Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fabulous Folding

I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but fall is definitely in the air here in the mountains! We've got cool mornings and nice days and the sky is that brilliant shade of blue that only comes around in the fall months. And I'm loving it...except that I have to change clothes several times a day.

Most people I know have to give their closets a big shift when the seasons change. Thankfully (even though we have a smaller house) our master closet is the perfect size for us. Whether you're changing the tank tops for the sweaters or just picking out your clothes from a different portion of the closet, this tip is for you!

I once heard someone say that each time you pick out an outfit for a new day, you should feel like you are "shopping" in your own closet. Even though I have to go straight for the clearance racks, one of my favorite stores is The Gap. Yeah, they have great clothes, but I think the thing I love most about it how organized and presentable everything is. So, with those thoughts in mind, I went to work in my closet. Once I had all my hanging clothes sorted by color (yes, I am THAT girl!), I had to tackle the folded clothes....the major culprit: sweaters.

You can't hang sweaters because they get those annoying little dimples in the shoulders and folding them seems impractical because they just fall over and then it's an even bigger mess. But The Gap does it...and it works. I wasn't about to run out and buy one of those expensive folding things like they use, so my Simple Girl mentality kicked into high gear and came up with a solution...a cutting board.

You heard me right...a cutting board. Thanks to IKEA, I found this one in a set of 3 for less than $6.
(I've taped a laundry label reminder sheet to mine for easy reference. Thanks, Real Simple!)

And here's how crazy easy this is:

Start with your sweater face down (you should be looking at the back of the sweater).

Place the cutting board in the center of the sweater and line the top of the board with the very top of the collar.

Then, you start folding. I start with the left side, but it really doesn't matter which you choose to start with. Basically, just fold the side of the sweater over the board, then fold the sleeve back.

Then, fold in the other side.

Next, you flip the shirt. I place my left hand on the back of the sweater (across the sleeves) and use my right hand to flip it. It should look like this:

You can see that the cutting board is still in the sweater.

I really like this cutting board because of the notch cut out of the top. It makes it easy to grab and pull out of the folded sweater.

And now, you have a perfectly folded sweater!

And here's my favorite part. All my sweaters are folded the exact same way and to the exact same size, so they stack perfectly. They're easy to pick up and move and look so nice and neat on the shelf. They're fun to look at and it makes laundry just that much less of a pain!

*sigh* Pretty :)


Monday, September 28, 2009

Chalk it up

One my favorite places to find treasures is my local Dollar Tree store. I am sure you can testify to being able to find all kinds of things to transform into cute accessories for your home or to give as gifts. I often find lots of things there that I can use in my classroom for learning, storage or decoration. Most days, I don't really have a clear vision of what I am looking for...but on a recent trip I knew exactly what I needed.

These trays were exactly what I needed to complete a simple, yet fun project to add a little fun to my kitchen and other areas of my house. One thing I love to keep on hand at my house is chalkboard paint. So with these trays and a little spray paint, the creating began!

To begin with, I taped off the edges of the trays using a little painters tape. This was a little tricky as the trays do not have the straightest edges. This caused a little paint to end up in places I might not have wanted it. One suggestion I have here is that you might want to get the chalkboard paint in the bucket, instead of the spray kind. This might fix the problem right up! If you know where to find that by the way, please leave a comment, I am having a really hard time finding it!

After painting, you must let your paint dry for at least 24 hours in order for it to really work like a chalkboard. This might be a difficult step for you, or well me, because I was so anxious to give it a try and see if it really worked. But trust this simple girl on this one, you really have to let it dry! Once the trays have dried, find your old school chalk and print a special message to be displayed.

Chalk it up to another simple project for all you simple girls!



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Just for Muffins Anymore

I try to keep up with meal planning for dinner pretty faithfully, which often helps me keep some affordable variety on the menu. It also helps me not pull my hair out when those inevitable evening cases of the whines roll in. And sometimes the kids are worse. :)

Weekday breakfasts and lunches don't always get such forethought, though. To keep some variety and fun there, we've discovered an easy way you may already know about.

Muffin tins...
Six compartments for an assortment of colorful sampling! It really is a nice, little helper. I don't have to have large quantities of any one food. It helps me regulate the treats or extras like chips or sweets (you can't eat that part of the tin unless you have room left over after filling yourself full of the good stuff). It's great for transporting from here to there. And I can even use it to teach about the food groups and a balanced diet... six spots for whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy, protein, and other necessities.

You know, like chocolate.

All simple girls know it's only a matter of time before you learn the importance of that food group.

The girls also dig some cookie cutter action.
It's the little things. Don't you love when that's the case?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Simple Shower

Our small group from church makes the fourth meeting of the month a potluck. We try to mix it up with different themes like appetizers, desserts, dips, and this month... breakfast for dinner! Hot waffle irons ready to go with chocolate chips, whipped cream, toasted walnuts, homemade strawberry syrup, and butter as toppings. A toasty skillet waiting on people to make their choices from the omelet bar. Quiches and a big bowl of fruit. Steaming cider and hot chocolate on the stove.

Autumn meets potluck, if you ask me. A match made in heaven.

But it gets better. This month we used our potluck to surprise an amazing family in our group with a baby shower. They just recently added a sweet, little boy adopted from the Ukraine and now they await the birth of Mabry Ruth. It was a casual evening with a few simple touches to show them how excited we are for this newest arrival.

I wrote a short poem to bring together the shower's elements:
Like the first smell of breakfast,
Laundry fresh off the line-
A new baby is warm and wonderful,
Delicious and divine!

A piece of glass leftover from the bottom of a tray and this fun tool highlighted the words:
Above the serving area I hung a small clothesline made from raffia I had on hand and the verse, "... His mercies are new every morning..." to go with the breakfast-for-dinner theme. Some tiny, girly clothes hung on either end.

Along the serving area were candles, this page from Max Lucado's Just in Case You Ever Wonder book on a recipe stand, and the precious paper products (plates and cups picked up for two bucks at our fabulous, local Dollar Mart!)

For dessert (as if the waffles weren't enough!) we had cheesecake and cherry pie because those are the parents-to-be's favorite sweet things.

The centerpiece on that table was a vase that looks like a pair of girl's overalls, given to us when I had our firstborn, with the last remaining buds from the yard. Everyone brought a few practical baby items to add to a big basket, which we presented to them just before we called it a night.
While the rain dared to continue pouring outside, we got to relish in the crazy sounds of kids running all over the house and the promise of yet another life coming soon.

Simple, but sweet.

Another match made in heaven, if you ask me. :)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Fall, Y'All!

Yesterday, in honor of the First Day of Autumn, I spent a little time adding some fall touches here and there around the house. This time of year gets me all excited about what is to celebrations and vacations for Thanksgiving, all things Christmas and, of course, getting to have my house decorated according to the current holiday for nearly 4 whole months! I love it! A few weeks ago, Katrina posted some of the fall touches she added to their humble abode so I thought I do the same!

I dressed up the hallway with some simple things. I tied a ribbon around the lampshade for a pop of color, tied some twine around a votive candle holder and topped it off with a simple gerbera daisy.

I carried the theme from the hallway into the living room with the same twine and flower idea.

This picture's a little blurry, but it's the only way I could show off the spookiness of these adorable little tea light Jack-O-Lanterns!

I planted lots of marigolds a while back and was glad that they came up in abundance! Some clippings arranged in clear, tall skinny vases provide a sweet look on the mantle.

You all might remember this guy from about 25 years ago...think McDonald's Happy Meal! My brother and I had these growing up as our Trick or Treating baskets. I just have to keep them and put them out every year. It brings back lots of great memories!

This wreath just makes me smile. When I bought it for 50 cents in the dollar bin at Target (it was on sale after Christmas) I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, but figured I couldn't pass it up! I decided I needed some sort of fall looking wreath by our back door and bought the orange and yellow berries for $1 at Wal-Mart. I finished it off by tying 2 pieces of ribbon on one side and I love the way it turned out!

As a bit of an'll notice that I'm on a bit of a bow kick here. It's because of this AMAZING tutorial on how to tie a bow. I've been messing up ribbon for years trying to get the perfect bow. Go check it out and prepare to be amazed at the ease of it all!

Happy Fall, Y'All!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Baby Steps

My mama is a baker. She simply glances in the direction of flour and sugar and something scrumptious appears.

She comes from a long line of these baker-inspired people. In fact, the first time the love of my life came to a family holiday celebration he may have decided to propose somewhere between the banana pudding, eclair cake, and blueberry yum-yum.

And though I love to cook, sometimes I have felt a little baker-challenged. Thankfully a few years back my mom and I created a family cookbook in honor of my grandmother going to Heaven. The dessert section has come in mighty handy, as you can imagine, with recipes to help me take my sweet time while learning.

At the fall BBQ, I served one such baby-step kind of recipe that is sure to please a crowd (like 30ish people!) and your pocketbook. Every time I do this easy little thing, people want the recipe.

Start with this:

2 boxes yellow cake mix, 1 small box of instant vanilla pudding, 2 jars of mandarin oranges (1 for each cake mix), 1 can of crushed pineapple, 1 regular size tub of Cool Whip, 8 eggs (4 for each cake mix), and 1 cup of applesauce (1/2 cup for each cake mix)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease and flour (or use nonstick spray) two- 9x13 pans.

3. Prepare each box of cake mix ONLY using this recipe: 1 box of mix, 1 jar of mandarin oranges WITH juice, 4 eggs, and 1/2 cup of applesauce. Then pour into your pans.

4. Bake one cake at a time according to the package, typically between 25-30 minutes.

5. While cakes are baking, make the topping. Prepare the pudding as directed on the package in a large bowl. Add the Cool Whip. This is enough to top both cakes.

6. Let the cakes cool completely, then add your topping.

7. One of my mom's many secrets... put the cakes in the freezer until about 1.5 hours before you want to serve them. Gives the perfect consistency and flavor!

8. Serve in cutie-pie containers found at Kroger for 50-cents (optional). Please do add a sprinkling of the crushed pineapple, whatever you decide.

That's it... tropical enough for a summer dessert and orangey-yellow enough to give fall a run for its cobblers.

:) Katrina

Saturday, September 19, 2009

For the Love of Ribbon

When I started my business a few years ago (check it out here) I very quickly became obsessed with cute ribbons in all sizes and textures. What started as a "I'll just buy ribbon that I need" venture turned into a "Holy Cow! That ribbon is co cute and it's on sale so I should probably buy it in case I can use it" phenomenon. It was then that I began to learn of the difficulty that comes in storing multiple spools of ribbon. It's a little bulky. The spools are round, so they roll. Depending on the brand and size of the ribbon, the spools are different sizes throwing out any plans for a one-size-fits-all storage solution. For a while, I just stored them all in a couple of storage boxes, which meant with each new project it was a several step process (open 2 or 3 boxes until able to locate desired ribbon, untangle it from other ribbons, remove ribbon from box, cut ribbon, return ribbon to box, close box, place box back on shelf) to get a small piece of ribbon. Yeah, not so helpful.

A while back, I saw this box offered by Martha Stewart Crafts and while I loved the idea, I wasn't in love with having to make them (nor was in love with the crazy price tag on these items at the local craft and organizing stores!). So, in true "Simple Girl" fashion, I decided to make do with what I had. And came up with this....

Oh the beauty of all those ribbons so nicely color coordinated, looking too nice to touch but so nice that I want to create something magnificent! People, this makes my heart happy! Here's how I did it:

Those are actually wooden CD boxes (I got mine at Michael's a long time ago) that I've painted black. I filled them up with ribbon, stacked them and there ya go! These fit every size ribbon spool I've ever bought and the ribbon threads so easily through the wide slot at the front. Changing the ribbon spools is super easy too (remove the boxes stacked above the empty spool, replace the ribbon, re-stack the boxes).

Here's a view from the top of one of the boxes:

Seriously, the ribbon's easy to find, easy to use and looks super cute stored this way, don't you think?

In case you're in the middle of your own ribbon storage dilemma, here are some other creative solutions that won't cost a lot of money:

The Coolest Mom on the Block

Little Birdie Secrets

Lu Bird Baby

Crafty Nest
And if you have any solutions for storing your own ribbon, we'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment and let us know what amazingly creative solutions you're using!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 18, 2009

Backyard BBQ-Fall Style

When I realize that the warm days are fading, I suddenly have the urge to spend as much time as possible outside. Pair that with a group of neighbors to thank for their yard help this summer, and the idea for an autumn inspired backyard BBQ was born.

A simple tablescape set the mood. That and the faint sound of bluegrass music coming from our little CD player moved outdoors.
We borrowed a long fellowship style table and two card tables. They sat end to end under the treeline in our backyard. Six yards of brown burlap covered them to make for as seamless an eating area as possible. (Burlap is so economical! $2.99 a yard at the Hobby Lobby... use the 40% off coupon they routinely have available, and you really get some bang for your buck.)

Our trusty mason jars served as the stemware. Tucked inside each one was a napkin. The napkins coordinated with the plates and fit perfectly with the colors; they also fit perfectly in my budget at $.90 a package during a Michael's clearance. Inside the napkin was a fork and a straw because, don't you agree, everything tastes better through a fun straw?

The centerpieces were simple and easy... more mason jars filled with corn kernels, a tealight sitting pretty in the center. My favorite part was when it got dark and we were still chatting by the soft flow.
And you remember the salsa, right? Four bowls of chips and eight tiny tins lined the table for easy snacking.

Grins, good conversation, and burning oneself on a tiki torch in a mad rush to finish it all... worth it every time!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's in your garden?

One thing is for sure, I was not blessed with a green thumb. But luckily, I have been blessed with people in my lives who simply look at plants and they grow. I am extra lucky because a dear friend of mine plants a garden in my very own backyard and I get to reap the benefits. This summer it was such a treat to head out and find some fresh veggies to fix for dinner. But perhaps my favorite thing to do is to head out to the garden and cut fresh flowers to share or put around my house. Fresh flowers really add that special touch! I like to try to be creative with the containers I put my flowers in and one of my favorites have become these guys...

Yep, those are Parmesan cheese shakers. I found these at my local dollar store and thought they would be perfect for a flower arrangement. The thing I love about them is the lid. With the premade holes, you can make a perfect and full arrangement without having to think about it too hard.

So, I trekked up to the garden to see what was still in bloom and this is what I found!

After doing a little trimming, well ok a lot of trimming, what I came up with were some great arrangements to add a little splash of color to my house. This took me about 5 minutes to create and the time was well worth it! I love seeing the fresh flowers displayed around the house.

So get creative and come up with some new ideas for your flower arranging. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

The Special

My husband and I lead a free coffee house and bible study on Wednesday nights for the students at the local college. I've kinda taken over the coffee house portion of the ministry as the coffee lady while one of our student leaders mans the snack area. We offer sodas, Hot Chocolate, Coffee and Chai, but for years, "The Special" has been the most popular beverage of choice. It's a little coffee and a lot of other stuff and it looks a little something like this...

Yes, that's a Kit Kat placed ever so gently into the whipped cream :) The great thing about "The Special" is that it's unique every single time I make it. There's a standard set of ingredients and it's probably pretty close each time. Each student likes it a little different so I'm able to tweak it a little here and there to make it specific to them.

If you're like me you need, I mean, would like to have coffee every day of the year. Maybe you're an occassional coffee drinker. As we ease into the fall months, it's a great time of year for warm toasty beverages, so I thought I'd share the recipe for this yummy creation.

DISCLAIMER: I NEVER MEASURE ANYTHING for this drink. I've come up with the best measurements that I can, but you should know that throwing them all out the window and trying your own thing will probably result in the best possible drink for you personally!

1 heaping scoop of Hot Chocolate (I think the spoon I use is a tablespoon.)
2 teaspoons powder creamer
2 teaspoons sugar
3 pumps French Vanilla liquid creamer (or 3 small tubs)
Whipped Cream
Chocolate Syrup
Candy of your choice

Put the dry ingredients in a standard size to-go coffee cup.
Add coffee to about 2 inches from the top of the cup.
Add liquid creamer.
Mix well.
Add whipped cream until your heart's content.
Top with a drizzle of choclate syrup.
Add some candy on the can use the Kit Kat, a candy cane, Twix bar or whatever you want!

These kids come drooling up to the counter every Wednesday night talking of dreams about this drink and they swear I put some kind of illegal substance in it to keep them coming back for me...but I think that's just the caffiene talking! It's been said that this little mocha flavored creation is better than be the judge!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

While the Gettin's Good

With the garden winding down and comfort food calling, I thought maybe we could stand some inspiration for using up the last of the harvest. The staples, tomatoes and corn, should still be decently priced if you need to shop for them.

Start with a cutting board like this, all finely chopped.
For each recipe I estimate about 7-8 small to medium sized tomatoes, 1-2 medium sized onions, 1-2 green chili peppers (the more seeds you leave in, the spicier), 1-2 medium to large green peppers, and a couple ears of boiled corn with the kernels cut right off the cobs.

Not sure how many of you see salsa as a comfort food?
Did that help? :)

Salsa and chips are just one of my go-tos, especially when it's all fresh and fragrant like this. To the cutting board mixture above add a couple tablespoons lime juice and a can or two of black beans (drained and gently rinsed). Finish it off with garlic, salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro to taste. Grab your favorite tortilla chips and dip away. You can always freeze some for later, should you be one of those self-controlled types.


And now, a quote:

"Sometimes the cold would be oh, so dreary were it not for soup season." ~Unknown

Soup season, indeed! One of my favorite parts of fall and winter. To help us transition over, here's a light little number. To your cutting board goodies add 4-5 cups of beef/vegetable/chicken broth, a can of black beans (drained and gently rinsed), about a pound of ground beef or shredded chicken breasts/store bought rotisserie (optional), a clove or so of garlic, LOTS of spices to taste (salt, pepper, oregano, Italian blend, all purpose seasoning, cumin, etc.), and a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. This is enough for about eight servings... at least two nights of dinners for us!

1. Heat a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the garlic in the bottom of a stock pot.
2. Saute your onion and chili peppers there over medium high heat until soft.
3. Add your tomatoes, corn, beans, and spices. Let cook over medium heat for about five minutes.
4. Add your broth and meat. For a lighter soup, skip the meat. To determine which broth to use, coordinate with your choice. I did a beef soup since my two year kindly dropped, I mean opened, a box of beef broth for us. Let the whole concoction simmer for about twenty minutes or so.
5. Top each bowl full with grated Parmesan cheese, sour cream, and crunched up tortilla chips or just eat as is.

It bears repeating. Mmm...

Enjoy-- before the gettin's gone!
Related Posts with Thumbnails