I've been asked to begin a blog that shows a "how-to" for the things that bring pleasure to my life. So, the intent of this blog is to share recipes, gardening, composting, sewing, crafts, art, everyday projects and even psychology tips to aid in healing wounds and living the life you're meant to live, a life with purpose!
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Friday, February 11, 2011

DEcLuTTeR YoUr MiNd and PaNtrY! Homemaker, Organizing my Pantry. Who knew it would also take the stress and anxiety out of my head?

I am updating this blog today, Aug. 29th because I had told some of my friends who also wanted to organize their kitchens that I would post the finished product once I was done... and then I forgot. Recently I had one ask me about which items did I buy and how is this "declutter of the pantry" holding out today? So, I added several photos newly taken and posted today (Aug. 29). And for the record, it is working out great!
How to Declutter Your Mind and Pantry at the same Time:
I have been on a roll trying to organize the house. It has been very good for me to declutter and let go of some things. I was not a hoarder in the past, but since becoming a widow; it became more difficult to stay organized.  
Even though I happily remarried; I am just now able to get back to a cleaner environment. It is kind of crazy how our homes can reflect the turmoil within our own minds. 
Out with the old clutter, and in with the new clean, open spaces and internal feelings. Open to see a future. So, not only open to once again get organized, but open to allow the fun of a future, the fun of allowing new things in. I think the “stuff” is our way of protecting ourselves. Wanting nothing to change, as if you can trick yourself into thinking all the negative stuff didn’t happen.
I am stating this upfront because I have many widow friends who read this and I want them to know, I understand how hard it is.
Besides working on my own "Grey Matter," like the name of the painting pictured above; today I worked on my pantry:
As you can see in the picture, this is the typical mess after a wk-end of all the kids being here. Yes, how embarassing to show everyone. I try to be real, so this is our "real" mess: 
I began by just trying to see my hardwood floor:
 WaLa... there it is, I knew it was there! The floor!
Here you can see one of my solutions to the trouble:

The basket tier on the right is for Kid Snacks. Before they rarely put them back on the shelf, now they have a place of their own. This tier I found on sale at Hobby Lobby for $13.99, regular price was $39.99! I was thrilled! 
And this is what the 2 teir kid's caddy looks like today (Aug. 29):

Cereal Containers, kid proofed:
Next to the Kid's Snack Basket, are color cordinated tubs for the kids cereals. The cereal boxes were not working, so I went to tubs. They were purchased at Publix. However, because they did not have a spot on the shelve; they never made it to the shelves. Red is for the Kids; blue lids are what I keep my cat food in and they are in the laundry room. But, that is another story and project. ;-)

Here are the cereal containers today:
They still work well. The cardboard boxes usually became bent up, torn and would not close, because the
kids wouldn't take the time to open and close them without tearing the tops, lol.

 Here is a picture of all the spices that I keep on the wall. This is a huge help because we cook a lot and at a glance I can find whatever I need. Here is a close up view of the herbs in jars: 

Here is a second solution for our family. Our crackers and chips did not have a place, so the kids kinda left them wherever... Now in a square basket they will have a place to put all chips and crackers! Our two biggest problems are now solved. It will be a lot easier for them to keep the pantry clean with specific places for their most frequent food items.

Here is the chip and cracker basket today:
It still works really well. All that loose stuff has a place. I use old drug clips that I gained from my drug rep. days. But, you can get some jumbo clips at the grocery store. It helps them stay fresh much longer, because the kids will use the clips. Without the clips they would not even seal the bags, rolled tight and they would get stale after one opening/use. I guess the clips are more fun?

The toaster is kept plugged in on this shelf, it is easy to use for bread and poptarts. The wire basket will keep the instant hot cererals together, Ben likes those. Pancakes are a regular breakfast in our house because the kids love them. The mix sits next to the wire basket. You can see the bags of dried beans, chickpeas and lentils; I have three plastic container's in the dishwasher to hold them. They are retangular and I purchased them today at Publix. Their lids are of the same red shade as the cereal containers. They will then stack a lot better, so I'm not completely done yet.

Here are the plastic containers that I purchased and washed. The pancake mix is on the left in the tall container, with the instructions cut out, sitting in front. Today the beans and nuts look like this:

Here are all the rices, orzo, and risotto.

For the bagged rices, I purchased a few containers. Today the rices look like this:
In the long skinny red lid one, on the far left is my oatmeal. I kept the instructions, note the cardboard in the front. It tells how to make oatmeal, lol. In the shinny metal container, my corn meal is housed. Patrick bought it for me. Lol, I did not have the heart to let him know that round does not fit as well into a small space. But, fyi to you, square is much better for efficient stacking and space saving. ;-)

Here are my most used cooking liquids, within easy and quick reach to use while cooking. ;-)
And here are the liquids that I would use less often, up a little higher. On the very top are appliances and cooking items that I use less often. You can see canning jars that I will use when Summer returns, cookie cutters are on the far left in two large plastic tubs and my bread machine is up there.
In the pantry on the upper right is a large pull out with selves on it and behind it. I like to keep the flour and sugar in tubs, the kids popcorn is here, as well as their favorite syrup, to go with those frequent pancakes.

Flour tubs today, each tub is a different kind of flour because I like to bake. (The wholegrain flour I keep in a container in the freezer to save it from bugs):

Canned Goods:
Behind the henged doors are the canned food, facing out, so that I can see what we have verses what to pick up at the store. I arranged them into their appropriate categories; simply keeping in mind what goes together. Baking supplies as one group, canned soups as another, all kinds of pasta are together, canned fruit and etc.

I also purchased containers to hold all my various pastas:
These are so much easier to stack than the loose bags they come in --from the grocery store:

Making use of the door into the pantry:
Small items like various liquid extracts and Pam cooking spray are housed on the top shelving unit. I have to many pan lids, I know. And I have just as many pans to go with each lid. I said earlier that I am not a hoarder, however, the exception may be in my cooking supplies. Baby steps... ;-) The lids are on pan lid racks, three in total are hung on the door. And a key chain holder that I use for my older kids stray keys. Right now they hold fun chilly peppers. ;-D
A close up of the top shelf:

Today's pics of the pantry:
 I know some of my friends were skeptical if it would all stay organized. It does because the kids have a place for everything, making it easy to put it back into the right place.

Ahh, now that feels better. A clean pantry!
Now to tell the kids!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning and Springtime Yard and Garden work Tackled, and on a Budget Too! Homemaker

How to tackle spring cleaning and keep the costs of spring maintenance down?

Besides spring flowers popping their little green heads out of the cold ground; cleaning out clutter from our homes can bring an “Out with the old to bring in the new” feeling. If you are ready for it, but are over-whelmed, take baby steps by tackling one task at a time. The best way to not feel over-whelmed is to enlist the families help. Hey, they made the finger-prints, dirty floors, messy cabinets and sticky "what-ever" too! Split up chores and rooms one week ahead of the "spring-clean day," so they understand the expectation. 
I just loved this pic, because the pride on her face! I found it by simply Google searching: Kids Cleaning House; there were so many adorable images of happy kids cleaning on the internet! ~Want to smile today? Try the search yourself!~ A fellow blogger: Su Soutter's picture. ;-) She obviously believes in kids cleaning too!
This family clean day can be fun, but it must be understood, the job isn't done until you inspect it to your standard of clean. Assigning rooms, or tasks, will ensure the "laziest child" doesn't get off easy by "farting around," while the hard working kids get their part done, to now have to pick up their siblings share. The positives of your kids learning valuable tools for their lives: work ethic and team work are must-have lifelong habits! Additionally, the pride they will feel knowing they were a major part of  

 Image: http://pplump.blogspot.in

something; realizing they were useful to the family, they will feel proud of themselves. Although, you may not hear them vocalize it, just pay attention and watch them enjoy their new sparkling digs... ;0)    
 I started with my desk and am now working on my file cabinets. One room at a time, otherwise, a little bit in each room will not get the job done and will frustrate you. So, if your kitchen is the main room you want to see clean, start there! Wash the dishes, appliances, counters, cabinets, walls, floors, and if you're really adventurous: inside the refrigerator, cabinets, pantries and shelves! With one room sparkling, you'll feel more likely to do more! Onward to the next room! By the way, Once the task lists are completed, pizza delivered is the best dinner to reward kids; let them make the call and pick the toppings! And, you needn't mess up your newly clean kitchen!
How do we begin to do the spring season work on a budget?  
Team up with your neighbors if you need to have any lawn work done. Tree trimmers and grass aerating gardeners will charge less to come to the neighborhood on one trip instead of two. 
Share the cost of rental equipment too. If you are a do it yourselfer, coordinate with your neighbors and share the rent on an aerator, rototiller, or any heavy machinery. Share in the cost of supplies as well. Supplies can be grass seed to a pile of dirt, or a river rock delivery!
Just the sight of new bulbs excites me into cleaning. In with the new means out with the old.
One delivery is cheaper than two, because you are charged extra to drive to your home. And in items like grass seed, do you really need that big bag to do the job? If not, split the cost with a neighbor who needs to seed their lawn too.
Donate, Sale, or Throw out items. For items that are large like furniture, Craig’s List, EBay (although EBay charges to list an item) can aid you in selling your unwanted goods. The money may come in handy for that new tree you want to plant.
Freecyle, Gigoit.org, Goodwill, and Salvation Army will be eager to take the items because there are many people who could happily use them! Salvation Army will even come to your home and pick them up. Just call and schedule the pick-up. There are also various foundations, like the Kidney Foundation that will come for a pick-up too; I've even donated vehicles to them!
Usually you will receive a statement to use for tax purposes, because donations are tax deductible. If the service does not offer it, ask them for the slip. Come tax time you will be glad you did.
Another method that a friend of mine tried, you can give a go: She picked up every nic nac, and boxed it up, so that her home was bare. Her intent was to only return a few items back into the home. However, she found she loved the free feeling of open, with no cluttered spaces, so she decided to live that way for awhile. I can relate, like in the picture below, while moving into a new home, everything was boxed up and placed into storage-- I noticed the uncluttering of my head by simply being surrounded by the open space of no clutter!  

 Once your home is free of clutter, sigh…  You can begin cleaning.

 Another money saving, eco-friendly tip: Save money by using items found in your kitchen; try using Lemons, Baking Soda, and Vinegar in your cleaning. Your wallet will like this tip too. You can simply use a lemon by itself, or if you'd like actual recipes to make cleaning supplies, click on the link below. Note: Most Essential oils can be added to these recipes too; simply add 7-12 drops of lemon, orange, linen, or etc. 
Homemade cleaning supplies are earth friendly as well as budget friendly. Check out another article I wrote on this blog for many homemade cleaning supplies: http://lisakramerartlifestyle.blogspot.com/2011/01/clean-your-house-w-household-items.html.

Now kick back and enjoy your clean clutter-free home! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken N Dumpling’s: Recipe

I will tell you, the secret to my comfort soup is all in the stock!
Chicken N Dumpling’s is a well known comfort food. Recently I had a friend ask me to make it for her, like she does whenever she is sick and I had requests for the recipe, so here it is:

One cheap whole chicken
3 Lg roughly chopped carrots
3 roughly chopped celery sticks
3 Lg roughly chopped onions
2 Leeks, washed well (can have sand in grn part), roughly chopped
4 smashed whole garlic cloves 
1 tsp Blk pepper
1 1/2Tbl Sage
1 Tbl Thyme
2 tsp Poultry Seasoning
3 Bay Leaves
48 oz. Can of Chicken Broth (if not salt-free, don’t add salt until the end of cooking to do it by taste)
More Ingredients for second phase of cooking:
3 lg Skinless Chicken Breasts
12 Skinless Chicken Thighs (w or w/o bone)
Two Lg carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, or I use the very center Heart of the celery that looks yellowish w it’s leaves and all, chopped
Two Lg onions, chopped
One Leek, washed well and chopped
Dumplings (see bottom of this post for recipe) 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Throw top eleven ingredients into a very large stock-pot on the stove-top. Pour water into pot just until the whole chicken is covered w liquid. Put lid on pot and bring to a boil; turn down to simmer and cook for 2-4 hours.
3. Meanwhile, salt and pepper chicken thighs and breasts. Put on a grill drip pan and roast on 450 degrees until done (about 40 min’s). 
4. While chicken cooks, prep your new vegetables by cutting into the size you desire in your soup.
5. Once chicken in the oven is done, take out to cool or use cooking gloves and cut up into bite size pieces, set aside.

6. Pour the drippings that were caught into an oil separator measuring cup (the fat goes to the top), the spout is at the bottom to only get the good drippings, leaving the fat on top to discard. Once the fat has separated, pour the good drippings into the stock pot w the stock-broth, discard the top fat. Or if you choose the freezer method bc you do not have a grease separator: pour the drippings and fat into a glass measuring cup and put it into the freezer, after the fat has separated and moved to the top, use a turkey baster to suck off the top liquid layer of fat and discard. Then add only the good drippings to the stock pot.

7. Take the stock-pot off the stove and ladle some of the stock into a colander over a very large bowl. You are separating the tasteless over-cooked chicken and vegetables from the very tasty stock. The chicken and vegetable flavors are now in the broth. Return stained broth to the stock pot and discard the over-cooked mixture.
8. Put the newly cut up vegetables into the stock-pot w the stock-broth, return lid to pan, and cook until the vegetables are almost done (don’t over-cook them and make them mushy).
9. Once you think the vegetables are about done, turn up the heat to get your broth boiling, then turn heat back to a simmer and add/drop your dumplings into the hot broth, it does not take long to cook the dumplings. Note* My dumplings are floured to keep my broth more like soup, however, if you want a thicker broth, add more flour by really heavily drenching your dumplings in floor at this stage. You can also lightly sprinkle it in careful to stir and not cause lumps.
10. Add the cut-up Chicken Breasts and Thighs to the stock pot and warm the meat up.
11.Taste, add salt according to your families taste. Note, remember if you used salt-free chicken broth. If you did not, there will be a lot of salt in the broth, so add sparingly and to taste. Serve.
Note: For Dumplings:
Use 2 cans of refrigerator biscuits (from the grocery for a short cut), tear them into thirds and flour them or the following recipe:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter (You can use shortening instead)
1 cup buttermilk

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, mixing well.

2. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or a large fork (pastry makers mix in the shortening using their hands - if you want to try, dip your hands in ice cold water for a minute, then dry your hands first; it's important not to melt the butter.)
3. Add cold buttermilk, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not over mix - about 2 minutes total). You may need to add a small amount of buttermilk or flour to adjust the consistency of the dough due to flour storage conditions or humidity in the environment. Add liquid if the dough is very dry and crumbly after it has been mixed; add flour if the dough is very sticky.
4. Roll dough out on a work surface which has been lightly sprinkled w flour to prevent sticking. Roll dough out.

5. Cut into rounds like biscuits. Tear round into a third and dip into flour.