.
I also decided that I should probably get a full-sized ironing board instead of using my 9 year old dorm ironing board. I’ve already used it and it’s amazing the difference it brings. As a bonus, it really brightens up the closet and it matches my cubes I already had.
Ready for the final effect?
The top now easily fits all those items that used to sit on my closet floor. I have space for paper products, trash bags, vinegar for cleaning, all my bins, and even extra picture frames at the top.
The bottom of my closet it worlds better. You can actually see the floor! Over on the right I hung my swiffer and broom with a rack from The Container Store. I hung several cleaning items from my top Bygel rail and you can see my Rationell stuffed with the cloths. I decided to use the bottom rail to include the bags I use for shopping and day trips so the closet is even more practical. It might not be as pretty as without them but let’s be real, the practical has to win when you live in your house. Somehow I managed to actually put more items into this closet and it miraculously looks emptier. I am still needing a light in there (hence the dark photos) but having a lighter paint color and a more open space helps immensely in the meantime.
This project is being put in the finished category and I’m ready to tackle a new one. Home Depot sent me a coupon in the mail this month that I need to use soon so maybe that’ll jumpstart a big project once again. Hopefully this gets my closet out of the “Worst Closet Ever” category and into something a little more flattering.Pin It
My big vacation last month involved 2 days in Barcelona before heading off on a Mediterranean cruise. I don’t know how much you know about Barcelona but I’ve found it full of giant amazingly designed buildings, surrounded by mountains and the sea, and full of delicious foods. The evenings in Barcelona can go all night long. Restaurants often don’t even open their doors until 8PM and several concerts in the city started at midnight while we were there.
If there’s one way to keep the party going in the city, it’s with sangria. Full, rich, and smooth is the best way to describe the sangria and the city life. Here’s a homemade recipe to get you in the Barcelona spirit.
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 orange
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups rum
- 1 bottle dry red wine
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 L lemon-lime soda (optional)
- Slice the lemon, lime, and orange and place them in a glass pitcher. Pour the sugar on top and then the rum. Chill for 2 hours.
- Remove the pitcher from the fridge and lightly press the fruits against the edge of the pitcher to release the juices. Stir in the wine and orange juice.
- For those wanting a fizzier drink, fill a glass 2/3 of the way full of sangria and top off with soda.
I’m back from my crazy long vacation and I hope to post some info on that as soon as I sort through my 1400 photos. Oh yeah, It was an awesome one. I’m quite a bit behind on chores but coming home to a clean house made it easier. I definitely miss having meals prepared for me and turndown service at night.
We’re into the last quarter of the year which means prepping for Christmas, winterproofing my house, and for my work to get crazy one last time. My real goal for the month is to lock up the last of my summer clothes and finish up all those 90% projects- you know, the ones that need just one last go to be fully completed. Just remember, slow and steady wins the race so choose a few items to tackle from this month’s Get Organized Now checklist and you’ll feel ahead of the game.
- October 5: After a long week, enjoy your family with a fun family dinner. After heading back to work after 2 weeks of together time, it’ll be nice to relax together instead of giving into the jetlag.
- October 13: Clear out those coats and accessories. Make sure all gloves have a match, toss anything you haven’t worn in a while (look for a winter clothing drive in your area!) and have all the next week’s items in a convenient grab-and-go spot.
- October 16: If you haven’t already decorated for fall (I never do before October 1 but I’m slacking this year!) then put out some decor. Pumpkins are always a safe bet and will last you through Thanksgiving.
- October 20: Outdoor cleanup time! Empty planters, trim back any plants that get a fall trimming and put away any lawn furniture before the winter snow and salt damages it.
- October 22: Stock up on Halloween candy for those trick-or-treaters. I live in a neighborhood without many kids so I don’t see many besides some cute relatives but I’m always glad to have the leftovers.
- October 24: Spend your entire evening offline and if you’re really daring, turn off all technology. Hang out with family and resist the urge to be introverted by reading. Play board games, talk about your day or just relax in silence.
- October 29: Surprise your coworkers by bringing in a treat. Bagels, doughnuts, or flavored creamers for a coffee bar are always nice. You can add a fall twist by throwing some apple cider in a crockpot and serving with a cinnamon stick.
For my big vacation, I had a bit of a time figuring out how to pack for the trip. I’ll be gone for 10 days, I’ll be seeing varying temperatures, some days I’ll need to dress modestly and others more formally. On top of all that, I wanted to leave plenty of room in my luggage to bring home souvenirs.
The first thing I researched was if laundry services would be available for my trip. I’m cruising with Royal Caribbean so I located their laundry service price list to plan out if laundry services were even in my budget. I also learned via Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean has a wash-and-fold special where for $25 you can get as many socks, underwear, tees, shorts, swimwear, and pajamas washed as you can fit in the bag they provide. As part of our booking special we were given some on-board credit that can easily be applied towards laundry.
My next priority was to map out each day’s outfit needs. For example, day 5 of our trip will have us touring the Provence area of France for a short time, enjoying some quiet time on our ship, and then eating a formal dinner. So a touring outfit, a swimsuit, and a formal dress were all necessary for one day. Since I’ll be changing so much, I know I can get more than 1 wear out of most items. So I made a chart of my outfit needs for each day.
I took some advice from Audrey over at Putting Me Together on the importance of wearing colored bottoms. I’m bringing 4 different bottoms but I can wear clothing for at least 10 days. I’ve actually limited my re-wears of key pieces simply because I don’t know how hot it might get or how clumsy I might be this trip.
I tried to choose a color palette to work with for the trip too. I’ve always been a fan of navy and white and by sticking to a palette it means I can bring just 1-2 belts some brown and white shoes that should work with every outfit. My suitcase is basically filled with these key pieces, though some are just similar and not direct matches since I don’t buy a new wardrobe every year.
I made sure to choose cardigans to layer since some places like Rome require me to have my shoulders covered and nights on a cruise ship can be cool. I also chose several knit pieces for their strong anti-wrinkle tendencies. I’ll also have the obvious things packed like socks, underwear, PJs, and my swimsuit but I’m feeling pretty set with these pieces. I’ll let you know after the trip what worked and what didn’t so you can better prepare for your next vacation. (Now that I’m back, here’s that followup I promised!)
Things will be a bit slow around here this week. I’m out of town celebrating my 5th wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband. It’s been almost 10 years since our first date and he’s still putting up with me!
We’re on a Mediterranean cruise through the end of the month and hopefully I’m having a blast right now. In case you’re worried about the safety of the old Hyper House, don’t worry- I have a great housesitter watching the place so there won’t be any trouble.
I’ll still be having a few posts come up but just be aware that my comment moderation will be slower than usual so don’t freak out if comments don’t appear instantly. I can’t wait to share all the exciting details with you all!