Stuck Inside? Organize.

Stuck inside? Organize. This winter may bring weather that keeps you inside where it’s snuggly and warm. Once you’re tired of binge watching, it’s a great time to organize. I always like to start with the kitchen.

Pull-out drawer organizers

A few years ago on such a day, I installed pull-out cabinet drawers in two of my kitchen cabinets. It was a great decision! I can get to everything in the back of the cabinets and it makes cooking much more pleasant.

The drawers came pre-assembled and were easy to install. I needed a drill, but nothing more. You can choose from wood, chrome, or plastic in a variety of sizes and configurations. These can make old cabinets feel customized and modern.
drawer

Adding under-shelf storage to open kitchen shelves is another way to both organize and create additional space. If you have glass jars with metal lids available, fasten each lid to the bottom of your shelf with two screws, fill the jars, and then screw them into the lids.

The jars can be uniform or different depending on your style. Filled with colorful contents, they’re sure to add visual interest to any room. With these installed in the kitchen, you can have almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, dried mango, trail mix, granola, coffee, tea, or candy at your fingertips.

Buy larger; store smaller

Jars are also great for storing items inside your cabinets. I buy spices in bags and then transfer small portions into glass spice jars that I place on a stair step organizer in a small cabinet by my stove.

Rather than buying jars, I save glass yogurt jars, jelly jars, pimento jars, pickle jars, etc. This means I have a variety of sizes and shapes to fit specific needs. When I feel like I have enough on hand, I add newly emptied (washed, of course) jars to my donation box.

Reimagine tools

I sometimes pick up display racks from stores that are going out of business and selling the fixtures. I don’t go crazy, but I’ll buy a couple of items here and there and then use them the next time I organize. My plastic lid organizer is a divided acrylic box that came from a defunct bookstore.

Tins that arrive at Christmas can be used to hold tea bags, sweetener packets, yeast packets, yogurt starter, or dried chile peppers. They’re also great for snacks you don’t want the kids to see in the pantry and picnic supplies you don’t use often. Stackability is a great reason to use tins in some spaces.

Somehow I ended up with too many mini loaf pans. Rather than get rid of half of them, I repurposed some to hold cupcake liners, spice bags, cheesecloth, and silicone bands. I’ve also used stoneware crocks in similar ways.

Safe for exploration

My most recent organizing projects have been to baby proof my kitchen for curious grandchildren. I removed cleaning products from the cabinet under the sink and placed a rubber band around the cabinet door knobs. The only other accessible cabinets contain cookware so I didn’t need to add hardware for safety.

There are two low drawers a toddler can reach. I use one for dish towels. I filled the other with measuring cups and spoons, a collapsible colander, a small rolling pin, and other child-safe items. Having a drawer the children are allowed to play in lessens the chance they’ll get into the cookware cabinets when I tell them no.

My two oldest grandchildren have spent hours playing with the items in that drawer. They turn measuring cups into pots for their miniature stove. They grab a variety of cups and stand on a stool at the sink pouring water from one to the other.

KB took each and every item out of that drawer and licked it one day. Of course I had to wash everything afterward, but it entertained him for a long time. Having these items accessible gives me an opportunity to introduce cooking tools and terms to the kids when they’re small. By the time they’re ready to cook, they’ll be familiar with the language and comfortable in the kitchen.

Convenient and efficient

Organization as a tool to improve efficiency makes sense to me. Organization as an end unto itself does not. I embrace the time it takes to make things easier to find and reach. Past that point, organizing feels like a waste of time. In fact, if I end up with too many levels of organization, I can’t remember where I put things.

The good news is, at the end of an organizing day I know where to find the ingredients for a cup of hot chocolate that I can drink when I go back to binge watching!

https://www.containerstore.com/s/kitchen/cabinet-organizers/lynk-chrome-pull-out-cabinet-drawers/12d?productId=10017298

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Kitchen-Kitchen-Storage-Organization-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Organizers-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Drawers/N-5yc1vZci43

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/make-the-kitchen-your-happy-place/

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Travel Tip #20: Use a Travel Agent

Travel Tip #20: If you’re ready to book a much needed vacation, use a travel agent. No, I don’t mean a web based travel search engine, I mean a real person. I know it’s tempting to book everything online. I do it all the time, but if you’re truly needing a break, there are benefits to having a knowledgable professional with good connections handle your travel plans.
travel agent
Planning a trip can be time consuming. If you’re already taxed from long hours, illness, or caregiving, that time can be better used for restorative activities like sleep, walking in the park or on the beach, yoga, or visits with friends. Using a professional will give you access to options you may never have considered. And if you run into a problem during your trip, a travel agent can find a solution while you relax. And that’s the key — relaxing.

Believe it or not, there are still thousands of travel agents in the US. The Bureau of Labor & Statistics listed 81,700 in 2016. Some agencies are available 24 hours per day (just like the internet) and many offer agents who speak foreign languages. A well-matched professional will offer a level of service technology just can’t duplicate.

I’m pretty independent and I don’t enjoy hiring a company that I have to beg to be responsive or do a good job. Because of that, I’m often tempted to just do things myself. I’m not kidding. I’ve cut my own hair, repaired my toilet, sold my house, repaired my washing machine, and other things I don’t know how to do. I suppose my get-it-done determination has some advantages, but it has some drawbacks as well.

Doing it myself can sometimes be the one thing that puts me past the point of exhaustion. It can be the thing that interrupts a project that’s more important. It can be the thing that keeps me from feeling that great feeling of being taken care of. I was recently reminded of that feeling when I hired a childhood friend to sell my cousin’s farm.

I thought it would take months to move that thing. The top part of the 109 acres was rocky and unusable. There’s no road through the property, no fences, and scrub trees have been running amok for a few years. I was very, very wrong. My friend sold it in a week for the price we wanted. Then, she gave me a gift certificate to my favorite store in that town. The whole thing felt great!

Last summer, I wanted to take a week off. I freed up the time, but ended up staying home. Planning a trip was more than I could muster. Did I know I could use a travel agent? Yes, I’ve had wonderful experiences using them before. The thing is, I sometimes make things harder than they could be. It’s not my best habit.

In the past two days, I’ve hired 3 new people to help me while I split my time between work, landlord, and caregiving duties. Next up, a vacation — time to call a travel agent!

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/travel-agent/488282/

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-19-pack-light/

Can Lasting Improvement Stem From Commitment to a Process?

snowCan lasting improvement stem from commitment to a process? We’re swiftly approaching the time we traditionally look back to review our progress of the past year and set goals for the upcoming one. We’re also swiftly approaching the time when we fail to meet those goals and give up on them. Perhaps that’s because we commit to goals in the first place. This year, rather than resolving to meet some goal, perhaps it is better to commit to a process of improvement that can be broken down into easily repeatable steps.

For example, rather than resolving to go to the gym more, commit to dedicating 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week to doing something that raises your heart rate. One day you might walk to a neighborhood restaurant for coffee. One day, you might take race your children in the pool. One day you might take the stairs at the office. One day, you might walk the dog in a hilly neighborhood. You could join a rowing team. Or you might go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, or play basketball with your friends. Whatever you do can be different each day, and it can be part of your daily life. Just make sure it makes you feel good.

After years of buying gym memberships to go to gyms I didn’t like to change in locker rooms I hated in order to share a lane in the pool with someone who ruined my swimming experience, I finally allowed myself to start working out at home. I wish I could say, I finally built a saltwater lap pool in the back yard, but alas I have not progressed that far. After some experimentation with walking, stair climbing, yoga, and weight lifting, I finally landed on a combination of yoga and weight lifting that makes me feel great and want to come back for more. I do 3 days on, alternating lifting and yoga, then a day off, then 3 days on. That means I’m working out 6 days a week. If it happens to turn into 5 days on a specific week, I don’t worry about it because I know I’m stronger than I was last year. My heart resting heart rate has dropped, and any soreness I experience now is from overdoing, not underdoing.

Another example of lasting improvement would be to commit to shopping differently to save money. Rather than denying yourself any new clothes, commit to only buying things that solve a problem. If your feet get wet each time it snows, buying some boots can solve the problem. If your hip hurts every time you wear your current boots, buying new boots may solve the problem. If you already have a couple of pairs of well functioning boots, then say no to the cute pair you want because buying them will not solve a problem. Unless, of course, your problem is that you’re depressed because your well functioning boots are ugly. If that’s the case, then donate the ugly boots before you purchase a new pair. This will slow you down enough to make sure you are making a wise decision.

I started reducing the number of things I own a couple of years ago. I didn’t go crazy. My house is still full, but I reduced the number of things sitting on shelves, the number of books in my bookcase, the amount of clothes in my closet. Now when I buy something new, it’s to solve a problem. And when I buy it, I also get rid of something. It makes me feel better to have fewer things. Too many possessions make me feel weighed down.

Eating healthier can look like a commitment to eating 5 vegetables or fruits each day 5 days per week. This is easily accomplished by adding berries to yogurt or cereal in the morning, having some carrot sticks as a morning snack, eating a side salad for lunch, having an apple in the afternoon, and eating a vegetable at dinner. Done.
food
Eating healthier can also look like a commitment to choosing less packaged food and more fresh food in the supermarket every other week. After a while, your palate will taste the subtle flavors in fresh food and artificial flavoring will become less pleasing leaving you wanting the fresh food you are regularly buying. Choosing fresh food at home may also lead to a change in your restaurant preferences. I find myself staying home for more meals or being very selective about where I eat. Average restaurant food just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m happier with leftover chicken and rice and blackened Brussels sprouts than I am with many restaurant meals.

Reducing stress can look like a commitment to saying no more often. Many of us are stretched too thin trying to please too many people. With some practice, saying no will become easier and easier.

Increasing happiness can look like a commitment to saying yes more often. Some of us say no because we’re afraid to try something new. With practice, you may discover that fun moments can result from stretching your wings a little.

If you take a look at all the commitments we’ve explored, you can see they’re easily sustainable. You’re simply following a process rather than attempting to achieve a specific result. Because of this, there’s no reason to ever feel as though you’ve failed. If you miss a day, you just pick the process back up the next day. Day after day after day of lifting weights and you’ll get stronger. Day after day after day of eating fruits and vegetables will cause your body to respond positively to the nutrients you’re receiving. Day after day after day of purchasing to solve problems will curtail impulse spending and leave you with less problems.

It seems obvious. Sticking with a process can lead to lasting improvement! I think it’s time to get started…

One Pot Can Do a Lot

chicken one pot
I much prefer cooking to doing the dishes so I’m lucky that one pot can do a lot! I don’t mind chopping, slicing, measuring, whisking, stirring, beating, boiling, and baking, but when it comes to washing the dishes, I’d rather not. If you’re like me, cooking dinner can put you at odds with yourself if the preparation generates lots of pots and pans.

Reducing the amount of pot scrubbing required is one of the reasons I love a one pot meal, but it’s not the only one. One pot meals are a good way to make sure the kids get some vegetables on their plates. Hidden in a mountain of rice and cheese, a stray green pea can find its way onto a spoon without inciting protest from the picky eater.

There’s also something comforting about a hearty bite that combines meat, vegetables and a starch. Chicken, rice, and green peas with curry seasoning or ground beef, rice and black beans with taco seasoning is filling and satisfying whether you grab a bowl on the run or sit down and pair it with fruit and a green salad.
green one pot
And of course, the starch doesn’t have to be rice. I use potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, quinoa, and pasta in one pot meals. When the kids were little, I used to call our one pot meals “stuff”. There were many versions of stuff depending on what was in the fridge at any given moment. With corn I might use ground beef, with Polish sausage I’d choose pasta, and with sweet potatoes, we’d enjoy breakfast sausage.

Most often my one pot meals begin by sautéing an onion. Once the onion is clear, I add fresh vegetables or meat if I have leftover vegetables that are already cooked. While I don’t really make a sauce, I sometimes add sour cream, cheese and RO*TEL tomatoes, or cream cheese and season accordingly. Stuff is never exactly the same, but it is always good!

I always use an oversize pot and fill it with a one pot meal. That means leftovers galore. I may not eat them for several meals in a row, but they become my go-to quick meal throughout the week. I can dish some out into a bowl and microwave it for lunch, or put the pot back on the stove and heat it up for family dinner. Having something ready that I can eat when my schedule suddenly changes means I feel confident that I can keep going full speed ahead because I know I have nutritious gluten-free food available at a moment’s notice.
beef one pot
I love making one pot meals because they reduce the amount of pots and pans I have to wash. They make it easy to get the kids to eat more vegetables. They help me clean out the refrigerator. And best of all, they provide hearty, delicious leftovers that are ready with just one minute of microwaving so I always feel confident to go full speed ahead with my crazy, busy schedule.

I’m so grateful that one pot can do a lot!