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?

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?

Turning Tables

It’s a strange Saturday. My stepson isn’t here because of a birthday sleepover, and my husband had to go into work this morning. I’m not usually left to my own devices on a Saturday morning, so I normally go for a quick run, take a shower, and spend the afternoon running errands or going to the park with the family.

Having the house to myself this morning meant I glued myself to the couch and caught up on my Dateline recordings. At one point I got up to refill my coffee and realized: my kitchen table is a disaster zone.

IMG_0383I tried to ignore it. Damn it, this was going to be a lazy morning! The TV is allllll mine. I’m still wearing my glasses and my pajamas, and if I feel like spending half the day playing Hungry Cat Mahjong, no one is here to judge me. (If my husband would play even one level of that stupid game, I’m sure he’d understand. He’d have to.)

Anyway, the fourth or fifth time I went into the kitchen, I finally cracked. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned off my kitchen table. We eat dinner at the table every night, and all I do is push everything off to the side to make room for our plates. Something had to be done.

I started to clear off the table and almost immediately I felt better about my life. Until I discovered the table is covered in a blanket of dust and pet hair, and then my contentment crumbled yet again.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me half an hour to clean up the kitchen table disaster zone. It looks like a quick job until you consider the stack of old mail that has to be sorted and the fact that every little item seems to belong in a different room in the house.

But here’s what I determined: tidying up the kitchen table makes the entire house seem cleaner. A few nights ago, I went on one of my random cleaning rampages and still felt like the house was a pigsty. I couldn’t figure out why. One of the few things I hadn’t done that night was give any consideration to the kitchen table. Somehow it seems to fade into the background and I don’t give much thought to how cluttered with junk it becomes.

table.pngRight now I feel so much more comfortable than I did a couple of hours ago. Now the challenge will be resisting the temptation to resume using it as a dumping grounds for anything we’re too lazy to actually put away where it belongs.

Personally, I give it five hours max. What can I say? I’m a realist. I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.

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What types of “little” things do you do around the house to help it seem cleaner?

Brought to you by the letter “O”

The “O” stands for organization and onion dip.

Today was a GOOD day in the kitchen.  I’ve been frustrated lately because I had a flimsy, wooden spice rack that was too small for most of my spice bottles.  Not only did some of the bottles not fit, but I had more bottles than it would hold.  If you remember the pictures of my kitchen I posted recently, I have very minimal counter space.  Lately, my counter was being hogged by homeless spice bottles.  They were getting in my way and pissing me off.  I finally set out to find a solution.  This is what I came up with:

Super space saver!

This was an organizer I found in the craft section at the store–it’s meant for beads, but I gave it an even better purpose.  These little stackable jars are perfect for spices!

Spice cupboards, now in travel size.

The only drawback is that I’ve now realized how puny my spice collection is (above is the extent of the spices I own).  At the same time, it’s motivation to hit up the bulk spices at the grocery store!  😀

Also on my list of proud moments today is the fantabulous caramelized onion dip I made for a small barbecue my fiance and I hosted.  The word “caramelized” has always intimidated me; somehow, I can’t seem to kick the image that caramelizing involves making caramels.  But I worked on this dip while simultaneously filling my new spice jars and it was GREAT.  My mom couldn’t stop eating it–in fact, she threatened to eat the bowl of dip in place of her dinner.  Direct quote:  “It was like eating a hug.”  Mission accomplished, I’d say.

Onions and butter. Mmmmmmmm.

Sensational when paired with Wheat Thins.