Thursday, September 22, 2016

16 UHeart Organizing: Handy Helpers in the Kitchen

The best tips and tricks are those that are easy, inexpensive and make a positive difference in everyday life. And often times these little fixes are derived from a moment of weakness or frustration, but you see, that is the best part! It is fun to squeeze those lemons once in awhile.

And we all know by now that I simply adore everything that my friend Courtney does, from her big projects down to her little life hacks, and her tips today are no exception. Here she is now to share how she is already making lemonade in her new home.


Hey, I Heart Organizing Readers!! I thought it would be fun to share two extremely simple ideas that we recently implemented in our new home. Both were born of necessity and I already have friends implementing them so I thought it would be fun to share over here as well. One involves a new use for a sponge holder and one is just about thinking outside the box. Outside the cereal box! You'll see what I mean.


SOLVING THE PHONE ISSUE

So here is the thing. We live in a world where our cell phones are always on hand. I wish that weren't the case but it's just the reality of things. When I am cooking in the kitchen I always have it nearby because I am either looking at a recipe or if the children are off to their activities I need the adult in charge to be able to get a hold of me. But I kept running into issues. Either I couldn't find where I put my phone down or it was getting wet and messy amidst my cooking mess. I don't have a huge amount of space near my stove so I like to keep it clutter free.


Here is what my counter usually looks like. No phone to be seen, right?! Ahhhh. This is my favorite part. Enter the sponge holder!


Slide my coffee maker to the side and the clear sponge holder is there in all it's glory. It's simply suction cupped to my tile. Yep. And it has not fallen once (although that could happen I suppose so let it be known I warned you). My husband thinks I am crazy for how happy this has made me. But now my friends have them, too and they are just as happy.


I picked this one up at Target. Nothing special about it other than the fact that it has changed my life in the kitchen.


I actually find that I stop carrying my phone around with me in the house, too. Unless I am going out, I keep it here. It's off of the counter and can no longer get wet and I can even charge it from here.



Because it's clear, you can see the entire screen and I can reference a recipe if I need, to. I also can glance over if I get a text and see if it's something I need to respond to immediately or if it's something that can wait until I am done cooking or prepping meals.


In true Jen fashion, I had to wrap my cord with washi tape! This cute navy floral print came in a pack of three from Target. So what do you think? Do you have a spot where a sponge holder could serve as your iPhone holder? If you can not suction cup this, you could remove those suction cups, turn the holder around and hang it with the small command metal hooks. They would slip right through those holes!


KEEPING KIDS ORGANIZED


In our last home, we were in a groove with where we had our command center. We are still figuring that all out in this home and things were slipping through the cracks. A missed piano lesson while I was traveling was the impetus for this new system. I know that a calendar is nothing new, but for us it's thinking outside of the box and placing it where the children will see it EVERYDAY.


Do you see what the dry erase board is next to?! Yep. The cereal. My children eat cereal every morning, even if they have a hot breakfast, too. It's the first thing they eat when the get up at 6:00 am and we are still in bed. So, it's the cereal that dictated this move.


I picked up this weekly calendar from Target. I chose not to use the adhesive strips it came with as we just refinished our kitchen cabinets and I didn't want to damage them. So I picked up some of the picturing hanging Command strips. I also ditched the marker it came with as it did not work very well. Just FYI in case you see the same calendar when you are out and about. I also added some washi tape for color. Might as well make it pretty, right?


It fits perfectly in our space and we can now see all of the kids' activities in one spot. We also have reminders of things that need to be accomplished with the kids. We don't keep everything on this but just the after school events as well as reminders like library book day at school. So far so great and we are not forgetting any commitments. Best of all, this is transferring the responsibility to our children a bit as they are in charge of checking this before and after school. All thanks to cereal and snacks, they really can't avoid seeing their calendar! No more excuses.

Simple, simple, simple but these two changes in our kitchen have made a world of difference. I hope they inspire you to look for a really quick and easy solution, too.

_______________


Hi! I'm Courtney, the author of A Thoughtful Place. I am a mom to two and passionate about home decor, DIY, fashion, gatherings, and the occasional life lesson. I love finding simple and accessible ideas for infusing style into all aspects of life. While an average day can often be hectic, A Thoughtful Place hopes to inspire you to find beauty and style in each and every one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

16 Quick Tip Tuesday: Freezing Herbs

A few weeks ago when I was organizing our fridge and freezer, I was trying to finally come up with a good way to maintain the freshness of our herbs. I find that we prefer to purchase a few specific types of fresh herbs from our local grocery store, but then only use a small amount before the remainder of the bunch goes bad. Not wanting to waste, especially with the cost of some herbs being a fairly expensive, I decided to give the freezing method a try.


I had never heard of freezing herbs before, but then I saw these little packaged herb cubes in our grocery store freezer and thought it would be a great way to make the most of our leftover stems. Turns out this is a thing, and can be done right at home! And it is easy!


The herbs we tend to purchase the most frequently are basil, cilantro and mint. If we think we will be able to utilize all of the herbs within a week, I will just wrap a wet paper towel around the stems and store them in a zipper bag in the fridge. Or I place them in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top, also storing them in the fridge. Both of these methods have allowed our herbs to gain a few days of freshness, however, nothing much more than that.

There isn't much needed to make this happen, but I thought I would share a few products and tips that worked for us. Like a good ice cube tray! I wanted to be able to use the tray to not only freeze the herbs, but to store them long term in the freezer as well. So a tray with a lid was ideal, and a silicone finish was a perk because the cubes simply pop out once frozen. I also love that these trays are compact for our small freezer drawer, and seem to be the perfect size for freezing the leftovers of a bundle of herbs.


Herbs can be frozen in water, but there is a risk that some of the flavor will be removed during the process. But because both the cilantro and basil are generally cooked right into our dishes, I opted to freeze them in oil instead (which helps with long term flavor retention).

I began with the cilantro, and used an herb stripper to quickly remove all of the leaves from the stems.


I added the cilantro leaves and avocado oil to our mini food processor and just a few seconds later they were ready for the ice cube tray.


A mini spatula was helpful in quickly transferring over the herbs to the tray.


An entire bunch of cilantro processed down to just 12 mini cubes, which was perfect because the second half of the tray was going to be dedicated to the basil.

I repeated the same steps with the basil, however, didn't process the leaves down quite as much as I wanted them to remain a little larger in size. And this time I just used a light olive oil.


If you look closely, you will notice a difference in the leaves, but just to be sure there was no confusion, I also added labels to each side of the tray (made with my label maker).


The final tray was dedicated to mint leaves. I like to add a bit of mint to lemon water and tea and rum and wine and...

Because I use mint for beverages, and more often than for say, a random pasta night, I dedicated an entire tray to the mint.


A quick chop to keep the leaves fairly good sized, I then scattered the mint throughout the empty cubed slots. (Mezzaluna originally purchased here but here is a similar style. I really love using it for chopped salads as well.)


Obviously oil is not a good choice when adding the herbs to beverages, so I just went with straight water for freezing, pouring it over the leaves until all of the cubes were full.

Into the freezer they went and within a few hours I had myself some preserved herbs ready for next week's meal, next month's meal and my weekday glass of lemon water.




If you don't have an ice cube tray that has a cover, another option is to remove the frozen cubes from the tray and keep them in an airtight freezer bag.

I was pleasantly surprised how quick and painless this process was, so I felt really excited to share! In fact, the part that took the longest was the clean up... #ofcourse



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