Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist: Help Me Declutter My Bedside Table!

Every once in a while, we receive emails from readers who are in a quandary.  This question came from Mary in Austin:

“How can I hide my ugly cord situation on my bedside table, yet still have easy access?

First, Mrs. Twist does not judge.  We all have “catch-all” spaces in our homes.  Once we get control of the clutter we can enjoy the space, especially in a bedroom where the whole point is to relax.  In looking at this photo, we can gather she likes to read, play her guitar, charge her devices and have a place for supplies.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

In her message, she said her table had drawers and even suggested she could drill a hole in the back of the drawer for power cords.  I think that is the easiest and most cost-effective remedy if you can discipline yourself to keep everything off the top of the table and inside the drawers.

Here are a few suggestions.  Pretty and functional can co-exist together. If the goal is to have a clean, inviting space as well as be functional for charging devices, I would suggest something like this bamboo organizational caddy from Amazon.

You can dock your tablets and phones, have a place for your TV remote and compartments for essential supplies like maybe just a few pens and sharpies.  So back to her before photo above, you can eliminate the three pencil cups and the power strip off the top because she can put a power strip inside the organizer to charge the devices from the back.

For the stack of books, I would suggest only having the current book you are reading on the table and store the other books in the drawer.  I can’t tell how many drawers your bedside table has, but one side could be for “books in the queue” and the other side of the drawer could house something similar that I do in my bedside table…

You can use drawer dividers from Walmart to categorize your supplies.  I use one bin for vitamins and medicine, one for lip balm and hand lotion, one for remotes and so on.  She can put all her sharpies in one bin, her toiletries in another and the other side of the drawer can be for books and magazines.

If it’s in her budget, I would suggest a wall mounted bedside lamp — like the ones they have in hotels.  Then, all you would need to have on the table would be an organizing caddy, a current book, a candle and maybe a vase of fresh flowers! Like this inspiration from Pinterest.

 

I hope this helps Mary.  Thanks for contacting Mrs. Twist.  Let us know if you try any of these tips and we’ll share it!

If you need a solution to a problem, “Let’s ask Mrs. Twist” by clicking on the contact button on the menu above or email homewithatwist@gmail.com.

Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist — Nailed it!

I got this message from @hughes9463 on Instagram after I posted Holley’s story on the blog for New Year’s Eve inspiration.

“I really want a chrome polish…not Jamberry though.”

 

The question was in reference to the cool picture of the chrome nail polish on Holley’s Pinterest board.  This was perfect timing because I was planning to share something that’s Buzzworthy on the topic of nail polish. So, this post will not only answer @hughes9463’s question, but give you the scoop on a nail system I have started using.

This is the photo that inspired the question. Beautiful, metallic nail polish that looks like shiny chrome.  There are quite a few images on Pinterest if you search “chrome nail polish.”  The tricky part came when I clicked on the actual photo.  Either the image or webpage no longer existed or the product was no longer available.  So, I googled it and read some interesting reviews about the chrome look.  Most comments related to the fact that the shiny finish is difficult to achieve. More than one source agreed that the only way to get the polish to go on evenly and achieve the look is to apply it over a thick topcoat of previously applied clear polish.  It helps to smooth out any ridges or imperfections on the nail so the polish adheres evenly.

Most reviewers said hands-down the best polish to achieve these results was Sally Hansen Color Foil — which is no longer available, but you can find it on Amazon.  So, that was a deadend.

I did round up some other metallic options to consider.  They probably won’t give you the clear, chrome finish I think you’re wanting to achieve, but these are some of the hottest metallic colors recommended by bloggers.

Sally Hansen Game of Chromes from their Miracle Gel line
Two colors from Essie –  No Place Like Chrome and Copper Penny

All that being said, I really think the only way you are going to get the metallic look on your own (I am not a nail technician, but I bet your favorite salon could do it with a powder or gel technique), is to go the Jamberry route.

For those of you out there asking, “what is Jamberry?” — it’s a brand of polish like Essie or OPI, but they specialize in nail wraps, kinda like vinyl lettering.  They have a color appropriately named “Chrome” that would give you the spot-on look you are wanting for $15.

 

Next, is this new to me OPI Gel Break kit I picked up recently at Ulta.   Like alot of people, when I take a break from having gel nails, my nails are soft, they break and peel easily and for about two months I cannot get my nails to grow.  This 3-step kit is made just for gals like us whose nails need critical care to get them back to being strong and healthy.

The look is sheer, healthy color.  The 3-steps include a serum, protector and top coat with ingredients like sodium hyaluronate (a lubricant), vitamins and bamboo extract to restore your nail’s health.  You can choose the kit with the color you prefer (either properly pink, barely beige, too tan-tilizing) and purchase colors separately if you want to change up your look.

I started using the kit on Wednesday evening.  The packaging says I should see results in just a week.  So far, I like the finish and how it’s wearing on my nails.  I’ll let you know after I’ve given it enough time to see results.

Thank you Jan for your question.  If you are on Instagram, like Jan, I post fun content there you might not see on my blog, so consider yourself an insider and follow the fun @homewithatwist.  Keep the questions coming for Mrs. Twist.  She loves the challenge!

Oh, How Sweet: Creative Packaging for Your Baking

letLisa P. sent Mrs. Twist a question recently…” I need your fun ideas for gift containers for edible Christmas gifts. I usually use the traditional tins, but they are proving to be a bit pricey. I know you will have some great ideas for other options. I love to make lots of yummy treats to give away during the holidays. Less money spent on containers means more good stuff to eat!”

I hear you Lisa — ditch the tins!  No one knows what to do with those tins after they are empty.  Mine usually sit at the top of the stairs until the next time I go into the attic to put them away for next year.

So, I went to my tried and true for anything creative — Pinterest.  I’ve rounded up some cleaver packaging ideas that will surely make your baked goodies stand out when you deliver them in the coming weeks.

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings

brown-paper-bagYou cannot beat a package of school lunch bags for the price (Walmart has 100 count for $1.96).  Brown or white is cute. Use rubber stamps to label the contents, the sentiment or who they are from.  Add twine, scraps of scrapbook paper and you’re done. This is definitely a kid-friendly project, too.

Here’s a great recipe from Pillsbury for Kitchen Sink Cookies that would be perfect inside the bags.

The Tin Man

loaf-pan-of-cookiesI love foil pans — especially the 9×9 baking pans with the plastic lid.  One year I made Red Velvet Cakes and tied each pan with red ribbon, a peppermint stick and a sprig of rosemary.

Using a loaf pan, this holds 9 sandwich cookies.  Wouldn’t a row of gingerbread men be so cute stacked inside?

And a Parchment in a Pear Tree

parchment-wrapped-cookiesMy next favorite thing, after foil pans and waxed paper, is parchment paper.  I think I started liking it from my early days of following Martha Stewart.  It’s economical and makes for a pretty presentation.

You could wrap four of one cookie stacked and use Washi tape to seal the sides together. I think brown twine is a pretty touch with some greenery from your yard.  Add this free printable from Nest of Posies.

Such a Chippy Idea!

pringles-boxes-wrapped-in-birch-paper

woodgrain-treeless-gift-wrapOkay, I think this might win the award for the cutest packaging. It will require a massive eating of Pringles, but who will mind that? Just dump the chips in a bowl with dip and take to the office or put in front of my teenager. Instead of cookies, fill with snack mix!  Check out this yummy recipe for Christmas Reindeer Crack here.  Container Store carries this beautiful shiplap version of wood wrapping paper for $4.99 a roll, and a 27 count package of Pringles is less that $9 at Walmart!  I think Chip and JoAnna Gaines would approve of this.

Got Milk?

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No description needed here. Here’s a great way to recycle all the cartons of milk we will be using for breakfast casseroles and bread pudding.  It looks like they’ve removed one side, lined with our friend parchment paper and filled with cookies and straws.  Very clever and Santa approved — I’ve heard he loves a cold glass of milk with a cookie or two.  Those tags are easy to find at all craft stores.

 

Mason Jars

mason-jars_galThey come all in shapes, sizes, and colors everywhere.  Walmart carries a 12 count package for around $9.  Fill with cookies, brownie bites, homemade granola, or hot cocoa mix.  I have something in mind for homemade gift this season…stay tuned.  And they are reusable, too for portable salads.

One idea to elevate the hot cocoa mix, is to tie a small bottle of Bailey’s to the jar for an adult “add-in”.  Check it out here.

I could go on and on, but I think I have rounded up some great ideas. Hope this helps Lisa P!  I am sure your tasty morsels of Christmas will be a hit no matter the container, but why not make it super sweet with something unique.

Check out all my gift ideas on my Pinterest board.  Make this Tuesday the tops!

Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist — Are White Jeans Okay after Labor Day?

letWhilst Holley is away in New York I got a question from a reader…

“I would love to know… is it okay to wear white after Labor Day?” A.H. 

Back in the day, Mother (and the fashion/home decor police) had two rules — never more than one mirror per room; and never wear white after Labor Day.  Pish posh.

Fast forward to present day and to quote Madea –“Hallerlujah!” A resounding absolutely “yes” you can wear white 365 days of the year!  I consider white to be a neutral like black or grey.  It’s the perfect backdrop for any color.  Plus, in Texas where it stays close to 1,000 degrees until December, anything goes.  It’s not the color it is what you put with the white that makes it a seasonal outfit.

I went to Pinterest and found some inspiring ways to keep your white jeans in-play during the fall and winter.

white-jeans-and-sweat-shirt

White jeans with a lightweight sweat shirt.

For a cooler day, layer it with a blouse underneath.

Pair it with a skinny belt.  Animal print would be a perfect pop here.

For shoes either ankle boots or how about a fun pair of leather sneakers.

When you look at this do you say, “oh, that’s a summer outfit?”  No, probably not.  Take cues from the layers and the shoes.

 

white-jeans-with-coat

 

Next up, white jeans with a coat.

Look at how stylish she is and you can clearly see it’s chilly outside.  Again, take cues from the layers.

Black heels, a fun “Holley” style handbag, a long scarf wrapped around her neck and long coat. Add sunnies and you are good to go.

Look at the lace-up details on the ankle of the jeans.

 

white-jeans-with-leather-jacket

White jeans paired with a sexy, leather jacket.  The jacket keeps you warm so you just need a simple black t-shirt underneath.  Add a satchel, accessories and animal print sneaks.  Animal print is another year-round pattern that looks great with anything.

white-jeans-with-fringe-purseAnother look I love — pairing white with chambray.  Denim is a workhorse.  It’s like the crisp, white shirt Sharon Stone made iconic.  Chambray tucked into a pencil skirt or worn out with jeans (Holley would front tuck this).  A dark denim blouse would work here, too.

Add a duster sweater cardigan, fun shooties, a bold necklace and a fringe purse and this is the perfect date night look. Hot, hot, hot.

 

 

 

white-jeans-with-cargo-jacketLast look, this is perfect for running errands.

Long tunic top.  I love the style right now of the longer in the back tunic tops, shorter in the front.

Simple sneakers, a bucket bag and an Anorak jacket.  If you can find a jacket in camo fabric you will be on-trend.  The fun thing about a drawstring Anorak jacket is it helps to accentuate the waist. Tons of pockets for keys, chapstick, a snack and phone.

Fun sunnies and you will be boss for the day.

So, I hope this helps put aside any negative thoughts on the white after Labor Day rule.  It’s a myth.

Here’s your shopping list:

  • White jeans
  • Converse sneakers
  • Anorak drawstring jacket
  • A lightweight sweat shirt
  • A chambray shirt
  • Bucket bag or Tote
  • Something animal print — either shoes or a skinny belt

Now, go forth and be fabulous!  Mrs. Twist approved.

P.S.  This message was approved by Holley.

Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist: Baking the Perfect Pie Crust

lets-ask-mrs-twist

I love your questions!  From my chicken pot pie post here Mari C. posted this question on my Facebook page: “Do you only use Pillsbury pie crust or can you recommend a recipe for a homemade pie crust?”  Great question Mari.  I just happen to have a resident expert available for this.

bhg-cookbookNo, I don’t make my own pie crust.  I have but, frankly, I get the results I want from Pillsbury with much more ease.  However, my bestie makes THE BEST pie crust.  Her mother, Evelyn, used the recipe from the trusty red and white book we all recognize Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook.  I own the 9th edition printed from 1981.  I am sure many of you, or your mothers, have an even older edition.

Last spring during one of our girlfriend get-away weekends, I asked Bestie to bring all of her pie crust ingredients because I wanted her to teach me how she makes her crust so we could make a video.  Here’s the world premiere of “Me-Oh-Pie Cherry Pie” (edited by Garrett H.)

I love the zippy music.  Makes me want to whip up pies all day long.

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all ingredients assembled

Here are Julie’s “top three tips” for making the best pie crust…

Don’t play with the dough too much.  It will be tough.  Get in there, get the job done and put it in your pie plate.

Use more flour than you think you need to roll it out so the dough doesn’t stick to your surface when you try to move it to your pie plate.

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Don’t be afraid to be “edgy.”  Be creative with making the edges of the pie crust.  See that pile of extra dough?  Create leaves or something extra for the top of your dough.

 

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Here are a few tips from the cookbook:

The “secret” of pastry making is to measure your ingredients accurately. Spoon your dry ingredients into your measuring cup and level off the top with a metal flat edge of a knife.  Never just scoop your flour using the actual measuring cup.  You will end up with way too much flour.

When rolling out pastry roll from the center to the edge with light, even strokes.

To prevent excess browning on the edge of the piecrust, I use a metal pie shield like this one.

pie-shield

Here’s the recipe for the crust:

1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp of salt

1/3 cup shortening

3-4 TBL of cold water

In a mixing bowl stir together flour and salt.  Cut in shortening till pieces are the size of small peas.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork.  Push to the side of the bowl.  Repeat till all is moistened.  Form dough into a ball.  On a lightly floured surface flatten dough with hands.  Roll dough from center to edge, forming a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Wrap pastry around a rolling pin. Unroll onto a 9-inch pie plate being careful not to stretch pastry.  Trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate; fold under extra pastry.  Make a fluted, rope-shaped or scalloped edge.  Bake 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes until golden.  Note:  Depending on whether you need a pre-baked crust, you will need to prick the bottom and sides with the tines of a fork.

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If I opened a restaurant it would be called the “Me-Oh-My Pie House” and we would serve Julie’s Cherry Heaven.

I have another “Ask Mrs. Twist” coming from Christina in Arizona.  Stay tuned.  If you have a question you would like answered, be sure to “like” my Facebook page and post your question there.

Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist — How to Keep Cakes from Sticking in the Pan

lets-ask-mrs-twistI have been wanting to start an “advice column” for a while.  My friend and follower Amy posted a question on my Face Book page today so it was just what I needed to launch Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist.  I may not know the answers to all your questions, but I can certainly do some research and give you my best assistance possible.  You might want to steer clear of math, geography or world history, although I am sure Mr. Bee would love to weigh-in on these topics.

Here is Amy’s question… 

Q.  Love reading your blog!  My Bundt cakes almost always stick.  I’ve tried spray flour and butter, but they stick.  Do you have any tricks or tips that you might share?  #bundtchallenged Amy

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First, Amy that cake looks amazing and while I am sure it’s disappointing for your baked good not be a 10 in appearance, it probably tasted like a 10!

Here’s my first blush at your question before consulting my resources.  I use butter flavored shortening, not butter, to grease my Bundt pans. Something else I do, especially when I am baking with a loaf pan, is use sugar instead of flour.  I like the crust it makes on the outside of the cake. Sometimes, I think, flour creates a build-up of pasty goo. You can also try cocoa instead of flour if you are making a chocolate cake.

You didn’t mention what kind of pan you use.  I like nonstick Nordic ware and I also like my Pampered Chef stoneware pan.  After my cake has cooled for about 10-15 minutes, I take a flexible off-set spatula and go around the edge of the pan to push the cake away from the sides and middle of the pan, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack.

martha-stewart-baking-bookI checked some resources on the web and my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.

Several sites on the web including The Kitchn, suggest steaming the cake out of its pan.

Take a clean kitchen towel and place in your kitchen sink.  Very carefully take a kettle of boiling water and pour over the towel until damp, not dripping. Drape the towel over the cake for 15-20 minutes.  The steam is supposed to help release the cake from the pan when you invert it.

One source, Baker Street, called the area in the Bundt pan where the tube meets the base the Achilles Heel and to really make sure to focus on greasing and flouring this part of the pan.

There was debate over using butter versus shortening versus spray.  More sources like Food52 said sprays contain lecithin which can leave a sticky residue.  Martha always uses butter and applies it with a pastry brush, something I haven’t tried.  I just use a paper towel like Mother taught me to use as seen in this video from Nordic.

I hope these ideas help Amy.  We’ve all had this frustrating issue in baking, but don’t give up sugar!  I would try some of these suggested tips and compare them to what you are doing.  You may have to sacrifice time and ingredients for your trial and error, but I am sure your family won’t mind sampling the results all in the name of research.  Let me know what you find out.  For readers, if you have a trick to share with Amy, please comment below.

I am saving this Let’s Ask Mrs. Twist to my permanent menu under Other Swell Stuff.  I can’t wait for the next question! Either send me an email through my Contact Me tab on the menu above or to my Face Book page.