Saturday, February 26, 2011

Organization Challenge: Week 8?

Well it looks like it has been 8 weeks since the start of the new year. As stated previously I am a bit behind on the challenge because of the whole baby thing. *Who just learned how to smile this week!* So I am trying to catch up. I have made a bit of progress actually on catching up and was able to do 2 projects on my list this week.

On Saturday my parents took Big and Middle Little and kept them until Sunday. Dad, Little Little and I went to Menards (a home improvement store) to look for some supplies. I had gone there before Christmas and purchased some items that had rebates on them. At their store the rebates are given in store credit checks, so I could only go there to use the money. No big deal since I was buying the stuff anyways, it just made for an incentive to go there. Anyways, we did not have a set plan on what we were getting and since it had been quite a while since we have both been in public together we kinda got off track. Lets just say we were very distracted by the large store and spent a few hours looking at all the stuff we could get and left with very little. We did get an under the bed storage tote (on wheels!) for the baby blankets I have.
(Note to all potential mothers/fathers when and if you have a baby shower wait until ALL items are received before you open and wash them. Baby blankets were a hot item at my showers and I have children who are not fond of blankets. I have have over 30 receiving blankets. I put them in the tote and will be making quilting squares out of them to make 4 large quilts (one for each bed). The fabric is cute and it will be something the Littles can take with them when they get out leave our home.)

We also picked up 2 upright laundry baskets since they take up less space and are easier to lug two around when I have to take it down stairs - who are we kidding Dad does all the laundry at our house. Lastly I picked up a canvas drop cloth. This was not because we were painting. Nope it was so I could make a canvas covered box out of a diaper box. Wanna know how? Check this out! So easy to do. It could work on any heavy box, not just a diaper one.

The plan was to complete many projects that are just too darn hard when Big and Middle want to help. Big has a thing with pealing stickers off from everything and when you are trying to place a label on something that just does not work. That was the PLAN but me and plans are not always the best of friends. After spending a few hours at the store and watching TV without someone crawling on us we soon saw our day slip away. I had to do something though. Something needed to be crossed off that list. That wonderful list of projects I made. 52 projects to be exact. So I put my little helper in his swing and sat on the floor staring at the pantry cupboard.
Everything just thrown in there. I couldn't get the door to stay shut.

Little Little supervising. 
Just like I did with the spice cabinet I cleared everything out and put items into groups. Not a whole lot was no needed, a few can goods that I bought thinking they were something else (those went to a local food drive). Everything just basically needed to be straightened and put with it's proper group. It is a deep cupboard and I very much envy those of you who have a real pantry. This is what I was given in this house and I need to find a way to make it work. Once again I have a "to be completed at a later date" because I don't have the time to get it done 100% the way I would like. I want to build drawers so I can see what is lurking behind the tall bins of flour and oatmeal. For now I have to be satisfied the pasta is with the pasta and the baking supplies are all grouped together.
Amazing what a little grouping of "like" items can do.

Another thing that has been bothering me is mail/paper clutter. In our house paper clutter comes in mostly by way of the mail box. We also have a special needs child so we get notes home from preschool and doctors visits periodically. Most of it gets read and placed where ever we can keep it out of reach of the children. It could be the kitchen counter, bookcase, mantel, kitchen table, and my personal favorite place to stash paper clutter, a messenger bag. When a bill is about to be due it is a mad scramble for about 30 minutes to find said paperwork and envelope. Then even longer to find checkbook and stamps. A few times we had to go straight to the bank on the day the house bill was due because I couldn't find the bill.

I have seen people making household notebooks for a few months. Actually it was Life as Mom talking about her household notebook that brought me to I am an organizing junkie where the challenge was put forth. I tried to make a notebook last year but found much of the suggested items not fitting with my family. We are a young family who live in the computer era. I live a little less with technology than Dad does, considering that is his livelihood, but I do love my smart phone. I use apps for almost everything I could use a page for in a notebook. I did, however, take the idea to organize our incoming papers. We keep a notebook in a place that is easy to access (although I will admit it hasn't found a permanent home) so when those papers come in they have a home.

I took the binder I was sent home from the hospital with (I already had 2 but they insisted I take it) and used the tab pages to make my own pocket folders. It was very simple with spray adhesive and thick card stock.

Here are my pages:
Mail Me - Items that need to go out in the mail that day.
Sign Me - Bills that need to be signed and other paperwork that needs a signature (think school permissions)
File Me - Items that need to be placed in a file just in case.
Document Me - If it just needs to be noted but not kept. Kids check-up info, notes from school, etc
Scan Me - If we just need to have a computer file of it and not a hard copy. We do this with our bills and kids art projects.
Destroy Me - Those pesky credit card offers and other things that need to meet the shredder.
A visual for the ones out there who are like me.

Also added a pocket for pens, checkbook, stamps, envelopes and address labels.

So that was my week of the road to recovery organizing. How did you do? Any struggles? Check out 52 Week challenge for more inspiration or information about how you can get going on your own journey. It is never to late to start but if you need a reason or season, Spring is right around the corner and you can use it as a way to give rebirth to your home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why did I buy box cake mixes all these years?!?

This week I set out to do some testing of recipes I ripped out of magazines, printed off from a website, or were given to me in some other way. Those recipes were placed in a folder, thrown in a box, strew about my house like I was trying to wallpaper with them or something. Yeah it was not a pretty picture. It was also a waste of resources, something I am trying to get a better handle on this year. So I pulled out 3 recipes I had most if not all the ingredients for to try and see if I should keep them or send them to the big brown bin (our recycling bin is brown). The easiest to try without a second adult to control the Littles was a carrot cake. Our family LOVES carrot cake so it seemed like a perfect match. Plus I found some baby carrots I bought two weeks ago in the back of the fridge. I ripped out the recipe from the All You magazine but since it was torn out who knows when I can't give you the issue date or anything. The cake turned out great (and in one day was gone) and made me realize I will never buy a box cake mix again. The cake was so wonderful and with much more carrots than you would find from whatever brand you choose at the store. Plus I know what was in the cake. True that doesn't make it less calories but darn it there has to be something said for knowing and pronouncing all the ingredients in your cooking. If you are interested in trying it yourself I can tell you that you won't be disappointed.

Classic Carrot Layer Cake
Prep:20 Minutes
Bake:45 Minutes
Cool: 2 Hours <--- this is what they say. I tossed mine in the fridge and cut it down by an hour with no issues.
Serves: 12 (Normal cake slices. We slice ours HUGE. It is a tad on the rich side though and those big slices were hard to finish)

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (I buy my butter milk and freeze it since I only cook with it. Just have to stir it when you thaw it out)
3 large eggs
3 cups of shredded carrots (I placed mine in the food processor and hit puree. I did NOT wait for it to get liquidfied just nice small chunks. If you feel like you could shred them on a grater but I don't have the patience for that kind of work.)

8oz cream cheese, at room temp
5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temp
2/3 cup of packed dark brown sugar (it calls for dark but I used light and it turned out just fine)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 cups of powder sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 8- inch round cake pans. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk sugar, oil, buttermilk and eggs. Pour oil mixture into flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened. *it will be thick* Fold in carrots.

2. Scrape batter into cake pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes then invert cakes onto rack to cool completely. (This is where I put them in the fridge to speed up the process)

3. Make frosting: In a bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add powder sugar and salt and beat on low speed until smooth and spreadable. *note. I did not follow these directions and put it all in the bowl and tried to mix it. While it did work to be a nice frosting, when spreading it I found some chunks of cream cheese that did not get blended well. Not a big deal to the taste overall just didn't look so great.

4. Place on cake layer on a serving plate, spoon about 1 cup of frosting into the center and spread with a knife. Place second layer on top and spread remaining frosting on top and sides.

Trust me you will never make it from a box again!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I should be doing

What I should be doing is picking up the toys and vacuuming the living room.
What I should be doing is folding the laundry and putting it all away.
What I should be doing is the dishes - unloading and then reloading the dishwasher.
What I should be doing is cleaning the bathroom - top to bottom.
The list could go on.
What I AM doing is sitting on the computer wasting my time looking at blogs and facebook. I am ignoring that pile of dishes and basket full of laundry. The Littles are all sleeping for the moment and I am enjoying the peace and quiet for a moment. I would feel a little guilty about this after Big and even Middle Little were born but now that Little Little is here I take pride in the fact that they were dressed and I was showered. That everyone was fed 3 meals and some snacks. Big Little made it to and from school with no notes about him pushing a kid (I haven't had those notes ever BTW). If I get anything more than that done in a day consider it a bonus.

I am enjoying seeing Little Little make his first "not gas" smiles. Middle Little learning to communicate with small syllables and pointing. Big Little out of the blue picking up all his toys and putting them away (yeah he did that today. I said we will be eating lunch in 10 minutes and he started picking up all his toys with no one asking him to. So impressed). I am enjoying making small treats for my family, 100% from scratch carrot cake, Dad's favorite.

So take some time to look around you and ignore the TO-DO list for a night. It will still be there in the morning but you will have taken the time to enjoy what you have. 10 years from now you will not remember the night the dishes weren't done but you will remember when you learned your 3 year old can clean up without being asked.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Planning for 2-21

Good Monday morning - and in my little land it is a cold snowy one at that. Hey wasn't their a rodent that said this should all be gone soon? I am pretty sure he just phoned it in this year since there was no way he could have got out of his little hole with all the snow. I say it was a taped piece. Yeah, Groundhog conspiracy I say!

Man I can really get worked up when the Littles have have all banded together and decided 5:30am is the new wake up time. Well lets talk about what we are eating this week. In an effort to use up what we have before we get more it is a bit more of the hodge podge mess you saw last week. I do have 3 new things to bring into the test kitchen and one new snack that made it's way onto the menu after a snafu testing something last night (an explanation will follow soon).

Here is the daily breakdown -
Breakfast - Scrabbled Eggs Apples
      Lunch - "Hot Pocket" sandwiches (from the test kitchen last week and I am working on getting these recipes up soon)
     Dinner - Leftover Pizza (from Jet's, so greasy and bad for you but it is a treat from time to time)

Breakfast - Homemade Frozen French Toast Sticks (I make them with my own homemade bread)
Lunch - Leftovers or Sandwiches
Dinner - Chili over noodles <--- the reason for the noodles is I used spaghetti sauce as my tomato base and it really needs the pasta to help with the flavor. It is not a recipe that can be eaten alone as chili. I froze the chili around Christmas when I was making these Chili in a Jar for gifts

Breakfast - Yogurt 
Lunch - Leftovers or Sandwiches
Dinner - Chicken Parmesan from the freezer Instant Alfredo noodles sneaking in some puree peas

Breakfast  - Homemade Frozen French Toast Sticks  Oranges
 Lunch - Leftovers or Sandwiches
Dinner - Pot Roast mash potatoes from the freezer  frozen mixed veggies

Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs  Apples
  Lunch - Sandwiches
  Dinner - Fajitas for Mom and Dad. Quesadillas for the Littles because they are the same thing  as ours just in an easier to eat form. Spanish Rice Black Beans

Breakfast - Breakfast Bake (working on the recipe to share
Lunch - Test Kitchen Bean Veggie Burgers or Sandwich as a fall back
Dinner - Chicken Chunks mash potatoes from the freezer mixed veggies

BreakfastClone of Cinnabon
 Lunch - Leftovers or takeout
 Dinner - Pulled Roast Beef Sandwiches Potato Wedges from the freezer Broccoli

Snacks -When you have toddlers, opinionated little people, you can't just say this is your snack eat it. Well you could, but in my house it will be thrown to the floor is they didn't think that sounded good that day. In order to let them have some independence about what they are eating I let them choose from some snacks we have on hand. I do not let them choose main meals because I am not a short order cook, they eat what we eat although it may be in a easier to eat form.

It is Big Little's snack day today so he is taking in some store bought animal crackers. We also have hard pretzels, string cheese, grapes and the accidental crackers that were made last night in the test kitchen. A post to follow of how that happened.

So this week I am working on getting Test Kitchen tab with some of the recipes we have tried and succeed with. The test kitchen is just that, I am testing 2 or 3 recipes to see if our family will like them. This week IN the test kitchen is going to be Black Bean Veggie Burgers, Homemade Soft Pretzels and 100% Scratch Carrot Cake. We will be testing them for taste and if they stand up to being placed in the freezer to be eaten at a later date. I will be explaining my Test Kitchen process in the tab/page when I create it so please check back if this interests you.

And since I don't have a picture of any meals this week (I like blogs with pictures) I will leave you with all three Littles during a mommy photo shoot. Why I think I will get all 3 of them looking in one direction is beyond me. All the Sears Photography training was wasted on me.
Middle Little and Little Little ready for the picture. Big Little had an important phone call he needed to take.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 1 through 6: Changing Plans

I started the year in the hospital. It was not suppose to be that way but things were not documented properly and the date of my c-section for Little Little was moved from December 30th to January 3rd. I cried and screamed and was so very upset about the change in plans. I hate that I get so worked up when plans change but I have always been that way. Looking at it objectively I feel like a fool for acting the way I did and always do. Everything works out fine, Big and Medium Little were fine, Dad was able to be there for the birth and visit at least once a day.

I have to take this new project and rework it so I can get some order in my life. The project I speak of is the 52 Organization project over at I'm an Organizing Junkie. I have all 52 projects written out and because I was starting later than most people (you know a newborn will do that to ya) I was panicking to get caught up.

Well two things happened in my need to do what others were doing. First I created more work for myself because the 5 projects I had written first were very difficult to complete with the Littles running around. I tried doing them after the kids had gone to bed but that left me so darn tired I didn't want to continue. I got discouraged and kept putting it off. Second I felt like a failure for not getting those things done I couldn't see what I could do in 20, 15 even 10 minutes and start getting things crossed off.

Today I decided to change some plans. No kicking and screaming, just going forward and start crossing things off that list. As soon as I got Big Little on the bus, Medium Little down for a nap and Little Little fed and placed in his swing I set to work on the spice cabinet.

Oh what a mess! I had things in there that were donated by others who were cleaning out their cabinets (why do I take peoples things that they don't want!?), things that we had and made us sick (yeah Sesame Oil does not agree with our family) and things I had for recipes that we did not like. I also had two jars of baking powder and two boxes of baking soda opened and half used. Not to mention a box of Nestle Quick that had maybe half a teaspoon left of powder in it. I blame that one on the hormones since chocolate milk was my craving item with Little Little.

I cleared everything out of the cupboard to see what I had and didn't need.
Pulled the trash can right up to the counter and if it was something I know we haven't used in the past year, was pretty much empty or made us sick (that sesame oil) it went in the trash. I figured this would keep me from second guessing myself and thinking I would use it and store it for another 4 years. Spices are hard for me to let go because I could see the price tag on some of those items and $4 is a lot for such a small item. Alas if it won't get used what does it matter if it was $400 or .04, it is wasting space and needs to go.

I placed spices I use, but not daily, in the back. The daily ones were in the front and I filled the counter spice rack up with the extra bottles I had. All the baking items (powder, soda, extracts and coco) were grouped together on the second shelf. I also put more commonly used items in the front and placed soup bases in the back. On the third shelf I placed a container I had just collecting random stuff on the counter and used it for sprinkles and food coloring. Since this shelf is so high up (and I am only 5 foot ) I put items that I only use for special occasions (like cookie, cake and cupcake decorating).

I want to make a list of what is in the cupboard, place it in a page protector, and tape it on the inside of the door. That way I don't end up with 5 chili powders (yeah that happened) or start a recipe only to have to frantically have Dad run to the store, then come home, then run back because I accidentally said soda and needed powder (yeah that happened too. He came back with 3 baking powders and 3 baking sodas so he didn't have to go out a third time). For now I am happy with my clean cupboard and will get to the list over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Something new

Today I am working in the kitchen while the 2 Littles are taking naps and the Big Little is off at school. If my kitchen was remotely clean enough that I would be ok showing it on the internet I would show you each step but I have 3 little ones under foot at all times so flour is thrown everywhere and measuring cups are strewn about with no disregard for their well being.

What I am making is a combination of two recipes. I am horrible at making dough from scratch. Who knows what I am doing wrong and I have given up trying to figure it out. That is why I depend on my bread maker almost as much as I depend on my mom (and I call her at least once a week just to chat, much more if I have a problem). I found a pizza dough recipe that I have made many times and it works great. I add some garlic powder and parsley to give it a kick, just raid your spice cabinet if you are feeling adventurous.

The other part is this homemade hot pocket.

Photo Source

I am trying to use my above pizza dough instead of the dough they make, because as stated before I make paste more than dough. I also am using the leftover meat pasta sauce from last nights dinner as a filling, some mozzarella cheese, peperoni and bacon (we LOVE meat pizzas). The test will be if they hold up to the freezer for lunches. If they do then HALLELUJAH! we can start the filling trials.

So here I go back to the kitchen before someone wakes up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Meal Plan - OH and it is a holiday!

What a day.... already. This is why I am happy to have a freezer full of meals so I don't have to scramble with 2 toddlers screaming at the kitchen door and an infant crying to get fed as well. The boys started getting up at 4am and as soon as I had one back asleep someone else was crying and wanting to get up. I know I shouldn't wish for these days to go away since they grow up so fast, but today was a day where I just wish someone could express themselves in another way than screaming and caring on. 

Anyways.... for my Valentines I made these clone of cinnabon cinnamon rolls for their special breakfast. I put the dough together last night (up until 11pm and had I known what my morning would have looked like I might not have stayed up that late) and sliced them into 12 large rolls. Wrapped with plastic wrap and placed in the fridge to pop in the oven this morning. I sent my husband to work with 6 of them and we ate a few this morning and have some saved for treats tonight. The plan was to make homemade ravioli but there was no way I could being as tired as I was so the plan was changed to just plan ol' spaghetti, made by wonderful Daddy.

Here is the rest of the week...

Monday - Breakfast - Cinnamon Rolls
                Lunch     -  Sandwiches
                Dinner    - Spaghetti

Tuesday - Breakfast - Yogurt and Oatmeal
                Lunch - Leftovers or Sandwiches
                Dinner-Chicken Strips (from a bag, need to use them up)
                             mash potatoes from the freezer                                  

Wednesday  Breakfast - French Toast Sticks from the freezer
                    Lunch   Leftovers or Sandwiches
                    Dinner- Shepherds Pie from the freezer

Thursday  Breakfast - Scrambled Eggs and Fruit
                Lunch - Leftovers or Sandwiches
                Dinner- Fajitas from the freezer

Friday      Breakfast - Yogurt and Oatmeal
                Lunch - Sandwiches
                Dinner- Chicken Rice Wraps from the freezer

Saturday and Sunday- Big and Medium Little will be at Grandma and Grandpa's so YIPPIE - Mom and Dad can go out to eat - The insanity of it all has our fridge plastered with coupons to a whole bunch of places so we can choose on those days!

It is alot of hodge podge this week because I am trying to use up the food before I spend another weekend of cooking to fill it back up again. I have a few chicken dishes to try and of course some sweets. In March Dad will start working first shift for a month so I will have someone who can chase kids in the evening. It makes it easier to try new recipes (but I always have that loaf of bread and peanut butter in case they fail).

Friday, February 11, 2011


Ah yes 3 of a kind is a full house. That describes our life as a family of 5 with 3 of the members being little boys. We have Mom, Dad, Big Little (who will be 3 in April), Medium Little (who just turned one in the beginning of January) and Little Little (who was just born a few days before Medium Little turned one). We are all living in a 2 bedroom home that was not set up to handle more than 3. We make it work but this blog is mostly going to be about our journey to make it work better.

 So how will we try to do that? 

We will post about our organizing projects to make our life more streamline. Mom is also into crafting and plans on making things that will serve a purpose and maybe a few that just look cute. Dad likes to earn money on many of the point sites like Mypoints and Swagbucks and he has tricks to share if I can pull him away from watching the videos for points. We have many interests, guessing because Mom was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 16 and if you met Dad you would say he also has the letters. We love to share those interests and thought this was the best way. Expect to see a post about everything from food to furniture making at some point.

Why a blog?

Really why not a blog.  To be honest if you look online in 2011 EVERYONE has a blog. They are just so easy to create that I think they may just replace every ones Facebook profiles. Since there are so many blogs out there, people have access to share and get ideas in a way that can be time consuming (or time wasting as usually the case around here). This is just another way for our family to share what we found to be cool and maybe you would want to try.

Now remember we have 3 under 3 so it may take some time to get this up and running so check back often. We are really happy you stopped by.