A tale of unfolded baby clothes

When I was pregnant with E, I worked hard on the organization in her nursery.  I carefully planned out where every little thing would live and I arranged and rearranged until everything felt perfect.  I even went so far as to Google how to properly fold her baby clothes because I meant business.

One night I went into the nursery with my laptop, put on some music, and spent nearly an hour folding E’s little sleepers and onesies and teeny-tiny little pants.  My belly was huge by then and I’d spent so long hunched over on the floor that I had a hard time getting back up.  But I was PROUD of my handiwork.  When I told my husband and my mom about it, they both gave me this odd smirk and claimed I would never keep it up.  And I laughed at them.  Why wouldn’t I keep it up?  What was I going to do, just toss everything into the drawers and call it good?

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Yep.  Yes, that’s exactly what I did.

The fancy, folded baby clothes lasted until the third time I washed a load of E’s laundry.  For the first two rounds, I would ask my husband to entertain E while I sneaked away to fold her clothes and put them away nicely in her drawers.  Both times I knew I was wasting my time because these days I can’t even get my damn bathroom clean, but I had been so hell-bent on proving my mom and husband wrong that I was going to stick with it.  HA!

By the third load of baby laundry, I wondered what it would feel like if I just tossed everything in the drawers and walked away.

It was LIBERATING.

I have not folded a single item of baby clothing since.  E’s drawers look like a hot mess and I don’t care.  It’s worth the extra 15 minutes a day.

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Now that I know how it feels, I just have to be careful not to do it with my own clothing…

Be honest, new moms:  do you fold your baby’s clothes?

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Tip of the Week: Well-Planned Workstations

One of the most important aspects of cooking is mise en place, which is the idea of gathering the ingredients and tools needed for cooking and having everything arranged prior to getting to work. I hate to admit that I’m still not perfect at it. I do prep about 75% of my ingredients before I begin cooking, but I’m a complete failure at gathering my tools and cookware ahead of time.

Part of the problem is that I don’t have a proper “workstation” in my kitchen. I tend to spread myself out while I’m cooking: on one counter I do my measuring, on another I do my chopping, and as I work, I make at least half a dozen trips to the trash can on the other side of the room. Clearly, I missed the last call for boarding the efficiency train.

I found a great article on Bon Appetit about building a better kitchen workstation. Based on their suggestions, there are a few major improvements I need to make when it comes to prepping and cooking my meals. I think these tweaks to my setup will greatly improve my ability to adhere to the idea of mise en place.

  1. I need to secure my cutting board to the counter with a damp towel or nonstick pad. I also learned this recently in Sur la Table’s online cooking basics course. It’s a miracle I haven’t chopped off a finger!
  2. I need a trash bowl. The time spent on each trip to the trash can adds up, and we all know mere seconds can make or break a vital step in preparing a dish.
  3. I should keep my salt in a ramekin. I usually pour my salt from the round Morton canister into a measuring spoon or into the palm of my hand. Sure, it works, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply dip the measuring spoon into the ramekin or grab a pinch with my fingers?
  4. I need to keep paper towels handy for cleaning debris from knives and cutting boards. My paper towel holder is cheap and lame, and both hands are required to tear off a towel. Again, any time saved is beneficial to my cooking; I should start tearing off a few towels ahead of time and having them at the ready.
  5. I need to keep the essential tools handy. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m terrible at gathering the necessary tools before I start cooking. It’s not uncommon for me to realize that the pan I need is dirty and I have to wash it while, meanwhile, the food in another pan is burning because of my lack of preparation. It has to end!

Do you have any tips for a more efficient workstation in your kitchen?

Company Clean

Preparing for visitors in your home is like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time.  Even though I feel like I keep my house pretty clean on a day-to-day basis, getting ready for my in-laws to visit has magnified every speck of dust, every stain on the carpet, and every slightly disorganized closet.  Does it matter that my family is very unlikely to inspect all of my closets for their cleanliness?  No.  No, it doesn’t.  It will bother me if it’s not fixed before they arrive.

I believe I inherited this mentality from my mother.  Before anyone visits her house, it must be what she calls “company clean.”  It’s like a clean house on steroids.  Luckily, since yesterday was the first day of spring, I might be able to get away with calling it “spring cleaning” and look a little less fanatical.

So I’m off to embark on a mass cleaning spree.  Happy Saturday, everyone.

Do you tend to get carried away cleaning before company arrives?

Freezer Spill Prevention 101

Last week, I sifted through the fruit and veggie compartment in my freezer and grabbed a bag of stir fry veggies—and promptly spilled half the bag all over the inside of the freezer. How did this happen? Because there aren’t enough chip clips in the world for all the frozen fruit and veggies we keep on hand. The stir fry veggies were one of the many bags in our freezer that had been opened, but not clipped to prevent spillage. As I stared down into my freezer and cursed the bits of broccoli, snow peas, and carrots strewn about, I knew something had to change.

Last night, I pulled everything out of my freezer for a mass reorganization. I saved the fruit and veggie compartment for last, because I had more than an organization issue to deal with—I also had a storage issue. I piled all of the bags on the counter, and then I grabbed a Sharpie and two different sizes of freezer storage bags.

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I emptied every single bag of fruits and veggies into freezer storage bags and labeled each one. This was meant to solve the spillage problem, which was half the battle. The other problem was that I’m always having to dig through the drawer in the freezer to find what I need. When I buy new frozen items, I tend to toss them into the freezer and they all end up in a disorganized jumble. After transferring everything into freezer storage bags, I placed them neatly into the compartment in the freezer, arranging them according to how often I usually access them. The fruits I use in my morning smoothies are all at the front, easily accessible. The veggies I use less frequently, such as the corn-carrot-asparagus mix, are stacked up nicely in the back of the compartment, underneath the veggies I use more often, like peas and peppers.

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I’m feeling very optimistic about this new arrangement in my freezer. Already this morning, I felt so much more relaxed as I prepped my smoothie ingredients in my blender. It goes to show that even the seemingly small changes in a kitchen can make a big impact on cooking and food preparation.

Do you have any tips and tricks for freezer organization at home?

Go Go Gadget Wish List!

I have a problem with kitchen gadgets: it’s that I don’t have enough of them! I love kitchen gadgets, but my collection isn’t very impressive. Part of the problem is that I can’t seem to prioritize my wish list. Would I rather have a rubber tube garlic peeler or a spiralizer? Can’t decide…guess I’ll just buy some shoes instead.

Yes, I’ve certainly slacked off in the kitchen gadget department. So I put together a list of ten gadgets that are not only nifty and convenient, but that I truly believe would help me to be more efficient and reliable in the kitchen. The goal is to actually buy ALL of these (gradually, of course), and I’m going to hold myself to it by posting reviews here after I try out each one!

Stainless Steel Finger Guard:
So I don’t chop off my fingers, which surprisingly hasn’t happened yet.

 Stainless Steel Meat Baller:
Because I’d rather not make a hobby out of rubbing sticky raw meat between my hands.

Egg Perfect Timer:
For even the simplest of cooking tasks I can’t seem to perfect.

Hands-Free Storage Bag Holder:
Because I’m tired of cleaning spilled soup off of the counter/stove/floor.

Quirky Stem Fruit Juice Spritzer:
Because why not?

Spaghetti Measure:
So I’ll stop making enough spaghetti to feed my entire neighborhood.

One Stop Chop Cutting Board with Storage Containers:
So I’ll stop dropping veggies on the kitchen floor while trying to scrape them into a bowl.

The Ultimate Garlic Peeler:
Because it’s like magic, and I like magic.

Seasoning Sticks:
Because I’m bored with my meat being flavored only on the outside.

And finally, Multi Blade Herb Scissors:
For those of us who hate spending an hour working for one teaspoon of fresh cilantro.

One Last Lesson for 2014: Folding Fitted Sheets

One of my least favorite things to do is fold a fitted sheet.  I use the term “fold” loosely, because what I do with fitted sheets is better described as “roll into a ball and call it ‘close enough.'”

For years, I’ve told myself I’ll eventually educate myself on how to truly “fold” a fitted sheet.  With half a day to spare, I decided I would master it by the end of 2014!

I use the term “master” loosely, because what I managed is better described as “barely squeaked by and still needs practice.”

First, I should show you how I folded fitted sheets prior to December 31, 2014:

sheet.pngI found three videos online showing slightly different methods for folding fitted sheets, and I tried them all.  With the first one, I got off to a terrible start:

It took several minutes to accomplish this.

It took several minutes to accomplish this.

With the second one–from Martha Stewart, no less–I was such a failure I didn’t even bother taking a picture.  Sometimes you just have to save yourself a little dignity.

The third and final video I found was the one that finally did the trick.  Mind you, a two minute video equaled almost ten minutes to fold the damn sheet, but I got it done!  The first time I did it, my sheet looked like this:

Inner perfectionist:  please shut the f*$# up.

Inner perfectionist: please shut the f*$# up.

It was better than my usual results, but still looked a little lopsided.  So I unfolded the sheet about halfway and tried again, and I was finally pleased with the results.  Here is how I finally got it done:

sheet2.pngThere.  I will enter 2015 knowing the “proper” way to fold a fitted sheet.  Now I need to teach the husband how to do it, unless I feel like being the designated sheet folder of the house.  (Spoiler alert:  I don’t!)

Now I need to start a list of things to learn next year.  So far it includes cooking on the grill, making cat toys, and possibly (HUGE emphasis on “possibly”) knitting.  What kinds of things would you like to learn how to do in 2015?

Sink Woes

We have a white kitchen sink and we hate it.  My biggest beef with it is that it gets so dirty SO easily.  Well, it doesn’t get any dirtier than it would if it were any other sink, but because it’s white, it’s more noticeable.

We’ve lived in our house a year now and NOTHING has gotten rid of these grody stains.  Not even my go-to box of 20 Mule Team Borax did the trick.

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At my wit’s end, I consulted with my friend Google and found a website that referenced this website that swears by a simple bleach-baking soda mixture.  The claim:  two parts baking soda and one part bleach will rid the stains from a white sink.  My prediction:  bullshit.  Far too simple (i.e., “too good to be true”).

I mixed two tablespoons of baking soda with one tablespoon of bleach and spread the mixture around the bottom of my sink.  I tackled it with a cleaning brush and I didn’t even have to put muscle into it.  THIS IS WHAT I GOT:

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I’ve never seen my sink so clean.  I don’t even think it was this clean when we bought the place!

IMG_0485Oh…in case you spotted it, I did not miss a couple of spots.  There might have been an incident earlier this year in which I dropped the crock pot dish in the sink.  It might have resulted in chipping the sink.  And it might have broken my crock pot dish, which resulted in my purchasing a much fancier crock pot.  (A blessing in disguise, I say!)

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Now of course I’m obsessed with the bleach-baking soda concoction that worked its miracle on my sink.  I’ve already deep cleaned the bathtub and I’m starting to wonder why I have so few porcelain fixtures in my home.  MUST…CLEAN…MORE!

Truly, I’m excited I’ve found a solution to the dirty sink problem.  A kitchen can only feel so clean when the sink is disgusting!