Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christmas Organizing

There are only 88 days until Christmas!!  This thought may induce panic, nostalgia, joy, or dread.  For me it's joy.  I love Christmas.  I love decorating, snowy days, wrapping presents and picking a present I think is perfect for someone I love.

I used to dread Christmas -- the fuss, the bills, the planning--but then I found a way to make all that easier. 

I started what I call my Christmas box.  In it I have the cards I received from the year before, thank you's, stamps, extra envelopes, a few gift cards in envelopes, a pen and a book to take notes in.   The box I picked is attractive so when I have it out all season it is pretty as well as functional.

The book I keep in my box is a blank hard backed book and it helps me to stay organized and have a record to look back on in following years.  I put tabs along the side to earmark the year.  The first pages under each year are a record of all the presents I purchase and the prices I paid for the items.  This way I have a budget for the following year and I can keep from duplicating gifts.  I can divide the total by number of paychecks in the year and save a certain amount each month.  By Christmas time I can pay for the items I want and don't have to dread the January bills! 

On the next pages I write out a list of individuals I send Christmas cards to.  This way I remember all my friends and I know how many cards to purchase for the present year.  I go through all the cards I received the previous year to again enjoy any messages I received. 

I display my cards in various ways but the most recent is to hang them in my living room from a ribboned streamer.  This way I can enjoy them and think of all my loved ones through the season. 

It's never too early or too late to start planning for Christmas.  Happy Holidays Friends!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pantry Redo...Finding more space

Although I love the size of my kitchen, my pantry really leaves a lot to be desired.  Tiny and cramped, I'm always piling things in front of other items I need and soon it becomes a jumbled mess.  Tired of trying to find my supplies to cook with, I recently decided to carve out another space to add to my storage capability. 

My pantry in the kitchen;

Looking through my back closet, right off my kitchen-- I realized that half the closet should be ample space to hang coats for just two adults.  Unfortunately, one of those adults are consumed by coat mania, so an intervention needed to be performed before I could move on with my organizing.  After Geo intervened I cut back my collection and put some coats in the goodwill pile. 

Before the redo--


I added a shelving unit that I already owned, placed a tray and boards across the metal wiring and viola --  Extra pantry. 


I decided this would be a great time to go through all my dry goods and cans and use up whatever was old.  (I did use some of the expired items.  My father, who grew up in a time where you waste nothing,  insists the dates on cans are only put there to make you throw everything out and buy more.)

Being the decanting Queen, I put everything I could in pretty containers that I have been collecting for quite some time.  No need to do it all at once.  Every time I visit The Container Store I have a list of items I would like to decant next. 


I know these aren't revolutionary ideas but I hope it inspires you to try new ways to organize, making your spaces into someplace where you want to spend time.  After all, we all have to make dinner sometime.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Books, Books, Books Part Two

As promised, this blog is about some of my favorite male authors.  The first author is from one of my favorite genres--mysteries.  Many of you have probably read the books of Dick Francis.  My mother introduced me to his books years ago.  Unlike the other mysteries I have read these are set in the horse racing world.  It's not a world I saw myself being drawn in to but surprisingly I love all the details about the races, the horses and the other aspects of racing life.  I started with his book Banker but another more recent book that is a good first read is To The Hilt. 


A softer, gentler mystery series is Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  I found it difficult to get through the first half of the book but then really loved it thereafter.  Once you get used to the voice of the narrative and cadence of the writing you will be hooked.  This set was made into a TV series so you might not be new to the name but if you haven't read these, give them a try.  The common sense and morality in this series is something the world could use more of. 


I never thought to find a book about the Civil War riveting, so I was pleasantly surprised when someone encouraged me to read The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.  His fictional account of Gettysburg was written based on historical documents.  It brings to life the battle and men of this event.  I felt like these men were my relations, and the senselessness of war is heartrending.  Afterward his son Jeff Shaara went on to write amazing prequels and sequels to the series, as well as chronicling other wars.  I believe these ought to be required reading in high school.

My husband has introduced me to the science fiction/fantasy genre.  These are books I would never have picked because I didn't think I liked either genre.  However, I decided to give it a try and the first fantasy book I read was by Terry Brooks.  This experience has opened up a different, amazing world of books to me.  The novel Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold is a fun, magical ride into a world of fairy and magic.  Who wouldn't buy a Kingdom if you could afford the $1,000,000. price tag?  I was very fortunate to meet Terry Brooks this evening, and he is a warm, gracious, and funny person.

The Science Fiction author I started with was the master, Isaac Asimov.  The Robot Series is actually a series of mysteries although the setting is the future where space colonization is a reality.  A lead detective with his Robot partner is an exciting change to the familiar formula.  I, Robot, the movie, was an imagining from Asimov's robot short stories.  If you liked the movie, you'll love the robot novels, beginning with The Caves of Steel. 

I believe it's really good for a person to move out of a genre they read a lot and try something they aren't sure they will like.  It gives you a different perspective and makes you think differently.  I hope you give these authors a try and enjoy them!
Next week, I'll tell you all about my recent pantry redo.  It involved a few bruises but you always need to remember organizing can be dangerous. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Books, Books, Books Part One

I love books.   I always have.  I don't have one genre I read, I will try anything.  My mood usually dictates what I pick but I always have several I'm working on and a pile to pick from next.  Every time I walk in a bookstore I walk out with something.  Maybe it's something I have planned on purchasing but more often it's something I find while perusing the store.  I own a nook but I usually choose to read a book I can hold.  I love the feel of books, holding them in my hand and turning the page.  I shudder to think of the day when there are no more stores, when you can only purchase online.  I would love to tell you about some female authors I really love, I hope you give them a try. 

I have always enjoyed reading about George Washington.  His life fascinates me.  I fell in love with Mount Vernon on a recent visit to Washington DC.  I stood in the rooms Martha and George lived in and imagined living my life there, a romanticized version no doubt.  In the gift shop I came upon a Biography of Martha Washington by Patricia Brady.  The cover had a depiction of Martha that was age regressed from a painting of her in later life.  She is no longer that dowdy, older woman we always picture her as, she is a vibrant beauty with strength I would love to emulate.  Ms. Brady brings Martha's world to life that makes history compelling.

Another book with a strong woman as its subject is Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead.  This book is a compilation of diary entries and letters that Ms. Lindbergh wrote.  By the end of this book I felt a kinship with Anne and was touched by the life she so vividly brought to life.  This has a view of the kidnapping and murder of her child first hand, but it is also a memorial of a life lived with grace and dignity in the public eye. 

For a lighter read, I suggest Hester Browne.  The Little Lady Agency is the perfect book for a rainy day, or any day for that matter.  Her light hearted banter, gentle romance and quirky sense of humor make this book a favorite.  Everyone needs a light moment in the difficulty of life.   Hester and I share a kinship for everything vintage. 

A lot of women I know are hesitant about reading Fantasy but I loved a series by Kristen Britain.  Her first book Green Rider is a wonderful story set with a strong female lead.  The characters are interesting and the prose is amazing.  A unique story with great plot development.  At almost 600 pages it can be daunting to start but the writing is so good you are never bored as you fly through the pages.

The last book is Haunted Ground by Erin Hart.  Raised in Minnesota, her books are based in Ireland.  She writes of bodies found in Irish peat bogs.  Because the bogs prevent decay they need to determine if the bodies are two years or two hundred years old.  Are these new crimes or old?  The writing is eloquent, the plot is well thought out and the romance is a bonus.

These are just a few recommendations of female authors that I think you would like.  In Part Two of this article I would like to bring you some male authors you may not have given a chance.  Look me up next week to see who I'll introduce you to next.