Thursday, January 31, 2013

"I Want That"

A few weeks ago, in the Friday Round-up, I wrote about not comparing my beginning to other people's middles, and off-handedly I said "And who knows, maybe out there, there is someone who is thinking 'Man, I wish I had x,y,z like Cluttered Mama does.'"

And what do you know, it happened!!

On Monday, I posted a "sneak peek" of my office/craft space on The Cluttered House's Facebook page (What's that? You want to like The Cluttered House? Oh, okay...) and one of the comments-- from someone I don't know in real life, so not like my mom or someone like that-- was "I want that."

I can barely wrap my head around the notion that someone would want my office. It was not so long ago that I was dreaming of having a house with a yard and more than one bedroom, let alone an office. I spent hours pouring over pictures and pins of beautiful, creative and organized office/craft rooms (Who am I kidding, I still do this), imagining what I would do with such a space. It is amazing to me that my one little picture of my office made someone say "ooh, me too!"

But then, I think we sometimes forget how blessed we are to have what we have. Today, as I sit in my almost organized office, I am taking an extra moment to count my blessings.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tinted Mason Jars

Since the office is coming along swimmingly (as long as I ignore the very full box that said "to file" and the not one, but TWO drawers of teaching files that need to be gone through-- one isn't even in files, the stuff is just piled in there), I thought I would attempt another Pinterest craft. My goal is to try to do at least one Pinterest project a week, so this will fill my quota!

And, I thought it was time for me and Mod Podge to kiss and make up.

So, because I have decided I need a cute pen jar, I tried this mason jar project by Liz Stanley at Momtastic:
Liz Stanley, via Momtastic
Look at how cute those are, and all you need is food color, Mod Podge and a jar.

Of course, I didn't have any high gloss Mod Podge (I had fabric and matte), so I had to pick some up at Hobby Lobby (I had to get a frame anyway). Came out to about $3 for the Mod Podge, which I am cool with because the way I use Mod Podge, that stuff will last a millenia. I didn't do the math, but I figure $3 every millenia is pretty dang good!

Being a bear of slightly above average intelligence, I read through all the comments following the tutorial, to see if there were any best practices. There were. People recommend mixing the Mod Podge and the water and food coloring all at once, so I gave that a whirl.

So here we go (not a tutorial, just pics from along the way).
High gloss Mod Podge, food coloring (I was going for yellow-y green), bowl, jar
 
"Hello Mod Podge"
(Imagine me saying that like Jerry Seinfeld saying "Hello Newman")
Let it be known that I am not a good pourer

All ready to bake up. I'd recommend moving it from its spot
after the 30 minutes of pre-oven drying.
So there was a LOT of Mod Podge left over. If you are just doing one jar, I'd halve the "recipe."
I recommend moving the from the initial upside-down location before baking.
I did an still got a lot of booger-y clings.


 
Baked on booger clings. :/
 
No worries, they scrape right off-- just make sure you don't peel
over the lip and into the jar.
 
That's a good lookin' pencil cup!
 
I was actually impressed with how easy this was. I didn't enjoy the smell of baking Mod Podge, but all-in-all, I think it is a pretty easy craft that you have to work really hard at to screw up. The only think I would do differently would be to make the green a little darker. Unless the sun is hitting it, the jar pretty much looks clear.
 
Now I'm nervous, because I'm on a crafting hot streak (what with the book cover and the jar). This is not normal... which means one of the next crafts will go spectacularly wrong. Probably when I try to do something above my skill set, because I'm getting a big head from all this successful crafting. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Weekly Planner Printable

I have been trying to be better about planning out my time. I'm not naturally a planner, but have found that life runs a little more smoothly if I have some semblance of a plan. Nothing set in stone, mind you, but at least jotted down so I remember what I need to do and when I need to do it!!

In an effort to be more efficient in planning my weeks, I started looking for a weekly planning printable that would work for me. I like the printables at Life Your Way, but the big block style of of their weekly planner didn't work for my brain. I like having things broken down by some kind of a time frame, so big open squares didn't work well for me.

So, I made my own!

I broke the days up into three sections for morning, mid-day, and evening/night. So far it is working well for me, because I'm able to jot down more of an approximate time when I want to work on certain tasks, and it gives me enough room to write a little more detail if I need it.

You can download a copy here, if you would like. I use a Monday through Sunday format, but I have also made a Sunday through Saturday plan, for those people who plan their weeks that way. I think it is all mental, but I like seeing my weekend in one big block. Makes it feel more weekend-y!

What do you do to keep yourself/your activities organized week-to-week?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Organize-a-Palooza Week 4: Freestyle

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You're a grown person. You do what you want!

No really. Organize what you want this week. I'm not the boss of you! :)

Me? I'll continue with tackling the office, but in more of a fine-tuning capacity. If I have time, I'll possibly start on the master bedroom at the end of the week, but I am making no promises.

I do, however, plan to see if Mod Podge no longer hates me. There is going to be some Mod Podge-y crafting up in this mutha this week too. I have my sights set on trying this tinted mason jar project from Momtastic this week, so keep an eye out for that. I'm also hoping to recover some ugly boxes in my office, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

What are you planning to work on this week?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Organize-a-palooza Week 3 Link-up

Organize-a-palooza is going to become a little redundant.

Why?

Because while I have made a heroic dent in the office -- the photos from my book cover project were taken on my desk, which if you note in this before photo, was a huge pile:
See that chair? Yeah, Diesel made it.

The fact that I could even do a project on my desk and was willing to photograph said desk, is really saying something.

But the room isn't done. I have cleared out most of the big "hey, that doesn't belong here" stuff, and up until this afternoon the floor was completely clear; however, I started really digging into the stuff that was put away on the shelves, but was not organized in any way, shape or form.

So, I am proclaiming next week's project to be Office/Workspace and/or space of your choosing! Maybe you wanted to get to the linen closet and haven't yet. Perhaps your master bedroom is giving you fits (mine certainly is, but I just shut the door and pretend it doesn't exist...). Maybe your kids' stuff is out of control. But we'll discuss this further tomorrow!

My office is starting to look like a real crafter's room. I have set up an area for my Cricut, my new (terrifying) sewing machine and all the stuff that goes with them. I also put up a rack behind the door to hold my paints (up VERY high where even my spider monkey-esque boys cannot reach them), glue, and ribbons.

If Pinterest has taught me anything, it is that a
woman can't call herself a woman without a
ribbon/craft supply rack in her office.
 
Top shelf: Cricut Stuff
Middle shelf:terrifying sewing machine and
sewing notions (that is what they're called, right?)
Bottom shelf: Yarn basket, fabric basket, scraps bins
 
A little more of a close-up for you.
That sewing machine has 170 stitch settings.
I can barely sew in a straight line,
and that isn't me being modest or hyperbolic.
I'm scared.

This was my small stroke of genius--
I couldn't get the mat to stay upright/not fall behind the shelf,
 then I remembered I had these magnet clips. BOOM! Problem solved!

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Repurposed Gift Bag

This morning I did a DIY "craft" that was so easy and came out so cute that I had to share. It also solved two problems I was having in one fell swoop, which is immensely helpful!

A little background to my problem. I have these two great, leather-bound journals that I LOVE. They are super useful, fit well in a purse and are well made. The problem? The front cover is emblazoned with the logo of my former employer, as these were gifts for all employees during the Summer Olympics to advertise that the company was an official blah blah blah of the US Olympic Team. So I love the notebook, but don't love advertising for the company every time I pull the notebook out (I'm not a bitter former employee, I'm just not looking to advertise for them!).

The second issue is that I received an adorable gift bag at our house warming party-- brown paper with cute owls on it. This bag has been floating around my office for months, but I haven't wanted to use it to give to someone else, because I liked it so much. Of course, I couldn't think of anything to do with it, so it basically became more clutter.

As I was working on the office this week, I had an epiphany; I could use the owl bag to re-cover the journals.

So today, I got together my supplies (bag, journal, scissors, and tape. I had a pencil too, but didn't end up doing any marking), and channelled my Jr. High self. Minus the arguing with my mom over how lame it is that I have to cover my book in a plain brown bag from ABCO, because she's so mean and won't spend money for me to have a Lisa Frank or New Kids on the Block book cover like everyone else and she's like basically ruining my life forever as a result of this indignity. (Jr. High was SO fun, right?)

Anyway, if you have ever covered a book in a brown bag, this process will all come rushing back to you. I'm not exactly reinventing the wheel here.

First  you want to cut down one side of your bag and then cut away the bottom of the bag so that you have one long piece of paper.


Then, if you have a specific pattern like I did, lay your book on the bag and figure out the best alignment. Then trim to 1-1.5" taller than your book and about 2" longer than your book cover. Stand the pages of the book up to get the best fit.


Then make a fold at the top and bottom of your covering paper, so that the edges of the cover line up with the edges of your book.


Now fold each of the sides over so that they are snug around the book.  You have created a little pocket with the folds.


Slide your book cover into the creases and tape the fold in place. This part is a little hard to explain, (and, of course, I didn't take a photo) but on the top of each fold, place a piece of tape and fold it around to the front of the book, so that if/when you remove the book from the cover, the cover doesn't unfold. Don't tape the cover to your book, because it won't allow the cover to move as it needs to when you open and shut the book.


Now you have a nicely covered book. Ooh la la!


My journals are now cute, I'm not advertising for my former employer, I don't have to give away a bag I really liked, the bag is no longer cluttering up my office, and I have created a cool way to repurpose an item, rather than tossing it into a landfill! Hooray!!

Have you done any creative repurposing lately?


The Chicken Chick

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Round-Up

Yesterday, I schooled you on heirloom seeds. As a result, I'm assuming you were SO moved by the information that you are now chomping at the bit to order some heirloom seeds, but need to know where you can find these little nuggets of joy.

Ask and ye shall receive!

I have already mentioned Seed Saver's Exchange, but they aren't the only ones in the game. Baker Creek, Heirloom Seeds, Renee's Garden,  D. Landreth Seed Company and Johnny's Seeds also have a variety of heirloom seeds available for purchase. I have ordered from both Baker Creek and Seed Saver's Exchange and have had good results.

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This week has been a pantry week at the Cluttered House-- meaning I planned meals around only what was in our cupboards. We sort of cheated by going to Costco on Sunday, but we have needed to go for a while now. I also went to Trader Joe's to get milk and Little Man suckered me into buying applesauce pouches. So it is more of a pseudo-pantry week.

As a result of pantry week, I have been getting more creative with our meals. I'm not one of those people who can open up the fridge, pull out leftovers and whip up something delicious. I have an uncle, cousins, and a mother-in-law who can all do this. I open the fridge and think "ugh. I don't know what to do with this" and then announce that we have NO food and need to go out for dinner.

So, the mere fact that I have crafted any kind of meals out of just what is hanging around is monumental. Yesterday, the boys and I used some frozen chipotle black bean burgers to add some zip to our quesadillas, but the piece de resistance was on Wednesday when I whipped up some Macaroni Rosa using left over chicken and frozen peas. It actually turned out really yummy and I was very impressed with myself!

Of course, tonight, we had pancakes and eggs for dinner-- pumpkin-blueberry whole wheat pancakes, to be exact--however, I don't think Diesel much enjoyed the brekkie for dinner routine. I actually had planned to make two quiches (I use this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, because it is easy AND delicious), but when I told Little Man we were going to have "egg pie" for dinner (one of his favorites) he said "AGAIN?!?!?!" in an incredulous voice. I guess I have been making it a little too often. Little Man then informed me that pancakes-- nay, "pancakes with pumpkin and blueberry inside of them"-- was a better choice for dinner.

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In other news, my first set of canning jars has arrived. [Insert SQUEEEEEEEEEEAL here]. At my request, Diesel got me a boiling water canner and a set of canning tools for Christmas, but since we haven't planted a garden yet, we have had nothing to "put up." Until now. Because Costco has 10lb bags of organic apples at less per pound than I would pay for conventional apples. The boys can eat through a 10 lb bag of apples in a heartbeat, but I want to make sure we have apple products into the summer when they are VERY out of season and expensive. My plan is to make some apple sauce and can that as my first run. Fingers crossed!

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Last, but not least, I totally scored a great find on Craigslist. I am a frequent scanner of the "free" section, but have never had anything pan out until this week, when we got THIS for free:

It is definitely rough and needs some work, but was TOTALLY worth the price! :) It will be a while until we have it assembled in our yard (this picture is in its original home), but I am BEYOND excited about it!

So that was my Friday Round-up! What's going on in your world?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hybrids and Heirlooms and GMOs, Oh My!

I am finding that organizing the office is a daunting, I-think-I-bit-off-more-than-I-can-chew-in-a-week, project. So naturally, my thoughts and plans are taking me elsewhere.

And that elsewhere is to my soon-to-be-planted garden.

One of my goals for our family is to embrace urban (or in our case, suburban)agriculture/homesteading. Of course, a HUGE component of urban homesteading is planting food crops in our yard. As this is my third year pretending to be a gardener, and I am starting to plan what seeds I need to order and when to start my seedlings. No small task, considering the myriad seed/seedling choices that are out there.
When we planted at the community garden, the first year we planted largely transplants from our local home improvement store. I didn't really know much about gardening or plants, so I was good with popping a few transplants into the ground, using organic soil amendments and calling it a day.
Look at all those tasty hybrids
Our second year, I had recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, and was made aware of the existence of heirloom seeds. I knew they were "better" because they hadn't been messed with and had stuck around because they were good producers,  so I ordered a bunch of great heirloom seeds from Seed Saver's Exchange, but I still wasn't sure what the real difference was between hybrids and heirlooms. And were hybrids GMOs? I was SO confused

So I did some research and am going to give you the Cliff's Notes version of what I learned about hybrids and heirlooms. This is in no way comprehensive, but will hopefully help you make decisions as you prepare for your gardens (if you have them).

Hybrid: Hybrids are an intentional cross-pollination between two varieties of a plant to produce certain "preferred" traits (disease resistance, larger fruits, rapid production). Some cross-pollination does happen in nature, but most hybrid plants have been bred that way by plant breeders (that is a real thing). Generally speaking, you can't really save the seeds of a hybrid plant because they will either produce an infertile plant (like how the majority of mules can't reproduce) or if you get any kind of fruit it may favor the traits of one parent over the other. After many years, they may stabilize into a plant that produces the originally intended fruit, however, many seed companies now own patents on their plant crosses, which means only they have the right to reproduce the hybrid. And they could technically sue the pants off of you.

Hybrid plants are the seeds and seedlings that most of your local home improvement and garden centers sell these days. While there isn't anything technically "wrong" with hybrids, oftentimes there is a trade-off to get the desired traits-- so nutrition and flavor in exchange for bulk production and aesthetics.

So, are hybrids GMOs? In a word, no. While it has been modified, a hybrid has been modified in a way that humans have been altering plants for years, whereas, according to The Non-GMO Project, GMOs "are organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods." So, since nothing "foreign" has been added to the mix, hybrid plants are not GMOs

Heirloom:
These are plants that are always self- or open-pollinated (OP), meaning pollen is randomly exchanged by natural means. Generally speaking, OP seeds are more genetically diverse and more adaptable (long term) to local climates. Now, although all heirloom seeds are OP seeds, not all OP seeds are heirlooms. In order to be an heirloom seed a seed must be at least 50 years old and be capable of being saved. Some seeds have been handed down from farmer to farmer (or gardener to gardener) for centuries. Also, the plants must be grown away from other plants of the same species so as to avoid natural cross-pollination. That means that when I plant my Black Krim tomatoes, if I want to save the seeds and have them still be considered heirloom Black Krim tomatoes, I need to ensure that they aren't grown with my Amish Paste tomatoes so that cross-pollination doesn't occur.

So why use heirlooms over hybrid? While heirloom seeds may not grow as fast or produce as much as a hybrid, they often taste better, have better color and more nutrients than a hybrid plant. On a frugal note, if you want to save money, heirlooms are the way to go, because you can save your seeds and keep producing quality produce without having to order new seeds every year.

There you have it folks. My Cliff's Notes version of Hybrid vs. Heirloom. For me, planting mostly heirloom seeds is the way to go on our little "farm."  I like the idea that I am helping to preserve the sometimes centuries old traits of these heirloom plants, I know they haven't been messed with, I think they taste better, and in some ways, it feels like I'm sticking it to the man by planting heirloom seeds.

Now I am off to peruse my Seed Saver's Exchange catalog, instead of organizing the office.

Questions? Comments?


Linking up with:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Organize-a-Palooza Week 3: Office/Workspace

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First off, let me show you where I am working today:


Drink it in! I know I am! (Don't feel TOO jealous. Within minutes of me snapping this photo, I ran inside to check my bread--accidentally made it deflate-- and Duckie stuck two dirty Matchbox cars in my lemon water, spilled said water and put a PILE of sand on the table. Totally relaxing work environment). Oh and that table? We totally built it using the Providence table plans from Ana White. If you don't know who Ana White is, you should. She's the lady who built that cool laundry basket dresser that everyone likes to pin on Pinterest, and she has a TON of free build plans. But, I digress..

Why, you ask, am I working outside, other than because it is a glorious day? Because my office is a bit of a pit of despair. Which brings us to week 3 of Organize-a-Palooza...

Week 3: Office/Workspace

I know not everyone is blessed to have one specific room in their home that is their office. Up until 7 months ago, my "office" was a drawer under our bed and a bunch of filing boxes. Now, however, we have an actual office, which I have claimed as my office/craft space, since Diesel has claimed the garage & two sheds for his woodworking business.

Unfortunately, the office has become a dumping ground for homeless things, so it hasn't been the most productive place for me to work. In fact, I have only worked in there ONE day out of the last seven months. It was the Sunday after our housewarming party (in October), and the office had been fake cleaned to be presentable at said party.

Now it looks like this:
 







So I will be tackling office organization this week. My hope is that I'll be able to create a space where I can be my most crafty and productive. I pinned a ton of cool mini-office ideas on Pinterest back when I was going to turn our condo pantry into my office, so I am hoping to utilize some of those ideas this week-- I especially like the idea of creating a command center in my office.

How are your workspaces looking these days? Any creative (and inexpensive) solutions for organizing an office?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Organize-a-palooza Week 2: Link-up

This is a bit of a late start, because we had a bit of an Internet issue last night.

This week we tackled linen & hall closets. I'm still a bit behind, but will be updating my photos as the day goes.

But let me say, I am addicted to making organizers out of boxes. So much so, that I started eyeballing the left over pieces to see if there were some other organizational uses for them. No luck thinking of anything, yet!
Any ideas?


I also realized I hang on to a lot of health and beauty products "just in case." I think I don't want to be wasteful when I don't like a product, or am given something, so I hold onto the item. When I find a product I like, I will use up every last drop, but if I don't, instead of throwing it away, I just squirrel it away in a cupboard. Do I think that if I leave it in the closet long enough I'll suddenly start liking it again? I don't know.

But I'm working on it.

I was also horrified to find yet ANOTHER unpacked box labelled "linen closet." This one was in our bedroom (we may or may not have a bunch of unpacked boxes hidden in our bedroom). My first reaction was "we haven't needed anything in this box in 7 months, so I should just toss it." However, when I opened it, I realized there were items in it that we HAVE needed and couldn't find. So, I guess I'm going to have to go through that one too!

So here are my after pics, which will be updated throughout the day (before pics here)

Downstairs linen closet:

I plan to cover & label the boxtop organizers tonight
Top shelf is medicines, vitamins and supplements

The big change is I moved the diapering supplies to the middle of the cabinet
I also moved first aid & outdoor stuff (sunscreen, bug balm) to the second shelf

Extra paper goods, lightbulbs, electrical stuff & dog stuff
Downstairs hall closet: (coming soon!)
Hall closet is all organized
(No, that isn't an unpacked box, it is full of aquarium supplies)

Lots of good storage space (and labels)

LOTS of labels. I call the top shelf "the guest room" as that is where
the air mattresses, guest sheets, extra pillows and blankets live.


Game closet: (coming soon!)

Upstairs linen closet: (coming soon!)



I can't wait to see/hear what you've been working on!
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